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Artwork/Political Cartoons
Artwork/Political Cartoons
Artwork/Political Cartoons
Artwork/Political Cartoons

A friend of mine recently posted on Facebook the following question, concerning this year’s presidential election:

Quick poll: Do any of you know either:

1) Someone who would vote for Sanders over Trump, but would vote for Trump over Clinton.
2) Someone who would vote for Clinton over Trump, but would vote for Trump over Sanders.
3) Someone who would vote 3rd party or stay home if the choices are Clinton vs. Trump
4) Someone who would vote 3rd party or stay home if the choices are Sanders vs. Trump

I know a person in one, but only one, of these categories. If you know someone (or are someone) in one of these categories, which is it?

My response:

I am a die-hard progressive and a policy/history wonk, to boot, and to me it is abundantly clear that Sec. Clinton is the candidate in the race most closely associated with genocidal policies abroad and institutionalized racism at home. When it comes to policy, she is the living incarnation of all that Trump has come to represent. The victims of policies she has championed over her long, self-serving career number in the MILLIONS, and they are disproportionately black, Muslim, Latino, and POOR. Furthermore, she is a very dishonest politician, completely under the control of Wall Street crooks, industry lobbyists, and neocon warmongers.

For these reasons, I WILL be tempted to vote for Trump over Clinton, if it comes to that (IT WON’T, because Bernie’s going to win).

The sad state of U.S. politics in the 21st century means that a loopy, ugly, dangerous, non-establishment figure, Donald Trump, stands well to the left of Sec. Clinton on SO MANY issues. Also, I don’t believe that Trump is actually some kind of hardcore racist — rather, he’s a shrewd, cynical, and opportunistic politician who understands the toxic environment in which he’s operating. Like Hillary Clinton, Trump is not above a little race-baiting demagoguery in order to win a primary race (Hillary’s conduct in the 2008 primary was as appalling as anything “The Donald” has vomited up). Color of Change co-founder James Rucker has offered a good summary of Clinton’s racist tactics against Barack Obama: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/…/can-black-people-trust…

To be clear, I think that Donald Trump has said MANY reprehensible things, and I strongly dislike the man and all he represents (please review my “Donald Dump” political cartoon). But at least he holds out some promise of pulling back from the neo-fascist establishment’s monstrous agenda. That agenda, led by Third Way Democrats and Republicans both, is predicated on entitlement-slashing austerity, TPP-promotion (slavery overlooking, national sovereignty effacing “trade” pacts), and endless genocidal wars, with the U.S. supporting al Qaeda and ISIS, even, when it suits Washington’s regime-change agenda. And then there’s the fact that President Obama has devoted his time in office to stealthily restarting the Cold War, backing Nazis in Ukraine and endlessly, needlessly, provoking both Russia and China.

So, let’s not be reductive. Today’s “Democrats” are the most radical right-wingers in our nation’s history, when it comes to POLICY. “Democrats” like Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have achieved virtually all of the most extreme policies on the far-right’s long held wish list, including beginning to tear down the famed “Third Rail” under Obama… and then there’s NAFTA, mass-incarceration/disenfranchisement of blacks, HeritageCare, the end of Glass-Steagall, permanent terrorism-fueling wars, hunting journalists and whistleblowers like spies, and the destruction of the Bill of Rights in the name of “fighting terrorism.”

Sure, their rhetoric is far superior to that of the GOP, but that is a simple matter of BRANDING. 90% of today’s Democrats work for the same mass-murdering, biosphere-destroying, freedom-despising, rule of law-dismantling, middle class-crushing FASCISTS as the Republicans do. In fact, as Black Agenda Report’s Glen Ford has beautifully surmised, Third Way Dems are NOT the “lesser evil” but the “more effective” of two evil brands, representing the very same interests. Michelle Alexander, in her recent piece for The Nation, has pretty much concurred. BRANDING isn’t everything. And liberal rhetoric, while important, means next to nothing when the substance — the REALITY — is grotesquely, appallingly evil.

