All posts by jellee

Trump’s Muslim Ban Unconstitutional, Irrational, Counter-Productive

Dear America,

Since half of this country seems to be confused, allow me to explain a few things about this Muslim travel ban.

Yes, it’s a ban. Trump promised a Muslim ban repeatedly as a candidate, yet now that he’s doing it, you want us to not believe our lying eyes. (I thought y’all were the straight-talkers who weren’t worried about being “politically correct”) Trump isn’t even bright enough to keep up the charade, as he calls it a ban everyday on twitter. Spicer has called it a ban numerous times. Giuliani bragged on Faux News that Trump went to him for the framework of a Muslim travel ban. Trump assured the Christian Broadcasting Network that his Executive Order includes a special carve-out for religious minorities (Christians & Jews) coming from the seven applicable countries.

It doesn’t apply to India or Indonesia – counties with the largest Muslim populations. It doesn’t apply to Saudi Arabia – where people are beheaded every Friday as a matter of course, and where the vast majority of 9/11 hijackers, cited in Trump’s EO, came from.

Instead, it applies to poor Muslims countries where there aren’t any Trump Hotels, but plenty of “Made in America” bombs being dropped on the heads of innocent civilians.

This ban has nothing to do with terrorism. It is about fear-mongering, xenophobia, and nativism. Immigrants and refugees are not a threat to us. Trump doesn’t even know the difference – he keeps calling the Syrian refugees in Australia “undocumented immigrants” because he is in intellectually incurious imbecile. He often says that we let people that we don’t know come here without paperwork. In fact, we have the most stringent refugee process in the entire world – taking upward of 18-24 months. And natural-born citizens are far more likely to commit crime than those who come here. Probably because they are people who had the courage, gumption, and wherewithal to make it here in one piece. Their economic and cultural contributions are immeasurable.

If we were truly concerned about terrorism we would be scrutinizing white Christian males, not immigrants and refugees. Trump simply wants to equate terrorism with Islam. He is doing ISIS’ job of characterizing this as a religious war between Christianity and Islam. Trump is forcing Muslims across the world to choose between their cultural identity and ours. We cannot win that battle with bans and bombs, but with blue jeans and hip-hop. They don’t need our form of government forced upon them if they don’t want it. They don’t need to hand over their natural resources at whatever price we demand. They need education. They need jobs. They need investments in infrastructure. They are aunts and uncles and brothers and sisters who have the same wants and needs as everyone else in the world. Instead, we invade their countries, kill innocent civilians who we refer to as collateral damage, lock them away and torture them without charge for decades, and claim that they hate us simply because they hate us.

The Extra Rights of Men in the American Patriarchy

Donald Trump had a pitifully small crowd at his inauguration, which was dwarfed by Women’s March protests the following day, not only in D.C., but in cities around the country and world. Irked at the global show of defiance to their Dear Leader, Trumpistas have taken to social media with memes of befuddlement about with what these tens of millions of women could possibly be upset. Well, it was overall an anti-Trump movement, but, being a Women’s March, there were protesters and marchers with myriad focuses. Some were there for reproductive rights, some for gender equality, for lgbtq rights,  immigrant rights, religious freedom, economic justice,  climate change, education…

Skeptical memes have boiled down to two things: get over it, and what rights do men have that women do not? As for the request to lie down and allow Emperor Trump to run amok: denied. As for the question of women’s rights:

Free the nipple. Now, it may seem like a trivial thing, but the fact that men have the right to go topless and women do not speaks to an overall theme of power and control over women’s bodies. Female breasts are not to remain hidden because they are different than those of men, but simply because they belong to women. It’s not about shape; plenty of men have relatively large chests, and vice versa with women. The main difference between the chests of women and men is function. The fact that breast feeding is not at all a sexual act does not, however, prevent men from being sexually attracted. We’re attracted to feet and thick lips and all sorts of things that do not require covering. We single out female breasts because the straight white men who’ve been in charge are sexually attracted to them, and want them to remain sexualized, no matter the hypocritical violation of equal protection that it creates for women.

Speaking of unwanted over-sexualization; in the rare instance when we admit that it might have actually occurred, we blame survivors of sexual assault for having the temerity to consume alcohol in the general proximity of preying men, or for being too scantily clad for our puritanical sensibilities. We give women and girls instructions on how to not get raped; rather than give boys firm guidelines regarding consent. We have hundreds of thousands of untested rape kids, for god’s sake.

This attitude even seeps its way into the treatment of children, as every year there are numerous stories of crusty old men being overcome by arousal at the sight of students in their prom dresses, and teachers feeling compelled into action by young girls in class with tight pants. Just because you cannot control your perverted old man boner does not give you the right to single out, reprimand, and body-shame a child.
We’re all about shaming, though. While men are generally celebrated for sexual conquests, abstinence-only sex-ed has taught impressionable young girls that they are chewed up pieces of gum if they dare engage in sexual relations outside of marriage.

We have sharia law theocrats in government that want to not only slut-shame women and girls, but actually punish them for having sex for pleasure by any means necessary. They don’t want the youth to have the knowledge to keep from getting pregnant, or access to birth control without parental permission. They don’t want health insurance to guarantee birth control; they refuse to allow any federal funds to pay for abortion.

They fight existing social insurance like Medicaid, food stamps (SNAP), and welfare (TANF); and against proposed programs such as mandatory paid maternity leave and universal pre-k.

/Bodily autonomy is as fundamental a right as a person can have, and countless women, especially in conservative states, are denied this fundamental right in America. Clumps of cells are not living, breathing human beings. They just aren’t. We can have a conversation about the stage in pregnancy at which a fetus becomes viable (SCOTUS says 20 weeks, currently). But that is aside from the point, since late-term abortions are extremely rare, and only occur in cases when the health of the mother is in danger, or fetal abnormalities which won’t allow it to survive.

Besides, abortion bans do not prevent the need for abortion; they only block access of poor women to safe, regulated abortion, and force them into dangerous, back alley, Kermit Gosling with a coat hanger situations. Wealthy women don’t need family planning clinics when they can go their ob-gyn; and can afford to travel if local laws are too strict.

Lean in. Men have the right to be successful career-men without having their parenting skills and love for their children thrown into question. While men face the same work/life balance as women, there is entire cottage industry of books on the topic as it pertains to women. Female politicians are repeatedly pressed on the issue while men are not judged as a failure of a parent simply for having career success.

I am perfectly willing to admit that we have laws which favor women in regards to domestic violence calls and alimony; but what MRA Neanderthals and the very few with daddy issues bad enough to briefly date them need to admit: whether codified into law or simply in practice, women are at a disadvantage in practically every other area of American society. While we avoid some of the worse forms of misogyny such as female genital mutilation, honor killings, and femicide…

Females are 51% of the population, and earn 60% of college degrees, yet represent less than 20% of congress. They are underrepresented in areas of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics. They are underrepresented in board rooms and executive suites.

Women with kids are paid less than those without; while men with kids are paid more than men without. And whatever the exact number is, women are paid less than men. Even when they do they same job, even when adjusting for maternity leave, the wage gap persists.

