A New Progressive Platform

This is a cycle we seem to be caught in. The Republicans get elected, and govern like a cross between a barbarian horde and a drunken fraternity. Then, the Democrats come in, and have to do the expensive and unpopular work of fixing the problems…which makes them unpopular, allowing a new Republican horde to ride into town like a panzer division on acid, and start the looting and pillaging anew.
As long as we are caught in this pattern, progressives /cannot/ win any lasting victories. There will only be occasional pauses in the downward spiral. How do we break out of this cycle? The answer, it seems to me, is big ideas. We have been so focused on repairing the damage that we haven’t done anything honestly worthwhile in a very long time. ObamaCare came close, but not really: like HillaryCare 20 years earlier, it was hobbled by its attempt to work within the existing paradigm instead of embracing the kind of genuine restructuring that might have genuinely changed things. So, we’re talking about New Deal, Great Society big. BIG.

So, here’s my Big Idea Platform. I’d like to know what the people think of it.

1) The Election Reform Act
This act will include public financing of elections, based on the understanding that any transfer of a thing of value to a public official or political campaign should be considered an attempt to bribe that official, and an end to partisan redistricting. There are robust, mature systems of public financing around the world available for study and adaptation. It is long past time to end the system of legalized bribery that has captured the US government and rendered it unresponsive to the needs of the general population. Likewise, all redistricting shall be done by non-partisan commissions.

2) An “Apollo Program” for clean energy.
It will be based on solar, wind, and wave power. Such a platform shall include a new energy grid that harnesses distributed micropower generation and AI management, and a new generation of nuclear reactors capable of using existing stocks of nuclear waste as fuel. This will simultaneously reduce carbon and heavy metals pollution in the environment, mitigate climate change, and eventually rid the country of nuclear waste.

3) Universal healthcare.
This can include a true single-payer system allowing access to everyone while allowing private providers for those who wish to avail themselves of additional services. Again, robust, mature systems are available for study and adaptation. Possible models include France, Germany, Japan, Great Britain, and Canada.

4) A program of free post-secondary education or business investment.                                        Under this program, citizens will be able to either A), attend four years of a public university at public expense, B) access the amount of money four years of schooling would cost and use it as seed money to start a business, or C), any combination thereof: for instance, a student would be able to attend two years of technical school and then access two years worth of seed money funding for a start-up. Such a program will also include the forgiveness of all existing student loan debt, which is currently consigning two generations of Americans to debt peonage and acting as a huge brake on the US economy.

5) Raising the minimum wage.
This will include indexing the minimum wage to the inflation rate, putting an end to the degrading spectacle of continually having to beg for a continually-shrinking slice of the pie. Likewise, and for the same reason, Social Security benefits shall be indexed to the inflation rate.

6) Ending the war on drugs.
This will include the outright legalization of cannabis, the pardon of all federal prisoners held on simple possession charges, and the institution of a robust national drug treatment program for addicts. Under this program, regulatory authority will be transferred to the Food and Drug Administration, the DEA will be abolished outright, and asset forfeiture will not occur in the absence of a criminal conviction. This program will include a ban on the transfer of military equipment from the Department of Defense to civilian police departments, and a requirement that any civil judgement against a police officer must be paid by the officer personally. This program will hold that possession/intoxication itself is not a crime, but that criminal behavior, such as DUI, is.

7) Immigration reform.
Under this program, all immigrants, documented or otherwise, will be granted amnesty and allowed to stay if they register. This will allow immigrants to be protected under labor and civil law, ending the problem of legitimate business being undercut by underpaid, illegal labor. Any illegal employment of an undocumented worker shall be considered a felony. Likewise, immigrants convicted of crimes of violence, theft, fraud, espionage, or a pattern of criminal behavior, are subject to permanent deportation.

8) The Federal government as the employer of last resort.
This can be thought of as a new WPA: anyone unable to find productive work can go to work for the government, building/repairing infrastructure, parks, public buildings, etc. This should make the institution of a Universal Basic Income unnecessary, although a cost-benefit analysis and comparison between this program and a UBI should be conducted.

