Liberty Ballad, 2012

Or, Showdown at Voter’s Booth

(to the tune of Liberty Valance)

When Willard Mitt Romney rides to town, the womenfolk will hide, they’ll hide
When Willard Mitt Romney walks around, some menfolk will abide
’cause the almighty buck is the only law, that Willard’s understood
When he’s lootin’ companies straight ‘n fast–he is mighty good.

From out the East Wing a “stranger’s” come, a law book in his hand, a man
The kind of a man America still needs, to tame these troubled lands
’cause the almighty buck is the only law, that Willard’s understood
When he’s lootin’ companies straight ‘n fast—he is mighty good.

Many a face does this man show, and many a wasted vote will fall
The man who’s fought Willard Mitt Romney, he’s fought, GOP‘s men ‘n dark money
He is the bravest, most honest of ’em all.

A taste of Liberty make’s a man stay on, even when he should go, stay on
America’s tryin’ for a peaceful world; so she is free to grow
But the almighty buck is the only law, that Willard’s understood
When the election show down comes at last, just a law book is no good.

Alone and afraid half America prays for ballots to return each one, on a fateful day
’cause of what liberty stands for both men fight, they’ll get out the vote
From the moment when America became full-grown, the very first thing she learned
When two men face off in the voters’ booth, only one wins the retur-r-r-ns

Everyone’ll hear the ballots ring out, voters’ll see Willard fail
The man who’s fought Willard Mitt Romney, he’s fought GOP’s men ‘n dark money
He is the bravest, most honest of ’em all.

The man who’s fought Willard Mitt Romney, he’s fought GOP’s men ‘n dark money
He is the bravest, most honest of ’em all.

Entrust your vote to

Barack Obama / Joe Biden 2012
Move America Forward

Pres. Barack Obama at Foreign Policy Debate
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Message to Congress – that’s it for you filibuster!

In viewing the remaining landscape in this election, I was thinking what is the right prism through which to view the presidential debates and the remaining part of the campaign. And what is the right frame of mind in the ballot box come time to vote. I am sharing this opinion piece with this in mind. I also think it might put Vice President Joe Biden‘s comments in context.

Today, at this very moment, America needs leaders who are not first a Democrat or a Republican; but American. I see that in President Barack Obama. I see he is leading from his heart, from an inclusive vision deep within. From his belief in America, being himself on an historically improbable path, fulfilling an American Dream. A man rich in character, able as a young man to work through personal challenges about his roots, his father, and his very being. Emerging in a positive, uplifting place with an amazing grace.

Obama is doing what is right, despite being fettered by current American politics; shackled as it were to the ground, by the Lilliputian right, the little men trying to contain a giant. Obama and America are also challenged by America’s electoral and political system too. The main challenges are twofold; (1) Congress is broken and (2) there are only two ideologies; crafted precisely as opposing ones by only two opposing parties.

These politics weigh on America, weaken her; and afford Lilliputian tragedy, at the expense of Americans who, as Biden so aptly stated, remain “buried” these past four years. Under the economic and financial sins of the fathers, the next generation(s) shall struggle if amends can not be made. Amends that demand a strong program and a strong mandate from this election. Even if Americans can ‘t put their finger on it or articulate it; these challenges reflect in America’s unhappiness with its Congress and concern about its direction.

Beginning with the latter of the two, America has only two political parties. Entrenched parties; a power duopoly with insurmountable barriers to entry for any other. Mostly, the barrier is money; but also political process, and political culture. In terms of the process, you just have to look at Gov. Mitt Romney, the perennial Presidential contender; it’s a personal marathon consuming years of time, oceans of money, and galaxies of energy. Plus requiring personal strength and deep reserves of equanimity and confidence to endure personal attacks and insults, and withstand the sledgehammer of character destruction. Just to become a party’s nominee; then comes the election race!

In terms of the political culture, the visibility and importance placed on party affiliation is beyond reason. For example, “declaring” your party when voting; it’s like declaring your religion when introducing yourself. Maybe worse. And changing it is perhaps harder, even for a single vote. It is pervasive in American politics; yet think about it – why is your party affiliation asked when you vote? To remind you of your allegiance to your party before you vote for your nation? To remind you of your ideology? While it is there to support the primary voting system, this can be handled in other ways. It is not really any part of what you do at the ballot box. When you are there, you are simply an American, seeking what is right for you and your country.

Now also let’s think for a moment about “independents” who are the bane of the political parties; the ones being chased this moment and until election day. Yet they are the truest practitioners of democracy. What’s happened to individual political freedoms? You should have your personal, private, undeclared choice of vote for whoever and whatever. Any time, all the time and on every issue! Do not vote one party or the others philosophy, principles or I dare say, propaganda; and certainly not on wedge issues. It is not right for politicians to draw imaginary dividing lines through the country along old civil war fault lines, for political gain. And stoking the flames. Not right at all! Vote your belief about what America needs at this moment for her best future. Your patriotism comes here in the ballot box, to your Nation, not your party.

Now to discuss the other major challenge of Congress. Just think filibuster. It’s tantamount to a four letter word, actually. Some may not grasp precisely what it is; all understand what it does – nothing; big time! As witnessed these past four years. It has been the darling of Congressional leaders, too many Lilliputian little men with little strings. Trying, trying, and ultimately tying Obama, the Nation, and you, to the ground.

Add to that the modus operandi of both parties’ congressional leaders. This includes obstruction through filibuster and other tactics, slander, stretched truth and outright lies (mis-leaders as much as leaders?), and blind ideology. Such ideology spouted so often for so long, the parties and partisan hacks start to believe the fiction and start making decisions with it – Ayn Rand anyone? This obstructionism is more reflective of the GOP, in my opinion. Indeed, I think it’s been done to an extent unheralded these past four years. Brazenly. Overtly. Proudly, and fully on record. For a stated single inexplicable purpose – to stop Obama, whatever it is he is doing. Lilliputian small men indeed.

Now add to these political process and culture issues, the literally limitless money flow from narrow pools of people and yet narrower pools of interest. The money is wrapping round the politicians, warping their decisions and the nation. The red states and blue states notion that Obama has for some time been decrying? This is a symptom of the underlying problem and hopefully can be changed. But how? For one thing, bust the filibuster; kill it, make it a ghostbuster. The partisan minority must not thwart the will of the majority, by definition, that is “anti-democracy”. The other thing is more political parties; democracy must enable and support a more open political arena. This must be at the heart of the American way, the democratic way for an enduring civil society. Of course, this takes more time than the blink of an eye left until election day!

So what can you do now? Simple. Vote out obstructionist politicians. That’s it, just vote against any politicians more focused on limiting Obama’s future, than expanding America’s and yours. Do it right now! Let’s go! Just say “That’s it for you (fili)buster”! This will send Congress a message. A strong one. American’s are not going to take this any more!

This gives Pres. Obama‘s good efforts leverage to propel the country Forward. Obama deserves another 4 years to move America along his well defined, worthy path and direction. I think he is focused more on doing right by America and Americans than most politicians in living memory. President Reagan is perhaps a good comparison.

So you can do it. It’s in your handsThe change is you!

References

See Building a Nation; the change is you for a larger discussion of the challenges in American politics.

https://paulstewartblog.wordpress.com/2012/09/16/from-breaking-to-building-a-nation-that-change-is-you/

Osama bin Laden reaches out from his watery grave

Osama’s hand is ominously reaching from his watery grave! He is smiling out on the fierce battles and killing we are witnessing overseas. He would like the instability, and the foment of words and ill feelings, running together in rivers of hate and trailing into pools of blood. May the Gods have mercy on all of us and calm things down? Is this another test for America?

Breaking news today on new violence in Libya and further violence in Pakistan. The firestorm was originally lit by the controversial anti-Islam film trailer “Innocence of Muslims” thought to have been written and produced by Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, using the pseudonym of “Sam Bacile”. Videos of the trailer dubbed in the Arabic language were apparently uploaded during early September 2012 and redistributed by Morris Sadek, a Coptic Egyptian-American blogger.

The Benghazi, Libya violence is apparently a backlash in support of the United States against extremists there who may be behind the deaths of the U.S. ambassador to Libya and three other Americans. The Pakistani violence comes despite an ad on Pakistani TV featuring President Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who denounce the video. The video and its creators are just a couple of the current torches burning for Osama bin Laden and a living testament to his goals to incite religious war; pitting Christians against Muslims. The flames have spread to pockets of the globe far and wide as so deftly reported by Nina Rai in her recent post. This is a ruse when the real war is actually extremists and terrorists against the multi-denominational civilized world.

Whoever is behind this video is working with mal intent, and looking to light the fuse of a powder keg, floating in a giant cauldron of rocket fuel. As many already know, the video intentionally makes a mockery of, and pours ridicule and scorn on, the Muslim Prophet Muhammad. It seems intentionally placed for the destructive impact. Right in front of those who are most insulted and maddened to violence by it; and it’s as if the perpetrators are rubbing their noses in it too, to get things going.

I fear we are on the brink of an expanding, possibly explosive, religious war. As I said earlier, Osama’s finger prints are on this; right from his watery grave. He is smiling, despite the barometric pressure many leagues beneath the sea. His hate lingers with us here; regardless of his death. We risk inadvertently succumbing to it, being enveloped by it and joining Osama in a religious war like the Dark Ages except with mass media, and more massive weapons.

America heightens its own danger by replying with a “no apologies”, no consideration, and a just “stand your ground” mentality. Shoot, reload, shoot again and then aim. Perhaps this is a test coming in the heat of this election season in America; or a reminder, or even a clarion call!

A call to remember America still fights the real and present danger of not just ghost of Osama bin Laden, but of the hate he fomented and the seeds of war he planted in his infernal lifetime. His followers, his pretenders, and those who seek to harm the United States or other countries and their people must be repelled; nay headed off at the path. With means that are more than the conventional ones; not solely with a blind brute force and firepower reply.

The real enemies are the terrorists and the radical extremists of all religious persuasions. Osama simply brought the ragtag bands of ne’er do wells into a loving fold of hate and aggression. Yet; there are also the accomplices, the willing and gullible and naïve. I would refer to Rush Limbaugh as a prime example. These are those easy to say an eye for an eye, the ignorant, the bellicose, the opportunists looking for ways to politically or socially exploit religious divides. To exploit the lack of trust and understanding between the peoples of the world’s great religions, including the Christians and Muslims. We know who these people are; people like Terry Jones, the Pastor of Dove World Outreach Center, in Florida. This man or the people behind this Innocence of Muslims Project seems another.

Perhaps the biggest enemy and the greatest risk lies in ignorance and fear. Ignorance leads to stupid actions by people who actually formally represent the United States. There is more than one case of desecration of the Koran by people who serve in the forces. These people maybe did not understand the repercussions of their actions perhaps, but the damage has been done. Ignorance has a cost. Fear can cause people to behave with prejudice and disrespect. It can also cause over blown reactions. Such as we are seeing by the Muslim crowds now, and such as we saw on a more limited scale in the United States following 9/11. Actions against Muslims, and people thought to be Muslim, but who were actually Sheiks etc. It also happened to the Japanese Americans and Japanese Canadians in the Second World War.

