Archive for the ‘Democracy’ category

Senator Bernie Sanders Takes to the Floor!

2010/12/07

This you need to see/hear for yourself! Bernie Sanders Floor speech on granting more tax relief to the rich! Keep up the fight, Senator Sanders! He’s making a call to supporters tonight through Democracy For America (DFA)… You can join in at DFA.com 8:00 EST.
http://bit.ly/dSGMDZ
I found the video on Bob West’s blog at BobWest.posterous.com His blog itself is worth a look! Thanks, Bob!

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Flotilla…

2010/06/05

I actually watched the flotilla situation unfold as it happened… from a distance thru my twitter alerts (on my phone! It was set to alert me when one came in…) It was pretty amazing… people carrying on about bringing aid to Gaza. All of a sudden the activity really picked up (and I couldn’t just couldn’t watch with one eye anymore! now I have an understanding of what cellphone addicts go thru!) as the gunfire started and the Israeli’s borded the ships… anyway, here’s the link to the feed on “flotilla activity” (if you are familiar with Twitter it’ll make sense to you!)
http://twitter.com/home#search?q=%23Flotilla

And here’s another wrinkle. Really hard to tell what’s real anymore! Actually, seems that it’s always been this way…
http://maxblumenthal.com/2010/06/idf-releases-apparently-doctored-audio-press-reports-as-fact/

And one of the reasons that it’s so hard to tell what’s real, is because so many interests have gotten so good (professional if you will) at manipulating the media to report their side of the story… which this article from this morning’s NYTs shows…
From The New York Times:

OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR: An Assault, Cloaked in Peace
Many (though not all! Many or some? Who’s got the head count, anyway…) who were aboard the Gaza-bound flotilla had one goal — it was to
aid terrorists, not to help civilians.
Http://nyti.ms/bOPzRH

So, for me, the bottom line is that you have to be really careful about taking anything you read or hear at face-value! From the media to personal emails depicting pics from trips they’ve taken…nearly everything is packaged to provide a certain perspective that supports someone’s bias, for good or for bad! If you understand someone’s long-standing bias, you can more readily understand the perspective behind the message or image they are delivering.

I’ve spent most of my adult life working through this… I have had some good experiences that have really opened my eyes to a lot of this as it happened… Living in Nicaragua during and after the revolution there was one of the best! Watching the revolution crumble through the “low-intensity” and prolonged “secret” war run out of Reagan’s WH basement (remember the Iran-Contra “Affair”? Today it would be called a secret war!) and the media selling of Violeta Barrios de Chamorro (largely a US led, and funded, media effort in Nicaragua) and the gradual take-back of the country by Daniel Ortega was like bearing personal witness to an international (mostly US vs. any other country in the world!) experiment in manipulating the populations of the world by the media. Today it’s being practiced right here at home!

From there to Brazil and the rest of South America that recently went though transitions back to democracies after suffering through US installed military dictatorships since the 60s… and we wonder why there’s so much distrust of the US (and it’s staunchest allies). Cuba is another example that comes to mind… my trips there were so carefully choreographed so as to contrast my own experiences (and photos!) with the messages about Cuba coming out of the US since 1959… and mostly so that I wouldn’t notice it! Interesting to talk with my friend, Pat, who’d also gone there and basically the same take on her visit there…

That is not to say that the claim that terrorists were involved in the flotilla has no merit. As the article in the NYTs (above) says there is mounting evidence that there were terrorists embedded among the activists (just like we embed “journalists” among the “soldiers” today?) . But the people killed during the raid were more-than-likely of both varieties, making the claims against the Israelis even more concerning.

Add to this that the flotilla was in international waters when the raid occurred, and that the ferry that was raided was sailing under a Turkish flag (NATO member, which affords them certain rights, too! You know, “If you attack any NATO member, you’re attacking us all!” for starters!)

So I will be watching this as it further develops… and hopefully we can avoid more war! That ultimately is only good for the Military-Industrial Complex and the Corporations that have already all but taken over our own democracy!

Just one more point in this already too long diatribe… I don’t want to take sides on this because I’ve always looked favorably on Israel and have good Jewish friends that have very pro-Israel stances, and also have good friends who have very pro-Palestinian stances… Friends son, Josh, went to Israel last year (on some Israeli funds’ dime), and my friend, Dave, went to the West Bank numerous times (on some Palestinian fund’s dime)… Boy, talk about opinions!

