Explaining Donald Trump: FOX News’ization of the Republican Party

“Who would ever vote for Donald Trump?”

This is a question that’s been confounding the entire rational-thinking world ever since Trump became the front-runner for the Republican nomination for President on a platform of hate, racism, misogyny, and all-around aggressive ignorance.

It is hard to understand how anyone could actually agree with all of the insane things Trump has campaigned on if you’re not familiar with the self-contained conservative bubble of misinformation, fear, conspiracy theories, and hatred of anyone different. But that’s why Trump’s message resonates so well with Republican voters: they live in a fantasy world created for them by the conservative media – one in which ‘evil liberals,’ led by President Obama, are actively trying to destroy the country. They see a world where the Muslim Brotherhood has infiltrated the White House, and Obama is coming for their guns. After all, Trump’s entire campaign is based around the need to “make America great again,” which implies that America is not currently great (you know, because those evil liberals came in an ruined it all).

Trump is simply saying what has been said on FOX News and conservative talk radio for years – while we have been ignoring it, Republican voters have been taking it to heart… Donald Trump is a direct creation of the FOX News’ization of the Republican party.

meme

It goes much further than FOX News simply giving him a platform because they found him entertaining, as Newt Gingrich suggested. Rather, FOX News and the rest of conservative media has created Trump’s audience for him. Everything Trump is saying is what the conservative media has been telling their audiences for years, and anyone who has spent the past 7 to 15 years watching FOX News, or listening to conservative talk radio, or frequenting right-wing websites and social media pages has been conditioned to support such insanity.

 

Republican voters have been told to believe that any news source that isn’t FOX or Glenn Beck or Rush Limbaugh has “liberal bias” and cannot be trusted, so their entire view of the world has been shaped by the hate-peddlers and fear mongers of conservative media. They have been sold a view of the world that has no basis in reality, and you cannot understand Trump’s appeal without understanding that conservative media really is fact-free propaganda that is damaging the country. To understand Trump’s appeal, you have to understand the world in which conservatives live.

Violence and “Wussification”

One of the most disturbing aspects of Donald Trump’s campaign is that he loves and encourages violence  – violence against protesters at his rallies, and violence as a way to tout America’s strength. When a protester was punched by a supporter (who later went on to say that “next time, we might have to kill him“), Trump lamented from the podium that “in the good old days [there wouldn’t be protesters] because they used to treat protesters very rough, but now they get away with murder because we’ve become weak.”

trump-violence-huffpo-splash

Huffington Post splash 3/11/16

And here are some memes that were shared on conservative social media

This idea that Americans  have been made weak comes directly from conservative media – they call it “wussification.” Just a few of the many examples from FOX News alone:

  • On a segment about an verbally abusive coach, Eric Bolling said that “the best coaches are coaches are like that,” and punishing them means “we’re wussifying American men.
  • Larry Winget concluded that bullying is schools is not the fault of the bully, but rather the fault of the victim and their parents: “you’ve got to teach your kid not to be a victim.” He also said that the victims show that we’ve become “a huge nation of weenies.”
  • Brian Kilmeade once reported that one town was campaigning for youth soccer leagues to require helmets, and he said this meant “we [have] become a bunch of wussies in this country” because “we’re not open to the good old head injury like we used to.”
Advocating violence is nothing new for FOX either – after four years of hateful rhetoric spewed by Bill O’Reilly, Scott Roeder decided to murder abortion-providing doctor George Tiller (“the baby killer,” O’Reilly’s nickname for him). Several other domestic terrorists were directly motivated by FOX News, including the Knoxville church shooter in 2008, and a man who was arrested on his way to shoot up the Tides Foundation – he explained that watching Glenn Beck “give[s] you every ounce of evidence you could possibly need” to commit violence even if Beck (or also-cited Alex Jones and David Harowitz) wasn’t explicit in calls for violence.
When this is the media they consume every day, it is not surprising that Trump supporters would sucker-punch and shove protesters, and cheer when he called Ted Cruz a “pussy” for not fully endorsing torture (despite endorsing the war crime ofcarpet bombing the Middle East).

On the subject of torture, Trump says that he will “bring back waterboarding and
a hell of a lot worse.” The idea that torture is necessary and makes us tough on terrorism also comesstraightfromconservative media. It is of utmost importance to know that Ali Soufan, the FBI agent who interrogated Abu Zubaydah prior to the waterboarding, long ago revealed that the useful information – including the all-important knowledge of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed – camePRIORto water boarding, and that the waterboarding techniques then produced NO ADDITIONAL INFORMATION.

Despite these facts, why does Donald Trump continue to push the myth of effective and necessary torture? Because that’s the message that the conservative media wants the public to believe – Trump told Sean Hannity they are “like twins” on this issue.

 
Trump is a Symptom: Conservative Propaganda Has Created An Alternate Reality
 
But, to be clear, this is not a “Donald Trump” problem. FOX News has so taken over the Republican party that in 2012 most of the Presidential candidates came directly from the FOX News payroll, and any time they wanted to reach their base, they went on FOX News. They know exactly what the conservative base wants to hear because conservative media has created an alternate reality for them.
 

This should not be a surprise to anyone – Trump supporters openly admit that they like him because he “says what we’re all thinking.” Trump isn’t some one-of-a-kind personality who is such a gifted orator that he is able to convince otherwise rational people to believe insane ideas – they’ve already been conditioned by their right-wing media to think all of the things Trump is saying.

Donald Trump is the personification of how crazy the conservative media, and thus the conservative movement, has become. Facts be damned – they live in a world that is of their own creation, which has no basis in reality.

They live in a world where there is a “war on Christmas” being waged by liberals who “don’t believe in Free Speech.” They think that they are “in a war for religious liberty” as Christians are forced to “stay in the closet because [they] are being robbed of [their] dignity and respect” – claiming persecution despite being overwhelmingly in the majority.
bill-oreilly_war-on-christmas
They live in a world where mass-shootersare always liberal, and where mass-killings are really elaborate false flag operations planned by the Obama administration. It should be no surprise that Trump is proud to be endorsed by Sandy Hook “truther” nutball conspiracy theorist Carl Gallups.
 
In their world, Global Warming is not only not a threat to humanity’s existence, but rather the “greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people – and one concocted by liberals like Al Gore (who is “like Hitler“) to benefit scientists who are scamming the system by funding theiroh-so-glamorous lives with government grants.  They think Global Warming can be disproved by asnowball, and that people onlythink it’s really hot out because we’re used to air-conditioning. They believe that we shouldn’t trust scientists because they “predicted Global Cooling in the 1970’s” (even though they didn’t – they accurately predicted Global Warming), and that science itself islies straight from the pit of hell.
 
They cannot comprehend why Obama would reject the Keystone XL pipeline because they were told it would have created thousands or even millions of jobs; they don’t understand that the claims of benefits were just lies sold to them a group of billionaires who would benefit financially while destroying the planet for the rest of us.

They live in a world in which the Black Lives Matter movement isn’t about the alarming number of  unarmed black teenagers and adults being gunned down in the streets by some racist police officers who are systemically protected from any negative repercussions, but instead is about “thugs” with “a list of grievances that do not exist” who want to murder police officers because they’re “cop haters.” They think traditional racism is over, which is why we no longer need the Voting Rights Act, and the only form of racism that still exists is “reverse racism” – that is, racism against white people. To them, there’s nothing racist about flying the Confederate flag, and those who want it taken down are “destroying the South.” And yet, Obama is the “Race-baiter In Chief” because he addressed Trayvon Martin’s murder.

In their world, a group of school children singing to Obama during his visit was like a “liberal indoctrination camp,” and  Coca-Cola made a Super Bowl ad specifically to make Republicans look bad.

The last time they had a chance to nominate someone for President, Republicans ultimately went with relatively moderate Mitt Romney, but the base was not happy about it – they almost went with extremist Rick Santorum (who barely even registered in 2016 polls when in the same field as Trump and Cruz), and they were angered by Romney’s pivot to the center after campaigning as a “severely conservative” candidate. They thought the real scandal of Romney’s infamous “47%” comments in 2012 was not that he claimed that nearly half of Americans are lazy freeloaders (they think that’s true), but rather that he was saying it behind closed doors rather than out in the open; they thought Romney was too “politically correct” to “tell it like it is” and be the leader of their FOX News-Republican party.

Particularly for the past 7 years, Republican voters have been conditioned by conservative media to believe that they live in a world where Obama is a lawless dictator hell-bent on destroying the country. When asked what’s been so wrong under Obama, I’ve found that they usually are not able to articulate it – because, in their eyes, every day there’s a new scandal that “proves” Obama is a diabolical monster; they can’t even imagine taking the time to list out everything they’ve been told, and they think that anyone who doesn’t already know is hopeless. But here’s at least some of what they’re probably thinking – they’ve been told by the conservative media that Obama:

  • Stole the 2008 election through ACORN – and then stole the re-election in 2012 through ACORN again even though it no longer existed
  • Planned the Fast & Furious program to intentionally give guns to drug lords – either because he’s a terrorist-lover, or because it was an elaborate double-switch to trick Americans into thinking that guns should be more regulated
  • Directed the IRS to target conservative groups
  • Planned / bungled the consulate attack in Benghazi and then covered it up
  • Went on an ‘apology tour‘ because he isn’t proud to be American, and “doesn’t have American values”
  • Is not American (where’s the birth certificate?! …no, not that one, the long-form birth certificate!!!!!!)
  • Gave away tax-payer money to his buddies at Solyndra
  • Hates American business-owners because he thinks they “didn’t build that”
  • Pals around with terrorists
  • Hates white people
Of course, every one of these “scandals” has been disproved by facts, but Trump voters have been conditioned by FOX News to treat facts as mere opinions that can just be disputed – particularly when it comes to “Obama’s America.”

From the early days of Obama’s presidency, conservative media painted it as one of endless conspiracies, scandals, and malfeasance – everything was going wrong, and it was all Obama’s fault. The right’s rising star at the time was Glenn Beck – his FOX News show centered around his chalkboard because he took on the role of a “teacher” seeking to “educate” his audience on all of the ways that Obama was destroying the country. Jon Stewart perfectly skewered Beck’s shtick on the Daily Show culminating in a show-length impression of a “conservative libertarian” that is worth revisiting.

Among the things that Beck “educated” his audience on were: Obama wanted to kill their grandmas through “death panels” while taking their guns away, and rounding up all of the nation’s conservatives into FEMA camps while conspiring with the Muslim Brotherhood that had infiltrated his administration. Don’t you see??? It’s all right here on this chalk board!!!!!

Like the aforementioned Carl Gallups, Alex Jones is a prominent right-wing conspiracy theorist, and he has run with the “Obama is a terrorist” angle as well, saying that not just the Sandy Hook massacre, but also the Boston Marathon bombing, and pretty much every other violent event that has taken place since January 20, 2009 has been an Obama-concocted conspiracy. He so worked up the conservative base over the non-controversial Jade Helm 15 military exercise that the Governor of Texas called in the National Guard to “keep watch” and make sure Obama wasn’t “invading.” In a late-2015 interview with Donald Trump, Alex Jones said that “90%” of his audience supports Trump.

The same people who got all worked up over the conservative media’s ideas of “anchor babies” and the African Ebola virus coming from Mexican immigrants are the ones who then cheered Donald Trump for saying that Mexican immigrants are rapists. When Trump called for the repeal of the 14th Amendment (granting US citizenship as a birthright), Rush Limbaugh applauded and said “bye-bye anchor babies,” and FOX News called the plan “an early Christmas gift.” In fact, conservative media has been clamoring for such a policy since at least 2010; Mark Levin, Steve Doocy, Laura Ingraham, and Bill O’Reilly have all called for it.

Anyone remember when Boston’s conservative talk radio host Jay Severin was fired for calling Mexican immigrants “criminaliens“? That was back in 2009, and yet many people seem to think that Trump’s anti-Mexican propaganda is something new and unique to him – and wonder why it resonates with so many in the conservative base.

The same people who yelled to let the uninsured die at 2012 GOP debate are the ones who brought Trump to the top of the polls after saying that John McCain is not a war hero.

The same people who applauded Joe Wilson for shouting “you lie” at Obama during the joint session of Congress in 2009 are the ones who applauded Lindsay Graham for calling Obama a “stubborn-headed, delusional, detached President,” and Mike Huckabee for saying that Obama’s Iran deal is “marching the Israelis to the oven.” And why would they ever apologize or walk back those comments when the base has been told that apologizing is a sign of weakness?

The same people who supported FOX News favorite Ted Nugent for saying he wanted to murder Hillary (calling her a “worthless bitch”) and calling Obama a “sub-human mongrel” are the same supporters who Trump was referencing when he said he could shoot someone in the middle of Times Square and not lose votes.

The same people who cheered Rick Perry for not have any regrets for murdering possibly innocent inmates, and believed the FOX News defense of torture under George W. Bush, support Donald Trump for calling Ted Cruz a “pussy” for not fully endorsing waterboarding.

Following the Republican Nevada caucus in February, Donald Trump received his first endorsements from a sitting member of Congress: Rep Duncan Hunter (R-CA). And who is Duncan Hunter? Back in 2014 he gained national fame for going on FOX News to claim that ten ISIS fighters were caught coming over the Mexico border trying to get into Texas. The claim was quickly and easily debunked by the Department of Homeland Security, but Duncan and the rest of the Trump-supporting base dismissed the reality because they simply think that they’re lying.  They are part of the *sneer* Obama administration, after all.

After conservatives ludicrously tried to blame President Obama for their own party’s extremism, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) gave a barn-burner of a speech pointing out Donald Trump isn’t unique in the Republican party; Congressional Republicans havenursed the same extremism espoused by Donald Trump (and his many challengers) during the campaign by “doing everything that they can to avoid acknowledging the legitimacy of our democratically elected president.” This is not a Donald Trump problem; this is a problem with the entire Republican party.

A War that Conservatives Are Told They’re Already In
When this irrational propaganda is fed to the Republican base day after day, it’s not hard to see why Trump’s rhetoric resonates with them. They think they are at war with liberals.
 
At rally in Dayton, Trump said that “liberals hate conservatives,” and that’s a message honed through conservative media like: The National Review, Dinesh D’Souza, Herman Cain, and FOX News; here’s summary from The Daily Show’s 7/21/11 episode of several FOX News examples of how “liberals hate conservatives”:
  • “Liberals don’t believe in Free Speech.”
  • “Liberals don’t care about women, blacks, or gays.”
  • “Liberal are godless people.”
  • “Liberals love dictators.”
  • “Those on the far left – they’re insane.”
  • “Far left-wing reptiles”
  • “Progressivism is a cancer.”
  • “Radical, liberal hate-machine”
  • “Totalitarian tactics of the left”
  • “It’s so vicious, it’s so mean, it’s so cruel, and I don’t hear this coming from conservatives about liberals.”

When Republicans won a Senate majority in the 2014 midterm elections, conservative media such as a Rush Limbaugh claimed that it was a mandate to stop President Obama and Democrats because “how can you govern with a president that disobeys the Constitution? The Republican Party was not elected to compromise. The Republican Party was not elected to sit down and work together with the Democrats.” RedState.com headlined the results as: “Dear Republicans: no one elected you to work with Democrats”. Why would conservatives want Republicans to work with Obama and Democrats when they think they’re inhuman monsters?

The Republican base has been told day after day, month after month, and year after year that Obama is a lawless dictator who is destroying the country from within. At the March 11 debate, criticizing Obama’s role as Commander In Chief was a popular theme – Trump said that we “never win anymore;” Rubio said that “America’s influence has declined while the president has destroyed our military,” and Cruz said that “Barack Obama has dramatically degraded our military.” The Huffington Post’s Sam Stein pointed out that when Republicans talk this way, “you end up with an electorate that thinks we are on the precipice of total internal destruction,” and thus they think that violent responses are justified.

This is the conservative movement that FOX News and the conservative media have wanted since they started telling their audience that Obama is a terrorist. This is what the dog-whistle of “PC police” has been about this whole time; they want to be able to say these things without being called out for their insanity, so they cry that liberals are afraid to let them “speak the truth.” They really believe this stuff because it’s what they get fed by their media all day, every day. And they support Donald Trump because he “says we’re all thinking.” No, we’re not all thinking these things, but they really are.

Jon Stewart described Trump as “the living embodiment of everything Republicans were trying to exorcise from their party [after the 2012 election'”, but they didn’t try that hard – they continued to allow conservative media to dominate the party. No matter who wins the Republican nomination, they might as well be “President FOX News.”

Donald Trump is not the cause of the problem in the Republican party – he is the symptom of the problem; he is the personification of the FOX News’ization of the Republican party – an entire political party based on dangerous propaganda that has poisoned our country. We must stop the FOX News’ization of America before there really is the war that conservative media fantasizes about.

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Why I Support Jill Stein in 2016

Why do I support Jill Stein? The executive summary is because a) I recognize that Global Warming is an urgent crisis that requires an immediate and massive shift to renewable energy to fix, and b) because I am opposed to being in wars that are completely avoidable if we cared enough to do what is necessary to avoid them. There is only one candidate who will take the action necessary to stop Global Warming, and there is only one candidate running on a platform of peace; that’s Jill Stein.

Without taking into account why I do not want to vote for Hillary or Trump (and I’ve written blog posts about each of them: “Hillary is No Liberal Hero,” and “Explaining Donald Trump: the FOX News’ization of the Republican Party“), here’s what I like about Jill Stein:

Jill Stein is quite similar to Sanders in many respects, and I fully supported his campaign. Sure, Stein doesn’t have the governing experience that Sanders has, or even that Hillary has for that matter, but “experience” for experience’s sake doesn’t necessarily mean anything; I’d much prefer a president like Stein who really understands the direction we need to go rather than someone with experience in making the wrong decisions – such as Hillary’s support for wars of regime change, and her support for the fossil fuel industry.

But let’s talk about the issues – first and foremost, Global Warming. Her Green New Deal is exactly what we need to do to have any hope of fighting Global Warming. It is a full rejection of our destructive and unnecessary dependence on fossil fuels; she has a goal of 100% clean renewable energy by 2030, and she knows that this necessary goal can only be achieved through a massive “World War II” level effort. 350.org’s Bill McKibben spoke of this recently: “if you go look at how America mobilized during World War II, the industrial might that we brought to bear, and then you do the calculations, it’s at the outside edge of possible that we could – in the short time we have available – build enough solar panels and wind turbines, but it’s going to take the same kind of focused effort [as WWII].”

She also recognizes that out-of-control predatory student loan debt is not only crippling an entire generation of Americans, but is also crippling the economy broadly: “we call for bailing out the students as the Democrats and Republicans bailed out Wall Street after Wall Street had crashed the economy through their waste, fraud, and abuse. We say it is about time to bail out the victims of that abuse. This would be the stimulus package of our dreams  – to unleash an entire generation that is already trained – they have the skills, they have the passion and the vision, and they have to be turned loose by canceling that debt.” -Jill Stein

She recognizes that our wars for oil and regime change are not working, and we need to wage a “peace offensive” rather than foreign policy that a) ignores international law, b) creates more enemies than it eliminates, c) makes defense contractors rich, and d) treats human life as expendable. Relating this to her Green New Deal, she has made the point that “this would make wars for oil obsolete, and we call for cutting the military budget.” Ralph Nader recently articulated the Green Party’s views on war and peace: “we have to wage peace; we have to use a fraction of the money we use for armaments abroad making things worse [to instead] deal with healthcare, and clean water, and agricultural co-ops, and education – all of the things that will build support for peaceful resolutions to disputes and support for the United States.”

She is fearless in criticizing the Democratic party for their decades of non-progressive actions. She’s intellectually honest in her criticism, and doesn’t treat Americans as if they are incapable of understanding that criticizing the Democrats from the left isn’t the same as criticizing them from the right, which is something that disappointed me about Hillary throughout the primary. For example, at the 6th primary debate, Hillary said that Bernie’s left-wing criticism of Obama is “the kind of criticism that […] I expect from Republicans. I do not expect from someone running for the Democratic nomination to succeed President Obama.”

Stein’s continued support for Native Americans as she stands against the oil industry (such as in opposing the Dakota Access Pipeline) is something I would admire in our president. Neither Obama or Hillary has taken on this issue. Native Americans are far too often ignored in both policy and general recognition. While the police brutality conversation has largely focused on black Americans, and that is certainly something we should focus on, a newly released report finds that Native Americans are actually much more likely to be killed by police than any other group based on their percentage of population; Jill Stein is the only presidential candidate to stand with indigenous people on the front lines. We need an activist president.

She wants to transform voting in a completely sensible way through ranked voting. It would immediately take away the “spoiler” aspect of third-parties while allowing people to freely “vote their conscience.” The way we run our elections now are very undemocratic; they are rigged in many ways, although certainly not in the way that Trump is claiming. They are rigged because the Democratic and Republican parties rule the system, and actively silence opposition voices.

Stein recently talked about how Trump received about $4 billion worth of free TV time from the networks, Hillary received about $2 billion, Sanders received about $500 million, and she received virtually none. She also correctly stated that the Presidential Debate Commission is an organization run by the Democratic and Republican parties, and they work to keep third-party candidates off the stage so most people won’t be able to hear their messages; the League of Woman Voters withdrew from hosting debates after the Commission was set up in 1988, calling the then-new system a “fraud being perpetrated on the American people.” We also now know through the leaked DNC emails that the Democratic party tried to put their fingers on the scale for Hillary against Bernie because they do not want to be reformed into a true progressive party. And with the two parties so dominating our elections, whoever lost the Democratic primary would basically just go away, with no hope of challenging independently. The DNC thus was trying to circumvent democracy, and make our choice for us. Stein wants to change this, and I’m with her on that.

With this said, we find ourselves with a, perhaps, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build a progressive movement on the left. Bernie Sanders came very close to winning the primary, and he showed that there’s a significant segment of the population craving such a movement. Trump is such a terrible option that polls show there’s virtually no chance he can get to 270 electoral college votes. The ‘common wisdom’ that progressives cannot risk “splitting the vote” by voting for the Green Party does not apply – with Hillary virtually guaranteed to win, this is precisely the time when we must not give in to the politics of fear, and instead invest our votes in Jill Stein.

The fear of “splitting the vote” counts on us not understanding how the Electoral College works. That is, the winner-take-all allocation of Electoral Votes state-by-state means that whether Hillary wins, say, Massachusetts by 26 points or 1 point is irrelevant to the outcome of the election. It also means that if Hillary loses, say, Alabama by 20 points or by 30 points, it is irrelevant to the outcome.

So why would I want to use my vote on someone who isn’t going to win? Yes, I acknowledge that Stein is not going to win. Why not just vote for Hillary because she’s going to win anyway? Aren’t I just ‘protesting’ at this point? Shouldn’t I just “grow up?” I want to support someone who isn’t going to win because voting isn’t just about picking a winner — in fact, it can be argued that due to the winner-take-all nature of the Electoral College, a large number of votes cast for either of the “viable” candidates are the *actual* wasted votes. What possible help could a Clinton vote be in Alabama, or Louisiana, or Nebraska, for example?

When we vote, we’re not just voting for the election at hand; we’re also voting on which parties we want to have a voice going forward. When a candidate receives 5% or more of the national vote, the next election is going to start with their party not only received a huge public grant distributed by the Federal Election Commission, they also getting automatic ballot access in most states.

In 2012, for example, the public grant was approximately $91,241,400; the FEC website points out that “Since no third-party candidate received 5% of the vote in the 2008 presidential election, only the Republican and Democratic parties were eligible for 2012 convention grants [which no longer exist], and only their nominees were eligible to receive grants for the general election once they were nominated.” In 2016, that has increased to $96,140,600.

And ballot access is huge; an often-cited reason for not voting for a third-party candidate is that they “can’t win” because they’re not on the ballot in enough states. Both Gary Johnson and Jill Stein fought their way onto either all states’ ballots (Johnson) or most of them (Stein), but it took a tremendous amount of time, effort, and money. Stein, for example, has said that she spent the entire first year of her campaign fighting for ballot access. If the Green party reaches 5% in this election, they can hit the ground running in 2020 when they’ll be needed even more than they are right now, which is saying quite a bit.

For decades, the Democratic party has been a centrist moderate one built around neoliberalism – massive tax cuts, deregulation, privatization, outsourcing, and wage suppression furthered. It can no longer be acceptable for these policies to be defended on the basis that “Republicans would be worse.” These cannot be our only two options; if we refuse to stand up and fight for a new way, we are resigning ourselves to defeatism.

We must fight back in a way that we have so far been unwilling to do; Trump has been able to rise to the top of the Republican party – and the Republican party has been able to gain so much power – because we have relied on the centrist moderate Democratic party to define what “liberal” means. We can’t allow that anymore. This is about defeating conservatism by showing the country what real progressive liberalism is.

Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant recently pointed out: “We must also understand that giving an artificial stop or pause to our movements in presidential years because we are not supposed to talk about this, and buying into the logic of Lesser Evil’ism, because what we see through history is that there will never be a good time to build the Left. I would argue exactly the opposite: there’s never been as good as today to ferociously build the Left as an alternative to both the Democratic and Republican parties.

Most Americans don’t get much of a voice in the direction of the country; most of us aren’t lobbyists, and most of us do not have millions of dollars to get a politician’s ear. Our vote is our voice; our vote is our power. We cannot be intimidated by those who are too scared of us using it. We must not be silenced. We are unstoppable – another world is possible.

In the words of Alice Walker: “The biggest way people give up power is by not realizing they have any.”

jill-stein-meme_rev2

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Hillary Clinton is No Liberal Hero

As a progressive liberal living in Massachusetts, where Hillary is leading Trump by about 26 points, I have concluded that I simply cannot use my vote to support Hillary Clinton; she does not represent my progressive values, and I cannot vote for yet another neoliberal Democratic candidate.

I acknowledge that Trump is horrible; I am certainly not advocating that he would be better than Hillary, or that people should vote for him. In fact, I wrote an entire post earlier in 2016 about how he is the personification of the evil that is FOX News and the rest of conservative media. And contrary to popular opinion, it is absolutely not true that a vote not for Hillary is a vote for Trump – this scare-tactic cynically relies on people not understanding how the Electoral College works.

However, I’ve been seeing a lot of liberal voices in social media and traditional / mainstream media characterizing Hillary as some sort of progressive hero. Despite her public claim that she is a “progressive who gets things done,” she admits privately that she is not progressive; at a fundraiser in February, Hillary told donors “I am occupying from the center-left to the center-right,” and that she “know[s] we cannot do” progressive policies like “free college [and] free health care.”

Even though she’s “better than Trump,” it’s not intellectually honest to make her out to be far more liberal than she actually is. We made that mistake with Obama; while we’ve made some steps forward since 2008, his refusal to take on the big fights has left us in peril. When we ignore these realities we make it that much harder to actually make progress.

And before you think that I’m some “immature, petulant child” who is “stomping my feet until I get everything I want,” I want to urge you to please read further. Hillary is not simply ‘not perfect’ — there is much about her that is deeply concerning, and I’m absolutely NOT talking about manufactured, fake scandals created by conservative media (like ‘Benghazi,’ for example). There are many legitimate criticisms of Hillary that we on the Left should be aware of, and should not be giving Hillary a free-pass on just because we’re scared that acknowledging them could help Trump win.

I’m not saying that she is all bad – she’s had some progressive moments, such as when she spoke to the UN in 1995 and said “human rights are women’s rights and women’s rights are human rights.” Yes, absolutely — as the Australians would say, “good on ya, mate.” But to leave it there would paint a much rosier picture than, unfortunately, exists. Doesn’t human rights include, for example, not arming Saudi Arabia with weapons that have been used to kill thousands of Yemeni civilians? Doesn’t it include not working to suppress wages in Haiti? Doesn’t it include not turning away children from Honduras coming into the US as refugees? Some of her leaked emails show that she has shown genuine concern the disadvantaged and threatened people – including a Yemeni child bride – whom she met as she was traveling the world as Secretary of State. That’s wonderful. I love it. But why not show the same compassion and eagerness to help the millions of people who are, and are going to be, severely and negatively affected by Global Warming, which she treats as a niche issue?

She will likely be our next President, and we deserve to know what we’re getting. If we refuse to open our eyes now, how can we possibly hope to “hold her feet to the fire” when she’s president? Why should we care about pushing her to do the right things when we think that she already does?

Global Warming

It is clear through any honest analysis of Hillary’s energy policies that she does not take Global Warming seriously.

Recall that Hillary’s delegates voted down virtually every Climate-related proposed addition to the Democratic Platform until forced at the last minute by Sanders delegates (only after Bernie ignored calls from Hillary supporters to drop out because they said he was being “selfish” and was “putting his ego ahead of the country”). Coupled with her other actions and expressed opinions on the matter, it’s highly unlikely that her administration will take these forced-items seriously when she’s no longer having her job threatened.

She has so far refused to take a stand on the Dakota Access Pipeline. 350.org‘s Bill McKibben pointed out that her campaign’s only statement was exceedingly vague, tweeting that her campaign’s statement “literally said nothing.” This is consistent with her wavering on the Keystone XL pipeline, which was shockingly reckless. As I wrote in a blog post four years ago, that was an absolute no-brainer for anyone who takes Global Warming seriously – for that matter, it was a no-brainer for anyone who cares about anything other than corporate profits, since that’s literally the only thing it would have been good for, and yet Hillary refused to denounce it until pushed by Sanders. I truly fear that had Hillary been president, she would have approved the pipeline — especially given that it was her State Department that gave the project initial approval in 2011, and allowed their later “everything will be fine” report to be written by a TransCananda contractor. She even campaigned for Mary Landrieu after the now-former Senator forced a Congressional vote on the Keystone XL pipeline.

A leaked transcript of one of her speeches (which she refused to voluntarily release during the primary when she knew it would hurt her politically) given to a construction union in September 2015, she said environmentalists should “get a life.” She then said she doesn’t “particularly care” if they vote for someone else who is willing to do what is necessary to solve the crisis – namely, promise to keep carbon in the ground.

She called such an idea “radical,” but it’s exactly what is needed – a new study from Oil Change International reveals that even without building any new coal plants or oil and gas fields, if just the existing fuel contained within currently operating or under construction projects were to be burned,  942 gigatons of CO2 would be released into the atmosphere, which exceeds the carbon limits agreed at 2015’s Paris climate summit. That would be enough carbon to bring us past the 2°C temperature rise that we must avoid at all costs. 350.org’s Bill McKibben said of the study: “We literally can’t build anything else and stay within the limits – no Dakota pipeline, no new coal mines in Australia, none of the things our political leaders [want].”

We are in an emergency situation with Global Warming; we do not have the luxury of years past to be able to continue to wait for the Democratic party to creep to the left while placating the know-nothing and do-nothing Republicans. Not only have we exceeded the 350ppm of CO2 that is the safe threshold, but we have been above the catastrophic 400ppm for much of 2016 with no indication that we’ll fall below any time soon. A study from top climate scientists has found that the targets agreed to in the international Paris Climate deal fall far short of the 1.5°C goal, and we are on track to see a cataclysmic 2°C rise by mid-century.

350.org‘s Bill McKibben recently characterized the situation as us being under siege: “We are under attack from Climate Change, and our only hope is to mobilize like we did in World War II. World War III is well and truly underway, and we are losing.” He pointed to how dire and urgent the situation is: “If you look at how America mobilized during World War II – the industrial might we brought to bear, and then do the calculations, it’s on the outside edge of possible that we could – in the short time we have available – build enough solar panels and wind turbines, but it’s going to take the same kind of focused effort [as World War II].”

Another leaked transcript – from a speech she gave to Deutsche Bank – shows that she is proud of having “promoted fracking in other places around the world,” and of having launched a new wing of the State Department devoted to the initiative. Fracking for natural gas emits methane gas, which is far more potent and disastrous for the climate than CO2; it should absolutely NOT be considered to be part of our nation’s, or any other’s, energy policy. Rather than doing what is necessary to transform our energy grid to 100% renewable, she clings to myth that we need natural gas as a “bridge fuel.”

Additional leaked emails show that her campaign considered and rejected a Carbon tax – not because it was a bad policy, but because of politics; it was deemed “lethal in the general election.” And that’s despite many polls indicating that more people would be inspired to vote for a candidate who came out strong for Global Warming action than would be put off by one.

Our president should be a leader – seeking to change public opinion when they disagree with a good policy, rather than simply following the polls to do whatever is considered politically expedient. This could possibly be excusable if it were her “public” position while her “private” position included working behind the scenes to make it happen, but it’s not. Rather, what the emails show is that she has no interest in taking on the fight.

War and Peace, Foreign Policy, and the State Department

Her advocacy for a no-fly zone in Syria is playing dangerously close to a war with nuclear Russia. On the 10/10/16 episode of “Democracy Now!,” Rashid Khalidi pointed out that the no-fly zone airspace is only about 7-seconds of air space, which would virtually guarantee that we’d be faced with shooting down Russian war planes. US National intelligence director James Clapper said he fears Russia could shoot down our planes as well.

Her support of the Iraq War is frightening. During the primary, Hillary-supporters loved to criticize Bernie-supporters who brought this up, saying that it made us “not serious” because Hillary has ‘apologized’ for her support. However, she always qualifies her regret such that she’s not rejecting the fundamental premise of the Iraq War or future such wars – that is, the Bush Doctrine of preemptive strikes and wars of regime change. Just 8 years after the nation agreed that supporting the war was disqualifying for a presidential candidate, now we’re faced with both major candidates having supported it – and we’re supposed to be accepting because one is a Democrat? Maybe after the war she’ll get us into with Russia she’ll apologize for that too, and then everything will magically be fine – just like Iraq.

Tulsi Gabbard_meme2.jpg

It’s telling that Hillary is being endorsed by many of the neoconservative architects of the Iraq War, such as Paul Wolfowitz. On one hand, yes, Trump is a particularly terrible prospect, and he’s driving many Republicans away from the party; however, it’s much easier for them to do so when the other option is a war hawk like Hillary. On the 9/22/16 episode of Democracy Now!, noted foreign policy journalist Allan Nairn commented: “It is sad that these are the choices we have in this country. [It] is a sad state of affairs – the candidate of the supposed American left is extremely hawkish, and demonstrably so. Whoever wins this – if either Trump or Clinton win this election – mass-murder will win. The national security bureaucrats, those of the mass-killing bureaucracy, tend to support Clinton, but Cheney and Rumsfeld – the two leading murder adventurers – they are backing Trump.”

In addition to her vote of support for the Iraq War, she also voted for George W. Bush’s terrible Patriot Act (and its subsequent reauthorization). The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) has pointed out that “while most Americans think it was created to catch terrorists, the Patriot Act actually turns regular citizens into suspects.” Further, she has actually defended the NSA’s domestic spying program.

While Secretary of State, Hillary gave exemptions to South Sudan so they could continue arming children to be used as soldiers. The Intercept pointed out: “Clinton had spent years vowing to defend the rights of children worldwide […] yet she does not appear to have publicly explained her role in allowing South Sudan and other countries to receive military support despite using children as combatants. In fact, the State Department played a central role in issuing the controversial waivers, according to two sources, including a former State Department official.”

Also while Secretary of State, Hillary made weapons sales to Saudi Arabia a “top priority,” such as the $29.4 billion sale of F-15 fighter jets, made by Boeing, to Saudi Arabia in 2011. These jets have since been used to launch a massive bombing campaign in Yemen, which had killed at least 2,800 Yemeni civilians as of earlier this year. Not only that, but Saudi Arabia is guilty of egregious human rights violations; in leaked emails and speeches, Clinton acknowledged that “the Saudis have exported more extreme ideology than any other place on earth over the course of the last 30 years,” and “the Saudis in particular are not necessarily the stablest regimes that you can find on the planet.”

Haiti – both Hillary and Bill have had their hands all over Haiti. Bill Clinton famously (or infamously) used his power as President to force Haiti to import Arkansas’ excess rice, which basically destroyed Haiti’s ability to be self-sufficient (rice is their staple crop). For Hillary’s part, she was a key proponent for suppressing a minimum wage increase up to $5/day from $1.92. While she was not the sole architect of the plan, her State Department fervently fought against the wage increase, which was seen as detrimental to wealthy American business interests (such as Fruit of the Loom) who profited off the backs of the exploited Haitian workers.

Just before she announced her 2016 candidacy, she secured a $12 million donation to the Clinton Global Initiative from the King of Morocco on the understanding that she’d go there to give a talk. Bill and Chelsea went in her place as a way to avoid ‘negative optics’ as she was announcing her candidacy, and there’s no evidence of a “pay for play” scandal that the conservative media tried to gin up. However, Miriyam Aouragh recently said that the agreement was clearly meant as a way for the Moroccan King to ‘build a facade’ to whitewash his regime’s oppressive and abusive policies by making it appear that they are a friend of the ‘great democracy’ of America. That Hillary either couldn’t see this, or didn’t care that she was contributing to it, is extremely troubling.

Earlier in 2016, Hillary tried to defend her role in the illegal coup to oust democratically-elected Honduran President Mel Zelaya that took place in 2009, and did so by “baldly lying.” On the 4/13/16 episode of ‘Democracy Now!’, human rights expert Dana Frank explained: “the fact that [Secretary Clinton] says that they did it legally, that the Honduras judiciary and Congress did this legally, is like, oh, my god, just mind-boggling. […] I want to make sure that the listeners understand how chilling it is that a leading presidential candidate in the United States would say this was not a coup. […] She’s baldly lying when she says we never called it a coup.”

Additionally, Frank explained what Hillary did after the Honduran coup: “she played out the strategy—Obama and Clinton played out the strategy—that they would delay negotiations. They treated Micheletti (the post-coup dictator) as an equal partner to democratically-elected President Zelaya, and moved the negotiations into a sphere they could control, and then delayed until the already-scheduled elections in November. The problem, as you say, is that almost all the opposition had pulled out of that election. All international observers, like the Carter Center or the U.N., had pulled out, refusing to observe that election—the only observers were the U.S. Republican Party—and saying that this was not a legitimate election. And then, the very first—that day, even before the polls close, the U.S. recognizes the outcome of the election. And this is what we used to call a demonstration election: let’s just have any election, and call that election legitimate. […] It’s incredible this woman is a presidential candidate [when] she’s doing like things like this.

In 2015, six years after Hillary’s involvement in the illegal military coup and subsequent shame election in Honduras, the US was facing a humanitarian crisis with thousands of children crossing the border from Honduras and other war-torn countries. Even though virtually all of them qualified for humanitarian relief, Secretary Clinton called for them to be deported.

LGBT rights, Abortion rights, and Religion

Despite being endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign, during Bill’s presidency, Hillary was very supportive of the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).  In a interview with Rachel Maddow during the primary in late-2015, she tried to explain away her support of DOMA by claiming that it was meant as a pro-gay measure to cut off the momentum of the anti-gay side that was close to getting a Constitutional amendment to ban same-sex marriage. That was not true. There was no momentum for the amendment by that time, which was pointed out even by Clinton-supporting Hilary Rosen. Rather, her support in the 90s follows her not-yet “evolved” stance back then that “marriage is between one man and one woman.”

In her book, Living History, she proudly touted her affiliation with the secretive and conservative religious group known as both “The Family” and “The Fellowship,” an organization I previously wrote a blog post about. In her book, she said that Fellowship leader Doug Coe “is a unique presence in Washington: a genuinely loving spiritual mentor and guide to anyone, regardless of party or faith, who wants to deepen his or her relationship with God.”  She also wrote that, as First Lady, she took solace from “daily scriptures” sent to her by her Fellowship prayer cell, along with Coe’s assurances that she was right where God wanted her. This connection is incredibly disturbing – the Family, of course, was behind the “Kills the Gays” legislation in Uganda and Nigeria, and has been a driving force of conservative politics in the US and abroad for decades. I want The Family as far away from the White House as possible.

Her connections to The Family led her to collaborate with some of the Senate’s most extremely conservative Republicans that were Family members, including Sam Brownback (R-KS) and Rick Santorum (R-PA). In a excerpt from Mother Jones: “Clinton joined the GOP on legislation that redefines social justice issues in terms of conservative morality, such as an anti-human-trafficking law that withheld funding from groups working on the sex trade if they didn’t condemn prostitution in the proper terms. With Santorum, Clinton co-sponsored the Workplace Religious Freedom Act.” Note that the ACLU spoke out against the Workplace Religious Freedom Act as “legalized discrimination.” Later that same year, she introduced a bill that would have made flag-burning a felony.

Clinton is pro-choice (a position that Mother Theresa chastised her for at one of the Family’s National Prayer Breakfasts the Clintons attended with her), and has pointed out that she has championed decreases in teen pregnancy rates decreased (i.e “Putting Prevention First Act”), but she was seemingly unable to distinguish fact from conservative propaganda when the anti-choice group Operation Rescue released a highly edited and deceiving video purporting to show Planned Parenthood selling body parts for profit.  Of course, this was not what was happening; in the 1990s, Congress legalized voluntary tissue donation for things like stem cell research, and that’s the process that Operation Rescue hacked up to make it seem like something shady.  However, of the videos, Clinton called them “disturbing,” and said that “if there’s going to be any kind of congressional inquiry, it should look at everything and not just one [organization].” For contrast, Bernie Sanders immediately and forcefully said that the videos were deceptively edited, and that there was no scandal – no investigation was needed because Operation Rescue was lying.

The Mother Jones article linked above summarizes the trouble with Hillary’s religious tendencies: “Then, as now, Clinton confounded secularists who recognize public faith only when it comes wrapped in a cornpone accent. Clinton speaks instead the language of nondenominationalism—a sober, eloquent appreciation of ‘values,’ the importance of prayer, and ‘heart’ convictions—which liberals, unfamiliar with the history of evangelical coalition building, mistake for a tidy, apolitical accommodation, a personal separation of church and state.”

Criminal Justice

Her continued support of the death penalty is troubling, and her refusal to acknowledge her and Bill’s role in the mass-incarceration of people of color is inexcusable.

It is no secret that lethal injection drugs have become virtually non-existent, causing states to come up with their own mixtures, which have caused horrific and brutal executions… and that’s even assuming that the “real” drug cocktail was “humane” to begin with. One of the troubling aspects of Republican nominees over the recent years has been the unrelenting support of the death penalty; in 2012, Rick Perry said  that he does not lose sleep over possibly innocent people being killed in Texas, and Trump famously called for the later-exonerated Central Park Five to be executed. And Hillary continues to support the death penalty.

In her 1996 support of Bill Clinton’s 1994 Crime bill, she callously referred to some youths of color by the term “super predators,” and described them as “[having] no conscience, no empathy.” She concluded her statement by saying that  we “have to bring them to heel.” Hillary said she ‘regrets’ using the term when asked about it during the 2016 Democratic primary, but she has continued to side-step the actual implications of the Crime Bill that she was defending by using it.

When asked about it at the first debate with Trump, Hillary dismissed the resulting mass-incarceration (disproportionately affecting black communities) as “unintended consequences.”

Princeton professor Eddie Glaude said that such a characterization is “just a gross understatement.” He continued: “when we think of the expansion of the carceral state under Bill Clinton’s administration […] this is precisely what is wrong with Hillary Clinton’s outreach to the black community; she won’t speak forcefully about the state of policing in this country.”

Carol Anderson (professor of African American studies at Emory University) had this view point: “Bill Clinton went the route of the Southern strategy, which was to play to blacks as criminals and welfare cheats. So this is where you see his welfare reform, and his hyper-policing through ‘super predators,’ and it fed into the mass incarceration of the black population. […] The way that his policies worked were very anti-black. And the way I see Hillary is that she was there with him […] but now she sees that the demographics of the Democratic Party have changed, and that racial coding doesn’t play as well.”

Black Lives Matter activists interrupted her campaign event in February 2016 to point out: “Hillary Clinton has a pattern of throwing the Black community under the bus when it serves her politically. She called our boys ‘super-predators’ in 1996, then she race-baited when running against Obama in 2008, now she’s a ‘lifelong civil rights activist.’ I just want to know which Hillary is running for President, the one from 1996, 2008, or the ‘new’ Hillary?”

Neoliberalism and “Getting Things Done”

To date, Hillary has not offered her plan for dealing with a Republican-controlled Congress. She just says she “knows when to stand her ground, and when to find common ground.”  I have no interest in “finding common ground” with Republicans who wish to destroy the planet.  During the primary, Bernie understood exactly what was needed; he said clearly that the way to deal with obstructionist Republicans is to “not appeal to Mitch McConnell.” Rather, we need to appeal to the American people, and rally them to the polls to vote out the obstructionist Republicans.

We have compromised too much already. Our planet is dying. We can no longer pretend that small steps forward are enough. We cannot be fooled into thinking that 1 step forward and 3 steps back is moving us in the right direction.

No Republican-controlled Congress will work with a Democratic president. This election is as much, if not more so, about how the president would react to a Republican-controlled Congress rather than what their agenda is. Republicans have been investigating Benghazi for longer than any other congressional investigation in history; they’re not going to turn around to Hillary and say “I know we’ve basically framed you for murder and conspiracy, but let’s get to work on what you want to do.”

In this regard, Hillary falls in the tradition of the ever-compromising Democrats like Obama and Bill (DOMA, DADT, NAFTA). Yes, she would get some things done just like Obama has, but the the things she’d get done would be compromises that do not go far enough – just like Obama has.

For decades – from Carter to Bill Clinton to Gore to Kerry to Obama – the Democratic party has been defined by this centrist moderate neoliberalism – the massive tax cuts, deregulation, privatization, outsourcing, and wage suppression furthered along by Democrats is simply unacceptable from a supposed left-wing party. It can no longer be acceptable for these policies to be defended on the basis that “Republicans would be worse.” These cannot be our only two options; if we refuse to stand up and fight for a new way, that’s what is shameful. That is indefensible. We cannot resign ourselves to that defeatism.

We need a president who will go to the people and point out that Republicans are lying, and rail against the do-nothing Congress. Nothing big can happen – no matter who is in the White House – unless we get progressive majorities in Congress, and the best way to do that is to stop giving in to Republicans in a futile attempt to bring them to our side. The time for compromise is over.

Refusal to acknowledge Hillary’s negatives is dangerous

When I have talked about this in social media, I have been accused of spending my time “looking for reasons not to vote for Hillary,” but that’s not true. Rather, I have simply decided not to turn a blind-eye when the reasons not to vote for her are revealed. These are not conspiracy theories or lies; they are legitimate concerns that progressives should take a hard look at before supporting the next “center-left to center-right” Democrat — as Hillary described herself in a private meeting with Wall Street donors just months before she breathlessly defended herself against Bernie Sanders calling her a moderate.

 

Trump is extremely terrifying, and I agree that he’s an absolutely horrible person. I really wish the Democratic nominee was as free from ‘scandal’ as Hillary supporters present her to be, but I’m afraid it’s just not true. I would be, and am, just as upset by these things if they were from Obama or anyone else – I’ve vigorously defended Obama over the years against fact-free conservative lies, but have also been highly critical when he (often) fails to be progressive. With Hillary as President, I will continue to do that same thing… the difference now is that it is entirely predictable as long as we don’t pretend that Hillary’s past doesn’t exist.We do ourselves a disservice by assuming that every negative thing said about Hillary must be a lie manufactured by conservative media and Republicans – which, yes, there are many of as well. We must be intellectually honest about her because she is, in many ways, not the progressive hero that many on the left think she is or want her to be. It is a sad state of affairs, but it’s no secret, and ignoring it doesn’t make it any less true – it just makes it harder to actually make things right.

 

I would also like to point out that being intellectually honest about her record, and criticizing her from the Left is absolutely NOT the same criticizing her from the Right (which is based on fact-free conspiracy theories and outright lies perpetrated by the conservative media).

One of the things that irritated me early in Hillary’s campaign was her disingenuous conflation of left-wing criticism of Democrats with right-wing criticism of Democrats. It is no secret that Obama has governed as a centrist moderate neoliberal rather than a progressive – just like every Democratic president and nominee for decades, and just like Hillary will be. Some of the left, such as Bernie Sanders and myself, have been very vocal over the past 7+ years that, while we have supported Obama when the alternative is Republicans, there is legitimate concern that the centrist moderate neoliberalism he engages in is not getting the job done.

Hillary could have acknowledged this well-known reality, and made her case to progressives of how she will work to be better than just ‘better than a Republican.’ (By the way, I wish Obama had done this too, and I would expect any Democratic candidate to do this as well.) She did not do this. Instead, she attacked progressives by claiming that Bernie’s advocacy for Obama to be more progressive is to be “expect[ed] from Republicans [rather than] someone running for the Democratic nomination to succeed President Obama.” Many of her supporters followed suite, and actually used much of the same rhetoric against Bernie supporters that *Republicans* have been using about Democrats broadly for many years.

For about a year, I consistently defended Sanders against these attacks by saying that Bernie represents the dance that progressives have been in during Obama’s presidency: defending Obama against baseless conservative attacks based on lies, while also being disappointed that he doesn’t govern more aggressively as a progressive liberal.

Sorry, but Republicans claiming that President Obama is literally Satan, and that he is trying to deliberately destroy the country by pushing the “hoax” of Global Warming because he’s a secret Muslim born in Kenya who want to reward his ‘buddies at Solyndra’ is absolutely NOT the same as being upset that Obama continues to approve oil pipelines and exploration, that he never even proposed Single-Payer / Medicare-for-all and did not fight for a public option, or that he constantly gives in to Republican demands in futile attempts to bring them across the aisle (such as how he believed they’d be reasonable and not enact the Sequester when it was painfully obvious that’s exactly what they’d do).

I completely understand not wanting to be part of the right-wing noise that is criticizing Hillary and Obama based on lies, but we cannot simply pretend that everything about them is great. We must push our leaders to be as progressive as possible, and we cannot do that if we pretend that they’re already as progressive as possible when they’re clearly not. We must stop equating legitimate left-wing criticism with right-wing conspiracy theories.

People like Chris Hedges and Jill Stein have been pointing out that continually supporting the neoliberal Democratic party out of fear of the burn-it-to-the-ground Republican party is actually helping to perpetuate the cycle of defeatism while the right gains more power as they get more extreme. Voters who continue to support Democratic candidates who do not adequately address the concerns and struggles of a majority of Americans are creating an environment of political apathy in which a large portion of the country doesn’t participate in the electoral process. It not only benefits Republicans when voter turnout is low, but it also weakens the reasoning for why people should actually want support Democrats other than fear of Republicans.

And when the Democratic party refuses to go to the left, instead going centrist-moderate and neoliberal every time, we cannot continue to pretend that it’s good enough. We also cannot keep waiting for ‘next time’ on the assumption that Republicans will suddenly get reasonable and nominate someone who is not dangerous for us to be scared of. The way they’re going, their next nominee might as well be Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Alex Jones, or one of the Koch brothers. Republicans are always going to nominate someone awful; we cannot wait for them to come around, and the Democrats are failing us as we wait.

Yes, Hillary would be better than Trump, just like Obama has been better than Romney or McCain would have been, just like John Kerry and Al Gore would have been better than George W. Bush, just like Bill Clinton was better than George HW Bush or Bob Dole, just like Jimmy Carter was better than Reagan. But every one of these Republicans would have been, or was, absolutely terrible. Just being “better than [absolutely terrible]” hasn’t been good enough. We need more, and until we get it, I will continue to call attention to our leaders who are not progressive enough, regardless of political party.

We suffer when we ignore these realities, and I cannot sit idly by and pretend they do not exist even if it challenges people’s long-held views and “common wisdom.” That’s the whole idea behind why I created this blog years ago under the banner of “Wait, I See Something” with my favorite literary quote: “It’s the wanting to know that makes us matter.”

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Political Super Bowl: 2014

Every year, I enjoy compiling a list of important political stories that surround the year’s most anticipated and watched sporting event: the Super Bowl.

In previous years, I’ve written these entries prior to kick-off as a “be on the look-out for” type of article (such as 2012’s ads that featured animal cruelty and anti-choice/anti-abortion viewpoints, and 2013’s pre-game team comments on homosexuality). However, I ran out of time before the game in 2014, so I wrote this entry after the Seattle Seahawks defeated the Denver Broncos in a rather uncompetitive 43-8 game. It actually came in handy to wait until after the game because several important stories started only after the game was over.

So let’s get started with some of the important political stories surrounding the 2014 Super Bowl:

Racism: Conservatives call Seahawks player a “thug”

When the Seahawks won their way into the Super Bowl by defeating the 49ers in the NFC championship game, their cornerback – Richard Sherman – gave an aggressive post-game interview as FOX Sports’ Erin Andrews held the mic. While this might not seem like a particularly ‘sociopolitical’ event, it quickly became one as conservatives went nuts.

In conservative media (like FOX News), Sherman was described as “thug” over 600 times. It should be noted that he was the #2 student at his high school, and then went to the prestigious Stanford University; he worked his way up from his beginnings in Compton; he is the American dream. Also, Erin Andrews later clarified that she was totally fine with it, and understood that it was just post-game adrenaline, saying “That was so awesome. And I loved it.”

After Sherman’s post-game adrenaline came down, and after all of the conservative backlash, he explained that when conservatives call a black person a ‘thug,’ what they have really done is figured out a socially acceptable way to say the ‘n-word.’ The use of the word ‘thug‘ was prevalent in conservative media to describe Trayvon Martin after he was shot to death by George Zimmerman (who, inexplicably, became a hero to conservative gun-lovers).

Meanwhile, as FOX News was deriding Sherman as a ‘thug,’ they playfully labeled crack-smoking Toronto Mayor Rob Ford and Justin Beiber the “bad boys of Canada.” On one hand: Ford and Beiber had been accused of authorizing or engaging in assault, and on the other hand: Sherman gave an aggressive interview. It would seem to any rational person that Ford and Beiber were more ‘thuggish’ than Sherman – but they are white, and Sherman is black (and he was talking to a white woman on FOX)… so Sherman is the thug…?

Racism & Homophobia: Multilingual Coca-Cola ad backlash

In an attempt to make up for sponsoring the 2014 Olympic games (held in anti-gay Russia), Coca-Cola ran an ad in which “America the Beautiful” was sung by Americans who spoke languages other than English. The ad was supposed to highlight how accepting Americans are of other cultures, and how we are a true cultural melting pot; even though America is typically thought of as a nation of English-speakers, there a many of us whose cultural background consists of other languages, and we all love America equally.  Someone apparently didn’t give conservatives the memo, because their racism was swift and severe.

One of the most prominent conservatives pissed at the ad was professional insane person Glenn Beck, who claimed that Coca-Cola made the ad specifically to make Republicans look bad.

In an “it would be funny if it weren’t sad” moment, those spouting their racism revealed that they are, expectedly, not very smart — many took to Twitter (using the hashtag #fuckcoke) to reveal that they believed that “America the Beautiful” is our national anthem … it is actually the “Star Spangled Banner.”

There was also a backlash from conservatives because it featured a gay couple… they would probably be shocked to learn that the woman who wrote “America the Beautiful” was a lesbian. So there’s that.

This came just weeks after conservatives feigned outrage when the MSNBC Twitter account implied that conservatives tend to be racist: “Maybe the rightwing will hate it, but everyone else will go awww: the adorable new #Cheerios ad w/ biracial family.” MSNBC apologized, and then were proven correct just weeks later.

New Jersey / Governor Chris Christie Bridge Scandal

The Super Bowl seems to have a pattern of being held in locations that are political hotbeds at the time. In a 2012, it was held in Indiana as anti-union Republicans were pushing so-called “right to work” legislation, and they very much would have liked to have done so without the eyes of the nation upon them. In 2013, the Super Bowl was held in New Orleans at a stadium reconstructed and renovated using $470 million of American tax dollars; this was at a time when conservatives were all caught up in their “we built that” hysteria, and claimed that private businesses never received any help from the government. Likewise, 2014’s Super Bowl was held in New Jersey amid Governor Chris Christie’s concurrent “bridge” and “Sandy” scandals.

Back-ups on the mass transit system and outside of Metlife Stadium leading up to the game were criticized on Twitter as “traffic studies,” which was a call-out to the back-ups ordered by Christie’s administration on the George Washington bridge (originally explained as a “traffic study.”) And then Christie was booed at Super Bowl events.

Two days prior to the Super Bowl, key player in the Bridge scandal, David Wildstein, released a letter from his lawyer to the Port Authority in which he accused Christie of lying about not having prior knowledge of the lane closures. Christie’s office responded to the accusations in a message to friends and supporters that Wildstein has been known to be “deceptive” ever since high school, so no one should trust what he says… despite Christie authorizing his hiring at the Port Authority by Bill Baroni, into a job with no job description that required no interview or submission of resume, and which was created specifically for him.

On the same day as the accusation from Wildstein, Christie’s Director of Departmental Relations, Christina Genovese Renna, resigned.  She is the one who sent a message to Bridget Kelly during the shutdown to “apologize” for letting a call from Mayor Sakolich get through, which seems to contradict Christie’s claim that neither he nor anyone in his office had ever heard of Mayor Sakolich, and that he wasn’t on Christie’s radar.

Meanwhile, news was breaking that Christie had used $25 million in Federal aid meant for Hurricane Sandy recovery to fund campaign-style “tourism” ads that he inserted himself into ahead of his bid for re-election. It did not help that the story was coming to light as New Jersey was hosting the Super Bowl that they secured by giving the NFL an $8 million tax break.

FOX Sports / News Corp

Ever since 2006, the NFL has given only three television networks the rights to air the Super Bowl: CBS, NBC, and FOX (ABC used to be in the mix, but not anymore). The Super Bowl aired on FOX for the first time in 1997, and has hosted the game more than any of the other networks since then (seven of the 18 years since then have been on FOX; CBS has hosted 5 times, and both NBC and ABC have each had the rights 3 times).

For anyone not yet aware, all TV networks using the name “FOX” (including FOX Sports, FOX Business, every local FOX affiliate, and FOX News) is run by News Corporation, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch. In my 2012 entry, I pointed out that News Corp. also owns the Wall Street Journal and many other purely political and conservative media outlets. Whichever network gets the rights to air the Super Bowl in a given year, they make a ton of money; the last time FOX aired the Super Bowl, they raked in $195 million (2011) – that’s a lot of funding that can be distributed News Corp’s non-sports, political operations. In the month after the 2014 Super Bowl, News Corp’s stock rose an average of 2.3 points, reversing a downward trend that turned around a couple days after the game aired.

FOX News: Bill O’Reilly’s pre-game interview of President Obama

It has become a tradition for the President of the United States to give a pre-game interview to the network airing the Super Bowl, but that CBS and NBC typically give the honor to a “straight news” / non-opinion reporter (such as CBS’ Scott Pelley). However, being that FOX Sports is under Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp umbrella, both of their pre-game interviews of President Obama have been conducted by FOX News’ Bill O’Reilly – a partisan “opinion guy” who routinely tells people to “shut up,” and once was deemed so much of a “pathological liar” that it would be pointless to take him to court for defaming the son of a 9/11 victim.

When O’Reilly had the opportunity to interview then-President George W. Bush in 2006, O’Reilly gave the President ample time to respond to questions, and rarely followed up after any of his answers. He later defended his lack of questioning by claiming that you “cannot be confrontational with the president of the United States. You can be direct, but you can’t be disrespectful.”

In O’Reilly’s 2011 Super Bowl interview of President Obama, he interrupting the President 48 times, apparently forgetting that he previously believed “you cannot be confrontational with the president of the United States.” MediaMatters.org described O’Reilly’s technique: “He cut the president off, constantly interjected comments, and redirected the interview midstream. O’Reilly often asked Obama questions that required complicated answers and then jumped in with new ones after giving Obama just a few seconds to answer the first query.”

During his 2014 interview, O’Reilly could have used his unique opportunity to discuss any number of important issues, but instead he fell right back on the FOX News manufactured conspiracies that they’ve been marketing for the past 5 years. Obama called out FOX News’ fact-free, partisan attacks during the interview by saying that debunked conspiracy theories (like Benghazi and the IRS) keep coming up only because FOX News continues to promote them as legitimate stories.

President Obama also pointed out that, despite conservative media painting him as the most liberal President in history, “in a lot of ways Richard Nixon was more liberal than I was.” He added that the political spectrum has shifted rightward, and “what used to be considered ‘sensible’ we now somehow label as ‘liberal,'” citing Social Security benefits and Medicare.

O’Reilly also claimed that Obama never explicitly addresses “black culture” and absent fathers, further claiming that it is O’Reilly’s show that stands up for fixing this problem. President Obama whipped him back, pointing out that he has, in fact, directly addressed this problem repeatedly; MediaMatters.org compiled a list of President Obama’s speeches in which he does so: O’Reilly Forgets To Fact-Check Before Lecturing Obama For Not Addressing Black Issues

Note that, leading up to the Super Bowl, President Obama had angered conservatives by saying that, if he had a son, he would not let him play football due to concerns over concussions.

SodaStream and Oxfam

Scarlet Johannsen was dropped by Oxfam as an ambassador after she starred in SodaStream’s Super Bowl ad. SodaStream is an Israeli company that operates a factory in what Oxfam calls an “illegal” settlement in the West Bank.

Oxfam stated: “Johansson’s role promoting the company SodaStream is incompatible with her role as an Oxfam global ambassador. Oxfam believes that businesses, such as SodaStream, that operate in settlements further the ongoing poverty and denial of rights of the Palestinian communities that we work to support. Oxfam is opposed to all trade from Israeli settlements, which are illegal under international law.”

Johannsen defended her position, saying “I remain a supporter of economic cooperation and social interaction between a democratic Israel and Palestine… I am happy that light is being shed on this issue in hopes that a greater number of voices will contribute to the conversation of a peaceful two state solution in the near future.”

Just Foreign Policy’s policy director, Robert Naiman, wrote an pro-Oxfam article for the Huffington Post comparing the two positions: “Yes, #ScarJo, There’s a Line Between Israel and Palestine

This is not the first time SodaStream has made news around the Super Bowl; in last year’s “Political Super Bowl” entry, I pointed out that CBS “bowed to pressure from Coke and Pepsi” by refusing to air a SodaStream ad pointing out that Americans use far too many plastic bottles.

North Carolina Coal Ash Spill

While not directly related to the Super Bowl, it was Super Bowl Sunday that North Carolina experienced a devastating “spill” at one of their coal ash ponds operated by Duke Energy.

Child prostitution

Back in 2011, when the Super Bowl was held in Texas, the state’s Attorney General Greg Abbott called the Super Bowl the “single largest human trafficking incident in the United States.” In 2014, Abbott was the Republican candidate for Governor of Texas; his Democratic opponent was Wendy Davis, who famously filibustered the Republican attempt to ban abortions at 20 weeks and implement anti-abortion TRAP laws. (NOTE: Abbott ended up defeating Wendy Davis, and is the governor of Texas at the time of this writing.)

An article at Huffington Post pointed out that “according to Forbes, 10,000 prostitutes were brought to Miami for the Super Bowl in 2010 and 133 underage arrests for prostitution were made in Dallas during the 2011 Super Bowl.”

However, it’s also important to note that large events like the Super Bowl bring a lot of eyes, and “the real crime is happening when no one’s looking and no one cares, not when every media outlet, advocate and cop has its sights set on it,” as pointed out by Rachel Lloyd (founder of GEMS)

Wait, I See Something: “It’s the wanting to know that makes us matter.”

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2013’s Political Super Bowl

Last year, I wrote about how 2012’s Super Bowl was more political than many people may have realized: “I’m sure many people will balk at the idea of politics mixing with sports – usually they are seen as being mutually exclusive – a somewhat ‘safe’ topic of discussion rather than the ‘risky’ topics of religion and politics. But politics and the Super Bowl have a history…”

In 2010, CBS aired a watered-down version of Tim Tebow’s conservative anti-abortion ad, but rejected a liberal ad that portrayed gay men positively. In 2011, FOX Sports took in $195 million through Super Bowl ad revenue for their parent company “News Corp,” whose subsidiaries (FOX News, The Wall Street Journal, etc) are nothing more than conservative propaganda masquerading as news.

And in 2012, there again was an anti-abortion ad campaign, as well as an ad that featured the abusive practice of greyhound racing. Also, the Super Bowl was being held in Indiana, which was embroiled in a battle between anti-union “Right to Work” advocates and union-entities – such as the NFL. (Check out last year’s entry for more detail: https://waitiseesomething.com/2012/02/04/political-super-bowl/)

As famed naturalist John Muir once wrote, “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.” It is with that sentiment that I present 2013’s Political Super Bowl.

To begin, a couple of background points:

  1. At a time when the nation is the most politically divided it’s been since the Civil War, much of that division comes from outlets such as FOX News and Rush Limbaugh, claiming that President Obama and Democrats are evil socialists. It’s important to note that, while such claims are ignorant and false, the NFL is legitimately socialist, and it seems to be working pretty well for them.
  2. Meanwhile, many NFL owners and players overwhelmingly favored Mitt Romney in last year’s election. NY Jets owner Woody Johnson is even being floated as a potential Republican replacement for Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) if he is forced to resign, leaving Governor Chris Christie to appoint his replacement. And earlier in the 2012-2013 NFL season, anti-union Governor of Wisconsin, Scott Walker, voiced his displeasure with the anti-union “replacement refs.” Apparently, getting rid of unions was fine for teachers, but not when it affects a “real” American institution such as football!

This year’s Super Bowl will hit on several issues:

  • Members of the Super Bowl competitors, the Baltimore Ravens and the San Francisco 49ers, have very publicly come out on different sides on gay rights in the lead-up to the big game. Chris Culver, 49er cornerback, first made news on January 30,when he declared that he wouldn’t tolerate having any gay teammates: “No, we don’t got no gay people on the team, they gotta get up out of here if they do. Can’t be with that sweet stuff. Nah…can’t be…in the locker room man. Nah.”Culver’s fellow 49er teammates seemed to echo his anti-gay stance by claiming that they only participated in the pro-gay “It Gets Better” campaign because they thought it was anti-bullying in general, rather than bringing awareness to kids being bully specifically because they’re gay.

    Conversely, Raven linebacker, Brendon Ayanbadejo, has publicly criticized such anti-gay comments, saying that he hopes Culver will learn from this mistake. He is a straight ally to the gay community, and has brought his philosophy into the Ravens’ locker room:

    “I’ve preached since Day 1 to my teammates, there are certain words you can’t say. When they’re around me, they know, if B.A. is around, you can’t say gay in a derogatory manner. You can’t say the three-letter ‘F’ word.”
    -Brendon Ayanbadejo

  • In an ad touted as the one that “Coke and Pepsi don’t want you to see,” SodaStream hits at the fact that American’s use far too many plastic bottles, which contributes to “enough trash every year to cover the state of Texas — twice.” This comes on the heels of a disingenuous ad campaign from Coca-Cola to obscure soda’s role in America’s obesity epidemic. You can only see the ad online, because CBS has bowed to pressure from Coke and Pepsi, and has pulled it from their Super Bowl line-up.
  • And just as with last year’s Super Bowl, the venue itself is tied up in politics. New Orlean’s Superdome is hosting the game, which is the first time since the city was ravaged by Hurricane Katrina in 2005. Contrary to the Republican claim that private corporations do everything themselves (“I built that!”), American tax payers gave $470 million to fund reconstruction and renovations. There is currently only one NFL facility in the country built solely with private funds.

Go Ravens!

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The Lies of the Keystone XL pipeline

The most common mistake that politicians and the media make when discussing the Keystone XL pipeline is to frame it as an “environment vs. economy” issue. When presented this way, it appears to be a niche issue that will only resonate with the liberal base. The key to effectively informing people, and arguing the case against the pipeline, is to point out that the claims of benefits are lies.

While the environmental impacts of the Keystone XL pipeline would be numerous and extreme, it is too easy for people to dismiss the consequences when they perceive the benefits to be more jobs, less dependence on foreign oil, and cheaper gas at the pump.

There aren’t any actual benefits to the pipeline – only perceived benefits. It is within this context that the environmental impacts are even worse, since we will be destroying our planet for no real reason. 

Conservatives have been obsessive about the pipeline for years, frequently attacking President Obama and Democrats every chance they get for not supporting it. Their rationale can be summarized by former Senator Scott Brown (R-MA):  “[it is] a project that will create thousands of new jobs, reduce gas prices in the Northeast, and help free us from dependence on Middle East oil. In doing so, the Keystone project strengthens American economic and national security.” The problem is that these are blatant lies.

 The first lie is that the Keystone XL pipeline would create jobs.

Pipeline advocates have touted a wide variety of figures ranging anywhere from 6,500 up to 1 million jobs, but their sources are wildly misleading (or simply non-existent). In a previous blog post, I pointed out that the US Chamber of Commerce took out a full-page ad in Rupert Murdoch’s Wall Street Journal claiming that “20,000 jobs” would be created. It is not surprising that the right-wing Chamber would lie to support an anti-environment agenda; especially considering their president recently advocated a civilization-ending policy of pollution to satisfy our energy needs.

The fact is that many of these figures are based on misleading metrics such as claiming that if a job lasts two years, that’s “two jobs,” and that the pipeline will be a tourist attraction that draws 51 NYC dancers to the Midwest to entertain the “100 librarians, 510 bread bakers” and “1,714 bartenders”.

Among the studies conducted to estimate jobs created, there were only two not affiliated with TransCanada: those conducted by the US State Department and Cornell University. The State Department concluded that it would create a maximum of “5,000 to 6,000 direct construction jobs in the United States that would last for two years.” Cornell’s study found that only 2,500-4,650 temporary jobs would be created, and the net effect would job losses over the long-term. This is not the solution to our jobs crisis; it would make it worse. Strike 1.

The second lie is that the pipeline would decrease our dependency on Middle Eastern oil. 

This lie hinges on two ideas: 1) that the pipeline would necessarily increase oil flow out of Canada, and 2) that the oil would necessarily be used within the United States. Neither is true.

The first idea was pushed by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) when he said the pipeline “could have brought 700,000 barrels of oil to the market each day…” As FactCheck.org pointed out, that would be the additional capacity only if Canada had that to send, which it does not. A 2010 study (by EnSys Energy & Systems Inc. of Lexington, MA) found that existing pipelines can handle any theoretical surplus, even without the Keystone XL.

So if it is not going to increase oil flow, why build it?  Most of Canada’s existing pipelines go to Cushing, Oklahoma, with the rest terminating elsewhere in the Midwest such as Wisconsin and Illinois. This is a great deal for us, but Canada’s Natural Resources Minister, Joe Oliver, indicated that Canada wants to “diversify” to increase profits.

This is why the Keystone XL is being built: to bypass Cushing and other Midwestern refineries, and bring Canadian crude to Texas’ Foreign Trade Zones for export.

Amid concerns that this was the intention, Massachusetts’ Congressional Representative Ed Markey, asked TransCanada’s president to require any oil transported in the Keystone XL to be sold to the United States. Mr. Pourbaix refused.  The purpose of the pipeline is to increase Canadian oil profits by taking access away from the US; it will not decrease our dependency on Middle Eastern oil. Strike 2.

The last lie is that the Keystone XL pipeline would decrease prices at the pump.

There are two reasons why this statement is a lie. First, the pipeline would actually be in two sections. The larger, more controversial section would travel through the Ogallala aquifer as currently proposed. The smaller section, or “lower leg,” will run from Cushing to Texas. Unbeknownst to most people, President Obama actually approved this section, and construction began this past summer. The point of the lower leg is to transport excess crude out of Cushing .

The fact that there is so much oil in Oklahoma is economically good for Americans, and particularly good for Mid-westerners, because the supply is keeping prices artificially low. However, when the lower leg is completed, TransCanada has stated that they will use it to extract $5 billion/year more from Midwestern refineries by ending existing discounts, causing prices at the pump to increase.

The second reason this is a lie, is that prices at the pump will increase nationwide by roughly 10-20 cents per gallon due to Canadian oil customers being “diversified.”   Pump prices are not dictated by simple “supply and demand” economics.  This is the myth that has allowed conservatives to run the table on energy for years, from 2008’s “drill, baby, drill” to the Keystone XL of today.

There are two main standards for pricing barrels of oil: the US’s West Texas Intermediate (WTI), and the UK’s Brent. The best explanation I’ve seen of the two is from Vedran Vuk (of the conservative-biased Heritage Foundation). WTI is a lighter crude than Brent, and is easier to process. Thus, WTI has been the more desirable crude around the world, and has historically driven the global pricing of oil.

However, in recent years, WTI cost has been kept artificially low mainly due to the bottleneck of crude in Cushing. This crude has increasingly become composed of natural gas from shale, and bitumen from the Canadian tar sands. Dr. Stuart Stanford explained that this shale/bitumen transition has contributed to a wide divergence in WTI and Brent pricing, and “landlocked oil [in Cushing] had to be discounted to persuade reachable consumers to use more of it.”  This has been confirmed by TransCanada officials in their testimony to the Canadian National Energy Board.

When the lower leg is completed, and if the rest is green-lighted, Canadian oil will flow to Texas, where the price is actually based on the Brent standard. Vuk accurately pointed out that the way to end the WTI-Brent discrepancy is to build the Keystone XL, driving WTI price up – not bringing Brent price down.  The US will not see lower prices at the pump when this happens. In fact, prices will increase.

This all flows from the fact that the price of a barrel of oil actually isn’t based purely on “supply and demand.” The price is largely influenced by speculation in oil futures on the commodities exchange.  An article in Forbes Magazine pointed out that “speculation in crude oil adds $23.39 to the price per barrel… this translates out into a premium for gasoline at the pump of $0.56 a gallon.”

There are plenty of other of analyses that show this correlation between barrel price and speculation, and many are outlined in a MediaMatters.org article entitled “STUDY: Media Missing the Mark on Gas Prices,” and it is definitely worth a read.  In fact, back in 2009 a stock broker at PVM Oil Futures got really drunk one night and accidentally purchased 69% of the world’s oil futures stock. This had nothing to do with physical supply, and yet it drove up the price of oil by $1.65/barrel to an 8-month high. 

Based on these market forces, Canada’s National Energy Board expects the US to pay upwards of $3.9 billion more per year if the pipeline is built, causing prices at the pump to go up. Strike 3.

Environmental Impacts
Conservatives in politics and in the media (Wall Street Journal, FOX News, Rush Limbaugh – who my first blog post was about, etc.) are completely fabricating “benefits” to overshadow the consequences. They know they can fool some of us into thinking that they are looking out for our best interests, when really, all they want is to make the rich and powerful even more rich and powerful – consequences be damned.

Make no mistake – the consequences of building the pipeline, and continuing to encourage exploitation of the Canadian Tar Sands, would be extreme and devastating. First, tar sands crude carries diluted bitumen, which the National Resources Defense Council indicates is “highly corrosive, acidic, and potentially unstable blend of thick raw bitumen and volatile natural gas liquid condensate.” Rupture of the pipe, and thus spills, are inevitable. One of these spills (which didn’t get a ton of press coverage due to the fact that it happened while everyone’s attention was on the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico) happened near Marshall, Michigan in July 2010. 1.1 million gallons of oil flooded the Kalamazoo River, with clean-up efforts lasting 18 months (the EPA maintains that further clean-up is still required). A key property of the bitumen-containing crude is that it sinks in water… so the only way they could separate the oil was to literally shake the riverbed.

The pipeline’s currently proposed route would put at risk the Ogallala aquifer, which not only provides safe drinking water to 82% of those living within the aquifer boundary (including parts of South Dakota, Nebraska, Wyoming, Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Texas), but also provides irrigation water for 30% of the entire nation’s crops.

The second problem with further exploiting the tar sands can be summed up by NASA’s top climatologist, Jim Hansen, who pointed out that if we “tap this stuff heavily, it’s game over for the climate.” And this comes at a time when we can already see and feel the effects of Global Warming through continually more-frequent and more-devastating storms (the article in the link is a VERY good read). The recent Hurricane Sandy was the largest hurricane to ever hit the northeastern United States, killing at least 75 people, stranding thousands in their homes, leaving millions without power, and carrying an estimated clean-up cost of $60 billion.

By peddling these three lies to advocate for a project that would cause so much devastation, every politician who voted for the pipeline (such as the 42 Senators who voted for the Hoeven amendment), or continues to support the pipeline (such as Mitt Romney), has shown that they simply cannot be trusted to represent the best interests not just of America, but also humanity as a whole.

They should be called out for it, forced to answer for their lies, and be thoroughly defeated.

*     *     *     *

Two proposed amendments to the March 2012 Transportation Bill related to the Keystone XL. The first, the “Hoeven amendment,” would’ve approved the project without an environmental impact study. The second, the “Wyden amendment,” would’ve required all oil transported by the Keystone XL to be used within the US:

Rollcall Vote on “Hoeven amendment”, YEAs (approve pipeline):

  • Alexander (R-TN)
  • Ayotte (R-NH)
  • Barrasso (R-WY)
  • Baucus (D-MT)
  • Begich (D-AK)
  • Blunt (R-MO)
  • Boozman (R-AR)
  • Brown (R-MA)
  • Burr (R-NC)
  • Casey (D-PA)
  • Chambliss (R-GA)
  • Coats (R-IN)
  • Coburn (R-OK)
  • Cochran (R-MS)
  • Collins (R-ME)
  • Conrad (D-ND)
  • Corker (R-TN)
  • Cornyn (R-TX)
  • Crapo (R-ID)
  • DeMint (R-SC)
  • Enzi (R-WY)
  • Graham (R-SC)
  • Grassley (R-IA)
  • Hagan (D-NC)
  • Hatch (R-UT)
  • Heller (R-NV)
  • Hoeven (R-ND)
  • Hutchison (R-TX)
  • Inhofe (R-OK)
  • Isakson (R-GA)
  • Johanns (R-NE)
  • Johnson (R-WI)
  • Kyl (R-AZ)
  • Landrieu (D-LA)
  • Lee (R-UT)
  • Lugar (R-IN)
  • Manchin (D-WV)
  • McCain (R-AZ)
    • McCaskill (D-MO)
    • McConnell (R-KY)
    • Moran (R-KS)
    • Murkowski (R-AK)
    • Paul (R-KY)
    • Portman (R-OH)
    • Pryor (D-AR)
    • Risch (R-ID)
    • Roberts (R-KS)
    • Rubio (R-FL)
    • Sessions (R-AL)
    • Shelby (R-AL)
    • Snowe (R-ME)
    • Tester (D-MT)
    • Toomey (R-PA)
    • Vitter (R-LA)
    • Webb (D-VA)

Rollcall Vote on Wyden amendment, NAYs (do not require crude from Keystone to be used in US):

  • Akaka (D-HI)
  • Alexander (R-TN)
  • Ayotte (R-NH)
  • Barrasso (R-WY)
  • Baucus (D-MT)
  • Begich (D-AK)
  • Bennet (D-CO)
  • Blunt (R-MO)
  • Boozman (R-AR)
  • Brown (R-MA)
  • Burr (R-NC)
  • Casey (D-PA)
  • Chambliss (R-GA)
  • Coats (R-IN)
  • Coburn (R-OK)
  • Cochran (R-MS)
  • Collins (R-ME)
  • Corker (R-TN)
  • Cornyn (R-TX)
  • Crapo (R-ID)
  • DeMint (R-SC)
  • Enzi (R-WY)
  • Gillibrand (D-NY)
  • Graham (R-SC)
  • Grassley (R-IA)
  • Hagan (D-NC)
  • Hatch (R-UT)
  • Heller (R-NV)
  • Hoeven (R-ND)
  • Hutchison (R-TX)
  • Inhofe (R-OK)
  • Isakson (R-GA)
  • Johanns (R-NE)
  • Johnson (R-WI)
  • Kerry (D-MA)
  • Kyl (R-AZ)
  • Landrieu (D-LA)
  • Leahy (D-VT)
  • Lee (R-UT)
  • Lugar (R-IN)
  • Manchin (D-WV)
  • McCain (R-AZ)
  • McConnell (R-KY)
  • Moran (R-KS)
  • Murkowski (R-AK)
  • Nelson (D-NE)
  • Paul (R-KY)
  • Portman (R-OH)
  • Pryor (D-AR)
  • Reed (D-RI)
  • Risch (R-ID)
  • Roberts (R-KS)
  • Rubio (R-FL)
  • Sanders (I-VT)
  • Sessions (R-AL)
  • Shaheen (D-NH)
  • Shelby (R-AL)
  • Snowe (R-ME)
  • Toomey (R-PA)
  • Udall (D-CO)
  • Vitter (R-LA)
  • Warner (D-VA)
  • Webb (D-VA)
  • Whitehouse (D-RI)
  • Wicker (R-MS)
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Debunktion Junction: Myth of “1 More Gun”

In the wake of gun-related tragedies, the pro-gun part of the population always comes to the same conclusion: the problem was not that there were too many guns, but rather that there were too few guns. In other words, had there been “just one more gun” – in the hands of one of the victims – they would’ve been able to defend themselves, and stop the shooter.

