Saturday, January 16, 2016


I’m going to use this post to explain why I will vote for Bernie Sanders in the 2016 primary. Keep in mind that, as a progressive-realist and pragmatist, I will vote in the general election for whichever candidate is the nominee for the Democratic Party. This vote will not be because I always and only vote Democrat, but because every one of the Republic candidates at this time would be the worst of all possible choices. 

With the above caveat, here is my reasoning about Senator Sanders. I have posted twice before about Bernie, and here are those links if you missed them or want to refresh: Part 1 and Part 2

I am, and have been for a very long time, a socialist. Perhaps I am a Democratic Socialist, as is Bernie. If that means that I’m not a flaming, radical revolutionary intent on bringing down capitalism and the US government as we know it, then yeah, that’s it. I don’t see socialism and capitalism as mutually exclusive, in the way the old-style Communists did. I am also a capitalist, in the sense that I have owned a business that made profits, I have money invested in the stock market, and so on. I don’t see these two political and economic ideologies as mutually exclusive. I do understand the dangers inherent in pure capitalism as well as in pure socialism. I also know that there are good forms of both, and in a sense, there is a blend that can work in positive ways. (The B corporation movement is a good example of this.) 

I identify very closely with who Bernie Sanders is, what Bernie says, and what Bernie stands for. I know Bernie, not that I have ever met him, but because his origins and identity are so similar to mine. But more importantly, what Bernie stands for are the same things I stand for. 

This election will be the only election in my voting life, past and future, in which a self-described socialist is a contender for the nomination of one of the two major political parties in the United States. And Bernie has a chance to be the Democratic Party nominee. 

Anyone who says Bernie has no chance to be the nominee has not been paying attention. Anyone who says Bernie can’t win the election against the Republican nominee has not been paying attention. Anyone who thinks Bernie doesn’t have enough experience to be President should look at his record, and maybe compare it to that of Barack Obama when he was a candidate for President. 

The main reason, however, that I will vote for Bernie is that I think the 2016 election might be the last shot we have in the United States to swing our political system to a better direction. The big problems of our time are directly related to the huge inequality of income and wealth distribution, and the tremendous grip the wealthy and the corporate world have on our political system. This inequality and oligarchic control have led the United States down the path of government for the few instead of the many, with dire consequences for the vast majority of our population. No candidate for the 2016 election other than Bernie Sanders has a campaign based on this political and economic reality (and we don’t expect any Republican candidate to ever have that position!). Hillary Clinton has moved in that direction out of necessity in order to try to stand toe-to-toe with Bernie, but her movement in his direction is simply campaign rhetoric, not born of her political history. 

I am concerned that President Sanders will have trouble with Congress. In addition to the same trouble President Obama has dealt with for the past seven years, President Sanders will potentially have a new set of problems within his own party. As a Democratic Socialist, President Sanders will not have a Democratic Socialist Party behind him, and he will need to rely on the support of the Democratic Party. The big question is: will the majority of Democrats in the House and Senate get onboard with the ideas and programs of President Sanders? This remains to be seen.

Some of you will now be thinking: “This last statement by Fishman is the best reason to vote for Clinton, because the Democrats will certainly be behind her all the way!” Well, yes, many Democrats might be more aligned with Hillary’s brand of politics than with Bernies, but this is a big reason to vote for Bernie! Look at it this way; a vote for Clinton is a vote for business as usual, and look where business-as-usual has taken us. I am not convinced that President Hillary Clinton will move us in the direction we need to move if we have any hope to drastically change how this country works. I do have hope that President Bernie Sanders will give it his very best to radically change how this country works. And that, in my opinion, is our best chance.

I wrote a post here in June, 2005 titled: “Now is it time for the Revolution?”  I was reacting to the first four years of Cheney/Bush, but that question is perhaps even more germane now. I’m serious - we are in very deep shit, and it’s getting deeper every day. The levels of hate, fear, distrust and anger in the United States are palpable; the divide between us is possibly wider than ever before. And now so many of us are armed to the teeth! 

