Monday, July 28, 2014
Community Blog

Over the past few years, the Supreme Court has given more rights to corporations than people with none of the responsibilities. This week five conservative Justices did not simply reaffirm the separation between church and state, they ruled that religion can supersede the law. That is a scary precedent.

Does this mean corporations can stone their employees to death if they work on the Sabbath? Can businesses now chop the hands off shoplifters?

This Supreme Court seems to believe that life begins at incorporation, those corporations can have religious beliefs and their religious beliefs are more important than the rights of women.

Five men on the Supreme Court, who don’t appear to understand how contraceptives work, shouldn’t make health care decisions for women. We are witnessing patriarchy fueled by theocracy, not democracy.

Perhaps ISIS should consider recruiting Justice Scalia and his four friends to help establish their caliphate. They have experience, along with the awesome power to turn puppets into presidents, billionaires into policy makers and corporations into people.

(This may help explain why confidence in the Supreme Court has never been lower — 30%.)

We also can not overlook the rights of folks with religious beliefs besides Christianity. Certainly the freedom to practice your religion depends upon freedom from other religions.

If we don’t fight back now, then these rulings will only be the beginning. Think about what the Tea Party has done to the House of Representatives, then imagine that they won control of the Senate in 2014, then imagine a liberal Supreme Court Justice stepped down and needed to be replaced.

If the right wins the Senate then they will control the pathway to the Supreme Court, cementing these dangerous and damaging 5-4 decisions with a 6-3 majority for the next generation.

You probably hear it every time, but this election may actually be the most important one of our lifetimes, and too many good Democrats are sitting this one out. We can not let that happen. There are 72 million Democrats and 55 million Republicans. When Democrats vote, Democrats win. Let’s get to work.

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It’s Not Obama. It’s the Middle East.

by UniteBlue on June 20, 2014

Odysseus Bostick


Recent developments in Iraq have both degraded the stability of its government and kick-started a new conversation about American involvement in the Middle East. Unfortunately, partisan rhetoric from the right has so far driven a conversation lacking in historical insight and replete with American hubris.

Specifically, the arguments being made today that President Barack Obama’s “failed leadership” is driving the chaos in the Middle East are both embarrassingly egocentric and unproductively partisan in a manner that sidelines the clarity of this important international debate.

For those unaware, the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (aka ISIS) is a splinter group from Al Qaeda that initiated successful takeovers of major Iraqi cities last week in an effort to destabilize the democratically elected government of Iraq.

As the name implies, they have organized during the Syrian civil war and aim to leverage the instability in that country to garner more power across the region of both countries in an effort to enact a very conservative form of sharia law based on the teachings of Islam. Using barbaric measures such as beheadings, crucifixions, and public executions, the leaders of ISIS are wielding a brutal, effective campaign to terrorize all in their path.

The complexities behind these recent efforts are centuries old. Just looking at this issue from a very superficial level, that of a battle between orthodox and liberal interpretations of a religion, this crisis is larger than America. Larger than our geo-political interests in the broader Middle East and larger than the number of years that America has even existed.

A Brief History of Sunni and Shiite Muslims

The internal conflict of how faith should be interpreted and enacted in a culture’s everyday life is common to most major religions. In the Christian world, this drama plays out in the form of fundamentalist groups battling liberal, inclusive groups over issues like homosexuality, evolution, civil rights, segregation, abortion, and various other cultural-political debates.

In the Muslim world, there is a strong parallel to the internal Christian debate in the conflict over how to interpret the prophet Muhammad’s teachings after his death in 632 AD. More specifically, the discussion focused on who would succeed Muhammad after his death and lead the believers of Islam.

One sect, the Shia (commonly referred to as Shiite), felt that the next leader should be a blood relative of Muhammad while a second group, the Sunni, believed that a colleague of the prophet was more prepared to lead.

Essentially, this was an argument about the merits of divine ordination. Does one’s god choose one’s leaders on the ground or not? Again, there is a strong correlation between this discussion and historical conflicts in the Christian world that resulted in kingdoms, fiefdoms, and eventually, violent rebellion and the establishment of the United States.

As it has developed over the last 1400 years, the philosophical evolution of competing interpretations within the Muslim world have broadly been interpreted by us as a simplistic divide between secular and non-secular forces. It’s the fundamentalist Shiia battling to rule the land according to strict interpretations of Islamic law (aka Sharia law) versus the more inclusive, non-sectarian governance of the Sunni Muslims.