Successful women like Oprah Winfrey, Madeleine Albright, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Serena Williams, Meryl Streep, and Sally Ride prove than women are easily as capable as men, if not more so. They are the exceptions that prove the rule.


No matter. Men want to punish, shame, and suppress women; and craft public policy to make them financially dependent. Simply put, men have more rights than women, and hoard power in industry and politics in order to maintain their status in the American patriarchy.

Democrat Party is a Shambles; Refuse to Accept Responsibility

Establishment Democrats are doing everything in their power to shift blame, and simply refuse to accept responsibility for their own failures. Their immediate response to their electoral drubbing proves that they’ve learned nothing from their mistakes, and will continue to simply point at the backward Republicans as their singular selling point.

Unfortunately for establishment Democrats and their fellow elites of corporate media, they spent eighteen months calling Donald Trump and his supporters a bunch of deplorable racists, yet the country chose that over whatever it is that Democrats are selling. While Hillary Clinton’s loss to Trump was the headline act, Democrats were flatly rejected at every level: Republicans now control the House and Senate, the Supreme Court and over a hundred federal judicial seats waiting to be filled due to Republican obstruction, 33 of 50 governorships, and 69 of 99 state houses. In fact, Democrats lost over a thousand state and national-level seats during Barack Obama’s presidency.

None of that can be explained away by blaming Russia. That can’t be attributed to whitelash or sexism. That wasn’t the fault of James Comey or Julian Assange. Jill Stein didn’t do it, neither did Gary Johnson or Bernie Sanders, Millennials or People of Color. That wasn’t because of “fake news” or the Electoral College.

The Democrat Party is a shambles, and is completely devoid of leadership and an articulable reason for existing. If establishment Democrats weren’t a bunch of spineless corporate hacks, there would not have been the space for a mad man like Trump to become a viable candidate. Democrats are so incredibly useless that they managed to lose to the most-hated presidential candidate in US history.

And that’s pretty much the long and short of it: Trump happened for the same reason that Brexit and Nigel Farage happened in the UK; Marie La Pen in France; Geert Wilders in the Netherlands; Norbert Hofer in Austria; Peter Dutton in Australia; and Matteo Salvini & Beppe Grillo in Italy. Western governments have largely abandoned labor and their respective citizenries, and shifted more wealth & power toward multinational corporations & the wealthy.

It’s been decades in the making domestically. The great sorting of the political parties was set in motion when Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act. Richard Nixon won two elections on the admittedly racist Southern Strategy; and his SCOTUS essentially legalized political bribery. Democrats freaked out and began the process of selling their souls by shunning unions. Jimmy Carter managed a brief stint in the White House as a Southern Evangelical. Then, Ronald Reagan successfully married the previously apolitical religious right with the Republican Party. “New” Democrats responded by doubling down on selling out and embraced triangulation.

Bill Clinton wanted to be seen as tough on crime, so he interrupted his presidential campaign to personally witness an execution in his home state of Arkansas. He strategically chided Black people in his infamous Sister Souljah moment. Hillary backed him by fear-mongering Black teenage “super-predators” who needed to be “brought to heel.” Prison populations exploded as result of the 1994 Crime Bill, three-strikes, and mandatory minimums; at the same time that welfare rolls were slashed. Bill Clinton had an agreement in place with Newt Gingrich to gut Social Security, which fell through the next day when Monica Lewinsky happened. WJC ordered the bombing of the only medicine factory in Sudan; and ended a sixty-year run of financial stability when he repealed Glass-Steagall. Even with that, Al Gore won the popular vote and the Electoral College, had ever-polite Democrats stood up for themselves.

The country was coming to the realization that the two major parties had merged into a single Money Party. Republicans tend to defeat Republican-lites, so Vietnam War-hero John Kerry lost to a draft-dodger who lied us into an illegal war because people would rather have a beer with an affable ignoramus.

Despite demographics shifting in their favor, and the country agreeing with their stated positions practically across the board, the
Democrat party was nonetheless on life support.

Along came Barack Hussein Obama, an attractive and eloquent orator capable of rousing masses of humanity with pretty words of hope & change. He was, alas, a temporary shot of steroids for the Democrats, who could uniquely increase voter turnout among young people and minorities.

The country and world economy had been brought to its knees at the hand of greedy capitalist banksters and corrupt corporatist politicians, and Obama was handed a veto-proof congressional super-majority. Rather than make homeowners and the working class whole again, Obama teamed with Bush to siphon hundreds of billions of dollars to the biggest banks. Rather than prosecute a single one of the fraudulent banksters, Obama let the CEO of Citigroup pick his entire cabinet, and had the Department of Homeland Security team with union cops to crack the skulls of peaceful Occupy protesters.

Obama spent the entirety of his political capital unsuccessfully trying to woo Republican votes for the Republican healthcare plan so that Republicans and the legacy media wouldn’t portray him as partisan. He tried, and failed, his entire eight years to make a grand bargain with Republicans to slash Social Security and Medicare in exchange for minimal tax increases; he made 90% of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy permanent.

Obama turned two wars into seven; kept our national disgrace of GITMO open; expanded and codified into law our unconstitutional mass surveillance programs; did a damned thing about drug wars, mass incarceration, or police brutality.

The country was ready for real, systemic change in 2009, and the American public gave Obama the go-ahead to carry it out. Instead, he betrayed the people who put him into office and laid the groundwork for Trump. Ignoring the warnings, establishment Democrats were determined that their hand-picked Chosen One run as the caretaker of the status quo. They and the corporate media were so insulated from the pain felt by the working class and poor folks, that they simply did not believe that the country was thirsting for a populist. They decided that the popularity of Trump could be written off as racism, and that that of Bernie Sanders could be ascribed to naïve, entitled, and sexist ideologues.

Post-election, the actions of establishment Democrats have failed to inspire confidence. Fundraiser extraordinaire Nancy Pelosi was reinserted as the leader of House Democrats; Wall Street’s best friend Chuck Schumer (who publically admitted to purposely abandoning Democratic voters in a failed attempt to woo Republicans) as leader of Senate Dems; and are insisting upon pro-TPP Tom Perez as the head of the DNC.

Rather than look internally, as Republicans did with the “autopsy” in 2012, Democrats refuse to even consider the notion that they did anything at all to cause their historic failure. Out of unearned respect, I’ll slap down their pathetic excuses one by one:

Electoral College: Yes, the system is terrible. Democrats have been screwed twice in the past five elections. And we have the Electoral College so slave states could count (3/5ths of) slaves, who couldn’t actually vote, for the purpose of gaining additional delegates. The Electoral College should be abolished; states could do it by simply banding together to give their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. But the Electoral College is a known factor that no one cares about until their team wins the popular vote but loses. Democrats have had 16 years since Bush v Gore to fix it, and they never bothered – it’s a post-election excuse.

James Comey: The FBI Director’s actions were indefensible; but whose fault is it that the Bush-appointee was still in charge of the FBI? Comey was in position to prolong the email saga (which was due to Hillary’s arrogance, even if it had nothing to do with Benghazi) because Democrats in general, and Obama in particular, are chosen by their donors specifically for their fecklessness.

