Yes, there are plenty of Asshats, but there are those who belong in the Hall of Fame as well. We can’t have one without the other, so here’s a page dedicated to those who just plain deserve to be admired. They don’t all work in Washington, D.C. and they’re not all famous. Some of them are everyday people.
Aaron Schwartz, Citizen, Internet Activist
Here’s the world we live in: Bankers and Wall Street executives destroy the economy and ruin countless lives, but they’re too big to prosecute. Since the great economic crash of 2008, not one of them has been prosecuted, let alone jailed. And they won’t be. Yet, Aaron Schwartz — whose great infraction was to download articles and make them available to the public — was hounded by the Department of Justice to the point where he committed suicide at the age of 26. Let’s be specific about what was involved here. Schwartz was accused of using MIT’s network to download “too many” scholarly articles from an academic database called JSTOR. When they tried to block him, he found a way around it. Schwartz was an Internet activist with a desire to make the world a better place. He was the co-founder of the RSS feed site called Reddit at the age of 19. We don’t value people like Aaron Schwartz in this nation. We prefer the dirtbags whose only goal is to line their own pockets in the name of ”capitalism,” even if it means we screw the average citizen over along the way. Those people, my friends, are true Americans.
JSTOR chose not to prosecute, but the snobby, elitist MIT — along with the DOJ — was determined to continue tormenting Aaron Schwartz. At the time of his suicide, Schwartz faced 13 felony charges and up to 50 years in prison. Don’t listen when they tell you Aaron Schwartz had a history of depression. He didn’t. He was the victim of judicial overreach for daring to rock the boat, and saw no way out. The DOJ was determined to make an example of Schwartz. Too bad they couldn’t show this level of tenacity with real criminals and law breakers.
Aaron Schwartz once worked for Representative Alan Grayson. He was asked to speak at a memorial service for Schwartz in Washington, D.C. I urge you all to read what Grayson had to say about what we’ve all lost as a result of this unfortunate event.
Vice President Joe Biden
If anybody belongs here this week, it’s smokin’ Joe Biden hands down. He was more than ready for his debate with lying sack of shit Paul Ryan, who proved once again that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. Maybe he learned how to lie from his illustrious running mate, Mitt Romney. He’s such a pathological liar that he lies about his lies. If you watched, you saw Joe Biden laughing quite a bit. It wasn’t because he was amused. It was because the consistent string of GOP lies is almost unbelievable. At least Joe Biden wasn’t afraid to call a liar a liar, like his running mate was. It’s time for a reality check where the GOP is concerned, and Joe Biden delivered big time.
You can say what you like about Joe Biden, but he did his homework and showed up ready for battle. The American public is dismal at fact checking. They simply drink whatever Kool Aid is served them. Joe Biden was having none of that.
The Eagle Scouts
While the Boy Scouts of America has doubled down and reaffirmed its bigoted anti-gay policy, the Eagle Scouts have taken a stand on the side of LGBT America. Across the nation, Eagle Scouts — the most esteemed rank you can achieve in the Boy Scouts — have begun to return their medals to protest the Scouts’ anti-gay policy.
The Scouts have been pretty quiet about how many medals have been returned, but several letters can be seen on a blog called BoingBoing. Congratulations, Eagle Scouts, for standing up and being counted!
Kameron Slade (Brave New York Fifth Grader)
Kameron Slade is a fifth-grade student at New York’s PS 195. He won a class competition and was slated to deliver a speech as part of the program. However, because his speech was in support of same-sex marriage, his principal told him he would be removed from the competition if he did not choose another topic because same-sex marriage is inappropriate. Here’s Kameron reading his speech:
I don’t know about you, but I’ve heard children his age talking about things that really are inappropriate. I’ve heard comments like “That’s so gay.” I’ve heard them call their peers “faggots” during disagreements. To me, those are far more inappropriate words than those of a little boy who is open-minded and unadulterated by the world around him. Let Kameron Slade be an example to everyone, including the principal of his school.
Rachel Maddow (American Television Host and Commentator)
Rachel Maddow is a television host, political commentator and author. She hosts the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC, and is the first openly gay anchor of a prime-time news show in the United States. Maddow received her degree in public policy from Stanford University in 1994. At graduation, she received the John Gardner Fellowship. She is also the first openly gay American to receive a Rhodes Scholarship. If you think Maddow is just another political talking head, you’re wrong. She’s smart, a tough interviewer and does her homework, earning respect from people across the political spectrum.
In 2005, she was a regular contributor to MSNBC’s Tucker (with Tucker Carlson). During and after the 2006 elections, she was a regular on CNN’s Paula Zahn Now. In 2008, she became an MSNBC political analyst and was a regular on MSNBC’s Race for the White House with David Gregory as well as Countdown with Keith Olbermann.
Norman Solomon (Anti-War Progressive Candidate)
With the election just months away, it’s time to start focusing on some grassroots candidates, like Norman Solomon. Solomon is running to replace retiring Rep Lynn Woolsey in California’s North Coast. Solomon has never held elected office before, but he’s been a busy guy. In 2002, he took Sean Penn to Iraq to oppose the invasion. In the last several years, he’s given about 200 speeches and presentations in his district, and wants to carry on Woolsey’s anti-war legacy. Yet Solomon states that he’s more than just an anti-war candidate. He’s a champion of the 99%. “I was the Occupy candidate before there was an Occupy movement,” Solomon said. “I started out of the gate in January 2011, declaring that our campaign is a campaign to challenge the undemocratic power of Wall Street.”
Lynn Woolsey has been a strong progressive voice for two decades, and she will sorely be missed. We’ve also lost a strong progressive voice in Dennis Kucinich. It is critical that we move the country forward so that government and legislation reflects the needs of the 99%. Norman Solomon is one candidate who can help this process.
Representative Dennis Kucinich (D-OH)
This is one politician I can say I totally respect. He is not owned by special interests. He has a grasp of the Constitution. And he understands what being a public servant is all about. One of the things I remember vividly about Kucinich happened during the 2008 presidential campaign. He was on Logo with the other Democratic contenders and they were asked to state their position on same-sex marriage. The rest of the pack literally either choked on the question or danced around it, including Barack Obama. Not Kucinich. He stated that he would file an Executive Order legalizing it because you cannot be against it and believe in the validity of the Constitution. But there’s so much more to Kucinich than just that.
His 2008 platform was clear and succinct. His vision was for a single-payer, not-for-profit health care system for all Americans by passage of the United States National Health Care Act. He would work toward guaranteed quality education for all, including free pre-kindergarten and college for those who want it. He would withdraw from the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). He stated that he would withdraw all troops from Iraq immediately and replace them with an international security force. He was not only against the privatization of social security, but of guaranteeing complete social security benefits at age 65. He was in favor of a moratorium on genetically modified organisms (GMO), repealing the USA Patriot Act, and abolition of the death penalty. He would ratify the ABM Treaty and the Kyoto Protocol.
Kucinich has repeatedly voted against the USA Patriot Act, and voted against the Military Commissions Act of 2006. He also voted against the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Act. He is pro-choice and supports ending abstinence-only sex education. He is in favor of using contraceptives to reduce the need for abortions over time. Kucinich is in favor of abolishing all nuclear weapons, and has called on the United States to be a leader in multilateral disarmament. He is the only congressional member to vote against the “9/11 Commemoration” Resolution. He defended his decision by stating that the legislation did not reference “the lies that took us into Iraq, the lies that keep us there, the lies that are being used to set the stage for war against Iran and the lies that have undermined our basic civil liberties here at home.”
On June 10, 2008, Dennis Kucinich read 35 articles of impeachment against George W. Bush. On June 11, the matter was referred to the House Judiciary Committee. The rest is history.
Some people say that Dennis Kucinich is “out there.” And that’s because we’ve become so used to corrupt, greedy, self-serving politicians that we really don’t know what a great public servant looks like.
Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY)
The woman who was appointed by New York Governor David Paterson in 2009 to replace Hillary Clinton (after she became Secretary of State) has made me a believer. I’ll be the first to tell you I was leery about Gillibrand at the start. I felt that she was too squishy and too centrist. Since then, I’ve come to believe that we cannot afford to lose Gillibrand. She was a tireless advocate for the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. On Friday, October 28, she introduced The Every Child Deserves a Family Act, which she hopes will end discrimination against LGBT adoptive parents. She has now set her sights on the repeal of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).
Kirsten Gillibrand is pro-choice, and supports health care reform with a public option. She is also a proponent of female equality and involvement in politics, having started offthesidelines.org in 2011. She is a strong supporter of transparency in government, release a fair amount of personal and scheduling information.
Gillibrand was also instrumental in passing the James Zadroga 9/11 Health and Compensation Act.
William Rivers Pitt (Author, Editor, Political Activist)
Simply put, one of the most eloquent and intelligent voices in the progressive movement. William Rivers Pitt became dedicated to writing during the impeachment trial of former President Bill Clinton, and committed himself to fighting ”the rising tide of conservative fundamentalism in American government” after George W. Bush was elected president. In 2004, William Rivers Pitt replaced David Swanson (who will also find his way onto this page) as press secretary for Representative Dennis Kucinich during his presidential run.
Pitt was born in Washington, D.C., and eventually moved to Boston, Massachusetts. He received his degree in English literature from Holy Cross College, and worked in the law field in San Francisco after graduation. He also taught English literature, grammar, journalism and history in a small private school outside Boston. After his stint on the Kucinich campaign, he gave up teaching and became the editor of Progressive Democrats of America (2005). He is currently the managing editor (and author) of the liberal commentary and news site, Truthout.
William Rivers Pitt is the author of several books, including War on Iraq: What Team Bush Doesn’t Want You to Know (2002), The Greatest Sedition is Silence: Four Years in America (2003), and Our Flag Too: The Paradox of Patriotism (2004).
Senator Bernard (Bernie) Sanders (Democratic Socialist, Vermont)
Bernie Sanders is the junior U.S. Senator from the state of Vermont. He describes himself as a Democratic Socialist, and he is the first socialist ever elected to public office in this country. Sanders caucuses with the Democrats and is considered as a Democrat for the purpose of committee assignments. However, because he actually belongs to neither party, he is listed as an Independent. Sanders previously represented Vermont’s at-large district in the House of Representatives, and also served as the mayor of Burlington, Vermont.
Sanders voted against the resolutions authorizing the use of force against Iraq in 1991 (under George Bush Sr.) and 2002 (under George W. Bush). He supports universal health care, and is against “unfettered” free trade. He was a frequent, outspoken critic of the Bush administration’s cuts in social programs. Sanders was a critic of Alan Greenspan, whom he believed served only the wealthy and large corporations.
Sanders was one of the sole majority members (along with Robert Byrd, Tom Harkins, and Russ Feingold) to vote against confirmation of Timothy Geithner as Secretary of the Treasury. On December 10, 2010, Sanders delivered an 8-1/2 hour speech against the legislation that would extend the Bush-era tax cuts to the wealthiest Americans. Sanders is a strong and vocal supporter of gay rights, supporting same-sex marriage. He voted against the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) while serving in the House of Representatives. He is pro-choice and a supporter of women’s rights.
A strong believer in civil rights, Sanders voted against extension of The Patriot Act in May 2011.
Elizabeth Warren (Democratic Candidate for Senator, MA)
Elizabeth Warren is an American bankruptcy expert, policy advocate, Harvard Law School professor and now the Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate from the State of Massachusetts attempting to unseat Republican Scott Brown in 2012. She attended The George Washington University, the University of Houston and received her J.D. from the Rutgers School of Law, Newark in 1976. After the financial meltdown, Warren served as chair of the Congressional Oversight Panel for the Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP), and later as Assistant to the President and Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. When Barack Obama once again caved in to the GOP (and his own thieving Treasury Secretary, Timothy Geithner) and did not name her the head of that bureau, Warren jumped into the Massachusetts senate race.
A former Republican, Warren has become a fierce supporter of the middle class. She is not afraid to identify herself as a supporter of the Occupy Movement, in spite of the GOPs attempt to paint that association as a negative in her run for the senate. Here is what Elizabeth Warren says about her run:
“There are plenty of people in Washington looking out for the billion dollar corporations. My life’s work has been fighting for middle class families, taking on big banks, putting forward new ideas, and working to turn those ideas into a reality that makes a difference for people. That’s what I’ll do in the U.S. Senate.”
She cites rebuilding America’s middle class, workers’ rights, education, renewable energy and fair trade as some of her priorities. EMILY’s List, the nation’s largest resource for women in politics, has endorsed Warren for the senate stating, “Elizabeth is a champion for progressive values and a fighter for the middle class.”
Warren has won numerous awards, including Time Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World (in 2009, 2010) and Bostonian of the Year (The Boston Globe, 2009). The Women’s Bar Association of Massachusetts has awarded her the Lelia J. Robinson Award, and the National Law Journal has repeatedly named Warren one of the 50 Most Influential Women Attorneys in America. In 2010, the journal named her one of the 40 most influential attorneys of the decade.
Howard Zinn (Author, Historian, Political Activist)
Howard Zinn (1922-2010) was an American historian, author, left-wing activist, playwright, intellectual and Professor of Political Science at Boston University from 1964 until his retirement in 1988. An author of more than 20 books, Zinn focused on civil rights, civil liberties, labor in the United States, and the anti-war movement. His most influential work was A People’s History of the United States, which has sold more than two million copies.
Zinn wrote this book because he believed that the point of view in traditional history books was limited. Zinn’s textbook provides many more perspectives, including Native Americans against U.S. and European conquest and expansion, slaves against slavery, unionists against capitalists, women against patriarchy, and African-Americans for civil rights. According to the New York Times, A People’s History routinely sells more than 100,000 copies a year.
In 2004, Zinn published Voices of A People’s History of the United States, a sourcebook of speeches, articles, essays, poetry and song lyrics by the people whose stories are told in A People’s History of the United States.
In 2008, a former student of Zinn’s provided the financial backing to start the Zinn Education Project in an effort to bring Zinn’s teachings to students around the country. The site offers more than 85 downloadable lesson plans to use in conjunction with A People’s History of the United States. I recently joined the site and made a valuable contact. We will begin posting material to Revolutionary Radar from the project site in 2012.
Zinn’s accomplishments have been well-recognized. He received the Peace Abbey Courage of Conscience Award in 1996 for his leadership in the Peace Movement. In 1998, he received the Eugene V. Debs Award and the Lannan Literary Award for nonfiction. In 1999, he won the Upton Sinclair Award for his social activism. In 2003, Howard Zinn was awarded the Prix de Amis du Monde diplomatique for the French version of his seminal work, Une histoire populaire des Etats-Unis. In 2006, Zinn received the Haven’s Center Award for Lifetime Contribution to Critical Scholarship.