Bernie Sanders Extends Olive Branch to Joe Biden

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Bernie Sanders is losing and he’s done something extraordinary.

Bernie told Joe Biden three days ahead of time exactly what questions he’s going to ask in Sunday’s debate. Open-ended questions, giving Biden plenty of room to frame his answers. But pointed questions on specific subjects. The television audience will be waiting to hear answers.

Kind of simplifies Joe’s debate preparation, doesn’t it? However, Biden and his advisers have some sticky dilemmas to resolve between now and Sunday. If Joe reels off tired platitudes, he’ll sound evasive.

What we have here appears to be a clear divide between the haves and have-nots in America, and between young and old.

Biden needs to answer straight-forward questions with some specificity. Therein lies the dilemma. Does he offer serious compromises on issues like Medicare for all, answers that might give Bernie’s movement reason to cheer? Does he extend specific promises of support to bottom-tier workers struggling to survive? Specific, as in a $15 minimum wage, or forgiveness of college debt?

If Joe offers help to desperate Americans at the bottom, will he offend his establishment supporters? The comfortable and elite, it would appear, could care less about the less fortunate.

If Joe Biden tries too hard to thread the needle, he may not satisfy either side of the Democratic Party.

Joe Biden may or may not have the Democratic nomination almost in the bag. But he’s got a long way to go to put the November General Election in the bag.

Biden’s going to need more than a majority of delegates at a convention. He needs a solid base of support in November.

Bernie Sanders is giving Joe Biden a chance to earn that support.

— John

Coronavirus Fail

As of yesterday (Friday) evening, a major American hospital in an affluent suburb has no face masks available for its medical personnel.

And no coronavirus test kits, naturally.

The information comes from a frontline medical employee of the highly trained, professional type. A person who treats patients. The suburb and hospital shall go unnamed. Someplace on the East Coast of America.

What is the condition of the U.S. medical system? How bad is the incompetence and dysfunction? We’re not talking about individual frontline employees. They are usually well-educated, conscientious, dedicated.

The incompetence and dysfunction is at a higher, systemic level. Higher than the individual hospital, for sure. Doctors, nurses, hospitals understand what is needed.

But at a higher, industry-wide, systemic level, the necessary planning, coordinating, and administration doesn’t get done. Stockpiles don’t exist or can’t be delivered. Funding isn’t available. Information and communication lag behind reality.

Top-level officials appear uninformed, even befuddled.

— John

 

 

Joe Biden And Normal People

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That huge sigh of relief you heard, followed by cheering for Joe Biden, that came from the establishment. Whew! We’ve been saved from Bernie Sanders and socialism. That was a close call! Thank goodness the danger has passed. We can get back to business as usual.

Well, good for Joe Biden, I like him. But this Democratic primary is not over until it’s over. The contest has narrowed, and it’s about even. I have some questions.

I’m looking at Andrew Yang’s book, “The War On Normal People.” Remember Normal People? The folks Yang was speaking about, the ones Elizabeth Warren was speaking for? The ones Bernie Sanders is still speaking to?

A blurb at the top front cover of Yang’s book:

“Andrew Yang highlights the urgent need to rewrite America’s social contract.” — Alec Ross

Social contract

Like Andrew Yang, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren have been thinking about the social contract, and talking about it.

But I wonder about Joe Biden, with whom the establishment feels so comfortable. What does Joe think about the social contract? Does he think about it at all?

Subtitle at the bottom of Yang’s front cover:

“The Truth About America’s Disappearing Jobs and Why Universal Basic Income Is Our Future”

Disappearing jobs

We know Andrew Yang proposes a $1,000-a-month payment to every American.

We know Bernie and Elizabeth propose Medicare for all. And taxing the rich. Fighting powerful corporate interests and corruption. And lots of free education, preschool to college.

What exactly is Joe Biden’s concept of universal healthcare? Is it high-deductible private insurance for everyone who wants to buy it? Or low-coverage insurance and high co-pays for everyone lucky enough to have a job with benefits? I guess that would be close to universal. How much would you pay to get tested for coronavirus?

