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Jul 2012 20

by Steven Whitney

Reading this recent tweet from the esteemed Governor of Wisconsin, one has to wonder if his head is buried in the sand or up his ass. Either way, his vision is blurred.

No disrespect to Noah – he built a fine ark – but like Mitt Romney, he invited only his family to come along for the ride. And the animals, of course. But at least on Noah’s vehicle, they weren’t strapped to the roof.

In ancient times, there were other great wonders to behold – the Great Pyramids, the Hanging Gardens of Babylon, the Colossus of Rhodes, the Lighthouse at Alexandria, the Temple of Artemis, the Roman Coliseum, the Greek Parnassus, and even the Great Wall of China. All of them built by the governments of their eras.

In modern America, the bridges (the Golden Gate and Brooklyn come to mind) and dams and canals that adorn our waterways were built by the government. The Interstate Highway system and the city streets and country roads were built in the 1950s, under a Republican President who (like Roosevelt before him) saw the need to build our country’s vital infrastructure. The Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo space crafts, as well as the Space Shuttles and the giant telescopes that look into the farthest reaches of space were all built by our government. Why, even Wisconsin’s Statehouse was built by the government.

I doubt Noah, even with the help of his sons, could have managed any of them.

Governor, until you realize that individuals, private enterprise, and governments can all contribute remarkable achievements to society – separately or together – you define yourself by the old adage: there are none so blind as those who cannot see.

Related Posts:
Fighting Back Part 3: Fighting Fire With Fire
When The Past Is Prologue
Fighting Back Part 2: Defining Rovian Politics
Fighting Back
The Electoral Scam
Being Fair
Occupy Reality
Giving. . . And Taking Back
A Tale Of Two Grovers
A Last Pitch For Truth
America: Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.
Gotcha!

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Jul 2012 18

by Steven Whitney

[The Fighting Back series began with a simple question: given their minority status for most of the last 80 years, why is the GOP so successful at winning elections? Over the next weeks, we’ll seek answers in a myriad of fields and then offer solutions aimed at turning the tables on the party that favors corporations and the 1% over the vast majority of Americans. The series is not meant to be a monologue, so feel free to share your ideas in the comments section below.]

Last week’s column sketched out how Karl Rove – the GOP clone of Dr. Evil but lacking the charm or charisma – designed the new Republican model based upon the same four doctrines employed by Joseph Goebbels in his role as Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda for Germany’s Third Reich.

The reason is simple: if we can learn from and implement some of his tactics and strategies, albeit without his mendacity and immorality, we should – if only to start winning more elections and to successfully push a liberal/progressive agenda through the labyrinthine halls of government.

Make no mistake, no matter who the Republican candidate or what GOP agenda Democrats are running against, they are also running against Rove, “the Architect” of the modern GOP. This is the man who not only “consults” on practically every race but who also makes and maintains connections to Big Money corporations and the 1% while holding the purse strings of rightwing SuperPACs and the RNC.

It’s also important because propaganda is all that Republicans have. With no substance, no moral high ground, no sustainable policies and no real solutions at hand, it’s just them and their giant propaganda machine. If we can beat that, we can beat them.

So let’s reboot the Goebbels/Rove doctrines of Propaganda – Indoctrination, Intimidation and Revenge, Distraction and Disinformation, and Divide and Conquer – and dig a little deeper into them, one by one.

Generally speaking, Indoctrination is the practice of instilling targeted ideas, attitudes, strategies, tactics, and other thoughts into the conscious, subconscious, or unconscious mind of another. It is different from learning (education), which requires deliberate study, perception, and critical analysis, in that indoctrination can be, and often is, involuntary – occurring almost subliminally, unobserved by the unsuspecting mind – and strongly discourages any questions or examinations of an analytic, or fact-based, nature.

The term indoctrination was originally used to describe the generation to generation passing on of religious doctrine (indoctrinate contains the word doctrine and comes from the same Latin root), a set of core beliefs central to an enclosed community that is based solely on “faith,” not facts. Children of the faithful were born and brought up within the strict guidelines of the religion and often attended religious schools (in addition to worship services and special religious instruction like catechism) where they learned and often had to memorize doctrine. By the time they reached adulthood, most (but not all) identified themselves with the religion in which they were indoctrinated. Children, of course, are particularly vulnerable because they rely on their families and communities for all their basic needs and they trust, or have faith in, the entities that nurture their growth.

