AlterNet.org: Don Hazen http://www.alternet.org/authors/don-hazen en Deja Vu Again—Is Trump Really Nixon and Are We in Big Trouble? http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/deja-vu-again-trump-really-nixon-and-are-we-big-trouble <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Diverse issues and marchers at the Democratic National Convention have a powerful energy that is impossible to deny.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/bernie_humprey.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>I should not have been surprised. As I was covering/filming/marching up Broad Street Monday with a vast array of protesters in Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention, the constant chanting was, "We will never vote for Hillary." Diverse issues and marchers, animated and angry, noisy and creative with Cornel West and YahNe Ndgo at the lead, the marchers had a powerful energy that was impossible to deny; yes, they were pro-Bernie, but more so they despised Hillary.</p><p>Suddenly I was astrally projected back to 1968 and the Chicago DNC, May Day 1970 in Washington, and many other powerful protests. I was 22 or 25 again, feeling the flash of revolutionary determination, the pleasure of rightness. The addiction to purity and principle washed over me. It was temporarily cathartic—deja vu. It was very powerful. I felt exhilarated, joyful; I felt like crying. (In fact, I got so carried away that I unconsciously abandoned my backpack and computer, leaving me only with my iPhone.*) Then I returned to my 2016 reality. I was initially surprised because I thought that most people would see the danger of Donald Trump in such bold relief that they couldn't possibly <em>not</em> vote for Hillary.</p><p>But I am quite wrong about this. Now I know better why. Decades later, older, hopefully wiser, certainly more pragmatic—and for sure a practical advocate for Hillary—I can see clearly what the Berniecrats and the activists are feeling. It is part of the natural evolution of political consciousness. There is no more chance of talking these young activists out of their disdain for Hillary than there is a path to convincing a Trump voter to be for Hillary. And looking back on history, this could end badly. Back in 1968, things were tumultuous, and in the end the dilemma quite similar.</p><p>Senator Eugene McCarthy challenged Lyndon Johnson in the New Hampshire primary and was instrumental in getting the warmonger (who arguably produced more civil rights and social progress legislation than any president) to drop out of the race for reelection. Many young people "got clean for Gene" and pushed the McCarthy campaign. Then Bobby Kennedy jumped into the race. His passion and charisma immediately overshadowed McCarthy. Then RFK was assassinated. (Martin Luther King Jr. was also assassinated earlier that year, and there were large-scale insurrections in cities across the land, making 1968 one of the most tumultuous years in a century.) And slowly but surely the mainstream candidate, Hubert Humphrey, who was Johnson's VP, emerged as the favorite to be the Democratic nominee. But for us radicals—the '60s activists of which there were millions and the Chicago 7 including Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, and Bobby Seale—we were all appalled.</p><p>Humphrey was no less a war criminal than Johnson. And of course the history of the Mayor Richard Daley-led police riots in Lincoln Park in Chicago in the summer of '68 is one of the most famous moments of lefty youth rebellion in American history. Back then, there was a similar dilemma, as today. Did we want the universally hated "Tricky Dick" in the White House? Or could we swallow our idealism and vote for Humphrey? For many, it was not even close. "Dump the Hump" became the rallying cry. Many young people either dropped out, or voted—depending on the state—for one of the alternatives—Eldridge Cleaver, or Dick Gregory for me, since he was on the ballot in New Jersey. And of course no spoilers here, Nixon beat Humphrey.</p><p>Nixon won the popular vote by a narrow margin of 0.7 percentage point, but won easily in the electoral college, 301-191. (The '68 election was also unique in that former Alabama Governor George Wallace ran as a third party candidate mainly advocating for racial segregation in public schools. Wallace won a few states in the South. In fact, that was he last time a third party candidate has won any single state.)</p><p>I have been a Trump watcher for decades. And I have been appalled countless times. He is at the head of a pack of particularly odious operators (Rudy Giuliani and Chris Christie are members). The prospect of Trump as president is an astounding thing to contemplate. It means that all of our hopes that the country would mature and be less insane are out the window. Sure, half the American people despise Trump. But if the other half will vote for him—that is a very dark portent for the future, because there is no way to bridge that gap. Something cataclysmic is in store for us... if not this year, then look out for 2020. But for reasons obvious and mystifying, Hillary Clinton is as much an object of contempt as Trump, or even more, for many young people. And I can see why they think that way, because it is how I thought when I was their age.</p><p><em>*And by the way, the Philadelphia police were very helpful to me, especially Lt. Brian Sprowal, of the Real Time Crime Center. And the Philly police were competent overall, as far as I could tell. The Lt. couldn't save my bag from being slashed by the bomb squad, but he got it back for me with its contents intact, including my computer.</em></p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="" frameborder="0" height="360" mozallowfullscreen="" src="https://player.vimeo.com/video/176408980" webkitallowfullscreen="" width="640"></iframe></p> Tue, 26 Jul 2016 09:51:00 -0700 Don Hazen, AlterNet 1060810 at http://www.alternet.org Election 2016 Election 2016 Video dnc bernie trump Elizabeth Warren's Kick-Ass Speech Tells It Like It Is: What Should Hillary Do? http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/elizabeth-warrens-kick-ass-speech-tells-it-it-what-should-hillary-do <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Heading into the Democratic Convention, the senator from Massachusetts offers the best analysis of our failed monopolistic economy. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/7104522229_e57a8a2317_z.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><div>In the Sanders/Clinton battle for the presidential nomination, Elizabeth Warren stayed on the perimeter.  She wasn't quiet, that's for sure. But she was the only woman in the Senate not to endorse Hillary, no doubt frustrating many women. She didn't endorse Bernie, either, making many in the Bern crowd angry. She was threading the needle, as few can do.</div><div> </div><div>Warren has now embraced Hillary, which seems appropriate, and is campaigning aggressively with her. This is accompanied by considerable speculation about whether Hillary has the vision, and perhaps the chutzpah, to step out of her cautiousness and tap Warren to be her vice-president. And Warren has been the chief Twitter thorn in Trump's side—an important job these days.</div><div> </div><div>But beyond the presidential maneuvering, Warren is articulating a brilliant (if not obvious) critique of what ails our economy, and it is not just the banks. As Paul Glastris wrote in the <a href="http://washingtonmonthly.com/2016/06/30/elizabeth-warrens-consolidation-speech-could-change-the-election/"><em>Washington Monthly</em></a>, Warren has:</div><blockquote><div>".... extended her critique to the entire economy, noting that, as a result of three decades of weakened federal antitrust regulation, virtually every industrial sector today—from airlines to telecom to agriculture to retail to social media—is under the control of a handful of oligopolistic corporations. This widespread consolidation is 'hiding in plain sight all across the American economy,' she said, and 'threatens our markets, threatens our economy, and threatens our democracy.'"  </div></blockquote><div>Glastris thinks the speech could change the election. Time will tell about that, but it is clear Warren has what it takes to challenge the massive problem of inequality, and the way deregulation has so exacerbated the income and wealth gap in America. </div><div> </div><div>But don't take our word for it. Check out the speech below. Warren gave her talk on June 29 at New America’s Open Markets program event in Washington. The presentation had the obvious if slightly wonky title: “Reigniting Competition in the American Economy.” Read the speech or watch the video below.</div><div>—<em>Don Hazen, </em><em>AlterNet </em><em>executive editor</em></div><div> </div><div><strong>“Reigniting</strong><strong> Competition in the American Economy”: Keynote Remarks at New America’s Open Markets Program Event</strong></div><div><p><strong>By Elizabeth Warren</strong></p><p>June 29, 2016</p><p>Thank you, thank you. As Barry mentioned, before I was a senator, I was a law professor. What he didn’t say is that I taught contracts, secured transactions, and bankruptcy—all courses related to the functioning of competitive markets. I love markets! Strong, healthy markets are the key to a strong, healthy America.</p><p>That’s the reason I am here today. Because anyone who loves markets knows that for markets to work, there has to be competition. But today, in America, competition is dying. Consolidation and concentration are on the rise in sector after sector. Concentration threatens our markets, threatens our economy, and threatens our democracy.</p><p>Evidence of the problem is everywhere. Just look at banking. For years, banks have been in a feeding frenzy, swallowing up smaller competitors to become more powerful and, eventually, <a href="http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2010/01/bank-merger-history" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="too big to fail">too big to fail</a>. The combination of their size, their risky practices, and the hands-off policies of their regulators created a perfect storm, resulting in the worst financial crisis in 80 years. We know that excessive size and interconnectedness promotes risky behavior that can take down our economy—and yet, today, eight years after that financial crisis, three out of the four biggest banks in America are <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/02/12/bernie-sanders-is-right-the-biggest-banks-in-america-have-gotten-bigger/" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="even bigger">even bigger</a> than they were before the crisis and two months ago five were <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/04/14/business/dealbook/living-wills-of-5-banks-fail-to-pass-muster.html?_r=1" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="designated">designated</a> by both the Fed and the FDIC as “too big to fail.”</p><p>The concentration problem—and particularly the idea of too-big-to-fail in the financial sector—gets a lot of attention. But the problem isn’t unique to the financial sector. It’s hiding in plain sight all across the American economy.</p><p>In the last decade, the number of major U.S. airlines has <a href="http://www.denverpost.com/2015/07/17/airline-consolidation-has-created-airport-monopolies-increased-fares/" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="dropped from nine to four.">dropped</a> from nine to four. The four that are left standing—American, Delta, United, and Southwest—<a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/airline-consolidation-hits-smaller-cities-hardest-1441912457#%3AM1ZMKtAVWk5eBA" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="control over 80%">control over 80%</a> of all domestic airline seats in the country. And man, are they are hitting the jackpot now. Last year those four big airlines raked in a record <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/07/business/energy-environment/airlines-reap-record-profits-and-passengers-get-peanuts.html?_r=0" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="$22 billion in profits">$22 billion in profits</a>. Eighteen billion alone came from fees for baggage and legroom and pay toilets. Ok, the last one was a joke, but what have passengers received in return for their higher costs? <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/airline-consolidation-hits-smaller-cities-hardest-1441912457#%3AM1ZMKtAVWk5eBA" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="Fewer flights">Fewer flights</a> and <a href="http://time.com/money/4178759/airline-fees-billions/" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="worse service">worse service</a>. Airline <a href="http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-complaints-against-airlines-in-2015-20160218-story.html" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="complaints rose 30 percent">complaints</a> rose 30 percent just from 2014 to 2015.</p><p>The list goes on. A handful of health insurance giants—including Anthem, Blue Cross Blue Shield, United Healthcare, Aetna, and Cigna—<a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-05-23/health-insurer-deals-face-market-review-that-felled-past-tie-ups" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="control over 83 percent">control over 83 percent</a> of the country’s health insurance market.</p><p>Three drug stores—CVS, Walgreen’s and Rite Aid—<a href="http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2015/10/27/walgreens-rite-aid/74684642/" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="control 99% of the drug stores">control 99%</a> of the drug stores in the country.</p><p>Four companies control nearly 85% of the U.S. beef market, and three produce <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/life/food/2014/03/meat_racket_excerpt_how_tyson_keeps_chicken_prices_high.html" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="almost half">almost half</a> of all chicken.</p><p>Some people argue that concentration can be <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/peter-thiel-competition-is-for-losers-1410535536" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="good">good</a> because big profits encourage competitors to get into the game. This is the perfect stand-on-your-head-and-the-<wbr></wbr>world-looks-great argument. It says that there’s no competition today, but maybe there will <a href="http://object.cato.org/sites/cato.org/files/serials/files/regulation/2009/11/v32n4-3.pdf" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="someday">someday</a> be competition. The truth is pretty basic—markets need competition now. So I want to talk about five reasons to be concerned about the decline of competition.</p><p>The first problem is that less competition means <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2004-12-05/why-consumers-hate-mergers" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="less consumer choice">less consumer choice</a>. When consumers can purchase similar products from multiple competitors, they force market players to constantly seek out new ways to reduce prices and increase the quality of goods and services to get their business. But when companies consume their rivals instead of competing with them, consumers can get stuck with few or no alternatives. Prices go up, and quality suffers.</p><p>Consider Comcast, the nation’s largest cable and internet service provider. Comcast has <a href="http://corporate.comcast.com/news-information/timeline" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="consolidated">consolidated</a> its position by buying up rivals. Today, <a href="http://www.economist.com/news/leaders/21598997-american-regulators-should-block-comcasts-proposed-deal-time-warner-cable-turn-it" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="over half">over half</a> of all cable and internet subscribers in America are Comcast customers. And last year was Comcast’s <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/comcast-profit-buoyed-by-growth-in-video-and-broadband-subscribers-1454500891" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="best year">best year</a> in nearly a decade. But while big telecom giants have been consuming each other, consumers have been left out in the cold, facing little or no choice in service providers and paying through the nose for cable and internet service. Over a third of Americans who theoretically have access to high-speed internet don’t actually subscribe because the price tag is <a href="http://scrawford.net/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/The-communications-crisis-in-America-final.pdf" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="too high">too high</a>. And the data are clear: Americans pay <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/we-need-real-competition-not-a-cable-internet-monopoly" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="much more">much more</a> for cable and internet than their counterparts in other advanced countries and, in return, we get <a href="https://www.newamerica.org/oti/policy-papers/the-cost-of-connectivity-2014/" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="worse service">worse service</a>.</p><p>The second reason the decline in competition should cause concern is that big guys can lock out smaller guys and newer guys. Take a look at the technology sector—specifically, the battle between large platforms and small tech companies.</p><p>Google, Apple, and Amazon provide platforms that lots of other companies depend on for survival. But Google, Apple, and Amazon also, in many cases, compete with those same small companies, so that the platform can become a tool to snuff out competition. Look at some examples.</p><p>In 2012, FTC staff concluded that Google was using its dominant search engine to harm rivals of its Google Plus user review feature. Among other things, the staff produced evidence showing that Google promoted its own Google-branded content over its rivals even though those rivals <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/inside-the-u-s-antitrust-probe-of-google-1426793274" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="would have otherwise">would have otherwise</a> had top billing through its organic search algorithm. The FTC commissioners ultimately sided against the conclusion of their staff, but the European Commission has moved forward with formal charges on <a href="http://www.bbc.com/news/technology-36092441" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="similar allegations">similar allegations</a>, and Europeans may soon enjoy <a href="http://money.cnn.com/2016/05/16/technology/google-european-union/" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="better protections">better protections</a> than U.S. consumers.</p><p>Apple has received attention over similar issues. The latest example is its treatment of rival music-streaming companies. While Apple Music is easily accessible on the iPhone, Apple has placed conditions on its rivals that make it difficult for them to offer competitive streaming services. The FTC is investigating those issues and deciding whether to sue Apple for <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-switch/wp/2015/07/16/everything-with-know-about-the-ftcs-antitrust-review-of-apples-music-business/" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="antitrust violations">antitrust violations</a>.</p><p>Amazon has faced similar charges. Last year, groups representing thousands of authors claimed that Amazon <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/07/14/technology/accusing-amazon-of-antitrust-violations-authors-and-booksellers-demand-us-inquiry.html" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="uses its position">uses its position</a> as the dominant bookseller to steer consumers to books published by Amazon to the detriment of other publishers and that it extracts larger and larger shares of book profits from publishers, which <a href="https://www.authorsguild.org/industry-advocacy/a-call-to-investigate-amazon/" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="discourages">discourages</a> publishing houses from publishing risker books or books written by lesser-known authors.</p><p>Google, Apple and Amazon have created disruptive technologies that changed the world, and every day they deliver enormously valuable products. They deserve to be highly profitable and successful. But the opportunity to compete must remain open for new entrants and smaller competitors that want their chance to change the world again.</p><p>The third problem created by less competition is that when competition declines, small businesses can be wiped out – and our whole economy can suffer. Look at what is often referred to as the Walmart effect. Walmart is big, and it’s powerful. It delivers anywhere from 30 to 50 percent of the products Americans consume, and it controls over half of all groceries sold in some major cities.</p><p>Walmart’s gigantic size gives it a competitive advantage over small businesses. And often, when Walmart moves into town, small businesses collapse because they can’t compete with the price leverage Walmart has built with its suppliers.</p><p>Walmart is notorious for the low wages and poor working conditions it offers, and the Walmart effect has an impact on suppliers as well—<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/31/business/31walmart.html" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="forcing them">forcing them</a> to cut their own workers’ wages and benefits to keep Walmart’s business. Workers who cannot survive on those wages turn to public assistance, including housing, health care and food stamps, that is subsidized by other taxpayers. Walmart workers alone are estimated to collect about $6 billion a year in federal taxpayer subsidies <a href="http://www.americansfortaxfairness.org/files/Walmart-on-Tax-Day-Americans-for-Tax-Fairness-1.pdf" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="just to survive">just to survive</a>. That means the low, low prices that Wal-Mart advertises are paid for, in part, by high, high tax subsidies that every other American pays for. In the meantime, Walmart’s investors pocket the <a href="http://www.cnbc.com/2016/05/19/walmart-q1-earnings.html" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="high, high profits">high, high profits</a>.</p><p>The fourth problem is that concentrated markets create concentrated political power. The larger and more economically powerful these companies get, the more resources they can bring to bear on lobbying government to change the rules to benefit exactly the companies that are doing the lobbying. Over time, this means a closed, self-perpetuating, rigged system—a playing field that lavishes favors on the big guys, hammers the small guys, and fuels even more concentration.</p><p>This is a big one – and it should terrify every conservative who hates government intervention. Competitive markets generate so many benefits on their own that the government’s only role in those markets should be simple and structural – prevent cheating, protect taxpayers, and maintain competition. Concentrated markets dominated by a handful of powerful players, on the other hand, don’t produce the consumer benefits that flow from robust competition. Instead, the benefits are sucked up by a handful of executives and large investors, and their lobbying remains focused on protecting the giant corporations. Government intervention in concentrated markets inevitably becomes more and more complex and technocratic, as it attempts to impose complicated regulations in an effort to recreate the benefits of competitive markets.</p><p>It’s costly, it’s inefficient, and it plays right into the hands of the big guys, who can afford to throw armies of lawyers at the regulatory process. Small players end up having to shoulder regulatory compliance costs that make it even harder for them to compete, while big players use their resources and political clout to win loopholes, carveouts, and rollbacks that favor themselves and make it even harder for new competitors to survive. Over time, the result is a trifecta: more intrusive government, more concentration, and less competition.</p><p>Finally, concentration has contributed to the decline of what was once a strong, robust middle class in this country. As corporations get bigger, and bigger, and bigger, a handful of managers get richer, and richer, and richer. And god bless—in America, we celebrate success. But what about everybody else? What about small business owners and community bankers – people who used to be able to hold their own with big guys but now find it harder and harder to keep up with the armies of corporate lawyers and lobbyists determined to rig the economy against them? What about the employees at Walmart who scrape by on help from the food pantry and Medicaid, but who never have enough money to build any security? What about them? They are stuck.</p><p>Concentration is not the only reason for rising economic insecurity, but it is one of them. Concentrated industries result in concentrated profits. It’s the ultimate price squeeze. When markets are not competitive, big businesses are able to extract monopoly profits by setting prices that are higher and higher above the cost of making an item or providing a service. In 2014, the top 500 largest firms <a href="http://www.economist.com/news/briefing/21695385-profits-are-too-high-america-needs-giant-dose-competition-too-much-good-thing" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="pocketed 45 percent">pocketed 45 percent</a> of the global profits of <em>all</em> American businesses. And the vast majority of those profits went to the wealthiest of the wealthy. As of 2013, the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans <a href="http://scholarship.law.georgetown.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2474&amp;context=facpub" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="held nearly half">held nearly half</a> of all the stock and mutual fund assets held by all Americans.</p><p>And who gets a shot at their own dream? When big business can shut out competition, entrepreneurs and small businesses are denied their shot at building something new and exciting.</p><p>Left unchecked, concentration will destroy innovation. Left unchecked, concentration will destroy more small companies and start-ups. Left unchecked, concentration will suck the last vestiges of economic security out of the middle class. Left unchecked, concentration will pervert our democracy into one more rigged game.</p><p>But the good news is that this isn’t the first time America has faced this threat. We have been here before, and we know the way out.</p><p>More than a century ago, America was in the midst of a transformation from a nation of small shopkeepers, craftsmen, and farmers to a country of giant corporations. As greater and greater economic and political power concentrated in a smaller and smaller number of firms, America decided we needed some new policies – simple, structural rules – to level the playing field.</p><p>Congress created antitrust law to address the concentration of wealth and power in the hands of the few, passing the Sherman Anti-Trust Act and Clayton Anti-Trust Act. Progressive-Era reformers like Teddy Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and Woodrow Wilson were trust-busters, people who fought the power that monopolies wield in the economy and in politics.</p><p>The original purpose of these laws was to fight concentrated economic <em>and </em>political power. One hundred years ago, Congress understood that these two factors were forever intertwined. Arguing for passage of the Sherman Act in 1889, Senator John Sherman <a href="http://www.appliedantitrust.com/02_early_foundations/3_sherman_act/cong_rec/21_cong_rec_2455_2474.pdf" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="famously declared">famously declared</a>: “If we will not endure a king as a political power, we should not endure a king over the production, transportation, and sale of any of the necessaries of life.”</p><p>A generation later, Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis <a href="https://supreme.justia.com/cases/federal/us/288/517/case.html" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="worried that">worried that</a> the “concentration of economic power” was so great that “private corporations are sometimes able to dominate the state.” The corporate system was becoming akin to the “feudal system,” that would mean “the rule of a plutocracy.” Brandeis declared that without vigilance, our government would be controlled by the very rich and the very powerful.</p><p>Under Franklin Roosevelt, antitrust enforcement took off. With Thurman Arnold at the helm, the Justice Department’s Antitrust Division grew from 18 lawyers to 500 and ramped up litigation. In Arnold’s five years running the Division, those lawyers brought almost as many cases as there had been in the previous thirty-five years. Antitrust law was real—and American corporations knew it.</p><p>But starting in the 1970s, the story began to change. In the late 1970s, Robert Bork wrote an influential book rejecting the idea of competition as the driving rationale for antitrust law. Bork argued that the government should weigh the costs of less competition against the claims of greater economic efficiency that consolidation could create. In his view, if a monopoly persisted, it was because the monopolist was more “efficient” than its competitors. If not, the market would correct itself and the former-monopolist would be driven out—no need for government in his make-believe world. Bork proudly ignored all of the harms caused by concentrated political or economic power that had motivated Congress to pass strong antitrust laws in the first place.</p><p>Bork’s framework limits antitrust thinking even today. When coupled with the deregulatory ideology of the Reagan era, <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/wonk/wp/2012/12/20/antitrust-was-defined-by-robert-bork-i-cannot-overstate-his-influence/" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="the Bork approach ">the Bork approach </a>to antitrust law meant that government largely stepped out of the way and let companies grow larger and larger.</p><p>Now the country needs more competition – and more competitors – to accelerate economic growth, more competition to promote innovation, and more competition to reduce the ability of giant corporations to use their money and power to bend government policy and regulation to benefit themselves.</p><p>So how do we get more competition? And how do we do it without new legislation that would require cooperation from a Congress awash in campaign contributions and influence peddling?</p><p>We can start with a president and an executive branch willing to once again enforce our laws in the way Congress originally intended them to be enforced. We have the tools—right now—to reinvigorate antitrust law. Here are three ways to do it:</p><p>First: Hold the line on anticompetitive mergers. The DOJ and FTC are at the front lines of the battle over mergers. These two agencies already have the authority to stop harmful mergers in their tracks. Too often, though, they don’t use that authority. There’s no question that antitrust enforcement has picked up since the Reagan administration. The largest increases in merger challenges were during the Clinton and Obama years, and the Obama administration has <a href="https://www.thestreet.com/story/13538758/1/big-government-steps-up-challenges-to-big-business-in-merger-wars.html" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="challenged a higher percentage">challenged</a> a higher percentage of mergers than any administration since before Reagan’s. But mergers are outrunning enforcement. While the DOJ and FTC <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2016-05-10/staples-office-depot-merger-blocked-as-anticompetitive" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="have opposed">have opposed</a> some <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/business/wp/2016/05/01/halliburton-baker-hughes-call-off-34-billion-merger/" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="huge mergers">huge mergers</a> recently, many others have slipped through with little push back. In fact, 2015 was the biggest year for mergers <a href="http://www.wsj.com/articles/2015-becomes-the-biggest-m-a-year-ever-1449187101" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="in U.S. history">in U.S. history</a>—both in terms of the number of mergers and the size of mergers.</p><p>It has become fashionable in recent decades for the DOJ and FTC to allow mergers with serious antitrust implications to go forward IF the merging entity agrees to certain conditions. For example, one or both of the merging companies might need to sell off parts of its business, or the new entity might agree to change business practices in ways that supposedly would preserve competition despite increased market concentration.   These conditional approvals are sold as a win-win. There’s just one problem – too often, they don’t work.</p><p>A recent analysis of mergers challenged by the DOJ or FTC between 1999 and 2003 concluded that stopping mergers is the best way for regulators to prevent high price hikes down the road. The study compared product prices before and after mergers and found that, when the DOJ and FTC allowed mergers to proceed with conditions attached, dramatic price increases still usually followed. By comparison, when regulators opposed the mergers altogether, prices rose at a fraction of the pace.</p><p>The other problem with relying on conditions to offset the impact of bad mergers is that regulators who didn’t have the political chops to block the deal in the first place are very unlikely to force the companies to break up after the fact, even if the companies blow off the conditions. In other words, enforcement of merger conditions is weak at best. Even when companies meet conditions, like selling off some assets, they sometimes just turn around and buy back the same assets they originally sold off. Literally. That actually happens. That’s what happened after Hertz was permitted to merge with Dollar Thrifty and Albertsons was allowed to merge with Safeway. In both cases, the divested parts of the business declared bankruptcy, and the bigger companies just <a href="http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2014-04-17/hertz-set-to-buy-advantage-locations-undercutting-ftc" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="bought back">bought back</a> part of the companies they <a href="http://www.azcentral.com/story/money/2015/11/25/albertsons-buys-back-stores-feds-forced-sell/76383234/" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="sold off">sold off</a>.</p><p>The lesson is clear: where a merger raises fundamental antitrust concerns, regulators need to stand tall and say no.</p><p>Number #2: Closely scrutinize vertical mergers. Vertical monopolies exist when one company owns multiple parts of its supply chain – manufacturing, production, distribution, and sales. Again, size creates an advantage. When there’s no competition anywhere in the chain, other businesses are locked out and die. The DOJ and FTC should approach vertical mergers with the same skepticism as horizontal mergers. As an aside, the guidelines that apply to vertical mergers <a href="http://scholarship.law.georgetown.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2542&amp;context=facpub" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="haven’t been reissued">haven’t been reissued</a> since 1984, and the world has <a href="https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/atr/legacy/2006/05/18/2614.pdf" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="changed a lot">changed a lot</a> since then. Revising those guidelines would be a good start.</p><p>Number #3: Require ALL agencies to promote market competition and appoint agency heads who will do so. Too often, the DOJ and FTC are viewed as the only agencies responsible for promoting competition. Promoting competition should be taken seriously across the Executive Branch. Some examples:</p><ul><li>The FDIC, the Federal Reserve, and other agencies have a role to play in making sure that financial institutions don’t become so large that their smaller competitors don’t have the opportunity to serve American families and small businesses.</li><li>The FCC and FTC both have a role to play in making sure that small, innovative tech companies can develop newer and better ways for us to connect with each other without being crushed by the big guys.</li><li>The Agriculture Department has a role to play in making sure that poultry farmers and produce growers aren’t held hostage to the whims of giant firms.</li></ul><p>In April, the White House issued an Executive Order requiring all government agencies to identify ways that they can play a role in increasing competition. That is <a href="https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/04/15/executive-order-steps-increase-competition-and-better-inform-consumers" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="exactly the right place to start">exactly the right place to start</a>. We need strong regulators who will promote competition across all agencies – not just at the DOJ and FTC. We need strong regulators who draw the line on mega-mergers and on concentration across the economy. We need strong regulators who believe in competition because <em>personnel is policy.</em></p><p>These are just a handful of steps that the president and federal agencies can take to restore and defend competition, but there is much more to do at all levels of government. And there are a lot of good ideas out there. Earlier this month, the Roosevelt Institute <a href="http://rooseveltinstitute.org/untamed-how-check-corporate-financial-and-monopoly-power/" rel="external nofollow" target="_blank" title="issued a report">issued a report</a> laying out a number of ways to check corporate, financial, and monopoly power. And today, the Center for American Progress released a paper discussing the harmful effects of excess market power and proposing an extensive set of reforms designed to reinvigorate competition policy. Proposals include adopting a public interest standard for enforcement actions, placing the burden on merging companies to prove mergers will not harm competition, and requiring agencies to release more information about their enforcement actions. Those proposals could make a real difference.</p><p>Strong executive leadership could revive antitrust enforcement in this country and begin, once again, to fight back against dominant market power and overwhelming political power.</p><p>But we need something else too – and that’s a revival of the movement that created the antitrust laws in the first place.</p><p>For much of our history, Americans organized and protested against the forces of consolidation. As a people, we understood that concentrated power anywhere was a threat to liberty everywhere. It was one of the basic founding principles of our nation. And it threatens us now.</p><p>Competition in America is essential to liberty in America, but the markets that have given us so much will become corrupt and die if we do not keep the spirit of competition strong. America is a country where everyone should have a fighting chance to succeed—and that happens only when we demand it.</p></div><p>***</p><p>Warren's speech begins at minute 56:45 in the video below.</p><p><iframe allowfullscreen="true" frameborder="0" height="270" scrolling="no" src="http://www.ustream.tv/embed/recorded/88982017?html5ui=1" style="border: 0px none transparent;" webkitallowfullscreen="true" width="480"></iframe><br /><a href="http://www.ustream.tv" target="_blank">Broadcast live streaming video on Ustream</a></p> Sat, 02 Jul 2016 12:38:00 -0700 Don Hazen, AlterNet 1059441 at http://www.alternet.org Election 2016 Election 2016 elizabeth warren hillary clinton dnc democratic convention election 2016 massachusetts senator hillary trump Editorial: AlterNet Is Aiming for the Finish Line, Can You Help? http://www.alternet.org/media/editorial-alternet-aiming-finish-line-please-help <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Help us in the homestretch of a successful spring fundraising campaign.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_193495454.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> We are in the homestretch of a successful spring fundraising campaign. We will publish about 30 or more articles a day, about 200 for the week. Lots of good stuff—for free. AlterNet keeps you informed and makes you angry. Sometimes we even make you laugh. A good combination, right? You supporting us is also a good combo—teamwork at its best. We need you, and hopefully you need us.   <strong><a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=https://act.alternet.org/go/71052?t%3D3%26akid%3D14258.165976.0ZEFoZ&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1463282021843000&amp;usg=AFQjCNGzQpUf_wg7ST2xnvAh9fpVAH5QsA" href="https://act.alternet.org/go/71052?t=3&amp;akid=14258.165976.0ZEFoZ" target="_blank">Please make a contribution right away.</a></strong><p>Peace,</p><p>Don Hazen<br />Executive Editor, AlterNet</p><p>P.S.:<strong> <a data-saferedirecturl="https://www.google.com/url?hl=en&amp;q=https://act.alternet.org/go/71048?t%3D5%26akid%3D14258.165976.0ZEFoZ&amp;source=gmail&amp;ust=1463282021843000&amp;usg=AFQjCNHcLv1rYbM9T0HDJhLLMx_6rYk5Jw" href="https://act.alternet.org/go/71048?t=5&amp;akid=14258.165976.0ZEFoZ" target="_blank">Your contribution today is 100% tax-deductible</a>.</strong></p> Fri, 13 May 2016 20:13:00 -0700 Don Hazen, AlterNet 1056489 at http://www.alternet.org Media Media alternet Donna Edwards Runs Hard for the Senate in a Race Called the 'Fight for the Future of the Democratic Party' in the NY Times http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/progressive-donna-edwards-runs-hard-senate-race-called-fight-over-future <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The African American congresswoman&#039;s campaign shares many qualities with Bernie Sanders&#039; surprisingly powerful primary campaign.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/5549185069_a329e63599_z.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Four-term progressive congresswoman Donna Edwards is <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/md-politics/donna-edwards-takes-lead-in-new-poll-on-senate-race-in-maryland/2016/03/12/4ecb340c-e880-11e5-a6f3-21ccdbc5f74e_story.html?wpmm=1&amp;wpisrc=nl_politics">leading</a> against insider and seven-term congressman Chris Van Hollen in the April 26 Democratic primary race for the Senate in Maryland, despite Edwards' being outspent roughly 10-1 by her opponent. The Baltimore Sun has her up by 10 points, while other polls have the race closer.</p><p>This Senate race has taken on national significance because Edwards, if elected, would make history as only the second African American woman ever to serve in the U.S. Senate. She has emerged as the progressive, grassroots candidate with more than 56,000 donors building on her history of knocking off entrenched incumbent Albert Wynn to make it to Congress eight years ago. And she enjoys the support of national groups like Jim and Howard Dean’s Democracy for America, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and Maryland’s Working Families Party.</p><p>The race for the Senate in Maryland is about something more than the pathetic lack of diversity in the Senate. The clash between Edwards and Von Hollen is being seen as a referendum on how progressive the Democratic Party will become. The <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/17/magazine/the-great-democratic-crack-up-of-2016.html?_r=0">New York Times</a> magazine quotes Neil Sroka of Democracy for America: “We view primaries like this one as a fight over the future of the Democratic Party.”</p><p>Edwards’ positions on trade, banking, Social Security and Israel, among others, differentiate her from her liberal opponent Rep. Van Hollen, who has taken on the mantle of the insider candidate after racking up endorsements from Maryland’s political establishment and large donations, increasingly from business interests. For example, Van Hollen has been the recent recipient of more than <a href="http://www.fec.gov/data/IndependentExpenditure.do?format=html&amp;id=ieNational&amp;election_yr=2016&amp;candidateOfficeState=MD&amp;candOffice=S">$900,000</a> from the National Association of Realtors. In contrast, the largest amount of Edwards’ outside money comes from the legendary Emily’s List, whose goal, given the still embarrassing lack of women in public office in America, is to get women elected and protect reproductive rights.</p><p>Clearly, for many voters, there are not enough progressives, women or people of color in the Senate. Those factors, as well as Edwards’ charismatic personality and record of service, have generated a lot of enthusiasm for her candidacy.</p><p>Edwards told AlterNet why she wants to be in the Senate: "My campaign is about the grassroots stepping up and saying enough with business as usual in Washington. It’s about Maryland’s working families who deserve a progressive champion in the United States Senate. As Maryland’s next senator, I will fight for the woman who deserves equal pay for equal work, the worker who needs a living wage to provide for their family, and to hold the Wall Street banks that crashed our economy accountable."</p><p><strong>Running Like Bernie</strong></p><p>There are many ways Donna Edwards’ campaign resembles Bernie Sanders’ surprisingly strong primary campaign against Hillary Clinton. Both Van Hollen and Clinton are the favorites of the corporate media, party insiders and the deep-pocketed donors who pump a lot of money into campaigns. Edwards, like Sanders, has established a successful grassroots funding operation. She has been speaking to the hopes of an electorate fed up with insider politics that sets the bar very low for what can be accomplished. Van Hollen, like Clinton, has tried to position himself as the practical candidate who can wheel and deal and get things done.</p><p>Even the <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/md-politics/rep-donna-edwards-how-come-black-women-are-never-described-as-born-for-the-us-senate/2016/03/15/daa0c40e-eabc-11e5-a6f3-21ccdbc5f74e_story.html">Washington Post</a> sees the Sanders and Edwards analogy: “Edwards has pointed to Van Hollen’s support for past free-trade deals as a mark against him, just as Sanders has criticized Clinton’s support for trade pacts while she was first lady, a senator and secretary of state. Sanders says Clinton is beholden to big banks and Wall Street, and Edwards repeatedly refers to Van Hollen as a 'Wall Street Democrat'—although neither she nor Van Hollen is taking funds from Wall Street political action committees.”</p><p>In terms of foreign policy, Van Hollen has been endorsed by the right-wing Jewish group AIPAC, which hosted speeches by Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and Hillary Clinton. Bernie Sanders stayed on the West Coast during the AIPAC gathering. Donna Edwards has been endorsed by the liberal Jewish advocacy group <a href="https://donate.jstreetpac.org/candidate/donna-edwards/">J Street</a>, and firmly supports Israel, but is also in favor of a two-state solution with the Palestinians, as is the Obama administration.</p><p>Also like Sanders, Edwards has been marginalized and victimized by the mainstream media, particularly the Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post (which published <a href="http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/washington-post-ran-16-negative-stories-bernie-sanders-16-hours">16 negative articles</a> about Sanders in one day). Misrepresenting Edwards as being too idealistic, the Post also constantly portrays her as an activist and single mother and in editorials suggests she does not work well with others. This sexist portrayal is quite a stretch, as anyone who knows Edwards and her work understands that she is pragmatic and far from a rigid ideologue (just as Sanders has been very successful behind the scenes in D.C. shaping legislation).</p><p>Democratic donor and longtime Edwards supporter Patricia Bauman became so incensed at the Post’s drumbeat of distortions that she wrote a letter to the editor stating that the Post was consistently failing to give readers a full accounting of Edwards’ career and leadership in the House. <a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/md-politics/rep-donna-edwards-how-come-black-women-are-never-described-as-born-for-the-us-senate/2016/03/15/daa0c40e-eabc-11e5-a6f3-21ccdbc5f74e_story.html">Bauman explained</a>:</p><blockquote><p>Edwards, who is a lawyer, worked at Lockheed Martin on NASA’s Spacelab project. She was instrumental in the passage of the Violence Against Women Act. She has held several leadership positions in the House, including recruitment chair, steering and policy co-chair, and bipartisan women’s caucus co-chair, and she was the ranking Democrat on the space subcommittee of the Science Committee. She worked with Public Citizen and was longtime executive director of the D.C.-based Arca Foundation.</p></blockquote><p>The one flaw in the Edwards-Sanders analogy is that Edwards endorsed Hillary Clinton back in November, saying, “Hillary Clinton recognizes the problems this country faces, and wants to step up and take them on from the position where she can do the most good. This is exactly how glass ceilings are broken.” Van Hollen has also endorsed Clinton, and polls show Clinton to be more popular than Sanders in Maryland.</p><p>Still, Edwards admires what Sanders has done in terms of pushing forward important issues and mobilizing young voters, telling AlterNet, “Bernie Sanders is expressing what so many Marylanders are feeling: We’re tired of being dominated by big-money special interests. As Democrats, we need to embrace bold ideas and not be afraid to fight those interests holding working families back.”</p><p><strong>Van Hollen’s Dilemma</strong></p><p>So this is Chris Van Hollen's challenge: Donna Edwards is an energetic, Bernie-like candidate who has captured an enthusiastic grassroots following that has given her the momentum to take over the lead in the race. But Edwards is also a woman of color vying for a place in the overwhelmingly white Senate, with still only 20 percent women. She is backed wholeheartedly by the feminist establishment led by Emily’s List. It is a tough combination to beat.</p><p>Emily's List is a formidable foe for Van Hollen. Since its founding, Emily's List has helped elect move than 100 pro-choice Democratic women to the House, and 19 to the Senate. Emily's List states that "replacing Sen. Mikulski with another progressive fighter is a top priority—which is exactly why we're proud to support Donna Edwards. The more voters hear about Donna's lifelong fight for women and families, the more they realize she is the exact voice we need in the U.S. Senate. It's been over 17 years since we've had an African American woman's voice in the Senate."</p><p>The key support from Emily's List is a strong advertising campaign paid for by its independent expenditure arm Women Vote! voter mobilization program, which just released its third <a href="http://www.emilyslist.org/pages/entry/women-we-helped-elect">television ad</a> in support of Edwards. The ad is part of a mid-six-figure buy on top of the one million paid media Emily's List ran in December and January targeting primary voters in both the Washington DC and Baltimore media markets.</p><p>Despite the support of Emily's List for Edwards, Van Hollen was always going to be a tough opponent. After a 12-year career in the Maryland Assembly, he defeated incumbent congresswoman Republican Connie Morella and has served seven terms in the House, which gives him 26 years holding office in Maryland. Since Maryland is a liberal state, it is practical to be an insider as well as have a very liberal voting record. Van Hollen has worked closely with many liberal issue groups over the course of his tenure, carrying forward their agendas and keeping them happy. He is also the former chair of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC), which fundraises on behalf of congressional candidates and which helped him develop a deep donor base of wealthy individuals, giving him a large fundraising edge.</p><p>In the context of Van Hollen's insider status, a recent endorsement offers a telling moment and may have captured perhaps the fundamental issue in the campaign: Who deserves to represent a state as diverse as Maryland, which is 30 percent black and Latino? Recently, Maryland Senate president Thomas V. Mike Miller Jr., when endorsing Van Hollen, said in part it was because Van Hollen was “<a href="https://www.washingtonpost.com/local/md-politics/md-senate-president-backing-van-hollen-in-tight-us-senate-race/2016/03/14/f175fc5c-ea1d-11e5-b0fd-073d5930a7b7_story.html">born to the job</a>.”</p><p>Edwards quickly jumped on that statement:</p><blockquote><p>Born to the job? The fact is, our country’s systems and institutions have largely been led by people who have always looked like that senior elected official, not like me.</p><p>When I was born, no one ever thought I could be a United States senator, and why would they? There had never been a black woman elected to the Senate. And even now, there’s only been one—over 20 years ago. [Carole Moseley Braun, from Illinois, who was elected in 1992 and served one term.]</p></blockquote><p>Edwards continued:</p><blockquote><p>But I don’t listen to that type of talk and to that kind of entitlement.</p><p>I’m sure few thought that a small group of women could gather on my deck, conceive and build a national organization to fight domestic violence and then pass the Violence Against Women Act—but we did. And I’m sure few thought I could defeat an entrenched congressman [Albert Wynn], backed by millions of dollars of special interest money and every endorsement in the book, but I did.</p><p>I don’t believe anyone in this country was born to anything. That’s not what America is about, and that’s not what this campaign is about. In Senator Barbara Mikulski's words: “Thirty years ago, people told me I didn't look the part... and now, the part looks like me.”</p></blockquote><p><strong>Health Care Is a Centerpiece</strong></p><p>Health care is a priority area where Edwards shows both her pragmatic and visionary sides. In typical fashion, she reveals that her commitment is based on personal experience; in this case fainting in a grocery store 23 years ago and ending up in the emergency room, not to mention her experience as a young mother raising her son alone after she separated from her husband:</p><blockquote><p>I could not afford health-care coverage, so I went without. This emergency room visit put me in tremendous debt, and along with my nearly $100,000 in student loan obligations, almost drove me into bankruptcy, and we almost lost our home. America is the richest country in the world, and this story isn’t unfamiliar. Almost all of us have a loved one, a friend or a neighbor who’s been trapped underneath a pile of health-care bills or forced to go without care. There is no reason anyone should get sick and have nowhere to turn for treatment. And there is no reason getting sick should lead to losing your home. Health care should never be a privilege only for those who can afford it. It should be a fundamental right.</p></blockquote><p>Edwards goes on to say that:</p><blockquote><p>I went to Congress to work on health care, because I knew millions of Americans were facing a similar crisis in their lives. That’s why I was so proud to work on and lead the charge to pass the Affordable Care Act—a transformational change in the way health care is delivered in this country. The law isn’t perfect, we did not get a public option like I hoped, but it was an historic accomplishment—one President Obama does not get enough credit for. And while I am proud of that change, I do believe that we can do more.</p><p>That starts with stopping Republican attacks on the Affordable Care Act, but also pushing the bounds of what politicians in Washington think is possible. That’s why I support Medicare for All, which would provide everyone with access to health care—primary and preventative care, affordable prescription drugs, emergency care, mental health, vision and dental care.</p></blockquote><p>One reason Edwards is running so strongly is that her vision is in sync with the goals and hopes of many progressives in Maryland and across the country. Jim Dean of the national Democrats for America explains it all in bullet points:</p><blockquote><p>Donna Edwards is the true progressive in this all-important race. She is:</p><ul><li>The only candidate in the race who won’t take a dime from the Wall Street banks</li><li>A leader in the fight against the TPP</li><li>A strong defender of Planned Parenthood and a woman’s right to choose</li><li>A leader on racial justice and equality</li><li>The first member of Congress in Maryland to endorse marriage equality</li><li>The only candidate in the race opposed to mandatory minimum sentencing</li><li>A fighter for every family—regardless of zip code</li></ul></blockquote><p>Dean adds: "Donna Edwards is also the only candidate in the race who has always opposed cuts to Social Security and Medicare—and who has been a leader in the fight to expand both crucial programs."</p><p><strong>Everyone Looks to Baltimore</strong></p><p>Most experts and analysts think the Maryland Senate race will be won in Baltimore. Edwards and Van Hollen are both well known and popular in their congressional districts, but not so well known in Baltimore, where massive urban problems persist and there was much anger and unrest when Freddie Gray died in police custody.</p><p>Sixty-five percent of Baltimore's population is African American, ranking the city <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_U.S._cities_with_large_African-American_populations">fifth</a> in the country in terms of African-American density.</p><p>With incumbent mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake not seeking reelection, there is a crowded field and a very competitive mayoral primary race, which should increase the turnout in Baltimore. At this point the Baltimore primary is boiling to a close race between former mayor Sheila Dixon and state senator Catherine Pugh, with more than a quarter of the voters undecided. The Baltimore mayoral race could offer Edwards a significant advantage, since the two leading candidates are women, along with the fact that women typically make up about two-thirds of the voters in Baltimore.</p><p>Certainly for both campaigns, turnout statewide will be crucial and campaigns will be hard at work earlier than April 27. Maryland has 10 days of early voting where voters can exercise same-day voter registration and the state also has no-excuse absentee voting. Most voters in Maryland do not have to present any identification at the polls. In addition, Maryland is one of 14 states (plus Washington DC) in which voting rights are restored to convicts when they finish their sentence, and there have been efforts to register those who were formally incarcerated.</p><p>Many eyes will be focused on Baltimore in April to see how this competitive Senate race turns out—and with it, perhaps the future path of the Democratic Party.</p><p><em>Note:</em> <em>Don Hazen</em><em> has known and worked with Donna Edwards on various projects over 25 years.</em></p> Wed, 30 Mar 2016 10:22:00 -0700 Don Hazen, Jan Frel, AlterNet 1053512 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics donna edwards senate new york times nyt Editorial: Please Support AlterNet in the Fight Against Trump-Inspired Violence http://www.alternet.org/editorial-please-support-alternet-fight-against-trump-inspired-violence <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The money-hungry corporate media are a huge part of the problem. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2016-03-22_at_12.10.26_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Donald Trump warns there may be "riots and tremendous problems," if the GOP prevents him from gaining its presidential nomination. He yearns for protesters to be "carried out on a stretcher" at his rallies. "Get 'em outta here," he says, expressing the desire to "punch protesters in the face."</p><p>Yet Trump has crushed his Republican opponents, while attacking immigrants, seeking to ban Muslims and pushing to build a giant wall along our southern border.</p><p>Ugly. Scary. Unprecedented. All true. The 2016 presidential race has been dominated by fear, violence and prejudice like no other in our lifetime. But why now?</p><p>There are important reasons, including the debasement of civility for decades by right-wing Republicans wanting to wreck government, and the enactment of harsh policies by reactionary conservatives, that have dramatically increased inequality and destroyed the middle class. </p><p><strong>But the money-hungry corporate media are a huge part of the problem. Violence is still as American as apple pie, and that violence is enabled by our corporate media at every opportunity.</strong></p><p>CBS chief executive Leslie Moonves, in an astoundingly evil admission about Trump, said, "It may not be good for America, but it's damn good for CBS." Moonves called the campaign for president a "circus" full of "bomb throwing." "Man, who would have expected the ride we're all having right now? The money's rolling in and this is fun,” and "this is going to be a very good year for us. Sorry. It's a terrible thing to say. But bring it on, Donald. Keep going," said Moonves.</p><p>The media distorts reality, giving Trump obscene amounts of coverage, because like those driving by a car wreck, huge numbers of people can't divert their attention. CNN's ratings are way up since it has gone all Trump, all the time. This translates to big audiences, huge numbers of eyeballs and big bucks for the giant media corporations. This is the same media that has often ignored Bernie Sanders, who talks sense about the problems facing America and never advocates violence.