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Tom Rinaldo

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Member since: Mon Oct 20, 2003, 06:39 PM
Number of posts: 16,867

Journal Archives

Trump Brags About Buying Politicians - Because It's Good for His Business

Given that few major political figures in American, aside from Bernie Sanders, seem willing to define themselves as anything other than being Pro-Capitalist, wouldn't they agree that CEO's of large successful corporations probably recognize a good investment opportunity when they see one? No one argues that political contributions are a form of charity, they are openly made in the hope of achieving political objectives. When those contributions come from business entities, they are made to further their business interests.

There are all kinds of initiatives that any given business may make, different ways of investing resources in the hopes of a favorable outcome. Granted there are some investments that might look promising initially but simply don't pan out over time. There are seldom guarantees either in business or in life, nothing ventured, nothing gained, as they say. But every competent business leader evaluates the investments they make, to see if they are getting a good return on their dollars. If something fails to pan out the way they wanted it to, it is discontinued.

Wall Street is many things, but one thing it is not is a refuge for the intellectually challenged. Wall Street insiders do not repeatedly invest large sums in the same politicians if they don't think those investments buy something of real value to them. If they didn't, those funds would be redirected elsewhere. These are shrewd business people after all, at the top of their game. At the top of the game. And they want to stay there.

Some politicians they out right own. Others they merely get unfettered "access" to. There is a difference between being essentially on the payroll of major contributors, or only being in some way indebted to them. Typically, when we are lucky, that is the difference between the Republican and Democratic candidate - they aren't both totally beholden to Billionaires and corporate financiers.

It is such a pleasure this year though to have one Presidential candidate who literally is beholden only to small donors, average Americans averaging $27 per contribution. Could that be why issues of wealth inequity are being featured in this presidential election race in a way they never have been before?

The Frog in Boiling Water Has Started Feeling The Bern.

OK, the actual science relating to the metaphor, of a frog allowing itself to be boiled to death if the temperature of the water in the pot in which it sits is raised slowly enough, debunks it as a myth. Frogs, it turns out, are not dumb enough to sit still for that type of treatment. Establishment politics though has long operated on the premise that America's general public may be more susceptible to that practice. That belief may be bolstered by stories like this one published by the NY Times in 2009: ”The Dangers of Taking a Dip in the Hot Tub”, where it was reported:

“The annual number of emergency room visits has been steadily rising. In 2007, 6,646 people went to emergency rooms after a hot tub injury, compared with 2,549 in 1990.

About half the injuries were caused by slipping or falling, but heat overexposure was the problem in 10 percent of the accidents...

... The study did not include fatal accidents, but the Consumer Products Safety Commission reported more than 800 deaths associated with hot tubs since 1990”.

An alternate theory for our establishment’s stubborn determination to forge ahead with politics as usual, regardless of the increasing pain being felt by a majority of Americans, might instead be premised on the same observation that Thomas Paine once made in his pamphlet “Common Sense”, written at the dawn of the American Revolution
“A long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right, and raises at first a formidable outcry in defense of custom.”

Two hundred and forty year after the penning of those words there's a chorus of those voices raised today, inveighing against the fundamental premise of Bernie Sander's 2016 presidential campaign, that our current political system works against the interests of average Americans. They shout from all points on the long recognized spectrum of “respectable” political opinion in America, which is to say from the slightly left of center to the hard core right. Opinions like those held by Bernie Sanders until now have routinely been dismissed as “fringe” and “well outside the mainstream” by long reigning “conventional wisdom”.

Conventional wisdom has also long held that the only way to keep Social Security solvent is to reduce adjustments made for inflation in payments made to beneficiaries, and to force seniors to wait longer to become eligible for benefits, while workers in their 50's and 60's get culled from management positions and are forced to compete to become door greeters at Walmart. Conventional wisdom, at least according to Congress and most leading presidential candidates, also considers an income of a quarter million a year to be middle class.

At a time when one out of six Americans, and over a fifth of children under 18, live in poverty (officially defined as an annual income of less than $18,500 for a family of three) our political class places a higher priority on shielding the earnings of those making hundreds of thousands a year from any additional “tax hit” than it does on eliminating the suffering of children in families earning below twenty grand a year.

All of the mania surrounding recent Powerball drawings pegs that Lottery as our current “go to” portal for get rich instantly fantasies, but it wasn't always America's most coveted jackpot. For a generation that distinction was held by the Publisher's Clearinghouse Sweepstakes, the folks who showed up on your doorstep with a banner and a check. Back when the Bush tax cuts were about to expire in 2012, President Obama sought to let them for all above the middle class. A hue and cry subsequently arose over how to define Middle Class income. Obama proposed that couples with incomes less than $250,000 should not be subject to higher taxes. Ultimately, after battles in Congress, that line got drawn at $450,000 for a married couple ($400,000 for an individual), below which they could keep all of their Bush tax cuts. So here's where the Publisher's Clearinghouse comes in.

Simultaneous with that high profile national debate over protecting the tax cut for middle class families, the Publisher's Clearinghouse came up with a brand new giveaway gimmick to excite and entice the masses into subscribing to their magazines. Instead of just giving away ten million dollars like they had been doing, they announced a five thousand dollars a week for life grand prize that some lucky person already held the winning number for. Five thousand dollars a week for life, that's the stuff that dream are made of for hundreds of millions of Americans. That happens to equal an income of $260,000 a year.

The Publisher's Clearinghouse is still selling magazines off of their fabulous $260,000 a year for your life (and your heir's now also) grand prize, while Hillary Clinton is making new vows to shield middle class incomes up to $250,000 a year from any increase in taxes. What's wrong with this picture? Maybe it's the people who are not in it, the ones who have no say when it comes to establishing conventional wisdom – or defining the middle class: the ones trying to get by on something closer to the median national income of $50,000 a year. The ones for whom $250,000 is a fortune.

Tens of millions of American voices have long been ignored by the gate keepers of establishment politics. They were the trees not heard falling off in some distant forest, far removed from the corridors of power. Those not listened to are seldom represented. The status quo depends upon estrangement, and long has grown accustomed to elections where most potential voters stay home instead. That's what happens when people tire of voting for the lesser evil, and winning even less than that. That's what happens when the establishment's “long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right”. Tens of millions of Americans live in poverty while America’s 185 wealthiest clans are collectively worth $1.2 trillion. The system that enabled this is called politics as usual.

Bernie Sanders though is not politics as usual, and the response he has gotten on the campaign trail since he announced his bid for the presidency has been anything but politics as usual. If Sander's views are seen as falling outside the mainstream of American politics that's only because the stream bed is engineered and runs through concrete culverts, narrowly defined and carefully controlled by banks that direct it.

It took Bernie Sanders a slow tenacious life time of hard political work directly pitted against prevailing establishment interests to rise to the rank of Senator from the small state of Vermont, where it was possible for many of his constituents got to know and respect him personally. It took a global financial melt down in 2008 to provide Sanders with a platform dramatic enough for his message to break through nationally. It's a message that resonates easily though when people finally hear it, because they already know it in their bones. It is a call to action, and the frog is feeling the Bern.

Hillary Clinton is now campaining against Single Payer health insurance

Gone are the days when establishment and center left Democrats hid behind the argument that although Single Payer has a lot going for it, it is simply not possible to get such a system established here because the American public and political system are too resistant to it. That is the line that Barack Obama took when he worked on his Affordable Care Act proposals. He essentially said that Single Payer is a political non starter but he did not argue against its merits and advantages.

When Clinton says something like the following she is intentionally framing Single Payer in a negative light, by belittling what it has to offer the American people and by stressing Republican talking points against it - conveniently leaving out the financial windfall that our families and the economy itself will benefit from by no longer having to pay premiums to the private sector in order to have health insurance. She also omits any acknowledgement of the cost cutting efficiency that a Single Payer system offers America.

"I think one can only draw the conclusion that the Sanders campaign does not want to outline what would amount to a massive across the board tax increase," said Jake Sullivan, senior policy adviser for Hillary for America. "They want to essentially create a circumstance in which they try to lead voters to believe they can implement single-payer health care at no burden to anyone and everyone would be better off."

That is the type of statement I expect to read from someone like Ted Cruz, not from someone who bills herself as "a progressive Democrat".

