Death of the Muckrakers

Death of the Muckrakers

“The meat would be shoveled into carts, and the man who did the shoveling would not trouble to lift out a rat even when he saw one—there were things that went into the sausage in comparison with which a poisoned rat was a tidbit. There was no place for the men to wash their hands before they ate their dinner, and so they made a practice of washing them in the water that was to be ladled into the sausage. There were the butt-ends of smoked meat, and the scraps of corned beef, and all the odds and ends of the waste of the plants, that would be dumped into old barrels in the cellar and left there. Under the system of rigid economy which the packers enforced, there were some jobs that it only paid to do once in a long time, and among these was the cleaning out of the waste barrels. Every spring they did it; and in the barrels would be dirt and rust and old nails and stale water—and cartload after cartload of it would be taken up and dumped into the hoppers with fresh meat, and sent out to the public’s breakfast.”

This quote from Upton Sinclair’s 1906 novel ‘The Jungle’ became one of the most influential publications of the Progressive Era, a period of unparalleled social and political reform across the United States and sadly a period almost nonexistent in the minds of many Americans. ‘The Jungle’ tried to illustrate the inhumane, unsanitary conditions thousands of workers in the meatpacking industry were forced to work under around the turn of the past century. Sinclair’s exposé became an immediate hit. The book’s influence was so widespread that it even led President Teddy Roosevelt to promulgate a series of major groundbreaking industry reforms, including the Meat Inspection Act and the Pure Food and Drug Act. Apparently, Roosevelt became mighty disgusted by ‘The Jungle’s findings while reading a copy of Sinclair’s novel during a breakfast at the White House. He was so outraged that only four months after the book’s publication Congress was already working on passing legislation to regulate the food industry in America.

Roosevelt’s actions against the meatpacking industry signified a turning point for American capitalism. Corporations were no longer going to be left unchecked. For the first time in American history, the government was getting ready to play a vital role in the economy. Prior to Roosevelt’s reforms, the American government did very little other than overseeing the nation’s foreign affairs. Capitalism was producing an enormous amount of wealth, but the rapid pace at which the economy grew was creating a whole new set of problems. Child labor, overcrowded factories, extremely long hours for extremely low wages, and the appalling sanitary conditions of the factories had journalists like Upton Sinclair deeply concerned, so they decided to take action.

Thus began the rise of the “muckrakers”. During the Roosevelt years, this term was used to refer to reform-minded investigative journalists who were dedicated to expose as much corporate and political corruption as they could. Feared by a large part of the ruling class, the muckrakers used popular magazines and newspapers to spread the word and inform the public about the ills of society. The success of ‘The Jungle’ turned Upton Sinclair into one of the most prominent muckrakers of his time. Roosevelt, who is often credited for coining the term “muckraker”, was never a big admirer of  Sinclair. In fact, he once referred to Sinclair as a “crackpot” who is “hysterical, unbalanced, and untruthful”. Of course, that all changed with the release of ‘The Jungle’. Roosevelt was known for his stubbornness and belligerent personality, but that didn’t keep him from facing the truth when presented with the facts, a trait desperately needed in today’s politicians.

Muckrakers played a vital role in shaping the America we know today, and their influence didn’t stop with the implementation of ethical rules at manufacturing plants. Their work also led to the end of Standard Oil’s monopoly over the oil industry and to the creation of the first child labor laws in the United States circa 1916. We owe these guys big time. Sadly, muckraking is no longer what it used to be. I would even go as far as to say that muckraking no longer exists.

If there’s something I’ve learned from this campaign is that the world of journalism has stopped being objective altogether. Journalists no longer strive for independence. They don’t seek the uncovering of any wrongdoings. Instead, they break bread with the elites. They’ve given up fighting for neutrality and they’re all too happy to support the status quo.

Tonight Washington D.C.’s political big shots and renown journalists of all stripes will gather for their annual White House Correspondents dinner. President Obama will probably delight us with a couple of amusing jokes, but this event represents nothing more than the all too obvious existing partnership between the powerful and the media.

Free press is necessary for two reasons: Keeping the people informed and spreading the word to fight corruption and immorality. The latter, unfortunately, is no longer a priority.

I pray so that sooner rather than later the muckrakers of our time will wake up to serve the people with independence. We desperately need our very own Upton Sinclairs.

#VoteBlueNoMatterWho

#VoteBlueNoMatterWho

First off, if you’re a Republican reading this post, you might’ve already realized that this doesn’t necessarily concern you. Feel free to finish reading, of course, but my message today is intended for all Democrats and Democratic-leaning independents out there who might be thinking about not voting in November if their candidate loses the nomination.

