Apr 23 2017

French Presidential Election 2017: Round One (Update)

Update 20:45 CEST: François Fillon conceded defeat calling for his supporters to vote against the far-right that Marine Le Pen represents and endorses Emmanuel Macron.

Update 20:35 CEST: The Guardian has an historic note about this election:

(T)his is the first time in modern French history that neither of the mainstream centre-right or centre-left parties of government that have governed France since the second world war have qualified for the second round of a presidential election.

Update 20:15 CEST: Some of the polls closed at 7 PM CEST and early estimates have Macron and Le Pen leading with 23.7% and 21.7% respectively. Fillon and Mélenchon trailing on around 19.5%. The Socialist candidate, Hamon, is way down on 6.5%.

These are early estimates but the French have a very accurate system to estimate the votes that is usually within a percentage point or two. While it is based on actual vote counts, it is not an official count but it is not a poll either.

Hamon has already conceded and urged those who voted for him to vote for Macron on May7.

Today the French vote on which two of the eleven candidates will have the chance to their president for the next five years. Since 1962, unlike the United States, the French have directly elected their president. To be president of France that person must get 50% of the popular vote which has, as in the past, required a second round of voting two weeks after the first between the top two candidates. The candidate who wins serves for five years and, since 2008, can only serve for two consecutive terms. Campaign advertising on TV is not allowed and each candidate is given equal time on public television. Spending is also tightly regulated and capped with an independent agency regulating the election and party spending. These are not arbitrary rules, they are part of the French constitution. It seems a lot more civil and organized than US elections for as uncivil as the French can be at times.

Although only four or five are considered contenders for the two second round spots on May 7, it is still anyone’s game. Polling has been no help and there is much speculation by political pundits about how the shooting on the Champs Elysee and the insertion of the highly unpopular presidents of Russia and the United States will effect the peoples’ opinion. One thing is certain, the French can be fickle and unpredictable.

These are the top candidates:

Emmanuel Macron is a 39 year old who was briefly a civil servant before becoming a Rothschild’s banker and then an adviser and economy minister in François Hollande’s government. He has never been elected to office. He has campaigned as being “pragmatic and fair” neither left or right. He is socially and economically liberal but pro-business. He has no party affiliation and is running as an independent.

Marine Le Pen is a 49 year old lawyer and head of the Front National party that was founded by her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen. She represent the far right and has run on a platform to end immigration, slash crime, eradicate Islamism, pull France out of Europe and save it from globalization. Her campaign slogan is “Au nom du peuple” which translates: “in the name of the people.” She sees herself as the savior of the French public, French culture, and French language. Sound familiar? It should.

François Fillon, 63, a former center-right prime minister under Nicolas Sarkozy and a member of the Les Républicains party, has been hit by an alleged corruption scandal. A self-styled “clean hands” candidate, he was accused of giving his wife and children taxpayer-funded fake jobs. After slipping in the polls, his numbers have stabilized and he is back in contention. He is economically a Thatcher radical (read austerity) calling for cuts in taxes and public spending, slashing public sector jobs, raising the retirement age, freeing up labor laws and breaking trade union power. He appeals to the conservative French Catholic voter promising to preserve traditional family values. Hmmm, sounds even more familiar

Jean-Luc Mélenchon, , a far-left veteran with a radical economic program, could also make the final two. He is the head of a new party, La France Insoumise (Untamed France), his policies include shortening the working week, lowering the retirement age, raising the minimum wage and social security benefits, and taxing top earners at 90%.

He also wants to abandon nuclear power, abolish the presidential regime of the Fifth Republic, and in foreign affairs withdraw from NATO, develop warmer ties with Russia, and renegotiate the terms of France’s EU membership with the promise of an in-out referendum afterwards.

The ruling party Socialist candidate is Hollande’s former education minister Benoît Hamon, 49, whose most radical idea is his proposal to introduce a universal basic income.

Most of the media pundits are concerned about a Le Pen win, even though the current polling shows that she would lose no matter who she faced. An article in The Guardian makes some interesting points about that possibility:

Most observers doubt Le Pen can win more than 50% of the second-round vote. But there are caveats. Her support is more solid: in surveys, Le Pen’s voters mostly say they are certain to support their chosen candidate; Macron’s tend not to be so sure.

