17. December 2011 · Comments Off on Election Campaigns and the Freedom of Speech · Categories: Politics, Social/Culture · Tags: , , , ,

Today I found a link from facebook to a petition issued by Common Cause to “fight corporate ownership of elections”. I read the petition, read a little about Common Cause and and it’s president and CEO, Bob Edgars and signed the petition. What little I read was enough to determine the basic position the organization takes as a whole but the reason for my signature stems from a deep concern that I’ve been developing since the Supreme Court ruled against a provision in the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002 that effectively gives corporations the right to spend unlimited money on election campaigns. The argument, as insane as this sounds, was that the right for a corporation to spend unlimited money on an election campaign is protected under the 1st Amendment as a freedom of expression.

Actually, I can stretch a little bit and see how the funding of a campaign might be construed as a freedom of expression, although I think it would be better to qualify such expressions as a direct effort to communicate an idea and to qualify the funding of such communication as indirect. In other words, if you pay me $5 to assemble a sign and post it in a public space, then my efforts to use a sign to communicate directly should be protected but your efforts to fund my action with $5 should not. You can test the qualification by isolating the actions and determining the nature of those actions on their own merits. Passing a $5 bill by itself does not constitute an expression. If that were the case, then buying pornography, street drugs or weapons for terrorists would fall under the protection of the 1st Amendment too. Our entire legal system determines the status of a monetary transaction, not on the transaction itself but on what service or product is being purchased.

Aside from what should be an obvious difference between paying money to have something done and actually doing something, there is also my concern about the amount of power that money controls and the residual nature of that money. Since the rise of banking from the Renaissance to the industrial revolution, money has gradually replaced heritage as the conduit of the ruling classes, while various forms of socialism and democracy have provided a counter-balance that gives the working classes some degree of self-determination. In recent generations advocates of plutocracy have leveraged the horror stories of socialism gone bad in the 20th century to cultivate a negative perspective on any counter-balance to financial power while presenting finance itself as a new form of democracy, inviting everyone in the working classes into the world of money markets. But the gravitational nature of money, where big sums attract more money, makes that a deceiving invitation. The fact remains that it doesn’t matter if you have $500,000 you will still loose the argument against someone with $500,000,000 and we are fast approaching a point where all other considerations are dismissed and every decision regarding the complexities of humanity will be based on the simple arithmetic of accounting.

Protecting the unlimited funding of a political campaign under the 1st Amendment is a significant battle in this war between humanity and Mammon and in no other culture is this as dangerous as it is right here in America, where we find a culture of obsessive consumerism under the relentless influence of marketing campaigns. From the time we’re children influenced by TV commercials to ask Mom, Dad and even Santa to buy specific products we are developed into compulsive followers of marketing campaigns and it matters little whether such campaigns are commercial or electoral, the brainwashing process is the same. Simply put, anyone with enough money can command a marketing campaign capable of brainwashing people even into acting against their own benefit, whether it’s smoking cigarettes or voting for Republicans. This was the reason why limits were set on the amount of money a corporation could spend on an election campaign and this safeguard is precisely what the Supreme Court struck from the law books. Perhaps it’s already too late to prevent the tyranny of money.

Certainly, there is also no time as dangerous for this to happen as now, given the recent advances in the globalization of commerce. The fact that money now flows across a global economy as easily as it does across a national economy means that the natural path of the “trickle-down” an economic construct still championed by conservatives as the best answer to economic distribution, would be to fill all the depressions of emerging markets all around the world before the water level reaches the American workers and if influence becomes a commodity then you can rest assured that through our own concessions, we will become the last in line for whatever drops of hope are left from an exhausted trickle.

So I can’t see how this bench decision to protect the right of a corporation to spend unlimited money on election campaigns has any merit other than to secure the power that the ruling classes already have over the cultivated submission of the American people.

So… taking a closer look at this law, the first thing an apologist might point out is that the law itself is an effort to reform bipartisan campaigns…

I think it’s almost pointless to call it bipartisan.

05. February 2008 · Comments Off on My Personal 2008 Election Assessment · Categories: Politics · Tags:

Since tomorrow my home state of California is holding primaries, I thought I’d share this interesting site which lays out the positions of the candidates on the key issues.
2008 Presidential Election Candidates on the Issues Although I can see right away that this is an over simplified view of things I think it still provides a pretty good thumbnail sketch of how these candidates fit in with what you feel is important, especially after being confused by all the campaign rhetoric.

After weighing the issues, giving each one a weight of 1 to 10 to reflect my own personal values, I was able to develop a general rating of these candidates; the higher the score – the better the candidate. The most interesting thing that I discovered is that I went in with every intention to be non-partisan, and as I went through the civil rights issues I was pleasantly surprised to see that the Republican candidates were actually ahead in my ratings, Cool, I’m not a one-sided bigot after all. But as I went down through ALL the issues, amazingly, ALL of the Democrats wound up with higher scores that ANY of the Republicans. Oh well, at least I feel better knowing that I side with the Democrats based on a wide array of issues and not through a hive mind subscription. BTW, I did this a few months ago when contestants such as Edwards were still on play.

Here is what I came up with.

Kucinich: 132

Kucinich is consitent with my values through all the categories except he doesn’t support the death penalty and I do for pragmatic reasons, even though I completely understand the moral opposition to capital punishment.

Clinton: 111

A few mismatches in what I consider to be the civil rights arena, especially her support for the Patriot Act. I also disagree with some of her foreign policy positions but she scored big on universal health and the environment.

Edwards: 111

Just refer to my notes on Clinton. Aside from the clothes they wear, I can’t tell the difference between them.

Gravel: 107

Who the hell is Gravel? His realative high score tells me I should find out more about him but his obscurity tells me it probably wouldn’t really be worth the time. My only beef with him is his support of ANWR drilling.

Obama: 104

Big score in the civil rights arena, along with Paul and McCain, but where the Republicans fell short in health care and foreign policy, Obama continued to score points. Where he lost points with me was his opposition to the death penalty and the Kyoto accords which I simply don’t understand.

Richardson: 103

Richardson scored big on most issues, except his support for the Patriot Act, ANWR drilling and the foreign policy category.

McCain: 79

the ex-POW scored big on the civil rights issues and then it went down hill from there. Opposition to universal healthcare and Kyoto are really sore issues for me and I’m not too fond of his foreign policy ideals.

Paul: 78

Paul and McCain seem like the only Republicans that oppose a police state, which is big for me. I also agree with Paul’s foreign policy ideals, but he’s just too much libertarian for me and it shows in his views on health care and the environment.

Giuliani: 37

About the only things I like about Giuliani is his opposition to amending the constitution to ban gay marriage and his support for stem cell research, so while he doesn’t outsource his mind to religious idiocracy I still see him as an advocate of an environmentally destructive police state.

Huckabee: 35

The preachers biggest score with me is his stance against torture, which makes him along with McCain and Paul the only three Republicans that actually think torture is beneath us. I suspect that being a pastor, forces him to actually BE a Christian as opposed to just pretending to be one for the sake of getting votes from the religious right. That means he simply can’t accept the legalization of torture. Thank God for true Christianity! I have torture a maximum weight (10 points) so that was big for me, but aside from that I can’t find any other issues that I feel are critical where we both agree.

Thompson: 29

His opposition to amending the constitution to ban gay marriage is it. A few low scores like his support for the death penalty but that’s it.

Hunter: 13

A low score for his support for the death penalty, opposition to a ban on assault weapons and the Iraqi troop surge, just three things, all of which are border issues for me anyway.

Romney: 7

Only two things I agree with Romney on… his support for the death penalty and the troop surge; both border issues for me. All I can say is if America votes for Romney then we may as well be shooting ourselves in the head to save him the trouble.

Again this is only good for a thumb sketch. The close scores led me to investigate these position futher and so doing I am completely torn between Clinton and Obama even though Obama scored less on the thumb sketch. On the other hand, I was able to find some very dramatic indications of who I would rather see locked up in an insane assylum than running for president.

06. September 2006 · Comments Off on Thoughts on the 2006 Mid-Term Election · Categories: Politics · Tags: ,

Now that we have rounded the Labor Day bend and we find ourselves looking straight down the final stretch to the mid-term elections, the hot topic seems to be a question of which party will control Congress. For those who have grown weary of unobstructed right-wing politics in Washington, the prediction of a Democratic take over of the Congress is an exciting rally point. But I can’t escape the thought that this rallying point maybe a political mirage for those who don’t look at the political landscape a little closer.

First of all, I suspect that the effects of six years of unbalanced right-wing politics is too extreme to be reversed or even controlled by an introduction of balanced politics in the final two years of the Bush Administration. If anything, balance can be the brakes that may slow down the neoconservative agenda. But even then, we should keep in mind that these brakes may not be as effective now as they’ve been in the past. Over the past six years Republican-controlled Congress has been transferring power to the executive branch and to the private sector, creating a weaker Congress for the Democrats to control. Meanwhile a stronger executive and deregulated private sector could succeed in neutralizing congressional power altogether.

Then if you consider the economic crisis, which many experts are predicting will happen within a very short time, the Democrats in Congress could wind up being scapegoats for the trouble. If the past history of popular reaction to politics is any indication, this could actually renew support for the neoconservatives just as popular views associated the Carter administration with many of the unfortunate effects that were actually produced by the Nixon administration, paving the way for the return of the conservatives with the Reagan administration. After all, people naturally prefer the carefree times to times of consequence and despite the sequence of cause and effect, people more often associate things simultaneously and worse yet, emotionally.

It’s this irrational association that we need to watch out for if the Democrats gain control of the Congress this year. I would watch for a significant increase in veto action during Bush’s final two years, which may appeal to many people not willing to face the consequences if we actually wind up with a responsible congress that is. And if facing consequences means times of dismal austerity, there will undoubtedly be a barrage of commentaries that will associate such discomforts with the Democrat-controlled Congress, which would be like blaming your doctor for prescribing a dismal diet rather than blaming your past history of careless abandon that brought you to a point where the diet is necessary.

07. February 2005 · Comments Off on Elections in Iraq · Categories: Politics, Uncategorized · Tags: ,

So the elections in Iraq went well… or at least it has that appearance. That’s nice, at least the Bush people have something to cheer about… Well, let’s be honest; isn’t it more about jeering than cheering? In the rhetorical battle between the conservative right and the liberal left, the Iraqi elections finally presents a chance for the pro-Bush conservatives to shove a victory in the faces of their opponents (I guess)… But what about the Iraqi people? Is there a real victory for them?

There are lots of arguments to suggest that the elections are a farce or even illegal under the international law but I’m going to put all that aside and assume for the sake of argument that the Iraqi elections are a real and valid expression of democracy.

I still have to ask the question… Does the election, however pretty it may look, really mean that the Iraqi people are better off? And how are we even qualified to know the answer? American people in general hardly know anything about the Iraqi people. We only think we’re experts because of our mainstream media reports about our war in that country. Before we invaded Iraq in 1991, most American high school students couldn’t even locate Iraq on the map. Iraq was like Tajikistan, Albania, Sierra Leone, Burma and many other countries suffering from tyranny that we Americans in general don’t give a rat’s ass about. But when we invade a country, all of a sudden we become experts.

What we seem not to notice is that out of the mainstream coverage of Iraq, surprisingly few reports are honestly focused on the realities of the Iraqi people. Most accounts of the conditions in Iraq are brief supporting arguments for or against our actions in that country. In general, the stories we hear aren’t really about the Iraqi people, they are about us. That is what we are interested in… ourselves. So it just seems a bit presumptuous for us to say the Iraqis are better off now, perhaps we should finish the sentence and explain what we are really trying to say… “The Iraqi’s are better off now thanks to us and our fabulous president.”