Indoctrination to military service, on the other hand, is based on the reinforced concepts of “duty” and “order” to a nationalist (or tribal) entity while also encompassing the mental and physical training factually necessary for soldiers to perform their often unpleasant tasks. The ideal recruits or volunteers are late teens and young adults, largely because development of the pre-frontal cortex of the brain that controls judgment is not complete until about age 25, rendering them more susceptible both to influence and bad decisions.

While there are many forms of political indoctrination, the one successfully practiced by both Goebbels and Rove is based on the concept of “The Big Lie,” a term coined by Hitler himself in his book Mein Kampf:

“…because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily. . . in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie. . . for they could never believe that others would have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously.”

When the Third Reich snatched total control of Germany’s media – all print, radio, and film outlets – Goebbels targeted those same “broad masses,” endlessly bombarding them with the Big Lies that led to World War II and the Holocaust. Any alternative view was vigorously quashed – books were burned, professors and other “intellectuals” were jailed, killed, or fled the country, art and music was censored or banned, and all performing arts were under the centralized control of Goebbels’ Ministry (two films produced by the Third Reich – Triumph of the Will and Olympia – are still considered the most skillful and frightening examples of the power of visual propaganda). This relentless blitzkrieg of untruth occurred every single day from 1933 to the Fall of Berlin twelve years later – and, tragically, it worked.

With modern technology, total control over the outward flow of information is more difficult today, but still possible (think North Korea). Yet in America, if the indoctrination begins early enough, continues blaring non-stop 24/7, and if the dialogue can be poisoned just enough to win elections, our entire society can be transformed from inside the government, almost invisibly, from a democracy to a plutocracy of corporations and the 1% with hardly a whisper of recognition.

Under Rove, and like Goebbels, Big Lies are mostly absorbed and reinforced through social brainwashing by the media, which diligently reports the GOP’s Daily Talking Points as both real news and, incredibly, the truth. On radio it’s the right wing corps of talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh and Bill Bennett who receive their marching orders from Rove and the RNC.

But for the last 15 years, the elephant in the big GOP tent has been Fox News, created and autocratically run by Nixon/Reagan crony Roger Ailes, who serves as its president – and owned by none other than phone hacker extraordinaire Rupert Murdoch, the Aussie-turned-Brit-turned-American Citizen Kane. Over the last fifteen years, and by Ailes’ design, Fox News has literally become the unofficial arm of both the Republican Party and the Tea Party, if there’s any difference at this point.

In collusion with Rove – who signed a big money contract to serve as Fox’s “political analyst” – Ailes programs a never-ending cycle of propaganda and fear-mongering, complete with now infamous buzzwords and phrases like freedom, entitlements, elitist, liberal media, smoking guns and mushroom clouds, WMD, Red Alerts, Islamo-Fascist, Muslim, birther, redistribution of wealth, and my personal favorite, death panels.

Hour after dreary hour, the chattering chowderheads of Fox News goosestep in 2/4 time to the Daily Talking Point, using exactly the same words and phrases, over and over and over, like the annoying drip drip drip of a faucet all night long until it becomes part of your unconscious and you can finally sleep.

Jon Stewart frequently pokes fun at Fox’s journalistic reverb chamber, airing montages of every Fox host repeating the exact same words and phrases over and over – from Hannity to O’Reilly to Fox & Friends and everyone else, including every “guest” pundit weighing in on the day’s “news.” But laughs aside, the technique is lethally effective: every single textbook on brainwashing states that exact and continuous repetition is the most effective tool of social brainwashing. Preying on fear and paranoia, Rove and Fox continually repeat emotionally-charged slogans and buzzwords that, although false, favorably brand their far right agenda while painting anyone on the left (or sometimes even the center) as “Un-American,” perhaps their most overused buzzword – and all of it at a noise level that deafens reason.

The other sly ploy used by Fox News from its beginning is: “Trust only us. We’re the only network that will tell you the truth.” Goebbels’ state-run newspapers and radio employed the same ruse, so German children of that period grew up trusting only Nazi media.

