Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Pay Attention Please:This Is Serious! (Democracy at Risk)

Pay Attention Please--This is Serious!
How Humor Helps Us Deal With the Stress of Living in Trump's America

I sympathize with you, my fellow progressives. It's hard keeping up the enthusiasm, the concentration and the stamina necessary to slay the evil foe which is the Trump Administration. Throw in your personal life struggles and challenges and it seems an insurmountable task. Can we dare to expect any let up from the stress?

To be truthful, no, the stress isn't going away magically anytime soon. But, in the meantime, there is a way to cope with it. This is the coping mechanism Freud didn't write as much about as denial, but it's certainly much more fun. I'm talking about humor as a coping mechanism, if the above meme hasn't given it away yet.

I've been a fan of political humor for a long time. I remember my teenage brother bringing home a comedy album called The Watergate Comedy Hour. We all sat around laughing our socks off as it played on an ancient device called a stereo record player. Sure, we had our whole summer wasted with the Watergate hearings preempting all the good TV shows, and then we had to endure the international embarrassment of our president resigning, but at least we got a few good chuckles out of it. (Rich Little made a killing out of doing Richard Nixon impersonations, too, as do rubber mask makers of Nixon masks to this very day.) 

The idea of the "court jester" of medieval Europe or the "holy fool" or heyoka in the Lakota spiritual tradition is almost a universal paradigm. Comedians have bravely ridiculed and scolded the powers-that-be in order to bring about an ounce of sanity and possibly evoke some compassion from our benevolent dictators--that is, our elected officials--since time immemorial. Two of my favorite court jesters currently are Lee Camp of Redacted Tonight and Moment of Clarity fame and Jimmy Dore of TYT Politics' The Jimmy Dore Show. If you haven't check out their wit and wisdom before, watch the videos posted here and you'll see why they've become respected independent journalists and political commentators in their own right. (Warning: adult language used.)


What I like most about Jimmy Dore is that he's not afraid to point out the bleeding obvious (to use my British husband's words). Jimmy will not let anyone off the hook for screwing with our so-called democracy and impoverishing our fellow Americans. No one gets a pass by pretending to be a progressive. Every public figure is put in his or her place and held responsible for his or her actions. No exceptions. Jimmy's humor is at once biting and refreshing. There's no tolerance of mindless bull-chips on The Jimmy Dore Show. You said it, you did it--you own it.

Lee Camp's Redacted Tonight is a comedy news program like no other. Not only will you laugh until you cry, you will actually learn something significant in the process. What can I say? For intellectuals who take our society's ills and foibles to heart, Lee Camp is our patron saint. He's assembled a first rate cast of fellow comedian-correspondents to work with him as well--John F. O'Donnell, Naomi Karavani and Natalie McGill. While worshiping at the feet of Lee and company, we come to see the surrealness and absurdity of life on this planet in the modern age. With his comedic guidance, we find the courage to poke fun at the stress and put it in perspective, learning to deal with it without resorting to jumping off the nearest overpass.

Lee has a companion show, Redacted Tonight VIP, where he interviews movers and shakers in the progressive political world and alternative media/journalism scene. In addition to his TV and YouTube shows, Lee writes and records the podcast Moment of Clarity which offers instant insights into our human condition, just so you know you're not the only one who feels the same way about how screwed up things are. 

Court jesters are smart folks, and we'd do well to heed their wise words and cutting comedy. So, the next time the Political Revolution is overwhelming you with its seriousness (because it is serious--it's our lives and planet at stake after all), turn on Jimmy Dore or Lee Camp and company and laugh along with them. The Political Revolution can wait a half hour or so, but your funny bone needs all the humor it can get now.


Democracy at Risk
by Sean Nestor

A popular viewpoint in conservative circles is that democracy is actually a really bad thing, because it is "mob rule, allowing 51% of the people to vote away the livelihood of the other 49%."

