Jan 11, 2017 – Arsenal For Democracy Ep. 165

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.


Topics: How do we develop overarching messaging and themes for a Democratic left? People: Bill, and Jonathan. Produced: Jan 11th, 2017.

Episode 165 (55 min):
AFD 165

Discussion Points:

– What makes a clear and snappy campaign slogan for a political party or candidacy?
– How do we talk concisely but inclusively about and in solidarity with as many constituencies as possible?
– What state ballot measures would advance the progressive cause and be relatively easy to sell to the voters?


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Music by friend of the show @StuntBirdArmy.

Oct 12, 2016 – Arsenal For Democracy Ep. 155

Posted by Bill on behalf of the team.


Topics: What broad lessons on direct democracy and foreign policy should be drawn from the Colombia peace deal referendum failure? People: Bill, Jonathan, Kelley, and Greg. Produced: Oct 10th, 2016.

Episode 155 (55 min):
AFD 155

Discussion Points:

– Why did Colombia’s peace deal referendum fall apart?
– When is it appropriate to use direct democracy referenda and when is it better to use representatives to make decisions?
– When achieving justice and reaching peace are conflicting goals, which gets sacrificed?

Related links:

The Nation: “Did Human Rights Watch Sabotage Colombia’s Peace Agreement?”
Chapo Trap House episode on Colombia
July 2015 AFD report on Colombia negotiations


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Could single-payer be coming to Colorado?


Pending verification of signatures, this proposal will be on the Colorado ballot in November 2016!

“Colorado Pushes for Universal Health Care That’s Governed by the People” – Yes Magazine:

ColoradoCare proposes a single-payer model that covers every Colorado resident. A tax on income and employers would replace insurance premiums, but the revenue wouldn’t be subject to the whims of legislators; instead, it would go directly to a fund overseen by trustees whom the recipients choose. In this respect, it would be a cooperative-like system accountable to everyone in the state, independent from the rest of the government and enshrined in the constitution.

State Sen. Irene Aguilar (MD) explains the genesis of the proposal:

“In 2007, Colorado had something called the 208 Blue Ribbon Commission for Healthcare Reform. The four plans it considered included a single-payer health care plan, and the commissioners created subgroups to consider how the plans would impact certain populations. Since my daughter was disabled, I applied to be on the vulnerable populations task force. We learned that if we adopted the single-payer plan we could have everyone covered and decrease spending by $1.6 billion a year.”

They didn’t pick it and — after various twists and turns — she ended up running for office to find a way to pass it. Now it’s a ballot initiative effort.

More mechanics and projections of the program:

“You collect the funds through a premium tax—a 6.6 percent employer tax across the board and a 3.3 percent individual tax. If you’re self-employed, it’s the whole 10 percent, but because it’s tax deductible it ends up being less than that. The funds are collected through our taxes, but they’re transferred into a separate authority that is run by its own elected board of directors.”
“We had a fiscal analysis done by Gerald Friedman, an economist at UMass, Amherst. He anticipated that with the Affordable Care Act, health care would be about 19.4 percent of the gross state product, and if we were to switch to this model, it would be closer to 15 percent. By Obamacare standards, the level of care would be the very top—Platinum Plus—covering 90 percent of your total health costs. We added in no copay for primary care and low copayments that the primary-care provider can waive if necessary to prevent longer-term costs. We also had it priced for everyone in state, regardless of documentation status, under the knowledge that we would not be turning people away for emergency care, so it made more sense to have up-front preventative care available for all the people who lived in the state. Vermont’s single-payer policy imploded because it was way too expensive for them. It’s a small state. But we have the numbers.”


November 19, 2014 – Arsenal For Democracy 107


Topics: Catalonia referendum, Soccer politics (FIFA, German hooligans, FC Chelsea, and more), and Illinois corruption. People: Bill, Nate, Persephone. Produced: November 17th, 2014.

Discussion Points:

– What does the unofficial Catalonia referendum really mean for the region and Spain?
– Soccer Politics:

  • What’s next for FIFA after a bogus inquiry report summary?
  • Why are German soccer hooligans rallying against Muslims?
  • From Chelsea to Man City and beyond: Is big foreign money tainting the game?

