Saturday, July 23, 2016

Left Side of the Aisle #254

Left Side of the Aisle
for the weeks of July 21 - August 3, 2015

This week:

Good News: win for voting rights in Wisconsin

Outrage of the Week: Supreme Court legitimizes corruption

Protesters plan "Fart-In" during Democratic convention

Clown Award: Rep. Steve King

The world in numbers

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Left Side of the Aisle #253

Left Side of the Aisle
for the week of July 14-20, 2016

This week:
Why "Black Lives Matter" still matters

"There is too much death"

Hero Award: Najih Shaker Al-Baldawi

Hero Award: Allison in London

The little Thing

Chelsea Manning

Monday, July 11, 2016

Left Side of the Aisle #252

Left Side of the Aisle
for the week of July 7-13, 2016

This week:
- Good News on guns
- Not Good News on guns
- Good News on LGBTQ rights
- Not Good News on LGBTQ rights
- Good News on resisting bigotry
- Not Good News on resisting bigotry
- How the media encourages fear of Muslims
- How the media misleads on the economy
- People are catching on that the economy is rigged

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Left Side of the Aisle #251

Left Side of the Aisle
for the weeks of June 23 - July 6, 2016

This week:

A tale of two assaults

Footnote: pushback

Good News: net neutrality wins

Good News: guns controls upheld

Good News: no increase in youth pot-smoking in Colorado

Good News: young Americans souring on capitalism

GMTA on demonizing the poor - cut assistance - less likely

A bit on Brexit

UN: 65 million displaced persons

One word on Senate gun votes

Saturday, June 18, 2016

250.8 - Update: what to expect from Hillary Clinton

Update: what to expect from Hillary Clinton

We'll wrap up the week with a quick update to my lengthy rant last week about the ending of the presidential primaries and what that will mean in terms of issues that will not be discussed - or to be more precise, issues that Hillary Clinton and Donald TheRump will do their best to avoid discussing - in the fall. It's a bit more about what we can expect from, in particular, Clinton.

1. She is the candidate of Wall Street, which has raised nearly $23 million for her campaign.

2. She is the candidate of the neocons, a number of who have crossed party lines to support her, declaring, in the words of one of them, James Kirchick, that "Clinton is the candidate of the status quo," one who will provide "continuity with the present," she is the candidate of reaction, the president who will resist "systematic change."

3. She is the candidate of the hawks; she is the true hawk in the race for president, far more prepared to be far more aggressive militarily than Obama was and far readier to give the generals whatever they ask for.

This should not be taken as an ad for TheRump; I said months ago and I still say that for all her faults - and they are legion - she is still clearly preferable to anybody the GOPpers had going; hell, even the status quo (with perhaps incremental change) she represents is better than where that crew would take (or at least try to take) us.

But if you are going to support Hillary Clinton, you should do it realizing what you are going to get.

Sources cited in links:

250.7 - Orlando and terrorism

Orlando and terrorism

[Note: I have broken my discussion of the Orlando shooting into four parts for convenience.]

But as the saying goes, "facts are stubborn things" and I have been somewhat encouraged by the fact that over the past day, that is, as I do this on Wednesday, the storyline is slowly, reluctantly, but clearly being dragged toward describing the heinous event as a hate crime rather than one of terrorism, particularly Islamic terrorism.

The difference matters in more than legal technicalities of what defines either hate crime or terrorism. It matters in understanding what happened and what is means for our society.

Calling something terrorism suggests that it was intended to affect more than the immediate target - that, in this case, it was intended to terrorize the entire LGBTQ community with thoughts of similar fates.

But frankly, I wonder, based on my reading of Omar Mateen, if such terrorizing was part of his motivation. Maybe it was, in which case this reasonably could be called terrorism, but I wonder if it wasn't more strictly, as I described it earlier, an explosion of self-loathing turned outward. An act of pure, unrestrained, blind, hatred.

There is also more than a hint here of what is called "suicide by cop," which refers to situations where someone acts in a way where they appear to be deliberately provoking police to shoot them, to carry out the death sentence they feel unable to impose on themselves.

If Omar Mateen had wished solely to carry out an act of terrorism, particularly one in support of some religious fundamentalism or another, he could easily have fled the scene, as the attackers in Paris, for example, or the Boston Marathon bombers, did. He had more than enough opportunity. But he didn't. Instead he stayed, he holed up, he announced via that 911 call that he was an ISIS terrorist, in subsequent conversations with cops he claimed things like he was going to strap bombs to various people and place them around the building, he did pretty much everything short of saying "Come get me, coppers!"

Until finally, perhaps to his ultimate relief, they did.

