An Apology to the Women of America


Rush Limbaugh booking photo from his arrest in...

Hey, ladies. This guy thinks you're too stupid to think for yourselves. What an asshole.

America is at war. This is nothing new. What is new is the enemy. Having tired of fighting so-called terrorists overseas, this country has found a new target. Led by the Republican Party, and specifically the Religious Right, a war is being fought against the women of America. Like most American wars, however, this one is being fought for all the wrong reasons. The stupid white men that make up the government have decided that women and their freedom are the greatest threat currently facing this nation. And, on behalf of all those stupid white men, I would like to say one thing: I’m sorry.

In the past few weeks, there has been a parade of ridiculousness by men waving the flag of religious morality as they attempt to restrict women’s access to health care services including abortion and contraception. The Supreme Court has ruled that both of these are legal, so the Republican Party has tried to find clever ways around this fact. Sadly for them, being clever is not their strong suit.

Several states have tried to change the concept of personhood, arguing that human life begins at the moment of conception. This is contrary to scientific consensus, but the GOP has overcome this obstacle by simply ignoring the science. This is the same strategy they have used on issues from climate change to evolution. And, just like in those cases, it has left them looking foolish.

Their idea is that by calling an embryo a person, abortion would no longer be a medical procedure. Women who received abortions would now be murderers, as would the doctors who performed them. But, this theory ignores the fact that many pregnancies end naturally, without the intervention of a doctor. Miscarriages are an unfortunately common occurrence, but would now be cause for a criminal investigation to make sure no foul play was involved. This personhood initiative would also outlaw most forms of hormonal contraception, as anything that prevented an egg from becoming a fully-formed human being would now be against the law.

There has also been a more direct attack against contraception. According to the Catholic Church, contraception is not permitted. Religious groups have attempted to use this doctrine to claim that religious institutions should not be required to provide contraception to their employees as part of their health benefits. President Obama dodged this ploy by requiring the insurance companies to cover these costs instead of the religious institutions. This was not a satisfactory solution for the religious fanatics, even though it was embraced by insurance providers.

According to estimates from the insurance companies themselves, it would cost about $4 billion per year to provide contraception for every woman in the country. These same insurers are now spending close to $11 billion each year on unplanned pregnancies, including pre-natal care, delivery, and other related expenses. As would be expected, insurance companies are in favor of any idea that involves paying out less money.

Religious zealots in the Republican Party, however, cling to the idea that contraception and abortion are against the will of the Catholic Church, and should therefore be outlawed, despite the fact that they rarely follow church doctrine when making policies. Some other things opposed by the Catholic Church, for example, according to the Conference of Catholic Bishops: the death penalty, war, anti-immigration laws, and the Israeli occupation of Palestine. Some things the Church favors: universal health care, workers’ unions, and an increase in the minimum wage. The GOP has ignored the wishes of the church on all of these major issues. To claim that this is a battle over religious freedom and has nothing to do with oppressing women is beyond ridiculous. It is condescending and offensive.

The stupid white men that run this country are uncomfortable with the thought that women are breaking out of the mold that they were stuck in for centuries. They think women are supposed to be silent and submissive, ignorant and obedient, passive and pregnant. They think sex is something for men to enjoy and for women to endure. And, they think that if women won’t willingly revert back to this idealized male notion of what they are supposed to be, they can simply change the laws so that women have no choice.

That’s what this whole debate boils down to. Stupid white men are scared that women have choices. Women can choose how they want to live their lives, when and with whom they want to have sex, and when and if they want to become pregnant. And, this reality is terrifying to men whose opinions on women are based on a book written more than 2,000 years ago.

So, as a stupid white man, I want to say again: I’m sorry.

I’m sorry for Darrell Issa, the congressman who held a hearing on contraception, but refused to allow any women to testify.

I’m sorry for Rush Limbaugh, who spent most of the last week saying horrible, disgusting things about a woman with the audacity to think that she had a right to have her voice heard at that hearing, while at the same time insisting that insurers should not provide contraception for women but should continue to pay for his Viagra.

I’m sorry for Roy Blunt and Marco Rubio, who sponsored a bill that would allow employers to refuse to cover any health care service they opposed for “moral reasons,” including contraception and abortion, as if there is any moral reason that would justify denying care to anyone who needed it.

I’m sorry for Rick Santorum, the presidential candidate who says contraception is against God’s will, opposes abortion even in cases of rape and incest, and dares to call children born to rape victims “a gift from God.”

I’m also sorry that no one in the Republican Party knows how contraception or abortion actually work. They think that anyone using contraception is a “slut” or a “prostitute,” to use the words of the ever-eloquent Mr. Limbaugh, despite the fact that 58 percent of women on contraception use it at least in part for reasons other than preventing pregnancy. In fact, there are women using contraception that aren’t having sex at all. Many women are prescribed contraception for ailments ranging from severe menstrual pain to skin conditions to fibroid tumors to endometriosis to polycystic ovarian syndrome, and some of these women use contraception in order to keep their reproductive systems healthy enough to have children in the future. But, the irony of that is too much for simple-minded Republicans to grasp. They are just as clueless on abortion, as shown in their numerous attempts to pass laws forcing women to undergo ultrasounds before they are able to have an abortion. They think that women don’t know that when they are pregnant it means that they are going to have a baby, and that if they only knew, they would never want to terminate their pregnancy.

There is a small reason for hope, however. Women outnumber men in this country. And, along with the men smart enough to be on their side, they have the power to vote all the stupid white men out of office. But, until they do, these stupid white men will continue to do stupid things, and people like me will be forced to keep apologizing for them.

So, this apology is directed to all the women who have fought for countless years to prove that they are not second-class citizens, that they are fully capable of making their own decisions on what is best for them, and that it is possible to have both a uterus and a brain. I may be a stupid white man, but I know the right side of this battle to be on.

