Wednesday, October 14, 2015

CNN First Democratic Debate Breakdown


Who Won?

I really don't get this whole "Who won the debate?" thing. It's all opinion anyway. People who like Hillary are going to feel Hillary won, and people who like Bernie are going to think Bernie won. What is the point of this argument? No one is going to agree. And I'm really not into arguing for the sake of arguing.

And, yes, there are polls out there, and yes Bernie did really well and then some. And then the media went out and ignored their own polls. But still, who exactly are participating in these polls? And how exactly does that reflect the rest of the United States who maybe didn't care enough to participate but still watched the debate? Or people who didn't care enough to watch the debate at all? Are we just assuming these people aren't going to be bothered to vote or that they don't care that much about social media?

I just don't take much store in these things. They're cool and all. I'm just not convinced of their accuracy. And I find the debate over who won the debate completely pointless until someone is actually elected President. Then, and only then, can we actually point to who the people support (unless you're George Bush, but we don't talk about that).

Joe Biden

[RANT WARNING!]

Before the debate started, the announcers spent a good amount of time speculating about Joe Biden, which drove me nuts. Dear media, please shut up about Joe Biden. No one freaking cares. Like at all. I am so sick and tired over speculation about Joe Biden. Will he run? Won't he run? Would he hurt Hillary or help Hillary? Would he hurt Bernie or help Bernie? Hey, Bernie, let's take up some of your valuable time and ask you what you think of about Biden!


No. One. Cares. Please, for the love of God, just stop it already. The man is not running. And if he does decide to run (unlikely at this point, don't you think?), you can talk about him then. Not before. Please stop wasting valuable air time talking about such a pointless, unproductive, unimportant issue.

[RANT OVER]

Okay, I'm done. I digress.

....

So, Bernie debate parties. I didn't go, and I didn't throw one. I wanted to, but I decided the time of the debate was a little too late for me to hang out with strangers when I'm going to immediately want to go to bed afterwards. Still, there were a lot of cool pictures, and I did participate in #DebateWithBernie on Tumblr. So there. I was a good grassroots participant.

There's a lot of snark in this post. I don't know if you're picking up on it. But if you are, I apologize. Pointless things get me riled up.

Best Bernie Moments

Speaking of pointless things, one of the best moments of the debate was when Bernie said Americans were sick and tired of hearing about Hillary's "damn emails" (and here's the part of that speech that CNN cut out from their regular broadcast).


Other good moments of the debate:

When Bernie said, "Black lives matter."

When Bernie said, "Wall Street regulates congress" (and here's the whole big banks debate).


When Bernie said, "I suspect I would vote yes" (marijuana debate). Here's Hillary's response.

When Bernie said, "What we said 50 years ago is every kid in this country should be able to get a high school education regardless of income. I think we have to say that is true for everybody going to college."

When Bernie answered how a Democratic Socialist could win the white house. (Seriously, there's so many good lines in here, I couldn't pick one)


When Bernie said he'd shut down the NSA.

When Bernie explained his vote on Immigration reform.

When Bernie explained when he'd use force to defend the US.

Other good discussions were the ones on Social Security and Healthcare.

Bernie's closing statement.

Additionally, if you missed the debate, the full debate is currently on youtube in various formats. Just search "CNN full debate 2015" and it will come up.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

2016 Democratic Debate Party Food

The Democratic debates are coming up (not nearly fast enough). And I know people are planning on getting together. What might food at a Democratic Debate Watching look like? Well if you want to get all thematic, here are some drink and food suggestions listed by candidate.

Lincoln Chafee

Lincoln Chafee hails from Rhode Island. Iconic Rhode Island drinks include the Rhode Island Red Cocktail, Coffee Milk, and Rhode Island Ice Tea.

In terms of food, here's a list of favorites. Clam cakes and pizza strips should go over well as party food. Or make some mini hotdogs or mini crescent dogs to dip in homemade New York System Wiener Sauce.

Hillary Clinton

Hillary Clinton was born in Chicago. Here's 20 Chicago drinks to choose from. Green River is the iconic soft drink from IL. If you can't get hold of it, you can make your own limeade.

Slate did a piece on Hillary's favorite food, so we don't have to look far for party ideas. Apparently, what Hillary enjoys most is called an Oliveburger, which is a hamburger topped with pimento-stuffed green olives. So buy some hamburger meat, make some small patties to top with a pimento-stuffed olive and put a toothpick through both. Like with the image to the right, but with an olive on top - bun, lettuce, and tomato optional.


Martin O'Malley

Martin O'Malley is from Maryland. The signature cocktail of Maryland is the Black-Eyed Susan, and the signature soft drink is ginger ale.

Like Rhode Island, Maryland is also known for its crab cakes. Other foods include oysters, chicken with white cream sauce, and Smith Island Cake.


Bernie Sanders

I did a whole post on Bernie Sanders themed drinks, so you can take your pick, but my favorite was this homemade recipe for Vermont Switchel.

Maple is staple in Vermont. There's tons of recipes for maple bread. My personal favorite was this recipe topped with soft cheese. Finish with a toothpick.

Jim Webb

Jim Webb is from Missouri. The staple cocktail is the Missouri Mule, and the staple soda is IBC Root Beer.

Finding Missouri staple food was a little difficult, but here's a whole list of food from St. Louis. This includes toasted ravioli, gooey butter cake, and St. Louis style BBQ.

Friday, September 18, 2015

What is Bernie Sanders' Plan for the Deficit / Budget / Debt?

I've seen this question pop up a lot in one form or another. So, first let's have a little vocabulary lesson.

The budget is when the government plans where to spend money and how much to spend for the fiscal year. This isn't concrete. The government can over or under spend in areas just like you or I.

The deficit is when the government spends more money than it takes in.

And the debt is when the government borrows money to account for the money it overspent.

When a country doesn't have a deficit, this does not mean that leftover money automatically goes toward the debt. The government has to decide to what to do with that extra money, and it could just as easily (and probably more likely) be spent on something else than go toward the debt.

