The Conservative ‘Family Values’ Myth & Bernie

The Conservative ‘Family Values’ Myth & Bernie

I would like to address the notion of ‘family values’ as a Conservative hallmark.  This is one of the largest myths that serves the GOP.  The term family values has been assigned as a core issue for the Republican party but the truth is that it has a never been one of their cornerstones.  In fact being Republican means you are positioned against family freedom, opportunity, and are being pigeon-holed into a support system of antiquated family values that have no place in modern society.

When the GOP discusses ‘Family Values’ they mean only one thing; controlling your family’s values.  They want to control the definition of what your family is and force you into a narrow contradictory Republican ideology that is defined by their frequently anti-family platform.

The GOP platform is not in support of empowering families to have better lives.  They wish to limit the choices and freedom of families.  They wish to put their boots on the necks of women’s choices and rights.  And they seek to deny and limit the definition of what makes up an American family.

The War Against Women:

GOP or Taliban

Republicans do not wish to grow and do what is is right for our American women.  Republicans stood firm against equal pay for women.  They stood firm against allowing women to have access to birth control in all places of employment.  They deny mothers twelve weeks of paid maternity leave.  And they seek to deny women the chance to make their own choices when they are raped.

raise-your-voice-624x812

Republicans allow only one sort of marriage in their narrow definition of family and they seek to define all families according to the standards they set.  But since when has that become the trademark of a free society?  Where do families get to make their own choices about what is right for them?

The role of Government in regards to families should be one to empower all families to make their own free choices for their children, their lives, and what they choose to define as their own personal set of ‘family values’.

Republicans are quick to jump on anyone who does not meet their standards and support their ‘family values’ platform.  The Republicans would have you believe that Bernie Sanders is some anti-family socialist and mad villain.

Bernie-Sanders-National-Socialism

The truth is that Bernie Sanders is a champion of the family.  Sanders is a champion and pioneer for working class Americans in general; he seeks to strengthen the backbone of the poor and middle classes which make up a majority of our American families.  You need to look no further than actual legislation this socialist has championed in order to understand who in this 2016 election will empower families:

Bernie Sanders:

  • Cosponsored Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s FAMILY Act, which would guarantee every employee twelve weeks of paid family and medical leave. This program would be funded through an insurance program, the way Social Security is today. Workers would pay into it with every paycheck, at the price of roughly one cup of coffee per week.
  • Introduced legislation requiring employers to provide at least 10 days of paid vacation per year, as is done in almost every other developed country in the world.
  • Cosponsored Sen. Patty Murray’s Healthy Families Act, which would guarantee seven days of paid sick leave per year for American workers
  • Supported the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act of 2009

CKTuh8fW8AUwYMg

Not only is Senator Sanders championing women’s rights like equal pay, empowering them to making choices about their body, and letting them determine what happens to them when they are raped; he is also looking to empower the American family with opportunities to grow and succeed.

Bernie wants to give everyone the opportunity to attend a public university without amassing debt.   Parents and children alike searching for opportunities are being held down by student loan debt and Bernie is seeking to help families by giving them equal access to education.

Bernie wants to target our staggering  youth unemployment rates.  Currently one-third of white and Hispanic youth and fifty percent of African-Americans are unemployed and searching for work.  Bernie Sanders introduced the ‘Employ Young Americans Now Act’ to provide $5.5 billion to help employ and train one million young Americans between the ages of 16 and 24.

Bernie is also seeking to upgrade our American infrastructure and introduced legislation that spends $1 trillion over 5 years to modernize our country’s physical infrastructure.  This would create 13 million jobs for American families and it would provide better roads, bridges, and important infrastructure that will benefit American families for generations to follow.

There is a fundamental difference between the GOP and Bernie’s platform.  The GOP wants to define and limit the definition of family to a dated and anti-American set of values while simultaneously denying women an equal opportunity in our society.  The GOP wants to force down our free throats the definition of what a family MUST be under no exceptions.  The GOP wishes to empower billionaires while letting the majority of the American families suffer as they lose money, jobs, and their voice in their own government.

Bernie Sanders is standing against the tide.  He is holding the banner of American families and will do so as a matter of a principle with or without us.  Senator Sanders is trying to start a revolution that will allow us to take control of our own families while providing us with every opportunity to be successful, safe, and in control of our own destinies as we participate in the American Dream.

Bernie Sanders stands for Family Values.  So do I.  I hope you’ll join us.

Sincerely,

David

Bernie-IBegU

How I Respond to Three Common Questions/Comments when Campaigning for Bernie Sanders

How I Respond to Three Common Questions/Comments when Campaigning for Bernie Sanders

As I talk about Senator Sanders and his 2016 campaign there are a few archetypes of responses I get and here is how I answer when faced with three of the main reactions:

The ‘Conservative’ Reaction

  1. Bernie Sanders is a Socialist/Communist!

4VI1hK2

When I get this reaction I generally let the individual vent and express their feelings.  Then I ask them if they have grandparents that need social security or medicare.  I’ll ask them if they have ever been unemployed and needed unemployment insurance.

I ask them if they ever had to call 911 for an emergency or if they knew someone who needed help for a fire.  I ask them if they have ever enjoyed a family vacation out of state and have driven on the highway to help provide their family with a wonderful experience.

  • It’s important to explain that socialism is used as a scare word but it is not pure Stalin communism.  Socialism is a means in which the government takes money and helps use it to better the lives of all of us.  Socialism allows us to travel and in the cases of emergency it allows us to have safety in times of crisis.  Socialism is what allowed the brave first responders on 9/11 to run into the towers and save so many lives.  Socialism is what keeps out country safe and runs our military.

I explain how Senator Sanders is trusted in Vermont and that he has served the American Government for decades and he is a man who believes in the working class of American people (who are struggling).  I explain that Bernie is not as much socialist as he is a man who fights for the rights and the future of the American people within the American political system.  He stands firm in his beliefs just as many heroes of our nation have done in the past he is not afraid to be honest about who he is and what he believes; even at the cost of his own ambition.

I then discuss how Bernie wants to make all lives better by taking back America from the banks and elites that have robbed the common American voter of their power.  I talk about how Bernie was strong enough to stand against the Iraq War (and in the minority) and that he /fights/ to restore the /democratic/ process for the people and seeks a revolution to empower American voters in their own national discourse.

Minority Reactions:

2. Who the hell is Bernie Sanders?

This is an opportunity I love.  Because when confronted with this issue I first smile and know I have my greatest opportunity for spreading the word about why I support Bernie Sanders in his campaign.

I begin by talking about Bernie Sanders Civil Rights records.  I talk about how even as a young man Bernie was principled enough to be a member of CORE and SNCC and I explain the importance of these two groups in the fight for equality.  I talk about how he was there for the March on Washington and that he has been a champion of equality from the start and he has carried that banner through his entire political career.

I describe how Bernie as a young man was arrested for protesting and distributing flyers against police brutality against African-Americans.

I then talk about his current plan to fight racial inequality which is a far cry more than /ANY/ other politician in this election.

You can read more about how I feel about Bernie and Civil Rights here:

https://libordie.wordpress.com/2015/08/24/bernie-sanders-and-civil-rights/

Or just go to his website and read his plan for yourself:

https://berniesanders.com/issues/racial-justice/

When I find that the person I’m talking to is a Hillary Clinton supporter I point this out:

2r2qayx

The Apathetic Citizen

3. I Don’t Care About Politics

With political science in my college teaching background and as a man who fully believes in the power of the vote this reaction spontaneously breaks my heart.  And I lament this response because I know that we as people can improve the lives of the majority of our country just by participation.

This answer to apathy is one I would encourage you to give straight from your heart.  For me I talk about the wealth income gap.  I discuss how I do not want my children to have little chance for success in their lives as the power of the elite in our country grows continuously through decisions like Citizens United.  I describe my personal story and relate it to why participation in this election is absolutely imperative for me — and why I fight for what I believe in.  I describe how I tie apathy to the same as culpability when facing the problems we have today in our American society.  And I describe how I cannot sit down passively while my country is sold to the highest bidder.

For you I encourage you to reach into what drives you to engage in these conversations.  Use your knowledge and passion to give your own testimony on why we must rise up and form a political revolution in this nation.  And be honest and sincere.

And to close in these dialogues I discuss my passion and energy and why I put so much into a politician that I also believe is honest and sincere.  I describe Bernie’s policies on his donors and how he refuses against his own political interest to fund his campaign and sell himself in order to ‘win’.  And I tell them how I feel that Bernie Sanders is a genuine man with a compassionate heart and a love of the American people.

Bernie-Sanders-doesnt-want-corporate-money

Thank you,

David Estridge

Bernies Sanders and the Importance of the Supreme Court in 2016

Bernies Sanders and the Importance of the Supreme Court in 2016

I would like to take a moment and write about the importance of the 2016 election and why it is imperative Bernie Sanders should warrant your consideration for the presidency.

One of the central issue about this election should be the Citizens United v. FEC (2010) ruling.

The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) ruled in Citizens United and declared that for-profit, non-profit, labor unions, and associations (PAC & Super PACS) are protected by the first amendment.  This ruling empowered these entities to funnel money into elections at a rate that mutes the common voter and quite frankly disemboweled the majority of the American people of their voting power.

citizens-united-cartoon

So what did it do?

To put it simply Citizens United allowed the insertion of limitless spending on elections by corporate entities and the rich elites.  This spending has become crucial and it has made it vital for serious candidates to subsidize their chance of winning by earning the favor of the big money in politics.  As a byproduct the voice of the common American citizen that is essential in a representative form of government has become less influential.  To put it bluntly we as the bottom 99% cannot afford and spend enough to have a majority voice in our own political discourse.

Naturally these entities that have invaded our national discourse are doing so in order to promote their values.  And when it comes to the values of corporations and the rich this equates to furthering their wealth gains at an increase in the wealth gap and a marginalization of the poor and middle classes.  When huge money becomes crucial in politics it allows these entities to buy candidates who are desperate to curry their favor as a necessity to achieve victory in their campaigns.

Just take a look below at the increase of spending by non-disclosing groups in our election process.  Only the candidates receiving this money know the source and what deals were cut to acquire this.  The transparency in our elections has evaporated and money has become the big motivator in American elections at the expense of public sentiment.

blog_undisclosed_campaign_spending

So why do you keep hearing about the Koch brothers and their influence in American politics?

This is simple and needs very little explanation just look at the graph below:

kochspending

If you are a politician you can try and woo the finicky American voter.  Or you can buy your election and be beholden to a rising Oligarchy of the rich American elite who will fund your victory and buy your principles.  Now more than ever our politicians are tied to banks, elite rich entities, and are working against the self-interest of the American people.

So why is Bernie Sanders different?

Bernie’s fight is one for the American people.  His campaign is based on taking the money and the rich out of politics and restoring the voice and power of American workers.  Don’t believe me?  Just look at the difference between Bernie and Hillary below in terms of who funds them.  Bernie won’t take money that buys his voice unless that influence is one towards increasing the power of the American worker:

HILLY-V-BERNIE-DONORS

So what can Bernie do?

The reality is that post Citizens United it will be exceptionally difficult to force legislative change.  Corporations and the elite will fight tooth and nail (Meaning they will outspend us) to keep their influence and to stay the course of directing us on a path to being the world’s largest Oligarchy.  This means that Congress will be difficult to uproot from their current course because the weight of money in the election process is staggering.

That leaves the Supreme Court:

ACF725

Bernie has stated that he will not appoint any Supreme Court nominee that does not pass a litmus test to overturn the Citizens United ruling.  This means that in a court that is evenly split is absolutely crucial to replace justices who would stand firm against giving corporations and entities the right to free speech and the ability to buy our local and national elections.  This is the quickest path to change and to reverse the people and worker crushing course that has been forced upon us by the initial Citizens United decision.

So what are the chances?

Odds are given the current age and the fact that the current conservative justices have been waiting for Obama’s tenure to end that Bernie would assign one pivotal nominee in the next four years. There have 160 nominations to the Supreme Court in our national history. Of these nominations 7 didn’t want the job. Reducing the number to 153 viable nominations to the Court; John Tyler failed 8 nominations and is taken as a statistical anomaly because of the circumstances of his unfavorable rise to the presidency after the death of Harrison during his tenure in office. That takes the overall number down to 145 viable nominations. Of these 124 have been confirmed; Sanders can send nominee after nominee and he will eventually get one through. But the default rate of nominee appointment (and Citizens United is not a landmark objectionable issue compared to the historical issues of Slavery and Abortion) adjusted for circumstances is 86%.

I will take an 86% chance to save this country I love from Oligarchy any day of the week.  In fact I will fight, campaign, and go door to door to struggle for this change.  I urge you to join me in supporting Bernie Sanders for President in 2016.

Bernie%202016%20Overturn%20Citizens%20United

Bernie Sanders and the Battle for a Living Wage

Bernie Sanders and the Battle for a Living Wage

I am an advocate of Bernie Sanders plan for setting the minimum wage to fifteen dollars an hour.  And I will admit this is a tricky conversation because there are some valid concerns about the impact of such an action.

First I want to discuss the fundamental principle behind a raised minimum wage.  Right now at the current federal minimum wage ($7.25 an hour) a person can work forty hours a week, receive benefits, and they cannot effectively afford to support themselves or their children according to current United States poverty standards.  Many minimum wage workers qualify for welfare assistance and cost the tax payers money in order to subsidize their inability to support themselves fully.

Let’s identify who these minimum wage (and those near it) workers are:

FT_14.11.14_lowWageIndOcc

Note the Food and Grocery store industry are the leaders in paying our citizens not enough to live on.  Many states only pay waitresses and waiters a paltry few dollars an hour and force them to rely on inconsistent tips.  While the overwhelming majority of these people work for large chain corporations and fast food restaurants who are indifferent to their workers’ ability to provide for their families.  Many more are employed by giants like Wal-Mart whose employment practices marginalizes their own employees for the sake of monstrous profits.  The Wal-Mart (Walton) family has as much wealth as the bottom 40% of our country. (See my earlier topic about Corporate Welfare)

Companies are threatening to switch to less employees and utilizing more automated systems as a response.  These same companies will do this anyway if they can save money.  This is an empty threat because huge corporations with tremendous profits will always look to marginalize their labor expense in the favor of profits.  We as consumers can reject their actions and refuse to do automated business where we don’t agree with the practice.  I personally refuse to utilize self-checkout as a rule and will not subsidize corporate profits with my own labor in a transaction.

mcdonalds_minimum-wage_response

Any time I see this I refuse to either shop there or I ask for a manger and make them complete my transaction and express my displeasure at this business practice.

The issue as I see it:

Should we as a nation pay our workers that work forty hours a week enough money that they can support themselves in their lives without being dependent on welfare or other state subsidies in order to survive?

Absolutely.  This should be a ethical and moral imperative of our country.  And sometimes when you make a decision like this it comes at a cost.

The reality is that there are small businesses out there that will be hurt by raising the minimum wage.  Frequently the argument becomes that raising the minimum wage will hurt these businesses and their ability to survive.

If a business cannot make enough to support itself and sustain a living wage for its employees should the government be responsible for subsidizing that business at the tax-payer expense?

Absolutely not.  Republicans tout capitalism and certainly don’t want to be on the hook for welfare.  And small/medium sized business and corporate welfare as a whole should be repugnant for these same individuals to swallow.  Some small businesses will be forced to adapt and change their practices in order to accomofate this change.

But let’s not get it twisted.  The majority of the employers that employ the working poor are companies like Wal-Mart nd McDonalds who brought in billions of dollars in profits last year.  Profits that are subsidized by the tax payer in the form of corporate welfare.  Small and medium sized businesses are not the majority share holders in the living wage debate.

ronald

I would like to raise another concern.  In a conversation with my father we discussed the impact of raising the minimum wage.  He expressed concern about the cost of goods increasing and being that my retired parents are on a fixed social security income they would struggle as a result.

This is definitely a valid concern.  Senator Sanders seeks also to address and raise the social security benefits in lockstep with minimum wage earnings.  He would place the increased tax burden on the astronomically rich who are outpacing and marginalizing the wealth and earning potential of the lower and middle classes.

I would also argue to cap the distribution of social security so that the recipients of the benefit are not those who after retirement earn over $200,000 dollars a year.  Their social security money should go back into the pool to help assist those who are truly in need of it.  We owe our seniors whose hard work and labor has propped up our government and fought for our freedoms no less by giving them a social safety net beyond reproach.

I also point you to Bernie’s own statement on Social Security where he has been a champion for a long time:

http://www.sanders.senate.gov/imo/media/doc/Social%20Security%20Statment%20-%208-24-11.pdf

Conclusion:

The poor are suffering in our country.  Their voices and political power is waning and the rich are profiting of their labor to a new greedy extreme that is unprecedented in our national history.  The wealth income gap is widening at an alarming rate and we are at a precipice in our national identity.

We as a nation must rise up and begin a political revolution to take back our ability to live without government dependency.  This begins with ending the staggering influence of the rich through rulings like Citizens United.  It also includes making sure every American worker has the ability to pull themselves up and to provide for their families through a living wage.

I hope you will join me and Bernie Sanders in supporting a living wage for all Americans.

Thank you,

David Estridge

Gerrymandering: Stealing the Power of Voting One District at a Time

Gerrymandering:  Stealing the Power of Voting One District at a Time

So what is gerrymandering?

Gerrymandering is where politicians go in and manipulate electoral boundaries in order to achieve a favorable result for a party.

What does this do?

This allows a party to artificially manipulate their constituents into promoting their party and entrenching their power in that district.  Gerrymandering marginalizes minority voices within a community and robs the American people of their opportunity to express their diversity.  It limits the power of voting and stifles the democratic process at all levels.

Gerrymandering is often used along racial and ethnic lines.

Why do parties do this?

Politicians serve their self-interests.  Gerrymandering can give rise to career politicians at all political levels by squelching opposing sentiment.  The process also limits the ability for voters to push issues that matter to the people and muzzles dissent from constituents by marginalizing their political influence.  Politicians know that minority communities and their voting patterns are a threat and they seek to limit the opportunity for community and district driven change.

Here is an academic example of gerrymandering:

Gerrymander_diagram_for_four_sample_districts

Here is a real world example of gerrymandering:

Texas_Houston_View

So how is this legal?

The Voting Rights Act of 1965 made it illegal for gerrymandering with the intent of removing voting discrimination based on race and ethnicity.  The Supreme Court in two cases (Shaw v Reno & Miller v Johnson) has ruled that gerrymandering cannot be conducted using only racial data.

But some states as a matter of policy and as a bi-partisan practice gerrymander together.  While other states simply allow the dominant party to wreak their self-interest on the voting public with impunity.  While the Federal government can intervene it is hard given the current legal criteria to successfully show legal discrimination in the gerrymandering process.

Gerrymandering is not simply a left or right issue.  It is a process that limits the diversity and the power of voting for the American people.  By its very nature gerrymandering is anti-democratic and it is an example of an entrenched American practice that disenfranchises citizens from their right to vote.

The movement to end Gerrymandering is frequently championed by liberals since minorities frequently favor democrats over republicans. Bernie Sanders champions an end to gerrymandering and recently Lawerence Lessig has introduced the idea of running as a referendum candidate (a president who resigns after pushing reform as a one issue candidate) in order to address voting rights issues and gerrymandering.

Likely though an end to gerrymandering will need to come from the courts in a stern ruling.  Appointing liberal justices is the best and most likely way to end this frequently discriminating practice.

Thank you,

David Estridge

The Prison State: Reform is Desperately Needed

The Prison State:  Reform is Desperately Needed

Some FACTS to chew on:

1) The United States represents 4.4 percent of the world’s population
2) The United States houses 22 percent of the world’s prisoners (We’re #1)
3) The United States has the highest rate of youth incarceration in the world

This begs the question, WHY?

My answer:

1) Privatized Prisons
For Profit imprisonment is a crime in of itself. In a country where we deny more freedom to our own populace than any other country in the world why put fuel on the fire? Privatized incarceration is fundamentally one of the most flawed concepts in our country. In a system that is supposed to be democratic and impartial the introduction of the concept of making profit off the backs of forced labor is simply repugnant.

2) Incarcerate Them Early. Often. And no matter what you do; don’t intervene…

We have MORE child prisoners per citizen than ANY other country in the world. Let me repeat that. More of our children have their freedom taken away than ANY other country. We imprison more children than any other civilized country in the modern world. We imprison more children than ANY third world country. This is simply shameful and this fact alone should force us to alter our national behavior.

When you introduce a child to a system with no forgiveness how do you expect to get them back into society when you don’t have any systematic goal to do so? Child imprisonment is indentured servitude for most the kids who get the odds stacked against them from the very beginning. But hey – we are making money and if we get them early we can make boatloads from this lifelong cultural, systematic, and socio-economic enslavement.

3) Mental Health

We need to focus on mental health in this country. Many prisoners are not prisoners as much as they are victims to diseases of the brain. And countries that have a holistic and forward-thinking approach to mental health fair far better in their prison systems.

4) Drugs

Rehabilitation should be the answer here and not systematic entrapment for a self-injuring (or sometimes morally correct but legally wrong) practice. Once it is in the system it is hard to get out. Everyone makes mistakes and this one is a frequent mistake in our society in terms of our prison population.

5) We are too Proud

Humility. Sometimes introspection does wonders for the soul. As a people we often chant blindly about being number one. But we rarely sit down and examine ourselves and reflect on our societal ills and look to solve them before it is utterly too late.

Well it is too late. You can’t have more children and people in prison than any other country in every significantly negative statistical category and claim moral superiority. We all too often blind ourselves to our own reality because it is marginalized and not in our faces. We have a terrible justice system and it is time to admit it and look to major reforms.

The Terrible Practice of Civil Forfeiture Laws

The Terrible Practice of Civil Forfeiture Laws

I want to take a moment to talk about Civil Forfeiture Laws.

These laws are a shameful representation of a failed justice system where money has undue influence and victimizes the poor as a matter of indifferent policy.

First let me explain what these forfeiture laws do:

Civil Forfeiture laws came about so that the authorities (police) can seize your property that they allege is involved in a crime. What this should mean is that if you are arrested in the suspected act of a crime the police can seize your car, your money, and whatever assets might be available.

That sounds reasonable on the surface, right? If you use something to commit a crime then you should be subject to losing it and having it seized by the government. The government can then use the resources to better its police departments.

So here are the problems:

1) The Police do not have to have reasonable cause to seize your assets

2) The Police do not have to charge you with a crime to seize your assets

3) Fighting to get your assets returned is costly and a significant barrier

4) There is no oversight on what the police use these funds for and it serves as a ‘slush’ fund for police expenditures and thus this encourages the police (who use these funds to make their lives better) to have corrupt practices concerning Civil Forfeiture

Here are a few stories you can read about Civil Forfeiture:

http://www.brownpoliticalreview.org/…/the-dangers-of-civil…/

http://news.investors.com/…/032415-744925-new-mexico-elimin…

What is being done?

Some states are taking action. Montana and New Mexico are about to require a criminal conviction in order to enforce Civil Forfeiture. The ACLU in Arizona just challenged the law and is headed to court in Arizona. There is a lot of real positive movement towards ending Civil Forfeiture.

But how can this impact me or those I love?

Let’s say you are going out of state to buy a car. You have taken a few thousand dollars cash. Or let’s say you are on vacation and you have money to pay for it and set aside. If you drive into a place that actively practices Civil Forfeiture you can be stopped by police. If they see you with a large amount of money they can seize that from you under the threat of arrest. To avoid being arrested you turn the money over and you proceed along your way.

Getting that money back is costly and difficult and the attorney and court fees can surpass the gain of getting back what is yours.

Worst of all? You don’t even have to be charged with a crime. And suspicion is such a loose definition that the latitude that police have to add to their slush funds is sickening. If you are poor this could derail your life. And most of us are living check to check. It can have devastating consequences on you and your family.

What can you do?

Write your Senator:
http://www.senate.gov/…/com…/faq/How_to_contact_senators.htm

Write your Congressman:
http://www.house.gov/representatives/find/

I urge you to take some action. Right is right. And the police shouldn’t be able to seize your property without charging you with an actual crime. Current Civil Forfeiture law punishes those in positions of need and it hurts the people of this country. I implore you to take action because this issue is on the cusp of finding justice in the Courts and in our Government. And your voice can lend itself to actual and positive change in regards to these laws.

Thank you,
David Estridge