There is no precedent for a Macron victory: no centrist has ever occupied the Elysée palace, nor any candidate running without the political and logistical backing of one of the traditional left or rightwing parties.

In past elections, the two-round system has allowed voters from both left and right to form a united “Republican front” against any FN candidate who makes it to the second round. So far, that pact has largely held.

But some observers worry it is now vulnerable. They say voters are so disaffected, and consider politicians so corrupt and ineffective, that the pact could be seen more as the political class saving its skin rather than a bulwark against extremism.

One recent survey showed 89% of French voters believe politicians do not listen to them. How angry, demoralised people vote will be decisive. And an unforeseen event, such as another major terrorist attack, could yet change the whole dynamic of the race.

Now that’s really sounding familiar.

Voting is done by paper ballot since the French don’t trust electronic voting machines to be secure. Polling stations opened in the Atlantic Ocean territories of Saint Pierre and Miquelon as well as French Guyana in South America, the Caribbean’s Guadeloupe and elsewhere. Voters abroad could also cast ballots in French embassies, with polls across France opening on Sunday. The count will begin on Sunday evening when polls have closed across mainland France.

Apr 23 2017

The Breakfast Club (Circus Jig)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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AP’s Today in History for April 23rd

William Shakespeare born, dies 52 years later on same day; MLK Jr. assassinator James Earl Ray dies at age 70; Cesar Chavez dies at age 66; Hank Aaron begins climb to throne home run king.


Breakfast Tune Circus Jig


Something to think about, Breakfast News & Blogs below

Largest Charter School Chain in LA Raises Millions in Dark Money to Fight Union Drive
Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet

The extraordinary lengths to which Los Angeles’ largest charter school chain will go to defeat a union drive were revealed in a new California State Auditor report that found it raised nearly $1 million for the effort and broke federal privacy law by giving alumni information to industry lobbyists to augment their union-busting campaign.

The efforts by Alliance College-Ready Public Schools (Alliance) to stop the union drive that began in March 2015, when 67 teachers and counselors said they wanted to join United Teachers Los Angeles (UTLA), also included $2.2 million in donated legal fees, hiring an array of campaign consultants routinely seen in political fights and coordinating with the California Charter School Association (CCSA), which used the private alumni files to recruit former students to their side.

The audit report did not say who gave the money or legal work worth $3.2 million to Alliance, which operates 25 schools in the LA region with 12,000 students and has more than 600 teachers and counselors. The state auditor’s goal was to determine if any of the anti-union funds spent by Alliance had been diverted from taxpayer funds. It concluded that Alliance set up separate accounts and had not dipped into the $157 million it got from state, federal, and local sources in fiscal year 2015-16. …

A Government Swindle on Student Debt
Ryan de Laureal, Socialist Worker

Imagine if, after graduating from college with a five- or six-figure student loan debt, you learned you could enroll in a government program that would allow a portion of your debt to be forgiven in exchange for 10 years of work at a broad range of public-service jobs, from nonprofits to government agencies.

This was the promise of the federal government’s Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2007 as part of the bipartisan College Cost Reduction and Access Act.

The program offered a track for recent grads to escape debt obligations and provided an incentive for graduates to fulfill urgently needed — and usually low-paying — positions serving the public in one way or another.

Now imagine that, after spending the early years of your career working for less money in public service in exchange for debt forgiveness, you find out that the government had decided to retroactively retract the offer — even though you received letters of approval confirming that your job qualified you.

This nightmare scenario is the actual situation confronting a number of PSLF program recipients, who last December were compelled to file a lawsuit, joined by the American Bar Association, to get the Department of Education (DoE) to keep its promises. …

IMF members set aside trade split as French vote rattles nerves
Leika Kihara and Francesco Canepa

International Monetary Fund members on Saturday dropped a pledge to fight protectionism amid a split over trade policy and turned their attention to another looming threat to global economic integration: the first round of France’s presidential election.

Concerns that far-right leader Marine Le Pen and far-left rival Jean-Luc Mélenchon, both critics of the European Union, could top the field in Sunday’s vote added to nervousness over U.S. trade policy at the IMF and World Bank spring meetings.