In other words, sometimes we have to consider the history and the POLICIES that the candidates have championed. And on that front, Hillary Clinton is one of the most terrifying right-wingers I have ever seen coming for the presidency (#2 after GWB). Trump isn’t far behind, but at least he’s rhetorically interested in reversing the neoliberal/neocon agenda that poses the most significant threat to humanity.

One final point: if a President Trump comes into power (please, NO), the Democratic base might remember to care every once in a blue moon about habeas corpus, torture, indefinite detention, Wall Street plunder, and endless war… Hell, they might even lift a finger to stop fracking, deep-water drilling, and the collapse of the oceans. Whereas under a second President Clinton (please, please, NO), it will be straight back to Nappy Time for the left, while the far-right establishment rolls forward over the Earth’s grave.

[This comment was posted in response to a liberal friend’s observation that Obamacare is actually helping some people.  It’s a reasonable point, but I still felt compelled to remind my friend of the precarious moment that America is in.]

I have very mixed feelings on the ACA/Obamacare. Like this presidency in general, I think the law represents a missed opportunity of historic proportions. However, I’m sure it will do some good, as I know it already has (and I believe it provides a GOOD skeleton for future enhancements). On the flip side, I just read Steven Brill’s excellent piece in Time, “Why Medical Bills Are Killing Us” and found a pretty convincing argument that Obama’s signature law does virtually nothing to rein in skyrocketing (and gougingly inflated) healthcare costs. The sad truth is that corporate rule has replaced democracy and the .1% writes the bills and decides which laws will be enforced (I think Glenn Greenwald’s “Liberty and justice FOR SOME” thesis is spot-on). No matter how much I’m inclined to sympathize with this president, the degradation of the rule of law in recent years has been breathtaking, with Obama leading the charge to continue his predecessor’s shocking radicalism (rendition through secrecy through wiretapping through due-process free executions of citizens). Without a dramatic course-correction, Bush-Obama will be remembered as the fatal ONE-TWO punch to constitutional governance and what was once known as American greatness (the middle class is evaporating as I type these words thanks to Bush, Obama, and Wall Street).

[And now, if the reader will permit a brief interruption in my latest blog series, let’s take a quick, surreal walk on the slightly weird (if not totally wild) side.  This one goes out to CJ, Carl & Frank, and sports enthusiasts everywhere (“Crikey, Frank, didja’ see that?  His hook shot missed the net, the hoop, and the entire bleepin’ backboard!”  — “That’s exactly right, Carl…”).]

Last night I had a dream in which I helped save the world with basketball (I’ll allow you a moment to roll your eyes).  And, yes, it was really STUPID.

In my dream, I posted a heartrending blog in which I confessed my patently unrealizable fantasy of attending a weeklong Basketball & Politics Fantasy Camp with a lot of famous people — so we could all, you know, save the world together (surely, I’m not the only one with this fantasy). 

In my dream-blog, I brazenly listed the names of the individuals I hoped would attend camp with me: 

1) A-List’ers: I wrote that among the other campers would be powerful political figures and world leaders, including President Obama, Bill Gates, David Koch, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, Hillary Clinton, Wen Jiabao, Warren Buffet, at least one Wal-Mart scion, George W. Bush… and maybe Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker (though Bush would be mostly checked-out after Day 1, and Walker, I’m pretty sure, would cheat, throwing some elbows for a few bucks from Koch).  In my dream-blog, I wrote that I would take “full advantage” of my opportunities to assail these folks with some REALITY while goodnaturedly shooting some hoops, enjoying group-prepared meals, and eventually working toward SOLUTIONS (since there are so many perfectly viable solutions — to major crises, mind you — just lying on the shelf, untouched: see Keynesianism, single-payer healthcare, and sustainable energy, for starters). 

2) Progressives: Also on the Basketball & Politics Fantasy Camp roster would be certain luminaries of the Progressive Brain Trust (PBT), the geniuses and hardworking journalists who taught me about the world in which I live.  These are the rock-solid SUPERSTARS whose names should be household words in America — but whose names, conspicuously, are not (truly our best, brightest, and most overlooked).  With their great big brains and extensive knowledge, the PBT could back me up, making their own arguments (better than I can), and hopefully sinking a free throw or two.  Some likely candidates would include: Noam Chomsky, Glenn Greenwald, Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez, Ralph Nader, Bill Moyers, Jane Mayer, Matt Taibbi, Norm Finkelstein, Chris Hedges, Michael Hudson, Paul Krugman, Ta-Nehisi Coates, Antonia Juhasz, Bill McKibben, Michelle Alexander, Lawrence Lessig, Mahmood Mamdani, John Perkins, Randall Robinson, and Naomi Klein (with her indispensable The Shock Doctrine and unstoppable fadeaway).

3) Celebs: Rounding out the list of attendees are some folks I’d just want to be there — MSM gatekeepers and a few celebrities — Establishment Liberals (ELs) and people whose public personas I just plain like and whose work I respect (with some qualifications): Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, Rachel Maddow, Arianna Huffington, Spike Lee, Janeane Garofalo, Sarah Silverman, Quentin Tarantino, Garfield and Oates, George Lucas, Lawrence Fishburne, Frank Miller, Clint Eastwood…  Sure, some of them would be all over the place, at least initially — politically, I mean (I’m not talking about Tarantino’s traveling or Stewart’s double-dribble) — but they would soon find themselves wholly persuaded by yours truly and the Progressive Brain Trust.  By the end of the week, all the “MSM gatekeepers” in the group would find themselves musing aloud about the GENIUSES they had so consistently marginalized over the years — representing a great loss to generations of Americans (and decades of failed policies).

…It’s a dream, obviously, so IT ALL HAPPENS.  In response to my blog, the potentates, pundits, celebrities, and progressive superstars all show up at camp.  It’s arranged clandestinely, so the press won’t be breathing down our backs and the NSA won’t be recording and storing our every syllable, sneaker-squeak, and fart.  Everyone can just have fun, relax, and be themselves.  With regard to the basketball, we all have an awesome time.  The teams aren’t divided into any kind of factions (political or otherwise), and the composition of the teams is always changing anyway, with new teammates and adversaries all the time.  It’s a friendly game: everyone gets a chance to play, and there’s a lot of patience and generosity (while never losing sight of the competitive spirit of the thing). 

And in the end, the whole week goes phenomenally well: I’m blocking shots, rebounding, sinking threes — and we’re all insisting on reality-based premises, civility and warmth, facts and fair debate (on and off the court).  In no time at all, we campers are no longer talking past each other, but working cooperatively and confidently toward real solutions. 

What a vision!  Together, I and my fellow Basketball & Politics Fantasy Camp attendees “save the world.”  Sweeeeeet.

*          *          *

Okay, it’s a bunch of hooey, but I thought I’d share my “March madness” with you.  Now that we’re all awake again, we can accept the fact that, in reality, America’s secret 21st-century overlord, Dick “Dark Side” Cheney, would crash any such fantasy camp and end up scuttling the whole enterprise.  I can see it all now: Cheney and his goons (Rummy, Addington, Libby, and Yoo) running around shooting everybody in the face.  Oh, they’d call it a “hunting accident” or something similarly innocuous, but it’s not as if the MSM or Congress would investigate much, in any case.  

Please note that I’m not suggesting in earnest that the incident wherein Cheney actually shot his lawyer friend in the face was anything other than a genuine accident; IT WAS JUST A JOKE — like the rule of law in America today.  Speaking of which, it’s also feasible that “Dark Side” would simply have the whole Fantasy Camp taken out with a Hellfire Missile.  (Our current Attorney General, Mr. Holder, apparently agrees with the former VP that the Executive Branch may “legally” kill anyone-anywhere, without a hint of due process — no need to file charges, no checking with the Constitution, just BLAMMO!  How’s that for bipartisan agreement?)

