I am sobbing reading about Danica Roem’s victory in Virginia. She not only is the first Transgender woman to be elected into Virginia legislature, she beat a shitty republican asshole who REFUSED to use her proper pronouns and only spewed hate for half a century. This man was about to overthrow a law protecting trans students from using the bathroom of their choice and then he was beaten by a trans woman!

She is also vegetarian and the singer in a metal band! I love her so much.

YES THERE IS HOPE! I am so proud of her. I agree that the government is flawed AF and needs to be overthrown with real direct change. This is it. We take over by winning. We get out and vote, we support those who are just and those who will represent US.

We are trans, we are queer, we are black, we are women, we are immigrants, we are disabled, and we are only strong if we are all together holding each other up. Danica has totally inspired a generation of kids who have never seen someone like them succeed. She gives them hope that it can change.

She is 33 years old, I am about to be 31, I have a lot of work to do. I can change the world too! We all have to. Right now!

It starts with home, it starts with letting people we love that it is not okay to hate! Families have been torn apart because people are refusing to accept racists and bigots into their homes. How can I serve a Trump supporter a vegan Thanksgiving feast?

My generation will not accept that bullshit. I recently ended a lifetime friendship over just this. Enjoy this song from the band The Specials. If you have a racist friend this is the time for the friendship to end!

Knowing that someone actually supports Trump is a deal breaker. His hate is so transparent that they have no excuse of ignorance.

Local elections are so important, the school board, the sheriff, the fucking mayor, why would people not want to have a voice? It has been 100 years since women gained the right to vote in the US.

The current run of old white men who are hate mongers is actually just a catalyst for the revolution. They are finally getting SO bad that people are getting up off the couch and taking to the streets.

It is November 9th, my mom’s birthday, and one year since Donald Trump was elected President. I can’t believe it’s been a year. Three more to go. Fuck! Will we make it? Nobody knows.

Facebook Memories showed me the photo I posted one year ago. It was the band of the Titanic playing as the ship sank. I felt hopeless.

Shortly after I felt extreme feminine rage and made my photo Xena Warrior Princess. Lucy Lawless is so hot and powerful. A true badass female, like Danica Roem, I would rather be her than a band playing as the water crushes those around them and the planks snap one by one. I know an icy death awaits but I am not going down without a fight, none of us are!

The race for Sheriff in my home county was a tough one. Many people I know got out to #FIREHOWARD and I really hope we succeeded. (Former( fingers crossed)) Sheriff Howard has been there for way too long, he is an open racist and Trump supporting scumbag.

Sheriff Howard (image: DailyPublic.com)

He wore his uniform to a Spirit of America rally and was surrounded by confederate flag waving assholes. People keep dying in the holding center and we need someone to stop it.

Bernie Tolbert , a black man, ran against him in an election so close that we still have to wait for the absentee ballots to be counted. Tolbert was the head of the FBI in Buffalo as well as the former head of security for the NBA. I just know that he is a big step in the right direction.

We must empower those who have always been put down. Now is the time for people of color, transgender humans, queers, and all of the others who have been oppressed for so long to take office and change this bullshit from the inside out.

It’s a long and epic boss battle. This is a multiplayer game folks, don’t put down that controller just yet!

How do I deal with the everlasting crush of the world crumbling down around me? I stay in my bed hole and cuddle with someone cute and my three cats. Wake up, bong, vegan yums, then maybe dye my hair blue. Plan the next show, listen to music, write as much as you can, and paint like humans are going extinct and all that will be left is the art we leave behind.

Politics really stress me out. This is a privilege, I know that. I can turn off the TV and chose not to read the newspaper. I can drown out my first world problems with hair dye.

I do not live in a war torn place. I am not beaten or threatened because of my skin or religious beliefs. I am free. I have a place to be warm and a person to hold, I have purpose and I need to help others rise up.

I live in a world where I can run around in half drag and scream because I feel like it. I expose myself and make people laugh. In other parts of the world I would be dead. Women can’t play music or even show their faces without being beaten or killed. People of color, transgender humans, and others do not have the luxury that I do.

I use my body as a tool, my burlesque is a voice. I will never be quiet about my politics.

My best friend told me that she almost didn’t have time to vote, but knew she needed to use her voice. She went. I am proud of her!

She voted in a room full of people of color and women. I held the door for an old white man with a Make America Great Again sticker on his car. At lease my vote cancelled his out.

That’s all we can do, show kindness even to the enemy, know the power of our collective voice, and push back when oppression strikes its poisonous hateful tendrils at those we love. Rise up motherfuckers, the revolution has already begun.

In this podcast, panelists Ellana Blacher, Cem Ertekin and Vincent Simboli discuss for one last time the Presidential Elections happening in the US, the spoken word scene in Montréal, the Dakota Access Pipeline and more in our News Roundup segment. Plus the Community Calendar and Predictions!

Host: Jason C. McLean

Producer: Hannah Besseau
Production Assistant: Enzo Sabbagha


Ellana Blacher aka Joy Low-Key: Spoken Word Artist and FTB Contributor

Vincent Simboli: FTB Contributor

Cem Ertekin: FTB Managing Editor


*US Election Report by Hannah Besseau



Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

Panelists Der Kosmonaut, Cem Ertekin and Jerry Gabriel discuss the Mayday March protests and the violent police reaction in downtown Montreal, an update on the US Primary elections, Prince leaving us too soon and Peter Sergakis’ lawsuit against Peter McQueen. Plus the Community Calendar and Predictions!

Host: Jason C. McLean
Producer: Hannah Besseau
Production Assistant: Enzo Sabbagha


Cem ErtekinFTB Contributor and Managing Editor

Der Kosmonaut: Poet, writer, spoken word artist, DJ and blogger at The Adventures of Der Kosmonaut

Jerry Gabriel: Podcast regular and FTB Contributor

* Reports by Hannah Besseau

Microphone image: Ernest Duffoo / Flickr Creative Commons

On Wednesday March 16, 2016, Barack Obama named Judge Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court of the United States of America (SCOTUS). The nomination came after a month of nail biting by Democrats and whining and begging by Republicans who were both expecting the nomination process to be a political fist fight between the parties.

