“Luke, I am your father.” Actual Darth Vader quote is “No, I am your father.”
“May the force be with you.” Generally attributed to Obi Wan Kenobi, who proclaimed that, “The force will be with you…always.” Actually an Han Solo quote.
“Play it again, Sam.” Never spake by Ilsa, Rick, or anyone else in the film Casablanca, in reference to the Frank Sinatra hit, As Time Goes By. Ilsa said, “Play it once, Sam”, and “Sing it, Sam.” Plus Rick’s, “You played it for her, you can play it for me!”, and, “If she can stand it, I can! Play it!”
“I want to suck your blood.” Never uttered by Bela Lugosi’s vampire character, instead found in 1994’s Ed Wood impersonation of Lugosi.
“You dirty rat, you killed by brother.” Closest Cagney stated (in character) was, “That dirty, double-crossing rat…”
“Elementary, my dear Watson.” Never used by Sherlock Holmes character in books, only later in film.
“Me Tarzan, you Jane.” Tarzan simply repeated “Jane.” Then replied “Tarzan” when pointed toward. Followed by “Jane! Tarzan! Jane! Tarzan!”
“Mirror, mirror on the wall…”, was actually “Magic mirror on the wall, who is the fairest one of all?”
“Houston, we have a problem.” Actual historical statement of Jim Lovell was, “Houston, we’ve had a problem.”
Lemmings do not blindly follow each other off of cliffs.19th century myth later popularized by Disney.
Dogs do not see in black-and-white, as some believe. They see in color, just not as well as humans.
Cats, too, along with superior night vision.
Most bats do, however, see in black-and-white. They are not blind, as many believe.
Ostrich do not stick their heads in the sand when frightened.
Sharks can get cancer, though some think it impossible.
Goldfish do not have three-second memories, as some believe. Observed up to a year.
Birds do not shun their offspring when touched by humans. Sense of smell isn’t very capable, regardless.
Elephants do not instinctively wander toward any special graveyard upon imminent death.
Eating eight spiders per year while asleep? No evidence to support the claim. Spiders avoid contact with humans, and can detect our body heat.
It has been asserted that daddy long-legs are the most venomous of spiders, though they are incapable of penetrating human skin. Both false. A bite simply causes burning sensation.
The egg came before the chicken. Depending upon how you look at it, either A) a lizard laid an egg that hatched a lizard-like bird, or B) a chicken-like creature laid an egg that hatched a chicken. Simple evolution.
Strawberries are not berries at all, as they come from flowering plants.
Grapes, however, are technically berries, as they grow from vines.
Many know that tomatoes are fruit. However, many also believe the supreme court ruled that tomatoes are now vegetables. While technically true, the SCOTUS has no authority as it pertains to the science of botany.
Bananas grow on tall bushes, not trees.
Oranges aren’t normally orange. Most oranges are fully ripe while still green. We purposely color them to fit our preference.
8 glasses of water per day? Nonsense. Government campaign accompanying food pyramid, based upon a (flawed) uniform 2000 calorie diet. Doesn’t consider H2O consumed via lettuce, tomatoes, celery, grapes, apples, oranges, milk, sauces, meats… (That said, drink water! If you feel thirsty, or your pee is yellow, you really need to drink.)
Sugar buzz? No such thing. Treats are exciting!
Sushi does not mean fresh sliced raw fish (instead, sashimi). Sushi refers to the method of preparation of the rice, or rice vinegar. In fact, sushi needn’t require fish at all.
Seven-year gum digestion? Gum is broken down like any other food, though certain ingredients can contribute to intestinal blockage.
Alcohol does not raise body temperature. Warm-feeling effect is flushing, which refers to blood being closer to surface. Which means more heat escaping the surface and lower overall bodily temperatures, in contrast to misperception.
Don’t swim after eating? Misassumption based upon thought that blood would be drawn away from the gut during digestion, causing cramps and thus, drowning. Doesn’t happen, and if it ever did, simply exit the water. You likely aren’t going to be swimming the English Channel following an all-you-can-eat buffet, after all.
Vitamin C for illness? Don’t bother. Linus Pauling thought Vitamin C could cure cancer, among other things, and he wrote a book about it. Since taking vitamin c is a harmless practice, the medical community doesn’t bother to correct us.
Right/left sides of the brain? Nonsense. Creative & logical thinking each require both respective hemispheres concurrently.
10% brain usage? No evidence. No dead parts of the brain going unused. Speaks to potential, not literal.
