Wall Street Banks Shower Washington Politicians

I’m not a Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders supporter. I’m not a Democrat or a Republican. Nearly 30 years ago I registered as a Green Party member and have been one ever since. As a person that politically leans to the progressive left, I would say I tend to agree more with Sanders than any of the other candidates running for president on both the Dem and Repug tickets.

Nonetheless, I will defend any and all candidates (Trump included) if they are being falsely attacked. The main reason why I do this is because I believe to end the divisive nature of political discourse we must seek to have a more honest dialogue. Sadly, false accusations seem to be a mainstay in American politics.

Recently, a friend of mine and a Hillary Clinton supporter, (whom I consider to be an honest and fair participant in political discourse,) took issue with a Sanders ad. He claimed the ad lacked any evidence to support its claims. Here is the complete text to the Sanders ad.

“Wall Street banks shower Washington politicians with campaign contributions and speaking fees. And what do they get for it? A rigged economy, tax-breaks, and bailouts. All held in place by a corrupt campaign finance system. And while Washington politicians are paid $200,000 an hour for speeches, they oppose raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour. $200,000 for them, but not even 15 bucks an hour for all Americans. Enough is enough. I’m Bernie Sanders and I approve this message.”  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LEv5zSF11q4

My friend responded to the above 30 second ad as follows.

“The ad commits the fallacy of BEGGING THE QUESTION! Claim X assumes X is true. Therefore, claim X is true. The statement presumes the WSB [Wall Street banks] gets something for the contributions and speaking fees. No evidence is offered to support the claim; no verifiable examples are cited”

In the comment thread, my friend goes on to state.

“Enough with epithets masquerading as evidence and accusations passing for arguments. It is time to put up or shut up! On this point, I don’t believe Senator Sanders or any of his allies and supporters have sufficient, competent evidential matter to do so. Evidence, logic, and truth matter – get real or get gone…I am saying the repeatedly insinuated quid pro quo has never been substantiated. Another name for the fallacy I cited is “ignoring the common cause.” All manner of people make generalized accusations, but I have rarely seen enough detail to discern the substance, much less, the veracity of the charge. The “revolving door” is a variation on the same thing…Having impact does not mean accepting bribes or whatever the Hell else the constant carping on speaking fees and contributions are meant to imply. I have had it with that trope. Sounds a lot like envy to me.”

In the above quotes, my friend is essentially suggesting two things. One, the Sanders ad “insinuated quid pro quo” or even that Clinton might be guilty of “accepting bribes”. (The ad actually never mentions Clinton). Two, there is no proven connection between the contributions given by  wealthy elites (like Wall Street Banks) and favorable government policies toward the rich, like the “rigged economy, tax breaks, and bailouts”.  

I’d like to address these two claims.

In a recent opinion piece in The Guardian, Trevor Timm gets right to the point. The Clinton supporters are falsely suggesting that critics of the billionaire donor system are  essentially insinuating a system of quid pro quos and bribery.  This, in fact, is the Clinton supporters own fallacious reasoning. Yes, Sanders suggests Wall Street banks are getting something in return for their donations in the ad. However, Sanders does not go so far as to suggest quid pro quos or bribes. What the Clinton supporters seem to be intentionally doing here is taking Sanders words out of context and twisting them. Sanders, and his supporters, are clearly making a more nuanced statement. Here is how Timm explains the Sanders position on this matter.

“Sure, even hardcore Sanders supporters will admit there is no evidence of direct quid pro quo when talking about large donations various parties made to the Clinton Foundation when Clinton was secretary of state. But it would be difficult not to worry about at least the potential for a conflict of interest, when weapons manufacturers and Saudi Arabia were making donations to the Clinton Foundation while their weapons deals were approved by the State Department, oil companies were doing the same before the State Department approved the oil sands pipeline project, and other fossil fuels donated at around the same time the secretary was advocating increased fracking abroad.

But of course there is no quid pro quo – that has never been the prime criticism of wealthy individuals using their vast resources to “buy” elections, push candidates in one direction, or influence office holders in much more subtle and nuanced ways than outright bribery.

And by taking this position that only quid pro quo equals corruption, Clinton supporters are essentially adopting the reasoning of the Roberts court that they claim to abhor – that unless there is direct evidence of overtly trading money for votes, corruption doesn’t exist.”

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/apr/14/money-hillary-clinton-banks-oil-links-presidential-campaign

The fact is, political corruption does exist. However, wealthy corporate elites do not need to use illegal tactics like quid pro quos or to engage in bribery in order to influence government policies. That’s not how it works. Nor is that what the Sanders ad is claiming. Remember, Clinton’s name is not even mentioned in Sanders ad. Sanders ad was referring to the entire political system, not just one politician.  

