Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Taking Our First Stand

Taking Our First Stand 
(and it won't be our last)
by Cindy A. Matthews 
photos by Adrian Matthews

Mid-January in the Detroit area isn't exactly balmy.  To say it is "cold" would be putting it mildly. But, once again, my husband and I found ourselves standing outside in a line in the dead of winter in southeastern Michigan waiting for a Bernie Sanders rally to start.

After this past July, and the horrid reality of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, I never thought I'd ever say that again.

This time the rally wasn't about Bernie running for office, but about how our "Obamacare" (A.C.A.) health care programs are under attack by a hard-hearted Republican Congress. On January 15, under the hashtag #OurFirstStand, 70 official rallies, protests and related events throughout the country commenced to let these self-absorbed, bought-0ut politicians of corporate-owned Washington DC know we weren't taking this attack on our health care lying down. We were fortunate to have a variety of events in area to attend, but when we heard Bernie Sanders was heading up the bill in Warren, Michigan... 

Well, once a Berner always a Berner. Road trip!

We were fortunate it was a very pleasant winter's day, since the rally was held outside. The temperature stood around the freezing point, and the sun shone warmly upon the parking lot area where the stage and loudspeakers were set up between several large buildings of Macomb Community College. The crowd squeezed together close to the small stage, and that provided even more warmth and blocked any slight wind blowing. It wasn't until we returned home and watched the live stream video (above) that I realized just how many people were actually there--8,000 my husband estimated.  (Others have said the crowd was between 6,000 - 8,000.) Wow. 

This was truly a yuge event in the heart of blue collar, UAW union country. Senator Chuck "fighting mad" Schumer and Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow from Michigan headlined along with Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards, Congressman John Conyers, Congresswomen from Michigan Brenda Lawrence and Debbie Dingell and two trade union leaders. Two families shared their stories of how Obamacare helped them--including one woman who lost her leg in an accident but didn't lose her life or her life-savings because she had just received health insurance through the A.C.A.

Bernie was in fine form. He sounded a bit hoarse, but his message came across strong. He wore a forest green parka with no tie (unlike Senators Schumer and Peters dressed in suits and wool dress overcoats) and didn't feel the need for a hat and gloves. Bernie reiterated his message of how single payer health care is the best option and that we're among the millions of activists standing up and fighting back against those attempting to take health care coverage away from up to 20 - 30 million Americans. Our job is to tell the Republicans not to kick people off Medicaid, privatize Medicare, defund Planned Parenthood, and raise prescription drug prices--while giving tax breaks to the richest of the rich.

It was hard to get a clear photo of Bernie--too many tall people!
It was a exhausting day standing on the concrete in the cold, but it was worth it to see Bernie Sanders speak in person once again. We secretly wished it was just a Bernie rally without the others, but the excitement and enthusiasm was there. Bernie is cooperating well with the Senate Democratic leadership (obviously since Chuck Schumer was there). He's reminding at least some of the Dems of their progressive roots. After the recent "Pharma 13" scandal, let's keep reminding these Dems that we're holding them to their promises to put the people's needs first before their corporate donors' desire for mega-profits.

Over all, Our First Stand was a success. I think Bernie knew we all needed a little push to get us going this year. By bringing us together with a few thousand of our friends, we were able to revitalize our ardor for the progressive cause, able to reconnect with groups new and old that have actions planned for the coming days. We're that much stronger now to take on the "Tweeter in Chief" and show our fellow citizens how much better our country--and world--would be with a compassionate leader like Bernie Sanders in charge.

Senators Peters, Schumer and Sanders
"Sluffy" has shared some of his excellent photography of the Our First Stand event in Warren, Michigan. Many thanks to Sluffy for his generosity. A true Berner!
Sen. Schumer gives an animated speech.

Two graduates of James Madison High School, Brooklyn, NY

Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards

Senator Stabenow of Michigan
Bernie takes the podium.

Bernie looks determined--determined we'll have Medicare for All some day soon!

