Bundy, Sterling: GOP dream ticket for 2016

Deadbeat rancher Cliven Bundy, the new poster boy for the Republican Party.

Photo by George Frey

The radical right here in America now boasts two fresh heroes: Cliven Bundy and Donald Sterling. With their eager penchant for plainspoken hypocrisy and outright bigotry, they ought to be a swell choice for the Tea Party/Republican presidential nomination come 2016.

First, good old boy Cliven Bundy rode heroically onto the public scene, proudly waving the American flag and spouting anti-government propaganda—the kind of twisted nonsense that made the right-wing kings of talk radio sit up and take notice. In fact, Sean Hannity was so smitten by Cowboy Cliven that he vowed to stand with Bundy and his patriotic gun-wielding minions if the dastardly Feds should dare try to force those fine Americans to obey the law of the land.

And that’s one hallmark of right-wing ideology: law and order! Unless, of course, the law orders you to actually pay what you owe from grazing your cattle on land owned by the taxpaying citizens of the United States of America. So aw-shucks Cliven is really stealing from us. But he blames it on The Government, which is of course the ultimate evil in Tea Party extremist parlance.

It’s a bit convoluted, as blatant hypocrisy always is. You see, right-wingers “believe in” the Constitution. Or at least their version of it; the one that says government is bad. Not sure where the founding fathers wrote that, but it must be in that doggone Constitution somewhere, right? Right-wingers adore those “We the People” signs planted on their lawns. “We the People” being angry white folks who yearn for frontier justice, the days of the old west, or any other place and time where they weren’t forced to be part of civil society or look out for other folks. God forbid!

It’s all part of the cult of rugged individualism. Seems these flag-wavers have conveniently forgotten that communities built America. And that without the cooperation of honest, hard-working folks helping each other out, raising barns, building towns, caring for the less fortunate, the frontier would have been littered with the starved, lifeless bodies of countless rugged individualists. Without community and representative government there would be no United States of America. Which would probably suit this continent’s aboriginal population just fine.

But logic aside (which is where the Tea Party prefers it), Cliven Bundy’s racist ravings endeared him all the more to the right wing. Just a hard-workin’ rancher a-speakin’ his mind, right? Make that a deadbeat hypocrite who despises diversity and wraps himself in the flag of a country he doesn’t even believe in.

So Cliven Bundy would make a perfect presidential candidate for the reconstituted Republican Party. And who better to complete the ticket than a bigoted billionaire? Enter Donald Sterling.

A fellow hater of folks who don’t look or talk like he does, Don Sterling would bring an extra dimension to this right-wing hypocrisy fest. After all, who better to champion the Republican cause of “Family Values” than a brash billionaire bold enough to boast a mistress fifty years his junior in addition to a loving wife? Well, maybe not so loving. But picture this: a powerful leader with little sense of shame, a wife and a concubine? Why, it’s positively biblical!

A couple of old white guys ready and willing to espouse the thinly-veiled conservative gospel of hatred, anger, fear, and division? What’s not to like? Bring on Hilary, the Republicans are ready!

Hal Sparks ready to fire up Seattle with “Sexy Liberal” tour

Like Xbox One and PlayStation 4, the rollout of Obamacare may be “full of glitches, but I can’t wait to get it,” says comedian, voice-over artist and progressive political pundit Hal Sparks. Sparks will be appearing with Stephanie Miller, John Fugelsang, and “guest panelist” Seattle’s own lampooner laureate Dan Savage, Saturday, December 14, at 8:00pm in the Paramount Theatre. Hal Sparks: actor, comedian, pundit to appear in "Sexy Liberal" tour Seattle stop, December 14.

For those who whine about the debut of the Affordable Healthcare Act’s national website, Sparks likes to point out that private industry didn’t do much better with those two video game blockbusters.

