Working Life Jonathan Tasini's Ruminations on Work, The Economy, and Politics Sat, 29 Aug 2015 15:23:04 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Bernie And O’Malley Should JOINTLY Stand AT DNC, With The People, To Demand More Debates Sat, 29 Aug 2015 15:16:28 +0000

A common theme at Friday’s DNC meeting was the clear intention by the Democratic Party elite–principally, the chair of the party, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, to prevent much debate during the primaries. This is a pretty obvious tactic to prevent the “presumed front-runner” from having to answer many questions along the way and prevent the voters from having maximum ability to decide between the candidates.

Martin O’Malley made that point very well. So, did Bernie. Now, a small idea: they should stand together (include Lincoln Chafee, why not?) in front of the Democratic National Committee HQ, with throngs of their supporters, and demand that the party elite stop shutting down the process of discussion.


In the fiercest speech of his candidacy so far, Mr. O’Malley condemned his party’s leadership for curtailing the number of primary debates to six and scheduling them at times when few people would see them. (He went even further in a news conference afterward when asked if the party had “rigged” the debate calendar to benefit Mrs. Clinton and lower the visibility of her rivals. “Yes, I think so,” he replied. “Don’t you?”)Mr. O’Malley’s repeated demand for more debates drew standing ovations from the audience and scowls from the party chairwoman, Representative Debbie Wasserman Schultz of Florida, seated a few feet away.

And Bernie:

“In my view, Democrats will not retain the White House, will not regain the Senate or the U.S. House, will not be successful in dozens of governor races across the country, unless we generate excitement and momentum and produce a huge voter turnout,” he said. “With all due respect — and I do not mean to insult anyone here — that turnout, that enthusiasm, will not happen with politics as usual.”[emphasis added]

“Politics as usual” is refusing to have an open, broad process. No one doubts that the sole reason more debates are not scheduled is because the chair of the party is doing the bidding of the “presumed front-runner”. Everyone knows it–the elites know it, the voters know it.

This has been a pretty typical standard operating procedure of the presumed front-runner…and I understand the problem, as I said to a reporter at the Netroots Nation party in 2014 (though I thought we were just having a beer not thinking Dave Wiegel would actually quote me): ““Whenever [Hillary] opens her mouth, there’s enough people who say: ‘I just don’t believe her.’ ”

That’s the presumed “front-runner’s” problem.

Bernie has no fear of debates–and I suspect he would be perfectly fine with many more debates if he was the “presumed front-runner”. He is not in the position of having to be careful about what he says, trying to remember what his new positions are and what the best poll-tested lines are. His views are etched deep in his soul because he’s held them for decades.

He’s not worried about gaffes or being exposed to voters.

The presumed front-runner is hiding. Every moment is a moment where the campaign risks a “I’m dead broke” statement. It is a sign of weakness, not strength, to run from debates.

And it doesn’t do much to energize voters, as Bernie pointed out.

Bernie and O’Malley should join forces on this issue.

Stand together at the DNC and say: what is the  party afraid of?

I’d go to a rally like this.

Would you?

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Unions And Workers Get Big Hug From NLRB–& Why It Matters Who Is POTUS Thu, 27 Aug 2015 20:59:13 +0000

One of the great tactics used by companies to rip off workers–and there are many–is to pretend like the Big Dog at the top (say, McDonald’s) doesn’t actually directly employ workers who labor down in the distributed workplaces that clearly have a relationship–through franchises, in particular, in the fast food industry–with the Big Dog.

It’s one of those scams. And the National Labor Relations Board is using logic to correct this scam.


The National Labor Relations Board on Thursday handed down one of the biggest decisions of the Obama presidency, ruling that companies can be held equally responsible for labor violations committed by their contractors.
At issue is whether waste management firm Browning-Ferris is responsible for the treatment of its contractor’s employees. The Houston-based company hired Leadpoint Business Services to staff a recycling facility in California.The labor board determined Browning-Ferris should be considered a joint employer with the Phoenix-based staffing agency. As a result, the company could be pulled into collective bargaining negotiations with those employees and held liable for any labor violations committed against them.

This is a sharp departure from previous labor laws that hold companies responsible only for employees who are under their direct control by setting their hours, wages, or job responsibilities. Companies could avoid those requirements by hiring staffing agencies and subcontractors that deal more closely with the workers.

But the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) charted a new course Thursday. A regional director initially ruled in favor of Browning-Ferris, but the Teamsters union, which represents the workers, appealed the case to the national board.

It’s the latest in a string of major victories for labor groups under President Obama’s administration, which has already issued several sweeping executive actions on worker protections and wages.

The Democratic-controlled NLRB — which has a recent history of ruling against businesses — has also taken steps to make it easier for employees to unionize.

The NYT:

“The decision today could be one of the more significant by the N.L.R.B. in the last 35 years,” said Marshall Babson, a lawyer who helped write the brief for the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in the case and who was a Democratic appointee to the labor board in Ronald Reagan’s presidency. “ Depending on how the board applies its new ‘indirect test,’ it will likely ensnare an ever-widening circle of employers and bargaining relationships.”Beyond Browning-Ferris, the ruling may have a significant immediate effect on a case the labor board is litigating against McDonald’s and several of its franchisees. In that case, the N.L.R.B.’s general counsel, who essentially acts as a prosecutor, asserts that the company is a joint employer along with a number of franchisees, making it potentially liable for numerous reported violations of workers’ rights, like retaliating against those who have tried to organize unions.

Thursday’s N.L.R.B. ruling, by enshrining a broader joint-employer definition into doctrine, makes it more likely to apply in the McDonald’s case as well, though experts point out that joint employer designations are typically very dependent on the circumstances of each case.

At some point it’s worth discussing whether, and how, unions can take advantage of this ruling.

But, for today: I have a lot of sympathy for the emotional view that there is no difference between the two main political parties. And, in many respects, that is true.

However, in day-to-day things like this, it does matter–because this ruling could mean a lot more people get the protection of a union at work, which means they get probably a slightly better standard of living and a little less stress in life.

That matters.

And that doesn’t happen without someone in the White House who will appoint a chairperson of the National Labor Relations Board who believes unions are good things and workers deserve a fair shake.

That won’t happen under a Republican.

Yes, it’s complicated. I think, though, that it’s possible to walk in a world with two ideas that might seem contradictory–we want to upend the political system AND we want to make sure that, in the short term, until the political system is changed, people have a better life.

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Bernie Gives Back Thousands, Shows Movement-Building Honesty, While Larry Lessig Goes Off Deep End Wed, 26 Aug 2015 15:40:39 +0000 This is a two-part observation about corruption in politics and two people I have deeply respected for many years–one of whom I think has gone off the deep end.

A true testament of whether a person running for office is really about what he or she says or is just blowing smoke to get elected comes when dollar bills get waved underneath their noses. At that moment, most candidates crumble–and I don’t mean they do something against the law.

It is that they twist themselves into the most amazing rhetorical binds, making the most laughable justifications for taking money from questionable sources–“questionable” meaning do they not think that those people donating want something in return? Whether that’s people on Wall Street, corporate raiders/bankers/oligarchs donating to private foundations or similar sludge?

Not Bernie. Bernie is campaigning resolutely against the billionaires and the corruption of money in politics. He could have said, “you know what, I’ll set up a SuperPAC because I’m a good guy, I’m ethical and when I get into office I’ll change the system”–and everyone in the political system would have given him a pass, and said, “right, you can’t unilaterally disarm”.

Not Bernie:

Donna Mae Litowitz, a Miami Beach retiree, likes Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont so much that three months ago she sent his presidential campaign $10,000. His campaign sent back all but $2,700 because it was more than he was allowed to take under federal election law, but she wishes he had kept it all.“I like what Sanders stands for, and he says what needs to be said,” said Ms. Litowitz, who gave money in 2008 to Senator Barack Obama’s presidential campaign. “And I don’t like Hillary Clinton.”

In an election dominated by million-dollar donations to “super PACs,” Ms. Litowitz qualifies in Mr. Sanders’s insurgent campaign as a big donor. Unlike almost all of the other major Democratic and Republican candidates this year, Mr. Sanders has refused to accept support from super PACs, relying instead on supporters like Ms. Litowitz as well as tens of thousands of small donors giving as little as $5 or $10.