Well, that fantasy sure came to an abrupt halt, didn’t it?  Alrighty, then.  I’m gonna’ go shoot some hoops…

UPDATE: In researching the new pontiff’s past for a recent blog, I found the following passage from a Washington Post article particularly interesting with respect to (then Father) Jorge Bergoglio’s support for the dictatorship of General Jorge Videla, during the 1970s and 1980s.  This passage deals with Bergoglio’s reluctance to participate in later judicial investigations into this dark chapter in Argentina’s history:

“Bergoglio twice invoked his right under Argentine law to refuse to appear in open court in trials involving torture and murder inside the feared Navy Mechanics School and the theft of babies from detainees. When he eventually did testify in 2010, his answers were evasive, human rights attorney Myriam Bregman told the AP.  ‘Bergoglio’s own statements proved church officials knew from early on that the junta was torturing and killing its citizens even as the church publicly endorsed the dictators,’ she said.”

I would say that Ms. Bregman is on pretty solid ground.  That same Washington Post article, presenting both sides, quoted Bergoglio’s biographer saying, in Bergoglio’s defense (paraphrased — and this is only slightly overstated), that Father B. was not nearly as guilty of supporting the dictator as certain other parties — and that the Church had generally erred in supporting despots in the region…  

This morning I came across another article supporting Ms. Bregman’s characterization of Cardinal Bergoglio’s 2010 testimony as “evasive.”  The article features video from the courtroom and transcripts from Bergoglio’s questioning (translated into English).  The New Republic’s Sam Ferguson, writing earlier today, presents four critical moments from the Cardinal’s testimony regarding his actions during South America’s “Dirty War.”

Regarding the charge that Bergoglio, as the senior Jesuit official in Argentina, threw to the wolves two priests under his protection — allowing them (by disavowing them) to be kidnapped and tortured for a period of months — the cardinal’s testimony is evasive.  In his answers to the court, Bergoglio attributes to the vox populi(the “voice of the people” — you know, just the hoi polloi) both the notion that the priests in question were SUBVERSIVES and the (one would think more privileged) knowledge that they were being held in the Navy Mechanics School.

The heart of the exchange goes something like this (loosely paraphrased):

Court: Cardinal, did you know about the ugly talk, the “rumors” surrounding Fathers Yorio and Jalics, priests under your protection?  That they were “zurdos” (scum-sucking leftists, cruising for a bruising)?

Bergoglio: Sure, those were the “nasty” rumors around those two.  I heard them alright!

Court: WHO talked this way about them?  WHO spread these rumors?  Do you recall the names of ANYONE who talked this way?

Bergoglio: No, not ONE name.  Not a single individual’s name comes to mind.  It was just the “vox populi.” 

Court: But didn’t it get your attention when people spoke this way?  Wouldn’t you remember at least one specific instance of this kind of talk?  The same kind of talk that had preceded the murder of Father Carlos Mugica two years earlier?

Bergoglio: Why should it stand out?  It was ugly talk, but everyone knew they were zurdos.

And, moving on to the matter of the priests’ subsequent disappearance…

Court: How did you know that the priests were being held in the Navy Mechanics School, a matter of top secret intelligence?

Bergoglio: I cannot recall WHO told me that.  I’m pretty sure I saw it on a bathroom wall.  Vox populi

Court: You don’t remember ANY names?

Bergoglio: Friends in high places.  Anonymous friends with power — judges, generals, ministers — you know, the people whom one has to ask when one wants to know where the “subversives” are being detained this year: VOX POPULI!  (Singing: Oh, WHO are the people in your neighborhood, in your neighborhood, in your neigh-bor-hood?  Yeah, WHO are the people in your neighborhood — they’re the people that you meet, when you’re walking down the street, EACH DAYYYY!)