This ignores the historic importance of democracy -- "rule by the people" -- as an antidote to aristocracy -- "rule by an elite." It does not occur to opponents of democracy that aristocratic elements in society have a vested self-interest in leveraging their wealth and power to suppress democracy through misinformation and misdirection.

It assumes the worst of human beings, cynically equating power with abuse. The logic here is that all power (that is, ability to influence) will result primarily in abuse, so the best way to minimize abuse is to minimize the number of people with power. But this ignores the best way to limit abusive power is to ensure that it is distributed rather than concentrated. The greatest crimes against humanity have been committed by elites who have concentrated power into their own hands, denying the self-balancing nature of distributed power, which is the hallmark of democracy.

It also assumes that democracy is limited to simple majority voting -- which intentionally excludes the many non-electoral ingredients of a democracy like a free press, strong public debate, quality education, and various forms of protest and direct action. Democracy is far more than merely casting a ballot. (After all, even one-party dictatorships hold elections). Democracy is any system where the institutions of power yield to the will of its constituency by whatever means that requires.

And finally, where elections are concerned, it quietly downplays that

democratic elections are not contingent on simple-majority voting. You can have representative democracy that is balanced through proportional representation, consensus voting, 2/3 majority voting, instant-runoff voting, and many other methods that can be applied depending on the levity of the decision to be made.

Aristocratic elements like to conflate democracy with the highly dysfunctional US electoral system, because they know how bad the current electoral system is at meeting the needs of the many. It actually is much better at meeting the needs of the elite few, but, through well-financed sleight of hand, they have been successful at convincing voters the solution is in reducing democracy, not increasing it -- even though we've been reducing democracy for over forty years with obviously terrible results.

But in a way, their point is made. What good is democracy if the elite few can manipulate the public into maintaining their own oppression by using democratic processes to undermine democratic institutions?

The answer, as always, rests on us. Democracy requires a citizenry that is informed and engaged, and one that refuses to slip back into the dark ages of aristocracy. If we fail, democracy fails. If we succeed, democracy lives to fight another day. As someone wise once said, "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty."

Bio: Sean Nestor is an educator and activist from Toledo. He currently serves on the Executive Committee of the Single Payer Action Network of Ohio and Co-Chair of the Lucas County Green Party.


Sorry to add to your stress, but the following is a very serious matter of election fraud and needs your immediate attention:

Democracy Is Under Attack in the 
197th District of Philadelphia
Cheri Honkala of the PA Green Party Takes on Election Fraud 

If you haven't heard by now, (March 21) Tuesday's election was overflowing with voter intimidation, electioneering, and likely fraud.

This district, the poorest in Pennsylvania, has already suffered through two state legislators resigning on fraud charges, a scheme to put someone on the ballot who doesn't even live in the city, and now are effectively having their voices silenced through a sham election. There are even pictures of a ballot box being at an opponent's "victory" party--a victory party held before the ballots were even counted!

It's a very dangerous situation exposing the machine in Philadelphia, so I've gone under police protection for the time being.

Regardless, alongside some Democrats and the local Republicans, I will be filing in federal court for a new election, a full investigation, and prosecution of those involved. We ask that you contribute $27 to help cover these extensive legal feels. Fighting for election integrity so we can know the real choice of the 197th district is the right thing to do.

Our team had hundreds of volunteers working on election day, and here's some of the things they reported:

  • At multiple polling places, Democratic poll workers and committee people are located inside the polling place, handing out the Emilio stamp and literature; not 10 feet from the entrance to the polling location as required by law.
  • Receiving unrequested "help" inside the polling booth. Realizing after one has already stamped that they stamped the wrong name, which means that the election official must have replaced our stamps with Emilio's stamp during their "demonstration" of how to write-in.
  • Tables outside and inside setup with literature for my opponent. People being told that these tables have "what they need to vote," and making them appear as if its the voter sign-in tables. People being told to vote for my opponent at the actual  sign-in to table. 
  • Officials telling my volunteers that they cannot put up posters because this is a "Democratic district." Telling people that if they are registered Democrat, that they must vote for Emilio.
  • And, sadly, so many more...
The machine Democrats literally used their positions of power to illegally coerce and cheat the voices of the people in this district... not to mention the photographs of what appears to be a ballot box at the opponent's election night party. This is morally unacceptable. 

