Candidate Contracts: Replacing Bad Brains With Good Brains

Abnormal BrainDemocracy is dead in America.

Representatives no longer represent.

I’m reminded of the classic comedy featuring Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle . . . Young Frankenstein.

Why was the Frankenstein creation a monster, disloyal, cold-hearted and destructive?

He had a bad brain.

A bad brain results in bad behavior.

The brains of our elected officials, the monsters who roam the two legislative bodies of our government, the Senate and the House of Representatives, have been corrupted by money, effectively destroyed, are now lacking the capacity to fulfill their constitutional mandate. They no longer are controlled by the citizens who elected them to office.  They now are exclusively the lapdogs of the rich and powerful — disloyal, cold-hearted, destructive.

Todays Typical CongressmanWe must replace the bad brains.

I call this procedure a lapdogectomy.

The lapdogs must go.  They must be replaced with good brains, those individuals who are willing to respond to the needs of their constituents — those candidates who will guarantee to us the voters that they will do the job we elect them to do.

How do we know who has a bad brain and who has a good brain?

The candidate contract is actually better than an MRI or CATSCAN in this respect.

After we the people have decided what issues are critical — based on numerous credible issue polls, there already is a good list of what the public wants done but isn’t getting done — we formulate candidate contracts spelling out in no uncertain terms what we expect our elected representatives in Congress to do IMMEDIATELY UPON ARRIVAL in the nation’s capital.  The contracts are presented to every candidate for office in the coming election.

Candidates with bad brains refuse to sign them.

Candidates with good brains gladly sign them.

We do not vote for people with bad brains.

We only vote for people with good brains.

Make sense?

Replace bad brains with good brains.

Could it be any easier?

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Tonya Harding School of International Diplomacy

Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya HardingI’m always looking for clever, incisive, powerful ways to characterize complex ideas, compact little nuggets that sum it all up, say everything that needs to be said, a summation perhaps captured by a short and snappy phrase, a zingy meme, a stark self-contained image or dramatic self-evident diorama, which steers clear of the boredom and excess of dense and convoluted explications, conflated with histrionic exposition and other contrived manipulations.

Actually that last sentence is a lot like the kind of thing I’m try to avoid.

Too many words and too much self-indulgent grandstanding. 

Use a Thesaurus, go to jail.

Anyway, I was trying to think of a clever way of summing up America’s foreign policy.

And by golly, I think I have it!

Remember the competition between Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan at the U.S. Nationals for two spots on the American Olympic team.  This was back it 1994.

It was obvious to Tonya she had met her match. Nancy was giving her a real run for her money.  So what did Tonya Harding do?

She hired a thug to bludgeon Kerrigan’s knee cap with a huge pipe.

And that anecdote, ladies and gentlemen, sums up America’s approach to international diplomacy!

If you get in our way, expect to get whacked!

Sometimes we just bomb the shit out of a country.  Whoever crawls out of the rubble tends to have a more conciliatory disposition.

If that proves inconvenient, or might lead to too much condemnation by the international community (there are a lot of wimps out there who just don’t “get it”) the U.S. will resort to secretive special ops units, color revolutions, weaponized diseases, hybrid warfare — propaganda, NGOs, social media, cyber attacks — to the same effect.  Once chaos has properly taken root in the targeted nation, down a civilian airliner, throw in some random assassinations, blockades, economic sanctions, create no-fly zones, engineer currency devaluation, invoke shrill comparisons to Adolph Hitler, blow up a hospital, and BINGO!  Mission accomplished!

Tonya-Harding-NowI’m sure there are others who would like to claim credit for the U.S.’s our-way-or-the-highway approach to working with other nations, but let’s at least give a visible nod of appreciation to the young lady who best epitomizes this exceptionalist philosophy.

Tonya . . . you will always be a true winner in our eyes, regardless of how grotesquely fat and ugly you’ve gotten over the years.

After all, it was you that boldly exemplified what has become the fundamental tenets of America’s current foreign policy:

  1.  We make the rules.
  2.  Winning is everything.
  3.  Preemptive attacks are awesome.
  4.  All is fair because we say it is.
  5.  Playing nice is for pussies.

If I can be so bold as to suggest it, I believe that it’s high time that Harvard or Princeton or other equally prestigious institutions of higher learning, set aside the resources and proper institutional setting for perpetuating and promoting this visionary philosophy of imperial order, and appropriately call it the “Tonya Harding School of International Diplomacy”.

I’m already feeling the public excitement building for this and imagine that shortly after this article appears, crowdfunding on Kickstarter or Rockethub for this idea will get off to a rip-roaring start.

Posted in Deconstruction, Political Rant, Satire, War and Peace | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Putting Boots (Birkenstocks) on the Ground: Part VIII

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at the New Hampshire Democratic Party's Jefferson Jackson dinner in ManchesterPeople understandably ask:  “What good can the candidate contracts do?  Can they really make a difference?”

The answer to that comes in two pieces.

First, anything is only as good as its application.  That is, a hammer is only valuable if you manage to hit the nail and driving the nail is part of building something that is important and positive, like a new house, school, or community center.  How about a twenty-foot wall on the Mexican border?  (Just kidding!)

The candidate contract has to be implemented properly, it has to be wielded effectively.  I’ve described in Part 7 how it can be used to demonize the traitors and promote the true supporters of representative democracy.  Once the candidate contract strategy is in play — hopefully on a national level where it achieves some critical mass and becomes “news” — it literally will establish a new standard for the way candidates are assessed in terms of their worthiness for public office — a precise way to determine whether we are going to vote for them or not.

It can do this — and here is the second piece of my answer — because it accomplishes with exactitude something which so far has been annoyingly elusive, and intentionally so.

The candidate contract hands us a bulletproof method for discovering beyond a shadow of doubt where a candidate stands on issues.

No more empty campaign rhetoric.  No more vague language.  No more double speak.

It’s all in black-and-white.

Let me demonstrate this and in doing so answer another question I’ve often gotten . . .

“Can this work with presidential candidates?”

TPP and its evil step-sisters, TPIP and TISA, are the most heinous “trade agreements” in our history.  The majority of American citizens are just starting to wake up to the horrible consequences if these agreements.

Both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have been confronted as to where they stand on TPP.  Bernie Sanders has unequivocally come out against it.  He has been consistent on this for as long as TPP reared its ugly head. On the other hand, Ms. Hillary as Secretary of State clearly supported and promoted it.  But now she is waffling, introducing vague and manifestly misleading language to deflect potential supporters from reviewing her record or from drawing the obvious conclusion:  As a corporatist shill she is loyal to Wall Street, she is loyal to the big banks, she is loyal to the trans-national corporate interests behind this nefarious trade agreement.

Initially, Hillary said “This TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade, the kind of environment that has the rule of law and a level playing field.”  More recently here is what the mistress-of-the-duplicitous said:  “I waited until it had actually been negotiated because I did want to give the benefit of the doubt to the (Obama) administration.  Once I saw what the outcome was, I opposed it.”

This, of course, resulted in all sorts of analysis and debate on where she really stands.

I say:  Why don’t we just cut through this silly waste of time and energy and determine with absolute certainty where Ms. Clinton and Mr. Sanders come down on TPP, an issue which dramatically shapes the future of international commerce and geopolitics for generations to come? 

Let me offer a candidate contract:

Candidate Contract_TPP_Bernie Sanders, consistent with his voting record and public pronouncements, would sign this in a heartbeat.

Hillary LaughingI can only speculate, but I believe Hillary would laugh, roll her eyes, do that Hillary “thing” she does so well, and brush it aside. 

Frankly, there is no way she could sign it.  If she did, she couldn’t do the job her corporate masters hired her to do.

And that’s exactly how the candidate contracts work.

Now we know exactly what we need to know.

It’s in black-and-white.  The choice is clear.

Now we know how to vote.

Apply this methodology issue-by-issue, candidate-by-candidate, and suddenly the smoke and mirrors are gone.  The voting public can make informed decisions about who they want representing them in Washington DC, in both Congress and the White House.

The candidate contract strategy is offered in concise terms along with the opportunity to join a citizens campaign which implements it here:

It is fully explored and elucidated in great detail in two of my recent books:

CC_eBook Cover_Final_200x300 “Candidate Contracts: Taking Back Our Democracy” was published middle of last year and is available worldwide from all the usual suspects:

Amazon (Kindle)  . . .
Amazon (Print) . . .
Apple (iTunes) . . .
Barnes & Noble . . .
Kobo (Indigo) . . .
Smashwords . . .
Direct from printer . . .


!!!FFTDWD_Cover_200x300Fighting for the Democracy We Deserve” was published this past September and also is available both in every popular ebook format and as a deluxe paperback:

Amazon (Kindle) . . .
Amazon (Print) . . .
Apple (iTunes) . . .
Barnes & Noble . . .
Kobo (Indigo) . . .
Smashwords . . .
Direct from printer . . .


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Putting Boots (Birkenstocks) on the Ground: Part VII

Weeping Statue of Liberty_2This again builds on preceding articles, which outline my approach to community-based “regime change” activism.  I recommend you read them first to fully appreciate what now follows here.

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI

It’s easy to get discouraged — even become cynical — when viewing our current electoral system.  The news is highly sensationalized.  Much coverage is quite superficial, focusing on human drama, scandal, who’s up who’s down, more resembling reporting of celebrity gossip and sports team rivalry than offering responsible perspectives on political matters.

Of course, the Democrats and Republicans are fine with this, neither truly committed to representing the needs and demands of the voting public.  Anything which distracts us from realizing their indifference to the everyday citizen is to their benefit and welcomed.  Along the same lines, they stubbornly prevent minor party candidates from participating in debates, guaranteeing the absence of fresh ideas or meaningful controversy. A genuine, thoughtful and rewarding national conversation about the challenges confronting both the country as a whole and us as individual citizens appears impossible in this environment.

But is it?

The whole point of this series of Putting Boots (Birkenstocks) on the Ground articles is that it is possible!  But for it to happen we must rely on ourselves.  The corporate media and our government are not going to lead this effort.  In fact, those now in power will do everything to prevent a national conversation of substance from occurring, because it would threaten their privilege and primacy.

Do you think I’m exaggerating?

Just look at the news.  Just look at our choices for president.

Clinton?  Cruz?  Trump?  Is this a bad joke or what?

Bernie Sanders offers a powerful vision and coherent plan for change, which is why he gets virtually no press and faces sure annihilation at convention time.  John Kasich appears not to be a raving lunatic, which in this election clearly disqualifies him from consideration.

Let’s face it:  To come up with a more extreme version of reality, we’d have to resort to reading Franz Kafka novels or watching Andy Warhol movies.

So with nothing better to do than shake my head at the absurdity of it all, I am with no irony or secret agenda trying to salvage something constructive out of this election ordeal. And I start by ignoring the entire presidential three-ring circus and focusing on the only political sphere which by any sensible analysis can make a difference come November.

There is no law — not yet anyway — against any of what I’ve proposed thus far.

We gauge community support and solicit voter endorsement on hot-button issues with citizen petition/pledges.  This is grass-roots democracy in action. 

Based on the (hopefully) substantial number of petition/pledges gathered, we formulate candidate contracts.  All candidates running locally for a particular office are offered the opportunity to sign them.  If possible, extending this offer should occur in a highly public forum — a campaign rally, a town hall meeting, any public event or personal appearance where there are people and reporters.

Because the contracts are so demanding and the associated penalties so severe for breach of their terms, we should expect the mainstream candidates to reject them outright.

A candidate who does sign them — only expect there to be one, probably one identified beforehand by the citizens group which formulated the candidate contracts — should get enormous praise.  He or she deserves love and support, accolades and plaudits, and most of all deserves to get elected.

The candidates who do not — this will often include the incumbent — should be called out, demonized, vilified.  Voters should be clear in their minds about what the contracts mean.  A candidate who signs is on the side of the voters.  Candidates who don’t are working for the rich and powerful.  Sign contract = good!  Don’t sign contract = bad!

Yes, I’m serious.  This is not being simpleminded.  This is just being straightforward.

After all, the contracts equate to a commitment to represent the needs and desires of the voting public.  That’s good!  That’s exactly what we’re trying to accomplish. Democracy of the people, by the people, for the people.

Correspondingly, a failure to embrace and sign the contracts calls into question both the integrity and commitment of a candidate.  I’d say that’s pretty bad, wouldn’t you?

Every opportunity to draw public attention to the contracts — who is on board and who is not, keeping a keen eye for press coverage — should be exploited to fullest advantage and potential for mass exposure. 

Bear in mind that the candidate who signs the contract probably will be independent or minor-party, or running on the short end of the stick against a powerhouse incumbent. Thus he or she will not have much money.  The only way to get around this obstacle is generating free publicity.  Free publicity is obtained by creating news-worthy events.

I believe that if the candidate contracts are wielded properly — not as some polite legal document but as a weapon of mass media engagement — it will not be all that difficult to get them and the candidate who signs them all over the news. It’s just a matter of setting the stage and getting the lighting right.

Let me offer a couple examples.  These may at first seem a bit extreme, but as far as I’m concerned, in the service of real democracy and honest representation, there’s no such thing as ‘too outrageous’.  Having said that, please understand that I’m not advocating dishonesty or mean-spiritedness.  There’s a lot of room for creativity here, without embracing the dark side.

Example #1 . . .

We have an incumbent that won’t sign a contract protecting Social Security.  We have an independent or minor party candidate who has signed it.  So we line up ten or twenty very old people in wheel chairs and block traffic on a major street.  They hold signs that say: “Why won’t Congressman [ name of incumbent ] sign the contract?  I need my Social Security to survive!”  The candidate who did sign it circulates among them holding up the signed contract in one hand, and a poster in the other that says:  “I’m Michael Marvellous. These elderly people deserve our support.  I SIGNED THE CONTRACT!”

Of course, the media was given advance notice for this staged event.  Even if they send second stringers, they’ll still get it all on video. 

Now what’s going to happen?  Are the police going to pepper spray grandma?  Well, now that I think about it, they might.  (Sorry about that, grandma.)  But this is perfect!  I can see the headlines now . . .

Sweet Old Lady in Wheelchair Pepper Sprayed at Protest
Over Incumbent’s Refusal to Support Social Security

How does the expression go? . . . You can’t buy publicity like that!

As if you hadn’t surmised, I am all for street theater, massive protests, civil disobedience, getting arrested, whatever it takes barring violence to get the public to focus on important issues.  What makes no sense to me is when such displays don’t produce the potential for concrete action.  Going on right now as I write this piece is a very admirable effort to make the public aware of how thoroughly our democracy has been corrupted and destroyed by big money in politics.  Sadly, Democracy Spring has gotten very limited media exposure, though its agenda and intent are truly laudable.  So far their biggest claim to notoriety seems to be how many people have been arrested, a new Guinness Book world record!  Other than that, it offers no actionable agenda, no specific legislation, no constitutional amendment, nothing voters can rally around and vote for, other than a vague demand that America needs a new Congress which will listen to the people.

My example draws attention to a specific choice: Vote for a buttplug who, notwithstanding a lot of wonderful sounding campaign rhetoric, doesn’t give one whit about retirees caught in a web of poverty, or vote for a candidate who has signed a legal contract that guarantees he or she will fight to keep Social Security viable, solvent, and sufficient to meet the needs of the elderly who depend on it for a decent life in their golden years.

Voters are given something they can act on.  Vote for a black hat or a white hat.

Let me give one more example, even more dramatic than the last, of how the candidate contract can be used to draw in the media, always hungry for news that “bleeds”.

Major party candidate A refuses to sign a contract to end all the wars in the Middle East.  Candidate B, who has signed the contract, goes to a VA hospital with a talking head from the local television station.  Several patients are wearing ‘Candidate B signed the contract!’ t-shirts.  One of them holds up a sign . . .

If Congress had brought the troops
back home, I’d still have my legs.

The talking head interviews some of the maimed and crippled vets.  Candidate B talks about how “supporting our troops” means not fighting wars we don’t have to fight, going on to explain how most Americans want the wars to end.  He declares his unequivocal support for ending the wars in the Middle East and waves the contract as proof.

Is this manipulative, exploitative?  It’s not as manipulative and exploitative as our leaders lying and leading the country into conflicts it doesn’t have to fight.  It’s not as manipulative as saying one thing when campaigning just to curry favor with potential voters, then going to Washington DC and doing the bidding of lobbyists and fat-cat campaign donors.  And it’s certainly not as exploitative as having our soldiers in the bloom of their youth give their lives for corporate profits or in pursuit of delusional fantasies of world empire.

Sometimes we have to fight fire with fire. 

And always, we have to fight lies with the truth.

Maybe it makes you uncomfortable thinking about grandma getting pepper sprayed or looking at young men with stumps where healthy legs used to be and puckering sockets where they once had eyes.  But personally it makes me really uncomfortable thinking about grandma starving to death in her apartment or dying because she couldn’t afford some prescription medication, or seeing these these young men mangled in battles which never should have been fought in countries we never should have invaded, all while inside the DC bubble congressman are having $200 lunches with lobbyists from Wall Street and CEOs for the defense contractors.

My point is simple.  If we want to change the way politicians get elected, we need to make choices stark, obvious.  No ambiguities.  No equivocation.  No obfuscation.  No excuses.

Getting the truth out to the voting public on exactly where the candidates stand requires audacity, creativity, courage, some outside-the-box thinking.  But it can be done.  It should be done.  It must be done!  Voters don’t need to see protest signs.  They need to see honest and clear choices at the polls.  The contracts leave no room for error or misinterpretation.

“Hmm.  That fellow signed a legally-binding contract.  If I vote for him, I know I’ll get some service, not a bunch of broken campaign promises.”

On the flip side — that is, in terms of the candidate who refuses or can’t sign the contract, — we can’t show any mercy.  None!  This individual is showing his or her true colors and should be stigmatized, ostracized, and condemned at every opportunity.  Picket campaign offices, demonstrate at rallies and all public appearances.  Get manhandled and arrested.  Get in the news!  This is free publicity.  But it’s news the public should be getting.

Is it negative campaigning?  Let’s see.  This candidate is making a public refusal to sign a contract that commits the candidate to serving the needs and desires of his constituents.  It’s a refusal to represent the very people who elected him!  Why shouldn’t that be public knowledge?  Before they cast their ballots, people need to ask themselves things like . . .

Why won’t the Republican guy sign the contract to raise the
minimum wage? Can’t his rich friends pay a living wage?

Why won’t the Democrat for Congress sign the contract for
free college tuition? Isn’t education important to her?

Why won’t my congressman sign the contract on GMO
labeling? How do I know what I’m feeding my kids?

Why won’t my congressman sign the contract ending
Citizens United? Whose side is he on anyway?

I know of no other way go about this, besides magically coming up with an enormous pile of money to take on the enormous piles of money these bought-and-paid for politicians have in their coffers — legal bribes to charm and woo voters, often to deceive them.

Either we play tough or we lose.  Then all we’re left with is wiling away the time until the next election rolls around, pining about what we could and should have done.

Politics is not a polite game of ping pong.  It’s a gladiator sport.  Either come ready to do battle or slink back to your slave quarters and sip on the brine they’re telling you is soup.  At night you can lay on your moldy cot thinking of ways to apologize to your children for not having acted boldly and decisively when the duties of citizenship required it.

I offer no apologies for being so blunt.  We are losing our democracy.

We are losing the America we all believe in.

We need to come together!

We need to act now!

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Putting Boots (Birkenstocks) on the Ground: Part VI

The-UltimatumNo contract = no vote.

It’s that easy to stick up for ourselves.

Let me explain.

Politicians value one thing above all others . . . 

Job security.

These days they assure their job security by raising astronomical sums of campaign money.  Most of this money comes from the rich and powerful, Wall Street, big banks, corporations, the 1%, the .1%, and the .01%.  This treasure trove of tainted money allows the “sponsored” candidates to use all of the expensive mechanisms at their disposal to message voters, i.e. tell us what they think we want to hear, paint pretty pictures of the glorious future we will all share if we vote for them.  Yes, the money pours in, the image consultants and PR spin doctors get to work, the candidate gets elected, then heads to Washington DC and takes care of his well-heeled donors.  It’s a sublime arrangement indeed.  Lots of back scratching going on these days.

We play along with this insidious game because frankly we don’t know what else to do.

But what if voters just said . . . ‘No’?

That’s right!  What if we the voting public lay it out in no uncertain terms to these politicos that it’s we the people who are in charge from now on — not the deep-pocketed campaign contributors, the rich and powerful who presently fund campaigns and have turned our democracy into a form of legalized bribery?  In a nutshell . . .

What if elections and elected officials could no longer be bought?

Here’s the deal:  We can ooh-and-aah over pretty campaign ads or . . . we can ignore them and decide for ourselves what’s really important.  Hint: Just because a candidate stands in front of an American flag and looks lovely strolling through a park with a picture-perfect family, does not mean he or she gives one whit about you or intends to take your needs and wants into account when it comes to voting on bills in Congress.

What if voters said:  “Well, your ads looks great, your yard signs are attractive, we love the billboards and bumper stickers . . . BUT we’re still not voting for you!”

What good would all the campaign cash do if voters simply stood their ground?

What could the rich and powerful do if everyday citizens just said:  “Enough is enough!  You’ve had your turn.  Now it’s our turn to benefit from all of the riches and wonderful things this country has to offer!  My congressman is no longer for sale.”

Let’s take it a step further.  Squaring off and looking a candidate right in the eye . . .

What if voters said:  “You know, you talk a good story. You make all sorts of wonderful promises.  But for some reason when you get to Washington DC, you apparently come down with some acute form of amnesia.  SO . . . while we sometimes like what you say, sometimes are confused by what you don’t say, often scratch our heads wondering why you don’t seem to get the messages we’re sending you loud and clear, and are incredibly disturbed that things we want done never seem to get done, we’ve decided that from now on we’re taking the guesswork out of all of this.  We’re putting in writing what we want done.  It’ll take the form of a friendly little contract between you, our elected official, and us, the ones who vote you into your cushy job.  This contract will spell it all out in black-and-white.  If you sign it, great!  You’ve got our votes.  If you don’t, well . . . not so great for you.  Because we’ll find someone else who will sign it and vote for that candidate.”

That, ladies and gentlemen, is how the candidate contracts work.  It’s that simple.

Toward the end of the previous article in this series, this appeared . . .

If you’re immediate reaction is . . . “Why, my congressman will never sign something like that!” . . . all I can do is jump for joy!  It means we’re getting somewhere!

What am I saying?

Simple.  The candidate contract makes everything clear.  Either candidates are serious about doing their jobs, either candidates are serious about representing those who voted them into their powerful positions in Washington DC, either candidates are truly listening to constituents and promoting the things those constituents want . . . or they’re not.

If your current “congressman will never sign something like that”, it means one thing.

It means that despite all their campaign promises, all their stated good intentions, despite the happy-face rhetoric on their website and campaign literature, this person is not going to represent you or take into account what you want done.  That’s exactly what it means.

And I jump for joy . . . and you should too.  Because NOW WE KNOW!

We know exactly where things stand . . . and we know exactly what to do.

We don’t want this person in office.  We know what will happen.  This charm-peddler with the teeth-whitened grin will head off to the Washington DC bubble, forget all about us — the people who elected him — and do the bidding of deep-pocketed campaign donors, rich and powerful corporate plutocrats, and the swarms of guns-for-hire lobbyists who are like locusts in our nation’s capital.

Good riddance to these sweet-talking shills!

As the expression goes:  “Knowledge is power.”

Exactly!  And the knowledge and understanding of the true loyalties and commitments of the candidates running for office is our power!

It is the power for us to say:  No more lies.  No more empty promises.  No more excuses.  No more equivocation and double talk.

No contract = no vote.

Then . . .

Once we identify candidates who genuinely are on our side — the ones who gladly sign contracts for the range of things the vast majority of us want done — we unite behind them, a huge and unstoppable voting bloc of citizens who are determined to have true representative government — real democracy — in America.

Government of the people, by the people, for the people.

People power!

CC_eBook Cover_Final_200x300 “Candidate Contracts: Taking Back Our Democracy” was published middle of last year and is available worldwide from all the usual suspects:

Amazon (Kindle)  . . .
Amazon (Print) . . .
Apple (iTunes) . . .
Barnes & Noble . . .
Kobo (Indigo) . . .
Smashwords . . .
Direct from printer . . .


!!!FFTDWD_Cover_200x300Fighting for the Democracy We Deserve” was published this past September and also is available both in every popular ebook format and as a deluxe paperback:

Amazon (Kindle) . . .
Amazon (Print) . . .
Apple (iTunes) . . .
Barnes & Noble . . .
Kobo (Indigo) . . .
Smashwords . . .
Direct from printer . . .

Posted in Democracy, Political Analysis, Political Rant | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Putting Boots (Birkenstocks) on the Ground: Part V

Revolution Peace SignBernie Sanders talks eagerly about a “revolution”.

While this obviously is fantastic campaign rhetoric, his presidential aspirations fall a bit short of a revolution.  Many of his ideas for reforming the political system, revamping our national priorities, and replacing the current agenda with one that serves the greater good of the vast majority of citizens, notably are consistent with revolutionary change.  It is hopeful, heartening, inspiring, truly a breath of fresh air in the stagnant and highly toxic atmosphere of the now dominant neoliberal/neocon regime in Washington DC.

But the simple fact remains:  We’re not electing a king.  We’re only electing a president.  Reform comes from changing the laws.  Changing the laws comes from changing the law makers.  Either we change their minds or we change them, meaning we replace them with elected public servants who will serve the public instead of their corporate masters.

This entire series of articles is about exactly that . . . the need for such change and how I see that coming about.

It’s all about people power.  Not PACs and SuperPACS.  Not big piles of money — though the enormous sums the wealthy throw into the ring present a formidable obstacle for even the most organized and energetic citizens groups.

Change still comes down to the choice each of us personally makes in the voting booth.  Power resides in our aligning our individual choices, so that collectively — as in tens of millions of us united in an unstoppable juggernaut of people power — we get done what needs to get done.

I’ve already pointed at many crucial issues where there is substantial agreement.

75% of Americans want a federal minimum wage of $12.50 per hour.
63% of Americans want a federal minimum wage of $15.00 per hour.
75% of voters want fair trade agreements protecting jobs, workers, the environment.
76% of voters want a cut back on military spending.
76% of voters want the U.S. completely out of Afghanistan.
79% of voters want no reductions in Social Security, 70% support expanding it.
79% of voters want no reductions in Medicare.
80% of voters oppose the “Citizens United” U.S. Supreme Court decision.
68% of voters think taxes on the wealthy should be increased.
71% of voters support massive infrastructure renewal.
74% of American voters are for ending oil industry subsidies.
93% of voters want GMO labeling on their food.

In Part IV of the series, I recommended collecting signatures from folks on a combination pledge-petition, which does two things:  1) it ascertains the level of local voter support for specific issues; and 2) invites individuals to take a stand on those issues, i.e. solicits their commitment to only vote for candidates who if elected will represent them and promote the agenda their constituents have united behind.

So we are now confronted with a critical question . . .

How do we know a candidate will do what we want once elected?

My solution is so simple and so obvious, many scoff and dismiss it immediately.

These are the same types of people who, by the way, stood on the beach at Kitty Hawk, scoffing and derisively observing:  “Ha! That contraption will never fly!”

The short answer is . . . we make the candidate sign a legally-binding contract.

While the contracts can address any number of issues, here is an example, specifically for a candidate running for House of Representatives, demanding an increase in the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour.

If you’re immediate reaction is . . .

“Why, my congressman will never sign something like that!”

. . . all I can do is jump for joy!  It means we’re getting somewhere!

I’ll explain exactly how this is intended to work in the next installments of Putting Boots (Birkenstocks) on the Ground.  But before we go there, I have to make one critical point.  This really has to sink in and be fully understood in order to appreciate the power of the candidate contract and its potential as a game-changer in our current dysfunctional political environment.  Here it is . . .

While the candidate contract is a legally-binding agreement, properly implementing it is NOT A LEGAL STRATEGY.


This is not about courts and juries and lawyers.

It is about forcing elected representatives to represent us.

It is using a legal instrument to our POLITICAL ADVANTAGE!

Please repeat this as often as needed for it to sink in . . .

Candidate contracts are legal instruments to force democratically-elected representatives to represent their constituents. They are political levers!


All will become clear in the next installments.


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Putting Boots (Birkenstocks) on the Ground: Part IV

Neighbors TalkingThis proceeds from my previous articles outlining an approach to community-based “regime change” activism.  I encourage you to read them to embrace the foundation for what follows.

Part I
Part II
Part III

We put away the smart phones and let the computers go to sleep.  TV and movie habits are put on hold, at least for a few hours each week. Using basic social skills we were all taught as children, engaging others face-to-face, we talk and listen to friends, neighbors, relatives, even strangers in our communities, about the problems we all individually and collectively face.  We talk about what ails us.  Most people love to complain.  Misery loves company.  Next . . .

We tactfully and respectfully navigate the discussion to those critical issues which are the direct consequence of government policy and can only be solved by our elected officials.

We find common ground.  This should be easy.  So much has gone wrong over the past several decades, it is almost impossible to find someone who hasn’t been negatively impacted by the mess we find ourselves in.  Americans on the whole are hurting.  Individually we are victims of much misguided decision-making.

We continue to talk.  And most importantly . . . to listen.

Maybe this doesn’t sound like much of a breakthrough, but if we get this far — having a comfortable adult conversation about one or more specific things which are contributing to the ongoing dysfunction — it actually is quite noteworthy, taking into consideration the current environment.  More typically now whenever anything appears to remotely involve politics, we expect to see folks either maniacally shouting or withdrawing into a coma-like state of mute detachment.

Talking and listening thoughtfully and graciously represents dramatic progress! 

So . . . where are we taking this?

Time for a refresher on the Constitution.

Congress makes laws.  The president enforces them.

Granted, this clear division of labor has in recent times been compromised, with abuse of regulatory powers and signing statements by the president, and the wholesale surrender of war making powers by the Congress.  Let’s still be clear.  And I offer this both as a warning to the ebullient Bernie Sanders supporters, and to those anxiety-ridden progressives who live in fear of either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump ascending the presidential throne:

Without a supportive Congress, nothing positive — or for that matter negative — will get done, especially if the new president is isolated.  It will be animus, gridlock, confrontation, blame-gaming, a show of distrust and open hostility between the executive and legislative branches, which will make the past decade look like a friendly game of flag football.  This would certainly be the case with either Trump or Sanders.  Perhaps the most frightening prospect is a Hillary presidency, since her most menacing and treacherous policies, both domestic and international, presently have widespread support by our current corrupt, corporate-owned legislature.

There is no question that a strong, visionary president would be a good thing.

But a responsible, responsive, representative people’s Congress is absolutely crucial.

Strong, visionary congressional action is a matter of survival for our nation.

Nothing will change until we change the laws.

Laws won’t change until we change the law makers.

This is exactly where our grass-roots, boots-on-the-ground, community-based campaign must be entirely focused.

It is about electing individuals to Congress, both the House of Representatives and Senate, who will be directly accountable to their constituents.  The immediate goal of our efforts is to elect representatives who will pass legislation on a whole host of issues which are clearly important to voters.  These are things the public wants done . . . but aren’t getting done.

This means one of two things.  Either the incumbents running for office come around and do what the voting public demands.  Or they are replaced with fresh candidates who have made a binding commitment to do so.

Back to our “conversation” with our neighbor, cousin, street cleaner, bartender, war vet.

We have been talking and listening.  It is obvious that the person we are talking to feels passionately about one, maybe several of the key issues.  Here’s what unfolds next — for each and every initiative — using Social Security here as an illustration:

Signing Petition“I see you feel as strongly as I do about keeping Social Security intact and if anything improving it.  Can I get you to sign this?”

“What is it?”

“It’s a petition.”

“Oh great!  Another petition.  Those never work.”

“We think it will this time.  We’re coming up with a way to force our elected officials to do what they say they’re going to do.”

“Who is we?”

“Well, ‘we’ is folks just like you and me.  This isn’t a political party.  It’s just citizens who want to see some important things get done.  Get some serious problems solved.”

“How?  Politicians say one thing and do another.”

“Exactly.  That’s why we need to demand they stop playing games.  People like us have to stand up for ourselves.  The politicians are like children and will get away with whatever they can.  So if you and I don’t take a stand, it’ll never change.  We have to try.  If enough of us raise enough hell, stick together and refuse to take ‘no’ for an answer, we just might pull this off.”

“How?  How are you going to get these guys with all their money and powerful backers to pay attention?  How can you make them do anything?”

neighbors-talking“First, we’re going to get 40,000 people to sign this.  Look what it says.  ‘I will only vote for a candidate who will protect Social Security and work to increase benefits.’  I’d say that’s pretty clear.”

“And how will we know they will actually do this?  What’s my signing a petition got to do with making my congressman get his butt in gear?”

“It’s a place to start.  We will build on it to demand action.  For one thing, you’re saying this is very important to you.  If fact, you’re saying if he wants your vote, he had better step up to the plate.”

“And they’ll promise to do it, get elected, then break their promises.”

“This time we won’t let them.”


Most people are pretty jaded and pessimistic about the possibility of moving the system.  Inaction is the norm, the status quo the accepted state of things.  Resignation is endemic.

Many will want to argue at this point that we’re wasting our time.

This is not an argument you can win.  No one knows for sure what will work and what will not.  And frankly, those skeptics have history on their side.  For the average American things are going backwards.  Very little is getting done, unless it benefits the rich.

At the same time, that’s not an excuse for not trying.  Not trying guarantees failure.

“If we don’t try, then we’ll never get anything done.  If you don’t want to see Social Security destroyed, then sign this and we’ll take it from there.  It can’t hurt.”

That’s all that needs to be said for now.  Here is what the petition pledge looks like:

What does a person have to lose by signing this?

Or signing similar petitions on other issues they feel strongly about?

Some might still be reluctant.  They may want to know why we need signatures on the petition.  If they press the matter, then explain what happens next — which is what I’ll discuss in detail in Parts V and VI of this series.

“Once we know we have enough voters behind this, we’ll demand that each candidate signs a legally-binding contract.  That will be the ‘absolute commitment’ to do what you’ve asked them to do.”

“And if they refuse to sign it?”

“We don’t vote for them and we find someone who will.  No contract, no vote.”

“They’re not going to like this.”

“But we will.  And we’ll get something done for a change that we want done.”

This idea is so simple, yet so powerful.  But there’s only one way it can work . . .

Talking-by-Cristina-Monica-Moldoveanu-1People must unite not under party banners, but as a voting bloc around issues that are important to them.  Party labels — also very much the case with ideological labels — muddy the waters, get people unfocused on what’s truly consequential.  ‘Democrat’, ‘Republican’, ‘liberal’, ‘conservative’, ‘libertarian’ — even more so with  ‘socialist’, ‘Tea Party’, and ‘Green Party’ — have now become so emotionally charged, clear thinking becomes difficult, constructive dialogue impossible.

Forget the labels, affiliations, philosophies.  Stick with the issues.  They’re staring us right in the face.

I hate sounding like a broken record, but please look again at the issue polls cited in my previous two articles:

75% of Americans want a federal minimum wage of $12.50 per hour.
63% of Americans want a federal minimum wage of $15.00 per hour.
75% of voters want fair trade agreements protecting jobs, workers, the environment.
76% of voters want a cut back on military spending.
76% of voters want the U.S. completely out of Afghanistan.
79% of voters want no reductions in Social Security, 70% support expanding it.
79% of voters want no reductions in Medicare.
80% of voters oppose the “Citizens United” U.S. Supreme Court decision.
68% of voters think taxes on the wealthy should be increased.
71% of voters support massive infrastructure renewal.
74% of American voters are for ending oil industry subsidies.
93% of voters want GMO labeling on their food.

These are huge consensuses.  These are the big issues.  To set the stage for real reform, to get our future elected officials listening, these are the issues which draw a line in the sand.  Either the candidates commit to getting these things done or they simply don’t get elected.  Period!

This is how we force candidates to pay attention.

Why will they pay attention?

Their jobs depend on it.

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Putting Boots (Birkenstocks) on the Ground: Part III

ArguingMost people don’t like to talk politics. Many simply refuse to talk politics, fearing a possibly acrimonious argument, or having to endure what they would view as an assault on their dearly-held unassailable beliefs.

On the other hand, it seems to me that Americans love to complain and quite freely carry on about personal problems, things which annoy them or thwart their pursuit of a decent life.

Now consider this . . .

Just as all politics are local, all politics are personal.

That is, what happens in the remote, unfathomable corridors of power affects people every day of their lives on a very personal level.

Cut Social Security and Medicare, grandma must choose between medications and buying nutritious plum pudding.

Keep the minimum wage low, both parents have to work two or three jobs and there’s no one home to watch the kids.  Families disintegrate.

Keep the country at war, there’s no money to fix to potholes which rattle the car when you drive to the funeral for your son or daughter who got sent back from the battlefield in a body bag.

You get the point.

There’s no reason to “talk politics” per se with people.  There is very good reason to talk about problems we’re all to one degree or another victims of — specifically the problems which are NOT BEING REMEDIED by our elected representatives.  These are personal problems which happen to be the direct consequences of political action and inaction on the part of these elected officials.  There is no need to argue politics here.  We are all just human beings facing often unnecessary trials and challenges.  We’re all in this together.

I promised in the previous article in this series, I would suggest what to say after “Would you like a cupcake?” or “Nice weather we’re having today.”

I can’t dictate specific sentences.  There’s no set-in-stone script for this.  I can offer general guidelines and the overall direction such conversations should take.

First off, what to avoid:  There should be no reference to ideologies or ideological leanings or loyalties — conservative, liberal, socialist, libertarian — nor any discussion or mention of political parties.  Period!

The labels don’t matter.  We live in the same community.  We’re all Americans.

Second:  Stay away from generalities. “All politicians are crooks.” Like Abraham Lincoln? “I believe in America and the Constitution.”  So what?  “Our congressman is a good man.”  He probably is, but he is still not doing his job.  “My family has always voted Democrat.”  Right.  And there are people who always eat ice cream for breakfast.  That doesn’t mean it’s a very smart thing to do.

These broad, sweeping exhortations may be satisfying in some way, and may even be true.  The truth is, in terms of getting anything of substance accomplished they go nowhere.  They lead directly to resignation and apathy.

Stick to tangible issues, the stuff that puts people in a bad mood everyday!  This usually means bread-and-butter, life-and-death issues.  These are things which because of rotten public policy cause growling stomachs, empty savings accounts, astronomical credit card debt, sickness and the difficulties of getting medical treatment, disappointment, despair, heartache, disillusion. A battered citizen is not impacted by philosophical differences or observations about the human condition.  They are feeling pain.  Neglect.  Abuse.

Third, and perhaps most important:  DO NOT TALK PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS — unless of course the person insists on it.  Yes, the presidential race is exciting, dramatic, baffling, entertaining, frustrating, infuriating.  But just leave it alone for now.  Even if you agree with the person you’re talking to, it is both a distraction and a dead end.

And if you don’t agree, the potential for constructive engagement will be totally destroyed.

We need to talk about problems and solutions, not add to the deafening din of discord and division.  At the end of the day . . .

We all face the same opponents and challenges.

We all have identical, similar, or related problems.  If those problems are not solved, then we will all — with the exception of the very rich and powerful who will move someplace else or start a colony on the moon — suffer.  Individually and collectively we will pay a heavy price.

So what do you talk about?

Remember the percentages from the previous article:

75% of Americans want a federal minimum wage of $12.50 per hour.
63% of Americans want a federal minimum wage of $15.00 per hour.
75% of voters want fair trade agreements protecting jobs, workers, the environment.
76% of voters want a cut back on military spending.
76% of voters want the U.S. completely out of Afghanistan.
79% of voters want no reductions in Social Security, 70% support expanding it.
79% of voters want no reductions in Medicare.
80% of voters oppose the “Citizens United” U.S. Supreme Court decision.
68% of voters think taxes on the wealthy should be increased.
71% of voters support massive infrastructure renewal.
74% of American voters are for ending oil industry subsidies.
93% of voters want GMO labeling on their food.

Look at the level of agreement we share on many issues.

Frankly, we have a lot to talk about and if those percentages are correct, there are very good odds that whoever you are talking to is already negatively impacted by our elected officials not addressing at least one, but more probably several of the items listed above.

It will all come to the surface. 

Like I said, there is no script.  But just as examples, here are some openers:

“My kid is still living with me.  He’s working at Walmart and can’t make ends meet.  With the crash back in 2008, we can barely make ends meet.”

“My mom and dad might have to move in with me.  They’ve been working hard all their lives but Social Security just isn’t enough.”

“Did you know that the high school ran out of money and can’t afford to buy new text books?  Probably doesn’t matter.  My son can’t afford college anyway.”

“Your garden looks great!  You’re very smart.  Who knows what they put in our food these days.  Did you know one out of every three Americans now gets cancer?”

“My nephew got killed in Afghanistan.  He was only 20 years-old.  Why are we fighting in Afghanistan?  Will these wars ever end?”

It’s just a matter of looking at who you’re talking to, sensing what is important, finding some common ground, then both sharing the frustration and acknowledging the need to do something about solving the problems.

Listening . . . common sense . . . and basic intuition go a long ways.

Anyone reading this is intelligent and caring.  Otherwise, why would you be reading this?  Why would you have made it this far in this article?  You could be watching TV, a movie from Netflix, or updating your Facebook page.

I know you care.  I also know that — again if the percentages above are anywhere close to accurate — you personally have been slapped around and brutalized by the insensitivity and inaction of our elected representatives.

Everyone wants the mess to be cleaned up. Everyone wants life to start looking up again for the vast majority of Americans who have been marginalized and ignored for too long.

So just talk.  Talk and listen. 

Maybe people won’t talk politics.  But once the floodgate is open, people will talk about what’s hurting them, what’s now holding them back, how they are getting screwed by the system and those who have looted the country and run America into the ground, how they had wonderful dreams and hopes for their children which have been betrayed, how the American Dream is being destroyed.

They will talk.  You will listen.  Then you will propose something very simple.

That something will be introduced in Part IV of this series.

Posted in Corporatism, Democracy, Economics, Health Care, Political Analysis, Social Commentary, War and Peace | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Putting Boots (Birkenstocks) on the Ground: Part II

Revolution RallyIt looks like the American public, or some significant portion of it, is waking up.  There is now a new populist uprising in the making.  Long beaten into submission, the cowering lumps of disengaged despairing doormats have finally seen the writing on the wall, are breathing a new life, and getting ready to strike back at their oppressors — the 1% and the .1% and the .01% — who just about have it all, but want even the few remaining scraps.

The statistics have been clear for some time.  Everyday Americans — the 99% — have been getting royally screwed. Government of the people, by the people, for the people has been turned into a hollow slogan, a fading recollection of a noble, now irrelevant, improbable, and ostensibly inoperable idea.

In spite of the best efforts by the media — always in service of the rich elite — to hide the rotten news mounting during this democratic devolution, people have grown increasingly aware of the problems and outcomes.  They didn’t need to look at charts and statistics.  They felt the pain personally.  Individual wealth for everyday Americans is shrinking. Wages and purchasing power are in decline.  People are in debt up to their eyebrows.  Schools, roads, whole communities are falling apart.  The water isn’t even fit to drink.

The Sanders/Trump populist uprising is the inevitable result.  Eventually, the pain becomes unbearable and people understandably look for some way or some one to fix things.  Sanders has some great ideas, Trump has a big mouth.  They each in their own unique and characteristic ways represent a “savior” to the masses.

But neither of these men, or any presidential candidate for that matter, can get the job done.  That is written in stone.  Read the Constitution.

How does it get done?

We get it done.  Sure, you can follow the campaign, go to your favorite candidate’s rallies,  watch the battle for the presidency unfold on the boob tube.  After all, it’s the best reality show in town.  Better than Mud Wrestling With The Stars!

Then, when you want to actually do something for yourself, your family and friends, your community, your country, please tear yourself away from this insulting media circus and begin to actually change the world for the better.

Forget about the labels.  Forget Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative, right wing, left wing, socialist, Green Party, Tea Party.

Americans actually agree on a lot of important things.  Arguably most!

With all of the shouting, the cage fighting of the Republican debates, the far more civil and intelligent but still largely irrelevant Democratic debates, muddled by the sports-team-like coverage of all matters political by our entertainment-oriented media, you wouldn’t know this.  But most Americans actually share a host of values and priorities, and even more surprisingly, specifically agree on much of what needs to be done and not done.

Here is a short list of things U.S. citizens by sizable majorities agree on:

75% of Americans want a federal minimum wage of $12.50 per hour.
63% of Americans want a federal minimum wage of $15.00 per hour.
75% of voters want fair trade agreements protecting jobs, workers, the environment.
76% of voters want a cut back on military spending.
76% of voters want the U.S. completely out of Afghanistan.
79% of voters want no reductions in Social Security, 70% support expanding it.
79% of voters want no reductions in Medicare.
80% of voters oppose the “Citizens United” U.S. Supreme Court decision.
68% of voters think taxes on the wealthy should be increased.
71% of voters support massive infrastructure renewal.
74% of American voters are for ending oil industry subsidies.
93% of voters want GMO labeling on their food.

These are huge majorities!

These astonishing and powerful consensuses get lost in the trivialization, marginalization, and other weapons of mass distraction and sheer propaganda we all endure just trying to find out and understand what’s going on.  We are teased, taunted, cajoled, manipulated, titillated, dazzled, disturbed, and generally overwhelmed by the main stream media.

But we are not informed.

If anything we are confused, sometimes outright misinformed.

Thus we lose focus.  We can’t keep our eye on the prize, because from watching television we have no idea what the prize even is.

Worst of all — and it almost appears to be intentional — we are divided.

We are set against one another, encouraged to vilify and blame others, the very people we actually agree with on a lot of things, the very people who are our natural allies as we fight for our survival in the class warfare the rich and powerful wage on us.

Turn off your TVs.  Hide your smart phones under the mattress.  Let the screensaver on your computer do whatever it does — swimming fish, go-go dancers, shooting stars — and don’t disturb it to watch the latest Trump riots or primary predictions.  It’s mood lighting.  Recycle your USA Today, your daily newspaper, your weekly and monthly magazines.

Then . . .

Go talk to someone.  Anyone!

Your neighbor, your cousin, your kid’s teacher, that lady down the street who is always working in her garden, the guy who polishes his car three times a week, your ex-spouse, anyone in your community who you can approach without getting shot.

Maybe you could bake some cupcakes or buy some wonderful muffins from the bakery in town.  Or make a trip to Costco, if all the bakeries in your area are now out of business.

Start out with something like this:

“Would you like a cupcake?”

In Part III of this series, I’ll suggest where you go from there, while you’re munching away on whatever treat you brought along with you.

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Putting Boots (Birkenstocks) on the Ground: Part I

JFK on RevolutionIs the Bernie Sanders revolution real?

Let’s be optimistic here and say for argument’s sake that it is.

Meaning that Bernie Sanders — and ironically even Donald Trump — has awakened a new populism in America.  U.S. citizens are demanding fundamental change in the way government does business.

This uprising, this surge of awareness, is not complex or theoretical.  It is simple and pragmatic.  From both camps, the enlightening Sanders campaign and the frightening Trump campaign, we see frustration and outrage.  The battle cry is the same.

People are saying . . .

“We’re getting screwed and we’re not going to take it anymore!”

This could be an incredibly powerful vehicle for serious reform, regardless of how the presidential election is decided.  In spite of how the presidential election turns out!

But there’s only one way that can happen.  And it doesn’t depend in the least on who ends up in the White House.

Remember . . .

A president is a lightning rod.

But a president is not the lightning.

We the people are the lightning.

And that “lightning” does not find its effective expression in one person.

We the people are the energy, the force, the real movers-and-shakers behind fundamental change.  We the people and only we the people can shape the future we want.

The Bernie Sanders revolution, which many are hailing as a truly historic populist revolt, can only be real if we the people individually and collectively — starting from the very bottom and working our way up — make it real.

It starts with each individual.

Each individual makes his or her unshakable commitment to what it important.

To what is non-negotiable.  To what is absolute.

That commitment spreads outward from there.  Family members, friends, neighbors.

It all starts at a personal level with each person and then diffuses through the network of individuals each individual regularly and not so regularly comes in contact with.  One by one each person engages those who are to varying degrees part of his or her life.

One by one, they individually and collectively come to terms with what is important.

To what is non-negotiable.  To what is absolute.

This is how to build a revolution.

It’s not about cheering for one man and expecting that one politician, regardless of how eloquent and charismatic, to do the work for us.  Especially since that man may not even get elected.  Especially since that man might end up being a truly horrifying demagogue, whose own otherwise despicable party even rejects him — Donald Trump.  Or might not be a man at all but a war mongering corporate toady and unapologetic lapdog for Wall Street who happens to have a vagina — Hillary Clinton.

There is still time to harness the energy of the Bernie Sanders revolution.

There is still just enough time to make it happen if we want it.

Specific advice starts with Part II of this series.

While you’re waiting, you might take your Birkenstocks to your local cobbler and make sure they have plenty of tread.


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