Journalists and self-proclaimed legal experts – myself included – threw out names left and right trying to predict who would be chosen to fill the late conservative Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat. Republican candidate and known racist misogynist Donald Trump begged the mostly Republican Senate to “delay, delay, delay,” in an attempt to make sure Obama wouldn’t pick a liberal judge to fill the vacancy. Everyone was expecting Obama to choose a liberal minded justice from a visible minority.

President Obama surprised us all.

He chose to nominate Judge Merrick Garland, Chief Judge of the DC Circuit Court of Appeals.

From a superficial perspective, Garland is everything even the most backward uneducated racist Republican could hope for. He’s visibly white, male, and he’s old – sixty-three years old to be exact. He’s got silver hair, glasses, and in an age where business attire is becoming more casual, he wears a suit and tie and looks comfortable and polished in both.

Politically, he should be a Republican’s dream, because he’s not that liberal. Most sources on Garland identify him as a moderate, an old-school idealist who dropped a very lucrative career with Arnold & Porter, one of the most respected law firms in the US, to become a public prosecutor. When asked why he did it, Garland said that as a prosecutor you don’t have to take every case; you make your best judgment and “only go forward if you believe the defendant is guilty.”

Garland’s CV is nothing short of impressive.

He worked for the Justice Department during the Carter Administration and after a brief stint in private practice, returned to the Department at age forty as a top official in the Criminal Division of the Clinton Administration. He eventually became second in command to the Deputy Attorney General as a key member of Janet Reno’s team.

He’s got tons of experience in anti-terrorism and was the chief investigator in the Oklahoma City bombing case. He has a history of breaking with liberal judges and fits the career pattern of most of the current justices of the Supreme Court.

If staunch conservative Republicans have any doubts about Garland, they need only look at the fact that Republican Senator Orrin Hatch of Utah – a man who is anti-abortion and voted against adding sexual orientation to the legal definition of hate crimes – once called Judge Garland “a fine man.”

In spite of this, Republicans seem determined to keep Judge Garland off the Supreme Court. They are currently refusing to confirm the nomination, prompting the Obama Administration to create the social media hashtag #DoYourJob.

The reason for the block may surprise you.

It’s not because Garland is Jewish. Even the staunchest racists tend to trust Jewish lawyers and judges.

It’s not just because Obama likes him. Despite what the media will have us believe, Republicans and Democrats can be friends and even agree on something once in a while.

It’s not just because the President of Planned Parenthood Cecile Richards said Judge Garland seems like a “responsible and qualified nominee.”

The most likely reason Republicans are shunning Garland is a judicial decision he published last July regarding a federal ban on federal contractors making federal campaign contributions. In Wendy E. Wagner et al v. The Federal Election Commission, Judge Garland maintained the ban and refused the appeal, which had been argued on First Amendment grounds and on the basis of equality rights.

The First Amendment of the US Constitution guarantees freedom of speech, religion, and the press. In the opening paragraph of the decision, Judge Garland stated that the concerns that prompted the ban – concerns regarding corruption – “remain as important today as when the statute was enacted.”

This undoubtedly hit a nerve with Republicans who rely on contributions from a variety of sources – many with vested interests in policy-making – to fund expensive political campaigns. The nerve is especially raw in this circus the US calls an election year.

The only Republican presidential candidate to show any pragmatism about the nomination is John Kasich, the current governor of Ohio. He criticized the Republican Senate’s arbitrary block of Judge Garland, saying that the Senate should at least meet the guy before deciding one way or the other. Kasich even went insofar as to say that he might name Garland to SCOTUS himself if elected president, a statement he later withdrew undoubtedly after receiving a barrage of criticism from fellow Republicans for refusing to tow the party line.

Judge Garland is liked by just about everyone in Congress and the legal community, and those who don’t like him at the very least respect him. He’s everything a realistic Republican could want: white, male, not too young, not too liberal, and tough on crime and terrorism.

So what’s the holdup? It’s time the American people nag their Senators into doing what they are constitutionally mandated to do.

Their JOBS.

During the first Democratic Debate a few months ago, all the candidates were asked a rather simple question: “Black Lives Matter or All Lives Matter?” The moderator called on Bernie Sanders first and the Senator answered simply “Black Lives Matter” before addressing the issue of racial injustice in America.

While Hillary Clinton spoke of racism as well, she dodged the actual question, perhaps afraid to attach herself to a protest movement that mainstream white America wasn’t sure about. Sanders had no problem throwing his support behind Black Lives Matter that night and he still doesn’t.

On Thursday, his campaign released their latest ad, though you wouldn’t know it was a Sanders ad (aside from the logo in the bottom-right of the screen) for the first two minutes and 37 seconds of the 3 minute and 56 second spot. For most of the ad, Erica Garner talks about her daughter, fighting racism, her father Eric Garner who was murdered by police and her work with Black Lives Matter.

This is a very powerful and moving ad and one which flips the script on standard campaign advertising, making it more about the story of the person supporting the candidate than the politician. It is also rather slick and clearly professionally produced. This ad wasn’t made on the cheap.

It has now become clear that the hefty amount of small donations pouring into the Sanders campaign are being put to good use. Even if Bernie doesn’t become president or even win the Democratic nomination (though I really hope he does both), he is helping to spread the Black Lives Matter message in a way that only a well-funded presidential campaign can.

Bernie is putting the issues and the message first. Maybe that’s why Garner says in the video “I think Bernie is a protester.”

So, almost two years and four billion dollars later and it looks like nothing is going to change in the senate, house and presidency, but that’s only what we see on the surface. Many see the results of Tuesday’s election as a shift toward liberalism. True or not, Republicans must feel like they just left the doctor’s office after a prostate exam. Well, at least they no longer have to pay for it.