The defensive weapons for fighting back include a vigorous physical defence but sharply focused against defined enemies; being principally armed terrorists. Drones, CIA, FBI etc. are the weapons. Physically protecting Americans at home and abroad with troops and physical and safety barriers and safe houses. Another is separation of church and state, which is a topic the needs a separate article to do it justice.

The offensive weapon, is to not be offensive. It is to stamp out ignorance, it is to take cool and careful consideration before speaking, and before acting. To thereby stamp out prejudice and replace it with warmth and mutual respect. This is not for the terrorists and such of course; it is for real people; whether they happen to be Muslims, Christians or other denominations, or atheists or agnostics for that matter. In short for all good people; the vast majority of humanity on the face of the earth. We are mostly made of the same stuff with the same basic goals in life and we must build common bonds in our humanity, with mutual respect, and mutual understanding.

Osama bin Laden would love to see, as the fruit of his life’s efforts, a full-blown religious war. With Americans dying in droves, American Embassies in flames; and her people at each others throats about it. Of late, some Americans and others abroad, have poured fuel on this hateful Osama-flame. I say that some people have already fallen precisely into Osama’s trap of fomenting global religious war.

America needs leadership that understands this and can drive an agenda that refuses this game and douses this flame. That has the skills to build the bridges between peoples, rather than focusing solely on armies that separate and annihilate them. This requires not only the investment in and wise use of force, and power, but its surgical and careful use, coupled with intelligent and thougthful diplomacy. And sometimes, yes sometimes, at the right time; an apology. When it is honestly owed.

I say to those who call America’s current leadership “apologist” for sympathizing with the Muslim people against the ignoramuses at best, or terrorists, at worst who created this hateful film, that they are wrong. On two counts; one, sympathy is not an apology, it is the understanding of some one else’s view. Who would not be upset if their most sacred religious persona is willfully and thoroughly desecrated and their nose rubbed in it? And two, realizing and acknowledging this is not traitorous or apologist. It is simply being human and helpful to express understanding of their good religion’s importance to them. Just as ours is important to us; yours to you and mine to me. This will reduce the Osama-flame and then extinguish it.

People of the Muslim religion did not kill Ambassador Stephens and the others who have so tragically died. The killers were the militants and terrorists; and the rabble rousing crowd; fueled by Osama’s flaming hate. And the people that started and enabled that, are the makers of that sorry video.

Some who read this may say, well these people, whoever they are, have a right to free speech in this country. I say, yes they do have that right; yet with this right also comes responsibilities. In this case, particularly grave ones.

I believe that free speech is never “free”. What you say has consequences, good and bad. You must take responsibility, here and now to your fellow man and ultimately, later, to your maker wherever she may be.

So it is critical to vote in this election. There is much at stake. And Lord knows America can’t afford a mistake.

References

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Innocence_of_Muslims

http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10000872396390444620104578010750711899438.html

http://abcnews.go.com/International/deadly-anti-us-riots-pakistan-obamas-ad-denouncing/story?id=17291751#.UF1OEVHEjnI

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2196969/Osama-Bin-Laden-death-Amazing-eyewitness-account-worlds-wanted-terrorist-shot.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Death_of_Osama_bin_Laden

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Depictions_of_Muhammad

http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Foreign-Policy/2012/0920/Pakistani-TV-stations-air-a-real-Made-in-USA-video.-Will-it-calm-violence-video

http://www.rushlimbaugh.com/daily/2012/09/21/regime_runs_apology_ad_on_pakistani_tv

http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/13034875-libyans-attack-militia-groups-protests-call-for-disarming-of-militias

Its the dishonesty, stupid!

At the Debates. Romney: I think Obama will lie. Sketch by Paul Stewart II

Mitt is totally independent. He was born himself; nursed himself, and never inherited a thing. Not even his genes. Maybe his jeans, that’s all. He actually built himself; out of ear wax and army surplus digital parts. Only thing missing is a heart, and a clear connection from his tongue to his brain. But hey, he’s self-made so he’s better than all the rest.

Romney is good at numbers, but not at people things. Sometimes he is confused – “people are corporations too!” for example. Its okay though, Mitt’s been successful as a corporate raider. So many corporations, so many people too, have been raided. So to Mitt it seems people and corporations are all the same. If you don’t need them, after their valuables have been drained, well; throw them out, let them go bankrupt or better yet, both! Show them who is the successful one!

Mitt is also not too good at saying what he is supposed to say; not at first. No internal processor at his core telling him when he gets out-of-bounds. After he’s said the wrong thing a few times, and he gets some vociferous, helpful feedback, he learns what to say though. Even if he still doesn’t quite say what he should, he stops saying what he shouldn’t.

Fortunately, his strength is in giving No Apologies. Not one! Never! Even if he is wrong; especially if he is wrong. Mitt knows only how to double down. It’s like a game to him. If you apologize, you lose.

Further, its hard because Mitt wouldn’t know an apology if it punched him in the nose. Umh.., well, I guess that’s not actually good, but its manly and tough. Unfortunately right now though, it is causing his campaign to fall down.

Mitt says his campaign is now about 100% of Americans; not exclusive of that 47% mentioned in that now infamous comment; or rather in that long-winded rant; which went on giving chapter and verse on dependency. Now that he has made the 100% of Americans clear, simply by saying it, we can be sure that it is true! It does not matter that it is 100% opposite to what he so passionately said before to his peers.