5 senses? Many more than five – senses of balance, pain, temperature… Plus others like imagination and memory.
Hydrogen peroxide actually causes cellular damage which prolongs the healing process.
Knuckle-cracking: no ill effects. 60 year experiment.
Shaving does not cause hair to grow back either fuller or faster.
Some people think hair and nails keep growing post-mortem. Nonsense.
Lightning striking twice? It can happen, even in the same location during the same storm.
Unique snow flakes? There are but a few dozen differing categories of snow flakes. Duplication is a mathematical certainty.
Hemisphere does not necessarily determine directional flow of toilets.
Searing of meat does not at all assist in retention of juices.
“Are you a cop?” They aren’t compelled to tell the truth while undercover, which defeats the purpose of this entrapment misconception.
“Freeze!” Command used by fictional cops in movies, no basis in reality.
Law enforcement is not among the ten deadliest professions in America, contrary to popular belief.
However, farmers, construction workers, truck drivers, and waste collectors (garbage men/persons) are.
Recording public officials in their official capacity is a constitutionally protected 1st Amendment right according to supreme court precedent, though some local jurisdictions attempt to claim otherwise.
24 hours? A person mustn’t wait 24 hours before filing a missing persons report.
There is no federal protection against housing or employment discrimination against individuals perceived to be among the LGBTQ community, contrary to popular belief.
Minnesota Vikings? Viking warriors did not wear helmets with horns, those were the priests (usually, though Leif Ericson did as well).
Chiseled Roman chest armor: as few as 10% of soldiers were adorned. The relatively wealthy ones. Vast majority had surprisingly effective linen garments for protection, along with shields.
Gladiators did not generally fight to-the-death, but occasionally.
Declaration of Independence was printed on July 4th & 5th, wasn’t signed until August 2nd.
“I cannot tell a lie.” George Washington’s father may not have had any cherry trees at all, let alone the fabricated fable of an admission concerning one’s demise.
Wooden dentures? Washington’s dentures were made of gold, lead, human (likely those of slaves) and animal teeth.
Napoleon wasn’t short. He was 5’2″ in French feet, which translates to 5’7″. Average height for the time, though the imperial guard were specifically chosen with height in mind.
Jackie Robinson was not the first African-American to play in the “bigs.” Distinction belongs to Moses Fleetwood “Fleet” Walker, a bare-handed catcher who in 1884 batted .263 in 42 games with the Toledo Blue Stockings of the American Association, considered a major league as a competitor of the National League.
Buddha wasn’t fat. Budai was, who later promoted the teachings of Buddha.
Buddha is not a considered a god, but a savior.
Moses, David, Samuel, et al are fictional characters with no historical reference whatsoever. (Though the Prophet Muhammed was an actual documented human being.)
Christmas as Jesus’s birthday? Likely would have taken place in September, given biblical astrological descriptions.
Kids Say the Darndest Things
Roughly 80% of Americans believe in talking snakes and virgin-birth.
Nearly 50% believe the devil causes evil in the world.
27% believe god determines the outcomes of sporting events.
Our institutions have failed us. Catholic priests. Steroids in baseball. Supreme Court picked the president. WMDs in Iraq. Corporate media has lost all credibility. We were told to get a degree, and students are ravaged with debt. We were told to invest in a home, values plummeted, and we were forclosed. The government bailed out the banks, and no one went to jail. Not only are the settlements but a fraction of quarterly profits, but are 50% tax fucking deductible.
The stock market keeps breaking all-time records. They tell us the Recession has been over for years. That the unemployment rate keeps dropping. But more and more people are dropping out of the job market, the jobs we do find are lower paying than before, and the recovery hasn’t reached working people. Decades of wage-stagnation combined with over-taxation are disappearing the middle class.
We have no faith that our government is capable of reversing these trends. We instinctively know that our politics has been corrupted. A recent study showed that our democracy iseffectively broken – that public policy only reflects public opinion when the wealthy agree.
Both Republican and Democratic party brands are toxic. Congress struggles to achieve an approval rating equal to lice. Somehow, these corrupted and unpopular incumbents with toxic brand names who have little chance of fixing anything are reelected over 90% of the time.
Polls have shown that nearly a quarter of Americans want their state to secede from the union, and three-in-ten think a revolution may be necessary in the near future. Anti-government militia groups have increased nearly ten-fold since 2008.
We are justified in our rage, but it must be focused.
What does revolution look like in America? How do we fix our economy? Our country? We need only look inward, the solutions can be found in our past.