“There was a clear recognition in the room that we have probably moved from high financial and economic risks to more geopolitical risks,” IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde told a news conference. …

Alex Emmons, The Intercept

IN HER FIRST APPEARANCE representing the American public before the top-secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court in 2015, Amy Jeffress argued that the FBI is violating the Fourth Amendment by giving agents “virtually unrestricted” access to data from one of the NSA’s largest surveillance programs, which includes an untold amount of communications involving innocent Americans.

The NSA harvests data from major Internet companies like Facebook, Google and Apple without a warrant, because it is ostensibly “targeting” only foreigners. But the surveillance program sweeps up a large number of Americans’ communications as well. Then vast amounts of data from the program, including the Americans’ communications, are entered into a master database that a Justice Department lawyer at the 2015 hearing described as the “FBI’s ‘Google’ of its lawfully acquired information.”

The FBI routinely searches this database during ordinary criminal investigations — which gives them access to Americans’ communications without a warrant. …








Something to think about over coffee prozac

Bus ad promoting US city festival shows images from Europe

CONCORD, N.H. (AP) — A bus ad promoting a Concord, New Hampshire, arts festival takes a detour through Europe.

Huge photos on a Concord Coach bus that travels between Concord and Boston feature images of the Merrimack River and a local clock tower, both associated with New Hampshire’s capital city.

But the Concord Monitor reports (http://bit.ly/2pVXe08) that photos of people on a Prague hillside and a painter from Venice, Italy, also are in the ad for the May 6 festival.

Still, Concord Coach president Ben Blunt says: “I think you can get your message across.”

Concord Coach paid for the ad. A festival volunteer chose the photos from a stock photo service.

Last year, Rhode Island hired a new chief marketing officer after its embarrassing state tourism campaign included a video featuring a scene from Iceland.

Apr 23 2017

Pondering the Pundits: Sunday Preview Edition

Pondering the Punditsis an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

On Sunday mornings we present a preview of the guests on the morning talk shows so you can choose which ones to watch or some do something more worth your time on a Sunday morning.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

The Sunday Talking Heads:

This Week with George Stephanopolis: The guests on Sunday’s “This Week” are: U.S. Attorney General, Jeff Sessions; and California Attorney General Xavier Becerra.

The roundtable guests are: Cincinnati radio talk show host Bill Cunningham; Democratic strategist Stephanie Cutter; ABC News political analyst Matthew Dowd; and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich.

Face the Nation: Host John Dickerson’s guests are: Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL); Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly; Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT); and Gov. John Kasich (R-OH).

His panel guests are: Wall Street Journal’s Carol Lee; National Review’s Reihan Salam; The Atlantic‘s Jeffrey Goldberg; and New York Times Magazine‘s Mark Leibovich.

Meet the Press with Chuck Todd: The guests on this week’s “MTP” are: House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA); White house Chief of Staff Reince Priebus; and Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL).

The panel guests are: NBC Today Show host Savannah Guthrie.

State of the Union with Jake Tapper: Mr. Tapper’s guests are: Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL); Rep. Mark Sanford (R-SC); and Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly.

His panel guests are: Democratic strategist Bakari Sellers; Republican strategist Amanda Carpenter; president of Center for American Progress, Neera Tanden; and Rep. Darrel Issa (R-CA)

Apr 22 2017

Kill Bunny

Ok, so the first thing you need to understand about Kill Bill is that everyone is a monster and there are no “good guys” to root for.

‘The mission was to bring down Bill O’Reilly’: The final days of a Fox News superstar
By Manuel Roig-Franzia and Ben Terris, Wasington Post
April 21, 2017

The departure Wednesday of O’Reilly, Fox’s biggest star, caps a bruising 10-month slog during which the network’s all-powerful guiding light and chief executive officer, Roger Ailes, was forced to resign over multiple sexual-misconduct allegations, and some of its biggest names, including anchors Greta Van Susteren and Megyn Kelly, left to join competitors. The melodrama coincides with a generational shift in leadership as Rupert Murdoch’s sons, Lachlan and James, assert more control over a lucrative channel that has played an outsize role in shaping the U.S. political landscape over the past two decades.

