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 For instance, after South Dakotans voted for a statewide Anti-Corruption Act in 2016, the wily SD legislative body repealed the vote by declaring a state of emergency (which allowed legislation without voter input).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

Digital-Only ‘Medicare for All’ National Town Hall Meeting a Milestone in News Delivery

Did you see Bernie Sanders’ live, online “Medicare for All” national town hall meeting last night? It was amazing and fantastic! (But don’t be too remorseful if you missed it, there’s a video of the full event below.)

First of all, THE original digital town hall meeting was well organized and beautifully conducted. TYT host Ana Kasparen began the introduction. (An aside: all Ana’s poise and professionalism cannot hide her utter admiration of Bernie Sanders — which I love about her.) The meeting then proceeded with a series of three panels that I will dub “Moral,” “Smart,” and “Doable.”

  • [mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”20″ bg_color=”#ddbf8d” txt_color=”#444444″]”We need health care to move our economy forward.” ~ Jen Kimmich, Alchemist Brewery[/mks_pullquote]Moral – A review of current obstacles to patient treatment
  • Smart – How health care affects the economy-at-large
  • Doable – Health care insights from other countries

In between panel discussions, questions from both the local audience and online viewers were addressed.

But here’s the ultimate “amazing and fantastic” aspect of Bernie Sanders’ first-ever, digital-only national town hall meeting: Mainstream news networks were uninterested in broadcasting it. (Yes, they had first dibs at it). Now, it isn’t that I’m surprised Mainstream doesn’t care to cover Medicare for All. They are corporate-owned and corporate-sponsored, and the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries are two huge sponsors of Mainstream news. What I find amazing is this: corporate media allowed control of the single-payer narrative to slip out of their fingers… forever.

[mks_pullquote align=”left” width=”300″ size=”20″ bg_color=”#ddbf8d” txt_color=”#444444″]”This in fact is an historic event… This is the first nationally televised Senate town meeting that is taking place outside of corporate media.” ~ Sen. Bernie Sanders[/mks_pullquote]In addition, corporate media may have openly revealed their complete reluctance to objectively cover any part of the Progressive Movement.

Just as Bernie turned campaign finance upside-down, by refusing PAC money when he ran for President, now he is turning the news media inside-out. That is, “out” is the new “in.” With an estimated 1.1 million live viewers (and we won’t try to count the numbers watching it on video today), Bernie’s digital town hall meeting marks a milestone in news delivery. Clearly, Americans are learning where to go for news coverage on the issues that they care about.

“The Medicare for All National Town Hall is live from Washington. It’s time to make health care a right.” ~ Senator Bernie Sanders

More on the ‘Medicare for All’ Town Hall Meeting

Bernie Sanders Talks Universal Medicare, and 1.1 Million People Click to Watch Him | The Washington Post

Bernie Sanders’ ‘Medicare for All’ Online Town Hall Draws over 1 Million Live Viewers | The Huffington Post

Bypassing Major Networks, 1.6 Million Tune in for Sanders ‘Medicare for All’ Town Hall | Common Dreams [They must have meant 1.1 million, but still a good article]

Medicare for All in the USA — or Bust!


First Wave of Work Dogs Discovered in Siberia

I hate to bring up the Russians, what with the Russiagate scandal abounding… but… Russian archaeologist Vladimir Pitulko, at the Russian Academy of Sciences in St. Petersburg, Russia… recently made a remarkable canine discovery.

While it is awkward and difficult… for an American Alpha Bichon like myself to admit this… (I don’t want trouble with Siberian Huskies)… let me spit it out…

Russia is #1 at Designing Work Dogs.

The first wave of work dogs have been discovered in Siberia, Russia. Now, I don’t know whether humans will be losing jobs or not. If so, I’m sure compassionate canines will chip in for some kind of guaranteed basic income for them. After all, we have been friends for over 9,000 years!

“It’s time to rewrite the record on dogs with jobs. We all know humans have long bred canines into all sizes and shapes to do our bidding—even if that’s just sitting in a queen’s sleeve or a celebrity’s purse. But we didn’t know for how long we’d been doing it.

