Wednesday, August 22, 2012

"Stop the Vote!" or Voter ID Laws and the Aristocratic Effort to Systematically Deny Marginalized People of their Votes and Voices

     Remember that time back in 2008 when thousands of people voted in the Presidential election two, three, four times with fake addresses and criminal records? Remember how the country came to a stand still while the government figured out how to deal with the rampant voter fraud that ended up deciding the election? Me neither: because it didn't happen. As a matter of fact, it has never happened. Statistically one has a better chance of being struck by lightning than encountering an instance of voter fraud. Between 2002-2005 there were 26 federal convictions for voter fraud: 18 were cited for voting while ineligible, 5 for voting multiple times, and 3 for registration fraud. In 2004- a Presidential election year- the rate of voter fraud was an astronomical .0002%.[1] There clearly is no countrywide epidemic of voter fraud. So, what's all the hubbub? Why is the GOP spending so much of its time and resources trying to create a solution to a problem that doesn't exist (and winning!)? My thesis: so Barack Obama will be a "one-term President."

     This last comment, by house majority leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), crystallizes the theory that the GOP is not focused on issue politics this year but on partisan squabbling and empty political victories. The new voter ID laws sweeping the country are a case in point. In the above paragraph, I outlined the unrampant nature of voting fraud. So why have the conservatives gone to great lengths to make sure that this doesn't happen (even though it never does)? To make sure that Barack Obama is a "one-term President." You see President Obama won the last election with 96% of the African-American vote, 67% percent of the Latino vote, and 63% of the Asian vote. In addition, Mr. Obama also won 68% of the 18-to-24 vote. Why is this relevant? Because 25% of black adults, 20% of Asians adults, 19% of Latino adults, and 18% of the youth don't have photo IDs. Is it a coincidence that the four biggest blocks of Obama supporters are the four main groups that could potentially suffer the effects of such an unnecessary law? Most likely not. Mike Turzai, a Republican state rep from Pennsylvania's fightin' 28th, has been quoted extensively as saying that the voter ID law is going to "allow Governor Romney to win the state of Pennsylvania." Is this evidence that voter ID is a concerted effort by the right to deny certain people of their right to vote because they generally vote Democrat?

     Philadelphia, for instance, has voted Democrat in the past nine Presidential elections. Since 2000, there have only been ten cases of in-person voter impersonation. In a city of three million people how is cutting down on these ten acts of malfeasance going to allow Mr. Romney to win? By denying lower income and minority voters their rights.

     What prompted this egregious and blatant abuse of influence? Incompetence. Far right wing Randian maniacs such as Dick Armey, the Koch Brothers, and Karl Rove have successfully confused the language of smaller more efficient government (traditional conservative politics) to mean unchained and unfettered capitalism. This kind of elitist upper-class warfare is a breeding ground for racism, marginalization, and oppression. When the interest of a few is weighed against the needs of the many and the few have all the resources, it is easy for them to tip the scales of law and justice.

     This voter ID law is a case in point of far right extremists (it is worth noting that many of these people are Randian disciples) high-jacking the democratic process. They have crafted a platform that is not only suspect but also downright ludicrous. More tax cuts for the rich?! Military escalation in the Middle East?! Slash and cut social programs that keep the most vulnerable among us afloat?! How could a politician hope to pass such absurd and socially damaging legislation? By marginalizing those who stand to lose. When the winners are the only ones voting it is easy to see why the conservative agenda has become so extreme.

     This country is lauded as a democracy. In a true democracy people have equal access and opportunity to participate in the political process. The recent waves of voter ID laws being introduced across the country are an attempt to stifle this process. These laws are structured to deny traditionally marginalized communities their right to have a voice in US policy and programs. Voter fraud is not a problem in this country therefore any strategy that seeks to solve this "problem" is going to be tarnished with ulterior motives. Read the statistics, research the laws, and discern the motivation for these laws yourself. In 2008- a very popular election- only 60% of eligible voters voted. Any inhibition to the everyday American getting to the polls on election today is a travesty and should be fought at every level. We have a right to participate in this country—demand it.

[1] During that same election the American Center for Voting Rights initially claimed there were a 100 cases of voter fraud involving 300,000 votes. A review of the study revealed that only 185 of these votes could be potentially fraudulent.

Addendum: Thank you to, the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU,, and the New York Times for the help on statistics. 

Comfortably Numb

It's quiet out
     No marches. No protests. No hope. 
          Bored and atrophied
     Herbal cigarettes breathing wisps of metaphysical smoke
          Easing off the gas of my nicotine binge
It's screaming in here

Advertisements addictive as heroine
     engineered to energize you into a Stepford life

Highjacked in the Universe
     plugged into the Matrix
          infinitely connected; forever removed
     Who is Deus and who is machina?
          "Follow the white rabbit... I guess"
Take the purple pill

then follow Alice down the abyss...
     ('Cause they got guns and tanks down there in Disneyland)
Jersey Shore is on and I don't have time for this shit!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Working Class Hero

(Yet slaves nevertheless )
Punching clocks after 16 rounds
     drenched in blood, sweat, and debt- 
          on red-eye mornings
          sipping comatose tea
          with drug-induced delusions
     choking on gusto, poison pride, and undead resolve
          the puss of the "American dream" seeping through paper-thin skin
          ...from burrowed-out joints 

Staggering from paycheck to paycheck
     Chained to the cave of routine
          chilled by the warm content of fulfillment
Satiated by provision and survival; Pacified by honor and duty
     While the Monopoly man feasts on the bones of their children
     living on Boardwalk and passing off the luxury tax
          (you're camped on Baltic Ave.- if not in jail)

("Keep your eyes on the prize…") 
     so anxious for rain they spit on themselves just to feel wet…
     baptized in their own disease
pounding on St. Peter's gate with a bluesy rap 
     binging on crackers and drunk on vinegar
          like some brain-dead zombie too tired to re-consider 
          ...crippled by bloody knees and schizophrenia 
     but the Olympics don't offer the wheel 

And always fat cats lurk around dark corners 
     with top hats, monocles, and Ferraris
     sweating with withdrawal; anxious to pounce 
But this is not ancient Egypt
     and there is more than one way to skin a god

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Tweedle-Dee, Tweedle-Dum, and You (a commentary on the 2012 Presidential election and the superfluous nature of voting in our current political system)

The Presidential election of 2012 demonstrates the minute differences between the two American political parties and the big-money-backed business platform on which they both run. Think about the current state of the world: Economies are collapsing all over the globe thanks to the "work" of greedy mafia-minded banksters; the American war-machine strikes civilian populated areas through the red eye of a drone's camera lens; and all the while our civil liberties slowly erode at the hands of an aristocratic  oligarchy determined to maintain and expand their power. They preach peace and security in an Orwellian irony while the everyday American citizen settles for the mind-numbing droll of television. 

It makes me wonder why I take the time to vote at all. Democracy is based on the idea that my voice- added to my communities'- will help shape public policy. However, between corporate backed super PACs, voter ID laws, and a trustee philosophy of governance my vote- and yours- has devolved into little more than a Facebook "like." Yet corporations and the rich spend millions- and soon billions- of dollars on advertisements in order to sway and brainwash the everyday American with soaring rhetoric about change, lower taxes, and a "better America." Meanwhile, you and I are essentially forced to work until we ache in our bones just to pay the rent and keep food on the table. Not to mention the struggle to maintain health insurance, a retirement, and education for our kids. But politicians are out of touch with our reality. 

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan are poster boys- or should I say playboys?- for the out-of-touch governor. Ryan's budget plan seeks to gut Medicare with a zealous gusto for smaller government as if it were the unchallenged will of the people. But has he or Mitt addressed the real problem with Medicare (i.e. the lack of solvency based on indiscriminate military spending and inept tax policy)? Have the American people become so mad about social safety nets that they are taking to the streets to bring it down? No. The people have not played a role in shaping the GOP platform. The aristocratic oligarchy has kept everyday conservatives so drunk on Superbowls and foxy news that they have forgotten that it is their responsibility to set their own agenda. So their agendas are spoon fed to them like they are sitting in a high chair gulping down bullshit and calling it caviar. (Are they?)

