politics

The only thing I’m feeling is #heartburn

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photo credit: Washington Post

So on the plus side, I’ve been having wonderful Facebook discussions with my nephew (who shall henceforth be known as Unnamed Nephew, or U.N.).  He’s a smart guy, who, like many his age, support Bernie Sanders’ message of bringing about a political revolution in this country. I get it. U.N. has grown up in a country of income inequality and of sky rocketing healthcare costs. In our Facebook back-and-forths, he makes well-reasoned arguments and backs them up with facts, keeps me honest by expecting the same from me. It’s a refreshing conversation in this current climate of name-calling and hyperbole.

But, I still think he’s supporting the wrong candidate. And I do sometimes feel like an awfully old fart for saying it. But the reasons I choose Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders is because she is stronger on these issues that I care most about:

  • gun control
  • women’s health
  • foreign policy
  • economic policy

In fact, though, Clinton and Sanders have voted the same way about 93% of the time. So they are not so different as you might imagine.

And you know what? Yes. Yes I DO want a woman in the White House, and don’t you DARE make me feel bad for saying that. You dudes have ruled the roost since Day One, and you have no idea what that feels like. To imply that this is the ONLY reason I would vote for Hillary Clinton is of course insulting and I wont imagine you will say that. But someone will. Because I wouldn’t differentiate between Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin, between Elizabeth Warren and Carly Fiorina. As if.

Look, I used to like Bernie. But as the campaign progresses, I see the politician in him come out more and more. Because let’s face it, he is a politician. He’s in been in Washington for 25 years, and he’s been heavily involved in state politics since the early 1970’s when he came in off the commune.  He has been a politician longer than Hillary, yet he’s selling this image of being an “outsider” just like Donald Trump is doing. Sanders is using the political “establishment” infrastructure just like every other candidate on the Democratic and Republican side. He’s using Democratic consultants and powerful Democratic campaign staff.  Why not run as an Independent? Because he needs the infratsructure of the establishment in order to get elected.

Lastly, Sanders started this campaign saying he wouldn’t make personal attacks on Clinton, that it will all be about substance. But eventually he says thing like “well, maybe the inevitable Democratic candidate realizes she is no long inevitable.”

He said it again just the other day.

I’m sorry. WHAT?  Only a tone deaf man would think that anyone who lived through what Hillary Clinton lived through in the 2008 election would in any shape or form believe their nomination was inevitable.  When I heard him say that, I took it as a personal insult, because I, too, felt the wrath of 2008 as a Clinton supporter – insults and misogyny. Nasty, nasty stuff. Primarily from Obama supporters.  No one who went through that thought this was going to be a coronation and I just cannot believe Bernie Sanders would stoop to this now.

The revolution will not be televised. It will not be at the Iowa Caucuses, the  presidential debates, or the Democratic National Convention. It WILL be at the City Council, the Mayor’s office, and the Governor’s mansion. You want a revolution? Start at the local level and make some real change. You want Americans to get scared on Election Day and vote in a Republican?  Support the guy with Socialist tags all over him instead of the woman who has worked to bring us the massively improved health care system we have today.

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I am so tired.

I am so tired for Hillary Clinton. Here is this incredibly smart and capable woman, and no matter what she does it is never enough.  She has spent her entire life working toward the goal of making the world a better place. She was focused. She had goals. She had ambition. She achieved. But now – just like 8 years ago – America’s Democrats have collectively said, “Oooh! Look! Shiny object!”

Before I go on, let me state that I have been an admirer of Bernie Sanders for many years. I appreciate that he has been a voice for progressive ideas in politics for a long time, and when he was elected to the Senate I was overjoyed. We need his voice in the Senate.  But Commander in Chief? Uh, no.

Can we take a moment to compare the resumes of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton? Without delving into books written and classes taught (they’ve both done several of each), my quick googly research came up with this:

Screen Shot 2016-01-17 at 10.09.00 AM

So, Bernie has a BA in Political Science, and so does Hillary. (Actually, I do, too!) But Hillary goes one step further and gets a Law degree. From Yale.

After graduating from Law School, Hillary works her way up as a Congressional staffer, then co-founds a nonprofit, is appointed to the LSC by President Carter, and becomes a Partner at a Law Firm.

After graduating with his B.A., Bernie goes to live on a kibbutz for a while, and then moves to Vermont and … well it’s unclear. Everything I can find says things like, “Bernie worked in various jobs as a carpenter and filmmaker.”

To be fair, after I graduated with my B.A., I also puttered around for a while without a lot of direction for a while. But you know what? I’M NOT RUNNING FOR PRESIDENT!

