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Over the past couple weeks we’ve learned about top secret government programs designed to seek out terrorist who wish to do harm to the United States of America. What started out as a small leak has turned into a gushing waterfall of classified top secret information. First we had a story about the Department of Justice secretly seizing two months worth of phone records from the Associated Press without a warrant. These records were seized in an effort to identify the Associated Press’s informant who leaked very sensitive classified material to an AP reporter that jeopardized an ongoing CIA mission and could have cost the lives of those carrying out the clandestine mission if the target became aware of it. Keep in mind that the DOJ only obtained the numbers called both inbound and outbound, but never listened in on any phone conversations or asked to see transcripts from any phone conversations. A few days after that story broke another revelation came to light. The DOJ obtained a warrant for Fox “reporter” James Rosen’s email account to find his source for a 2009 report about North Korea responding to a United Nations sanction with a nuclear missile test. Yesterday another classified leak of US intelligence occurred. Cellular service provider Verizon complied with a top secret court order (issued in April 2013) to give the National Security Agency information on all phone calls from all of their customers in an indefinite ongoing daily basis. Then before we had time to digest this troubling occurrence, another government surveillance story broke. A reporter from “The Guardian” uncovered a top secret government program called PRISIM that allowed them to access or monitor any US citizen’s internet use and read anyone’s email.
If proven true, all of these secret surveillance operations are a stain on Obama’s presidency, a stain on law abiding American’s civil liberties, and a stain on the credibility of the DOJ and the NSA. I have to say this is the most disappointing and troubling part of an otherwise amazing presidency. We all know president Obama is a pragmatist but his unbelievably fast evolution on the issue of civil liberties makes me determined to find out why. Before he was elected president his position on Bush’s far reaching Patriot Act was very clear. He was very vocal about his opposition to most of the bill. Especially the statutes about government surveillance on law abiding citizens. After he won the election all of this changed. If I were a cynic I’d chalk it up to politics and probably believe that he knowingly misstated his position to get elected. But that’s not the Obama I know. Everything about his life shows a man with immense integrity, so I have to give him the benefit of the doubt. I think his change was prompted by some pretty scary intelligence that only him and a few top advisers are privy to. Being president has a huge burden that comes along with the job. You are responsible for 300 million people every day of your life for 4 to 8 years. The fate of the entire county rests in your hands and every decision you make could have dire consequences. I’m not making excuses for him infringing on American civil liberties, but I can understand why he may feel it necessary to do these types of things. It’s easy for me to feel outraged by it all when my outrage carries no consequence. So as you watch these issues unfold in the news, please keep that in mind and respect the enormity of that type of responsibility. These are complex issues and the president has to weigh the safety of nation against what is allowable by law. If his actions are indeed legal, then we have to ask ourselves if we’re just going to criticize pontificate and debate endlessly whether or not we feel comfortable with the government having this tool available to them, or are we going to push our elected officials to remove the legal ambiguity that was purposely written into bills such as the Patriot Act? Government as an institution will never voluntarily make itself less powerful, nor will any president. For that to happen the people have to be united, organized, and dedicated to restoring the principles that made this country great. I’m not willing to give up my civil liberties in order to maybe possibly probably catch one or two suspected terrorist every now and then. We are the smartest most technically advanced country in the world so there’s no way anyone can convince me that spying on law abiding Americans is the only way to fight or prevent an act of terrorism.
When President Barack Obama won reelection in 2012, he made a number of promises that captivated progressives and made us all hopeful once again. We all knew these were very big ideas and would not come easy at all, but when the President has the will of the people on his side and a crumbling economic structure where only a few benefit, then of course these factors would make things much easier. Ideas like gun control, marriage equality, income equality, immigration reform, health care reform etc. Under any other circumstances I’d be crazy or embarrassingly naive to think we’d get anywhere with such a lofty progressive agenda. But the more I think about it, all of those things should be easy. They should be a given really. Think about it… mandatory enhanced background checks for all gun purchases is supported by 90% of the American people. Marriage equality is supported by 60% (and rising more every day). An increase in minimum wage has 80% support. Immigration reform has the support of 55% favoring a legal pathway to citizenship. Sixty percent of the American people either fully support Obamacare (aka The Affordable Care Act) or think the bill isn’t liberal enough (those who still favor the public option which was dropped from the bill to get it through the house). Every one of those lofty progressive ideas that the President spoke about in his speech has support from a majority of the American people. Something is wrong here. Something is definitely wrong here. We’re supposed to live in a democracy where the president and elected officials are chosen by the people to carry out the wishes of the people. So if you have a situation where a majority of the people overwhelmingly support something, but that something still does not come to pass, we need to ask ourselves why the hell not. This is a question I’ve been struggling to make sense of for quite some time. How can you have the will of the people support something, and a majority of the senate support something and still it does not come to pass?
