Ending on a Positive

Still buzzing from California calling for a Constitutional Amendment to get money out of politics.  Figured I’d spread the love.

The state senators who voted yes to regulating against the corrupting influence of money in politics:

  • Jim Beall
  • Ellen Corbett
  • Lou Correra
  • Kevin De León
  • Mark DeSaulnier
  • Noreen Evans
  • Cathleen Calgiani
  • Loni Hancock
  • Ed Hernandez
  • Jerry Hill
  • Hannah Beth-Jackson
  • Ricardo Lara
  • Mark Leno
  • W. Ted Lieu
  • Carol Liu
  • Holly J. Mitchell
  • Bill Monning
  • Alex Padilla
  • Fran Pavley
  • Richard Roth
  • Darrell Steinberg
  • Norma J. Torres
  • Lois Wolk

On a happily related note the DCCC has started a petition for a Constitutional Amendment to overturn Citizens United. They’re looking for 1.5 million signatures.  If you want to add your name to the list (and don’t mind giving your e-mail tot the democratic congressional campaign committee) you can do so here.

California Calls for Constitutional Amendment to get Money Out of Politics!

I did a dance very similar to this after the AJR1 vote. And when I get out of the hospital, I’m doin’ it again!

2 down, 32 to go.

The California State Senate just passed resolution AJR1, introduced into the State Assembly by Representative Mike Gatto, nearly 2 years ago. AJR1 calls for a Constitutional convention for the sole purpose of establishing that corporations are not natural persons and money is not speech and therefore can be limited through legislation.

California joins Vermont in passing a resolution calling for a Convention. We need 34 states to pass resolutions to convene a Constitutional convention and draft an amendment.

The resolution got an ovation after it passed, not from onlookers in the gallery, but from the senators themselves on the floor.  They just struck their own blow to free themselves from incessant fund-raising an influence peddling.

As I said last night, we’re in the early stages of what will likely be an ugly, protracted political dog fight against some of the richest, most powerful people in the world.  Typically those kinds of fights don’t go well for the little guys.  But with an issue in which 96% of the population is in agreement and with grassroots activism driven almost entirely by citizen-funded volunteer organizations, things can have a way of snowballing.

We’re coming to take back our democracy.  We believe it’s possible, and we’re ready for a fight.

BTW, Tom Berryhill, the state senator for my district, who has been fined for laundering campaign funds and, in my experience, all but refuses to meet with constituents, voted no. He will NOT be getting my vote going forward and wouldn’t even if I agreed with him on every other issue.

Free.  Thought.

The Path to Possibility

Monday might be a very big day.

The California State Senate is set to vote on AJR-1, a resolution introduced to the California State Assembly in 2012 by Representative Mike Gatto. It calls for a constitutional convention for the purpose of revoking corporate personhood in regards to free speech and limiting campaign finance.

It has already passed the California State Assembly.  And the Senate judiciary Committee.  It was set for a vote last Thursday, but was tabled for unspecified reasons (rumors are some of the yes votes were absent at the time).  It has been rescheduled for a vote on Monday, June 23, 2014.

A very similar resolution has already passed in Vermont.  The movement, led by Larry Lessig and other citizen-funded groups was the very definition of grass roots. (Registering nary a ripple in the national media, of course.)

Similar resolutions are in various stages of percolation in 10 different states, introduced and supported by both Democratic and Republican legislators who’ve had enough.

Article V of our ceaselessly amazing U.S. Constitution allows for conventions to be called by the states, circumventing the federal government. It requires 2/3 of the states to call for the convention and 3/4 of the states to ratify the amendment once the convention puts forth a resolution. In short, we need 34 states to call for a convention and 38 states to ratify an amendment proposal.

It is also critical to note that constitutional conventions are required be very specific.  They can only be held regarding the issue for which they were called. No switcheroos or add-ons after one has been convened.

Of the people. By the people.  Like music to the ears, innit?

Needless to say, if AJR-1 does pass in California, it would be historic.  The largest state in the union would have called to amend the U.S. Constitution for the express purpose of returning the democracy back to the American people.

It would be a chance to undo the damage done by the 2010 Supreme Court decision in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission (FEC) which proclaimed corporations as people and preventied bipartisan campaign finance reform on the grounds that money is speech protected by the U.S. Constitution, as well as McCutcheon v. FEC decided in April of 2014, in which SCOTUS struck down many of the remaining limits on campaign contributions. These decisions  effectively allowed for the purchase of entire elections by private interests.  It’s what led to the explosion of Super PACs and their shady regulations.

But let’s call this for what it is: legalized corruption.  A recent Princeton study found that voter opinion has no discernible influence federal lawmakers.  The only opinions that moved the needle were rich donors and the lobbyists that work for them.  In other words, lawmakers are only listening to the people who fund their campaigns. Money for influence. All that comes out of it is voter apathy and stymied political discourse (and cash windfalls for a select few). It’s the reason we can’t do anything about climate change, or for-profit prisons, or gun control, or our schools, or any of the monumental and mounting issues we face.

Legalized corruption.  

So long as SCOTUS holds that money equals protected speech, they can shoot down any campaign finance reform law anyone tries to pass.  And so far,  they pretty much have.

AJR-1 is a means to put an end to this broken corrupt system.

Of course, that’s if it passes.  And make no mistake, it would only be the first salvo in what could very well be a long and hard fought political war.

But however the vote goes in the California State Senate, the fight is only beginning.  Often times, the powers that be try to slow cook hot-button issues. They wait for the furor to die down, occasionally placating the disquieted masses with some meager, symbolic concessions, then get back to business when the noise dies down and interests shift (the 4 biggest banks are bigger now than they were before the 2008 crash…por ejemplo).

We can’t continue to let this happen.  It’s not about going after the super rich donors or even the politicians.  Its about tearing down the system that has squeezed the people out and made us inaudible.

We’re late in the game in California, but if you support the idea of exercising the power of the people and getting money out of politics, I urge you to call your California state senator Monday morning (you can find your state reps here) to let them know you support AJR-1 and you want them to vote yes.

Even if you don’t live in California, call your state legislators.  Let them know  you support a constitutional convention to get money out of politics.  Demand it. Tell them you want your democracy back.  (Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a catch-all database.  The best way to find your representatives is to type in “who are my representatives” and then your state in your favorite search engine.  Usually in the first 2 or 3 choices you’ll find one that only requires your address or zip code and then finds your reps along with contact info for you. Teh interwebs are awesome.)

96% of Americans say that the influence of money in politics needs to be reduced. 91% believe nothing can be done about it.

They’re wrong.

It’s well worth it to show them.

Finger crossed.

 

The ‘Murican Dream (A Long Trayvon Martin Rant)

“Apparently, we are now at the point when a seventeen year old boy, unarmed, must make all the correct judgments during a confrontation with a grown man in order not to be shot to death.”

-David Simon, co-creator of HBO’s The Wire

I’ve been called a nigger, to my face, somewhere in the neighborhood of a dozen times in my life.  Clerks have followed me around stores countless times.  I’ve been automatically put in remedial English classes on 3 occasions and told by an English teacher that I have problems writing (it salted my opinion of my ability for years).  I’ve been stopped by police dozens of times, asked what I was doing, occasionally searched, yet never given a citation or a warning.  Once a cop pulled up when I was sitting in a car outside my house talking to a friend.  He checked my driver’s license three times (never hers, of course, she was white) on the grounds that there had been a robbery at a nearby convenience store.  He admitted when he first saw me that I didn’t fit the description except that I was black.  (Couldn’t she have been the getaway driver?)  The worst was the time the police pulled me over when I was driving home from work and drew guns on me.  The 1st cop asked for my registration, when I reached for it (it was in the glove-box) he blurted Whoa!Whoa!Whoa! at me while his partner aimed his gun at my head through the passenger window.  His intent was clear: Don’t move your hand another inch or you’re gonna get shot in the face. They kept me there for two hours, repeatedly checking my driver’s license and registration.  They said, once again, that my vehicle ‘matched a description,” but considering I was driving a grey Nissan pick up with blue side panels, you can count me  skeptical.

But I digress.  My point is, most black men have stories like these.  It’s just the reality of life in America.  I typically don’t give it much thought.

But I can’t treat this stuff so lightly anymore.  I mean, I live in a world where, as a black man, if being harassed and followed around is all you get, you’re actually doing okay.  Think about it; in any of the above instances, if I had been belligerent or, God-forbid physical, I might have been killed with impunity.

I mean, what the hell is that?  This is America, right?

We’re at the point now where a 12-year-old black kid needs a completely different set of instructions from a 12-year-old white kid.  If anything happens they won’t trust you if you’re black.  If you’re black and anything less than an absolute angel, you’re guilty.  And always run, because if you defend yourself successfully, the odds are you’re going to jail; if you defend yourself and lose, you could be dead.  And it will be your fault.

Yeah, yeah, I’m just being reactionary.  It’s got nothing at all to do with race.  It’s just happenstance.  Again.

The truth is, that while many of the details in the Trayvon Martin case have nothing to do with race, at its core, it’s all about race.  Race is what made George Zimmerman suspicious of Trayvon in the 1st place.  Race is why people are so quick to believe that Trayvon is a thug or must have initiated the physical confrontation that lead Zimmerman to shoot him.  Of course this is all based on Zimmerman’s account, which he had a month and a half to work on before being seriously questioned about it.

But I cannot possibly believe that if Zimmerman was black and Trayvon was white that Zimmerman’s story is the one law enforcement would go with any more than I believe that Sean Hannity and Fox News would help raise money for a black Zimmerman’s defense. Or that the police would give black  Zimmerman 44 days to get his story straight before arresting him. Or that a jury of six white women from a small southern town would sympathize with an armed black man patrolling the neighborhood and shooting an unarmed white teenager. Or that a 17-year-old white teenager would get racial profiled in his father’s gated community.

Don’t get me wrong, the judge’s instructions were horrendous; Zimmerman actually rejected Stand Your Ground in favor of a standard self defense claim. Yet the judge instructed the jury that Zimmerman had the right to stand his ground and Juror B37 has since admitted that Stand Your Ground factored into the acquittal.  Simultaneously, the judged failed to instruct them  that in a standard self-defense claim Zimmerman needs to prove that he didn’t initiate the confrontation.

Thus, I believe the evidence, or lack thereof, leaves room for reasonable doubt, particularly with how self-defense laws currently stand.  Moreover, I think the Dept. of Justice going after Zimmerman is de facto double jeopardy, a violation of Zimmerman’s Constitutional rights.  And I don’t think two wrongs make a right.

The fact is, this whole thing stinks.  And it hurts.  If Trayvon’s death was a punch to the gut, the verdict is a kick in the balls.

I honestly can’t help feeling…unwelcome these days. It’s somewhat familiar feeling,  unfortunately.

I know.  Everyone has to deal with racism.  But let’s be honest here.  America has one of the great atrocities of human history on its books. 400 years of the most brutal, oppressive, and dehumanizing slavery ever known followed by another 100 years of legislative, systematic, and violent oppression.

Trayvon Martin’s death is just an echo of this legacy.

Consider that at no point in American history have blacks enjoyed equal standing with whites in terms of income, wealth, education quality or access, job opportunities, corporate leadership, or representation in government.  This on top of being historically red-lined by banks denying us access to home and business loans, subjected to gentrification, stopped, frisked, arrested and charged by law enforcement with much greater frequency, and punished more severely for similar crimes.  So let’s stop pretending that there’s an equivalency, it’s ignorant if not downright duplicitous.

The problem is that we’ve allowed cowards, liars, and bigots–bullies essentially–to set the terms of the discussion.  And bullies hate a fair fight.  They have instead created an environment in which there can be no discourse on the subject of race, save for the occasional rant by Chris Rock.

When we’re not hitting each other over the head with the race card, we’re denying it outright (don’t be fooled, this is just a means of deflecting the entire argument back), focusing on minutia completely out of context as evidence of egality (a.k.a. the “see, when viewed in a vacuum, this detail isn’t racist”), or simply burying our heads in the sand and proclaiming that we’ve arrived at a post-racial America.

It’s bullshit.  And shame on all of us for accepting it as anything else.

The fact is, Trayvon Martin’s death and Zimmerman’s acquittal are about race.  A lot of things are about race, and will continue to be, because we refuse to face the issue.

I think about Germany, another nation with a Great Atrocity on its books.  They study the Holocaust as ugly and humiliating as it is.  They look at it and seek not only answers but solutions.  And soon after World War II they came to the conclusion that their government no longer has the right to take a person’s life.  Their current constitution, ratified in 1949, abolishes capital punishment.

That’s the kind of approach we need here in the United States.  Instead of meekly slapping injustice and discrimination away whenever it pops up, we should be actively hunting it down, rooting it out, and crushing it utterly.