There is No National Leader Other than Sanders Ready to Directly Confront the Uber Rich's Power

It really boils down to that. Greed is this nation's cardinal sin; the lust for power and possessions, the addiction to conspicuous consumption, the hoarding of precious resources for the egotistical pride of ownership. Greed has become so ubiquitous that it is no longer recognized as unethical, let alone immoral, to embrace it. Most of the super rich believe that they deserve everything that they have, that they have in some way earned it all. And that they are fully entitled to acquire even more regardless of how much human suffering caused by basic deprivation multiplies around them. The standard by which their actions are now judged isn't ethics, it isn't morality, the standard is legislatively defined legality, and even that standard is applied loosely. Loopholes in the law are rarely simple errors, they are almost always intentional evasions of the professed intent of the actual law, ordered by and paid for by those who profit from evading it, made legal through the magic of campaign donations and the boutique hand crafted statures that the uber rich hire lobbyists and lawyers to write for them.

Working people can no longer afford to pay the tab for the limitless sense of entitlement that the ultra wealthy in America are infected with. When we say enough is enough they fundamentally can't grasp that cry because the word "enough" literally has no meaning to them. There is no such thing as enough in their world view, more is always better when it comes to them. And it all seems so very normal to our elites: the way divine rights once seemed normal to royalty, the way slavery once seemed normal to slave owners, and child labor once seemed normal to mill owners.

No doubt many, but by no means all, of the super wealthy work hard in pursuit of their extravagances. No doubt many, but by no means all, of the super wealthy are subject to significant stress in pursuit of their fortunes. But most of the poor work hard in pursuit of basic survival, and are subject to significant stress in a desperate struggle to keep food on their tables and a roof over their heads. What high powered CEO working 60 hour work weeks in the throes of fierce competition faces more stress than a parent who can't assure their child of food or a place to live? And when the wealthy get ill, when life itself lies in the balance, though there may or may not be a cure for what ails them means always exist to pursue any shred of hope in finding one. With the poor though, even when an established treatment holds promise for a cure the means to avail themselves of it frequently is denied. Greed fundamentally dictates the variables in the equation of life and death. It is that simple and that profound.

The last refuge of those who defend the sense of extreme entitlement that the super wealthy take for granted is the concept of some special talents, some special abilities, that make their unique contributions to society worthy of virtually unlimited levels of compensation, even in times of wide spread economic scarcity. How much is the ability to accurately forecast a market trend worth in a year: One hundred thousand, five hundred thousand, five million, five hundred million? Or to repeatedly close complex development deals; ten million, five hundred million, more? How much is a biochemist worth who doggedly pursues a brilliant insight and pioneers a new approach to a cancer treatment? Is it anywhere in the same ball park? Or what about the psychotherapist with the insights and ability to penetrate and sooth a troubled mind before it hardens into that of the next mass murderer? How about those fire fighters who rushed up the second twin tower with their highly disciplined skill set after the first tower had fallen? Are the efforts of one downtown land developer really worth more than the collective contribution of an entire major city fire department?

An oligarchy is blind to questions of basic justice that impedes its sense of privilege. The more powerful it becomes the more power it exerts and the more new power it seeks to accumulate. The difference in the compensation for an average corporate worker and an average CEO continues to grow exponentially while earnings shrink for most Americans, along with the middle class itself. There is nothing about politics as usual that will fundamentally alter this trajectory. This is the status quo of deterioration, the one we have lived with for 40 years - worsening by the decade, that left unchecked ultimately leads to an implosion, an explosion, or both. If and when that occurs it won't really threaten the super wealthy, they have the option of shifting their personal operations to Singapore or wherever else their wealth can buy them all of the perks that they are addicted to. Patriotism in the final analysis means little to a global class of billionaires free to cross most ant border.

Bernie Sanders is alone in the national spotlight right now in speaking unvarnished truth to an increasingly consolidated seat of economic power. Greed is a cancer hollowing out the fiber of our nation and Bernie Sanders has the vision, fortitude, and courage to openly acknowledge and confront it. Our nation needs an attitude adjustment, big time, and not just for the rich; all of us need to examine our consciences. What do we find morally unacceptable, and what will we do politically about it? A day of reckoning is coming, the longer it is put off the more tens of millions will suffer. Explosive change is dangerous and never guarantees a positive outcome. That can be averted, we can still prevail through a peaceful struggle to restore our democracy to one that, in the words of Lincoln,“is of the people, by the people and for the people.” That effort though is far less likely to succeed with leaders who paper over the great economic divide among us, either with platitudes like vows to make America great again or with yet another round of window dressing proposals.

