Happy Thanksgiving (sort of)

thanksgiving

Happy Thanksgiving to All!

I hope we all get together today and share with our friends and family the things we are thankful for. And because I cannot help it:

Justice Makes a Blunder

campaign-cash-3001So this morning on CSPAN this crazy radical lady called in and made a ridiculous suggestion: Members of Congress should be paid the federal minimum wage.

What a silly pants. Why she was so adamant about it I don’t know. It’s integral that our leaders make lots of green. Forget Joe the Plumber. What about Joe the Bidden? Ranked as one of the poorest members of Congress, he brings home a measly $165,000 a year.

People like the one who called into CSPAN this morning (for the sake of argument lets call her “Justice”), just don’t seem to understand that money is integral to healthy politics. Take the 2008 election for example. Without having spent over $860,000,000, how could Obama & McCain have convinced us they wanted to spend our money wisely?

Justice’s ideas represents a vague kind of unsubstantiated suspicion that money is as important as qualifications in politics. She couldn’t be further from the truth. Only 25% of Representatives and 33% of Senators are millionaires

The reality is, our American Democracy works best when people with lots of cash and resources promise they will help others maintain and grow their cash and resources, in exchange for cash and resource donations to their campaign. Then, to reward their election success, it is imperative that we provide these leaders with more cash and resources (like great health care and guaranteed pensions after 5 years). This will ensure their loyalty is to the people.

In this way, we can be sure that cash and resources are equitably distributed amongst all Americans. The idea that Congressional leaders would somehow be more in touch with the average American if they made $6.55/hr, is childish and would be counterproductive.

If members of Congress only brought home $13,624 a year and had to juggle housing, fuel, and health care, how would they be able to concentrate on their jobs? How would they be able to live?

Sometimes I just wish Justice and her naive ideals would go away.

-kd-

Socialism’s Sinister Strategies

spa-spaglobelogo2In the closing days of the campaign I heard a phrase being thrown around with a fervor not seen since Joseph McCarthy was providing his valuable service to the nation. The word? SOCIALISM. Kind of has an evil ring to it. Almost like racism or sexism, only much worse.


Clearly socialism is terrible. Everyone says so. So I decided to take a look at some of the sinister strategies of the demagogues over at the Socialist Party USA headquarter’s:

The Socialist Party is committed to full freedom of speech, assembly, press, and religion, and to a multi-party system. We are dedicated to the abolition of male supremacy and class society, and to the elimination of all forms of oppression, including those based on race, national origin, age, sexual preferences, and disabling conditions.

Very clever. Clearly this is only true in certain situations. Let’s read on:

Bigotry and discrimination help the ruling class divide, exploit, and abuse workers here and in the Third World. The Socialist Party works to eliminate prejudice and discrimination in all its forms.

Okay, well moving on from this silly rhetoric let’s talk about foreign policy. Maybe the socialists are nice to each other, but surely not to their neighbors.

The Socialist Party calls for ending of the war and occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan and bringing all the troops home now!

Whatever, lots of people want to get out of those countries. What do the socialists REALLY think about war?

The U.S. government uses its overwhelming military power to consolidate its strategic hold over the entire world and to defend and advance the interests of U.S. owned corporations as they exploit the working people and natural resources of the entire planet. We stand in total opposition to U.S. imperialism and the current “war on terror” which is just another subterfuge for U.S. imperialism.

People around the world have more in common with each other than with their rulers. We condemn war, preparation for war, and the militaristic culture because they play havoc with people’s lives and divert resources from constructive social projects. Militarism also concentrates even greater power in the hands of the few, the powerful and the violent.

Heh, heh. Ahem. Okay, so maybe they got us on that one. But what about MONEY? Isn’t that what its all about? The government pillaging  Joe the Plumber?

We call for a minimum wage of $15 per hour, indexed to the cost of living.

Those damn guys have an answer for everything. How about this: What if Joe the Plumber happens to be really, really, really rich? Like what if he is a CEO making 400 times what the average line worker makes? What then smarty pants?

We call for a steeply graduated income tax and a steeply graduated estate tax, and a maximum income of no more than ten times the minimum.

