The Brooklyn Brawl

The Brooklyn Brawl

If one thing was painfully clear after the CNN debate on Thursday, now dubbed the Brooklyn Brawl, Hillary Clinton is obviously disgusted with the fact she can’t seem to be able to put away a 74 year old, self-described “democratic socialist” from Vermont. It’s obvious she underestimated Bernie Sanders and she has no clue what to do about it.

 

After a 14 point drubbing in Wisconsin on April 17th and another double digit shellacking in Wyoming the next weekend, she can no longer hear the heartbeat of momentum that once pounded for her. Now all she hears are footsteps, and they’re closing fast. It’s become a real horserace folks, and don’t let anyone tell you any differently.

 

This brings us to the biggest prize left on the slate until California in June.

 

New York, you are in the driver’s seat. The question is, what course are you going to set for the Democratic Party and quite possibly the future of our great nation? And to answer that question, I guess it all boils down to what NY Democrats believe it means to be a Democrat in 2016.

 

For me it’s simple. I’ve been a proud Democrat all my life. You could even say I was born to it.  My last name literally means “the people,” Demos.  I’m a first generation natural born citizen, a US Air Force veteran and yes, I’m a Greek-American (half Swiss too), and if there is one thing Greek descendants will always be monumentally proud of, it’s being the birthplace of modern Western democracy and the concept that those who govern shall not be beholden to anyone, or anything, other than the will of the people – everyone should have a voice in deciding the trajectory of their collective future and the majority will rule.

 

It’s what our founding fathers believed in too, crystalized in the first words that introduce the magnificent document which embodies the very soul of America, “We the People.” It’s a purity that transcends political parties, and as such, the greatest leaders in American history also embodied that purity, Republican and Democrat alike. Our greatest leaders sought to unite us, not divide us, to serve us all, not just a privileged few, based on truths that are held self-evident, that all of us are created equal.

 

But over time, things seem to have gotten skewed and jumbled, we somehow got split up. We’ve become idealistically twisted, broken and disillusioned. Now the party of Abraham Lincoln, the Republican President who enacted The Emancipation Proclamation by executive order to end the unforgivable scourge of slavery in America and who stood on the battlefield in Gettysburg stained red with the blood of brothers and proclaimed, “that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.” Just imagine what Lincoln would think of his party today, with its leading candidates bent on division and derision. He would be sickened, as am I, so no Republican party for me in this day and age.

 

No, instead I embrace Democratic ideals, at least I thought I did.  But to tell you the truth, I don’t recognize the Democratic Party today either, and it saddens me. Today, FDR, the President who both led us out of the Great Depression to unrivaled prosperity, and led America’s might to crush tyranny and imperialism by inspiring all Americans to selflessly play their part in liberating foreign masses of strangers from oppression in lands across vast oceans, would be labeled a socialist, and be very quiet saying it, because that’s a dirty word, even though the most appreciated and relied upon safety nets of modern American society, like Social Security and Medicare, are just that – socialist.

 

Mine was supposed to be the party that would strive with all its might for every American of a legal age to be able to exercise their constitutional right to vote, without regard to their gender, race, physical ability, sexual orientation or financial standing.  Instead, the state with the most populous city in our nation, a blue state no less, is ensuring that thousands upon thousands of voters will be disenfranchised by spitting in the face of the core principles of democracy. If you are an Independent, hopefully you were clairvoyant, because you were simply not going to be allowed to gain any insight into the candidates through the vetting process the primary season is supposed to afford. You were not even going to be allowed to know who already dropped out, who may become immersed in scandal, or any other reality which may have transpired during the process before it was time to make your voice heard.  You basically had to throw a dart back in October while blindfolded and hope you hit something you would be happy with.  And if you were just recently inspired by a candidate because of something you saw, heard or felt when they were finally in your neck of the woods – sorry, too late, you had to know that almost a month ago, so your voice will not be heard.  Iowa gets their chance to weigh their choices up close and personal each year, with many candidates practically living there before those first votes are cast. Then the rest of the country gets to start tuning in to apply whatever personal criteria they use to weigh and measure everyone running using the information that starts getting exposed both in national and social media circles. That’s the way the process is supposed to work. Instead, my Democratic Party is smelling an awful lot like ultra-conservative Republicans are in charge these days, for whom uncontested contests are their best chance of exercising iron-fisted control, democracy be dammed.

 

With that being said, every registered Democrats in NY has some real soul searching to do.  You have been handed an enviable opportunity lend great weight in defining the soul of the Democratic Party, not just for today, but for generations to follow.

 

You have the chance to illuminate which ideals will be embraced, and you have two stark choices, an insider and an outsider, a pragmatist and an idealist.

