Saturday, August 29, 2015

Jimmy Carter tells us what we already know- The US is no longer a democracy

Carter is telling us what we already know. Our democracy is a sham and an oligarchy. As others as myself have pointed out the problems with US democracy are:

-In our system it is that wealthy people who can buy influence policy and elections while less wealthy and poor can only vote. They can work on a candidates campaign, but it is the wealthy who have the ability to influence the issues. Others, with out means, find they have no influence over the issues and are left only to vote yes or no on someone else's defined issues. 

-The US Supreme Court, especially in the decision Citizens United V. The Federal Election Commission, has constantly ruled against any curbs on corporate spending in our election process. By kicking out any campaign financing laws and declaring that corporations are people, the courts reshuffled the playing field leaving corporate giants to spend millions against individuals who may not have any money to spend on influencing elections. In a real democracy no one would be allowed to spend money trying to influence public policy. This creates a corporate oligarchy.

-Our news media is biased and acts as the "gatekeeper." They decide what is considered news. They decide (and always cover the two parties) which parties get to take part in debates and who gets news coverage. This leaves a corporate sponsored news media to pick and chose who the public can take seriously in an election. The news media has more affect on political ideas than the people they are supposed to be informing and serving. 

-The two political parties, Democrats and Republicans, are sewn into the system. They get nearly all the news coverage and they are the only parties to have local, state and national primaries that serve the two parties and those parties only. They are able to keep out ideas that they consider outside the mainstream. The two parties are designed to prevent really big changes, even when the people want them.

-Large families, such as the Bush family (George H.W. and George W. for example) are tied to their own business interest and yet they also have a lot of political power. As with the Roosevelts and the Kennedys, such families often dominate the entire country as if they were dukes or earls.

On July 28, Thom Hartmann interviewed former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, and, at the very end of his show (as if this massive question were merely an afterthought), asked him his opinion of the 2010 Citizens United decision and the 2014 McCutcheondecision, both decisions by the five Republican judges on the U.S. Supreme Court. These two historic decisions enable unlimited secret money (including foreign money) now to pour into U.S. political and judicial campaigns. Carter answered:
It violates the essence of what made America a great country in its political system. Now it's just an oligarchy with unlimited political bribery being the essence of getting the nominations for president or being elected president. And the same thing applies to governors, andU.S. Senators and congress members. So, now we've just seen a subversion of our political system as a payoff to major contributors, who want and expect, and sometimes get, favors for themselves after the election is over. ... At the present time the incumbents, Democrats and Republicans, look upon this unlimited money as a great benefit to themselves. Somebody that is already in Congress has a great deal more to sell."
He was then cut off by the program, though that statement by Carter should have been the start of the program, not its end. (And the program didn't end with an invitation for him to return to discuss this crucial matter in depth -- something for which he's qualified.)
So, was this former president's provocative allegation merely his opinion? Or was it actually lots more than that? It was lots more than that.
Only a single empirical study has actually been done in the social sciences regarding whether the historical record shows that the United States has been, during the survey's period, which in that case was between 1981 and 2002, a democracy (a nation whose leaders represent the public-at-large), or instead an aristocracy (or 'oligarchy') -- a nation in which only the desires of the richest citizens end up being reflected in governmental actions. This study was titled "Testing Theories of American Politics,"and it was published by Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page in the journalPerspectives on Politics, issued by the American Political Science Association in September 2014. I had summarized it earlier, on April 14, 2014, while the article was still awaiting its publication.
The headline of my summary-article was "U.S. Is an Oligarchy Not a Democracy Says Scientific Study." I reported:
The clear finding is that the U.S. is an oligarchy, no democratic country, at all. American democracy is a sham, no matter how much it's pumped by the oligarchs who run the country (and who control the nation's 'news' media).
I then quoted the authors' own summary: "The preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy."
The scientific study closed by saying: "In the United States, our findings indicate, the majority does not rule -- at least not in the causal sense of actually determining policy outcomes." A few other tolerably clear sentences managed to make their ways into this well-researched, but, sadly, atrociously written, paper, such as: "The preferences of economic elites (as measured by our proxy, the preferences of 'affluent' citizens) have far more independent impact upon policy change than the preferences of average citizens do." In other words, they found: The rich rule the U.S.
Their study investigated specifically "1,779 instances between 1981 and 2002 in which a national survey of the general public asked a favor/oppose question about a proposed policy change," and then the policy-follow-ups, of whether or not the polled public preferences had been turned into polices, or, alternatively, whether the relevant corporate-lobbied positions had instead become public policy on the given matter, irrespective of what the public had wanted concerning it.
The study period, 1981-2002, covered the wake of the landmark 1976 U.S. Supreme Court decision, Buckley v. Valeo, which had started the aristocratic assault on American democracy, and which seminal (and bipartisan) pro-aristocratic court decision is described as follows by wikipedia:
[It] struck down on First Amendment grounds several provisions in the 1974 Amendments to the Federal Election Campaign Act. The most prominent portions of the case struck down limits on spending in campaigns, but upheld the provision limiting the size of individual contributions to campaigns. The Court also narrowed, and then upheld, the Act's disclosure provisions, and struck down (on separation of powers grounds) the make-up of the Federal Election Commission, which as written allowed Congress to directly appoint members of the Commission, an executive agency.
Basically, the Buckley decision, and subsequent (increasingly partisan Republican) Supreme Court decisions, have allowed aristocrats to buy and control politicians.
Already, the major 'news' media were owned and controlled by the aristocracy, and 'freedom of the press' was really just freedom of aristocrats to control the 'news' -- to frame public issues in the ways the owners want. The media managers who are appointed by those owners select, in turn, the editors who, in their turn, hire only reporters who produce the propaganda that's within the acceptable range for the owners, to be 'the news' as the public comes to know it.
For the rest click here.

Of the earliest writings on Democracy we have the Greeks. Pericles was one of the earliest politicians to give pro-democracy speeches. Democracy came from words that mean "the people rule." Today that can't really be said.

From a speech by Pericles:

"Our form of government is called a democracy because..."
      "... Our form of does not imitate the laws of neighboring states. On the contrary, we are rather a model to others. Our form of government is called a democracy because its administration is in the hands, not of a few, but of the whole people. In the settling of private disputes, everyone is equal before the law. Election to public office is made on the basis of ability, not on the basis of membership to a particular class. No man is kept out of public office by the obscurity of his social standing because of his poverty, as long as he wishes to be of service to the state. And not only in our public life are we free and open, but a sense of freedom regulates our day-to-day life with each other. We do not flare up in anger at our neighbor if he does what he likes. And we do not show the kind of silent disapproval that causes pain in others, even though it is not a direct accusation. In our private affairs, then, we are tolerant and avoid giving offense. But in public affairs, we take great care not to break law because of the deep respect we have for them. We give obedience to the men who hold public office from year to year. And we pay special regard to those laws that are for the protection of the oppressed and to all the unwritten laws that we know bring disgrace upon the transgressor when they are broken.
      "Let me add another point. We have had the good sense to provide for our spirits more opportunities for relaxation from hard work than other people. Throughout the year, there are dramatic and athletic contests and religious festivals. In our homes we find beauty and good taste, and the delight we find every day in and this drives away our cares. And because of the greatness of our city, all kinds of imports flow in to us from all over the world. It is just as natural for us to enjoy the good products of other nations as it is to enjoy the things that we produce ourselves.
      "The way we live differs in another respect from that of our enemies. Our city is open to all the world. We have never had any aliens' laws to exclude anyone from finding our or seeking anything here, nor any secrets of the city that an enemy might find out about and use to his advantage. For our security, we rely not on defensive arrangements or secrecy but on the courage that springs from our souls, when we are called into action. As for education, the enemy subjects their children from their earliest boyhood to the most laborious training in manly courage. We, with our unrestricted way of life, are just as ready to face the dangers as they are. And here is the proof. The Spartans never invade Attica using only their own troops, but they bring along all their allies. But when we attack a nearby city, we usually win by ourselves even though we fight on enemy soil against men who defend their own homes. No enemy, in fact, has even engaged our total military power because our practice is constantly to attend to the needs of our navy, as well as to send our troops on many land excursions. Yet, if our enemies engage one division of our forces and defeat it, they boast that they have beaten our entire army, and if they are defeated they say that they lost to our whole army. So it is not painful discipline that makes us go out to meet danger, but our easy confidence. Our natural bravery springs from our way of life, not from the compulsion of laws. Also we do not spend our time anticipating the sufferings that are still in the future, and when the test is upon us, we show ourselves no less brave than those who are continually preparing themselves for battle. Athens deserves to be admired for these qualities and for others as well......

For the rest click here.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Indictments will be long: State sent unsecured "classified" e-mails during Bush Administration

Here is a case of the "pot calling the kettle black"- Otto

A point I have tried to make a number of times on the "Eghazi: It's Classified!" "scandal" is that the originators of the "classified" e-mails were career State Department officials. Thus, I noted that the current US Ambassador to Bahrain William Roebuck originated a now "classified SECRET" e-mail that founds its way to Clinton's inbox after being forwarded by multiple careeer State officials.
Yesterday Josh Gerstein identified now "classified e-mails that were originated by 33 year State Department veteran William Burns.
Now today the AP reports what should have been obvious to any honest observer by now -State Department officials routinely sent subsequently classified information over unsecure e-mail:
The transmission of now-classified information across Hillary Rodham Clinton's private email is consistent with a State Department culture in which diplomats routinely sent secret material on unsecured email during the past two administrations, according to documents reviewed by The Associated Press.
And here's the kicker:
five emails that date to Condoleezza Rice's tenure as secretary of state during the George W. Bush administration, large chunks are censored on the grounds that they contain classified national security or foreign government information.

For the rest click here.

Pix from

Sunday, August 23, 2015

DemoFest brings on the best and worst of the Democratic Party

By Otto

Banquets, strategy meetings and political information tables were all part of DemoFest, Friday and Saturday. I went to this event on Saturday afternoon.
One speaker I was impressed with was Thomas Witt, who spoke at the Progressive Caucus. He has managed and helped manage the campaigns of Kansas Democrats, such as Kansas Representative John Carmichael.
"We need more aggressive campaigning," Witt told the audience. "You need to take a stand on issues. And not; "I'm for family—we're all for family. Tell us what you're going to do for the family. You need to have details."
Witt made it clear he leaves nothing to chance. He goes after every vote. He keeps all the data he collects and never throws it away. He focuses on the marginal votes. That is where he said elections can be won. He makes sure all those who agree to vote for his candidate actually do vote.
"I don't just hand them a pamphlet and walk away," Witt said on the subject of canvassing.  "I talk to them. They will throw a leaflet or letter away, but they will talk to you about issues they are concerned about."
When asked by an audience member how to make use of the less aggressive canvassing Witt said; "I don't do that. I either run an aggressive campaign or I don't run one at all."   
Another important point Witt made was to be honest and not try to hide things. He said he worked on the campaign of Michael Puppo, who was gay. He came right out and admitted he was gay and it didn't seem to matter to the voters.
Another event I took part of at DemoFest was a group discussing business & labor. The people in there discussed the damage Sam Brownback is doing to the work ethic. With the destruction of unions, lack of wages and benefits most people in that session said the incentive to get a job and work hard at it are just not there. That also includes the attitude that working people should pay more taxes than business people.
"People work better when they are happy," a man said. "The economy is not going to pick up if most people hate their jobs."
The also discussed the need for Democrats to work with the Republicans and for unions to work with businesses.
The problem with the last discussion is that Republicans and many business people just don't want to work with Democrats and unions. A lot of us know we are in a dog vs. dog fight with the right-wingers.
We have to fight hard and for keeps.
A lot of people discussed polls that show support for Gov. Brownback as low as 19% among Republicans. This is an opportunity to go after those unpopular politicians who's popularity is low because of their association with Brownback.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Taking action to defend women's reproductive rights

I (Otto) received the following notice from Julie Burkhart, Founder and CEO of Trust Women and South Wind Women's Center;

In states like Kansas and Oklahoma, abortion is not considered polite dinner conversation, but it's something we must talk about. In order to start these conversations, we just launched phase two of our canvass program to reach people at their homes and have honest, face-to-face conversations about abortion access and reproductive rights.

Please be a part of sparking 20,000 new conversations and building a robust response to the Physician Intimidation and Criminalization Act. You can help stop this ban before it spreads. Anti-choice organizations plan to propose and pass this law in as many states as they can. The 20 week ban, which began spreading in 2010, is now in place in 12 states, and has been proposed in an additional 16 states.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Wichita Police say clinic bomber had no intentions of attacking the facility

This article sounds suspicious. If this guy was a Moslem, he would have been arrested and have would never seen the light if day. This guy said he was looking for a job. If that is correct, then it isn't deliberate terrorism. Sooner or later a member of the anti-abortion community (calling themselves "pro-life") will try something like this and we will see if the police treat them as if they were any other kind of  terrorist.-From Otto's War Room.

From KWCH;
Wichita Police respond to explosive device at South Wind Women's Clinic
UPDATE: A 19-year-old man is in custody after police say he brought an explosive device into South Winds Women's Center Monday afternoon.
WPD spokesman Lt. James Espinoza says Moises Trevizo had no intent to set off the explosive and he was not trying to damage the facility.

For the rest click here.

Julian Bond was good for civil rights

Another famous civil rights leaders has died, Julian Bond. Bond was a liberal and he was a top notch civil rights activist. He was also instrumental in anti-war activities.
He also ran and won several elections including  Georgia House of Representatives. He also served six terms in the Georgia Senate, from 1975 to 1987. He always ran as a Democrat.

Monday, August 17, 2015

Large crowd turns out for the Bernie Sanders campaign in Wichita

By Otto

Wichitans for Bernie Sanders for president met Saturday to gear up for future events and the Caucus next March. More than 80 people attended the event and many were interested in such campaign work as phone banking.
The meeting started off with some speakers.
"We got to change," said Joan Gedraitis, of Wichitans for Bernie Sanders. We've got to change big. The only person trying to change things is Bernie."
"I had a friend in high school who was never into politics, said Andrew Figueiredo, of Kansas  Young Democrats. "Now he is involved in the Bernie Sanders Campaign in Lawrence."
"There is the "s" Word," said Jim Phillips, a long time activist in Democratic Socialist of America (DSA). "That word is socialism. I've been in the democratic socialist movement all my life."
Phillips was a part of an active DSA party in the 1980s. He explained to the audience that socialism isn't "everything owned by the government."
"It's about workers democracy," he added. "This is about Workers cooperatives. It's about fair taxation."
He also said that Bernie is involved in a coalition building effort of labor groups, civil rights, women's rights and other progressive groups.
Besides phone banking and canvassing, participants were encouraged to help with tables at Democrat Party events.
That includes DemoFest coming up August 21 and 22, at the Marriott Hotel, starting at 5pm Friday. Plans are to have a Bernie table. They also want to take part at the  Democrat Party's Table at the Kansas State Fair in September. There will be a presents at the Black Arts festival Sept., 4,5,6 at McAdams Park, in Wichita and a Labor Day event at the Machinist Hall, the Saturday before.

The group discussed was the need to get voters registered as Democrats so they can attend the Democrats Caucus, March 5, 2016.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Republican JV debate wrap-up: Well, that was a whole lot of nothing

Well, that was terrible. Truly terrible. From the premises of the questions—frequent variations on why are you not popular—to the decision to stage the debate in a nearly-audienceless stadium with random photographers wandering in and out of shots, people behind the moderators paying no particular attention to the debaters, and so on, it was clear throughout that Fox News was only holding the junior debate out of obligation, not because they they had any interest in it. I expect Fox will be hearing from angry staffers within 30 seconds of the debate's close.
There were no newsworthy moments, other than the moderators asking questions about whether American mosques needed more monitoring or what the candidates would do about "illegals." In general the moderation was what you'd expect from a Fox News B-team, with questions about brown people, litmus test questions for candidates perceived as not sufficiently anti-abortion, and why Hillary Clinton was Bad.
Winners: Anyone who had the sense to bow out of this thing before it started. Did no harm: Rick Perry did not overtly Screw Up. Bobby Jindal was competent; Carly Fiorina was fine, Rick Santorum was Rick Santorum. The big losers were Lindsey Graham, whose stumbling reading of his own opening statement sounded like a frightened child reciting his big lines for the school play—and it only went downhill from there, to the point where by the end it looked like he was about to burst into tears and run offstage—and John Kasich George Pataki, who was the biggest recipient of passive-aggressive moderator ire for wasting Fox News time that could have been used for other candidates.

For the rest click here.

Monday, August 10, 2015

Sedgwick County Commission cuts could kill 65 poor people

Once in a while, The Wichita Eagle has a decent article I can use and this article, "Report: Sedgwick County health budget cuts could contribute to 65 deaths a year," is one of them.
The Wichita Eagle reports "Over time, the cuts could lead to two additional diabetes deaths, five additional infant deaths, 17 additional cancer deaths and 41 additional heart disease deaths in Sedgwick County each year, according to the report."
This report tells us one thing we already know; that cuts in health care spending literally kill people.
So where are all those people concerned about "sacred human life" when it came to abortion? Fetuses are sacred human beings, but poor people and their families have no value? Their lives are of no concerned to the religious right-wing conservatives.
Sedgwick Commission Chairman Richard Ranzau responded to this report by claiming its authors simply wanted more government in our health care. Such conservatives never explain why such people want all this government in health care, as if they are part of this big conspiracy to take over and install fascism. The argument not only makes no sense, but it is a case of their convenience vs. people's lives.  
This is not that different from  Kansas Governor Sam Brownback's refusal to expand Medicaid (or KanCare). That money could save countless poor people's lives here in Kansas. But Ranzau and Brownback care only about their warped ideology —and not human life. And these are poor people, so the war on the poor continues.


A Kansas Health Institute report released Sunday estimates that the proposed health cuts in the Sedgwick County budget could contribute to 65 preventable deaths each year.
The Kansas Health Institute, a Topeka-based nonprofit, estimated the number of deaths.
Commission Chairman Richard Ranzau said he thought the study was reckless and irresponsible.

For the rest click here.

Friday, August 07, 2015

An update for Bernie Sanders for prez.

Another meeting for the Bernie Sanders campaign drew more than 30 people to help plan for actions in the Wichita area, last Wednesday night at the Peace and Social Justice Center.
Joan Gedraitis was appointed and approved by the group to coordinate future meetings. She has spent time in Lawrence and Kansas City and can contact people there.
One action discussed was to have a booth at the DemoFest coming up August 21 and 22. The group also discussed taking part in the Democrat's Table at the Kansas State Fair in September.
Some members of the group discussed getting pamphlets, buttons and shirts to advertize the Bernie campaign, from his campaign headquarters.
Several people discussed being socialist and what that really means in this country. Bernie has openly said he is a democratic socialist. There were a lot of democratic socialists present in the Bernie campaign group. People there also discussed  the difficulties a person has being a leftist of any kind here in Kansas where the politics are usually so conservative.
One member said the Bernie campaign will be positive and avoid being negative towards other candidates. I have found that negative ads work real well, but there has been a history of democrats refusing to be negative in their campaigns in this area.
Also discussed was taking part in the Democrats Caucus.

Jim Phillips said he thought that the caucus for Jesse Jackson was a good experience and he believes the Bernie campaign will have as positive an impact as the Jesse Jackson campaign was in past years.  -Otto