Michael Moore’s new film on socialism* opens across the nation tomorrow


Michael Moore’s new film “Where to Invade Next,” which interestingly coincides with democratic socialist Bernie Sanders’ campaign for the presidency, starts tomorrow. You can see if it’s playing where you live by visiting the film’s website (click or tap here) and clicking or tapping on “screenings.”

In my fifth decade of life, not much excites me anymore, but I’m still excited by a new Michael Moore movie.

I saw Moore’s breakthrough film, “Bowling for Columbine,” here in Sacramento at one of our historical art houses when it came out — and Moore himself made an appearance inside of the movie theater and spoke for a while during the showing, which was a great treat.

(“Columbine” went on to win Best Documentary for 2002. “Sicko” was nominated for Best Documentary for 2007, and Wikipedia notes that “Fahrenheit 9/11, at the time the highest-grossing documentary film in movie history, was ruled ineligible [for an Oscar] because Moore had opted to have it played on television prior to the 2004 election.”)

While Bernie Sanders has stopped mentioning Denmark in his public appearances (Sanders does take feedback and he fairly rapidly adjusts accordingly), Moore’s newest film, “Where to Invade Next,” at least on its face seems to be an ad for Bernie, as Moore apparently doesn’t travel to Denmark but does travel to Finland, Iceland and Norway (and to Germany, Italy, Portugal and France and other nations) and points out the areas in which these other nations do a much better job of taking care of their peoples than the United States does of taking care of its own.

The popularity of “Fahrenheit 9/11” didn’t prevent “President” George W. Bush from getting a second term, but in November 2004, Bush “won”** with a “mandate” of a whopping 50.7 percent of the popular vote.

“Fahrenheit 9/11” helped to keep Bush’s margin of “victory” quite slim, I surmise — recall that in 2004 the “war on terror” was still fresh enough for the right wing to use fear tactics with the voters quite effectively and that the Repugnicans in 2004 also used same-sex marriage as a wedge issue and scare tactic — but despite its having been the top-grossing documentary of all time at that point, it wasn’t enough to boot an incumbent president, which is difficult.

We’ll see how much of an effect “Where to Invade Next” has on the current presidential election cycle.

I plan to see “Where to Invade Next” tomorrow, its opening day — at the same theater where I saw Michael Moore discuss “Bowling for Columbine” all of those years ago — and I plan to post a review of it no later than on Saturday or Sunday (probably Saturday).***

Yes, if I don’t like it, I’ll say so. Some of Moore’s films are better than his others. I rank his bigger films thusly, from my most favorite to less favorite: “Fahrenheit 9/11” (2004), “Bowling for Columbine” (2002), “Capitalism: A Love Story” (2009), “Sicko” (2007) and “Roger & Me” (1989).

*We shouldn’t run away from the “s”-word. If the United State of America were so fucking free, then why do we commoners not have the freedom to discuss alternative socioeconomic models?

And if capitalism were so inherently and self-evidently great, and since it preaches competition, why can’t the capitalists handle any competition in the marketplace of ideas?

**I put “won” in quotation marks since you can’t win re-election if you never legitimately were elected in the first place (Al Gore won in November 2000 by more than a half-million votes, and Florida’s electoral votes were stolen blatantly) and because in 2004 there was plenty of electoral fishiness in the important swing state of Ohio, whose then-secretary of state, Kenneth Blackwell, was a Repugnican operative, much how swing state Florida’s former secretary of state, Katherine Harris, was a Repugnican operative in 2000 who delivered the state to Gee Dubya, with help from his then-governor brother Jeb! and the right-wing U.S. Supreme Court, among others.

***Some time ago I used to post movie reviews regularly, but I’ve really dropped off from that, out of lack of time and out of my inability to see new movies as quickly as I’d like to sometimes. But I have to review a new Michael Moore movie…



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Live-blogging the sixth Dem debate

The sixth of the now-10 scheduled Democratic presidential debates is slated for tomorrow night, just one week after the fifth debate.

Because I’m a glutton for punishment, I most likely will live-blog it.

The debate is to be held in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and is to air on PBS.


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Bernie wins N.H., of course; Robo-Rubio apparently KO’d from race

Updated below

With 92 percent of the precincts reporting, Bernie Sanders beat Billary Clinton in New Hampshire yesterday by more than 20 percentage points — 60 percent to 38.3 percent, per Politico.

Final polling had Bernie beating Billary by around 13 percent, so I had expected him to win (by at least high single digits), but no, I didn’t expect him to beat Billary by the 20 percent or so that he’d garnered in some of the polls.

We’ll see how the Nevada caucuses pan out on February 20, but until then, Bernie gets to be the victor for the next week and a half. We’ll see if that’s enough time to erode any lead that Billary might have had in Nevada.

I mean, keep in mind that Billary won New Hampshire in 2008, but just barely — she beat Barack Obama by 3 percent in the popular vote, but both of them walked away from the state with the same number of delegates.

So ponder the fact that Billary beat Obama (barely) in New Hampshire in 2008 but lost by double digits there to a self-proclaimed democratic socialist yesterday. Methinks that the times have changed but that Billary still lives in the 1990s, when a center-right Democratic Party, a Repugnican Lite Party, a Democratic Party in name only, still was OK with enough Democratic voters for sellout DINOs like Billary to be able to win a nationwide (or other big) election.

On the Repugnican Tea Party side, with 92 percent of the precincts reporting, it’s Donald Trump at 35.2 percent in yesterday’s primary election in New Hampshire, John Kasich at 15.8 percent, Ted Cruz at 11.7 percent, Jeb! Bush at 11.1 percent and Robo-Rubio at 10.5 percent. Just after Robo-Rubio is the man who brought him down, Chris Christie, at 7.5 percent.

If there were fewer competitors and if Christie hadn’t beaten him down at the last Repugnican Tea Party presidential debate, Robo-Rubio would have done better than fifth place (thus far) in New Hampshire yesterday. (Yes, the vote-counting isn’t over, but with more than 90 percent of it complete, I don’t expect Robo-Rubio to get into the top three.)

