On the Campaign Trail & 'Feeling the Bern'
Sanders Introduces Democratic Socialism to the American People
Updated April 19, 2016 from 4/15/16 / NYC Neighborhoods / News Analysis & Opinion / Gotham Buzz NYC.
If nothing else, this has been an interesting presidential election cycle. It's not 'reality TV', its televised reality.
Making America Great ... again?
The Republicans attracted most of the attention early on, thanks mostly to Donald J. Trump's shock jock presidential candidacy. A candidacy that turned presidential debates about public policy into name calling, discussions of poll numbers & penis size, and relentless barrages of vituperative insults.
The Donald has, in his campaign, essentially told us to forgeddabout the ballooning government deficit, a dated and at times crumbling infrastructure, fixing our public education system, helping the shrinking middle class and addressing global climate change.
The Donald has distracted us from an intelligent discussion about these 'loser' subjects, and told us that he's going to rip 12 million people [the equivalent of about 5% of the nation's population] away from their families by deporting them, punishing women for getting abortions, and erecting a wall along the border with Mexico which he tells us the Mexicans are going to pay for.
Does Trump really think this is how to 'make America great ... again'?
Trump Candidacy Increases Ratings Which Translates to Profits
Trump may not make America great again, but he's been good for corporate-owned, network television ratings. The Hollywood Reporter quotes CBS Chairman, Leslie Moonves telling a Morgan Stanley conference in San Francisco on February 29th, 2016 that,
"The money's rolling in and this is fun ... this going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It's a terrible thing to say. But, bring it on, Donald. Keep going."
While Sanders Delivers Substance & Expands Public Debate
So while Donald Trump has been filling the pockets of corporate-owned mass media, Bernie Sanders - the man with the real story - has largely been ignored. Ignored by the mass media, but embraced by the social media and a signficant and growing segment of the American populace. In fact Sanders, during the past week of campaigning in New York, attracted crowds of tens of thousands, while the other candidates on both sides of the ticket did not.
Click here to see photos of the Bernie Sanders campaign 2016 in NYC & LIC Queens, as well as a story about the contest between Sanders and Clinton.
On the Campaign Trail & 'Feeling the Bern'
Sanders Castigates Super Wealthy & Wins Crowd at Huge Rally
Updated April 19, 2016 from 4/15/16 / NYC Neighborhoods / News Analysis & Opinion / Gotham Buzz NYC. Continued.
Mass Media Heralds Hillary's Victory, Long Before Assured
The corporate-owned, mass media seems increasingly out of touch with the people they say they serve. For months they have been announcing that Hillary Clinton has won the Democratic nomination.
They keep telling us,
"Hillary has won, Hillary has won, Hillary has won ... "
except that if vote tallies still matter ... well then she hasn't won ... at least not yet. The New York primary could propel the Sanders campaign all the way to the nomination - or virtually end it.
There have been large polling errors during this election which either reflect some measure of incompetence, or possible bias, by the mass media funded pollsters.
Take the Michigan Democratic primary for example, where the WSJ / NBC / Marist poll completed March 3, 2016 showed Hillary Clinton leading Sanders 57% to 40%. Just five days later, on March 8, 2016, the voters spoke and Sanders beat Clinton 49.8% to 48.3%. The polling group's databases may have undercounted the Millenials and / or other key groups who, in some large measure, have been fueling the Sanders campaign.
A WSJ / NBC / Marist poll for the New York Primary Predicts Hillary will win again. A WSJ / NBC / Marist poll completed April 10, 2016 showed Clinton leading Sanders 55% to 41%. Could they be as wrong in New York as they were in Michigan?
Billionaires & Mega Millionaires Now Own U.S. Mass Media
Unlike years past, today most of the major U.S. media companies are now owned by billionaires and / or run by mega millionaires. And these are the very people that Bernie Sanders wants to have 1) pay into social security at the same percent of income as the rest of us, 2) pay more to their employees via a higher minimum wage [aka WalMart], and 3) pay more in taxes, because billionaires don't need all that money to cover their monthly living expenses - like somewhere in the neighborhood of half the people in this nation do. The following will give you an idea of who owns or runs the organizations conducting the polls, publishing the opinions, and framing the news in New York City as well as the nation.
