Why is the Amazon burning?


To understand why the Amazon has been set on fire by arsonists hoping to make more money, we need to talk about the election of Jair Bolsonaro.

There are many reasons not to like Bolsonaro. A former member of the military, he is an apologist for the brutal military rule in Brazil that killed, imprisoned or tortured over 45,000 people according to Brazil Amnesty Commission established in 2001. In a radio interview in 2016 Bolsonaro suggested the mistake of the military regime was torturing opponents when they should have simply killed them. When he voted to oust former president Dilma Rousseff, he dedicated his vote to the military leader who presided over the facilities in which she herself was tortured during the military regime. He lamented the Indigenous people of Brazil were not previously killed off completely. He has a long record of homophobia, racism, xenophobia and misogyny. While campaigning as an anti-corruption crusader, his own family has been accused of having connects to very serious criminal groups. He is not supported by the majority of Brazil and would likely have lost to Lulu if Operation Car Wash had not targeted Lulu.

More to the point, Bolsonaro ran on campaign promises that included reducing protections for the Amazon, reducing tribal rights in the Amazon, and opening up the rainforest for economic exploitation. Recent leaks have also revealed the Bolsonaro government has planned to use Bolsonaro’s hate speech to stir up public sentiment against indigneous tribes living in the Amazon, build highways through the Amazon and fully exploit the region economically. Once in power Bolsonaro has followed through on these promises legislatively.

So how did he win?

There are perhaps many reasons why Bolsonaro won, including the support of people who genuinely were attracted to his platform and message. However, a number of dubious factors contributed to his win and should be discussed. First, in Brazil many phone contracts in Brazil allow people to use WhatsApp free of charge. WhatsApp became a hotbed of rumors and disinformation where 65% Brazilian voters inform themselves politically and 47% believed those items. One study found that half of the images circulated on WhatsApp were false and targeted the PT party, Bolsonaro’s opposition. Second, Brazil’s homicide rate is increasing and Bolsonaro ran on a campaign of cracking down on crime and corruption, which he was effectively blame on the PT party, perhaps in part due to misinformation. Third, YouTube’s algorithms contributed to sowing fear and misinformation in Brazil, their second largest market, and even the radicalization of many Brazilian citizens. The “Up Next” feature often led people to conspiracy theories and extremist content that aided Bolsonaro’s rise.

Fourth and most importantly, the most famous and popular politician in Brazil, Lulu da Silva, who was polling ahead of Bolsonaro by 20 points in political polls, was imprisoned for corruption in a clearly calculated political move before the election. His prosecution for corruption charges meant the party had to run a less popular candidate. Leaked documents reported on by the Intercept prove this was a politically motivated move and involved the collusion of the judge presiding over the case, Sergio Moro, and the prosecutors. Moro went onto become the justice minister of Brazil after Bolsonaro’s election.

How did his election lead to the Amazon being set on fire?

Capitalists, large and small, have taken advantage of Bolsonaro’s political and rhetorical push to exploit the Amazon. This has included illegal miners and loggers launching large scale invasions of indigenous tribal land in the Amazon, killing and/or displacing these tribal groups to exploit their land. This also strongly appears to have led to capitalists with interests in ranching, agriculture, logging and mining to set the Amazon on fire. The Amazon is a rain forest and does not typically catch fire easily. These fires coincide with the ideal time to clear the forest in the dry season and open it up for use later in the year. While arson attacks against the Amazon have happened in previous years, fires in the Amazon have increased by 88% compared to the same time in a previous year, coinciding with Bolsonaro’s election and the rollback of protections. For exposing this, the scientist behind this expose,  was fired by Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro has claimed NGO’s have intentionally set these fires, to embarrass him and told other world leaders to stay out of Brazil’s “internal business.”

So what’s the big picture?

Jair Bolsonaro is an incredibly problematic far right politician who won the presidency of Brazil in part due high level corruption that undermined a political opponent who would have likely beaten him, and a variety of factors that allowed for fear, disinformation, and radicalization to take root in Brazil. His administration has attacked the indigenous people of the Amazon and rolled back the environmental protection of the Amazon rain forest so that the Amazon could be exploited economically. Emboldened by Bolsonaro’s administration, capitalists have intentionally set fire to the Amazon to clear it for economic exploitation.

The Amazon is not “burning” it’s under attack.


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Does America Fight for Freedom?


When we send U.S. troops abroad, what are they fighting for?

One persistent claim in U.S. society is that, “The troops fought/fight for our freedom!” and that we “fight for freedom” in our various wars. In my experience, this idea is brought up to try and silence criticism of the United States and/or to generally encourage nationalism. The implied accusation is that by criticizing the United States, or failing to sufficiently support our country, we are disrespecting our service members who sacrificed so that we could have our freedom.

But is this claim true?

Everyone in the U.S. should question if this true because we should be interested in the truth. We should also recognize our foreign policy actions impact the world, take a lot of lives and cost a lot of money. People who support the troops, serve in the military, or have loved ones and friends who serve in the military should be especially interested in questioning this claim. After all, if the troops are sent to fight for something other than freedom or an equally noble goal, then what is the real reason we are asking the troops to take incredible risks for, and are those reasons worth it?

A clear way to find an answer.

I would argue the most direct way to assess this question is to look at the times our troops have actually fought in wars, and see if it was against an enemy that was a reasonable threat to our national sovereignty. I say this for two main reasons. First, examining when the U.S. has deemed it worthy to send our troops into harms way sets aside a lot of politics and propaganda that cloud this issue. Second, to claim that our wars are to secure our freedom is to suggest that we are fighting a threat to our actual national sovereignty. In other words, one is claiming that without the U.S. troops fighting on our behalf in those wars, external forces would invade the U.S., overthrow our government, and set up a more repressive society with less freedom. If our wars are not against such an actual threat, then how could this claim be true; how could we be fighting for freedom if our freedoms were never endangered?

And a relatively clear answer.

If one explores our litany wars, invasions, and battles the U.S. military has fought in, (and I encourage all of you to do this yourselves) many of our wars can be grouped according to their underlying rationale.

  • The largest group of wars (51/107 by my count) have been wars fought against Native American tribes as the U.S. government sought to expand its territory.
  • A small group of wars, such as the Barbary Pirate Wars and the Aegean Sea Operations, clustered around naval privacy impacting our trade as we got our footing as a nation.
  • At the dawn of the 19th century many of our wars, invasions and occupations began to shift to match our growing imperial ambitions. The annexation of Hawaii, the Spanish-American war, the Banana Wars and others marked a shift away from being satisfied with a nation from “sea to shining sea” but a nation increasingly interested in holding colonies abroad.
  • In the 80’s and 90s there were a number of wars that could be loosely classified as humanitarian interventions that attempted to stabilize regions or intervene in ongoing conflicts. While noble in their intention, it cannot be reasonably argued that combatants in places like Somalia, Bosnia and Kosovo sought to invade the U.S.
  • There have been a number of wars that removed dictators and/or helped provide for democratic elections. Even as we cheer the removal of dictators we must wrestle with the fact that we have been very inconsistent on this issue (we are very comfortable with some oppressive regimes, but then others deserve to be invaded and overthrown?) and that none of these dictators sought to invade us.

Almost none of these wars were against a reasonable threat to our sovereignty.

The vast majority of all our wars, including wars engaged in during the Cold War and the subsequent Global War on Terror, were not against an enemy that had any reasonable desire or capacity to invade the United States and do away with our freedoms. Did we really think that Cubans were going to land in Florida and march into D.C. after they freed themselves from Spanish rule? Do we believe the Vietnamese were going to build a navy and invade the West Coast after they fought off French colonial rule and our subsequent proxy war against the USSR? Do we believe the Taliban were planning on uniting the various groups in Afghanistan, revealing previously hidden vast resources to build a military, and then para-drop into the U.S.?

From this list of all the wars involving the United States military I only see perhaps four that I believe could be reasonably argued to have presented conflicts that threatened our freedom: the Revolutionary War, the War of 1812 (though Britain was not trying to force us back into the British Empire), the Civil War (though if the South had won our Constitution would simply not have been changed) and World War Two (assuming Germany and Japan would have invaded if they won in Europe and the Pacific).

If this is correct, that means 4/107 or 3.7% of our wars have actually been about our national sovereignty and the freedoms guaranteed by our nation.

If they were not for freedom, or defending us against a threat to our freedom, what were they really about? 

Ultimately, I would argue most of our wars are about land, resources, and money.

The wars against Native Americans were to take their land and resources, enabling national, personal and corporate profit.

The wars against pirates were about our ability to trade and make money without interference.

The early wars of empire were about establishing and dominating commerce and profit in places like Cuba, the Philippines and the Nicaragua. We illegally militarily annexed Hawaii because some missionaries turned sugar barons didn’t want to pay higher taxes on sugar.

Examining our efforts at regime change from Hawaii to Iraq, including invasions and wars but also CIA and more covert operations, there is a rather reliable pattern that propels us into war and our troops into harms way. 1) A Western corporation is conducting business in a foreign country and that country limits their profits in some way (like establishing better rights for local workers). 2) That corporation complains to U.S. politicians and lobbies them to intervene on their behalf. They hide their economic issue behind national security issues. 3) Convinced or bribed to act, politicians sell the war to the American public, hiding the economic issue by explaining it as an issue relating to freedom or national security. They invoke and reinforce the “Troops fight for freedom” narrative to silence dissent and rally support for the invasion.

On a related not, as a capitalistic society that searches for exploitative profit in every aspect of our society, many people and businesses have learned to make lucrative profits off of war, regardless of who wins, or the underlying morality of the wars. This provides a perverse incentive to go to war for war’s sake. It also encourages tense relationships with foreign powers so that the perpetual specter of war provides a fear to justify military spending even in peace time.

Some final thoughts…

Overall, considering what has been discussed here and other aspects of our history and foreign policy, suggesting that the “troops fight for freedom” does not appear to be a true claim. At the very least it does not appear to be true the overhwelming majority of the time if we consider occasions where U.S. troops have actually been deployed.

Using this slogan to silence dissent is an undemocratic and disingenuous way to shut down conversations about our domestic and foreign policy. Anyone concerned about the welfare of our troops should be interested in this conversation and critical of nationalistic slogans like this because if the underlying rationale for most of our wars has not been securing our freedom, what are the real reasons we have sent out troops into harms way, and are these reasons worthy of the sacrifices we are asking those troops to make?

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#TakeAKnee or #TakeASeat

A Reasonable, Non-Violent Protest, Grounded in American Freedoms and Rights
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder…” “[I will continue my protest until the American flag] represents what it’s supposed to represent.” Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick has explicitly said this protest is about ongoing racial injustice, especially a highly visible lack of police accountability when they kill or abuse people of color. He is calling for our society to change to match our espoused values.

His protest is in keeping with the larger arc of what limited social and moral progress we have made as a nation. When our nation was founded, the freedoms and rights many believe set us apart from all other nations were by law or by practice limited to a select group of rich white landowning men. For marginalized groups in the U.S. the very freedoms and rights we are told should be a source of national identity and pride for all citizens have not even applied to us. The moral and social progress we have made in this country has most often come from marginalized groups fighting for these rights and freedoms to extend to them as well. They have essentially asked, “Can we be included in America too?”

Kaepernick’s desires are also neither extreme nor absurd desires. He is expressing a desire for our society to address systemic racial injustice and for police accountability. Is it problematic to call our nation to address persistent injustices? Is there any community in our country that would suggest that the police who patrol their neighborhoods should be above the law?

This protest is non-violent. Kaepernick is not doing violence to anyone, nor is he calling for violence to be done to anyone.

This protest is also not opposed to the freedoms and rights guaranteed to any citizen. In fact, standing firmly in the tradition of those before him, Kaepernick is asking that the very freedoms and rights the flag is supposed to represent be applied to all people. He has not disparaged our ideals, but called us to actually live up to them.

Predictably Unpopular

And just like those before him, this protest is unpopular. Just as the majority of citizens were against Dr. King’s marches and boycotts, so today Kaepernick’s protest is not well received especially among White people.

This is to be expected.  No protest is popular because by their nature it is going to be a group calling attention to something most people are comfortable ignoring.  More to the point, every time that marginalized groups have asked “Can we be included in America too?” there has been a majority of their fellow citizens (especially White, male, Christian, Conservative citizens) who simply and loudly said, “No!”

This isn’t about the flag…

Many of Kaepernick’s detractors have tried to make this protest about something that it is clearly not. They have tried to make it about respecting the flag and the flag code, even when this code doesn’t even apply, the code is violated by the NFL and is ignored routinely in our society. They have tried to make this about the veterans, who have never been on the receiving end of a disparaging remark by Kaepernick and who has actually engaged with and listened to veterans, leading to him kneeling instead of sitting. They have tried to make this about Trump, when it started before him. They have tried to make this about Black wealth, explicitly or implicitly saying that Black people who have money should be grateful for what they have received and silent on social issues.

The use of these and other deflections shows that many in the U.S.A. desperately want to get away from the central claim that Kaepernick is making in his protest: that racial injustice, especially in regards to policing, is an ongoing issue in the USA. But why?

This is about us.

This claim is not about the moral merits of a flag, a symbol of our nation, our values and of us, it is a claim about the moral merits of us. This claim is saying we live in and abide by a society where systemic forms of racism persist and Black and Brown people are denied equal protection under the law. This claim implicates us. It requires a response from us. It requires that we consider our personal culpability or thoughts around the issues of race, justice, and America. For many, it is far easier to pretend this entire protest is something that it is not, and rabidly consume the words and comments of politicians and media mouthpieces who agree with these deflections, than to contemplate what this protest asks of us.

#TakeAKnee or #TakeASeat

Kaepernick’s claim, that racial injustice and unequal protection under the law exist in our society, invites us to choose a response. Broadly speaking I think there might be four general options people can choose.

We can ignore it: We can choose to ignore this whole situation and try to avoid it so we don’t have to think about it.  However, burying one’s head in the sand like a human ostrich doesn’t seem responsible and is increasingly difficult to do given our national conversation and media attention to this issue.

We can reject it, and attempt to claim he is factually wrong.: One could hear out Kaepernick’s claim, but claim that it is false. However, the arguments against this increasingly well-studied and publicly acknowledged reality, the arguments that we essentially live in a post-racial society, never stand up to scrutiny and are undermined by the wealth of evidence for Kaepernick’s claims. Furthermore, if one really wants to argue this point, they will almost inevitably forced to adopt racist arguments (ex: “Ethnic minorities are over-represented in prisons because they are more prone to commit crime so they get caught for it more; White people are genetically more law-abiding” “Ethnic minorities are poorer because they don’t understand how to generate wealth; White people are genetecially superior when it comes to wealth generation”).

We can accept it, and see it as the way things should be.: An alternative would be to accept Kaepernick’s claim but resist his call to change because we believe that racial injustice and unequal protection under the law are acceptable. However, people generally don’t want to go down this route because overt racism is unfashionable in the U.S.

We can accept it, and agree with his call to change: We can agree with Kaepernick’s claim, the evidence behind it, and agree that we, as a nation, are not living up to our values. This requires that we accept that we, as a society, need to change. This requires we reflect on if we are complicit in the unjust status quo, what we can do to help change it, and what we need to do differently tomorrow.

Which category does your response fall under?

So if your response to Kaepernick’s claims fall broadly within the last option please #TakeAKnee and stand in solidarity with him. If your response to Kaepernick’s protest is one of the first three, at least publicly own the decision so your community knows where you stand and can respond to you appropriately. If you are still trying to distract yourself and other people from Kaepernick’s claim by making this about Trump, the flag, or veterans, please just #TakeASeat until you are ready to deal with the elephant in America’s dining room that is race.

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Election 2016: The Dems Lost by Defending the Status Quo of Neoliberal Capitalism


These two and the economic ideology they represent paved the way for Trump.

While I have criticized the Green Party and see our future under Trump and the GOP as very bleak, most of my anger from the election of 2016 is actually at the Democratic Party. The Democratic party claims to be the liberal, progressive party that takes care of the average person and is concerned about the fate of the marginalized. The Democrats were running against the least favorable presidential candidate of all time that voters from both major political parties had major reservations about. This election was theirs to lose as it appeared a ham sandwich could have run against Trump and won.

And yet by a mixture of their hubris, Machiavellian strategies, and corruption they lost the election. While the many reasons that led to this historic loss deserve consideration, I believe the fundamental reason the Democrats lost (and have lost big in the last eight years) is their defense of the status quo. By the “status quo” I mean both the present circumstances that exist in the U.S. and the current direction and speed the U.S. is drifting in as guided by neoliberal capitalism. The Democratic Party’s commitment to this status quo cost them the Presidential election for some fairly simple reasons. The status quo is miserable for many, anti-establishment sentiment was a strong factor in this election, and their chosen candidate could not have better represented business as usual in D.C.

The Status Quo is Horrible for Many Americans 

People across the United States, from all kinds of identities, communities, and political leanings are upset about the status quo.

