Update: Stairway To Heaven

Climbing_Serious Business_2Okay okay.  The title is hyperbole.  It’s not so much a stairway to heaven as a ladder to my laughing place.

Then again, I don’t really laugh up there.  I smile, feel good, enjoy the silence, daydream.

I guess that makes it more a non-pharmaceutical mood elevator.

Why do we seek high places?  We generally look up when we pray.  We don’t send our prayers into the dirt, we launch them out and upwards to float into the ether of spiritual space.  We certainly don’t ever aspire to the lower moral ground.  We don’t say, ‘I’m at the bottom of the world.’  We don’t declare, ‘I had a valley experience.’  When we smoke a joint we don’t get low.  In fact, quite a bit of what we do is to attempt to elevate ourselves to a higher level, a higher plane.

I guess we just assume that somewhere “up there” is some comfort.  Maybe some answers.  And if we don’t get the answers we need, at least we have a nice view or easy exhilaration.

Before I came to Japan, I thought — like I believe most Americans think — Japan was a concrete jungle.  Skyscrapers, lots of neon, bright lights, huge flat panels displays on the sides of towering buildings, set on an sprawling basin of cement and asphalt.

70% of Japan is covered in forests.  The forests cover the endless peaks and escarpments of countless volcanic mounds, hills, and mountains.  They don’t build structures on top of these elevations.  Certainly not buildings and luxury homes.  Thus the dominant motif is unspoiled natural beauty, just about everywhere you look, except of course the towns and cities.  For a small country, Japan has an abundance of breathtaking scenery, hundreds of miles of hiking trails, thousands of miles of back-country roads.

I’ve written two previous articles about my trek up the small mountain near my house.  As the seasons change, much about the trek alters enough to keep it fresh.  At the same time, it is what remains constant which is the attraction.  That and the convenience.  I literally ride five minutes from my home to the trail head on my bicycle.

I think of America.  Hard as I tried, I could hardly do anything without getting in a car.

How much my life has changed.

(Click on the pictures and they will open up full-scale.)

STH_Photo Pair #1STH_Photo Pair #2STH_Photo Pair #3STH_Photo Pair #4STH_Photo Pair #5Peace!

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In a land of pigs . . . bacon is a sacrament!

It’s easy to talk of American exceptionalism.

But what do we have to show for it?

An economy that’s on the verge of collapse.

A military that can’t win wars.

A democracy which is no longer a democracy.

A citizenry more divided than united about almost everything.

Except maybe . . . how exceptional we are!

Patriotic Hulk HoganThe U.S. is now considered the greatest threat to world peace on the planet.

I guess that puts us in a class by ourselves.

But . . . exceptional?

Disturbing yes.  Probably embarrassing.  Unprecedented perhaps.  Maybe shameful.

But exceptional?  To whom?  By what measure?

Aah . . . by our own exceptional standards!

In a land of pigs, bacon is a sacrament.

Oink oink!

 

Posted in Democracy, Economics, Nihilism, Philosophy, Political Analysis, Political Rant, Social Commentary, War and Peace | Tagged , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

ASD: A Pandemic for an Empire in Decline

Suffering from ASD?

It’s important to label everything, as if giving something a name somehow establishes control over it, mastery.  If it’s a disease, just being able to say, “It’s obvious that this person suffers from catalomistic phrenapsidia,” puts us well on the road to a cure.

An acronym is even better!  Three or four letters does the trick.  Knowing that 10.2% of our children are ADHD, coupled with the understanding that we can douse them with all sorts of miracle drugs — prescription meth — puts us all at ease.  Situation under control!

I’ve come up with both a new pathology and a self-generated acronym that sums up what seems to afflict our political leadership — or lack of leadership might be more accurate.

ASD!

Doesn’t it just roll off your tongue?

While phonetically it’s a cousin of LSD, and you could certainly speculate about possible fanciful connections, LSD is just short for its chemical name — lysergic acid diethylamide.  ASD tends to be more descriptive and incisive, comprehensive, and indeed incriminating.  It says just about all that needs to be said about behavior that seems counter-productive, anti-social, self-serving, self-obsessed, even ultimately self-destructive, manifestly driven by values most of us don’t understand, much less share.

ASD stands for Advanced Sociopathic Disorder.

What are the symptoms of sociopathy?

