Monday, January 28, 2013

Restoring American Democracy, Part VI- The Elections

Electing the Best Leaders

How can we choose the best possible leaders to lead our cities, counties, states, and nation?  One way NOT to do this is through the process of parties selecting who THEY want to be our leaders and then sit idly by while they pick out the best candidate that fits THE PARTY's views.  The reason we all know this does not work is because today we have one of the worst governments North America has ever seen.  Public approval for Congress is lower than 10%, and a recent poll shows they are less popular than roaches, herpes and communists.  What have we become that such an organization remains in power despite its abject failure?  The last Congress sent our economy to the edge of bankruptcy and caused a credit down-grade by the world's most important credit bureau  because the two parties couldn't agree on a budget.  Their crowning achievement was approving "In God We Trust" as the nation's motto.  They get nothing done while in Washington, but they sure are good at staying there.

We have to think outside of the box and re-arrange this process.  We are not hostages to the way things have "always" been done.  This isn't how they did it in the beginning before our democracy became entwined with the insects that infest it today.   George Washington himself was vocally against any sort of political party system and even mentioned the topic in his farewell address in 1798, warning the nation of the dreadful consequences possible with such a process.  (Of this I will elaborate on in my blog on the political parties to come at a later time)

Here's what I propose to at least begin the process of winning our country back.  We have to get rid of the politicians.  How do we implement such a plan?   In order to draw out the best potential leaders we have to begin harvesting from existing leadership.    So your religious leaders, Toastmasters, Kiwanis, business leaders, firehouse chiefs,  any and all local leadership and even military leaders are open to nomination for positions of local leadership.  Once these leaders have gone through a nomination process from those that know them, each person that is interested in actually running will begin the process of speaking, debating, and having their positions and ideas submitted for review through the local media.  No money is necessary because the facilities where debates and speeches will be located would be at local places for gathering such as civic centers.  NO MORE of these mysterious people who come out of nowhere with bundles of money to start doing the bidding of their beloved parties.  Only local leadership who have shown what they can do and accomplish for their fellow citizens as leaders and administrators.  Another great benefit;  not all of our leaders will be restricted to lawyers., a personal pet peeve of mine. Why is a nation of shop keepers, engineers, computer scientists, firemen, policemen, teachers, etc.... being led by this group of people who chose a profession that prides itself on clever tricks and abundant mendacity?  Is it any wonder our leadership is populated mostly by a herd of silver tongued rats that seek nothing other than to stay in power or yearn to earn "real"  money as one of those most loathsome of all snakes known as lobbyists.

What about higher levels of government ?   As each person is elected to a lower level of government then they qualify for the next level of government., there is no way to go higher unless you have served at the lowest level.  With this requirement you will always be getting the best of the best as you go to a higher level.  In theory, within about 30 years we will have a fully, effective, efficient President who has demonstrated through years of work and dedication to his people that he is essentially the most talented leader in the land.  How can anyone argue against such a circumstance?

I know there are details about all this that would need to be worked out but the details could be hammered out according to local custom and preference.  As long as the structure is there that all leadership nominated must start at the very bottom levels, and that no money is needed, necessary, offered or required. It would strictly be the people listening to the candidate and voting on exactly what he or she thinks, believes, his or her composure,  his or her experience as a leader, and his or her position on the concerns of the governed.  Nothing else.  In other words, all elections are no longer funded by anyone at all.  Most people I mention this to are totally confused because they (and all of us) are so use to elections costing as much as a billion dollars (IE,  for the presidential election for 2008 even more for 2012 !).  But why does it cost that much?  Because of media advertisements.   Television commercials are the bulk of it, but also newspaper ads, political signage, mailers, etc.....  The overwhelming majority of the expenses for campaigns are for the marketing.  Why is marketing necessary?  It's not if you look at the election process from a different perspective.  Think about it, all citizens need is the following to make an educated decision;

1) To hear each candidates opinions on all major issues of the day in their own words
2)  To hear the candidate speak in an address to their constituents as to what their vision is for the future.
3)  To read a list of each candidate's opinion on all the major issues of the day.
4)  To hear the candidates debate each other in a moderated fashion.
5)  To read and understand each candidate's qualifications/resume.  Much like a job interview., "What about your experience makes you qualified for this leadership position that you desire?".
6) Any and all prosecuted crimes to be fully disclosed.  Any and all matters that have fallen under the eyes of the court in the past, including divorce, etc.... are to be fully disclosed.