– US midterms: Will Illinois Governor-elect Bruce Rauner survive a brewing corruption scandal?

Episode 107 (52 min)
AFD 107

Related links
Segment 1

AFD: Just 3 in 10 back Catalonia independence in ridiculous referendum
AFD: Against Independence for Catalonia

Segment 2

NYT: FIFA Inquiry Clears Qatar and Russia in World Cup Bids
France24: German football hooligans join far-right protests
The Globalist: Chelsea and Beyond: How the Rich Will Destroy Soccer

Segment 3

AFD: Who wants to be … a millionaire Illinois ex-governor?


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And don’t forget to check out The Digitized Ramblings of an 8-Bit Animal, the video blog of our announcer, Justin.

Against independence for Catalonia

The elites of Catalonia, the economically wealthy region that co-founded Spain, want to leave Spain and become their own country where they don’t have to pay taxes to help their less fortunate neighbors.

They are so determined to do this that they are blowing past every objection raised by the European Union and the Spanish central government and are forging ahead with a “non-binding” and “consultative” referendum, since their original plan for a unilateral referendum on secession was ruled wholly unconstitutional.

In a powerful op-ed in The New York Times — presumably aimed at rallying Americans against the Catalan separatist cause (before someone else makes up their minds for them) — Cayetana Álvarez de Toledo (journalist and MP from Madrid), Núria Amat (novelist from Barcelona), and Mario Vargas Llosa (Spanish-Peruvian novelist and 2010 Nobel Literature Laureate) lay out a multifaceted case for why Catalonia should not only not be granted independence but should not even be voting on it right now.

For one thing, it’s not very consistent with the values of democratic constitutionalism and rule of law, which the Catalan elite claims to be upholding, to stick it to the central government and the Spanish constitution — unlike, say, Scotland, which negotiated with the central UK government to hold a legal referendum on national status. For another, it just makes no justifiable sense historically or today, because they are an integral part of the formation of Spain and are not currently being legally or forcibly oppressed by the central state:

In their attempt to undermine the workings of the constitutional government, Catalan separatists have displayed a remarkable indifference to historical truth. Catalonia was never an independent state. It was never subjected to conquest. And it is not the victim of an authoritarian regime. As a part of the crown of Aragon and later in its own right, Catalonia contributed decisively to making Spain what it has been for over three centuries: an impressive attempt to reconcile unity and diversity — a pioneering effort to integrate different cultures, languages and traditions into a single viable political community.
It’s true that Catalonia was a particularly fierce battleground during the Spanish Civil War (1936-39), with brutal atrocities committed on both sides, and that the region faced some of the most severe reprisals under Franco’s regime. For many, the wounds still have not healed, and they fuel the fires of the separatist movement.

But the advent of democracy brought official recognition to Spain’s distinctive cultures, and set the foundations for the autonomy the Catalans enjoy today. Catalonia has its own official language, its own government, its own police force. Catalans endorsed the Constitution overwhelmingly: 90 percent of them voted yes in the referendum of Dec. 6, 1978. The millions of tourists who flock to Barcelona every year, drawn by the beguiling blend of Gothic and Gaudí, attest to the vigor of Catalonia’s culture. The claim that Catalonia’s personality is being stifled and its freedoms oppressed is simply untrue.

It’s also a disturbing step backward, away from the progress Western Europe has made toward transcending petty differences and the destructive powers of extreme nationalism:

Exiled from the European Union, economically impoverished and socially divided, the 7.6 million Catalans would be subjected to an extreme form of nationalism we Europeans remember all too well. Millions of lives were lost in the nationalist frenzy that tore Europe apart during the 20th century.

Are we to sit back and watch the European Union relapse, fall prey to ethnic prejudices and become a fragile cluster of chauvinistic nations rather than a vigorous union of democratic states? Are we to relinquish individual rights and the rule of law to the new nationalists and populists?

Nationalism effaces the individual, fuels imaginary grievances and rejects solidarity. It divides and discriminates. And it defies the essence of democracy: respect for diversity. Complex identities are a key feature of modern society. Spain is no exception.

That divisiveness is particularly troubling when one realizes how many dual-identity or Spanish-identifying people live in Catalonia despite the flag-waving, drum-banging of the elites who are trying to distill out a pure nationalism where one doesn’t exist. They will not just rip themselves out of Spain’s culture and economy if they declare independence, but they will also be taking with them a lot of unwilling Spanish Catalan citizens, many of whom don’t speak Catalan as a first language. By some accounts I’ve seen, that might even be half or more of the regional population.

This is a dangerous and disturbing project by wealthy elites and perennial axe-grinders that is fueling a lot of nasty, hyper-nationalist behavior, which Europe and Spain should be leaving behind and not returning to.

Flag of Spain

Flag of Spain

Are state tax caps unconstitutional?

flag-of-coloradoIn a push-back against the tyranny of conservative tax caps that prevent some state and local tax increases except by referendum, activists and some legislators in Colorado are trying to persuade the courts to hear a case that says these restrictions are Federally unconstitutional.

Why? Because of the U.S. Constitution’s slightly vague requirement that state governments be “republican” in nature (i.e. ruled by representatives instead of the people directly) and that the Federal government must ensure compliance:

Article 4. Section 4. The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government…

This clause has generally only come up as a formality when Congress has to admit a new state to the union. In the past, the Federal courts have refused to hear cases on this issue of what is or isn’t a “republican” form of government in the states, since most of the disputes are openly political fights between rival state camps rather than legitimate constitutional cases.

But they seem to have taken an interest over the extreme case where Colorado legislators have been legally powerless to raise any taxes whatsoever without the consent of a popular referendum, for over two decades.

Unlike California where many — but not all — taxes end up going to ballot, or other states where legislators can only raise taxes by a certain fixed percentage every year without a ballot question, Colorado’s constitution completely removes that power from its legislature — and even the local governments — and hands it over to the voters.

…no unit of government, from the legislature to local boards, can raise taxes or approve a new tax without a vote of the people. In addition, if existing taxes bring in revenue greater than “inflation plus the percentage change in state population” for the year previous, that “surplus” must be refunded to the taxpayers. In short, TABOR froze state government in its existing shape as of 1992, and left the legislature to flounder helplessly.

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American Indian law under siege by anti-Sharia movement

Remember that Oklahoma ballot proposition we covered after the election, which “thwarted” the “creeping” Islamic Sharia law in the state? Well, we knew it was ignorant and damaging before, but it appears it didn’t just take out the ten commandments as collateral damage, but was so broad and vague that it may have taken out Indian tribal law too, which is a serious problem in Oklahoma. Joan McCarter:

This law obviously makes Oklahoma feel like hostile territory for Muslim Americans. It also makes it potentially hostile territory for the very first nations to populate the land that is now Oklahoma.

Oklahoma has the second largest population of Native Americans in the U.S and law experts like Oklahoma University law professor Taiawagi Helton point out that language in the law banning courts from looking at “legal precepts of other nations or cultures” could pose a problem if applied to tribal legal cases, as the tribes are considered sovereign nations. In fact, the Oklahoma Indian Affairs Commission released an official memo on October 20 explaining how the “lack of specific tribal law language” could “damage the sovereignty of all Oklahoma tribes” and “starkly reminds [the Commission] that some Oklahoma lawmakers forgot that our nation and state were built on the principles, blood, and back of other nations and cultures, namely, ou[r] tribes”

A perfect example of the consequences of voting out of fear. […] A federal judge has granted a temporary order blocking the ban from taking effect. A hearing on the amendment will be held on November 22.

Oops. Good thing that “activist” judge thwarted the thwarting of Sharia, though.

It would be fascinating if this gets litigated up to the U.S. Supreme Court, since the whole controversy over the use of “legal precepts of other nations or cultures” stems from a couple Supreme Court rulings by Justice Anthony Kennedy, in which he referenced (but did not rule on the basis of) international laws and norms for comparison. In the intervening years since the controversy erupted, he has shifted dramatically back toward the right, under the divided and partisan Roberts court, and would probably be unlikely to rule against the proposition, although he could surprise.

This post originally appeared at Starboard Broadside.