Quite obviously, these battles over how faith should or should not be reflected in government are not specific to Islam. Rather, they are an eternal human discussion in every culture and belief system. My point here is to make it clear that this divide between Shia and Sunnis was not born during Obama’s term.

Yet, Republicans here in the US have immediately begun blaming our president for this week’s violence in Iraq. This is most frustrating, mainly because the potential for post-war Iraq to degenerate into a Sunni-Shia conflict was given as a reason we shouldn’t have invaded Iraq twelve years ago.

The fact that a Republican foolhardedly led us into this war despite those warnings is really water under the bridge to me at this point. I don’t see any purpose in ridiculing Bush. Frankly, I think history will do that for me and it’s counterproductive, but it has to be brought up now that Republicans are blaming Obama for Shia attacks against a Sunni government.

People said this would happen and we shouldn’t have invaded Iraq for this specific reason.

It’s Not as Simple as Sunni versus Shia Anyway

The current crisis is far more complex than just an internal holy war between two sects of Islam anyway. That would be too simple.

What makes this more complex than that? For one, there is the issue of the arbitrarily drawn political lines between these various Middle Eastern countries. Created by Western forces in the aftermath of World War I who were focused on dividing up the Ottoman Empire, many of the countries on the Middle East map were created with borders that were either ignorant of or defiant of the inherent political discord that had developed between tribal and religious groups over centuries. In other words, lines on a map were crafted in a vacuum and seemingly without regard for how they would affect people on the ground.

Look at a map of the countries in the Arab world and then look at a map that redraws the area according to religion. You will see pockets of Christians engulfed by Muslims. Within the Islamic faith, you will further see large swaths of concentrated Shia surrounded by the more dominant Sunni sect. Now compare the two maps, one outlining the area by country and one outlining the area by religion and you find massive incongruities with strong potential for conflict.

Forcing competing ideologies into a Western-drawn country and mandating that they get along was ill-conceived, but it isn’t the totality of the problem. The original split in Islam was rooted in political succession, not strict religious interpretations. For many, the competing religious interpretations were more a vehicle for maintaining political power between competing tribes.

One group saw power in a strict interpretation of lineage. Specifically, if relatives of Muhammad were the only ones succeeding him in leadership, then members of his large extended family would remain in power.

When another group sees themselves as patently excluded from power due to a lack of blood line connections, they embrace the spiritual teachings of the prophet Muhammad and espouse a political interpretation that is less about the physical person of Muhammad and more his philosophies. The next leader, therefore, would be the most experienced teacher of Islam and not just some cousin of the previous leader.

And so the competing political interpretations drawn up in the aftermath of one person’s death in the 7th century were designed to benefit competing tribes. Don’t take this to mean that I’m discounting the faith behind the Sunni and Shia interpretations. I merely aim to point out that people, being people, tend to leverage their perspectives into what they believe is the best path forward for them personally and in this case, it is clear that the family of Muhammad would naturally see the best path forward in what they undoubtedly called a more pure succession of leadership while others, not related to the prophet, would naturally see the merits of a more inclusive interpretation.

A Regional Conflict

This original political debate is further complicated by the tendency for people to wield religion as a weapon to mobilize followers for their own personal advantage and to garner power as both a head of state and religious sect. Some simply abuse faith to become the leader while others leverage it to gain personal wealth.

This is not an Iraqi problem as much as it is a crisis of faith, politics, and power succession. When we removed Saddam Hussein from power, we removed a stabilizing force of brutality that had strong-armed peace. While the regime of Hussein was undoubtedly a corrupt dictatorship that inflicted great harm on other people, his absence from power has instigated the return of a 7th century debate that has often had violent incarnations.

To say that President Obama, in five years, has incited these recent developments through political ineptitude is both naïve and jingoistic. It is a perspective rooted in American ego; the idea that we are the center of the world and the developments of culture, faith, and conflict internationally are rooted in our ability to mitigate or direct them. It is a mistaken perspective manifested in the idea that the world didn’t exist before us and therefore, it should develop according to our historical perspective.

To put it bluntly, it is an embarrassing narrative that must end and it hijacks our national debate at a time when we desperately need clarity in order to negotiate the most peaceful path possible for ourselves and for International peace.

We should be approaching this subject from a longer perspective, focusing closely on the regional trend of Middle Eastern-African religious and political conflicts between fundamentalism and liberalism as well as how to mitigate the potential risk that these conflicts between Islamic sects could escalate into an external religious war involving Israel and the Judeo-Christian world.