So why it is important that we see this more as a hate crime than terrorism? Because as long as we maintain the "terrorism" narrative, we can continue to tell ourselves that it is primarily a case of the "other," the "alien," not by citizenship but by nature, the "alien" in our midst, that it is not about us in any way other than as victims.

But if we face the fact, as we should, that this was not an act of terrorism by any but the most general meaning of the word, that this was an act of hatred based in homophobia, then we have to recognize that for all the strides that have been made over the past couple of decades, for all the celebrations we have been able to have over gains of rights, for all the gains in acceptance we have been able to watch, still, as Phil Ochs sang in a different context but still it fits, "beneath the greatest love is a hurricane of hate."

Orlando was a bursting forth of the hurricane of hate which our LBGTQ brothers and sisters still face, a hurricane of hate perfectly illustrated by a Baptist pastor from Sacramento, California named Roger Jimenez who just hours after the massacre preached to his congregation "Are you sad that 50 pedophiles were killed today? I think that's great. I think that helps society. I think Orlando, Florida's a little safer tonight."

A hurricane of hate of which Orlando is but one gale. A hurricane of hate that despite the gains has yet to blow itself out.

And that is what should be the lesson of Orlando - that, and that we have too damn many guns and they are too damn easy to get.

Sources cited in links:

250.6 - Orlando and the media

Orlando and the media

[Note: I have broken my discussion of the Orlando shooting into four parts for convenience.]

So it does look like Omar Mateen was a disturbed individual, disturbed in a way that makes him almost a poster boy for our "violence has nothing to do with us" evasions.

But unlike so many other mass killers, he is being denied that narrative as another narrative is foisted on us. And I can tell you exactly when that happened: when we found out his name was Omar Mateen.

Initially, news accounts called the tragedy a "shooting" and continued to do so for hours after officials said it was being investigated as an possible act of terror. But as soon as they knew his name, as soon as they knew that while he is a US-born citizen, his parents are from Afghanistan, the storyline changed.

For example: At 9:01am the morning after the attack, CBS News tweeted that the shooter has been IDed as Omar Mateen. Just 10 minutes later, its description of the event had changed from a "shooting" to a potential case of "Islamic terrorism."

Other media outlets quickly fell in line and what had been a "shooting" became a possible and soon thereafter an unquestioned act of Islamic terrorism. Once they knew the accused murderer was named Omar. That's all they needed.

In fact, an early version of Reuters' article about the shooting (since changed) spent the first two or three sentences going on about "missed red flags" of "Islamist leanings" and the need for "better security," and then immediately thereafter - literally the very next words - said quote "much remains unknown" about Mateen's motives. We don't know why he did it, but so what? Red flags! Islamist leanings! Security! Be afraid!

Every hint of some possible connection to some radical Islamist individual or group was reported breathlessly. Past FBI investigations were mentioned over and over and over. The fact that the FBI investigated him and found nothing there could not be allowed to be an indication that there is nothing there, it had to be proof of "missed red flags."

A big deal was made out of the report that Mateen and his wife Noor Zahi Salman visited Walt Disney World in April. Oh my God! He was scouting the site! The idea that maybe he was just going to Disney World with his wife and kid was beyond the imagining of our media moguls. I'm sure at some point went to local supermarket, another place where there can be a lot of people around with minimal security. Scoping it out!

But of course the big deal was that he claimed to be a supporter of Daeah - of ISIS - in a 911 call he made during the attack. Proof it's Islamic terrorism!

Except: He had previously claimed to be a supporter of both al-Qaeda and al-Nusra front, even though the three - al-Qaeda, ISIS, and al-Nusra are all bitter rivals, in fact the latter two are fighting each other in Syria - but he also claimed to be a member of Hezbollah, even though Hezbollah is Shiite and the other three are Sunni!

FBI Director James Comey said "It's not entirely clear at this point just what terrorist group he aspired to support." Or, as a senior US official put it more pointedly to the Wall Street Journal, "He seems to be looking for any opportunity to associate with the terrorist group du jour." Which sounds less like some religious fanatic and more like someone who feels powerless trying to feel more powerful by connecting to something "big."

Oh, and speaking of religious fanaticism, recall the description of him going to Pulse and getting drunk. You do remember hearing at some point that getting drunk is forbidden in Islam, don't you?

But of course none of that could be allowed to derail the narrative, so we had some "expert" saying that his conflicting claims of loyalty are to be expected from a "low-level" follower. That is, if you claim allegiance to some radical Muslim group, that proves you're an Islamist terrorist. Claim to follow a bunch of different, conflicting, groups, and that really proves you are an Islamist terrorist.

Likewise, the failure to find any connection between Mateen and any group simply proved he had been "radicalized online." The idea that, whatever his political belief may or may not have been, the idea that his murderous was not driven by religious fanaticism or indeed by any fanaticism other than fanatical hatred, hatred of LGBT people, simply was not entertained.