Never forget these faces or names. These are the thirteen Democratic senators who voted against cheaper medicines being imported from Canada. They put their Big Pharma donors' profits above the best interests of their constituents. All have taken at the minimum $250,000 from the pharmaceutical industry and others have accepted almost $700,000. Their contact phone numbers and Twitter handles are below. Please contact them and tell them what you think about their actions. The following article link provides more background information on each of these senators: http://leftgear.co/2017/01/13/pharma-13/

And now, taking a stand against the corporate-owned Democrats as a whole...

Taking a Stand Against Hypocrisy...
We're not with you, Mr. Brock
by Bern Notice

Mr. Brock,

I would like to take a few moments out of my day to reply to your letter to Senator Bernie Sanders, which is referenced here:

Reference: https://medium.com/@DavidBrock/dear-senator-sanders-im-with-you-in-the-fight-ahead-ffd42ae989bb#.kj1k711p9

I could join the legions of people who are likely putting their responses to this letter in reply of a paragraph or less, but I don’t think that format would do justice to just how appalling the idea of “you” being on the same team as “us” is.

I, and countless others, already knew you were on Hillary Clinton’s campaign. There is no sin for supporting an opponent. The problem lies in how you support an opponent--or more to the point, how you treat the opposition.

Over the last year you, and the entities that you own or run, have gone to great lengths to try to discredit and undermine and demean those who supported Bernie Sanders during his presidential bid.

“If you study what’s being said in social media, the media that millennials are consuming, it is filled with misinformation and vicious lies and sexism in terms that you can’t even repeat from his supporters, from other trolls,” you have said, Mr. Brock, as well as:
“And you wonder why there’s such a gap in the millennial preference for Sanders over Hillary. I think if people took a look at what they’re seeing, that would account for some of [the deficit]—the fact that they have a misimpression of her.” --David Brock
Reference: http://www.politico.com/story/2016/02/david-brock-bernie-sanders-218954

This statement makes a number of assumptions. First, it makes the assumption that the reason Sanders supporters did not support Hillary in the primary was they were sexist. Supposedly those who voted for Jill Stein in the general election and the numerous women who did not support Hillary, but did support Bernie, were sexist? That’s not a smart way to make allies. I hate to break the bad news to you, but it had nothing to do with sexism.

It had everything to do with lack of focus on issues that affect the working class in this country. It had a lot to do with concern about how a person who claims to want reform Wall Street and rein in big business was constantly tied to or being funded by those same entities. See the following links:

References: https://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/contrib.php?cid=N00000019&cycle=Career


It had everything to do with lack of consistency, and lack of honesty. Feel free to dismiss the bit about the e-mail  if you wish, but note the rest.


Then Brock's PAC, Correct the Record, paid people to “troll” the internet.

“This explains why my inbox turned to cancer on Tuesday,” wrote user OKarizee. “Been a member of Reddit for almost four years and never experienced anything like it. In fact, in all my years on the internet I’ve never experienced anything like it.”

Correct the Record, which has received $5 million this campaign season and has spent almost $4.5 million of it according to OpenSecrets.org, outlined its strategy against “swarms of anonymous attackers” in a press release:

Reference: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2016/04/21/hillary-pac-spends-1-million-to-correct-commenters-on-reddit-and-facebook.html?via=mobile&source=twitter

The tactics that you employed were bad enough that it made some Clinton supporters say the following: “David is well meaning but I think perhaps like a zealot. He should keep it in check a bit. I don’t think this needs to be about tearing Bernie down. …It’s getting nasty and it doesn’t need to be.”

Reference: http://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/269791-david-brocks-hardball-tactics-worry-clinton-supporters

Still even after everything that has transpired, you seem to think that there is nothing fundamentally wrong with how the Democratic Party has operated for the last eight or more years. You claim that the “Democratic Party isn’t suffering from an identity crisis”.

Reference: https://www.washingtonpost.com/video/national/david-brock-democrats-are-not-facing-an-identity-crisis/2016/12/05/8c3521ba-bb1e-11e6-ae79-bec72d34f8c9_video.html

If the last election should have told you anything, it should have told you that working Americans of all stripes are tired of both parties doing “business as usual.” While you and other Washington insiders have fattened your wallet and enhanced your power base, the rest of America (the working class) has suffered under increased costs of living and decreased buying power.