Russia: Seventeen government agencies asserted that Russia hacked the DNC, John Podesta’s emails, and a number of state voter registries. Hillary Clinton and numerous surrogates accused Russia of cyber crimes and manipulation of the election. But to what end? While Hillary insisted that cyber crimes be answered with military force; Barack Obama doesn’t seem too worked up about it based upon his minimal sanctions; and former CIA Director Michael Hayden described Russia’s actions as “honorable state espionage.” Besides, I don’t want to hear a thing from Hillbots about intelligence agencies or nation-states meddling in foreign elections: Hillary supported regime change in Iraq, Libya, and Honduras; and questioned seriously why we allowed Palestinians to hold an election without first rigging the outcome.

Julian Assange

Wikileaks: I would prefer that Wikileaks curate their documents rather than release everything up to and including John Podesta’s risotto recipe, but that is their wont. Democrats are accusing Julian Assange of working with Putin, and he clearly has disdain for Hillary, but regardless of origin, the Podesta emails provided an invaluable peek inside the inner-workings of DC; and the heart of the outrage seems to be that voters were too well informed. Besides, hypocritical Hillary surrogates were more than happy to discuss Trump’s stolen tax returns.

Lefty Journos: Writers such as Glenn Greenwald, Matt Taibbi, & David Sirota were labeled useful idiots and agents of the Kremlin by the Democrat establishment for daring to report accurate information on their Chosen One. Reporting which does not upset power is not journalism but stenography. Try again.

Fake News: While misleading disinformation (and satire) is common, the phenomenon of “fake news” was conjured seemingly the moment Hillary conceded. A ploy meant to discredit dissenting voices and preserve the Overton window.

Third Parties: Blaming third parties is a time-honored tradition iof both major parties meant to enforce the false-binary of lesser-evilism. As per usual, beltway group-think is completely misguided: George H. W. Bush did not lose to Bill Clinton because of Ross Perot. Polling from before and after he left and re-entered the race showed that Perot took more support from Clinton than Bush.

Al Gore did not lose to George W. Bush because of Ralph Nader. Exit polls showed that half of Nader supporters would’ve voted Bush, not Gore. In fact, three million registered Democrats voted for Bush nationwide, including 190k in deciding Florida – where Gore lost by 94k.

Dr. Jill Stein Source: CC-BY, RAHurd

And finally, Hillary Clinton did not lose to Donald Trump because of Jill Stein. The Green Party candidate received just 1.2m votes. Hillary won the popular vote by nearly three millions, and still would’ve lost the Electoral College had she gotten Stein’s votes. Besides, similar to 2000, nine percent of registered Democrats voted for Trump, and half the country didn’t bother to vote at all. That has nothing to do with third parties and everything to do with the uselessness of the Democratic Party.

Millennials: Voted for Clinton more than any other age group. Old people were the problem.

People of Color and Muslims: Also voted Democrat by large margins (including Black women, Democrats’ most loyal demo); but Democrats hate their base, and love to blame voters for their own ineptitude.

Sexist Bernie Bros: No such thing; a regurgitation of the despicable Obama Boys smear of 2008. Using sexism as a political prop is disgusting, and minimizes actual misogyny – but that’s who corporate Democrats are.

Racism: Whitelash is a real thing. Surprise! America is racist. But racism and the culture wars aren’t exactly novel concepts. And hand-wringing over the fact that liberals haven’t been able to shame white people out of being racist yet doesn’t do a thing to address the problems of Democrats, who take minority votes for granted while hiring fewer Black senate senior staff members than Republicans.

Finally, here is what Democrats must do if they are to emerge from the ashes: Embrace lefty economic populism and reacquaint themselves with labor. Republicans are attempting to repeal Obamacare without a replacement. Democrats must immediately begin fighting for actual universal healthcare, by way of a single-payer system (public-option at minimum). They must fight for universal pre-k, free college, and student debt forgiveness.

Democrats must take concrete action on climate change and clean energy, and fully embrace Keynesian economic virtuosity of infrastructure spending. They must embrace net-neutrality, unions, Fight for Fifteen, job training programs backed up with actual jobs, guaranteed employment/income (negative income tax would be wonderful), loan programs for small businesses, put an end to corporate welfare for the largest multinational corporations, stop defending corporate-authored trade deals, fight against mega-mergers, and break-up monopolies.

Democrats must immediately put a halt to taking Wall Street bribes. Republicans already get the vast majority, and Democrats lose all credibility by taking what little they get, they are fools for continuing the practice, and must stop now. They must also stop taking the bribes of big pharma, big oil, big agriculture, private prisons, defense contractors, Silicon Valley, predatory pay-day lenders, charter schools, and lobbyists in general.

Image by Pax Ahimsa Gethen

Democrats must embrace Black Lives Matter, Code Pink, Planned Parenthood, and first nation water protectors at Standing Rock. They must fight to end prohibition and the drug wars, must lead the way on criminal justice reform, and defund police departments with a pattern of brutality. They must embrace Syrian refugees. They must support the boycott, divest, and sanction movement for a two-state solution and an end to Palestinian apartheid in the West Bank. They must take a stand against American imperialism, colonialism, and perpetual policy of foreign regime change.

Bernie Sanders showed Democrats the way. The septuagenarian socialist Jew with over-sized suits and unkempt hair proved that the American people are fed up with the status quo, are more interested with policy substance than political consultant-coached style, and willing to put their money where their mouth is. The Clintonite marionettes of the Democratic Party establishment spat in Bernie’s face, and turned away a generation of voters who attempted to infuse the Democratic Party with their energy. Only time will tell if Democrats learn from their mistakes, and begin the work of rebuilding their rubbish pile of a political party.

Tax Payer-Funded Oil Cops Commit War Crimes at Standing Rock

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Stephanie Keith/Reuters
standing-rock
Image by Tomas Alejo

In scenes reminiscent of 1960’s Birmingham, authorities have been using water cannons & attack dogs on water protectors in North Dakota. The story of Standing Rock is everything wrong with America: Following hundreds of years of dehumanization and genocide, we’re breaking our treaty with indigenous tribes and ripping up their burial grounds. Armed thugs are bashing skulls of water protectors at the behest of oil companies. Spineless Democrats like Barack Obama & Hillary Clinton have barely been bothered to offer tepid remarks. And corporate media is ignoring the entire thing.

stand_with_standing_rock_sf_nov_2016_11For a quick overview: the 1851 Treaty of Fort Laramie states that a large area, including Standing Rock, belongs to indigenous people. Then, in 1877, congress decided to ignore our treaty and seize much of the land. In 1980, the Supreme Court ruled that the government was in the wrong, and ordered a $102m settlement. The settlement money has been accruing interest ever since – now worth $1.3b. But the Standing Rock Sioux don’t want our money; they want their land.

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Image by Ashoka Jegroo

Now, an oil company wants to build a pipeline from North Dakota to Illinois, which has been bankrolled by Wall St. It was supposed to pass by Bismark, but the nice, white people there didn’t want their water poisoned, so Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) decided to use Sioux land instead. After all, it had been taken from them long ago.