We Built This
We came from Europe and killed the natives – free land. We imported unpaid labor to exploit the natural resources and erect infrastructure.
Genocide & slavery – chapters one and two of how America built it’s wealth. It’s unpleasant to think about because it’s ugly, but it’s important we keep perspective.
The cotton gin, tobacco, gold, steel, & oil (eventually autos). Robber barons exploited lax regulation & labor rights to amass vast amounts of wealth.
Five decades after the Civil War, we fought in the Great War (WWI). We came home and partied our way through the Roaring Twenties before the Great Depression.
Income inequality (wealth inequity) reached astronomic proportions, unemployment reached 25%, there were bank-runs and the markets failed. (Sound vaguely familiar?)
In 1931 the income tax rate for the wealthiest Americans was just 25%, before being raised to 63% in ’32. Raised again to 79% in ’36, maxing out at 94% in ’44 during WWII. War-led manufacturing was ramped up to the point that unemployment dropped to just 2%. The US was the best place to invest following WWII. The New Deal ensured that increases in productivity were proportional with increases for wage-earners. They were intertwined.
We established the GI Bill for veterans, and made universities very, very affordable for in-state students. Eisenhower built the Interstate Highway system. JFK challenged us to land on the moon.
The Marshall Plan rebuilt Europe, and turned our enemies into economic allies. So renewed was our competition abroad, that growth at home began to sputter. LBJ responded with the Great Society – Civil Rights, Voting Rights, Medicare & Medicaid.
America had fixed the banks and the financial markets, had greatly reduced unemployment, gave assistance to the elderly, the poor, the sick, students, and veterans. Civil rights were established. The middle class grew and grew along with our economic strength. A single income was enough to support a home, a car, and a college education for our kids. We rebuilt our enemies, and we won the race to the moon. We were the shining city on the hill.
Part of LBJ’s Great Society was lowering the income tax rate for the wealthiest Americans from 91% to 77% in 1964, and 70% in ’65. The economy responded well. The Laffer Curve later emerged – showing that lowering top tax rates even further would further stimulate economic growth.
Lewis Powell, Jr. was a graduate of Harvard Law. He represented the tobacco industry at a time when they were trying to convince us that smoking cigarettes would not lead to lung cancer. He was a board member of Phillip Morris, and Chairman of the Richmond (VA) School Board. In 1971, the Powell Memo (Attack on the American Free Enterprise System) was sent to a friend/member of the US Chamber of Commerce, and spread among business leaders. The Powell Memo urged the Chamber to be more aggressive in bending politics to the will of big business.
Nixon appointed Lewis Powell to the Supreme Court in 1972. In 1976, the SCOTUS kneecapped campaign finance limits and the Federal Election Commission. Their Buckley v Valeo ruling meant that since corporations are people and money is speech, corporations could use their wealth to buy politics (so long as they spread the wealth).
Reagan came into office in 1980, having been accused of preaching voodoo economics (by George H.W. Bush in the primaries). Reaganomics is the supply-side approach to growth. It is the idea that if we give the wealthy more tax cuts, they will use their increased profits to hire the rest of us. Reagan lowered the top income tax rate from 70% to 50% in ’82, and 28% in ’88.
To recap, the top income tax rates were between 70-94% from 1936-1982. We created programs to help the poor, elderly, sick, and students. We kept the banks and financial sectors in check. We built infrastructure and invested in research & development.
The top income tax rate has not been back above 40% for over 30 years now. Corporate tax revenues (% GDP) have hit a 50-year low. Union rights have been busted, numerous trade agreements have shipped manufacturing jobs overseas. We’ve deregulated the banks and financial industries. Our grand experiment with supply-side economics has been a disastrous failure.
We’ve tried sending both parents to work. We’ve tried piling up credit card and student debt, high interest mortgages and auto loans. We have programs to subsidize our low wages, from food stamps and section 8 to the mortgage tax and EITC – but it’s simply not enough to keep up with the costs of living and raising a family. We cannot continue to tax the middle class into oblivion, just so the wealthy can be lavished with more and more.
Reclaim the Dream
To get back on top, we have to remix the elements that led to such great post-WWII growth. While we can’t bomb competing economies into submission, we can make America the most attractive place to invest again. We’ve tried using tax breaks as incentive for decades now, with increasingly horrendous results.
We attract businesses with infrastructure. We need to have highly functional roads, bridges and ports, fiber-optic internet, buried cables, an efficient power grid, an highly-educated workforce, etc. Doing these things not only attracts businesses, but creates job for Americans. Most importantly, we attract business by having a vast consumer-class with plenty of disposable income with which to purchase goods and services at local businesses.