The Democrats are no better. In 2008, President-elect Obama promised us change with a capital "C". He promised the purposeful end to the war in Iraq, deescalation in Afghanistan, real healthcare reform, and that the financial industry would no longer gamble away our pensions and social security on hedge bets. Instead our military was unwillingly thrown out of Iraq at the insistence of the Iraqi government, tens of thousands more men and women were (and are) sent to die in the streets of Kandahar, Congress granted the insurance industry probably the biggest handout yet, and the banks have only gotten more mafia-like. And my favorite: Mr. Obama promised that he would not take unaccountable superPAC money. Yet when the election cycle came back around this year Mr. President wavered, bent, and broke. I haven't even mentioned the 2,100 civilian deaths from drone strikes in Pakistan and Afghanistan alone or Guantanamo's curiously still open doors. And all of this military might is coming from a sophisticated Democratic Constitutional lawyer from Harvard. What the hell are we going to do if a trigger-happy Republican decides that Iran looked at us the wrong way? 

Money and mass media politics have co-opted government to the point of flaccidity. During "Water Gate," Richard Nixon's approval rating was an astoundingly high 26%. The Congressional approval rating for the last few years has been hovering around 9%. 9%! That means for every ten people you meet nine of them think that Congress is a bunch of over-entitled fat cats pulling the marionette strings of public opinion with cockamamy blueprints of a red or blue Eden. Yet they ignore the cries and shouts of anger of the people. 

But what about third party candidates? Surely, Ralph Nader, Ross Perot, and Al Gore have pushed the conversation to the left right? Candidates like Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala- the 2012 Green Party Presidential and Vice-Presidential nominees- have fantastic platforms and campaigns. The Green Party is advocating for political reform, equal rights, and ecological sustainability. And what's their idea of a campaign stop? They performed an act of civil disobedience and were arrested at a Fannie Mae in Philadelphia to highlight the epidemic of big bank foreclosures that are plaguing Americans everyday. That's the kind of President I want! So where are they in this election? Lost in the milieu of obscurity. A staffer on the campaign told me it was because they don't have the money. Our two party system commands so much coin that it is nearly impossible to challenge it. So the Republicans and Democrats buy the billboards, the airwaves, and your attention with mind-numbing ads and empty speeches while we are left pacified by our tvs and our exhaustion. 

Why do we let these people rule us? Rule us. We allow people-mostly old rich white men- who 91% of the country find to be irresponsible, inept, and unqualified to conceive of, implement, and even break our laws. And yet we wave our flags, buy our McDonald's from the wheelchair of our obesity, and belt the Star-Spangled Banner like it was Amazing Grace- at least until we lose our breath from the emphysema. Yet we are the shining beacon of freedom and democracy in the world? Ha! And what's worse is we let them do it. We sit by year after year, choose the lesser of two evils, and shrug our woes off like it was the hand of fate- or God. We are just as much to blame as them for the derelict nature of our government as they are. We should be in the streets with torches and pitchforks! Democracy requires education and participation: we are entertained and pacified.

So you may ask: what do we do? First, we accept our failures. We accept that we have let these bankers rob us blind, these politicians deceive us, and these rich men dictate our paychecks, our privacy, and our dignity. Then we take that fire that arises in our bellies from the realization and direct it toward the real enemy- apathy. If we are to have a real democracy we are going to have to take an active role in tearing down the rich man's temple and build a new foundation based on equality, compassion, dignity for all humans, and fairness. Such are the underpinnings of a just society. Then rich men will not rule us, dictate to us, or manipulate us. We will have direct control over our government and our lives in a true democracy. But it will not come easy. Democracy is never given: it is earned. What am I voting? No confidence. 

Monday, August 13, 2012

Why Banks Suck 101

This is an educational resource I put together to try to give some an introduction to the crimes of Wall Street Enjoy!

Paradigm Shift

How banks and the rich own politics:


How credit default swaps work (how the Great Recession began):

Matt Taibbi video about the banksters at Occupy National Gathering:


Recent Developments

Friday, August 10, 2012

Modern Kids

Sitting in cars pondering how much crosses cost to build
Shifting gears and shifting lanes through our generational pains
Victims and collateral damage of political pimps
Mind ablaze with green tea and jazz
Whoring and hoarding our souls
With gods and gadgets
Too lazy to rebel and too scared to sleep
Masturbating home alone
online and hands free
Acid tv trippin on channel 9
Blurring lines in my mind in primetime
Watching dragons burn houses
Preaching poison sermons of peace and security
In a wartime cabaret

Thursday, August 9, 2012

All Streets Lead To Wall Street

Now the talking heads are on stage.
Pandering their opinions and crisp haircuts.
Advertisements meld my mind like propaganda mixtapes
"Buy me! Own me!
Take off your pants and you’ll be one step closer to blowing me."
Acts of Valor bombard my senses with senseless anxieties
Images flash by too fast to consider for too long.
American Idol on a warship…
For now the boys are playing ball (or are they are at war?)
Good Ol’ America
Pacifying your bloodlust with contests of logos and contracts…
TV trying to tell me about connectivity
While Miller Lites are being sold as Picassos
And we pray to McMuffin the Omnipresent and Eli the Truth

You have to be a responsible tripper to be young in America
1776 on 3 hits while you’re doing your laundry
Never watered down
Always fresh
26 and trippin’
You can’t fall down when you’re playing at home

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

"Can we say America is still a democracy what with the rich ruling nearly everything?"

For democracy, as a system, to work it requires an educated and participatory populace that can take responsibility for making the decisions that affect their lives. The United States of America is lauded as the birthplace and cradle of such democracy. Unfortunately, this is at least a misunderstanding and at worse an outright lie. 

For nearly 250 years men such as Adams, Jefferson, and Hamilton have been worshipped as heroes of democratic ideals. However, it is traditionally understated that the ideas that they propagated such as life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness would only be available to landowners. 18th century translation: the Constitution would guarantee inalienable rights only to old slave-holding white men. The ideas of freedom, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were not guaranteed to every person. As a matter of fact they only granted these "god given" rights to white males. Privilege and oppression are not the ingredients of a democracy. Only equality serves as an acceptable base. 

But what about the rest of American history? Didn't past governments amend the Constitution to grant voting rights to women, people of color, and non-land holders? On the surface yes. But as the system became more complex so did the power dynamics. Without equality of opportunity granting voting rights is a moot point. Old white men still dominated the legislature and the government and thereby created the laws. 

And as if cultural oppression were not enough we have the money factor. After the Great Depression lawmakers passed an act called Glass-Steagall which kept investment banks separate from public depositors. The idea behind such legislation was to keep our democracy in tact and keep mafia-like banksters from controlling the direction of society. By limiting their gambling ability such laws kept a check and balance on corporate power. But corporate power rose from the grave of crippling legislation as any undead heartless monster would and lobbied a repeal of the law. 

Beginning with the advent of the puppet President Ronald Reagan- and possibly even back as far as Richard Nixon- big banks and corporate interests have been given the ear and will of the government. Reagan "unleashed the bull" and Clinton repealed Glass-Steagall. Between these two events big banks and economic power houses were given carte blanche permission to regulate and rule themselves. In essence, they were granted independence. Now we all know how these ludicrous and bone-headed policies have ruined the world economy and plunged us into a global recession but how do they relate to our supposed democracy? 

The old saying goes whoever has the gold makes the rules. In an age of mass media and instant connectivity influence is sheltered under the umbrella of profit. And since banks, corporations, and the rich have systematically dismantled the mechanisms in place to prevent the concentration of wealth, the top 1% of income earners in US own most of the wealth. Which means they control the means of government, economics, and education. After the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling- which allows corporations, organizations, and individuals to give unlimited campaign contributions anonymously- the power grab was complete. They have the gold; they make the rules. 

So can we continue to live in a democracy? What democracy? This country was founded upon privilege and oppression. The ivory tower of our ideals was built on the backs of slaves, the working, and the poor. We never had a democracy. However, that is not to say that we couldn't have one. Ideas such as equality, freedom, and liberty are not unobtainable abstractions. They are achievable goals. However, we cannot look to the past for a roadmap to a democratic future. The rich and the powerful have owned this country since its inception. We live in an aristocratic oligarchy masqueraded as a two-party system. But if we commit ourselves to the core values of human dignity for everyone, compassion, integrity, and justice then we can begin to chart a map to a truly democratic future. But wide is the road to folly. To obtain such goals we must all- in our communities and in our society- commit ourselves to the narrow path of equality and cast off the old ways of division, fear, and hatred. 

The United States of America never was a democracy. But if we rise up, throw off our yokes, and unite, then we can create the future we want to live in. Democracy has never given: it must be earned.