Sunday, April 17, 2016

Is Bill Clinton's Presence On The Campaign Trail Helping Hillary-- Or Hurting Her?


A day or two ago, Bill Clinton insinuated-- in his snide way-- that Bernie supporters might go on a rampage and shoot every third person on Wall Street, hitting a lot of Clinton attack themes they're always inserting into the zeitgeist about Bernie and his supporters. His wife can't win the presidency-- if the Democrats are stupid enough to nominate her-- without those millions of Bernie supporters... and this kind of attack makes it less likely for more and more of them that they'll take the lesser-of-two-evils bait if she is the nominee. Bernie isn't going to support the #BernieOrBust movement but I'm hearing more and more of his supporters that they have no intention of holding their noses and voting for her. The stench is just too overpowering. We'll see how many-- especially in swing states-- have the guts to do that in November. Easy enough for someone like me, in California, or for someone in blood red Texas, to say "no, never" and mean it. But what about a progressive or a good government reformer in purple states like Florida, Colorado, Virginia, North Carolina, Iowa, New Hampshire or any state where every vote counts? How easy will it be to walk into a voting booth in St Louis and vote for Michelle Chappelle-Nadal for Congress and then look for Jill Stein's name in the presidential election? Or walk into a voting booth in North Las Vegas and cast a ballot for Ruben Kihuen or Lucy Flores and then ignore the menace of a Trump or Cruz or Ryan?

Clinton claims his comments about shooting up Wall Street were "a total joke," Ha, ha. But his own criminal justice record, aggressively supported by his wife, doesn't have anyone laughing and it should have been more thoroughly debated before so many African American Democrats were lulled into voting for a familiar figure. Thomas Frank, whose latest book, Listen Liberal-- What Ever Happened To The Party Of The People?, holds conservative, corporate Democrats like Clinton for the Democratic Party course correction away from working families and in the direction of the professional class (the top 10%), took at look at Clinton's disgraceful criminal justice record for The Guardian over the weekend.
When I was researching the 1994 crime bill for Listen, Liberal, my new book documenting the sins of liberalism, I remember being warned by a scholar who has studied mass incarceration for years that it was fruitless to ask Americans to care about the thousands of lives destroyed by the prison system. Today, however, the situation has reversed itself: now people do care about mass incarceration, largely thanks to the Black Lives Matter movement and the intense scrutiny it has focused on police killings.

...I think today (as I thought at the time) that there is indeed something worth criticizing when a Democratic president signs on to a national frenzy for punishment and endorses things like “three strikes,” “mandatory minimums,” and “truth in sentencing,” the latter being a cute euphemism for “no more parole.” The reason the 1994 crime bill upsets people is not because they stupidly believe Bill Clinton invented these things; it is because they know he encouraged them. Because the Democrats’ capitulation to the rightwing incarceration agenda was a turning point in its own right.

Another interesting fact. Two weeks after Clinton signed the big crime bill in September 1994, he enacted the Riegle-Neal interstate banking bill, the first in a series of moves deregulating the financial industry. The juxtaposition between the two is kind of shocking, when you think about it: low-level drug users felt the full weight of state power at the same moment that bankers saw the shackles that bound them removed. The newspaper headline announcing the discovery of this amazing historical finding will have to come from my imagination-- Back-to-Back 1994 Laws Freed Bankers And Imprisoned Poor, perhaps-- but the historical pattern is worth noting nevertheless, since it persisted all throughout Clinton’s administration.

For one class of Americans, Clinton brought emancipation, a prayed-for deliverance from out of Glass–Steagall’s house of bondage. For another class of Americans, Clinton brought discipline: long prison stretches for drug users; perpetual insecurity for welfare mothers; and intimidation for blue-collar workers whose bosses Clinton thoughtfully armed with the North American Free Trade Agreement. As I have written elsewhere, some got the carrot, others got the stick.

But what is most shocking in our current journo-historical understanding of the Clinton years is the idea that the mass imprisonment of people of color was an “unintended consequence” of the 1994 crime bill, to quote the New York Daily News’s paraphrase of Hillary Clinton. This is flatly, glaringly false, as the final, ugly chapter of the crime bill story confirms.

Back in the early 1990s, and although they were chemically almost identical, crack and powder cocaine were regarded very differently by the law. The drug identified with black users (crack) was treated as though it were 100 times as villainous as the same amount of cocaine, a drug popular with affluent professionals. This “now-notorious 100-to-one” sentencing disparity, as the New York Times put it, had been enacted back in 1986, and the 1994 crime law instructed the US Sentencing Commission to study the subject and adjust federal sentencing guidelines as it saw fit.

The Sentencing Commission duly recommended that the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity be abolished, largely because (as their lengthy report on the subject put it) “The 100-to-1 crack cocaine to powder cocaine quantity ratio is a primary cause of the growing disparity between sentences for black and white federal defendants.” By the time their report was released, however, Republicans had gained control of Congress, and they passed a bill explicitly overturning the decision of the Sentencing Commission. (Bernie Sanders, for the record, voted against that bill.)

The bill then went to President Clinton for approval. Shortly before it came to his desk he gave an inspiring speech deploring the mass incarceration of black Americans. “Blacks are right to think something is terribly wrong,” he said on that occasion, “… when there are more African American men in our correction system than in our colleges; when almost one in three African American men, in their twenties, are either in jail, on parole, or otherwise under the supervision of the criminal system. Nearly one in three.”

Two weeks after that speech, however, Clinton blandly affixed his signature to the bill retaining the 100-to-1 sentencing disparity, a disparity that had brought about the lopsided incarceration of black people. Clinton could have vetoed it, but he didn’t. He signed it.

Today we are told that mass incarceration was an “unintended consequence” of Clinton’s deeds.

For that to be true, however, Clinton would have not only had to ignore the Sentencing Commission’s findings but also to ignore the newspaper stories appearing all around him, which can be found easily on the internet to this day. Here’s one that appeared in the Baltimore Sun on 31 October 1995, in which it is noted that:
Civil rights organizations had led a telephone campaign to pressure the president to veto the bill. At a rally last week in Chicago, the Rev Jesse L Jackson said that Mr Clinton had the chance, "with one stroke of your veto pen, to correct the most grievous racial injustice built into our legal system."
It is impossible to imagine that Bill Clinton, the brilliant Rhodes Scholar, didn’t understand what everyone was saying. How could he sign such a thing right after giving a big speech deploring its effects? How can he and his wife now claim it was all an accident, when the consequences were being discussed everywhere at the time? When everyone was warning and even begging him not to do it? Maybe it didn’t really happen. Maybe it was all a bad dream.

But it did happen. There it is, Bill Clinton’s signing statement on the website of the American Presidency Project. Yes, the 100-to-1 disparity was finally reduced in 2010, but we liberals still can’t ignore what Clinton did back in 1995. Every historian who writes about his administration will eventually have to deal with it.

Until then, we have our orders from the mainstream media: Clinton didn’t mean it. Clinton has apologized. Things were bad even before Clinton got started.

It is a hell of a way to do history. Millions of proudly open-minded people are being asked to twist themselves into propaganda pretzels to avoid acknowledging the obvious: that the leaders of our putatively left party aren’t who we think they are.
Meanwhile the Clinton Machine is greased up and spewing smear after smear after smear against Bernie. Where do they get all the money for that kind of a slick, effective p.r. operation that reaches into the heart of every newsroom in America and across every medium? David Sirota of International Business Times has done an exhaustive look into the corrupt nature of her campaign's finances. It's as ugly and sordid as any Republicans'. Her new FEC report details "more than $1.5 million her campaign raised with the help of lobbyists in the first three months of 2016. That is on top of the more than $4 million that lobbyists bundled for her campaign in 2015, bringing her total lobbyist cash haul to more than $5.6 million during her presidential run." As we've pointed out over and over, she's already taken more sewer money from corporate lobbyists than any politician in the history of the country.
Among the top Clinton bundlers during the quarter were lobbyists from the firm Capitol Counsel. That firm that has represented financial services companies, pharmaceutical giants, Wal-Mart, fossil fuel firm Bass Enterprises Production and a major oil industry trade association, according to federal lobbying records. Capitol Counsel's David Jones raised roughly $276,000 for Clinton in 2016. Another lobbyist at the firm, Richard Sullivan, raised more than $100,000 for Clinton in the same time period.  Previous filings show that in all since 2015, Jones has bundled Clinton more than $663,000 and Sullivan has raised her more than $423,000, for a combined total of more than $1 million from the two lobbyists at Capitol Counsel.

Other lobbyists listed as top Clinton bundlers on the reports filed Friday include:
Frederick Humphries ($48,345), one of Microsoft’s top lobbyists.

David Leiter ($54,825), who federal records show has lobbied for ExxonMobil, Dow Corning and Cablevision.

Steve Elmendorf ($ 23,275), who federal records show has lobbied for Citigroup, Goldman Sachs and a Wall Street trade association that says it is comprised of the “CEOs of 16 of the largest and most diversified financial services institutions with business operations in the United States.”

Tony Podesta ($35,560), a lobbyist who is the brother of Clinton’s campaign chairman and who federal records show has represented the healthcare industry, major financial conglomerates, Walmart and oil giant BP. Podesta's eponymous firm, The Podesta Group, also recently registered to lobby on behalf of the government of Saudi Arabia, according to filings with the Department of Justice.

Irene Bueno ($27,560), who federal records show has lobbied for Theranos, an embattled blood-testing company that has faced criticism from federal health regulators.
...In a recent interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Clinton said she offers donors only the potential of help-- but not a promise of action-- when they make public policy requests.

“I always say I will look into something, but I always tell people there is no guarantee that if I look into something that you are going to like my answer,” she told the newspaper.
Does that mean it isn't bribery? Technically it does. But it is bribery, regardless of what the politicians who rig the system to cover their own asses, but into laws designed to make their own corrupt actions legal. (Yeah, but she's better than Cruz, Trump and Ryan-- except they're not in the Democratic primary. Bernie is and you can help him win it at this link.)

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