Saturday, November 1, 2014

Vote: Our Future Depends on You

With the election only a few hours away, it is time for every registered voter to do one small thing for our country. VOTE. It doesn't matter what candidates or party you vote for, though we only have one choice if we believe in democracy. When we are too lazy to vote, we empower those people who wish us harm. The most powerful people in our country want us to be apathetic, so they we won't disturb their plans to control our country.

The highest voter turnout in the last half century occurred during a presidential year. Sixty three percent of Americans voted. Larger turnouts than that have occurred in countries where voting could endanger lives.

There is much about elections that we can't control, the quality of candidates, the horrid amount of money that is spent to lie to us about our choices., restrictions on our right to vote at all.

If we could vote in unexpectedly huge numbers when only our apathy is expected, pundits, candidates and political parties will have their basic political theories overturned. It would show everyone that we do care about government enough to at least vote., that we the people will be a force to worry about in the next election.

With this post, I'll sign off for this election. I'll see you in the voting lines.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Missing - Our Best and Brightest

I knew from the time that I studied government in college that I wanted to run for public office. In order to be worthy of holding a position of public trust, I believed that my conduct in all things should be moral and ethical.

Today, that must seem to most voters like a really stupid idea. Candidates for major offices of state and nation seem to hold themselves to a very low standard. The idea that candidates for office owe the people they serve anything is now laughable. People with all sorts of shady pasts run for and are elected to public office.

It shouldn't be that way.

Frustrating as this is to voters, we can do something about it. Pick one thing that politicians of either party do that particularly annoys you, and resolve not to vote for the worst offender.

For me, I hate candidates who lie their way to election. Far too often, candidates hold one position during primary campaigns and then experience a miraculous conversion for the general election. I make it a point to consider all such conversions lies about one or the other of their positions. It doesn't matter which one. A person who would lie to gain power should never have his or her word trusted again.

These people who so disrespect the voters think there is nothing we can do about their incessant lying, except not vote. For them, lying is a win-win activity. Can it be good for democracy that this is a non-partisan activity?

You may find another more important turn off. But no matter. We are not helpless, and there is something better than sitting out this critical election that we can do. First, we can try to figure out which of our choices is less guilty of our most disliked failing. We can vote yet one more time for the lesser of two evils. Second. if that is to painful a choice to make, get a ballot, and leave it blank. Your vote won't be counted, but if enough people vote instead of staying home, analysts will notice that the percentages don't add up.

My favorite long term solution to unethical candidates would be a space on every ballot for None of the Above. That would allow us to do something significant with our vote. Imagine the shock of an election where None of the Above came in first. It wouldn't put a living person in office, but it would demonstrate to the real person that got the most votes, that he/she had been rejected by the voters,

I know that getting any such change in voting would be a hard fight. But in our ballots in MA, we have space to write in a choice. So I know of a couple of races where None of the Above is going to get my vote.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Market Basket Miracle

Businesses are run very differently now than when I was young. Then many businesses treated their workers and customers as a precious asset. Not so much anymore. Now both employees and customers are viewed as victims to be fleeced. The main reason to open a business is have a path to our wallets. Nothing matters but their profits.

Fortunately there are exceptions. One of them near me is Demoulas Market Basket where I can really stretch my food budget. Until this June, it was operated by Artie T., the grandson of the founder. He believed in treating his workers and customers with respect. And by doing so, he made a lot of money.

But not enough money to suit another members of his extended family Arthur S., also grandson of the founder. In June, Arthur S gained control of the company, and fired Artie T. Next A. S. replaced him with business types who would convert the chain to a profit-first model. This was a mistake.

Employees of the company went on strike. Since none of them were part of a union, this was a big risk. They didn't ask for better hours or more pay. They only wanted Artie T. back. So it was a strike to return their CEO. No strike like this has occurred in our country.

The new managers reacted with threats and firings. But the strike went on. Store shelves emptied and customers like me, went to other stores. I discovered just how much more I had to pay in the other grocery chains.

All through the hottest days of summer, the employees and customers held firm. We were all excited by the news that Artie T. had made an offer to buy our his cousin. But nothing happened. Hopes were dampened as promised completion of the deal didn't take place. Finally, the governors of Massachusetts and New Hampshire, where most of the stores were located, intervened and attempted to mediate between the cousins.

 On a Thursday afternoon, word came that a deal had been struck. Artie T. would own the business and return to run it. Every one rejoiced. Delivery trucks lined up outside the warehouses, workers flooded back to the stores to prepare for the return of the customers. When we first went back to our nearest store less than two days later, most of the usual products were at the ready. Empty parking lots filled with cars.

Artie T. visited many of his stores to personally thank his workers for their loyalty. He posted a message on the company website to thank customers for their loyalty. The last item to return to normal was the appearance of the weekly flyer in my mailbos. Business has been better than ever.

What a lovely example that business is about more than huge profits. Hopefully, Market Basket, and Artie T. will convince other businessmen that businesses based on generosity instead of greed can be very profitable.

Nice to make a bit of history.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

The Never Asked Question

One of the major issues of our day is whether or not our actions contribute to our changing climate. Whether or not you agree with the vast majority of the scientists doesn't change that. So our political leaders are naturally often asked about what they believe on the subject. The Radical Republicans always used to jump right in with their standard position which agrees with the hoaxers and not the scientists.

But with an election coming up soon, they have tested out a new answer to the question. "I"m not a scientist." End of subject. Well or course they aren't. But it is their job to create laws on the subject. It is their job to do some basic research on the subject, so they know at least as much as the average high school student.

Members of the press seem to bring the topic up with candidates when they get the chance. But when they get the current stupid answer, they appear totally satisfied. I keep watching and waiting for the logical follow up question about climate change. "What if you are wrong?

The stakes are very high. If the scientists are correct, there is precious little time for us to start to set our stewardship of the planet in a positive direction. If the Radical Republicans are wrong about climate change, their children and grandchildren will be saddled with huge expenses and few good options.

And so will ours.

So reporters it is past time to ask all candidates for office in this election about their ideas about climate change. Every time one of them claims that we are all causing our planet to warm, ask my follow up question. Playing dumb is not an acceptable excuse.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

A Month to Go

Lots of pundits have been reminding me today that there is just a month before we should all be heading to the polls to vote. No big issues for this election is the common pundit analysis. I don't know how any thoughtful person could come to that conclusion. Most people who don't plan to vote know that they should.

Here are a few little items. Defeating big money should be one huge item. Rich and powerful people need only one thing from us, every 2 years, that we allow them to con us either to vote for their well funded candidates or turning off politics altogether. I would urge everyone to rise in righteous anger. If we vote in large numbers, we defeat their power grab. Since the off-year election of 1962, no election has matched the 57% of voters who bothered that  year. Can't we do better than that?

Think about the minimum wage. Radical Republicans like to tell us that to raise it even a little would cost jobs. There is something very wrong with that idea. I always thought that employers hired only the number of people they actually needed. And no more than likely, they have the absolute minimum of employees that they can manage with. Businesses take care of their bottom lines first. A few statistics about the minimum wage. In 1960, which doesn't seem so long ago to me, the minimum wage was $1.25. Try living on that. But on the plus side, gas was about $.31 a gallon. Now gas prices don't figure in the cost of living, but as they rose in the 1970s, the price of everything we had to buy went up a lot as well. If the minimum wage had risen in proportion to the increased cost of gas, it would be over $14 today. How nice would that be?

The Radical Right always wails about the size of our government and too intrusive. That makes no more sense than most of what they want to inflict upon our country. They don't wan't government around to help ordinary people. After all, they don't pay Congressional Bills. Government grows because rich and powerful people want government to pass laws that benefit them. They don't want any government around to bother them, so for us government should be much smaller and therefore no hindrance to their plans. So the GOP echoes their complaints. Any help the government gives us ordinary folks is too big. No need for us to have clean air or water, or health care for our children. But the proof of the nonsense of the GOP whining about excessive government is that the first thing they do when they accidentally get elected is that they insert government into the lives of women, reducing rights to control our own lives. I was only a child when I realized that there were two sets of rule, one for men and one for women. It is the Radical Right that intends to keep it that way.

So no important policies at stake in this election? Please. Skip the pundits, TV ads, polls and think for yourselves.

Voting is always important, especially this year. So give our country your support and vote. Your future depends on it.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Before Ferguson

Like many Americans, I have been watching the events in Ferguson unfold with a heavy heart. But in view of the numerous instances of police killing black men, no surprise.

I kept thinking of the biblical verse about the sins of the fathers being visited on their children and grandchildren for generations. So sad that it takes generations to change a culture and a way of thinking.

When I was little, growing up in a racist world, I had plenty of opportunity to see first hand what happened when the sin of racism was enacted into laws. And whose job was it to enforce those laws? The police.

The Jim Crow laws said that blacks were inferior and had to be kept as far away from the white citizens as possible. They were pretty successful at that desired total segregation. Though there were a lot of black people in the area where I lived, I could go for days without seeing a single one of them. There were no black children in my school. There were no black members of my Presbyterian Church. And no blacks wout dare walk about in my neighborhood without a very good reason.