Our media has been, as is all too common, a miserable failure.

Sources cited in links:

250.5 - Orlando, Omar Mateen, and homophobia

Orlando, Omar Mateen, and homophobia

Omar Mateen
[Note: I have broken my discussion of the Orlando shooting into four parts for convenience.]

But having said all that, the thing is that the more we learn about Omar Mateen, the more the description of "troubled" seems to fit this case.

His first wife, from a marriage that lasted just four months until, in her words, her famiy rescued her, described Mateen as bipolar, as being violent, as having beaten her.

A co-worker at G4S Security described Mateen as "unhinged and unstable" and said he frequently made homophobic and racial comments. The co-worker said he quit after Mateen began sending him multiple texts a day.

A woman who went to middle school with Mateen called him a "troublemaker in school," including having "punched a teacher." Other stories and accounts along similar lines have emerged.
And then there is the issue of his sexuality. Multiple witnesses said Mateen was seen at Pulse, the club where the shooting occurred, on as many as a dozen occasions, with one person saying "Sometimes he would go over in the corner and sit and drink by himself, and other times he would get so drunk he was loud and belligerent."

He is also reported to have used the gay chat and dating app called Jack'd, including exchanging messages on and off for a year with at least one man.

Others reported related experiences, including one man who said Mateen asked him out on a date.

But the same time, there was that co-worker at G4S who said Mateen made homophobic statements and the claim of Mateen's father that Mateen had become enraged a few months before the shooting when they were in downtown Miami and he saw two men kissing each other.

And there of course was the blunt fact of the shooting. The shooting carried out at a LGBTQ nightclub of which he had been a patron.

What all this adds up to, to me, is someone brought up in a home that condemned homosexuality (In a recent video, his father declared "God will punish those involved in homosexuality.") and who hated and struggled with his own homosexual or bisexual desires and leanings until finally his own self-loathing was turned outward.

That is, it seems that this is a case where the label "unstable individual" we like to attach to mass murder actually seems to apply.

Sources cited in links:

250.4 - Orlando and guns

Orlando and guns

[Note: I have broken my discussion of the Orlando shooting into four parts for convenience.]

The topic of guns just leads us to the elephant in the room: Orlando. Orlando. Which will now be invoked in the same tones as Newtown, Aurora, San Bernadino, Columbine, and the rest.

In the early hours of Sunday, June 12, a man named Omar Mateen walked into a LGBTQ nightclub called Pulse in Orlando, Florida, armed with a Sig Sauer MCX, reasonably described as an "AR-15 type" semi-automatic assault rifle, and a .9mm Glock pistol. He opened fire.

When it was all over three hours later, 50 people, including Mateen, were dead and 53 more wounded.

And once again we have to face up to the reality, the reality we try so hard to ignore, to forget, of mass violence in America. And the reality that the common denominator in almost all of these cases is an "AR-15 type" assault rifle and don't give me any crap about "there's no such thing as an assault rifle" or the fallback that it isn't an assault rifle because it's not fully automatic and the rest of the evasive, self-serving bull. The fact that it can fire repeatedly as fast as you can pull the trigger - about 45 rounds a minute - and the fact that it can carry high-capacity magazines and that it has repeatedly proved its value in committing mass murder are more than enough to overcome those weasel word objections.

The exact number of mass shootings we experience and have experienced depends on how you define the term: how many have to die to call it a mass shooting; how many injured; do any of the victims have to die for it to be a mass shooting since the victims were, after all, shot; does it have to be a single incident or can it be multiple incidents - think the Virginia Tech shooting - and if multiple how close do they have to be geographically or chronologically; the arguments about the details of definitions go on. But what is clear is that by any definition, the home base of mass shootings is the US.

Using its own measure of mass shootings, the FBI found that from 1966 to 2012, just under a third of all the mass shootings that took place anywhere in the entire world too place in the US - even though we have just 5% of the world's population.

We have too damn many guns and they are too damn easy to get.

And even that dramatically understates the daily carnage guns bring to the US, the vast, vast majority of which do not involve mass killings or shootings but are the slow daily grind of blood.

The graphic comes from work compiled by the Washington Post and reflects figures for the US for the year 2015.

25,000 gun-related injuries. That's more than 68 a day.
12,000 gun-related deaths, half of them suicides. That's nearly 33 a day.
But just 39 deaths from mass shootings: just over 0.3% of total gun deaths.

Mass shootings, mass tragedies such as at Orlando, get our attention, but they do not truly reflect the daily death toll of guns.

We have too damn many guns and they are too damn easy to get.

And even when we are faced with the latest atrocity, when we are faced with such as Orlando, we have our escape clause, our one-size-fits-all excuse for gun-enabled mayhem: Oh, the shooter was mentally disturbed, not normal, they were "troubled," and what we really need to do is focus on better mental health treatment, certainly not guns!