Previously, researchers believed that canine breeding began 7,000 years ago with herding dogs in the Near East. New discoveries, published this May in the Journal of Archaeology, suggest the first work dogs were actually designed in Siberia at least 9,000 years ago, based on fossil carbon dating and the shape of the bones.”

~ Ephrat Livni

READ MORE: The Dog Domestication Timeline Gets an Update, Thanks to New Discoveries of Canines Bred for Work in Siberia 9,000 Years Ago | Quartz

Chester Chronicles the Canine News


A Monumental Puppy Statue Guards the Bilbao Guggenheim

Canines maintain a large stature in Art. The monumental Puppy statue, who guards the door of the Bilboa Guggenheim Museum, proves it.

Puppy is a 40-foot-tall West Highland Terrier, covered with a living flower bed. Not at all realistic, but it shows you art is so important — it has a special license. Artists can stir your soul, without getting arrested.

I am very stirred, quivering all over. I would like to sniff the flowers at the base of that stature, in the back. Puppy is clearly Alpha of the Bilboa Guggenheim. (Who would waste snack allowance on the cost of indoor admission?)

Puppy Bilboa is happy, too. Watch the video and look for his tail wag.

"Puppy" gazes at the distant hills of Bilbao, Basque Country, Spain.
Puppy gazes at the distant hills of Bilbao, Basque Country, Spain. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Puppy artist: Jeff Koons. Bilboa Guggenheim Museum architect: Frank Gehry. The guy in the video is Jeff Koons.

Chester Chronicles the Canine News


Celebrating World Space Week

In 1957, Russian canine Laika was the very first cosmonaut to orbit the Earth. Ever since that momentous time, dogs have played a vital role (per usual) in space travel (and everywhere else).

Russian cosmonaut dog Laika on Romanian stamp
Romanian stamp from 1959 with Laika. The caption reads “Laika, first traveller into Cosmos.” (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)

With such important history in mind, today we celebrate World Space Week (October 4-10) with funny-dog Maymo. Woof!

Chester Chronicles the Canine News

President Graves: Making Conservatives Compassionate Again

Politics Of Graves

“Creator of Graves, cast and crew discuss how Graves is the perfect response to the current political climate.” ~ EPIX

Over the weekend, I belatedly discovered the 2016 TV series Graves, starring Nick Nolte. (Thank you Netflix.) While the Democrat Party is still struggling to comprehend that American voters have gone populist, the producers of Graves were happily onto that phenomenon at least two years ago. Graves is a great TV series.

Political Correctness and Expediency Targeted

Series premise in a nutshell: Nolte plays Richard Graves, who is a former Republican president from a time period somewhere between Reagan and Bush. 25 years later, Graves is awash with regret for what he did during his term of office. He now wants to set things right. Thus, the stage is set for both comedy and social drama.

In the first four episodes of Season One (2016), which I have watched so far, Graves touches on the political issues that surround cancer research, immigration, and gay marriage. Somewhere along the way, a news anchor character quips that former President Graves is “making Conservatives compassionate again.” People are thrilled; the current administration is not.

Expect the show to target the underside of political correctness and expediency. Also expect to see cameo appearances by real-life political figures. For viewers, this creates a kind of cognitive disconnect, as each cameo appears to innocently believe that he or she is above the political quagmire. It’s good-natured comedy.

If and when the series deals with the corruption of Big Money in politics, I will be extremely pleased.

Characters with Good Instincts

In contrast to that other TV series about a U.S. President, House of Cards, we find that the main characters in Graves are not too damaged to exhibit positive impulses.

The former First Lady Margaret Graves, played by Sela Ward, has political ambitions of her own. I expected her character to be cold and ruthless. Refreshingly, however, Maggie is no Ice Queen. She actually loves her husband. And while greatly inconvenienced, she does not reject his social epiphany and change in moral direction.

The younger Graves are spoiled, insecure, and self-centered. Olivia Graves (Helene Yorke) was recently dumped by her Rockefeller husband. Jeremy Graves (Chris Lowell) has just returned from his tour in Iraq, where he worked in food service. Still, underneath, they seem to have good instincts. You get an inkling that they will persevere, and perhaps thrive one day.