And, of course, every time any reasonable objection is voiced from the 99% the Fox puppets repeatedly scream other buzzwords like “Class Warfare” or “socialist” (Goebbels, too, was virulently anti-socialist). How’s that for fair and balanced?

Even the GOP’s horrendous rudeness is a political tactic. Watch almost any installment of Real Time with Bill Maher and you’ll see Republican panelists aggressively interrupt and shout down (or over) pertinent points being made by progressives. While it may not at first seem advantageous to be so boorish, it keeps the audience from hearing the liberal perspective – and like a tree falling in the forest, if no one hears it, does it really exist?

Some might argue that only wingnuts on the right believe and trust in Fox News. But consider this: Because they are so unprepared for analytical thinking and contextual meaning, children are extremely vulnerable to propaganda, especially that which is delivered over a period of years. Think of children born in l993 or 1994 to parents who constantly played Fox News in the den. This year voting for the first time, these young adults have been indoctrinated for most of their lives – and they will likely pass their inculcated beliefs onto their children. That’s a scary thought, and proves that we have a lot of work to do for many years ahead.

During WWII, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS) – the precursor to the CIA – issued a report on the Hitler/Goebbels methodology that remained classified until the mid-60s, when its use started to leak into global political indoctrination:

“…his primary rules were: never allow the public to cool off; never admit a fault or wrong; never concede that there may be some good in your enemy; never leave room for alternatives; never accept blame; concentrate on one enemy at a time and blame him for everything that goes wrong; people will believe a big lie sooner than a little one; and if you repeat it frequently enough people will sooner or later believe it.”

Please, read that passage again. Let it sink in. Then ask yourself if, point by point, it doesn’t exactly describe the strategies of today’s GOP under the aegis of Karl Rove, his corporate sponsors, his media cronies, and Fox News.

As Germans discovered, those tactics can and do win elections, but they are so divisive as to inevitably lead to the destruction of once-great nations and sovereign cultures, just as they have led to the most dangerous political and social crisis the United States has faced since the Civil War – a crisis only we can solve, and only by taking action against those who want “to fool all of the people all of the time.”

Related Posts:
When The Past Is Prologue
Fighting Back Part 2: Defining Rovian Politics
Fighting Back
The Electoral Scam
Being Fair
Occupy Reality
Giving. . . And Taking Back
A Tale Of Two Grovers
A Last Pitch For Truth
America: Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.
Gotcha!

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Jul 2012 14

by Steven Whitney

Today, July 14th, marks the 223rd anniversary of the Storming of the Bastille in 1789, the event that sparked the French Revolution.

While there were only seven prisoners – all freed – incarcerated at the time, the fortress was perhaps the most visible and most accessible symbol of a repressive royal authority that represented only the top 2% of the country. The other 98% were bound in an economic enslavement with a regressive tax system, meaning the richer one was, the less one paid.

Does any of that sound familiar?

The Declaration of the Rights of Man and the Citizen – alongside our own Declaration of Independence one of the greatest documents of democratic principles – arose from the camaraderie and solidarity shown by the vanishing middle class and poor of Paris who fought back with a vengeance on this single day that changed the course of history.

Now celebrated as Bastille Day, it is to France what Independence Day is to America.

Happy Anniversary!

Related Posts:
Fighting Back Part 2: Defining Rovian Politics
Fighting Back
The Electoral Scam
Being Fair
Occupy Reality
Giving. . . And Taking Back
A Tale Of Two Grovers
A Last Pitch For Truth
America: Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.
Gotcha!

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Jul 2012 11

by Steven Whitney

[Last week, the “Fighting Back” series began with a simple question: given their minority status for most of the last 80 years, why is the GOP not only still viable but so successful at winning elections? Over the next several weeks, we’ll examine answers in a myriad fields, some obvious and others more subtle, and then offer solutions aimed at turning the tables on the party that favors corporations and the 1% over the vast majority of Americans. The series is intended to be a discussion, not a monologue – so in the spirit of participatory democracy, feel free to share your ideas in the comments section as we move from topic to topic.]

With the death of the Lee Atwater in 1991, the GOP lost their most effective election strategist in decades – the “bad cop” who miraculously overcame a mid-summer 41% polling deficit and, many observers believe, single-handedly pushed “good cop” George H.W. Bush (President #41) into the White House via a mixture of mendacious tactics and Machiavellian strategies. Without Atwater, Bush lost badly (370-168 electoral votes) to Bill Clinton in his 1992 re-election bid – even as Republicans gained seats in the Democratically controlled House and Senate.

Spotting opportunity, Karl Rove – a crafty political “advisor” who had been biding his time, waiting in the wings for more than a decade after his involvement with the Watergate scandal – made his move. Although little known outside of Texas, he had already cultivated a nationwide network of GOP operatives and, more importantly, had long ties to the Bush family. Amping up Atwater’s dirty tricks, “take-no-prisoners,” and “divide and conquer” playbook, Rove ran the dirtiest, most negative, and most successful campaigns in anyone’s memory, electing hardline right-wingers Senator Phil Gramm, Senator John Ashcroft, Agricultural Commissioner Rick Perry, Senator Kay Bailey Hutchinson and, of course, Governor George W. Bush, the incurious son of the former President. (Anyone still not aware of the many sins of Karl Rove – too numerous to list in this or any other post – should read selected posts of the late Molly Ivins here and here, and/or watch the fine documentary Bush’s Brain).

During this string of unprecedented wins, Rove slowly gained invisible control of the Republican National Committee and successfully courted Fox News, Fortune 500 corporations, and individuals like the Koch brothers, bringing them into the Big Money Tent of the GOP. So when it came time for the puppet-master to run “W” for President, he had all the tools – lies, smears, dirty tricks, misdirection, and the money to implement them – and resources needed to run an Atwater Times Ten campaign, including the advocacy of James Baker (who later admitted to fixing the election), the Supreme Court, Florida Governor Jeb Bush (W’s brother) and his cohort Kathryn Harris, who carried out voter suppression while introducing the now infamous butterfly ballots to the Sunshine State. The election was literally stolen from Al Gore, marking the first time in a hundred years that a President was elected without winning the popular vote.

But it was during his years as Senior Advisor and then as Deputy Chief of Staff to President Bush (#43), that Rove actually reconfigured the GOP, transforming it from a conservative bloc that generally venerated the values that fuel democratic politics – pragmatism, bipartisanship, mutual respect, the twin arts of negotiation and compromise, and at least a semblance of civility – to a hard line, far-right party intolerant of and punitive to even the smallest form of dissent or rank breaking.

Once in the White House and in possession of real power, Rove continually mimicked and reinforced a career trajectory not dissimilar to that of Joseph Goebbels, the Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda of Germany’s Third Reich from 1933 to 1945 and almost universally considered the “father of modern political propaganda.”

After living through World War II and witnessing first-hand the disastrous effects of Goebbels’ stunning misuse of language for political ends, George Orwell wrote the 1946 essay “Politics and the English Language,” in which he newly defined the agitprop of Goebbels’ Ministry: “Much political language – by means of circumlocution, euphemism and other doctorings, was designed to make lies sound truthful.”

That sentence became the basis of Newspeak – a language Orwell created to illustrate the power of words and phrases to control the thoughts and actions of the people – in his classic novel, 1984, published in 1948. And Newspeak – the seductively reassuring “branding” of party policy combined with the outrageously false and incendiary defining of any alternative views – was and is a central foundation for both Goebbels and Rove.

Let’s be clear – I am not calling Rove a Nazi – excrementous, yes; a Nazi, no. I am merely pointing out that Rove has employed almost exactly the same tactics – updated for the electronic age and streamlined for contemporary American culture – as did Goebbels.

Curiously, there are a few personal similarities between them as well. Both men first ascended to power as acolytes in the service of, and instrumental to, their masters’ political success. Both chose to travel the lowest campaign roads imaginable and, perhaps because of that, both men were – despite their obvious intelligence, skills, and success – vehemently disliked by almost everyone with whom they came into contact. George W. Bush, the greatest beneficiary of Rove’s political acumen, even nicknamed him “turd blossom” (it is lost to history if Hitler ever called Goebbels scheisskopf).

In politics especially, every single study of voting habits shows that emotion trumps reason in almost every election. For that reason, almost all propaganda targets emotion rather than intellect. So, like Goebbels, the focus for Rove is on often imaginary or contrived wedge issues (fear, xenophobia, homophobia, misogyny, racism, and false patriotism) that negatively arouse strong and even hysterical emotions rather than on real political concerns that require positively-charged and reasoned responses.

Using emotions like fear as their cornerstones, both Goebbels and Rove created horrendously effective propaganda factories built on the dogma of Indoctrination, Intimidation and Revenge, and Distraction and Disinformation, coupled with Divide and Conquer strategies.

By institutionalizing these immoral agendas, both men created the most divisive and destructive societies in their nations’ histories – and drove a great percentage of their fellow citizens absolutely batshit crazy.

In 1945, with Soviet troops advancing on Berlin, Joseph Goebbels had the very good sense to kill himself. Since Karl Rove will probably not grace us with such a similarly joyful outcome, it’s mandatory to deconstruct his schemes so we can figure out how to successfully overcome his shameless but effective brand of politics without ourselves becoming indecent.

This, I’ll tackle in my next column, Fighting Fire With Fire.

Related Posts:
Fighting Back
The Electoral Scam
Being Fair
Occupy Reality
Giving. . . And Taking Back
A Tale Of Two Grovers
A Last Pitch For Truth
America: Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.
Gotcha!

Jul 2012 04

by Steven Whitney

July 4th commemorates both our Declaration of Independence and the call to arms that eventually freed our nation from British dominion. Today we find ourselves bound in the shackles of economic enslavement and a Republican agenda dedicated to handing our country over – lock, stock, and barrel – to corporate and 1% rule.

The Republican “record” is a litany of disgrace. Their doctrinaire invasion of Iraq, renditions, secret prisons, black ops, and torture policies brought shame upon America. Their tax cuts for the rich and concomitant borrowing brought our nation to the precipice of an all-out economic disaster. They slashed funding to education and welfare, and wanted to “reform” (get rid of) disaster relief, Social Security, Medicare, and all other programs they successfully (but mistakenly) labeled “entitlements.” They supported the criminals of Wall Street while they persecuted minorities and repressed women (or “sluts,” in their vernacular). Via an all-time record of filibusters they willfully obstructed all legislation that might kick-start jobs and our economy – not out of loyalty to their country but solely from a goose-stepping allegiance to their ethically-challenged party. They filed egregious lawsuits against any passed legislation that might help the poor and middle-class, like the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act…or they pledged not to implement such measures in states they control. Their actions resulted in the most dysfunctional Congress in our history. Their false words and Neanderthal manners poisoned our civic discourse as surely as toxic clouds gathered from their denial of climate change.

So why are they still in the game?

It can’t be the issues. Republicans can’t garner votes from issues because they don’t have any they can honestly air in the public forum. Besides, judging by both polls and American lifestyles from the 1970s onward, it’s clear that liberals have won the so-called culture war.

So why is almost every election – local, state, and national – so close?

For the last 50 years, Republicans have consistently been the minority party, with significantly fewer registered voters than Democrats.

So why, since 1968, have they occupied the White House for 28 years compared to the Democrats’ 16, 75% more years running the Executive Branch?

Throughout that time, Republican policies have aggressively favored the rich and the newly-created “persons” of Citizens United – ExxonMobil, Halliburton, Goldman Sachs, JPMorgan Chase and the rest of the Forbes 500 biggest corporations from which they have literally received countless billions of dollars. Everything they do is for the 1% and against the interests of the 99%.

So why do so many in the 99% vote for them?

Ranting and raving about “stupid” voters – correctly or not – won’t help and will probably only arouse their contempt. To get their valuable votes back, we have to realize that the answers are myriad and more complex. Besides, if we’re so smart, why aren’t we winning the hearts and minds of the entire 99%?

Face it, given our 99 to 1 advantage (some would estimate it is closer to 90 to 10, but still overwhelming), we must be doing something spectacularly wrong.

So the real question is: what is it we’re doing wrong and how can we fix it?

When solving problems, Marcus Aurelius encouraged students always to look to their first causes. In this instance: when and how did the playing field get so imbalanced?

From 1860 through 1928, the White House was pretty much the permanent residence of Republican Presidents – Democrats Grover Cleveland (1884) and Woodrow Wilson (1912) ascended to the Presidency largely because of split votes in the Republican ranks. But after 58 years of dominance, Republican free market policies, unfettered by regulation and oversight, led to the Great Depression, just as the Reagan through Bush policies walked us down the economic plank 80 years later. In 1932, FDR’s New Deal turned the tide of the nation, solidified 16 years later by Harry Truman’s promise of a “Fair Deal” for all. Finally, it was an era of Democratic sensibilities.

But after signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, LBJ turned to another longtime Democrat and announced: “We have lost the South for a generation.” As it turned out, he underestimated by two generations. Building on the white flight of Dixiecrats, the GOP focused on a “Southern Strategy” that eventually turned the former Confederacy into an unbreakable Republican stronghold. It was a match made in heaven (or, more probably, hell) – for the last half-century, opaque (and hotly denied) racism, xenophobia, and homophobia have been ugly realities within the GOP. Think “birther,” “undocumented aliens,” “border fences” not unlike the Berlin Wall, and what they term “the abomination of gay marriage” (although envisioning gay honeymoons probably sticks in their craws even more). And the South has been the GOP base ever since.

We can’t regret the political fallout from the Democrats’ historic civil rights legislation – we were on the right side, both morally and historically. And, after almost 50 years, the GOP stranglehold on Southern states is finally loosening, if just a bit

But to take advantage of the concentration and rise, respectively, of Black and Latino voters in the South, and the fact that Democrats still have more registered voters in their column than do Republicans, we need to prepare for and combat the Republican tactics and strategies that have been so disgracefully yet successfully employed over the last 40 years.

Beginning with Nixon’s criminal cover-ups, burglaries and dirty tricks crews through Lee Atwater (“the Machiavellian godfather of modern take-no-prisoners Republican politics”) to Karl Rove (the chief strategist first known as “Bush’s Brain” and the puppet master behind the GOP and its money-laden SuperPACs), their often despicable tactics have time and again caught us standing still, almost cowering in shock – like deer in the headlights – awaiting their next outrageous gambit. Indeed, ruthless indecency is part and parcel of the modern GOP, not to mention their relentless hypocrisy.

For the last 44 years, being more morally motivated and better informed citizens has not made Democrats better at winning elections. Thinking us no more than wusses, Republicans have stuck as fiercely to their guns as Dirty Harry, expecting us to eventually roll over and play dead. Sadly, and to our everlasting shame, they’ve been right more often than not. We have been wusses – the good, gentle, moral brainiacs with coke-bottle glasses – even as the GOP relentlessly pushed an agenda of fear, intimidation, and more power and money to their 1% benefactors.

Yet the keys by which the 1% lock us to their interests lay beyond simple aggression, dishonorable electoral politics, numbers, and ideology, and instead inhabit ancillary fields of human behavior – the social, cultural, historical, religious, psychological, educational, linguistic, and even genetic issues. Because we need to find workable answers and solutions, over the next few weeks (and posts) we’ll survey not only political science but all the social sciences, plus voting patterns and election cycles so we can implement new and effective strategies and tactics.

A lot has changed since FDR’s time. Now, as Republicans have declared war on our country’s principles and its people – the poor, the middle class, and women – we need to bring a little cold-bloodedness to the game. No more wusses, no more cowering liberals, no more whimpering progressives. Instead, we sorely need smart, effective, and relentless attacks and counterattacks, more cojones and less apologia…perhaps even a small insurgency or two.

Let today mark the beginning of a newly-found independence from the forces that aim to render us both impotent and expendable. Without surrendering the high ground of our social morality, it’s time to counter with a bold offensive, hitting Republicans with all we’ve got, both in the streets and at the ballot box.

Let this Independence Day transform us into savage warriors for the cause of true freedom – the values of democracy and fair play for all – that began 236 years ago today…on July 4, 1776.

It’s time to fight back.

Related Posts:
The Electoral Scam
Being Fair
Occupy Reality
Giving. . . And Taking Back
A Tale Of Two Grovers
A Last Pitch For Truth
America: Forget it, Jake. It’s Chinatown.
Gotcha!

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