Thanks, Russia!

All over the press, mainstream media, social media, water coolers, and barstools the talk is about President Trump’s relationship with Russia. Every person he knows that ever spoke to a Russian is being presented as further evidence of collusion with Russia between his campaign and even President Trump himself in order to alter the results of the vote last November. A serious charge that if proven true should mean more than the removal of just Donald Trump as President. Since the accusations extend to numerous individuals within his campaign, a legitimate case could be made that the election itself is invalid. However calling telephone conversations that have been documented as not having been found to have any evidence of collusion along with the total lack of any hard forensic evidence means that the charges, if true would be hard to prove. In fact, there are significant reasons to discount every justification being made by the press and the government to take the idea of Russian meddling in the US Presidential election seriously.

But there was election tampering and it all occurred by US interests without any foreign assistance. Hillary Clinton actively rigged both sides of the primary. She manipulated the media with the assistance of the “unbiased” DNC, laundered contributions that were intended for other Democratic candidates in other races. There was also money used by the DNC and the Clinton campaign to create a hidden stash that was used to create social media propaganda and outright attacks on Sanders and his supporters. Additionally there are questions outstanding as to the validity of the actual votes counted in the Primaries due to red flag discrepancies between the count and exit polls. On the Republican side, the Clinton campaign enlisted assistance from various media outlets to minimize their coverage of Sanders and fill in that void with an overdose of coverage of the two most extreme Republicans, Trump and Cruz.

During the general election, Republicans had already proactively rigged the vote by engaging in wholesale voter suppression of targeted likely Democratic voters. There was minimal, exit polling which is the international standard in which to gauge the validity of the vote. Additionally when challenges did arise, recounts were either impossible due to all electronic votes tabulated without a verifiable audit trail, or both parties conspired to raise the costs of funding recounts as to make them all but impossible to achieve.

And after all that known improprieties by US interests we are supposed to get all worked up because the Director of the FBI stated that Vladimir Putin hates Hillary Clinton? That was an actual reason provided at one point by then FBI Director Comey.

But still, when I mention these issues, people tell me to ‘get over it’. Why? The supposed two party system was manipulated so that the choice would be between a person whose only accomplishment in life was marrying a guy who later become President, while she garnered an incredible resume, but little else and a man who rose to fame and fortune by the grace of his father’s business acumen backing him up. Ever since his father’s death, his career has been a string failures punctuated with a few get rich quick schemes. In other words, this election was not between two people who have been proven capable, but between two corrupt and incapable individuals. Whether the Russians had any influence in the outcome, the damage was done before they ever got involved. Maybe, the Russians did us a favor, or more likely we are just giving them another reason to make a toast and down a shot of vodka.

The Apprentice Learning on the Job

BradFromSalem

Pardon me for revisiting the election, or should I say “election” that happened last November. Before anything else, I would like to apologize to all my friends that supported either Hillary or The Donald. I truly do respect that you made your choice and acted upon that choice by voting, but I get the feeling from both camps, inspired by the candidates themselves, that the implications and the stories of the November 2016 Presidential election are still reverberating and being digested. Listen up folks that support or just voted for The Donald, let’s talk about your guy. Mainly because you won, but also because I am pretty sure that most of you just thought your vote was a middle finger statement to the establishment. Admit it, you probably thought your guy would not win. Not for popularity issues, but because you were sure the election was fixed.

You voted for The Donald, and some of you still embrace his Presidency; while others are pissed that you had no choice. It was the hated Hillary Clinton or the middle finger to the establishment Donald. Those were the choices. But oddly, a number of persons that voted for The Donald have come forward and have spoken out that Bernie Sanders was their first choice, or that at least in a race between The Donald and Bernie, there was a distinct possibility their vote may have gone to Bernie. – Fascinating. But the choice was not Bernie vs. The Donald, you voted for Trump, you got Trump. If you really are happy with his performance so far, then God bless you. It truly is beyond my comprehension, because he has failed at every attempt to implement his agenda. Either by the courts, performing their Constitutional duty to uphold the Laws of the US and defend the Constitution; or by politics. It is a funny thing about being a politician, it’s sort of like any other profession. Take Librarian for example. A Librarian needs to know how to manage a library and what the numerous tasks are that only a librarian could enumerate. The same is true for a politician, they don’t just make laws and there are numerous tasks they must perform. Someone that has demonstrated little patience to actually learn the job, or bring in as close advisors people that have learned the job, is destined to fail. Donald Trump is failing, his campaign positions are melting away and his promises are morphing into mere suggestions when they are not being spun around 180 degrees. This emasculation has taken place over his first 100 days. He may recover, but until that happens I will find it very hard to support him on any issue. One last comment to all my Hillary supporting friends, no I do not regret not voting for her. The Donald is worse than I thought he would be, but I should have seen that coming based on his business success rate.