This is a notion etched in our minds from years of movies, TV shows, and video games portraying the singular “good guy” as an excellent marksman going up against a gang of inept “bad guys” who seem to have never attended aiming school.  It is a theme so prevalent that Roger Egbert deemed it the “Principle of Evil Marksmanship” in his 1980 book “Little Movie Glossary.”

It’s easy to deal in the theoretical, and simply say that more guns would’ve fixed the problem. However, this idealized view of guns falls apart when we look at the actual facts. I agree that the “one more gun” myth sounds good in theory, but we don’t live in a theoretical world.

In the real world, we know that having a gun actually makes you LESS safe, not more safe. A 2009 study found that having a gun while being the victim of an assault made it more likely that you would be shot: “On average, guns did not protect those who possessed them from being shot in an assault. Although successful defensive gun uses occur each year, the probability of success may be low for civilian gun users in urban areas. Such users should reconsider their possession of guns or, at least, understand that regular possession necessitates careful safety countermeasures.”

In addition, arming a victim of a mass-shooting with a gun is actually more dangerous than it is helpful. An ABC News experiment showed that your body naturally gets in your way in crisis situations, as your brain is sending “flee” signals. As you work to overcome those signals (such as increased blood flow) and tunnel vision, even highly experienced gun owners most likely will not be able to react quickly enough to stop a shooter, and may even get themselves injured or killed in the process:

“No one ever gets hit in the movies, but in real life I got hit 5 or 6 times.” -participant in ABC News experiment

Not only is it “blaming the victim” for not defending themselves, the more we learn about the details of mass-shootings, the more it becomes clear that “one more gun” wouldn’t have made any practical difference.  Let’s look at three well-known mass-shootings: (1) the “Batman” shooting in Aurora, Colorado, (2) 2011’s Gabby Giffords shooting, and (3) the Virgina Tech massacre in 2007.*

*NOTE: Some pro-gun advocates have criticized my focus on these three events as a way to “cherry-pick” only those that fit my needs, or as an attempt to isolate them from some “other” trend that I’m trying to “hide.” This entry was originally published on July 24, 2012 (as the URL indicates), and I picked these three because, at the time, they were three of the highest-profile mass-shootings. Aurora had just happened 4 days earlier. Virginia Tech was (and is still) the deadliest school shooting in American history. Gabby Giffords had been targeted as a United States Representative during a time when political rhetoric was becoming very violent (particularly against President Obama and Congressional Democrats after the passage of Obamacare).

As of December 14, 2012 (according to ThinkProgress.org): “since 1982, America has mourned at least 61 mass murders,” and it would certainly not be feasible to go through every case to make my point.  Since this post was first published, there have been several mass-shootings, including Wade Michael Page’s attack at a Sikh temple, Adam Lanza’s rampage at Sandy Hook Elementary School, and Aaron Alexis’ shooting at the Navy Yard in Washington, DC.  I stand by the three I had chosen at the time, and the exclusion of any other mass-shootings is not an attempt to be deceitful or disingenuous.

The theory of “one more gun” relies heavily on the following two contradictory assumptions:

1) If everyone is allowed to carry a gun, then the fear of retaliation will preemptively stop someone from using a gun in the first place, because statistically it’s probable that someone else will have a gun… and no one wants to be killed – obviously.

2) If someone wants to kill someone, there is no way to stop them – not even fear of retaliation from the possibility that someone around them will have a gun.  So then everyone (or at least most people) must actually HAVE a gun, because a trigger-ready vigilante is the only way to stop the second bullet.

Point 1 assumes that those who commit these acts are logical, rational people.  It also assumes they every person who wants to kill people also who cares if they themselves die – and cannot take precautions against this. It also assumes that point 2 is incorrect.
Point 2 assumes that point 1 is incorrect, and leads to a fully-armed (or mostly-armed) country of vigilantes. 

Let’s see how these apply in the real world…

“Batman” / Aurora, Colorado

As of right now (July 24, 2012), what we know is this: between May 22 and July 7, James Holmes bought two Glock pistols, a shotgun, and an AR-15 rifle from local branches of Bass Pro Shops and Gander Mountain Guns. At the same time, he was stockpiling bullets, high-capacity magazines, and military-grade protective armor from such websites as BulkAmmo.com and TacticalGear.com, “which caters to police officers looking to augment their equipment, [and] members of the military who don’t want to wait on permission from the bureaucracy for new combat gear.” All of this was available to a civilian with no background check. According to a spokeswoman for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, “there is no official system to track whether people are stockpiling vast amounts of firepower.”

With his arsenal set, and raising no red flags within our current system, Holmes purchased his ticket for the midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises,” and walked in with everyone else in plain clothes. He then propped open an Emergency exit, left, and came back wearing bulletproof vest, tactical helmet, groin, leg, and throat protection, as well as a gas mask. He first threw smoke bombs, and since there were plenty of people wearing costumes, many thought it was part of the show. It wasn’t until he started firing that anyone realized it was an attack.

It lasted a mere 90 seconds.

According to Aurora Police Chief Daniel Oates, Holmes used the 223-caliber assault rifle loaded with a 100-round drum magazine. “I am told by experts,” he said, “that with that drum magazine, he could’ve gotten off 50-60 rounds within 1 minute, even if it were [only] semi-automatic.”

He began firing indiscriminately at first, and then at anyone who tried to leave. He injured 70 people (a small handful were not hit by bullets, but were injured indirectly), and killing an additional 12 (10 of whom died in the theater). So many bullets were fired that some pierced the adjacent theater.

When he decided he was done, he left the theater and returned to his car. At this point, the police had arrived and arrested him. “If you look at active shooters, they often go to engage their mayhem, and then be killed by police or commit suicide. He didn’t do that.” -Danny Coulson, former FBI deputy assistant director.

So let’s apply the “one more gun” theory:

1) Premise: ‘If Holmes knew there could be other people in the theater with a gun, he wouldn’t have tried to kill people in the first place because he – like all murderers – was a rational person.’

Reality: Holmes was aware that he could face retaliation – perhaps from people in attendance, or from a police response. He was aware and prepared for this possibility, and it wasn’t enough to deter him.

2) Premise: ‘Someone with a gun could’ve been stopped sooner.’

Reality:  With his head-to-toe armor, Holmes was prepared for retaliation, and any return fire would’ve been unlikely to do any damage. Further, let’s put ourselves into the situation: this theoretical person with “one more gun” would’ve been fully engrossed in the film – their mind distracted, and their eyes focused on the screen. It was not only dark, but once Holmes entered, also filled with smoke. Holmes had the benefit of a gas mask, which the theoretical person would not have had. They would’ve had to have realized what was going on, pulled their gun, seen through the smoke, gotten a clear shot through all of the chaos of bullets and people scrambling for the exits, managed not to be shot themselves, and found the smallest part of his body not covered with protection… all within 90 seconds.  

That’s far too much to ask.

No, “one more gun” likely would not have helped in this tragedy.  Further, what if instead of “one more gun,” there were rather several more guns … multiple people straining through the smoke, and firing at where ever gun shots were coming from – including each other. Bullets cross-firing through the entire room… MORE innocent people potentially killed.  Or imagine if people were accustomed to going to movies fully armed, “just in case.”  We’ve already seen plenty of cases of road rage turning deadly when guns are present – how tragic if we started seeing altercations between rowdy movie goers turning deadly…

Virginia Tech 

Two years prior to launching his attack, Seung-Hui Cho was removed from school and admitted to a psychiatric hospital where he was deemed “an imminent danger to himself or others as a result of mental illness.” He was ordered to obtain treatment, but no one followed through on that order and was allowed to re-enter Virginia Tech.

In the months leading up to the attack he legally purchased two guns and a variety of ammunition through eBay, Wal-Mart, Dick’s Sporting Goods, and Home Depot.  His history of psychiatric problems did not stop any of the purchases.  Despite Virginia Tech’s “no guns” policy, he had both guns and all of the ammunition in his possession for several months prior to the shooting.

That day, he gained access to a residence hall at 7:15am where he shot and killed a girl whom he had previously harassed.  When the RA tried to stop Cho, he was shot and killed. Most of the campus was asleep, as the earliest classes didn’t even begin until 8:00am.  The dorm was on lockdown as police investigated the homicide, but Cho had already returned to his dorm to reload.  At 9am, Cho entered the Engineering building and chained the doors shut.  A call to 911 was made at 9:45 indicating that shots had been fired.  Police arrived three minutes later to find the doors chained shut.  Using two semi-automatic pistols (Glock 19 and Walther P22) he was able to shoot 60 people within 9 minutes, killing 33 including himself.  Police were making their way to Cho’s position when the shooting stopped.

So let’s apply the “one more gun” theory:

1) Premise: ‘If Cho knew there could be other people on campus with a gun, he wouldn’t have tried to kill people in the first place because he – like all murderers – was a rational person.’

Reality: Cho was mentally unbalanced and likely wouldn’t have been swayed by logical things like “probability” and fear.  Also, since he was able to get away with having guns on campus, he could’ve assumed that other people also had guns, but that clearly didn’t stop him.  Not only was he aware that VT didn’t actually check to see if anyone had any, VT also had a history of students being caught with guns.  So “gun free” wasn’t really true. Also, since he killed himself he clearly wasn’t concerned with someone else killing him as a deterrent.

2) Premise: ‘If people had been allowed to have guns (which they basically were) then he could’ve been stopped sooner.’

Reality:  the first shootings happened at a time in the morning when most college students are still asleep. While it is true that if the girl or the RA had a gun, then perhaps Cho would’ve been stopped sooner, but that assumes that:

a) The only reason they didn’t have a gun was because VT didn’t allow it (and they were good kids so they followed the rules), and not because they were ideologically opposed to guns, regardless of the rules.
b) They would’ve been alert enough at 7:15am to be ready to use a gun properly at a moment’s notice.
c) Having a gun wouldn’t have led to some other unrelated incident.

None of these assumptions are necessarily true.

The second round of shootings happened at an early class (‘early’ for college), and most of the campus was likely still asleep.  The ones who dragging themselves out of bed to class might not have thought their gun was a necessary accessory for the annoyingly-early class. Not to mention, would you want a potentially hung-over (or still partially drunk), half-asleep college student with a gun in-hand?  Anyway…

The shooting spree lasted 9 minutes due to the use of semi-automatic weapons.  And the doors had been chained closed.  So someone inside of the building would have had to have been armed for there to even be a chance of helping.  And they would’ve had to have been able to find the shooter within 9 minutes.  If someone in the actual classroom had been armed, that’s probably the only way Cho could have been stopped.  But if you give people the ability to choose whether or not to own a gun, not everyone will.  So what if no one in the classroom chose to own one?  Or if they did, what if they didn’t happen to bring it with them that morning?  Short of mandating that everyone carry a gun at all times, this isn’t a practical deterrent.

So really the question isn’t ‘how many lives were lost that day because students weren’t allowed to protect themselves?”  But rather, ‘how many lives were lost that day because a mentally unstable person was allowed to purchase and use guns that have no place in a civilized society – even in the hands of a rational person?’

Jared Loughner / Gabby Giffords

Despite being rejected from the Army (for confidential reasons) in 2008, and showing clearly unstable tendencies at his job and school (leading to his suspension from Pima Community College – on the terms that re-admission would be granted upon passing a mental health evaluation – in September 2010), Jared Loughner was able to legally purchase a Glock pistol with an extended magazine from Sportsman’s Warehouse on November 30, 2010.  He bought 90 rounds of ammunition between two local Walmart stores the morning of the shooting.

On January 8, 2011, Loughner brought his gun, extended magazine, and ammunition to Representative Gabby Giffords’ “Congress On Your Corner” event in Tuscon, Arizona. At 10:10am, he walked up to Giffords and shot her at point-blank range. He then opened fire on the rest of the crowd, killing 6 and injuring another 13.

Only when he stopped to reload was Patrica Maisch able to disarm Loughner, at which point several men (Bill Badger, Roger Sulzgeber and Joseph Zamudio) wrestled him to the ground, and subdued him until police arrived. Had Loughner not been allowed to own an extended magazine, he would’ve had to stop and reload sooner…

I don’t even have to theorize about the “one more gun” premise here, because there was one more gun that day, and it almost led to one of the heroes being murdered by someone who thought they were helping. In an interview with MSNBC’s Ed Schultz, the man revealed that he heard the commotion, and as he ran toward the scene he had his hand on his gun. He assumed that the man holding Loughner’s gun was the shooter — and he almost shot & killed him, but someone yelled that it wasn’t him. Another hero might not be so lucky…

When “One More Gun” Works… Rarely

The Rachel Maddow Show sought out any instances of “one more gun” actually stopping a mass-shooting… and they came up with one… kind of. On May 25, 2008, a family feud erupted in Winnemucca, Nevada. Ernesto Villa Gomez burst into a bar and killed two members of another family. When he stopped to reload, “a man from Reno took out a gun and shot Villa Gomez. That man has a concealed weapons permit.”

Real Solutions Needed, Not Fantasy

Pro-gun advocates often combat the idea of gun safety reform (aka “gun control”) with the argument that “if someone wants to kill someone else, they’ll do it regardless of whether or not they have a gun.” But as Eddie Izzard once said, “I think the gun helps. Just shouting ‘bang!’ isn’t going to kill too many people.”

Yes, if Holmes, Cho, Loughner, or any other murders decided they wanted to kill people, and they didn’t have access to guns, it still would’ve been theoretically possible. But why make it so easy for them?

While it is true that there is no amount of regulations that could stop someone from killing someone else if they really want to, that does NOT mean that we should abandon all regulations. For example, guns are banned on planes, but I could theoretically stab someone with a pencil, so should TSA ban pencils on planes?  No. But should they remove metal detectors and just let people carry on whatever they want, including knives, guns, and explosive material?  No.

The answer to “if someone wants to kill someone, you can’t stop them” isn’t “let everyone carry a gun if they want to.”  In practice, that would turn us into a country of hair-trigger vigilantes. 

Bob Herbert (a NY Times columnist) recently pointed out that more than 1 million Americans have been killed since 1968 due to gun violence –  3 people are killed by guns every hour. According to the Center for Disease Control, 31,347 people were killed by guns in 2009.  Gun violence is a real problem that needs real solutions, not things that only sound good in theory based on fantasies portrayed in entertainment media.

The solution is not to introduce more guns into more situations under the guise that people need to be able to protect themselves once an attack begins. The facts above show that once an attack begins, it’s already too late. The solution must come from prevention: gun safety reform.

A 2013 study from Boston Children’s Hospital found that “states with more gun laws have lower levels of gun fatalities,” and Mother Jones debunked the pro-gun claim that killers specifically target “gun-free zones.” The pro-gun / NRA side clearly allows their love of guns to overshadow reality.

“The real NRA nut says ‘if the government can take our guns, then after that they can come take our freedoms.’ But what happened with the Patriot Act was the government said, ‘No, no, no – keep the guns, just give us the freedoms.’

And they said ‘we get to keep the guns!’

If you just wrap the request in a flag, they’ll line up to surrender the freedoms – they just really want the guns so they can protect the guns.”
– Dana Gould

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An Introduction to The Family’s Influence in Africa

For far too long, Africans have been influenced by American conservative politicians and religious leaders with their own selfish and destructive interests – particularly relating to homosexuality. It’s time that Africans decide their own way, free from Western influence.

These American leaders are part of a secretive religious group called “the Family,” and have long reached into Africa to impose their will on the people.  Their members claim to be helping Africans, but they are really just using Africa as a test-bed for their extremist, often anti-gay policies.  Some African leaders, such as Ugandan President Museveni (who has had ties to the Family since his first election), parrot the Family’s claim that homosexuality is a result of Western influence.

Family member Pastor Rick Warren has his hands all over Africa… he declared Rwanda the first “purpose-driven nation” in 2005 with the help of 48 other American Evangelicals. Uganda became the second such nation, along with plans for their “kill the gays” law. Warren, with help from Family “core member” Rep Joe Pitts (R-PA), also pushed on to Africa the idea of abstinence-only sex education rather than the use of condoms (since the church is opposed to contraception), and what resulted was an increase in AIDS cases.

Family member Senator Jim Inhofe (R-OK) is ultra anti-gay, earning a 0% from the Human Rights Campaign, NARAL Pro-Choice, and Planned Parenthood and coining the phrase “guns, God, and gays” to summarize his agenda. He travels to Uganda twice a year, and calls the trips “a Jesus thing,” claiming that he “can always get in to see the kings.”

David Bahati, the Family’s go-to man in Uganda, introduced the idea for the “kill the gays” legislation at their National Prayer Breakfast in 2008 when their keynote speaker was an American Christian business consultant who runs “Jesus Christ Quality Management Consultants.” Bahati runs the “national prayer breakfast” offshoot African Youth Leadership Forum, with kids from Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Ethiopia, and South Africa. This fits with another Family venture in Africa, Cornerstone Developments, which seeks to “form a new generation of African leaders [since it is easier to do so] than to persuade the present leaders to reform.”  (Bahati and the Family’s African organizations are discussed at length in this interview with Jeff Sharlet)

Pat Robertson (whose father was VP of the Family in his day) also not only has a history in Africa (such as when he wined and dined Zaire president Mobutu for diamonds, and cut a deal with Liberia’s Charles Taylor for gold-mining rights), but is also a major influence in Africa right now. Through his US show, “The 700 Club” (which was Scott Roeder’s inspiration to murder abortion-provider Dr. George Tiller), Robertson has spread hate for the LGBT community – such as when he agreed with Jerry Falwell for blaming the September 11th terrorist attacks on “the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays, and the lesbians.” In the 1970s, Robertson founded CBN International with distribution in “the Far East, Canada, South America, Mexico, Africa, and Europe.” And Robertson operates the CBN Africa TV network.

The CBN Africa TV network has regional offices in Angola, Botswana, Djibouti , Eritrea, Ethiopa, Kenya, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malawi, Mauritius, Nambia, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.  In Nigeria, CBN airs “700 Club Nigeria” every weektheir website brags about their “Turning Point” program turning a gay Nigerian man straight. Since its creation in 1993, the 7,000 member Family Worship Center in Abuja has been run by Ina Omkau, a graduate of Robertson’s Regent University.

It’s time that Africans stood up for themselves, not the Family.

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Global Warming: April 2012

Global Warming increases the intensity and frequency of storms, and causes unseasonable weather. We are seeing both in different parts of the country…

An area spanning from Minnesota to Texas could be at risk of life-threatening tornadoes this weekend:

“Baseball-sized hail is tearing the siding off homes in northeast Nebraska, a tornado has touched down in Kansas and forecasters are warning residents across the nation’s midsection to brace for ‘life threatening’ storms.” (Midwest Tornadoes: ‘Life-Threatening’ Storms Feared This Weekend)

Record-breaking heat predicted for the Boston Marathon:

“Due to the unusually warm weather conditions forecast for the Boston area on Monday, the BAA will defer the entry of those official entrants to the 2013 Boston Marathon for participants who decide not to race.” (BAA to allow runners to defer to 2013, keep finish line open later)
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2012’s Political Super Bowl

On Sunday, February 5, 2012 the Super Bowl will be held in Indianapolis.  While I’m not a huge sports fan, I always enjoy watching the Super Bowl.  I’ll be especially engaged this year, as the NY Giants represent the state where I grew up, and the Patriots call Boston home, which is where I’ve lived since college.

Regardless of which teams are playing, the Super Bowl is consistently the most watched event every year. Last year’s was the most watched US show ever in history, scoring 111 million viewers, and that broke the previous year’s record of 106.5 million. And this year, the surely-over-100-million people watching the Super Bowl will be exposed to several political statements.

I’m sure many people will balk at the idea of politics mixing with sports – usually they are seen (incorrectly) as being mutually exclusive… a somewhat ‘safe’ topic of discussion rather than the ‘risky’ topics of religion and politics. But politics and the Super Bowl have a history…

In 2010, I missed the first Super Bowl I can remember because I was boycotting CBS’ decision to air an Anti-Choice/Anti-Abortion ad starring Tim Tebow. I could write an entire post about this alone, but the Action VP of the National Organization of Women said it best: “This ad is frankly offensive, it is hate masquerading as love. It sends a message that abortion is always a mistake.” Meanwhile, CBS rejected a liberal ad in which gays were portrayed positively.

And in 2011, after rejecting several controversial commercials (such as one claiming that “Jesus hates Obama”), FOX Sports took in $195 million (the second most profitable Super Bowl in history) for parent-company News Corp, while further solidifying the perception that they are a legitimate company. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp not only runs FOX Sports, but also runs “the political whorehouse that is FOX News,” as Keith Olbermann likes to say, as well as the Wall Street Journal, and many other purely political and conservative media outlets.

2012 is no different. While there is no Tim Tebow ad, and NBC is much more ethical broadcaster than FOX, there will be several notable ties to politics. Here’s the breakdown:

1) Anti-Choice/Anti-Abortion again takes center-stage at anti-abortion activist Terry Randall has found a loop-hole in Federal Communications Commission law, which says networks cannot forbid a political candidate from running an ad 45 days prior to an election (including primaries) as long as they buy the time. So Randall is running as a fake challenger to Obama, and he is running an ad featuring graphic footage of aborted fetuses in states that have primaries in the next 45 days (Wisconsin, Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Kentucky).

This, like the Tebow ad of 2010, is a manipulative way to sway public perception away from allowing abortions to occur at all, and therefore actively take away a woman’s right to choose what she does with her own body. It is a common tactic by Anti-Choice (so-called ‘pro-life’) advocates to frame the abortion issue as if women are flippantly deciding to murder a baby simply because they don’t know, or don’t care, what they are doing. This is completely disingenuous. Many women who have abortions do so only because their own lives are at risk, or because the pregnancy has deteriorated to a point such that delivery would not result in life – such as in ectopic or molar pregnancies.

From Rachel Maddow’s eye-opening documentary, The Assassination of Dr. Tiller (can be seen in its entirety at the link):

“They were just all catastrophes.  You don’t pick up and go from NY or Washington or France or New Zealand, and travel to Wichita, Kansas (for an abortion) on a whim.  … Some of them were suicidal.  Some were ridiculously young, like 11 or 12 or 13.  And these women had to meet with a second doctor, who had to agree that this pregnancy represented a threat to their health.  … The patients were already sad to be coming there, and to be barraged by this constant hatred…”                             -Dr. Susan Robinson, OB/GYN, colleague of murdered Dr. Tiller

2) Animal Cruelty: keep your eyes open for a Sketchers ad that uses greyhound racing as a metaphor for how fast their new sneaker can be.

An undercover report from Grey2K shows that the track used for the ad is guilty of extreme animal cruelty.  Witnessed mistreatment includes:

  • muzzling greyhounds while they’re warehoused in dark, cramped kennels
  • providing inadequate exercise out of doors
  • feeding dogs raw meat from diseased animals and animals dead before slaughter
  • running dogs in dangerous conditions
  • ignoring a disturbing frequency (every 3-4 days) of serious injuries like fractured skulls, broken bones, dislocations and muscle tears.

Grey2K circulated a petition on Change.org asking NBC to pull the ad. More than just a local problem in Tucson, AZ, greyhound racing causes “thousands of dogs each year [to] suffer broken legs, cardiac arrest, spinal cord paralysis and broken necks … when the dogs are no longer profitable, they’re killed.”

3) Indiana: The last political point made at this Super Bowl will not be in the form of ad… but rather in locale. The Super Bowl is being broadcast from Indiana, where the Republican controlled legislature just passed, and Governor Mitch Daniels signed, a new anti-union, ‘Right to Work’ law.

Like many Republican-backed bills and laws, the ‘Right to Work’ law is named specifically to make it seem like something it isn’t. It sounds like it’s empowering workers to get jobs in this jobs-crisis we’re currently in, but it’s actually, “a right to work without representation. The right to work at the lowest possible wage with little or no benefits, and no way to negotiate for better working conditions.” -insightful YouTuber Jack194343

This also puts Indiana in an awkward position by hosting the Super Bowl, because the NFL is a union entity. If you don’t believe the person I quoted above, here’s the NFL players union’s input: ” ‘Right-to-work’ is a political ploy designed to destroy basic workers’ rights. It’s not about jobs or rights, and it’s the wrong priority for Indiana.”

As Keith Olbermann pointed on the January 6th, 2012 edition of Countdown: “Studies throughout the US show that ‘right to work’ laws reduce wages by $1500 a year for both union and non-union workers, lower the likelihood that employees get healthcare or pensions through their jobs, and have no impact whatsoever on job growth.”

When the law passed earlier in the week, 3000 protestors marched from the Capitol building to the Lucas Oil Stadium, where the Super Bowl will be played.

In addition to the ‘right to work’ law, a story just broke today that Indiana’s Republican Secretary of State and election chief, Charlie White, is guilty of voter fraud. Since this makes him ineligible to hold office, the civil judge ordered his 2010 Democratic challenger to be installed in office.

Also, Occupy Wall Street is partnering with NFL and Indiana labor unions, who are looking to use the Super Bowl to garner attention for the plight of Indianapolis’ Hyatt Hotel workers. They are some of the lowest paid in the nation, as Indianapolis is the largest American city without a unionized hotel. And as the Hyatt corporation is set to make millions of dollars off of Super Bowl tourism the just announced job cuts.

And because of these events, the Super Bowl comes at a time when the governor, state Republicans, and Indiana corporations would like the national spotlight to be far away from them… but they’re about to get about 111 million eyes focused squarely on them.

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