The average donation, according to campaign officials, is $31.30.[emphasis added]


While direct comparisons are difficult at this early stage in the 2016 race, Mr. Sanders’s small-dollar support appears significantly higher than Mr. Obama’s in 2008, and more than any other candidate this cycle.

Mr. Sanders has raised more money in gifts of $200 or less than any candidate, Democrat or Republican, an analysis of campaign finance reports shows. A huge chunk of his money — $11.4 million, or about 75 percent of all his contributions — has come from small donations routed through ActBlue, an online site that facilitates contributions to Democrats, records show.The influx of support has helped Mr. Sanders build a formidable war chest, with his campaign raising $15.2 million as of the most recent filings with the Federal Election Commission in July. Campaign officials say he has raised millions more since then and will far surpass that total this quarter. That still puts him far behind Mrs. Clinton’s fund-raising juggernaut, but Mr. Sanders said in an interview that he was unbowed.

“We will be greatly outspent, yes, but we will raise enough money to wage a winning campaign,” he said.

Democratic strategists are beginning to take notice.

“His money is very impressive,” said Bill Burton, a former aide to Mr. Obama who helped found Priorities USA, a super PAC that is now supporting Mrs. Clinton’s bid for the Democratic nomination and has received donations of at least $1 million each from a number of big Democratic donors like Steven Spielberg, Jeffrey Katzenberg, George Soros and Haim Saban.[emphasis added]

The point is: the people believe the system is entirely corrupt and that only people with money matter and, as important, no matter what a politician says in a campaign, once she or he is elected, it doesn’t matter–the big donors are all that matter.

Bernie is basically saying no, that isn’t me.

And, then, there’s Larry Lessig.

I’ve known Larry for about 15 years. I knew him much better and was in regular conversation when we had two different cases on copyright issues headed for the Supreme Court. His case, Eldred v Ashcroft, challenged the constitutionality of the copyright extension act. As a person who believes in authors’ rights, I supported Lessig’s view for many reasons (I don’t want to digress on this topic too much–but briefly, I think (a) the public’s right to information and knowledge deserves equal weight over copyright protections and (b) most copyright laws benefit big corporations, not individual authors, and this is an issue where authors have to organize unions and exercise collective bargaining power). People criticized Larry for taking this particular case on. But, I respected his moxie and passion.

Then, Larry, who could have rode his prominence in the copyright world for the rest of his career and sat safely in academia and be paid quite well, gave it all up to dive into the question of the corruption of politics by big money; he did that partly because of how he saw all copyright legislation being warped by big money. Again, I respected that decision as well.

He, then, raised $10 million in the 2014 cycle for his so-called MayDay PAC, with an aim to use big money to elect people who would end the system. It failed, some argued, if one looks at the results. Again, I don’t want to spend too much time on this effort–personally, I shrugged and wondered, at the time, whether it would be effective but I don’t begrudge people who want to take chances and try to be against-the-grain innovative.

But, Larry has now gone too far, in my opinion. When I learned recently that he was considering running for president because he wasn’t pleased enough by Bernie Sanders’ view on ending the corruption of money in politics–as if making the repeal of Citizens United and forgoing any use of SuperPACs wasn’t enough, among other things Bernie advocates–I wrote to him privately and on his website.

Basically, I said, no, Larry, this is absurd. Every dollar you raise and every minute you occupy attention is a dollar and moment you take away from Bernie’s efforts–and if you can’t see that this is likely the one option in the near future to clean up the corrupt system (and, as I’ve said in every instance, Bernie faces a steep hill even without such distractions), then, no, you’ve gone too far.

I said this mostly privately and in a low key way. But, enough is enough:

“Donald Trump is the biggest gift to the movement for reform since the Supreme Court gave us Citizens United,” said Lessig in a recent interview, referring to the court decision that riled up liberals by granting essentially unlimited campaign contributions from corporate entities. “What he’s saying is absolutely correct, the absolute truth. He has pulled back the curtain.”


So enamored are some reformers with Trump’s truth-telling invective that Lessig, who announced this month that he is considering a run for president to highlight the issue, told POLITICO Magazine he would not rule out a third party run with Trump should the opportunity arise. (A spokesperson for Trump could not be reached for comment.)“I’ll make a promise,” Lessig later added. “If Trump said he was going to do one thing and fix this corrupted system, then go back to his life as an entertainment figure, I absolutely would link up with Donald Trump.”[emphasis added]

This is blindness of the worst kind (and, knowing Larry, he’ll think, “no, you don’t see the truth”). Donald Trump is a liar, a psychopathic, abusive, dangerous man. He is stirring up the most hateful elements in our society, targeting millions of people, he has an entirely hateful view of women and their roles. Essentially, Trump is only respectful of one kind of person: the kind that bows down to Trump and accepts his rule.

To be sure, money in politics is corruption.

But, corrupting the soul, corrupting and poisoning the entire social fabric is the end result of Trump’s “message”. What kind of country will be left, purified of billionaire money and influence-peddling (if, you, Larry, get your dream candidate elected and he, in fact, banishes money from Washington…good luck with seeing that promise through) if millions of people are under attack and, as an aside, in the world, we are treated as a laughingstock (as if that isn’t already the case) when we elect a guy who will treat the Lincoln Bedroom like the Playboy mansion–not to mention someone who would on any given Monday be insulted by some world leader and, for the heck of it, on Tuesday send in the Marines to teach a lesson?

Larry, you’ve gone over the deep end. Pull yourself back before it’s too late.

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Dear Joe: We’re Happy With Bernie Tue, 25 Aug 2015 14:51:06 +0000

There’s been a lot of Joe Biden news–will he run?–and one of the things that has been clear to me is that a significant part of the conversation is being driven by elite, traditional media and the insiders of the Democratic Party who (a) are petrified–in the latter’s case–that the “presumed front-runner”, if she is the nominee, will lose the White House (and potentially open the door to 1-3 more right-wing Supreme Court nominees and (b) are petrified–in both cases–that Bernie’s movement is going to leave them outside the money trough they all suck off.

A question: would Biden drain Bernie’s support? Nah.

Here’s a decent take on that:

Unlike Warren or Bernie Sanders, the Vermont progressive who’s assumed the support of many Warren backers, Biden is a pillar of the Democratic establishment, vice president in an administration that many progressives consider too centrist.That puts him in roughly the same position as Hillary Clinton: liberal on many issues, but a traditional party loyalist at the end of the day.


Still, it’s not like the Warren acolytes have been sitting around waiting for a new leader. The vast majority have already signed up with Sanders, from the more casual to the top professional political leaders: Kurt Ehrenberg, the Run Warren Run point person in New Hampshire, and Blair Lawton, the point person in Iowa, are both now working for Sanders.

And I think Charles Chamberlain, president of Democracy for America, is right:

At the end of the day, Chamberlain added, “I think it’s pretty unlikely that you’ll see a lot of switching from people who support Bernie Sanders to support Joe Biden.”


John Colombo, the Franklin County Iowa Democratic Party Chair who signed a letter in May urging Warren to run, and who remains without a candidate in the primary, said he’d like to see Biden enter the fray. That doesn’t mean, though, that he or any of the other pro-Warren people will get behind him — even if she endorsed him.“A lot of the infrastructure that was in the Run Warren Run campaign is going to the Sanders campaign, I don’t think they’d abandon that. But I could see Hillary supporters switching over,” Colombo said. “I don’t think endorsements do the trick here in Iowa. People just don’t care.”

There’s also the chance that a Warren endorsement could backfire — for Biden, and for herself.

“Frankly I think you’d have a ton of very angry Bernie Sanders supporters in the state, and you’d have a lot of rather confused and upset Clinton supporters, too,” said David Watters, a New Hampshire state senator from Dover who signed a letter in March urging Warren to run, but who is now with Clinton. “If Warren wanted to have her hand in the presidential race she should have run herself.”

This is one of those clear examples where personality blinds some to the reality of policy and values.

I don’t doubt Joe Biden is a nice guy, the “Everyman” who was just “Joe” on his daily rides home on Amtrak to be with his family every night when he served in the Senate. By the way, I don’t doubt that Hillary Clinton is nice to her family and a great grandmother.

That’s not the point.

Biden is the establishment. He has been a long-time defender of the credit card industry–and he led the campaign to pass a bankruptcy bill that protected credit card companies and hurt millions of regular working Americans. And, respectfully, Clarence Thomas sits on the Supreme Court thanks to Biden (for those who have forgotten Biden ceding the gavel essentially and telling Thomas, “You have the benefit of the doubt, Judge” when Republicans were smearing Anita Hill, see here)–and that has hurt millions of people and set back the nation on civil rights, workers rights and just plain sanity.

Bernie represents a movement. A revolution.

So, Joe, by all means, enter the race. But, we’re very happy with our candidate.

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The Stock Market Plunge: Why Bernie’s Plan For Social Security Rocks & Why Mass Unionization Rocks Mon, 24 Aug 2015 16:35:02 +0000

Trillions of dollars lost, pensions ravaged, retired people who can’t pay to stay in retirement homes, peoples’ futures wrecked…that was so financial crisis days, huh?

But, if there is ever a moment to remember what a very stupid idea privatizing Social Security is, and why Bernie Sanders’ plan to expand and strengthen Social Security is so important, this is it. A teachable moment.

Bet most people are checking this out:

Stocks in the United States tumbled on Monday morning as another sell-off that started in China roiled markets around the world.Immediately after the opening bell in New York, the Dow Jones industrial average dropped more than 1,000 points, or more than 5 percent — one of the most precipitous such plunges in recent years. Within an hour, though, American stocks had made up much of their earlier losses and the Dow was down about 2 percent.

So, as if we should have learned this before, one reason people are worried about the stock market crash is because REAL PENSIONS barely exist anymore. Retirement “security”–and I use “security” quite loosely–is too often dependent on the money sitting in a phony “pension”…which is what I believe an IRA is.

REAL PENSIONS are those that actually guarantee a retired person a modicum of dignity and respect because they provide a reliable, steady income–not income based on whether some fuck on Wall Street wants to gamble with an old person’s money, and whether some mutual fund wants to drain an account with outrageous fees.

In the old days, when unions were strong, people got a real pension–meaning, a defined BENEFIT which was negotiated through collective bargaining. This wasn’t a gift. It was deferred earnings. Workers, and their unions, were smart enough, and willing enough, to put off pocketing some money today with the promise that decades later the money could be used for retirement (a topic for another day: how companies raided and/or mishandled those defined benefit funds).

So, that’s one reason why we need mass unionization–to get back to the days when people could depend on a real pension, not pray and hope that, in the years they happen to retire and need the money, the market is on some wild ride.

And, that’s why Social Security privatization is such a horrendous deal–putting retirement savings in the hands of people that just don’t give a fuck about anyone else.

And why, given the decline of defined benefit pensions, we should be talking about expanding Social Security and strengthening it. As Bernie Sanders has:

As boxes of petitions signed by 2 million Americans were hauled into the Capitol today, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) introduced legislation to expand benefits and strengthen the retirement program for generations to come.The Social Security Expansion Act was filed on the same day Sanders and other senators received the petitions gathered by the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare.

“Social Security is the most successful government program in our nation’s history. Through good times and bad, Social Security has paid out every benefit owed to every eligible American,” Sanders said. “The most effective way to strengthen Social Security for the future is to eliminate the cap on the payroll tax on all income above $250,000 so millionaires and billionaires pay the same share as everyone else.”

Sanders’ measure would make the wealthiest Americans pay their fair share.  Under current law, the amount of income subject to the payroll tax is capped at $118,500. That means someone making millions of dollars a year pays the same amount in payroll taxes as some making $118,500 a year. The legislation would subject all income over $250,000 to the payroll tax.  Doing so would impact only the top 1.5 percent of wage earners, the Center for Economic Policy Research has estimated.

The bill also would subject unearned household income above $250,000 to the same 6.2 percent tax as applies to most earned income. The top 0.1 percent of Americans  gets about half of all capital gains income.

Asking the wealthiest Americans to contribute more into Social Security, would not only extend the solvency of Social Security through 2060, it also would allow Social Security benefits to be expanded for millions of Americans.

“At a time when over half of the American people have less than $10,000 in savings and senior poverty is increasing, we should not be talking about cutting Social Security benefits.  We should be talking about expanding benefits to make sure that every American can retire with dignity,” the senator said.

The bill would:

Increase Social Security benefits by about $65 a month for most recipients.
Increase cost-of-living Adjustments for Social Security recipients.
Provide a minimum Social Security benefit to significantly reduce the senior poverty rate.

Social Security today has a $2.8 trillion surplus and will be able to pay all promised benefits until 2033, after which it will be able to pay around 75 percent of all promised benefits.  The Social Security Expansion Act would increase revenue and extend the solvency of Social Security for the next 45 years.

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How Bernie Builds These Big Rallies Wed, 19 Aug 2015 12:49:04 +0000 It can’t be earned by top-heavy, message-controlled campaigns based in, say, Brooklyn…this is interesting and is a good lesson for anyone wanting to plug in or spread the word on plugging in.

The sauce is not top secret:

“They’ve reversed the normal political formula” in which professional staffers take the lead and pound the phone to drum up crowds, said Chip Evans, a liberal radio host and former chairman of the Washoe County Democratic Party, who watched the event take shape and said he was struck by the extent to which it had been organized by local amateurs.Now, the campaign is working to whip all those energized supporters into a political machine that can deliver votes and send Democrats in Iowa and New Hampshire a message that, in the words of senior adviser Tad Devine, “there’s something big happening across the country and they can be a part of it.”

To that end, the campaign is adding data specialists to its staff and more racially diverse faces to its speaking rosters. And it is refining methods of gathering data on attendees and converting them into volunteers.

But in an age of advanced analytics and micro-targeting, the campaign’s process of throwing rallies remains a relatively simple one (the event staff has even settled on pen, paper and clipboard for gathering information from supporters, having found them easier for many attendees to use, and cheaper, than tablets or laptops).

It begins with selecting rally locations, often based simply on the number of supporters the campaign has on its email list in a given city.

“There’s actually no secret sauce” to the turnout, said digital director Kenneth Pennington.


When a location is determined, staffers often simply turn to Google to find an appropriate venue by searching for coverage of large political rallies held in that area in recent years.The campaign takes the basic steps of sending an email to local supporters, issuing a press release, creating a Facebook event, and posting a notification on Sanders’ Facebook page, which has more than one million followers.

According to field director Phil Fiermonte, it does little else to promote turnout. “We have not spent any advertising dollars on these events,” he said. “It’s not like we have lots of staff on the ground making phone calls.”

Instead, it’s left to Sanders’ largely self-organized grassroots support to deliver the crowds.

One unexpected source of bodies has been the Bernie Sanders for President page on Reddit — the message-board-style online social network that is not often associated with political organizing. The page is administered by Vermont-based Sanders admirer and winery employee Aidan King, 23, along with a fellow supporter he met online.

As the rallies became a focal point of the campaign, King added a sidebar to the Reddit page with an event schedule. “At first it didn’t even dawn on us how important it would be to get the word out,” he said.

King first glimpsed the power of the Sanders Reddit page — which has 90,000 subscribers — to drive turnout ahead of an early July rally in Madison, Wisconsin, that drew 10,000 people.

And lastly:

About one in five Sanders event attendees checks the box to become a volunteer when they RSVP, according to Pennington.“As the campaign moves on, we hope to increasingly convert those event attendees into real actors who can secure votes for the campaign,” he said.

As part of that effort, the campaign put a twist on its massive rally formula with a nationwide network of organizing parties on July 29, with remarks made by Sanders from a Washington, D.C., apartment simulcast to 3,500 events across the country. Over 100,000 people RSVP’d for the events and the campaign deployed a new tactic, asking attendees to text “work” to its organizing number. Texters received a link to a page where they could fill out a detailed form about their level of commitment to volunteering and the types of work they’d like to perform.

39,000 people texted the number and filled out the form, according to Pennington.

The campaign is also adjusting its rally messaging to reach a broader swathe of the Democratic electorate.

Sanders’ rhetoric has been remarkably consistent for decades, and on Tuesday night he hit on his standard themes of inequality, access to health care, and the power of “the billionaire class.”

But the messaging has evolved in recent weeks in the wake of disruptions at Sanders events by Black Lives Matter protestors and as observers point out that the senator’s support is concentrated among white primary voters.[emphasis added]

The point here is two-fold. First, there’s some real infrastructure building that is happening in many places, in particularly a huge base of small donors.

Second, though as I for one have said repeatedly Bernie has a steep hill to climb trying to match the network the Clintons have built over the years through buying favors, the energy seen in rallies isn’t just a cotton-candy sugar-high that dissipates quickly. It’s slow movement building, a lot of it not being picked up by the political elite class.

Will it be enough? Who knows? But, damn, I’d take that inspiration and authenticity any day over Chipotle-stop PR-driven campaigns.

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Politico: “Bernie kicking into overdrive”…”looking more like the real deal” Sat, 15 Aug 2015 14:44:16 +0000 Now, maybe The New York Times can catch up…


After a poll this week showed the previously unthinkable — the 73-year-old Independent senator from Vermont surging past Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire — there’s a feeling that the Bernie Sanders operation is maturing from a quixotic pursuit for the White House into the real deal.Sanders’ campaign is calling the Franklin Pierce University and the Boston Herald poll, which found Sanders beating Clinton 44 percent to 37 percent in the Granite State, an “astonishing” feat. It gives even more fuel to a momentum that the Sanders team is riding to significantly expand its ground game, especially in New Hampshire.

The campaign has already outgrown its modest office on Manchester Road in Concord, and will be moving the state headquarters to Manchester in the coming days. Over the next three weeks, aides will be scouting out more real estate to open field offices across the state to add to the 10 currently set up. Another six or seven open on Monday.

As for manpower, a handful of staff are starting in New Hampshire on Monday, and a week after, another new crew is starting.

“And then in the next month, our staff size is going to really bloom,” said Julia Barnes, Sanders’ New Hampshire state director, in an interview with POLITICO on Friday at her desk in front of a stack of resumes.

To be clear, as I have said from the outset, Bernie has a huge big hill to climb–he has started late, in relative terms, for a presidential campaign and he does not have 30-years of a history of buying the loyalty of political operatives in every state with favors, political appointments and political spoils.

But, he’s changed big parts of the campaign conversation–let’s see, his weeks-ago free college- education for all to be paid for my a financial transaction tax on Wall Street forced the Clinton campaign to come up with its own–far weaker–proposal–is a feature of the “Bernie proposes and then we hear, “Me, too, me, too” campaign season.

But, this is true:

“What this says to me is there’s a lot of fluidity in the race. And it’s going to be a long haul,” Jay Surdukowski, who has served as legal counsel for New Hampshire Gov. Maggie Hassan and is giving legal advice to former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley as he runs for president.

This is clearly part of the dynamic that is playing into Joe Biden’s mulling of a race, despite the fact that he’d be getting into the race pretty late.

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Scott Walker-Hillary Clinton Rich Donors Share Something: Lapping Up Corporate Welfare Thu, 13 Aug 2015 12:55:54 +0000

You could find many instances like these if you do a little comparison between rich donors: there is virtually no shame, nor any hesitancy, by wealthy donors who fund just about every presidential candidate–with the exception of Bernie Sanders (though, by all means, prove me wrong on Sanders)–to put their hands in the pockets of taxpayers for their own wealth and enrichment.

Follow the bouncing ball…

Today’s example comes on an issue that drives me crazy–the loss of billions of dollars in badly-needed money to build sports arenas for the owners of sports teams who are very rich people. And, for the record, I am a devoted sports fan. There is nothing wrong with good, competitive, relatively non-violent sports.

But, I hate that these rich fucks come with their hands out and demand subsidies to build ever more lavish stadiums and, then, raise prices for the average fan in these new homages to their egos.

Scott Walker–you know, the conservative–just threw away more millions on a sports arena:

Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin approved $250 million in public financing for a new arena for the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team on Wednesday, a deal exposing him to charges of corporate welfare as he seeks the Republican nomination as a fiscal conservative.Mr. Walker praised the deal, passed with bipartisan support in the Legislature, as a sound investment that will return $3 in state taxes for every $1 invested.

The owners of the National Basketball Association team, who include hedge fund managers in New York and a top fund-raiser for Mr. Walker’s presidential campaign, had threatened to leave the state without public funding for a new stadium.

So, just for the record, most of these bullshit numbers about return on investments are bullshit, and no less bullshit than all the other phony studies you read that claim “multiplier” effects on bad trade deals or tax giveaways. And, from my point of view, you want to leave–fine, go…someone else will buy franchises that are mostly escalating in value, regardless of whether there is a palace attached.

But, here’s the beauty of it all:

The Bucks owners said a new arena, needed to attract fans, would cost $500 million. Former Senator Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, a Democrat who was the team’s previous owner, agreed to contribute $100 million. The new owners, led by Wesley Edens and Marc Lasry, who run hedge funds in New York, will pay $150 million. Taxpayers will kick in $250 million.

Some Republicans objected to Mr. Walker’s embrace of a deal that would benefit Mr. Lasry, who is a major fund-raiser for Hillary Rodham Clinton, and who once employed Chelsea Clinton at his firm, Avenue Capital.A minority owner of the team, Jon Hammes, is a longtime supporter of Mr. Walker’s and now serves as a finance chairman for his presidential bid. A company registered to one of his family members donated $150,000 in May to a “super PAC” supporting Mr. Walker.[emphasis added]

So, you see, when it comes to fleecing taxpayers, there is a bi-partisan love-fest. And if you think much will change for hedge fund managers when it comes down to it after the 2016 election–despite the fraudulent rhetoric from the Democratic “front-runner” (though not perhaps much of a “front-runner” in New Hampshire)–you just aren’t paying attention to the record.

Walker’s funder, Hammes, and Clinton’s funder Lasry do not hesitate for a moment to take our money to enrich themselves. And if anyone doubts that they–and the other underwriters of virtually every campaign but the Sanders campaign–are not going to continue to pervert a tax system that benefits the elites, by calling in chits post-election, you are living in a fantasy world. This is a very concrete example of how campaign contributions buy access and, thus, buy policy.

There are, by the way, options to this fleecing. My good friend David Morris, for many years, has pointed out that community-owned sports teams can do quite well:

The Green Bay Packers, one of the NFL’s best teams of the 1960s, and increasingly of the 1990s, are owned by their fans. Football champions in 1929, 1930, and 1931, Super Bowl I, II, and XXX champions, the Packers were incorporated in 1923 as a private, non-profit, tax-exempt organization. Article I of their bylaws states, “this association shall be a community project, intended to promote community welfare…its purposes shall be exclusively charitable.” The team can move only through dissolution, in which case the shareholders get only the $25 a share they put in. A board of directors, elected by the stockholders, manages the team.This non-profit status has been threatened only once, in 1949. The Packers needed to raise more than$100,000 to avoid insolvency. Co-founder Curly Lambeau, coach since 1919, member of the board of directors, and current stadium namesake, found four men willing to invest $50,000 each if the team would become a profit-making venture. The board refused, instead choosing to authorize 10,000 shares of common stock at $25 a piece, 4,628 of which were issued. To insure that not one individual or company had too much control, the maximum number of shares per shareholder was set at 200. Instead of four owners, the team now had over 4,000. Lambeau resigned.

Theloyalty of these fans and owners is legendary. Games at Lambeau Field have been sold out for over thirty consecutive seasons. Streets are literally deserted for three hours on autumn Sunday afternoons. The waiting list for season tickets is 36,000 names long, for seats in a stadium that holds 60,000. It is common for season tickets to be willed from one generation to the next and to be hotly contested in divorce proceedings.

The bond between team and city that has been fostered through nearly fifty years of community ownership is also unique in professional sports. During training camp tradition dictates that all players -including 300 pound lineman-ride local children’s bikes to practice. Through this process players often foster friendships with individual kids throughout the preseason.

GreenBay’s metropolitan area is home to fewer than 200,000 people, yet the Packers rank in the top 20% of all professional teams in terms of franchise value. As player salaries have continued to escalate, however, the shareholders in late 1997 decided that more revenue needed to be raised for the team to remain competitive into the future. The 10,000 shares issued in 1950 were split into 10 million shares, 400,000 of which were made available to the public at $200 a piece.

He wrote that in 2009 but it is still true. The Give Fans A Chance Act, introduced by Rep. Earl Blumenauer would severely would, “forbid leagues from prohibiting community ownership. If a professional sports league ignores this provision, it will lose its sports broadcast antitrust exemption. This exemption allows teams to collaborate to sell their broadcast rights, thus increasing their value dramatically (to the tune of $17 billion over four years for the NFL).”

The problem is that community sports teams would not benefit the rich elites that fund people like Walker and Clinton. And, so, it’s going to be a long slog to stop this particular fleecing of taxpayers on behalf of the wealthy.

BUY: The Essential Bernie Sanders and His Vision For America

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Manslaughter Indictment For Killer Of Carlos Moncayo. Now We’re Talking #WorkersLivesMatter Thu, 06 Aug 2015 14:43:24 +0000

Every day, a worker dies somewhere just doing his or her job. And that death rate hits hard particularly communities of color and immigrants because many work in industries and jobs with low pay and very sketchy safety practices.

This is murder at work, the human “cost of doing business” in the glorious “free market”–except there is very little cost to the company. And usually the managers and CEOs skate, getting a fine or some other slap-on-the-wrist.

Those who wear the burden are the family members of the murdered worker.

In this sea of injustice, a glimmer of justice beckons from New York.

Kudos to the Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance who is seeking justice for Carlos Moncayo:

With construction-related deaths and injuries on the rise, prosecutors announced on Wednesday that manslaughter and other charges were being brought against two construction managers and the companies they worked for in the April death of a worker at a Lower Manhattan building site.The worker who died, Carlos Moncayo, 22, an Ecuadorean immigrant who lived in Queens, was crushed by thousands of pounds of dirt when the walls of a site in the meatpacking district, steps from the High Line, collapsed around him on April 6.

Prosecutors said on Wednesday that the two managers — Wilmer Cueva, of Sky Materials, and Alfonso Prestia, of Harco Construction — had ignored repeated warnings for months from private inspectors that treacherous conditions existed at the site on Ninth Avenue.

City and federal regulations require that any excavations deeper than five feet must be shored up to prevent the walls from caving in. But in this case, at a site where a Restoration Hardware store will occupy the former home of the restaurant Pastis, the trenches went as deep as 14 feet and lacked any fortification, according to prosecutors, citing emails and other evidence.

On the morning Mr. Moncayo died, prosecutors said, another private inspector noticed a seven-foot-deep trench, and alerted Mr. Prestia, who was inside a trailer at street level and unable to see inside the pit. The inspector also notified Mr. Cueva, who was at the site, supervising work. But Mr. Cueva did not do anything initially, prosecutors said. Nor did Mr. Prestia.

By the time the pit reached about 13 feet, two hours later, Mr. Prestia told the workers, in English, to get out. But the workers, who spoke mainly Spanish, did not. Not long afterward, the walls collapsed, crushing Mr. Moncayo.[emphasis added]

So, we understand that the deaths of workers all across the nation does not usually happen in huge numbers all at once (an exception would be the 28 coal miners killed in 2010 at the Upper Big Branch mine in West Virginia, for which Don Blankenship will go on trial this Fall). Mostly, workers die alone or in small numbers so the drip-drip-drip of murder is not seen.

It’s a product of two things. We have a shitty safety and health system. It’s partly because of the decline in unions because, truthfully, having a union at work is your only real protection against abuse and threats to your safety and health. And that’s largely because the safety and health regulatory system is piss poor.

Today, the OSHA budget is just $552 million–and federal enforcement is only $208 million–that’s under a DEMOCRATIC Administration. So, the AFL-CIO found in its annual report:


At its current staffing and inspection levels, it would take federal OSHA, on average, 140 years to inspect each workplace under its jurisdiction just once. In 10 states (Arkansas, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Nebraska, South Dakota, Texas and West Virginia), it would take 150 years or more for OSHA to pay a single visit to each workplace. In 28 states, it would take between 100 and 149 years to visit each workplace once. Inspection frequency generally is better in states with OSHA-approved plans, yet still is far from satisfactory. In these states, it now would take the state OSHA plans a combined 91years to inspect each worksite under state jurisdiction once.[emphasis added]

And, then, you add to that the legal regime that makes it virtually impossible to charge managers and CEOs with felonies and put them behind bars.

I’ve made this point about the Wall Street thieves but it’s basically true about all criminality at the CEO level: we need to jail these people, take away their freedoms, take away their limos, their fine wines, their jets and their huge pay and give them hard time. You do that just a little bit and you will get some behavior to change.

Cyrus Vance is going to have a hard road to get to a conviction with jail time. But, good on him for trying.


BUY: The The Essential Bernie Sanders and His Vision for America

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Anti-Iran Deal Republican House “Chicken Hawks” Who Want More Americans To Die Wed, 29 Jul 2015 13:42:07 +0000

Republicans are embracing the full Dick Cheney doctrine. I don’t mean simply the “let’s break international law and bomb the fuck out of people in service to Halliburton.” I mean the doctrine that, for all the tough talk, when it came time to serve, the vast majority of these guys who are ready to go to war with Iran, decided, like Cheney, that when it came to serve in the military and put their lives on the line, they all had other priorities.

This is a group of “chicken hawks” who are ready to have more people die–Americans and others–but would never put their own lives on the line.

I thought of this watching John Kerry–Vietnam Vet, Lt. in the Navy, recipient of the Silver Star, Bronze Star, and three Purple Hearts–testify yesterday before the House Foreign Affairs Committee. I’m not an unabashed Kerry fan (and think he ran a horrendous presidential campaign). But, what he and the president have done with the deal with Iran is remarkable and potentially a game changer in the relationship with Iran and the region for decades to come. It could certainly mean that hundreds of thousands of people will not die in war for perhaps a coming decade.

I listened to the idiotic questions being lobbed at Kerry. You could see Kerry barely contain himself having to sit there and listen to these half-wits read from prepared questions–and sometimes he got a bit testy, but who wouldn’t? In particular, Rep. Tom Marino from Pennsylvania’s 10th District–I mean, the man is a fool, asking pre-written questions and, then, as Kerry was answering methodically, intelligently, you could see Marino’s eyes moving quickly, looking down at his paper, a bit worried, as in, “What do I say next?”

But, it was Marino that made me wonder: how many of these phony chicken hawks actually served? So, I looked it up.

Of the 25 Republicans who sit on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, only five have been anywhere close to military service (note: I take this info from their official biographies and assume that they would rush to mention military service if such a thing had occurred). Two of them–Joe Wilson and Darrell Issa–had the “Ferris Bueller” version of service–some sort of reserve duty they can throw on their resumes, and appear never to have seen combat.

One, Ron Desantis, from Florida’s 6th District, says that, “During his active duty Navy service, he served as a military prosecutor, supported operations at the terrorist detention center in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and deployed to Iraq during the 2007 troop surge as an advisor to a U.S. Navy SEAL commander in support of counterinsurgency operations in Iraq…” which seems to try to imply he was in battle but, ok, he was in a war zone.  Lee Zeldin, 1st District from New York, says that he “spent four years on Active Duty with the U.S. Army and served in different capacities including as a Military Intelligence Officer, Federal Prosecutor and Military Magistrate. In the summer of 2006, while assigned to the Army’s elite 82nd Airborne Division, Lee deployed to Iraq with an infantry battalion of fellow paratroopers in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom…” again seems a tad like embellishment about “deploying” as if he was about to be in a firefight, but, fair enough, he was in a war zone.

The only two people who seems to actually have been in combat are Paul Cook, from California’s 8th District, who is a Marine Vietnam Vet, with two purple hearts and a Bronze Star, and Scott Perry who served in the PA National Guard [corrected–this was not in his official Congressional bio]

Well, you know, Randy Weber, Republican from the 14th District of Texas, who is a “proven conservative”, “built his air conditioning company, Weber’s Air & Heat, in 1981 from scratch, and grew his business by using, what his grandfather used to call, ‘good old-fashion Texas horse sense and a strong work ethic.’ ”

Did that work ethic lead him to serve? Nope.

Scott Perry, Republican from the 4th District of Pennsylvania, has been active everywhere: “He was active in the Jaycees and was the regional director for the state organization. He also is a member of Dillsburg Legion Post #26, Dillsburg VFW Post #6771, Lions Club International, Army Aviation Association of America, the NRA, and numerous other associations.”

Serve in the military or or even the George W. Bush weekend-retreat style of service? Nope. [Correction: see above]

And in North Carolina, we find Mark Meadows, representing the 11th District: “After working as a small business owner for 27 years, Representative Mark Meadows brings a business-style approach to Washington, D.C. During his time in Congress, he has championed pro-growth jobs policies, a sensible approach to reducing the national deficit, and a robust national defense.” [emphasis added]

Mark is such a stalwart proponent of a “robust national defense” that, you got it, he didn’t serve either.

Florida’s 3rd District has Ted Yoho. He’s a prince: Ted and Carolyn began instilling a strong work ethic in their children early on by making family projects out of real estate investments and building their businesses…When he is not in Washington representing his constituents and serving the country he loves, he is home spending time with his wife and three kids, cheering on the Gators, and if time permits occasionally fishing.

Does he have time to serve in the military? Nope.

Tennessee (the “Volunteer State”) rings in with Scott DesJarlais, a doctor…woohoo. Scott is really conservative and he brags about it: “National Journal Magazine has ranked Congressman DesJarlais as the fourth most conservative member of the United States House of Representatives and Congressional Quarterly listed him as one of the top five Members of Congress who has consistently voted against President Obama’s agenda.”

Volunteer time for the military, Scott? Nope.

Reid Ribble, from the 4th District in Wisconsin, “owned and operated his family’s small business for over 30 years, so he knows the importance of a balanced budget.”

No military service.

To be clear, I don’t think you **have to serve** to comment on military affairs. But, I do think that those who want to rush so quickly into battle, and sacrifice the sons, daughters, fathers of other families–mostly working class people in the absence of a draft–should have a special burden to tone down their rhetoric, not engage in phony political posturing to score political points and, at least, ask questions that have a semblance of fact and sober inquiry.

Some Democrats are just as bad. But, for today, I give you the new generation of chicken hawks–who are happy to have people killed while they sit at home.

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Bernie Gets 2/3 Labor Union Delegate Vote, And Some Space To Work For AFL-CIO Nod Mon, 27 Jul 2015 13:49:21 +0000 I had heard, now leaking out to the media, that the AFL-CIO will not rush to endorse anyone in the Democratic primary. This is good news for Bernie Sanders, and not so good for those on the Chipotle-eating circuit. It gives Bernie more time to show a hard-edged practical reason–as opposed to the obvious “I’d actually take on Wall Street and be good for unions”–for the AFL-CIO to support him, and it also gives more time for the Chipotle-eating crowd to show that, hey, we’re actually like regular, working people (though probably not “dead broke” like real people).

Bernie did show some some official support from a union endorsement poll:

At a meeting of the Utility Workers Union of America in Florida this week, Bernie Sanders won 65 percent of the vote in cell phone poll of the 400 elected delegates to the convention. Clinton won 23 percent, with Martin O’Malley taking 7 percent and the combined Republican field winning 5 percent.

The union is relatively small but still worth noting.

More important:

In a possible setback for Hillary Clinton, the AFL-CIO’s political committee has recommended the nation’s largest labor union federation delay endorsing a candidate for the 2016 presidential race as it seeks to push her to be more supportive of its policies on issues such as trade and wages.The committee on Monday voted unanimously to support the proposal, three union sources told Reuters. The recommendation will be presented at a July 29-30 meeting of the executive council of the federation, which will make the final decision. It could reject the recommendation and still go ahead with an endorsement, though one of the sources said that is unlikely.

The move highlights the pressures Clinton is facing to take a tough stand against the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a proposed free trade deal backed by President Barack Obama but vigorously opposed by unions who see it as detrimental to jobs and wages in the U.S. Unions also want her to back labor-friendly policies on other issues, such as the minimum wage and the Federal Reserve.


The federation has been trying to quell a revolt in its ranks as some local unions have declared their support for Sanders, who is known for his progressive stance and who has spoken out strongly against the TPP.In contrast, Clinton has simply said that any final trade agreement needs to include strong worker protections and that she will reserve judgment until a completed deal is presented. Negotiators from the U.S, and 11 other nations from the Pacific Rim, including Japan, Vietnam, Malaysia, Australia, Mexico and Canada, are meeting in the next week in Hawaii in an attempt to reach a final agreement.

The trade deal will likely be the top issue at the two-day gathering of the AFL-CIO, which represents workers in a wide range of occupations, from brick layers to machinists to nurses.[emphasis added]

Like the rest of the challenges facing Bernie, it’s a steep hill to climb to nab the AFL-CIo’s endorsement, whatever the merits. But, time, in this case, is his friend.

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The Essential Bernie Sanders and His Vision for America–THE BOOK!!! Wed, 22 Jul 2015 13:53:03 +0000

It’s a book…about to see the light of day.

It’s an organizing tool.

It’s Bernie’s voice.

The facts: it’s a book I’ve written that is coming out from Chelsea Green.

The structure: 19 very short chapters on a whole set of the key issues–class warfare, taxes, the economy, trade, racism, climate change and more. Each chapter starts with a quote from a person, mostly not politicians. It’s followed by a short intro from yours truly to set the context and ends up at the bottom with three bullet points about specific things Bernie has done…


It’s 95 percent Bernie’s words: I thought of this as an organizing challenge–how do you get Bernie’s ideas into a compact format so supporters and those who want to learn more can here BERNIE SPEAK? It’s a small, not heavy book people can carry around. You can read each chapter on its own so it’s a quick time investment for very busy people…just before you get on a call to a family member or you have to write a response to a friend, you can pick out specific things Bernie has said and what he has done.

Why I hope you’ll buy it here and share it around: well, sure, that’s an obvious self-interested point. Consider this as well–

First, I think it helps spread Bernie’s message. You won’t read the usual nonsense about his hair. It’s actually what he believes in–and has done. No intervening bullshit analysis.

Second, doing this book with Chelsea Green was the perfect fit, and a pleasure: a Vermont-based, worker owned independent publisher. Chelsea Green is Bernie’s message: the peoples’ publisher versus the big conglomerates. For writers and for the progressive political movement, we need more Chelsea Greens.

And I’ll add: Chelsea Green has a great track record pushing progressive books into the mainstream. It published George Lakoff’s “Don’t Think of an Elephant!” which was a must-read in political circles in 2004 on how to frame political messages.

I am providing the introduction here, published for the first time, so people get a sense of the book.

I’ve been involved in politics my whole life, from stuffing envelopes to knocking on doors in all kinds of weather to working closely with politicians. So, my bullshit alarm is on a hair-trigger alert in the presence of most politicians—and it goes off with regularity, even among politicians who I agree with.A couple of years ago, something different happened. Over the course of a couple of days in 2013, I spent a number of hours chatting with Bernie Sanders for an interview for Playboy. To be sure, it was a pleasure—unfortunately, too rare an experience—to be with a member of Congress who actually had an informed, complex understanding of the issues facing the people. It’s a deep understanding steeped in a worldview that seeks to represent the regular person, not because it tests well in 2015 polls but because Bernie believes what he says.

When I walked out of Bernie Sanders’ office, aside from the energy one feels from a good policy give-and-take, I was left with an unusually strong sense of something else: authenticity.

Authenticity is hard to manufacture—and, as we all know, politicians of all stripes spend many hours and millions of dollars to painfully, and often comically, try to say to voters, “I’m like you, I’m real.”

But, authenticity is easy to explain. It’s a simple sense: “Here it is. Here is what I believe from deep inside. I don’t need to convene a think-a-thon of consultants and other sycophants to tell me what I should believe. This is me.”

That is the essence of Bernie Sanders. No bullshit. Unvarnished opinions and beliefs.

Now, Bernie carries that authenticity into the national arena in his quest to become president of the United States. As I write these words, tens of thousands of people have already swarmed to hear Bernie speak the truth at mass rallies in arenas and halls across the nation.

To be clear: this is an electorally successful politician, winning races for office as an independent to be Mayor of Burlington, Vermont (four times beginning in 1981), serving as the state’s lone member in the House of Representatives (from 1990-2006) and, finally, in 2006, ascending to the United States Senate.

Which elicits a question some have asked about his inspiring campaign for the White House: Why is the longest serving independent in Congress, who describes himself without hesitation as a Democratic Socialist, running for president in the Democratic Party primaries?

To be sure, some of it is practical. Unless you are a billionaire, it’s virtually impossible to win a national election as an independent in the dominant two-party system (and even, as Ross Perot proved, being a billionaire does not make it a cinch). Some of it has to do with  branding and the corrupted nature of Super PAC-fueled elections in the post-Citizens United world, a topic Bernie feels passionately about, and as you will read in the book.

But, there is something more here. In an exchange we had back in 2013, I asked Bernie whether he thinks people understand the term class warfare, which is at the heart of his orations about how the historic divide between rich and poor is ripping apart the nation.

He replied: “Sometimes people come up to me and say I’m courageous for saying all these things. I say, ‘I’m not courageous. Go look at these guys who want to give more tax breaks to billionaires and cut programs for working families. That is incredibly courageous, because the vast majority of the American people think that’s crazy.’ The polling says: Don’t cut Social Security, don’t cut Medicare, don’t cut Medicaid. Ask the wealthy and large corporations to pay more taxes. The political question is, why have the Republicans not been reduced to a 15 percent marginal third party? [The answer is] most people do not perceive a heck of a lot of difference between either party. The Democrats are too diffuse, and their message is so unclear the American people don’t see the real difference.”

This is the essence of his belief that he can win: he is certain that if he speaks boldly, clearly, honestly, and authentically, that he can win the Democratic nomination for president, and the party he leads can win everywhere—in all fifty states—and relegate a regressive anti-worker, pro-corporate Republican Party to rump status. It would be a party transformed, with a standard bearer who would not hesitate to say exactly what he believes, as this book lays out, whether he is walking the streets of Newark, Tampa, Eugene, Detroit, or, Dallas, trekking from the Deep South to the Midwest, or traveling from sea to shining sea.

The goal of this book is to present to the country, in a succinct way, Bernie’s authenticity and his accomplishments, a vision that be believes is a winning agenda because it exactly reflects, whatever labels one sticks on the messenger, the desires and beliefs of a majority of people. No one should underestimate—and Bernie does not—the challenge of winning the White House; it is a steep climb, for a whole set of logistical and organizational reasons.

But, what is laid out here is a simple point: his path to victory is possible because, in his authenticity, his views are America’s views.

Bernie Sanders carries with him a hope and vision for a 21st Century caring, sustainable, more just and fairer United States of America.

I aimed to be brief. Each chapter is short. Each chapter can be read on its own, depending on a reader’s interest. I’ve used Bernie’s direct words, mostly from speeches on the floor of the Senate or House or in statements he’s made, because he usually does so with very concrete explanations and descriptions of a problem that any reader can follow. Each chapter has my own very short introduction to give some background, and ends with very specific steps Bernie has taken to implement his views.

It’s important to underscore a point from the title of the book. This is what I think are the essential views of Bernie Sanders, not a complete list. I wanted this book out fast, as a handy organizing tool. It allows readers to read conclusions about Bernie’s worldview and overall philosophy, and seek out additional positions on other issues not covered in the chapters.

Hopefully, the words presented here help individuals make the argument for Bernie’s candidacy to a family member, neighbor, friend or co-worker.

But, ultimately, as Bernie often says, this is not about him. It’s about our chance to ignite a political revolution by exercising collective power to restore democracy and justice.

Feel the Bern.

I’d be honored and pleased if you would consider ordering a copy. And, if you are willing, move it around your social networks.By the way, if it’s relevant, bulk discounts are totally doable, so private message me:
40% for 10-49 books
45% for 50-199
50% for 200-499
55% for 500+ books

I’ll update people on the book, and try not to overdo it!

The Essential Bernie Sanders and His Vision for America

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Good Line, Rich Mon, 20 Jul 2015 19:30:56 +0000 This is a good one from Rich Trumka.


“Why would any sane human being, knowing his background and who pulls the strings, vote for Scott Walker?” he added. “If you cut the two strings behind him that go to the Koch brothers, he’s like putty. He falls down.”

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Bernie: America’s Approach to Children an “International Embarrassment” Thu, 09 Jul 2015 14:16:49 +0000

So true. The country where politicians run around talking about “family values” and never miss a chance to be photographed with a child–while too many of them cut health care for kids and vote for illegal, immoral wars that bankrupt the country and send kids to war (though their own kids never serve–they just give speeches for five-figures in which they say nothing).

Bernie pegs it. And wants to at least create 1 million jobs for young people over the next two years.


“It is beyond belief that in the richest country in the history of the world millions of young people are unable to find work and begin their careers. According to the Economic Policy Institute, unbelievably, youth unemployment for high school graduates and dropouts is 33 percent for white youth, 36 percent for Hispanic youth and 51 percent for African-American young people.“It is not a coincidence that we have outrageously high youth unemployment rates while at the same time we have more people in jail than any other country on earth. Maybe, just maybe, we should be providing jobs and education to our young people  rather than spending more and more money on jails and incarceration.”

Sanders also is the sponsor of legislation to provide four years of tuition-free higher education at public colleges and universities. “Hundreds of thousands of qualified young people are unable to afford to go to college, while millions of others leave school with crushing debt which impacts their lives for decades,” he said.

“While we give tax breaks to billionaires, we continue to have, by far, the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country on earth,” Sanders said. “Our child care system is a disaster with working families desperately searching for affordable, quality child care, which is almost impossible to find.”

Sanders concluded: “This country faces an enormous crisis in how we treat our young people. It is time to bring this issue out of the dark and to start addressing it. If this country is to succeed in the future, we cannot continue to turn our backs on an entire generation of young people.”

Watch here “Congress is way out of touch as to where the American people are”:

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The Sides Are Drawn: Bernie/Us Versus Chuck Schumer/Tax-Dodging Big Corps/”Bi-Partisanship” Wed, 08 Jul 2015 21:17:20 +0000

WTF? Ok, I guess I should actually say: this is not shocking but because Chuck Schumer just made me yell “WTF?” and ruin my schedule for the rest of the day…

The loud yelling and clapping you just heard came cascading down from executive suites of all the tax-dodging big corporations who must be dancing in the halls. “Bi-partisanship” is about to fleece the American people–yet again. And it’s being led by the presumed Democratic majority leader come 2016, Chuck Schumer.

This is entirely absurd:

Two senior senators – one Republican, one Democrat – proposed on Wednesday that the government largely end the taxation of United States corporate profits overseas, but with a mandatory, one-time tax on such profits to pay for an expansive highway and infrastructure program.The plan, by Senators Rob Portman, Republican of Ohio, and Chuck Schumer, Democrat of New York, is similar to earlier proposals from President Obama and former Representative Dave Camp, once the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. The current chairman, Representative Paul D. Ryan of Wisconsin, greeted the proposal warmly as well.

“What’s exciting to me is we now have a bipartisan road map on how to do international tax reform to make the American worker more competitive,” Mr. Portman said. “This is not about the boardroom. This is about the shop floor.”


The current system taxes overseas profits at 35 percent – minus taxes paid to the host country – once a business brings its income back to the United States. That has prompted American-based multinational companies to, in effect, leave trillions of dollars abroad, either in cash or as investments in foreign operations.Senators Portman and Schumer would largely end the taxation of those repatriated profits, instead imposing a light annual tax on overseas income, whether it comes home or not. That, they said, would end the incentive to leave profits abroad or reinvest them in overseas operations. Mr. Obama’s international tax plan would set that minimum overseas profit tax at 14 percent. The new proposal does not set a rate, but Mr. Portman said the administration’s was far too high.

Ridiculous.I’ve written a lot about this, including back in 2011 when I pointed out how correct then-Sen. Carl Levin was when he criticized a proposed “tax holiday” as a bogus incentive for corporations to repatriate tens of billions of dollars in profits stashed overseas–bogus because it had already been tried years before and failed because, surprise, corporations reneged on most of the key pieces of the deal (particularly, around investing the repatriated, free money into new jobs–guess where it went instead…stock buy backs and more CEO benefits).

In this case, oh, thank you, “bi-partisanship”, what is being proposed is “a light annual tax on overseas income”…

To which Citizens for Tax Justice says:

Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) today released a long-awaited tax reform plan that reads like a wish list for multinational corporations.The Senate Finance Committee working group’s report provides recommendations for restructuring the federal government’s international corporation tax rules. The plan is long on misguided ideas and short on specifics. The heart of the plan is a proposal to move to a territorial tax system in which all corporate income reported in countries other than the United States– including notorious tax havens such as Bermuda and the Cayman Islands– would be exempt from U.S. corporate income taxes.

As Citizens for Tax Justice has noted, such a system would dramatically increase the incentive for U.S. multinational corporations to use accounting maneuvers and paperwork to shift their profits from the United States to offshore tax havens. At a time when corporations have accumulated more than $2.1 trillion in offshore holdings, much of which may be U.S. profits that are reported as “earned” in zero-tax jurisdictions such as the Cayman Islands, the first step toward corporate tax reform should be removing incentives to offshore profits — not providing even more.[emphasis added]


Under the Portman-Schumer plan, big multinationals would find new avenues for tax avoidance whether they report their income in the U.S. or shift profits to tax havens — truly a “win-win” for corporations seeking to avoid paying their fair share. But the broad outlines of the Finance Committee’s recommendations make it clear that the plan would be a big loss for the rest of us.

From Americans for Tax Fairness:

“The framework fails on three counts. It appears to create a territorial tax system, under which most U.S. corporate profits earned offshore are no longer taxed here at home. This will provide huge incentives for corporations to invest overseas at the expense of U.S. jobs. It suggests a very low tax rate be paid on the $2 trillion in U.S. corporate profits that are currently offshore, much of it in tax havens, and that are untaxed here at home. This rewards companies that have been the most successful tax dodgers. It creates a giant new tax loophole, known as a patent or innovation box, which will exacerbate the current massive tax avoidance by high-tech and pharmaceutical companies.“Corporate America recently succeeded in getting Congress to support trade promotion authority, which will result in the loss of jobs for American workers and disinvestment in our economy. The Schumer-Portman framework will do the same and result in large revenue losses needed to create an economy that works for all Americans.”

Bernie Sanders has not yet released a statement on the current proposal. But, earlier this year, evaluating candidates’ tax plans and track record, I wrote that Citizens for Tax Justice said that Sanders:

“has been the lone voice in the Senate fighting for legislation that would ensure that corporations and the wealthy pay their fair share,”

And he specifically opposed this scam allowing corporations to dodge paying a serious and fair tax on overseas profits.I won’t make any unfair projections about what the “presumed front runner” believes on this effort at “bi-partisanship” and will see if she makes a statement after consulting with her 200-person policy team, which will poll-test the idea.

But, this is, in some way, a perfect example of both why Bernie has tapped into a lot of energy and anger AND why the current system is entirely broken when it comes to protecting the people from big corporations and elite power: this is, pure and simply, a sell-out to big donors, big corporations and the wealthy, and a robbery of the U.S. Treasury. Giving big corporations a pretty big wet kiss when it comes to paying a “light annual tax” is robbery because it effectively means more money will be lifted out of the pockets of ordinary people…or safety net programs will be cut.

It’s robbing society.

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The Fed Should Provide Cash To Greek Banks, Or Dump ECB (Kudos to Bernie for Indirect Idea) Mon, 06 Jul 2015 14:51:31 +0000

Banks on the brink. Financial system close to collapse–or so said the experts. To the rescue rode the Federal Reserve Board, which authorized trillions of dollars for all sorts of financial institutions, domestic and foreign…even if said institutions didn’t need the money but were happy to take essentially free money.

That was back during the financial crisis.

Now, it’s Greece and its banks running short on cash, squeezed by the money lenders and, in particular, the European Central Bank. So, why not: the Federal Reserve Board should be directed by Congress to commit to providing liquidity to Greek banks so the people in Greece–millions of human beings–can pay their bills, get their pension payments and continue to have money to buy food–or cut off the ECB from its Fed-backed line of credit.

So, background to this. Bernie Sanders, one of the more aggressive leaders on the issue, pushed for an audit of the Fed by the General Accounting Office, which was finally published in July 2011. Part of the reason he did so is that then-Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke refused to reveal what banks had received taxpayer money, as you can see from this short clip:

To cut to the chase, the audit found that the Fed had made roughly $16 trillion in loans to a whole variety of financial institutions and corporations.

Included in the loans were credit lines totaling $8 trillion to the European Commission Bank–the very institution leading the attempt to bludgeon Greece. In addition, the Fed, through a whole set of programs, made cash available–at very low interest–to the usual suspects–Bank of America, Citigroup, Wells Fargo–but also to a whole list of foreign banks including Barclays, ANZ (Australia), Bank of Montreal and others.

As the Troika–the International Monetary Fund, the European Commission Bank and the European Union (with Germany leading the way)–applied pressure to Greece, Bernie Sanders wrote to the Fed Chair Janet Yellin back in February making it clear that the U.S. should not stand by while the Troika impoverished people:

The United States cannot stand idly by while the European Central Bank undermines the new democratically elected government of Greece, induces deflation and risks financial instability.  President Barack Obama was right when he recently noted, with regard to Greece: ‘You cannot keep on squeezing countries that are in the midst of a depression.  At some point, there has to be a growth strategy in order for them to pay off their debts to eliminate some of their deficits

And he added:

Currently the Federal Reserve has a standing credit arrangement with the ECB on which the ECB can draw at any time. These swap lines, as they stand, tend to make the United States implicitly supportive of the policies that have so destabilized and damaged Greece. But, they also give us a reason, indeed an obligation, to object when a partner Central Bank departs from its commitment to financial stability.[emphasis added]

Sanders wasn’t alone in Congress. A group, including Sanders, wrote to the head of the IMF, Christine Lagarde, objecting to the IMF’s hard line:

Greece has already reduced its national public sector work force by 19 percent and carried out many of the reforms demanded by the IMF and its creditors. It has gone through an enormous fiscal adjustment, achieving the largest cyclically adjusted primary budget surplus in the euro area last year; and a very large current account adjustment (with a 36 percent reduction in imports). At the same time, as even the IMF has acknowledged in its own research, the austerity imposed by Greece’s creditors over the past five years turned out to be far more devastating to the economy than they had predicted.

So, this is simple. The next step should be a two-part demand from Congress:Number One: Congress should demand that the Fed explicitly back Greece’s banking system so that there is cash for the people of Greece.

Given this:

“All eyes will now be on the European Central Bank tomorrow. We expect the central bank to continue providing liquidity to Greece’s financial sector, although the small chance of the ECB increasing the cap on the emergency liquidity assistance this week has disappeared with the referendum result,” said Iscaro in a note this evening.”This significantly raises the probability of banks running out of cash over the coming days. We estimate it is very likely banks will not reopen on 7 July as currently expected. Moreover, the limit on bank withdrawals, currently at €60, may also need to be reduced.“[emphasis added]

Number Two: Congress should demand that the Fed inform the ECB that, unless the ECB negotiates a deal acceptable to Greece–that removes the cuts in pensions, cuts in minimum wage and promotes economic growth not austerity–then, the Fed will end the ECB’s access to OUR FUCKING MONEY.Please don’t buy into the myth of “Fed independence”. Congress has substantial power over the Fed, which is its creation and is subject, as the GAO investigation shows, to audits and oversight.

Of course, I know the two-part proposal would face a heavy slog–the Fed’s Board of Governors and its counterpart at the ECB, at heart, share the same philosophy that pain and austerity are a good thing to teach people how to stay in line, and too many members of Congress are committed to austerity/deficit-mongering here in the U.S. so there is unlikely to be much sentiment to take such action.

But, this is about politics and movement-building. It’s a teachable moment.

Globalization apparently is fine when it means so-called “free trade” deals that lower standards of living across the globe but somehow it’s not fine if the goal is raise, or protect, standards.

A place to make a stand, and to be bold.

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