  • Glibness and Superficial Charm
  • Manipulative and Conning
    They never recognize the rights of others and see their self-serving behaviors as permissible. They appear to be charming, yet are covertly hostile and domineering, seeing their victim as merely an instrument to be used. They may dominate and humiliate their victims.
  • Grandiose Sense of Self
    Feels entitled to certain things as “their right.”
  • Pathological Lying
    Has no problem lying coolly and easily and it is almost impossible for them to be truthful on a consistent basis. Can create, and get caught up in, a complex belief about their own powers and abilities. Extremely convincing and even able to pass lie detector tests.
  • Lack of Remorse, Shame or Guilt
    A deep seated rage, which is split off and repressed, is at their core. Does not see others around them as people, but only as targets and opportunities. Instead of friends, they have victims and accomplices who end up as victims. The end always justifies the means and they let nothing stand in their way.
  • Shallow Emotions
    When they show what seems to be warmth, joy, love and compassion it is more feigned than experienced and serves an ulterior motive. Outraged by insignificant matters, yet remaining unmoved and cold by what would upset a normal person. Since they are not genuine, neither are their promises.
  • Incapacity for Love
  • Need for Stimulation
    Living on the edge. Verbal outbursts and physical punishments are normal. Promiscuity and gambling are common.
  • Callousness/Lack of Empathy
    Unable to empathize with the pain of their victims, having only contempt for others’ feelings of distress and readily taking advantage of them.
  • Poor Behavioral Controls/Impulsive Nature
    Rage and abuse, alternating with small expressions of love and approval produce an addictive cycle for abuser and abused, as well as creating hopelessness in the victim. Believe they are all-powerful, all-knowing, entitled to every wish, no sense of personal boundaries, no concern for their impact on others.
  • Irresponsibility/Unreliability
    Not concerned about wrecking others’ lives and dreams. Oblivious or indifferent to the devastation they cause. Does not accept blame themselves, but blames others, even for acts they obviously committed.
  • Promiscuous Sexual Behavior/Infidelity
    Promiscuity, child sexual abuse, rape and sexual acting out of all sorts.
  • Lack of Realistic Life Plan/Parasitic Lifestyle
    Tends to move around a lot or makes all encompassing promises for the future, poor work ethic but exploits others effectively.

Given this characterization, maybe I’m being unfair in exclusively singling out our leaders.  Perhaps it’s an affliction that is spreading virally down through much of our society.

Certainly there are good, decent, caring, kind, compassionate people all around.  Yet we tolerate, even celebrate, egomania and narcissism like it’s a national religion.  A sign of the times?  Or a symptom of societal malaise, massive disillusion, and a spiritual vacuum.  Is there no public path to self-aggrandizement and extravagance which isn’t acceptable now?  Can we make it through a day without taking a selfie?

So Selfie Baby!

They say desperate times call for desperate measures.

Maybe desperate times create desperate people.

And desperate people?  What is their future?

If they were only dangerous to themselves, that would be one thing.

But . . .

(And now we turn our attention back to our leaders.)

When we see the recklessness of the sociopaths running things these days, we need to seriously ask ourselves.

Who is to stop them? 

If they aren’t listening to others . . .

. . . and there’s no voice of conscience on the inside . . .

Then what will stop them from destroying everything?

Because there’s no denying . . .

It would be a truly AWESOME SELFIE!

#POTD

Awesome Selfie

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TPP . . . just extrapolate and you’ll get it.

Because of some trademark or product protectionist agreement or with Bayer, there is no such thing as generic aspirin here in Japan.

They sell aspirin in blister packs, ten to a package, for a little over $8.00 here. As if aspirin is some sort of amazing wonder drug.

Therefore, this bottle which I bought the last time I was in America for $6.99 here in Japan would cost over $240.00!

This is a simple example of how what would appear to be an innocuous patent agreement can dramatically impact the cost and availability of a consumer item.

I bring this up because the public is finally beginning to wake up to the perils of the TPP, a so-called free trade agreement aggressively being promoted by the Obama administration.

The type of arrangement which priced my aspirin in the stratosphere will exponentially expand under TPP.  Of course, this only scratches the surface in terms of the horrifying implications.  TPP is a weapon of mass socio-political devastation.  Here is the entire text.

There are 12 countries included in the TPP:  U.S., Japan, Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Chile, Vietnam, New Zealand, Singapore, Canada, Mexico, and Brunei Darussalam, representing 11.3% of the world population and 40% of the total economic activity across the planet.

TPP will affect just about everything bought and sold, used by most of us on a regular basis —  food, clothing, medications, movies, songs, cars, smart phones, furniture — you name it and TPP will be there with its hairy arms wrapped around it one way or another. 

The TPP trade agreement runs over 5,000 pages.  It’s been in formulation and negotiation for over three years.  Until very recently, it has been completely kept from the public eye — literally it was subject to a top secret classification and anyone even attempting to discuss its details was subject to fines and imprisonment — which alone should have raised major red flags about its contents.  Parts of it were leaked and then finally the entire text of this burdensome document was released.  Now the worst suspicions of those issuing warnings all along have been confirmed.  There is so much to condemn about this diabolical gift to corporations, we could go on for months detailing its egregious agenda and ruthless grab for power.  Much of the analysis and resulting critique is very technical.  Most people can be forgiven for having their eyes glaze over and their attention wander.

I offer my simple anecdotal tale to make this complex issue real and accessible.

I submit it as a typical dose of daily life and hopefully a loud wake-up call.

Corporations do whatever they can to maximize profit . . . period!

Corporations are not community-minded or people-oriented.

Corporations are not loyal to countries or their citizens.

Corporations are not in the business of being nice.

They are only in business to make money.  Anything which stand in the way of making money must be eliminated or changed.

We’ve had NAFTA, CAFTA, GATT, WTO.

TPP is now the last in a long list of systematic efforts to fashion the rules, engineer the marketplace, game the system, load the dice, all in the name of making greater profits.  The TPP is a brilliant, if insidious redesign of the macro-economic regime to favor profit over people, corporations over government, faceless multinational corporate hegemony over local community and citizen control.  Please understand . . .

TPP is not an abstraction. It is a genuine threat.

TPP is the worst trade agreement in history.

TPP will crush people under the weight of corporate greed.

TPP will destroy America as a sovereign nation and a functioning democracy.

TPP will destroy any hope for citizens having a say in the future of this country.

