Monday, April 11, 2016

Too much, Bernie

A friend of mine wrote the following letter to Bernie Sanders.

Dear Bernie,

From the very beginning of your campaign, I was a strong supporter. Early on, I made a contribution of $100 to help in the effort. I was impressed by your honesty, your decency and your authenticity. In the first debate, when you told Hillary Clinton that the "American people had had enough of [her] damn emails," I cheered your putting aside political expediency in favor of straight talk. The next day, my wife wrote a letter, which was published in the New York Times, expressing her enthusiasm for the quality of the discourse that was evidenced by the participants in that debate. The contrast with the puerile and undignified Republican debates was overwhelming.

As a registered  Democrat in New York, I had every intention of voting for you next Tuesday. However, the tone you have taken since last week has changed my mind. Despite my admiration for the campaign you had waged up to that point, I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that by attacking Hillary Clinton as "unqualified" and your more recent though milder attacks on Secretary Clinton and her husband, you  risk providing ammunition to the Republican nominee that will result in a great disaster for our nation--a Republican president. 

The shift of my one primary vote from you to Secretary Clinton will go unnoticed. I live, after all, on Manhattan's Upper West Side, where you will prevail in a landslide but you need to hear from a formerly strong supporter that you have gone too far. Your campaign no longer serves your party, your program or your ideas. Your campaign now serves Donald Trump, Ted Cruz or whichever so-called moderate may emerge from a contested convention in Cleveland. 

With sincere regret,
*** 

 I particularly like the line "Your campaign no longer serves your party, your program or your ideas".  This is not a criticism of Sanders' ideas, but of his campaign; I fully concur with this analysis. Actually, both Sanders and Clinton should prefix each debate and public announcement from here on out with a statement that he/she will wholeheartedly support the eventual Democratic nominee, and that either Democratic candidate is totally qualified to be president and is far superior to any possible Republican nominee. Both candidates should limit their debating statements to matters of policy differences, no matter the provocation from the "moderators" or the press.

Readers of this blog know that I have been critical of the Democratic party and its office-holders on many, many occasions. Nevertheless, this election is extremely important -- perhaps historic -- because of what is at stake ... I'm sure I needn't belabor you with an enumeration. While neither Sanders nor Clinton are perfect politicians, the Republican party is so completely deficient in just about every practical and moral way, and its continued dominance of Congress and possible capture of the presidency so terrifying, that we must respect Sanders and Clinton at all times, and continually remind ourselves that defeat of the PTR is and will be more important than either of them as personalities. If only they would remind themselves of this fact more often.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Dems have the wrong strategy on Trump

I have never understood why the Democrats -- esp. Hillary Clinton -- have been expending so much energy denouncing Donald Trump. First of all, he is not even the worst of the Republican candidates (that would be the religious loony and flat-taxer Ted Cruz). Secondly, he has always done worse in national polls against any of the potential Democratic nominees. Finally, why help the Republicans put up a stronger ticket?

It's like the goal of Jiu-Jitsu: let your opponents defeat themselves. If I were a Democratic strategist, I would -- especially now -- help Trump as much a possible (though it may be too late). The best thing that could happen for the Dems is for a severely wounded Trump to get the nomination, just when his popularity and the unity of his party are about to sink beneath the waves.

Can't the Democrats ever get things straight?  Would they rather face phony Kasich (ugh: a "can-do" reactionary) in a general election, or some other phony "moderate" chosen by the Republican leadership? Don't they have the courage to face a no-nothing like Trump in a general election? Or are they still slinking with their tails between their legs from decades of red-baiting? Are they afraid that while they deny being liberal, Trump will somehow outliberal them while claiming to be conservative? You would think that Bernie would have taught them some lessons by now: that populism and even some socialism can win elections again the Party for The Rich. (Gosh, the Rich haven't been this unpopular since Hoover and the Great Depression.)