VOLUNTEERS OF AMERICA

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BRADFROMSALEM

What is the political Revolution that Bernie Sanders is talking about? Is he asking that we take to the streets, block traffic and commerce until the wealthy agree to share their riches? How about, we congregate at nearby military bases and police stations and block all the exits until the various government agencies agree to make the wealthy share their riches? What is this revolution about, how does it work, and will the US be the new Soviet Union after it’s all over?  I have no doubt that as the 2016 Presidential campaign continues, this is a subject that Senator Sanders will discuss at length. Until then, here is my take of what a political revolution in America is about.

As Bernie Sanders has pointed out, our political system is broken and it’s in danger of collapsing under the weight of oligarchy. An oligarchy is where all the functions of state are managed by a few. In the case of America the oligarchy manages the state covertly to its own financial gain. To do that, they have strategically manipulated the voice of the people to either agree with their agenda or be unaware of its existence. Take a step back and consider how we would like the system to work without an oligarchy. Then consider how the system actually works, and the existence of an oligarchy becomes plain. If you are like me and nearly everyone I know, no matter what political persuasion, the system does not work how we would like it to.

The political system is the processes we follow in order to select the people to administer our various governments. But for this entry, lets just stick to the federal government. It is this political process that Bernie Sanders wants to revolutionize by reinventing it. We can also call the revolution he is championing as a reinvention of the political processes used to elect members of the House, the Senate and the Presidency. Currently our elections require (unofficially) for candidates to belong to one of two parties, obtain funding to mount a campaign and devote themselves almost 24/7 to campaigning and funding. Running for elected office forces one to compromise their principles and ignore morality in the belief that you can overcome the compromises and amorality. But once you enter this world and make your first bargain, you are forever in the debt of the oligarchs that supplied you with the money to buy some newspaper ads, and a few TV ads. And you can say whatever you want, but don’t actually do anything that will jeopardize the oligarchs. Over and over, well-meaning people choose a party, get some funding and suddenly find themselves having to choose.  The hardest part is avoiding that first compromise.

The political revolution will change that. The very fact that Bernie Sanders, a Congressional Independent, who claims his political leanings are toward a Democratic Socialist system, can legitimately run for President as the candidate of one of the two established parties is itself a political revolution. Sanders is in a unique position to be able to this. He began as a mayor of the largest city in a state that at the time really did have more cows than people. However he won that position without going the party route and won by a razor-thin margin. When he decided to try for a promotion to Congress, he refused to use a party, refused big money and he won. Then he went on to become a Senator using the same model. Now he is running for President following the same revolutionary model and undertaking a long shot revolutionary takeover of the Democratic party. He can lead the revolution because he is not compromised by the oligarchy.

But, Sanders has never been about himself. He is the well-meaning person, except he never had to change his mind on issues just to keep getting elected. He wants to alter the system so that all the well-meaning people don’t have to join a party, their campaigns will not be dependent on who can get the most money for the most ads. Public financing of elections and outlawing Super Pacs are two of his campaign platforms. That alone will revolutionize the political process.

The revolution can expand from there. The idea that government is limited by what it can do to help people live up to their potential will also be changed, because women and men of vision and integrity will be able to serve. A recent newspaper column claimed that Sanders is turning the phrase that JFK spoke at his inauguration from ‘ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can for your country’ around to ‘ask what your country can do for you’.  The writer is wrong, Sanders is doing exactly what JFK was talking about. He is not asking that the country elect him president for himself or even the oligarchs, he asking that the country elect him for what he can do for the country.  He is trying to revolutionize how our political process works, a process nearly everyone agrees is broken and corrupt. Without a reliable political process with integrity, how far away are we from handing it all over to an elite that only think ‘don’t ask what your country can for you, ask what you can do for us, the oligarchs’. We can stop that from happening by a political revolution, because if we continue to elect people who have chosen the party and big money route we will need a revolution that won’t resolve at the polls.

