Bernie Sanders

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Bernie Sanders, whose TV campaign ads were even a shade more alabaster than Trump’s, is a politician, so he has to choose his words carefully when speaking to supporters of the Ku Klux Kardashian, reassuring them that they’re not deplorables, even if many are.

The coded racist language the GOP has employed over the last 50 years became explicit in the candidacy of Trump, who falsely blamed non-white “others” for the nation’s ills, promising to corral them, and to pull away benefits from “those people” living off the system. The not-so-subtle joke was that the conman was talking about taking his crude scissors to a social safety net that was helping to hold aloft many of his very voters.

The punchline has started to land squarely on the jaw of those living in Trump country, a land that time forgot. Three excerpts follow from reports about #MAGA voters now in the crosshairs. They haven’t exactly lost their religion when it comes to their idol, but they have come to realize that being told your supreme may be attached to a steep price tag. 


From Nicholas Kristoff of the New York Times:

I came to Trump country to see how voters react as Trump moves from glorious campaign promises to the messier task of governing. While conservatives often decry government spending in general, red states generally receive more in federal government benefits than blue states do — and thus are often at greater risk from someone like Trump.

Ezekiel Moreno, 35, a Navy veteran, was stocking groceries in a supermarket at night — “a dead-end job,” as he describes it — when he was accepted in WorkAdvance two years ago. That training led him to a job at M&M Manufacturing, which makes aerospace parts, and to steady pay increases.

“We’ve moved out of an apartment and into a house,” Moreno told me, explaining how his new job has changed his family’s life. “My daughter is taking violin lessons, and my other daughter has a math tutor.”

Moreno was sitting at a table with his boss, Rocky Payton, the factory’s general manager, and Amy Saum, the human resources manager. All said they had voted for Trump, and all were bewildered that he wanted to cut funds that channel people into good manufacturing jobs.

“There’s a lot of wasteful spending, so cut other places,” Moreno said.

Payton suggested that if the government wants to cut budgets, it should target “Obama phones” provided to low-income Americans. (In fact, the program predates President Barack Obama and is financed by telecom companies rather than by taxpayers.) …

Judy Banks, a 70-year-old struggling to get by, said she voted for Trump because “he was talking about getting rid of those illegals.” But Banks now finds herself shocked that he also has his sights on funds for the Labor Department’s Senior Community Service Employment Program, which is her lifeline. It pays senior citizens a minimum wage to hold public service jobs.•


From Yamiche Alcindor of the New York Times:

KINSMAN, Ohio — For years, Tammy and Joseph Pavlic tried to ignore the cracked ceiling in their living room, the growing hole next to their shower and the deteriorating roof they feared might one day give out. Mr. Pavlic worked for decades installing and repairing air-conditioning and heating units, but three years ago, with multiple sclerosis advancing, he had to leave his job.

By 2015, Ms. Pavlic was supporting her husband and their three children on an annual salary of $9,000, earned at a restaurant. That year, they tapped a county program funded by Congress, called the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, to help repair their house.

The next year, they voted for Donald J. Trump, who has moved to eliminate the HOME program.

The Pavlics’ ceiling may no longer be cracked, but in the zero-sum game that Mr. Trump’s budget seeks to set up, the nation is showing new fissures. The president’s budget proposal would cut deeply into the Department of Housing and Urban Development, paring rental assistance and eliminating heating and air-conditioning aid, energy-efficiency assistance, and partnerships with local governments like HOME. With the savings, Mr. Trump says, he would beef up military spending and build a wall along the Mexican border.

“Keeping the country safe compared to keeping my bathroom safe isn’t even a comparison,” Mr. Pavlic, 42, said. “We have people who are coming into this country who are trying to hurt us, and I think that we need to be protected.”

His wife is hoping Mr. Trump changes his mind.

