Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Primary Elections and Reform Ideas

                                          Mojave County, Arizona, USA

The latest presidential race is unique in the number of 'debates' among the candidates, the power of the press and the growing power of the internet. However, it appears that the respective major parties are still in the predigital age.

The primary process is outdated and in need of overhaul, as are the east coast based party systems. During a recent expose' on the Dylan Ratigan Show about demands made on freshmen legislators to donate to the party on a consistent basis, I came to realize that the legislators should be in Washington D.C. to do their jobs, not fundraise from among the lobbyists present. Perhaps this party money in both parties is too much concentrated in one place, from my perspective out here in Arizona. These financial demands encourage legislators to take the easy way out and take lobby money and perks in return for favorable votes. Party money is then allotted to 'strategic' races across the nation. These 'strategic' races are coveted endorsements that produce cash for the candidate, like an out of state windfall that influences local elections.

Powerful individuals within the parties should not be making donation demands on legislators, nor should legislators be required to spend any time fundraising when on the job. A ban on lobbying and fundraising while in session needs to be instituted. No lobbying and fundraising in Washington D.C. should ultimately be the goal, as the halls of government should be free of special interests at all times.

Lobbyists are a chronic problem. Banning lobbying activities for the duration of the session is necessary to clear the halls and permit honest discourse without lobbyists interpretations and interference. Registered lobbyists should be required to wear badges that states the employer and the name of the individual, in order to remind and inform legislators and the public that these people are not their friends: they are hired to do a job on you for their employers. When a certain high politician talked about not running for another term, she evidently felt beholden to her donors to run again, not her constituents, her donors!

Term limits is another issue. Some long term legislators are unresponsive to their constituents because the lobbyists and donors become more important to their lifestyle. As long as big donated money and expensive media advertising dominates the voters, the politician can be voted in even though the overall voting record may not benefit the constituents, or even the nation. An argument can be made that term limits would enable the 'hired' people to run the government, but I suggest that study sessions on the issues and the legislation be made mandatory for voting members. Just the facts. Legislators need to study and learn about the issues, not spend their time in Washington attending fundraisers put on by vested interests. The national health insurance reform bill was not even read by most of those voting on it. That's ridiculous and decadent.

Money is greasing the system and those with money don't want the system changed. I think the moneyed class should admit that they found ways to control the economic system to their advantage but they also created the tea party and the occupiers and jobless college graduates. Riots and arrests in Oakland. Squatters in D.C. and a much heralded jobless recovery. What next? Financial control of the pundits on TV until the American people have only two candidates, both of which represent the groups gaming the capitalistic system? Business as usual, including the jobless recovery. And let's throw in some austerity in order to pay for the debts the politicians ran up with impunity. Give the schmucks easy credit using tax money so my associates can access the tax money using a property only worth a fraction of the price charged. Is capitalism now to be defined as access to tax money?

It's easy to create a game you can win when you control the players. The only problem is that capitalism is not really a game, but is a survival mechanism for our species created over eons of history. Creating a way to manipulate capitalism for short term gain of money and power is relatively easy compared to the task of maintaining capitalism in the face of declining availability of commodities per person due to the high population growth rates. Looting the system by creating new imaginary 'products' that the peons can't begin to understand, but that money managers are all too quick to invest money in, was hugely successful for a pitiful few gaming the system. With housing values down to a more manageable level, the disparities between existing mortgage values and new mortgages is actually growing, down some 45% here in Tucson, down 1% in 2011. Perhaps the perpetrators of the derivatives and mortgage securities frauds weren't so smart after all. Why did our legislators go for deregulation of the controls put into effect after the fall of 1929 and the Great Depression? Those who are not studious end up stupid and greedy. It's time to clean house, folks.

Back to reform of the primary electoral system. It appears that the nominee is always decided back east with a palliative thrown in by the Midwest. In the early primaries, the candidates don't run in the west or even the Texas powerhouse. According to the pundits, the primary will be decided in Florida and they have the winner all picked out by the polls for us. Voters in Texas, Arizona and California and Oregon have no vote, according to these pundits because all the money required to 'win' will exhaust the poor candidates while allowing the rich to shine. Yuk. I know this was not the intent of our founders. I'm sick of these people telling the viewers how the debates went, who won, what their latest unsubstantiated poll says and discussing ad nauseum the private lives of some of the candidates. The other night I watched a controversial issue discussed by three people, all of whom agreed. That's not journalism, that's manipulation and propaganda. So what are the credentials of the Media Judges? I think some are using the power of the media to influence elections.

True reform needs to happen. I suggest that the Primary begin in New Hampshire, then moves to Nevada, then to Georgia, then to Iowa and so on, representing all areas of the country in the early primaries, instead of all of them concentrated in the Eastern Seaboard. Let's have a Mexican border state represented also. How about a super Tuesday with several states from around the country to start it off? The primary is not fair to the rest of the states and regions.

To continue the meaning of true reform, campaign spending must be linked to the population of the state: no more than X amount per voter can be spent, and make the amount modest. If a business chooses to unilaterally support a candidate in ads, then the business and CEO must be identified in the ad. No more PACS. Limited campaign spending and more concentration on real issues needs to happen.

I liked the 'debates', although some were better than others. The debates that were actually debates, instead of the candidates answering different questions, were more fun but the questions allowed the candidates to express themselves, albeit in a tightly controlled manner. I liked the exposure to public view but saw that the glib candidates had a huge advantage over the others. I'm not sure glibness is the quality we need in a president. Studious intellect is sometimes not so immediately vocal. I think the future campaigns will be even more visual and more data will be available on the internet. Effective political campaigns waged on the internet are low cost and accessible, a level playing field, as it were.

The pundits on TV bother me because they are so sure of themselves and are usually unknown people with questionable credentials to critique the actions of others. Everyone has an opinion, of course, but the ceaseless self assured statements concerning the candidates 'performance' wear thin as they become an obvious attempt to influence public opinion. I really don't care what Miss X thinks of any candidate's 'performance' and I'm tired of this kind of 'reporting' instead of factual news. Miss X's opinion is a waste of my time and is deceptive as to value from the time spend on it. Give me some real information like a voting record analysis, speech clips concerning health care, tax records analysis and other relevant information concerning the candidate. I think it is interesting that the establishment candidates are the favored ones, with the reform candidates receiving bad ratings and reviews by the self appointed experts among most of the media. The media benefits from the campaign spending.

Campaign spending needs to be limited in order to save Democracy. The Internet must not be limited for it is the medium of free speech and will play a crucial role in future elections, giving power to the people to search for facts without a media filter.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz and the Tea Party

                                         San Xavier Mission near Tucson Arizona

The Meaning of Civility

Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz expressed the possibility that the Tea Party might be responsible for the lack of civility she perceives. Perhaps the 'incivility' grew out of financial frustration with the massive ripoffs that occurred during the financial crisis. The Tea Party is a symptom of the same problem that created the Occupiers.  The Tea Party is a sympton, not the cause. 

Please, Rep. Schultz, listen that the assailant was a known nut case in town that some perceptive people knew was dangerous. In response to a legal problem, the assailant was said to have received mental health treatment, but I do not know if any follow ups or treatment took place. The assailant has been declared insane.

What is actually uncivil is to convince a buyer they can afford a property, set the debt up in a way that you know they will fail, and to sell the mortgages generated this way to somebody far far away who then resells them as AAA securities to the unwary investor. Who does this leave angry and frustrated?

• All who lost their property through foreclosure

• The investors who bought the securities while their brokers bought insurance on the failure of the same securities, payable to the broker, not the investor.

• Anybody who had money in funds affected by mortgage derivatives

• Any investor who lost money

• Construction workers who lost their jobs

• Laid off workers in construction related industries

• Property owners with upside down mortgages

• Job seekers

• Students with debt and no job prospects

• Voters who oppose bailouts

• Can you think of anybody else?

I define civility in public life as the behavior that is produced from fairness, transparency, honesty and a moral commitment to keep free enterprise going in such a way that perpetuates the system, instead of gaming the system. I define civility as a respect for law intended to keep people safe and perpetuate the system, not wealthy individuals controlling what law is produced and profiting from their control. Face to face civility tends to become less important when your family is evicted and you can't find a job. Face to face civility is comfortable, but should not be a shroud for wrongdoings and a reckless disregard for future consequences beyond immediate profit taking.

Our nation is not a game of chess where the King and his cohorts have all the wealth and the others are dead. Are the honchos really expecting that Americans can all compete among themselves for a portion of the 1% allotted to them through the legal process of public debt, foreclosure and taxes? Sickening terms like 'jobless recovery' float from the mouths of politicians and financiers while they deal in 'jobless securities and insurance', gambling amongst themselves while the 99% become restive and maybe a little uncivil.

Sunday, January 01, 2012

New Year's Resolutions I Wish the Media Would Make

Here it be Resolved:

That editorialists and reporters are identified.

That every time a blooper is shown, they must show one of their own.

That news readers may not slant news or give their opinion.

That the bimboid look on the part of newscasters be entirely voluntary.

That the candidates be given equal time.

That the pollsters must post their own accuracy stats when quoted.

That the duty of the media is to inform the public of facts.

That it is not the duty of the press to influence elections.

That the media can assist with the problem solving needed today.

That the media can produce more mini documentaries based on facts related to problems.

This is not a negative critique of the media. I appreciate all the money and time spent producing programming to inform and entertain and attract the audience. I spend time watching news shows and I learn and observe more every day. It is a wonderful opportunity for everyone.

However, a few canyons are created in credibility by some practices on the part of media. I get tired of the barracuda partisanship of some editorialists who act like what they emphasize is hard news. Financial problems loom and a possible global economic reorganization could be in progress. Disparate elements of the political system need to work together to solve problems. Ridicule of a political figure who could become important is short sighted and demeaning to our political system.

The question of the status of women arises when the bimboid look appears to be a requirement on some news shows. I'd like to see the males showing as much skin as the females, all in the name of equality. Would the male's credibility be strained by their attire if they showed that much skin? The spectacle of a woman in a skin tight, thigh high dress sitting with her legs tightly crossed, attempting to report news defies common sense. How can you be taken seriously when your buttocks are visible?

The political candidates are a whole another story. I get tired of endless emotional analysis of the candidates. Analysis should be limited to actual data like voting record and other verifiable information. I feel sorry for some of the candidates who were subjected to yellow journalism rather than rational analysis. Endless reruns of bloopers and salacious news is not only boring but wastes valuable time that could be spent on important stories. It takes tremendous courage to run for office. The candidates deserve respect.

Lastly, lest we be blown to smithereens, let's talk about the specter of nuclear war. It appears that some in the media are warmongering and talking about WMD again. I think it is time to face the reality that everybody is going to eventually have a nuclear capacity. What if a nation thought not to have a nuclear weapon did in fact have one and when attacked, might use it? Nobody knows everything about everything and to warmonger is irresponsible. At least produce a pro and con debate instead of the one sided pro war stance. The consequences of more war for this nation are bankruptcy and insolvency and debt slavery.

Anyway, thanks to the media for all that they do. I'm just glad we have the internet as an alternative source of information.

                                                     Happy New Year!