Bernie Sanders and Mark Ruffalo

Mark Ruffalo and Bernie took a walk through the Brooklyn, New York school yards where Bernie grew up, and talked about his childhood, why he got involved in the Civil Rights Movement and how those experiences translated into his life in politics and this movement. (Directed by Matthew Cooke)

 

 

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Bernie Sanders’ vs. Hillary Clinton’s Tax Returns

Benrie v Hillary

Bernie Sanders reportedly earned just over $200,000 in 2014. That same year, Hillary Clinton, Sanders’s top Democratic rival, gave about 45 paid speeches, many of which paid her more in a single hour than Sanders made the entire year.

The Washington Post reports on Sanders’s income. “The senator from Vermont reported income of just more than $200,000 on his 2014 returns, according to the first few pages of his federal and Vermont filings, which were shared with The Washington Post back in June. On Friday, the couple is planning to release the rest of the returns, including attached schedules,” writes the paper. “The vast majority of the couple’s income came from Sanders’s $174,000 Senate salary and Social Security benefits that both he and his wife, Jane, a former college president, receive.”

In 2014 alone, Clinton gave speeches to GE (for $225,500), the National Automobile Dealers Association ($325,500), Deutsche Bank AG ($280,000), and many more.

As CNN reported at the beginning of this year, “Hillary Clinton and her husband, former President Bill Clinton, combined to earn more than $153 million in paid speeches from 2001 until Hillary Clinton launched her presidential campaign last spring, a CNN analysis shows.

“In total, the two gave 729 speeches from February 2001 until May, receiving an average payday of $210,795 for each address. The two also reported at least $7.7 million for at least 39 speeches to big banks, including Goldman Sachs and UBS, with Hillary Clinton, the Democratic 2016 front-runner, collecting at least $1.8 million for at least eight speeches to big banks.”

Here’s a list of Hillary Clinton’s publicly disclosed paid speeches since leaving the State Department, totaling a sweet $21,667,000:

Hillary Clinton Speeches 2013-2015_1

 

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Hillary Clinton Does Not Deserve The Black Vote

Poor black people in this election cycle, most notably poor black women, have become the new poor, white Southerner hicks of yesteryear who voted against their own self interest for George W. Bush and every Republican there is. I say this because  Hillary Clinton’s support among women of color is stronger than among white women. In fact, it appears as though poor black women are responsible for Clinton’s lead in the Primaries and are her winning card, one that she is eager to play and one which black people seem all too eager to get played. Again.

Black voters have been remarkably loyal to the Clintons for more than 25 years. It’s true that they eventually lined up behind Barack Obama in 2008, but it’s a measure of the Clinton allure that Hillary led Obama among black voters until he started winning caucuses and primaries. Now Hillary is running again. This time she’s facing a democratic socialist who promises a political revolution that will bring universal healthcare, a living wage, an end to rampant Wall Street greed, and the dismantling of the vast prison state—many of the same goals that Martin Luther King Jr. championed at the end of his life. Even so, black folks are sticking with the Clinton brand.

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Frankly, I fail to understand why Clinton has earned the loyalty of black voters at all.

Why black people think a corporatist one percenter who has worked all her life against them, is good for them in any way imaginable.

On the campaign trail back in 1992, Bill Clinton made the economy his top priority and argued persuasively that conservatives were using race to divide the nation and divert attention from the failed economy. In practice, however, he capitulated entirely to the right-wing backlash against the civil-rights movement and embraced former president Ronald Reagan’s agenda on race, crime, welfare, and taxes—ultimately doing more harm to black communities than Reagan ever did.

Back then, Clinton was the standard-bearer for the New Democrats, a group that firmly believed the only way to win back the millions of white voters in the South who had defected to the Republican Party was to adopt the right-wing narrative that black communities ought to be disciplined with harsh punishment rather than coddled with welfare. Reagan had won the presidency by dog-whistling to poor and working-class whites with coded racial appeals: railing against “welfare queens” and criminal “predators” and condemning “big government.” Clinton aimed to win them back, vowing that he would never permit any Republican to be perceived as tougher on crime than he.

