Archive for the ‘Elections’ Category

By Olivia Ward | March 13, 2017

She calls herself a humble scribbler, but when I read in a recent parody by Canadian journalist Olivia Ward about how Donald Trump reacted to allegations about “The Russian Connection” by ordering the Russian Tea Room in Manhattan to close …

…In a speech immediately ridiculed by Donald Trump, actress Meryl Streep told the Golden Globe audience, “we need the principled press to hold power to account, to call him on the carpet for every outrage. That’s why our founders enshrined the press and its freedoms in the Constitution.” Ironically, she called for supporting the Committee to Protect Journalists, whose main mission, until now, has been campaigning for those in the dungeons and torture chambers of authoritarian regimes. “We’re gonna need them going forward,” she said, “and they’ll need us to safeguard the truth.”

But therein lies the nut graph, as editors like to call the crucial piece of the story. Because safeguarding the truth has never in living memory been more difficult in the democratic world…

Continue reading: Truth, Lies and Democracy: Journalism in the Age of Trump – BillMoyers.com

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Yes, I made excuses. Why am I so willing to give the benefit of the doubt? It is because I know how critical it is to keep hope alive. I do not want to feed the bad wolf. Citizen engagement and faith in the system are essential ingredients for our survival. We cannot risk feeding cynicism.

Source: Trudeau Broke His Promises But Don’t Let Him Break Our Faith | Elizabeth May

“When Blankfein says that criticizing those who break the rules is dangerous to the economy, then he’s just repeating another variation of ‘too big to fail,’ ‘too big to jail,’ ‘too big even to prosecute,’” she said. “That tells you here we are, seven years after the crisis and these guys still don’t get it. Seven years. That crisis cost an estimated $14 trillion, it cost jobs, it cost homes, it cost retirement funds. And Lloyd Blankfein stands up and says ‘Don’t even criticize me, I ran a company that was right at the heart of some of the biggest financial frauds in history and made money off it, but don’t you dare criticize me.’ That’s his position? That’s why we need voters to get really engaged.”

Source: Election 2016: Elizabeth Warren Defends Bernie Sanders From Goldman Sachs Criticism

Justice Anthony Kennedy masterminded the Supreme Court’s decision to undo a century of public-interest regulation of campaign expenditures.

Source: The Man Who Drowned Democracy With ‘Sewer Money’ | Alternet

Equating the Sanders and Trump campaigns is meant to obscure their real political differences and defend the neoliberal consensus.
by

Source: Sanders Is Not Trump | Jacobin

…and gun control, and reduced prison sentences, and public transportation, and Bernie Sanders.
Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community
by Lauren McCauley, staff writer
"As the largest generation in our nation’s history, we have the power to be the most influential force in electing our next president and our voices deserve to be an integral part of the conversation this election," said Ashley Spillane, president of Rock the Vote. (Photo: University of Minnesota)

“As the largest generation in our nation’s history, we have the power to be the most influential force in electing our next president and our voices deserve to be an integral part of the conversation this election,” said Ashley Spillane, president of Rock the Vote. (Photo: University of Minnesota)

Young folks, arguably, have the most at stake in the upcoming U.S. presidential election, and could potentially hold significant sway over who gets elected. Given that, a new USA TODAY/ Rock the Vote poll out Monday revealed what the so-called “Millennial Agenda” might look like.

People between ages 18 and 34 overwhelmingly (80 percent) favor a rapid transition to clean or renewable energy by 2030 and by a ratio of more than 2-1 say the government should invest in more public transportation.

When asked to rank their top issues, the combined votes for “climate change” and “energy” placed first and foremost along with economic concerns, including jobs, minimum wage, and paid leave.

“If we don’t have a place to live, then it doesn’t really make sense to worry about anything else,” said 34-year-old Scott McGeary of Seattle.

Millennials also widely (2-1) see police violence against Black people as problem and 76 percent want the government to require police officers to wear body cameras while on duty. More than two-thirds agree that prison sentences for people convicted of non-violent crimes should be reduced.

What’s more, 82 percent of millennials want background checks for all gun purchases.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in 2015 the millennial generation, now numbering 75.3 million, surpassed baby boomers as the largest living generation.

Yet despite the enormous potential of this voting bloc, the survey found that only 60 percent are planning to vote in the November presidential election, while only 30 and 40 percent say they’re likely to vote in the respective Republican and Democratic primaries.

If they do find their way to the polls, the survey found that young people are responding to Bernie Sanders’ call for “political revolution” with 46 percent of millennial Democrats and independents backing the Vermont senator compared with 35 percent for his chief rival Hillary Clinton.

Donald Trump, with 26 percent support from millennial Republicans and independents, has the lead among young conservatives, but those numbers are lower than national polls of GOP voters.