A trans-partisan coalition is coming together to end this legacy of corruption -- but we need your help. Please chip in $27 or whatever you can afford to help with the legal fees over the coming week or weeks as we challenge these fraudulent election results and their blatantly coercive techniques.

This campaign has been a microcosm of dysfunctional and corrupt corporate politics. We have seen the local, establishment media try to shut me out despite prominent endorsements and the best ground operation of all the candidates. We have seen political mob bosses call me up and threaten me after I refused to instead just run as a Democrat. I've had my tired slashed. Our volunteers have been frisked and had unexplainable car damage. And, yesterday, I took the advice to receive police protection through the remainder of the legal action. 

Democracy is under attack in the 197th district of Philadelphia. 

Even in face of the risks, my team and I are fighting back. Please stand with us, and please support us by helping to cover both the legal fees and continued wages for my key staff so they can continue to afford to keep eating and paying rent during this unanticipated but necessary legal action. 


Now is not the time to abandon the 197th. We are all the 197th.

Warm Regards,

Cheri Honkala

Candidate for State Representative
197th District, Pennsylvania


 Now is the time to pay attention--this is serious. We need your mind functioning at its highest level so it can cope with all the propaganda and outright lies that the mainstream media and the establishment will throw at it. Brainwashing and believing everything the propagandists tell you are one and the same. Throw away the newspapers owned by the alt-right and neo-liberal elitists. Turn off the corporate media outlets today. Rachel Madcow, er, Maddow, is not your friend as this video from The Humanist Report shows.

Promise yourself you will watch Lee Camp and Jimmy Dore on a regular basis from now on. Promise yourself that you will keep things in perspective and not allow the distractions of made-up diversions (such as "Russia, Russia, Russia!") to steal your time and energy away from what really matters--fighting for our democracy. Until Medicare for All is enacted, Citizens United is repealed, and the New Glass-Steagall Act becomes law (and our EPA and other environmental protections are safe), we can't let our guard down. The fate of our country and our world depends upon us.
To quote Lee: "Keep fighting!" (A little laughter helps, too.)


Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Why Should Our Fellow Americans Suffer & Die?

"Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care 
is the most shocking and inhumane."
–Martin Luther King, Jr.

The Unspoken Question

In the game of Jeopardy it's not the answer that's called for--it's the question.

We've been bombarded with a lot of "answers" lately, but somewhere in this barrage of outrage a basic question exists. When the Congressional Budget Office, or CBO, announced their estimate of Americans who would lose their health care coverage if the Republican health care plan took effect, eyes popped and jaws dropped at the staggering statistics. Even self-professed conservatives admitted to feeling a bit uneasy about the proposed Republican plan, and some have distanced themselves from it. 

Why all the uproar? The CBO predicts, by 2020, 21 million Americans will be without any health insurance coverage whatsoever. By 2026, that number soars to 52 million Americans without as the Republican health plan takes effect. In contrast, if the Affordable Care Act remains as is, there would be only 28 million without health coverage by 2026. The biggest surprise seems to be how popular and well-utilized the Medicaid extension program of the ACA has been for many Americans. Of course, several Southern states flat-out refused to enter into the program, which explains the 21 million currently uninsured. Even more Americans would have coverage today if all qualified in the opted-out Southern states were allowed to receive health care through the Medicaid extension program as well.

With a growing number of Americans not being able to obtain private health insurance due to pre-existing conditions, unemployment, under-employment and outright finagling by employers to avoid insuring any employee, the time for a single-payer or "Medicare-for-All" plan seems at hand. Study after study has shown it is the most efficient health delivery model in the U.S. In fact, in 1995 the Tawainese government modeled their national health care delivery program after U.S. Medicare because of its cost efficiency. If our bloated
defense budget can be expanded another $52.3 billion, surely a program which pays for itself through payroll taxes qualifies as cost effective. To any rational mind, it seems the answer to the question, "How best do we provide health care to all Americans?" is "By implementing Medicare-for-All."

