Surreal-er

I don’t think surrealer is an accepted English word, but it’s all that comes to mind right now.

When I was away for a week, I didn’t follow news as closely as I usually do, but after a few days back at home, it seems that the levels of contradiction and absurdity and fear-mongering and conspiracy-theorizing have reached new highs in the United States.

Serious journalists have to try to try to explain QAnon. The Republican convention played up fear of anarchy and violence as being part of “Joe Biden’s America” – despite the fact that Donald Trump has been president for over three and a half years – while neglecting to confront the very real fear of the spread of coronavirus. The official case count in the US is now over six million and the actual case number is probably much higher. That’s terrifying.

If the consequences weren’t so disturbing, I’d laugh. Instead, I’m stuck with the bewilderment of surreal-er.

I realize that people who are in a media bubble or conspiracy mindset are not generally inclined to factcheck, but I implore people to seek out credible sources of information. Go to Joe Biden’s campaign website for his positions on issues and his public statements. Go to the Johns Hopkins website for US and world COVID statistics. I was hoping to provide a link for Donald Trump’s plans for a second term, but his official website doesn’t have an issues and plans page; I haven’t heard him give a clear answer about plans in interviews, either. It’s a major problem, especially with so many challenges facing the country right now and so little effective action from the administration.

What will next month bring?

And the month after?

When will life not seem surreal?

What this Sanders’ supporter wants

There is a lot of ink, pixels, and airtime being spent speculating on what Bernie Sanders wants to get from the Democratic party, now that, short of a catastrophe on Sec. Clinton’s part, it looks impossible for him to gain the nomination.

Rachel Maddow has been saying that he must want more than changes in the party platform and I agree.

Senator Sanders seldom uses the word platform; he uses the word agenda. The literal translation from Latin of agenda is “the things which ought to be done.”

Senator Sanders and his supporters don’t want talk or words on a platform that will get filed in a drawer and forgotten. We want action on several important fronts.

In no particular order, here are my thoughts, which may or may not align with Senator Sanders’ and other supporters’.  After all, this is Top of JC’s Mind, so it is my prerogative…

1.)  I want a public option added to the Affordable Care Act which is available in every state. This is especially important for people who are currently in states that did not expand Medicaid, leaving millions ineligible for Medicaid and for subsidies through the federal exchange. I share Senator Sanders’ viewpoint that a single-payer “Medicare for all”system would be best, but I think that a public option would be a step in that direction, as well as an acknowledgement that health care should be counted among our human rights. Another helpful move in the health arena is to allow all government programs to negotiate on drug pricing.

2.)  I want Citizens United overturned and big money out of politics. I think our campaigns should be publicly funded with only small donations from citizens allowed. Bernie has shown that a national campaign can be funded with small dollar donations – if you have the right message and authenticity.

3.)  I want all primaries and caucuses to be open. Voters should be able to decide on voting day which candidate they prefer, even if they are not registered to a party. Like Senator Sanders, I am a long-time independent. Because I live in New York , which is a closed state, I could not vote for him on primary day.

4.)  I want everyone in the Clinton campaign to stop this nonsense about Hillary Clinton not being part of the establishment. Seriously. You sound ridiculous every time you pretend that someone who has been immersed in partisan politics for decades is not part of the establishment.

5.)  I want the country to be more equitable economically. We need a living wage enacted.  We need programs to eliminate poverty, hunger, and homelessness.  We need family leave policies. We need recognition that unpaid work, such as caregiving and volunteering, is also valuable to society. We need a fairer tax system which is progressive and taxes capital gains, carried interest, etc. at the same rate as income. We need to eliminate the ceiling on earnings subject to Social Security tax. We need to tax stock trades, as Senator Sanders has proposed. We need companies to invest in their workforce and communities and in research again, instead of continually cutting workers and offshoring jobs and profits. We need to make sure that financial institutions and other businesses behave ethically and don’t crash the economy. I could go on, but I’m sure you have the picture…

6.)  I want urgency in the area of combatting climate change. We are already suffering the effects and they will surely intensify in coming years, but if we don’t act quickly, we are dooming billions of 22nd and 23rd century people. So, fossil fuel subsidies need to end immediately. A stiff carbon tax needs to be enacted. The funds raised from those two things can be used to cushion the financial impact on people and to ramp up renewable energy/storage and energy efficiency initiatives. All new unconventional fossil fuel extraction should end immediately, as well as all expansion of fossil fuel infrastructure. It’s like building a whaling ship as whale oil was rapidly being replaced as a lighting source.

7.)  I want comprehensive immigration reform with a path to citizenship.

8.)  I want to cut military spending – a lot. We have been building military hardware that the military doesn’t even want. We spend more on our military than the next ten top-spending countries combined. We need to spend our tax dollars on things that build up people and communities here and around the world, not on things that are designed to destroy.

9.)  I want to restore our infrastructure.  Our roads, bridges, public transportation, railways, water/sewer systems, airports, and energy grid are in a sorry state. While we are at it, we can also re-design these systems to address climate change and threats from stronger storms and more severe floods/droughts.

10.)  I want a progressive to be Clinton’s running mate. I don’t think that Senator Sanders is an appropriate choice, given that he is older than Sec. Clinton and can be a big help in the Senate going forward.  Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts would be a great choice, if she wants to run, although she is only slightly younger than Hillary.   Sen. Jeff Merkley of Oregon would be a good choice. He was the only progressive Senator with enough independence to endorse Bernie Sanders. Rep. Keith Ellison of Minnesota would be a ground-breaking choice. Not only would he be the first African-American vice-president, but he would also be the first Muslim-American to rise to such a high national office.

11.)  I want pay equity for women. (I can barely believe we still have to fight for this.) I want an end to discrimination on any grounds – gender identity, marital status, race/ethnicity, health status, age, religion or lack thereof, whatever.

12.)  I want the common good to be the yardstick by which we measure progress, not profits or GDP.

Probably wise to stop at a dozen…

As I discussed in a prior post, the Democrats need to remember that it is independents who decide elections in the United States. They need the ideas, energy, support, and votes of Sanders’ supporters, both independents and Democrats, to win in November.

And it is clear that the Democratic Party nominee must win the presidency. Our well-being and standing as a world leader depend on it.

Feeling the Bern in Binghamton

I wrote about experiencing a few bubbles of near-normalcy after Grandma’s death almost three weeks ago.

This morning was another bubble, but “normal” is not the proper adjective to describe it.

Today, I attended a Bernie Sanders rally at Binghamton’s Veterans Memorial Arena. After arriving before 7 AM in a cold drizzle and snaking through a line with thousands of people – a few of whom I knew from my social justice and environmental work – I went through a metal detector and found a seat in the stands where I could see a profile view of whoever was at the podium. There was a HUGE American flag taking up most of the curtain at the end of the hall. While we were filling the seats in the stands, hundreds of people were gathering on the floor in front of the podium. I could have joined them but I didn’t think I would have the stamina to stand for a couple more hours on the very cold floor. The home ice of the Binghamton Senators is under those 4x8s.

The crowd was predominantly millennials with a good representation of us older adults and a smattering of children. I happened to be sitting with some students from my town’s high school, who said that attendance at school is low because everybody is at the rally!

There were lots of creative signs and apparel. A woman wearing an entire outfit made with cloth printed with Bernie’s face. A “Feel the Bern” sign with Bernie as an adorable-yet-terrifying, fire-breathing dragon. A large cloth sign with a very good, larger-than-life portrait of Bernie painted on it. Lots of Bernie 2016. A future to believe in. Feel the Bern.

Because of the security, it took a long time to assemble the crowd, but the Arena was filled to capacity. I heard later that more people wanted to attend but were turned away. The press area across the hall from me had over a dozen cameras on tripods and a couple dozen more journalists with laptops. About 5,000 of us were waiting for Bernie to arrive.

As I have posted about before, I am a supporter of Bernie Sanders because he comes closest of any candidate to my own views. On April 19, New York State will have its primary, but I won’t be able to vote for him. Like Bernie, I am an independent, which makes me ineligible to vote in the New York primary. I do support the campaign financially, though.

There were several introductory speakers. First, there was a woman representing the CWA, followed by one from the IBEW, who highlighted Bernie’s experience and support for labor unions and against unfair trade practices.

Next was Conrad Taylor, 20-year-old Binghamton University sophomore and Binghamton City Council member. Remember his name. Maybe in 24 or 28 or 32 years, he will be running for president. Conrad spoke about Bernie being the first presidential candidate in sixteen years to come to our area because he cares about us. He also represented Bernie’s appeal to young people because Bernie is forward-thinking, as young people need to be. The reaction to his mention of climate change was the biggest thus far.

Next up was Jim Hightower, who reminded us that agitators are”what gets the dirt out!”

The final introductory speaker was Gasland director Josh Fox, who got the crowd even more fired up, reminding us all of the grassroots strength that powered the movement to ban fracking in New York. When he introduced Senator Sanders, the crowd jumped up and made so much noise that I’m not sure what song they were using to introduce him.

Bernie told us that he was there to tell us the truth.

While some people complain that Senator Sanders is a one-issue candidate, although they don’t seem to agree on whether the one issue is campaign finance reform or income inequality, they are just wrong.

Topics that Bernie addressed included: campaign finance, oligarchy, Citizens United, income inequality, living wage, the challenges facing the young generation, the broken criminal justice system, youth unemployment, education, community policing reform, removing marijuana as a federal Schedule 1 drug, special interests and PACs, TPP and other trade issues, foreign policy, expanding Social Security, pay equity for women, student loan debt, comprehensive immigration reform, taxing Wall Street speculation, changing the government’s relationship with the First Nations, rebuilding inner cities and infrastructure, and health care as a right.

Two issues received special attention from Bernie. The first was climate change, which involved a long discussion of the dangers of fracking and methane emissions. This led to a second theme, the strength of grassroots organizing. It was especially powerful for those of us in the audience who are fractivists. Bernie’s message was that that kind of grassroots action has led to other needed changes throughout US history and that it can lead to more needed changes.

Together, we can make it happen.

Feel the Bern!

Update:  As a New York fractivist, I was honored that right after the Binghamton rally, the Sanders campaign released a new ad focused on Bernie’s opposition to fracking. I’m so happy that we were the springboard in bringing greater attention to Bernie’s stance on this important issue.  https://morningconsult.com/alert/bernie-sanders-new-ad-targets-clinton-fracking/

 

 

 

 

the t-word

I’ve written before about my support for Bernie Sanders as the presidential candidate whose views most closely resemble my own.

I have not been writing about my opposition to the ideas and the tone of the Republican campaign, particularly those of the frontrunner whose name I use sparingly, if at all, so as not to spread the hatefulness.

This finds me avoiding using a word that I tend to use when speaking and, more sparingly, when writing.

The verb “trump” means “to be more important than.”

I can’t use it without clarifying that I’m not being unduly ironic.

I resent not having use of a perfectly good word, but not as much as I resent the way our Constitution, our values, and common decency are being trampled this election season.

 

Advice for the Clinton campaign

I have written before about being a supporter of Bernie Sanders for president because his views align most closely with mine, especially on environmental protection, economics, health care, military spending and campaign finance reform. As a native New Englander, I have known about him and followed his career for decades and appreciate his consistent stance on equality for all without regard to gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation. I am not averse to Hillary Clinton; I just happen to favor Senator Sanders’ positions.

I am also an independent and would like to offer Secretary Clinton some advice to keep her campaign from alienating Senator Sanders supporters and the many independents in the country. Because neither major party commands the majority of the electorate, any candidate who aspires to the presidency must be able to draw support from independent voters.

1.)  Don’t criticize Senator Sanders for not being a Democrat. He did you an enormous favor by running for the Democratic nomination instead of mounting a campaign as an independent.  He has been able to generate huge grassroots support and funds from small donors without having any superPACs. One of the things that appeals to many of his supporters is that he is an independent who is not beholden to a party machine or to corporate campaign dollars. Which leads to the next point…

2.)  Stop pretending that you are not part of the establishment.  Seriously. You and your campaign sound totally ridiculous when you make the claim of being an outsider.  Being a woman does not disqualify you from being part of the establishment. Is former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi not part of the Democratic establishment?  Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz is chair of the Democratic National Committee, which is definitely an Establishment position.  You spent eight years in the White House as part of what you and President Clinton billed as “two for the price of one” public servants.  I voted for you to be Senator of New York, but Wall Street, also your constituent, made out a lot better than my upstate town during your time as Senator.  You served in President Obama’s cabinet, which is certainly admirable service and valuable experience, but it is definitely part of the establishment.  All of the superdelegates, who are part of the establishment in their home states, are lining up for you because you are part of the Democratic establishment and Senator Sanders is not. (Point of information for my non-US readers:  While Sanders has caucused with the Democrats throughout his years in Congress, he has never been a member of the Democratic party.  He describes himself as a democratic socialist, which is a familiar term to Europeans who usually have a party with that philosophy in their countries.)

3.)  Don’t criticize women who support Senator Sanders.  I am a feminist and, like you, a proud graduate of a Seven Sisters college. I would very much like to see a woman president.  But my wish to see a woman president does not blind me to the fact that I agree with Senator Sanders’ views more than with yours. It’s insulting for your surrogates to condemn me to hell for not yet supporting your campaign; it doesn’t give me a feeling that you appreciate my intelligence and opinions.  It’s even more insulting to the  young women who are in the Sanders’ camp. My 20-something daughters and their friends have graduated from school into a horrible job market. When they can find jobs, they are often underpaid. Many of them are struggling with student debt. A federal living wage means a lot to them. Single payer health care would give tremendous peace of mind, especially for those who live in states that did not expand Medicaid, creating large groups of people without access to affordable insurance.  People who support Bernie Sanders are supporting a feminist, too, as well as a long-time champion of civil rights.

4.)  Remember that the votes of independents are crucial.  In many states, people who are not enrolled in a political party can choose to vote in either primary on election day.  Even in closed primary states, such as New York, voters are listening to how you are campaigning and will remember when the general election comes in November. Independents are turned off by overly partisan arguments and are reminded of the gridlock that has been so destructive in recent years.

5.)  Clearly lay out your position on issues and your history.  You and your campaign need to do this without mischaracterizing Senator Sanders’ positions, history, and experience. I have heard you and your campaign do this over and over. It makes you look weak.  It’s much better to draw distinctions against the Republican candidates and the actions of the Republicans in Congress when you give speeches and interviews.  That will also help all the Democrats running for office. You also need to explain which of your positions are your own and which you adopted because they were President Clinton’s positions or the Democratic party’s positions or President Obama’s positions. If your position on an issue has evolved, say so and tell us why. We need to know.

As I am finishing this, I am watching the first return for Super Tuesday primaries. Yes, Clinton will win most of the states today, but Sanders will garner hundreds of delegates as well. The campaign will be continuing. Let’s make it as positive and illuminating as possible.

Trump is un-American

I would say that Donald Trump has gone too far this time, were it not for the fact that he has gone too far so many times before.

Yesterday, he proposed that no Muslims be allowed to enter the United States, even if they are US citizens, or tourists, or diplomats, or refugees, or young children, or US military personnel.

Apparently, Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota, who became the first Muslim in Congress in 2007. wouldn’t be allowed to drive back into the US if he traveled across his state’s border into Canada. Would Trump try to have him removed from his seat?

The United Nations would have to re-locate, as many of its Ambassadors are Muslim.

Muslim members of our military deployed overseas would not be allowed to then post back to the US or to come home on leave.

He has also said that all Muslims in the US would need to register as Muslims and that mosques would be surveilled.

It is ridiculous and against our values as a country.

This flies in the face of our Constitution, which promises free exercise of religion.

It harks back to some of the shameful actions of the United States during World War II, when Japanese-Americans on the West Coast were interred in camps based only on their ethnicity, along with some Italian- and German-Americans in the East.

The only positive aspect of this is that leaders across the political spectrum are publicly condemning Trump for this viewpoint.

It is hard to say whether or not Trump’s supporters will leave his camp over this.  Many of them are scared and believe that Trump would protect them by this action.

I can only say that Trump’s supporters are a very small proportion of the population. With so many candidates in the Republican primary, having 30% support looks like a large percentage, but because Republicans are only a fraction of all US citizens, it only equals about 8% of the voters in the United States, some of whom may not support all of Trump’s platform.

To Mr. Trump, I say, “NO!”

Just NO.