For 2015, the US is estimated to have a deficit of $583 billion and a debt of $18.6 trillion.


General Provisions

I don't know what Bernie Sanders plans to do about this in the way of specifically setting aside money to pay back the debt or putting in careful calculations to make sure we don't have a deficit. But I do know he's looking for specific ways to cut spending.

Military Spending

We currently spend more money in military spending than the next 9 countries combined. The Military budget for 2015 was $598.5 billion. Bernie Sanders wants to cut that. He hasn't said how much, but we could cut the budget by 60% and still lead the world in defense spending. If we did that, we'd have $359.1 billion in savings.

https://www.nationalpriorities.org/campaigns/us-military-spending-vs-world/
Mass Incarceration

The 2.4 million people we imprison in this country, costs us $80 billion a year. If we ended the War on Drugs and gave people medical treatment instead of putting them behind bars (as Bernie Sanders wants to do), this would cut our prison costs by over half, saving $41.3 billion a year. (Ah! You say. But what about health care costs? We'll get there.) This would also save money in welfare costs as about half of US states provide welfare for convicted felons who struggle to find jobs once released.

Ending Off Shore Tax Havens

Bernie Sanders wants to put an end to offshore tax havens, which allow corporations and rich Americans to store money overseas. They then pay less taxes to other countries, which costs the federal US government $150 billion year and state governments a total of $39.8 billion a year (source).

Ending Corporate Welfare

No one knows for certain how much money is paid to corporations each year in subsidies, but it's estimated to cost $110 billion a year. The top 8 paid corporations (such as Boeing, Nike, Shell, and Intel) made up $22 billion of that cost last year. (And while you're at it, here's a Top 30 list.) A number of these companies are Fortune 500 companies that don't need government handouts, and some of them aren't even US companies (source). Bernie Sanders isn't against business, but he is against giving tax payer dollars to corporations that already making millions or billions of dollars in profit.

Raising the Minimum Wage

It's estimated that $152.8 billion a year is spent in taxes on welfare programs for minimum wage employees who don't make enough to support themselves or their families. Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would eliminate that cost.

Tax Reform for the Rich

No one knows the exact numbers, but it's estimated that 25% of millionaires and at least the top 400 billionaires pay less in taxes than the average middle class American. Bernie Sanders wants to fix this by raising income taxes on the richest Americans, abolishing tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires, and changing the cap on and raising the estate tax. It's estimated reform on the estate tax alone would bring in $31.9 billion a year. We don't currently have numbers for the other areas.

Tax Wall Street

Bernie Sanders wants to implement a Financial Transaction Tax (a.k.a Robin Hood Tax), which is a small tax (.003%) on each transaction of a stock or bond. This would bring in $35.2 billion a year.

Specific Programs

The following includes a number of programs that Bernie Sanders wants to implement a discussion on how they may or may not contribute to deficit. You can read more specifics about these bills in a previous post.

Green Energy Initiatives

The Climate Protection Act and Sustainable Energy Act implements a number of green energy initiatives. This would be paid for by implementing a $20 carbon tax per ton of carbon emissions, rising by 5.6% per year over 10 years. The bill would also end fossil fuel subsidies. The revenue from these bills would generate approximately $300 billion to go specifically toward debt reduction.

Tuition Free College

Bernie's College for All Act would be paid for by taxes on Wall Street. While the bill costs $47 billion, the taxes on Wall Street is projected to bring in hundreds of billions of dollars a year. And extra revenue could be used elsewhere.

Create Jobs Rebuilding America's Infrastructure

Bernie Sanders' Rebuild America Act would cost $1.6 Trillion (paid for by the development of a National Infrastructure Development Bank that would then give out loans). However, this bill would presumably provide jobs for those who are unemployed, saving in welfare costs. This bill would also build up our infrastructure to allow it to compete with the rest of world. A study by Duke University estimates that every dollar spent into transportation infrastructure pays back $3.54 in economic impact. It's not clear how exactly this would impact the deficit, but it's information worth having.

Health Care

I don't know how much Bernie's American Health Security Act would cost (someone smarter than I will have to look at it). But is it estimated that the US spends $3.1 trillion on health care. That includes $374 billion in prescription costs, which Bernie wants to lower. It also includes $836 billion in Social Security costs for Medicare, Medicaid, Children's Health Insurance (CHIP). The American Health Security Act would replace these programs along with Federal Employee Health Benefits (FEHB), TRICARE, and provisions under the Affordable Care Act.

Whatever the cost of Bernie's American Health Security Act, it's important to note that its cost wouldn't go on top of what the US already spends in health care. The American Health Security Act would absorb the programs we already have. In effect, the money the government currently spends in health care programs would simply be transferred to the American Health Security Act, and our previous health care programs would be eliminated. So, one way or another, the cost of this new bill should come out as a general wash.

Conclusion

Bernie Sanders has a lot of changes he wants to make for America. It's easy to take them at face value and miss the cost savings underneath. Pass this article around for those who have questions.

UPDATE 09/19/15: Added more headings and a more of Bernie's programs

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

How Obama Won and Bernie Sanders Can Too

How many times have you read the words in an article, "It's a reality that Bernie Sanders can't win?" Bernie Sanders has no chance. Bernie Sanders will never be the democratic nominee. Bernie Sanders will never be president. Over and over and over again.

I seem to remember Hillary going up against an African American in 2008 who got the same kind of press over and over again saying he couldn't win. Gee, I can't remember who that was...


He's the freaking president of the United States, people! 

And Hillary's not. How many news journalists and political science experts told you that would happen? Not very many, if any at all.

So let's just stop with all this "reality" crap. It is not reality that Bernie Sanders won't be president of the United States. Hillary was defeated once, and if the right pieces come together, she can be defeated again. The only "reality" is when the election happens and we have the final votes counted.


Social Media

Part of what made Obama's campaign so successful was his ability to utilize social media to invigorate volunteers and grow into a grassroots movement to reach other to potential voters. His popularity on social media also helped him with gaining the youth vote.