TPP will imprison the 99% and make us permanent slaves of the corporate state.

TPP is misleadingly named the Trans-Pacific Partnership and is being sold as a trade agreement.  It in fact is neither.  It is not a partnership of nations.  Nor is it a mere trade agreement.  Designed by multinational corporations, mostly headquartered in America, it is a supra-national framework for destroying the sovereignty of nations and giving citizens of those nations — that’s you and I — even less say in the industries and marketplace which produce and make available the items we purchase, including the basic necessities of life.

As workers, it gives us less power to improve our wages and working conditions.  Worker safety will suffer, union organizing will become all but impossible.

As consumers, the quality and safety of everything we buy will be compromised.  It will be a race to the bottom, as any attempt at regulation and requiring transparency is challenged under rules limiting and barring practices which interfere with pursuit of profits.

As members of communities, any and all of our efforts, both local and national regulation of environmental conditions — meaning he purity and safety of our ground, air, and water — will come under attack, and all of the progress made to improve the environment over many decades will unravel.

The evil step-sister of TPP is TTIP — the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership — a nearly identical regime of corporate tyranny targeting the 28 nations of the European Union which is simultaneously under negotiation and aggressively being promoted by our self-described “progressive” president.

Greenpeace just managed to leak 13 of 17 chapters of the most recent version of TTIP.

There have been massive demonstrations and riots going on in Europe against TTIP for quite some time now.  The release of the text of TTIP has heightened tensions even more.

U.S. citizens might just want to ask themselves:  What’s all the fuss about?

Europe TTIP Protest

Posted in Corporatism, Deconstruction, Democracy, Economics, Environment, Health Care, Political Analysis | Tagged , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Candidate Contracts: Replacing Bad Brains With Good Brains

Abnormal BrainDemocracy is dead in America.

Representatives no longer represent.

I’m reminded of the classic comedy featuring Gene Wilder and Peter Boyle . . . Young Frankenstein.

Why was the Frankenstein creation a monster, disloyal, cold-hearted and destructive?

He had a bad brain.

A bad brain results in bad behavior.

The brains of our elected officials, the monsters who roam the two legislative bodies of our government, the Senate and the House of Representatives, have been corrupted by money, effectively destroyed, are now lacking the capacity to fulfill their constitutional mandate. They no longer are controlled by the citizens who elected them to office.  They now are exclusively the lapdogs of the rich and powerful — disloyal, cold-hearted, destructive.

Todays Typical CongressmanWe must replace the bad brains.

I call this procedure a lapdogectomy.

The lapdogs must go.  They must be replaced with good brains, those individuals who are willing to respond to the needs of their constituents — those candidates who will guarantee to us the voters that they will do the job we elect them to do.

How do we know who has a bad brain and who has a good brain?

The candidate contract is actually better than an MRI or CATSCAN in this respect.

After we the people have decided what issues are critical — based on numerous credible issue polls, there already is a good list of what the public wants done but isn’t getting done — we formulate candidate contracts spelling out in no uncertain terms what we expect our elected representatives in Congress to do IMMEDIATELY UPON ARRIVAL in the nation’s capital.  The contracts are presented to every candidate for office in the coming election.

Candidates with bad brains refuse to sign them.

Candidates with good brains gladly sign them.

We do not vote for people with bad brains.

We only vote for people with good brains.

Make sense?

Replace bad brains with good brains.

Could it be any easier?

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Tonya Harding School of International Diplomacy

Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya HardingI’m always looking for clever, incisive, powerful ways to characterize complex ideas, compact little nuggets that sum it all up, say everything that needs to be said, a summation perhaps captured by a short and snappy phrase, a zingy meme, a stark self-contained image or dramatic self-evident diorama, which steers clear of the boredom and excess of dense and convoluted explications, conflated with histrionic exposition and other contrived manipulations.

Actually that last sentence is a lot like the kind of thing I’m try to avoid.

Too many words and too much self-indulgent grandstanding. 

Use a Thesaurus, go to jail.

Anyway, I was trying to think of a clever way of summing up America’s foreign policy.

And by golly, I think I have it!

Remember the competition between Tonya Harding and Nancy Kerrigan at the U.S. Nationals for two spots on the American Olympic team.  This was back it 1994.

It was obvious to Tonya she had met her match. Nancy was giving her a real run for her money.  So what did Tonya Harding do?

She hired a thug to bludgeon Kerrigan’s knee cap with a huge pipe.

And that anecdote, ladies and gentlemen, sums up America’s approach to international diplomacy!

If you get in our way, expect to get whacked!

Sometimes we just bomb the shit out of a country.  Whoever crawls out of the rubble tends to have a more conciliatory disposition.

If that proves inconvenient, or might lead to too much condemnation by the international community (there are a lot of wimps out there who just don’t “get it”) the U.S. will resort to secretive special ops units, color revolutions, weaponized diseases, hybrid warfare — propaganda, NGOs, social media, cyber attacks — to the same effect.  Once chaos has properly taken root in the targeted nation, down a civilian airliner, throw in some random assassinations, blockades, economic sanctions, create no-fly zones, engineer currency devaluation, invoke shrill comparisons to Adolph Hitler, blow up a hospital, and BINGO!  Mission accomplished!