Image by Carl Wycoff
Image by Carl Wycoff

Some of the needed land was privately owned, so imminent domain was applied. The federal government issued permits where they had authority, but the Missouri River is controlled by Army Corps of Engineers. The Corps have yet to issue permits to dig under the river, so the Obama administration asked ETP not to dig within 20 miles. This request was of course ignored, and they’ve since dug a drilling pad within a half mile of the Missouri. ETP CEO Kelcy Warren, perhaps emboldened by the election of Trump, insisted that the pipeline would be completed regardless. (Days later, ETP was acquired by Sunoco – the most leak-prone energy company in the country.)

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Image by Desiree Kane

Water protectors, well aware of the tendency of pipelines to leak, established Sacred Stone prayer camp at Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in April. Unarmed and peaceful protectors were initially met with attack dogs unleashed by oil mercenaries. An agent provocateur – a bandanna-faced ETP employee armed with an assault rifle – was unearthed by water protectors, which culminated in a tense standoff.

Those sickening scenes should have been enough to coax a reaction out of docile Obama. But au contraire – the president said he’d wait and see. Governor Dalrymple declared a state of emergency, and cut off water and sanitation services. Five states allocated millions of dollars to sic militarized, skull-cracking  cops on peaceful protectors.

standingroock-arminjury4Armed thugs with badges descended upon the prayer camp in bomb-resistant war vehicles. They beat women and children. They used tear gas and sound cannons to physically torture unarmed people. They shot a young girl in the eye with a rubber bullet. They blew a young woman’s arm apart with a concussion grenade, and blamed the water protectors. When the concussion grenades resulted in fires, cops blamed protectors and let the fires burn without allowing the fire department access. When the weather began to freeze, cops paired tear gas with water cannons to increase the physical torture. Oil cops placed burning vehicles in the roadway which blocked emergency vehicles from reaching people suffering from mass hypothermia. Fires built by protectors for heat were targeted by oil cops operating the water cannons. Cameras, footage, and storage devices have been confiscated by oil cops. Social media feeds have been disabled by complicit Silicon Valley companies who feign ignorance.

The UN is formally observing the situation for human rights abuses, but the view of Amnesty International observers who arrived was blocked.

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Image by Pax Ahimsa Gethen
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Image by Pax Ahimsa Gethen

Mainstream corporate media parrot the lies of law enforcement when not actively engaged in see-no-evil. Despite the corporate media blackout, social media feeds have filled with sentiments of support for the water protectors.

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Image by Pax Ahimsa Gethen

Amy Goodman of Democracy Now went to report on Standing Rock and was arrested, as were documentary film maker Deia Schlosberg, Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein, actress Shailene Woodley, and numerous Unicorn Riot reporters – who’ve supplied a steady stream of video throughout. Reporter Jordan Chariton of the Young Turks has gone numerous times to document the ugliness. New York Daily News writer and civil rights activist Shaun King has offered eloquent words. In early December, hundreds of veterans will offer themselves as human shields.

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Image by Pax Ahimsa Gethen
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Photo: FOSNA Solidarity Statement

We must stand in unison and declare that we will not abide the atrocities and war crimes being committed in our name, with our tax dollars, and on our watch: Attack dogs ripping flesh from peaceful protesters. Water being weaponized against water protectors. Oil police pointing their guns in the wrong direction. Multinational corporations bullying the people via the US government. Obama standing with the corporation and opposed to the only ethnic group who’ve been mistreated by the United States more than Black folks. And an acquiescent corporate media who’ve been paid billions in hush money by Big Oil in the form of ad buys.

Republicans Promising to Kill Supreme Court if Hillary Wins

Dr. Jill Stein Source: CC-BY, RAHurd
Dr. Jill Stein Source: CC-BY, RAHurd

I’m a radical leftist. I went from an Elizabeth Warren 2016 bumper sticker to a Feel the Bern 2016 model and I’m voting for Jill Stein. Not because we are spirit animals but because I want federal funding for the Green Party. And being one who is #neverHillary – the candidate who repeatedly scoffed at the notion of courting the left and instead cozied up with war criminals and Wall Street – I’m experiencing a bit of schadenfraude.

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Lt. Cmdr. John McCain
Lt. Cmdr. John McCain

Senator John McCain – feeling a bit of re-election pressure – hinted that Republicans would block any and all of Hillary Clinton’s Supreme Court justice nominees. And really, President Obama basically gave them permission when he nominated a conservative justice in Merrick Garland – a guy who was unanimously confirmed to the federal bench – and Senate Republicans refused to even meet with him, let alone hold confirmation hearings. Obama utterly failed to communicate to the public the unprecedented Republican obstructionism.

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Chuck Grassley

When Senator Chuck Grassley was asked about McCain’s outrageous comments, he doubled down on the threat.

I don’t know if Obama was afraid to be seen as an angry black man or if he is simply a classic, spineless Democrat (I’d like to see the internal emails). Either way, he allowed Republicans to take an inch with Garland (and their blocking & delaying of hundreds of federal & district court nominees), so now they’re threatening to strangle one of our three branches of government to death. Republicans, after all, don’t believe in government, so it fits their messaging when they break it.

That’s just the SCOTUS and the Senate, where Republicans will likely not even enjoy a majority.

paul_ryan_carroll_university_4Assuming Republicans retain control of the House, Hillary will be investigated by numerous GOP-led committees from the day she is sworn into office. House Speaker Paul Ryan and likely-House Oversight Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz have already assured it will happen.

Under the cloud of investigation, why hold confirmation hearings on her Supreme Court nominee? Why can’t they drag out investigations (and impeachment hearings) for three years then go back to saying the election should determine who gets to fill the court? Why would they pass any legislation that she proposes? That will likely be their message. And since corporate media has traded objectivity for neutrality…

uncle samIt’s insanity. It’s incorrigible. It’s un-American. But Republicans are in the minority. They are a withering, essentially regional, political party. They are lashing out in fear. Fear of a browning populace embodied in a black president with a Muslim name. Fear of losing culture wars over queer acceptance. Fear of feminazis and alimonies culminating in a woman in the Oval Office. A woman who – having been convinced over the course of 30 years is the devil – united them in hatred.Nazi_Hillary_-_September_15,_2007

Oh, but they were going to call Bernie a Socialist… Neoliberals are pathetic.

Rejecting Lesser-Evilism

The two-party false-binary is dead to me.

Sharia-law-BillboardConservatives live in an alternate universe where black folks and the lgbtq community have extra special rights that poor, unfortunate whites do not enjoy. They believe that the US military has been purposely & thoroughly depleted; and Muslims are on the precipice of instituting Sharia in Sheboygan. They’ve gone so mad that Democrats – needing only to seem slightly less evil – have lurched further & further right. In doing so, they force Republicans to take more extreme positions for contrast.

Reagan_BoraxoIn many respects, Barack Obama & Hillary Clinton are more conservative than Ronald Reagan. As governor of California, Reagan signed the Therapeutic Abortion Act, and the Mulford Act which banned the open-carry of firearms. Besides, Richard Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency; and George H. W. Bush referred to trickle-down as “voodoo” economics.

Hillary has called herself a moderate. Obama said he would have been a moderate Republican in the 80’s. They agree with Republicans because they are in effect, Republicans. Yet they head the Democratic Party, because both represent the moneyed donor class as one.

It’s been forty years since the Democrats represented the interests of the working class. It’s by design.