Yes Mitt’s campaign is about everyone: the good, the bad and the ugly! Even you! Maybe Barack too; if he would just provide his college transcript. Mitt’s campaign now officially includes everyone retroactively to the beginning of time; at least as far as the creation, but not the Big Bang. Just to make you feel how honest and sincere is this change for you going back its now permanent, although going forward……

It is certain that Mitt, as President will formulate manifestly appropriate provisions for the bad 47% along with the good guys like him in the 1%. And his policies will reflect his real thinking. Or whatever thinking he ends up with after a few false starts stating what he really thinks. Although at that point, as President, Mitt can stick more to what he really believes, if we only knew what it was…..

Seriously though, its okay! Mitt is just a misunderstood comedian. This has all been a joke; we have been “pranked”. It’s all in fun, it’s just a hair cut. Ann has told us before he is a bit of a prankster and likes to have fun with people. He really does intend to look after 100% of Americans. Maybe some just a little bit differently from others. But every single one.

You can trust Mitt! Ann has told us that too! And besides, he’s been open and shared everything with us; even one year of his “low tax” returns….. Mitt is so happy it was not a zero tax year, or he’d be in the 47% too; and deriding himself. That wouldn’t be funny; being lumped in with those um, low life people.

So don’t worry; be happy. Vote Mitt! He will be a sensational President. He Believes in America. No one it seems has even pointed out the best sign of his great qualifications! He is W. Mitt Romney. Another W.! Not just in substance but in name too!

So he is a sure-fire President. A safe bet indeed! It seems he will:

  1. inflame the Middle East; he’s already got the embers going, just look at his foreign tour, and the latest comments about how he will bring peace there;
  2. dismantle America’s safety net; who needs the meek and the weak? Let them inherit nothing too, and why not accelerate their decline (Mitt says let’s keep that our little secret; just like the tax returns, until say November 8th or perhaps 9th. No telling now ya hear?); and
  3. speed up the redistribution of all wealth to the rightful 1%.

Indeed on this last point, as President, Mitt will light a bonfire of opportunity for… well… for the 1%! Starting with himself and his family, and all of his friends. He has plans to put much of it in his blind trust where it can’t be seen.

The best part is the trickle down to you, the 52%, or is it the 99%; at least, the part of the trickle that doesn’t evaporate in the heat of the 1%’s success…..

And of course, after the 100% campaign, Pres. Romney will be true to his word; which ever one it is that he then decides he really meant. No risk for you there though….. we do know what he means.  Right?

What does Mitt really believe? It seems that he is in the Wonderland that Paul Ryan built on fictional works of Ayn Rand, along with Alice and Mad Dirty Harry. Will Americans see the truth and leave Mitt there?

Building a nation; the change is you.

Statue of Liberty
Statue of Liberty by Maria Bell
Statue of Liberty by Maria Bell
“Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”

The Corrosion of Money on the Politics of America

Votes are the currency of democracy. However, as is well known, there is a counter current to votes in the way of money – the American dollar. Indeed, this currency is no longer just American, it is global. Historically, the dollar’s counter current to votes has not seriously threatened America’s democracy. Today, I believe that it does; it is shaking her to the roots and breaking her foundation. To explain, let me start with some background.

America’s forefathers established the United States of America based on freedom and self governance with representatives selected by vote. The vote decided the successful representatives of the people from various geographic areas. Decisions about who would vote and the mechanics of voting was managed by the states. It is little different today, except its now guided by some federal laws that ensure eligible people get to vote.

This is “government of the people, by the people, for the people” to quote Abraham Lincoln, or alternately, and I think better yet “government of all the people, by all the peoples, for all the people” to quote Theodore Parker. Yet only in recent history, are representatives chosen equally by the voting right of each and every American citizen of the age of majority. Standing here now, such equality is obviously fundamental and appropriate. Yet, as Americans know, looking back, the voting formula was at first far from perfect. It fell short; as it was not broadly inclusive. To the contrary, it was exclusive.

The first principle voter segment was free white male landowners; the wealthy class. Excluded were white working men, almost all women, and most people of color. This has of course progressed to the modern day more perfect union. Getting here today though, was a long, difficult and at times bloody struggle for many segments of Americans. Many battles were fought, culminating only in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Gaining finally, at long last, the truly democratic equation of: one person = one vote. I note the Presidential election is complicated by an overlay of the electoral college system. However, this does not change the underlying principles to which I speak of here.

In past centuries, I believe the “exchange rate” between dollars and votes was prohibitive for individual influence on an election changing scale. This reflected the diffuse nature of the population, and barriers of perhaps a stronger sense of morality, greater respect for the vote and more transparency. Also, the lack of real time and practical distribution channels for reaching and influencing the vote of every person in the nation; influencing either with money, or with ideas.

Today, I think that exchange rate is no longer prohibitive. It is perhaps affordable principally because of the amazing American wealth and its concentration in so few hands; fuelled by a political duopoly, the Citizens United decision on SuperPAC’s, and cutthroat politics that have grown more aggressive each electoral generation, culminating today in what I would call the “Rovian” extreme. Of course, most will know where I’ve coined that phrase from – the brilliant and inimitable Karl Rove former Senior Adviser to former Pres. George W. Bush.

Now add to that, the loss of transparency, and the present day ability to push political propaganda and personal attacks through the media and through the highly paid self-serving mouths of people like Rush Limbaugh, Bill Hannity, Ann Coulter and others who will say just about anything to build their Party and their following. These are people who will call the spade a heart and the club a diamond. Fuelling this fire, is what I would call the intentional dumbing down of America, a notable portion of which eats this up like reality TV. This dumbing down is a whole separate article, however, it has to do with the affordability, quality and also in the eyes of far too many, disdain for education such as for example by Rick Santorum at Values Voter Summit, as reported by Frank Balsinger at Scholars & Rogues among other sites.

I believe the corrosion of voter intentions by money in elections starts fundamentally with the political duopoly: the Republican Party and Democratic Party, in America. Couple that with Rovian extremism. Spike it with political propaganda, lately including multiple straight faced smiling Pinocchios; and stir it in a large opaque vat of self-interested money from undisclosed super wealthy individuals and corporations. It is a cocktail that has managed to dull reality from the typical American voter’s mind.

USA as the US flag
Red States & Blue States or the United States?

The political duopoly is just that – there are now and perhaps forever may only ever be two parties. This is so because of barriers to entry. Principally, these are the time and energy and the enormous costs involved in running for office, particularly for the presidency. In recent decades the two parties have hardened and ingrained their political philosophies, particularly the Republicans under former Pres. Bush and Rove. The latter with his outsized motivation to not just win Bush’ elections, but also establish a permanent Republican majority to govern for a generation(s). Sounds almost communist, no?

The basic strategy is straightforward. The core idea, still very much in force on the right today, is to develop and maintain a loyal party base. People whose first allegiance is to the Party, at least when voting. This is accomplished by a combination of heavy propaganda for Republican principles and against Democratic principles – real, imagined and even created. As per the Rovian formula, add in “wedge issues” such as abortion, gay marriage, aspects of immigration, and, to some degree national security. Maybe a few wild cards like birth certificates and patriotism. Plus aggressive viscous personal attacks; taking you down on what are actually your strengths. Sound familiar?

Now, on top of this is a second core idea. It is the simple math that power in America can be had with 50% of the voting population +1 vote. With only two parties, half should not be too hard, and you can look to divide rather than unite! Talk about leverage! Never mind that this math scratches that good word “all” from “all the people” of whom Theodore Parker spoke. There can be little doubt that Abraham Lincoln intended it be “all” and if not, then he was certainly nowhere near doing Rove’s calculation. Why are Republicans so good at this math when, as Pres. William (Bill) Clinton mentioned the other day, they don’t seem to get it on deficits and debt; but I digress.

This “all of the people” is fundamentally the root of democracy. I note in passing that democracy was invented in Greece. Delicious irony, no? Given the right wing’s love for that country. Plus, a further plank of strategy that I call “anti-democracy”. It is a democracy limiting strategy, intended as part of the right’s broad effort to obstruct and exploit, some of which columnist Paul Krugmam well explains. This is basically jamming a wrench in the unintended loophole in America’s “three branch” check and balance governing system of Executive, Courts and Congress.

The wrench? You know – filibustering and blocking legislation and government appointees and what have you. Sounds like football or hockey, but actually its a blood sport – and its your blood! Of course, somehow, I don’t think it was meant to grind things to a halt; particularly not at times of crisis. Just give pause for due consideration. And when this was conceived, it was not meant to be reciprocated by the left!

The American government must represent all of the American people. How could it be otherwise? The system divined by the founders intends a simple majority vote carry the day on most matters. Only special matters need two thirds or three fifths super majority including changing the constitution for example. However, the casualty of this blood sport is a negation of the will of the majority, in favor of the will of the 50% +1, and arguably even less. This to me is what people like Congressman John Boehner, Eric Cantor and Paul Ryan, have come to represent. Leaders in this blood sport. To be fair and clear, Mr. Rove didn’t start all this, but rather he brought it to its logical ugly conclusion. And so here we are!

So today, things have really changed and it is possible to buy those votes. I think the election effectively can be so heavily influenced that if Americans are not looking and weighing things carefully, they will have effectively bought damaged goods. Both parties vying for a small difference in votes. Yet, each party with a vastly different ideology, interests, platforms, and policies.

Money has become increasingly concentrated in the hands of few. These people, by this very same concentration, grow more powerful and diverging personal interests, from those of the American people at large. I won’t bore you with statistics here, we are all familiar with the extent of this concentration. A low single digit percentage have the super majority of wealth and income. I will though, point you here to this relatively simple set of explanatory graphs from Michael Snyder on Business Insider.

I mentioned earlier the global nature of the US greenback. In addition, of course, US trade is global as are many American based corporations. The scale of these beyond American boarders businesses are impressive, larger than some good size countries. They are entities unto themselves, beyond democracies and other forms of local governments. And money generally has the propensity to go global to where it is least scrutinized, least taxed, and least controlled. Money is not patriotic. It is not moral, or amoral I suppose either. I don’t think it is Christian of Muslim either, but again, I digress… It is just a current of power flowing into the hands of fewer and fewer owner(s).

In terms of individuals, the concentration of American wealth is in the hands of perhaps several hundreds and at most a few thousand. People such as Sheldon Adelson, Warren Buffett, Rupert Murdoch and the Koch brothers among others. Add to that, the control of instantaneous, far reaching media by some of these self same people. The power of the monied to target blocks of people and manage perceptions on that scale, has been here for a while. Started with radio; now the internet and TV. This of course helps drive the language and propaganda of the parties and the campaigns too. For the typical voters, if they hear the same thing coming from multiple sources, it seems it must be true, even if it is not.

So with the advent of SuperPAC’s and the incredible cost of running for office, these wealthy few and special interest corporations are well positioned. They are able to materially influence who is the candidate as well as who wins elections. In this, there is growing danger. Any candidate who wins like this is beholden to their benefactor(s). That candidate is conflicted away from American’s interests.

Pres. Obama to me stands out as one who built his support as much as possible from all the people. We know he has always worked on a grass-roots level to gain funding and votes. I believe he is looking to govern for all the people, as intended. I think in his improbable rise to his office, he is a principled, intelligent man, focused on executing the Presidency in a way befitting all the American people. I cite here an article by Michael Lewis in Vanity Fair that is inciteful and fits with what glimpses we see of Pres. Obama.  This election cycle, he has had, as a matter of necessity, to work with the SuperPacs to bolster his fund raising. The other side is unrelenting.

