Voting Rights

Worthy of You

Reading time – 1:22; Viewing time – 2:30  .  .  .

When one of us is victimized, we are all victimized.

Is it alright that some of us are being diminished? We better figure out really fast that everyone is somewhere on the list of those who will be diminished sooner or later unless something powerful happens.

You must take action. You must get up and speak out.

Black lives matter. Brown lives matter. White lives matter. All lives matter. And we all better be demanding that. Otherwise, nobody’s life matters.

There are people who would take from you whatever you hold dear. The only way to stop that is to stand up for what you believe in.

Are you dispirited? That’s not enough.

Are you sad? That’s not enough.

Are you enraged? That’s not enough.

You must take action. You must get up and speak out.

Sometimes the threats we face are right in our faces and they are easy to see and easy to fight. Sometimes they’re hard to see, like global warming, but they’re here just the same. And they will harm you and the people you love unless you do something to stop them.

You must take action. You must get up and speak out.

Do you care? That’s not enough.

“I’m no longer Accepting what I cannot change . . . I’m changing the things I cannot Accept!” Chicago Women’s March, January 21, 2017

Do you worry? That’s not enough.

You must demand the world you hope to see.

You must vote.

You must demonstrate.

You must protest what you know is wrong.

You must take action. You must get up and speak out.

Are you smart and clever? That’s not enough.

Do you want better? That’s not enough.

You must take action. You must get up and speak out.

It’s hard work. It is full of disappointment and frustration. But you already know that nothing that is worthy of you is easy to achieve.

You must take action. You must get up and speak out.

Do this.

And this.

Your children and grandchildren are counting on you. So take action. Get up and speak out because that is worthy of you.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Some Answers and a Pinch

Reading time – 2:15; Viewing time – 3:23  .  .  .

In the midst of your shock, grief and whatever else you felt following the 2016 general election, perhaps you questioned what you can do to mitigate the damage that is likely to be done, based upon the pledges of cruelty and the crushing of our culture of diversity that Trump promised during the election campaign. It turns out there’s plenty you can do and it’s critical that you do it.

Let’s start here: In a statement from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum just days after the election, they wrote, “The Holocaust didn’t start with killings; it began with words.” With the election season over and Donald Trump preparing to be the next President, the haters feel emboldened to lash out with horrific words and actions, so let’s first consider what you can do about that.

Download The Southern Poverty Law Center’s excellent guide, Ten Ways to Fight Hate because the really bad stuff is already happening. For yet more evidence, here’s a list of some of what was chronicled on just the first day following the election and here is an ongoing chronicling of hate acts from around the country. This is the kind of stuff that makes it mandatory to read the SPLC’s guide and take action. And there is more to do.

Download and read Rep. Jerry Nadler’s (D-NY) essay, How We Resist Trump and His Extreme Agenda. It is the job of our elected officials to represent us and they need the muscle of our support in order to be effective. He makes clear what is at stake and offers specific actions you can take.

Watch John Oliver’s final show of the season and review his recommendations for action (beginning about 18:25 in his program). A linked summary of his suggestions of support plus others (courtesy of SG, BW and DH)  is listed below to help you to focus on supporting what you believe in.

Women’s Health: Planned Parenthood

Reproductive Rights: Center For Reproductive Rights

Feminist issues: National Organization For Women and, edgier, Bitch Media

Global Warming: National Resources Defense Council and This Spaceship Earth

Environment: The Environmental Defense Fund and Sierra Club

Victims of terrorism: International Refugee Assistance Project

Race issues: NAACP Legal Defense Fund

Gender issues: The Trevor Project for LGBTQ Youth and Human Rights Campaign for LGBTQ

Hispanic issues: The Mexican American Legal Defense Fund

Freedom of the press: Subscribe to the New York Times or the Washington Post or your local newspaper; donate to ProPublica

Civil rights: American Civil Liberties Union

Immigration issues: Get your city council to make your town a sanctuary city.

General: Write to your Representative and Senators with your views – often. They count the clicks, calls and letters and that influences their voting. Go to www.senate.gov and www.house.gov for contact information.

Get it? As John Oliver says, it isn’t enough to nod heads in agreement with those in your bubble. You actually have to do something to protect what you hold dear. Here’s a little clarity about what that means.

Our Special Forces are composed of some of the most highly trained and physically fit people in the world. They are pushed beyond any limits they thought they had or might reasonably recognize. When one of them is at the point of exhaustion and tells his team he can’t go on, the response is, “So what?” Exhaustion doesn’t matter for these people because there is a critical mission which must be completed successfully.

It’s hard. Perhaps it hurts. Maybe doing yet more seems impossible. Yet all of that doesn’t matter, because of the imperative of the mission.

We need to be clear that we are at that same point right now.

dante-inferno-moral-crisisWe have a critical mission to protect America from those who would harm her. People will suffer unless we step up and do what must be done. And then do it again and again.

Take action even if it’s hard. Give your money even if it pinches a bit. This is a long term mission – it will take years to do this – so accept that pinch as a confirmation that you are doing your part to do the right thing for this critical mission.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

One Last Time

nuclear-explosionReading time – 1:42; Viewing time – 3:19  .  .  .

Okay, one last time.

Donald Trump talks glibly about the use of nuclear weapons on whomever he might think of as our enemy, like those he thinks pose an existential threat to America because of a tweet that’s critical of him. And he has proposed exporting nuclear technology to at least 3 nations that currently don’t have it, thereby proliferating the annihilation threat to life on Earth. In short, Trump is cavalier about bringing about the end of civilization. That fully, completely and permanently disqualifies him from being President of the United States. No other issues need be considered:

.  .  .  even if he says he was speaking in hyperbole

.  .  .  even if he says that he wants to be unpredictable to keep the bad guys off balance

.  .  .  even if he says he had his fingers crossed when he said those things

No matter what, Donald Trump must not become President of the United States. Ever. Under any circumstances. No matter what else he says he believes or wants to do or, oddly, if he should ever actually make any sense. Never, ever.

So, great, you agree and you won’t vote for Trump. But you don’t trust, can’t stand and otherwise find Hillary to be pukable. You see her as untrustworthy and dishonest and perhaps as too hawkish and you fear she’ll get us into yet another avoidable war. You dread that her presidency might become a series of yet more Bill Clinton zipper scandals and, besides, the thought of Bill croaking out more of his Clintonian nonsense with a White House size megaphone is one of your worst nightmares. So, you can’t and won’t vote for Hillary. Got it.

But if you don’t vote for Hillary, who benefits?

Neither Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate, nor Gary Johnson, the Libertarian Party candidate, could benefit from your protest vote because they won’t get enough votes to win even a single state. The only one who benefits from your refusing to vote for Hillary is Donald Trump, because yours is one less vote that his vote total has to overcome.

Translation: If you don’t vote for Hillary, you will have voted for Trump. And,

donald-trump-must-never-become-president

Hillary was ahead by 8 – 20 points (pick a poll). Then Bernie won MI. We can’t trust polls – gotta vote.

Hillary was ahead by 8 – 20 points (pick a poll). Then Bernie won MI. We can’t trust polls – gotta vote.

So, do something to ensure there really is a future: Put a clothespin on your nose and vote for Hillary. All that hangs in the balance is civilization on Earth and it’s on you and me to do something about it.

What, these words aren’t persuasive enough? Well then, have a look at this and this and this and this and this and this and this. They are all Republican sources telling you to vote for Hillary. There are plenty more like these, but if you still want to vote for Trump or a candidate of one of the other parties or abstain from voting, then go ahead. Just don’t call me next year crying that you are bent over and braced for impact because civilization is ending.

Go vote. And bring your neighbors, your voting age children, your cousin Rita and your googly-eye Uncle Ralph. It’s time for every eligible voter to – get this: stand up for what they stand for.

Read what Dan Wallace has to say about this. Yes, really, go read it  .

Now, send this to everyone you know and urge them to show up on November 8 and BE A VOTER!

 

Make a plan to vote – click here.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

– See more at: http://jaxpolitix.com/7679-2/#sthash.kHAUnsqU.dpuf

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

North Carolina

jennifer-roberts

Mayor Jennifer Roberts Charlotte, NC

Reading time – 39 seconds; Viewing time – 1:36  .  .  .

I saw Jennifer Roberts, the mayor of Charlotte, NC interviewed by Brian Williams a couple of nights ago and yesterday I found her leading a press conference. She thanked the local police (who conveniently did not have body cameras turned on when they killed Keith Scott) and the state police, as well as the NC National Guard. She talked about their professionalism (avoiding acknowledging their unprofessional non-use of those pesky body cameras) and she announced that the businesses in the downtown area will indeed be open for business. She talked about the need for the curfew and how well the police had enforced it and basically did an “aren’t we wonderful!” announcement.

Not once did she express regret over the loss of life or the grief of loved ones, concern for the injured, nor any appreciation whatsoever for the reason that people are on the streets. Not one word of caring for anyone not in a position of power.

That woman is reptilian.

And she matches well the governor and members of the North Carolina state legislature who have worked so diligently to steal voting rights from the poor and  minority citizens of North Carolina, which is still, as far as I know, part of the United States of America, where voting rights are guaranteed for all citizens, except convicted felons in some states, including North Carolina.

What has happened to North Carolina?

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APOLOGIES – to you if you have tried to comment on past Disambiguations but have been frustrated, confused and perhaps annoyed that your comments seem to have been received but never showed up online. We’ve been experiencing biblical levels of spam and have tried various means to thwart the bad guys. Some methods, though, seem to have thwarted everyone. Now there’s just a simple “I’m not a robot” method in place. So, go ahead – say something – and let’s see if this works better for you.  JA

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

What If It’s Worse?

Reading time  – 61 seconds; Viewing time  – 2:08  .  .  .

Hanion’s Razor: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity, but don’t rule out malice”. Robert J. Hanion

I’m going around the country and presenting my program, Money, Politics & Democracy: You Aren’t Getting What You Want, and I never get push-back from audiences. Mostly, they tell me that they appreciated my program, that I did a great job and that they didn’t realize things were as awful as they are.

While I appreciate the kudos, I’m mostly struck by their realization of how they personally are being affected by our pay-to-play politics and that they are just beginning to get it. This morning I got chills, as it dawned on me,

What if it’s worse than I thought and I’m just beginning to get it? What if all I’ve been seeing is the tip of the iceberg of our legalized system of political bribery?

What I know is that freshman legislators are instructed by the RNC and the DNC to spend 4 hours a day dialing for dollars and another hour or two daily pressing the flesh of big donors.

What I know is that industries that invest a lot of money in our legislators get favored in our laws and regulations.

What I know is that you and I are not getting:

  • – the gun safety legislation we want
  • – the legislation to deal with global warming that we want
  • – the healthcare service delivery and outcomes we want
  • – the student debt reform we want
  • – the job training and job growth we want
  • – the reform of our prison-industrial complex that we want
  • – the voting rights we want
  • – the lead-free drinking water we want

And that’s just a small sampling of the list of things that we Americans overwhelmingly want and are not getting. It’s all because our pay-to-play politics makes otherwise good people in Congress vote contrary to the desires of we the people.

Vote for the reformers.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Coca-Cola

Reading time – 82 seconds; Viewing time – 2:16  .  .  .

It is such a relief – relief, I tell you – that our beloved country is at last post-racial. Yes, the stain of slavery and racism is at last behind us, as we walk white-hand-in-black-hand-in-brown-hand through the golden meadow, singing the 1971 Coca Cola hilltop theme,

I'd like to build the world a home and furnish it with love,
Grow apple trees and honey bees and snow white turtle doves.
I'd like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony,

I’d like to buy the world a Coke and keep it company.

Now, the trick is that we have to get the Maricopa County Arizona residents who stood in line for over 5 hours to vote in the primary last week to buy into that message. My guess? They’ll gag on it.

And so should we. We should gag, too, on all the voting restrictions visited mostly on poor people and people of any color darker than beige. These are laws that have snuffed out the rights of tens of thousands of people in Arizona, North Carolina, Texas and many other states since the astonishingly blind and moronically simple-minded Supreme Court decision to gut the 1965 Voting Rights Act. That act contained specific prohibitions on states with a history of discrimination, restrictions which would have prevented the Arizona subversion of America and people’s rights of citizenship. But the Voting Rights Act no longer protects Americans, thanks to 5 Supreme Court Justices.

Now, some economically middle class, white Americans recognize that the country is continuing its color shift to darker shades.  It’s possible that they like the disenfranchisement going on in Arizona. They may like that those discriminatory actions take rights from others, because those others are people who want to take from them what is their lawful and God-given right to be superior.

In fact, there are lots of Constitution thumpers who are like that and they are, just like the Big Bucks Boys who buy our laws and regulations and elections, stealing America from Americans.

You gonna let that happen?

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Stupidity – a Reminder

Reading time – 77 seconds; Viewing time – 3:18  .  .  .

Ed. note: This post was originally published in summer, 2015, but this is the start of our primaries and it’s time to pay attention and take action.

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Said Harlan Ellison, “The most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.” That is cynical and harsh, yes, but there surely is an element of truth to be found in that statement. Let me offer a simple syllogism:

Doing self-destructive things is stupid.

We Americans are doing self-destructive things.

Therefore, we Americans are stupid.

Perhaps your mind is instantly pushing back on that condemnation. Fair enough, yet here is a short, off-the-top-of-my-head list to make my case:

  1. We are largely ignoring the threat of climate warming that shows us every day that the planet is going to hard boil us. Evidence of our folly: We subsidize fossil fuel industries and pay scant lip service to non-carbon based energy sources, all of which makes things worse.
  2. After nearly forty years of failure, we still practice the same supply-side, trickle down economics that has forced millions of Americans into poverty. Worse, we keep electing the same self-serving politicians who perpetuate this reverse Robin Hood of ensuring the stuffing of the pockets of the wealthy and subsistence and hopelessness for the masses.
  3. We have waged roughly 50 years of near-continuous war, largely because we have tolerated a spineless Congress that abdicates its responsibility and caves to the war profiteers.
  4. We have allowed our state governments to abdicate their financial responsibilities for the deferred pay owed to state workers. That may put millions into retirement age peril by denying them the pensions they earned.
  5. The First Amendment gives us freedom of speech and that includes the right to lobby Congress. However, we have allowed huge corporations not to just speak, but to control our laws and regulations. That has given us more guns and murders per capita than any other western nation, crops that are designed primarily to resist ever-greater applications of toxic pesticides, rather than delivering safe, nutritious food  – the list could go on and on.
  6. We have passively allowed the need for huge amounts of money to control our elections so that now we hear more about campaign fund raising than we hear from candidates about their proposals for the betterment of America.

All of that and more goes on because we fail to show up on election day. That’s self-destructive. stupid.

Your primary election is coming up soon – here’s a link to a primary election calendar. Find yours and put it on your personal calendar. Do it now.

The general election for all of us is on Tuesday, November 8, 2016. Put that date on your calendar now, too.

Then VOTE! Can’t find a great candidate? Then pick the least bad one, because failing to vote isn’t an act of rebellion: it’s surrender.

Failing to vote is, well, stupid. And you’re too smart to do that. So, show up and vote.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Understanding Charleston and That Flag

Confederate Battle FlagReading time – 4 seconds  .  .  .

If you want to understand Charleston, the Confederate battle flag and U.S. history, read this.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Stop Pretending It’s Not Happening

Can you identify this?

Can you identify this?

Reading time – well worth it  .  .  . 

Something’s going on. You can feel it even if you can’t name it. Things are changing from what they used to be or should be or could be to what you don’t want them to be.

We humans aren’t very good at noticing small changes. Incremental stuff just doesn’t reach our consciousness until it accumulates into something big and we become aware of it well after the fact.

And that’s what is happening to America. There have been lots of changes over the past 35 years and especially since 9/11. Now, if you take a good look, eyes wide open, you won’t recognize your country.

Tom Englehardt wrote a stunning piece in his blog www.TomDispatch.com in an effort to make some sense of what you already sense but as yet have no words to describe. His piece is reprinted below with permission. Pay special attention to his last sentence: “Stop pretending it’s not happening.”

READ THE POST BELOW. IT IS VITALLY IMPORTANT. THAT’S WHY THESE SENTENCES ARE IN ALL CAPS.

Print Tom’s brilliant essay, grab your second cup o’ joe and settle into your reading chair for 15 minutes. Some things that haven’t made sense will suddenly begin to take on a solid form. Just be forewarned that you may not like it.

Thanks to JL for pointing us to Tom’s clarity.

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Tomgram: Engelhardt: Is a New Political System Emerging in This Country?

The New American Order 
1% Elections, The Privatization of the State, a Fourth Branch of Government, and the Demobilization of “We the People” 
By Tom Engelhardt

Have you ever undertaken some task you felt less than qualified for, but knew that someone needed to do? Consider this piece my version of that, and let me put what I do understand about it in a nutshell: based on developments in our post-9/11 world, we could be watching the birth of a new American political system and way of governing for which, as yet, we have no name.

And here’s what I find strange: the evidence of this, however inchoate, is all around us and yet it’s as if we can’t bear to take it in or make sense of it or even say that it might be so.

Let me make my case, however minimally, based on five areas in which at least the faint outlines of that new system seem to be emerging: political campaigns and elections; the privatization of Washington through the marriage of the corporation and the state; the de-legitimization of our traditional system of governance; the empowerment of the national security state as an untouchable fourth branch of government; and the demobilization of “we the people.”

Whatever this may add up to, it seems to be based, at least in part, on the increasing concentration of wealth and power in a new plutocratic class and in that ever-expanding national security state. Certainly, something out of the ordinary is underway, and yet its birth pangs, while widely reported, are generally categorized as aspects of an exceedingly familiar American system somewhat in disarray.

1. 1% Elections

Check out the news about the 2016 presidential election and you’ll quickly feel a sense of been-there, done-that. As a start, the two names most associated with it, Bush and Clinton, couldn’t be more familiar, highlighting as they do the curiously dynastic quality of recent presidential contests.  (If a Bush or Clinton should win in 2016 and again in 2020, a member of one of those families will have controlled the presidency for 28 of the last 36 years.)

Take, for instance, “Why 2016 Is Likely to Become a Close Race,” a recent piece Nate Cohn wrote for my hometown paper.  A noted election statistician, Cohn points out that, despite Hillary Clinton’s historically staggering lead in Democratic primary polls (and lack of serious challengers), she could lose the general election.  He bases this on what we know about her polling popularity from the Monica Lewinsky moment of the 1990s to the present.  Cohn assures readers that Hillary will not “be a Democratic Eisenhower, a popular, senior statesperson who cruises to an easy victory.”  It’s the sort of comparison that offers a certain implicit reassurance about the near future.  (No, Virginia, we haven’t left the world of politics in which former general and president Dwight D. Eisenhower can still be a touchstone.)

Cohn may be right when it comes to Hillary’s electability, but this is not Dwight D. Eisenhower’s or even Al Gore’s America. If you want a measure of that, consider this year’s primaries. I mean, of course, the 2015 ones. Once upon a time, the campaign season started with candidates flocking to Iowa and New Hampshire early in the election year to establish their bona fides among party voters. These days, however, those are already late primaries.

The early primaries, the ones that count, take place among a small group of millionaires and billionaires, a new caste flush with cash who will personally, or through complex networks of funders, pour multi-millions of dollars into the campaigns of candidates of their choice.  So the early primaries — this year mainly a Republican affair — are taking place in resort spots like Las Vegas, Rancho Mirage, California, and Sea Island, Georgia, as has been widely reported. These “contests” involve groveling politicians appearing at the beck and call of the rich and powerful, and so reflect our new 1% electoral system. (The main pro-Hillary super PAC, for instance, is aiming for a kitty of $500 million heading into 2016, while the Koch brothers network has already promised to drop almost $1 billion into the coming campaign season, doubling their efforts in the last presidential election year.)

Ever since the Supreme Court opened up the ultimate floodgates with its 2010 Citizens United decision, each subsequent election has seen record-breaking amounts of money donated and spent. The 2012 presidential campaign was the first $2 billion election; campaign 2016 is expected to hit the $5 billion mark without breaking a sweat.  By comparison, according to Burton Abrams and Russell Settle in their study, “The Effect of Broadcasting on Political Campaign Spending,” Republicans and Democrats spent just under $13 million combined in 1956 when Eisenhower won his second term.

In the meantime, it’s still true that the 2016 primaries will involve actual voters, as will the election that follows. The previous election season, the midterms of 2014, cost almost $4 billion, a record despite the number of small donors continuing to drop. It also represented the lowest midterm voter turnout since World War II. (See: demobilization of the public, below — and add in the demobilization of the Democrats as a real party, the breaking of organized labor, the fragmenting of the Republican Party, and the return of voter suppression laws visibly meant to limit the franchise.) It hardly matters just what the flood of new money does in such elections, when you can feel the weight of inequality bearing down on the whole process in a way that is pushing us somewhere new.

2. The Privatization of the State (or the U.S. as a Prospective Third-World Nation)

In the recent coverage of the Hillary Clinton email flap, you can find endless references to the Clintons of yore in wink-wink, you-know-how-they-are-style reporting; and yes, she did delete a lot of emails; and yes, it’s an election year coming and, as everyone points out, the Republicans are going to do their best to keep the email issue alive until hell freezes over, etc., etc.  Again, the coverage, while eyeball gluing, is in a you’ve-seen-it-all-before, you’ll-see-it-all-again-mode.

However, you haven’t seen it all before. The most striking aspect of this little brouhaha lies in what’s most obvious but least highlighted.  An American secretary of state chose to set up her own private, safeguarded email system for doing government work; that is, she chose to privatize her communications.  If this were Cairo, it might not warrant a second thought.  But it didn’t happen in some third-world state.  It was the act of a key official of the planet’s reigning (or thrashing) superpower, which — even if it wasn’t the first time such a thing had ever occurred — should be taken as a tiny symptom of something that couldn’t be larger or, in the long stretch of history, newer: the ongoing privatization of the American state, or at least the national security part of it.

Though the marriage of the state and the corporation has a pre-history, the full-scale arrival of the warrior corporation only occurred after 9/11.  Someday, that will undoubtedly be seen as a seminal moment in the formation of whatever may be coming in this country.  Only 13 years later, there is no part of the war state that has not experienced major forms of privatization.  The U.S. military could no longer go to war without its crony corporations doing KP and guard duty, delivering the mail, building the bases, and being involved in just about all of its activities, including training the militaries of foreign allies and even fighting.  Such warrior corporations are now involved in every aspect of the national security state, including torture, drone strikes, and — to the tune of hundreds of thousands of contract employees like Edward Snowden — intelligence gathering and spying.  You name it and, in these years, it’s been at least partly privatized.

All you have to do is read reporter James Risen’s recent book, Pay Any Price, on how the global war on terror was fought in Washington, and you know that privatization has brought something else with it: corruption, scams, and the gaming of the system for profits of a sort that might normally be associated with a typical third-world kleptocracy.  And all of this, a new world being born, was reflected in a tiny way in Hillary Clinton’s very personal decision about her emails.

Though it’s a subject I know so much less about, this kind of privatization (and the corruption that goes with it) is undoubtedly underway in the non-war-making, non-security-projecting part of the American state as well.

3. The De-legitimization of Congress and the Presidency

On a third front, American “confidence” in the three classic check-and-balance branches of government, as measured by polling outfits, continues to fall.  In 2014, Americans expressing a “great deal of confidence” in the Supreme Court hit a new low of 23%; in the presidency, it was 11%, and in Congress a bottom-scraping 5%.  (The military, on the other hand, registers at 50%.)  The figures for “hardly any confidence at all” are respectively 20%, 44%, and more than 50%.  All are in or near record-breaking territory for the last four decades.

It seems fair to say that in recent years Congress has been engaged in a process of de-legitimizing itself.  Where that body once had the genuine power to declare war, for example, it is now “debating” in a desultory fashion an “authorization” for a war against the Islamic State in Syria, Iraq, and possibly elsewhere that has already been underway for eight months and whose course, it seems, will be essentially unaltered, whether Congress authorizes it or not.

What would President Harry Truman, who once famously ran a presidential campaign against a “do-nothing” Congress, have to say about a body that truly can do just about nothing?  Or rather, to give the Republican war hawks in that new Congress their due, not quite nothing.  They are proving capable of acting effectively to de-legitimize the presidency as well.  House Majority Leader John Boehner’s invitation to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to undercut the president’s Iranian nuclear negotiations and the letter signed by 47 Republican senators and directed to the Iranian ayatollahs are striking examples of this.  They are visibly meant to tear down an “imperial presidency” that Republicans gloried in not so long ago.

The radical nature of that letter, not as an act of state but of its de-legitimization, was noted even in Iran, where fundamentalist Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei proclaimed it “a sign of a decline in political ethics and the destruction of the American establishment from within.” Here, however, the letter is either being covered as a singularly extreme one-off act (“treason!”) or, as Jon Stewart did on “The Daily Show,” as part of a repetitive tit-for-tat between Democrats and Republicans over who controls foreign policy.  It is, in fact, neither.  It represents part of a growing pattern in which Congress becomes an ever less effective body, except in its willingness to take on and potentially take out the presidency.

In the twenty-first century, all that “small government” Republicans and “big government” Democrats can agree on is offering essentially unconditional support to the military and the national security state.  The Republican Party — its various factions increasingly at each other’s throats almost as often as at those of the Democrats — seems reasonably united solely on issues of war-making and security.  As for the Democrats, an unpopular administration, facing constant attack by those who loath President Obama, has kept its footing in part by allying with and fusing with the national security state.  A president who came into office rejecting torture and promoting sunshine and transparency in government has, in the course of six-plus years, come to identify himself almost totally with the U.S. military, the CIA, the NSA, and the like.  While it has launched an unprecedented campaign against whistle blowers and leakers (as well as sunshine and transparency), the Obama White House has proved a powerful enabler of, but also remarkably dependent upon, that state-within-a-state, a strange fate for “the imperial presidency.”

4. The Rise of the National Security State as the Fourth Branch of Government

One “branch” of government is, however, visibly on the rise and rapidly gaining independence from just about any kind of oversight.  Its ability to enact its wishes with almost no opposition in Washington is a striking feature of our moment.  But while the symptoms of this process are regularly reported, the overall phenomenon — the creation of a de facto fourth branch of government — gets remarkably little attention.  In the war on terror era, the national security state has come into its own.  Its growth has been phenomenal.  Though it’s seldom pointed out, it should be considered remarkable that in this period we gained a second full-scale “defense department,” the Department of Homeland Security, and that it and the Pentagon have become even more entrenched, each surrounded by its own growing “complex” of private corporations, lobbyists, and allied politicians.  The militarization of the country has, in these years, proceeded apace.

Meanwhile, the duplication to be found in the U.S. Intelligence Community with its 17 major agencies and outfits is staggering.  Its growing ability to surveil and spy on a global scale, including on its own citizens, puts the totalitarian states of the twentieth century to shame.  That the various parts of the national security state can act in just about any fashion without fear of accountability in a court of law is by now too obvious to belabor.  As wealth has traveled upwards in American society in ways not seen since the first Gilded Age, so taxpayer dollars have migrated into the national security state in an almost plutocratic fashion.

New reports regularly surface about the further activities of parts of that state.  In recent weeks, for instance, we learned from Jeremy Scahill and Josh Begley of the Intercept that the CIA has spent years trying to break the encryption on Apple iPhones and iPads; it has, that is, been aggressively seeking to attack an all-American corporation (even if significant parts of its production process are actually in China).  Meanwhile, Devlin Barrett of the Wall Street Journal reported that the CIA, an agency barred from domestic spying operations of any sort, has been helping the U.S. Marshals Service (part of the Justice Department) create an airborne digital dragnet on American cell phones.  Planes flying out of five U.S. cities carry a form of technology that “mimics a cellphone tower.” This technology, developed and tested in distant American war zones and now brought to “the homeland,” is just part of the ongoing militarization of the country from its borders to its police forces.  And there’s hardly been a week since Edward Snowden first released crucial NSA documents in June 2013 when such “advances” haven’t been in the news.

News also regularly bubbles up about the further expansion, reorganization, and upgrading of parts of the intelligence world, the sorts of reports that have become the barely noticed background hum of our lives.  Recently, for instance, Director John Brennan announced a major reorganization of the CIA meant to break down the classic separation between spies and analysts at the Agency, while creating a new Directorate of Digital Innovation responsible for, among other things, cyberwarfare and cyberespionage.  At about the same time, according to the New York Times, the Center for Strategic Counter terrorism Communications, an obscure State Department agency, was given a new and expansive role in coordinating “all the existing attempts at countermessaging [against online propaganda by terror outfits like the Islamic State] by much larger federal departments, including the Pentagon, Homeland Security and intelligence agencies.”

This sort of thing is par for the course in an era in which the national security state has only grown stronger, endlessly elaborating, duplicating, and overlapping the various parts of its increasingly labyrinthine structure.  And keep in mind that, in a structure that has fought hard to keep what it’s doing cloaked in secrecy, there is so much more that we don’t know.  Still, we should know enough to realize that this ongoing process reflects something new in our American world (even if no one cares to notice).

5. The Demobilization of the American People

In The Age of Acquiescence, a new book about America’s two Gilded Ages, Steve Fraser asks why it was that, in the nineteenth century, another period of plutocratic excesses, concentration of wealth and inequality, buying of politicians, and attempts to demobilize the public, Americans took to the streets with such determination and in remarkable numbers over long periods of time to protest their treatment, and stayed there even when the brute power of the state was called out against them.  In our own moment, Fraser wonders, why has the silence of the public in the face of similar developments been so striking?

After all, a grim new American system is arising before our eyes.  Everything we once learned in the civics textbooks of our childhoods about how our government works now seems askew, while the growth of poverty, the flatlining of wages, the rise of the .01%, the collapse of labor, and the militarization of society are all evident.

The process of demobilizing the public certainly began with the military.  It was initially a response to the disruptive and rebellious draftees of the Vietnam-era.  In 1973, at the stroke of a presidential pen, the citizen’s army was declared no more, the raising of new recruits was turned over to advertising agencies (a preview of the privatization of the state to come), and the public was sent home, never again to meddle in military affairs.  Since 2001, that form of demobilization has been etched in stone and transformed into a way of life in the name of the “safety” and “security” of the public.

Since then, “we the people” have made ourselves felt in only three disparate ways: from the left in the Occupy movement, which, with its slogans about the 1% and the 99%, put the issue of growing economic inequality on the map of American consciousness; from the right, in the Tea Party movement, a complex expression of discontent backed and at least partially funded by right-wing operatives and billionaires, and aimed at the de-legitimization of the “nanny state”; and the recent round of post-Ferguson protests spurred at least in part by the militarization of the police in black and brown communities around the country.

The Birth of a New System

Otherwise, a moment of increasing extremity has also been a moment of — to use Fraser’s word — “acquiescence.”  Someday, we’ll assumedly understand far better how this all came to be.  In the meantime, let me be as clear as I can be about something that seems murky indeed: this period doesn’t represent a version, no matter how perverse or extreme, of politics as usual; nor is the 2016 campaign an election as usual; nor are we experiencing Washington as usual.  Put together our 1% elections, the privatization of our government, the de-legitimization of Congress and the presidency, as well as the empowerment of the national security state and the U.S. military, and add in the demobilization of the American public (in the name of protecting us from terrorism), and you have something like a new ballgame.

While significant planning has been involved in all of this, there may be no ruling pattern or design.  Much of it may be happening in a purely seat-of-the-pants fashion.  In response, there has been no urge to officially declare that something new is afoot, let alone convene a new constitutional convention.  Still, don’t for a second think that the American political system isn’t being rewritten on the run by interested parties in Congress, our present crop of billionaires, corporate interests, lobbyists, the Pentagon, and the officials of the national security state.

Out of the chaos of this prolonged moment and inside the shell of the old system, a new culture, a new kind of politics, a new kind of governance is being born right before our eyes. Call it what you want. But call it something. Stop pretending it’s not happening.

Copyright 2015 Tom Engelhardt

Reprinted by permission

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Tom Engelhardt is a co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of The United States of Fear as well as a history of the Cold War, The End of Victory Culture. He is a fellow of the Nation Institute and runs TomDispatch.com. His latest book is Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World (Haymarket Books).

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Our Bridge

ChurchillReading time – 69 seconds  .  .  .

You really need to take the time:

– To hear the words of John Lewis, a man who marched on Bloody Sunday and whose thanks that day was a fractured and bleeding scull. His reward – and ours – is that he has served in Congress, a representative of South Carolina, since 1987. South Carolina! That would have been impossible, unthinkable in the context of the American South of the 1960s.

– To hear President Obama, whose entire life story would have been impossible without the courage of the few hundred who marched up that awful bridge on that terrible day. Those marchers could not have envisioned a Black president, but they made a path through the darkness of hate that Barack Obama could walk.

The struggle for human rights, for voting rights, for simple human dignity is not over in America. If you doubt that, consider what it means to be a Black teen and get gunned down for carrying a package of Skittles while wearing a hoodie and for the gunman to walk free. Imagine how it feels to be unable to provide for your family because you’re the last hired and the first fired. Feel the frustration and hopelessness of a parent who knows that their kids are getting a lousy education because those with money have put their kids into private schools and when they fled the public schools they left them to rot.

On October 29, 1941 the British were weary from years of the Battle of Britain. On that day, Prime Minister Winston Churchill addressed the boys at the Harrow School where Churchill had attended years before. He spoke only a short time and, as he so often did, he found the words to buoy the spirits of an embattled nation, to help his people muster the strength to carry on. He told the boys,

“Never give in, never give in, never, never, never — in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.”

We have work to do in America, because today there are people with apparently overwhelming might who are creating new obstacles to voting. They are standing on the necks of those who have come to be known as Dreamers. And they are keeping 95% of the wealth for themselves and leaving a paltry 5% for all the rest of us.

This is our bridge. This is our fight. This is our time.

Never give in.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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