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Monthly Archives: November 2015

The Thieving Bastards! Trying to Steal from Social Security

United States Senator Mike Lee

This is how it happens.

Last night while you were sleeping the Senate voted to steal $150 billion dollars from the Social Security Trust Fund. I joined 34 of my colleagues in a vote to prevent this raid. I would like to thank Senator Rand Paul for leading the fight to protect to Social Security from the thieves in Washington, who seem to think that if they steal from the American people at night while they are sleeping that they will get away with it. I was proud to vote with Senator Paul on his point of order that would have protected Social Security, and I ask you to help me shine a light on what Washington has tried to hide from you in the darkness of night.

If everyone who sees this message shares it, it will reach millions of Americans. As someone who has been fighting for years to reform our broken government in Washington, I know it is exhausting, I sympathize with your frustration, and I understand your impatience. But don’t give up. Washington wants you to give up.

Just remember, a vote to raid social security in the middle of the night in a desperate attempt to perpetuate an unsustainable spending addiction isn’t a sign of strength. It is a sign of weakness.

 

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Michael Moore’s gutsy new film: Our military has not won a war since World War II

 

Look out: Moore’s new film opens with assertion sure to inflame the right, then suggests we “invade” for good ideas

This Jan. 8, 2013 photo shows filmmaker Michael Moore at the National Board of Review Awards gala at Cipriani 42nd St. in New York. More than a decade has passed since the controversial gun control documentary "Bowling for Columbine" was released and Moore says we've yet to make any strides toward ending violence in schools.  (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

This Jan. 8, 2013 photo shows filmmaker Michael Moore at the National Board of Review Awards gala at Cipriani 42nd St. in New York. More than a decade has passed since the controversial gun control documentary “Bowling for Columbine” was released and Moore says we’ve yet to make any strides toward ending violence in schools. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

 

by SOPHIA A. MCCLENNEN

This Jan. 8, 2013 photo shows filmmaker Michael Moore at the National Board of Review Awards gala at Cipriani 42nd St. in New York. More than a decade has passed since the controversial gun control documentary “Bowling for Columbine” was released and Moore says we’ve yet to make any strides toward ending violence in schools. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP) (Credit: Evan Agostini)

Michael Moore is no stranger to controversy.  He has, after all, been threatened by Clint Eastwood—twiceAnd who could forget that notorious Michigan restaurant that banned him for a tweet critical of snipers? His new film, “Where to Invade Next,” promises to be his most controversial yet.   The controversy, though, is not what many of Moore’s viewers would immediately suspect.   Instead of focusing on what is wrong in our country, Moore uses the film to focus on what is right elsewhere.  Instead of pointing out our flaws, he imagines our possibilities.   And instead of wallowing in fear and panic, he offers practical ideas for productive change.  Given that we are in the midst of another election cycle, it’s worth asking what impact it might have on voters.  While it is hard to say whether it will influence voting patterns or policy stance, there is one thing for certain: It’s really going to piss a lot of people off.

“Where to Invade Next” is currently touring film festivals.  It has screened in New YorkChicagoTorontoPhiladelphia, and it will screen on November 16 in Washington, D.C., to launch the AFI film docs series.  It will open in select cities onDecember 23, and will then have a wide U.S. release in January.

After an opening that reminds viewers that our military has not won one war since WWII, the film ironically suggests that the man to save us is Moore.  He will go out and “invade,” but this time he won’t use weapons; he will just pillage other nations for their good ideas and bring them back for us to claim.

Moore travels to Finland, Slovenia, France, Tunisia, Italy, Portugal, and beyond.  In each country he finds a policy that is not only more humane than current U.S. practice, but also more effective.  Among the many innovative policies he covers, he documents better women’s rights, prison policy, worker rights, and educational policies than we have in the United States.

The film has been called “chirpy” and “romantic,” but these reviews miss the point.  Sure it’s hilariously funny at times, sure it’s deeply ironic, but the focus on covering “good” stories from across the globe only further serves to show what’s tragic here.  It’s the deep dialectic between these images that drives the power of the film.  With each shiny image abroad, the contrasting images of the United States feel more and more tarnished.  All it takes is comparative photos of school lunches in the United States and France to turn American exceptionalism on its head.

Moore’s latest film is his most bold and most sophisticated.  Rather than focus on a single issue he covers a wide range of social practices.  The radical idea at the core of the film is that change for the better is possible if we just commit to it.  But the film’s real subversive edge lies in its ability to out GOP policy for all of its naysaying, doomsday, Chicken Little rhetoric.  And the film’s art lies in implicating that rhetoric without really citing it.  Unlike Moore’s earlier films, it is what is left unsaid that is often more powerful than what is narrated in the voice over.

Moore himself suggests that the film may, in fact, be his most angry.  The anger, though, is at the failure to imagine other possibilities.  What Moore illustrates is that one can be angry at the state of affairs without being negative or cynical. In this election cycle, it’s a radical notion and it’s guaranteed to provoke.

As soon as the film has a wider release it will likely come under attack from the right—it’s hard to imagine a Michael Moore film without conservative attacks.  But this film will be different, because this time Moore will be attacked for what he offers as vision rather than what he exposes as critique.

There will be countless complaints that one thing may be possible in Finland but not in this country.  And that is where the real brilliance of the film lies.  At a basic level the film anticipates some of the ways it will be judged—and it asks us to think deeply about the flaws to that exact line of thinking.  The place he really is trying to invade is our very own mindset—a mindset that has become accustomed to a poverty of ideas and a politics of suspicion.

But even more radical during this election circus is the fact that Moore highlights policies that have an existing connection to reality and that actually work somewhere in the world.  And that is radically different from many of the loony GOP policies we currently have on offer.

As Politifact reports, the last GOP debate was simply chock full of lies.  And when the candidates were pressed to explain their policy, they sidestepped, flubbed, or made things up.   As Robert Reich points out –almost all GOP policy is based on myths, lies and voodoo economics. The point is that much GOP policy has zero connection to reality.

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In contrast, the programs Moore shows us have at least some connection to the real world. In one vignette, we see Rick Perry extolling the efficacy of abstinence. “I know it works,” he says, even after his interviewer cites data that proves it doesn’t. Hearing of this, the sex ed teacher from France, who teaches students to value their partners and treat them with care, looks quizzically at Moore and explains that “abstinence is not sex education.”

Moore will likely get hammered for the impracticality of applying these policies here at home.  But in our culture of hypocrisy, he will get hammered by the very same critics who accept delusional drivel with absolutely no connection to reality.  Imagine if Trump or Cruz or Bush or Rubio were held to the standard that Moore will be.

The crazy thing is that any number of current GOP slogans would be perfect taglines for the film: “Make America Great Again,” “Heal, Inspire, Revive,” “Reigniting the Promise of America,” “Defeat the Washington Machine. Unleash the American Dream.” Ironic coincidence?  Or tragic farce? As Moore proves in the film, it all depends on your perspective—and your politics.

 

 

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Seattle Voters Approve First-in-the-Nation ‘Democracy Vouchers’

‘We look forward to seeing more cities and states implementing their own local solutions to the problem of big money in politics,’ says campaign spokesperson

“Seattle leads the nation, first on $15 an hour and now on campaign-finance reform,” said a campaign spokesperson on Tuesday night. (Photo: Howard Ignatius/flickr/cc)

Voters in Seattle, Washington on Tuesday approved a first-in-the-nation “democracy voucher” ballot initiative that could serve as a national model on campaign finance reform.

Initiative 122 (I-122), which was endorsed by nearly every Seattle City Council candidate and enjoyed the support of dozens of local and national progressive groups, passed 60-40, according to the King County Elections Office.

Supporters say the innovative public campaign financing program could give everyday voters more control over the city’s elections while limiting the power of corporate and special interests.

The initiative states that for each city election cycle, or every two years, the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission (SEEC) will mail four $25 vouchers to each voter. They can only be used in Seattle campaigns for mayor, city council and city attorney. The SEEC will release money to the candidates that agree to follow I-122’s rules, which include participating in three debates and accepting lower contribution and spending limits.

The measure also prohibits elected officials and their high-level staff from lobbying the city government within three years of leaving office and enacts limits on campaign contributions from people or entities that have contracts with the city.

Last year, Seattle’s City Council passed a historic measure establishing a $15 minimum wage.

“Seattle leads the nation, first on $15 an hour and now on campaign-finance reform. We look forward to seeing more cities and states implementing their own local solutions to the problem of big money in politics,” said Heather Weiner, a campaign spokesperson, on Tuesday night.

Ahead of the vote, City Council member Estevan Muñoz-Howard described the initiative as “our best chance at reducing the role of money in Seattle politics. We already have some of the most expensive city council races in the country, which are funded by less than one percent of our city’s population. This initiative will amplify the voices of regular people and reduce the role that wealthy donors and paid lobbyists play in setting our city’s priorities.”

And on Monday, Campaign for America’s Future blogger Terrance Heath speculated about what a ‘Yes’ vote could mean: “Will Seattle’s Democracy Vouchers catch on? If I–122 passes on Tuesday, the idea could spread to other cities, giving state and local governments important tools to limit the influence of big money in a post-Citizens United world,” he wrote. “If Seattle shows the way, changing local politics may prove the key to change on the national political scene.”

Maine voters also approved a clean elections ballot initiative on Tuesday.

 

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