But why are Republicans and many corporate Democrats avoiding the most rational answer to this question? There doesn't seem to be any one answer, but one strong reason is that they're being paid good money not to recommend Medicare-for-All. According to Term Limits for U.S. Congress.com, from 1998 - 2015 the following amounts of lobbying money were spent in Congress:

Pharmaceutical/Health Care Products: $3,146,090, 212
Insurance Industry: $2,190,651,832
Hospitals/Nursing Homes: $1,310,021,801  
Health Professionals: $1,189,983,794 
HMOs: $863,410,051

Yes, those are trillions of dollars.

Even more telling, according to OpenSecrets.org, from 2005 - 2016, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell accepted $5.9 million dollars from the health care lobbyists, while House Speaker Paul Ryan accepted over $3.5 million dollars from lobbyists. When those in Congressional leadership positions are being paid so well by the private health care industry to keep things the way they are (or make it even better for private industry), can anyone really expect they'd promote the more efficient and egalitarian Medicare-for-All program?
There's no use in asking why lobbyists bribe our politicians. It's allowed by law, and it's what they do--the lobbyists bribe and the politicians accept the bribes and thank the lobbyists for thinking of them, while promptly forgetting their constituents' needs for decent and affordable health care. But possibly the cruelest cut of all is the fact the Republican plan allows private health insurers to write off as a business expense the entire amount of their executives' salaries on their taxes and not just the first $500,000, as is the case presently under the ACA

The rich get yet another big tax break at working class Americans' expense.
Lucky them!

According to Harvard Medical School researchers, an estimated 45,000 Americans die each year simply because they lack insurance and cannot receive a decent standard of health care. (These preventable deaths outnumber yearly drunk driving deaths and homicides combined.)  It has been noted that over 60% of all bankruptcies in the U.S. involve medical bills--the leading cause of all filings, far outpacing credit card debt. (That's 643,000 Americans per year in bankruptcy court according to a NerdWallet Health Analysis.) Someone is making a lot of money off of these individuals and families going bankrupt and losing their homes, cars and property. Some group is directly benefiting from so many Americans' premature deaths.

There's something deeper, more profound going on than simple greed here. There is a desire to exert the power of life and death over others of a less fortunate status. There is a desire to take money and material goods away from those who have little and redistribute it upward to the richest echelons of society. There is a desire to put those of a different class, ethnicity, race, religion, gender, age, sexual orientation--or any of a number of protected statuses (at least currently)--in their place.  (Read The True Purpose of TrumpCare for the chilling details.) There is a desire to discriminate in one group's favor. More than likely, it's not a group whose members would allow us ordinary folks to join them.

The question remains unspoken: Why should our fellow Americans suffer and die needlessly without adequate health care?  Face it, we know the answer. So, the essential question becomes: What are we willing to do to provide health care for all Americans?
Want to know how to take action on health care? Check out organizations such as Single Payer Action Network (Ohio): http://spanohio.org/ 
 and the Campaign for Guaranteed Healthcare--click here to learn how to call your representative today: https://campaignforguaranteedhealthcare.org/call-your-representative/  and also at Hands Off Medicare: https://handsoffmedicare.wordpress.com/

Here are some more tips to fight for health care from Indivisible:

Republicans are rushing to pass "TrumpCare" (Republican Health Care Plan) before the upcoming April recess, ignoring the normal legislative process, because they don’t want to face you, their constituents. They are attempting to ram through a TrumpCare bill that will cut coverage for millions and raise premiums for millions more. Their proposal simultaneously guts Medicaid and gives a $600 billion tax break to the wealthy and corporations. We can’t let them get away with this—millions of lives hang in the balance. 