On the other hand, I believe it is not too far out to use a Bain & Co. analogy for Governor Romney’s situation. If elected, what we may be witnessing is a highly leveraged reverse take over of America’s White House. His SuperPACs are well funded by anonymous and mostly silent donors and donations. Should Gov. Romney win the White House, the people who largely put him there don’t view their money as a donation though; its an investment, thank you very much! So expect the billions paid in, to be subject to a notional first mortgage.

Money can be found in all the cracks and crevices of the political system. From earmarks and pork barrelling in general, to earmarks for those bridges to nowhere, from lobbyists for those earmarks, to the oddly higher percentage of wealthy people in Congress, compared to the population at large. Another whole arena of money in politics is the American debt, deficit and the management of its Treasury. All of them politcised, and weaponized in today’s politics. This is a right wing strategy, the earlier mentiond Congressional trio at the heart of much of the damaging things being done with this at the expense of Americans at large.  I will leave all these to another day.

However, there is one further money in politics matter that I think worthy of note to you now. When considering for whom to vote.  It may seem small in the scheme of things. Yet, it looms large in my mind because it underscores the system of beliefs that point to underlying moral character for Pres. Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney. This is there own personal financial management.

In the case of Pres. Obama, he has been open about his money. Indeed, has shared full details. It is also possible to construct what he has done / is doing with his money. What do we see there? Well, here is an interesting breakdown by Walter Hickey on How Barack Obama made His Fortune. I think its worth a read. In short, Obama has bet on America. He is playing it straight up, and safe. No creative and exotic tax minimizing strategies, “blind trusts” or the like. Plain vanilla, or is it plain chocolate? Whatever….

As for Governor Romney, well, it is not clear and as we all know, much of it is secret and will never be shared. Tough potatoes to the masses – “you people”. I think though that the business of Bain is a good reflection of his personal strategies too. What we know, is that a good deal of his wealth is buried, like treasure, offshore in the Caribbean. His approach has been to spend much time and money looking for ways to not pay taxes to the American treasury.

Yet, I can’t help but think of GM@Janesville and the people out of good jobs there since 2008/2009. You know, in Paul Ryan’s hometown, the factory that we hear so much about. Why is Gov. Romney’s money sitting on the beach so to speak, as far as America’s treasury is concerned? It could be in Janesville, invested in America and Americans.

Karl Rove’s American Crossroads GPS, the SuperPAC, is aptly named for this election. America is indeed at a Crossroads. She is facing perhaps one of the greatest decisions of her life. Will she choose the path to recovery and I think also to reinforcing the roots of her democracy? To raising the exchange rate between money and votes, reducing corrosion of the political system? Or the path of a leveraged reverse take over of the White House? Bought with a little bit of promised trickle down “cash back” to you, and a notional mortgage on your American Dream?

Pres. Obama mentioned at the DNC the words Hope and Change. There he goes again! In a different vein though than in 2008. He said, you are the change. The American people. I too believe it is you who powers change. You still have that power. Why don’t you use it to give him a mandate for real change that you can believe in?

Change in the way of voting in a new Congress! Enable greater movement Forward!

Forward with a faster paced recovery!

Forward on social issues!

Forward on keeping the franchise intact and money out of politics!

Forward to yet a more perfect union!

I am excited and looking forward to see what direction Americans choose election day. Indeed, it is your choice, what will you choose?

This is a watershed year in America – what ever you do, make sure you vote!

 

References

http://constitutionus.com/

http://www.iwantmyvote.com/recount/history/

http://www.scholastic.com/teachers/article/history-right-vote

http://www.quotecounterquote.com twofold/2010/11/government-of-people-by-people-for.html

http://www25.uua.org/uuhs/duub/articles/theodoreparker.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Theodore_Parker

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Karl_Rove

http://www.thenation.com/article/169915/citizens-united-corporate-court#

http://www.washingtonpost.com/national/carter-says-american-democracy-threatened-by-financial-influence-of-secret-wealthy-donors/2012/09/12/6aa03e18-fc91-11e1-98c6-ec0a0a93f8eb_story.html

http://www.boston.com/news/local/rhode-island/2012/09/14/alito-says-supreme-court-misunderstood-media/onnoFr6jnCEhI2c3KDMX9I/story.html

http://www.time.com/time/nation/article/0,8599,107219,00.html

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=2&cad=rja&ved=0CC0QFjAB&url=http%3A%2F%2Fworks.bepress.com%2Fcontext%2Fjonathan_thessin%2Farticle%2F1001%2Ftype%2Fnative%2Fviewcontent&ei=nS9VUNKJBMjs0gH5uIHYCQ&usg=AFQjCNGWN06OJudt4ra27Q6czqhefREufA&sig2=uRPBQCHXVq_QY5laR2LuFw

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_democracy

http://books.google.ca/books/about/The_Origins_of_Democratic_Thinking.html?id=Bp04AAAAIAAJ&redir_esc=y

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Supermajority

http://www.project-syndicate.org/commentary/blood-sport-politics-by-anne-marie-slaughter

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/09/10/opinion/krugman-obstruct-and-exploit.html?_r=2&ref=columnists

http://www.businessinsider.com/22-statistics-that-prove-the-middle-class-is-being-systematically-wiped-out-of-existence-in-america-2010-7

http://www.businessinsider.com/barack-obama-tax-return-income-assets-2012-9?op=1

http://www.usconstitution.net/consttop_cnb.html

https://www.google.com/search?hl=en&sclient=psy-ab&q=romney+rolling+stones&oq=romney+rolling+stones&gs_l=serp.3..0l6j0i46j46i47l2j0.3290640.3295323.0.3295612.23.6.1.0.0.0.1357.2933.2j1j0j1j6-1j1.6.0.les%3B..0.0…1c.1.CZy-4pPCE20

http://www.bain.com/

http://www.ivillage.com/barack-obama-s-dnc-speech-you-were-change/8-a-485426

http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/2012/10/michael-lewis-profile-barack-obama

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Are we better off than four years ago? What will Obama say at the DNC in Charlotte?

Sunday, on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, George asked White House Senior Adviser David Plouffe three times whether the United States is now better off than four years ago. It was entertaining to watch Plouffe, who did not directly answer that question.

To some people it may seem odd that Plouffe didn’t answer head on. Stephanopoulos’ three-peat implies, and many right-wing political commentators are saying, that Obama is culpable and America deserves better. Although I agree the Plouffe conversation was odd, it was not odd because he didn’t directly answer the question. Let me explain.

Obviously, it is a dangerous question to answer directly. No matter what you say, you seem to make the excuse that it is former president George W. Bush‘ fault. I know Pres. Barack Obama approaches things with truth. So the only other alternative is a truthful answer – that America is now approaching where she was four years ago. People have been through hell and don’t really feel things are getting that much better yet, and might not for a while. However, things are getting better and the pace will accelerate, Europe and China willing.

For Republicans, led by Gov. Mitt Romney, fiction is perhaps a third answer. They seem happy with fiction, including three-hour marathons, social and fiscal policies based on Ayn Rand’s novel “Atlas Shrugged” and indeed, an entirely fictional world, akin (or perhaps Akin?) to Alice in Wonderland. A world wherein Gov. Romney is divining an alternate, amnesiac history of America’s arrival to this election. (You can refer to the link below for my September 1, 2012 article “Only a single set of footprints remain at the Tampa RNC” for elaboration on that world.)

I think, in order to avoid a potential “gotcha” moment, Plouffe repeatedly answered indirectly and in a way that left that four letter word “Bush” out of the sentence. It seems that neither side can bear to say it. I believe Pres. Obama well understands and is carrying out his challenging responsibilities. He is not looking for scapegoats or sympathy and he credits the American people with the capacity to remember who was George W. Bush. Certainly though, no one is going to ask where is he?

The oddity to me is this – why was Stephanopoulos so persistently asking the wrong question? Now my thinking might seem odd to you! But think of this. Four years after Katrina hit New Orléans – was it reasonable to ask New Orléans if it was better off than before Katrina? Four years after 9/11 – was it reasonable to ask New York or America if it was better off than before 9/11? Self-evident answers. No. And no.

You can argue 9/11 or Katrina was a greater human tragedy. However, the impact on America of the 2008 financial system meltdown and the ensuing recession is unprecedented except for the Great Depression. Also, and importantly, by their nature and condition, America’s challenges – fiscal, financial system, economic and political; created what has been a deep and intractable recession.

Bush created the elements of the underlying intractable situation in America. Borne of two fundamental things he did over his 8 year tenure. First, he set America on what is best described as her Titanic course, by fundamentally altering the U.S. fiscal and budget situation. He started with a yearly income that was reducing America’s borrowing and turned that into a massive yearly loss, and in doing that he dramatically ramped up borrowing. He did more than just create a fundamental shortfall in revenue compared to costs. In fact, he created a fast growing, exponentially growing, shortfall. And a fast growing national debt. He did this principally by enacting the now famous “Bush tax cuts” and also large “unfunded” Medicare entitlement and war spending increases.

The second thing Bush did, was enable the engineering and installation of WMD in America’s financial system. For example, he enabled NINJA, or no-income, no-job mortgages and loans. Plus the creation and sale of trillions of dollars of mortgage and loan packages that were seeded with these toxic bad loans and related derivatives. Thereby multiplying their toxic impact more than tenfold. And the WMD were duly set off just as Bush left office with their full damage and destruction evident only after some 12 months.

This is what generated this Great Intractable Recession. It bears noting that the financial meltdown made it more severe than a typical business cycle recession. A strong financial system and a strong fiscal situation are the main tools for generating a quick recovery. Given what Bush’ era and the WMD had wrought, America’s confidence and on the restorative leverage of her financial and fiscal condition cannot help, and in fact, impair her recovery.

And that red elephant we see every day that is riding, kicking and screaming, on the President’s back? Yeah, that is a big part of the challenge too….

The right question(s)? Try these:

  • What has it been like fighting back from the twin financial and economic calamities?
  • What are the things already done, what are you doing now?
  • How far along are we in the recovery phase? It seems to be taking forever.
  • What can everyone do to help move America forward?
  • What can we expect in the next 4 years if Obama is re-elected?
  • Oh and of course, how has it been carrying that big red elephant on your back?

I think Obama and his team are going to answer some of these questions for everyone this week at the Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.

So stay tuned!

References.

http://www.allvoices.com/contributed-news/12889195-footprints-at-the-republican-national-convention-in-tampa-florida

http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/week-transcript-obama-senior-adviser-david-plouffe/story?id=17116438

http://www.boston.com/politicalintelligence/2012/09/02/democrats-defend-president-obama-after-mitt-romney-says-americans-are-not-better-off-than-they-were-four-years-ago/KS2ogcsMiaCzwrQnO6gJdO/story.html?rss_id=Top+Stories

http://newsbusters.org/blogs/pj-gladnick/2012/09/02/david-plouffe-dodges-stephanopoulos-better-four-years-ago-question-thre

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After the RNC in Tampa, only a single set of footprints remains

The Republicans wrapped up their convention in Tampa last Thursday. It was an impressively successful exercise in alternate reality. Indeed, it often seemed like “Alice in Wonderland.” Let me explain.

