The Myth of Liberal Media Bias

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:SarahPalinRaleigh.jpg
Sarah Palin Source: Therealbs2002, CC-BY, Wikimedia Commons

Though an oft-repeated matter-of-fact for many a conservative, there is no such thing as liberal media bias. To the contrary, mainstream media is exceedingly, and disturbingly, conservative.

Anderson Cooper Source: Tulane Public Relations.CC-CY, Wikimedia Commons
Anderson Cooper Source: Tulane Public Relations.CC-CY, Wikimedia Commons

Sure, perhaps even most individual talking-heads may personally identify as socially liberal, but most aren’t even allowed to voice firm opinions, let alone publicly out their political leanings. The profit incentives of their bosses, founded in the satisfaction of advertisers, prohibit even fleeting, let alone prolonged, liberal expression.

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Take, for instance, the refusal of the New York Times to use the term torture at the behest of the Bush administration, in favor of enhanced interrogation. The Obama administration (however clumsily) refers to Daesh as ISIL – yet the liberal media calls them ISIS. From the beginning, the supposedly liberal media have propagated the agenda of hard-line right-wingers – both in the US and the Middle East – by marrying with their language the religion of Islam (and by extension all Muslims worldwide) to radical Wahhabi mad men who want just that. The NYT position quotation marks around Israeli “settlements” in disputed territories. Most media outlets refer to undocumented immigrants (aka human beings) as illegal aliens.

Don Lemon Source: Neon Tommy, CC-BY, Wikimedia Commons
Don Lemon Source: Neon Tommy, CC-BY, Wikimedia Commons

Why is it, then, that people widely viewed as liberals would parrot conservative spin on matter after matter? Partly, it is because they are constantly accused of being liberal, that they pain themselves to avoid doing or saying anything that could be construed as liberal bias. Partly, it is because most of the doe-eyed script-readers on television have a narrow view of liberalism which consists of abortion and gay rights – so they don’t really have much liberal to say, anyways. I wouldn’t expect that many are strongly opposed to capital punishment. Or torturing prisoners of war in Guantanamo; imperialism; off-shore drilling and fracking; warrantless mass surveillance… Or that many of them are in favor of assisted suicide. Or blanket legalization; campaign finance reform; student debt forgiveness; free pre-school, school lunches, and college; single-payer healthcare; universal basic income; high taxation of the wealthy…

Mostly, it is because they wouldn’t be allowed to express such views and remain employed in their current positions. They were promoted within the system because they are talented in hiding their opinions and avoiding offense. The media has been trained, in the past few decades, to forgo objectivity in favor of neutrality. They’ve forgone their adversarial role of umpire in exchange for access to politicians who are not to be seriously challenged. From on-screen mannequins to decrepit executives, they are whores to power who would rather rub elbows than throw them.

Lawrence Lessig Source: Joi, CC-BY, Wikimedia Commons
Lawrence Lessig Source: Joi, CC-BY, Wikimedia Commons

Exxon Mobile has a direct pipeline of cash to CNN which ensures climate change is largely ignored, and climate skeptics (as the liberal media calls them) are featured prominently in the rare climate discussion. Pharmaceutical companies want to keep the drug war going strong so the government keeps their market competitors at bay. Financial institutions selling reverse-mortgages (along with literally every other industry) want deregulation. The quadrennial cash dump ensures that campaign finance reform and money in politics is never discussed (ask Lawrence Lessig).

President Ronald Reagan Source: By Dino at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
President Ronald Reagan Source: By Dino at en.wikipedia [Public domain], from Wikimedia Commons
It wasn’t always like this. Sure, Borax was around long ago. And political bribery is nothing new. But legal changes of the past few decades have exacerbated our problems. Buckley v. Valeo & Bellotti (and later Citizen’s United & McCutcheon) essentially legalized political bribery (proof of quid pro quo is no longer sufficient evidence). The Telecommunications Act of 1996 deregulated broadcasting. Before, one could own only one major news outlet in a given media market. Now, a half-dozen corporations control 90% of media. Before, in exchange for utilizing our airwaves at no charge, television stations had to devote an hour of prime time to news coverage to relevant and current topics in an honest manner. Then, 60 Minutes managed to turn a profit, and it-bleeds-it-leads became the model.There is no liberal media bias. There is instead corporate media biased in favor of the establishment and profit. And there is alternative media of whichever stripe you fancy.

Media Mistakes Brexit

Full disclosure: I don’t pay much mind to domestic politics of the United Kingdom (or England, or Britain…I know it has do with whether you include Wales or Scotland or something… I’m an arrogant American who doesn’t care enough to remember). That said: I stay up on the news*, so I can identify the narrative falsehoods.

The initial headlines proclaimed that the UK had voted to leave the European Union.

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Cameron, Source: Tom Evans, CC-BY, via flickr

Corporate media couldn’t even get that much right. The referendum to trigger Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty was a non-binding one. Besides, Article 50 lays out a two year process for negotiation of voluntary exit. And before that happens, the UK will hold an election in September to determine whom will oversee the process, and initiate the multi-year negotiation clock.

