Archive for the ‘Pyramidal System to Cyclical System’ Category

The Rise of the Permanent Prisoners of War

August 25, 2015

OpEdNews Op Eds 8/24/2015 at 15:17:54

By David Swanson (about the author) Permalink (Page 1 of 1 pages)
Related Topic(s): Police; Police; Prisoners; Prisoners Of War, Add Tags Add to My Group(s)
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From The police are now largely a danger to those they've sworn to protect.
From The police are now largely a danger to those they’ve sworn to protect.
The police are now largely a danger to those they’ve sworn to protect.
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If someone has had the good fortune not to encounter the world of U.S. police and prisons, and the misfortune to learn about the world from U.S. schools, entertainment, and “news” media, a great place to start understanding one of the worst self-inflicted tragedies of our era would be with James Kilgore’s short new book, Understanding Mass Incarceration: A People’s Guide to the Key Civil Rights Struggle of Our Time, followed up by Radley Balko’s longer Rise of the Warrior Cop: The Militarization of America’s Police Forces.

Both books tell a story of gradual change over the past half-century that has resulted in the police going to war against people they were supposed to serve (call it a war on crime, a war on drugs, a war on terror, it’s always in fact a war on people). And what do you do with people captured alive during a war? You lock them away as prisoners of war until the war ends. And if the war never ends? Well, then you bring back the death penalty, create life sentences for lots of crimes including for kids, impose mandatory minimums and three-strikes, and transform parole and probation from rehabilitation to reincarceration services.

The story of this gradual change is one of legal changes (court rulings and legislation), behavior, and popular belief — with each of these influencing the other two in a vicious cycle. You can’t quadruple a prison population in 40 years without instituting a different belief system. You can’t ship black prisoners to be guarded by rural whites employed by for-profit companies, or lock up immigrants indefinitely while they await hearings, and not alter the belief system further. You can’t run several successive election campaigns as contests in meanness and not see changes in policy and behavior. You can’t give police military weapons and not expect them to adopt military attitudes, or give them military training and expect them not to want military weapons. You can’t give crime 10 times the coverage on the “news” and not expect people to imagine crime is increasing. You can’t start smashing in doors without alienating the police and the people from each other.

Kilgore reminds us that the popular movements of the 1960s had an impact on popular thought. Opposition to the death penalty peaked in 1965 and was over 50% from 1957 to 1972, dropping to 20% in 1990. In 1977 only 37% of people polled rated police officers’ ethics as high, a number that rose to 78% in 2001 for no apparent substantive reason. As late as 1981 most Americans thought unemployment was the main cause of crime. We’ve since learned of course that crime is caused by evil demonic forces that possess the bad people of the earth.

The creation of the world’s largest ever collection of permanent prisoners of war — a trend that would translate perfectly to the war “on terror” abroad — developed through cycles, including partisan cycles. That is to say, Nixon had a horrible impact, Carter briefly slowed the mad rush to prisonville, and Reagan and Bush built on Nixon’s policies. The war on drugs was created as a means to militarize the police and involve the federal government in more local law enforcement, not the other war around. Reagan’s attorney general announced early on that, “the Justice Department is not a domestic agency. It is the internal arm of the national defense.” The end of the Cold War saw the military looking for new excuses to exist, and one of them would be the war on drugs.

When Clinton came along it again made a difference to have a Democrat in the White House, only this time for the worse. Bill Clinton and his would-be president wife and allies such as would-be president Joe Biden accelerated the march to suburban Siberia rather than slowing it. Under Clinton it became possible to throw people out of public housing for a single drug offense of any kind by anyone in the house. And yet Clinton was never evicted from his public housing despite the near certainty that someone in the White House used some kind of drug. Clinton brought us huge increases in incarceration, war weapons for police, and the shredding of social supports.

When the War on Terra began in 2001 whole new pathways to profit and police militarization opened up, including the beloved Fatherland’s Department of Homeland Security, which has handed out tens of billions of dollars in “terror grants” that fund the terrorizing of the U.S. public. In 2006 the Buffalo, NY, police staged a series of drug raids they called “Operation Shock and Awe.” Adding truly military grade incompetence to meanness, the New York Police Department raided an elderly couple’s home over 50 times between 2002 and 2010 because their address had randomly been used as a placeholder in a computer system and remained in any report that had failed to include an address.


The arrival of Captain Peace Prize at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue continued the trends and added an escalation of the war on immigrants, as well as of the war weapons for the police programs.

But the partisan cycles are more subtle as well. As Balko recounts, Congress members and others opposed police militarization when the president was of the other party and supported it when he was from theirs, or opposed it when the discussion focused on drugs but supported it in matters of gun-control (or vice versa). Yet, each acceptance was two steps forward and each resistance one step back, so that what was outrageous one decade became the norm in the next.

National partisan tides and vicious cycles of ever increasing militarization interacted over the years with local advances. Los Angeles, and the leadership of Darryl Gates, brought SWAT teams to U.S. policing. The name originally stood for Special Weapons Attack Teams and the tactics were literally a bringing of the war on Vietnam home as Gates consulted with the military to learn what was supposedly working in Vietnam.

Let me close with the question with which Balko begins his book: Are police constitutional? The police, prisons, parole, and probation did not exist when the U.S. Constitution was created any more than did drones or the internet. The first thing in the United States like police was the slave patrol. The first modern police force in the United States was begun in New York City in 1845. I’ve argued at length elsewhere that drones are incompatible with the Bill of Rights. What about police?

The Third Amendment grew out of resistance to allowing soldiers to engage in any of the abuses that constitute the work of police. Need we accept those abuses? I think we can at the very least radically reduce them. To do so we will have to declare an end to the wars abroad and the wars at home. Balko quotes former Maryland police officer Neill Franklin on what changing police attitudes will require:

“Number one, you’ve signed on to a dangerous job. That means that you’ve agreed to a certain amount of risk. You don’t get to start stepping on others’ rights to minimize that risk you agreed to take on. And number two, your first priority is not to protect yourself, it’s to protect those you’ve sworn to protect.” But that would mean not being at war with people.

David Swanson is the author of “When the World Outlawed War,” “War Is A Lie” and “Daybreak: Undoing the Imperial Presidency and Forming a More Perfect Union.” He blogs at and and works for the online (more…)

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The Raping of America: Mile Markers on the Road to Fascism

August 25, 2015

OpEdNews Op Eds 8/25/2015 at 01:35:11

By John Whitehead (about the author) Permalink (Page 1 of 2 pages)
Related Topic(s): Fascism; Fascism-Cant Happen Here; GrassRoots; Marijuana; Police; Privacy, Add Tags Add to My Group(s)
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“Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.”–Martin Luther King Jr.