The point I am making is that we cannot know about the true condition of the Iraqi people, who’s culture is so different than our own, if most of our perceptions are based on our military actions there and the battle between factions of our own politics. How can we even compare the condition of their lives now to the condition of their lives back when we weren’t even paying attention?

Also, it maybe worth noting that elections don’t say a whole lot on the surface anyway. Lot’s of countries have elections that are nothing more than the cosmetics that make tyrannies look like democracies. Freedom House rates The Sudan, Cuba, Pakistan, North Korea and many more countries as “Not Free” and yet all of them hold elections. We of all people should know about the long distance between holding elections and securing a good government… In a nation that proclaims itself to be the most democratic nation on earth, the tenant of votership (at least among the minority of Americans that feel voting is even worth their time) seems to be “to choose the lesser of two evils”. Ultimatley, we don’t even pick our leaders, we choose between candidates that essentially, the government choose for us and even then, our votes are not direct, the electoral college sits in the way of that and even then, once a president is elected, he chooses the rest of the cabinet members without any further input from the voters and of course there is always the question of who the “elected” government is really working for, the people that provided the votes or the special interest groups that provided the money? This maybe hard to avoid in the third most populous nation in the world but the point is simple… The holding of elections does not automatically equate to freedom or even a real democracy.

I agree, it’s nice to think that we have improved the lives of the Iraqi people, but I think all we can say, in all honesty, is that we changed things for them… whether it’s for better or worse cannot be proven by the existence of an election… such proof can only come from the real changes in Iraqi life that comes from the government that comes from the election, not to mention the costs of these changes, such as the inevitable and violent reaction to a US-built democracy in an Islamic region of the world.

13. November 2004 · Comments Off on Election Cartograms · Categories: Politics · Tags: ,

I’ve always been intrigued with conceptual maps. These cartograms provide an interesting look at how evenly balanced America is between Republican and Democratic votes in the 2004 Election. They were briefly showcased on CNN and I immediately searched the web for them. The map below represents the nation, with the size of the states proportional to their population and of course red representing electoral votes in favor of Bush and blue representing electoral votes in favor of Kerry.

Diving even further into the details, the creators of these cartograms developed another view of the nation, this time county by county where the size of each county is proportional to their population. Another difference is that instead of dismissing the popular votes that did not win the electorial votes, all the votes are accounted for providing a more accurate picture of how America voted. This is done by blending the red and blue for each county according to the relative voter stregnth of both sides.

Source = Maps and cartograms of the 2004 US presidential election results.

Another web site
developed by Robert J. Vanderbei at Princeton provides some interesting maps for visualizing similar patterns.

04. February 2004 · Comments Off on Presidential Matchups · Categories: Politics · Tags:

The race for the democrat ticket is getting interesting now. I kinda get the feeling that this is the closest we will ever get to having a choice. The elections in November will be stuck in that bi-polar lockup. That conversation I told you about in my last post was started by one of the conservatives having emailed a link to an AOL survey for testing your political alignment. You answer about three pages of questions, and then get a result; a list of presidential candidates. Each candidate is presented, showing a percentage of matches between their answers and yours.

I think it’s an easy tool for anyone to sort out which of the choices makes the most sense according to your own positions on issues…

I know, I can’t believe I said that either, but for as much as I can gauge from campaign issues, the test *did* present me with a new perspective on the race. The test then allows you to compare the candidates, showing all their answers.

… I printed out the web pages and marked them all up with a red pen while watching the primaries on TV.

Just for fun, I took the test again and left all the default answers (no opinion) and guess who matched my answers by 100% according to the survey..?

Actually, in all fairness to Slugger, I have to say all the rest of the democrats also matched 100% with my “default”, “no opinion” answers… Bush was the only one who didn’t agree with having no opinions… Either that or there’s some kind of defect in the system – I hope the survey isn’t using the new voting booth technology.