The poll was released in conjunction with the launch of One Nation, a content and event series organized by USA TODAY and Rock the Vote to inform young voters and encourage voter registration for 2016. The survey is the first of four that will be conducted in the months leading up to the presidential election.

“As the largest generation in our nation’s history, we have the power to be the most influential force in electing our next president and our voices deserve to be an integral part of the conversation this election,” said Ashley Spillane, president of Rock the Vote.

Source: The Future is Bright: Millennial Voters Resoundingly Support Climate Action | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community

Dear Readers:

In the fall of 2001, in the aftermath of 9/11, as families grieved and the nation mourned, Washington swarmed with locusts of the human kind: wartime opportunists, lobbyists, lawyers, ex-members of Congress, bagmen for big donors: all of them determined to grab what they could for their corporate clients and rich donors while no one was looking.

Across the land, the faces of Americans of every stripe were stained with tears. Here in New York, we still were attending memorial services for our firemen and police. But in the nation’s capital, within sight of a smoldering Pentagon that had been struck by one of the hijacked planes, the predator class was hard at work pursuing private plunder at public expense, gold-diggers in the ashes of tragedy exploiting our fear, sorrow, and loss.

What did they want? The usual: tax cuts for the wealthy and big breaks for corporations. They even made an effort to repeal the alternative minimum tax that for fifteen years had prevented companies from taking so many credits and deductions that they owed little if any taxes. And it wasn’t only repeal the mercenaries sought; they wanted those corporations to get back all the minimum tax they had ever been assessed.

“Whenever you hear a man speak of his love for his country, it is a sign that he expects to be paid for it.” —H.L. Mencken

They sought a special tax break for mighty General Electric, although you would never have heard about it if you were watching GE’s news divisions — NBC News, CNBC, or MSNBC, all made sure to look the other way.

They wanted to give coal producers more freedom to pollute, open the Alaskan wilderness to drilling, empower the president to keep trade favors for corporations a secret while enabling many of those same corporations to run roughshod over local communities trying the protect the environment and their citizens’ health.

It was a disgusting bipartisan spectacle. With words reminding us of Harry Truman’s description of the GOP as “guardians of privilege,” the Republican majority leader of the House dared to declare that “it wouldn’t be commensurate with the American spirit” to provide unemployment and other benefits to laid-off airline workers. As for post 9/11 Democrats, their national committee used the crisis to call for widening the soft-money loophole in our election laws.

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America had just endured a sneak attack that killed thousands of our citizens, was about to go to war against terror, and would soon send an invading army to the Middle East. If ever there was a moment for shared sacrifice, for putting patriotism over profits, this was it. But that fall, operating deep within the shadows of Washington’s Beltway, American business and political mercenaries wrapped themselves in red, white and blue and went about ripping off a country in crisis. H.L. Mencken got it right: “Whenever you hear a man speak of his love for his country, it is a sign that he expects to be paid for it.”

Fourteen years later, we can see more clearly the implications. After three decades of engineering a winner-take-all economy, and buying the political power to consummate their hold on the wealth created by the system they had rigged in their favor, they were taking the final and irrevocable step of separating themselves permanently from the common course of American life. They would occupy a gated stratosphere far above the madding crowd while their political hirelings below look after their earthly interests.

The $1.15 trillion spending bill passed by Congress last Friday and quickly signed by President Obama is just the latest triumph in the plutocratic management of politics that has accelerated since 9/11. As Michael Winship and I described here last Thursday, the bill is a bonanza for the donor class – that powerful combine of corporate executives and superrich individuals whose money drives our electoral process. Within minutes of its passage, congressional leaders of both parties and the president rushed to the television cameras to praise each other for a bipartisan bill that they claimed signaled the end of dysfunction; proof that Washington can work. Mainstream media (including public television and radio), especially the networks and cable channels owned and operated by the conglomerates, didn’t stop to ask: “Yes, but work for whom?” Instead, the anchors acted as amplifiers for official spin — repeating the mantra-of-the-hour that while this is not “a perfect bill,” it does a lot of good things. “But for whom? At what price?” went unasked.

Secrecy today. Secrecy tomorrow. Secrecy forever. They are determined that we not know who owns them.

Now we’re learning. Like the drip-drip-drip of a faucet, over the weekend other provisions in the more than 2000-page bill began to leak. Many of the bad ones we mentioned on Thursday are there — those extended tax breaks for big business, more gratuities to the fossil fuel industry, the provision to forbid the Securities & Exchange Commission from requiring corporations to disclose their political spending, even to their own shareholders. That one’s a slap in the face even to Anthony Kennedy, the justice who wrote the Supreme Court’s majority opinion in Citizens United. He said: “With the advent of the Internet, prompt disclosure of expenditures can provide shareholders and citizens with the information needed to hold corporations and elected officials accountable for their positions.”