So, here’s where Bernie supporters are going to get mad at me, and correctly point out that I have left a lot off of the chart above. It’s true, Bernie was very active in Vermont politics the 60’s and 70’s. If you look at his own website, it seems the 1970’s was pretty much occupied with running for political office, and the 60’s, well, nothing even mentioned after he graduated from college.

So first of all, I maintain that Hillary Clinton is the better qualified of the two to be President of the United States. That does not mean that I dislike Bernie. This is not about “liking” at all. It’s about who is better qualified to handle foreign policy, to stop the militarization of this country, and yes, to work with the other side of the aisle. If you think a President Sanders is going to get anything through a Republican Congress, I believe you are greatly mistaken. Sure the Republicans like to attack Hillary Clinton now, because she is a familiar name and recognizable to their base. But Bernie Sanders is the Tea Party equivalent, and every policy he tries to put forth will get overridden. On the other hand, we have Hillary Clinton who has sat across the table with world leaders as Secretary of State, has built alliances, and has negotiated with the toughest.

Secondly, even if Bernie gets the Democratic nomination, he won’t get elected. Look, I understand the appeal of the outsider, the Mr Smith Goes to Washington persona. But that attitude is what gets us people like Donald Trump, Sarah Palin, etc., etc. I get that you want to elect someone you feel is free from the corrupting powers of politics, and Bernie seems like a down-to-earth, honest guy. And he is the  progressive’s progressive. But you know what’s going to kill his chances? His proposal to increase the payroll tax. No matter how great the payoff sounds, when middle America goes to the voting booth and is faced with “the guy who said he will raise taxes” versus “the guy who said he won’t raise taxes,” guess who gets elected?

This post isn’t intended to be a deep look at the policies of the two candidates. There will be another debate tonight, and hopefully both candidates will release more specific information on all of their proposals in the days leading up to the Iowa caucuses.

Look at the two resumes above. It’s only for leader of the free world.  Go ahead. Pick the mediocre white guy.

From Every Corner of this City

As the story of Freddie Gray’s arrest and subsequent BaltCitybadgedeath continues to unfold, I find myself thinking about another young black man in Baltimore, with whom I crossed paths about a year and a half ago. I was a juror in his trial for multiple murder, drug, and gun charges.

You see, I live in Baltimore — in the city although in a corner that bears little resemblance to the neighborhood where Freddie Gray lived. But Baltimore is called “Smalltimore” for many reasons, among them the fact that traveling just a few blocks in one direction or another connects these very different neighborhoods.  And nothing will bring residents together any more than sitting on a jury together.

Before I go into any more detail about my experience as a juror, let me be frank: as a whole, I don’t like the Baltimore City police. It’s true, I have had some positive experiences with a couple of officers when they have responded to neighborhood calls, but honestly for the most part they have been brutish and non communicative. All the more troubling, since I have a friend who worked with them on trying to improve Community Policing for many years — but among the reasons that didn’t work was former Mayor Martin O’Malley and his “Zero Tolerance policy,” which created an attitude of “arrest first, ask questions later.”  The calls in our neighborhood are usually for break-ins and the occasional drug dealing.  Two notable facts about my neighborhood and police: (1) they do not arrest the prostitutes because they like to keep them on the street so they can get info about the drug dealers who are also often their pimps (really shows you how much they value the lives of these women, eh?) — a fact relayed to me by a female police officer, and (2) because we are the “easy” district, we get the trainees and the newbies, so they get to practice their non-existent communication skills on me and my neighbors before they get shuttled off to the tougher districts such as the Western district where Freddie Gray lived.

So this is my background when I walk into the jury room at the Clarence Mitchell Courthouse with 13 other citizens of Baltimore. I gradually got to know my fellow jurors over the next week — we couldn’t talk about the case, so we talked about jobs, families, television shows. The final 12 who deliberated included a Psychology professor, a housekeeper from a local hospital, an accountant, a retiree, a college student, a hair dresser, and a driver. Our ages ranged from 21 to 61. There were four men and eight women. Ten black, and two white — myself and a middle aged man.

As the case was presented, I felt like I was reading a mystery novel. Two men were brutally shot and killed, and a young woman somehow survived being shot multiple times. The prosecution presented mountains of evidence about the killing — photos of the wounds in all their blood soaked gruesomeness, a ballistics expert spoke about the angle and the caliber. Witnesses were called. And the whole time I kept waiting to hear how the young man sitting before us was connected — because at that point all we had heard was about the arrest of two other young men in connection, one of whom was identified by a witness who saw him stick his head out the door after shots were fired and looking this way and that, and the other was caught moments after the shooting with one of the dead men’s cell phone in his pocket.

