Weekend Reading List

Saturday, December 22nd, 2012

gun violence don't shoot

For this weekend’s reading list we have articles about the daily death toll from gun violence, how austerity has failed in England, the successful litigation strategy for promoting LGBT equality, a debate over debt forgiveness, and a profile of the leader of the Buy Nothing Christmas movement.

 

Slow-Rolling Massacre Unfolds in the Shadow of Shocking High-Profile Shooting Sprees – a moving reminder that the problem of gun violence is about not just the mass killings that garner high-profile media attention, but also about the daily killings that take lives and rip at the fabric of society in communities throughout the country.

God Save the British Economy – an in-depth report on how austerity economic have failed in England and the efforts of Adam Posen, a member of that nation’s Monetary Policy Committee, to get the word out.

Getting Nearer and Nearer – a celebration of the progress that has been made towards achieving LGBT equality, and a rebuttal to critics who argue that the movement’s litigation strategy is flawed.

Sweet Forgiveness - a series of essays debating the fairness and effectiveness of debt relief and mortgage relief for underwater homeowners as a means for helping our economy recover.

The War Against Too Much of Everything – a profile of Adbusters and its leader, Kalle Lasn, that, among other things, is promoting an anti-consumerism message with their Buy Nothing Christmas campaign.

Celebrating Victory

Wednesday, November 7th, 2012

Progressives and Democrats had a really great Election Day yesterday, re-electing President Obama, winning a larger and more progressive Senate majority, defeating a number of Tea Party Republican House members, and advancing the cause of marriage equality, among other victories.  And we did all of this in the face of hundreds of millions of dollars of spending by shadowy conservative groups aided by a media that ranges from mindless pox-on-both-houses coverage to conservative apologists. In short, we have much to celebrate.

Over the next two years, we will be faced with many critical issues and policies to debate, long difficult fights to advance the progressive cause, and setbacks and disappointments.  But part of being able to win those debates and fights, and to get through the inevitable disappointments is to celebrate our successes, which is something that we progressives tend not to do very well.  Instead, we progressives are often so focused on identifying problems and working to fix them that we do not take the time to savor our victories.  Winning Progressive urges us all to temporarily resist the urge to dive right back into the next fight and, instead, take a day or two to celebrate what we have achieved in this election.

Here are just some of the victories we should be celebrating:

President Obama Re-Elected – The biggest prize yesterday, of course, was President Obama’s re-election. As of this writing, President Obama had won at least 303 electoral votes, including every swing state except North Carolina.  If, as is looking likely, Florida is won by the President, he would end up with a 335 vote electoral victory.  And as of 3:30am eastern time, the New York Times was reporting an approximately 1.8 million popular vote advantage for President Obama, with the bulk of votes remaining to be counted in Democratic states such as California, Washington, and Oregon.  While Obama’s margins are smaller than they were in 2008, yesterday’s victory is still a strong endorsement of Obama’s first term and his sensible, moderately progressive governance.

A Larger, More Progressive Senate Majority – As WP explained in early October, this election presented an opportunity to gain a more progressive Senate with the election of Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Chris Murphy (D-CT), and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), along with the re-election of Sherrod Brown in Ohio.  All five of those candidates won!  And despite having 21 seats to defend, Democrats have so far lost only one Senate seat (in Nebraska), though seats in Montana and North Dakota are still to be decided.  If we win those two seats, we will end up with a 55 vote majority.  And another step towards full equality was taken with the election of the first openly lesbian U.S. Senator in our nation’s history – Tammy Baldwin.

First Electoral Victories for Marriage Equality – With our nation making steady progress towards full LGBT equality, one of the few arguments anti-equality activists had to fall back on is that marriage equality had never prevailed in a popular vote.  That claim can no longer be made, as marriage equality has now prevailed at the ballot box in Maine, Maryland, and Minnesota, and appears likely to win in Washington State.

