Step 9 Rethink Democracy

If we really want to restore or Democracy and end corporate corruption, it is time to change the way we think about elections – which are the foundation of our Democracy. The corporate controlled media would like to divide and conquer us by using artificial terms like liberals and conservatives, right versus left and Democrats versus Republicans.

While there are certainly differences between the values we as people hold and the solutions we propose to our many problems, there is an increasing awareness that the real enemy is not the right or the left. It is people versus corporate greed. Put another way, it is the increasing divide between the reckless and lawless greed of the super rich and the rest of us who must suffer severe hardships such as loss of jobs, homes, health care and life savings in order to pay off the gambling debts of the super rich. Even the tax burden is increasingly transferred from the wealthy to the rest of us.

Corporate Wealth Buys Elections
The corporate media would like us to believe that either the Democrats or Republicans won the last election – or will win the next election. They want to mislead and distract us into believing that elections are about choosing between Democrats and Republicans so we do not notice that we are being robbed regardless of who wins. But the truth is that corporations have won and will continue to win elections because most of the politicians in both parties are bought by corporations who pay for their extremely expensive re-election campaigns. These entrenched politicians from both parties then pay back their corporate masters by passing laws strongly favoring corporations and stacking the deck against the rest of us.

The problem is that it is not generally the candidate with the best ideas for solving problems who wins. Over 90% of the time, it is the candidate with the most money who wins. And over 90% of the time that candidate with the most money is the entrenched incumbent. Sadly, the candidate with the most money is also likely the candidate who is most corrupt and least likely to seek solutions that are fair to the rest of us. We all need to learn to follow the money.

We also need to seek a new political alignment. It is not right versus left, but right versus wrong. It is long term human needs versus short term corporate greed.

Money corrupts and destroys Democracy
We cannot have democracy as long as the super rich are so easily able to buy our elections. We need to start voting for the candidate who raises the least money and stop promoting the candidate who raises the most money.


Polls show that the vast majority of people understand the corrosive effect that money has on our politics and they favor eliminating at the very least the recent disastrous Supreme Court decision.

Reframing the Election Debate
Our political discourse needs a new set of terms, a new spectrum on which to place people and organizations that illustrates whether they tend to side with corporations or people.

To keep things simple, we should just tell it like it is:

People versus corporations.

The rich versus the rest of us.

The 99% versus the 1%.

Progressives versus Regressives.

The term Progressivism also has a long bipartisan history. This was a term created by a Republican President (Teddy Roosevelt) during his fight with corporate monopolies. Teddy started a new party called the Progressive Party in 1912:

The term Progressive Democrat was later was adopted by a Democratic Presidential candidate, Franklin Roosevelt, during his fight with corporate greed which had corrupted both political parties in the late 1920’s. Before FDR adopted the term, there were only Progressive Republicans – basically followers of Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt.

Another useful term is populism. I have been called a populist by my opponents. I think this means that we are on the side of the poor and middle class working families.

For our opponents, the old debate was between progressive Democrats and Corporate Fascists. But this is no longer accurate. Even old time fascists like Hitler and Mussolini believed in following some set of laws and rules. They also understood the need for full employment. Clearly our new corporate opponents do not believe in either laws or full employment.

The modern corporatists are nothing more than thieves and robbers. Ralph Nader calls what is happening now “a corporate crime wave.” So rather than dignifying our shortsighted corporate opponents by calling them fascists, I think we should use the more accurate term by calling them greedy corporate criminals who are robbing the rest of us blind.

The Real Purpose of Government is to protect the people from excessive corporate greed

Most accept that the government should protect us from foreign attackers and also protect us from domestic criminals. Since modern corporatists are criminals, keeping them in check can and should be done without any new laws… simply enforcing the laws against theft and fraud that are already on the books.

Organizing a Progressive People Oriented movement
The history of this country has been the drive toward a more and more inclusive democracy — a democracy which would fulfill Abraham Lincoln’s beautiful phraseology at Gettysburg in which he described America as a nation “of the people by the people for the people.” For our government to be of, by and for the people, it must not be allowed to by corrupted by bribery from for-profit corporations. For-profit corporations must be prohibited from making contributions to or expenditures in political campaigns.