Fracking Ridiculous

Americans have an oil addiction, and it’s killing them. In order to feed their addiction in the face of rising fuel costs and dwindling supplies, they are turning to more dangerous methods of obtaining this oil, with little or no regard for the people that live near the extraction sites or for the earth itself. The newest and most dangerous of these methods is hydraulic fracturing, also called fracking, and it must be stopped.

Fracking is a process for mining natural gas. Huge amounts of water, infused with hundreds of potentially toxic chemicals, are injected into the earth in order to create fractures in the rocks that hold large pockets of this gas. While the gas itself, being a carbon-based fuel, causes pollution of its own when it is burned, the greater danger comes from the water used during the process.

A single well can use more than five million gallons of water over its lifetime. This water is contaminated with up to 750 different chemicals during the fracking process, of which as many as 650 are potentially carcinogenic. After the water is used to extract the gas, it must then be disposed of. The most popular methods of disposal involve trucking this waste-water to treatment plants, diverting it to evaporation pools, or simply releasing it into lakes or streams. In all three of these methods, many of the chemicals seep into the earth and mix with the groundwater, which feeds the wells that supply water to the people living in the area.

In addition to the various neurological diseases and cancers that result from ingesting this water, many people have reported that their water is mixed with such a great amount of methane gas that the water itself becomes flammable. Evidence also suggests that the fracking process weakens the earth to an extent that there is a greater likelihood of earthquakes in the areas near the mines.

With the numerous dangers resulting from hydraulic fracturing, it would seem obvious that regulations would be imposed limiting the practice. This has not been the case. Natural gas, like all fossil fuels, is an extremely profitable resource. For this reason, states have been eager to grant leases to gas companies in order to boost their struggling economies. Corporations have been allowed to drill with virtually no safety measures or restrictions. They have also funded dubious studies that claim fracking is harmless and that the chemicals in the groundwater are not caused by the process. Unfortunately, states are using this study to justify allowing additional drilling, though the findings have been repeatedly debunked. Sadly, the large amounts of money involved are causing many landowners to consider jeopardizing their health, and that of their families, in order to cash in on the fracking boom.

Many people, however, are starting to fight back. A New York court has recently decided that individual towns have the right to override state decisions and ban fracking. And, lawsuits are piling up against the corporations, causing them to reconsider whether or not it makes financial sense to continue to lease private land for drilling. Numerous protests, including one at the White House, and an acclaimed documentary film, “Gasland,” have brought additional attention to the issue, which is helping turn public opinion against fracking and the gas companies.

Public opinion is just the beginning. People need to move beyond protest and on to legislation. The gas companies will drill as long as it is profitable, and will pump contaminated water into the earth until every bit of gas has been extracted. And, the government will allow it as long as there is money to be made. Until the people let it be known that they will not stand for it, fracking will continue, and people will continue to suffer its effects. People must be prioritized over profits, and fracking must be stopped.

A Quick Comment on Prop 8

30 May 2009, Fresno, California, USA. "Me...

An appeals court has ruled that a proposed law banning same-sex marriage is unconstitutional.  That is great news, but it is not enough.  It is time for Proposition 8 to be repealed completely, and for California to recognize that everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, has the right to marry the person that they love.

Courts have repeatedly said that all people have the right to be treated equally, yet there are still people who want nothing more than to deny same-sex couples that right.  Those people are wrong.  They are using a false sense of morality to oppress a group of people who they see as different.

Two of the three justices who heard the appeal rejected the proposal, ruling that it “serves no purpose, and has no effect, other than to lessen the status and human dignity of gays and lesbians in California, and to officially reclassify their relationships and families as inferior to those of opposite-sex couples.”

Gays and lesbians are not inferior, and neither are their relationships.  Love between two people is a beautiful thing, and to think that it could somehow be any less so simply because the two people share a gender is ridiculous.  More than that, it shows that anyone with that opinion does not know what love really is.

This country has a history of evolving its views on marriage.   There was a time not so long ago, when a couple would have been forbidden from marrying based solely on a difference in the color of their skin.  But, the lawmakers of this country came to their senses and realized that love does not see color.

Now it is time for them to come to their senses and realize that love does not see gender, either.  Love is love, and it is something that should be celebrated by anyone lucky enough to find it, not just those who happen to fall into an outdated and erroneous definition championed by a vocal minority of people.

Opinions are shifting.  While the opposition may make a lot of noise, the actions of the majority speak louder than the words of the minority, and those favoring marriage equality are now that majority.  New York and Washington have both voted to recognize same-sex marriage, and will soon be joined by Maryland.   The New Jersey legislature also voted to approve same-sex marriage, though the governor has ignored their vote and decided to veto the decision. Nationwide recent polls show for the first time that more Americans support same-sex marriage than oppose it.  This support is even stronger amongst voters between the ages of 18 and 29, suggesting that additional equal rights laws will be passed and additional discriminatory laws will be repealed as more and more youth enter the voting booths.

Opponents claim that allowing gays and lesbians to marry somehow weakens the institution of marriage, but it doesn’t.  Marriage is not a finite resource.  Not one heterosexual couple will be prevented from getting married if that right is extended to same-sex couples.  If anything, the institution of marriage is strengthened when everyone is allowed to share in it, each couple a thread woven together with the rest to make the fabric stronger.

Marriage is a right.  It is a right that all loving couples should have,not something that should be used to divide “us” from “them.”  And, that’s because the people who claim to be protecting the institution of marriage don’t know whom “us” is.   They think “us” means heterosexuals, but it doesn’t.  Everyone is “us.”  Everyone wants to love, and to be able declare their love for another person in an official, binding way.  Everyone deserves the right to celebrate that love and share it with the world, and no one can take that right away.

Late Reaction on the End of the War in Iraq

So, I know I’m more than a few days late, but just in case you haven’t heard, the War in Iraq is officially over.  After nine years, thousands of dead American soldiers, and hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, we have finally reached the end of one of the ugliest chapters of American history.  Of course, it’s not really over.  Thousands of American contractors still remain in Iraq, but that’s a topic for another post.

The details of the war, and the fact that we shouldn’t have even been fighting it in the first place have been gone over many times before, so I won’t repeat those arguments here.  Instead, I wanted to focus on the aftermath of what became a terribly unpopular war, and the attempts to spin the results into something a bit more palatable for the American people so that they can wash the taste of unprovoked slaughter out of their mouths.

English: Iraqi-American, Samir, 34, pinning de...

Yes, we got Saddam Hussein. But, was it worth it?

As President Obama welcomed home the troops (after desperately trying and failing to extend the deadline for their withdrawal), the natural question to ask now that the war has been fought is whether or not it was worth it.  What, if anything, was actually achieved through our invasion of Iraq?  Yes, we caught Saddam Hussein, and yes, he was tried, convicted, and executed by the people of Iraq.  But, does that justify the huge number of casualties and mind-boggling amount of money spent?  I don’t think so.  I certainly understand that Americans want to believe that they won this war, and that they want to feel like they did some good, but the simple fact is that they didn’t.  So, was it worth it? posted an article this week posing this very question.  Written by Glenn Greenwald, it is a response to Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta and his claims that he thinks “the price has been worth it, to establish a stable government in a very important region of the world.”  Greenwald raises three very important questions, each of which deserves further examination.

Greenwald asks:

If the attack on Iraq was “worth it” — meaning the benefits outweighed the costs — then doesn’t that mean that Democrats (including President Obama) owe George Bush, Dick Cheney and friends a sincere apology for all those attacks they voiced over the years about the war? How can the Iraq War simultaneously have been a “stupid war” (President Obama’s 2002 description) and one where “the price has been worth it” (Panetta)?

When George Bush first proposed a war in Iraq, it was based on the allegedly imminent threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction.  Given this threat, many on the Left were supportive of the initial invasion.  But, when the allegation of WMDs was later debunked, public opinion (at least on the Left) shifted, and opposition to the war grew.  But, with claims that the war was “worth it,” Democrats could now find themselves on the wrong side of Panetta’s spin if they don’t show their support.  By continuing to be critical of a war that is being declared to have been worth all the lives that were lost fighting it, they risk alienating their constituents.  The fact is, Americans are emotionally fragile people.  They need to be constantly told that they are noble, fighting the good fight, and bringing democracy and freedom to the oppressed people of the world.  And, more importantly, they need to believe that their sons and daughters died for something worthwhile.  That is why Panetta is trying to spin an ugly unjust war into something that it wasn’t.  But, in order for that to work, the rest of the Left needs to get on board.  So, is it more important to be right, and to continue to criticize the decisions of the Bush administration (and to a lesser extent, the Obama administration), or to put the entire thing behind us in a way that allows common Americans to feel good about the atrocities that were committed?  Personally, I believe that Americans are strong enough to be told the truth.  Panetta disagrees.

The article continues:

Consider how often U.S. officials announce to the Muslim world, either in essence or, as here, explicitly: yes, our actions extinguished the lives of hundreds of thousands of your innocent men, women and children, but we think it’s worth it. What is the inevitable outcome of that message being sent over and over?

American leadership has continually dodged accusations of imperialism, ignoring their selfish motivations for wars like the one in Iraq and choosing instead to say that they are fought on behalf of people under the thumb of evil dictators like Saddam Hussein.  But, in this case, as Greenwald notes, we are acknowledging the huge number of innocents that were killed in Iraq, and we are saying that it was justified.  Whatever state Iraq may be in now–devastated and destroyed, but under new leadership–Americans are saying that it was worth the sacrifice of so many lives.  Leaders on the Right have long refused to accept that militant Muslims don’t hate us for our freedom, but that they instead hate us for having our military in their countries uninvited (and for killing so many of their innocent countrymen, women, and children).  By denying our imperialist tendencies and attempting to justify almost a decade of war and slaughter, we are at risk of enraging the very people we were allegedly liberating.  And, by claiming righteousness and refusing to accept blame, that risk grows exponentially.  It’s tragically ironic that an invasion that had tenuous (but false) ties to the so-called War on Terror will have the likely outcome of greater resentment towards America and its policies, and an increase in militant potential terrorists.  By attempting to sooth delicate American sensibilities and to help them sleep at night, we will likely add to our list of enemies.

Greenwald then asks his third question, which may be the most important question of all:

If the highest levels of the U.S. government believe the Iraq War was “worth it,” then doesn’t it stand to reason that more of the same should be done?

Simply put, if this war was justified, why don’t we fight more wars like it?  The thought of this terrifies me, and likely terrifies the rest of the world even more.  If such a high price for so small a result in Iraq is “worth it,” what isn’t?  What won’t we go to war for?  What won’t we slaughter hundreds of thousands of innocent people for?  Where is the line that we won’t cross in attempting to justify a senseless war, or does such a line even exist?

#OWS Day of Action

Wall Street New York

New posts are coming, I promise.

But, in the meantime…I know this is late, but it still needs to be noted that this was a big week in non-violent demonstration (at least from the side of the protesters).

In case you’ve been living under a rock, there was a national “Day of Action” related to the Occupy Wall Street movement.  And, despite the fact that the protesters were completely non-violent, the reaction was not.

  • A good wrap-up comes from Allison Kilkenny (who does great work for the Nation, In These Times, and on her podcast, Citizen Radio)
  • This is an incredibly powerful and disturbing photo from a simultaneous protest in Portland, and here is some background.
  • And, just in case you haven’t noticed how much the police have over-reacted to what has been almost entirely a non-violent protest, here is a clip from a protest at UC Davis, where a group of protesting students are pepper sprayed by a police officer while they are peacefully sitting down on a sidewalk.  It is a complete over-reaction, and it is indicative of the overall response to a movement that has gone out of its way to be peaceful and non-violent.

But, if you can make it past the horrific brutality of the police at the beginning of this clip, you’ll see that the non-violent student protesters are successful in driving out the police.

This is far from the only clip of its kind (for instance, here’s a clip of police beating a war veteran protester), but it is indicative of the national response to what has been a completely peaceful protest.

I don’t really have much to say in reaction to all of this, other than I am completely in awe of the protesters, and completely disgusted by the response.  I just wanted to voice my support for those that are standing up for the rest of us, and my disappointment in those that are trying to silence them.

Keep fighting the good fight.  Each of you that are protesting are standing up for thousands of us that can’t be there, and I just wanted to say how much I appreciate all that you are doing.





Republicans: “In God We Trust…and Fuck Poor People.”

The Pennsylvania State Capitol was designed in...

The Key to Ending the Jobs Crisis?

As we all know, the United States of America is in the midst of a major economic slump.  People are losing their homes and unemployment remains high, hovering around 9% (ignoring of course the millions of people who are either underemployed or have given up looking for work).  This economic turmoil led to massive victories for Republicans a year ago.  They now control the House and have almost eliminated the Democratic majority in the Senate.  They were elected due in large part to their promises to fix the economy and get people back to work.

This dedication to job creation was summed up by House Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA), who made this bold declaration at the beginning of the current Congressional session:

“Each day, we will hold ourselves accountable by asking the following questions: Are our efforts addressing job creation and the economy; are they cutting spending; and are they shrinking the size of the federal government while protecting and expanding individual liberty?  If not, why are we doing it?”

While I certainly don’t agree with most of Cantor’s ideas regarding spending cuts, and would debate him as to the needs for shrinking government, I did have a certain amount of respect for his rhetoric.  He seemed like he was speaking for a party that was determined to get things done, however terrible those things may be.  He and his GOP brethren apparently recognized the need to address the needs of the working (and not-working) people of this country.  These were the words of a party that was done playing games and was ready to get down to business.

Well, as it turns out, the games were just beginning.  In the year that they have been in office, the GOP has not introduced a single bill aimed at creating jobs.  And, they have also consistently resisted any Democratic efforts to address the jobs crisis, voting against President Obama’s jobs plan as a whole, and again and again as it is split into increasingly smaller parts.

But, this week marked a new pinnacle for the GOP as they continued to ignore the poor and unemployed people of this country that they swore would be their top priority.  House Republicans, specifically Rep. Randy Forbes (R-VA), have introduced a bill reaffirming that “In God We Trust” remain the official motto of the United States.

Even if we ignore the fact that “In God We Trust” has already been the official national motto since 1956, and that it was reaffirmed in 2002 (and again in 2006), the fact that this is what the Republicans in Congress are choosing to spend their time on, especially after their vow to work on the jobs crisis, is completely ludicrous.  Even President Obama weighed in, according to an article in the Washington Post:

With all that time on their hands, President Obama said, the lawmakers should be moving on aspects of the American Jobs Act.

“In the House of Representatives, what have you guys been doing, John?” Obama said, calling out House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio).

“You’ve been debating a commemorative coin for baseball. You’ve had legislation reaffirming that ‘In God We Trust’ is our motto. That’s not putting people back to work,” Obama said. “I trust in God, but God wants to see us help ourselves by putting people back to work.”

Despite the protest from the President, it seems that even many members of his own party approved of the bill.  It passed by a vote of 396-9, meaning that this idiocy is about the only thing that Congress can reach a consensus on lately.  But, at least Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), one of the nine who voted against the measure (including 7 other Democrats and a single Republican), was able to see through all the bullshit:

Why have my Republican friends returned to an irrelevant agenda? And yet here we are, back to irrelevant issue debates, the kind of thing people do when they have run out of ideas, when they have run out of excuses, when they have nothing to offer a middle class that is hurting and that has run out of patience… This is simply an exercise in saying, ‘We’re more religious than the other people, we’re more godly than the other people, and by the way, let’s waste time and divert people’s attention from the real issues that we’re not dealing with,’ like unemployment.

Forbes apparently thinks that the motto can provide a little boost to the downtrodden, saying, “Our citizens need that kind of hope, and that kind of inspiration.”  I wonder if he is aware of the irony of trying to inspire people who don’t have any money with a motto that appears…on money.  Besides, wouldn’t a truly godly person spend a little less time shoving his religion on everyone, and a little more time actually trying to help out people in need?  I think what would really give the people some hope is a jobs plan.  Maybe they should be working on that instead.

Stop Funding the Enemy – Move Your Money


Today is Bank Transfer Day, a day for people all across America to take their money out of the big banks that have caused much of the current economic turmoil and that continue to show no regard for the people of this country.  The banks have taken taxpayer money that was intended to be used for loans to people who needed them, and instead used it to reward their already grossly over-compensated executives for continuing the practices that have destroyed our economy and forced people out of their homes.

This is a symbolic movement, but an important one.  A few thousand middle-class people taking their money out of the banks will not do much actual harm to these institutions.  They are sitting on huge amounts of money, and will surely be able to survive the loss of whatever funds are withdrawn today.  But, the point is to send a message.  We need to let the banks, and the people who run them, know that we will no longer tolerate their behavior.  We will not let them play games with our money, and we will not reward them for what they have done to us and to our economy.  Americans are starving, and the banks and bankers are richer than ever.  We are not against wealth, but we are against wealth gained through cheating and stealing and exploiting a broken and corrupt system.

This is part of a wave that has already seen more than 650,000 people open accounts at credit unions in the past month, more than did so all of last year.  This is a simple but meaningful way for you to join the fight against the 1% and their insatiable greed.

If you don’t know how to take your money out of the big banks, or what to do with it once you do, here are a few helpful tips.

So, there is no excuse not to move your money and stop funding the very people who continue to destroy the American economy.  Thousands of people have already done it, and thousands more have pledged to do it today.  Join them.

From Protest to Power: What’s Next for #OccupyWallStreet?

Day 20 Occupy Wall Street October 5 2011 Shank...

What was originally a small, localized protest of a few hundred people near Wall Street in downtown New York has spread over the last month to include hundreds of cities in dozens of countries, and thousands and thousands of supporters.  At this point, it is undeniable that the Occupy Wall Street movement has caught the attention of the world.  More than thousand protesters have been arrested in support of their ideal of a more fair economic system in which the deck is not stacked in favor of those that already have more money than they could ever possibly spend.  They are camping out on the streets of Manhattan and all over the world in a call for a system that does not treat those without seven-figure bank accounts as expendable and insignificant.  These people are standing up for the huge majority of Americans that want nothing more than the opportunity to work and provide for the their own well-being, as well as that of their families.  And, after a little over a month of protests, marches, sign-waving, and arrests, they have finally caught the attention of the mainstream media.  But, now that they have the attention of the world, what comes next?

The first thing that must be recognized is that Occupy Wall Street is a movement with no political affiliation, unlike the Tea Party, who were quickly absorbed by the Republican Party.  Though they have been extremely critical of the Republicans and their horribly unfair financial policies, the OWS protesters do not consider themselves Democrats.  In fact, they have been almost as vocally critical of President Obama and his party as they have of anyone on the Right.  In their eyes, Wall Street and the entire economic system are the problem, and the Democrats are just as complicit in allowing that to continue as the Republicans.

But, despite their resistance to align themselves with a political party, the fact remains that only by influencing those in power and encouraging them to vote in a certain way can the Occupy Wall Street movement hope to become a true force for change.  Protest is great, but it does not change public policies.  That can only be done by working within the system of government, enacting new laws and retracting old ones.

Chris Hedges, in an article at Truthout, disagrees:

The Occupy Wall Street movement, like all radical movements, has obliterated the narrow political parameters. It proposes something new. It will not make concessions with corrupt systems of corporate power. It holds fast to moral imperatives regardless of the cost. It confronts authority out of a sense of responsibility. It is not interested in formal positions of power. It is not seeking office. It is not trying to get people to vote. It has no resources. It can’t carry suitcases of money to congressional offices or run millions of dollars of advertisements. All it can do is ask us to use our bodies and voices, often at personal risk, to fight back. It has no other way of defying the corporate state. This rebellion creates a real community instead of a managed or virtual one. It affirms our dignity. It permits us to become free and independent human beings.

I understand his position, and I respect the nobility and dignity of protest for protest’s sake.  He’s right that these protesters are putting themselves at risk to stand up for something that they deeply believe in.  But, it must be admitted that for all the attention these protests have received, they have not actually changed anything yet.  Wall Street and the banks are still doing all of the things that the protesters are railing against.  Without prosecuting them for their crimes against the middle and lower classes, and without new legislation that prohibits them from continuing their corrupt practices, the 99% will remain the abused victims of a greedy minority that cares nothing for them or their well-being.  As long as corporations are allowed to continue calling the shots, nothing will truly change.

But, Hedges continues:

The stupidity of the corporate state is that it thought it could dispense with the liberal class. It thought it could shut off that safety valve in order to loot and pillage with no impediments. Corporate power forgot that the liberal class, when it functions, gives legitimacy to the power elite. And the reduction of the liberal class to silly courtiers, who have nothing to offer but empty rhetoric, meant that the growing discontent found other mechanisms and outlets. Liberals were reduced to stick figures, part of an elaborate pantomime, as they acted in preordained roles to give legitimacy to meaningless and useless political theater. But that game is over.

Human history has amply demonstrated that once those in positions of power become redundant and impotent, yet retain the trappings and privileges of power, they are brutally discarded. The liberal class, which insists on clinging to its positions of privilege while at the same time refusing to play its traditional role within the democratic state, has become a useless and despised appendage of corporate power. And as the engines of corporate power pollute and poison the ecosystem and propel us into a world where there will be only masters and serfs, the liberal class, which serves no purpose in the new configuration, is being abandoned and discarded by both the corporate state and radical dissidents. The best it can do is attach itself meekly to the new political configuration rising up to replace it.

An ineffectual liberal class means there is no hope of a correction or a reversal through the formal mechanisms of power. It ensures that the frustration and anger among the working and the middle class will find expression now in these protests that lie outside the confines of democratic institutions and the civilities of a liberal democracy. By emasculating the liberal class, which once ensured that restive citizens could institute moderate reforms, the corporate state has created a closed system defined by polarization, gridlock and political charades. It has removed the veneer of virtue and goodness that the liberal class offered to the power elite.

Liberal institutions, including the church, the press, the university, the Democratic Party, the arts and labor unions, set the parameters for limited self-criticism in a functioning democracy as well as small, incremental reforms. The liberal class is permitted to decry the worst excesses of power and champion basic human rights while at the same time endowing systems of power with a morality and virtue it does not possess. Liberals posit themselves as the conscience of the nation. They permit us, through their appeal to public virtues and the public good, to see ourselves and our state as fundamentally good.

But the liberal class, by having refused to question the utopian promises of unfettered capitalism and globalization and by condemning those who did, severed itself from the roots of creative and bold thought, the only forces that could have prevented the liberal class from merging completely with the power elite. The liberal class, which at once was betrayed and betrayed itself, has no role left to play in the battle between us and corporate dominance. All hope lies now with those in the street.

I include such a large portion of his article because he writes so well, and because he raises some very valid points.  He attacks the current liberal class for having removed itself from its ideals and submitting to the attractions of wealth and privilege, and he’s absolutely correct.  He says that the protesters in the street are the only fighters left in the battle against Wall Street and the corporations that have taken control of our government, and again, he is correct.

But, I would argue that the people in power that call themselves Liberals are not liberal at all.  They have drifted to the Center (and some even further to the Right than that), and no longer deserve the moniker of a liberal class.  They have betrayed most of what that name stands for.  I would encourage the protesters in the streets, at Wall Street and across America, to take back that name, for they are the true liberal class now.  He calls them radical dissidents, and perhaps they are, but they are also the new voice of the Left.  As such, they have a responsibility to shift the balance of power.  As Conservatives and old-school Liberals have moved further and further to the Right, it is now the task of this new class of true liberals and radicals to strengthen the Left and keep everything that they stand for from being swept under the rug and forgotten.

