Browsing the blog archives for April, 2016.

I Understand the Intense Loyalty to Hillary Clinton. Really, I Do. But I Can’t Share It.

Democratic Party

I believe we all pretty much choose our candidates because of murky things lurking in our subconscious, and we come up with the talking points later.  (See “The Emotional Dog and the Rational Tail.”) Sometimes the distance between the murky things and the talking points is short, and sometimes it is long and convoluted. But few of us form opinions based on reason first.

Looking at followers of the two Democratic candidates, I can see all kinds of murky things leading them around. Certainly some Sanders supporters just plain don’t like Hillary Clinton and see Sanders as the anti-Hillary. That’s not true of all of them, though. Some of us really do see Sanders as a means to push American politics leftward. (Of course, we’d had the same hope with Barack Obama. While there is much about the man I admire, and much that he accomplished,  the overall results were less than satisfying.)

So what murky things are going on with the Clintonistas? They aren’t all alike, of course, but here’s my generalized analysis:

Let’s go back to 1992. With the exception of the one-term Jimmy Carter Administration, we’d had Republican presidents since 1969. (And while I genuinely admire Carter as a human being, he fell short in many ways as a President. His economic policies in particular were like a prelude to Reaganism.)

So it had been a frustrating 20 plus years for Democratic presidential politics. Electing a strong Democratic president seemed like an impossible dream. And then along came the Clintons. In the political climate of a rising conservative movement that was dominating all political discourse, the Clintons found a way to finesse the Right and seize the moment while playing on their turf. It was brilliantly done, even though they had to throw a lot of liberal values under the bus to do it (see: Sister Souljah).

And then we had the eight solid years of witch-hunts and an unhinged Right trying to take down the Clintons by any means necessary. They were particularly vicious toward Hillary Clinton. She was a strong, assertive, feminist, not-traditional woman, and that made lots of murky things in the Right-wing id sit up and start screaming.

I believe were it not for Big Bill’s relationship with Monica L., the Right would have come up completely empty; well, empty of anything indictable. Most of the allegations against the Clintons were nonsense. For those of us who identified as Democrats, it was like watching our champions being perpetually hounded by a pack of rabid hyenas.

Also in the later 1990s, the economy was pretty darn good (not as good as the 1960s, but for most people way better than the 1970s and 1980s). Those who were not doing so well (see Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994; welfare reform) were invisible to a lot of us, I regret to say.

The Clintons left the White House in 2001 and the “mostly pretty darn good 1990s were it not for Clinton derangement syndrome” gave way to the Dubya years. The Clinton Administration took on a golden haze of paradise lost in comparison.

Reflecting on that bit of recent history, I can fully appreciate why the Clintons command a loyal following among so many people who strongly identify as Democrats. And I also appreciate why loyalty to Hillary Clinton is especially strong among middle-age and older women.  We older ladies can identify with her.  We’ve all been held back and harassed by various types of rabid hyenas.

So what’s the problem? Why am I Not With Her? In no particular order:

It’s not the 1990s any more. Movement conservatism and the Reagan Revolution have run their course. The Right probably hasn’t been in this much chaos since the Franklin Roosevelt Administration. We don’t have to play on their turf any more, and it’s time we stopped. But I see no indication that Hillary Clinton intends to pivot away from the old triangulation game.

C’mon, folks, say it loudwe’re lefties and we’re proud.  We have a rare opportunity to actually stake a claim that America is not a center Right nation. In four or eight years, the Right might very well be reorganized and on the upswing again.

If you really care about the future of the Democratic Party, please, don’t vote for Hillary Clinton. She’ll hold the party back.

Neoliberalism needs to go.  Bill and Hillary Clinton are the quintessential American centrist neoliberals. American centrist neoliberaism isn’t as far Right as the European neoliberalism George Monbiot complains about. Call it soft neoliberalism. But it’s still neoliberalism, and it still feeds into income inequality.

There are a lot of different definitions of neoliberalism, but ultimately it’s about sacrificing the standard of living of working-class men and women for the sake of global corporate profits. For more on this, please read: “How Neoliberal is Hillary Clinton?” And see especially Naomi Klein, “The Problem With Hillary Clinton Isn’t Just Her Corporate Cash. It’s Her Corporate Worldview.”

Hillary Clinton is a hawk. I realize now I wasn’t paying enough attention to her while she was Secretary of State. I might quibble at calling her a “neocon” (others do not) but she’s definitely a hawk.  More wars we don’t need. See Michael Crowley, “Hillary Clinton’s Unapologetically Hawkish Record Faces 2016 Test.”