Leading House Tea Partiers Defeated – One disappointing area yesterday was in House elections, where Democrats picked up little ground. But even there, we won some victories.  Most significantly, a number of Tea Party members – including Allen West (FL), Chip Cravaack (MN), Bobby Schilling (IL), Roscoe Bartlett (MD), Ann-Marie Buerkle (NY), Francisco Canseco (TX), and Joe Walsh (IL) – were defeated, while the race against Michelle Bachmann is still too close to call as of 3am Wednesday morning.  Illinois’ 10th Congressional District, which was held by now-US Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) for many years, is finally back in Democratic hands with Brad Schneider’s victory. And with both House seats in New Hampshire being won by Democrats, there is not a single Republican member of the House in all six New England states.

Progressive Guide to 2012 State Ballot Initiatives – Part 1 of 2

Sunday, September 23rd, 2012

While re-electing President Obama should be the top priority for progressives throughout the country this fall, we must also remember that there are many important candidates and issues that will be found further down the ballot on November 6.  One of the most important categories of down-ballot issues is ballot initiatives, which provide voters the opportunity to have a direct say on major policy matters.

This year, states have a plethora of ballot initiatives pending for a vote in November.  Below is Part 1 of our two-part guide to the initiatives of biggest importance to progressives this fall, along with links for how to get involved in supporting the progressive position on each initiative.  Here in Part 1, we will address ballot initiatives regarding marriage equality, reproductive freedom, criminal justice, estate taxes, and death with dignity.  In Part 2, we will highlight initiatives regarding worker’s rights, government, and education.

If you live in a state with one of the ballot initiatives, please get involved by speaking with your family, friends, and colleagues; by volunteering; and by writing a letter to your local newspaper editor.  If you live out-of-state, please contribute what you can to support the efforts of the progressive organizations who are working on these initiatives.

Marriage Equality

2011 was a banner year for advancing the cause of LGBT equality. However, the issue of marriage equality has yet to win majority support any time when it has been placed on the ballot.  We have a great opportunity to change that track record this November in Washington State, Minnesota, Maine, and Maryland.

Washington Referendum 74vote Yes to uphold the state legislature’s approval of marriage equality

* Washington United for Marriage  * Contribute  * Volunteer  * Facebook page  * Washington newspaper links

Minnesota Same-Sex Marriage Initiativevote No on constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality

* Minnesotans United for All Families  * Contribute  * Volunteer  * Facebook Page    * Minnesota newspaper links

Maine Same-Sex Marriage Questionvote Yes on 1 to repeal Maine’s ban on marriage equality

* Mainers United for Marriage  * Contribute   * Volunteer  * Facebook Page   *Maine newspaper links

Maryland Question 6 - vote Yes to uphold the state legislature’s approval of marriage equality

* Marylanders for Marriage Equality  * Contribute  * Volunteer  *Facebook Page  * Maryland newspaper links

 

Estate Tax

Oregon Measure 84 – vote No on this proposal that would eliminate Oregon’s estate tax, which applies to estates valued at greater than $1 million.  As we’ve explained previously, the estate tax is the fairest and most meritocratic kind of tax there is. For more on why Oregon’s estate tax is good for that state, check out this fact sheet from Tax Fairness Oregon. And then send a letter to your local Oregon newspaper urging people to vote No on Measure 84.

Reproductive Freedom

Florida Amendment 6 – vote No on this proposal, which would prevent state courts from reading the Florida Constitution’s right to privacy to provide any rights to choice that are broader than provided under the federal Constitution, and forbids the use of any state funds for abortion except as required by federal law (i.e., in cases of rape, incest, or to protect the life of the mother).

* Vote No On 6   * Contribute   * Volunteer    * Facebook Page    * Florida Newspapers

 

Criminal Justice

California Proposition 34 – vote Yes to help California become the 16th state to abolish the death penalty and replace it with life in prison without parole.  As we’ve explained previously, the death penalty is barbaric, ineffective, biased, and costly.  The evidence shows that the death penalty costs taxpayers more than life in prison without parole,  does not deter violent crime, and is marred by significant racial bias and far too frequent ineffective legal representation for those who are charged with capital crimes.

* Yes on 34     * Contribute     * Volunteer    *Facebook Page

California Proposition 36 – vote Yes to reform California’s three-strike law.  Under the current three-strikes law, individuals who have been convicted of two previous “serious or violent” crimes automatically receive a sentence of life in prison if they are convicted of a third crime, even if that third crime is non-violent.  Proposition 36 would reform the law by requiring life in prison only if the third crime is “serious or violent,” thereby saving the state approximately $70 – $100 million per year due to reduced prison populations.

* Committee for Three Strikes Reform   * Contribute   * Volunteer   *Facebook Page

Civil Liberties

Massachusetts Death With Dignity Initiative  - vote Yes on Question 2 to make Massachusetts the third state that allows terminally ill patients to choose to end their lives with dignity.  As we’ve explained previously, our current system that forecloses death with dignity in all but two states is simply unbearable for far too many people facing terminal illness.  One way to help reduce or alleviate these painful situations is to allow a terminally ill individual to get medical assistance in hastening their death, but only through a highly regulated system that includes multiple doctor sign offs, waiting periods, and other precautions to ensure that sick people are not being pressured into assisted suicide.  The Massachusetts ballot initiative would do exactly that, thereby allowing Massachusetts to join Oregon and Washington State in authorizing death with dignity.

* Dignity 2012    * Contribute   * Volunteer   * Facebook Page   * Massachusetts Newspapers

Voting Rights

Minnesota Voter Identification Amendment – vote No on the proposal in Minnesota to require individuals to obtain and present photo identification in order to be able to exercise their right to vote.  Supporters of the voter ID proposal pretend to be responding to rampant voter fraud, but a five-year long investigation by the Department of Justice under President W. Bush found “virtually no evidence of any organized effort” to fraudulently impact federal elections and other analyses have similarly found no evidence of fraud.  What the proposal, which would continue conservative efforts to restrict the voting rights of as many as 758,000 eligible voters, is actually designed to do is to make it as difficult as possible for Democratic-leaning groups to vote.

* Our Vote Our Future  * Contribute   * Volunteer   * Facebook Page  * Minnesota Newspapers

The Democrats’ Progressive Party Platform and the Issues at Stake This November

Wednesday, September 5th, 2012

Somewhat overlooked in the excitement generated by powerful speeches given by Michelle Obama, keynote speaker Julian Castro, Lily Ledbetter, Gov. Deval Patrick (D-MA), and others, was the fact that the Democratic Party yesterday also approved a progressive party platform that stands up for Medicare, Social Security, the right to organize, marriage equality, and many of the other policies and values that make this country great.   The contrast with the reactionary platform that the GOP approved at their convention last week illustrates well the fundamental differences between the two parties and the critical issues at stake this November.

Here are some of the highlights from the 2012 Democratic Party platform, and key places where that platform is diametrically opposed to the GOP’s agenda:

Medicare

The Democratic platform vows to defend Medicare as a guaranteed, universal program for seniors, stating:

Democrats adamantly oppose any efforts to privatize or voucherize Medicare; unlike our opponents we will not ask seniors to pay thousands of dollars more every year while they watch the value of their Medicare benefits evaporate. Democrats believe that Medicare is a sacred compact with our seniors.

By contrast, the Republican platform specifically calls for ending Medicare as a “defined-benefit entitlement” and replacing it with inadequate vouchers.

Worker’s Rights

In an age of increasing attacks on working people and labor unions, it is refreshing to see the Democratic platform include a ringing endorsement of the right to organize, stating:

Democrats believe that the right to organize and collectively bargain is a fundamental American value; every American should have a voice on the job and a chance to negotiate for a fair day’s pay after a hard day’s work. We will continue to fight for the right of all workers to organize and join a union. Unions helped build the greatest middle class the world has ever known. Their work resulted in the 40-hour workweek and weekends, paid leave and pensions, the minimum wage and health insurance, and Social Security and Medicare – the cornerstones of middle class security. We will fight for labor laws that provide a fair process for workers to choose union representation, that facilitate the collective bargaining process, and that strengthen remedies for violations of the law. We will fight for collective bargaining rights for police officers, nurses, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, teachers, and other public sector workers – jobs that are a proven path to the middle class for millions of Americans. We will continue to vigorously oppose “Right to Work” and “paycheck protection” efforts, and so-called “Save our Secret Ballot” measures whenever they are proposed.  We will raise the minimum wage, and index it to inflation.

By contrast, the GOP platform promises to continue the attacks on labor unions that have been carried out by GOP Governors, and calls ultimately for a national right-to-work-for-less law.

Campaign Finance

The Democratic platform calls for reducing the corrupting influence of money on our political system and echoes President Obama’s recent suggestion that a constitutional amendment to allow us to take back our democracy may be necessary:

We support campaign finance reform, by constitutional amendment if necessary. We support legislation to close loopholes and require greater disclosure of campaign spending. . . . . We support requiring groups trying to influence elections to reveal their donors so the public will know who’s funding the political ads it sees.

The GOP platform reiterates that party’s opposition to even such basic steps as the DISCLOSE Act, which would require disclosure of donors to SuperPACs and other groups that try to influence elections.

Taxes

The Democratic platform sets forth President Obama’s call for billionaires and big corporations to pay more of their fair share, stating:

We support allowing the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest to expire and closing loopholes and deductions for the largest corporations and the highest-earning taxpayers. We are committed to reforming our tax code so that it is fairer and simpler, creating a tax code that lives up to the Buffett Rule so no millionaire pays a smaller share of his or her income in taxes than middle class families do. . . . . The Democratic Party opposes efforts to give additional tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans at the expense of the middle class and investments in our future.

The Republican platform calls for further tax giveaways to the wealthy, including elimination of the estate tax, and consideration of repealing the 16th Amendment, which allows for a federal income tax, in favor of a regressive national sales tax.

Reproductive Freedom

The Democratic platform strongly endorses reproductive freedom, stating:

Democrats support access to affordable family planning services, and President Obama and Democrats will continue to stand up to Republican efforts to defund Planned Parenthood health centers.

. . . .

The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to make decisions regarding her pregnancy, including a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay. We oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right. Abortion is an intensely personal decision between a woman, her family, her doctor, and her clergy; there is no place for politicians or government to get in the way. We also recognize that health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions. We strongly and unequivocally support a woman’s decision to have a child by providing affordable health care and ensuring the availability of and access to programs that help women during pregnancy and after the birth of a child, including caring adoption programs.

The GOP platform calls for passage of a “human life amendment” to the Constitution, which would apply the 14th Amendment to unborn fetuses and effectively outlaw choice even in cases of rape and incest, and repeats the false claim that abortion “endangers the health and well-being of women.”

Equality

The Democratic platform strongly supports equality for women and LGBT Americans, stating:

We are committed to ensuring full equality for women: we reaffirm our support for the Equal Rights Amendment, recommit to enforcing Title IX, support the Paycheck Fairness Act, and will urge ratification of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.

. . . .

We support the Employment Non- Discrimination Act because people should not be fired based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

. . . .

We support the right of all families to have equal respect, responsibilities, and protections under the law. We support marriage equality and support the movement to secure equal treatment under law for same-sex couples. We also support the freedom of churches and religious entities to decide how to administer marriage as a religious sacrament without government interference.  We oppose discriminatory federal and state constitutional amendments and other attempts to deny equal protection of the laws to committed same-sex couples who seek the same respect and responsibilities as other married couples. We support the full repeal of the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and the passage of the Respect for Marriage Act.

The GOP platform describes approval of marriage equality as an “assault on the foundations of our society” and calls for a Constitutional amendment to ban marriage equality.

Climate Change

The Democratic platform acknowledges the threat that is climate change and the need for action, stating:

We know that global climate change is one of the biggest threats of this generation – an economic, environmental, and national security catastrophe in the making. We affirm the science of climate change, commit to significantly reducing the pollution that causes climate change, and know we have to meet this challenge by driving smart policies that lead to greater growth in clean energy generation and result in a range of economic and social benefits.

