H2O Man's Journal
Member since: Mon Dec 29, 2003, 08:49 PM
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Many years ago, when Rubin Carter was undergoing surgery while incarcerated in a New Jersey prison, one of his associates sent word to be that the Hurricane could not be reached for a couple of weeks. “The Rabbi” was one of a small group of inmates at Rahway who took an interest in Rubin’s working with me …..not only on boxing, but on staying out of the types of trouble that angry teenaged males get in to. He said that if I had anything important, to mail it to him, and he would read it to Rubin.
Within a year, after Rubin’s eye surgery had healed, he and Tommy would run for the presidency and vice presidency of the Rahway inmates’ council. And win. This was at a heady time, when “prison reform” was in style. Under Rubin’s lead, the RPC would accomplish several significant changes in how inmates were treated. This included the planning for inmates’ release, in an attempt to curb recidivism. It also included a program called “Scared Straight,” to try to keep angry teenaged males from entering the prison system.
The “rough draft” of Rubin’s autobiography, “The Sixteenth Round,” had actually been done by way of his speaking into a tape recorder, and he used to send me those tapes after they had been transcribed. In time, he would gather a few friends to discuss the harsh, cold realities of life in prison in their attempt to keep me on the straight and narrow. Thus, the Rabbi had sent word of Rubin’s surgery on a cassette tape. And then he began speaking off the cuff, about prisons and inmates in general, and about Rubin.
When a new inmate arrives, Tommy said, they naturally begin to learn the institution’s system by keeping their eyes and ears open. Because that system requires the de-humanization of the inmates -- by first reducing their identity to a number, and dressing them in drab inmate uniforms -- the new inmate is initially intent upon identifying ways to maintain their sense of self, including self-respect. But, as days turn to weeks, that inmate will find ways to “get along” within the system, to avoid the infractions of rules that result in various punishments, such as solitary confinement.
In time, the new inmate begins to modify his behavior even further. Rather than simply avoiding trouble, he begins to find ways to engage in the types of behaviors that the system encourages. The system reinforces these behaviors with rewards. As the inmate finds more and more ways to gain the rewards that make his daily life more tolerable, he begins to lose sight of those distinctions between his being a unique human being, and his being an inmate in the institution. His behaviors are no longer defined as small compromises with the institution: he has instead surrendered his human identity, and become part of its system.
Rubin, he said, was the only individual he knew of -- and Tommy had spent his entire adult life behind bars -- who had never compromised himself. His stubborn refusal to make peace with the system had often resulted in long stays in solitary confinement, among other punishments. Rubin would not compromise his identity.
After that surgery, I encouraged Rubin to risk upsetting the curious balance he had within Rahway’s system, and run for the seat on the inmates’ council. As noted, he and Tommy ran as a ticket, and won. Soon, sociologists and politicians were coming to Rahway, because they were sincere about prison reform. Even the guards and their union were supportive. Gains were being made. For example, Rubin convinced other inmates to surrender the weapons that they had stashed throughout the prison. He was working on gaining educational opportunities for inmates.
The media began paying attention to what was going on inside Rahway State Prison. This included focusing upon Rubin. He had, a few years earlier, saved the lives of the warden and two guards when there had been a prison riot. In every way, Carter seemed different from other inmates. He refused to wear the inmate uniform, or to shave. Indeed, Rubin even refused to consume the prison’s food. For he was an innocent man, serving a triple-life sentence.
I still have all of the letters and cassette tapes and documents that Rubin sent me back then. I can identify the time when that system began to shift, to regain the balance that Carter seemed to threaten. I have, for example, the letters between the warden and Rubin, in which a man who believed himself “progressive” on prison reform was telling Rubin to slow down, that change takes time. But, when Rubin continued to attempt to make improvements -- at the point he was exposing how drugs were actually smuggled into the prison -- both he and Tommy were “removed” from Rahway, and placed in solitary at the Vroom Building -- New Jersey’s psychiatric unit, for the most dangerous of all inmates.
Years later, a federal court would rule that the prison administration had acted maliciously, and award Rubin a couple thousand dollars in punitive damages. That money paid for the private investigator who located the infamous Caruso file -- which showed that, without question, Carter had not been involved in the 1966 triple murder. In fact, a couple of police investigators had known, and covered-up, the identities of the actual murderers.
But what does this, you ask, have to do with the Democratic Party’s primary contest for the presidential nomination? Good question. Although our prison industrial complex is the largest, most expensive on earth, our polite society prefers to pretend it does not exist. If anything, politicians tend to exploit the general public’s fears, and promise to be tough on crime. The public tends to convince themselves that this massive prison system does not impact society in any way, other than taking super predators off the streets.
However, we are able to draw some parallels between various systems. Let me give you an example. About a decade ago, there was a Democrat running in a heavily republican region, for a seat in the House of Representatives. Although I did not know him personally at the time, I had been impressed by his record as a county prosecutor. It was evident that he could not win, if he went exclusively for Democratic support. More, he was unlikely to get any meaningful amount of republican cross-over votes. What is a Water Man to do in such circumstances?
I met him at a county Democratic headquarters, and explained that I could likely get him enough votes from the Democratic left to fuel a victory. Most people in his shoes would have thought that I was full of already digested baloney. But he hadn’t become a successful prosecutor by being dumb. He liked what I had planned.
A week before the election, I asked him what he thought? He said that it was too close to call, but that either way, he wanted to thank me. I responded by telling him that I habitually count numbers, and was confident we would win. In fact, I predicted the outcome, and was within ten votes overall.
