Death of Democracy

“What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account?”

-William Shakespeare, Macbeth

By Alan J. Yeck

While it is easiest to blame Trump and his supporters for yesterday’s occupation by rioters of the Capitol, we need to understand that this was just the most recent symptom of a much greater issue that has been going on for many administrations regardless of the party in power. It’s just the most recent symptom of our dying democracy.

This didn’t just happen yesterday, or even begin in 2016. A “government of the people, by the people, for the people” has not been the reality of our American political system for a long, long time – if it ever was true. Do not read this as condoning any of our current politicians or political parties because all have blood on their hands. Not one is without guilt. Are you?

We have allowed ourselves to be fooled by one side or the other for as long as I can remember, and in researching the history of our government, for as long as it’s been in existence. We choose to believe what this person says or what that media outlet reports. We choose to believe that our side is absolutely right and the other absolutely wrong. We choose to ignore those around us suffering from poor policies and social ignorance. We choose not to see the ultra-wealthy and powerful taking all they want while we fight each other for the scraps.

We not only choose these things, we choose to embrace them. When our voices are not heard by those who we entrust with our lives and the future of our children, there can only be anger and resentment. But the direction has been misplaced, intentionally planned, so we stand against each other; to be occupied at the lowest level instead of focusing on the roots of our problems – corruption and ownership of our government by corporate entities who have become the masters to those we vote for. The system which safeguards our democracy is broken and our elected officials are bought and paid in full to keep it that way. Biden’s presidency will not change this.

The two-party system has been protected by the two parties to ensure the power remains with them (corporations) and not the people. Over the last few years, I’ve heard both sides making statements to attack each other based on what the ‘founding fathers’ of our country thought – what their vision was for our country today. In all instances I felt their references were at best, contrived and based on absolutely no understanding of the history of our nation or our current problems. With that said, I’d like to share two quotes from those involved in the original fight against tyranny:

There is nothing I dread so much as the division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our constitution.”

-John Adams

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism.”

-George Washington

Just to make clear, “despotism” is when the people are oppressed by the absolute power and authority exerted by government. It was a warning from 200 years ago and we still haven’t listened though Rome burns. If ignorance is truly bliss then we are one bunch of happy fuckers.

There is much more to our government’s corruption that I’ll continue to address later, but my last thought is about Ashli Babbitt, the Air force veteran who was shot and killed by U.S. Capitol Police while climbing through a window. While I did not know her, I’m very sorry and sad for her family and all who loved her. I’m also sorry and sad for the officer that pulled the trigger that took her life. Both were committed to their beliefs and what they believed was their duty to do. What sickens me the most, however, is the reaction from the members of our congress – those that were in hiding – quick to speak to the cameras to tell how awful this was for our country. The truth? The truth is they are all responsible for Ms. Babbitt’s death.  All have her blood on their hands. Regardless of what you think of Trump or Pelosi or McConnel or Schumer, every member of congress and the senate has her blood on their hands.

Out, damned spot! out, I say!—One, two; why, then ‘tis time to do’t.—Hell is murky!—Fie, my lord, fie! a soldier, and afeard? What need we fear who knows it, when none can call our power to account?—Yet who would have thought the old man to have so much blood in him? The thane of Fife had a wife; where is she now?—What, will these hands ne’er be clean?—No more o’that, my lord, no more o’that: you mar all with this starting. Here’s the smell of the blood still: all the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand. Oh, oh, oh!”

-William Shakespeare, Macbeth

Supreme Court Endorsed Corruption – Citizens United v. FEC


From the “If No One is Around When Democracy Dies, Does it Make a Sound?” Part 4

Super PACs empower the wealthiest donors, and the expansion of dark money through shadowy nonprofits that don’t disclose their donors. On the other hand, we know those being elected are well aware of who is making their donations and what they expect in return. They don’t sell their souls – they sell ours.

“Citizens United.” Doesn’t that sound like a great group to be part of? Doesn’t it sound so American? Baseball, hotdogs, apple pie and Citizens United. Their logo, an eagle head with the red and white flag stripes behind it. Americans united together, working together to the benefit of the people. But it was the exact opposite – the name, intentionally chosen to sound all-American, to keep your defenses down, to let it slide by while it’s intent was nefarious and to the control and destruction of the very people who were fooled by it.

In 2010 there were two landmark decisions that paved the way for the corporate control of our political system; one by the federal appeals court in Washington, SpeechNow.org v. Federal Election Commission, and the other, the U.S. Supreme Court ,Citizen’s United v. Federal Election Commission. Both ruled that the government cannot disallow corporations and unions from making “independent expenditures” for political uses. The Citizens United ruling also struck down FECA’s complete ban on corporate and union independent spending, originally passed as part of the Taft-Hartley law in 1947.

Their insane reasoning? Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote that it would violate their First Amendment right of free speech to limit political spending from corporations. Their decision was based on a complete lack of any type of understanding of human nature, and specifically politicians and the dirty systems they work in. The majority of justices assumed (and you know what happens when we ass-u-me) that independent spending would be transparent and could not be corrupted. They said that by corporations and unions raising and using money for to support campaigns, that it “did not give rise to corruption or the appearance of corruption.”

(Uh, are you shitting me?) This essentially means that Pfizer Pharmaceutical is no different than you for campaign financing (except of course they have $50 billion more cash flow than you). Wait, wait, it gets better – Super PACs have no limit on donations so they can raise and spend unlimited amounts of money from individuals, corporations and unions to advocate for, or against candidates of their choice. Their goal is to influence the outcome of state and federal elections (to put their person in office, the person that will do what they tell them to do, the person that will vote how they tell them to vote).  Wait a minute…isn’t that the people’s job? It used to be but we’re only for appearance now…like the Queen (have you been practicing your wave?).  The dissenting opinion written by Justice John Paul Stevens stated, “At bottom, the Court’s opinion is thus a rejection of the common sense of the American people, who have recognized a need to prevent corporations from undermining self-government since the founding, and who have fought against the distinctive corrupting potential of corporate electioneering since the days of Theodore Roosevelt.” You don’t have to have a law degree or be a judge to understand that truth, and apparently even when you have those things it doesn’t give you anymore wisdom than the thug on the street.  

This is part 4 of the “Democracy Dies” series, covering the corruption surrounding PACS, SuperPACs, and how candidates pay for votes.

To read part 1, go to https://altraged.com/2020/10/23/if-no-one-is-around-does-democracy-make-a-sound-when-it-dies-part-1/

For part 2, go to https://altraged.com/2020/10/28/if-no-one-is-around-when-democracy-dies-does-it-make-a-sound-part-2/

For part 3, go to https://altraged.com/2020/11/12/what-are-pacs-and-superpacs/

If No One is Around, Does Democracy Make a Sound When it Dies? Part 1

(Part 1 of the Democracy Dies Series)

By Alan J. Yeck, Founder of AltRaged

Show me the money!

For many years I took American democracy completely for granted like the sun rising every morning. I viewed it as impenetrable from outside influence, unbreakable from internal conflicts and impervious to the passage of time. I believed, unwavering, that we were a system of government by the whole population. That my voice, your voice, their voice, all mattered in how we would govern, be governed, and the future of our country. That the words Abraham Lincoln spoke at Gettysburg, “…that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth,” explained and justified how so many could sacrifice their lives for this idea of democracy. I love my country and the ideals of justice, and equality and freedom that I believed we were about. All of this is so tightly woven through my very existence as veteran, father, son, and American that to try and separate it from the rest of myself would cause me to break into a thousand pieces. Well, more like a thousand shingles falling from my eyes – and they did.

Communism, fascism, terrorist, extremists, racists, war, depression…none of these can destroy our democracy. The greater the threats the stronger we become – when we see them, when we understand them, we fight them and have never, ever lost. Only democracy, specifically when its citizens are manipulated by its government, can destroy democracy and that’s exactly what is happening. Those we elect to represent us have not only failed to uphold their vows to our Constitution but they have perverted it against us.

Let’s start with the individual – you, me, aunt Fran. There’s an issue that you feel strongly about; immigration, firearm ownership, racial justice, planned parenthood, the arts, taxes, veterans, student loans, healthcare, affordable housing…(insert issue here). We take our thoughts, values, concerns, and needs to the people that we voted to represent us. We receive the automated response to our email, thanking us for contacting them. Sometimes we even receive a letter thanking us for contacting them and that they are working on our behalf for (insert issue here). Thank God we have Senator Shayla and Congressman Cal working hard on our behalf. But  it’s all a lie, a TV show, a bad game that we can never win. After we vote, we fall to the back of the line. There are only three things that matter in Congress; 1) money, 2) time in front of the TV cameras, and 3) money. If you’re not coming with a bag of cash, don’t waste your time. Unless it’s something that will embarrass them; if it’s something that would risk losing their power or money. Otherwise, we don’t matter.

Today’s Congress is probably the most corrupt in U.S. history with all those we elected, red and blue, actively participating in one way or the other (not fighting against corruption is participating in the corruption). This didn’t just happen, or happen with the last administration or the one before that, or the one before that…This series is a brief summary of campaign reform attempts and political action committees. There is much more, both depth and breadth, to be known about these but for our purposes now we will only be focusing on how they have facilitated, and accelerated bribery and corruption while hiding behind our current laws. I do urge you to do more research yourself. They are numerous, and sometimes complicated with plentiful law suits, court cases including the Supreme Court (questionable rulings).

Looking forward to sharing with all of you in the coming days and weeks. As always, should you want to share, please click on the “Submissions” page above and learn how you can contribute to AltRaged.

THE SKY IS FALLING IN HIGHER EDUCATION

But not the prices.

-Alan Yeck, Founder of AltRaged

Trigger Warning: Strong language; swear words

I read a recent opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal (https://on.wsj.com/3ndFknY) about another higher education scam. It may apply to every institution, but it’s not the exception.

Let’s start with this. There is no reason, other than fiscal negligence, for the absurd costs of a degree today. $40,000 for a bachelor’s degree at a state institution is insane and frankly, you’re insane for paying it. Move to the nonprofit, private, liberal arts sector and you can easily triple, quadruple that amount. Our political leadership has yet to reign in these institutions because frankly, they are making money themselves off of the ongoing mismanagement of higher education.

I had a conversation with a college president and some board members last May about their responsibilities to the students who are in their care at their institution. It was not well received but knowing how higher education works, the internal wirings including the large storage rooms located on every campus containing years of fuck-ups they hide from parents and the public, I wasn’t surprised.  Because of COVID19, this residential, liberal arts campus went from classroom instruction to 100% online the following Monday. This institution, for the last few decades had ignored (fought) online education as a viable medium for instruction. Now, it was embraced by administration, and accepted by faculty (like geese accept being force fed to later become foie gras).

While online education has been a proven delivery method since the late 1990s, for those that have never taught it, or have never been on the learning end, it isn’t like moving from an acetate overhead projector to a whiteboard. There is a solid, developed pedagogy behind both ends of the internet that the school had no idea about. Those colleges and universities that welcomed this use of technology for instruction have depths of research and networks of curriculum developers. They have dedicated administrators and tech support, continuous improvement and evaluation of the systems (beyond the individual courses) to make certain the online teaching and learning experiences for both the professor and the student would be as rigorous as what the student could receive in the classroom. They also provided in-depth instructions, videos, articles…to the students on ‘how to take an online class.’  Faculty at these institutions are certified, normally an internally developed program, to teach online. They must understand the capabilities of the Learning Management Systems in use as well as the pedagogy behind them. They must understand how to take a classroom course and move it without damage to the online environment. All of this is again evaluated on an ongoing basis against industry best practices (new developments in technology are daily but the tail of tech can never wag the academia of the dog). Change or adaptation in academia makes land turtles look like jaguars chasing down a gazelle – which is why it’s important to plan, execute, evaluate, improve, repeat. That’s not the norm in higher education and especially in the private, nonprofit, liberal arts, honkey campuses.

This institution moved forward, students struggling, teachers struggling, coursework succumbing to the attitude ‘better than nothing.’ To be fair, the same thing was happening across the country so they weren’t less than ethical as other colleges and universities that were being less than ethical. Some students did fine. Others not so much and they wanted to withdraw without penalty; no grade and they wanted their money back. It’s not what they signed up for. Students have rights and must be educated on those rights and then use those rights – many just accepted the grade, cost, poor quality, and finished the term. Others fought and some won. The compromise I suggested to another college was to award an incomplete “I” grade without any restrictions on when it had to be used. This allowed for the students who did poorly to retake the class at no penalty without having to pay for it again. Seems fair, right? This other institution thought so and that’s exactly what they did.

Part II of this are the dormitories. Housing students is big business on campus with an average cost of about $12,000 a year (on top of the cost of their degree). Now, let’s cut to last month and senior administration’s decision to return students to classroom instruction, on campus, dorms filled. Brilliant move – talk about the care of the students and cash the checks as quick as possible. Then when COVID19 starts making it’s way around, move to online education again – but keep the dorm money.

It’s amateur hour on campus with few administrators ever having any leadership mentoring, which is clearly seen in how any crisis is handled but especially today. Arrogance on the other hand is a choice – a disastrous choice – and its consequences have moved beyond financial and accreditation to life and death scenarios. 

  • Demand accountability for how an institution is handling COVID 19.
  • Demand accountability for how an institution is spending their money (your money).
  • Demand accountability from the elected officials receiving millions in PAC and Super PAC donations from the student loan industry to keep the status quo.

Higher education teaches ethics. Maybe senior administration and board members should be required to take the course themselves – it’s not like they are fooling anyone on their own campuses. I mean if you’re going to screw the students, at least give them a free sweatshirt.   

Corporatecide: Mass Murder with Stock Options

-Alan Yeck, Founder

Smoking addiction kills 7 million people every year and has for generations. 50 million? 100 million? The number of dead is inconsequential – it’s the corporate bottom line that matters.

I remember watching in the mid-1990s, seven CEOs of the nation’s largest cigarette manufacturers testified to congress that they didn’t believe cigarettes were addictive. They lied their asses off, and were allowed to lie their asses off by the same congress they were testifying to. “A nod is as good as a wink to a blind bat.” It was just another show, just another hollow chocolate bunny to appear as if congress was truly looking out for the American people. Another day, another lie, another bag of cash in their desk drawers from the tobacco industry. 

Meanwhile, their addicts filled hospitals until their damaged lungs could not long process one more breath. Then they died. Globally, tobacco causes more than 7 million death per year. Every year but it also generates over $130 billion dollars, net revenue, a year for those companies and their stock holders.  $18,571 for every dead smoker

Smoking is the leading cause of preventable death in the world. Preventable being the key word but then we get into individual rights. It’s my right to smoke if I want to. Right? That’s the same horseshit excuse used to justify anything the government wants to justify. Let me expand on that a bit more and connect some dots on their pointed little heads. 

25 years later and the only thing that has changed in the number of deaths and more money being made. Collectively these cigarette companies generate tens of billions of dollars yearly in revenue and their executives themselves makes tens of millions of dollars in salary with generous golden parachutes while a million Americans die each year of lung cancer from smoking. Not one of the seven CEOs, nor any of their children smoked. Tobacco company executives know they are creating addicts with their products, know they are killing people with their products but they are making a lot of money so why care? The US Government should have outlawed cigarettes (and now vaping) generations ago when studies showed the dangers of smoking. But because they were able to make so much money off of taxing cigarettes, plus the individual campaign contributions, plus all the other perks tobacco lobbyists bring to their congressional puppets. 

Tobacco companies spent more than $56 million dollars last year to ensure their product would continue to be on the markets. 280 lobbyists with 221 one of those being revolving door lobbyists (where former government regulators, Congressional staff and even members of Congress taking new jobs with lobbying firms and private sector organizations that, in many cases, they used to oversee). All legal, because they wrote the laws while we were napping. 

Health care expenses attributed to smoking-related diseases globally exceeded $400 billion dollars but when combined with productively losses due to illness/missing work or removed from the workforce the economic impact jumps to $1.5 trillion. Heroin isn’t legal and sold in stores and gas stations. Cyanide isn’t next to the aspirin so why do we allow cigarettes to be legal, marketed, easily obtained when we know…we know it’s killing us? Tradition? John Wayne (who died of lung cancer)? Progressing as a society requires these ‘smoker’s rights’ to be reviewed and addressed without the corporate money on the political tables. We always hear how much healthcare costs and how we cannot, as a country, cover everyone but perhaps if we were smarter on preventing illnesses we would find that we can in fact take care of our citizens and help them live a long, productive, non-brown-teeth-stained lives. Perhaps. 

Top 20 Members Receiving Tobacco Money Contributions

CandidateAmount
Holding, George (R-NC)$63,755
Kaine, Tim (D-VA)$60,763
Tillis, Thom (R-NC)$57,850
McCarthy, Kevin (R-CA)$48,350
Cole, Tom (R-OK)$41,765
Walker, Mark (R-NC)$39,850
Aderholt, Robert B (R-AL)$36,000
Scalise, Steve (R-LA)$34,800
McConnell, Mitch (R-KY)$34,600
Rouzer, David (R-NC)$34,100
Blackburn, Marsha (R-TN)$33,821
Nelson, Bill (D-FL)$33,438
Roskam, Peter (R-IL)$31,426
Warner, Mark (D-VA)$30,300
Yoder, Kevin (R-KS)$28,773
Hudson, Richard (R-NC)$28,200
Sessions, Pete (R-TX)$27,850
McHenry, Patrick (R-NC)$27,500
Budd, Ted (R-NC)$27,450
Sinema, Kyrsten (D-AZ)$26,555

All donations took place during the 2017-2018 election cycle and were released by the Federal Election Commission on Monday, June 10, 2019. Center for Responsive Politics.