Money and Hillary Clinton

I actually know very little about Hillary
Clinton and money, and neither, 
apparently does anyone else, although there is plenty
of theory and conspiratorial conjecturing going on out there among those who
are either very informed or very paranoid. I don’t know what Hillary intended
in Libya, or in Africa, or in Honduras. There are many who call her the new
Dick Cheney or the new Henry Kissinger and imply that she is a Machiavellian
figure, or perhaps one of the Borgias.

To folks in these particular journalistic circles
she represents the very worst in American politics which has a secretive dark
agenda and sends out our government officials to meddle in the business of
nations around the world, build nations up and tear nations down, all for
cynical reasons having to do with economics and money. Or perhaps Hillary has
no mission to inform her actions but is simply acting on her own. According to
these folks Hillary is a sinister figure who ruins nations when their economies
are getting too successful and are challenging the America economy. Wow! Who
knew Hillary was this powerful and this corrupt? Apparently everyone but me.
Bernie Sanders indicts Hillary for using government
service to get rich. He tells his supporters anecdotes which supposedly prove
that she has offered influence in return for donations from wealthy nations.
Sanders apparently implies that the Clinton Foundation is a front to peddle
influence and line the Clinton’s pockets. He believes that accepting money from
Wall Street proves that you are absolutely corrupt. His followers believe all
this is true beyond a shadow of a doubt and they revile Hillary for this.
Again, I did not ascribe to Hillary even this level of villainy. They say that
Hillary is a criminal who should be indicted for war crimes, or crimes against
humanity, or bribery, or if nothing else sticks, then for the private email
server thing (possibly risking national security).
How naïve am I? I see that half of Congress is made
up of millionaires, many of whom lined their bank accounts while in government
service. I know that Bernie Sanders is solidly against money in politics,
feeling that it robs the people of their right to govern. I agree with him. I
was shocked when Citizen’s United was upheld by the Supreme Court, giving
legitimacy to all the money that floods in and befuddles politics in
Washington. But Hillary came up as a politician operating within the system we
have now. Bernie is a revolutionary who wants to dump the system we have now.
We could possible get money out of politics through a grassroots groundswell,
but it is more likely that it will be tough slog, accomplished in baby steps.
Hillary, as the first woman to get this close to
being an American President, has a foot in the past and a foot in the future.
She cannot be blamed for playing the game according to the rules of the boys
club. We are always changing the rules just when a woman arrives at a
threshold. Bernie’s purity did not help him shine in Congress although it
certainly looks appealing now. But there is no other person in our government
like Bernie Sanders and changing the way our government does business cannot be
as easy as he makes it sound. If Donald Trump is dividing the nation before he
gains the office, then Bernie Sanders is likely to divide it if he becomes our
President. People who have been on the gravy train for years are not going to
gently step aside. If we the people win the day it might be worth the fight,
but we could probably win the day eventually with just good solid strategy if
we had a plan.
I believe that people are painting Hillary as a
villain based on some pretty convoluted reasoning and theorizing. Of course, if
anyone can prove these accusations beyond any doubt then I suppose that Hillary
is too byzantine to make a good President. If she actually treats the globe
like some kind of calculated game of Risk then that is diabolical and she
should be stopped. I just don’t buy it though. 
By Nancy Brisson

