Monday, October 19, 2009

The Real Golden Rule: 'Those with the Gold, rule'

Special Interest Money Buys Elections - pretty much all the time today.  Tom Ferguson in his book 'Golden Rule:  The Investment Theory of Politics' says, "Elections are moments when groups of investors coalesce and invest to control the state."

Special interest money - and especially corporate special interest money buys elections.  Historically, 9 out of 10 victors in elections have outspent their opponent, whatever their party.  Surprised?  No one should be.  Deep down, I think everyone probably kind of suspects that behind-the-scenes special interest money is funneled into election campaigns.   But, the trouble is, no one really understands how pervasive and serious this problem actually is.  No one seems to understand the danger this places us all in.  The danger to us collectively as a society that is.

Various campaign finance rule changes over the years resulted in a system which allows - even encourages - special interest money to influence and buy elections.  Massive amounts of money, millions and millions of dollars, from anonymous donors is utilized for ad campaigns favoring particular candidates or issues.  The main culprits are '527 groups' after the section of US law they are permitted by.  Much of their money - often called 'soft money' - doesn't even need to be reported to the Federal Election Committee until after the election is over - if then. 

In fact, the Federal ElectionCommission (FEC) decided in 2004 that 527's were not even to be regulated under campaign finance rules unless they 'directly advocate' the defeat of a candidate.

'Political Action Committees' (PACs) are more regulated, yet still able to spend vast sums lobbying and donating to other political campaigns.  Most federal level politicians now have their own PACs and use their discretion to dispense contributions as they see fit.  PACs are the so-called 'non-profit' 501(c) political organizations formed ostensibly to 'educate and inform'.

Those are the rules.  Those are the rules put in place by our legislators, elected by us, to serve 'we, the people', who instead are often persuaded to legislate in favor of some special interest or the other, which is often directly AGAINST the interests and welfare of the public.  A lot of money is at stake.  The people who do this - infuse the special interest money into the campaigns - claim it is their perfect right under the First Amendment - freedom of speech.  But, leaving aside the discussion as to whether or not a corporation, business group or PAC can be - as they are today - considered 'persons' (and very special 'persons' at that!) - the net effect drastically loosens the laws and allows massive amounts of cash to be unfairly inserted into campaigns in one form or the other.  Those with the gold, rule in other words.

An actual 'person' may not do this - unless it is to finance his or her own campaign.  Real people are limited in the amounts they are allowed to contribute - unless of course it is to a 527 group - and there they don't even need to be identified.  But any real person making a direct contribution over $100 to a political campaign must be identified by name, address and occupation/employer.

527 groups are allowed to spend unlimited amounts in favor of, or against any candidate or issue they so desire.  The only limitation to their spending when they qualify as a 'Trade Association' Business Leagues, Chambers of Commerce, Real Estate Boards, etc., is that intervening in political campaigns is not  their 'primary activity'. 

How wrong is that?  And who decides whether or not political activity is their primary activity?  Surprise!  That is usually done by people appointed by politicians themselves.  On yes, something is definitely rotten in Denmark all right.

You and I as individuals may not contribute unlimited amounts for political advocacy (unless to a 527 group),  yet the 527 groups may do so, as much as they wish so long as they claim to be a trade association or like group.  How did it ever come to pass that these types of 'persons' have rights superior to actual people?  Beats me.  Oh yeah, wait a minute. . . . ,  I guess it's because politicians collectively decided it is advantageous to them personally, either in their own election campaigns, or in the massive amounts of money which will be funneled to them as advocacy for one issue or the other.  Public interests be damned.

Do we need election campaign finance reform?  You Bet! 

How can we do this without inhibiting rights to free speech?  There must be some mechanism which will permit real democracy to be maintained without endangering constitutional rights.  I believe there is.  In fact, it ought to be pretty darned simple if our political leaders actually believe in fairness and democracy.  In keeping with a 'one person, one vote' democracy, this is what is needed:
  • Each person should be allowed to donate a limited amount to any candidate or issue he or she chooses.  No limits to the number of candidates or issues;
  • No company, group, organization or entity other than actual persons should be considered as persons, or permitted to contribute to any candidate or issue whatever.
Simple, right?  Probably much too simple for the political leaders of today.

If you have the time, please view the excellent documentary on the new Golden Rule.

"The world is ruled only by the consideration of Advantages"
    ~ Friedrich von Schiller

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The 'Soul' of the Republican Party

In other posts I have mentioned the seemingly inexorable trend towards the destruction of the Republican Party.  I have said it almost seems like some evil plot by enemies of the party.  Perhaps that is so,  but I can not find any real evidence of  that.

Instead, it seems more like some ugly political suicide at the behest of the neoconservative far-right wing of the party, holding a gun on everyone else in the party.  The neoconservatives' implacably insist on their own brands of perverted dogma, 'nothing else, and nothing less, so help us God'.   The result is a radical shift far right which other factions of the party seem powerless to resist.   Core values and principles are abandoned wholesale and left bleeding by the side of the road.  Whenever any group so abdicates its core principles and its abrogates values to the prejudices of lowest common denominators, how can you not expect damage or destruction of the party? 

Many neoconservatives believe and say the 'soul of the Republican Party' today is represented by, among others,   popular talk show personalities Sean HannityBill O'ReillyGlenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh.  These figures broadcast through either Fox News or Clear Channel Communications, and often both.  Three of them (Hannity, O'Reilly, Beck) are catholic, or ex-Catholic in the case of Beck who has now converted to Mormonism.   I mention this because it seems to a trait among Catholics towards strictness and obedience to 'doctrinal truths'.  Extreme examples are the infamous 'inquisitions' during Medieval times in the 13th centry and the Roman, Spanish and Portugeuse inquisitions supremacy during the 16th century.

Between the four of them, Beck, Hannity, Limbaugh and O'Reilly, only one finished college (O'Reilly) with the others having dropped out early in their 'educational careers'.  At least two are or have been confirmed drug addicts (Beck, Limbaugh).   Beck has been accused of rape.  O'Reilly has been sued for sexual harrasment with the suit being settled out of court, reportedly for millions of dollars.

These people freely and deliberately engage in outrageous claims and flaming rhetoric, the more outrageous and sensational the better.  This seems hugely attractive to the lower educated classes in the country, many of whom accept their claims as gospel while disregarding realities.  There are strong anti-elite, anti-intellectual and anti-progressive currents running through all their broadcasts.  Due to their popularity among the rank and file who call themselves conservatives, Beck and Limbaugh are now the most highly paid people in broadcast media today, with a following of millions of Americans.

Since the repeal of the FCC's 'Fairness Doctrine' by President Reagan, social and political issues have become polarized  into opposite partisan camps, as a result of the influence of broadcast media on those who follow them.  Before its repeal, the Fairness Doctrine compelled broadcast media to offer the opportunity to present contrasting or opposing viewpoints.  The Supreme Court upheld its legality. However, it was an FCC rule and not mandated by legislation although Congress. 

Unfortunately for the Republican Party,  their media wing now seems to captured by special interest groups and dominated by the Fox Broadcasting and Clear Channel Communications.  Each of these entities have their own agendas, neither of which is necessarily aligned with the interests of the American people, although they both stridently claim to do so.

Fox Broadcasting is owned by media mogul Rupert Murdoch's News Corporation.   Murdoch hired Roger Ailes to create the Fox News Channel which he now runs and which is now the preeminent cable news channel in the country. 

Ailes was the media consultant for Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and Rudy Guiliani.  His specialty is political sensationalization.  He is the author of the  'Orchestra Pit Theory", saying:  "If you have two guys on stage and one guys says, 'I have a solution to the Middle East problem', and the other guy falls into the orchestra pit, who do you think is going to be on the evening news?"

Clear Channel Communications owns over 1200 radio broadcast stations throughout the US, and dominates in many regions being the only stations available.  Their board of directors is headed by wealthy far-right neoconservatives, largely from Texas or Oklahoma.  At least one director (John H. Williams) is a member of the infamous Bohemian Club of San Francisco.

Oh yes, it is clear some decidedly slanted 'reporting' is going on here.   Much of it is duplicitous, deceitful, and created opinion masquerading as truth and reality and has swayed elections.  It is neither reality nor truth.  Americans are being deceived and the credibility of Republicans is being destroyed. 

Will the so-called 'Soul of the Republican Party' ultimately destroy the party?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A 'Vast, Left-Wing Conspiracy'?

The continuous naysaying of today's Republican Party is resulting in the diminished capability and credibility and the further disintegration of the Party.  There's no doubt about that. The damage to the party is almost enough to convince you it is the result of some 'vast left-wing conspiracy'. 

America's Right Wing has apparently been captured by fools, doctrinal idiots and people ignorant of history.  I'm sorry, but there's no other way to say it.  Mobilized and motivated by God Hollerers (evangelicals) and right wing media personalities, these people are now busily, implacably, inexplicably, driving the Republican party out of business.   The 'Party of No' now invariably and vehemently objects no matter how beneficial something may be, if can remotely be considered an 'Obama' success'.  For example, even though almost every politician of whatever party without exception, agrees there is a health care crisis in our country, the Republicans so far can muster only one single vote - Olympia Snowe of Maine - who will vote in favor of the only reform plan on the table. 

I am sad and concerned about this for a number of reasons.

First, I used to consider myself as moderately conservative - and usually voted Republican, though I now regret some of the votes I cast in the past.  But through no particular effort, or move of my own I find I am now defined as 'liberal'.   My past 'moderate conservative' identity has now been shoved emphatically to the left and redefined by the so-called conservatives of today.  All things moderate or progressive are now decried as 'left wing' or 'liberal' by the people who have appointed themselves as defenders of conservative values and who define themselves as conservative these days.  But sadly, what now masquerades as conservative is conservative in name only.  There is nothing conservative about it.  Radicalism by definition can never be considered conservative in any context. 

The conservatives of today are not even fiscally conservative anymore.  No where near so.  Just take an unbiased look at the legacy GW Bush left us all to see that.  Barrack Obama now shoulders the entire responsibility to correct things.   But, there is no shame among those who define themselves as conservative.  None whatever.   They pile on, denounce, block, obfuscate, deny and vociferously lay all the problems for the past decade at the poor man's feet.  They even denounce Obama for the Nobel prize which he did not ask for and which he himself says he does not deserve.  No matter - he's still the target of choice.  I am now convinced that even if full prosperity returned overnight, and the unemployment rate dropped to 2% they would still find things to complain about.  In fact, based on observations to date, I know they would.  The biggest lollipop in the world would not rate even a smile from conservatives of today.

In their eyes, George W. Bush could do no wrong, ever, no matter what, or how stupidly or badly he ended up trashing the country and so many of its institutions.  That may truly be their doctrinal blindness, but it is also incredibly obtuse denial.  Do those people really think no one pays attention?

Another reason is I believe we must always have a strong opposition party - at least one - to keep the party in power as honest as possible. There is an absolute truth that 'Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely'.  I don't care which faction is in power, no matter how good their original motives, left unrestrained the inevitable result is corruption.   But restraint should not mean absolute opposition to any act, good or bad, that the party in power tries.  There's a lot to the idea of the 'loyal opposition', but very little evidence of the fact today.

We have seen this before in both parties.  But today, under the control of today's 'conservatives' the Republican Party is marginalizing itself, more each day.  If the trend continues, the party may go out of business in the near future.  Historically, this has happened many times before with parties of the past when they made themselves irrelevant.  Incredibly, there have been over 95 political parties in the US which are now defunct.  Several of them elected candidates to the highest office in the land: 

  • (Federalist)  John Adams;
  • (Whig)  Wm. H. Harrison,  John Tyler, Zachary Taylor, Millard Fillmore;
  • (Democratic-Republican)  Thomas jefferson, James Madison,  James Monroe, John Q. Adams 
  • (Democratic National Union)  Andrew Johnson  
  • (Republican National Union)  Abraham Lincoln

Will today's Republican Party be next?

Monday, October 05, 2009

A Cheap Government Option Health Care Plan Already Exists

I'm having trouble about so much congressional opposition to a national health care plan with a government option.   I am having so much heartburn over this because such a plan already exists.   In fact, it has existed for years. 

This is plan utilizing local clinics for everyone with full-time doctors you may access anytime you wish for a modest annual fee.  Other costs, if any,  are at government expense, much like Medicare today.

This is not assembly-line medicine either.   It is the best of care, where doctors spend plenty of time with each patient to get to know them and their health conditions and concerns.  The plan provides excellent primary care medicine with thorough examinations and focuses on preventative medicine for the long-term well-being of its patients.  Specialists of all kinds are readily available when needed.  In other words, it is an ideal plan and one we can all wish we had.

"If you had, for example, prostate cancer, you would go to one of the centers of excellence for the country, which would be Johns Hopkins. If you had coronary artery disease, we would engage specialists at the Cleveland Clinic. You would go to the best care in the country. And, for the most part, nobody asked what your insurance was" says Dr. Eduardo Balbona, a Jacksonville, Florida internist who once worked as a staff physician for the plan.

The plan is currently available at an unbelievably low annual cost of $503 per individuals, with the rest of the costs being picked up by the US government.  But, the trouble is, this plan is not very well known.  In fact, the managers of this plan refuse to discuss it, and have not returned phone calls from journalists who wished to inquire about the details.  And, the users of this plan say little about it.  When TV personality Dr. Timothy Johnson of ABC made a personal visit to the man in charge, he was asked to leave.   Requests by ABC News to tour facilities were denied due to 'security sensitivities'.

How can this be so with a federal government's government option health care plan?

The short answer is this plan is simply not available to most Americans.  Only

members of Congress enjoy this plan.  Maybe they feel guilty about it and  simply wish you did not know the details.  That might be your two state senators and all the congressional representatives of your state, who currently enjoy exactly such a plan and regularly make use of it - at our expense.  They seem to feel it is OK for them, for not for the rest of us.

Simply put,  our elected politicians apparently feel they have the inherent right to enjoy - at out expense - something which many of them deny for anyone else.  And, if we don't rise up in righteous and furious indignation to demand this be changed,  on pain of their being drawn and quartered, we don't have a hair on our collective asses!  There should be no favored classes in a democracy.  Period.

Say some believe we shouldn't have government health care.  OK, so demand the politicians dispense with theirs.  Or, say some feel there should be equal health care for everyone.  So, those demand that if it's a government plan, let everyone qualify for exactly the same thing.  Nothing more, nothing less.

Let Congress know how you feel!