We need a president unafraid to tell it like it really is, in the daily lives of most of our citizens; one willing to take on the full force and fury head on of those who have presided over the virtually complete transformation of our once vibrant democracy into an oligarchy. If not Bernie Sanders now, who then, and when?

In 2008 I was a Clinton supporter throughout most of the primary season

Some of you here probably remember that. I shifted my support to Obama late, after he won the Oregon primary and it became clear to me that Hillary had no real chance left of winning the nomination. I thought then that the time for unity had come. Clearly we have not yet reached that point during this cycle, but yes that time will arrive soon enough.

Hillary Clinton wasn't my first choice for the Democratic nomination in 2008, actually she was my 4th. Earlier I held out hopes of either Clark, Feingold, or Gore running but of course none of them did. Then I briefly backed Joe Biden before it became clear to me that his candidacy that year wasn't viable. Barack Obama was my 5th choice, but not far behind Clinton in my overall rankings. I saw some societal good in America electing either our first female or first black president. I saw the Obama and Clinton overall platforms as pretty darn similar. Each of course had some pros and cons, but I gave the edge to Hillary because I believed she was better prepared to confront and deal with strident Republican opposition than Obama was at the time.

I didn't buy into the argument that Republicans would fight harder against their old foe Hillary Clinton than they would against a man who proclaimed that there wasn't a red or blue America, just one America. In a fundamental way of course Barack was right, but politically I just wasn't buying it. I was under no illusions about the differences between our two major parties. I knew that we would be much worse off as a nation if any Republican nominee went on to win the White House rather than a Democratic one.

I know that many of Barack Obama's most fervent supporters viewed his possible election as a potentially transformative event. Aside from America finally integrating the presidency, I didn't. The reason why I didn't was soon on display as our President negotiated in good faith with John Boehner over what was being billed as a historic budget Grand Bargain - which IMO we were fortunate that the Republican Right balked at signing off on.

My support first for Hillary Clinton, and later for Barack Obama, was essentially pragmatic. That doesn't mean though that I thought ill of either person, actually I admired both of them. Nor does it mean that I was unappreciative of the good things I knew both of them would sincerely strive to accomplish as President, neither am I unappreciative now of the many good things that President Obama has in fact already accomplished as President. In the big picture I saw both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama as status quo politicians. Having said that let me explain that I do not see the status quo as a single undifferentiated mass with no discernible differences between those who seek to represent it. The status quo in my mind isn't a specific set of policies or a particular political platform. It is more of an intrinsic agreement about the size and slope of the playing field that politics is played on - on where the in and out of bound lines get drawn on that field rather than which side of it a particular team lines up on.

Winning or losing the political game as we know it has real consequences. It determines which human being ultimately gets to make the final call on whether to invade another country for example. It determines who gets to select the Supreme Court Judges who decide whether unlimited campaign donations from an individual donor are a form of protected free speech or, in the case of the 2000 Presidential Elections, who gets to take the oath of office to sit inside the oval office. All status quo choices are not equal, many flow from good intentions and often do some good, many have more selfish intentions and end up harmful to the interests of most average Americans. What all status quo choices have in common though is that none of them fundamentally challenge the basic status quo.

I believe that Hillary Clinton is the current benign face of the status quo - and I do not say that in any way as an insult. I like Hillary Clinton. I supported her before and I can support her again. When she horse trades on the political market I believe she keeps our interests in mind, which is not what I would say about virtually any of the leaders in today's Republican Party. She horse trades in the designated trading areas with formally recognized traders using officially accepted forms of currency with values determined by the central societal bank of the establishment. Standing on that playing field, playing by those rules, there are few as effective as Hillary Clinton is at racking up some points for our side. If the status quo can't be fundamentally changed than I want someone like Hillary Clinton fighting for our team.