Lewis Powell
Lewis Powell

The Supreme Court ruled in the mid/late Seventies that corporations are people & money is speech ergo political bribery has 1st Amendment protection. Corruption had always been around, this allowed them to openly and legally purchase our government at auction and use it to enrich themselves at our expense. This put Democrats at a disadvantage since Republican economic and tax policies favor billionaires and multinational corporations.

jimmy_carter_joggingDemocratic President Jimmy Carter was (is) an Evangelical. But Reagan proposed a marriage between the chamber of commerce and the religious right which endures to this day.Donald_Spitz_holds_anti-abortion_sign

Democrats were seen as weak, having been anti-war in respect to Vietnam. Anti-poverty programs and progressive tax policy were framed as socialism. Social liberals were framed as godless pinko commies and feminazis. Liberal had successfully been branded a slur.

bill_clinton_al_goreIn response, liberal elites decided that they too would sell out to corporate interests in order to level the playing field. They formed the Democratic Leadership Council. New Democrats would employ triangulation by being tough on crime, espousing hawkish foreign policy, and catering to Wall Street – whose interests are in direct opposition to those of working people. Neo-liberals stress compromise and – outside of gay rights and the bodily autonomy of women – generally agree with Republicans.

dnc_protest_27930237093When Democrats and Republicans agree it’s usually bad for the American people. They agree that we should embrace austerity, imperialism, mass surveillance, mass incarceration, prohibition, fracking, off-shore drilling, new pipelines, TPP, cutting corporate taxes, cutting social insurance programs, continuing corporate welfare, a permanent tax holiday on overseas earnings, and the repeal of habeas corpus. They are jointly opposed to a two-state solution, breaking up the banks, single-payer healthcare, campaign finance reform, $15 minimum wage, universal pre-k, free college, student debt forgiveness, expanding Social Security, and meaningful gun safety measures.

OWS.Box2.Change_Obama._Joy_Leftow._David_Everitt-CarlsonBill Clinton deregulated Wall Street & corporate media, slashed welfare rolls, and oversaw the imprisonment of more black people than any other president. Obama bombed at least seven majority-Muslim nations, made the Bush tax cuts permanent, implemented the Republican version of universal healthcare, accelerated the use of drone wars, enshrined legal framework for assassinating American citizens, nominated a conservative for the SCOTUS, and even went so far as to offer to gut Social Security benefits in his dogged pursuit of the ever elusive grand bargain.

Forty years of neoliberalism – of Democrats acting as Republican-lite – have meant wage stagnation and the disappearing of a once-robust middle class.

Donald_Trump_-_Riding_the_Wrecking_BallEconomic (and demographic) frustration birthed the rise of authoritarian fascist Donald Trump. Faced with the threat of cheeto-Mussolini, Democratic Party elites purposely rigged the primary in favor of the most hated Democratic candidate in US history. Rather than risk implementation of a real progressive agenda, they gambled our nation’s future on a widely-distrusted corporatist. In a time of economic frustration which saw the rise of both Bernie and Trump, Democrats cast their lot with the establishment. So out of touch with the everyday struggles of the working poor, Democrats lifted up the protector of the status quo.

donna_brazile_1Debbie Wasserman Schultz resigned after being caught using the DNC to tilt the scales against Bernie Sanders. She was replaced by Donna Brazile, who used her position at CNN to funnel Hillary a primary debate question.

Hillary assured Wall Street executives that the public statements she makes have no bearing on her actual, private beliefs which she shares with them. It was confirmed that she is pro-TPP and was pro-Keystone XL (and hasn’t said a word about DAPL). With an audience of Wall Street executives, Hillary scolded environmentalists, telling them to “Get a life, you know?”

We saw unethical coordination between the Clinton Foundation and the State Department. We saw quid pro quo – meetings with Bill, ambassadorship appointments, and approval of arms deals. We saw illegal coordination between Hillary’s presidential campaign and pro-Hillary Super PACs.

This is the person who democrats chose as their standard bearer. And rather than try and court the hundred million Americans who will choose not to vote this November, they instead scolded progressives for daring to challenge Democrats’ deal leader. Hillary scoffed at the notion that she should court the left. She instead cozied up to neocons and Jeb donors – garnering the endorsement of war criminals and establishment Republicans.

bern14Hillary and her acolytes spat in the face of progressives. Her campaign tried to frame the most progressive candidate in history as a sexist. They tried to frame a guy who was at the March on Washington and was arrested protesting segregation as a racist. They tried to frame Bernie Sanders – a Jew – as an anti-Semite. They cast progressives as sexist Bernie Bros and Jill Stein voters as white privileged Trump enablers. Anyone who dared speak on the contents of the Podesta leaks was labeled an agent of the Kremlin. They would rather initiate World War III than admit that their favored candidate might be flawed.

That’s who Democrats are.

Dr. Jill Stein Source: CC-BY, RAHurd
Dr. Jill Stein Source: CC-BY, RAHurd
Image by Becker1999 via flickr
Image by Becker1999 via flickr

They don’t have to earn the votes of people whose loyalty is without question. I don’t care that our first-to-the-post Electoral College system favors two major parties. I reject lesser-evilism. I’ll vote Jill Stein in hopes that the Green Party reaches 5% and earns matching federal funds. And I’ll continue to fight against Hillary Clinton’s neoliberal agenda every step of the way.

Roger Goodell is Terrible

Roger Goodell is a terrible commissioner.

kam_chancellor_vs-_rams_2014howard_cosell_1975To be clear: that he is terrible at his job has no bearing on whether he will keep it. Football reigns supreme atop the sports mountain. Superhuman athletes adorned with body armor and shiny head-gear collide at high rates of speed. Time in between allow time to break down individual plays for the viewer. Story-lines are easily followed with weekly  held contests. Which are held on the weekend, until the eyes of the nation unite on Monday night. Fantasy games make each and every contest from coast to caost – not just the home team – of great import. And of course, the addictive nature of gambling.

mini_mite_redskins_defeat_dolphins_141025-m-th981-001The game of football is great shape, and will remain so until American culture views each and every play as cumulative, sub-concussive trauma resulting in permanent cognitive effects on the players. That’s the only way for mothers to keep their sons from playing or their husbands from watching. Until then, the money will be substantial, and poor kids will keep playing in search of a better life. And that’s great – I love football!

In a sense, Roger Goodell’s only job is keeping the whole concussion thing under wraps. But that has more to do with the long-term health of the sport. And his title is not Caretaker of the Sport. He is the Commissioner of the NFL. His employers are the 32 team owners. They are not caretakers either (well the Maras or the Rooneys, but I digress).

Dan Snyder
Dan Snyder

pete_rozelle_and_george_halas

Team ownership has evolved over time. It used to be that wealthy individuals, such as newspaper owners, would purchase teams as status symbols. It was understood that yearly profits from operating teams were relatively minimal; the real money was in eventually cashing out on the sale given the strength of the brand. That dynamic has completely changed. Today, most owners are in it because they’ve made billions in business, and they expect the same yearly profits and on the field success from their teams. And now they’re the buying newspapers as status symbols.

jerry_jones_2015_2
Jerry Jones

In that sense, Roger Goodell’s only job is to keep the money rolling in. League revenue is roughly $13b/yr and the least valued team is worth approximately $1.4b. The owners are mostly old, white, wealthy, Republicans who gladly pay Roger Goodell $40m/yr to take their lumps all the way to a 28% approval rating.