O’Reilly has called the claims against him unfounded and Fox has remained a ratings force. Even as the O’Reilly accusations were prompting an advertiser boycott, his show remained atop the list of most-watched cable news programs. Still, the cavalcade of developments dampened morale among rank-and-file staffers, according to current and former Fox employees who spoke on the condition of anonymity for fear of retribution or because of non-disclosure agreements.

Smith says it is hard for her to imagine a major culture shift at Fox; many key executives she described as “enablers” of Ailes and others remain in top executive positions. A former staffer, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, agreed: “Ailes and O’Reilly might be gone, but the rest of the power structure is unchanged.”

What became clear over the past 10 months is that the best way to attack a news company is by making news. Smith said she wrangled with attorneys for Ailes, who wanted to deal with Carlson’s sexual-harassment allegations through a secret, non-public arbitration process. When her client refused and went public with her complaint that Ailes thwarted her career because she would not have sex with him, “that opened the floodgates” for other accusers, Smith said. Within days, numerous women came forward with similar harassment claims. Smith says her firm alone was eventually contacted by nearly 30 women.

“By bringing Fox into the light of day, we’ve been able to show how secrecy hurts all of us,” Smith said.

In her pursuit of O’Reilly, Bloom took a similar tack to the one used by Smith in her case against Ailes, pushing the story into the public realm as much as possible. Bloom — the daughter of famed publicity-savvy attorney Gloria Allred — gained enormous leverage when the Times published its blockbuster April 1 story about the O’Reilly settlements. But she feared that interest would fade.

She needed to keep the buzz going. So she persuaded Wendy Walsh, a Los Angeles radio personality who had been a guest on O’Reilly’s show, to hold a news conference on April 3. There were two goals, Bloom said: Keep the story alive, but also draw out more accusers.

A mediagenic psychologist with her own radio show, Walsh had no intention of suing but did offer a compelling tale. She had made occasional appearances on Fox but said O’Reilly dangled the idea of making her a regular contributor, which would have substantially raised her national profile. After a dinner in Los Angeles, she said, O’Reilly tried to lure her to his hotel room. She rebuffed him, she said, and not long thereafter, her opportunity to become a regular contributor evaporated. (An O’Reilly representative would later call Walsh’s story false.)

On the day the Times story hit, Bloom says, O’Reilly had handed her “a beautiful, gift-wrapped present” in his public statement rebuffing the allegations. The statement said: “Just like other prominent and controversial people, I’m vulnerable to lawsuits from individuals who want me to pay them to avoid negative publicity.” But his statement rested part of his defense on a claim that no one had ever complained about him to the human resources department or called in to an “anonymous hotline.”

It was an “aha” moment for Bloom. After consulting a company handbook she had acquired during a previous case, she determined that Walsh was eligible to call the hotline, even though she was not a full-time employee. Bloom was so excited about the idea that the catchy disco-era song “Hotline” kept running through her head: “Hotline, hotline, callin’ on the hotline.”

Bloom’s staff videotaped Walsh’s call to the hotline, and sent the lengthy recording — which included spates of time when she was left on hold — to Walsh’s tech-savvy nephew. He edited it into a shorter version to share with the media, including the moment when the hotline operator asks Walsh to spell O’Reilly’s name. On April 5, Bloom posted the tape to her Facebook page.

So now an official complaint was on the record, in just the form O’Reilly had deemed legitimate. On April 9, Fox’s parent company announced it was bringing in Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison — the same firm that looked into allegations against Ailes — to examine claims about O’Reilly.

By April 11, as more and more sponsors pulled their ads from the “O’Reilly Factor,” the combative commentator announced his departure for what he called a long-planned vacation in Italy.

According to Bloom, the attorneys brought in by Fox’s parent company seemed to be in a hurry to close the books.

“They were very eager for everything to happen ASAP,” she said. “They were the ones pressing us to go, go, go. By the end, I thought they were looking for a reason to fire him.”

On Tuesday, Bloom sent out a headline-grabbing tweet: “I represent a new woman who just phoned in a complaint of sexual and racial harassment against Bill O’Reilly to the Fox News hotline.”

Bloom booked a flight to New York in hopes of getting big play on the cable news shows. She got it, and O’Reilly’s camp seemed to notice.

That same day, the anchor’s attorney, Marc Kasowitz, issued a statement about the still-cloaked Burgess allegation: “It is outrageous that an allegation from an anonymous person about something that purportedly happened almost a decade ago is being treated as fact, especially where there is obviously an orchestrated campaign by activists and lawyers to destroy Mr. O’Reilly and enrich themselves through publicity-driven donations.”

Have I killed people in that “5 Fingered Palm of Death” kind of way where in six steps you collapse without a mark except your exploded heart? Yes, yes I have.

“I accept your resignation.”

I have plucked people’s last eye and trodden it beneath my feet, stabbed them in the kidneys and twisted until the blood made me grateful I had a good grip on my hilt, shot them between the eyes without sympathy while they florished their swords.

When sharks swim by it’s not professional courtesy.

I’m a monster.

Apr 22 2017

Health and Fitness News

Welcome to the Stars Hollow Gazette‘s Health and Fitness News weekly diary. It will publish on Saturday afternoon and be open for discussion about health related issues including diet, exercise, health and health care issues, as well as, tips on what you can do when there is a medical emergency. Also an opportunity to share and exchange your favorite healthy recipes.

Questions are encouraged and I will answer to the best of my ability. If I can’t, I will try to steer you in the right direction. Naturally, I cannot give individual medical advice for personal health issues. I can give you information about medical conditions and the current treatments available.

You can now find past Health and Fitness News diaries here.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Three Ways to Let Fresh Asparagus Shine

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I’ll never forget the happy day someone showed me the patch of wild green asparagus popping through the moist earth along a fence line by the irrigation ditch on a California ranch. It was the best introduction to fresh asparagus one could ever wish for. During a few springtime weeks, that patch gave us seven or eight glorious spears a day, sometimes a dozen, in all sizes. All they needed were a couple minutes in boiling water, and some butter, salt and pepper. I’m told that the patch is still producing.

Though we call it wild asparagus, it would be more accurate to call it feral or invasive, something originally cultivated that has learned to thrive in the wild. Asparagus is not indigenous to the Americas — it was brought over by Europeans — so wherever it is found in the wild here, it has been scattered by the four winds from the seeds in some early settlers’ gardens.

David Tanis, New York Times

Charred Asparagus With Green Garlic Chimichurri

Chimichurri is the South American green herb sauce that goes with just about everything. Easy to put together, it tastes best freshly prepared.

Steamed Asparagus With Pistachios and Brown Butter

This versatile brown butter sauce could enhance all sorts of other vegetables, or fish for that matter.

Shaved Asparagus Salad With Ginger and Sesame

Succulent, fat, fresh asparagus is thinly sliced by hand for this raw salad — easier than you’d think, and safer than using a mandoline.

Health and Fitness News

FDA Approves Vagus Nerve Stimulator to Treat Cluster Headaches

Zika-Fighting Sterile Mosquitoes Released Near Key West

Diet sodas may be tied to stroke, dementia risk

Should you take statins? Two guidelines offer different answers

Measles outbreak surging in Italy as officials urge confidence in vaccines

A vending machine at the UC Davis campus dispenses Plan B pills

FDA further restricts pain medication use in kids

Germ in raw milk, poultry now tops food poisoning list

Study shows how chronic wasting disease spreads in Wisconsin

Apr 22 2017

Alone In The Kitchen With An Old Frenchman

Recently French chef Jacques Pépin turned 80 and retired. Over the years, he educated viewers of Public Television on how to cook and, something that no other cooking show host has done, techniques in the kitchen with wisdom, humor and a smattering of French lessons. As Gilad Edelman wrote in a Slate article, this man will teach you how to cook

Game Day

Game might sound intimidating, but it’s much easier to find in stores these days. Jacques begins with a step-by-step demonstration of Venison Steaks in Sweet-Sour Sauce. It’s a simple recipe using cupboard staples to great effect. Next, his Skillet Duck with Red Oak Salad is a simple and delicious way to serve duck. Finally he reveals a rabbit and separates out the saddle to roast and makes a stew with the rest in Sautèed Rabbit with Morels and Pearl Onions. It’s really two recipes in one.

Venison Steaks in Sweet-Sour Sauce

Venison is traditionally served with a sweet-sour sauce. This one contains currant or raspberry jelly for sweetness and vinegar — cooked with shallots and added at the end — for a contrasting sour taste.

Sautèed Rabbit with Morels and Pearl Onions

This stew is made with the rabbit’s front and back legs and rib cage. The saddle (the whole back) is roasted, cooking in less time than the stew and staying moist and flavorful.

Skillet Duck with Red Oak Salad

Easy and delicious, this duck is cooked in much the same way as Southern fried chicken — fried in its own fat in a covered pot so steam develops,

Apr 22 2017

The Breakfast Club (Science March)

Welcome to The Breakfast Club! We’re a disorganized group of rebel lefties who hang out and chat if and when we’re not too hungover we’ve been bailed out we’re not too exhausted from last night’s (CENSORED) the caffeine kicks in. Join us every weekday morning at 9am (ET) and weekend morning at 10:30am (ET) to talk about current news and our boring lives and to make fun of LaEscapee! If we are ever running late, it’s PhilJD’s fault.

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This Day in History

Richard Nixon dies; Elian Gonzalez seized by federal agents; Oklahoma land rush begins.

Breakfast Tunes

Something to Think about over Coffee Prozac

There must be no barriers to freedom of inquiry. There is no place for dogma in science. The scientist is free, and must be free to ask any question, to doubt any assertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors.

J. Robert Oppenheimer

Read the rest of this entry »

Apr 21 2017

Modern History

I keep saying I’m a Historian but nobody seems to believe me. I suppose that’s fair enough, it’s a profession in which like writing and journalism your credibility depends on your work product and entertainment value, and while I may assure you my discussions of court intrigue during the Second Intermediate Period at Abydos are fascinating and controversial I have no realistic expectation you would greet it with anything except a huge yawn.

But I do read Histories and articles about Historians and Eric Foner is a pretty big deal.

Eric Foner is an American historian. He writes extensively on American political history, the history of freedom, the early history of the Republican Party, African American biography, Reconstruction, and historiography, and has been a member of the faculty at the Columbia University Department of History since 1982. Foner is a leading contemporary historian of the post-Civil War Reconstruction period, having published Reconstruction: America’s Unfinished Revolution, 1863-1877 in 1989 and more than 10 other books on the topic. His free online courses on “The Civil War and Reconstruction,” published in 2014, are available from Columbia University on ColumbiaX.

‘Trump Is Just Tearing Off the Mask’: An Interview with Eric Foner
By Richard Kreitner, The Nation
April 18, 2017

when the 1960s came along, it was impossible to figure out how the past that we had learned about had produced this. Since all our problems had been solved, what were people complaining about? It was a past without black people, without Native Americans. A much better past was created—a truer, more accurate, more honest past—by several generations of historians. For those who want social change, knowing how social change took place in the past is a very valuable thing. That doesn’t mean you just create a Hall of Fame of great leaders of the past—that guy was great, this woman was great. That’s not what I’m talking about. History does inform the present, and it should. That’s what I mean by a “usable past”: 
a historical consciousness that can enable us to address the problems of society today in an intelligent manner.

It’s very easy to say, “Oh, Trump’s gone off the reservation.” But actually, this is part of the American political culture, past and present. Our politics has not always been like the Lincoln-Douglas debates, some high-minded discussion of important issues. Even those debates weren’t like that! We have seen the low road many a time. Go back to the Know-Nothings, George Wallace, Richard Nixon, the Southern strategy. This is an important strand of our political culture.

That’s a more frightening thought than calling Trump a lunatic and an aberration. He is the logical extension of the way the Republican Party has been operating since Barry Goldwater. This is how the Republican Party has gotten votes for 50 years—Trump is just tearing off the mask. Now he just says right out the racism that was only barely hidden for so long. An accurate history would show that it’s always been there. We shouldn’t just talk about how weird Trump is.

