The Tiny Pendulum

When we take a look at the new Republican Congress, we must remember how the Democrats were swept to power in 2006 and 2008.

Bush Jr and his red team had run up the score for the wealthiest few and by 2006 were within a few percentage points of having greater economic inequality in the United States than at any time since the eve of the Great Depression.  Most people were pissed. Because of our two party system, people lashed out against the team in control by either not voting for them, or voting for the other team.

It was a waste of energy, but effective in keeping the American people busy.  Now that things have continued to go poorly under Obama and a Democrat controlled Congress owned by the wealthiest few and serving corporate interests over those of the American people, the tiny pendulum has made it’s over-analyzed and oft dramatized move back to the other side of the tiny little coin which comprises, for many, the entirety of our political spectrum.

The Republicans will behave much as they did before, and as the Democrats have for the last several years.  They won’t regulate the banking industry, leaving our economy insecure and our people worse off than before.  They will give big tax breaks to billionaire corporations and the super-wealthy donors who bribe them through their campaign funds.  They will move to break the backs of regular Americans and American workers, just as the Democrats have for the last several years.  The only difference will be: The Republicans don’t lie about it as much.

It sounds kind of different, but it isn’t very different after all.

In four to six years, when the economy has collapsed again under the weight of trillions of dollars in student loan debt strong armed out of young college graduates who can’t get a job, or when the doctored unemployment numbers jump back up as more people who have given up on finding a job resume trying to reenter the workforce because of grotesque cuts to social welfare programs, the people will be angry again.  They will accuse the Republicans of giving away our tax dollars to the super wealthy and the billionaire corporations.

Voters who normally turn out for the Republicans will stay home, as pissed as the rest of us.  Voters who feel they are part of team Democrat will charge the voting booths.  The Democrats will ‘regain control.’

They will continue to pander to the wealthiest few while pretending that they care about regular, hard working Americans.  They will offer small consolation prizes to the American people to cover up the huge giveaways they bestow on the billionaire corporations and the super wealthy who have bribed them.

And all this time, both parties will be working relentlessly and together to expand the reach of the government, into the private home of every citizen, into the private life of every American.  They will have done hard work to crush any semblance of an independent spirit.

The tiny pendulum which moves only from one side of the coin to the other, will move back to Republican, then back to Democrat, then back to the Republican…

Before long our nation will have crumbled under the weight of what John Stewart calls “America’s most petty, most partisan, most argumentative assholes,” who are owned, outright, by a tiny corrupting minority of Americans.

We could change our fate, if only our people will stop cheering for the coin toss that has become our broken democracy.

Don’t be satisfied to call it in the air.

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When You Voted In The Midterms You Were Too Late

My last post drew quite a few emails and tweets.  A moment of clarification is required.

My assessment of the recent mid-term election is this: It was much like a WWE match in which two very similar looking characters fight for the amusement of the crowd.  One of them dresses up like a bad guy, the other like a good guy but in the end they are in the same dressing room together and they get paid by the same people (not the American people, but those who bribe them with campaign money).

I warn that being drawn into this drama and rooting for one of these two corrupted characters or teams is dangerous.  I agree that rooting for teams can be fun and that we do it all the time in sports.  However, accessing this same pleasure in our political system has much larger implications and is helping to quicken the decay of our nation.

Most of the emails I received did not object to my logic.  People tend to agree with me that both the Republicans and the Democrats are bad.

Generally there was this question: If one of the teams is going to fight against teaching children science and has a racist bent and thinks all Americans are not equal and wants to use the government against women but not banks, why shouldn’t I vote for the Democrat in this November election?  What else am I supposed to do?

There are two parts to my answer:

  1. Don’t be fooled! Even though the Democrats make political hay by pretending to be for these causes, take a look at the economics.  As long as there are these emotional subjects hanging in the balance they can count on you to vote for them.  In addition, every time a Republican starts an anti-gay movement or claims that creationism should be taught in science class, wealthy liberals and powerful interest groups reach for their pocketbooks and increase their donations.  Should any of these important issues (abortion, gay rights, civil rights, immigration…) be decided clearly and permanently, the Democratic Corporation has lost a huge source of control and funding.  They want closure on gay rights and abortion about as much as the Republicans do – not at all.
  1. The real vote for this election wasn’t in November.  It took place during the primary. When you look at the California ballot and you see only Republicans and Democrats, that’s because back in June we had a vote in our open primary system and very few people voted.  Sure, CNN and MSNBC and FOX don’t cover the primary, and very few people were posting “I Voted!” on facebook.  But that was the important vote, that was the real vote.  In 2016: Vote in your primaries.  That’s your chance to vote for an independent progressive who doesn’t accept large campaign donations and will work on behalf of the American people.

