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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.

David_cameron_annouces_resignation
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).

Make_Everything_Great_Again
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.)

Angela_Merkel_(2008)
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…

The Human Race toward Immortality & Extinction

the thinker -Le_Penseur_(8327862567)Albert_Einstein_Head_Cleaned_N_CroppedModern understanding of the vastness of spacetime provides added perspective to philosophers’ long-pondered dilemma regarding the meaning and relative significance of human existence. Not only are our own lives fleeting & fragile, but so too are those of entire civilizations & species. And when the timeline is eternity, the same is true of planets & galaxies.

Charles_Darwin_by_Julia_Margaret_Cameron_3The evolutional journey from stardust to planet to the cellular level requires billions of years. Millions more to sentience & cognition. Thousands still before technological advances turn the existential ponderings of individuals into conversations with species-wide implication. Specifically, whether scientific & technological achievements are combined with reason, peace, and unity to maintain an existence in near-perpetuity, or simply serve to accelerate self-extermination.

HindenbergAs we careen down these dueling paths, fast approaching the crossroads, specific advancements similarly portend of both opportunity and unintended consequences given implementation.

cave man Restoration_of_a_Neanderthal_man_in_profile._Wellcome_M0001106Tutankhamun's_mask_without_beardFor the vast majority of human history, only a lucky few saw the dawning of their fourth decade. We were hunted down by reptiles and big cats, so we tamed and teamed with wolves. We found man’s best friend in the canine, but eventually we got socialites with yapping rodent accessories in handbags – unintended consequences.

Monsanto pesticide to be sprayed on food crops.
Monsanto pesticide to be sprayed on food crops.

Monsanto_condensed_death_soup©herve_joseph_lebrun

We used to toil our days away preparing food and garments in order to sustain our daily lives. We’ve now factories to mass produce products of convenience – from refrigerators, microwaves, and vehicles, to family packs of pork chops and loaves of pre-sliced bread. However, sodium preservatives, and tax subsidies resulting in overuse of corn syrup, are destroying are bodies. Our overuse of antibiotics is leading to the evolution of superbugs. Our manner of corporate farming saps the soil of nutrients rather than enrichment. Our overreliance upon pesticides is destroying the bee colonies which pollinate much of the food which sustains human life, is causing the evolution of super-weeds, and poisoning our drinking water. We’ve drastically over-fished our seas.
BP Logo_BP_Delftdeepwater horizon Defense.gov_photo_essay_100421-G-0000L-003ExxonMobil-Logo.svgExxon OilCleanupAfterValdezSpillExon OilSheenFromValdezSpillThat’s just to feed ourselves.

water pollution -Ribeira_Lixo_GDFL_040825_049Water is another thing altogether. It has been said that you and I are drinking the same water as the dinosaurs. Planet earth has held the same amount of moisture throughout, variable is the form and cleanliness. Some water is found in underground aquifers, some is frozen in ice caps and on mountaintops, some is salinated in oceans and seas, some is within plants and animals. Water is only a problem if it’s not treated properly given the needs of growing populations. Unfortunately, rapidly increasing oceanic temperatures are bleaching coral reef habitats. We see islands of trash in oceans and urban waterways, and red tides suffocating sea life. We allow irresponsible municipalities to dump human waste into our waterways. We allow greedy manufacturing and fracking corporations to dump toxic and chemical waste into our waterways. We allow oil companies to spill crude.

Aliso_Canyon_methane_leak_Credit-_Earthworks_(23263541203) so cal gas-Entrance_Southern_California_Gas_CoOf course, multinational energy and manufacturing conglomerates are not only destroying the water we need to survive. They’re also privatizing the gains while socializing the losses by dumping pollution into the air we breathe. To be fair, we are all failing. When we purchase dollar store trinkets, we know that a single dollar could not possibly represent the cumulative value of mining of elements necessary for components of parts assembled by laborers and packaged then shipped across the globe.

washboard REA_woman_works_washboardOur products of convenience have made daily life much less physically difficult, but our increasing and overreliance upon them have the unintended consequence of hastening our collective self-destruction.

Traffic_Congestion_Brasilia_3Brushing_KidGrilling_Steaks_(with_border)Eighty-five percent of Americans drive to work. We use plastic for everything (it’s in our toothpaste, for shit’s sake). We eat tons of cows that fart tons of methane. Human sprawl has led to mass deforestation. Population increases and emerging middle classes thirst for more and more cheap energy. Human activity is cooking our planet, possibly beyond its capacity to sustain human life at current levels.

solar -LIMANSKAYA_SOLAR_POWERwind farmUSDA_windmillsWhile rapidly increasing temperatures are a grave threat, we must embrace opportunities in efforts to slow the trend. We’ve found ways to sequester carbon in algae plumes and soil. There are immediate job opportunities retrofitting buildings for energy efficiency; jobs constructing solar panels and wind & hydroelectric farms and connecting them to updated and more efficient power grids. Thankfully, we have a humongous fusion reactor in the sky, and a moon pulling our tides. We just need the political will to tax carbon and stop subsidizing energy companies who bribe politicians. And the personal will to adjust some daily habits – beginning with recycling. Short-term, we need advances in batteries for energy storage. Long-term, we require perfection of nuclear fusion (and the bending of spacetime).

dinosaur -TriceratopsTyrrellMuseum1earth North_America_from_low_orbiting_satellite_Suomi_NPPPlanet earth has survived numerous mass-extinctions. It’s been knocked off its axis by asteroids; it’s been at times covered with water, ice, and lava; it’s gone with or without an ozone layer; its atmosphere has been at times both mostly oxygen and mostly carbon. Our planet is resilient. Until the core cools, mother earth will bounce back from whatever malady it is forced to endure.

Humans are much more fragile.

Nagasakibomb8230656_f1024We’ve killed each other throughout history in often senseless wars which included razing of cities and genocide. Thankfully, the rate of war has been in steady decline for thousands of years. Domestically, violent crime has been in recession for twenty years. While we’ve used technology to become much more efficient at killing each other (species-wide self-immolation has been a real threat for 75 years, or roughly one human lifetime); though displacement and famine resulting from climate change will strain the matter, and current news events can color our perspective – we’re actually getting much better at not killing each other.

newborn -Bundesarchiv_Bild_146-1981-076-05A,_NSV-Mütterheim

A donated prosthetic arm is displayed. An Afghan boy injured by an insurgent’s improvised explosive device earlier this year received two donated prosthetic arms thanks to a few service members stationed here.
A donated prosthetic arm is displayed. An Afghan boy injured by an insurgent’s improvised explosive device earlier this year received two donated prosthetic arms thanks to a few service members stationed here.

Viruses, infection, and child-birth used to kill a great number of us. We discovered penicillin, vaccines, anesthesia, antibiotics… While global pandemic is an ever-present threat (like asteroids), medical advancements will soon allow opportunities for pseudo-immortality. We are on the verge of designer babies. We can grow tissue without stem cells. Soon we’ll be growing replacement organs. All that we require to be immortal is our thoughts, our minds, the observer. We could conceivably store our brains in little stationary tanks whilst we live our lives via Avatar-like host-bodies with readily available replacement parts. Plus, we’re on the verge of having holodecks like Star Trek which would pose no outward physical threats to our fragile, carbon based units. Also, our memories can be uploaded onto artificially intelligent software which could retain a semblance of you ad infinitum.

US-OR-Portland-20140204_052753_LLSThe path forward is clear. Our actions, and those of our children and grandchildren, will determine whether human beings attain immortality while hop-scotching across the universe for eternity – or whether we destroy ourselves out of complacency and greed.

Nevada Convention Emblematic of Sanders’ Campaign

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Harry Reid
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Barbara Boxer
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Krugman

bern13colbertThe debacle that was the 2016 Nevada Democratic Party convention perfectly sums up Bernie Sanders’ campaign. It wasn’t only that Hillary Clinton won. The entirety of mainstream media – from Rachel Maddow & Chris Hayes to Stephen Colbert & Trevor Noah to panels of “liberals” on CNN and NYT’s Paul Krugman – reported and lamented chair-throwing and death threats made by violent Bernie supporters. Hillary surrogate, Senator Barbara Boxer, claimed to have feared for her safety (despite being caught on video exiting while blowing seemingly sarcastic kisses at her supposed abusers). DNC Chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz paraded across cable news networks to denounce Senator Sanders and demand his apologies. The Nevada Democratic Party filed a formal complaint against Sanders’ campaign, and publicly warned the DNC to prepare for the violence sure to be unleashed by rabid Sanders loyalists who would be incited by the candidate at the national convention. And senate democrats gathered for the specific purpose of discussing “how to handle” the black sheep independent once he inevitably tucks tail and saunters back home.