Going Rogue in Syracuse, NY

In 2015 Syracuse, NY became known as the city with the most
stubborn, concentrated, and segregated area of poverty in the United States. (http://brissioni.com/more-on-poverty-in-our-city-centers/
)
from city
residents to build a fancy outdoor amphitheater that is empty half of the year
and which charges prices for tickets that few can afford. There was never a
referendum on this project. By the time I knew of it the construction vehicles
were already on site.
Joanie
Mahoney, our County Executive has let her office go to her head. She has said
that she wants to merge the City of Syracuse with the County of Onondaga. While
it is possible that there could be financial advantages to ending duplication
of services the last thing this area needs right now is to put more people out
of work. Such a merger cannot be a move engineered by one person without some
careful planning and ways to make up for lost jobs. In Washington our reps are always
asking for ‘pay-fors’. If you wish to spend you must tell how you will pay for
it. The same should be true of jobs. If you back a policy that puts people out
of works you should have a plan for where those people will be employed in the
future.
I think that
all the power implications of such a merger have not been worked out either.
Will there still be a mayor in the city? How will tax monies be shared under
such an arrangement? Will the government in the city and county remain the
same? It is true that the county has had to extend infrastructure such as
sewers, water, roads, signage, upkeep of roads to subdivisions ever more
distant from the city center and that these subdivisions generate more tax
dollars than the City of Syracuse properties do. In fact, an article in today’s
Post Standard (1/3/2016) says that
50% of properties in the City of Syracuse are tax exempt.
When the
city recently made a deal to sell land to a developer called COR this developer
agreed to forgo a PILOT agreement (payments in lieu of taxes) then turned
around and signed a PILOT agreement with our out-of-control County Executive,
the same Joanie Mahoney. (This feud was recently the topic of an article in the
Wall Street Journal, http://www.wsj.com/articles/two-upstate-new-york-officials-clash-1451092007)
What games
is Ms. Mahoney playing? Perhaps she is trying to starve the city of money so that
the city will have to make the merger with the county that she has been pulling
strings for. She may very well win this city-county power struggle but that
same Post Standard article I read
today entitled “Blind Allegiances to Tax Breaks Can’t Meet Today’s Economic Challenges”
by Tom Buckel, Jr., a former Onondaga County Legislator shows that employment
numbers in Onondaga County have gone down under Ms. Mahoney’s reign, and not by
just a little bit either, and that our employment figures are the lowest in the
entire state at least as far west as Buffalo and as far east as Albany.
It is
difficult to see what Ms. Mahoney’s power trip is based on but she was recently
reelected (not by me). I am not really against a city-county merger if that
will save money and be beneficial in other ways. I just believe that in this
case we have a County Executive who has grabbed the wheel, even from the very
people she represents, and has gone rogue to throw a high end, gentrified
patina over an area that is actually occupied by the poorest of Americans. (See
my editorial in the Post Standard entitled “Gentrification and Transparency? https://www.thearmchairobserver.com/local-politics-gentrification-and/)
Ms. Mahoney
has lost the thread of Democratic governance and has gotten enamored of her own
judgement, taste and self-importance. Indeed, she just got herself a 27% raise
and she said that if “we didn’t like it we shouldn’t have reelected her”. (I
didn’t.) I suggest that she either adjust her attitude or take a hike. But that’s
not the way this works. She can, if she wants, give us the royal wave for
several more years.
There was
another article in today’s Post Standard
which suggested that Syracuse might survive if we have the cooperation of
city, county, Syracuse University, and Upstate Medical Center (SUNY). Can
Joanie Mahoney be persuaded to stop driving the bus and to take a seat on the
bus while some impartial party drives? Let us see what happens next…cover your
eyes.
By Nancy Brisson

The End of Democracy – The Koch Brothers

Did you watch Rachel Maddow last night? She followed
the bucks and the negative Health Care ads, appearing both nationally and in
some states, to two groups, the Foundation for Government Accountability
(sounds quite official and serious doesn’t it) and the State Policy Network
(which also sounds like it is part of actual government). Apparently neither of
these groups has any connection whatsoever to either our federal government or
the governments of our state. In spite of their ad hoc roots these two groups
are traveling around America serving as witnesses against the ACA in states
where there might be a bit of wiggle room, where a state may be considering
signing on to the expanded Medicaid that is part of the ACA (the part that gives
insurance to the uninsured). They post internet ads that suggest that signing
on to Obama’s health care act will get you in tax trouble. They have another
site which attempts to get the residents in the states where they operate to
sign a Grover- Norquist-style pledge that says they will never sign up for
health care.
Once the money trail was unraveled it led to those
billionaire Koch (pronounced coke) brothers who have more money than the rest
of Americans-who-are-not in-the-top-1% combined. These brothers who inherited
their money from the oil and chemical industry established by their Daddy are
solid backers and play-callers in the right wing of the Republican Party. They
have their fingers in just about every one of those “we-are-the-true-Patriots
pies”.
We have long suspected that our country is not
controlled by the American people. We have suspected that monied people (who
now include corporations, since corporations are people) call the tunes that
our elected “representatives” march to. From time to time proof of meddling has
been offered up to us by one party or another and we are temporarily shocked.
Then we shake it off and move on. But the machinations of these two brothers
seem to be similar to the tentacles of a jelly fish which has twined its way
throughout all aspects of our government. The right wing Conservatives don’t
just have lots of organizations working to make sure their policies become part
of American governance, but these organizations talk to each other. They are
not isolated entities. In fact most of them have, at the top, a few names of
very rich sponsors, and almost all of them have been traced to the Koch
brothers.
How can the average American fight a steamrolling,
bankrolling political machine like this? How can we counteract the influence of
wealthy power-brokers on our states and on our federal government?  If you add up all the issues that we the
people favor by over 50% (issues like immigration laws, gun control laws, laws
to raise the minimum wage and more), issues we favor actually by over 60%, and
then see how many of these issues are being taken care of by our Congress, you
can see how much power “we the people” actually wield. If anyone needs to “take
back our government” it is “we, the people”, but I guess you can see why we
feel terribly out-gunned (double meaning intended) and out-maneuvered and
out-classed (meaning out-spent, since class equals money in America). How on
earth can we root out this pernicious patch of weeds that has spread out like a
giant taproot under America? It all feels pretty hopeless. Obamacare is the
only thing we have apparently gotten past these people and they are mad (and
yes, mad is the correct word here); they want vengeance; they will do anything
to stop this law from becoming a successful part of the social safety net in
America. Obama did an end run around these secret manipulators, he mowed the
grass, and that is not allowed. One thing we can do, therefore, against these
rich polluters is support the Affordable Care Act; be patient about its
roll-out; sign up for it as soon as we get a chance. We could also repeat over
and over again how we want Congress to approve Obama’s court nominees. We can
insist that the minimum wage should be raised. I don’t know if we can have much
effect on immigration or gun control right now because these bills have very
entrenched enemies, but there are probably some other areas where we can be a
big, old, nasty, squeaky wheel. Can we win out over all this money? The outlook is
not good, but if we just lie down and play dead that may be the end of
Democracy.

The last graphic was drawn by Muckety and reproduced in the Daily Kos
This is the view from the cheap seats.
This blog post is also available at www.brissioni.com

The Left Wing has Richer Backers

The Republican in my backyard (TRIMBY) sent me the transcript of an interview that Glenn Beck conducted on his radio show with an ex-liberal, now conservative writer, David Horowitz. Mr. Horowitz has a new book out called The New Leviathan: How the Left Wing Money Machine Shapes American Politics and Threatens America’s Future. (That’s a mouthful.) TRIMBY loves to zing me with anti-liberal propaganda and he loves Glenn Beck, who gives me a stomach ache.
Mr. Horowitz sees conservatives awakening. I certainly agree with that. He says conservatives don’t like politics. I say they’re learning fast.
Glenn says the number of groups and how much money they have on the left is “breathtaking.
14 liberal groups have more than a billion dollars in assets says Horowitz. “The conservatives have zero. There’s nobody on the side of the conservatives that have the juice and power of those foundations.”
On the conservative side the Koch brothers have $239 million.
On the liberal side the Ford Foundation has $10 billion (35x greater), the Gates Foundation is 3 times the size of the Ford. Total left-wing assets are $104 billion. There are 75 conservative foundations whose assets total $10 billion.
Glenn argues that the left made farmers stop using DDT which he does not consider dangerous (smack the palm of your hand against the side of your head and say “duh”). Because of that “horrible” Rachel Carson and her book The Silent Spring and the Environmental Resources Defense Council (funded by the Ford Foundation) (those awful lefties) we have to worry about malaria again which had almost disappeared. (Why do you think Ms. Carson named her book The Silent Spring?  Mosquitoes were not the only things dying.)
Glenn, really? DDT? That’s where you choose to make your stand?
Horowitz says Rockefeller is now left-wing, also Carnegie, Hewlett, Packard, Kellogg, Casey, and Joyce. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac are funding the left and these are government backed institutions. And Soros.
Fact checkers please!
The leftwing 501(c)(3) ‑‑ by the way, this book is really about the Shadow Party on steroids. George Soros is an important player here but when you see how many of them there are, you’ll appreciate what we’re up against. The environmental leftists, we divided environmental groups into pro free market and anti‑free market. The anti‑free market wants huge government controls. They think that corporations are the cause of everything from the mythic global warming to every other environmental problem we have. So they have built into them this anti‑capitalist, anti‑freedom agenda. The progressive environmental organizations have $9 1/2 billion in assets. That’s bigger than the EPA budget which is 8.7 billion. And also dwarves the pro ‑‑ there are pro free market environmental organizations like the Competitive Enterprise Institute. There are 32 of those and they have $38 million. So that’s the left ‑‑
HOROWITZ: But that’s ‑‑ that’s not the end of it because the left through the Democratic Party and through brainless Republicans gets itself funded by the government. What’s the disparity there? They get annually $570 million to fund these anticapitalist, anticorporation environmental organizations, and the pro free market environmental organizations get 728,000. 570 million versus 728,000. You can do the math on that.
GLENN: We’re bringing a ‑‑ we’re not bringing a knife to a gunfight. We’re bringing a toothpick.
HOROWITZ: A toothpick, exactly right.
Yet in a blog yesterday morning
Obama says,
“I will be the first president in modern history to be outspent in his reelection campaign, if things continue as they have so far.”
(Questions: Can Foundations also be PACs? Do they qualify as corporations? Is the environmental movement by definition anti-capitalist and anti-freedom?)

Obama goes on to say: “I’m not just talking about the super PACs and anonymous outside groups – I’m talking about the Romney campaign itself. Those outside groups just add even more to the underlying problem.”

“The Romney campaign raises more than we do, and the math isn’t hard to understand. Through the primaries, we raised three-quarters of our money from donors giving less than $1,000, while Mill Romney’s campaign raised more than three-quarters of its money from individuals giving $1000 or more.”

“And, again, that’s not including the massive outside spending by super PACs and front groups funneling up to an additional billion dollars into ads trashing me, you , and everything we believe in.”

“We can be outspent and still win – but we can’t be outspent 10 to 1 and still win.”