It’s well deserved.

The initial portrayal of Roger Goodell was of a longtime league employee and understudy of Paul Tagliabue. The first decision which brought scrutiny was Spygate. The New England Patriots had been caught filming their opponents’ (Jets and Packers, at least) sideline signals from the stands during a game. They were accused of systematically matching plays to illegally obtained footage of signals which were memorized in the week leading up to the game by a designated individual in order to decipher the opposing team’s plays in real time during games.

bob_kraft-george_bush-bill_belichickPatriot owner Robert Kraft was a league heavyweight. Craft and Coach Bill Belichick had led the team to three league championships (and were accused of spying on Rams practices in 2002). Throwing a dynasty into question would be crippling, if not a death knell, for a league.

Goodell ordered the evidence destroyed. Fines and a lost draft pick.

potus-with-saints
Sean Payton

Then came Bountygate. The Saints were accused of rewarding players financially for big plays and hits. The practice was technically banned, though it was a long held league-wide practice and the rewards were often from the proceeds of player-led kangaroo courts. Coach Sean Payton was suspended for an entire season. Anthony Hargrove’s career was unjustly taken from him.

irsay_with_bush
Jim Irsay

Though there have been no work-stoppages, Goodell and the players maintain a strained relationship. The contracts are not guaranteed, so injury can mean financial ruin. The league has demanded unilateral powers for the commissioner in bargaining agreements. Goodell is seen to have a firm hand with the players, and uneven in other areas. Craft and Jim Irsay, for instance.

monday_night_football_game_121210-n-bj178-322The league forces players hand when it comes to press access and interviews. The league uses the military and breast cancer awareness as props. Yet they are unbending on player expression when it comes to celebrations and tributes on their cleats.

ricky_williamsThe NFL will unflinchingly discard players for the use of cannabis. Ricky Williams had a rapper for an agent and signed a questionable contract, and they took all his money back for using cannabis. Josh Gordon had one of the best seasons at wide receiver in league history at 22, and his on the field career may’ve sadly ended at 23 – because of the way the NFL under Roger Goodell treats the use of cannabis.

ray_rice_smiling_100817-f-8678h-031In contrast, when video of Ray Rice dragging his unconscious wife out of an elevator and callously stepping over her, the response of the NFL was to suspend him for two games. The man knocked his wife out cold in public! And the league gave him seemingly the least punishment possible. When video emerged of the incident Rice was suspended indefinitely (and the league kept selling ladies versions of the batterers’ jersey). Only when faced with public backlash did Goodell take the matter seriously. And in his haste brought about by his own ineptitude, Goodell went above his authority and punished Rice a second time for a single crime (and we learned the league had the elevator footage the entire time).

a-_peterson_2013It fits a pattern. Adrian Peterson was initially to receive a two-game suspension; until pictures emerged of the welts on his children and he was instead suspended a full season.

tom_brady_vs-_vikings_2014The league, owners, and Goodell will go to the Supreme Court to exert their authority. Deflategate may have been on purpose. The Patriots have a long history of shenanigans. But it had zero to do with their trouncing of the Colts in the playoffs. Tom Brady was suspended for four games for slightly deflated balls no one ever cared about before or since. Greg Hardy threatened a woman’s life and threw her on a bed covered in guns; he received the same four-game punishment.

josh_brown_american_football
Josh Brown

It’s just another example of in a long line of questionable Goodell decisions – one after another. He claims he has learned from his missteps in regards to domestic violence and proportional punishment. He’s proclaimed a standard six-game suspension. Yet Josh Brown was given a one-game suspension.

Colin Kaepernick is reviled and scorned. Yet Josh Brown – who admitted years ago to treating his wife like a slave and viewing himself as her god – is called a good man by the team owner and given seemingly the least punishment possible.

image by au kirk via wikimedia commmons cc-by-2.0

Once again, public backlash has pressured the league into doing the right thing. Josh Brown will likely never play again. He’s had a long and financially beneficial career at 38. Like Rice, his skills have eroded to the point he is no longer worth the hassle. Hardy was welcomed back because they still viewed his talents as worthy – so he returned until his skills rendered him expendable. Because the league, and Roger Goodell, don’t really think domestic violence is a threat to their brand.

josh_gordon_2014_browns_training_camp_3
Josh Gordon

But cannabis and social justice issues? Conservative owners have no time for that. So Josh Gordon is exiled and Colin Kaepernick is compared to Rae Carruth. And Roger Goodell makes $40m/yr to take their lumps.

Email Leaks Prompt Hillary to Ratchet Up Cold War Rhetoric

Hillary Clinton is dangerous.

kissinger-pinochet
Pinochet & Kissinger

She was the leading Democratic advocate for the Iraq War. Yet that alone did not compel war criminals Henry Kissinger & John Negroponte to endorse her candidacy for president:

She supported the 2009 Honduras coup which caused enough violence to result in a refugee crisis we shamefully & simultaneously ignored & fear-mongered. Libya is a shambles since the assassination of Gaddafi, which Hillary supported and defiantly insists is a success story. She supports opposing sides of the civil war in Syria. She threatened to attack Iran. Her position on Israel/Palestine is to the right of every single current and former US president.

mccarthy
Senator Joseph McCarthy

Rather than confront the substance of leaked emails, Hillary, her campaign, and much of a parroting corporate media are employing McCarthy-ite, Red Scare antics. They are waving the contents off as Russian propaganda unworthy of dissemination. Those reporting on the damning leaks have been castigated as complicit agents of the Kremlin.

David Sirota
David Sirota

Just the New York Times, the Intercept, The Young Turks, the International Business Times, and a few others are reporting the leaks without caveat.

Despite Wikileaks’ 100% record of authenticity – and Clinton’s own admission of the emails’ authenticity during a presidential debate – the Podesta leaks have been brushed off by Clinton surrogates as Kremlin-doctored fakes.

Worse, Cold War flames are being fanned for partisan & personal political gain. Without providing a single bit of evidence, Hillary Clinton & Barack Obama have accused Russia of meddling in our presidential election. They are claiming that Donald Trump, Vladamir Putin, and Julian Assange are in cahoots to undermine Hillary’s ascent to power. And that Russia is behind all of the hacks –Hillary’s campaign staff emails, the DNC, and dozens of state voter databases.

Here’s their case: Guccifer 2.0, who claimed responsibility, is Romanian (Russia-adjacent?). The hacker(s) utilized tactics used by Russian hackers in the past. Ex-KGB Agent Putin is the marionette of dimwitted Trump, who is vulnerably indebted to Russian banks, having been black-balled for defrauding many in the US. Trump-henchman Roger Stone has ties to Julian Assange of Wikileaks, who clearly has disdain for Hillary.

Julian Assange
Julian Assange

Also, Assange lost journalistic free speech rights when he conspired to hold onto the emails for maximum impact on the presidential election, and thus should face extradition (or worse). John Kerry didn’t pressure Ecuador to cut his internet. John Podesta is a private citizen whose privacy was violated. And Russia committed a cyber attack against the US.