The black population and the police, all of whom were white in those days, could never be seen as equals. To the police, the black population were lesser beings even animals. And to the black population, any interaction with the police could be dangerous or deadly.

Parents of black children had to instruct their children on how to act if stopped by a policeman for any reason. Immediate and total submission was the key to survival. In the wake of Ferguson, I was shocked to hear from many prominent Black leaders that they still instructed their children on how to act when stopped by a policeman. That is a good measure of how little has changed since Jim Crow was ended in the 1960s when Blacks first got a semblance of equal rights and police could no longer legally treat Blacks with scorn,
disrespect, and brutality.

Ferguson has taught us how far we still have to go to undo the sins of our fathers. The people who wrote Jim Crow laws are still among us, older now to be sure, but sending forth their old racism to a new generation. Too many policemen operate on the JIm Crow theory that Blacks are dangerous and unworthy of respect.

Let now be the time that all Americans decide to end this sinful heritage. We don't need laws or political movements to decide that we will, from this time on, approach everyone with respect, no matter the age, or race or religion. Let us be the Americans who break the chain of racism inflicted upon us by remnants of slavery.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Hail, King Obama

The Radical Right is now accusing President of acting like a "king". Last time I looked, kings were strong willed people whose slightest whim became law.  How then can the same people accuse the President/King of being weak, indecisive and lazy? The answer is simple. They offer up whatever attack seems to fit the situation best. Their only consistent principle is to always attack the President.

So let's take a look at the "King" charge. Congress has the job of passing laws. The Radical Right doesn't believe in laws, or regulations for that matter. According to their core belief, laws strangle freedom. Speaker Boehner made this position very clear when he said that everyone should judge the success of the House by how many laws they repealed. I'm not sure they were very successful with revoking laws, but they were very good at preventing Congress from doing practically anything else.

So who is there left to carry on the country's essential functions? President Obama in no way acts like a "King." He uses the powers that Congress has given him to administer the laws Congress already passed. Most people want a functioning government, so he is doing whatever he can to keep our country moving forward.

What would happen if President Obama were really acting like a "king?" He would be able to write whatever laws he wanted, and send them off to Congress with orders like, "I want this bill on my desk by Friday." Congress would have to comply.

So what would "King" Obama require Congress to do?  He would direct them to pass immigration reform, to reform tax law, to control emissions, to rebuild our infrastructure, to create research centers around the country to promote innovation, to pass gun safety legislation, and to raise the minimum wage for all workers. These are all items on the President's agenda, which Congress has blocked, despite their popularity with the majority of the American people. Like most Americans, I would love to see them become laws.

But I'm just engaging in wishful thinking. Even the limited actions President Obama can take are too much for the Radical Right. Now, they plan to sue the President to prevent him from doing his job without specific clearance from Congress. This certainly wasn't what the creators of our Constitution had in mind. If the Radical Right gets its way, the Presidency will cease to be a part of the federal power base.

We are all supposed to be happy that the House isn't planning to impeach the President, only reduce his powers. That act of generosity will exist only until they recapture the Senate, which they expect to do in the November election. If that happens, The House will have the Bill of Impeachment ready for action on the first day of the new session.

I think I am making a strong case that November 4th is the most critical election day for generations. The Radical Right will be in power, though they don't believe in Democracy, and they don't believe that laws make us free. And they will impeach the President. So voters, if you sit home this election day, as you did in 2010, you will be condemning America to a very dangerous future. And you will have even more to be ashamed of than the Radical Right.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Nov. 4, 2014: Our Day To Shine

Nov. 4, 2014: Our Day To Shine

Welcome followers of my blog to a new political campaign. When I signed off, as the election of 2012 approached, I really didn't expect to be alive for the next election. I rather thought that would be my last one as I was so far beyond my life expectancy. But if my luck holds, I should be still here to vote one more time. This will be my 32nd national election. So voting is quite a habit for me. It is critical for our country that voting becomes a habit for all Americans. 

Let me explain. In the last few decades, many of us have come to believe that we don't matter much to anyone of importance or power. Most of us can spin great yarns that justify this point of view. Besides, most of us have overwhelming responsibilities to fill the hours of every day, hours we cannot expand. It is very hard to find a time when we have a spare hour during which the polls are actually open to actually vote So the number of voters who used to participate in any level of government has dwindled. Life got in the way. 

Unfortunately, our democratic form of government can only thrive if a large majority of us do make do make our voices heard on that special day when every citizen is equal. Sadly, we seem to be moving in the wrong direction. In 1962, when I voted in my 3rd off-year election, so did 47.3% of my fellow citizens.  In the last off-year election, the number of people voting had fallen by almost 10 percentage points to 37.8%. Those of you who couldn't or didn't find the time to vote have had plenty of time to see that your indifference has helped move us to a place that no one seems to like.

