Nel's New Day

January 3, 2014

Disrupters of 2013

Filed under: Uncategorized — trp2011 @ 8:22 PM

The United States in the 21st century: control by corporate and banking power, an excessively expensive military dominating the world, and a push to over-privatize the public sector for extensive private profit. People worship at the font of Apple, a company that daily avoids $17 million in taxes, outsources jobs to other countries, and gives almost no money to charity.

Two years ago, the Occupy movement worked to disrupt the process, but it’s either fallen by the wayside or gone underground. Last year, however, individuals changed the status quo by separate actions. An old saying is that sunshine is the best disinfectant.

Edward Snowden, Time’s runner-up to person of the year, was one of these disrupters, shining light on the government’s corruption. Despite the extreme antagonism from many on the right and some on the left, Snowden shook up the status quo after he released information about how much the National Security Agency (NSA) has been watching everyone in the United States. The story of NSA surveillance didn’t go away, especially after it was revealed that the United States was spying on Angela Merkel, German chancellor, and other countries such as Brazil.

One judge has ruled that it’s just fine for NSA to gather whatever information is wants, but two other judges disagree. The editorial boards of The New York Times and The Guardian published editorials on Wednesday, urging the Obama administration to treat Edward Snowden as a whistleblower and offer him some form of clemency.

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) has a growing following—including me—who agree with her positions on the improvement and expansion of Social Security, opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline, and watchfulness over the “banks too big to fail.” About the Supreme Court, Warren says that it’s on the path to being a “wholly owned subsidiary of big business.” Whether Warren runs for president in 2016 or not, she’ll be a major factor in DNC policy.

Bill de Blasio’s election last year as the first new mayor of New York in 12 years—and the first Democrat in 20 years—can lead to a shake-up, starting with changes in the current stop-and-frisk law that targets minorities and the growing economic and social inequality of the city. The city’s news media may not have endorsed his approach, but the progressive Nation did—a good sign for progressive action.

According to his inauguration speech, his goals include providing universal, full-day pre-K for the city’s four-year-olds; expanding after-school programs; creating more affordable housing and community health centers; and forcing small businesses to give their employees paid sick leave. His aim, he said, is that New Yorkers come “to see our city not as the exclusive domain of the One Percent, but a place where everyday people can afford to live, work, and raise a family.” These ideas could be used for the entire country.

Michelle Alexander, an associate professor of law at Ohio State University and a former ACLU lawyer, has a history of fighting the country’s “culture of mass incarceration” in a racist criminal justice system. Her 2010 book, The New Jim Crow, extended the dialog of how the U.S. penal system is the biggest factor in the nation’s poverty and inequality. Now she’s working across the country to develop organizations to stop the slavery of blacks in prison.

As she told Bill Moyer:

We’ve got to be able and committed to building an underground railroad for people who are released from prison, people who need desperate help finding shelter and food as they try to make a break for real freedom. But we’ve also got to be willing to work for abolition at the same time. Abolition of the system of mass incarceration as a whole.”

Harry Belafonte is known to most of us as a singer from the past, but at 87, he’s working for peace by bringing together gang leaders and organizing musicians to support his causes. He so riled the Koch brothers by comparing them to the Ku Klux Klan that the brothers, usually silent about criticism, hit back. At the First Corinthian Baptist Church, Belafonte said:

 “Already we have lost 14 states in this union to the most corrupt group of citizens I’ve ever known. They make up the heart and the thinking in the minds of those who would belong to the Ku Klux Klan. They are white supremacists. They are men of evil. They have names. They are flooding our country with money. They’ve come into to New York City. They are beginning to buy their way in to city politics. They are pouring money into Presbyterian Hospital to take over the medical care system. The Koch brothers, that’s their name. Their money is already sewn into the fabric of our daily system, and they must be stopped.”

Lest we forget, the Koch brothers is a prime funder of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that prepares conservative bills for state GOP legislators as well as funders of right-wing campaign advertising.

Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez operate Democracy Now!, the most influential progressive media outlet in the country. The independent news program can disrupt because it is not corporate owned; donations support its journalists and broadcasts. Thirty years ago, 50 media conglomerates dominated media outlets; 20 years later, the number had shrunk to just six corporations.

Peter Lewis, Uruguayan president José Mujica, and the people of Washington and Colorado are the forces behind legalizing cannabis. Founder of Progressive Insurance, Lewis died on November 23 before the law was passed in the two states and Uruguay, but other disruptors will continue the process that will greatly reduce the prison population, offer more people access to medical marijuana, and cut down on the consumption of alcohol. At this time, 40 percent of the states and Canada have legalized medical marijuana.

Pope Francis, potential game changer throughout the world, became as talked about in the media as Edward Snowden. He’s not great about rights for women and LGBT, but his perspective on less capitalism, less greed, and less income inequality has turned hypocritical Christians into awkward dissenters. The pope will not be ignored.

Ju Hong, immigrant rights activist from South Korea, called out President Obama this past year on his massive number of deportations, 1.4 million immigrants—one and a half times more on average than George W. Bush—since the president took office. During the president’s speech in San Francisco, Hong called for him to end these mass deportations, a situation that resulted in an extensive discussion of Obama’s aggressive deportation policies on Spanish-language media.

The NFL, a ten-billion-dollar business, has almost as many followers and influence as Christian churches, thus trying to investigate the result of concussions has been almost impossible for many years. First, the NFL denied evidence of the irreparable brain damage from everyday football-playing and then they tried to cover it up.

Enter ESPN reporters and brothers Mark Fainaru-Wada and Steve Fainaru, authors of League of Denial: The NFL, Concussions, and the Battle for Truth.  The book doesn’t stick to just pro football; it also examines the risks of playing football in colleges, high school, and even midget football. League was the basis for the Frontline documentary as it focused on longtime Pittsburgh Steeler center, Mike Webster. After his death, an examination of his brain showed chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE), football playing damage equivalent to being in 25,000 car accidents. Injury to the brain causes protein deposits in the brain that overwhelming health cells and creating a disorder equivalent to Alzheimer’s disease.

ESPN ran scared of the NFL and pulled out of both the documentary and film, but the disruption about brain damage from playing football may not disappear. Parkes/MacDonald Productions partners Walter Parkes and Laurie MacDonald have won an auction for screen rights to the book.

A final possible disruption came in Texas. Three of the state’s biggest billionaire donors to the GOP died in 2013: businessman Harold Simmons, construction magnate Leo Linbeck, Jr., and tract home builder Bob Perry. Personal campaign contributions in the state are unlimited, and these three gave millions—no one knows how many—to conservative candidates. Simmons made his money from cleaning up after the contamination of his own “dirty” companies; Linbeck preferred donations to limit citizens’ abilities to sue businesses. Matt Mackowiak, GOP political consultant, said that their donations “probably prevented a lot of races from ever taking place at all by scaring off potential competitors.”

Now GOP candidates in Texas such as Sen. John Cornyn will have to compete with Tea Partiers like Sen. Ted Cruz and Rep. Steve Stockman, who have no allegiance to business. Political scientist Mark Jones, Rice University, said, “There is no one left now that has the gravitas to single-handedly decide whether a candidate runs or not, or is viable or not.”

Death causes the ultimate disruption.


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