But it is the status quo itself that is harming most Americans. Millions of us have been cornered by it with our backs against the wall, while millions more fall toward us threatening to crush us all under the collective weight of suffering. In 2008 I was voting to buy us a little time while we searched for the means to fundamentally alter a status quo stacked against us. In November I will do the same if I have no better choice. Right now though I do, in the candidacy of Bernie Sanders. This is the chance that I have been waiting for. I will back a reformer if the only alternative is deeper oppression. I will first choose a revolutionary though committed to bringing deep and essential substantive change. Bernie Sanders has spent a long life time preparing for this very moment. He could not be clearer on what must be done, and I can not be clearer that he is the man best prepared for the challenge in front of him, in front of all of us, in challenging the status quo .

How Fast Can It Change? Iowa Caucus Polling - December 2003 and December 2007

The Iowa Democratic Caucus was held on January 19, 2004. On December 2, 2003 Howard Dean was leading the pack with 26% supporting him, with Dick Gephardt in second at 22%. John Kerry was in third at 9%, and John Edwards was fourth with 5%.

On January 7th, less than two week out, the numbers were different but the ranking was the same: Dean 30%, Gephardt 23%, Kerry 18%, Edwards 11%.

The actual results on January the 19th were: John Kerry 37.64% John Edwards 31.83%, Howard Dean 18.02%, and Dick Gephardt 10.06%.

Source Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Opinion_polling_for_the_Democratic_Party_presidential_primaries%2C_2004#Iowa

The changes in how Democratic candidates fared between pre-caucus polling for the Iowa Caucus and the actual results on January 3, 2008 were not quite as dramatic, but they still were major. I found this data from ARG (American Research Group) for the Iowa Primary Contest. For point of reference, ARG was ranked tied for 5th out of 20 polling operations for their accuracy in predicting the final outcome of the 2008 presidential elections. Source: http://www.politisite.com/2010/08/06/poll-accuracy-in-the-2008-presidential-election-rasmussen-pew/

12/16 - 12/19/2007
Clinton 29%
Obama 25%
Edwards 18%

12/26 - 12/28
Clinton 31%
Obama 24%
Edwards 24%

12/31 - 1/2/08
Clinton 34%
Obama 25%
Edwards 21%

Actual Iowa Results on January 3, 2008
Obama 37.6%
Edwards 29.7%
Clinton 29.4%

Not to be misleading, the Real Clear Politics (RCP) composite polling data for Iowa that year was more accurate in the final days than ARG was for the Iowa contest (but harder to break out comparative figures out of), though composite figures for the weeks before those final days were similar.

For the period 12/26/07 through 1/02/07 RCP predicted:
Obama 30.8%
Clinton 29.2%
Edwards 26%

It should be noted that while both Joe Biden and Bill Richardson were only polling in single digits, they each still under performed by several points on the night of the actual caucus.

Here is something from the Gallup organization that is worth pondering, but while you do please note that it was published on January 6, 2004. In other words, it does not include data from the 2004 and 2008 races

"There have been 10 races over the last 50 years in which there was a significant contest for the Democratic nomination: 1952, 1956, 1960, 1968, 1972, 1976, 1984, 1988, 1992, and 2000. (The omitted years of 1964, 1980, and 1996 were ones in which a Democratic incumbent president ran for re-election with little or no opposition.)...

...In fact, in only 4 out of the 10 elections (Adlai Stevenson in 1952, John F. Kennedy in 1960, Walter Mondale in 1984, and Al Gore in 2000) did the front-runner in late December/early January win the Democratic Party's nomination. In all other instances, someone else came from behind as the primary season unfolded."

One final point. National opinion polls can react strongly to he results of early caucuses and primaries. Let's go back to the 2004 Democratic contest again and look at how national opinion polls correlated to early states results. Remember, Iowa voted on January 19th and NH on January 27. Here is a snapshot from a CBS national opinion poll taken shortly before those contests, and one a month later. Source:

Shortly before the 2004 Iowa Caucus, national polling:
Dean 24
Clark 12
Gephardt 11
Kerry 7
Edwards 5

One month later it looked like this
Kerry 53
Edwards 7
Sharpton 4
Kucinich 1
Other 12

It is a little bit early to be talking about the 2016 presumptive Democratic nominee.

Do You Believe That America is Exceptional? I Do.

What Makes America "Exceptional"? A Mirror for Our Better Angels - Do you recognize ourselves in it?

I am proud to be American when our enemies hate us for the qualities that make us great.