Bernie Sanders is trending well on Twitter with both of his hashtags winning the fight against Hillary's for the most part. But Hillary still far outreaches Bernie on Youtube. Though he may be gaining on her on Facebook (that article is from June).

However, what none of those statistics can tell us is how many people are actually engaged with Bernie's or Hillary's campaign and if those people are making efforts to reach out to other potential voters and if those efforts are effective. If they are, Bernie's campaign could turn out a lot like Obama's.

The Issues

Another factor that helped Obama was his ability to address voter concerns regarding the economy. Today, voter concerns have not changed much. The GOP debate might have been entertaining (and guess which candidate actually came out on top), but there was little to no discussion about the issues Americans want to hear about.

According to several polls, Americans want to hear the candidates discuss real issues. They want to hear about fixing the economy, about jobs, about education and healthcare. Bernie Sanders has been consistent in his message about income inequality and protecting working families. Supporters have flocked to him because he's speaking about real issues that the American people want to hear about.

Another draw for Sanders is that he refuses to use attack ads against other candidates. On multiple occasions he has spoken against the media for their focus on political drama and not on the real issues facing American citizens. He has garnered a lot of respect from potential voters on that aspect alone.

Enthusiasm


Obama's campaign had a lot of enthusiasm, and Bernie's campaign is showing signs of having more. At the beginning of July, Obama had 180,000 small donors contributing, Sanders had 250,000. Bernie Sanders has consistently drawn bigger crowds than any other presidential candidate.

July 29, 2015, one hundred thousand people attended house parties for Bernie. Double that number is being called to march on Washington for Bernie rally. Bernie Sanders has the most active Reddit page of any presidential candidates. And supporters of Bernie Sanders came together on their own to create a website that made it easy to find and understand Bernie's position on important issues.

The enthusiasm for Bernie Sanders is there, and it can only grow. And we're still four months away from 2016.

Voters

Another thing Obama did well was get young people and minorities out to the polls, demographics known for not voting. A large number of Bernie supporters are millennials. He has the young vote for sure. The test will be if he can amp up his appeal to minorities. Time will tell.

Poll Data

Bernie is currently 24.2 points behind Hillary in the national polls. At the same date in 2007, Obama was 16 points behind Hillary nationally. Though Bernie has a much larger gap to cover than Obama, Bernie has recently surpassed Hillary in NH, something Obama didn't achieve until January of his election year. Bernie's still closing the gap in Iowa, but he has four months (Obama's turn around) to get there. There's still plenty of time for Bernie to catch up, and the enthusiasm behind him, and how quickly he's climbed, I'd be worried if I were Hillary.

A Different Campaign

Obama's campaign is different that Bernie Sanders'. But if we should have learned one lesson from Obama's win, it's that nothing is for certain. So go ahead. Continue saying Bernie will never make it. I'm willing to bet you'll be eating those words a year and a quarter from now.

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

How Voter ID Laws Infringe Upon the Voting Rights of Millions of Americans


You may have heard the argument that Voter ID laws are a deliberate attempt by Republicans to block minorities and the poor (who are most likely to vote Democrat) from voting. Do I think there are Republicans sitting in office and twirling their evil mustaches as they laugh at how their legislation has taken root in so many states? Maybe a little.

But when it comes right down to it, Republicans aren't the problem. It's us. We're the ones who passed the legislation. We're the ones who, when asked on the street, say that voter ID laws are perfectly reasonable. It's our own fault.

The Middle Class is Part of the Problem

I grew up in a middle class family. My mom kept our birth certificates and Social Security cards in a filing cabinet. Sometimes, she'd take them out and explain to me how important they were. When I turned sixteen, I knew exactly where those documents were so I could obtain a driver's license, and I knew how to store them after so they wouldn't become lost.

When I turned eighteen, I proudly displayed that license as I walked up to the voting booth. If someone had asked me then, or even a few years ago, if voting ID laws are reasonable, I would have said yes. It was so easy for me to get my ID, after all. And they're required for so many things. Who wouldn't have one? At the time, voter ID laws seemed logical. Any reasonable American citizen could understand their use. And I'd honestly thought they'd been around forever (it blew my mind when I discovered states only started requiring them in 2006).

It's a view point many American's have, and it's born of our own ignorance.

It Can Be Really Hard to Get a State ID


You have no need for a Driver's License if you don't own a car. Minorities (who are more likely to be poor) the elderly (who often don't drive) and students (who often live on campus) are less likely to own a car. They have no need for a driver's license, so many don't have one.

A state ID costs money. Anywhere from $3 to $30 depending on the state you live in. And while that may not seem like a lot, for someone who lives pay check to pay check (or for whom one paycheck doesn't even cover expenses), spending money on a piece of plastic versus food or rent is not a justifiable expense.

ID-Issuing offices can be hard to get to. Many of those hurt by voter ID laws don't have a DMV within close distance (that distance is even grater if you don't have a car to travel by). And due to budget cuts, many ID-issuing offices aren't open very often, some only two days a week and others fewer than that (see previous link).

Waiting at the DMV costs time. If your local DMV is only open during normal business hours, you're going to have to take time off work. Anyone who has ever waited in line at the DMV knows a simple lunch break won't do. For many middle class Americans with full time jobs, taking a personal day is easy. For the poor who often work multiple part-time jobs, taking time off is not only difficult, it also isn't feasible. Time off work means less pay and a boss who sees you as less dependable and will probably dock your hours.

If you don't have a birth certificate, you're out of luck. The elderly born in rural areas, like a farm, don't have birth certificates. Many elderly African Americans were birthed at home (shortly after the slavery era). They don't have birth certificates either. Other Americans have lost their birth certificates due to fire or other accidents. While many states require a birth certificate to get a driver's license, they also require a driver's license to get a birth certificate (you can check your state's requirements here). So it is literally impossible to get a state ID in some states if you don't have one and you've also lost your birth certificate.