That’s the overall problem with Republican blathering about deregulation and the “free market” system, according to Sparks. People like Sen. Rand Paul keep insisting that the “free market” would make everything better. “But how,” Sparks wonders, “Why would they bother (cleaning up the environment) if they weren’t told to?” Short-term profit and long-term public good are incompatible, according to the core mission of a corporation, which is to make as much money as possible in the shortest possible time for their shareholders. Folks like Rand Paul basically “want corporations to be able to poison us and get away with it!”

Which is why Sparks sees Rand Paul as “stunningly, overtly, and powerfully full of (well, excrement).”

Hal holds roughly the same opinion of other right-wing Republicans like former vice presidential candidate and big-government opponent Paul Ryan. “Paul Ryan went to school on government funds,” notes Sparks, “and then got a government job.” Such blatant hypocrisy runs rampant in the Republican Party.

Conservatives seem to revere two books, Atlas Shrugged and the Bible. One raises selfishness to a high art form, while the other preaches a gospel of love and compassion. Likewise, conservatives seem to worship two gods, Ayn Rand and Jesus of Nazareth. One referred to religious thinking as “mentally retarded,” the other urged his followers to “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.”

“Atlas Shrugged and the Bible are mutually exclusive,” suggests Sparks, “unless you’re a sociopath.” Not to mention that before she died Ayn Rand relied on Social Security payments from the very government she so despised.

Sparks, himself a self-made man of many voices, holds entrepreneurship in high regard. “Self-reliance is great,” he says, “but you don’t need to choke off the poor and kick people when they’re down.”

What does Hal Sparks see in America’s political future? That’s coming up next in the Seattle Liberal blog. Stay tuned.

And don’t forget to catch the outrageously irreverent “Sexy Liberal” show, December 14!

Putting an ENDA to workplace discrimination

You would think that any employee who performs well in the workplace would be rewarded with a raise or promotion. Such an exemplary employee would never have to labor under the shadow of termination. You would assume that’s just common sense and sound business practice, right?

You might be wrong. Over half the states in America—a country which allegedly takes pride in equality of economic opportunity—do not protect workers from discrimination due to their sexual orientation.

In other words, even the best employees can be fired simply for being gay. Or lesbian. Or transgender.

Passage of the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) would remedy that situation on a national scale. The Senate will likely vote in support of ENDA this week.

But, like most common-sense legislation that finds favor with a majority of Americans, ENDA might just wither on the vine and die in the obstructionist, do-nothing House of Representatives controlled by a tiny minority of Tea Party Republicans.

At least one local activist from the State of Washington is doing his darndest to see that doesn’t happen.
Seattleite Brad Delaney started a pro-ENDA petition on MoveOn.org urging folks to apply pressure on their members of Congress to see that ENDA comes to a vote and is successfully passed.

Why is Delaney so passionate about this cause? “I am gay and I can’t fathom the thought that in over 29 states LGBT people can be fired just because of who the are or who they love,” he wrote in a recent email interview. “I believe that your work performance should dictate whether or not you have a job, not who you go home to at night.”
Delaney claims to know of several instances in which employees were discriminated against, including one example where someone was fired outright simply because she told her boss that she’d soon be transitioning.

“I would like to see LGBT workers treated as equals to their straight counterparts in the workplace,” says Delaney, who assisted with last year’s successful effort to legalize same-sex marriage in Washington.

So how can others help promote workers’ rights regardless of sexual orientation?
Call your legislators, particularly those of a more conservative bent, immediately and often. Remind them that equal economic opportunity is a basic American principle, while bigotry is not.
Write letters to the editor and speak out on social media. Share your thoughts and experiences.
Patronize those businesses that promote workplace equality and avoid those that don’t. Here’s an excellent guide from the Human Rights Campaign: http://www.hrc.org/corporate-equality-index.
Tea Party Republicans don’t like it when courageous citizens like Brad Delaney stand up for causes “We the People” proudly support, like workplace equality.

For Tea Party Republicans, it seems that “liberty” is a word reserved for rich, white, straight folks.

Maybe those Tea Party Republicans in Congress deserve to be fired for poor job performance.

