Bernie Sanders For Gadfly

bernie-sandersWonkette said it best today, “Bernie Sanders has approximately zero percent chance of being elected president.” And yet I’m excited about him entering the race for the Democratic nomination for president, probably tomorrow.

Bernie will fractionally do to Hillary what the right wing of the Republican Party did to Mitt Romney… in the opposite direction.

Even though Sanders isn’t particularly well known outside Vermont (where he won his last Senatorial election with 71% of the vote, even against candidates from the Republicans, Marijuana Party and a guy named named Pete Moss!) his ideas are. He speaks to labor and the forgotten middle class. He rails against the moneyed and powerful (actually the powerfully moneyed).

Without Sanders in the race, Hillary Clinton could stake out her territory by being a centrist or even right-of-centrist candidate.

Mitt Romney was a reasonably middle-of-the-road governor in Massachusetts. He was for a lot of things there that he was forced to run against as the Republican candidate for president.

“What we have seen is that while the average person is working longer hours for lower wages, we have seen a huge increase in income and wealth inequality, which is now reaching obscene levels,” Sanders told the AP.

“This is a rigged economy, which works for the rich and the powerful, and is not working for ordinary Americans. … You know, this country just does not belong to a handful of billionaires.” – AP

Now things get interesting.

Haiti: What I Remember From Being There

It’s impossible for us to fathom what Haitian life must be like tonight. People who never had anything now have less.

haiti-beach.jpgLike you I’ve been watching the coverage of the Haitian earthquake. Each detail makes this sad story sadder. It’s difficult to imagine a spot less able to cope with this kind of adversity.

I have been to Haiti. Strange as it seems I vacationed there with my friend Neal sometime in the late 70s. We spent a week at the Club Med “Magic Isle.”

Even then Club Med never mentioned the country’s name in its promotional material. The club is long since closed, a victim of Haiti’s reputation as the basket case of the Western Hemisphere.

A few weeks before the trip we got paperwork from Club Med. We’d need to take medication before our departure. Malaria was the concern. In most of the country modern sanitation just didn’t exist. Judging by what’s coming out tonight that hasn’t changed.

We flew from JFK non-stop. Back then the airport bore the name of former Haitian president Francois “Papa Doc” Duvalier. His son, “Baby Doc,” was in charge of the country. This was an iron willed dictatorship which produced riches for a few on the backs of many.

Our bus trip through the countryside passed many streams. All were marked with health warning signs. Still there were people in each of them, mostly washing clothes. We didn’t slow down. My glimpses were brief.

Club Med “Magic Isle” itself was an armed camp. A guard station turned away locals who wanted in. Once a week local craftsmen were allowed to approach on the beach. It was obvious this part of Haiti was not for Haitians!

During our week there Neal and I never left the property.

The club itself was as beautiful as it was underused. About half the rooms were empty–this after being priced well below any other Club Med facility.

The view from my room was of stark mountains. They had been clear cut for charcoal–a cash crop. Haiti’s sister country on Hispaniola, the Dominican Republic, had similar rough hills. Theirs were covered in green!

The club was reasonably new when Neal and I arrived. Staff who’d been there for the construction told us the property was totally built by hand. There were no bulldozers or excavators. Hiring locals was much cheaper!

I was conflicted vacationing in this incredibly poor nation. I didn’t think of it before the trip, but it was tough to get off my mind while we were there. I had never been… still have never been… anywhere else with this much poverty. It was everyone. I was unavoidable… except inside the club.

It’s impossible for us to fathom what Haitian life must be like tonight. People who never had anything now have less.

The earthquake is just the first disaster. The next will diseases as dead and decaying bodies rot in place.

It is monumentally sad.

Sixty Minutes Doesn’t Font

Are there any other news shows without fonts? At one time neither the president or pope was fonted, but even that rule’s no longer followed!

I’ve got Sixty Minutes on in another window on this computer. There’s something about that show you might know and maybe no one except someone in broadcasting would care to know.

Sixty Minutes does not font!

When someone is interviewed or a locale is shown there are no illustrative words cluttering the screen. I don’t think I miss them.

Are there any other news shows without fonts? At one time neither the president or pope was fonted, but even that rule’s no longer followed!

I’ve watched Sixty Minutes for a long time-back when they were on Thursdays and the open and close wraps were done live (same thing when they first moved to Sunday’s). They never fonted. Of course electronically produced fonts didn’t exist back then, but Sixty Minutes didn’t use ‘state-of-the-art’ camera cards either.

It was also one of the last shows to move from film to video. Film’s a better medium under some circumstances. Unfortunately, Sixty Minutes looked flat on film! The transition to video was for the better.

