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“This” being the takeover of our country by corporations.
The government – that the GOP says isn’t capable of creating “real” jobs for the rest of us – employs millions of people through private contractors, and millions of those workers have security clearances that allow them to tap our phones, read our emails and texts, and track our movements. We didn’t elect them, we can’t fire them, we don’t even know who or where they are or what they’re doing. But the government hires them, lines their pockets, and keeps their corporations humming along, making rich men of their CEOs.
And the ones who aren’t watching us are, though privatizing education and prisons, turning our children into ignorant consumer slaves and creating more “customers” for the prisons, by incarcerating more of us, for longer sentences, when we step outside of the law. Laws that are increasingly unconstitutional, passed by corrupt legislators who are capitalizing on our fears. Fears that are largely based on exaggerations and lies, artfully created and nurtured by the corporate-run media.
It’s the definition of “they’ve got us coming and going.”
The line between corporations and our government is not just getting blurry, it’s being erased, and we’re not even upset. Recent polls say 56% of Americans are just fine with being under constant surveillance by the NSA, the FBI, and the many covert arms of multinational corporations that do much of the dirty work.
So on this Father’s Day, we revisit the prophecies of some of our Founding Fathers – and one of our beloved Presidents:
Here’s what Thomas Jefferson said in 1802:
“If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their money, first by inflation and then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them (around the banks), will deprive the people of their property until their children will wake up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.”
In 1816, he said this:
“I hope that we shall crush in its birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength, and bid defiance to the laws of our country.”
And Abraham Lincoln, showing his unending wisdom, said this, in 1864:
“We may congratulate ourselves that this cruel war is nearing its end. It has cost a vast amount of treasure and blood … It has indeed been a trying hour for the Republic; but I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands, and the Republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of war. God grant that my suspicions may prove groundless.”
This is Politicking
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If you’ve ever stayed up late and watched one of those commercials for kitchen knives that can cut through a tin can – and then turn a tomato into a series of paper-thin slices – you’ve heard the announcer say, after offering a second set of knives and some other useless kitchen device, “Now how much would you pay?” At which point he tells you that the two sets of knives and the chopping thingy that will mince, dice, and julienne everything in your refrigerator is just $19.95.
Now imagine the same commercial, but this time, instead of a knife, they’re selling you surveillance of all your phone calls, texts, and emails, gathered for analysis by the NSA and FBI, in case you’re a terrorist. In exchange for that intrusion, of course, you’re told you’ll be safe. From what? They don’t really say, but hey, safe is good. Right?
“So how much freedom and privacy do you want to give up in exchange for the illusion of safety?”
Of course, President Obama assured us that “Nobody is listening to your phone calls.” No, they’re just keeping track of who you called, when you called, how long you talked, and given that there are literally thousands of trigger words to indicate that your conversation needs further analysis, they must be listening in. I mean, how else would trigger words work?
Of course, this is all a distraction. From what, we can’t be entirely sure, but it could be anything from Bradley Manning’s trial to the infusion of GMO wheat into our food supply by Monsanto to the Chinese taking over one of the country’s biggest pork producers (spreading interesting diseases and toxins) to a Republican candidate for Lt. Governor saying that birth defects are the result of sin. Chances are, though, it’s something we’d never guess, because the distraction worked. While we’ve all been arguing about whether or not surveillance of American citizens is right or even useful, who knows what our fearless leaders have been up to? It could be anything.
While we try to figure that out, check out this week’s links. We’ve got the trigger words you need to include in all your communications (hey, let’s give the snoops something to do, right?) and some documents that Anonymous got their hands on, which prove the extent and duration of the surveillance.We’ve got all of that and a whole lot more:
Silencing the Media:
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“If only…” – are there any sadder words? They express regret, nostalgia, and often real pain in the face of what has occurred because something else was either allowed or not allowed to occur. Sometimes it’s as personal and heart-breaking as “If only I hadn’t let him drive when he’d had so much to drink…” and other times, it’s something that touches us all because of the gravity of the thing that we wish had or hadn’t happened. “If only more people voted…”
A particularly sad “If only…” comes to mind when we think about former Labor Secretary Robert Reich’s revelation that had we not pursued Reagonomics, and wages had been permitted to follow productivity, the median US income today would be $90,000 – twice what it actually is, $44,500.
Imagine the lives that would be improved by such earnings. And not just the people bringing home that kind of income – because a median requires values above and below that figure – but the people working for, providing products and services to, and receiving help from those with that much more money at their disposal. How many more kids would have gone to college without incurring huge loans? How many more vacations would have been taken? How many more homes would have been built or remodeled? How many more cars purchased? How many more businesses started? How many worthwhile causes would have been better-funded to do their life-saving work? The mind reels at everything that would have been possible if we hadn’t purposely followed a path that strangled the middle class.
Now, not everyone is pining for truly better days that might have been. Others pine for days that ended because of good things that happened. We passed the GI Bill after WWII, helping to educate, build, and strengthen the middle class. We passed the Civil Rights Amendment in 1964, making it illegal to among other things, deny jobs, housing, education, and the use of a water fountain or a seat on the bus to anyone based on the color of his or her skin. Along the way, we expanded Social Security to include Medicaid for the poor and disabled, created the Head Start Program (in 1965, and expanded it to help younger children in 1994), established the Environmental Protection Agency (1970), and in 2010, Congress passed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (come to be known as “Obamacare”). In 2011, we ended Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, allowing homosexuals to openly serve in the military, and as of today, 12 states have legalized same-sex marriage.
No, you don’t have to look far to find someone who thinks that fairness, equality, well-educated kids, and safe food grown on a clean, protected planet are a big mistake. They’re holding our Congress hostage right now, maintaining a majority in the House and preventing much happening in the Senate. They’re whining about their tax status being reviewed by the IRS, trying to make a big conspiracy out of 4 tragic deaths in Benghazi, and they’re lying about solutions to our economic woes. You can’t swing a stick without hitting someone who wishes none of the good things we listed had happened and is either running for office based on their outrage or voting for the guy who promises them he can turn back the clock to “a better time.”
But what if none of these good things had happened? We’d still have segregation and many American citizens would still be considered three-fifths of a person or be unable to openly live their lives without being drummed out of their chosen career to serve and defend our country. The middle class would never have grown, and our most prosperous decades would never have happened. The air would be a toxic haze above an undrinkable soup oozing over the land. Millions of Americans would have died from poverty and disease (well, millions more than actually have), and poor kids would never have known the benefits of preschool and a hot breakfast and their impact on the ability to learn throughout their lives.
And despite these things, we still have huge problems in this country. The Civil Rights Amendment may have made decency and fairness the law, but it didn’t change people’s hearts. From a serious uptick in White Supremacist groups since Obama’s election to the insipid, cruel posts in response to a biracial couple depicted in a Cheerios commercial, it seems we may have just as many racists in this country today as we did in 1964. Despite the EPA’s existence and local environmental protection agencies in every state, we’re going to get the Keystone XL Pipeline, like it or not, and it will spill millions of gallons of tar sands oil onto our ground and into our water. The EPA hasn’t stopped fracking, and it won’t stop factory farming. We’ve got an FDA and a USDA, allegedly protecting our food and our farmland, but we’re still going to be forced to grow and blindly eat genetically-modified foods, manufactured by companies who also make the pesticides that are killing us and many of the creatures with whom we share the planet.
Oh, and not a single bankster has been sent to jail for any of their evil deeds, economic disparity continues to deepen, and the only suggestions anyone’s willing to discuss to solve our economic woes seem to target the poor, the elderly, the disabled, the environment, young people trying to go to college, and people trying to get or stay healthy and not go bankrupt in the process. Nobody seems willing to raise a simple cap on the Social Security tax to preserve a program that saves millions of lives every year. Nobody wants the people who hold all the cards and all the money to chip in even a little more, even if it would mean better times for everyone, including the very rich.
If only greed wasn’t being confused for patriotism, in some bizarre conflation of capitalism and democracy. If only 51% of the population had true representation in 50% of the seats in Congress. If only people didn’t think it was OK to hate someone because they look different or love the “wrong” people. If only we held our leaders to a higher standard and demanded that they work for us and not against us.
This week’s links:
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The answer, apparently, is “Yes!”
The news is jam-packed with other non-scandals, from Benghazi to the IRS to the President shaking the hand of – after forgetting to salute – a Marine to a secular humanist legislator giving the prayer at the opening of a house session. Is any of this really news? Are any of these stories truly scandalous? Well, the fact that they’re what passes for news is scandalous, but the stories themselves are not.
