Tag Archives: Bernie Sanders

THE EVE OF NEO-DESTRUCTION: Bernie Sanders as Commander-in-Chief and the DARPA Budget of 2017-2021

February 16, 2016

THE EVE OF NEO-DESTRUCTION: Bernie Sanders as Commander-in-Chief and the DARPA Budget of 2017-2021

I remember leading a class discussion at UCSD’s Revelle College when the “Shock and Awe” invasion of Iraq commenced. It was difficult to stay on the subject; students were uneasy about going to war, but one young man confidently told his peers, “Don’t worry. This won’t be another Vietnam.” Over a dozen years later, with torture and murder still rampant both within the borders of Iraq, and in the adjacent region controlled by ISIS, the comparison with Vietnam is hardly adequate. American military power, deceived by its own flagrant capacities to put technology on display, is floundering yet again in another pathetic political debacle. It is not those who serve who lack resolve, integrity, courage, and commitment. Rather, it is those whose orders come from civilian quarters who lack the necessary virtues.

In the aftermath of criminal decision by the commander-in-chief at that time to launch an invasion of Iraq, U.S. soldiers, serving in good faith, have now been assigned the task of trying to stabilize a massive region in which a radical religious insurrection against modernity has taken permanent hold. How they will ever be able to return and reintegrate into civilian society is a question that neither Hillary Clinton, who voted to authorize that war, nor any of the Republican candidates in 2016 are ready to answer. For that matter, President Obama has no answer, either. Anyone who thinks they’ll find the answer in his Presidential Library is wasting her or his time. The saddest commentary on all this is that Bernie Sanders has no substantial answer to this question, either.

One question that no candidate, including Bernie Sanders, is willing to address in a radical manner involves the predicament of a nation that spends eight times as much as the next eight nations combined on budget expenditures for military hardware and software. Citing this fact, as Sanders has done in debates and speeches, is not in itself a critique. What is needed is an explanation for this perversion. This massive investment budget for the Pentagon and the CIA is at a ridiculous level because fewer and fewer Americans are willing to become soldiers. There is a direct ideological road between the elimination of military conscription and the use of drones to conduct long-distance murder. America had a choice in the late 1970s and early 1980s, and the nation gave in to a technological addiction as the only possible alternative to maintaining a huge standing army.

The enormity of this transformation has yet to be raised in the presidential debates, though the issue of women registering for the draft was briefly noted in one recent forum. Whether any candidate, including Bernie Sanders, is even slightly aware of the full implications of this tidal shift is doubtful. At some point, though, the United States must address the disparity between the military service required of the earliest wave of the Baby Boom generation and the current laissez-faire of bodily procurement for posthumous military rites.

Let us dig back briefly into the culture of a half-century ago. In Called to Serve, a book written in the late 1960s that explains military service to young men, the claim is made that four out of five young men will serve in the military. In the decades since, a complete inversion has taken place. In contrasting proportion, I would be willing to bet that, in 2016, four out of every five young men between the ages of 18 and 25 have had no personal contact that amounts to even casual friendship with a person their age who has served in the military. The consanguinity of “duty, honor, country” is an even smaller percentage. In other words, there are very few people who would ever feel a tug to visit a war memorial for the Veterans of Endless War (which begins with the first Gulf War).

Of course, who can blame young people for not wanting to be in the military? Why should anyone endanger one’s life on behalf of corporate culture and the off-shore parking of profits? The malfeasance of global capital acknowledges no ethical boundaries. (FOOTNOTE: With enthusiasm to endure military discipline on behalf of the world’s “one percent” at a profound low, it comes as no surprise that professional sports teams allow displays of patriotic pageantry because the Pentagon pays them for the “air time.” The defense of the country has become simply another item in the advertising retinue of Endless Marketing.) Given this predicament of youthful cynicism about military service, the only way that the United States can retain its primacy on the planet is through a technological agenda that oozes delusional sweat through every pore of its full-metal paranoia. If anyone thinks that Bernie Sanders’s call for a political revolution is going to change this, please pause for a moment and consider the morning of January 27, 2017. A week after being formally inaugurated, President Sanders will be given his first, full top-secret briefing of DARPA’s drawing boards (DARPA is the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency). Trust me on this: the frisson that Sanders will feel on being a glimpse of the robotic deployment of laser-guided weaponry will be enough to justify Sander’s willingness to endorse an increase in DARPA’s budget. The man who was a conscientious objector when the draft called his name in the early years of the Vietnam War will not hesitate to endorse a new generation of weapons systems that are intended to vaporize civilians even more efficiently than at Hiroshima or Nagasaki, and certainly more efficiently than at Dresden.