Obama came into office at a very important historical moment. There was tremendous public support for him when he came in. The country was in a serious crisis—maybe not as serious as when Franklin Delano Roosevelt came in, but it was really serious. What did Obama do? He put the same guys back in that caused the problem in the first place. He passed a piddling little stimulus plan. He spent his whole first year fighting about health care and ended up with a plan that’s better than nothing, but considering what was possible with 60 votes in the Senate and a majority in the House…

My disappointment is that Obama didn’t seize the opportunity that was there. Now, maybe that’s just Obama. He’s a mainstream Democrat. We got the change that he wanted, which was minimal. But he campaigned on the promise of change with a capital C, with the backing of large numbers of people—whom he then demobilized. In November of 2008, he gave a press conference, and somebody asked where was the change? And he said something like, “I am the change.” Compare that with Eugene V. Debs, who said he wouldn’t lead his followers into the promised land even if he could, because if he could lead them in, someone else could lead them out.

So, yes, I am disappointed with Obama. It’s not the specific policies so much as his general approach to office, which I find too limited, given the circumstances in which he came in. After 2010, when the Republicans came into Congress, then his options became limited. But in the first two years he had a real opportunity, which he did not seize.

Obama reflects the fact that the civil-rights era has created a giant gap within the black community. There is a significant stratum, of which Obama is a part, that was able to take full advantage of the opening up of opportunities, and the people in this stratum have moved very far up in the universities, the corporations, and so on. On the other hand, there’s a vast and growing class of poor blacks that has suffered enormously since the financial crisis, even under Obama. Race is now even more complicated than ever by class, and the people who are being shot by police—some of them are middle-class, but a lot of them are poor black people, and they are suffering from all sorts of things in urban areas that Obama’s policies have not addressed at all. Indeed, here’s the irony: The economic policies that Obama pursued—free trade, bank bailouts, printing money to try to restart the economy—are devastating for black people. Deindustrialization—that’s where the solid black working class was, in factories that are disappearing. These have had serious impacts on black communities. That’s not why he’s pursuing them, but they’re corollaries of neoliberalism, which he supports—and it’s exacerbated the problem of race in America.

I don’t know what will happen with the impulse that Bernie reflected. But I think it’s a major step toward what radicals try to do, what The Nation tries to do, which is to fill the vacuum created by the collapse of neoliberalism. The financial crisis created a political and intellectual vacuum. Neoliberalism was destroyed. Though it lingers on like a zombie walking the earth, it has no intellectual legitimacy anymore. But what is to take its place? “Democratic socialism” is a fine phrase, but it doesn’t have a very worked-out substance at the moment. Nevertheless, getting people talking and thinking about alternatives is a tremendous thing, and Bernie accomplished that.

Apr 21 2017


A literary device by which an author hints what is to come. Foreshadowing is a dramatic device in which an important plot-point is mentioned early in the story and will return in a more significant way.

Apr 21 2017

Pondering the Pundits

“Pondering the Pundits” is an Open Thread. It is a selection of editorials and opinions from> around the news medium and the internet blogs. The intent is to provide a forum for your reactions and opinions, not just to the opinions presented, but to what ever you find important.

Thanks to ek hornbeck, click on the link and you can access all the past “Pondering the Pundits”.

Follow us on Twitter @StarsHollowGzt

Paul Krugman: The Balloon, the Box and Health Care

Imagine a man who for some reason is determined to stuff a balloon into a box — a box that, aside from being the wrong shape, just isn’t big enough. He starts working at one corner, pushing the balloon into position. But then he realizes that the air he’s squeezed out at one end has caused the balloon to expand elsewhere. So he tries at the opposite corner, but this undoes his original work.

If he’s stupid or obsessive enough, he can spend a long time at this exercise, trying it from various different angles, and maybe even briefly convince himself that he’s making progress. But he’s kidding himself: No matter what he does, the balloon isn’t going to fit in that box.

Now you understand what’s happening to G.O.P. efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Eugene Robinson: The GOP’s latest health-care plan is comically bad

House Republicans are apparently ready for yet another attempt to snatch health insurance away from constituents who need it. Someone should remind Speaker Paul Ryan of a saying often attributed to his legendary predecessor Sam Rayburn: “There’s no education in the second kick of the mule.”

Having failed miserably to win passage of an abomination of a bill — the American Health Care Act — Ryan (R-Wis.) and his minions are back with something even worse. A draft framework being circulated this week would pretend to keep the parts of Obamacare that people like, but allow states to take these benefits away. We see what you’re doing, folks.

This is getting silly. What part of “forget it” do Republicans not understand?

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