Overhead on Canadian Broadcasting Corporation Radio this week:
“I think that it’s part of being Canadian: we show our Canadian pride by being reserved about and humble about our pride…. The fact that we’re humble rings true. We’re so humble we shy away from regularly appreciating and suppporting ourselves.”
Is there any way to successfully bring the words “so” and “humble” together?
Harry Canyon writes this week to Irregular Times, reacting to an Anti-Republican bumper sticker web page of ours on which we write disparagingly of the GOP:
“Politics is an audacious enterprise. It takes some audacity to claim so strong a grip on the truth as to pass a law stripping away Americans’ freedom, or requiring Americans to behave in a certain way, or subjecting non-Americans to the might of a fearful superpower. Policymaking has become unhinged from empirical reality and divorced from active deliberation and debate.”
Harry writes to us:
“This sounds waaaaay more anti Obama than Bush… lol:
Why don’t you guys stop the hate, and carry products pertaining to both sides?
Or better yet, anti Democrat and Republican on the same product! “
It’s not hateful to stand against a Republican Party that is as authoritarian as it ever was. But Harry’s right to note that Barack Obama and (most) Democratic Party politicians have, now they’re the ones in power, also stepped in time to the authoritarian beat. Heavens to Betsy, we’re not silent on that account. Harry, here’s a sample of some anti-Obama, anti-Democratic gear we offer:
I don’t know what the answer is. I’m not sure I agree with whatever Harry’s answer might be. But I agree with Harry that “more of the same” just won’t cut it.
Puppies are cute.
Women who wear cosmetics are cute.
Who is more cute?
U.S. Representative James Moran made his choice yesterday when he introduced H.R. 4148, a bill that would gradually end the testing of cosmetics products on animals.
Moran says puppies are more cute. Do you agree with his choice?
A church I drive by in Somerville, Maine frequently amuses me with its messages of dire religiosity. Here’s the latest:
That got me to thinking…
Could be true.
Lisa Haven of Pakalert Press has published revelations that blow the cover off the Great Lakes arts community. It’s a genuine conspiracy that stands out among the long record of failed predictions and weird paranoia that typically characterizes Pakalert publications.
Haven’s research has uncovered evidence of a secret plan by the leadership of a museum to use the power of art to lower the human population in the Detroit area, in the Great Lakes region, and perhaps even within the United States in general.
It’s been widespread knowledge that the population of Detroit has gone down dramatically over the last five years. That population reduction has coincided with a struggle over the Detroit Institute of Arts, with local politicians seeking to keep the museum under city ownership and fully stocked with its artifacts and paintings. What had not been imagined until now is that the debate over DIA funding may in fact be a proxy battle between those who seek to accelerate depopulation, and those who believe that our nation’s strength is derived from its ability to cram large numbers of human beings into small areas of land.
Lisa Haven’s headline warns us of “Huge News! DIA Video Admits Agenda to Depopulate Now in Effect!” According to her sources, the Detroit Institute of Arts is the epicenter of a conspiracy to reduce human population levels.
But how, you may ask, can an art museum cause depopulation?
It’s simple, really. Just think of the typical teenage art student… morose… bored with the banality of ordinary existence… looking deeper for something more inspiring than the old cliches of family life… wearing unattractive, baggy clothing… unclean. They skulk around, feeling like misunderstood geniuses. Ennui, existential crisis and clove cigarettes aren’t correlated with a high rate of breeding are they?
It all begins to make sense when you consider that… hold on… Oh.
It turns out that Lisa Haven was actually writing about how the Defense Intelligence Agency, not the Detroit Institute of Arts, has been engaging in a depopulation program. Well, that’s hardly plausible, is it?
It is a wise scholar who allows the natural rhythms of the subject being studied to inform the way in which research is conducted. So it is with the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, which, as the ocean has apparently decided, should from now on simply be referred to as the Scripps Institution of.
I’m wondering, though, exactly who at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography thought that it would be a good idea to post a sign for the organization precisely where oceanography predicts that forces of deposition may occur.
What do we make of congressional candidate Nick Troiano?
On the one hand, Nick Troiano justifies his run for Congress by boasting of his experience working for Super PACs, 527s and 501(c)(4) corporations as the young face speaking on behalf of the interests of old money. Listen to Nick Troiano describe how he built his resume working on behalf of big money financier Peter G. Peterson and private capital investor Peter Ackerman:
Innovative Leader on Fiscal and Political Reform
Nick is a co-founder and was, until December 2013, the Communications Director for The Can Kicks Back, a non-partisan and millennial-led campaign that advocates for a more fiscally sustainable and generationally equitable federal budget. TCKB’s Advisory Board includes the nation’s top leaders for fiscal reform, including Erskine Bowles (D), former Senator Alan Simpson (R) and former U.S. Comptroller General David Walker.
Nick was instrumental in drafting the INFORM Act –– a bipartisan piece of budget reform legislation that has been endorsed by over 1,000 economists and introduced in both the U.S. House and Senate. Nick also traveled to 22 states in the fall of 2013 to speak to college and young professional audiences about the national debt along a cross-country “Generational Equity Tour.”
Prior to The Can Kicks Back, Nick served as former Communications Manager and, later, National Campus Director for Americans Elect, which sought to field a bipartisan ticket for president and vice-president in 2012 through the first-ever online nominating convention. Among other things, Nick led a 23-city East Coast bus tour during the Republican primaries.
Now, Nick Troiano doesn’t use the words “Super PAC”, “527″ or “501(c)(4) corporation” to describe his work for The Can Kicks Back (encompassing the INFORM Act and ‘Generational Equity Tour’ featuring keynote speeches by old rich people) and Americans Elect, but that’s what The Can Kicks Back and Americans Elect are. Troiano doesn’t mention that these corporations took funds of unlimited size from often-anonymous sources, but that’s what they did. Indeed, as The Can Kicks Back struggled after billionaire Pete Peterson withheld funds, Nick Troiano personally sought other big-money donors to keep the operation afloat. Troiano doesn’t mention his work for the Concord Coalition and Unity08, the big-money political creations of billionaires and hedge fund wealth managers, but they are also the basis of the experience Nick Troiano depends on to justify his run for Congress.
If on the one hand Nick Troiano’s career is based in Super PACs, 527s and 501c4 corporations, on the other hand Nick Troiano’s campaign seems to be based on running against Super PACs, 527s and 501c4 corporations. On February 28, Troiano posted the following to his campaign Facebook account:
Today, I’m taking a bit of inspiration from the rising “Common Man Party” in India.
“Harping on the rottenness of Indian politics, it has the two big parties running scared,” the Economist reports. In just 16 months, the new party won 28 of 70 seats in a state assembly and enrolled its first 10 million members. “It has momentum behind it, and the political agenda is now dominated by the issue that defines it: corruption.”
In America, we don’t have the same kind of illicit corruption and bribery; ours has been legalized through unlimited corporate spending in elections, anonymous contributions to political groups and am amalgam of PACs, Super PACs, 527s, 501(c)(4) groups and so on.
Maybe it’s time for a Common Man Party in our country to reform our corrupt system of campaign finance.
So which Nick Troiano is running for Congress: the Nick Troiano who brags of his experience with big money unlimited anonymous Super PACs, 527s, and 501c4 corporations? The Nick Troiano who declares that the entire problem is big money unlimited anonymous Super PACs, 527s, and 501c4 corporations? Or, disturbingly, is Nick Troiano both?
Sometimes people turn away from bad experiences and influences to make new, productive starts. Maybe Nick Troiano’s doing this in his run for Congress. Maybe not. The contradictions in his very young campaign are already glaring. If I were Nick Troiano’s advisor, I’d tell him to take a few lines from that old Pete Seeger song:
They say in Harlan County
There are no neutrals there;
You’ll either be a union man,
Or a thug for J. H. Blair.
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
Which side are you on?
Sooner or later, you’re going to have to address that question, Nick. If I were you, I’d address it sooner.
Today in Phoenix, Arizona, I ran across a statue by Pat Mathiesen, claiming to represent the “Spirit of the Desert Bighorn”. A plaque on the statue explained how bighorn sheep that used to live in the desert where the city has grown required a very particular habitat…
… like a habitat without valet parking…
… or a habitat without laser spas and shopping malls surrounded by concrete…
… oh, those picky, picky bighorn sheep.
Sometimes, the strongest statement made by a piece of art comes from the context in which it has been placed.
Perusing the FEC records of recent independent expenditures for political campaigns in congressional elections, I came across a curious note about a pair of expenditures in opposition to David Jolly, a Republican seeking to replace the deceased Congressman Bill Young down in Florida. The group that made the expenditures, for radio advertisements, was called Friends Of Democracy.
Friends of Democracy?
I asked myself, what would real friends of democracy do, if they had to spend a big bunch of money? Would friends of democracy take that money and spend it to try to change the course of a congressional election? Wouldn’t Friends Of Democracy just let people vote, without trying to come in and use their big money resources, if they really were friends of democracy? Isn’t democracy simply about letting people vote as they wish to vote, rather than creating a system in which the people with the most money exert the most influence?
I decided to look into Friends of Democracy, and see what kind of organization they are. What I found led me into a deeper uncertainty of how democratic Friends of Democracy really is.
There’s no doubt that Friends of Democracy is a pro-Democratic organization, in the sense that it supports political candidates from the Democratic Party. When it comes to actual democracy, the kind that isn’t owned by any particular political party, the Friends of Democracy organization seems to be less loyal. Friends of Democracy talks a good talk about democracy, to be sure, but in action, it behaves as Friends of Oligarchy.
Friends of Democracy gets its money from wealthy contributors. FEC records show that contributions to Friends of Democracy don’t come in increments of twenty dollars here and there, but in increments of thousands of dollars. They come from people like Robert Nathan of North Mohawk Capital, who wrote a check to Friends of Democracy for thousands of dollars. Thousands more came from the wealthy Soros clan, led by the rich and powerful George Soros.
These funders of the Friends of Democracy are members of the 1 Percent, the richest of the rich. They’re using their money, however, to pretend to speak for the rest of us – the 99 Percent. To be more accurate, they’re claiming to speak for the 98 percent – as Friends of Democracy sends large amounts of money to an organization called The Other 98%.
The Other 98% looks like a fantastic organization. I agree with the political ideals it promotes. The way that The Other 98% promotes those ideals, however, seems to undermine them.
The Other 98% claims to be “a grassroots network of concerned people that shines a light on economic injustice, undue corporate influence and threats to democracy.”
I don’t see how The Other 98% is a grassroots network. A grassroots network is built from the ground up, not from the top down. A grassroots network gathers its strength from the involvement of its rank and file members, not from big checks written by wealthy donors.
Is it economically just for The Other 98% to claim to speak for the 98 percent least wealthy of Americans, when in fact it is powered by the 1 percent most wealthy Americans? It’s nice for the wealthy to give some money to promote the interests of those of us who don’t have as much money, but it isn’t honest for them to suggest that the organization is sustained by someone other than the “corporate asses” it claims to oppose.
There’s something disempowering about the way that The Other 98% relies on fat cat money, suggesting that the actual members of the 99 Percent aren’t powerful enough or smart enough to sustain a genuine grassroots effort on their own. While The Other 98 Percent speaks out against corporate influence as a threat to democracy, it is embracing that same corporate influence behind the scenes.
At Irregular Times, we have harshly criticized corporate power brokers for setting up fake grassroots organizations that are dedicated to impoverishing working Americans. The goals of The Other 98% seem to be more genuinely helpful than those of groups like Americans Elect, but good intentions aren’t enough.
When genuine activists get duped into supporting astroturf organizations like The Other 98 Percent, their trust in authentic grassroots organizations is damaged, and they grow cynical and jaded. If they really believe in the worth of the 99 Percent, and in the effectiveness of grassroots politics, the leaders of The Other 98 Percent ought to stop taking donations from people made wealthy by corporate power, and let real grassroots activists take center stage.
We don’t need more Friends of Democracy. We need more democracy.
This weekend’s big story has been the escalating conflict between Russia and the Ukraine. (What’s up with the muted reaction to the Optic Nerve story?)
It’s a complex situation, but I find that I just can’t move beyond the dread that the United States and Russia could be moving toward a new Cold War.
I want to hear other people’s perspectives on this issue. What is your understanding of what’s happened with Russia and the Ukraine? How much should it matter to those of us who don’t live in either Russia or the Ukraine? What do you think is likely to happen next? What should the United States do, or not do, next?
Green Party Alert: I can’t find a single note on this story from anyone in the Green Party. The Green Party itself, the Green Shadow Cabinet, and even Green Party Watch have been silent on this issue (and Optic Nerve too!) for days. How come?
Are the Greens just as stunned and bewildered by the story as I am? Are they just tired? Is there no one left over at Green Party headquarters to turn out the lights?
How can anyone expect the Green Party to offer an actual alternative political vision if the Greens don’t speak to the most important issues of the day?
While I was trying to read an article from an online news magazine this morning, an advertisement popped up for Harvestland chicken breasts.
“Eat Like Your Ancestors”, the commercial banner urged me.
To tell the truth, I don’t know much about how my ancestors ate. I know that my German grandparents liked to eat spaetzel, but that dish is made from potatoes, I think, not chicken breasts.
So, how could I eat chicken breasts like my ancestors? I can only look to the advertisement for clues.
Perhaps you can help me by telling me about how your ancestors ate.
Did your ancestors eat chicken breasts nestled in styrofoam and wrapped in plastic?
Did your ancestors eat chicken that was 99 percent fat free?
Did your ancestors eat chicken that was approved by the USDA?
Did your ancestors cook chicken recipes they obtained from Harvestland food company?
Did your ancestors use coupons to get special deals when they bought chicken from the store?
Did your ancestors eat chicken that was raised on an all vegetarian diet?
Did your ancestors eat chicken that had a tenderness guarantee?
Did your ancestors decide what to eat after looking at advertisements on the Internet?
In the 1950s, my ancestors made dishes for dinner using Jello. Does Harvestland think I ought to have more dinners like that?