However – as is often the case – the attacks of the establishment were meritless, so Bernie stood defiant and refused to back down. He denounced any and all violence, of course, but would not be cowed into apologizing. On the contrary, Senator Sanders countered that it was he who was wronged in Nevada.

As has been the case in many states, in the weeks leading up to the convention, Bernie supporters’ voter registrations were mysteriously switched to republican. Eight times as many as Hillary delegates were switched, and twice as many as her eventual margin of victory. Petitions and motions were ignored. California Senator Barbara Boxer berated booing Bernie delegates while claiming to represent him. Nevada Democratic Party Vice Chairman Chris Wicker reportedly exclaimed “this is not a democracy”.  Chairwoman Roberta Lange – and there’s video evidence – ignored obvious voice votes concerning the rules of the convention.  Angry Bernie delegates shouted – including profanities – in return. An angry man raised a chair and was intercepted by fellow supposedly-violent Bernie supporters who proceeded to hug-it-out.

jon ralston
Ralston

A single reporter, Jon Ralston, took to twitter armed with a still-shot of a man with a chair, and claimed that chairs (plural) were thrown by Bernie supporters who had rushed the stage prompting security to shut down the convention. Mainstream media, having actual video evidence of Lange’s voice-vote shenanigans which they conveniently chose to ignore, instead chose to run video of shouting delegates and propagate Ralston’s twitter tales of violent Bernie Bros with zero evidence whatsoever.

NPR admitted that their initial reporting was erroneous, and that there was no evidence of violence at the convention. Politifact determined that there has been no evidence of violence, despite many live streams and video of the event. The phalanx of law enforcement invited by the party to intimidate Bernie delegates somehow missed all of the supposed violence & chaos.

Barney_Frank_109th_congress
Barney Frank

No matter. The literati have determined Bernie and his brethren to be vile & contemptible rabble-rousers without a cause. Dismissed and derided from the beginning. The very serious people of the establishment have been telling themselves all along that Hillary was a shoe-in. That she’s a pleasant gramma who’s been very patient in her inevitable run to the Oval Office.

hillary nazi hillaryThey’ve refused to acknowledge how widely disliked & distrusted Hillary is – she has surpassed Trump as the most unpopular presidential candidate in US history. They’ve refused to accept poll after poll showing Bernie as the far more electable candidate who performs far better than Hillary in head-to-head general election match-ups.

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Debbie Wasserman-Schultz

They’ve convinced themselves that the frustration, the angst, the rage of the populace is either unfounded, or imagined by a relatively small number of youthfully naive & entitled malcontents deserving of derision. The Democratic Party has chosen to alienate the very people who should be the future of their party – while simultaneously commanding them to fall in line, or else. The DNC Chair – who on CNN compared Bernie supporters to Trump’s band of nihilistic nincompoops – led Hillary’s 2008 campaign, changed party rules to launder campaign cash through state party infrastructure for her 2016 campaign (which Hillary used to attack Bernie as disloyal), and limited the debate schedule to limit exposure to Bernie’s progressive message. (Plus, Southern states essentially go first, handing the early lead and associated press coverage to candidates who thrive in red states; independent voters – who support Bernie overwhelmingly – were kept from closed primaries in many states; in addition to the aforementioned mysterious registration switches.)

Chris_Matthews_and_Kathleen_Matthews_2010_Time
Chris & Kathleen Matthews

Corporate media (among Hillary’s biggest donors, though they never disclose their blatant conflicts of interest) began by ignoring Bernie, they then guffawed at his radical socialistic agenda, before joining the Democratic Party establishment in scorning him for daring to challenge the inevitable ascension of Hillary on her way to rescuing us from the hellscape sure to emerge from a nation left to the whims of a fascistic toddler.

They chortle away with one another at the notion that perfectly lovely Hillary – again, the most hated politician in the country – could possibly lose to a cotton candy-coiffed hate-monger. Trump may be an imbecilic, thin-skinned man-child. But he’s already pulled ahead in national polls. She’s losing. She’s already losing!