We had become friends, and our families would socialize together from time to time. But, pretty soon, it was time for him to run for re-election. This campaign was tougher, as the republicans had been caught off-guard the first time. One evening, at the campaign headquarters, I explained why this one was too close to call. When no one else was around, he told me that he kind of wanted to win, but that even more, he hoped that he would lose.
That surprised me. I asked why? And he told me that he had been shocked at how corrupt Washington was. He said that he was extremely uncomfortable there, because the level of open corruption was shocking. Again, this came from a solid, moderate Democrat, who had served as a District Attorney with distinction. By the end of our discussion, he had made his mind up: he did not want me to invest the effort that could have made his re-election possible.
In terms of the model of systems I prefer -- a mobile hanging over an infant’s crib -- this illustrates how an entrenched system will attempt to reject a new piece, that threatens the balance. And make no mistake -- he wasn’t a Mr. Softie -- he was a tough man, a dedicated public servant. Just the type of person we want in Washington. But his code of ethics would not allow him to go along to get along.
Now, I’ve said all of that, to say this: Bernie Sanders is an unusual phenomenon in Washington. He goes by a strict code of ethics, and he hasn’t given up …..either upon the system, or on the American public. And that is distinct from literally everyone else in the DC establishment.
By no coincidence, the vast majority of his supporters are people who are marginalized by that Washington establishment. The only times we hear from most of our elected representatives is when they want something -- our money and/or our vote. But other than at these times, we inhabit very different worlds. They do not tend to socialize with our type most of the time, for we have little if anything in common.
Yet, by way of the internet, people from across the country, who have refused to conform to the system, are finding that there is quite a few people with similar opinions. More, there are lots of groups and individuals, with slightly different beliefs, that we can break bread with. And the more we really think about it, the funnier the 1%’s attempts to convince numerous groups that they are tiny minorities.
It is extremely rare that, at the same time people are demanding something new, a candidate with Bernie Sanders’s background comes forth. It appeals to those who know the system, but who have refused to become acclimated to the environment. And it speaks to the dreams of a huge segment of society. As we have shown, beyond question, we are not some tiny minority. Democratic politicians need to recognize -- by way od committed action -- that they do not take us for granted,
And we have to recognize that this system -- the structure put in place by Ronald Reagan -- cannot be left in place. We aren’t talking about fine-tuning the Reagan economy, or any version of it. And we are not satisfied to sit back and expect that establishment bureaucrats can deliver meaningful change.
There is no evidence -- zero -- that if Sanders does lose the Democratic primary, fair and square, that the majority of his supporters are going to buy in on the campaign of an establishment candidate. They understand that the establishment, like the administration of a jail or prison, would prefer to deal with a band of merry fools, rather than a lone, wise individual.
The struggle continues …..
Posted by H2O Man | Wed Mar 2, 2016, 10:12 PM (43 replies)
Systems are funny things. As everyone who has had the misfortune of reading my contributions here knows, I often compare various systems to a mobile hanging over an infant’s crib.The mobile’s objective is to maintain balance. Thus, if one piece moves, several others must adjust their position to maintain the balance. If a new piece is added to the mobile, all the other pieces must adjust, and a new balance be found.
Let’s consider some potential examples of fall shifting, as the November election approaches. Let’s say that Trump does not win the republican nomination. That leaves about 30% of the republicans angry. If, in this circumstance, Bernie Sanders is the Democratic candidate, he will get about half of those Trumps supporters, because they hold Washington in utter contempt. If Hillary is the Democratic candidate, she will not get any of the Trump supporters’ votes.
Now, let’s consider another possibility. Suppose that Trump is the republican nominee. If Bernie is the Democratic nominee, he will defeat Trump. If Hillary is the Democratic candidate, that could be a very closely contested election ….unless certain things shift.
As always, I’ll take a second to clearly identify my position. I support Bernie Sanders. Still, I have been clear that I will support the Democratic Party’s nominee in November. More, I will encourage my family, friends, and associates to do the same. However, because the majority of the people I hang with are either progressives in the Democratic Party or Democratic Left, I do not believe many will vote for any Democratic nominee other than Senator Sanders.
Indeed, I have attempted to communicate that to my friends who are supporting Hillary, both here on the internet, and in “real life.” For a variety of reasons -- and it doesn’t matter if one believes them to be valid or not -- it is evident that just as she has many people who support her, Ms. Clinton has high negatives. Obviously, she received a lot of negative attention from bat-shit crazy republicans in the 1990s. But it is equally obvious that this is distinct from the reasons why, over the past 16 years, lots of progressives have come to dislike her. And it would be very difficult to convince people who do not trust Hillary, who view her as part of Wall Street, to still vote for her.
I do not believe that those people who are running the Clinton campaign are stupid. They know that besides those who definitely support her candidacy, they will require another segment of the voting public to win. They must recognize that the old, “you have no where else to go” will not work in 2016. It’s not that any meaningful number of Sanders’s supporters would vote for Trump. That won’t happen. Rather, they will either cast a “third party” protest vote, or not vote at all.
Instead, it appears to me that the Clinton campaign is banking on something similar to what worked for Nixon and Reagan: getting votes from the opposition party. Many of us here recall Nixon’s “the Silent Majority,” or his southern strategy, and the “Reagan democrats.” And, seriously, if the November contest features Clinton vs. Trump, who will the Bush family be supporting? Who will Henry Kissinger endorse? Who will John McCain favor? And who will Goldman Sachs support?
I think that this model explains a lot of the curious features that we see today. The hostility and utter contempt that Team Clinton shows daily for the Sanders movement does not make sense in any other context. Two things have threatened the balance of the system: on the left, the Sanders movement, and on the right, the Donald Trumpsters. Hence, those with the most to lose hanging in the balance will tend to reinforce one another.
Now, whenever someone talks like I am here, and points out some things that the Clinton campaign prefers to ignore, there will be a few general responses. The first, of course, is to simply ignore it. Yet, as John Lennon noted, a conspiracy of silence speaks louder than words. Others, at the grass roots level, will simply say, “No, that’s incorrect” …..for they are largely unaware of the true nature of that mobile. Most of them would not consciously seek to promote a program that appeals more to republicans, than actual Democrats. And those at the upper levels of the Clinton campaign view it as holding promise that as President, Hillary Clinton could work effectively with republicans.
Again, these are the types of things that would make it very hard for a person like me to get friends and associates to vote for Hillary if she is the Democratic Party’s nominee, especially if she is competing against Donald Trump. It deflates the argument that there are really important differences between the two parties, at the top levels. If it was Clinton vs. Cruz, I could use the US Supreme Court for leverage. But that argument is far less compelling if it’s Hillary vs. Trump.
Hence, when I think about why the Clinton campaign treats the Sanders movement the way it does, I find that the idea that they are betting on Clinton vs. Trump in November -- with the republican machine quietly backing Hillary, makes the most sense. I find that unacceptable.
Posted by H2O Man | Tue Mar 1, 2016, 12:50 PM (64 replies)
“It is absolutely necessary that rebellion find its reasons within itself, since it cannot find them elsewhere. It must consent to examine itself in order to learn how to act.”
-- Albert Camus; The Rebel
One of the areas where those of us supporting Bernie Sanders could benefit from discussing is how we call each take additional steps to advance our cause. Clearly, one of the most important parts of the Sanders revolution is the Democratic presidential primary. We are doing good, up to this point, and have reached the point that we can step it up to the next level.
I do not hesitate to discuss grass roots’ strategies here on DU:GDP. Although I do not believe that many of the forum’s Hillary Clinton supporters read my Ops, that isn’t a factor. As a matter of fact, it would be good for our party as a whole -- indeed, the nation -- if more of our friends who support Hillary were getting more people out to the voting booths on primary days. We all benefit from a large, active electorate …..just as the republican party benefits from the lowest possible voter turn-out.
I’m not concerned that republicans read the Democratic Underground, as Rush Limbaugh recently documented on his hate radio show. And, perhaps especially in primary seasons, it’s possible that a few “trolls” will show up, to try to stir the pot here. I know that a few journalists, including those doing research for the cable television news shows, read DU. More, there are community members who, as supporters of a specific candidate, then contribute to other blogs on the internet; one recently attacked another forum member’s recent OP, then linked to it in an OP, as evidence of how “bad” some Bernie supporters are.
These things happen. And, of course, they become increasingly common, when one side is uncomfortable with how the other side is doing. Politics ain’t a pillow fight. Still, it is a shame that the levels of acrimony are such that it could very well become a factor in November. In my opinion, our party faces the very real possibility of having a split impact the general election outcome, in a manner that could approach the 1972 contest …..when our party’s establishment -- the moderate and conservative Democratic leaders -- preferred to vote for Richard Nixon rather than the party’s nominee.
Now, one of the most impressive thing that I’ve seen recently has been when, no matter the outcome of an individual state’s primary or caucus, many here make yet another financial contribution to the Sanders’s campaign. That’s huge. It is, of course, the millions of “small” donations from common citizens, that allows Bernie to compete with a campaign financed by Wall Street.
Though many may not have the resources to donate money to the campaign, either on a regular basis or at all, there are many other ways to support the movement. Obviously, there are plenty of others here who can recommend options that I might never have thought of. But, because I have had quite a bit of experience in grass roots organizing and activism, I thought that I’d add a few things that I think are important.
To begin with, I believe in a political program that has been largely influenced by my exposure to the philosophy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., America’s greatest socio-political theologist. He advocated the non-violent exercise of our constitutional rights and responsibilities. At times, he practiced the art of creative tension-building.
In my recent experience, in a four-county section of upstate New York, most of my efforts have centered around environmental issues. For years -- decades, really -- some of the villages, towns, cities, and counties therein haven had almost exclusively republican representation and rule. In this region, the majority of registered voters are republican; the second largest group is Independents; and last are registered Democrats. Among the Independents, there is a wide range, from tea partiers to Greens to socialist to environmentalists to libertarians.
As some here know, I’ve run a number of local candidates, by combining the local Democratic Party with the Democratic Left. And we won 80% of the elections. We elected, in one town, the first Democratic majority in office, ever.
In the one county where the long-time “leaders” refuse to break bread with the Democratic Left, and instead attempt to cut in on the republican votes instead, they continue to lose 100% of the time. Those “leaders” have endorsed the Clinton campaign.
The most urgent thing we need to concentrate energy on right now is getting voters out on primary day. There’s a lot of ways to help on this, in your state, and even those states around you. Make use of your local resources. The structure of the Sanders campaign is going to be different in various settings. What is available in a city is usually distinct from in a rural region.