 

Hillary Clinton is obviously a known commodity. For better or for worse, she is a creature of establishment politics. She’s rubbed all the right elbows in the inner circle and she works best behind the scenes, always negotiating from the center. She knows policy, she understands the system and how to leverage it.

 

She also knows how to catch a political wind and fill her sails with it until another, stronger wind comes in from another direction. Then she’ll change her rigging and tack a new course.  She’s about maintaining speed, but not truly focused on an actual destination. It’s also a big reason why her trustworthiness and honesty are constantly questioned.  If you can be against something, then for it, then against it again, voters can simply not trust whether or not the positions she’s running on are what she will actually try to deliver in the end, or even close. Is she a moderate, or a progressive? Well, that depends on the day and the audience. She is also shrouded in secrecy, from her transcripts and emails, to her special interest ties and some often dubious connections through the Clinton Foundation. There also seems to be something lacking in her ability to engage and inspire masses. If you are happy with things as they stand today and are only looking for incremental change around the edges, she is the poster child for your vote.

 

Bernie Sanders is a horse of a completely different color. For better or for worse, he’s a man of personal conviction and lofty ideals, his message and beliefs don’t waver. For him, the destination is the only focus. He will try to sail through a hurricane if the destination he wants to reach is on the other side, and yes, he is even willing to get arrested if that’s what it takes to send a message against evils in society like racial and/or income inequality. He can be brash and outspoken, often without regard to the subtlety of political correctness. He will name names and confront an enemy head on, whether it’s the head of the Federal Reserve, or the CEO of a multinational corporation or bank. His colleagues, his supporters and everyone else has a pretty good idea of what he is going to say when he opens his mouth. He doesn’t negotiate from the center, he typically starts from a position so far from center the opposition feels like they are looking at him through the wrong end of a telescope when the back and forth begins. Ties to the big money of corporate America and Wall Street simply do not exist. In his view, the ever-widening gap in income equality both in America and around the world stifle the voice of the 99% and rig the political system and the economy to work best for only a handful of billionaires. If you want to grab “the system” by the shoulders and really shake it up, he is the poster child for your vote.

 

So the question remains NY, who do you think best represents what the Democratic Party is supposed to stand for?

 

As for me, it’s not even close. I want our democracy back, not pay for play.  I want average Americans to once again have a voice which will be heard, not a mute button which silences all except a privileged few.  I want someone who understands what Aristotle meant when he said, “He who is a citizen in a democracy will often not be a citizen in an oligarchy.” I want millions to be inspired to collectively embark on a journey with a grand destination in mind, like JFK did when he that tossed the cap of our future over the wall and challenged us all to follow it, all the way to the moon. I want the undiluted truth when so much is on the line, however ugly it may be. I want someone who can actually diagnose a problem right the first time before trying to solve it, otherwise we will once again end up being set on a false course of treatment which could end up being fatal.  I want someone who starts and stays on the right side of history, not excuses and apologies for more bad judgements.  I want someone who will never err on the side of war. I want someone who will beat any Republican candidate they eventually choose to let into the ring.  I want the stresses and miseries of millions and millions of Americans to be confronted, not put on the back burner until it’s far too late. I want someone who will fight, toe to toe, with whomever tries to destroy our collective wellbeing, no matter how big and powerful they may seem.  I want Democrats, Independents and even Republicans to be welcomed into our party with open arms to build a coalition which will move our country forward in big steps for years to come. That’s the Democratic Party I believe in.

 

If you’re still undecided, please take it upon yourself to look beyond force-fed news, this election is too important for anything less.  I’ve spent many, many hours researching on my own. But it really takes less than five minutes of personal research to see corporate media is nothing but entertainment masquerading as news, and obviously they have a vested interest in keeping Bernie Sanders out of the spotlight as much as possible. With YouTube, you get to unravel the past.  You get to see how Bernie fights, like an attack dog, but always on message and direct.

 

You also get to hear the all the lies spill from Clinton’s own lips – sniper fire? Really?

 

I also remember her race against Obama and every underhanded political maneuver she employed to “disqualify” him in the eyes of the public, and now she’s embracing his legacy with open arms to pander to minority voters. I find it appalling.