I am proud that Americans believe that all people are created equal and that women have the same rights as do men for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is something that America stands for in the world. One could say that makes America exceptional.

I am proud that Americans believe in the right to freely assemble, and to go where we wish to, when we want to, and to be with who we choose unfettered by intrusive government restrictions. It is something that America stands for in the world. One could say that makes America exceptional.

I am proud that Americans believe in freedom of religion; that no one should be discriminated against or penalized because of their religious beliefs or lack of same. It is something that America stands for in the world. One could say that makes America exceptional.

I am proud that our nation was founded with the belief that on these shores those who fled from religious persecution would find safe haven and a fresh start at rebuilding their lives. It was something that America stood for in the world. One could say that made America exceptional.

I am proud that America is predominantly a nation of immigrants. Not because there were times during our history when indigenous peoples were displaced or worse by newer arrivals. Unfortunately war and conquest are historic threads in the tapestry of virtually all humanity. That part is not exceptional. I am proud of America's vibrant tradition of inclusiveness, tolerance and co-existence that time and time again has risen up when most needed, to strengthen the ties that do bind us despite our many differences: E Pluribus Unum, “One Out of Many”. It is something that America stands for in the world. One could say that makes America exceptional.

I am proud of America's pioneering spirit. Our openness to new places, new people, and new experiences. Our willingness to stretch our horizons beyond the familiar and the oft illusionary sense of security that conformity and zealous caution brings is characteristic of our nature. We are known for being willing to take risks to achieve what we believe in. It is something that America stands for in the world. One could say that makes America exceptional.

I am proud that we know our Union is imperfect, and have vowed to strive to make it more perfect rather than just say it is good enough. It is something that America stands for in the world. One could say that makes America exceptional.

I am proud when I see America's brave and generous spirit, one that has encouraged many a man and woman to found or join with a not for profit organization dedicated to reducing human misery both here and around the world. Others were called to enlist in our Armed Forces out of a conviction that it was their duty to defend those who faced violent oppression, even genocide in this world. They did so out of a sense of common humanity, not for personal treasure. It is something that America still stands for in parts of the world. One could say that spirit makes many Americans exceptional.

I am proud when it is our impulse to offer hospitality to a stranger because they are a stranger, not despite them being one. I am proud that it is written on our most famous and cherished national monument "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free." It is something that America stands for in the world.

One could say that all of these things make America exceptional, if in fact all of it remains true.

"I'll keep the oil"

Donald Trump said that this morning during his phone interview on Morning Joe while discussing his plans to defeat ISIL to "keep Americans safe". He wouldn't just send in thousands of American troops to fight against ISIL He would also seize the oil that ISIL currently controls. And he would "keep it" - giving some to disabled vets.

I haven't seen anyone in the media or politics pick up on this yet but it could prove to be the most dangerous statement Trump actually made, hidden in the shadows of his wildly anti-American stance about barring people from entering the United States based on a religious test.

ISIL may control oil resources now, but that is a very recent occurrence. ISIL didn't control any significant territory prior to the last few years. Where that oil lies is within the Sunni majority nation of Syria and in regions of Iraq where Kurds and non Kurdish Iraqi Sunnis have long been dominant, all of them believing that oil belonged to them. Who exactly does Donald Trump think he will ultimately be seizing the oil from if he gets his way? True a tiny portion of it may be in various storage tanks controlled by ISIL forces, but the overwhelming bulk of it sits below the ground where it has always, inside other Muslim nations.

So supposedly to make America safer from "Radical Islamic Terrorists, Donald Trump proposes sending an American invasion force into Arab Nations that will, among other things, steal their oil. Sounds a lot like something the actual Crusaders many centuries ago engaged in; occupy and plunder. What do you figure our Kurdish allies in this struggle will think of that? How about all those Iraqi Sunni Muslim tribes who we are counting on to ultimately help us oust ISIL from Mosul?

Exactly how does Trump plan on getting that oil and keeping it? How big an invasion, how large an occupation, and for how long? How many American lives is that oil worth to Trump - on the battle field in the Middle East AND here at home in American cities after his policy confirms the ISIL narrative that Americans really are 21st Century Crusaders out to plunder the Islamic world?

i'm Waiting for Republicans to Come Out Against the No Fly List

It simply follows from their logic. We live in a free society with constitutionally protected equal rights. Why should person A who has not been convicted of any crime be able to board an airplane while person B who has not been convicted of any crime can not?

