Tag Archives: rocky anderson

Sanctions Against Americans

In 2004, I worked for a small company.  (At least by standard definitions.  It always seemed to me to be at least a midsized company, but then, I think those definitions are a bit whack.  Still, we’ll stick with the standards for now.)  When the time came for the annual raise process, one of the things that was said was that we should be happy because we were receiving “3 times the average raise.”  Our president and CEO went on to tell us that the average raise in the country at that time was 4%.  Now, at the time, I didn’t check, because it didn’t matter.  What mattered was that he was a liar.  I had not, in fact, received a 12% raise, and I called him out on it. The next day, I did get an adjustment and my pay raise was increased to that 12%.  It’s probably a good thing I didn’t research it, because the actual average increase was only 3.5%.)

Those kinds of things can happen in a small company and they could happen back then, too.  It was a bit before the economy nearly completely collapsed.  It appeared the economy was, in fact, booming along.

Times are different, eh?  This year, the average pay increase in America is expected to be 3%.  Even less if you are working in the public sector.  In the county where I live, those employees haven’t had a merit pay raise in 5 years.  Federal Employees, generally, continue to be on hold for raises, and many of them are facing the possibility of furloughs thanks to the game of SequestrationTM that the Republicans and Democrats you all elected are playing this month.

Do I need to remind you, yet again, that those employees are your family and friends?  We are not talking about welfare for some faceless person that you can demonize and look down on.  People that you can pretend meet your stereotype of the drug addicted, slut that doesn’t have any desire to work but rather just wants to drain you for all you’re worth, right?  We are talking about the people that are out there working for a living supporting the daily functions that you, yes you whether you like it or not, rely on for the smooth functioning of the government.  And, yes, I did say smooth functioning of the government.  I am not talking about all the BS in congress, and the bickering and backbiting of the presidency.  I’m talking about the DOT, the food and health inspectors.  I’m talking about the people who process the payments to the Medicare doctors, and the checks to the Social Security recipients.  Air traffic controllers.  So called security personnel.  The civilian employees of the Defense Department.  The Veterans Affairs department.

I am talking about 1 million or so people who are part of the backbone of the government.  Not the ugly face of politics that so many people think of when they want to criticize and withdraw from it.  I’m talking about the part that matters.  You remember that part right?

I digress from the point I actually wanted to focus on today, because this too is an important point, and one you need to remember as you allow this game to be played out in your name.  When there is pain that is felt, it won’t be at the top.  Like any sanctions, it isn’t the leadership that pays the price.  It is the rank and file.  The people at the bottom.  Maybe even in the middle.  Sanctions are a political tool designed to foment revolution from within.  Either by causing sufficient discontent among the masses that the leadership can’t contain it and relents on their own, or by causing sufficient discontent that the masses literally arise in revolt.  Allowing this sequester to proceed is a calculated move by both the Democratic leadership and the Republican leadership to put sanctions on the American people with the precise same intent.

And, lest there be any misunderstanding, that is the precise reason that I am somewhat in favor of them myself.  I hope that this is a case of both parties having taken very careful aim before shooting themselves in the foot.  I hope that they have very carefully calculated this out correctly and will cause just enough damage to the people and the economy that it will finally cause sufficient discontent among the American masses to lead to an end of the far right domination of the politics in America.

I think I’ll hold my intended topic for next week.  It’ll keep.


Fallacious Arguments on a Slippery Slope Lead to Foolish Appearances

There are many foolish arguments made every day and in so many contexts. Arguments in the supposedly “reasoned” sense.  Not arguments in the childish, “No, you didn’t. Yes, I did” sense, though we do see plenty of that, as well.

So, for example, we see the “Criminals don’t obey laws” argument against any sort of gun control, and this is supposed to stop the discussion, because there are supposedly enough laws already.  Of course, this is stupid.  The basic fallacy is in the construct itself.  They are criminals because they didn’t obey the laws.  Not vice versa.  This is not a stereotypical chicken verses egg argument.  No, what little validity in it is that once one has started to break some laws it does psychologically become easier to break some others, but this is neither a straight line progression, nor is it a complete break such that all lines are broken.

The old saw that, “There is no honor amongst thieves” is a bunch of hooey that really only serves to make sanctimonious do-gooders feel superior because they are following the laws that they have laid down upon everyone else.  There is actually a great deal of honor among those who would break the laws of the “upper world”.  To live in the “under world” that we have created, requires that one be very honorable, because to be without honor, is often to be dead very quickly.  Particularly if one is floating around anywhere other than the basic get along stream of junkies.  Outside of that, one’s word is more important than in almost any other realm you can imagine in this western world, and the consequence is not just being shunned.  The consequences can be dire.  But, I am straying into the psychology of criminology and the anthropology of the underworld far more than I intended to, and more than is required to make the point.  The point is that, in that world, the ability to count on someone’s word is more frequently literally a matter of life and death, whereas in the “upper world” it is, the vast majority of the time, all talk.

I saw a piece this week that made me think about this again.  It was beautifully written and, yet, all too many people will dismiss it.  A short little piece posted by Andy Borowitz in the New Yorker.  A Letter from Kim Jong-Un pretty wonderfully highlighted another couple stupid arguments being made in this same context.

In the immortal words of my dad, the glorious Kim Jong-il: “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a nuke is a good guy with a nuke.”


If you join today, we will waive the initiation fee and send you this bumper sticker: “Nuclear weapons don’t kill people. People kill people who don’t have nuclear weapons.”

My grandfather used to say, “Locks only keep honest people out.”  To some extent that’s true.  However, the other side of that is that it makes it more difficult, and to parody the right-wing’s arguments, “We keep our money locked up, don’t we?”  Gah!

So, what then are the answers?  We need to stop the bullshit arguments.  We need to have a real, adult conversation.  We need to have a multi-dimensional approach.  The real answers are going to start at home.  Start with teaching our children to be responsible, caring, compassionate, human beings that contribute to society rather than just looking at society, the world, and each other in terms of what they can take from it.

In a legal sense though, there are things we can and need to do:

    • Strengthen and enforce the laws which are on the books already.  The so-called gun show loop holes.
    • Require universal background check regardless of how or where the gun is sold.
    • Issue FEDERAL licenses to purchase a gun.  This should probably come in categories, much like a driver’s license.  I would have this run through the Health and Safety, and do whatever reorganization would be required to make that happen.


Reform School, boys and girls?

Campaign finance reform is now officially off the front burner.  Almost everyone will let this slip off the radar until the next big election, because that is what we do in this short attention span theater culture we’ve developed.

And, yet, this is really an important time to act on it.  Yes, I know we have other issues going on, and I am not suggesting that we should put them aside.  We need to deal with the unemployment situation.  We need to deal with the financial “crisis”.  We need to deal with a lot of things.  However, this is one of those things that really should be dealt with before the next election cycle.  Preferably before the mid-term, but definitely before the next presidential election.  I know that isn’t going to happen, but it should.

There is a very strong argument to be made that the ideal situation is a truly level playing field.  That would be a situation of completely publicly funded campaigns.  If individuals, corporations, unions, PACs, etc still wanted to contribute then they would be able to contribute to that fund in a similar way that we as individuals are able to contribute to the Presidential Campaign Fund with our income tax filing.  It is highly unlikely that they would, of course, since they are not actually interested in funding democracy, but rather in buying candidates and influencing the outcomes of campaigns.  They are not altruistic, but rather acting with a specific goal in mind.

Still, that is precisely the reason that the argument for public financing of campaigns is so strong.  It takes that influence out.  It makes the campaigns and the outcomes more pure, because the candidates are less likely to have been purchased so blatantly and publicly.  It does open the possibility that companies and unions, more so than PACs, would contribute to these funds for the positive PR.  This move would certainly put an end to the Citizens United ruling and the mess it created.  There would be no more SuperPACs.  And, that leads to the strongest negative also.  It would make it more difficult for groups of people such as unions, AARP, NRA, etc to get their messages out.  If not done properly, a system like this would intrude on 1st amendment rights, and courts would properly strike it down.  While this is not the space for a full solution, there are ways around those pitfalls.

Public financing of campaigns, if done properly, would also help to break the strangle hold that the Democrats and Republicans have on our winner take all election system by, again, leveling the playing field.  If all sides have equal funding to get their messages out, then voters actually have a chance to hear it.  The Rocky Andersons, Gary Johnsons and Jill Steins of the elections will have a better chance to unseat the 800-pound gorillas sitting in the throne.  As it stands, money is allowing for a louder voice to be heard, instead of a better voice or all voices.   Despite the best efforts of the campaigns themselves, myself (here and elsewhere), and others, the mainstream media virtually ignored all of the “third-party” candidates, to the point that some people were shocked to see candidates other than Barack Obama and Mitt Romney on their ballots.

There are many issues that would be addressed by moving to a fully publicly financed campaign system.  It would come with other pitfalls that would have to be guarded against, but it would provide the greatest solutions to what all sides say they see as a huge problem in our political system.  All sides decry the influence of special interests via money on the outcomes of the process.  All sides insist they believe that something must be done about it, and yet, when the time comes to actually do something about it, no one wants to give up their own sweet deals, perks and benefits.

So, we know that public financing is off the table any time soon.  “Top tier” candidates opt out of it because they can spend much more money if they are not limited by it, the public is choosing not to contribute to it (participation is down to 6.6% per the FEC), and no one in office today has the testicular fortitude to suggest it, much less the support to actually get it passed.  What’s left?  What other alternatives do we have to address the issues with campaign finance and the corruption in our system?

First, make no mistake.  It is rampant, systemic corruption, but it is not confined to just the elected officials.  The corruption is, in fact, in the minds of the voters, or more often, in the minds of the non-voters.  At least the voters, even when misguided or simply selfish, are still participating and trying.  They have not completely given up or been lulled into being total sheep that choose to be acted on rather than making even the slightest effort at acting for themselves.  There is nothing more enslaving than the belief that one is powerless.  There is little more foolish than to believe that one can live in a society and be unaffected by the decisions that are made by that larger society.  To choose not to participate in those decisions is to choose to believe that one is, in fact, quite powerless.


Yay!! It’s over! Oh, wait…

Ah, isn’t that cute?  Kittens!  Yay!  It’s over!

Unpack your kittehs!

Except, it’s never really over!

One of the great sources of frustration to non-Christians is the compartmentalization of the respectable, honorable and decent teachings of that religion from the daily lives of so many.  We see that they go to church on Sunday and maybe Wednesday, and then the rest of the week, they lie, cheat, steal, molest children, commit rapes, murder, and all sorts of mayhem that are completely divorced from their supposed beliefs.  While some of this is certainly attributable to “being human”, there is a pattern of behavior that is not.  It is not my purpose or the purpose of this space to attack any religion or to draw out the laundry list of supporting evidence for this.  The point is that we, as a country, tend to do the same thing with our politics.

We allow it to go unwatched for long periods of time, and as we do, we get more and more distressing government in place.  When the cat’s away, the mice will play, no?  We pay attention only at times of crises or around elections.  Do we remember last January when the SOPA/PIPA fight came up and there was an internet blackout?  As I wrote the following week, it is an ongoing battle, not a one day action.  The same is true of all politics.

Okay, so the Presidential preference poll took place on November 6th.  Fantastic!  You went out and voted?  Bravo!  Brava!  I am proud of you!  I thank you for being a responsible and contributing member of our society.  You are part of less than 50% of the eligible voting population with any claim to being patriotic, in my eyes. My eldest son participated in his first.  We also had Senators, Congressmen, state legislators, judges, county officials, city officials, state constitutional amendments, county referenda, etc.  The Presidential election wasn’t the only one on the ballot.  It was only the most highly publicized.

Did your guy win?  Congratulations.  He was marginally better than the likely alternative.  Mine didn’t, but I knew he wouldn’t.  He was completely ignored by the press.  That is a crucial factor in the election process.  In fact, all of the alternate candidates were effectively shut out of the process by the media.  When the most well known of the bunch, Jill Stein, attempted to attend one of the main presidential debates, she was arrested, you really have significant issues in this country.

Politics is not something that we can engage in at election time and then disengage from the rest of the time.  My son said to me the same thing that many people have said, “I don’t feel like I should really vote because I’m not educated enough on all of the issues.”  During the lead up to the election he took one of the “Who is your candidate?” online tests.  It told him that Jill Stein was his candidate.  As we were discussing it, he told me that there were many questions that he didn’t answer because he either didn’t care or didn’t know about the issues.  I wonder how many people did the same.

I also discussed this same test with another friend.  In that case though, he had taken the test after researching candidates for himself.  He was given a different result than the conclusion he had reached for himself.  He was questioning himself.  I suggested that rather than questioning his own research and conclusions, perhaps he should question the website, its conclusions and possible bias.

In both cases, they were making efforts to educate themselves, which is more than a lot of people can say!!  Too many people simply vote based on party lines, without any thought.

We cannot just cram for the election as though it were a high school test.  This is something we have to stay at least a bit more than peripherally on top off all the time.  Constantly there are issues going on that will impact our daily lives to smaller or larger degrees.  What those things are will vary from moment to moment, but they are constant.  The biggest in the news right now is the so-called “Fiscal Cliff”.  That is the impending sequestration that was agreed to in the Budget Control Act of 2011 on August 2, 2011.  How will it be resolved?  Will a deal be reached?  Will the Republicans continue to hold the middle class hostage in order to continue to give tax breaks to the wealthiest among us?  Do you care?  Are you paying attention?


To Vote or Not To Vote?

I made freedom count
On Friday, I cast my early vote.  As promised, I cast my vote for Rocky Anderson.  Not as a write in though, because he did get on the ballot in Florida which means he will get more votes than he otherwise would.  This is a good thing, but does not significantly change the outcome of the election.

The effects of early voting are important, and certainly make it easier for voters to find time to get to the polls.  However, it does not appear to actually increase voter participation.  This is a shame, but is sadly predictable.  America, for all our claims of being a staunch democracy loving people, are not and never have been strongly devoted to participating in that democracy.  By and large, we are really a nation of whiners.  (Ack!  Did I just question another great American myth?!  Aye, I did.)  We love to complain, but when it comes to actually solving the problems, well, lets let someone else see about that, shall we?  Oh, wait!  What about those damn inconvenient facts again?

Between 1960 and 1995, there were 38 other democracies (of various forms) around the world that had higher voter participation rates than America’s 48% average.  You know, such renowned democracies as Poland (51%), Czech Republic (85%), Argentina (83%) and Malta (94%).

We are constantly pushing to increase our voter turnout, and yet, honestly, we have always had very low voter participation.  By combining data from the US Census Bureau’s 1980 report Nonvoting Americans and The American Presidency Project, we can construct a picture that, while accurate, is really not flattering.  American voter participation in presidential elections, even when limited to a very small group of extremely privileged individuals, was, well, to be blunt, piss poor.  It’s even worse in non-presidential elections.  We have no data for elections prior to 1828, but for those elections between 1828 and 1864 the average voter participation rate was 27.01% of the eligible population.  That is not of all Americans.  That is of those eligible to vote.  When we look at the winner and percentage that he won of the vote, the average president during this period was preferred by only 13.44% of the eligible population that chose to express themselves at the ballot.  That’s really pathetic.

The period following the Civil War from 1868 to 1916 was not much better, with an average participation rate of 33.4%, giving the victor a mandate from only 18.8% of eligible voters.

We are essentially in the heyday of our voting right now.  This is a sad, sad statement, and yet, since 1920, our voter participation has been 42.5% and above which is higher than at any time before 1920.  The average is 54.5%, and the victor averages 29.15% approval from eligible  voters on Election Day.

While those are still pathetic numbers, they do represent a trend higher than when we started this country.

So, why don’t people vote?  Lack of interest, turned off by the negativity, too much effort, for some they can’t get to the polling stations at given times, etc.  For some, they just don’t care, and nothing is going to change that.

It has been suggested that Election Day should be a national holiday.  I would absolutely support that!  This really gets back to one of the core issues that we have.  It may be a more wide spread issue in Western culture.  I believe it is, but I’ll confine myself to speaking to only Americans on this.  We are all too quick to scream for our rights, and far too slow to recognize our responsibilities.  We see this in so many aspects of our daily lives, but specifically in relation to our civic lives, we demand our constitutional rights to free speech, freedom to bear arms, freedom of religion, right to a trial by jury, etc, and yet we shirk our responsibilities so quickly and as much as possible.

Very few of us are eager to serve jury duty.  When we get the summons, it is a burden.  Instead of recognizing and accepting that it is the responsibility that comes with the right to a trial by jury.  It is the necessary duty that some members of our society must be constantly filling in order that those rights be fully granted.  Instead of reveling in our right to vote and seeing it as a duty, a privilege or an honor, almost half of us see it as a burden to be avoided.


Labor is the United States

A – “Labor is the United States. The men and women, who with their minds, their hearts and hands, create the wealth that is shared in this country — they are America.”

B – “Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”

C – “Industrial harmony, expressing these mutual interests, can best be achieved in a climate of free collective bargaining, with minimal government intervention except by mediation and conciliation”

D – “We believe that, to the widest possible extent consistent with the public interest, management and labor should determine wage rates and conditions of employment through free collective bargaining.”

E – “We demand an end to the Project Labor Agreements; and we call for repeal of the Davis-Bacon Act, which costs the taxpayers billions of dollars annually in artificially high wages on government projects. We support the right of States to enact Right-to-Work laws and encourage them to do so to promote greater economic liberty. Ultimately, we support the enactment of a National Right-to-Work law to promote worker freedom and to promote greater economic liberty.”

F – “We reaffirm our commitment to the fundamental principle of fairness in labor relations, including the legal right of unions to organize workers and to represent them through collective bargaining consistent with state laws and free from unnecessary government involvement.”

That’s right, kiddies.  One of these things is not like the others.  Which is it?  Actually it’s a trick question.  There are two answers.  We’ll come back to that in a minute.

I find it very interesting how poorly informed people are.  I was having a discussion with a Republican friend of mine yesterday, and he brought up politics.  During the course of the conversation, I asked him why he was a Republican.  His response was, “Basic beliefs”.  I asked him what that meant, and pointed out that 50 years ago, the Republican party supported Unions.  He claimed that I was misinformed.  Very interesting, no?

Let’s see … hmmm … Who might be the most obvious example one could come up with?  Oh, that’s right!!!  Ronald Wilson Reagan

  • Elected to the Board of Directors of the Screen Actors Guild in 1941
  • Elected 3rd Vice-President of the Screen Actors Guild in 1946
  • Elected President of the Screen Actors Guild in 1947 – 1952 and again in 1959

Now, I am not endorsing Reagan.  We also know that he used this position to feed the FBI with people he believed to be Communists or sympathizers.  (For which, the FBI in return spied on his children.  What a guy!!)

Governor Scott Walker and the Wisconsin Republicans removed the right of the public union employees to collectively bargain.  Reagan never even attempted that.  His objection, even when he broke the PATCO strike, was against their right to strike.  Still a foul, but not even in the same league.  It took away their strongest tool, but it did not remove their rights!  These Republicans are a horse of a whole other color.  They are pushing to actually take rights away.

And, they are succeeding!!

There are ways in which even I will acknowledge that perhaps some unions have gained too much.  SOME.  However, if the conservatives are to be taken at their word, then there should be no one to blame for that.  (Yes, I realize the lunacy in that!)  Why is that?  Well, quite simply, it means that the system is working the way that they claim they want it to.  Two parties entered into a negotiation.  Each party had something to offer to the other.  At the end of the negotiation, a deal was struck.

So, in reality what we have here are spoiled grapes, no?  The children made the rules, and then when they lost the game, they want to whine about it, and retroactively change the rules.

As I have said before, and I will likely say again, to be anti-union is to, by definition, be against the people.

So, back to our game.


Get out the vote

The day is fast approaching.  Voting day 2012.  It is 37 days away, and I have resigned myself to several facts.

The most significant is that despite the fact that there are many other candidates running, several of which are likely more qualified and better candidates, we are once again going to be faced with either a Democrat or a Republican president.  This is not because these are the two best choices.  This is not because these are the least two evils.  This is quite simply because of two basic reasons.

The first reason is because most people are unaware that there are any other choices.  As was discussed a few weeks ago in this space, there are at least 22 other candidates of varying seriousness running across the country.  The vast majority of which have received no attention whatsoever from any significant media source, much less from the mainstream media.  If the citizenry are unaware of their options, then how can they legitimately consider them?

The second reason though is the more insidious and more significant.  Inertia – the widespread belief that we have to vote for either a Democrat or a Republican because those are the only two legitimate parties.  As though they have always been the only two options.  If people do become aware of a third party option, they dismiss it.  Granted, they have been around a long time, and they have dominated the Presidency since their founding – the Republicans in 1854 and the Democrats in about 1829, both of which arose from the Democratic-Republican party.  (Not really the party name, by the way.  Just how historians refer to it.)  The Whigs held the Presidency twice.  The Federalist party once.  This is just the presidency.  It does not account for the Representatives or Senators.  Nor does it account for state or local offices, and it is not my intent to teach a class on the history of political parties in the United States.  The point is that we are not bound to vote for these two parties for the presidency, and we have not always had to.  Some of our most revered presidents were not from these parties – George Washington (I) and Thomas Jefferson (D-R), for example.

Even recently we have seen reasonably successful third party campaigns, and yet, we still hear people saying all too frequently, “I can’t afford to throw my vote away.  This election is too important.”  Every election is too important.  The single largest impediment to real change in this country is not corruption.  It is not money.

It is not even the media.  Not any more.  Not thanks to the internet and social media. We have proven that with Twitter, Facebook, and other social media, the people are very capable of spreading information, gathering and acting.  When they choose to.  The single largest impediment to change is belief.  The belief that you actually matter.  That your single vote counts.  That your voice matters.  That you should get out there and speak your peace, and that when the time comes to vote, you should.  Some places are already allowing early voting.

This cartoon has been making the rounds and it speaks volumes.  It is unattributed, of course.  (If anyone knows the proper attribution, please let me know.)

Power of the people

All the money of the Koch brothers or the Soros’ of the world matter not, if we the people stop playing their games.  We actually do have the power.  Abstaining from the vote though, is not the answer.  If you abstain from voting, then you are simply consenting to allow them to do to you whatever they wish.

A conservative friend said to me the other day that even they distrust their leadership.  If they are distrusting their leadership and the democrats are distrusting their leadership, then why are you all continuing to elect these people?

However, that wasn’t the real point here today.

The point is this.  I will be voting for Rocky Anderson this election.  I will write his name in on the ballot because he is only on the ballot in 16 states.  There are 8 states in this country that do not recognize or count write in votes.  I will do this because I believe he is the best candidate that is running.  I do not expect that he will win.  However, as I have always told my children, we do what is right because it is what is right; not because it is what others are doing.

As a responsible liberal, when I compare the candidates, I can reach no other conclusion.  If more people were to vote based on their beliefs rather than on fear, we could actually achieve change this year.  Or, we can sit back and watch the right continue on their path to burn the country down.

On a related note, if you doubted that Obama was part of the right-wing, please remember that his signing statement for the NDAA 2012 indicated his regret that it included indefinite detention of Americans without due process and a promise that his administration wouldn’t use it.  However, his administration is now vehemently defending this in court, including “emergency appeals”.  “Oh, but he must.”  Really?  Just like he must defend the defense of Marriage Act?  Oh, no.  That’s right.  His administration stopped defending that because he decided that it was wrong.  To me this says that his signing statement was a lie.

As my father says, we get the government we deserve.  Our apathy and willingness to accept this kind of behavior means that we deserve this.  Wake up.  Change it.

%d bloggers like this: