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Nelson Mandela’s death this past week has turned the spotlight not only on his life and achievements, but on the people who’ve both supported and opposed him. And it’s interesting how the same people who either directly worked to keep him imprisoned as a terrorist or who revere those who did are now working to make sure his vision for the world (“a free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities”) is stamped out, right here in this country. Income inequality is at an all-time high in the US, but instead of working to correct that, they’re working to worsen it. Why? Because they paid for the privilege.
And in America, you get what you pay for - if you’ve got a lot of money. You get Supreme Court justices who don’t recuse themselves when your Citizens United case is before them, and they decide in your favor, giving your corporation personhood. You get legislators whose elections you purchase and whose undying loyalty you’re then assured. You get laws passed that suit your needs, designed by you and your CEO buddies over at ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council), and you get to decide who gets to retire and how much money they’ll have to live on. You get media coverage that downplays your leaky pipeline, your earthquake-and-flaming-water-causing natural gas excavations, and your genetically-modified crops, while forcing a journalist to resign because he told the truth and called a stupid, cruel woman a “world-class idiot” and suggested she become more familiar with how horrific slavery really was before she uses it again in another ridiculous analogy.
The rest of us pay, too, but we don’t get so much for our money. We get elected officials who not only vote against our best interests, but vote for things that directly harm us. We get slanted, generally worthless media coverage of pivotal national and international events. We get healthcare reform that doesn’t work as well as it would if everyone had played along and not refused to participate. We get a trade agreement (the Trans-Pacific Partnership) that will give several foreign country’s leaders (and their corporate overlords) the right to tell us how well we can protect our environment, how safe our food should be, and whether or not we can move away from fossil fuels in favor of green energy. And that’s just the tip of that iceberg (which is melting, thanks to climate change).
We’re pretty poor consumers, it turns out. But it’s not all our fault, certainly. We didn’t raise Charles and David Koch to be vicious and greedy. Their parents did that. We didn’t abuse a young Dick Cheney and turn him into a war-mongering scumbag. But we did vote and turn him into a Vice President. And we buy the Koch Brothers’ products and vote for the candidates they hand-pick. Americans put more thought into buying a TV than they do into thinking about what they see on that same television. They spend more time texting about nonsense than they do reading about things that can change their lives. They devote precious energy to what various insipid celebrities are up to, and ignore what their representatives on Congress are doing with their tax dollars.
So rather than getting what we pay for, we get what we don’t pay attention to.
Are you ready to change that? If a man can go from being convicted of sabotage – in an act of civil disobedience – and spending 26 years in prison to being the first black President of the very country that incarcerated him, what can each of us accomplish simply by paying attention?
Nelson Mandela was willing to die for what he believed. What are we willing to do?
This week’s links:
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If only there were a “liberal media.” We assure you, outside of blogs and alternative news websites, there is no such thing. Of course, you hear those on the right – and increasingly, those who call themselves moderates or centrists, chiefly because so many of the talking heads on the right are embarrassing knuckleheads whom nobody wants to seem aligned with – blaming the “liberal media” for a host of sins. From coddling the President to waging a war on Christmas, you’d think the media was made up of nothing but Phil Donahue reruns and MSNBC’s nighttime lineup on a continuous loop.
The truth? The media is far from liberal. In fact, it’s sole focus – when you look at TV, listen to the radio, or read the newspaper – is entertainment. Sure, they cover the “big stories” – typhoons, plane crashes, celebrity babies, and twerking pop stars – but do they cover the issues you’d think that a truly liberal media would be covering like crazy?
Not so much. There’s very little coverage of things that those of us on the left are concerned about and that every American should know much more about than they do. Here’s a sampling – and as you read it, try to think of the number of times you’ve seen coverage of the topics on real mainstream media:
- The corporate take over of the media. Six corporations own 90% of the media. Yes. That’s 6 corporations, controlling 90% of the news we see, hear, and read. And here are some more numbers for ya. 232 individuals – corporate executives – control the news for 277 million Americans. That’s 1 wildly overpaid guy or gal for every 850,00o people with a TV, radio, or newspaper subscription. This is the true definition of “you get what you pay for.” We buy their crap – everything from food to oil, and then we have to listen to it, too.
- Job outsourcing. Nearly every job cut by multinational firms headquartered in the US was shipped overseas. 2.9 million jobs lost here, and 2.4 million found in other countries where labor is cheaper and environmental and safety regulations looser or non-existent.
- Income inequality. A handful of people have all the money. Well, not all of it. Only about 90% of it. The rest is divided up amongst the rest of us, and these numbers are acknowledged by both the right and the left – but they’re rarely reported. Of course, the Pope talks about us worshiping money and the ills of economic disparity, and he’s being attacked for it. How dare he espouse the teachings of Jesus!? That’s Pat Robertson’s job. And speaking of disparity, how often do you hear about major corporations paying no taxes at all? How about listing the companies and how much tax they would have paid were it not for subsidies and loopholes? Can’t do that. Virtually all of the companies who haven’t paid one thin dime in taxes also advertise on the same networks, radio stations, and in the same newspapers that fail to report this news.
- The corporate takeover of Congress. Through ALEC (the American Legislative Exchange Council), corporations are writing laws and getting them passed. It’s saving them tons on lobbyists, so that’s great for them. Not so great for everyone else, as the laws they’ve gotten passed include the Stand Your Ground law that got George Zimmerman freed so he could wave his gun at his wife and girlfriend, the many Voter ID laws that are preventing non-whites, young people, and the elderly from voting, pro-employer “right to work” laws, the educational nightmare that is charter schools, and laws that favor the gun manufacturers and the tobacco industry. And let’s not forget the Citizens United decision, whereby the SCOTUS said corporations are people. People who can throw billions at an election and control its outcome.
- Redistricting to twist election outcomes. Gerrymandering is what kept the Republican majority in the US House, despite more votes being cast for Democratic candidates. The Republicans figure if their message isn’t compelling to the majority of Americans, they’ll just change the rules of the game so the other team’s players either can’t get on the field or their scores aren’t counted.
- The growing prison population. If you thought repressive regimes like the Chinese government or the Russians put a lot of people in jail, they don’t hold a candle to the US. We’ve got 25% of the world’s population in jail. The numbers have skyrocketed since 1980, and the rise in prison populations churns right along with the increase in privatized prisons. Incarcerating people is a growth industry. And guess what? An inordinate number of people in prison are black. They account for almost 40% of the prison population, despite nearly 70% of those arrested being white. So you’re not white? We’re locking you up. Are you white? Hey, enjoy your probation!!
- Healthcare costs are way too high. Right along with prisons, the US can claim Number One Status on healthcare costs, too. We spend more than any other country. Our outcomes, however – survival of cancer, life expectancies, infant mortality – aren’t so dazzling. We’re paying more and getting less. So much for all that “finest healthcare in the world” propaganda. USA! USA!
- We continue to let the banks gamble with our financial future. Ever since Glass-Steagall was repealed (thanks, Bill Clinton!), banks have had no regulation when it comes to using federally-insured savings to gamble on risky investments. Their shenanigans drove us into the economic ditch in 2008, and still not one of the banksters is in an orange jumpsuit.
- The Republican Congress has abandoned their constituents. No longer representing the voters, these overpaid, underworked jerks are too busy blocking nearly every judge President Obama appoints and making sure no laws get voted on – much less passed – so that as little good happens during Obama’s tenure as possible. In the years since Obama was elected, the GOP members of the Senate (where the Democrats have a slight majority) have kept 375 bills from ever being voted on – including bills that would generate jobs. The laws that do get voted on? Laws that try to control women, gay people, and non-whites, often with regard to their sex lives and reproduction choices. The GOP and its Tea Party heart just love a small government, but they really love one that can reach all the way into our bedrooms.
- The environment. From fracking for natural gas to the ever-leaking Keystone XL Pipeline to GMO crops to the demise of bees, environmental news gets very little coverage. Why? Refer back to the corporate takeover of the media. If Exxon Mobil advertises on your show, how much real news about fracking and piping sludge across a continent do you imagine we’ll get? That’s right. Not much at all. And if Monsanto’s advertising their fabulous Round-Up weed killer while you’re on the air, are you really going to hold their feet to the fire over the dangers of GMOs? Um, no. We didn’t think so.
- The Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP). A lowly 5 of its 29 chapters pertain to trade – so it’s not “just” a trade agreement. It’s a threat to our sovereignty as a nation, to individual liberty, to the ability of US states and cities to enact and enforce their own laws. It’s so awful that the people fast-tracking it (including our President) won’t let anyone have a copy. They’re hiding its content because they’ve admitted we’d be “outraged” by it. So why would our elected officials purposely do something that would make us that angry? Yeah, that would be an interesting news story, wouldn’t it?
So that’s why we’re here. To cover as much of the stuff the corporate-run media doesn’t want you to know. We’re a very small hum compared to the cacophony of info-tainment noise, but we keep trying.
Now do your part.
Read this week’s links:
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What better source of insights for living a happy, healthy life can there be than a website called the McResource? It really should be every American’s go-to website for advice. It’s provided by McDonald’s, for their employees, and it gives them suggestions for everything from making money (sell your Christmas presents) to feeding your family (apply for food stamps or visit your local food pantry) to feeling full on Thanksgiving, even if your dinner is no feast (break your food up into smaller pieces and chew slowly).
Now, we’re sorry if we got your hopes up with the promise of a resource that provides all that great advice – because it turns out, McDonald’s took the advice down after people started scrutinizing the alleged wisdom. It’s kind of surprising they wouldn’t have vetted their advice a little bit more considering the flak they justifiably took just a few months ago when they advised employees on how to budget their measly $7.75 an hour (just 50 cents more per hour than the federal minimum wage) and pay their bills. From suggesting not paying their heating bills (great idea!) to implying that people living in NYC and other major cities had rent no higher than $600 a month, the advice was ridiculous, not to mention cruel and condescending.
As is the idea that anyone working full-time in America should have to get food stamps or go to a food bank to feed their kids. But that’s the reality in America, as evidenced by the Cleveland Wal-Mart that asked customers for donations of food so the Wal-Mart employees could eat on Thanksgiving. Wal-Mart, the largest private employer in the country, posts billions in profits, and four of the heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune are on the list of the top 10 richest Americans. But Wal-Mart’s employees are often on welfare, need food stamps to feed themselves and their kids, and shoppers have to donate food so they can afford a Thanksgiving turkey. Having a Wal-Mart in town typically costs the local economy as much as $1M per year, with the social safety-net benefits their employees will need, just to live.
So the store comes to town, puts local stores out of business (by undercutting them with substandard, low-priced products made by slave labor in foreign countries), pays hundreds of local citizens a crappy, non-livable wage, and costs the tax payers as much as a cool million just so the Wal-Mart employees can afford housing and food.
Anybody else see something wrong with this?
We hope that you do. And we hope that the “Seven Signs the National Outcry Against Wal-Mart Will Lead to Big Changes” are correct. In the meantime, please don’t shop at Wal-Mart – ever – and don’t shop in any store evil enough to make their workers slave away on Thanksgiving – a day that’s supposed to be about family and gratitude for life’s blessings. Other than a grocery store open ’til noon for all the schnooks who forgot to get cranberry sauce, no store should be open on Thanksgiving. And no decent person should reward a store greedy and evil enough to be open.
This week’s links:
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Yep. Politics is one big game – at least to the people who get to play. It’s a very profitable game for the billionaires who get to choose the teams, tell their Congressional puppets how to define the rules, and appoint the Supreme Court referees. They also assign the commentators, who’ll describe the game the way they’re told, so as to shed the most flattering light on everyone involved. Just ask one such commentator, David Gregory, host of Meet the Press – a show that used to matter. He thinks that the people who were sold junk policies after the ACA was enacted, who have since been cancelled by the same predatory insurance companies that sold them the policies, are on a par with thousands of dead and injured American soldiers, hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, and an entire nation of 300+ million American citizens who were lied to about WMDs. Here’s how Mr. Gregory brilliantly described the similarities between the lies told about Saddam Hussein’s imaginary weapons to get us into the Iraq war and President Obama’s statements – made in good faith – about the impact the ACA rollout would have on existing insurance policies:
“Frankly I liken it more to the Iraq war. That was life and death. This is not. It’s totally different.”
Wait. Huh? NBC anchor Brian Williams had just asked him if other pundits’ remarks, comparing the ACA rollout to the government’s mishandling of Hurricane Katrina were valid, and the words above were the pearls to slip from David Gregory’s lips. Apparently he’s so used to just listening to the sound of his own voice, he no longer hears the words at all. And apparently, his marching orders were to connect the last big lie we were told by a president – George W. Bush – and the promises made by the current president regarding the naively assumed conduct of the insurance companies. “Make the connection,” Gregory’s handlers whispered, “whether it makes sense or not.” Once it’s been said on the air, it can be repeated by Fox News so many times that it will magically become the accepted wisdom.
So back to the game. To the rest of us, who have to live with the outcome of the game, it’s our lives. And sometimes it’s our deaths. Speaking of which, 45,000 people die every year, on average, from a lack of access to health care. That’s almost 15 times more people than died on 9/11, and it happens every year. And until October 1st, when all hell broke loose with the faulty Healthcare.gov website, the Republicans didn’t give a damn about any of those people. But suddenly the GOP has drafted themselves as the champions of the insurance-less, the watchdogs of the recipients of cancellation notices. And, as usual, it’s all the fault of the black man in the White House. Just ask David “I’m No Tim Russert” Gregory.
The outraged Republicans don’t care at all about uninsured and under-insured Americans, of course. They just see the screw-ups with regard to the Healthcare.gov website as a problem to pin on the President, something to wave like a flag and blame on the Democrats in general and the President and his staff in particular, and to use as an issue to begin framing their argument against electing Hillary Clinton in 2016. And to distract voters who need to be focusing on the 2014 election and voting the obstructionist, stop-Obama-at-whatever-cost Tea Baggers out of office.
To those of us in the nose-bleed seats, watching the game in disbelief, our hope is that the Healthcare.gov site will be working soon, in time to allow many more people to sign up for insurance, making the ACA’s final piece a success. Or, as may have been the goal of the Democrats who sided with the House Republicans on a law that would gut the ACA by neutering the standards that those junk policies failed to meet, it will force the topic of a single payer system back onto the table. That’s the only real solution to our healthcare crisis, anyway – taking the greedy insurance companies out of the equation and removing the option to profit from human suffering.
Which explains why the team owners – Charles & David Koch, Sheldon Adelson, and Rupert Murdoch – don’t like the single payer idea. It eliminates the part of the game they like best.
Here’s the latest play-by-play – in the form of this week’s links:
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The dictionary definition of irony is “the use of words that mean the opposite of what you really think especially in order to be funny.”
Whew! We can relax, then.
Because that means the legislators who want to pass laws to protect the fetus – and through preventing access to contraception, the not-yet-conceived – are just trying to be funny when they cut programs that feed and educate living, breathing, already-born children.
And when they talk about supporting the troops and then cut military benefits that help injured soldiers and when they don’t lift a finger for homeless veterans and soldiers’ families who can’t make ends meet without public assistance, they’re actually joking.
And when our leaders talk about a war on terror and how the wars we’ve waged in Iraq and Afghanistan were intended to keep us safe and help spread democracy, they’re just kidding when they terrify and kill innocent people by remote control with drone strikes in those same countries. If only the people who then hate us even more had a better sense of humor - if they did, Al Qaeda would have no recruiting ability whatsoever.
So it stands to reason that when the media fails to report on the number of people who lost their homes and savings – and lives – prior to October 1st, 2013, due to coverage caps and pre-existing condition clauses and rejected claims – but they can’t stop talking about the people who will have to replace their inadequate insurance policies thanks to Obamacare – they’re just being amusing. They’re not actually committing huge sins of omission and publishing outright lies on behalf of the insurance industry.
We didn’t think so.
Ready for some more irony? Check out this week’s links. From the 10 Things Christians Got Wrong to huge government benefits for the most profitable industries on earth to a life-saving device invented by two women, despite their being inferior to men, undeserving of equal pay and protection from domestic abuse, and not allowed to decide when and if they bear children, we’ve got it all.