Stay classy Sxty Minutes. No fonts.

When I Am President

I don’t question the motivation for bestowing this honor… but isn’t there something more important the prez could have been doing on this Wednesday afternoon?

When I am President of these United States one thing will change immediately. We’re going to do away with most if not all of the pomp and circumstance.

This afternoon I watched President Obama present the Medal of Freedom to:

16 people who have made a difference in the nation and the world. They come from diverse backgrounds, but have one trait in common. – Voice of America

medal-of-freedom.jpgWonderful. I don’t question the motivation for bestowing this honor… but isn’t there something more important the prez could have been doing on this Wednesday afternoon? Did he have to personally present?

Every time he is up on the dais mentioning a score or more of politicians by name before speaking he is wasting his time, which after all is really my time. He works for me.

Businesses understand this. It’s called productivity. Be productive Mr. President.

Let me be clear–events like yesterday’s Town Hall meeting or a press conference where tough questions are asked and answered–no problem. For this, or any other president, those events serve a purpose.

Maybe we need some official whose only job is to wave and show the flag? Is it too late for America to get a Queen?

Is “The American Game” Rigged?

Don’t use me to make your boyfriend jealous.

I am seldom as profoundly affected by an op-ed piece as I was by Frank Rich in Sunday’s NY Times.

What the Great Recession has crystallized is a larger syndrome that Obama tapped into during the campaign. It’s the sinking sensation that the American game is rigged — that, as the president typically put it a month after his inauguration, the system is in hock to “the interests of powerful lobbyists or the wealthiest few” who have “run Washington far too long.” He promised to smite them.

No president can do that alone, let alone in six months. To make Obama’s goal more quixotic, the ailment that he diagnosed is far bigger than Washington and often beyond politics’ domain. What disturbs Americans of all ideological persuasions is the fear that almost everything, not just government, is fixed or manipulated by some powerful hidden hand, from commercial transactions as trivial as the sales of prime concert tickets to cultural forces as pervasive as the news media.

Though President Obama was elected by appealing to the liberal wing of the Democratic Party, liberals are now marginalized on the edge. With no one farther left Obama has shifted farther right knowing we’ve no place else to go.

I understand this move to the center as a strategy, but I am left feeling unclean and used. Don’t use me to make your boyfriend jealous.

It’s not just health care that has me bugged. It’s all sorts of national security issues reaching back to policies of the Bush administration that need to be unwound.

To me liberalism is just another name for idealism. Good deeds should be rewarded. Bad deeds should be punished. Governmental rules should encourage good behavior. We continue to do the opposite.

President Obama was nominated and then elected heavily on the backs of people who feel as I do–and he himself made promises to that effect.

There is no satisfaction in this airing of my angst.

Mistrust And Fear

There is too much distrust and too much fear. Neither black nor white America have a corner on this market.

The TV was on when President Obama walked into the White House briefing room today. He was ‘walking back’ his comment on the arrest of Harvard Professor Henry Louis Gates, Jr.

“My sense is you’ve got two good people in a circumstance in which neither of them were able to resolve the incident in the way that it should have been resolved and the way they would have liked it to be resolved.”

Agreed. Here’s my takeaway on this whole thing.

1) President Obama did what our recent president(s) wouldn’t. He was conciliatory. He attempted to dial down the rhetoric. He admitted he’d been wrong in what he had said and characterizations he’d made. He was a mensch!

2) Here is a problem which cuts and separates our society.

There continues to be a racial divide in America. I am not proud to say I have been frightened by young, black men solely because they were young, black men. I am not alone.

Any time I hear a news story about some perp arrested during a ‘routine traffic stop,’ I think: DWB–Driving While Black. There is no doubt there is some… maybe more than some… racial targeting. It is an institutionalized manifestation of the fear I’ve experienced.

A significant portion of black America originally thought O.J. Simpson was framed because he was black and because… well because that’s what happens.

There’s an old joke: Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean people aren’t following you. Similarly, just because there is profiling didn’t mean O.J. was innocent. It is too easy and patently unfair to dismiss any incident as being wholly racial just because some are. It’s the other side of the racial paranoia coin.

There is too much distrust and too much fear. Neither black nor white America have a corner on this market. It is bad for all of us.

More than likely Professor Gates and Sgt. Crowley (the Cambridge, MA police officer involved) came into this confrontation already primed. Tensions and tempers flared. Neither could find the easy way to get out with their dignity intact.

If this incident opens up a national dialogue it will have been worth whatever discomfort these two men have endured. We need that dialog.