Real Progressives Deal with Political Corruption

A couple of days ago, I received one of those “Let me introduce myself” emails from a politician, a Democrat candidate running for the House of Representatives in Florida’s 25th Congressional District.

After perusing her website, I added Mary Barzee Flores to the 2018 Progressive Candidates Nationwide List. She supports Universal Healthcare, which is one of the two criteria that a candidate must meet in order to make the List. I had to add her.

As is the case with many nice Democrat candidates who put Universal Healthcare or a Living Wage on their campaign platforms, I wonder if they really mean it — if they do not also express determination to get Big Money out of politics.

Because, of course, Big Money donors from the pharmaceutical and medical insurance industries do not want Americans to have universal, single payer, Medicare for All healthcare. Nor do the general horde of Big Money corporate donors want to pay millions of Americans a fair, living wage.

Still, I added Flores to my list. (I had to, for the sake of complete and utter objectivity.) However, the following is my reply to her campaign email:

I’ve added Flores to my 2018 Progressive Candidate List, based on her expressed support for Universal Healthcare. Here’s how that section looks:

25th CD – Mary Barzee Flores (D-FL) – Facebook – Twitter
— Universal healthcare

25th CD – Dr. Alina Valdes (D-FL) – Facebook – Twitter
— Her campaign refuses corporate PAC donations
— Single payer healthcare
— End corporate welfare
— Campaign finance reform

Which candidate do you think is more progressive — Flores or her opponent Valdes? It’s a fine thing to support progressive goals, like universal healthcare or a living wage, but you also need to focus on ending the corrupting influence of Big Money in American politics, which is comprised of pathetically obvious conflicts-of-interests and is nothing short of brazen corruption.

Big Money creates an oligarchy and blocks democracy. That is why Americans do without the citizen rights and securities that all other developed nations provide for their people. If Flores actually does not accept corporate PAC money, or has a priority to end Big Money in politics, please have her emblazon that on her website, and you may leave a comment saying so on the 2018 Progressive Candidate List page. I will be happy to verify and update accordingly.

Was I too hard on Flores? I expect she is a decent woman. But my view is this: A real progressive deals with political corruption.

Meanwhile, I wholeheartedly support the personal political confrontations that citizens are making in public restaurants. Just as we don’t allow an alcoholic to take down the entire family, we cannot allow individuals who are addicted to money and power to take down the United States. For example, the following up-close-and-personal confrontation is an attempt to break through Scott Pruitt’s denial of the massive harm his political actions cause American citizens. The courageous woman making the confrontation is acting out of tough love for her government… and a strong survival urge to protect her child.

Progressives deal with corruption.

Animals Give Love and Deserve Love Right Back

I retweeted this @TweetChester, but don’t want my blog followers to miss out. I have onetwoonetwo… followers. (“Two” means a lot more from where “one” comes from.)

I know this for sure: animals feel love, respond to love, and give love. This short video from the Humane League proves it — and will make your day. Watch it! (((tail wag)))

But just remember: dogs are your very BEST friends. #FriendsNotFood #ChooseCompassion

Sharing Love with Animals

A Record of the American Progressive Movement, Circa 2018

The 2018 Progressive Candidates List is finally complete. Including more than 800 candidates, you could call it comprehensive.

Progressive Candidate Selection Process

The selection of candidates was based on two criteria. The minimum standard meant a candidate must prioritize at least one of the following progressive causes on their campaign platform:

  1. Universal healthcare (i.e., Medicare for All, single-payer)
  2. Getting money out of politics

Simple. Objective. Long. (The 2020 list will be based on only one progressive cause.)

The candidates range from grassroots activists to members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus. Some candidates run in highly progressive areas. Others run in ultra-conservative areas — where you can hardly blame them for espousing a toned-down progressive message. (We don’t want them run out of town!) The candidates demonstrate different strengths, and see varied visions. Candidates may not be equally progressive, nor equally prepared for public office. In short, there is variety, and some will shine more brightly in future races.

2018 Progressives on Record

But the list isn’t about judging candidates, nor predicting which ones will make it to the General Election. Neither is the list merely an information resource, though that was my sole intention at the beginning. About halfway through the project, I realized something. The list was turning out to be a record of the American Progressive Movement, circa 2018.

Compiling the list was a long endeavor, but a fascinating task. The candidates are interesting, vibrant, and earnest. At times, so struck by their words, I had to quote them right on the list, or share an outstanding campaign ad, or embed a striking tweet. When a candidate states he or she refuses corporate PAC donations, or expresses a revolutionary idea, it is noted on the list.

I urge anyone interested in progressive politics to browse the list when they have a little spare time. The sheer magnitude of numbers, and the overall quality of 2018 progressive candidates, will blow your socks off!

For the record, the list is updated with state Primary Election results, and the last update will record the November 6th General Election results — unless something relevant and noteworthy should spring up in the aftermath. Nothing will surprise me. We are living in interesting and progressive times.

The Times They Are A-Changin’ 

Come senators, congressmen
Please heed the call
Don’t stand in the doorway
Don’t block up the hall
For he that gets hurt
Will be he who has stalled
There’s a battle outside
And it is ragin’
It’ll soon shake your windows
And rattle your walls
For the times they are a-changin’.
~ Bob Dylan

Progressives on the Record

Daniel Ellsberg’s New Book Calls Us to Anti-Nuclear Activism

Climate change and nuclear holocaust are the eminent threats of irreversible catastrophe that we face. Climate change takes considerable time to build momentum. A nuclear disaster could happen in a heart beat.

Anti-Vietnam war organizer Robert Levering wants his baby grandson to read an important book when he grows up. That is Daniel Ellsberg’s new work, The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner, which tells the inside story of nuclear preparedness during the Cold War era. Levering hopes his grandson will someday carry on the family endeavor of anti-war activism.

…Last August, I was arrested with [Daniel Ellsberg] and several dozen others at Lawrence Livermore Labs in California, where scientists create new devices to blow up the world. Our demonstration commemorated the 72nd anniversary of the dropping of the atomic bomb on Nagasaki. Coincidentally, my grandson Rocky Barnes-Levering Ly was being born at the very time as we were being carted off to jail.

After reading Dan’s book, I knew that I had to give it to Rocky. Hopefully, no country will unleash its nuclear arsenal before he is able to read the book…

Assuming we escape a nuclear nightmare for the next two decades, Dan’s book can help Rocky comprehend the precariousness of our lives in the nuclear age…

I want Rocky to read The Doomsday Machine for yet another reason. I want him to develop an appreciation for why his grandfather has felt it necessary to commit civil disobedience several dozen times over the past half-century. Because I’m in my mid-seventies, I’m acutely aware that I may never be able to explain to Rocky why I tried to block the entrance to a government building the day he was born. Dan’s book does more than impart historical information and a critique of the entire nuclear madness. The Doomsday Machine offers a full-throated call for ordinary citizens to act to avert the catastrophe…

Robert Levering

READ LETTER TO ROCKY: A Nuclear War Planner’s Guide to Resisting the Bomb | Waging Nonviolence

Book cover of "The Doomsday Machine" by Daniel EllsbergEllsberg is telling us, in short, that it’s time to step-up the anti-war movement.

From the blurb on the back cover of The Doomsday Machine, by Daniel Ellsberg (released Dec. 5, 2017):

…Here, for the first time, former high level defense analyst Daniel Ellsberg reveals his shocking first-hand account of America’s nuclear program in the 1960s. From the remotest air bases in the Pacific Command, where he discovered that the authority to initiate use of nuclear weapons was widely delegated, to the secret plans for general nuclear war under Eisenhower, which, if executed, would cause the near-extinction of humanity, Ellsberg shows that the legacy of this most dangerous arms buildup in the history of civilization — and its proposed renewal under the Trump administration — threatens our very survival. No other insider with high level access has written so candidly of the nuclear strategy of the late Eisenhower and early Kennedy years, and nothing has fundamentally changed since that era…

Step-up Anti-War Movement

I Dare You to Read Jane Mayer’s ‘Dark Money’ — and Feel the Fury

The wealth inequality and environmental exploitation we have today did not happen by accident. They are the result of a patient libertarian/free-market activist campaign that began decades ago, stealthily funded and directed by wealthy capitalists. Jane Mayer outlines the entire endeavor in her 2016-2017 book, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right.

