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.

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.

The Worst Thing About Obama and Bush Jr.

What all leaders must ask themselves when taking on new power is this: What will a person who has much worse intentions than I destroy with this power?

In the first case, it is important to ask this to understand the destructive nature of power, the tendency toward violence which occurs when you give one person domain over another.

In the second, we see what appears to be a natural trend downward in our leadership.  Each group of leaders in our nation, over the last four decades, seems to have worse intentions than the ones before them.

Thus a leader must understand the negative consequences of a power he or she would take and then assume that these negative consequences will become reality in the near future.

Any leader with good intentions will do more to limit his or her own power in all matters so as to save future generations from the abuse of scoundrels and psychopaths.

Unfortunately, when we examine the highest office of the United States we find our recent string of leaders to be lacking in this crucial element.  We have not seen an American President work to limit his own power in a very long time.  I would argue since Kennedy and Eisenhower.

Certainly Obama and Bush Jr are terrific examples of men who felt that their mandate to do work was more important than their mandate to keep the American people free from tyranny.

The greatest example of this muddleheaded thinking comes from Obama’s signing of NDAA 2012, a defense authorization bill that allows for indefinite detainment of US citizens on US soil, without trial or due process, if they are labeled terrorists by the government.  Obama claims to be doing this with best intentions.  Whether or not you believe him, he obviously does not concern himself with the intentions of those who come after him.

Whatever is said by his critics and supporters, in this most important matter, Obama has struck a mighty blow against the freedom of all Americans.

Corporations Make Terrible Neighbors

What exactly is a corporation?  This is a great question.  If you read through the recent pro-corporation rulings by the Supreme Court you will find, as Jeffrey D. Clements shows, that the Supreme Court Justices don’t ever actually say exactly what a corporation is.  The defense of corporate personhood is instead masked in metaphor.  “It is not corporations attacking our laws; it is ‘speakers’ and ‘advocates of ideas,’ ‘voices’ and ‘persons,’ and variations on what Justice John Paul Stevens called in his Citizen’s United dissent, ‘glittering generalities.’”

Corporate personhood is a dangerous concept, one which threatens the very foundations of our democracy.  As Eric Holder resigns from his post, one can only consider the additional impact of his now infamous memo which initiated the reign of ‘too big to fail.’  As Taibbi describes Holder: For years he would flip-flop from public defender to corporate lawyer, but in the end he stopped the flip-flop and has remained, until this day, a man that the corporations can depend on.

The current conditions are savage and dangerous.  Corporations have been given the same rights to free speech and privacy that citizens of this nation enjoy and at the same time they have been given immunity from prosecution for crimes they commit which citizens in our nation do not enjoy (except, perhaps, for a few of the Clinton/Bush/Obama friends and NFL football players).

The BP oil spill?  Nobody went to jail for that.

The financial collapse caused by investment banking’s risky and fraudulent behavior?  Nobody went to jail for that.

The recall of millions of cars due to a series of deaths caused by a known fault in the design?  Nobody went to jail for that.

While corporations are important economic tools they do have a tendency to “aggregate immense power, corrupt government, drive down wages, trash public resources, concentrate markets to squeeze out competitors, and more.” (Clements)

The astonishing accumulation of power and wealth by large multi-national corporations, their ceaseless attempts to disfigure our democracy in order to generate more profit, the amazing steps these vehicles take to avoid paying taxes or hiring American workers or even coming clean about the destruction they’ve created in their pursuit of profit are all fostering economic despair in our nation.

As long as a corporation has free speech AND cannot be put in jail we will see the disintegration of our basic economic structure continue.

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.

Without Campaign Finance Reform, Nothing Changes

Great article by Hamilton Nolan:

“Campaign finance reform is not a sexy issue. But the implications of campaign finance reform are fairness and opportunity themselves. We as a nation need to decide whether our political process will be for sale. Currently, politics is just another investment for businesses and moneyed interests. They give money to politicians to get elected. When those politicians get elected, they repay the loan with favorable legislation. Politics is one of the best investments that corporations can make. Even at a billion dollars per presidential election cycle, it’s a bargain”

Read it by clicking here. 

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.

A Statement of the Problem

From The Divide, by Matt Taibbi (Buy it here)

 

“It turns out that we’re too lazy to govern ourselves, so we’ve put society on bureaucratic autopilot – and autopilot turns out to be a steel trap for losers and a greased pipeline to money, power, and impunity for winners.

“This goes far beyond the of-quoted liberal cliche about how we now have ‘two Americas,’ one for the rich and one for the poor, with different sets of laws and different levels of punishment (or more to the point, nonpunishment) for each.  The rich have always gotten breaks and the poor have always had to swim upstream.  The new truth is infinitely darker and more twisted.

“The new truth is a sci-fi movie, a dystopia.  And in this sci-fi world the issues aren’t justice and injustice, but biology and mortality.  We have a giant, meat-grinding bureaucracy that literally alters the physical makeup of its citizens, systematically grinding down the losers into a smaller, meeker, lower race of animal while aggrandizing the winners, making them bigger than life, impervious, super-people.

“Again, the poor have always faced the sharp end of the stick.  And the rich have always fought ferociously to protect their privilege, not just in America but everywhere.

“What’s different now is that these quaint old inequities have become internalized in that ‘second government’ – a vast system of increasingly unmanageable bureaucracies, spanning both the public and private sectors.  These inscrutable, irrational structures, crisscrossing back and forth between the worlds of debt and banking and law enforcement, are growing up organically around the pounding twin impulses that drive modern America: burning hatred of all losers and the poor, and breathless, abject worship of the rich, even the talentless and undeserving rich.

“No one is managing these bureaucracies anymore.  They are managing us.  Just as corporations are brainless machines for making profits, this sweepingly complex system of public-private bureaucracies that constitutes our modern politics is just a giant, brainless machine for creating social inequity.

“It mechanically, automatically keeps the poor poor, devours money from the middle class, and sends it upward.  And because it’s fueled by the irrepressibly rising vapor of our darkest hidden values, it attacks people without money, particularly nonwhite people, with a weirdly venomous kind of hatred, treating them like they’re already guilty of something, which of course they are – namely, being that which we’re all afraid of becoming.”

 

The only thing I can think finishing this book is this: We have to start voting for real representatives.  We have to vote for new leadership.  We have to see through the nonsense of the Republican v Democrat playfight, the MSNBC v FOX bullshit that fosters this nightmare. We need some real citizens in congress.