“I am glad that he is our president, but I do believe, though, that if he could see this from a personal point of view that he would probably maybe change his mind about cutting this program,” Ms. Pavlic, 44, said. “Any mom wants their kids to be safe, so any mom wants their home to be safe.”•


From Sean Collins-Walsh of the Austin-America Statesman:

MAVERICK COUNTY — On a cliff overlooking the Rio Grande, Dob Cunningham got out of his four-wheeler, walked across a patch of wildflowers poking out from the rocks and stopped at a small, rough concrete block adorned with horseshoes, spurs and a Masonic emblem. Under raised letters reading “DOB,” the year 1934 was carved into the concrete, with a blank space to the right.It was Cunningham’s headstone.

“That way it’s done,” he said. “I didn’t want anyone to go and spend a bunch of money on it.”

Working as a farm hand in his youth, serving 30 years in the Border Patrol in his prime and tending to an 800-acre ranch with his wife, Kay, in his golden years, Cunningham has spent his whole life on the border, and he’s seen it change. Growing up, he would wade across the river to play baseball with kids in Mexico, and those who came north were polite. In recent years, he said, migrants have broken into his house, and drug smugglers traverse his property regularly.

Cunningham voted for Donald Trump — more importantly, he said, he voted “against Hillary” because he and Kay “didn’t want to see the country go socialism” — and agrees with the president’s desire to secure the border. But he opposes Trump’s plan to build a border wall from the Pacific Ocean to the Gulf of Mexico, saying it won’t work along the Rio Grande because of flooding. If the federal government tries to condemn part of his property to build the wall, Cunningham plans to fight as long as he can afford to.

“The government or the illegals won’t run me off,” he said. “We’ve lived here and we’ve raised a daughter here, and I’ve put a lot of sweat and blood in this place. We don’t want to just give it away.”•

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What should we do if the President is a demagogue, a fascist, and a vicious bigot who surrounds himself with more of the same? What if he tramples on the Constitution, slanders other public figures and makes up bullshit incessantly? What about if it’s becoming increasingly clear that his campaign colluded with the Kremlin to corrupt our election process? What if he’s using his office to greatly enrich himself and his family? What if he’s trying to delegitimize the free press and the judiciary branch so that he won’t have any checks on his worst impulses? What if he’s already committed several impeachable acts and nothing has happened?

What then?

In a Medium essay, Bernie Sanders asks “What Should We Do If the President Is a Liar?” The piece was written in response to ridiculous charges made by Amber Phillips of the Washington Post, who derided the Vermont Senator for “lowering the state of our political discourse” by pointing out that the President frequently lies, which he does.

This kind of knuckle-rapping is exactly what a Berlusconi who dreams of being a Mussolini depends on–it’s what all fascists rely upon. They behave as disgracefully as possible, accepting no basic rules or laws, while decent people are pinioned by polite norms, too afraid to say what’s blindingly apparent. Her comparison of Sanders’ rebuke to Rep. Joe Wilson yelling “you lie!” during an Obama State of the Union address is foolishly disingenuous and false moral equivalency of the highest order for many reasons, the biggest one being Obama wasn’t a serial liar and conspiracy-theory peddler while Trump is. Phillips’ description of Trump’s assertion of widespread voter fraud, which is a complete lie, as an “eyebrow-raising claim,” is one way to put it, just not the honest way.

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You know what would be good? If the Twitter brain trust announced they were revoking Trump’s account because he slandered President Obama with serious, baseless claims of wiretapping. They could point out that no one has an absolute right to tweet, that it’s a privilege. It’s a very, very easy privilege to earn, but there have to be some rules. If Trump can produce proof his tweets weren’t slanders, he can have his account reactivated. Until then, farewell.