CBS is controlled by Sumner Redstone who's reported to be worth $5 billion. ABC is owned by Disney which is publicly traded and presided over by Bob Iger who had a net worth in the neighborhood of $100 million a few years ago, and at that time received a salary of about $30 million. NBC is owned by Comcast which is controlled by Brian Roberts who is reported to be worth $1.5 billion. CNN is owned by Time Warner which is publicly traded and presided over by Jeff Bewkes who a few years ago was reported to have a salary of $32 million. Fox News, the Wall Street Journal & the NY Post are owned by News Corp which is controlled by Rupert Murdoch whose net worth is reportedly near $12 billion. The NY Daily News & U.S. News & World Report are owned by Mortimer Zuckerman whose net worth is reported to be $2.5 billion. The New York Times is publicly traded and still run by a descendant of the family that has run the newspaper for about the past 120 years and whose net worth and compensation I haven't been able to ascertain but it's safe to say that it's likely far greater than yours and mine. And the Washington Post is owned by Jeff Bezos whose reported net worth is $53 billion.
Many Super Wealthy Appear to Value Money Over Most Everything Else
The public policy concerns of the billionaires and millionaires who control the large news corporations, are not likely to be the same as the readers and viewers to whom they are providing political candidate and public policy information. Likely few or none of the corporate news titans, have a clue as to what it's like to have to live from paycheck to paycheck.
For example, according to The Hollywood Reporter, CBS Chairman Leslie Moonves made the following comment as to why CBS had given Trump such extensive coverage vis a vis the other presidential candidates during this election cycle. Essentially Moonves said that Trump generated high ratings, which in turn generated ad revenue and hence,
"It may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS."
There's an old saying in the news business which is - consider the source. I think this statement is more relevant today than ever before in our lifetimes.
This statement is not just imporant because of the proliferation of unreliable and inaccurate information sources over the internet, but because all of the media mentioned above - except the New York Times & Fox News - have changed hands at least once or more often in the past few decades. And invariably with ownership changes, come changes in how the editorial content is produced, positioned and presented. So keep that running in the back of your mind, while you're listening to the branded network news announcers or reading the prose of the branded news corporations' writers.
Clinton Campaign April Fundraisers in China & U.K.
While looking for Clinton / Sanders events to cover, I found something unexpected on Hillary's site. According to her website, this month she sent surrogates overseas to Asia and Europe [London] on fundraising gigs. Hillary's campaign took down the scheduled visits to Hong Kong and Beijing, China within hours after I discovered them, because of the negative feedback she was receiving from viewers online, about going overseas for fundraisers. To your right is a snaphot of the scheduled fundraisers as shown on the Clinton website just prior to their removal.
It's worth noting that the Clintons negotiated the World Trade Organization deal that let China into the 'club' and which was an important springboard for China's rapid rise as a global power [George W. Bush signed the deal]. And it's worth mentioning that in the Thursday debate on CNN, Sanders said he wanted Europe [and the U.K.] to pay its fair share of the costs for operating Europe's NATO defense, most of which are currently paid for by you, the American taxpayer.
Sanders also points out that many of the European nations, for whom we are currently footing some disproportional sum of the NATO bill, provide their citizenry with accessible healthcare and higher education, while many Americans struggle to do the same, because America is spending so much money on other nation's defense.
If Hillary doesn't have more pledged delegates than Bernie going into the convention, she may actually lose the Democratic nomination. This is because the Democratic party would have an extremely difficult time convincing Democrats to vote for her, if their votes weren't fairly counted and their will as expressed in the Democratic primaries not respected.
Having to count the voters' votes and respect their will has also become something of an issue in the Republican presidential primary. It seems both parties' establishments are having difficulty getting voters to embrace the candidates the respective establishments want.
Sanders Introduction of Democratic Socialism to the American Public could be Biggest Underreported Story of 21st Century
Socialist Bernie Sanders' Democratic candidacy has become iconic, and may turn out to be the biggest political story to date in the 21st century. A story made even bigger by the fact that his campaign has received little serious coverage by the corporate news media. This makes sense, of course, because the corporate news media is owned by the same super wealthy, billionaire class that Bernie's been railing against.
There are almost as many flavors of Socialism as there are flavors of soda pop on the planet, but Sanders is a Democratic Socialist, which according to Wikipedia is:
"Modern social democracy emphasises a program of gradual legislative modification of capitalism in order to make it more equitable and humane, while the theoretical end goal of building a socialist society is either completely forgotten or redefined in a pro-capitalist way."
Sanders references the Scandinavian style of social democracy as an example, which includes the following characteristics.
"...support for a 'universalist' welfare state aimed specifically at enhancing individual autonomy and promoting social mobility; a corporatist system involving a tripartite arrangement where representatives of labor and employers negotiate wages and labor market policy mediated by the government; and a commitment to widespread private ownership, free markets and free trade."