Boris_Johnson_(cropped)
Johnson, Source: Think London, CC-BY, via flickr
Jeremy_Corbyn,_Tolpuddle_2015
Corbyn, Source: Rwendland, CC-BY, via Wikimedia Commons

David Cameron – feeling pressure from anti-immigrant voices in his own (Conservative) party – made a campaign promise of holding the Brexit referendum, and to resign should Leave be the result. Boris Johnson (former London mayor) was one of those Conservatives, pushed hard for the Leave campaign, and is now portrayed in the media as the front-runner for the premiership. (Jeremy Corbyn, Labour Party and Opposition leader, is the populist dark horse.)

Nigel_Farage
Farage, Source: Stephen West, CC-BY, via Wikimedia Commons

Nigel Farange, leader of the Independence Party (UKIP) and the Leave campaign, admitted the morning following the vote that a core campaign promise on NHS (healthcare) spending was a farce. That same morning, stories emerged of Leave-voting Brits with buyer’s remorse who had incorrectly viewed theirs as a protest vote. And of a sudden spike in Brits googling, after the fact, what exactly it was that they had voted for. Within days, millions of Brits had signed petitions calling for a referendum do-over.

Financial markets  the world over fell, along with the British Pound. 

The commentariat quickly began tsk-tsking the moronic masses and their naïve attempt at making adult decisions. The promised healthcare dollars had already evaporated. The promised budgetary savings in leaving the EU were smoke & mirrors all along. Simpletons had been duped by opportunists & white nationalists into blaming economic woes on immigrants & refugees fleeing civil wars & death at the hands of Daesh (ISIS). Economic illiterates had brought upon themselves more & unnecessary pain & suffering in an anti-immigrant & anti-intellectual fervor.

This trumpeted trope portended grave domestic ill via Trump come November. Editorialists lamented democracy itself may be too precious to be left to the whims of the unwashed, ill-educated peons (who support anti-establishment loons such as Trump & Bernie).

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Source: Rasagri, CC-BY, via Wikimedia Commons

Their mistake is one of arrogance – regardless of the sensibility of Brexit. Yes, racism played a large and ugly part of the campaign. Ugliest was the senseless murder of Jo Cox. And yes, if the UK were to eventually leave the EU, then the post-WWII European experiment would be on the verge of collapse. Northern Ireland & Scotland would likely depart the UK in favor of the EU, which would itself likely dissolve within a number of years – a serious blow to the very idea of democracy. (And a coup for Putin, the DPRK, et al.)

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German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Source: Aleph, CC-BY, via Wikimedia Commons

That said: Don’t freak out! For some in the Leave campaign (including Johnson), the referendum seems to have been meant as leverage for negotiating a better deal to remain in the EU. Germany & France have no interest in doing such, as this would create a domino effect with countries like Spain & Italy. Plus, they’ll want a bit of revenge for the brazen attempt. Either side would of course want to save face and claim some sort of victory in negotiation, but it is very possible that – despite the Leave result – nothing at all substantial will change between the EU & the UK.

Which is a bit of a shame. The austere economic policies of the establishmentarian corporatists running the European Union belong in the trash bins of history. Their reaction to the crash was as flaccid and fumbling as that in the States. Ideally though, member-leverage would be utilized in a manner which would reform & repair rather than knee-cap the institution – in this case the EU. Unfortunately, the adults in the room both in the US and across the pond simply refuse to grasp what is happening. Our institutional faith has been completely eroded by aloof & corrupted so-called elites.

High unemployment, vast wealth inequity, and socioeconomic immobility have frustrated working & poor folks to our wit’s end. In times of economic frustration, noxious but invigorating fumes of tribalism fill the chests of the oppressed, fanned by the aspirations of opportunistic nationalists and faux-patriots. Retardant to the flames of bigotry & otherism, however, are opportunity & inclusivity.

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Thatcher & Reagan, Source: Public Domain, Courtesy Ronald Reagan Library

It is mistaken to explain away the Brexit election result as either a death-knell to the EU, or as an harbinger of apocalypse the fault of racist rubes. What this is is a repudiation of the status-quo. It is evidence that the people (young people, at least) are opening their eyes to the ongoing class-war which the wealthy, ruling oligarchs have been waging – and winning – for decades. It is a reminder that those who feel helpless and backed into a corner will inevitably lash out, often unexpectedly. It is yet another in a long line of opportunities missed by political establishments (and their accompanying medias) to mature beyond laissez-faire, demand-side austerity economics, and embrace the monetary velocity and growth (and associated civil calm) inherent with Keynesian economic populism.

*@iamjohnoliver

 @mtaibbi

 @cenkuygur

 @ggreenwald

 @jimmy_dore

Hey Liberals – Shut Up About the Terrorist Watch List and Gun Sales

Newtown_Shooting_RosesI didn’t care too much about gun safety/control before Sandy Hook. But the thought of those precious little… It just hurt. Charleston hurt. Orlando. They just keep coming. Larger numbers. More frequent. More horrific. More and more pain. And yet, our elected officials sit on their hands. Matter of fact, that’s too generous: states have recently enacted laws allowing firearms in state parks, churches, schools, bars…

It’s not getting better. It’s getting worse.