Consumers = jobs. Businesses need our consumers. We have the leverage.
We know how to build a vibrant middle class. We know how to help the elderly and the sick. We know how to reduce homelessness. We know how to reduce poverty. We know how to educate our kids. We’ve done it all before. It wasn’t all that long ago. So why don’t we do it already?
Republicans proudly bow the wealthy, whom they refer to as job creators. Democrats can only go so far before their corporate sponsors put them in check.
Root of All Evil
The Supreme Court has effectively legalized political bribery. They’ve ruled that money is speech, which means congress does not have the authority (let alone the ability) to limit political donations.
Thus, elections keep getting more and more expensive, which means raising more and more money. Our politicians have little choice but to spend all day listening to the perspective and worries of the wealthy, special interest groups, and lobbyists. Politicians literally (and admittedly) owe their careers to their sponsors. It only stands to reason that they work together to please their real employers, their corporate sponsors, not the people.
Most of that money goes to the corporate media (90% of US media is owned by just six corporations) to buy all of those shitty campaign ads. They are laughing all the way to the bank, and they like their low corporate effective tax rates. Corporate media has no incentive to tell us how multinational corporations bought our government.
28th Amendment. Our founding fathers bequeathed us a living document. The Bill of Rights are the initial ten amendments to the US Constitution. We’ve added 17 amendments since. Seventeen! Every generation does it, and it’s our turn now.
There are plenty of ways to tinker with government that may be worth considering – electoral college, gerrymandering, term limits, public financing, compulsory voting, etc. But the silver bullet to corruption is the elimination of money as political speech.
Our founding fathers knew a time like this could happen, when the courts and federal government were beyond corrupt. They gave power to the people to go over the heads of the federal government and the courts. State can call a constitutional convention and ratify an amendment with a two-thirds vote.
It’s certainly no small task. But look at at this way – women got the 19th Amendment passed, and they couldn’t even vote! We have to fight the system within the system. It takes planning and organization. It takes phone-banking and door-to-door canvassing. It takes sacrifice. The Civil Rights Act did not simply descend from the heavens. Rosa Parks did not simply sit on a bus one day. They are not going to simply hand the power back to the people, we must take it from them. We must fight.
When emerging from the Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin was asked what we had. He replied – A republic, if you can keep it.
We have to take the states before they become as corrupt as congress. It will happen if we don’t stand up now. We have no choice. California and Vermont have already called for an amendment. More states are joining the charge. We will take our country back. We have no choice.
Jesus said to him, “’You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all you soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and Prophets.” -Matthew 22:37-39
“This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” -John 15:12,13
Casting Stones & Hypocrites!
“…He who is without sin among you, let him throw a stone at her first.” -John 8:7
“Judge not, that you not be judged. For with what judgment you judge, you will also be judged; and with the same measure you use, it will be measured back to you.” -Matthew 7:1-3
“But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.” -Matthew 6:15
“Therefore, whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” -Matthew 7:12
“And why do you look at the speck in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the plank in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Brother, let me remove the speck that is in your eye.’ when you yourself do not see the plank that it is your own eye? Hypocrite! First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck that is in your brother’s eye.” -Luke 6:41
But Jesus said to them, “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you pay tithe of mint and anise and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faith. These you ought to have done, without leaving the others undone. Blind guides, who strain out a gnat and swallow a camel! Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you cleanse the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of extortion and self-indulgence.-Matthew 23:23-25
And He said, “Woe to you also, you lawyers! For you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.” -Luke 11:46
“But if you had known what this means, “I desire mercy and not sacrifice,” you would not have condemned the guiltless.” -Matthew 12:7
The Least of These
“Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” -Matthew 11:28
“They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” -Matthew 14:16
“’…(F)or I was hungry and you gave Me food; I was thirsty and you gave Me drink; I was a stranger and you took Me in; I was naked and you clothed Me; I was in prison and you came to me.’” -Matthew 25:35,36
“And the King will answer and say to them, ‘Assuredly I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these My bretheren, you did it to Me.’” -Matthew 25:40
“’…(F)or I was hungry and you gave Me no food; I was thirsty and you gave Me no drink; I was a stranger and you did not take me in; naked and you did not clothe Me; sick and in prison and you did not visit Me.’” -Matthew 25:42,43
“Then He will answer them, saying, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.” -Matthew 25:45
“Look at the birds of the air, for they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns; yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?” -Matthew 6:26“
“…Blessed are you poor, For yours is the kingdom of God.” -Luke 6:20
“But woe to you who are rich, For you have received your consolation.” -Luke 6:24
“Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” -Matthew 5:3-10
“And again I say to you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven.” -Matthew 19:24
For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?” -Matthew 5:46
Caesar & Supper
“Show me the tax money.” So they brought Him a denarius. And he said to them, “Whose image and inscription is this?” They said to Him, “Caesar’s.” And He said to them, “Render therefore to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” -Matthew 22:19-21
And when they had come to Capernaum, those who received the temple tax came to Peter and said, “Does your Teacher not pay the temple tax?” He said, “Yes.” And when he had come into the house, Jesus anticipated him, saying, “What do you think, Simon? From whom do the kings of the earth take customs or taxes, from their own sons or from strangers?” Peter said to Him, “From strangers.” Jesus said to him, “Then the sons are free. Nevertheless, lest we offend them, go to the sea, cast in a hook, and take the fish that comes up first. And when you have opened it’s mouth, you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and you.” -Matthew 17:24-27
Then He also said to him who invited Him, “When you give a dinner or a supper, do not ask your friends, your brothers, your relatives, nor your rich neighbors, lest they also invite you back, and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind. And you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you; for you shall be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” -Luke 14:12-14
“So that servant came and reported these things to his master. Then the master of the house, being angry, said to his servant, ’Go out quickly into the streets and lanes of the city, and bring in there the poor, and the maimed and the lame and the blind.’” -Luke 14:21
“And if you lend to those from whom you hope to receive back, what credit is that to you? For even sinners lend to sinners to receive as much back. But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Highest. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil. Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. Judge not, and you shall not be judged. Condemn not, and you shall not be condemned. Forgiven, and you will be forgiven.” -Luke 6:34
“…(F)or everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required; and to whom much has been committed, of him they will ask the more.” -Luke 12; 48
“’These people draw near to Me with their mouth, And honor Me with their lips, But their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, Teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’” -Matthew 15:8,9
“Even so you also outwardly appear righteous to men, but inside you are fill of hypocrisy and lawlessness.” -Matthew 23:28
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.” -Matthew 7:15
“Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword. For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law. And a man’s foes will be those of his own household.” -Matthew 10:34-36
“Do you suppose that I came to give peace one earth? I tell you, not at all, but rather division. For from now on five in one house will be divided: three against two, and two against three. Father will be divided against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.” Luke 12:51-53
“If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life also, he cannot be My disciple.” -Luke 14:26
“So likewise, whoever of you does not forsake all that he has cannot be My disciple.” -Luke 14:33
“’But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me.’” -Luke 19:27
Contradictions & Potpourri
“For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” -Luke 9:56
“For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.” -Matthew 13:12,13
“’Therefore take the talent from him, and give it to him who has ten talents. For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’” -Matthew 25:28, 29
But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.” -Matthew 12:25
“Do not think that I shall accuse you to the Father; there is one who accuses you–Moses, in whom you trust.” -John 5:45
They said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to give a certificate of divorce, and to put her away?” He said to them, “Moses, because of the harness of your hearts, permitted you to divorce your wives, but from the beginning it was not so. And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife, except for sexual immorality, and marries another, commits adultery; and whoever marries her who is divorced commits adultery.” His disciples said to Him, “If such is the case of the man with his wife, it is better not to marry.” But He said to them, “All cannot accept this saying, but only those to whom it has been given: For there are eunuchs who were born thus from their mother’s womb, and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men, and there are eunuchs who have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He who is able to accept it let him accept it.” -Matthew 19:7-12
“There is nothing that enters a man from the outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him, those are the things that defile a man.” -Mark 7
“But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” -Matthew 5:28
“If the world hates you, you know that it hated Me before it hated you.” -John 15:18
“For John the Baptist came neither eating bread nor drinking wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon.’ The Son on Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a winebibber, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ But wisdom is justified by all her children.” -Luke 7: 33-35
“And whoever will not receive you nor hear your words, when you depart from that house or city, shake off the dust from your feet.” -Matthew 10:14
You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take anything from it. -Deuteronomy 4:2
Does My Vote Even Matter? – The Democratic Role of an American Citizen
Congress sucks. The president sucks. All they do is take my taxes and give it all to welfare and foreign aid. Politicians are all liars – they’re corporate shills corrupted by greed and legal bribery. Why should I bother with choosing the lesser of two-evils? Why should I care? Why vote?
