Democrats all over America are staking claim to Doug Jones’s victory over alleged sexual predator Roy Moore for Alabama’s Senate seat, Tuesday night. But it was women, and specifically black women, who made the difference in Alabama, and it was because of the allegations against Moore that turned the tide.

The black vote wasn’t suppressed this time

According to Mother Jones, 235 calls were made to The Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law as of 3:24 p.m. EST, Tuesday, reporting all manner of voter suppression tactics common in black neighborhoods, like bringing in police to check voters’ warrants for arrest and incorrectly turning away voters with inactive statuses. Long lines weren’t enough to deter black voters from the polls this time, as 38 percent of Alabama’s registered voters turned out for the special election, which far exceeded expectations of 20 to 25 percent.

Black women accounted for 18 percent of the vote in Alabama on Tuesday, and despite almost two-thirds of white, Alabama women finding a reason to vote for Moore, it wasn’t enough, as another 10 percent of voters went to Jones in the form of white women. That’s 28 percent of the vote right there, and with black men accounting for another 12 percent, Jones needed just 10 percent of remaining white, male voters to choose him to have a majority.

Alabama football coach Nick Saban turned the tide

Jones got eight percent of the remaining votes of white men instead, which was enough thanks to Alabama Crimson Tide head football coach Nick Saban...probably. We don’t yet know who Alabamians (it should be Alabamans because that’s how Alabamians pronounce it) chose to write-in, but the bulk of 22,777 write-in votes had to have gone to Coach Saban. Many think Saban will finish third in the election.

Alabama a victory for democracy, not Democrats

The Alabama special election for the U.S. Senate was a victory for democracy, not Democrats. Sure, a Democrat won a Senate seat that’s been filled by a Republican since 1996. And sure, the Republican majority in the Senate is down to one seat, which Democrats are likely to win in 2018. But Democrats didn’t win in Alabama because Alabamians are suddenly leaning Democratic. And they didn’t win because Alabamians are fed up with Donald Trump. They won because Alabamians didn’t want to be the laughing stock of America for electing an alleged sexual predator with a specific interest in 14-year-old girls. Jones will most certainly be replaced by a Republican come 2020. Until then, Alabamians will get a chance to see what Democrats will do for them.

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The plot surrounding Russia’s effect on the 2016 Presidential election is thick as mud, and Donald Trump looks more guilty everyday. Michael Flynn allegedly intends to testify that then President-elect Trump ordered him to contact the Russians. Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner has been revealed as the transition-team official who ordered Flynn to contact Russian officials shortly after the election. Facebook has verified that ads purchased by fake accounts owned by Russians had an effect on the 2016 Presidential election.

This isn’t necessarily a bad thing for Republicans. In fact, getting rid of Trump sooner rather than later could save the jobs of many House and Senate Republicans. Here are five reasons why Republicans should want Trump impeached.

1. It would lift Republicans in the 2018 midterm elections

Trump’s record-low approval rating as President this far into his Presidency is falling to even more embarrassing depths, and that approval rating has a considerable effect on the results of the midterm elections. “Since 1934, the party of a newly elected president has suffered an average loss of 23 seats in the House in the following midterm,” according to Ballotpedia. But we’ve never had a President with an approval rating of 35 percent this early in his Presidency.

Democrats need to pick up 24 seats in the 2018 midterm elections for a majority in the House of Representatives. Ballotpedia classifies the reelection chances of 17 incumbent Republicans as battleground races and another 12 as “races to watch.” Just six incumbent Democrats are at risk of losing their seats, and another two are classified as races to watch. 270ToWin predicts 20 tossups in the House and doesn’t see the Democrats gaining a majority in 2018. But if the 2017 Virginia special elections are any indication, Republicans should be worried.

There are eight Republican Senators up for reelection in 2018, two of whom Ballotpedia predicts could lose their seats. The seat vacated by Jeff Flake in Arizona and Dean Heller’s seat in Nevada are two seats the Democrats need to swing the Senate majority in their favor. 270ToWin has 11 tossups predicted for the 2018 midterm elections, so there are plenty of seats to be had by Democrats, and that outcome becomes more and more likely as Trump’s approval rating falls.

2. It would give Republicans a chance in the 2020 Presidential election

Republicans would be better off with Mike Pence as their Presidential candidate. Right now, PredictIt shares of Trump losing the election are selling at 64 cents, so despite his shares of winning the 2020 Presidential election leading the pack at 37 cents, the market doesn’t have a lot of faith in him. Shares of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren winning the 2020 Presidential election are both trending up, as Trump’s shares go unchanged. Shares of Mike Pence winning are steady at seven cents.

Pence is ideal for Republicans because the Koch brothers prefer him. The possibility of a Pence Presidency would likely result in more spending by the Kochs on Republicans’ behalf, perhaps preserving Republicans’ Congressional majority.

3. It would give Republicans a reason to make abortion and gay marriage election issues, again

Republicans would love to make abortion and gay marriage election issues again and forever, and President Pence would make ending both his campaign promises. Trump doesn’t seem to be as interested in social issues. What he doesn’t understand is that as long as Republicans are talking about why Planned Parenthood should be defunded for all the wrong reasons and abortion should be illegal for even victims of rape, they’re not defending their tax scam that turns churches into the next big, dark-money donors to Republican campaigns or defending their belief that climate change is a hoax and not man-made.

Republicans love talking about abortion and gay marriage because they don’t need evidence of any kind to defend their position. Thanks to The Bible, they’ll be correct in their minds -- not unlike the illogicality of jihadist suicide bombers.

4. It would give Republicans a chance to “drain the swamp,” again

The revolving door that has been the Trump Administration would finally stop revolving after Republicans kick Trump’s appointments through it. Republicans would love to get back to an administration that does as little as possible as quietly as possible, but replacing Trump officials would give Republicans an opportunity to draw the eyes of the media and public away from things like their support of a alleged pedophile from Alabama for the United States Senate. If there’s something Republicans have learned from the Trump Administration, it’s that constantly moving parts allows for mass misdirection of the media and public.

5. It would give Republicans a chance to rebuild relationships with foreign leaders

It only took a Tweet for Trump to wear out his welcome in Great Britain, a country whose recent nationalist and immigration-stifling interests he wants to copy. Kim Jong-un has never been more willing or more prepared to start nuclear war. Virtually every nation disagrees with Trump’s position on climate change, but that’s not going to change with Trump impeached. Pence’s personality would likely repair relationships with Great Britain and Jong-un, though, to the extent the latter exists.

So there are five reason why Republicans should want Trump impeached. The first -- the 2018 midterm elections -- should be enough to convince at least a few Republicans to vote for impeachment.

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"Since 1995, more than $15 million in taxpayer dollars has been paid out to settle claims, including sexual harassment claims, on behalf of members of Congress and congressional staff. While the amount of money paid is public, everything else is secret. The public doesn’t know which members have been involved in taxpayer-financed settlements for alleged misconduct."

Those are the words of Florida Republican Representative Rob DeSantis, who is a cosponsor of a bill that would stop Congress’ secret, taxpayer-funded harassment settlements. While anyone else would be required to spend their personal funds to settle a sexual harassment lawsuit, politicians have been using tax dollars to do so for decades. Now that male politicians have been revealed as the pigs they are, now more than ever it’s important American taxpayers are refunded for bailing out the pigs.

While the bipartisan bill would require lawmakers who used the secret Treasury Department fund reimburse the government, with interest, that’s not enough. American taxpayers deserve to be reimbursed -- not the government. That’s our money -- not the government’s, and when our money is used to bail out politicians who are already rich, our money needs to be returned.

Since the Republican tax bill will force poor and middle class Americans to pay more in taxes to fund a massive tax cut for corporations and the rich (and raise the deficit to boot), the least Republicans could do is toss the average American a refund for settling sexual harassment suits. It might only result in a 13-cent refund for each American taxpayer ($15 million divided by 122 million taxpayers), that’s still more than most Americans are getting with the current legislation.

Contact your Senators and Representatives and demand any taxes used to bail out politicians accused of harassment, sexual or otherwise, be returned to you and every American taxpayer immediately. This should be something upon which both Democrats and Republicans can agree -- taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be used or collected to bail out political pigs.

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With a majority-Republican Federal Communications Commission led by Republican Ajit Pai on the verge of reversing net neutrality rules put in place by President Barack Obama in 2015, people won’t even be able to guide their own education anymore, and they won’t even know they aren’t in control. All of this despite more than a million public comments submitted to the FCC opposing net neutrality probably being fake.

Pai’s proposal to destroy the freedom of the Internet would allow Internet service providers to influence the “answers” users receive when surfing the web. ISPs would be allowed to guide users to information on websites they own or of which they approve, providing a guided tour of information acceptable to them instead of allowing the user to investigate all information available.

The information superhighway would be exactly that -- if said highway’s path was dictated by those providing the concrete and materials and not the people who pay the taxes to build it. A highway with infinite exits would gave way to a highway of limited exits, determined by the biggest companies providing services along the highway. If your business is too small, it doesn’t get an exit on the information superhighway. People will have to pay extra to find you.

The proposal would also allow ISPs to break up their information offerings and charge separately for them. Say, for instance, Verizon provides your mobile data. Well, under the new rules, which are expected to be adopted on Dec. 14, Verizon could charge more for audio and video content than it does for access to written web content. They could even charge more for specific shows that don’t represent Verizon particularly well. So shows that actually inform could be off limits to those who can’t afford to pay the ISP’s fee.

Controlling the access to information is one of the oldest tricks in the business class’s textbook. Ignorance is key to controlling people. Slave owners didn’t want slaves reading and writing for a reason. Now that the business class realizes it can dictate behavior through media and advertising and has made public education bad enough and post-secondary education expensive enough to keep the majority of Americans ignorant of its agenda, controlling the Internet is the last logical step in obtaining complete control of the populace and establishing a Fascist state.

The Kochs’ investment in Meredith Corp’s purchase of Time, Inc. (consisting of some of the most-read magazines like Time and Sports Illustrated) is indicative of the value in controlling information. While the Kochs won’t have a seat on Meredith Corp’s board nor the power to dictate editorial decisions, they will have the inside track to nearly a third of the magazines’ pages through advertising.

The Kochs are investing in Time and Sports Illustrated’s dedicated audiences, consisting of people the Kochs don’t likely reach with their current advertising campaigns. This will give them the opportunity to influence people without them knowing and, perhaps, “turn” them to the Kochs’ side. The strategy is not unlike that of Sinclair Broadcast Group, which is the largest owner of local news broadcasts in mid-markets and dictates editorial content that makes people needlessly fear terrorist attacks and is designed to make its viewers into Conservative Nationalists.

Sinclair and the Kochs are in the business of molding Republicans so they can pass legislation that’s friendly to their fat pocketbooks. And now they have the FCC on their side, working to make ignoramuses of us all. Don’t let them. Pay the $30 or so per year for a virtual private network to hide your IP address when you surf the web. Investigate your internet service and mobile data providers thoroughly. Read your contract before committing to any ISP or mobile data provider, and never commit to either for more than one year.

Contracts with ISPs and mobile data providers are likely to change dramatically in 2018, so be on the lookout for an email in your inbox with “Changes to our terms” or something like it in the subject. Read it. Don’t just delete it, because you could be agreeing to charges that will surprise you when you receive your bill. And if it gets to the point the reversal of net neutrality rules gets so bad many Americans don’t have reasonably-priced access to an Internet experience free from corporate influence, we all need to give up our Internet and mobile data, because a boycott is the only way to bring down an unregulated corporation operating as a monopoly.

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The only surprise from the recent barrage of sexual allegations brought against, first, members of Hollywood’s power elite, and later, members of the political power elite, is that it took this long for victims to air their allegations. It should surprise no one that Kevin Spacey and Louis CK are sexually deviant, and it should surprise no one that men granted political power -- even George Bush and Al Franken -- tend to be predatorily handsy.

Perhaps the victims of America’s politicians needed Hollywood’s victims to come out to feel safe enough to reveal the wrongdoings of their alleged predators. That too should surprise no one. After all, a Hollywood producer like Harvey Weinstein might be able to write a check and make allegations of sexual harassment disappear, but an American politician could make their accuser disappear. All it would take is a bit of evidence planting to place an American citizen in Guantanamo Bay and never give them a trial.

American politics are more like House of Cards than most people would probably like to believe. That show would be a hit with or without Spacey because Americans love the criminal or violent nature of competition in all things -- politics included. Television ratings are indicative of this.

While the 2016 Presidential Election drew eyes away from NFL games, Sunday Night Football was still the most watched television show of the 2016-17 season, followed by Thursday Night Football, then NCIS, a show about investigating violent, criminal acts. Another Thursday Night Football game rounded out the top four. Violence draws viewers.

If you include online television offerings, Orange is the New Black tops the list of most watched streaming shows of last year -- a show about life in prison. Next is Stranger Things, a show about supernatural forces, conspiracy theories and governmental corruption. Fuller House, a sequel to the family favorite Full House, is refreshingly third most-watched, followed by two Marvel shows featuring comic book heroes, and, no doubt, violence. House of Cards was sixth.

American politics were a reality TV show long before Donald Trump or House of Cards. The Red Scare, Vietnam, Watergate, the Cold War, the Bay of Pigs, the Gulf War, Bill Clinton’s impeachment trial, the antics of George W. Bush -- all were watched by all, turning public servants into celebrities. When you put people on a pedestal, they’ll take advantage of it in order to stay there.

Regardless, the problem is not that these men are ill-trained to deal with women in the workplace. Training is not the issue, regardless of what lawmakers say. Men shouldn’t require obedience training in order to recognize that exposing their genitals or grabbing people by the genitals on any floor let alone the House floor is wrong. Every instance of that behavior was committed by someone incapable of serving public office. That’s it, and that’s all.

I don’t care if you grew up when Mad Men office behavior was the norm, and James Bond was still groping Moneypenny. Your inability or unwillingness to change your behavior is exactly why Congress has accomplished fuck all since Obamacare. You are stuck in your ways, and they aren’t the ways of the American people.

This is our problem and our fault as voters. Notice that it’s rarely women accused of sexual misconduct, yet the overwhelming majority of our elected officials are men. This problem could be avoided almost entirely if we elected more women to office.

Less than 20 percent of U.S. Congressional seats are filled by women, and less than 25 percent of state legislators are women. There are just six female governors, and only 39 women have ever served as governor.

So during the 2018 midterm elections, instead of looking for a “D” or an “R” behind an unfamiliar name on the ballot, consider giving women the advantage for once. At the very least, they tend to keep their hands to themselves.

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Published in News & Information
Tuesday, 14 November 2017 19:45

Make America great for you

I’ll forward this by revealing that I have always lived in America and have never been outside America’s borders, almost strictly because of economic inability to do so. I’ll also prelude this by saying I don’t necessarily want to leave America currently. While I acquired a passport and New Zealand work visa prior to the 2016 Presidential Election, I decided to give America one last chance despite the election. I figure I’ll give my homeland until after the 2020 election to prove its worth. How did I find happiness in a country I find appalling and embarrassing?

Step 1: Surround Yourself with Like-minded People

I started simple: by putting myself in a place I felt more welcome in America. Not everyone can just pack up and move, though. I’m lucky enough to be a white male from a family that started and maintained a lower-middle-class status thanks to my parents’ union jobs.

I recognize that I took advantage of my economic advantage, and I acknowledge that I’ll never truly understand the economic disadvantage facing minorities in this country. My advice to them is to stand their ground. You might feel yourself becoming less and less welcome in your own hometown as gentrification raises your rent, then forces you to live further from your work, probably in an area where your vote is lost in a sea of suburbia, with the community’s ship captained by an elected official who turns a blind, patched eye as his crew of constituents forces you to walk the plank and maroon you along with your fellow minorities.

You might feel trapped on a deserted island in your suburban community, but you’ll notice the population of that island increase in number and diversity everyday. Gentrification might be the old gerrymandering, but eventually, minorities are going to take over suburbs just as they did cities.

This country is huge, but jobs aren’t following victims of gentrification to the suburbs. Suburban communities best be prepared for an influx of minorities, but something tells me they’re not. Regardless, if you can’t move to improve your surroundings, you must stand your ground, and do so in a manner that’s nonviolent and respectable.

When a member of the minority, it’s essential to do everything cleaner, kinder and gentler than the majority. Think about this: the success of the white supremacists’ movement depends on their opposition looking worse than them. Their entire rallying effort is dependent upon relativity. Sure, what they represent is objectively awful, so their only hope is that they represent themselves more respectably than their opposition. Their message takes a backseat to the reaction to their message. It’s been understandably difficult for them to accomplish given the hate in their ranks, but when it does happen, it allows them to stand behind their unfounded beliefs that non-white people are uncivilized or inherently violent and don’t belong amongst upstanding, white people.

Frankly, if I found myself amongst white supremacists, I probably couldn’t resist fighting them -- and I’m white! I couldn’t imagine the anger and frustration a non-white person would have in their presence, nor the resolve necessary to resist attacking them.

This country is huge and diverse. There’s a place for everyone in America regardless of color, creed, or sexual identification and preference, despite what’s on the news every night. There are  even places for Democratic Socialists, but Eastern Montana isn’t one of them. The first key to make America great for you is to find a place populated with people like you and who accept you.

Step 2: Move to a Place Where Your Interests are Already Represented

First and foremost, I sought the same thing those Boston Tea Party folks were seeking. I wanted to live in a place where my elected officials actually represented my interests and spent my taxes on things I need and want. That sort of representation requires democratic, competitive elections offering something more than the lesser of two evils.

Since Minneapolis utilizes ranked-choice voting and holds no primaries, a vast and diverse ballot of candidates is the result. There were 16 different candidates running for Minneapolis mayor in 2017. My hometown has had the same mayor for as long as I can remember, and he’s never truly been challenged.

Quantity doesn’t always result in quality, however. You can end up with plenty of bad candidates on a ballot if you put yourself in the wrong place. As a Democratic Socialist, my vote in Eastern Montana was mostly pointless except for local bond issues -- and even then I was in the minority.

The “D” behind a name on an Eastern Montana ballot is a death sentence, because Democrats don’t win elections in Eastern Montana (our mayor being the lone exception). I’ve been in meetings with Democrats considering campaigns in Eastern Montana, and they admit their best chance to win is to switch parties and hope to win a crowded primary. So even the Democrats are Republicans in Eastern Montana, making Democratic representation nonexistent.

Since Minnesota has a long, storied history of union jobs and still has a strong union presence, it’s most apt to allow for the growth of a Labor Party. The Democratic Farmer Labor Party is indicative of the strong, Left-leaning labor movement, as is Ginger Jentzen’s near-win as a Socialist for city council in Minneapolis. I went into the election with my interests well-represented and came out of the election with even better representation. The opposite would have been true had I remained in Eastern Montana.

Step 3: Find a Place that Allows You to Enjoy Your Free Time

America is the entertainment capital of the world. Our President is a reality TV star. We built a tourist attraction in the middle of the desert, and we’re the home of most professional sports teams. There’s always something to do in America, but not everywhere in America.

The third step to make America great for you is settling in a place with entertainment you enjoy, because what’s more important than enjoying the few hours you’re not working? And when it comes down to it, Minneapolis is home to everything I love.

I’ve long been a fan of the Minnesota Twins and Vikings. Some of my earliest memories are of the 1991 Worlds Series, and some of my most disappointing memories are of Minnesota Vikings football. I discovered that I loved hockey the season before the 2012-13 lockout, and after almost giving up on the sport, the Stanley Cup Playoffs brought me back, and I’ve been a Minnesota Wild fan since.

I hadn’t paid much attention to the NBA since Michael Jordan retired, but I’ve always been a fan of coaches more so than players -- probably because I had very little athletic ability and was always told how good a coach I’d be someday. I grew up in awe of Mike Krzyzewski, mostly because he made a small, unathletic guy like me into a legitimate starting point guard -- Steve Wojciechowski. So when Tom Thibodeau was hired by the Minnesota Timberwolves, it piqued my interest in professional basketball. And when Jimmy Butler -- my favorite player -- was acquired prior to the 2017-18 season, I became a Timberwolves season ticket holder.

I’m also just a mile or so from live music or a play any night of the week and a few miles from the nearest lake to go fishing or boating. But while my entertainment options only provide a means of temporarily forgetting the mess that is America, at least I’m not allowing the mess to dictate my mood like I was in Eastern Montana, where you make your own fun or focus on all the things that depress you.

Don’t let the state of the union get you down. If you can’t move to a place with like-minded people where your interests are already well represented, do your best to reach out to the like-minded people in your community and build a coalition to move your community instead of moving yourself. If you can afford to move, find a place with people you enjoy, where your tax dollars are used on things you appreciate and with entertainment options you enjoy.

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Imagine a world where the winner of an election actually earns a majority of the popular vote. Imagine a world without primaries, and political campaigns without attack ads. Imagine a world where you visit your polling place for your local elections and instead of choosing the lesser of two evils, ranking three to six candidates by your order of preference. This is the world of ranked-choice voting.

In the ranked-choice voting world, it’s less likely a candidate will give up on a voter, assuming they’ll never get their vote because a candidate likely needs both the first-choice rankings from his or her core supporters as well as some lower rankings from other voters to win an election. The result is more civil campaigning by candidates and more discussion of issues voters find important. A Rutger-Eagleton poll found that likely voters in cities using ranked-choice voting in 2013 and 2014 perceived less candidate criticism and negative campaigning and were more satisfied with the conduct of candidate campaigns.

Ranked-choice voting also reduces the influence of money in campaigns because of the elimination of negative campaigning and use of attack ads. A survey of over 200 candidates in ranked-choice voting municipalities found that candidates were less likely to use television or radio ads, more likely to praise their rivals and less likely to report that their or their opponent’s campaign portrayed candidates negatively.

Ranked-choice voting also eliminates the need for primary elections, which saves taxpayer dollars, but it also makes voters feel like their vote has value, which makes them more likely to vote. In Minneapolis, the number of votes cast in the 2013 municipal election were nearly double that of 2009, when ranked-choice voting was first implemented. A study by University of Missouri-St. Louis professor David Kimball and PhD candidate Joseph Anthony found that voter turnout increases by 10 percent when compared to the primary and runoff elections ranked-choice elections replace.

Most importantly, ranked-choice voting makes elections more democratic. It eliminates the lesser-of-two-evils “option” and opens elections up to third-, fourth- and fifth-party candidates, giving America’s diverse populace the diverse electorate it deserves. Even if a voter’s highest-ranked candidate loses, that voter's vote will still count for their second-, third-, fourth-, fifth- or even sixth-ranked candidate.

Passing and implementing ranked-choice voting everywhere is an easy and effective way to make our elections more democratic and ensure that those elected best represent the concerns and values of us.

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Congress passed a bill Wednesday that makes it harder for consumers to sue banks. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s arbitration agreements rule protected users of credit services from being forced into arbitration rather than being allowed to join together in class-action lawsuits against financial firms with other users who were wronged.

Sixty days after Donald Trump signs the bill it will go into effect, providing little protection for consumers when financial firms wrong them in the future. The right of consumers to join together in class action lawsuits is not unlike the right unions have to collectively bargain contracts with employers, so, Conservatives are, of course, opposed. Democrats, on the other hand, are finally ready to pick a fight on the subject of economic inequality.

Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren was at the University of Minnesota speaking on the very subject of economic inequality on Sunday. She’s not happy with consumer protections and regulations of financial firms she championed being undermined by the Conservative-controlled Congress, and she’s ready to pick a fight over it. Unfortunately, she and the Democrats are in no position to fight, and likely won’t be until after the 2020 election -- if at all.

The 2020 census will offer an opportunity for Democrats to undo the gerrymandering that has served Republicans so well in state elections since 2010, and it will be just in time for all 435 seats in the House of Representatives are up for reelection. That’s exactly why former President Barack Obama and former Attorney General Eric Holder are spearheading the effort to redraw district lines in 2020.

There are states that have taken the mapmaking pen out of the hands of politicians, though. In Washington, California, Idaho, Arizona, Alaska and Montana, an independent commission redraws district lines. In Maine, New York, Rhode Island and Iowa, an advisory commission redraws the districts, but that accounts for just 10 of the 50 states. The rest allow politicians to redraw district boundaries, most of which consist of legislatures that rarely lean Left, so if Democrats want to pick a fight over economic inequality, they’ll have to level the playing field first.

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Noam Chomsky speaks better than I can write. He can recite quotes from peer-reviewed journals as if he’s reading them. The man doesn’t even need to write books anymore; he can simply dictate them. His latest collection of interviews with C.J. Polychroniou originally published in Truthout might be called Optimism over Despair: On Capitalism, Empire, and Social Change, but Chomsky only chooses to be optimistic about the state of the world despite little reason for doing so. “What choice do we have?” he asks at the end.

While the same topics and answers are repeated in some of the interviews, much of what’s repeated warrants repetition. Chomsky understandably considers nuclear arms and climate change the biggest threats to the future of the human race, and those threats are more threatening than ever before. Awarding the Nobel Peace Prize to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) reinforces the legitimacy of Chomsky’s concern.

“It is quite remarkable to see how little concern top planners show for the prospects of their own destruction--not a novelty in world affairs (those who initiated wars often ended up devastated) but now on a hugely different scale” (60).

Chomsky was speaking of nuclear weapons here, but it’s applicable to climate change as well, especially now that Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt has announced the end to a rule limiting greenhouse-gas emissions from existing power plants, proclaiming the end to the “War on Coal” and exacerbating the “War on the World.”

The business class has little concern over nuclear war because there’s little they can do about it. They have even less concern over their own destruction via man-made climate change because they assume they won’t be around for that destruction. But they will be around to spend the money they “earn” by destroying the Earth and the quality of living for everyone on it, even putting the homes of island peoples under water in a world where nationalism is closing borders to refugees.

“With considerable justice, Bangladesh’s leading climate scientist says that ‘These migrants should have the right to move to the countries from which all these greenhouse gases are coming. Millions should be able to go to the United States.’ And to the other rich countries that have grown wealthy while bringing about a new geological era, the Anthropocene, marked by radical human transformation of the environment” (121).

That really should be the punishment for America leaving the Paris Agreement, but mainstream media hasn’t done its job conveying vital information regarding climate change either, especially during the 2016 Presidential Election.

“The most important news of November 8 was barely noted, a fact of some significance in itself. On November 8, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) delivered a report at the international conference on climate change in Morocco (COP22), which was called in order to carry forward the Paris agreement of COP21. The WMO reported that the past five years were the hottest on record. It reported rising sea levels, soon to increase as a result of the unexpectedly rapid melting of polar ice, most ominously the huge Antarctic glaciers. Already, Arctic sea ice over the past five years is 28 percent below the average of the previous twenty-nine years, not only raising sea levels but also reducing the cooling effect of polar ice reflection of solar rays, thereby accelerating the grim effects of global warming. The WMO reported further that temperatures are approaching dangerously close to the goal established by COP21, along with other dire reports and forecasts” (119-120).

But Chomsky doesn’t ignore the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election. He tells us what really happened with the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election in a few pages while Hillary Clinton needed an entire book.

“Trump’s appeal seems based largely on perceptions of loss and fear. The neoliberal assault on the world’s populations, almost always harmful to them, and often severely so, has not left the United States untouched, even though it has been somewhat more resilient than others. The majority of the populations has endured stagnation or decline while extraordinary and ostentatious wealth has accumulated in very few pockets. The formal democratic system has suffered the usual consequences of neoliberal socio-economic policies, drifting toward plutocracy.

No need to review again the grim details--for example, the stagnation of real male wages for forty years and the fact that since the last crash some 90 percent of wealth created has found its way to 1 percent of the population. Or the fact that the majority of the population--those lower on the income scale--are effectively disenfranchised in that their representatives ignore their opinions and preferences, heeding the super-rich funder and power brokers.

In part, Trump supporters--predominantly, it seems, lower-middle class, working class, less educated--are reacting to the perception, largely accurate, that they have simply been left by the wayside...Trump’s predominantly white supporters can see that their image of a white-run (and, for many, male-run) society is dissolving before their eyes. It is also worth remembering that although the United States is unusually safe and secure, it is also perhaps the most frightened country in the world, another feature of the culture with a long history” (113-14).

In short, a bunch of working-class, white males are fed up with the state of things in America and a woman in the White House is quite literally the last thing they want to see as their white man’s world slips away.

“There are other factors in Trump’s success. Comparative studies show that doctrines of white supremacy have had an even more powerful grip on American culture than in South Africa, and it’s no secret that the white population is declining. In a decade or two, whites are projected to be a minority of the work force, and not too much later, a minority of the population. The traditional conservative culture is also perceived as under attack by the successes of identity politics, regarded as the province of elites who have only contempt for the ‘hard-working, patriotic, church-going [white] Americans with real family values’ who see their familiar country as disappearing before their eyes” (124).

So is there reason for optimism given the state of American politics? Can things get better? Chomsky offers a few reasons for hope.

“There is a very interesting article by Andrew Cockburn...reviewing studies that show that an enormous amount of the money poured into political campaigns with TV ads, and the like, serves primarily to enrich the networks and the professional consultants but with little effect on voting. In contrast, face-to-face contact and direct canvassing, which are inexpensive--but require a lot of often volunteer labor--do have a measurable impact” (107).

Well at least all the money being spent on election campaigns isn’t swaying the opinion of voters. But the time politicians spend raising that money certainly limits what can be done on the people’s behalf. But are Americans fed up enough?

“The important question is: Are people motivated to do something about it? That depends on many factors, crucially including the means that they perceive to be available. It’s the task of serious activists to help develop those means and encourage people to understand that they are available” (55).

So if the American working class is willing to join together and act on their anger by getting involved in the political process they can expect change, right? Well, given the state of America’s alleged democracy, it might take more than getting out to vote. In fact, it likely requires, at the very least, the formation of an American workers’ party.

“Thirty-five years ago, political scientist Walter Dean Burnham identified ‘the total absence of a socialist or laborite mass party as an organized competitor in the electoral market’ as a primary cause of the high rate of abstention in US elections. Traditionally, the labor movement and labor-based parties have played a leading role in offering ways to ‘influence political outcomes’ within the electoral system and on the streets and shop floor. That capacity has declined significantly under neoliberal assault, which enhanced the bitter war waged against unions by the business classes throughout the postwar period...The Democrats, meanwhile, pretty much abandoned the working class” (56).

The interviews with Chomsky also touch on the historical inaccuracies and misinformed opinions shared by a majority of Americans concerning socialism and the violent history of American labor busting, on Cuba, the Wars on Terror, on Islam and American terrorism, specifically Barack Obama’s drone program, on capitalism’s incompatibility with democracy, on guns, on the minimum wage, on healthcare, on bailouts and consumerism, and on white supremacy and radical nationalism. The ultimate conclusion: “The democratic ideal, at home and abroad, is simple and straightforward: you are free to do what you want, as long as it is what we want you to do” (144).

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If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Drop Your Energy Bill, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, The Tech Night Owl, The Dr. Katherine Albrecht Show, Free Talk Live

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A day after Donald Trump told the United Nations General Assembly and the world that he would act alone to “totally destroy” North Korea if threatened, Trump embarrassed himself and the American people in an attempt to diss socialism. You can read the full transcript here, but he said, ““the problem is not that socialism has been wrongly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented,” and he’s wrong on so many levels. He got one thing right during his speech, though.

The Good: Condemnation of Venezuelan Government

Before Trump put his foot in his mouth, he rightly condemned the corrupt Venezuelan government accused of international drug trafficking and facilitating the funding of terrorism while also undermining Venezuelan democracy through the courts and a fraudulent election. That fraudulent election created a Constituent Assembly that has since served constituents nothing but beatings, arrests and military trials. The Constituent Assembly moved quickly, declaring itself the highest authority in the nation and forming a “truth commission” to silence dissidents of Maduro’s regime. It’s all technically legal now, too. According to the assembly’s newly drafted Communist constitution, Maduro can continue violating human rights of Venezuelans and makes it more difficult for the U.N. to take action in Venezuela.

Trump’s criticism brought a response from the Venezuelan government saying it would defend itself from America’s “racist government,” which is fair. But Maduro and his government officials are in no position to talk smack, even to Trump. Trump’s utter failure to condemn rallying white supremacy groups for violence that left three dead doesn’t even compare to Maduro’s rap sheet (yet). In fact, the entirety of Trump’s sexual assault allegations and alleged marital rape, beauty pageant scandals, racial housing discrimination, tenant intimidation, creating a fraudulent university and other corrupt business dealings, using donations meant for charities to resolve legal disputes, four bankruptcies, antitrust violations, casino rules violations, the hiring of illegal immigrants, and the “grab 'em by the pussy” interview fails to compete with the atrocities executed by Maduro.

In an interview published by Devex on Aug. 28, former minister counselor at the Venezuelan mission to the U.N., Isaias Medina, said more than 130 Venezuelan citizens have been murdered, and 15,000 have been injured in the last four months. More than 600 political prisoners are also awaiting military trials instead of trials by jury.

U.S. sanctions prohibiting the American purchase of Venezuelan bonds won’t help Maduro pay the nearly $100 billion debt facing his country, either. So Venezuelans are going to continue starving silently or starving loudly until they’re black-bagged and disappeared or join the mass refugee migration despite many countries tightening immigration policies. Let’s just hope Trump doesn’t add Venezuela to the list of countries on his travel ban.

Hell, if Trump is found to have colluded with Russia to interfere with the integrity of the 2016 U.S. Presidential Election, he still hasn’t been responsible for the deaths of over 100 of his own civilians. Civilians in other countries are an entirely different story, though. Civilian deaths from U.S. and Russian drone strikes in the Middle East have reached new highs under Trump.

The Bad: Blaming Socialism for Venezuela’s Crisis

Trump also reached a new high in the long jump he made to use Venezuela as an example of socialism’s “problem” just weeks after the new Communist constitution was drafted by an assembly formed from a fraudulent election recognized by no one in the world but the Venezuelan government. The socialism Trump was addressing is literally weeks old, while the crisis is almost a year old.

First of all, no system of government -- not even a dictatorship -- is designed to oppress. While THE people might not control the actions of their government, SOME people still control the government. Corrupt people use the government to oppress. Oppression is not the result of socialism or Communism, but the result of oppressive people with power.

If you consider socialism’s history of leaders, you can see why people should be condemned and not the system of governance. Lenin, who suppressed any opposition to Communist Party rule, set a pretty poor example for the Soviet Union. Joseph Stalin took that bad example and rolled with it, imposing a deliberate famine in Ukraine. He killed 40 million people, second to only Mao Zedong’s 60 million victims in China. (Note that Noam Chomsky never believed the Soviet Union to be a socialist state, since factory councils were eliminated and wage labor and other capitalistic features were utilized.)

Adolf Hitler’s 30 million victims are third on the list of most brutal dictators, but contrary to the belief of some, Nazism is not a form of socialism. Despite the Nazi Party calling itself the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, the use of the word “Socialist” was completely for marketing purposes. With Nazism being a far-right political ideology, the Nazis had to find a way to appeal to working Germans in order to gain power. Hitler did not endorse socialism nor practice it while in power.

It took a democratic election to break the chain of brutal Soviet dictators, but the only candidate on that ballot was Mikhail Gorbachev. Gorbachev had already worked tirelessly as general secretary of the Soviet Communist Party to boost the slumping economy through reforms like allowing privately owned businesses in the service, manufacturing and foreign trade industries.

More importantly, Gorbachev, who said he believed in the ideals of socialism, gave Soviets rights they’d never experienced under previous regimes. Neither socialism nor Communism require citizens to give up freedoms of speech, press, protest or religious practice, but previous dictators did require the sacrifice of personal liberties in the interest of preserving political power. Gorbachev’s reforms sowed the seeds of democracy, and when Eastern European countries wanted to give democracy a try, the Soviet Union didn’t get in the way. So a Socialist did the most to spread democracy across Europe while America continued to install false democracies that fail people, with Cuba being a perfect example.

The Ugly: The Hypocrisy of American Condemnation of Cuba

Trump mentioned Cuba as another example of the “problem” with socialism. But Cuba’s problem was never and still isn’t socialism. Cuba’s problem was and still is the United States of America, and its response to the failure of the right-wing dictator it had backed to win over the Cuban people.

America’s man was Fulgencio Batista, who had more interest in winning over American mob legends Meyer Lansky and Lucky Luciano than winning over the Cuban people. He turned Havana into “Latin Las Vegas” and turned a profit of $300 million for himself during his tenure. While Batista was enjoying the benefits of legalized gambling so close to American money, Lansky was making a whole lot more turning Havana into an international drug trafficking port to accompany the sex trafficking that was already rampant.  

Almost everything in Cuba was owned by Americans, so the U.S. did its part to increase revenues for those American business owners in Cuba. Cubans didn’t like that, but they certainly didn’t like the U.S. supplying Batista with weapons, who killed 20,000 Cubans in seven years, according to John F. Kennedy.

Logically, Cubans got fed up -- especially Castro -- who was imprisoned for a year after attempting to overthrow Batista’s police state in 1953. Batista stole an election in 1954, but by the end of 1955, there were no jobs for recent Cuban graduates. Since they weren’t working, they had a lot of free time to protest, but you can only protest so long before you’re desperate enough to rebel.

Batista stuffed the ballot box and lost the 1958 election required by Cuba’s constitution. When he asked U.S. ambassador Earl Smith if he could return to his home in Daytona, Smith recommended he seek asylum in Spain. They didn’t want him. On New Year’s Eve of 1958, Batista and his supporters allegedly took up to $700 million worth of art and cash and fled Cuba. Batista settled in Mexico after originally being denied asylum in the country.

This was hardly the first or last time America backed a dictator who backfired, but it was the first and last time America was worried enough about an attack to order an embargo against a country. The embargo has crippled Cuba even more so than the loss of American investment in Havana businesses. The Soviet Union floated Castro some money in exchange for Cuba’s sugar, and Castro committed to establishing a State-controlled economy -- the first in the Western Hemisphere. This was the closest Communism had ever been to America’s borders, so it got pretty scary there during the Cuban Missile Crisis. But had Kennedy not attempted to assassinate Castro in the Bay of Pigs Invasion, the Cuban Missile Crisis would not have occurred.

Let’s recap. America installed a corrupt dictator who would prioritize American business interests and his own pocketbook over the lives of the locals. America then armed the dictator with weapons for an army to crush any resistance to the production of American revenue, resulting in 20,000 Cuban deaths. America then denounced the dictator it installed; it then denounced the dictator who replaced him. The dictator installed a government that wasn’t agreeable to America. America responded by refusing to trade with Cuba. So the dictator is forced to find an ally who can help his country recover from the economic devastation of the rebellion and the massive amount of American money pulled out of the Cuban economy. America attempts to assassinate the new dictator and fails. The dictator asks his ally to place a few nukes on the island to deter future attempts on his life. The ally obliges, but America stops the delivery and negotiates with the ally to take the nukes back home.

The dictator ends up responsible for the deaths of anywhere from 35,000 to 141,000 people over 49 years. That rate is at most 20 more deaths than his predecessor’s average of 2,857 deaths per year, and at the least 2,143 fewer deaths than Batista annually. The median puts Castro’s death toll at 714 less than Batista’s annually. Despite the death of the dictator, the embargo remains in place. And almost every nation is against it.

Castro was far from perfect, but he had his people’s interests in mind while Batista had American business interest in mind. While Castro improved education and health services and promoted social values, he also imprisoned dissenters and allowed no political opposition. He reportedly killed over 3,600 Cuban dissenters by firing squad and took control of the press. Like Kim Jong-un, Castro lived lavishly while his people struggled to eat regularly. But Americans like to ignore their own dark history when condemning the actions of other nations.

Noam Chomsky acknowledges the human rights violations committed by Castro in his new collection of interviews, Optimism over Despair, but hopes Americans realize the hypocrisy of condemning Cuba for those violations. “[I]t might be recalled that by far the worst human rights violations in Cuba take place in this stolen territory, to which the United States has a much weaker claim than Russia does to Crimea, also taken by force.” That stolen territory is Guantanamo Bay, which Chomsky informs was “taken by ‘treaty’ at gunpoint in 1903 and not returned despite the requests of the government of Cuba” (61).

Americans quick to condemn Cuba should also know that Castro’s Cuba played a key role in the liberation of West and South Africa, receiving high praise from Nelson Mandela upon his release from prison. “During all my years in prison, Cuba was an inspiration and Fidel Castro a tower of strength…[Cuban victories] destroyed the myth of the invincibility of the white oppressor [and] inspired the fighting masses of South Africa...a turning point for the liberation of our continent--and of my people--from the scourge of apartheid...What other country can point to a record of greater selflessness than Cuba has displayed in its relations to Africa?” (62).

While President Barack Obama failed to close Guantanamo Bay as promised, he did attempt to rebuild the relationship with Cuba over a baseball game and actually eased U.S. sanctions and travel restrictions. Trump has since undone most of Obama’s Cuban policies, so the embargo being lifted would require Cuba to stop being Communist and stop associating with Communist powers, according to Proclamation 3447 signed by Kennedy in 1962.

The Uglier: Absolutism

The biggest obstacle America must overcome is its commitment to absolutism -- this assumption that questions have one, and just one, correct answer. This right or wrong, black or white, red state/blue state, Capitalist/Communist mentality permeates our politics and entertainment.

Think about it: some people are unwilling to compromise on abortion because they feel life begins at conception, and aborting that life would be murder. I respect your right to believe that, but not all conception is consensual. Would you be able or willing to raise a child you conceived while being raped? If so, I commend your dedication to both children and your beliefs. But what about crack babies? Let alone the possible birth defects, potential brain damage and hereditary drug addiction, who is going to raise that child if the parents don’t parent? Are you willing to pay more taxes to fund orphanages to raise these children? Would you open your home to a crack baby and raise her like your own? If you are, here’s information about serving as a foster parent and adoption. But all the taxes and all the orphanages and all the foster parents in the country can’t ensure those children are going to turn into contributing members of society. They are disadvantaged the moment they’re born and have a lot to overcome and limited resources.

As you can see, almost any question worth asking or problem worth solving raises more questions and multiple answers of varying degrees of correctness, which rarely results in consensus. But instead of embracing nuance, the typical American knows she’s right even when facts prove she’s wrong. And Americans know everything.

For instance, “Is there a god?” is a “yes” or “no” question with no correct answer agreeable to all. But you will get a “yes” or “no” answer more often than not. A more correct answer would be, “I can only tell you why I believe there is no god, just as you can only tell me why you believe there is.” Rarely is that the question asked, however. Most people ask, “Do you believe in God?” That is a “yes” or “no” question that does allow for a “yes” or “no” answer, neither of which are the best answer.

“I don’t know” is the best answer when you don’t know or can’t prove a “yes” or “no” response because it acknowledges your ignorance and allows for learning to take place. Answering “yes” or “no” to “Do you believe in God?” can only provide two results. Either your inquisitor finds your answer unsatisfactory and ends the conversation, or your inquisitor asks why you do or don’t believe in God. “I don’t know” forces discussion to continue, while “yes” or “no” could kill the conversation and any learning that could occur because of it. America is a “yes” or “no” country.

Acknowledging all we don’t know is also a better indication of intelligence than repeating everything we think we know. Socrates said something about being the wisest man alive because he knew one thing -- that he knew nothing -- and he’s arguably the greatest mind of all time. You want to know how Socrates learned so much? There’s another saying I last heard in high school physical education class I don’t think Americans hear often enough: “You can’t learn anything when your mouth is moving.” Well, Americans’ mouths are constantly moving, serving as a defense mechanism to prevent them from being forced to explain or defend their beliefs.

So the big questions have multiple answers varying in “truthiness,” to use Stephen Colbert’s term. The big question Trump attempted to answer in his speech to the U.N. General Assembly and the world last Tuesday was, “What’s the problem with socialism?” No one asked Trump this question, but with Bernie Sanders’s socialist, single-payer health care bill introduced in the U.S. Senate while Trump’s party fails to repeal and replace Obamacare yet again, Trump’s handlers felt it was a good time to diss socialism in front of a worldwide audience.

The first mistake was Trump’s speechwriter assuming there’s a problem with socialism despite the most socialist countries repeatedly atop the Cato Institute’s annual Human Freedom Index. In 2014, nine of the top 10 most socialist countries were rated in the top 17 when it comes to the overall freedom of their citizens. The United States dropped four spots from 2013 to 23rd overall -- and the Cato Institute doesn’t even consider health care quality, accessibility or affordability in its rankings. But the assumption there’s a problem with socialism is wrong because there are problems with socialism -- plural -- just as there are problems with capitalism.

There are a lot of negative things that can be said of socialism. You could say socialism limits individuality by stressing the importance of serving the State. You could say socialism doesn’t motivate people to work their hardest. You could even say socialism rewards those who don’t work at the expense of those who do. Trump could have uttered any of these and it would have been more correct than what he did utter.

The Ugliest: Arrogant Ignorance

Trump thought he was being clever and eloquent saying “the problem is not that socialism has been wrongly implemented, but that socialism has been faithfully implemented.” He even paused expecting applause. It never came, and a few chuckles could be reportedly heard amongst the U.N. General Assembly, because everyone else was well aware of socialism’s benefits. Most countries implement socialist programs, including the United States, despite running capitalist economies.

But most Americans share Trump's opinion of socialism because the American government made sure of it through propaganda and the persecution of its own people for exercising their Constitutional right to assemble, whether it be in a church or at a Communist Party meeting. It might not be black bags and firing squads, but it is oppressing dissidents nonetheless.

Many Americans use the perceived failures of socialism's implementation as evidence to dismiss it like Trump did, but America never gave socialism a chance. This country did its best to stop the spread of socialism before it started out of fear that people would realize its benefits. America has waged a War on Socialism that continues to this day.

America's embargo of Cuba and bombing of countries attempting socialism, and its unwillingness to allow liberated countries to install anything but a form of "democracy" has created the worst type of enemies. People recover from bombings and wars, but they never forget a bully dictating the terms of their "freedom" when all they want is to try something they think would provide the best quality of living -- not only for themselves but for their neighbors.

As a Democratic Socialist, I can tell you socialism is far from perfect, which is why I’m a Democratic Socialist and not just a Socialist. If there was a correct answer to "how are people best governed," it certainly wouldn't be absolute. It would depend upon the people and the place and the time, but it would most definitely be both democratic and socialist -- which is possible -- because we see it work everyday. You’d find Socialists to be reasonable people if you didn’t tune us out at the utterance of “Socialist” (or Democrat for that matter). But believing socialism is evil because the government said so -- that’s unreasonable.

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If you like this, you might like these Genesis Communications Network talk shows: The Costa Report, Drop Your Energy Bill, Free Talk Live, Flow of Wisdom, America’s First News, America Tonight, Bill Martinez Live, Korelin Economics Report, The KrisAnne Hall Show, Radio Night Live, The Real Side, World Crisis Radio, Know Your Rights

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