The beautiful Ann Romney as Alice; Clint Eastwood as an Albert Einstein-inspired Mad Hatter; former Massachusetts governor and GOP nominee Mitt Romney, with his incessantly cocked head and deceitful grin, as the Cheshire Cat; Paul Ryan, with his fictional Ayn Rand principles and his fact-check fails on Obama’s views, proposals and policies, as the wonderland itself.

Mitt and Paul also divined, especially for the GOP Fantasy Convention, an alternate history of America’s arrival here. The convention featured, courtesy of Mad Harry, a discussion with President Obama, who was “present” but not as an African American, but rather as a colorless man, or, I guess, an apparition.

What a show it was! It underscores the dysfunctional political three-ring circus that is “modern” America. I think such politics have raised the steep hurdles America and indeed as collateral damage, the global community faces too. What is at the core of this Wonderland, you ask? Well, it is the notion that President Obama is somehow an empty suit, or as Mad Harry illustrated in his circus like presentation, an empty seat at Mad Harry’s Tea Party.

It is the notion that the president of the United States has been AWOL from day one. Despite probably being a nice guy, he is incompetent, in over his head and incapable. You know, that despite all the prayers, blessings and support of the GOP, Obama is failing America. Somehow, the President should just step aside, accept his fate, and let a real man take over. Or is it a real corporation? In the form of Mitt Romney & Co. Sure, Obama inherited a bit of a tough situation from that other guy whose name shall never again cross our lips in public, but hey; that was then and this is now!

Well, let truth ring throughout the land! This situation America faces is like no other. Not even the Great Depression. While the Depression was economically worse, the 2008 meltdown and current long slow recovery is nearly as bad. And it is I believe, actually worse in terms of the politics, given the GOP war on all things Obama. Let’s apply the salve of truth to heal the wounds, to climb back up and out of the Rabbit Hole, or Romney Hood, or whatever…. and restore America and the American Dream……

The truth is that George W. Bush handed President Obama a colossal, intractable mess. It was borne of two fundamental things that Bush did as president. First, he set America on her Titanic course. He fundamentally altered the annual U.S. budget situation – taking a yearly income that was reducing America’s borrowing and turning it into a massive annual loss, thereby dramatically ramping up borrowing. He did that within his first two years in office. He did it by altering both sides of the budget equation – he enacted huge tax cuts, and also large entitlement and war spending increases. Less income, more expense.

This Titanic course, or perhaps more a Titanic curse – he cast in stone. The political challenges of reversing it are nearly impossible to meet. It requires either raising taxes or cutting spending on valued programs, and more likely both. Further, it is stymied by the new politics of filibustering and other obstructionist tactics by the minority against the majority – what I would call the anti-democracy.

The second thing Bush did is enable the engineering and installation of WMD in America’s financial system. For example, he enabled NINJA , or no-income, no-job mortgages and loans. And the creation and sale of trillions of dollars of mortgage and loan packages that were seeded with these toxic bad loans and related derivatives. These NINJA loans were thereby multiplied more than tenfold. And these economic WMD were duly set off just as Bush left office.

The impact, as we are all painfully aware, was near collapse of America’s and, by extension, the developed world’s, financial systems, along with George Bush’s ensuing America-led global recession. Like the Titanic rapidly taking on water and listing, America lost jobs at a rate of some 750,000 each month! And like the Titanic‘s iron hull colliding with the iceberg, the financial meltdown was especially damaging in a way that a typical business cycle recession is not. It was actually catastrophic. One of the main tools for dealing with a typical recession is the financial system. America’s confidence and the restorative leverage available from this tool, was not only damaged, it was very nearly destroyed.

Yet, the TARP program and Obama’s stimulus ended that dramatic death spiral in some 18 months. Unfortunately, this inflicted on America the painful loss of some 4 million jobs. And it robbed America of the principle tools needed for her recovery, such as a strong financial system and fiscal situation. If there is a president to fault, that absolutely is Bush’ fault. We all know that.

In the following two years Obama plugged the gaping hole in America’s hull. The stimulus, health care and other policies Obama has managed to get done have nearly recovered the 4 million lost jobs. The ship is nearly righted. Now, as President Obama has said that is hardly enough, and he is working to get much more done. I would say, given this full context, that it is hardly nothing, either.

The incredible thing is that Obama has walked pretty much alone here – ironically, a bit like the characters from Clint’s movies. Congressional leaders have failed him. Perhaps rather, they decided to be unhelpful in what they still think is a clever sort of way. The GOP’s war on Obama is effective given the tyranny possible by minority party filibustering and other blocking maneuverings. The GOP; the Party of anti-democracy in America.

This is no hypothesis or fantasy; it is fact. GOP leaders are candid, vocal and clear about this war. They are on record. It is their intention to stop Obama and what that has meant is slowing or even stopping America’s recovery. This, in hopes of – wait for it…. Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan and others being able to say what they said in Wonderland Tampa. Somehow its all President Obama’s fault. Mitt’s speech was, more or less, written in December of 2008, together with the GOP game plan to make it so Obama couldn’t build that recovery.

Its like the footprints in the sand…… you know, the parable, but paraphrased a bit. Looking back, Mitt and the Republicans see just one set of footprints in the sand where they were walking and Obama was trying to work together with them.

Mitt and the GOP look back and point to the one set of footprints, knowing full well whose they are. And, they cry “Mr. President, you have failed us! You have not led, and were not even at our side during our time of need! You are not capable of helping!”

Yet, in truth, we know those are Obama’s footprints. This whole time calmly carrying all Americans forward to a better future…..