Connecting the larger campaign issues with events in people’s day-to-day lives is essential. An example of that could be the poisoning of the water in Flint, Michigan. There aren’t any candidates who will openly say that this situation was okay, because it saved money, while campaigning openly. But, behind closed doors, most of the current presidential candidates favor fracking, and other energy corporation operations that exploit the environment, and poison drinking water supplies. Bernie Sanders is the sole exception.
Here is a link to a report from last week, regarding the drinking water in Binghamton, NY:
Our job is to expand the public’s awareness of the connection between this type of situation, and the current election. We present the Sanders revolution as a glass of sparkling clean water; the opposition as a glass contaminated with corporate sludge. When we do so, we can be confident that people thirsting for real change will make the right choice.
In 2012, I wrote a booklet on effective grass roots community organizing. As there are lots of new DU community members active here, I will again provide a link to it:
We are in a really good position now …..much better than we might have anticipated, or hoped for. Our opposition will continue to try to frame it as a hopeless battle. This is because, by and large, they have lost hope for a better future for everyone. Our mission is to keep hope alive, and to spread it across this nation.
Posted by H2O Man | Mon Feb 29, 2016, 10:20 AM (32 replies)
One of the most interesting phenomenon of the Democratic Party’s 2016 presidential primary contest is the tension between the manner that supporters of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton view the process. I say this, not in an attempt to present it as “right vs. wrong,” as the differences are ones of opinion, after evaluating the same basic materials.
As a Bernie supporter, who will vote for the party’s nominee, I understand that -- for example -- I view the Clinton campaign’s refusal to release the transcripts from her talks to Goldman Sachs much differently than do my friends who support Hillary. We look at the same general set of facts, and come to very different conclusions.
And that’s okay. There is no good reason for the growing hostilities that exist between the supporters of each candidate. There are very real differences between Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Those differences include what each one would seek to if elected. More, these differences will determine the outcome of the presidential election in November.
In my opinion, the biggest difference between the two candidate’s supporters is this: there is a Clinton campaign versus a Sanders movement. Just my opinion, nothing more. I suspect that more of the DU community that supports Bernie would agree, though, than those supporting Hillary.
One reality that both camps share is that no person, no matter how intelligent and insightful, can properly judge the historic significance -- and ultimate value -- of a movement, while it is happening. That is distinct from a campaign: we know the results of elections shortly after they are held -- unless the machine decides to interfere, as in 2000. But, even then, we knew within a short time who won, and that the US Supreme Court was overturning the outcome.
Both campaigns and movements can represent what is good in our political life. There comes times when each are appropriate. And, at their peak of potential, each can coordinate with the other. But even then, the true impact of a movement will be impossible to fully judge at the time. Specific gains can be measured, but the sum total cannot. Let’s look at few relatively recent movements, and take an objective view of their worth.
In the lifetime of the “baby-boomer” generation, we have seen the civil rights movement; the anti-war movement; the women’s movement; rights for the disabled movement; gay and lesbian rights movement; the anti-nuke movement; the environmental movement; and, most recently, the Occupy movement. Although these may appear diverse, they all share a common goal: to expand social justice, by recognizing the human rights of people who were marginalized by society. More, while they provide safety and protections for human beings, they did not infringe upon the rights of others in any manner whatsoever.
They have more in common, my friends. In virtually every case, they faced the opposition of an entrenched group, who were intent upon denying others their human rights. More, they had to deal with an even larger group of people who may have been sympathetic to their cause, in theory, but who were convinced that “now is not the time.” Friends who believed the activists wanted too much progress, too soon. The best example of this can be found in the clergy who, from the comfort and luxury of their homes, told Martin Luther King that they were with him as he sat in the dark in dreary cell in the Birmingham jail, but that he needed to slow down. To be patient.
I suppose is it easier to be patient, when you are comfortable. And so it would make sense to support a campaign that promises to extend your comfort level, especially in uncomfortable times. Yet, for those who are denied those “comforts,” it would seem self-defeating to merely campaign. And when the numbers of those that society pushes outside the margins becomes, as it is today, a majority, a campaign is not as attractive as a movement.
The Occupy movement showed the beauty and power of this. It highlighted the insanity of allowing the 1% to exercise “majority rule” in this country. Occupy put into effect a simple truth of movements: if you want people to behave differently, you must first help them to think differently. And that’s the proper place for patience. But, on the flip side, with that patience must come creative tension.
The Sanders movement (aka Sanders revolution) was, at first, incorrectly perceived as a “pipe dream” by the Democratic Party’s establishment. Surprise, surprise! As Bernie stated, “Do not underestimate me.” Yet the establishment, including those organizing the Clinton campaign, absolutely underestimated Bernie Sanders, because they viewed his challenge as coming from an intelligent, sincere man who has inhabited the margin of the US Senate. The Clinton campaign had not hired a weatherman to tell them which way the winds blow.
One example of this, in my opinion, can be found in the actions of an honorable man, Rep. John Lewis. I consider him a hero. He was a powerful member of the civil rights movement, who used advances in voting rights, to become a voice of conscience in Washington, DC. He was -- and is -- the type of human being that we want in government. For we want decent, honorable people inside of the government’s establishment.
Yet, some of the tactics he used in initially endorsing Hillary were wrong. That doesn’t mean he is less than a hero. It means, rather, that years within the establishment can influence most people’s values. Like many other good people, Rep. Lewis believes that we are better served by a campaign, than a movement. I’d like him to listen to Neil Young’s song, “Old Man.” Because in his younger days, he, too, heard some of his elders say that “now is not the time for a movement.”