Well that just takes the cake. How is 1% of the United States population supposed to maintain 47% of the nation’s wealth under a silly policy like that? Whatever, moving along. How about health care? That’s probably one of the greatest sins of socialism…

We support a national health program with full standard and alternative medical, dental, vision, and mental health coverage for all, publicly funded through progressive taxation and controlled by democratically elected assemblies of health care workers and patients. The National Health Program should extend, and replace, Medicare and Medicaid. We call for a health care system that emphasizes preventative care, respects patient’s privacy, gives special attention to the needs of the physically and mentally disabled, and conducts treatment and research unimpared by sexism, racism, and homophobia.

Unbelievable. These people support gays? Bet they are tree hugers too.

The U.S. must immediately return to participation in international agreements, such as the Kyoto Protocol, limiting carbon emissions, and accept a major role in worldwide efforts to control global warming.

Great idea geniuses. That will cost us. At least we can still lean on developing nations for cash… right?

We demand cancellation of Third World debt. We call for the United States to pay off its debt to the United Nations.

Damn. Well, if we can’t trample on other nations can we at least Drill Baby Drill !?

We call for the development of alternative energy sources includign solar, geothermal, wind, hydropower, and biomass to end dependence on fossil fuels.

Okay I’m done. These folks are ridiculous. Now I understand why socialism is evil, and sinister and stuff. The crazy kooks are all about “justice“, and “equality“, and namby pamby things like “eliminating oppression” and “equal rights“. Oooh they’re so progressive. If they’re so great, why don’t they make a song about themselves?


Okay, now this is just getting out of hand. Before we know it we are going to be swimming in a socialist sea of swine! We must band together comrades, err, I meant friends, and fight off this evil menace!

Let us stand up and make sure that socialist theories are never incorporated into American politics!

NO UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE!!!! (like in every other industrialized nation in the world who all happen to suck. Even if the World Health Organization ranks us 37th in the world in terms of meeting the health needs of our people)

MAINTAIN CORPORATE POWER!!!! (Lehman, Enron & Exon care about the little guy. Corporations are inherently benevolent)

DOWN WITH “WEALTH REDISTRIBUTION!!! (taxes bad. taxes are like murder. cold blooded murder. they’re almost as bad as that one time when they killed that Jesus guy)

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Okay, so here’s the deal. I just made a case for socialism. I painted it as all nice & fluffy & conveniently culled quotes from their web page to make it look good. I even ignored some not-so convenient historic examples. In short- I only presented one side of the argument. Awful of me eh?

I would suggest that the real question at the end of the day is not whether a tremendous smear job has been done against socialist ideas, or whether I put lipstick on a pig called socialist sally. The question is whether Americans can bring themselves to consider ideas that are, *gasp* foreign.

Can we embrace the reality that we are imperfect and we can learn from the rest of the world?

Is socialism perfect? Far from it. Has evil come from it? Surely. Are the answers any different for capitalism?

The truth of the matter is we have already adopted socialist ideologies throughout our lives and just don’t realize it. Who pays to support the local library? Everybody. Who gets to use it? Everybody. Who pays to support the police and fire departments? Everybody. Who gets to use it? Everybody.

So the reality is, we have accepted the notion that sometimes its okay for everyone to pay for something, and then everyone to benefit. The trouble begins, when someone suggests that we take something for profit (say health care) and then suggest that everybody pays for it, and everybody benefits. Middlemen don’t like this very much, so neither should you. After all, Ronald Regan said so.

reagan-against-socialized-medicine2

-kd-

Policies for People

kids-diverseWhat’s a president to do? War, crime, poverty, education system, veterans benefits, social security,  human rights, Guantanamo bay, financial crisis, blight, sprawl, child abuse, elder abuse, animal abuse, cronyism, corruption,  war profiteerism, racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, nuclear weapons, chemical warfare, suicide bombings, school shootings, blood diamonds, genocide, Israel/Palestine, Russia/Georgia, India/Pakistan, Iraq/Iran, North Korea/South Korea, child soldiers, slavery, sex trafficking, drugs, guns, health care, welfare, Chinese goods, missile defense systems, guided missile systems, Africa….