None of this requires all the marketing nonsense we are constantly exposed to.  All that's required is the following;  1) publication of these points listed above via the media  2)  Public buildings for the speeches and debates.  3) A process for selecting the nominees that will yield the best possible people for these positions.

No money required.

If the money is removed from the process, then much of the problem we see today in our leadership will be solved.  How?  If the best leadership in society is now able to lead the country, rather than those who go in willingly bought by specific groups, then the whole of the country will benefit.  Money corrupts the process and leads to the twisted mess we have today with a hodge-podge of laws outlined to be of benefit for the few well connected.  Think of the consequences, a  naked democracy for the benefit of all mankind.  The best leadership working hard for the best results for the American people as a whole with no financial concerns for their re-election.  Only the best leaders focused on getting the job done.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Restoring American Democracy, Part V- The Lobbyists

Legal Felony

I am a simple man.  I work in sales in the foliage industry., and I have no claim to understand the inner workings of our government.  I do, however know enough to recognize when something is going on that just doesn't sit right.  The one big "whopper" in this genre, is the Lobbying industry.  Did you know there are over 13,000 registered lobbyists in Washington, DC ?!  That is not accounting for the massive numbers of lobbyists at the state and even local level.  For our purposes, we will try to keep our minds wrapped around the abomination going on in Washington, and I will leave all of  you readers to consider your own state leaders as it's overwhelming to consider ALL the levels of government as they rob us all blind of our right to a representative government.  A similar objective would be to consider the billions of stars in the known universe and claim you can fathom such size.  Even the very "idea" of 13,000 lobbyists is hard to understand when we have a total of 535 elected legislative leaders, and one President.   How does anything get done?  Well, it doesn't really as we all know by now, our Congress is incapable of DOING anything, which is one of the main reasons I write this blog.

The lobbyists exist under the auspice that our constitution allows for the people's right to petition the government.  Note it says "people"., so right at the very beginning we have evidence that the original intention of our founding fathers has gone astray.  These are not people., 'nor do they represent the people other than the well connected people of our largest corporations, unions, law firms, accounting firms, associations (ie, NRA) and every other "special interest" that you can dream up.  All the people that can afford their services, is what it all has become.

The amount of money spent on lobbying in Washington, DC has gone up by seven times since 1980.   The amount spent is at an astounding $3.4 Billion annually as of 2010 ! That's up from $1.44 Billion just since 1990. Nearly triple in 20 years.

So, who are these lobbyists, exactly ?

The largest contributing industry in 2010?    Pharmaceuticals which spent $241,075,934 in 2010 and they have spent a whopping $2,081,240,642 since 1998.   Consider that fact the next time you pay well over $100 for the newest drug., and I promise you they don't spend that much money because they're so anxious to get the American people the best drugs money can buy.  A close second was the electric utilities at $191,304,085 in 2010 and $1,417,711,382 since 1998.  Although the insurance industry has been losing ground the last year or so, they still get an "also ran" award for placing second overall in this category by spending $1,499,821,977 since 1998 to get their "fair share".   Again, any reasonably intelligent grown up understands they aren't in DC  because they have a mission of good will to all people.  $1.5 Billion to make sure congress does exactly what?

The largest single contributors?    The US Chamber of Commerce for 2010 which was at $132,067,500. They have spent a massive $738,825,680 since 1998.  Second: PG&E Group (Pacific Gas & Electric Co.) at $45,460,000 for 2010.    The all time "winner" for 1998-2010 was the American Medical Association at $243,277,500. The American Medical Association and the Pharmaceutical lobbyists must have a good time discussing strategies at the taverns and bars in Georgetown. The two together have spent nearly $3 Billion since 1990.  That much money chasing what results?  It's not as if our health care systems is a shining example of human capabilities !  I guess it works well for them.   They're not stupid enough to spend $3 Billion for nothing,......only the government does dumb things like that.

This has been one of the hardest blogs for me to write because I tend to acknowledge both sides of arguments, but I see no argument to support such obscene amounts of money being spent by the moneyed and powerful.  They steer our government to make specific decisions that would obviously be in their favor.

In "Common Sense", Thomas Paine began by writing:  "Perhaps the sentiments contained in the following pages, are not yet sufficiently fashionable to procure them general favor; a long habit of not thinking a thing wrong, gives it a superficial appearance of being right". Thomas Paine was talking about the King of England,  I think it applies today to the lobbying industry.  We've seen it so long, that it seems like an ordinary way of "doing government business".  An unfortunate necessity.   But,  what's going on is wrong.   Like slithering snakes, these lobbyists have coiled themselves around the very freedoms and liberties our young men and women fight for over seas, choking those freedoms into submission in the name of corporate welfare.  These people have an undue influence on our government  and its operation.  I am afraid that our leaders in Washington, DC consider, first and foremost,  "what would be the best course of action to grease the palms of those that will get me reelected?".  Any benefit to the American people would be a happy circumstance..... a pleasant coincidence.  With lobbyists whispering in their ear, the focus and targets and ambitions of our leaders is rooted in the matter of how they might yield more power to the already powerful.   Indeed, it is today not uncommon for legislative leaders to simply "hand over" the writing of laws to the lobbyist so that they might construct laws according to every detail of his or her clients' needs.  Subsequently  the legislator simply submits a facsimile to Congress for approval., a practice shocking in its audacity.  Such unmitigated gall.  Few people on earth could sleep at night having vowed in their elections to work "for the people", and do so much to the contrary once they reach our nation's capital.  There must be training at the Universities or in the law schools that teaches young minds how to shut off their conscience so that as they doze off to sleep they aren't jolted back awake by memory of their daily interactions.

So, what is the solution?  Remove the money from the process.  In this case, an elected official is much less inclined to listen to the lobbyist if there is no need for the money to be re-elected.  Although, each official is certainly open to being "bribed" as would any person in power, such an arrangement becomes a felony rather than the "protected" felony that today's lobbying industry is.   An elected official will certainly still be the source of the lobbyists attention and I'm not so gullible as to think they would disappear entirely, but their influence will be reduced drastically once the rewards for all that work yields simple "attention" and not "obligation".   Once again, the solution is to remove money from the process of electing officials, let the best leaders rise to the top and let the most moneyed go back to the business of earning a fortune, not stealing it from the American people.  

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Restoring American Democracy, Part IV The Snake

Before we start getting into the elections themselves, and how removing money from the process will make such a difference in the leaders that we get, I wanted to spell out the biggest causes of concern in modern America so that ALL our big problems are there, on one page, ready to review.  The simplicity of what I'm proposing will eventually reveal how these very big problems don't have to be such big problems after all.

As I think about all the frustrations regarding our government today, these daunting obstacles keep surfacing in my mind and I'm sure in the minds of any thoughtful reader as well.  They are like the five major parts of a snake, each of them functioning together, dependent on one another as they slither their way around Democracy and constrict thus rendering the ordinary citizen powerless.  The five parts are;   The Lobbyists,  The Elections, The political parties, The media and the National deficit.

     1)  The lobbyists.  Our government is in the palm of all those interests with enough money to gain influence.    Usually this involves lobbyists that essentially hold our leaders "hostage" that no Congressional leaders should expect financial support if "things" don't go the way of these moneyed interests in society.  The largest lobbying organizations are Pharmaceuticals, Medical, the US Chamber of Commerce, Big Oil, etc.... Have you noticed substantial good being done by our government to help the American Citizen regarding any of these groups?  No, of course not.  The lobbyists aren't there to help the American people, they're there to help themselves.  So then, how can our leaders claim to be representing the American people when the truth is so contrary and so obvious to all ?

     2) Elections.  In the 2012 national elections the following amount of money was spent by our wonderful leaders ;  The presidency;  $2,000,000,000.  House of Representatives; winner spent on average $1,400,000 and the average winning Senator spent $9,800,000 !

How can any ordinary American hope to get a position of leadership when the cost for such endeavor requires a "King's Ransom" for this ascension?  They can't.  That's why half of all Congress is occupied by millionaires.  If they're not millionaires, it's actually  worse because these individuals are most assuredly in debt to a lot of people.  This will require a lot of favors and therefor a lot of  "maneuvering" in our Capitol.  This activity will occupy much time and effort that would otherwise,  rightfully be devoted to the good of the American citizens they represent.

     3)   The political parties;   The Democrats and Republicans.   These consummate enemies  have had all the power for far too long.  Not only do they have too much power, but they've turned the governing of the greatest country in the world into a perpetual "Football Game".  All touchdowns and/or penalties are for the benefit of each team and the only group that always loses is the American citizen sitting in the stadium, frustrated at their lack of influence on the players below.   The power of the parties will continue as long as they stick to hating the opponent and swearing they will do all in their power to bring them down, no matter the consequences to the people themselves.  They've suckered us all into believing that the art of governing must be in perpetual dispute, a tug of war over ideology, a necessary evil.  In actuality, it is the job of our leaders to "lead" not argue.  Disagreements should be the exception, not the rule.  There are far too many American citizens who are hurt because this simple act of leadership is so sorely missing today.   I doubt it is their conscious intention (as a blithering "herd", neither group really thinks),  the political parties have neutered the power of the American people by dividing us.

     4)  The media, aka, "the enablers".  They criticize and provoke and instigate, and then sit back and watch the fun.  I'm sure they all enjoy the news with a bag of popcorn clutched in their claws,  the way human beings watch movies.  The media power brokers would most assuredly recoil at the idea of removing money from the election process.  Not only do they stand to lose a lot of money from political campaigns, but they also lose the pure joy of stirring the pot every 2-4 years.  In the end it will be a benefit to them as they will be the window we all watch into a new process of election., and they can perhaps learn what it is to remark on intelligent, coherent problem solving rather than the the "cock fights" they are so use to encouraging.

     5) The national deficit.  Right now it's $17,000,000,000,000.  That's disturbing just typing it.  I don't think I really need to elaborate too much on this topic., in that it's alarming unto itself.  If you imagine the interest on this debt, and let's say the world's interest rates spike up, then we're all screwed.  The reason this has happened is because we have an incompetent government.   They get us into wars and then refuse to pay for said wars.  They spend on bloated government bureaucrats for positions and departments that sometimes are replicating the work of another department.  They offer life time jobs to incompetent people  They spend your money and my money on over-priced medical procedures, military equipment, etc... because all their vendors know they can get away with it.  They are incompetent., but because of this incompetence we are all stuck in debt with no apparent way out.    Make no mistake, this is everyone's problem.  The fact of the matter is,  there is NO incentive for them to stop spending once their party holds the power in government.  It's  like their reward for getting into the office.  They seem to think that once they've won, the money is all THEIRS to spend.  We have to change that mentality.

We can sever the head of this "snake of incompetence" by withholding its source of power;  Money.    

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Restoring American Democracy, Part III The Best Politicians January 13, 2013

Our Government as it stands today.  The best politicians, not the best leaders.

Anyone who pays any attention to our government and its inner-workings has to be alarmed at the woeful state of our current leadership.  I could drone on about all that's wrong with it, but let me show some restraint and state simply that it no longer functions as a democratically elected leadership.  No, today we have the best politicians that money can buy.   Although it should go without saying (but let me say it anyway) that a great politician does NOT make a great leader.  In fact, quite the contrary.  What you get with a great politician is a smooth talker who can sell anyone on anything but who never actually delivers on any promises.  The politician makes promises he has no intention of keeping., and so the entire process of electing him is a farce.  The great politician is in love with the idea of power for the sake of power, ie, to stoke his ego and make him (or her) feel important and above the dim witted dolts that elect him or her.  His interest in "improving" things applies only in as much as it can present a convincing case for him/her to be elected.   That is always the point of their running for office,  nothing more.  If something is accomplished and something good comes out of the politician's election then it is a happy circumstance that we must all marvel at, that "even the losers, get lucky sometime" as Tom Petty put it.

     We don't need anymore politicians, we need leaders.  We need men and women that want to make things better for our country and our countrymen not for themselves (or their parties).  Like our forefathers, they must be willing to sacrifice, they must be dedicated to liberty for all citizens, they must possess great fortitude, honesty, they must be above the fray of political bickering  and be committed to the betterment of mankind.  The men that can lead all of us to greater "peace,  prosperity and domestic welfare" are alive and among us, but they would probably not run for office because they know all too well that they could never occupy a position of leadership in today's world.  The system is not set up to select the best leader like themselves, it's set up to select the best politician.

     So, today that's what we have in Washington and Tallahassee.  A group of self congratulating, self promoting, greedy, epicurean, partisan, bickering, childish, opportunistic, small minded, crafty little toads.  A full house of ineffective politicians who think all this is just a game for them to play in front of the media to make points for their favorite cable TV network. Talking points for the spin Dr.s and their cable TV watching groupies.  Always the question is "Who had the best "shot" today?" and rarely is any noble objective to improve things or fix a problem the subject of discussion except in passing.  An afterthought.