Whether any or all of that is accurate – given WMDs & the Gulf of Tonkin their claims deserve scrutiny – is completely separate from the substance of the emails. No one cares that the Pentagon Papers were stolen. Or Donald Trump’s tax returns.

john_podesta_before_the_u-s-_senateJohn Podesta – of the Podesta Group, the third most influential lobbying group in the world – is one of the most powerful men in the world.

Hillary Clinton is on the verge of becoming the Leader of the Free World.

While I personally disagree with Wikileaks’ publishing of everything up to and including Podesta’s risotto recipe, many revelations in the emails are of great public import and very much need daylight.

Debbie Wasserman Schultz Source: CC-BY, US Congress
Debbie Wasserman Schultz

After all, former-DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz was pressured to resign as result of the DNC hack. She used her political position to tilt the primary election against Senator Bernie Sanders (before going back to work for Hillary’s campaign).

The American public were shown proof that Hillary’s State Department gave political favors, such as ambassadorships and approval of arms deals, to Clinton Foundation donors.

donna_brazile_1
Donna Brazile

The Podesta leaks continue to roll out by the thousands. We’ve thus far learned that Hillary was provided, in advance, a primary debate question by CNN contributor and now-interim DNC Chair Donna Brazile.

We see the Clinton camp feeding stories to friendly journos and being given final approval of stories in advance; and given interview questions in advance with final approval.

There is evidence of illegal coordination between the Clinton campaign and pro-Hillary super PACs Correct the Record and Priorities USA Action.

Hillary assured Wall Street executives that her public stances do not necessarily reflect her real, private positions which she shares with her fellow monied elites.

Hillary, along with her surrogates in the media and her online army of mercenary trolls, do not wish to deal with uncomfortable truths about their favored candidate. Rather, they obfuscate and saber-rattle.

This is extremely dangerous and will have effects long outlasting this particular political campaign. An adversarial relationship with Russia is the path toward mutually assured destruction. We’ve been (rightly) accusing each other of human rights abuses and war crimes. Our plutonium reprocessing deal was cancelled. Our Syrian cease-fire was broken.

Ronald Reagan promised Mikhail Gorbachev that NATO would not move an inch toward Russia. In a bold move of aggression, we offered NATO membership to Russia’s neighbor Ukraine. Estonia and Latvia are already NATO aligned. We essentially occupy the Russian border. We are in a constant state of reverse-Cuban Missile Crisis and most Americans don’t seem to know or care.

trump Tronald_DumpDonald Trump is a fascist mad-man. He says Japan & Saudi Arabia should have nukes. He may be a belligerent bumbler, but he is not actively pushing for WWIII. Trump says he wants to work with Putin to defeat ISIS (Daesh). We cannot work with them while busily fear-mongering and threatening retaliation. Let them burn their money bombing peace into the Middle East for a while – we could use a break.

Hillary wants a no-fly zone in Syria, enforcement of which would require boots on the ground. Besides, Daesh doesn’t have any planes in Syria – they don’t have any planes at all. Russia does. Would Hillary have us shoot down a Russian pilot and instigate Word War III for inevitably violating a nonsensical no-fly zone in Syria?

Hillary Clinton has called for a military response to a cyber attack. They are calling these leaks a cyber attack and blaming Russia! Thanks to Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, we are closer to nuclear war than at any time in at least a generation.

The Cold War is resurrected. For political expediency.

Echo Chambers: A Brief History of US Media

We live in a society where conservatives and progressives have differing sets of facts. It’s not just a matter of interpretation – such as why it is that black people are incarcerated and unemployed at higher rates. We cannot agree on basic facts like what the unemployment rate really is.

The cause is plainly obvious: We live in separate echo chambers in which we consume our news from sources that reinforce our political biases. We eliminate sources which disagree with our partisan beliefs and become intellectually siloed.

 

Tolstoy
Tolstoy

The solution is also obvious: Don’t do that. Consume news from sources with which you generally disagree. (If only to hear the other side of the argument so you know how to respond in a debate setting.)

kim_kardashian_4Thankfully, we have the whole of human knowledge at our fingertips. It’s on us whether to read Tolstoy or to Keep Up with the Kardashians.

Cronkite
Cronkite

If we want to be politically informed it’s not easy since there are no widely trusted sources. There are most-watched cable news networks and programs. There are most-viewed websites and youtube.com channels. But we no longer have newsmen (and women) like Walter Cronkite who we believed would portray the news honestly. So we retreat to our echo chambers.

How did we get here?

Joseph Pulitzer & William Randolph Hearst
Joseph Pulitzer & William Randolph Hearst

The first thing to understand is that the Cronkite-era trusted news source was an anomaly. We’ve had freedom of the press since the inception of our nation. But when the 1st Amendment was written all of the news was politically biased. Print media was partisan seemingly by definition. Sensationalized yellow journalism came about in the late 1800’s.

When television sets invaded our homes we demanded that in exchange for the privilege of utilizing our publicly owned airwaves networks were required to broadcast an hour of factual news. They were required to feature topical political matters in a truthful manner – completely separate from entertainment. It was understood that broadcast networks would take a loss for an hour of public service in exchange for using our publicly owned utility. In doing so, they slowly earned our trust.

On the other hand …

In the 1950’s Sylvester Weaver of NBC created Today, a chummy morning show which was…newsy. ABC & CBS eventually responded in the 1970’s with their own newsy morning shows in Good Morning America & This Morning, respectively. Local news stations had been raking in cash with sensationalized if it bleeds it leads news since the 1960’s. Then, Don Hewitt of CBS created 60 Minutes. It was the first prime-time news program to turn a profit. It utilized a formula of journalists as protagonists. Soon, Roone Arledge of ABC News provided competition in 20/20 & Nightline. Cable and CNN then emerged in the 1980’s. GE bought NBC and the news media which informs our public was fully morphed into a profit-driven venture.

No longer did we have a Big Three of trusted networks with trusted anchors. Suddenly there was a glut of options, creating stiff competition for eyes and ad dollars.

Bill Clinton statue in Ballybunion, Ireland
Bill Clinton statue in Ballybunion, Ireland

Thankfully, we had laws restricting ownership of media. A person or company could own print media or network media in a given market, not both. As such, our media was provided by dozens of sources. Until President Bill Clinton deregulated the media with the Telecommunications Act, which brought about media consolidation. Today, ninety percent of our media – from newspapers and magazines and books to movies and television – is owned by six corporations: Comcast, Viacom, CBS, Time Warner, Disney, and News-Corp.

Roger Ailes
Roger Ailes

We used to trust our media and it used to serve us well. Brutal images of the Vietnam War caused public backlash and compelled us to eventually pull out. The Watergate scandal was exposed by Woodward & Bernstein, and finally hitched to President Richard Nixon by David Frost. Nixon, (along with media consultant Roger Ailes) realized that public opinion could be molded by creating entire news packages which mainstream news media would faithfully display unedited on their behalf.

Ailes expanded that model with Fox News. MSNBC emerged in kind.