This is the world we live in, and for most of us, more often the world we indirectly observe…I asked readers before what the next president ought to focus on, and I’ve made humorous suggestions. But as Obama begins putting together his next administration, the time for surveys and satire are no longer enough. Here begins an Agenda for America* that I will forward to the President Elect after refinement and further exploration:

In 1943, Abraham Maslow wrote a paper entitled “A Theory of Human Motivation”; out of this paper came the famed Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. For those unfamiliar, Maslow theorized that human behavior exists along a continuum motivated and influenced by individual needs. He suggested that as basic needs are met, people are able to move on towards securing the next set of needs. Here is a graphic representation:

800px-maslows_hierarchy_of_needssvg1

I believe that there is merit to Maslow’s ideas, and since: 1-The principle role of the government is to provide for the safety and security of its people, and 2- The government made a promise that all have a right to pursue “life, liberty, and happiness”, I would argue that there is a compelling reason for the government to center its priorities around helping Americans secure their essential needs, while also providing a national environment where the pursuit of higher needs is actively supported.

*This Plan is Primarily Domestic in Nature

Policies for Physiological Needs:

These policies should be designed to ensure the stable and equitable distribution of food, water, and shelter.

Housing

The National Housing Trust Fund, which will be used for the production and repair of affordable housing, has its funding source currently tied to Sallie Mae & Freddie Mac revenues. A more secure funding source should be directed towards this Trust Fund, so that as the economy falls and home sales diminish, more, not less money is invested in housing.

The Neighborhood Stabilization Program is one step in the right direction designed to provide immediate relief to troubled states, but the funding should paid on an annual basis, as opposed to a one time payment.

In urban centers, fighting urban blight is an essential component towards creating stable neighborhoods and livable environments. Further, the administration shall adopt a policy to end homelessness that will be vigorously pursued regardless of cost. Part of this strategy should include the construction of more shelters, assisted living facilities, transitional housing, supportive housing and other special needs housing units in accordance with need in distinct geographic tracts.

Additional Low Income Housing Tax Credits shall be dispersed by the government to aid in the construction of affordable housing developments. Serious regulation shall be put on the lending and finance industry, and a pragmatic look needs to be taken at eviction and foreclosure regulations.

Existing affordable housing programs such as Section 8 should be increased in scope, and areas with the longest list of eligible applicants for affordable housing should receive priority funding through the National Housing Trust Fund.

Food

The government should charge the FDA with establishing a basic, healthy, and sustainable diet plans for various demographics of the population (elderly, children, etc). The costs of these sample meal plans shall be directly tied to food subsidies such as WIC and Food Stamps.

The FDA should also create a policy that imposes an internal tariff of sorts on the sale of unhealthy foods, while at the same time, creating incentives and policies that reduce the cost of healthy foods, fruits and vegetables. Additionally, tax breaks should be provided to food vendors to encourage the expansion of healthy food retailers into underserved communities.

The government should require states to set aside of pot of money to be distributed to food banks and soup kitchens in accordance with local needs.

Subsidies should be given to farmers where necessary to maintain stabilize food prices.

Water

The government should engage in a vigorous review of anti-pollution & dumping laws, and impose stringent penalties on companies that violate established rules.

Policies should be pursued that encourage private investment in technologies that would make the conversion of saltwater into drinkable water less expensive.

In order to prepare for emergencies, each state should establish a federally supported food/water bank.

Building codes for temporary shelters (FEMA trailers, etc) should be revised to insure the safety & security of those who use them.

Policies for Safety & Security

These policies should be designed to ensure the safety of the individual and the nation.

Crime

Over a period of time, due to aggressive and progressive poverty reduction tactics, coupled with a myriad of other social supports, a strong education system, and more equitable distribution of income, we can expect to see crime rates fall. However, until that time, several policies should be undertaken.

An aggressive, evidence based model of rehabilitation should be employed for all incarcerated individuals. Gun control laws should be largely returned to the states, with the exception of a few basic federal regulations. This will allow for policies that make sense in different geographic regions to be implemented.

Stronger hate crime legislation should be enacted, and the Elder Abuse Act should be passed. Additionally, white-collar crime that impacts the public should be more vigorously investigated and prosecuted, with harsher penalties.

Discriminatory sentencing disparities should be eliminated- such as crack/cocaine laws. Further, a judicial review of the sentencing patterns of courts in capital and other criminal cases should be undertaken. Jurisdictions with conviction and sentencing patterns heavily skewed should be temporarily put under a moratorium, and plans should be established to reduce the disparities.

Employment

Employment is central to personal fulfillment for many people, and full, equitable employment will reduce the need for excessive social spending. Any individual who wants to work should be able to find work, and the government should put together a federal employment program for individuals out of work. This program should be modeled after the Tennessee Valley Authority Program (out of the Great Depression), with projects largely designed around infrastructure repair/creation. For other skill sets, the program should also include community building aspects.

A basic living wage should be established and required in metropolitan areas and states.

Health

A universal health care system should be established which complies with the Institute of Medicines 5 Principles for Health Care Reform:

1- Health care coverage should be universal- it should cover everybody

2- Health care coverage should be continuous, portable from job to job, and regardless of employment status.

3- Health care coverage should be affordable to individuals and families.

4- Health care insurance should be affordable and sustainable to society.

5- health care coverage should enhance health and well-being by promoting access to high-quality care that is effective, efficient, safe, timely, patient-centered, and equitable.

Under this plan, the following services should be covered: hospitals, health facilities, health care professionals, physicians, labs, diagnostic imaging, dentistry, medication, vision, mental health, preventative care, rehabilitation, durable medical equipment, eye glasses, hearing aids, immunizations, blood, dialysis, home health care, emergency care, podiatry, long term care, chiropractic, adult day care, substance abuse, nursing facilities, ambulance transport, language interpretation and hospice care (modeled after California One Care).

Additional funding for scientific research of diseases, and related health studies (including stem-cell research), should be supported.

Family

Family planning services should be made available at public health centers, and laws protecting the right for women to have an abortion should be put in place. Child care should be made available for all children through the age of 16. This can be accomplished by the establishment of federally funded child care centers with affordable rates, or for families that live in areas without a federal child care center, vouchers should be offered for use at private day care centers.

The federal government should establish the right for individuals with children under the age of 18 to take up to 12 paid “family” days per year.

Property

In order to protect individual’s right to property, more stringent burdens must be placed on any governmental entity that would seek to take over private property though eminent domain. Private property owners who allow their property to sit vacant, used, abandoned, or blighted for longer than an established period of time, may have their property co-opted by local land banks for the purpose of building affordable housing. Compensation for this seizure shall be at a rate below market value.

Areas currently established as Native American reservations should have legislation forever maintaining that status. Funding for the upkeep of such properties shall be allocated annually by the federal government.

Individuals who purchase manufactured housing and reside in a mobile home park shall be given a deed to the land upon which their home rests. This will prevent the sale of these parks for private development and eviction of tenants without just compensation.

War

The Department of Defense, originally named the Department of War, should be re-designated as the the Department of International Relations. The department should develop plans for promoting peace and stable relations with foreign nations, as well as realistic defense protocols. This will immediately promote the safety and security of all Americans.

Policies for Self Fulfillment (Love, Belonging, Self-esteem, Self-actualization)

After basic needs for survival are obtained, human beings seek to progress and develop. These developments include: inclusion in a welcoming community, self-esteem, and eventual development of one’s full potential. The following policies should aid American’s in their obtainment of these needs.

Education

Every child in America shall be guaranteed high quality education. All schools will be federally assessed on several levels: Physical condition/environment, Physical resources (books/facilities), Quality of Instruction,  & Educational Achievement. Unlike the punitive No-child left behind policy, this extensive review of all public schools will be used to allocate and redistribute resources among schools.

The practice funding of public schools with local properties taxes shall be abolished and replaced with a state tax. The combined pool of taxes will be distributed to all schools within that state according to their needs as established by the aforementioned study.

Every state’s public universities and colleges shall be tuition free. Students may continue to receive grants, scholarships and loans to pay for related expenses: housing/books/transportation, etc. Universities will reimbursed for tuition by the state at a pre-established rate per student.

Community Development

The federal government should pass a law requiring certain community resources per a given population; i.e. for every “X” number of individuals in a city/town, “x” number of libraries, community centers, recreation centers, artistic venues, and other essential community resources should be available. The construction of such facilities should be considered an eligible project under the aforementioned government employment program. Priority for such jobs will be given to local residents.

Volunteer Programs

Funding for domestic volunteer programs such as Teach for America and AmeriCorps should be increased and widely publicized. Assistance for individuals who are unable to participate due to financial constraints should be eligible to apply for assistance for certain expenses such as airfare.

Civil Liberties

Defending the psychological safety of Americans is equally important as their physical security, so serious policies should be implemented to curb current practices.The oppressive Patriot Act shall be repealed, and policies such as domestic wiretapping should be closely monitored. The Terrorist Watch list, with nearly 1 million identified Americans should be seriously pared.

The Department of Homeland Security should be abolished, and fear inducing strategies such as the color-coded terror level system should be prohibited. The use of the military within the nation’s borders should cease, and domestic police forces should be closely monitored for abuse.

**This Agenda for America represents a rough sketch for how the United States government should actively work to ensure the safety and security of all Americans, while also promoting the ability for all to pursue life, liberty and happiness. I welcome comments and feedback before I forward this Agenda to the President Elect Obama.

-kd-

Fear Itself

svpaulson-470x0

“The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself”– FDR
I was thinking about this phrase the other day, because I believe now, more than ever it is true. The election of Obama is a historic event, and we must take this opportunity to uphold hope over fear. Fear has brought us the Salem witch trials, lynching, the holocaust, the Japanese internment camps, the Cold War, the Cuban embargo, hate crimes, Guantanamo, the Patriot Act….the list goes on.

In October, the fear that had gripped the American people was the economy: newspapers, the TV, the radio; everywhere fear abounded. The world was going to end, the stock market was going to crash, and the Great Depression would eventually prove to have been a vacation. It was out of this climate of fear, that the United States Congress chose to grant the Treasury Department virtually unchecked power.

When I came out against the bailout many people criticized me- they pretty much regurgitated what the media had been saying: the economy would fail, the stock market would crash, and now was no time to try to punish the bad guys, because the little guy would suffer.

What worried me most at the time was not that the proposal that would give tremendous amounts of money to the people who had created the mess, but that we would grant near limitless power to a former wall street banker, to do what he would with taxpayer dollars. The attempt to push through the legislation in the span of a week, spurred by a 3 page proposal appalled me, and I called out for people to slow down, and think the things through.

Eventually the congress caved, and despite thousands of angry phone calls & letters from the American people, Secretary Treasurer Henry Paulson was essentially given a blank check. Now, just last week Henry Paulson came out and said he was going to do something completely different with the money, than what he had asked for. Not only did Paulson completely change what he intends to use the money for, but he flaunted his power to do as he wished “I will never apologize for changing a strategy or an approach if the facts change“.

That’s a scary proposition. Translation: “Congress, even if I come to you asking for billions of tax payer dollars to do “X”, and you give it to me, if I change my mind after the fact and decide to “Y”, I will do it. And I won’t be challenged“.  (Read the article here)

The things we are willing to sacrifice due our fear is frightening, and Henry Paulson’s comments last week are really what got me thinking.

So what’s my point? That the economy isn’t failing? No. I do not challenge the fact that we are facing tough times, and decisive action is needed.  That Paulson is making the wrong move? No. The wrong move was made by Congress last month when they gave into fear and granted Paulson virtually limitless authority. Once the government starts granting this much power to one man because they are fearful of the future, we head down a dangerous road.

Lesson of the day: when the government cries the sky is falling, beware of their solutions. Fear puts a blinder on our rationale that must be consciously removed if we are to see clearly and act sensibly.

Perhaps Jon Stewart best expressed the power of fear, in his clever comparison of Bush on Iraq & the economy.

-kd-

Veterans Day

american-troopsToday is Veterans Day, and I wish to personally extend appreciation to our troops. While I often decry the United States military for its imperialistic and clumsy foreign policy, I have to acknowledge that American’s serve our country out of a sense of duty, to obtain college degrees, and generally not because of malice in their hearts. Since the founding of our country, troops have served us, and fought to preserve our liberties & freedoms. As often as I like to talk about peace, I am reminded of a quote:

“Peaceful men can sleep in their beds at night because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf”

I by no means endorse disproportionate force, or war in general, but I have to acknowledge the debt that I, and all Americans owe to soldiers who personally sacrifice for us. Instead of superfluous ceremonies, and flag waving, the United States Government ought to invest heavily in the futures of soldiers- guaranteed higher education, health care, and retirement. To date, over 4,000 troops have died in Iraq. Let’s truly honor our troops and their families by removing them from unnecessary danger.

-kd-

Election 2008- The Winners & Losers

Now that the dust is beginning to settle, lets take a look at who the real winners and losers are following this campaign season:

sarah-palin-headshotSarah Palin, Winner

After decrying her critics as “jerks”, Palin remains the party’s favorite for a 2012 run for President.

ma27-homeless1-1004yLower Class, Loser

Joe-six-pack, Joe-the-pumber, and yes, bob-the-builder have been in the spotlight for the past few months. And why not? They are apparently the only people in the country who matter. I can’t think of a single reference to the “lower class” during the debates, or election cycle in general.

alaska_thumbnailAlaska, Winner

Alaska, that pesky state that curiously sits somewhere in the south pacific in all our maps, has risen to a level of national prominence not seen since it first became a state 50 years ago. Alaska’s love for loyalty has become unrivalved across America, as Senator Ted Stevens, recently convicted on 7 felony counts, has likely been re-elected to the Senate. If so, he’ll become the first felon elected to the Senate in history.

alg_turmoil_pollsElection System, Loser

Hours long waiting lines, malfunctioning equipment, voter intimidation, voter fraud,  varying voting requirements, a confusing electoral college- America’s outmoded election system has shown its flaws over the last few elections. Out with the old, in with a new federalized system.

barack_obama_head_shot1Barack Obama, Winner

An excellent orator & a thoughtful intellectual, Barack Obama garnered 52% of the popular vote- the highest of all time for any non-incumbent Democrat. Obama has united and excited the nation in a way not seen before, and is poised to become a great president.

republican_logoRepublicans, Loser

In this election, Republicans lost at least 20 seats in the house (50 since the 2006 elections), and so far- 6 seats in the senate. For the first time in decades, Democrats control the presidency, the senate, and the house. Many noteworthy republicans snubbed the party in endorsing Obama for President, and some are even predicting a split of the republicans into two parties- the republicans, and the conservatives.

. mccain-head-shot John McCain, Winner

In the span of three short minutes, McCain managed to gain my respect for a tasteful & appropriate concession speech. A cancer survivor at the age of of 72,  McCain can gracefully retire after the completion of his senate term.

guns008 Guns, Winner

Following Barak Obama’s election, gun sales have soared. Many gun shops report sales rising by 30% or more, as people fear a Barakdown on gun ownership

barack_obama_head_shotBarack Obama, Loser

After becoming the historic President Elect, Barack Obama has just inherited a whole lotta trouble: the economy, two wars, the housing market, crumbling infrastructure, a broken health care system, a staggering national debt…

socialism1 Socialism, Winner

Although the McCain/Palin campaign attempted to paint Obama as a dangerous Socialist in the closing weeks of the campaign, Socialism, has actually been doing quite well. The United States Government is now in the business of nationalizing banks to the tune of $700 billion, and following $25 billion in loans to the auto industry earlier this year, Democratic leaders are now urging a  bailout for struggling automakers.

sarah-palin-headshotSarah Palin, Loser

Sarah Palin, who came within a few million votes of becoming the first female vice-president. To add insult to injury, the Repulican National Committe is taking back all the clothes they bought her. Finally, her credibility has sunken so low, that she has been forced to deny allegations that she didn’t know whether Africa was a country or continent.

americaathome America, Winner

They just got Barack & Co

-kd-