There’s an ill will blowing across the country. The economy is tanking. The people are directionless, and politics provides no answer. And like former regimes, the militarized police have stepped up to provide a façade of law and order manifested by an overt violence against the citizenry.

Despite the revelations of the past several years, nothing has changed to push back against the American police state. Our freedoms–especially the Fourth Amendment–continue to be choked out by a prevailing view among government bureaucrats that they have the right to search, seize, strip, scan, spy on, probe, pat down, taser, and arrest any individual at any time and for the slightest provocation.

From Dashcam Video of Violent Arrest of Sandra Bland Was Edited...Why? Thom Hartmann talks with Ben Norton, Independent Journalist Website:, about the dash cam video recorded during the arrest of Sandra ...

Despite the recent outrage and protests, nothing has changed to restore us to our rightful role as having dominion over our bodies, our lives and our property, especially when it comes to interactions with the government.

From Dashcam Video of Violent Arrest of Sandra Bland Was Edited…Why? Thom Hartmann talks with Ben Norton, Independent Journalist Website:, about the dash cam video recorded during the arrest of Sandra …
Dashcam Video of Violent Arrest of Sandra Bland Was Edited…Why? Thom Hartmann talks with Ben Norton, Independent Journalist Website:, about the dash cam video recorded during the arrest of Sandra …
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Forced cavity searches, forced colonoscopies, forced blood draws, forced breath-alcohol tests, forced DNA extractions, forced eye scans, forced inclusion in biometric databases–these are just a few ways in which Americans continue to be reminded that we have no control over what happens to our bodies during an encounter with government officials. Thus far, the courts have done little to preserve our Fourth Amendment rights, let alone what shreds of bodily integrity remain to us.

Indeed, on a daily basis, Americans are being forced to relinquish the most intimate details of who we are–our biological makeup, our genetic blueprints, and our biometrics (facial characteristics and structure, fingerprints, iris scans, etc.)–in order to clear the nearly insurmountable hurdle that increasingly defines life in the United States.


In other words, we are all guilty until proven innocent.

Worst of all, it seems as if nothing will change as long as the American people remain distracted by politics, divided by their own prejudices, and brainwashed into believing that the Constitution still reigns supreme as the law of the land, when in fact, we have almost completed the shift into fascism.

In other words, despite our occasional bursts of outrage over abusive police practices, sporadic calls for government reform, and periodic bouts of awareness that all is not what it seems, the police state continues to march steadily onward.

Such is life in America today that individuals are being threatened with arrest and carted off to jail for the least hint of noncompliance, homes are being raided by police under the slightest pretext, and roadside police stops have devolved into government-sanctioned exercises in humiliation and degradation with a complete disregard for privacy and human dignity.

Consider, for example, what happened to Charnesia Corley after allegedly being pulled over by Texas police for “rolling” through a stop sign. Claiming they smelled marijuana, police handcuffed Corley, placed her in the back of the police cruiser, and then searched her car for almost an hour. They found nothing in the car.


As the Houston Chronicle reported:

“Returning to his car where Corley was held, the deputy again said he smelled marijuana and called in a female deputy to conduct a cavity search. When the female deputy arrived, she told Corley to pull her pants down, but Corley protested because she was cuffed and had no underwear on. The deputy ordered Corley to bend over, pulled down her pants and began to search her. Then”Corley stood up and protested, so the deputy threw her to the ground and restrained her while another female was called in to assist. When backup arrived, each deputy held one of Corley’s legs apart to conduct the probe.”

As shocking and disturbing as it seems, Corley’s roadside cavity search is becoming par for the course in an age in which police are taught to have no respect for the citizenry’s bodily integrity. In fact, it’s gotten so bad that you don’t even have to be suspected of possessing drugs to be subjected to a strip search.

It must be remembered that the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution was intended to prevent government agents from searching an individual’s person or property without a warrant and probable cause (evidence that some kind of criminal activity was afoot). While the literal purpose of the amendment is to protect our property and our bodies from unwarranted government intrusion, the moral intention behind it is to protect our human dignity.


Unfortunately, the indignities being heaped upon us by the architects and agents of the American police state–whether or not we’ve done anything wrong–don’t end with roadside strip searches. They’re just a foretaste of what is to come.

As I make clear in my book Battlefield America: The War on the American People, the government doesn’t need to strip you naked by the side of the road in order to render you helpless. It has other methods, less subtle perhaps but equally humiliating, devastating and mind-altering, of stripping you of your independence, robbing you of your dignity, and undermining your rights.

With every court ruling that allows the government to operate above the rule of law, every piece of legislation that limits our freedoms, and every act of government wrongdoing that goes unpunished, we’re slowly being conditioned to a society in which we have little real control over our lives.

Indeed, not only are we developing a new citizenry incapable of thinking for themselves, we’re also instilling in them a complete and utter reliance on the government and its corporate partners to do everything for them–tell them what to eat, what to wear, how to think, what to believe, how long to sleep, who to vote for, whom to associate with, and on and on.

In this way, we have created a welfare state, a nanny state, a police state, a surveillance state, an electronic concentration camp–call it what you will, the meaning is the same: in our quest for less personal responsibility, a greater sense of security, and no burdensome obligations to each other or to future generations, we have created a society in which we have no true freedom.

Government surveillance, police abuse, SWAT team raids, economic instability, asset forfeiture schemes, pork barrel legislation, militarized police, drones, endless wars, private prisons, involuntary detentions, biometrics databases, free speech zones, etc.: these are mile markers on the road to a fascist state where citizens are treated like cattle, to be branded and eventually led to the slaughterhouse.
If there is any hope to be found it will be found in local, grassroots activism. In the words of Martin Luther King Jr., it’s time for “militant nonviolent resistance.”

First, however, Americans must break free of the apathy-inducing turpor of politics, entertainment spectacles and manufactured news. Only once we are free of the chains that bind us–or to be more exact, the chains that “blind” us–can we become actively aware of the injustices taking place around us and demand freedom of our oppressors.



John W. Whitehead is an attorney and author who has written, debated and practiced widely in the area of constitutional law and human rights. Whitehead’s aggressive, pioneering approach to civil liberties has earned him numerous accolades and (more…)

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W. E. B. Du Bois to Malcolm X: The Untold History of the Movement to Ban the Bomb

August 4, 2015
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Coretta Scott King (R) with Women Strike for Peace founder Dagmar Wilson (L) in a march on the United Nations Plaza, New York City, Nov. 1, 1963. (Image: Bettmann/CORBIS)

When the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. announced his strong opposition to the war in Vietnam, the media attacked him for straying outside of his civil rights mandate. In so many words, powerful interests told him: “Mind your own business.” In fact, African American leaders have long been concerned with broad issues of peace and justice—and have especially opposed nuclear weapons. Unfortunately, this activism is left out of mainstream corporate-produced history textbooks.

On June 6, 1964, three Japanese writers and a group of hibakusha (atomic bomb survivors) arrived in Harlem as part of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki World Peace Study Mission. Their mission: to speak out against nuclear proliferation.

Yuri Kochiyama, a Japanese American activist, organized a reception for the hibakusha at her home in the Harlem Manhattanville Housing Projects, with her friend Malcolm X. Malcolm said, “You have been scarred by the atom bomb. You just saw that we have also been scarred. The bomb that hit us was racism.” He went on to discuss his years in prison, education, and Asian history. Turning to Vietnam, Malcolm said, “If America sends troops to Vietnam, you progressives should protest.” He argued that “the struggle of Vietnam is the struggle of the whole Third World: the struggle against colonialism, neocolonialism, and imperialism.” Malcolm X, like so many before him, consistently connected colonialism, peace, and the Black freedom struggle. Yet, students have rarely heard this story.

With the recent developments in Charleston surrounding the Confederate flag, there is a renewed focus on what should be included in U.S. history textbooks and who should determine the content. Focusing on African American history, too often textbooks reduce the Black freedom movement to the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the March on Washington. Rosa Parks and Dr. King are put in their neat categorical boxes and students are never taught the Black freedom struggle’s international dimensions, viewing slavery, Jim Crow, and the Civil Rights Movement as purely domestic phenomena unrelated to foreign affairs. However, Malcolm X joined a long list of African Americans who, from 1945 onward, actively supported nuclear disarmament. W. E. B. Du Bois, Bayard Rustin, Coretta Scott King, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the Black Panther Party were just a few of the many African Americans who combined civil rights with peace, and thus broadened the Black freedom movement and helped define it in terms of global human rights.

If students learn about Du Bois at all, it is usually that he helped found the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) or that he received a PhD from Harvard. However, a few weeks after the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Du Bois likened President Truman to Adolph Hitler, calling him “one of the greatest killers of our day.” He had traveled to Japan and consistently criticized the use of nuclear weapons. In the 1950s, fearing another Hiroshima in Korea, Du Bois led the effort in the Black community to eliminate nuclear weapons with the “Ban the Bomb” petition. Many students go through their entire academic careers and learn nothing of Du Bois’ work in the international arena.

If students ever hear the name Bayard Rustin, it is usually related to his work with theMarch on Washington. He has been tragically marginalized in U.S. history textbooks, in large part because of his homosexuality. However, Rustin’s body of work in civil rights and peace activism dates back to the 1930s. In 1959, during the Civil Rights Movement, Rustin not only fought institutional racism in the United States, but also traveled to Ghana to try to prevent France from testing its first nuclear weapon in Africa.

These days, some textbooks acknowledge Dr. King’s critique of the Vietnam War. However, King’s actions against nuclear weapons began a full decade earlier in the late 1950s. From 1957 until his death, through speeches, sermons, interviews, and marches, King consistently protested the use of nuclear weapons and war. King called for an end to nuclear testing asking, “What will be the ultimate value of having established social justice in a context where all people, Negro and White, are merely free to face destruction by Strontium-90 or atomic war?” Following the Cuban Missile Crisis in October 1962, King called on the government to take some of the billions of dollars spent on nuclear weapons and use those funds to increase teachers’ salaries and build much needed schools in impoverished communities. Two years later, receiving the Nobel Peace Prize, King argued the spiritual and moral lag in our society was due to three problems: racial injustice, poverty, and war. He warned that in the nuclear age, society must eliminate racism or risk annihilation.

Dr. King’s wife largely inspired his antinuclear stance. Coretta Scott King began her activism as a student at Antioch College. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, King worked with various peace organizations, and along with a group of female activists, began pressuring President Kennedy for a nuclear test ban. In 1962, Coretta King served as a delegate for Women Strike for Peace at a disarmament conference in Geneva that was part of a worldwide effort to push for a nuclear test ban treaty between the United States and the Soviet Union. Upon her return, King spoke at AME church in Chicago, saying: “We are on the brink of destroying ourselves through nuclear warfare . . . . The Civil Rights Movement and the Peace Movement must work together ultimately because peace and civil rights are part of the same problem.”

Soon, we will commemorate the 70th anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Not long after comes the anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington. Students will then return to school and to their history textbooks. However, most will not learn how these issues are connected. They will not learn of all those in the Civil Rights Movement who simultaneously fought for peace. But this must change, and soon. The scarring of war and poverty and racism that Malcolm X spoke of continues. It’s time that students learn about the long history of activism that has challenged these deadly triplets.

Vincent J. Intondi is an associate professor of history at Montgomery College and director of research for American University’s Nuclear Studies Institute. He is the author ofAfrican Americans Against the Bomb: Nuclear Weapons, Colonialism, and the Black Freedom Movement (Stanford University Press, 2015).

Sending Citizens Summons to Members of Congress

July 28, 2015

OpEdNews Op Eds 7/27/2015 at 12:19:20

By Ralph Nader (about the author) Permalink (Page 1 of 2 pages)
Related Topic(s): Accountability; Congress; Congress Legislative Failures, Add Tags Add to My Group(s)
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With the long congressional recess in August through Labor Day approaching, “We the People” have the opportunity to do more than complain about the Congress and individual Senators and Representatives.

There are many issues affecting you and your communities that need to be addressed by members of Congress. Over the years, it has become increasingly difficult to reach the legislators in Washington, DC and when they return to their districts and states, they often only attend public events and ceremonies where they do little more than shake hands and smile.

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The diminishing number of in-person town meetings by members of Congress are often stacked and controlled. The locations, attendees, and even sometimes pre-screened questions fail to provide citizens an opportunity to make their case to their legislators. Politicians crave predictability; they are control freaks.

So what happened to your votes and your trust in your elected representatives? They were nullified and replaced with ungrateful politicians who have forgotten that the authority lies with the people.Our five hundred and thirty-five Senators and Representatives need to be reminded that they were sent to Washington, DC by voters back home who entrusted them with the well-being of their communities and country. Many of these lawmakers then become indentured to corporate campaign cash that they must constantly beg for, often compromising with what is in the best interest of their constituents. For all this corporate campaign cash, these corporations want something in return — government contracts, giveaways, tax loopholes, weak corporate law enforcement, and other privileges and immunities, especially for giant multinational corporations that have tightened their grips of crony capitalism on Washington.

It is time, during this August recess, for “We the People” to shake up the Congress and shake up the politics across the land. If anyone is skeptical of this possibility, they should recall August 2009 when the Tea Party noisily filled the seats of some town meetings called by Senators and Representatives in a Congress run by the Democrats. That is how the Tea Party movement came to public visibility, with the daily help of Fox News.

After that experience, many members of Congress were forced to reevaluate the power and influence of Town Meetings.


My proposal of a Citizens Summons can begin the process of showing your elected legislators who is truly in charge, as befits the Preamble to the Constitution — “We the People.” I am including below a draft Citizens Summons to your Senators or Representative. It covers the main derelictions of the Congress, under which you can add more examples of necessary reforms.

Your task is to start collecting signatures of citizens, members of citizen groups, labor unions, and any other associations that want a more deliberative democracy. The ultimate objective is to reduce inequalities of power.

Shifting power from the few to the many prevents the gross distortions of our Constitution and laws, our public budgets, and our commonwealth, that currently favor the burgeoning corporate state.

May you give your lawmakers a memorable August recess; they deserve to be shown the workings of what our founding fathers called “the sovereignty of the people.”

The Citizens Summons to a Member of the Congress:


Whereas, the Congress has tolerated the expansion of an electoral process, corrupted by money, that nullifies our votes and commercializes both congressional elections          and subsequent legislation, creating a Congress that is chronically for sale;

Whereas, the Congress has repeatedly supported or opposed legislation and diverted the taxpayer dollars to favor the crassest of corporate interests to the serious                      detriment of the American people, their necessities, and their public facilities — such as access to safer consumer products, health care, and other basic social safety                    services. It has opposed raising the inflation-ravaged minimum wage and fair taxation, allowed endemic waste, fraud, and abuse by contractors, and authorized massive            corporate welfare subsidies and giveaways;

Whereas, the Congress has narrowed or blocked access to justice by millions of Americans, leaving them unprotected and defenseless in many serious ways, while giving          business corporations preferential treatments and allowing them full access to influence the three branches of government;

Whereas, the Congress has imposed trade treaty despotisms over our democratic institutions — the courts, legislatures, and executive departments and agencies —                      subordinating our domestic branches of government’s abilities to preserve and enhance labor, consumer, and environmental standards to the domination of global                    commerce’s “bottom line” and endorsed the usurpation of our judicial process by secret tribunals under the WTO, and other similar invasions of U.S. sovereignty;

Whereas, the access to members of Congress has increased for corporate lobbyists and decreased for ordinary citizens, Therefore, the citizens of the [INSERT state (for Senators) or the congressional district (for Representatives)] hereby Summon you to a town meeting(s) during the August recess (ending September 7, 2015) at a place of known public convenience. Your constituents will establish an agenda of how Congress should shift long overdue power from the few to the many, both in substantive policy and through the strengthening of government and civic institutions;

We deem this Summons to be taken with the utmost seriousness as we gain grassroots support throughout your congressional district (or state for Senators). We expect to hear from you expeditiously so that the necessary planning for our town meeting can take place. This Peoples’ Town Meeting reflects the Preamble to the Constitution that starts with “We the People” and the supremacy of the sovereignty of the people over elected representatives and corporate entities;

Be advised that this Summons calls for your attendance at a Town Meeting run by, of, and for the People. Please reserve a minimum of two hours for this serious exercise of deliberative democracy.

Sincerely yours,

The names of citizens and citizen groups

(For any additional questions about this proposal, send an email to info at

Ralph Nader is one of America’s most effective social critics. Named by The Atlantic as one of the 100 most influential figures in American history, and by Time and Life magazines as one of (more…)

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What’s Wrong with America?

June 9, 2015


The world’s one-time sole surviving superpower is in decline. And what ails the U.S. can be seen through the experience of ordinary people—those who personify the existential rationale for “democracy.”

Three recent stories in the news nicely sum it up: the world’s one-time sole surviving superpower is in decline.  The cause is a sickness.  It’s not a disease of the skin, to coin a phrase.  No, we’re talking about a disease of the heart – the heart and soul, that is, of a society.

There’s no better way to get to the core of what ails U.S. America than through the experience of ordinary people – in other words, the very individuals who personify the existential rationale for “democracy” – the Greek word “demos” means populace or the common people.  In theory, RaDonna Kuekelhan and her sister, Cathy O’Mara, who live in a small town in southeast Kansas, are just the kind of people who stand to benefit the most from a democratic form of government, or even an indirect democracy in which people like RaDonna and Cathy vote for other people to represent them in a rule-making body called a legislature.  But, as RaDonna and millions of others in U.S. America are discovering, the deep and widening gulf between theory and practice is not only bad for working-class folks, but also potentially fatal.

Hyperbole, you say?  Left-wing propaganda?  Fear-mongering?   If you think so you probably haven’t read the story (“Life and Death in Brownback’s Kansas”) featured in the June 2 issue of The Nation magazine.  It’s hard reading because RaDonna is dying.  What makes it even harder is that it didn’t have to be that way.  The reason it happened goes to the core of what’s wrong with Kansas – and the country that has forsaken people like RaDonna.

Exactly what kind of people are RaDonna and her sister?  RaDonna is “a stout, white-haired 59-year-old who’s proudly willful, and she has cheated death twice before.” RaDonna lost her job at Emerson Electric making motors for small appliances, when the factory shut down.  She had worked there for two decades.

When RaDonna’s job was taken away, she lost her health insurance.  During that time she also battled cancer, a battle that entailed 35 rounds of radiation and, of course, a great deal of mental agony, to say nothing of the physical suffering.

The cancer returned in 2010, which just happened to be the same year President Obama signed the Affordable Care Act (ACA) into law.  It was RaDonna’s salvation – almost.