On Israel especially, Clinton is stuck in the “no daylight between the U.S. and Netanyahu” mode, while Sanders offers a completely different perspective. See Roger Cohen, “Bernie’s Israel Heresy.”

 She’s on the wrong side of climate change. Hillary Clinton may be hard on the Palestinians in Gaza, but she’s soft on fracking. Clinton wants to push incremental baby steps to save the planet, and it’s too late for that. Again, Sanders wants to push harder for renewable resources and energy.

On some issues, notably women’s reproductive rights, I trust Clinton. I also trust Sanders. I think they’re both on the same page there. Sanders’s big weakness is gun control, although he’s evolved in the right direction. But on many big issues (see above) I do not like Clinton’s record or positions. I am much more in sync with Sanders’s positions.  So, I’m voting for Sanders. I realize he’s a long shot, but he’s got my support.

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History Repeating Itself

Sanders and Clinton

Yesterday Amanda Marcotte published an article at Salon titled Just like a Bernie Bro, Sanders bullies Clinton: Brooklyn debate confirms Sanders campaign is sticking by sexist “ambition witch” stereotype. As the title suggests, the article is something of a primal scream of outrage at the way the Vermont Senator’s disrespect for Secretary Clinton in their recent debate in Brooklyn just dripped with sexism, although somehow Marcotte was unable to provide a persuasive example.

One example she gave of something the Senator actually said was,

“Does Secretary Clinton have the experience and intelligence to be president? Of course she does,” Sanders replied when asked about it. “But I do question her judgment.”

It wasn’t clear to me why that was sexist, but someone explained in the comments:

What this article is talking about is less about Hillary Clinton and more about historical attitudes and the use of certain phrases to disqualify women from the political sphere. Specifically, the concern and the underscoring of whether or not a candidate has the temperament and judgement. The argument was deployed against women during the suffrage movement…women do not have the temperament or judgement  to vote. It is a phrase that has been employed against women running for governorships, the House, and the Senate.

To which I responded,

OK, so we can’t use the “j” word in regard to Secretary Clinton, because the “j” word is sexist. But what if her j… I mean, her, um, you know, that thing where you make decisions about stuff that has consequences … what if she’s really bad at that thing? I mean Libya, come on. And Honduras. And the Iraq vote, of course. I could go on. But we’re not allowed to say anything about this if we use the “j” word. So how about … perspicacity? There’s a good word. Her record tells us that Clinton falls really short in the perspicacity department. Can we say that?

I didn’t get an answer. Oh, well.

What Marcotte wrote in this article turns the ideals of second-wave feminism on their head. Back then we knew that we could not demand equal opportunity and gentler treatment at the same time.  Sanders is not criticizing Clinton for her gender, but for her record. Marcotte seems to be saying that because Clinton is a woman, aggressive challenges of her record are out of bounds. Um, no.

But we’ve been through this before. I give you Michelle Goldberg, New Republic, June 25, 2008, 3 A.M. for Feminism.

Hillary Clinton has lost the nomination, but some of her most ardent female backers seem unwilling to accept it. A strange narrative has developed, abetted by Clinton and some of the mainstream feminist organizations. In it, the will of the voters was thwarted by chauvinistic party leaders in concert with a servile media, and Obama’s victory represents a repeat of George W. Bush’s in 2000. It’s a story in which Obama becomes every arrogant young man who has ever edged out a more deserving middle-aged woman, and Clinton, hanging on until the bitter end, is not a spoiler but a feminist martyr.

This conviction, that sexism cost Clinton the nomination, is likely to be one of the more toxic legacies of this primary season. It is leaving her supporters feeling not just disappointed but victimized, many convinced that Obama’s win is illegitimate. Taylor Marsh, a blogger and radio host whose website has become a hub for Clinton fans, says she gets hundreds of e-mails from angry Democrats pledging not to vote for Obama. She’s started running posts from such readers under the headline DEMOCRATIC STORM WARNINGS. “I’m not saying that this is a huge voting bloc,” she says. “I’m just saying that there is a huge amount of talk and I’m convinced it’s a reality that needs to be addressed.”

Goldberg reviewed the 2008 and noted that the notion that Clinton was losing because of sexism became more and more entrenched.

By the spring, the Clinton campaign and the cause of women’s rights were joined in the minds of many. Second-wave activists chided Obama-supporting women for not getting on board and began interpreting any attack on Clinton as a slight against their gender. The seating of delegates from Michigan and Florida started to seem like a feminist cause célèbre.