Just weeks before the critical New Hampshire primary, Clinton proved his toughness by flying back to Arkansas to oversee the execution of Ricky Ray Rector, a mentally impaired black man who had so little conception of what was about to happen to him that he asked for the dessert from his last meal to be saved for him for later. After the execution, Clinton remarked, “I can be nicked a lot, but no one can say I’m soft on crime.”

Bill Clinton presided over the largest increase in federal and state prison inmates of any president in American history. Clinton did not declare the War on Crime or the War on Drugs—those wars were declared before Reagan was elected and long before crack hit the streets—but he escalated it beyond what many conservatives had imagined possible. He supported the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity for crack versus powder cocaine, which produced staggering racial injustice in sentencing and boosted funding for drug-law enforcement.

Clinton championed the idea of a federal “three strikes” law in his 1994 State of the Union address and, months later, signed a $30 billion crime bill that created dozens of new federal capital crimes, mandated life sentences for some three-time offenders, and authorized more than $16 billion for state prison grants and the expansion of police forces. The legislation was hailed by mainstream-media outlets as a victory for the Democrats, who “were able to wrest the crime issue from the Republicans and make it their own.”

When Clinton left office in 2001, the United States had the highest rate of incarceration in the world. Human Rights Watch reported that in seven states, African Americans constituted 80 to 90 percent of all drug offenders sent to prison, even though they were no more likely than whites to use or sell illegal drugs. Prison admissions for drug offenses reached a level in 2000 for African Americans more than 26 times the level in 1983. All of the presidents since 1980 have contributed to mass incarceration, but as Equal Justice Initiative founder Bryan Stevenson recently observed, “President Clinton’s tenure was the worst.”

Some might argue that it’s unfair to judge Hillary Clinton for the policies her husband championed years ago. But Hillary wasn’t picking out china while she was first lady. She bravely broke the mold and redefined that job in ways no woman ever had before. She not only campaigned for Bill; she also wielded power and significant influence once he was elected, lobbying for legislation and other measures. That record, and her statements from that era, should be scrutinized. In her support for the 1994 crime bill, for example, she used racially coded rhetoric to cast black children as animals. “They are not just gangs of kids anymore,” she said. “They are often the kinds of kids that are called ‘super-predators.’ No conscience, no empathy. We can talk about why they ended up that way, but first we have to bring them to heel.”

Both Clintons now express regret over the crime bill (and this has become a pattern: do horrible things and then apologize for it later. When apology becomes policy). And now that it seems politically expedient, Hillary says she supports criminal-justice reforms to undo some of the damage that was done by her husband’s administration. But on the campaign trail, she continues to invoke the economy and country that Bill Clinton left behind as a legacy she would continue. So what exactly did the Clinton economy look like for black Americans? Taking a hard look at this recent past is about more than just a choice between two candidates. It’s about whether the Democratic Party can finally reckon with what its policies have done to African-American communities, and whether it can redeem itself and rightly earn the loyalty of black voters.

To make matters worse, the federal safety net for poor families was torn to shreds by the Clinton administration in its effort to “end welfare as we know it.” In his 1996 State of the Union address, given during his re-election campaign, Clinton declared that “the era of big government is over” and immediately sought to prove it by dismantling the federal welfare system known as Aid to Families With Dependent Children (AFDC). The welfare-reform legislation that he signed—which Hillary Clinton ardently supported then and characterized as a success as recently as 2008—replaced the federal safety net with a block grant to the states, imposed a five-year lifetime limit on welfare assistance, added work requirements, barred undocumented immigrants from licensed professions, and slashed overall public welfare funding by $54 billion

Extreme poverty doubled to 1.5 million in the decade and a half after the law was passed. What is extreme poverty? US households are considered to be in extreme poverty if they are surviving on cash incomes of no more than $2 per person per day in any given month. We tend to think of extreme poverty existing in Third World countries, but here in the United States, shocking numbers of people are struggling to survive on less money per month than many families spend in one evening dining out. Currently, the United States, the richest nation on the planet, has one of the highest child-poverty rates in the developed world.