Voter Fraud is Practically Non-Existent


Voter Fraud cases represent only 1 out of 15 million votes. Voter fraud most frequently occurs in absentee ballots and during voter registration, cases that voter ID laws (which require you to show an ID at the physical polls) do not prevent. And in most cases, voter fraud charges are dropped since it's difficult to prove a person knew they were doing something illegal and did it on purpose. It's more likely that many voters didn't know they were doing something wrong:
Felons or noncitizens sometimes register to vote or cast votes because they are confused about their eligibility. The database shows 74 cases of felons voting and 56 cases of noncitizens voting. 
Voters make a lot of mistakes, from accidentally voting twice to voting in the wrong precinct. 
Election officials make a lot of mistakes, from clerical errors — giving voters ballots when they’ve already voted — to election workers confused about voters’ eligibility requirements. (source)
The only voter fraud that voter ID laws help prevent is voter-impersonation fraud. News21's investigation of voter fraud cases from 2000 to 2012 found only 10 instances of voter-impersonation fraud across all 50 states.

Voter ID Laws Disenfranchise Millions of Americans


While voter ID laws could prevent only 10 cases of voter-impersonation fraud, it disenfranchises 21 million Americans who do not have the required identification. Of this 21 million,
25% are African American
18% are over 65
18% aged 18-24
15% earning less than $35K a year
8% are white
(source)
So, let's recap. Voter ID laws prevent only 10 cases of voter fraud in 12 years, while every year they they deny 21 million Americans their right to vote.

Voter ID Laws are Unconstitutional

The right to vote is granted by our constitution. And many Americans had to fight for that right, women and African Americans, especially. When a law is put in place that does nothing to protect voters but instead infringes upon the voting rights of millions of Americans, something is wrong with that law.

Prior to voter ID laws, the United States employed a poll tax as a prerequisite to vote. This tax, as you can imagine, disenfranchised the poor (including minorities and the elderly) and women (who earned far less than men), much as voter ID laws do today. American citizens fought against the poll tax, and the 24th Amendment was added to the constitution, abolishing poll taxes. It's time we fight against voter ID laws.

Share this information with everyone you know, write your state representatives and tell them you do not support voter ID laws, start a petition for your state, and if someone with a microphone stops you on the street and asks if voter ID laws are reasonable, tell them no, they most certainly are not.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Bernie Can't do it Alone, but are his Supporters Getting the Message?

From BeyondtheChoir.org
Bernie has said a number of times that it's not enough to elect the best president anymore. The president alone can not get done the changes that need to happen in this country. He has called for a political revolution. He has called for us to become activists, to get involved in our local politics. We can't just elect Bernie. We have to elect good local and state representatives, and we have to tell the bad ones we're not satisfied. We must do these things if we want real change to happen. 

On Wednesday, I received this email from my local congressman, Jeff Duncan, representing the 3rd district of SC. Among other issues, he speaks against Planned Parenthood and the Iran Deal, both of which Bernie Sanders supports. I wrote back to Mr. Duncan, politely encouraging that he support those issues.

While I was at it, I also contacted two SC-for-Bernie pages, one on Facebook and one on Twitter, providing them with the email link and asking that they post it so local Carolinians could also respond. Though both pages responded positively to my request, neither of them posted the link. For whatever reason, they didn't feel it warranted posting. And that worries me.

On my Bernie Sanders FB page, I recently posted a petition to ban microbeads - small pieces of plastic companies put in consumer products that most water treatment plants can't capture and end up in our water streams and eaten by wildlife. Bernie Sanders hasn't said a single word about microbeads, but I posted the petition because it's an environmental issue, and Bernie cares a lot about our environment. Therefore, microbeads should fall right in line with his concerns. Yet, this post had had zero shares. About the same effect when I tried to share with people the utterly amazing Shellno protest.

I have this growing concern that we, as Bernie supporters, care a lot about what Bernie has to say. But we have very little momentum when something doesn't directly come from him. And that's a problem. While attending a recent Bernie rally in SC, Bernie again stated that he can't do this alone. Since the video of that rally isn't up yet, I'll borrow a his quote from a WI rally: "Nobody in the White House, no matter how good he or she may be, can address the major issues facing working families without an active politically conscious grassroots movement."

I'm starting to wonder if people realize Bernie isn't talking about a grassroots movement to get himself elected. He's talking about a grassroots movement to battle the political corruption in our country. And that means going beyond what Bernie directly has his hands in. As I looked around the room at the rally, I wondered how many people there were only willing to fight for Bernie. They would volunteer their time to local rallies, to knock on doors, or to pass out voter registration forms (all good things).

But how many of them would bother to look up their local congressman and subscribe to their newsletter and write back when they wanted their voice heard? How many of them would take the time to research and vote in elections other than the presidential one? How many would look up political activist movements in American and around the world? How many would march on Washington for a better America?

Even with Bernie in the White House, how can we hope to change America for the better if we can't muster the effort to make it happen?

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

What Would Happen in a Trump vs Sanders Presidential Race?


A month ago, I would have told you I was sick of the Bernie & Trump comparisons. The two men are the polar opposite of each other, at least in personality (the two have a surprising number of issues they agree on). Trump represents the capitalist billionaire class, and Bernie champions socialist ideas to raise the middle and impoverished classes.

Despite media cries that neither one of them will be their respective party's nominee, let alone president, their poll numbers keep climbing (weeks and months after the media insisted, and continues to insist, that those numbers will level out). As much as I hate to admit it, the more I look at the trends and consider the options, a Trump vs Sanders presidential race in 2016 seems very likely.

Bernie Sanders has said since his campaign began that the American people are fed up with conventional politics, and he was right. What no one paused to consider is that people on the right might be just as fed up as people on the left. In fact, a Chicago Tribune article goes so far as to say Trump and Sanders are appealing to the same voter base (let that blow your mind for a second).

As a Bernie supporter who has no doubt in the candidate's electability and constantly points to his trending poll numbers, I have to consider (as much as I don't like to) that Trump's electability may be in the same boat. Bernie supporters have praised his straightforwardness, and Trump supporters have done the same. We're all tired of the bullshit of secular politics, and Bernie and Trump represent the chance to break away from it (this Salon article points out a similar theme).