This idea is explored by Michael Lind in an article for Salon, where he compares the Radical movement of today with that of the late 1960s.  He explains the need for a far-Left to balance the presence of a far-Right, a position held today by the Tea Party.  The Tea Party has dragged the entire Republican Party, and most of American politics along with it, to the Right.  But, the Tea Party, which originally claimed to be an independent movement, was co-opted by the Republican Party to the point that the two are now indistinguishable.  The Occupy Wall Street movement is fighting hard to avoid being similarly co-opted by the Democratic Party.  Lind says that this does not necessarily have to happen:

But there are other possibilities.  Democratic strategists across the country are no doubt pondering how the somewhat unfocused demonstrators can be turned into a “Tea Party of the left” that can be deployed as reliable Democratic voters in future elections.  Other members of the progressive establishment may try to co-opt this essentially anti-political movement into the elaborate structure of single-issue progressive patronage networks.

Maybe occupiers can be persuaded to join minorities, women, LGBTs and environmentalists as officially sanctioned progressive interest groups.  Maybe in 10 years there will be foundation-funded Occupation programs, each with their own well-paid administrators, followed 20 years from now by endowed chairs in Occupation Studies, occupied by chubby, middle-aged veterans of Zuccotti Park.

There is a third, more promising possibility.  Instead of provoking a conservative backlash, or being co-opted by the existing progressive identity-politics machine, the Occupy Wall Street movement could indirectly benefit the American center-left by re-creating an American radical left.

It is undeniably true the Democratic Party has abandoned its progressive roots.  They have become a party of compromise instead of a party that fights for what it says it believes in.  And, because of this compromise, it has become difficult to tell if they truly believe in anything at all.  But, the Occupy Wall Street movement is helping to remind them of what it is that they should be fighting for.  Whether they take up that fight or not remains to be seen, but it appears that the fight may be beginning.  As noted by Michael Cohen at AlterNet, it appears that the swing in public opinion that has been generated by the protest could have its effects felt in the upcoming Presidential election:

It’s been a long time since economic, anti-corporate and liberal populism has lit a fire among ordinary Americans. As for popular protest, it’s been even less successful in mobilising public opinion.

From this perspective, OWS has arisen not because of the left’s activism, but despite it. Focusing on electoral victories and legislative accomplishments, the left has failed to push an effective populist movement, focusing its energy more on social issues than economic ones. Democratic leaders have stayed at arm’s length from the party’s activist base for fear of being stained by their perceived political excesses (a position that has rightly alienated a generation of liberals). Considering these larger failures of the left, it seems almost appropriate that OWS has come about in such an organic and ad hoc manner.

It raises the question of what this all means for American politics and, in particular, next year’s presidential election. There is certainly the possibility that the demonstrators, many of whom are firmly ensconced on the fringes of American politics, will spark a backlash or that the movement, which still lacks a clear agenda, will fizzle out.

But there is another real possibility – that OWS will affect the near-term trajectory of American politics. While many of the protesters are unhappy with the current progressive president, their grievances and demands are very much at one with Obama’s emerging re-election strategy.

The Occupiers have called themselves the other 99% – to contrast themselves from the richest 1%. For a president intent on running as an economic populist, a populist political movement might just be what the doctor ordered. No doubt Obama would have liked to see a movement like this a few years ago; it might have helped him pass his agenda through a recalcitrant Congress, but, hey, better late than never (and on this, he is hardly blameless).

So, the Occupy Wall Street protesters are beginning to have an effect on national politics.  Instead of running from that fact, they should be embracing it.  They have captured the attention of the entire world, and now they have a chance to enact meaningful changes that address the concerns of the 99% of this country that they stand for.  Though they have repeatedly said that they don’t have any kind of official leadership, and their success up to this point may be in large part because of that fact, it remains that without having people representing their interests in positions of power within the government, their movement is in danger of fading away before they are able to make the changes they are hoping for.

The various protesters across the country see themselves as part of a movement, and they shun any comparisons to the Tea Party, and with good reason.  The Tea Party was a movement that was quickly co-opted and corrupted by aligning itself with the Republican Party.  Add that to their policies against the middle and lower classes, as well as the elderly and the sick, and it’s easy to see why the Occupy Wall Streeters would want to distance themselves from the Tea Party.  But, the Tea Party does deserve credit on one count.  By electing people sympathetic to their cause, however despicable it might be, they were able to have their voices heard in Congress, and were able to influence legislation.  This is the sort of influence that is now needed by the current crop of protesters.

George Lakoff at Truthout agrees:

The Tea Party solidified the power of the conservative worldview via elections. OWS will have no long-term effect unless it, too, brings its moral focus to the 2012 elections. Insist on supporting candidates that have your overall moral views, no matter what the local issues are.

Occupy elections: voter registration drives, town hall meetings, talk radio airtime, party organizations, nomination campaigns, election campaigns and voting booths.

There are already hints that the protesters are coming to these same realizations.  There are rumors of an upcoming National General Assembly scheduled for next year, featuring delegates from all of the various protests representing each of the nation’s Congressional Districts.  This would be a great first step, but it is not far enough.  The only way to truly change the process by which our government works is to become directly involved in the government and the decision-making process.  But, instead of being co-opted by the Democratic Party, they should co-opt the Party instead.  They need to force them to move away from the Center, and back to the Left where they belong.  They have made it quite clear what issues are important to them and important to the American people.  Democrats suffered huge losses in the last election cycle, and unless they are able to rediscover what it is that they should be standing for, they are in danger of becoming less and less relevant.  They have compromised again and again, to the point that they have abandoned their constituents.  The people want a liberal voice in government, and Occupy Wall Street has become that voice.  They need to make that voice heard.  And, if the people in Congress don’t want to speak for them, then they need to get people elected that will.  They need leaders, not just among themselves, but in the government.  This may seem contrary to the horizontal leadership of the current General Assemblies, but it is necessary if these protests are to have any hope of becoming more than just a movement.  And, they have the potential to be so much more.  They are in a position where they have the support of a majority of the country.  Now, they have to turn that support into actual change.

Things I Believe #2

I believe that people are people.  I believe that we all deserve to be treated the same, regardless of gender, race, religion, sexual preference, wealth, nationality, opinion, or any other classification that can be used to divide us.  I believe that these divisions are driven by fear and ignorance, and I believe that there is no longer a place for either of them in the world today.

To be more specific:

I believe poor people are people.  They have just as much right to pursue the American Dream as anyone else.  Big business and government have worked together to keep the lower classes down, and this is simply unacceptable.  The poor are being deprived of jobs, proper working conditions, fair pay, and health care, as well as the ability to collectively bargain in order to get these things.  The middle and lower classes make up the largest numbers of our population, but they have the least amount of power, as they are stepped on or ignored by those in Congress and the boardrooms.  I also believe that those that are fighting back, like those at the Occupy Wall Street protests should be respected, not mocked.  They are doing what they’re doing for the greater good, and more people should do the same.

I believe rich people are people.  As such, I believe that they have a responsibility to look out for their fellow human beings.  They have been either rewarded for their hard work, blessed by being born into a wealthy family, or able to manipulate the system in their favor.  Regardless, they would not have their wealth without also having the good fortune to live in this country.  And, because of this, I believe that they should be obligated (both morally and legally) to give something back to those that are struggling.  To ignore this obligation is to ignore their humanity.

I believe that women are people.  This means that they are entitled to the same freedoms as men in regards to how they live their lives and what they choose to do with their bodies.  The recent attempts by the Right to limit access to abortions, birth control, or proper women’s health providers, as well as traditional religion-based attitudes about the subservience of women, are all remnants of outdated thinking, and have no place in today’s society.  Women are also the owners of their sexuality, and have the right to dress and behave however they choose, without men imposing their will upon them.

I believe that LGBT people are people. They deserve the same opportunity to fall in love, get married, and raise a family as everyone else does.  They have been unfairly demonized by religious zealots and judges of morality (who are often lacking in morality themselves), and are accused of choosing a lifestyle that they are born into.  And, despite the slanderous lies spread about them, they do not want to corrupt our children and they do not want to turn anyone else into a homosexual (as if that were even possible).  All they want is the freedom to fall in love and spend their lives with whomever they choose, free from judgment by people who know nothing of their struggles for acceptance, and they should be afforded that opportunity.

I believe that criminals are people, and this includes terrorists.  However heinous their alleged crimes, everyone deserves a fair trial, and no one deserves to be have their life taken from them.  Capital punishment is revenge, not justice, even for those that have taken the lives of others.  People who have committed crimes should be punished, but not until it has been indisputably proven in a court of law that they are guilty of what they are accused of.  And, even if they are proven guilty, they still deserve a life free from torture or exploitation.  Anything less makes us criminals, as well.

I believe that minorities are people.  And by minorities, I mean anyone who isn’t white and wealthy, be they Americans of color or immigrants.  Privileged whites have instilled a sense of fear in this country, and this has led to racial profiling, unfair sentencing for crimes, and discrimination against entire races and religions.  This country was founded and built by immigrants, and the fact that it has attracted people of all races has long been a source of pride.  But, the “melting pot” ideal has disappeared, and has been replaced by xenophobia and racism.  Inclusion and acceptance are what made this country great, and must be restored in order to maintain that greatness.

I believe that sick people are people.  We live in the only industrialized country in the world that does not provide health care to all of its citizens.  Instead, we let people make money by denying this health care to the people who need it.  So, some people get rich and others die.  We have a responsibility to care for all of our people, not just the ones rich enough to pay the ridiculously high fees.  We cannot call ourselves a civilized society until we learn what the rest of the world has already figured out.  Providing proper health care should be based on compassion, not profit.

I believe that young people are people.  They are the future of this country, but they are being forced to pay for the mistakes of previous generations.  They are not being educated properly, and those that do attempt to better themselves are saddled with immense amounts of debt for an education that should be provided for them.  We are sending their jobs overseas, and then blaming them when they can’t find meaningful employment.  Their opinions are dismissed, despite the fact the government is trying to take away the Social Security and Medicare that they will depend on when they get older.  Their protests are mocked, even though they are the ones that are dying in the wars that the government insists on fighting.  We are obligated to properly prepare the youth of today, because they will be the leaders of tomorrow, but we are in danger of failing to fulfill that obligation.

I believe that all people are people.  We all have the same right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  To deprive anyone of these rights for any reason means we are not living up to the standards that this country was founded on.  We have the ability to treat everyone the way that we would like to be treated, we are simply too selfish to do so.  This can no longer be tolerated.  We must become a selfless society, and that will in turn make this a better place for all of us.

Don’t Surrender in the Class War

Wall Street Sign. Author: Ramy Majouji

The battleground in the Class War

Liberals are not fighters by nature.  We generally believe in discourse and compromise, and that the innate goodness in people will compel them to do what is best.  This is an idealist and noble way of thinking, to be sure, but it is also very dangerous, because there is a war going on in this country, and our refusal to fight this war means that we may lose it.

The term “class war” has been tossed around quite a bit lately, but in a way that disguises what it really means.  Mostly, it has been used by Republicans (and usually the richest among them) in objection to the idea that the upper class should have to pay taxes.  They claim (quite incorrectly) that they are “job creators,” and that any attempt to increase their taxes will hinder their ability to create jobs.  They are able to exploit the fears of a country in the midst of an employment crisis to keep from addressing what is really going on.  From Truthout:

Republicans and conservatives argue that raising taxes on corporations and rich individuals punishes those who create jobs and thus will hurt efforts to reduce unemployment. Neither logic nor evidence supports their arguments. Last Friday, the US Federal Reserve reported a record quantity of cash on the books of US businesses (hoarding over $2 trillion). Despite the currently very low taxes on businesses and the rich, that cash is NOT being invested and NOT creating jobs. Nor is it being distributed to anyone else who is spending it either. Washington could tax a portion of that cash and spend it to stimulate the economy. That would be especially effective if the taxed cash were spent to hire the unemployed rather than leaving the cash idle in businesses’ hoards.

So, these tremendous amounts of money, most of it the result of incredibly low corporate tax rates, is not being spent on jobs, it is staying in the hands of the already rich.  And, if it is staying in the hands of people who aren’t spending it, it does nothing to help boost the economy.  If this money were spent on hiring people who need jobs, this money would go into circulation as those people spent it, giving a boost to other businesses, which would lead to additional job creation.  That is how you fix the unemployment crisis.  But, that is not what is happening.

The fact is, corporations believe that they are entitled to this money, when they have done nothing to earn it.  But, they have gone on the offensive, and their rhetoric is convincing, despite the fact that they are spreading lies.  They have managed to win over many of the very people who their policies are hurting, which is no small trick.  They throw out words like “socialism” or “class war,” and play the victim, when they are the ones gaming the system at the expense of the rest of us.

But, there are some on the progressive side that have decided to enter the fray, and stand up to Conservatives and their campaign misinformation.  One of the most prominent of these voices belongs to Elizabeth Warren, who has recently announced her candidacy for the Senate (hoping to win back the former seat of the late Ted Kennedy).  She has quickly become a leader in the fight against the Republican class war.  If you haven’t yet heard the speech she made last week on her “Talking Tour,” it is well worth a listen:

She says, “There is nobody in this country that got rich on his own.”  And, she’s right.  All of us have contributed to the wealth of the upper class by subsidizing their roads, their education, their police and fire services, and just by consuming their products.  It is only right that they take some of the profits that they have earned, and give them to the government so that the rest of us have access to all of these same things.

Fortunately, the fighting spirit is starting to spread among other progressives.  In a Washington Post op-ed, Sally Kohn offers her suggestions for how peace-loving liberals can fight back:

As a progressive activist who has marched against many wars, I try to avoid militant rhetoric. But only “class warfare” accurately describes a situation in which 400 people control more wealth than the poorest 150 million Americans combined. If “class warfare” isn’t the richest of the rich fighting tooth and nail against unions and any tax increases while record numbers of people lose their homes, what is?

While the revolutionary spirit is brimming around the globe, progressive activists have been stymied by the seeming complacency of Americans in the face of this obvious inequality. Effective protest doesn’t mean more of the usual suspects making more of the usual noise, as with the mostly young, white anarchists who targeted Wall Street this past week. It means unexpected people doing unexpected things to disrupt the status quo and mobilize public will for change. If we’re at war, it’s time to escalate.

In a peaceful disagreement, you might write letters to bank executives or march in front of the Capitol. But what about in a war? Imagine millions of Americans withholding mortgage payments to banks that refuse to adjust underwater loans. Imagine divestment campaigns to pressure public pension funds and universities to pull their money from the private sector and put it into government bonds. Imagine students staging sit-ins to protest teacher layoffs. Imagine families who have lost their homes squatting in vacant, bank-owned properties. Imagine a nationwide call to arms, as passionately nonviolent but as violently passionate as the pro-democracy movements sweeping the Arab world. After all, according to the CIA, income inequality in the United States is greater than in Yemen.

Kohn mentions the Occupy Wall Street protests that have been going on for the past week or so.  These are further proof that people are fed up with the Conservatives calling the shots, and rigging the game against the middle and lower classes.  While the response has been upsetting (with a surprisingly strong police reaction, including more than 80 arrests), the very act of protest shows a growing sense of displeasure with the continued concessions to the rich.

But, perhaps the most honest and blunt response to the Conservative agenda comes from William Rivers Pitt.  He criticizes liberals for retreating from the attacks of the wealthy that are trying to hold us down.  Instead of retreat, he says the proper response to the rich and the corporations they represent should be:

Kiss my ass, you leech, you bloodsucker, you greedy whore, you war profiteering glutton, you disgrace, you betrayer of America.

While I love the vitriol in his reply, he backs it up with further proof that we have been losing this class war for longer than we may have even realized:

The top-earning businesses in America today, across the board, are wallowing in record profits, and yet somehow hiring is stagnated. Why is that?

Could it be that these titans are holding off on hiring in order to affect the number of jobless Americans, so as to influence public opinion as we head into an election season? God almighty, to have such astonishing reach…to be able to keep millions out of work in order to put one black guy out of a job…now that’s real power.

Class warfare, indeed.

Poverty has increased locally and nationally across the board, joblessness is reaching Great Depression-era levels, and millions have lost houses to those whose own homes resemble castles, to those who are secure in both funding and foundation. Money does not disappear. It has to go somewhere; what is lost is always found. Most all of us have spent the last several years losing money hand over fist, while Forbes tells us that the richest among us have increased their wealth by vast amounts in one year.

Try to contain your shock.

There is work available for the doing, on infrastructure and new technology fields and any number of other areas, but the GOP majority in the House of Representatives won’t have any of it, because their marching orders are to screw the American economy in as many orifices as are available to try and unseat the sitting president. Period, end of file, and if you still think that isn’t their intention, I have a big red bridge over San Francisco Bay to sell you.

Class warfare? These cretins have the unmitigated gall to accuse other people of class warfare?

It is a wonder of American politics, this absolute and astonishing lack of shame on the part of the modern GOP. They have spent the last thirty years stifling a minimum-wage increase, they blocked legislation to help 9/11 responders pay for very present health concerns, and spent the latter part of this last week trying to screw disaster relief funding for people who lose homes to tornadoes, floods, wildfires and earthquakes. They hate Social Security and Medicare down to their gold-plated bones. Now they are deliberately and intentionally stifling the very economy they themselves tore up, for no other reason than to win the next election.

How are they doing it? Money and power, power and money, and be damned to those who suffer for their desires.

But, we have suffered long enough.  The time has come for us to take up the fight.  We may lack the financial resources of the bankers and CEOs that have waged this war against us, but we far exceed them in numbers.  We have voices, and we can make our voices heard.  Because, we are at war, and we cannot deny it any longer.  And, it is a war that we cannot afford to lose.  It is time to fight back.