But nothing on this guy, until we heard that he had been identified from a photo array by the young woman who had survived the shooting. How did his photo happen to be shown to this woman int he first place, well we never heard that. She was full of pain killers, on a ventilator so she could not speak, and had not given a description to anyone of the men who committed the crime, so how did this guy’s end up in the photo array?

It seems, he was a young black man known to the police for previous drug dealing. Just like Freddie Gray.

You see, in the end, there was nothing connecting this particular man to the crime except for the word of a woman who pointed to his picture from her hospital bed under very sketchy circumstances, and who then recanted that identification on the witness stand. Was the truth when she picked him out? Or was it when she said — on the witness stand — that it was not in fact, him? Either way, it didn’t make her a reliable witness. Not reliable enough on which to send another young black man to jail, for good (based on his prior record, we knew that finding him guilty would put him away for a very, very long time.

When we arrived at the jury room to begin deliberations, it seemed like a no-brainer to me. So I was amazed when we took a straw poll and we came out 8 not guilty and 4 guilty. The breakdown of who voted how was interesting: the not guilty’s were 7 women and one man (the retiree), the guilty’s were 3 men and one woman (the college student). I was a not guilty, the white man was a guilty.

I cannot fully describe how heated the room became over the next several days. It got personal at times, not with me really, but I was very aware of who I was and what my life is like. Several of the women who voted not guilty told stories from their own lives to explain why they viewed the evidence as they did. The woman who left the Courthouse every day and went to her job cleaning hospital rooms talked about how drugs had destroyed members of her family — and how she was “not going to put another young black man into jail for life.”

I will always remember her resolve as she spoke those words. I will also remember the response of the only other white person on the jury, because after he spoke I wanted to become invisible, “I would rather put an innocent man in jail than let a murderer walk the streets. If he is not guilty, he can always appeal.” There was a silence in the room as those horrible words kind of hung out there, so I finally said “The appeals process does not work out real well for young black men. He will be in prison for years before he can get a new trial — and that will only be after he can show there was a problem with this case.”

Towards the end of Day Three of Deliberation (which came after 5 days of hearing evidence), we were down to 10 not guilty, and 2 guilty. The Psychology professor stepped up her game, and said to the two “It seems very unlikely at this point that 10 people are going to change their minds and find him guilty. What can we do for you to be able to change your votes and feel good about it?”  The white man talked himself through the lack of evidence connecting this man to the crime, and then decided that he could see where there could be doubt, so maybe yes, he could say based on that the young man was not guilty. The remaining juror, now standing alone with his guilty vote, said “Well, okay. If he’s voting not guilty, then I am too.”

Did the young man commit the crime? I don’t know. I don’t think so. I left feeling good about my vote, that justice had been done. But I also felt like I had just seen the nasty underbelly of the world in which many citizens of this city live. A city where, based on your past behavior, you can just be picked up and put in jail. A place where police have no answers for why they took certain actions or how they came upon certain evidence. Where the prosecutor responds to juror’s questions about why no one tested the coffee cup or the cigarette butts apparent in the crime photos for DNA, with a mocking “this is not like the movies, people.”

When I see the photos of Freddie Gray before his arrest, I see the face of the young man who stood and shook the hand of every juror as we passed by him on our way out of the courtroom after finding him not guilty.  I see a young man who daily faces impossible odds against a system stacked against him, unless his community comes together and says “No more.” His community, from every corner of this city. From the housekeeper who held his hand for an extra moment and said “Now you behave yourself,” to which he responded “Yes m’am,” before she left for her job. Declining my offer of a ride, she headed off to walk the 4 blocks to the hospital and I pointed my car north to my corner of the city, hoping he knew how much these people valued him and his life. From every corner of this city.

Sometimes I hate it when I’m right

Back in February, on the day of the Maryland Democratic Primary, I wrote this:

Watching the coverage makes me anxious. While Clinton’s shown shaking hands with workers at the GM transmission plant, Obama’s got crowds of young people waving signs and chanting. As Morra Aarons wites over at BlogHer:

Being a Hillary supporter is like being the person in the dorm who yells at her partying neighbors to shut up, because she’s studying for a final exam. You know you have a good reason, but you’re a little annoyed at yourself for being such a pill.

I feel like a party pooper because I’m not shouting “Si, se puede!” But Senator Obama, se puede? Could I have some more details on how se puede?

At the time, many of my Obama supportin’ friends (and I do have some diehards), thought I was being a stick in the mud by continually asking for more detail from Obama, and because I said my biggest concern about Obama was that we just don’t know much about him — not enough to know what he will do once in office.