The House vote this coming week is the first step towards enactment of this devastating TrumpCare bill. Your Member of Congress (MoC) needs to know that you oppose it. Here’s how you can show your opposition:

  • Show up. Show up at your MoC’s District Office with your group to demand that your MoC vote against TrumpCare. Bring affected individuals to these meetings and use personal stories as much as possible. Your stories are powerful—stories change minds and alter what is politically possible. Your story should answer this question: How will you or your family be affected by TrumpCare?
  • Create a public demonstration. Hold a vigil outside your MoC’s office. Invite the media. Their vote in favor of this bill would mean the difference between life or death for thousands each year. You need to demonstrate your resolve. If your member has already committed to vote no, show up and thank them. In a big way.
  • Make your calls to your Representative. Start with this script and tell your Representative that a vote to take away health care from 24 million people is a vote you'll be watching. Spread the word on social media using #ProtectOurCare and tell your friends, neighbors, and colleagues to call their Representatives.
  • Get others involved. This vote is too important for people to sit on the sidelines. Time to get someone else involved—empower a friend, family member, neighbor, or colleague. Create social media events, tag a friend on Facebook, or just tell someone else why you get involved.
  • Get creative. You’re leading this movement—it’s your constituent power, so use it how you see fit. We’ve seen some local  groups create scrapbooks of local constituents who would be affected by TrumpCare. Others have brought their children who stand to lose coverage to the MoC’s district office. Your goal is to make clear to your Senators and Representatives—and any local media who will listen—what TrumpCare means for you and your family, friends, and neighbors.
  • Plan a Friday district office visit to hold your MoCs accountable. The House vote is expected Thursday. No matter how your MoC votes, you should provide immediate feedback (positive or negative) by making a visit to their district office on Friday with your group. Your MoCs will have to take more votes in the future on TrumpCare to pass the final bill. They’ll be holding their breath and watching carefully after this vote, hoping that the outrage dies down. By providing immediate feedback today, you’ll change their political calculus tomorrow. 

    Need More ACA Info?

  • Wondering how TrumpCare will affect people in your state? Our friends at the Center for American Progress have an interactive map showing TrumpCare’s impact around the country. Check it out here: TrumpCare by the Numbers.
  • Want to get wonky? Republicans are trying to push TrumpCare through with a process called “reconciliation” that allows them to pass the bill without the usual 60 votes in the Senate needed to pass legislation. Read up on this tricky bit of congressional procedure with our new explainer: Legislative Process 101—Budget Reconciliation.
  • Just want all of the the Indivisible Project’s ACA materials in one place? Absolutely—here’s our resource page: Save the ACA.
You have a chance to stop this legislation by getting involved on your home turf now. If enough members stand up and say no, Republican leaders will be forced to pull the bill from their weekly schedule—which would be a devastating defeat for Trump. If TrumpCare does pass the House, the fight’s not over. In that scenario, TrumpCare will soon move to the Senate—and then the fight will shift to your Senators.

From Facebook:

When I was hungry, you canceled my food stamps
When I was thirsty, you diverted lead and coal into my water
When I was sick, you tripled my insurance rates
I was naked, you raped me and blamed me because I was naked.
When I was in prison, you enslaved me to corporations
When I was a stranger with brown skin you deported me
From the lonely you took away social programs
From the elderly, you took away meals and medicine
From the workers, you took away legal protections
From the young, you took away school funding
From the victims, you took away shelter
Instead of diversity, you encourage intolerance
Instead of caring, you encourage isolation
Instead of equity, you encourage military excess
When the 1% has ground us into the dust, taken all of our money, and let us die for lack of insurance - who will you feed upon?


Paul Ryan -- The Anti-Robin Hood
by Coastwatcher

Last week Paul Ryan unleashed his party's budget upon the American people. At the stroke of a pen he plans to destroy the Meals on Wheels service, environmental protections, arts funding and foreign aid, along with any kind of public medical assistance in the form of the ACA. To avoid his proposed measures being filibustered to death in Congress, Ryan has worked his budget so much of it can be done through budget reconciliation. This means they can be moved quickly through a maneuver that requires a simple majority in the Senate and House. You read that right. With or without help from the corporate Democrats, these measures will be rammed through into law.

All the above cuts are worthy of mention, but space precludes me from writing about them here. Let us focus instead on the issue of the ACA, the proposed loss of which will hit Americans in the area which fundamentally affects every person on Earth – their health.

Today, in part due to Obamacare’s expansion of the program, Medicaid covers more than 73 million Americans, most struggling to survive in a country that

is growing increasingly hostile to the poor and disadvantaged. Ryan’s measures will gradually end funding for the Medicaid expansion to the point where some 14 million fewer Americans will be covered by the program by 2026. That number could skyrocket if the work requirements and block-granting proposals currently being worked out in Congress make it into the final bill.

Never in the political history of the United States has one government set out to do the maximum harm to the maximum number of its citizens in the shortest possible time – all in the name of those good old Republican values of self-reliance. It doesn’t matter to them if you were born with a congenital disability or complaint. They don’t care if you were injured in the workplace and are unable to work. In the eyes of the Republican government if you’re unable to "pull yourself up by your bootstraps" (which is impossible – think about it and read this article) then you are of no value to them or society. This Republican government, headed by Donald Trump, is populated by nothing more than a bunch of sociopaths.

These are the defining characteristics of sociopathic behavior:
    Superficial charm and good intelligence

    Absence of delusions and other signs of irrational thinking
    Absence of nervousness or neurotic manifestations
    Untruthfulness and insincerity
    Lack of remorse and shame
    Inadequately motivated antisocial behavior
    Poor judgment and failure to learn by experience
    Pathologic egocentricity and incapacity for love
    General poverty in major affective reactions
    Specific loss of insight
    Unresponsiveness in general interpersonal relations
    Fantastic and uninviting behavior with alcohol and sometimes without.

That last trait is all the more revealing when you consider Paul Ryan’s boast in a recent video: “So, the health care entitlements are the big, big, big drivers of our debt. There are three. Obamacare, Medicaid, and Medicare. Two out of three are going through Congress right now. So, Medicaid—sending it back to the states, capping its growth rate. We’ve been dreaming of this since you and I were drinking out of a keg.”

That’s right. Ryan dreamed of depriving his fellow citizens of any kind of government aid since he was a privileged white guy in college. These "big, big, big drivers of our debt" are as nothing compared to the bloated military budget, which the proposed cuts are supposed to help increase to the tune of over $52 billion.

Let’s consider the definition of sociopath in the Urban Dictionary.
A person with antisocial personality disorder. Probably the most widely recognized personality disorder. A sociopath is often well liked because of their charm and high charisma, but they do not usually care about other people. They think mainly of themselves and often blame others for the things that they do. They have a complete disregard for rules and lie constantly. They seldom feel guilt or learn from punishments. Though some sociopaths have become murders, most reveal their sociopathy through less deadly and sensational means. http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=sociopath
Ryan is obviously not the kind of sociopath who reveals his sociopathy through less deadly and sensational means. His proposed measures will kill citizens of the United States through no fault of their own. It sets the United States even further back in comparison to other countries with socialized medicine.

Perhaps Ryan’s cold-eyed ambitions will yet be thwarted by dissenting voices within his own party. The prospect of so many people being dropped from Medicaid and the prospect of states footing a much larger share of Medicaid’s bills has unnerved the more moderate Republicans across the country. It’s no secret that the majority of states where Federal government spends far more than the average on state Medicaid programs are all Republican in outlook, the so-called "Deep Red" states. Certainly the raised voices of millions of Americans in town hall meetings across the country are being heard with increasing nervousness by representatives who until now have gone largely untroubled by public opinion. It might come as a shock to these Republican politicians that a great many who voted for Trump are suffering "buyer’s remorse" now the full scope of his plans are being made plain.

The people are awake and paying attention, something the oligarchs and the  Republicans who worship them are going to regret. 

Bio: Coastwatcher observes what is happening in our world and senses a change in the weather, literally and figuratively.

In a galaxy long, long ago...
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