Tonya-Harding-NowI’m sure there are others who would like to claim credit for the U.S.’s our-way-or-the-highway approach to working with other nations, but let’s at least give a visible nod of appreciation to the young lady who best epitomizes this exceptionalist philosophy.

Tonya . . . you will always be a true winner in our eyes, regardless of how grotesquely fat and ugly you’ve gotten over the years.

After all, it was you that boldly exemplified what has become the fundamental tenets of America’s current foreign policy:

  1.  We make the rules.
  2.  Winning is everything.
  3.  Preemptive attacks are awesome.
  4.  All is fair because we say it is.
  5.  Playing nice is for pussies.

If I can be so bold as to suggest it, I believe that it’s high time that Harvard or Princeton or other equally prestigious institutions of higher learning, set aside the resources and proper institutional setting for perpetuating and promoting this visionary philosophy of imperial order, and appropriately call it the “Tonya Harding School of International Diplomacy”.

I’m already feeling the public excitement building for this and imagine that shortly after this article appears, crowdfunding on Kickstarter or Rockethub for this idea will get off to a rip-roaring start.

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Putting Boots (Birkenstocks) on the Ground: Part VIII

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton speaks at the New Hampshire Democratic Party's Jefferson Jackson dinner in ManchesterPeople understandably ask:  “What good can the candidate contracts do?  Can they really make a difference?”

The answer to that comes in two pieces.

First, anything is only as good as its application.  That is, a hammer is only valuable if you manage to hit the nail and driving the nail is part of building something that is important and positive, like a new house, school, or community center.  How about a twenty-foot wall on the Mexican border?  (Just kidding!)

The candidate contract has to be implemented properly, it has to be wielded effectively.  I’ve described in Part 7 how it can be used to demonize the traitors and promote the true supporters of representative democracy.  Once the candidate contract strategy is in play — hopefully on a national level where it achieves some critical mass and becomes “news” — it literally will establish a new standard for the way candidates are assessed in terms of their worthiness for public office — a precise way to determine whether we are going to vote for them or not.

It can do this — and here is the second piece of my answer — because it accomplishes with exactitude something which so far has been annoyingly elusive, and intentionally so.

The candidate contract hands us a bulletproof method for discovering beyond a shadow of doubt where a candidate stands on issues.

No more empty campaign rhetoric.  No more vague language.  No more double speak.

It’s all in black-and-white.

Let me demonstrate this and in doing so answer another question I’ve often gotten . . .

“Can this work with presidential candidates?”

TPP and its evil step-sisters, TPIP and TISA, are the most heinous “trade agreements” in our history.  The majority of American citizens are just starting to wake up to the horrible consequences if these agreements.

Both Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton have been confronted as to where they stand on TPP.  Bernie Sanders has unequivocally come out against it.  He has been consistent on this for as long as TPP reared its ugly head. On the other hand, Ms. Hillary as Secretary of State clearly supported and promoted it.  But now she is waffling, introducing vague and manifestly misleading language to deflect potential supporters from reviewing her record or from drawing the obvious conclusion:  As a corporatist shill she is loyal to Wall Street, she is loyal to the big banks, she is loyal to the trans-national corporate interests behind this nefarious trade agreement.

Initially, Hillary said “This TPP sets the gold standard in trade agreements to open free, transparent, fair trade, the kind of environment that has the rule of law and a level playing field.”  More recently here is what the mistress-of-the-duplicitous said:  “I waited until it had actually been negotiated because I did want to give the benefit of the doubt to the (Obama) administration.  Once I saw what the outcome was, I opposed it.”

This, of course, resulted in all sorts of analysis and debate on where she really stands.

I say:  Why don’t we just cut through this silly waste of time and energy and determine with absolute certainty where Ms. Clinton and Mr. Sanders come down on TPP, an issue which dramatically shapes the future of international commerce and geopolitics for generations to come? 

Let me offer a candidate contract:

Candidate Contract_TPP_Bernie Sanders, consistent with his voting record and public pronouncements, would sign this in a heartbeat.

Hillary LaughingI can only speculate, but I believe Hillary would laugh, roll her eyes, do that Hillary “thing” she does so well, and brush it aside. 

Frankly, there is no way she could sign it.  If she did, she couldn’t do the job her corporate masters hired her to do.

And that’s exactly how the candidate contracts work.

Now we know exactly what we need to know.

It’s in black-and-white.  The choice is clear.

Now we know how to vote.

Apply this methodology issue-by-issue, candidate-by-candidate, and suddenly the smoke and mirrors are gone.  The voting public can make informed decisions about who they want representing them in Washington DC, in both Congress and the White House.

The candidate contract strategy is offered in concise terms along with the opportunity to join a citizens campaign which implements it here:  http://f-r-e-e.us.