By treating the Sanders movement as if it were simply another campaign, I believe that those in the Clinton campaign will do so much damage that it risks the fall election. As I’ve noted, based upon general elections coming down to states, I am fully confident that Bernie Sanders will win against any republican. But I do not think that Hillary would be in the same position. She might well win, but it will be a tougher fight. And among the reasons for that is the old Democratic Party belief that progressives have nowhere else to go. That tends to be true in campaign contests, but not so for movements.
Posted by H2O Man | Fri Feb 26, 2016, 09:07 PM (121 replies)
“There’s Nazis in the bathroom just below the stairs.”
-- John Lennon; Nobody Told Me
This past weekend, I was talking with some young adults, who will be eligible to vote for the first time, about presidential campaign history. While I assume that most of them have been aware of “politics” before reaching the age of 18, there is no question in my mind that they are passionately engaged in learning much more about how the system is intended to work …..as well as how it actually works.
Now, in the context of my participation on DU:GDP, community members know that I am a firm supporter of Senator Bernie Sanders. More, that I have been clear that I will definitely vote for our party’s nominee in November. Still, for the sake of conversation, I should acknowledge that the voters that I was speaking with are all supporting the Sanders’s revolution. But I hope that this OP will nevertheless be of interest to everyone on this forum.
A number of events in two of the three Democratic primaries have concerned these young adults. The specific events are being discussed on the internet, and not surprisingly, these young people at a level of using technology far beyond my own; hence, they have more of the specific information than I do -- just as here on DU, younger folks do.
However, one of the few advantages of being old is having experienced previous elections, and remembering previous controversial campaign activities. When people of my generation hear about certain behaviors, for example, we’re likely to look at one another, and say, “Rat-fuckers!” This is in reference to programs such as were made famous by the “Committee to Re-Elect the President” (CREEP) in 1972.
Even as recently as 2004, as I wrote about on this forum at the time, I was contacted the morning following a break-in at a “Kerry for President” Democratic Party headquarters in a suburb outside of Philadelphia, PA. Volunteers from a NYS social workers’ union were assisting in running that office, and they immediately contacted me. I asked if they had called the police and press? They had not. I told them that they needed to do so, They said they were afraid to. Think about that.
Such break-ins were also modus operandi of the Nixon team. There were far, far more than documented in the series of crimes commonly known as “Watergate.” More, the corruption of that era wasn’t limited to break-ins, I told these young adults. To show how obscene the republican party was, I spoke of California businessman Robert J. Walter’s role: he funneled White House campaign funds to the head of the Nazi party, to gain their active support for President Nixon’s re-election (see pages 306-308 of the Senate Watergate Report).
What was the consequence of Walter’s slimy activities? He would be rewarded with influence within the Reagan administration, which actually set the bar higher for corruption than did the Nixon gang. This “businessman” -- a petty mobster with ties to the Nazi party -- would influence our nation’s economic policies under Reagan. You can’t make this shit up, I told these university students.
When they asked about the connections between government and organized crime, I recommended that they research two examples. The first, not surprisingly, was the vice presidency of Richard Nixon, specifically concerning the role of the mob and US policy towards Cuba. But, because that may seem like ancient history, I added a more recent example.
Most people are somewhat aware of the case of Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger. He was, of course, a sociopath who ruled the Boston underworld for decades. His legend is that he was assisted by one corrupt FBI agent, who he served as an informant for. A recent CNN documentary tells a far more troubling story. Bulger was never an FBI informant. Rather, he employed numerous FBI agents, including some at high levels, as well as a handful of influential Justice Department employees. These government employees, who “earned” salaries of tax-payers’ money, were also employed by Bulger, who paid them higher salaries.
The number of individuals who worked for Bulger first, and for the government second, was so large, that the US Department of Justice refused to address this in Bulger’s recent trial. Indeed, as CNN documented, the Justice Department withheld, and then altered, official documents that indicated how corrupt their system was.
This is, obviously, an extreme example. But if federal government employees can be bought by organized crime, one can reasonably ask what amount of influence can Wall Street buy? And if men like Mr. Walters, with ties to the Nazi party (as documented by the US Senate) works with the Nixon and Reagan administration in setting economic policy, might we not want to reconsider what defines “organized crime?”
The CNN documentary shows that for decades, Bulger knew that he would not be indicted by the federal government, no matter what crimes he committed. None of the Wall Street gangsters responsible for the 2008 economic melt-down were ever prosecuted. Is that perhaps a pattern? Or merely the long arm of coincidence, wrenching itself out of its socket?
Posted by H2O Man | Tue Feb 23, 2016, 10:28 AM (71 replies)
I am 100% pleased with Bernie Sanders’s showing today in Nevada. Obviously, I would have been happier if he had won the contest by a few percentage points. And I’d get out of this chair, and dance an Irish jig if he had won by more than 10%. But he did not. So, on one hand, I congratulate the Clinton supporters; on the other hand, in the context of a political insurgency, I know that we have done much better today than necessary, in terms of continuing this struggle.
An insurgency is, of course, a fight against the an established form of government. While throughout my entire adult life, as a registered member of the Democratic Party, I have voted for the Democratic candidate in literally every presidential election. Yet, in these same years, I have witnessed our party’s leadership move so far to the right, that many Democratic politicians today that they would have been accurately viewed as conservative republicans in the past.
I believe that the insurgency, which is represented by Bernie Sanders today, is the healthy response to the class warfare that the 1% has systematically engaged in over the past fifty years. In this sense, I am reminded of Minister Malcolm X’s saying that the difference between some Democrats and republicans is the difference between a fox and a wolf. The fox smiles to your face, but attacks you from behind; while the wolf always makes it clear that he is your enemy.
I appreciate that many good people on this forum are happy that Hillary Clinton won today’s contest. I know that they are sincere in their belief that Hillary is the better candidate. That they support her does not surprise, nor bother me. We look at pretty much the same facts and circumstances, and come to different conclusions. I like and respect them as much as I did before the 2016 primaries began, last year.
I understand why they assume that today’s results would be discouraging for Bernie’s supporters. Indeed, these results would signify “defeat” for an establishment candidate. But that is a very different metric, than the one used to measure victory for an insurgency. And since by definition, an insurgency always begins as a minority effort, relatively few people understand the on-going goal of the insurgents’ efforts.
As a non-violent, pro-constitutional democracy insurgents, we do not need to “win” every time we engage the opposition. Rather, state-by-state, we are changing the public’s perception of the contest . It’s not the same as what’s happening in the republican primary, for their “rebel” is a billionaire who requires that his followers NOT think. Our insurgency is rooted in people thinking for themselves.
A clear sign of our success is found when the opposition increases its attacks. In every instance, we should be using each attack as an opportunity to engage in a conversation, both with our opposition, and with the greater public. In order to achieve positive results, we need to remain positive. For we are engaged in a historical struggle, part of a long tradition in this country.
It’s related to the great insurgent movements including Gandhi’s in India, and King’s in the USA. It is in the tradition that the democratically-inspired among the Founding Father’s encouraged. And it ties in with Jim Morrison singing, “Five to one, Baby, one in five.”
Posted by H2O Man | Sat Feb 20, 2016, 10:47 PM (205 replies)
One of the more common rhetorical errors that supporters of Hillary Clinton make is to dismiss the concerns that others express as rehashes of the old, rabid right-wing attacks on her character from the 1990s. This is a debating tactic that attempts to score points while simultaneously distracting attention from valid concerns that many good Democrats have expressed about Ms. Clinton. The use of that tactic, in the context of the current Democratic primary, can only be attributed to one of two factors. Let’s take a moment to consider each of the two.
The first, and most common, is that the Clinton supporter resorting to this technique recognizes that the opposition has valid concerns, but is unwilling to address them. This suggests the Clinton supporter knows the concern is valid, and potentially harmful to their candidate in the primary. Thus, they attempt to divert attention to the issue, by insulting the intelligence and/or integrity of the people who sincerely pose it.
The second is that the Clinton supporter is unfamiliar with the issue, and in their ignorance, assume it is not valid. Thus, they conclude it must be a republican smear. This illustrates the shortcomings of concrete, binary thinking: one must, by definition, be either pro-Hillary, or a victim of republican propaganda. This brings to mind Mark Twain’s saying that the problem in the world today is not so much one of ignorance, as of people knowing so darned much that just isn’t so.
For sake of discussion, I shall offer myself -- DU’s humble H2O Man -- and two of my concerns about Hillary Clinton, as examples. As I have previously stated, I will support either Democratic candidate who wins our party’s nomination. Yet, I am definitely supporting Bernie Sanders. This is because I prefer his political program, and have great respect for his values and integrity. Now, let’s take a brief glance at those two pesky issues, shall we?
The first is that Hillary Clinton has been a strong advocate of hydro-fracking. I would note that her high-profile advocacy has been in recent times ….not the 1990s. More, relatively few republican officials -- at a local, state, or national level -- oppose fracking. I’ve yet to see a single republican attack Ms. Clinton on this issue. Nor, for that matter, have I seen any large, multi-national “energy” corporation engage in vicious attacks upon her character due to her pro-fracking positions.
The second would be the money that Hillary Clinton made for speaking to Goldman Sachs. This issue includes her refusal to release the transcripts of the speeches. Again, I think we could all agree that the speeches in question took place after Hillary’s time as First Lady. I will speculate, however, that if Hillary is our nominee, the republicans will seek to exploit her refusal to release the transcripts, for republicans have no shame. None.
These are important “values” issues for me. Fracking poses much the same danger to the water that human beings and other living things consume, as the horrors in Flint. Both involve politicians and business interests who are willing to poison human beings for financial gain. And, far too often, the government’s decisions on this issue have been made behind closed doors, in private, off-the-record conversations between politicians and corporations.
It is an issue that I feel strongly about, and not because of any republican propaganda from the 1990s. Or current republican lies, for that matter. Indeed, it is a value that I take full personal responsibility for. I admit to preferring clean water to toxic sludge.
The manner in which I advocate for clean water, however, has been heavily influenced, not by republicans or energy corporations, but by the decades that I served as the top assistant to Onondaga Chief Paul Waterman. In those many years, I saw Paul serve on the Onondaga Nation’s Council of Chiefs; the Haudenosaunee Grand Council of Chiefs (Six Nations Iroquois Confederacy); and as the Gauyesa Toyentha in dealings with the United Nations and the rest of the non-Indian world.
Hence, as a few older DU community members may recall, a few years back, I engaged in a hunger strike, in an attempt to convince a state senator to meet with the environmental community to discuss fracking. This fellow, who received many thousands of dollars from the Koch brothers, had dismissed environmentalists -- including scientists at top universities -- as mere tree-huggers. He has since been convicted of political corruption in federal court. His and my value systems were, and are, distinct.