Liberals and progressives voted for Obama who ran on a “Hope and Change” platform. The Democrats have delivered very little of the change many liberals hoped for. However, most people, conservative and liberal alike, are upset for reasons closer to home: most worry about their own material conditions and financial futures. Exit polling showed that 52% of voters listed the economy as the most pressing challenge faced by the United States. Years after the recession of 2008, people are still very worried about their ability to provide for themselves, their families and pursue the American dream.

Democratic Party’s Allegiance to Capitalism Makes them Culpable in this Misery

Whatever they think about LGBT issues, immigration, women’s rights or multiculturalism, etc. Democrats are capitalists and this means that average people will be oppressed by the wealthy elite under any Democratic Party regime. The neoliberal capitalistic economics of the Democrats, adopted during the Bill Clinton years, is a form of “trickle-down-economics” they often mock the GOP for supporting. The deregulation of the banking industry under Bill Clinton rather directly enabled the 2008 recession. Democratic commitment to neoliberal capitalism hindered any real or half-hearted attempt to help the average U.S. citizen in the wake of the recession.

While the Democrats love to tout the jobs Obama added to the economy during his tenure, any analysis of the economy deeper than reading a meme on Facebook revealed things are very bad. 94% of the new jobs added under Obama were part-time and temporary jobs. Incomes for the 99% fell. As of 2014 statistics and analysis, the recession never ended for Black and Brown families. While Dodd-Frank was enacted, its ability to protect us from another financial collapse was debatable. (This is now a moot point to debate since it was repealed.) The banks were bailed out and banksters who looted the wealth of the world were protected by the Obama admin and walked free while average people lost their homes or were locked up for the smallest of infractions. Under Obama, health insurance costs rose year after year, as did college tuitionThe middle class has shrunk and in a dramatic reversal of decades of precedent, the current generation of young adults will likely make less than their parents.

Understandable Anti-Establishment Fervor

Given these conditions, it is no surprise then that in the election season there was a strong anti-establishment fervor. Many citizens are sick and tired of the increasingly miserable status quo and yearn for someone who can bring change to our government and society. A majority of voters listed the ability to bring about change as the top quality they looked for in a President. People flocked to hear anti-establishment candidates like Trump and Sanders. Both candidates made it clear that they saw people’s suffering and wanted to bring change, but explained the root cause of their suffering and the proposed solutions differently. Trump played upon white anxieties, anti-immigrant sentiment, fears of terrorism, and racism to fuel his populist and nativist rise. Sanders identified the oppressors exploiting America as the wealthy elite, banks and corporate institutions that had rigged the system against the average person.

The Democratic Party Insisted on Defending the Status Quo 

The Democratic Party intentionally disregarded people’s hatred for the status quo. While Democratic, Republican, Independent and unaffiliated voters were calling for radical change the Democratic establishment loudly and clearly said “no” by their rhetoric and choices in the 2016 election cycle.

The DNC/HRC Campaign argued that now was not the time for dramatic change in a more progressive direction . They argued that the status quo was already progressive “enough” despite clear economic indications it was not working for most citizens. They argued that Trump was such an existential threat to the nation that the party could not risk running Sanders, a candidate who railed against the status quo. The DNC claimed that it was far better to protect the way things are than to shoot for the moon and end up with nothing. Any proposals the DNC/HRC Campaign offered to address issues many citizens were concerned with were constrained by their commitment to neoliberal capitalism. Constrained by this ideological commitment these proposals, like their predecessors in the last eight years, fell far short of the dramatic change many increasingly see as necessary.

The Democratic Party Insisted on Running A Status Quo Candidate

The DNC also insisted on running Hillary Clinton, the candidate of the status quo. Clinton was appointed as the nominee long before any Democrat cast a vote in a primary and the DNC operated as an extension of the HRC campaign throughout the primaries. The DNC systemically undermined Sanders and favored Clinton, in violation of their own ethics and the democratic process of the primaries. Polling data made it clear that in a direct match-up Sanders would win over Trump and was far more popular than Clinton and yet despite claiming everything needed to be done to stop Trump, the DNC continued to insist on the candidate least likely to defeat Trump. Sanders’ wins in the Democratic primary in battleground states, despite the DNC’s bias towards Clinton, were clear warning signs that Clinton was vulnerable and her election was not inevitable. While it is not surprising that a DNC stacked with Clinton loyalists would favor Clinton, the unethical and corrupt lengths the DNC went to tilt the vote in favor of Clinton, and the fact that they did this despite the signs that this might cost them the election, is alarming.

While one might debate the merits of polling data, Sander’s potential in a general election, the benefits of hindsight and Clinton’s strengths and weaknesses, one thing cannot be denied: Clinton was and is an establishment candidate that represents the status quo. Clinton is a career politician, the wife of a previous President and a D.C. insider who has been personally enriched by her political power for years. This meant she was exactly the wrong type of candidate to capture the anti-establishment fervor of the past election season or run against it. While Sanders was far more electable than Clinton, and would have capitalized on this anti-establishment energy instead of running against it, the Democratic Party knowingly committed themselves to a far less feasible candidate because that candidate would preserve the status quo.

The Swan Song of the HRC Campaign

Perhaps the greatest example of Democratic Party’s devotion to the status quo under neoliberal capitalism was their adoption of the slogan, “America is already Great.” It was precisely at this moment in the campaign that I personally assumed a Trump presidency was likely if not inevitable. Elite, wealthy, comfortable Democrats were telling people suffering under the status quo, a status quo that Democrats had a hand in making and preserving, that things were already great. While there were more nuanced discussions about “work that needed to be done” this slogan broadcast to the American public that the Democratic Party was disconnected from their reality. Even worse, the Democrats viewed the grueling circumstances of average people as something to be celebrated as “great.” This incensed Trump supporters who already felt overlooked and discouraged Democratic voters who felt Democrats leaders were telling them to settle for what they desperately wanted to see changed.

Nevertheless, they persisted.

The status quo is increasingly miserable for most U.S. citizens, and we get that at a visceral level if not in a nuanced and well-thought out way. The Democrats know this. Polling data, economic data, and social data that Democratic strategist, think-tanks and leaders all have access to and obsess over make this abundantly clear. They are not ignorant. They did not “just miss” this. The Democrats know that continuing to preserve the status quo of neoliberal capitalism makes them increasingly unpopular. The Democrats know they must attempt to obscure these facts or find/create a greater evil to focus voters on in order to remain politically viable.

Nevertheless, they persisted (and continue to persist) in defending the status quo and attempting to distract from this underlying reality. This is probably due to the very simple reason that the status quo benefits the Democrats in many ways and they are more concerned about representing the financial interests that enrich them personally and fund their political campaigns than they are actually representing the interests of their constituents.

Sanders financial support from small donors proved that if politicians take the side of the people, the people will take care of the fundraising necessary. This means the Democratic loyalty to the status quo in D.C. is a choice, not a problematic necessity of U.S. politics. Additionally, the fate of the Democrats in the last eight years should make it clear that the coercive tactic of “lesser evilism” has lost its power. It appears the lives of many voters are so bad under Democrats the threat, “it would be worse under the GOP” has lost its edge. If the Democrats desire to remain a politically viable party, they need to attend to the needs of the people they claim to represent, not remain committed to an economic ideology that enables the exploitation of many and corrupts what is left of our democracy.

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Election 2016: Trump and Unity On the Left

Unity In Revolutionary Movements


According to some who study revolutions, there are at least two basic types of revolutionary guerrilla movements that are differentiated by their origins. One type of movement arises when one social group (such as peasants and workers) rises up against their oppressors that exist in the same society (such as land-owners and capitalists). The other type of movement arises when an outside invader occupies a country and a resistance movement including everyone from the occupied society naturally and spontaneously develops. These two basic types of guerrilla movements have notable differences, among them are the challenges they face to internal cohesiveness and unity.

In the movements that arise from internal oppression within a society, the cohesiveness of the movement is relatively easy to establish. This is because the guerrilla movement is made up of people with many shared identities, experiences, motivations and overall goals; the members of the movement experienced the same oppression and are rising up to end it.

In the second type of movement that stems from foreign occupation, the cohesiveness and unity of the movement can be difficult to establish. This is because the guerrilla movement is made of up different groups that have been forced to align by the occupation that threatens all groups. This means the movement will be made up of people with different identities, experiences, motivations and overall goals. It may very well even include groups that are antagonistic or oppressive to other groups in the resistance.

The Trump and GOP Occupation of our Government


In many ways those of us on the Left in the United States have experienced the election of Trump and GOP retention of control in Congress and future control of the Supreme Court as a foreign occupation. While those in power share our nationality, they are “foreign” in that their agenda is consistently opposed to our interests and we understand the GOP as fundamentally hostile to us. While those in power were elected, we are all being forced to accept an agenda that even a minority of those who voted for Trump fully and actively support.

It is no surprise then that like a foreign occupation, the advent of the current government has inspired a resistance movement that naturally and spontaneously developed. Like a resistance inspired by foreign occupation, our resistance shares the same challenges to unity and cohesiveness. Many different groups from within our society have been forced to align because of the danger we see in Trump and the GOP. This new resistance movement is made up of people with many different identities, experiences, motivations, and goals as well as many groups that are antagonistic and oppressive towards one another.

If we can learn anything from revolutionary theory in this moment, it is while this resistance is encouraging, its origin means that it will be challenging to establish cohesiveness and unity within our ranks. These challenges need to be addressed quite intentionally if we are to make significant progress. While there are a myriad of specific challenges to be addressed, there are a number of things I think we should keep in mind as we attempt to build unity within this resistance.

Do not use the Threat of Trump to Silence Dissent



There wasn’t even a disagree button…talk about silencing dissent.

The Clinton campaign worked to engineer the threat of a Trump presidency. After Trump won the primary, they then attempted to flatten any criticism of the Democratic Party or Hillary Clinton with the threat of a Trump presidency. “Do you want Trump to win!?” became an acceptable response to valid concerns about Clinton’s candidacy, Democratic policy and the direction of the party overall. “Lesser-evilism” was a core strategy of Clinton’s campaign from the beginning and the greater evil was Trump.

While Clinton ended up winning the popular vote, buoyed by millions of voters who voted to stop Trump despite misgivings about Clinton, I do not think this tactic succeeded as she lost the election, as did many other Democrats in Congressional races. It shielded the Democratic Party from examining their own weaknesses and areas where they can and should change, undermining them in the long-run. It sowed resentment on the Left as many recognized the coercive tactic for what it was.

Such an approach is not going to inspire unity after the election anymore than it did before the election. So while we recognize the threat of Trump has arrived, it should not be used to silent dissent within the Left or evade responsibility for problems with individuals or groups that are within the Left. Statements like, “Stop criticizing X, or you’re going to breed disunity and Trump will stay in power!” has no place in our resistance.

Leftists who have been engaged need to patiently educate the new arrivals:


Undocumented trans activist Jennicet Gutierrez heckling Obama over the plight of undocumented LGBT people. She was shouted down by documented LGBT activists who wanted to celebrate Obama and marriage equality.

Many of the Left have felt threatened or marginalized by the State or our society, even  under Obama, and have been actively organizing and working on these issues for years. Many of us recognize that Trump’s policies are an escalation of the already problematic and unjust status quo, and not some break with a normally just society.  It is tempting for such people to scoff at or harshly criticize the liberals who are now suddenly active because they now feel threatened as well. A recent concrete example of this are the Women’s Marchers who marked this election as the first time they felt threatened and their need to “do something.” It is not unfair to ask, “Where have you been the last several years on these issues?” However, we should temper rightly deserved criticism and challenge with patience.

All of us, at one point or another, on one issue or another, can point to a time when we were not aware of injustices that needed to be addressed, how we might be complicit in them, or how to best address them. This is still an ongoing conversation and learning process for all of us if we are honest. This is especially true of injustice that doesn’t impact us, or people from our community or the identities we claim.

While it is fair and important to bring people to task for their ignorance, inactivity or partisan morality, it is perhaps best to direct it all towards the overall goal of continuing education and engagement not “winning” points against others in the resistance. If the resistance devolves into “Oppression Olympics,” privilege-bashing parties, or arguments about who is was “woke” first, then it is going to be fruitless resistance.

If there ever was a time for those previously engaged in activism to educate others, it is now. Millions of people are upset and asking about how to oppose Trump, how to get engaged, and how to help improve our society and oppose injustice. This is a good thing that seasoned organizers should be taking full advantage of. As Kwame Ture once said, “The job of the conscious is to make the unconscious conscious,” and now is an ideal time for that.

Overall left-leaning activists who have been engaged in this work for years, need to temper their understandable annoyance and frustration with new arrivals as they take their first steps and grow in their thinking and praxis. We have to bear with one another at times if we are going to build with one another long-term.

New arrivals need to be humble, introspective and teachable.


Those fresh to the fight for justice need to temper their enthusiasm, righteous indignation and passion with humility. My own political journey from hard-line right-winger to where I am today was long and filled with mistakes. I cringe at some of the things I said and did, even when I thought I had “arrived” at a far more progressive place in my thinking and praxis. I share this because this is a common experience as people grow in their understanding of injustice and resistance to it.

It is important that new arrivals strive to be humble and teachable as they engage seriously in politics, perhaps for the first time. New arrivals should not assume because you are active now, that’s the end of their political journey. New arrivals should not assume that because they were not politically active or outraged before, that others were not. New arrivals should not place themselves at the center of attention, even when and where they are the majority. New arrivals should not shout down the concerns or shut out the criticism from other groups they are aligned with.

New arrivals also need to seriously question why they were complacent before when so many others were negatively impacted by polices they ignored or even defended. Such people need to ask very difficult questions of themselves. Why did I initially support the invasion of Iraq that left hundreds of thousands dead and led to the rise of IS? Why did many white women stay home when undocumented women, women of color, and LGBT women need their support over the last several year but then suddenly march after Trump’s inauguration? Why are the Meryl Streep’s of this world silent on the violence represented by Clinton and Obama but vocal in opposition to the violence represented by Trump?  Why were mass demonstrations against the banning of Muslim refugees organized but no mass demonstrations against the Democratic led bombing campaigns and wars that made many Muslims refugees? Why was corruption and nepotism excusable under Clinton, but now not under Trump? Why is Trump’s racist rhetoric more alarming than the racist impact of many status quo policies (including those supported by the Democrats)? These questions, and the answers to them, should not and cannot be avoided.

New Arrivals should not just engage in introspection but seek to actively learn from those who have been active for years. New arrivals should not put their comfort above the criticism they receive from others about their present actions and past inaction. Sometimes criticism that we need to hear comes from a gentle nudge by those more experienced than us, or a stern rebuke, but we can and should grow from both. I encourage many of the new arrivals to this resistance to seek out people who have been active for years that are willing to educate you on issues you have not previously considered.

Intentionally Address Inter-Group Conflict Instead of Ignoring It


Filipino farm workers and Mexican farm workers were often pitted against each other by land owners and used to break each others strikes. Unity had to be built and these conflicts could not be avoided before success was achieved.

Inter-group conflict does not just exist in this new resistance between seasoned activists and new arrivals. By the members that make up our impromptu resistance, it is primed to rapidly dissolve over long-standing issues and the intersection between our various identities the oppression and privileges they represent.

There are White Trump resisters who are anti-Black.  There are Black Trump resisters who are homophobic. There are LGBT Trump resisters who are unconcerned with the oppression of the undocumented. There are undocumented Trump resisters who care little about the bombings of Muslim countries. There are Muslim Trump resisters who scorn Asians for their model minority status. There are Asian Trump resisters who ignore the plight of the poor. There are poor Trump resisters who are anti-Indigenous and thoroughly colonial in their mentality. Etc.

The unity forced on our groups by the threat of Trump and the GOP is cheap and temporary. There are many inter-group conflicts that could take years if not decades to fully address but we cannot shy away from this task. It is tempting to seek to avoid these conflicts, perhaps by trying to focus on the threat posed to everyone by Trump and the GOP, or ignoring or explaining away these conflicts. But this simply will not do.

Part of our work moving forward is to turn this cheap unity of necessity and convenience into a robust unity that can shape a more just society. This lasting unity can only be realized if we acknowledge our past and present conflicts and work to resolve them.

Building Real Unity in This Resistance Will be Hard but it is Necessary



It is going to be way harder than this stock photo.

Unity of our movement will be hard to build.  It require patience, empathy, and putting ourselves into a listening and learning posture more often than not. This is not easy to do. This is especially not easy to do with Trump and the GOP constantly pushing their limits. However, this is a worthy and necessary goal. If we fail to develop a unified resistance movement our resistance is likely to be ineffectual in stopping or Trump or will only manage to return us to the status quo, which is where a large number of progressives feel the oppression in the U.S. is at tolerable levels.


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Election 2016: Regarding the Normalization of Trump

Regarding the Normalization of Trump


We’re off to a bad start…

Many on the Left, including myself, believe Trump and the GOP agenda will be a disaster for most people. As Trump and the GOP advance their agenda a common refrain uttered in response by those on the Left is, “This is not normal.”  This is part of the larger insistence from those on the Left that we resist the normalization of Trump.  What people on the Left mean by this is that we should not accept Trump’s extremes as the “New Normal” thus allowing it to become the status quo in the U.S. now and into the forseeable future. While I understand the concern around normalizing Trump and agree with the idea, I wonder where these people have been the last several years and even decades.

Trump is vulgar, uncouth and generally repulsive in a lot of his statements and behaviors. This is a jarring contrast to the polished presentation of President Obama, and even (the less polished) President Bush. However, policy wise, Trump is not an abnormal figure that exists completely outside of our political status quo. Many of the policies and legislative aims Trump has called for have actually been part of the political status quo here for some time and have even enjoyed support by the Democratic Party. 

Here are some examples of what I’m talking about: 

Immigration: Trump has famously called for deporting large numbers of undocumented immigrants and building a border wall with Mexico. While his rhetoric around these issues is inflammatory, this is not a huge departure from the Democrats.  Democrats have supported border walls, barriers, and fences as part of attempts to increase border security.  Under Democrats, billions have been sent to Israel’s to subsidize their defense spending including their militarized apartheid wall and the development of technology related to it.  As a result Israeli contractors have already been employed along our border to secure it and stand to gain even more under TrumpObama has deported a record number of undocumented immigrants. ICE detention facilities, including family detention facilities, that are often run by for-profit groups and maintain horrible conditions for the detainees have proliferated under the Obama administration.

Palestine: Trump is a staunch supporter for Israel and the moving of the capital and U.S. embassy to Jerusalem. However, it was clear after the primaries that the U.S. status quo of blind support for Israel would continue regardless of who won the Presidential election. U.S. taxpayer money continues to fund Israel’s slow project of ethnic cleansing, Trump impotently called for Israel to slow down illegal West Bank settlements, and is advocating for a Two-state solution which is no longer a viable option at this point anyway. The exact same situation and cycles operated for the last eight years under Obama and would have continued under Clinton.

Islamophobia: Trump has signed an executive order permanently banning Muslim refugees from Syria and a similar temporary ban from other Muslim majority countries. This is driven by the fear that terrorists disguised as refugees could gain entry to our nation and attack us. While this executive order is Islamophobic it cannot be denied that the Democrats are not blameless when it comes to Islamophobia. Obama and the Democrats have also continued to bomb and intervene in majority Muslim countries around the world killing thousands of Muslims in the process.  As several people saw it our choice this last Fall was to elect someone who would bomb majority Muslim countries or ban them from seeking refuge here. Obama did react to the Paris attacks and San Bernadino shooting by tightening visa restrictions on the countries that the refugees were from. While visa restrictions are not the same thing as a travel ban, the underlying fear-based rationale was the same; the Obama admin tightened visa restrictions because they thought the violence of some Muslim refugees made entire majority-Muslim countries suspect. Surveillance (without warrants) of Muslim communities and civil leaders also continued under Obama. Clinton also exhorted loyal Muslims to act as their eyes and ears within their community for the security state as it seeks to fight Islamic extremism.  This implies that Muslims are more prone to terrorism and that they have to prove their loyalty through being vigilant and reporting on one another and that part of their job of Muslim civilians is disrupting extremists who claim their identities (are all Christians asked to be the eyes and ears against the KKK?).

Military and Security Policy: Trump has proved to be more than willing to provoke foreign nations, including our allies, regardless of the political fallout and potential dangers for armed conflict. This is dangerous and in stark contrast to the calculated and managed foreign policy we expect. However, Trump’s military policy is not a huge departure from the Democrats, who have dropped three bombs a day on average for the last seven years, armed various rebel groups, launched bombing campaigns that destabilized entire regions, and killed many innocent civilians. The Global War on Terror, the Military-Industrial Complex, and new wars and conflicts are sure to ensue in the next several years, as they did under Obama and as they would have Clinton. The extrajudicial dronestrike assassination program and surveillance state have flourished under Obama and will certainly be used by the Trump administration. Some of the players are even the same. Trump did put General Flynn, but General Flynn was nominated to by the Director of the Defense Intelligence Agency by Obama in 2011. The Deputy Director of the CIA, Gina Hansel, was installed by Trump’s pick for the head of CIA Pompeo. Hansel ran a blacksite torture site for the Bush administration and was part of destroying tapes of these torture sessions, realities the Obama administration failed to prosecute her for. This is not really surprising as Obama’s pick for the head of the CIA supported some of the same torture techniques. Perhaps the greatest symbolic example of this unity so far is Trump authorizing a raid in Yemen that was planned under Obama, which killed the sister of a teenage U.S. citizen Obama had assassinated with a dronestrike after doing the same to his father.

Antagonism with the Media: Trump has a clearly antagonistic relationship with the press. Trump’s handler Bannon referred to the media as “the opposite party” and Trump has turned the accusation of “fake news” against the media themselves (with at least a grain of truth in some of these accusations due to recent serious failures in journalistic ethics). While Obama maintained a lot more decorum with the press and has championed them as a vital part of our democracy, the Obama administration was not a friend to critical reporting either.  In 2009 a senior Obama staffer stated their intent to treat Fox News as an opponent which sounds an awful lot like Bannon’s comments. More importantly, the Obama admin prosecuted, put under surveillance, intimidated and sought to punish leakers, whistleblowers and journalists who published content that was embarrassing to the government, ultimately charging nine people under the Espionage Act, which only has been used three times by all previous Presidents. While Obama talked about the free press making us better, he sure spent a lot of time undermining and fighting it, when it wasn’t publishing stories favorable to the official narrative.

Use of “Alternative-Facts” (A.K.A lying): Trump and his spokespeople have repeatedly declared things to be true that are clearly not true. These lies have ranged from the mundane (the size of his inauguration crowds) to the serious (fictional massacres carried out by Muslims, fictional acts of war by Iran). Trump’s lies are blatant and clearly false, but Democrats have used a lot of “alternative-facts” themselves. In the last eight years Obama has compiled a rather extensive list of “alternative-facts” that have been revealed to be false. Clinton likewise has her own record of falsehoods. Even if some of these are explained away as honest mistakes there are many others where it appears these top Democrats have lied for political reasons. The use of “alternative facts” by Democrats does not just come in the form of public statements but also arise in matters of policy. The meaning of “imminent threat” for example, was twisted linguistically and legally to the point of becoming an “alternative-definition” of that phrase to justify dronestrikes. Thousands of airstrikes that happened in Obama’s administration were simply not been reported, which means government reports regarding civilian casualties, the effectiveness of our campaign against IS, and the cost of this war were all false. The Obama admin also considered all male civilians over the age of 18 killed by dronestrikes to be militants or terrorists with no evidence to support these claims. This was done to hide the real number of civilian casualties of Obama’s decisions.

Nepotism, and Self-enrichment: Trump is set to enrich himself and many members of his family that he has put into power. Trump also has many financial conflicts of interest and it appears very easy for the wealthy elite to influence him. This is dangerous and unethical but it is not without precedent. If you examine the Democratic and Republican parties you will find a broad array of instances of nepotism and self-enrichment. The Clintons made $153 million in speaking fees for short talks to financial groups, financial groups helped by Bill’s deregulation in the 1990s and Hillary’s continued support of the banking and financial industries. I find it impossible to imagine a situation where the Clintons, who are not financial experts, would be paid this much money if they did not have the political power they had while holding official government positions. Where foreign powers might try to gain Trump’s favor by utilizing his hotels abroad, they did much the same thing by donating to the Clinton Foundation and since Clinton lost the election these donations have begun to dry up, proving that many were motivated by a desire to gain favor from an incoming political power. There are at dozens of examples where Republican and Democrat members of Congress securing legislation that benefits industries they or their spouses are involved or invested in.  While branded as “dynasty politics” Democrats have grown increasingly comfortable with nepotism over the yearsHillary Clinton’s own positions under Bill Clinton even paved the way and set precedent for Trump’s appointment of his son-in-law to a position of power.

Corporate Ownership of Our Government: Trump’s cabinet is flush with high level businessmen representing a range of financial and industrial corporations. Many have called this a corporate takeover of our government. The problem is this situation is not all that new.  For decades (and centuries?) large financial and corporate interests have been the true drivers behind U.S. domestic and foreign policy. From the economic needs that drove European exploration for a new continent with new resources to exploit, to the annexation of Hawaii so missionaries-turned-sugar-barons could dodge taxes, to the invasion of Iraq so Western companies could take direct control of their oil, financial interests have driven our actions. In recent decades an army of lobbyists, armed with over $3 billion, in Washington push our representatives to craft laws that favor the companies that pay them, or simply enact the legislation crafted by those companies word for word. This is often to our detriment, however, our representatives our beholden to the money these groups provide and donate to their re-election campaigns. Republicans and Democrats have managed a facade that a representative government exists in theory when in practice it does not by keeping financial interests one or two steps removed from actual government positions. They do not even do this perfectly as many lobbyists become government officials. From the beginning, hundreds of Obama’s appointments were lobbyists-turned-government officials that sailed through the revolving door he talked about closing, which is not surprising given that the Citigroup bank had a major role in shaping his cabinet. While Trump has abandoned this facade and just put wealthy individuals into direct power, I’m not convinced this represents a dramatic change to what has been going on in D.C.for decades.

Etc., Etc., Etc.

An Escalation of the Status Quo, not a Break with the Status Quo


The peaceful transition didn’t normalize Trump; Trump was already normalized.

While Trump is vulgar, while Trump is oppressive, while Trump is doing away with pretense, Trump is not new. Trump, or more accurately the policies that Trump is pursuing, is an escalation of the status quo, not a break with the status quo. Many of the policies he advances or dubious actions he takes are but one or two steps removed from standard fare for the GOP and the Democratic Party alike. The fact that many see Trump as an outlier underlines the uncritical relationship many have with politics. The fact that many Democrats are now up in arms about Trumps behavior but were silent when Democrats did very similar things is an alarming indication that their morality and ethics are based in partisan politics not principle.

While I understand the call to not normalize Trump, I fear the time to have resisted the normalization of the Trump’s behavior and policies has already passed; the need for alarm and resistance already existed long before Trump. The fact that many on the left do not understand this, the fact that they do not get the status quo was already intolerably oppressive, under Republicans and Democrats alike, and major action was already needed, is part of the problem. The fact that many liberals were comfortable as others were fighting the unjust status quo that existed under both parties is part of the challenge to unity the Left now faces.

Understanding the Problem Correctly Leads to Correct Solutions

I do not bring all this up to excuse Trump or his escalation of existing problems. I do not bring this all up to shame liberals suddenly concerned and active after ignoring these issues for the last eight years. I bring all this up because without understanding Trump in the correct way we will pursue incorrect or incomplete solutions to the very real problems in our society.

Framing Trump as an exception to the rule implies that once he is dealt with, we can get back to our normal political lives and routines. For many liberals this means voting for Democrats down the ballot and ignoring or accepting the consequences of Democratic policies that hurt many people. Our resistance to Trump would just be a fight back to a previously unjust status quo that many liberals tolerated because they did not feel personally targeted by. Liberal activism would amount to a form of oppression management that sought to keep oppression and injustice in the U.S. at levels that didn’t offend their sensibilities.

Framing Trump rightly as an escalation to the status quo forces us to see that even after Trump there will be much work to be done. Such a resistance will be forced to reckon with why we tolerated so much injustice to become the norm, especially from those claiming to be champions of the Left, and question what solutions outside and inside of electoral politics we can and should pursue. Liberal activism would be forced to grow towards a form of liberation movement that sought to end oppression and injustice in the U.S., even when it didn’t impact them personally.

While this may seem like nitpicking or an unnecessary nuance to explore in the dire times we live in, I fear that if we do not make this distinction clear in our thinking and praxis, the best the resistance to Trump could accomplish is a return to a disengaged Left and an oppressive status quo which created the conditions for his rise.

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Election 2016: Trump and the GOP agenda will be a disaster for most people.


His actual slogan should be, “Make the Poor and Marginalized Suffer More”

I’m tempted to not even write this post as the first few steps of the Trump presidency and those in the coming weeks and months will make my point better than I can. However, for the record, I believe Trump and the GOP controlling our government for the next several years will be bad for just about every average person (the 99%) and really good for corporate and financial interests (the 1%). I say this for a number of reasons.

The overall GOP agenda is hurtful to the average person, and to marginalized communities especially.

While Trump’s campaign slogan was to “Make America Great Again” the GOP agenda solves problems that do not exist, endanger the public, and enrich the already wealthy. It is hard to see how any of this will “Make America Great Again”

First, the GOP supports our continued reliance on dirty energy sources in general and the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines in specific.  This ignores abundantly available scientific evidence for human-caused climate change and the dangers of it that have been acknowledged even by the likes of Exxon and the DoD. This ignores the fact that renewable energy is becoming more profitable and employing more people than the oil and coal industry, creating jobs at 12 times the rate of any other sector. This ignores the fact that the coal industry’s decline is irreversible and will be long-term. This ignores the fact that the pipelines will not impact consumer costs. (The Keystone XL pipeline is shipping Canadian oil to Chinese consumers, and the Dakota Access Pipeline is cutting transportation costs for the companies behind the Bakken Shale fracking operations. Neither of this will result in gas prices at the pump being lower.) This ignores the fact that jobs that are created with pipeline construction are temporary and dangerous. The GOP is so in the tank for dirty energy that they have even pushed legislation to allow for oil exploration in national parks, though this was stopped by hunters and conservationists. While pursuing this agenda regarding U.S. energy may enrich large wealthy corporations that lobby and donate to the GOP, it endangers the average person economically and environmentally.

Second, the GOP is pursuing legislation that solves no problem or will fail to solve the problem they claim to be addressing. There are a number of transgender bathroom bills being supported by GOP representatives that solve no problem. There are not enough examples of transgender persons acting inappropriately in bathrooms, let alone a systemic problem with it, to warrant any legislation. The GOP has supported a ban on refugees from countries that have never attacked us, based on the fear that terrorist disguised as refugees might infiltrate our borders. Aside from two non-fatal attacks by people from the nations impacted by this ban, there have been no fatal attacks (terrorist or otherwise) from nationals of those countries. Additionally many more U.S. citizens are killed a host of domestic issues than by Islamic terrorism. Since 9/11, foreign terrorists have killed a U.S. citizen at the rate of about one per year. The greater terrorist threat we face is home-grown domestic terror threats from white-wing extremists which Trump and the GOP are going to ignore. Another example of this legislation is the border wall with Mexico.This will cost billions of dollars, even by the most conservative estimate, and it is clear the U.S. taxpayer will be paying for it. While undocumented immigration is an issue that needs to be addressed, building a wall is highly unlikely to resolve the issue driven by a host of social, economic and political factors. The GOP is pursuing legislation that solves fictional problems that does not exist, and is pursuing bad legislation that does not solve problems that actually do exist. This hurts the average person by wasting tax-payer money and adding unnecessary divisive legislation that is often discriminatory in nature.

Third, as the GOP is pushing pointless legislation it is paradoxically pursuing an agenda of deregulation, citing excessive government overreach and burdensome and needless legislation.  While some government regulation is without a doubt useless or even hurtful, they seem to be focusing on revoking laws that help us, keep us safe, or have widespread public support. For example they removed laws that prevented the severally mentally ill from purchasing firearms.  They have removed legislation that prevented coal companies from dumping coal ash into rivers. They are also intent on ending net-neutrality rules regarding the internetBy removing legislation in the name of “fighting federal over-reach” they are putting most people at the mercy of large corporations; many of these restrictions protected the average citizen from price gouging or environmental poisoning by companies looking to cut costs by taking short cuts and improperly dumping waste products from their industries.

Fourth, the GOP is pursuing tax reform that overwhelming benefit the wealthy elite. The GOP has continued to push for an end to the estate tax which would benefit only the richest in our society.  They are also angling to give corporations who have dodged taxes for years by stashing it abroad the option to bring it home to the U.S. at very low tax rates.  This is hurtful to everyone as it allows wealth to concentrate into the hands of the already incredibly wealthy, which they then in turn use to buy the loyalty of politicians so they can pass legislation that is enriching to them but is at odds with the interest of the average citizen.

Fifth, while Trump struck an isolationist foreign policy tone during his campaign, the GOP foreign policy has remained largely intact. In many ways the GOP is continuing the foreign policy of Bush and Obama, with the resurrection of the worst of Bush-era tactics. Trump has already provoked China, a near-peer nuclear super powers, and his closest adviser believes a war with China is coming within the next couple of years. Trump has authorized military strikes in countries we are not technically at war with, killing a number of civilians, including children, in the process. This militaristic foreign policy is hurtful to all of us.  Defense spending eats the majority of our budget, leaving little for other more beneficial social programs. Our endless Global War on Terror has not made us or the world any safer.  Any potential war with a near-peer nuclear super-power would leave millions dead and accomplish what exactly?  Also, any war involves the risk of death, disability, disease and displacement to the average person; it is not the wealthy who fight or stand to lose anything in these wars, it is the rest of us.

Sixth, the GOP will attempt to advance its policies around culture-war wedge issues, especially in regards to abortion and marriage equality. Beyond hurting the groups directly impacted by the imposition of “Christian values” through legislation, these types of legislation are also often counter-productive. This can perhaps be best seen in the looming actions regarding abortion. While appointing a Supreme Court judge that is pro-life may sound good, this judge is also very pro-corporation which will end up hurting the average person as the Supreme Court becomes more tilted towards the wealthy elite. Banning abortions, defunding abortion providers, defunding sex-education or supporting only abstinence only sex-education, and making it harder to access abortion are also not effective ways to decrease abortion rates. Increased sex-education and access to contraceptives (especially long-acting-reversible-contraceptives) are far better ways to lower unwanted pregnancies and abortions (and respect the rights of others in our pluralistic democracy). Pursuing a hard-line agenda on wedge issues hurts everyone as the pursuit of wedge issues deepens divisions in our country, making us easier marks for the wealthy elite, and are often not the best ways to pursue our goals.

Trump has set up a cabinet of the 1% for the 1%


These people will help shape the future of our nation for their benefit.

Beyond the general direction of the GOP agenda Trump’s cabinet picks and close advisers do not bode well for us either. As his team assembled I felt like it was the #LegionOfDoom assembling, but with more money, more conflicts of interest and less competence.

Trump’s cabinet picks are marred by a mixture of deep financial conflicts of interest (DeVos, Tillerson and Price), racism (Sessions and Bannon) incompetence and a lack of government experience (Carson), torture apologists (Pompeo), with a number of them being clearly antagonistic to the very job they are supposed to do (Puzder, Pruitt and Perry) and a number coming from the very swamps Trump promised to drain (like Mnuchin, Ross, Cohn, and others joining his administration).

Given the number of corporate leaders and financial elites Trump has included in his administration at the highest levels, it is no surprise that this is the richest cabinet ever assembled. It should shock no one that this cabinet is already pursuing legislation that financially benefits the wealthy elite but puts the world at greater risk for another financial crisis. In many ways instead of “draining the swamp” of financial interests poisoning our democracy, Trump abandoned all pretense and put them in direct power instead of making them maintain the facade of a functioning Democracy by using lobbyists. This is a rank betrayal of any Trump supporters who hoped he would reign in corruption in D.C.

Trump and the GOP agenda will be a disaster for most people.


These trends are not going to reverse under Trump.

Overall, the GOP agenda appears to be a problematic mix of ineffective solutions to real problems that face us, hurtful solutions to non-existent problems, and legislation that will enrich the already extremely wealthy. Trumps advisers and cabinet members for the most part are problematic members of the 1% who will use their new positions to undermine the very roles they are supposed to fill in order to enrich themselves and their peers at great cost to the American people. The net impact of their agenda in the coming years will not “Make America Great Again” (however that was envisioned) but continue enriching the elite at great cost to the rest of us.

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Election 2016: The Progressive Wilderness Ahead


Artist’s rendition of the progressive wilderness ahead.

Barring some unlikely scenarios, the GOP will effectively be in control of all branches of government for at least the next two years. Progressive citizens can protest this all we want, but even if we were completely unified (which we are not) our representatives are numerically incapable of blocking Trump or the Congress from passing regressive legislation or appointees that will hurt many communities we care about.

How those opposed to the GOP agenda respond in the coming weeks, months, and two years before the next Congressional election is critical. In 2018 there is a chance to challenge the GOP control of Congress. Not only is this important as it is the most potent and feasible way to change the balance of power in the federal government, but it will have a great impact on the re-drawing of districts after the census of 2020. If the GOP retains control in 2018 in Congress, they could re-district the nation in ways favorable to GOP candidates, helping to shore up their chances in future elections.

While I am encouraged by the responses to some of Trump’s actions that have happened already, I am thinking more broadly and more-long term about how progressives can flip the balance of power. I am also thinking about what progressives can work towards rather than always being reacting to the GOP’s actions. Over the next two years (and beyond) I want to commit my finite energy and resources to the most effective and promising ways to oppose the regressive GOP legislation, so I have been thinking about this a lot. In this long, multi-page post (use the numbers at the bottom to change pages) I wanted to share my thoughts at length as I’m sure others are in the same boat.

Looking forward I see a few broad options available to progressives, some of which are more viable than others, and none of them are really good or easy.

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Election 2016: No, the Green Party Did Not Cost the Democrats the Election


Numerous articles have circulated  accusing the Green Party and Jill Stein for costing Clinton the election. These have not just been fringe ramblings of disgruntled relatives and friends on Facebook, but published stories in respected media outlets. This has spawned many memes and accusations labeling Stein as everything from the “Ralph Nader of 2016” to a puppet for Putin who doomed us to President Trump and the consequences of that presidency. The problem is these accusations are false and even a rudimentary examination of available data reveals that.

This Accusation Is Based on a Faulty Assumption

First, this entire argument is founded on the assumption Green Party votes are owed to the candidate from another party. We are being blamed for failing to vote for the candidate from another political party. It is not the Green Party’s responsibility to elect the candidate from another party, it is our responsibility to campaign for our candidates. It is our fault Stein did not win. It is not our fault Clinton did not win. The Democratic party does not have ownership of my vote and I did not wrongfully give that vote to someone else.

If the Democratic Party (or the Green Party, or any party for that matter) wants more votes, they need to organize and engage with voters and convince them that their party has the voter’s interests at heart. They need to communicate how the party’s proposals for the future and past track record deserve to be voted for. 

Some argue that the Green Party voters should have recognized the dire stakes in this election, and registered and voted as Democrats, despite their reservations about Clinton and the Democratic Party, because the Democrats align with them on so many issues and Trump posed such a threat to those values.

However, Democrats were not convincing enough in their outreach to Green Party voters to win us over. They were equally unable to convince the millions of Americans who did not vote or other Independents who were up for grabs. This is all not the fault of the Green Party as it is not the Green Party’s job to convince people to vote for another party’s candidate or to be more amenable to arguments to defect from their party.

Publicly Available Data Contradicts This Accusation

Second, all of these accusations are contradicted by even a basic assessment of publicly available data. The total number of Green votes in swing states Clinton lost to Trump were only larger than Trump’s margin of victory in Wisconsin and Michigan. Even if Greens had supported Clinton and Clinton had won in these states, Clinton still would have lost the electoral college 258 to 280. Earlier assessments that votes for Stein were larger than Trump’s margin of victory in Pennsylvania were incorrect. That means that even if every Green voter, in every state where Green Party members could vote for Stein, had suddenly flipped their registration and voted for Clinton, Clinton still would have lost to Trump.

Additionally, many Green Party voters indicated that they would have stayed home, voted for Johnson, or even voted for Trump if Stein was not on the ballot. Therefore, it cannot be safely assumed that Green voters would have unanimously flocked to Clinton if Stein had never ran. Additionally, one cannot clearly argue that the mere existence of an alternative progressive party significantly decreases the Democrats chance for winning as many Green Voters would never vote for Democratic candidates even if the Green Party didn’t exist. 

Even if one insists on assuming that all Green voters would go to Democrats and all Libertarian voters would vote Republican if the other parties had stayed out the race completely, Trump’s margin of victory in the relevant states would have actually increased.

Stein’s Criticism of Clinton Likely Had No Impact on Support for Clinton

Third, sometimes the argument is made that Stein’s criticism of Clinton had a chilling effect on Democratic voters, either convincing them to be less vocal in their support for Clinton, to refuse to vote, or even to switch parties. I could not find data pertinent to the theory that Stein’s message swayed Democratic voters, but I find it highly unlikely this had any major impact on the election give what information is available to us. 

The Green Party earned less than 1% of the national votes, and it does not appear the Green Party has any significant influence over the American voters (and that is our fault). How could we be simultaneously influential enough with American voters to cost Clinton the election, but not influential enough to even be on the ballot in 50 states?

Additionally, Stein received a minute fraction of media exposure this entire election cycle. The media was encouraged to by HRC’s campaign and had financial interests in covering Trump’s controversial statements and it gave him, and to a lesser extent Clinton, the lion’s share of all coverage.  This means the message of Stein and the Green Party received little exposure, including any parts of our message that were critical of Clinton and the Democrats. The high point of coverage related to Stein happened when she achieved 3.9% of television mentions in comparison to other presidential candidates. For most of the election she received far less coverage than that. This spike was also during the recount effort Stein led, after the election had taken place. So even if Stein’s message was convincing enough to Democrats to get them to not vote for Clinton, one wonders how they even heard this message?