9) The Fourth Amendment Restoration Act.
This will outlaw any and all warrantless electronic or physical surveillance of a citizen, and will include a Citizen’s information Bill of Rights, which will state that any business that compiles information on a citizen for sale or other distribution is required to notify that citizen and give the citizen the opportunity to dispute information included therein. Further, any business that profits from the sale of individuals’ information will be required to share those proceeds with the individual.

10) The Private Security Services Reform Act.
Private prisons, police forces, military contractors, and intelligence agencies, or any other businesses serving largely identical functions, are henceforth banned.

11) The Assault Weapons Control Act.
Any firearm design that includes a detachable magazine and a semi-automatic or autoloading action shall be considered a Class III weapon under the National Firearms Act. Further, the manufacture, sale, or distribution of any device designed to increase the rate of fire of an otherwise legal weapon, such as, but not limited to, trigger cranks, multiple-fire triggers, or so-called “bump-stocks”, shall be banned.

12) The Honesty in Commerce Act.
Any business that engages in systemic theft or fraud, as has been widely documented in, among others, the banking and auto-repair industries, shall be subject to seizure and liquidation without recompense to shareholders, and shareholders shall be held liable for crimes committed to their benefit. Likewise, the importation, manufacture, sale, or distribution of any device designed to access or steal from individuals, such as credit-card skimmers and car lock defeat mechanisms, shall be banned.

13) Adoption in total of S.1006, the “Equality Act”, to, finally, “prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation.”

14) The Criminal Justice Reform Act.
In order to avoid the further criminalization of poverty and to promote equal justice before the law, this bill will reform the cash bail system as follows: No bail for a violent felony. Sliding scale for a first-time violent misdemeanor; no bail for a second offense. Not showing up is a no-bail felony. Analysis of an arrestee’s likelihood of showing up based on previous history and investment in the community; sliding scale bail depending on results-unlikely to appear, high bail, likely to appear, low (or no required) bail.

Feedback, suggestions, and comments are encouraged.

You’re Hired

Although our next election is a year away, candidates are currently doing and saying whatever they believe the American people want to hear. The conservative candidates are so plentiful, one can scarcely keep them all straight. But one of the candidates is not like the others.

 

He is loud. He is obnoxious. He is belligerent. He wears a million dollar kitten on his head.  He is…

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…The Donald.

A lot can be said about Trump’s candidacy thus far. His disrespectful tone with women, his thoughts on immigration, and his views on political contributions have been ferreted out for our perusal. Well, ferreted is not quite the best word to use, is it? The truth is that The Donald can’t shut up.

While I personally believe that if Trump ever articulated one good political idea, it would die of loneliness…

…He’s hired.

Wait, wait, wait. Don’t curse me like a drunken sailor just yet. I haven’t fallen and bumped my head. I just believe that there are a few things we -conservative, liberal, or other- can learn from this spectacle. Love or hate him. Let’s learn from him.

The Donald is honest. Brutally abrasive, almost cruelly honest. We can debate why he is so blunt, but I don’t believe that matters. What does matter is that Americans are fed up with pandering. A good chunk of America is sick to their back teeth of what they call political correctness.  Although rational people recognize that political correctness is a derogatory term for civility, many loathe it nonetheless. Presently, there is a certain level of admiration for a person willing to tell the unvarnished truth as he or she sees it.  We are seeing this admiration play out in liberal circles as well. A great deal of Bernie Sanders’ appeal is his speaking truth to power approach.

Then, there is the fact that Trump doesn’t need anyone. He is a very profitable business man who has come back from the brink more times than we can count. He is full of the can-do American spirit; He never gives up. As a known contributor to both parties, he has the freedom to entertain all points of view. As a billionaire, he runs a lesser chance of being bought. Americans want someone willing to hear other perceptions and someone comfortable in his/her own decision-making abilities. While very few openly admit to agreeing with most of Trump’s most outrageous statements, they do admire his confidence to stick to his guns. Again, look left…The liberal juggernaut, Sanders, is drawing huge crowds who adore him for sticking to his guns.