What happened to RaDonna assumes a human form:  Governor Sam Brownback and a Jurassic-Republican juggernaut otherwise known the Kansas legislature.  The context reads like the predicate to a parable:

In 2010, as RaDonna grew ill, 16 percent of Americans had no coverage; in Montgomery County, RaDonna’s home, the uninsured rate was nearly 22 percent. Few of these people qualified for Medicaid, the national program designed to insure poor people, because Kansas has…one of the more restrictive programs in the country…working parents couldn’t earn more than…$5,859 a year for a family of three.  Childless adults like RaDonna didn’t qualify no matter how little they took home.

But then came the Affordable Care Act (ACA), “which promised a massive nationwide expansion of Medicaid.”

States were asked to open…[health insurance exchanges] to all adults earning up to 138 percent of the federal poverty level, or just about $27,000 a year for a family of three. In return, Washington would pay the full costs of new enrollees through 2016 and 90 percent from 2020 forward. It would be hard to overstate the magnitude of this change. It was arguably the largest expansion of an anti-poverty program since Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, when Medicaid was created—and it could very well have saved RaDonna’s life.

When in 2011 Sam Brownback, having fought Medicaid expansion, gave the federal grant money ($31.5 million) his financially distressed state had gotten for health care reform back to Washington (!), he was reacting to reactionaries in his own party and serving notice of his intent not to implement the ACA on his watch.

In 2012, the Supreme Court opened the door for states to refuse set up health insurance exchanges – in other words, not to play nicely.  Roughly two-dozen red states are opting out of the ACA.  Kansas is one of them.

There’s no point in questioning the Governor’s motives:  he bears no ill will toward RaDonna or any other fellow Kansans facing a similar fate.  He’s just doing his job as he sees fit.  But by refusing to set up a state health exchange he unwittingly signed RaDonna’s death warrant.

And that, Virginia, is what we call tragedy.

It so happens that about the same time as the “Life and Death” story appeared, a prominent journalist named Thomas B. Edsall published a piecein the New York Times posing this simple but elegant question:  How Do We Get More People to Have Good Lives?

The search for an answer begins, not surprisingly, with education policy and the role of education in fostering a society conducive to success for the greatest possible number. “It has been widely recognized,” Edsall observes, “that the premium on cognitive skills stems from the shift to a knowledge-based economy driven by the decline in manufacturing employment, the growth of the technology and financial sectors, and labor recruitment from a global talent pool.”

The “decline in manufacturing employment” and “labor recruitment from a global talent pool” (a euphemism for off-shoring, outsourcing, and the trend toward replacing human factory workers with robots) explains what happened to RaDonna’s job – and her health insurance.

What is the root cause of the desperate straits so many decent, hard-working people like RaDonna Kuekelhan face?  Edsall cites several empirical studies that find a close correlation between income levels and educational achievement manifested in “high order” cognitive skills necessary to compete and succeed in today’s job market.  This is a not a problem “we can expect even the best teachers to single-handedly remediate. Whatever you think of the educational reform movement — in its charter-school form or its district-takeover form — the forces contributing to contemporary class stratification are beyond the reach of the classroom alone.”

The most recent New York Times/CBS poll finds that most people (nearly 60 percent) want government to work harder to reduce the gap between the rich and the poor:  “Only one-third of Republicans supported a more active government role, versus eight in 10 of Democrats.”  Another finding is more surprising: “Far from a strictly partisan issue, inequality looms large in the minds of almost half of Republicans and two-thirds of independents, suggesting that it will outlive the presidential primary contests and become a central theme in next year’s general election campaign.”  Meanwhile, people who think the system is rigged in favor of the rich now outnumber people who believe everyone has a fair chance in today’s economy (17 percent fewer than in early 2014).

Taken together, these three stories point to the symptoms of what’s causing this nation’s decline.  Unemployment, outsourcing and offshoring, gross economic inequality, low wages, random benefits, weak unions, rising health care costs, and a badly torn social safety net.  The causes are complex but surely the corrupting effects of unlimited campaign contributions, corporate control of the mainstream media, and massive lobbying efforts in Washington are a big part of The Problem.

Time alone will tell whether or not the illness is fatal, but there is no question that what’s the matter with Kansas is also what’s ailing the nation.

As Fast Track Vote Approaches in House, Democrats May Have Last Word

June 9, 2015
Published on

Tight vote expected this week as alliances over presidential authority bill remain up in the air

The U.S. House of Representatives may vote on Fast Track legislation as soon as this week. (Photo: Stop FastTrack/flickr/cc)

The U.S. House of Representatives is gearing up for a vote on the contentious legislation that could grant President Barack Obama increased power to speed so-called “trade” dealsthrough Congress, and its fate is still up in the air as foes and allies draw their battle lines.

Trade Promotion Authority, also known as Fast Track, passed the U.S. Senate last month, but faces a much tougher fight in the House. Strong opposition comes from progressives and other critics who worry that Obama will use Fast Track to pass agreements like the pro-corporate Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

As Common Dreams previously reported:

[T]he Fast Track bill would grant Congress an up-or-down vote on Obama’s trade deals, but prohibit amendments or a filibuster in the Senate. The authority is seen as a necessary step in the president’s bid to finalize the highly secretive [TPP], which continues to amass foes on many fronts.

So far, 128 Democrats in the House have come out against Fast Track, with some of the most outspoken opposition coming from Keith Ellison (D-Mich.), Raúl Grijalva (D-Ariz.), and Donna Edwards (D-Md.).

As The Hill explains, “Democratic support will be vital to the fate of the measure, as GOP leaders don’t have the 217 or 218 votes — pending a replacement for Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) — to pass it through the lower chamber on their own.”

Reclaiming Our Power While Recovering from Western Civilization

May 9, 2015

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As I read through the comments on Rob Kall’s article, Visions of a Positive Future vs Fixing a Pathological a Pathological Present, I wondered how others envision that future?

The issue, in my opinion, is inherent in the term authority. To be an authority is to author. “Author what?” We should ask. “Us?!” I would respond.

Yes, us! Our lives and the life of this entire planet are what the elite authors (top 1-10%) create. To be an authority is to define how YOUR story goes as well as everyone else.

Is this ok?

Consider the United States symbol of the pyramid on the back of the United States dollar. It is a pyramidal symbol that speaks to the Egyptian Pyramids. The idea of it being Egyptian is important given that Egypt is seen as one of the primary birth mothers of our modern day culture.

This pyramidal symbol IS the essence of western civilization.


As you look at your dollar bill, meditate on the pyramid symbol.

What you will notice is that there are two pyramids. One is below at the base while the other one appears separated and at the top. The top pyramid above is what Rob Kall refers to as the top-1%.

The dollar bill’s pyramid shows us how long this conditioning has been going on. Yes, it goes way back to the Egyptians. Recall the Adam and Eve story? “And the Man (Adam) shall rule over thee?” There it is, the pyramid. The Man, the transcendent eye, is beyond this world and therefore a part from the rest of us.

So much for teamwork!

So, the question is, are we ready to challenge what we have been taught regarding reality.

My first thought in getting out of this mess of Western Civilization is that we need to redefine transcendence. Transcendence in accord to the top-down dollar bill symbol entails a separation from the base. “I’m beyond all this” is the battle cry of the top 1-5 or 10% (a corporate five and dime? Remember those stores?).

“I’m not getting my hands dirty” saith the Koch Brother! “Ok, David,” we respond. “If you sit on top and the base collapses, then what?” Oh, Ok, you have that covered. Your pyramid is beyond all that. It is transcendent.

Transcendence is indeed a deep experience to spiritual awakening. Yet, what is transcendence? Here I’m going to argue that transcendence is getting the Big Picture and NOT being separated out from the rest of the world.

To help you along in understanding this, consider you are driving or walking up a mountain. When you get to the top of the mountain, you can see how the various landmarks (rivers, streams, hills, housing, etc) relate. This is the very reason that many of the Lords, Nobles and Kings of the Feudal States lived on top of hillsides. Like God, they look down upon us ground based peasants. (The Koch Brothers have airplanes and other avenues to super-vise us, so they don’t need to sit on a hillside. They can now have ocean front mansions!).

We call this “looking down upon” as “super-vision.”

The problem with idealizing this state is that in a super-vision philosophy, you lack up front and close vision. So, you may be walking in a forest just “soaking it all in” and find that you did not notice the rattlesnake you almost stepped on until you felt her teeth going into your backside.

Lets make this more down to earth for you city dwellers by discussing childrearing and bearing. When bearing a child a woman is said to be in labor. Labor is the production of a potential that is within us. This article is conceived within me and thus its being written is my labor. My wife said something yesterday that was seminal to this writing. Thus, gender and sexuality are beyond the noun version of and enter into the verb.

I do want to comment on the line in the Bible’s Genesis regarding our (Eve) labors being in pain. Labor signifies both the delivery of a baby as well as our work in this world. And, yes, I’m sure that something that is perhaps 5 to 10 pounds emerging from a woman’s vagina is painful.

Yet, isn’t this writing also a conception? And what of you the reader in this process? Well, you draw in light via your eyes’ pupils and conceive these words in the back of your brain. When you see and read that image, you may also say “this guy is nuts” or “this guy is on target,” or, even, “what in Sam’s Hell is this man talking about!?”

Articles, be they crazy or not, are written in accord to the Way of Tao as per the Tao Te Ching. Articles are conceived (a feminine function, yin) due to an external stimulus (a male function, yang). Thus, an article written by Rob Kall initiated this writing. To help Rob’s words along in sparking this writing, the steroids I was prescribed for Chrones’ disease has me on a “high”.

As Chaos theory predicts, everything is involved in the creation of everything else.

Thus, there are multiple factors to this writing.

A fertilized egg becomes a human being that ultimately emerges from his mother’s womb and into the deeper womb of Planet Earth. (Yes, the relationship of Earth to Human is the same as Mother to infant/fetus. If Mom dies, so does baby! Who wants to tell the Koch Brothers?)

Mm, so if we go does that mean the top 1% go with us? Oh, wait, the Egyptian elite had this one down. The upper echelon is transcendent from the rest of us morons at the bottom (working class, blacks, women, etc).

“Hey! I’m not about to get my hands dirty. Where is my janitor!”

Ah, Adam shall rule over thee be ye labor class, a woman, a soul or even a forest. It’s all for OUR sake.

Is this truly the Christian attitude? Not in all. Yet, I do see Christianity as not so much the following of Christ but as the following of the civilizations of Egyptian/Greek/Rome.


The self-righteous arrogance inherent in some people is an attitude cultivated in ancient Egyptian and Greco-Roman civilization. (Yes, the Christians thrown to lions and crucified on crosses BECAME the Roman Empire.) “Many shall come in my name,” says Christ “and I shall not know them.”

Personally I don’t believe having water sprinkled on one’s head gets us on Christ’s wavelength. Nor do I believe that Christ discounts Buddha, Radha (Hindu, lover of Krishna), Sophia (Wisdom), Brahmin (the Self), Yahweh (I AM) and Nature (Essence). How we live our lives IS what matters and not so much bowing to the Man on Stage (Dorothy’s Wizard or ego (what we mistakenly think we are)).

I would say a huge portion of those calling themselves Christians are in this boat. For whatever reason, Sarah Palin is appearing in my mind. I’ll let the reader play with this example in his or her mind. What is important is not my preaching to you about Sarah and her wonderful demeanor. What is important is that you realize how Sarah plays in the pattern to today’s world that includes the top 1%.

True religion is NOT a belief system. Beliefs are thoughts and thoughts are vapor trails arising from our brains (I know, I’m being over simplistic). Yet, we live according to our beliefs. Now anything we do is going to boil down to a belief system. What belief system we hold has consequences.

The narrator of the movie and writer of the book “The Day the Universe Changed”, James Burke, states:

If the universe is what you say it is, then by all means say it!”

WE author our lives in relationship to everything else. We are not ruled by the Koch Brothers. Indeed, we are not ruled by any Man on Stage. That Man on Stage is reflected in the character of the Almighty Wizard. Ah, yes, he is indeed revealed as a farce that was full of hot air.

Such is our lot in western civilization: Dorothy’s Wizard exists as the priests, preachers, gurus, politicians or rulers/authorities). And not anything else.

Thus, the ending of this article is to tell you “you really are free!”


So, reclaim what and who you truly are. You are Dorothy of Wizard of Oz fame.

“My dear you’ve had the power all along to get back to Kansas.”

Do not think these words of Glinda (shining light of Truth) are meant for a fictional character named Dorothy. Indeed, Dorothy means Gift of God (or Nature if you will). Dorothy is your Soul, be you physically in the form of woman or man.

So, follow the yellow brick road (the gold standard), meet up with your courage (lion), heart (tin man) and brains (scarecrow) and send the Wizard (the Koch Brothers is my favorite metaphor for the Wizard) sailing off in his appropriate “hot air balloon.”

“OK!” Dorothy, “Cut the rope.”

This Dorothy to whom I am speaking is simply the person reading this article. Send THE MAN sailing Dorothy! Its all up to you!



Burl is an avid writer and publishes to OpEd News. He is author of “Sophia’s Web: A Passionate Call to Heal Our Wounded Nature.” As of this writing, Burl is planning to self-publish the book. Alongside his wife, Burl co-hosts an on line radio (more…)

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With Banks ‘Still Too Big to Fail,’ Another Financial Meltdown Looms

May 9, 2015
Published on

‘Should one of these giant banking firms fail again, it appears that the damage will not be contained.’

“The top six bank holding companies are considerably larger than before, and are still permitted to borrow excessively relative to the assets they hold,” the report states. “They are dangerously interconnected and remain vulnerable to sudden runs, because they borrow billions of dollars from wholesale lenders who can often demand their cash back each and every day.” (Photo: Butz.2013/flickr/cc)

Seven years after the financial crisis began, many of the conditions that helped cause the near collapse of the U.S. banking system—and that were used to justify the multi-trillion-dollar U.S. government bailout of mammoth financial institutions—endure, warns a new report from the Corporate Reform Coalition (CRC).

Titled Still Too Big to Fail (pdf), Thursday’s report charges that since the meltdown began in 2008, regulators have failed to make sufficient progress on key components of the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, or to boost transparency in political spending.

According to the CRC, which is made up of more than 75 good governance, organized labor, and environmental groups, action on both these fronts is necessary in order to prevent another financial disaster.

“The top six bank holding companies are considerably larger than before, and are still permitted to borrow excessively relative to the assets they hold,” the report states. “They are dangerously interconnected and remain vulnerable to sudden runs, because they borrow billions of dollars from wholesale lenders who can often demand their cash back each and every day.”

It goes on: “Banks can still use taxpayer-backed insured deposits to engage in high-risk derivative transactions here and overseas. Compensation incentives fail to discourage mismanagement and illegality, given that when legal fees, settlements, and fines mount, it is usually the shareholders, not the corporate executives who pay.”

And, the report warns, “[s]hould one of these giant banking firms fail again, it appears that the damage will not be contained.”

“Avoiding another meltdown depends on the will of federal regulators to use the new powers they were granted in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act,” said Jennifer Taub, author of the report and professor of law at Vermont Law School. “If they behave as if they are beholden to the banks, we will likely face a more severe crisis in the future.”

Taub, also the author of the financial crisis book Other People’s Houses, highlights—”in plain language”—key regulatory reforms necessary to avert another crisis, including:

  • ending bailouts by requiring the largest banks to provide credible “living wills” that show how they can file for bankruptcy or be resolved by the FDIC without triggering a financial crisis;
  • further reducing excessive borrowing by the top six banks;
  • reducing dependence by banks and other financial firms on overnight and other short-term borrowing;
  • prohibiting banks from evading derivatives regulation through use of foreign subsidiaries;
  • improving bankers’ accountability through rules around incentive pay and bonuses;
  • requiring corporate political spending disclosure “so as to begin to deal with the influence peddling that impacts Congress and regulators”

In a statement, Lisa Gilbert, director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division, lauded that final recommendation. Public Citizen, a CRC member, points out that the report’s call for corporate political spending disclosure adds to increasing pressure on the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to act on a 2011 rulemaking petition—which has garnerd 1.2 million signatures in support—calling on the agency to require publicly held companies to disclose political spending.

“More transparency on the part of Wall Street would better serve both our economy and our democracy,” Gilbert said. “Shareholders deserve to know how companies are spending their money to influence financial policy. Without transparency there can be no accountability.”

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The Five-Step Process to Privatize Everything

May 9, 2015
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‘The heart of privatization,’ writes Buchheit, ‘is a disdain for government and a distrust of society, and a mindless individualism that leaves little room for cooperation.’ (Image: stock/public domain)

Law enforcement, education, health care, water management, government itself — all have been or are being privatized. People with money get the best of each service.

At the heart of privatization is a disdain for government and a distrust of society, and a mindless individualism that leaves little room for cooperation. Adherents of privatization demand ‘freedom’ unless they need the government to intervene on their behalf.

These privatizers have a system:

1. Convince Yourself that “I Did It On My Own” 

The people in position to take from society seek to rationalize their actions, and many have accomplished this through the philosophy of Ayn Rand, the author of The Virtue of Selfishness. She rejected community values, saying “Any group…is only a number of individuals…If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject.”

Post-Ayn-Rand, in the growing era of neoliberalism, with Ronald Reagan blurting “government is the problem” and Margaret Thatcher proclaiming “There is no such thing as society,” once-respected institutions like public education and public transportation were demonized as “socialist” and “Soviet-style.” The message has been repeated so often by the business-backed media that the general public began to believe it. Said The Economist with regard to product development, “Governments have always been lousy at picking winners, and they are likely to become more so, as legions of entrepreneurs and tinkerers swap designs online, turn them into products at home and market them globally from a garage. As the revolution rages, governments should stick to the basics…Leave the rest to the revolutionaries.”

But as Mariana Mazzucato points out in The Entrepreneurial State, “In reality it is the State that has been engaged on a massive scale in entrepreneurial risk taking to spur innovation.” There is much evidence for this, in a multitude of disciplines, especially in technology and pharmaceuticals, both of which have seen corporate research labs diminishing if not entirely disappearing.

In the burgeoning new field of nanotechnology, says Mazzucato, industry cannot justify applications that require 10 to 20 years of development and which demand a coordination of physics, chemistry, biology, medicine, engineering, and computer science.

2. Insist that the Removal of Government Will Benefit All People 

The removal of government is equated to a vague demand for “freedom” which is hyperbolic if not meaningless. It gained momentum with Milton Friedman, who said: “Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.” The Cato Institute went on to preach that “Free markets create a future promoting integrity and trust.” And Forbes Magazine founder Steve Forbes blustered: “You can’t create prosperity without freedom!”

Despite the fact that this ‘freedom’ has generated the greatest inequality in nearly 100 years, apologists try to convince us that somehow we’re all prospering. From the Wall Street Journal: The U.S. economy is on a tear. From a Moody’s analyst: Our economy is firing on most cylinders.

Some libertarian “lovers of freedom” go to even greater extremes to defend the benefits of inequality for all of us, claiming that income inequality is Good For The Poor, and even that “Income inequality in a capitalist system is truly beautiful.”

3. Ensure that Government Isn’t Removed Until You Get Rich 

As the well-to-do have complained about government, they’ve also made sure that government has continued to help them, with a mind-boggling array of deductions, exemptions, exclusions, and loopholes.

At least $2.2 trillion per year in tax expenditures, tax underpayments, tax havens, and corporate nonpayment go mostly to the very rich, the most brazen of whom make the astonishing claim that their hedge fund income should be taxed at a much lower rate than a teacher’s income.

Their tax breaks are augmented by the payroll tax rate limit, which allows multi-millionaires to pay a tiny percentage compared to middle-income earners; by high-risk derivatives that are the first to be paid off in a bank collapse; and by a bankruptcy law that allows businesses, but not students, to get out of debt.

4. Defund Government Until Privatization Seems Like the Only Option 

This has happened most notably in education, with a simple formula, according to The Nation: “Use standardized tests to declare dozens of poor schools ‘persistently failing’; put these under the control of a special unelected authority; and then have that authority replace the public schools with charters.” And, of course, cut funding. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, forty-eight states — all except Alaska and North Dakota — were spending less per student in 2014 than they did before the recession.

It’s happening to Social Security, perhaps the most efficiently run system, public or private, in our nation’s history. As Richard Eskow notes, “Congress has cut 14 out of the last 16 SSA budget requests. There’s only one rational explanation for that: a hostility toward government itself, combined with the determination to place more public resources in corporate hands through ‘privatization.’”

It’s happening to police forces, which are going private in neighborhoods and on corporate campuses as public money is disappearing.

5. Remain Ignorant of Any Troublesome Facts 

Facts abound of failing private systems, including:

Education: A private system that pays a charter CEO 350 times more per student than the corresponding public school chancellor.

Health Care: The most expensive system in the developed world, with the price of common surgeries anywhere from three to ten times higher than in much of Europe, and with 43 percent of sick Americans skipping doctor’s visits and/or medication purchases in 2011 because of excessive costs. Medicare, on the other hand, which is largely without the profit motive and the competing sources of billing, is efficiently run, for all eligible Americans.

Banking: Thanks to private banks, interest claims one out of every three dollars that we spend, and by the time we retire with a 401(k), nearly half of our money is lost to the banks. But the public bank of North Dakota (BND) had an equity return of 23.4% before the state’s oil boom. The normally privatization-minded Wall Street Journal admits that the BND “is more profitable than Goldman Sachs Group Inc., has a better credit rating than J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. and hasn’t seen profit growth drop since 2003.”

Law Enforcement: As public money for police protection is depleted, our communities are being subjected to law enforcement officers who are insufficiently trainedpoorly regulated, and often unaccountable to the public for their actions.

Water Management: A water security expert suggested that “One promising solution is to create water markets that allow people to buy and sell rights to use water.” But a 2009 analysis of water and sewer utilities by Food and Water Watch found that private companies charge up to 80 percent more for water and 100 percent more for sewer services.

The Environment: According to former World Bank Chief Economist Nicholas Stern, climate change is “the greatest market failure the world has seen.” Yet Bloomberg reports that “Wall Street firms are investing in businesses that will profit as the planet gets hotter.”

Government Itself: In a study of outsourcing, the Project on Government Oversight found that in 33 out of 35 cases “the average annual contractor billing rate was much more than the average annual full compensation for federal employees.”

Great Individuals Emerge from Cooperative Efforts 

Privatization is closely connected to the demand for individualism over cooperation. But the belief that self-centeredness will benefit everyone is backwards. As George Lakoff summarizes: “The Public provides freedom…Individualism begins after the roads are built, after individualists have had an education, after medical research has cured their diseases…”

Paul Buchheit is a college teacher, an active member of US Uncut Chicago, founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (,,, and the editor and main author of “American Wars: Illusions and Realities” (Clarity Press). He can be reached at

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Candidate Sanders Calls for ‘Political Revolution’ Against Billionaire Class

May 9, 2015
Published on

‘I get very frightened about the future of American democracy when elections become a battle between billionaires,’ candidate for Democratic nomination said in an interview Sunday

Surpassing many of his Republican rivals, the progressive presidential candidate raised $1.5 million online less than one day after announcing his bid. (Photo: ABC News)

Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders is calling for revolution. The independent senator from Vermont who just this week announced his bid for Democratic nominee, minced no words when speaking on ABC’s This Week on Sunday.

“I think I’m the only candidate who’s prepared to take on the billionaire class which now controls our economy, and increasingly controls the political life of this country,” Sanderstold host George Stephanopoulos. “We need a political revolution in this country involving millions of people who are prepared to stand up and say, enough is enough, and I want to help lead that effort.”

Sanders contrasted his record with that of his primary opponent, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, noting that the presumed nominee “has been part of the political establishment for many, many years.”

“I respect her and I like her,” the senator continued, “but I think what the American people are saying is that at a time when 99 percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent, and when the top 0.1 percent owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent, maybe it’s time for a real political shakeup in this country and go beyond establishment politics.”

Laying out what appeared to be a key pillar of his campaign, Sanders spoke decisively about the need for the wealthiest Americans and largest corporations to “start paying their fair share of taxes.” In addition, he championed “bold leadership” to tackle the climate crisis, which includes the rejection of the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, and voiced clear opposition to the pending Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact.

Further, Sanders called for an end to big-money politics and a constitutional amendment to overturn the Supreme Court’s Citizen United ruling.

“This is, in a sense, what my campaign is about,” Sanders continued. “Can somebody who is not a billionaire who stands for working families actually win an election in which billionaires are pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into the election?

“I get very frightened about the future of American democracy when [elections] become a battle between billionaires,” he added.

Surpassing many of his Republican rivals, the progressive presidential candidate raised $1.5 million online less than one day after announcing his bid. According to the campaign, 35,000 donors contributed an average of $43.

The New York Times reports:  “Mr. Sanders has said that small donations will be his only chance of defeating Hillary Rodham Clinton for the nomination, because he has no ‘billionaire and millionaire’ friends and does not intend to depend on the backing of a ‘Super PAC.'”

And on the campaign website, the campaign specifies that it is paid for by Bernie 2016, “not the billionaires.”

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