President Obama is absolutely correct in his approach to this crisis. We must certainly engage in the conflict, but less paternally and more as an advocate for peace. Or to put it into religious terms, with less of our own orthodoxy and more from a perspective rooted in bringing people towards solutions. We must not leverage brute force to do so because brutality clearly has not worked to the favor of the Middle East or the world at large. Rather, our solutions should promote inclusivity in a manner that fosters those on the ground to build solutions together based on their own history and culture. Or get out of the way.

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Expand Medicaid! Put #PeopleOverPolitics

by UniteBlue on May 28, 2014


Politics forgets people all too often.

Certain folks rather undermine our president than help our country in order to win their next election, and uninsured Americans are being killed in the crossfire.

Our President promised to expand healthcare coverage to every citizen, but GOP Governors are blocking his path.

It’s time for the 24 states that have refused to expand Medicaid to put people over politics and help 5.7 million Americans get covered.

Of course, the midterms are just around the corner and 50 attempts at Obamacare repeal are not enough for House Republicans to soothe their supporters.

Let’s not have another 50 votes to repeal a law that’s already working. Let’s finish what we started because everyone deserves access to affordable health care.

It’s time to put people over politics.

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This morning Joe Scarborough attempted to explain his recent demeaning comments that offended so many passionate UniteBlue members and MSNBC viewers.

“I brought it up on Friday… I brought up UniteBlue, and I could find people in UniteBlue who said some terrible things about me over the past two, three, four years, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t great people in the union movement, that doesn’t mean there aren’t great vets and great people in UniteBlue, that there aren’t great people in these organizations… Don’t we at some point realize that there are some people who will try to associate them self [sic] with a bigger group and say hateful things that shouldn’t be associated with the labor movement or UniteBlue?” Joe Scarborough on Morning Joe, 5/27/2014.

While this was not the full-throated apology that thousands requested, this display of respect is a promising first step, and we will continue to hold him accountable when political commentary devolves into disparaging and divisive attacks.

Now it’s time to move forward. We must continue to fight against the conservative politics of hate, division and fear, and once again affirm the audacity of hope, compassion and love.

Thank you to everyone who joined in our efforts this weekend. Way to go #UniteBlue!

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Mr. Phil Griffin
President, MSNBC
30 Rockefeller Plaza
New York, NY

May 26, 2014

Dear Mr. Griffin:

Last Friday May 23, Joe Scarborough insulted thousands of honest, hardworking Americans who choose to organize under the banner of #UniteBlue, falsely alleging on MSNBC’s Morning Joe show that “these people are on the fringes; they’re freaks; they’re hate mongers.

Mr. Scarborough owes an apology to the mothers, fathers, retirees, veterans, soldiers, activists, professionals and all members of UniteBlue. Calling tens of thousands of good, decent people ‘freaks’ is a sweeping condemnation and makes him a hate monger.

Half a million Tweets use #UniteBlue each month, more than #GOP or #TeaParty. Many of us are MSNBC viewers who were personally offended by these demeaning words and petty attacks. In response to the unprecedented outrage that resulted, Mr. Scarborough decided to double down instead of apologizing. This time he called each of us ‘extremists,’ and it’s really deeply offensive. Your entire network is being poisoned thanks to this behavior.

At this time, we are considering a number of petitions that have arisen calling for boycotts of Morning Joe and its sponsors. We have stood firmly against the promotion of hatred on the airwaves from others such as Rush Limbaugh, and cannot find any attempt on behalf of Joe Scarborough to move the political conversation forward meaningfully.

We respectfully request that Mr. Scarborough personally and publicly apologize for his comments on air and offer the opportunity for a UniteBlue representative to explain who we are; real people who want a voice in our democracy.

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#HonoringVets in word and deed.

by UniteBlue on May 26, 2014

Memorial Day is a way to honor the one million heroes who made the ultimate sacrifice while serving in our country’s armed forces to ensure our way of life.

Please join us in saying “thank you” to those who have served and are currently serving, and let’s work together to honor our heroes in word and deed.

#HonoringVets is not fringe or extremist – it’s not Republican or Democrat – it’s American. Are we doing all we can to help?

Too many of our men and women have come back broken, only to get kicked to the curb. We must not turn a blind eye.

We ask that you let your representatives know that a helpless, hungry or homeless hero is unacceptable in America!

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Right before the long weekend, Joe Scarborough of MSNBC’s Morning Joe took a few moments to insult the honest, decent, hardworking members of UniteBlue for supporting labor rights and working families. Joe Scarborough called each of us ‘freaks’ and ‘hate mongers.’

After hearing concerns and outrage from thousands of UniteBlue members and MSNBC viewers, Joe Scarborough attacked blindly once again by calling each of us ‘extremists.’

He still doesn’t get it. We are not freaks or extremists.

In reality, UniteBlue is a movement of real people, by real people, for real people. We are mothers, fathers, grandparents, veterans, soldiers, citizens, taxpayers, volunteers, teachers, counselors, writers, entrepreneurs, doctors, lawyers, police, firefighters…

Meet some of the ‘extremist hate mongers’ of UniteBlue below, then share your story using #WeAreUniteBlue.

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This morning Joe Scarborough of MSNBC’s Morning Joe voiced his distraught disdain for progressives, liberals and Democrats daring to organize under the banner of #UniteBlue.

“I could just take people who use the hashtag #UniteBlue and make a sweeping condemnation about America’s labor movement if I wanted to, but I don’t because I know that these people are on the fringes; they’re freaks; they’re hate mongers; that there are a lot of people who are in America’s union movements that are good, decent, hardworking people who actually would agree with me on a lot of issues.” 5/23/2014

After displaying his willful ignorance of normal, hardworking Americans, Joe Scarborough owes an apology to the mothers, fathers, retirees, millennials, activists, professionals and all other members of UniteBlue. Calling tens of thousands of good, decent people ‘freaks’ is a sweeping condemnation and makes you a hate monger.

Half a million Tweets per month use the hashtag #UniteBlue, more than #GOP or #TeaParty. It seems this has been getting under somebody’s skin. Nothing scares the Right more than a united Left, and its Joe Scarborough’s job to make progressive grassroots movements like UniteBlue look like a crazy, fringe group. That’s why he makes $100,000 per week while opposing a $10.10 per hour minimum wage.

Supporting unions and workers rights is not a fringe cause. This attack merely demonstrates how far the right has drifted, how out of touch Joe Scarborough has become with the mainstream, and how much the working class coming together scares certain people.

UniteBlue is about bringing real people together because we believe that every voice matters. Our country is broken, our democracy has been bought and our voices are being ignored. Since money became speech a wealthy few are attempting to silence the voices of everyone else. Republicans have vowed to loyally serve corporations, millionaires and billionaires in exchange for huge donations to their campaigns, leaving our government crippled and the rest of us suffering.

We cannot afford to ignore this greed and corruption anymore. We cannot afford to simply watch politics unfold passively on television anymore. We can afford to shape the future of our country actively online today. Each of us can create a meaningful impact discussing the issues we care about most passionately. Our voices in unison can fight back against billionaires buying our democracy and Republicans crippling our government. No wonder the right is worried.

Watch the full clip below, or skip ahead to the 10:25 minute mark.

UPDATE: Joe Doubles Down.

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No Benchwarmers in a Democracy

by UniteBlue on May 22, 2014

Diane Straub


It is hard to sit on the sidelines of a big game. You end up doing useless things like wishing so hard that the player up to bat will hit a home run and put your team on top. Some pray, “Please God, just let my team WIN for once!” Some turn their baseball caps inside out in the now familiar “rally cap.” We need a win and we need it now! Not next year or when we rebuild, we need it now! Sports are like that. They inspire civic pride, identity, passion and unity. But win or lose, unless you are a player, owner or coach, it’s not a life-altering event. You will carry on just as before by the next day.

The world of politics has much in common with sports. We have teams and favorite candidates, we identify and have a passion for certain issues and people. Many people strongly identify with team Democrat or Independent. It is an important part of their life and an important part of their value system. But, unlike sports, politics and elections ARE life-altering events. In the United States today the outcome of this “game” IS life and death to millions.

Too many Democrats and Independents sit on the sidelines in midterm elections. The excuses sound very “fair-weather fan.” Many point to the fact that their favorite player only had a double when they wanted a home run. Some say that the team just isn’t playing hard enough. The disappointment of not winning the World Series is just too hard for them to take. A pennant is not good enough. The satisfaction in getting really far into the playoffs falls too short for them. “It’s not enough”, they bellow.

What is at stake in the 2014 midterm elections is the very soul of this country. Too many people don’t seem to understand their place in this democracy. They feel like bench-warmers, like they do not affect the outcome of the game. Or they behave as fair-weather fans, staying home, pulling their support from the team to express their displeasure at certain plays or calls they didn’t agree with. Either of these behaviors is a forfeit… it is handing the whole game over to the other side.

How do we motivate each and every Democrat and Independent to step up to the plate for these midterms? The best way is to ask the questions: what do you personally have at stake if the GOP gains more seats in the House and Senate? and; what qualities do you want to see in the leadership of your country?

Consider the following… (from the GOP platform)

GOP ON GUNS:

Right to obtain and store ammunition without registration. (Aug 2012)
Open more public land to hunting. (Sep 2004)
No frivolous gun lawsuits, no gun licensing. (Sep 2004)
Will protect right to bear arms. (Aug 2000)

GOP ON HEALTH CARE:

Repeal ObamaCare; it is an attack on our Constitution. (Aug 2012)
ABC for AIDS: Abstinence, Be faithful, Change behavior. (Sep 2004)
Ethical research yes; embryo cells no; cloning no. (Sep 2004)
No assisted suicide. (Sep 2004)
Government-run universal health care leads to inefficiencies. (Sep 2004)
A reformed Medicare will give seniors choice, flexibility. (Aug 2000) (vouchers in the Ryan budget)

GOP ON CIVIL RIGHTS:

Constitutionally define marriage as one man & one woman. (Aug 2012)
2006: Federalize gay marriage via Constitutional Amendment. (Apr 2008)
The Patriot Act is used to track terrorist activity. (Sep 2004)
Homosexuality is incompatible with military service. (Sep 2004)
States should not recognize gay marriage from other states. (Sep 2004)
Affirmative Access, without preferences or set-asides. (Sep 2004)
Constitutional Amendment banning same-sex marriage. (Sep 2004)
Strong support for traditional definition of marriage. (Aug 2000)
Let Boy Scouts exercise free speech (ok to ban gays). (Aug 2000)
Women exempt from combat; “candid analysis” of military gays. (Aug 2000)

Is this the way you imagined your country would look in 2014? Is sitting out another election worth this future… Vouchers for Medicare, more attempts to repeal ACA, more people jailed, more war on women, more attacks on our students, our working families, our military and veterans, our seniors, minorities and immigrants. More decimation of our environment and public lands. More denial of science and inertia on climate and resource policy. No jobs policy, no infrastructure policy, no transportation policy. We are watching the privatization of America, the worship of the wealthy and corporate to the expense of the rest of us. Life and Death being played out for our fellow citizens while the republicans thrust theocracy and self-serving elitism down our throats.

Eight to Seventeen thousand will die each year due to red states refusing to expand Medicaid. Our students are piling up more and more debt as republicans work to cut loans and grants and completely privatize education financing so the banks can make a killing off their dreams. The only good expenditures according to them are tax cuts and defense spending. These examples are just the tip of the iceberg.

So, now is the time to ask yourself: what is your place in this Democracy. Are you going to be a fair-weather fan or a star player on a team with a winning strategy? Time to get those rally caps on and get in the game. No forfeit in 2014… Vote Blue… Let’s win the World Series and rebuild for the future… the other team will show up to play… time to answer with some power hitting of our own! THEY’RE GOING, THEY’RE GOING, THEY’RE GONE!!!!! Ahhhhh….

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Teachers under attack in Kansas!

by UniteBlue on April 6, 2014

UniteBlue Kansas


After repeated delays and under the cover of darkness the Kansas House began debate last night on a bill that would strip teachers of due process, give tax breaks to supporters of private schools, and further decimate public education in Kansas. Hundereds of Kansas Teachers were present and overflowed the house gallery. The House kept delaying hoping the teachers would give up and go home. It didn’t work.

At 2:00 this morning Kansas Democrats stood strong and working with moderate republicans killed the bill. Or so we thought. The Kansas Senate is now poised to take up the bill and the Kansas house will follow suit later tonight. Teachers are streaming back into the capitol to begin another round of watching and supporting public education.

Word is that the bill will be debated as late as possible in the House and Senate in hope that teachers will leave so they can get some sleep before school tomorrow. They don’t like having a bunch of eyes on them.

This is a bill with ALEC and AFP language placed in it verbatim from draft legislation and talking points. A full on conservative attack on education and teachers.

So far House leadership has flipped at least 9 votes overnight with threats of primary challenges and even though senators are not up for election this year, they are getting primary threats as well.

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