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We just made history.

We just made history.  1 state down, 33 to go.  This is what winning feels like.

Vermont just passed the first resolution in American history to call for a convention to propose an amendment to fix Citizens United and the corruption that is plaguing Washington DC.  BOOM.  

When I first started Wolf PAC, I heard a chorus of cowardly cynics saying it was impossible, that we can’t possibly amend the Constitution, and that we would never win this fight.

Well, they were wrong, because together we are TOO STRONG. Tell me what we can’t do, tell me it’s impossible, and we’ll just go get it done.  

When I started The Young Turks in the living room of my house, I told people we were going to have the biggest news show in the world someday.  They laughed at me and told me it was impossible, and then we got to work doing it.  

The Young Turks is now the largest online news show in the world.  Tell me what we can’t do, and we’ll just go get it done.

When we first showed up in Vermont, we were told that there was a 0% chance that we would even get a vote this year and powerful political people said, “We’re not ever calling for a convention.”  

In a few weeks, they were singing a different tune and seeing things our way.  Some called us “too aggressive” and we gave some politicians a bit of hell along the way, but with the help of a few American heroes in Vermont, we won the vote at the end of the day.

Every generation of Americans has amended the Constitution, except ours, and yet still that same chorus of cowardly cynics says it’s impossible, even on a day like today.

When the Suffragists said they were going to get women the right to vote, they were laughed at by those same kind of cynics.  When the Abolitionists started working to end slavery, they were mocked by the cynics of their times too.  

But they both won those fights and amended the Constitution.  

It must be the same in every generation, as Ghandi said, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, and then you win.”  With the victory in Vermont, we are already on the path to victory, and our adversaries haven’t even realized what we’re up to yet.

So tell me it’s impossible, tell me all the bullshit reasons why we cannot possibly win, and tell us why we’ll never ever possibly amend the Constitution.  I’ll point you to that brave little state of Vermont, I’ll tell you how we’re gonna win this fight, and then we’ll just go get it done.  

Let’s go get some more victories in the states, while our adversaries ignore us and the cynics keep laughing.  We’re building an army right now, so we can pile up victories at the state level and move one step closer to amending the US Constitution one state at a time.  

Get in on this and join us while we’re still writing the story of how we won the fight for free and fair elections.  Become a part of history in the making, so that someday you can proudly tell the story of how you saved representative democracy.

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                                                                                                 Click to become a member of Wolf PAC.

 

Forward,

Cenk

 

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Thoughts from a Dentist Chair

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Thoughts from a Dentist Chair

by Bill Briggs

 

I was getting a root canal today, an experience made totally bearable by nitrous oxide, and the dentist along with his assistant had a long, good natured debate about Obama, the IRS/Tea Party mess, Free Press vs. National Security (my dentist a liberal, his assistant conservative), and I was struck that all the complaints and differences they had were once again, at the root (pun intended!), about the money. If it wasn’t for a mouth full of fingers and lungs full of laughing gas I might have pointed that out to them but perhaps another time. I also realized that although I had pretty strong feelings about some of what was said, I wouldn’t have needed to bring my opinions to the room to be able to talk to either of them about what Cenk and Wolf-PAC are going (not trying) to do.

Another realization was that all the effort I have given in the past and might give in the future to causes I care about has been and always will be an uphill, if not pointless, battle. Not against opposing ideas but against huge amounts of money, and that maybe, just maybe, if that money were eliminated, then real, timely, balanced solutions might come to all these problems. Do I imagine that my ideas will surely prevail? That my bleeding heart, liberal, and I’ll admit it, semi-socialist idea of a world where most everybody has enough and schools don’t have to choose between art and football, and children aren’t collateral damage in social wars against perceived lazy parents or real ‘shooting wars’ in oil-rich countries? Well, I’d like to think so, but if not, I think I’d be willing to accept it if it turned out that I was wrong based on a fair and open debate that allows the true will of the people to come to the light. Without getting rid of the money we’ll never know.

I consider myself a very skeptical agnostic but I do believe in a yearning or aspiration that resides collectedly in humanity for a better world and right now I believe that one expression of that is the near unanimous agreement that money in politics is thwarting our ability to move towards any better future, so I’m making a commitment to this effort and would like to volunteer to lead the Wolf-PAC effort in Alaska. I have time, ideas and, I think, a skill set that can be valuable to our common goal. A decade ago I spent most of 4 years in Nepal working for an NGO providing education to girls in many small villages. It was almost as frustrating as it was rewarding but I learned from our failures, enjoyed our successes and brought real change and opportunity to a few hundred girls. In my current job I use creativity and imagination to solve problems and make noticeable improvements for both the company I work for and the people who work for us. I’m not afraid to make mistakes nor am I afraid to be told that I need to modify my approach or find a new one. I can be persuasive and persistent but I loathe conflict and pointless debate.