President Barack Obama won re-election despite mass voter suppression attempts in Ohio, Florida and elsewhere. He won in the face of a vast amount of money being dumped into Republican Super-PACs and he won in spite of some of his own failings. It wasn’t easy to be sure.

Not only did Democrats also win a greater majority of seats in the Senate, they were able to replace old retiring centrists with fairly progressive fresh blood. Consumer advocate Elizabeth Warren won her seat in one of the most expensive senate races in history and is the first ever female senator from Massachusetts. Tammy Baldwin won her Senate seat in Wisconsin becoming the first openly gay Senator in American history.

Americans rejected some of the more extremist candidates, namely Todd Akin & Richard Mourdock, better known in media circles as “the rape guys.” It turns out Akin got legitimately raped at the polls by Claire McCaskill and Richard Mourdock’s loss was something God intended.

Senator Elizabeth Warren

The Democrats clearly have some big liberal names going to Washington, but that’s not necessarily what made the evening a progressive triumph. The state ballot initiatives are what made the night truly progressive.

The states of Washington and Colorado both voted to legalize marijuana for sales and consumption. The first states to do so since pot was criminalized in the early 20th century. This will be a little tricky given that marijuana is still illegal at the federal level; we’ll have to see if Obama will continue his crack down now that he won’t face re-election again.

Three states approved gay marriage: Maine, Washington and Maryland while Minnesota refused to ban it. 75 per cent of voters in Colorado and Montana decided in favor of resolutions calling for a constitutional amendment to overturn the ruling of “Citizens United” and end corporate personhood. Californians voted to raise taxes and to modify the “Three Strikes” law, but in my opinion got it wrong when they refused to ban the death penalty and refused to label Genetically Engineered Food. No one’s perfect, I guess.

With all these progressive strides, everyone has been asking if America is turning toward the left. That’s a hard question to answer so I’d have to say both yes and no. It’s possible that Americans re-elected Obama because the liberal winds are blowing in that direction, it’s also possible they just rejected Romney for never clarifying his plans or making up his mind. Either way, both candidates were only about 2 per cent apart.

Voters did reject some of the more extremist tea party candidates, but that doesn’t signal a leftward shift. In some races, Republican candidates were so far to the right that electing Ronald Reagan would have seemed like a progressive victory.

The country as a whole isn’t changing much from what I can see. Blue states are still blue and the red are still red, the swing states have been staying blue lately, but that can change. The country in my opinion, is still partisan and divided. I think the real progressive changes we saw the other night occurred more at the state level than at the national level, in other words the liberal states are simply becoming more liberal. I don’t think gay marriage or drug legalization will be accepted in Alabama or Texas any time soon.

I don’t expect Republicans to start moving toward the centre anytime soon in response to their loss. In fact, many tea party members are blaming Romney’s loss on his fake conservatism. I don’t expect Obama to start governing more to the left either, although I feel he has a mandate to do so. An election where you get more than 50 per cent of the vote is a mandate in any democracy.

If Obama ends up compromising with Republicans more than he should, it could impede his ability to strengthen the economy, lower the deficit and tackle global warming. Not only could this tarnish his legacy, but it’ll play right into Republican hands and these progressive baby steps that were taken might be forgotten.

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Finally! No more debates, no more television advertisements, no more writing articles on the lunacy of the American electoral system… Yeah, right.

In less than 10 days Americans will head to the polls to decide once and for all who they want to be led by: Mitt Romney and his cohorts of the 1 percent or centrist President Barack Obama.

If the polls are to be believed (and they shouldn’t), the political landscape the day after the election will probably look similar to the day before, and things will likely carry on much as it has for the past four years. However, there are some variables that these polls don’t take into account, and I don’t just mean the weather.

For instance, millions of people left without a voice will surely make an impact and no one knows just how effective the voter suppression laws introduced by state Republicans will play out. With the polls already being fairly tight, these new factors bring an unprecedented amount of uncertainty. So I’m not going to guess what will happen, but I will discuss the insane possibilities.

2000 Revisited

Everyone remembers what happened in 2000 when Governor Jeb Bush and his secretary of state Katherine Harris disenfranchised tens of thousands of black voters in Florida. It created a tight race that would eventually be decided by the Supreme Court stopping the ensuing recount which meant that Jeb’s brother George had won by a few hundred votes.

This time around the same scenario is conceivable; Florida again has a Republican governor (Rick Scott) dedicated to suppressing the minority vote and the Supreme Court still leans to the right. The big difference in 2012 lies in the amount of swing states trying to mirror the sunshine state. Who knows whether Florida or another state taking similar steps might be the epicenter.

Strange Bedfellows

Romney/Biden 2012?

In order to win the presidency, a candidate requires 270 electoral college votes, in other words, half plus one of the 538 available. Given the close race, it is conceivable, however unlikely, that neither candidate will acquire the magic number. Given the political landscape, it is thinkable that the candidates could end up tied at 269 each.

In the event of a tie, the presidency is decided by the House of Representatives. The house which is currently controlled by the Republicans and is expected to retain their majority after November 6th would therefore name Mitt Romney as president.

The Senate which is currently controlled by Democrats would be tasked with naming the vice-president. Assuming the Senate retains their Democratic majority, Joe Biden would become Mitt Romney’s vice-president. Stranger still, if the Senate ends up going 50/50, Joe Biden as the current vice-president would be the deciding vote to re-elect himself for the position.

Recipe for Hate

One of the more frightening scenarios I can see unfolding (other than the Republicans controlling everything) would be Barack Obama getting re-elected by receiving the most electoral votes and Mitt Romney winning the popular vote.

This would follow in the footsteps of the 2000 election where Bush became president even though Gore received more individual votes. Democrats weren’t happy, but they never overreacted, imagine for a second what would happen if history repeated itself for the other side.