Over our dead body, Congress declared last Friday, proclaiming instead: Secrecy today. Secrecy tomorrow. Secrecy forever. They are determined that we not know who owns them.

The horrors mount. As Eric Lipton and Liz Moyer reported for The New York Times on Sunday, in the last days before the bill’s passage “lobbyists swooped in” to save, at least for now, a loophole worth more than $1 billion to Wall Street investors and the hotel, restaurant and gambling industries. Lobbyists even helped draft crucial language that the Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid furtively inserted into the bill. Lipton and Moyer wrote that, “The small changes, and the enormous windfall they generated, show the power of connected corporate lobbyists to alter a huge bill that is being put together with little time for lawmakers to consider. Throughout the legislation, there were thousands of other add-ons and hard to decipher tax changes.”

No surprise to read that “some executives at companies with the most at stake are also big campaign donors.” The Times reports that “the family of David Bonderman, a co-founder of TPG Capital, has donated $1.2 million since 2014 to the Senate Majority PAC, a campaign fund with close ties to Mr. Reid and other Senate Democrats.” Senator Reid, lest we forget, is from Nevada. As he approaches retirement at the end of 2016, perhaps he’s hedging his bets at taxpayer expense.

Consider just two other provisions: One, insisted upon by Republican Senator Thad Cochran, directs the Coast Guard to build a $640 million National Security Cutter in Cochran’s home state of Mississippi, a ship that the Coast Guard says it does not need. The other: A demand by Maine Republican Senator Susan Collins for an extra $1 billion for a Navy destroyer that probably will be built at her state’s Bath Iron Works – again, a vessel our military says is unnecessary.

So it goes: The selling off of the Republic, piece by piece. What was it Mark Twain said? “There is no distinctive native American criminal class except Congress.”

Can we at least face the truth? The plutocrats and oligarchs are winning. The vast inequality they are creating is a death sentence for government by consent of the people at large. Did any voter in any district or state in the last Congressional election vote to give that billion dollar loophole to a handful of billionaires? To allow corporations to hide their political contributions? To add $1.4 trillion to the national debt? Of course not. It is now the game: Candidates ask citizens for their votes, then go to Washington to do the bidding of their donors. And since one expectation is that they will cut the taxes of those donors, we now have a permanent class that is afforded representation without taxation.

A plutocracy, says my old friend, the historian Bernard Weisberger, “has a natural instinct to perpetuate and enlarge its own powers and by doing so slams the door of opportunity to challengers and reduces elections to theatrical duels between politicians who are marionettes worked by invisible strings.”

Where does it end?

By coincidence, this past weekend I watched the final episode of the British television series Secret State, a 2012 remake of an earlier version based on the popular novel A Very British Coup. This is white-knuckle political drama. Gabriel Byrne plays an accidental prime minister – thrust into office by the death of the incumbent, only to discover himself facing something he never imagined: a shadowy coalition of forces, some within his own government, working against him. With some of his own ministers secretly in the service of powerful corporations and bankers, his own party falling away from him, press lords daily maligning him, the opposition emboldened, and a public confused by misinformation, deceit, and vicious political rhetoric, the prime minister is told by Parliament to immediately invade Iran (on unproven, even false premises) or resign. In the climactic scene, he defies the “Secret State” that is manipulating all this and confronts Parliament with this challenge:

Let’s forget party allegiance, forget vested interests, forget votes of confidence. Let each and every one of us think only of this: Is this war justified? Is it what the people of this country want? Is it going to achieve what we want it to achieve? And if not, then what next?

Well, I tell you what I think we should do. We should represent the people of this country. Not the lobby companies that wine and dine us. Or the banks and the big businesses that tell us how the world goes ‘round. Or the trade unions that try and call the shots. Not the civil servants nor the war-mongering generals or the security chiefs. Not the press magnates and multibillion dollar donors… [We must return] democracy to this House and the country it represents.

Do they? The movie doesn’t tell us. We are left to imagine how the crisis — the struggle for democracy — will end.

As we are reminded by this season, there is more to life than politics. There are families, friends, music, worship, sports, the arts, reading, conversation, laughter, celebrations of love and fellowship and partridges in pear trees. But without healthy democratic politics serving a moral order, all these are imperiled by the ferocious appetites of private power and greed.

So enjoy the holidays, including Star Wars. Then come back after New Year’s and find a place for yourself, at whatever level, wherever you are, in the struggle for democracy. This is the fight of our lives and how it ends is up to us.

 

Source: The Plutocrats Are Winning. Don’t Let Them! | Common Dreams | Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community