The real scandals are – and this is just a sampling:
- Not one of the banksters is in an orange jumpsuit or even in fear of such a change of wardrobe.
- Monsanto, makers of Round-up and Agent Orange, are making GMO seeds and then dictating policy – and hoping to determine the law - regarding whether or not the American public should know when they’re eating GMO foods. Of course, the European Union, along with the Russians, are banning GMO crops, and for many of the very reasons the US is embracing them. They’re a corporate product designed with profits, not nutrition or safety, in mind. The added benefit? Someone can own the seeds, make bazillions off their sale and use, and drive anyone who accidentally (due to nature doing what it does, um… naturally) grows crops from them out of business. Win, win, win!
- The pesticides Monsanto also makes are killing the bees that maintain our ability to grow as much as 75% of the food we eat. Why is this a scandal? Because the rest of the world seems to care about this, but our Congress – and it would appear our President – doesn’t seem to care that this could put the human race in real jeopardy, and in the not-too-distant future.
- Huge corporations are dodging – legally – the payment of billions in taxes, robbing our economy of much-needed revenue. Their patsies in Congress are then continuing to target lifeline programs like social security, medicare, and medicaid to make up the shortfall.
- Thanks to Congress not passing (or even voting on) the President’s Jobs Bill, our infrastructure is crumbling. Tens of thousands of bridges are near collapse, putting lives at risk. Is anyone doing anything about it? Nope.
- Private prison populations are up by over 750% in the last 10 years. Why? Because private prisons, run by corporations, need lots of prisoners to be profitable. So they buy judges and legislators to make it easier to put more people behind bars for more reasons and for more time than ever. Are crime rates dropping by similar percentages? Nope, because that’s not the goal. Incarcerating people, largely for drug crimes, doesn’t eliminate crime, it just increases private prison profitability. What would reduce the crime rate? Education.
- Speaking of education, we’re under-funding it. Causing local taxes to rise, schools to close, school programs essential to the students’ development to be cut, and more kids to fall through the ever-widening cracks in our education system. Are charter schools the answer? Nope. A racist system designed as a fail-safe for the end to segregation is not a solution, nor should we be abolishing public education. Educating our kids is a national responsibility, not a corporate one. Every American has a vested interest in well-educated kids. So we should all be happy to pay into a well-run, student-centric system. If we did, the country would benefit – but not in ways that corporations and their shareholders can quantify. So it won’t happen.
- And still speaking of education, why would we double the student loan rate unless we didn’t want people to go to college? Call your legislators and ask them.
As we said, that’s just a sampling. There are many more. Check out this week’s links for the scandalous details of the fake and real scandals and more stuff you need to know:
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It’s that time again… the day we take our Moms to brunch and bring her flowers. Or the kids make cards and trash the kitchen cooking breakfast, to give Mom the day off. Of course, it’s not Mother’s Day in most of the world – just here, where 22% of children are born into poverty. We’re 30th in the Mother’s Index, a list that ranks countries on how well their mothers and children fare. 30th is not such a great spot in the list for a country that loves to chant “USA! USA!” and claim to be “Number 1!” in everything. Number 1? Not even close. But we’ve got to be kicking ass somewhere – aren’t we leading in some category on the list? Absolutely. We’re beating the rest of the industrialized world in babies who don’t live to see a second day after birth. 11,300 babies born in the US won’t live an entire day.
We don’t mean to put a damper on Mother’s Day with these statistics, but they do bring a lot of other current news into sharper focus.
Pushing more people below the poverty level – by ending overtime for hourly workers (thanks, Eric Cantor!) and refusing to raise the minimum wage or pay women a wage equal to their male counterparts – means more kids born poor, to poor moms who had poor prenatal care. And what does that give us? More premature births, more birth defects, more babies born with the deck stacked against them. Cutting programs that help people who need food, assistance with housing costs, and health care – what do you imagine that does to our standing in the Mother’s Index? These cuts and refusals – all being pushed from the hard right – are certainly not going to move us up in the list. If anything, they’ll shove us further down, meaning more poverty, fewer healthy babies, and more suffering families.
