Monthly Archives: April 2012

The power and importance of the economic vote!


There are many types of voting.  We are typically focused on the political vote where we go into the booth and cast a ballot.  That is important!   It truly is.  However, we must never forget the other types of voting that we engage in much more frequently, and which are equally important.  In fact, for as long as money from corporations and the uber-wealthy can play an unlimited role, then other types of voting are more important.

Our economic vote is the most important.  Ask yourself this question.  Where do the corporations get the money to influence the campaigns and the elections the way that they do?  They get it from us.

We have some fundamental realities to deal with.  Most of us are frequently faced with a situation where a choice must be made and the deciding factor is “Which can I afford?”.  This is our economic need potentially outweighing our principles.

Another issue is that it is often difficult for the average consumer to identify where their dollars are going.  Who are they going to be supporting when they buy this particular item?  However, it is important to be as aware as possible.

Let’s take a few real examples.  From those examples, we can extrapolate out.  And, let me be clear, though it should be by now.  I support buying from small businesses whenever possible, but the same principles apply.  If you know that a small business or its owner violates the principles that you support, then you have the responsibility to shop elsewhere.  As an individual, you’re unlikely to make much impact on your own.  However, if we all do this, then the power of the group boycott comes into play and the impact can be quite large!  (Look for examples throughout history at the Montgomery Bus Boycott that really launched the Civil rights movement of the 50s & 60s, or the Grape Boycott of the 60s and 70s. or others.)

The Koch Brothers , David and Charles, are well known ultra right wing activists.  They are ridiculously wealthy having fortunes tied to manufacturing, trading, and investments.  Their primary activism has been in funding the astroturf Tea Party movement, PACs and in funding SuperPACs.  But, how would one, as an individual consumer, avoid contributing to them?  A lot of their products are industrial products and very hard to trace.  However, their paper products and a few other products are more readily identifiable and therefore avoidable.  You can easily vote with your dollars and keep some of your dollars out of their pockets, and thus start to defund some of their activities.  So, what products do the Koch brothers continue to make their billions off at the retail level?  Some very well known names.  Brands like AngelSoft, Quilted Northern, Brawnie and Dixie, for example.  A longer list can be found here.

Chick-Fil-A with those oh so yummy, and yet, really unhealthy original chicken sandwiches.  Personally, I can’t shop there.  I refuse to support a business which is so openly bigoted.  I do not have an issue with them being true to their Christian founding and thus choosing to not be open on Sundays.  I found that frustrating a few times since I really wanted a sandwich or their nuggets, but I could respect that choice.  However, upon learning that they openly discriminate against gays, I must choose to vote economically against them, by not giving them my dollars.

Zynga Games makes a lot of games that are very popular.  Even some that look like they might be fun to play with my friends.  And, they’re free!  w00t!  They’ve developed almost every game on Facebook these days, haven’t they?  Castleville, Cityville, Farmville, and their latest big hit Words with Friends.  I enjoy Scrabble ®.  However, because I find the business practices of Zynga to be offensive, I won’t play any of their games.  Why?  Because, when trying to build their business up, in order to attract and retain talent, they gave stock out in lieu of better pay.  Then, when preparing to go public, they demanded that stock back and threatened to fire the employees if they failed to comply.  Because, they didn’t want to create a “Google chef” situation.  I find that to be a deplorable example of greed and an unacceptable abuse of their employees, and will not support them in any way.  Particularly, when if I am going to play games, there are many free alternatives.

These are just some examples.  It is important though to be aware of who and what we are supporting with our dollars.  Pay attention to the companies where you shop.  Always shop locally when possible.  Always avoid the mega-super big box stores when possible!  Always share information with others to make sure that they know about the evils of the businesses that you’re aware of, so that they too can stop contributing to the madness.

The contrary is true also.  When you find out about businesses that are exhibiting the kinds of policies that you expect from a business, then take your dollars there, and spread the word.  We must use our economic vote and social networking as a tool to change the world in which we live.

We have to get the money out of politics, and we have to act directly to achieve that.  However, we have to act indirectly to achieve that also.  This is one of those ways.

Whatever others do, be the change you want to see in the world.


All contracts being equal under the law


In yet another example of how there is no significant difference between the two wings of the great beast, the Democrats and the Republicans, both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney have steadfastly stood against same-sex marriage.  Let me be absolutely clear.  This is indefensible.