That is the supposed basis for Republicans wanting people who have been placed on the Terrorist Watch List No Fly List to be able to buy guns. They claim those people with suspected terrorist sympathies have a constitutional right to own weapons that supersedes our right as a society to take seemingly reasonable measures to prevent a terrorist massacre. After all, maybe they were put on that list by mistake. Maybe the list is so shoddily assembled, so riddled with potential errors, that an innocent person might be prevented from buying an assault rifle even though someone involved in the national security apparatus had reason to think they might be a potential terrorist.

So why is it again that some people are being denied the right to travel freely? Why is their potential livelihood being threatened because they can not move rapidly from point A to point B by plane should their business interests require them to? Are only Americans who want to buy guns having their constitutional rights abridged through placement on a No Fly list? Is it the Republican position that we have to let them all arm themselves while we simultaneously keep them off our planes? But, but, they just might be innocent they say. How can Republicans support the No Fly list then I wonder? I expect them to come out strongly against it, oh, any century now.

Clinton Didn't Implode, So It Goes Like This...

National poll no longer matter on the Democratic side, not at all, except in the very unlikely event that either Clinton or Sanders yet has an event or series of events that makes their campaigns start to fundamentally unravel. That hasn't happened to date and there no longer is any plausible reason to think it still might prior to the Iowa and New Hampshire results coming in.

I am not saying that national polls are inherently irrelevant, I am saying that their influence now is essentially already baked in for the period that precedes the primary season official kick off in January. The next potentially ground changing event in the Democratic race for the presidential nomination will be results from actual polls with ballot boxes, not opinions, and people standing in lines supporting candidates at caucuses, not at rallies.

Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have met or exceeded minimal expectations for remaining viable candidates for President for this stage of the contest. One could say that isn't unexpected for Clinton, and that it is unexpected for Sanders, but it is significant for both of them to have reached this point. There was a time in mid summer when the anxieties within some sectors of the Democratic Party that Clinton might turn out to be a fatally flawed candidate, had gotten to the point where they were hard to ignore. Those anxieties, for many, have receded after Hillary's Fall performance. Meanwhile there always were those who in Sander's own words were prone to "underestimate" him. Sanders has not wilted on the national stage, he's consolidated his standing as the only viable opponent to Clinton.

Efforts to metaphorically "snicker" Sanders off the stage by turning him into a leftist caricature with wild hair and eyes have fallen flat. Sanders is now more or less viewed as a legitimate underdog candidate for President.That should not be underestimated. Try telling that to any number of nationally accomplished politicians on both sides who convincingly washed out in their bid to became President before a single ballot was ever cast. Men like Scott Walker, James Webb and Lincoln Chaffee are just the latest examples of that. Martin O'Malley has fared better than them, his political reputation has not been unduly damaged by this campaign, but he hasn't caught much measurable lightning either, and that's not for lack of trying or of intrinsic political ability. So it remain remarkable what Bernie Sanders has achieved to date against one of the most powerful presences in today's Democratic Party, Hillary Clinton.

There is definitely still a path open to victory for Bernie Sanders, but it depends on him exceeding expectations in Iowa and New Hampshire. At the very least he has to come in a very strong second in Iowa and follow that with a fairly convincing win in New Hampshire shortly after. Even if Bernie achieves those goals he will still remain an underdog, but the campaign will have entered into a new phase with Sanders still in the game. The only polls that matter at all right now are those out of Iowa and New Hampshire. And they only matter because they might effect the psychology of Democrats in those states who can participate in those contests.

Iowa and New Hampshire are retail politics States where a David can still beat a Goliath, and in the process potentially alter the course of political history. Heading into Iowa in 2008 Hillary Clinton was the Democratic presumed nominee, and in 2004 at that point Howard Dean was still the man to beat. John Edwards vaulted out of relative obscurity by coming in second in Iowa in 2004, eventually running for VP that year with the man who won that caucus.

At this point the national election polls are essentially lagging indicators waiting to be rebooted once there are actual election returns for the public, and the media, to finally digest.
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