Democrats who insist on this argument then should ask why this message was convincing to enough Democrats to impact the election given such a small amount of exposure. What problems with Clinton did Stein highlight were so compelling that it soured support for Clinton, and do they persist in the Democratic Party and its candidates? Are they alleging Stein lied about Clinton’s record and many Democrats were gullible enough to fall for a message they barely heard mentioned?

This argument that Stein’s message lowered Democratic voter turnout is a speculative argument to make and a speculative argument to counter so perhaps future data might prove this claim correct, but I think this is highly improbable due to the many other factors in this election and what has already been considered.

Democrats Need to Stop Blaming External Factors and Accept Responsibility

The Green Party did not win, so we did not stop the Proto-facism of Trump or the Neo-liberalism of Clinton, and that is on us, but the Green Party did not cost the Democrats this election.These journalistic pieces leveling accusations at Stein are a vehicle for Democrats to avoid taking responsibility for their loss, not journalism a meant to inform the public or further important political conversation. Any jabs or memes at the Green Party carrying the same accusation are equally without truth and simply an attempt to escape responsibility. As a member of the Green Party I refuse to be the fall-guy for the problems in the Democratic party, a party that I have absolutely nothing to do with.

For anyone serious about the Democratic Party’s future prospects, blaming the Green Party for Clinton’s loss is counter-productive. Democrats need to stop flailing around seeking to blame external factors for their failing party and engage in some serious introspection and self-criticism (as Green Party members need to do in regards to our own inability to win). The Green Party did not cost the Democrats this election this year, or the 70 Congressional seats, 910 State legislative seats and 11 Governors they have lost since Obama took office. The Democratic Party cannot keep dodging responsibility for the consequences of their actions and in-actions with voters and turn around their losing streak. It is one or the other.

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Election 2016: What the Green Party Can Learn From 2016



Part of my admitted political laziness in the past has been failing to vote for a presidential candidate.  However, this year I registered with the Green Party and voted for Jill Stein. Now because I live in a state that is profoundly loyal to the Democratic party, I knew my vote had absolutely no chance of changing the outcome. I could have voted for Trump, myself, Stein or written in Sanders and the result would have been the same: Hillary Clinton would get my state’s electoral college support. This in turn was and is rather meaningless because I do not live in a swing state and my electoral college votes are a foregone conclusion, safely counted for the Democrats years in advance. While much of my remaining posts in this series will criticize Democrats and Republicans, I must own the fact that my vote for the Green Party did not even come close to challenging either the Proto-Fascism of Trump or the Neoliberal Imperialism of Clinton; I knew this, and voted for the Green Party anyway. 

The Green Party’s continued lack of relevance in 2016 should be instructive for my party and I think there is a lot we can learn from the results of this election (and past elections). We need to consider what changes we need to make in the future or we will remain irrelevant in 2018, 2020 and beyond.

The Party That Cannot Win The Presidency

In the last several years the Democrats have lost countless political races, surrendering an alarming amount of political territory and power to the Republicans. Clinton’s loss to the least favorable candidate in history was just the tip of the iceberg to a streak of losses across the nation in the last eight years. However, if Democrats are the party that cannot hold onto what they won, the Green Party is a party that cannot win. 

I love Stein for many reasons, but Stein did not win the election. Stein did not even come close to winning but the second least favorable candidate in history, Clinton, won the popular vote but lost the electoral college. While votes for the Green Party’s Presidential candidate have been steadily increasing since 2004, the 2016 turnout was nowhere near 2000’s results.

The context of this election was one of historic, perhaps unique, opportunity for the Green Party. After years of war and economic stagnation and misery the public was ripe for an anti-establishment candidate. Millions of people that shared most or all of our values were open to voting for someone that wasn’t a Democratic insider and were even pushed away from the Democratic party by revelations about its corruption. We should have won over many that ultimately voted for Trump and Clinton, especially the 20% of voters that thought neither candidate was trustworthy and the  39% of voters that wanted change more than anything. The Libertarian party out-performed us on all fronts as well, and saw historic highs in their voting turnout. Given this outcome we must ask ourselves why they did not consider the Green Party an option and this underscores the need for us to own and consider our abysmal number of votes.

The Party That Cannot Win Local Elections

Our fate in state and local elections is not different.Considering our congressional campaigns, our candidates also get less than 1% of the vote, and have earned about the same on a routine basisAs of October 2016 we only had 86 office holder and still have no candidates who have won a federal election.

When it came time to support my party I was ready to vote for Green Party members down the ballot, but to my dismay there was no Green candidate for my area. We had conceded the vote to the Democrats with no challenger.

The one local candidate I found that was running in my general area was nothing to get excited about. I’m sure they are a great person that values many of the same things I do, but they appeared anemic, disconnected and unconcerned with the dire situation around us. Perhaps this is because they appeared to be a wealthy white liberal living in a wealthy white area and they were clearly going to be okay regardless of who won the election. Even if this was case, that doesn’t prevent someone from acknowledging and communicating the dire stakes in the current political climate. The candidate did not do this effectively in my estimation and I was left with the impression that they did not really have any fire in their belly and may not have even been that interested in running or winning or serving.

These Dots Are Connected 

Our inability to win the Presidency is tied to our inability to win State and Local elections. We have not built sufficient political power at the lower levels of government.  Because we have not built political power from the bottom up we have produced no evidence that we can consistently win difficult campaigns, let alone push through legislation we support and govern effectively. While I think the Democratic party is deplorable (and I’ll explore that more in a later post) it cannot be denied that just about any progressive legislation or reform that made it into law was pushed by Democrats in power, not a Green in power. Green’s are not even close to having tangible political power with the exception of a handful of towns where the Green Party has the majority in the local city council. So why would anyone trust the Presidency to the Green Party without this? Even if Stein had won due to some fluke in 2016 she would have no Congressional support to get anything done.

The popularity of Sanders demonstrated that left-leaning citizens are willing to back a candidate that is not within the strict boundaries of their party, or even a long-time member. However, it appears clear they want to back someone who can win and someone who can deliver, and someone with experience with elected office. Operating as an Independent Sanders has won numerous campaigns and has passed legislation over many years, something we have not done. It should be no surprise that many who supported Sanders turned to Clinton and not Stein as their backup, regardless of what they thought of Clinton.

The Basic Roadmap for the Green Party

Considering the results of the 2016 election, and our past efforts, I think the way forward for the Green Party is relatively easy to see if we are willing to change tactics and accept the simple fact that the current strategy is not working.

First, we should stop running these pointless presidential campaigns until we have built power at the State and Local level. I understand the reasons we have run these campaigns (as essentially a PR vehicle for our Party, and to get the magical 5% of the national vote to be on the ballot in all states) but by running these presidential campaigns we are trying to build power from the top down, not the bottom up, which is contradictory to our grassroots identity. It is also not working. We have not seen the Green Party significantly grow in exposure or numbers since running these campaigns.

Second, we should focus all our money and effort in Democratic and liberal states with many political seats or those with weak Democratic candidates. These are states where we are most likely to find a voter base aligned with our values that we can win over to Green Party candidates.  We need to recruit members to run against every Democratic candidate in these states and at the city and state levels of government.We also need to run candidates who want to win, who are committed to our values, and who can work effectively in government.

Third, while Democrats are our main opponents in State and Local elections (as we are vying for the same voter base), after winning elections we need to actually work closely with Democrats. This will be a hard tightrope to walk but even if the Green Party eventually wins a number of Congressional seats we will need to work with Democrats (and even Republicans) to support effective legislation and prove we can govern. In many ways we need to turn the Congress into a more parliamentary system where we form a coalition with Democrats and support each other on issues where we are in agreement even as we maintain our differences and continue to compete in Congressional and Local elections.

Fourth, after, and only after, winning and growing State and Local power and years of proving our ability to govern, should we return to the Presidential race.

This Will Be Simple But Not Easy

While this may be a relatively straightforward overall strategy it will be incredibly difficult to pull off.  Even with excellent candidates many of these races will be difficult and will require a lot of organizing, excellent messaging, and an excellent campaign strategy.  All of this must be executed without corporate money as we face opponents who are flush with cash from the various industries bank-rolling them. While it will not be a walk in the park, I honestly don’t see any way forward for the Green Party without adopting an overall strategy similar to this. If we want to stay irrelevant we can stay the same, but if we are serious about building a viable Third Party option we need to do something different.

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