I’m always reminded that Israel was established by the US after WWII on land that was inhabited primarily by Arab Bedouins who were pushed aside to make room for the new State (that just celebrated its 60 anniversary!). Why there? No country at the time would cede the Jews land to create their own country and, not inconsequently, the Old Testament laid out Jerusalem as the center of the Jewish universe. What was little understood (and otherwise ignored until recently by the West) is that the Quran also established Jerusalem as the center of the Muslim universe!

There has been mounting pressure on Arabs and Israelis alike for each of Israel and Palestine to create 2 contiguous states in which they each can live in peace. So far they have been unable and unwilling to do that. The current situation with the Palestinians living in two areas of Israel (the West Bank and Gaza) with a strip of Israel between them, which prevents the free travel, commerce and religious life between them is untenable and unsustainable, at best!

Unfortunately, there’s much more to come from this area of the world… We’d better get ready for it, starting with Americans realizing they have had a role in all of this all along! We helped make the bed and all!

My thoughts so far! Twitter’s a twittern’ again!

Ongoing Debate… Should Obama call on the Military to Stop the Spill?

2010/05/31

President Obama, Don’t do it!

I’m not worried about you, and know that our troops could help now and during the clean-up…

But I don’t trust the Conservatives who will once again abuse the Government, and blame it all on you for undermining the Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 when they “support” our state and local police forces with soldiers!

The first step is to have the civilian population grow accustomed to seeing armed and dangerous soldiers walking the streets… then come the contractor mercenaries! But we’ll be “safe”!

The decision needs to consider the still ongoing debate as to whether the PCA should be repealed, moderated, or strengthened.

I am not one of those who argue that the act should be repealed because the federal government needs the full force of a flexible military to combat terrorism within the territorial United States.

Nor do I believe that the act is obsolete and should be repealed because numerous legislative exemptions have eroded the underlying policy and left the PCA a hollow shell.

I am among those who insist that although there are many exceptions, the Act is essential to bar misuse of the military by Conservative, Right-Wing civilian authorities and to prevent a military dictatorship from assuming control of the nation through use of the armed forces. We know that Darth Vader Cheney was aiming for this!

For me, the Act means only that federal military forces may not be commandeered by civilian authorities for use in active and direct law enforcement as a posse comitatus. If local authorities need military personnel for specialized operations enforcing state laws, it is argued, they may call on the state governor for the assistance of the state National Guard.

For more see: Posse Comitatus Act of 1878

Separation of Buisness and State

2010/05/31

Totally agree! The concept worked for many years regarding the population of the church and the state. If we’re able to successfully to achieve this, it’s time to revisit the separation of the the church and the state again… The Bush and Cheney administration did that one in, too!

However, I would make one friendly amendment: the reinstated separation should be broadened to include business and the state. The state must regulate the economy.

We are all too forgiving and forgetful of all the damage the mad-triad (Bush-Cheney-Rove) has done to our country. While I’m not promoting vengeance in return, I do believe it behooves all Americans to be reminded from time-to-time. It would help to put into context the dissatisfaction and extreme partisanship we’re experiencing as a nation today.

That’s another reason I’m pleased with the administration we have in Washington today. The President, while tackling all of the problems handed him by his predecessor, he has actively encouraged the constructive participation of the populace in local, state and national analysis and action.

And so, if the Coffee Party Movement becomes a place where we can do that, I’m all for it. One of the first task we should undertake as a group is how we can promote a Constitutional Amendment that will force the separation of business and the state so that buisness can no longer unduly influence the latter.

Reverse Shock Doctrine… NOW!