At the beginning of the campaign, no one in the beltway or the media thought that Sanders or Trump had a snowball's chance in hell. They, and people like yourself, thought that it was going to be Bush or Clinton all over again until the voters told you otherwise. But somehow, you still can’t seem to accept that people want more than talk--we want action that helps us.

And you think that by penning a letter that you can simply get back in our good graces. There is a saying, "Be careful whose toes you step on today. They may be connected to the feet you have to kiss tomorrow."

What Senator Sanders chooses to do is obviously his prerogative. As a person who you and your PACs went out of your way to insult, I would like to be one of many to tell you that you may claim to be with us, but we sure as heck aren’t with you.
BIO: A fighter in the political revolution, Bern Notice takes a stand every time he sits down at his keyboard. You can find him on Google+ and on his new blog, Seeing Through the B.S., on Medium.com.


 We're still feelin' the Bern, too! There are so many good causes and issues that need our support. It's time to crawl out of our shells and put on our winter coats (if necessary) and pick up a sign or banner and get out there. Come on! Take a stand like these brave Berners are doing, and we'll be seeing you on the front lines. (Please feel free to share your photos and stories with us here at the blog, too: Email us at thebernieblog2016@gmail.com)

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Not Another Brick in the Wall

Not Another Brick in the Wall

"All in all, you're just another brick in the wall." --Pink Floyd

2016 was a year of protest in the US. Every week there was some kind of a protest--from Democracy Spring to Ferguson to Standing Rock... 2017 promises more of the same. A helluva lot more. With Trump's narcissistic personality disorder, we're assured of  protests from day one.

This is a good thing. It demonstrates that more Americans are awake and aware of what is going on in their government and their society. It demonstrates people care passionately about causes, and they are willing to sacrifice their time, energy and safety (and possibly their lives) to make a better world for all people. It exemplifies the old adage: "When the going gets tough--the tough get going."

But how do we continue to fight the good fight when day after day the forces of the evil empire of oligarchs seem to grow?  The wall of the oligarchy's wealth grows higher and higher, until one day it might actually manifest itself in a physical wall, such as the one they want to build along the US-Mexican border. They want to wall all others out and wall us, the slave laborers, in. They want us to become the lowly bricks in their wall of conglomeration and incorporation, to bolster the endless profits which fly into their tax-free, off-shore bank accounts. 

We ordinary workers are to become passionless and faceless as bricks, without the means to see the whole structure of the oligarchs' greed and selfishness. Once we're cemented into their "wall of shame," we will become like their stone hearts, cold and unfeeling. We won't ever strive to change our world. We will become dead to its and our own suffering. That's the way the oligarchs like it. 

A recent speaker at Our Revolution in Northwest Ohio told us the story of an individual who refused to become yet another brick in the oligarchs' wall. Tish O'Dell lives in a nice suburb of Cleveland, Broadview Heights. This small city is fortunate enough to have ninety fracking wells and their accompanying fracking wastewater ponds full of toxic chemicals. (Yes, that's 90 fracking wells and not 9!) Residents reported many illnesses and earthquakes, but no one in government took their side against the frackers. Tish didn't give up. She organized community members, and they protested and worked hard to amend their city charter to ban fracking within the city limits. The charter initiative passed. 

Of course, a higher court later struck the amendment down, but its legacy remains. There have been no new fracking wells drilled in Broadview Heights since their charter was amended.  The fracking industry knows the people of Broadview Heights won't take another invasion of their town lying down. The people of Broadview Heights have built their own "wall" and together they stand as "living bricks" to prevent further degradation of their town by the oligarchs of the fracking industry. 

Better still, other Ohio cities have followed their example to ban fracking. The spread of fracking has been slowed. While it may not be seen as a total victory, it's a battle won in the opening salvo of a war to protect the people's health and safety.
In this coming year of protests, keep the example of Tish and her community in mind. Your small steps can make a difference, so get out there and protest and work for change. Start fighting the battle your town, group or organization truly believes in. Build a "wall of resistance" against the greed of the oligarchs
To quote Dr. Jill Stein of the Green Party: "We are the change we've been looking for." That means us. We've gotta change things for the better. Remember what Bernie Sanders said? Not me Us.

