Tag: United States

IMPEACH SESSIONS

While under oath during his confirmation hearing before the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee, then-U.S. Senator, and now-U.S. Attorney General, Jefferson Beauregard “Jeff” Sessions III claimed, “…I did not have contact with the Russians.”

As multiple media outlets are now reporting, Sessions did, in fact, have contact with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador to the United States, on at least two occassions during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign:

Attorney General Jeff Sessions met twice last year with the top Russian diplomat in Washington whose interactions with President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser Mike Flynn led to Flynn’s firing, according to the Justice Department.

[…]

Sessions met with (Sergey) Kislyak twice, in July on the sidelines of the Republican convention, and in September in his office when Sessions was a member of the Senate Armed Services committee. Sessions was an early Trump backer and regular surrogate for him as a candidate.

Regardless of what type of communication took place between Sessions and Kislyak, two indisputable facts are important here. First, Sessions told a U.S. Senate committee that he “…did not have contact with the Russians”. Secondly, and contrary to Sessions’s statement under oath, there are at least two documented instances of Sessions meeting with the Russian ambassador to the United States during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.

The fact that Sessions committed perjury during his confirmation hearing for U.S. Attorney General is grounds for impeachment. U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) has called for Sessions to resign the office of U.S. Attorney General. I am not an attorney or a Member of Congress, but Sessions should either resign from office or face at least one impeachment charge (for perjury).

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The women of America are leading the opposition to Donald Trump

madison-wi-women-march-1-21-2017
Sign carried by a participant in the Madison, Wisconsin Women’s March (Photo taken by Kari Nelson and provided by Sarah Lloyd)

Ladies and gentlemen, the opposition to President Donald Trump is officially here!

Earlier today, millions of people across the United States and on all seven continents around the world (including Antarctica!) participated in Women’s Marches in Washington, D.C. and numerous other locales. The Women’s Marches are the single largest action by the women’s rights movement that I have witnessed in my lifetime by far.

Although I was unable to attend any of the Women’s Marches, here are some observations from the Women’s Marches (all of these are courtesy of either social media of participants or news sources with an online operation of some kind):

The opposition to Donald Trump is not going to be led by a single person. It’s going to be led by a large segment of the American people.

The 2016 Order of The Progressive Midwesterner Awards

As 2016 comes to a close, I hereby present the 2016 Order of The Progressive Midwesterner Awards. The Person of the Year will earn a spot on the list of members of the Order of The Progressive Midwesterner. Starting in 2017, listings of individuals on the list of recipients of the Order of The Progressive Midwesterner will become separate from the Order of The Progressive Midwesterner Awards.

PERSON OF THE YEAR – JENNIFER WEISS-WOLF

2016 was, all around, an awful year for progressives, both in the United States and worldwide. However, one bright spot in progressive advocacy is Jennifer Weiss-Wolf, a women’s rights advocate from New York City. Weiss-Wolf’s advocacy for increased access to feminine hygiene products in public restrooms and advocacy for abolition of sales taxes on tampons and other feminine hygiene products has earned her support for her ideas from Democrats and even a few Republicans. States like New York and Illinois have eliminated sales taxes on tampon thanks to Weiss-Wolf’s advocacy, and Weiss’s hometown of New York City has mandated that tampons be made freely available in public restrooms of city schools, jails, and shelters. Jennifer Weiss-Wolf is the ProgMid Person of the Year for 2016.

ELECTED OFFICIAL OF THE YEAR – BERNIE SANDERS

For the second time in consecutive years, Sanders, who represents Vermont in the U.S. Senate and unsuccessfully ran for the Democratic presidential nomination this year, is the recipient of a ProgMid award. Although Sanders didn’t win his bid for the Democratic presidential nomination and isn’t technically a Democrat, he has had a significant and largely positive impact on the Democratic Party. Sanders successfully pushed to make the national Democratic Party platform, which is non-binding for Democratic candidates, more progressive than in previous years and decades. Sanders helped bring progressive policies like making higher education truly affordable, single-payer health insurance, and expanding Social Security into the American political mainstream, even though none of those ideas will be enacted in the near future, at least at a national level. Furthermore, Sanders’s candidacy has led to the creation of the DNC’s Unity Commission, which will examine potential reforms to the Democratic presidential nomination process for the 2020 presidential election and future presidential elections after 2020. For his advocacy for progressive ideals and his efforts to improve the Democratic Party, Bernie Sanders is the ProgMid Elected Official of the Year for 2016.