2010/05/31

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g2kTy7glZ9s&NR=1

Uncle Milty is so wrong! Those of us who are parents know that even our children’s allowance must be regulated by us until they demonstrate they understand the value of the money they’re working with and how to protect what they have relative to what it will cost to buy what they want! It’s called parenting for living in a capitalist country. And we also know that we wouldn’t approve of them increasing their incomes by selling attractive chocolates that they knew were actually worm-ridden on the inside. So think of it in terms of our capitalist economy… regulation is necessary because Wall Streeters are behaving like children augmenting their incomes by selling what they know to be rotten and unregulated mortgages and derivatives to unsuspecting customers. We have reaped what the conservatives have sown since before Regan; by now the government has been so weakened by the Right there’s hardly anything left! And now the progressives are stuck with salvaging and reconstructing what we have Left! Milty, the Chicago School of Economics and Corporations have come perilously close to destroying our democracy and replacing it with America, Inc.!
What we need now is some Reverse Shock Doctrine! Replace “fear” with “hope” and “disaster” with “progressive alternatives” and “No Government” with “Effective Government” and we’ll be off and running!

The Coffee Party is starting to make sense!

2010/03/29

The CP, like our democracy, is not about the *starz*. It’s about the collective *us*! We the People… in the broader sense; you know, inclusive rather than exclusive.

Watch this:

And the Party angle is just that, getting together to talk about current events over coffee at the local coffee house… no more, no less! Not trying to get anyone to adopt a specific perspective or agenda; just discuss an issue from a wide range of perspectives. And if our perspectives are compatible, great! If not, and we find they’re diametrically opposed to each other, we don’t have to have coffee with one another again!

This could evolve into a group of people who listen and share ideas and then vote to influence local, state and the national governments so that they are more responsive to us, as in We, the informed people!

Government, on balance, is good!

2010/03/11

Government, the whole package with the separation of powers, is good… It has gone off track lately and Corporations have taken advantage of it… This is bad for all of us!

Time for us to put the Genie (the corporations) back in the bottle, and release the Good in Government again!

It may take a Constitutional Amendment to be absolutely thorough about the separation of business from the government, but so be it! (And the separation of the Church from the State reiterated and updated at the same time. It would also be a good opportunity to address campaign finance reform.)

Found this post on the Coffee Party site this morning and thought I’d share it here because it sums-up my own feelings so well.

What Government does
posted by: Equality – 2010-03-10 21:42
With tax season coming up, surely we are going to see more Tea Party protests about having to pay taxes instead of getting government services for free. And sure, there are good arguments to be made that in some areas lowering taxes is a good idea, and in some areas the government should be spending money wiser, but we must not forget all that the government does.

This site has a friendly little reminder of just how much good government can do in the average day in the life of a middle class person.

http://www.governmentisgood.com/
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“Let’s examine a typical day in the life of an average middle-class American and try to identify some of the ways that government improves that person’s life during that 24-hour period.

6:30 a.m. You are awakened by your clock radio and listen for a few minutes to the news before getting up. But you can listen to your favorite station only because the Federal Communications Commission brings organization and coherence to our vast telecommunications system. It ensures, for example, that radio stations do not overlap and that stations signals are not interfered with by the numerous other devices – cell phones, satellite television, wireless computers, etc. – whose signals crowd our nation’s airwaves.

6:35 a.m. Like 17 million other Americans, you have asthma. But as you get out of bed you notice that you are breathing freely this morning. This is thanks in part to government clean air laws that reduce the air pollution that would otherwise greatly worsen your condition.

6:38 a.m. You go into the kitchen for breakfast. You pour some water into your coffeemaker. You simply take for granted that this water is safe to drink. But in fact you count on your city water department to constantly monitor the quality of your water and to immediately take measures to correct any potential problems with this vital resource.

6:39 a.m. You flip the switch on the coffee maker. There is no short in the outlet or in the electrical line and there is no resulting fire in your house. Why? Because when your house was being built, the electrical system had to be inspected to make sure it was properly installed – a service provided by your local government. And it was installed by an electrician who was licensed by your state government to ensure his competence and your safety.

6:45 a.m. You sit down to breakfast with your family. You are having eggs – a food that brings with it the possibility of salmonella poisoning, a serious food-borne illness affecting tens of thousands of Americans every year. But the chance of you getting sick from these eggs has now been greatly reduced by a recently passed series of strict federal rules that apply to egg producers.