I have called both my state Senator and Representative and followed up each call with an email. I’ve also created a database from VoteSmart of all the Alaska Senators and Representatives with contact information and their position, where stated, on campaign finance reform, and another list of the political and activist organizations in the state, again with contact information. I have also thought out a somewhat vague strategy to find and recruit people in each district that will make the calls we need to get the State of Alaska “on the board”. They are currently not in session and will not meet again until next January and I believe we can mobilize support and get this on the floor at that session. This may be duplicative of work you have already done or even contrary to things you have found to work in other states, that’s fine. I couldn’t sleep and might as well have done that as spent those hours surfing the web, a vaster wasteland than Newt Minow ever imagined. If you find someone better suited to the task now or in the future, that’s fine too, I’ll still work with you in whatever capacity I can.

I didn’t start this email to be either an essay or a resume, but it is a little of both. For some time and increasingly over the last two years I have felt an urgency and almost an anxiety over the direction our country is going. I was brought up to believe that America was the greatest country not just on the earth but in history, and although the jury is surely not in on that issue the case against us is gaining credence. I want to be part of making America great again.

Bill Joy made a good case that the future doesn’t need us, but we certainly need the future.


-  Bill Briggs 

Reporting for duty from the great state of Alaska 

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The Death of Debate in Washington

The Death of Debate in Washington

by Josh Sager  

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The classical view of the legislative process in Washington is one of debate and compromise between officials representing their constituents. Ideally, our legislators meet in Washington’s legislative buildings to engage in a fact-based and honest debate. Once they make their case to their peers and accept concessions from opposing views, these idealized politicians put their carefully sculpted bills up for a vote and, eventually, laws are passed.

While such a purely idealized view of Washington is unrealistic—there has always been wheeling-and-dealing and alternative motives in government—the fact remains that this has been the general way that our legislature works. Throughout American history, we have seen many cases of compromise and honest debate within our political structures. To give one example of such a situation, we can simply look back to Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neil’s debate and compromise surrounding entitlement reform.

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The History of Money in Federal Politics

Wolf-PAC Money in Politics Series Part #1:
The History of Money in Federal Politics

© Josh Sager

Over the next few weeks, a four-part series focuses upon money in politics throughout United States history will be released. In the first article, I explain how money influenced federal politics in our country’s history as well as the attempts by the government to address the problems created by money in politics. The second article in this series will focus on state-level fights over money in politics and will present historical examples of state-level corruption related to the issue of money in politics. The third article in this series will focus on the attacks on campaign finance regulations by the Supreme Court during the past few decades—a phenomenon which culminated in the Citizens United decision. The fourth article in the series will describe the post-Citizens United political landscape and the return to a political climate where money is allowed to steamroll through politics.

Introduction

At the founding of our republic, no laws or regulatory bodies oversaw political donations or contributions and it was left up to individual candidates and political parties to choose how to raise money and spend it. It took over a century for the first campaign finance regulations to pass on the federal level. Eventually, laws governing political campaigns passed in our country because of public outrage over the corruption that is created when money is allowed to buy power. 

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image from: thedailybeast.com

 

Before talking about the history of money in politics in the United States, it is important to mention that political campaigning, and thus the uses of money in political campaigns, is radically different now from how it was in the past. Advances in technology and changes in campaign laws have led to drastic transformations in the use of political money and in the need for funds to operate a political campaign.

Before the 20th century advances in mass-media technology (radio, TV, and internet), political campaigns spent most of their money buying food, drinks, and “gifts” in attempts to entice potential voters. Political campaigns would stage events and distribute refreshments to citizens during the campaigns and would try to win them over. For example: In his 1758 Virginia House campaign, George Washington spent over 90% of his campaign budget buying approximately 160 gallons of alcohol to distribute to voters on election day.

Most of the media that focused upon the political campaigns during the early years of our country was newspaper (and later, radio). During these years, there was less of a campaign focus on buying huge amounts of media coverage/advertisements. Political candidates would utilize a combination of public speaking appearances, gatherings, and supporter-submitted newspaper stories to spread their names. In some situations, these newspaper ads were bought, but in many, they were simply a product of supporters.

After the rise of mass-media technology, campaigns became much more expensive and money became increasingly focused upon buying media exposure. In the modern national political campaign, hundreds of millions of dollars are spent per election, primarily on the purchase of media advertising.      

Despite the changes in campaign strategy and fundraising over the centuries, one aspect of money in politics has remained constant: those with resources and power inevitably try to use their resources to influence politics. Whether it is the slave-owning southern elite, the trans-national railroad corporations, or the modern oil corporations, people with money have attempted to buy political power from politicians for centuries; as politicians are human, thus are corruptible, such attempts are often effective. 


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Howling Into the Wind

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Howling into the Wind   by Hiway 

The first instances I found the urge came as a boy... like when my uncle let me stand in the bed of an old Chevy pick-up truck, hanging on to the top of the cab, while bouncing through a cornfield on a hot August North Carolina afternoon after coming back from a little country general store having scored the age old southern treat of a Cheer Wine and a Moon-pie; a pack of bottle rockets tucked neatly into my jeans pocket (all of which equate to manna from heaven to an 7yr old boy) or feeling the gentle breeze on my tiny face as I sat astride the lap of my father as he took the riding mower through the "back 40" in a faster gear than he cuts grass when I was in diapers.

Rural living brought with it many influences of motor vehicles, and I, like so many of my era, was drawn to the motorcycle the first time I laid eyes on one. I was one of those young heathens at age 9 who was mesmerized by the images Dave Mann illustrated in the centerfolds of the stolen Easyrider magazines I would lift from the local High's store. By 12, I daydreamed of wild and knobbied dirt bikes careening through the mountain fire trails... which at 15 led to a longing for gleaming chopped and raked street machines; intimidating chromed iron horses with flair and maelvolence, and turning 18 I rode a fat and stocky bobber with large metallic paint flecks shimmering off the gas tank beside flat black frame tubes, a springer front end with ape hangers, and dangerous girls on the back fender pressing into me and clutching tighter as I twisted that throttle, all with the sensation of open cockpit movement and the scents, sounds and clean Appalachian country air on my face summoning the desire to joyously, and with unbridled passion... howl into the wind if I chose.  [Read the rest, it does tie into Money in Politics!]

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Campaign Finance Reform: An American Issue

Campaign Finance Reform: An American Issue 
By Josh Sager   -    December 2011   -     TheProgressiveCynic.com 

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Democracy is an American value, not one that can be attributed to one political party or ideology. The maintenance of a free and fair democratic process is an issue that every American should be able to get behind, regardless of what party they claim to support (if any party at all). Unfortunately, decisions by the Supreme Court to remove virtually every limit on money in politics have opened our elections process to a hijacking of our democracy by moneyed interests. American elections have become billion dollar affairs, with numerous interests jockeying for power through political donations. By giving money to politicians, various groups and individuals try to get “their” candidates into office and keep them there—once these candidates become sitting politicians, the donors can come to their offices and “request” favors and services. The money that is given to politicians acts as a lever and allows donors to influence policy by promising funding, withholding funding, or even threatening to fund opponents.

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Skin in the Game

Skin in the Game: Elites demanding YOUR sacrifice
by Nicole Belle   via   Crooks and Liars 

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Can I state outright that means testing and raising the eligibility age for Social Security and Medicare is a terrible idea? Stupid, backwards-thinking, anti-economic notion.

So it makes my heart sink to see Don Peebles, a member of President Obama's National Finance Committee, ape Republican talking points about means testing, "job creators at the top" and being skeptical about government purchasing power over the private sector. Thankfully, we have Sam Seder of the Majority Report there to strongly and forcefully speak for progressive solutions that make these social safety nets available for those who most need them and to front load the means testing by making the wealthy pay more by raising the income cap. But Peebles isn't having it. He's on the program (and the Finance Committee) to protect his and the rest of the 1 percent's tax rates

 

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Christmas Wish List

Just a few things we'd love if Santa slid down the chimney with and delivered to us this year! We don't think it's so unreasonable :) 

 

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Cenk's Opening Speech at UCLA

Watch Cenk Uygur's opening speech at UCLA during the "Money out of Politics" Conference on November 17th.  

 

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Weekly News Roundup #9 - 11/16

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