The movement coalesced in mid-May, when members of Clinton’s finance committee, including Susie Tompkins Buell, sometimes described as one of Clinton’s closest friends, and Allida Black, editor of the Eleanor Roosevelt Papers at George Washington University, formed WomenCount PAC. The group ran full-page advertisements in The New York Times, USA Today, and other newspapers addressing the country on behalf of “the women of this nation.” The ads proclaimed, rather grandly, “Hillary’s voice is OUR voice, and she’s speaking for all us.” Their story was featured on the “Today” show, “Good Morning America,” CNN, and Fox, and they joined other volunteers in organizing the rally at the DNC.

Meanwhile, Clinton, who’d previously avoided presenting herself as the woman’s candidate, brought gender to the forefront of her campaign as never before. On May 19, in a Washington Post interview, she spoke out for the first time about the sexism she’s faced throughout the race, calling it “deeply offensive to millions of women.” The press, she suggested, had failed to decry “incredible vitriol that has been engendered by the comments by people who are nothing but misogynists.” She began injecting feminist and civil rights language into her arguments for seating the Michigan and Florida delegates. Piously invoking Seneca Falls and Selma in a May 21 speech, she pledged to “carry on this legacy and ensure that in our nominating process every voice is heard and every single vote is counted.”

More and more, she was tying her campaign to the grand narrative of women’s emancipation. “I am in this race for all the women in their nineties who’ve told me they were born before women could vote, and they want to live to see a woman in the White House,” she wrote in a letter to superdelegates on May 28. “For all the women who are energized for the first time, and voting for the first time. For the little girls–and little boys–whose parents lift them onto their shoulders at our rallies, and whisper in their ears, ‘See, you can be anything you want to be.’ ”

Mainstream feminist organizations joined calls to seat the two states, with leaders of NOW and the Feminist Majority Foundation participating in the rally at the DNC. Some have suggested that the DNC’s reluctance was in itself a sign of covert sexism. “There’s a strong feeling that this would have been handled differently if Hillary Clinton hadn’t won [those] states,” says Kim Gandy, president of NOW.

Except Clinton really didn’t win the Florida and Michigan delegates. If you don’t remember that sorry episode, click here, then come back.

Of course, Clinton has encountered straight-up misogyny–lots of it. At the same time, anger at obvious instances of sexism has expanded to encompass every setback she’s faced, every jab thrown her way–the cut and thrust of any normal campaign. Several of her feminist defenders, for example, interpreted calls for Clinton to drop out, lest she cause a party rift, as expressions of condescending gender bias. “The first woman ever to win a presidential primary is supposed to stop competing, to curtsy and exit stage right,” Ellen Malcolm, founder and president of Emily’s List, wrote in The Washington Post on May 10. But that wasn’t anti-woman or even anti-Clinton; it was just Democratic politics. Similar worries were aired about Edward Kennedy in 1980–a Christian Science Monitor story claimed his “to-the-bitter-end candidacy already may be irreparably splitting the Democratic Party”–and about Jerry Brown in 1992, once Bill Clinton came near a mathematical lock on the nomination.

We’ve reached that stage now, even though it’s earlier in the campaign and even though Clinton is still favored to win. Every criticism of her is interpreted as sexism.

But let us go back to 2008. Obama wins the Dem nomination; John McCain wins the GOP nomination. And he picks for his veep — Sarah Palin. And it wasn’t long before every criticism of Palin was being called sexist by the Right.  And given the example of Clinton, I don’t really blame them. It’s hard to tell what’s sexist and what isn’t with those two. I wrote in August 2008,

There’s a lot of talk about what we can and cannot say about Sarah Palin. There are some who seem to think any criticism at all of Palin amounts to sexism, an attitude that strikes me as sexist. It says that women can’t be taken seriously in the political world and treated the same way men are treated. It’s like the high school coach who puts girls on the boy’s varsity team not because he thinks they are good players, but because he thinks the opposing team will hesitate to rough them up. (Which, come to think of it, might explain McCain’s choice of Palin.) …

… There’s a difference between criticizing people professionally and criticizing them personally. Criticizing Palin’s stands on issues, yes. Discussing her record as a mayor and a governor, yes. Pointing out her lack of experience, yes. Ridicule of her appearance, family or personal lifestyle choices, no. I hope we’re clear.

It’s unfortunately the case that a lot of numbskulls can’t express themselves without dragging in ridicule of appearance, etc., and I see that all over social media.  On all sides. No group can claim the moral high ground in this.

I also wrote in 2008,

I said a few weeks ago that if second-wave feminism weren’t already dead, Hillary Clinton’s campaign would have killed it. And may I say it was exactly this sort of self-absorbed whining that strangled feminism lo those many years ago.