Originally published at Examiner.com

Happy Halloween: right-wing fog machine miring America

Recently, western Washington (the genuine one here in the Pacific Northwest, not that other Washington back east where it seems to be the “trick” side of Halloween every doggone day) muddled through a long period of dense fog. Unusual for this time of year in this neck of the woods, where autumn generally finds us alternating between drenching rain, howling wind, and occasional bursts of beauty when the sun shines brightly, the changing leaves put on a dazzling display, and the air is so crisp you just want to take a big bite out of it and let the yummy juice dribble down your chin.

Come to think of it, the whole country has been fogged in ever since the fall of 2010, when corporate bigwigs decided to attempt a government coup from within by inventing the bizarre phenomenon known as the Tea Party. While the nation slumbered, assuming that those crazies depicting our President as Hitler, Stalin, or some hideous hybrid thereof were simply a passing nightmare, billionaires bent on privatizing just about everything in America for their own personal profit bought themselves a government. Or rather, an anti-government.
They paid for luridly painted buses that brought professional speakers to expensive venues to whip anti-government sentiment into a mindless frenzy. They paid for zillions of yard signs proclaiming “We the People.” Countless pocket-size copies of the Constitution were printed up and distributed to legions of angry followers who were then told how to interpret the document. “Grassroots” candidates with little or no experience in government received lavish contributions to run vapid campaigns against creeping “Socialism” and in support of the “Free Market.”

Lies were shouted by right-wing pundits so loud and long that they morphed into accepted debating points. Obama’s a Muslim. From Kenya. Just cut taxes and the “Job Creators” will save our economy. Unions are evil and workers have no rights. Neither do women. Or gays. Or immigrants. White men and the white women who follow them should run the country. Preferably white men with large bank accounts. White men with large overseas bank accounts. God forbid they should feel compelled to support the United States of America in any way. That would be Socialist coercion, right?

So now our ship of state is mired in a dense fog of corporate malfeasance, right-wing demagoguery, disastrous economic austerity, and a dumbed-down media machine that accepts lies without challenge and embraces punditry without credentials or attribution.
Bills promoting family-wage jobs, American-made products and workers’ rights remain mired in Congress. The Republicans refuse to even bring them up for a vote. After all, when they shout so loudly about protecting the Middle Class and creating jobs, why would they want to actually be on the public record actively trying to kill both?
When will this fog lift? Probably not until America removes the choking stranglehold of money from its political innards.
Corporations are not people. Money is not speech. On those two simple principles we can build a lighthouse to cut through this malicious mist.

Until then, we are all ruled by a tiny minority of religious zealots and anti-government fear mongers on a crusade to turn over control of this country from We the People over to Them the Corporations.
Happy Halloween.

Originally published at Examiner.com

Fool’s gold: corporate media reports GOP spin as real news

When it comes to hypocrisy, the GOP (Grand Obstruction Party) has set a new gold standard. Rather, a new fool’s gold standard.

The Republican Party, led on a very short leash by well-monied pro-oligarchy business moguls and pro-apocalypse crazies, keeps on churning out pyrite from its thunderous right-wing sound machine, while corporate media reports on their bombast as if it were pure gold.

Passing this fool’s gold off as real media currency, the Republican shutdown of America is reported as though the Democratic Party were somehow at fault, too. When Republicans refuse bring up jobs, education, fair taxation and workers’ rights legislation for a vote in the House of Representatives, what do you hear on the evening news? “Congress” failed to act. As if the Democrats in the House and Senate were somehow co-conspiring to defeat the very job-producing, education-enhancing, revenue-increasing, labor-empowering legislation they themselves proposed!

So the GOP (Garrulous Obsequious Prevaricators) goes unchallenged in the mainstream media. Is it any wonder the voting public feels mislead, angry, confused?

Pro-corporate, anti-government bootlickers like the Tea Party skip along their merry way, spewing lies about the failure of government (which they’re doing their darndest to rid us of) and singing the praises of big-business “job creators” (who, while raking in obscene profits here in America, only appear capable of creating jobs overseas).