The extremist wing of the GOP with the help of their conservative pundits and television network would instantly brand Obama as an illegitimate president. If you think that’s far-fetched, just look at the lengths they’ve gone to about his place of birth and religion.

Hannity, Beck & Limbaugh

Although a certain percentage of Republicans have believed in Obama’s illegitimacy for years, it wouldn’t take much to convince the rest of the conservative base that Obama is a false leader who actually lost to Romney. The hate would build up so fast with every comment out of Limbaugh, Beck or Fox News’s mouth to the point where gun-toting lunatics everywhere might decide to right the wrong themselves and do something drastic… again.

Whatever happens on evening of Nov. 6 I will be expecting the unexpected. Strange things always seem to happen in a close race. Still, I’m sure none of these preposterous scenarios will come to fruition. Obama will get re-elected with majorities in the Senate and the House and every American will live happily ever after… until November 7th.

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Political debates highlight disputed opinions between politicians. These opinions can range in topic from social issues, to economics, to foreign policy. Debates are routinely used by candidates to try and sway the undecided voters to cast their ballet for them. Undecided voters typically avoid paying attention to politics and are therefore uninformed and susceptible to the media’s influence. In close elections this makes the debates all that more important.

Debates haven’t changed much through the decades; the only difference I would say is the way we judge the winner—and it has little to do with policy. In the eyes of the corporate media, the winner isn’t the man who best articulates his views, just as the loser isn’t the guy who’s proven wrong (no one is ever proven wrong!).

During the first presidential debate a couple weeks ago, Mitt Romney brought his “A game” by doing what every good businessman does: he told everyone what they wanted to hear. Romney changed his views, even outright lied at times in order to appeal to a more broad audience, a tactic Obama didn’t call him out on till the day after.

If you watched mainstream media immediately after the debate, Romney didn’t win because he lied or changed positions more than actors in a porn movie, he won simply by coming out strong and aggressive whereas President Obama was laid back and calm. Through the eyes of the media, it didn’t seem to matter what came out of their mouths.

By instantly declaring Romney the winner and ignoring the untruths that he spewed, the news media made up the minds of the undecided voters instead of letting the people decide for themselves; the result was a huge boost in the polls for Romney. I’ll admit Obama didn’t help himself, but when your opponent changes face as much as he did, I may have sat there dumbfounded myself.

Fast forward a little to last week’s vice-presidential debate between Joe Biden and Paul Ryan. The roles were reversed as Biden was the candidate who came out aggressive, confident and with a smile. Was Joe declared the winner just like Romney the week before? Depends who you ask, MSNBC said yes, Fox News said no and everyone in between couldn’t decide. With the opinion of the winner split down the middle, the poll numbers didn’t move.

I remember last year during the Canadian general election, the corporate Canadian media claimed before the debate began that all Prime Minister Stephen Harper had to do to win was stay on message (as if that’s hard to do). Sure enough he did and the press immediately declared him the victor.

However, the boost in the polls didn’t come Harper’s way; instead it went to Jack Layton especially in the province of Quebec thanks to his mixture of policies and humor. It forced the media to change its “ruling” days later. Whether this happened because the Canadian people saw through the bullshit of the press is debatable itself. After all, Quebecers were the ones who fell in love with Layton, possibly thanks to the French media who probably described the debate differently.

As I said, undecided voters aren’t informed. If they were, chances are they’d have chosen a side by now. Unfortunately with the partisan 24/7 news stations and the slightly more free mainstream media dictating to us what they think, it’s virtually impossible to come to a self-determining conclusion with the right information.

The age of information didn’t just bring us the internet, smartphones and 24-hour news, it also brought with it a new age of corporate propaganda and partisan reporting. The only advice I can give to the independent voter is to do your own research and determine for yourself who the best candidate is. This day and age we shouldn’t need farcical debates to define a winner.

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Leave it to a secret recording of Mitt Romney giving a speech to wealthy donors to teach us more about the man behind the Etch-a-Sketch. If what he said is to be believed as genuine thought then I’d have to say the leaders of the Republican Party haven’t grown in intelligence since George W.

First off, in the speech recorded secretly at a $50,000 a plate Florida fundraiser back in May he said “There are 47 percent who are with him (Obama), who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”

He wasn’t done; “Forty-seven percent of Americans pay no income tax. So our message of low taxes doesn’t connect. And he’ll be out there talking about tax cuts for the rich. I mean that’s what they sell every four years. And so my job is not to worry about those people.”

Romney doesn’t seem to understand two things; first, everyone pays taxes. The 47% he mentions has been a conservative pundit talking point for years, but it cloaks the real truth. Close to 2/3 of the 47% pay a pay-roll tax. A family of five making fifty grand a year only pays this pay-roll tax and its percentage is usually higher than Mitt’s capital gain tax. The other 1/3 is made up of senior citizens or the disabled collecting social security and those whose income is below $20,000/year.

Second, and I wonder if Romney realizes this, but the States where people are disproportionally dependent on the government for handouts and “don’t pay taxes” are all Republican controlled States with only one exception (Idaho). That’s right; Romney is insulting the very base of his supporters, lucky for him most of these voters are uneducated, uninformed or too religious to vote for a democrat. Republicans have a history of getting people to vote against their interests going back to Nixon.

The second item in Romney’s speech that caught my ear was his little tale about his trip to a Chinese factory back in the nineties. He talks about the factory having one little bathroom at the end with maybe ten bedrooms. The rooms had 12 girls each with three bunk beds on top of each other. Around the factory was a huge fence with barbed wire, and guard towers.

Romney said “Gosh, I can’t believe that you, you know, you keep these girls in.” The tour guide said that the barbed wire and guard towers were there to keep other workers out and Romney bought it. The guide also told Romney that the girls leave during the Chinese New Year and some save up enough money so that they don’t come back. It never occurred to him that the New Year is the only time they’re permitted to leave and they don’t come back because they don’t like working with a gun in their back for a dollar a day.

Regardless, if you’re as gullible as Romney or if you’d prefer to take the guide at his word, the point to this lies on Romney’s appreciation of the situation. No one knows if Mitt purchased this particular factory, but it appears as though the visit inspired him to buy one just like it while at Bain Capital. Romney told this story to explain a comment he made that “95 percent of life is set up for you if you’re born in this country (the US)”, born with a silver spoon that is.

The last thing I should mention about the speech is Romney’s almost unthinkable prospects for Middle East peace. He said “I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel”. That might be true, perhaps if he were talking about Iran or Hamas, but the majority of Palestinians want peace as much as most Israelis, they want security as much as Israelis, they want a country like Israelis and have for decades.

What kind of potential leader of the free world goes and dismisses the prospects for peace and just hopes that something good happens? Are you fucking kidding me? What leadership! He then goes on to say “the only answer is to show your strength. Again, American strength, American resolve, as the Palestinians someday reach the point where they want peace more than we’re trying to push peace on them”

Say what you want about Palestinian ideology, politics or tactics, the only way America or Israel has pushed peace on them is by imprisoning their citizens, dropping bombs and by blockading, annexing and occupying their land for 45 years. How much more does the US & Israel have to “push”?

Well there you have it, but what do you expect from a man so ignorant and out of touch that he believes that the average middle class family earns $250,000 a year. Romney was mocked during the primaries as someone likened him to an Etch-a-Sketch for his flip-flopping nature, a contrast that has since faded. I believe that the Etch-a-Sketch label is still a valid comparison, the only difference being that the Etch-a-Sketch is permanently erased.

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Every American general election that has taken place in my life time has come down to a choice between the lesser of two evils. Despite the first African American President’s several accomplishments, Barack Obama’s first administration has turned out to be more hype than hope.

Last week during the Democratic National Convention, Democrats made great speeches about Obama’s endeavors of the last four years and managed to belittle the Republican platform at the same time. While some of his accomplishments were significant, his shortcomings were just as important and obviously went without mention at the Convention.

Bush Uninterrupted

My first major disappointment with Barack Obama came shortly after he was elected when he said he would not pursue criminal charges or turn over the previous administration to the International Criminal Court in The Hague. Obama appealed to the American people to leave the past in the past and instead look to the future.

Obama’s inaction has consequences greater than just letting warmongers and advocates of torture roam free, he paved the way for future presidents to do the same and get away with it. Mitt Romney’s foreign policy team is largely made up of the same chicken hawks that pushed for President George W. Bush to go to war with Iraq and supported the use of torture.

Gitmo Blues

Barack Obama promised to close the national embarrassment known as the Guantanamo Bay detention camp, but failed to do so. As many as 775 detainees have had a stay at the military prison base in the last decade.

Most have never been charged with a crime, many have been subjected to torture and there is no telling how much longer the remaining 170 men will have to wait to have their fate decided. The unlawful detention and torture of potentially innocent men should not exist in a land that claims to hold civil rights in such high regard.

Corporate Healthcare

Obama’s Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act might one day prove to be his biggest achievement, but only if it eventually leads to actual Universal Healthcare. Obamacare might protect millions of Americans who previously went without health insurance, but it benefits the middle men (the insurance companies) who will always put money ahead of their client’s wellbeing regardless of the law. Furthermore, the bill still leaves ten to twenty million Americans without any kind of coverage at all.

The failure here comes from the President’s inability to convince some Democrats to support universal health care. Obama enjoyed a majority in the House and Senate during his first two years in office, but could not use it to his advantage. Many of the president’s colleagues argued that they risked losing the next election if the supported national healthcare and Obama failed to convince them otherwise. In the end, many Democrat Representatives lost their seats in 2010 midterms anyway.

Drug War without End

The forty year old war on drugs has continued unabated under the Obama administration, in some ways it has even escalated. Innocent Mexicans continue to die in the thousands at the hands of drug cartels armed with American made weapons, countless Americans rot in prison without committing a real crime while the bankers who launder the money rarely get punished. It has gotten so bad that California now spends more on prisons than higher education.

Obama has done nothing new concerning the war on drugs apart from going after the legal medical marijuana shops. Lately the President has said he would be ready to re-examine the drug war during his second term, but expressed an unwillingness to even legalize or decriminalize pot, leading me to believe he’s all talk.

The Great Divergence

Thirty years of trickle-down economics, deregulation and free trade (among other things) has left the biggest wealth gap between the rich and poor since the 1920’s. Obviously, no president can repair the damage that’s been done to the middle class in only one term, but in this respect Obama is talking the talk more than walking the walk.

Fixing this problem will require years of planning, dialog, ideas and international cooperation, just to name a few. So far all we’ve seen through the President’s office is record corporate profits, continued Wall Street gambling and a stimulus package that contained mainly tax cuts.

Barack embraced the occupy movement of last autumn promising to do what he can to improve the ever increasing wealth gap, but an undertaking such as this is much more complicated than simply raising taxes a couple of percentage points now that we all partake in the global economy.

Assuming he’s re-elected, if Obama wants to be remembered as the man who ended the great recession or the man that ushered in a new age of equality, his second term better not look like his first….

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Most people would agree that finding a politician who lies is as easy as coming across a man who pays taxes. After all, politicians are normally bred in a law school and/or business school and taught how to win regardless of how. But while a legislator who lies isn’t all that new, the method and rate of how they fib has changed in the last dozen years.

With exceptions such as Nixon, Bush Jr. or Clinton who each told a real whopper, lying in politics used to be reserved for incumbents who simply went back on their campaign promises. This election cycle, rather than lying about their own policies, the focus appears to be lying about the other candidate. Nowhere was this more evident than at last week’s RNC.

Before the Republican National Convention started, GOP pollster Neil Newhouse told an ABC News forum in Tampa that “We’re not going let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.” Newhouse was referring to a Mitt Romney ad that claimed Barack Obama had “gutted” work requirements for welfare recipients. Obama had simply given that option to certain States that had asked for more control.

So with the stage set, the Republicans wasted no time dedicating a whole night to “We Built This”, taken from a completely out of contex Obama quote. That same night New Jersey Governor Chris Christie said during his keynote address that “we choose respect over love” meaning Americans wanted the truth rather than political pandering. He then went on to say “We have a nominee who will tell us the truth and who will lead with conviction. And now he has a running mate who will do the same”. Less than twenty-four hours later, Christie was made a liar.

The night after the New Jersey Governor spoke those words, said running mate Paul Ryan gave his Vice Presidential acceptance speech. Now, I’ve heard politicians of all shapes and sizes stretch the truth from time to time, but I’ve never heard so much nonsense come out of a single speech. Here is but a sample:

• He blamed the nation’s credit downgrade last summer on Obama even though the agency specifically blamed Republicans for refusing to accept any kind of further tax revenue.

• He said Obama had added more to the national debt than all former presidents put together. Although Obama inherited an annual debt of $1.2 trillion from Bush, the debt has risen by one third making Ryan’s claim impossible.

• Ryan claimed that Obama had broken a campaign promise to save a GM plant in Wisconsin, not only did Obama make no promise, but the plant closed during Bush’s term.

• He accused Obama of doing nothing with the creation of Bowles-Simpson (National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform). Ryan actually led republicans to vote against the plan.

• Ryan also mentioned that Obama had cut $716 billion from Medicare. Obama simply eliminated inefficiencies that were no longer required thanks to the affordable care act. Ryan’s own budget called for the same cuts.

Notice these are all falsehoods about Obama. It’s as if political speech has become an offshoot of television attack ads where making the other guy look bad is more important than making yourself look good.

Paul Ryan’s speech was actually covered half decently in the corporate media; at least once they got their facts straight, even Fox “so-called” News had a couple commentators state that his speech was full of lies.

Mitt Romney for his part did mention a couple of these fabrications during his acceptance speech the following night, but mainly stood clear of talking about anything. He failed to mention climate change, immigration, Afghanistan, social security or financial reform.

It seems even in the information age, the Republican Party is practicing “proof by assertion”, where if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth. What’s scarier than the Republicans adopting a strategy used by Adolf Hitler’s Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels is that it just might work; Republicans know that a good part of the electorate are uneducated or uninformed and don’t pursue the facts.

I’m curious to see if this strategy continues in the coming months. I’m equally curious to see if the Obama campaign adopts a similar approach should they start to fall behind in the polls. If this is to be the new way campaigns are run, the people will have to get informed even more than since their word will mean even less than it did before.

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This past Saturday, presumptive Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney selected Congressman Paul Ryan as his choice for vice-president. Two weeks before the Republican national convention, Romney hopes that his selection will reset his campaign and refocus attention on the economy rather than the tax returns he refuses to make public.

Mitt’s choice of Ryan was well received among Republicans and Democrats alike. Ryan was the author of the now infamous “Ryan Budget” that took great steps to shrink the size of the national government, provide tax cuts that disproportionally favors the wealthy, and defunds various social programs—it’s no wonder Republicans love him.

Democrats on the other hand see this as an opportunity to point out the vast differences between the two parties. President Obama will be able to expose the Republican plan for what it is: an all-out assault on the poor and middle class.

You see, Paul Ryan is first and foremost a libertarian who hailed Ayn Rand as his hero and mentor saying “The reason I got involved in public service, by and large, if I had to credit one thinker, one person, it would be Ayn Rand.”

Rand was a 20th century libertarian author (and prophet to some) who centered on the idea that selfishness is a “virtue”. She described altruism as “evil,” and condemned Christianity for sympathizing with the poor. Ryan was forced to distance himself somewhat from her philosophy in 2012 (Republicans don’t mix well with atheists), but the influence can’t be so easily washed away.

The corporate media is already calling the 2012 election a clash of ideologies regarding the government’s role in society. The republicans prefer low taxes and few social programs, small government, but one that is friendly toward business. Democrats by comparison are… also friendly towards business, but at least they still recognize the plight of the poor. The Republican ticket seems to consist of a very wealthy businessman and a man who wants to make him wealthier.

Paul Ryan’s controversial budget raises taxes on the poorest of Americans while lowering them on the richest, it would also end Medicare and replace it with a voucher system. Ryan wants to eliminate Pell Grants for more than 1 million poor students, privatize social security which he characterizes as a “ponzi scheme” and, of course, repeal Obamacare. Unless you’re a rich man, you stand to lose.

Like most politicians these days, Paul Ryan was bought a long time ago by the energy industry. He’s received $65,000 from the Koch Brothers alone, $432,181 from natural resource companies which includes close to $250,000 from oil and gas. It’s no surprise then that the congressman has rejected the effects of climate change. It should also come as no surprise that his budget would retain a decade’s worth of oil tax breaks worth $40 billion (small government indeed).

Since the coming of Reaganomics over thirty years ago, the wealthy in the United States have never had it so good, but that doesn’t mean team Romney don’t want to try and make it even better. But for those who think putting a businessman in charge will miraculously repair the economy, consider this: there have only been two successful businessmen in the last hundred years to be elected president; the first being Herbert Hoover and the other being George W. Bush. The first one had the Great Depression start under his watch, the other brought on the Great Recession.

During the occupy movement last year, the 99%’s slogan that referred to the greed of the banking industry was “Never have so many been screwed by so few”. If Romney manages to win the White House, those words will merit repeating.

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*Photo under Creative Commons license. 

“The single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president”. Those words were spoken a couple years ago by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. It was a sentiment that Republicans at the national and state level, along with corporations, business owners and Supreme Court Justices put into action even before those words were spoken.

For starters, Republicans who are the minority in the Senate have all but changed the system. The majority used to rule in the hundred member senate, whichever party got fifty votes plus one (the tie breaker belonging to the Vice-President) won the vote.

Today Republicans in the senate have made the filibuster a part of their culture, forcing Democrats to need a three-fifths majority or sixty votes. Republicans have used this tactic to block important job bills from being passed and have done so repeatedly.

With the help of majority Republicans in the House of Representatives doing likewise, it’s been said that Republicans are purposely bringing down the economy to prevent Obama’s re-election. According to McConnell’s statement, it is more important than helping the people who elect them.

In 2010, the conservative leaning Supreme Court ruled in favour of the conservative non-profit organization Citizens United. The landmark ruling said that the First Amendment prohibited the government from limiting independent political expenditures by corporations and unions. In other words, money is equal to free speech.

When it comes to corporations and unions, it should come as no surprise as to who each is allied with and which has more funds to spend. If the recall election in Wisconsin was any indication, the era of the Super PAC gives Republicans a huge advantage. Scott Walker in Wisconsin outspent his Democratic rival nearly 8-1, mostly from cash outside the state.

In support of Republican nominee Mitt Romney, billionaire Sheldon Adelson has already spent $35 million of his own money and plans to spend over a $100 million before the election. Adelson is but one man; the billionaire Koch Brothers will spend even more.

So while conservatives are donating tens of millions at a time, Obama is forced to fundraise instead of leading his country. In fact, Obama has already held more fundraisers than the last six sitting presidents combined and he is still behind.

Most might think that blocking job creation bills and outspending their opponents by wide margins is enough for Republicans to reclaim their throne. Just in case, State Republicans have been playing their trump card across the country (and I don’t mean The Donald).

Paul Weyrich

The founder of the American Legislative Exchange Counsel (ALEC) and conservative activist Paul Weyrich once said: “I don’t want everybody to vote. Elections are not won by a majority of the people. As a matter of fact, our leverage in the elections quite candidly goes up as the voting populace goes down”

Weyrich may be deceased, but the words he spoke over thirty years ago have been put into action by ALEC and has resulted in new voting laws being adopted in at least a dozen Republican controlled state legislatures.

Hundreds of thousands of potentially legal citizens are being purged from the voting rolls in places like Florida and Texas. Other states have mandated new voter IDs, barred convicted and previously convicted felons from voting, cut down voting periods, etc.

These conservative measures don’t amount to a conspiracy, it’s wide open for everyone to see. The problem is for people to see it, the corporate news media would have to report it. I’m not just talking about Fox so-called News who would prefer to add fuel to the Republican fire; I’m talking about the other networks that used to keep the two political parties in check. The fact is they’re too scared to lose out on the billions of Super PAC advertising dollars that’ll be coming in.

With the odds increasingly stacked against him, Obama is going to have to resort to old fashioned politics. I believe his chances are going to rest on his ideas and his ability to articulate them. Sadly, that might not be enough.

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A little over a decade ago, George W. Bush with help from the Supreme Court became the 43rd President of the United States. He won by winning the hotly contested swing state of Florida, a state he won by a mere 537 votes.

Back in the year 2000, over 12 000 eligible voters were purged from the voting rolls as they were wrongly identified as being convicted felons. 41% of those purged were African American even though they represent only 11% of the population. It just so happens that African Americans in Florida that did vote favoured Bush’s opponent Al Gore by more than 80%.

Fast-forward twelve years and we are now seeing not a replay, but a more hardened stance against the right to vote in Florida. Despite warnings from the Department of Justice, Florida Governor Rick Scott has vowed to continue the purge of up to 182 000 eligible voters.

Scott justifies the purge as necessary in order to stop tens of thousands of illegal immigrants from voting this coming November. However, the purge list is ripe with errors and inaccuracies and targets Latinos and other minorities disproportionately.

In early May, the State sent out 2600 letters to Florida residents informing them that they are not a United States citizen, but are registered to vote. If recipients of these letters do not reply within thirty days and confirm their U.S. citizenship, they will be dropped from the voter rolls.

Although the number could be much higher, Think Progress noted that “an excess of 20 percent of the voters flagged as ‘non-citizens’ in Miami-Dade are, in fact, citizens.” If the purge list is off by 20%, that means that a minimum of 35 000 legal voters will be turned away in November.

The recipients of one of these letters just happened to be a 91 year old World War II vet who fought in the Battle of the Bulge. Just imagine fighting for your country in the bloodiest of wars, then being told years later that you’re not a citizen.

Governor Rick Scott started this latest round of voter suppression last year by banning ex-convicts from voting (a rule that had been rescinded in 2008) and by shortening the early vote period. However, Scott has not been acting alone; he has been financed by the Koch brothers and ALEC, who until recently implemented voter suppression laws across the country.

Florida is just one of a dozen states that have approved new obstacles to voting in the past year:

• Kansas and Alabama now require voters to provide proof of citizenship before registering.
• Maine repealed Election Day voter registration.
• Georgia, Ohio, Tennessee, West Virginia and Florida cut short their early voting periods.
• Iowa and Florida barred all ex-felons from the polls.
• Alabama, Kansas, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin will require voters to produce a government-issued ID before casting ballots (all six of these states are Republican controlled).

When Bush was President, he spent over $75 000 000 to investigate voter fraud in the United States. In the end, they established that fraud was virtually non-existent. They found the only two types of fraud taking place were by ex-felons who voted not knowing they were ineligible to vote in their State. The other was by people like Mitt Romney who claim residency in one state, but actually live in another.

Immigrants are just a smokescreen that Florida Republicans are using to increase their chances in the general election. The fact is, illegal immigrants don’t vote, they don’t even register. No illegal alien is stupid enough to put their name on a government document; the risk of getting caught and later deported is simply too high.

Every state that has passed an ALEC model anti-voting bill has done so with the intention of repeating the fiasco of the 2000 election. Of course, this time around when the votes have been counted, Republicans won’t need to rely on the Supreme Court.