It is fully explored and elucidated in great detail in two of my recent books:

CC_eBook Cover_Final_200x300 “Candidate Contracts: Taking Back Our Democracy” was published middle of last year and is available worldwide from all the usual suspects:

Amazon (Kindle)  . . . amzn.to/1QJRiNZ
Amazon (Print) . . . amzn.to/1Cuq0du
Apple (iTunes) . . . apple.co/1BXnPcy
Barnes & Noble . . . bit.ly/1GpTTLq
Kobo (Indigo) . . . bit.ly/1OEI2xj
Smashwords . . . bit.ly/1B4DQCp
Direct from printer . . . bit.ly/1MGjDnN

 

!!!FFTDWD_Cover_200x300Fighting for the Democracy We Deserve” was published this past September and also is available both in every popular ebook format and as a deluxe paperback:

Amazon (Kindle) . . . amzn.to/1VMf2Ft
Amazon (Print) . . . amzn.to/1L9SdIC
Apple (iTunes) . . . apple.co/1JD1YAg
Barnes & Noble . . . bit.ly/1ZUJUpn
Kobo (Indigo) . . . bit.ly/1IX6rO4
Smashwords . . . bit.ly/22PXWLf
Direct from printer . . . bit.ly/1i7ISFM

 

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Putting Boots (Birkenstocks) on the Ground: Part VII

Weeping Statue of Liberty_2This again builds on preceding articles, which outline my approach to community-based “regime change” activism.  I recommend you read them first to fully appreciate what now follows here.

Part I
Part II
Part III
Part IV
Part V
Part VI

It’s easy to get discouraged — even become cynical — when viewing our current electoral system.  The news is highly sensationalized.  Much coverage is quite superficial, focusing on human drama, scandal, who’s up who’s down, more resembling reporting of celebrity gossip and sports team rivalry than offering responsible perspectives on political matters.

Of course, the Democrats and Republicans are fine with this, neither truly committed to representing the needs and demands of the voting public.  Anything which distracts us from realizing their indifference to the everyday citizen is to their benefit and welcomed.  Along the same lines, they stubbornly prevent minor party candidates from participating in debates, guaranteeing the absence of fresh ideas or meaningful controversy. A genuine, thoughtful and rewarding national conversation about the challenges confronting both the country as a whole and us as individual citizens appears impossible in this environment.

But is it?

The whole point of this series of Putting Boots (Birkenstocks) on the Ground articles is that it is possible!  But for it to happen we must rely on ourselves.  The corporate media and our government are not going to lead this effort.  In fact, those now in power will do everything to prevent a national conversation of substance from occurring, because it would threaten their privilege and primacy.

Do you think I’m exaggerating?

Just look at the news.  Just look at our choices for president.

Clinton?  Cruz?  Trump?  Is this a bad joke or what?

Bernie Sanders offers a powerful vision and coherent plan for change, which is why he gets virtually no press and faces sure annihilation at convention time.  John Kasich appears not to be a raving lunatic, which in this election clearly disqualifies him from consideration.

Let’s face it:  To come up with a more extreme version of reality, we’d have to resort to reading Franz Kafka novels or watching Andy Warhol movies.

So with nothing better to do than shake my head at the absurdity of it all, I am with no irony or secret agenda trying to salvage something constructive out of this election ordeal. And I start by ignoring the entire presidential three-ring circus and focusing on the only political sphere which by any sensible analysis can make a difference come November.

There is no law — not yet anyway — against any of what I’ve proposed thus far.

We gauge community support and solicit voter endorsement on hot-button issues with citizen petition/pledges.  This is grass-roots democracy in action. 

Based on the (hopefully) substantial number of petition/pledges gathered, we formulate candidate contracts.  All candidates running locally for a particular office are offered the opportunity to sign them.  If possible, extending this offer should occur in a highly public forum — a campaign rally, a town hall meeting, any public event or personal appearance where there are people and reporters.

Because the contracts are so demanding and the associated penalties so severe for breach of their terms, we should expect the mainstream candidates to reject them outright.

A candidate who does sign them — only expect there to be one, probably one identified beforehand by the citizens group which formulated the candidate contracts — should get enormous praise.  He or she deserves love and support, accolades and plaudits, and most of all deserves to get elected.

The candidates who do not — this will often include the incumbent — should be called out, demonized, vilified.  Voters should be clear in their minds about what the contracts mean.  A candidate who signs is on the side of the voters.  Candidates who don’t are working for the rich and powerful.  Sign contract = good!  Don’t sign contract = bad!

Yes, I’m serious.  This is not being simpleminded.  This is just being straightforward.

After all, the contracts equate to a commitment to represent the needs and desires of the voting public.  That’s good!  That’s exactly what we’re trying to accomplish. Democracy of the people, by the people, for the people.

Correspondingly, a failure to embrace and sign the contracts calls into question both the integrity and commitment of a candidate.  I’d say that’s pretty bad, wouldn’t you?

Every opportunity to draw public attention to the contracts — who is on board and who is not, keeping a keen eye for press coverage — should be exploited to fullest advantage and potential for mass exposure. 

Bear in mind that the candidate who signs the contract probably will be independent or minor-party, or running on the short end of the stick against a powerhouse incumbent. Thus he or she will not have much money.  The only way to get around this obstacle is generating free publicity.  Free publicity is obtained by creating news-worthy events.

I believe that if the candidate contracts are wielded properly — not as some polite legal document but as a weapon of mass media engagement — it will not be all that difficult to get them and the candidate who signs them all over the news. It’s just a matter of setting the stage and getting the lighting right.

Let me offer a couple examples.  These may at first seem a bit extreme, but as far as I’m concerned, in the service of real democracy and honest representation, there’s no such thing as ‘too outrageous’.  Having said that, please understand that I’m not advocating dishonesty or mean-spiritedness.  There’s a lot of room for creativity here, without embracing the dark side.

Example #1 . . .