ATHLETE OF THE YEAR – LILLY KING

While 2016 was a banner year for the far-right Vladimir Putin regime in Russia, one thing that did not go well for Russia this year was their performance in the Games of the XXXI Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Russia sent considerably fewer athletes to Rio than originally planned after the Putin regime was caught running a large-scale doping operation. Even worse for the Russians, they were completely embarrassed by Lilly King of the United States, who, after publicly criticizing Russia’s Yuliya Yefimova for doping, defeated Yefimova in the pool for the gold medal in the women’s 100m breaststroke swimming event. King was also a member of the U.S. team that won gold in the women’s 4 x 100m medley relay in Rio. For continuing the time-honored tradition of Americans defeating Russians in international sport, and for promoting ethical competition in sport, Lilly King is the ProgMid Athlete of the Year for 2016.

PLACE OF THE YEAR – REPUBLIC OF AUSTRIA

While the far-right has gained significant ground worldwide, Austria is, to an extent, an exception. Austrians rejected a far-right presidential candidate not once, but twice, in 2016. In the first of effectively two presidential elections held in Austria in 2016, left-leaning European federalist candidate Alexander Van der Bellen received more votes than far-right fascist candidate Norbert Hofer in a runoff election after no candidate received an outright majority of the vote in the first round of the first election. However, the Constitutional Court of Austria annulled the runoff results because Hofer complained of election irregularities, resulting in the runoff being re-held. Voters gave Van der Bellen an even larger majority in the re-run of the runoff, and Hofer finally conceded. For rejecting a fascist would-be head of state not once, but twice, in the same year, the Republic of Austria is the ProgMid Place of the Year for 2016.

 

CONCEPT OF THE YEAR – POLITICAL RESISTANCE

As I’m sure that virtually everybody who reads this blog knows, Republican Donald Trump won this year’s presidential election despite winning a minority of the national popular vote. Not surprisingly, I’ve seen more than a few people on the left, and even many establishment Democrats, call for a non-violent political resistance to the incoming Trump Administration. With a barrage of right-wing federal legislation likely to be enacted starting early next year, progressives are going to expect resistance from the Democratic minorities in both houses of Congress. Political resistance is the ProgMid Concept of the Year for 2016.

San Jose Mercury News can’t say the name Simone Manuel

Make no mistake about it, Simone Manuel became the first black American woman to win an individual gold medal in the sport of swimming when she won the women’s 100 meter (109.3613 yard) freestyle swimming event at the Games of the XXXI Olympiad in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. There were actually two gold medalists in the event, as Manuel tied Canadian Penny Oleksiak for the gold medal position. In Olympic swimming, a tie occurs when two or more swimmers post the same time, measured to hundredths of a second. When a tie occurs in Olympic swimming for a medal position, all tied competitors receive a medal of the same color (gold for a tie for first, silver for a tie for second, and bronze for a tie for third).

However, The Mercury News, a newspaper covering the San Jose, California area, used this headline to document Manuel’s historic victory:

Not only is that headline factually incorrect, it’s racist and sexist. First off, Manuel and Michael Phelps never shared an Olympic podium, as men and women compete in swimming events. In fact, the only Olympic sport (summer or winter) in which there are not separate competitions for men and women is equestrian (although a few Olympic sports, such as tennis (summer) and curling (winter, starting in 2018) have events featuring mixed-gender teams competing against each other, and modern pentathlon, of which equestrian is one of the five component sports, has separate men’s and women’s competitions). Secondly, The Mercury News was unwilling to use the name of a black woman who won the event in its headline, but had no problem using the name of a white man who wasn’t eligible to compete in the event in its headline.

