Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Strangely, public and non-profit agencies tend to be more cost effective in health care than rent seekers

I got some great responses to my article, An open letter to the Epipen girl, Heather Bresch. I wrote that letter to summarize my concerns about the emphasis on profits and the revolving door used to keep them growing. It is clear that Heather Bresch used her family influence to get a job, work her way up the corporate ladder and then used her family influence in politics to increase the value of her company's products.

Heather Bresch and her company Mylan are a great example of how a company likes to talk about the free market, yet uses government influence to increase dependence on their products. They took a product that normally sold for $60 each, and jacked the price up to $300. This could not be possible without government collusion in the market. It's worth noting that the Epipen was developed with taxpayer money and patented upon successful development. It is a reasonable question to ask how many in Congress, including Heather's father US Senator Joe Manchin, own stock in Mylan and voted on bills that could impact the sales of Mylan.

One person responded to my article with a link to this article, King County's incredibly cheap answer to the EpiPen. From the article:
One solution to the soaring price of EpiPens: Build a replacement that costs a fraction as much.
Jim Duren of King County Emergency Medical Services told KUOW’s Kim Malcolm that his agency did just that in 2013, building its own injection kit.
“Excluding the medication, the kit itself costs $15 with all the supplies,” he said. And the doses of adrenaline? “Somewhere between $2.50 and 5.”
And when the medication expires, it’s easy to replace for that $2.50 or so. Contrast that with having to pay hundreds of dollars for a new EpiPen. 
So a public agency came up with a Epipen replacement solution that costs maybe $20 max. The article also notes that "Duren says his agency saved about $150,000 in the first year using the kits and now saves about $250,000 annually. That’s even though they’re used in more than twice as many situations than EpiPens were under the old protocol." That's money that could be used elsewhere in the agency to help others, and after the protocol changed, they were able to provide the same relief to twice as many people.

For decades, we've heard conservatives and neoliberals go on and on about the benefits of privatization. Where are the benefits? Mylan used their political influence to pass a law that required something like an Epipen in every public school to increase sales. Then they raised the prices over the years to meet the increased demand. Isn't that a discrete example of "privatization"?

The contrast between King County Emergency Medical Services and Mylan is striking. King County wanted to provide better services at a lower cost and works within a strict budget in a tough economy. Mylan takes advantage of every opportunity to corner the market and promote their product just to raise the price of the product ahead of demand, then they did an inversion to avoid taxation of their newfound profits.

Economist Dean Baker has taken note of the lack of efficiency in private medical companies and nails it rather well in his article, The Rationale for High Drug Prices: Incredibly Inefficient Research. In that article, Baker demonstrates a contrast between drug research supported by patents and drug research paid for up front. He cites an industry expert estimate to show that it costs $2.5 Billion to develop a single drug by Big Pharma in pursuit of patents. Then he compares that to a malaria drug developed by a non-profit agency Drugs for Neglected Diseases Initiative (DNDI) for $17 million, with the research paid for up front by the government.

Baker provides a cogent analysis by comparing development costs of a single drug by Big Pharma to all of the work done by the DNDI several drugs over ten years. From the article:
As the figure shows, DNDI was able to develop ASAQ, a combination drug for treating Malaria, for $17 million. More than 250 million dosages have been distributed since 2007. It developed Fexinidazole, a new drug candidate and new chemical entity, intended to treat sleeping sickness, at a cost of $38 million. DNDI developed SSG&PM, a combination therapy for visceral leishmaniasis at a cost of $17 million. DNDI's entire budget for its first 10 years of existence was $242 million, less than one-tenth of what DiMasi estimates it costs the pharmaceutical industry to develop a single new drug.
Baker makes it very clear that a non-profit agency can be far more efficient developing drugs and delivery systems than a large multinational conglomerate with a sole focus on profits. Remember, those Big Pharma companies talk a lot about the virtues of the free market, but will be loathe to tell you that patents are government intervention in the market. Big Pharma will not make it clear to us that they support trade agreements like the TPP and the TTIP because those agreements will strengthen and extend their cherished patent and copyright laws. They will never tell you that other methods of drug and medical device development can be more efficient than work supported by patents.

The lesson here is that the profit motive, though useful, is not divine. It is not something to be worshiped, it is something to be used with care, judgement and precision. It must be regulated so that the public good remains the highest priority of any enterprise. This isn't to say that you can't serve the public good without a reasonable profit. It is to say that the quest for profit tends to come at the expense of the public good.

Sunday, August 28, 2016

An open letter to the Epipen girl, Heather Bresch

Dear Heather Bresch,

You are the CEO of Mylan, owner of the rights to the Epipen, a life saving drug delivery system. The Epipen is used to save people from anaphylactic shock, a rapid response of the immune system to food like eggs and peanuts. I know because I have one. You are in the news because of the rapid rise of the cost of the Epipen.

I got an Epipen after watching my daughter puff up like a balloon one day after accidentally ingesting a small bit of raw egg. I know what it's like to go to the emergency room and watch a medical team work with amazing skill to help stabilize the vital signs of my daughter. Like many other parents, I know the sense of security I had just having that Epipen around. So yeah, the Epipen is an amazing product. I also know that they're expensive.

Wikipedia has a great summary and analysis of how the Epipen came to be so expensive:
Mylan acquired the right to market the EpiPen line of epinephrine autoinjector devices from Merck KGaA as part of their 2007 deal.[18] The devices deliver about $1 worth of drug.[19] At that time annual sales were around $200M.[19] Heather Bresch, Mylan's CEO, saw an opportunity to increase sales in the US through marketing and advocacy, and the company launched a marketing campaign to increase awareness of the dangers of anaphylaxis for people with severe allergies that made the "EpiPen" brand as identified with epinephrine autoinjectors as "Kleenex" is for facial tissue; the company also successfully lobbied the FDA to broaden the label to include risk of anaphylaxis and in parallel, successfully lobbied Congress to generate legislation making EpiPens available in public places like defibrillators are, and hired the same people that Medtronic had worked with on defibrillator legislation to do so.[19]
You are the CEO of Mylan, a multinational pharmaceutical firm, with worldwide revenues of $9.2 billion a year in 2015. You made the decision to jack up the price of Epipen along with your friends on the board of directors of your company. 

You also conducted a tax inversion at Mylan after purchasing Abbot Labs. So not only did you increase the price of your most visible product by more than 500%, you reincorporated in another country to avoid the taxation of the profits from that and many other products that you sell here. How patriotic.

How, exactly did you get that first job at Mylan? Oh, yeah. Your daddy Joe Manchin mentioned to the Mylan CEO at that time that you were looking for work in 1992. What was your daddy doing at that time? He was a state senator in the state of West Virginia. The same state where Mylan was founded. So good to know that when you have money, you get access to the statehouse, too. Since then, as your daddy went up the government ladder, you went up the corporate ladder.

You were paid nearly $19 million in total compensation last year for your glorious efforts in marketing the Epipen and jacking up the price at the same time. According to New York Magazine, your salary increased from $2,453,456 in 2007 to $18,931,068 in 2016 — an increase of 671 percent. You remain one of the only female CEOs of a Fortune 500 company. You've broken the glass ceiling, so good for you.

Economist Dean Baker has been patiently observing corporate governance for years and has found that outlandish CEO pay is a matter between friends. How does it feel to have a compensation review among friends rather than in an adversarial position like your subordinates? And don't forget that you and your friends on the board decided to make generous donations to the Clinton Foundation, you know, just in case Hillary breaks the glass ceiling while running for president.