On social media, in the break room, in the sauna – this is what a lot of people have to say about politics. And there’s relative truth in it. Given the dysfunction and negativity, it’s easy for a lot of folks to become jaded with politics and politicians. Why bother?
I’m not just talking about crime and punishment, due process and jury-of-your-peers style capital punishment.
No, I’m talking about the war-without-borders, extra-judicially determine you to be an enemy-combatant, & drop-a-hellfire-missile-from-a-flying-robot style kill you.
Give or take the missile.
It’s easier that way, you see. Since you are an American citizen, you have certain rights – Miranda, presumed innocence, legal representation, judicial process, cruel & unusual punishment protection – those types of things. That being the case, killing you is …simpler. Simpler than locking you up in Guantanamo and torturing you for years on end while suspended in legal limbo.
Minimal paperwork that way, and scant media attention. Win-win.
Oh, and government decides whether you count as three-fifths of a person, and whether you are regarded as personal property. The gov’t decides whether to throw you in an internment camp, and whether you can be assassinated for posing an imminent threat.
You may be thinking – I’m not a terrorist. I live comfortable enough, so why should I care about any of that?
The government decides whether or not you deserve to vote. The government defines privacy. The government defines speech. The government defines “person” dammit!
The government decides whether the freedoms bestowed us in the Constitution hold meaning – or whether those rights are simply scribbles on an old piece of paper that would crumble to dust in mere sunlight.
And yet therein lies our salvation; that great disinfectant – sunlight.
This is not meant to be a scare-piece, and this is certainly no anti-government screed. This is a democracy, and our solutions lie their within. It’s a simple matter of understanding a little bit of history and few basic nuts & bolts.
Still not convinced? Too meta?
Roads & Bridges
You can’t build them on your own. We all drive on them, and we all buy products shipped on them.
Then there is public transportation – buses, ferries, & railways moving us about. We have highway patrol to ensure public safety on roads & sidewalks.
We have 9-1-1 to call in case of an emergency. Fire trucks to show up when our house catches on fire, and ambulances that take us to emergency rooms – required by law to help us.
Courts, jails & mental hospitals for violent criminals.
We build libraries and schools for our kids’ education, and Pell grants for college. We build dams, wind farms power plants & grids for energy.
We take our kids to national & state parks – while maintaining and protecting our natural & national treasures from the Grand Canyon to Mount Rainier and Yellowstone, Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, the Statue of Liberty.
Plus local parks and playgrounds, swimming pools, lakes, softball fields, basketball and tennis courts.
The EPA protects the very air we breathe and water we drink. FDA approves the products we use – from steaks and eggs we eat to toothpaste and lipstick, from aspirins and condoms to lead in our babies’ crib and the brakes on our cars..
We landed the first man on the moon with NASA. We invented the internet and laser surgery with R&D grants.
The Army, Navy, Marines, Air Force, National Guard, Coast Guard, JSOC, FBI, CIA, SSI, SNAP, HUD, SEC, CPB, Medicare, Medicaid…
Mortgage, business, and student loan rates? That’s gov’t.
Taxes & fees? Sales tax is on everything. Gov’t in is our electric bill, cell phone bill, cable bill, power bill, firearms (FAET), alcohol & tobacco (sin tax). We pay for the privilege to drive, auto licensing, fishing, hunting, adoption, marriage license, building permits, tolls…
We need a business license, and proof of citizenship – just to go to work and make a living.
Government is as ubiquitous as the air we breathe and death itself. Please believe they regulate the very air I breathe, and it’s damned expensive to die here.
Since I’m not going anywhere – and I’ll assume that if you are still reading this then you are staying put as well – we’ll have to find a way to work together to make this whole self-governance thing work for us, and not against us.
The problem with politics of course, is the politicians.
Unless you are a political junkie, then about all you know about these politicians is what you see on bumper stickers, facebook shares, and 30-second attack ads.
Those ads. You know the ones:
“My opponent is evil because he voted this way or said that & freedom will die if you elect my opponent. Vote for me since I’m great. My name is such and such, and I approve this message.” The End.
They spend billions of dollars on these 30-second hack-jobs, and all the public sees is a bunch of muck-raking bottom-feeders.
Follow the Money
As with all else, it boils down to the money.
Ninety percent of elections are won by the candidate with the biggest campaign war-chest. Veritable elections at auction. The average Senate seat costs a mere $10m – and over $1.6m for a House seat. So where do those billions come from (before being shoveled off to media conglomerates for ad-buys)?