Hillary_Clinton_Testimony_to_House_Select_Committee_on_BenghaziHillary is tailor made for Trump’s attacks. She is a corrupt politician who came to his wedding because she’s bought. She sold out American workers by supporting terrible trade deals. She can’t be trusted. She is a neocon who was a disaster on Iraq and Libya. She’s under investigation by the FBI over her emails. Benghazi! Trump will surely happen across her Goldman transcripts, likely to further reveal her fawning over Wall Street banksters and lamenting harsh speech from folks like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders. Trump is a shape-shifter who will walk-back essentially everything, from the Muslim ban and the southern wall to his sudden stances as anti-gay and anti-choice. He will launch perpetual verbal attacks which will often go too far, but his supporters won’t care because he will never stop playing the part of alpha male, who they yearn to kneel before.

bern9bern16She will count on progressives to come out and vote. I certainly won’t be one of them. I liked Bill Clinton – for reasons having nothing to do with politics (sex, weed, & saxophone). I bought into Obama’s promises of hope & change in 2008 – and was disappointed to learn he had no interest in doing so. I have no allegiance to the Democratic Party whatsoever. They have to earn my vote, yet they seem to believe that they are owed simply for not being republicans.

bern7Bernie Birdie_Sanders_-_The_Canary_in_the_Coalmine_of_Democracy_(25765578730)Hillary Clinton has repeatedly scoffed at the very notion of attempting to bring progressives into the fold. She has – as in 2008 – run a disgusting campaign. They’ve portrayed Bernie Sanders – the most progressive politician in the country – as a liar, a fool, a racist… They’ve cast him – the most successful Jewish candidate in US history – as an anti-Semite. They’ve painted supporters as misogynistic pale-faced Bernie Bros – lazily recycling the Obama Boys charge of 2008.

trump Tronald_DumpAnd as of now, Hillary is losing to a mad man. Yet, rather than consider the reasons why she is so widely disliked, Bernie and the progressive movement is chided by party and media elites, who blame her unpopularity on Bernie and his violent bros for not shutting up already about her seriously flawed record, candidacy, and likelihood of victory come November. They’ve determined the threat of Bernie overturning their apple cart to be greater than the danger of (gulp) President Trump. In their moronic haste to skedaddle wild-eyed radicals – ie, the youth & the energy – from the Democratic Party, Beltway elites may be handing the keys to the country over to an orangutanian lunatic.trump Düsseldorf,_Rosenmontag_2016,_politische_Karnevalswagen_(05)

Thank You, Donald Trump – Ted Cruz Edition

I certainly hope not to dissuade anyone motivated to go out and vote against the possibility of a Trump presidency – but man, did we dodge the Ted Cruz bullet. If Trump somehow wins, and we unleash a police state capable of going door-to-door looking for undocumented brown people, and institute concentration camps for Muslims, then I’ll be proven wrong. But Ted Cruz is the real terror. Ted Cruz is a demagogic fundamentalist maniac.

Ted_Cruz_(7150329087)mccarthyI started to write of him when elected to the senate in 2012, warning of a modern-day Joe McCarthy. Cruz has done nothing to disappoint. He drips with condescension & flop-sweat. Greasily self-righteous – he is the human embodiment of smarm. Even his biography is repellent.

rafael cruzdidloBorn in Canada to a Cuban father, Rafael, who raised young Ted with the moniker of “Chosen One” (and who’s called Obama a Marxist who should go back to Kenya – oh, and he’s an Evangelical preacher). Ted was a National debate champion who graduated cum laude from Princeton and magna cum laude from Harvard Law. He prepared testimony for Bill Clinton’s impeachment. He assisted in Bush v Gore in 2000. He argued that there is no Constitutional right to self-pleasure while attempting to ban dildos before the Texas Supreme Court. At a campaign rally, he thoughtfully reassured a 5 year-old girl at a campaign rally, “Yes! Your world is on fire!”