I don’t expect to change any minds with this post. If you are reading these words, it means you read this far, and at best you will give it some thought. Thanks for getting here. And please vote, no matter who your candidate might be. 



A Message to those Good Old Boys

The good old boys, with guns and bluster, have liberated the land for the people.
The good old boys, with righteous patriotic rhetoric, have dealt a blow to over-reaching government.
And the good old boys, with snicker bars and vanilla creamer, have defended the constitution.
The only problem is, the good old boys are wrong.

The people already own the land these squatters have liberated.
The government manages that land to benefit everyone, including the neighbors.
And the Constitution of the United States is just fine without those good old boys.

The Bundy Bunch are criminals, not patriots.
The Bundy Bandits are outsiders meddling in other peoples business. 
The Bundy Bozos are a three-ring circus with no cotton candy.
Just who do you good old boys think you are?

The National Wildlife Refuge was established to protect the land and wildlife from people like you.
Real ranchers and farmers want you to go away so they can get back to important things.
How can we, the people, help you back to the real world, instead of your fantasy video game?

What will you do when I show up at the gate?
What will you do when I demand that you give me back my land; the land my government manages for me?
What will you do when I bring 500 people with me who also demand you return their land to them?
Are you ready to kill us? 

You want a cause to fight for? There are so many.
But the fight you have started is not one of them.
How about Black Lives Matter? Because they do.
How about feeding hungry children? Because there are so many in our united states.
How about ending the epidemic of deaths and injuries by guns? Because more than 30,000 lives every year is way too many.
How about lifting people up from poverty? Giving every person a place to live? Ending hatred and bigotry? Spreading good?
Not your problem. Too busy defending everyone from the Boogeyman. Such self importance is a heavy burden to bear! 

So pack it up, good old boys.
You said your piece. You got your two weeks of media attention. Now you need to go away.
And when you pack it up, be sure to take your vanilla coffee creamer; they might not have any for you in prison.

p. fishman - january 2016

Sunday, January 03, 2016


The internet is buzzing with commentary about the self-styled militia that has taken over the office of a national wildlife refuge in eastern Oregon. In my opinion, we need to be thoughtful, and careful about what we say.

There are two popular themes I want to discuss: are these folks terrorists, and is the non-response by the authorities racist? 

The terrorist question is perhaps the easier of the two, and the one in which my peril of being accused of not being politically correct enough is less. Based on definitions I found on a FBI website, I think the action of these people is terrorism, specifically domestic terrorism. Here is the definition (footnote a):

There is no single, universally accepted, definition of terrorism. Terrorism is defined in the Code of Federal Regulations as “the unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives” (28 C.F.R. Section 0.85). 

The FBI further describes terrorism as either domestic or international, depending on the origin, base, and objectives of the terrorist organization. For the purpose of this report, the FBI will use the following definitions:

Domestic terrorism is the unlawful use, or threatened use, of force or violence by a group or individual based and operating entirely within the United States or Puerto Rico without foreign direction committed against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof in furtherance of political or social objectives

Seems very clear to me that these folks are committing an act of domestic terrorism.  I do not, however, agree with those who are lumping these people with the likes of ISIS, Al Queda or other terror groups who are in the news all the time. The armed people in eastern Oregon have not beheaded, raped, crucified, murdered, tortured anyone. I think they have threatened violence if the authorities try to remove them from the federal property. 

So in my opinion, we should be careful not to get too carried away with the moniker of terrorist for these people, and instead talk about how their action is classified. Unfortunately, when most of us hear the word “terrorist” we immediately think of radical Islamists. There have always been terrorists in the United States, such as the Ku Klux Klan and the Aryan Nation, but only recently have they been associated with ISIS or other radical Islamist groups. 

Now let’s move on to the question of racism. I, like many others on the various social media, have had thoughts and have made comments about the assumption that, if these militia people were Blacks or Muslims, they might all be dead or in jail by now. We see too many instances where people of color and people who are Muslim are immediately suspect if they have a weapon. The fact that a SWAT Team or anti-terrorist force or any other heavily armed law enforcement personnel have not shown up at the wildlife refuge begs the racism question. 