Democrats: find some way to help The Donald get the Republican nomination!!!  And while you're at it, demand that Hillary and Bernie stop attacking each other (or at least stop attacking each other so much). This ain't about Bernie and Hillary as much as B and H may think...

Thursday, March 31, 2016

It's not Bernie or nothing

I don't think that I have ever agreed 100% with anyone running for office, but Bernie Sanders comes closest. Furthermore, I've disagreed with both Clintons on lots of issues over the many years that they have been in the public eye. In spite of this, and in spite of the fact that I voted for Ralph Nader many years ago, I think it is important to remember that this election should be about stopping any and all candidates from the PTR (Party for The Rich, formerly the "GOP") from winning any office (from Dog Catcher on  up). Those Republicans who are not out and out racists, sexists, etc. are enablers of those who are. Without Republican "moderates" the PTR would not hold majority chairs in the houses of Congress, for example.

And so it is vital that we support whoever the Democratic nominee is, from the position of Dog Catcher on up. Just about everything is at stake. Neither Cruz nor Kasich is one whit better on Women's rights, foreign policy, economic inequality religious freedom, climate change, etc. than Donald Trump.

Today's column by Charles Blow in the NY Times pretty much says it all.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Lee Lorch (1915 - 2014)

Lee Lorch was a mathematician and lifelong fighter for civil rights. He was hounded out of his home and his profession and eventually out of his country. For most of his active life fighting racism, his only organized ally was the Communist Party USA, though he did have a handful of friends and admirers.

He advised some of the first Black and female Ph.D. students in the U.S. before he lost the last of his jobs here.

We met him at several mathematical conferences we attended in the late '60s and '70s where he was organizing for civil rights and against the war in Vietnam. He was living in Canada then, where he was treated well.

You can read his N.Y. Times obit HERE. The extent of the hatred and organized racism -- especially in the corporate and academic world -- it sketches in is absolutely appalling. A more detailed account would probably be too harrowing. The only really positive thing you can say is that he maintained his spirit and toughness, and he outlived most of his enemies to be honored in his later life.

R.I.P.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

The IRS and tax cheats

Michael Kranish has an article in today's Boston Globe entitled:  "IRS is overwhelmed by identity theft fraud" (Globe, 2/16/13). He describes how the IRS seems unable to control the recent flood of cheating by means of filing phony returns and getting fraudulent refunds. One case involved a woman to cheated to the extent of hundreds of thousands of dollars in made-up returns using stolen IDs. She then had the audacity of advertising her success on her Facebook page. 

How can someone stupid enough to advertise on Facebook that she had cheated our country out of lots of money have gotten away with it for so long?

This question is answered by Mr. Kranish himself. In fact, the IRS knows what steps need to taken. Temporarily, no returns should be issued until April 15, when (nearly) everyone has filed. This would give the IRS the opportunity to detect multiple returns (the real one and the identity-theft one) and investigate before issuing a check. In the longer term, the IRS needs to have real-time linking of returns with employer, death roll,  and bank information to detect made-up returns based on identity theft. Finally, there has to be better training of IRS agents and more of them. It is well-known that every dollar appropriated to the IRS returns $7 to U.S. citizens; yet -- and this is the true outrage -- the IRS budget is getting cut each year. (See the IRS reports here, and here ).


The reason that the IRS can't afford to stop fraud is that one of our political parties is anti-government and anti-tax. Major forces guiding Republicans, including the Tea Party, the US Chamber of Commerce, and the "Club for Growth", seek to discredit our government in ways that include making the IRS -- collector of the Peoples' assets -- become ineffectual.

If you don't like tax cheats, don't vote for their enabler, the PTR -- the Party for The Rich, formerly the GOP. (Let's make this new and more descriptive name stick: use it in your letters to the editor and articles.)

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Why I favored Seattle

In general we should root for our home team in sports. But what if our team is eliminated?

We have an elaborate algorithm to determine how we (my wife and I) root; it's unabashedly partisan and sometimes unfair; in general it's North over South (with obvious exceptions for the Northwest gun states),  Coastal over Central, and East over West.