The Graves family is in the process of developing a stronger, better character.

Then you have Richard Graves’ idealistic and proper aide, Isaiah Miller (Skylar Astin), and his lovely young authenticity mentor Samantha Vega (Callie Hernandez). These two characters are an equally-weighted set of paradoxical sanity anchors.

A Nonpartisan Political Dream

Graves is the fictional manifestation of our nonpartisan political dream. It’s about could-be leaders who grow and change. It’s about would-be policies that embrace the big picture. It’s about fictional characters with good instincts. And for most real-life viewers, that’s something we can identify in ourselves and other people.

Whether Conservatives become compassionate again, turn into economic Progressives, or regain a traditional Conservative stance (i.e., able to withstand some corporate pressure), Graves artfully uses the Conservative Establishment to spring open the door to a stimulating political discussion. We are all countrymen, not enemies, after all — maybe Conservatives can represent stability, and maybe Progressives can represent growth — we do need both. We should talk more, while appreciating that the “other side” also has fine ideas and good instincts.

You may catch “Graves” on the EPIX cable TV station. Season Two will air in the Fall of 2017.

Watch good TV

Stephen King Has Me Stumped on the Meaning of Shit

It’s been 24 hours since I finished Finders Keepers by Stephen King, read by Will Patton (exceptional narrator). I’m still dissatisfied with something.

I learned what “shit” does not mean, but did not learn what “shit” does mean.

As you may know, Finders Keepers (2015) is Book #2 in King’s Bill Hodges detective series. At first, I was startled to find that Stephen King is writing detective novels. But then again, why not? King is equally versatile as he is talented. King can easily embody the detective genre. “It might be the best detective story I ever read,” I thought. (Before I read it.)

After testing the full pudding, Finders Keepers was awarded only three out of my five stars.

A Disappointing Motif

My complaint, or disappointment, is very specific — yet specific to something continually repeated throughout the entire book.

Let me explain. (Don’t worry, this won’t be much of a spoiler.)

One of the characters in Finders Keepers is a famous author. This author character gets murdered early on. However, the fictional character he created, Jimmy Gold, seems to live eternally in the souls of young male readers, wielding tremendous influence on their lives, inspiring one to do this and making another do that. Whether for good or evil, the iconic Jimmy Gold is an unforgettable character in the annals of literature (at least, within the pages of King’s book).

The near-mythic Jimmy Gold character had appeared in the author’s highly acclaimed novel series many decades earlier. King’s story unfolds around the present-day discovery of unpublished Jimmy Gold book manuscripts — that are now worth millions. Nevertheless, the main characters in Finders Keepers are motivated more out of love for the books, than for their monetary value.

As a literary motif throughout, characters repeatedly quote a famous expression of the legendary Jimmy Gold. Now you know, the repeated quote of a monumental character of a renown author should really be something. Profoundly meaningful. Scoring your memory forever.

Hold on to your hats, friends. Druummmm Rollll….Please!

“Shit don’t mean shit.”
~ Jimmy Gold (and all his admirers)

Don’t tell me that isn’t a letdown. It doesn’t even mean anything backwards.

Looking for Genius

As a King fan, I’ve tried to find genius in the phrase. I’ve examined. I’ve pondered. Nothing. It remains barely mediocre.

Still, for the love of Stephen King, convince me I’m wrong. Is “shit don’t mean shit” supposed to be absurdism? A parody of big-ego authors? Does the phrase actually pierce the soul of the young-male reader demographic? Is Finders Keepers a treatise on nihilism?

I just don’t get “Shit don’t mean shit.”

However, ironically, despite the mediocrity, I may never forget the phrase. (Imagine, writing this little piece on the meaning of shit.) It’s so plain, so mediocre, compared to what King can do — that it makes me laugh. It’s like he didn’t try. “Shit don’t mean shit” is so stupid. It doesn’t mean anything. Or rather, “shit don’t mean shit” means exactly what it says.

What do you think King was going for?

Always reading.