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December 2011

What I Have Learned From Kim Kardashian

By Brian Dann


Yesterday morning on the way to work I was listening to the left wing liberal progressive radio talk show host Bill Press, as I tend to do most mornings on the way to work, and he asked the question, jokingly, “what do you think Kim Kardashian thinks about politics?”  My first thought was I wanted to call in and say, I don’t think Kim Kardashian can spell politics. I do have to admit though, I have actually watched the voyeuristic candy shop known as “Keeping Up With The Kardhasians” and “Kourtney and Kim Take New York” but I have sadly missed “Khloe and Lamar”.  Hopefully they will release a collector’s box set soon that I can place under my rear tire and run over.  Now just so that I can get my Man Card back (which I somehow misplaced when I scored that trip down under with Oprah, yes it was me who wrote in, not my wife), I do have to say that I have never actually turned on a Kardashian show but instead have been maniacally sucked in to watching them when my wife has made the unfortunate choice to “Keep Up.”   There is definitely a higher power at work here when it comes to the Kardashian franchise, a higher power that causes you to stop whatever it is you are doing and forces you to “Keep Up” as well, no matter how much you resist.  After about two minutes of hearing Kim whine to Kris Humphries about why she doesn’t want to be a soccer mom living in Minnesota, and Kris telling Kim that she does nothing and in a few years no one will remember here anyway … and what was with Scott watching porn on his laptop and wanting Kourtney to get it on with another girl, and why don’t they just get married already, really, they have a son, I mean I can’t believe that Khloe is always so mean to Kim, OMG! (SCREEEEEEEEEECH!)  SEE WHAT I MEAN!  It’s like you have to watch!  We’re talking video heroin here. But before I go on I just have to say one more thing.  Why the hell is Bruce Jenner mixed up in all this mishegoss (that’s Yiddish for insane rich people who get paid to publicly display their crazy senseless lives on national television)!? He is like the square peg in a round Louis Vuitton hole.  If it wasn’t for some incredibly bad plastic surgery that has made his face look so tight you could bounce an Olympian off of it, I’d blame his involvement on bad casting, except for the fact that this is reality.  You would think that legendary Olympian Bruce Jenner would be doing something great with his life, working with underprivileged athletes who have aspirations to follow in his footsteps, maybe running a youth sports facility training the decathletes of tomorrow, or giving lectures to inspire people to achieve the greatness that he achieved so early in his life.  But no, he is a reality TV star with a bad facelift.   And maybe that is what the problem is here. Maybe that is what there is to learn.  Maybe we are all “Keeping Up” with the wrong things.    

I get the obsession with the whole Kardashian thing.  We enjoy watching the Rich and Famous, and even more, we enjoy watching the rich and famous crash and burn.   Kim’s fairytale wedding turning into a nightmare, Lindsey Lohan appearing in court again, and again, and again, Charlie Sheen “winning” when that was the furthest thing from the truth, it is all very entertaining, and as a form of escapism it has a place in our society, but so should paying attention to real issues that can change our lives for the better, and it seems that unless politics starts to approach the circus level that the Kardashians reach on a daily basis, no one pays any attention.  Herman Cain, and his countless sexual affairs, Donald Trump, well, being Donald Trump, this is what gets our attention.  This is what the press pays attention to.  We spend more time reading about Kim and Kris’s ridiculous wedding, but spend hardly any time finding out why it is so important that the tax cuts to the middle class don’t expire, and calling our congressmen and women to voice our support.  We spend more time debating whether the wedding was staged or real, and no time reading about where Ron Paul or Mitt Romney stand on Iraq, or gay rights, or any other issues that are important to us.  And I am certain that more people can tell you who Herman Cain had an “alleged” affair with then what his stance was on gun control.  We are living in a country that is being destroyed by greed, we have become content with resigning ourselves to the notion that nothing will ever change, that the middle class will never get their fair share, that politicians are all crooks and the American dream is a dream that only a few will ever see.  So to escape what we have excepted as a reality, that we are convinced we cannot change, we “Keep Up with the Kardashians” and we live for the moments when their lives fall apart because it shows us that rich people are often as messed up as the rest of us. We forget about the fact that “Keeping Up” with things that can actually make a difference in this world will actually make a difference.  We forget about the changes that happened in the Middle East because people refused to accept the status quo.  We forget about the Occupy movement that has swept the United States, Canada, and countries in Europe, and that politicians are taking notice, we forget all the change that has happened in this country because people “Kept Up” with our leaders, with issues that mattered to them,  and made their voices heard.   And sure the Occupy movement is still going strong, but it never received nearly as much press coverage as the wedding of Kim Kardashian and Kris Humphries, which by most accounts was fabricated to get ratings for the E! Channel.   

The true reality that we need to “Keep Up” with, is that the richest people in this country pay less in taxes than they ever have, and that we had to watch our President practically beg congress to give a tax break to the middle class.  The true reality is that even with the Presidents Health Insurance reforms we still will have millions of people with no health insurance or insufficient insurance, and unless we can provide single payer insurance to all Americans we will continue to have millions uninsured, millions going bankrupt, millions who cannot start small businesses because they can only qualify for health coverage if they receive insurance through an employee group plan.  The true reality is that half of all Americans will live at the poverty level at sometime in their lives.  The true reality is that corporations are not people and until the courts change this, corporations will have far too much influence on the outcome of our elections.  The true reality is that we need to bring manufacturing back to this country if we want to see jobs come back.  The true reality is that two wars, which we did not pay for, have economically drained our nation.  The true reality is that we actually can make a difference if we just “Keep Up” with the world and events going on around us and “Speak Up” about them instead of just accepting the status quo.  This is exactly why the middle class tax cut was passed, because people spoke up and put pressure on the congress to do the right thing.  We need to remember that our elected officials work for us, not for the banks, or the corporations, and we can take them out just as easily as we put them in there.   

Hey, there is nothing wrong with living vicariously through Kim Kardashian and her equally shallow and annoying sisters as long as this is not all we “Keep Up” with.  We have the power to make real change in this country.  We do not have to accept things the way they are.  Revolutions often start off quiet, and one voice can make a difference.  Don’t accept the sound bites we hear on the news and in commercials but instead research the claims that are made before accepting them as reality.   Call your congress members and tell them your opinions, sign petitions.  “Keeping Up” with the truth behind what you hear is the last thing our politicians want us to do because then we control the information and not them. Information is power and power can influence change.  Recently I actually had the opportunity to ask Kim Kardashian what she thinks about politics.  I actually have no idea what her answer was because I was too busy staring at her ass!  (YESSSSSSSSS!...I got my Man Card back!)  




The Great Republican Lie To The 100%

By Brian Dann


The most effective way to seize power and ruin other people’s lives, is to convince the people whose lives you are going to ruin, that your enemy is also theirs, that their downfall is the fault of others, and that their passion comes from within and not the rhetoric that you feed them, systematically, on a daily basis. Then they will hand you the power, with no fight, and defend your right to have it before they ever realize the mistake they have made. In 1932 Adolf Hitler’s Socialist party took power in Germany. But it wasn’t until 1939, seven years later, that the Nazi’s invaded Poland.  It was during those seven years that Hitler, slowly and systematically, put in place his “Final Solution” and convinced that German people that all the social and economic ills of their time, that were a part of everyday German life at that point, were the fault of the Jews, with the help of the blacks, the gays, and the Gypsies.  And even though all of this was categorically false and the real truth was that Germany was a country that had never recovered from the economic, and structural ravages of World War 1, the people of Germany trusted in Hitler’s rhetoric and through constant false and misleading rhetoric over seven years came to believe that the solution to Germany’s problems was Hitler’s Final Solution which he drafted while in prison long before he ever came into power.  Hitler convinced the German people to buy into his own selfish and sociopathic beliefs by convincing them that clearly insane policies would fix their country. Clearly they were wrong, but they listened to Hitler’s rhetoric, handed him the power, and defended his right to have it, before they ever realized the mistake they had made.  Sound familiar?  

Today we live in a country, a world, that is experiencing economic collapse, inequalities in income, and social injustices that we have not seen or experienced since the time of the great depression and pre-WW2 Germany. Our middle class is experiencing record foreclosures, millions of people can’t afford health insurance or can’t afford to pay for the out of pocket expenses not covered by their insurance, and regardless of the rhetoric, our Congress has not even began to take seriously the commitment to getting our middle and lower class Americans back to work.  According to the IWRP/Rockefeller survey, a year and a half after the Great Recession “ended” in 2009, the middle class in America is having trouble paying for things like:  

Food (26 million women and 15 million men)

Health Care (46 million women and 24 million men)

Rent or Mortgage (32 million women and 25 million men)

Transportation (37 million women and 28 million men)

Utility Bills (41 million women and 27 million men)

And saving for the future, which used to be a staple of American life can no longer be done by at least 56 million women and 45 million men.  

Middle class incomes are stagnant or dropping and the unemployed are unemployed for longer than ever, and are often forced to take deep cuts in pay in order to simply get a job which will provide them with health benefits that they could not otherwise afford on their own.  

We sacrifice programs that effect our children education, our ability to place police on our streets, to provide effective health care to those who can’t afford it.  We no longer pay a fair wage for a fair days work but instead ask our workers to take pay cuts, and reduced benefits.  Our government borrows to invest in wars overseas, rebuilding other countries, but we no longer invest in rebuilding our own country.  Then we give tax breaks to the people who don’t need them, and who can afford the most to pay them, then expect a middle class family who is facing foreclosure because of medical bills that they cannot afford, who barely make enough to put food on the table and are facing cutbacks in the workplace, to pay higher taxes then those who are wealthy enough to not even realize the money is gone.  

And why are we in this position?  Because slowly and systematically we believed the rhetoric.  Sound familiar? Because like the Nazis hammering home the false message over and over again that if they just got rid of the Jews, all their problems would be solved, the Republicans have been hammering  us with the false message that if we simply lower the taxes of the richest Americans in this nation to utterly ridiculous levels, if we give massive bailouts to the largest banks that helped put us in this mess in the first place, if we remove all the regulations on all of the corporations and let them do whatever the hell they please, somehow all this good will, all these tax saving to the rich and corporations, all this unregulated corporate wall street freedom, will “trickle down” to the most needy among us. We have been asked to believe that these wealthy Americans and corporations are not going to keep the money they save in taxes,  and are not going to use these billions in tax saving on things like multi-million dollar executive bonuses, company meetings in Aruba, private jet airplanes, and so on, but will instead use this money to invest in company infrastructure, open new plants, create new jobs, distribute the savings among the workers to increase their wages, lower the cost of the good and services they provide, contribute more to retirement accounts, and that the complete selflessness of these warm hearted companionate executives and corporations will  make our country a better place to live for everyone, and not just a better place for the executives and corporations.  But the reality is that over many years, starting in the Regan era and culminating with the irresponsible economic policies of George W Bush, we have been fed a multitude of lies designed only to benefit the wealthy and no one else.  Corporations are greedy, executives like to keep their money, and ultra wealthy people do not become ultra wealthy by being charitable to others. This is not opinion, this is not politics, this is plain simple common sense.  

The truth is this, and this is not a Democratic talking point, this is not propaganda or false rhetoric, this is not a liberal or progressive “point of view”, this is the truth, any institution, whether it is a private company, a not-for -profit, or our government, needs a source of cash flow coming in, in order to be able to provide goods or services.  If there is not cash flow coming in, we end up with record deficits, services that have to be cut, programs that have to be cut, and the only way for our government to obtain cash flow, and therefore be able to provide to us the so much needed programs and services that we require as a nation, is either to borrow trillions from other countries, putting us further in debt, or raise taxes. This is not rocket science, this is Economics 101.  In order to have money to spend, there must be a source of revenue. Yet for some reason, 238 of the 242 House Republicans, and 41 of the 47 Senate Republicans have signed a pledge, not to the American people, but to a lobbyist named Grover Norquist that promises they will never ever raise taxes or eliminate any tax deductions.  Only 3 Democrats from the House and Senate have signed this pledge. So that I cannot be accused of paraphrasing, here is the exact text of the pledge in its entirety:  

“ONE, oppose any and all efforts to increase the marginal income tax rates for individuals and/or businesses; and TWO, oppose any net reduction or elimination of deductions and credits, unless matched dollar for dollar by further reducing tax rates.”  

Basically, to put it in a nutshell, anyone who signs this pledge promises never to raise taxes under any circumstances, for any reason…ANY REASON!?  So I guess my question is, WHY?! How does this benefit anyone? Oh wait…it does.  It benefits really, really rich people, because they get to keep more of their money and get even richer.  It benefits corporations because they get to give huge bonuses, trips to Aruba, and contribute as much as they want to politicians who are going to keep their taxes low because they signed this ridiculous pledge.   And it benefits Republicans because they are given huge amounts of money for their re-election campaigns.  And the craziest thing about all of this is that slowly over time, the Republicans have led many of us to believe that this is somehow the best thing for our country.  They have led many of us to believe that eliminating billions of dollars in tax revenue, will somehow allow us to bring down our debt and create new jobs, that somehow we will become a more profitable nation with less revenue, and many of us, who are not the ultra wealthy, have become so brainwashed, slowly and systematically over time, that we have gone ahead and handed them the power, we have elected individuals to the House and Senate who support policies that will never benefit us in any way.  

Because of these economically disastrous policies, we now are facing trillions of dollars in spending cuts to essential programs because we simply do not have enough revenue coming in to pay for these essential programs.  According to the Washington Post, some of these cuts include: 

$942 Million from a fund that helps rehabilitate housing in low income neighborhoods.

$456 Million from the Public Housing Fund that authorities use to maintain and repair public housing.

$504 Million from the Women, Infants and Childrens Program that provides food and infant formula to low income families.

$870 Million from the Dept of Labor for job training and creation programs, community college curriculums for dislocated workers and a fund that prepares workers for new green jobs.

$183 Million from the Workforce Investment Program that uses federal money to create state and local services in literacy, vocational education and welfare-to-work strategies for adults, young people and laid off workers.

$0 from programs that affect those making over $1 Million per year.  

The wonderful thing is that finally people, Democrats and Republicans, are starting to realize that this is just wrong, that something needs to change.  The Occupy movement is much more than just a bunch of hippy young people camping out in parks and carrying signs.  It is average people, the middle class, those who can’t find work, those whose houses have been foreclosed on, those who have seen their pensions and 401k decimated, those who teach our kids, build our roads, and work in our factories.  The Occupy movement is all of us and it is even the ones who won’t realize they are part of it until they benefit from the change that will happen. And the Occupy movement, contrary to popular belief, is even more than the 99%, because it is also the 1%.  The 1% became the 1%, not because they are stupid, but because they are smart.  The 1% knows what it takes to be successful, they know what it takes to run a business, what it takes to make money, and they know that in order to recover from the hole that we are in, we need to raise taxes.  The 1% knows that the added revenue they would pay yearly in taxes would be such a small percentage of their yearly income, that they would not even miss it, and that the benefits that this country would gain from lowering our national debt, being able to keep essential social programs going, being able to put Americans back to work and give them the income to purchase the good and services that the 1% create for the other 99%, would benefit 100% of each and every person in the United States of America.  And if you don’t believe me, ask them.  

Many of these Millionaires and Billionaires who are part of the 1% have joined together to form On their web site, to Our President, to Harry Reid, and to John Boehner they have written:  

“We are writing to urge you to put our country ahead of politics. For the fiscal health of our nation and the well-being of our fellow citizens, we ask that you increase taxes on incomes over $1,000,000.  

We make this request as loyal citizens who now or in the past earned an income of $1,000,000 per year or more.  

Our country faces a choice – we can pay our debts and build for the future, or we can shirk our financial responsibilities and cripple our nation’s potential.  

Our country has been good to us. It provided a foundation through which we could succeed. Now, we want to do our part to keep that foundation strong so that others can succeed as we have.  

Please do the right thing for our country. Raise our taxes.”  

The 1% is part of the 99%, and if I’m not mistaken, that makes 100%. They have written a nine page letter that was sent to every Republican in the House and Senate detailing the exact reasons why the current policies must be changed, why the Bush Tax cuts must not be renewed, and why they must pay more in taxes.  Read this letter.  It will open your eyes and make anyone who reads it understand how the lies that we have been told by the Republicans, slowly and systematically, have economically destroyed our country, while making the ultra rich, ultra richer .  

The truth is, if we simply forget about this ridiculous pledge, made to a lobbyist, if we simply do what other Republican Presidents such as Ronald Regan, and George Bush Sr. did many times during their presidency, if our elected officials simply would do what is best for this country and stop making their priority blocking every single thing that our President wants to accomplish so that they can win an election, if they would simply raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans who can most afford it, who contrary to their beliefs are alright with having their taxes raised, and start giving the breaks to those who those who need them, then slowly and systematically we will start to see some real economic change in this country.   Like many people in many countries recently, we are facing our own form of oppression from those who have the power.  But just like those other countries, the power eventually comes back to the people.  The Occupy movement is all of us, not the 99%, not the 1%, but the 100%. And while we all may not be able to leave our daily lives and Occupy a park, or a building, on November 6th 2012, all of us can Occupy a voting booth.


Read the Letter sent to Congress.