Category Archives: Republicans

Capitalist Society Under the One Party of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum

The delay of the socialist revolution engenders the indubitable phenomena of barbarism — chronic unemployment, pauperization of the petty bourgeoisie, fascism, finally wars of extermination which do not open up any new road.

— Leon Trotsky, In Defense of Marxism

While the citizens of the rich world are protected from harm, the poor, the vulnerable and the hungry are exposed to the harsh reality of climate change in their everyday lives…. We are drifting into a world of ‘adaptation apartheid.

— South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu, United Nations Human Development Report 2007-2008

That puking up barbarism phenomena in this enclave of genocide and perpetual war, resource theft and global toxification come in a coat of many colors. In the simplest terms I see it daily in my job as underpaid and spat upon social worker jiggering with the penury, punishment and putrefying systems of bureaucratic hell and legal rape exemplified in the schizophrenic American version of capitalism.

In no way am I ever NOT entertained by the magical thinking and retrograde beliefs of those I serve – homeless veterans who in some cases decry welfare for the masses while picking up their welfare checks and benefits from the Veterans Administration. On top of that, they feel entitled because they ended up in the economic draft of the US Military Industrial Complex. These are not the ones who saw “battle” overseas, but the ones who were snookered into thinking a tour here or there, in a non-combatant role would get them somewhere in life.

Broken people come to the military, and the military breaks them again, and, the gift that keeps on giving are the systems of oppression and criminalization of living life in Trump’s “MAGA, MAGA über alles, über alles in der Welt.”

Reality is that this thing called America, united snakes one in all, was running on that manifest destruction at the moment those Puritanical misanthropes ended up on the east coast with their fears, dark perversions, warped criminal religiosity and white DNA primed for a taking, eminent domain and killings far and wide.

On the one hand, my clients with mental strains beyond repair and hobbled with a truck-load of PTSD, and another container ship full of physical ailments believe their “service” was honorable, somehow divorced from the huge welfare trough that is the military-private contractor complex, and more so, suspended from the reality that their own kind — fellow soldiers ranging from the likes of a Private Gomer Pyle to Gen Schwarzkopf — screwed them in every which way possible inside the human frame of exploitation and downright pathological assault on every front.

Screwed them with shitty equipment, shittier intel, rampant rotten orders, and a million environmental assaults that have rendered millions of men and women who individually barely served a few years into the walking-wheelchaired-vegetative state wounded.

There have been a million battles and skirmishes that were set up as suicide assaults.

Then on the other hand, some of the clients who are self-declared  deplorables — who believe in Trump as something more than a rotten, lying, wimp of a man with his self-anointed Six Star General’s Bully Epaulets and Bone Spurs Yellow Streak Academy Jumpsuit — are not limited to a bunch of uneducated cretins, but also those who thought time served would be a touchstone in their lives.

Constantly, I have to wrestle with my clients’ reprobate ideas that anything about the government sucks and everything about private capital shines. It’s a reverse ideology of anti-Americanism: against teachers, against librarians, against the postman, against scientists and doctors and others from the so-called Great American Democracy as products of state schools, state governments, municipalities, and the like. They’ll root for these pathetic sports teams, both college and the pros, rendering stupid their concept of where those facilities are and where the billionaire owners get their sports gladiators.

Delusional, really, as my clients shudder with spiritual epiphany at those millionaire preachers like the Billy-Frank Graham Klan and hyper-millionaires running the retail show and all those attendant systems of destruction in the Big Pharma-Big Prison-Big Energy-Big Mining-Big Ag-Big Construction Complex they so often defend as the Defenders of Democracy in Private enterprise.

Here’s a common link to the duality of systems of oppression, that structural violence that leads communities and entire classes and races of people into more and more dungeons of despair and destruction:

One fellow, 62, homeless because the apartment management tossed him out as the maintenance man, with the free apartment in the mix. Out of a job and no longer making the dough to pay rent, he was forced to squat for a while before the iron jaws of the sheriff department came in and served him eviction papers.

Lapsed car insurance, lapsed driver’s license, and, alas, a speeding ticket in a school zone. And, now, 8 years later after eight years on the road and homeless, this little shithole town of King City has him in their vise for $1700. The original ticket was $700 with the add on’s of court fees, administrative costs and other highway robbery checks and balances. So, this fellow is in need of a driver’s license, but these cities have been colonized by those PRIVATIZERS – in this case some multi-millionaire outfit out of Gig Harbor, Washington, which takes on the collections. Imagine, we want to set up a payment plan, even though this fine has passed the statute of limitations. But the City of King City, OR, puts a hold on releasing licenses until every red-blooded Yankee cent is paid off.

We can only imagine what the cut is for this Little Eichmann outfit collecting fines from hundreds of cities, maybe thousands. The interest of a thousand bucks might be waived, but still, the $700 is probably only pennies on the dollar for the city as the Collection Agency (AKA mob in MBA clothing) racks up the largess of the original out of wack fine as profit running their boiler rooms of collection workers.

Punishment, boomerang retribution. Name one place and one job where a personal vehicle can easily be pushed aside as part of the work routine, discounted as a necessity of getting to and from work, or the fact that blue collar work never requires a driver’s license for using company vehicles. Right! A driver’s license is a right, not a privilege, in this bunkered society!

The great American rah-rah, fighting for one’s country, fighting for these evil punks like a Trump, just doesn’t cut it when the ex-soldiers start adding up the contradictions and outright lies of the elite class, which a Trump and his cronies signify and exemplify.

The core of these systems of pain and recurring punishment generates hate, fear, resentment, anger and violence – of the mind, violence of the soul and possible violence exacted on the innocents and not so innocents around them.

These characters I work with mostly never look at the concurrency of pathological serial shooters and these racist, homophobic anti-tolerance military experience, or how these synagogue attackers were subliminally and overtly recruited into the Armed Services with the true blue Yankee Doodle Dandy and Johnny Comes Marching Home Again glee perpetrated again by the neo-fascist army of Republicans and Trump Lagoon Monsters, all of which the Democrats simultaneously hide from and deal with.

Colonized With Hive and Mob Mentalities Simultaneously

I’ve signed permission passes (we force adults to sign and ask for permission to leave a homeless facility!) for overnight stays away from the shelter where I work for people who have brokered this idea of “anomie” into their very existence, a lack of meaningful and structuralized social life in return for Black Friday, the height of meaningless self-gratification at the expense of not only the planet but the faceless and nameless people charged with running this engine of Retailapithecus restlessness. As Émile Durkheim the sociologist stated, we are a modern culture where the individual follows an increasingly “restless movement, a planless self-development, an aim of living which has no criterion of value and in which happiness lies always in the future, and never in the present achievement.”

More and more of the clients I work with have as their end goal individualized happiness, their 40 acres and a mule dream, for me myself and I. They come from a hive of military brainwashing and propaganda, one where leaders are followed and hated at the same time, one where the broken system of war, empire, manifest destiny, nation invasions and nation building (sic) is their ultimate plan of self-gratification – I joined to protect the flag, our way of life and to protect our borders from savages and invaders. Except the borders, as anyone knowing the history of these here United Snakes of America, is all about Norte Americanos encroaching and breaking the borders of others.

As Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz states in the Boston Review:

Even during the Civil War, both the Union and Confederate armies continued to war against the nations of the Diné and Apache, the Cheyenne and the Dakota, inflicting hideous massacres upon civilians and forcing their relocations. Yet when considering the history of U.S. imperialism and militarism, few historians trace their genesis to this period of internal empire-building. They should. The origin of the United States in settler colonialism—as an empire born from the violent acquisition of indigenous lands and the ruthless devaluation of indigenous lives—lends the country unique characteristics that matter when considering questions of how to unhitch its future from its violent DNA.

So, when I speak to the veterans and their families I work with on this matter of America’s soul wrapped in the banner of decimating other peoples who were here first, there is bloviating, knee-jerk proclamations that the victors enjoy the spoils, and that there is a god-given right to the American (white) ideal of moving the world toward His image.

This calculus I deploy for the homeless, those who have been screwed-blued-and-tattooed by the systems of oppression, by those debt collectors, those police and sheriff departments, by the judges and lawyers, top and bottom feeders all: I remind them that the so-called victors in their America are the One percent, including cretins from Hollywood, all the way to former generals/lobbyists/ contractors, and to include their sacred religious snake oil men like Graham. I remind them the wars they maybe have participated in were wars of oppression and wars of profits, completely tied to the ideals of screwing and stealing from your neighbor. That karmic doozy comes boomeranging back in the form of the victors on Wall Street, in the Boardrooms, and at the corporate tables of the Military-Pharma-Med-Prison-Education-Real Estate-Chemical-IT-Retail Complex. These too are the American ideals they supposedly signed up to protect with their lives in someone else’s country.

Again, what are we fighting for, sir?

This country’s leaders have always been Bill-Barak-Donald; Bezos-Adelson-Walton; CNN-FOX-Breitbart. “Money talks and money rules” is not some new Mar-a-Lago printed saying on Trump Condoms! As I continually told my 32-year military veteran father, his “work” in Korea, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Germany, France, Japan, et al was work for-by-and-because of the elites, the ones making two-bit Tin Soldiers jump through burning buildings and forced marches up another Pork Chop-Hamburger-Gizzard Hill. Marching orders by these bastions of money power and debt dread have been the history of these Un-united States.

Of course, the soldiers who are of color rarely jump on this Sherman Tank towed “bandwagon,” but to be sure, we talk about their own dire circumstances enveloped in the same sort of so-called “The Victors Enjoying the Spoils” mentality. The spoils include a complete but suppressed history of theft, lynchings, treaty breaking, incarcerations, land despoilments, eminent domain.

Black men and women fighting against black men and women from their mothership — Africa. AFRICOM. Imagine, a Black Alliance for Peace, and a movement to stop US military involvement in Africa, and again these disruptions of the narrative of white supremacy get flummoxed, and the irony of brown and black and red soldiers fighting for what, who knows, but definitely part of the system of oppression of their own people.

So, again, I go for the jugular, the fact that my old man and I argued much about the military’s legitimacy while on the same hand he agreed in my pursuit of journalism, writing, teaching, and education:

Not only does there need to be a mass movement in the U.S. to shut down AFRICOM, this mass movement needs to become inseparably bound with the movement that has swept this country to end murderous police brutality against Black and Brown people. The whole world must begin to see AFRICOM and the militarization of police departments as counterparts.

 Netfa Freeman, of Pan-African Community Action (PACA) and the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). Freeman represents PACA, a BAP member organization, on BAP’s Coordinating Committee.

It cost $267 million to fund AFRICOM in 2018. Probably a lot more in dark money and secret budgets; let alone the billions coming from the Economic Hit Men:

That money is stolen from Africans/Black people in the U.S. to terrorize and steal resources from our sisters and brothers on the African continent. Instead, that money should be put toward meeting our human needs in the U.S. and toward reparations for people in every African nation affected by U.S. imperialism.

—  Vanessa Beck, BAP research team lead and Coordinating Committee member.

So, them’s fighting words, as the white damaged veterans reach for words, epithets, rejoinders, and false dichotomies in the form of, Might Makes Right. There is a greater good in what us mere mortals see. Money Talks, of course, as many of them believe this irreligious, woman thumper, chubby bully, inconceivably smut-riddled man is THEIR commander in chief.

This ground truthing isn’t a hot commodity on the lefty or progressive or socialist web sites, for sure, where their own respective tidy thinking is vaunted over messy shit coming from the mouths of people scratching for a living doing this dirty work of counseling assuredly lost, wounded, broken and in many cases, mean as cuss souls.

That 35,000-foot Noam Chomsky view is heralded over the gutter view, and it’s no deep search for meaning to understand the hive and the mob mentality colonizing those Democratic Socialists of America folk, those pro-Israel-at-any-cost Bernie folk, those Pried from My Cold Dead Hand NRA folk. You got the Godfather Cuomo in Albany getting some robed lion of repression judge to legally change his name to Mario Amazon Direct Cuomo, with all the dildos and vibrators free for life!

Trump or Biden, Adelson or Soros, Chris Wallace or Rachel Maddow, Daryl Hannah or Caitlyn Jenner. Charmin or Cottenelle. Coke or Pepsi. Prozac or Zoloft. Raytheon or Northrup Grumman. Mad dog Mattis or Old Blood and Guts Patton. Steelers or Florida State. A Star is Born or Bohemian Rhapsody.

The trenches are rarely delineated or written about, just these huge “investigative research white papers” on the power of the elite to powerfully corrupt all systems that were supposed to be set up to help-aid-assist-protect-empower-develop we the people’s communities. However, there are no more communities, just chaos (controlled chaos), disruptive technologies-economies-structural systems of repressions. Just Madison Avenue, Just Manufactured Narratives, Just Fallen Anti-Heroes, Just Entertainment.

Feeding the dopamine hits as the marketers of disaster-demented-demolition capitalism control all markets, all psychologies, all media, all armies.

The fact that millions of people share the same vices does not make these vices virtues, the fact that they share so many errors does not make the errors to be truths, and the fact that millions of people share the same forms of mental pathology does not make these people sane.

— Eric Fromm, The Sane Society

Narrative Divergence and Degrees of Blessed Freedom

Today in America, a tug of war rages between two competing visions of the public interest. One vision is indicative of direct democracy as evidenced by the mammoth and spontaneous Trump rallies. The other is the same ole’ top-down imposition orchestrated by managed democracy‘s “invisible rulers”. Look at the obligatory apparatchiks at Obama ‘rallies’. No comparison.

The first vision is both subversive and organic, deriving its strength from the economic populism (Make America Great Again – MAGA) that Donald Trump has so effectively cultivated in his role as anti-establishment outsider. (I’ve suggested elsewhere Trump is supported in this ‘populist crusade’ by an America-First subset of the elite intent on trade normalization and re-industrialization. The plot thickens.)

The second vision is overwhelmingly reactionary, roughly comprising the establishment parties (Democrats and ‘RINO’ Republicans), the Trumanite Military-Industrial-Surveillance-Media-Complex, the US Chamber of Commerce (multinational corporatism), the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR) and a relative latecomer: Antifa foot soldiers dedicated mostly to Open Society Foundation paychecks. Soon, full employment will hire these Bolshe-vistas away.

Too bad so many decent moderate and left-leaning Americans are effectively caught in the dissonant headlights of the second vision’s media-propagated, out-sized fear of Trumpism.

Managed Democracy has little choice but to ignore the booming economy and satisfy itself with telegenic pratfalls, such as how Trump occasionally walks in front of his wife and sets umbrellas down without closing them. To America’s great credit, the CNN snarks are losing big-time. Trump’s job approval keeps rising despite the relentless whingeing. Even a 92% media negativity onslaught can’t avert the upward ascent of Trump’s numbers (see the Media Research Center and recent Gallup numbers, below).

Then just yesterday Rasmussen released in a report, Is Another Silent Red Wave Coming’, 51% job approval numbers for Trump. Even more foreboding, traditional Republican and Independent voters are not disclosing their voting intentions much as we saw with the stealth Trump wave of 2016. Rabid anti-Trumpism tends to drive many of his followers underground until their votes are required.

Can we talk, please? Antifa is little more than pre-ideological angst frothed up into a Soros-funded ad hominem contempt for Trump, then amplified by a manipulative Corporate Media with zero interest in a leftist agenda. The specter of a genuine leftist threat in America is thus vastly overstated.

(For the best explanation on how the political became the personal and consumer affinities kicked civic rectitude to the curb, see Adam Curtis’ The Century of the Self.)

The Organized American Left, such as it is (and it really isn’t) strikes a delicate balance between ingested false consciousness and battered wife syndrome. The hijack dates back to 1980 when ideologically oblivious DCCC fundraiser and California Congressman Tony Coelho mired the Democratic Party in a Republican-lite quest for corporate dollars (later to be called Clintonism.) The ‘Left’ has been beating itself up in a lesser-of-two-evils cul de sac ever since. False consciousness ‘aspires’ to trapping its ingestees in a cycle of escalating self-injury. Even when Trump unlocks the prison door, they do not run away.

The fact is, there is no Left in America. There is no Center in America. Why? Under the American campaign finance regime three-quarters of the political spectrum has been structurally consigned to penury. Soros is not opposed to feeding them for awhile if they can help usher in his Orwellian nightmare. After that, it will be an easy segue into the faceless proles of the United Oceanian States.

An outhouse with two doors remains an outhouse.

The Conservative Treehouse blog has taken to calling the ensuing monolith the ‘Uniparty’ as there is very little of ideological substance separating the two national organizations. Indeed the relationship between the two might better be described as a corporate-dollar market-carving strategy. HMO executives to the red, trial lawyers to the blue.

Guilds with competing economic interests square off against one another under the respective banners of one or the other party. However, this has nothing to do with ideology and everything to do with securing a ‘finance-able’ political apparatus from which to launch economic warfare against a competitor. That’s the ‘inversion’ in Sheldon Wolin’s inverted totalitarianism versus the classical form as epitomized by Mussolini: economics drives politics, not the other way around.

This leaves us with Trumpism, the most authentic expression of people-power in America today as its battle is as much against RINOs (Republican In Name Only) as the designated-foe-of-record, the Democratic Party. Though it kills half the nation to hear it, Trump’s fighting da System can’t you see? What, you got a better battering ram? As a bonus, Trump enrages Security State luminaries (have you read Brennan’s and Comey’s tweets?) the way 70s era Frank Church Committee lefties only wish they had.

But since you made me bring it up, where is the countervailing force, Trump’s doppelganger on the Left? After all, authentic opposition can only add vigor to the system. And please don’t cite that existentially corrupt carcass, the Democratic Party and its pygmy wannabes, nor the dude whom Chris Hedges accurately characterized in early 2016 as, a gutless war-mongering, sheep-herding, caucus-camp-following and despicable dissipator of leftist energies, Bernie Sanders.

For a time, he was okay for Trump’s running mate. Then he made the kids cry and delivered a whole new generation to cynicism. Creep.

Did you say Trump’s running mate?

With a modicum of jest I did propose a Prosperity Party Trump-Sanders ticket, sort of a labor-management coalition united by an abhorrence of globalism’s darling, the TPP and our shared 99.9% pariah status (this was pre-Deplorables). Alas, ideas not prefigured by the Fox/MSNBC split-screen are cognitive non-starters. In America, television has to believe things first before the People can assemble the requisite imaginative energies to offer their consent. Nobody gets behind anything until TV gets in front. Seminal thinking is reserved to the managers. That’s what decades of managed democracy will do.

Mostly there’s no money for the Left. So no doppelganger.

Lacking an irresistible force (and have I mentioned no money?) a vacuum can fill instead with hyperbolic blather. Witness the attempts to demonize the uncoaxed enthusiasm of Trumpism by equating it to incipient fascism. In the words of former President Obama (okay I’m lying, but darn it, they should be his words), if you can’t match the crowds (and he can’t), you might as well Nazify them. That’s just more of the System fighting back.

On the contrary, Trump is the antidote to Wolin’s inverted totalitarianism as old-school nationalism is a counter-trend to the dystopian telos sought by monistic globalism (the endgame of managed democracy). But nice try there, oh careless readers of Democracy Incorporated.

So who are these managers trying desperately to get inverted totalitarianism back on track? In his 1928 landmark book Propaganda, public relations pioneer and Goebbelsian trailblazer Eddie Bernays references them vaguely as, “…invisible rulers who control the destinies of millions… and shrewd persons operating behind the scenes.”

For a large segment of Americans, this alliance ‘feels natural’ as it’s been the prevailing de facto power configuration throughout the post-WW2 era. (Presidents Kennedy, Carter and Reagan are the only real departures from form albeit in vastly differing modes, degrees and outcomes.) For those seeking a time-zero legislative milestone, the 1947 National Security Act will do.

Nonetheless there is a nostalgic desire on the part of many to return to ‘the way things were’ before Trump the Disrupter introduced chaos (creative destruction?) into the body politic. Much of the present chaos is being fomented by reactionary forces desperate to discredit Trumpism by showing all the chaos Trumpism foments. Did you follow that grim Soros circle? This exhausted yearning for renewed false consciousness resembles victims of the Stockholm Syndrome who miss and idealize their former captors.

Bernays, one of corporatism’s (and thus globalism’s) earliest spokesman, offers a disingenuous assertion at best when he says:

It is important that any effort to influence or effect the American public that is not in the public interest be killed by the light of pitiless publicity and analysis.

Immediately Plugins 11, the statement begs two questions that Trumpism, in its own way, hammers away at:

  • What if the American public decides at the ballot box that what passes for the prevailing public interest (really a manufactured imposition) runs counter to its own version of said interest?
  • Who orchestrates the “pitiless publicity” aimed at killing competing visions of the “public interest” and by what authority do they undertake this Fake News mission?

In a prior time just concluded when the efficacy of mass media could be trusted, such a conflict would not represent an intractable impasse so much as a cue for re-calibrating the “conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses” (Bernays).

After all, only intensified propagandizing can correct the People’s ill-informed sense of the public interest. Undemocratic manipulation is “an important element in democratic society” under Bernays’ weirdly circular formulation. In his seminal work Public Opinion (1922) Walter Lippmann covers the same terrain with his conception of ‘guided democracy’.

Bernays would have been better to say manipulation is a vital facet of a smoothly running Republic or Oligarchy, less so a Democracy. His paternalistic subtext clearly reflects the former. Indeed another name for Managed Democracy is Republicanism (not to be confused with the political party of the same name).

Finally, a cautionary to the grubby, sweaty masses: self-determination is neither a path to infallibility nor a vaccine against public policy mistakes. Direct Democracy merely makes the People the masters of their own fate, which is equally to say the captains of their own errors.

But carry on we must, and under the best banners Providence tosses our way. Beggars can’t be tireless comparison shoppers Trump may have to do. Or else show us something better.

The Fire This Time: It Will Keep Burning Long After November 6

Perhaps enough Americans in enough numbers in enough places have woken up to the wildfires consuming our country. Perhaps these woke Americans will throw some water on the fires in the November 6 election. Perhaps an emerging American majority will slow the Republican burn of American idealism, decency, and justice. Perhaps an emerging American majority will elect enough new Democrats to prod old Democrats out of their lazy collusion with burning the country down. Perhaps.

Whatever happens November 6, the fires of political fascism and capitalist authoritarianism will continue to rage out of control. The conniving right has been feeding these flames for decades and it’s likely to take more decades to extinguish them, if that’s even possible. The Long March of the right from the debacle of Goldwater in 1964 to the triumph of Trump in 2016 has been astonishingly Maoist in its determination, orthodoxy, and political correctness. One has to acknowledge them for their sheer ruthlessness and determination. Minority rule is no mean trick.