The non-profit organization the Sunlight Foundation helps to explain the Sanders position, “(T)he question has always been: what do rich political donors get for their contributions? One argument is that these individuals are buying special favors, including ambassadorships and other prime posts.

And while one can find occasional examples of the above, to my mind the more convincing claim has always been the more subtle one: that relying so heavily on rich donors leads candidates to be more sympathetic to the general concerns of their donors.

To raise money from a bunch of rich investors is to also take the time to listen to a bunch of rich investors and what they think about tax and financial policy. And to keep the campaign donations coming requires a certain policy sensitivity to what these donors think.  It’s not so much a quid-pro-quo as it is a process of self-enlightened worldview osmosis.”

But the Sunlight Foundation doesn’t stop there. Like anyone truly trying to understand the mechanism behind the corporate corruption of our government, they turn to the Princeton studies by Martin Gilens.

So it’s good to read Martin Gilens’ excellent work showing convincingly that where rich people and poor people disagree on policy, the federal government pretty much always sides with the rich people.

What this shows that it doesn’t really matter what low-income or middle-income voters think about a policy. They might favor it. They might oppose it. It has no real effect on how likely the policy is to happen.

But among high-income individuals, there’s a clear pattern. If rich people are in favor, the policy is significantly more likely to become law. (The y-axis in both charts is logit regression coefficients. The coefficients translate into about a 65% increase in the probability of a policy passing when it goes from 0% to 100% support among rich people)

https://sunlightfoundation.com/blog/2012/08/15/what-do-rich-political-donors-get-for-their-contributions/

 

 

Martin Gilens’ is a Professor of Politics at Princeton University. His studies provide us with the empirical data that supports Sanders’ claims. If the Clinton supporters are actually looking for evidence, they need only look to Gilens.

My data cast further doubt on the notion that representational inequality arises from the greater knowledge or better judgment of those with higher incomes. If government responds not simply to the most affluent but to the most knowledgeable citizens, we would expect education to be a stronger moderator of the preference/policy link than income. In fact, I find the opposite: when both are taken into account, income is a far stronger determinant of influence over policy outcomes than is education.”

http://themonkeycage.org/2012/08/economic-inequality-and-political-power-part-3-of-3/

In 2014, Professors Martin Gilens and Benjamin I Page released a eyeopening study titled, Testing Theories of American Politics, Interest Groups and Average Citizens. The study concluded, “Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic-Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism.”

My Clinton and friends are emphatically stating Sanders and friends have no evidence to support their claims that Wall Street banks get favorable treatment for their contributions and paid speeches. However, the empirical evidence provided by the Princeton studies suggest otherwise. According to the data, tax cuts, bailout and a rigged economy are examples of that favoritism.

Wealthy elites do not have to demand a quid pro quo. Nor do they have to bribe their local politicians. They know that by simply financing the political campaigns of our elected officials the elites will gain all the access and influence they need to lend a sympathetic government ear to their best interests. And this simple guilt-free corrupt system has been working just fine for the politicians and corporate elites for decades now.

Yes, even after 7 years of the Obama presidency we still have a the rich Wall Street banks favored by a “rigged economy, tax cuts, and bailouts”. If Clinton supporters think anything will be different under a Clinton administration they are only kidding themselves. Meanwhile, they should stop smearing Sanders and his supporters with the false accusation that they are insinuating Clinton is engaging in illegal quid pro quos and bribery. That’s not what Sanders is saying in the ad and the Clinton supporters know it. On this issue, the Clinton supporters should either “get real or get gone.”  

 

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Magistery

 

A steep crevice,

Leads down to the ocean.

I don’t know what,

Has gotten over me.

All I need now,

Is to watch the Tule,

Graze on the hill,

While red-tails swoop above.

All I know now,

Is there is magistery,

In a dirt trail

That ends with the warm beach.

 

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Bitter Rain Cold

At 2 AM we heard rain,

Fiercely rapping on the roof,

Of our teardrop trailer, camped,

Just south of Stillwater Cove.

I wrapped my arms around you,

As you slowly moved in close.

Our bodies swathed each other,

Like children in a blanket.

“This is the good life”, I held.

Something warm I’ve been saying,

A great deal these days, holding,

Onto my love with both arms.

Not even a bitter rain cold,

Can damper this world with you.

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Watching the World

Nina with birds

How can we not look out into this world?

How can I not see you watching it all?

Just like you, I need to watch it all too.

I need to watch the birds fly off.

I need to hear their wings play bass,

Sweep, and blow me away.

I can’t stand standing on this cliff alone.

I need someone to witness it with me.

Someone willing to follow the flow.

And there you come into this world,

Watching it all, and watching me.

And just like you, I am watching you too.

And that’s when we witness a thousand birds,

Watching a couple watching the world.

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Sun’s Last Rays

Let’s take a walk.

Walk with me along the cliffs.

We don’t need to talk.

I want to watch the clouds,

rush in to fill the fields with fog,

and sway the wet grass.

I want to watch the sunrise,

the birds take off, hear fires crack,

listen to the sounds of morning.

Let’s hike down to the river,

and witness the steam rising,

over the fresh musky earth.

Later we can jump into a car,

and listen to the Bee Gee’s,

AC/DC, and the Stones.

I can be looking at the road,

and you out the window,

and we can not say a word.

And then we will stop, fuel up,

and talk and talk and talk,

and time flies by like no tomorrow.

And everything is alright,

and nothing really matters, and yet,

it all matters to some degree…but not.

And what really matters most is life.

And we agree, “There are too many trails,

walked alone”.

As we pull into the next site,

and without a word, go to work,

setting up camp under monumental trees.

Leaving time for dinner and a hike.

I love you as the evening light,

beams through the canopy of leaves.

When I get old, I hope to sit and watch you,

with your legs crossed, breath in deep,

and hold my hand as I take in the sun’s last rays.

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Built a Hut

I was underdressed.

I needed padded clothes.

We created a campfire,

And burned old magazines.

We built a shelter and decided,

We could be form some other,

World and not ourselves.

That lasted just a minute.

Reality kicked in and we realized,

That we had nothing more or less,

Than being ourselves.

So we built a hut, shed everything,

And made love again and again.

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Two Thousand Year Old Dream

Trekking on the ambient music,

We tuned into space mood.

We needed something outside,

Of chillwave for the road.

We got beat-focused on the down-

Tempo, nu-Jazz,

And rad samples interlaced with

Dance-y beats… and low fill.

Tripping and grinning,

In our new identities,

We rolled the Magnum,

Down the Avenue of the Giants,

To sleep like puppies under trees,

Older than Jesus Christ.

Yeah, that’s how we roll.

Feeling like prana?

Take a deep breath.

We gathered stones along the river,

Snapped photos of each other’s butts,

And watched the rippling water.

We climbed the switchbacks and slopes.

And didn’t let anyone tell us no.

I said, “This world is getting too complicated,

But nature is still the best dope.”

She knew exactly,

What I was talking about.

I still hate double rainbows.

I’m not a psychic.

I also hate tie-dyes and crystals.

I can’t predict shit.

I don’t read horoscopes.

I can’t tell you what’s happening,

Let alone what going to happen..

All of this gives me a bad name,

With the hippies.

Don’t worry,

I’m not a Christian, either.

I don’t even believe in Christ.

I can’t tell you if Jesus,

Was an actual man or just a myth.

I certainly don’t have faith,

He could walk on water,

Or raise the dead…including himself.

But I would love to walk on water.

Think of all those rivers I could cross,

Without getting my feet wet.

I would also like to be a superhero,

Just not with weird, hippie psychic powers.

I’m not a Muslim, either.

Heck, I’m not a Jew or Hindu.

I couldn’t give a foo,

About following your Voodoo.

Nor do I give a shinto,

Over you following your Dr. Who.

Do you dig it?

I’d rather listen to electronica,

Under 2,000 year old redwoods,

And gaze up between the branches,

Laughing and laughing,

About the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

I’d rather push aside all the misery,

Conflict, bigotry, and the litany

Of other man-made calamities and ask,

The woman I love standing next to me,

“Is it time to make a fire,

Prepare a meal, and lay our bed?”

So that we can finally,

Throw arms and legs around each other,

Listen to some breakbeat and space mood,

And then sleep..side by side.

As in a 2,000 year old dream.

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Climb the Cliff

I needed a cliff to climb.

I had been to the party and knew,

Vodka Red Bulls hurt in the morning.

I danced into the night with fire.

I split reality with illusion and wonder.

It was fun, fantasy, and foolishness.

But it was all washed away in adulthood.

I needed to climb the cliff.

I realized ecstasy was a drug that lasted,

Only under strobing lights like stars,

And are drowned out by clouds, beer, and wine.

And then slowly, under a quiet campfire,

I realized… I am getting old.

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Doing Laundry

I haven’t aired out all my dirty laundry.

There are certainly more soiled sheets.

But, they have nothing to do with love.

Domesticated, we met online and thought,

There is a possibility we can press,

into each other’s arms and discover love.

I have a lot of washing to do.

I guess I’m a stereotypical male?

I pile up my laundry until I need to do it.

Why would anyone do otherwise?

I’d like to air out love’s dirty laundry,

Like I do my ragged and ruffled clothes.

Unfortunately, in the real world, relationships,

Are not threads to mend, wash, and fold.

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Adventures in China: A Photographic Essay, Part I

During the last nine days of July, 2015, my girlfriend Nina and I went on our first “an adventure of lifetime” trip to China. Now that her kids are grown up and out of the house, and we both near fifty years of age, it’s time for both of us to truly enjoy our lives.

Last year, we set out to go on as many “adventures of a lifetime” as possible. Since we both have previously traveled to parts of Europe and throughout the Americas, we decided to go somewhere exotic, somewhere completely foreign to us.

After watching a PBS Nova program on the Terracotta Warriors a few years back, I knew I would have to go see them for myself one day. And so, China seemed like an obvious first choice my big adventure. Nina easily agreed. And so our adventure began.

The following is a photographic essay of our travels.  In Part I, I will cover a couple major attractions in the nation’s capital, Beijing. I’ll also share some of the wonders of Beijing evening street life. In Part II, I will take you with me to see the Terracotta Warriors and visit a few temples and parks.  I hope this collection of pictures will help readers appreciate the great beauty offered by a nation that often seems so foreign to most Americans…like myself.

(Nina and I on the Great Wall)

Ever wonder what it would be like to wander the streets of the Forbidden City? Built in 1420 by the Ming dynasty, this place in nearly unimaginable. Within the walls there are 980 buildings covering 180 acres. Construction of the city took 14 years and more than one million workers. An entire day can easily sweep by without seeing all the buildings, let alone what is inside them.

(Just inside the main Meridian Gate of the Forbidden City)
One of the first things a visitor will notice about the Forbidden City are the seemingly endless large courtyards throughout the city. There are actually three main courts and at least six smaller flanking courts.
For nearly 500 years, the Forbidden City served as the emperor’s home and was the ceremonial and political center of the Chinese government.
Touching the dragon is believed to bring good fortunes in the coming year.
One interesting and curious feature of the imperial garden within the Forbidden City is the large and small rock formations and statues. Caves are carved into some. Accessible by stairs carved into the rock, a small temple sits atop one such rock formation.

Tall walls divide parts of the city to keep visitors, government officials, family, eunuchs, and concubines apart.
The Northwest corner tower with moat.

One thing universal, no matter where you travel, parents want pictures of their children.

Just outside the walls of the Forbidden City are the buildings representing the new center of political power. Tiananmen Square. The towering walls of the Forbidden City on the north side of the square, the Great Hall of People, the National Museum of China, and the Chairman Mao Zedong Memorial Hall tower around the massive square (the fourth largest public square in the world). Huge monuments to the “heroes of the (1949) revolution” are located near Mao’s mausoleum.

Across from the square, the Chinese army stand guard and raise the flag in front of the out wall of the Forbidden City.

The Great Hall of People is primarily used legislative and ceremonial activities by the Communist Party of China. The Chinese parliament, or the National People’s Congress, uses this building when in full session.  The Great Hall is also used for special political events, anniversaries, and memorial services.


The Monument of the People’s Heroes located nearly in the center of the square.

The National Museum of China. The museum is said to house a collection of art, “covering Chinese history from the Yuanmou Man of 1.7 million years ago to the end of the Qing Dynasty (the last imperial dynasty), has a permanent collection of 1,050,000 items,[5] with many precious and rare artifacts not to be found in museums anywhere else in China or the rest of the world.” I missed touring the museum this time, however, next time I’m in Beijing, I plan on going inside.
Sporting an Expats Post t-shirt, I pose in front of Mao’s Mausoleum. Undoubtedly the main event at Tiananmen Square.  Extremely long lines formed in front of the building over an hour before it opened and continued throughout the day. Inside, two lines four people wide moved quickly past the crystal coffin contained their beloved Chairman Mao Zedong’s embalmed corpse. Nina and I decided to skip that tour.

Perhaps our visit to China was not during the most apropos time of the year.  Spring and fall are commonly considered the best times of the year. While we were there, we learned the months of July and August are commonly called “The Great Heat”.

In the evening, the Chinese people come out in mass. As the temperatures cool, street vendors open up their carts and kiosks for business as pedestrians, rickshaws, and electric motorbikes crowd up the streets and narrow alley ways.

One evening, Nina and I explored an alleyway off Dongdan Dong street. The Dongdan district is very affluent and would feel very familiar to most western tourists. However, one peak into the an alleyway and a whole new world opens up.
Common street food included deep fried snakes, grasshoppers, rats, and scorpions served on wooden skewers.


One evening, we stumbled on a bit of street theater.

Along with her floating moves, this performer entertained us with mesmerizing and somewhat haunting vocals


Sweetened bean curd on Chinese bread.


Muslim food vendors offering meat skewers and pounding out taffy.

Lakeside strolls in the Xicheng district in Beijing.

Rickshaw rides around the lakes.

Commercial shops in the Quinman district.

Qianman district, across from the Front Gate of Tiananman Square.

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