But that's largely a myth. A satisfying myth that enables us to ignore the looming presence of guns, but a myth nonetheless.

Best and recent research shows no reliable predictive value in associating mental health and gun violence. Put another way, the research says that people with mental illness are no more likely to be violent toward others, especially to commit mass violence, than anyone else is.

We can't simply dismiss the harsh truth of mass violence with the slogan "better mental health programs." They are justified on their own account - but not because they will address the issue of mass shootings, because they will not. They are a gun lobby-pushed distraction.

Sources cited in links:

250.3 - Good News: Court of Appeals says no right to concealed carry

Good News: Court of Appeals says no right to concealed carry

Finally for now, some Good News on an unusual front: guns.

On June 9, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that there is no constitutional right to carry a concealed weapon.

The case, Peruta v. County of San Diego, was about a California law that required people to prove they have "good cause" to carry concealed firearms before they could get a license to do so. San Diego and Yolo counties do not consider "general self-defense" to be "good cause." Put another way, the counties say that "because I wanna" isn't good enough. The plaintiffs challenged those guidelines as, naturally, an affront to their sacred right to pack whatever heat they want however they want wherever they want.

However, the court ruled that "The protection of the Second Amendment - whatever the scope of that protection may be - simply does not extend to the carrying of concealed firearms in public by members of the general public."

The ruling covered a history of laws relating to concealed weapons from England in the 1500s right up to the Heller decision, the 2008 Supreme Court ruling that declared for the first time an individual constitutional right to own guns. Here, the Court of Appeals reminded us that that very same decision, authored by Justice Skeletor, said the right to own a gun is not absolute and cited restrictions on concealed carry as an example of how it isn't.

The ruling was narrow; the Court avoided the question of if the Constitution protects openly carrying a gun in public, saying that was not at issue. But since California also bans the open carry of weapons in public in most circumstances, the gun nuts will likely seek to make that an issue in the future.

Still, a win is a win is a win. And that's Good News.

Sources cited in links:

250.2 - Good News: Supreme Court upholds restrictions on mercury pollution

Good News: Supreme Court upholds restrictions on mercury pollution

We also have some Good News for the environment along with another indication of the unusual importance of the Supreme Court this election.

Start by taking one step back: The White House's Clean Power Plan is intended to take a step against global warming by reducing emissions of carbon dioxide from existing power plants by about a third by 2030. It's still in the planning stages but it includes a regulation requiring states to submit plans for shifting away from fossil-fuel power plants and toward alternative energy.

In February, in one of the last decisions of which Justice Antonin Skeletor was part, the Supreme Court made the almost unprecedented move of stepping in to block that part of the regulations even though it had not been reviewed by a lower court. That this was the result of a divided Court is clear from the fact that four justices - Ginsburg, Breyer, Sotomayor, and Kagan - objected to the stay.

Fast forward to June 13 and we find the Scalia-less Supreme Court refusing to take up an appeal from 20 states to block federal environmental regulations that limit the emissions of mercury and other harmful pollutants that are byproducts of burning coal.

Coal-burning power plants, in addition to their other impacts, are the nation's largest source of human-made mercury pollution, but the states argued that the benefits of the rule do not measure up against the costs. However, in April the EPA, after revising the way it calculated the costs, concluded that "for every dollar spent to make these cuts, the public is receiving up to $9 in health benefits."

This is not, technically, the end of the matter since those new cost-benefit figures are subject to challenge, but since many utilities have already complied with the new requirements, the claim that they are unaffordable would seem to have lost a lot of punch.

Which just leaves one question for those 20 states: Are you advocates for the health of your citizens or the profits of your paymasters in the energy industry?

Sources cited in links:

250.1 - Good News: LIBOR suit moves forward

Good News: LIBOR suit moves forward

It was hard week for Good News, but I did manage to find a few bits.

Nearly four years ago, I told you about an emerging bank scandal involving what's called LIBOR, the London Inter-Bank Offered Rate. (Or Offer or Offering or Overnight, depending on who you ask.) It's derived daily from the estimates of a consortium of 18 international banks as to what interest rate they think they will pay for the overnight loans they take out from other banks and so by combining these estimates into one figure is supposed to serve as a measure of the actual market cost of such loans.

It's an important figure because it provides the baseline for the interest rates on a variety of other loans and transactions. It directly affects around $10 trillion in loans and it indirectly affects $800 trillion in economic activity. The influential finance magazine The Economist called it "the most important figure in finance."

And nearly four years ago it emerged that the banks, or least least a sufficient number of them, had been manipulating the rate for years to their own profit.

The scandal started with Barclay's and spread out from there. In the years since, about a dozen financial houses have paid almost $9 billion in fines to resolve government investigations by various nations around the world.

What's relevant here is that were also suits by investors who charged that by cheating to depress the LIBOR rate, the banks had cheated them by depressing their returns on investments pegged to the rate. In 2013, a US District Court dismissed the suits, saying the investors had failed to show that they were harmed in a way that would permit them to sue under US antitrust law.

So what's the good news? A couple of weeks ago, the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals overturned that decision and said the suits can proceed, meaning that 16 of the world's biggest banks - including Bank of America, JPMorgan, and Citigroup - are still on the hook for the losses they caused by their unrelenting drive for profit.

The ruling, as one analyst put it, was "far from a home run" because the District Court could still look to dismiss the case on other grounds, but for the moment, enjoy the Good News of the sight of bankers sweating.

Sources cited in links:

Friday, June 17, 2016

Left Side of the Aisle #250

Left Side of the Aisle
for the week of June 16-22, 2016

This week:

Good News: LIBOR suit moves forward

Good News:  Supreme Court upholds restrictions on mercury pollution

Good News: Court of Appeals says no right to concealed carry

[Note: I have broken my discussion of the Orlando shooting into four parts for convenience.]

Orlando and guns

Orlando, Omar Mateen, and homophobia

Orlando and the media

Orlando and terrorism

Update: what to expect from Hillary Clinton

Saturday, June 11, 2016

249.3 - Part Three: Making the impossible, possible

Part Three: Making the impossible, possible

None of these issues will come up, not national health care, not trade, not income inequality, not poverty, not free college, not breaking up the banks, not those connected to Black Lives Matter; all of these and more will be dumped in the memory hole, forgotten, ignored, dismissed except for the occasional passing reference intended to show some candidate's deep, deep concern without making any binding commitment to anything that would make a real difference; all will ignored by the candidates, forgotten by the parties, dismissed by the media.


Unless we make it impossible for them to get away with it. Unless we make it impossible for them to ignore, to forget, to dismiss the millions, the tens of millions, to who these are not just "issues," they are their passions, even their lives. Unless we simply refuse to give up.

There is hope that may be the case, at least to some degree. A few days ago the New York Times ran a story about "life after Bernie," asking various Sanders supporters what they intended to do now that he had failed to secure the nomination.

What struck me most was the fact that most of them echoed what I have been saying all along: This was not about Bernie Sanders. It was about the causes his candidacy represented; it was about the issues, not the person. It was about political revolution. Which means my question "What now?" was answered in different ways but they all came down to "Carry it on." Keep fighting. Don't give up.

For one example, The People's Summit, set for Chicago the week before the Democratic convention in Philadelphia (which is to be held, interestingly, at the Wells Fargo Center - apparently optics was not one of their concerns) has 51 left and labor organizations as partners. It's title is "building the political revolution" and intends to directly focus on the question of "What now?"

But still we face a burden, still we face, in Martin Luther King's notable phrase from his famous "I Have a Dream" speech, still we face "the fierce urgency of Now." Still we face the fact that - as I said earlier - the same sort of forces that crushed the Occupy movement by force seek to crush this resurgence of passion for justice by wrapping it in a thick cloud of silence covered over with vague promises of vaguer improvements in the condition of our fellow citizens, crushing the resurgence of passion by feeding us, again quoting Dr. King, "the tranquilizing drug of gradualism."

So we must keep on, loudly, insistently, defiantly, even rudely. Because the issue is not Bernie Sanders. It's even not, in the broadest sense, about the election. It's about, to paraphrase Dr. King, making real the promises of justice. It's about revolution.

To Bernie Sanders himself, I would commend to him the closing words of Ted Kennedy's address to the 1980 Democratic Convention after his failed bid for the party's nomination:
For me, a few hours ago, this campaign came to an end. For all those whose cares have been our concern, the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die.
To the rest of us, I would commend the words of the man in the movie: "Never give up, never surrender."

Sources cited in links:

249.2 - Part Two: Issues that won't be discussed in the fall election

Part Two: Issues that won't be discussed in the fall election

You want some examples of issues they don't want discussed? I'll give you some. But let me say at the top that the sort of political revolution I envision, which I dream about, goes beyond what Bernie Sanders has proposed. So what I will be talking about here is not my revolution, but issues, ideas, proposals, that have been brought up during the course of the primaries but which are now threatened with being disappeared because too many among our power elite don't want us to be thinking about them.

That said: What do you think are the changes that single-payer health coverage is going to be a topic in the election we now face? The Clintonites mocked the idea and mocked Sanders for advocating it; they called it impractical, impossible, pie in the sky, rainbows and unicorns, all that and more despite fact that US has been and remains almost the only industrialized nation without some sort of national health system.

And no, Obamacare is not that, not even close, not when by the estimates of even its most ardent defenders it will leave tens of millions without health insurance and an unknown number more with insurance they can't afford to use because of high deductibles and other costs. Obamacare doesn't even provide universal access to health insurance, much less what's really important, which is universal access to health care. But if we hear anything about health care this year, it will be about "preserving Obamacare" - because that is a debate the economic and political powers are willing to have.

Another example: As I've noted before, the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, this secretly-negotiated trade deal looking to turn the entire Pacific Rim into a playground for transnational corporations and banks, is going to be an issue after the election, during the lame duck session of Congress. What do you think are the chances that either of the campaigns or the media will bring it up in the coming election season? Do you really think that Hillary Clinton, who once called the TPP "the gold standard" for trade deals but turned against it - supposedly and only gradually and only in reaction to its obvious unpopularity and Sanders' opposition - is going to make that part of her campaign? If you do, remember that Tom Donohue, president of the US Chamber of Commerce, has said not to worry about what Clinton is saying about the TPP now because once she is office she will flip back to supporting it.

If we hear anything about trade, it will be about the supposed "millions of jobs" free trade has created and will create - with no consideration of the type of jobs, even as evidence shows that living-wage jobs, jobs that pay enough to provide for a family, are quickly being replaced by lower-wage and less secure forms of employment such that even the Wall Street Journal admits that "many middle-wage occupations have collapsed."

This is all part of the new "gig economy," the latest corporate buzz-phrase echoing across the country. We won't have jobs, they say, we'll do "gigs." We won't be stuck in traditional jobs with moldy, old-fashioned concerns such as regular hours, middle-class pay rates, benefits, some job security, and all those other silly "traditionals" of the workplace. In fact, in the gig economy, we won't even have a workplace. Instead, we'll be "liberated" to work in a series of low-paying, no-benefits, short-term jobs in many different places, always being on-call through a mobile app on your smart phone or through a temp agency.

What do you think are the chances that the phrase "gig economy" will pass the lips of either Hillary Clinton or Donald TheRump this fall?

Meanwhile, income inequality, one of the centerpieces of Sanders' campaign and which earlier drove the Occupy Movement - which was crushed by some of the same forces now arrayed against the resurgence of those issues which Sanders has helped spark - is now the highest it has been since 1928. And it continues to worsen, as it has across several decades, including during the administration of the sainted Bill Clinton, who Hillary now proposes to bring back to manage the economy in her planned administration.

Do you really think that economic, that income, inequality will be a centerpiece of the fall campaign? Do you think it even will be addressed in any way beyond vapid bromides?

Do you think a $15 minimum wage is going to come up in this race, particularly when Clinton opposes it? Consider that a new study of all 22 increases in the federal minimum wage between 1938 and 2009 not only showed no correlation between raising the minimum wage and loss of jobs, it actually showed that in a substantial majority of cases, employment in affected industries went up. Is that going to be part of the debate? What about the fact that despite the doomsday predictions, a year after Seattle raised its minimum wage, retail prices have not risen?

Will the moral scourge of poverty be on either candidate's regular agenda? Since as I noted last week, our major media are already prepared to ignore it, to make it a non-issue, why should the candidates bring it up?

Will either the GOPpers or the Dems talk about homelessness, again, in any way more than as rhetorical devices? It's generally agreed that to comfortably afford housing, it should take up no more than 30% of your income. (Years ago, it was 25%.) Will either party address the fact that, on that basis, as a national average it takes an income of $20.30 an hour to comfortably afford a two-bedroom apartment - at a time when the average hourly wage for Americans is $15.42? Will they address the fact that there is not a single state in the US where someone working full-time, year-round at federal minimum wage can comfortably afford even a one-bedroom apartment? Will they talk about how homelessness has long since spread from the cities to the suburbs, such that now school buses can been seen to drop off childen at tents and cars? They won't - because they and their backers don't want to.

Remember concerns about student debt, something else that drove the Occupy movement? What are the chances that will be a focus of the concerns of the major parties?

I have to make a quick detour here. A couple of minutes ago, I referred to the Occupy Movement as having been crushed by some of the same forces now arrayed against what strictly and solely for the convenience of the moment I'll call the Sanders movement. I want to make clear that while there actually was evidence of coordination among federal and local officials on the best ways to break the backs of Occupy encampments, I'm not talking here about grand conspiracies; I'm not talking about secret cabals Skyping each other in a weekly meeting to plan their latest outrages. It's rather agreement based on common interests, common values, common ways of viewing the world. It doesn't require conscious cooperation, in fact if doesn't require active cooperation at all. What it requires - and what it has - is a range of powerful interests all heading in much the same direction, with much the same attitudes.

But getting back to the issues, talking about student debt leads directly to something else that Bernie Sanders talked about but I'll guarantee won't come up after the convention: free college.

It is, in fact, not a particularly radical idea. Twelve nations currently offer college tuition free to their citizens: Argentina, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Norway, Scotland, Slovenia, Sweden, and Turkey; Chile will make it 13 next year.

When last year Obama proposed a government program to make community college tuition-free for a number of students who met certain guidelines and academic standards, why the Dems were falling all over themselves with praise. Because that idea, offering some help to a limited number of people that wouldn't cost that much or change that much in the grand scheme of things but which can be made to sound like a great dramatic advance, that is the kind of debate our political establishment is willing to have.

But go beyond that, talk about four-year public colleges being tuition free? Talk about something that actually is dramatic, that actually would make a fundamental change in our educational system? Impossible! Crazy! Just promising "free stuff!" And something to be forgotten as soon as the convention lights dim.

Oh, and here's something: See if there is any talk this fall about breaking up the big banks, about actually doing something about "too big to fail." It's something else that Sanders made one of the centerpieces of his campaign and something else I guarantee you will not sully the lips of Clinton or TheRump.

But all that has happened since 2008 is the the biggest banks have gotten bigger. Just four huge banks - Wells Fargo, Bank of America, Citigroup, and JPMorgan Chase - now hold $6.87 trillion in assets, 42.2% of the total assets held by banks in the US. They have continued to grow since 2008 and will continue to do so.

Conveniently for the Dems, the GOPpers proposing to revoke Dodd-Frank, legislation setting up regulations which have already been watered down almost to the point of irrelevancy. So see if there is any discussion about regulating the financial industry, about controlling Wall Street, beyond "preserve Dodd-Frank" - which is another debate the economic establishment is willing to have, while actually fracturing their hold on the economy is not and so will be off the table.

And then there's the elephant in the room: campaign finance reform. I noted just last week that 80% of the $76 million Clinton's Super-PAC has raised has come from just 20 donors and the so-called "Hillary Victory Fund" has acted essentially as a money-laundering scheme to get around limits on campaign contributions. The idea that she will make campaign finance reform a significant part of her campaign - in fact, that she will raise it at all - is laughable.

There is so much more, so much that has been raised over these past several months that now will be pushed to the shadows because those that have the power in our society don't want to talk about them, don't want to take them on in any actual way, because to do so would be too much of a challenge to their privileged positions, raise too many uncomfortable questions about our economy, about our society, about our culture.

See how much either campaign talks about fracking.

See how much they talk about immigration reform in any way other than vote-pandering.

See if they talk about our broken criminal justice system in any way other than that same vote-pandering.

See if they bring up Black Lives Matter; see if they talk about police brutality, particularly in minority communities; see if they talk about racism in any way other than platitudes.

And see, frankly, if foreign policy even comes up in any form other than "terrorists bad, US good."

Sources cited in links:

249.1 - Part One: What now?

Part One: What now?

Okay, so the primaries are over - actually, there's one more, Washington DC on June 14, but essentially they are over. But I want to start this a little further back, a week or two ago. At that time, a couple of news outlets let it be known that they intended to call the presidential nomination race for Hillary Clinton as soon as the polls in New Jersey closed on June 7, not even waiting for the polls to close in California three hours later.

Which was more than bad enough, more than offensive enough, and did tick off a good number of people, but as it turned out, they didn't even wait for the polls to open. Monday, the day before those primaries, AP declared that based on its count of superdelegates, Clinton had a majority of total delegates and therefore the nomination. So of course several major news outlets had to immediately scream the news in the hope of saying it a couple of seconds before some other outlet did.

And so by this act of truly gross, turnout-suppressing, voter-suppressing, journalistic - I use the word very avisedly - journalistic malfeasance, Hillary Clinton was anointed the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party. Yes, anointed, because since those superdelegates still haven't voted yet and won't until next month, you can't say she has been voted into the role. And all this despite the fact that weeks ago, the Democratic National Committee - the DNC - of all people was telling news outlets that they should not count the superdelegates in their delegate counts because it gave a misleading perception of the actual current state of the race, much like calling - not just predicting, but calling - the outcome of an election based on pre-election-day polls.

No matter, the news business, with the emphasis strongly on "business," is far more focused on being first than on doing its actual supposed job.

But for the moment - I'm sure I'll have more than enough cause, more than enough cases, in the future to talk about how we are uninformed, misinformed, and malinformed by the corporate media - but for moment leave that aside because the political reality is that yes, while Clinton is not the nominee and shouldn't be called that, she surely will be the nominee once the ballots are actually cast at next month's convention. That is simply political reality of the situation.