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In “How Trump Became an Accidental Totalitarian,” Nick Bilton’s smart Vanity Fair “Hive” piece, the writer theorizes the new President’s outrageous and unhinged behavior isn’t the product of a Machiavellian mastermind but the acts of an unintelligent person who “doesn’t know what the hell he’s doing in the White House.” The opening:

Like everyone else, I’ve been thinking a lot of late about Donald Trump and his infamous Twitter meltdowns—trying to deduce exactly what he’s up to regarding his constant, and seemingly never-ending, attacks on the press. The more that Trump has pushed the narrative that all unfavorable reportage of his regime is “fake news,” the more I’ve noticed a leitmotif. Trump, it seems, is using Twitter the way despotic politicians have manipulated the media throughout the past century when they needed a comfortable vessel for their lies.

Just travel back to Weimar Germany, where during his ascent to power in 1920, Adolf Hitler purchased outright a newspaper called The Volkischer Beobachter, which would grow its circulation to more than 1 million readers in the 40s as it became the organ of the National Socialist regime. The Beobachter, as it was often called, facilitated the Nazis’ revolting propaganda and culture of genocidal hatred. It allowed Hitler and Goebbels the opportunity to publish countless fake news stories about adversarial countries, about Jews, and, indeed, the press.

In some ways, Hitler set an early precedent for how to propagate fake news (or call real news “fake”) at the dawn of the information age. Kim Jong Il would control state media to his advantage much the same way. Saddam Hussein and his sons “owned” a dozen newspapers in Iraq, controlling virtually everything that was printed, and what was not. Vladimir Putinmanipulates the press in Russia. (He also allegedly has journalists killed.)

Freedom of the press is a sacrosanct right of Western democracies. But Trump, who has upended so much of what we believe in, has proved that the First Amendment is no longer enough to keep honest reporting unmolested. Indeed, were Hitler or Saddam to operate in our modern times, God forbid, they wouldn’t need to go through the hassle of running a state organ or Beobachter news outlet. They could simply open up their smartphones, sign up for a Twitter account, and start tweeting lies 140 characters at a time, both pushing their own agenda and decrying as false anything that they disagreed with.•

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The main reason I preferred Hillary Clinton to Bernie Sanders was simple math. 

In addition to his impossible pledge of America no longer having the highest incarceration rate of Western nations by the end of his first term, Sanders based his extraordinary spending plans on fanciful economic growth numbers (5.3%) that he couldn’t possibly deliver. That promise made Sanders policies seem less debt-heavy than they were, a dishonest way of doing business.

Although Donald Trump is promising a smaller if still out-of-reach 3.0-3.5%, he’s doing something the Vermont Senator would have never done: Ordering the Council of Economic Advisers to backfill all of its projections at his unrealistic rate. That intellectually deceptive gaming, he hopes, will be the smoke and mirrors he needs to cover the exorbitant cost of the tax cuts he plans for the nation’s highest earners. 

From Catherine Rampell at the Washington Post:

Astonishingly, the White House still hasn’t released details for any of the major economic initiatives Trump promised during the campaign (a “terrific” Obamacare replacement, a top-to-bottom tax overhaul, massive infrastructure investment). But thanks to recent leaks about the administration’s economic book-cooking, we at least know that whatever Trump ultimately proposes will be very, very expensive.

After the election, the Trump transition team began the long, arduous process of putting together the presidential budget. As is always the case, it worked with the (non-political) career staffers at the Council of Economic Advisers.

Normally this process starts by asking the CEA staff to estimate baseline economic growth under current policies. These professionals then build on this baseline to forecast how the president’s proposals will affect the overall economy, as well as budget deficits.

The end results are often more optimistic than what independent forecasters predict — the White House is factoring in new policies it believes are pro-growth, after all — but not wildly so. The numbers still need to be credible.

Like I said, that’s how things normally work. Not this time around.

As the Wall Street Journal first reported (and as I’ve independently confirmed through my own sources), the Trump transition team instead ordered CEA staffers to predict sustained economic growth of 3 to 3.5 percent. The staffers were then directed to backfill all the other numbers in their models to produce these growth rates.•

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Donald Trump, John Gotti with a Southern strategy, is considering telling the Pope to go scratch his ass with a broken milk bottle.