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

The man inspires universal revulsion. Everyone from his college roommate to Bush 2000 campaign staffers have trashed him. Dubya himself admitted “I just don’t like the guy.” Widely considered the most hated man in congress, revered Republican Sen. Bob Dole said of Cruz, “nobody likes him.” Speaker John Boehner has called him everything from a “false prophet” and “Lucifer in the flesh” to “that jackass” and “miserable son of a bitch.” Senator John McCain called him a “wacko bird” (a label which Cruz embraced).

mcconnellCruz called Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell a liar on the senate floor. During confirmation hearings, he insinuated that eventual Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel received hundreds of thousands of dollars from Saudi Arabia and/or North Korea. He laments fellow republicans assquishes. He refers to a Washington cartel.

Ted_Cruz_at_CPAC_2015_by_Michael_S._Vadon_05_(cropped)obamaupsetHe calls Obama “the world’s leading financier of radical Islamic terrorism” who “went on a world-wide apology tour” and is “openly desirous to destroy the constitution, and this republic.” He’s blamed the murder of police on Obama’s supposed “attacks from the top down.” In a bit of unintentional irony, Ted read Green Eggs & Ham aloud (“I do like green eggs and ham”) on the senate floor in a petulant fit over the implementation of Obamacare, which dubbed “the nation’s biggest job killer”, and over which Cruz caused a government shutdown.

Soros
Soros

Ted Cruz believes that communists have overrun Harvard Law. He speaks of leftists and the radical left. He claims that the “overwhelming majority of violent criminals are democrats.” He believes that (conservative bogey man) George Soros is behind a global liberal plot called Agenda 21, meant not only to eliminate private property, paved roads, and gold courses – but to round American citizens into concentration FEMA camps. Cruz advanced the Jade Helm 15 conspiracy that the federal government was to invade Texas, Arizona, Utah, and other red states in 2015 (Cruz blamed Obama, saying he “produces fear, produces distrust”).

Ted_Cruz_by_Gage_Skidmore_8Bill_Nye,_2011Ted Cruz claims that “climate change is not science, it’s religion” pushed by “global warming alarmists” and “liberal politicians who want government power.” He says that gun-free zones create a “bunch of targets” and that guns are the “ultimate check against government tyranny.” Ted Cruz is against the legalization of cannabis, calling it a 10th Amendment issue that should be left to the states. He is opposed to net-neutrality, calling it “Obamacare for the internet” which would make the web “run at the speed of government.” He promises to abolish the IRS, and disband its 110k agents (actually 25k; Cruz is an idiot, even checks for payment of his beloved flat-tax would have to be sent somewhere). He is opposed to normalized relations with Cuba. Ted Cruz is engaged in war against the liberal bias of facts: he called Politifact “yellow journalism”, saying “first they came with the fact checkers, we said nothing…”

WBC_protestTed_Cruz_(7004284762)800px-Gay_Pride_Parade_2012_(7858067370)Cruz called on “100,000 pastors” to “tell the truth” about how Planned Parenthood is “trafficking baby parts”, which he says the DoJ should be investigating. He says that PP should be defunded and ultimately shuttered since there is no shortage of “rubbers.” On the PP shooter: “transgendered leftist activist.” Abortion: “I will do everything in my power to end the scourge of abortion once and for all.” Trans rights: “my 5 year-old knows the difference between boys and girls.” Marriage equality: “very definition of government tyranny” which qualifies practicing Christian faith “as hate speech.”

Adolf_Hitlerted cruzTed Cruz says that American Muslim neighborhoods should be monitored and patrolled. On Syrian refugees: “roll the dice…unacceptable risk…they could be jihadis coming to kill” & “utter lunacy.” He has called for more torture of prisoners of war and has promised to carpet bomb the Middle East until we find out if “sand glows in the dark.”

In every imaginable way, Ted Cruz is the worst possible candidate for president, and likely the most despicable and abhorrent person in all of American politics. Trump is a wildcard. Ted Cruz would actually do most of the maniacal and idiotic things which we fear of Trump. Consider us lucky. Well, as lucky as can be expected given the likelihood of the oiled-midget wrestling match that is Hillary v Trump. (No offense to little people.)2016_Republican_Clown_Car_Parade_-_Trump_Exta_Special_Edition_(18739683269)

Feeling the Bern

Bernie_SandersA self-described democratic socialist – if elected, Bernie Sanders would be, at 75, the oldest president in US history. Though non-practicing (and widely believed to be atheist), he would also be the first Jewish executive.