And this week, Barack Obama has been very busy proving me right, crassly moving to the center on 3 important issues: gun control, death penalty, and FISA. Where is the “new” kind of politics? Where is the “Washington outsider”? Where is the man who spoke before thousands of adoring followers in Iowa and said:

Years from now, you’ll look back and you’ll say that this was the moment, this was the place where America remembered what it means to hope. For many months, we’ve been teased, even derided for talking about hope. But we always knew that hope is not blind optimism. It’s not ignoring the enormity of the tasks ahead or the roadblocks that stand in our path.

It’s not sitting on the sidelines or shirking from a fight. Hope is that thing inside us that insists, despite all the evidence to the contrary, that something better awaits us if we have the courage to reach for it and to work for it and to fight for it.

I thought that was too good to be true. I thought the Obama supporters were being naive to believe him when he said he would stand up and “fight for it.” Now it turns out he’s just another politician running for office, saying whatever he has to in order to get elected.

Crap. Sometimes I really hate it when I’m right.

Joel Stein of the LA Times received much grief for this characterization of Obama:

What the Cult of Obama doesn’t realize is that he’s a politician. Not a brave one taking risky positions like Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich, but a mainstream one. He has not been firing up the Senate with stirring Cross-of-Gold-type speeches to end the war. He’s a politician so soft and safe, Oprah likes him. There’s talk about his charisma and good looks, but I know a nerd when I see one. The dude is Urkel with a better tailor.

So. What’s next, Mr Mainstream Senator Obama?

America, women, and political office: Many miles to go …

Before Hillary Clinton bowed out of the race for the Democratic nomination, I read an interesting piece in TruthOut, which I meant to post for you all. In the craziness at home and in the news lately, I never got around to it. Yet it is almost more powerful now that the passion and emotions of the Clinton vs. Obama discussions have died down.

We have a long, long way to go before America truly accepts women in political office as the norm. It has nothing to do with Barack Obama, so perhaps now that he’s the candidate we can look at the subject of women without it becoming a “which is worse: sexism vs. racism” battle. Perhaps we can look at the issue of women in politics in America on its own merits and issues.

Like the rest of the world, the US has been moving forward in terms of women in politics, but it’s doing so in spurts and slower than many of its neighbors. Ten years ago, this country ranked 37th in terms of women’s political representation. It now sits in 71st place, according to a recent Interparliamentary Union study.

Twenty-eight of the 50 states have not yet elected a female governor. And women make up only 16 percent of both the US House and the Senate.

One roadblock to political equality for women may be an overly sunny self-perception on the part of Americans, according to Marie Wilson, founder of the White House Project, an organization aimed at upping women’s political representation, and author of “Closing the Leadership Gap: Why Women Can and Must Help Run the World.”

“People think we’re already there,” Wilson told Truthout. “They think we have a political meritocracy. As Americans, we like to think of ourselves as a fair country. That makes it harder to own up to the facts of the masculinity of the political system and the normalcy of recruiting men to run for office.”

Even triumphs can be deceptive; there’s a difference between achieving a milestone and establishing normalcy. The first woman to serve in the Senate took her oath in 1922. Yet in 1992, 70 years after that barrier was broken, the Senate contained only two women.

It is getting better, as more women are running for local office, learning how to fundraise, and gaining experience. Hillary Clinton’s candidacy has been a huge step forward for women at the national level, but it does not mean that we will suddenly have a slew of women running for president next election. Instead, we’ll have this collective (and false) feeling that women have reached equality with men in the political arena, and we’ll take two steps backward before we see another woman run for the White House.

Read the rest of Maya Schwenar’s article, Women in the Running, here.

And these people get paid for this?!

I’ve been out of commission for a couple of days, and haven’t been watching as much news about the primary race as I otherwise might have. Turns out I’ve been missing … pretty much nothing!

I watched some of the DNC meeting on Saturday, listened to some on the radio. I was moved by everyone from from Florida who spoke. Except that I found Congressman Wexler incredibly annoying in his Obama-love (down, boy!), and I found Donna Brazile condescending and disingenuous. Oh, Donna, what has happened to you since Gore 2000?

I read the results from Sunday’s Puerto Rico primary, where Clinton beat Obama by 36 percentage points, the exit polls showing her beating him soundly in all age groups — including his supposedly solid “youth movement” — she won men, she won women, she won church goers, she won those with college education and those without. But no one seems to care. It earned barely a mention on the news Monday morning.

Here’s what I heard the talking heads say:

“It’s going to be interesting to see what Hillary Clinton decides to do.” Um, ya think?

“I think Clinton’s going to have to be thinking strategically at this point.” Oh, really?

Are you freakin’ kidding me? I think we should all apply for these “pundit” jobs immediately.