</p><p><a href="https://act.alternet.org/go/69360?ak_proof=1&amp;t=2&amp;akid=14092.195137.IS9h0Q" target="_blank">Independent media is more important than ever</a>. Without our perspective, good sense and a far more accurate narrative of what is happening in America, our nation would be even more quickly spiraling toward disaster.</p><p>The whole story needs to get out every day. And without AlterNet, and other independent sources, our future would be bleaker than it looks right now. AlterNet depends on you to provide us the support to push back against Trump violence and the awful enabling role played by corporate media. Please keep us economically healthy by <a href="https://act.alternet.org/go/69360?ak_proof=1&amp;t=3&amp;akid=14092.195137.IS9h0Q" target="_blank">making a contribution</a> to our spring fundraising campaign. We need to raise $45k to meet our budget requirements—and we depend on you.</p> Tue, 22 Mar 2016 09:06:00 -0700 Don Hazen, AlterNet 1053046 at http://www.alternet.org alternet trump politics fund money cash donate To Beat Trump, Hillary Must Become a Transformational Candidate: 9 Steps She Can Take http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/beat-trump-hillary-must-become-transformational-candidate-9-steps-she-can-take <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Hillary needs to up her game, especially if Trump is the GOP nominee.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2016-03-09_at_6.43.00_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Hillary Clinton, who in the end is likely to be the last line of defense against a Donald Trump presidency, is not yet ready for the battle against Trump in today’s new political and celebrity media reality. A seasoned pro of the old school, she is as prepared for the presidency as one could be. But in today’s political dynamic, her assets are also liabilities, and could lead to her downfall, much to the frustration of many voters hoping to see the first woman president.</p><p>Bernie Sanders keeps <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/us/elections/primary-calendar-and-results.html?_r=1" target="_blank">winning</a> primaries and caucuses, besting Clinton in Michigan on Tuesday in perhaps his most shocking victory thus far. He is raising boatloads of money, and following Michigan likely a lot more, which will make things more difficult for Hillary. Maybe there is a path for Bernie to win the nomination, but in the end, given the role of the superdelegates, it is still a very steep climb for him to win. Assuming Sanders doesn’t win, that raises a big question: How will Hillary grapple with Trump?</p><p>Many Democrats have been rubbing their hands in glee over the prospect of a Hillary/Donald general election. Maybe in the end they will be right. But in the meantime, there are many factors challenging that assumption. When added up, they suggest that Hillary must change and become a candidate of aspiration, not of pragmatism, or she could be in trouble.</p><p><strong>Trump and Sanders Emotional Connection</strong></p><p>Never in our lifetime have we had two potentially electable presidential candidates who are connecting in deep emotional ways with voters, using ideas and tactics far outside of the conventional wisdom of what was thought to be acceptable in America. Presidential politics in the U.S. will never be the same, and it surely won’t if Trump is elected.</p><p>The old-style Hillary can seem like a bad therapist. She will listen to what you have to say, maybe even utter some soothing words, like <em>I know how you feel</em>, and then try to talk you out of your feelings. She will suggest what you are thinking isn’t good for you. This is Hillary trying to tell the world that Bernie is unrealistic, impractical, the banks are complicated, there are no easy solutions, etc. This is not the approach that will motivate voters and bring the necessary turnout in key states that she needs, nor will it motivate younger voters hungry for change. In contrast, Trump voters are very motivated. </p><p>Trump is essentially telling voters, “You have every reason to feel like you do; I feel the same way.” He tells people their feelings matter. He is saying, <em>I get it. I know why you are angry about immigrants taking your jobs</em> (and yes, some of them do,) scared of Muslims after 15 years of steady fear-mongering by Bush/Cheney, conservatives, the FBI, etc. He also says, <em>You are sick and tried of big money, lobbyists, the super-wealthy controlling the system at every turn rendering you, the voter, less than nothing. I feel your pain. I hear you. I know you are desperate and I will change things. Together we will make America great again</em>.</p><p>Of course, there is also a lot of misogynist, fascist, bullying, contemptous crap thrown into the mix of messages Trump puts out. But that does not mean Trump isn’t tapping into the aspirations of his supporters. More on that in a moment.</p><p>Meanwhile, Bernie is also articulating the way a lot of people really feel and not just liberals and progressives, but working-class people as well. This is why he <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/seth-abramson/bernie-sanders-polls-better-against-trump-than-hillary-clinton_b_9390892.html">does better</a> than Hillary against Trump in polls. He is generally saying, <em>Our system sucks. It is screwing you. I know it, you know it, I don’t accept it, and you shouldn’t either. Together we can do something about it</em>.</p><p>The reason his message resonates among younger voters—where there are <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2016/02/10/politics/hillary-clinton-new-hampshire-primary/">striking differences</a> between support for Bernie and for Hillary—is young people are the most screwed, with limited jobs, huge loans and few prospects. Hillary often suggests, <em>Yes, we can fiddle around the edges, cut back on some of the high interest rate on student loans, maybe make the banks change a little</em>… but that does not seem like enough. She may need to make a dramatic split with her past to get the attention she will need.</p><p>The old-style politics: rational, policy oriented, pundit-influenced, has been swept away by Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders. Why haven’t we had candidates like this in the past? The quick answer is the combination of reality TV, social media, online fundraising, Fox TV and the infantilizing of the voters with disinformation by Republicans and the conservative media for the last decade and longer. On top of this is the overlay of massive inequality which translates to an electorate that has been trampled upon and left behind. The top 15% of Americans who most think like Hillary and the punditry—their peers—are not going to decide this election. And for the first time in our lifetime, there are radical options.</p><p><strong>The Bad News on the Electability Front</strong></p><p>The two most significant question marks on the horizon are Clinton’s electability and the unknown effect of Trump’s authoritarian appeal outside of the Republican Party.  </p><p>It is not an exaggeration to say that Bernie Sanders' extraordinary and surprising campaign has made mincemeat of the Hillary inevitability-electability argument. Not too long ago, the entire mainstream media saw Bernie as a minor gadfly candidate, treated him with contempt, or more often just ignored him. They still treat him with contempt and hostility, especially at the <a href="http://www3.alternet.org/election-2016/washington-post-ran-16-negative-stories-bernie-sanders-16-hours">Washington Post</a>. Despite this, Bernie has won <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/us/elections/primary-calendar-and-results.html?_r=1">eight</a> primaries and caucuses, though most gave him little or no chance after New Hampshire.</p><p>True, Hillary shellacked Bernie in states where there are high numbers of black voters, who remain very enthusiastic about Hillary. But that will not be enough in the general election, even as she’s won in <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2016/us/elections/primary-calendar-and-results.html">13 states</a> so far. (Trump has won 15, Sanders has won 9.)</p><p>But more important are the weaknesses in the Clinton candidacy that Bernie’s campaign has exposed. Writing on Salon, P.J. Podesta <a href="http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/my-case-against-hillary-clinton-she-could-set-progressives-electoral-disaster">makes</a> this case rather convincingly. Bernie has a much higher favorability rating than Hillary. He is far ahead in terms of his appeal to independent voters, who make up the largest block of overall voters, and consistently does better against GOP opponents including Trump. Bernie’s popularity among young voters creates an almost mindboggling gap with Hillary. It will not be easy to motivate this idealistic constituency for Hillary, when she is unpopular among the millennials. Furthermore, Bernie has made inroads among working-class white voters, presumably an area of intense competition assuming the opponent is Trump. Hillary’s main source of strength is minority voters—very important, but not enough to clinch a victory.</p><p>On the issues front, Les Leopold writing on AlterNet strongly <a href="http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/why-hillary-could-be-lot-more-vulnerable-trump-bernie">argues</a> that Hillary’s positions on three key issues—trade, war and Wall Street/big banks—make her vulnerable against an authoritarian populist candidate, which is what Trump will present. (Bernie is stronger on each of these issues, which leads Leopold to argue he is the better candidate against Trump.) Trump is likely to confound people with his positions in a general race, where he tilts left and right simultaneously, picking up angry working-class voters victimized by rising inequality, while attracting conservatives with his bellicose views on immigration and Muslims.</p><p><strong>Trump’s Authoritarianism</strong></p><p>The appeal of Trump’s authoritarianism beyond the GOP race is the other big wild card. Matthew C. MacWilliams, writing on AlterNet and using his own research, <a href="http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/how-authoritarianism-took-over-gop-and-allowed-emergence-emperor-trump">makes</a> a strong correlation between Trump voters and authoritarian tendencies in the GOP primaries. To many observers this is no surprise. The big question is how much the authoritarian appeal spreads to independent voters, more angry white males, as it is clear that authoritarian impulses cross party and class lines. </p><p>“Trump’s support is firmly rooted in an American version of authoritarianism that, once awakened and stoked, is a force to be reckoned with,” MacWilliams writes. “And until quite recently, the institutions and leaders tasked with guarding against what Madison called ‘the infection of the violent passions’ among the people have either been cowed by Trump’s bluster or derelict in performing their civic duty.”</p><p>It’s easy to forget that conservatives and fearful racists have aspirations too. The search for higher meaning is universal, not just the province of progressives. As psychologist Michael Bader wrote on AlterNet:</p><blockquote><p>“The psychic need for a higher sense of meaning and purpose is manifested in many different ways. It’s a need for significance. It’s a longing to be part of something bigger and better than our lonely and isolated selves. Spiritual traditions and practices express it most directly in our culture. It’s also a wish to connect with and influence the future, to be part of the flow of history. Artists feel it; social activists trying to change the world feel it; parents who strive to provide their children with a better future tap into this need. People feel it in every walk of life. When communities turn out to help each other following a disaster, you can see it expressed. People get satisfaction from contributing to the whole, and from being part of a community of meaning seeking to influence history.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>"Conservative audiences have this need as well. Trump’s vow to make America great again speaks to it. Mega-churches grow on the basis of gratifying this and other needs. Even ethnocentric calls for persecuting and expelling immigrants speak to the need for meaning and purpose in a perverse way; namely, that there is a 'we' that is special but imperiled by a 'them' and that if we get rid of them, we can realize the American Dream. It’s a dream that depends on a demonized other, but it’s a dream nonetheless.”</p></blockquote><p>Trying to get elected at a time when celebrity, politics, social media and traditional media have all merged into one requires a whole new set of skills—skills Trump has been practicing for more than two decades. He has flirted with running for president a number of times and has been in the media spotlight nonstop, especially during the 14-year run of "The Apprentice." And of course, the Donald is the master tweeter. (This may be an instance when one of the more superficial creations of the high-tech billionaire economy plays havoc with our politics at the highest level.) If Trump can set the media’s agenda every day with his tweets, then Hillary is in trouble. And Trump is already going after Hillary and setting the stage.</p><p>Many voters—and this is not new—are not interested in pragmatic logic, policy ideas and rational linear thinking. As I <a href="http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/hey-pundits-and-media-wake-trumps-appeal-not-rational-his-formula-based-fear">wrote</a> in February, voting is an emotional act. And Hillary’s future success and the ability to stop Donald Trump are in doubt until and unless she acts more clearly on this fundamental truth and becomes a transformational leader. She needs to hear people’s pain and lead them to the hope for a better life. Her campaign cannot be based on the fact that she is the pragmatic middle. She can’t consistently tell people they have to compromise to adjust to the unhappy life they have.</p><p>Indeed, this is why some former advisors from Bill Clinton’s White House are taking the threat posed by a Trump candidacy more seriously than the candidate herself. “For all the GOP frontrunner’s flaws, many veteran Democrats [say] Trump is a canny operator who just might end up in the White House if they’re not careful,” <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2016/03/democrats-on-donald-trump-threat-220118">wrote</a> Politico’s Daniel Lippman, who then quoted Doug Sosnik. “It’s fair to say there’s been a graveyard already out there of people underestimating him.” </p><p><strong>What Can Hillary Do? </strong></p><p>The likely conventional wisdom among insiders, many who still do not understand the new political reality, will be to take Bernie voters for granted, assume that younger voters will come around to Hillary as the lesser of two evils, and move even more to the center to pick up moderate voters tempted by Trump. But that thinking is flawed.</p><p>Trump’s appeal is not about labels or policy distinctions, which is why he is able to win very conservative as well as moderate voters in the same primaries. The way Hillary can win is to admit her old ways of big money and insider politics are wrong, and that she gets it. It is necessary to change, as the world has changed. She must have a vision for the future that embraces people’s aspirations, not searching for some illusive pragmatism.</p><p>Here are nine suggestions for what Hillary can do: </p><p><strong>1. Embrace Bernie as soon as she can</strong>: The sooner she can emotionally acknowledge Sanders as authentically speaking truth to power and say she has learned from him, the better. She needs to say, now, that Bernie has the ear of many Americans with legitimate concerns and she has learned from him and wants to learn more. She wants to mix her vast experience with her new information about how badly people are suffering and take steps to remedy the vast inequality.</p><p><strong>2. Give back the speaking fees</strong>. She should send back Goldman Sachs speaking fees or give them to charity. She needs to say it was a mistake to do those speeches for large sums of money. She can say that was how things used to work, but they can't work like that anymore. </p><p><strong>3. Issue a V.P. list</strong>. She should announce a short list of people she would consider for vice president, should she get the nomination. Bernie should be included, but probably Elizabeth Warren should be at the top of the list, which should include a leading Latino and African American, and Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown, another progressive Democrat with working-class roots.  </p><p><strong>4. Campaign with Bernie</strong>. If she wins a majority of delegates, she should ask Bernie to campaign with her before the convention because their common enemy is Trump. She should meet with Bernie during the campaign. She needs to say she wants him to campaign with her and he will have a meaningful role in her campaign, and her administration, if she is elected.</p><p><strong>5. Revive listening tours</strong>. She should start having townhall meetings in working-class neighborhoods in Detroit, Cleveland and across America, and teach-ins where she hears testimony from voters who are feeling the pain, instead of giving canned speeches. She did this before she was elected senator from New York and it was effective. </p><p><strong>6. Put immigration reform atop the agenda</strong>. She should hold teach-ins where legal immigrants offer testimony and suggestions for how to deal with undocumented immigrants, and turn these conversations into commercials that show both compassion and firmness. Who better to talk about the undocumented than those who are here legally and whose extended family may be undocumented, along with data about what undocumented people contribute, and the potential harm to citizens with special visas like H2B, used by domestic workers, factory workers, hospitality industry, etc. </p><p><strong>7. Change her higher education stance</strong>. She should agree with Bernie on free tuition at public universities and commit herself to finding a way to make it happen. Her remedies are too narrowly targeted and allow banks to keep charging unnecessarily high student loan interest rates. Showing that she is adopting some of his proposals will make it easier for Sanders’ supporters to join her campaign if she’s the nominee.</p><p><strong>8. Change her Social Security stance</strong>. She should empathize with the plight of senior citizens on Social Security—who saw no cost-of-living increase in 2016—and strongly favor increasing benefits across the board instead of pushing more targeted increases for women and minorities. She should also strongly oppose raising the age of when senior benefits can first be taken and firmly support raising the level of income that’s taxed for Social Security, as well as include investment income in that total.</p><p><strong>9. Pioneer a new way of swaying red states</strong>. Hillary’s team should produce an Oprah-style TV show in red states (or any state) that builds on the townhall format, but is broadcast over local channels and social media. This would feature her talking to the full spectrum of society, in formats where voters explain their problems. In response, she conveys her basic principles and educates the public on the positive role government can have in resolving their issues.</p><p>The goal here is not just getting elected, but having a mandate to govern and creating a basis to help bend gerrymandered Republican-majority districts her way. By traveling to their districts and broadcasting through her own media channel, Hillary could revive respect for a governmental role in solving society’s problems. Such a format would supplant the predominant and quite empty use of rallies with sound bites and platitudes and endorsements.</p><p><strong>Mixing Evolution and Revolution</strong></p><p>There’s a false choice being pedaled by the mainstream media as the race between Clinton and Sanders continues. That narrative says Clinton is the realist, while Sanders is the idealist. It says Clinton knows how to “get things done,” while Sanders indulges wishful thinking. It says Clinton knows how to pay for things, while Sanders is too grandiose and his programs will disrupt and bankrupt the nation.</p><p>These polarities are not helpful or accurate, for several reasons. The first is that 2016 is a year where outsiders—in both major parties—are taking control with outsized ideas, and where insiders who have more nuanced prescriptions based on their experience in governing are being rejected. For Clinton to be elected president, she has to blend the best of what she and Bernie are offering. Without that approach, the Democrats are not assured of winning the White House and taking back the U.S. Supreme Court, especially if Trump is the Republican nominee.</p><p>It would be a major error for Clinton to minimize the threat posed by Trump’s unusual candidacy, as it would be an error for her to assume that Bernie’s agenda and his supporters will have no choice but to follow her. The best way she can show that to the full range of voters is to embrace Bernie sooner rather than later, just as the best way to reach Americans who will be aghast by the candidate the GOP nominates is to begin a new conversation with voters in red and purple states. The stakes are too high for campaigning as usual—especially in a year where the political playbook is being rewritten.</p> Tue, 08 Mar 2016 13:07:00 -0800 Don Hazen, AlterNet 1052165 at http://www.alternet.org Election 2016 Election 2016 News & Politics hillary clinton bernie sanders donald trump Hey Pundits and the Media, Wake Up! Trump’s Appeal Is Not Rational—His Formula Is Based on Fear http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/hey-pundits-and-media-wake-trumps-appeal-not-rational-his-formula-based-fear <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The establishment hand-wringers just don&#039;t get it.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/trump_again_4.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>We are in the official Trump panic period. The punditocracy and the Republican establishment are mystified. The pundits have floundered around, unable to explain Trump’s popularity and why his supporters stick with him even after he has broken virtually every cardinal rule of politics, attacking war heroes, popular women and even the Pope, all the while staying on top of the polling heap. He has given a whole new meaning to the nickname “Teflon Don” (which was originally coined for Mafia boss John Gotti, to whom charges never seemed to stick).</p><p>Now, the pundits and Republican “leaders” and right-wing editorial writers are all pleading with these same voters to have the good sense to reject the guy with all the firepower. After years of Fox and the establishment making Trump into a huge media star— some version of America’s collective id—they want people to vote for Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio… mostly Rubio. Really? They think this is going to work? At least Hillary has a brand, shaky as it is. But it seems that Trump’s base of support is pretty solid. The proverbial horses have already left the barn.</p><p>The punditocracy and the GOP establishment don’t understand why people are not listening to them; why the voters do not get it. They can’t just chalk voter attitudes up to irrational racism; the pundits are unrealistically committed to rational thinking.</p><p>But, hello. Voting, like many other human activities, is emotional, not rational. The fact is that people have been voting against their own rational self interests for a long time. The secret to Trump’s appeal lies in emotions like fear and anger; it’s not a rational force that can be whittled away with pragmatic pleading about future destruction and preserving the existence of the Republican Party. That doesn’t cut it. Many people feel like their lives have already been destroyed.</p><p><strong>The Trump Brand</strong></p><p>Have all these hand-wringers thought about the fact that Trump has by far the most powerful brand in this presidential race? Ours is a society where brand is king, as Nike, Apple, Google, and for that matter, Beyonce and Jay Z can attest. Trump’s brand ironically took his bullying style to such iconic status that when anyone thinks of the once generic words, “You’re fired,” they think of Donald Trump. It’s as if he owns the phrase.</p><p>Trump’s success as a candidate is not magical, despite the inability of pundits to either grasp it or anticipate its power. It has been a long time in the making—decades. Its ingredients include Trump’s essential bullying nature, Fox and the rest of the media enabling him over many years, his celebrity status built on the 14-year run of “The Apprentice,” and the economic insecurity tens of millions of people feel every day and their constant bombardment with messages of fear, over the course of the 15 years since 9/11. All  of this has left many voters infantilized and ready to turn to a “strongman.”</p><p><strong>Trump's Long Run for President</strong></p><p>Trump seems to have been planning this presidential run since he ran for president in 2012, which many people don't seem to remember. But actually the Trump presidential gambit goes back 28 years to <a href="http://http://onpolitics.usatoday.com/2015/06/15/donald-trump-president-campaign/">1988</a>, when a GOP activist, unhappy with the candidates, started a draft Trump movement, perhaps planting the earliest seeds. In 2000, he quit the Republicans, saying they "were too crazy right," and contemplated running on New York's Independence Party line. In the end, he opted out of running against Pat Buchanan for the nod, saying ironically about Buchanan: “He’s a Hitler lover, I guess he’s an anti-Semite,” <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/1999/oct/25/news/mn-26065">on <em>Meet the Press</em></a>. “He doesn’t like the blacks, he doesn’t like the gays.”</p><p>Trump was talking about running again in 2004, but instead launched his highly successful "Apprentice" series. Then came 2012, the real movement builder. Prior to the 2012 presidential race, Trump had gained notoriety for questioning President Obama’s citizenship (claims that were false) and had indicated he was serious about seeking the GOP nomination to challenge Obama’s re-election bid. “America is missing quality leadership,” <a href="http://articles.latimes.com/2011/feb/10/news/la-pn-cpac-donald-trump-20110210">he said</a> at the Conservative Political Action Conference in 2011. “I am well acquainted with winning.” He disputed notions that his favorable standing in polls was simply a product of name recognition and not his proposals, <a href="http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/politics/2011-04-12-Donald-Trump-would-seek-donors-for-presidency-bid.htm">telling USA Today</a>: “Something resonates with people; people know I’m a serious person.” </p><p>In the end Trump stepped aside, citing his love for business and saying he was not ready to leave the private sector. Looking back on the 2012 campaign-that-wasn’t in <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/elections/2015/01/24/donald-trump-presidential-race-obama-2016/22274977/">an interview</a> with the<em> Des Moines Register </em>in January, the Donald had some regrets. “I would’ve won the race against Obama. He would’ve been easy,” he said.</p><p><strong>Trump and the Media</strong></p><p>Trump dominates and is often fawned over by the same media that is now so panicked about him. They have enabled and perpetuated his messages. He built part of the foundation of this presidential campaign with his long-running anti-Obama birther claims. Though these claims had no factual basis, Fox and other conservative and even mainstream media dutifully provided the platform that validated many people’s irrational fears of Obama.</p><p>Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich recently reminded the hosts of <a href="http://www.rawstory.com/2016/02/newt-gingrich-drops-truth-bomb-on-fox-news-trump-is-the-candidate-fox-friends-invented/">Fox &amp; Friends</a> that they had essentially “invented” Donald Trump’s candidacy by promoting him in friendly weekly interviews for years. "Fox &amp; Friends" host Steve Doocy pointed out to Gingrich on Monday that the Republican Party establishment was “uncomfortable with Trump ...This is their nightmare scenario,” Doocy observed. </p><p>“The billionaire is spending the least amount of money and running away with this thing,” co-host Brian Kilmeade noted.</p><p>“That’s because of you guys,” Gingrich interrupted. “Donald Trump gets up in the morning, tweets to the entire planet at no cost, picks up the phone, calls you, has a great conversation for about eight minutes — which would have cost him a ton in commercial money. And meanwhile, his opponents are all out there trying to raise the money to run an ad.”</p><p>Many voters perceive the Trump brand as truly independent of the political system, the same “evil system” the right-wing GOP has taught voters to despise and feel paranoid about. As sitting senators, Cruz and Rubio are by definition entrenched in that very system. Add to the mix that Trump has an uncanny ability to articulate many of the darker sentiments that a lot of people—particularly working-class white men—apparently harbor. But until “Mr Strongman” came along, many of them felt they had to keep those feelings in the closet. No longer. The media icon with the successful brand and his billions says it is all right to think and blurt out these politically incorrect, nasty things.  </p><p>Trump is also the first truly social media-created candidate. He is not just a passive media creation. With his use of Twitter, and the media’s cooperation, of course, he is able to control the narrative each and every day, because what he says is often so provocative, it attracts attention, eyeballs and TV watchers and becomes part of the discussion. More than ever for virtually all of media, the game is about getting those eyeballs and traffic, which is usually the lowest common denominator, right where Trump tends to be.</p><p><strong>Trauma America</strong></p><p>But perhaps more importantly than fretting about Trump, the elite panicked thinkers and even progressive analysts might contemplate this: we live in a traumatized country where tens of millions of people live in a state of economic and emotional fear; where the future looks very bleak, and white men are committing suicide with guns, drugs and alcohol at shocking levels; where politics have become completely polarized and the fear of terrorist attacks is almost part of the water supply. Social media has turned some communication into bloodsport and bullying, and the news cycle is a constant 24/7 if it bleeds it leads, i.e. in which city did which cop kill which black teenager today? No wonder people are traumatized.</p><p>Writers and analysts have come up with many explanations for the Trump voter: racism, scapegoating, demagoguery, the media, celebrity and the outsized influence of money on the political system. Sure, these are all interrelated factors and certainly the media is the delivery system for fear messages. But they are all symptoms of the deeper power of fear and insecurity our leaders and especially the right-wing have peddled since 9/11 and before. Terrible things are right around the corner unless we change our tune, become more belligerent, keep immigrants out with a wall, turn Muslims into pariahs and force them out—all not-very-coded appeals to insecure white voters. We’ve seen this movie before. Similar fear-mongering hastened the social decline that led to fascism, Nazism and totalitarianism.</p><p>As I wrote last <a href="http://www.alternet.org/fear-america/fear-dominates-politics-media-and-human-existence-america-and-its-getting-worse">March</a>, </p><blockquote><p>“People cannot think clearly when they are afraid. As numerous <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fear_processing_in_the_brain">studies have shown</a>, fear is the enemy of reason. It distorts emotions and perceptions, and often leads to poor decisions. For people who have suffered trauma, fear messages can sometimes trigger uncontrollable flight-or-fight responses with dangerous ramifications.</p><p>“Many interlocking aspects of our society have become increasingly sophisticated at communicating messages and information that produce fear responses. Advertising, political ads, news coverage and social media all send the constant message that people should be afraid—<em>very</em> afraid.”</p></blockquote><p>There is the stark economic reality that exacerbates the fears. <a href="http://cfed.org/newsroom/pr/nearly_half_of_us_households_have_almost_no_savings_to_cover_emergencies_or_save_for_the_future/">Nearly half</a> (43.9 percent) of U.S. households live on the edge of financial collapse with almost no savings to fall back on in the event of a job loss, health crisis or other income-eliminating emergency, according to a report by the Corporation for Enterprise Development.</p><p>Things are as bad or worse for those in retirement or on the brink. In December 2014, 42.9 million people <a href="http://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/quickfacts/stat_snapshot/2014-12.pdf">received</a> Social Security retirement benefits that averaged $1,328.58 a month, or roughly $15,943 annually before taxes. One third, or 14.3 million people, derive <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHAcy4SNVbo&amp;list=UUQlxOsA7o2uhcWYT2Po28FQ&amp;index=1&amp;feature=plcp">almost all</a> of their income this way.</p><p>On top of the rampant economic and emotionally insecurity, we collectively have endured 15 years of irresponsible post-9/11 fear-mongering about terrorism that has fundamentally changed the nature of American culture. We are a profoundly different country due to the disastrous reactions of Bush/Cheney/Rice to a small group of highly lethal suicide bombers that were clearly overlooked by the Bush White House.</p><p>This fear quotient is ever-present and powerful as Noam Chomsky underscores in response to a question about how he explains Trump’s success in an <a href="http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/noam-chomsky-we-owe-rise-trump-fear-and-breakdown-society">interview</a> recently posted on AlterNet:</p><blockquote><p>“Fear, along with the breakdown of society during the neoliberal period. People feel isolated, helpless, victim of powerful forces that they do not understand and cannot influence. It’s interesting to compare the situation in the ‘30s, which I’m old enough to remember. Objectively, poverty and suffering were far greater. But even among poor working people and the unemployed, there was a sense of hope that is lacking now, in large part because of the growth of a militant labor movement and also the existence of political organizations outside the mainstream.</p><p>History suggests that when people are in fear, they turn to bullies for protection—fascists like Mussolini and Hitler, and the Spanish version, <a href="http://www.britannica.com/topic/caudillo">caudillos</a> like Franco and Chavez—strongmen who were often charismatic and whose hold on power depended on control over armed followers, patronage, and vigilance.” </p></blockquote><p><strong>The Trump Appeal</strong></p><p>Interestingly, Americans have never had a prototypical strongman run for president in our lifetime: someone who doesn’t seem to care what anyone thinks, and will "tell it like it is." And the guys who threaten to come to the rescue, like Michael Bloomberg and Ross Perot, are softspoken, very wealthy technocrats. The Trump strongman tells everyone who will listen that he will make America great again. We will put up walls, we will throw out Muslims, we will have a purer America we can feel proud of.</p><p>For desperate people, angry people, fearful people, for the millions of alcoholics, addicts and abused people in America, that is a powerful message. They have no hope. This successful guy, loved and often ass-kissed by American media, is giving them hope. What is the alternative?</p><p>We have known forever that many people do not vote on the issues, but rather personalities. We have known that larger numbers of voters are what some call low-information voters, meaning they are neither informed nor interested in facts or policy alternatives but respond to meta messages. Voters like these make up the large percentage of people who, for example, think Obama is a Kenyan-born Muslim. They vote emotionally, out of fear, or to follow God. They have been conditioned to hate, resent, blame and feel victimized by the great liberal conspiracy that gave us Obama.</p><p><strong>Perfecting the Art of Hate Speech</strong></p><p>In his speeches, Trump often mines the fevered recesses of the right-wing psyche — and his crowds love him for it. <a href="http://thehill.com/blogs/ballot-box/presidential-races/270110-trump-spreads-hoax-about-muslims-being-shot-with-bullets">The Hill</a> reports that at a primary election-eve rally in Charleston, South Carolina, Trump told an apocryphal story about how Gen. John Pershing dealt with Muslim terrorists in the U.S.-occupied Philippines of the early 20th century.</p><p>“He took 50 bullets and he dipped them in pig’s blood. And he had his men load his rifles and he lined up the 50 people, and they shot 49 of those people,” Trump said, as the crowd cheered. “And the 50th person, he said, ‘You go back to your people and you tell them what happened.’ And for 25 years there wasn’t a problem.”</p><p>According to Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center "points to the presidential election cycle as one of the primary reasons for the rising number of <a href="http://www.democracynow.org/2016/2/25/winning_his_race_is_trump_the">hate groups</a> across the U.S., saying last year was marked by a level of hate speech in mainstream politics not seen in decades." The report says, "Donald Trump’s demonizing statements about Latinos and Muslims have electrified the radical right, leading to glowing endorsements from white nationalist leaders such as Jared Taylor and former Klansman David Duke. White supremacist forums are awash with electoral joy, having dubbed Trump their 'Glorious Leader.'" </p><p>Trump has built his brand for several decades and it always has the same ingredients: frame the story and get the media to focus attention on him, go on the attack, threaten lawsuits. Keep it simple: me versus them. His basic message: I am the only one who really knows how to get things done. In the beginning years, "The Apprentice" averaged more than 20 million viewers a show. A lot of people learned to see Donald Trump as the boss, a man of action.</p><p><strong>Longtime Trump Observer</strong></p><p>I have been an often appalled Trump observer since the 1970s, as his role in New York City politics and public life foreshadowed his role on the national and international scene. One myth-making Trumpcapade sticks out in my memory:</p><p>“Once upon a time there was an ice skating rink in Central Park that could no longer make ice. No one could figure out how to fix the skating rink. Years went by and millions of dollars were spent and still no ice. One day a white knight wearing a bright red tie showed up and said: ‘Let there be ice!’ Four months later there was ice. When asked by the press why the people had been unable to fix the rink themselves, the knight said, ‘They’re very nice people and I like them very much, but they’re all idiots!’ And everyone lived happily ever after.”</p><p>As <a href="http://http://www.forbes.com/sites/offwhitepapers/2015/08/24/donald-trump-and-the-wollman-rinking-of-american-politics/#389daa5e26b2">Forbes explained</a>, this is, “Pretty much the true story of the Wollman Skating Rink fiasco. You can even check the<em>New York Times</em>. On May 31, 1986 Donald Trump said in an interview with the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/1986/05/31/nyregion/trump-offers-to-rebuild-skating-rink.html"><em>Times</em></a>, “I don’t want my name attached to losers. So far the Wollman Rink has been one of the great losers. I’ll make it a winner.”</p><p>And he did. And it has been successful ever since, and the Trump logo is still attached to the rink website.</p><p>So there we have it. Donald Trump—a powerful brand, a magnet for authoritarian desires, a unique figure in American culture, a prime product of a media machine that is about conflict and controversy, not facts or good judgment. Unfortunately, the fear about Trump becoming the nominee and even president is overshadowed by the overall climate of fear in the country that has made Trump the logical person for many people to turn to. Whether it all leads to a shocking development in American politics or just a close call remains to be seen.</p> Sun, 28 Feb 2016 14:27:00 -0800 Don Hazen, AlterNet 1051585 at http://www.alternet.org Election 2016 Election 2016 trump fear trauma hate speech chomsky media fox Billionaire-Funded Charter School Juggernaut Hits Roadblock in Los Angeles http://www.alternet.org/education/billionaire-funded-charter-school-juggernaut-hits-roadblock-los-angeles <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Teachers union organizing in hostile charter environment, while L.A. school board blocks &quot;out of touch&quot; plan by billionaires. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2016-02-15_at_9.44.33_am.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Over the past decade and longer, there has been a massively funded effort by the wealthiest people in America to replace public education and elected school boards with a privatized charter-school system. Walmart’s Walton Family Foundation just <a href="http://www.waltonfamilyfoundation.org/%7E/media/documents/k12-strategic-plan-overview.pdf?la=en">committed</a> an additional $1 billion to the cause. The result has been a highly successful juggernaut <a href="http://www.publiccharters.org/get-the-facts/public-charter-schools/faqs/">leading</a> to more than 6,700 charter public schools in 42 states and Washington D.C., and funded by taxpayers, with nearly 3 million students.</p><p>Co-mingling substantially public funds with private dollars, leveraging the advantage of its own set of rules and laws enabled by state legislatures—which eliminated most public accountability — school privateers have run roughshod over school systems in many American cities. New Orleans, Detroit, Milwaukee and Philadelphia are just a small number of urban areas with a heavy presence of publicly funded private charters. Charter advocates and their deep-pocketed investors and supporters, using aggressive lobbying and campaign contributions of many <a href="http://www.latimes.com/local/education/la-me-charter-donations-box-html-20151202-htmlstory.html">wealthy supporters</a>, have established strong footholds in Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Wisconsin, California and many other states. In California, there are now an estimated 500,000 students in 1,200 charter schools.</p><p>Along the way it became clear that a key tactic of privateers has been the scapegoating of public school teachers and locally elected school boards. The attack on teachers, so clearly articulated in the slick propaganda film, <a href="https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waiting_for_%22Superman%22">Waiting for Superman</a>, attempted to hold teachers responsible for widespread poverty-induced school failures, which of course, were fundamentally out of their control. The formula for rapidly expanding non-union charters includes undermining teachers unions, and followed the overall game plan of a larger right-wing strategy by Walmart, the Koch brothers and others to weaken or eliminate public employee unions.</p><p>The larger goal? To get private access to <a href="http://www2.ed.gov/about/overview/fed/10facts/index.html?exp">$500 billion</a> in taxpayer funds spent annually across America on K-12 public schools. Since the 1990s, the federal government has spent <a href="http://www.prwatch.org/files/new_charter_school_black_hole_report_oct_21_2015.pdf">$3.7 billion</a> on charter schools, mostly in the last decade. State spending has been harder to pinpoint because charter spin offs have raised multi-millions by selling government-backed bonds for real estate and construction deals—where they own the assets. No matter how you slice it, taxpayer funds increasingly have been shifted from traditional schools to private hands, while traditional schools have been starved of badly needed revenue.</p><p>It is important to note that all charter schools are not the same; charter chains come in different sizes with contrasting objectives. In many cities, there are charter schools idealistically developed by parents, teachers and local communities who seek to improve the environment for their children and bring values of openness and cooperation to the task. That was the idea in the 1980s when Albert Shanker, then the president of United Federation of Teachers, proposed creating “charter” public schools so new educational ideas could be tried. Charter schools became a reality in the early 1990s in Minnesota, but overall and increasingly, the charter movement has been co-opted and dominated by corporate-run chains and franchises <a href="http://nepc.colorado.edu/files/emo-profiles-11-12.pdf">mixing</a> for-profit and non-profit operations. In California, most charter schools are organized as non-profits, but contract many administrative, accounting and real estate functions to for-profits. One example is <a href="http://cava.k12.com/">California Virtual Academy</a>, an all-online school that was founded as a <a href="http://www.guidestar.org/FinDocuments/2014/223/871/2014-223871534-0bbc0069-9.pdf">non-profit</a> in Simi Valley, but contracts with K12 Inc., a Virginia-based for-profit <a href="https://www.google.com/search?q=k12+inc+stock+price&amp;ie=utf-8&amp;oe=utf-8">trading</a> on the New York Stock Exchange.  </p><p><strong>Speed Bump or Road Block?</strong></p><p>Given the lopsided advantages of unlimited money and political clout, the wealthy school privateers assumed that their efforts to displace traditional public schools could not be slowed down, let alone stopped. But to the surprise of many, and the consternation of the billionaire class, the private charter juggernaut has hit some major speed bumps and possible roadblocks.</p><p>Los Angeles provides one recent example. In December 2015, a highly flawed, top-down plan by the billionaire Eli Broad, the Walton Family Foundation and others to double the number of charters to more than half the school seats in Los Angles over the next eight years was unanimously <a href="http://laschoolreport.com/charter-schools-get-approval-some-with-warnings/">rejected</a> by the elected city-wide board of the Los Angeles Unified School District. The so-called <a href="http://documents.latimes.com/great-public-schools-now-initiative/">Broad Plan</a> was criticized by many, including some charter school advocates because it was so tone deaf in ignoring the opinions and needs of many communities in Los Angeles.</p><p>But the fight over charter expansion—and the teaching and services at the existing charters—continues. Broad’s backers rebranded themselves as a new group called <a href="http://laschoolreport.com/37711-2/">Great Public Schools Now</a>. The city’s largest charter operator, Alliance College-Ready Public Schools, which has 27 middle and high schools with 11,000 students and 650 teachers, has said it wants to double its number of schools, even though it is involved in a nasty dispute to try to thwart a teachers union organizing effort. Alliance’s tactics, which led Los Angeles County Superior Court late last year to issue <a href="http://laschoolreport.com/37697-2/">several</a> orders against the chain, were <a href="http://laschoolreport.com/alliance-schools-paying-alumni-to-promote-anti-utla-message/">aided</a> by the statewide California Charter Schools Association, which paid parents of alumni to work at a phone bank where they read anti-union scripts to parents of current students. The vice-chair of CCSA’s board is Carrie Walton Penner, who also is on the Walton Family Foundation Board, which gave Alliance a $250,000 grant a few years ago for its Los Angeles schools. (Penner also gave CCSA $620,000 in 2014-2015, according to state <a href="http://www.latimes.com/local/education/la-me-charter-donations-box-html-20151202-htmlstory.html">records</a>. In the same period, Jim Walton gave $475,000, Eli Broad gave $355,000, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings gave $1.5 million, and ex-Apple CEO John Scully gave $500,000.)</p><p>On the frontline of this fight, not surprisingly, are teachers and parents at Alliance schools and the teachers’ union, <a href="http://www.utla.net/">United Teachers Los Angeles</a>. The issues call into question many charter school practices that go beyond compensation. There are big questions about student-centered curriculum, transparency of budgets, and the right to advocate without fear of reprisals and management interference. The teachers and counselors at Alliance are organizing a union with the full backing of UTLA, with more than 150 educators signing an open letter of support, even as Alliance has spied on them, blocked union e-mail, eliminated physics curriculum at one of their high schools because it was taught by one of the teacher organizers, refused union reps access to their campuses, and interfered with the legal rights of public school teachers to organize under state law.</p><p>This is a classic example of charter schools wanting to have it both ways: They say they’re public schools when it comes to taking taxpayer per-pupil dollars and other public perks, such as issuing multi-millions in government-backed bonds for real estate deals. But then they say they need to run like private corporations and be exempt from other state laws, including public employee rights to unionize and public records requests. All of that is in play in Los Angeles with the ongoing union drive at Alliance, which also happens to be the largest charter-school teacher organizing campaign in U.S. history. </p><p>Alliance, true to the national charter school chain playbook, last winter initially reacted with hostility by refusing to formally acknowledge the presence of teachers wanting to engage the chain in questions about the curriculum, teachers’ roles, classroom resources, staff turnover and transparency surrounding school policies. At the same time, according to court orders issued late last year, Alliance also responded by spying on teachers and organizers and deluging parents with anti-union e-mails, the first in a wave of escalating tactics to thwart the union drive. Management illegally polled teachers regarding their support for Alliance, broke up after-hour meetings at the school claiming it was private property and blocked e-mails to teacher organizers and more.</p><p>The result: California’s Public Employment Relations Board, a state agency created to enforce state labor laws, last fall issued a series of complaints against Alliance and then sought a temporary restraining order (TRO) and an injunction in Los Angeles County Superior Court, and won two rulings <a href="http://laschoolreport.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/2015.12.03.FILED_.SIGNED.ORDER_.pdf">ordering</a> the Alliance chain to cease its propaganda and misinformation campaign and follow laws regarding public employee unions, starting with meeting with the teachers and UTLA.   </p><p>The first court order telling Alliance to follow the law prompted a coalition of parents to file a public records request, under the state’s public information laws, to find out how much was being spent to fight the union drive: legal fees, consultants, communications. “We believe Alliance will become an even better place to learn and to teach when teachers and counselors are respected partners in decisions and can more effectively advocate for our kids,” their November letter to Alliance CEO Dan Katzir said. “We chose Alliance for our children so they could receive a quality education. We did not sign up to have Alliance administration try to get us to oppose a union through petitions and phone calls. It is inappropriate whether done by Alliance or by the California Charter Schools Association (CCSA) or anyone else on behalf of Alliance.”</p><p>These responses were not what Alliance expected. After bungling its initial union drive reaction, which became the basis for the court injunction, and having its coordination with the California Charter School Association unmasked last summer, Alliance hired Mercury Public Affairs, a high-powered PR firm, to mount its anti-union campaign. Mercury calls itself  “a high-stakes public strategy firm” for clients in “must-win” situations. One recent <a href="http://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/politics/2016/01/22/snyder-hires-two-pr-firms-amid-flint-crisis/79201468/">client</a> is Michigan Gov. Rick Synder, the embattled right-winger who many hold most responsible for the poisoning of Flint’s drinking water.</p><p><strong>Underestimating Teachers Unions and the Public</strong></p><p>Behind the scenes, some observers sense that as was the case with the Broad Plan to turn half of the city’s schools into charters in eight years, Alliance's owners may have misread the political climate and overreached, thinking they would not have much union resistance. For years, UTLA was not seen as a unified, powerful union and effective player in LA politics. The union is affiliated with the two major national teachers unions—the American Federation of Teachers and the National Education Association. But in 2014 UTLA members overwhelmingly elected Alex Caputo-Pearl as their president, pledging a “Union Power” team.</p><p>“The mandate is for an approach that builds power through aggressive organizing of the membership and organizing of broad coalitions with parents and community to more effectively fight for class size reduction, staffing for safe, clean, well-rounded schools, the pay increase educators deserve, and more,” Caputo-Pearl <a href="http://laschoolreport.com/just-in-caputo-pearl-wins-decisively-for-utla-president/">said</a>, after being elected. Those who have observed the union during the past year strongly suggest Caputo-Pearl is the real deal: a committed, talented, savvy leader who has effectively united the city’s teachers.</p><p>Support for the organizing effort at Alliance is one part of UTLA's strategy for the L.A. schools. Another key part is reviving their profession’s reputation and helping lead an effort, along with parents and the community, to improve public education and meet the social and economic needs of students and their families. Last week, UTLA members overwhelmingly passed a dues increase with 82 percent support to help step up this fight. Caputo-Pearl <a href="http://http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-utla-dues-increase-20160210-story.html">told</a> the LA Times, "As billionaires are trying to cripple unions, our vote sends a national signal that educators are willing to invest more in our unions and in the fight for educational justice." </p><p>Public school teachers have often been scapegoated for their inability to overcome the massive problems caused by poverty in America. They have been targeted by right-wingers for years, who downplay or ignore the decades of historical reasons that perpetuate poverty. But Democrats have also been gulled into thinking that charter schools are the newest and best solution, especially in California, where many technology executives believe America’s problems would be solved if public schools were run like their companies. President Obama, and Democrats like New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker and former L.A. mayor Antonio Villaraigosa have lined up to support the almost unbridled growth of charter schools. They have advocated super-rigid testing regimens for students and corporate management models (although President Obama last fall belatedly <a href="http://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2015/10/24/451456267/obama-wants-students-to-stop-taking-unnecessary-tests">expressed</a> concern about the impact of over-testing students).</p><p>Many elected officials across the board have provided cover for the massive charter organizing efforts, which have falsely painted a picture of charter schools coming in and rescuing American education, when research shows that notion to be patently untrue. These industry cheerleaders are not sharing that between 2000 and 2013, 2,500 new charter schools across the country failed, according to a 2015 <a href="http://www.prwatch.org/news/2015/09/12936/cmd-publishes-full-list-2500-closed-charter-schools">report</a> by the Center for Media and Democracy. When added to the 6,700 charters that are now open, that’s a 27 percent failure rate. Academically, charters, which often cherry-pick students, do not uniformly outperform traditional public schools, researchers <a href="http://urbancharters.stanford.edu/news.php">find</a>—a fact that runs counter to the industry’s sales pitches and political talking points.</p><p><strong>The Charter Chain Big Picture</strong></p><p>Nonetheless, charter school advocates often operate with the religious fervor of believing they have the answer. They base much of their vision on what experts say are two huge fallacies.</p><p>The first assumption has to do with how to improve schools. Most education experts, reflecting years of <a href="http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/109074/chapters/How-Poverty-Affects-Behavior-and-Academic-Performance.aspx">evidence</a>, understand that severe poverty, which is epidemic in the U.S., especially in <a href="https://www.childfund.org/Content/NewsDetail/2147488172/">southern</a> states and inner cities, is the primary cause of student failure. Poverty results in fractured families, trauma and PTSD, hunger and a whole range of urban catastrophes including drug and alcohol addiction, violence and crime that have a powerful impact on chances of education success. Student absences, impaired attention and concentration, reduced cognition and creativity, lack of social skills and judgment, lack of motivation and effort, likelihood of increased depression, and even reduced brain cell growth all <a href="http://www.ascd.org/publications/books/109074/chapters/How-Poverty-Affects-Behavior-and-Academic-Performance.aspx">have been traced</a> to impoverished conditions that originate outside the classroom. For schools to improve for many of these students, there must be a large-scale effort to alleviate poverty.</p><p>Yet charter advocates place the blame for education failure on a long list of red herrings: teachers (and their unions), lack of testing and accountability, poor management, bureaucratic rules and slow-moving school boards. This analysis ignores <a href="http://247wallst.com/special-report/2015/09/25/richest-and-poorest-school-districts/">the fact</a> that the majority of wealthy school districts have a 95 percent graduation rate, while only 20 percent of the poorest districts have graduation rates of 75 percent or more. America’s most successful public schools have always been successful, while schools in impoverished areas, with very rare exceptions, have always "failed,” despite any number of innovations over the past 50-plus years.</p><p>The second fallacy is the claim that schools organized on a corporate model, freed of regulatory requirements for transparency and accountability, often using new and relatively inexperienced teachers with little training and high turnover, will succeed where long-standing public schools in poverty areas have not. In fact, numerous studies have shown that in many cases, charter schools perform less well than the public schools they are aiming to replace. And for those that do fare better, the improvements can be explained by the cherry-picking of students, heavy use of suspensions and other suspect strategies that can lead to an overall group of students likely to perform better on tests than their peers in public schools, which are required to enroll everyone.</p><p><strong>The Powerful Charter Business Network</strong></p><p>The charter school super establishment has created a powerful network of funders, think tanks, lobbyists, advocacy groups, public relations companies and consultants. The huge amounts of money pouring into charters comes first from super-wealthy benefactors such as the Walton Family Foundation, which has spent $1 billion to date and takes credit for creating one-quarter of the nation’s 6,700 charter schools, and then from the hundreds of millions spent by states and the federal government annually for charters. Other large funders include Bill Gates, the richest man in the world; Michael Bloomberg, who <a href="http://www.latimes.com/local/education/la-me-charter-donations-box-html-20151202-htmlstory.html">gave</a> CCSA $600,000 in 2014-'15; Mark Zuckerberg, who gave $100 million to charters in Newark, New Jersey and just <a href="http://www.mercurynews.com/bay-area-news/ci_29007119/facebooks-zuckerberg-wife-chan-start-private-east-palo">started</a> a charter in East Palo Alto; and most recently, Reed Hastings, who <a href="http://www.alternet.org/education/netflix-founder-drops-100-join-billionaire-crusade-privatize-our-public-schools">pledged</a> $100 million for more charters and has called for <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_9n6g3VkZc4">abolishing</a> elected school boards.</p><p>The economic model for many charters involves a highly successful fiscal sleight of hand. Most charter chains are <a href="http://nepc.colorado.edu/publication/charter-revenue">operated</a> by CMOs—charter management organizations—that are set up as non-profits over a set of individual schools, while at the same time creating limited liability corporations (LLCs) to own and control school properties. In California, for example, the LLCs control valuable real estate, supported by rent and lease reimbursements, and other monies available through state and federal agencies, including the ability to issue taxpayer-backed bonds. Many statewide charter school associations push for model laws <a href="http://www.alecexposed.org/wiki/Privatizing_Public_Education,_Higher_Ed_Policy,_and_Teachers">provided</a> by the American Legislative Exchange Council, an avowedly anti-union and free-market espousing group. In many instances, these laws privilege the charter chains by removing regulatory oversight and other requirements—such as competitive bidding for contractors—that give charters an unfair advantage over the public schools they seek to displace.