Billions of dollars were slashed from public-housing and child-welfare budgets and transferred to the mass-incarceration machine. By 1996, the penal budget was twice the amount that had been allocated to food stamps. During Clinton’s tenure, funding for public housing was slashed by $17 billion (a reduction of 61 percent), while funding for corrections was boosted by $19 billion (an increase of 171 percent), according to sociologist Loïc Wacquant “effectively making the construction of prisons the nation’s main housing program for the urban poor.”

Bill Clinton championed discriminatory laws against formerly incarcerated people that have kept millions of Americans locked in a cycle of poverty and desperation. The Clinton administration eliminated Pell grants for prisoners seeking higher education to prepare for their release, supported laws denying federal financial aid to students with drug convictions, and signed legislation imposing a lifetime ban on welfare and food stamps for anyone convicted of a felony drug offense—an exceptionally harsh provision given the racially biased drug war that was raging in inner cities.

Perhaps most alarming, Clinton also made it easier for public-housing agencies to deny shelter to anyone with any sort of criminal history (even an arrest without conviction) and championed the “one strike and you’re out” initiative, which meant that families could be evicted from public housing because one member (or a guest) had committed even a minor offense. People released from prison with no money, no job, and nowhere to go could no longer return home to their loved ones living in federally assisted housing without placing the entire family at risk of eviction. Purging “the criminal element” from public housing played well on the evening news, but no provisions were made for people and families as they were forced out on the street. By the end of Clinton’s presidency, more than half of working-age African-American men in many large urban areas were saddled with criminal records and subject to legalized discrimination in employment, housing, access to education, and basic public benefits—relegated to a permanent second-class status eerily reminiscent of Jim Crow.

It is difficult to overstate the damage that’s been done. Generations have been lost to the prison system; countless families have been torn apart or rendered homeless; and a school-to-prison pipeline has been born that shuttles young people from their decrepit, underfunded schools to brand-new high-tech prisons.

Economic insecurity is the root cause of a lot of the issues facing African Americans who are scoring low, compared to a lot of other segments of society, on almost all socio-economic indices.

Someone who takes 250,000 dollars in speaker fees from Goldman Sachs to congratulate them on a job well done and for being “job creators” is not going to do the bidding of people socioeconomically disadvantaged by the very policies Clinton endorses.

It is utterly bizarre to me that poor, disenfranchised black men  – and most notably women  – would support this corporatist Establishment candidate.

Bernie Sanders wants to address those very inequalities Clinton’s policies have created. Clinton doesn’t. She has, time and again, ridiculed Sanders and his supporters as a bunch of naive dreamers with their head in the sky and already promised that none of the things Sanders wants done, like money out of politics, universal health-care, affordable education etc – will happen.

Sure, she has learned to use the kind of language that sounds inclusive of African Americans and that they want to hear, but without any real intention to truly reform things where they need to be, namely on the economic level, which is where the African American community is hurting the most.

 If you listen closely, and it truly bothers me that Clinton supporters clearly are not, you’ll notice that Hillary Clinton is still singing the same old tune but in a slightly different key. She is arguing that we ought not be seduced by Bernie’s rhetoric because we must be “pragmatic,” “face political realities,” and not get tempted to believe that we can fight for economic justice and win. When politicians start telling you that it is “unrealistic” to support candidates who want to build a movement for greater equality, fair wages, universal healthcare, and an end to corporate control of our political system, it’s probably best to leave the room.

