Monday, February 01, 2016

Saving Capitalism

February 1, is the first voting contest in the presidential nominating in the US state of Iowa. Iowans vote in caucuses, which are small political meetings held throughout 1,681 locations scattered around the state. They are similar to primaries in that residents cast ballots for their preferred party candidate, and whoever garners the most votes wins. The number of people in the room are counted, and any candidate who does not get a certain percentage (a threshold set at the beginning of the night) in the first round, is eliminated. Those who voted for losing candidates are then coaxed by the others to join their side and to vote for their candidate of choice. At the end, the results are collated across the state in all precincts. But people do not just show up and vote - the process is essentially a meeting of friends and neighbours in high school gyms and church basements, where discussions about candidates are held. Representatives for the candidates are present and, at one point, attempt to persuade undecided voters. This is what makes caucuses different from primaries.

No matter who wins the American presidential election come November, it’s a sure bet that the losers will be the American people. Go ahead and support Hillary Clinton. Just admit that you will be voting for someone to be president who has not only been profoundly wrong on the two most pressing issues of our time—economic injustice and the ravages of unbridled militarism—but, what is more significant, seems incapable of learning from her mistakes. What one finds is a defense of bombing nations into freedom, leaving them fatally torn—Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria. On foreign policy issues, Clinton is a first-class hawk.

 Should a politician be held to their record? Does what they have voted for in the past has any bearing on what they will vote for in the future? Does a former member of the board of Walmart become a champion of the working class because...she says she is? Or because she can show where she has been such a champion in the past? Does that count or doesn't it? Voted for Bush's war? Obama’s air war upon Libya and Syria. Does that matter? Politicians say what they need to say and people should not let them slide on their record. The trade deals she supported? By what else do we have to go on with Hillary? Where are her positive talking points in her record? The trade deals she didn't support? Where is Hillary's record of progressive things that she has represented with more than just talk. Where are Hillary's facts on the ground so to speak? She may cast herself as a progressive liberal, but her prior history and propensity to flip-flop on policies says otherwise.

In an article headlined “My Plan to Prevent the Next Crash,” Hillary began by blaming it all on nefarious Republicans led by President George W. Bush. Of course, the Republicans have been terrible in their zeal to unleash Wall Street greed ever since the moderate Republicanism of Dwight Eisenhower came to be replaced by its opposite, the Reagan Revolution.But the reality is that Ronald Reagan presided over the savings-and-loan scandal and as a result was compelled to tighten banking regulations rather than obliterate them. It remained for President Clinton to enact into federal law pro-Wall Street finance regulation, by signing the so-called Financial Services Modernization Act of 1999, reversing the Glass-Steagall Act. Hillary Clinton, in a statement this week, made clear will not revive those restrictions if she is elected. Contary to the advice of Brooksley Born, a head of the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, Clinton in his second term, signed legislation that explicitly banned any regulation of those suspect mortgage derivatives, involving many trillions of dollars.

The International Criminal Court (ICC) was established by international treaty in 2002 in The Hague, Netherlands, as a means of prosecuting individuals for genocide, crimes against humanity, and other international war crimes. In reality, the ICC only has jurisdiction in cases where national courts are unable or unwilling to prosecute soldiers or others for such crimes. Despite some notable lapses in prosecuting some offenses, the Uniform Code of Military Justice provides a sufficient domestic mechanism for trying any members of the U.S. armed forces suspected of alleged war crimes to avoid having any American soldier tried under ICC jurisdiction. Furthermore, virtually every person put on trial before the ICC since its founding has been a high-level military or political figure, not individual soldiers. Despite this, Clinton voted in favor of that Republican-sponsored amendment, dubbed the "Hague Invasion Act," which authorizes the president of the United States "to use all means necessary and appropriate to free members of United States military and certain other allied persons if they are detained or imprisoned by an international criminal court," an action which would presumably involve armed confrontation with Dutch soldiers and police guarding the court complex. In addition to violating the UN Charter, such an attack would run counter to the NATO Treaty, to which both the United States and the Netherlands are also party. Apparently, however, Clinton who has championed U.S. military intervention in over a dozen countries as a senator and Secretary of State has no problem with that.

Clinton leaves a lot to be desired. She does favor a woman's right to choose and has recently come out in support of marriage equality. Clinton supports comprehensive immigration reform but also backs stepped-up border enforcement. A former member of the board of Walmart, she is cozy with Wall Street and voted for the Patriot Act. Clinton has been called a "focus group Democrat," often accused of believing what polls and focus groups tell her she should believe.

Mrs. Clinton helped lead the development of the neoliberal “New Democrat” movement, which pushed the Democratic Party to abandon its last lingering commitments to labor unions, racial and social justice, and environmental protection. She voted (as a US Senator) for legislation advanced by Wall Street to make it more difficult for poor families to use bankruptcy laws to get out from under crushing debt. She called, when Secretary of State, the corporatist, anti-worker, secretive, authoritarian Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) “the gold standard’ in agreements for “open free, transparent, fair trade, the kind of environment that has the rule of law and a level playing field.” She “operates,” in the words of New York Times reporter Carolyn Ryan, in “a world awash in money and connections and a very privileged place” – this while deceptively posing as a “populist” who is “in touch” with the concerns of everyday working Americans. She gives speeches to leading Wall Street firms (and the Chicago Mercantile Exchange) for more than $200,000 each – more than four times U.S. median household income – as part of her effort to build a preemptive  “money machine” to block rivals from making serious primary and caucus challenges.

And Hillary Clinton said the following – in her role as the head of the Clinton administration’s failed corporatist health reform initiative – to a leading national physician and health care activist when he told her in 1993 that “Canadian-style” single-payer health insurance was supported by more than two-thirds of the U.S. populace and was certified by the Congressional Budget Office as the most cost-effective plan on offer: “tell me something interesting.” (Along with the big insurance companies that they deceptively railed against, the “co-presidents” Bill and Hillary Clinton decided from the start to exclude the popular health care alternative – single payer – from the national health care “discussion.” Obama would do the same exact same thing in 2009).

What is so special about Hillary other than she is a woman? Margaret Thatcher was a woman too. Golda Meir. Indira Gandhi. Benazir Bhutto. Angela Merkel. Julia Gillard. All saints and angels, weren’t they?

Voters believe in the fairytale that politicians are saviors, capable of fixing what’s wrong with our communities and our lives, when in fact, most politicians lead such sheltered lives that they have not a clue about what their constituents must do to make ends meet. They support endless war, ignore the citizenry’s basic rights, are bought and paid for by Big Business and only care most about their own power. When faced with the prospect of voting for the lesser of two evils, too many compromise their principles and overlook the fact that the lesser of two evils is still very much an evil.

Stop playing their game. Stop supporting their system. Stop defending their insanity. Stop giving them your vote. Stop believing that there’s a difference between the Republicans and Democrats, when in fact, the two parties are exactly the same. Stop buying into the lie that there is no alternative. It’s easy to become discouraged and turn into cynics and hard to believe that change is possible since in the end we get the government we deserve. Democracy needs people to be informed and educated about the issues and willing to make the sacrifices necessary to stay involved, whether that means forgoing Monday night football in order to attend a town-hall political meeting.  People need to be willing to do more our job as citizens begins and ends on Election Day. They want us to believe that than whine and complain. We must act—and act responsibly—keeping in mind that politics extend beyond the act of voting. The powers-that-be want us to believe that we have no right to protest unless we cast our vote one way or the other. They don’t want us talking about is the fact that the politicians don’t represent us, and like Hillary Clinton, most of the candidates are frauds.

We, the people, have a decision to make, and a choice. 

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