More importantly, we can’t keep letting the people who are indifferent, weak-minded, self-interested, or hateful keep controlling the argument. There aren’t two equal sides to the issue.  There’s right and there’s wrong. We have to be determined to be on the right side of this issue forever more.  Not to make up for slavery, which at this point is impossible, but to ensure that inequality and discrimination are completely eliminated and bigotry of every stripe is banished to the shadows where it may wallow only in tremulous fear of the light.

Of course, this is only my dream.

We don’t actually live in a post-racialist America.  Toes are going to get stepped on, nerves will be frayed.  There are blatant racists and more significantly, oblivious ones.  Having your worldview shattered is an unnerving, occasionally violent thing.  It’s unpleasant.  But we can’t let that deter us.

We can no longer afford to be tolerant of intolerance.

Free.  Thought.

And boycott Florida.

Evolution Is Not Just A Theory…Look At Obama

President Barrack Obama has “evolved” to conform with the growing majority opinion across the country that LGBT Americans are Constitutionally entitled to the same rights as heterosexual Americans, including marriage.

The president had been inexplicably resistant to the idea of marriage equality even though his administration had otherwise made great strides in promoting LGBT rights.  He always described his position on gay marriage as evolving. (As opposed to waiting for the right time, I guess.  Classic Obama.)

Nevertheless, public opinion was changing and pressure was mounting.  The Democratic party supplied the screws.  Joe Biden tightened them on Meet the Press last Sunday.  Then Amendment 1 passed in North Carolina.  It imposes a state constitutional ban on gay marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships.

Apparently it combined with the previous environmental conditions to push President Obama’s evolution past the tipping point.

Obama is hilarious sometimes.  But hey, you take the wins where and when they come.

This flip-flop/concession/self-realization/admittance of an actual belief moves us all one step closer to an America that recognizes the Constitutional rights of all citizens equally and the basic human rights of all humankind.

Celebrating Stupidity: The U.S. Constitution Is Whatever We Want It to Be

Witch-hunter and Selma city councilman Dennis Lujan.

A fortune telling business wants to set up shop in Selma, California.

Apparently ‘that don’t go ’round here.

According to pastor Dale Davis, “I do think we have a right to say what businesses come to our community and we as a Christian community, we feel this is not a business we want in our community.”

Councilman Dennis Lujan is not so lily-livered in his opinion, informing the potential entrepreneurs, “You’re not welcome here, period.”

Forthwith, the Selma city council held a standing-room only meeting to craft an ordinance banning fortune tellers from operating within city limits (seriously).  This, of course, is after the council learned that their current ban on fortune tellers was ruled unconstitutional a quarter century ago.

Aren’t these guys always talking about free markets and small government?

Selma is apparently overrun with fool-ass-clowns.  It’s not a new development.

I’ve come to realize, and this Selma side-show clearly illustrates it, that many of these Christian fundamentalists see the U.S. Constitution in the same way they see the Holy Bible: as a confirmation of their personal beliefs irrespective of what the texts actually say.  It’s like the people who argue that taxes are illegal even though it says in the Constitution, quite plainly, that congress has the power to levy and collect taxes and apportion those taxes as it sees fit.

Fundamentalists consider the very existence of lifestyles and opinions they personally disagree with as an attack on their way of life.  So logically, attacking those other lifestyle choices and opinions is simply the defense of their own way of life. Forced vaginal probes impede the murder (as they see it) of unborn and in some instances–yet to be conceived–children. It doesn’t register for them that such a law could possibly be an attack on women.

Ships pass in the abyss.

Okay.  So money out of politics first and foremost, of course.  But whenever we get to the point where we can start really fixing education, we need an emphasis on civics and especially the U.S. Constitution, because there are a lot of people possessed of abject ignorance to what it says, and more importantly, what it means.

Selma.  Salem.  I’m just saying.

What I Hate About Republicans–Fundamentalism

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

This is the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment, one of the most broadly interpreted–and hotly contested–parts of the U.S. Constitution.

The Establishment Clause was initially interpreted to mean the U.S. Congress only.  Many of the states had already adopted official churches. However, by the early 19th century–when many of the founding fathers were still involved in governance–the interpretation had already been broadened to include elements of state and local government.  However, the Clause didn’t formally include the states until the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1947 ruling on Emerson vs. The Board of Education.  The ruling echoed writings by Thomas Jefferson on the subject in which he envisioned a “wall of separation” between the government and the church.  It makes sense.  They had just rebelled against a Christian theocracy; it stands to reason that they wouldn’t want to re-establish the same system here in America.

Like many of the ideals expressed in the Constitution, our interpretation  of the church/state relationship has evolved.  Both sides have positions rooted in the origins of our nation.  The real question is, do we want to progress with those ideals or go backwards?

This is where Conservatives and strict Constitutionalists miss the point.  The greatness of the U.S. Constitution is its adaptability to the needs of the times while maintaining core values regarding  liberty, freedom of speech, freedom of religion, pursuit of happiness, et al; not because it was perfect as-ratified in 1788, long before the automobile, the airplane, the nuclear bomb, modern medicine, and the Internet.  Remember, the Constitution also allowed for slavery and counted slaves as 3/5 of a person.

But then Christian fundamentalism has its roots in the vestiges of slave culture.  In the 1960s Republicans courted southern whites enraged over the Civil Rights Movement as part of the Southern Strategy.  Republicans positioned themselves not simply as proponents of Christianity, but rather as defenders of Christian supremacy.  This is not about protecting peoples’ right to worship; it’s about imposing their particular brand of Christianity on all Americans.

This brand of Christian fundamentalism is called Dominionism, the belief that secular government must be eliminated in favor of theocracy.  It’s basically fascism toting a crucifix.  Rick Perry, Michelle Bachmann, and Sarah Palin number among the nationally known Republicans who subscribe to this theory.

…Which brings us back to the Establishment Clause.

I believe that, much like the issue of slavery, the Founding Fathers were not stauncher in their enforcement of the Establishment Clause in the interests of pragmatism.  It would have been detrimental to the birth of the new nation to  embroil it in a battle over economics and religion.

Yet regardless of how we might interpret the Establishment Clause, what is not debatable is that the Founders did not intend for us to be a theocracy, Christian or otherwise.  How do we know this?  The Constitution itself.  All the framers needed to do was state, “These United States of America shall be a theocratic union…” or ” The official religion of these United States shall be…” or something to that effect.  The fact that such language is notably absent from the Constitution speaks volumes about the Founding Fathers’ intentions.

Of course, there are the words of the Founding Fathers themselves:

“And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the Supreme Being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be classed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But may we hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this most venerated reformer of human errors.” —Thomas Jefferson, Letter to John Adams, April 11, 1823

Let it simply be asked, where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths which are the instruments of investigation in courts of justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition that morality can be maintained without religion.”  –George Washington, Farewell Address

“The priesthood have, in all ancient nations, nearly monopolized learning. And ever since the Reformation, when or where has existed a Protestant or dissenting sect who would tolerate A FREE INQUIRY? …  But touch a solemn truth in collision with a dogma of a sect, though capable of the clearest proof, and you will find you have disturbed a nest, and the hornets will swarm about your eyes…and fly into your face…” — John Adams, letter to John Taylor

“It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are 20 gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.”–Thomas Jefferson

The Christian Right mistakenly argues that our nation’s founders were all Christians (much less wanted a Christian theocracy).  Many did believe.  Many others, including, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams were  Deists.  It stands to reason then, that they would want a nation in which all people were free to believe–or not believe–as they choose.   It was a concept unique in the world at the time and which many Christian fundamentalists have difficulty comprehending. 

Obviously, faith can be a guide, but it cannot be the basis by which laws are made.  That would, by definition, make us a theocracy, no different structurally than Taliban-controlled Afghanistan.

This is where the Republican party bears responsibility.  In courting the Christian fundamentalist vote they have perpetuated a dangerous element in politics.  And the  Republican leadership supported fundamentalism not because they shared their deep, albeit hateful, type of faith.  They did it to acquire a devoted, factually ignorant, and malleable voting block, one conditioned to accept cloudy answers and fall in line with a simple call to faith.

They set discriminatory and oppressive policies, cherry-picked in the interests of their own insecurities, and shroud them in religion.  They claim their purposes are noble; faith is personal and sacred; and to challenge their beliefs is disrespectful and taboo.  In fact, we are the cultural assailants because we won’t let them impose their beliefs on us.