The people who are supporting Bernie Sanders today are, in my opinion, much the same as those who used to come to hear Chief Waterman’s message when we spoke in small towns and large cities, to students and environmentalists, to people who believed that our society needed to change in order to survive. They are the same people who found it unacceptable when a state senator refused to talk to them, but was comfortable as a lap dog for corporate interests. They are people who think for themselves, and act for others.
Posted by H2O Man | Fri Feb 19, 2016, 12:55 PM (92 replies)
“Dare to Dream!”
-- Dr. Rubin “Hurricane” Carter
The best supervisor that I had in human services told me a story the first day I went to work with him. In the southwest, he said, there was a type of flea that could be trained. If you kept them in a closed jar for a short time, they would quickly come to recognize the lid as representing the highest they could jump. One could thereafter remove the lid, and those fleas would never attempt to jump to its level.
Your job, he said, is to show people how to remove that lid, and not be trapped in life.
I remember that Martin Luther King, Jr., delivered one of our nation’s greatest in Washington, DC. It was titled, “I Have a Dream.” It remains one of the most rational, yet passionate explanations of what this country can be. King’s speech helped define how we want to see the United States.
King’s later speeches -- including his April 4, 1967 “A Time to Break Silence” (aka “Beyond Vietnam”) and his final message, on April 3, 1968 -- elaborate on how we make this powerful dream into a reality.
Many of us still share in this Dream. Indeed, we have since spent the years of our life working towards it. At times, we’ve won; other times, we’ve lost. But we still believe in that Dream. We are believers in the Power of Ideas.
A few years back, when autographing a book for my son, Rubin wrote: “To the Son of my dear friend and brother, Pat -- Dare to Dream! Always. Rubin ‘Hurricane’ Carter.”
Now my son’s generation has taken a close look at the world they inhabit, the one we are leaving them with, and they have been given hope by the Bernie Sanders campaign. And this is powerful. These young adults are not dreaming their lives away. They aren't playing some meaningless game. They are serving as the conscience of this country.
It’s said that a people without dreams has no vision. The Sanders campaign sees that too many Americans are living a cruel nightmare. We are not advocating the every-man-for-himself notion of the tea party. We are not hostile and threatening. We believe in the American Dream that has been crushed in recent decades, by the corporate-political corruption that everyone agrees exists. We know that we have better options.
Dare to Dream!
Posted by H2O Man | Wed Feb 17, 2016, 10:42 AM (38 replies)
One of the most important issues in the 2016 Democratic primary is the relationship between Wall Street and politicians. This includes the large amount of money that large corporations and billionaires contribute to individual political campaigns, either directly or through “Super PACS.” When corporations and billionaires invest in, say, a Willard “Mitt” Romney campaign, we all agree that they are seeking to buy influence, should Romney win.
I will speculate that everyone in the DU community will agree that one of the major differences between Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders is that Hillary has a much closer relationship to Wall Street than does Bernie, and that her campaign and Super PAC has received significant donations from large corporations and billionaires. This puts Hillary in line with previous Democratic candidates, including Barack Obama. It is Bernie who is offering the public something different.
In a November debate, Hillary justified her close relationship with Wall Street, by pointing out that, as a Senator from New York State, she was simply trying to help people recover from 9/11. This did not go over particularly well with many people.
At a recent CNN candidates’ forum, when asked why she accepted such a massive fee for speaking to Goldman Sachs, Hillary responded, “Well, I don’t know. That’s what they offered.” This, too, failed to address people’s concerns.
Last month, while campaigning in New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton was asked if she would release the transcripts from her speeches to Goldman Sachs? At the time, Hillary laughed the question off, as if it were too ridiculous to simply ignore. But that did not quell the growing interest in the transcripts. Recently, MSNBC’s Chuck Todd relayed a viewer’s question -- again, would she release the transcripts? -- and was told by the candidate that she would look into it.
By the following day, it became clear that neither the candidate, nor her campaign, had any interest in releasing the transcripts. Joel Benenson, of the Clinton campaign, told reporters that, “I don’t think voters are interested in the transcripts of her speeches.” (NY Times; 2-5-16) Exactly what he bases this on is unclear. But what has become evident is that the Clinton campaign is not willing to release the transcripts.
Brian Fallon, also of the Clinton campaign, told reporters that, “Bernie Sanders, like Karl Rove before him, is trying to impugn Hillary Clinton’s integrity without any basis in fact.” (NYT; 2-5-16) This is curious, since it was grass roots citizens, and journalists, who have asked Hillary to release the transcripts. Sanders has simply -- and accurately -- pointed out that Ms. Clinton spoke to Goldman Sachs for enormous sums of money. Such fees, as well as campaign and Super Pac contributions, are most obviously attempts to influence any candidate who gets them.
Hillary Clinton, at her best, has asked for people to identify any one piece of legislation that she was influenced on by such gifts. Many intelligent people recognize that this influence isn’t going to be identified in one changed vote, but rather in her patterns of voting. More, if there’s absolutely no evidence of a close relationship to be found in those transcripts, why not simply release them now?
To be fair, this isn’t in league with Richard Nixon refusing to turn over the Watergate tapes. There is nothing illegal about making $600,000 by talking with Goldman Sachs. Rather, it appears more like Mitt Romney’s refusal to make his financial records public. Or VP Dick Cheney’s insisting on keeping his meeting with energy corporations secret.