What about taxation? Education? I’m a little fuzzy about the details of what Joe would do for Yang’s Normal People.

Young and left out

Those younger people, so enthusiastic about Bernie Sanders. So far, they’ve failed to vote in record numbers. Just what you’d expect from young voters. Maybe Joe Biden can win without them.

The disillusioned young people, seemingly left out of the American Dream. Living with their parents, working gigs, not careers, weighed down with debt they may never be able to pay off. They can’t buy a house, or maybe even a car.

Those young folks, voters or nonvoters, are they included in the social contract? Does Joe Biden have something to say to them?

Middle-aged and desperate

What about middle-aged voters in fly-over country? More than a few of them are out-sourced, unnecessary, and all too often, desperate. Maybe Joe Biden can win without them.

For desperate middle-aged Americans, their life expectancy is shrinking. They often struggle with unemployment, poverty, divorce, alcoholism, opioids, smoking, and sometimes suicide. Are they included in the social contract? Does Joe Biden have anything to say to them?

Choices to make before we sleep

I’m torn between fear that a Bernie Sanders-Donald Trump election might tear our country asunder. And on the other hand, fear that a Joe Biden-Donald Trump election might take our county completely away from Normal People, and turn it over to the rich and powerful, forever.

I wonder about Bernie Sanders. Why does Bernie comfort the afflicted in our society, and afflict the comfortable? Why are the comfortable, the wealthy and the powerful scared to death of a Bernie Sanders presidency? What are they afraid of, paying higher taxes?

And I wonder about Joe Biden. Why does Joe give such relief and comfort to the already comfortable, the wealthy and the powerful? And what about the young, the poor, the left-out, the sick? Will they receive any comfort or relief in a Joe Biden presidency?

Is Joe Biden on the side of Mike Bloomberg and the billionaires? Or is he on the side of Andrew Yang and Normal People? Would it be possible to be on both sides at the same time?

Far as I know, Andrew Yang has not endorsed either Joe or Bernie. If he would side with one or the other, it might ease my mind. What do you think?

— John Hayden

Bernie Sanders Proposes a 21st Century Economic Bill of Rights

Note: In an effort to help the voting public understand the positions of Bernie Sanders on the issues, and why he calls himself a Democratic Socialist, I’m reprinting below the text of an email I received from him this week: It is all a direct quote from the candidate. — John

“While the Bill of Rights protects us from the tyranny of an oppressive government, many in the establishment would like the American people to submit to the tyranny of oligarchs, multinational corporations, Wall Street banks, and billionaires.

In 1944, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt proposed an economic bill of rights, because he knew that there cannot be true freedom without economic security. He was not able to enact it before his death. Seventy-five years later, that job falls to us.

That is why I am proposing we complete the unfinished work of FDR and the Democratic Party by putting forth a 21st Century Economic Bill of Rights. These rights include:

  • Quality health care
  • A complete education
  • A good job that pays a living wage
  • Affordable housing
  • A secure retirement
  • A clean environment

I am asking for your support for this 21st Century Economic Bill of Rights. Will you add your name to say you endorse these rights?

Please add your name to support our 21st Century Economic Bill of Rights to guarantee a living wage, quality health care, a complete education, affordable housing, a secure retirement, and a clean environment for every person in our country.

ADD YOUR NAME

These are my values, and that is why I call myself a democratic socialist.

What I believe is that the American people deserve freedom – true freedom. Freedom is an often-used word, but it’s time we took a hard look at what that word actually means.

Ask yourself: what does it actually mean to be free?

Are you truly free if you are unable to go to a doctor when you are sick, or face financial bankruptcy when you leave the hospital?

Are you truly free if you cannot afford the prescription drug you need to stay alive?

Are you truly free when you spend half of your limited income on housing, and are forced to borrow money from a payday lender at 200% interest rates?

Are you truly free if you are 70 years old and forced to work because you lack a pension or enough money to retire?

Are you truly free if you are unable to attend college or a trade school because your family lacks the income?