It’s obvious that these people have nothing left to say — their thin knowledge of politics has been exposed through this prolonged primary season, and for that, I thank you Senator Clinton! Whereas we used to have a few investigative reporters, and few political reporters who knew insiders and could give us the “scoop” we wouldn’t otherwise find out, we now see behind the curtain: the “pundits” who parade across the “news” “analysis” shows on every network, are nothing more than opinionated writers with some knowledge and interest in current events.

Hey — we could do that!

Parsley, rage, xenophobia, and time

Yes, “time.” As in air time, of which this story has received very little in the MSM. However, from the MotherJones article, McCain’s Spiritual Guide: Destroy Islam, we have this:

Senator John McCain hailed as a spiritual adviser an Ohio megachurch pastor who has called upon Christians to wage a “war” against the “false religion” of Islam with the aim of destroying it.

Parsley, who refers to himself as a “Christocrat,” is no stranger to controversy. In 2007, the grassroots organization he founded, the Center for Moral Clarity, called for prosecuting people who commit adultery. In January, he compared Planned Parenthood to Nazis. In the past Parsley’s church has been accused of engaging in pro-Republican partisan activities in violation of its tax-exempt status.

So, how does Parsley really feel about Islam? In his own words:

I cannot tell you how important it is that we understand the true nature of Islam, that we see it for what it really is. In fact, I will tell you this: I do not believe our country can truly fulfill its divine purpose until we understand our historical conflict with Islam. I know that this statement sounds extreme, but I do not shrink from its implications. The fact is that America was founded, in part, with the intention of seeing this false religion destroyed, and I believe September 11, 2001, was a generational call to arms that we can no longer ignore.

Some McCain loyalists argue that no candidate can be held responsible for what all of their supporters say. True enough, Clinton, Obama, and all the others have all had their share of supporter-foot-in-mouth disease. But Parsley is not just another supporter — just as Reverend Wright was not just another supporter of Obama. Reverend Parsley has had a long relationship with McCain, and McCain has described him publicly as “one of the truly great leaders in America,” “a moral compass,” and a “spiritual guide.”

McCain was one of the first to demand that Barack Obama denounce the Rev. Wright. Now McCain has been forced to do the same with Rev. Parsley and Ref. Hagee. The difference? Are you getting tired of hearing about Parsley? No? Of course not, because it has not been covered day and night by every major news outlet, the way the Rev. Wright story was covered.

Personally, I don’t think Obama holds any of the same views espoused by Rev. Wright. I think he sat in that church for 20 years as a future political candidate, gathering a reputation in a popular African American church. I doubt McCain holds the outrageous views of Hagee and Parsley, either. He is a politician first and foremost, and I think he’s trolling for votes wherever he can find them. It’s a shame that he’s trolling amongst the bottom feeders, but even more shameful is the fact that the press is giving this story such little attention.

Barack Obama sends secret message to "Obama Nation" What could it possibly mean?

Wow. Or as one of my favorite bloggers would say, Yikes! The more I try to come to terms with the fact that Barack Obama is the frontrunner and quite possibly will be the Democratic nominee for president, the more he personally tries to turn me off.

My message to him: I’d like to end our dysfunctional relationship, where I keep trying to forgive you for all the “boneheaded” things you do (your word). Maybe we should meet over a drink in a public place (in case it turns ugly). “I’m sorry, but this just isn’t working out for me. It’s not you, it’s me.”

No, Barry, turns out it is you.

From Yikes!:

Obama Finger-gate: Oh no he didn’t!

From No Quarter:

Obama Stands Accused of Conduct Unbecoming a Presidential Candidate [Updates: Chicago Tribune, more MSM]

And from Tennesee Guerilla Women:

Obama Gives Hillary the Finger (Video)

h/t to Yikes! Oh yes he did ….

And by the way, “Obama Nation” is from an Obama supporter. The irony is not lost on me …. you say potAto, I say abomination …. let’s call the whole thing off.

Art Against Empire

One of the best things about writing this blog has been the amazing people I have met online. Sometimes I reach out to bloggers and sometimes folks come to me. Bill Fisher is one person who serendipitously arrived at Nailing Jello to the Wall and I’m excited to tell you about what he has done.

What Bill does is beyond performance art. It’s “in your face” art. It’s art to make America wake up! As Bill said in an email to me:

Misrepresented and/or ignored by most media outlets, art that promotes political discussion or simple awareness is undervalued and so often side-lined.

I can’t begin to do Bill Fisher’s artwork justice here, so I encourage you to head over to his site, Art Against Empire. I will let this image speak for itself. Click on the image to enlarge it: