Ten Hallmarks of American Democracy To Protect

The other night, Rachel Maddow listed ten hallmarks of American Democracy that make it uniquely American. If any of these are threatened or eliminated, we have lost a key part of our national character, and a key freedom that we cannot take for granted.

I thought it would be helpful to post this checklist, so that I (and you) can refer back to it if need be. I will be using this in the coming months as a gauge of the impact of the Trump presidency on the American experiment.

Read moreTen Hallmarks of American Democracy To Protect

The Four Questions for Choosing Our Democratic Nominee

(cross-posted from Daily Kos)

Here we are, in the middle of the hottest summer on record, watching the 2016 primaries get just as hot, with pies flying so fast and furious that the Flag Guy is having to duck.

In the midst of the sturm und drang, I thought it might be helpful to have something more than just pie, policy, and emotion as tools for picking our next Democratic standard bearer to take on the Regressives. How about some questions, with scoring? You fill out the questionnaire, score it, and boom! – there’s your nominee.

So, having perked up a pot of java, I sat down to design the Presidential Preference Questionnaire. And guess what? After much scratching on 3×5 cards, it all boiled down to four questions. Just four. And I’m going to share them with you, right now, for free.

Read moreThe Four Questions for Choosing Our Democratic Nominee

Fuzzy Journalism at WFPL re Conway

So I’m scanning Facebook today and came across the same post many of you saw:

Both Major Candidates For Governor Want To Drug Test Welfare Recipients

It was from Ryland Barton at WFPL, and was a link to his story of the same name.

At first, I was upset. What was Jack Conway doing putting out a position like this? Then I actually read the story. And I realized that what was wrong here was not Jack’s position on the issue, but WFPL’s headline. It was at best misleading, and at worst? Designed to be clickbait.

Let’s take a look.

Read moreFuzzy Journalism at WFPL re Conway

Why I Cannot Run for Office Again

Last year (2014), I took time off from writing to run for local office — specifically, Metro Council. It was a learning experience, a time-consuming experience, a demanding experience … but a great experience. I loved campaigning, I actually enjoyed knocking on doors and meeting people, I even got to where I was okay with the necessary “dialing for dollars.” I knocked on over 6,000 doors, made some new friends, and gave it my best shot.

But I can’t do it again.

Read moreWhy I Cannot Run for Office Again

How to Fight for Change Without Being Mean

I’ve been thinking about this question a lot lately, as I do more and more writing on this page, as I try to do more and more advocacy, AND as we prepare to launch a progressive community site for the city. There are some truths that I operate from, that seem to be at odds with each other:

  • Silence is not an option.
  • Bad ideas, policies, and actions must be challenged.
  • Change only happens when either the leaders decree it (top-down) or when enough people want it (bottom-up).
  • Evil must be challenged. (And yes, there are “evil” acts and other things in the world.*)
  • People themselves are not evil.
  • Satire and snark are sometimes the best way to call out bad ideas, bad policies, and bad actions.
  • We are all part of the human race, and brothers and sisters because of that.
  • You don’t mistreat your brothers and sisters.
  • Hate is not an option.

So, on the one hand, we have to be active in the fight against the bad, willing to call out others and take unpopular stands, hoping to win enough people over to our side to effect change from the bottom-up. On the other hand, we must do it in such a way that we do not hate, we must not turn those we oppose into the Other, and we must remember that ultimately we are one family.

This is hard. To do this well and consistently is really, really hard.

But we must find a way.

So, here are some guidelines I’m adopting for myself, and possibly for this new site I’m helping launch:

Read moreHow to Fight for Change Without Being Mean

Elections, Government, Democracy — It’s All for Sale

(Warning — this is a depressed rant. If you are allergic to rants, or depression, you should probably read something else.)

So here’s the latest. The Club for Growth, a well-known right-wing PAC, colluded with the Scott Walker campaign multiple times, a clear violation of campaign finance laws. In addition, when corporation donated to the Club for Growth (after being told to by Walker),  legislation benefiting those same corporations was passed by the Wisconsin legislature and signed by Walker. You can read more about it here, among many sources.

Investigators started investigating whether laws were broken. The Club for Growth sued. And today, the state Supreme Court sided with Scott Walker and the Club for Growth, and said that it was perfectly okay to ignore the campaign finance laws on the books. It was okay for millions of dollars of dark money to be spent. And it was okay for all of it to be done behind the scenes.

But wait! Here’s the absolute punchline, the source of my anger and of this rant:

The Supreme Court judges who ruled in favor of the Club for Growth … had their campaigns for the court funded by the same dark money groups that were suing! And they refused to recuse themselves!

The whole thing is such an absolute farce, an absolute sham. This is banana-republic territory, Communist Russia territory, where the entire election and government system is just for show, where the real power lies with a few people with money, where the people can vote till they’re blue in the face and nothing will change.

I used to be surprised when I would read something like this. “Do these people have no sense of honor, of character, of ethics?” I would think. I was used to behavior like this, where persons serving in a public office realized it was a public trust, and they were held to a higher standard. No more.

Now, it’s power and money and what’s-in-it-for-me — and the absolutely most discouraging thing is that these people keep getting re-elected. Apparently, no one cares any more about corruption, or bribery, or fraud, or gerrymandering, or betraying the public trust for your own benefit or ego or pride.

  • Chris Christie shuts the George Washington Bridge down to one lane to give some pay-back to a Democratic mayor who refused to endorse him — and now is running for President.
  • Scott Walker compares teachers and fire-fighters to ISIS terrorists — and HE’S running for President as well.
  • A coalition of powerful corporations write legislation giving them special breaks, then wine and dine legislators across the country — and those legislators do the corporations’ bidding and pass the bills exactly as they were written and handed to them, word for word.
  • Members of Congress revoked their own law preventing them from insider trading.
  • John Boehner went around on the House floor handing out $100 bills from the tobacco lobby to influence one bill under consideration.

Here’s the real problem: after a while, when you’ve read and seen enough of these incidents, you give up. You stop caring, you stop reading, and you say “it will never change, I can’t make a difference, forget about it.” And you stay home and don’t vote.

I never thought I’d get to that point, but I have to admit that with stories like today’s, I’m closer to it than I’ve been in the past. Why blog, and call, and knock on doors, and run for office, and petition, and rally — when it’s all a facade, all a sham, and your efforts will make no difference at all. The rich and powerful will run everything, they will play off one group against another, they will make promises to interest groups that they never intend to keep, and we’ll do it all again in four years.

There’s a writer on Daily Kos with the user name “One Pissed-Off Liberal,” or OPOL for short. I used to think his diaries were too cynical, too negative, too much giving up. Lately, I’m moving closer to OPOL’s thinking. He likes to quote George Carlin, especially some of Carlin’s rants about the rich and powerful.

I used to think Carlin was too cynical too, but lately I’m wondering. How’s this? Do you think this is actually the way it is?

There’s a reason that education sucks. And it’s the same reason that it will never ever, ever be fixed. It’s never going to get any better. Don’t look for it. Be happy with what you got. Because the owners of this country don’t want that. I’m talking about the real owners now. The real owners. The big, wealthy business interests that control things and make all the important decisions. Forget the politicians. The politicians are put there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice. You don’t. You have no choice. You have owners. They own you. They own everything. They own all the important land. They own and control the corporations. They’ve long since bought and paid for the Senate, the Congress, the state houses, and city halls. They got the judges in their back pocket. And they own all the big media companies so they control just about all of the news and information you get to hear. They got you by the balls. They spend billions of dollars every year lobbying, lobbying to get what they want. Well, we know what they want. They want more for themselves and less for everybody else.
But I’ll tell you what they don’t want. They don’t want a population of citizens capable of critical thinking. They don’t want well-informed. well-educated people capable of critical thinking. They’re not interested in that. That doesn’t help them. That’s against their interest. That’s right. They don’t want people who are smart enough to sit around the kitchen table and figure out how badly they’re getting fucked by a system that threw them overboard 30 fucking years ago. They don’t want that. You know what they want? They want obedient workers. Obedient workers. People who are just smart enough to run the machines and do the paperwork and just dumb enough to passively accept all these increasingly shittier jobs with the lower pay, the longer hours, the reduced benefits.

Yeah, I used to think that was just way too cynical. Now? Now, I’m beginning to think Carlin was right, at least for some.

I’m going to keep fighting, keep pushing, keep trying to make government and society work better, more humanely, more HUMAN-ly. But right now, tonight, I’m pretty discouraged.

Matt Bevin Asks the State To “Accommodate” Discrimination

I really don’t get what is so hard to understand: the First Amendment gives you the right to practice your own religion, but not to harm or discriminate against others. As I pointed out in this earlier post, using a “religious freedom” argument in this way is both incorrect and ultimately harmful to religion itself.

And yet, Matt Bevin doesn’t get it. He somehow believes that being a Christian gives you the right to pick and choose which legal requests you will accept. Years ago it was inter-racial marriage; now it’s gay marriage. In both cases, though, the real word is simple: discrimination.

Read moreMatt Bevin Asks the State To “Accommodate” Discrimination

Conway’s “Seeds” — A Good Ad … Except

Jack Conway’s campaign released two ads this week, both of which will start airing across the state, and both of which are viewable on the web site here.

I watched the “Seeds” ad, and overall it’s a good ad. Starts with his family’s seed business, and ends with his agency’s record of returning $3 to the state for every $1 spent. A solid, calm, competent ad. Except …

Read moreConway’s “Seeds” — A Good Ad … Except