Wayne LaPierre
Wayne LaPierre

There’s no silver bullet to such a difficult problem. And there are limiting factors in the 2nd Amendment, the Supreme Court, Heller, money in politics, and the NRA.

But there are also possible solutions: We should require background checks for all firearm sales, allow the CDC to research the health impact of firearms, and lift the ban on suing arms manufacturers for damages. We should have gun buy-back programs, tax ammunition at a higher rate, and require identifying markers on bullets. Demonstrated proficiency, registration, and insurance should be prerequisite to firearm purchase. The sale of military-style assault weapons should be banned.

Those particular weapons (modeled after the M-16 we used in Vietnam; and which our military is bright enough to keep them locked away when not in use) are designed for most efficiently murdering humans. They are marketed as such. They are the best selling type of firearm in the United States. There are literally millions of them in the country. Every time there is an horrific event, gun fetishists come out in droves and buy even more. (And whenever a Democrat happens to reside 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, whipping their paranoid anti-government frenzy into froth.)

James Brady - Brady Bill namesake
James Brady

JamesBrady_BillClintonAn assault weapons ban means that they cannot be legally sold in the United States. We had such a ban (yet the 2nd Amendment somehow survived), which expired when Bush 43 was in office . But the things are damn sturdy, so they’ll continue to be around long after their sale is banned.

If we really want to start and whittle the number down, we would (again) need to eliminate the ban on suing gun manufacturers for damages, ban import, and enforce severe punishments for trafficking.

Ideally they would be kept at, say, a range where they could be checked out by the owner for target practice. But that’s not the world we live in.

Also, assault weapons are only used in a small number of shootings. The most horrific, to be sure. And the one’s most likely to result in actual legislation (if 20 white kids getting slaughtered at school wasn’t enough…). But a small percentage of the overall number. Most are via handgun. Plus, a third of firearm-related deaths in the US are suicides. So again, the problems are myriad with no panacea.

Hillary_Clinton_(24266562219)The seemingly-lowest hanging of fruit, latched onto by the Democratic Party, is banning the sale of firearms to people on the no-fly list. If you can’t get on an airplane, you shouldn’t be able to buy a gun. Sounds simple and to the point. Seems like the exclamation point to an argument.

Chris Murphy
Chris Murphy

Unfortunately – and as usual – talking points are stupid; and Democrats are idiots. It may sound nice, and perhaps it can be used as a cudgel to beat Republicans (in a 15 hour filibuster to force a vote, for instance). But in practice it is little more than an empty platitude to gun safety proponents. And it’s just terrible policy.

If Democrats were serious, they would propose companion legislation to ensure that these lists are just and are consistent with our stated ideals. That they don’t perpetuate profiling and the erosion of civil liberties. Otherwise they should just shut up and stop with this game of political football. This is a serious issue. It deserves to be treated it as such.

7556428_f260This whole planes and guns thing – while perhaps good intentioned – only feeds into the concerns of the paranoid. It feeds into the narrative of punishing the innocent for the actions of a few. It’s bloated and opaque. It’s a combination of bureaucracy, secrecy, and government overreach.

Obama_Tweeting_croppedAs is often the case, there is a bit of term-swapping happening. The no-fly list is one thing. There were 16 people on the no-fly list before 9-11. It has grown over ten times since the failed underwear bombing in 2009, to at least 47k. Then there is the National Counterterrorism Center’s Terrorist Screening Database, aka the terrorist watch list – and which the AP reported to have grown by at least 1.5m during Obama’s first five years in office. Then there is the bill as proposed by Democrats, which would ping anyone who has been investigated by the FBI for links to terrorism within the past five years.

Snowden_ASYL_(15186216900)I don’t pretend to know how many terrorists, or even terrorist sympathizers, there are with American passports/citizenship. But forty-seven thousand, let alone one-point-five million, are numbers which suggest that these terms and programs are being loosely applied and misused.

John_Lewis_-_Presidential_Medal_of_Freedom
Rep John Lewis
Bloody Sunday at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama
Bloody Sunday at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama

In fact, Civil Rights Legend Rep John Lewis said he was stopped from boarding planes dozens of times in a single year. Sen Ted Kennedy (RIP) told a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing that he had been stopped numerous times as well.

Nearly half of the people on these lists are admitted to have “no known links” to terrorism. Let alone whomever happens to pique the interest of a random FBI agent (with their policy of investigate-every-lead-no-matter-how-ridiculous).

Julian Assange
Julian Assange
David Miranda & Glenn Greenwald
David Miranda & Glenn Greenwald

Dead people can be placed on the list, along with “categories” of people. There needn’t be “concrete facts” nor “irrefutable evidence”. You needn’t be a terrorist, or even a suspected terrorist – a person could be suspected of associating with a suspected associate of a suspected terrorist sympathizer (a family member of someone on your contact list, perhaps).

Then we have terrorism itself, defined as something as little as the “degrading” of property for the purpose of causing government action (anti-war vandalism, perhaps spray-painting a Peace sign on a piece of military equipment).

Worst of all, this, without judicial redress, creates a second class of semi-citizens who maintain only some of their Constitutional rights as Americans.

Until a federal court ruling in 2014, you wouldn’t even know if you had been placed on such a list. If you are informed as such, the government still refuses to disclose why that is, or how to go about being removed.

Eric_Holder_official_portraitThough technically all of this is supposedly unclassified, both the Bush and Obama administrations have been terribly secretive on the matter (as has been their wont). Then-Attorney General Eric Holder said that disclosing information about these lists would pose “significant harm” to US national security.

WeAreOrlando_Vigil_outside_the_Stonewall_Inn,_New_York,_June_13,_2016_(27048158954)While perhaps a nice thought – and easy politics which combine fear of terrorism, gun safety advocacy, and the pain of tragedy – using these secretive and oft-abused lists to restrict the sale of firearms simply makes no sense. It is counter-productive in the long-term battle of ideas. It is misappropriating the pain of these tragic events. It is – perhaps out of ignorance – pretending to do something positive about a serious issue while instead doing harm.

trump Düsseldorf,_Rosenmontag_2016,_politische_Karnevalswagen_(05)Oh, and Donald Trump is all for it (for now, at least). Fucking Democrats…

Superstar Jimmy Graham

Jimmy_Graham_2012_Pro_BowlWhen the Seattle Seahawks traded Max Unger and a first round pick for Jimmy Graham and a four, I was both excited and perplexed. Superstar Jimmy Graham is undeniably one of the most dangerous weapons in the NFL. But…

He doesn’t seem a match with Pete Carroll’s offensive philosophy. Jimmy Graham is a receiving tight end accustomed to lining up outside in a high-volume passing offense. Carroll likes to pound the rock and play good defense.

Zach_Miller_at_2012_Seahawks_training_campAnd he’s tried this before. Zach Miller was a Pro Bowl TE with Oakland, before signing a $34m deal with Seattle in 2011. He was used primarily as a blocker in four forgettable seasons. Perhaps Miller was asked to block so much because of shoddy pass-protection by the o-line. Well, now the ‘Hawks best blocker, Russell Okung, plays for the Broncos (and J.R. Sweezy is in Tampa).

Such is life in a league with a hard salary cap.

Legion_of_BoomThe ‘Hawks have paid key members of the Legion of Boom defense – Earl Thomas III, Kam Chancellor, Richard Sherman, Bobby Wagner, Michael Bennett, Cliff Avril, K.J. Wright.

Russell_Wilson_vs_Jets,_November_11,_2012Russell Wilson got a huge payday. Doug Baldwin and Jermaine Kearse both recently got hefty raises.

Marshawn_Lynch_vs._Redskins_2014While the retirement of Beast Mode is a tremendous loss in terms of leadership and locker room presence, team identity, and individual talent. His cap number was prohibitive for his position and age.

The question is whether the salary cap and player talent facilitate a shift toward a more aggressive and aerial offensive strategy, or whether Carroll’s preferred conservative ball-control philosophy, more reliant upon defense and field position, is continued (perhaps neither fullback being retained is a clue – though one was for legal reasons, and two rookie fullbacks were signed).

And how Jimmy Graham fits into it all.

Jimmy_Graham_2014_Pro_BowlThe Seahawks failed to incorporate his talents into the offense during his first – albeit abbreviated – season in Seattle. While no one expected Graham to replicate his catch or yardage totals in New Orleans, it was expected that he would be a commanding presence in the red zone and on the goal line. (Though throwing on the goal line led to Malcolm Butler’s infamous Super Bowl-clinching INT.)Malcolm_Butler_(American_football)

The season was a terrible disappointment – long before Graham was forced to the sideline with injury. To add insult to injury, the offense absolutely took off the moment Jimmy Graham left the field.

He looked uncomfortable lining up in a three-point stance. He can’t block even average defensive players the box. His talents are wasted when asked to play as any run-of-the-mill TE normally would.

Jimmy_GrahamIn 2014, Superstar’s agent argued that Graham should be considered a wide receiver for franchise tag salary purposes, since he was lined up in that position 67% of the time with the Saints.

The Seahawks should do the same – and much more so. Don’t make him put his hand in the dirt and have him bang around with d-linemen. Let him stand up, and try to get in the way of corners and safeties on run plays. Put him in motion so they can’t easily jam him at the line and they have to adjust their pass coverage just before the snap.

Luke_Willson_2015Luke Willson is a perfectly capable tight end (though also known more as a receiver). Cooper Helfet is a fine backup. Nick Vannett was recently drafted out of Ohio State (reportedly more of a blocker). Perhaps one of the undrafted rookie fullbacks. Hell, WR Chris Matthews can probably get in the way (run block) as well as Graham.Thomas_Rawls_2015

Tyler_Lockett_2016_Pro_BowlSplit him out wide. The Hawks’ base offense should feature Thomas Rawls at RB, Willson at TE, along with Graham, Baldwin, and either Kearse or Tyler Lockett at WR.

But however it’s done, Darrell Bevell, Pete Carroll, and the Seahawks must make good use of Jimmy Graham – before he becomes disgruntled and Percy Harvins his way out of town.Percy_Harvin_vs._Redskins_2014

Why We Can’t Have Nice Things

I won’t dwell too much on the train wreck that is the 2016 election. Between despicable candidates, deplorable surrogates, disgusting supporters, and derelict media – it seems we’ve the campaign of a nation in a drunken stupor. People are voting at all-time lows for an historically unpopular congress. In response – and upon apparent suicide missions – our two major parties each (with dwindling membership) appear to be on the verge of nominating the most-disliked presidential candidates in US history.

What any election does, though, is offer a snap-shot of a moment in time.

Two of the three remaining presidential campaigns are succeeding with the message that the American Dream has been lost and can only be restored with drastic political change. The third runs as caretaker of the status quo.

Now, the establishment is inherently opposed to unrest. We are meant to be amused and distracted by the picayune. Ridiculous and perpetual conspiracies and scandals. Social conservatives fight losing battles against social justice warriors. Hippies and environmentalists fight losing battles against defense contractors and energy companies. Rich folks manipulate poor whites to blame the powerless for their woes. So long as we stay in our lanes, and keep giving in to social pressure to buy the latest this-and-that – those in power tussle our hair every four years while offering a false choice, and things roll right all.

Twenty-sixteen is the exception which proves the rule. Party elites and mega-donors understand both Trump and Bernie to be different animals. Trump as the unmanageable wildcard who could incite nuclear war. And Bernie as the radical curmudgeon who would overturn their apple cart.

Particularly humorous, to me, have been the contortions and distortions of partisan acolytes amongst the commentariat. Relentless and merciless attacks to the bitter end have exposed the visceral revulsion establishment “liberals” feel toward Bernie for being an actual, authentic uncorrupted, progressive populist.

Unemployment is down, wages are (slightly) up, the stock market has doubled, and the deficit halved under Barack Obama.  More Americans have health insurance; marriage equality in 50 states; you’re even getting your way on weed. Everything is awesome! Trump supporters are only mad because we have a black president and a browning country. Why would progressives be upset? Entitled. Impatient. Naïve. Tut-tut.

While the establishment may fervently deny as much, we are witnessing populist uprisings on both the political right and left (this following the Tea Party revolution & Occupy). Trump supporters scream about criminal illegals immigrating en masse to steal our jobs and rape our daughters, and wail about welfare moochers driving up taxes and the national debt. While white resentment is an ugly manifestation, they are crudely communicating a common frustration with wage stagnation, wealth inequity, and social immobility. They just point their fingers in the wrong directions.

Our grandparents – with a single income – owned homes and had pensions and sent kids to college who could expect to be better off than their parents if they worked hard.

Guaranteed basic income used to be on the table (and will be again, once our jobs are given to robots). Nowadays, we are labeled entitled and branded as radical if we don’t think the cost of an education or medical emergency should condemn a family to a lifetime of debilitating debt. Morality alone should dictate these things, besides the economic benefit of people being free to spend on goods and services at local businesses. While most of us don’t have time to familiarize ourselves with the specifics of what happened and why, we know that something happened to get us here.

First is to understand how we reached our great heights in the first place. We attained our wealth by using slave labor to work land stolen in genocide. Then robber barons put children to work in mines, and squeezed workers to their breaking points while amassing vast wealth, before reckless financial institutions brought the world economy to its knees.

Our response to the Great Depression was FDR and the New Deal. Forty years of economic stability was achieved by building a barrier between everyday depositor funds, and the casino-style gambling of Wall Street speculators with Glass-Steagal. (Until financial deregulation by Clinton and Dubya set in motion the Great Recession.) Social Security was implemented in order to drastically reduce poverty among the elderly. The FHA was introduced to facilitate home ownership (redlining is a subject for another day). Labor rights were strengthened and federal minimum wage was established to close the gap between workers and CEOs. The WPA and CWA provided millions of temporary jobs constructing parks and bridges and the like. There were job-training programs for veterans and the unemployed. In-state college tuition was next-to-nothing…

All of which was easily affordable. Our top tax rate was 94% (and we still had super-rich people with more money than they could spend) while the unemployment rate was 2% (considered full-employment). Hitler was defeated; we built the interstate highway system; and walked on the moon.

With LBJ’s Great Society came Medicare & Medicaid (for the elderly and the poor), along with the Civil Rights Act & Voting Rights Act. (My personal observation is that once blacks started realizing the full benefit of citizenship, we immediately went about scaling those benefits back.)

Nixon appointed Chief Justice Lewis Powell, and the Supreme Court ruled that money is speech and corporations are people – essentially legalizing political bribery. This was the seminal moment in the invisible coup which replaced our representative democracy with an oligarchic plutocracy. Within a few years, an entertainer was placed into office in order to slash the taxes on the wealthiest – upending 40 years of economic growth and stability.

Since then, the thirty-five year trickle-down Reaganomics experiment has essentially destroyed the American Dream. Our corporate overlords and billionaire ruling class have purchased our representatives at auction, redistributed middle class wealth to the wealthy, and shifted the tax burden onto the middle and working classes while gutting government programs which facilitated opportunity and kept the Dream within reach.