I can appreciate that, if the Clinton campaign reviewed the transcripts and found nothing that suggests an all-too-cozy relationship between Hillary and Goldman Sachs, that they might conclude releasing the transcripts would only lead to the opposition -- including the republicans, should Clinton win the nomination -- to attempt to twist anything and everything else she said, to their advantage. For example, Hillary spoke about her impressions, from her time as Secretary of State, of the global community.
Yet, her experience as Secretary of State would seem to be something open to the public. These experiences were the subject of her 2014 book, “Hard Choices.” Having read that book, I can say that it went into great detail …..likely more detail than a speech could address. Hence, intelligent people are questioning what exactly do those transcripts reveal?
Obviously, if Hillary is our party’s nominee, the republicans will use her refusal to release the transcripts against her. The media will definitely highlight this. It will add to the republican talking point that Clinton is secretive, and untrustworthy. Her refusal, and her campaign’s attempts to gloss over the issue, are by definition “unforced errors.” They have already missed the opportunity to get out in front of a character issue.
All Democrats -- be they for Bernie, for Hillary, or undecided -- should want the Clinton campaign to release the transcripts. Now. Not later ….say, during the general election. If one is pro-Hillary, and wants to let the air out of the Sanders revolution, release the transcripts, to prove there is nothing questionable in them. If you are pro-Bernie, and want to do something revolutionary, start contacting the media -- be it letters-to-the-editor of your local newspaper, or e-mailing various shows on MSNBC -- and demand that the transcripts be made public.
I’ve noted several times on this forum that I support Bernie Sanders, though if Hillary Clinton wins the nomination, I will campaign and vote for her. My ability to do so effectively will depend upon how the candidate and her campaign handle issues such as this. Thank you for reading this, and I will be interested in responses from people, no matter if they agree or disagree with me on this.
Posted by H2O Man | Tue Feb 16, 2016, 01:06 PM (13 replies)
One of the most interesting dynamics of election contests -- be they primaries or general elections -- is how campaigns adjust their tactics. Being the “front-runner” is very different from being at the back of a pack. When we look at the current republican primary, we see shifts in who will attack who, in hopes of gaining a strategic advantage. And in the Democratic primary, we have witnessed a change in tactics, for a reason that was highlighted by a recent poll.
Attacking your opponent’s strength can be a winning campaign technique. In recent times, of course, Karl Rove attempted to claim this tactic as his original brain-child. The republican Pillsbury doughboy’s lack of any meaningful success since 2004 suggests that Karl understood “how,” but not “why,” this tactic can succeed. Indeed, it can also fail.
A Quinnipiac poll from the recent Iowa primary contest showed that 93% of Democrats view Bernie Sanders as “honest and trustworthy.” While Hillary Clinton won the Iowa contest, it was so close as to be a virtual tie. Hence, the “honest and trustworthy” character traits associated in the public’s mind were identified as the strength that needed to be attacked.
In a general election for the Oval Office, it frequently falls upon the vice presidential candidate to be the attack dog. This has been best illustrated, over the decades, by some of the republican VP candidates -- Nixon in the 1950s, Agnew under Nixon, Bob Dole, and Sarah Palin all come to mind. But, in a primary contest, it is usually better to have the campaign, rather than the candidate, go on the offensive. (Donald Trump is clearly an exception to this rule, which serves as an accurate measure of how dysfunctional the republican party is in 2016.)
To a small extent, both Sanders and Clinton have confronted one another during their debates. Bernie has spoken of Hillary’s “Super Pac,” in the context of it being evidence that she is part of the political establishment that is corrupted by Wall Street. Hillary has attempted to frame this as a smear campaign. Another debate topic came from a non-debate question a journalist asked Bernie: Is Hillary a progressive? Sanders’s answer was based upon Clinton’s telling certain audiences that she is a moderate, centrist Democrat. Her response was to falsely claim that Sanders had appointed himself “keeper of the gate” for defining who is progressive -- something that is pure fiction.
Going into New Hampshire, Hillary Clinton was gaining the endorsements of numerous good, high-profile Democrats. However, while this is effective in some circles, it cemented her image of being an establishment candidate in other circles. More, the fact that Bernie identifies as a Democratic Socialist -- which had been considered his greatest weakness -- was proving to be a strength, when the public learned what that actually implies.
Hence, we are seeing the Clinton campaign go after Sanders on issues relating to his honesty and trustworthiness. This comes as no surprise, as it was easily anticipated. A first step in attacking a person’s character is to attempt to make them appear “different.” Like the infamous “Dean scream” made Howard seem a bit odd. Thus, part of the recent post-debate spin includes “did you see how often Bernie waves a hand while Hillary is answering a question?” Or, the focus on Bernie’s attempt to get in “the last word” on certain questions. Gosh! You’d think he was running for office, or something.
The new low-point that the Clinton campaign has plunged to has been its attempt to discredit Sanders’s history with the Civil Rights movement. Sanders, of course, has never claimed that he was a leader in the movement. Rather, he was one of the thousands of people who put himself on the line -- even getting arrested -- during the struggle.
This Clinton campaign tactic is as unethical as anything the 2000 Bush campaign employed against McCain in South Carolina. Even when exposed, it did not hurt Bush back then, because their party values a good lie over ethics every time. But it may not play as well within the 2016 Democratic primaries. As the public learns that the Clinton campaign will stoop to low blows about an issue as important as Civil Rights, it just might backfire.
Keep on fighting the Good Fight!
Posted by H2O Man | Mon Feb 15, 2016, 01:41 PM (57 replies)