But is the non-response really racist? Well, in my opinion, I say a qualified no. Let’s keep in mind that these armed people have taken over a small federal building in the middle of, well, nowhere. I only say “nowhere” because the vast majority of people have absolutely no idea where the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is located. It is rural - very, very rural. 

Here is a google earth view, including an insert of the building that has been taken over. 

This is not the middle of a dense urban neighborhood. These armed people pose no danger to anyone, because there isn’t anyone anywhere near them. The building they have taken over had no people in it because it was closed for the weekend. I doubt that the Harney County Sheriff Department has a SWAT Team, or anything like it. Harney County has a land area of 10,226 square miles, and a population of 7,146 people. Cattle outnumber people in the county by 14 to 1. The County Sheriff website has a page for “Sheriff’s Posse;” however, it only lists the contact information for the Sheriff. 

Comparing the “non-response” at Malheur to the immediate and heavily militarized responses we see when there is a gunman or a mass shooting in an urban area is apples and oranges (people and cattle?). I also think that saying there would be an immediate and heavily armed response if these folks were African American, or Muslim is, for this situation, without a basis. 

The Sheriff and others have commented that a number of agencies are working together on a strategy to deal with these self-styled militia folk. They have told people to stay away from the wildlife refuge. This could play out in a number of ways, including a violent confrontation. However it ends, I think the people involved in the takeover will be arrested, at least those who are alive, and charged with any number of crimes. 

Earlier I wrote that my opinion on the question of racism is a “qualified no.” Let me explain. I know that there is a deep current of racism in my country, the United States of America. There are racist people, and many of our institutions and systems are racist in practice. This is not a surprise to most people who read the news and news analyses. 

I think it is too early to find any racial undertones in the response (non-response) of the local authorities. But this situation should be watched carefully by all of us to see how it develops, and whether or not we think the eventual actions of the various government authorities are different because the militia are a bunch of good-old white boys. 

These are my thoughts; what do you think?

a. Source:


So many juicy topics to choose from today. So let’s combine a couple of related topics about guns and militiamen/women and the concept of revolt in the USA. Sounds like fun.

I often post provocative things on Facebook and this blog. Yesterday I posted one item about guns, and another about the takeover, by self-described militia, of a federal Wildlife Refuge headquarter building (kind-of a small house) in eastern Oregon. These are related topics. 

First, the question I posed about guns. I read about, and once witnessed people who walk around in public places carrying loaded semi-automatic rifles as a demonstration of their Second Amendment right to bear arms (this is in states where open carry is legal). The legal question I posed was this: if I witness these people, and I feel threatened and afraid for my safety, do I have the right to call the police and demand that they make the gun-toters leave? This is an especially relevant question today because of the recurring mass shootings by people with semi-automatic weapons. Yes, if it is legal, these folks have a right to openly carry weapons; however, given the climate of fear and apprehension in this country about mass shooters, isn’t this behavior the same as shouting “fire” in a crowded theater when there is no fire?  

I know what the gun rights crowd will say, but I think it is time for the gun control crowd to start exercising our right to feel safe in public places. I propose that any time we see people open carrying these kinds of weapons in a public place we call 911 and say that we feel unsafe and fear for our safety. 

Some of my FB friends have posted another thought I’ve had: what if the gun-toters happen to be African American? And I will add, what if they are Muslim, with beards, dressed in long gowns and skull caps (to be very obviously Muslim), and demonstrating their Second Amendment right? Think about it, in America, a group of white guys dressed in military garb and carrying semi-automatic weapons walking around a park or mall or other public place vs. a group of obvious Muslims doing the same. Which ones do you think will end up dead very quickly? 

One of the examples of how this plays out along race lines in our history is when the Black Panthers decided to arm themselves. Gun ownership was legal, and they did not try to hide the fact that they had guns. The end of this was when the police raided Black Panther offices and homes, killed (murdered) some of them, and arrested many. 