On top of all of that, the most terrifying thing about these Christian extremists is their longing for the Rapture.  Call it Armageddon, call it Judgement Day, they yearn for the destruction of this world because they believe God’s Kingdom awaits them on the other side.  True, the Christian extremists controlling the Republican party want to fundamentally change our form of government. But their ultimate goal is a Holy War.  Therefore, it is incumbent upon both people of reason and reasonable faith to join together to not only oppose Republican Dominionism but to eradicate its influence from American politics.    This is not about abortion rights.  It’s not about gay marriage or the social safety net or U.S. foreign policy.

This is about what kind of America we want to live in: a Christian theocracy based on a narrow interpretation of the Bible, or a nation of laws based on reason, liberty, and equality of opportunity for everyone.  We have to decide and then fight for it.

Otherwise we are going to reap the whirlwind.

This is the end of Bill Maher’s documentary Religulous.  It’s a bit too broad and propagandized, but hyperbole aside, it’s accurate about a point many people don’t want to talk about.

What I Hate About Republicans – Intro

Due to constructive-feedback from friends, I changed the title of this series of posts.

I have to begin with a caveat–not to soften my stance, but to make a distinction.

I do not hate conservatives.

In the many debates I’ve had with my conservative friends we could usually get to a point where finding some middle-ground at least seemed possible–if we didn’t reach it outright.  There are, of course, plenty of instances where we’ve agreed to disagree but it’s clear enough that our core principles aren’t so far apart.  I guess I’m saying that most of the conservatives that I’ve met have been pretty decent people.  They love America and they want what’s best for it.  That’s the reason I make the distinction.

The Republican party does not represent conservatives. Conservatives believe in fiscal responsibility, limited government, low taxes, a minimal (or nonexistent) welfare state, and strict interpretation of the U.S. Constitution.  However:

  • No Republican president has overseen a balanced budget in over 30 years.  (Anyone arguing that it was the Newt Gingrich-led congress that balanced the budget during Bill Clinton’s presidency would then have to explain why there wasn’t even an attempt to balance the budget under George W. Bush even though the GOP continued to control both houses of congress for his first 6 years in office).   Don’t buy into the attacks on Clinton or Obama, the GOP’s premise is that Republicans are fiscally responsible so the burden is on them to show that responsibility.

    The chart clearly shows that neither party can consider themselves deficit hawks.
  • Republicans don’t want limited government.  They want to stick their noses into our bedrooms, books, movies, music, schools, women’s wombs (figuratively), and hammer us over the head with their fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible–which flies in the face of the 1st (FIRST!) Amendment. President George W. Bush and his Republican-led congress actually increased the size of the federal government and attached ineffective, wasteful spending programs to Medicare and the Department of Education among others.
  • Republicans don’t want lower taxes; they do want to lower taxes for the rich, as evidenced by their intransigence on such things as corporate subsidies and the Bush Era tax cuts.  But their attempts to repeal the home mortgage interest deduction and shift the payroll tax credit away from employees, both of which primarily benefit the middle-class, show their true colors.  How can taxes affecting the middle-class not count?
  • Damn, Grandpa should'a been an oil tycoon.

    Republicans don’t want to end welfare.  Well, they want to end it for the poor and unemployed (or at least humiliate them by requiring them to take drug tests and other such folderol).  But they will fight tooth and nail to make sure the oil industry keeps every penny of their subsidies, even though big oil companies are among the most profitable businesses in the world. As a side note, many of the oil subsidies began as incentives to spur investment in oil production–which we can all agree is probably not necessary anymore.  Yet those same Republicans fighting to keep oil subsidies chafe against providing similar subsidies to clean and renewable energy.

I could go on, but I think I’ve made the point.  Republicans do not represent conservatives.  To be fair, Democrats are even worse at representing progressives, and disregard of the population is a common practice among politicians.  It’s the reason I have disdain for the Democrats as well (I’ll get to that later). The only real difference between the two parties is that Democrats still believe the government has a role in assisting the disabled and disadvantaged.  Republicans could care less.

Republicans see America from one perspective: the white heterosexual Christian male.  Obviously, a WASPy straight guy is a perfectly fine thing to be.  The problem is, the further you identify away from that, the more you find the Republicans pissing in your eye.  If you’re black, LGBT, Latino, Asian, Muslim, Native American, or a woman, they have no interest in helping you get to equal footing.  They admit there is discrimination, but do nothing to combat it…unless the they feel the discrimination goes against whites.