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Let Detroit Go Bankrupt

That was the headline of Mitt Romney’s 2008 New York Times article describing his views on the then-troubled American auto industry. “If General Motors, Ford and Chrysler get the bailout that their chief executives asked for yesterday, you can kiss the American automotive industry goodbye.”

Romney spoke of an industry that has rebounded as of late thanks to that 2009 government bailout. A bailout that allowed General Motors this week to post record profits, pay large bonuses to its factory workers and edge out Toyota to regain the title of the world’s biggest auto maker.

With Michigan’s presidential primary fast approaching on Feb. 28, Romney chose to double down on his stance that the bailout was bad for Detroit. This despite the fact in 2008, Mitt Romney (forever the flip-flopper) campaigned for president in Michigan decrying Washington’s disregard for lost auto industry jobs.

The bailout, as expensive as it was at the time ($81 Billion), helped to save over one million middle class jobs at a time when the economy was tanking hard. It also reorganized and spared at least two (possibly three) huge corporations from bankruptcy, the same companies who have repaid most of what they received and are now posting profits again. Let’s also not forget the people of those million plus jobs continue to pay taxes instead of receiving unemployment or welfare.

Romney (along with Santorum and most of the right wing) has said that GM and Chrysler should have gone through a “traditional” Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Economists at the time, however, explained that frozen credit markets thanks to the financial crisis made private financing for a traditional bankruptcy impossible. Chapter 11 would have rapidly turned into chapter 7, resulting in a mass liquidation of the auto industries’ assets and permanent shutdown.

The government-led reorganization of GM and Chrysler LLC led to a government stake in GM that now stands at a 26.5 percent share. Romney this past week called on the government to sell its remaining shares saying “the shares need to be sold in a responsible fashion and the proceeds turned over to the nation’s taxpayers.” What Romney neglected to tell people was that if the shares were to be sold tomorrow, it would result in a $14 billion shortfall to the taxpayer. The value of GM stock has only begun to rise again.

Mitt Romney’s critical stance on the automotive bailout will not be reflected in the Michigan Primary results, not much anyway. Romney, Santorum, Gingrich and especially Ron Paul believe in laissez-faire capitalism and would all have been happy to sit back and watch the auto industry collapse. Therefore it is obvious that the primary will not be decided on this issue.

Conversely, we have the General Election in November. Conservatives look at Obama’s bailout as pandering to his union base (the UAW actually gave up thousands of jobs and billions in benefits) while Democrats and economists have called it simple common sense or at least a necessary evil.

Whether Romney becomes the nominee or it goes to one of his party rivals, Republicans are shooting themselves in the foot with their ideology of anti-government involvement in a swing state that has clearly benefited from the now-successful government bailouts. Unless Barack Obama commits some kind of political suicide, I believe Michigan will be painted blue come November.

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It may seem like a joke at first: a magnet for controversy who comes across as vulgar and trashy every chance they get running for the highest office in the land. But enough about Newt Gingrich. Roseanne Barr is the real deal.

Barr, the former TV star, now author, fierce tweeter and even more fierce Occupy supporter, announced her intention to run for the Green Party nomination to be their candidate for President of the United States. That’s the same Green Party who proposed Ralph Nader and Cynthia McKinney to the American public as an alternative to the “two” party system.

Now this doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re going to see her debating Obama and (insert walking wealthy or neo-con stereotyped Republican candidate here). The Green Party doesn’t always meet the requirements imposed by the networks to be included in the televised debates, and even if they do this time, there is another strong candidate in the field, Jill Stein, whom Barr would support if she doesn’t get the Greens’ nod herself.

But let’s say, for argument’s sake, that Barr wins the nomination. Her celebrity may just be enough to allow the Greens to qualify for the main televised stage. If it does, then we’d have a situation that would be interesting, entertaining and possibly comical at times but by no means a joke.

Yes, she’s a performer, but so was Regan. And let’s face it, in the US, the top political job has been all about performance and image for a while now. The real power and decision-making comes from the people the President chooses to surround themselves with.

For Obama, that meant people like Wall Street insider Timothy Geitner, the same type of people who ruined the economy in the first place and increased the divide between rich and poor. Not sure who Barr would surround herself with, but if her interactions with producers in Hollywood back in the 90s are any indication, she doesn’t seem like someone accustomed to giving in to or even endorsing the views of the powers that be.

Will she take votes away from Obama and effectively elect a Republican? That, after all, is what some argue happened when Nader ran against Gore and Bush back in 2000. The answer, succinctly, is no.

Never mind that Gore actually won so many moons ago, the past is the past. The real base of inspired, mostly young and all progressive voters who came out in droves in 2008, hoping for some change may very well sit this one out.

Disillusioned with a political process that brought more of the same save for a few improvements, it’s easy to see how many may decide to focus their energies on dismantling the state rather than trying to improve it again. Those votes were probably not Obama’s to begin this time around.

Instead, if there is a third choice, one who speaks bluntly to all the people fed up with Washington and who calls bullshit when she sees it, those now opting to stay home (or go out and occupy instead of voting) may start paying attention to political discourse again. It would start with those on the left of the spectrum, but it’s quite possible that some people on the right who remember her TV show with the same fondness they now offer to Fox News will listen to what she has to say.

Barr would force Obama to defend himself to the left, and offer solid plans he couldn’t back away from instead of moderate, centrist pro-corporate talk dolled up with dove-like platitude-ridden rhetoric. When the Republican, say Romney, tried to use what the President said in response to Barr against him, maybe implying that he’s some sort of socialist, I imagine Barr would respond in such a bare-bones way that such rhetoric would no longer work.

The corporate powers-that-be would have no choice but to abandon the Republican and put their resources behind Obama, the only candidate with some chance of maintaining the power structure. If he is re-elected, though, he would have to live up to at least some of the promises he made to fend of attacks from Barr.

Or maybe, just maybe, Barr wins and then we have a whole new ballgame.