By the way, a quick sidebar: When Clinton is formally nominated, it will be historic; the first woman to be nominated for president by a major party. But somehow it doesn't feel that historic and it hasn't really been treated as such in the media, even in the Clinton-friendly media, which is a lot of it. It hasn't been treated like a truly big thing. Which has been disappointing to several women (and some men) commentators, but I think there's an upside. Maybe it's because she came so close to the nomination in 2008, maybe it's because we're just so familiar with her, but apparently, at least for a lot of people, the idea of a woman president just doesn't seem that odd, doesn't seem a cause for a lot of hoopla. Which, when you think about it, actually is a good thing.

But getting to the issue at hand, the end of the primaries brings us right up against the question I've been asking for some weeks: What now?

Sen. Jeff Merkley, the one sitting senator who has endorsed Sanders, told the Washington Post that Democrats will be "absolutely united" in making sure Donald TheRump never becomes president.

But he also said that Clinton needed to learn from Sanders' campaign, saying that Clinton "will not win in November without a deep and profound and passionate understanding of the issues that have so moved the grass roots in America."

And the real question is, will we see that? Will we see that "profound and passionate understanding of those issues?"

Frankly, I doubt it - because the fact is, many of those issues are ones in which that party establishment and the broader social, political, and economic elite of which it is part have little to no interest and a number of them are ones which they outright oppose as a threat to their position, their profit, or both.

In the face of that threat, that political and economic establishment quickly closed ranks about the preferred candidate of that same establishment, that candidate that even though they might not be great fans of all that candidate's proposals is still the one which that establishment feels comfortable with, the candidate that establishment has confidence might rearrange the apples on the cart but will not upset it. And that candidate is Hillary Clinton.

That's why, in the words of the Clinton campaign itself, they wanted to "disqualify" Sanders, not just defeat him, disqualify him to disqualify his supporters to disqualify what they pushed for. To diffuse that threat.

But again, again, I say it again, this isn't about Bernie Sanders. It never was. He has been advocating the cause of social and economic justice for decades but he is not the alpha and omega of that work; it's just that this year he became epicenter for those issues, the lens through which those issues have been focused, the vehicle through which those issues have been thrust onto the national political stage in a way and in a forum that even the corporate Democrats and their corporate media allies in the end could not ignore or dismiss despite their best efforts to do so from the very beginning; thrust onto the national political stage in a way which showed a passion for those issues among millions of people, a passion, a commitment, that even the staunchest Clintonbots would have to admit came fairly close to overcoming the entire Democratic Party establishment and the moneybags that back it.

Make no mistake: The party leaders, the party establishment, will at this point, now that they feel safe, be effusive, even gushing, in their phony praise of Bernie Sanders. In her victory speech, Clinton lauded him for his "extraordinary campaign," for "his long career in public service fighting for progressive causes," for having "excited millions of voters," and enthused about how their "vigorous debate" has been "good for the Democratic Party and for America" - that, of course, being the very same debate they wanted Sanders to give up and abandon months ago.

The Amazing Mr. O had his own insincere paeans to Sanders, going on about his "energizing [of] millions of Americans with his commitment to issues" and "the extraordinary work he has done to engage millions of voters."

Meanwhile, as they smile their painted smiles, they leave to their supporters and surrogates all the sniping and snarling about how Sanders is just being a nasty old meanie, how he's being "a sore loser," how its about his ego, about how he just can't give it up (one account of his last speech in California referred to him "basking and bragging" his way through a speech of "striking stubbornness"), all of which only goes to prove yet again that they just don't get it, they don't get that he's not in it for himself, he's not looking for what he can get out of it, so he's not playing the establishment game, he's not going to be the good boy and graciously concede with high praise for his noble opponent and how we all have to join together the way all good establishment candidates are supposed to do, not before delegate votes are actually cast, because if you want to help spark a revolution what you want to do, if you can't win, is to maximize your leverage, which requires not conceding the fight before you absolutely have to.

But all of this, all of the online sneering and media mockery about how he's "undermining the good will he has built" - "good will" that has not been in evidence before - and even "sullying his reputation" by not behaving the way the political and media establishment would have him act, all if this, when it comes down to it, is part of the enormous pressure Sanders is under now to just give up and devote all his energy to "Omigod not TheRump" - which also means by definition not continuing to talk about the issues he has raised, including, particularly including, those where during the primaries he has forced Clinton to lean left to avoid losing too much support. Because those are the issues our elites do not want discussed.

But that is exactly what we must not allow to happen. We must not let those issues be brushed aside, quietly dropped from view, but that's what they will do if we let them get away with it.

Sources cited in links:

Left Side of the Aisle #249

Left Side of the Aisle
for the week of June 9 - 15, 2016

This week:

Part One: What now?

Part Two:  Issues that won't be discussed in the fall election

Part Three:  Making the impossible, possible
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