Are you truly free if you are forced to work 60 or 80 hours a week because you can’t find a job that pays a living wage?

Are you truly free if you are a mother or father with a newborn baby but you are forced to go back to work immediately after the birth because you lack paid family leave?

Are you truly free if you are a small business owner or family farmer who is driven out by the monopolistic practices of big business?

Are you truly free if you are a veteran, who put your life on the line to defend this country, and now sleep out on the streets?

To me, the answer to those questions, in the wealthiest nation on earth, is no, you are not free.

It is time for the American people to stand up and fight for their rights to freedom, human dignity, and security.

Please add your name to endorse our 21st Century Economic Bill of Rights.

Thank you for being a part of our movement.

In solidarity,

Bernie Sanders”

 

America Has Some Of The Best Immigrants In The World, By Peggy Noonan

“However the illegal immigration crisis is resolved, or not, there are tens of millions already here. Who helps make them Americans? . . .

“They need instruction on the meaning and history of America. Here it should be noted that we have some of the best immigrants in the world, who work hard and have no hostility to American religious culture. In fact, they’re part of that culture. Help Americanize them in other ways.”

— PEGGY NOONAN, speechwriter and special advisor to President Ronald Reagan

WALL STREET JOURNAL, May 4-5, 2019, p. A13

EDITOR’S NOTE: There’s a lot to unpack in the above brief quote. Upon first reading, the thought that came to my mind was: Well, this is NOT President Donald Trump’s view of immigration. No it isn’t, but look further.

Ms. Noonan was careful about what she said, and what she did not say. Let me suggest that you may need to read between the lines a little in order to discern the subtle observations she is making about immigration in present-day America.

Here’s a hint. Obviously, the subject is “immigration.” However, the key words may be “religion” and “culture.”

If you comment below, please try to be as circumspect as Ms. Noonan was. Any disrespectful or inflammatory comments will be deleted at the discretion of the blogger-in-chief.

— John Hayden

America It Will Be Bad, By Peggy Noonan

Quote

“You can’t see all the world’s weapons and all its madness and not know that eventually we will face a terrible day or days when everything will depend on our ability to hold together and hold on. Maybe it will involve nuclear weapons, maybe an extended, rolling attack on the grid, maybe bioterrorism. But it will be bad; there will be deep stress and violence. The great question in those days, under that acute pressure, will be:   Will we hold together? Will we suffer through and emerge, together, on the other side? Which is another way of saying:   Will we continue as a nation, a people?

“My belief is that whatever helps us hold together now, whatever brings us together and binds us close, is good, and must be encouraged with whatever it takes.

“If these are your predicates — America in cultural catastrophe, and hard history ahead — you spend your energies on a battle not to make government significantly smaller, but to make it significantly more helpful.”

— PEGGY NOONAN, speechwriter and special advisor to President Ronald Reagan

WALL STREET JOURNAL, May 4-5, 2019, p. A13

America’s Continuing Cultural Catastrophe, By Peggy Noonan

Quote

“The old conservatism of smaller government, tax cuts and reduced spending . . .

“That old conservatism was deeply pertinent to its era and philosophically right, but it is not fully in line with the crises of our time or its reigning facts . . .

“The federal government will not become smaller or less expensive in our lifetimes . . .

“But beyond that fact is something bigger. America needs help right now and Americans know it. It has been enduring for many years a continuing cultural catastrophe — illegitimacy, the decline of faith, low family formation, child abuse and neglect, drugs, inadequate public education, etc. All this exists alongside an entertainment culture on which the poor and neglected are dependent, and which is devoted to violence, sex and nihilism . . .

“America to my mind is what Pope Francis said the church was: a field hospital after battle. We are a beautiful and great nation but a needy, torn-up one in need of repair.”

— PEGGY NOONAN, Speechwriter and special assistant to President Ronald Reagan

From the WALL STREET JOURNAL, May 4-5, 2019, p. A13

The Real State Of The Union

As the captain gave his State Of The Union address, he was standing on an unsteady deck.