We can use this as a rallying cry for organizing people. If we do not organize, and change the way we think about elections, democracy itself will soon be lost.

(Originally published here.)

Political Fables for a Political Year

The WA Post has back to back stories in my digest this morning that I found interesting.

In the first story, the Government Accountability Office found that the Republican’s budget showdown over the debt limit coast the county 1.3 billion dollars last year. That is money that we could have used somewhere else in my opinion. But it shows the hypocrisy and stupidity of the current republican congressional legislators. And don’t get me wrong, it’s not that the democrats are just chomping at the bit to pass the kind of legislation that the country needs, look at their record in 2009-10 when they controlled Senate, House and White House and we could get banker bailouts, but not the public option for health care. Single payer was not even on the table. The dems are clearly beholden to their corporate funding sources, but they don’t engage in wasteful theatrics like the debt ceiling fight or endless votes to repeal legislation that clearly go nowhere. There are significant differences between the parties, but both parties understand that they cannot legislate against the interest of the wealthy interests that now decide our elections (thanks to Citizens United and Scotus Inc.)

GAO: Debt fight cost at least $1.3 billion

Last summer’s fierce political debate over raising the federal debt limit cost taxpayers more than $1 billion in extra borrowing costs, including hundreds of hours in overtime for federal employees responsible for avoiding default, according to a new government report.

Delays in raising the debt limit forced the Treasury Department to pay an extra $1.3 billion in borrowing costs — and the final sum is expected to climb higher as multi-year obligations and other outstanding costs are added later, the Government Accountability Office said in a report released Monday.


In the second story, the League of Conservation Voters is reported to planning to launch a global warming campaign to unseat 5 flat-earth Republicans who have been a little too vocal about their ignorance.

I think it has become more and more difficult for the red-staters to deny global warming. What’s wrong with Kansas is starting to shift from the question about how they can vote against their own best interest over and over to just how bad is the drought going to be? As folks see the crops dry up and experience the consequences of supporting electoral candidates and parties who guarantee that we do nothing about global warming, they may have an epiphany. A lot of folks are going to become believers in global warming through the rough lessons of direct experience.

Torrential rains, floods, derecho windstorms, super tornados, droughts, may provide a wake-up call to folks in the heartland that was never going to be delivered by the threat to polar bears and penguins or rising sea levels that are threatening the coastal states that can’t afford to harbor politically-rooted doubts about climate change.

Here is a bit of the second story and link to the whole thing:

Environmentalists target 5 Republicans who question humans’ impact on climate

The League of Conservation Voters will launch a $1.5 million campaign Tuesday targeting five House Republicans who question the connection between human activity and climate change, in an effort to test whether the issue can sway voters.

Prominent conservative Republicans have challenged the scientific consensus that greenhouse gas emissions from fossil fuels and other sources are transforming the Earth’s climate. But it has not emerged as a central issue in a national political campaign, and President Obama, who pushed unsuccessfully for national limits on greenhouse gas emissions at the start of his term, has played down the issue over the past two years.

 

The Republican Party is a stinking, shameless cesspool of corruption, lies, extremism, and cruelty

On guns, on global warming, on economic inequality, on taxation,  on torture, on Guantanamo, on gay rights, on regulations, on green energy, on health care, and on many other issues, the Republicans ignore facts, common sense, and basic human decency.

This is not to say that the Dems are perfect; far from it. But the extremism and shameless stupidity of Republicans are a threat to the world and the economy.

What’s scary is that millions of Americans not only fall for the Republican story but actively support it.

CO2 Emissions are a Planetary Problem

I have noticed that the foolish and/or dishonest folks who remain interested or reimbursed to disseminate misleading information about anthropogenic global warming are repeating the story about the fall in US CO2 emissions. That misleading presentation is being framed as evidence that the burning of fossil fuels and emission of C02 is not a real problem, that global warming is not happening and caused by the activities of human beings.

Tell it to the folks who are suffering through the heatwave in the “red” states today. The issue is emission and concentration of CO2 levels on the global scale, friends. If you measure emissions in a National Park, things look really great. If you measure emissions in any small part of the planet, you can produce data that will make emission levels look great or terrible, but if you measure emissions on the planetary scale, the scale that is our climate, the scale that produces our weather, then we continue to face a catastrophic problem.

Here’s a piece from the Guardian:

World carbon dioxide levels highest for 650,000 years, says US report

Cooling towers at Eggborough power station, near Selby

Cooling towers at Eggborough power station, near Selby. Photograph: John Giles/PA

The concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has reached a record high, according to the latest figures, renewing fears that climate change could begin to slide out of control.

Scientists at the Mauna Loa observatory in Hawaii say that CO2 levels in the atmosphere now stand at 387 parts per million (ppm), up almost 40% since the industrial revolution and the highest for at least the last 650,000 years.

Read the real numbers. Don’t be fooled by the folks who are engaged in dishonest presentation of limited data. Shame on those of you who do this with knowledge that the data is meaningless and misleading. For those of you who are confused by the data, learn to evaluate when data is being skewed or limited to produce a misleading result and recognize that folks who knowingly provide misleading data are not to be trusted.

Raising alarms about the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP): worse than NAFTA

America: A Fire Sale to Foreign Corporations

The leaked document reveals that the trade agreement would give unprecedented political authority and legal protection to foreign corporations.  Specifically, TPP would (1) severely limit regulation of foreign corporations operating within U.S. boundaries, giving them greater rights than domestic firms, (2) extend incentives for U.S. firms to move  investments and jobs to lower-wage countries, (3) establish an alternative legal system that gives foreign corporations and investors new rights to circumvent U.S. courts and laws, allowing them to sue the U.S. government before foreign tribunals and demand compensation for lost revenue due to US laws they claim undermine their TPP privileges or their investment “expectations.”

It seems that corporations are playing a role analogous to warlords in Afghanistan or drug cartels in Mexico.

McCain and Whitehouse take on Citizens United – POLITICO.com

McCain and Sheldon Whitehouse working together to rein in Citizen’s United — who knew? Go Montana!
It’s not over until only people have the rights of people, and we get the money out of electoral politics.

Link: MF Global: The Untold Story of the Biggest Wall Street Collapse Since Lehman

MF Global: The Untold Story of the Biggest Wall Street Collapse Since Lehman
“There are plenty of lessons to be learned from MF Global and heart-pounding policy implications; all of which we can count on Congress to ignore at the behest of the Wall Street money and lobby machine until the next epic financial crisis.”

Free Speech Battle Over Protests Looming at Seattle Colleges

A major battle over free speech is being waged on local college campuses in Seattle. The Seattle Community College District Board of Trustees wants to revise the Washington Administrative Code (WAC) for Seattle colleges. The district is proposing new rules that would regulate protests on all three of the city’s state funded community college campuses.

Organizations opposed to the board’s proposals include the ACLU, the Seattle chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, student councils at all three of the district’s colleges, and Occupy Seattle.

About a hundred Occupy Seattle participants set up camp at Seattle Central Community College last fall after being pushed out of Westlake Park by police. SCCC president Paul Kilpatrick and the school administration went to court to evict the demonstrators from the campus, and on December 10, 2011, the occupiers were forced to leave. A Thurston County Superior Court judge has allowed the college to impose new rules which prohibit camping on the campus, on an “emergency” basis.

Prior to this ruling, there had been no rules regulating encampments on state college campuses in the state of Washington.

Among other proposals, the new set of rules would:
-restrict the size of protest signs to a maximum of 3 feet by 5 feet
-impose a limit of one sign per person.
-place restrictions on where protests can take place and how long they can last. Student groups would be forced to end their demonstrations after eight hours, whereas off-campus organizations like Occupy Seattle would only be allowed to rally for five hours at a time.
-prohibit protests outside of designated “free speech zones” on campus
-require non-student groups to notify the college 24 hours in advance of demonstrations.

Protesters who violate the rules could be arrested by Seattle police and charged with trespassing.

At the first board hearing on Tuesday March 27, Karen Strickland, president of the Seattle chapter of the American Federation of Teachers, said that if the changes are adopted, her organization’s march banner will not be allowed on campus.

“Some people’s views have not been appreciated,” she told them. “Free speech, just like access to public higher education, is a core part of democracy. And that’s what we need to fight for! Right now in our country there are all kinds of threats to democracy.”

Although the school district claims that the process of adopting new rules actually began in 2010, Occupy Seattle activists have interpreted the proposed rule changes as a direct response to their occupation of the college. They claim that the district is placing a prior restraint on any future protest activity at the school.

Washington State law requires an open public comment period before any new state college rules can be established. In compliance with this requirement, the SCCD Board of Trustees held a public hearing on March 27. Due to the overwhelming community response to these proposed rule changes, the school district scheduled another hearing a week later.

On April 5, about 200 people participated in the second hearing held at the Broadway Performance Hall on the campus of Seattle Central Community College. Seattle Community College District Vice Chancellor Carin Weiss was “the presiding official over the proceedings.” SCCC president Paul Kilpatrick was in attendance, along with a representative from the Washington State Attorney General’s Office, Derek Edwards.

Weiss opened the hearing by stating that the purpose for the new rules is “to establish reasonable controls on demonstrations at the college campuses.”

She asserted the Board of Trustees is attempting to propose rules which will maintain a balance between the rights of people to protest and the needs of the administration to limit disruptions to the educational process.

LaRond Baker from the Washington ACLU spoke against the proposed rules, citing limitations on the rights to freedom of speech and assembly that are protected under the First Amendment to the US Constitution.

“We are opposed to the rules on several grounds and we believe they will not be upheld by the courts,” she said.

The ACLU maintains that any rule which requires non-student groups to notify the college 24 hours in advance of protests is illegal and would be considered ‘prior restraint’ under the Washington State Constitution.

Baker also criticized a proposed prohibition on the distribution of potentially “libelous” material on campus. She described the language of the proposed school district rule as “vague” and warned that under the board’s proposal, “persons passing out handbills on campus could be charged with a criminal offense.”

She concluded her public testimony with the following statement: “The Washington ACLU is opposed to these new rule changes and we ask the Board of Trustees to withdraw their proposal.”

Seattle Central Community College staff member Kelly McHenry told SCCC President Paul Kilpatrick, “As a college librarian, I love the free exchange of ideas. Because of this, I have to stand up against anything that infringes on the First Amendment.”

McHenry opposes the regulation of demonstrations because she believes colleges and universities should encourage rather than limit public discussion.

“Allowing for free expression is part of the educational process,” she argued. “Are you also going to limit what films students should see and what books they can read?”

Zack Robertson, head of the SCCC student government, read a statement to the board of trustees:

“We oppose the new rules because we find them unnecessary. Regulations already exist that prohibit disruptions of classrooms, vandalism, etcetera. Why do we need new rules when these issues have already been addressed?”

Robertson also opposed the idea of ‘free speech zones’.

“We have measured the area on campus that is being designated for this purpose ,” he said, “and found it to be less than 400 square feet. It’s about the size of a small one bedroom apartment. That is clearly unacceptable.”

 

One eloquent statement came from Sange, a 20 year old immigrant from Gambia who is enrolled at Seattle Central Community College.

“You may have forgotten why people from around the world come to this country,” he said. “Where I lived we had no protections on our freedom, so let me say something to you.”

Sange then proceeded to read the Declaration of Independence .”We hold these truths to be self-evident; that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” he recited.

When he was finished reading he received a standing ovation from the crowd at the Broadway Performance Hall.

Although hundreds of people have participated in the public hearings, no one has spoken in favor of the new college district rules.

A board of trustees meeting is scheduled for April 12 to access the results of the public comment period. Despite the community outcry, school district officials could vote to approve the proposals on that date. There is nothing in the state law that requires the board to follow all public recommendations. Student groups say they will picket the meeting if they are not allowed to participate in the next step of the decision making process.

According to the state law governing changes to the WAC rules, if the community college district board decides to make significant changes to their original proposal, another series of public hearings will be required to provide for more public comment.

After the college school district hearing on April 5, one anonymous Occupy Seattle activist wearing a Guy Fawkes mask addressed a large crowd of students and teachers outside the building.

“If they approve these new restrictions on our freedom of speech and assembly,” he said, “We will have to be ready to immediately challenge the rules by breaking them. We need hundreds of people on campus holding two signs or standing outside of the designated protest areas. We can’t let them take away our First Amendment rights! I’m willing to go to jail to defend my freedom of speech! Are you?”

 (originally published at HuffPost)