Our Other Civil War.

This past Labor Day should give us pause to consider its real meaning. More than a 3-day weekend, the unofficial end of summer and a shopping holiday, it’s a celebration of labor – the hard-working men and women who built this nation. In many ways, it also represent the end of our second civil war.

The war began in the late 1800’s when wealthy industrialists discovered they could exploit the flood of new immigrants by forcing them to work long hours in dangerous conditions, all the while paying them barely subsistence wages. The battlefields were in Boston, Chicago, Minneapolis, Reading, San Francisco, and on Blair Mountain, West Virginia. The combatants were ordinary working people demanding living wages and safe working conditions who were often attacked by armies of security companies, law enforcement…even veterans from the American Legion.

The battles raged for decades until workers finally won the right to organize and negotiate with their employers. This collective bargaining, as it came to be called, eventually brought us the 5-day, 40-hour work week. It brought us paid holidays, paid sick leave, workers’ compensation insurance, and retirement benefits. Collective bargaining ended the practice of forcing men, women and children to work in dimly-lit, poorly-ventilated sweat shops. It ended company stores which were used to accumulate workers’ debt and hold workers captive from cradle to grave.

Even if you have never joined a labor union, you benefit from the efforts of those brave enough to fight the establishment.

Unfortunately, the exploitation only ended in the United States and other advanced nations. The descendants of the industrialists – the CEOs and directors of large, multi-national corporations – merely exported the exploitation elsewhere…to countries lacking collective bargaining. They simply moved their factories to China, to Bangladesh, to India, to Pakistan, to Indonesia, to Malaysia, to Viet Name and elsewhere. In those countries which have few government regulations and no labor unions, they are free to force workers to slave away in sweat shops, often paid by the piece and made to work seven days a week.

Of course, this is no longer called exploitation. It is now called globalization. And, whether or not we care to admit it, we all participate in this exploitation. US corporations get their products made at lower cost and American consumers benefit from lower prices. Corporate shareholders see dividends and higher profits. And while the corporations despoil the land, air and water of other countries, we can breathe more easily because the pollution is out of our sight and, therefore, out of our minds.

So what can you do to stop the exploitation? You can vow to purchase products that are humanely made and sustainably grown. You can divest your investment portfolio of the corporations that are the worst offenders. You can write letters to the leaders of those companies. You can boycott their products. And we can end the current war on collective bargaining began when Ronald Reagan, a former union leader himself, betrayed PATCO, the air traffic controllers’ union. You can support collective bargaining for teachers, first responders and government workers. And you can demand that your company have a representative of its workers on the Board of Directors as is the case in many European companies.

Then, and only then, will we be able to truly celebrate Labor Day.

What Does Your Party Stand For?

These days, it’s popular to say that there is no real difference between the political parties; that they are both in the pockets of large corporations. While it is true that, following recent Supreme Court decisions, both parties rely on the wealthy for campaign donations, there are sizeable differences in what the two parties stand for.

Based on its actions of the past 50 years, here’s what the Republican Party stands for: Large corporations, increased corporate welfare, increased mining, increased oil production, increased deforestation, increased corporate farming, increased corporate fishing, off-shoring of jobs and corporate profits, unfettered financial markets, tax cuts for corporations, tax cuts for the wealthy, privatization of Social Security, elimination of Medicaid and Medicare, elimination of Obamacare, more defense spending, more wars, more militarization of police, more guns (except at GOP events), the end of legal abortions, reduced access to contraception, elimination of the minimum wage, elimination of food stamps for the needy, elimination of estate taxes, elimination of labor unions, elimination of defined benefit pensions (except for corporate executives), elimination of family leave (except for corporate executives), elimination of the EPA, elimination of the FDA, elimination of the Dept. of Labor, elimination of the Dept. of Education, elimination of free public education, deportation of all undocumented immigrants, discrimination against women, discrimination against college students, discrimination against people of color, discrimination against gays, discrimination against non-Christians, a new Constitution based on the Ten Commandments, and limited voting rights based on color, age and income.

Here’s what the Democratic Party stands for: Virtually everything the Republican Party is against.

I truly wish all of this was an exaggeration. But, in fact, all of these policies have been supported by one or more of the GOP presidential candidates either by words or action.

The US Is No Longer A Democracy. Here’s How It Happened.

Last year, a study from Princeton and Northwestern universities, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups and Average Citizens,” concluded that the US government no longer represents the interests of the majority of the nation’s citizens. Instead, it panders to the rich and powerful.

In other words, the US has become an oligarchy defined as a government by the few, a small group that exercises control especially for corrupt and selfish purposes.

More recently, President Jimmy Carter, commenting on how big money has subverted our elections, said, “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.”

The US didn’t become an oligarchy by accident. We got here as the result of a long list of political decisions designed to pander to the wealthy and the powerful. Here’s how:

During the 1800s, the US went from a largely agrarian society to a society based on the industrial revolution. This created some extremely wealthy individuals often referred to as the “Robber Barons,” who took advantage of cheap labor created by the influx of immigrants. They paid little and subjected their employees to horrific working conditions. During this so-called Gilded Age, the wealthy chose the candidates and ran the nation until the masses began to rebel.

In the early 1900s, the Gilded Age ended when workers began to unionize. The wealthy responded by hiring the police and ex-military (the American Legion) to break the labor strikes by bashing some heads. In reality, it was America’s second civil war.

When the Great Depression struck, the nation moved even further toward socialism which caused the wealthy to try to arrange the assassination of President Franklin Roosevelt. In fact, many of the industrialists wanted the nation’s government to reflect the fascist governments of Italy and Germany. Their agenda was interrupted with the bombing of Pearl Harbor, World War II and the revelations of the Nazi death camps. And they were forced to accept the will of the masses until the 1970s when President Richard Nixon and Vice-President Spiro Agnew attacked the new media in order to deflect criticism of their policies.

By raising questions about the objectivity of the media which were embraced by conservatives, it set the stage (intentionally or not) for the Reagan administration and its economic policy of “Trickle Down” theory. This was nothing more than a return to the “Horse and Sparrow” economics of the gilded age, during which government policies were carefully crafted to benefit the wealthy under the theory that if you feed enough oats (money) to the horses (the wealthy) enough will fall on the road to feed the sparrows (the masses).

Reagan portrayed the government and its regulation of industry as the enemy. He attacked labor unions. He lowered taxes for the wealthy. He increased the amount of money exempted from estate taxes. He deregulated the media by eliminating the Fairness Doctrine which held media accountable to serve in the public interest. And he lowered capital gains taxes, which allowed the wealthy to keep more of their primary sources of income – interest and dividends from investments.

With the wealthy allowed to accumulate more money, labor unions on the defensive and an emasculated press, the table was set for the oligarchs. All of this was made worse by Grover Norquist, Jack Abramoff and Ralph Reed who showed the Republican National Committee that it could thrive by eliminating compromises from our political discussions and treating politics as war – a blood sport. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich took congressional dysfunction a step further by transforming the GOP into a parliamentary-style party in which the entire Party is unified on every vote. If you dare to break ranks with Party, you are punished in the next primary and election.

Add to all of this the more than $28 billion lobbying industry, which is financed almost exclusively by the rich and the powerful, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which writes laws on behalf of its corporate sponsors then hands them to its conservative members to sponsor in their state legislatures where the bills are often passed with little discussion or examination, and the George W. Bush administration which cut income taxes for the rich by 4.6 percent and all but eliminated the estate tax.

The last major player is the conservative majority on the US Supreme Court, which by 3 decisions (Buckley v Valeo, Citizens United v FEC and McCutcheon v FEC) unleashed a torrent of money in campaign donations from the oligarchs. So much so, that candidates should have to wear NASCAR-style uniforms with labels of their sponsors. Indeed, of the nearly $400 million donated to presidential candidates so far this year, nearly half has come from fewer than 400 families!