I don't want Trump to be the Repubican nominee. But, when it comes right down to it, I don't want any Republican candidate to be the nominee because it means we have a chance that one of those guys could be president and none of them seem ideal (though, to me, Rand Paul seems the safest).

However, when I think about it, a 2016 Trump vs Sanders race would be amazing because it would send a message that Americans are tired of our political parties. It would be the first time a Bush and Clinton both ran and were turned down by voters. The family and political party dynasty that has held the presidential seat for decades, would be cast aside. It would change America's politics forever.

I say, bring it on.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Bernie Sanders / Vermont / Maple Themed Patry Drinks (and some food)

I did a post a while back about Bernie themed party food, and I got to thinking - Bernie themed drinks? Why not.

Senator from Vermont (suggested on Reddit)


Maple-Bourbon Smash - maple syrup, orange juice, lemon juice, bitters, seltzer, and bourbon. Looking around, there's actually a few variants on this "Old Vermont" cocktail (one, two, three). Pick your favorite or mix and match to make your own variant.


Feel the Bern

Shot of Everclear or another "berning" liquor.


Vermont Switchel
Image from American Food Roots
A mix of apple cider, maple syrup, ginger, lemon juice, and molasses. You can read about the drink's origins here, buy it here, or make your own. Add alcohol if desired.


Vermont/Maple Lemonaid

Image from this recipe
You can read about the drink here. The recipe is pretty easy, just make lemonaid and use maple syrup to sweeten it instead of sugar. The internet is full of variants on what measurements to use. Best for your to decide for yourself based on how sweet and lemony you like'd like things to be. Add your favor liquor if desired.


Maple Soda


This drink is exactly what it sounds like. You can read what some non-Vermonters thought about it here, buy it (and other sodas) from a Vermont company here, or google "Maple Soda" and see if there's any recipes out there you are up for trying (some of them seem a little complicated).


More Recipes


Okay. So maple everything, right? That's all you need. Well, I got thinking about "Vermont Food" and Allrecipes came up with a page offering New England beans (multiple recipes), molasses cookies (multiple recipes), maple tarts, and a maple float!

Friday, August 14, 2015

DIY T-shirts for Bernie for Under $10

Two weeks ago, I did a post on How to Make DIY Bernie T-shirts. I finally got around to trying it out for myself.

Step 1: Buy Your Supplies

My thrift store shopping turned out pretty well. I found three shirts in the colors I wanted for $1 each (one a size larger than I usually wear). Way better than buying a pack of mixed t-shirts at a clothing store. And if I messed them up, I wouldn't feel too bad about it.

While I specifically looked for blank shirts, don't be afraid to experiment. I found a number of shirts with "America" on them. You could easily paint "vote for Bernie" underneath. I also found a few pink ribbon shirts you could pain "women for Bernie" on. Grab a "Harley" shirt and make it "Harley for Bernie." Be creative!

After some consideration, I also decided to buy freezer paper for the sake of simplicity (you will find it with the aluminium foil). This was the only thing I could not find cheap. It cost $6 (no luck at finding it at the dollar store). So all together, I spent $9.16 and some taxes. I didn't spend anything on actual painting supplies since I decided to use what I already had on hand.

Step 2: Conceptualize 


I first did some thinking on what kind of designs I wanted to make. Then I thought of which colors those designs would go well on. I laid the shirts out with a piece of printer paper and imagined what size I wanted the designs to be (one sheet of paper or two? Landscape or portrait?). This helped a lot when it came to figuring out how large I needed the designs and font to be when I built them in MS Word, and I highly recommend doing it. You can also use this online program for some help visualizing.

Step 3: Build Your Designs

Build your designs in MS Word or any similar program so you can print them out to serve as a stencil for painting. I'll explain this step a little more with each individual shirt, and I'll give you resources to look through at the end. One thing I will point out is I took the margins off of the documents to get the font and images the size I wanted them to be. My printer, however, is not one that prints off the margins, so I had to color in some areas on the stencils that my printer didn't get with sharpie marker. No big deal, but something to be aware of.

You can skip this step and the next few all together if you decide not use a stencil. But I highly recommend using a stencil. It's a lot of work, but it made the printing step a lot easier.

Sept 4: Prepare the Freezer Paper

The roll of freezer paper I bought was 331/2 yards by 18 inches, which means I had to cut it down to the proper size. You could use a ruler to do this, but I ended up taking a piece of printer paper and just tracing it. It all depends on whether you want to attempt printing on the freezer paper and how finicky you feel your printer is. My printer took my imperfectly traced sheets just fine, but yours might not.

If you decide not to attempt printing on the freezer paper, you'll need to print your designs on regular paper. Then lay the freezer paper over top (it's translucent) and trace the design. Alternatively, there are freezer paper printer sheets online to purchase, but they're expensive compared to buying the roll. And if you have a very temperamental printer, the paper might be too thin to work properly for you anyway.

If you want, you can omit the freezer paper from your t-shirt making all together and just use normal printer paper. But the fact the fact the freezer paper sticks to the shirt fabric and prevents your design from shifting is useful.

Once you have your designs on paper, cut out your designs with an x-acto or utility knife. Make sure to save any small "scraps" from the inside of letters or designs. You'll want them for the ironing step. If you'd rather avoid having little pieces to deal with, you can download stencil font to use.

Step 5: Prepare the Shirts


Once you have your design ready, you'll want to iron your shirt flat. Then place the freezer paper on top of the shirt (wax side down) and iron it till it sticks. Then place cardboard or another surface inside the shirt to prevent paint from bleeding through to the other side.

Step 6: Paint

Bleach - Ask Me About Bernie sanders

I've been wanting an "Ask Me About Bernie Sanders" shirt since I found out about the campaign. I could have easily painted this by hand, but I wanted a specific look. So I put some text in a Word doc, blew it up as big as I wanted, and printed it out.


Pour a small amount of bleach into a container and use a paint brush to paint on the bleach. Be careful not to drip and you'll probably want a fan going to get some air circulation from the fumes. Over time, the bleached areas will get lighter and lighter. So let the design sit for a while. I moved on to cutting out another stencil while giving the bleach time to work and letting the shirt dry.


One thing about this method that I didn't expect is the bleach ate my paint brushes. I had a 4 set of the cheap Crayola brushes, and they are now useless. Not a big deal and probably should have been expected, but none of the tutorials I looked at mentioned this happening. Maybe I just needed better quality brushes. I also could try diluting the bleach, but none of the tutorials I found mentioned this either, and at least one specifically said not to.


I'm not sure what happened here. Presumably, I used too much bleach. But I really didn't feel like I used that much. I believe what may have happened is the bleach ate through the wax. That's the only thing that makes sense to me. When doing the back of the shirt, I used a q-tip (which did not dissolve like my paint brushes) to paint on the bleach. So I know I ended up using less bleach there, but I still ended up with the same results.  So if you plan on doing a bleached design, hand painting it might be best.


But all is not lost. There is more than one way to paint a shirt. Hello, Sharpie.


Spray Paint - Bernie Hair and Glasses

I'm a fan of this shirt design. It's just awesome. And if you look around there are several different variants of it, so I felt free to do my own. I eventually settled on this style hair and glasses. I cropped the image, and then put it into this online editor. I used the "negative" affect to get the white hair and glasses to turn black. This also turned the blue areas orange, and I used the bucket in the sidebar to color these areas white. Then I cleaned the rest up in MS Paint.


I put extra freezer paper around the design for extra protection from the spay paint.


Find a well ventilated area (I went out to the garage and opened the door). Place extra paper to cover the shirt and protect from paint. I discovered while painting that it's easier if the shirt is vertical, rather than lying down. So what I should have done was propped it up against the wall and instead of newspaper, I should have used larger freezer paper sheets where I could just iron an inch or so onto the shirt and then left the rest hanging over to make a barrier. Or I could have just taped the newspaper down with masking tape or something. With what I did here, paint got under the lose paper.


This was a little discouraging to see. I have paint splatter all around where I didn't have the freezer paper ironed. And my design got way over saturated, which was completely my fault. But I had never painted fabric with spray paint before. When I sprayed the paint, the shirt still looked green. So I ended up spraying several coats of paint when I really only needed somewhere between two or three. Once the shirt dried, I decided to forgo the spray paint and use acrylic to paint the back.


Acrylic Paint - Feel the Bern

I did some research, and there's mixed feelings over weather or not acrylic paint is okay to use on fabric. (Even more confusing is my bottle of acrylic paint says it "sticks permanently" to surfaces like fabric and wood but that it also "washes out with hot water and soap." Huh?) Acrylic paint isn't much different from fabric paint in terms of composition, but it's thicker than fabric paint. This means it tends to sit on top of the fabric rather than soaking into the fibers, resulting in a stiff design that can crack.

There are different texture mediums that can be used to convert acrylic paint to fabric paint (the most recommended one I found was Golden GAC 900) but that stuff is expensive. I also found a post suggesting the use of glycerol or Liquitex Acrylic Medium as a cheaper alternative.

Honestly, I found all these different mediums confusing. And I found someone online who suggested just adding water to acrylic paint (no more than 10%) to thin it out. So that's what I did. I squirted some paint onto a paper plate and added a few drops of water to it till was thin (no specific measuring) and painted it on.



Step 7: Heat Set & Wash

You should heat set your designs after they have dried and before washing them (with the exception of bleached). This will help the design hold to the shirt and make it less likely to wash out. To heat set, lay a cloth over your design (I just used a piece of paper) and iron it for 3 to 5 mins. Then you are all set. Always wash in cold water.

Bleach

No heat setting required! Once the bleach has dried or it's set in to where you want it, rinse the shirt in cold water, then let it air dry. After that you can wash it normally. When I rinsed out the front of my shirt and let it dry for the first time, it felt stiff. I was worried that this may be an effect of the bleach somehow, so I washed it by itself, then hung it again to dry in the air. It felt normal again.

Sharpie

This design gets a little smelly when you heat set it. And I ended up with brown around the edges of the letters (I suppose from the Sharpie bleeding a bit), but one round through the wash and the brown came out.

Spray Paint

Since I ended up with so much paint on this shirt, I washed it once by itself with some stain release without heat setting. A lot of the stiffness came out of the shirt along with most of pain splatter. Yay! This design was particularly horrible to heat set. So smelly! I had to open all the windows in the room.

Acrylic Paint

I had no issues with heat setting this, smell or otherwise. Like with the spray paint, a lot of the stiffness came out of the shirt after washing.

Washing

Once I was done heat setting all of the shirts, I washed them together because I wanted to make sure nothing would bleed onto other clothing. I turned the spray and acrylic paint designs inside out for extra security. Always wash painted shirts in cold water.

Final Verdict

I got to do some fun crafting in an area I had never tried before, and I got some cool shirts out of it.

Bleach & Sharpie


I just love this shirt. I think it came out fantastic. The smushed letters from the bleach may have been a happy accident. I love the way this shirt looks, and it doesn't have any of the stiffness of the other two shirts from the paint. I would definitely do this again.

Spray Paint


This shirt looks and feels better each time I wash it. With how disappointed I was with its initial turn out, I think this shirt ended up just fine. I'm liking it more and more. However, I don't think I'll ever attempt to spray paint a shirt again. If spray paint was all I had, sure. But why bother if I already have acrylic or fabric paint? I just think the second option is easier (it requires less set up, you can do it indoors, and it's a lot less smelly to heat set).

Acrylic Paint




When conceptualizing, I thought this was going to be my least favorite shirt - something that just came out okay. But I really like it. It looks great, it was fun and easy to paint, and I didn't have any hassles with it like the other two shirts.

Resources

If you are interested in the designs I used, you can find them here (files named after shirt color) in PDF (for exact size) and Word Doc (if you want to change the sizing and font). You can also find some Bernie stencils here and the mega graphics Bernie thread here. Or Google "Bernie Sanders T-shirt" and see what designs catch your attention.

Monday, August 10, 2015

The Crazy Theories of Bernie's Black Lives Matter Protests

There's been a lot of questions surrounding the Black Lives Matter protests of Bernie. And with the questions have come a lot of theories. Crazy or plausible, who can say?


The Questions:

Why Bernie? As has been discussed among Bernie supporters many times, he has an extensive civil rights record. He would seem like the candidate to go after the least, yet he's been targeted the most.

Why not other candidates? Bernie has been targeted twice now with no protests at the events of other candidates. You'd think there'd be at least some action at a few GOP events. O'Malley was at Netroots during that protest, but Black Lives Matter hasn't protested one of his events since. Was it Bernie they were after all along?

Why do the venues seem to cater to the the protesters? No efforts were made to remove the protesters at Netroots or Seattle. And in Seattle, music was played as the protesters took the stage. Did they somehow get control of the sound system?

If they wanted a response from Bernie, why don't they just ask? With Bernie's civil rights record and the numerous responses (tumblrtwitteryoutubewebsite) he's given on the issue, you'd think he'd be open to the idea of having a conversation with BLM. So why don't they initiate one? Surely, that would be ideal. Since when is screaming at someone and forcing them off the stage effective in getting your questions addressed?


The Theories

They aren't actually protesting Bernie. Netroots stated it's policy for them not to quiet the voices of women or minorities as reasoning for why they didn't shut down the protest. And if someone actually did give the protesters access to the sound system in Seattle, then it seems like these two events were ones the protesters knew they could get into. So, one running theory is these protests don't have anything to do with Bernie at all. His events are just less "secure" than an event by someone like Hillary Clinton. And the protesters are simply using the events they know they can use to draw attention and broadcast their message. Nothing more.

They're being paid to do this. Why aren't they protesting other candidates with far worse track records? And why Bernie even though he has an extensive record? Because someone wants to run a smear campaign on Bernie Sanders and get his name pushed negatively in the media.

They're actually pushing Bernie. These "protesters" actually see Bernie as the ideal presidential candidate. They keep appearing at his events because they want to push him on the issues so he continues to respond. By continuing to show up at his events and giving voice to their issues, they're more likely to get the policies they want implemented because they know Bernie's track record and they know he'll respond.

These are extremists from the BLM movement. Black Lives Matter doesn't actually hate Bernie. The protesters who have shown up are just using the connections they have to voice their personal frustrations and should largely be ignored.


The Alternative

I'm not sure I believe any of these theories. But they certainly make it confusing when trying to talk to people about the issue. Of course, the alternative to all those theories is that Black Lives Matter really is protesting Bernie.

I've said it before, and I'll say it again, Bernie and representatives of BLM really need to schedule a publicized meeting with each other and just get this all out in the open. It would answer a lot of questions, put these theories to bed, and I think make a whole bunch of people breathe a lot easier. That, I feel certain about.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Has Anyone from Black Lives Matter Actually Tried Contacting Bernie Sanders?

Yesterday, there was a second disruption of one of Bernie Sanders' events by the Black Lives Matter Movement. You might remember that there was a previous disruption at Netroots Nation where Sanders and Martin O'Malley spoke. (I've heard rumors that in both cases these may have been extremists from the movement and the protests weren't officially sanctioned, but I have no idea how much truth there is in that).


The first time this happened, I was sympathetic. The issue of police brutality in this country and the alarming number of African American lives that have been taken as a result is a serious one. And despite Bernie's long history of upholding human and civil rights, the protesters at Netroots specifically wanted to know "not what you have done, but what you will do." That, to me, seemed a perfectly valid distinction. And I think both O'Malley and Sanders were caught off guard and weren't confident in how to address it (though, I agree with the sentiment that's hard to respond properly to people screaming at you).

Even so, the issues of racism and police brutality were issues that Bernie hadn't discussed much, and I felt his reply at Netroots fell a little flat. But since the event, Bernie has spoken to it, both in interviews and on social media (and in more places and ways than I can possibly link to). And then he's protested again.

I haven't been able to find complete footage of the event, but this video shows the protester's takeover and this one shows what happens when they are handed the mic. I don't know at what point Sander's rally was shut down and he decided not to speak anymore (at least, I assume that's what's implied by "shut down").

As I've said, I was sympathetic with the first event. But this one just rubbed me the wrong way. For one thing, I cannot get passed the attitudes of the protesters. The guy who takes the podium after Bernie steps back tells the protesters that he will give them the mic after Bernie has had the chance to speak. And the girls just keep screaming over him.

True, the same happened at Netroots. But I was more understanding at that point of the feeling that you have no choice but to force your way through to have your voice heard. As I said then, that's what Bernie's campaign is all about - stepping up and making yourself heard when big money won't listen. So it made sense to me that the protesters felt the need to do the same. Especially since, Bernie hadn't talked about the issue much before.

But Bernie has responded to the protest at Netroots, more so than other presidential candidate. I have no doubt that he hasn't spoken to everything the BLM movement would want him too, but he's at least shown that he's willing to respond. Why, after getting such a response from him, would they feel the need to protest again? They keep shouting over and over about not wanting to be silenced, but Bernie has already shown that he agrees with their movement and is willing to speak to the issues! Why do another protest? It just boggles my mind why some progress isn't being made here!


The question that I keep coming back to over and over again is has anyone from the Black Lives Matter movement actually tried contacting Bernie Sanders and asking for an interview or a filmed Q&A or to speak at a rally with him? Seriously, I want an answer to this because I can think of no reason for Bernie to turn such a request away. I'm certain that if contact was made, Bernie would be more than happy to have a two-way conversation where people don't have to scream over each other.

And let's say for a moment that these protesters were in fact extremists from the movement and they just organized all of this on their own. It still looks bad on the official movement. Since the Seattle protest, I have heard from a number of people who previously supported BLM and are now withdrawing that support. Like me, they can't justify this second protest that seems a blatant disregard for the fact that Bernie is willing to listen and speak to the issues. 

I'm sure there are heated emotions on both sides, from Bernie Sanders supporters and supporters of BLM. Assuming contact has not been made previously with Bernie's campaign, I hope and in fact urge that both Bernie and BLM reach out to each other to make such contact and mutually agreed meeting and talk happen. Both sides could benefit from settling the dust and opening discussion.

Black lives matter. So, let's talk about it. No one wants to see another Seattle protest.

I have written to both Bernie's campaign and the Black Lives Matter movement requesting they work toward a filmed meeting. If you'd also like to politely make such a request to mend relations, you can email Bernie's campaign at info@berniesanders.com and BLM through this form.

UPDATE 8/11/15: fixed incorrect video link.

Friday, August 7, 2015

10 Reasons the DNC Debate Schedule is Damaging for Every Candidate (Including Hillary) and What You Can do About it

The DNC has scheduled 6 debates for the 2016 presidential run, 77% less than the 26 debates we had for 2008. Not only that, but the number of DNC debates is only half of the 12 debates scheduled by the RNC. And while the RNC debates started this month, the DNC debates won't begin until October. This is a problem, not just for the democratic candidates (including Hillary Clinton), but for all democratic across the nation, voters and representatives alike. 


(1) More debates contributed to much higher voter turnout among young people during the 2008 presidential run. Having fewer debates risks a close-vote election, where it may be a struggle not only in electing a Democrat for president but also the election of Democrats in Congressional and state elections — where Republicans have gained considerable ground.

(2) Early and frequent primary debates bring people’s attention to the fact that there is going to be a primary election in the first place, and so they are more likely to register to vote in time for both the primary and the general election. Having so few debates and having them start so late risks the chance that less people may turn out to vote Democrat.

(3) Inter-party debates, and more debates in general, give voters the opportunity to see where all the Democratic candidates stand on different issues, and how their positions contrast with those of the Republicans. This helps undecided voters determine what they care about and who they might prefer to support in the general election. But now, we have two months and twice as many debates where the American people are hearing Republican voices. If that's what they're hearing most often, who do you think they are more likely to vote for?

(4) Inter-party debates also provide the opportunity for conservative Democrats to distinguish their brand with that of the Republican field. Republicans and independents who lean conservative might be receptive to what Democrats like Chafee and Webb (who both defected from the Republican Party) have to say. Providing more debates increases the changes for some Republicans to vote Democrat in the election.

(5) More debates means more of a chance for debates to take place in neglected, more conservative-leaning states, like Texas, Mississippi, Utah, Wyoming, West Virginia, and Kentucky. Bernie Sanders has had a lot of success campaigning in deep red states that have historically been ignored by Democrats. There's opportunity to capture voters there that the DNC is neglecting with their current debate struggle.

(6) More debates increase the chance of having single-issue debates, which gives candidates the chance to present innovative ideas that policy makers and the future presidential candidate might be able to learn from. For example, the debate over healthcare in the Democratic primary was definitely a huge reason that Obama decided to prioritize Health Care reform at all. If we want to elect a president who works for the people, we need more debates so important issues held by the American people are heard.

(7) More debates help the Democratic candidate become comfortable and practiced enough with debating to be able to hold their own against the Republican challenger in the general election.

(8) There is widespread Democratic party support for a competitive primary. This Bloomberg Poll says that 72 percent of independents and Democrats think a robust primary would benefit the Democratic Party.

(9) Failing to have as many debates as the RNC is going to concede a lot of press coverage to the Republicans. This elevates the policy suggestions and all around press coverage of the Republican candidates at the expense of Democrats. With fewer debates, the Democratic party isn't going to have as loud a voice as the Republican party this primary season.

(10) Debates give control over the dialogue to the candidates. With fewer debates, the media will instead opt to report on gaffes and small controversies. They've had some success assassinating Clinton's character and misleading the public about Sanders' ideology, and that will only become more and more exaggerated unless the DNC gives people like Clinton and Sanders the opportunity to wrest control of that perception away from those biased sources.

*This list was edited from the #WeWantDebate Push post on Reddit.


It's apparent that the DNC's decision to have fewer and later debates this presidential election is grievous mistake. If want the Democrats to win not only the presidential election (regardless of which candidate you support), but also Congressional and state elections, we NEED more debate.

What can I do?

Call the DNC at 202-863-800 and tell them you want more debate. You can also email them through this form. Find the DNC on Twitter and Facebook and use the hashtag #WeWantDebate. Sign the petition for more debate.

More Twitter handles to contact:
@TheDemocrats (DNC)
@DWStweets (DNC Chair, D Wasserman Schultz)
@TulsiGabbard (DNC Vice Chair, Tulsi Gabbard)
@HollyShulman (DNC spokesperson)

Bernie Sanders and Martin O'Malley have both called on the DNC to increase the number of debates. Ask Lincoln ChafeeJim Webb, and Hillary Clinton to do the same.

When using social media, use hashtags for all the candidates to draw attention to the issue:
#Bernie2016
#Hillary2016
#Chafee2016
#OMalley2016
#Webbnation

Other hashtags to consider:
#DemDebate
#DemocracyRising

Spread the word about why #WeWantDebate and how to join as far as you can!
+ Comment on FB groups and pages supporting any candidate.
+ Follow the previously listed hashtags on twitter and reply to supporters.
+ Comment on online articles talking about the DNC and GOP debates,
+ Find and contact your state and local democrat groups (FB, Twitter, and online).
+ Comment on youtube videos

Join and share the FB event and/or upvote and follow the subreddit (where you can also find suggestions on what to tweet). Share this blog post wherever you can.

What if I don't have a Twitter Account?

You can make one. Or, if you'd rather not, you can still help spread the word. Do all the steps you can given above!

UPDATE 8/9/15: Added petition link