God forbid any media pundit on the Sunday talk shows should challenge any of the endless stream of GOP (Gerrymandering Obfuscating Pharisees) blowhards regarding their actual plans for improving the economy, proposing a real foreign policy, and (gasp!) actually governing the country.

No, the fool’s gold fantasy that the Republican Party has the best interests of farmers, workers, women, minorities, and, no doubt, star-spangled unicorns at heart continues unabated. None dare challenge to Holy Trinity of Wall Street, the military-industrial complex, and evangelical Christendom.

Meanwhile, Main Street, Middle America, and minorities of all stripes continue to be savagely gored by those cuddly-wuddly Wepublican unicorns.

It’s a media-made fiction that’s murdering America.

Exit Eisenhower and the traditional Republican Party. Enter Mussolini.

Originally published at examiner.com.

Call the waaambulance! GOP stamps feet, holds breath, shuts USA down

What happens when a tiny minority of sore losers—big losers at that—refuses to accept overwhelming defeat, script a new game plan and come back prepared for the next contest?

America is finding out, and it ain’t pretty.

Suppose, following its defeat in World War II, Japan had said, “Okay, so we lost. Now let’s negotiate. You’ll give us back the Philippines, right? Maybe China, too?” What if the Confederates had said, “We all surrender! Now let’s parlay. Y’all were just joshin’ about the slaves, right? They’ll stay on our plantations, of course.” Or the British said, “Jolly good shellacking you gave us. Now, which colonies do we continue to rule? Independence, indeed. Bloody foolish idea, eh what?”

Apparently the GOP (Grand Obstruction Party) didn’t get the memo: the war is over. The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) is the law of the land. And Americans don’t want to hear the Tea Party-led Republicans whine about cutting hard-earned and desperately needed programs like Social Security and Medicare. That battle’s over, too.

Most of us can remember a time when politicians actually relished the job of governing the country. The majority party tried its best to craft legislation that they felt would benefit Americans (and, of course, keep their party in the majority). The minority party would come up with alternative proposals and pitch them to the people. Debates would be held. Issues would be discussed. Congress would (this may sound shocking) bring bills up for votes and (gasp!) really vote on them! Then the electorate would decide who stayed in power and who went bye-bye.

Now? America suffers at the hands of a radical but well-funded (thank you, Koch brothers!) small band of ideological hypocrites (tea, anyone?) who don’t want to be held accountable for anything. Gun violence? Jobs? Education? The GOP won’t even bring those issues to a vote in the House. They’d rather just shut everything down and spend their time grandstanding on TV. Nope, governing’s just not a priority for them.

Odd, isn’t it? The party that’s always shouting the praises of unfettered competition magically morphs into a slobbering, whimpering pile of goo whenever they lose that competition. God forbid they should waste time trying to come up with solutions.

To paraphrase the oft-quoted Willie Nelson song, “Turn out the lights, the Tea Party’s over.”

Originally published at examiner.com

Got radio? Communities step up to the LPFM microphone

A rare window of opportunity will soon open. Local communities nationwide will have the chance to tear open the drapes, roll up the blinds, throw that window wide open and shout out to the surrounding region and potentially worldwide.A Low Power FM radio band could soon be at your fingertips. From October 15 to 19, the Federal Communications Commission will be accepting applications from folks who’d like to fire up their own radio station.A couple of caveats: these stations cannot be used for commercial purposes, nor can they be run by individuals. It generally takes a village of volunteers to get one of these LPFM critters on the air—a nonprofit village, to be precise.

And these stations are only allowed to broadcast at a level of 100 watts, hence the name “Low Power.” So your geographical footprint of reception would only be a few miles. Enough to serve a local community.

But with Internet streaming readily available, the sky’s potentially the limit.