The Republican right had help from supine Democrats with no coherent alternative. They had more help from media quislings and collaborators (yes, that’s Fox) whose idea of analysis involved telling “both sides” regardless of what might be true. They had more help from an educational system producing increasing compliant, ignorant voters who could no longer reliably assess what was real or important or even in their self-interest. And they had still more help from elitist leaders who, rather than engaging the country as a potential unity, dismissed millions of people as deplorables in love with their guns and their religion (as if either of those were unquestionably evil).

Whatever happens November 6, we’ll still have a president who aspires to dictatorship, as illustrated by his assertion that he has the power to rewrite the Constitution all by himself. We’ll still have a ruling party that relies on racism to maintain power, that enables its bigots to spread hate by graffiti and murder. We’ll still have concentration camps full of migrants and migrant children separated from their parents, rounded up and held with no due process of law.

We’ll still live in a country where Twitter enables the president to release a shamelessly dishonest racist ad scapegoating immigrants and libeling Democrats. We’ll still live in a country where Facebook profits by selling lists of likely customers to white nationalist marketers promoting myths of “white genocide.” We’ll still live in a country where the dominant culture makes it unsafe and sometimes lethal to be different, where the president invites the military to kill innocent, unarmed people with impunity. This is not politically correct, but it is true: even as we mourn the synagogue murders in Pittsburgh we remain silent about Israeli executions of innocents in Gaza or Saudi genocide in Yemen.

We’ll still live in a country where the government no longer makes grants to organizations fighting US terrorism. We’ll still live in a country where the government deliberately pursues policies that threaten the global climate. We’ll still live in a country that abrogates nuclear weapons treaties and pursues new, “usable” nuclear warheads and the domination of space.

In a sense, November 6 is a moment of truth for the country. In a deeper sense, that’s fundamentally facile and false. Nothing magically changes on November 6, no matter the outcome. The election of a Democratic House looks like the most likely best outcome. But that Democratic majority wouldn’t be seated till January, leaving Republicans two months to feed the flames consuming us. The reality is that every moment is a moment of truth. Radical Republican reactionaries internalized that decades ago. Perhaps the realization that the moment of truth is now, always now, has finally generated a humane, tolerant, democratic majority in America – and maybe even an enlightened majority that can sustain itself. It’s worth dreaming.

How the Rats Revolt: “Ratting Out” Democrats’ Electoral Extortion

Introduction: The Rat as a Compelling Symbol of Needed Revolt

In his recent Truthdig piece,  “The Rats Revolt“, journalist Chris Hedges discusses a fable for activists just published by legendary political dissident Ralph Nader. I haven’t read Nader’s book, but it’s enough for organizers like me to know that two of the left’s leading public intellectuals are united in calling for revolt. And (since symbols are vital to movements) that they’ve given us a highly effective symbol for organizing current revolt: the rat.

With crucial strategy to discuss, it would waste precious time to dwell long on movement symbolism here. But, besides its adoption by leftist opinion leaders like Hedges and Nader, the rat splendidly serves the purposes of organizing revolt. In the face of onrushing climate apocalypse, we are all rats on a sinking ship. And to the elites blithely ignoring climate apocalypse—partying on the Titanic—we who care deeply about the matter are clearly noxious vermin; the brutal treatment of the Standing Rock water protectors as terrorists (championed by Republican pols with scarcely a murmur of protest by Democrats) is both telling and typical. My family’s experience resisting fracking under PA’s Democratic governor Rendell (Virginia Cody is my wife) was parallel.

But—provided the revolt movement chooses appropriate action—there’s a positive, active side to the rat symbol; it needn’t just represent passive victimhood. Indeed, my case here is that Democrats are engaged in mafia-like behavior—electoral extortion—that demands “ratting out.” Finally, it’s appropriate in view of rats’ historical role in transmitting the bubonic plague, since the movement strategy I propose here is heavily focused on plaguing Democrats.

Revolt Basis: Democrats Criminally Extort Votes against Climate Justice

Say what? Why plague Democrats, with a president as horrible as Trump in charge and ruling Republicans arguably turning ever more fascist?  Indeed, hasn’t Noam Chomsky himself, an icon to most leftists, branded today’s Republican Party “the most dangerous organization in human history“? So what’s up with organizing a mass revolt against Democrats? Isn’t it insane to elect the most dangerous organization in human history?

First off, I’m not saying we should vote Republican, or even run the risk of electing Republicans by voting for third parties. Far from it! Asserting we should vote Republican, or even risk Republicans winning, would contradict my fundamental assertion that Democrats extort our votes. Anyone who takes Chomsky’s assertion that Republicans are the most dangerous organization in human history seriously—and no one takes it more seriously than climate justice activists like me—is poised to understand how Democrats exploit the threat of brutal Republican misrule as a turbocharged tool of electoral extortion.

If Democrats didn’t make a rationally compelling threat, they wouldn’t be practicing extortion. Just as the mob makes a rationally compelling threat: they provably can and will kill your whole family. That Democrats make their totally rational threat unsuccessfully is suggestive evidence of just how loathsome voters find today’s Democrats. Even more so, it’s compelling evidence that U.S. voters on neither the right nor the left are terribly rational. The left, in particular, has shown a piss-poor grasp of Chomsky’s logic.

Anyone acquainted with Chomsky’s dry, matter-of-fact speaking style should realize that he’s not given to emotionally charged hyperbole. In fact, I seem to recall that he adopts that style deliberately, wishing to persuade by facts and logic rather than emotional appeals. So when he makes an assertion as outrageous sounding as calling Republicans the most dangerous organization in human history—and openly acknowledges how outrageous his assertion sounds—he’s basing it on the scientific logic of climate apocalypse, a logic regrettably almost totally absent from U.S. political discourse.

With an unprecedented climate fiasco menacing our species—perhaps to the point of extinction—a Republican Party not merely rejecting climate science, but proactively attacking it as a dangerous conspiracy, is logically humanity’s most dangerous enemy ever. Which is why leftists must choke back our vomit and vote for Democrats. But we hardly need to stop there. We should torture Democrats with righteous wrath for strong-arming us into voting for their own loathsome party. A party with no room whatsoever for climate justice.

By voting for Democrats, we’re voting for a party that overwhelmingly supports fracking and militarism—the first a direct, and the second an indirect, assault on the prerequisites of emergency climate action, as ably laid out by Naomi Klein in This Changes Everything. If leftists needed a scathing indictment of Democrats and their policies, the latest IPCC report is clearly that indictment. Anyone secretly hell-bent on promoting human extinction need not look crazy by backing Republicans; Democrats’ policy commitments will work just fine. But in a political system with only two viable parties, Republicans are demonstrably far worse, beyond appeal to reason (just like any other mob enforcer). For any reasonable person concerned about climate, Democrats’ electoral extortion must succeed. And must be repaid with bitter resentment. That’s what movement organizing—and the time between elections—is for.

So, the logic of U.S. politics cries out specifically for a Rats’ Revolt, one devoted to “ratting out” Democrats for their anti-climate electoral extortion. Moreover, the notion of “ratting out” couldn’t be more appropriate to the nature of Democrats’ extortion. After all, ratting out mob higher-ups to the feds is a disloyal act of revenge or self-protection (both apply here) undertaken by fellow members of the mob. Perhaps those future “rats” were even coerced into the mob under threat of force and therefore owe the mob no real loyalty. Such is the case for all climate justice voters strong-armed into voting Democrat—coerced into the Democrat mob—under the rationally unthinkable threat of Republican rule. Climate justice voters in our hearts, we would—in a genuine democracy—vote for a climate justice party like Greens in a heartbeat. We owe neither love nor loyalty to a Democratic Party that holds our votes hostage—in fact, we hate it—but we will never be safe or free until we “rat out” Democrats’ electoral extortion racket. And torture Democrats—the ones we were coerced into electing—into providing effective remedies.

Making U.S. Elections Safe for Democracy

Democrats clearly have a vested interest in quashing democracy through electoral extortion. And their pretenses of wishing to protect us from Republican fascism and insanity are the purest hypocritical lip service. For there’s a vastly more effective method of sparing us Republican barbarity than demanding we vote for Democrats. It’s called ranked choice voting, and if Democrats really gave a damn about protecting us from Republicans, they’d be tripping over one another to sponsor bills to make it U.S. electoral law.

While I don’t have space here to discuss ranked choice voting in detail (all people who cherish democracy should use the link above to inform themselves), ranked choice voting would forcefully close the curtain on Democratic Party extortion. Every climate justice voter who wished to vote third party—right now, that should mean every climate justice voter—could safely vote, say, for the Green Party candidate and list the Democrat as a second choice. If the Green candidate didn’t win enough first-place votes to stay in the race, the Green voters’ votes would then go to the Democratic candidate. In that way, voting Green would not automatically entail taking a vote away from Democrats. Prospective Green voters would no longer face a compelling dilemma of conscience when voting for their (vastly) preferred party. And climate justice activists like me could—in good conscience—throw all energies into working to build Greens (or the most promising climate justice party). And Democrats would be faced with serious competition from the environmentally and socially conscious left. The same sort of competition that forced 1930s Democrats to embrace the New Deal.

Coercing Democrats to embrace ranked choice voting would open the door to further reforms crucial to “making U.S. elections safe for democracy.” I speak of the hurdles deliberately placed to keep third parties from appealing to voters, whether it be ridiculous barriers to ballot access or scandalous exclusion from major media debates. Currently, both Democrats and Republican show their “mafia” thuggishness by reveling in these anti-democratic practices. With Republicans, this should be no surprise, since fascistic anti-democracy thuggishness is actually a large part of GOP appeal. Whereas Democrats have zero rational grounds for anti-democratically suppressing progressive third parties—except, of course, the threadbare argument of risking electing Republicans. A risk easily removed by enacting ranked choice voting. Democrats’ flagrant resistance to ranked choice voting, like their persistence in third-party-suppressing practices, makes an utter mockery of the party name.

But Democrats’ role models in strong-armed extortion—the mafia—never showed much interest in democracy either.

Conclusion

In this article, I indicated why leftist activists—especially climate justice activists—should take up Chris Hedges’ and Ralph Nader’s call to start a “Rats’ Revolt.” I also sketched the organizing theme and overall strategy for such a revolt. In my next piece, “Chuck Schumer, Democrats’ Low-Profile Teflon Don,” I’ll illustrate the needed tactics for executing our strategy of “ratting on” and “plaguing” Democrats who extort our votes.

The Breakdown of the American Two-Party System

Trump’s hyper-nationalist propaganda strikes a cultural chord steeped in the myth that capitalism is the economic bulwark of freedom. Yet reality is not as malleable as myth. In fact, capitalism has led to unsustainable economic and social inequalities as well as the degradation of ecosystems and global warming. Faced with these crises, the U.S. two-party system is politically bankrupt, its instability marked by raw political nerves, belligerence and elected office-holding obsession by Washington’s power brokers.

The Republican Party is in a corner. The party is pleased that Trump has reduced corporate taxes and taxes on wealthy Americans as well as deregulated corporate behavior and weakened environmental protections. While many Republican Party leaders and Wall Street executives may be concerned with Trump’s hyper-nationalist rhetoric and obsession with trade wars, they seem very satisfied with the gains the president has handed to them.

And, now, Republican leaders want to cut social programs to balance the budget that the party’s tax policies helped worsen. But the future of Republicans is bleak. Trump has effectively hijacked the Republican Party and many Republicans are concerned that the Faustian bargain they have struck with the president may ultimately weaken their party. They can only hope that multiple Democratic candidates and raucous Democratic in-fighting will divide them and allow Republicans to keep control of the House and Senate and win the presidency in 2020.

Indeed, the Democratic Party is splitting. As the corporate class and the wealthiest dig in under Trump, the Democrats seem alternately flummoxed and impotent. Since the late 1980s the party has moved rightward and been effectively relegated to a “loyal opposition” role by emerging populist politics. The party’s weakness is obvious: it offers no clear alternative political vision. Democratic leaders speak only in generalities about important issues including health care, minimum wage, regressive taxes, military expenditures and others. Mainstream news reporters and analysts often wonder where the Democratic leadership is in these politically tumultuous times.

The Democratic national platform may specify goals but the party leaders are not willing to speak out about specific political alternatives. They fear alienating independent and fringe voters. They are particularly sensitive to being seen as “tax-and-spend liberals,” as purveyors of “creeping socialism,” as “soft on violent crime,” or as “welcoming immigrants.” As the Democrats did in the 2016 presidential campaign, the Democratic Party hides and waits for Trump to shoot himself in the foot. Its “progressive” leaders, moreover, struggle to get footing in superficial personality politics of Washington.

The time is ripe for a progressive third party to build a following. As the Democratic Party falters in finding its bearings and the Republican Party threatens to weaken social programs, young people are ready to pursue leftist alternatives. They do not fear socialism as many older voters do. The “anti-establishment” 2016 primary vote is a clear indication that the nation is ready for progressive politics. Trump, Cruz and Sanders (generally anti-establishment advocates) won approximately 27,000,000 primary votes while Clinton, Bush, Rubio, and Kasich (generally establishment advocates) won about 22,000,000 primary votes. This statistical comparison is even more compelling because both parties at the national level preferred establishment candidates over populist ones. That is, until Trump outmaneuvered the Republicans. Still, the Democratic Party was so harnessed to Clinton that it defeated its own populist candidate.

Savvy political strategists know that the history of capitalism is peppered with anti-democratic actions. Global capitalism has allowed an international corporate class to acquire tremendous political power across nations. Wealth has been concentrated to unprecedented levels. It is, furthermore, the principal marker indicating who controls the reins of government in any nation.  In the U.S., according to the New York Times, the richest 1 percent now controls more wealth than the bottom 90 percent of Americans.

Yet it is the bottom 90 percent that holds over 70 percent of the private debt and is the most vulnerable to global economic volatility and to the massive storms, tide surges and wildfires accompanying climate change. Public regulation of wealth distribution and the health of ecosystems is the only way to manage these crises. Progressive Americans must get behind a third party with a strong left politic in order to appeal to those who have been most hurt by global capitalism. Only then, can the nation chart a more promising political course.

Rampant, Racist Voter Suppression in Georgia Goes to Federal Court

… almost a quarter of a million previously registered voters who may want to vote in this election who will find their registrations cancelled based on an assumption that they had moved when they had not.

This is a travesty for the people of Georgia whose fundamental right to vote has been taken without any formal notice that their registrations have been cancelled.

— Federal Court complaint against Georgia secretary of state Brian Kemp

If Brian Kemp wins the 2018 election for governor of Georgia, it will be one more triumph for the massive corruption Republicans have brought to American voting for the past 20 years or more. Brian Kemp is currently Georgia’s secretary of state. Part of the secretary’s job, as chair of the State Elections Board, is to make decisions that determine who can vote, where they can vote, when they can vote, and whether their votes will be counted accurately – in other words, the whole voting process.

As a secretary of state running for governor, Kemp has a clear conflict of interest, since any of his decisions about voting rights could help his campaign. Many of them already have. Previous secretaries of state who ran for governor have taken themselves out of the voting rights conflict. Kemp has refused to do so. His corruption is so blatantly transparent, his spokesman dishonestly proclaims that “Kemp is fighting to protect the integrity of our elections and ensure that only legal citizens cast a ballot.”

The claim of illegal voting by non-citizens has been a Republican Big Lie for a long time now. It works, it scares people who don’t know any better, but it’s not true and has never been true. In 2016, the Brennan Center for Justice analyzed 23.5 million votes for taint. Out of 23 million votes, only a handful of ballots were flagged for investigation or prosecution.  OK, it was a big handful – out of 23,500,000 ballots they found 30 – thirty! – that were suspect. Presumably their intimidation tactics work or Republicans wouldn’t work so hard to suppress the vote, even with recent (October 20), baseless presidential tweets.

Middle-aged white male Brian Kemp’s opponent for governor is a progressive Democrat, Stacey Abrams, a middle-aged black woman and Yale Law School graduate who would be the first-ever African-American governor of Georgia. She founded the New Georgia Project, registering some 200,000 voters of color since 2014. Kemp has been disqualifying voters of color even faster. With Kemp recently holding a two-point lead (48-46), their race is considered a toss-up.

The lawsuit cited above grew out of a records request to the secretary of state on March 2, 2018. The request was made under both the Georgia Open Records Act and the 1993 federal National Voter Registration Act (52 U.S.C. 20501 et seq.), the primary purpose of which is “to establish procedures that will increase the number of eligible citizens who register to vote in elections for  Federal office.” [emphasis added] Republicans like Kemp have spent a quarter century in more or less open defiance of this federal law, based on Congressional findings that would be unimaginable today:

(1) the right of citizens of the United States to vote is a fundamental right;

(2) it is the duty of the Federal, State, and local governments to promote the exercise of that right; and

(3) discriminatory and unfair registration laws and procedures can have a direct and damaging effect on voter participation in elections for Federal office and disproportionately harm voter participation by various groups, including racial minorities.

The plaintiffs in the federal case against Kemp are reporter Greg Palast of Los Angeles and civil rights activist Helen Butler of Atlanta.  Palast has built an international reputation with his investigative reporting, especially his reporting on voting rights issues that others in the media (and the Democratic Party) tend to ignore. Butler is the executive director of the Georgia Coalition for the Peoples’ Agenda, which has organized state coalitions in more than half a dozen other southern states.

The initial request for legally public records included a request for information about how Georgia uses the Interstate Voter Crosscheck System in managing Georgia’s voter rolls. Crosscheck, which has a built-in racial bias against non-white voters, has been used since 2005, especially by Republican secretaries of state seeking to purge voters’ rolls into a more Republican-friendly form (led by Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach). Crosscheck purports to identify “duplicate” voters in different states using only two data points: name and birth date (different middle names, for example, are considered irrelevant). In 2017, Crosscheck claimed to find 7.2 million duplicate voter registrations out of 98 million analyzed in 28 states. Despite Crosscheck’s claim of the potential for over seven million voters to vote twice, only 4 – four! – double-voters were identified. Crosscheck is now dormant. The damage is lasting.

Kemp’s office did not respond to the request forthrightly. Instead, Kemp’s office demanded exorbitant payment in advance before providing redacted records. Other states acted similarly to stonewall legal “open records” requests.

On June 12, 2018, plaintiffs Palast and Butler filed a new request using only the National Voter Rights Act. The request allowed Kemp 90 days to reply. Kemp did not reply promptly to detailed questions about Crosscheck’s lists provided to Georgia in 2016 and 2017, as well as the “list of names and addresses of all those purged or changed to inactive in 2016 and 2017 and the basis for each individual being removed from the voter rolls….”

Kemp’s office did not respond in June. Kemp’s office did not respond in July. On August 14, plaintiffs sent Kemp a letter reminding him that his 90-day deadline for lawful compliance would expire on September 10. On September 4, Kemp provided a partial response, omitting any information about Crosscheck. In their October filing to compel a complete response to their questions, they wrote:

Plaintiffs were shocked when they saw that over a half a million Georgians had their registrations automatically cancelled through the inactivity process utilized by the Georgia Secretary of State.

Claiming that Georgians had not voted during a three-year period, Kemp’s office in 2017 cancelled the voter registrations of 534,517 Georgians for that reason alone. That is roughly one in 12 Georgians disenfranchised for not voting. That reason is illegal. That reason violates federal law – the National Voting Rights Act – which requires that state voting procedures “shall not result in the removal of the name of any person from the official list of voters registered to vote” solely because the person did not vote. Further reasons for removal include moving out of state, being convicted of a felony, or death.

Further analysis of the data showed that of the half-million-plus voters whose registrations were cancelled because they had supposedly moved, at least 340,134 of them – 61% of the total – still lived at the same address. These 340,134 persons did not know their registrations had been cancelled by the state. Palast posted all their names on his website in hopes that some might re-register before the October 9 deadline.

The cancellation of 340,134 registrations of people who have not moved is another violation of the National Voting Rights Act, which requires the state to keep voter rolls that are accurate and current.

This case is now before federal district judge Eleanor Louise Ross, an Obama appointee confirmed in 2014. In an interview with the Atlanta Tribune, Judge Ross said:

I believe this century has seen enormous strides by women and minorities in general. My having made history as the first African-American female on the U.S. Federal District Court in Atlanta, and one of the first two in the entire state, just continues to blow my mind. There are so many well-rounded, qualified candidates whom are ready to also jump in, if provided with the right opportunity. I think it is crucial that those of us already appointed and elected continue to work together to keep making history until it is not history anymore. It just is!

From that, one might infer that the judge is ready to rule for plaintiffs and deal a blow to Georgia’s corrupt voter management system. Restoring the voting rights of 340,134 purged voters would surely be the right thing to do. But even the plaintiffs have not asked for that kind of legal relief. The plaintiffs have asked only that Kemp be found in violation of the National Voter Rights Act and be compelled to provide all the information plaintiffs have requested.

That outcome would award corruption. That outcome would reward a state official for defying the law until the last possible minute. That outcome would leave purged voters with little useful recourse. That outcome might enable a corrupt secretary of state to become a corrupt governor. That outcome would allow Republicans to crow over protecting the integrity of the vote, when the truth is that they just went on corrupting it.

The Least Important Election in History

The US midterm elections are almost upon us, but this is a needless bit of inconsequential trivia. It really doesn’t matter. All the Republicans can win or all the Democrats.  Either way it means about as much as a fart in a category 5 hurricane. The net result of actions taken, legislature composed, or honesty with the populace will be inconsequential.

The primary difference between the two parties, who are merely playing a game of good cop/bad cop, is only if you’d prefer to see a rapid more authoritarian style ecological collapse or if you’d prefer one with a soothing dulcet voice reassuring you everything will be fine at two minutes to midnight. Neither have a workable plan on the table to get the US in a sustainable ecological state before it all comes crashing down, nor do they have any notion of creating such a plan.

The best the Democrats offer are conciliatory gestures in policy shifts, but they have not the wisdom, fortitude, or honest intent to stop the devilish system at the heart of the matter. During Obama’s presidency there was a time when the Democrats controlled the senate and the house and they showed their true motivations. They did nothing to pass policies to assuage the damage being done and stop the plunder of Earth for profit, or to end the wars, or to quell mass incarceration system. Even with total control we know what the Democrats offer amounts to platitudes.

And keep in mind, even if the entirety of congress, SCOTUS, and POTUS were controlled by Democrats we still would not find ourselves in a sustainable society, as again, no workable sustainability assessment and plan of transition has ever been done by the party, nor do they care to do something which might lead to such blunt truths. Because those truths would mean decentralization of power and reduction of economic influence for the neoliberal class. Monied elites know the game, and their egos immediately nix any solution set that doesn’t focus the onus of power and attention directly on them.

So what are we doing here in this system? We don’t have a pragmatic solution on the table to avoid ecological collapse, which is accelerating much faster than most think. Meanwhile the people are simultaneously being told by proponents of faux democracy that by not voting for one of the major political parties one is wasting a vote, and not voting at all is akin to a crime by their measures.

What such people either don’t know or won’t admit to is that we are stuck in a system where a financial gun is held at the head of the people at all times. This communicates to the people that if you change, the elites will pull their money out of markets and go Galt. The powers that be will make sure you suffer for your insolence to stand against them. They’ll make finding a livable wage impossible and thus threaten the plebs housing, supply of food, and ability to get healthcare for no other reason than a puerile egotistical insistence that they get their way. They simply don’t care what happens to the people or mother Gaia. Their self interests are why they sought out power to begin with and they’ve devoted their lives to it, and they aren’t surrendering anytime soon.

As it stands, this finger trap of a system will forever spin in place and only create varying levels of profit for capitalist interests. What the system won’t do is solve any of the real problems it has created because it’s been designed to operate to do exactly what it’s doing now, which is drive profits and power directly to the 1%. Democrats only push back enough with pretty sounding words to win your vote over the other guy they are running against, but they’re going to sell out just like their opponent because they themselves are part of the problem.

If this sounds like I’m discouraging people from voting, then good. Fuck voting in this system designed to oppress. As the saying goes, if voting changed something they’d make it illegal. What should be common questions routinely go unanswered around the voting system, like why are we still dealing with the same issues generation after generation; e.g., homelessness. After a couple hundred years of voting it seems like we could have solved this issue as it’s rather easy to work out when there are enough structures to house everyone.

And why would we construct a system at all that awards so much power to so few, and a system that is so corrupted that people ascertain by not voting it leads to tyranny. The system itself should never allow for such a thing, but it’s innately authoritarian in premise, and continuing to vote and pretending like it makes a difference is false hope. It’s like tugging on the controls on an arcade machine without inserting a quarter, where it kinda looks like you’re making something happen on the screen, but everything is on rails. Your input makes zero difference in this undemocratic system which is designed to ignore you.

And in response to the hordes of people who will insist that not voting is irresponsible and support the age old lie that if we just can get the right people in power then, then, the system will turn around – Such naive assertions should be met with a dose of reality which is glaringly clear through a cursory look at history. Such people should have to explain at what point in time there has been a sea change in our system from where it started from genocidal slavers to benevolent rulers, because such a change is nonexistent, and all one need do to figure this out is pick up a copy of Howard Zinn’s book A People’s History of the United States. What’s been there from the get go to present is abuse, stemming from the very origins of western civilization and top down social hierarchy.

When the people claim they achieved a victory what they have really achieved amounts to a gesture that shuts them up. It’s analogous to a hungry child crying that has just irritated their abusive parent enough they finally concede to give them an extra morsel of food. The child then celebrates like they won a battle; however, the child is still in the abusive state but now thinks their wails do something. What they don’t realize is if they get annoying enough what they will be met with is not another conciliatory gesture but a beating.

Thus I call on the people to grow a spine and stand up to our abusers. Stop choosing between which pro-mass-murder psychopath in a suit you want ruling over you and start fighting for something worth having.

Should we not at least try to come up with some kind of plan as a people to organize a real solution that could potentially shake monied elites from their elevated perches? If we are to change, then a real stand has to be made against this archaic and draconian system of social hierarchy presently installed because the powerful aren’t going away and they cannot be reasoned with. They have no plans of surrendering their ill gotten gains accumulated over several centuries of abusive behavior.

Many of our problems are very solvable, as they are merely the result of childish power grabs and a desire to control the labor of others. By not subscribing to this system it doesn’t mean giving up, it means shifting focus. It means incorporating real pragmatism to stop the nose dive into dystopian apocalypse and take a swing at a sustainable egalitarian borderless global society where humanity finally rids itself of the parasites who continue to insist they are more crucial to the world than the hosts they feed from.

If we rid ourselves of those arrogant parasites and their system of abuse, we will find freedom again. A freedom like Native Americans and Aboriginals knew for thousands of years before the bloodsuckers latched upon us. Many will find this vantage point to be highly impractical, but I find naive half-assed solutions, endless extreme unnecessary suffering, and a trajectory leading directly to societal collapse to be far more impractical

Revolt!

Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.
— Dylan Thomas

A Debate for Auditor: What the Papers Wouldn’t Say

Why does the Green Party elect so few people in the US while similar parties have elected representatives across the globe.  Some have suggested it is the way Greens organize or problems with the leadership.  While these may be contributing factors, they could hardly be a complete explanation since the Democrats and Republicans have elected thousands of incompetent, disorganized candidates.

A factor that may be far more important is the way the press defines non-corporate parties as unworthy of existence, even when they bring up the issues most on people’s minds.  Would it be fair to say that there is a conspiracy between big business, corporate parties and the press, or, does the word “conspiracy” imply a paranoid delusion?  My experience as a candidate may shed a bit of light.

In the first debate for Missouri State Auditor, I brought up the trial of Monsanto/Bayer which resulted in the jury’s awarding groundskeeper Dewayne Johnson $289 million in July 2018.  The jury determined that his terminal illness resulted from use of Roundup.  As the Green Party candidate, I am very aware of environmental dangers of herbicides.  I explained that the State Auditor should examine how much Missouri spends purchasing Roundup for use on state parks, roadways, and lands surrounding state colleges, universities and governmental offices.  After all, with over 8000 pending lawsuits against such a widely hated agribusiness, continued use of its poisons could put state finances at high risk.

After the debate, sponsored by the Missouri Press Association, I scrutinized articles in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Kansas City Star, Columbia Daily Tribune, Springfield News-Leader, and West End Word.  Not one of them even mentioned Roundup.  So, what did they cover instead?

When current Democratic auditor Nicole Galloway described herself as a “watchdog” for the people, the Republican Saundra McDowell sneered, “you’re just a dog.”  That made it front and center in each of the five articles.  Constitution Party candidate Jacob Luetkemeyer, Libertarian Sean O’Toole, and I never impugned anyone and stuck to issues throughout the hour and a half.  And none of the issues we brought up were covered.

Though most Americans want Medicare-for-All, TV ads by Missouri’s Democrats and Republicans focus on legislative changes that allow health insurance companies to exclude coverage for pre-existing conditions.  Of course, health insurance is not the same as health care.  So, I pointed out that state audits should examine how many taxpayers’ dollars have been wasted by Missouri’s privatization of health care for Medicaid recipients and prisoners.  In both cases, state money is devoted to providing profits and covering overhead of insurance companies.  An audit would help in estimation of savings with a single-payer system.  None of the five papers mentioned anything about health care.

Instead, they all addressed how the Democrat attacked the Republican for lying about personal finances and the Republican’s describing a lawsuit against the Democrat for violating the state’s Sunshine Law.  Stories also included the fascinating discussion of whether or not the Republican had lived in the state for 10 years.

What the audience responded to most strongly was my comment that they had all smoked marijuana or knew someone who had.  Thus, a state audit should determine how much Missouri money is wasted policing, arresting, holding, trying and hiring parole officers for continued criminalization of marijuana.  That was the only time during the debate that the moderator instructed the audience to stop applauding.

Again, all five stories ignored a topic of clear interest to those present.  In fact, the stories from across the state were so similar that they could have been written by one person with the other four just rearranging paragraphs and rewording sentences.

Since the media was oblivious to issues that actually affect people’s lives, I wrote an op-ed and sent it to the three largest papers.  Two didn’t respond; but Tod Robberson, Editorial Page Editor of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, wrote back that it was their “policy” to not run op-ed pieces by candidates.  Nevertheless, he invited me to trim my piece to under 300 words and send it to him as a letter-to-the-editor, which I promptly did.  It never ran; and, I felt like I had been played by someone contemptuous of candidates without big money to throw around.

Then, a few days later, the same Tod Robberson penned an editorial on “Choosing the Best Candidate” wherein he described the painstaking effort his staff goes through to interview candidates, how staff are verbally abused by candidates, and their internal struggles to be fair to all.  He even claimed that they “bring in as many candidates as we can” to interview.  What he did not say was that invitations only go to “viable” candidates, a press industry buzz word for those with corporate funding.

On October 11, 2018, the Post-Dispatch published its endorsement of the Democrat for a series of vacuous reasons.  That candidate is a Certified Public Accountant (not required for the office); “exposes corruption” (part of the job); and applies “consistently high accountability standards” (what State Auditor does not?).  The endorsement bemoaned the failure of the Republican to show up for an interview (thereby admitting that the endorsement was based on a single interview) but didn’t mention the paper’s failure to invite other candidates.

Also on October 11, I attended a forum for candidates of the US Senate from Missouri.  Only Green Party candidate Jo Crain and Independent candidate Craig O’Dear showed up.  In the audience, I recognized Don Corrigan, who wrote the article on the September State Auditor’s debate in the West End Word.  We know each other because he has invited me multiple times to speak about environmental issues to the class on Political Journalism he teaches at Webster University.

Afterwards, I went up to him, shook hands, and told him that “It might be difficult for you to write an article about the debate tonight.”

“Why’s that,” he asked.

“Because neither of the candidates berated each other; they responded to important issues; and, they are not from the moneyed parties.”  I let him know that I was quite disappointed at the way he said nothing regarding three candidates when writing about the auditor’s debate.

“There just wasn’t room.  I’m really sorry,” he apologized.

“Not room?  Instead of going into detail about the personal attacks, you might have given one sentence to an issue brought up by each of the other candidates.”

“I’m sorry,” he repeated.  “But we need to write about what interests our readers and they only want to know what the Democrats and Republicans say.”

Imagine that!  Those who read US newspapers in 2018 apparently have no interest in Medicare-for-All, being poisoned by Roundup, or whether their friends and family members do jail time for blowing weed.  Perhaps local reporters think readers are on the edge of their seats waiting to hear about residency requirements for their State Auditor.  Or, maybe they know that their editor will squash stories that give space to candidates who don’t buy expensive ads in their paper.

I just told him, “I feel the pain you endure.”  I’m sure that his students look up to him for displaying the journalistic standards he teaches.

Charter Schools Are Promoted Heavily by the Left, Not Just the Right

One of the main criticisms of charter schools is that they are terrible because right wingers are behind them.

Many right wingers are indeed behind charter schools. U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos is a textbook example of right-wing support for charter schools. The billionaire Koch brothers are another example of right-wing support for charter schools. Many others could be cited.

But this does not tell the full story of charter schools and who else strongly supports and promotes them.

In reality, charter schools started out nearly 30 years ago with heavy support from democrats, and were, in fact, initiated and organized specifically by democrats (and so-called “centrists”).

Democrats have also consistently supported charter schools through the widely-rejected No Child Left Behind Act that plagued the nation for many years, and is still injuring the nation through its reincarnation as the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (2015).

It is worth recalling as well that Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, both so-called democrats, enthusiastically supported charter schools when they were in power. And to this day, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have never firmly opposed the existence and expansion of charter schools.

In addition, democrats in many state legislatures have repeatedly turned out in large numbers to energetically support the existence and expansion of charter schools. There is no shortage of such democrats.

The notion that charter schools are supported mainly by right wingers is inaccurate and misleading. It defines the foes of the public interest in a narrow way, instead of depicting their true scope, breadth, and nature. Charter schools have always been much more than a right wing, republican, or conservative phenomenon.

While some on the left and right do not support charter schools, many on both sides do. This is why so many top-down, antisocial, neoliberal education policies have “bipartisan support.”

The public should reject charter schools no matter who is behind them. There is no justification for their existence, let alone their expansion. Their track record is very unimpressive and rife with fraud, corruption, and racketeering. Arrests and scandals surround so many charter schools. Watching charter schools operate and implode is like watching a blood sport. A toxic, anarchic, and surreal ethos prevails in the charter school sector.

The nonsense that deunionized and deregulated charter schools run by private organizations are needed because public schools are “failing” ignores how and why public schools are actively set-up to fail, and the real political and economic relations behind the rise and expansion of pay-the-rich schemes such as charter schools.

The public should also reject the false left-right divide because the  neoliberal agenda remains strong across this diversionary political divide.

The public interest cannot be served by bypassing grass-roots forces and relying on the rich and their political representatives, whether they are on the so-called “right” or “left.” The issues confronting the broad polity go beyond these false and unprincipled divisions. Capital-centered ideas, policies, and arrangements harm the public interest regardless of who supports or promotes them.

Stanley Kowalski for President?

There’s even something -sub-human -something not quite to the stage of humanity yet! Yes, something – ape-like about him, like one of those pictures I’ve seen in – anthropological studies! Thousands and thousands of years have passed him right by, and there he is – Stanley Kowalski – survivor of the Stone Age!

— Blanche Dubois from Streetcar Named Desire [The author highly recommends reading what the link leads to… to be able to fully appreciate his conclusion.]

President Trump — who folks ought to stop calling president, as it confers too much respect — has chosen to (once again, as he seems to do daily) underscore just how “sub-human” he is, praising a gubernatorial candidate in Montana for body slamming a reporter. This on the heels of “investigations” into the complicity on the part of Saudi Arabia’s leader in the Khashoggi murder and dismemberment.

Greg Gianforte, a truly brutish politician, pleaded guilty in June, 2017, paid a $385 fine, completed 40 hours of community service, 20 hours of anger management training, wrote an apology letter to the Guardian journalist he had injured, and donated $50,000 to the Committee to Protect Journalists, but the Empire’s Commander-in-Chief has chosen to put a positive spin on the whole enchilada.

Where are the Democrats on all this? Not a significant peep from their quarters as far as I can tell. In fact, everyone in my household talks regularly about how they seem to have dropped off the planet in general. Meaning, as disgusting as they are, one would at least expect (and wish) that they would be securing “equal time” in mainstream media circles to balance the incessant coverage of Trump trailblazing across the country at rallies every single day (it seems); my impression is that Trump commands virtually ALL the media focus, his opposition failing to demand an equal playing field. Of course, this is NOT to be rooting for that other party, but — rather — to wonder out loud why no member of the opposition from any quarters is creatively forcing the mainstream media to spotlight their opposition to Trump’s stances on California fires, feminist outrage, or the abuse of journalists, among many other issues. On an ungoing basis.  We know why Democrats (in bed with the Republicans respecting WAR) don’t recoil in horror in front of the cameras over atrocities in Yemen and the like, but it’s hard to figure out what they’re thinking as they allow the ongoing dominance of Trump on the major networks in general.

Perhaps they’re meeting in secret, attempting to find a way to come up with a guy or gal with the goods that are popular today  … for 2020. They’ve got to know already that a Biden or a Warren won’t cut the muster. Maybe they’re pushing one another’s envelopes privately with regard to how best market a Stanley Kowalski of their own.

Their biggest challenge, however, must be how they’re going to pull of renaming their organization The Party of Apes.*

* With apologies to the Kinks