7:00 a.m. You go into your newly renovated bathroom – one of a number of amenities that you enjoy in your house. But the fact that you can even own your own house is something made possible by government. Think about this: “ownership” and “private property” are not things that exist in nature. These are legal constructs: things created by laws that are passed and enforced by government. You couldn’t even buy your home without a system of commercial laws concerning contracts and a government that ensures that sales contracts are enforced. So the fact that you live in your own home is, in part, a benefit of government and the rule of law.

7:01 a.m. Government also helps you own your house in more than the legal sense. On a more practical level, the federal government actually gives you money every year to help pay for your house. It’s called a mortgage interest tax deduction and it is one of the larger benefit programs run by the federal government – amounting to over $60 billion dollars a year. You can also deduct any real estate taxes you pay. These largely overlooked subsidy programs have enabled millions of people to buy their first home or to move up to a larger home than they could afford otherwise.

7:02 a.m. Back in the bathroom. You use the toilet and flush it. Your local government then takes care of transporting this waste, treating it, and disposing of it in an environmentally responsible manner – all without a second thought by you.

7:20 a.m. As you are getting dressed, a glance outside the window shows some ominous clouds. You check the weather on your TV. All these weather forecasts are made possible by information gathered and analyzed by the National Weather Service, a government agency. Everyday, on your behalf, it takes in 190,000 weather observations from surface stations, 2,700 from ships, 115,000 from aircraft, 18,000 for buoys, 250,000 from balloons, and 140 million from satellites – all just to help you plan what to wear and make sure you don’t get stuck in a snow storm. And oh yes, this agency may save your life with its hurricane and tornado warnings.

7:30 a.m. Before you leave home, you take your pills to control your high blood pressure. But how do you know that this medicine is safe or effective? Without the testing required by the Food and Drug Administration, you wouldn’t. And without the vigilance of the FDA, you could easily fall victim to unscrupulous marketers of unsafe and worthless medicines.

7:45 a.m. You put a couple of letters in your mailbox. For less than the price of a cup of coffee, a government employee will come to your house, pick up the letters, and have them delivered in a few days to someone on the other side of the country. A pretty good deal.

7:50 a.m. You and your child walk across the lawn to your car and arrive without getting dog poop on your shoes. A small but welcome achievement that is made possible now by a local law that requires people to clean up after their pets. Also, the reason your neighborhood is not plagued by stray cats and dogs is that your local Animal Control officer is on the job dealing with this constant problem.

7:52 a.m. You help your young child into your car and you pull out of your driveway. You have now entered an experience that is improved by government in almost more ways that you can count. Driving your car is inherently dangerous. But it is made immensely safer by government laws and regulations, such as those mandating child safety seats and the use of seat belts – rules that have saved tens of thousands of lives. Driving down the street is also made much safer by a local government that enforces traffic laws and discourages people from driving too fast or driving drunk. Most state governments also minimize your risk of being run into by someone driving on bald tires or with faulty breaks by requiring regular inspections of all vehicles. And state drivers license examinations ensure that all drivers are at least minimally competent and can actually see the road. In addition, if you are hit by another car, the potentially disastrous costs of an accident are covered because the government requires that all drivers to have auto insurance. In fact, without this extensive network of government laws and regulations covering automobiles and driving, it would be foolish for us to ever venture out on the road.

8:15 a.m. You drop your child off at day-care. It took a long search to find a good program and it is an expensive one, but it is worth it so you can feel confident that your child is in a safe, nurturing, and stimulating environment while you are at work. One of the reasons you can afford this program is the $3,000 child care tax credit you get from the federal government every year. Equally important, your child benefits from the fact that most state governments now enforce day-care requirements for group size, ratios of children per staff member, teacher training, nutrition, health, safety, and space requirements.

8:35 a.m. Your trip on the freeway is much safer due to federal restrictions on the number of hours that truck drivers can operate their vehicles without resting. Thousands of people die every year from truck-related traffic accidents, but it would be much worse without these regulations that keep sleepy truck drivers off the road.

8:55 a.m. You arrive at work and take the elevator. You just assume that the elevator is safe; and it is, thanks in part to the annual elevator inspections conducted by your state government. It is probably nothing you will appreciate until the next time the elevator breaks down with you inside, and that makes you think a bit more about the reliability of elevators.