Yes, Hillary Clinton got hit by a lot of really ugly sexism, but it wasn’t why she lost the nomination. If anything, the sympathy vote was her biggest asset. And it would be really great if people could just address the sexism issue without wrapping themselves in the gloriously self-indulgent mantle of victimhood. I could also do without the self-pity, the score-settling, and the denial of Clinton’s own bad behavior during the primaries. Thanks much.

I also frequently expressed amazement that these self-absorbed feminists were so completely oblivious to the treatment Barack Obama was receiving as the first potentially viable black presidential candidate.

Now, back to 2016. The social media nasty swarm has been all over itself ridiculing Sanders’s speaking at the Vatican. Jeffrey Feldman wrote,

So, there’s that. I can’t say I picked up on that, but I’m often oblivious to things. Unfortunately I don’t think it would help Bernie to wallow in victimhood as Clinton and her followers are doing.

Of course, Clinton didn’t lose in 2008 because of sexism; she lost because she was a less compelling candidate than Barack Obama. I wrote in June 2008,

As a generic choice I don’t much care whether the First President Who Is Not a White Man turns out to be a black man or a white woman, or for that matter a woman of color were one running this year. When I look at senators Clinton and Obama, my questions are which one of these two gets it? Which one sees the possibility of creating a new political culture friendly to progressivism? Which one is more likely to walk through that door?

And the answer I come up with is Obama. I cannot say whether he will succeed. He is human and imperfect, not political Jesus. But his words and background and the way he has run his campaign tell me he sees the opportunity that I see and will, at least, try.

However, I don’t believe Senator Clinton sees the opportunity. My belief is based in part on her performance in the Senate, which on the whole has been disappointing, and on the way she has run her campaign, which has been the same old “finesse (but don’t challenge) the Right and divide the Left” politics. All her formidable political skills mean nothing if she doesn’t see that open door.

Yes, electing Hillary Clinton would make a grand statement for feminism. But then we’d sweep up the popped balloons and confetti and go back to Old Politics Business as Usual. And nothing substantive would change. Maybe I’m wrong, but that’s how I see it.

That’s still how I see it. And I think that’s how a lot of other people saw it, and that’s why she lost. Gender had nothing to do with it.

And this year? Clinton probably will win it this time. But it’s interesting that Taylor Marsh, who for a time in 2008 was seeing anti-Clinton sexism in every shadow, this year is calling Clinton “the George H.W. Bush of 2016.”

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Winning and the Eye of the Beholder

Sanders and Clinton

I couldn’t bring myself to watch last night’s Democratic debate, because Wolf Blitzer. I had little hope it would be anything but a disaster.  I mostly followed it on the Guardian live blog, which at least was witty. Also the Brits tend to be a little more objective about our colonial politics. What I read there suggested that both candidates scored points but that Sanders came off a bit better.

Alan Rappeport of The New York Times called the contest a draw, which means Hillary must’ve screwed up somehow.  On the other hand, Josh Marshall’s commentary clearly favored Clinton over Sanders.

Dylan Matthews at Vox called the debate a big win for Sanders.

The whole debate saw Clinton on defense and Sanders on offense. When she did attack, he deflected easily and went back to landing punches.

In terms of topics, the focus was consistently on economic justice, and when it wasn’t, Sanders successfully spun it in his favor. Better than that, he spun it such that his standard economic attack lines still applied. He didn’t just accuse Clinton of being weak on climate change: he accused her of being weak because she’s in hock to billionaires and corporations, a natural extension of his existing narrative.

On Clinton he wrote,

There was a particularly bleak moment in the closing statements, after Sanders concluded, as the audience chanted, “Bernie! Bernie! Bernie!” for a good 15 seconds as Clinton stood quiet, lightly smirking, waiting to speak. Here she is, in a state that elected her to the Senate twice, and she’s very much not on her home turf. The crowd is definitely not with her. And she’s on defense.

Most disturbingly, she was on defense even on issues where she should be dominating. The wrap on Sanders is that he can’t cover issues outside of base economic matters. But he got the better of her on mass incarceration, on Israel, on climate change. Her previous strategy of pivoting to areas where Sanders is weaker doesn’t appear to work anymore.

Isaac Chotiner at Slate:

During CNN’s Democratic debate on Thursday night, while the candidates ricocheted between discussions of global warming as the primary threat to America and whether to raise the minimum wage to $12 or to $15, it was hard not to feel that Sanders had won a battle almost as large as the race to be the 2016 nominee.