</p><p>Overall, the wealthy charter school advocates have created and are hell-bent on expanding a parallel, privatized education system that reflects corporate values and is not publicly accountable to parents and communities. This effort exacerbates income inequality as it drains funds from public school districts and undermines their success.</p><p>Charter school chains, by their nature, are anti-democratic businesses. Like the corporate model they are built upon, charter chains are often designed to avoid public accountability and transparency. As a result, in cases that have been <a href="https://populardemocracy.org/news/tip-iceberg-charter-school-vulnerabilities-waste-fraud-and-abuse">documented</a> from coast to coast, CMOs have become a breeding ground for self-dealing, real estate scams and a wide range of corruption and mismanagement. In mid-2015, the Center for Popular Democracy reported on more than $200 million of such abuses, from “ghost schools” that never opened to other failures that left tens of thousands of students in a lurch.</p><p><strong>The Alliance Model</strong></p><p>Back in Los Angeles, critics point out that the Alliance College-Ready Public School chain shares many of these same features as other major players in their industry nationally. It is building a real estate empire with a large collection of properties throughout the city. These properties are largely paid for by public tax dollars and through a rent-lease program financed by issuing tax-free bonds via the state’s California School Finance Agency.</p><p>Alliance has set up school-by-school LLCs that own the facilities and rent them to the school, which hides the true costs of operating the charters. However, should the schools close for any reason, Alliance’s management company, the LLC, retains ownership of the property. Its 2014-2015 audited financial report listed property and related assets of more than $200 million.</p><p>Alliance also projects an image of autonomy among its 27 schools, but all are controlled by central headquarters and by a small group of board members who oversee them. All Alliance schools have nine board members. Five come directly from corporate headquarters and the corporate board of directors, while four (two teachers and two parents) are appointed by the principal. Its <a href="http://www.laalliance.org/apps/pages/index.jsp?uREC_ID=189199&amp;type=d&amp;pREC_ID=557359">board</a> is not filled with lifelong educators, but with corporate executives. The chair is Frank Baxter, whose Baxter Family Foundation is a funder of the education section of the city’s largest newspaper, the Los Angeles Times. The paper didn’t disclose that conflict of interest until last fall, when the Washington Post questioned its credibility.</p><p>In other words, Alliance’s business model seeks to have it both ways, acting as a public school for various taxpayer-backed revenue-gathering strategies, and as a private corporation—either an LLC for its property holdings or claiming private-sector corporate privilege—when it comes to labor rights, public information requests and fiscal transparency.</p><p><strong>What Does the Future Hold?</strong></p><p>Alliance’s stated goal of expanding to 50 charter schools in L.A. in the near future is part of a persistent push by the charter advocates to keep growing as fast as regulators will allow. Los Angeles is one of 13 cities across America cited by the Walton Family Foundation in its <a href="http://www.waltonfamilyfoundation.org/%7E/media/documents/k12-strategic-plan-overview.pdf?la=en">strategic plan</a> for investing $1 billion in charters through 2020. Meanwhile, the Broad Foundation’s <a href="http://documents.latimes.com/great-public-schools-now-initiative/">plan</a> to turn half of the city’s schools into charters in eight years has not vanished, even though the L.A. school board voted against it last year.</p><p>But the grandiose plans made in boardrooms at the Walton Foundation, the Broad Foundation, California Charter School Association and Alliance College Ready Public Schools, to keep privatizing the country’s second largest school district, are clearly running into unexpected opposition from those on the real frontline of the city’s schools: teachers and parents.</p><p>“We are all very concerned with Alliance’s campaign against its own educators, including creating a school environment where teachers are made to feel afraid even to say that they want a voice and a union,” the previously mentioned coalition of parents wrote to Alliance CEO Katzir late last fall. “Equally troubling is the level of resources that Alliance is devoting to fighting its own teachers and counselors’ right to organize the union; resources that should be devoted to our children’s educational needs.”</p><p>As the drive by Alliance teachers and United Teachers Los Angeles continues, with a California court issuing a <a href="http://laschoolreport.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/12/2015.12.03.FILED_.SIGNED.ORDER_.pdf">temporary restraining order</a> and an injunction against Alliance’s anti-union activities and yet to rule on all of the unfair labor practice complaints brought by the state Public Employment Relations Board, what’s clear is that what happens at Alliance is a microcosm that reflects one of the most troubling trends in America: the billionaire-led takeover and dismantling of America’s public school education.  </p><p> </p> Tue, 16 Feb 2016 00:00:00 -0800 Don Hazen, AlterNet 1050703 at http://www.alternet.org Education Economy Education Investigations Labor News & Politics Alliance College-Ready Charter Schools California Charter School Association Walton Family Foundation California Virtual Academy K12 Inc. Eli Broad Foundation Reed Hastings United Teachers Los Angeles California Public Employment Relations Board Mercury Public Affairs Alliance COE Dan Katzir billionaires and chater schools Alliance College-Ready Public Schools and preliminary injunction California Charter Schools Association anti-union activities Editorial: We Met Our Goal—Thanks So Much http://www.alternet.org/media/alternet-we-met-our-goal-thanks-so-much <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Support from readers put AlterNet over the top. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/ad_images/donhazenheadshot.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Greetings and Happy New Year.</p><p>Thanks to the support of more than 3,050 of you, AlterNet broke through our fundraising goal. With an avalanche of last-minute contributions, we hit the $120k mark, giving us a healthy start to 2016.</p><p>This year is going to be interesting, to say the least. We have Bernie Sanders breaking fundraising records with the support of 2.5 million people. We have Trump mania, where any crazy or appalling thing can happen on any day, and often it does. Yet he still leads in the GOP polls. </p><p>The future looks cataclysmic, with a wild mix of the good and the downright horrendous. It seems that life in America will be severely polarized as far as we can see. We will be there covering it, analyzing it 24/7, in part because of your generosity and confidence in our work. And as always, we try to mix a little fun in with the dire news.</p><p>Thanks again, and buckle your seat belts: 2016 is going to be unlike anything we have experienced before. </p> Mon, 04 Jan 2016 05:29:00 -0800 Don Hazen, AlterNet 1048346 at http://www.alternet.org Media Media alternet Thinking About Costa Rica? 7 Reasons Why You Might Want to Head to the Caribbean Coast of the Country http://www.alternet.org/world/thinking-about-costa-rica-7-reasons-why-you-might-want-head-caribbean-coast-country <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">A number of unique elements make the Caribbean side interesting.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/shutterstock_93669637.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">Costa Rica attracts large numbers of North Americans seeking everything from a beach bum’s idyll to serious backpacking and high-end tourism. Its appeal comes from a strong ecological aura, extraordinary parks and nature reserves with abundant wildlife, and climates that range from cloud forest to high desert to deep jungle. Stunning beaches line both the Pacific and the Caribbean coasts, where warm waters and killer waves make the country a major international surfing destination. About 70,000 Americans have settled here for the long haul, seeking political stability and the relative affordability of health care. </p><p dir="ltr">These people encounter the downside of Costa Rican life: bad roads, low-level corruption and a bureaucracy that would make even Kafka shudder. But for tourists, little of this matters. The country is just so beautiful, pretty much wherever you go. And there’s almost always someone available to help as you explore. <em>Ticos</em> are proud of their country, and even school kids receive an education in the region's natural history. </p><p dir="ltr">If you have a little money to spend, Costa Rica offers the potential for a great vacation, whether you’re an adventurer or a sloth (you might even glimpse one of your tree-dwelling cousins from your hammock). If you want to save some money or prefer a more laid-back atmosphere, the Caribbean coast might be just what you’re looking for.</p><p dir="ltr">In general, North Americans travel to the Pacific side, to the towns near Jaco, or the Nicoya Peninsula. For the most part, the west is closer to the airport at San Jose, and offers an array of world-class parks and beaches. All that tourist money, though, has brought in some big investment and high-priced real estate. Mel Gibson put his multimillion-dollar estate in Malpais on the market recently.  Supermodel Gisele Bundchen and her husband, quarterback Tom Brady, still own a home near Santa Teresa. We met her there a few years ago at a bakery café, while waiting for $4 cappuccinos and equally expensive, though delicious scones. Of course, you can pay less, but it’s not hard to find a beautiful room in a posh yoga retreat for $300 a night in the high season. Many of the towns in this region feel less Costa Rican than American, European and Israeli.</p><p dir="ltr">Things are different as you head east to the Caribbean and south from the port city of Limon. Even though getting to the east coast has become much easier in recent years, with improvements to the highway system making the trip across the mountains far more comfortable and predictable, relatively few North Americans travel there. Apart from some surfers, the tourists are still largely backpackers, the Caribbean culture is alive and well and the beaches are still superb. It’s still not cheap, but there’s little of the high-end luxury that’s become more common in the west.</p><p dir="ltr">A number of unique elements, beyond its relative affordability, make the Caribbean side interesting. If you are keeping score, here are seven ways the Caribbean coast of Costa Rica rivals the Pacific side of the country.</p><ul><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">The local food is tastier: Coconut and spices make Caribbean food more flavorful than the cuisine in other regions of Costa Rica.</p></li><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">The local culture is livelier and more chill: Most of Costa Rica has a pretty buttoned-up style, but its Caribbean side is heavily influenced by indigenous culture, rasta and other Caribbean influences. </p></li></ul><ul><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">Which means there’s better music, especially live. The west is more dominated by the usual Top 40, pop, EDM, etc., but reggae, reggaeton or salsa bands perform on an open stage in the center of Puerto Viejo, the most popular town on the Caribbean, nearly every night. You can listen to them from the swings hanging at the back of the bar, or join the dancers as the night advances.</p></li></ul><ul><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">The weather is more consistent: The west has a dry season, when things get crowded and prices are high, and a wet season, when it rains and rains. The Caribbean has pretty much a year-round tropical climate. Which means that it’s never dry for long, but the sun also shines most days. Hurricanes aren’t a problem, since the northern curve of South America shelters Costa Rica’s east coast from the worst of the region’s storms. </p></li></ul><ul><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">The beautiful coast road is relatively smooth and level (unlike Nicoya!), making for miles of pleasurable bike riding.</p></li></ul><ul><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">There’s more diversity of fellow tourists: You meet lots of European and Central or South American visitors and ex-pats.</p></li></ul><ul><li dir="ltr"><p dir="ltr">Finally, corporations and big investors have made fewer inroads here, making for more community-based and family-run tourism. The impact of tourism on Costa Rica’s economy is complex (locals struggle to afford tourist-priced food with Costa Rican wages throughout much of the country), but here, at least, they also take home more of the earnings.</p></li></ul><p dir="ltr">If you decide to go, we have a few recommendations in and around Puerto Viejo, a funky beach town south of Limon that’s at the heart of Costa Rica’s Caribbean tourist life. We visited recently on a fitness trip sponsored by the Oakland training gym <a href="http://www.truvefit.com">Truve</a>, which is run by trainer Allison Roessler, who has roots in Puerto Viejo.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Lodging</strong>: The friendly, American-run <a href="http://www.cashewhilllodge.co.cr">Cashew Hill Jungle Lodge</a> offers spacious, beautifully designed and environmentally sensitive cottages in a gorgeous tropical setting, most costing less than $100 a night and sleeping 4-6 or more. Fruit literally falls from the trees—you’re welcome to partake—and it’s an easy 5-minute walk to the town’s beaches and restaurants. The throaty roars of howler monkeys remind you nightly that you’re in the jungle, somehow without disturbing your rest.  </p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Dining</strong>: Don’t want to give up a great latte or scone? Can’t blame you. Head to Bread and Chocolate when you’re craving breakfast, a sandwich or a pastry. Everything’s fresh, and they do their baking onsite. Fantastic.</p><p dir="ltr">For dinner, Lazlo serves up the fish he caught earlier that day in his casual, signless restaurant (next door to Mamma Mia Pizzeria).  Everything’s fresh and tasty, and Lazlo’s tales when he visits your table will make it a meal to remember. But if you’d prefer a big, lively scene with cocktails and good food, choose a table on the terraces at Koki Beach, and look out over the sea. Or go local and have a hearty, inexpensive <em>casado</em> at one of the town’s <em>sodas</em>—a Costa Rican casual eatery. </p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Things To Do</strong>: For that beach idyll—and who doesn’t want that?—bike a couple of miles south to Punta Uva. Soft white sand, gentle waves and uncrowded conditions make this the kind of beach you thought only existed in movies.</p><p dir="ltr">The immensely popular Jaguar Rescue Center offers daily tours, where volunteers nurse injured and stranded wildlife and work to restore them to the wilderness. Monkeys, wildcats, toucans, anteaters, sloths, tortoises and an array of truly alarming venomous snakes all find shelter here.</p> Wed, 30 Dec 2015 11:50:00 -0800 Don Hazen, V.C. Dent, AlterNet 1048517 at http://www.alternet.org World World vacation costa rica caribbean Times Are Tough; The World Is a Mess: But Here's What We're Grateful For and Why We Need Your Help http://www.alternet.org/times-are-tough-world-mess-heres-what-were-grateful-and-why-we-need-your-help <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">We believe we can help create a more sane and caring world.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2015-11-24_at_2.18.31_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Times are tough. The world is a mess. American politics is very scary. Yet we can't let all the bad news overwhelm us. It's important to connect with our often forgotten drive to honor our blessings and share them, both personally and in the big picture.</p><p>Here's a baker's dozen of some of the people and movements—and there are many more—that we are thankful for in 2015: </p><ol><li>Elizabeth Warren, for fighting the big banks and the student loan industry.</li><li>Bernie Sanders, for ensuring that there is a national debate about inequality.</li><li>Black Lives Matter, for reminding us about the truths of racism. </li><li>Amy Goodman and Laura Flanders, for banging the truth drums every day on the air at Democracy Now! and Telesur.</li><li>Drug Policy Alliance, for fighting on behalf of the thousands rotting in jail for using pot.</li><li>Pope Francis in the Vatican, not perfect, but telling the truth about climate change. </li><li>President Obama, for rejecting the Keystone Pipeline. </li><li>The Missouri Football team and its coach, for standing up to racism.</li><li>Amy Schumer, for taking risks with her feminism and making us laugh. </li><li>Robert Reich, for being AlterNet readers' favorite writer with huge insights every time. </li><li>John Oliver, for brilliantly making a difference every Sunday night. </li><li>Brave Muslim Americans like Rula Jebreal, for standing up to Bill Maher and the Islamophobes.</li><li>Noam Chomsky for being Noam. No need to say more. </li></ol><p>And finally, for donors like you who understand that independent media depends on generous contributions.</p><p>Please <a href="https://donate.alternet.org/F15-YE2-Edit1">support us</a> so we can continue working with all of the above for a sane and caring world.</p> Tue, 24 Nov 2015 11:06:00 -0800 Don Hazen, AlterNet 1046271 at http://www.alternet.org elizabeth warren Editorial: Fall Fundraising a Success. Thanks So Much For Your Support. But Still Rough Times Ahead. http://www.alternet.org/editorial-fall-fundraising-success-thanks-so-much-your-support-still-rough-times-ahead <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Your support helped to reduce our deficit. But we are not out of the woods yet.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2015-10-09_at_5.19.43_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>I want to weigh in and give special thanks to the 2,225 readers who came to our rescue when we needed help.  We haven't had financial problems for 10 years. But this year turned out to be a little different. I'll explain more in a second.</p><p>We met our anonymous donor match and we went over our goal. Your support helped to reduce our deficit.  But we are not  out of the woods yet. The deficit  -- roughly $200k or about 11 % of our budget  -- is quite a bit more than one Fall fund raiser can fix.  So  we will likely need to make another appeal in a couple of months, as we approach the end of the year.   But, we are breathing a little easier now for sure.</p><p>To be transparent, I want to explain what happened to make things more financially urgent. It  is a problem for many in progressive media.  <br /><br /><strong>The dominance of the mobile device</strong><br /><br />We are one of the many progressive web sites that takes advertising --including Mother Jones, The Nation, Salon, Daily Kos and more. That revenue is half of our budget. This means less money we have to raise from you and from foundations -- which often have narrow agendas.<br /><br />Generally speaking, when you have a large audience (ours is roughly 6 million a month), it makes sense to earn money from ads to pay staff, produce great articles and give you what you need. Most every media in America is ad-supported.<br /><br />Recently, there has been a major shift of readers who now get their news on mobile devices. This has significantly reduced revenue because mobile advertising doesn’t pay nearly as much as advertising that runs on desktop computers. Additionally, some readers are using ad blockers -- which hurts us -- and all ad supported media  -- even more.<br /><br />As the <em>New York Times</em> explained, "...media companies and many other sites are supported by online ads. So if you get rid of the promotions (by using an ad blocker), you may kill publishers’ business models and lose access to diverse content. If the economic engine is threatened, how do small indie publishers and small local news publishers sustain their online content?”<br /><br />We understand the urge to be commercial-free. In an ideal world, we would be too.  But something has to help pay the bills.  And, in fact, a good 30% of ads you see from AlterNet are from organizations and people who  progressive audiences want to hear from  – such as  Bernie Sanders, Alan Grayson, CREDO Mobile, etc.</p><p>So, in a funny way, disruptive technology has come to bite us in the you-know-where.  It is why we hit some financial speed bumps this year and have  turned up the dial on urgency.  We're sorry we have to -- and it is tough.  We have had to  eliminate some jobs and hope to avoid more lay offs. But we are very happy that you have our back. It helped us immensely.</p><p>P.S. If you want to help us immediately a great way is to  set up <strong><a href="http://act.alternet.org/go/64704?ak_proof=1&amp;t=2&amp;akid=.44863.RwgZ-I" target="_blank">an automatic, 100% tax-deductible monthly contribution</a></strong> of $6 or more by clicking <strong><a href="http://act.alternet.org/go/64704?ak_proof=1&amp;t=3&amp;akid=.44863.RwgZ-I" target="_blank">here</a>. </strong></p><p> </p> Fri, 09 Oct 2015 14:12:00 -0700 Don Hazen, AlterNet 1043829 at http://www.alternet.org fundraising money donation alternet New Play, 'Bombed,' Powerfully Echoes Today's Race and War Events With Surprising History http://www.alternet.org/culture/new-play-bombed-powerfully-echoes-todays-race-and-war-events-surprising-history <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">New compelling drama by Colin Greer debuted at the Stella Adler Acting Studio in New York City. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/11261655_10153102529443318_4540834977944189235_n.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>One ingredient of good theatre is that it can transport you back in history, and make it feel like the present day....well almost.  Colin Greer's new play "Bombed,"  is an intense, surprising, and moving portrayal of an injured soul, a military man fighting for his integrity. The play connects events of 60 years ago with some of the political turmoil of today. "Bombed,"  which had a recent run at the Stella Adler Studio for Acting takes place in the early '50s. It is a tale, roughly rooted in historical truth --  the story of an Air Force Major, who was part of the team of pilots who participated in the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima, at the tail end of World War II.<br /><br />As a result of this experience Major Claude Eatherly, who is for many a national hero, experiences his return to civilian life very far from feeling any sense of heroism. In fact Eatherly, played with much skill and intensity by Graham Halstead, is wracked with remorse, and refuses to pack away his powerful feelings of responsibility. The uncompromising strength  of his feelings  leads him to some unexpected  behaviors, including robbing grocery stores naked, and sending the proceeds to orphanages where the survivors of the bombing live, as a modest act of contrition. <br /><br />Needless to say, Eatherly's  behavior is not what American society expects of its war heroes. So not surprisingly Eatherely finds himself  in the mental ward in a military hospital where most of the play takes place. The first two thirds of the play is dominated by an emotional tug of war  between the Army Psychiatrist, played insidiously by Jarret Kerr, and the Major. In the beginning, the shrink says the right things. But very soon you get the feeling that the good Dr. has no ability or desire to empathize with his patient. Instead, he insists on changing Eatherly, trying to make him adjust to his hero status, as a reflection of  the doctors own strong feelings of patriotism and knowing what is right. <br /><br />Needless to say, despite increasing pressure on him, Eatherly doesn't budge. As a result, his psychiatric care continues to escalate.  Major Eatherly's emotional issues are made more complex because of Eatherly's wife, who learns that there would be a movie made of Eatherly's story, with the wife playing herself -- her chance at fame and recognition that she so desperately wants. Furthermore, in an amusing aside, Bob Hope shows up in the play as the person who wants to get the movie made -- which incidentally will star Audie Murphy as Eatherly. But the Major sticks to his moral guns, sending the wife, played with compelling reckless emotion by Adriana Spizuoco, over the edge, as we see her in dangerous play with a knife in what became  in later decades known as 'cutting,"  a tactic some, mostly young women, use to inflict self-pain and degradation. <br /><br />The claustrophobic setting in "Bomb's" mental hospital echo some of the feelings in the famed Ken Kesey novel and film "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest." The audience is engulfed in  a constant state of tension and volatility as the edge of violence is always present. The cast, directed adroitly by Steven White, does an amazing job of quickly and masterfully changing the scenes many times in a kind of manic ballet, that adds to the tensions. <br /><br />In the last third of the play, a charismatic and articulate  black minister, played perfectly by Carvens Lessaint, enters to give pastoral guidance to Eatherly and comes to dominate the rest of the drama. The minister, echoes the current plight of black people, from the vantage point  of Jim Crow, and the emerging civil rights moment (Brown vs. the Board of Education Supreme Court decision was 1954 ) The minister is able to connect with Eatherly in a profound way, showing him that he is not alone in his feelings of oppression. And that seems liberating to Eatherly. It is at this point that the historical arc is laid out in the contact of social movements. <br /><br />The plays principals are in discussions to take "Bombed" to the next level. The interwoven political themes of the play  are likely to reverberate to audiences in regional theaters and on university campuses, which is one obvious path for the play to travel.  <br /><br />It is quite appropriate that Greer debuted his play to the Adler theatre complex -- a home of  dramatic exploration and experimentation with a focus on what it means to be a human being, both as actor, and in interaction with society.  "Bombed" moves at a rapid pace, and offers complex "unsafe" characters with no easy  to digest ending. Meanwhile the play offers  a compelling arc of the social tensions of the day -- "Ban the Bomb" campaigns, the civil rights movement, and deeper in the background the experience of the Japanese internment camps which were created prior to the stark finality of the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. <br /><br />The bomb dropped on Hiroshima in a blast equal to 12,000-15,000 tons of TNT, destroyed five square miles of the city. The acute effects of the atomic bombings killed 90,000–166,000 people in Hiroshima and 39,000–80,000 in Nagasaki; roughly half of the deaths in each city occurred on the first day. During the following months, large numbers died from the effect of burns, radiation sickness, and other injuries, compounded by illness and malnutrition. All which suggest that the most sane person in the play Bombed is Claude Eatherly.</p> Mon, 20 Jul 2015 10:43:00 -0700 Don Hazen, AlterNet 1039627 at http://www.alternet.org Culture Culture play theater bombed war acting actors culture How Sports, Military, Police and the Security Industry, Mixed with Trauma, Creates Modern Dangerous Macho Men http://www.alternet.org/gender/how-sports-military-police-and-security-industry-mixed-trauma-creates-modern-dangerous-macho <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">American society doubles down on early socialization to create hyper masculinity.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2015-06-06_at_5.44.08_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">We live in a society of striking extremes of wealth and poverty. Increasingly our social polarization is overseen by a massive apparatus of army, police, prison and security guards, all operating in a subculture where violence is bred and some of the worst aspects of hyper masculinity are protected and reinforced, making millions of people fearful and vulnerable.</p><p dir="ltr">As Kali Holloway powerfully deconstructs, in <a href="http://www.alternet.org/gender/masculinity-killing-men-roots-men-and-trauma">her article</a>, "Masculinity Is Killing Men: The Roots of Men and Trauma," the early socialization process of boys into men often results in maladaptive and self-destructive behavior that is dangerous to men’s health and to the well being of their families and communities. Masculinity then, in general— and violent masculinity in particular—is not just a byproduct of early socialization, though that is obviously a contributor. It is also influenced by several environmental factors: childhood trauma; the overwhelming role of competitive sports for boys 5 and up; the tremendous influence in American culture of the military, itself a highly top down, authoritarian operation; and the unprecedented number of people, overwhelmingly male, now working in the security field.</p><p dir="ltr">While many men are both overtly and subtly directed to aspire toward the upper class of masculinity, where viciousness is often admired and rewarded, the majority of men are locked out of that system. These men are limited by any number of factors, including class, race and sexuality, to reaching the higher echelons of masculinity. They often experience the trauma of being subjected to indignities such as stop-and-frisk, income limitation and job loss, causing debt and other forms of powerlessness. They also incur the anger and rage bred by exclusion and systemic oppression.</p><p dir="ltr">American capitalism has created a multi-tiered system of masculinity. At the top are the dominant power players and opinion shapers who essentially control our society— a cruel machismo, often accompanied by wealth, that is frequently focused on making deals, being ruthless and the acquisition and exercising of power. Far below sits a subservient masculinity that often suffers under the exploitative yoke of the rich and powerful. The dominant masculine powers at the top repress not just most men but the rest who are less powerful, heightening the vulnerability of women and children.</p><p>What’s more, our racial and cultural diversity lends itself to different themes of masculinity. In black, Latino and Asian communities, the idea of masculinity takes various and differing culturally informed shapes. The same is also true of the LGBT community, where male roles include an array of tops and bottoms, along a continuum that runs from macho to effeminate, and in some cases genderqueer and gender non-conforming. Masculinity is further shaped and defined by class, and the myriad and complex attendant issues around access and opportunity—and lack thereof—that accompany existence within various strata of class hierarchies.</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>Competitive Sports</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The detrimental impact of competitive sports as a masculinizing force, one that privileges certain forms of masculinity as elite, and even above the law, has recently become a topic of national conversation, in large part due to domestic abuse, sexual assault and other scandals involving violence committed by players of both collegiate and major league sports. It’s disingenuous for the media to sell the narrative that what many researchers call the “toxic hypermasculinity” created by competitive sports is somehow an unintended consequence. The historical role of sports has always been to make men—and in particular, heterosexual men—out of little boys, and to separate the “weak” from the “strong.” A 2013 article from the legal blog <a href="https://verdict.justia.com/2013/09/17/playing-too-womany-and-the-problem-of-masculinity-in-sport" target="_blank">Verdict</a> traces how we got here:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">“Sports were introduced in American schools out of fear that boys were becoming too womanly when the shift from an agrarian to an industrial labor force, along with limits on child labor, left them at their mothers’ apron strings rather than their fathers’ boots. For athletic boys, sports are a path to success and popularity. Conversely, too, boys who lack athletic interest or ability risk remaining on the periphery of masculinity....The message is endemic to American boyhood: an athletic boy is a real boy.”</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">We should not be surprised, then, when boys who are indoctrinated into the world of sports, where masculinity is defined by the number of hits you can give and take, becomes integral to their definition of masculinity on and off the field. The <a href="http://www.ncava.org/statistics.html" target="_blank">National Coalition Against Violent Athletes</a> cites a study finding that male student-athletes comprised 3.3 percent of college students, but were 19 percent of the perpetrators of reported sexual assaults and 35 percent of those who committed domestic violence. The <a href="http://jezebel.com/5964359/when-will-we-stop-pretending-that-college-athletes-cant-be-rapists" target="_blank">same study</a>, which looked at “30 major Division I universities over a three-year period in the 1990s” found that student athletes committed one-third of collegiate sexual assaults. As the researchers behind a <a href="http://www.academia.edu/329341/Establishing_and_Challenging_Masculinity_The_Influence_of_Gendered_Discourses_In_Organized_Sport" target="_blank">2010 study</a> on the intersection between masculinity and sports writes:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">“[M]en compete for hegemonic dominance by showing overt physical prowess, using sexism and femphobia to distance themselves from association with femininity, deploying homophobia to distance themselves from homosexuality, and committing physical violence against themselves and others, all in order to raise their masculine capital among peers. Sport has traditionally served as a socially esteemed institution where boys formally learn these attitudinal components, something [researchers] describe as 'toxic practices' of masculinity.”</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">This is to say nothing of the fact that <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2015/01/29/sports/football/study-points-to-cognitive-dangers-of-tackle-football-before-age-12.html" target="_blank">researchers</a> have linked football (often called “America’s game”) and to an even greater degree, boxing, to numerous neurological issues, the inarguable result of men's brains and bodies being violently battered.</p><p><strong>The Military and Our Security State</strong></p><p>As income inequality grows, and the haves become ever more wary of the have-nots, we have become a nation increasingly on lockdown. The militarization of the police, like suburban gated communities, is just one byproduct of our growing security state, which is now larger than ever. As Sam Bowles and Arjun Jayadev noted in their 2014 New York Times Opinionator piece, <a href="http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/02/15/one-nation-under-guard/" target="_blank">One Nation Under Guard</a>, there are now more than one million people working as private security guards in America, a figure that eclipses the number of people teaching high school. As of 2011, the “guard labor” force in the U.S.— which includes cops, prisons, military, security guards and other figures whose job is to control the rest of us—stood at an unprecedented 5.2 million. The number is likely far higher today. The U.S. has much more guard labor than countries where income inequality and economic stratification are less severe. The authors write:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">“For the same countries, guard labor is also more common where those starting out in life face a sharply tilted playing field, such as America, Britain and Italy. These are countries in which the income of a father is a good predictor of the income of his adult son. The countries with the least guard labor are those in which there is greater equality of economic opportunity by this measure: These are Denmark and Sweden, countries in which knowing the father’s income does not enable a very accurate guess of the son’s income when he grows up., male college student athletes, compared to the rest of the male population.”</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">And in states where the gulf between rich and poor is widest—the authors cite <a href="http://nypost.com/2011/01/19/citys-extreme-rich-poor-income-divide/" target="_blank">New York</a>, where the <a href="http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/san-francisco-now-tops-los-angeles-number-ultra-rich-residents" target="_blank">most super-rich</a> in the country live in close proximity to some of the <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/south-bronx-poorest-district-nation-u-s-census-bureau-finds-38-live-poverty-line-article-1.438344" target="_blank">U.S.’s poorest residents</a>, and Louisiana as examples—there are “twice as many security workers (as a fraction of their labor force) as less unequal states.”</p><p><strong>Addiction</strong></p><p dir="ltr">Gabor Maté, a doctor who works with addicts in Vancouver and the author of <em>In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts</em>, argues that most addicts and alcoholics have suffered childhood trauma. Maté makes the case that drugs and alcohol are painkillers in both the literal and figurative sense. For millions of Americans who grew up with or bore witness to physical, emotional or sexual abuse or neglect, drugs and alcohol are a way to escape the deeply painful emotional wounds incurred in childhood. And in a country that does an abysmal job of providing mental health to anyone but its wealthiest citizens, drugs and alcohol are often the only source of mental relief for the most vulnerable and traumatized.</p><p dir="ltr">Poverty itself can also become a site of trauma for many children. According to the National Center for Children in Poverty, 22 percent of children (16 million) in the U.S. live in families trying to make do on incomes beneath the federal poverty level, which is only $23,550 for a family of four. An even greater number of kids, 45 percent, live in what the NCCP calls “low-income families,” or those living at twice the poverty level, which allows them to meet the most basic of living costs. In urban areas, 49 percent of kids live in low-income families. For these households and the children growing up in them, the constant and sustained instability and stress of basic survival translates into a pervasive and unstinting trauma. The added issues of crime and violence in many low-income neighborhoods further traumatizes those who live in them. NCCP studies find that an incredible 83 percent of children living in low-income, inner-city neighborhoods have experienced one or more traumatic events. This process begins early, with 10 percent of children younger than the age of six who live in major American cities having already witnessed a stabbing or shooting.</p><p dir="ltr">It makes sense that children living in constant low-grade terror, in homes and neighborhoods where the conditions can be similar to a war zone, complete with militarized police presences, would manifest the same conditions as soldiers who have endured combat or victims of war. Almost all anger is part of the fight side of the fight-or-flight response to fear and trauma being triggered in the amygdala, where it sparks an almost instant, no-thought response.</p><p dir="ltr"><a href="https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/the-athletes-way/201402/chronic-stress-can-damage-brain-structure-and-connectivity" target="_blank">Psychology Today</a> notes that, "It has long been established that stress-related illnesses, such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) trigger changes in brain structure, including differences in the volume of gray matter versus white matter, as well as the and size and connectivity of the amygdala.” Chronic stress affects the brain by “decreas[ing] the number of stem cells that mature into neurons and might provide an explanation for how chronic stress also affects learning and memory.” It also raises the level of cortisol, dubbed the stress hormone. Researchers indicate this can lead to a “domino effect that hardwires pathways between the hippocampus and amygdala in a way that might create a vicious cycle by creating a brain that becomes predisposed to be in a constant state of fight-or-flight.”</p><p dir="ltr">When these issues intersect with tenets of masculinity, which treats domination and violence as core to true manhood, it seems obvious that addiction and violence would be the end results.</p><p><strong>Race and Class</strong></p><p dir="ltr">When you carry this argument further, taking a class and a race perspective, it is safe to assume that people in poverty and people of color, who are disproportionately affected by poverty, are often the most victimized by trauma, the result of broken families, drug addiction, bullying, gangs, etc. The powerlessness of men who are revictimized by the state, and further marginalized by racism, adds to the complexity of masculinity.</p><p dir="ltr">Some of these men escape to sports where the masculinity model plays out as previously discussed. Or they may enter the military, where the whole notion of bullying is baked into the process. Aside from lifers and the college-prepared who enter the military as officers, there is an overrepresentation of men from poor and <a href="http://www.mintpressnews.com/whos-joining-the-us-military-poor-women-and-minorities-targeted/43418/" target="_blank">working-class families</a>, along with women, minorities and immigrants. It is an institution that oppresses the rank and file under the rules of war and security. Many may go through the military suffering some level of PTSD, often doubling down on early life trauma. Fraternities, borrowing lessons from both institutions, do this as well.</p><p><strong>The Oppressive Masculinity of the Powerful</strong></p><p>There is, undoubtedly, a masculine problem in the early socialization process. But that problem is exacerbated many times over in the way it is exploited and applied in so many levels by people in power. And one of the reasons for the masculinity socialization problem is that most fathers— and mothers—know full well how the brutal world works, and they want to make sure their kid has the tools to survive. Unfortunately, that means there is little or no incentive to change things.</p><p dir="ltr">The byproducts of masculinity—violence, addictions, jail and the rest—are the result not just of the social construct of masculinity, but the imposition of an oppressive patriarchy rendering many men powerless, traumatized and most likely to act out the most negative aspects of masculinity. Millions of men are either oppressed or crushed by the system, leaving them acting out extreme forms of masculinity, often out of desperation and feeling no sense of agency in their lives. Or it is leveraged to oppress the others in the system by preparing millions into police forces, security jobs, and the rest. A good number of these men are prone to violence, suffering from PTSD, poorly trained, and insular, so they can inflict cruel hazing and other forms of brutality within, for example, the silent blue wall of law enforcement.</p><p dir="ltr">Masculinity must address issues of class, trauma, race, sexual orientation, the military, sports, the wrecking of unions, the loss of jobs, the changing role of women, and much more. The story of masculinity in America is the story of the oppressors and the oppressed, where you find the real psychopathology and the worst acting out. Are educated and upper-middle-class men sexist and violent? Absolutely. But for the most part they are not the addicts, the murderers, the 2.3 million people sitting in jail. Because those people are the real victims of the dominant controlling masculinity.</p> Sat, 06 Jun 2015 14:27:00 -0700 Don Hazen, AlterNet 1037465 at http://www.alternet.org Gender Gender masculinity men women We Have a Great Story to Tell -- And You Are Involved http://www.alternet.org/media/we-have-great-story-tell-and-you-are-involved <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">We are breaking records that we never thought possible.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/lady.gif" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>The last year has been record-breaking for AlterNet and readers like you are a big part of the reason. The number of overall visits to AlterNet over the past 12 months was 97.6 million -- a 31 percent increase over the previous year. </p><p>AlterNet has averaged more than 6 million unique visitors coming to the site each month. This huge reach puts us in competition with the LA Times and ahead of sites like <em>National Geographic</em>, <em>The Atlantic</em> and AARP. We’re ranked by Quantcast as one of the top 400 web sites in the entire country. </p><p>As one of our readers you are a big part of our success because we depend on you to spread the word. </p><p>For journalism to be effective, the content has to be of high quality. And it has to reach a lot of people. There are lots of web sites with good, earnest content, but without the audience. And there are a lot of web sites with big audiences but with crass commercialism or bottom feeder content.</p><p>Thanks to your help, AlterNet is able to do both -- produce great material AND get tons of readers -- making us quite unique among non-profit, progressive websites. </p><p><a href="https://donate.alternet.org/SP15-ARTICLE2/">We need your help</a> to keep being successful because, as a small-sized, non-profit, we are punching way above our weight class.  Contributions -- big and small -- from readers makes a huge difference.</p><p>Halfway to our goal, we need to raise $20k more dollars by June 3rd to make our budget. Just a small contribution from many of you, will put us over the top. <a href="https://donate.alternet.org/SP15-ARTICLE2/">Can you spare $5 or more</a>?</p><p><strong><a href="https://donate.alternet.org/SP15-ARTICLE2/">Really, it would help</a>. </strong></p> Thu, 28 May 2015 19:28:00 -0700 Don Hazen, AlterNet 1037051 at http://www.alternet.org Media Media alternet Unlike Walter Scott's Horrific Killing, Deaths By Police Are Rarely Recorded -- They're Not Even Counted by the Government http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/unlike-walter-scotts-horrific-killing-deaths-police-are-rarely-recorded-theyre-not <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Through his crowdsourced site, FatalEncounters, D. Brian Burghart hopes to count and ultimately reduce deaths caused by police. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/police_6.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>It's not easy to watch the video of Walter Scott running from officer Michael T. Slager, as Slager pumps not one, not two, but eight shots into his back. It's an unspeakable horror. But the existence of that video also means that Scott may be one of the few victims of police brutality whose attacker could face justice. Slager has been fired, and charged with murder. </p><p>But most violent encounters with police, including killings, are not recorded on video. In fact, they are not even tracked by the government. It seems incomprehensible that with all the data that is collected about Americans, there is no official count of the number of people killed by the nation’s law enforcement officers—let alone the reasons they were killed. D. Brian Burghart, the editor and publisher of the alternative weekly, <em>Reno News &amp; Review</em>, is hard at work trying to rectify that. His FatalEncounters.org is a project that uses crowd-sourcing and media accounts to create a national database of people who are killed through interactions with police.</p><p>AlterNet's executive editor, Don Hazen, interviewed Burghart via email about the shocking necessity for this project and what Burghart hopes to accomplish.</p><p><strong>Don Hazen: Why did you start Fatal Encounters?</strong></p><p>D. Brian Burghart: I started the project because there is no adequate database by which citizens, researchers or law enforcement can track trends in officer-involved homicides across regions or time. Frankly, our government knows who I call on my cell phone, who I email, and probably even the contents of those calls and emails. The fact that it hasn’t kept track of the names of the people it kills and the circumstances under which it killed them is beyond my comprehension.</p><p><strong>DH: Why is there no national database of homicides caused by law enforcement?</strong></p><p>DBB: I don’t know the answer to that question, although I’ve thought about it for years. The 1994 Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act mandated “the Attorney General shall, through appropriate means, acquire data about the use of excessive force by law enforcement officers,” and to publish an annual report, but it’s been ignored for 20 years and across administrations. In December of last year, Congress passed, and Obama signed the Death in Custody Reporting Act. It wasn’t very effective when it was last authorized 2002-2006, but maybe the political will to make it work has changed. We’ll see. </p><p>I’m kind of a cynic, but I think a lot of people will hope to sweep under the rug the discussion this country has been having about race when there’s a new president and a new attorney general.</p><p><strong>DH: </strong><strong>How many sources do you monitor? What can you share about your methodology?</strong></p><p>DBB: We really only “monitor” the Internet. When we find a big source, for example, if a newspaper has done its city’s officer-involved homicides for the last decade, we’ll incorporate that. For a few states, there were central locations, like attorneys general websites, for the results of officer-involved homicide investigations, and we got those in. Sometimes reporters will send me their datasets. There are groups like Copwatch that keep an eye on this kind of stuff, but it’s pretty spotty. We get many of our current day-to-day links from KilledbyPolice on Facebook, which tracks officer-involved homicides on a daily basis.</p><p>Our general procedure goes like this: We have our <a href="https://docs.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0Aul9Ys3cd80fdHVMd0luQW5NYkVZNkhORmI0ajFma2c#gid=0.">development queue</a>. This is just partial information we scraped off the web, including sources like the FBI. Anyone who wants to volunteer a few minutes can research an incident, and send it to fact-checking, using <a href="http://www.fatalencounters.org/google-form/">this web form</a>. </p><p>From there, it goes to the main <a href="https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/0Aul9Ys3cd80fdHNuRG5VeWpfbnU4eVdIWTU3Q0xwSEE/edit?usp=drive_web">spreadsheet</a>, where the new records get scraped off once a day or so and moved to the fact-check queue (the <a href="http://www.fatalencounters.org/spreadsheets/">bottom spreadsheet</a>) where I or another editor checks them against published accounts. These records are then moved back onto the main spreadsheet, given a unique identifier and uploaded into <a href="http://www.fatalencounters.org/people-search/">the database</a>.</p><p>Sometimes people follow this procedure; sometimes they upload new incidents that aren’t in the development queue. If I receive a big dataset, I will build a separate spreadsheet and ask a volunteer to focus on it. We’ve done more than 2,000 public records requests so far.</p><p><strong>DH: How many people have submitted new information? How reliable have you found these submissions to be?</strong></p><p>DBB: More than 1,000, probably. One reason I can’t say precisely is because we allow people to post anonymously, otherwise, they wouldn’t submit. Many contribute because they’re afraid of the police so they don’t want their names attached. Accuracy, as opposed to reliability, has run the gamut. People aren’t generally professional researchers or journalists, so they’ll often get things wrong. We check against published accounts, but that’s no guarantee of accuracy either. Media bias, reporter experience, lots of things can affect how accurate the information is.</p><p>Our ultimate plan is to make public records requests for every law enforcement agency in the U.S., but those are also rife with errors, things like whether an address is a street or an avenue. It’s pretty amazing, really. As the submit form was refined, data got more and more accurate, but crowdsourcing is always going to be problematic. That’s why we have editors.</p><p><strong>DH: </strong><strong>Have you reached out to government agencies to help get data for Fatal Encounters? What was their response?</strong></p><p>DBB: I’ve done many public records requests at the federal level and in several states. The responses have covered the gamut, from sending the information without comment or delay, to a delayed response to the request in such a way as to make the information useless, to outright refusal to obey public records laws and challenging me to sue for the information to which every American is entitled.</p><p><strong>DH: </strong><strong>Even if you could correctly identify every police homicide, how would this information help people? How would this data help us police the police?</strong></p><p>DBB: I believe that being able to see outcomes over time and across regions will help Americans to identify agencies and policies that get better or worse outcomes in their interactions between police and the rest of us. We’ll be able to see trends like whether people of various races are killed at a rate that’s greater or less than the population. Also, comparing this data to other giant data sources, we’ll be able to research whether veterans are killed at a high rate. We’ll be able to see the effects of poverty on policing and officer-involved homicides. We’ll be able to see which communities kill mentally ill people, and at what rates. We’ll be able to see if communities where police kill more people have more people killing police. With this information, police will be able to look at crime rates and other factors to determine the policies that work in other communities to get the best outcomes for both police and citizens.</p><p>Most fundamentally, we’ll know the numbers of officer-involved homicides in our own communities, so we’ll know whether our own communities have particular problems, and whether we as citizens need to change things.</p><p><strong>DH: </strong><strong>What, in your opinion, would make a homicide by police “justified”?</strong></p><p>DBB: Every human being has the right to defend themselves. I’ve looked at thousands of these things now, and most are clearly self-defense. I just don’t think there should be any officer-involved homicides that don’t get a full public scrutiny. These are public employees paid with tax dollars. This is how we are supposed to manage our government personnel in this country.</p><p><strong>DH: </strong><strong>Looking at your site, it looks like homicides skyrocketed in recent years. Why is that?</strong></p><p>DBB: While I believe police homicides are increasing, we don’t have the data to prove that yet. Our data makes it look like they skyrocketed in recent years, but that’s just because we haven’t begun the systematic day-by-day searches beginning in 2000, yet. Part of the apparent increase is because of the growth of the Internet, which means we have access to more information each year progressing from 2000. Part of that is because in the early 2000s, digital memory was expensive, so media outlets routinely purged their archives. Also, because of the crowdsourced aspect, people tend to remember the more recent homicides, so they are more likely to report those. </p><p>We have 12 states we believe are “complete”: Montana, South Dakota, Oregon, New York, Nevada, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont and Maine. (Florida is within a week or so of completion.) I say “complete” because no matter how complete we think it is, there are homicides that are not reported either in the media or in public records requests, and they’ll crop up from time to time. For example, Las Vegas police reported a homicide to the <em>Wall Street Journal</em> that they did not report to me. I don’t know which it was, because the WSJ just did raw numbers, but we’ll eventually get it.</p><p><strong>DH: </strong><strong>Of the data you have collected so far, are there any trends you can extrapolate from it? Is there anything that has shocked you? Is there one specific area of the country where police homicides are most prevalent?</strong></p><p>DBB: I always hesitate to try to extrapolate except in states for which we have “complete” data. This project, the public face of it anyway, has only been going since March. We estimate we’ve only collected 30 percent of the data. Here’s what can be said, though. People of color are killed at greater rates than they exist in the population. Mentally ill people are a high percentage, maybe 25-30 percent, of the people killed by police, particularly when you consider that drug abuse is considered a mental illness. Most people, around 96 percent, of people killed by police are men.</p><p>It sure looks like law enforcement in the western states kill more people per capita than eastern ones, but as Florida progresses, I may have to reassess that statement.</p><p>Some other trends that become apparent aren’t even in the data. One thing that becomes obvious is how lazy the mainstream media is. For example, the race of victims and police are often not reported by media. The media gutlessly lets police withhold names of people they’ve killed on the thinnest of rationales. Media rarely get photos of victims from families, so often the only publicly available image is a mug shot, which of course, works to support the narrative that the person killed is a career criminal.</p><p>The official dispositions of officer-involved homicides are rarely reported. Again, it seems as though the media just assumes if an officer killed somebody, it’s justified, but that creates a de facto collusion to tell the law enforcement story, but not another side.  </p><p><strong>DH: </strong><strong>What does it say about the state of law enforcement in America that a project like yours is even necessary?</strong></p><p>DBB: Honestly, I don’t think it says that much about law enforcement, but more about government. These numbers are tracked in most developed countries. My feeling is, just as with other data, if the government collected this data, law enforcement would use it to modify policies and procedures.</p><p>Law enforcement doesn’t like to kill people, and some of my reporting in the <a href="http://www.newsreview.com/reno/police-psychology/content?oid=14648596">Reno News &amp; Review</a> has shown that officers almost always have severe psychological and emotional trauma when they kill somebody in the line of duty.  </p><p><strong>DH: </strong><strong>What do you need from people to take Fatal Encounters further? How can people reading this article help?</strong></p><p>DBB: Like everything, it comes down to time and money. The government ignored the need to comprehensively collect this information for a very long time, and there’s a lot of data to collect.  We have an army of volunteers out there, helping with data entry, helping with a redesign of the site, doing visualizations, doing research with the data. People can donate money to the 501(c)3 on the <a href="http://www.fatalencounters.org/donate/">website</a>. People can research and submit information <a href="http://www.fatalencounters.org/google-form/">here</a>.</p><p><strong>DH: </strong><strong>Anything else you think readers should know about the database and your work?</strong></p><p>DBB: I think the biggest thing that people should know is that we’ve only just begun. Assuming we continue at the rate we’ve gone for the last year, as of April 1, we expect to require 100 more weeks to complete the “media reports” portion of the database. The public records portion is being done concurrently, but it’s much more expensive and time consuming. The more data that goes into the database, the more accurate it is, and the more we can do with it.</p><p>It won’t be very long before we can compare what we have to other big datasets, like the U.S. Census data, to see the racial makeup or socio-economic characteristics of areas where people are killed. We’ll be able to do overlays with GPS coordinates to see how every law enforcement agency is performing in this particular area. We’ll be able to check names against Veteran’s Administration roles to see rates at which veterans are killed by police (and I’m pretty sure we’re going to find out it’s much higher than the general population rates).</p><p>In less than two years, we’ll be able to see what agencies get the best outcomes using what policies, and when the best policies are in place, we’ll have fewer police killed by criminals and fewer individuals killed by police, which is the whole purpose of this thing.</p> Tue, 07 Apr 2015 13:15:00 -0700 Don Hazen, D. Brian Burghart, AlterNet 1034481 at http://www.alternet.org Civil Liberties Civil Liberties Media Fatalencounters.org police homicides Fear Is the Biggest Threat to Our Democracy http://www.alternet.org/fear-america/fear-biggest-threat-our-democracy <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Join us in our fight against the pernicious culture of fear and creeping authoritarianism.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/scream.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Dear Readers, <a href="http://act.alternet.org/go/59420?t=1&amp;akid=12939.108707.YC67NM" target="_blank"></a><br /><br />Fear is a huge problem in the United States, and it’s only getting worse as our society frequently smells of creeping authoritarianism. All of us experience the consequences of living in fear-based society, we see it when people don't stand up for themselves, are too afraid to reach out to strangers, or when we turn off the TV in disgust.<br /><br />I’m writing to ask your support for AlterNet’s critical new initiative to push back against destructive fear-mongering. <strong><a href="http://act.alternet.org/go/59420?t=2&amp;akid=12939.108707.YC67NM" target="_blank">Can you make a contribution to AlterNet right now?</a></strong> <br /><br /><strong><a href="http://act.alternet.org/go/59420?t=3&amp;akid=12939.108707.YC67NM" target="_blank">Click here to donate now.</a></strong><br /><br /><strong>Two Kinds of Fears: One Fake, the Other Real</strong><br /><br />Fear is a big problem for two reasons. First, propaganda and disinformation are used by conservatives and the media to scare people and generate anxiety. The result is that many people are fearful of the wrong things, which makes our society ripe for militarism, spying, and denying people basic rights – while people clamor for more guns.<br /><br />On the other hand, there are many millions of people who are afraid for very real reasons. These include bad policies and messed-up priorities resulting in half the country living on the economic margins or in poverty; widespread PTSD from our wars; and massive militarization of local police departments who use their equipment, gear and racist attitudes to treat citizens as if they were terrorists.<br /><br />These are real and valid fears. But they tend to be the ones politicians and the wealthy elites deny or ignore.<br /><br /><strong>The Culture of Fear</strong><br /><br />People cannot think clearly when they are afraid. Fear is the enemy of reason. It distorts emotions and perceptions, and often leads to poor decisions. Advertising, political ads, news coverage and social media all send the constant message that people should be afraid —very afraid.<br /><br />Americans are endlessly bombarded with media messages that are deceitful or exaggerated – fake threats about crime, drugs, terrorists and diseases. Television and film are filled with extreme violence and millions of fictional deaths, far out of proportion to what happens in real life.<br /><br />Yet the crime rate is actually on the decline. In fact, you have more of a chance of being hit by lightening than killed by a terrorist.<br /><br />Fear, along with militarism, inequality, and criminalization, are the biggest threats to our democracy. Going forward, AlterNet is emphasizing the emotionality of politics – race, violence, gender and trauma – all which are highly influenced by  the culture of fear.</p><p><strong>Our Coverage</strong><br /><br />AlterNet has initiated our fear coverage with a flurry of articles, which is a good start​. But there is so much more to do. <strong><a href="http://act.alternet.org/go/59420?t=4&amp;akid=12939.108707.YC67NM" target="_blank">We need your help to move forward over the weeks and months ahead. Please make a contribution today.</a></strong> <br /><br /><strong><a href="http://act.alternet.org/go/59420?t=5&amp;akid=12939.108707.YC67NM" target="_blank">Everyone who makes a financial contribution</a></strong>* to our annual spring fundraising campaign will receive our new e-book, <em>Fear in America: The Biggest Threat to Our Democracy.</em> <br /> </p><p>Thanks for reading,</p><p></p><p> </p><p> </p><p>Don Hazen</p><p>Executive Editor, AlterNet.org</p><p> </p><p>P.S. Some of the most popular articles in our fear coverage includes:<br /><br /><strong><a href="http://act.alternet.org/go/59421?t=6&amp;akid=12939.108707.YC67NM" target="_blank">How Americans Are Brainwashed to Fear Exactly the Wrong Things</a></strong><br /><br /><strong><a href="http://act.alternet.org/go/59422?t=7&amp;akid=12939.108707.YC67NM" target="_blank">Social Panics That Gripped the Nation, Were Totally False, and Did Horrible Lasting Damage</a></strong><br /><br /><strong><a href="http://act.alternet.org/go/59423?t=8&amp;akid=12939.108707.YC67NM" target="_blank">10 Things Black People Fear That White People Don't (Or Don't Nearly as Much)</a></strong></p><p> </p><p>P.P.S.<strong> For contributors:</strong> We will email you to link to the ebook as soon as it is finished... <em>within 10 days for sure.</em></p> <p> </p> Fri, 27 Mar 2015 12:48:00 -0700 Don Hazen, AlterNet 1033943 at http://www.alternet.org Fear in America Fear in America fear authoritarianism AlterNet's Fear Series Fear Ebook don hazen culture of fear Danny Schechter, the News Dissector, Dies in NYC at 72 http://www.alternet.org/danny-schechter-news-dissector-dies-nyc-72 <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Schechter was a renaissance progressive with a long list of achievements and creative endeavors. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/schecter.gif" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Danny Schechter, one of America’s best known, most talented and effective progressive leaders renowned for his activism and ground-breaking media-making, died Thursday, March 19 in New York City, of pancreatic cancer.</p><p>Known as the “News Dissector” from his days at Boston radio station <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/WBCN_%28FM%29">WBCN</a>, Schechter was truly a renaissance progressive -- with a long list of achievements and creative endeavors.  He is probably best known for his passionate relationship with Nelson Mandela, fighting apartheid in South Africa, and the brilliant TV series <em>South Africa Now</em> produced by Globalvision, the New York City-based television and film production company he created with his longtime business partner Rory O’Connor. <em>South Africa Now</em> was followed by <em>Rights &amp; Wrongs: Human Rights Television</em> shown on domestic public television and more than 60 other countries from 1992–1996. Schechter was also a producer for ABC’s news magazine <em>20/20</em>, where he won two Emmys and was part of the startup team that created CNN.</p><p>As Rory O’Connor, his business partner for more than three decades explains, "Danny always used to say that he got into making media because he wanted to do something about the problems of the world." ("It wasn't until later," Schechter would then add, "that I learned the media was one of the problems of the world.") He was the original "jactivist"—part journalist, part activist, always involved.</p><p>And he did "do something" about the world's many problems, or at least tried. From Chile to South Africa to Vietnam to Bosnia and beyond, and from apartheid to human rights to the corporate media to the American economy "before the bubble burst," the world not only often heard it first, it also heard it right—often years before they heard it anywhere else—from the News Dissector.</p><p>I was proud to be his partner in Globalvision, the fiercely independent media firm we co-founded, and prouder still to be his friend. I'll miss him greatly, but the world will miss his unique voice even more.</p><p>Another longtime friend and collaborator, David Fenton, called Schechter “a brilliant activist and journalist who spoke truth to power and was my friend for 40 years. Thank you for all you did for us Danny. RIP."</p><p>Schechter, born June 27,1942 was a graduate of Cornell University. He later received a master's degree from the London School of Economics. He was a Nieman Fellow in Journalism at Harvard University, and an adjunct professor at the Graduate School of Journalism at Columbia University.  </p><p>One of the great original multi-taskers, Schechter was an independent filmmaker, author of a number of books, blogger, and media critic whose insights about the failures of the global media system were incisive and widely appreciated. Later in his career he embraced new technology, creating the Media Channel where he called himself “blogger-in-chief.”</p><p>A brilliant speaker and strategist, Schechter was a true global leader, traveling to dozens of countries, making connections, shooting footage and giving rousing speeches. Schechter was the special kind of leader-activist who had deep cultural roots, weaving music into his quest to improve human rights globally. He will be missed.</p><p><em>Check in later at Rory O’Connor's or David Fenton’s Facebook pages for information about a memorial service or visit Danny's <a href="https://www.facebook.com/groups/1420905851554067/">memorial page</a> on Facebook.</em></p> Thu, 19 Mar 2015 19:18:00 -0700 Don Hazen, AlterNet 1033537 at http://www.alternet.org Media danny schechter Fear Dominates Politics, Media and Human Existence in America—And It’s Getting Worse http://www.alternet.org/fear-america/fear-dominates-politics-media-and-human-existence-america-and-its-getting-worse <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Today, AlterNet launches a series of articles and investigations on fear, and how to combat it. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/the_scream_0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p><em>“Fear is the mind-killer” – Frank Herbert, Dune</em></p><p>People cannot think clearly when they are afraid. As numerous <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fear_processing_in_the_brain" target="_blank">studies have shown</a>, fear is the enemy of reason. It distorts emotions and perceptions, and often leads to poor decisions. For people who have suffered trauma, fear messages can sometimes trigger uncontrollable flight-or-fight responses with dangerous ramifications.</p><p>Yet over time, many interlocking aspects of our society have become increasingly sophisticated at communicating messages and information that produce fear responses. Advertising, political ads, news coverage and social media all send the constant message that people should be afraid—<em>very</em> afraid.</p><p>In addition, television and film are filled with extreme violence and millions of fictional deaths, far out of proportion to what happens in real life, as researchers have pointed out. And more recently, we have witnessed the massive militarization of local police departments with equipment, gear and attitudes that treat citizens as if they were terrorists, as recently evidenced by events in Ferguson, Missouri. Many militarized police raids have gone wrong and taken the lives of hundreds, while police violence against often unarmed people results in unnecessary deaths and injuries every day. All this, despite <a href="http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/more-americans-killed-police-terrorists-crime-down-why-police-aggression" target="_blank">statistics indicating</a> that in most parts of the country, the crime rate is actually on the decline.</p><p>Fear is so pervasive that experts have made the case we live in a generalized “culture of fear,” also the name of a book by Barry Glassner which underscores the fact that we often fear the wrong things, and incredibly out of proportion to reality. Statistics show you have a much <a href="http://www.washingtonsblog.com/2013/09/youre-68-times-more-likely-to-be-hit-and-killed-by-lightning-than-murdered-by-a-terrorist.html">higher chance</a> of being killed by lightning than by a terrorist. </p><p><strong>New Series Commitment by AlterNet</strong></p><p>We at AlterNet feel our society is overrun with a destructive and growing social preoccupation with fear. This fear factor breeds more violence, mental illness and trauma, social disintegration, job failure, loss of workers’ rights, and much more. Pervasive fear ultimately paves the way for an accelerating authoritarian society with increased police power, legally codified oppression, invasion of privacy, social controls, social anxiety and PTSD.</p><p>Over the next few months we will be looking at most aspects of society through a “fear lens,” examining how fear operates, what motivates the purveyors, and how we can better challenge the fearmongers. At the same time, we will work to figure out and help people better cope with fear issues, hoping that more people can join together and build more supportive communities. </p><p><a href="http://www.alternet.org/fear-in-america"><em><strong>Visit our new Fear in America coverage area that will have articles added to it over the coming days and weeks ahead. </strong></em></a></p><p>We are also hyperaware of how some in society scapegoat others for problems they face, encouraged by conservative media such as Fox News, the <em>New York Post,</em> and increasingly, the <em>Wall Street Journal</em>—all owned by Rupert Murdoch. Immigrants, for example, are blamed for numerous social ills, and certainly the more than 11 million undocumented immigrants and their families live in fear every day. But poor people of all stripes face discrimination, and racism, whether overt or covert, makes life far more dangerous for people of color than for whites.</p><p><strong>Massive Vulnerabilities</strong></p><p><strong>Financial Insecurity</strong></p><p>In the context of pervasive fear, large portions of the population are extremely vulnerable to fear-based messaging in simply coping with their day-to-day lives. There are many examples of the vulnerable among us, and the numbers are huge, though difficult to assess, since there is likely so much overlap. Here are a few examples, beginning with those who are especially vulnerable due to widespread financial insecurity.</p><p><a href="http://cfed.org/newsroom/pr/nearly_half_of_us_households_have_almost_no_savings_to_cover_emergencies_or_save_for_the_future/" target="_blank">Nearly half</a> (43.9 percent) of U.S. households live on the edge of financial collapse with almost no savings to fall back on in the event of a job loss, health crisis or other income-eliminating emergency, according to a report by the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED).</p><p>Things are as bad or worse for those in retirement or on the brink. In December 2014, 42.9 million people <a href="http://www.ssa.gov/policy/docs/quickfacts/stat_snapshot/2014-12.pdf" target="_blank">received</a> Social Security retirement benefits that averaged $1,328.58 a month, or roughly $15,943 annually before taxes. One third, or 14.3 million people, derive <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHAcy4SNVbo&amp;list=UUQlxOsA7o2uhcWYT2Po28FQ&amp;index=1&amp;feature=plcp" target="_blank">almost all</a> of their income this way. For most of the other two-thirds, Social Security provides <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHAcy4SNVbo&amp;list=UUQlxOsA7o2uhcWYT2Po28FQ&amp;index=1&amp;feature=plcp" target="_blank">over half</a> their income. That means more than 20 million additional people live on less than $32,000 a year. These figures are averages and don’t reflect racial <a href="http://regender.org/users/mariko" target="_blank">differences</a>. For example, for every $1 white families have in savings, African Americans have just <a href="http://www.alternet.org/maya-rockeymoore-racism-and-sexism-retirement-fiscal-policy" target="_blank">5 cents</a> and Latinos have <a href="http://www.alternet.org/maya-rockeymoore-racism-and-sexism-retirement-fiscal-policy" target="_blank">6 cents</a>.</p><p>Among those preparing for their non-working old age, more than 38 million households (45 percent) do not own any retirement account assets, according to a detailed <a href="http://www.nirsonline.org/terms/d/index.php?option=content&amp;task=view&amp;id=768" target="_blank">analysis</a> of Federal Reserve figures.</p><p>In terms of general poverty, the U.S. Census Bureau <a href="http://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2014/cb14-169.html" target="_blank">reports</a> that “45.3 million people lived at or below the poverty line in 2013 ($11,888 for <a href="http://www.census.gov/library/publications/2014/demo/p60-249.html" target="_blank">one person</a>) for the third consecutive year.” Looking at this population broken up by <a href="http://www.census.gov/hhes/www/poverty/data/incpovhlth/2013/table3.pdf" target="_blank">race</a>, blacks account for 27 percent; Latinos 23.5 percent; Asians 10.5 percent; and whites and others make up the rest.</p><p><strong>Mental Illness and Anxiety</strong></p><p>The level of mental illness in America, while controversial depending on how it is assessed, is highly significant. <em><a href="http://www.newsweek.com/nearly-1-5-americans-suffer-mental-illness-each-year-230608" target="_blank">Newsweek</a></em> estimates that nearly 20 percent of Americans suffer from mental illness in a given year. The number of adults and children on drugs to treat mental issues is more easily verified, and those numbers are extraordinary.</p><p><a href="http://theweek.com/articles/480090/americas-startling-use-mentalillness-drugs-by-numbers" target="_blank">One in five</a> U.S. adults takes drugs to treat some type of mental health condition. There was a 22
 percent increase in the number of American adults taking mental health drugs from 2001 to 2010. There was a 29 percent increase in the number of women <a href="http://www.latimes.com/health/boostershots/la-heb-mental-health-20111116,0,6275462.story?track=rss" target="_blank">using antidepressants</a> in the same time period.</p><p>Anxiety, which is the most fear-based of mental problems, is especially pervasive. According to the <a href="http://www.anxietycentre.com/anxiety-statistics-information.shtml" target="_blank">Anxiety Center</a>, an astonishing 40 million people in the U.S. will be impaired in some way as a direct result of an anxiety-related condition. Of those, just 10 percent will be treated in a way that meets their needs. What’s more, “those who experience anxiety and stress have a very high propensity for drug abuse and addictions.”</p><p>Alcoholism also has a devastating impact on millions of Americans. According to the <a href="http://www.niaaa.nih.gov/alcohol-health/overview-alcohol-consumption/alcohol-facts-and-statistics" target="_blank">National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism</a>, as of 2012, nearly 17 million people 18 and older in the U.S., or 7.2 percent of adults, suffered from an “alcohol-use disorder.” Broken down by sex, that’s 11.2 million men (9.9 percent of men age 18 and older) and 5.7 million women (4.6 percent of women 18 and older). Of those in need, a mere 8.4 percent received treatment at a specialty addiction care facility.</p><p>AlterNet’s ongoing series will uncover numerous other examples of vulnerable populations. These include returning combat veterans and their families, people who suffered abuse while growing up, victims of domestic violence and bullying—now well documented as widespread across America—and anyone involved in the U.S. criminal justice system, which today houses more than 2 million people.</p><p><strong>What We Are Up Against</strong></p><p>Politically, socially and emotionally, fear is arguably the most powerful potent force in society. Fear is primal, and in some ways, a critical part of our lives that is necessary for survival. But it’s much more present in some lives than in others. </p><p>At any given moment in the U.S., there are a multitude of things we might be afraid of: terrorist attacks, Ebola, gun violence, food poisoning, drug fear campaigns, climate change, and the pervasive fear of the "other"— immigrants, people of color, etc. Yet the consciousness of fear about these and many other topics often has almost no relationship with actual threat levels.</p><p>As AlterNet’s drug editor Phillip Smith <a href="http://www.alternet.org/drugs/four-moral-panics-drug-policy" target="_blank">writes</a>, “[W]e define panics into existence. For a phenomenon to become a social problem, someone…has to define it as a problem and then convince others that it is one.”</p><p>In America, with Fox News and conservative rhetoric, there is no end to the people and messages defining things as frightening. Smith adds that, “every social problem needs to have deviant groups or individuals—people who aren’t 'like us'—but who are the problem and should be feared.”</p><p>Arguably, fear as a factor has been growing in America since 9/11, which was obviously traumatic for many Americans. Instead of being treated as a criminal act by a small group of suicide killers, it produced a massively forceful reaction, including two wars. Response to 9/11 provoked a wave of fear, repression and doomsday preparation that continues to escalate to this day. The new evil on the horizon is ISIS, the media-savvy beheaders who have garnered unbelievable amounts of news coverage. The result, no doubt, will be the spawning of untold new ways of intruding on American life and individual rights.</p><p>The security state’s sole <em>raison de d'être</em> is to instill fear in the populace to control behavior and collect information. The security state mind is by nature suggestible, paranoid and capable of creating fearful situations out of propaganda and mis- and disinformation.</p><p>The reality is that Americans are endlessly bombarded with media messages that are fearful and deceitful. Almost daily, we are urged to fear exaggerated or fake threats. This unstinting hysteria affects our politics and policies. And going deeper, this media onslaught literally shapes how our brains work and what people believe.</p><p>And so, beginning this week, AlterNet will publish a diverse series of articles and investigations into the harsh reality of fear in America. We will learn about some of the most hysterical moral panics in media history; explore how 9/11 continues to shape our present and our future; and understand why people fear government more than corporations. Perhaps most importantly, we’ll undertake the hardest part: offering prescriptions for how to get and stay healthy and how to resist the addictive qualities of the onslaught of fear.</p><p><a href="http://www.alternet.org/fear-in-america"><em><strong>Visit our new Fear in America coverage area that will have articles added to it over the coming days and weeks ahead. </strong></em></a></p> Sun, 01 Mar 2015 12:12:00 -0800 Don Hazen, AlterNet 1032600 at http://www.alternet.org Fear in America Culture Fear in America fear authoritarianism control Happy New Year! Thanks For Your Support! http://www.alternet.org/happy-new-year-thanks-your-support <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Did you notice that the look of the site has changed? </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2014-12-23_at_7.42.45_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Good news for us and many thanks to the 2,091-plus people who contributed to our end-of-the-year fundraising campaign: we surpassed our goal, pulling in well over $90,000. In fact, this was our most successful end-of-year campaign ever! Thank you all again for your generosity. </p><p>We are already making good use of the money by adding editorial talent, improving our investigative capacity and making sure the site works fast and smoothly for everyone.</p><p>Along those lines, you may have noticed that we gave ourselves a facelift: new story presentation, logo, colors, and more. We had the previous, very popular, design for more than six years. But at this point, it was old and stale looking—and we were sick of the mustard color. </p><p><strong>Mobile, Too</strong></p><p>Our goal for the site was an upgrade, not a radical change. We hope the site feels more energetic and pleasing to the eye, and is easier to read with more white space.</p><p>Because more of you are accessing AlterNet on your phones, iPads and other tablets, we’ve also improved the functionality of our mobile site. We’ve been amazed by how much our readers’ habits have changed in the last two years alone, with many of you now reading AlterNet on the Facebook app. </p><p>We did the work in-house, with associate publisher Roxanne Cooper and our tech guru Ben Nguyen doing the heavy lifting on design and coding. Our logo was done by New York designer Clare Wilderson, who doubles as the bartender at Manhattan’s Merchants NY on weekend days. Stop in and give her a good tip—but also hire her for her design and art skills. </p><p>We like good design. But we think the content is most important, along with the headlines, the writers and the subject material. This is why we did the work in-house rather than spending a bunch of money on pricey design companies; we are committed to excellence the frugal way. </p><p>Of course, not everyone loves change. And we will continue to tweak things for a while. Please send comments and suggestions to <a href="mailto:feedback@alternet.org" target="_blank">feedback@alternet.org</a> and we will see what we can do. </p><p>Best,</p><p>Don Hazen<br />Executive Editor</p> Sun, 04 Jan 2015 17:32:00 -0800 Don Hazen, AlterNet 1029734 at http://www.alternet.org alternet editorial The Rubber Hits the Road: We Need Your Help http://www.alternet.org/rubber-hitting-road-we-need-your-help <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Can you support AlterNet at the end of the year? </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2014-12-30_at_5.37.02_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>AlterNet is doing very well by every measure (unfortunately, the world isn't doing so well). But now the rubber hits the road. AlterNet needs to make our fundraising goal to continue doing our best work for you, our loyal readers and supporters.</p><p><a href="http://act.alternet.org/go/54915?ak_proof=1&amp;t=2&amp;akid=.175011.51HPep" target="_blank">I hope you can help us this season</a>.</p>Working hard full-time is necessary because there is no pretty political picture to paint. The fact is, politically, things are even more dire than most of us want to believe. Human rights, foreign wars, inequality, and climate change—virtually every major problem continues to trend worse.<p>You know how broken our national political system is. It’s a playground for billionaires. Gerrymandered conservative districts give the right-wing veto over Congress. The next two years will be especially ugly.<br /><br />The events of Ferguson polarized the country even more, exacerbating fundamental psychological issues. Millions of Americans have been traumatized by poverty, abuse, alcoholism, violence against women, brutal treatment by police, and nonstop wars.<br /><br /><strong>Time to Rethink</strong><br /> <br />We can’t keep doing business as usual and expect things to get better.  We—all of us—need to rethink our political approach or the trends will get even worse. We face a serious crisis.   <br /><br />We have to push forward with more energy and imagination. But it has to be a result of honestly assessing what isn't working. AlterNet will focus on the best efforts in communities, cities and states where progress is happening. We will offer the best tools for personal growth and emotional health in our increasingly toxic world.<br /> <br />We will help you avoid corporate ripoffs. We will present methods for living more conscious lives and examples of people of good will cooperating in new ways. We will be asking our writers to think about not just why change is needed, but how we should go about making the change we need.<br /><br />And, of course, we will relentlessly go after the right-wing machine, exploitative corporations and corruption wherever we find it. You can count on that. <br /><br />We need some help from each and every one of you. </p><p><strong><a href="https://act.alternet.org/go/54915?ak_proof=1&amp;t=2&amp;akid=.175011.51HPep" target="_blank">Please contribute what you can</a>.</strong> We will do the rest.</p> Tue, 30 Dec 2014 13:26:00 -0800 Don Hazen, AlterNet 1029515 at http://www.alternet.org alternet Is There Any Hope for America to Transcend the Disastrous Thinking of the National Security State? http://www.alternet.org/tom-engelhardt-shadow-government-tomdispatch-american-empire <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Tom Engelhardt discusses his new book and the national security state.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2014-11-24_at_1.49.18_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Covering war, empire, the national security state, and occasionally culture, <em><a href="http://tomdispatch.org">TomDispatch</a></em> features some of the best and most established progressive writers on the block, the likes of Barbara Ehrenreich, Noam Chomsky and Andrew Bacevich. Tom Dispatch has done so at a remarkably steady pace for over a decade, about 150 essays a year. AlterNet has been proud to publish virtually every article produced by TomDispatch, and we consider it an incredibly valuable resource. It's mainly a one-man show with Tom Engelhardt, known far and wide as a writer's editor for top-flight publishers, at the helm. </p>So it was a pleasure to spend a recent morning with Tom Engelhardt discussing his new book, <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Government-Surveillance-Security-Single-Superpower/dp/1608463656" target="_blank">Shadow Government</a> (Haymarket, 2014), and how we will grapple with the worsening effects of the national security state.<p><strong>AlterNet: Looking back over the past decade, it seems things have gotten worse. True or false?  </strong></p><p><strong>Tom Engelhardt:</strong> Thirteen years later, it's gotten endlessly worse. What I see as the worst part of it is that -- forget politics for a minute -- there just seems to be no learning curve in Washington. It's like, you know what it reminds me of, but not in an amusing way? That old movie Groundhog Day? Bill Murray wakes up the next morning and it's always the same. Except in this case, each day gets worse.</p><p>And now we're at a point where, the national security state—what I call in the title of my book, the <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Government-Surveillance-Security-Single-Superpower/dp/1608463656">Shadow Government</a>—has little accountability whatsoever. If I were break into a house, and I was found and caught, I would be brought to court for it. I might end up in jail. If the Shadow Government breaks into a house, nothing will happen. You can run through the crimes, they range from destroying evidence of a crime they committed, CIA destroying its own tapes, perjury before Congress, to kidnapping and assassination, including the murder of American citizens, torture which we all know about. Every kidnapping which we like to call rendition because it sounds somewhat politer. </p><p><strong>AlterNet: There are basically zero consequences for committing these crimes.</strong></p><p><strong>Engelhardt:</strong> Not a single person has gone to jail. I always think the torture thing is the telling one. There are 101 cases of torture, CIA torture brought before the justice department. Two of them included the actual deaths, the killing functionally of prisoners in black sites. One in Iraq, one in Afghanistan. Of those 101 cases, not one was brought to trial. The Justice Department dismissed them all. One man however has gone to jail over the CIA torture program is John Kiriakou, who was a CIA agent, and his crime was to release the name of a CIA agent who'd been involved in the torture program. </p><p>You really don't need to know more than that. It's true that Washington always had a certain lack of accountability, but people did over the years get brought up in charges. In this period, no. The federal apparatus is in post-legal America. We're still in legal America. That's a terrible change. </p><p><strong>AlterNet: So how long has TomDispatch been publishing now?</strong></p><strong>Engelhardt:</strong> Well, it started as a small email list just as the Afghanistan war started, October 2001. And you know, it's funny. I think the first thing I would say is that, to go back to the beginning, my initial impulse starting TomDispatch was very modest. I'm no megalomaniac but I made a mistake around 9/11; I had the feeling that 9/11 might open us up to the pain of the world. It didn't. When I started to see the repeated ceremonies around us as the biggest survivor, dominator, victim, of bad guy Osama bin Laden, I was appalled. I had the feeling that this was going to be a terrible moment for this country, the worst with my life, I had the feeling this was going to be a terrible moment. <p>I have two kids and I just had that urge not to pass, not to not do anything. I just couldn't imagine passing the world on to them without having done anything. But I had no idea what to do. I was using the Internet at the time, but I didn't know much about the online world. I didn't know you can read around newspapers everywhere. </p><p>Right in that aftermath, I saw an article, describing what it meant for us to bomb Afghanistan. It said, "We're bombing rubble." Because of course, Afghanistan after 30 years of war was already rubble. </p><p>I thought that's an incredible image. I took that article, I made a list of 13 people, some relatives and friends, I sent it out and wrote them, "You've got to read this." </p><p>Then I suddenly realized, the press was narrowing in a way I hadn't seen in my lifetime. I suddenly realized I could go read news at any publication available over the Internet. I started doing just that; I started piling these articles up and the next thing I knew it was the miracle of the online world, the positive side of it. People started asking if could they be on my list. I didn't even know I had a list.</p><p><strong>AlterNet: What about blowback? It seems like blowback is inevitable. Almost every major activity and you take in this home range but nobody, it is not even mentioned in the conversation. You think that anybody will factor that in?</strong></p><p><strong>Engelhardt:</strong> It is real. Listen, we would not be here now, to return to what we're talking about before. If we hadn't decided to give the Russians their own Vietnam in Afghanistan, this was the arming of the mujahadeen in the 1980s, starting in 1979-'80. We decided to give Russia a taste of what Vietnam had been like for us. This was talked about. This isn't like interpretation. If we hadn't decided to do that, there of course would have been no Al Qaeda. There would have been no Taliban. In other words, if you want to really talk about blowback, 9/11 and everything thereafter is one big blowback.  And we can't currently know what the blowback from present operations say in the Middle East will be in the coming decades. </p><p>What we've known from the last 13 years, is that the blowback gets spread around, not just in the USA. Libya is a great example, it's a very good example of what you could call blowback not directly at the United Stated but global blowback. The Obama administration intervened in Libya in 2011. It was a "no-casualties intervention" that has no casualties for us. It was an air intervention. The result of it was, Gadhafi went down and if you look three years later, Libya is a failed state, not a democracy. It's a failed state filled with worrying, ever more extreme, malicious in the leftover of the Libyan army. In the meantime, all of Gadhafi’s arsenals were ransacked and those arms passed all the way to the Sinai, all the way south to Nigeria. Our intervention in Libya has functionally destabilized significant parts of Africa. That's blowback. It doesn't just happen directly to us but it certainly does have major consequences for millions of people.</p><p>I think you can argue that with a possible exception of the Osama Bin Laden raid, literally speaking, every single American military action from the day after 9/11 to the present moment has been a disaster. Literally, two failed wars. If you look that in another way, Al Qaeda, if we had not been hysterical at that moment, Al Qaeda was an organization. It had those camps in Afghanistan. It has scattered followers around the world. It had a modest amount of money. It was at that moment, capable of launching operations more or less every year or so. </p><p><strong>AlterNet: That was an essay you wrote that we ran, titled "The Last Empire"—how there's no other great power on Earth than the US, yet it's incapable of exercising its power in traditionally constructive ways.  </strong></p><p><strong>Engelhardt:</strong> This is the striking thing. We are the unipolar power but we cannot translate that into policy, almost anywhere on Earth. It seems that's quite a factor. Nothing seems to turn out as we want. Even countries like Afghanistan where the country traditionally would have been thought of as a puppet regime. They finally got after two years of push and pull they finally got their bilateral agreement signed that will leave you troops there for the next 10 years which is another disaster.</p><p><strong>AlterNet: Does the Internet play a big role in destabilizing the rest of the planet? <a href="http://alternet.org/" target="_blank">AlterNet.org</a> and <a href="http://tomdispatch.org/" target="_blank">TomDispatch.org</a> are in the Internet business obviously. In the last 10 years we've seen the size of the online progressive community balloon 20-30 million people on any given week reading progressive content. An incredible number. But what does it add up to? Are we just garnish on a surveillance tool?</strong></p><p><strong>What do you think about being an Internet publisher in a world where the Internet may be making things incredibly worse?</strong></p><p><strong>Engelhardt:</strong> I don't know. It's such a Janus-faced thing because part of it is miraculous. I've written about it as a disaster of privacy  and I've written about it as the golden age of reading because at the same time it's a disaster, it's a journalistic disaster for normal newspapers and someone. But never have we had such access to so much good and interesting analysis.</p><p><strong>AlterNet: What has it done for us? Are we stronger or weaker?</strong></p><p><strong>Engelhardt:</strong> I think I'm too close to it to know. This is one I don't think I can answer. Some of the Internet completely appalls me because one of the things that I see about the Internet is it takes certain constraints and taboos off people. I'm always struck by this.</p><p><strong>AlterNet: We have a situation where no one has any idea on these questions, it seems. We have the greatest analysts in the world and you're one of them. We have more information than we ever dreamed. But we seem to have less political leverage to do anything with that information.</strong></p><p><strong>Engelhardt:</strong> There are two different things here. I think one is what's to be done or what could be done and what can be done or will be done and they're not the same thing. In other words, I can say to you as a start. I think you could find people not just on the left or even the center left but on the right who would agree with this. I think we could just start by not doing so to speak. We could not intervene in the next place. This is not very complicated. We could decide that we were going to not be a military-based culture. We could decide that on the next disease pandemic, the thing that we were going to create a civilian humanitarian response and not send 3,000 boots on the ground to Liberia or wherever and create a special SWAT team.</p><p>The thing is, I think it's obvious, we could begin to dismantle our imperial presence on the planet which is doing us and nobody else any particular good. There are a lot of things. It's not that I can't sit here and think what could be done. What's unclear to me is how the hell to get any of it done: That's the other question you're asking. That is, where are the combinations of forces that would begin to create the pressure for such things to happen? On that unfortunately, I don't know.</p><p><strong>AlterNet:</strong> <strong>It seems like Obama was really trying hard not to intervene post-Iraq. Circumstances of course with the Islamic State started pushing him out of his position. But then this is enormous pressure. The beheading, the <em>Washington Post</em> pounding him day after day, going down in the polls. It seems like he had no choice. Of course you have a choice, but he seemed to be completely boxed in, had no real allies, no one wanted to sit back and wait. How do you fight that? What's the option for any president?</strong></p><p><strong>Engelhardt:</strong> If you're just talking about the President, the one thing I would say is he didn't try hard enough. That I would say. This is a man who knows that this doesn't work, arming the rebels isn't going to, etc. he knows all this stuff. He did it anyway. For me, I just think for shame. Take your medicine and stand up for what you actually bloody think. </p><p>The reason it's hard to answer that in a serious way, and a million other important questions like it is, the United States, let's just say post-9/11 has done the same thing over and over and over again. We don't know what it would be like if we hadn't done something. There is no way to answer that because we have no examples, no counter examples to doing the same damn thing that everybody knows isn't going to work. </p><p><strong>AlterNet: That situation Obama was in, and the many others like it where we keep doing the wrong thing—it appears to be impossible to do anything different. All the forces are so far aligned, whether it's government secrecy, whether it's the money for the military, whether it's the thousands of private contractors, or the right wing enabled by the rest of the media. </strong></p><p><strong>Engelhardt:</strong> Obama could always get up and address the American people and say, "Look, this is why I'm not doing it. We've done it wrong. Seventeen times and I'm not going to do it. It's going to look bad for a while, I'm going to take heat for a while. The buck stops here." All the things that people are taught not to say, he could have said that. What would they have done? They would have had certain things to do. It happened with Syria, the only example. It was pathetic the way he backed down and finally ended that. He backed down for actually sending the missiles on Syria. We saw. There was also, it's a pressure. It's the same scenario. It was the one time that he backed off and actually stuck to his guns.</p><p><strong>AlterNet: With so few examples of this from our elected leaders, what's a way of looking at things and finding some optimism in the value of our enterprise as publishers and editors of independent thought when it comes to war and empire?</strong></p><p><strong>Engelhardt:</strong> Here's how I actually think about it. Even at my age of 70, I learn. One of my learning experiences had to do with Rebecca Solnit who writes for TomDispatch. She wrote a book called Hope in the Dark. It was based on an essay she sent in to TomDispatch out of the blue in 2003. In that essay which had a profound effect on me, she mentioned, she was involved with an antinuclear movement in the 1980s in Nevada, that failed basically. It was a vigorous anti-nuclear, People's Anti-Nuclear Movement that failed or it felt like it failed. When the Soviet Union fell in 1990, the Kazakhs were left with nuclear weapons. </p><p>Instead of keeping them, the leaders of Kazakhstan at that time decided they would return them to the Soviet Union. They didn't want to be a nuclear power. When they made that announcement, they pointed to the Anti-Nuclear Movement she had been involved in in Nevada as one of the inspirations for their decision. She used that as an example of the fact that you cannot tell when you act in the world as best you can, you can't tell what effect you're going to have on who. You might affect no one in Nevada by working in Nevada for years and somehow affect the Kazakhs, who knows. </p><p>For me, I found this very inspirational. I know what I can do well. I do it as best I can at Tom Dispatch. I always assume, I always hope, that what I do, the attempt to give people new ways, new frameworks for thinking about their world, to look at their world differently, which is kind if what Tom Dispatch tries to do overall. I can't know what effect that's really going to have. I can't know if it's useful or not. I can't know if the internet, if it's part of something that's wonderful, it wouldn't matter if it's just a nothing. But I think that's a reasonable bet to make that it could do something.</p><p><strong>AlterNet: That's the only bet you got.</strong></p><p><strong>Engelhardt:</strong> And hope to hell that it will have an effect than to do nothing. Let me put this another way. Years ago, I edited Studs Turkel. The last book I edited with him, which I always love, after his book on death, was a book on activism which he called Hope Dies Last. What I learned from that book which also taught me something was, in good times, it's easy to be hopeful in your life, it's not a big deal. In bad times, the only way you can really feel hope is to act.</p><p>It's a wonderful book about activists, about people who in bad times took that first step and acted. Whatever happened, you never what's going to happen. But I have to say personally, that I think if I weren't doing Tom Dispatch I would be in a state of depression. I really would be in a state of depression.</p><p>But Tom Dispatch, just the doing, this I learned from Studs, God rest his soul. The state of doing is brings a feeling of hope. It's important in a world in which things look terrible. To feel some sense of possibility, there are future generations, you've got a child, I've got a grandson and children, you want to feel that there's something both that you can do for them and something that can be done for this world. I am probably a pessimist at heart, but an operational optimist. </p><p>Check out Engelhardt's new book, <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Shadow-Government-Surveillance-Security-Single-Superpower/dp/1608463656" target="_blank">Shadow Government</a> (Haymarket, 2014).</p> Mon, 24 Nov 2014 12:44:00 -0800 Don Hazen, Jan Frel, AlterNet 1027472 at http://www.alternet.org Books Books Civil Liberties World engelhardt shadow government Apocalypse Election: Fear and Paranoia Won on Tuesday, Though Ebola and ISIL Were Not on the Ballot http://www.alternet.org/apocalypse-election-fear-and-paranoia-won-tuesday-though-ebola-and-isil-were-not-ballot <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The only antidote to fear is the courage to confront it and fight for the values we hold dear.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/09edc050a7439607e0a71d578f383c1c5443e27f_0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p dir="ltr">We live in a society where fear is pervasive. Sometimes it's very real, especially when it comes to climate change, joblessness, racism, violence against women and more. But in the context of this election, fear was often manufactured, transmitted zealously by the corporate media, pushed relentlessly by Fox and other right-wing outlets. Messages of fear dominated many of the campaign ads that led to Democrats getting crushed in many elections.</p><p dir="ltr">In this environment of fear, compounded by massive amounts of unregulated political spending, and tons of money from the Koch brothers and other heavy spenders, the Democrats seemed lost, despite having lots of money of their own. Given their current confused approach to politics, their general inarticulateness, and their need to run away from the President and Obamacare, most Democrats didn’t stand a chance against the onslaught.</p><p dir="ltr">The fear message wasn’t the only problem for the Dems. As Paul Rosenberg points out <a href="http://www.salon.com/2014/11/05/obama_should_welcome_impeachment_take_bold_action_on_climate_immigration_and_force_the_right_to_overreach/?source=newsletter">on Salon</a>, the Democrats' lack of agenda or message resulted in an unexcited base, so the electorate turned out to be older than in 2010 as millennials stayed home in droves. The Republicans had even less of an agenda, but focused on their potent one-two punch of the fear card and the pummeling of Obama, whose popularity is in the dumpster. Of course, Obama's low approval rating is partly the result of six years of fearmongering about him and Obamacare. </p><p dir="ltr">The only way to beat a bully—or many bullies with hundreds of millions of dollars—is with incredible courage and truth-telling. But most Democrats ran scared in this election. Nothing demonstrated that more than Obama's backing off on immigration reform, something he promised during the summer; a moment when his courage could have stood out and mobilized people. He likely changed his mind because of fear from all the fearful Democrats who worried it would make them lose. But they lost anyway and they were wrong. Courage was what was needed. </p><p dir="ltr">In America today a lot of people are fundamentally convinced that things are out of control and there is no sane solution. And many may fear that if they try to think sanely they will just despair. How do you stay oriented toward reality and not despair, not lose heart? Well, one way is to grasp for straws and go for crazy ideas. Which is a lot of what happened in 2014.</p><p><strong>Ebola and ISIL </strong></p><p dir="ltr">It's striking that hysteria over Ebola was one of the top falsehoods repeated in the election, as documented by the Pulitizer Prize-winning <a href="http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/article/2014/nov/05/our-top-5-fact-checks-and-reports-october-2014/">PolitiFact</a> (which is connected to the St. Petersburg Times). As PolitiFact reports, there were five separate big lies spread about Ebola in the campaign. Two of them were pushed by Republican officials, and the others by right-wing websites. Most were rated “Pants on Fire,” PolitiFact's humorous metaphor for an obvious lie. </p><p dir="ltr">Here's a debunking of the biggest Ebola lies trotted out during the election:  </p><ul dir="ltr"><li><a href="http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2014/jul/18/phil-gingrey/rep-phil-gingrey-says-migrants-may-be-bringing-ebo/">No, illegal immigrants haven’t carried Ebola across the border</a>.</li><li><a href="http://www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2014/aug/11/blog-posting/bloggers-bill-and-melinda-gates-george-soros-funde/">No, the Ebola outbreak isn’t a Bill Gates/George Soros conspiracy</a>.</li><li><a href="http://www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2014/aug/06/blog-posting/website-obama-mandated-detention-people-respirator/">No, Obama didn’t sign an order mandating detention of Americans</a>.</li><li><a href="http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2014/oct/12/john-mccain/mccain-we-were-told-thered-be-no-ebola-united-stat/">No, we weren’t promised an Ebola-free America</a>.</li><li><a href="http://www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2014/oct/08/morgan-brittany/did-washington-tell-responders-prep-ebola-months-a/">No, the United States hasn’t been secretly anticipating a widespread outbreak</a>.</li></ul><p dir="ltr">According to PolitiFact:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">"In July, Rep. Phil Gingrey, R-Ga., wrote to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claiming that people are crossing the southern U.S. border carrying Ebola, citing 'reports.' But none of the reports were credible, and the experts we talked to said Gingrey was wrong. </p><p dir="ltr">"Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., claimed recently that the isolated cases of Ebola in the United States directly contradict the assurances of President Barack Obama and his administration. 'We were told there would never be a case of Ebola in the United States,' McCain said."</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">But as PolitiFact asserts, Americans were never told that.</p><p dir="ltr">In terms of the biggest whoppers told during the campaign, one that got very broad coverage was the ludicrous claim iby U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Calif.,n an interview on Fox News, that members of the Islamic State (called ISIS or ISIL) have been caught crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. "ISIS is coming across the southern border," Hunter said, adding a moment later: "I know that at least 10 ISIS fighters have been caught coming across the Mexican border in Texas." Hunter claimed that he relied on right-wing websites that offered no sources…a neat way to insert fear into the public psyche. </p><p dir="ltr"><strong>9/11 Still Dominates</strong></p><p dir="ltr">The attacks of 9/11 still form the basis of our current paranoid environment. The incredible buildup of a massive security apparatus, along with the militarization of local police departments, is helping to spread fear. Tom Engelhardt, who has done amazing work to catalog and sound the alarm on the security state, <a href="http://www.alternet.org/visions/americas-massive-national-security-state-4th-branch-government">explains,</a> “In the post-9/11 era, in a phony 'wartime' atmosphere, fed by <a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/blog/175545/tomgram%3A_hellman_and_kramer,_how_much_does_washington_spend_on_%22defense%22">trillions</a> of taxpayer dollars, and under the banner of American '<a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175402/tomgram%3A_engelhardt,_the_100%25_doctrine_in_washington/">safety</a>,' it has grown to unparalleled size and power. And in 2014, the expansion is <a href="http://voices.washingtonpost.com/top-secret-america/2010/09/top_secret_americas_weekly_rou_1.html">ongoing</a>."</p><p dir="ltr">Engelhardt continues:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">"Meanwhile, the 17 members of the <a href="http://www.intelligence.gov/mission/member-agencies.html" target="_blank">U.S. Intelligence Community</a> -- yes, there are 17 major intelligence outfits in the national security state -- have been growing, some at prodigious rates. A number of them have undergone their <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/06/AR2007070601993.html" target="_blank">own versions</a> of corporatization, outsourcing many of their operations to private contractors in <a href="http://www.salon.com/2013/06/11/500000_contractors_can_access_nsa_data_hoards/" target="_blank">staggering numbers</a>, so that we now have 'capitalist intelligence' as well. With the fears from 9/11 injected into society and the wind of terrorism at their backs, the Intelligence Community has had a remarkably free hand to develop surveillance systems that are now essentially 'watching' everyone -- including, it seems, other branches of the government."</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">In a more recent article, Engelhardt <a href="http://www.alternet.org/world/welcome-terrordome-why-our-isis-panic-way-more-dangerous-isis">writes</a> that we have lived with the background noise of 9/11 for the last 13 years:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">"Inside the American Terrordome, the chorus of hysteria-purveyors, Republican and Democrat alike, nattered on, as had been true for weeks, about the 'direct,' not to say apocalyptic, threat the Islamic State and its caliph posed to the American way of life. These included <a href="http://www.upi.com/Top_News/US/2014/09/16/Lindsey-Graham-fears-ISIS-will-come-kill-us-all-in-a-not-at-all-hysterical-way/5011410890658/">Senator Lindsey Graham</a> ('This president needs to rise to the occasion before we all get killed here at home'); Majority Leader John Boehner, who <a href="http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2014/09/28/boehner-troops-ground-syria-isil/16382803/">insisted</a> that we should consider putting American boots on Iraqi and perhaps even Syrian ground soon, since 'they intend to kill us';  as well as Democrats like Florida’s Senator Bill Nelson, who <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/10/american-fear-mongering-war-again-isis">commented</a> that 'it ought to be pretty clear when they... say they’re going to fly the black flag of ISIS over the White House that ISIS is a clear and present danger.' And a chorus of officials, named and anonymous, warning that the terror danger to the country was '<a href="http://www.buzzfeed.com/passantino/chuck-hagel-warns-isis-threat-is-beyond-anything-weve-seen#137g0vw">imminent</a>,' while the usual set of pundits chirped away about the potential destruction of our way of life."</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">The media continued to report it all with a kind of eyeball-gluing glee. The result: <a href="http://www.cnn.com/2014/09/08/politics/cnn-poll-isis/">71%</a> of Americans believed ISIS had nothing short of sleeper cells in the U.S. (shades of <em>Homeland</em>!) and at least the <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/poll-public-supports-strikes-in-iraq-syria-obamas-ratings-hover-near-his-all-time-lows/2014/09/08/69c164d8-3789-11e4-8601-97ba88884ffd_story.html">same percentage</a>, if not more (depending on which poll you read), were ready to back a full-scale bombing campaign, promptly launched by the Obama administration, against the group. </p><p dir="ltr">Déjà vu again.</p><p dir="ltr">Does this election remind you of any recent ones where fear dominated? How about 2004? In an article in <em>Start Making Sense: Turning the Lessons of Election 2004 into Winning Progressive Politics</em> (published by Chelsea Green and created by the editors of AlterNet),  psychologist and trauma specialist Vivian Dent wrote:</p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">"Fear won out over anger. 2004 marked not just the most important election in a generation, but also the most emotional.  In this hothouse of feelings, the Republicans adroitly manipulated the politics of fear. Democrats, meanwhile, fumbled the politics of anger and failed to inspire the politics of courage and hope.</p><p dir="ltr">"Like so much in this election, the fear that drove the Republican vote [...] flourished after the 9/11 attacks. Aghast at the violence, death, and destruction, Americans looked to the White House to help us […] The Bush team responded with a series of choices that systematically reinforced the country’s fear and dependency while undermining its hope and trust. </p></blockquote><blockquote><p dir="ltr">"Instead, he quickly framed the U.S. response as a 'war on terror,' with himself in sole command. Then, with the full cooperation of the media, his administration repeated that frame so assiduously that many Americans quickly became unable to think of it in any other way."</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">There is a direct line from the collective fright and trauma of 9/11 through the Taliban, to the current fears of ISIL, which conservatives have worked hard to associate with immigrants coming across the border. Throw Ebloa into the mix and you have a powrful fear concoction.</p><p dir="ltr">Dent continues:  </p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">"Fear narrows people’s thinking, moves them away from logic and toward emotional and physical reactions. Its effects start in the brain. When they’re too scared, people literally can’t think straight until they get some reassurance. Complex policies and nuanced arguments turn into noise that just confuses and upsets them more."</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">As psychiatrist Daniel Siegel explained to <a href="http://www.alternet.org/story/20168/appealing_to_our_lizard_brains">columnist Arianna Huffington:</a></p><blockquote><p dir="ltr">"It's not about left wing versus right wing; it's about left brain versus right brain.</p><p dir="ltr">"Deep in the brain lies the amygdala, an almond-sized region that generates fear. When this fear state is activated, the amygdala springs into action. Before you are even consciously aware that you are afraid, your lizard brain responds by clicking into survival mode. Fight, flight, or freeze.</p><p dir="ltr">"When we are afraid, we are biologically programmed to pay less attention to left-brain signals – indeed, our logical mind actually shuts itself down. Fear paralyzes our reasoning and literally makes it impossible to think straight. Instead, we search for emotional, nonverbal cues from others that will make us feel safe and secure. We don't want to hear about a four-point plan to win the peace, or a list of damning statistics, or even a compelling, well-reasoned argument. We want to get the feeling that everything is going to be all right."</p></blockquote><p dir="ltr">So what can we do? Really, we have to be much more organized and courageous. A fear-dominated society makes people crazy. When people feel crazy, they do crazy things. They do not think rationally. Manipulating fear works, but so does inspiring hope and courage. But there is no meta message of courage coming from Democrats.  </p><p dir="ltr">The overall response to Ebola could have been much more courageous. Leaders should have said, “People are suffering terribly in Africa. The Americans going to help people in Africa are very brave. They are heroes. We will give them all the care and support that they need. We want them to help stop the spread of Ebola. Let's cheer their efforts. Let's support them.” But Democratic leaders like Andrew Cuomo’s original position on quarantines along with others like Chris Christie, was the opposite of courage. It spread fear.</p><p dir="ltr">Sadly, Obama may not be the person to step forward with the necessary courage and the right messages. So much of his good will has been squandered these past six years. He also suffers from the fact that historically black men are symbols of fear. And despite the inspirational oratory in his first campaign and early on in his administration, his instinct has not been to gather people together and mobilize. His White House is a very tightly run operation, and to many he feels like a loner as President—in contrast, say, to the gregarious Joe Biden, who could be the Democrats' version of George Bush.</p><p dir="ltr">No one suggests it's easy to fight pervasive fear, especially with characters on the loose like Texas senator Ted Cruz, who is probably the most dangerous of the fear peddlers because he seems to understand how to use fear to rally troops and attract lavish media attention.</p><p dir="ltr">But it has been done before. People finally had enough of Joe McCarthy and his witch hunts in the 1950s, though it took a while. The most courageous icon in our recent history is Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who despite the fact that there was much to fear, was able to effectively communicate to Americans that “we have nothing to fear but fear itself.”   </p><p dir="ltr">We can’t expect a hero to swoop in and sweep away the enormous fears that plague us; leftovers from 9/11, from the huge military and national security buildup and wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and ISIL and Syria. Who knows where we'll go to war next? Courage has to rise up and spread—and it needs to be moral courage—protecting our families from climate change, embracing immigrants to be part of our society, saying no to humongous military expenditures and endless war, and developing much stronger community bonds among progressives who believe in a vision of the future which is far, far different from the message of fear. Fear won big on November 4th. Remember that the only antidote to fear is the courage to confront it and fight for the values we hold dear.</p> Wed, 05 Nov 2014 09:57:00 -0800 Don Hazen, AlterNet 1026030 at http://www.alternet.org story Apocalypse Now: Seriously, It's Time for a Major Rethink About Liberal and Progressive Politics http://www.alternet.org/activism/apocalypse-now-seriously-its-time-major-rethink-about-liberal-and-progressive-politics <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">We are losing badly to the corporate state. Here&#039;s what we need to do.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/apocalypse_0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>As the editor of AlterNet for 20 years, I have read and seen the entire range of horrendous and growing problems we face as a society and a planet virtually every day. It is not just climate change, or ISIL, or Ferguson, or poverty and homelessness, or more misogynistic murdering of women, or the Democrats about to lose the Senate as Obama gets more unpopular. It is much, much more. Every day, it passes by before my eyes. At AlterNet, there are no issue silos—there is just the open faucet of depressing political information coming and going every hour of every day (with the occasional story of success and inspiration). </p><p>So I am sorry to share my deep-seated opinion, which should jibe with anyone who is paying attention. After decades of engagement in progressive politics and media, it is very clear to me: we progressives, liberals, common-sense people, are losing badly to the conservative business state, the tyranny of massively expanding tech companies, theocratic right-wing forces and pervasive militarism, home and abroad. By virtually every measure, things are getting worse. And things are trending much, much worse in ways we can easily measure, like inequality, climate, militarization of police forces, etc., and in ways that are more psychological and emotional.</p><p>Americans are very pessimistic: 76 percent of respondents in a <em>Wall Street Journal</em> <a href="http://spectator.org/blog/60204/pessimistic-americans-contemplate-their-childrens-grim-future">poll</a> did not feel confident that their children’s generation will have a better life than theirs. That’s up from 60 percent in 2007. Optimism for Americans peaked in 2001. The percentage of American adults who believe the country is on the wrong track jumped eight percentage points just this summer, to 71 percent, the <em>WSJ</em> poll found.</p><p>And Americans' dark views of the future are rational, as their lives have become so much more difficult and depressing. People are working longer hours, working far past previous retirement age—if they can retire at all. Many Americans do not take vacations. And many Americans of all ages can't find good jobs, or can only find low-paying and often part-time work, which causes their lifestyles to plummet. College graduates are burdened with heavy debt.</p><p>Younger generations know that the perhaps romantic notion of the American Dream, for most people, lies in the trash bin. Over the past 15 years there was more than a 50 percent increase in people <a href="http://www.gallup.com/poll/165584/fewer-believe-plenty-opportunity-ahead.aspx">thinking</a> there is a lack of opportunity in America (it is now just about half of all Americans). And 59 percent of Americans <a href="http://money.cnn.com/2014/story-supplement/cnn-orc-poll.pdf?iid=EL">believe</a> the American Dream is impossible to achieve for most people.</p><p>In terms of inequality, the <em><a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/16/poverty-household-income_n_5828974.html">Huffington Post</a></em>wrote: "more than 45 million people, or 14.5 percent of all Americans, lived below the poverty line last year, the <a href="http://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2014/cb14-169.html">Census Bureau reported</a>.…The annual income threshold for being counted as living in poverty was $11,490 last year for a person and $23,550 for a family of four." </p><p>Poverty is particularly dire for single mothers: A third of all families headed by single women were in poverty last year—that's 15.6 million such households. The black poverty rate was 27.2 percent.… More than 11 million black Americans lived below the poverty level last year. About 42.5 percent of the households headed by single black women were in poverty. The Hispanic poverty rate was 23.5 percent.”</p><p><strong>The Long March Toward Conservative Corporate Dominance</strong></p><p>The relentless push for the conservative anti-government business agenda, that has created most of the reality described above, has been underway for more than 40 years, since the age of Reagan. The infamous Koch brothers, and dozens of very conservative, superrich allies, joined the right-wing corporate bandwagon post-Reagan, when their Libertarian electoral efforts fell flat. They used their massive money, infrastructure and energy to turn the existing propaganda, political and business lobbying machine into a juggernaut.</p><p>So now the corporate, business-state power nexus, which includes the political arms that have a range of conservative political entities—from fundamentalist religious groups to the Tea Party—has it all. There are large numbers of organizers, highly visible gatherings of the faithful, and a powerful media and online presence—complemented too often by an eagerly compliant corporate media which repeats reactionary and business state talking points like stenographers (as often even does progressive media). There are thousands of paid conservative talking heads on all the news shows, lavishly funded think-tanks, and the omnipresent Fox which dominates cable news and influences public attitudes more than any other media. And the leaders of this conservative colossus really hate to lose. Thus they hold people accountable to get results. They are relentless, not unlike many other fundamentalists across the globe, who are intent on imposing their will and crushing their enemies.</p><p>Sure, the torch-keepers of the corporate agenda may lose elections along the way, but they now can pretty much stop any major laws from passing in America on the national level. They have tilted our politics far enough in their direction, that the public at large lacks the leverage to regain the balance, to protect most things we believe in. It is not clear when, or even if we can regain the balance. </p><p><strong>Blips on the Screen, But the Larger Truth </strong></p><p>Of course, there are a few blips of good news here and there. We live in a complex society with some contradictions. But often when the occasional success gets appropriately celebrated, like gay marriage, it is often seen as proof of how things are going to change, and not as the anomaly it is with very particular ingredients. Public opinion has shifted on gay marriage, and obviously among leaders like Hillary Clinton, and even some conservatives. That is progress.  But we would have no gay marriage if there wasn't huge money in favor of it, if powerful people didn't have skin in the game, and if it threatened corporate power and profit, which it doesn't, since gay marriage has been somewhat of a boon for the business sector, and many corporations support it.</p><p>At this point, it is a basic tenet of American politics that corporate power rules the roost. Nothing significant will become law in America if corporate power, profits, global competitive advantage, military might, national security and privatization are in any significant way threatened. And while I personally understand the motivation in a situation of dire straits, I am weary of what is often knee-jerk optimism among some progressive cheerleaders, about how things are going to change, something better is right around the corner, the pendulum is going to swing back, what goes around comes around, etc. People: it is not going to happen. Every indicator signals that things are going to get worse; perhaps much worse.</p><p>Another favorite line many smart people utter, almost every day out of some kind of unmoored hope is: "If only the American people knew how bad these things are, like children's hunger, the wage gap or how rich the .001 percent is, they would get angry and do something about it." Well, no. First, most people know how bad things are—they don't need to have the exact statistic to understand it. They live it every day.  </p><p>The bigger problem is that people don't know what to do. They are overwhelmed on the Internet, asked to sign dozens of petitions a week, give money to a myriad of uncoordinated, stand-alone causes. But the truth is, the political system is blocked in almost every way, as never before. There is voter suppression to the extremely conservative Supreme Court and the Citizen's United decision. There is massive lobbying budgets (analyst James Thurber <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lobbying_in_the_United_States">estimated</a> that the actual number of working lobbyists in Washington was close to 100,000 and the industry brings in $9 billion annually) and corruption on many levels. There is often what seems like police-state repression and the criminalization of poverty, homelessness, drug use, and of immigrants, people of color, and often those who venture to protest and express their constitutional rights.</p><p>Things may feel relatively fine for many educated white folks living on the coasts and in cities and university towns, but this will not last. Sooner or later, the rising tides of massive inequality and increased repression will affect most of us. </p><p><strong>Who to Vote for? </strong></p><p>For most people, federal elections change nothing. Rarely is there someone to vote for who might even try to shake up the system. As research has shown, the entire elected apparatus in America serves the wealthy almost exclusively—and especially those who pay for their campaigns.</p><p>In New York, for instance, Senator Chuck Schumer, perhaps the second or third most powerful person in the Senate, is a staunch advocate of protecting the special tax status of hugely wealthy hedge funders. He is strongly resistant to even modest reforms, like a tiny transaction tax on stock trading advocated by the United Nurses and many others that would bring more money for much-needed programs and infrastructure. But come election time, if you don't vote for Chuck, your option is likely a conservative Republican who is even worse. What an option.</p><p>Sorry to say, but the "arc of history" is not bending toward justice—and hasn't for the last 50 years, since shortly after Martin Luther King, Jr., who preached it, was assassinated. Maybe some time in the future, people will be able to claim that beautiful phrase for truth. But will it be in our lifetime? I don't think I would take that bet. But then, I am older than many of you reading this. So I do hope you all will figure it out.</p><p><strong>We Can't Keep Doing the Same Thing </strong></p><p>It's my observation that many people, often comfortable, highly educated people, who control the progressive establishment (the foundations, the wealthy individuals, the think-tanks, the large, heavily funded Washington groups) continue to do the same thing over and over as if things will actually change by continuing the same path. People are fond of calling that repetitive compulsion "insanity," and they have a point. There are notable exceptions to every one of my general statements throughout this article, but I'm talking about the big picture.</p><p>Sure, every once in a while there is an incremental change. Some positive things have happened internally within the Obama administration, despite the rabid right-wing opposition. But the Obama administration <a href="http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2014/10/02/u-s-deportations-of-immigrants-reach-record-high-in-2013/">deported</a> a record 438,421 unauthorized immigrants in fiscal year 2013, continuing a streak of stepped-up enforcement that has resulted in more than two million deportations since Obama took office, <a href="http://www.dhs.gov/yearbook-immigration-statistics-2013-enforcement-actions">newly released</a> Department of Homeland Security data show.</p><p>Dan Froomkin, writing at the Intercept, <a href="https://firstlook.org/theintercept/2014/09/03/froomkin-blogs-again/">insists</a> that in terms of the building of an excessive national security state, "in a lot of ways, we’re worse off today than we were under George W. Bush....There will be no snapping back to a pre-Bush-era respect for basic human dignity and civil rights. Thanks to Obama, it’s going to be a hard, long fight. In some cases, Obama has set even darker precedents than his predecessor. Massively invasive bulk surveillance of Americans and others has been <a href="http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/jun/09/us-surveillance-expanded-obama-hayden">expanded</a>, not constrained. This president secretly <a href="https://www.aclu.org/national-security/targeted-killings">condemns people to death</a> without any checks or balances, and shrugs as his errant drones <a href="http://www.thebureauinvestigates.com/category/projects/drones/drones-graphs/">massacre innocent civilians</a>. Whistleblowers and journalists who expose national security wrongdoing face <a href="http://www.nieman.harvard.edu/reports/article/102806/The-Big-Chill.aspx">unprecedented</a> criminal prosecution."</p><p>As for Obama and the climate crisis, take a look at Mark Hertsgaard's comprehensive review in <a href="http://harpers.org/archive/2014/07/promises-promises/">Harpers</a> of the Obama environmental record. It is a depressing read. And there's every indication that the presumed next Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, is a big advocate of fracking and would be worse on climate.</p><p>Yes, we do have Obamacare and that will help millions of poor people, as long as they don't live in most red states. But Obamacare, for the most part, made the healthcare and drug companies happy because there are no cost controls. There is no public option, or single-payer model, and our government still can't negotiate with drug companies for more fair prices on our behalf. </p><p>So it is quite bad. Yet year in and year out, we in the progressive universe write essentially the same books and articles (though the story does get worse), advocate for the same policies, go after the same grants, and meet with each other at the same think-tanks and conferences, because that is what we have always done.</p><p>However, and I think this is crucial, very little brain power, funding and large-scale energy is invested in serious organizing, and in thinking how political power can be leveraged to even remotely move toward the sensible or sometimes grandiose ideas the progressive establishment spends its time thinking up. We don't have to read Thomas Piketty's dense prose to understand how much worse the currently unacceptable inequality is going to be 10 years from now, or even to try and guess how many trillions of dollars of wealth are sitting hidden offshore, or in countries like Ireland, where one of our "favorite" corporations, Apple, keeps billions to avoid paying taxes. </p><p>We all can easily imagine many ways our world could be better. That is the really easy part. We also have all the analysis we need. We have access to a tremendous amount of information from the data-producing establishment to understand and prove the existence and cause of virtually every social problem. But we do not have a clue how to address these myriad of problems in a hardcore, political way and defend our values of fairness, inclusion and responsibility.</p><p>This is in stark contrast to the conservative corporate state that dominates in order to relentlessly cut social programs, lower taxes, privatize government, erode women's rights, and on and on. Too often, all we have is the progressive religion of eternal hope and sometimes magical thinking, that change will come in some way and at some point. Yes, change will come, but it might not be the change we want. It might make things quite a bit worse than they are right now. </p><p><strong>Is There Any Organizing?</strong></p><p>There has been both a sharp decline in union membership and influence, as anti-union campaigns from Reagan to the present day have decimated a chunk of the union movement. The state of Michigan, the birthplace of the autoworkers and the labor vision, is now a "right-to-work" state. Some unions spend many millions of dollars fighting each other over decreasing numbers of members. </p><p>The same can be said of community organizing. Over the past 40 years, organizing has shrunk dramatically. Part of the blame is that large foundations, which represent individual and corporate wealth, have given billions of dollars to organizations with the end result of moving away from efforts to exercise power, to make trouble and push for change. Instead, they study things and become calm advocates for policy shifts. Often progressives have their own revolving doors between non-profits and foundation jobs. The result is a philanthropic non-profit establishment that appears to fit in too comfortably with the status quo, despite thousands of people within it who are unhappy with their feelings of impotence and lack of change.</p><p>There is still some semblance of organizing going on in America—in California, Kentucky and Minnesota—and by groups like PICO, the Domestic Workers Alliance, Partnership for Working Families, National People's Alliance and U.S. Action, to name some of the key players. But indicative of how modest this organizing is, the overall budgets of the largest national groups combined is $130-$150 million, roughly in the range of one year of the budget for mainstream environmental group National Resources Defense Council and for the ACLU. And this is the same ACLU that supports the Supreme Court in its <em>Citizens United</em> decision, treating money as speech, corporations as people—one of the truly horrendous developments in American politics in the last decade. </p><p>Many progressives, myself included, have the luxury of letting our imaginations play because our lives, our lifestyles, our families, our futures, are not dependent on having most of the major and intractable problems solved, at least in the short term. In this sense, climate change could finally be the great game-changer, since it directly affects families and generations to come. But there is little evidence, at this point, that the wealthy elites and corporate leaders in America are willing to make the sacrifices necessary to protect the future. </p><p><strong>This Weekend's Conference on Technological Utopia</strong></p><p>One reason for this rant at this moment is that a gaggle of major progressive thinkers and advocates have come together in NYC at Cooper Union, organized by my old friend Jerry Mander, formerly a guru at the Public Media Center in San Francisco. Mander is perhaps best known for his somewhat culty, much-loved 1978 anti-technology critique, <em>4 Arguments For the Elimination of Television</em>. He made the case that problems with television are fundamental to the medium and the technology, and consequently cannot be reformed. For this current conference Mander's organizing principle is to critique the technological utopia and get people to change their consciousness.</p><p>Hmm. I'm not sure that beyond a crowd of very wealthy libertarian venture capitalists and technology stars and their minions in Silicon Valley and the accompanying "bro culture," many people still think there is anything utopian about technology at this point. And I hope that all that brain power downtown in the Village spends some time thinking about how to politically leverage all those big ideas, and think hard about how to ameliorate some of the worst excesses of the technology revolution. </p><p>One place Jerry could start would be by making the same point he did in his earlier book, by writing <em>4 Arguments—</em>or perhaps 10 or 20— F<em>or the Elimination of the Internet</em>. Arguably, the Internet is much worse than television was as a distracting influence back in the old days. These days, television seems a blessing compared to the Internet, which is the home of rampant misogyny, racism, polarization and invasion of privacy. Plus, it’s a huge multiplier of our massive wealth gap, with billions of dollars going to a small group of almost all white men mostly with a libertarian bent who don't really believe in government providing services or a social safety net or much of anything we call progressive values. (Although they do think people should be able to smoke pot.)</p><p>Two massive companies dominating our everyday lives, Facebook and Google, are fundamentally shaping our news and pushing journalists and media to write about and cover superficial things they would not have in the past to get the eyeballs they need to make money. This is not a good thing. As Aaron Sankin writes at the <a href="http://kernelmag.dailydot.com/issue-sections/staff-editorials/10580/facebook-trending-topics-journalism/">Daily Dot's Kernal</a>: "It’s almost impossible to overstate how important Facebook is to online news sites, which live and die at the whims of the social network’s algorithm....Once you stop to think about that, however, the entire system seems insane. If you’re a journalist, or even someone who cares about the role journalism plays in society, it’s utterly terrifying."</p><p><strong>Why We Are Losing and What We Can Do </strong></p><p>Very little happens in this country in the name of the public interest. The country is more polarized. The fundamentalists are attacking good sense and crushing progressive ideas. And sadly, too often we keep doing what we have always done. Among progressives and liberals we have great thinkers, comprehensive information, hundreds of compelling books about all of the horrors of the bank meltdown, of racism and trauma, of fears of climate change, and so much more.</p><p>But we have almost no investment from these big brains (and their organizations, which get a lot of the funding) about, not what should be changed, but <em>how</em> it can be changed. The stars of progressive America media, and the leaders of the liberal establishment are not organizers; they are not strategists. They really don't know how to leverage change in the way conservatives do. Everyone thinks it's someone else's job. But who is doing it? Community organizing is a ghost of what it was 30 years ago. </p><p>Some months ago, I wrote an article, "<a href="http://www.alternet.org/economy/4-plagues-getting-handle-coming-apocalypse">The 4 Plagues: Getting a Handle on the Coming Apocalypse</a>," about the four especially powerful and pernicious overarching economic and political mechanisms operating in our country that are fundamentally responsible for the situation we are in. They are privatization, financialization, militarization and criminalization, which together are producing a steadily creeping authoritarianism—a new authoritarianism—to fit our times. Let’s call them the Four Plagues, or if we wish, “The Four Horsemen of Our Apocalypse,” from the Book of Revelation in the New Testament.</p><p>Many people wrote that they found this article very helpful to understanding the bigger picture of how some fundamental elements of American-style capitalism and hegemony affects almost everything and are intricately connected; how the exploitation/lobbying/revolving door model of corporations is so finely honed that we often don't realize when our pocket is being picked; how hundreds of billions of dollars is being poured down rat holes in wars, but mainly passed through the pockets of our giant military contractors.</p><p>In response to the article, many people said to me: "You are going to write about the other side, the other half, the good news, aren't you?" It was as if people thought in tandems and balances. Many seemed to think that there is an ongoing equality between the bad and the good. At that point I said sure. I thought, of course I would write about the good stuff, and of course there are plenty of successes. There are great people working on crucial issues, and some cities like Seattle, New York and Portland have politics with a strongly progressive hue. But every time I sat down to try to write the good news piece I realized how comparatively little success there was and how inconsequential. When contemplating the fundamental issues of our times—corporate power, the climate crisis, inequality and poverty, racism, collective trauma, etc.—I realized I could not in good conscience make a strong good-news case.</p><p>So, now I am finally following up on that article—and I'm saying things are even worse. We need to get more radical, and more self-supporting, both financially and emotionally. I am not advocating for despair or for dropping out. But we absolutely need to work more locally. The old adage that "all politics is local" is still very true. It is clear that very little can be accomplished on the national level of law-making. </p><p>With the billions of dollars available in the liberal and progressive funding world, how do we get more of those resources to the local level, in the hands of local organizers and not outside experts? We need money and commitment to people who are invested in where they live, in their neighbors and community, who show, as they have in Detroit, amazing ingenuity, persistence and responsibility. </p><p>Let's not forget, 2010 was a huge political debacle for Democrats and progressives because the Obama people were too focused on themselves, and too busy trying to run a government. They abandoned the nitty-gritty politics in the states to the deep-pocketed right-wing. Our side lost huge ground when the right completely out-organized Democrats and gained control of the formerly blue states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and purple North Carolina. As a consequence, all sorts of bad policy is now law—much of it pushed and coordinated by ALEC.</p><p>And then those legislatures redrew the lines from the census, and made more safe districts for hardcore right-wingers, and protected their incumbents. Unpleasant, huh? The same situation will present itself in 2020. Will there be more powerful liberal and progressive groups in place in all those states and others? If not, the road to progressive oblivion will be further greased. For those who are electorally oriented, the next six years are very important if we are able to make headway electorally, which sadly is not going to happen in 2014, with a few notable exceptions.</p><p>In a recent <a href="http://www.alternet.org/media/why-conservatives-opt-propaganda-over-reality">AlterNet article by Amanda Marcotte</a>, I was struck by this statistic about the extent of steady polarization going on in the country: "<a href="http://www.people-press.org/2014/06/12/appendix-a-the-ideological-consistency-scale/">Previous Pew research</a> shows the percentage of Americans who are ‘mostly’ or ‘consistently’ conservative has grown 50 percent from 18 percent in 2004 to 27 percent in 2014, while the number of people considered liberal has remained the same."</p><p>The conservative propaganda apparatus is changing minds, convincing people that climate change is not a problem, that government is the problem, and motivating them to vote for increasingly extreme candidates in very red districts that are committed to paralyzing our government. For them it is a war; and they are not interested in compromise. </p><p>Most progressives are not prepared for a future where politics is even more dicey and dangerous than it is now. So we have to stop going through the motions of not producing change and get down to the basics where and when we can make a difference. </p><p>Let's do more political action with friends and colleagues. Let's agree that a higher level of popular political education and self-reflection is necessary. Let's build up ways in our neighborhoods, cities and towns, where progress can be made to protect ourselves from hostilities and repression from the hugely militarized police and the massive network of spying on us. More repression is bound to come.</p><p>It is time to take a hard look at why and how we have failed. And we need to rethink pretty much everything, along the way. As Robert Jensen writes in <a href="http://www.alternet.org/books/we-have-embrace-apocalypse-if-were-going-get-serious-about-sticking-around-planet">his mini book and on AlterNet</a>, "We are all apocalyptic now."</p><p>In that light, I have started describing myself as a pragmatic apocalyptic. What that means is, there are huge problems on the horizon, likely severe crises ahead, and there is at present <em>no light at the end of the tunnel</em>. Let's stop fantasizing about all the ways our world should be when there isn't the remotest chance of those ideas coming to fruition anytime soon, if ever. Let's focus on what can be done, on building local and regional strength, on developing thousands of new organizers and fewer think-tankers, and bringing people together in ways they feel supported, as opposed to on their own, with no one at their backs. </p> Sat, 25 Oct 2014 15:30:00 -0700 Don Hazen, AlterNet 1024622 at http://www.alternet.org Activism Activism Civil Liberties Economy Environment Labor Visions progressive politics movement building activism organizing Naomi Klein on the Great Clash Between Capitalism and the Climate http://www.alternet.org/books/naomi-klein-great-clash-between-capitalism-and-climate <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Klein discusses her new book, &quot;This Changes Everything.&quot; </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2014-09-16_at_6.43.29_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p>Naomi Klein's new book, <a href="http://www.amazon.com/This-Changes-Everything-Capitalism-Climate/dp/1451697384"><em>This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate</em></a> is coming out just as the UN is meeting on climate change, and a massive rally to protest the lack of progress on global warming is shaping up in Manhattan on Sunday. Klein is the author of <em>The Shock Doctrine</em>, one of the most influential books of the past 50 years. She sees her new book as the natural successor to <em>The Shock Doctrine</em> as she deepens her critique and insists we need to fundamentally rethink our approach to climate. The inconvenient truth about global warming is that it isn't really about carbon, but rather capitalism. Our economic model is waging war on the earth, and unless capitalism is dramatically changed, we are doomed. Yet Klein is no pessimist. She sees the seeds of a broad cross-sectional mass movement emerging that will lead to a transformation of our failed economic system to something radically better. Sunday's <a href="http://peoplesclimate.org/march/">People's Climate March</a> in New York is a key step toward a future we must create in order to survive and thrive.</p><p>AlterNet editors Don Hazen and Jan Frel spoke with Klein via phone in Canada, where she lives, on Friday, Sept. 12, prior to her traveling to New York and participating in a wide range of protest events, debates and discussions. The interview has been lightly edited for clarity and readability.</p><p><strong>AlterNet:</strong> Let's start with the big climate march on Sunday and your support of and involvement in it. Do you have a reaction to <a href="http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_last_gasp_of_climate_change_liberals_20140831">Chris Hedges' critique</a> of the march which seems to be consistent with your critique of the big enviro groups in your book? Basically he says the demands are amorphous, anybody can join, it doesn't have much meaning.</p><p><strong>Naomi Klein:</strong> Knowing the amount of work, energy and coalition-building and care that has gone into the organizing, the march -- which obviously isn't perfect -- but I think it was grossly mischaracterized as being simply some big green thing. When It's actually been incredibly grassroots.</p><p>Do I think a march is going to do anything? No. The point is this march is different in that it's a manifestation of real rooted movements that are fighting fracking in their backyard, and refineries that are giving their kids asthma, and students who are demanding divestment of fossil fuels at their universities, and faith groups who are doing the same in their churches and synagogues. And what the march will be is a moment where people feel the size of this movement, and it will give people the strength to go home and continue at these moments of convergence too. Every once in a while it's nice to see how big you are. Especially since so many of these movements are local. It can feel small and isolated. There haven't been many moments of convergence like this for the climate movement, so I think it's great.</p><p>And I don't see the point of throwing stones. The decision was made to have an open call so that any group could endorse the march as long as they abided by certain organizing principles. And so the groups that are drawing attention, some of which I've gone after in the book, are not the groups who organized it. They're just groups that endorsed because, for whatever reason, they thought it would be useful for them. Which I think speaks to more of the strength of this movement, and that everyone wants to be a part of it. But I just think to dismiss all of this incredible organizing in this kind of guilt-by-association way, frankly I'm a little offended by that.</p><p><strong>AlterNet</strong>: Hedges seems to have sit-ins and protest at the U.N. as his priority.</p><p><strong>Klein:</strong>Well there's going to be direct action. And I support the direct action, I support the Flood Wall Street action on Monday as well, and the people who are organizing that also support the climate march. So I don't see what the point of sowing these divisions is right now. I'm not saying it's perfect. But there was a big debate about the fact that Zionist groups are also marching. And the response to that is that there's going to be a really strong Free Palestine bloc, which I think is fantastic, and they have all my support ... I'll just leave it there.</p><p><strong>AlterNet:</strong> Here's a different kind of question. You mentioned privatization and deregulation as pillars of neoliberalism, which of course are true, but shouldn't we add militarization? And there's nothing like wars to really screw up the environment. And since 9/11 we've had nothing but war, and now we're heading into a new war with massive pollution. And there's no end in sight: more bombs, more deaths, more messes. How do you reconcile the constant presence of war all over the world with the need to change everything in terms of the climate?</p><p><strong>Klein:  </strong>Well, it's a huge piece of the puzzle and I think a lot of the original peace organizing activities in the region had fossil fuels at their heart, and continue to. So it's intimately linked. It's something I do talk about—the pollution associated with the military, carbon pollution, and also the need to just get that money, huge resources that are spent on the military, and funnel it toward the building of the new economy that we need. Because part of what's standing in our way is that we're told that we're broke all the time. And we're not broke, it's just that the money is in the wrong places. So we need to get more of the resources from polluters, whether they're fossil fuel companies or whether it's the military.</p><p>But I could easily have had a chapter in the book on drawing stronger connections between the anti-war movement and the climate movement. It's a big book and it does a lot, but it doesn't do everything. And my greatest hope, frankly, and this is already happening in conversations about the book, is that it will inspire lots of smart people to go, hey it's about this, and what about this, this is also a climate issue. And my reaction is, yes, exactly, write that. Having the anti-war movement more engaged in climate and vice-versa, is exactly what we need.</p><p>AlterNet: Speaking of how a book can't do everything, your previous book, <em>The Shock Doctrine</em>, had a tremendous impact and influenced many people. The book basically makes the case that capitalism is at its worst when there are crises. And as the climate crisis gets worse, isn't the response of capitalism going to get worse if we believe what you wrote in your previous book? Do you see any contradiction here?</p><p><strong>Klein:  </strong>I don't think it's a contradiction. I think that's exactly why I wrote this book. <em>The Shock Doctrine</em> really ends with the disaster of apartheid in New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina and this is the future that we will have if we stay on this road. We can count on neoliberalism to respond to climate change as an opportunity for land grabbing, for trading weather futures. If we don't radically change course the weather is going to get hotter, things are going to get way more brutal. And I think we, on some level, know that.</p><p>That's why every disaster flick seems to be about a future of post-apocalyptic 1 percent, the 1 percent of the 1 percent at the front of the train or up on a planet of their own. Whatever it is—<em>Hunger Games, Elysium, Snowpiercer—</em>we just keep telling ourselves the same story. What I argue in <em>The Shock Doctrine</em> is that crisis either makes us fall apart or makes us grow up.</p><p>And there are precedents of crises being progressive moments. That's what brought us the New Deal. We responded to crisis in a way that actually got at the roots of why the crisis was happening. So that's when you had the most dramatic regulation of the banking sector. And that's when you had the kind of huge investments in the public sphere that we need in this moment. So we are capable of responding to crisis differently than in the way that I described in <em>The Shock Doctrine</em>. And the fact is that I argue in <em>The Shock Doctrine</em> that the whole technique was developed by right-wing think tanks because they knew that in natural crises, if you don't get in there, they will become progressive moments. The Right is afraid of another New Deal moment. In the states, the right wing is all about undoing the gains of the New Deal and making sure it never happens again. That's why the whole think tank infrastructure exists. And that's why that whole tactic was developed. </p><p>So, yes, there are lots of precedents for crises being moments where inequality is deepened unless things get a whole lot worse. And no one knows that better than me. I don't see there's a contradiction there. I'm trying to prevent that from happening with climate change. For me, it follows quite naturally.</p><p><strong>AlterNet: </strong>So would you say you are more optimistic after writing this book than after writing <em>Shock Doctrine</em>?</p><p><strong>Klein:</strong>What makes me optimistic is that I see a lot of movement. I saw a lot of things changing in the first couple of years I was writing this book. At first I think I was really quite depressed because I was seeing <em>Shock Doctrine</em> tactics repeated all over Europe in the context of the economic crisis, and in the U.S., and even though people were resisting, it wasn't working to prevent even worse things from happening. And the climate science is never fun. But in the last few years of this research, there's just been such an explosion of grassroots activism. And this new militancy within the climate movement, led by indigenous people and by young people. As I say at the end of the book, it's been happening so fast that I couldn't write fast enough to keep up with it. So I feel more hopeful because I feel like we are at the beginning of a real movement moment.</p><p>I think things are changing and it isn't about a brand-new movement. It's about so many of our past movements coming together. I've talked to journalists who say, "well movements don't work, look at Occupy." Occupy didn't disappear. Everybody who was engaged during Occupy is still deeply involved in trying to fight for a better world, and lots of them are now engaged on climate change, and a lot of them are involved in the Flood Wall Street organizing. And many were involved in Occupy Sandy. So movements change and different strings come together, and I think we're in one of those movements of convergence where we're seeing patterns, we're seeing common threads, and people are feeling more courageous, too. So that always makes me feel hopeful.</p><p><strong>AlterNet:</strong> As your book opens, you talk about your "aha" moment, meeting with the young Bolivian ambassador Angélica Navarro Llanos, and how her imagination of how first-world countries, the major polluters, must come to the aid of third-world countries suffering from climate change through mostly no fault of their own. Can you tell us how her vision helped shape your vision?</p><p><strong>Klein: </strong>I was in Geneva at the time writing a story for Harpers about reparations for slavery and colonialism and was covering a UN conference where somebody told me that I should meet with Angélica Navarro Llanos. And I did and she put the case to me that the perennial question of how we address these deep scars left behind by colonialism and slavery that has so distorted the distribution of wealth around the world and within our own countries in the Global North—that climate change could be a tool to heal these wounds.</p><p>Because, of course, the history of colonialism and the history of slavery are intimately tied to the history of fossil fuels. You know, coal built the modern world. And when European countries gained access to the steam engine, that sort of supercharged the unequal exchange between North and South. And while that was happening we were also pouring carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. And the thing about carbon is it sticks around for a couple of hundred years and is steadily warming the planet. So the legacy of that today is the legacy of climate change. So in addressing climate change in a just way that recognizes historical responsibility, which our governments have all agreed to do when they signed the UN Climate Convention, we have an opportunity to address these core inequalities. We have another chance, really. </p><p>And that was Angélica's argument. If we live up to our historical responsibilities and have a just climate response it would mean that the countries that created the crisis would lead the way, would cut our emissions first, but also help developing countries to pull themselves out of poverty without repeating our errors by leapfrogging over fossil fuels and moving straight to clean energy. Which would mean that this could really be a tremendous force for social justice.</p><p>And when she laid out this case, which she called the Marshall Plan for the Earth, I suddenly saw how climate change could be a catalyst for tremendously positive change. And then as I started paying attention to climate negotiations and going to Copenhagen and covering the Copenhagen Summit, it became clear that this issue of whether or not the Global North is going to live up to its responsibilities, whether there's going to be a just response, its the fundamental issue at the heart of the negotiations. And it's why so little progress has been made because Northern countries generally refuse to acknowledge that responsibility. And that's the intractable problem.</p><p><strong>AlterNet:</strong> As you point out clearly in the book, climate deniers know full well the ramifications of dealing with climate change. It's going to mean a huge dent in capitalism, which is probably why they're deniers. How will they be convinced to provide the billions of dollars for the Marshall Plan when they're going to think, at least economically, that they're going to be victims of climate change as well?</p><p><strong>Klein:</strong> Well, I don't think this is about convincing climate deniers. It's about engaging a much larger constituency of people who do believe that climate change is real, or don't actively deny the science, but are looking away because there doesn't seem to be a way out of this crisis that is in any way hopeful, is any way inspiring, is any way doable. So really the book is a call for a revival of the kind of broad-based social movements that have won mass progressive victories in the past. We don't have that anymore. We have slick NGOs, and everybody's in their silos, and everybody tackles their issue and they only talk to each other. And climate change connects the dots between so many issues: labor, women's rights, indigenous rights, reparations, the decay of our cities, the dismantling of the public sphere, racial justice, immigration. And why wouldn't it be? This is our home, this is not an issue. So it is a framework, really, for bringing movements together.</p><p>And that is the only way that we have ever changed our economy. If we think about it, how did social movements win the victories of the New Deal? Or win social security and healthcare? All of the great progressive victories of the past have been won by large broad-based social movements. And climate change hasn't had that kind of movement before. There's been a theory that you had to do it from the top down. It had to be a former vice-president and billionaires and Hollywood celebrities who are going to get together and fix this for us. And I think that's part of the reason why a lot of lefties tuned out, because it seems to be this very elite group. And it was, but it doesn't have to be.</p><p>And I think that that's really changing. We're going to see in New York in the Climate March, the face of a much broader grassroots climate movement that is born out of frontline struggles against fossil fuel extraction. And it's the flip side of the fossil fuel frenzy that has been ripping up our continent of late, and these fossil fuel companies have been so aggressive in laying claim to more and more land and more and more waterways that they've built their own opposition in the form of the anti-fracking movement, and the anti-tar sands and anti-tar sands pipeline movement, anti-coal movement. They've gone into a lot of hostile territory. People are fighting back but they're also connecting with one another. And I think what will be exciting about the Climate March is that a lot of these connections are happening online, and are happening in small pockets, but I think we're going to see the physical manifestations of that on the streets of New York.</p><p><strong>AlterNet:  </strong>Following up on your last answer you must have grappled many times as you wrote this book with the effects that messages of looming apocalypse have on people. Setting up the situation where informing people of the nature of the problem encourages them to do nothing about it, not unlike, say, telling someone that their shoelaces are untied. Did you feel like you arrived at the best way to convey these messages for social change?</p><p><strong>Naomi Klein:</strong> Because the climate movement has been so ineffective, it's very sort of faddish in terms of messaging. So one year it will be okay, scare people, make them really scared. And then the next year, okay don't scare people. And I don't think there's anything wrong with scaring people if it's true. I think we need to be honest that this is a scary moment and we don't have that much time left. What I think is ineffective is thinking that just scaring people is going to turn people into activists. Just scaring people just makes people scared. And when people are scared, they want to curl up in a ball.</p><p>I think it's the combination of telling the truth about how serious the situation is and that we're out of deadlines, that this is the real one, and that there's nowhere to run to. We need to leap, but we need somewhere to leap to that is exciting. Like you go to a UN conference and it's on mitigating climate change. Is that the best we can do, mitigate it? It just sounds terrible. And is there a way that we can survive? Is there a way that we can have better cities, and better communities, and better relationships, and better jobs, and a better relationship to work, and can we address so many other things that aren't working in our societies?</p><p>So I think if we allow ourselves to dream a little bit and take a picture of a place that could leap to, I believe that we may leap. And I say leap because I'm not here to be Pollyannaish about this. I don’t believe we are doomed, nor do I believe that success is guaranteed. I think we've got a shot and we have to do our best. But in terms of being afraid of scaring people and painting pictures of looming apocalypse, when the World Bank is telling you you're headed for 4 degrees warming, and the International Energy Agency is saying no, it's 6 degrees, you've got to listen up, and pay attention to what that actually means. Because those temperatures, first of all, are in Celsius. Somebody made the argument that the big problem of climate change is that it's all in Celsius and Americans think it's vaguely Communist.</p><p>At any rate, I think it's the combination of that real fear and we should be scared. And the deadline, and I really believe in deadlines because I'm a writer, and I know how important deadlines are, and having somewhere to run. I think that's the combination.</p><p><strong>AlterNet:</strong> One followup on this question of "we." There is the mass society but there's pretty clear evidence from history and in our industrial past, that the strongest arrangements are between manufacturers, financiers and governments that preside over them. And say, for example, in the case of Bangladesh, where there were factories that collapsed, and huge media attention, there were only just the slightest tweaks in the arrangements between those parties. So you have, say, a warning from the International Energy Agency, but how do you actually get the folks who are part of "we" but really have a much bigger role in the way society is structured in reforming those agreements when they're hugely profitable and they're the means of staying powerful. Have you entertained the possibility that those are the very parties that are going to need to have a way to stay rich and powerful revealed to them without extracting carbon-based fuels?</p><p><strong>Klein:  </strong>It's not that there's no money to be made and no wealth in a green economy, in a renewable economy, or regenerative economy. That it's not going to generate the kind of wealth that fossil fuels develop. Fossil fuels really do create a hyper-stratified economy. It's the nature of the resources that they are concentrated, and you need a huge amount of infrastructure to get them out and to transport them. And that lends itself to huge profits and they're big enough that you can buy off politicians.</p><p>And the problem with renewable energy is not that you can't make money off of it, but you're never going to make that kind of huge money off of it because it's inherently decentralized. The air and wind are free, first of all, and they're everywhere. So it's a different kind of economy. It's a more decentralized economy. It's a more level economy. So does power concede anything without a fight? No. It doesn't mean that there's no role for the powerful in this, but the idea that they're just going to do it for us is basically the model that the UN is still advancing. If you look at the plans for the official summit in New York, it's all about the politicians and it's the idea that they are going to address this problem out of the goodness of their hearts… Well it's not going to happen that day. So we haven't quite solved it. We haven't solved the problem of entrenched wealth. I'm going to leave that to you guys.</p><p><em>Visit <a href="http://www.naomiklein.org/main">Naomi Klein's official website</a> to learn more about her new book, </em><a href="http://www.amazon.com/This-Changes-Everything-Capitalism-Climate/dp/1451697384">This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate</a>. </p> Tue, 16 Sep 2014 15:29:00 -0700 Don Hazen, Jan Frel, AlterNet 1019602 at http://www.alternet.org Books Books Environment naomi klein Recognize These Faces? http://www.alternet.org/recognize-these-faces <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Keep the great journalism going with your financial support. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/unnamed_6.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--> <p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="133" width="600"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="133" width="600" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/story_images/unnamed_6.jpg" /></div><p>All these writers, experts, and progressive icons (see list below) frequently appear on AlterNet. In addition to 7 staff writers, we assign and harvest content from hundreds of the best independent writers. We publish more than 25 articles a day every day to the tune of more than 200 articles a week. Great articles are there when you need them, right now, any time, along with an archive of tens of thousands of articles. Look below to see a list of more than 100 notable writers who have appeared on AlterNet this year. <strong><a href="https://donate.alternet.org/FY14F1-SPLASH3" target="_blank">Please support our work</a>.</strong></p><p><a href="https://donate.alternet.org/FY14F1-SPLASH3" target="_blank"><div alt="" class="media-image" height="141" style="width: 200px; height: 71px;" width="395"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="141" style="width: 200px; height: 71px;" width="395" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/donate_button.jpg" /></div></a></p><p> </p><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image"><img alt="" class="media-image" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/screen_shot_2014-09-12_at_7.01.05_pm.png" /></div><p></p><div alt="" class="media-image" height="71" width="150"><img alt="" class="media-image" height="71" width="150" typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/don_hazen_signature.gif" /></div><br />Don Hazen<br />Executive Editor, AlterNet<p>Chomsky, Hedges, Hartman, Valenti, Reich, Marcotte, Digby, Kuttner, McKibben, Tarico, Buchheit, Gonzalez, Joyce, Gupta, Sigal,  Clark-Florhy, O'Hehir, Sirota, Boehlert,  DeMoro, Kolhatker, Cummins, Lakoff, Armentano, Nadleman, Goodman, Hightower, Durst, Conason, Pulley, Huffington, Connif, Galeano, Rosen, Halper, Weiss, van den Heuvel, DeVega, Richardson, Zeese, Bandele, Benjamin, Solomon, Cockburn, Kane, Lohan, Prins,  Palast, Christina, Nader, Cox, Greider, Younge, Kim, Leonard, Blumenthal, Eskow, Walsh, Escobar, Alexander, Conason, Kennedy, Jr., Hines, Monbiot, Cantu, Smiley, Goldberg, Walsh, Benjamin, Alperovitz, Ratner, Eisenstein, Goulston, Sherman, Burleigh, Fang, Drier, Tomorrow, McClain, Morris, Turse, Stiglitz, Christina, Baker, Jilani, Crabapple, Van Buren, Langley, Schwartz, Pizzigati, Parry, Nevel, Jagger, Ehrenreich, Papantonio, Erakat, Englerhardt, Flowers, Cooper, Johnson, Jamail, Mooney, Baca, Scheer, Winship, Walljasper.</p> Fri, 12 Sep 2014 09:26:00 -0700 Don Hazen, AlterNet 1019084 at http://www.alternet.org alternet donate Why It's Delusional to Think a Campaign for a Constitutional Amendment Can End Citizens United http://www.alternet.org/activism/why-its-delusional-think-campaign-constitutional-amendment-can-end-citizens-united <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Citizens United has delivered our democracy to billionaires. But there&#039;s a danger in pushing reform that won&#039;t work. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2014-09-10_at_2.32.41_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>The three-plus-year push for a constitutional amendment on money and politics, leading to a bill sponsored by Senator Tom Udall, D-New Mexico, ended with a predictable thud in the Senate Thursday morning when 54 senators, including all Democrats, voted for it, and all 42 Republicans voted against it. Since two-thirds of the Senate is necessary to pass an amendment, and no Republicans indicated any interest, it never had a chance. </p><p>The push for the 28th Amendment was a desperate reaction to the latest series of U.S. Supreme Court decisions that have unleashed an unprecedented flood of secret money into American elections. As Steven Rosenfeld <a href="http://www.alternet.org/election-2014/rich-control-our-politics-more-ever-you-can-thank-right-wingers-supreme-court">reported</a>, super-donors have more power and influence than ever, thanks to many court decisions leading up to Citizens United. In response, a huge campaign by dozens of liberal advocacy groups and a relentless Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) garnered more than 1.5 million online signatures to line up votes for a 28th Amendment in the hope it would pass a first hurdle in a long, virtually impossible path. In other words, given today’s hyper-partisan political landscape, the biggest effort to engage federal lawmakers on the topic of rescuing American democracy was fated to fail. </p><p>On Monday, it was first thought Senate Republicans would prevent debate, which would have killed the amendment on the spot, since five Republican votes were needed to begin debate and break a filibuster. But then some members of the GOP saw utility in allowing the debate to advance to score some points. The <a href="http://politics.nytimes.com/congress/votes/113/senate/2/259">vote</a> to open debate was 79-18 and immediately seized by groups like MoveOn.org and DCCC, and hyped as a harbinger of big progress, but that was far from true. When Laurence O’Donnell shared his delight on his MSNBC show that night, Minnesota Democratic Sen. Al Franken, had to break the spell and tell him sorry, but this is all a <a href="http://www.alternet.org/crap-detector-democratic-congressional-campaign-committee-lies-rug-seduce-contributions">maneuver</a> by those sneaky Republicans to run down the clock to prevent any progress on issues like minimum wage before a recess.  </p><p>So by Thursday, the charade ended. The sporadic debate interrupted by lack of quorum, and by more compelling issues like the militarization of the police and the ISIL foreign crisis crawled to a halt and the amendment fell 13 votes short. The predictable failure of this effort—along with the fact that constitutional amendments on campaign finance have been <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/09/08/campaign-finance-constitutional-amendment_n_5783740.html">debated</a> four times in the Senate dating back to 1987 and all have failed (even though in the past they attracted some Republican votes)—suggests it's time to step back and ask some hard questions.</p><p>Is the amendment route the smartest approach? Is it the only pathway to political reform? Has it helped build a progressive movement? Or was it bumper-sticker politics, and primarily Internet clicktivism, that deluded many reformers and didn’t threaten America’s wealthy political insiders in any serious way?</p><p><strong>The Push For the Amendment</strong></p><p>The U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings on campaign finance, usually referred to in shorthand as overturning Citizens United, really freaked many people out. As predicted, the Supreme Court's (SCOTUS) rulings have led the political culture to run further amok with super-rich donors dominating the process as never before. Even though there has been a long history of SCOTUS voting to treat money as speech, the Roberts Court’s decisions seemed over the top—especially by narrowing the definitions of political corruption. They reinforced the sense that American democracy belongs to the few, leaving many citizens feeling alienated from the political process and concluding there’s not much anyone can do. And that big question remains: what can people do?  </p><p>A national push for a constitutional amendment was what some people thought should happen. On Monday, a bill from Sen. Udall made it to the floor that would restore the authority of Congress, individual states and the American people to regulate campaign finance, the New Mexico Democrat's website explained. And it would clarify in the Constitution that money does not equal speech, effectively reversing Supreme Court decisions dating back to the 1970s that have increased the power and influence of wealthy donors.  </p><p>The past three-plus years have seen a large-scale, multi-organization advocacy campaign to back the constitutional amendment—including different versions. Some want to empower Congress to newly regulate campaigns. Some declare that corporations don’t have the same rights as people under the Constitution. Some want to do both. One leading group called Move to Amend, blending both demands, has gained non-binding resolutions in dozens of state legislatures and scores of local government bodies—city halls, town councils, ballot initiatives.</p><p>As the effort grabbed the attention of Senate Democrats, a gaggle of groups including DCCC, Daily Kos, Move On, Public Citizen and others, collected more than 1.5 million Internet click signatures and raised unknown amounts of money to push for it. But now all that effort has hit a dead end, and it seems so obvious that it would.  </p><p>As Politico <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2014/09/gop-mulls-campaign-finance-debate-110595.html">noted</a>, “The prospects for actually amending the Constitution in Democrats’ preferred manner are nil, given broad GOP opposition.” Democrats needed 67 votes for final passage, as is required for a constitutional amendment. Prior campaign finance reformers like Sen. John McCain, R-AZ, opposed it as written, not to mention there’s zero appetite in the House for any amendment.  </p><p>The problem of money and politics is hardly new. The current legal landscape of feeble federal regulations and newly minted loopholes has been around since the mid-1970s; it is just more unacceptable and extreme today. In recent decades, philanthropists have spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to reform the federal system, yet the situation has gotten worse, year after year. </p><p><strong>Why Even Try a Campaign for a Constitutional Amendment</strong>? </p><p>Since sunshine is a hallmark of campaign finance reformers, it is important to take a close look at how the reformers are going about trying to fix the political money system. Many people electronically signing their names and donating money to this effort do not understand how high the hurdles are for <a href="http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/constitution/">passing</a> a constitutional amendment. Not only does it take a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress, but also three-fourths of the states must pass it for it to become law. This is probably the hardest thing to do in our system. The campaign for the Equal Rights Amendment was first introduced in Congress in 1923. Congress finally sent a version to the states in 1972 and it still hasn’t passed, 42 years later. Try to imagine this divided Congress voting in a two-thirds majority for anything that is seen as partisan. More far-fetched is the notion that three-fourths of the states would adopt it. That would require a lot of red states to agree to rebuke this conservative Supreme Court. </p><p>So, if it is pretty much impossible to achieve a 28th constitutional amendment, why is this campaign continuing? There are at least two reasons. First, there seems to be an assumption among liberal activists that one must pursue the impossible to educate the public about key issues, readying them for some kind of future when things will be different, whenever that might be—perhaps to keep the activists, and the paid staff in the advocacy groups, busy and feeling relevant. </p><p>A second reason in the later phase of the campaign is collecting all those e-mail addresses and names. In this stage of the Internet’s evolution, the liberal and progressive fundraising model has shifted to one of rapid petition pushing, along with seeking donations. Accumulating new e-mail addresses is the coin of the realm in progressive-land as private companies like Care 2 and <a href="http://change.org/">Change.org</a> have upward of 15 million names, and sell access to them. Meanwhile, Democratic Party fundraisers are very aggressive, often sending several or more e-mails a day. Many other groups have adopted the petition model in part to stay competitive. But has this competitive situation produced questionable tactics and misinformation in the efforts to be successful?   </p><p><strong>Are Petition Signers Being Deceived</strong>? </p><p>So yes, one would assume that the more people who know about the issues involving the amendment, and the problems of money and politics, the better. It makes logical sense that the more you try to educate people the more supportive they should be. However, this is all theoretical, and there is a potential powerful downside in the current situation. Many of the groups organizing the campaign have been pushing messages that promise far more than they can deliver. In fact, many communiques have not been clear or truthful, and border on propaganda. Are these campaigns deluding progressives into thinking that by signing a petition an amendment might happen, when it can’t? </p><p>What might the downside be, when people realize how far-fetched the amendment’s passage actually is, as it fades away as a viable idea? How will these 1.5 million supporters feel about the campaign and the future of the issue?</p><p>The language being used to pitch the amendment campaign in e-mail appeals is mostly signed by good people who care about important issues. But the messages in the letters are dubious, to say the least. In July, our good friend Miles Rapoport—the new president of Common Cause—used this language: “With your 2014 Annual Fund contribution, Common Cause will work to restore common sense spending limits in politics by passing a constitutional amendment to reverse Citizens United.”</p><p><a href="http://progressivecongress.org/">ProgressiveCongress.org</a> sent an e-mail, “Have you heard the great news… the full Senate will vote on the Democracy for All constitutional amendment. If it passes, this constitutional amendment will end the Citizens United era.” </p><p>It sounded like the Senate vote would solve the whole problem, which isn’t remotely true. This language is deceptive.  </p><p>Full disclosure: Last week, AlterNet sent a letter to our list of readers on behalf of Public Citizen. The communique from its usually savvy president, Robert Weismann, essentially used the same misleading language: </p><blockquote><p>“Public Citizen has been standing up to runaway corporate power for 43 years and counting. These last four, since the Citizens United ruling was handed down, have been among our most challenging. But we are winning the fight for a constitutional amendment to overturn Supreme Court disasters like Citizens United. And we want YOU to be part of this historic movement.”</p></blockquote><p><a href="http://moveon.org/">Moveon.org</a> was one of the few places I saw appeal-letter rhetoric that at least suggested a constitutional amendment is difficult to pull off. Vermont independent senator Bernie Sanders signed the appeal. But the fact that winning an amendment is extremely hard posed no problem for the loquacious Bernie, who conjured up fantasies comparing the Udall Amendment to women getting the vote in the 1920s and historic civil rights achievements:</p><blockquote><p>“I can’t help but reflect on past constitutional amendment victories that changed our nation—like the ones propelled by people just like us to give women the right to vote or advance civil rights. We have big lessons to learn from each of these breathtaking victories and others like them.” </p></blockquote><p>Sanders continued:</p><blockquote><p>“The journey to a successful amendment passage—two-thirds majorities in both houses of Congress—was long and arduous. Millions and millions of Americans joined together in common cause. Every single person was necessary. And because of the grit and faith of our courageous predecessors, our nation emerged from these struggles a little wiser and a whole lot more just.”</p></blockquote><p>Still, Move On added,</p><blockquote><p>“We’re in a sprint to the finish line. Our work is paying off. Together with our allies, we have secured 50 senators who are on the record as supporting S.J. Res. 19. But there's still much more to do before and after the vote on September 8. And, quite frankly, we need $200,000 to get it all done.”</p></blockquote><p>Needless to say, before asking for $200,000, MOveOn knew full well there was zero chance of this passing. And the problem with Sanders waxing poetically about the past is that his historical analogies don't fit the reality of campaign finance as an issue. Perhaps the most important ingredient to social change is “skin in the game,” a direct reason for people in any struggle to be fighting. This was certainly true for women who protested hard to win the right to vote, as it was for civil rights activists fighting racist segregation. But the analogy is quite a stretch in the money and politics field.</p><p><strong>Where Is the Skin in the Game?</strong></p><p>Campaign finance is not an issue most people feel that they have skin in the game in an intensely personal way. Campaign finance is an abstract, complex, process-heavy issue. The vaunted campaign finance reformer Phil Stern called it a MEGO issue, meaning “my eyes glaze over.” It is quintessential inside-ball. The passionate Stern wrote the then-famous book, The Best Congress Money Can Buy, back in 1988, in one of the earlier phases of campaign finance reform. That book was a major influence on this writer and led to my intense engagement in the issue for some years. I finally concluded, as the problems got worse, that reforming the money system that everyone in power benefitted from, would be pretty much impossible, and other approaches were necessary. </p><p>So yes, it is true that many voters think there is far too much money overwhelming the political system. Yet it doesn't find its way on to their issue priority list. Many people reasonably think that everyone they can vote for, for federal office, takes lots of money. They see Democrats like President Obama, and many senators, rejecting spending limits and outspending their Republican opponents. Why would they vote to dismantle the system they mastered to get elected? Let’s not forget it was Obama who rejected presidential public funds in 2008—the first presidential nominee to do so.  </p><p>So what is the entirely unrealistic amendment strategy accomplishing besides getting more names? It can be argued that it is intentionally deluding many liberals into thinking that by signing a petition an amendment might happen, when it can’t. The political right is not threatened by this campaign, and probably thinks it’s great: let all those progressives put all this energy and money into a quixotic pursuit.  </p><p>Yet in an op-ed on September 7 on Politico, Sanders and Udall said, “We must develop an unprecedented grassroots movement in all 50 states to make it clear to Congress and the Supreme Court that buying of elections is not what American democracy is all about.”</p><p>But we just had three years of grassroots activity on this issue, and the results are clear.   </p><p><strong>What About Larry Lessig?</strong></p><p>Another problem for the amendment reform strategy is that the most visible and best funded of the campaign finance reformers, Larry Lessig, has abandoned the reform pathway and gone all in on a huge fundraising effort, essentially to win on the turf granted by the Supreme Court’s rulings—which is where the Koch brothers are.  </p><p>Lessig’s “super PAC to end all super PACs,” is raising lots of dough—$12 million so far this year from more than 50,000 donors, including a handful of very wealthy ones—ironically to try to get money out of politics by spending large amounts of money. Over the last couple of years, Lessig had hoped to push state legislatures to pass resolutions calling for a federal constitutional convention, as a way to provoke Congress into passing strong democracy reforms. That’s more or less how the direct election by voters of U.S. senators came to pass a century ago, he said. But that wasn’t going anywhere, he realized, just as he knows that the constitutional amendment strategy is a political pipedream.</p><p>Some of Lessig’s progressive money is going directly into the campaign coffers of marginal conservatives and libertarians running in elections this fall. That move, the ramifications of focusing obsessively on single-issue campaigns in the face of such daunting social problems, has certainly raised some eyebrows. And Lessig, while clearly operating outside of the box in a provocative way, may be destroying the village to save the village—to use a Vietnam War era analogy. If progessive reformers end up using the lite version of the same democracy-destroying toolkit employed by the Koch brothers and their network of rich libertarian businessmen, does that establish moral clarity and higher ground for a distracted public to see?      </p><p><strong>It’s Really About Who Sits on the Supreme Court</strong></p><p>The political reality is that the only thing in the foreseeable future that could have a large-scale impact on the influence of private money on national politics is a change in the makeup of the Supreme Court—a new justice, who would give “liberals” a voting majority. This is reality politics.  </p><p>But changing the Supreme Court’s members is a complicated and dicey proposition. In the near term, it depends on which justice leaves first in the next two years, if any. The oldest justice is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is 81 and has had serious health problems, but insists she is not retiring. On the conservative side, Antonin Scalia and Anthony Kennedy are both 78, while Stephen Breyer, on the liberal side, is 76. Should a justice depart, then who can be nominated and confirmed depends in part on which party controls the U.S. Senate. At this point, various polls and prognostications suggest the Republicans could gain control in November, or it will be very close.</p><p>But more important is the fact that the elimination of the 60-vote super-majority to end filibusters, orchestrated by Majority Leader Harry Reid, mainly applies to presidential appointments, but not Supreme Court nominations. This means that anyone nominated by Obama—if there is a vacancy in the last two years of his term—needs to attract at least 60 votes, which will mean anywhere from seven to 10 or more Republicans will need to support the nominee. And where that nominee might stand on the question of regulating political donations and electoral speech is impossible to know. Then, if there are no changes on the Court during the next two years, the person elected president in 2016 will face this same question—including confirmation by the Senate.</p><p>But back to the amendment movement and Thursday’s Senate action. In the end, in terms of the goals of real change, do these progressive reform groups backing the amendment have more savvy supporters? More informed voters? Or are more people going to be alienated because they trusted these reformers, became engaged, and not surprisingly expected results? How much of this is arrogance by the organizers? How much of a wink and a nod is acceptable here? </p><p>Many organizers feel it is no big deal that they are pushing the impossible, or that they are encouraging magical thinking by suggesting a bolt of political lightning could completely revive American democracy. Many of the same people pushing for a constitutional amendment on campaign finances also want to pass an amendment to declare that corporations are not people. It’s a great bumper-sticker line, but you can't erase more than a century of law the way you can wipe a blackboard clean. </p><p><strong>What Is There To Do?</strong></p><p>It's a fair question to ask. There is no escaping that reforming the political money system, because so many powerful people benefit from it, will continue to be extremely difficult. But it is important to resist imagining solutions that do not address the current problem. Here are six points along the lines of alternative approaches. </p><p>1. Stop deluding people into thinking that a constitutional amendment is even remotely possible in any currently imaginable series of events over the next decade and more. The hard news is that the system has essentially locked people out. We are not really practicing democracy in the U.S. The sooner millions of people grasp how dire it is, in a meaningful day-to-day experience, the sooner more people will be radicalized to how corrupt the existing system is. There will be no pendulum swinging back any time soon. Organizers need to get beyond "reform" and make a more systemic analysis that includes climate, militarism, inequality, corporate corruption, etc. Pretending that clicks on a web petition will have any impact on this issue is simply deceptive. And suggesting that campaign finance has to be changed, before other important things can be changed, is arrogant.</p><p>2. Get significant commitments, not superficial clicks. What commitment did the people who signed the petitions make? Probably none, although some gave money. The time has come to ask supporters what they would be willing to do for this issue. One example: Give money within 24 hours to an organizing campaign that could make a difference (e.g. it is very important to protect much better campaign finance laws at the local level). For those who are partisan, give money to support a candidate who is being particularly brave on this issue. Another example: Show up with other committed supporters to a demonstration, in rapid fashion. These kind of steps should be done using the "penguin principle"—people making pledges together so that there would be no demonstration until 5,000 people all agree to do it. (The metaphor is that all the penguins are lined up on the edge of the ice flow, and none jump off until all of them jump together.) </p><p>3. Along the lines of #2, there will likely have to be some mass demonstrations to show that people really care about this issue, or else it will always be secondary. In two weeks, hundreds of thousands will march in New York City to try to reverse the effects of the climate crisis. Climate change is also an uphill battle, but there seems to be some skin in the game for people who worry about their children and grandchildren. Hundreds of people have been arrested on this issue. What about getting arrested for fighting dark money? </p><p>4. Focus on targets that are actually achievable. Specifically, President Obama has in his power to make an executive order to require all corporations receiving federal money to make their campaign contributions transparent. Currently the law, based on SCOTUS rulings, allows anonymous campaign donations to super PACs. The Chamber of Commerce obviously does not like this idea of transparency, which may be why Obama has been timid. The Security and Exchange Commission has also been sitting on issuing similar disclosure requirements. These are not panaceas, but they enable advocates to put pressure on public corporations, who value their brands. </p><p>5. Start thinking about organizing strategies that make use of grassroots organizers. For one, pressure Lessig to instead of giving millions of dollars to bad and hopeless candidates, pay for real canvassing efforts by young people, in swing states with a real history of engaged politics—i.e. Iowa and New Hampshire. </p><p>6. Fundamentally understand that this issue on the national level will only be changed by a positive shift in the makeup of the Supreme Court. Which means who gets elected to the Senate in 2014 and 2016 is hugely crucial. And yes, this is partisan politics, but many of the groups weighing in on this issue are for-profit business with PACs that can and do engage in elections. There is no escaping that the fewer Democrats there are in the Senate, the less chance there is to get a new Supreme Court justice who will vote with the existing minority on this issue. </p> Mon, 08 Sep 2014 18:27:00 -0700 Don Hazen, AlterNet 1018563 at http://www.alternet.org Activism Activism Civil Liberties Corporate Accountability and WorkPlace Election 2016 Occupy Wall Street constitutional amendment money in politics democracy reform supreme court Op-Ed: Shameless Fund-Raising: We Need Your Support! http://www.alternet.org/media/editorial-shameless-fund-raising-we-need-your-support-give-us-read <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">You can depend on AlterNet to be tough, inspiring, creative, honest, relevant and fair.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/unnamed_5.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>The AlterNet team has launched our critical fall campaign to raise $50,000. As a non-profit media source, we depend on our readers' support for our financial health. In exchange we are committed to delivering high-quality, provocative journalism and opinion writing from the best writers available.  </p><div>We have avoided bugging you. We haven't asked for help in almost six months. But now is the time. <a href="http://act.alternet.org/go/51034?t=2&amp;akid=12174.214619.Q-FLcF" target="_blank">Please support us at the level you are comfortable with</a>.</div><div> </div><div>You can depend on AlterNet to be tough, inspiring, creative, honest, relevant and fair. We will provide you with powerful investigations, strong and savvy opinions, and the facts you need in order to make a difference. </div><div> </div><div>Your contribution to us is an investment in our long-term survival as a democracy. We mince no words. The future is dark, the path to change is far from clear. Our hope comes from your dedication and ours, to keep pushing to make this a better world. We are in for the long haul. We hope you are, too. </div><div> </div><div>Our depth, range, diversity of content, passion for the issues, and size of audience means AlterNet sticks out from the crowd. Five million different people visited AlterNet in August. Please invest in one of America's premier progressive news sources.</div><div> </div><div>Here is some of what we offer...for free: </div><div><ul><li>We produce more than 100 original articles a week by our in-house pros and some of the foremost independent journalists in the world.</li><li>We harvest more than 100 articles a week from more than 140 of the best sources of independent content. Who has time to visit all those sites? We do.</li><li>We have a smorgasbord of content from aggressive investigations to moving personal stories to fact-filled indictments of the system.</li><li>We have the toughest analysis of right-wing craziness, corporate abuse and really bad policies.</li><li>Because there is a long battle ahead, we understand that the personal is political. Satisfaction and success might be at the local level with organic food; at the personal level with relationships; at the family level with education and religion or atheism. We cover health, drugs, sex, culture and everything that makes us interesting human beings.</li></ul><p><a href="http://act.alternet.org/go/51034?t=5&amp;akid=12174.214619.Q-FLcF" target="_blank">Please help us reach our $50,000 fall fundraising goal</a>. </p></div><p> </p> Tue, 02 Sep 2014 15:18:00 -0700 Don Hazen, AlterNet 1017753 at http://www.alternet.org Media Media alternet An Illuminating Sat. Night with Key Witness to Ferguson Shooting (Autopsy Update) http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/illuminating-sat-night-key-witness-ferguson-shooting-autopsy-update <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Coroner concludes Brown was shot 6 times by cop, twice in the head. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/ferguson_0.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Ferguson, Missouri has been on my mind all week, as it has for most people in the media. On Saturday night, I had just finished reading more articles about the killing and ensuing uproar, assigned followup content for AlterNet to publish, and went out to Barzini's in Manhattan, the local alternative to Whole Foods, to pick up some groceries and a pint of Ben and Jerry's Cherry Garcia.</p><p>While I was paying, a young, well-dressed women stuck her head into the store and asked if she could buy something there that would only be sold in a different kind of store. We all smiled, as this immediately flagged her as an out-of-towner. We sent her to Duane Reade, two blocks south. As we walked out together, I asked where she was from. </p><p>"St. Louis," she said. "This is the first time I've been in New York."</p><p>She said she just had dinner at Carmine's, across the street, and had two friends who were still inside finishing up. As we walked back from the drugstore to Carmine's, I asked why she was in New York. She said, "Have you ever heard of Ferguson, Missouri?"  </p><p>I said, "Well, yes, as a matter of fact—I know an awful lot about Ferguson. Why do you ask?"</p><p>"I am one of the eyewitnesses to the killing of Michael Brown," she said. She was in New York to appear on CNN in the morning and probably Anderson Cooper as well.</p><p>What were the chances of the stars aligning like this? </p><p>Well, of course, I had a million questions for Piaget Crenshaw, which was her name. While friendly and open, she was a little cautious, since she was on CNN's dime. Only 19, she'd come to New York to tell the world her bird's-eye view to help solve the question that is vexing the entire country: How did Darren Wilson come to gun down Michael Brown in the middle of a quiet street in Ferguson? </p><p>From my vantage point, up until now, the media had almost exclusively spoke to Dorian Johnson, Michael Brown's friend. But now, with the police chief Thomas Jackson passing out screenshots of Michael Brown apparently grabbing some cigars from a convenience store, accompanied by Dorian Johnson, Johnson as the key witness might not be treated the same way. The appearance of other eyewitnesses is a crucial development over the past couple of days. Piaget Crenshaw's companion eyewitness is Tiffany Mitchell, Crenshaw's work supervisor, who was picking her up when the incident occurred. Both have views from different vantage points, and have appeared together on television interviews.</p><p>I started by asking Crenshaw the big question. Did her view of Brown's shooting differ in any way with what Dorian Johnson has said?</p><p>"Absolutely not," she responded. "I saw the cop shoot Brown several times in the face, even after he had turned around and had his hands raised. I can tell you the essentials, since I've been interviewed on local TV, by newspapers, and most of this information is already on the Internet, and I posted my video from immediately after the shooting to my Facebook page."</p><p>Crenshaw <a href="http://www.latimes.com/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-missouri-police-shooting-20140810-story.html#page=1">told</a> the LA Times, "I witnessed the police chase after the guy, full force. He ran for his life. They shot him and he fell. He put his arms up to let them know that he was compliant and he was unarmed, and they shot him twice more and he fell to the ground and died. (Read her most in-depth interview <a href="https://www.facebook.com/AuthorZane/posts/10152247705132267">here</a>.)</p><p><strong>The Big Question</strong></p><p>There seems little doubt given videos of the shooting site, those taken by Crenshaw immediately after Brown went down, and the location of the police car vis a vis the body, that Brown was finally shot down in the street some 20 or 30 feet away from the car. Now the crucial question becomes what happened at the first stage with the cop car and Brown to cause the second stage. It is hard to imagine what could have happened in the initial moment of the confrontation that would require Darren Wilson to pursue and shoot Mike Brown several times, including in the head, while Brown was standing in the middle of the street.</p><p><span style="font-size: 12px;">Both Piaget Crenshaw and Tiffany Mitchell said they saw a kind of scuffle—or "tussle" as Crenshaw called it—when the cop grabbed Brown from inside the police car. Then apparently a shot—or two—was fired, since Crenshaw reported a wild shot hit a nearby house (and shortly after cops came to take the bullet away). Brown broke away from the struggle at the police car window, perhaps wounded, and started running, may have been hit by another shot, then turned around and raised his hands, according to all witnesses, and was shot several more times before going down. </span><span style="font-size: 12px;">[</span><strong style="font-size: 12px;"><em>Update:</em></strong><span style="font-size: 12px;"></span><em style="font-size: 12px;">Dr. Michael  Baden, former chief medical examiner in NYC reported Monday, according to the <a href="http://mobile.nytimes.com/2014/08/18/us/michael-brown-autopsy-shows-he-was-shot-at-least-6-times.html?smid=tw-bna&amp;_r=0&amp;referrer=">New York Times</a>, that the unarmed Brown was shot at least six times, including twice in the head, and four times on the right side of his body. "One of the bullets entered the top of Brown's skull," likely the last bullet to hit him. Protests became violent again on Sunday night in Ferguson, moving Gov. Jay Nixon to call in the National Guard to help quell the disturbances.]</em></p><p>A local television <a href="http://fox17online.com/2014/08/14/more-violence-and-new-eyewitness-reports-follow-deadly-shooting-of-teen/?utm_source=feedburner&amp;utm_medium=feed&amp;utm_campaign=Feed%3A+wxmi-news+(WXMI+-+News)">station</a>, in an interview with Crenshaw and Mitchell, kept returning to the statement made by the police chief that Brown was in the car when the struggle took place. But none of the witnesses saw Brown in the car, and given the quick dynamics of the moment, Brown being 6 '4" and close to 300 pounds, it seems unlikely that the police officer would have gotten Brown into the car.</p><p>Nevertheless, Chief Thomas Jackson has consistently <a href="http://fox17online.com/2014/08/14/more-violence-and-new-eyewitness-reports-follow-deadly-shooting-of-teen/?utm_source=feedburner&amp;utm_medium=feed&amp;utm_campaign=Feed%3A+wxmi-news+(WXMI+-+News)">claimed</a> that Brown was in the car and grabbed for Darren Wilson's gun and a shot was fired. "Brown died in a dangerous struggle after trying to grab the officer’s weapon." But witnesses—including Crenshaw, Mitchell and Johnson—say it seemed a brazen act of aggression by the officer and that Brown was unarmed and not threatening. </p><p>Tensions still rile the community of Ferguson. Much of the tension has to do with the handling of the case by local police, who took more than five days to reveal the identity of the officer who shot Brown, and with the community's anger over the many conflicting stories. The release of photographs of the cigar theft at a convenience store only stoked the anger of the protestors. While Chief Jackson has said any number of contradictory things, parsing it all, it seems that Officer Darren Wilson had told Mike Brown and Dorian Johnson to get off the street, and was not aware of the potential cigar theft when the confrontation took place. Something happened that made Wilson shoot Brown at the door of the police car, and then run after him and shoot him several more times.</p><p>What's clear is that we do not yet know all the facts about what happened that night in Ferguson, Missouri. </p> Sun, 17 Aug 2014 19:32:00 -0700 Don Hazen, AlterNet 1015884 at http://www.alternet.org Civil Liberties Civil Liberties ferguson Liberation as Impulse Control: Sigmund Freud, Radical Anti-Capitalist? http://www.alternet.org/visions/liberation-impulse-control-sigmund-freud-radical-anti-capitalist <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Despite its general rejection, psychoanalysis can be a process that can liberate patients from the compulsive need for gratification.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/sigmund_freud.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><div>Many of us struggle for personal identity in a capitalistic culture that pushes immediate gratification for every need. Why postpone anything when you can get it now? Yet while quick fixes are often fundamentally dissatisfying, we hurry toward the next hit without a thought about what it may mean to stay with the frustration.</div><div> </div><div>It turns out that a deeper understanding of Sigmund Freud sheds some light on why dissatisfaction and malaise can dominate our lives. One of the smartest writers today on psychological issues is Adam Phillips, a Brit, a big thinker, and an author of a number of provocative and thoughtful books: <em>On Tickling, Kissing and Being Bored,</em>and<em>Missing Out: In Praise of the Unlived Life</em>among them.</div><div> </div><div>Phillips has written a new biography about the young Freud, with a novel take as to why psychoanalysis was headed to the dustbin of history, but is worth saving. He argues that essentially psychoanalysis is a powerful process that can liberate patients from the compulsive need for gratification and the enormous pressures of material advertising messages — and help us hang more in the ambiguity of life, where there is potentially more wisdom and satisfaction.</div><div> </div><div>One of Phillips' points is that failure to understand and grapple with the unconscious is missing in our psychological growth. The avoidance or contempt of the unconscious has also led to the demise of psychoanalysis. Phillps explains that the rejection of Freud and psychoanalysis has: </div><div><blockquote type="cite">Everything to do with statistics, consumer satisfaction, the belief in science and neuroscience in particular. These are all old-style materialist causal accounts of who people really are as though, if one day, somebody can actually explain how a brain works, we'll know everything. But knowing how a brain works is not going to help somebody, e.g. whose child has just died. ...</blockquote><blockquote type="cite">There's no way psychoanalysis is going to work in a culture that's committed to religion, science and consumer confidence because it doesn't meet any of those criteria. That's the great thing about it. It's intrinsically counter-cultural. It actually is against the grain of all the things we're being sold… so that actually, I think, it was inevitable that psychoanalysis died a death.</blockquote><strong>Uphill Battle </strong><br /><div> </div></div><div>Of course, giving Freud another deeper look is an uphill battle in American culture. Many, particularly second-wave feminists, found Freud's theories to be sexist and have dismissed the good doctor as hopelessly out of touch, and in some cases destructive when it comes to sex roles and sexuality. And critics have salient points to make about Freud and women. Freud was, among many things, a product of his time. Many younger people haven't spent much time thinking about Freud at all. As a result, psychoanalysis has mostly stayed on the edges of psychological thinking, and as a therapy mode is mostly reserved for the wealthy or the intrigued, though many psychotherapists practice with Freud in mind, or not too far away. </div><div> </div><div>Phillips argues for a very different interpretation of Freud's sense of sexuality than the conventional wisdom. In a <a href="http://www.ttbook.org/book/adam-phillips-freud">podcast interview</a> with Steve Paulson (which I urge you to listen to, because listening to Adam Phillips articulate these points is quite a pleasure), Phillps explains: </div><div><blockquote><p>I think the point is that Freud redescribed sex to include many more things than it previously included. ... We are bodily creatures who begin our lives by falling in love with a beautiful body, which is our mother's ... so that we're naturally, in that sense, hedonistic. We survive through our pleasurable experience of other bodies. I don't think Freud puts sex exactly in the center of the picture. He puts the erotic, and that means an erotic apprehension of reality. What he means by that is, what makes staying alive alluring? The erotic is different because I think it's not a basic physical function to do with reproduction. It's much more about a way of seeing the world, and seeing the world in terms of what gives pleasure and what gives fear and suffering? And when Freud's talking about the unconscious, he's very often talking, I think, about what passes between people without them realizing.</p></blockquote><div>It can follow that this erotic being, seeking pleasure, can be seduced by external consumer and quackery like messages along with  accompanying intolerance for frustration, when we can't get our needs quickly met. </div></div><div><p>Phillips' book, <em>Missing Out</em>, is about frustration:</p><blockquote><p>Freud says, "When we are frustrated, we fantasize what we want," but of course, you notice if you fantasize a meal, it doesn't nourish you at a certain point, you have to engage with reality. You have to get the meal you want. We're actually very frightened of being frustrated, so whenever we're frustrated, we're prone, we're tempted to fill the gap very quickly. The moment I feel a bit of unease, I buy something. I have a bath. I eat chocolate. I do whatever I do.</p><p>What Freud is saying is, "We need to be able to bear with our frustration to be able to discover what it is we actually do want. Freud says a very interesting thing in a letter to Fliess. He says, "The reason that no adult is actually satisfied with money is because no child ever was. Children don't want money." I think that's a very profound point because children want affection, emotional contact, reliability, adventure, etc.</p></blockquote><div>In the end, Phillips makes the case that Freud made a fundamental critique of capitalism and all of its discontents — the deep levels of unhappiness, dissatisfaction and lack of meaning. Of course, notions that mix capitalism and Freud are not news — the Frankfurt School of theorists devoted attention to Marxist interpretations of Freud in the 1960s and '70s. Nevertheless, the notion that capitalism creates the illusion it will give satisfaction yet doesn't satisfy, is unavoidable.</div><div> </div><div>The search for instant satisfaction taken to its extreme but logical technological conclusion is a major message of Dave Eggers' brilliant novel, <em>The Circle</em>. Eggers tackles the instant gratification of our tech lives—the constant presence on Facebook, the immediate response to email, Twitter and chat. The tyrannies of transparency, and the persistent drive to display ourselves in many ways (selfies being the current method) can all lead to a new form of authoritarianism. In this sense, Eggers is today's Orwell.</div><div> </div><div>Getting back to psychoanalysis, Phillips is arguing that the practice of therapy — or at least reading about it — can help us cope with the dissatisfaction and get us on the road to  finding more non-material, non-marketing solutions for our needs.</div><p>Though Freud doesn't say this, Phillips adds: </p><blockquote><p>The implication of his work is that capitalism is really for children. In other words, it exploits the fact that children, of course, like adults, don't know what they want. Then they grow up into this world of capitalist exploitation, in which they discover there are millions of things to want. In fact, we're living in a supermarket. It's great, but actually it's terrible, because it depends upon non-satisfaction. It's not that there is satisfaction, but there are degrees of satisfaction, and Freud is saying, "Again, psychoanalysis might be one of the places where we might do this.…If one can learn to bear one's frustration, one will not be willing to be fobbed off by substitute gratifications," and consumer capitalism is a supermarket of substitute gratifications.</p></blockquote></div><p> </p> Sat, 02 Aug 2014 09:14:00 -0700 Don Hazen, AlterNet 1013927 at http://www.alternet.org Visions Economy Visions Sigmund Freud capitalism Progressive Progress in New York City? One Expert Gives His Grade http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/progressive-progress-new-york-city-one-expert-gives-his-grade <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">City Limits editor Jarrett Murphy reflects on Bill de Blasio&#039;s first controversy-plagued months in office. </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/9918419304_53eb68e8c2_z.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p><em>Bill de Blasio swept into City Hall in January with 73 percent of the vote and an unapologetic progressive agenda. His first seven months in office have been very busy and, needlessly to say, highly publicized, especially in tabloid papers like the New York Post that like to use liberals for target practice. Working with a progressive City Council, de Blasio extended sick leave for workers in the city and settled union contracts for teachers and more than a dozen other unions—contracts that were left unresolved for five years under de Blasio’s predecessor, billionaire Michael Bloomberg. These agreements earned praise from many liberal observers, and some anxiety from the fiscally conservative. De Blasio also got into a <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/education/2014/03/bill_de_blasio_vs_charter_schools_a_feud_in_new_york_city_has_broad_national.html">bruising battle</a> over charter schools, where his colleague—or, some say, frenemy—in Albany, Governor Andrew Cuomo, gave the new mayor a lesson on who holds most of the power cards in New York state. However, de Blasio then orchestrated the Working Families Party’s <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/01/nyregion/cuomo-secures-support-of-working-families-party.html?_r=0">endorsement</a> of Cuomo's reelection for governor in exchange for some concessions that might make it a little bit easier for de Blasio to get what he needs from Albany. To find out what this all means, AlterNet sat down with Jarrett Murphy, editor of City Limits, the feisty online magazine that pays close attention to almost every move in City Hall and on the NYC political scene.  </em></p><p><strong>AlterNet: What grade would you give de Blasio at this point in his mayoralty? How well is he doing?</strong></p><p>Jarrett Murphy: I’m a tough grader. I teach, and my students dislike the curve. But I’d give him a B+. I think getting universal pre-K done was big; I think expanding sick leave was big; I think <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/visionzero/pages/home/home.html">Vision Zero</a> is a really good, smart, no-nonsense way to focus public safety now that we’re not talking exclusively about reducing crime. Moving to settle the lawsuits around stop-and-frisk and around the racial discrimination <a href="http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/18/us-usa-new-york-fire-lawsuit-idUSBREA2H1QZ20140318">issues with hiring</a> in the fire department was huge. </p><p>He’s accomplished quite a bit. Some of it was low-hanging fruit. A lot of it was done with the cooperation of a city council that is headed by a strong ally that he helped to install. And so much of what he’s done is so embodied in the progressive wish list that the fact that it has come and gone almost makes you not appreciate it over time.</p><p><strong>AN: What do you think about the economic fears raised by the city finally settling its contracts with the labor unions? People were predicting that the deficit was going to ruin New York somewhere down the line.</strong></p><p>JM: The numbers were within reason. He did what every mayor does, used some gimmickry to make it work. They spread the retro payments out; some will come after his current term ends, like in fiscal ’19 or fiscal ’20. There are some people who are upset about that, but basically everyone expected the sky to fall and it hasn’t. These bills were coming due. Mike Bloomberg had deferred payment on them and the idea that we were going to escape without having to pay a big check was kind of fantasy.</p><p><strong>AN: What about his position on the charter school fight and how he handled Eva Moskowitz and the other pro-charter operatives?</strong></p><p>JM: That was obviously the low point of the first six months. He tried to make his decision on the charter co-location denials look like it was just a procedural judgment. To his credit, I think, he tried to remove the politics from it, not realizing that you couldn’t remove the politics from it. No one is going to pay attention to the fact that you approved the majority of Eva Moskowitz’s applications and denied a select few. His opponents were waiting. They knew he was going to come after charter schools and they were ready. The fact that he came after them with a fairly light jab instead of a haymaker didn’t make any difference. They had their hand on the button; it didn’t matter whether he threw a rock or threw a missile.</p><p>And he lost badly. <span style="font-size: 12px;">The charters ended up getting a better position in the budget than they’d had beforehand—basically a right to public space and a right to appeal when the space they’re offered isn’t to their liking.</span></p><p><strong>AN: Is that where you think his grade falls from an A to a B+?</strong></p><p>JM: What happened was not entirely his fault; I think he made a practical decision. Once the first couple blows hit he did a good job of fighting back, at least in the line of scrimmage. On that <a href="http://www.msnbc.com/morning-joe/watch/de-blasio-never-been-against-charter-schools-189911107908">appearance on the MSNBC</a> show he got buffeted and stayed pretty strong. He can hold his own in a room, but his timing was bad. It came during the whole push for universal pre-K and it undermined this whole sense of momentum that was behind his agenda.</p><p>His record with packaging and handling the press has not been strong, even though he’s a skilled politician. I just think there is no preparation for the fact that you go from being the public advocate, where you’re scrounging for press, to placing fourth or fifth early in the mayor’s race and dying for any headline, to suddenly pulling ahead and becoming the mayor, and whether you want it or not the media are there every day and they’re smart and they’re aggressive. We saw this with the backlash about him <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/city-hall/2014/01/8539257/de-blasio-praises-israel-closed-door-aipac-event">going to the AIPAC meeting</a> without having it on his schedule, even with his <a href="http://nypost.com/2014/07/16/giuliani-de-blasio-should-postpone-vacation-in-event-of-lirr-strike/">vacation in Italy</a>. His administration has also been slow at addressing some freedom of information inquiries in the first few months.</p><p>Nevertheless, overall you have to give him a lot of credit; he accomplished so much in the first 100 days despite the chaos and has done even more since.</p><p><strong>AN: What about his decision to name Bill Bratton as police commissioner? Good choice? Bad choice? Too early to tell?</strong></p><p>JM: I think it was a good choice. He knew that the thing that people were going to come after him for was being soft on crime. He knew that what’s happening now was going to happen which is that crime is going to go up and down, and he needed the most credible possible voice on public safety that he could have. I think in Bratton he found someone who, partially through his animosity toward [former commissioner Ray] Kelly, had positioned himself as a reformer. His record in Los Angeles may not speak to that, but he at least came in with the packaging that he could undo some of Kelly’s policies. They have dialed back <a href="http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/bratton-reform-operation-impact-improve-training-article-1.1598341">Operation Impact</a> and stop-and-frisk is even further down than it was last year when it had already fallen significantly.</p><p><strong>AN: What about arrests for some of the broken glass kinds of crimes like toll-hopping, performing on the subways or pot arrests? All of those seem to be way up.</strong></p><p>JM: The mayor imported someone who wasn’t going to depart super radically from a lot of Kelly’s ideas.</p><p><strong>AN: Which were originally his, right? Under Rudy Giuliani?</strong></p><p>JM: Right. I think you’re going to get some of that frustration, but I think on balance Bratton was a good choice…I was talking to someone in the business community and asking him, given de Blasio’s campaign rhetoric, if he thought he was ever going to get cooperation from the new administration. And he said business people honestly don’t care that much about the social policy stuff. They work it into their bottom line. What they care about is if the city is reasonably well run and if they are going to be able to walk down the street at night and not get knifed. <span style="font-size: 12px;">So he brought in </span><a href="http://www1.nyc.gov/office-of-the-mayor/anthony-shorris.page" style="font-size: 12px;">Anthony Shoriss</a><span style="font-size: 12px;">as deputy mayor who, again, is a very establishment voice—not a lefty or progressive icon by any stretch of the imagination but someone who is a seasoned manager. And Bratton, who has great credentials, runs the public safety side. So that’s how he established his credibility.</span></p><p><strong>AN: What about Bloomberg’s shadow? Is he still playing much of a role?</strong></p><p>I think that there haven’t been too many comparisons yet because it’s still so early and Bloomberg himself is focusing on his national <a href="http://everytown.org/mayors/">Mayors Against Illegal Guns</a> effort. What will be interesting will be when the philanthropic foundations figure out what they’re going to do, since that became a big part of social policy innovation under Bloomberg. Not relying on city-funded initiatives but ones funded by the Robin Hood and Rockefeller foundations and now by Bloomberg. So where will that money go? Will it go to bolster de Blasio initiatives like universal pre-K? Will it go toward maintaining a social policy in exile for Bloomberg? </p><p><strong>AN: What about transportation, bikes, public spaces? De Blasio was kind of irksome about the construction of new bike lanes early on and fuzzy on it during the campaign. What has he done since?</strong></p><p>JM: I think some of the negative reaction to bike lanes, which was fairly widespread and in many cases totally irrational, was the idea that these elitists were coming in and making it so that you couldn’t park or deliver goods to your small business. I mean, the city isn’t going to stop building bike lanes. I don’t know how aggressive de Blasio is going to be around it, but we'll have to wait and see.</p><p><strong>AN: Do you think de Blasio has managed to divert some attention away from Manhattan toward the other boroughs? A lot of Bloomberg’s policies, particularly those about constructing new public spaces and bike lanes, were perceived as being Manhattan-centric, even if that wasn't quite accurate. </strong></p><p>JM: I think so. Just this week he made a big announcement about downtown Brooklyn, and his housing policy was announced in Brooklyn. He saluted the idea of having the Democratic National Convention center be held in Brooklyn. I think there has definitely been a shifting of the center of gravity across the river. But of course the thing is there have always been three other boroughs too, and whether they are going to feel any discernable difference is a major question.</p><p>East New York is going to be a big test for their administration, because it is this huge neighborhood with tremendous potential and tremendous poverty. It’s an area that they said they might try to remake in order to have the <a href="http://www.nyc.gov/html/housing/assets/downloads/pdf/housing_plan.pdf">affordable housing plan</a> site a lot of units there. The focus on Brooklyn now has largely been on the same part of Brooklyn that frankly had a lot of focus under Bloomberg—not necessarily from the mayor but certainly from the development community. Maybe they’re doubling down on what they see as positive change. That can make sense but there’s a whole lot of Brooklyn out there.</p><p>What happens with East New York and whether they’re ready to get it right there—to create transit-oriented development that is sustainable, that makes sense in terms of its waterfront location, that doesn’t price people out, that deals with an increase in population density—that’s going to be a big test. So it’s not so much focusing on aspects of each outer borough, whether it is Long Island City in Queens or around Yankees stadium in the Bronx, but about the deeper, far-out places.</p><p>I believe that the history of New York City in the next 20 years is going to be written in places like East New York. To some degree, the Williamsburg chapter is over. That happened and that neighborhood is the way it is now. Places like Bushwick and Crown Heights, it’s happening there. East New York now is this kind of land that’s been untouched by those forces. I live off Webster Avenue in the Bronx and there’s been a huge amount of rezoning there and a lot of high-rises are going up. That neighborhood will look very different by the time my kids are in high school. </p> Tue, 22 Jul 2014 20:34:00 -0700 Don Hazen, Allegra Kirkland, AlterNet 1012415 at http://www.alternet.org News & Politics News & Politics bill de blasio jarrett murphy new york city universal pre-k stop and frisk Color of Change Goes After Black Congress Members For Attacking Net Neutrality and Supporting Telecoms http://www.alternet.org/media/color-change-goes-after-black-members-congress-attacking-net-neutrality-and-supporting <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Ten members of Congressional Black Caucus are targeted for favoring telecoms at the expense of the black community.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2014-07-07_at_5.16.49_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><div>The online advocacy group Color of Change has been a staunch defender of net neutrality, which represents for them, as well as many liberal and progressive groups <span style="font-size: 12px;">and millions of Americans, a free and open Internet. </span><span style="font-size: 12px;">So when 10 members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC), who have all received thousands in campaign contributions from the telecom industry, recently signed a letter to the FCC attacking net neutrality, Color of Change (COC) quickly revved up its engines and shifted into attack mode.</span></div><div> </div><div>In a letter to its members, signed by its staff team, COC stated: "We need to hold these representatives accountable, and make sure the FCC and other members of Congress know they don’t speak for black people on this issue."</div><div> </div><div>They invited members to join them in calling out black members of Congress doing <a href="http://act.colorofchange.org/go/3593?t=3&amp;akid=3446.854812.BbV6_L" target="_blank">Big Telecom’s dirty work.</a> <span style="font-size: 12px;">From the COC perspective, net neutrality has made the Internet a level playing field for all voices, allowing bloggers, activists and entrepreneurs of color to flourish online despite being blocked from ownership and participation in traditional media.</span></div><div><div> </div><div>"Now, these CBC members are using deceptive arguments to help giant corporations attack net neutrality, and claiming that they speak for Black America."</div><div> </div><div>The FCC is now considering reclassifying Internet service as a public utility, which would give it strong authority to enforce net neutrality for the public good. <span style="font-size: 12px;">But as COC points out,</span></div><blockquote><div><span style="font-size: 12px;">"The phone and cable companies are fighting this tooth and nail, calling in favors from organizations and members of Congress they've supported financially for years. Sadly, some civil rights organizations and black members of Congress are attacking net neutrality with dishonest and deceptive arguments handed to them by the telecom lobby. Ten members of the CBC recently signed Rep. Gene Green's letter to the FCC attacking reclassification (Reps. Bobby Rush, G.K. Butterfield, Sanford Bishop, Corrine Brown, Lacy Clay, Alcee Hastings, Gregory Meeks, David Scott, Bennie Thompson, and Marc Veasey). The letter claims to support Internet freedom while doing everything it can to undermine it."</span></div></blockquote></div><div><span style="font-size: 12px;">On the other hand, the COC is quick to point out, "Thankfully, some black members of Congress are fighting to protect net neutrality — Rep. Keith Ellison co-authored a letter to the FCC supporting reclassification, and it was signed by Reps. Barbara Lee, John Lewis, John Conyers, Donna Edwards, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Charlie Rangel, Bobby Scott, and Andre Carson."</span></div><div> </div><div>As the COC communique documents, all of the CBC members attacking net neutrality have taken large amounts of campaign money from the telecom industry. They add: </div><div><blockquote><p>"And it's not just campaign money — since just 2008 the telecom lobby has spent millions on donations to the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) and the Congressional Black Caucus Institute (CBCI), nonprofit organizations associated with the CBC. These organizations claim that their purpose is to provide scholarships, educate the public, and develop new leaders. But the corporate money also funds lavish galas to honor members of the CBC, and top lobbyists from the telecom industry sit on the boards and committees of the CBCF and CBCI.</p></blockquote><blockquote><p>"This year, CBCF 'honored' Comcast with its 'Distinguished Corporation Award.' Last year, it was Time Warner. Comcast touted its award to Congress earlier this year while seeking approval for its merger with Time Warner."</p></blockquote><div>This is not the first time COC has been engaged in fighting for Internet freedom.  </div><blockquote><div>"In 2011, thousands of <a href="http://colorofchange.org/" target="_blank">ColorOfChange.org</a> members signed petitions and made phone calls asking House Democratic leadership to prevent Congressman Rush from securing a key committee position that would have allowed him to do even more damage to net neutrality. Because of our actions, Rush didn't get the position." </div></blockquote><div><p>COC continues:</p><blockquote><p>"Nevertheless, Rush and other black representatives have continued to use their status as members of the Congressional Black Caucus — which is supposed to advocate for the interests of Black America — to attack net neutrality. It's unacceptable and dangerous: not only does this kind of influence peddling threaten the Internet as a medium where black voices and ventures have an equal shot; it also undermines the credibility and power of the Congressional Black Caucus, which has historically been a critically important voice for Black America.</p><p>"Now is the time to raise our voices again and make it clear that these representatives don't speak for us on this issue. If enough of us speak out, we can make sure that all black representatives know there will be a price to pay for betraying Internet freedom — and that if they fight for net neutrality, they'll have our support. And by speaking out now, we can make sure the FCC knows how important net neutrality is to Black America."</p></blockquote><div>The COC sees this summer as a crucial time when the FCC will choose to either protect Internet freedom or "allow phone and cable companies to take unprecedented control over what we see, do, and say online. "  </div><div> </div><div>The COC has made their position clear. Time will tell if any members of the CBC Telecom 10 pay heed to this appeal <span style="font-size: 12px;">for them to see net neutrality as protecting the interests of their constituents, or if they are more comfortable in the board rooms of the big telecoms.</span></div></div></div><p> </p> Mon, 07 Jul 2014 14:12:00 -0700 Don Hazen, AlterNet 1009980 at http://www.alternet.org Media Media cbc 'Progressive' Headlines That Serve as Propaganda for the Wacko Right http://www.alternet.org/media/progressive-headlines-serve-propaganda-wacko-right <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Putting absurd, mendacious rightwing quotes in headlines just helps conservatives control the debate.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/donhazen_two_point_oh.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><div><p class="p1">If you read the liberal and progressive online media, you've probably seen headlines like this: <a href="http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/08/22/1233118/-Fox-News-bravely-exposes-President-Obama-s-blatant-support-for-murdering-white-people">"</a><a href="http://www.dailykos.com/story/2013/08/22/1233118/-Fox-News-bravely-exposes-President-Obama-s-blatant-support-for-murdering-white-people">Fox News Bravely Exposes President Obama's Blatant Support for Murdering White People</a>" (Jed Lewison, Daily Kos) or this: <a href="http://www.mediaite.com/online/gop-rep-trusting-obama-with-border-security-is-like-trusting-bill-clinton-with-your-daughter/">"GOP Rep: Trusting Obama on Border Security is Like Trusting Clinton With Your Daughter"</a> (Tom Kludt, Talking Points Memo).</p><p class="p1">Part of you may have thought: well, look how stupid those Republicans and conservatives are for saying such ridiculous things. But another part of you may have felt a little uneasy, wondering why progressives were repeating such idiotic opinions and obvious falsehoods.</p><p class="p3">The uneasy feeling is the one to trust. In my opinion, as well as those of linguists and communicators, repeating false and absurd headlines can be destructive because they keep those ideas in play and it typically means progressives are responding to the wacko right wing, and not the other way around. </p><p class="p3">It is also true that some people read a headline without thinking much about it—and that is important to keep in mind. Why? Because people generally have emotional responses to the metaphors and messages in headlines, some barely conscious, or even unconscious. Headlines have often unseen impact, and when we ignore this fact, we are playing into the right's propaganda game.</p><p class="p3">On any given day, there are many cringe-worthy headlines, often in progressive publications, where you would think that editors would want to help clarify a cause, or at least be fair to those they are communicating  about. But sometimes editors (and bloggers) don't think about the impact of their headlines, or they go for the traffic bait. And I'm not talking about messing with any journalistic integrity. On the contrary: Headlines often repeat absurd points of view that are obvious lies—not good journalism—with quotes from extremists, like this one from Salon: "Ben Carson: Obamacare is 'worst thing that has happened in this nation since slavery.'" That is a straight repetition of an idiot's message. The article may criticize Ben Carson (it does), but the headline does not; it carries Carson's message for him. </p><p class="p5"><b>Colorado Equals Somalia</b></p><p class="p3">Spend some time examining headlines more closely, and you will see there are many doozies. What set me off recently was a headline of an item by Radley Balko in the <i>Washington Post</i>: "<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-watch/wp/2014/06/30/late-morning-links-after-six-months-of-legal-pot-colorado-isnt-yet-somalia/">After Six Months of Legal Pot, Colorado Isn’t Yet Somalia</a>."</p><p class="p3">Huh? This headline seems to come from someone who might, in fact, be very stoned. The point of Balko's item is that a recent report from the Drug Policy Alliance documented that the experiment with legalizing pot in Colorado has gone fine so far—no major problems. But this headline is trying to suggest something quite horrible might have happened in Colorado, or still might. And Somalia? Everyone knows Somalia is a country that has pirates who attack ships off the coast of Africa, but not much else. What, pray tell, does Somalia have to do with pot in Colorado? </p><p class="p3">I'm not holding Radley Balko responsible. He probably didn't write the headline. And Balko is a fierce libertarian, which means protecting people's individual rights is a top priority for him. Presumably he doesn't want to undermine the legal pot experiment in Colorado, so he's not out to scare people about pot. A headline like this harkens back to the idiotic days of reefer madness  propaganda, despite the fact that every scare message about pot has been disproven many times over. California has had medical pot since 1995, with hundreds of thousands of medical marijuana card holders. <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/27/us/few-problems-with-cannabis-for-california.html?pagewanted=all&amp;_r=0">But nothing bad has happened</a>. So this headline writer either had an agenda or would fail the Miller Analogies test. </p><p class="p3">In most cases the worst headlines have to do with ludicrous statements made by attention-seekers, trying to say the most extreme things to get exposure. And very often, liberal headline writers do their work for them—an extension of their propaganda efforts. This happens any number of times every day.</p><p class="p3">Sometimes the headlines just include the absurd quote like this one from <i>Mother Jones</i> blogger Kevin Drum: "Jimmy Carter Is History's Greatest Monster." Other times the headline includes a reference to the kind of person who might have made the quote, like Salon's piece by Jillian Rayfield: "<a href="http://www.salon.com/2012/12/19/right_wing_author_jon_stewart_part_of_the_culture_that_led_to_shootings/">Right-Wing Author: Jon Stewart Part of the Culture that Led to the Shootings</a>." Not to pick on Salon (disclosure: AlterNet and Salon share content nearly every day), but this “why bother?” headline from the other day seems like it’s from the Onion: "<a href="http://www.salon.com/2014/07/02/obama_is_the_worst_president_since_wwii_says_meaningless_poll/">Obama is the 'worst president since WWII,' says meaningless poll.</a>"</p><p class="p3">In their defense, esteemed editors might say, "Don't you have a sense of humor?" Or, "Don't you realize that headline is satirical?" Or, "When we repeat outlandish, inaccurate quotes, we trust our readers to know what we mean." Well, that is all bullshit for two reasons: On the Internet, often the only things people read is a headline. For many news outlets, Twitter serves as a series of headlines. Many people will never read the article, or even the teaser, so the headline is what gets spread. </p><p class="p3">Secondly, if you venture into the linguistic field, it seems pretty clear that words and headlines—often metaphors called "frames"—trigger emotions. So it's impossible to know what these headlines are leading to, how they are used for propaganda and how they affect people. Even trying to negate a frame reinforces the message, as George Lakoff argued persuasively in his book, <i>Don't Think of an Elephant.</i> When you hear that title phrase, it is impossible not to think of an elephant. (Full disclosure: I wrote the introduction to <i>Don't Think of Elephant.</i>) The most infamous example of a hapless attempt to negate a frame was Richard Nixon's declaration, "I am not a crook." Nope, no one saw through that, Tricky Dick. </p><p class="p3">Writers and editors also may think they are exposing the ridiculous things conservatives utter: "We are only reporting what they are saying." Well, that makes headline writers stenographers. By repeating right-wing frames they are actually being reactive to the propaganda being put out by conservative talking heads. This is how the wackos frame the debate, by throwing out the bait, and editors are often Pavlovian in putting it in their headlines. No matter how ridiculous the quote, once it's in the headline, the article has to rebut the statement, and then the conversation is about the absurdity and not something more constructive. </p><p class="p3">Progressives often critique corporate media for repeating conservative talking points and lies, but when we repeat them in headlines, we are doing the same thing. Of course, the editor's rejoinder would be, "But the article does challenge the statement!" Well, fine, but why give the bad guys the megaphone? The one message everyone sees is the headline. </p><p class="p5"><b>Conservative Propaganda Talents </b></p><p class="p3">Dating back to the Reagan years, conservatives (with Frank Luntz as their best evil genius wordsmith) have created language and metaphors to undermine progressive and liberal values, while connecting effectively with voters. One of their most insidious lines was "partial birth abortion," which the media repeated ad naseum despite protests from women's rights advocates. "Tax relief" and the "death tax" are examples of language that became part of the anti-taxer's central narrative, just as "death panels" became a lightning rod to protect the giant healthcare industry and scare seniors about healthcare reform. These terms became such a core part of the media conversation that Democrats, and even progressives, repeated the same language with little awareness of what they were doing.</p><p class="p3">The inability to effectively use language has been a challenge for Democrats, liberals and advocacy journalists. The basic critique is that the left side of politics, despite strong evidence to the contrary, still thinks rational arguments and facts will convince people to change their minds. Sadly, the evidence tells us just the opposite. The more you present facts that contradict strongly held beliefs, the more stubbornly people cling to their opinions (this is especially true on climate change). This phenomena is true for both conservatives and liberals.</p><p class="p9">Dan Kahan has done extensive research into the resilience of perceptions, regardless of contrary information. Paul Rosenberg writes about <a href="http://www.salon.com/2014/04/19/why_climate_deniers_are_winning_the_twisted_psychology_that_overwhelms_scientific_consensus/">this for Salon</a>:  </p><blockquote><p class="p9">"Kahan finds strong evidence of 'identity-protective cognition' among people of all different world views. Not only has Kahan shown that people are resistent to information that challenges their identities and the worldviews that support them, he’s shown that more information tends to drive people apart in their views, rather than lead to convergence. People use more information to rationalize what they already believe, rather than to question and reformulate it."</p></blockquote><p class="p9">So remember, the facts will not set us free. </p><p class="p3">There is much more to say about framing, language and how Democrats, progressives and journalists have bought into clever conservative language ploys that are really propaganda. This is perhaps even more true now among progressive sites because provocative language will attract eyeballs and can lead to financial gain via clicks and traffic.</p><p class="p3">Recently, Ann Coulter, one of the worst perpetrators of incendiary language, has had a media renaissance, in part because her rhetoric has gone from disgusting to truly appalling. Last week her picture and quotes adorned two of Salon's most-read articles, with her hugely publicized quote, "No American whose great-grandmother was born here is watching soccer," appearing in many headlines. Talking Points Memo went further in helping her publicity: "<a href="http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/ann-coulter-responds-critics-soccer-column">Ann Coulter Is Giddy That Critics Threw 'Hissy Fits' Over Her Soccer Column</a>."</p><p class="p3">Progressives and the media establishment have helped make Coulter very rich, with millions of books sold, simply by repeating her rants and treating her as someone who has something to contribute to the public discourse. Hint: she doesn't.  </p><p class="p3">In a recent interview with the <i>Guardian</i>, George Lakoff points out part of the problem: A classic liberal pitfall is the idea that by repeating one of the opposition's ridiculous lines, you make them look even more absurd.</p><p class="p3">"There was an election in Wisconsin," Lakoff says, "there was a horrible governor there, and the Democrats were so stupid that they put up billboards all over the state with a picture of him smiling. They had his name in large letters next to the picture, and it says, 'Why is this man smiling?' And then in smaller type, it has a list of his positions, all from his point of view. As if everybody will recognize that this is a horrible man? Instead, it is a billboard in his favor. It's about time progressives got out there and said what's true about themselves, as well as what's true of the other side. If you have a strong position, let's hear it."</p><p class="p3">As Lakoff said: "Conservatives don't follow the polls, they want to change them." In terms of communications, "liberals do everything wrong." </p><p class="p5"><b>What Can Be Done About the Language Challenge </b></p><p class="p3">I don't want to offer criticism without trying to be constructive. And of course what I'm writing is my opinion, as well as generally what we do at AlterNet while seeking out high traffic, where we compete favorably with Mother Jones, Talking Points Memo, the Daily Kos, Raw Story, and Think Progress, the highest traffic progressive online news and information sites. (Huffington Post and Salon have larger audiences.)</p><p class="p3">At AlterNet, we feel strongly -- and we prove it with lots of high-traffic headlines -- that for articles to be popular they do not need to repeat idiotic statements or right-wing frames which we assiduously avoid. Headlines, email subject lines and teasers are powerful communication tools that connect strongly and immediately with readers, forming deep impressions about the content before they get to the article. We are working in a split-second medium, and some readers spend brief moments on sites or articles, merely glancing at headlines. We ask questions like, "What is the reader taking away from the headline? Is it recognition, warmth, hope, anger, validation, curiosity, or something else?" All of these emotions can be effectively used in headlines without using quotes from the radical right. </p><p class="p14">And we ask ourselves, what is being communicated on the metaphorical level that the reader is likely not even aware of? The fundamental point is one should use the words, emotions, concepts that you want people to take away from your article, and never the messages you are fighting against.  </p><p class="p14">Some time ago a headline of a not-yet-published AlterNet article jumped out at me: "'Dykes, Whores or Bitches': One in Three Military Women Experience Sexual Abuse." At this point, I don't think I need to explain what is wrong with this headline (and it was written by feminists). It was changed to: "<a href="http://www.alternet.org/story/85099/misogyny_rampant_in_the_armed_forces%3A_1_in_3_military_women_experience_sexual_abuse">Misogyny Is Rampant in the Military: One in Three Military Women Experience Sexual Abuse</a>." Maybe a little boring, but better that than to reinforce a collection of bad stereotypes. </p><p class="p14">In my humble opinion, there isn't nearly enough consciousness, energy or talent brought to headline-writing among progressive publications. The headline is the invitation to the story. Yet many headlines are written carelessly or slapped on as an afterthought. Or the lowest common denominator steps in and the question is: what will pull the most eyeballs? The challenge is to pull in those eyeballs by attacking the villain, or motivating anger or inspiration. One interesting exercise is for the writer or the editor to draft the headline and teaser before writing or assigning the article. Then you are aware of what you are trying to say to the reader. </p><p class="p15">One frame that bothered me back when Oprah still had her daily show was produced by Religion Dispatches, a progressive religious site: "Sacred &amp; Profane: The 'Cult' of Oprah Inflames Religious Right." Now here is the rub—this headline has controversy and probably generated good traffic. But think about it. The headline give the right wing the power to frame Oprah as a cult. A cult? Scientology is a cult; the fundamentalist Mormons in Texas are a cult. Oprah is a highly successful TV entertainer who weaves a kind of spirituality-lite for her huge audiences.</p><p class="p15">When we think about headlines, we try to help the reader know what the story is about, while still creating some suspense, or at least curiosity. Headlines should get people riled up, and that is part of our job. But our job also is to give hope, offer vision, show we have values, and even communicate a sense of humor. And then there are the puns. Good puns can attract readers; bad puns are failed opportunities. One of the most famous New York tabloid headlines was, "Headless Man Found in Topless Bar." Such talented punsters are few and far between.</p><p class="p16">There are many ways of writing headlines that don't pander, overtly manipulate, or worst of all, use right-wing propaganda to get readers' attention. We can be provocative, and even shocking, without hanging in the gutter of conservative garbage.</p><p class="p16">Here are eight more examples of headlines I wish I never saw:</p><p class="p18">1) "<a href="http://WWW.COMMONDREAMS.ORG/VIEW/2014/06/29-2" target="_blank">Why Do We Hate the Poor?</a>" (Kim Redigan, Common Dreams)</p><p class="p18">2) "<a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2012/12/01/susan-rice-just-another-incompetent-black-woman.html" target="_blank">Susan Rice: Just Another 'Incompetent' Black Woman</a>" (Sophia A. Nelson, The Daily Beast)</p><p class="p18">3) "<a href="http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2013/07/16/george-zimmermans-brother-thinks-obama-tapped-his-phones/?utm_source=Raw+Story+Daily+Update&amp;utm_campaign=79e435bd6a-7_16_137_16_2013&amp;utm_medium=email&amp;utm_term=0_1b6404e40c-79e435bd6a-180470189" target="_blank">George Zimmerman's Brother Thinks Obama 'Tapped' His Phones</a>" (David Edwards, Raw Story)</p><p class="p18">4) "<a href="http://www.salon.com/2013/07/04/obamas_war_on_july_4th_the_perfect_right_wing_scandal/" target="_blank">Obama's War on July 4th: The Perfect Right-wing Scandal</a>" (Alex Seitz-Wald, Salon)</p><p class="p18">5) "<a href="http://www.motherjones.com/mojo/2014/06/herman-cain-obama-administration-first-grader" target="_blank">Herman Cain: A First Grader Could Run America Better Than Obama</a>" (Andy Kroll, Mother Jones)</p><p class="p18">6)  "<a href="http://www.tomdispatch.com/post/175856/tomgram%3A_peter_van_buren,_rip,_the_bill_of_rights/" target="_blank">What We've Lost Since 9/11: Taking Down the First Amendment in Post-Constitutional America</a>" (Peter Van Buren, Tom Dispatch)</p><p class="p18">7) "<a href="http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/jun/30/censorship-newsroom-freedom-of-expression" target="_blank">The Real Enemies of Press Freedom Are in the Newsroom</a>" (George Monbiot, The Guardian)</p><p class="p20">8)<a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/philip-giraldi/deserters-traitors-and-re_b_5555214.html">"Deserters, Traitors and Resisters: A Long Tradition of Those Who Walk Away From War"</a> (Philip Giraldi, Huffington Post)</p><p class="p21"><strong>AlterNet Headlines</strong></p><p class="p1">Here are 10 AlterNet headlines from the past couple of weeks. All these stories were well-read by at least 30,000 people, some more than 100,000.</p><p class="p1"><a href="http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/americans-are-dangerously-politically-ignorant-numbers-are-shocking">Americans Are Dangerously Politically Ignorant: The Numbers Are Shocking </a></p><p class="p22"><a href="http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/americans-are-dangerously-politically-ignorant-numbers-are-shocking">5 Issues Where Right-Wingers Are Crazier and Meaner Than Ever </a></p><p class="p22"><a href="http://www.alternet.org/gender/how-being-bridesmaid-driving-me-brink-bankruptcy">How Being a Bridesmaid Is Driving Me to the Brink of Bankruptcy </a></p><p class="p22"><a href="http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/police-can-just-take-your-money-car-and-other-property-and-good-luck-getting-it-back">Police Can Just Take Your Money, Car and Other Property — and Good Luck Getting It Back</a></p><p class="p22"><a href="http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/nine-signs-dangerous-gun-nut-craziness-2014">9 Signs of Dangerous Gun Nut Craziness in 2014</a></p><p class="p22"><a href="http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/glenn-greenwald-heres-what-i-tell-people-who-say-they-dont-care-about-their-privacy">Glenn Greenwald: 'What I Tell People Who Say They Don’t Care About Their Privacy' </a></p><p class="p22"><a href="http://www.alternet.org/world/devastating-truth-how-we-destroyed-iraq-order-save-it-ourselves">The Devastating Truth of How We Destroyed Iraq in Order to Save It . . . For Ourselves</a></p><p class="p22"><a href="http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/feds-have-turned-america-war-zone-4-disturbing-facts-about-police-militarization">The Feds Have Turned America Into a War Zone: 4 Disturbing Facts About Police Militarization</a></p><p class="p22"><a href="http://www.alternet.org/belief/why-do-right-wing-christians-think-religious-freedom-means-forcing-their-faith-you">Why Do Right-Wing Christians Think 'Religious Freedom' Means Forcing Their Faith on You</a></p><p class="p24"><a href="http://www.alternet.org/personal-health/do-opposite-what-you-think-you-should-do-depressed-friend">Do the Opposite of What You Think You Should Do for a Depressed Friend</a></p></div><p> </p> Thu, 03 Jul 2014 09:28:00 -0700 Don Hazen, AlterNet 1009341 at http://www.alternet.org Media Media headlines journalism frames Are You Kidding? New York Passes Limited Medical Pot Law, But Nanny Cuomo Says You Can't Smoke It http://www.alternet.org/drugs/are-you-kidding-new-york-passes-limited-medical-pot-law-nanny-cuomo-says-you-cant-smoke-it <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">It&#039;s 2014, but Cuomo is still living in the Dark Ages.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2014-06-20_at_10.16.58_am.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><div>In an cringeworthy move that will be compared with Bill Clinton's much lampooned line, "I smoked pot, but I didn't inhale," New York governor Andrew Cuomo says you may need cannabis  for medical reasons, but you can't smoke it. Why? Because it is too dangerous, <a href="http://www.syracuse.com/news/index.ssf/2014/06/ny_medical_marijuana_program_to_exclude_smoking_sunset_in_7_years.html">says Cuomo</a>, ignoring tons of data showing that pot smoking is far less dangerous and more beneficial than alcohol. But Cuomo, for reasons that are unclear and open to severe head scratching, continues to remain in the Dark Ages when it comes to pot.  </div><div> </div><div>The New York State legislature is finally ready to move forward in a commonsense way, and pass a modest medical pot bill, after years of flailing around. Meanwhile, 23 states have passed medical pot laws and pot was legalized for everyone over 21 in Colorado and Washington state. So New York has been particularly slow on this issue, almost glacial. And of course, the state legislature in Albany is known for its corruption and ineptitude, with a batch of members recently indicted or convicted on various transgressions. The legislature in Albany has been labeled as the most ineffective in the country. But under closer scrutiny, the legislatures are bad in so many states, it is hard for Albany to rise to the top of the worst heap. And on medical pot, the Democrats have been trying, and finally there were Republican votes to help it pass.</div><div> </div><div>But New York's uptight governor, who apparently has never let his freak flag fly, showed a lack of reality-based governing and literal common sense, as he forced the lawmakers to pass a restrictive medical pot law, one of the most conservative in the country, and the only one that prohibits the smoking of pot, the way many millions of people have consumed it for thousands of years. </div><div> </div><div>The funny thing is that under the Cuomo rules, people can't smoke pot, but they can eat it. Oh, that's great. It just shows how out of touch Cuomo may be. Pot edibles are actually the one area where concern is warranted because of the very strong effects of ingesting it. Apparently Cuomo did not read the infamous <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/04/opinion/dowd-dont-harsh-our-mellow-dude.html?_r=0">NY Times column of a few weeks ago</a> by the formerly highly stoned Maureen Dowd on her trip to Colorado. But more on that in a minute. </div><div> </div><div>It may be 2014, but it seems Cuomo is still living in the distant past. According to the <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/20/nyregion/new-york-medical-marijuana-deal.html?_r=0">New York Times</a>, more than 20 states now allow patients access to marijuana as a palliative to counter the effects of treatment like chemotherapy, or to alleviate symptoms like seizures. Most allow smoking, but Cuomo has made it clear this will not be permitted. Governor Cuomo still buys into long disproved pot myths like pot is a <a href="http://http://www.nytimes.com/2014/06/20/nyregion/new-york-medical-marijuana-deal.html?_r=0">"gateway drug"</a>: "Mr. Cuomo said that he was wary of allowing marijuana to become too widely or too easily available. In recent days he said he feared that it was 'a gateway drug,' and observed that the state was already dealing with a resurgence of heroin use."   </div><div> </div><div>Hello? Tens of millions of people have smoked pot in America, including most of our so-called leaders, but apparently not Cuomo. And how many of them became heroin addicts? Seriously, that notion is both fearmongering and ridiculous, and it harkens back to the distorted days of reefer madness. Cuomo is ignoring thousands of years of history of all the countries, cultures, brilliant people, and literally hundreds of millions of everyday people who smoke pot around the world. (Read Marty Lee's great book <a href="http://www.smokesignalsthebook.com">Smoke Signals</a> if you want to know the long and fascinating history of pot.)</div><div> </div><div><div>It is hard to comprehend just how absurd this heroin fear is. And Cuomo "doesn't want to make pot widely or easily <wbr></wbr>available"? It's already widely available! It's just illegal. New York arrests more people for pot <a href="http://www.nyclu.org/files/publications/marijuana_06062013_final.pdf">than any other state</a> according to an ACLU study. The numbers are shocking: "In 2010, there were 103,698 marijuana-possession arrests in New York State—more than 29,000 more arrests than the state with the second-highest total, Texas with 74,286 arrests. .. Arrests for marijuana possession in the city skyrocketed from only 774 in 1991—for the lowest misdemeanor offense—to 50,383 in 2010—an increase of 6,409 percent." And typically those being arrested are minorities, even though research consistently shows no difference in marijuana consumption habits by race.</div><div> </div><div>While an exact number may be hard to quantify, probably millions of people will smoke pot in New York in 2014. The underground pot economy is pervasive, which reflects the fact that pot is supposed to be a misdemeanor, but more importantly it is a method of pleasure and relaxation for many people as well as medicine for many ailments (most ignored by the New York pot bill) and of very little harm. Compared to booze, as a rule, pot smokers don't get in fights, have car accidents, cause domestic violence, shoot guns, have liver failure or end up in AA.</div><div> </div></div><div>This whole situation in NY is all the more unbelievable, since by 1978 <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Decriminalization_of_non-medical_cannabis_in_the_United_States">pot was decriminalized in New York</a> and getting caught with pot should lead typically to a summons. Yet, if you are dying, you have to jump through hoops to get a little cannabis to relieve the pain. And the fastest way to get pain relief is typically to smoke it, since edibles and tinctures (approved in NY) take more time to take effect. So Cuomo doesn't trust your doctor to tell you how best to use it. </div><div> </div><div>The huge and continuing number of pot arrests are another instance where supposedly liberal New York often doubles as a nanny state and a capital of mass incarceration policies that have been so destructive. Pot arrests are <a href="http://www.drugpolicy.org/news/2014/05/first-quarter-marijuana-possession-arrest-data-released-nypd-path-make-many-marijuana-a">still going strong in NYC</a>, despite the fact that <a href="http://cannabisnowmagazine.com/current-events/politics/will-27000-annual-marijuana-arrests-stop-in-new-york-city-under-mayor-bill-de-blasio">Mayor Bill de Blasio promised in January</a>, "I would instruct the NYPD, right now, [to] stop arresting people for displays of small amounts. It’s ridiculous. It doesn’t make us safer." The old adage could never be more true: "Watch what they do, not what they say." Hypocrisy knows no bounds when it comes to harassing people, stopping and frisking them, and ruining lives. </div><div> </div><div>In the big picture, California has had legal medical pot via Proposition 215, the California Compassionate Use Act, which was enacted by the voters and <a href="http://www.canorml.org/medical-marijuana/patients-guide-to-california-law">took effect on Nov. 6, 1996</a>. The law makes it legal for patients and their designated primary caregivers to possess and cultivate marijuana for their personal medical use given the recommendation or approval of a California-licensed physician. This system, in place for 18 years, has not caused serious problems beyond the over-proliferation of pot stores in some cities. In a very tolerant environment, hundreds of thousands have medical pot cards, and have wide access to cannabis in many forms, and many sick and ailing people have had relief. But does New York look at other parts of the country and see what works, that the risks are small, and that pot use does not lead to heroin addiction? Apparently not. </div><div> </div><div>I'm thinking maybe Andrew Cuomo should get out more. Make a visit to Colorado where pot is legal, where the state is taking in large amounts of tax dollars and enjoying tons of tourist visits. And where the embarrassing edible experience was described by Maureen Dowd. After eating too much of a pot candy bar, Dowd described the following: </div><blockquote><div>"But then I felt a scary shudder go through my body and brain. I barely made it from the desk to the bed, where I lay curled up in a hallucinatory state for the next eight hours. I was thirsty but couldn’t move to get water. Or even turn off the lights. I was panting and paranoid, sure that when the room-service waiter knocked and I didn’t answer, he’d call the police and have me arrested for being unable to handle my candy.</div><p>"....It took all night before it began to wear off, distressingly slowly. The next day, a medical consultant at an edibles plant where I was conducting an interview mentioned that candy bars like that are supposed to be cut into 16 pieces for novices; but that recommendation hadn’t been on the label."</p></blockquote><p>Well, no one wants that to happen in New York State with edibles. Which is why smoking pot can often be the preferred way to take this medicine. The Drug Policy Alliance, the country's leading advocacy group, explained in <a href="http://www.drugpolicy.org/news/2014/06/breaking-ny-become-23rd-medical-marijuana-state">a press release</a>:</p><blockquote><p>"We are disappointed to learn that eligible conditions have been limited, and despite strong medical evidence about the benefits of smoked and raw cannabis, leaders decided to exclude this as an option for doctors and patients in New York. We strongly believe that the decision about the mode of administration for any medication should be left up to doctor and their patients. The cost of purchasing a vaporizer and the extract products will likely leave many low-income patients behind, and there is little research on the long-term health effects of using extracts."</p></blockquote> Fri, 20 Jun 2014 06:49:00 -0700 Don Hazen, AlterNet 1005007 at http://www.alternet.org Drugs Drugs News & Politics andrew cuomo marijuana legalization maureen dowd To Curb Big Money's Political Corruption, Larry Lessig Makes Promising Start With a Million For People’s Super PAC http://www.alternet.org/election-2014/curb-big-moneys-political-corruption-larry-lessig-makes-promising-start-million <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Is Lessig headed in the right direction? </div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/lessig_phone.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>Larry Lessig—the Steve Jobs of campaign finance reformers—has thrown his hammer at the political money world’s Big Blue.</p><p>Like Apple’s famous TV ad attacking IBM’s mainframe to launch a new era of individual-centered computing, Lessig has launched the most surprising and contradiction-filled attack yet on the political mainstream’s corrupt money-culture system. On May 1, Lessig announced he was <a href="http://mayone.us/">creating</a> “a citizens’ funded and crowd-sourced super PAC to end all super PACs.”</p><p>Late Tuesday, it reached its first milestone: raising $1 million in small donations. In 12 days, 11,714 people pledged an average of $85, he <a href="http://lessig.tumblr.com/">blogged</a>. </p><p>“Yes, we want to spend big money, to end the influence of big money,” Lessig <a href="http://mayone.us/">said</a> in his fundraising video. “Ironic. I get it. But embrace the irony—because with enough of us, we can easily build a super PAC bigger and more effective than the super PACs of the billionaires. So please help us. Pledge.”       </p><p>Lessig now says he will go to wealthy donors to match that first million. The next goal is raising $5 million more by June 30 through a “Kickstart corruption reform, save our democracy campaign,” which he says he will also match from wealthy donors. Then he’ll hire a CEO and the “baddest” campaign consultants, and try to elect five House members this fall who embrace a series of democracy reforms centered on public financing. If it works, the <em>Washington Post’s</em> Matt Miller has written that Lessig’s team may seek to leverage really big money for 2016. </p><p>“He wants 50 patriotic billionaires to pony up $20 million to $40 million each (provided their fellow tycoons do the same),” Miller <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/matt-miller-a-money-bomb-for-2016/2013/05/29/c01d0e88-c85c-11e2-8da7-d274bc611a47_story_1.html">wrote</a> a year ago, championing an earlier version of the money bomb. “Toss in contributions from less well-heeled folks who believe in the cause. Presto: You have a $1 billion to $2 billion war chest devoted to making grassroots public funding of campaigns a viable path to office.”</p><p>No stranger to big and brash thinking, Lessig isn’t shy about promoting it. He’s a Harvard law professor who became famous as an Internet freedom fighter and joined the democracy reform movement seven years ago, as he <a href="http://lessig.tumblr.com/">explains</a> on his blog. In <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCcqkyRJl7M">person</a>, he’s softspoken and earnest. But below that humble exterior lies a super-sharp mind, steely determination and a relentless drive.</p><p>Lessig walked into the nerdy money-and-politics world as an Internet <a href="http://www.lessig.org/about/">star</a> and found it was ripe for a tech-based takeover. He agreed the best reforms were intended to root out the <a href="http://anticorruptionact.org/">cycle of corruption</a> that comes from public officials raising private money to get elected, and then serving those donors. He saw that the best reforms long pushed by progressives—relying on a base of small donations, tax-funded public financing, timely and full disclosure, real limits on lobbying—were solid, but needed updating. He created a bipartisan team to <a href="http://anticorruptionact.org/">rewrite</a> those and did. But Lessig increasingly saw finely tuned ideas weren’t enough, even as he <a href="http://www.alternet.org/only-populist-anti-corruption-movement-can-repair-american-democracy-says-larry-lessig">promoted</a> ideas such as forcing Congress to hold a Constitutional Convention. That pressure, he said, would provoke Congress to adopt real reform.   </p><p>Lessig came to see that reformers needed a different stake in the game, one that was more personal and ultimately financial. He helped <a href="http://thinkprogress.org/election/2014/05/01/3433006/mayday-super-pac-launches-to-end-super-pacs/">create</a> new advocacy groups and lent his support to others. In late 2011, Lessig began <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lawrence-lessig/the-great-promise-of-supe_b_1160215.html">talking up</a> super PACs. He upped the ante by talking about curing corruption, not just reforming campaign finances, which <a href="http://lessig.tumblr.com/post/78203377963/keynote-from-symposium-at-stetson-law-school">generated</a> buzz and <a href="http://electionlawblog.org/?p=57430">offended</a> election lawyers. He <a href="http://billmoyers.com/segment/preview-lawrence-lessig%E2%80%99s-march-to-end-corruption/">led</a> protest marches. This May 1, he declared "May Day— ‘SOS for democracy’" and launched his super PAC, embracing “the irony.” </p><p>“And to be clear: I stand by my commitment that 100 percent of the money raised through our crowd-funding campaign will fund electoral campaign work,” he <a href="http://lessig.tumblr.com/">wrote</a> on his blog as the money was rolling in. “We are covering the other costs (as tiny as we can keep them) through other fundraising. Thanks for any help.”</p><p>Make no mistake, the road ahead is not going to be easy. This can be seen as a desperate act in desperate times. Or it can be seen, given the obstacles, as the only way to win—essentially fighting fire with fire. The early phase of any startup is euphoric—and that is the reception he’s gotten in progressive circles.</p><p>How will Lessig justify the move in the long run? Perhaps he might have to leave some of the reformers behind. But if he succeeds, he will be come very powerful very fast. It is possible that soon Lessig’s name will be mentioned in the same breath as the billionaire libertarian Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson, the Republican casino magnate.   </p><p>It’s not every day that the Mahatma Gandhi of the democracy reform movement decides to pick up a gun.  </p><p><strong>Critical Thinking?</strong></p><p>Most of us will want Lessig to succeed, of course. But before we embrace the irony, as he urges, let’s draw on our experience and lessons of being in this fight for a quarter-century so we can understand the dragon he’s trying to slay.</p><p>The ever-increasing and overwhelming influence of private cash in elections—mostly from the wealthy and virtually every special interest you can imagine, often with expectations or strings attached—is one of the conundrums that has bedeviled liberals and progressive reformers since the 1970s, when the U.S. Supreme Court <a href="http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1975/1975_75_436">gutted</a> post-Watergate campaign finance rules, notably by equating spending money with free speech.</p><p>Many have been aghast and despaired at what we have seen as the fundamental breakdown of the democratic process. Reforming the system has proven virtually impossible, especially at the federal level. Lawyers for profit-minded interests have overturned many laws imposing campaign finance limits in twisted First Amendment cases. Creating and evading loopholes to allow monied interests to do whatever they want in elections and lobbying—fighting dirty, monopolizing media, evading accountability, holding regulators hostage—became a big business. As many people said, what’s legal is the real crime. </p><p>Of course, there has been a major reform movement focused on democracy issues for more than 25 years. Tons of research and sunshine—efforts to open to public scrutiny voting records, voting habits and exposes of special interests’ goals and giving—has unfolded. Hundreds of millions of dollars has been raised from foundations and others and spent on trying to expose and fix the system. These efforts have also included adopting small-donor campaigns and public financing—usually in small, more politically responsive states—to show that there are alternative ways for the political system to function. </p><p>But the big-picture result at the national level has been an utter failure, where the problem has gotten worse in virtually every election cycle in the past three decades. It has been a mostly steady downward spiral leading to today, when so many Americans know that our anti-democratic system is locked up. In every big national election, private money has played an increasingly dominant role. And it seems poised to get worse.</p><p>It’s no mystery why. It started in 1976, when the Supreme Court issued one of its worst decisions ever. In that case, <a href="http://www.oyez.org/cases/1970-1979/1975/1975_75_436"><em>Buckley v. Valeo</em></a>, the Court threw out all limits on personal political spending, saying money equals free speech. It said that campaign donations could be regulated only to prevent the appearance of corruption, or actual provable corruption.   </p><p>That’s where the democracy-killing downhill slide began. The Court’s 2010 decision, <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Citizens_United_v._Federal_Election_Commission"><em>Citizens United</em></a>, diluted the legal <a href="http://www.bloombergview.com/articles/2011-05-23/was-the-court-conned-in-citizens-united-">definition</a> of political corruption, while at the same time opening new loopholes that led to the creation of super PACs. It was met by a loud chorus of collective anxiety about the future, a “sky is falling" kind of decision that affirmed corporations and super donors had more power than average voters.</p><p>Since then, the Supreme Court’s attack on democracy has deepened. It issued a ruling narrowing what forms of public financing are allowed—an Arizona-based case. Just last month, the Court did away with an overall limit on how much people can give political parties, in <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/McCutcheon_v._Federal_Election_Commission"><em>McCutcheon v. FEC</em></a>. To democracy reformers, this is déjà voodoo—the sky keeps falling. </p><p>And more Court decisions loom that can make this situation worse; such as Orwellian orders protecting the right to lie in campaigns, or possibly a ruling to protect the identity of anonymous wealthy donors, who like to fight dirty as long as they can hide. They say that exposing them to the public could open them up to prosecution like blacks in the Jim Crow era. Soon there will be virtually no restrictions on financing elections.</p><p><strong>What Can Be Done?</strong></p><p>Two giant political realities face reformers. First is that the Supreme Court on this issue, as in almost all key issues, is captured by radical right-wingers. Let’s not call them conservatives; they are a reactionary <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/05/11/upshot/the-polarized-court.html?_r=0">activist majority</a>. The decisions are almost all 5-4, with the liberal side of the court almost always losing. All of the right-wing justices have been nominated by Republicans, and the Court is for the first time in many decades an almost pure reflection of the partisanship in Congress, with vast divides separating the sides. Look no further than the powerful <a href="http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/04/26/supremes-spat-over-affirmative-action.html">dissent</a> in a recent decision on affirmative action where Justice Sonia Sotomayor told the court it was abandoning its historic civil rights legacy.</p><p>The second hurdle is the bitterly divided Congress, which is completely incapable of agreeing on any democracy reforms and where Democrats are likely to lose more members in November. This reality is very dark as far as one can imagine, and is why the main reform strategy after <em>Citizens United</em>—until Lessig’s super PAC gambit—was to push for the near-impossible goal of a democracy reform constitutional amendment.</p><p>That idea may sound nice and idealistic in the abstract but it requires two-thirds of both chambers—the House and Senate—to pass and then send it to the states, where two-thirds of the states have to pass it before it can be enacted. In hyper-partisan, red-versus-blue America, that’s basically an impossible task. If Las Vegas gave odds on this contest, it would probably be more than 1,000 to one. Recall that the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Equal_Rights_Amendment">Equal Rights Amendment</a> for women never passed, floundering for 30 years without being ratified.</p><p>Larry Lessig steps into this depressing vortex, where there have been few new big ideas in a long time. In February 2010, he said forget about the traditional constitutional amendment route requiring two-thirds passage. Instead, he <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lawrence-lessig/a-call-for-a-convention_b_448762.html">called</a> for a constitutional convention—the other way to pass one—arguing that would force Congress to act, because it won’t want to be pre-empted. </p><p>That idea didn’t catch on, but like a relentless Silicon Valley entrepreneur, he’s kept looking for software and hardware that will work and will shake up the status quo. He has relationships with wealthy reformers, including his <a href="https://twitter.com/lessig/status/322340873482403840">students</a>, and has decided to fight fire with fire. His super PAC, which seeks to raise $12 million for five House races, would be <a href="http://www.opensecrets.org/pacs/superpacs.php">one of the biggest</a>, according to <a href="http://opensecrets.org/">OpenSecrets.org</a>.  </p><p>One way to look at Lessig’s strategy is that deciding to play the game by the big money rules seems hypocritical, and perhaps undermines the hopes of thousands of activists who have been drawn to this issue as a fundamental one. Moreover, given how much money conservatives now throw around—hundreds of millions in presidential years—using the Koch brothers’ <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2013/11/15/us/politics/122-million-in-2012-spending-by-koch-group.html">model</a>, the pro-democracy side would be hard-pressed to compete.</p><p>On the other hand, with reform such a distant star in the sky, it can be argued that the only way to succeed is to balance the Kochs, <a href="http://www.opensecrets.org/outsidespending/summ.php?cycle=2012&amp;disp=D&amp;type=V&amp;superonly=N">Sheldon Adelson</a> and <a href="http://www.opensecrets.org/outsidespending/detail.php?cycle=2014&amp;cmte=c00487363">Karl Rove</a> and go to the people, as Lessig is modeling in his experiment. There are some precedents. Howard Dean’s campaign for president in 2004 used small donors to become competitive. For a short time, he was viable with tens of thousands of enthusiastic volunteers.</p><p>It was thought that Barack Obama's 2008 campaign was following those lines, but then Obama raised huge sums from wealthy donors. Perhaps the best recent example of a liberal small donor campaign is Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren's recent race where <a href="https://www.opensecrets.org/politicians/summary.php?cid=N00033492">$20.5 million</a> of the $43 million she raised was in donations of $200 or less, according to <a href="http://opensecrets.org/">OpenSecrets.org</a>.</p><p>The notion that there is sufficient money in the liberal sector to compete with the right is certainly accurate. But it’s likely that just small donors are not going to do it alone. Progressive millionaires and billionaires are going to play a big part. Tom Steyer has stepped up as a role model in this regard, with a special focus on climate change and elections, <a href="http://www.politico.com/story/2014/02/tom-steyer-campaign-donor-103617.html">pledging</a> to spend $100 million. There is huge liberal money in America, to be sure, such as billionaires David Geffen, Herb Sandler, George Soros and even Michael Bloomberg, with his relentless fight against gun proliferation. Even the two richest men in America, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, have consistently contrasted themselves with right-wingers and more conservative forces of the Chamber of Commerce and that ilk.    </p><p><strong>Lessig’s Gambit</strong></p><p>Lessig seems to know this. He said his next step is matching the first million he’s raised from wealthy donors, and then doing the same with the next $5 million he hopes to raise by the end of June.</p><p>But, of course, there are some big problems with this approach. Since the system is locked into the campaign establishment and dependent on corporate media, often large amounts of money gets raised, only to end up in the hands of consultants and media companies, as most of the money goes to advertising.</p><p>The paucity of good candidates is another factor. Often the money goes to help elect marginal Democrats who end up voting against donors' interests for a range of reasons. And an overriding question remains: does the Democratic establishment, with Obama's fundraising prowess as an example, really want to change? Already Hillary Clinton, with her huge fundraising network, is the leading Democrat for 2016. The other Democrat who gets talked about with excitement, Elizabeth Warren, has become a prodigious fundraiser. Does that party really want fundamental change? Probably not.</p><p>The focus on money in elections obscures the fact there are so many other huge anti-democratic problems in the system, which wouldn't be addressed with campaign finance reform. Washington’s lobbying industry, where there were <a href="http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/">more than</a> 22 lobbyists for every member of Congress in 2013, and was <a href="http://www.opensecrets.org/lobby/">paid more</a> than $3.2 billion last year, is barely scrutinized. Members regularly resign their seats for lucrative jobs in the industries they regulated. The groups Lessig works with know these problems well and have model reforms, even putting ex-lobbyists convicted of influence-peddling on their advisory board. </p><p>For now, Lessig is comfortable and confident that he can raise enough money to make democracy reform a campaign issue in at least five House races. He’s building his program one step at a time.</p><p>“If we’re going to ransom back this democracy, you must answer this mayday call,” he said, closing his super PAC <a href="https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qCcqkyRJl7M">appeal</a>. “We’ve made promises to our children and promises to our parents. But we have a government that is more worried about promises to itself and its lobbyists, to keep itself in power. We still have the power to change that, and we will, if you help.”</p><p>Where all this goes next will be risky and telling. Lessig’s path is compelling and gutsy. His quest is to do better than Sisyphus, the ancient Greek myth in which a man is forever pushing a stone up a mountain only to see it roll down. But whether the democracy reform movement’s equivalent of Gandhi or Martin Luther King, Jr. will be an ultimate game-changer remains to be seen.</p><p>Those leaders didn’t fight fire with fire.</p> Wed, 14 May 2014 16:39:00 -0700 Don Hazen, Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet 992702 at http://www.alternet.org Election 2016 Activism Civil Liberties Corporate Accountability and WorkPlace Election 2016 Media campaign finance reform democracy reform larry lessig money in politics supreme court political corruption super pac koch brothers sheldon adelson karl rove James Polshek Believes Architecture Has an Obligation to Nurture--the Antithesis of Ayn Rand's Howard Roark http://www.alternet.org/visions/james-polshek-believes-architecture-has-obligation-nurture-antithesis-ayn-rands-howard-roark <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">An interview with the celebrated American architect.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/untitled-1_1.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><i>James Polshek's career and unique new book, 'Build, Memory,' will be celebrated Tuesday May 6 in New York City.(Slide Show of key buildings included.)</i><p>Hundreds will honor James Polshek <span data-term="goog_214737092" tabindex="0">tomorrow</span>, <span data-term="goog_214737093" tabindex="0">May 6,</span> at the Rose Center for Earth and Space in the American Museum of Natural History. They come to celebrate his 60-year career as a visionary and a humanitarian, and to mark the publication of his 512 page tour-de-force <em>Build, Memory</em>. The book is a work of graphic nonfiction unlike any other. It is both visually compelling and an intimate, historical-political memoir of design representing a half century of dramatic social change. <em>Build, Memory</em> is fueled by an unflinching commitment to both architectural excellence and the community and clients for which he served. </p><p><em><span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;">[Editor's Note: A slide show of 11 buildings Polshek designed can be found at the end of this </span><span style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 13px;">article.]</span></em></p><p><strong>Who is the Architect?</strong></p><p>For many, the contemporary architect is perhaps a bit mysterious, but nevertheless a narrowly perceived figure: an individual hunched over his or her desk creating either “masterpieces” or urban clutter. But nothing could be further from the truth. The successful architect has to be the quintessential renaissance figure. The creation and rebuilding of most major structures includes all the elements of a major political campaign: martialing resources, opinions and expertise; all unified by a strong vision.  It is often necessary to mobilize dozens of influential people, navigate bureaucratic mazes and stubborn institutions (like Landmarks Commissions and volatile interest groups), community boards and neighborhood "contrarians." And no one has done it with quite the élan or persistence and commitment to a set of fundamental ideals, as Polshek.</p><p>His approach and vision sets him apart from architects with elaborate signatures. He is unlike the hyper-egotists responsible for looming skyscrapers, which increasingly puncture the fabric of cities, disregarding those who will use the buildings as well as the passers-by who cringe under their shadows. Virtually all of Polshek’s dozens of creations are public buildings – some for audiences to experience thrilling cultural experiences, like the Santa Fe Opera, Carnegie Hall and the Brooklyn Museum. Others serve the needs of communication and the environment, like the New York Times Printing Plant and perhaps the world’s most aesthetically pleasing Wastewater Treatment Plant at Newtown Creek in Brooklyn. Others serve a community’s passion for education like the Rose Center and the Lycée Français de New York on the east side of Manhattan.</p><p>Of course, most of us love to be inspired by great design.  But many of us want an iconic building to be a part of something larger; to better serve its surrounding environment and provide comfort to its users.</p><p>Most of Polshek’s buildings look radically different from each other – if you are looking for a signature, a brand or singular style, you are out of luck.  This is because each project is a unique collaboration where the ultimate vision of the architect is a product of the client, the location, a community’s aspirations and the people who will use it.</p><p>One of his preferred challenges: weaving new “fabric” into old and often historic structures. The most dramatic examples include the Brooklyn Museum, Carnegie Hall and the New York State Bar Center in Albany. </p><p><strong>The Book Reflects the Life </strong></p><p>You could say that the adage, “the mix is the message” is a notion that applies both to Polshek’s work and to the structure and appeal of this both grand and intimate book. In his 60 years of working in the field, he consistently wove his unique mix of high standards, creativity, drive, charisma and dedication to social responsibility and the public good. All his buildings reflect that, but with every building comes a unique story of all the multitudinous factors that created them.</p><p>All of Polshek’s values and idiosyncrasies are also reflected in the creation of  <em>Build, Memory.</em> It is simultaneously a stunning coffee table book with almost a thousand images--a personal memoir that speaks to the values of collaboration, and serving people-- and a unique peek into the life of the architect as campaign director, community organizer, psychologist, historian and even geologist. It will no doubt be an inspiration for many architects to be.</p><p>I sat down with Jim Polshek in a conference room at Polshek Partnership, the firm that he built.  As we sat together I asked Polshek about the essential ingredients necessary for creating such a life:</p><p><strong>Don Hazen (DH):</strong> “What should the public know about good architecture?”</p><p><strong>James Stewart Polshek (JSP) :</strong> That is an interesting question but difficult to answer.  How does one define good?  I will attempt to do so by using two examples – both of which have been extraordinary influential: the first is my early teacher, Louis I. Khan; the designer of the Yale University Art Gallery and later colleague.  The second is the Renzo Piano Workshop where the emphasis is on craft, not art.  Like Khan, Piano’s intellectual rigor belies the material poetry of his work.  There is a modesty and generosity of spirit that comes through their personalities and animates their creations.  Obviously buildings have to function.  But they can also be experienced indirectly.  Their presence, especially in dense urban precincts, can affect the tone and mood of their particular circumstances. The “shock of the new” has no place in my catechism any more than does personal expression. </p><p><strong>DH: </strong> So you’re the anti-[Frank] Gehry?    <br /><br /><strong>JSP:</strong> That’s one interpretation. There are people who look at a building as an artifact and talk about it as “art," but serious architecture is ... well, the single most important word to me is 'healing.' That was going to be the title of the book, 'Healing/Buildings,' but editors were afraid it would go into the “Self-Help” section of the few book stores that are still open. </p><p> [Editor’s Note: Out the window of the conference room where we are sitting, we can see the nearly finished construction of the new downtown Whitney Museum by Piano.] </p><p><strong>The Anti-Howard Roark</strong></p><p>Polshek’s attitude is in stark contrast to the “hero” architects of the past – particularly Frank Lloyd Wright.  For the general public, Wright is still probably the only recognizable architect name. And then there is Howard Roark, the fictional architect centerpiece of Ayn Rand’s hugely discredited but still popular worship-of-the-wealthy novel, <em>The Fountainhead</em>. </p><p><strong>JSP</strong>: Yes, I saw the movie version of <em>The</em> <em>Fountainhead</em> in my late teens.  And a few friends still believe that is the reason that I chose to become an architect.  But that’s not true at all.  It’s quite the opposite.  Howard Roark was, for me, an “anti-hero.”  For Ayn Rand he was the hero, and of course, based upon Frank Lloyd Wright.  And she totally misunderstood him.  One of Wright’s uniquely innovations was the “modern suburb.”  And his modest low cost “Usonian” houses for a major contribution to the early days of mass residential building.  Rand would not have approved.  But as his fame spread and his commissions got larger, so did his powerful self-serving ego. </p><p>When I was Dean of the Architecture Faculty at Columbia – about 1975 – an invited speaker did not show up, so I got a copy of <em>The Fountainhead</em> and showed the film to the students.  They kept hooting and applauding and wanted to play again and again, when Roark blew up the high rise and stiff-armed the executives. They were thrilled by the episode because he was taking on the establishment. There is, in every architect, at least one rebellious gene. </p><p><strong>DH</strong>: Young people still flock to Rand’s books.<br /><br /><strong>JSP</strong>: It is disturbing, but this is probably because you can read the book in two different ways.  The way it is being chosen is embracing the heroic aspects of it and not the anti-hero.  And it is that heroic celebration that is the rationalization for an increasing number of younger architects perusing or admiring distinctive, stylistic identities.   <br /><br />Signatures have always been collectables. It’s the celebration of materialism we live amongst, and it is difficult to resist. But not architects' signatures – hypocrisy has always been the “dirty little secret” of the architectural profession; the private patron as opposed to public financing, is far more common in this country as a result of the tax code. We are, to a large extent, still dependent of a free-enterprise system. I consciously dealt with this conflict by seeking out and intentionally being of service to not-for-profit public instructions.</p><p><strong>The Inspirations</strong></p><p>I asked Polshek what his favorite buildings were of those he designed. Not surprisingly it was a question he wasn’t really keen on answering. It seemed, reading between the lines, that the Rose Center, which replaced the Hayden Planetarium turned out to be a great public success, and he was especially proud of it, as he was of the Clinton Library. But he also was very specific about Quinco, his first “bridge building” completed in the 1970’s, which housed a community mental health center in Columbus, Indiana. </p><p><strong>JSP:</strong>No parent is comfortable picking a favorite child.  But Quinco, this “bridge to mental health” was one of them because it solved so many technical, environmental and emotional challenges – and in one small building.  And they were unprecedented solutions to problems that included a flooding creek and an adjacent nursing home. </p><p>[Editor’s note: Columbus, Ind., with the support of the visionary Cummins Engine Foundation — which was headquartered there — hires emerging talents to design public buildings in this modest town of 44,000.]</p><p>But, for me, Quinco went back to my roots — my early interest in psychiatry, and what I see as an obligation to reduce personal and social anxiety.  This project was a perfect test for the proposition that architects can also be healers.   </p><p><strong>DH</strong>: So what does the book title, “Build, Memory,” mean?</p><p><strong>JSP</strong>: Well, it is homage to Vladimir Nabokov, whose book <em>Speak, Memory</em> is a very personal memoir. Nabokov’s writings have about them a certain, I would say, benign subversive aspect. After all, he did write “Lolita.” Throughout “Speak, Memory,” the relationship of the family to the people that worked for them, the servants, was incredibly enlightened for its time — that was very appealing to me and I’ve always required a socially relevant rationalization for each project. </p><p><strong>DH</strong>: Where did you get your inspiration to be an architect?</p><p><strong>JP</strong>: For me growing up in the depression — I was born in 1930 — in a very progressive household for Akron, Ohio,  was when the seed was planted that architecture could be a socially useful pursuit. I got inspiration from a new house in my neighborhood. The architect was a former apprentice of Frank Lloyd Wright’s, and the house was a maverick amid a virtual zoo of bourgeois European styles. It shocked our neighbors. This was an epiphany: that architecture, in addition to providing shelter, could act as social critique.</p><p>So later, at Western Reserve in Cleveland, I was planning a career in medicine, but an undergraduate art history course called simply “Modern Building” was the spark for change. I seemed to have instinctively understood the design rationale of the projects we studied — that, and organic chemistry ended my medical career. </p><p><strong>DH</strong>: You ended up at the Yale School of Architecture.</p><p><strong>JSP</strong>: By luck, at Yale, I had a professor, Eugene Nalle, who believed that the outside world had to be shut out to learn a new discipline. We had to concentrate on fundamentals. If you were taking piano lessons as a child, everybody hated to do scales. Well, he imposed the counterpart of scales in teaching architecture. Not just how to draw, but how materials were connected; how structures were supported traditionally by cultures in which there was no metal, no glass and so forth.  The purity of this approach was an elixir. Some of my classmates rebelled. They wanted freedom. I wanted discipline.     </p><p><strong>DH</strong>: Stretching over 60 years now, you have been witness to, and no doubt dramatically affected by, major political and social change. How did that affect your work?</p><p><strong>JSP</strong>: Cyclical depressions have been the bane of just about every architect’s existence. We feel the economy sinking first, and we recover last. It’s always been that way. Wars and depressions had a way of radicalizing architects since architects had much less to lose than lawyers or doctors or businessmen. Look at Columbia University, and the Sorbonne, in the late ‘60s where <a href="https://www.google.com/search?q=1968+%22Sorbonne%252%202+and+%22Columbia%22+university+riots+architects&amp;sa=N%20&amp;tbm=isch&amp;tbo=u&amp;source=univ&amp;ei=iHNMU_rgOvS80QGC-%204GwCQ&amp;ved=0CEYQsAQ4Cg&amp;biw=1536&amp;bih=837" target="_blank">riots were often instigated and sustained by young architects on faculties</a> there. </p><p>There was, of course, the depression, the time that I grew up. Then the Second World War was over and the good times rolled — but not for long. Eventually you had the oil embargo and market crash in 1973 — waiting two or three hours to get a tank of gas. I went to Columbia to become Dean in ’72. That was a dark time. The early ‘80s were bad, and then came the onrush of hyper-materialism. The early ‘90s had another recession, and on and on.</p><p>Still, all this upheaval encouraged architects to invent different ways of approaching problems, just as rising waters and changing climate are motivators today. You could say that carbon dioxide, not to mention carbon monoxide, is actually changing attitudes in the profession. The other important thing that is changing is the very large number of women that are now practicing [architecture], including women owning their own firms.</p><p><strong>DH</strong>: And what about working with the Clintons — a presidential library is a major undertaking. What was that like?</p><p><strong>JSP</strong>: Well, it starts out with how we got the commission at that first interview; and our creating an analytical document we often made, that explains our approach and acts as a template for discussions with the perspective client.  This would address site, climate, construction systems, inspiration, public and private spaces, etc. We created one for the president with a multitude of things – we included pictures of local buildings; family photos; his cat and dog; favorite books of theirs, etc. And it was the night of the Columbine massacre — literally, that hour. Clearly he was agitated but he was going to focus on our presentation. And as he looked intensely at the two-page spread on Inspiration, he looked up with a twinkle in his eye and said, “Hey, there’s more pictures of Hillary than me!”</p><p>But, seriously, the president was incredibly focused, and provided the key leadership. And at that point Hillary had just decided to run for the Senate, so getting their schedules together was almost impossible. We saw a lot more of him. Still, she had a lot to say, and she was very approachable and coolly disciplined. </p><p>But the president was emotionally engaged. For example, he didn’t understand why we shifted the building onto two different grids. He asked, “Why aren’t they parallel to the railroad? Why is one like this and one like that?” And all we had to do was explain the rational and show through graphic documents, that Little Rock had one grid, but the Union Pacific Railroad had a different grid, one which was related to the Jeffersonian grid that overlays a huge part of the Midwest. And he responded, “Wow — I get it. Do it.”</p><p>And as with most other challenges, we moved forward. </p><p><strong>DH</strong>: Thanks, Jim. Any parting words?</p><p><strong>JSP</strong>: Well I’ve learned many important things over the years. One in particular sticks with me.  It was in my very first job working for I.M. Pei: I discovered – in form and in substance – how to hold out for excellence.</p><p></p><div class="media-image" height="194" width="310"><div id="media-node-1" class="media-node"> <h2 class="title"><a href="/slideshow/book-slideshow" name="image-1" id="image-1">Book Slideshow</a></h2><div class="slideshow-body"><div class="date-coverage"><span class="field field-name-field-date field-type-date field-label-hidden"><span class="field-items"><span class="field-item even"><span class="date-display-single" property="dc:date" datatype="xsd:dateTime" content="2014-04-29T12:38:00-07:00">April 29, 2014</span></span></span></span> </div><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-introduction-text field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><p>Building slideshow and credits.</p> </div></div></div> <div class="slideshow clearfix"><!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-images field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><div id="altslideshow-embedded-gallery-1-0" class="altslideshow-embedded-gallery first" rel="1"><a href="/slideshow/book-slideshow"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/310x220/public/slideshow/book-cover.png" /></a><div class="altslideshow-source"></div></div></div><div class="field-item odd"><div id="altslideshow-embedded-gallery-1-1" class="altslideshow-embedded-gallery" rel="1"><a href="/slideshow/book-slideshow?image=1"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/310x220/public/slideshow/book-page1.png" /></a><div class="altslideshow-title">NEW YORK TIMES PRINTING PLANT</div><div class="altslideshow-caption"><!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->©JEFF GOLDBERG /ESTO</div><div class="altslideshow-source"></div></div></div><div class="field-item even"><div id="altslideshow-embedded-gallery-1-2" class="altslideshow-embedded-gallery" rel="1"><a href="/slideshow/book-slideshow?image=2"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/310x220/public/slideshow/book-page2.png" /></a><div class="altslideshow-title">WILLIAM J. CLINTON PRESIDENTIAL CENTER</div><div class="altslideshow-caption"><!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->©TIMOTHY HURSLEY</div><div class="altslideshow-source"></div></div></div><div class="field-item odd"><div id="altslideshow-embedded-gallery-1-3" class="altslideshow-embedded-gallery" rel="1"><a href="/slideshow/book-slideshow?image=3"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/310x220/public/slideshow/book-page3.png" /></a><div class="altslideshow-title">NEWSEUM / FREEDOM FORUM FOUNDATION WORLD HEADQUARTERS</div><div class="altslideshow-caption"><!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->© JEFF GOLDBERG/ESTO</div><div class="altslideshow-source"></div></div></div><div class="field-item even"><div id="altslideshow-embedded-gallery-1-4" class="altslideshow-embedded-gallery" rel="1"><a href="/slideshow/book-slideshow?image=4"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/310x220/public/slideshow/book-page4.png" /></a><div class="altslideshow-title">NEWTOWN CREEK WASTEWATER TREATMENT PLANT</div><div class="altslideshow-caption"><!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->©JEFF GOLDBERG/ESTO</div><div class="altslideshow-source"></div></div></div><div class="field-item odd"><div id="altslideshow-embedded-gallery-1-5" class="altslideshow-embedded-gallery" rel="1"><a href="/slideshow/book-slideshow?image=5"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/310x220/public/slideshow/polshek_art_final_build_memory-5.png" /></a><div class="altslideshow-title">ROSE CENTER FOR EARTH &amp; SPACE /AMERICAN MUSEUM OF NATURAL HISTORY</div><div class="altslideshow-caption"><!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->©DENIS FINNIN/AMNH ARCHIVES</div><div class="altslideshow-source"></div></div></div><div class="field-item even"><div id="altslideshow-embedded-gallery-1-6" class="altslideshow-embedded-gallery" rel="1"><a href="/slideshow/book-slideshow?image=6"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/310x220/public/slideshow/book-page6.png" /></a><div class="altslideshow-title">CARNEGIE HALL</div><div class="altslideshow-caption"><!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->©JEFF GOLDBERG/ESTO</div><div class="altslideshow-source"></div></div></div><div class="field-item odd"><div id="altslideshow-embedded-gallery-1-7" class="altslideshow-embedded-gallery" rel="1"><a href="/slideshow/book-slideshow?image=7"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/310x220/public/slideshow/book-page7.png" /></a><div class="altslideshow-title">BROOKLYN MUSEUM OF ART</div><div class="altslideshow-caption"><!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->©CARL STAHL</div><div class="altslideshow-source"></div></div></div><div class="field-item even"><div id="altslideshow-embedded-gallery-1-8" class="altslideshow-embedded-gallery" rel="1"><a href="/slideshow/book-slideshow?image=8"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/310x220/public/slideshow/book-page8.png" /></a><div class="altslideshow-title">SANTA FE OPERA</div><div class="altslideshow-caption"><!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->©JEFF GOLDBERG/ESTO</div><div class="altslideshow-source"></div></div></div><div class="field-item odd"><div id="altslideshow-embedded-gallery-1-9" class="altslideshow-embedded-gallery" rel="1"><a href="/slideshow/book-slideshow?image=9"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/310x220/public/slideshow/book-page9.png" /></a><div class="altslideshow-title">SEAMEN’S CHURCH INSTITUTE</div><div class="altslideshow-caption"><!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->©JEFF GOLDBERG/ESTO</div><div class="altslideshow-source"></div></div></div><div class="field-item even"><div id="altslideshow-embedded-gallery-1-10" class="altslideshow-embedded-gallery" rel="1"><a href="/slideshow/book-slideshow?image=10"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/310x220/public/slideshow/book-page10.png" /></a><div class="altslideshow-title">NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AMERICAN JEWISH HISTORY</div><div class="altslideshow-caption"><!--smart_paging_autop_filter-->©JEFF GOLDBERG/ESTO</div><div class="altslideshow-source"></div></div></div></div></div> <div class="slideshow-pager"><div class="item-list"><ul class="altslideshow-pager" id="altslideshow-pager-1"><li class="first"><div class="count">1 of 11</div></li> <li class="last"><a href="/slideshow/book-slideshow?image=1" class="next" rel="1">Next</a></li> </ul></div></div><div class="slideshow-tags"><h4 class="title">Tags</h4></div></div></div></div> </div> Sun, 04 May 2014 10:46:00 -0700 Don Hazen, AlterNet 988820 at http://www.alternet.org Visions Visions clinton library james stewart polshek architecture architect Why Such Hysterical Reactions By Andrew Sullivan and the Pundit Class to Mozilla CEO Stepping Down Because of His Anti-Gay Position? http://www.alternet.org/media/hysterical-negative-reaction-pundit-class-mozilla-ceo-stepping-down-because-his-anti-gay <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Are they overreacting?</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/screen_shot_2014-04-09_at_3.43.28_pm.png" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><div><div><div><div>You would have thought some terrible crime had been committed given the moral outrage offered by a gaggle of mainstream white male pundits about the resignation of the newly appointed CEO Brendan Eich, of the non-profit Mozilla, creator of the Firefox browser.</div><div> </div></div><div><div>For quick background, Mozilla is a fairly unique American technology entity which <a href="http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/04/04/why-mozillas-chief-had-to-resign/?_php=true&amp;_type=blogs&amp;_php=true&amp;_type=blogs&amp;smid=tw-nytimes&amp;_r=1" target="_blank">columnist Farhad Manjoo described</a> as "not a normal company.... It is an activist organization. Mozilla’s primary mission isn’t to make money but to spread open-source code across the globe in the eventual hope of promoting ‘the development of the Internet as a public resource.’"</div><div> </div></div><div><div>The chorus of pundit concern on behalf of the badly treated Eich included an array of misinformation, straw men and flights of logic that makes one wonder why the pundits got so worked up. Headlines like the "New Gay Orthodoxy," "The Backlash Against Eich Crossed a Line," "The Gay Mafia," etc., put one in mind of Hamlet's observation, "Thou doth protest too much. "</div><div> </div><div>Much of the controversy was provoked or motivated by conservative Catholic gay blogger and intellectual, Andrew Sullivan, who said that the Mozilla chief was "scalped by some gay activists." Sullivan's highly flammable statements were quoted in such repetition by critics defending Eich, it's almost as if Sullivan was the only gay person with a worthwhile opinion. Most oft quoted was what Sullivan  <a href="http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2014/04/03/the-hounding-of-brendan-eich/" target="_blank">wrote on his blog</a>: "Will he (Eich) now be forced to walk through the streets in shame? Why not the stocks? The whole episode disgusts me—as it should disgust anyone interested in a tolerant and diverse society. If this is the gay rights movement today—hounding our opponents with a fanaticism more like the religious right than anyone else—then count me out. If we are about intimidating the free speech of others, we are no better than the anti-gay bullies who came before us."</div><div> </div><div>Wow. </div><div><div> </div><div>Perhaps to top Sullivan, the always provocative Bill Maher added fuel to the fire: "I think there is a gay mafia, and if you cross them, you get whacked," even though the situation at Mozilla had little to do with national gay groups or leaders, but rather an uproar from employees, users and customers, with the dating site OkCupid given a lot of credit with crystalizing the message that the community thought it was a bad idea to make Eich CEO. </div><div> </div></div><div><strong>Sanity from the New Yorker's Surowiecki</strong></div><div> </div><div>It was the reliably <a href="http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/currency/2014/04/how-mozilla-lost-its-ceo-brendan-eich.html" target="_blank">wise James Surowiecki of the</a><em><a href="http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/currency/2014/04/how-mozilla-lost-its-ceo-brendan-eich.html" target="_blank">New Yorker</a></em> who put the whole contretemps into full perspective: </div><blockquote>"When Brendan Eich stepped down as the C.E.O. of Mozilla, on Thursday ... it was perhaps the least surprising C.E.O. departure ever ... Eich was well known for his opposition to gay marriage: in 2008, he donated a thousand dollars to support Proposition 8, the California ballot measure that sought to ban same-sex marriage. The initial revelation of that donation, back in 2012, led to a welter of criticism that eventually died down. But, by elevating Eich to C.E.O., the Mozilla board brought his past to the forefront once again. ... The real mystery here, then, is not why Eich stepped down but why he ever got hired in the first place ... this was a candidate who divided the board, who had already been controversial, and whose promotion was guaranteed to generate reams of bad publicity."</blockquote><div>Surowiecki adds: </div><div><blockquote>"At this point, a tech company having a C.E.O. who opposes gay marriage is not all that different from a company in 1973 having a C.E.O. who donated money to fight interracial marriage: even if there were plenty of Americans who felt the same way at the time, the C.E.O. would still have been on the wrong side of history. And since the role of a C.E.O. as a public face of an organization is more important than ever these days, Eich’s personal views were inevitably going to shape his ability to run the company."</blockquote></div><div><div>So what is with the hysterical overreaction to what seemed like a predictable and modest marketplace victory for people who view public and dogged opponents of gay marriage as bigots? A key point is that according <a href="http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2014/04/03/eich-steps-down-as-mozilla-chief/" target="_blank">to the <em>New York Times</em></a>, "Throughout the controversy, Mr. Eich... refused to repudiate his donation, even after being asked personally to do so in a meeting with two prominent software developers who said they would no longer create apps for Firefox." </div></div><div><div> </div><div>Why did a number of "liberal pundits"—Frank Bruni at the <em>New York Times</em>, Will Saletan at <em>Slate</em>, Conor Friedersdorf of the<em>Atlantic</em>, and Tony Bradley of <em>Forbes—</em>all cry so loudly and at times seemingly illogically? Why was Andrew Sullivan so central to the story, in effect making himself a secondary story? And why, if he was trying to encourage understanding, did Sullivan roil the waters in such a flammable way? </div><div> </div><div>Perhaps if one thinks exercising some muscle on behalf of gay rights is progressive — the right wing and its idiotic talking heads on Fox, like Donald Trump are still trying to undermine gay marriage—then we might gather, as New York's Mayor Bill de Blasio has quickly discovered, that much of the moneyed establishment and corporate-elected officials don't like progressives exercising any muscle. As so many know from history, rights are only gained by the exercise of power, and many, including the<em>New York Times</em> and the establishment blogosphere, don't particularly seem to like others exercising power: they seem to prefer, in this case, that wealthy bigots keep their jobs in the name of diversity and free speech.</div><div> </div><div>But let me try out another theory. Punditry and opinion on the web is very different than for newspapers and magazines—not that papers and mags don't like lots of web traffic, they do, but it is much more of a team operation. In key ways—e.g. at the<em>New Yorker</em>, and the <em>LA</em> and <em>NY Times</em>, the paper edition is still the more important product. And there are hundreds of contributors. But on the web, pundits for websites are much more dependent on eyeballs for their success and livelihood. And pundit and opinion web traffic comes from two things: controversy and links.  </div><div> </div><div>It would be an understatement to say that Andrew Sullivan's success is highly dependent on controversy, traffic and links. He took the major step of going on his own with his blog, choosing not to be part of a media company. This also makes him dependent on support from his pundit friends, who by highlighting and linking to his writing, support his business. Every eyeball to Sullivan's blog is monetized. Saletan, at <em>Slate</em>, is wholly dependent on web traffic, and Friedersdorf, at the<em>Atlantic</em>, needs to produce traffic too, as the monthly<em></em>magazine has taken somewhat of a back seat to the web enterprise. So like-minded establishment web pundits and writers are codependent. They all are trying to keep their traffic burning.  </div><div> </div><div>So sure, you say, everyone gives business and does favors for their friends and allies. So do I. But when it comes to flammable topics of journalistic importance like human rights, we should keep in mind that there are incentives at play that could shape how debates evolve. We had e.g. predictable, understandable and justifiable events in the Eich/Mozilla situation, turned into high controversy,  from the conservatives. of course, but also from the "liberals." Why did that happen? Now, obviously this theory can't be wrapped up in a neat ribbon. I cannot be in the heads or hearts of those involved. But how things work on the web is something to keep in mind. </div><div> </div><div>What follows are some of the arguments made by some of the pro-Sullivan pundits.</div><div> </div><div><strong>Will Saletan @ <em>Slate </em></strong></div><div> </div><div>Answering the Andrew Sullivan call, and leading the way for the pundits was Will Saletan, of  Slate who essentially called the  push to oust Eich  a "witch hunt," and that Eich's personal views shouldn't matter. Michael Hiltzik, a business writer at the <a href="http://www.latimes.com/business/hiltzik/la-fi-mh-gay-marriage-20140404,0,7985087.story#ixzz2yPHtyjdm" target="_blank">LA Times demolishes</a> Saletan's  logic of: "why not purge every corporate employee anywhere who did the same? " <a href="http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/frame_game/2014/04/brendan_eich_quits_mozilla_let_s_purge_all_the_antigay_donors_to_prop_8.html" target="_blank">Saletan</a> called <wbr></wbr>disapproval of support for Proposition 8 a "new standard" and wrote, "perhaps we should put down the pitchforks."  But for Hiltzik, "that's a foolish take on this case. The CEO of a company isn't just any employee; he or she is the face of the company, the standard-bearer and very much the standard-setter. As CEO, Eich had the power to heavily influence corporate policy at Mozilla, and although he publicly stated that he would uphold Mozilla's existing standards of inclusiveness and equal treatment in human relations, plainly these were at odds with his personal views."</div><div><div> </div><div>Saletan trots out some older cases of when gays were discriminated in the work place  to suggest that Eich got the same treatment, when in fact he is not just any employee, but the star developer, whose bias was already well known, and much anger had already been expressed about it.  But of course after his contribution came to light in 2012, he  continued to work at Mozilla in a leadership position -- he was not tossed out because of his views. Only when he  was going to be the leader of the entire enterprise, was he so forcefully challenged.</div><div> </div></div></div></div><div><div><strong>Conor Friedersdorf at the<em>Atlantic Monthly</em></strong></div><div> </div></div><div>Friedersdorf frames his take on Eich's departure as "<a href="http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2014/04/mozillas-gay-marriage-litmus-test-violates-liberal-values/360156/" target="_blank">Mozilla's Gay-Marriage Litmus Test Violates Liberal Values</a>." And then suggests that "The forced resignation of Brendan Eich will have a chilling effect on political discourse." </div><div> </div><div>This is a favorite trick of turning the value tables on its head, topsy-turvey style. A person, who arguably takes a bigoted position, totally out of sync with the community he is supposed to lead, and refuses—presumably on principle, which of course is his right—to change his mind or position, represents " liberal values." Obviously no one is taking Eich's voice away, and now he has a much bigger platform to express his anti-gay marriage position.</div><div> </div><div>One of the ironies here—like segregation and civil rights, and women's rights before it, the courts have overturned Prop 8 as an example of impermissible discrimination. Does Friedersdorf think that a segregationist should be a CEO, or someone against interracial marriage? And that speaking out against their positions will have a chilling effect on public discourse? It's as if Freidersdorf has decided what political discourse should be like, and that challenging people on some bigoted views is too problematic or messy. </div><div> </div><div><strong>Frank Bruni at the<em>New York Times </em></strong></div><div> </div><div><div><div>Friedersdorf argues that at the time of Eich's contribution, a majority of Californians and an even bigger majority of Americans, including Barack Obama, the commander-in-chief who "evolved" to end the ban on gays and lesbians in the military, believed that gay marriage ought to be illegal. And much of <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/06/opinion/sunday/bruni-the-new-gay-orthodoxy.html" target="_blank">Frank Bruni's <em>NY Times</em> column</a> (titled strangely, "the New Gay Orthodoxy"—what was the old orthodoxy, that gays wanted anti-gays to be in charge?) travels the same history that Obama and Clinton didn't "formally"  support marriage equality. But really, they weren't remotely against gay marriage in the same way Eich is still against it today. </div><div> </div><div>The truth is that Obama, <a href="http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Obama-opposes-proposed-ban-on-gay-marriage-3278328.php" target="_blank">during his 2008 presidential </a><a href="http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Obama-opposes-proposed-ban-on-gay-marriage-3278328.php" target="_blank">campaign</a> <wbr></wbr>announced his opposition to Prop 8, and the divisive and discriminatory efforts to amend the California condition. Obama, Hillary Clinton and other moderate Democrats were not necessarily against gay marriage, they were just not willing to be for it in public, but all have made the change. Eich has not.   </div><div> </div><div>Bruni, to his credit, seems to be taken aback by Andrew Sullivan's outrage. But he can't get away from the history of the change in law was too recent, seemingly as an excuse for the fact that Eich still hasn't changed his attitude. The old adage that you are either on the side of change, or you are standing in the way seems to ring true here. Still Bruni writes: "It’s vital to remember how very recently so many of equality’s promoters, like Obama and Clinton, have come around and how relatively new this conversation remains. ... Sullivan is right to raise concerns about the public flogging of someone like Eich. Such vilification won’t accelerate the timetable of victory, which is certain. And it doesn’t reflect well on the victors."</div><div> </div><div>The Bruni take seems judgmental in reverse. Doesn't it positively reflect on the victors that they said they didn't like where Eich stood, it was against their values, and in fact the law in California, and they were going to express their opinions and organize? That seems the essence of working within the system for change. </div></div><div> </div><div><strong>Tony Bradley at Forbes</strong></div><div> </div><div>Bradley's logic fundamentally escapes me. He <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/tonybradley/2014/04/05/backlash-against-brendan-eich-crossed-a-line/">asserts contretemps</a> that "Brendan Eich and Mozilla are two separate things…. It makes no sense to choose the companies you do business with—or don’t do business with as the case may be—based on the personal beliefs and ideologies of individual employees. ... Besides, why stop at the CEO? If we’re going to demonize entire corporations based on the personal beliefs and ideologies of individual employees, why not also boycott <a href="http://www.forbes.com/companies/boeing/" target="_blank">Boeing</a>, or Walgreens, or <a href="http://www.forbes.com/companies/intel/" target="_blank">Intel</a>, or <a href="http://www.forbes.com/companies/google/" target="_blank">Google</a>, or the State of California itself—all of which had employees who donated $1,000 in support of Proposition 8 just as Brendan Eich did?"</div><div> </div><div>Huh? Millions of people make decisions about where they bring their business every day. Millions would never shop at Walmart, but might go out of their way to go to Trader Joes. Millions don't buy the Koch brothers Brawny paper towels, hate Starbucks, go to Peets and on and on. We have published dozens of article about companies that have been successfully boycotted because of bad behavior from the CEO. These companies have often changed their ways, or at least said they would. Then on the other hand Bradley suggests that if a minor person in a giant company with thousands of employees gives $1,000 to a cause, it should be boycotted. Eich was the CEO, the leader, the public face and top banana of Mozilla.</div><div><p>Bradley also posits that "The Constitution and the Bill of Rights do, however, apply to every individual citizen of the United States. That means that Brendan Eich is entitled to his beliefs, whether we agree with him or not. He is entitled to support the causes that are important to him, no matter how objectionable they may be to you."</p><p>Did anyone tell Eich he couldn't have his beliefs? Do the Constitution and the Bill of Rights apply here? Of course not.</p><p>So, I'm still scratching my head about how these pundits and Andrew Sullivan could have made such stretched out and nonsensical arguments about the Eich situation with a straight face. If it was satire, perhaps I could understand. But in fact it is a simple reminder that much of what passes for debate in this country has little do do with the facts, but rather more to do with what emotion can ratchet up at the moment. And this is not just a habit of the conservatives.  </p></div></div></div></div><p> </p> Wed, 09 Apr 2014 12:24:00 -0700 Don Hazen, AlterNet 979838 at http://www.alternet.org Media Civil Liberties Corporate Accountability and WorkPlace Media Mozilla The Most Elitist, Disgusting Supreme Court Has Rigged the Whole System in Favor of the Rich http://www.alternet.org/most-elitist-disgusting-supreme-court-has-rigged-whole-system-favor-rich <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">The Supreme Court has crushed the last aspect of campaign finance reform. That&#039;s why we need your support.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/photo_1343584057923-1-0_10.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px;">You may have heard about the new book, "Flash Boys" by Michael Lewis, about how the stock market is rigged by super-fast computer trading; or perhaps you saw Lewis tell the story on <em>60 Minutes</em> <span class="aBn" data-term="goog_795144033" style="border-bottom-width: 1px; border-bottom-style: dashed; border-bottom-color: rgb(204, 204, 204); position: relative; top: -2px; z-index: 0;" tabindex="0"><span class="aQJ" style="position: relative; top: 2px; z-index: -1;">Sunday</span></span> night. <br /><br /><strong>But it's not just the stock market that is rigged. The whole system is rigged. </strong>  <br /><br />With Wednesday’s decision in McCutcheon v. FEC, the Supreme Court has doubled down on Citizen's United crushing the last aspect of campaign finance reform. It is now official, or perhaps more "official." Plutocracy = The United Stated of America. The rich will rule at levels beyond our imagination even just a few years ago.  <br /><br />Justice Breyer writing for the four Justices who don't represent the billionaire class said the decision undermines the political integrity of our governmental institutions"</p><blockquote style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px;"><p>"It creates a loophole that will allow a single individual to contribute millions of dollars to a political party or to a candidate’s campaign. …What has this to do with corruption? It has everything to do with corruption…. Today’s decision eviscerates our Nation’s campaign finance laws, leaving a remnant incapable of dealing with the grave problems of democratic legitimacy that those laws were intended to resolve."</p></blockquote><p style="font-family: arial, sans-serif; font-size: 14px;">Breyer couldn't be clearer. <strong>And we can't be clearer. This is depressing, infuriating, and it is time for us to revolt. Seriously. We can't take this any more.</strong> We need to double down on our belief in democracy and fairness, not on the most elitist, disgusting Supreme Court in history --thanks to George Bush.  <br /><br /><a href="https://act.alternet.org/donate/FY14SP4-E/?akid=11671.116584.i9WMw8&amp;rd=1&amp;t=4"><strong>Please make a contribution to us and we will fight like hell</strong></a><a href="https://act.alternet.org/donate/FY14SP4-E/?akid=11671.116584.i9WMw8&amp;rd=1&amp;t=4">.</a> But not just to us -- give money to grass roots groups building local power and fighting corporate power; to candidates who are clear they are on the side of the people, not the super wealthy.<br /><br /><strong>The battle just gets tougher. The need gets bigger. The future is truly at stake.  Please help us fight this battle for you and the millions who don't have a voice. <a href="https://act.alternet.org/donate/FY14SP4-E/?akid=11671.116584.i9WMw8&amp;rd=1&amp;t=5"><font color="#1155cc">Please make a contribution to AlterNet right now</font>.</a></strong></p> Thu, 03 Apr 2014 13:45:00 -0700 Don Hazen, AlterNet 978214 at http://www.alternet.org trading wall street Editorial: The Retirement Crisis Is Upon Us http://www.alternet.org/editorial-retirement-crisis-upon-us <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">Two-thirds of working Americans will not be able to maintain their standard of living when they retire. Many will go into poverty.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/retirement_ahead.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><p>At the end of the year, we launched AlterNet’s Retirement Crisis Reporting Project. Despite the hundreds of end-of-the-year fundraising campaigns, 243 AlterNet readers contributed $6,870 to get us off to a great start. This is reader-supported, "crowdfunded” journalism at its best. But this is just the beginning. <a href="https://donate.alternet.org/FY13YE8-A?">We will need lots of help going forward</a>.</p><p>Unless we get serious and do something about it now, we are very quickly heading into a massive retirement crisis, not just for the huge, aging Baby Boomer generation, but for generations to come. It has to be fixed, but our leaders are intent on making it worse. </p><p>Two-thirds of working Americans will not be able to maintain their standard of living when they retire, sending many into poverty or near poverty. And none of it is our fault. Millions of Boomers, Gen Xers and others have not been able to save for the future. Pensions have disappeared. Wages have been flat. Healthcare costs have spiraled. Private plans like 401ks and 403bs haven't kept up. There have been recessions, waves of high inflation and unemployment. </p><p>So, Social Security and other benefits have to be fixed and expanded. The frustrating part is that it is all easily fixable. But the political establishment from Barack Obama to the billionaire propagandist Pete Peterson to the Washington Post editorial page, are hard at work making it worse, by wanting to shrink benefits, not expand them.</p><p>To sum up the problem and the solution, here are nine key facts about the crisis to keep in mind:</p><ul><li>Americans over age 65 are <a href="http://www.nasi.org/sites/default/files/research/Whats_Next_for_Social_Security_Oct2013.pdf" target="_blank">projected</a> to increase from 14 percent of the current population to about 21 percent of the population by 2035.</li><li>The Social Security Trust Fund had a <a href="http://www.ssa.gov/oact/trsum/" target="_blank">surplus</a> of $2.54 trillion at the end of 2011, and is projected to be <a href="http://www.ssa.gov/oact/trsum/" target="_blank">solvent</a> until 2033.</li><li>Though most people don't know it, Congress has cut Social Security payments by 24 percent <a href="http://www.nasi.org/sites/default/files/research/Whats_Next_for_Social_Security_Oct2013.pdf" target="_blank">since 1983</a>, via delayed cost-of-living increases and higher taxes.  </li><li>One-third of seniors live only on SS benefits, which is an average of $1,274 a month per retiree. For two-thirds of retirees, the Social Security benefit is <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHAcy4SNVbo&amp;list=UUQlxOsA7o2uhcWYT2Po28FQ&amp;index=1&amp;feature=plcp" target="_blank">more than</a> half of what they live on. </li><li>The <a href="http://www.mariko-chang.com/wealthdata.html" target="_blank">wealth gap</a> is skewed by race. For every dollar a white person has in savings, a Latino person has only 6 cents and a black person has only 5 cents.</li><li>Gender is a huge issue: Seven out of 10 seniors living <a href="http://www.nasi.org/sites/default/files/research/Economic%20Status%20of%20the%20Elderly%20in%20the%20United%20States.pdf" target="_blank">under 125 percent</a> of the federal poverty line (<a href="http://www.familiesusa.org/resources/tools-for-advocates/guides/federal-poverty-guidelines.html" target="_blank">$14,360</a>) are women.</li><li>Social Security is also the largest federal government program <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lHAcy4SNVbo&amp;list=UUQlxOsA7o2uhcWYT2Po28FQ&amp;index=1&amp;feature=plcp" style="font-size: 12px;" target="_blank">helping children</a><span style="font-size: 12px;">, with 6.5 million recipients, totaling 8 eight of every 100 children in the U.S. in 2012.</span></li><li>Many people don't realize that no Social Security taxes are paid on incomes over $117,000, so the wealth get off easily. Slightly raising Social Security payroll taxes would <a href="http://www.nasi.org/sites/default/files/research/Whats_Next_for_Social_Security_Oct2013.pdf" target="_blank">more than cover</a> and sustain the expansion of Social Security.</li><li>Huge numbers of Americans support Social Security reforms, with <a href="http://www.nasi.org/sites/default/files/research/Whats_Next_for_Social_Security_Oct2013.pdf" target="_blank">87 percent</a> of the population in favor of scrapping the $117k cap and <a href="http://www.nasi.org/sites/default/files/research/Whats_Next_for_Social_Security_Oct2013.pdf" target="_blank">82 percent</a> in favor of slight Social Security tax increases.</li></ul><p>Why do wealthy power brokers want to cut Social Security taxes when they grossly underpay into the system themselves? That is the question at hand. There is no other issue in America where those in power are so out of sync with the voters and the people. </p><p>A series of simple, fair-minded fixes would make Social Security solvent for decades, and would allow us to expand the benefits so no Americans fall into poverty as they age. That is a worthy goal for all of us, don't you think?</p><p>Please, if you agree that the retirement crisis requires effective public education and organizing, <a href="https://donate.alternet.org/FY13YE8-E" target="_blank">then please support our Retirement Crisis Campaign</a>. Every little bit helps. You will be working in your own interest and on behalf of so many fellow Americans in need. We will be working on the retirement crisis all year, and into the future.</p><div><em><span style="font-size: 12px;">Sign up </span><span style="font-size: 12px;">to receive an <a href="http://www.alternet.org/join-our-retirement-crisis-newsletter">occasional newsletter</a> of the best coverage of the retirement crisis, from AlterNet and other sources. </span></em></div><div> </div><div><em>Read <a href="http://www.alternet.org/economy/retirement-theft-4-despicable-steps‎">Paul Buchheit's powerful indictment of how corporate America is stealing people's retirement <span style="font-size: 12px;">savings.</span></a></em></div> Tue, 07 Jan 2014 13:53:00 -0800 Don Hazen, AlterNet 944386 at http://www.alternet.org retirement 10 Disruptors: People Who Really Shook Up the System in 2013 http://www.alternet.org/activism/10-disruptors-2013-whom-we-should-be-grateful <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-teaser field-type-text-long field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even">In a bleak year filled with bad news, people from Edward Snowden to Elizabeth Warren were brave enough to shake up the establishment.</div></div></div> <!-- All divs have been put onto one line because of whitespace issues when rendered inline in browsers --> <div class="field field-name-field-story-image field-type-image field-label-hidden"><div class="field-items"><div class="field-item even"><img typeof="foaf:Image" src="/files/styles/story_image/public/story_images/3f1fdf497d8ea796508ee12f6faa5e92b714a924_1.jpg" /></div></div></div> <!-- BODY --> <!--smart_paging_autop_filter--><div><div dir="ltr"><div><div><div dir="ltr"><div><div>Americans live in a country lorded over by corporate and banking power. Our big business culture is accompanied by a pervasive and extraordinarily expensive military dominating the globe, ensuring our economic hegemony and protecting our interests. Meanwhile, there is a steady push to privatize as much of the public sector for private profit as achievable, especially in the education sphere.</div><div> </div><div>In addition, the intelligentsia, the hipsters and the most progressive people embrace the corrupt company that is Apple; we are seduced by the beautiful functionality and design of its products, ignoring the fact that Apple is a corporation that is not friendly to America. Despite its rank at the top of the most profitable corporations, Apple gives almost no money to charity—a legacy of Steve Jobs—and as <a href="http://www.businessinsider.com/how-apple-reduces-what-it-pays-in-taxes-2013-5" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204);" target="_blank"><em>Business Insider</em> describes</a>: Apple avoids $17 million in taxes everyday "through a ballsy... tax avoidance scheme." </div><div> </div><div>As consumers we often shop and eat at huge companies like Walmart, Dardens and McDonald's—companies that don't pay their employees living wages, or remotely what they could, given the <a href="http://www.forbes.com/sites/robertlenzner/2013/11/30/there-are-far-fewer-bears-on-the-stock-market-today-than-at-the-peaks-in-2000-or-2007/" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204);" target="_blank">historic profits they're earning</a>. </div><div> </div><div>The exploitative power of the virulent strain of American capitalism is meticulously documented in countless articles, books and documentaries, capturing the thousands of ways the U.S. is an outlier compared with other advanced nations. Vast amounts of our federal budget is devoted to the military, instead of supporting people in need. American companies produce arms and weapons for people, ethnic tribes and countries battling and killing each around the world, while making and selling guns by the millions so people can shoot each other in unprecedented numbers at home. Our penal system by is far the largest in the world, and continues to expand — and privatize— so that our prison population is now over <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/08/13/wonkbook-11-facts-about-americas-prison-population/" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204);" target="_blank">2.4 million people</a>. </div><div> </div><div>The American capitalist juggernaut seems to gather more steam every day, effectively using its Tea Party shock troops in Congress to stymie even the most modest and humane policies, and leveraging a vast array of resources and political influence to protect its interests at every turn. </div><div> </div><div><strong>The Power of Disruption</strong></div><div> </div><div>"Fighting the power," as people used to say, is no easy task. Victories are hard to come by and can quickly slide away because the power establishment of money, lobbying, lawyers, PR machines and out-and-out corruption are like Neil Young's rust: they never sleep. </div><div> </div><div>Often the most effective approach people can take to make the system more equitable is to disrupt it—to force a temporary changing of patterns, expose wrongdoing and spread the word, so some of the contradictions are exposed. Then maybe a change can be achieved, or a harm mitigated, even if temporarily. There is a long history of disrupters of many stripes in America, more recent examples being the <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Merry_Pranksters" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204);" target="_blank">Merry Pranksters</a> and the environment warriors, <a href="http://www.hcn.org/wotr/monkey-wrenchers-keep-on-keeping-on" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204);" target="_blank">Monkey Wrenchers</a>.</div><div> </div><div>As we know, new technology has long had various disruptive effects on the status quo and brought vast new forms of communication (and unfortunately, spying), while creating a whole new gaggle of obscenely rich people. But the hope that many had for the democratization impact of technology has proven to primarily be a false one, as technology's primary focus seems to be watching everything we do, everywhere we go—there is no escape. </div><div> </div><div>People often say that sunshine is the best disinfectant. Well, perhaps it can get the ball rolling. But knowing is not changing. Change takes resources, organizing and strong spines. Serious organizing in America has mostly disappeared, replaced by the mentality that signing a petition is effort enough. That may give people a sense of participation, but it rarely translates to systemic change. </div><div> </div><div><strong>1. Edward Snowden, chief disruptor</strong>.</div><div> </div><div>There is little doubt that the chief disruptor of our system in 2013 was (and still is) Edward Snowden, whose treasure trove of memos, PowerPoints and classified documents has exposed an all-powerful technological spying machine. Working with journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras, and in turn journalists from many other media organizations, we now know amazing amounts of information about just how intrusive and widespread our government's spy system is.</div><div> </div><div>Many other countries and their leaders are irate. Some American tech companies claim to be upset as well. We shall see whether all this exposure leads to any significant reform. Unfortunately, just letting the world know how screwed up things are can just as easily make people give up, get depressed, and become docile, as move people to some kind of action. The massive security apparatus of the U.S. seems to be far beyond any reform, if President Obama and the Democrats were ever serious about it, which they don't seem to be. What do they have to gain by reforming this system?</div><div> </div><div><strong>2. Bill de Blasio: mayor of potential disruption.</strong></div></div><div><div><p>It is very rare these days for someone with disruptive instincts and intentions to actually gain power.  But Bill de Blasio's landslide victory to become mayor of New York City was one of voters' most disruptive acts in recent memory. Along with Elizabeth Warren, "Big Bill" becomes the elected official with the most potential and influence.</p><p>The thing about de Blasio is that he is already a political pro on every level. He will operate in ways that will sometimes inspire progressives and will at other times chagrin them; for example, his appointment of Bill Bratton as Police Commissioner. Bratton was a brilliant political move doing away with the dark shadow of Ray Kelly and his stop-and-frisk advocacy in one fell swoop. De Blasio told me he thought Bratton "had done an excellent job in LA, working well with progressives and people of color," so he intends to have him do an excellent job in NYC. It was a neat way of solving what could have been a big political headache.</p><p>The main point is, unlike say Rudy Giuliani, de Blasio does not have a security-obsessed brain. He has many other fish to fry, in particular aiming to reduce some of the inequality in NYC, no easy task. As key advisor Kenny Sunshine points out, "de Blasio says basically the same thing wherever he goes." He is not a politician who tailors things. I loved it at the Nation dinner when he said, "Well you know, I didn't get the endorsement of the New York Post, or the Daily News, or even the New York Times. The one magazine I did get endorsed by was the Nation, so you could say that the road to City Hall goes through the Nation magazine."</p><p dir="ltr"><strong>3. Michelle Alexander: author and speaker as disruptor.</strong></p></div></div><div><p dir="ltr">There is nothing more infuriating and depressing in America than the "culture of mass incarceration" that has dominated the U.S. for decades. The result is a virtual gulag of people under the control of the fundamentally racist criminal justice system. Even though white people outnumber black people five to one in the U.S., and both groups use and sell drugs at similar rates, the latter make up 55 percent of those convicted for drug possession and 74 percent of those imprisoned for drug possession, <a href="https://www.aclu.org/files/FilesPDFs/ACF4F34.pdf" target="_blank">according to the ACLU</a>.</p><p dir="ltr">No one has fought harder, and been more articulate in the attempt to bring some sense to American policymakers and the public about our jail-crazy society than Michelle Alexander, an associate professor of law at Ohio State University and a former ACLU lawyer.</p><p dir="ltr">The all-powerful prison-industrial complex undermines the futures of those behind bars and their extended families—a poison whose ripple effect contaminates millions upon millions of people. The tragedy is that many are behind bars for victimless crimes, serving harsh sentences. When similar sentencing practices take place in other parts of the world the U.S. is quick to label those nations “police states.” Nothing has contributed more to poverty and inequality than the oppressive U.S. penal system. As Michelle Alexander has pointed out in great detail in her bestselling book <em><a href="http://thenewpress.com/index.php?option=com_title&amp;task=view_title&amp;metaproductid=1617" target="_blank">The New Jim Crow</a></em>—as well as in the speeches and talks she gives across the country—nothing else so underscores how deep and persistent racism is in America. There are many heroes in the struggle to disrupt the massive prison complex, but Alexander has become a most visible symbol of smarts, grace and determination.</p><div><strong>4. Elizabeth Warren: progressive superstar disruptor</strong>.</div><div> </div><div>Progressives have a new leader and Americans a newfound hope for change, as 2013 comes to an end. Warren is a senator who has enjoyed an unusually quick rise to power, so clearly with a huge constituency, that she overnight changed the nature of debate about the future of <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2013/11/19/elizabeth-warren-wants-to-spend-more-on-social-security-but-shes-not-thinking-big-enough/" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204);" target="_blank">Social Security</a>. The fight is no longer a matter of billionaire Pete Peterson and Barack Obama pushing cutbacks to a skeptical public. Thanks in great part to Warren, we're arriving at full recognition of a <a href="http://www.alternet.org/economy/new-impetus-modernizing-and-expanding-social-security" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204);" target="_blank">giant, looming retirement crisis</a>, in which Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid need to be improved and expanded, or many millions of our aging populace will be living in poverty for decades to come. Warren has now come out against the <a href="http://prn.fm/eric-zuesse-elizabeth-warren-comes-hard-global-warming-separates-hillary-clinton-climate-change/" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204);" target="_blank">Keystone XL Pipeline,</a> and she is a powerful <a href="http://rooseveltinstitute.org/in-the-news/exclusive-interview-elizabeth-warren-says-big-banks-must-stop-blocking-reform" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204);" target="_blank">watchdog over the excesses</a>of the mega-banks. Her speech to the AFL-CIO convention this summer was electrifying as she forcefully told her audience <a href="http://www.alternet.org/economy/elizabeth-warren-slams-corporate-supreme-court" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204);" target="_blank">that the Supreme Court is on the path</a> to being a "wholly owned subsidiary of big business."</div><div> </div><div><div><strong>5. Harry Belafonte: long-distance disruptor</strong>.</div><div> </div><div>The legendary activist, singer and heir to Paul Robeson, Belafonte is still going strong at 87. He's organizing musicians for many vital causes, bringing together gang leaders to work for peace, and acting as a force of nature and role model for so many talented artists. A strong supporter of Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress while Mandela was still in prison, and a key player in the "We Are the World" musical moment, Belafonte's arc is broad and his light still shines bright.</div><div> </div><div>As an early supporter of new NYC mayor Bill de Blasio, he made for an interesting moment in the campaign at the First Corinthian Baptist Church in Harlem <a href="http://www.capitalnewyork.com/article/politics/2013/11/8535461/church-de-blasio-belafonte-compares-kochs-klan" target="_blank">when he connected the Koch brothers</a> and forces of the right-wing with the Ku Klux Klan—which has some historical accuracy. Ever the adroit, de Blasio didn't directly endorse Belafonte's KKK messaging, but soon after he proceeded to criticize the Koch brothers for a batch of other sins, making it clear that progressives had a united front in NYC. Harry Belafonte is a brave, persistent and hugely articulate change agent, making trouble on behalf of the people against the vast array of power, trying to disrupt at every turn, bringing along many thousands of adherents along the way.</div><div> </div><div><div><strong>6. Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez</strong>:<strong>fearless, truth-telling <strong>disruptors</strong>.</strong></div><div> </div><div>As far as being persistent thorns in the side of politics as usual, no one does it better than Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez. Goodman is, as virtually everyone knows, the hard-working creative force in charge of <a href="http://democracynow.org/" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204);" target="_blank"><em>Democracy Now!</em></a>, by far the most important and influential progressive media outlet in America (in part because they do TV and radio, and their transcripts are very popular, too). Goodman travels the country, supporting local media, selling books, and telling her stories, and her fans are legion. She is fearless and relentless.</div><div> </div><div>Goodman's sidekick and cohost for these many years, Juan Gonzalez, may get overlooked at times. But Gonzalez is a top-notch, news-breaking reporter and columnist for the <em>New York Daily News</em>, as good as they get, and deserving of much praise. I can remember back in the late '60s when I saw Gonzalez standing majestically on the steps of an East Harlem church as one of the revolutionary leaders of the Young Lords, the Latino version of the Black Panthers. Unlike many from that era, Gonzalez has stuck to his guns, a deep and honorable progressive for his entire career.</div></div></div><div> </div></div><div><strong>7. Peter Lewis; Uruguayan president José Mujica; and the people of Washington and Colorado.</strong></div><div> </div><div>Besides gay marriage, one of the few areas in society where there has been a positive disruption is the growing success of the long-term effort to legalize cannabis. Starting today, residents of Colorado over the age of 21 will be able to legally buy cannabis in public stores and smoke it freely. The same will soon be true in Washington State and in the country of Uruguay. After decades of struggle, this is a small miracle. It's happening despite the fact that thousands are arrested every day and hundreds of thousands are in jail because of this harmless and often highly beneficial plant.</div><div> </div><div>One of a handful of people most responsible for this sea change in the U.S. is Peter Lewis, the fabulously wealthy founder of Progressive Insurance, who died unexpectedly on November 23 this year of a heart attack. Lewis' financial support, political acumen, and attention to polls and details made him instrumental in many of the campaigns for medical pot, and now for legal marijuana. A big personality, Lewis gave away hundreds of millions to social cases, to Princeton University, and to cultural arts institutions in his hometown of Cleveland. He will be missed, as serious consideration is underway to put legal pot on the ballot in California in 2014.</div><div> </div><div>Meanwhile, Oregon will try to follow in its neighbor Washington's footsteps. There is hope that Lewis' family will continue to support public initiative campaigns for legal pot under the guidance of his highly respected strategist Graham Boyd. Advancing legalization will immediately lower the nation's prison population, and offer easier access to the many proven health benefits of cannabis for millions of people, while potentially undermining the consumption of alcohol, especially among young people, which is one of the true health hazards of our culture.  </div><div> </div><div>Uruguayan president José Mujica has a lot of guts and Uruguay will be the first country to be in charge of the pot business—unlike in Colorado and Washington, where it is a highly regulated but private enterprise.</div><div> </div><div>Also this year, Illinois and New Hampshire joined the 18 other states that have legalized medical marijuana use. Even the stuffy Canadian federal government made medical marijuana legal. You’ll soon be able to get a deal on your dope from Groupon and pay in bitcoins. The times they are a changin’.</div></div><div> </div><div dir="ltr"><div><strong>8. Pope Francis: disruptor from the bully pulpit</strong>.</div><div> </div><div>Can Pope Francis be a true international game changer? Let's hope so  Without a doubt, he and Snowden are the two shockers for 2013. I know this pope hasn't shown himself to be great yet on the <a href="http://www.newrepublic.com/article/116056/progressives-who-love-pope-francis-are-abandoning-women-and-gay-rights" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204);" target="_blank">question of women</a>—let's pray that he does. Still, Pope Francis' <a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/post-politics/wp/2013/11/26/pope-francis-denounces-trickle-down-economics/" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204);" target="_blank">message of less greed</a>, less austerity, less corporate irresponsibility and more love will help women around the world and has produced an <a href="http://religion.blogs.cnn.com/2013/12/24/cnn-poll-popes-approval-rating-sky-high/" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204);" target="_blank">88% approval rating</a>. Hmm. Talking radical politics and economics and getting huge popularity is worth paying attention to, especially people with the initials B.O.   </div><div> </div><div><div><strong>9. Ju Hong, immigrant activist: disrupting the president</strong>.</div><div> </div><div>One of the hard-to-believe facts about President Obama is the huge numbers of immigrants deported during his term, accompanied by cruel polices breaking up countless families with incredible pain and hardship. According to the New York Times, there is a congressional requirement that more than 30,000 immigrants be detained daily. As of December, 368,000 have been detained this year. As<a href="http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2012/08/27/obama-is-deporting-more-immigrants-than-bush-republicans-dont-think-thats-enough/" target="_blank"> Suzy Khimm reports in the Washington Post</a>, "As of July, Obama <a href="http://www.ice.gov/doclib/about/offices/ero/pdf/ero-removals1.pdf" target="_blank">deported</a> 1.4 million illegal immigrants since the beginning of his administration — that's <a href="http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/statements/2012/aug/10/american-principles-action/has-barack-obama-deported-more-people-any-other-pr/" target="_blank">1.5 times</a> more immigrants on average than Bush <a href="http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/statistics/yearbook/2010/table36.xls" target="_blank">deported</a> every month, according to official numbers from the Department of Homeland Security."</div><div> </div><div>Mass deportations under the Obama administration has been met with resistance and protest, although the media barely covers the topic. The young people known as "Dreamers" are a powerful force among those pushing for immigration reform. They can better be described as fearless and determined. Enter an activist with just the right luck and timing to disrupt an <a href="http://colorlines.com/archives/2013/11/obamas_immigration_speech_disrupted_by_undocumented_student_calling_to_halt_deportations.html" target="_blank">Obama speech in San Francisco</a> this November. Ju Hong, an immigrant rights activist from South Korea and member of <a href="http://www.aspiredreamers.org/" target="_blank">Asian Students Promoting Immigrant Rights Through Education</a>, interrupted President Obama to call for an end to mass deportations, engaging in a back-and-forth dialogue with him, not giving in inch. "I thought about my family, I thought about my personal struggle as undocumented, and I thought about my friends and my communities who have been deported and who are currently in detention centers," Hong told who else but <a href="http://www.democracynow.org/2013/11/27/my_family_has_been_separated_for" target="_blank">Democracy Now!'s Amy Goodman about why he spoke out</a>. "I felt I was compelled to tell the truth to President Obama that he has the ability to stop the deportations for all."</div></div><div> </div><div><div dir="ltr"><div><strong>10. Disrupting the NFL: Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru, authors of "League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions, and the Battle for Truth." </strong></div><div><div> </div><div>Imagine trying to disrupt pro football, American's most popular sport and a thriving billion-dollar business. <em><a href="http://www.sfgate.com/tv/article/League-of-Denial-leads-top-documentaries-of-2013-5094796.php" style="color: rgb(17, 85, 204);" target="_blank">League of Denial</a></em> is a deep and meticulously investigated read, both fantastic and depressing, which exposes how the NFL denied and then consistently covered up overwhelming evidence that the basic everyday violence of football, especially in the brutal trenches of the NFL, causes irreparable brain damage. </div><div> </div><div>The Fainaru brothers probe the increasing public health crisis, a huge problem, not only in the $10 billion NFL industry but in colleges, high school, and even in midget football where children are increasingly at risk. It is hard to come to grips with the fact that the most popular sport in history causes untold harm, and probably should be rethought and eventually eliminated, as crazy as that idea sounds.</div><div> </div><div>There are many heroes and villains in this story, but special thanks to Mark and Steve for telling the story so compellingly, and to ESPN, which despite its dependence on the NFL for its enormous success, gave these top-notch reporters the freedom to do what was necessary.</div></div></div></div></div></div></div></div></div><p> </p> Tue, 31 Dec 2013 10:28:00 -0800 Don Hazen, AlterNet 942116 at http://www.alternet.org Activism Activism Visions 2013 disruptor