So I have a few questions for you. Does life feel any better after the first million a year in compensation? Does life feel any better at $18 million a year than it did at $2 million a year? Or is it relatively the same and now the only thing that matters is the number? Have you considered the possibility that there is a diminishing utility to wealth?

It is people like you that sound the alarm for universal health care. With universal health care, no longer can you outsource the cost of your products to taxpayers. It's people like you that sound the alarm for campaign finance reform. With campaign finance reform, I can finally regain access to the people who purport to represent me in the statehouse and Congress. These are just a few of the reasons why I voted for Bernie Sanders and why I will vote for Jill Stein in November. 


Scott C. Dunn
A very concerned taxpayer and voter

Saturday, August 27, 2016

The path to victory is coherent Green Party voting

A laser is a coherent beam of light. It is one of the most powerful sources of light that man has ever created. Most man-made light sources scatter light and their beams tend to diverge. Laser beams diverge, but only by a fraction of the divergence of a typical flashlight. That's why laser pointers work so well.

You're probably wondering why I'm writing about lasers on a political blog. Lasers are a useful analogy of what is happening right now. Before I get into the details, check out the graph below:

I offer this graph to illustrate the point that the Democrats and Republicans win precisely because they are more organized than any other political parties despite commanding minorities of voters relative to the entire population of eligible voters. Neither they, nor the press that they have colluded with for decades will ever admit to this. They will never admit that they can't win on the merits when compared to third parties. People will naturally vote for good alternatives if they are informed. Our mainstream media is not all that interested in the task of informing us of our alternatives.

Like the the dot on the wall create by a coherent beam of light from a laser pointer, Democrat and Republican messages shine brighter than any other message from all other parties out there. Most of the mainstream media chases that dot like a cat, hoping that we won't notice anyone else running for office. Now I want to show you something else:

The map above is two weeks old. It shows all the states where Jill Stein will appear on the ballot, where we can write her in, where efforts to get her on the ballot are still in progress and where litigation is ongoing. Litigation? Yes, there are deadly serious opponents from the two dominant parties that would love to eliminate Stein from the ballot. Now have a look at the latest map:

Lots of progress has been made and the sense of urgency is real. There is a lot more dark green, not so much yellow and litigation is still pending in red. There is still time to bag Nevada and Oklahoma as it is possible that the Green Party could prevail in court before the election. Even the write in states are good news.

Democrats are getting very upset about this "progress". Check out this article by Margaret Kimberley at CounterPunch:
Liberals are no longer going through the motions of criticizing the Democrat. Instead they openly show love for Hillary Clinton and disdainfully pile on Stein and Baraka with fury. The blog Wonkette called Jill Stein “cunty” and “a mendacious nihilist piece of shit.” The site Very Smart Brothas declared that a vote for Stein was akin to putting it in the trash. They also threw in a dig at Cornel West because he dared to criticize Barack Obama. The Huffington Post chose to deride Green Party convention delegates because they ate at McDonald’s. Gawker tried to link Ajamu Baraka to holocaust denial. His unassailable human rights credentials didn’t mean much when the media decided to go into attack mode.
The links work in the excerpt above, so check them out. Clinton supporters are plumbing new lows in attacking the Green Party candidates. This means that whatever the Green Party is doing is working. If some liberal Democrats are upset, they only need to look in the mirror to see the cause. Remember, the Democrats and Republicans are far more organized than every other political party, but now they see potentially serious competition on the horizon. 

They are so organized that they can plausibly use a 15% polling threshold to keep Jill Stein out of the debates while discouraging polling organizations from including Stein in the polls. Think about that. The Commission on Presidential Debates is an organization created by Democrats and Republicans for their sole benefit, yet they act like they're "non-partisan". Then powerful Democrats and Republicans can tell the media not to poll for Jill Stein, then tell us that, "Hey, she didn't make the cut. What do you want us to do?"

Note that this is not a call for confrontation with Democrats and Republicans. This is a call for independent, Sanders supporters (Democrat or Republican) and Green Party voters to organize and vote for someone else for president and vice president. Someone else who is not tied to big money, not tied to endless wars for oil, not tied to big pharma or intellectual property cartels. Someone else who doesn't know the system so well (like Hillary Clinton) that she can hide the corrupting influence of big money while selling access. I know, that whole email story "just looks bad". Someone else who will defeat the so-called "free trade agreements" that continue to decimate the middle class. That someone else is Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka for President and Vice President.

If anything this is our moment. So let me show you one more graphic before I go:

Real change for America starts with us. Voting for the lesser of two evils will only lead to more evil. Until we make a decision to do something different, we will continue to get the same results. It's time for us to step out of line.

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Corruption and war are really just politically acceptable methods of abusing other people

Today, I'd like to show you an interesting observation made by Yves Smith at Naked Capitalism. The topic of her article is the declining value of education beyond 4 years of college and how elites seem to have abandoned everyone else in their quest for wealth and solitude:
Another layer of the problem is increased class stratification. I know lots of people personally who came from working class families, both my age and somewhat younger, who went to elite schools and got prestigious jobs. All sorts of data now shows that people who grow up in lower income cohorts are unlikely to leave them. Greater class differences and less class mingling means that there are fewer opportunities for bright, energetic kids from the wrong side of the tracks to learn to master the class markers necessary to move up the social ladder. And that’s before you get to the fact that continuing attacks on public education and teachers, the increased propensity of parents of means to send their children to private schools, and the looting operation known as charter schools (video) have increased the gap between the pre-college educational experience of the upper middle class and affluent and everyone else.
The current economic regime in America is all about increasing distance between the 1% and everyone else. "But, but...Hillary Clinton says we're stronger together!" Ah, but they're mere words that don't match the neoliberal agenda dutifully followed by every administration since Reagan. Both parties have abandoned the working classes and instead, have pursued the big bucks of the elites, the 1%, and the professional class.

If you don't believe me, check out this video of Bill Clinton and Paul Ryan talking together at the conservative Peter Peterson Foundation in May of 2011:

Bill Clinton is a Democrat and former president of the United States. Paul Ryan is a Republican, and now speaker of the House of Representatives of the United States. In this video, we see that both of them agree to cut Medicare. Isn't it interesting that a former president could still have so much influence in public policy long after leaving office? The Peter Peterson Foundation is a part of the "Fix the Debt" cabal of very wealthy people who are continually shifting the burden onto the middle class. Fix the Debt is an organization dedicated to balancing the budget, without raising taxes (on the wealthy).

Notice that when politicians talk about tax cuts, they're not talking about anyone but the 1%. When the 1% get those tax cuts what do they do? This is what I said about the Bush tax cuts in 2013:
The tax cuts were not used to spread the prosperity around. They were used instead to build, secure and assert an advantage for the business owners over the rest of us. For example, the trend over the last 30 years has seen business investments move from labor to capital. This means that instead of paying employees to do the work, more automation is in use or, labor has been moved offshore. This resulted in exploding profits for the largest corporations. This is a tremendous advantage.
What will employers do with this advantage? They will use it to buy homes in gated communities, private security services, power generators for their homes, private schooling for their kids. They will seek distance from the middle class, both in economic and social terms to ensure that they no longer have to compete directly with the middle class or even have contact with them.
The 1% has very little empathy for the lower classes. As the 1% prevail to cut education funding, health care funding, seek to privatize public lands for exploitation, send our jobs overseas and send our kids off to war, the costs are borne by the lower classes, and the wealthy get their bailouts when it all goes bust. I get the sense that the 1% sincerely believe that they are entitled to punish everyone else for "not getting it".

I have seen firsthand the contempt some wealthy people can have for "lesser humans". We see it in Donald Trump. We have seen it in Hillary Clinton as she wore a $12,000 pantsuit while schooling us about inequality. We've seen it in the DNC and their zeal for getting Hillary nominated despite popular support for Bernie Sanders, something that I will never forget.

The class stratification that we've witnessed over the last 40 years allows the upper classes to isolate from the rest of us. They go to their own private schools, have their own social and business networks and get exclusive access to the halls of power. They exert meaningful influence over Congress and statehouses, something that middle class people can only dream about, as observed by this study, Testing Theories of American Politics:Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens. Though we are all human, the money is what separates us.

Our supersized prison industrial complex is nothing more than modern day slavery. It is punitive in every sense of the word for the inmates and for the guards. The American prison system is not about rehabilitation, for if it were, we'd have a far lower rate of recidivism, and that is by design of the people who have the most influence in public policy. The 1%.

If the 1% are unhappy that they are so reviled by everyone else, perhaps they need only to look in the mirror and consider the following proposition: punishment does not build coping skills.

In every case where punishment is delivered, the recipient only grows more determined to defeat the messenger and the sender. It is as if the elite truly believe that they can overwhelm their opponents with force. We see that attitude in our criminal justice system, our politics and our foreign policy.

I believe that pain is America's biggest export. I know this because for as long as I can remember, terrorists has been the enemy and terrorism has been used perversely to unify Americans. Terrorism is simply a ruse to distract us from a much bigger problem.

Check out this video of a boy as he is pulled out of the rubble in Syria. He has no idea what is going on. All he knows is that he is hurting, covered in blood and dust, and has no idea who did this to him. He is a victim in a war he knows nothing about. Thousands of kids like him may later be indoctrinated to find the source of the bombs and seek retribution. Those people seeking retribution, are probably the same people we call "terrorists". When we sell or send bombs that are used to kill the children of other people, and those other people strike back, we call them "terrorists".

Because we live so far away from them, we can objectify those other people as "terrorists" instead of actually helping them. Hillary Clinton and others like her, helped to sell those weapons. People like Hillary Clinton and President Obama either gave the order to drop the bombs or delegated that authority to someone else to do it. That's the punishment foreign countries receive for "not getting it".

Whether the perspective is global or local, we can easily verify that punishment does not teach coping skills. Punishment only teaches us to cope with punishment, it does not teach us how to solve problems. Punishment distracts us from the natural consequences of our behavior. When a kid does something "wrong" punishment is a manufactured consequence. When a kid makes a mistake, the consequence is not manufactured by the parent. The natural consequence of a mistake is an opportunity to learn how to do something that works. As parents, it is our job to teach our kids the skills they need to cope with life.

In politics and economics, most of what we have been doing in America is manufacturing a consequence for everyone but the 1%. Since the 1% have real influence over the government by virtue of their money, they should be held accountable for their public policy decisions, including their mistakes, but they're not. Everyone else is punished for the mistakes of the 1%. The austerity, the slow economy, the wars, and the prison state, are all manufactured consequences of the rest of us "not getting it".

I have yet to see an example where punishment did not reinforce unwanted behavior. Not as a parent, not as a child and not as a social or political observer. Punishment doesn't make society better. Anyone familiar with our prison systems knows this. One only need to compare recidivism rates between America and Norway. In America, if the problem goes away, it is only because the problem "solved" by punishment when it goes into hiding. In Sweden, if the problem goes away, it is because inmates are taught the skills they need to be a part of society.

It is only through true political discourse, negotiation and a commitment to living peacefully together, that real solutions are created. Take note of some of the deliberations of the Democratic National Committee. As punishment for "trespassing", most of Bernie Sanders' picks for committee appointments were ignored. As punishment for even being present in Nevada, many delegates that supported Bernie Sanders were shut out of the deliberations process. After all that, there were calls for unity. But instead, the DNC got a #demexit that is ongoing and could potentially damage or even decimate the Democratic Party after the elections in November.

Until we make a sincere commitment to live in peace and work together to solve our common problems, little progress will be made. Neither the Democrats or Republicans are truly committed to peace. Both major parties still very much believe in punitive action as part of the solution in the hopes of securing that elite campaign funding goodness.

There are some Berniecrats entering the fray who can help set things right. They believe in the peaceful agenda set by Bernie Sanders. The Green Party is finally starting to get meaningful national recognition with their peaceful agenda as well. With any luck, Jill Stein may appear on the stage with Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Libertarian candidate for president, Gary Johnson. We need greater diversity of political parties in political discourse because the two party system is broke and doesn't work for us anymore.

I would love to see Bernie Sanders on the debate stage, but he has other plans and from what I can tell, he's really busy with Our Revolution. The closest match for my priorities for the remaining candidates for president is Jill Stein. The Green Party represents my values in a way that the Democrats abandoned decades ago. That's why I'm voting for Jill Stein this November. Fortunately, she's on the ballot in this state and the list of states where she will appear is still growing.

It's time to replace the war and punishment agenda of establishment politics with an agenda based on peace and cooperation. It's time to recognize that all the corruption, the crime, war and the punishment are forms of abuse and are not a sign of mental health. We must recognize that all abuse is a sign of past child abuse sustained by the person delivering the abuse. Whenever a politician insists on dropping bombs on a foreign nation, it's a sign of abuse. We must recognize that when a politician insists on depriving someone else of a right, it's a sign of abuse.

Every person who abuses another is telling the story of how they were once abused as a child. This is true on a personal, regional and nation scale. When we can admit the error of war and can see how what happened to us leads to war, we may finally be in a position to commit to world peace.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Zephyr Teachout challenges a member of the donor class to a debate

Zephyr Teachout is running for Congress in the 19th District of New York. She is one of many Bernicrats running on a campaign funded by small donations, zero corporate money and signified by one important plank in her platform: get the corrupting influence of big money out of politics. Teachout has done something that I have never seen any politician do, ever. She ran the following ad:

You gotta watch this ad. It is pure genius and totally fits in line with Teachout's approach to politics. The ad is an open challenge not to her opponent, but to one of her opponent's biggest funders, Paul Singer, a billionaire hedge fund manager.

Zephyr Teachout is all about rooting out corruption in politics. Here is the opening paragraph on her Wikipedia page:
Zephyr Rain Teachout (born October 21, 1971) is an American academic and political activist and candidate. She is an Associate Professor of Law at Fordham University. A supporter of the Occupy Wall Street movement,[2] in August 2015, Teachout became CEO and board chair for the campaign finance reform-oriented organization Mayday PAC, replacing Lawrence Lessig. She stepped down from this position in December 2015 to run for the United States House of Representatives in New York's 19th congressional district.[3] Teachout won the Democratic primary, and she will face Republican John Faso in the November 8, 2016 general election.
She has written a book on corruption in politics, "Corruption in America: From Benjamin Franklin's Snuff Box to Citizens United", just published this year.  Teachout is the kind of woman I would love to see running for president in the next ten years if she can pull it off. She's young yet, so there's plenty of time for her to catch the millenial wind to the Senate and eventually to the White House.

Teachout has some great history and credentials making her an ideal populist progressive candidate. We need an army of people like her to move up the ranks in the Democratic Party and return it to the people.

With her direct challenge to a member of the donor class, she is doing something quite remarkable. She is shining a light on the corrupting influence of money during her campaign. Why is this significant? This is significant because public policy is being made based not on the merits of laws and regulations, but on the money riding behind them.

John Faso is a Republican running for Congress in the same district. His SuperPAC has accepted $500,000 from just one donor, Paul Singer, a billionaire. He is worth $2.2 billion, so $500,000 is like lunch money to him. He's an activist investor and his generous donation is proof of his activism. He doesn't have to protest on the streets like the rest of us. He can just write a check. Here is the lead paragraph on his bio at Forbes:
Activist hedge fund manager Paul E. Singer keeps fighting with the government of Argentina, refusing so far to settle claims his Elliott Management is owed more than $1 billion on sovereign debt it bought on the cheap after a 2001 default and restructuring. Singer built Elliott into a $27 billion behemoth that often shakes up companies with activist positions. Its recent targets range from Cabela's to Alcoa. The self-described libertarian conservative contributes heavily to Republican causes including more than $100,000 to the GOP itself last year and $1 million to the American Unity PAC, which supports pro-gay rights Republicans. A foreign policy hawk with strong pro-Israel ties, in April 2015 Singer donated in to Florida Senator Marco Rubio's presidential campaign. In 2008 he put his weight behind Rudy Giuliani's failed bid for the White House.
Singer is one of the people we almost never hear about in the news. He's throwing money into elections like an investor with a clear expectation of a return on his investments. Singer is pro-Israel, so he wants to write foreign policy with a dollop of war, too. He's a libertarian conservative who wants things his way because, he's got the money to make it happen.

I would love to see Teachout in a debate with Paul Singer. I think that would set a very important precedent. If billionaires think they deserve exclusive access to the people we elect to office, then they need to put their mouth where their money is. They need to be present and accountable for their influence when things go wrong.

Lets put this into perspective. When the economy goes south, most people fear losing their jobs. They do not have a big savings account to work with. They do not have an extensive business network from which to find their next job. They do not have a guaranteed income to rest upon while they're looking for their next big gig. They suffer the consequences of public policy. This is the plight of the middle and lower classes of America.

Paul Singer is what we call a "rent seeker". He owns securities, and the securities pay dividends. Dividends are a form of rents, just like patent and copyright royalties. Most people do not own enough stock to make enough money to call it a living income. When the economy goes south, Singer will still have most of what he has now. He doesn't live from paycheck to paycheck. He will never be homeless. He will still get the best medical care money can buy.

Teachout is doing what every Berniecrat should at least consider doing. She has done opposition research on the biggest donors to her opponents. First in the primary election and then in the general election. By calling out the biggest donors for their influence in politics, we can help to reduce their influence by voting for candidates who will not accept b/millionaire cash. When we shine a light on big donors like Paul Singer, yes, they may scurry to SuperPACs that promise anonymity, but we can still check on their spending with databases maintained by organizations like OpenSecrets. We would do well to note that after a string of court decisions, 132 of the richest people in America were able to legally fund 60% of SuperPAC spending in 2012 (video, Larry Lessig).

Ultimately, we must do our own research to find out who is spending the money and where they are putting it. Once we know where the money goes, then we can vote our conscience and make informed choices about who to vote for. Zephyr Teachout is a great example of how we can get a Brand New Congress, with 88% of seats up for election this year. She is a great example of someone who doesn't need a law to resist the temptation of the corrupting influence of money. She can win the election without b/millionaire funding and she can do it from within the Democratic Party.

There are some who say that the Democratic Party is broken and beyond repair. That may be true, but I think that if the Democratic Party is beyond repair, then it is weak enough to be infiltrated by anyone. Populist progressive candidates can be the infiltrating force. The structure is there and if progressives are diligent, we can take the party and mold it for our own use. If it could happen to the Republicans in North Dakota early in the last century, it could happen to the DNC, too.

Imagine what would happen if the mainstream media could no longer rely upon the Democratic Party for business as usual. That's why we need to consider a popuplist progressive infiltration of the Democrat Party as a viable option. Zephyr Teachout could be one of many Berniecrats to lead the way.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

What if all of us, including Donald Trump, have been played by Bill and Hillary Clinton?

NBC declares, rather optimistically, that Hillary Clinton will win with greater than 270 electoral college votes in November. But this time, unlike the Associated Press which held their breath until the day before the last primaries were held, NBC jumped the gun a full 2 and a half months ahead of schedule.

Here's a screenshot of their very optimistic election map from NBC's website:

Looks like Hillary won already, huh? Yeah, I checked at Real Clear Politics and they are projecting 272 for Hillary. I bet Donald Trump is breathing a sigh of relief now. Why would he do that?

Since about September of last year, I've published a few articles expressing my suspicions that Donald Trump is just controlled opposition. For awhile now, I was pretty sure that Trump was quietly coordinating with the Clintons to throw the election. I have expressed these ideas in the following articles for your reading pleasure:

Trump doesn't seem to be fighting too hard to win at this point and more than a few people must be puzzled by his behavior. While I was thinking that Trump was trying to throw the election to the Clintons so he could receive a big fat check, Michael Moore has other ideas and he sums them up well in his latest article on Trump. Trump wanted more money from the networks for his Apprentice show. He talked with the networks to see what he could fetch and decided that just announcing that he was running for president would help give him leverage to get more money.

I think Trump was more than a bit surprised to see that a few months later he was on track to win the nomination. Here is the nugget from Mike's latest article, "Is Trump Purposely Sabotaging His Campaign?", at Medium:
And then… you can see the moment it finally dawned on him… that “Oh shit!” revelation: “I’m actually going to be the Republican nominee — and my rich beautiful life is f#*@ing over!” It was the night he won the New Jersey primary. The headline on TIME.com was, “Donald Trump’s Subdued Victory Speech After Winning New Jersey.” Instead of it being one of his loud, brash speeches, it was downright depressing. No energy, no happiness, just the realization that now he was going to have to go through with this stunt that he started. It was no longer going to be performance art. He was going to have to go to work.
I encourage you to read that article in its entirety. Michael Moore is a great comedy writer and you'll have a few laughs as I did. Let's compare that article to a previous article that Michael Moore wrote just a few weeks ago, called 5 REASONS WHY TRUMP WILL WIN, the article isn't dated, but it was referenced on Alternet in another article on July 21st of this year. Check out the dire news he provided then:
I am sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but I gave it to you straight last summer when I told you that Donald Trump would be the Republican nominee for president. And now I have even more awful, depressing news for you: Donald J. Trump is going to win in November. This wretched, ignorant, dangerous part-time clown and full time sociopath is going to be our next president. President Trump. Go ahead and say the words, ‘cause you’ll be saying them for the next four years: “PRESIDENT TRUMP.”
The change of mood here is plain to see. Michael went from "Donald is going to win", to "Donald is a reluctant candidate". If Donald Trump quits, Hillary has this in the bag. But now I'm not so sure they were colluding. Donald Trump does not like to lose. At anything. But this race to be president? Donald Trump simply isn't in it to win it.

The timing of his announcement to run is interesting, too. Donald Trump announced his candidacy on June 16, 2015. Several weeks before he announced, he had a phone conversation with Bill Clinton. This has been verified by at least three sources, The Washington Post, The New York Times and Vanity Fair. We don't know what they talked about, but the articles I've read suggest that Bill Clinton encouraged Trump to run.

So, since at least September of last year, I believed that Trump was colluding with the Clintons to throw the election. Tina Nguyen at Vanity Fair beat me by almost a year exactly to reach the following conclusion: Donald Trump has been played by the Clintons.

Consider how well the mainstream media has "coordinated" their reporting with the DNC and the Clinton campaign. Could every "misstep" by the mainstream media really be "just a coincidence"? What if the media and the Clintons saw in Trump, a man with the ego to run for president, but not the skills? I think that's what they saw in Trump.

I believe that the Bill and Hillary Clinton have the power and the cooperation of the media to pull a fast one on just about everyone. One of Hillary Clinton's biggest contributors is Comcast, which owns NBC/Universal. It is reasonable to suggest that the Clintons, with their deep ties to mainstream media, knew about Trump's desire to get more money from his show. They very likely knew he was negotiating with other networks for more money. With their connections, they could know with considerable precision, what Trump was doing. It is plausible that they also knew Trump was floating the idea of running for president to get more leverage.

Now I don't think that Trump was encouraged to run as controlled opposition anymore, at least, not in collusion, and not knowingly. I think it is reasonable to believe that Donald Trump has been played by the media and the Clintons. They knew he didn't really want to be president, and set him up. They have the connections to the media. So why not?

The Clintons are so powerful that they could easily ask the mainstream media to "give Trump all the coverage you can muster and ignore anyone else, especially Bernie Sanders". That might explain why CNN was willing to air an empty podium for a few minutes instead of cutting over to Bernie Sanders live at one of his massive rallies.

If Trump and Clinton were colluding, Michael Moore just gave Trump the perfect out. If they were not, and Donald Trump is clueless about the ruse, well, then maybe Trump is not as smart as he pretends to be. Remember, he's got really great words. Big words. Small words. People love his words.

Whether the Clintons were colluding with Trump or not, the entire affair stinks of desperation to get Hillary elected. Would we really want someone in the White House who would stoop so low as to play those kinds of games? Why not vote for someone who would rather work for the people instead of against them? Why should our choices be confined to a candidate who doesn't really want to be president and a candidate who is pining away for the chance to sell access to the White House?

I wanted Bernie Sanders, but the DNC would not have him. I will never vote for Hillary Clinton and there is nothing you could say to change my mind. Gary Johnson is a Libertarian, but oddly, he's already professed support for the TPP, a not so free trade agreement. 

The only remaining candidate that I agree with completely, that still has a (long) shot at winning in November, is Green Party candidate Jill Stein. At the moment, there is no other candidate I can vote for with a clean conscience. I don't want to vote against the other candidates and I'm not going to vote out of fear. I want to vote for Jill Stein.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

The low hanging fruit of change will pave the way to progressive victories

Here's an interesting statistic: Since the Democratic National Convention, 67% of Sanders Democrats, i.e., Berniecrats, have won their primaries in state and local elections.

This is very hopeful news. It is quite possible that they could win in November and be the start of a wave that could come crashing through in 2018. It is likely that there will be a few more Berniecrats in Congress holding Hillary's feet to the fire if she should win. If she doesn't win, then Trump is going to face more opposition than he expected in Congress.

Either way, it's becoming clear to voters that the change we want to see must start at the state and local levels, just as Bernie Sanders has said before. Those Berniecrats who do win in November will be able to influence the outcome of the 2018 elections. This is where we're going:

The people are organizing for a quiet revolution, but don't expect the mainstream media to report it. The news media that we have now simply has no interest in the change we want to see. The changes we make by electing Berniecrats will place pressure on those in higher office in a number of ways.

Remember all those accusations of election fraud? The people who were implicated in those accusations were holding state and local offices. Putting Berniecrats into office even at the state and local level can help to bring adult supervision back to the polling places and the vote counting process. In other words, election fraud was allowed to occur because people who were willing to do something about it were not present and in a position to stop it. The trends in the primary elections since the DNC are proof positive that we can have an impact on the outcome, but only if we organize and only if we participate.

As the revolution becomes more organized, a network is taking shape. I see it in social media, particularly on Facebook. Take note of Mike Klinger on Facebook. He's been organizing an incredible effort to get Berniecrats and Jill Stein elected with Bernie Sanders Activists. He's organizing a #demexit, promoting Jill Stein and Berniecrats, and building a communications network through social media to get the news out. He is just one of hundreds of experienced social media users and organizers working to effect change.

We must become the news media by replacing establishment news with social media. Reddit is often covering stories that the mainstream media won't touch. Posts about Jill Stein took off on Reddit after the Democratic National Convention. Stein is going to be on the ballot in more states, too. Here's a map showing the state of ballot access for Jill Stein.

Notice that two states are in litigation to prevent Jill Stein from showing up on the ballot. That's litigation caused by resistance at the state and local levels. All of the big states are ready, and a few more are in the oven. This map looks much better than it did a few months ago. We're making progress.

Now before Clinton supporters post a comment to put the kibosh on this effort, I offer you something to consider. Recall what happened to Bernie Sanders, and ask yourself, how you would feel if what happened to him, happened to Hillary. Please be respectful and know that if Sanders supporters truly believed that Hillary was an honest, straightforward person of integrity, we'd vote for her. We don't. We're not afraid of Trump, and we don't believe in voting for Hillary out of fear.

So before you tell me or any other Green Party supporter, just as you did Sanders supporters, that I'm wasting my vote, or that I'm voting for Trump when I vote for Jill Stein in November, remember this:

If you're a Clinton supporter and you believe that my vote is wasted on Stein, then it would follow that you do not believe that my political views should be represented. When I say that I'm voting for Stein and every other Berniecrat that I can find down ballot, this says nothing about how I think you should vote. That's your business. 

There is simply no room for interpretation here. When I say that I'm voting for Stein, that does not mean that I'm voting for Trump or Hillary. That means I'm voting my conscience and voting for Jill Stein. 


Sunday, August 14, 2016

Mental abuse is not justified by a desire to secure a victory for Hillary

I just read an inspiring article by one former Bernie Sanders supporter, now a Jill Stein supporter. His name is John Ennis and he wrote, "No Means No — Stop Trying to Mentally Abuse Me Into Voting for Hillary Clinton", which you will find on Medium, another great blogging website. He describes with precision, the kinds of abuse his friends have put him through to get him to change his mind and vote for Hillary Clinton. This is just one story of thousands and I've seen quite a few.

All of that insulting, name calling, mocking...wait. Let me provide a useful excerpt from John Ennis himself, the author of the article I am referencing:
Even though I have explained my reasoning on being unwilling to vote for Hillary Clinton — and have written an article on why I believe that electing Hillary to stop Trump is not an effective long term solution for our country — the bullying, badgering, shaming, scaremongering, insulting, belittling, mocking, and abuse of all varieties continues to assault me both on social media and in real life as my supposed liberal friends just don’t seem to be able to respect my “no” on this topic.
The desperation in the Clinton camp is becoming so thick, that a coherent response simply doesn't register with Clinton supporters. I know because I've tried. They usually leave in a huff of disgust rather than accepting my decision for what it is. My decision.

If had to sum up a response in one sentence, it might go something like this, "If you have to abuse me to get me to change my mind about voting for Jill Stein, you're voting for Hillary Clinton for all the wrong reasons."

For me, it's a simple proposition. As noted by Mr. Ennis and millions of other voters, Bernie Sanders ran a clean campaign. He took no big money from anybody. He brought in huge crowds. He raised $222 million in campaign funds. He won 1843 delegates and a few superdelegates to boot. All without any help from the DNC, the press or entrenched wealthy interests.

In contrast, Hillary Clinton colluded with the DNC, a supposedly neutral forum for selecting a nominee. The DNC in turn colluded with the press to sandbag Sanders from beginning to end. Clinton surrogates got all the free air time and press where Sanders' surrogates got little to none. Clinton bagged more than 400 superdelegates before even the first primary. There is evidence of election fraud and corruption all to benefit Hillary. Even as the illegitimate "nominee", Clinton can't draw a decent crowd. I could go on and on about this, and I have. Read any article on my blog for the last year and you'll see reason after reason why I supported Bernie Sanders.

The reality is that Clinton could not have won the primaries without cheating, cajoling, bullying, and hiring a legion of paid trolls that so far as I know, have not bothered me. If anyone ever tries to bully me into voting for Clinton online, he or she is going to get a rash of links that will only drive adverse information up in the search results.

I think it's important to really bring this home to the point. If you need to abuse anyone to get them to do something you want, you have a much bigger problem. In recent months, I have come to the conclusion that all abuse, all crime, and all corruption stems from one very basic problem: child abuse. Solve that problem and you bring peace to the world.

If you are a Clinton supporter and you have descended into the habit of abusing your friends with manipulation, insults, mocking, scaremongering, whatever, you might want to ask yourself why you're abusing *anyone* to get them to do what you want them to do. As far as I'm concerned, when you abuse someone else, you're retelling the story of what happened to you. If you're voting for Hillary out of fear, you're still retelling the story of what happened to you.

Yes, we get it. Trump is a bully, a coward, a liar, and God only knows what else. But Bernie supporters had a stronger candidate who was polling 15 points above Trump before the convention. The only way that Hillary was going to win and has won, is by cheating. Her supporters wanted a victory at any cost. That cost may include Trump winning this election.

Now there may be a few Bernie Sanders supporters who have used abusive tactics themselves. But the vast majority I've seen online have responded with the facts and links, just like myself. I had no interest in abusing others to get them to vote for Bernie Sanders when he was running. If you're a Clinton supporter and you want to vote for someone who, in my view is morally corrupt and dangerous, go ahead. I'm voting for Stein. There is only one circumstance that will change my mind. That's if somehow, Bernie Sanders runs for president again.

Clinton supporters simply do not have clean hands in this election. You can't tell me to vote for Clinton to stop Trump when the Clinton campaign cheated to win while Sanders was polling far better than Clinton. More to the point, if you need to abuse people to get them to vote for Clinton, then you've defeated every argument you've ever put forth to support Clinton.

You'll have no abuse from me on this subject. I simply don't care who you vote for, because that's none of my business. I'm voting for Jill Stein and every Berniecrat I can find down ticket, and that's it.

Saturday, August 13, 2016

When public policy takes a back seat to talk of assassinations

I came across this very interesting meme the other day:

I can say that I agree with all of the statements in the meme except one. I take issue with the part about Trump denouncing racism because I've searched for examples but could not find any. Maybe that's because of my search bubble imposed by Google. I don't know. 

I find the whole thing curious. I mean, I've seen pictures of Trump and Bill Clinton together as much younger men. Newsweek has documented their friendship here. A casual search will return many articles and photos documenting their friendship. I even read a New York Times article on the same subject, but I can't seem to find it any more. 

With regard to the issue of racism, I have found documentation suggesting that Trump was and is indeed racist. In the 70's, the Trump business was sued for racial discrimination over apartment rentals and we have seen him making racist statements during his campaign. So I have to wonder, if Trump and Bill Clinton were such great friends, and the Clintons were aware that Trump was racist, how can any of the "I'm not racist" claims by the Clintons stand up? They've known each other for decades, yet no one seems to openly question the minority support enjoyed by Bill and Hillary Clinton.

Turning now to the point of the meme, how is it that they can be friends for so long and get to the point where Trump makes what has been interpreted as a veiled call for the assassination of Hillary Clinton? I've read several accounts of this incident, but the most interesting article came from Rolling Stone. Here, we find David Cohen's very interesting analysis about something called "stochastic terrorism". Yes, it is scary, but Trump is an entertainer, so I take it with a grain of salt.

I have to admit some surprise that there have been no reports by the mainstream media that the Secret Service has bothered to grace Trump with an inquiry about his statements. Wouldn't a normal person be arrested or at least interrogated for even hinting at a threat of physical violence to a presidential candidate? Oh, wait. We're not talking about normal people. We're talking about billionaires and very important people.

Then there is Clinton campaign strategist Bob Beckel talking quite openly about his anger at Julian Assange. Here are his words, exactly:
“I mean, a dead man can’t leak stuff,” Beckel chillingly noted of Assange. “The guy’s a traitor, a treasonist, and … and he has broken every law in the United States. The guy ought to be — and I’m not for the death penalty — so, if I’m not for the death penalty, there’s only one way to do it, illegally shoot the son of a bitch.”
Bob is a very high level member of Clinton's campaign. He's really angry at Assange for releasing emails that have impugned Hillary Clinton's reputation, but apparently has no remorse for the content of those emails. Bob would really like to us to forget about all that and just get in line to vote for Hillary Clinton.

There is a clear pattern here. What we're seeing is very wealthy and powerful people talk about openly about assassination, like it's some sort of game or spectator sport. Sure, we might attribute it to bravado, but seriously? Assassinations? Isn't this like, 2016? Haven't we moved beyond violence as a solution to resolving our differences?

Bob doesn't seem to get how offensive it is to Sanders supporters that the DNC rigged the primaries against Bernie Sanders. Bob can't comprehend how offensive it is to American voters that Hillary seems to have been engaged in a business of selling access to the State Department. We're not supposed to know about that, right...Bob?

Bob Beckel and Donald Trump both provide great illustrations of how arrogant people can be once they have attained a position of power and influence. We already know how arrogant Hillary and Bill Clinton can get with power, so I won't delve further there. We know that Hillary pays Bob Beckel very well for his work. Same with Donald Trump. Oh,wait. Did I say that? That was a slip.

This election should be about big money in politics. But instead of talking about how much money is changing hands and how much more money is at stake in this election, the election has become a high school student body contest. Shouldn't public policy come before personalities? I think so. Why anyone is even talking about assassinations is beyond me.

That's why I plan to vote for Jill Stein in November. I so dearly wanted to vote for Bernie Sanders, but he doesn't appear to be running for president at the moment. Maybe if Clinton has a health crisis, or suffers an indictment, Sanders might resurface. He still has his delegates and his mailing list. But until that happens, I'm voting for Jill Stein.

At least with the Green Party, I won't have to worry about large corporate contributions influencing her decisions in office. I feel the same way about Bernie Sanders, but he's still not running for president.

There is one other thing I like about Sanders and Stein. I have never seen them or their surrogates talk openly about assassinations on network TV.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

I'll take better judgement with that president, thank you.

Lately, I've been seeing comments from people who claim that despite all her flaws, Hillary has the experience to be president. These same people will claim that Jill Stein has no legislative experience. These same people will claim that Stein may set us at a disadvantage while negotiating with other nations. These same people will say that even Jill Stein is a corrupt opportunist. I disagree.

Before the nomination at the DNC, we had someone with plenty of experience who was polling at 15 points above Trump, but the DNC would not have him. Instead they opted for someone who was not polling well above Trump. I voted for Sanders because I believed that he is a man of integrity and I still do. He has a different mindset than Hillary Clinton. But since he is not in the race anymore, I have decided to support Jill Stein.

Stein's critics seem to be using a certain set of talking points. The kind of talking points that might be used by people commonly referred to as "Hillary's trolls". This is my rebuttal to them, in no uncertain terms.

There is a reason why Jill Stein is running for president, just like any other candidate. Every candidate for president truly believes that they are qualified to run for that office and that they offer something to this nation that other candidates do not.

The experience argument was offered by some to dissuade voters of Donald Trump, with little effect. He still managed to secure the nomination, despite establishment opposition. He's never held political office. He's never written legislation, and has paid money to influence legislators. He is somewhat familiar with the role of president. While many are free to criticize his campaign and his loose cannon thinly disguised as his mouth, few have really plumbed the depths of his lack of experience in any article that I've seen to date. His lack of experience has been set on the back burner.

No one who has ever won an election for the White House truly knows what it is like to be president until they become president. Even people very close to the job only have some idea of what it really means until they're sitting in that chair, with that schedule, with that pressure.

There are a number of reasons why I support Jill Stein and the Green Party in general. The most important is that she, like the party behind her, is not accepting big money from corporations or SuperPACs. Like Bernie Sanders, she will not allow large contributions to influence her process for consideration of any legislation or executive action. I'm familiar with their platform and understand that, based on my reading, they are a party for the greater good.

When it comes to experience, a quote from Einstein comes to mind: No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.

I would rather have someone with less experience and confidence in the White House for a number of reasons. Chiefly, after watching several presidents utterly fail to embrace the will of the people, I want to try something different. Bush had plenty of experience in government and he led us into war. Obama had 4 years of experience in the Senate before he became president and he did figure out how to be president, but he bailed out the banks instead of the people. No president that I can recall has truly carried out the will of the people, consistently and diligently.

I have no doubt that Hillary has plenty of experiences that will help her to be president. My primary concern is who she will help as president. I believe that Hillary Clinton, if elected, will be just another president who says one thing and does something else once in office. She is an establishment politician if I ever saw one. Her level of consciousness cannot solve the problems she helped to create.

We elect inexperienced Congressmen and women all the time. We vote people into office based on what they say in their campaign, what experience we see that they do have and hope for the best. Everyone who runs for public office has to start somewhere.

There are some people who insist that Hillary Clinton will make a fine president. I disagree. I believe that her experience is not as important as her judgement. She used a private email account, on a private domain, on a private server to pass classified information and God knows what else. She did so to evade the provisions of sunshine laws like the Freedom of Information Act. This is a sign of impaired judgement and that alone, in my mind, disqualifies her as president. If you are a Clinton supporter, you may still have to worry about those emails. I want someone for president who is comfortable living under the laws signed by another president, not above them.

Bernie Sanders would have fit that bill and I would love to see him resurface as a candidate. But until that happens, I have to consider other options. I refuse to vote for someone as corrupt as Hillary Clinton, so I'm casting my lot with Jill Stein and every down-ticket Berniecrat I can find. I want to start fresh with Jill Stein.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The millenials are coming and they're hopeful for change

I found this very interesting video posted by my niece. it's from Represent.us, an organization dedicated to wiping out corruption in politics. If you've got a few minutes, have a look at it here:

It's a very scary video about how politicians have become the hottest commodity in America. It's about how the wealthy buy influence to get what they want from the government and how for the rest of us, voting is more like rolling dice in Vegas. This is what we're leaving for our kids unless we become seriously willing to do something about it.

That's why I'm involved. That's why I blog. I see something seriously wrong with a culture so devoted and so dependent upon big money in politics that I feel compelled to write about it. There is something wrong with government when the people who work for it give up on public service and use it as a job fair for when they've done their time as a public servant.

Look at every problem facing us. Global warming, pollution, inequality, really expensive health care, and even corruption itself - all of it is a matter of public policy. How is it possible for a CEO to sleep at night knowing that the product he produces is poisoning the air, the water and the land? Oh, I know. He's not living there, where he dumps his waste. And if the voters figure out he's the problem, then he's got his Lear jet pointed at New Zealand, just in case.

Our lack of participation in politics leads directly to us having to choose between two of the most hated people in politics right now. This is not something that happened overnight. Many of us, myself included were busy with other things. Too busy to vote, too busy to be at the city council meeting, too busy to write a comment about that new federal regulation, too busy to show up at an important trial, too busy to show up at a committee hearing at the statehouse. It's all by design.

The elites, the wealthy, the billionaires, call'em what you want, they don't want us poking our noses into government. You want to raise taxes on them? No problem. Taxes go up for us, but for them, they have a cabal of lawyers set for the task of tax avoidance. That's because we're busy working and they're not. They hire someone to do it for them.

OK, enough of that. Now let's get to the point. That video was posted on Facebook by my niece, a millenial. She's just starting to figure out that her parents, her uncles and aunts, haven't been participating in politics enough to ensure that she has a decent future waiting for her. Millenials are having trouble finding jobs to pay for that college debt that they've stacked up. Billionaires love this. If millenials are busy looking for work or working for peanuts at a job that doesn't engage their talents, they won't at the committee hearing on legislation that will send more money to the billionaires.

But millenials are starting to notice that there are real problems ahead of them. Republicans are hearing it from their voters that they want a workers party. Democrats are wising up and taking polls that neglect the millenials because, in just about every poll that I've seen, millenials are supremely unhappy with Hillary Clinton.

Millenials are just starting to figure that the future is theirs to shape and to mold for what they want it to be. They're about 80 million strong and if they ever figure out how to get organized, they can be a tidal wave big enough to wash a lot of corrupt politicians out of office in 2018 and 2020, and at least a few this year. Here's what I see coming. A few weeks ago, I wrote about a list of Berniecrats that was about 270 strong at many levels of government.

I just found this list of Berniecrats from an article I read at the Washington Post of all places. But this list has about 480 Berniecrats. The revolution is just beginning.

So help me figure this out. Remember that "I, me, mine" generation? You know, the one that voted for Reagan, that voted for Bush, that voted for Clinton (Bubba), and that is now telling us to vote for his wife? Remember the message? We're gonna cut taxes so that you can get your fair share, right?

Who got that money? If you started your business in the 60s and 70s, you got that money. If you started working in the 80s, you're too late. Anything after that just became harder and harder to get. The reason for this is that once big money figured out how to get in and stay in, "The Greatest Generation" really didn't care for anyone else anymore. Even the people after that seemed to think that lower taxes would be better for the next generation.

But that's not how it worked out. Inequality got worse, much worse (video). The middle class has become a pale, sick ghost of what it used to be. What used to be the middle class can't pay for the kids to go to college, so the kids go into debt. Those kids can't buy houses, so the banks are holding millions of houses off the market to pump prices for what they can sell.

The professional class can buy influence. We know this because most "free trade" agreements pit manufacturing workers against the rest of the world while protecting doctors, lawyers and dentists. But if you're a millenial looking to get into the professional class, you're not going to make it without rich parents. If you have rich parents, be ready to do as you're told, if you're still talking with them.

We live in a disposable society. It's cheaper to buy a new one of whatever it is, than to fix it and use it. When we extend that attitude to people, we're in trouble. The older folks, for too long, have treated the next generation as disposable and now it's time to pay up.

A man named John Green summed it up rather nicely as follows:
“Public education does not exist for the benefit of students or the benefit of their parents. It exists for the benefit of the social order.
We have discovered as a species that it is useful to have an educated population. You do not need to be a student or have a child who is a student to benefit from public education. Every second of every day of your life, you benefit from public education.
So let me explain why I like to pay taxes for schools, even though I don't personally have a kid in school: It's because I don't like living in a country with a bunch of stupid people.”
I totally agree with this sentiment, though I would replace "stupid" with "ignorant", because most of human suffering is due to ignorance. The taxes we pay are to be used to build the infrastructure we need to support our society. Schools, internet, highways, plumbing, and power plants, they are all infrastructure. But instead, the taxes we pay are being use to pump the bottom line at the largest and richest corporations in America.

That video by Represent.us shows us that over the last 5 years, corporations and private business interests have received at least $4 trillion from the federal government as a subsidy or payment for services rendered. Did we build highways, replace our crumbling bridges or run fiber all over the country? Not that I know of. Did we put solar panels on every rooftop in America? No, we're still engaged in war for oil. Did we use that money to lower the cost of health care or educate our kids? No, our government would rather push the TPP for longer and strong patent and copyright protection.

Disenfranchising our youth is not the way to build their future, but that's what we've been doing. Our houses, our cars, that fancy dinner at the restaurant, that diamond ring, that $12,000 pantsuit, whatever possessions we covet, we can't take it with us. Can we honestly look our kids in the eye and say that we're giving them a better life than we had? I don't think so, not now. But I want to.

That's why I'm voting for Berniecrats where I find them. That's why I'm voting for Jill Stein in November. I have enough. I'll be OK. But my kids? They need me. They need me to make the right decision for them today, for they have no other advocate. It's all on me. On us. We must be the change we want to see.

Tuesday, August 09, 2016

The monopoly power of the Commission on Presidential Debates

The Green Party and the Libertarian Party have joined forces to sue the Commission on Presidential Debates but the case was tossed by a federal judge. Here is the opinion document, Gary E. Johnson, et al. v Commission On Presidential Debates. There are a few accounts of this lawsuit in the press, notably at the Washington Post and at Reason Magazine.

I suppose we could have expected this outcome since, as the court notes, the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) was founded by the the leadership of the Republican and Democratic parties in 1987. The plaintiffs argue that the CPD is a de facto monopoly and is operating as a gatekeeper. The opinion states that the plaintiffs had no standing due to the distinction of the CPD being a private forum.

It would be easy to assume the debates were run and maintained by a public institution. The CPD tries to give the appearance of being "non partisan" but the people who founded the CPD appear to to have had other plans. This lawsuit demonstrates that the two major parties were forward thinking and obviously were not thinking about keeping things "democratic" when they wrote the rules. The founders decided to keep it private to avoid lawsuits like this and to maintain the authority to set the rules. Setting the bar at 15% of an average of polls before the election is high enough to keep out even the most popular third party candidates, and low enough to seem reasonable. That would seem to partly explain why Bernie Sanders ran as a Democrat - there is no other way he could get the free press coverage that the major parties enjoy now, much to our detriment.

According to the Washington Post, one of the reasons for dismissing the suit included a lack of popular support for the political parties represented by the plaintiffs. Well, yeah. What do you expect when the press refuses to give decent coverage to third party candidates? It's important to remember that the press, the mainstream media, whatever you want to call them, is 90% owned by 6 parent corporations. Those giant corporations have no interest in third party candidates, and neither do their biggest advertisers.

The Post never once mentioned in this article, the issue of public versus private forums. I was lucky enough to find interest in this lawsuit from another article posted by Reason Magazine. In that article, the issue of of public forums is a sub-headline, meaning, we know that we get to the meat of the issue right there, front and center, before we even start reading the article. Reason Magazine's author, Matt Welch, said he detected a bit of a sneer in the language of the opinion. As if the judge were saying, "Go ahead. Appeal me. I dare ya!" Welch also notes that the judge was perfectly content to sit on the case for months, biding her time before the election.

After reading the opinion I think it might be useful to take a different tack on this issue. Unfortunately, that would require a new lawsuit, on similar grounds with a new set of arguments.

In my past, I had a small business helping people to file Freedom of Information Act and Privacy Act requests with the federal government. The gentleman who was kind enough to teach me how to do this work also knew a great deal about common carriers. A common carrier, in more familiar terms, is a taxi, an airplane or a boat for hire by the general public. A common carrier is someone who puts his private property out for hire to the public. Common carriers like taxis, airlines and boats are not allowed to discriminate against traffic, and must treat everyone equally.

But there is something else to common carriers that I think is demonstrated well in an old Supreme Court case known as Munn v. Illinois. This case was introduced to my by teacher and friend back in the day as a rather important case relating to the topic of licensing and how maritime law (the law of the sea) plays a role in our modern lives with automobiles. I read the opinion a few times back then because I thought it might come in handy some day, as well as being a fascinating story in and of itself.

The story can be summarized as follows. A group of men were charged with the offense of operating a grain elevator without a license. I know, kinda like operating an automobile without a license, right? The grain elevator was situated between a lake and a railroad, and provided for intermediate storage of shipments of grain from across the lake the railroad and vice versa.

The court determined subject matter jurisdiction based on the idea that, although the grain elevators were privately owned, the public soon became dependent upon them. An interruption in grain elevator service, or even well-time price hikes, could interfere with other businesses dependent upon the grain elevators. The court therefore determined that the grain elevators were subject to regulation by the government. What we see here is that it didn't matter if the grain elevators were private or not, they were still subject to regulation because the public became dependent upon them. The court ruled that the organization operating the grain elevator was a common carrier.

The court in Johnson v. CPD, determined that since the CPD is a private forum, it was not subject to regulation by the state due to protection by the First Amendment. The court even went so far as to say that state run debates were protected under the First Amendment. The court acted as if the First Amendment has the last word on whether or not the state can intervene to provide relief to the plaintiffs. The court says that the First Amendment bars the court from any intervention because that would be an infringement of the freedom of the press.

I take a different view. I consider the CPD to be a common carrier, just like an internet service, a taxi or an airplane. Common carriers must treat all traffic equally. Common carriers must raise no barriers to traffic to proceed. Common carriers do not get to set the rules for traffic. The state does that.

We know that third parties are not being treated fairly by the press and we can surmise that the two major parties are working with the press to hinder third parties at all levels of government. We saw that with the release of the DNC emails by Wikileaks. We can surmise that what happened at the DNC is just the tip of the iceberg and that such behavior has been an ongoing enterprise for years if not decades.

For the court to intervene and require the CPD to allow third party candidates to join the debates is not an infringement of the First Amendment for one simple reason. Such action does not restrain the expression of the candidates in the debates. The debates are not just a forum, they are a conduit that allows information to pass. That information is the expression of public policy ideas by the candidates.

The debates become a public forum because it makes no sense to hold another debate by another organization. That's like privatizing the sewer and allowing more than one company run the sewer lines all over town (the metaphor here seems appropriate, doesn't it?). Even if it were practical to stage other debates, the CPD assumes the right to disqualify candidates if they participate in "unsanctioned" debates. The CPD may even strip credentials from members of the press who wish to cover their debate if they choose to cover a presidential debate run by another organization to ensure their de facto monopoly. It's a private club and most of us are not in it.

The rules of the CPD effectively kill off all other competition and allow the complicity of the press to remain, unquestioned. This is why we must become the press with social media. And if social media subdues our message through technical means, then we may have to build our own social media networks, peer-to-peer DNS systems, or other measures to ensure that the people can share information freely.

We're in this situation because of our lack of participation in politics. The government we have is a reflection of our level of participation in politics. It's too late to appeal the ruling in time for the election since an appeals court can sit on the case for a few more months. It's worth noting that with our greater participation in politics, there might have been a different judge to render a decision more favorable to third parties. But there is something else we can do. We can bury the CPD in public outrage. How?

Well, for one, they have a Twitter account, @debates. We can tweet messages to them, day and night, imploring them to allow the Green Party and the Libertarian Party into the debates. We can contact the leadership, too. We can let the press know that we're onto their game of collusion with the two major parties designed to deny third party access to the halls of power.

According to the CPD:
“The public would like to take part in a civil discussion, both online and in-person,” McCurry and Fahrenkopf said. “Our goal is to make the tools available so that the debates can reach all Americans, particularly those who will be voting for the first time.”
The establishment politicians in power know now that we're hungry for alternatives.  Let's make the debates available to all political parties and level the playing field. Let's call the media out for running interference and their collusion between the CPD and the Democratic and Republican parties. It's time for third party candidates to have a real shot at the presidency.