But it’s not all bad news out there. Good news can be found, even if it’s only good news for comedians, in the form of Mark “Appalachian Trail” Sanford winning a senate seat in South Carolina. Even if it’s only that Monsanto has to wait another year to plant more of the world with their GMO seeds. Even if it’s only that “AgGag” bills – to silence those who’d expose factory farming abuses and pollution – are being challenged, meaning pictures like the one to your left can be published. Even if it’s only that Rush Limbaugh’s advertisers are fleeing in droves and he might lose his job. Hey, you gotta take your good news where you can get it, right?
On that optimistic note, here are this week’s links. Check them out and look for the good news. Even if it’s only that now that you know what’s going on, you can help make things better. Always imagine better.
Down the Benghazi Rabbit Hole:
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So what’s the “tipping point” for you? When something’s gone totally pear-shaped, all’s not going well, things are out of whack and seem to be irretrievably so, how bad do things have to get before you say “Enough!” and make a move?
That’s a question that was put to a selection of voters, and it turned out that 44% of Republicans said that they believed “an armed revolution might be necessary to protect our liberties.”
Funny, us 99%-ers on the left have been saying the same thing about protecting our lives – from predatory banks who take our homes, our educations, and our futures, from tax-dodging billionaires with political aspirations, from corporations strong-arming our legislature, and from oil and gas companies turning our earth into toxic swiss cheese through largely uncontrolled drilling for oil and natural gas.
Of course the threats to “liberties” that the Republicans perceive are all Republican-manufactured. Nobody’s really coming for your guns. Nobody’s going to threaten your marriage by marrying whomever they please. Terrorists are not lurking in every dark alley, and every kid with a backpack is not planning to blow something up. Oh, and those of us who think science has some good answers to life’s questions aren’t trying to beat up your God. Really. We promise.
So why would the far right manufacture these fears? To keep everyone so torqued that they can’t make rational choices – in the voting booth, at the grocery store, in the doctor’s office – hell, even while we’re pressing buttons on our TV remote. Our votes are being bought, and the ones they can’t buy are being stolen through gerrymandering. The companies who make toxic food want to decide what we should eat and how much information we’re entitled to have about our own meals. Pharmaceutical companies spend more money telling us how they can cure our depression than they spend on developing new drugs (that will also turn us into fidgeting nymphomaniacs with lymphoma – but our psoriasis will be GONE!), TV news is now infotainment, bearing no resemblance to real journalism, and the advertisers decide which stories are worth telling. Print news is dead, having pulled up stakes and moved to the Internet, where the “news” is surrounded on all sides – literally and figuratively – by advertising. And it’s often context-sensitive advertising, based on previous searches you’ve made online. So while you’re trying to find out what’s happening in Syria, the shoes just like the ones you looked at at Amazon.com last night appear on the side of the screen, to distract you. Who needs to know what targets Israel might be bombing when you can buy those strappy sandals you wanted at a 20% discount if you act right now?
So what’s your tipping point? How many more punches can you take before you topple over and then decide to get up and fight?
We’re ready whenever you are. In the meantime, arm yourselves with some information – here are this week’s links:
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While those who profit from scaring us about terrorists and attacks on the 2nd amendment pack the news with distractions, the story – the really big story – we all should be looking at is what’s happening to our home. To Earth, the only source of air, water, and food we have.
From leak-laden pipelines to billions of gallons of water forever poisoned through fracking, from deregulating industries to genetically-modified food to pesticides that are killing the fuzzy little bugs that make it possible to grow 75% of our crops, we’re treating the earth and everything on it pretty badly. Like it doesn’t matter. Like we have another planet in the garage, and we can go get it when the one we’re using breaks.
There is no other Earth.
Ending terrorism won’t matter if we can’t breathe. What North Korea or Syria or Israel or Iran do to their enemies or their own people won’t matter if we can’t drink the water. And what a gallon of gas costs won’t matter if we’re fighting over food on the streets because there’s nothing to eat. The picture this paints isn’t science fiction. It’s our future if we don’t wise up, and fast.
This goes beyond climate change. This goes beyond Creationism vs Intelligent Design vs Evolution. This is simple logic. If we pollute the only place we have to live and render the air, the water, and the soil so poisonous that we can’t breathe safely, the water catches fire, and the soil won’t grow crops, we die. That’s it, and even the richest of the rich can only buy their way out of it for so long. Even their water will run out – and yes, they think it’s “their” water. Just like it’s their country and their world. We just live in it.
At least for as long as we can.
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