Conventional political wisdom says that a septuagenarian socialist Jew, promising political revolution – and to amend the US Constitution – has zero chance of being elected president of the United States. The attack ads practically write themselves: Too old! Free stuff! Big government! Debt! Taxes! Socialist! Non-believer! Hates Israel! ISIS!!!

The President and First Lady enjoy a dance on stage at one of 16 Inaugural Balls
The President and First Lady enjoy a dance on stage at one of 16 Inaugural Balls

hillaryHillary Clinton is perhaps the most front-running, and most qualified, presidential candidate in US history. Bill will always be the first black president to many – contributing to Hillary’s fabled & supposedly impenetrable Super Tuesday Southern firewall, long thought to represent the demise of Sanders’ upstart campaign. Hillary is running as the caretaker of Barack Obama’s legacy, and he’s essentially endorsed her candidacy.

John_Lewis_-_Presidential_Medal_of_FreedomShe has the endorsement of Civil Rights legend John Lewis, former Secretary of State Madeline Albright, feminist icon Gloria Steinem, Rev Al Sharpton, Beyonce, Katy Perry, Ariana Grande, Kerry Washington, Lena Dunham, Will Ferrell, Angie’s List, Planned Parenthood, the Congressional Black Caucus PAC, many of the nation’s largest labor unions…

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@GovHowardDean
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@DWStweets

Hillary enjoys a near-5/1 advantage among super-delegates. Democratic National Committee Chair (and Hillary’s 2008 campaign co-chair) Debbie Wasserman-Schultz changed the DNC rules in order to funnel cash to Hillary’s campaign, limited the number of debates to limit Bernie’s free media coverage, and briefly cut off access to Sanders’ own voter data.

Donald_Trump_by_Gage_Skidmore_2Once debates began, Hillary was proclaimed triumphant by corporate media, seemingly before the questions began. While not busily ignoring Bernie Sanders (giving Trump up to 90x more free air time), establishment media treated the senator as though a quaint curmudgeon – a curious little old man who was for some strange reason pointing his fingers & shouting about seemingly any & everything like a soap box-hopping loon in the town square.

Barack_Obama_with_artistic_gymnastic_McKayla_Maroney_2After all, gas prices are incredibly low. In the midst of 70-plus months of job growth, the unemployment rate is sub-5%.The stock market has more than doubled since depths of the crash. The budget deficit has been halved since 2009. Millions of people now have health insurance, as healthcare spending has risen at the lowest rate in 50 years. Cannabis is now legal in four states; gay marriage is legal nationwide. We elected our first black president, and we now have the opportunity to elect our first female president.occupy wake up

So why is this Bernie guy rocking the boat? How does he keep rising the polls? He’s gonna to raise taxes! He’s a socialist, for fuck’s sake! Can’t you see?!?

bern3bush defenseWe do see. We’ve been lied to, we’ve rightly lost faith in our institutions, and it’s been decades in the making. From systematic worldwide child-rape & cover-up of pedophile priests, to cops killing our kids in the streets without consequence. Lies about Vietnam & Watergate, to lies about WMDs & al-Qaeda in Iraq. Lies about Hope & Change, to lies about pragmatism & incrementalism. Lies in our history books, to lies in the media.

bern2Our eyes are wide open, and Bernie Sanders is the only candidate painting an accurate picture.

ferguson13Our homes were foreclosed. The ones we kept depreciated to the point we’re underwater on our mortgages. We lost our jobs, and the ones we have now don’t pay as well. We owe trillions in both student & credit card debts. Our fathers are being locked away in prison. Our sons are being shot in the streets. Our brave young men & women are sent into war zones again and again. Our mentally ill often wind up homeless, in prison, and committing suicide. The air we breathe and the water we drink are being polluted & poisoned by the greed & indifference of multinational corporations & governments.

Our roads and bridges are crumbling. We are lagging behind the civilized world on high speed rail, fiber optic internet, energy efficiency… (Jobs, jobs, jobs.)

Deepwater_Horizon_oil_spill_2010-05-16Water_pollution_0025Ocean temperatures have risen 4 degrees while seemingly every month & year set new heat records. Oceans & urban waterways are filthy; we’ve overfished sea life to near extinction. The bees and butterflies which pollinate our food are dying off. Increasingly extreme natural disasters & weather patterns leading to global food & water shortages will cause conflict over dwindling resources, which means increased displacement/refugee/humanitarian crises. Growing middle classes in China & India will want to have their turn at burning more & more relatively cheap fossil fuels. Unstable nations such as North Korea & Pakistan have access to nuclear weapons. Down-trodden Muslims are lashing out in anger, causing terrible anguish & suffering (largely among their own faith community).

We have huge (yooge!) problems which need to be addressed, yet our political system – as currently constructed – seems incapable of meeting our increasingly troublesome needs.

Reagan_BoraxoThirty-six years of supply-side Reaganomics have gutted the middle class – have curb-stomped the American Dream. The productivity of American workers keeps rising and rising, yet wages haven’t budged since the late Seventies.

holderBought politicians used tax-payer money to bail out the fraudulent & criminal banksters who brought the world economy to its knees. The DoJ & the AG labeled the banks too big to fail & too big to jail. The Fed is still lavishing Wall Street $80b/mo at near-0% (quantative easing). Literally all of the economic gains since the Great Recession have gone to the wealthiest 1%.

K_Street_-_Evacuation_Route_(7496793860)Those with the top incomes pay less than half what they did when we built the American Dream. Corporate executives, hedge fund managers, and Wall Street speculators pay much lower tax rates than wage earners. GE, Verizon, Time Warner, CBS, GM, Boeing, Mattel, Prudential, PG & E – pay no federal income taxes whatsoever. Big Oil – the most profitable corporations in the history of the world – receive tax subsidies for drilling/exploration. A handful of Big Ag corporations collect 90% of farm subsidies. Trust fund kids inherit the first $5m tax-free. Depreciation of private jets can be written off. The cost of outsourcing American jobs to countries with slave wages can be written off.

cryingWe are the only country without paid maternity leave (save Papua New Guinea); only industrial nation without paid sick leave. We rank last (or next to last) in infant mortality rate, child poverty rate, overall healthcare, and financial mobility among Western nations.

statue toesThat’s not liberty. Not freedom. Not exceptional. Not even sustainable.

war at all costsHalliburtonNorthHoustonDefense contractors, news media, and right-wing politicians want perpetual war. Our military budget is more than the next eight countries combined. Bernie wants to audit defense spending, and put an end to our adopted roll as the world police. Pharmaceutical companies, police unions, private prisons, treatment agencies, legal firms – all want to continue the War on Drugs and mass incarceration.

bern7We are told that we can’t afford universal healthcare – that it would explode the national debt – when we know that our current system is the most expensive in the world, and that our Western allies with far smaller economies somehow manage. Private health insurance companies don’t want to become obsolete with single-payer. Pharmaceutical companies don’t want to negotiate prescription drug prices with Medicare; or faster-expiring patents. Hospitals don’t want us to see how much they are charging us for Kleenex.

Social_Security_cardWe are told that Social Security must be scaled back in order to be saved. Bernie calls bullshit. He would eliminate the $113k tax cap. The federal government has borrowed over $3 trillion from the SS retirement fund, and disability has decades of solvency with full benefits.amputee vet

Social Security is our most popular government program, and it’s completely socialist. Medicare is socialist, so is Medicaid, as are SNAP benefits, WIC, public schools, buses, parks, libraries, roads & bridges… all socialist.

bern14The American people agree with Bernie on subject after subject. We are opposed to perpetual war, we want to expand SSI, we want Wall Street reform, criminal justice reform, public funding of elections, universal healthcare, free college…

bern5We’re not stupid. We’re not caught up on labels. We don’t live in the same old world of ensconced social circles & stale cable media with their ivory tower, corporate-sponsored logic. The truth, and people who think like we do, are at our fingertips. We know that billionaires and multinational corporations have bribed our politicians to rig the system in their favor. They’ve rigged the tax code to hoard their wealth. They’ve rigged regulatory agencies to freely pollute our planet & gamble with our retirements – to socialize the losses & privatize the gains. They’ve rigged the media to distract us & to lie to us.

charging bullHerein lies our biggest problem, the problem which stands between us and much of what we require: Money in politics. Money in politics affects every other issue. Political bribery has essentially been legalized by the SCOTUS, resulting in ever more-costly elections. (Which goes to corporate media for ad buys, so telling the truth would be very costly.) Politicians have little choice but to bow and kiss the rings of the donor class – and that ain’t you or me. That’s Wall Street, Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Ag. Every one of them claim that if we just eliminate one more regulation, one more tax, that they will finally unleash the economic beast and trickle down on us all.

bern11They own the politicians. They love the status quo. And they hate Bernie Sanders. Bernie has a forty-year populist record of speaking truth to power. He has no interest in super PAC money from billionaires and special interests. Bernie doesn’t care about Hillary’s emails; doesn’t bother with name-calling or dishonest negative attacks. Bernie Sanders is so uninterested in the superfluous that he once released a political spoken-word folk rock album, and seems to have only recently purchased a comb.bern1

Bernie says what we all know to be true – we’ve lost control of our government. In a true democracy, the will of the people is reflected in public policy. A Princeton study of opinion polls (including incomes) going back to the 1970s showed that the opinions of the American people have zero correlation with public policy (unless the 1% agrees with the rabble). Such is the description of an oligarchy, a plutocracy, a corporatocracy – anything but a representative democracy.

bern20To be clear, simply voting for Bernie this spring and fall won’t be good enough. We don’t elect a dictator. The president needs the cooperation of congress, and divided government is gridlocked government. Bernie needs a majority in congress.  He needs sustained pressure on those elected to change the system they’ve thrived within – to remove the corrupting influence from politics by amending the constitution. (Which requires ratification by 38 states, meaning local elections matter, too.) And to actually show up for the mid-terms.

occupy fuck apathyWe must take an active role if we are to rescue our great nation from the clutches of our corporate overlords. They will kick. They will scream. They will writhe & groan. We must be heard. Whether at the ballot box or the guillotine – there will be revolution.

bern16Eighty-plus percent of Americans (including 80%-plus of both Dems & GOPers alike) believe that there is rampant corruption due to money in politics. Fifty-four percent of Americans (including 51% of Tea Partiers) think we will need a political revolution in the next decade in order to redistribute wealth from the wealthy to the poor, working, & middle-classes. Millennials (under-30) – who’ve grown up in a world of inequity & immobility, of student debt & foreclosures – view Socialism favorably to Capitalism (43% to 32%).

bern13We’re on to them now. The more the corporate media mischaracterize & misrepresent Bernie, the more he is beloved by progressives and independents alike. Their slights & slings only enrage & embolden the believers in this rascally revolutionary. Every super-delegate endorsement sharpens Hillary’s image as the candidate of establishment. Every union & organizational endorsement of Hillary made without first holding a vote of the membership serves to echo Bernie’s message of a stacked deck against the every-man.

bern4Radical? Polls consistently show that Bernie is by far the most concerned with our needs, most authentic, and most trustworthy candidate. Electability? In head-to-head polls, Bernie beats possible GOP opponents by much wider margins than Hillary – across the board. Hillary has 55% unfavorable ratings. She could easily be indicted during the general election. Political favors for Clinton Foundation donors hasn’t yet been scrutinized.

bern18Bernie was at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and was arrested as a student for protesting with the Movement. He was for marriage equality in the 1970s, while Hillary was publicly opposed until 2013. He voted against the Iraq War, she as in support. He was against the Trans Pacific Partnership when Hillary was calling it the gold standard of trade deals. Bernie picketed against NAFTA when Hillary supported it. Bernie has always been opposed to the Keystone XL pipeline, Hillary only recently adopted Bernie’s position. As has often been the case, Hillary was opposed to progressive values when it was convenient, and eventually for progressive values only when convenient.

bern15Bernie says we must fight for what we believe in – Hillary says we must be pragmatic & preserve the status quo. Bernie says we must break up the big banks which are bigger now than before the crash – Hillary says the big banks are just fine as is and have already been reformed by Obama (both authors of the toothless Dodd-Frank now sit on the board of big banks). She brags that she represented Wall Street after 9/11, and told them to cut it out in paid speeches. When Bernie says we need to fight for universal single-payer healthcare, Hillary says we should be pragmatic and surrender to conservatives. When Bernie says we must remove the corrupting influence of money in politics, Hillary scoffs at the very notion of political corruption.

Let Hillary scoff. Let the corporate media establishment scoff. Let them all scoff.Mahatma_Gandhi_Ghp

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win. – Mahatma Gandhi