Finally, he is making politics interesting again. For many years, Americans have been, well, angry. Ranging from mild irritation to frothing at the mouth, anger and frustration has been an ever-present undercurrent in political discussions. The Donald has energized us all. I appreciate that. He and his kitten make me laugh, but his unique brand of outrageous foolery has people paying attention again. We need people paying attention. I’ve been saying for years that WE were the tyranny, that we have become far too uninvolved. Apathy does no favors for democracies. The Donald and his kitten are just entertaining enough to draw in viewers. Viewers are voters. For that alone, Trump, you’re hired.

 

 

 

Who Wrote This?

Many of you may not know this, but one of my sons has Asperger’s Syndrome.  After many years of trying to force public schools to meet his needs, my husband and I decided to school him from home.  Public schools, and how they educate pupils with special needs, deserves a post of its own.  Wait for it, it is coming.  But that is not what I want to discuss today.

Virginia utilizes a “Virginia Studies” course for fourth grade students.  The curriculum mandates instruction and retention of information about the state’s history, ranging from Jamestown to the Civil War.  Naturally, there is no way to not include the plight of the Native peoples and Africans.  My child noticed right away how the language used, in an official textbook, didn’t describe events, as they truly happened.

(Him)  Wow!  This book is really not accurate, Mom. 

(Me)  Well, no, son.  It does not tell the whole story.

He saw right through the book’s attempt to force the Natives into the role of aggressors.

(Him)  How can the English really be called pioneers?  Pioneers settle land that hasn’t been settled before.  This land was settled.  And how come my book calls them savages?  And why weren’t they (the settlers) nicer to the tribes that taught them how to survive?  This book is not good!  Who wrote this thing?

He laughed at how the enslaved Africans were portrayed.

(Him)  Everybody knows that the slaves wouldn’t be laughing and dancing after all the work was done.  Slavery was not fun!  This book is stupid.

He is nine years old.

In all fairness, Aspies tend to have highly focused interests in certain topics.  The Powhatan tribes are one of his “things”.  But what of those children who trust what is written in their textbooks?  What message are we sending when Native peoples are seen as wild things who just needed to be tamed?  And the atrocity that is slavery is made out to be just a job, with singing and dancing at night?

Then, I was reminded of the fight in Texas.

In recent years, board members have been locked in an ideological battle between a block of conservatives who question Darwin’s theory of evolution and believe the Founding Fathers were guided by Christian principles, and a handful of Democrats and moderate Republicans who have fought to preserve the teaching of Darwinism and the separation of church and state.

And this, in Louisiana.

Really?  Dinosaurs and humans?  The KKK a decent organization?  Slave masters and the Great Depression were not so bad.  Really?  Because math is too hard and we have good reason to doubt climate change.  No use fighting the rapture, ..excuse me..,  globalization.

Is it really a surprise that our children are falling through the cracks?

Look.  I get it.  We are Americans.  We want our children to be proud of their country.  We want them to recognize that America is one hell of a great place to live.  We, Americans, feel exceptional.

Recently, we were reminded of the dangers of exceptionalism.  Our newest BFF, Vladimir Putin, had this to say:

It is extremely dangerous to encourage people to see themselves as exceptional, whatever the motivation. There are big countries and small countries, rich and poor, those with long democratic traditions and those still finding their way to democracy. Their policies differ, too. We are all different, but when we ask for the Lord’s blessings, we must not forget that God created us equal.

Many of us are leaping to the defense of our new friend.  But keep in mind, he has also said this:

We will not allow someone to impose their will on us, because we have our own will! It has helped us to conquer! We are a victorious people! It is in our genes, in our genetic code!

This is all to remind you that every country feels it is exceptional.  History and facts are not ours to change, shape, and mold.  Our children deserve to know what happened, as it actually happened.  They deserve to hear many sides of the same story.  What we have been giving them, and seemingly want to continue to give to them, is propaganda.

Adam did not ride the back of Brontosaurus.  Slavery was not a club.  Natives were not savages.  The KKK and the Great Depression were horrible.  There is a separation between church and state.  Climate change is real.

Our children truly are our future.  Pride in our country is all fine and dandy.  I just don’t want to hear my grandchildren asking, about their textbooks, …Who wrote this thing?

Shared Suffering

Anyone who took the time to read my last post, may be a little surprised at what I say next.

Beneath all of the sadness and hiding behind all of the outrage…was pride.  Yes, you heard me, Pride!