Prepare to be amused.
This week’s links:
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The world is coming to an end!! The website doesn’t work! When did the President know!? Who is this Sebelius woman!? And what did she know and when did she know it!? See? We told you Obamacare wouldn’t work!!
The news of the Healthcare.gov website’s woes is surely giving the Tea Party wingnuts something to crow about. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul and the rest of the crazies can barely contain themselves. It may be the first time Kathleen Sebelius has been masturbatory material, but who can blame them? The Law They Loved to Hate has careened through the guardrail on the information superhighway, and Healthcare.gov failed to handle the traffic that flooded its way on October 1st. And they can blame a woman! Christmas has come early!
But who’s really to blame? Well, it didn’t help that there were 55 separate companies involved in building the site. Talk about a the perfect recipe for a mess. Ever heard the phrase, “too many cooks in the kitchen”? In any case, the finger-pointing may never settle on the actual party – or parties – but the site will be fixed, and people will be able to sign up and use it to select a healthcare plan they can afford. And, this is just one part of the Affordable Care Act. The other parts – removing caps on coverage, ending pre-existing condition clauses, allowing kids to stay on their parents’ plans ’til they’re 26, forcing the insurance companies to spend their premium income on their customers, creating competition – these parts are all working.
But what about the people being told they’re losing their current coverage? Yes, this is happening. And yes, the President undersold this part of the plan when he presented it, because he knew how people would react and the hay the GOP would make of that admission. But this is mainly happening to people with inadequate insurance that still leaves them exposed to the possibility of lifelong debt from catastrophic illness or injury – and people whose employers are switching to more affordable coverage now that it’s possible to do so.
The bottom line is that the under-insured – and those with no insurance – need to get on a plan that meets the Affordable Care Act’s standards so that the plan overall can work. And they can do so now, by calling 1-800-318-2596, available 24/7, to shop for a plan. And in the coming weeks, more and more of them will be able to do so online. No major website roll-out is without hiccups, but at the same time, a website that can handle millions of simultaneous shoppers is not rocket science to build and maintain. Of course, that’s what makes this whole thing an embarrassment for the Obama administration, but they’ll survive. And nobody needs to resign, so the people who love to see someone’s life ruined over things like this should just shut up and hope nobody takes a serious look into the rumors that there was tampering from the far right, and that the website had a little “help” in its failing.
Of course, “Calm down, it’s all going to be OK…” is not what Ted Cruz and his pals want to hear, but that doesn’t make it any less true. So put your shirt back on, find your ID, and go vote on November 5th. Because that’s what really matters. All this freaking out about a website is just a distraction.
This week’s links:
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Rather than comment on the insanity that was the government shutdown (a Tea Party tantrum, plain and simple) and all the lies being told about what the debt ceiling is (raising it does not give the government the OK to spend more, it simply says we’ll pay what we already owe), Obamacare (88% of people like what the law does), and the deficit (it’s not the same thing as the debt, and it’s not growing), we thought we’d just share some facts. That’s right, facts. You know, the stuff normal people think about when making decisions and debating issues:
1. We do not have a trillion dollar deficit. The $1.3 trillion deficit inherited by Obama has been cut in half and is shrinking faster than at any other time in history.
2. According to Forbes Magazine, the annual spending increase under President Obama is only 1.4%. Not since Eisenhower was president has the percentage increase been lower.
3. The vast majority of our current debt was incurred by Republican presidents.
4. Since the last balanced budget (balanced by President Clinton) in 2000, the biggest contributing factor to our deficit has been the Bush tax cuts for the rich.
5. Social Security and Medicare spending are NOT PART OF, nor do they contribute ONE THIN DIME to our national debt. The Social Security Trust Fund has a 2.5 trillion dollar surplus. And that, boys and girls, is why the GOP wants to privatize the system. To put that money in Wall Street’s hands.
6. According to the non-partisan CBO (Congressional Budget Office), the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. “Obamacare”) will reduce our debt by over $100 billion in the next 10 years.
Want more facts? Check out this week’s links: