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.

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.

Juneteenth Goes Federal

Sweet. Congress just designated Juneteenth, the 19th of June, as a federal holiday to commemorate the end of slavery in the United States. President Biden plans to sign the bill today.

It’s nice how U.S. lawmakers were able to officially acknowledge the end of slavery, only 156 years after the done deed, without the turmoil and expense of reparations or defunding the police. Our elected officials are models of efficiency, when they decide to work together in a nonpartisan* way.

Yes. Enough Republicans jumped on board to make the new federal holiday happen. Thankfully, changing the name of a post office, or declaring a new holiday, doesn’t cost wealthy donors any money! The entire duopoly was pleased about that.

White supremacist groups are probably unhappy, though. They don’t have a symbolic federal holiday of their own. (Yet, that is. Maybe some time in August?)

Seriously. What I’m saying is this: turning Juneteenth into a federal holiday is a small concession to the black community. It’s a nod to human rights, of course. But rights don’t have “teeth” without economic justice. Why do you think The Elites are fixated on maximizing their own wealth, yet care little that regular people enjoy a degree of comfort and financial flexibility? (They don’t want to share power.)

Nevertheless, I’m eager to celebrate the first-ever federal Juneteenth holiday this Saturday. I’ll prepare a dazzling holiday vegan dish for the occasion. Symbolic days possess a dash of people-power, after all, when we gather together.

Happy Juneteenth to everyone — black, white, purple and green! It’s a day to honor and thank the black community and its leaders for pushing, activating, and improving the principle of American democracy. Let’s acknowledge the hard-fought progress that has been made, and keep moving forward.

* “Nonpartisan” is D.C. code that means unified support of the wealthy corporate state.

What Left-Leaning Titles Are You Reading?

Left-leaning politics are fascinating. Social, economic, environmental — and political — systems are dynamically interwoven. But how do you intelligently interpret the vast changing trends and power shifts that occur throughout the globe?

Consult the experts.

To make better sense of the world, I particularly like to read books by professors. They’re excellent at explaining things.

Right now, I’m reading Understanding Socialism by Marxist economist Richard D. Wolff. Socialism is evolving, like every other “ism.” The next stage of socialism may emphasize democracy in the workplace. At least, that is Wolff’s hope. He’s an advocate of the worker-owned-and-directed enterprise. He argues that work should be democratized, in a democratic society. Does that sound logical, or what? (Wolff is Professor Emeritus of Economics at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, and currently a Visiting Professor at the New School in New York City.)

Next, on my reading list, is The Deficit Myth: Modern Monetary Theory and the Birth of the People’s Economy by Stephanie Kelton. The book is supposed to be a comprehensible introduction to the topic of modern monetary theory (MMT). Though I sense the importance of MMT, from a few videos I’ve seen, I’m helpless at explaining it. This book should cure that. (Kelton is professor of economics and public policy at Stony Brook University.)

Then, there are two especially outstanding sociological books that I read in the last year or so. I recommend them to all inquiring minds.

The first is Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment Is Killing America’s Heartland by Jonathan M. Metzl. For anyone who has ever wracked their brain to figure out why so many people vote against their own interests, this book provides the best answer you’re bound to find. (Metzl teaches sociology and psychiatry at Vanderbilt University.)

The second is Caste: the Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson. Even if you think you already understand American racism, please read this book. It’s a deep, and riveting, endeavor that connects the dots. Anyway, the book is just plain interesting. For instance, did you know that Dr. Martin Luther King was disconcerted at being compared to an Untouchable from India? Did you know that the Nazi regime studied Jim Crow policies in America, in order to better oppress the Jews — and get away with it? (Although Wilkerson is not a professor, she could be! She’s a brilliant, award-winning author and journalist.)

What progressive books are you reading, or have read, that help you better understand our upside down world? (Fiction or nonfiction.) Tell us about your favorites in the Comments Section, so people can add them to their reading lists.

One of the great solutions to many problems, is to get smarter. So we read, read, read!