We have an incumbent that won’t sign a contract protecting Social Security.  We have an independent or minor party candidate who has signed it.  So we line up ten or twenty very old people in wheel chairs and block traffic on a major street.  They hold signs that say: “Why won’t Congressman [ name of incumbent ] sign the contract?  I need my Social Security to survive!”  The candidate who did sign it circulates among them holding up the signed contract in one hand, and a poster in the other that says:  “I’m Michael Marvellous. These elderly people deserve our support.  I SIGNED THE CONTRACT!”

Of course, the media was given advance notice for this staged event.  Even if they send second stringers, they’ll still get it all on video. 

Now what’s going to happen?  Are the police going to pepper spray grandma?  Well, now that I think about it, they might.  (Sorry about that, grandma.)  But this is perfect!  I can see the headlines now . . .

Sweet Old Lady in Wheelchair Pepper Sprayed at Protest
Over Incumbent’s Refusal to Support Social Security

How does the expression go? . . . You can’t buy publicity like that!

As if you hadn’t surmised, I am all for street theater, massive protests, civil disobedience, getting arrested, whatever it takes barring violence to get the public to focus on important issues.  What makes no sense to me is when such displays don’t produce the potential for concrete action.  Going on right now as I write this piece is a very admirable effort to make the public aware of how thoroughly our democracy has been corrupted and destroyed by big money in politics.  Sadly, Democracy Spring has gotten very limited media exposure, though its agenda and intent are truly laudable.  So far their biggest claim to notoriety seems to be how many people have been arrested, a new Guinness Book world record!  Other than that, it offers no actionable agenda, no specific legislation, no constitutional amendment, nothing voters can rally around and vote for, other than a vague demand that America needs a new Congress which will listen to the people.

My example draws attention to a specific choice: Vote for a buttplug who, notwithstanding a lot of wonderful sounding campaign rhetoric, doesn’t give one whit about retirees caught in a web of poverty, or vote for a candidate who has signed a legal contract that guarantees he or she will fight to keep Social Security viable, solvent, and sufficient to meet the needs of the elderly who depend on it for a decent life in their golden years.

Voters are given something they can act on.  Vote for a black hat or a white hat.

Let me give one more example, even more dramatic than the last, of how the candidate contract can be used to draw in the media, always hungry for news that “bleeds”.

Major party candidate A refuses to sign a contract to end all the wars in the Middle East.  Candidate B, who has signed the contract, goes to a VA hospital with a talking head from the local television station.  Several patients are wearing ‘Candidate B signed the contract!’ t-shirts.  One of them holds up a sign . . .

If Congress had brought the troops
back home, I’d still have my legs.

The talking head interviews some of the maimed and crippled vets.  Candidate B talks about how “supporting our troops” means not fighting wars we don’t have to fight, going on to explain how most Americans want the wars to end.  He declares his unequivocal support for ending the wars in the Middle East and waves the contract as proof.

Is this manipulative, exploitative?  It’s not as manipulative and exploitative as our leaders lying and leading the country into conflicts it doesn’t have to fight.  It’s not as manipulative as saying one thing when campaigning just to curry favor with potential voters, then going to Washington DC and doing the bidding of lobbyists and fat-cat campaign donors.  And it’s certainly not as exploitative as having our soldiers in the bloom of their youth give their lives for corporate profits or in pursuit of delusional fantasies of world empire.

Sometimes we have to fight fire with fire. 

And always, we have to fight lies with the truth.

Maybe it makes you uncomfortable thinking about grandma getting pepper sprayed or looking at young men with stumps where healthy legs used to be and puckering sockets where they once had eyes.  But personally it makes me really uncomfortable thinking about grandma starving to death in her apartment or dying because she couldn’t afford some prescription medication, or seeing these these young men mangled in battles which never should have been fought in countries we never should have invaded, all while inside the DC bubble congressman are having $200 lunches with lobbyists from Wall Street and CEOs for the defense contractors.

My point is simple.  If we want to change the way politicians get elected, we need to make choices stark, obvious.  No ambiguities.  No equivocation.  No obfuscation.  No excuses.

Getting the truth out to the voting public on exactly where the candidates stand requires audacity, creativity, courage, some outside-the-box thinking.  But it can be done.  It should be done.  It must be done!  Voters don’t need to see protest signs.  They need to see honest and clear choices at the polls.  The contracts leave no room for error or misinterpretation.

“Hmm.  That fellow signed a legally-binding contract.  If I vote for him, I know I’ll get some service, not a bunch of broken campaign promises.”

On the flip side — that is, in terms of the candidate who refuses or can’t sign the contract, — we can’t show any mercy.  None!  This individual is showing his or her true colors and should be stigmatized, ostracized, and condemned at every opportunity.  Picket campaign offices, demonstrate at rallies and all public appearances.  Get manhandled and arrested.  Get in the news!  This is free publicity.  But it’s news the public should be getting.

Is it negative campaigning?  Let’s see.  This candidate is making a public refusal to sign a contract that commits the candidate to serving the needs and desires of his constituents.  It’s a refusal to represent the very people who elected him!  Why shouldn’t that be public knowledge?  Before they cast their ballots, people need to ask themselves things like . . .

Why won’t the Republican guy sign the contract to raise the
minimum wage? Can’t his rich friends pay a living wage?

Why won’t the Democrat for Congress sign the contract for
free college tuition? Isn’t education important to her?

Why won’t my congressman sign the contract on GMO
labeling? How do I know what I’m feeding my kids?

Why won’t my congressman sign the contract ending
Citizens United? Whose side is he on anyway?

I know of no other way go about this, besides magically coming up with an enormous pile of money to take on the enormous piles of money these bought-and-paid for politicians have in their coffers — legal bribes to charm and woo voters, often to deceive them.

Either we play tough or we lose.  Then all we’re left with is wiling away the time until the next election rolls around, pining about what we could and should have done.

Politics is not a polite game of ping pong.  It’s a gladiator sport.  Either come ready to do battle or slink back to your slave quarters and sip on the brine they’re telling you is soup.  At night you can lay on your moldy cot thinking of ways to apologize to your children for not having acted boldly and decisively when the duties of citizenship required it.

I offer no apologies for being so blunt.  We are losing our democracy.

We are losing the America we all believe in.

We need to come together!

We need to act now!

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Putting Boots (Birkenstocks) on the Ground: Part VI

The-UltimatumNo contract = no vote.

It’s that easy to stick up for ourselves.

Let me explain.

Politicians value one thing above all others . . . 

Job security.

These days they assure their job security by raising astronomical sums of campaign money.  Most of this money comes from the rich and powerful, Wall Street, big banks, corporations, the 1%, the .1%, and the .01%.  This treasure trove of tainted money allows the “sponsored” candidates to use all of the expensive mechanisms at their disposal to message voters, i.e. tell us what they think we want to hear, paint pretty pictures of the glorious future we will all share if we vote for them.  Yes, the money pours in, the image consultants and PR spin doctors get to work, the candidate gets elected, then heads to Washington DC and takes care of his well-heeled donors.  It’s a sublime arrangement indeed.  Lots of back scratching going on these days.

We play along with this insidious game because frankly we don’t know what else to do.

But what if voters just said . . . ‘No’?

That’s right!  What if we the voting public lay it out in no uncertain terms to these politicos that it’s we the people who are in charge from now on — not the deep-pocketed campaign contributors, the rich and powerful who presently fund campaigns and have turned our democracy into a form of legalized bribery?  In a nutshell . . .

What if elections and elected officials could no longer be bought?

Here’s the deal:  We can ooh-and-aah over pretty campaign ads or . . . we can ignore them and decide for ourselves what’s really important.  Hint: Just because a candidate stands in front of an American flag and looks lovely strolling through a park with a picture-perfect family, does not mean he or she gives one whit about you or intends to take your needs and wants into account when it comes to voting on bills in Congress.

What if voters said:  “Well, your ads looks great, your yard signs are attractive, we love the billboards and bumper stickers . . . BUT we’re still not voting for you!”

What good would all the campaign cash do if voters simply stood their ground?

What could the rich and powerful do if everyday citizens just said:  “Enough is enough!  You’ve had your turn.  Now it’s our turn to benefit from all of the riches and wonderful things this country has to offer!  My congressman is no longer for sale.”

Let’s take it a step further.  Squaring off and looking a candidate right in the eye . . .

What if voters said:  “You know, you talk a good story. You make all sorts of wonderful promises.  But for some reason when you get to Washington DC, you apparently come down with some acute form of amnesia.  SO . . . while we sometimes like what you say, sometimes are confused by what you don’t say, often scratch our heads wondering why you don’t seem to get the messages we’re sending you loud and clear, and are incredibly disturbed that things we want done never seem to get done, we’ve decided that from now on we’re taking the guesswork out of all of this.  We’re putting in writing what we want done.  It’ll take the form of a friendly little contract between you, our elected official, and us, the ones who vote you into your cushy job.  This contract will spell it all out in black-and-white.  If you sign it, great!  You’ve got our votes.  If you don’t, well . . . not so great for you.  Because we’ll find someone else who will sign it and vote for that candidate.”

That, ladies and gentlemen, is how the candidate contracts work.  It’s that simple.

Toward the end of the previous article in this series, this appeared . . .

If you’re immediate reaction is . . . “Why, my congressman will never sign something like that!” . . . all I can do is jump for joy!  It means we’re getting somewhere!

What am I saying?

Simple.  The candidate contract makes everything clear.  Either candidates are serious about doing their jobs, either candidates are serious about representing those who voted them into their powerful positions in Washington DC, either candidates are truly listening to constituents and promoting the things those constituents want . . . or they’re not.

If your current “congressman will never sign something like that”, it means one thing.

It means that despite all their campaign promises, all their stated good intentions, despite the happy-face rhetoric on their website and campaign literature, this person is not going to represent you or take into account what you want done.  That’s exactly what it means.

And I jump for joy . . . and you should too.  Because NOW WE KNOW!

We know exactly where things stand . . . and we know exactly what to do.

We don’t want this person in office.  We know what will happen.  This charm-peddler with the teeth-whitened grin will head off to the Washington DC bubble, forget all about us — the people who elected him — and do the bidding of deep-pocketed campaign donors, rich and powerful corporate plutocrats, and the swarms of guns-for-hire lobbyists who are like locusts in our nation’s capital.

Good riddance to these sweet-talking shills!

As the expression goes:  “Knowledge is power.”

Exactly!  And the knowledge and understanding of the true loyalties and commitments of the candidates running for office is our power!

It is the power for us to say:  No more lies.  No more empty promises.  No more excuses.  No more equivocation and double talk.

No contract = no vote.

Then . . .

Once we identify candidates who genuinely are on our side — the ones who gladly sign contracts for the range of things the vast majority of us want done — we unite behind them, a huge and unstoppable voting bloc of citizens who are determined to have true representative government — real democracy — in America.

Government of the people, by the people, for the people.

People power!


CC_eBook Cover_Final_200x300 “Candidate Contracts: Taking Back Our Democracy” was published middle of last year and is available worldwide from all the usual suspects:

Amazon (Kindle)  . . . amzn.to/1QJRiNZ
Amazon (Print) . . . amzn.to/1Cuq0du
Apple (iTunes) . . . apple.co/1BXnPcy
Barnes & Noble . . . bit.ly/1GpTTLq
Kobo (Indigo) . . . bit.ly/1OEI2xj
Smashwords . . . bit.ly/1B4DQCp
Direct from printer . . . bit.ly/1MGjDnN

 

!!!FFTDWD_Cover_200x300Fighting for the Democracy We Deserve” was published this past September and also is available both in every popular ebook format and as a deluxe paperback:

Amazon (Kindle) . . . amzn.to/1VMf2Ft
Amazon (Print) . . . amzn.to/1L9SdIC
Apple (iTunes) . . . apple.co/1JD1YAg
Barnes & Noble . . . bit.ly/1ZUJUpn
Kobo (Indigo) . . . bit.ly/1IX6rO4
Smashwords . . . bit.ly/22PXWLf
Direct from printer . . . bit.ly/1i7ISFM

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Putting Boots (Birkenstocks) on the Ground: Part V

Revolution Peace SignBernie Sanders talks eagerly about a “revolution”.

While this obviously is fantastic campaign rhetoric, his presidential aspirations fall a bit short of a revolution.  Many of his ideas for reforming the political system, revamping our national priorities, and replacing the current agenda with one that serves the greater good of the vast majority of citizens, notably are consistent with revolutionary change.  It is hopeful, heartening, inspiring, truly a breath of fresh air in the stagnant and highly toxic atmosphere of the now dominant neoliberal/neocon regime in Washington DC.

But the simple fact remains:  We’re not electing a king.  We’re only electing a president.  Reform comes from changing the laws.  Changing the laws comes from changing the law makers.  Either we change their minds or we change them, meaning we replace them with elected public servants who will serve the public instead of their corporate masters.

This entire series of articles is about exactly that . . . the need for such change and how I see that coming about.

It’s all about people power.  Not PACs and SuperPACS.  Not big piles of money — though the enormous sums the wealthy throw into the ring present a formidable obstacle for even the most organized and energetic citizens groups.

Change still comes down to the choice each of us personally makes in the voting booth.  Power resides in our aligning our individual choices, so that collectively — as in tens of millions of us united in an unstoppable juggernaut of people power — we get done what needs to get done.

I’ve already pointed at many crucial issues where there is substantial agreement.

75% of Americans want a federal minimum wage of $12.50 per hour.
63% of Americans want a federal minimum wage of $15.00 per hour.
75% of voters want fair trade agreements protecting jobs, workers, the environment.
76% of voters want a cut back on military spending.
76% of voters want the U.S. completely out of Afghanistan.
79% of voters want no reductions in Social Security, 70% support expanding it.
79% of voters want no reductions in Medicare.
80% of voters oppose the “Citizens United” U.S. Supreme Court decision.
68% of voters think taxes on the wealthy should be increased.
71% of voters support massive infrastructure renewal.
74% of American voters are for ending oil industry subsidies.
93% of voters want GMO labeling on their food.

In Part IV of the series, I recommended collecting signatures from folks on a combination pledge-petition, which does two things:  1) it ascertains the level of local voter support for specific issues; and 2) invites individuals to take a stand on those issues, i.e. solicits their commitment to only vote for candidates who if elected will represent them and promote the agenda their constituents have united behind.

So we are now confronted with a critical question . . .

How do we know a candidate will do what we want once elected?

My solution is so simple and so obvious, many scoff and dismiss it immediately.

These are the same types of people who, by the way, stood on the beach at Kitty Hawk, scoffing and derisively observing:  “Ha! That contraption will never fly!”

The short answer is . . . we make the candidate sign a legally-binding contract.

While the contracts can address any number of issues, here is an example, specifically for a candidate running for House of Representatives, demanding an increase in the minimum wage to $15.00 per hour.

If you’re immediate reaction is . . .

“Why, my congressman will never sign something like that!”

. . . all I can do is jump for joy!  It means we’re getting somewhere!

I’ll explain exactly how this is intended to work in the next installments of Putting Boots (Birkenstocks) on the Ground.  But before we go there, I have to make one critical point.  This really has to sink in and be fully understood in order to appreciate the power of the candidate contract and its potential as a game-changer in our current dysfunctional political environment.  Here it is . . .

While the candidate contract is a legally-binding agreement, properly implementing it is NOT A LEGAL STRATEGY.

IT’S A POLITICAL STRATEGY!

This is not about courts and juries and lawyers.

It is about forcing elected representatives to represent us.

It is using a legal instrument to our POLITICAL ADVANTAGE!

Please repeat this as often as needed for it to sink in . . .

Candidate contracts are legal instruments to force democratically-elected representatives to represent their constituents. They are political levers!

They are POLITICAL SLEDGEHAMMERS!

All will become clear in the next installments.

 

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