Get Some!

While a constitution may set forth rights and liberties, only the citizens can maintain and guarantee those freedoms. Active and informed citizenship is not just a right; it is a duty.
-Ronald Reagan

You can’t keep up. You have a full-time job, kids to feed, a mortgage to pay, spouse to keep happy, and if you’re lucky you get an hour or two a day to just be you. Trying to keep up on what’s going on in the world on a daily basis is time-consuming and it takes dedication. So why should you make time to be an informed citizen? Because you care. You care about yourself and your family. You care about what kind of world your children will grow up in. You want the world to be a better place for your children and grandchildren than it is for you. You ask your child how their day at school went because you want to make sure everything is going well for them and nothing detrimental to their health or ability to learn is happening. This is the exact reason you should ask yourself: “What’s going on in the world today?”. Because you want to know what’s happening and what events or situations are occurring and how to adjust your life accordingly.

What can you possibly do even if you knew everything about everything that’s going on in our complex world? The more knowledge that We The People collectively possess, the more we can affect the decision-making that can lead to a better world in a positive and constructive manner. Ill-informed people tend to make ill-informed decisions.

It’s easy to grab the morning paper, read a third of it, listen to NPR for an hour or three a day while you work, tune in the nightly news on channel 5 at six o’clock every night, then go around thinking you’ve been informed. This notion tends to be reinforced, because most other people do the exact same thing you do. So when you speak with them there is very little conversational critical analysis, and a whole lot of parroting talking points and complaining. We all know that the traditional print media has been dying. So why do we continue to depend on it for knowledge, as if it serves us as well as it used to?

Unfortunately, the vast majority of our highest-circulation news mediums are controlled by a very small group.

These five corporations control the majority of U.S. news

With the consolidation of so many news outlets under these few umbrellas, the duty to serve the people by informing them has taken a back-seat to profit. Investors don’t care about product, just profit. Corporations exist to make a profit, not something that’s necessarily good. So when these huge corporations own most of the news outlets, quality suffers in the pursuit of profit. News has devolved into info-tainment. You’re more likely to get the latest celebrity news on the front page of your local paper than to be told what bill your congressman just introduced that will hurt your community.

So what can a person do to stay informed? Do reliable news sources still exist, and if so, who are they and where do you find them? The good news is that, yes, good news still exists. It’s being produced and disseminated every day. You just have to do a little searching to find it. But when you do find it, and you will, you’ll never go back to relying on what you considered to be ‘news’ before.

Below are a few sources to get you started on your quest. By no means is this a comprehensive list. It is merely a starting point to help you find new sources. Most websites have a place with links to other sources. Find them. Use them. They are your friends.

Alternet.org
An alternative news and opinion site with over 2.5 million unique visitors per month. Great thinkers like Chomsky write here from time to time.

Dailykos
The world’s most-read liberal blog. Here you’ll find opinion and essays on a vast range of topics. The huge number of contributors leads to absolute gems being written every day. Check out the ‘Recommended’ list on the right side. The authors vary from centrist-Democrats to left-of-left.

Democracy Now
Real. Actual. News. Enough said.

JuanCole
History professor, writer, and world traveler, Juan Cole provides in-depth analysis on all things Middle-East. He has a unique ability to explain the intricacies of Middle-Eastern affairs. Bonus: poetry by Omar Khayyam, the 13th century Persian astronomer and poet!

Matt Taibbi
Taibbi’s reporting on Wall Street and the banks’ continued fleecing of America is second to none. If you like your usual depressing economic stories sprinkled with some adult metaphors and the occasional f-bomb (full-disclosure: I prefer this method), Taibbi is your go-to guy.

Media Matters
Media Matters provides a thorough critique of the media on a daily basis. Warning: some of the stories are refuting the absolutely asinine stories coming out of Fox News.

The Nation
The Nation is the oldest weekly publication in the United States. An invaluable alternative news source with long-form reporting and daily stories only available online. Add their bloggers and OWS coverage and you have an excellent source you can depend on.

Paul Krugman
Paul Krugman is a Nobel-Prize winning economist and writer. His column in the New York Times is a must read. He’s been consistently right for a long time and is widely cited as someone who’s advice our leaders could greatly benefit from.

Tomdispatch.com
Tom Engelhardt is a writer and editor associated with The Nation magazine. Very informative, widely cited, and always intriguing to read. Want to know about drones? Look no further! Assassinations? Whistle-blowers? Got those covered too! Throw in the occasional environmental story and you get one hell of a site.

Truth-out.org

In-depth investigative reporting and great analysis and essays on current affairs.

Truthdig.com
“Drilling beneath the headlines”, truthdig gets to the pertinent facts of the story. Throw in their daily political cartoons and OWS coverage and you have a winner!

So here you go folks. Get to it. Explore and learn and we’ll all be the better for it!

The Promise

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.
Declaration of Independence

The Occupy movement has been accused of and labeled as many things.
We are here not as disrupters of a perfect society. We are here because our political and economic system has completely disregarded what is good for the people in the pursuit of profits for the few.

There are countless metrics to gauge the downturn of the quality of life that has been forced upon the majority of Americans for the past few decades. We have close to 50 million of our brothers and sisters living below the poverty line. Millions more are one missed paycheck away from destitution. More Americans than ever before depend on food stamps to put food on their table. Wages haven’t risen, even equal to inflation for the past 40 years, while the work that we do has produced more for our employers than any time in history. How is this right? How does this contribute in any way to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness for Americans?

No one has ever made himself rich through hard work alone. Though hard work is a most necessary ingredient, by itself, it has never provided wealth. Wealth (or riches) is derived from a person’s idea put into action by his/her fellow citizens. You need security, roads, communication, educated employees, and a whole host of prerequisites that are provided to you by the entire society to acquire said wealth. The lie that rich men are entirely self-made is detrimental to the social contract that every American has with his country.

It is only in the past 40 or so years that the wealth divide has expanded so prominently. Taxes on the wealthy used to be over 70%. This was during the greatest economic expansion the world had ever seen. Economic quality of life rose more in those times than any previous time in the history of the planet. We used those taxes to build roads, freeways, bridges, universities, and infrastructure that greatly benefited a vast majority of the people and industry. America became a super-power because of these policies. Now we find our country literally falling apart, and we’re completely divided over the god-awful idea to raise the highest tax rate from 35% to 39%. Why? How did we get here?

We got here by the gradual takeover of our political system by those with the most money. Plain and simple. Our government has been totally and completely hijacked by money. Can you run for national office? Can anyone you know? You better be a millionaire and have millionaire friends. You have a better chance of getting sunburned in a cave than getting elected to congress if you’re not rich. How is this healthy? How is this truly representative of the people? If we were all millionaires, then millionaires would be our true representatives. But we’re not millionaires, and they no longer represent the people that they are elected to legislate for.

It used to be that you go to school, get a job, get married, buy a house, support your family on one income, and send your kids to college. This is no longer a possibility for too many Americans. Now you take whatever work you can get, regardless of how your skills are being disregarded and under-utilized, and hope you can afford to keep the damn lights on. This is destroying America, and you all see it and know it first-hand.

Healthcare in America is available only if you can afford it. How do you have life without your health? How does a population achieve liberty or happiness without their health? Seriously. How? How are our citizens supposed to feed their families when a large part of the economy is based on service and retail work that pays minimum wage? Minimum wage that buys less than it did in the 1970’s.

So the question becomes ‘where do we go from here?’. How can we improve the lives of the American people, and in the process bring back the promise of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness?

I can tell you how we can’t do it. By sitting back and continuing on the same path we’ve been on. It takes action by each and every one of us. It has to be a national conversation. Some are in the position to put in more time than others. Not everybody can take to the streets. Some contribute monetarily. Others hold meetings in their homes with their neighbors. For the rest of us, it is our responsibility to educate ourselves on how the disease of money is selling our futures down the river. Knowledge is our weapon. We owe it to ourselves, our children, our communities, and our country.

Why do we Occupy? We must. When will we stop? When we get what we have been promised.

We are many. We are one. We are the 99%!

This Is What Democracy Looks Like

Progress is being made on many fronts. Would you have believed me if I told you a year ago that Republican Presidential candidates would be going after each other over how they got rich? We the people are taking our democracy back day by day, week by week. The people are waking up from the dream and steadily marching towards a new reality. We will not stop. We will not give up. We are many. We are One. We are the 99%.

At about the 7:30 mark officer Johnny Law lets his real view of democracy be known.

Burn Tree Not Oil

The evils of smoking weed finally revealed! Well, if you think that not harming your lungs is an evil then, well, yeah. It’s evil.

A 20 year study recently published in The Journal of the American Medical Association of over 5,000 marijuana smokers found no correlation between smoking herb and lung damage. None. Actually, smokers had a slightly higher lung capacity than non-smokers:

“…essentially there is no significant relationship between marijuana exposure and impairment in lung function.”

“I think that the bottom line is that there does not appear to be any negative impact on lung function of marijuana smoking,”

It’s a great indictment of our society that we lock up over one million of our fellow citizens in prison for possessing a harmless plant, yet you can legally drink and smoke (tobacco) yourself into an early grave.

So skip that oil-burning drive in the car and stay home, twist one up, and read a good book!

End the war on drugs.
Legalize it!

Welcome To Obama’s America

Yes, welcome to the police state that is America under Obama. What’s that? You thought Bush the lessor was bad on civil liberties? Yeah, not so much. All power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This much is clear. How many times are you Obama apologists going to sit back and ignore the systematic rolling back of our civil rights? Are you so short-sighted that you can’t possibly imagine these powers in the hands of a reactionary Republican president? These are your children’s and grandchildren’s rights being snatched out from under your nose. Where’s the outrage? When is it a convenient time to stand up for what is right? After it’s been made all but impossible to do so? This President ran on a principle of transparency but he’s operated with anything but. Of course it’s hard for some folks to complain from the comfort of their cubicles or corner offices surrounded by Chinese-made trinkets. Keep the people just comfortable enough that they aren’t willing to risk what little they have to exercise their RIGHT to speak out. It’s ok though. You can’t possibly see how this effects you right now so those who are speaking up are just paranoid. Or something.

“Policemen so cherish their status as keepers of the peace and protectors of the public that they have occasionally been known to beat to death those citizens or groups who question that status.” -David Mamet