I have spent a fair amount of time looking for any coherent argument against legal recognition of same-sex marriages.  Truthfully, I can’t find any.  I wanted to present it.  I wanted to give you a counter point.  I wanted to present a reasoned argument from the other side and then rebut it.  I can’t, because as far as I can find, none exists.

The arguments against legal-recognition of same-sex marriages are based in one of three categories:

  1. Religious arguments
  2. Social damage claims
  3. The thus it has always been belief

None of these actually stands up to any sort of reason test, and each is intertwined with the others.

The most obvious first.  For many people it is about comfort.  They feel that it has always been one man and one woman, because that is all that they have known.  No, it has not always been thus.  It isn’t even always thus now.  There are many, many academic works available on the subject for those who have the interest.  This snippet from one of those, Same-Sex Marriage: The Personal and the Political by Kathleen A. Lahey, Kevin Alderson provides a nice summary though.

Additionally, though let us not forget that not only in America, but in the bible, one man one woman marriage was not the only way that marriage was.  Many of the most revered patriarchs in the bible had many wives and concubines.  How many wives, for example, did Solomon have?  700 wives and 300 concubines!  (And, for the record, the downfall of Israel is attributed not to the number of wives, but rather to the fact that Solomon started worshiping other gods, which was blamed on his wives.  Talk about a War on Women!)

There was a very clear historical tradition of polyandry in many places around the world, including Tibet prior to Chinese take over and both male-male and female-female marriages in China, particularly in the Fujian region.

So, we can wholly dismiss the thus it has always been argument.

The social damage claims are essentially the same ludicrous arguments that were made during the racial civil rights movements in relation to anti-miscegenation laws.   They are ridiculous and have been disproven by every credible bit of research that has been put forth.   And, yet, they just keep getting repeated.  *sigh*

One of the most infamous, er, concise examples of this is from *cough* Dr. *cough* James Dobson, who at least openly tries to base his bigotry on Christianity, in his Eleven Arguments against Same-Sex Marriage.

1. “The legalization of homosexual marriage will quickly destroy the traditional family”

Again, this was the same claim made as to why black and white Americans couldn’t be allowed to marry.  We saw then, and we have seen now what we should know intuitively – that this is simply a ridiculous claim.  Just as who my neighbor loves has no impact on who I love, who my neighbor marries has no impact on who I marry.

He also uses this as the slippery slope position, i.e., that it will lead to “other alternatives to one man/one woman unions.”  Though that is not the topic under consideration here, let me digress for a moment and say, so?  To paraphrase Dorothy Parker, one man/one woman is not normal, it is just more common.  So long as the relationship is made up of consenting adult humans, why does it matter what their genders or numbers are?  The dynamics and any separations may become more complex, but those are situations that adults must handle, period.

2. “Children will suffer most.”

This is because, of course, of the gay agenda to turn all little children into gay adults or some such ridiculousness.  Oh, no.  Wait.  It’s because, children that have both a father and a mother raising them are:

to be on illegal drugs, less likely to be retained in a grade, less likely to drop out of school, less likely to commit suicide, less likely to be in poverty, less likely to become juvenile delinquents, and for the girls, less likely to become teen mothers. They are healthier both emotionally and physically, even thirty years later, than those not so blessed by traditional parents.

Actually, the non-biased research, not that faux stuff funded and twisted by the likes of Dobson, shows precisely the opposite.  Either that there is no statistically different outcome, or that, in fact, LBGT parents may be better for kids, which may make some sense, since they’ve had to face so many of their own obstacles.  If they’ve overcome them to be well adjusted adults, then they are better prepared to help their children do the same.  (Just my own theory.)

What I find really offensive about this section of his paper is that he starts with the tired and untrue assertion that many are still making, “Because homosexuals are rarely monogamous, often having as many as three hundred or more partners in a lifetime — some studies say it is typically more than one thousand — children in those polyamorous situations are caught in a perpetual coming and going.”

3. “Public schools in every state will embrace homosexuality.”

As opposed to what?  Are we to have our public schools teaching the right wing bigoted position that homosexuality is wrong?  And, that is exactly what they want.  Thank you, no.  How about we all agree that the morals be taught at home and at churches if you choose to take your children to them?

4. “Adoption laws will be instantly obsolete.”
5. “Foster-care programs will be impacted dramatically.”

Addressing 4 and 5 , what they mean is that states, like Florida, for example, will no longer be able to prohibit placing children with parents based solely on their sexual orientation.  Of course, unless you have already bought into their bigotry, this isn’t a valid objection.  In fact, with a system that is already overloaded, getting additional stable, loving parents available is good thing.  Without the bigotry against one type of love, this would be universally accepted.

6. “The health care system will stagger and perhaps collapse.”
7. “Social Security will be severely stressed.”

Addressing 6 and 7 together, this is just more silliness.  The claim is that there will be more dependents.  Literally.

Every HIV-positive patient needs only to find a partner to receive the same coverage as offered to an employee.

Remembering that Dobson comes from the same camp that says that AIDS is a punishment, not only to gays but to a country that “tolerates” them.

Again, with millions of new eligible dependents, what will happen to the Social Security system that is already facing bankruptcy? If it does collapse, what will that mean for elderly people who must rely totally on that meager support? Who is thinking through these draconian possibilities as we careen toward “a brave new world”?

It is blatant hate and fear mongering.  Truthfully, if anything, it decreases strain on the Social Security system as these “additional dependents” would still otherwise be working.  What Dobson is suggesting is that legally recognizing same-sex marriage would encourage sloth, and I personally find that offensive to stay at home moms and dads.  I find it offensive to home makers of all ilks and to other disabled persons, as well as a host of others.

8. “Religious freedom will almost certainly be jeopardized.”

The basis for this appears to be that if you give others rights, yours are diminished.  I am spending no time on it for it is sad, really.  It is there for you to read in the link given above.

9. “Other nations are watching our march toward homosexual marriage and will follow our lead.”

Really?  13 other nations in the world already recognize same-sex marriage either by performing them or by recognizing their validity when performed in other countries.  Meanwhile, we have evangelical organizations that are working to have homosexuality declared illegal around the world and punishable by death!  That is what disgusts me!  (Update: The law has currently had the death penalty removed, and replaced with life in prison, but has not officially passed.  Yet.)

Dobson’s final two points are specifically related to the religious arguments:

10. “The gospel of Jesus Christ will be severely curtailed.”
11. “The culture war will be over, and the world may soon become “as it was in the days of Noah” (Matthew 24:37).”

The problems with this are legion.  From a fundamental misunderstanding of history of his own religious institution on, this reasoning is flawed.  There was a time when same-sex marriage was a Christian rite.

“Argument” 10 rests on the family having been destroyed:

The family has been God’s primary vehicle for evangelism since the beginning. Its most important assignment has been the propagation of the human race and the handing down of the faith to our children.

This, of course, gets back to his paranoid belief that the gay agenda includes destroying every Christian family.  The ironic part of this is that what is implicit in this belief is that those families are not strong enough to withstand the assault.  Leaving that thought behind, and recognizing that there is no Secret LGBT Conversion Army, the Christian family will still be able to convey their beliefs to their children.  That will be their right.

The larger issue though is that it is simply wrong to restrict rights from one group based on the bigotry of another group.  There is no justification for it.  Marriage is a civil contract.  Whatever church or religious institution may or may not choose to bless or otherwise sanctify that contract is up to that church or religious institution.

The benefits and responsibilities that come with being married (joint ownership, tax free inheritance, medical decision making, etc) should not be denied based on the gender of the person to whom one is in love.  There is no basis for it in any historical or factual sense.  If your religion dictates that you must be against it, that’s fine.  Your religion is not the law in the US.  That is fundamental to the US.

Why are we still arguing about this?


The One Party Road Show


President Obama was “swept” into office in 2008 on a “wave of hope and change”.  Except that wave turned out to be another mirage.  This is truly not at all surprising.  It really shouldn’t be surprising to anyone who has been paying attention.  It returns us back to a point that I have been making for years.

The POTUS recently made the point so eloquently, I’d like to let him do so because he was speaking to a bunch of reporters at the  Associated Press Luncheon on April 3, 2012, and we all know that means it wasn’t actually reported!  My reference is the official transcript from the White House, which can be found here.  Video for your viewing pleasure below.

Our POTUS has a habit of comparing himself to others.  He has compared himself to Eisenhower, his change to Gandhi and Mandela’s struggles, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt and Lyndon B. Johnson, and to Ronald Reagan.  And, in this speech he has reiterated a shared belief with all of these and more, though I wouldn’t go so far as to call it a comparison with them.

What is interesting is that in doing so he often makes the point that there is no significant difference remaining between the Republican and Democratic parties.  As I have said in the past, both parties have done great things for the country, and we should never forget that, but now, they have both become so corrupt that there is no saving either party.  The belief that voting for a third party candidate is throwing away your vote is what allows these two factions of the great beast to maintain their systemic abuse of the country and its people, but we have to recognize our own complicity in that abuse!

Okay, back on track.  Mike Lux blogging on Huffington Post was just thrilled to see Obama “explicitly tie Ryan and Romney to their Social Darwinist ancestors”.  I grant that Obama talks a great game.  Much like Ronald Reagan, he is a great communicator.  Unfortunately, his actions have belied his words.  Apparently, like so many people, Mr. Lux has only been listening and not watching.

This is not just another run-of-the-mill political debate.  I’ve said it’s the defining issue of our time, and I believe it. It’s why I ran in 2008.  It’s what my presidency has been about. It’s why I’m running again.  I believe this is a make-or-break moment for the middle class, and I can’t remember a time when the choice between competing visions of our future has been so unambiguously clear.

The problem, of course, is that we are not shown an actual competing difference in visions.  Obama campaigned on ending Bush’s policies on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, yet when he had the opportunity to do so, he essentially carried out the precise same time table that the dear ol’ Shrub cabal had been proposing.  He campaigned on getting us out of Guantanamo, and yet, here we are, still in Guantanamo.  His “signature” legislative piece, the Affordable Care Act, he sat on the sidelines for until the very end, and then, caved on almost every significant part of.  He caved so badly that the vast majority of it doesn’t even go into effect until after he would have to be re-elected.  In other words, there is a very good chance it might never go into effect, regardless of what the Supreme Court decides, because subsequent congresses and the next president, if he isn’t re-elected, may pull the plug on it.

So, the really telling part of POTUS’s comments come in the Q&A at the end.

 And so I think it’s important to put the current debate in some historical context.  It’s not just true, by the way, of the budget.  It’s true of a lot of the debates that we’re having out here.

I agree, Mr. President.  Lets.  I’ll allow you.

Cap and trade was originally proposed by conservatives and Republicans as a market-based solution to solving environmental problems.  The first President to talk about cap and trade was George H.W. Bush.  Now you’ve got the other party essentially saying we shouldn’t even be thinking about environmental protection; let’s gut the EPA.

Right.  So, the so-called Democrats, essentially admit taking the Republican idea and running with it.  Part of the conservatives dragging the entire political center to the right and the political “left” not having a backbone to stand up and say no.  But, let’s continue.


Why there oughta be a…


So, let’s jump to the end first.  Term limits are neither necessary nor are they advisable.  Was that anticlimactic?

I was having a short discussion the other day that turned to the topic of legislative branch term limits and it led me to doing a bit of research.  It was a topic of which, honestly, I knew very little about the background.  I knew that I was not in favor of them, but from an historical perspective, my knowledge was limited.  It still is, but I know more now than I did.  (More on that in a bit.)

Let me be absolutely clear.  Term limits of this kind are a bad idea because:

  • They are a treatment of the symptom not the disease.
  • They are a way for the electorate to remain uninvolved rather than to encourage an educated and active electorate.
  • They force out the few good men & women along with the many who get rich(er) or become enamored with the power and prestige of the position.
  • They do not achieve the goal that is intended.

There appear to be essentially two variations on the concept, with multiple variations on the theme.

  • Hard limit – The current most popular version on the national stage seems to be 12 years.  That is, 6 terms for Representatives and 2 terms for Senators.  There are, of course, other variations.  After this hard limit is hit, the individual is ineligible to serve in that role again.  Some proposals would couple this with removing any eligibility for any other elected office of the same rank, others would not.  Most seem to also include removing residual benefits, though this is not strictly speaking a term limit proposal.
  • Rotational – While less common, it is out there, and it has a historical basis.  This is a concept that a person is only eligible to serve x number of years in y period.  It too has a number of variations.  (This version was entirely new to me in the conversation referenced above, but as I will get to, has a LONG historical basis.)

The specific proposal put forth in the discussion went like this: Don’t allow anyone to run for a second term while still serving.  Make them take a term off, and then they can run again while not in office.  The thought behind this is that they would have to think long term.

I don’t agree that this would cause them to think long term.  However, leaving that aside because it is a much deeper and longer discussion than this is the immediate venue for, my immediate response was that this was a knee jerk reaction which sounded good on the surface, but that the practical effect would be to actually further entrench only those with money in the political seats of power.   It was immediately apparent to me what this meant.

The off term would consist of finding a job, working, then, quitting that job, in order to campaign, and then returning to office.  Assuming, of course, that one won the election.  Unless, of course, one is already wealthy, a business owner that can afford to not be on the job, etc.  In other words, part of the entrenched elite already.  Otherwise, it is impractical.  If we’re going to do that, we don’t need a rotational term limit arrangement.  We can just have them commit to a Bonded Term Limit.

Now, for that research I mentioned.  I found that this rotational concept has existed in the past.  In fact, it has existed in American history.  That’s right.  In Section 8 of the Constitution of Pennsylvania – September 28, 1776:

No person shall be capable of being elected a member to serve in the house of representatives of the freemen of this commonwealth more than four years in seven.

And, in Section 19:

… Any person having served as a counsellor for three successive years, shall be incapable of holding that office for four years afterwards….

And, in Section 31:

… No person shall continue in the office of sherlit more than three successive years, or be capable of being again elected during four years afterwards…

So, yes, this rotational term limits has a historical precedent in American history.  However, lets think about the time period.  Who was eligible to participate in the counsel and the other offices?  According to Section 6:

Every freemen of the full age of twenty-one Years, having resided in this state for the space of one whole Year next before the day of election for representatives, and paid public taxes during that time, shall enjoy the right of an elector: Provided always, that sons of freeholders of the age of twenty-one years shall be intitled to vote although they have not paid taxes.

So, while there was no land owning requirement in this Constitution for voting or holding office, it did require the paying of taxes, which at the time was only being paid by the wealthy.  The effect was the same.  Only the upper crust were eligible to vote and to participate in governing the state.

The fifth article of the Articles of Confederation (Ratified 1781)  also specified that (emphasis added):

No State shall be represented in Congress by less than two, nor more than seven members; and no person shall be capable of being a delegate for more than three years in any term of six years; nor shall any person, being a delegate, be capable of holding any office under the United States, for which he, or another for his benefit, receives any salary, fees or emolument of any kind.

And, we note that this was not kept in the Constitution which replaced this ineffectual document just a few short years later.

Though there is reason to believe that many of the “founding fathers” did, in fact, believe in term limits, it appears that these were to be self-imposed or imposed by the voters.  They were not to be arbitrarily imposed by the documents forming the basis of our government.

If we the people are not educated enough and aware enough to make informed choices about our candidates, then we cannot rely on an automatic term limit to save us from ourselves.  That would only guarantee that one fool is out and another is in.  It would not guarantee that the next one is better.

Some arguments put forth in support of term limits include:

  • Voters overwhelmingly prefer term limits (more story here)
  • Term limits increase competition and encourage new challengers
  • Term limits break ties to special interests
    • On the contrary, it just gets them in the game earlier.  Campaign finance reform breaks the ties to special interest lobbying.  However, special interest lobbying isn’t actually the issue.  It is the undue influence of high dollar special interests to the detriment of other interests that is the actual issue.  All interests have a right to be heard in a free country.  So, this issue, while completely valid, is not addressed through term limits, but rather through campaign finance and privilege reform.
  • Term limits improve tendency to vote on principle
    • Actually, again, this has not been borne out.  Please do see the article on California’s results.  The result actually seems to be a higher tendency to vote on party lines.  Almost as if they’re buying their future jobs knowing they’re only going to hold this one for a short time.

As a side point, there was a rotational term limit system of sorts in the Roman Republic too.  It too was used to train the elite ruling class to maintain their elite ruling class.  (Read up further if interested.  Cursus honorumRoman Republic; Pre-Constitution Term Limits)

There are other reasons put forward, but they all run the same lines and they all make little to no sense when you start to look at the state experiments and the real results.  Term limits have an emotional appeal.  I admit this.  In a practical sense though, they do not have the desired result.

That is the real deciding factor.  Forget the fact that we would have to throw out the good guys when we finally find them.  Forget any other logical reasoning, and just look at it from a practical stand point.  It has been tried, and it simply does not achieve the desired result.  Let us learn from this.  It is time to move on.

Are we going to be insane?

BONUS:

Just because I stumbled on it and it amused me.  I thought I would share it here.

A Brain Dead Voter’s Guide to Term Limits


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