So it looks like the Repugnican Tea Party is stuck with Donald Trump and with Ted Cruz, the only two candidates who ranked within the top three in both Iowa and New Hampshire (unless Jeb! Bush actually overtakes Cruz and finishes at third place in New Hamsphire; we’ll see).

Trump loses to both Bernie and Billary in the match-up polling, but Cruz actually barely beats Billary in the match-up polling, whereas Bernie barely beats Cruz. Bernie does better against both Trump and Cruz than does Billary, in fact, so, as Robo-Rubio might say: We can dispel with the fiction that Billary is more electable than is Bernie. We can dispel with the fiction that Billary is more electable than is Bernie. We can dispel with the fiction that Billary is more electable than is Bernie. We can dispel with the fiction that Billary is more electable than is Bernie. We can dispel with the fiction that…

Update: It’s being reported now that Chris Christie is dropping out of the race. 

Well, we can’t say that he accomplished nothing; he apparently knocked Robo-Rubio out of the race, and, again, Robo-Rubio had been polling against Billary and Bernie better than anyone else in his party.

With 95.7 percent of New Hampshire’s precincts reporting, Robo-Rubio remains at fifth place, with only 10.5 percent of the vote.

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Robo-Rubio repeats nauseating, vastly overrated talking point ad nauseam

Rubio comes under withering criticism in Republican debate

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie made mincemeat of Florida U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio during last night’s Repugnican Tea Party presidential debate, which is ironic, given that Christie very most likely won’t be the party’s nominee but that thus far Rubio, whose retrograde rhetoric greatly appeals to the party’s adherents, has been polling the best against both Billary Clinton and Bernie Sanders in general-election match-up polls. 

General-election polls this far out from a presidential election can be only so accurate (that is, probably not all that much), but nonetheless the Repugnican Tea Party traitors probably should be shaken, not stirred, that Chris Christie last night did to Marco Rubio what the Hulk did to Loki in “The Avengers” and what Joe Biden did to Paul Ryan in the 2012 vice-presidential debate.

Rubio, for all of his flaws (such as his complete lack of real substance and his apparently just having stepped out from a time machine from at least as far back as the 1950s), was doing better in the polls against both Billary Clinton and Bernie Sanders than was any other Repugnican Tea Party presidential wannabe.

Real Clear Politics’ average of general-election match-up polls (polls conducted before last night’s debacle) right now puts Rubio at 5 full percentage points above Billary and even 1.5 percentage points above Bernie.

Rubio is the only top-three (Rubio, Donald Trump and Ted Cruz) Repugnican Tea Party presidential candidate whose RCP averages show beating Bernie, in fact; Bernie beats Cruz by 1.5 percent and he beats Trump by a whopping 7.7 percent.

(Billary, on the other hand, not only does worse against Rubio than does Bernie, but she also doesn’t do as well against Trump or Cruz as does Bernie; Cruz beats her by 1 percentage point in RCP’s current average of match-up polls, and she beats Trump by 4 percent to Bernie’s 7.7 percent. Take a look yourself.)

Before Chris Christie, who won’t win his party’s presidential nomination, last night went Hulk on Loki Rubio, Rubio’s shtick of being the next (albeit Latino and Repugnican Tea Party) Barack Obama apparently had been working, given the fact that he had been doing better in the presidential match-up polls than anyone else in his party.

I’m not sure what happened to Rubio last night, and I didn’t watch the debate (having watched all five Democratic debates has been torturous enough, mainly because of the repetition and because of Billary Clinton’s plethora of lies, deflections and triangulations, made with her voice that is like fingernails dragging along a chalkboard), but Rubio widely has been described as having been in last night’s debate like an animatronic feature at Disneyland that, because of a glitch, kept repeating the same line.

The first time he said it, per TIME.com’s transcript of last night’s debate, Rubio said this:

“And let’s dispel once and for all with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing. Barack Obama is undertaking a systematic effort to change this country, to make America more like the rest of the world.”

He immediately added:

“That’s why he passed Obamacare and the stimulus and Dodd-Frank and the deal with Iran. It is a systematic effort to change America. When I’m president of the United States, we are going to re-embrace all the things that made America the greatest nation in the world and we are going to leave our children with what they deserve: the single greatest nation in the history of the world.”

Then Christie spoke, and among the things he said was this:

“I like Marco Rubio, and he’s a smart person and a good guy, but he simply does not have the experience to be president of the United States and make these decisions. We’ve watched it happen [with Obama], everybody. For the last seven years, the people of New Hampshire are smart. Do not make the same mistake again.”

In his response to that, Rubio bizarrely repetitively stated (in part):

“But I would add this. Let’s dispel with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing. He is trying to change this country. He wants America to become more like the rest of the world. We don’t want to be like the rest of the world, we want to be the United States of America.

“And when I’m elected president, this will become once again the single greatest nation in the history of the world, not the disaster Barack Obama has imposed upon us.”

Christie devastatingly responds (in part): “You see, everybody, I want the people at home to think about this. That’s what Washington, D.C., does: The drive-by shot at the beginning with incorrect and incomplete information and then the memorized 25-second speech that is exactly what his advisers gave him.

“See, Marco — Marco, the thing is this: When you’re president of the United States, when you’re a governor of a state, the memorized 30-second speech where you talk about how great America is at the end of it doesn’t solve one problem for one person.

“They expect you to plow the snow. They expect you to get the schools open. And when the worst natural disaster in your state’s history hits you, they expect you to rebuild their state, which is what I’ve done.

“None of that stuff happens on the floor of the United States Senate. It’s a fine job, I’m glad you ran for it, but it does not prepare you for president of the United States.”

Quite bizarrely, Rubio responds to Christie a third time with the Obama thing; he says, in part, “Here’s the bottom line: This notion that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing is just not true. He knows exactly what he’s doing.”

Christie immediately responds, “There it is. There it is. The memorized 25-second speech. There it is, everybody.”

Unfazed and undeterred, Robo-Rubio goes on for a fourth iteration of the same point: “Well, that’s the — that’s the reason why this campaign is so important. Because I think this notion — I think this is an important point. We have to understand what we’re going through here. We are not facing a president that doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows what he is doing. That’s why he’s done the things he’s done.

“That’s why we have a president that passed Obamacare and the stimulus. All this damage that he’s done to America is deliberate. This is a president that’s trying to redefine this country. That’s why this election is truly a referendum on our identity as a nation, as a people. Our future is at stake. …”

Just: Wow.

Donald Trump later in the debate took issue with Robo-Rubio’s repetitive asssertion that the evil Barack Obama knows exactly what he’s doing by stating, “I think we have a president who, as a president, is totally incompetent, and he doesn’t know what he’s doing.

Two very different views from two individuals who claim the same party.

I agree that Barack Obama didn’t have enough experience to be president. He’d only been a U.S. senator for four years before he ascended to the White House and had never been a governor or even a mayor, of course.

That he spent — squandered — his first two years in the nation’s highest elected office acting as though he were so special (a second coming of Abraham Lincoln or something) that he could unite the two parties in a rousing rendition of “Kumbaya” demonstrated his utter lack of experience in D.C. (and his hubris).

The Repugnican Tea Party traitors in D.C. never were going to cooperate with Obama, not only because he uses the label of Democrat but also because he’s half-black. In fact, it’s anachronistic of me to write that the “Repugnican Tea Party traitors” in D.C. never were going to cooperate with him, because the “tea party’s” creation, circa 2009, was a reaction to the election of another Democratic and our first non-all-white president.

The “tea party” surge of 2009 and 2010 lost the Democrats control of the U.S. House of Representatives in November 2010, and therefore any progressive agenda that Obama might have tried to push through for the next six years was pretty much dead on arrival.

And I blame Obama’s lack of political experience and his pride for that, for his apparent belief that he’s so great that his merely being president would solve all of the nation’s problems (and its wounds, such as its long-standing problems with racism) to the point that he didn’t need to even try to push through a progressive agenda in 2009 and 2010, when he still had a shitload of political capital, including both houses of Congress in his party’s control.

But I voted for Obama in November 2008, so I have to own that. It was a shot in the dark, I knew, to put this relative neophyte into the White House, but he ubiquitously and relentlessly was promising “hope” and “change,” and sometimes these things work out well. It was, I’d figured, worth a shot.

I digress, as I so often do, but I will note that while the Repugnican Tea Party’s complaint against Obama is that he has gone too far to the left, my chief complaint against Obama is that he hasn’t gone nearly enough to the left.

But the larger point that I want to make is that so often the style and not the substance (such as it is) of Marco Rubio’s nationally televised appearances is analyzed.

For instance, there was some criticism that the substance of Rubio’s nationally televised response to Barack Obama’s 2013 State of the Union address was overlooked because on live TV he’d grabbed a water bottle and taken a swig from it — as though we couldn’t see him do that on live national television. It was a rather bizarre moment.

“Yes, let’s look at the content of Marco Rubio’s speech,” I blogged then, and I concluded that Rubio’s central shtick is to pretend that we’re still living at least as far back in the 1950s, when, as least the mythos goes, anyone could make it in the capitalist United States of America if he or she only tried — so if you’re struggling right now, it’s entirely your own fucking fault as a patently defective individual, because the American socioeconomic system is perfect, is a perfect meritocracy.

This was the origin of my nickname of “Bootstraps” for Rubio, although that might have been supplanted now by “Robo-Rubio.”

Rubio, like his fellow Cuban-American fascist Ted Cruz, mindlessly spouts the antiquated, bullshit rhetoric of the Cuban fascists whom the much more egalitarian Fidel Castro decades ago induced to flee to the United States, where their treasonous, right-wing, fascist, pro-capitalist/pro-exploitation/pro-plutocratic/anti-populist philosophy could thrive.

(I concluded my blog post on Rubio’s response to the 2013 State of the Union address:

And I agree wholeheartedly: It’s not about the little water bottle that Marco Rubio grabbed during a live national television address.

It’s about the fact that no one who asserts that we still live in a time that, if it ever existed at all, ceased to exist decades ago, is fit to lead.

You can lead only if you are planted firmly in the present and in the problems of the presentnot if you’re still stuck in an episode of “Leave It to Beaver” or “The Andy Griffith Show.”

I stand by every word of that.)

If the “substance” of Rubio’s response to the State of the Union address was lost amid the shallow discussion of his on-air parchedness, I’m also not seeing a discussion of the “substance” of the “point” that Rubio thought was so damned clever and so fucking insightful that he kept repeating it over and over and over and over and over again last night, even after Chris Christie had just slammed him for only standing up there and repeating it mindlessly.

So let’s examine Rubio’s first iteration of it:

“… And let’s dispel once and for all with this fiction that Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing. He knows exactly what he’s doing. Barack Obama is undertaking a systematic effort to change this country, to make America more like the rest of the world.

“That’s why he passed Obamacare and the stimulus and Dodd-Frank and the deal with Iran. It is a systematic effort to change America. When I’m president of the United States, we are going to re-embrace all the things that made America the greatest nation in the world and we are going to leave our children with what they deserve: the single greatest nation in the history of the world.”

First and foremost, I see in Rubio’s words his constant hearkening at least as far back to the 1950s; anything that Obama or any other president might do that doesn’t keep the United States of America firmly trapped in amber for eternity is bad. It threatens “the single greatest nation in the history of the world.”

And those words evoke Robo-Rubio’s second theme, which is that of American “supremacy,” which to me is way too aligned with white American supremacy, but you can get away with alleging American supremacy because that can be cast as patriotism rather than as racism and bigotry.

But Robo-Rubio’s words are awfully loaded: “Barack Obama is undertaking a systematic effort to change this country, to make America more like the rest of the world.”

What Rubio very apparently is evoking, especially within his older, whiter and richer voters, is the specter that their exploitative, exclusive, Elysium-like existence has been threatened!

Americans’ quality of life, in which even most poorer Americans still have it better off than do billions of other human beings around the globe, and which comes at the expense of those billions of other human beings around the globe, might be threatened — by global equality! Global equality! Did you hear me? I said: GLOBAL EQUALITY! HORRORS!

What if our wholly unsustainable, materialistic, overly consumeristic lifestyles were threatened? What if we actually had to live like responsible citizens of the planet? What if we actually had to scale it back so that other human beings and, indeed, the planet itself, could survive?

One shudders to contemplate the consequences of us Americans surrendering even a modicum of our abject selfishness — even when our abject selfishness is to the point that it is threatening even our own continued survival, such as with extreme weather events and the spread of diseases to warming environments, such as the Zika virus.

Rubio’s “vision” for the Unites States of America is fairly clear: “Obamacare” bad. Not because it doesn’t go far enough, not because “Obamacare” contains in it nothing that the wealth-care — er, health-care industry didn’t want in it — which is my criticism of it — but because to help anyone with health care at all is bad.

The stimulus — bad, because, as we have just established, helping anyone out (except, of course, the weasels of Wall Street and other corporate weasels) is bad. (Bootstraps! Pick yourself up by them! Oh, you don’t have any boots? That’s because you’re lazy!)

Dodd-Frank, which was just a Band-Aid on the dam that is Wall Street, the dam that regularly bursts, is bad, because the Wall Street weasels should be allowed to do whatever they please. (Why do you hate freedom?)

The deal with Iran — bad, because, a la George Orwell’s 1984, we must always have an enemy. The treasonous rich (the true enemy, within) can continue to rape, pillage and plunder us commoners much more easily if we commoners always have an enemy from without to focus upon.

So, as president, Robo-Rubio would make sure that we commoners don’t get adequate health care — or any assistance at all, because, you know, bootstraps — and he would return Wall Street to the freedom-loving weasels who keep ruining our nation’s economy but whom we keep bailing out nonetheless (bootstraps don’t apply to the Wall Street weasels, you see; I mean, when have you ever seen a weasel wearing boots?). And for our diversion, a President Bootstraps would ensure that we were at war with some other nation at all times.

And the last thing that a President Bootstraps would allow is global equality, a grave evil that only Satan himself could have conjured.

Because Robo-Rubio has vision!

If you think that I’ve misrepresented Robo-Rubio’s “vision,” here is another of his many iterations of the same point last night:

“… I think anyone who believes that Barack Obama isn’t doing what he’s doing on purpose doesn’t understand what we’re dealing with here, OK? This is a president — this is a president who is trying to change this country. When he talked about change, he wasn’t talking about dealing with our problems.

“Obamacare was not an accident. The undermining of the Second Amendment is not an accident. The gutting of our military is not an accident. The undermining of America on the global stage is not an accident. Barack Obama is, indeed, trying to redefine this country. We better understand what we’re dealing with here, because that’s what Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders want to double down on if they are elected.”

Well, yes, Obama has tried to change the nation, very incrementally, too incrementally (as Billary now proposes to do), but with change you have to ask who benefits from it and who doesn’t. Of course Robo-Rubio’s target audience — the mostly older, richer, whiter set — benefits the most from the status quo. The majority of the rest of us Americans, and the rest of the world, do not.

Again, Obamacare was but a Band-Aid on the severe problem that the United States spends more per capita on health care than does any other nation yet has worse health-care outcomes than do many other nations that spend much less on health care — and this is because health care is so widely for-profit here in the U.S.

Yes, we need to change our health-care system. Obamacare didn’t go nearly far enough, but Bootstraps and his treasonous ilk claim that it went way too far.

The Second Amendment is not endangered. Most Americans still may quite easily purchase a weapon that is far more lethal than anyone thought weapons ever would be when the Second Amendment was adopted.

Our military has not been “gutted.” This graph, titled “Top five countries by military expenditure in 2014. According to the International Institute for Strategic Studies,” is from Wikipedia’s article on global military spending:

If the United States of America halved its military spending, it still would exceed No.-2 China’s by a significant amount.

So when Robo-Rubio claims that “When [Obama] talked about change, he wasn’t talking about dealing with our problems,” who, exactly, is “our”? Because the things that Bootstraps wants to reverse and/or to continue — such as maintaining a bloated-beyond-belief military budget and perpetrating perpetual warfare; refusing to help Americans with health care, even in a token way, such as via Obamacare (while bailing out the Wall Street weasels who should receive prison sentences instead of welfare); and ensuring that gun massacres continue to happen on a regular basis (because Second Amendment!) are things that are harmful to us commoners.

I will, however, agree with one statement that Robo-Rubio made last night: Bernie Sanders, if elected as president, probably would “double down” on trying to create the change that Barack Obama promised but very mostly has not delivered, the kind of change that Bootstraps Rubio and his fascist ilk absolutely abhor: the kind of change that benefits not only the most Americans as possible, but the most human beings on the planet as possible — instead of keeping the relatively tiny few safely atop their treasonous, oligarchic perches of stolen wealth and power and privilege, from where they shit and piss upon the rest of us, the masses, and from where they conspire even to destroy the entire planet itself, because their short-sightedness, selfishness and greed know no bounds.

P.S. I just found this news photo via Yahoo! News:

MR12. Londonderry (Usa), 07/02/2016.- People depicting robots mock Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio's performance at the 06 February Republican debate; outside a Rubio campaign event at Londonderry High School in Londonderry, New Hampshire, USA, 07 February 2016. The New Hampshire primary will be held on 09 February 2016. (Estados Unidos) EFE/EPA/MICHAEL REYNOLDS

EFE (Spain) photo

Its caption states: “People depicting robots mock Republican presidential candidate Marco Rubio’s performance at the February 6 Republican debate, outside a Rubio campaign event at Londonderry High School in Londonderry, New Hampshire, [today]. The New Hampshire primary will be held on [Tuesday].”

Yup. Methinks that his debate performance last night is going to harm Robo-Rubio on Tuesday. Right now he’s polling at a distant second to Donald Trump in New Hampshire, but now, I’m thinking, he’ll come in no more than at third place.

Rubio’s chance of winning the nomination suffered a serious blow last night, and he probably was the best presidential candidate his party had in these shallow times, where legions of low-information voters decide so many elections.

Thank you, Chris Christie!

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Live-blogging the fifth, last-minute Democratic presidential debate

Updated below (on Friday, February 5, 2016)

Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt, and Democratic presidential candidate, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spar during a Democratic presidential primary debate hosted by MSNBC at the University of New Hampshire Thursday, Feb. 4, 2016, in Durham, N.H. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

Associated Press photo

Bernie Sanders and Billary Clinton spar in the fifth Democratic Party presidential debate in New Hampshire, five days before the state holds its presidential primary election, the first presidential primary election in the nation. Bernie is expected to win New Hampshire, but subsequent states have been polling more favorably for Billary. Tonight’s debate, which was between only the two candidates, should have given Sanders the additional exposure to voters that he has needed.

6:02 p.m. (all times Pacific Time): We’re beginning. No pre-debate punditry, thank Goddess. I’m not a fan of Chuck Todd, but I do like Rachel Maddow, even though MSNBC has been tilted toward Billary Clinton as of late (and has been drifting rightward for a while now).

6:04 p.m.: Bernie begins with his opening statement. He mentions the “rigged economy,” “a corrupt campaign finance system,” Citizens United and the 1 percent, and the political disenchantment that these problems have caused.

6:06 p.m.: Billary in her opening statement raises the specters of racism, sexism and homophobia — identity politics. I’m a gay man, but I don’t need to be pandered to, especially by late-to-the-gay-ball Billary Clinton, and income inequality is a worse problem than is homophobia. (Income inequality harms more people, and of course it harms LGBT folks, too.) Identity politics only keep us commoners fighting each other instead of fighting the powers that be — which is exactly what Billary’s corporate sugar daddies want.

“A progressive is someone who achieves progress,” Billary says. Mmm hmmmmm… (What’s “progress”? She doesn’t define it for us…)

6:10 p.m.: The middle class bailed out Wall Street, Bernie says; now, it’s time for Wall Street to bail out the middle class by helping fund college education, he says.

6:12 p.m.: Bernie denies Billary’s charge that he wants to dismantle “Obamacare.” He states that he would keep it in place while working toward single-payer/Medicare for all.

6:13 p.m.: Billary now trying to redefine progressivism and claim that Bernie’s attacks on her lack of progressivism are attacks not only on her but also on other Democrats, a common political triangulating, deflecting tactic of hers.

6:15 p.m.: Bernie reminds us that free college tuition exists in other nations and used to exist in the United States. Yup.

6:17 p.m.: Bernie reminds us that in September, Billary stated in public that she is a moderate. (She did.) Chuck Todd has asked Bernie if Barack Obama is a moderate or a progressive.

Bernie says he believes that Obama is a progressive (um, he might be fibbing…), although he disagrees with some of Obama’s stances, such as on the TPP (Trans-Pacific Partnership).

6:20 p.m.: Billary has called Bernie the (self-appointed) “gatekeeper of progressivism,” which is bullshit. Bernie says he doesn’t want to argue about the definitions of words and that it’s important to see who walks the walk, and he reminds us that he does not have a superPAC.

6:21 p.m.: Rachel Maddow asks about how Bernie is running as a Democrat when he became a Democrat only recently. Bernie stated that he wants to see “major changes” within the Democratic Party and that as the longest-serving independent in Congress, he always caucused with the Dems. This is true. (What other choice did he have?)

6:25 p.m.: Wow. Bernie just stated that Billary has the support of the establishment, whereas he has the support of the ordinary American.

Billary has responded by playing the woman card. Because she is a woman running for president, she can’t be part of the establishment, she has claimed. Wow. (Again, this is the New Feminism.)

Bernie reminds us that Billary’s taking Big Money’s big money like she does is to be part of the establishment.

Billary calls these “attacks” and claims through her fangs that all of the big money that she has received from Big Money has had no effect on her decision-making. Riiight…

Billary is now being booed by the audience. Woo hoo!

6:30 p.m.: Bernie is on fire, talking about how big money is destroying the nation. Just: Wow. “There is a reason that these people are putting huge amounts of money into our political system,” Bernie just said, to rousing applause.

Billary again tries to deflect and triangulate, stating that the Repugnicans long have attacked her, so she must not be that bad.

6:35 p.m.: We’re on break now. My computer is sluggish, so I’m not able to capture as much of this debate as I otherwise would like to… Thus far, only Billary has been booed, and Bernie is owning her. She’s quite on the defensive. And her voice sounds strained.

6:37 p.m.: Mega-asshole Chuck Todd asks Bernie why he isn’t participating in the public presidential campaign financing system, and doesn’t it make Bernie a hypocrite that he isn’t? Todd knows that Bernie couldn’t even begin to begin to effectively compete against Billary if he did that. Jesus fuck, I hate Chuck Todd.

Bernie calls the public financing system ineffective and antiquated for today’s political campaigns, and Billary agrees with him that it is (of course, she is not participating in it, either).

6:40 p.m.: The topic now is Billary’s speaking fees from Wall Street weasels. Bernie reminds us how evil Goldman Sachs and the other Wall Street weasels are, and reminds us that the Wall Street weasels tanked the nation’s economy but that none of them saw any jail time, whereas we commoners routinely see jail time for much, much lesser crimes/”crimes.”

6:43 p.m.: Bernie evokes Elizabeth Warren, the first time, I believe, that she has come up in these debates. The banks must be broken up, Bernie says. Billary disagrees and evokes Obama again. She claims that the Wall Street weasels hate and fear her. Riiiiight

Todd chimes in that more experts like Billary’s plan to take on Wall Street than Bernie’s. I have no idea whether this is true or not, but who are these “experts” of whom he speaks? Are they pro-Wall-Street “experts”?

6:47 p.m.: Billary tells us that she was highly paid (in speaking fees) to talk about such things as how “stressful” it was to help nab Osama bin Laden. Wow.

Billary doesn’t want us to focus on her coziness with Wall Street. She wants us to look at other bad actors, too, she says, such as Big Oil. Of course she wants us to look elsewhere. That’s her campaign tactic: Look! Over there!

6:51 p.m.: Rachel Maddow asks if Bernie as president could effectively work with Big Business, given his (socialist) campaign rhetoric. I resent the widespread idea that the president of the United States of America or any other elected public official should not be accountable to the American people, but instead should kowtow to Big Business — and leave it to a corporately owned and controlled “news” network to put forth that pro-capitalist/pro-corporate, anti-populist and anti-democratic worldview.

Bernie reminds us that while sometimes corporations do positive things, so often they do harmful things, such as send American jobs overseas in order to increase their profits.

6:55 p.m.: On break now. I’m not missing Martin O’Malley. Just sayin’.

6:57 p.m.: Topic now is ISIS. Billary says no combat troops to Iraq or Syria. She says the United States should provide support, but that the natives of the embattled nations should do the fighting.

6:59 p.m.: Bernie reminds us that unlike Billary he voted against the Vietraq War (this was when he was in the U.S. House of Representatives and she was in the U.S. Senate), which helped create ISIS in the first place. Repetitive, but true.

Billary responds by making a Sarah-Palin-like statement that we have to look forward, not backwards, but her incredibly poor judgment in having voted for the Vietraq War in October 2002 is fair game; it’s part of her record of “accomplishment.”

7:02 p.m.: The right-of-center Chuck Todd is being obviously much tougher on Bernie than on Billary, isn’t even trying to conceal his bias, and why isn’t Rachel Maddow getting a lot more air time than she is?

7:04 p.m.: Bernie sums up his foreign-policy philosophy, states that his “key doctrine” as president would be that the United States cannot be the world’s police and cannot do it all alone.

7:06 p.m.: Billary fear-mongers now, reminds us that the president is also the commander in chief.

Bernie states that while Billary has had the foreign-policy experience as secretary of state, judgment is important as well as experience, and he reminds us once again that Billary voted for the Vietraq War.

Billary reminds us once again that Obama made her his secretary of state, so she must have great judgment, and pathetically, she reminds us once again that she was part of the fishy nabbing of bin Laden.

Fuck. There are five more of these debates?

7:14 p.m.: Asked by Chuckie in an apparent trick question, Bernie names North Korea as our most worrying adversary right now. Chuckie then gives the “right” answer (Russia), and then asks Billary the same question, having already just given the “right” answer. Again, Chuckie doesn’t even give the pretense of fairness.

7:22 p.m.: On break. My streaming has gone in and out, so I probably have missed some stuff.

That said, these debates are pretty repetitive. I almost miss Martin — almost

7:24 p.m.: Chuck Todd asks if Bernie Sanders agrees with The Des Moines Register’s editorial about the fucked-up Iowa Democratic caucuses on Monday night (see my post from earlier today). Bernie says he does, but that the issue of the problems with Iowa’s Democratic caucuses have been overblown, as he and Billary left Iowa with roughly the same number of delegates.

7:27 p.m.: Rachel asks if Bernie can be a strong general-election presidential candidate. With strong voter turnout, yes, he can, Bernie answers. Strong voter turnout would propel him to the White House, regain the Dems the U.S. Senate and win back governorships for the Dems, he says.

7:29 p.m.: Billary won’t directly answer Rachel’s question as to whether or not she believes Bernie Sanders could beat the eventual Repugnican presidential candidate (the match-up polls have Bernie doing significantly better than Billary against Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio), but she indirectly says that he could not, and she fear-mongers again, saying that the president must keep us safe.

You know, if fear-mongering appealed to me, I would vote Repugnican. (I have to wonder if Billary’s having been a Goldwater Girl has had a permanently lasting effect on her. Seriously; I’m not being flippant.)

7:31 p.m.: Chuckie asks Billary about the e-mail issue. She says she isn’t worried about it at all and talks about the great evil of “retroactive security classification.” She engages her common tactic of claiming that others have done just as she has done, so therefore, she is innocent.

Bernie is asked if he still dismisses E-mailgate, as he did in the first debate. Bernie says, “There is a process under way [the investigation of Billary’s e-mail use is ongoing] and I will not politicize it.” (Bernie is civil to a fault, I think sometimes. But he’s gotten this far, so I can’t really say that he’s doing something majorly wrong.)

7:40 p.m.: The issue now is the death penalty. Billary says she will not oppose the death penalty in every instance. She says the death penalty should be reserved for the most heinous crimes, such as how Timothy McVeigh was executed for the Oklahoma City bombing, but that too many states can’t be trusted to administer the death penalty properly, unlike the fed.

7:43 p.m.: Government shouldn’t be part of killing, Bernie says, an apparent blanket opposition to the death penalty.

(My stance is closer to Bernie’s than to Billary’s; but I think that I am pretty OK with the death penalty for war criminals who are responsible for the deaths of thousands of people [and other crimes against humanity], such as George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, et. al. Seriously — justice was done at Nuremberg, but war criminals walk free among us here at home. It it’s never war criminals or other members of the elite who are executed, but only us commoners, for much lesser crimes. [And sometimes, of course, we commoners are executed when we are innocent.])

7:47 p.m.: Flint, Michigan, was discussed, but I lost my streaming… I did hear Bernie state that if Flint were rich and white, instead of largely poor and black, its water wouldn’t have been poisoned with lead. Yup.

Topic now is trade agreements. Billary states she opposes the TPP.

Chuckie reminds us that Bernie has never supported a trade deal in his years in Congress. Bernie says that all of the trade deals he’s voted on in Congress have screwed the working class and the middle class. He reminds us that he opposed NAFTA, which Bill Clinton signed into law.

Bernie says that corporate America has written the trade deals over the past 30 years, so he has not been able to support them. Excellent answer. He blew Chuckie (and Billary) away.

7:55 p.m.: Billary won’t pick one most important thing that she would push for first as president, stating she rejects the “premise” of Chuckie’s question.

Bernie without hesitation says campaign finance reform would be the one most important thing that he would push for first, because no other problem can be resolved until that problem is resolved. Excellent (and quite correct) answer.

8:00 p.m.: Billary just said that her service as secretary of state was praised by Henry KissingerWow… (Again: Goldwater Girl…)

8:03 p.m.: Chuckie asks Billary if she’d make Bernie her vice-presidential candidate if she wins the presidential nomination and asks Bernie if he’d make Billary his if he wins. Both Billary and Bernie responded that it’s too early for the veep discussion. (I take that as “no” for both of them…)

8:04 p.m.: Billary in her closing statement reminds us that we have other kinds of inequality other than income inequality, another apparent shout-out to identity politics.

I don’t disagree with her on the face of that statement, but we commoners bicker over identity politics (race, sex/gender, sexual orientation, religious orientation, etc.) to our own continued detriment. The establishment wants us to bicker thusly, since if we commoners are fighting each other then we are not fighting the establishment, and since Billary is part of the establishment…

(Again, I’m a gay man, but I don’t want, need or welcome Billary’s pandering to me on LGBT issues. Not only does she come awfully suspiciously late to the game, but I put my own narrow, selfish issues aside and I put climate change and income inequality [to name just two huge problems/issues] above identity politics. They’re far more important than is the relative pettiness of identity politics.)

Bernie in his closing statement seemed a bit tired, but what a week it has been for him. Tonight’s debate was squeezed in between Iowa and New Hampshire at the last minute.

Tonight’s debate largely was what Donald Trump might deem “low-energy,” with Bernie on fire a few times, and overall it certainly was repetitive of the previous four debates.

Tonight’s debate has given more voters and potential voters more exposure to Bernie Sanders, and the O’Malley distraction is gone, thankfully, but of those who already are significantly familiar with Bernie and with Billary, I don’t expect tonight’s debate to have changed their allegiance.

That is, again, if you were a Berner or a Billarybot before tonight’s debate, you’ll most likely remain a Billarybot or a Berner after it.

I expect Bernie to win New Hampshire on Tuesday, if not by the double digits that he’s polling there now, then in the high single digits, and I hope that he can win Nevada on February 20.

If he does, then it’s really game on.

Update (Friday, February 5, 2016): I’d suspected that Billary’s claim that being a woman means that she couldn’t possibly be part of the establishment would draw derision, but apparently the “feminist” card is working (at least with some if not even with most).

Slate.com, for instance, has run a piece titled “Hillary Says She’s Not an ‘Establishment’ Candidate — Because She’s a Woman,” but the piece does not much call her out on the brazen identity politics.

Instead, the author, Josh Vorhees, who usually does better, writes that “Yes, Clinton is the favorite of the Democratic establishment, regardless of how you want to define it” — but writes that her reminding all of us yet once again that she possesses the XX chromosomes “was nonetheless a powerful point worth making.”

He concludes that “Bernie may be calling for a political revolution — but electing a woman as president would also be a revolutionary act.” (Um, so would be electing our first [at-least-ethnically] Jewish [and non-Christian/”Christian”] president in Bernie Sanders.)

Would Vorhees have said that of Sarah Palin, that her election would have been “a revolutionary act”? I mean, we’ve never had a female president or vice president.

I prefer Doug Henwood’s take on the matter in his excellent book My Turn: Hillary Clinton Targets the Presidency (in the prefatory section in which he discusses the book’s great cover art):

It would be a good thing to have a woman president after the 43 bepenised ghouls and functionaries who’ve occupied the office. (OK, there were a few who weren’t half-bad — you wouldn’t need more than one hand to count them.) But, as I argue in this book, if you’re looking for a more peaceful, more egalitarian society, you’d have to overlook a lot about Hillary’s history to develop any enthusiasm for her.

The side of feminism I’ve studied and admired for decades has been about moving towards that ideal, and not merely placing women into high places while leaving the overall hierarchy of power largely unchanged. It’s distressing to see feminism pressed into service to promote the career of a thoroughly orthodox politician — and the charge of sexism used to deflect critiques of her.

Absolutely. (And “bepenised” — I love that…)

It was nice to have our first non-white president in Barack Obama, but in November 2008 I’d thought that I was voting for a progressive president (you know, all of that hope and change) — not just our first black president.

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Iowa’s Des Moines Register: Dem caucuses were ‘a debacle, period’

Here, in its entirety, is an editorial that The Des Moines Register published last night (links are the Register’s):

Once again the world is laughing at Iowa. Late-night comedians and social-media mavens are having a field day with jokes about missing caucus-goers and coin flips.

That’s fine. We can take ribbing over our quirky process. But what we can’t stomach is even the whiff of impropriety or error.

What happened Monday night at the Democratic caucuses was a debacle, period. Democracy, particularly at the local party level, can be slow, messy and obscure. But the refusal to undergo scrutiny or allow for an appeal reeks of autocracy.

The Iowa Democratic Party must act quickly to assure the accuracy of the caucus results, beyond a shadow of a doubt.

First of all, the results were too close not to do a complete audit of results. Two-tenths of 1 percent separated Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. A caucus should not be confused with an election, but it’s worth noting that much larger margins trigger automatic recounts in other states.

Second, too many questions have been raised. Too many accounts have arisen of inconsistent counts, untrained and overwhelmed volunteers, confused voters, cramped precinct locations, a lack of voter registration forms and other problems. Too many of us, including members of the Register editorial board who were observing caucuses, saw opportunities for error amid Monday night’s chaos.

The Sanders campaign is rechecking results on its own, going precinct by precinct, and is already finding inconsistencies, said Rania Batrice, a Sanders spokeswoman. The campaign seeks the math sheets or other paperwork that precinct chairs filled out and were supposed to return to the state party. They want to compare those documents to the results entered into a Microsoft app and sent to the party.

“Let’s compare notes. Let’s see if they match,” Batrice said Wednesday.

Dr. Andy McGuire, chairwoman of the Iowa Democratic Party, dug in her heels and said no. She said the three campaigns had representatives in a room in the hours after the caucuses and went over the discrepancies.

McGuire knows what’s at stake. Her actions only confirm the suspicions, wild as they might be, of Sanders supporters. Their candidate, after all, is opposed by the party establishment — and wasn’t even a Democrat a few months ago.

So her path forward is clear: Work with all the campaigns to audit results. Break silly party tradition and release the raw vote totals. Provide a list of each precinct coin flip and its outcome, as well as other information sought by the Register. Be transparent.

And then call for a blue-ribbon commission to study how to improve the caucuses, as the Republican Party of Iowa did after its own fiasco in 2012. Monday’s mess showed that it’s time for the Democrats to change, too.

The caucuses have become something they were never intended to be. It’s as if RAGBRAI tried to morph into the Tour de France. It wasn’t built for the speed or the significance.

The current process grew out of efforts to find a more democratic way to choose delegates to conventions, after the grassroots saw how Democratic power-brokers controlled the nominating process in 1968. But the caucuses have become as antiquated and opaque as the smoke-filled rooms of yore.

Democrats should ask themselves: What do we want the Iowa caucus to be? How can we preserve its uniqueness while bringing more order? Does it become more like a straw poll or primary? How do we strike the balance between tradition and transparency?

We have time to consider these questions. First, however, we need answers to what happened Monday night. The future of the first-in-the-nation caucuses demands it.

As I noted recently, there is no good reason for Iowa not to scrap the caucus model altogether and adopt a primary-election model, which most of the states possess.*

There should be paper ballots that can be recounted if necessary, as it is here in California. No caucusing, just secret ballots cast by individual voters — again, on paper, so that recounts and audits are possible.

We can’t have faith or trust in the results of what’s supposed to be a democratic process if we have no way to check those results, especially when the results are so close that they are within a fraction of 1 percent — and, of course, when a state’s Democratic Party official refuses to release for review the documentation that is supposed to back up the official results of a democratic process, as is the case in Iowa.

You’d think that Team Billary would want to avoid the skepticism and doubt of Billary’s razor-thin “win” in Iowa, would want to remove all doubt and skepticism that Billary “won” fairly and squarely, but I’ve yet to read or hear that Team Billary has asked for the documentation of the Iowa caucuses to be released.


*Wikipedia states this of the New Hampshire primaries:

The scheduled date of the New Hampshire primary always officially starts out as the second Tuesday in March, which is the date when town meetings and non-partisan municipal elections are traditionally held.

New Hampshire law stipulates (in section RSA 653:9 of the statute book) that the secretary of state can change the date to ensure that the New Hampshire primary will take place at least seven days before any “similar election” in any other state.

The Iowa caucuses are not considered to be a similar election. In recent election cycles, the New Hampshire primary has taken place the week after the Iowa caucus.

New Hampshire’s first-in-the-nation primary status was threatened in 2007, when both the Republican and Democratic National Committees moved to give more populous states a bigger influence in the presidential race.

Several states also sought to move up the dates of their 2008 primaries in order to have more influence and dilute the power of the New Hampshire primary. Originally held in March, the date of the New Hampshire primary has been moved up repeatedly to maintain its status as first. The 2008 primary was held on January 8.

Perhaps Iowans don’t want to compete with New Hampshire’s demand to always hold the first primary anywhere in the nation, so they don’t want to let go of the caucus model, but, it seems to me, a hybrid is possible: caucus as usual, but then cast votes on paper ballots as in a primary election, so that there is a clear paper trail of ballots.

P.S. Slate.com’s Josh Vorhees weighs in on the Register’s editorial and the problems with the Democratic Iowa caucuses, and concludes: “So, it’s fair to wonder: Would the Iowa Democratic Party be as confident in its final results if they would have shown Sanders with the narrow lead as opposed to the other way around?”


Methinks that the Iowa Democratic Party wanted to deliver a “win” to Billary, whether she actually won or not.

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Live-blogging the just-added fifth Dem debate tomorrow night (probably)

The Democratic National Committee has approved four additional Democratic Party presidential debates, one of them scheduled for tomorrow night in Durham, New Hampshire. It’s to be moderated by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow and NBC News’ Chuck Todd.

NBC says that the debate starts at 9:00 p.m. Eastern Time, which will mean that the debate actually will start at 9:00 p.m. ET or that it will start later, if they have their talking heads blathering first, as so often is the case.

In any event, I at least tentatively plan to live-blog tomorrow night’s debate, even though live-blogging the Dem debates has become a bit tiresome.

This debate, though, will be the first one without Martin O’Malley, on whose performances in the first four debates I vacillated between finding very annoying and very enjoyable (when he attacked Billary).

And, of course, tomorrow night’s debate comes before New Hampshire votes on Tuesday.

Bernie Sanders, my horse in the race, had agreed to tomorrow night’s debate only if three more debates were added to the schedule after New Hampshire.

The Democratic National Committee’s website shows that in addition to tomorrow night’s added debate, another new debate has been scheduled for March 6 in Flint, Michigan, and that the other two will be in April and in May, but the dates and locations of those two debates (the ninth and tenth debates) have yet to be determined.

The schedule of the six remaining Dem debates is:

  • Fifth: February 4 (tomorrow), Durham, New Hampshire (at the University of New Hampshire), sponsored by NBC News
  • Sixth: February 11, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, sponsored by PBS and the Wisconsin Democratic Party
  • Seventh: March 6, Flint, Michigan (no sponsor named)
  • Eighth: March 9, Miami, Florida, sponsored by Univision, The Washington Post and the Florida Democratic Party
  • Ninth: April, date and location to be determined (no sponsor named)
  • Tenth: May, date and location to be determined (no sponsor named)

I don’t know that we need two debates in the same week of March, but whatever; I’m happy that Bernie got the three additional debates that he demanded in exchange for squeezing in tomorrow night’s debate in New Hampshire, bringing the total number of debates from a paltry six to a more reasonable 10.

While it had struck me that this new debate before New Hampshire votes would help Billary more than Bernie, since he’s leading Billary in New Hampshire by around 18 percentage points (see here and here), because the Iowa caucuses resulted in a tie, perhaps Bernie could use this rather-last-minute additional debate before New Hampshire.

Speaking of Iowa, Sanders recently stated that “the Iowa caucus is so complicated, it’s not 100 percent sure we didn’t win it. [Yup.*] But we feel fantastic. We came a long, long way in Iowa and now we’re in New Hampshire. We have a lot of momentum.”

*The archaic Iowa caucuses should be replaced with a primary election, with a clear, re-countable paper trail of balloting. With the convoluted record-keeping, it’s practically impossible to ensure that the results of the Iowa caucuses that are given out within 24 hours of the caucuses are accurate.

I know, I know, tradition, but forced child labor used to be tradition, too…

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