I had the opportunity this week to speak with a federal employee recently retired after 40 years with the U.S. government.

Federal workers’ morale is not good, he said. For a long time the government has pursued a policy of converting federal employee positions to contract positions. I presume the goal is to save money and to relieve government of responsibility for employees, and it’s working.

Federal employees idled during the month-long government shutdown will receive back pay, the retiree explained. Contract employees who work alongside federal employees in the same buildings will NOT be paid.

The numbers:

Approximately 800,000 federal employees will be paid; approximately 1 million contract federal workers will not be paid.

You might say it’s a dirty little secret. But it’s not a well-kept secret. I read the same information in a newspaper. However, most Americans are unaware that 1 million workers will not be paid. Or they simply don’t care.

The U.S. is fighting wars (sometimes secret wars) with mercenaries paid by private contractors, instead of soldiers paid by the U.S. Army. And the civilian government is staffed by contract workers, instead of official federal employees.

Morale is horrible among both official employees and their contract fellow workers, said the long-time employee. Contract workers are leaving the government in droves, he said. Departing workers are taking years of experience and irreplaceable skills with them, said another man at the table. The government is being weakened, and possibly wrecked.

I suppressed the image of rats leaving a sinking ship. It’s not the right image.

I summoned a vision of contract sailors, classified as “non-essential” and deemed not worth paying. They are disembarking from a stricken ship, with unseen damage below the waterline. A skeleton crew remains aboard.

Sailors are manning the lifeboats in orderly fashion. Meanwhile, a proud and inattentive captain is on deck reading a speech. Assembled officers applaud dutifully. The captain is unaware that the deck beneath his feet is unsteady and the ship is listing.

sunset ship boat sea

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— John Hayden

 

New And More Dangerous Stage In U.S. Constitutional Crisis

The 35-day (partial) government shutdown, longest in American history, ended Friday, Jan. 25, 2019, with a temporary and grudging truce between President Donald Trump and the U.S. Congress. The truce expires on Feb. 15. Some Federal agencies began reopening on Saturday, and about 800,000 government workers will receive paychecks. Date of paychecks to be announced.

The shutdown, the fight over a border wall at the Mexican border, and most importantly, the Constitutional crisis involving the power of the U.S. Congress to appropriate government funds and the power of the president to do . . . whatever . . .  is off the front pages of American newspapers.

We might be forgiven for thinking the storm is over.

But the Constitutional crisis has entered new and more dangerous territory. Trump has threatened to declare a state of emergency and/or shut down the government again if Congress fails to meet his demands by Feb. 15.

President Trump made a concession, gave in to Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s demand to reopen the government before negotiations could begin. Trump’s seeming capitulation means nerve-rending pressures on both sides.

Trump is being portrayed as the loser. He is vilified by his Republican base. His most hard-core supporters adopted his promise of a wall as a divine right, a modern Manifest Destiny.  I can only imagine that he believes he must deliver on his promise to build a border wall, or all is lost for him.

Pelosi and Democrats are portrayed as the winners. Many on the far left are celebrating. The reality is that Pelosi is now under excruciating pressure to negotiate in good faith. Does she have any good faith?

Pelosi will feel pressure even from her own Democrats in the House of Representatives. But Pelosi says she will never agree to build any border structure, anywhere. Many Democrats agree. And of course many Democrats are willing to make at least some concessions, to build a little bit of wall, or a fence. Here, or there.

Let’s talk about it?

How negotiations will play out is totally unpredictable.

In order to resolve the deadlock and end the Constitutional crisis, there must be good-faith negotiations. Compromises must be made. Both sides must give up something in order to achieve compromise, unless one side is willing to accept defeat and declare unconditional surrender. Compromise is essential. See the problem?

What happens if compromise is not reached by Feb. 15?

It’s totally unpredictable. It appears that Trump would have little choice but to declare his emergency, spend money on a wall without Congressional appropriations. Or shut down the government again, and who knows when it would reopen?

Or maybe the deadline could be extended?

Unpredictable negotiations, unpredictable presidential actions. Weeks of uncertainty.