Democratic Socialism in Scandinavia - Some Facts & Figures
Democratic Socialism also comes in multiple flavors, but in essence it is a modified form of Capitalism which tries to mitigate the damage of inequitable wealth distribution, as well as the attendant human and environmental abuses.
The Scandinavian countries of Norway, Sweden and Denmark are listed in the top 20 nations by per capita income alongside the U.S. [source: Wikipedia]. The following are a few additional notable comparisons which I found on Demos.org, a non-profit public policy organization based in NYC.
For instance, Denmark had a child poverty rate of 2.7% compared to the U.S. rate of 20.9% [2005 figures]. In 2014, 0.0% of Denmark's population was without health insurance, while 10% of the U.S. population was not covered. America had higher per capita debt, longer work hours, fewer people employed on a per capita basis, lower production of intellectual property [as measured by patent approvals], no guaranteed weeks for parental leave [Denmark guarantees 52 weeks per newborn], no guaranteed vacation [Denmark has about a month] - BUT America has a lower cost of government [Denmark's government costs 55% vs 33% in the U.S.] AND a lower cost of welfare [Denmark pays 30% for welfare budget vs 19% in the U.S.].
The photo above right is of Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island where Bernie Sanders made a visit while campaigning in New York City this past week.
Sanders Rails Against the Super Wealthy's Usurpation of the 'Right to Life, Liberty & the Pursuit of Happiness' for the Middle & Lower Classes
I suppose you could say Sanders wants to force the super wealthy billionaires to hoard less and share more, so that wide swaths of the rest of society can live more humane and fuller lives. Sanders told us that the top 0.1% has as much wealth as the bottom 90% of the people in the nation. He also told us that the top 20 billionaires have the combined wealth of half the nation or 150 million people. That the billionaire Walton family of WalMart are using the welfare system to offset the paltry wages and benefits that WalMart pays their employees, so that the Waltons can enrich themselves even more. And Sanders tells us that 58% of all new wealth created in this nation currently goes to the top 1%.
Sanders makes it sound like the rich are getting richer.
Sanders Calls for a more Humane America, Citing FDR & Pope Francis
Sanders wants to move America away from 19th century style unfettered capitalism, into a more humane, modified capitalism of the 21st century. A transformation that was begun by Franklin Delano Roosevelt in the 1930's and 1940's, continued by Kennedy / Johnson legislation in the 1960's, and continued again by the Obama Administration with the rollout of national health insurance about three years ago.
Sanders highlighted the sense of historical connection he feels with FDR, with a visit to the Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island in the East River this past week. It's reported that Sanders also feels a connection with the Socialist Catholic Pope Francis- a connection which Sanders highlighted with a quick trip, and ever-so-brief visit with the pontiff, over the weekend.
The photo at right shows Pope Francis in the small car at right in NYC in September of 2015.
Democratic Socialist Becomes the Face of the Occupy Movement
Democratic Socialist Bernie Sanders has won 8 of the last 9 primary contests, and yet the media coverage his campaign has received by the corporate press includes only the smallest of blandly written headlines in stories which are pushed far down the front page. But Sanders supporters have kept Bernie's story and candidacy alive by sharing their videos, stories and comments on the social media, and because 7 million supporters have made small online donations averaging $27 apiece. It appears that Bernie Sanders has become the voice and the face of the Occupy Movement.
Meanwhile, over the past week I've also seen the regulars of the Queens & Manhattan Democratic machines begin swinging into action by hosting Hillary fundraisers and appearing alongside Hillary and Bill Clinton in photo ops. Sanders holds both political party establishments responsible for the declining opportunities and the shrinking of the American middle class.
Sanders told us that some of our elected government officials aren't representing regular voters, because they are too busy catering to the whims of the wealthy people funding their campaigns.
NYS Polls: 7% are Undecided / Clinton Ahead by 10%
As of this writing the Huffington Post, which is generally considered a liberal media outlet, shows Hillary with 51.9% of voter interest and declining, and Bernie with 40.5% of voter interest and rising, in their poll of polls. Real Clear Politics, which is generally considered a conservative pollster, shows Hillary with 52% of the expected vote compared to Bernie's 42%, in their poll of polls. In both cases there's about 6% to 7% of the electorate that is undecided - which means that along with the polling margin for error - it is possible the state of New York could go in Bernie's favor.
But this upset scenario is still a very long shot, especially with less than a week away. The upset would be comparable to Harry Truman defeating New York Governor Thomas Dewey in 1948 for the U.S. presidency, meaning it would be totally unexpected.