For the record:  Sanders opposed the 1996 welfare-reform law. He also opposed bank deregulation and the Iraq War, both of which Hillary supported, and both of which have proved disastrous. In short, there is such a thing as a lesser evil, and Hillary is not it.

I can only surmise that black women who reflexively vote for Clinton because “Sanders is white” and a man, are oblivious to the policies and legislation Clinton stands for as well as oblivious to what Bernie Sanders stands for. Clinton stands for legislation that is un-progressive and that does not truly intend to economically empower individuals, especially African American communities that have been, and continue to be, under a massive assault by the class warfare created by the likes of Clinton and the Democratic Party which has not only capitulated to right-wing demagoguery but is now owned and controlled wholly by a relatively small number of millionaires and billionaires.

I find all this incredibly frustrating because it seems as though election outcomes always seem to be dictated by ignorant tools whose votes create the majority a candidate needs to win.

So, it’s either dumb-as-shit, white Southerners who determine everyone’s fate by voting against their own self interest.  And this year it seems to be  dumb-as-shit, black Southerners who determine everyone’s fate by voting against their own self interest.

Of course, people can vote however they want. I just hate that they are basically taking the rest of us down with them.

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Conservative Versus Progressive Values

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The Relic Behind “Just Say No” has Died

Former first lady Nancy Reagan died Sunday at the age of 94. She served as first lady from 1981 to 1989 and was known for her campaign to fight drug and alcohol abuse among youth. The refrain “Just Say No” became synonymous with those efforts and a pop culture watchword. The first lady appeared repeatedly on TV and enlisted more established groups to advance the anti-drug message. “Just Say No” clubs were started nationwide in schools and elsewhere.

I wish I could say some nice things about her having died, but I simply have run out of sympathy for oligarchs and people whose actions in their lifetime have resulted in a lot of harm, but which society somehow seems to conveniently forget the moment they die because they were in positions of power or, in her case,  lovely ladies with a great sense of style and a loving husband.

The truth is that Nancy Reagan was just part of the disease that has been eating away at our democracy and integrity as a nation.

The “Just say No” slogan was so out of touch with the realities of not only substance abuse but the human condition in general that it is right up there with “Let them eat cake“.

That slogan was part of a failed and bankrupting war on drugs for which people are still paying today in ways we can’t imagine, such as Alice Marie Johnson who has been spending the last 19 years in prison as one of thousands of first time, non-violent offenders who were given mandatory lengthy prison terms thanks to the war on drugs policies enacted by Ronald Reagan and lobbied for by Nancy.   Johnson was sentenced to life in prison as a result, even though she has never even sold drugs.

Where is the sympathy for Alice Marie Johnson and the countless victims of the anti drug propaganda perpetrated and codified into law by the Reagans? Does anyone mourn a woman who has been sent to jail for life for alleged drug abuse and distribution?

For the record, the war on drugs is the main reason the US incarcerates more people than any other country in the world, with people of color being affected the most.  Not to mention the fact that it hasn’t worked, and has done more harm than good. Nancy’s approach failed to see drug abuse as a health problem that needs to be handled and treated as such, and instead  was dumbed down to a simplified slogan followed by imprisonment.

Reagan was also essentially an oligarch who threw lavish parties and soirees at the White House with celebrity guests,  living the good life. She was mockingly dubbed “Queen Nancy” for what many viewed as excessive spending during the 1981-82 recession, according to the National First Ladies’ Library. She directed major repairs and redecoration in the White House, which hadn’t been done since renovations in the 1960s, and purchased new china. Her elegantly expensive wardrobe, often allegedly donated by the designers, sparked criticism as well.

She also spent a lifetime lobbying against abortion and a woman’s right to chose. The only reason she later was for stem cell research is because her husband had fallen sick to Alzheimer’s. Up until then, she did all she could to make sure that women who need abortion, don’t get it.