The other “anti-establishment” candidate, Bernie Sanders, who’s been in D.C. for decades, has become a darling of the Left for identifying serious problems with healthcare, prison overcrowding, etc., and offering sweeping solutions often based on Paul Ryan-esque fuzzy math. The Un-Hillary has been aided in his shocking ascendancy by a cadre of mostly young coders who’ve enabled the eldest candidate in the race to be the most app-friendly. The unsolicited volunteers work remotely and are usually not familiar with one another except virtually.

From Darren Samuelsohn at Politico:

Late last spring, inspired to action by what he was hearing from a renegade Democratic candidate named Bernie Sanders, Jon Hughes began building a website. Hughes, then a 29-year-old father in southern Oregon, didn’t have any connection to the Sanders campaign; in fact, the last presidential candidate he’d been interested in was Ron Paul back in 2012. But he knew how to code and built a page that does a very simple but important job: You click on your location, and it tells you where and when to vote in the Democratic primary or caucus. It launched in June.

Today his site, voteforbernie.org, has landed over 2 million unique views. It’s the top search hit not only for people who want to support Sanders, but for anyone simply googling “how to vote in the primaries.” All across America, people looking simply to participate in the primaries are now directed straight to a site that asks, in large and florid lettering, “Will you be able to Vote for Bernie?”
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The site is just one of the dozens of websites, tools and apps built by coders lining up behind Bernie Sanders, often people—like Hughes— with no affiliation to the campaign at all. Behind Sanders’ astonishing success in the primaries so far stands a coterie of more than 1,000 volunteer techies pumping out innovations like this at a rate of about one new app a week.

If viral videos, data analytics, Twitter and meet-up pages were the big breakthroughs of past presidential elections, 2016 could very well go down as the year of the app. And no one has been a bigger beneficiary than Sanders, an anti-establishment independent-turned-Democrat with legions of code-savvy, unpaid helpers. Many of his volunteer coders are under-30 political neophytes first drawn to Sanders through a fan-driven Reddit page, an online message board that is far and away the largest for anyone in the 2016 field. With more than 188,000 subscribers, the SandersForPresident subReddit is more popular than pages featuring cars, beer or even porn.•

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Donald Trump, Pol Pot with hair plugs, is like all bullies, a coward. His behavior stems from weakness and insecurity, so he can be handled. Jeb!, the favored son of a privileged family, doesn’t have adequate experience neutralizing such toxic types, but there are sure ways to deal. Lecture him about it in a mature way like Bernie Sanders and the hideous hotelier looks small. Aggressively return his obnoxious behavior like Megyn Kelly and he positively wilts. 

Women in particular throw Trump for a loss because he’s spent his life making sure he’s in a superior position to the ones in his life. He controls the purse strings and they should bleed in silence. Edward Luce’s latest Financial Times column about the 2016 race looks at this particular Trump shortcoming. The opening:

Hillary Clinton should be celebrating. Donald Trump’s decision to boycott the Fox News debate was ostensibly about ratings. How can the cable network make money without his celebrity pull? Mr Trump may prove his point when Thursday night’s viewership numbers come in.

But switching channels is not the same thing as showing up at a polling booth. More than half America’s electorate is female — they accounted for 53 per cent of the vote in the last election. Even the most apathetic will by now have heard Mr Trump’s opinions about Megyn Kelly, the Fox anchor, who will co-host the debate. Ms Kelly is a “bimbo”, according to Mr Trump, who is incapable of objectivity when there is “blood coming out of her whatever”.

So that is settled. Mr Trump thinks the menstrual cycle is a handicap. He also recoils at other female bodily functions. When Mrs Clinton took a bathroom break at a recent Democratic debate, Mr Trump described her as “disgusting”. He used the same word about an opposing lawyer in a 2011 hearing when she asked for a short break to pump breast milk. Looks are also fair game. Among those attacked for their appearance are the actress Bette Midler (“extremely unattractive”), Angelina Jolie (“she’s been with so many guys she makes me look like a baby”), media figure Arianna Huffington (“unattractive both inside and out”), fellow Republican candidate Carly Fiorina (“look at that face. Would anyone vote for that?”) and comedian Rosie O’Donnell (“fat pig”).

None of which has done Mr Trump’s ratings any harm. The more controversial a celebrity, the bigger audiences they attract. The question is whether there is any longer a meaningful distinction between show business and US politics. Do ratings equal votes?•

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Donald Trump doesn’t want to force menstruating women to wear burqas, but what else can he do? I mean, he’s a businessman.

It’s amusing to listen to the hideous hotelier try to torpedo Bernie Sanders with cheap insults the way he does his fellow Republicans, the Vermont Senator impervious to taunts like “wacko” because of his gravitas, common sense and sheer likability.  It’s difficult to envision Sanders faring well in Southern primaries, but perhaps he’s awakening a positive populist energy that won’t readily go away as Trump has awakened an enduring hatred. As the Occupy movement framed the 2012 election season, maybe Sanders will do the same now. Is he part of an elongated prelude to something significant?

From Simon Head in the New York Review of Books:

In 2003 I wrote in my The New Ruthless Economy that one of the great imponderables of the twenty-first century was how long it would take for the deteriorating economic circumstances of most Americans to become a dominant political issue. It has taken over ten years but it is now happening, and its most dramatic manifestation to date is the rise of Bernie Sanders. While many political commentators seem to have concluded that Hillary Clinton is the presumptive Democratic nominee, polls taken as recently as the third week of December show Sanders to be ahead by more than ten points in New Hampshire and within single-figure striking distance of her in Iowa, the other early primary state.

Though he continues to receive far less attention in the national media than Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump, Sanders is posing a powerful challenge not only to the Democratic establishment aligned with Hillary Clinton, but also the school of thought that assumes that the Democrats need an establishment candidate like Clinton to run a viable campaign for president. Why this should be happening right now is a mystery for historians to unravel. It could be the delayed effect of the Great Recession of 2007-2008, or of economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez’s unmasking of the vast concentration of wealth among the top 1 percent and the 0.1 percent of Americans, or just the cumulative effect of years of disappointment for many American workers.

Such mass progressive awakenings have happened before. I remember taking part in antiwar demonstrations on the East and West coasts in the Fall and Winter of 1967–1968. I noticed that significant numbers of solid middle-class citizens were joining in, sometimes with strollers, children, and dogs in tow. I felt at the time that this was the writing on the wall for Lyndon Johnson, as indeed it turned out to be. We may yet see such a shift away from Hillary Clinton, despite her strong performance in the recent debates and her recent recovery in the polls.

If it happens, it will owe in large part to Sanders’s unusual, if not unique, political identity.•

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One question asked of Bernie Sanders in his AMA yesterday that I failed to include was a query about technological unemployment. He gets it, even if some of the potential jobs for people he mentioned will be disrupted by robotics soon enough. Some already are. The exchange:

Question:

What do you think will have to be done regarding massive unemployment due to automation permanently killing jobs with no fault on the people losing these jobs?

Bernie Sanders:

Very important question. There is no question but that automation and robotics reduce the number of workers needed to produce products. On the other hand, there is a massive amount of work that needs to be done in this country. Our infrastructure is crumbling and we can create millions of decent-paying jobs rebuilding our roads, bridges, rail system, airports, levees, dams, etc. Further, we have enormous shortages in terms of highly-qualified pre-school educators and teachers. We need more doctors, nurses, dentists and medical personnel if we are going to provide high-quality care to all of our people. But, in direct response to the question, increased productivity should not punish the average worker, which is why we have to move toward universal health care, making higher education available to all, a social safety net which is strong and a tax system which is progressive.•

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While the 73-year-old Socialist Congressperson Bernie Sanders has to pretend he can win the Presidency, he probably realizes, unlike, say, Ted Cruz, that he has no real shot at victory. What points does he feel his protest candidacy is particularly positioned to make?