Whoever your preferred candidate is, the math is clear: Bernie Sanders will not become the Democratic Party’s nominee for President. There are still 1246 delegates up for grabs in the primary, but Hillary only needs a little over 200 more to secure the nomination. At this point there’s very little that Sanders can do to stop her from reaching that threshold. He has run a hell of a campaign, though. His message on poverty and income inequality has resonated with millions of people across America, and I think that message is here to stay. No matter what happens with Bernie in the coming months, every Democrat should be grateful to him for starting a much needed conversation in this country: The status quo doesn’t work when most Americans struggle to pay for college and medical bills while the top 1% is in control of a big chunk of the wealth.

Anyone who’s been keeping up with this blog will know that I’m not a big fan of Hillary. The truth is I started to dislike her the moment she announced her run for the nomination, and not because I thought she would make a terrible President. No, I dislike Hillary because it seems to me that power always falls in the hands of the same small set of people. America is the oldest democracy in the world, but somehow it has managed to have two Bushes and (probably) two Clintons as Presidents in just over twenty years (I’m assuming Hillary will win because there is no way Trump or Cruz will. I mean, there’s just no way. Those two guys are pure nutjobs!).

It’s always the folks from the wealthiest families and who go to the best schools that get to run this country, and I’m sick of it. Sanders became so appealing because he represents none of that. He’s just like any of us, and I really wanted to see an average Joe like him in a position of true power. Unfortunately, the country isn’t ready to make way for a new generation of leaders.

Anyway, that’s the end of my rant.

I’m sure a lot of you share my grievances and feel disappointed that Bernie couldn’t break through the wall put up by party elites, but remember this: For the sake of progress, this country desperately needs a Democrat as the next President. And if that Democrat’s name is Hillary Clinton, so be it. Sanders himself said, “on her worst day, Hillary Clinton will be an infinitely better candidate and President than the Republican candidate on his best day”.

Having said that, I encourage Mrs. Clinton to embrace part, if not all, of Bernie’s message during the presidential campaign. Sanders’ support numbers consistently show that Hillary is not as strong a candidate as many are trying to make us think she is. Clinton desperately needs to widen her appeal, and making Sanders her running mate is her best option.

To all of you liberals and progressives out there: Come November, don’t let your anger and disappointment get the best of you. A united Democratic Party is bound to win this election. The Obama administration has made a lot of progress in important areas like education and healthcare by easing the burden of student debt on college students and by expanding health insurance coverage to millions of Americans. Only a Democrat in the White House can guarantee that we continue on that path, the path to progress and opportunities for all. That is why come November, #VoteBlueNoMatterWho.

90 and in Love

90 and in Love

This year’s electoral season is without a shred of doubt one of the most politically divided in recent memory. The GOP is falling apart as Donald Trump’s quick rise through the ranks has party leaders clueless about what to do and literally praying so that Trump’s likely-to-get 1237 delegates all get flat tires and don’t make it to the convention in Cleveland this summer. The Democrats, although objectively engaged in more constructive debates, also have had their own share of ugly face-offs. The point is that there are very few positive adjectives in the dictionary to describe this primary season. Very few. In fact, these are some of the most common words used by the media to report on the campaign:

-Nasty
-Despicable
-Rotten
-Reprehensible
-Shameful
-Infantile
-Tense
-Ugly
-Embarrassing
-Degrading
-…

As I said, very few positive adjetives can be used to illustrate what’s going on in the primaries. Now, I know politicians are expected to get dirty during elections; a sad but inevitable fact. But come on, don’t you all think the people deserve a break from all this negativity from time to time? Well, that’s exactly why today I chose to comment on the most heartwarming story I’ve read in a long time.

When was the last time you met someone age 90 and in love for a second time? That is the case of former Pennsylvania senator Harris Wofford, who just announced he would be getting married to long-time partner Matthew Charlton, 50 years his junior. The former Democratic senator would’ve never expected to find love so late in life (really, would any of you?), but there you have it.

A lot of you might be wondering about the age difference. 50 years is a long time, and when it comes to love relationships well, let’s just say that a 50-year age difference between the groom and the other groom is the last thing anyone would expect in a wedding, but to quote senator Wofford, “that’s a part of the magic of love”.

This is not senator Wofford’s first encounter with true love, though. In 1948 a 22-year old Wofford married Clare Lindgren, with whom he spent nearly fifty years of his life together. In 1996 Clare died of leukemia, leaving behind Wofford along with their three children. “Clare and I fell in love trying to save the world during World War II”, Wofford wrote of his relationship with his late wife. “And our romance and adventure continued for five decades”.

Twenty-one years after his wife’s passing, senator Wofford has been given a new chance at love and he’ll soon be exchanging vows with Mr. Charlton, a man. Yes, a man. So what?

Now, I would like to end on a hopefully not too controversial a note. Harris Wofford’s story has reinforced my belief that maybe, just maybe, there is no such thing as being “gay” or being “straight”. I believe love takes many forms, and it is not the same for any man or woman. Who would have told senator Wofford fifty years ago, when he was happily married to his wife, that one day he would marry someone of the same sex? A lot of you won’t agree with me on this one. I respect that. But, I do believe this is something that could happen to any of us. And it’s a beautiful thing.

Anyway, I hope you’ll all join me in wishing the grooms a happy, healthy and long marriage together.

Food for Thought: Joe Biden and Charles Koch

Food for Thought: Joe Biden and Charles Koch

After a rather long hiatus from the blogosphere, I’m happy to say that I’m back doing what I love, but I won’t waste any time explaining what I’ve been up to. I’ll get right down to business instead.

Today I would like to weigh in on a couple of recent developments from the campaign trail that have been completely disregarded by the mainstream media, and not for lacking in substance. In fact, I’d say these developments would be game-changing if they’d received the attention they deserved. Unfortunately, there were no major headlines about them on the main pages of the Washington Post or TNYT, and for obvious reason. Bringing too much attention to recent comments by vice president Joe Biden and billionaire Charles Koch on the state of the race would’ve done very little to help the Clinton campaign, and that’s all we need to worry about, right?

So what exactly did these two guys say to make me come rushing back to my laptop and write about it? Nothing to make Clinton’s numbers go up in the polls, I assure you.

In a recent interview, Jose Biden praised Bernie Sanders for thinking big and even went on to say, “I don’t think any Democrat’s ever won saying, ‘We can’t think that big — we ought to really downsize here because it’s not realistic.’ C’mon man, this is the Democratic Party! I’m not part of the party that says, ‘Well, we can’t do it.'”.

To anyone who’s been paying attention during this campaign, Biden’s comments sure seem like a direct response to Sanders’ critics, including Hillary, who often question how realistic Bernie’s policy proposals really are. Can we validate Biden’s comments as an endorsement? No, we can’t. If his dismissal had been directed to Clinton’s critics instead, is it likely that the vice president’s words would have become the talk of the week? Yes, no question about it. For the first time in a long time, major media outlets completely ignored comments made by the vice president of the United States. Wanna know how I found out about this? I saw it was trending on Facebook.

As shocking as it is to see the vice president weigh in on the Democratic race like that, he is a Democrat. More shocking would be listening to a well-known supporter of the Republican Party speak favorably about one of the two candidates, specially if he’s a member of the Koch family and his name is Charles Koch.

Famous for funneling millions of dollars into the pockets of GOP candidates, Charles Koch made some comments this weekend which, under normal circumstances, would make waves. Mr. Koch said that “it’s possible” that a Hillary Clinton presidency would be better than any of the Republicans currently in the running. Yes, folks. You heard right. Charles Koch is so fed up by the lack of political competence taking over the Republican field that he’d actually prefer to see Clinton as the next president. I might be misinterpreting his words, but they sure sound like an endorsement to me. And if that endorsement doesn’t materialize in a formal public statement, I bet it will in the form of millions of dollars in campaign donations.

But why are so few people talking about Mr. Koch’s comments? Is it because the media and the Democratic Party’s base both agree that the Koch brothers have immensely contributed to the corruption of the campaign finance system since Citizens United? After years of giving bad press to the Koch brothers, how would the average Democratic voter react if they knew Mr. Koch was willing to rally behind Hillary Clinton in the general election? Well, my guess is they would be fleeing to the Sanders’ camp in flocks. But don’t worry, it’s the media’s job to make sure as few people as possible read about this.

It’s become clear to me that no matter how hard you try or how right you are about the issues, if the system stands up against you there’s very little you can do to change it. Voter registration slip-ups in NY, independents being left out of the process, 99% of the media siding with one candidate, is there even a hint of democracy left in this country?

There’s no doubt in my mind that Clinton will be the Democratic Party’s candidate in November. Sanders’ path to the nomination is simply too steep.

Snip20160424_1

Things could’ve turned out quite differently, though. Can you imagine what could’ve happened if Sanders’ 30,000-large rallies had been properly covered in the media? Can you imagine what could’ve happened if party leaders at the national, state and local levels had listened to the vice president? Can you imagine what could’ve happened if media outlets like the Washington Post hadn’t spent their precious time releasing an average of ten articles a day discrediting Bernie Sanders?

I know that the Sanders camp no longer stands a chance. The only thing that could really turn the tide is having high-profile Democrats like Barack Obama or Elisabeth Warren come out in full support of Bernie Sanders to get Clinton’s superdelegates to switch sides. An improbable plot, I know. But I can dream, can’t I?

Dark Times to be a Republican

Dark Times to be a Republican

Friends from the blogosphere. Let me start off this post by saying that this article is not intended in any way to trash or censure folks with conservative ideas or who strongly support the Republican Party. In fact, I’ve chosen to write this piece because I feel we need to start a dialogue about the state of a party that, for better or worse, has had a tremendous impact on public life in this country. I myself was a firm supporter of the GOP when I started to take an interest in politics. The whole idea that people can strive on their own and that they are capable of behaving responsibly with their own money by putting it to good use without the need of taxing them resonated with me. Unfortunately, that’s not what Republicans advocate anymore. Ever since the Tea Party took over the GOP, the party of Reagan has transformed into an ultraconservative, anti-immigrant, gay-bashing, hate-filled political organization. Sure, there might still be a moderate or two left somewhere, but in today’s Republican Party being a moderate is no longer the rule. It is the exception to the rule. How could I continue sympathizing with a party like that? They believe in small government, but at the same time they want to use that same government to curtail people’s rights and freedoms. It makes no sense to me.

How my own political philosophy has evolved over the years is scarcely the point, though. The reason why I’m writing this is because the Republican nomination process has turned into a sad, sixth-grade food fight (to quote Bernie Sanders) rather than into a serious political campaign for president of the United States. The people and their voters deserve better.

While Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders are often seen sparing over education, healthcare, and financial policy proposals in their commonly heated but polite political debates, Republican contenders don’t seem to get away from the temptation of quarreling over each other’s looks or even over the actual size of Donald Trump’s privates. But that’s not all. This week Ted Cruz and Donald Trump went on to set the bar even lower. The GOP frontrunners engaged in an ugly dispute that got extremely personal when the National Enquirer accused Cruz of having had extramarital affairs with up to four different women. Cruz made Trump responsible for the libelous publication. The squabble reached its lowest point when Trump tweeted this after he’d threatened to “spill the beans” on Cruz’s wife:

Snip20160328_1

So, I guess that’s it folks. Eight years waiting in line for a shot at the presidency and this is the best the Republican Party has to offer to the American people.

But wait, this isn’t over yet. Now the GOP has been put in a sort of compromising position after an online petition, which has already been signed by tens of thousands, asked the party to allow the open carry of firearms at the Republican National Convention in July. Can you all picture this? Thousands of party delegates celebrating their right to bear arms by holding their pistols, shotguns or whatever up in the air before the eyes of potential future presidents of the USA. Daunting. Fortunately for all, the Secret Service has already announced they will forbid guns at the event.

I see all this craziness emerging from the campaign trail and I ask myself: Can’t we just have a serious conversation about what the candidates plan to do as president? Isn’t all this just a little embarrassing? Don’t you think long-time voters of the party deserve a little better?

The United States is one of the most powerful nations on the planet and presidential campaigns shouldn’t remind one of a bunch of kids fighting in a sandbox. It’s fine if SNL does it, but this is real life guys. Let’s try and raise the bar a bit, shall we?

Whatever the Republican primaries hold in store for the next few days, one cannot deny that these are indeed dark times to be a Republican.

A Victory for Common Sense

A Victory for Common Sense

Great news coming out of Georgia! Gov. Nathan Deal has vetoed the controversial anti-gay bill that would have allowed churches and other faith-based organizations to refuse performing same-sex marriages. The bill would have also given people the right to refuse service and even employment to anyone “whose religious beliefs or practices or lack of either are not in accord with the faith-based organization’s sincerely held religious belief.”

The bill passed the Georgia’s state legislature last week and became controversial on day one. Major companies and organizations from across the nation spoke out against it and even threatened to move production to other states if Gov. Deal had chosen to sign the bill into law.

At a news conference this morning, Gov. Deal stated, “I do not think that we have to discriminate against anyone to protect the faith-based community in Georgia.”

We must confess that if companies like Coca-Cola and big names from the film-industry hadn’t mobilized and confronted the governor, the bill would’ve stood a big chance to become law.

I just wanted to share the good news with all of you. Today is a good day.

Thank you Gov. Deal!