Vote in your primaries people, especially in open primaries if you have them.  Vote in your primaries and then have real candidates in your races in 2016.

Vote independent.  Vote small money.  Vote campaign finance reform.

The Danger Of Politics As Sport

I continue to wonder, with all of the bad things that our government has done lately, how people gather the strength and energy to root for their political team anymore.

Certainly there is an element of hatred for the irrational.  The Republicans play a very standard bad guy in our progressive town – they don’t want to let gay people get married, they want the government to regulate women’s bodies but not Wall Street algorithms, they love science when it will make a bomb but they hate science when it’s in a classroom, they scream and shout about freedom and turn and demand death and bombing in the same breath and with the same slobbering, mad desperation.

They make themselves easy to hate.

But the Democrats are not good guys.  It’s easy to forget, but this isn’t some kind of game.  We can’t pretend that in these elections, if Democrats win, that this is in any way good for the American people.  They are very much owned by the same kinds of people who own the Republicans.

We can’t afford for the same motivations that drive us toward sports fan-ship to guide our political process. The World Series is an important event, but it pales in comparison to the sake of our future and the destiny of our children.

Indeed, there is a pleasure to being part of a winning team. I watch the Giants win the World Series and as a fan I am glad. It is a great feeling to have our team crowned champions. Winning is terrific.

It is exciting to root for our sports teams. It is another matter altogether to pretend the political system wins have anything good behind them. When you vote Democrat and a Democrat wins, it is in no way clear that you have won. Or that you are likely to win in the future.

Cheering these victories or suffering these defeats are empty unless you have paid thousands of dollars to bribe the winning candidates.  Unless you’ve given politicians a serious amount of money: They aren’t on your team.

And the sad fact is that they never will be.

Vote independent.  Vote small money.  Vote Campaign Finance Reform.

Let’s Save the United States: A List of Priorities

Our country is headed in the wrong direction.  Let’s work on these things before it’s too late:

#1 – Corruption.  Our congress is more corrupt than it’s ever been, our legislators are owned, outright, by wealthy interests and our government is not working on behalf of the American people.

#2 – A government FOR the people.  Our government is largely AGAINST the people. Whether we are talking about a militarized police force attacking regular Americans or seeing the federal government attack and persecute whistle blowers, whether we are talking about our government failing to protect our citizens from criminal behavior of large corporations or the ignorance of our representatives as to the needs of the American people, there must no longer be a government against the people.  This starts with fighting against the high levels of corruption.

#3 – Social Justice.  When we have a government that works for the people, instead of against them, we can make progress toward the ideal of equal rights and freedoms for all persons, regardless of wealth, race, nationality, religious creed, gender identity or sexual orientation

#4 – The economy.  Jobs are down, the average American is taking home smaller and smaller pieces of our financial growth, the federal government is focused on shuffling money up from working families to the wealthy and super-wealthy, the dollar is weakening and the largest corporations are winning ever-bigger pieces of the pie.  We’ve got to return the function of the government to working on behalf of the people, rather than against them, in order to utilize our collective strength to create a future which is both integrated and sustainable. When capital flows back to the middle and lower income households we will see a tremendous improvement in our economic outlook.

#5 – The environment.  By environment I don’t mean to say the grass and the trees and the meadows and the mountains, though these are included.  What I mean is this: We must look for ways to produce less waste and burn less fuel.  Unfortunately our systems of power have been overtaken by powerful, amoral leaders. These leaders wield power through profit making machines called corporations, and the model of profit is generally the same: Competition and growth.  With 3.6billion people on earth, we need desperately to move away from our outdated, unbalanced competition and growth cycles to cycles that value integration and sustainability.

#6 – A new brand of politics.  While it is not certain that a third party will be the answer to our problems, it is certain that voting for Republicans and Democrats got us into this mess and continuing to vote for them is a vote for the status quo.  Regardless of where you stand, politically, vote independent.  Don’t waste your vote on more of the same.  Out with the Republicrats.

The Five Principles for a Congress of the People

As long as the American government is malfunctioning and the $3.6trillion it spends is being channeled by the whim and desire of a tiny, tiny minority of Americans – our future is in jeopardy. (0.05% of Americans fund 86% of elections)

We start with the House of Representatives, we return this to the people and make it function as it was intended.  This is the way forward, this is the path to a better tomorrow for us and our children.

These five principles are designed to foster civil service in our Congress.  We need good folks doing the will of the American people in our House again.

Principle 1: Move away from the Republican and Democratic parties.  They’ve become something much more like large corporations than political parties and they are designed to make money and keep power instead of doing what is right for the American people.

Principle 2: More candidates who take small donations.  This means you, as a voter, have to go out and find them.  And if you’re thinking about running for Congress on small donations to fight corruption: Do it!

Principle 3: No Pac or Super Pac money.  If a candidate in your area is accepting this kind of dirty money: Don’t vote for them.  Make sure you cast your vote for a representative that is clean. 

Principle 4: Real people in our Congress.  One of the biggest problems we face is an insulated and detached permanent political class in Washington DC.  We need real Americans to run for Congress, win, spend up to 8 years in office, and then leave public service and go back to whatever it was they were doing before they were elected.  No lobbying job, no Washington reporting job.  Just back to work.  Let the next independent, small money candidate come in and do their years of service.

Principle 5:  Hold people accountable.  Too often our current corrupted Representatives get themselves off the hook with a bribe they’ve taken or a lobbying job they’ve secured using the power we’ve given them as representatives of US.  Our Congress returns to the people only when we’ve nailed down the offenders and made them answer for their crimes.

Voting in San Francisco

Most of us skipped the June 3rd primary this year.  About 30% of San Francisco voters turned out and we got a bad election.  Again.

Out of 8 candidates for Congress, two are put through to the November election.  Our two?  Nancy Pelosi (Democrat) and John Dennis (Republican).

This means we won’t have a race for Congress in November, 2014. Nancy Pelosi has certainly lost touch with the American people, but it doesn’t matter.  John Dennis is a Republican and it will be a cold day in hell before a Republican represents the people of San Francisco in Congress.

So Pelosi wins.  She wins without doing anything to win.  She wins by default, because she raised a lot of money for the Democrats, because she engages in the blathering, incessant, crippling nonsense that passes for politics in our country these days, and because she’s connected.  Boy is she connected in that permanent DC political establishment.

But is this good for the people of San Francisco?  We are a progressive town with progressive values, we are innovators and demonstrators and integrated sustainability experts.  We have the finest city in the country with really intelligent people doing incredible things with their lives.  We are leaders with strong values and an important vision of the future.

So why don’t we have an innovative, progressive, forward thinking representative?

It seems to me that we’ve become complacent over the years.  Like much of the country we are just sick of the incredibly stupid game our political leaders play and we’ve just given up.  Less than a third of us took the time to punch a ticket last month.

But let’s think about this: Our government is broken.  Our government is crippled by corruption.  One of the big ring-leaders of our corrupt and broken system pretends to represent our people and with all of our progressive values and our brave initiatives, we just skip elections and put our district on cruise control?

Is this the will of the people of San Francisco?

I don’t believe it is.  I believe that our people want to make a difference in this nation of ours, that we want to have a voice and that our voice won’t say the same silly things that are always being said, but will say something real.  We want a voice that will stand up and say “Enough!  Enough of all this corrupt bullshit!  You are supposed to be public servants!  We are supposed to be represented by our Congress, but you’re ruining it!  Your corruption is tearing this country apart!”

 

 

This November we will get Pelosi again.  Without the effort of a campaign, without having to go through the motion of pretending to promise anything to the people of San Francisco, without having to account for the widespread corruption in the Democratic and Republican parties, the people of San Francisco just maintain the status quo.

But what about in 2016?  Sure we may have missed an opportunity to take the lead in the fight against corruption this time, but wonderful news: We go again on June 7th, 2016.  Come out and vote June 7th 2016, my fellow San Franciscans.  And when you vote on that day, vote for an independent.  Let’s have a real election in November, 2016.  Let’s have a chance at a real representative for San Francisco.

Oh, and make it easy on yourself: Register to vote by mail.  That way you don’t have to burn your lunch break or hustle after work.

Happening This Week

First: Across the country the movement against corruption in politics is gaining steam.  In California, dozens of activists marched on the state capital to demand political leaders acknowledge that our system has been corrupted.  That same day the California Senate passed AJR-1, making California the second state to call for a constitutional convention to address the problem of money in politics. The group of marchers, who began their journey in Los Angeles, plans to stay in the capitol until their demands have been met.  So far the police have arrested more than a dozen members, mirroring state efforts in New York last month and North Carolina this week.  Meanwhile, more than 50,000 protesters gathered on Saturday in the middle of London only to be ignored by the BBC and other major press agencies.

Second: The World Cup.  When the United States isn’t playing I root for Uruguay.  Sure, they have a weird player who bites people (the Uruguay fans still love him) however Uruguay is the birthplace of one of my favorite writers, Eduardo Galeano, and boasts the so-called “World’s Poorest President,” Jose Mujica.  Though Mujica was a Marxist guerrilla at one time, I admire him as one of the very few who do not expect great wealth to come with increased power.  As president he refuses to live in the presidential mansion, gives most of his salary to charity and when called ‘the poorest president in the world,’ Mujica says he is not poor.  He says: “A poor person is not someone who has little but one who needs infinitely more, and more and more. I don’t live in poverty, I live in simplicity. There’s very little that I need to live.”  This sentiment echoes the anti-Fifa protests across Brazil which sometimes use the slogan “Your party in the stadiums aren’t worth the tears shed in the slums.”

Conclusion: It would be nice to live in a world where you can’t purchase democratically elected leaders because they see themselves as public servants and don’t want your money.  Short of this utopia: Join 99Rise and their efforts to reclaim our democracy here.

The Sneakiest Among Us

Reading The Divide by Matt Taibbi I’m reminded of a truth in this struggle that is often lost.  While our country succumbs to an oligarchy of the most sinister mediocrity we can remember, it is important to see that this isn’t a fight between poor people and rich people.  This is a fight between the vast majority of Americans, something like 99.95% of us, and a very small minority who work to corrupt and manipulate the government, the market, our future and our way of life for their own personal gain.

The folks who own the Republican and Democrat corporations, the individuals and groups that spend time buying up congresspeople and who have our presidents and judges in their pockets, these aren’t just wealthy people.  These are wealthy, corrupt, mean spirited people.

Whether you make $3,000 a year or $30,000 a year or $300,000 doesn’t tell the story.  The question is: How far do you go to subvert our democracy with whatever money you have?

Certainly it is the case that a person making very little money will have a hard time influencing politics with it (a low threshold for corruption is spending around $5,000/year) but that should not confuse us as to who is who in this battle for the future of our country.

Wealthy, poor, successful, defeated, whatever race or sex or orientation or religious background or belief system you come from there are only two questions: 1. Do you use large amounts of money to buy our politicians?  2. Are you a judge, congressperson or president who consistently favors that wealthy minority over the rest of our American people?

I can answer that I won’t sell our people down the river for power or profit.  I’m sure you aren’t looking to buy your way to sustained success or inordinate access to power (99.95% of the time anyway).  We are on the same team.  Time to throw off this fake democracy and build the functional governance we deserve.

More Real People in Congress

Reading books like Winner Take All Politics or Predator Nation or even the problematically obvious This Town you start to see that DC really has become the new Rome.  Did you know 13 of the 30 wealthiest counties in the United States are in the DC area?  It’s an easy deal to get elected to congress and after a few years parlay that $174,000 a year job into a $1.6million a year lobbying contract.  Certainly playing along will help you get along, and who doesn’t want to get along (besides Neil Barofsky)?

But it is not lost on us, the American people, that the political elite controlling our government from the swanky suburbs around the nation’s capital should be Public Servants.

They just aren’t.  They are increasingly wealthy, increasingly detached, increasingly self-involved aristocrats who have lost touch with those whom they purport to represent.

We need more citizens to run for Congress.  We need more normal people to do the important jobs of high office.  Corruption is a problem.  However the general political system of two incredibly powerful, fantastically wealthy and horribly corrupt political parties dominating the election landscape by holding regular Americans hostage with their own values is the angry, horny, testosterone charged bull in our china closet.

If we don’t get independent candidates who are citizens first and political entities second to do the job of legislating then no matter what law you pass, nothing will change.

We need more citizens to run for Congress.  And we need more citizens to vote for those citizens.  Turn off the Republican and Democrat Parties.  Turn on democracy.  Improve our future.  Vote for us.