An Ask Me Anything at Reddit he just conducted reveals a number of priorities, including the issue of surveillance. It’s good Sanders mentions that the private sector, as much as government, is hopeful of turning society into an Orwellian state, though I don’t see any way such a reach is kept in check, regardless of law. The tools will almost definitely stay ahead of legislation, obliterate it. I’m more hopeful about remedying income inequality and electoral reform.

There are also questions about space-exploration funding and universal basic income. A few exchanges below.

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Question:

As the longest serving independent in congress, what are your thoughts about electoral reform in the United States?

Bernie Sanders:

The major issue in terms of our electoral system is truly campaign finance reform. Right now, we are at a moment in history where the Koch brothers and other billionaires are in the process of buying politicians and elections. We need to overturn Citizens United with a constitutional amendment. We need to pass disclosure legislation. We need to move toward public funding of elections. We also have got to see an increased federal role in the outrageous gerrymandering that Republican states have created and in voter suppression. These are the main issues that I’ll be tackling in the coming months.

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Question:

Do you think that wiretapping of American citizens is necessary for security of America?

Bernie Sanders:

I voted against the USA Patriot Act and voted against reauthorizing the USA Patriot Act. Obviously, terrorism is a serious threat to this country and we must do everything that we can to prevent attacks here and around the world. I believe strongly that we can protect our people without undermining our constitutional rights and I worry very very much about the huge attacks on privacy that we have seen in recent years — both from the government and from the private sector. I worry that we are moving toward an Orwellian society and this is something I will oppose as vigorously as I can.

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Question:

If you win in 2016, what will your first dispositions be?

Bernie Sanders:

My first effort would be to rally the American people to demand that Congress pass a progressive agenda which reverses the decline of our middle class. We have got to create millions of decent-paying jobs rebuilding our infrastructure, we’ve got to raise the minimum wage to a living wage, we’ve got to overturn this disastrous Citizens United Supreme Court decision and we have to transform our energy system in order to protect us from climate change. If the American people are politically active and demand that Congress act on their behalf, we can accomplish those goals and much more.

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Question:

According to Votesmart.org in:

  • 2012: you voted to decrease spending on space exploration
  • 2000: you voted to decrease funding to NASA
  • 1996: you voted to decrease budget for NASA

What, if anything, has or will convince you to provide more funding to NASA in the future? Numerous breakthroughs in recent years and promising technologies being developed and brought to market have made it obvious that, outer space treaty what it is, the first trillionaires will be made in space. Wouldn’t it be best if the American People were part of that?

Bernie Sanders:

I am supportive of NASA not only because of the excitement of space exploration, but because of all the additional side benefits we receive from research in that area. Sometimes, and frankly I don’t remember all of those votes, one is put in a position of having to make very very difficult choices about whether you vote to provide food for hungry kids or health care for people who have none and other programs. But, in general, I do support increasing funding for NASA.

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Question:

What is your stance on Universal Basic Income (UBI)? If in favor how do you see the United States progressing towards realizing UBI? If against, what alternatives come to your mind for combating rising inequality and poverty in the United States?

Bernie Sanders:

So long as you have Republicans in control of the House and the Senate, and so long as you have a Congress dominated by big money, I can guarantee you that the discussion about universal basic income is going to go nowhere in a hurry. But, if we can develop a strong grassroots movement which says that every man, woman and child in this country is entitled to a minimum standard of living — is entitled to health care, is entitled to education, is entitled to housing — then we can succeed. We are living in the richest country in the history of the world, yet we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of almost any major country and millions of people are struggling to put food on the table. It is my absolute conviction that everyone in this country deserves a minimum standard of living and we’ve got to go forward in the fight to make that happen.•

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