Though we are months away from this election, pundits are already predicting that many Americans will sit this election out as well. They expect that the Radical Right will again turn out in force, so the transfer of the Senate to Republican hands is all but certain. For those who support this radical anti-government, anti-democracy point of view, your inaction is a bonus, effectively doubling the effect of their individual votes.  But for those who have other beliefs, for those who want a functioning government, failing to vote leaves themselves and those of us who do care for our Democracy and our government as the mercy of radical officials who disrespect both. 

During most of my life, we have had two political parties that supported Democracy and that government which puts Democratic theory into practice. Both parties accepted that they weren't free to undermine the basic principles of Democracy. This core belief began to erode in the 1960s. My Republican party begin a turn hard to the right. The conservative edge of the party welcomed the racist  parts of the Democratic Party to form the current Radical Party. Those of us who were proud members of the party of Lincoln were branded RINOs and banished.

Now we have two very different parties, one that still believes in Democracy and government, and one that doesn't.. This conflict will play the most important part in this election. Voters must consider a simple question.  Do we believe in Democracy and good government? If you answer "yes," you must register and must vote. You may be sure that the "no" voters will be out in great numbers. Stay home and the anti-Democracy crowd will control our government.

Some of you will doubtless argue that the Radical Right is no danger to our Democracy or government. But there is ample evidence that it really is. As soon as the Radical Right gained power in 2010, they began to pass laws making voting more difficult, if not impossible. They redefined voting a privilege not a right.

They made up a cover story to account for all their efforts. Election cheating had become a major problem that must be addressed vigorously. First, they decided that voters would have to show a photo ID to vote, and only certain IDs would be acceptable. We know that this excuse isn't true at all. If a voter ID were truly essential, there are easy ways to accomplish that. Put an inexpensive camera at each location where registration or voting takes place  Photo IDs would be available within seconds. Problem solved.

This wasn't the only assault on our right to vote. IDs were followed by laws reducing voting hours, days and places and reducing the number of voting machines in busy polling places. These restrictions have only one purpose, to make voting more difficult for all of us, to ensure that many of us lose our voting rights.

Less you think the laws in place are the end of their plans to limit our right to vote, you haven't been paying attention. The next approach to voter suppression has already begun. Kansas is working on legislation that would require voters to prove their citizenship before registering or voting. Gone are the days when all I had to show to register was a bill with my address on it.  Bills with an address are no longer good enough. The Radical Right wants all voters to produce paper work, a birth certificate, naturalization papers or a valid passport. All the these items cost a fair amount of money. In my state, it would cost over $70, because married women would have to produce both their birth and marriage certificates  Lots of citizens entitled to vote, don't have that amount of money lying about.

If the Radical Right remains in power, I'm sure they will continue to find new ways to ensure that voting is a privilege not a right.

They have been digging away at the foundations of our Democracy in another major way. The Radical Right doesn't want our Democratic government to function in the way the men who wrote our Constitution intended. Our founding fathers expected that people would come together, discuss ideas, compromise and vote for laws to put the Constitution into practice. Over the 200 plus years of our existence, this was how our national legislature operated.

But the Radical Right doesn't believe in compromise. They believe that compromising their political beliefs is equivalent to heresy. In their new ideology, no action is better than actions they don't like.

Our Democracy has suffered serious damage in the last few years.We used to be the shining example of what a Democracy should be. Now we are a good example of what damage can be done when too many of our citizens fail to even vote.

There are other examples of the danger of Radical Right ideas to our Democracy. I'll get to them as the election gets nearer. Reducing our right to vote and refusal to compromise to pass laws are enough evidence of the anti-Democracy actions of the Radical Right.

I find the GOP attack on Democracy appalling and dangerous. The fact that these people claim to be members of the Republican Party is particularly painful for me, since I've been a supporter and activist in the party for the majority of my life. But even more appalling and dangerous is the reality that many potential voters, who aren't supporters of the Radical Right, won't register and won't vote. Democracy is on the line in this election, people. To sit this election out is to continue to damage our Democratic institutions and our Democratic values. Citizens who don't vote will have to live with the knowledge that they inflicted the results of a Congress in the hands of the Radical Right upon themselves and and those of us who did care enough to vote.  

Our Democracy depends on you. Let us flood to the polls in such numbers as to astound the pundits. Let standing in long lines for hours be a badge of honor. In the election of 1960, between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon, 63.1% of voters actually voted. Let us equal that turnout this year. 

I leave you with an appropriate quote. "Democracy is worth dying for, because it is the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man." No dying needed this year, only voting.