Do Not Lie Down

There will always be bigots who insist on denying the rights of others not like them, and those driven by greed who only want to take, to consume and devour and in doing so, leave our planet despoiled.  Social and environmental justice have always been continuous struggles. However, don’t be discouraged into thinking that justice isn’t just.

Civil rights, women’s rights, workers’ rights, and environmental rights movements are all fighting the same enemy.  That enemy is the existing corporate and political power structure, a predominantly male, Republican body that has brought together many of humanity’s worst sins, namely greed, racism, misogyny, and for very many, willful self-delusion, into a dangerous and potent political force.  Incredibly, the directors of this movement, the McConnells, Kochs, and Trumps of the world have little in common with the most fervent in their base.  Yes, bigotry and misogyny run rampant, but beyond that, the stratospheric wealth enjoyed by those in the one percent relies on suppressed wages, broken unions, easy layoffs, gender and race-based pay discrimination, temporary employment contracts, diluted worker safety rules, lax corporate bankruptcy and pension laws, and weakened environmental rules.  In short, the ultra-rich and their purchased politicians have created a vulnerable, underpaid, and needy workforce – the suffering middle class – that is hostage to their whims.  That record wealth enjoyed by the very few relies on the allegiance (and votes) of millions of the same people they victimize. Those who voted for Trump hoping that his magic dust might rub off on them, voted against themselves.  Sadly, Trump’s rhetoric appeals to many bigoted voters who chose Trump thinking it would sanctify their hatred.

Shamefully, it all worked out for Trump.  Promise more corporate welfare, manipulate the millions of those hit by offshoring, and blast the dog whistles of hate and bigotry, and you too can win the presidency, even if not by a majority.  Trump appealed to the worst in many of us, and he won.

All of that notwithstanding, America’s citizens have made great progress over the many decades. Witness the Women’s Suffrage Movement and the 19th Amendment, Brown v. Board of Education, the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, the National Labor Relations Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, the Occupational Health and Safety Act, and many other accomplishments.  Incredibly, women only got the right to vote in 1920, and African Americans effectively in 1965.

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These battles were hard-fought. People died for the right to unionize. People died for a 40-hour workweek and overtime pay, people died for a guaranteed minimum wage, and people died for job safety protections. The civil rights struggle saw many African Americans attacked and murdered, and that struggle continues; witness black incarceration rates and rampant murders by racist police agencies.

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As recently as 1938, there were no federal laws limiting child labor and many children worked up to 70 hours per week in grueling, life-shortening jobs, receiving only a pittance, and no education. The image below is of children working at a West Virginia coal mine. Notice the man with the rod.

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Before passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, there were no national controls over the discharge of chemicals and raw sewage into the nation’s waterways.  In many rivers, lakes, and bays in the US, heavy pollution had killed most aquatic life. By the 1960s, Time Magazine declared Lake Erie dead, and in 1969 the Cayuga River in Ohio was so polluted that it caught fire, causing $100,000 in damage (in 1969 dollars) to two railroad bridges.  However, the Cayuga River had burned at least 12 times prior. Throughout the late 19th and early 20th centuries, fires were common on rivers in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Detroit, Buffalo and elsewhere as businesses used American rivers as dumping grounds. Before the Clean Air Act, passed in 1970, smog polluted our major cities so badly that they looked like Beijing, China today. The National Institutes of Health calculated that the Clean Air Act had, by 1990, saved over 200,000 lives and avoided millions of cases of non-fatal but severe illnesses. Over those twenty years alone, the CAA saved the US between 25 and 50 trillion dollars (yes, $50,000,000,000,000) in healthcare costs, lost wages, lost productivity and premature deaths compared against implementation costs of only $523 billion. Today, Trump and other Republicans gush of abolishing the EPA and overturning the Clean Water and Clean Air acts.

In each of these victories, it was average workers, contemporary liberals, women, and minorities who carried the struggle against the powerful and their complicit politicians.  The record of most Republican politicians over the last century has been to protect the corporatists and plutocrats and attack the rights of average American citizens.  A notable exception was Nixon’s introduction of the EPA. (Government marginally worked once upon a time, many years ago.)

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Today, corporations pay their dues to the Republican Party in return for legislation that benefits them exclusively, at the direct expense of everyday citizens. A perfect example is ALEC, a Republican organization founded to create a secret forum where member corporations (those willing to pay a lot of money) can directly access and influence Republican state legislators. ALEC is quid-pro-quo in action.  Democrats aren’t immune from conflicts of interest, but with ALEC, Republican politicians have codified blatant, systemic corruption.

Clearly, the battle still rages. Republican governors, senators and representatives are still pushing to slash workers’ rights, end overtime pay, kill the minimum wage, weaken safety regulations, destroy unions, cut unemployment compensation, eliminate training programs for Americans whose jobs have been off-shored, and even cut child labor restrictions, all for the greed of corporations.

Rick Snyder, Republican governor of Michigan, gave his ultra-wealthy corporate friends a massive tax break, ($1.7 billion) and financed it by increasing taxes on seniors and low-income families and stealing revenue from Michigan’s cities, including Flint. (In “modern times” I cannot grasp how a governor can be so vile.) Michigan diverts a portion of state tax collections from the cities, cuts that Snyder deems “fiscally responsible”.  Short on cash, Flint’s city council switched its public water supplier from the City of Detroit to a cheaper supplier that drew water from the Flint River, a source severely polluted with corrosive acids and heavy metals from decades of industrial abuse. The move poisoned Flint’s 100,000 residents for months, including over 10,000 children under six. Lead poisoning can cause permanent neurological harm, even kill. Coincidentally, in Flint’s case the state’s diversion of funds totals over $55 million, about the same amount it would take to replace all of Flint’s toxic water pipes with new piping.

Republicans are screaming about killing Obamacare immediately with no backup plan – too bad for the twenty million people who rely on it. Their paramount concern is corporate profits, and those profits are at all-time highs.  Now, more than ever, more American workers have no power, little job security, bankrupt pensions, and little hope of improvement.  Average wage growth in the US has flat-lined over the last thirty-five years, with many red states mired in permanent poverty even while average America CEO salaries have exploded.  The only period of actual wage growth has been in the last six months, under President Obama, but this doesn’t make up for over 30 years of losses.  Income disparity in America is at an all-time high, and growing worse.

Citizen’s rights struggles have never been easy, but they have succeeded for two reasons:  1) those citizens had the courage to stand up for their rights. By aggressively resisting, they refused to consent to the abuse, and 2) their cause was always just.  They never needed Republican/Orwellian double-speak to defend themselves, because the core truth of their cause was clearly undeniable:  Dignity is a human right.

Through weak labor laws, demolished unions, global capitalism, and unrestrained trade pitting American workers against third-world factory sweatshops, corporations have amassed wealth and political clout unprecedented in human history.  Republicans have dished out decades in corporate tax cuts, hundreds of billions of dollars, effectively creating permanent, taxpayer-sponsored welfare programs for the ultra-rich plutocrats.

Republicans complain that America’s corporate tax rate of 35 percent is too high, but that number ignores the smorgasbord of deductions and loopholes that slash the effective corporate tax rate to only 14 percent on average. And many corporations pay far less. In 2014, Pfizer reported a $3.1 billion tax bill worldwide and an effective tax rate of 25.5 percent. However, Pfizer actually paid less than $1 billion in taxes to the US government, for an effective rate of just 7.5 percent. The reason is, the US doesn’t collect taxes on American companies for profits earned overseas.  Many companies horde those profits offshore and never pay US taxes on them, or they open overseas factories and sell those products back to the US, paying no taxes on the profits. Pfizer has parked roughly $148 billion in untaxed profits in offshore accounts.  The company currently earns many millions on overpriced drugs made at its foreign subsidiaries, using American patents and sold to American customers, and pays no US taxes on those profits.

In fact, 20% of all profitable, major American corporations paid no income taxes in 2011, zero, and this is typical.  Donald Trump claims he is a billionaire ten times over, yet has paid no federal income taxes for at least a decade. In actual dollars, most Americans have paid more in federal income taxes than Trump.  This is justice?  Now, Trump and the Republicans plan to cut corporate taxes even more – to benefit the one percent – the nation be damned. Republicans only worry about the national debt when they are not in power.

With November’s election results, a century of progress is at risk.  As a nation, we cannot win and lose at the same time.  State and federal laws that rob our treasury, cut wages, destroy unions, rob pensions, deny healthcare, pollute our soil, water, and air, these laws affect us all, blacks, whites, Latinos, men and women, and our families. Racism and discrimination are debilitating problems for America, but make no mistake; plutocrats will not protect you or your job just because you’re white. We all suffer.

The facts are these: Republican politicians openly demand the total deregulation of capitalism and its supremacy over all else, people, democracy, healthy food, breathable air, drinkable water, and the planet. To the plutocrats and their Republican benefactors, the Earth and its citizens are only resources to be used, devoured, and discarded, or obstacles to be crushed.  They detest the notion of a “common-wealth” and the advancement of America as a whole.  Their bigotry and their greed blind them entirely.  Their “cause” is blatantly unjust, anti-American, anti-Earth, ravenous, bigoted, misogynistic, corrupt, rapacious, sociopathic, and for all of us and this Earth, utterly unsustainable.

Our silence is consent. In silence, we agree to be victimized. The longer we, the 99 percent, fail to unite – all creeds, all colors, all men and women, those in poverty and those soon to be – the harder the fight becomes. We the citizens must realize our common interests and goals, because divided by hatred, we lose. We cannot let ourselves be manipulated.  We must unite and resist together. We cannot lie down. We must constantly challenge our representatives, we must vote in every election, and we must resist, en masse, in the streets, on campuses, in federal and state office buildings, or so much of what America means to us, our lives, and the world will be lost. If we unite, we will win, because our cause is just.

Daniel R. Cobb: The Megalomaniac, The Tyrant, and Republican Treason

Vox Populi

Before the fall of the Soviet Union, Vladimir Putin served in the KGB for 17 years, rising to lieutenant colonel, and later became the director of Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB), the successor to the KGB. Putin was president of Russia from 2000 – 2008, prime minister from 2008 to 2012, and when constitutionally mandated term limits were relaxed, he won the presidency in 2012 for a third term – of now six years. By 2018, Putin will have been prime minister or president of Russia a total of 18 years.

With the economic and social liberalization efforts ushered in after the fall of the Soviet Union, Russians for the first time enjoyed several liberal radio and television stations and newspapers that offered views sometimes critical of the government, but over time, Putin, usually through illegal actions, took control of all of those stations. In one example in 2000, Russian…

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Trump and the Criminality of Climate Change

neighborhood-fire

If someone threw buckets of gasoline on the front and back doors and the windows of a home and lit it on fire in the early morning, those sleeping inside would likely perish, their escape routes blocked by the inferno. The arsonist would be hunted, hopefully caught, and face a long prison sentence if not the death penalty.  Consciously trapping people in life-threatening environments, taking their lives, these are the most serious crimes.

Those who deny the link between global warming and the burning of fossil fuels are lying. This link is not a matter of opinion; there are no legitimate opposing arguments because the science is overwhelming. The entire scientific community, people educated at the same top flight universities that teach us how to explore the planets and create cures for deadly diseases, these climate scientists are warning us that humankind’s ancient obsession with fire is the undeniable cause of global warming.

Due to human activity beginning with the start of the industrial revolution, atmospheric CO2 has climbed from 275 parts per million, a number largely unchanged for 800,000 years, to a dangerous 403 ppm today.  The last time that CO2 levels were this high, humans did not exist. And just as predicted by scientists over 50 years ago, Earth is warming dramatically.  The month of August, 2016, set the 16th straight monthly record for global average high temperatures and 2016 will have been the hottest year ever, again. In February of 2016, parts of the Arctic were more than 29 degrees Fahrenheit warmer than “normal” for February, bringing them on par with typical June temperatures. This train of back-to-back records stretching over 16 months is unprecedented in recorded history and signals a long-term, dangerous transition.

Now, every year shatters the previous year’s record for global average temperature, and each decade is hotter than the previous, with no end in sight. This is the “new normal”.  And this a disaster.  Among many, the results have been increased droughts, increased coastal flooding, record heatwaves, fastest-ever rates of glacier loss, record global loss of polar sea ice, and worldwide crop losses from drought and flooding.

Global warming has only just begun and left  unaddressed, will continue for centuries. We may in fact have entered a runaway state, where more warming melts more sea ice, causing the dark seas to absorb more heat and warming the planet further.  Warming is thawing the Earth’s arctic tundra regions, releasing more methane gas. Methane is roughly 80 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than CO2, and will contribute to still more warming.  Extend this ramp largely unbroken for 25, 50, 100 years, and the result will be clear disaster.  Ongoing widespread loss of human life will be a certainty, due to unbearable heatwaves, crop losses, food shortages, sea level rise, and loss of fresh water.  And this disaster won’t be temporary. We are changing Earth’s climate fundamentally, creating a dangerous new Earth that is not remotely as hospitable as the one we’ve leaving behind.

President Obama has been the first president to take this threat seriously, but Trump has promised to demolish Obama’s energy policy. Trump plans to withdraw from the Paris climate agreement, open more federal lands to oil and gas drilling and coal mining, slash existing regulations on fossil fuels, scrap proposed regulations on domestic drillers or “frackers”, kill the Clean Power Plan (which is President Obama’s plan to transition the nation to coal-free power plants), and eliminate or fatally hobble the Evironmental Protection Agency.  Trump has no environmental plan, other than to set the clock back to 1950 and give the fossil fuel industry free reign.

The deniers of human-caused climate change are engaged in a deeply cynical strategy to claim ignorance and state that more study needs to be done, all the while raking in billions in fossil fuels industry profits at the expense of humanity. The tobacco industry used this exact strategy to evade legal liability for decades, killing nearly half a million Americans every year, and that industry still kills millions worldwide while pocketing hefty profits. Big tobacco eventually paid out hundreds of billions of dollars to US states for their fraud, but with fossil fuels and global warming, the stakes are infinitely higher because we’re talking about the planet. People can chose to quit cigarettes or never smoke at all.  We can’t quit the planet.  There is no escape.

Like most Republican politicians, Trump says he doesn’t believe in human caused climate change.  He says it’s all a Chinese conspiracy to make the US less competitive.  As absurd as this sounds, for Republican deniers, believing or not believing is not even relevant to them because their only motivator is greed. It’s the “I want mine” mentality.  The point is, they don’t actually care. And because we all know what is at stake – the viability of Earth, the lives of many millions of people, the survival of countless plant and animal species –  the actions of the deniers are in fact, profoundly criminal.

Just like professional arsonists motivated only by money, the deniers –  the fossil fuel companies and their political conspirators including Trump, Trump’s likely new EPA director Myron Ebell, James Inhofe, and others – have soaked the windows and doors of this home we call Earth with gasoline, and they have lit the match. Humanity is trapped in their fire because we can’t quit the planet.  There is no escape.

The Consequences of Trump

To all people of color, to Latinos and African Americans, to the refugees fleeing war and persecution, to immigrants from around the world,

To Muslims and Jews, to those of the Baha’i faith, to Hindus and others unnamed,

To all women. To our wives, our daughters, our sisters and our mothers,

To the disabled, the elderly, the poor and disadvantaged,

To the ongoing and future victims of human rights violations and justice denied,

To Earth and those many future generations who will suffer profoundly as avoidable climate change unfolds and permanently overheats our planet.  To the millions of species lost,

I am sorry.  We failed.

Michael Simms: Why I’m With Her

Great piece by Michael Simms, he says it all. And democracy is not a once-every-four-years endeavor; we can work with Bernie and Hillary and Obama to see a more progressive future for our country. If we don’t step it up and drive our future, others will.

Vox Populi

As a supporter of Bernie Sanders, I was disappointed when he lost the Democratic nomination to Hillary Clinton. Bernie asked his supporters to help elect Clinton, so out of respect for him, I stepped up as a volunteer in the Hillary campaign even though I wasn’t excited about her. She seemed too much of an insider, an establishment figure, a resume builder, a functionary rather than a visionary. In recent months, however, as I’ve knocked on doors and called people during their dinner hour (sorry, folks!), watched her debate, and learned more about her history of public service, I’ve become convinced that her character and experience make her the most qualified candidate for the presidency in my lifetime. In her support for Civil Rights, Families, Economic Justice, and the Environment, both in her past actions in public office and in her stated positions as a presidential candidate, Hillary has shown…

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Women, Please Rescue America

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American women, I beseech you.  Many men in high places have made a giant mess of things, for decades. Today, the US political and judicial systems are crashing.  And the most basic measures of decency and dignity for women, and by easy extension, American society, are under attack.

Congress, controlled by Republicans and mostly men, is defunct.  This male-dominated Republican congress flatly refused to work with President Obama for eight years, and promises to do the same if Hillary Clinton is elected.  Congress is broken.

America’s courts are failing. This Republican congress has refused for several years to confirm any federal judges nominated by President Obama, leaving a record of 59 vacant judge positions in America’s courts.  This has created 36 judicial emergencies, with nearly 20,000 unheard court cases, many of them backlogged for years and with no resolution in sight. This is a record. The Republicans have refused to even consider President Obama’s nomination to the US Supreme Court, which is unprecedented, and they promise to boycott all nominations by Clinton if she is elected president, leaving the supreme court with only eight justices – evenly divided. Some Republican scholars are even advocating the end of the supreme court as an American institution.

Most importantly, this male-dominated Republican congress refuses to reject and disavow the debased, depraved, and even criminal sexual acts committed by Donald Trump.  This is a fundamental assault on the value and dignity of females as human beings, as people. Trump epitomizes the worst behavior in the male psyche: the domination, denigration, and sexual abuse of women.  Our jails are full of sexual predators, and Mr. Trump, by his own admissions, is in league with them. It is beyond the pale and utterly unacceptable that Mr. Trump is the Republican nominee for president, and it is flatly unacceptable that all Republican senators and representatives have not disavowed and rejected his candidacy.

This Republican party, for years and now epitomized by Donald Trump, has made it the norm to degrade and dehumanize one half of our society, and not just women, but teenagers and young girls as well.  Any female, regardless of age, is under attack.  We criticize Muslim nations for their abuse and degradation of women, yet Donald Trump and those who refuse to reject him, legitimize profoundly sexist and sociopathic attitudes.

America is suffering.  Our government, severely divided, is broken. Our legal system is failing. And our society, our social fabric, is under assault when we allow the denigration and dehumanization of our sisters, our mothers, our wives, and our daughters. Don’t misunderstand; this is not about family honor, not about devalued property. Women are equal members of our society in all regards, and their blatant denigration cannot be tolerated.  Enough.  Women, this nation truly needs your vote.  Your dignity and your conscience may be all that stand between us and a misogynistic and fascist abyss.

Trump’s War on Women: Republican Silence is Complicity

It is, without any doubt, a disgrace that Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for president. Among many other reasons, no nominee in America’s history has shown so much blatant contempt for women and minorities.  The released audio/video and numerous other incidents reveal a profoundly narcissistic and debased man who takes joy in using his position of power to commit sexual assault, to objectify and degrade women, and to attack and intimidate those who resist. Through words and actions spanning decades, he has proven that he sees women primarily as objects to serve at his pleasure. Trump’s defense that his comments in the video were “locker room talk” is insulting. Such comments are debased, but perhaps remotely excusable for an immature teenager trying to impress his friends.  Trump was 59 years old at the time.

If Trump’s primary business is that of real estate developer, why would he be interested in owning beauty pageants?  From 1996 until last year, Trump owned the Miss Universe, Miss USA and Miss Teen USA pageants, and according to various reports by contestants, he made a habit of invading dressing rooms while female contestants were changing clothes. At a Miss Teen USA pageant,  Donald Trump barged in on naked and half-dressed contestants, some as young as 15. Tasha Dixon, Miss Arizona in 2001, told CBS 2 Los Angeles that Trump walked into the Miss USA pageant dressing room.  “Our first introduction to him was when we were at the dress rehearsal and half-naked changing into our bikinis,” Dixon said. “He just came strolling right in. There was no second to put a robe on or any sort of clothing or anything. Some girls were topless. Other girls were naked.”

The Trump campaign has denied these reports, but Trump himself confirmed them. In a 2006 interview with Howard Stern, Trump bragged about invading pageant dressing rooms: “I’ll tell you the funniest is that I’ll go backstage before a show and everyone’s getting dressed. No men are anywhere, and I’m allowed to go in, because I’m the owner of the pageant and therefore I’m inspecting it. … ‘Is everyone OK?’ You know, they’re standing there with no clothes. ‘Is everybody OK?’ And you see these incredible-looking women, and so I sort of get away with things like that.”

Are these the words and actions of an American president?

As of this writing, my count shows that 16 Republican senators and 22 representatives have stated that they will not vote for Trump, and that many will vote for Hillary Clinton. Some have called for Trump to quit his campaign.  This is unprecedented in American history and reveals the disgust these Republicans hold for Trump’s candidacy. But that leaves 38 Republican senators and a stunning 224 Republican representatives who apparently have no problems with Trump’s behavior and still support him. Incredibly, many are still vocal supporters.  Following the video of Trump’s bragging about sexual assault, Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama stated that Trump’s grabbing women by the genitals is not assault (even though the law is emphatic).  However, in a statement released the next day, Sessions agreed (perhaps after a conversation with his wife) that such contact is assault. However, this criminal behavior is apparently not enough for Sessions to drop his support for Donald Trump.

Throughout Trump’s campaign and his attacks on women we have barely heard a word from those 262 Republican representatives and senators in Congress who claim to represent the men and women of Texas, Arizona, Alabama, Missouri, Arkansas, Oklahoma, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Georgia, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Pennsylvania, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

To you quiet-as-a-mouse Republicans representing these states, are we to conclude by your silence that you endorse Trump’s debased behavior?  Do you believe that such disgraceful, even criminal behavior is what our president should model to our own children? Do our mothers, wives, and daughters deserve to be so thoroughly disgraced in this way, or will you defend the  values you claim to hold?  Note that standing up against Trump’s misogyny after he ends his campaign, if that should happen, will be too late – you took the coward’s way out.  You were silent when it mattered most.

Ultimately, what is “conservatism” if it embraces behaviors that reduce half of the population, all females, to the status of disposable sex objects?  You silent Republican politicians, are you willing to assault the dignity of all women, simply in order to “win”?

A political party that supports Donald Trump, and a nation that elects such a man, is telling its women that they will be treated only as sex objects, to be used and discarded by men, and that this is okay.  Well, it isn’t okay. Donald Trump’s perverted, disgraceful morality cannot be legitimized as the new “normal.”  The nation’s conservatives and liberals, Republicans and Democrats, must come together and take a stand. Those who support Trump’s disgrace, openly or with their silent complicity, must be removed from office.