“I want white people to recognize that there is systemic racism,” Clinton stated Thursday night in one of many statements that would cause a time-traveler from the 1990s to stare with open-mouthed astonishment. Indeed, the debate functioned as a fascinating window into Democratic politics in 2016. Even a mere eight years ago, Obama and Clinton often struggled to outflank each other on the right. (Think of the skirmishes over the individual mandate.) But on nearly every domestic issue, both candidates went left, strongly so, and from health care to college tuition to Social Security, Clinton played on Sanders’ turf. Even her critiques of Sanders’ spending focused not on the deficit but on Sanders’ general sloppiness with numbers.

More critically,

The irony of his campaign is that the septuagenarian Sanders is probably four or eight years ahead of his time, rather than behind it. In some ways Sanders was lucky in his opponent. He wound up getting paired against someone who happens to be on the wrong end of the prevailing trends in the party—hawkish; friendly to Wall Street; an almost perfect embodiment of that otherwise nebulous term, the establishment.

Jack Mirkinson at Salon wrote that Sanders was wobbly at first but got better as the debate  wore on:

Eventually, though, Sanders hit on a strategy that worked over and over again: He started acting like a hectoring journalist, repeatedly pointing out Clinton’s garbled answers on issues ranging from the minimum wage—where she got completely tied up in knots about whether or not she supported the Fight for $15 movement—to Social Security to climate change.

The most extraordinary part of the night, however, came when the debate shifted to a discussion about Israel and Palestine. This is usually a dispute-free zone in American politics: everyone, on both sides of the aisle, fights about who can pledge fealty to Israel more fervently. Sanders, though, has suddenly morphed from a candidate who seemed not to want to be caught dead talking about the issue to one who actually managed to win an exchange about it in a debate in New York City—and to win it from Clinton’s left. He asked Clinton, over and over again, why she hadn’t mentioned Palestinians during a recent speech before AIPAC. He said that Palestinians should be treated with dignity and respect. He called Israel’s invasion of Gaza in 2014 “disproportionate.” Clinton gave perhaps her most passionately hawkish replies of the night in response to all of this.

Clinton maintains a substantial lead in New York, however, and whether this debate will change anything is questionable. Still, one can hope. New York’s primary is closed to all but registered Democrats, which favors Clinton. However, there’s no early voting here, which may favor Sanders.

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Misadventures in Media


Charles Pierce on John Kasich’s misadventures in New York:

On behalf of every single Christian all the way back to James The Just, I would like to apologize to our Jewish brothers and sisters on behalf of John Kasich, who knows not what he does, and in a big way, too.

After touring a matzo bakery and a Jewish bookstore in Brooklyn on Tuesday, Kasich delivered a speech on the sidewalk about the importance of Passover, in which Israelites put lambs blood on their door posts as a signal that the Angel of Death should pass over their homes. “It’s a wonderful, wonderful holiday for our friends in the Jewish community—the Passover. The great link between the blood that was put above the lamp posts…The blood of the lamb, because Jesus Christ is known as the lamb of God. It’s his blood, we believe…”

Lamp posts? There are no lamp posts in the Passover story. There weren’t even lamp posts in The Ten Commandments. There were door posts and lintels, the latter of which Kasich may believe is something you put in soup.

The primary is Tuesday, so we don’t have votes yet. But I suspect Kasich would have done better to not have come to New York at all.

This’ll cheer you up — Rush Limbaugh is, finally, about to be dumped off the gravy train. And his downfall is a classic tale of capitalism eating itself.

Limbaugh’s paychecks come from iHeartMedia, a company formerly known as Clear Channel Communications. Back in 2008, when Limbaugh was riding high, Clear Channel Communications gave Limbaugh an eight-year contract worth $400,000. By the following year, already Clear Channel was struggling under the weight of the contract, laying off thousands of employees.

On top of that Clear Channel was taken over by Bain Capital in a leveraged buyout deal. Yes, children, our dear Mittens’s old outfit.

As a result, Clear Channel/iHeartMedia has been sinking under an unmanageable amount of debt.

How bad was the deal? Monumentally bad:

In 2007, the company, then called Clear Channel, reported a net income of $939 million. In the years since the LBO, the company has reported losses of between $220 million and $4 billion per year. For 2015, it reported a loss of $738 million.

Now Limbaugh’s contract is up, and even if iHeartMedia wanted to renew it, it cannot.

Is this a company that can continue to fill wheelbarrows full of cash and pay Limbaugh $38 million annually, and bless him with another $100 million signing bonus? No way.

In fact, iHeartMedia’s too busy putting out other raging fires right now — like trying to stay solvent.

What sparked the sudden specter of bankruptcy was an allegedly deceptive move made by iHeartMedia: Shifting money from one division of the business to another instead of paying debts owed to creditors.