So now let’s get to the insurrection in eastern Oregon. The quick summary is that there was a demonstration in Burns, Oregon about father and son ranchers who were convicted of arson for setting at least two areas of federal range land on fire. This is a federal crime, and they were sentenced to 5 years in prison. The men announced that they would show up Monday to start their prison terms, but anti-government types held a demonstration for the purpose of claiming that the federal government should stay out of local issues, should not own range and forest land, and etc. A small group of demonstrators - they claim to have about 150 people - then split off and took over the headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge. You can easily find the video clips of these guys spouting off about taking the country back for the people, opening the Wildlife Refuge for grazing, farming, mining and other activities for the people, and etc. 

These guys (maybe some women, too) describe themselves as militia members, some of them dress in military clothing, they carry rifles and assault weapons and pistols - in other words, they are a group of armed people who have taken over government property. 

Obviously these people are violating numerous laws. I’m guessing that they are not violating any law about guns, just laws about their behavior, such as trespassing, threatening violence, etc. 

This is an interesting case to watch. Will these militiamen be considered terrorists, and be prosecuted as such? Keep in mind that they have made statements that they plan to stay where they are “for years” and will fight anyone who tries to get them out. This could become a lengthy stalemate in which the authorities try to starve them out rather than get into a gun battle with them. 

I think it is important to listen to the messages these folks put forward. They are very anti-government - federal government - and claim that America is off-track and needs to find it’s footing again. In their minds, the feds have taken away everything that they need to practice their form of livelihood; the feds own large acreage of range land, large areas of timber land, control mining activities. In other words, the natural resources in the USA should be open and available to anyone who wants to use them, with no regulation, no control by Big Government, no oversight of environmental quality, etc. 

AND, by god, they have a constitutional right to back up their message with their guns! 

Ah, Oregon, beautiful Oregon. A vast sea of rural conservatism with tiny islands (Portland, Eugene, a few others) of liberalism. 

And I can’t wait to hear what Trump, Cruz and the others have to say about this one! 


Note: You might remember Clive Bundy, the Nevada rancher who started a standoff with federal officials. Well, his sons are the ring-leaders of the new Oregon Rebellion; and no, they do not live in Oregon. 

Friday, January 01, 2016

JANUARY 1, 2016

I am trying NOT to read the news today (oh boy). I want to start the new year on a positive note, but this is not an easy assignment. Already my smartphone has popped up with "breaking news" (new open carry gun law in Texas). Already a cousin in Israel has posted on Facebook about another terrorist attack in Tel Aviv resulting in people being killed and wounded. Already. Already. Already. Enough already! We live in a terrible world - I know!

But I don't want to start the year this way. I truly want to focus on the beautiful and good things in our world. I want to celebrate those people who do good every day, and those who choose to spend their time doing good for others. I want to celebrate the people who go to the island of Lesbos, Greece to help refugees fleeing lives of fear and terror and death. I want to celebrate people who feed the hungry, who care for the sick, who help people in need. I want to celebrate the people who take the time and the responsibility to work hard for our rights and freedoms. And there are a lot of you.

The media tend to focus on the horrible. Sometimes we see stories about the good. I would like to see every news medium - newspapers, on-line outlets, TV news programs - have one segment or section every day dedicated to the good things happening in our world. Tell those stories so we can have some hope, see some good, know that we are not alone. Give us the opportunity to feel joy, to feel the goodness of humanity, and to not be bathed in honor all day every day.

This is a beautiful blue planet. Too many of us cannot see the beauty because our lives are focused on survival. My wish for the new year is that every person on Earth would have the freedom and opportunity to breathe freely in beautiful places, free of fear, free of want, free of hate. This is certainly possible; unfortunately, it is not probable. Are we intelligent enough to change? Are we human enough to see ourselves as a society of sisters and brothers, and not groups of others?

Happy new year. We have a lot of work ahead.