Reagan also caught flak for being overly involved in her husband’s administration, particularly in the hiring and firing of top advisers. A number of memoirs from those who worked for the Reagans said that Nancy Reagan pushed out those she perceived as detrimental to her husband.

One White House chief of staff, Donald Regan, said in his 1988 book that he was fired after disagreeing with her over what the president should do during the Iran-Contra scandal. “She becomes very vindictive if she thinks somebody is going to harm the reputation of her husband or herself, or won’t give in to her,” he said at the time, according to People magazine.

Nancy Reagan had also begun consulting an astrologer (!!) to deal with her own fears over her husband’s safety after the March 1981 assassination attempt. Shot in the chest, the president underwent emergency surgery to save his life. Regan wrote that in later years, the first lady required major decisions regarding the president’s schedule to be run past the San Francisco fortune teller.

 

So here we have a woman who was entertaining famous guests and throwing lavish parties while her husband took food out of peoples’ mouths by employing  pejorative catchphrases such as “Welfare Queens” in an anti-welfare, anti-labor and anti-social safety net crusade. He spent the majority of his time in office busting unions such as firing 11,000 FAA employees (a move from which the FAA still has not fully recovered, not to mention the lives of those 11,000 people who were adversely impacted by his crusade against labor) and  privatized everything. In a way, his policies and actions have helped pave the way for the fascist Republican party that has emerged as the result of his union and middle class busting policies, greed and avarice.

At the end of the day, when all the sweet talks of admiration about her elegance and grace and great marriage to Ronnie have settled, she was just another vulture on an ivory tower, sucking dry the average person and engaging in her own personal idea of social darwinism. Much like Scalia, she, too,  can go to hell for all I care.

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Dear Antonin Scalia, Thank You For Dying

The more I learn about this sorry excuse of a human being in the wake of his long-overdue demise, the more I am convinced that his death is a true salvation to  this nation.

Last week, I reported that the luxury resort in West Texass where Scalia died and stayed for free was owned by J.B. Poindexter & Co., a manufacturing firm with  seven subsidiaries and a  combined annual revenue of nearly $1 billion. One of Poindexter’s companies was involved in a case that made it to the high court  last year; a case the Supreme Court declined to hear. And here we were, a year later,  where a Justice of that very same court stayed for free at the luxurious home/ranch of the owner of the company involved in a case which the Supreme Court refused to hear.

This week we find out that Dow Chemical,  one of America’s largest chemical manufacturers, agreed on Friday to settle a price-fixing lawsuit for $835 million in the wake of Justice Antonin Scalia’s death.

The company had challenged a $1 billion judgment in a high-stakes, class-action case. But without Scalia, it appears the new reality at the high court was too big a gamble for the company to continue with the litigation.

In other words, the felon chemical company was counting on Scalia to uphold his corporate malfeasance, which is why they did not want to initially settle. They knew Scalia would have their back. When he died, that certainty no longer was and so they decided it may be in their best interest to settle after all.

Speak of malfeasance: reports have surfaced of him having spent his last hours with members of a secretive society of elite hunters called the International Order of St. Hubertus. Yes, hunters. His entire life, Scalia aligned himself with power against the powerless. Be it powerless humans or powerless animals, all just the same to that old sociopath.

Knowing that his absence means that he will no longer be able to continue doing what he has been doing, puts a smile on my face. I am grateful to know he is dead.

At the same time, I am saddened that our country – or actually society – has been keeping such a contemptible human being on payroll, so to speak, for all this time, granting him safety and immunity and thus a platform from which to engage in said contemptible actions.

I am sad and contemptuous that we live in a society where someone so vile and reprehensible as Scalia could not only thrive, but where he would be celebrated and hailed as a brilliant man, scholar and leader for whom nations lower their flags in his honor.

I do know that he was a terrible person who did not contribute a single positive thing to the world he lived in.  What troubles me is that so many people don’t.

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Stupit Sh!t I Read On My Lunch Break

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