I’m presently listening to the Dark Money audio version. I already knew about the Powell Memo, and am only too aware of the infamous Koch Brothers, but Mayer fleshes out the details of this horrible takeover of American democracy in remarkable detail. The full report is nearly overwhelming, and I feel furious.

…What were all these organizations and donors promoting, other than the election of Republican candidates to office? Free-market orthodoxy, to start with. “Market principles have changed my life,” Charles Koch declared in the 1990s, “and guide everything I do.” That seems as true in 2016 as it was when he said it. Closely related to free-market faith is the hatred of regulation, federal, state or local…

This ideology helps to explain one of the most important Koch crusades of recent years: the fight to prevent action against climate change. The Koch-sponsored advocacy group Americans for Prosperity has been at the forefront of climate-change opposition over the past decade…

As ferocious as they have been in defense of free-market ideas, the Koch brothers are also acting out of tangible self-interest, Mayer argues…

Alan Ehrenhalt

READ MORE: ‘Dark Money,’ by Jane Mayer | The New York Times

By the way, the Koch Brothers aren’t the only players in this dark saga.

I dare you to read Dark Money — and feel the fury. Do let me know what you think. Meanwhile, here is Thom Hartmann reading an excerpt from Chapter Eleven:

Seeing the Big Picture

High School Students Lose Tolerance for Gun Violence and Take Action

One week ago, on February 14, a horrible mass shooting took place at Stoneman Douglas High School in Broward County. The massacre took 17 lives in three minutes. This latest mass killing seems to have finally exhausted America’s tolerance for gun violence. At least, it has exhausted the tolerance of high school students, and they are taking action!

Naturally, mature adults eagerly jump in to provide meaningful support, but this is why we need youth in the political arena: when they figure out something is b*llsh*t, they believe they can do something about it.

And so they do.

The Emma Gonzalez Speech

Never again. Stoneman Douglas High student Emma Gonzalez made an impassioned speech about students’ determination to end gun violence.

We are going to be the last mass shooting.

~ Emma Gonzalez

Her speech went viral. It is truly iconic. Watch it in full, below.

We Call “BS!”

Emma Gonzalez, a student at the Parkland, Florida high school where 17 people were left dead after a mass shooting, calls out President Trump and the NRA by name at an anti-gun rally in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.


March for Our Lives

Not one more. The students immediately organized a protest in Washington D.C. March for Our Lives is scheduled for March 24. Details will follow.

The mission and focus of March For Our Lives is to demand that a comprehensive and effective bill be immediately brought before Congress to address these gun issues.  No special interest group, no political agenda is more critical than timely passage of legislation to effectively address the gun violence issues that are rampant in our country.

~ March for Our Lives

Republican Donor Draws the Line

No more. That is, no more money. Republican donors are now demanding sensible gun control measures.

A prominent Republican political donor demanded on Saturday that the party pass legislation to restrict access to guns, and vowed not to contribute to any candidates or electioneering groups that did not support a ban on the sale of military-style firearms to civilians.

Al Hoffman Jr., a Florida-based real estate developer who was a leading fund-raiser for George W. Bush’s campaigns, said he would seek to marshal support among other Republican political donors for a renewed assault weapons ban.

~ Alexander Burns

READ MORE: Prominent Republican Donor Issues Ultimatum on Assault Weapons | The New York Times

Students Go to Florida Legislators for Assault Weapon Ban

Enough. By Tuesday and Wednesday, Stoneman Douglas High School students had trekked to the Florida state capitol, Tallahassee, in order to lobby elected lawmakers for a ban on assault weapons. The state legislature refused to bring the issue to debate.

House Republicans on Tuesday decisively blocked a move by Democrats to debate a ban on assault weapons in Florida, six days after a massacre that took 17 lives at a Broward County high school…

Republicans voted it down, 71 to 36. Several survivors of the massacre in Parkland, watching from the visitors’ gallery, were overcome with emotion, and the action set off a firestorm of controversy on social media…

The emotional flare-up at the Capitol came on a day when more than a hundred students from the school were headed to Tallahassee by bus to meet with Gov. Rick Scott, Attorney General Pam Bondi and legislative leaders…

On Wednesday, hundreds of people are expected to rally on the steps of the Old Capitol in support of additional gun restrictions in Florida…

~ Elizabeth Koh and Steve Bousquet

READ MORE: Florida House Rejects Considering Ban on Assault Weapons and High-Capacity Magazines | Tampa Bay Times

Prediction: Republican loyalty to the NRA and weapons manufacturers will falter. The demand for gun control is reaching critical mass.