 

As for winning the general election, Hillary Clinton can absolutely NOT beat Donald Trump. He is the one person in this race who is positioned to level her in a way she will not be able to recover from. I don’t think it’s an accident he recently settled on a new nickname for her, “Crooked Hillary.” And it doesn’t have anything to do with Bernie Sanders. It has been his plan all along, Bernie just made it convenient for him to get started and take it for a test drive. All Trump has to say is that he has a personal history with the Clintons, which is a well-documented history,  and tell America that she is on the take, whether he can prove it with physical evidence or not. As a businessman, and not a lifelong politician, he can always claim the highroad in this particular fight.  In his typical boastful fashion he can say he greased her palms to get something done in New York, he had to, that’s the way the game is played. A businessman playing a rigged system to achieve, maintain and further his financial success? Nothing shocking there, he only cares about winning and his base loves him for it.  But for a politician, especially in an election where it is quite obvious the vast majority of people are angry with the “establishment” governing from ivory towers and inner circles, it’s a game changer. You think not releasing her transcripts has people wondering? That’s child’s play by comparison. He will use her favorite tactic against her, just keep repeating it until people believe it’s true.  Does anyone honestly believe he wouldn’t go there? She can cry foul all she wants, all people will hear, according to her trustworthiness and honesty numbers, is WOLF! And before you know it, the next name she will be calling him is Mr. President – God help us all.

 

Feel the Bern New York. Let’s have the revolution that’s been a long time coming. It’s time to take our democracy back and finally get a seat at the table.

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Time is nowI haven’t made a blog entry in almost 6 years, but that ends today, the history of tomorrow is once again at stake, and “I must do something” always gets more accomplished than “something must be done.”

 

I guess the best way to reintroduce myself and my perspective is to give you a little basic background. I’m not a Millennial, I’m a middling Gen Xer. I first found my political voice when Barack Obama was largely an unknown.  He hadn’t announced his candidacy for President yet, he hadn’t even given his keynote address for John Kerry yet, the event that cemented him on a national stage – the call to unity of his Red states/Blue states speech –  a lot of you know the one. I was on board before that moment in time though. What first caught my attention was a speech he gave in 2002 at Federal Plaza in Chicago before the second Iraq war. He vocalized my biggest fears at the time – the ruin to America and the world that a “dumb war” would forge. I watched it so many times I can still remember the people in the crowd. Sadly, the original video is lost to time, but here are his words. I told my wife that day that this guy will become president – he spoke to the America I wanted, the one we needed, and I knew the America I believed in would agree.

 

Needless to say, I got “fired up and ready to go.” I was a mainstay on the barackobama.com blog (Aris) throughout the election and the fight for healthcare. I was compelled to fuel, inspire and encourage those first sputters of the political revolution America so desperately needed after 8 years of the Bush/Cheney calamity. We needed change, yes we did. And we did something considered impossible by every pundit at the time – not only won the White House, but also managed to introduce and push through the Affordable Care Act (ACA) – you know, that affront to the soul of the GOP which every breathing Republican Representative and Senator has vowed to repeal and replace with – well, nothing.

 

The ACA wasn’t nearly enough, but it was a start. Pre-existing conditions would no longer disqualify a human being from being able to find health insurance, millions of previously uninsured would be able to get into the system, and women would not be discriminated against just for being women. It was far from perfect and still is.  Obama knew it, he had repeatedly said a single payer system would be the way he would like to go, but he was a pragmatist. His philosophy was to start near the dividing line and hope human decency and common sense would prevail. Instead, we saw the birth of the Tea Party (and also the beginning of the end for the GOP establishment). The party of “No” was born and any hope for change went out the window.

 

But three important lesson were learned.

 

First, there is no better feeling than to be part of a grassroots movement (unheard of at the time) and achieve a victory in the halls of power, a victory considered impossible by every talking head at the time. I hope and pray that you millennials get to feel it very soon too, on an even bigger and grander scale.

 

Second, no one, not even a champion for change, can serve two masters – when corporate and Wall Street money back a candidate, eventually a concession(s) will be have to be made, in Obama’s case, appointing some of the very snakes from the big banks, investment houses and the political establishment who nearly broke America’s back to positions of power, and sorry Hillary, that includes you too. How else do you go from the venom and lies you spewed against Obama as a candidate to Secretary of State? A deal with the devil, err, the DNC (which is trying even harder to drive you down our collective throats this time around)? Straight from the Hillary vault – Shame on you Barack Obama indeed. Not only were the foxes invited into the hen-house and put in charge of our treasure, but the wife of the bank-deregulator himself, Bill Clinton,  got double duty as a hawk flying over the field and double dipping into the disastrous regime change mentality which led to the political vacuum that delivered us the barbaric scourge of ISIS. What else could you possibly expect from someone without the foresight and judgement to see through the lies of George W. Bush and his cronies?

 

And third, mainstream media will never be the friend of anyone who is not part of the elite ruling class. Obama caught them by surprise in the beginning and that is the only reason he managed to pull off the impossible. A black man with a Muslim name? Endless loops of his firebrand, racist preacher, Jeremiah Wright? Dots connecting him to Bill Ayres of “American Terrorist” fame, no matter how far stretched? The birther movement breathing down his neck? No way could this guy be elected. So corporate media made a mistake born of greed. MSNBC, CNN, CBS, ABC, and yes even FOX, saw the dollar signs that come with viewership. On the left, what better underdog story could there be than his to appease liberal democrats and make them feel good enough to stay obedient to the party before Hillary Clinton’s DNC delivered coronation (yes, she had the vast majority of “super delegates” then too), and of course help deliver her the crucial African American vote in previously unseen numbers thanks to the historic nature of her adversary’s candidacy. On the right, well let’s just say racism was a bit of a theme, stupidity was encouraged and idolized (see Sarah Palin), and obstructionism was, and still is, always the soup de jour. Sound familiar?

 

What mainstream media and the DNC underestimated was the power of a grass roots movement. They underestimated the power of eloquence, reason and common sense. The fires of change were ignited and they were powerless to stop it … for a while. Eventually though, debts to big dollar donors had to be repaid, homage had to be laid on the DNC altar if any of his visions for our country would ever be even broached, back room deals would have to be made and his liberal left moral compass would have to be jarred hard to the right to find common ground with the center-right personality the democratic party has been careening to since the days of Bill Clinton. A good man was broken, a movement was snuffed out and Republicans took over the house and senate, guaranteeing years of being buckled up on a carnival ride that relentlessly ends exactly where it started. I don’t blame Obama, he would never, ever have been elected in 2008 without making those deals with the devil. And I’m not sorry I supported and voted for him, even with hindsight, because ANY other choice would have turned the great recession into another great depression, trillions for war would be tens of trillions by now. The wheels weren’t just coming off the American Dream, the road was ending and the abyss was straight ahead. So thank you Barack Obama for at least keeping us on the road.

 

But let’s fast forward to now.

 

Once again, we as a nation are at a crossroads, but the stakes are much higher. Once again we are faced with banks too big to fail, left helplessly counting down the days before Wall Street’s gravy train flies off the tracks once again, saddling the poor and working class with the unbearable consequences that last time saw home foreclosures, vanishing nest eggs and soaring unemployment decimate a huge swath of our society and steal every ounce of dignity and will from millions. Once again we are faced with millions of Americans who are uninsured or underinsured, one medical emergency from destitution. Once again we are being told all-out war is the answer to terrorism. Once again we are being told security can only come at the cost of liberty. Once again we feel powerless to change our stars because the billionaire class has all the power and influence to hijack our democracy. Once again we are angry. I know I am. In 2010 I didn’t disappear and quit writing because I lost my passion or ideals. I didn’t quit because I wanted to; I quit because I had to.  The ripples of greed and corruption radiating from the illegal shenanigans that brought our economy to the brink of utter collapse finally reached me. The small business I was working for dissolved beneath my feet because customers dried up amid the ongoing fear.  Businesses quit investing in materials and equipment, they started hoarding instead, unsure about what the future would bring.  Time that with a minor (thankfully) medical emergency and, well, you can guess the rest. It’s been six years and I’m still scratching my way back.

 

There are only so many hours in the day, but this moment is too important not to get involved somehow. This moment will define our collective futures.  This moment will determine what kind of legacy we leave behind for posterity. This moment may decide whether the generations to follow actually will inherit a livable planet. This moment it YUUGE!

 

So I find myself back in a familiar fight against a familiar enemy.  I simply could not stomach what Hillary Clinton stood for then, and all the lies, political contortions and lip service since have not budged me at all now. Growing up I was taught that if you want to know who a person is, just look at the company they keep.  In this case, that means Wall Street, big pharma, the fossil fuel industry, corporate media and the list goes on.  These are not friends of the 99%.  These are not the friends to solve our problems, they are largely responsible for them. If Hillary Clinton becomes the nominee, I would much rather focus efforts down-ballot on trying to get Senate and House seats to minimize the damage a Trump presidency could cause.  Yes there would be four years at most of finger crossing and prayers, but it would be a lesson which would change the DNC forever.  They would finally understand how out of touch they are and how powerless they are when they do not bend to our collective will instead of trying to force us to bend to theirs.  Democracy means of the people, not of the privileged few.

 

So that brings us to the real fight, the fight that even Hollywood would have a hard time framing as anything other than destined.  The billionaire vs the anti-billionaire.

 

On the one had we have Trump, who with every sentence tries to boil that anger down to a simplistic fifth-grade-level answer, using “bad,” “good” and “great” coupled with vague, fact-less statements as his go-to rally calls. And if there needs to be more emphasis on a point to stir up a little more passion, we get a degree of very – bad becomes very bad, which then morphs into very, very, bad, and so on. We have very bad trade deals, that’s what’s costing millions of Americans jobs, which he will of course turn into very good trade bills, give or take a very on either end of the sentence. What will he change? Don’t worry about it, he has great people.

 

But trade alone is not nearly enough to get him where he wants to go, and there are plenty of other anger flames to fan.

 

So how else do you stir up fiery passion? You feed into our primal human nature – you make it an “us versus them” scenario. It works, it always has, and probably always will. It’s the immigrants, it’s the Chinese, the scientists, the thug protesters, the left wing crazies, the West-hating Islamists, they are the cause of your pain and fear. They are all very, very bad. But that’s not reality, it’s reality TV – entertainment designed to numb and distract your mind from the real problems, real problems which need real answers, not platitudes and finger pointing.

 

Then on the other hand, we have Bernie Sanders. He can make eyes roll with his penchant to take any political question, put it through a washing machine and have it come out the other end as a problem caused by income inequality, with Wall Street and the top one percent (and on occasion the top one percent of that top one percent) being the main antagonists in his version of “us versus them.”

 

But here’s the kicker.  Bernie is not far off, he just has a hard time vocalizing that idea any differently than he has been for decades. But then again, if you have been right all along, why change it up?

 

If you have taken the time to actually research Bernie Sanders without relying solely on mainstream media, one thing is clear, his positions have never and will never change.  There are scores of videos from over the decades which could be strung together and you would think you are listening to his 2016 stump speech, verbatim. Here is a nice little collection strung together. That’s why he comes off as the most genuine and authentic candidate on either side in poll after poll. You know what you are getting, you know what he is against, what he will fight for, and for whom. Whether you agree or not, well, that’s the beauty of democracy, or at least it’s supposed to be if the system isn’t rigged.

 

The fact is too much wealth IS flowing to the top.  Yes, the super wealthy can and do create jobs, but those jobs are obviously too few and far between (hence all the aforementioned anger).

 

Corporate or minimum wage jobs have never been the backbone of America’s strength. In our happiest and most prosperous decades manufacturing was strong, entrepreneurs were pushing the envelope of creative ingenuity with undaunted spirit and small businesses were thriving. That simply cannot happen when most of the wealth funnels to the top. Why? Because the super wealthy don’t spend their treasure proportionally. How many dinners can they eat? How many appliances can they possibly need, or want? How much furniture, how many computers, how many calling plans, insurance policies, or any other product can they possibly use? It may be a little more than 1 percent, but not by that much. So they tend to hoard.  If Donald Trump showed us anything, it’s that &%$! measuring contests are very important to the super wealthy, and that measuring is done by comparing yacht sizes, net worth and political influence.

 

So here is the simple truth.  If we want to create more jobs, we need to create more customers, a lot more customers. We need to substantially increase the numbers of haves and put a serious dent in the number of have nots.  Will a small business cut jobs because of a 2% tax increase when their pool of customers with spendable income increases by 20-30%, or will they be netting more income than ever and need more help? Will the offset of not having to pay employee healthcare help or hurt with job creation? An inclusive economy blazes the trail to a vibrant economy. A healthy workforce is a more reliable workforce.  A happy workforce is a more productive workforce. Simple logic holds these truths to be self-evident. There is no conflict between capitalism and democratic socialism.  I guarantee you that worker in Germany who built that beautiful BMW didn’t feel oppressed during his/her 37 hour work week while figuring out where to take that next two week vacation.  I guarantee you he/she had a lot less stress when a medical emergency popped up and there was no need to worry whether or not their job would be there when they recovered. I guarantee you they did not create an inferior product, they built, sold and profited from something they were proud of.

 

On the flip-side, in the US today the biggest thing we manufacture is money – out of thin air. When the money that drives the banks is running low, the Federal Reserve taps a few keys and moves a few decimals, always resulting in the middle class accruing more and more debt until the bough breaks and our entire economy falls once again, sucking almost every ounce of liquidity out of the poor and middle class and replacing it with yet more debt.

 

The banks which got bailed out on the American taxpayer’s dime because they were too big to fail – they’re even bigger now.

 

I think we’ve all figured it out by now; prosperity doesn’t trickle down, it bubbles up.  We all know what rolls downhill and we all know it will eventually hit the bottom.  It’s only when prosperity is built from the bottom up that the sky’s truly the limit.

 

So with that let me just say the fire is back – I’m feeling the Bern. Time to pull my old blog out of mothballs and do what I can to help energize this revolution we all so desperately need.

 

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