Don't let the fascistic oligarchs use you and cast you onto the faceless brick pile of their wall of avarice. Throw your brick of community through the window of their souls. Smash their greed! Expose their corruption! Fight for the greater good! The political revolution needs all the bricks of change it can get. 

Be the change, and we'll see you on the front lines.

And now, we take a look across that mythical wall proposed by Trump and what we could learn from our fellow human beings south of the border...

a.k.a. Beanstock

Are you dreaming about Trump’s proposed wall on our southern border? In the light of our dying or dead democracy up here in the United States, it can be quite interesting to look south.

While we are held hostage by a bee's nest of corruption, built and upheld by robber billionaires and their utterly corrupt minions in the political and journalistic classes who are part of the gentry and middle nobility in our quasi-feudal society, our neighbors in the south are showing us what can happen when the people get utterly disgusted and angry enough to act.

In recent years,  our war-mongering and regime-changing oligarchs were preoccupied elsewhere (especially the Middle East because of its delicious oil--yum!), although one must note our Hillary-supported 2009 military coup of a democratically elected government in Honduras [article 1][article 2][article 3] . Some of our southern neighbors managed to make progress on the path to democracy from which we could learn something. 

Two examples: Recently, Guatemala’s corrupt president was forced out of office and jailed, and, at the moment, Venezuela (much decried as a commie country under Chavez in our corporate media) actually has it written in its constitution that the people (yes, the people, not unreliable representatives on a gravy train) can impeach the president and trigger an automatic election. All they need is enough signatures. Imagine that!

If you examine just how much our oligarchs and their wholly-owned government meddle south of our border, one has to essentially look upon Latin American nations as unrecognized states in our union. And, impressively, despite of our federal government’s reprisals, these southern brothers and sisters in our jointly suffered plight make advances towards democracy we could learn from. 

Perhaps, instead of Trump’s wall, we should build a highway?
BIO: Dirk Droll writes the thought-provoking Beanstock's World blog. Read it and follow him at https://beanstocksworld.wordpress.com/
The following related news items will raise eyebrows and blood pressure...


 From The Guardian:
"In Trump we see a perfect fusion of the two main uses of celebrity culture: corporate personification and mass distraction. His celebrity became a mask for his own chaotic, outsourced and unscrupulous business empire. His public image was the perfect inversion of everything he and his companies represent. As presenter of the US version of The Apprentice, this spoilt heir to humongous wealth became the face of enterprise and social mobility. During the presidential elections, his noisy persona distracted people from the intellectual void behind the mask, a void now filled by more lucid representatives of global capital."   https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/dec/20/celebrity-corporate-machine-fame-big-business-donald-trump-kim-kardashian

It's time... 

We'll be seeing you in the coming weeks in the streets, in the state houses, at the inauguration, on the pipelines routes... The time is now. We are the change we've been looking for. We are the Revolution. Don't become another brick in the wall--smash it! (And be sure to share your stories and photos with us at Our Revolution Continues. We like to know what all you've been doing.)

The following parody of Pink Floyd's The Wall gives us a fuller picture of "Trump's wall" and why we need to stop it before it can be built

Power to the people--not the oligarchy!


Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Stay Awake, Be Aware, Become Informed

Bernie is working hard to bring about his New Year's resolutions. Are you?

Stay Awake, Be Aware, Become Informed
by Cindy A. Matthews

When we are mentally asleep, unaware of our surroundings, and don't work hard at staying informed as to what is happening in our world, nasty surprises have a way of catching up with us.

During the bustle of the holiday season, one such nasty surprise occurred in Ohio. As of December 19, 2016, Ohioans can no longer use Boycott, Divestment and Sanction (BDS) strategies against the Israeli government to protest its treatment of the Palestinians. Ohio House Bill 476, signed into law by Governor John Kasich, has made doing so illegal. The bill is seen by many as an unlawful reaction to the boycott, divestment and sanctions movement, a nonviolent global campaign which uses boycotts of Israeli goods and products to pressure the state of Israel to end its illegal occupation and collective punishment of, and violence against, Palestinian civilians. 

Ohio H.B 476 represses freedom of speech while extending a suspect economic benefit directly to a foreign government. A last-minute amendment to the bill doubled the amount of State of Ohio assets which may be invested in foreign nation debt instruments from 1% to 2%. Available state assets for investment were estimated at $13 to $14 billion. Coincidentally, Israel is the only nation capable of meeting the standards for the investment by the State of Ohio Treasurer. Besides critically undermining the free speech of its citizens, Ohio seeks to extend up to $260 million in credit to a foreign nation. 

Ohio H.B. 476 contradicts core free speech values and stifles debate. Telling others why your institution doesn't support the oppression of the Palestinian people is now a crime in Ohio. You cannot host pro-Palestinian rights speakers on your campus, for example. The punishment for violating the bill is the withdrawal of all state funding from your institution. 

And don't feel safe if you're not an Ohioan--similar federal legislation is currently in the works under the name of the "Anti-Semitism Awareness Act Bill."  In a Trump administration with a majority Republican Congress, its odds of being passed are seen as good. The title of the federal bill is extremely misleading. The BDS campaign against Israel is actually a criticism of the state or government, not of a religion or race. Palestinians are a related Semitic people after all, and American BDS actions are taken in their support, not against them because of their race or religion. 

So, where in our Constitution's First Amendment does it say every American must believe exactly as the government tells us to? Where in our First Amendment does it say the government of Israel can tell American citizens what strategies they can use to protest the mistreatment of Palestinians? Why are Palestinians treated as second class citizens in the first place? What other peoples are we to mistreat and ignore around the world simply because another government wishes Americans to mistreat and ignore them as well? 

Being asleep and not being aware of what is happening around us can lead us to losing our freedom of speech--and to the loss of freedom and life for others. Blissful ignorance of the facts isn't always blissful--it can be down right dangerous. As intelligent and compassionate progressives, we owe it to both ourselves and our communities (if not the entire planet) to become informed as to what is going on and what actions we can take to make the world a better place for all peoples.

Bern Notice now gives us some information on how a thorough civics education can open the door...

Opening the Door
by Bern Notice

Education is an important component of having a successful life in America. It opens the door to higher paying jobs like IT, electronics, engineering, law and many others. However, as much as Americans like to claim it’s the greatest country in the world, our quality of education clearly is not.



Much has been made about how the US is in the middle of the pack in subjects such as science and math. Little is mentioned about Americans' knowledge of civics.

The Annenberg Public Policy Center states:

 The survey, released for Constitution Day (September 17), found that 26 percent of people can name the three branches of government (executive, legislative and judicial), a statistically significant decline since 2011, when 38 percent could name all three. In the current survey, 31 percent of respondents could not name any of three branches, about the same as last year.
 Reference: http://www.annenbergpublicpolicycenter.org/americans-knowledge-of-the-branches-of-government-is-declining/

This is significant because while many are on the streets complaining about the results of the presidential election, this poll indicates that a minority actually understand its role in our government.

An example of how lack of understanding civics potentially affects voters is described by comparing presidential vs. mid-term elections. The legislative branch consists of the Senate and the House of Representatives. The legislative branch is responsible for (among other things) controlling fiscal spending and taxation, writing and passing laws, and declaring war. It is also a check on the executive branch (the president).

Reference: http://www.house.gov/content/learn/branches_of_government/

These are important responsibilities with serious consequences for their constituents. Senators and representatives are up for election at both mid-term and presidential years. Logically, if you are aware of how critical their role is in government, you would likely have a large turn out in both years.

The reality is that there is a substantial drop off in mid-term elections compared to presidential years--every time. Pew research states:

 Voter turnout regularly drops in midterm elections, and has done so since the 1840s.
In 2008 for instance, 57.1% of the voting-age population cast ballots—the highest level in four decades—as Barack Obama became the first African American elected president. But two years later only 36.9% voted in the midterm election that put the House back in Republican hands. For Obama’s re-election in 2012, turnout rebounded to 53.7%.
Reference: http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/07/24/voter-turnout-always-drops-off-for-midterm-elections-but-why/

Because turnout tends to be high only during the presidential years, this means a large number of people could only be voting for all, half, or none of their congressional representation depending on how congressional terms work out where they live.

This is even more true for Democrat-leaning voters. The turn out is so low for them that there was an article written about it in 2014. Loren Fulton of the Cook Report wrote:

Herein lies the biggest danger for Democratic candidates in 2014.
Midterm elections have always drawn older voters, and usually drawn white voters, to the polls in disproportionate numbers.

Older voters are less transient, have grown deeper roots in their local communities, and pay much more attention to non-presidential elections than their younger counterparts. In the 1980s, that didn’t hold partisan consequences. Today, that amounts to a built-in midterm turnout advantage for Republicans.

It is important to recognize that as much as Democrat-leaning voters may be upset about Trump having the House and Senate in his pocket, it happened because Democrats by in large don’t show up for mid-terms. It is very likely that reason is because those who show up and vote have a better understanding of how government works than those who only show up on presidential years.

The data shows that there is a clear lack of understanding of how government functions. This is a fixable issue, but it’s one that we as a society need to start working on now. While knowing science and mathematics are obviously important in terms of competing for careers, understanding how our government functions is vital to understanding how try to fix the problems we complain about.

BIO: Bern Notice is dedicated to educating the public through his excellent commentary on Google+


 Informing the Public Through Letters to the Editor

Like Bern Notice says, we need more civics education in this country. We also need to know more about what is happening to our environment and how it will affect our community, state, nation and world. It's important to share this information with others, and one time-honored way to do so is by writing letters to the editor. 

Paul Wohlfarth wrote and sent the following letter to the Toledo, Ohio, Blade editorial staff in regards to the Nexus pipeline. Notice he's done his homework. He gives us the facts in a clear and succinct manner to help educate both the public and the editors as to what is happening with Nexus and what could happen if the pipeline is built. Thank you, Paul, for allowing us to re-print it here as an example and encouragement to others.
To the Editors:

I know the Toledo Blade editorial staff has given tacit support for the Nexus pipeline. I don't think the staff knows of the possible ramifications that could happen if this pipeline is built.

First off Spectra Energy is being bought by the Canadian company Enbridge Energy Partners. Enbridge has a terrible safety record. One notable is the 2010 Kalamazoo River oil spill. Its been learned that Enbridge and the EPA have not cleaned up the toxic tar sands spill. They have quietly chose to fine the company and walk away leaving a toxic mess that is being exposed by former workers.

I bring this to your attention because you have lead the way in calling for action on protecting the Lake Erie water supply. As you know, the Maumee River feeds this supply and Nexus plans a pipeline to cross the Maumee west of Waterville. The export Nexus pipeline has only a 56% subscription rate with 90% of that going to Canada. The outlook for this pipeline is sketchy as more pipelines compete for a limited customer base. Also, we have found that Nexus has future plans for two more pipelines in this easement. Pipeline companies are finding it harder to build new easements as opposition grows, so the Nexus easement becomes more valuable.

I told you that natural gas transmission is being squeezed by overcapacity, but when a pipeline is built anything can be transported either way in these pipelines. What's to say that when Nexus goes belly-up transporting natural gas they won't switch to transporting oil or other products? This leave us with possible multiple pipelines crossing our water supply (the Maumee River) by a company with the worst track record for safety. The Maumee crossing is near an earthquake fault and karst formations. Will the Blade stand with others to defend this water supply? 

Is there a local or state-wide issue of importance that you could research and write a short, coherent, fact-filled letter to your local newspaper(s) informing the public and asking them to take positive action to rectify things? Don't wait a day longer--just write it. If you're living in the path of the Nexus or other pipeline(s), or are located in the middle of a fracking zone, don't hesitate--do so today. We've only got the one planet, so we don't have time to waste. Water is life!