Posts Tagged ‘politics’

Ongoing Opposition and Alternative Voices

May 6, 2013

Announcing the Green Shadow Cabinet … intended to provide an ongoing opposition and alternative voice to the dysfunctional government in Washington D.C. It includes nearly 100 prominent scientists, community and labor leaders, physicians, cultural workers, veterans, and others. As with shadow cabinets in other countries, the Green Shadow Cabinet of the United States plans to respond to statements and actions of the existing U.S. government, and hopes to demonstrate that another government of these United States is possible, practical, and beneficial. The Cabinet is currently led by the 2012 Green Party presidential nominees: Dr. Jill Stein, and Ms. Cheri Honkala. It is explicitly not a project of any political party, however, and invites participation by all who support sensible government politics and policies.

This may not be the first instance of such an idea, but it’s the first one I’ve ever heard of, and it’s a great one.

Now there stands a real possibility that some or all of the bought-and-paid for, short-sighted, small-minded, self-serving, and wrong-headed statements and decisions by the “official” U.S. government can be seen in the light of smarter, better ideas and policies put forth by experts and specialists who have a larger view and a predilection for helping the vast majority of Americans rather than the wealthy and privileged few.

Here’s a link to a list of current Shadow Cabinet members:

Here’s a link to some early statements by Shadow Cabinet members:

Here’s a link to where you can sign up for the Shadow Cabinet’s electronic newsletter:

Here’s a link to where you can donate to support the Shadow Cabinet:

Fortunately, contributions are not tax-deductible. If they were, and if the Shadow Cabinet were to obey the tax laws, it would be barred from trying to influence government policies or elections. Plenty of right wing organizations and religious organizations claim their tax deductibility, but go right ahead and lobby, advertise, and otherwise try to peddle their influence. At least the Green Shadow Government is starting from a position of honesty.

With thanks to Winston Churchill: This Shadow Cabinet may not be the be-all and end-all of efforts to reform and revitalize our broken U.S. government. It may not even be the beginning of finding the be-all and end-all of such an effort. But it may be the end of the beginning!


Politicians and Dogs

November 7, 2011

Years ago, when I owned some Golden Retrievers (great dogs, by the way), I read a wonderful and simple book about training dogs. I can’t remember the name, now, but I’d recommend it highly if I could.

Basically, the book said that dogs are merely collections of habits that their owners will tolerate. At bottom, dogs are social animals, and they desperately want to learn the rules, fit in, find their place, and be accepted. They just need to be told the limits of acceptable behavior.

An easy way to set those limits, wrote the author, is to use your keys. Keys are great because you (me, at least, and I dare say most men) always carry them in a handy pocket. What’s more, they have a good weight, and they readily make a loud, jangly noise.

The trick, according to this author, is to throw your keys at the dog.

Don’t worry: It’s not harmful. You don’t even have to hit the dog with the keys.

Just the noise of the keys hitting the wall or floor nearby is enough to startle and alarm your faithful companion. When you couple that key toss, and the resulting jangly noise, with a shouted “No!,” your dog gets a very clear message.

And because you can shout “No!” and throw your keys at the very instant your dog is doing something you don’t want him or her to do, that message is very unambiguously tied to the doggie action you’re trying to prevent.

From the dog’s point of view, you have suddenly gained the power to strike instantly from across the room. That’s far more effective that going to find a newspaper, rolling it up, chasing down your dog, and whacking it on the hindquarters. By the time you get all that done, the poor puppy has no idea of the reason for the punishment.

But throwing your keys and shouting “No!” makes you a pretty powerful pack leader. And because the nearby jangly noise and your shouted “No!” come at the same instant, not only are you telling the dog what it is that you don’t want him or her to do, you’re also strongly associating your shouted “No!” with that jangly noise.

Under the laws of behavioral modification, pretty soon you don’t have to throw those keys any more. Your voice alone is enough to convey your displeasure.

And within a very short time of you starting to throw your keys, your dog memorizes a list of things it shouldn’t do, and stops doing them. Now you rarely have to throw your keys or shout. The dog is well behaved, and everyone — including the dog — is very happy.

That’s all well and good, as far as it goes with dogs. But where these principles will really come in handy is in training our politicians.

Like dogs, most politicians are merely a collection habits that voters will tolerate. Like dogs, most politicians desperately want to learn the rules, fit in, find their place, and be accepted — that is, re-elected. They just need to be told the limits of acceptable behavior.

A lax electorate, like a lax master, makes nobody happy.

To reassert our control over our government, we simply have to get in the habit of making a loud noise and shouting “No!” the instant a politician does something unacceptable. All the remains is for us voters to find the political equivalent of throwing our keys.

I just wish that all politicians were as beautiful and well-bred as Golden Retrievers.

How The Rich Are Winning The Class War

August 1, 2011

The rich won the class war by depriving the middle and lower classes of education: history, civics, political education, and training in how to think critically. As a result, their mouthpieces can spout nonsense and the relatively uneducated voters now swallow it clean.

The antidote, until we get a real education system back again, is for those of use whose eyes are open to educate those around us who cannot see what is going on.

We need to develop simple, factually accurate materials we can hand out to people (or point them to on the web); simple, factually accurate arguments that show the folly of voting tax breaks for the rich etc etc rather than services and benefits for the average family; and so forth.

All that’s required for the rich to win the class war is for the middle and lower classes to do nothing.

America Appreciates Diversity

October 22, 2010

No matter how many times the Forces of Darkness assert that America is a Center-Right country, it isn’t.

Here’s just some of the evidence:

Public Opinion Snapshot: The Public’s Lack of Enthusiasm for Cutting Government
The public is dissatisfied with government performance, but that dissatisfaction doesn’t translate into government-cutting mania
Public Opinion Snapshot: Where’s the Anger on Health Care Reform?
The public isn’t rising up in opposition to the new health care law as conservatives expected
Public Opinion Snapshot: How Conservative Are Americans Becoming About Government?
Conservatives may say the country is taking a right turn, but polls show that government dissatisfaction does not reflect ideological conversion
Public Opinion Snapshot: Tax Cuts for the Middle Class Are Good; Tax Cuts for the Rich Are Bad
The public sends a strong message to Congress in a new poll about the tax cut debate
Public Opinion Snapshot: Who’s to Blame?
The public hasn’t forgotten who’s the most responsible for our economic ills

The list goes on and on. Poll after poll shows that we Americans want the help of our government to have a better life, we welcome people from other cultures, we accept others’ religious practices and beliefs, we recognize that cutting taxes is not the answer to every problem, and we respect fair play and honesty.

No matter how fervently the Forces of Darkness wish us to change our beliefs, we know the difference between right and wrong.

Ignorance is not knowledge. War is not peace. Hatred is not love. This is not a restrictive, authoritarian, fear-based, angry nation. We respect each other and ourselves, we welcome diversity, and we support each other in our quest for equal rights, equal opportunity, and equal freedom to live as we see fit without undue interference from narrow selfish interests.

In the timeless words of Captain Renault, in the classic film “Casablanca”: “We cannot legislate the feelings of our people.”

Photo credit: 1horsetown

Note: WordPress has automatically linked to some WSJ material with which I disagree. Please disregard it. My inability to block this kind of automatic linking is a major flaw in the WordPress system for which I apologize.

Is This Any Way To Run A Representative Government?

May 17, 2010

There is a petition afoot to extend the number of weeks that America’s unemployed workers are allowed to receive unemployment benefits, beyond the current 99 week maximum. 99 weeks is not quite two years, and many of the earliest victims of this giant economic slowdown have been unemployed for far longer than that. Statistics show that they are not lazy or shiftless, they simply cannot find work in an economy where there are relatively few jobs opening up and where there is heavy competition for every one of those openings.

Whether or not you agree that the petition to extend jobless benefits is a good idea, you almost certainly agree that the right to petition Congress for redress of grievances is an honorable American tradition. Let’s see now … how is it going?

The petition organizer says he “was encountering a lot of unexpected obstacles trying to organize getting the petition to Congress, and I began to think it wasn’t going to come together. People in Washington were saying they’d ‘get back to me,’ but even if they did, we just didn’t have time for that. Next week is when the ‘unemployment extension of filing deadlines’ is expected to be raised in Congress, and we hope to get weeks added to Tier 4 at that time. Then Congress leaves again the next week. There’s little hope of getting another bill other than that one because they are discussing such big issues before they leave.

“….the idea is to send a person [to Congress, in Washington, D.C.] on our behalf. This person is known to them, has press credentials and is familiar with the Senate. He will bring the printed petition with 900 pages of signatures. The Senate requires 6 copies which is one of the obstacles I encountered.

“Our emissary knows the ins and outs of the Senate and can arrange appointments with key senators. In addition, because he already has clearance, he can enter the Capital and question staffers in other offices, too. In addition to delivering the petition copies, he intends to ask questions on our behalf both in the Capital and in the ‘haunts’ he knows where staffers go after hours. Like I said, he’s familiar with the scene! …

“Now our part. We have to finance his trip. …

“Below is the site that has … the donate button. … I believe that for now, this is the best shot we have at getting additional benefits. …”

I included the link in case anyone reading this is moved to donate. But the point of this post is not to beg for donations, but to decry a system in which even a popular petition can’t get delivered to Congress without significant financial backing. Is this any way to run a representative government? We talk about one person, one vote. But mostly what we actually have is one dollar, one vote.

The evidence is all around, so I won’t reproduce it here. But a little investigation will show you that there are dozens of active lobbyists working on each of our elected representatives in Congress, and that these lobbyists are spending millions of dollars every day to influence our elected representatives — to influence who they listen to, to influence the legislation they vote on, and of course to influence which way they vote. That constant need for money to get elected and then re-elected is one of the biggest reasons our representative government does a better job of representing the needs and desires of large corporations and monied interests than it does representing the needs of the average voter.

As long as that need for money remains central in the way we do government, those with the big bucks will benefit from a government that works for them more than it works for the vast majority of Americans.

Next time you have a chance, vote for changes that will take the big money out of politics. If you don’t, pretty soon your vote won’t matter much, at all.

Obama vs. The Right = Road Runner vs. Wile E. Coyote

February 22, 2009

Millions of people are concerned about The Right and it’s monomaniacal focus on eating Obama’s lunch and — in honor of my analogy in this blog — perhaps eating Obama himself. There’s no doubt they have a lot of weapons at their disposal: a captive media establishment, tons of money for think tanks and for rewarding those who spout the right talking points, a well-trained and loyal strata of American society willing to swallow whatever swill is on offer at the moment, and a simplistic worldview that boils down to a single goal: get The Road Runner Obama.

But Obama is not without his own resources. First of all, he’s smart. He’s very smart. He has a quick mind, a strong memory, a penetrating analysis, and — if past successes are any guide — a gift for politics. That might be enough for him to prevail in this epic struggle for the heart and mind (and future) of America. But he’s got something perhaps even more useful and important: He’s calm and rational. He doesn’t come to his goals from a place of fevered, highly emotional, neurotic or psychotic personal need. His values — fairness, the long view, Liberalism, perhaps even a touch of Progressivism — are woven deeply throughout his character. When he faces an obstacle or experiences a setback, he simply reassesses his new situation, takes a deep breath, and continues to work toward what he wants.

That’s why the analogy strikes me as so apt. The fanatical Coyote could stop anytime, but doesn’t. He is compelled to go after the Road Runner. Smug and overconfident, he is quick to trot out an endless array of powerful devices — spring loaded launchers, earthquake pills, rocket sleds, catapults, missiles, dehydrated boulders, jet-powered roller skates, and of course painted images of tunnels and caves on rock walls — that invariably foster exciting expectations of his overwhelming and inevitable victory by force over the naive and frail-looking Road Runner. But we all know how these things always turn out.

Look how the Right has immolated itself so far:

  • Refused to bargain in good faith on the stimulus package, withheld all support for it, and so guaranteed they’ll get no credit for any good it does
  • Stepped up to the openly treasonous and poisonous admission that they’re hoping Obama fails
  • Positioned themselves as publicly disbelieving facts that are easily and demonstrably true:
  1. Obama was born an American and has a valid birth certificate to prove it,
  2. Obama is not a Muslim or a Socialist and is not actively destroying capitalism,
  3. Obama has not raised taxes on 95% of Americans and in fact already enacted the largest tax cut ever for working Americans,
  4. Obama has not inserted the federal government between you and your doctor,

… can you offer other examples? …

If my analogy proves true, over the next few years we’re going to witness a series of humiliating and catastrophic failures for The Right as it flings itself into battle against a cagey and cunningly superior foe, time after time after time.

  • They’ll paint a train tunnel on the face of a rock wall, and later be run over by a fast train streaming out from it.
  • They’ll rig a pitfall or a spring-loaded trap for the Road Runner that will freeze inexplicably for the moment he passes through the danger zone, then function perfectly against themselves when they step in to try and figure out why it didn’t work.

My favorite, though, will be when they unwittingly ingest the very same earthquake pills they had hoped to get Obama to swallow, and later dejectedly walk off into the sunset, jarred to the bone by an unending series of devasting inner explosions their single-minded hard-heartedness has inadvertently brought upon themselves.