Some tips on how to proceed:

  • Start raising money. The FCC application is free, but engineering and equipment costs can add up and vary widely. Additionally, there are expenses like studio space rental and content licensing fees to consider. Get to know both your local commercial broadcasters and amateur radio enthusiasts; they’re an excellent source for operational advice and resource for recording/broadcasting equipment.
  • Recruit volunteers. It’s easy to find folks who want to be on the radio, harder to gather a behind-the-scenes crew. Contact community nonprofits and local merchants. Starting a radio station is an exciting prospect, a great way for those folks to become involved and promote goodwill.
  • Create a catchy mission statement and letter of introduction. Mail and/or email these to everyone you know. Emphasize the importance of community education, news, events, and promoting local talent. Develop a buzz about the station and its possibilities.
  • Make sure you jump through all the hoops and touch all the bases. Beginning with the FCC application, there’ll be plenty of paperwork to fill out. All fairly self-explanatory; just be certain it gets done. On time.
  • Stay local, reach global. Local content is key. Maintain a high profile in your community. But don’t forget global resources. Keep in touch with organizations like the Prometheus Radio Project and FreePress.net. And don’t forget about that Internet streaming.

Don’t be afraid to belly up to the microphone. Right here n Washington State alone, over 20 LPFM stations have already successfully begun broadcasting.

Your radio window on the world awaits.

Originally published at examiner.com

Allied with ALEC: Washington State’s “Dirty Half-Dozen”

The infamously stealthy pro-corporate, anti-worker American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has infiltrated deep into our Washington state legislature.Some legislators, supposedly elected to represent their down-home constituents, actually fork over hefty membership fees to ALEC. In return for their “contribution,” your elected representatives get to hobnob with corporate lobbyists and right-wing special interest groups who urge these bought-and-paid-for legislators to enact boiler-plate bills attacking working families across the nation.In short, instead of looking out for the interests of We the People, ALEC allies in Washington State and nationwide are busy doing the dirty work of They the Corporations. ALEC’s primary goal is to destroy the power of labor to organize and act as a common-sense balance against the power of ownership and management to do whatever they want.If you want your wages to plummet, benefits to be eliminated, and jobs to be outsourced, then by all means support the following legislators come election time:

  • Rep. Jan Angel (R-26). Her glowing campaign literature rarely mentions one fact: Jan Angel is the Washington State Co-Chairman of ALEC.

    State Rep. Jan Angel (R-26LD)
    State Rep. Jan Angel (R-26LD)
  • Rep. Charles R. Ross (R-14). Good ol’ Chuck is a member of ALEC’s Elections Task Force. Voter suppression, anyone?

    State Rep. Charles Ross (R-14LD)
    State Rep. Charles Ross (R-14LD)
  • Sen. Barbara Bailey (R-10). She sits on the ALEC Health and Human Services Task Force. Reckon that’s why Sen. Bailey receives such hefty contributions from pharmaceutical and health insurance companies?

    State Rep. Barbara Bailey (R-10LD)
    State Rep. Barbara Bailey (R-10LD)
  • Sen. Don Benton (R-17). Guess who’s the other Co-Chairman of ALEC? He’s a member of the International Relations Task Force, but spends most of his time fighting against environmental protection in his district.

    State Rep. Don Benton (R-17LD)
    State Rep. Don Benton (R-17LD)
  • Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-42). Another member of ALEC’s Health and Human Services Task Force, Ericksen is virulently anti-union. Who needs collective bargaining? Let the marketplace dictate how low wages can go, right Doug?

    State Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-42LD)
    State Sen. Doug Ericksen (R-42LD)
  • Sen. Pam Roach (R-31). Roach, for whom “bi-partisan” is a four-letter word, just loves rich folk, thinks they ought not be taxed so they continue their wondrous work of creating jobs. Presumably in China, Indonesia, South America…anywhere but here. No doubt that’s why she sits on ALEC’s International Relations Task Force, of which her buddy Don Benton is also a member.

    State Rep. Pam Roach (R-31LD)
    State Rep. Pam Roach (R-31LD)

Allies of ALEC? They’re no friends of working folk. Remember to send these corporate lackeys packing in November 2014.

Originally published at Examiner.com

Firearms are wrong answer to question of school safety

As a new school year approaches, many parents are less concerned about their children’s comprehension of reading, writing, and arithmetic than they are about simple survival.Firearms enthusiasts suggest that arming teachers in the classroom or providing armed guards on school grounds would enhance safety. It’s the old National Rifle Association mantra that “the best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.” Or something inane like that.In fact, arming teachers with pistols is akin to arming surgeons with hatchets. Both teacher and surgeon are trained to improve the lives of those in their charge, one by education, the other by healing. Pistols and hatchets would be tantamount to an admission of failure. You need to shoot some former student who went crazy or hack off a body part of some patient who didn’t properly heal?

There’s something drastically wrong with that show-and-tell picture.

Instead of arguing about the effectiveness of firepower, perhaps we should be joining in a more fundamental discussion. Topics for assignment might include:

  • Mental health: Why aren’t we talking about this? Not just the issue of screening potential gun owners for mental health issues, but the overarching question of what as we as a society doing to help, house, and care for those among us who might pose a danger to themselves and their neighbors.
  • School counseling might be a great place to begin. Why is there such a mad push to decrease funding for education and all of its ancillary benefits when there’s a crisis of disaffected, alienated children and young people staring us right in the face? We ought to be increasing our financial support schools, both inside the classroom and outside. Counseling, clubs, music, art, and yes, sports provide outlets to expression and inroads to the future.
  • Parental involvement: It’s tough when a conservative-backed “austerity” economy is dragging households down into the depths of financial despair—tough to find the time to participate in your kids’ educational development when parents need to hold down multiple jobs just to put food on the table.  The simple answer to this conundrum is to vote for government representatives who are genuinely interested in improving the job market and raising the standard of living, rather than providing tax breaks for the rich and promoting outsourcing jobs abroad while downsizing here at home. Meanwhile, make time to talk to your children about what’s bothering them, how to make things better. Ask your schools how you can help promote student health and safety, both mental and physical.

The choice is clear: reclaim our schools as sanctuaries of learning and expression, or trundle our kids off every day to the OK Corral.

Originally published at Examiner.com

Voters to Grand Obstruction Party: What about healthcare?

Town hall meetings: a unique opportunity to get to know your elected officials, up close and personal. And that opportunity is now, as our congressional representatives return home to hobnob with their constituents.

As noted previously, we Washington State constituents might want to ask a few pointed questions of those folks we sent to the other Washington (D.C.). They rake in great pay and benefits while accomplishing absolutely nothing. Those of us who work every day and have few or no benefits might take umbrage to that low level of job performance.

Whereas inaction, sloth, and bombast seem to be the guiding principles of the GOP (Grand Obstruction Party), one focal point of the upcoming town hall gatherings might be, say, health care. Which brings a few likely questions to mind, such as:

  • Since the Republican Party seems to revel in the political onanism of voting repeatedly and pointlessly to prevent the implementation of the Affordable Healthcare Act, what exactly is their plan to improve the system? Indeed, “Obamacare” is based on the very plan promoted by the conservative Heritage Foundation. Mitt Romney implemented such a healthcare system in Massachusetts when he was governor. So what’s the problem?
  • Why do Republicans continue to lie about Obamacare, scaring the crap out of people with bogus ideas like “death panels” and “mandates”? In truth, the Grand Obstruction Party supports this simple plan for working Americans: if you get sick, die quick. Extended healthcare is reserved for the rich.
  • Why aren’t alternatives like a public option and single-payer healthcare being debated in Congress? A great question for both Republican and Democratic representatives. By eliminating insurance companies from the healthcare delivery system, costs would be drastically reduced, preventive care would dramatically increase, and expensive visits to the Emergency Room would dwindle.

Attend those town hall meetings. Ask tough questions. You’ll feel a whole lot better.