The GOP platform is silent on the issue, which I suppose is better than joining Mitt Romney in echoing the false claims of climate deniers.

 

Party platforms are, of course, not binding documents and, as such, there is no guarantee that the policies set forth in either party’s platform will come to fruition.  But the platforms do provide a good sense of the agenda each party would pursue if they were to be in power, and offer an important look at the values and goals that motivate the people who would assume positions of power if their party wins.  And what the Democratic and Republican platforms shows is that under a Democratic Administration with a Democratic Congress , political debates would revolve around deciding the best ways to enact the types of progressive policies and goals that are set forth above, rather than having to spend four years playing defense on issues like Medicare, choice, LGBT equality, etc. As such, the Democrat’s 2012 platform draws a clear contrast between the retrograde and reactionary policies and values that today’s GOP is offering, and demonstrates well why all of us progressives need to stand up and fight for our President over these next two months.

Weekend Reading List

Saturday, August 25th, 2012

For this weekend’s reading list, we have articles on the right wing effort to build an army of poll watchers to try to steal the election this fall; efforts to approve of marriage equality in Maine, Maryland, and Washington; the economic struggle of the middle class, how big corporations are increasingly running state courts, and Paul Ryan’s other radical guru.

 

How the Right is Building its “Poll Watcher” Network for November - the story of how the right-wing organization True the Vote is working to build an army of “poll watchers” to help suppress voting this November.   To help counteract this effort and make sure that every eligible voters gets to cast their vote this November, please volunteer for the Democratic National Committee’s voter protection effort.

The Future of Marriage Equality – a report on the fight for marriage equality in three states – Maine, Maryland, and Washington – where the issue will be on the ballot this November.  Here are links to support the effort in Maine, Maryland, and Washington.

The Lost Decade of the Middle Class – a comprehensive review of the economic blow that the middle class in America has suffered over the past decade, with stagnant income and declining net worth.  Most Americans accurately identify Congress, banks and  financial institutions, big corporations, and the Bush Administration as the primary culprits in causing this economic decline.

Big Business Taking Over State Supreme Courts - a report on how a tidal wave of money is allowing corporate interests to get an increasingly tight stranglehold on court systems in the 39 states where judges are elected rather than appointed.

Prime Time for Paul Ryan’s Guru (the One Who’s Not Ayn Rand) – a look at the radical views of another person who Paul Ryan identifies as a guru on his economic and budget policies – Friedrich von Hayek.

 

Weekend Reading List

Saturday, July 21st, 2012

For this weekend’s reading list we have articles on climate change, the shady business dealings of a Republican sugar daddy, the hurdles erected by GOP-backed voter suppression laws, the first same-sex civil union to occur on military grounds, and the $1.5 billion fleecing of American taxpayers by Mitt Romney’s 2002 Winter Olympics.

 

Global Warming’s Terrifying New Math – Bill McKibben’s latest essay on the numbers behind the rapidly growing problem of climate change, and how the fossil fuel industry is stopping us from taking action to address the problem

Inside the Investigation of Leading Republican Money Man Sheldon Adelson – an investigation documenting apparent shady business dealings by Sheldon Adelson, the multi-billionaire who bankrolled Newt Gingrich’s Presidential campaign and is now trying to help Mitt Romney buy his way into the White House

The Challenge of Obtaining Voter Identification – a report documenting the hurdles that people face in getting the photo IDs that Republican-backed voter suppression laws require people have to vote

The Wedding – the story of the first same sex civil union to occur at a chapel on a US military base, between Tech Sgt. Erwynn Umali and Will Behrens in June 2012

Snow Job – the story of how the 2002 Winter Olympics that Mitt Romney led turned into a $1.5 billion fleecing of American taxpayers

Explaining Extreme Events of 2011 From a Climate Perspective - climate scientists explain how six extreme weather events from last year can be explained from a climate change perspective