Why?  What on Earth was there to be proud of??

martin 1

US!!

Not just the above us, but…

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THIS US!!

The us that stood together –  shoulder to shoulder, our voices mingling – to protest our displeasure.  Displeasure with a culture that hasn’t yet gotten over its biases.  Displeasure at how cases, involving our children, are handled.  Displeasure at how our laws are written.  Displeasure at how our justice system works.

A large number of Americans – all across the nation – came together for a common cause.   No matter our respective “colors”.  How’s that for tasting the rainbow?  You’re proud, too, right?

(Feel the but coming?)

But with that being said, many of us know that we are not headed for the pot of gold.  We know that our (individual) voices are often marginalized, if not silenced.

And as much pride as I have in what we did above, I fear that we won’t use that momentum going forward. 

That is because each of us is guilty.  We are guilty of paying especially rapt attention to the hot-button issues that touch us on a personal level.  And..we are ALL guilty of not paying (as much) attention to the suffering of others.  Sure, we are quick to jump to the defense of someone who has been blatantly wronged and gets enough media coverage (which seems to be up to fate).  But, then what?  We have a tendency to return to our respective corner, lick our wounds, and rest up for the next assault against our rights.

I, as a non-wealthy, cisgendered, black woman, have my own problems.  (You do, too.  Am I right?)  Sometimes it is difficult to step out of my shoes and into someone else’s.  Further, it is extremely easy to focus on what matters to me, to the exclusion of all else. 

I was as guilty as anyone else.  I spoke out against an injustice, here or there.  I volunteered for a campaign or two.  And I was proud of it.  But, I have come to realize that is not enough.  Not by a country mile.

Human progress is neither automatic nor inevitable…Every step toward the goal of justice requires sacrifice, suffering, and struggle; the tireless exertions and passionate concern of dedicated individuals.  – MLK

We must combine our grievances to fight for the common good.  We can not afford to become so encapsulated in our little bubbles, that we forget about the gay couple who asks only the freedom to marry.  We can not focus all of our energy on the plight of the woman when our oceans are becoming more acidic by the day.  It would be a mistake to disregard the plight of the immigrant, in favor of the black struggle.

Let’s be perfectly honest.  Any politician who does not believe that a woman is a fully cognitive being, capable of making her own decisions..probably won’t believe that poor people are not making a concerted effort to remain in poverty.  If any politician is able to look in your face and deny climate change, that politician is equally likely to think ‘drill, baby, drill” has no impact on the environment and that “education mills” have got it all wrong.  Any politician that doesn’t recognize the ingrained cultural biases in society..probably won’t understand why “the gays” are making such a fuss.  A future leader who will snatch your right to vote..will snatch your right to marry.  If he or she wants to pay for prisons and not schools..chances are he or she will not be too worried about the uninsured.  If a politician can’t value the unions..how much does he value the worker?

Consider this…

Those who have no problem stepping all over our rights have a plan.  They have a view of the world that we do not share.  Say what you will about them, they are tenacious.  They are determined and they are fighting with all they have.  They are investing millions and millions of dollars into their efforts.  They are buying the kind of country they want.  And have absolutely no guilt over it.  In fact, when we are hesitant to get with their program, we are labeled as lazy.  Or takers.  Or, sometimes, traitors.

And what are we doing?  We’re waiting..

Well, we can not afford to rest up for the next assault on our rights any longer.  We simply can not.  When we fight for the rights of the poor, the worker, the children –  we are fighting for our rights.  When we battle for the rights of our fellow citizens, we win the battle for ourselves.

As long as justice and injustice exist, human beings must be willing to do battle for the one against the other.

 – John Stuart Mill

Battle for the Ballot

America has celebrated another birthday.  Americans, all over the country, hung up flags and fired up grills.  We drunk ice-cold beer, ate, and laughed with friends and family.  We enjoyed parades and fireworks.  Pride in our country was evident, and rightly so.  I hope the day was enjoyed by all.

independence day

While Independence Day is over, the fight for those founding ideals rages on.  We are left to deal with this.  The Supreme Court of the United States, in a 5-4 decision, dismantled the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  This will now allow problem states, mostly southern, to alter voter laws without obtaining advanced federal approval.

The majority (Justices Roberts, Scalia, Kennedy, Thomas, and Alito) held that Section 4 is unconstitutional, as the formula used is out-dated.

Regardless of how one looks at that record, no one can fairly say that it shows anything approaching the “pervasive,” “flagrant,” “widespread,” and “rampant”discrimination that clearly distinguished the covered jurisdictions from the rest of the Nation in 1965.

The minority (Justices Ginsberg, Breyer, Sotomayer, and Kagan) held that while there has been improvement, the legislation is still necessary.

Early attempts to cope with this vile infection resembled battling the Hydra.  Whenever one form of voting discrimination was identified
and prohibited, others sprang up in its place.

vra1

Technically, both the majority and dissenting opinions have some validity.  The majority is correct.  There is no longer blatant violence keeping minorities from the polls.  The intelligence tests and poll taxes are a thing of the past.  The dissenting opinion, which I strongly suggest reading, is also correct.  Atrocious methods of the past gave way to all-white primary attempts and racial gerrymandering.

Think Voter ID.  Since last year, 41 states have introduced some form of restrictive voting legislation, and of those 18 passed laws. Among the most popular are those that require voters to show a photo ID in order to vote, which proponents say helps to counter fraud — a phenomenon that almost never happens, analysts say.

Both opinions clearly state that it falls to Congress to legislate a formula that discourages this type of strategy.

Optimistic?  Anyone?

While it is up to Congress to  come up with a formula that takes into account the types of racial voter discrimination we face today, it is up to us how we react to the Court’s decision.  One thing we can do is to contact our representatives.  We can let them know that we expect them to get off their asses and do something.  We can send letters and emails.  We can pick up the telephone and voice our demands.

That being said, if you have been paying attention the past few years, you know that train will be slow to leave the station.  I am not convinced that Congress can decide what to have for lunch.  I don’t hold out much hope that they can come to an agreement here.  Do you?

The best way to combat what we know to be disenfranchisement attempts is to…

vra2

Vote when you are inspired by a particular candidate.  Vote when you are not.  Vote when you have a much-needed day off from work.  Vote when it takes your entire lunch break.  Stand in line, proudly, when the sun is shining.  Stand, defiantly, when it is raining.  Exercise your right, whether it takes fifteen minutes or five hours.

No matter which hydra head comes at you,…Stand and be counted.

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I am committed because of scenes like the one above.  My ancestors, and their freedom-loving allies, fought, bled, and died so that I could vote.

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Water hoses didn’t work.  Biting dogs didn’t stop them.  Baton beatings didn’t deter them.  Jail cells could only hold them for so long.

Burning homes and lynchings…Did. Not. Stop. Them.

I am not about to let a little redistricting stop me.  Nor am I about to wait around for Congress to pull its head out of its ass.

Voting is my right, my duty, and my privilege.

I will go to the polls because our power is in the ballot.  But, I will also go for my fellow citizens.

My thoughts will be with my children, and all children, who we encourage to participate in our democracy.  My thoughts will be with the working poor, who risk their jobs to cast their ballots.  And, with those who wait hour after hour to have their say.  I will stand in solidarity with immigrants, who have also been subject to discrimination and intimidation.

Inequality for one is inequality for all.

vra5

I will stand and be counted, or the sacrifices made on my behalf were in vain.

Will you?

My Party Identification

If you haven’t read many of my posts here on the Everblog, you might not be aware that I am a classic “yellow-dog” Democrat.  I’ve never, not once in my nearly three decades as a registered voter, voted Republican.

I’ve contemplated moving Left of my Party more than once, and if there were viable state and national options in that direction I would have probably given them my vote in recent years.  That’s not my point here.  What I want to announce is that I am willing to vote Republican.

Yes, you read that correctly.  I would happily vote Republican …

If … a Republican candidate could be trusted to protect the right (yes, right) of my daughters, my wife, my sister – all  women – to control their own reproductive destinies.

If … the modern Republican Party were not in thrall to economic policies that haven’t worked outside of Ayn Rand novels.

If … the Republican Party’s Congressional Leadership were not made up – entirely – of white males.