Given all of this, no election in our history has been as critical as next year’s. We can either continue further down the road of oligarchy by electing candidates who try to divide us over social issues while pandering to the wealthy. Or we can elect candidates of change – real change. Candidates who will put the power of the government back in the hands of the people.

That’s why I support Bernie Sanders.

Hall Of Fame Indifference.

The induction of former San Diego Chargers linebacker, Junior Seau, into the NFL Hall of Fame raises a number of questions. Not about his qualifications for the honor. He is most certainly deserving. It raises questions about NFL team ownership; about the league’s Commissioner; about concussion protocol; about the equipment; about the game’s rules; about the sport itself.

More than a dozen former NFL players committed suicide after suffering memory loss and other effects of Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) which is caused by concussions. And numerous other former players have been diagnosed with CTE. Yet for many years, the NFL has seemed to ignore the problems of concussions despite individual and class action lawsuits for unsafe working conditions. Most recently, the league settled a class action lawsuit out of court for $765 million. The settlement allowed league officials to avoid testifying under oath on what the NFL knew and when it knew it.

Likely that would have been extremely embarrassing.

Over the past 3 seasons alone, there have been nearly 700 reported concussions. And that’s just the concussions that were actually reported. How many aren’t? And how many are reported too late to protect the health of the players? There were several embarrassing incidents (including one during the Super Bowl) in which players wobbled off the field following vicious hits only to re-enter the game a few plays later. Then the next day or, in some cases, a few days later, the player was diagnosed with concussion symptoms.

Obviously, it was more important for the team to win the game than to protect the health of its players.

While it is true that the number of reported concussions has dropped each of the past 2 years, the number is still far too great. Indeed, if most any other industry experienced such injuries and unsafe working conditions, the media and the public would be calling for investigations.

Almost certainly, rule changes and improved equipment could reduce the concussions and other serious injuries. But there seems to be no real appetite for change. After all, this is football – America’s beloved bloodsport. It makes the owners, and especially the media, billions of dollars each year. Unfortunately, most of those who play the game and take the chances of permanently harming their health labor for much, much less money. Moreover, unlike other sports, their contracts are not guaranteed. So even if they are lucky enough to sign a multi-million dollar contract, most of that money could disappear in an instant; the result of a single violent play. Football fans will cheer and marvel at the play. It will be replayed in an almost continuous loop on ESPN and other networks. And the player who suffered the damage will be quickly forgotten.

For most players, they will experience one violent collision after another, some of which will cause concussions. And if the concussions happen often enough or if they are severe enough, the players will be forced to retire. Some will lose their memories and some of their motor functions. And some will do what Junior Seau did. They will kill themselves.

It’s time for change…real change.

Rick Perry Reveals The Right Wing Agenda.

It would seem that 2012’s “Ooops” candidate has had another “Ooops” moment. In launching his 2016 presidential bid, he finally remembered the 3 federal departments he would eliminate: the Department of Education, the Department of Labor and the Department of Energy. And that’s not all. He would also eliminate the Environmental Protection Agency, the IRS, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and, of course, Obamacare.

He’s also not very keen on the Department of the Interior and the legal system, saying “It’s [America] in jeopardy because of taxes; it’s in jeopardy because of regulation; it’s in jeopardy because of a legal system that’s run amok. And I think it’s time for us to just hand it over to God and say, “God, You’re going to have to fix this.”

That’s the ticket.

Perry believes that we don’t have to worry about the state of our crumbling infrastructure, our militarized police departments, our over-stressed environment, our large corporate polluters, global warming, growing inequality, rampant racism, debilitating poverty, political polarization, and our for-hire Congress.

All we have to do is let God run the country. Oh, wait. How, exactly, can he do that? Since He doesn’t talk to all (many) of us, who will be his interpreter? Who will carry out His orders? Why Teapublicans, of course! According to the right, only they are the true patriots; only they have a close relationship with God; only they know what God wants.

Is that what you believe? That Teapublicans are the only moral, God-fearing politicians? If so, then how do you explain the pedophilia of Dennis Hastert? How do you explain the adultery of Newt Gingrich, Bob Livingston and so many other Teapublicans? How do you explain the war-mongering of John McCain and Lindsey Graham? How do you explain the GOP’s uncaring attitude toward the poor? How do you explain the GOP’s embrace of the rich and powerful? How do you explain the GOP’s lack of interest in preserving the environment and all of God’s creatures?

You can’t…because it simply defies explanation.

The real problem for the GOP is that Perry was, in a manner of speaking, speaking out of school. You see, his beliefs are the same as those of most – if not all – of the declared GOP candidates. And the GOP would rather not have you know about them. They don’t want seniors to know that they want to eliminate Social Security and Medicare as “socialism.” They don’t want you to know that they consider public education “socialism.” They don’t want you to know that they are against worker’s rights and any form of collective bargaining. They don’t want you to know that they are deep in the pockets of the oil companies and are paid to do their bidding. They don’t want you to know that they simply don’t care about the poor.

Don’t believe it?

Then take a close look at what’s happening in Teapublican-controlled states like Arizona, Kansas and Wisconsin. In those and other red states, the GOP has cut taxes for corporations and the wealthy and balanced the budgets on the backs of the poor, as well as the teachers and students. The results have been disastrous, yet they don’t seem to care.

Instead of admitting their mistake and addressing the problems, the GOP is doubling down. They want to expand the misery to the entire country.

Democracy Lost.

In recent years, much has been written about growing inequality. It is, indeed, one of the most important issues of our time. And the effects of big money on our democracy have been devastating.

Sure, you may still be able to vote to elect those who are supposed to represent you. But that, alone, does not constitute democracy. Not only are the choices of candidates limited to two individuals – the only two who were able to climb their way up the political ladder in order to receive their parties’ blessings and, more important, their campaign funds. All too often, those who are elected are promised large campaign donations by corporations and industries in exchange for political favors. It is not necessarily quid pro quo, but the expectation for a return on the investment is there. So, too is the pressure.

In reality, such high stakes lobbying has long been a part of politics. But, over the past 35 years, things have gotten even worse.

In the late seventies, large US corporations began to see their hold on the world economy slip. New, lower-priced, high-quality imports – many of them made with robotics – from Japan and Germany began to push aside American-made products. US corporations responded by relocating manufacturing – first to the South, then off-shore – in search of lower-priced labor.

Perhaps, the most destructive response was the move to tie CEO compensation to the value of the companies’ share prices. This ushered in an era of ever-increasing CEO salaries and even more lucrative stock options for CEOs – a legalized form of insider trading. The result was for US corporations to seek ever lower-priced labor in countries where there is no regulation and no employee benefits. At the same time corporate profits have soared, employee salaries and corporate investments in the future have diminished – almost guaranteeing that the future will belong to foreign-based corporations. But why would our CEOs care? They and their money will be long gone before it matters.

Our corporations have used the threat of off-shoring jobs to extort our state and city governments. In exchange for their extortion, those governments have assumed many of the risks of corporate relocation or expansion by paying for needed infrastructure, cutting regulations, and delaying or eliminating corporate taxes.

Now these corporations are attempting to extort the federal government.

Unwilling to pay US income taxes on profits made off-shore, these corporations are stashing cash in foreign banks until the federal government agrees to “repatriate” the money at a greatly reduced tax rate. Of course, they’re justifying the extortion by saying that “repatriation” will lead to greater investments and more jobs in the US – the great “trickle down” fraud.

In reality, the money is more likely to be doled out to CEOs and other executives in the form of bonuses (as a reward for robbing ordinary taxpayers) and stock options.

In the meantime, corporations and billionaires have been working to rig the system. Realizing that buying Congress and our state legislatures is cheaper than paying lobbyists, people like the Koch brothers have stuffed the pockets of candidates willing to do their bidding. To pave the way, they pushed conservatives to stack the Supreme Court with ideologues such as Alito, Roberts, Scalia and Thomas. That inevitably led to favorable court rulings giving corporations the rights of people and all but eliminating limitations on political donations. They got the IRS to change its rules allowing “non-profits” to fund political campaigns. When they won control of legislatures, they gerrymandered congressional districts making it all but impossible for anyone but “their people” to win office. And they introduced Voter ID laws to suppress the votes of minorities and the poor.

In 2014, their efforts finally came to fruition. Having already bought the House in 2010, they now own the Senate. It’s no coincidence that the first bills to reach the House and Senate floors were to repeal “Obamacare” and to build the Koch…er…Keystone XL Pipeline. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has also made it clear that issues such as raising the minimum wage, equal pay for equal work, unemployment insurance and student loan costs will be pushed aside in favor of gutting regulations on health care and financial services and eviscerating the EPA.

If you’re still worried about the effects of so-called “dark money” on our democracy, don’t. Last year, our democracy officially became an oligarchy.

How Our Media Are Failing Us.

The US news media were once the envy of the world. TV news gave us legendary journalists such as Edward R. Murrow, Walter Cronkite, David Brinkley and Chet Huntley to name just a few. These were people who proudly informed Americans, exposed corruption and provided context for politics. So what happened? How did we go from Walter Cronkite to Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity and Bill O’Reilly. There is no single answer. Instead, a number of factors have led to the demise of journalism in the US. Here are the most prominent:

1- Media Have Chosen Sides: Newspapers have long leaned to one side or another. The Wall Street Journal was always conservative as The New York Times was always liberal. But despite their leanings, they at least tried to present both sides. That no longer is the case. Fox News Channel gets its daily talking points from the Republican National Committee and, since the end of the Fairness Doctrine, talk radio has become more than 90 percent right wing with almost no liberal counterparts.

2 – Infotainment And Ratings: Far too many so-called “news” shows have become infotainment – more devoted to creating high ratings than presenting actual news and information. They focus on the most bizarre, sensational and macabre stories rather than news that matters. As a result, we know more about the murder trial of the day than what Congress is doing.

3 – Equating Equal Time With Accuracy And Fairness: Fearful of backlash from the party faithful, the media tend to report both sides of a political story rather than dig for the truth. I call this the “We report, you decide” syndrome. This is no substitute for actual journalism. With no reporter focused on getting to the truth, the falsehoods from one side become accepted as fact.

4 – The Horse Race Syndrome: During the run-up to elections, the news media have refused to report the truth. They are more interested in reporting the results of polls with the idea of finding a winner. As a result, we hear two disparate views of issues with no context available to help us choose a candidate.

5 – Accepting Politically-Biased Nomenclature: Republican strategists are constantly trying to win a literal war of words. For example, Estate Taxes were once widely accepted as a way of preventing dynasties in the US – so that the extremely wealthy could not pass unimaginable wealth onto their heirs. But once the GOP labeled them Death Taxes, the media picked up the term and, as a result, public opinion began to change. The same thing happened when the abortion foes changed the description from anti-abortion to Pro-Life.

6 – Newsroom Cutbacks: In the late 1970’s, the owners of news organizations began seeking greater profits. They found them by eliminating foreign news bureaus and eliminating many reporters and staff photographers. As a result, they now rely on stock photos and wire services. Reporters no longer have the time to investigate corruption or to check facts.

7 – Laziness: Too many reporters are willing to accept what they are told by one source. It requires too much effort and too much time to seek other sources or to research the issue in order to provide context. It’s more convenient to go with the story half-finished. For example, business reporters often report that US corporate income taxes are the highest in the world. What they neglect to say is that is only the stated tax rate, not the effective tax rate which is often just one or two percent. And they never report the amount of subsidies and other forms of corporate welfare received by the very corporations that complain of high income taxes.

7 – Expediency: In the rush to be first, news media no longer take the time to verify the story through multiple sources. False stories are often repeated over and over before the mistake is uncovered and, if it is, the retraction (if there is one) is scarcely noticed. This was never more apparent than with Lara Logan’s false and misleading 60 Minutes report on Benghazi. The original story was nearly an hour. The retraction was only a minute or two.

8 – Economic Self-Interest: The vast majority of our media are now owned by just 6 conglomerates. (And if the Time-Warner/Comcast merger is completed, that number will drop to 5.) These corporations are less concerned with news than they are with profits. There are no longer firewalls between news departments and corporate operations. So if a story will harm the corporation, it is too often buried.

9 – Fear Of Retribution: Chuck Todd’s recent admission about treatment of Teapublicans on Meet the Press is exhibit A. When he said that he didn’t dare challenge a Republican lie or they would not appear on the show, he was, in effect, being a whistle-blower for the profession of journalism.

10 – Overwhelming Number Of Lies: As Politifact.com found, Teapublicans tell nearly 3 times as many lies as Democrats. They tell bigger whoppers, too. It’s hard for journalists to keep up. And with fewer journalists willing to challenge the lies, the politicians keep on telling them. Eventually the lies become accepted as fact. There are hundreds, if not thousands, of examples. One of the most popular lies is that the Keystone XL Pipeline will create thousands of jobs. Yet independent studies show that the number of jobs is grossly inflated and that they don’t justify the environmental risks.

Despite the media’s many failings, all is not lost. There are still numerous, credible news outlets. But the best way to be informed is to actually work at it. After all, that’s what our Founding Fathers expected of us. It’s not even all that daunting. The Web can be a very convenient and useful tool. The basic rule is to never accept anything from a biased source, or even a single source, as fact. Seek out information from independent sources, as well as conservative-leaning and liberal-leaning sources. Then check the information through Websites such as FactCheck.org, Politifact.com and Snopes.com.

The very future of our nation depends on it.

The Difference Between The Facts And The Truth.

Since President Obama’s Executive Order on immigration, various news organizations have been crawling all over each other to “fact-check” the president’s statements. Predictably, they found a number of things that were at odds with the “facts.”

What those news organizations fail to recognize is that the facts don’t necessarily represent the truth. So I’ll do their job for them. The truth is that illegal immigration, and the resulting influx of undocumented workers, has been a large problem for many years. As a result, President Obama has overseen the greatest expansion of border security in history in addition to an unprecedented growth in deportations. In addition to the “fence,” we now have 21,000 border patrol agents. We have at least one agent for every half mile of the border. Combined with slow job growth (as opposed to a slow economy), that has resulted in a net loss of illegal immigrants.

The fact is that many immigrants have crossed our southern border. The truth is that 40 percent of undocumented immigrants entered the US legally through our airports, bus stations, and seaports and they have overstayed their visas. Building a bigger fence and stationing more agents at the border will do nothing to stop these immigrants.

The fact is that an estimated 11 million undocumented immigrants work in the US. The truth is that these workers do not take American jobs. They do the work that very few Americans will. For example, despite advertising for American workers to pick his fruit, a fruit grower in Georgia could not find a single American to do what undocumented workers will.

The fact is drugs are still being smuggled into our country illegally. The truth is that most of them are being smuggled into the US on airplanes, in freight cars, in boats. Few are being brought in by human mules.

The fact is that some criminals cross our borders illegally…drug smugglers, human smugglers and gang members. The truth is that these people represent a very small percentage of illegal immigrants.

The fact is that we pay to educate the children of illegal immigrants. The truth is that these children grow up to contribute far more to our society than their education costs. It is also true that illegal immigrants cannot receive food stamps and welfare benefits. Neither can they vote.

The fact is that many immigrants came across the southern border in search of a better life. The truth is that these immigrants had little choice. Many came to the US as refugees in the 1980’s when the Reagan administration was supporting dictators and death squads in El Salvador and Nicaragua. (Remember Iran-Contra?) Many were small farmers who were put out of business by our large corporate farms that dumped low-priced corn into Mexico and Central America as a consequence of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and CAFTA (Central American Free Trade Agreement).

The fact is that thousands of children recently crossed our southern border. The truth is that few tried to sneak across the border. Most simply turned themselves into Border Patrol officers seeking asylum from the violence in Honduras and El Salvador.

The fact is that our border security has greatly limited the number of illegal crossings. The truth is that is has also greatly limited the billions of dollars in trade between Mexico and the US. 6 million US jobs depend on exports to Mexico and the US receives nearly $9 billion per year in tourism from Mexico. Yet despite being on the border, thanks to SB1070, Arizona ranks 21st in exports to Mexico behind Wisconsin and Minnesota!

The fact is that millions of undocumented workers are employed in the US. The truth is that most of these workers pay federal and state income taxes, sales taxes and licensing fees. They also contribute approximately $7 billion per year in payroll deductions to Social Security and Medicare even though they will never benefit from these programs.

The fact is that we need comprehensive immigration reform. The truth is that Republican politicians have used the issue of immigration to promote racism and fear in order to be elected.

The fact is that President Obama acted alone in an attempt to solve the immigration crisis. The truth is that the US House of Representatives had more than 500 days to vote on the Senate’s bi-partisan comprehensive immigration bill, but Speaker Boehner refused to bring it to a vote. Republicans also refused to negotiate the issue with Democrats. The president was left with no other option than to act by Executive Order.

Greed Versus Poverty.

“For the first time in history it is now possible to take care of everybody at a higher standard of living than any have ever known. Only ten years ago the ‘more with less’ technology reached the point where this could be done. All humanity now has the option of becoming enduringly successful.” – Buckminster Fuller, 1980.

I recently spotted this quote on Facebook and it made me think: What is the true state of the world in 2014? How far have we come since 1980?

Well, here are the sobering statistics:

– According to the human rights group, Walk Free, 36 million people live in slavery worldwide.
– In the US, approximately 250,000 women and children are held as sex slaves.
– In the US, nearly 2.5 million children were homeless at some point in 2013.
– In the US, 48 million people live in poverty.
– Worldwide, more than 3 billion people – nearly half the world population – live on less than $2.50 per day.
– In the US, 1 in 6 children don’t have enough to eat.
– Worldwide, 1 in 8 people suffer from chronic malnourishment and approximately 5,000,000 children die of malnutrition each year.
– Worldwide, many millions of people don’t have access to clean water.
– Worldwide, billions of people don’t have access to modern medical care.
– In the US, approximately 12 million people don’t have access to affordable health care even after implementation of the Affordable Care Act.
– Worldwide, climate change causes 350,000 deaths each year and that number is certain to grow.

As Fuller stated, it is now possible to solve these problems. Yet too many voters still believe in the fraud that is called “trickle-down economics”…a trickle that never comes. Too many politicians would rather give the wealthy and large corporations another tax cut than help these “freeloaders.” Others are too busy campaigning for office to be troubled with real problems. And the political problems aren’t just in the US. The rest of the industrialized world is not much better. Much of Europe has fallen back into recession as the result of economic austerity programs. In response, their populations have taken a nasty turn toward fascism.

We should all strive to avoid blaming others for our lack of progress and, instead, look for solutions.

Imagine what could be done to improve lives if the US corporations that have $2.1 trillion stashed in offshore tax havens paid just 10 percent in taxes on that money. Imagine if corporate CEOs devoted just a portion of their multi-million dollar annual salaries to pay their employees a living wage. Imagine if all of the world governments agreed to cut in half the $1.75 trillion in annual military spending and dedicated it to giving people access to health care, food and clean water. Imagine if our politicians weren’t bought and paid for by corporate lobbyists who are rewarded with billions in government contracts…more than $4 trillion between 2007 and 2012. Imagine if the billions dedicated to lobbying was used, instead, to help end human suffering.

We certainly have the means to achieve Fuller’s vision. All we need is the will (and the heart) to demand it.

Delusional Democrats.

The midterm electoral ass-kicking should be a wake-up call for Democrats. Yet, in the hours following the debacle, all I’ve seen and heard are the same old lame excuses. “Democrats only turn out for presidential elections.” “Our candidates were swamped by a tsunami of dark money.” “It’s the result of Obama’s unfavorable numbers.” “With the growing number of minorities, it’s inevitable that Democrats will win in the future.” And, my favorite, “We don’t belong to an organized political party. We’re Democrats.”

Although I hate it, that last excuse is more true than I’d like to admit. The Party is disorganized. It has no real leadership. It fails to communicate what it stands for, other than getting elected. Its messaging is pathetic. And its consultants are a joke!

More important, the Party and many of its candidates are gutless. Even though they had real accomplishments to promote – accomplishments that are popular with voters – they seemed afraid to stand up for them lest they be criticized by Teapublicans and their comments featured in a Teapublican attack ad. For example, during this election cycle, few Democratic candidates were willing to take credit for the Affordable Care Act that gave millions access to health insurance for the first time. Few would stand up for environmental issues. Few stood against climate change. Few would stand up for labor unions. Few would stand up for universal background checks for gun purchases. Few took credit for voting for the 2009 economic stimulus that kept the nation from sliding into the Great Depression II. Few stood behind Democratic economic policies that have the stock markets at historic highs and unemployment numbers at their lowest level in more than a decade. Few would take credit for getting our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan. Few would stand behind their Democratic president. And one even refused to acknowledge whether or not she voted for a Democrat for president!

To make matters worse, Democratic consultants begged the president not to take a stand on immigration reform in order to help red state Democrats who were almost certainly doomed to lose anyway. But that advice did have an effect. It cost several blue state Democrats their seats and it may have cost the Party the support of Latinos in the future. Yet their worst advice was to tell candidates to run away from the president and the Party’s accomplishments. Their only real strategy seemed to be, “a Republican said something stupid, send us money.” (I, for one, will not send the Democratic Party another dime until it gets its house in order and miraculously grows a spine.)

In truth, the Democratic candidates who took the advice of their Party got what they deserved.

But why would political consultants care if their advice is awful, anyway? Most will still be around for the next election, even if their candidates aren’t. And they will still be able to cash their rather substantial checks.

In my (hopefully temporary) home state of Arizona, the consultants advised Democratic candidates to base their campaigns on support for public education, including increased funding. But most Arizona voters don’t seem to care about public education. Many are too old to care and others simply don’t vote. As a result, every Democrat running for statewide office lost. Indeed, the voters showed how they really feel about education by rejecting numerous school bonds and apparently electing a Teapublican with absolutely no background or understanding of education to the position of Superintendent of Public Instruction. Her platform consisted of a single plank…stopping Common Core, the program created by Republican and Democratic governors that sets standards for schools across the nation. (It’s just as well, Arizona schools are so under-funded, few of the state schools could meet those standards anyway.)

And, rather than turning the state purple as the Party hoped, the far-right-wing Arizona voters passed yet another “sovereignty” bill designed to raise a collective middle finger to the federal government. The bill will encourage our very right-wing state government to challenge the federal government on any federal law with which our nincompoop-driven legislature disagrees. The result will be millions of Arizona taxpayer funds spent on lawsuits against the federal government that sends $1.50 to Arizona in federal spending for every $1.00 the state contributes in federal taxes.

Clearly, in this election, few Democrats went to the polls. Why would they? The Party gave them few reasons to vote. In hopes of attracting more women and more Latino voters, the Party essentially abandoned its core voters…its base. After all, if the Democratic Party won’t stand up for its own president and its own accomplishments, how can we trust that its candidates will stand up for us?