The corporate media isn’t willing to say any part of her name, but I am more than willing to say the full name of my favorite Olympic champion of the Games of the XXXI Olympiad so far: Simone Ashley Manuel.

The first Olympic broadcast on U.S. television lasted only 28 minutes

AUTHOR’S NOTE #1: This blog post contains a video that is in the public domain due to said video being an official work of the United States federal government.

AUTHOR’S NOTE #2: For the purposes of this blog post, “Games of the Olympiad” refer to the Summer Olympics.


Starting Wednesday, August 3 at 9:30 A.M. CDT (10:30 A.M. EDT), NBC Sports Network (NBCSN) will air a round-robin stage women’s soccer match between Sweden and South Africa in the women’s soccer tournament at the Games of the XXXI Olympiad in Rio de Janiero, Brazil. NBCSN’s broadcast of the first event of this year’s Olympics kicks off a whopping 6,755 hours of combined television and internet livestream coverage (schedule here) across several broadcast and cable/satellite networks that are part of the Comcast-owned NBCUniversal media conglomerate and the NBC Olympics website. Since Rio is only two hours ahead of U.S. Central Daylight Time during the month of August (due to Rio being south of the equator, Rio observes daylight savings time from mid-October to mid-February, not in August), much, but not all, of NBC’s Olympic coverage in 2016 will air live. NBC Olympic television coverage will air in English on NBC, NBCSN, CNBC, MSNBC, USA, Bravo, Golf Channel, NBC Olympic 4K, NBC Olympic Soccer Channel, and NBC Olympic Basketball Channel, and in Spanish on Univision and NBC Universo.

However, NBCUniversal’s extensive coverage of the 2016 Summer Olympics pales in comparison to the minimal U.S. television coverage that the 1952 Summer Olympics received. However, what little television coverage that American viewers saw of the Helsinki Olympics of 1952 was, to my knowledge, the very first time the Olympics was broadcast on American television in any form.

The first time the Olympic Games were broadcast on American television was a 28 minute broadcast (not counting any commercials that may have aired on the television broadcast) of a documentary about the Games of the XV Olympiad in Helsinki, Finland in 1952, which officially opened on July 19, 1952 and officially closed on August 3 of the same year. Back then, there was no high-definition coverage, there was no digital television coverage, there was no color television coverage, there was no live coverage of the Games, there was no Spanish-language coverage, there was no coverage of Olympic events during the Games, and there wasn’t even television coverage of the Games during the year in which they were held! Instead, American television viewers saw a documentary, produced by the U.S. Army as part of the television documentary series The Big Picture, circa early 1954 (exact air date is lost to time, although the episode in question was the fifth episode following a Christmas-themed episode dated 1953), approximately one and a half years after the closing ceremony of the Helsinki Olympics! The production was a black-and-white documentary, with English-language narration provided by members of the U.S. Army Signal Corps (USASC), of highlights of the Helsinki Olympics. The highlights focused mainly on members of the U.S. Armed Forces who were competing for Team USA in the Helsinki Olympics.

According to Central Illinois television historian and WCCU-TV weather anchor Doug Quick, The Big Picture was aired across the ABC network, although some broadcast stations that either were affiliated with other networks or were independent broadcast stations aired the program as a syndicated program as well. It’s not clear which stations, or even how many stations, aired episode TV-250 of The Big Picture, which is the episode containing the documentary about the Helsinki Olympics.

You can watch the full documentary of the Games of the XV Olympiad here:

My thoughts about flag burning

A little over 30 miles from my home, a flag-burning case is all over the local news.

In Urbana, Illinois, Bryton Mellott, 22 years of age, was booked by local law enforcement for burning the U.S. flag as a form of political protest. Specifically, Mellott was booked for disorderly conduct and violating the Illinois flag desecration statute, which officially classifies flag desecration as a felony in Illinois.

I want to share my own thoughts about flag burning.