And it probably wasn’t on the front page of your Sunday newspaper. Nothing about the shutdown on Page 1 of the Tampa Bay Times, which claims to be the largest newspaper in the third-largest state. Nothing on page 2A or 3A. Nothing about the shutdown, the temporary truce, the Constitutional crisis. Not until Page 10A, at which point the Tampa Bay Times reports:

“Some national parks open to visitors post-shutdown”

Well, national parks ARE important. The story also reports that airports are returning to normal operation. But the Smithsonian Institution won’t reopen until Tuesday.

So now we know what’s important to Americans, or at least to newspaper editors. National parks, airports, and the Smithsonian.

The callow irresponsibility of the media is as much to blame for this crisis as the actions of politicians. And the American public, with its short attention span, is not interested. The American public has gone shopping, or something.

In the end, we Americans will get what we deserve, whatever that may be.

— John Hayden

Secret Agenda Behind Government Shutdown

Is it possible that President Trump is prolonging the partial government shutdown to reduce the size of the government workforce? That’s been a Republican goal for decades: Starve The Beast.

I am not the type to entertain conspiracy theories.

At least I never was before. But with the shutdown more than a month old, and 800,000 government workers unpaid, people are getting desperate. And angry. One attempted suicide has been reported. How much longer can unpaid workers hang on? How many paychecks can workers miss before they turn away in desperation to other jobs?

Sorry, but after 70 years, I’m cynical enough (or maybe I’m old and dotty) to wonder if there’s a secret motivation behind this shutdown. Trump thinks federal workers are part of the “Deep State.” Trump wants to “drain the swamp.”

But let’s be fair. Maybe Nancy Pelosi has motives, too. Her motives are not so secret. Pelosi is intractable. No negotiations for her. Does she care about government workers? Or is she motivated by the glory of a Democratic victory in 2020? Talk about cynical.

Between Trump and Pelosi, “political ethics” is an oxymoron.

Is the Administration ready to fire workers who fail to show up? How many “essential” workers are calling in sick because they have no money for gas, or lunch, or daycare for the children? The most often cited problem is gasoline. Do you know anyone who walks to work? People commute to work. They drive or take the train. Many workers drive SUVs or pickup trucks that guzzle gas. Some have long commutes, 80 to 100 miles is not common, but neither is it unheard of.

Gasoline to drive round trip to and from work for a week adds up, unless you drive a Prius. What happens when a worker can’t pay for gas?

What happens when the time comes to choose between gas and food? 

If federal prison guards call in sick, guards on duty are held over at the end of their shift. Work without a paycheck? How about work a double shift without a paycheck! Under dangerous conditions.

Some federal prisons are reportedly providing cots for sleeping so guards don’t have to drive back and forth. Solves the gas problem. Work without pay, remain on site 24 hours a day.  Might as well work an extra shift. With guards transformed into virtual prisoners, who takes care of the children at home? Some federal workers are single parents.

Are children alone at night, with no one to feed them or keep them safe? It is possible. Somewhere in this great big country, a child is alone and hungry because a parent is at work and unpaid.

Similar problems must be developing for FBI agents, and yes, Border Patrol agents. And air traffic controllers and airport security personnel. Dangerous prisons, dangerous airports. No gas, no food, no money, no one to care for the children. How long can a worker stand it before he gives up? Or blows up?

It sounds like hysterical speculation. I’m embarrassed to write it. And yet . . .

Most Federal workers are well qualified for something. What about Border Patrol agents? Aren’t they be qualified to be police officers? And maybe get paid more than their present jobs. Certainly get paid more regularly. An FBI agent could make big bucks managing security for a corporation. Coast Guard members? No, they’re military, they are the only ones who can’t just up and quit and go drive for Uber.

So I ask the crazy questions:

How many workers will be in nervous breakdown when the shutdown ends? How many workers will be gone when the shutdown ends?

How many will take other jobs and not look back? How many will be fired? Will Donald Trump celebrate?

It’s preposterous. It can’t be true.

— John Hayden