Thus we come to the first reason I hate the GOP: Bigotry.

Believe me, it’s the bread and butter of Republican politics.  Stay tuned for for part 1 to see why.

(Republican money machine image from: http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/how-the-gop-became-the-party-of-the-rich-20111109.  Most profitable businesses image from: http://www.ritholtz.com/blog/2009/12/most-profitable-global-companies/. Federal debt chart from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Federal_Debt_1901-2010_.jpg)

The REAL Healthcare Debate In A Nutshell

I’m just going to come right out and say it:  We need to socialize our health care system in the United States.

Call it single-payer, call it a public option, call it a Medicare buy-in, call it whatever you want, just socialize it so we can move on.  (Yes, I hear the political heads exploding.) 

I understand.  I’ve used the dreaded S-word.  Fortunately, I just finished a blog about the dogmatic shroud surrounding socialism and I believe you’ll find it less scary (and less un-American) than you think.

We already know detractors will slather the idea in terrifying imagery.   They’ll try to make it seem like you’ll have to go to some kind of DMV for your chemotherapy.  This is the United States of America.  I have no doubt that if we make it a priority to have the most effective and efficient socialized healthcare system the world has ever seen we could get it done.  We did it with our socialized military.  You can’t argue with success.

I look at it like this: human life is more important than profit.  If it is impossible to treat every sick person and still make money then the private sector should not be tasked with providing care.

The naysayers will nevertheless complain about all of the medical advancements our private healthcare system has made.  They tend to leave out the fact that the majority of those advancements were actually made with public, taxpayer-funded grants, and many of those to public, taxpayer-funded universities.

They’ll lament that we’re turning into France or some other socialist state.  (I’d counter that with the story of my French expatriate friend Annie who had her first child in France.  The child was premature and there was a complication with the birth.  Annie was hospitalized for three days.  Her daughter for a week.  There was no bill.)  The fact is, medical costs are one of the main factors behind most bankruptcy filings in  America.  According to a 2007 study by The American Journal of Medicine, getting sick was a factor in 62% of personal bankruptcies.  Even worse, 75% of all those filing for personal bankruptcy actually had some kind of medical insurance.  If it looks like failure and smells like failure…

The critics will say it’s unconstitutional and that the Founding Fathers never intended for us to have universal healthcare.  I would begin by doubting their clairvoyance, then follow up with the argument that in the days of the Founding Fathers a doctor engaged in practices like applying leeches, bloodletting, and having the patient hold boiled stones.  Modern medicine can be the difference between life, death, and the quality of both.  It has become a foundational element of the human experience.  The Founding Fathers could no more predict its advent than they could the internet.

Constitutionally, I consider a socialized healthcare system both a promotion of the general welfare and a Fifth Amendment right.  Anyone who denies a person access to healthcare is denying them their Right to Life without due process.  It is a somewhat broad interpretation, but it doesn’t go against the spirit of the Constitution any more than it does to interpret the inclusion of an Air Force into our military.  Who knew there would be airplanes?

If that’s not enough for the bellyachers, then I say let’s convene a Constitutional convention and decide–once and for all–whether or not there should be a Constitutionally protected right to see a doctor.  If almost 3/4 of the population at least want a social health care option–and according to multiple polls they do–our representative government should have a clear mandate.  At the very least, all sides will have a chance to be heard.  A Constitutional amendment could have the added bonus of disincentivizing the rampant profiteering that drives up medical costs (America has the highest prescription drug prices in the world).

So I say again, socialize healthcare.  Do it and be done with the entire argument. In a nutshell.

(Exploding head image from  http://unrealitymag.com/index.php/2010/02/24/videos-of-heads-exploding-in-movies/  Founding Fathers image from: http://www.foundersofamerica.com/Founders_of_America_Posters.htm  Bankruptcy image from: http://katzlawflorida.com/bankruptcy-law/  Doctors support public option image from: http://crooksandliars.com/john-amato/us-doctors-support-public-option)

Capitalism and Socialism Making Sweet Love For Over 200 St. Valentine’s Days

(That's Capitalism on the right)

I’m starting to realize that the reason I started blogging is to define things.  Terms get thrown around in the media as if we’re all in agreement on their definition.  But these terms are interpretive.  Instead of real understanding we’re left with presumption, oversimplification, and gross generalization.  It’s pretty easy to get caught up in the rhetoric.  Next thing you know you’re wasting your time battling propaganda and false arguments and the point gets lost.

"What'chu talkin' 'bout, dog?"

Of course, obfuscation is the point more often than not.  Modern discourse in America isn’t about trying to solve the momentous problems we face.  It’s about playing politics.  We’ve been programmed to forswear actual debate and instead respond to sound bites.  Job Creators.  Pro Choice.  Family Values.  We hear the cues and infer the rest.

For example, the reason I started writing this particular blog was to rail against the privatization of our prison system (based on a story I saw on The Young Turks).  I feel strongly that our prison system should remain socialized.  But I kept feeling like I already lost the argument because I was talking about socialism, a word whose very mention opens me up to ad hominem attacks from the right and abandonment from everyone except the far left(many of whom are, in fact, socialists).  Never mind the fact that police, firefighters, teachers, and soldiers are all forms of it, the common argument is that socialism somehow destroys capitalism.  It failed in the Soviet Union; it’s failing in Europe; and it will fail here.  Socialism is un-American and by proxy, I am un-American for proposing it.

Being labeled a socialist might engender some mild criticism.

Socialism is automatically condemned as a hammock for the weak and lazy…as capitalism is worshiped as an almost biblical virtue.  In reality, neither is inherently good or bad.  They are simply economic systems.  Both have a variety of interpretations, manifestations, and specifics.  The good and bad is derived from their application.

So what do I mean when I say socialism and capitalism?

  • When I say capitalism, I mean an economic system where the means of production are primarily controlled by private enterprises.
  • When I say socialism, I mean an economic system where the means of production are primarily controlled by the government.

Capitalism is not morality.  However, it has proven to be the most effective way to cultivate resources and equitably distribute the goods and services needed to drive the economy and  meet the needs of the population.  It generates profits by rewarding ingenuity, invention, and hard work (and luck).  Markets are vicissitudinous.  Private enterprise can be very nimble.  Governments generally plod.  Capitalism is the most logical and natural economic system for the overwhelming majority of market needs.

Yay Products!

However, there are times when need for a good or service supersedes the profit that can be gained by providing it.  We can probably all agree that it’s better for our military to be controlled by our representative government than by private corporations.  It’s better not to need a credit card or account number when we call 9-1-1 to report a crime. And it is in the interests of our nation as a whole not to task Microsoft with educating our children.

Corporations aren’t necessarily malicious.  (Inherently, they are amoral, and free to decide how they will conduct themselves.)  But their main priority isn’t determining what’s in the best interests of the people they serve; it’s making money.

That’s where the argument lies.  It’s not a battle about whether or not capitalism or socialism can work as a philosophy.  Both have examples of success and failure.  Besides, I agree that capitalism is almost always the better choice.  Nor is it a battle for the country’s soul.  Capitalism and socialism have always been a part of America’s composition.

The U.S. Constitution establishes the government’s responsibility for raising and maintaining a military, building roads, and delivering post.  All are Constitutionally established socialized institutions.  So the un-American argument about socialism is fiction.  There are socialist institutions at our very core.  Socialism and capitalism can coexist in the same economy and have since our nation’s inception.  It’s a marriage that has lasted for two hundred and twenty-three years and looks highly likely to reach its tricentennial.

With the dogmas removed, the philosophical questions become simple.

  • Is it in America’s best interests that private corporations profit from imprisoning people?  Is it right that they lobby for more laws and stricter sentencing?
  • Is it in the interest of commerce to unburden private businesses of the responsibility of providing healthcare?
  • Does Social Security keep the elderly and disabled out of poverty?  Is America better off if the cost of their care is placed on individual families?

    Where do we go from here?

The devil is obviously in the details, but these are some of the real questions surrounding socialism and capitalism that can lead to real answers (and ultimately, real solutions) to our nation’s problems.

(Heart Hands image from http://www.fanpop.com/spots/love-stories/images/15142614/title/couples-love-photo  Confused baby image from: http://bellamysorganicnews.com.au/tag/babies-names/  Confusion fingers image from: http://vocalblog.blogspot.com/2011/05/capital-campaign-confusion-or-collusion.html  Obama joker image from: http://www.inhabitatiodei.com/category/culture/capitalism/  Weeping George Washington image from: http://www.politifake.org/793  logos image from: http://www.fullblownwebdesign.com/full_blown_logo_design.cfm)