The Banana Republic and Baby Boomers

The rampant corruption of our political system is masterfully distilled by Lawrence Lessig to the barest elements in this video.

 

America truly has become a Banana Republic operated by and for the benefit of the rich.

We let that happen.

And, when I say ‘we’, I’m looking at you, fellow Baby Boomers. We did this, and now it’s up to us to fix our screw-ups.

It’s time for some of you to change the way you think and how you vote; otherwise, I don’t know how you’re going to look future generations in the eye and tell them, “I was thinking of you when I voted for corporatists, banksters, and wealthy elites.”

It’s time for you to stop voting against your own – and our collective – self-interests. It’s time to stop electing the liars who tell us that trickle down economics works, that government needs to shrink, that defense spending needs to increase, that we need to drill and dig more for our energy, and that corporations and banks must be allowed to do whatever they like without regulation and oversight because to do otherwise would hurt their (historically high) share values and profits as if that were the only measure of a vibrant, thriving, sustainable, and inclusive economy and society.

It’s on all of us, but it’s mostly on you Baby Boomers who somehow turned into 21st century conservatives who reject science, facts, your social responsibilities, and any compassion you may have once had for your fellow human beings and the planet we all live on.

To my fellow liberals, you’re almost as much to blame as conservatives. Enough already with the pandering and compromise; enough with the disengagement from politics and silence on critically important issues; enough with not calling your representatives and not calling people out for being wrong and wrong-headed; most of all, enough with staying home on election day.

There are more of us than there are of them. We can move this country back to the left if we get off our asses and do something – anything – to affect change.

Which brings me to this. A reality too many of my fellow liberals refuse to accept.

It is ‘Us’ versus ‘Them.’ It’s time we stopped pretending it’s not.

When you refuse to acknowledge that conservatives hold values, beliefs, and policy positions that only hurt society and which block any possibility for progress, then you have surrendered the fight. We must be ready, willing, and eager to make the distinctions and reinforce everything that distinguishes Us from Them.

We need to stop wasting precious time and energy by going into every issue and every debate thinking there’s some sort of mythical middle ground. That’s the naive and juvenile fantasy that has allowed our society to devolve. Conservatives know there is no middle ground, and they know they can get liberals to keep giving ground because that’s what liberals do. They compromise.

That’s why we have to take our measure of blame for the world we live in; a world where to be a conservative and a member of the Republican party has come to mean that you want to live in a Christian theocracy in which corporations operate with impunity while the state discriminates against women, minorities, LGBTQ, and immigrants…..and that seems not only normal but desirable to conservatives

We liberals have allowed conservatives to keep moving whatever middle used to exist farther and farther to the right. Hasn’t it gone far enough?

We liberals let the center move so far to the right because we either stayed silent or we compromised. We’ve always been the ones to compromise. That must stop, and it must stop now.

No more compromises with the right. You liberals who insist on compromise are the ones who now are actually allowing conservatives to go on ruining this country and what was once a great society. Not one without its flaws, but at least one in which the wealth and power gaps were not as obscene as they are now and not one in which it seems perfectly reasonable to some people that the likes of Trump and Carson are taken seriously as presidential candidates.

It’s time for my fellow liberals to quit being such pansies and push-overs. It’s time you started fighting – not physically, but intellectually and politically, in the public square, on social media, and out loud. It’s a fight for the future, and it’s time to fight like there is no tomorrow because unless we fight and win, conservatives and conservatism in its current form most assuredly will keep us from bequeathing any sort of bright and peaceful tomorrow to future generations.

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#Independents, #Democrats, and Rational #Republicans: You control November and the Senate

Left-leaning Independents and Democrats, if you stay home this November, a Republican Senate will basically be on you.

Republicans can be ousted, but only if you show up and vote against them. You can be damn sure that our fellow Americans who think they’re Republicans will be showing up.

Yes, vote against Republicans. All Republicans.

What the GOP Stands For

The GOP has become a party of extremist ideology that no longer resembles the core values of America.

  • Bigotry towards our LGBTQ brothers and sisters
  • Paying women differently than men for the same work
  • Limiting and even ending health care accessibility to women and the poor
  • Protecting corporations instead of the environment by denying climate science
  • Enacting local laws to curtail voting
  • Walling off and arming the Southern border in the name of protecting the country and the economy
  • Perpetuating a belief in the failed theory of trickle-down economics

These disturbing ideas are among Republican dogma and policies. They are NOT core American values. They are, in fact, the antithesis of what America is about, and it is why every Republican must be defeated.

The Change That’s Needed – Real Leadership

The GOP in its present incarnation simply does not offer anything of value in the short or long term to anyone outside the Top 2% of wealthy Americans. The only way for the GOP to get the message and to change is for those of us in the middle and the left to outnumber and outvote our right-wing fellow citizens on Election Day.

What would cinch the deal would be to get some help from whomever is left in the GOP rank-and-file willing to accept the truth, and that is this: Your party does not care one whit about you and, in fact, they are dangerous to you and the rest of society. Right-wing ideology and policy are traceable as the primary sources of all of our geo-political and economic problems, past and present.

Thanks to the tea party and right-wing Big Money nowadays, the GOP has moved too far away from any middle ground or compromise worth considering. This is where Republican leaders have failed their party and their constituents. For anyone to believe that somehow the current crop of tea party Republican leaders is going to start moving the party toward the rest of us is naive fantasy and a denial of reality. Unless and until the American voting populace rises up to defeat EVERY SINGLE REPUBLICAN EVERYWHERE, the GOP will not change.

We Must Lead

It’s more important than ever that we in the middle and on the left step forward and become this country’s leaders.

Independent and internal change from within really isn’t in the nature of politicians and political parties. Current campaign finance laws more than ever ensure this by rewarding the self-serving and cowardly politician. Politicians do not lead, they follow. They follow the money that funds their campaigns and the follow whatever policy mandates that money issue to them. Unless you’re among the wealthy and powerful, you (and I) are not having the influence we should have.

It’s not just the GOP. This truth applies to ALL political parties, but the first thing we must do is to stop agreeing with the notion that the Republicans and Democrats are the same. They are not.

That is why we must vote and we must lead our fellow citizens and our elected representatives with courage, resolve, and conviction AWAY from ultra-conservative, right-wing ideals and ideologues, not toward them. The time for hope and compromise is over.

Show Us the Money

Politicians demonstrate daily that they have no courage and no real convictions other than to those people and the money that they believe will help them to get elected and reelected.

Let’s be clear on how we got to this.

Thanks to CONSERVATIVE campaign finance laws and CONSERVATIVE laws meant to restrict voting coming from ACTIVIST CONSERVATIVES on the Supreme Court, our politicians and elected leaders are ever more constrained to serve their Big Money masters, not us.

How is this manifesting itself this year?

As evidenced by non-partisan sources like OpenSecrets.org, the GOP is leading so far when it comes to money for the 2014 midterms.

2014 Election Overview. The 2014 mid-term elections promise lots of excitement -- and money. Take a look here at who's raising the most, where it's coming from, party breakdown, the most expensive races thus far, top donors, how incumbents are doing versus challengers and more. (Source: http://www.opensecrets.org/overview/)
2014 Election Overview.
The 2014 mid-term elections promise lots of excitement — and money. Take a look here at who’s raising the most, where it’s coming from, party breakdown, the most expensive races thus far, top donors, how incumbents are doing versus challengers and more. (Source: http://www.opensecrets.org/overview/)

While it’s pretty close right now, and while the Democrats are by no means pure on the issue of money and influence, it is immature, uninformed, and disingenuous to keep believing and to keep saying that both parties are the same and equally guilty.

They are not.

The Money Difference

The GOP demonstrates constantly that they have no appetite to move out of line with where the tea party and conservative Big Money powers are leading them. Therein lies a fundamental difference that separates them from the Democrats.

It’s important to understand this distinction: Conservative money leads Republicans toward politicians and policies like those listed above in this post. None of those ideals are designed to help anyone EXCEPT the rich and powerful conservatives in this country and abroad. (Think “abroad” is a stretch? Understand the ramifications and who benefits from the TPP and TTIP.)

This is what makes Big Money that comes from the likes of the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson different from money that comes from Michael Bloomberg, George Soros and Tom Steyer. The first two are trying to move the country in a direction that is harmful to everyone but them by backing Republicans. The others are not.

I’m not defending Big Money. I’m still doing what I can to support the work of others to reform our campaign finance laws and to amend the Constitution. (See the American Anti-Corruption Act, Represent.UsWolf-PAC, and MoveToAmend.)

The Choice That Must Be Changed

Where the money comes from and what it will be used for tells us about the choices being made by politicians.

This is why any politician who calls themselves a Republican must be punished at the polls. They have made a conscious decision to join the party funded for and rooted in ideals like inequality, bigotry, irrational xenophobia, science denial, and catastrophic economic theories.

No matter how moderate or reasonable any one Republican candidate might seem, any candidate who calls themselves a Republican is a representative of that party and so must be defeated.

It’s the only way to bring change to that party; to punish them for their ideology and their policies at the polls.

The Appeal to Republicans – Save Your Party

To all you rational and reasonable Republicans, you need to start voting FOR your best interests and AGAINST your party, too.

It’s your only hope of leading the GOP away from the precipice of political extinction to which it now races at full speed.

One day soon, this country will be a minority-majority country. The GOP has almost no appeal to minorities. Your party also seems intent on alienating women, and it already has nearly zero appeal to anyone who isn’t an aging, white, rural, male Christian.

You must know that that is a strategy that leads to extinction. So, this election is on you, too. Save your party and your future.

Out From the Left and the Middle on Nov 4

It’s on all of us in the middle class to save America from the disastrous ideals and policies of GOP conservatism.

If you don’t get to the polls on November 4 and if you don’t vote against every Republican, you simply cannot expect them to change, nor our society or our politics to improve.

The Democrats in their current incarnation are no prize, either, but it is the Republican party which must be defeated now if we hope to pull them back to the middle where some compromises are possible.

I’m done moving toward them. It’s far past the time that conservatives were called out for the damage they and their ideology have done and continue to do,

Republicans are the real moochers and takers. Check that. It’s duped citizens who think they’re Republicans.

One of the most hilarious talking points coming from far-right Republicans and the Tea Party is that when “red states” like Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana are asked to bail out California or Massachusetts, that’s when they will finally become “fed up with socialism” and secede from the Union once and for all.

The problem with that meme is that it has no basis in reality: the more prosperous and Democrat-leaning areas of the United States are likely to be subsidizing dysfunctional “red states,” many of which are suffering from insufficient tax revenue and an abundance of low-wage workers who don’t have much to tax. Tea Party Republicans like to point out that poor cities like Detroit, Baltimore and Camden, New Jersey are run by Democrats, but they neglect to mention that some of the most affluent parts of the United States—from Manhattan to the Silicon Valley and the San Francisco Bay Area to Cambridge, MA to Seattle to Chicago’s North Shore suburbs—are dominated by the Democratic Party. People in those heavily Democratic areas pay a lot of federal income taxes, and quite often, their tax dollars go to red states.

“10 red states that mooch off the federal government” by Alex Henderson

(Credit: PhotosbyAndy via Shutterstock)
(Credit: PhotosbyAndy via Shutterstock)

 

What’s the common denominator among the states listed by Mr. Henderson besides being red?

They are so-called right-to-work states.

What’s the obvious conclusion?

Weak labor = lower pay = lower living standards for everyone = weak economy (except for the rich) = lower levels of local and state tax revenues = rest of us subsidizing poor red states

Corporations Did Not Build America, Labor Did

When labor was strong in America, average people like my father, a high school graduate, could find jobs and make the kind of money that allowed for a respectable and decent middle class life. We were far from wealthy, but he made enough to pay the mortgage and to buy a new car every so often. We went on modest, little, middle class vacations to places like Ocean City, MD, Washington, DC, and once to Myrtle Beach.

Three of his four kids went to college right out of high school. None of us graduated with crushing student loan debt. Only the one who went on to become a school teacher had – and still has – the protections and the benefits unique to organized labor.

The money my father spent during his working life through the 50s, 60s, and 70s went right back into the local economy. He and people just like him were directly responsible for creating jobs and generating taxes by virtue of that spending.

Make no mistake about it. It never has been and never will be rich people or corporations who are most responsible for job creation. This economy works from the middle out, not the top down. Unless you’ve been duped into believing the lie of trickle-down economics, you understand that truth. The corporation can only exist and thrive if there are markets to serve, and those markets are driven by consumer consumption. Take away consumers’ ability to consume, and you cut the throat of our capitalist system.

Who Are the Real Moochers

Now, to anyone tempted to respond that the red states on this list are spending too much on its citizens already; that social safety net programs need to be cut to save money and to motivate those moochers to get jobs; that all of this is why these states need federal subsidies, save it.

That’s bullshit, and you know it. At least you should know it. To not know it is simply a display of willful ignorance of the truth.

The poorest states in the nation are poor and collecting aid from the feds because their citizens cannot find jobs that pay decent wages. This is despite the fact that Republican legislators pass laws and Republican governors sign these so-called “right-to-work” laws into existence as incentives to attract and retain business.

Here’s the reality. Companies in those states can pay their workers less because they know they are protected from organized labor by right-to-work laws which ought to be called “no-right-to-organize” laws.

Stop Voting Against Yourself

There is ONE political party and only ONE who stands AGAINST average citizens and AGAINST labor. One.

Any vote for any Republican anywhere is a vote for a person who, today, voluntarily represents the one party squarely against you and your own economic self-interest unless, of course, you are among the 2% of Americans making $250,000.00 or more per year. I can see why those folks vote for Republicans.

I can’t see why anyone else would.

The only explanation is that they have been duped into believing that the GOP and its policies contain one scintilla of concern or interest in them, or in anything likely to benefit anyone outside the 2-percenters.

This is not about hand-outs to able-bodied but lazy individuals. This is not about Reagan’s mythical welfare queens having more and more children to collect more welfare. You do know that welfare was reformed under Clinton, right?

What this is about is who the real moochers are, and that makes it about politics.

It’s about which party gives a shit about the rest of us – even a little – and which party considers the rest of us to be expendable resources to be used in whatever way most benefits them.

This November’s midterm matters. It matters a lot.

To be sure, the Democrats are no prize. If only the majority of them would actually be Democrats, that would make our choices even clearer. The Republicans, however, are squarely against anything and everything that doesn’t benefit the already-rich and powerful.

Here’s some harsh reality.

If you’re reading this, you’re probably not on that list of rich and powerful people. It’s far past the time for you to stop pretending that you ever will be.

If you’re reading this and you think you’re a Republican, you’ve been lied to and you’ve been duped. It’s time to for you to stop being willfully ignorant of the truth and of the facts.

If you’re reading this and don’t plan to vote in November, you’re part of the problem. Not voting only compounds the problems we face, and you can be assured people like this person will be voting.

terrist

You need to understand these realities and be thinking about all of this when – not IF, but WHEN – you vote in November.

It’s this straight-forward: A vote for a Republican, any Republican, is a vote against your own economic self-interest unless you’re in the top 2%.

How Morally Bankrupt Do You Have to Be to Criticize the #IceBucketChallenge

I’ve been doing some reading today thanks to TWO Ice Bucket challenges I received almost simultaneously last night. I accepted them both!

One of the first pieces I came across was, “Five myths about ALS.” It was very informative. For example, I had never even heard of the (incorrect) connection some make with lyme disease before.

My attention was also drawn to a linked piece in the LA Times, “A few (impolite) questions about the ice bucket challenge.” I read that one, too. I readily admit to have also wondered about the basic premise of that article which can be summed up as, “Are there more ‘deserving’ diseases?”

The award-winning, once disgraced, and later reinstated columnist, Michael Hiltzik, thinks the ice bucket challenge is a fad.

He claims that it will only make us feel good for now. He posits that it’s a way for us to feel like we’ve filled some sort of annual philanthropy “quota” in a painless way; “painless” as in when we use credit cards for holiday shopping and the card makes (a pittance of) a donation to a charity.

He goes on to say that, while the Ice Bucket Challenge is working at raising awareness and cash for a worthy cause, it’s also drawing money and attention away from diseases like Alzheimer’s and diabetes that afflict many, many more people.

Some of the online comments on his article echo that sentiment.

ALS Comment

Putting aside Kbalman’s seemingly envious explanation for not supporting this particular fundraiser, Hiltzik does make a logical argument if all one considers are concepts and principles like cost-benefit, return on investment, and the economic outcomes of The Ice Bucket Challenge.

As a self-proclaimed Conscientious Capitalist, I can see the case he’s making. I can even agree with the analysis and what he presents as outcomes.

But, I kept coming back to another thought.

I kept coming back to, “Christ, what kind of a dick do you have to be to begrudge ALS and the people afflicted by this terrible disease even if The Ice Bucket Challenge doesn’t make ‘economic sense’, is only a fad, and will turn out to be ‘last year’s thing’ next year?”

It’s not always about the numbers.

Sometimes – too infrequently nowadays, if you ask me – we should simply and joyously embrace doing the right thing regardless of the economics and the return on investment.

In addition to helping to fund the ALS Foundation, here’s what I’m hoping for as a result of this “fad.”

I’m hoping that it actually begins to change our minds, our values, and our belief systems. On the whole, we – meaning Americans, and especially a certain subset of Americans – have become way too selfish, way too narcissistic, and far, far, FAR too Objectivist in our thinking.

Maybe by pouring ice water over our heads we can begin to awaken to the possibilities for shaping and guiding our society toward being that “kinder and gentler nation” that President G.H.W. Bush extolled us to become.

Maybe as a result of this heightened awareness about this one horrible disease, one which I just learned we know far too little about and which is a death sentence to the afflicted, we can begin to become a more humane, more caring, and more social society.

Maybe we’ll start to see more and more “fads” of all kinds that inspire us and move us to do more to help all kinds of people all over the world.

Maybe, just maybe, The Great (I added that!) Ice Bucket Challenge of 2014 for ALS will, in some small but cumulative way over time, influence how we look at and think about lots of things.

Maybe we’ll think and act more on issues like….
….how we fund public education and public research,
….what changes are necessary to rein in Big Pharma and their control over our health sciences and our health care services, and most of all,
….what kind of world we want to bequeath to our kids and to future generations.

Yes, some decisions are and should be about cost-benefit and return on investment. I have no issue with that. There’s nothing wrong with making money. I just think the qualifier we often don’t add is, “How do you make that money?”

Contrary to what some believe, it is possible to make money without actually harming anyone or the planet. Capitalism doesn’t have to be a zero sum game where the only way I win is if you lose, and if I gobble up all the resources before you do.

Which brings me back to The Ice Bucket Challenge.

Why would anyone apply ONLY the cold and unblinking calculus of pure economics to fundraising efforts like this one?

We may not be pouring buckets of ice water over our heads next year, but so what?

Wouldn’t it be great if next year and in years to come more and more people abandoned their selfishness and their self-destructive belief in cold, heartless, and morally bankrupt ideologies and replaced them with support for people, policies, and ideologies (not always a bad word, btw) that strive to make life better for more people?

Not everything in life should be a for-profit venture driven by a cost-benefit analysis and an acceptable return on investment. I have every confidence that we – Americans and people all over the world – have plenty of room in our hearts and in our wallets to do more to help others than we’re doing today.

That’s an ideology that makes sense and makes us all better individuals.

Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as "Lou Gehrig's Disease," is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed. (Image and text from http://www.als-ny.org/index.php?page=about_als&sub=what_is)
Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), often referred to as “Lou Gehrig’s Disease,” is a progressive neurodegenerative disease that affects nerve cells in the brain and the spinal cord. Motor neurons reach from the brain to the spinal cord and from the spinal cord to the muscles throughout the body. The progressive degeneration of the motor neurons in ALS eventually leads to their death. When the motor neurons die, the ability of the brain to initiate and control muscle movement is lost. With voluntary muscle action progressively affected, patients in the later stages of the disease may become totally paralyzed. (Image and text from http://www.als-ny.org/index.php?page=about_als&sub=what_is)

 

You Could Say That a Vote for Republicans is a Vote Against American Jobs

Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the NAM, Danny Roderick, president and CEO of Westinghouse Electric Co., and Pierre Paul Oneid, senior vice president and chief nuclear officer at Holtec International Corp. speak Friday at a roundtable discussion on the Export-Import Bank. - Justine Coyne
Jay Timmons, president and CEO of the NAM, Danny Roderick, president and CEO of Westinghouse Electric Co., and Pierre Paul Oneid, senior vice president and chief nuclear officer at Holtec International Corp. speak Friday at a roundtable discussion on the Export-Import Bank.
– Justine Coyne

If you’re like me, you may have little to no understanding or appreciation for something called the Export-Import (Ex-Im) Bank.

The Pittsburgh Business Times published a good article today titled, Roderick, NAM urge action on Export-Import Bank. I recommend reading it.

Here’s an excellent description of the Ex-Im:

In 2013, the Ex-Im bank supported $37 billion in exports that helped to sustain 200,000 U.S. jobs at 3,400 companies, according to Jay Timmons, president and CEO of NAM.

And it’s not just the big companies like Westinghouse that benefit from the program: About 90 percent of Ex-Im bank transactions in 2013 benefited small business, according to NAM.

Seems like a good thing, right?

So, why would Republicans and libertarians – including the Koch brothers and Koch-backed groups like The Heritage Foundation and Club For Growth – want to kill it?

I highly recommend a June 27th article in Bloomberg titled,How the U.S. Ex-Im Bank Landed on Republicans’ Death Row.”

This excerpt kind of says it all:

“Ex-Im represents both a policy and political target because it’s do-able,” said Diane Katz, a Heritage research fellow. “We’re not trying to take down the Federal Reserve here. We’re starting with an agency that is ripe.”

On the surface, the 80-year-old bank isn’t an obvious target. Rather than costing taxpayers money, it regularly returns a profit to the Treasury — more than $3.4 billion since 2005. The bank says its programs generated about 2 percent of the $2.3 trillion the U.S. exported last year.

….At least five groups opposing the bank’s renewal, including Concerned Veterans for America and the 60 Plus Association, received nearly all of their funding over an 18-month period ending in December 2012 from the Kochs’ political network — a total of $47.4 million, according to an analysis by the Center for Responsive Politics researcher Robert Maguire. Another group, Americans for Prosperity, founded by the Kochs in 2004, is also lobbying against the bank.

To all my fellow middle class and ordinary Americans still identifying with the GOP, the tea party, and with libertarian principles, when will you come to grips with reality?

A vote for Republicans – and a misguided and misinformed belief in libertarian mythology like the Invisible Hand of free markets – is a vote against American companies, American jobs, and a vote and belief system that goes against your own economic self-interest.

Will there ever be enough evidence to convince you?