The top individual rate went from 94% to 28% (now 38%). Corporations used to pay 30% of all taxes – they now represent roughly 10% of tax revenue.  Capital gains and carried interest loopholes means people who make money off of stocks are taxed at a much lower rate than income from actual labor. A handful of farms collect 90% of farm subsidies. Tax inversions allow “American” corporations to change their address to Bermuda and avoid paying US taxes. We let corporations write off the expenses associated with outsourcing our jobs to foreign countries. We subsidize oil companies – the most profitable in the history of the world. We subsidize with food stamps and welfare the low wages of our largest employers. We burn money with senseless waste in healthcare and military spending (payoff for the legal bribes).

We can easily afford to restore and improve upon the American Dream. All it requires it the will to go about doing it. Unfortunately, we’ve been brainwashed. We’ve been convinced that voting once every four years will suffice. We’ve been convinced that rest and mental well-being are signs of weakness while stress and overexertion are virtues. We’ve been convinced that wealthy stay-at-home moms are virtuous, but poor ones are shameful. We’ve been convinced that unions are bad for workers. We’ve been convinced that higher wages equal fewer jobs. We’ve been convinced that the stock market and the national debt mean something to regular people. We’ve been convinced that we can’t have basic things which other countries easily afford. We’ve been convinced that nothing can be done.

We’ve tried working longer hours. We sent both spouses to work. We’ve drowned ourselves in credit card debt, housing, vehicle, and finally student loan debt. Our productivity keeps increasing and increasing, yet wages have stagnated for nearly forty years – those profits are going somewhere! During the recovery, literally all of the economic gains have gone to the top 1%. CEO pay has exploded, while the odds of rags-to-riches have dwindled to near-zero.

Since we all consider ourselves to be future-millionaires who will one day be able to take advantage, we don’t mind if the rules are skewed a bit toward the wealthy – but we have a sense of general fairness and we all want our kids to have a better opportunity that we.

Unfortunately, we don’t want it badly enough. The reason that healthcare, education, and labor rights in European (especially Scandinavian) countries is so vastly superior, is because they’ve the will to make it happen. We are too afraid that in a land of rugged individualism, someone will simply take our spot if we stand up and speak out.

I was in a union. I got into a car accident and woke up in the hospital. It cost me (my car, and) a $25 co-pay. The union contract ran out, workers weren’t willing to strike – suddenly union negotiators had no leverage and settled for healthcare premiums on HMO/PPO plans which were hundreds of dollars per month for an individual. Same union, a few years later at a different business – dental and vision cost extra.

There is a recipe for meaningful change. That which we desire calls for protest, civil disobedience, and dedication. It won’t be easy. Workers’ rights to organize and strike have been gutted. When people do strike, they not only risk their livelihoods, but are berated by society for their annoyance. When protesters are frustrated enough to stand up, our constitutional rights to do so are suddenly rescinded on public and private property – and militarized skull-crushing law- enforcement deployed. They are infiltrated and monitored by spy agencies. Public opinion of protesters is set against them if the flow of traffic is at all affected (big city news anchors just love to complain about first-world traffic problems).

Our media has been bought by the same corporate overlords who’ve bought our government officials. As with many things, we used to be better. Walter Cronkite was beloved for his honesty and for emoting empathy in times of great despair. Anderson Cooper has been promoted through the ranks because he values subjectivity & neutrality over objectivity & fact-based reporting. Our corporate media now promulgates rank dishonestly in exchange for access to perpetually dishonest mascots of corporate greed.

We used to understand the airwaves to be our own. A natural resource. A collective utility. We afforded media organizations the opportunity to broadcast on our airwaves free of charge – but in exchange, we had demands. An hour of prime-time had to be devoted to news. Relevant topics had to be covered – and truthfully, no BS. And no monopolies: a person or group could control a single form of major media in a given market – no more. Then CBS managed to turn a profit with 60 Minutes, enticing others to strive for the same, rendering publicly held media organizations down to if-it-bleeds-it-leads ratings whores. (Scores of companies operated our media a few decades whence. Now, thanks deregulation by Reagan on behalf of corporate greed, six multinational media conglomerates control 90% of American media – from TV & movies to books, newspapers, and magazines.)

They are lying to us. They won’t tell us why our elections are suddenly so expensive, why that money is so easy to come by, and where most of it ends up. Let alone how to fix it.

First thing is to fix our government so we can fix the economy. The Supreme Court says money is speech and corporations are people so bribery is legal. They overrule any law passed by congress and signed by any president. You could wait for someone to die, and for a relevant case to work its way through, hoping no one else dies to swing the court back. Or we can overrule the SCOTUS by amending the US Constitution. Congress got elected by winning a rigged game – no sense in changing the rules to a corrupt game they thrive in. Or, the states can call for a convention on a given amendment themselves (states have to ratify any amendment, regardless of origin). While members of congress are generally corrupt, state legislators are real people with real jobs who happen to be part-time government employees. They have personal political views, but they don’t want a fat campaign check going against them, and they don’t like having to beg strangers for money. They just need to know what we want, and that we are serious.

Once we pass a 28th Amendment banning money in politics, we have representatives who work for us instead of their monied political donors. No longer will they owe favors to oil companies who want tax subsidies and to pollute our environment at no cost; or pharmaceutical companies who don’t want to negotiate prescription drug prices; or defense contractors who want perpetual war; or wealthy billionaires who want to hoard all of their fortunes.

They will owe us, the people, because they will be indebted to the voters, and not their sponsors. If we want to get rid of the electoral college, or caucuses, or super-delegates, or gerrymandering, or provisional ballots. If we want a voting holiday, or jungle primaries, or term limits, or opt-out voter registration, or compulsory voting, or a none of the above ballot option… We can fix our elections if our elected officials are correctly incentivized.

We can institute and reinstate programs which help regular folks. Free college so our young aren’t saddled with debt from the get go. Job training programs for people who want to change professions. Childcare so single parents can go to school and/or work. Universal basic income so they don’t have to. Preschool so poor kids have an even playing field. Universal healthcare so people aren’t bankrupted from medical costs; and creative & driven artists & entrepreneurs aren’t tied down to shoddy jobs just because they are human beings who inevitably get sick/hurt.

There is so much to be done that will be beneficial, not only to individual Americans, but to our nation as a whole. We need to send an army of people to work on our crumbling roads and bridges. We have lead pipes (and paint) which need to ripped out and replaced. We have buildings which need to be retrofitted to be more energy efficient. We need a smart national power grid; we need to bury the power cables; we need solar, wind, hydroelectricity. We have pollution in seas, lakes, factory-adjacent streams, and urban waterways that need be cleaned. We need to prepare coastal cities for sea-rise (or prepare for relocation). We need high speed railways. We need fiber-optic internet.

We need to have regular people taking home enough money to have disposable income they can spend on goods and services at local businesses who will hire more workers who earn enough money to have disposable income they can spend…

We need to be upset. We need not bicker over the trivial. We need not be distracted with false comfort. We need the strength to be uncomfortable in the pursuit of change. We need the courage to unleash our potential. Because all that stands between us and another great American century is the will to make it happen.

Et Tu, Elizabeth Warren?

Elizabeth_Warren_keynote_speech_Feb_22_2011_on_CARD_ActSenator Elizabeth Warren has officially endorsed Secretary Hillary Clinton for president – a somber moment for Bernie Sanders supporters.

Scott_Brown_2010I bought an ‘Elizabeth Warren for President 2016’ bumper sticker back in 2013. A professor at Harvard, her speeches on economic populism and a rigged political system were viral sensations (Obama’s “you didn’t build that” blunder in 2012 was an awkward reprisal of her “roads & bridges” speech). In the wake of the Great Recession, and at the behest of President Obama, she created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Republicans blocked her nomination to direct the CFPB, so she defeated conservative darling Scott Brown (along with his prop pickup truck) to replace the deceased Ted Kennedy and become the junior senator from Massachusetts. Senator Warren used hearings and the senate floor to call to task the Wall Street banksters – and bureaucrats supposedly regulating them – for their actions and reactions surrounding the crash.

 

OWS.Box2.Change_Obama._Joy_Leftow._David_Everitt-CarlsonIt wasn’t long before the term ‘Warren Wing of the Democratic Party’ was embraced by progressives sick of establishment liberals with their triangulation and neoliberalism. She was destined to fulfill the promise in which Barack Obama seemed uninterested (and that Howard Dean had arrghed away before). Elizabeth Warren, Harvard Professor, had become a political rock star. And I bought a bumper sticker.

Then, in a secret December ’14 meeting, Elizabeth Warren reportedly agreed not to run for president on the promise that Hillary Clinton would… pretend. To be more liberal? To give voice to progressive concerns during the primary? To name Warren veep, perhaps? I certainly hope Hillary didn’t promise to break up the Big Banks or reinstate Glass-Steagal…Hillary_Clinton_(24266562219)

It was a shrewd move by the Secretary,  to remove the biggest perceived threat from the competition – with the added bonus of whittling down the (real or perceived) backbone of progressives’ foremost political crush.

Lawrence_(Larry)_LessigBernie Sanders never intended to run for President of the United States. He held out, waiting for someone, anyone to step forward and challenge Hillary from the left. Al Gore, maybe; perhaps Brian Sandoval; especially Elizabeth Warren. Instead, were conservative Jim Webb, goofy Lincoln Chaffey, blow-dried Martin O’Malley, and shunned Lawrence Lessig.

bernie bros2Hillary Clinton was the front-runner of front-runners. A shoe-in for the nomination. And yet, a septuagenarian socialist Jew who wears Men’s Warehouse suits and doesn’t seem to own a comb managed to pull even in national polls and win 22 states. Of those states, Massachusetts was not one. Had an extremely popular and progressive senator from the state endorsed the extremely popular and progressive senator running for president…

Hillary_Clinton_(25660779436)To be fair, Hillary Clinton has long been known to keep an intraparty enemies list, replete with a rating system and payback rendered. No one – including Senator Sanders – expected Bernie to seriously challenge the Clinton machine. He was simply supposed to drag Hillary a bit to the left while giving a voice to progressive values on a national stage. Fellow progressives had to make the political calculus whether supporting the progressive candidate, in what they assumed to be a losing effort, was worth inducing sure Clintonian wrath. Few had the courage.

A year ago, this was a fairly valid justification. After Iowa and New Hampshire, when it had become clear that Bernie was a serious and viable candidate, that calculation should’ve changed. Perhaps Elizabeth Warren had already promised not to challenge Hillary’s breaking of America’s highest glass ceiling. Maybe her hands were tied and she couldn’t endorse Bernie (or agree to be his running mate). But then, by endorsing the physical embodiment of the establishment in Hillary Clinton, before the convention in Philly, and after standing on the sidelines early on when it seemed to matter most…

Barney_Frank_109th_congressFor progressives like me – people who never identified as democrats, yet embraced the ‘Warren Wing’ – the worry is Howard Dean (who had said that the stale politics of old was driving away young voters – before morphing into a highly paid influence peddler and super-delegate). The worry is Barney Frank & Barack Obama – folks who sounded as if they were genuine progressives, but wound up disappointing, either for monetary interests or for political expediency.

Mario_Cuomo_speaking_at_a_rally,_June_20,_1991chris christie 800px-President_Barack_Obama_Tours_Storm_Damage_in_New_Jersey_2Another huge concern for Elizabeth Warren faithful should be Mario Cuomo & Chris Christie – folks who likely would’ve become president had they seized their respective moments. Elizabeth Warren has been seen as Bernie Sanders minus the schlubbery and the label of socialist. The people – both conservatives and liberals – are sick of the establishment. Hillary Clinton is a weak and flawed candidate. Donald Trump is a fascist nightmare. Elizabeth Warren would’ve run away with the election.

Donald_Trump_in_Reno,_Nevada_January_2016Since it became obvious she wasn’t running in 2016, she’s been the presumptive running-mate to the would-be nominee. She is a strong and obvious choice. Though little more than a platitude to Sanders’ supporters when paired with Hillary. That’s assuming Hillary even wants to pick a progressive (who would outshine her by leaps and bounds) – when in the general election, Hillary likely believes that she only needs to be slightly to the left of an authoritarian racist. And besides, there are tangible down-sides for both progressives and the democratic party establishment.

Harry_Reid_met_with_Supreme_Court_nominee_Merrick_Garland_(25772130711)If Warren leaves the senate to become vice president (veep is technically senate president), by law the republican governor of Massachusetts will appoint her replacement. That’s one less vote for Harry Reid.

chuck schumer obamaRepublicans swept into power on the red wave that was the Tea Party revolution in 2010. As such, more senate Republicans are up for reelection in 2016, giving Democrats a good chance at flipping the senatory power dynamic. Elizabeth Warren is essentially assured her seat in perpetuity, but her replacement could easily be another Scott Brown-style Republican, leaving Chuck Schumer with worse odds of becoming majority leader in 2017.

Dick_Cheney_at_the_2003_State_of_the_UnionJoe_Biden_with_Sonia_SotamayorVice presidents don’t generally do anything. They technically break ties in the senate. But mostly they just sit around hoping that the economy is doing well enough when they finally get their turn at running for president. Dick Cheney was an outlier. Joe Biden is mostly known for saying stupid stuff and being touchy-feely (he “got out over his skis” on gay marriage, and played patty-cakes to placate Mitch McConnell on occasion – that’s about all Uncle Joe has done as veep).

Bernie Birdie_Sanders_-_The_Canary_in_the_Coalmine_of_Democracy_(25765578730)If Elizabeth Warren becomes vice president, her progressive voice – the best progressive voice this side of Bernie Sanders – would be neutered, forced to saddle up with the establishment and to defend compromises Hillary Clinton will inevitably make with like-minded Republicans.

Hillary_Clinton_(24551894451)After four-to-eight years of soiling herself while carrying water for the establishment, if Elizabeth Warren still wanted to run for president, she would be running as the successor to Hillary. Who is running as the successor to Obama. Three successive presidents from the one political party represents a big ask of the American people – unprecedented.

Elizabeth_Warren_Nov_2_2012Elizabeth_Warren_for_President_poster_-_2.jpegIt hurt to take down my Elizabeth Warren bumper sticker, and replace it with a Feel the Bern 2016 model. It hurt when she failed to endorse the progressive candidate when it mattered most. It hurt when she eventually endorsed the establishment. (It hurt to see her tell Rachel Maddow – during the endorsement interview – how good Hillary is on Social Security, yet curiously omit benefit expansion, which Warren had just called for.)

trump Düsseldorf,_Rosenmontag_2016,_politische_Karnevalswagen_(05)I hope Trump is humiliated. I hope Hillary can be steered to the left. I hope not to vomit if/when Elizabeth Warren is forced to defend the Clinton administration for slaps on the wrist for Wall Street fat cats & continuation of trickle-down tax policy & interventionist foreign policy & fracking & the TPP and…