Jimmy Dore
Jimmy Dore

leno-obamaToday, cable and network news personalities pretend to play it down the middle – the Leno model, as imitated by Jimmy Fallon. He says the sky is red, she says the sky is blue – I guess we’ll never know! They’ve traded objectivity for neutrality. In doing so, they’ve squandered any and all credibility.  Our news anchors have become mannequinian script-readers who hope only not to offend by telling an uncomfortable truth or admitting to having an informed opinion.

They cannot offend any audience lest they lose ratings. They cannot offend any politician lest they lose access. They cannot offend any ad buyer lest they lose their platform.

So we flock to the internet. The multinational corporations funding television haven’t yet figured out how to monetize social media or web-based news. And we still have net-neutrality, for the time being, so that those in power are not able to slow access to unfavorable sites.

Ben Franklin in a fur hat
Ben Franklin in a fur hat

We have the ability to seek out reliable and varied news sources. We have the responsibility of being an informed citizen and voter. We have the luxury of self-governance – if we can keep it.

“Free” Country

The United States is neither a free country nor a democracy. As we are reminded quadrennially, we elect our president not by popular vote but with the electoral college system. We pretend to vote for president while we are actually voting for a delegate who then votes – hopefully – on our behalf. Same with our governing system – we elect officials who theoretically act in the interest of the people they represent.

Unfortunately, our democracy has been lost. A recent Princeton/Northwestern study showed that the will of the people is reflected in public policy only when the wealthy happen to agree. A country whose laws are determined solely by the opinions of the wealthy is not a democracy but an oligarchy. As such, our laws are written – whether in the letter of the law or in practice – to protect those in power & defend the status quo.

We are loyal worker bees who sit patiently at red traffic lights at 3am when no traffic is present out of fear we’ll be caught and ticketed by law enforcement, yet those in power have little fear of legal woes. Poor folks are locked away in privatized debtors’ prisons, while the wealthy go scot-free. Prosecutors overcharge and threaten maximum sentences to coerce poor suspects into taking plea deals while the wealthy employ pricey lawyers to flout our unjust system of criminal justice.

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
We celebrate Christopher Columbus – a guy who wrote with braggadocio about how easily he raped and murdered in the “New World.” We put a genocidal maniac (Andrew Jackson) on our twenty dollar bill. Not only did Richard Nixon go uncharged for his felonious role in the Watergate scandal – he should have been executed for high treason for negotiating to keep the Vietnam War going until he was president. Henry Kissinger & John Negroponte were never held accountable for death squadsgenocide, and toppling governments. Oliver North went to jail for his role in Iran/CONTRA, but only as Ronald Reagan’s eager fall-guy.

George_obamaGeorge W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Colon Powell – all should have been jailed for lying us into an illegal war of unprovoked aggression in Iraq. Barack Obama, in explaining why he would not hold investigations of the Iraq War architects, argued that we should look forward – as though crimes are only committed in the future and past criminal activity should be forgiven on general principle.

Image by GageSkidmore via wikimediacommons
Image by GageSkidmore via wikimediacommons

Obama himself is hoping to not be investigated for the callous murder of civilians with our drone army. Rod Blagoyavich went to prison for trying to sell Obama’s vacated senate seat – yet no one is investigating Hillary Clinton for handing ambassadorships to political/foundation donors. No one is investigating Donald Trump for using his foundation to duck taxes and pay his legal fees, or using campaign funds to enrich his personal businesses.

Jamie Dimon
Jamie Dimon

Wall Street brought the entire world economy to its knees with their fraudulent activities; HSBC was caught laundering money for drug cartels. Yet the only person who went to jail was Bernie Madoff – a guy who made the grave mistake of scamming fellow rich people. Wells Fargo fired 5000 hourly-wage salespeople while multimillionaire executives escaped unblemished. We knowingly bombed a Doctors Without Borders hospital for an hour despite distress calls and we blamed low-level servicemen for “procedural” errors.

We live in a country where a black man (Eric Garner) can be choked to death for suspicion of selling loose cigarettes, yet a rich white kid is given probation for killing four stranded people (including a pastor) with a stolen car while drunkenly driving following a beer-run (affluenza teen Eric Couch). We lock people away for the victim-less crime of smoking cannabis while pharmaceutical companies are allowed to bribe doctors to push their drugs off-label, resulting in an epidemic of heroin overdoses among former opioid prescribees.

Our free country features a secretive government which uses executive privilege, white papers, and over-classification to shield public policy from public knowledge. Our free country features one quarter of the entire worlds’ prison population. Our free country institutionalizes racism in the form of our racial profiling, our racist drug war, racist stop & frisk, racist broken windows, racist mandatory minimums (crack/powder cocaine disparity).

Our Bill of Rights is an utter sham:

ferguson111st Amendment: Politicians brazenly flaunt their disregard for the separation of church/state. We explicitly promote Christianity on our money. We profile Muslims at our airports and deny them permits for houses of worship. We imprison journalists and whistle-blowers who expose government wrong-doing. We label protests unsanctioned by the government as “unlawful assemblies.”

Snowden_ASYL_(15186216900)4th Amendment: Our government spies on our communications without warrant – all of our emails, phone calls, text messages, social media, chat rooms… They use our webcams and video game consoles to watch and listen to us. The FBI writes National Security Letters to itself when it wants to violate the constitution. The NSA goes to a secretive FISA court to get classified rulings on mass surveillance.

5th & 6th Amendments: We suspended habeas corpus so we can lock people away without charge – people who are not allowed to face their accusers, let alone at a speedy trial before their peers.

ferguson10Abu_Ghraib_538th Amendment: Not only do we torture prisoners of war, we torture our own people. Our government purposely murders its own citizens with lethal injection – sometimes with hellfire missile via drone strike (Samir Khan, Anwar al-Awlaki, Abdul Rahman al-Awlaki, Jude Kenan Mohammad – sense a pattern?). We ravage the minds of our prisoners with solitary confinement. We thrust our prisoners into a gang culture where they are violently raped without recourse. Phone call costs are prohibitive. Pell Grants and all sorts of reading materials are banned. Prisoners often die from denied medical treatment. Cops kill unarmed citizens literally every single day without punishment. New York pays out millions every year in police brutality settlements; Chicago cops have a literal black site.

13th Amendment: We have private prisons with built-in factories paying pennies on the hour for the slave-labor of inmates.

WBC_protest14th Amendment: We refuse to provide equal protection to our LGBTQ communities (employment, housing, parental…), effectively rendering them second-class citizens.

15th Amendment: Voter suppression efforts run rampant across the nation, largely thanks to the SCOTUS’ gutting of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. We have voter purges (interstate crosscheck; felon bans), Voter ID laws, electioneers shuttering polling stations in minority communities, cutting early voting and the hours of operation on election day, giving false information to voters, threatening prosecution of voters, banning same-day registration,  utilizing provisional ballots which go uncounted…

We live in an unjust and imperfect country. Although we live in a nation of self-governance we’ve fully ceded the power of the people to plutocrats who’ve created differing sets of rules for the wealthy and for the masses. We must wrest control of our nation by political means before the blinding capitalistic greed of our ruling oligarchic elites set us on a downward spiral from which we cannot recognizably emerge.