Unless there are aggravating circumstances in a particular case (such as flag burning on government property of any kind, flag burning on private property not owned by the individual burning the flag without permission from the property owner, or causing a broader public danger by burning the flag (such as igniting a wildfire or setting fire to something other than the flag)), flag burning should be considered a form of protected free speech. As someone who comes from a family that has had many family members serve in our nation’s Armed Forces, I regard the U.S. flag as a very important national symbol, and burning the U.S. flag is something that I would never do. If I wish to air some kind of grievance that I have about politics or government policy, I will write a blog post, either on this website or another website, about it. However, as long as no damage is being done to property other than the flag itself, the flag in question is the property of the individual burning it, and the flag burning is taking place on one’s own private property or, if on someone else’s property, with permission from the property owner, I don’t believe that flag burning should be a criminal offense of any kind. Keep in mind that I don’t personally approve of burning the flag as a form of protest, and it is something that I would never even consider doing. If you wish to dispose of a U.S. flag in a proper and dignified manner, I recommend contacting an organization like the American Legion or Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) for information before disposing of the flag.

Also, I strongly disapprove of making violent threats towards people, even people who are convicted or accused of criminal activity. We have a judicial system in this country that is built on the principle of due process, not vigilantism.

What is patriotism?

To me, it seems like the Democratic Party has completely lost its way in regards to patriotism. You almost never hear Hillary Clinton talk about patriotism in any way (and Hillary is an ardent internationalist), and, although Bernie Sanders is a left-wing nationalist (or the closest person to a left-wing nationalist in American politics), you don’t hear too much of any patriotic rhetoric from Bernie. Meanwhile, the Republican Party has been pushing a brand of phony patriotism that involves thumping the Bible at every opportunity and stirring up hatred and resentment to anyone who isn’t a white, male, heterosexual, Anglo-Saxon, evangelical Southern Baptist for decades.

I think that it’s time to ask ourselves: what is patriotism?

My own vision of patriotism is derived from two pieces of inspiration. The first is from the late former Illinois Gov. Adlai Stevenson, who was twice the Democratic Party’s nominee for President, but lost both times to Republican Dwight D. Eisenhower, from his 1952 speech to the American Legion convention in New York City:

We talk a great deal about patriotism. What do we mean by patriotism in the context of our times? I venture to suggest that what we mean is a sense of national responsibility which will enable America to remain master of her power — to walk with it in serenity and wisdom, with self-respect and the respect of all mankind; a patriotism that puts country ahead of self; a patriotism which is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime. The dedication of a lifetime — these are words that are easy to utter, but this is a mighty assignment. For it is often easier to fight for principles than to live up to them.

The second is a country music song called “America First”, performed by Merle Haggard:

Now, I’ll talk about what is not patriotism. Patriotism is not shoving your religious beliefs (or lack thereof) down everyone else’s throats. Patriotism is not sending American troops off to war for the mere sake of sending troops off to war. Patriotism is not making America more a part of an international community that threatens America’s economy on a daily basis. Patriotism is not making America the police force for the entire world. Patriotism is not putting the national security of foreign countries before the national security of America. Patriotism is not infringing on the rights of the American people in the name of a religious deity and/or America.

Most importantly, I’ll talk about what is patriotism. Patriotism is fighting to make America, not foreign countries, a better place to live for everyone. Patriotism is fighting to ensure justice and fair treatment for all Americans. Patriotism is protecting and expanding the most important of all rights, voting rights. Patriotism is understanding that civic duty is a lifelong responsibility. Left-wing nationalism is true patriotism.

How to shorten American campaign season while still allowing people to take part in democracy

While Australia has a short, campaign season for all seats in both houses of the Australian Parliament, America’s campaign season, especially in regards to presidential elections, but also in regards to congressional and even state legislative and other types of elections, is ridiculously long to the point of being seemingly perpetual, and it needs to be shortened badly. However, at the same time, we must allow the same or greater level of ability of voters to participate in the political process.

Here are some of my ideas for speeding up America’s political process:

  • Establish a national primary day for party nominations in federal elections, preferably the Tuesday following the first Monday in September
  • Establish a filing deadline for federal races that is four weeks before the national primary for non-incumbents and five weeks before the national primary for incumbents
  • Overturn the Citizens United v. FEC U.S. Supreme Court decision by federal constitutional amendment and allow for robust regulations, limits, and restrictions on money in politics

One reason why many voters here in America are burned out by the political process is because campaign season is too long. It’s time to change that.

Joe Biden goes to Switzerland to smear Bernie Sanders

Speaking before a meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland (basically an international meeting of the wealthy elite), Vice President Joe Biden slammed socialism in a speech:

Vice President Joe Biden disparaged socialism while addressing the World Economic Forum in Switzerland on Wednesday, as his own political party finds itself with a self-described “democratic socialist” leading in some state polls.

“We need — not just in my country, but in other countries — a more progressive tax code. Not confiscatory policy, not socialism, a tax code,” Biden said. “Everybody pays proportionally a fair share. This is not meant to penalize everybody.”

While the vice president has denied any kind of implicit attack on Bernie Sanders, that was clearly a tongue-in-cheek diss of Bernie, whether the vice president wants to admit it or not. Quite frankly, I welcome the absurd red-baiting attacks against Bernie, since they know that Bernie isn’t beholden to the failed Obama-Clinton establishment or big-money special interests, and that Bernie is a serious threat to win the presidency.

I’m not a socialist myself, but I strongly believe that Bernie has some great ideas to make America a better place to live, such as universal health care, guaranteed paid leave, and free public college, among many others.

Vice President Biden is so scared of Bernie, he has to go to Switzerland to attack him!

The First Annual Order of The Progressive Midwesterner Awards

For the first time ever, this blog will be awarding end-of-the-year awards to several individuals who I consider to be effective at advancing progressive causes during the year, regardless of whether or not one meets the typical criteria of being politically progressive or not. This is the first annual awarding of the Order of The Progressive Midwestern Awards, for the year 2015. All ProgMid Award winners for this year and years in the future are automatically inducted into the Order of The Progressive Midwesterner.

The award categories for the first ProgMid Awards are as follows:

  • Person of the Year
  • Man of the Year
  • Woman of the Year
  • American of the Year
  • International Person of the Year
  • Group of the Year
  • Athlete of the Year
  • Blogger of the Year
  • Activist of the Year
  • Elected Official of the Year
  • Entertainer of the Year
  • Young Person of the Year

There are two important notes regarding the awards:

  • Many award recipients will receive multiple awards. For example, if the Person of the Year in a given year is a female athlete from Canada, she would win Person of the Year, Woman of the Year, International Person of the Year, and Athlete of the Year.
  • Should multiple people or a group of people win award(s) other than Group of the Year, the plural form of the name(s) of the other award(s) will be used (People, Men, Women, Americans, International People, Athletes, Bloggers, Activists, Elected Officials, Entertainers, and/or Young People).

With that said, I hereby present the First Annual Order of The Progressive Midwestern Awards, for the year 2015!

Person of the Year – Bernie Sanders

Person of the Year is the only open ProgMid Award category.

No person has made a bigger impact on advancing progressive causes in the year 2015 than Bernie Sanders. Bernie, the junior U.S. Senator from Vermont, is currently seeking the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination in the 2016 elections, and he has made improving America’s economy a key part of his campaign. Bernie has publicly championed raising the U.S. minimum wage to $15/hour, guaranteeing paid family leave, making college in America truly affordable, breaking up large financial institutions, and many other progressive ideals. Bernie is the ProgMid Person of the Year for 2015.

Man of the Year – Bernie Sanders

Men are eligible for the Man of the Year Award.

Since the Person of the Year, Bernie Sanders, is male, Bernie is also the ProgMid Man of the Year for 2015.

Woman of the Year – Rachel Notley

Women are eligible for the Woman of the Year Award.

In Alberta, Canada’s most conservative province, Rachel Notley led the Alberta New Democratic Party to a landslide victory in the Alberta legislative general election in May of 2015, and, as a result of the election, Notley became Premier of Alberta. Notley and her party ran on a progressive platform that championed good government, Alberta’s environment, economic justice, and common sense, and they won in a very conservative part of Canada. Notley is the ProgMid Woman of the Year for 2015.

American of the Year – Bernie Sanders

In order for one to be eligible for the American of the Year Award, one must be a United States citizen, United States national, resident of the United States, or some combination thereof.

Since the Person of the Year, Bernie Sanders, is an American, Bernie is also the ProgMid American of the Year for 2015.

International Person of the Year – Rachel Notley

Those who are not eligible for the American of the Year Award are eligible for the International Person of the Year Award.

Since the Woman of the Year, Rachel Notley, is a Canadian, Notley is also the ProgMid International Person of the Year for 2015.

Group of the Year – The Black Lives Matter Movement

The Group of the Year Award is the only ProgMid Award that is required to be awarded to a group of people.

In response to racism, police brutality, and police shootings of black people in America, the Black Lives Matter movement, a group of progressive activists seeking reform of the criminal justice system and increased accountability of law enforcement in America, has brought the issues of criminal justice reform and law enforcement accountability to the forefront of American politics. Black Lives Matter is the ProgMid Group of the Year for 2015.

Athlete of the Year – Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Professional athletes and individuals primarily known for being amateur athletes (including, but not limited to, collegiate athletes and amateur Olympic athletes) are eligible for the Athlete of the Year Award.

Although one would usually not think of a NASCAR driver as advancing a progressive cause, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr. played an important role in building public support for taking down the Confederate flag from the grounds of the South Carolina State House in the aftermath of the terrorist attack on the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. When asked about his thoughts about the Confederate flag, Dale Jr. called the Confederate flag “offensive to an entire race” and said that the Confederate flag “belongs in the history books, and that’s about it”. For his condemnation of the Confederate flag, Dale Jr. is the ProgMid Athlete of the Year for 2015.

Blogger of the Year – Kelly Wilz

Those who are an administrator of, editor of, author of, and/or contributor to a blog are eligible for the Blogger of the Year Award.

One of the newest members of the progressive blogosphere is Kelly Wilz, a professor at the University of Wisconsin-Marshfield/Wood County. Wilz is also the author of the progressive political blog Dissent and Cookies, which launched in May of 2015. As a blogger, Wilz has primarily focused on ending rape culture in America and supporting tenure protections for college professors, both of which are very important causes. Wilz is the 2015 ProgMid Blogger of the Year.

Activists of the Year – The Black Lives Matter Movement

Those who are largely or primarily known for being a political activist are eligible for the Activist of the Year Award.

Since the Group of the Year, the Black Lives Matter movement, is a group of political activists, members of the Black Lives Matter movement are also the 2015 ProgMid Activists of the Year.

Elected Official of the Year – Bernie Sanders

Those who were a public official elected either directly by the people or elected by a body elected by the people (such as the U.S. Electoral College) at any point in the year in which the award is given are eligible for the Elected Official of the Year Award.

Since the Person of the Year, Bernie Sanders, is an incumbent elected official, Bernie is also the 2015 ProgMid Elected Official of the Year.

Entertainer of the Year – Jon Stewart

Those who are entertainers (actors/actresses, comedians/comediennes, musicians, sports announcers, radio show hosts, television show hosts, etc.) are eligible for the Entertainer of the Year Award.

While Jon Stewart left the anchor desk of the Comedy Central news satire program The Daily Show in August of this year, Stewart has not abandoned the first responders who responded to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Stewart passionately advocated for, and won, renewal of federally-funded health care for 9/11 first responders. Stewart is the 2015 ProgMid Entertainer of the Year.

Young Person of the Year – Keanan Sargent

In order to be eligible for the Young Person of the Year Award, one must be less than 18 years of age on December 31 of the year in which the award is given.

At an August 2015 LGBT pride parade and rally in Madison, Wisconsin, Keanan Sargent, the then-nine-year-old son of Wisconsin State Representative Melissa Sargent, did something incredibly creative when confronted by homophobia. Keanan used balloons to obscure a sign that anti-LGBT protesters were displaying at the pride parade and rally. For his creativity and progressive values, Keanan Sargent is the 2015 ProgMid Young Person of the Year.