9:00 a.m. While at work, your rights and wellbeing are constantly protected by a wide-ranging network of federal and state laws. The Occupation Safety and Health Act works to protect you from unsafe and unhealthy work conditions. Federal law protects you from workplace discrimination based on race, gender, religion, national origin, or disability. State laws may also require your employer to purchase worker’s compensation insurance so that you are covered in case you are injured on the job

Noon. For lunch you have your usual sandwich and microwaveable cup of soup. But why did you choose that particular soup? Perhaps because it was low in salt and fat. But how do you know that? Because the government requires all food packaging to have a truthful and easily readable panel on the label that supplies you with the nutritional information necessary to make a good choice. Food companies tell you what they want you to know about their products, but the Food and Drug Administration’s labeling requirements tell you what you need to know to eat in a healthy way.

How do you know the lettuce in your sandwich is not laced with unhealthy doses of pesticides? Because the Department of Agriculture has developed and is enforcing uniform standards for pesticide residue on raw foods.

Microwave ovens are potentially very dangerous machines, but you can use this one with confidence because of detailed government regulations that limit the maximum amount of radiation leakage and mandate two different safety interlocks that prevent its operation with the door ajar or open.

12:45 p.m. After lunch, you walk to a nearby ATM and get some cash out of your account – and your money is actually there. That wasn’t always true during the economic depression of the 1930s when many banks failed. But your money is safe — as it was during the recent financial and banking crisis — because the government guarantees your deposits. In addition, those pieces of paper you put in your wallet are only worth something thanks to the federal government. Our monetary system is entirely a government creation, and the value of money is only maintained because the government regulates the money supply and protects it from counterfeiters. Quite an important service really.

1:00 p.m. Back at work you hear rumors about a new downsizing plan being talked about by management – a fairly typical occurrence in these days of heightened national and international corporate competition. You know your job is one that could be lost, but you also know that you will be eligible for state-mandated unemployment insurance should that happen. This is just another way that government helps you to cope with the economic risks and uncertainties of a modern economy.

3:00 p.m. On a break, you call your elderly mother in the hospital to check on how she is recovering from her broken hip. Thanks to Medicare, her medical expenses are covered and she does not have to worry about this becoming a financial disaster for her. Thanks to the federal Family and Medical Leave act, you will also have the right to take several days off to tend to your mother when she comes home from the hospital.

3:10 p.m. You call to arrange for a physical therapist to work with your mother when she comes out of the hospital, and again this is paid for by Medicare. And you can be reasonably confident that she will get good therapy because your state Department of Health has a program of examining and licensing these therapists in order to ensure the quality of their work.

5:00 p.m. You leave work—thanks to the government-mandated 40-hour workweek. Labor Department regulations prevent your company from making you work past 5:00 unless it pays you overtime.

5:15 p.m. You stop at a local gas station to fill up. The very fact that this oil company offers this gas to you for sale is dependent on the existence of certain government laws. This company would not do business in your town without a legal system that assures them that you will pay for any gas you pump into your car. This economic exchange – like buying your house – would not be taking place without a system of statutory and common law that protects private property and regulates sales transactions. This simple sale is covered by Article Two of the Uniform Commercial Code – dozens of pages of laws that regulate every phase of a transaction for the sale of goods and provide remedies for problems that may arise.

5:15 p.m. You pump 15 gallons of 87 octane gas into your car and pay for it. But how do you know that you really got 15 gallons, and not 14½? And that the gas was actually 87 octane? This is only ensured by the presence of that little sticker on the gas pump that shows that a worker from your city’s Division of Weights and Measures has inspected the pump and the gas. These public employees make sure that you get what you pay for – from a pound of sliced turkey breast to a carat of diamond – by constantly testing and inspecting all commercial meters and scales, and by verifying the accuracy of checkout scanners. This is a crucial service, since more than half of the income of the average family is used to purchase necessities bought by weight or measure or scanned at a checkout station.

5:15 p.m. How do you know the price you are paying for this gasoline is a fair and competitive one? In many states, the Department of Attorney General has been responsible for finding and prosecuting cases of price manipulation and price fixing by oil companies and distributors.