Why, legal bribery, of course! The only limit is a given candidates’ individual inability to cash in. Thus, members of Congress now spend 40% of their time working the phones for cash, as encouraged by their respective party leaders.
Imagine you are sent to Washington – you are then coerced into spend nearly half your time begging special interest groups and know-it-all millionaires for no-strings-attached handouts – and much of the rest of your time dealing with co-workers who struggle to maintain 15% approval ratings. Poor babies…
So why do it?
Political office now serves as an entry-level job. From 1998-2012, 79% of the 352 congress people who left office have been employed as a lobbyist – peddling influence. Many more opt for think tanks and social welfare groups.
Congresspeople author legislation and serve on committees with authority over a given industry – with the knowledge that they have a job waiting for them in that very industry, regulators too. This is known as the revolving door.
Not only that, but they use knowledge gleaned from closed-door congressional hearings and reports, to build their portfolios.
The average net worth of a US Senator in the 113th Congress is up to just over $2.5 million – and over $850k for House members.
As with many of problems, the solutions to these seem to be screaming out. So why haven’t we fixed them yet?
Imagine you woke up one day at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Consider this, there are 535 folks down the block who get a say in this thing too.
The House requires whipping up agreement amongst more than 200 duly elected representatives with biennial elections and their own political motivations – just to keep the lights on. Herding stray cats, as it were.
One hundred senators in the upper chamber, two per state, six-year terms.
The problem? Suddenly, the basic democratic principle that majority rules has been tossed out with the trash.
The founding fathers set very specific vote-requirements for respective aspects of governing – but today’s senate eschews the Constitution (and often the American people) by instead requiring a new filibuster-proof 60% majority.
While the filibuster was invented in 1837 – it was never invoked more than ten times by a given Congress until 1979-80, and never more than 60 times until the 2000’s. However, since 2007-08, 130+ filibusters is suddenly the new norm. The same is true of cloture motions.
And not the old-school Jimmy Stewart, stand-your-ground and plead-your-case style filibuster either – the neo-filibuster is sent in a midnight e-mail, and prevents even simple debate from occurring on the Senate floor.
Filibuster reform itself is strangely exempt from the 60-vote threshold and can be realized with a simple majority-vote every two years – and in theory at any time granted the nuclear option (or constitutional option, depending whether you are in the minority/majority.
So what’s the holdup? They’re too scurred.
Why does it matter? Since the 101st Congress that began in 1979, there has been a steady decline in the number of bills signed into law. And so it came to pass that our 112th Congress shattered the statistical record for congressional ineptitude.
Granted numbers don’t tell the whole story, as not every bill is as profound as the Civil Rights Act, and many are ceremonial namings of post offices – but I believe the approval ratings tell the gist of the story where Congress is concerned.
Today class, we meet a new verb – it is know as being… primaried.
1812 Boston Gazzette political cartoon of Gov. Gerry’s gerrymandered senate district.
Congressional lines are bipartisanly gerrymandered in an manner which corrals like-minded voters with similar voting patterns into “safe” districts for the incumbent majority-party. This rejiggering of haphazardly shapen safe districts is done every ten years with updated census numbers.
In these safe districts, the only fear of the incumbent is that of being outflanked within party ranks by someone more extreme in a future primary election – hence the term primaried. The result of this has both parties snarling at each other across exceedingly distant party-lines with exceedingly ideological representatives.
Perhaps as vile, is the notion that representatives get to choose their voters, when it is the voters who should be determining the representatives.
While fewer & fewer people self-identify with either major party – in fact only between 3-5% actually vote for both sides. Between the muck-raking and the corruption, the vast public disapproval and hair-pulling ineptitude – why would any sane person voluntarily submit themselves to labels associated with these bunch of cads?
Because giving up is not an valid option – and again our solution is quite simple. We have technology perfectly capable of drawing more fair voting districts – and thus removing the (bi)partisan gerrymandering & the partisan politics from the equation of fair elections in America.
Cash for Votes?
On the topic of fair elections; while in-person voter fraud is nearly non-existent (roughly .0004%) there has recently been massive attacks on voter rights. Voter-suppression tactics go straight at heart of democracy. It is no longer self-governance it you are not allowed to participate. Taxation without representation.
Simple fix: opt-out voter-registration. Many valid options – we have a social security number, we could also have a separate personal voter-ID number. Better yet, we could attach voter registration to driver’s licensing and (free) state IDs – or to registration for the draft when we turn 18.
Compulsory voting would be ideal – we could give a $50 tax credit for voting. The more people taking ownership of government the better – no matter their political leanings.
Money. Rules. Politics.