Already, as you can tell from the above, we would be predisposed to favor Seattle (we also have relatives there). In the latest Superbowl, there was something even more compelling. Peyton Manning has been shilling for "Papa John" Schnatter, who famously promised to keep his employees at part-time status (less than 30 hrs/wk) so he wouldn't have to give them healthcare benefits. Here is the story from the horse's mouth so to speak: Forbes ("Capitalist Tool") Magazine:



Hmmm, with a final score of 43 - 8: It couldn't have happened to a nicer shill (unless it was Curt Schilling -- another right-wing jock like Denver Broncos exec John Elway). Not only that, but Papa John's and Applebees have seen a precipitous drop in their "approval ratings" as you can read in the Forbes article.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Pete Seeger Part II

I come from an old left-wing family. My grandparents on my father's side were self-proclaimed "reds" though neither they nor my father nor his brother were actually members of "The Party": the CPUSA. My father especially was too loose a cannon to be allowed into what was, essentially, an organization that was subject to strong ideological discipline. CPUSA, though, was one of the few official organizations, in the first half of the 20th century, to take strong stands for racial equality and for the unity of workers through unions. The Party also favored "folk music" as the "music of the people." All of us -- our family and friends of the family --- had old 78 recordings of Paul Robeson, the Lincoln Brigade (the American contingent in the Spanish Civil War), and Woody Guthrie. (I still own a few, though I can't play them on my audio equipment any more.) At some time a new voice appeared: Pete Seeger.

His first group, the Almanac Singers (with Millard Lampell, Lee Hays and Woody Guthrie) was a bit before my time, but his most famous and extensively recorded group, the Weavers (with Lee Hays, Ronnie Gilbert and Fred Hellerman), was formed in 1943  when I was already alive -- at least technically.  They were a part of my music listening thereafter (and remained so long after they disbanded in 1952 when I was in elementary school). The Weavers and Pete were red-baited off the stage and the airways for most of two decades -- until folk music became popular again in the 60s. (You can read about this history HERE, for example, or in any of the recent obits -- for example, HERE.)

For many years Pete was also a fixture at events that weren't subject to red-baiting: "hootenannies" or singing parties. These events took place frequently in the 50s and 60s in New York where I grew up. Sometimes they were for a particular cause: to pay someone's legal expenses or rent, or to protest some particular outrage (of which, of course, there were many). They often were at seedy auditoriums downtown. My relatives took me to a bunch of these when I was pretty little. I still remember Pete saying, at one "hoot", that he appreciated the turnout, since everyone there was in danger of coming in contact with [mock terror]: "Communists..."  He would sing the songs we all knew and loved: "Which Side Are You On", "The Reuben James", oldies like "Joe Hill", and satires like the Wobbly versions of "Casey Jones." and "Long-haired Preachers"; "Talking Union" in a more didactic tone. We all sang  on the choruses -- even I did, in my little kid's off-key voice, since I had heard most of  the songs around the house, sung in my father's grown-up off-key voice. I was taken to hoots, more than a few times, by my father's cousins, who were  real card-carrying Commies (and possibly spies even). Pete's voice, and banjo (and occasional guitar and recorder) were distinctive, and he always -- always -- could get people to sing along with him. He'd teach the words, melody and even harmony, on the spot, and as he was singing. He had the timing down perfectly to anticipate the cues and musical reminders, and he always could get you worked up about the meaning and importance of what he was singing about.

Pete and his songs were as much a part of my life as anything I did in school. I knew very little about him at the time -- his personal and political history I picked up later. By the time I was hearing him he had already severed his official connections with CPUSA (I don't remember exactly what they were); of course, he never severed his ties to the ideals which had brought him (and my relatives) to the Party in the early and middle years of last century. Stalin and the Soviet Union which he created, when their true nature was revealed, were impossible to accommodate (except by my father's parents, but that's another story). Pete renounced the CPUSA, but remained, as he put it, a "small c communist".

Part III next time...