If … the Republican Party’s national platform were not so concerned with who my neighbors can marry.

If … Republicans were thinking of immigration reform more in terms of human decency and less in terms of rebranding their marketing.

If … Republicans were as concerned about  billionaires paying a reasonable tax rate as they are about local tea party groups maintaining 501(c)4 designations.

If … Republican House members seemed less sure that universal (and universally affordable) health insurance would destroy the fabric of American competitiveness.

If … Republican elected officials at all levels seemed more alarmed about the epidemic of gun violence in America.

If … Republicans were less-hostile toward traditional public education.

If … Republicans weren’t so certain that privatization can cure all ills.

Yes … I would happily vote for a Republican candidate if even most of those conditions were met.  But they’re not.  They haven’t been.  For my entire memory as a voter, R’s have been convinced that overwhelmingly male legislative bodies know what’s best for women’s bodies.  They’ve consistently promoted policies of “trickle-down” economics that have damaged our national character.  They’ve resisted placing women and racial minorities in positions of authority.  They’ve been obsessed with who people are allowed to fall in love with.  They’ve opposed reform in immigration.  They’ve insisted that it’s OK for tens of millions of Americans to walk around uninsured.  They’ve shifted the tax burden from the wealthy to the middle-class.  They’ve flooded our streets with guns.  They’ve starved public schools, from kindergarten through graduate education.  They’ve funded private prisons, private schools, etc. at the expense of existing functional and efficient public programs.

No … Democrats are not perfect on any of these issues.  They are, in my opinion, moving past the center and to the right on too many issues.  I want my Party to do better.  But the alternative is entirely unacceptable.

And this doesn’t even scratch the surface.  I didn’t mention Social Security or Labor or a variety of other issues close to my heart.

Wouldn’t it be great if I could vote Republican?  If a fine, upstanding candidate could win my vote without me worrying about party identification?  Yeah, it would.  But in today’s political climate the facts tell me that checking the “R” column gets me exactly the opposite of what I hope for America.

Tenement Immigrants

“If one attitude can be said to characterize America’s regard for immigration over the past two-hundred years it is the belief that while immigration was a wise and prescient thing in the case of one’s parents or grandparents, it really ought to stop now.”

– Bill Bryson, Made in America

Meandering about in SoHo, we happened across a place I’d never heard of before. I knew that New York has a lot of museums, but I didn’t know a Tenement Museum was one of them.

My familiarity with the word “tenement” has been limited to what I’ve heard in MoTown songs, so we decided to stop in. I was expecting a place devoted to the history of low-income African-American housing.

The word “tenement” actually has an official definition. It’s a single home housing more than three different families, each doing their own cooking. Not that an official definition matters that much to families and children living in sub-standard, overcrowded, poverty-stricken environs.

The museum actually is devoted to the history of immigrants. Since America’s earliest days, many newcomers to the country came through New York City. Many stayed in the City as they got accustomed to their new country, made some money, and got their bearings. Many stayed for a long time. Some are still here.

In the mid-1800s, it was mostly Germans, crowding in where ever they could find room, usually in neighborhoods of other Germans, sometimes with several families living on a single floor of what once was a single-family home.

Throughout the 1800s and into the 1900s, different waves of immigrants from different countries followed, usually as economic prospects in other countries rose and fell. Irish, Italians, Chinese, Eastern Europeans, each group taking turns supplying workers to America’s factories, throngs of foreigners flocking to their own ethnic neighborhoods, all looking for opportunity. Somewhere in there my own grandparents came over from Europe, checking in at Ellis Island before moving on.

And as long as there’s been immigration, there’s been opposition. Those already here have tried to prevent others from having the same opportunities they had. I got mine. Why should I let someone else do the same?

____

And so it continues. The countries they come from and the languages they speak change, as do the places they settle and their living accommodations. But the conflict – and the selfishness – continue to plague the political discussions.

People forget that we’re all aboriginals. Every single one of us – even Native Americans – is the descendent of someone who came from somewhere else, looking for something better. Our ancestors all caused trouble for someone else who was already here.

And yet they all also brought something with them. A hope for a better life, and something to contribute towards building a better country.

It’s important to remember that as we debate and decide how to treat people coming to America today.