This thanks to astonishing judicial mishaps, including but not limited to – Citizens United v FEC (2010), Buckley v Valeo (1976), Pembina Consolidated Silver Mining Co. v Pennsylvania (1888) & Dartmouth College v Woodward (1812).
Long story short; corporations are people, and money is speech. Since free speech shall not be infringed, corporations are free to lavish politicians with piles of legal bribery to their heart’s content.
And with Dodge v Ford Motor Company (1916), fiduciary responsibility instructs corporations to abide only by the rule of profit, with no regard for community or greater good.
Hence 501(c)3 non-profits, and 501(c)4 social welfare organizations. These sometimes shadowy groups bundle and shift around dark money from behind closed doors – sometimes with shadowy intent. They run propaganda laden attack ads just before an election, funded with multinational corporate profits, and cartel & terrorist groups’ drug money – no disclosure of where the money came from and thus no accountability for the lies they may be telling the public on election’s eve.
The Federal Election Campaign Act (1971) prohibited donations from foreign nationals, banks, government contractors, corporations, and unions. It also required that candidates disclose the sources of political contributions, and their total campaign expenditure, to the Federal Election Commission. Unfortunately, big-moneyed interests immediately began tearing down these achievements, and show no sign of mercy.
We need constitutional amendments to put and end to corporate personhood and money as speech. Publicly funded elections would also solve this problem.
Money rules politics, but money rules everything, so this is no big surprise. That serving as our backdrop…
Virginia is for Lovings
For all that is broken today, we’ve seen far worse in the past.
In 1787, the US Constitution counted certain “other persons” (as opposed to free persons) as only 3/5ths. In the 1857 Dred Scot case, and then with Plessy v. Ferguson (1896), the US Supreme Court upheld slavery & segregation (ahem) respectively as being perfectly valid in this, a supposedly free country. Then in 1944 the SCOTUS ruled in favor of Japanese internment camps in Korematsu v. US.
Legal second-class citizens.
Since then, SCOTUS wisely ruled on Brown v. Board & Loving v. Virginia – to strike down “separate but equal”, and to protect interracial marriage rights.
Our founding fathers knew a time could come when congress and the courts would be too corrupted. Thanks to Article V, the states have the power (two-thirds) to amend the Constitution without them.
With the 13th Amendment (1865), 19th Amendment (1920), and the Civil Rights Act (1964) – we’ve righted some of our more egregious wrongs. Time has come.
This should serve as perspective when we encounter future obstacles to progress.
Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence, he was also a member of the Democratic-Republican Party. So while political parties may come and go, morph and evolve; our rights to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness have remained.
This is why we vote, because our legislators have the charge of keeping our Constitution.
Our Constitutional rights are not just words on a piece of paper. Not just words. But a demand – for a more perfect union.
Sure, roughly 80% of world countries are democracies – but this is America dammit! We’re exceptional – baseball, apple-pie, amber waves of grain, red, white & blue! USofA! If we plan on remaining kings of the proverbial hill, it’s gonna take some work – and the first step is getting off of your butt and opening your eyes.
Our founding fathers entrusted us with great freedoms. We have the right to criticize and to organize, to ensure that our collective concerns and grievances are heard and recognized. We have the ability and the charge – to make change happen. And with those freedoms come responsibility.
Whether your fight is over corporate person-hood or deregulation, religious freedom or equal rights. Free speech or campaign finance, imperialism or nanny state. Pro-choice or pro-life, Voter ID or immigration. Deficit spending or welfare state, Halliburton & Lockheed Martin or habeas corpus. Or campaign finance or 2nd Amendment rights or drones.
I can’t tell you how to think. I’m not smart enough to know all of the answers. I don’t know what your priorities are and how they weigh on your political views when you vote. But I do know that the more people who pay attention, the more regular people the politicians are responsible to.
So my message is to vote. For whomever you please, just do it. Because the debates are happening all of the time, on our behalf. The wheels of government are always turning, whether we bother to pay attention or not decisions are being made. And I don’t trust them enough to do it without the rest of us.
To me? I was blessed to be born here, with great freedoms. But as an American citizen, it is also my responsibility to keep these elected officials in line. They must be analyzed, they must be scrutinized … they must useful! And if they are ineffective? They must be poked, they must be prodded, they must be provoked. Most importantly, they must be motivated. And the way I. Me. Justin Earick. The way I personally motivate my representatives? With my vote. I’m the boss. I’m HR. I decide who deserves to represent me in government. With my vote, and with my voice.