Friday, November 7, 2014

Our Choice Between a Strong America and a Weak America


Near the end of 2008 America was on the precipice of economic collapse –which would have also had a severe and lasting impact upon global markets and the world. Since 2009 we’ve experienced a long slow recovery from the cliff.

There are numerous issues we must face quickly as Americans or America will perish as a footnote in history –characterized as a “nice try”. We can either be remembered as the society that recognized our strengths and addressed our weaknesses –or we can be known as a once promising society that waited for magic to happen until it did not.

The vital issues as I see them:

The Corruption of the Political and Judicial Environment

Influence of money on elections and representation

Remember one of the key issues in the founding of America - “No taxation without representation”? When we each cast a vote (assuming we do and that our vote is counted), we have an expectation that our elected officials will advocate for our interests. Regardless of your political ideology –do you really believe that your vote or mine compared to a million dollar check from Exxon Mobil, the Koch Brothers, General Electric or Monsanto will have the same value with our elected officials?

The Constitution and Bill of Rights established an intent for representational fairness. Furthermore, three branches of government were created to provide greater protection against the corrupting influence of wealth. My friends that are very liberal with affinity with the green party are justified in their anger and frustration with the present system. My libertarian friends are absolutely correct to be livid as well. Unless you are the person collecting the check from Exxon, Chevron, WalMart, GE, Monsanto, the US Chamber of Commerce or the Koch brothers –you are completely justified in your alarm, frustration and anger.

So why are we fighting each other instead of the system that is subverting our government? –More about that later.

Under our present system it takes generally takes massive amounts of money to run a successful campaign. GMO labeling is a great example –where despite the will of the people –citizen initiatives for GMO labeling have been narrowly defeated due to being outspent by opposition from the likes of Monsanto, Pepsi, Kellogg’s and others by 10 – 1 or more. Media purchases (commercials on TV/Radio, newspaper ads, magazine ads and direct mail are all incredibly expensive.

In recent years the perfect storm was intentionally created to erode our ability to have a representative government. The conditions were set forth by the evisceration of the “Fairness Doctrine” (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fairness_Doctrine - which had provided a mechanism for equal and fair broadcast time) and the recent U.S. Supreme Court rulings in “Citizens United” v. the FEC and McCutcheon v. the FEC.

Influence of money on budget and appropriations

Part of the role of government is to determine how to allocate and invest our taxpayer dollars to keep America strong now and for future generations. This is also an area that has caused significant anger and frustration among Americans. This is due to a lack of alignment of how our money is allocated (societal priorities) and the inefficiencies and corruption in the present system.

When people talk about “Big government” versus “a government so small we can drown it in a bathtub” what some are really saying is we want an efficient government that provides the services we need at the federal, state and local levels.

While “drowning government” is used as a battlecry by Grover Norquist and others -they are actually not interested in addressing inefficiency or corruption. They are simply manipulating the masses from civic/political participation and to privatize –so they can transfer and consolidate additional wealth to the top 1%. Most of my conservative and liberal friends agree –if our/their home is on fire –we’d like a well-trained group of first responders that can react quickly and save life and property. If we drive over a bridge we have an expectation that it won’t collapse. If we need a license to drive our vehicle –we’d like to make sure we can get in, be tested and evaluated and licensed. If we turn on our water faucet –we expect clean, safe good tasting water –not a flammable sludge.

The problem becomes when Monsanto or another large company, industry (via a lobbying group) or extremely wealthy individuals write large campaign donations (or hire family and friends of our elected officials) –there is an absolute expectation that our representatives will reward them with lucrative government contracts –or projects that are not aligned with our societal priorities or imperatives. These are “pork projects”, “earmarks” or “bridges to nowhere” –and create justified anger among taxpayers.

Voter Rights

If we truly aspire toward a democracy –we must act like one. We should be making every effort to make voting accessible, simple and highly encouraged.

The voter suppression movement is antithetical to democracy –and those behind such efforts harbor such a complete contempt for America, the Constitution and Bill of Rights –as a nation we should be considering the revocation of their citizenship and eliminating their ability to live in or do business in the United States. A pattern of interference by any individual, group of individuals, lobby or business entity should be investigated and upon a finding of guilt –there should be severe civil and criminal consequences.
All federal, state and local elections should allow absentee voting and receive ballots no less than 30 days prior to election day. Election season should include at very least two legally recognized holiday’s: Issue Day in which broadcast media provides time for all candidates and groups representing major societal issues access to airtime and Election day should also be a paid holiday.

