It’s Actually Called the “Build Back Better Act”

All the mainstream news media, from CNN to The Wall Street Journal, is talking about a “$3.5 trillion reconciliation bill.” Though reporters and news anchors may have forgotten the bill’s actual name (I know I did), they are referring to the “Build Back Better Act.” Now, the bill in further jeopardy.

The Cost, the Cost, the Cost!

The thing that is most noted about the bill is the cost. The cost! The cost! The cost!

There’s no doubt that $3.5 trillion is a lot of money, even when spread over a 10-year period. But in an era of burgeoning billionaires… relatively speaking… is it really that much? (Whatever happened to millionaires, anyway? Are they the upper middle class now?)

But some critics of the “Build Back Better Act” suggest $3.5 trillion is NOT nearly enough to fix America’s infrastructure, much less the climate crisis.

The Value! The Value! The Value!

Smart money-people know that good value per buck is the important thing. The value! The value! The value! In other words, what good does the “Build Back Better Act” provide for Americans?

This is the part of the bill that mainstream media is sketchy about. Let’s become better informed, on our own. We’ll go to the original source.

The “Build Back Better Act” doesn’t coddle and elevate large corporations. This bill is the one that uplifts regular people. It’s filled with people-oriented policies and programs. It addresses “a broad array of areas, including education, labor, child care, health care, taxes, immigration, and the environment.” Here’s the outline of the specific social benefits, copied almost word-for-word, from the H.R.5376 summary at Congress.gov.

  • Better funding for…
    • The National Forest System
    • Job placement and career services
    • Safe drinking water, energy-efficiency, and weatherization projects
    • Electric vehicles and zero-emission, heavy-duty vehicles
    • public health infrastructure and supply chain resiliency
    • Housing, rental, and homeowner assistance programs
    • Cybersecurity programs
    • Tribal infrastructure, housing, environmental, and health programs
    • Wildfire prevention, drought relief, conservation efforts, and climate change research
    • Small business assistance and development
    • Transit services and clean energy projects in low-income communities
    • Infrastructure and administration of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • New programs to provide…
    • Up to six semesters of free community college
    • Free childcare for children under the age of six
    • Free universal preschool services
    • Health benefits for eligible individuals who reside in states that have not expanded Medicaid
  • Additional provisions that…
    • Establish a methane fee for certain petroleum and natural gas facilities
    • Expand Medicare to cover dental, hearing, and vision care
    • Provide certain aliens with a path to permanent resident status (e.g., those who entered the United States as minors)
    • Provide up to 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave
    • Restructure and increase the tax rates for certain corporations and high-income individuals (e.g., individuals with income over $400,000) *
    • Require the Department of Health and Human Services to negotiate maximum prices for certain brand-name drugs under Medicare

* Note the bill’s provision that would increase taxes for “certain corporations and high-income individuals.” This is the impetus of low-information coverage by most U.S. mainstream news media, which are owned and sponsored by big corporations and billionaires. Naturally, mainstream news has a pro-corporate bias. Obviously, an exaggerated focus on funding creates a negative impression of the “Build Back Better Act,” implying it is wasteful.

Erum Salam at The Guardian gives an excellent overview of the major benefits in the “Build Back Better Act,” as well covering the limitations of the bill. The truth is, the bill has already been scaled back from its original vision and funding. In terms of large scale national provisions, $3.5 trillion can only buy so much. The amount is adequate for a small impact, but it does not fund a serious push for economic justice and climate action.

I always urge people to add independent outlets to their news consumption, to get a fuller (more realistic) picture of what’s going on in the world. In the video below, independent Canadian political commentator David Doel laments the negative narrative that cloaks the “Build Back Better Act.” And he celebrates how Representatives Cori Bush and Jamaal Bowman capitalized on a rare network news opportunity to set the record straight.

Cori Bush and Jamaal Bowman defend the “Build Back Better Act.”

What Does It Cost to Be Cheap?

Every wise consumer is aware of the sweet spot between extravagant and cheap. It’s known as “best value for your buck.” Americans need to get best value out of the “Build Back Better Act,” in order to stave off the culminating disasters of runaway inequality and the climate emergency.

Meanwhile, President Biden said yesterday, on October 19th, that Democrats may concede to further reductions in the “Build Back Better Act” that would lower funding to $1.7 trillion. Watch today’s Democracy Now headlines (1:12) for an overview of the details and reactions to Biden’s announcement.

October 20, 2021 Democracy Now! headlines cover the latest on the “Build Back Better Act.”