I’m a lover of politics but ultimately I’m a lover of information. I love history and science and finding out how things work. I love reading obscure historic biographies and watching every history channel special about past wars and presidents. As I began to write this blog I remembered something about World War II that helped me understand how elected officials can completely ignore the will of the people over and over again and still remain in office. I know it sounds crazy right now but let me explain. During WWII Japanese Emperor Hirohito and his military generals devised a propaganda campaign of massive proportion. They relentlessly drilled into the minds of their civilian and non civilian population that the Americans were complete savages. Every single day they were told stories of the Americans coming into villages raping women, decapitating babies, dismembering kids, drinking the blood of the people they kill after torturing them, and whatever else the regime’s sick sadistic minds could make up that would put the fear of god in them. They did this because it made their army fight till the death and it made the Emperor look like a protector. But one very unintended consequence of this type of propaganda says a lot about human nature and how what was intended to strengthen through manipulation can end up weakening and leading to a huge downfall. Ok, so the Japanese people heard and believed all these horrible stories about Americans and American soldiers. When our army finally reached the shores of Japan and started to make their way through the villages, they were not there to harm civilians. We knew about the Japanese propaganda so we printed up thousands of pamphlets in Japanese telling them that our soldiers were not there to kill or hurt them and if they surrendered peacefully no harm would come to them. But of course they did not believe us. They were bombarded with horror stories about us for two straight years so to them an American soldier was the devil incarnate. When it became clear that they were losing the war and they saw US soldiers coming to their village, the parents would slit the throats of their children and then slit their own. To them this was the only way of saving their children from the devil. They’d rather die by their own hand so they could make it quick and relatively painless than be tortured, dismembered, decapitated, raped, etc. Village after village the same thing happened over an over no matter what the soldiers tried to do to let them know we meant them no harm.
This small piece of WWII history helped me understand why the will of the people can be ignored time and time again without an all out revolt. We’re Japanese villagers. We’ve been conditioned. We’re fearful and therefore powerless. The president wants to raise the minimum wage and has the complete support of the people. Every working person in this country can agree that a person working a full time job should not be in poverty. But that’s the way it is right now. Full time job working everyday of the week and still does not make enough to feed their family. Wall Street seeing a huge upswing, major corporations making record profits, CEO’s getting millions in bonuses and instead of using all those profits and bonuses to pay the people who work for them a fair wage, they use it to buy politicians, to lobby the people we put in office so they can keep their huge profits and keep paying their workers shit. These lobbyist get political pundits and “so called” journalist to tell the electorate that a raise in minimum wage would kill jobs. And people are so afraid of losing their low paying crappy job that they start to believe the propaganda. Never mind that what these so called experts and pundits are saying does not make sense. A company making record profits can’t afford to pay their workers a living wage? If that’s true they should go out of business. If they are that close to the edge then that’s not a healthy company. We need to stop separating ourselves into republicans or democrats, or white or black, or native or immigrant… those are really just labels that help the fear machine push out more and more lies and more and more propaganda. We have the numbers, we are the majority, we have the power so it’s about time we start acting like it. We’ve all seen the gap in income disparity grow larger and larger and yet we’ve done absolutely nothing NOTHING to fix it. Our president wants to raise the minimum wage. The American people want to raise the minimum wage. Why isn’t it happening? Are we going to take responsibility and support this until it’s law or are we going to be like Japanese villagers in WWII waiting to slit our throats to avoid an even worse fate?
FACTS FOR NONBELIEVERS:
The next time someone tells you that raising the minimum wage would kill jobs and slow the economic recovery, here are some hard facts that proves those statements to be false.
Among the 50 largest low‐wage employers:
- 92 percent were profitable last year
- 78 percent were profitable for the past 3 years
- 75 percent are earning higher revenue now than before the recession
- 63 percent are earning higher profits now than before the recession
- 63 percent have a higher operating margin (a measure of profitability) now than before the recession
- 73 percent have higher cash holdings now than before the recession
These facts and figures were researched by the National Employment Law Project (PDF). They killed a very old Republican talking point that low wage jobs were the heart of small businesses. This study found that the majority of America’s lowest‐paid workers are employed by large corporations, not small businesses, and most of the largest low‐wage employers have recovered from the recession and are in a strong financial position.
If I were president here are 50 things I’d want to accomplish.
1. Legalize gay marriage and end all policies that were born out of discrimination.
2. Abolish the death penalty (state and federal).
3. Reverse “Citizens United” that gives corporations permission to anonymously funnel unlimited amounts of money into the election process.
4. Create a nonpartisan federal commission to construct and implement guidelines to standardize all elections. No matter what state you live in, your voting process will be identical.
5. Disallow private money in presidential elections. Each candidate will have a federally funded campaign budget. This can be funded by a small tax added to everyone’s driver’s license fees (2 or 3 percent should be enough).
6. Attach the federal minimum wage to the fluctuation of the living wage. (Minimum wage = living wage + 20%)
7. Free health care for all Americans.
8. Create new restrictive regulation on Wall Street to protect our financial system.
a. 2% tax on every stock trade
b. Reinstate the capital gains tax
c. Sever the ties between banks brokerages and hedge funds
d. Limit high speed stock transactions (add another 1% tax for these types of trades)
e. Reinstate the “Glass Stiegel” act and the good parts of “Dodd Frank”
9. Legalize marijuana
10. Limit prison sentences for non-violent offenders and offer rehabilitation programs for first-time offenders instead of prison.
11. End elections for district attorneys and county sheriffs. These positions will be appointed by county commission boards with input from the town’s mayor and the state Attorney General.
12. Close all privately owned prisons.
13. Divert a majority of resources away from the failed war on drugs and use it to improve low income neighborhoods.
14. Make it easier to achieve and maintain a decent credit score.
15. End district attorney job promotions that are based solely on conviction rates.
16. Create legislation that says the government cannot regulate the internet in any way under any circumstances. 100% off limits for the FCC
17. Create a program that offers zero percent interest for student loans.
18. Increase salaries for all teachers and give them performance based bonuses.
19. Legalize work unions in all states.
20. Corporate CEO’s cannot give themselves bonuses if the company did not meet projected earnings for that year. (every time the CEO gets a bonus all workers get one as well)
21. End all drone attacks and reduce the number of American military bases in other countries.
22. Fund a huge government program to encourage organic farming.
23. Heavily invest government funds into legitimate energy alternative research and implementation.
24. Create a program that gives unemployed workers an opportunity to get their unemployment benefits in a lump-sum to start a cooperative with 9 other unemployed workers to start their own company.
25. Ban former senators, legislators, and congressmen from becoming lobbyist after they leave public office.
26. Rebuild America’s crumbling infrastructure which will create a lot of jobs in every state.
27. Make it easier for the poor to get low income housing in nice neighborhoods.
28. Undo tort reform laws and remove judgment compensation limits.
29. Allow illegal immigrants a pathway to citizenship after completing and meeting certain criteria.
30. Ban all assault weapons and extended clip ammunition and require extensive background checks for every weapon sold, given, or traded.
31. Abolish ALL stand your ground laws in every state.
32. Give employers tax incentives for implementing a pension plan for their employees instead of a 401k plan.
33. End the anonymous silent filibuster in the senate.
34. Close tax avoidance loopholes for corporations.
35. End predatory lending in poor neighborhoods (pay-day loans, pawn shop check cashing, & title loans).
36. Fund a program that gives start-up capital to entrepreneur who wants to open a business in their neighborhood (to lessen the amount of outside people who have no ties to the community from owning every store and restaurant.)
37. Make all textbooks digital and give the students a free ipad or laptop in the 9th grade.
38. Offer free high-speed internet for low-income families.
39. Legalize gay adoption in ever state. Gay couples will have to meet the same requirements as straight couples.
40. Implement a 10 year term limit for Supreme Court appointees.
41. Make contraceptives available for all high school students who ask for it (from a guidance counselor who will also give them information about and talk one on one with them about pregnancy, sex and STD’s.)
42. Every public high school must have a gay straight student alliance club.
43. Give tax break incentives for those who register as an organ donor.
44. Break up huge media conglomerates into smaller companies to create a less bias corporate driven media industry.
45. Create a new government office under the FEC whose sole purpose is to monitor the fluctuation in income disparity, and report their findings once a year along with suggested courses of action to return it to a reasonable position.
46. Remove the legislation that protects gun manufactures from being sued for wrongdoing.
47. Ban lobbyist from writing bills and legislation.
48. Close ALL American prisons and detention centers in other countries.
49. Lessen time limits for drug patents and make life-saving drugs obtainable for 3rd world countries.
50. Take a much firmer stance with Israel and strongly push for a two state deal giving Palestinians the land they were forced away from.
I’d have to do all of this in my first term because I’d never win reelection with such a progressive agenda. Although ideas that seemed far left ten years ago have become centrist. Especially social issues like marriage equality and women’s reproductive rights. This shift in public conciseness is evident by the colossal failure of the republican party in last years presidential election.