Trump Orders Bump Stock Ban

Bump stocks are a gun accessory that enable semiautomatic rifles to fire faster. President Trump is now prepared to ban them.

Donald Trump has ordered the justice department to draw up regulations to ban “bump stocks” and other devices that enable semi-automatic firearms to fire at close to the rate of a machine gun…

But the announcement, and statements from the White House supporting legislation to enforce existing background check laws, fall far short of demands from students who survived the latest school massacre and then swiftly launched a movement calling for fresh gun control measures.

~ David Smith and Lois Beckett

READ MORE: Trump Orders ‘Bump Stock’ Ban but Indicates No Stronger Action on Gun Control | The Guardian

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) observes that politicians are finally becoming afraid of the political consequences for doing nothing on gun control.

#NeverAgain Rally outside the capitol in Tallahassee, FL.

Today, students have gathered for a #NeverAgain Rally outside the Florida capitol.

Going Forward

There’s nothing like personal experience to drive a need deep. Our young massacre survivors are going to win gun control.

But before they manage to wrest sensible, effective, comprehensive gun control laws from politicians, they are going to realize a shocking, ugly truth: There is an element within American society that doesn’t care if they live or die — and somehow, it gained the upper hand.

There’s nothing like personal experience… Our well-enlightened students are going to go on to fix that, too.

Freedom Actions to Fix Gun Control

Democracy Is Experiencing System Failure. We Can Fix It.

Democracy advocates gathered at the first annual “Unrig the System” Summit in New Orleans two weeks ago. The event was hosted by grassroots activist group Represent.Us, which achieved several major anti-corruption victories during the 2016 election cycle.

However, there is strong political opposition to democracy. For instance, after South Dakotans voted for a statewide Anti-Corruption Act in 2016, the wily SD legislative body repealed the vote by declaring a state of emergency (which allowed legislation without voter input).

The “Unrig the System” Summit 2018, therefore, put the focus on strategies to step up anti-corruption gameplay. In the video below, Represent.Us founder Josh Silver explains how American democracy is in system failure, and outlines a three-pronged approach to fix it.

Represent.Us co-founder Josh Silver delivers a rousing plea to reach across the aisle and focus on unrigging our broken political system.

~ Represent.Us

Professor and political activist Lawrence Lessig (who you could call the “Father of Anti-Systemic-Corruption“) also attended the Summit. In the next video here, Lessig talks about getting more Americans to join the fight against systemic political corruption. The speech is pure Lessig: inspirational!

[Lawrence Lessig spoke] during the Opening Plenary at “Unrig the System” Summit February 2, 2018.

~ Represent.Us

To see and hear more from the “Unrig the System” Summit, go to the Summit Live Feed.

Restore Democracy First!

Coming: The Racial Justice Museum and National Lynching Memorial

We expect the Equal Justice Initiative (EJI) to open the new Racial Justice Museum and a haunting National Lynching Memorial in Montgomery, Alabama this year.

In order to heal and free our country from the racism that sickens our social psyche, we must first acknowledge the depth of persecution and the relentless discrimination that has been directed at Black Americans from the time of slavery to modern day mass incarceration.

Then we need to feel remorse. Finally, we need to shoulder the collective social responsibility to never again allow such cruel barbarity to occur anywhere in our nation.

From Enslavement to Mass Incarceration

“There is a line from slavery to the racial bias and discrimination that we see today that needs to be understood. EJI believes that this museum, as well as our upcoming national memorial honoring more than 4000 lynching victims, will help us challenge our country’s narrative about race and poverty.” ~ Equal Justice Initiative

Tour a simulation of the upcoming National Lynching Memorial. The evocative design is unforgettable.

“Commemoration of America’s history of racial terrorism can play a significant role in community-wide reconciliation.” ~ Equal Justice Initiative

February Is Black History Month