Bernie Sanders has called for a political revolution that takes our country back from the billionaires. That is a paltry first step, and wholly inadequate. In his current campaign for President, Sanders has not emphatically proposed and reiterated anything that addresses the elimination of weapons of mass destruction. As a member of the House of Representatives and as a Senator in recent years, Sanders has in fact pulled the hardest at bringing the world back from the brink of WMD obliteration that it seemed to be moving away from by the early 1990s. However, in his on-going campaign, I do not hear a truly progressive call for a reduction in nuclear weapons or a call for semi-annual global conferences that would concentrate on this threat to the entire planet. Let us remember that there are scientists and engineers who are hard at work, at the very moment you are reading these words, developing weapons that would result in the curtain call of the Anthropocene. I realize that in and of itself, that would not necessarily be an unfair penalty for the perpetrators. The tragedy is that it would probably take every other mammal with it.

War’s prevalence is too negligible an issue in Sanders’s primary talking points. In making a choice between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton as the Democratic candidate for President in 2008, the key factor that determined my vote was the war in Iraq. Who voted for it? Who voted against it? I knew in my gut that Iraq did not have weapons of mass destruction, and I would have been willing to bet my life on it. Unfortunately, there was no way to make that wager and have history change on the outcome. So the question in 2008 was: who had been willing to stand up against the war’s progenitors? Who defied Bush and Cheney and did not give consent to this war? Clinton was terrified that she would be portrayed in some future political campaign as too soft on terrorists to qualify as a commander-in-chief. Obama didn’t flinch: he said no to that war. Because Clinton did not have the courage to speak up against the war, I voted for her opponent.

One might think that the same distinction between Sanders and Clinton eight years later would be the deciding factor in my upcoming vote. Because of his unwillingness to engage in a critique of military power akin to his economic manifesto, however, Sanders has far from earned my vote. Let us remember: he claims to be a genuine progressive, not a radical progressive. Given his refusal to call for a radical evaluation of American military power, I see little ultimate difference between Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Yes, of course, Clinton will side with the worst elements of Trade Pacts and Credit Card Usury. We know that Clinton, like Obama, will fail to support any meaningful job training programs. The track record of Hillary Clinton’s husband as President was pathetically dismal, and why would she be different? He betrayed the people who made phone calls and walked precincts on his behalf back in 1992. If you are a working person and make the same kind of efforts in 2016, she will dump you on the economic sidelines in the next four year with similar alacrity. Economically, only Sanders can be half-way trusted by any working person who remembers the massive lay-offs of the 1990s and President Bill Clinton’s callous indifference to the plight of working people.

I am all too aware of how few people my age will feel my ambivalence. For one thing, most people born between 1940 and 1955 who lean towards the Democratic party are in favor of Hilary Clinton. I understand their preference, and in point of fact, if they are white, they are an admirable minority. Let it not be forgotten that the majority of white people in the Baby Boom generation voted for McCain and Romney in 2008 and 2012. ‘Tis pity tis true.

Such conservatism in my generation only reminds me of what a myth has surrounded the 1960s and early 1970s. The image is that of massive protests and social opposition to the evils of racist imperialism. The reality is that the cluster of young white people who actively spoke out against the Vietnam War and in favor of civil rights legislation was a distraught and passionately thoughtful minority. Little has changed. I remain in solemn vigilance.

(The above was revised on Sunday, February 21, 2016.)
POST-SCRIPT: As I have mentioned on several blog entries during the three and a half years I have done this blog on poetry, visual art, music, and superstructure of ground level conditions, I can be contacted at: William.BillMohr@gmail.com

While it may frustrate some people that I do not permit commentary, I will also say yet once again: I learned a valuable lesson from Ron Silliman’s experience of doing a blog; he eventually had to turn off the comments stream because it simply took up too much time to monitor the civility of the discourse. I have no desire to reinvent the wheel of his frustration with the perversity of internet trolls. If you disagree with me, please feel free to start your own blog and post your responses. Or write me at the above e-mail address.

Bernie Sanders and the NSA – A Double-Take on Paul Simon’s “America”

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

The use of Paul Simon’s “America” by Bernie Sanders’s campaign has generated considerable commentary, which is why I’m aware of it. I’m hardly an accessible target audience; it’s been a while since I’ve seen an advertisement on television or even heard one on a radio. In point of fact, very little advertising for presidential campaign runs in California except during primary season. Why waste precious dollars in a state that is in its current political make-up a foregone conclusion? If Sanders continues to use this ad at all, however, he should be prepared to be asked about the obvious excision from the song and the policy choices he would have to make if he were elected president.

The song, you’ll remember, is a free verse poem (note that there are no rhymes in it), about two young people doing their own version of Kerouac’s On the Road. The reality is less glamorous than the fantasy: “It took me four days to hitchhike from Saginaw,” and the fade-out image of cars streaming by the bus on the New Jersey Turnpike suggests that the urban reality of New York City just ahead of them at the Port Authority will be less than comforting. In fact, let us consider what that turnpike image shifts into. The next song on the “Bookends” album is “Save the Life of My Child,” which mocks a New York police officer’s comment on young people: “The kids got no respect for the law today, and blah blah blah.” The two songs, a la Sergeant Pepper’s, flow musically one into the other with not a hemidemisemiquaver of a pause, as if to say, “Hey, Kathy and your young poet friend, this is what awaits you.”

What no one seems to have remarked on, though, is the elimination in the advertisement of the dialogue in the first part of the song. “Laughing on the bus playing games with the faces / She said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy. / I said, “Be careful. His bow tie is really a camera.” It’s a playful send-up of the paranoia at that time among the counter-culture of the government’s intrusion into daily life, and how people were even then being monitored and tracked. Simon’s slightly tongue-in-cheek, deadpan humor defuses the genuine fear that many young people felt at the time. The question of police state monitoring cannot be so easily laughed off now. So what is Bernie Sanders planning to do with the National Security Agency? The NSA is looking for America, too, but not in the way that Simon’s song portends.

Bernie Sanders and the Single-Payer Presidency (The Health Care Crisis, Part One)

January 19, 2016

Bernie Sanders and the Single-Payer Presidency

Part One: Memories of the Job Crisis and its Impact on the Health Crisis to Come

In recent decades, the Republican party has succeeded in large part because it has manipulated the voters who support its candidates by making promises about social issues that it has only been able to deliver on an installment plan. Symbolic victory is more prevalent than any actual effacement of the gains made by women and people of color since 1950. Conservatives often feel disregarded by the party Elites except when it comes to voting in elections.

Not to be outdone in that kind of campaigning and underperformance, the Democratic party has often talked a good game, but delivered far less than its supporters have a right to expect. In the most recent debate (Sunday, January 17, 2016) involving the two leading candidates for the Democratic nomination for President, Hillary Clinton listed jobs as her first priority. Where have we heard this before? From her husband, Bill Clinton, who ran in 1992 as someone who told us that indeed jobs would be lost to technology, but that there would be job training. And he was right. Jobs were lost, but there was no job training available to those workers in any meaningful number of programs.

Hillary Clinton would like to forget that by 1995, three years after her husband took office, jobs were being lost at an extraordinary rate, and while one can argue that things briefly got better from 1997-1999, that was only after the havoc of much unnecessary turmoil in employment. The shedding of jobs – especially union jobs – helped out his corporate sponsors immensely and devastated the day-to-day lives of workers. Bill Clinton did not care about anything other than empowering Wall Street firms. Workers were last on his list of priorities.

Hillary Clinton’s reiteration of jobs as her first priority deserves more than just the skepticism rightfully generated by the memory of her spouse’s betrayal of working people in the 1990s. One only has to look at the woeful incompetence of the Democratic party in handling the job crisis of 2007-2010 to estimate the likelihood of Hillary Clinton being a “jobs President.” Let us go back eight years and take a look at how well President Obama handled the crisis. Here is the policy statement that explains the plan:

http://otrans.3cdn.net/45593e8ecbd339d074_l3m6bt1te.pdf

“A key goal enunciated by the President-Elect concerning the American Recovery and Reinvestment Plan is that it should save or create at least 3 million jobs by the end of 2010. …. We expect the plan to more than meet the goal of creating or saving 3 million
jobs by 2010Q4. There are two important points to note, however: First, the likely scale of employment loss is extremely large. The U.S. economy has already lost
nearly 2.6 million jobs since the business cycle peak in December 2007. In the absence of stimulus, the economy could lose another 3 to 4 million more. Thus, we are working to counter a potential total job loss of at least 5 million. As Figure 1 shows, even with the large prototypical package, the unemployment rate in 2010Q4 is predicted to be approximately 7.0%, which is well below the approximately 8.8% that would result in the absence of a plan.”
(policy document dated: January 10, 2009)

That was the plan that President Obama and his team of advisors from Wall Street came up with to meet the crisis of massive unemployment. The actual outcome is that the plan did not begin to ameliorate the damage done to the economic lives of working people. By the end of 2010, the unemployment rate was 9.3 percent, not 7 percent. (http://data.bls.gov/timeseries/LNS14000000 )

The shortfall, as stunning as it is, hardly represents the real evil at work here. How could anyone think that the goal of resolving this crisis should be 7 seven percent unemployment? That aspiration is in and of itself a hideous, reprehensible failure of social imagination on the part of Obama and his co-conspirators from Wall Street. Of course, that Democrats would put forward a plan that they had to know in their muscle-bound brains would be completely inadequate would not be surprising to anyone who remembered Bill Clinton’s inability to deliver on job training in the 1990s. As with Bill Clinton, Obama and his cohort merely went through the motions of alleviating the catastrophic distress of working people. Nor did things get better in 2011. In September, 2011, the unemployment rate was 9 percent. The prolongation of the crisis and its cantilevering on the backs of working people reveals exactly how little those in the professional ranks of politics and social and economic policy understand ground-level existence.

And does anyone care to remember that this figure of nine percent unemployment in 2010-2011 is totally manipulated? Anyone who had despaired of finding work by the summer of 2011 was not counted. You were not unemployed, these statistics insisted. And the nightmare was only worse under the surface. How many hundreds and hundreds of thousands of people found that their unemployment benefits were insufficient and found themselves depending on relatives and friends who could barely sustain themselves? The damage done to working people during that period is at a level that those who hold positions of authority cannot imagine. They do not have enough intelligence to make that kind of empathic leap.

Bernie Sanders at least has the common sense not to make jobs his first priority. It is too late to redeem that tragic implosion. While he listed “jobs” in third place in his list of priorities, he knows that the coming crisis involves health care and that the only way to address the onslaught of health care needs of the baby boomer generation is the single-payer system. “Medicare for All,” he calls it, and in making this his anthem he brings to a complete stop a system in which generations exploit each other.

It should be noted that the baby boomer generation has subsided Medicare for the population born between 1910 and 1935. This rather large cluster of people paid very little into the Medicare system and reaped continuous coverage. By the end of this decade, it will be the turn of those born between 1946 and 1955 to receive the same benefits that their hard work provided to their elders. But will that promise be kept? Why should it be kept, especially when there are fewer people paying into it, all the while suspecting that it will not be there for them when it is their turn? I can hardly blame Gen X and the succeeding generations from being cynical. There is a tsunami of unfunded health benefits about to come due, and they are being asked to let themselves be drowned by a health care system dominated by corporate culture.

So Sanders wisely sees that the only way – the only fair way – to make sure that the promise made to the baby boom generation is kept is to provide the same level of access and care to everyone, and to provide this health care as a right. The pursuit of health is the foundation of whatever happiness we are fortunate enough to share with others. It is an inalienable right, and those who are 35 or 45 years old have as much right to it as those who are 70 or 75 years old. Health care is one of the essential critical fulfillments of social cohesion and requital. To diminish its status is to guarantee a debilitated social economy. If Sanders’s plan seems radical and daunting in its unfamiliarity to Americans, then they need to remember how badly both Democrats and Republicans handled the job crisis. They will do no better with their current plans (including Obamacare) to resolve the coming health crisis. Millions of economic lives would have been saved if Obama had acted with the boldness required in 2009. Millions of lives – literal lives, this time – are at stake, if we do not act with similar boldness in altering the health care system in the next four years.

A minority of our fellow citizens, however, would prefer to benefit from the unequal distribution of “health wealth.” This fraction of business as usual administrators has a vested interest in a system in which HMOs become “too big to fail.” Anyone can see what such a system has in mind: public money subsidizing private profits. Wall Street’s health is the only check-up they need to have an annual report on.

UPCOMING:

Part Two: The Checkmate Confrontation of Corporate Health and the Single-Payer System

Part Three: The “Life” Panels