So, the first order of business, now that we've ironed out the first great reason for such an unintelligent government is at hand.  How do we get the best leaders to the position of leading without netting a bunch of toad politicians at the same time?  We must change how we elect our leaders., and the only way to change the way we elect our leaders is to eliminate money from the entire process.  There must be an amendment that eliminates any money being involved in the process of elections.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Restoring American Democracy- Part II Why I Write January 9, 2013

Why Am I Writing This?

As the father of two, and a concerned US citizen., I feel compelled to submit to the cyber world some ideas for getting a brain installed into our government.  I'd say "back" into their head, but that would imply that at one point it DID have a brain.  I suspect that has never been true.  If you're a student of history you'll know that governments are never smart, and usually very stupid.  The real question is to what degree are they stupid? Are they monstrously stupid like the Nazis of WWII or, simply too dim witted to know how dumb they are as in our current congress?

Our famous forefathers are revered as if they never did anything wrong, but investigation reveals much petty quarreling and our first government barely had the power to rule at all.  Not until the constitution was written was there a modicum of intelligence.  The constitutional government under President Washington was rife with bickering and teetered on collapse many times.  Thanks to his unusual intelligence, leadership and fortitude the republic moved forward.  WE WERE VERY LUCKY !!  Washington was an intelligent and effective leader but he has been the exception in our history.   The last few years has seen hyper stupidity in government like we have never seen.  This is what happens when the people no longer pay attention or are no longer able to understand what their government is doing and therefor stop trying to make a difference.

Our government is ineffective and "unwise" because the people are not informed and the people don't really seem to care.  Not all,  but the majority don't see the connection between Washington, DC and their lives.  Younger adults today especially seem uninformed and ambivalent.  This is the consequence, what we see today.... a  leadership that is little more than a group of very expensive prostitutes up for sale to the highest bidder, and their political campaigns are nothing more than a list of  "promises' that are easily made but never accomplished.  Yes, our government is big, clumsy, inefficient, and very unwise but does it have to be?  I submit that it does not, and that with enough attention and effort we can restore the government to even greater wisdom than at the beginning of the republic if we set our minds to it.      

So, I write this because I feel like if someone at least presents ideas that could improve this country for the betterment of our children's lives, our fellow countrymen, and even the citizens of the world then it's worth my time to do so.  Maybe something will come of it.  Maybe it will be a modern "Common Sense", shaking the foundations of the government "status quo", much as Thomas Paine's essay shook the British Empire. More probably though,  only a handful of people will read it, but at least a kernel of truth or the encouragement of ideas already out there in the conscience of the public mind will be set to seed and something special will blossom out making the lives of all Americans and even all citizens of the world significantly better.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Restoring American Democracy, Part I Introduction January 1, 2013

January 1, 2013

We Americans have accomplished much in our history.  We established the world's first true Democracy, we
invented the light bulb, the telephone, recorded sound, the Airplane.  We were the first to harness electricity, mass produced the automobile,  made home computers a reality, and created the world wide web.  We liberated  Europe form the Nazis, the Pacific rim from imperial Japan, and Eastern Europe from the Soviet Union.  This is a very brief account of all the many great things our country has accomplished.  That being said, I  have one question.  Why do we have such a lousy government?   We deserve better.

I started a series of blogs back in July titled "Intelligent Government, an Oxymoron?".  I used a question mark out of respect for the possibility that that is not always true, but really I should probably just drop the question mark.  As it stands, "Beam me up Scotty, there is no Intelligent Life Here".   The recent "Fiscal Cliff" fiasco is a case in point as to how totally retarded they all are here on this 1st day of 2013.    I'd like to review  these blogs in the next few weeks and proceed from there with ideas that might work to fix the day to day idiocy of our government.

It seems like everyone is sitting and standing around watching how bad Washington has gotten, and EVERYONE agrees  it is not working, but nobody has any ideas to fix this mess.   Why not?  I assume most people feel  "you can't change the system", but I disagree.  We are still a Democracy, the power is still with the people if they seize it.   If the Czechs could have a Velvet Revolution with very little blood spilled to overthrow the authoritarian Communists, surely we can engage in some sort of exercise to remove the bad governing processes as they work now in order to have an efficient wise government .  We don't need an actual revolution because the bones of good government are already in place thanks to George Washington,  John Adams,  Thomas Jefferson, and all the other brilliant founding fathers of our country.  What we need is a significant change, a re-set to a government that works for the people, not for money, not for power and NOT for political party.  

Many people who read this will say "impossible", to which I reply that it was also impossible for rebel colonies in the 1780's to throw out the most powerful army in the world at that time... but they did it anyway.