 

What In Tarnation is a Progressive anyways?

Maine Desert - Created by good intentions gone bad
Maine Desert – Created by good intentions gone bad

BRADFROMSALEM

We in America all talk of how we have a two-party system. Many persons disappointed in the current state of affairs have expressed a desire for a third-party.  Usually they want the third-party because “neither party is for the people”, or “they’re all a bunch of crooks”, and “it don’t matter who I vote for, they are all the same”.  All true statements, but only partly. Our present election system indirectly encourages office seekers and officeholders to put the interest of the people low on their priority list, it allows for unsavory legal and outright illegal deals to be made, and both of the two major parties have created a political infrastructure where you either sing the same song or don’t sing at all. But inside all the noise, there is a lot more going on and America is not really divided into two. We are not just either a Democrat or a Republican, a Liberal or a Conservative; or any of the tiny and not tiny offshoots of those four major alignments. What is unusual is that with negligible exceptions the Democrats have all the Liberals in their tent, and the Republicans have all the Conservatives. In the past, each party consisted of a coalitions of other groups along the political Right to Left spectrum. Not anymore. Right are Conservative Republicans, and Left are Liberal Democrats.

But as I noted, there used to be Republican Liberals. And most notably, the Republican Party under Teddy Roosevelt created the modern Progressive movement.  Progressives were and are a liberal faction that places as it highest goal the supremacy of the individual person.  This is similar and yet the opposite of the Objectivists, AKA the followers of Ayn Rand’s Libertarianism. The key difference between Progressives and the Objectivists is simply a question of how the supremacy is defined and how it is accomplished.  The Objectivists believe each individual is solely responsible for their accomplishments and that means in the Objectivists worldview that the more an individual achieves is an indicator of how much better or worse that individual is as compared to others.  A Progressive on the other hand believes that individual supremacy occurs when all persons are helped, guided, and encouraged to achieve whatever they are best at. This requires that our social mores and government (communal) actions are all biased toward the goal of each person achieving their individual supremacy. Objectivists are a special case of Conservative and Progressives are a special case of Liberals.

But beyond the individual person’s achievements there is another even larger gap. Progressives do not recognize the supremacy or even the legitimacy of the artificial person known as corporations to overrule the supremacy of natural persons. Objectivists, see the corporation as a collection of persons.  The persons who run the corporations then use the corporation’s achievements to justify supremacy over other persons natural and artificial. It is a difference of perception, one which I personally choose the Progressive argument.

So here is the Turing test to see if a person is truly a Progressive.  Many Liberals and Progressives will agree on policy details, but there is a big, huge, difference that will steer the decision-making once they have achieved public office. The test is an answer to a simple question. Do you believe that we, as a society, can achieve our loftiest ambitions by allowing corporations and it’s representative Natural Persons to have any say in our laws and regulations? Any person that answers ‘yes’ is not a Progressive.

 

So What Happens Now?

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BRADFROMSALEM

I read posts and comments and columns about the upcoming catastrophe. The end of our nation, is how I would best summarize it. The Democrats lost the Senate and as I noted in my previous blog, it was not the fault of the electorate, but instead it was the fault of the party. So, does that mean, next week when the new Congress convenes, their first order of business will be to mobilize a special military force or perhaps a special media force, whose entire purpose will be to dismantle the US as we know it. Or, at least think we know it. How much will change?

From where I sit, not much. First of all both of the mainstream parties are terribly fractured. So that on the Republican side you have a small vocal minority of individuals that mostly have no idea how government works. These, of course, are the Tea Party adherents. There are just enough of these silly people to allow the other two Republican factions to actually put together a coherent Birthday Party, let alone a political platform.  The other two are the Ayn Rand Libertarians/Objectivists and the rest all want to be Ronald Reagan, or at least what they imagine him to be.  Whatever comes out of this crew is sure to be horrible legislation that in most cases will rarely have enough Republican votes to pass. And the ones that do get through, usually with the help of some Democrats will almost never have enough support to pass a Presidential veto.

Democrats of course have their Progressive Wing and the Blue Dog wing, they at least talk to each other, but it appears they have not figured out that if they had a common agenda, they can probably run the board. Instead, they just run away from using common messages. The look just like Will Rodgers described them years ago.  “I do not belong to any organized politic party! I’m a Democrat.”

And there, my friends is the problem. Knowing this tells us exactly what the outcome of this Congress will be. It will be whatever President Obama wants it to be. The worst of it is called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). A treaty with a group of Pan asian nations that has been years in the making, a treaty that for most of those years was being negotiated in secret, a treaty that the administration is looking for Congress to authorize it without amendments, and to give that authorization prior to actually seeing the agreement.  This agreement is more of the same ilk as NAFTA, only more so.

By taking our cue from this particular treaty, we can surmise that the President will allow us continue down the same path started by Reagan (perhaps Nixon, but that is another story). Pushed onto the American public by Presidents Clinton and both Bushes. President Obama had a chance to break this cycle when he first arrived in office. Instead he brought on board the old Clinton crew. We can expect that public policy will mostly be framed by a simple concept. The American government should do nearly anything in its power to ensure that American corporations are profitable in the world markets.

Of course, I do expect that in really lame cases, such as the Keystone pipeline and a few other environmental issues, Obama may show some toughness. In other words, it won’t be all bad, and the worst stuff will be mostly the same as it is now. Foreign policy is run from the White House, and will continue to, so that won’t change much.

Real, transforming change can occur in 2016. Until then. Let’s just watch the show, let the Republican pro business agenda loose. Let the American people see for themselves what it really means to believe that supporting businesses over people actually helps more than a few persons. I am willing to bet the 2016 election it, unless Hillary is the Democratic candidate.

What? You say the Republicans walked all over the Democrats in November?

Ropes Garden, Salem MA July 2014
Ropes Garden, Salem MA July 2014

 

BRADFROMSALEM

Apparently the Democrats did the impossible. They got their asses kicked from sea to shining sea, and that shine wasn’t from the sun reflecting off the pristine waters of the Atlantic and Pacific.  The shine comes from oil slicks. Yecch.  The Democratic loss this year was like being up 3 games to none in a 7 game series. In baseball, arguably America’s sport, a comeback from 3 down had never happened. Never. All sports fans, but especially fans of the greatest and most famous sports rivalry, the Red Sox and the Yankees, know exactly what happened in 2004. The impossible happened.

Let’s look at the political advantages the Democrats had available and yet for some inexplicable reason they did not even put their advantages into the game. At least the Yankees did not bench their best when they were up 3 – 0 in the series. The first advantage Democrats had was that the economy was improving. Instead of boasting about it repeatedly the Democrats paid homage to the Republican myth of too much spending and the debt is too high. At the same time, the Decrats gave lip service to income inequality but never proposed anything about how and why we should fix it. And even less was said by the Democrats to connect the debt myth to inequality. Of course they did not say anything, about the debt myth since they had already agreed to play under Republican definitions of how an economy operates. because of all that the Democrats went to bat with 1 strike against them in nearly every debate election contest. And all they had to do was insist on explaining how fixing income inequality would improve the economic position of every person, and then tell them what they will do.

They allowed the Republican Party to denigrate the President of the United States, simply because he is a Democrat.  I did not hear of a single Democrat responding to a Republican taunt that the Democrat just voted along with President Obama and so were effectively equivalent to the President. They should have came back strong with a retort along the lines of “Of course I voted for policies favored by the President. He and I are both Democrats, we are going to agree on a whole lot more than you and I are going to agree on. By the way, can you describe the Jobs plan you have?”  Instead, many Democrats folded into a fetal position and whispered, but you belong to the Tea Party.  Whether the Republican was a Tea Party supporter the voters that are watching the debates or following the coverage are likely voters that have not already decided. Since running from their own party is essentially the same as an abdication, the Democrats now came out of each debate with two strikes against them.

Then it came down to the last few weeks before the election. Surely by then the Democratic Party as a whole must have realized just how much trouble they were in. If you follow politics, it’s just like the Republicans hit a grand slam in the early innings, somewhat like a goofy Red Sox centerfielder, who was also a heck of an exciting player. This is because the Democrats never told a cohesive story about the Republicans. One that emphasized that the Republicans shut down the government as a plot to abolish the ACA because the Republicans were unable to do it legislatively, the way the system was designed. Democrats did not make a simple case that every time John Boehner or any other Republican asks rhetorically, ‘where are the jobs, Mr. President’; the American people should be asking Boehner that as the Speaker of the House, it his responsibility to get legislation proposed. And with Republican taunt, the Democrats could list job proposals, action on immigration, plans to address income inequality, and critical ideas and solutions on what the US can do to limit the impact of Climate disruption on the future of America, and the entire world.

But, the Democrats stood there as a group, hoping that each candidate would solve their own campaign. And without a cohesive plan nearly every Democratic candidate just stood there and took strike 3 called.

People did not vote for any Republican agenda as the Republicans and the media claim. How could people choose an agenda that consists of only repeal measures and no positive message, other than you hate the President.  People keep blaming the large number of Democrats that did not vote. Tell me, if you were an undecided voter, why on earth would you vote for a Democrat? They told you nothing about what they stand for, what they would do to make life better for most people. They walked into this 2014 election cycle aware that the Republican ineptitude on actually articulating a policy was non existent. Instead of putting together all the good things that Democrats want to do, the Democrats took a 3 – 0 series lead and did nothing to get that 4th game.

 

 

THEY ARE ALL THE SAME

Ropes Garden 2 years ago today
Ropes Garden 2 years ago today

 

BRADFROMSALEM

Primary elections are still happening everywhere and every day we inch closer to the elections in November. In case you were not aware of it, every single seat for Congress is on a ballot somewhere. Thought important elections only occur when we elect a President? Not true, in fact not only is every seat in the House up for grabs but 1/3 of the entire Senate is as well. So perhaps you won’t vote because you can’t tell the Democrats from the Republicans and you won’t vote for a so-called 3rd party because they cannot win anyways. So you only vote for President, every 4 years. Yet, Congress passes the laws, not the President. The President can’t even introduce legislation, only Congress can.

But what difference does it make, they are all a bunch of crooks and they only pass laws that help themselves. True, so why vote? Here’s why.

They are all crooks, but they are not the same. So here is a simple metric to help you folks that don’t vote in these years when 1/3 of the entire Senate can be changed as well as the entire House of Representatives. Be selfish. Take care of you and your family. Vote for the candidates that will do something for you today, or at least during the next 2 years.

Vote for candidates that will pledge to raise the minimum wage. We will lose jobs, the opponents say. But if anyone in your family is making a minimum wage you know damn well they deserve better pay. Be selfish, vote you and your family a raise.

And then also make sure your candidate will support job creation. Perhaps you or someone in your family has been out of work, be selfish. Vote for the candidates that will increase jobs. Remember the guys and gals that tell you if you give rich people more money, the rich people will create more jobs? They won’t. And neither will any company that gets a tax cut. If they would do that, it would have happened already. So make sure you vote for a candidate that will spend government money building and fixing roads, improving our access to high speed internet, hiring more teachers with better training and so much more.

Don’t worry about the debt scolds. You may have heard the President and others tell you that our economy cannot be compared to your household budget. Even if you don’t believe anything President Obama says, on this he is correct. Want proof? Look at Greece. The EU has been trying to fix them by treating the Greek budget as if it were a household budget. It has not worked. Vote for candidates that will support investing in you and your family. Be selfish.

Last of all, remember the story of Sodom and Gomorrah. Its not a tale about the sins of sex. It is a message about the sins of treating strangers as different from you and your family. Another way to consider the story is as a parable for the Golden Rule. Jews state it as “Whatever is hateful to you, do not do to others”. The rest of religious and other moral teaching is commentary. Not only should we learn it, but act on it.

Think about whatever Golden Rule you follow and then vote selfishly. If all of us vote our personal best interests, we cannot, as a nation do anything but get better. If we all do better, isn’t the entire nation better of?

Vote. But vote selfishly, the way you yourself want to be treated.