5:30 p.m. As you drive home, you notice the tree-lined streets and the nice houses in your neighborhood – generally a pretty good place to live. Thanks again to government. Without zoning rules, you might have an auto body shop or a fast-food outlet move in next door. Or worse yet, a fertilizer plant or a toxic waste site. But there are no noxious smells in the air, no excessive and dangerous traffic on your street – thanks to your government. Pleasant and livable neighborhoods are only possible with extensive government planning and zoning regulation.

5:35 p.m. As you approach your house, you see your child coming down the sidewalk. The government-provided sidewalk. The sidewalk that allows your child to walk to the neighbor’s house down the street to play with a friend without the risk of being hit by a car.

5:45 p.m. You go for a jog in your local public park.

6:30 p.m. You take your family out for dinner at a local pizza restaurant. You enjoy a good meal and no one gets sick from E. coli or other food-borne illnesses. This is in large part because your local government conducts regular inspections of all food establishments to protect the health of customers.

7:30 p.m. Back at your house. You settle in for a quiet evening at home – one that is undisturbed by those annoying telemarketers calling you up to try to sell you something. This is because you have signed up with a state or federal no-call registry – a government service now enjoyed by over 60 million Americans.

8:00 p.m. You do a quick check of your e-mail – just one of the many services you enjoy over the internet everyday. We all tend to think of the internet as the product of those talented and imaginative entrepreneurs in the high-tech companies. But the internet actually began with government programs that created ARPANET and later NSFNET, early computer networking systems that developed the software and networking infrastructure that form the foundations of today’s internet. The government also helped to fund research that led to web browsers like Internet Explorer and search engines like Google.

11:00 p.m. You go to bed. During your sleep, you are protected by a smoke detector that your city requires to be installed in every residence. Maybe you would have bought one of these yourself, but this law helps to ensure that everyone is protected from the dangers of fire.

4:00 a.m. You are asleep in your comfy bed. Unlike that time you stayed in a small inn in Costa Rica, where you were woken up regularly at 4 in the morning by the roosters crowing in the neighborhood. By law, no one can keep roosters in your neighborhood and so you remain in blissful slumber.

Government: The Illusion and the Reality

So goes your typical day as an average middle-class American – if you happen to be paying attention to all the different ways that government laws and programs help you lead a better life. For most of us, thinking about our day this way is a real eye-opener. We like to see ourselves as rugged individualists, leading our lives without any help from anyone, especially government. But this is an illusion. As we have just seen, the reality is completely different. We are constantly benefiting from a variety of government laws and programs. Federal, state, and local government employees are literally working around the clock to make our lives better in innumerable ways. Ironically, even those conservatives who complain that they don’t want government “interfering” in their lives depend heavily and repeatedly on government throughout their day. And the examples described earlier are only a small sample of the many ways that government programs improve our lives. They do not even include many of the most important services of government, such as preventing economic depressions, catching criminals, caring for our fragile ecosystem, dispensing justice, thwarting terrorist attacks, and eradicating deadly diseases. A detailed description of all the various ways that our lives are improved by the activities of local, state, and federal governments could easily take up hundreds of pages.

Many conservative critics of government like to portray it as a malevolent force whose extensive network of laws and regulations are increasingly invading our lives in harmful ways. They have it half right: government policies do affect our everyday lives in many ways, but these efforts are usually beneficial. For most of us, most of the time, government is not some faceless bureaucrat who is constantly ordering us around; it is more like a guardian angel: an invisible benevolent being that accompanies us throughout their day, easing us through potential difficulties and protecting us from impending harms. Admittedly, the angel analogy is a bit exaggerated, but the underlying truth is not: government has an extensive and overwhelmingly positive effect on our everyday lives.
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I know this is really long, and you don’t have to read every point to get the point that paying your taxes isn’t the government stealing from you, even if that is what the Tea Party might have you believe. So share this link if you get a chance. Start a conversation about what is right in government, and where we can improve it, rather than letting others start the conversation with demonetization.

No one likes paying taxes, but unless you are so pro-welfare that you expect free roads, free education, free food and drug safety, free national defense, free police protection, free fire protection, free Pell grants to help you attend a public university, and a nice layer of salt on the roads before a snow, then its important to remember that society in the US is pay 2 play.
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So there you have it… My taxes will be paid on time, like a good citizen and neighbor does! Not out of fear being punished for being late, but rather for being thankful for all we get for paying them!