What can you do?

The National Organization for Women (NOW) quickly put out a “Build Back Better Act” action alert. Other organizations will do, or have done, the same. The basic action? Make calls to your U.S. Senators and Representatives!

You may use the Capitol Switchboard number, 202-224-3121, to reach any Congress Member. If you’re unsure who represents you, tell the switchboard what state you live in. They’ll connect you to the correct office. Callers often end up speaking to staff members. That’s good enough. The staff provide citizen feedback reports to their Senator or Representative.


The National General Strike Is a Thing, Kinda

The National General Strike is a thing. It’s often held on October 15th, perhaps in remembrance of the October 15, 1914 Clayton Act. The legislation protected labor unions from injunctions that legally forced a strike to end. At the time, the new law was considered a big “win” for workers.

This year, OctoberStrike.com worked hard to drum up awareness about an October 15th National General Strike. If you didn’t hear about it, you can still get with the program. Tomorrow’s calls-of-action are:

  • Don’t go to work.
  • Do not participate in the economy.
National General Strike – October 15, 2021

Building People-Power Is Costly

Unless you enjoy the protection of union membership, striking tomorrow could cost you your job. So, don’t be rash.

But everyone (even retired people) can participate in tomorrow’s strike, by refusing to buy anything. Zip your wallet on Friday.

If you see any picket lines, stand with the strikers for awhile. Take pics. Share on social media. Show your friends. (Educate people.) It’s all about solidarity.

A “Striketober” Led by Unions

Meanwhile, actual unions are actually striking this October. Progressive news outlet Common Dreams reports on “Striketober.”

Yesterday, former U.S. Labor Secretary Robert Reich wrote in The Guardian:

The media failed to report the big story, which is actually a very good one: American workers are now flexing their muscles for the first time in decades.

You might say workers have declared a national general strike until they get better pay and improved working conditions.

No one calls it a general strike. But in its own disorganized way it’s related to the organized strikes breaking out across the land – Hollywood TV and film crews, John Deere workers, Alabama coal miners, Nabisco workers, Kellogg workers, nurses in California, healthcare workers in Buffalo.

Robert Reich, The Guardian

Are U.S. workers engaged in a general strike? What is a national general strike? Does Robert Reich know about tomorrow’s October 15th National General Strike?

The True Meaning of National General Strikes

Teen Vogue provides a classic definition of general strikes. (Yes, teens are up on this.)

A general strike is a labor action in which a significant amount of workers from a number of different industries who comprise a majority of the total labor force within a particular city, region, or country come together to take collective action.

Kim Kelly, Teen Vogue

You can also describe general strikes as the people’s nonviolent weapon. General strikes are extremely effective, because workers really are essential. They just need numbers (which the people have, in abundance) that are united in solidarity.

Industrial Workers of the World places general strikes along a continuum, according to focus and impact.

  • Community general strikes
  • Industry-specific general strikes
  • National general strikes
  • THE General Strike – a revolutionary class strike!

As Reich notes, it looks like we’re presently in some kind of national general strike, whether strikers call it that or not. When is the BIG one coming?

When will our nation be shaken by a revolutionary general strike? I don’t know. But get organized. Prepare.

And do what you can to support the National General Strike tomorrow.


A Calm, Rational Letter to My Representative

Oh dear, I spent my morning blog time writing to an elected Congress Member.

It was in response to a ridiculous email I found in my inbox. Hyperbole is a time-honored tool of humor, but Gus wasn’t trying to be funny! So, I tried to be funny, and wrote him a letter.

I wonder, will he get the point? Or will his staff get it? Will anyone read my letter? (I don’t usually open Gus’ emails…)


Dear Representative Gus Bilirakis (FL-12),

You can’t possibly believe your own words (I emphasize the most hyperbolic):

“…we are seeing politicians around the country trying to exert power and force vaccinations on hesitant patients. This is government intrusion and overreach at its worst. To be clear, as someone who contracted COVID and subsequently got the vaccine, I believe these vaccines are a safe and effective way to protect your health. I am grateful that President Trump…”

(For your own political credibility, avoid any association, no matter how flimsy, with former President Trump. The imminent “August Coup” attempt is about to flop!)

Personally, I don’t believe the far-right constituents who you are pandering to…

  • Have lower IQs than average
  • Are more selfish than most
  • Can’t apply a Christian principle beyond their own small circle
  • Etc.

But they DO seem to have lost the survival instinct. Could it be the result of too much political propaganda? Are they brainwashed? Never mind, social scientists will figure it out. (They may learn, once again, that overly conservative people are overly star-struck by authority figures.)

You could do your part, however, to restore the feeble flock to life-affirming normalcy. Simply speak to them with calm… rational… rhetoric.

Thank you for listening to my viewpoint. I am confident that you’ll do the honest, upright thing, even if it perturbs your wealthy donors.

Sincerely,
JoAnn Chateau


Calling out royal bullsh*t is fun! Stay strong, and have a great day.


Keep Fighting for a Win Against Big Oil

Indigenous rights attorney Steven Donziger was convicted of criminal contempt this week. He’s now facing a prison sentence of up to six months. It’s the latest development in the Chevron vs. Donziger legal saga, which began in 1993 when Donziger prosecuted Chevron for poisoning indigenous people with toxic waste in Ecuador.

(Donziger and his legal team won, by the way. Chevron was ordered to pay $9.5 billion dollars in restitution to the indigenous people of the Ecuadorian Amazon River basin. So far, the wealthy, powerful, crafty Chevron corporation has avoided making that payment.)

Many suspect Chevron of using Steven Donziger for legal target practice, in order to make an example out of him — and to project a threat to anyone else who would dare to prosecute them for environmental crimes. After the criminal contempt decision was made, pro-Donziger rallies erupted across the United States and Canada.

In the following rally video, journalist Greg Palast and Dr. Nan Marie Greer speak at the LA #FreeDonziger Rally at the Chevron station on the corner of Laurel Canyon & Sunset Blvd in Los Angeles on Friday, Aug 6, 2021.

Palast was on assignment in Ecuador for the BBC, and saw horrific pollution in the Amazon River basin with his own eyes. (At the time, Chevron tried to get him fired.) To humanize the original legal battle, which was a large class-action lawsuit, Palast begins the rally by framing the story as an indigenous chief who took Chevron to court for the death of his two sons, with the help of attorney Steven Donziger.

Palast Speaks at the LA #FreeDonziger Rally | Greg Palast

Indigenous human rights specialist Dr. Nan Marie Greer added, “For the last year, I surveyed Chevron damages in over 32 countries. I found 70 cases, and a lot of them were very similar to the cases in Ecuador.”

For chronological details of the Chevron Amazon pollution legal case, go over to Wikipedia where it’s all laid out: Background on Donziger and the Chevron legal battle.

How Can You Help?

How can you help to turn the tables, and make Chevron the example? What can you do to tell them, and other fossil fuel corporations, that they canNOT commit environmental crimes without punitive judicial consequences?

You can keep fighting for a WIN against Big Oil.

Chevron is trying to criminalize those who fight for justice in Ecuador. Support Steven Donziger. | Amazon Watch

If Chevron is not brought to justice, it opens the door for giant corporate polluters to continue destroying our planet with complete impunity. Most importantly, the results of these environmental crimes, if not addressed, present a grave threat to democracy, the survival of the world’s ecosystems, and the lives of all future generations.

– Amazon Watch

For more political activism and petitions to sign, visit A Summer for Political & Social Action.


Politicians Can Legally LIE About Their Opponents

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Truth in Advertising laws do NOT apply to political campaign ads.

Why not?

  1. Political ads are not commercial in nature.
    1. They do not aim to sell anything for money.
    2. They only want you to buy into a free idea: their message.
  2. Political ads are protected by the First Amendment.
    1. They’re treated like political free speech.
    2. Candidates may sue the makers of a political ad for slander, but defamation suits are very difficult to prove.

Most people viewing political ads on TV never suspect that outright lies may be spoken. Some viewers may even mistake political ads for public service announcements.

Be sure to inform your family and friends that political campaign ads are NOT required to observe Truth in Advertising laws. Political campaign ads allow politicians to legally lie about their own accomplishments and to lie about their opponent.

Political campaign advertisements are designed to persuade viewers to vote for a particular candidate. Don’t be fooled or manipulated. Do a little research on your own. Check the candidate’s record. The League of Women Voters (LWV) offers tips on how to judge a candidate. (However, ignore the example meant to illustrate unsubstantiated “guilt by association.” Accepting large donations from ‘big money interests” is not an association. It’s the first step in a transaction, and creates a conflict of interest.)

Would you like politicians to stay clear of negative ad campaigning? Then support Ranked Choice Voting (RCV). Candidates have an incentive to speak fairly about their opponents:

With RCV, candidates also compete for second choice votes from their opponents’ supporters which lessens the incentive to run a negative campaign. In RCV contests, candidates do best when they reach out positively to as many voters as possible, including those supporting their opponents.

– FairVote

Meanwhile, don’t accept everything you hear without reliable corroboration. When it comes to politics, take the time you need to question and challenge.


I Support Humane Animal Welfare Because We Are ALL Animals

A friend sent me the following video. It’s about a Frito-Lay worker who was electrocuted on the job, and then denied healthcare.

Too many people are treated like animals. That’s why I support humane animal welfare. It draws a line.

Not that I don’t love animals. I do. And as badly as we treat animals, that’s how badly some “animals” are willing to treat their fellow human beings.

Frito-Lay Worker Electrocuted, Denied Healthcare & Spied On By Company | Secular Talk

Animal welfare is for humans, too. Because no human should be treated “like an animal.” Yet they are. Humans ARE animals. They ARE often treated “like animals.”

What about the people, and corporations, who act “like animals?”

Deborah Perry Fruk explains that the expression “acting like an animal” means “to behave ignorantly, vulgarly, violently, and without any semblance of self-control.” With that definition in mind, it’s clear that the PepsiCo Frito-Lay subsidiary is the worst kind of “animal.”

(Please boycott all PepsiCo products.)

We need strong labor unions. We need universal single-payer healthcare. We need a properly funded Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) so it can enforce worker safety regulations. We need to curb the power and greed of large corporations.

We need to treat all animals humanely, including humans. We need to draw the line.


Oligarchs Set Off Fireworks for the Fourth!

Oligarchs are coming out of the woodwork, with billionaires setting off fireworks just in time for Fourth of July.

Oligarch Willis Johnson

First. Tennessee billionaire, Willis Johnson, gifted South Dakota governor, Kristi Noem, with one million dollars — to fund her state to send 50 National Guard troops to Texas, in order to help guard the U.S./Mexico border.

There have been no criminal wrongdoings. Everything has long been properly rigged, so this private-public, multi-state maneuver is legal. It’s just that…

Experts have voiced concern over a possible precedent being set where wealthy donors are essentially given command of the U.S. military for their political motivations.

— Rebecca Klapper, Newsweek

South Dakota is slick. In 2017, state lawmakers managed to overturn a new anti-corruption law, which voters had initiated via election ballot, by declaring a state of emergency.

Americans for Prosperity Foundation

Second. The Americans for Prosperity (AFP) Foundation just won a case they brought before the U.S. Supreme Court. The decision made the state of California strike down a law that required nonprofit organizations (like AFP) to reveal the names of large donors. The National Review explains the case, from the conservative point of view. (Though you may think it sounds like gobbledygook, objectivity demands that we hear the other side’s view.)

The AFP Foundation is funded by the famous behind-the-scenes Koch Brothers, and their billionaire cronies. David Koch died in 2019. The lone Charles Koch continues to forge on, with only hard, cold financial support from ultra-wealthy peers. Without David, his confidence took a hit. Last year, Charles admitted their relentless, decades-long promotion of Republican partisanship may have been a mistake.

Nevertheless, AFP won this new case against California. Charles is probably feeling more steady. And Vox sums it up for everyday Americans:

The decision is, simply put, a disaster for anyone hoping to know how wealthy donors influence American politics.

— Ian Millhiser, Vox

A Happy Mask-Free Fourth of July

Oligarchs: 2, Democracy: 0.

Wait, let’s make that… Oligarchs: 3, Democracy: 0.

We need to recognize the win of wealthy oligarchs in the pharmaceutical industry. Thanks to them, Americans can celebrate independence mask-free this year. Big Pharma oligarchs deserve every dollar of profit from the Covid Virus vaccination (and projected boosters), because they get all the credit.

That is, the U.S. Government allows Big Pharma to take all the credit. For instance, according to Forbes

It is not really “Moderna’s vaccine.” It would be more appropriately called the “People’s vaccine,” as Peter Maybarduk, director of Public Citizen’s Access to Medicines Program, has noted. It’s “the NIH’s vaccine. It is not merely Moderna’s vaccine. Federal scientists helped invent it and taxpayers are funding its development. We all have played a role. It should belong to humanity.”

— Judy Stone, Forbes

Happy Fourth of July! Whether regular Americans get any credit, or not. Whether our labor is fairly remunerated, we get to vote, receive a traffic ticket without a salad of police brutality — or not. This weekend we celebrate our freedom from royal rulers, and give a nod to Big Money oligarchs — for being the winning team.