The creditors went to court and sued. They “believe the stock transfer constitutes a default and might call their debt within 60 days,” Billboard reported. iHeartMedia sought an emergency injunction, stressing that if creditors won their “default” claim, the dominoes would instantly fall and iHeartMedia would face an avalanche of bond defaults totaling $15 billion to a long line of creditors. Those are payments the company simply cannot make, which would mean bankruptcy for iHeartMedia.

We weep and we mourn. Meanwhile, Rush’s ratings are way down and his demographics get older and deader. It’s not impossible that some other media company will pick him up. It is impossible he’s going to be paid in the manner to which he is accustomed.

Finally, here’s a fun little story about some climate change deniers who got onto Bill Nye the Science Guy’s Facebook page to make disparaging remarks about NASA data. Lo and behold, NASA got into the act and corrected the deniers. Reminds me of the Marshall McLuhan scene in Annie Hall.

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Speaking of Clueless Twits

Democratic Party

… and religion, did you hear the one about John Kasich meeting some Talmud scholars and giving them an extemporaneous lecture on Judaism? Sample: “They sold [Joseph] into slavery, and that’s how the Jews got to Egypt. Right? Did you know that?”

One suspects they did.

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New Jersey Just Poked China


And now for something completely different … New Jersey just released a list of approved religious holidays, meaning holidays that give a child a legitimate excuse for being out of school. A number of Buddhist holidays showed up, which of course is nice. But one jumped out at me —

April 25 The 11th Panchen Lama’s Birthday (Buddhist)

The Panchen Lama, a high lama of the Geluk school, is the second highest-ranking lama in Tibetan Buddhism. At the moment there are two, one recognized by Tibetan Buddhism and the authority of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and one recognized by the government of China.

April 25 is the birthday of the Panchen Lama recognized by Tibetan Buddhism. The other one was born in February.

Historical background: The 10th Panchen Lama, who spent a large part of his life in Chinese prisons, died in 1989 shortly after giving a speech mildly critical of Beijing. Officially, he died of a heart attack.

In May 1995, a six-year-old boy named Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, of Chinese-occupied Tibet, was recognized as the tulku, or rebirth, of the Panchen Lama. Two days later the child and his family were taken into Chinese custody. They have not been seen or heard from since.

Later that year, Beijing named another boy, Gyaltsen Norbu — the son of two Tibetan Communist Party officials — as the 11th Panchen Lama. Gyaltsen Norbu spent most of his childhood in seclusion in Beijing. But in recent years he has been given a number of functions, such as representing Tibetan Buddhism at official conferences and releasing statements praising Beijing for its wise governance of Tibet. (See also “The Panchen Lama of Tibetan Buddhism: A Lineage Hijacked by Politics.”)

You may ask, why is this a BFD? Because it relates to the 14th Dalai Lama and possibly to the 15th as well.

Beijing harbors an irrational and all-consuming hatred for the 14th Dalai Lama. Just as an example of how far Beijing will go to smack down His Holiness — back in 2009 the revered Vietnamese Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh expressed a wish on Italian television that the Dalai Lama might be allowed to return to Tibet. Later that year 400 nuns and monks who were followers of Thich Nhat Hanh were forcibly evicted from Bat Nha Monastery in Vietnam.

Although Hanoi gave no sensible reason for the eviction, it was understood by everyone that Beijing had ordered it. A number of U.S. presidents have carefully not met with His Holiness in the oval office for similar reasons.

Among the traditional functions of a Panchen Lama is to recognize the rebirth of a Dalai Lama. And here we come to the crux of it. Gyaltsen Norbu has been prepared his entire life to carry out one function, which is to recognize some young boy as the 15th Dalai Lama some day. Beijing has claimed sole authority to recognize all important rebirths, in fact, through a lot of historical revisionism. (See “China’s Outrageous Reincarnation Policy.”)

Beijing has made no secret that it intends to recognize and enthrone a 15th Dalai Lama once the 14th is gone. They appear to believe this will help pacify the Tibetans. The fact that Gyaltsen Norbu is not recognized by Tibetans even in China — indeed, the young man requires a substantial guard when he makes ceremonial visits to Tibetan monasteries — ought to tell the Chinese officials this might not work. But they bought into this plan years ago, and aren’t about to let go of it. (See also “Buddhism in China and Tibet today.”)

Whether New Jersey officials realized what they were getting themselves into by recognizing Gedhun Choekyi Nyima as the Panchen Lama I do not know, but bravo! Well done, somebody!

And maybe Beijing won’t notice. If they do, we could offer to let them keep Chris Christie as hostage.

A couple of other odd things about the New Jersey holiday list — It does not include the birthday of the 14th Dalai Lama himself (July 6), but it does let kids take September 7 off for His Holiness Sakya Trizin’s birthday. This lama is head of the Sakya school of Tibetan Buddhism, one of four to six schools depending on who’s counting. I’ve only recently become aware that there was anything of the Sakya school in the U.S. at all; most of western Tibetan Buddhism is Geluk, Kagyu or Nyingma, from what I’ve seen. Kagyu and Nyingma are not represented on the list. However, I don’t doubt Sakya Trizin is a fine fellow whose birthday deserves a day off of school.

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How the Primaries Don’t Work, Colorado Edition

Obama Administration

Get this, from the Denver Post:

Bernie Sanders won one more delegate in Colorado than first projected after the Colorado Democratic Party admitted this week that it misreported the March 1 caucus results from 10 precinct locations.

The error — first uncovered by The Denver Post — was shared with rival Hillary Clinton’s campaign by party officials but kept from Sanders until the Post told his staff Monday night. …

… The revelation that the state party misreported the results to the public March 1 — and kept it quiet to all but the Clinton campaign for five weeks — comes as Sanders promotes his case that he can win the Democratic nomination.

Let’s review. This story is dated April 12. The caucus was March 1. The Denver Post says the Clinton campaign and the state Dem Party knew about this for five weeks before the Denver Post informed Sanders.

The story is not clear when the Denver Post learned about it, but it suggests the Denver Post uncovered the error and shared it with the Clinton campaign and nobody else until yesterday. And that stinks, too.

The mistake is a minor shift with major implications. The new projection now shows the Vermont senator winning 39 delegates in Colorado, compared to 27 for Clinton.

Even if Clinton wins all 12 superdelegates in the state, Sanders can finish no worse than a split decision. It contrasts with prior projections from the Post, Bloomberg Politics and The Associated Press that indicated Clinton would probably win the majority of the 78 delegates in Colorado because of her support from party leaders with superdelegate status.

Yeah, and bleep the Democratic superdelegates. They shouldn’t exist.

The Colorado Republicans have a mystery system that resulted in a sweep for Ted Cruz. I’ve been trying to find out exactly how this happened and have yet to find a news story that explains it. It’s like shamans go to a sacred lake to receive visions.

Steve House, the chairman of the state’s Republican Party, is now sorry his cell phone number was made public.

The convoluted Nevada system potentially could give the state to Sanders, even though Clinton won more votes in the caucus. While I like that outcome I do question whether that’s a sensible way to choose a nominee. I’m hearing on the Web that something similar is happening in Missouri, although I found no corroboration for it in mainstream media.

The presidential primaries are more than just the marathon of hysteria, lies and spin we’ve come to loathe. They also are something of a sham; it’s increasingly obvious many states are set up to provide only an illusion of voter participation. It wasn’t that long ago that the parties chose the candidates in convention, of course. But if we’re going to go to a primary system for choosing presidential nominees, let’s go to a primary system. Let’s stop with this nonsense of holding what look like primaries but aren’t really.

The order in which states vote seems skewed to me, too. IMO the Democrats shouldn’t be allowing the Deep South to have so much power by voting first when you know those states are not going to help the Democrats in the Fall. Of course, the DNC knew this would help Hillary Clinton, so that’s how it was. If the situation had been reversed, the South would have voted last. This year’s system was set up to nominate Hillary Clinton, not to discover who the people want or who might have the best shot of taking the big blue states and “swing” states.

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How Clinton Supporters Are Spinning the Vatican Invitation to Sanders

Sanders and Clinton

Along with trying to claim that Sanders invited himself to the Vatican — debunked by Reuters — now Clinton supporters are claiming that the invitation didn’t even come from the Vatican.

Initial reports said the invitation came from the Pope, but to be accurate it came from the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences (PASS). But PASS is an office of the Vatican, so it’s not inaccurate to say that the invitation came from the Vatican. Except to Clinton supporters, who have decided PASS is not part of the Vatican but is just a bunch of guys who meet in their parents’ garage.  Yes; you can see this from this group shot from the PASS home page.

Here’s the background: The Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences was established in 1994 by Pope John Paul II. This is one of several academies of the Vatican, with offices in the Casina Pio IV in Vatican City, which also houses the Pontifical Academy of Saint Thomas Aquinas. Officials of PASS are appointed by the Pope.

Yet somehow, in the fevered imagination of Clinton supporters, PASS has no connection to the Vatican. Uh-huh.

The chancellor of the Academy, Monsignor Marcelo Sanchez Sorondo, has spent the past several hours debunking false reports (apparently generated by Bloomberg News) that Sanders had invited himself. No, says the Monsignor; I invited him. It was my idea, he said. He also said it was absolutely not true that Sanders broke any kind of protocol, as Bloomberg News reported.

A Bloomberg report quoted Margaret Archer, president of the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, as saying that Sanders had broken with protocol by failing to contact her office first.

“This is not true and she knows it. I invited him with her consensus,” said Sorondo, who is senior to Archer.

Now, why would Bloomberg News generate a phony story like that? I can only imagine.

There is more background on the event The Atlantic.

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What’s Happening Now

Republican Party, Sanders and Clinton

Charles Pierce reports on a RICO suit filed against Michigan governor Rick Snyder. The suit takes Snyder at his word that he is “running Michigan like a business” and accuses him of racketeering in Flint. In particular, the suit says, he committed fraud by charging the people for the contaminated water they were receiving, representing it as safe to drink.

Ted Cruz, who criticized Donald Trump by saying he has “New York values,” is so not welcome in New York.

Bernie Sanders has been invited to speak at the Vatican. “The April 15th event, which will be hosted by the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, is scheduled to cover a number of the Democratic presidential hopeful’s signature campaign issues, including income inequality and the environment.”

Note that the New York primary is April 19. He is scheduled to debate Hillary Clinton on April 14 — he’ll have to get on the red eye right after, I bet. There’s a big rally in Washington Square April 13. He’s a busy guy.

Speaking of which, there’s a Sanders rally near me today, and I plan to take a bus there and try to get in. I’ll let you know if anything fun happens.

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Clinton’s Resume Vs. Reality

Sanders and Clinton

The New York Times reports that Hillary Clinton is campaigning in upstate New York, a region that helped her win the Senate in 2000.

Hillary Clinton’s political ascent can be traced to the time in 1999 when she expressed her support for dairy farmers in the upstate New York village of Endicott. And the summer that year when she shunned Martha’s Vineyard to vacation in Skaneateles, and promised voters in the depleted industrial city of Schenectady that as a New York senator she would revive the upstate economy.

The strategy helped Mrs. Clinton win her 2000 Senate race by double digits, a victory fueled by the unlikely support of white working-class voters in upstate New York who had previously voted Republican but were won over by the first lady’s attention to their underserved area.

But there’s a problem.

Now, 16 years later, Mrs. Clinton is again promising to bring jobs back to the region as she courts the people who helped secure her first election victory….

…But Mrs. Clinton’s critics say that she failed to deliver on the centerpiece of her 2000 push — a promise to bring 200,000 jobs to New York — and many cities upstate have higher unemployment than when she became a senator. The number of private-sector jobs in upstate New York remained virtually stagnant in the eight years Mrs. Clinton served in the Senate, according to state Department of Labor statistics.

Fool me once, shame on you, etc.

To combat Mr. Sanders’s message, Mrs. Clinton and a lineup of influential New York surrogates, including Senator Kirsten E. Gillibrand and Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo, plan to take voters down a memory lane of proposals, from the quirky to the conventional, that she advanced to spur the upstate economy.

And, you know, she really can list a number of jobs initiatives she brought to the region.  And when you see all these initiatives on a piece of paper, it looks pretty impressive. But her initiatives amount to tweaks when the region needed an overhaul. And Hillary doesn’t do overhauls. She tweaks. Instead of rebuilding broken systems, she works within the limitations of the broken system. Which is why she fights and fights and fights and doesn’t deliver all that much.

Robert Hockett, a professor of law at Cornell who specializes in financial regulation and is supporting Mr. Sanders, said his anti-trade message would resonate as it has in other economically ravaged areas.

“Upstate New York is the classic Rust Belt on the one hand and the classic working-poor rural population on the other hand,” Mr. Hockett said. “The things Bernie wants to do are things this population generally agrees with.”

Christopher Ryan, president of the Communications Workers of America Local 1123, which represents Verizon and American Red Cross workers in Syracuse, said that he backed Mrs. Clinton in 2000 but that the area had been eviscerated by jobs moving overseas. He plans to vote for Mr. Sanders, whom the union has endorsed.

“You see the weeds growing through the parking lots at factories,” he said.

Bottom line, all of Clinton’s heartfelt little tweaks that created a few jobs here and there couldn’t override the damage done by trade deals.  She’s repudiating trade deals, you say? She loved ’em when she wasn’t running for office. And if you think she won’t push for more trade deals once she’s POTUS, you aren’t paying attention.

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