Tuesday, April 19th, Republican & Democratic Primaries in New York
On Tuesday, April 19th, you the voter, get to weigh in on the matter. The following are a few of the more salient points to consider while choosing a candidate.
I. On the one hand there's the Clintons.
The Clintons signed legislation repealing large portions of the Glass-Steagall Act. The Glass-Steagull Act prevented banks from essentially lending to themselves for speculative investments.
Following the Clinton repeal of those laws in 1999, we witnessed a near collapse of the entire world financial system during the presidency of George W. Bush. Bush played a sizeable role in contributing to the banking failure because his administration was lax in its oversight of the banking industry.
This near catastrophic debacle was followed by a multi trillion dollar plus bank bailout [estimates ranged from $12 - $14 trillion government / taxpayer exposure] during the Obama years, which most economists believe Obama had to do, to avert an even greater catastrophe.
According to an NYT story [12/19/14] which was corroborated by a subsequent Washington Post story [1/5/15], the federal government actually made a small profit on the TARP [Troubled Assets Relief Program] bailout of about $15 billion. Some analysts estimated the government profit to be $350 billion. Both numbers are a paltry return on a very, very large effort to save the nation and the planet from economic ruin. These figures relate to the TARP only, and do not include the signficant amounts of fiscal stimulus that the federal government felt compelled to spend to keep the economy moving, while the financial markets were being cleaned up.
The Clintons also negotiated the deal which let China into the World Trade Organization without mandating safeguards against currency manipulation by the Chinese. Many observers believe this failure essentially gutted the American manufacturing sector. George W. Bush signed the deal, which resulted in a massive exportation of many of America's middle-income manufacturing jobs. America now finds itself importing many of its manufactured goods from China, and this, along with oil, is one of the main contributing causes to America's persistent trade deficits.
Senator Hillary Clinton also voted for the War in Iraq, which has cost the American taxpayer well in excess of a trillion dollars. Hillary says this is a vote which she now regrets.
The Clintons, like the Bushes and Kennedys before them, seek to circumvent the intent, although not the letter of the law legislated in the 22nd Amendment which term limits [individual] occupancy of the Oval Office to eight years. Regardless of the Clinton candidacy, I think the 22nd Amendment should be modified to exclude people within an extended family, including spouses, from seeking the presidency for at least 25 years after a family member has occupied it. If Hillary is elected, go ahead and grandfather her presidency, but please close the family name / family fame loophole.
One of the Clintons' greatest accomplishments was that they changed the tax code to collect more from the wealthy and turned government deficits into government surpluses which began reducing our national debt. I think that fixing our federal government deficit and reducing our national debt should be one of the top priorities of the next president, because it has the potential to destabilize the nation and throw everything this nation is about up for grabs. Oddly enough, none of the candidates, not even Hillary Clinton, are talking about the government deficit and debt.
II. On the other hand there is Bernie Sanders.
Should we elect Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders who voted against the Glass-Steagull legislation changes, voted against letting China into the World Trade Organization without safeguards, voted against the financial system bailout and voted against the War in Iraq?
Sanders' campaign and Sanders' life [he appears to have been amazingly consistent] has been about railing against billionaire funded elections, corporate greed, political manipulations, and the political party machines which he believes have sold out the American public to the wealthy private interests.
As one of one hundred Senators, an uncompromising Sanders voted against a bailout that was necessary to prevent a financial meltdown. Were he president, this uncompromising stance would have wreaked havoc with the lives of the nation and world. But he wasn't the president, he was the dissident Senator from Vermont.
Democratic Socialist Sanders Supporters' Point of View
I queried quite a few pro-Sanders people at the Bernie Sanders rally in Washington Square Park and days later in Long Island City in Queens. I challenged them saying that it's easy for Senator Sanders to rail against the establishment, but it's far more difficult to actually change it.
I went on to ask them, if they really think Sanders can accomplish any of the things he says he wants to do? Their replies are somewhat similar, which can be summarized as follows,
"I'd rather have Bernie Sanders try to make the changes that he talks about, changes that we need to make ... and have him fail. Than to vote for someone who is going to maintain the status quo."
So there you have it.
There was a Clinton-Sanders debate on CNN Thursday night, April 14th from 9 pm to 11 pm Eastern Standard Time. It was, as expected, pretty lively.
And there's a Bernie Sanders rally in Hunters Point Park in Long Island City on Monday evening beginning at 5 pm.
Polling Place Locator for New York City & Queens
On Tuesday, April 19th, voting begins at 6 am Eastern Standard Time and ends at 9 pm. Here's a link to a NYS Board of Elections polling locator which will allow you to find your Queens polling location.
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