Furthermore we must have law that establishes clear transparency and accountability in elections. Until we can separate money from campaigns -we must demand clear labeling of ballot initiatives including who is sponsoring and funding them. We cannot allow front groups to obscure the real power and motivation behind initiatives.

For example we can not tolerate an unholy alliance between oil companies to attempt to eviscerate law established to protect air quality through a front group called “Citizens for Healthy Clear Air”. We must have the mechanisms to understand that Chevron contributed 5 million dollars, Exxon contributed 5 million dollars -not a “citizens” organization “concerned” with air quality.

Voter Responsibilities

With rights come responsibilities as citizens. We must take the time to understand the candidates, their voting records, their stated positions (and until we can separate money from campaigns and appropriations) who is funding them.

We must look beyond the attack ads, yardsign, soundbite and promises to understand the candidates or ballot initiatives. There is excellent, well-researched information that is published by many different trusted organizations that can guide you if you need help.

People have died or have been beaten in order to win the right to vote. When we do not vote (whether due to apathy, cynicism or a “boycott”) we are not only dishonoring these courageous men and women –we are simply letting Monsanto, WalMart, McDonalds and Halliburton determine what America should look like.

Growing Economic Inequality

Tax code and policy

Since the 1960’s our tax code has changed, become more complex and now clearly favors corporations and the wealthiest Americans. When an administrative assistant is investing a greater percentage of their earnings into American society through their taxes than a wealthy venture capitalist or ExxonMobil -the tax code is clearly a key contributing factor to the growing abyss between working families and the wealthiest Americans. While many may say this erodes the quality and dignity of the American dream for most people -it is far more disturbing on deeper levels as it weakens the American economic system. Our economic engine fuels America -so by weakening our engine -it absolutely weakens this country.

Our tax policy should encourage the type of investment as well as divestment that is aligned with our national, state and local objectives. For example -if from a National Security perspective -we seek to limit our dependence on oil imports -our tax policy should include credits for the purchase of electric vehicles, mass transit passes, solar/wind for home use -while paying for those credits with additional taxes on gasoline or other carbon use.

Estate taxes should provide an exemption up to three to five million dollars and be adjusted for the cost of living every five years. While some argue this represents a double tax (presumably income/capital gains taxes during one’s lifetime) and then again upon death -it is not about fairness -it is about protecting America from the conditions that exist today -an obscene concentration of wealth among the wealthiest 1%. This creates a significant imbalance of power and wealth -and each subsequent “trust fund” generation is more insulated from real American life -while being able to assert more influence and power over such lives. Estate taxes protect the path to democracy from an  “economic cancer”. With diminished or zero estate taxes we are led directly to the oligarchy we’ve become today.

Corporations

Corporations use our infrastructure, education system, resources and people. The basic rule should be -if you want to conduct business in America -you should pay taxes here. When ExxonMobil is generating record quarterly profit and pays zero tax and a small business trying to survive is paying taxes -there is something inherently wrong. If America’s strength and promise is grounded in fairness -we must address this. Fair taxes are not anti-business. Providing a landscape in which small businesses can thrive -while large enterprise can still provide a solid return on investment (without harming society) should be a goal. As tax revenues are invested in government services -and appropriations for a future, stronger America -large corporations need to either provide their fair share or agree to no longer conduct business in the lucrative American market,

Minimum versus living wages

Lately the stagnant federal minimum wage has been in focus. The federal minimum wage in America is $7.25 per hour. Based upon a 40 hour work week this is $290.00 per week (gross wages).

21 million workers (an estimated 16% of the American workforce) would be postively impacted by a change in policy on wages. The average CEO in 1965 made 20 times the average worker salary.

In 2013 average CEO compensation was 295.9 times average worker compensation. There are a handful of CEO’s that have (or continue to have) the leadership, vision and work ethic -that they have made a company what it is (or in some cases have created entire industries). They have risked their own capital (or convinced others to put capital at risk -not an easy task) and have created opportunities for 100’s or 1,000’s or 10’s of thousands of American workers.

Most of the rest of the class of CEO’s are managers -not leaders. They may have a well-recognized name or following. They may have created higher equity value for a company by shifting costs to society (by reducing the workforce, transferring jobs to lower paying areas around the world, legally evading U.S. tax responsibility through tax loopholes and keeping worker wages stagnant). They are not innovating or creating any value for America or the world -they are simply shifting costs on paper.

To create stock/shareholder gains by reducing the American workforce, busting unions and keeping workers fearful (and reducing worker wages) should not be tolerated by American society.

For example -there are many that would say -the free market will take care of itself (although we’ve yet to actually see a free market -and likely never will). However in near “free-market” conditions WalMart (one of America’s largest employers) keeps average worker wages low and is vigorously anti-union. This causes many WalMart workers to supplement their negligible wages with food stamps and other vital social services that we all pay for (in our taxes). This at a time in which they were paying $100’s of millions of dollars to executives as “performance bonuses”. Yet many consumers continue to shop there because, you know, “Save money. Live better!”.

I’d propose that while we increase the federal minimum wage -many state and local governments should also address minimum wage, raising it beyond the federal minimum if the local region has a higher cost of living. Furthermore -large corporations like WalMart, McDonalds and others should be held accountable for a higher, “Living Wage”.

As Americans -we should be supportive of any worker that is employed and trying to improve their own economic standing and that of their families. And we need to make sure the largest, most successful enterprises are not simply taking care of their executives and to a lesser degree, their shareholders. They must treat their employees fairly and certainly not have an expectation that American taxpayers will cover part of what should be fair wages.

Healthcare Costs

American healthcare and drug costs are out of control. There are two fundamental issues -access to care and cost containment. Between 1999 and 2009 according to RAND healthcare costs nearly doubled for the average American family with little improvement in quality of care.
Furthermore -prior to the introduction of the Affordable Care Act -a growing number of American’s had no access to healthcare coverage in America.

Individual responsibility

In the scope of the American healthcare system -we each bear some responsibility to ourselves our families and society. If we are to be a relatively unhealthy nation, filled to excess with fast, fried food, smoking, drinking (among other cultural issues we discuss later leading to substantial mental health costs -we exacerbate expenses and diminish the quality of the average american life. While government should not dictate individual diet or health -government can certainly make recommendations that must be unfettered by lobbying by meat, fast food, drug, tobacco, GMO or other industries that are seeking profit without regard to American health or healthcare costs. However a person that indulges in high risk behavior -should not shift their costs to society -the cost of healthcare coverage should not be “one size fits all”. The additional costs of healthcare related to conditions of obesity should be borne in part by the individual through a tax on fast or unhealthy food and additional taxes on companies that profit from such products. Additional healthcare costs associated from smoking and alcohol should be addressed in a similar manner.

Food/Beverage/Tobacco/Firearms Responsibility

Companies and entire industries that create health risks should be taxed and such taxes should be earmarked to offset any additional societal costs related to such behaviors including health and education for Americans to live more content, healthy lifestyles.

Employer versus Societal

I believe that as a nation we have a fundamental responsibility to each other to ensure that Americans have access to food, clothing, shelter and healthcare. While an employer benefits from greater productivity (and thus profit) with a healthy workforce -and should encourage positive behavior (fitness, nutrition, incentives for remaining in good health) -it is ultimately our responsibility as a society. Whereas the Affordable Care Act is an attempt to help contain costs (through a competitive, “free-market” exchange and the negotiating leverage that comes from adding 30-50 million people that previously had no access to healthcare coverage) -the intent of the ACA is also to provide a societal mechanism for access to coverage. As more employers have shifted the burden of additional heathcare costs to employees (via the co-insurance payment) -I believe we unfairly burden employers with rising healthcare costs. Such costs should be borne by society in a single payer system of care. While many may vehemently disagree (as evidenced by protest signs such as “I want government out of my healthcare”) on single payer -I suspect much of the negative reaction has been driven by misinformation from insurance companies, insurance lobbyists and people like the Koch brothers. If you have a choice between government weighing in on healthcare or the CEO of Blue Cross/Blue Shield or a group of wall street analysts (and let’s face it -those are the choices we have) -who do you think is more likely to approve a necessary and vital procedure for your child? A CEO that has their executive bonus tied to cutting costs and driving profit? Good luck with that. Frankly -the only people I’d like involved in my healthcare is me and my doctor. Nevertheless -the system itself has to be administered -and healthcare is one industry (of several) that should not be driven by the motive of profit. There are other, better ways to measure the efficacy of the system without paying a CEO tens or hundreds of millions of dollars while healthcare costs continue to spiral out of control.

Military/Defense Costs There is no question in this volatile world we need a strong, well-equipped and capable national defense with the ability to rapidly and effectively deploy in order to protect American and allied life around the world. Nevertheless -the military procurement process is bloated and there are many well-known areas of waste and corruption. The manner that we address our defense costs needs to radically change. In the year 2015 we will be spending over a trillion dollars (between mandatory and discretionary federal budget) on military services. This represents approximately $3,300 per year for every man, woman, child and infant in America. In 2011 we outspent the next 15 countries (including Russia and China) combined and outspent the second country (China) by five times (see chart below).





Education
The American education system was once one of the best in the world. An international study found that the U.S. is now 19th in combined testing of Mathematics, Science and Literacy. This is important. As many Americans have begun to correlate energy policy to American security (the more dependence upon oil imports and global volatility -the more we have to spend on military to protect our global energy interests) people have not yet considered the connection to global leadership in education to national strength.

Eighteen education systems had higher average scores than the United States in all three subjects. The 18 education systems are: Australia, Canada, Chinese Taipei, Estonia, Finland, Germany, Hong Kong-China, Ireland, Japan, Liechtenstein, Macao-China, Netherlands, New Zealand, Poland, Republic of Korea, Shanghai-China, Singapore, and Switzerland.” (http://nces.ed.gov/surveys/pisa/pisa2012/pisa2012highlights_1.asp)

This is of great concern for the future of American society. When we do not have to depend upon other, potentially unstable regions of the world -we do not have to increase our military capability to remain strong and secure. Our ability to synthesize new materials that will improve the quality of American and perhaps life around the world rests with our future scientists, mathematicians and research.

If we lag in education -we will have to depend upon discoveries and materials that came from elsewhere (if they are even made available to us). At present we have a military advantage over any other nation -however that is due to superior technology, science and research. How long will that advantage last when we are lagging behind at least 18 other countries in education?

Furthermore -the cost of higher education in America is rising exponentially (while again -the American profit before people approach to student loans will continue to transfer wealth and weaken the American economy).

How many of our youth -if surrounded with leading K-12 schools -that are safe havens from violence, bullying, guns might have gone on to be the next Albert Einstein, Jonas Salk, John Kenneth Galbraith or Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. -instead of imprisoned, sent to war or trying to survive in America with menial employment -because we as a society squandered an opportunity to support them.

If there is any place where our investment as a society should be clear -for a strong America now and especially in the future -education is the place. Our schools should be places where learning is inspired, world class and safe. It is the place where we show our youth that we value their life and past generations encourage each new generation to go beyond, add to American and global knowledge and chart a better, safer future for all. It should be unfettered education predicated upon the fundamentals of reading, writing and mathematics -and should include continuous new scientific knowledge and theory as it becomes available. It should be publicly funded -and in no way should ExxonMobil or the Koch Brothers be teaching climate theory, McDonalds should not be sponsoring nutrition classes and WalMart should not be sponsoring business or consumer courses. And education should be well-rounded in culture, languages, humanities, music and the arts -all to help future generations appreciate and protect the gifts provided by past generations.

Public College and Universities in America should be tuition free -and we should fund materials and limited student expenses -either through low interest loans or grants for those that do not have the economic ability to fund themselves. When higher education is unaffordable -it limits our societal ability to have every individual reach their potential -and when we do not provide the incentives -we weaken American society now and in the future.

Racism and Gender Discrimination
If we are to consider ourselves an advanced and civilized society -there is no room for discrimination or pay inequity. Work performed by an individual should be compensated on the basis of the quality and value of the work, not predicated upon anatomy or the color of one’s skin.


There remains a vast difference in how we seek to be perceived as a nation -and the deep seated fear and hatred we harbor against others. Unlike the recent Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) decision that we are a post-race society -there is racism running through most threads of American life -and in some regions -it is not even hidden.

Energy Policy
Our energy policy over the last 50 years has been defined by Big Oil, Coal and the Nuclear power industries. Abdicating such important policy to the profit motive has led us to the brink of climate catastrophe (or Nuclear catastrophe as Fukushima continues to demonstrate an important lesson about nuclear power generation through fission technology). It has also is responsible for shifting incredible wealth to one of the most politically unstable parts of the world -and we have paid for this policy- and continue to do so with the blood of our sons and daughters (as well as many innocent civilian lives). We must rapidly transition to a safe, renewable energy strategy. The answer does not lie beneath the surface of America in the form of dangerous fracking technology. The answer is not in an environmentally ill-advised pipeline. The answer is blowing in the wind -as well as solar energy, transitioning to electric and/or hydrogen powered vehicles and other technologies that minimize carbon emissions and contribute to catastrophic climate change. We need to apply the same rigor to the “energy” race as we once did to the space race. It is at an absolute minimum a matter of national security.

Domestic Security, Drug Policy, Police and Prisons
We would all like to raise our families and enjoy a life free from crime (well, I suspect most of us anyway). Addressing quality and dignity of life in the areas outlined above (namely economic inequality, racism, education, healthcare) are all proactive investment in domestic security. When people and communities are valued over profit and wealth -there is simply less crime. We are human however -and thus crime will happen. Our lack of proactive investment in society and in communities that have led to widening economic inequality is a factor in more crime as well as drug and alcohol abuse in America. Police and prisons are a reactive expenditure when we fail.



Media
A democracy is predicated upon a well-educated populace and access to unfettered, real and independent news. Such news should not be mired in opinion or filtered to produce a specific way of perceiving events -that is a fundamental difference between news and propaganda.

When news (or the “Fourth Estate”) becomes beholden to a particular perspective -it is no longer trustworthy, credible or of value. Many years ago major American broadcast news competed for viewers on the basis of investigation, integrity and were not held accountable for profitability by the leading broadcast networks. News was viewed as a public service -and part of the price broadcast networks paid for leveraging American society-owned “broadcast commons” or airwaves. In the late 1970’s television shifted and with it -news became accountable to produce profit. Not only has this diminished the quality of news (whereas arguably the entertainment value has increased) -the profit motive is often directly in conflict with reporting the news. As a society -we must make a renewed investment in competitive and real news sources that are effective, efficient and not beholden to a political or corporate perspective. Media should be well funded through societal investment from tax revenues and not filtered by industry lobbyists, politicians or from foreign investment. Furthermore -numerous cable channels procured distribution capability by establishing an “educational” component to their programming. For example in many markets while the “News” show Hannity spews hate and lies corresponding to the political perspectives of the foreign owner of Fox News, Rupert Murdoch the line-up of thoughtful programming that is helping to educate and inspire America is as follows:

  • The History Channel: “Pawn Stars: The Adventures of Corey and Chum”
  • TLC (formerly called The Learning Channel): “19 and Counting: Jesse’s Engagement (can’t wait for Jesse to have 19 kids)”
  • Arts and Entertainment: “Godfather of Pittsburgh -I’m the Big Guy”
  • Discovery: “The Town That Caught Tourettes?”
  • National Geographic: “Alaska State Troopers -Cut in the Gut”
  • Bravo: “Vanderpump Rules”
  • Science: “Which Universe Are We In?”
-a question that seems more than reasonable when putting the above list together. These are a small bit of evidence with regard to why we must read more and watch TV less. What was sold to society as a great boon to education and knowledge has simply been another way in which we are fed opinions via “news” programming, told who to hate and who to blame for our problems. And in between the above programming or “Honey Boo Boo” (thankfully cancelled as of this writing), or watching Ted Nugent or Sarah Palin shooting defenseless animals from helicopters or the Duggars spewing out another child -in complete denial that the world has finite resources while pretending their genes are so remarkable -the only thing better than 19 Duggars must be 20 Duggars! -while I do not recommend violence of any kind -shooting your TV might be considered justifiable from my perspective.

Immigration
Many hardworking American families have been ripped apart by deportation. A society that claims “family values” and then separates parents and children is drowning in its own hypocrisy. We owe it to the history of how America was founded (by immigrants) and achieved greatness (by immigrant labor) and how we continue to put food on our tables (most of which has been provided through backbreaking efforts of immigrant labor. We need a new round of amnesty (for those that are want to yell ‘Merica here and talk about building a big fence -it was your political idol -Ronald Reagan that signed Immigration Amnesty into law in 1986 -see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immigration_Reform_and_Control_Act_of_1986)

Whereas the resources that American society has is finite -we do need sensible controls and a forward thinking immigration policy -and we need to address where we are at today. By not providing amnesty -we devastate communities and create more uncertainty and anxiety for an important part of America.


Privatization
People want to eliminate corruption and drive perceived and real inefficiencies out of government services and systems. Many are told that privatization is a key to creating a competitive landscape and such competition will lead to efficient use of our societal investment. The reason privatization is not a panacea is it creates competition for profit. As a private enterprise -I can succeed by increasing revenue or lowering costs or both. Often if I lower costs -I diminish the services I provide. Whether I succeed or fail is not based upon the societal outcomes or results we desire -it is purely upon profit or loss of the enterprise.

Government should be held accountable and should be transparent in the funding and outcomes of agencies providing public service. However the profit motive is often in direct conflict with providing the services we need as a society. Privatization tends to benefit the already wealthy -as any reduction of costs (due to stagnant salaries, reduced workforces, lack of retirement or other benefits) -are generally shifted to executives and stockholders. This is why there is so much pressure on industries that historically have been government services to privatize. It is sold to us as “greater efficiency”. It is more frequently intended to transfer and consolidate wealth.

Acknowledging Our History
America aspires to be a strong and benevolent beacon of hope for humanity. A place where people are valued over things, innovation and hard work are rewarded and there is opportunity for all that are willing to work hard. Even if we “right” the ship -I believe we must understand our complete history, acknowledge our past mistakes, remedy them if we can and look to a future that is not encumbered by our past. From genocide (the trail of tears), slavery, imperialism, wars prosecuted on the basis of lies and interference in other sovereign governments (such as the assassination of Allende in Chile, the multiple attempts to assassinate Castro and destabilize Cuba meddling in Central America and elsewhere in the name of “national security” should be cast into the light, studied and readily understood so in the future we do not make similar mistakes. We must redefine what is in our national interests -and it should be predicated upon keeping Americans and our allies safe in America and abroad -it should not be predicated upon protecting the accumulation of wealth -or protecting the interests of large, multinational corporations over the rights of indigenous people.

Cultural Societal Illness
The pursuit of profit and wealth (and the accumulation and consolidation of wealth) has become the American focus. From “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous”, “Real Housewives of Wherever”, “Cribs”, music videos, expensive cars and the constant bling paraded in front of us in a barrage of commercials for Cadillac’s, Lincolns, BMW’s and so on. We are told we can be much happier if we buy more luxurious homes, cars and jewelry. In fact -we’re told if we don’t shop, the terrorists win. I believe if we don’t shop (and consume) in a more evolved way -”the terrorists” do win.

As a nation we have lost our way. We have had the quality of American life eroded over the last few generations. We have abdicated our American values to money and material wealth. Instead of a sense of community where people would take care of each other, children could be outdoors playing until dinner -we've become a suspicious, fearful nation. We're worried that our jobs could be eliminated at anytime -because the new CEO wants to hit quarterly expectations and take a large bonus. If we are fortunate enough to have a mortgage payment we're hoping we don't lose our home as so many recently did. If we pay rent -we hope the owner doesn't increase the rent so we are faced with a "should I buy my medicine or groceries" decision for ourselves or our family. Some are so frightened they want to take their assault rifle or handgun with them wherever they go -which then creates more fear. A young person graduating from college or university (if they were fortunate enough to have the support to attend) graduates while encumbered with tremendous debt. Any thought of using the education for public good or services is lost as young adults enter the job market with home mortgage-like debt.

  • A pristine forest was once a day or weekend in nature. Now forests are managed and clearcut for profit. 
  • We sing about “Purple mountain majesties” in “America the Beautiful. Now we remove mountaintops for mining interests and profit. 
  • Our water ways were once unspoiled, precious resources. Now they are perfect to carry our toxic waste out to sea where in the Gulf coast they can mix with the oil disaster caused by BP and Halliburton. 
  • For years our diplomatic solution was to send in the Marines (even if it meant invading the wrong country and creating instability and chaos for generations). 
  • We have supported brutal dictators like Pinochet, Noriega, Batista, Trujillo and others in exchange for giving our large corporations unfettered access to their natural resources, people and markets. However when they no longer follow our directives we cut them loose.
  • We fund prisons but not schools. 
  • Are you fortunate enough to be able to attend college? We’ll make sure you start your your life burdened with significant debt. 
  • We pay our educators, first-responders, nurses and others next to nothing and accuse them of “bankrupting” the American system. 
  • We allow our political landscape to be sold to the highest bidder. 
  • We won’t allow two people that love each other to marry -however we advocate passionately for the right of someone to acquire possession of an assault weapon at a moment in time in which their anger, depression and situation drives them to take their own life and many more around them. 
  • We complain about traffic while driving slowly or stopped, alone in our carbon polluting cars, trucks and SUV’s -and protest against a high-speed train or other forms of mass transit -because it is “wasteful”. 
  • We see poverty in other countries and think “what a shame” or we quickly turn the page or change the channel without thinking about the abject poverty that exists in America. 
  • We are distressed when people are killed at a mall -but don’t give much thought to the child that walks to and from school in an area plagued by drive by shootings and violence. 
  • We see the parade of people of color being detained on “Cops” because they may have stolen a car, assaulted someone or had drug paraphernalia and are glad they are arrested, convicted and behind bars -yet when a massive fraud created the most severe economic crisis in America since the Great Depression -we patched the system up with taxpayer money -slapped a few wrists and then Congress fought for less regulation and enforcement (and continue to do so). 
  • We are shocked about what Lindsey, Miley, Amanda or Justin do next -and could care less that an American drone strike or bomb just killed a group of innocent children or a wedding party in a dangerous place whose name we cannot pronounce. 
  • We gather in the tens of millions to watch the Super Bowl or American Idol -but we don’t vote -and then we wonder why our quality of life is being eroded, how wealthy Corporations are now “people” and money is now “speech”. We care less about who you are and more about what you do, what car you drive and what you have. 
We claim we are hated for our freedom? I suspect we are admired for our “freedom” and are simply held accountable for what we do with it. In 2008 we were tired of illegal wars and occupation. We were tired of a deregulated business climate that led us to the precipice of economic ruin. We were tired of tax cuts for the wealthy and record deficits. We still believed in the American dream. We had hope again. In 2014 we elected a Congress (whether we voted or not) that will advocate for the same policies that brought us to the brink of economic collapse. And this time -the stakes are much higher -our environment and economic systems are at risk.


What Can We Do?

Each election cycle will be viciously fought from herein, the odds against and the stakes higher. We will be fighting against a monumental wave of money pouring into campaigns, attack ads, media buys and opinions masquerading as news.

We are divided (and conquered) in many ways. The politics of wealth focus on our differences, tell us who to blame and corrupt the system to create cynicism and apathy.

If we are to survive as a nation -we must unite around the things that we agree upon. The last few election cycles have provided insight into how America can win -not how a party wins. There were numerous ballot initiatives placed by citizens that received enough petitions/signatures to become part of the local and/or state ballot. As our legislators have largely failed America for a long time -we can work on American outcomes that “We the People” want, share resources across state and local boundaries and put critical issues to vote from sea to shining sea. While electronic petitions have become popular -we need a mechanism to go beyond the petition and draft American law. There are too many recent examples of massively popular support for an issue that dies in Congress because it is wildly unpopular with the people and industries that are buying Congressional representation.

The outcomes most all Americans want are things like:
  • Legislators and Politicians that will put our communities and country first.
  • Government services that are effective, transparent and accountable to taxpayers.
  • A political and judicial system that is well-insulated from corruption,
  • World class, safe, inspiring K-12 Education.
  • Well-paid educators that will inspire the next generation to learn and go beyond previous generations.
  • Textbooks and education that cover the best body of knowledge we have today -free from political or religious debate.
  • Affordable college and universities.
  • An opportunity for all hard working people to improve their quality of life.
  • Access to high quality, affordable medical, dental, vision and mental health care.
  • Clean air.
  • Safe, clear, good-tasting water.
  • Everyone paying their fair share of taxes.
  • Well-paid first-responders that can afford to live in the communities in which they serve.
  • The economic opportunity to create a better, safer future for our children.
  • Mass transit systems that are inexpensive, fast and efficient.
  • Retirement security for our aging population.
  • Housing, healthcare and services that honor our Veterans.
  • A mechanism to address the out of control economic inequality that has become a cancer to the American economic and political system over the past few generations.
  • Communities that are developed and funded to address abject poverty -so every American can enjoy opportunity, prosperity and truly look forward to a better future.
  • Roads, highways and bridges that are well-maintained and safe.
  • State and National parks to protect pristine areas and coastline for ourselves and future generations of America and the world.



Examples of the type of results we may want to support together (not grounded in political ideology -grounded in concepts and policy that will strengthen America for this and future generations):

  • Election Day Holiday Act: All official Federal, State and Local elections will provide mail-in/absentee balloting beginning at least 30 days prior to Election day and accept ballots until the polls close on Election Day. Election Day will be a paid, nationally recognized American holiday.
  • Political Truth in Advertising: Any content in a political advertisement that is determined to be false or misleading will require a label that identifies the advertisement as false and misleading and will require a response advertisement to the opposing campaign without charge. Furthermore, any attack advertisement will be no longer be exempt from civil libel laws or penalties. A pattern of false advertising will result in criminal fraud charges.
  • Political Funding: No individual, group or organization can provide more than $100 for a campaign. No group or corporation may donate to a campaign outside of the jurisdiction of their HQ.

The outcomes we as Americans want and the method to enact law can be at the local, State or Federal level.

We are developing the “how” we do this -and need your help. We are working on launching a social network called “CivWorks” that protects your privacy, does not sell advertising and provides many of the social features you enjoy today with Facebook, Google+ or other platforms and will use a small monthly subscription fee to fund our initial development, new features and functions that you would find useful and for ongoing not-for-profit operations.

The difference is that we are integrating the features that will allow you to connect with interested or concerned people in your area to work on issues we all care about and how we can either begin ballot initiatives or actually draft and track law we want passed by our local government, State government or Congress -and tracking the bill to see which elected officials support it -and which do not.. Working together on both legislative and budget/appropriation outcomes we want for ourselves, our families, our communities and America -we can shift political power back to “We the People” and create a better America and world for future generations.

Monday, September 2, 2013

Quiet and Unquiet Heroes -Labor Day 2013 Reflections

I am grateful for all of the sacrifices of those that stood up to massive wealth and formed our labor unions. There are many heroes that marched together (often at great peril) so that we could enjoy holidays, weekends, competitive salaries and benefits.

The massive wealth (such as the Koch Brothers and the WalMart/Walton heirs) that are continuing to buy Congress and State Governments (Rick Perry, Scott Walker, Rick Scott, etc) -in order to undo collective bargaining and eviscerate unions are weakening America faster than any terrorist organization could. The erosion of the middle class (which was the driving force behind the strength of the American economy) continues to threaten the economic health of America -and leads us to trade our long term future for short term needs.

While labor needs to modernize and align with the overall goals and objectives of American society -without them our children would be staring into a future of flipping burgers for minimum wage until they turn 70 and their retirement security is replaced with a job as a greeter at WalMart.

So for the AFL-CIO, the SEIU, AFSCME and all other labor unions in America and around the world -I celebrate this day with you -and hope we can celebrate far more in the upcoming 2014 and 2016 election cycles!

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

What Progressives Can Learn From Massively Parallel Computing Architectures

Massively Parallel Computing Architectures and the Progressive Mindset.











Recent discussions with friends and peers prompted me to share some key perspectives on progressive versus neoconservative behavioral styles.

My observation back in 2003 was that the neocon machine is very much like a mainframe (highly-centralized) computing architecture. They readily work together toward a common goal -and behaviorally it is much easier for them to work together on common interests. Their behavioral style lends itself well to a typical hierarchical structure and many are happy to passively follow along with the centralized plan or platform.

Progressives are highly individualized and don't necessarily follow along with any plan. Progressives question authority and do not generally respond well to a rigid hierarchical structure. We respond more to peer to peer structures -and are (in my observation) similar to a massively parallel computing architecture. The biggest obstacle we face is that there still needs to be some generally accepted plan to achieve a progressive outcome and while we may all be focused in our respective areas of passion and advocacy -there still needs to be a mechanism to communicate with each other, articulate a cohesive vision or platform and work toward it in a mostly autonomous manner (consistent with our behavioral style). For massively parallel compute architectures to be successful -there must be a messaging and coordination layer -which orchestrates activity between all of the autonomous "nodes". This layer (or backplane) is what remains largely undefined (from my perspective) and when we finally develop an adaptive "backplane" we will be able to drive a socio-economic and political agenda that just might save the planet and humanity (provided we are not too late).

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Exxon Hates Your Children


We at alonovo.com absolutely love and support this commercial from Oil Change International and The Other 98%. While we really need funding -so do they to get this project on the air and into millions of homes. Please visit http://exxonhatesyourchildren.com/ to find out how you can help sponsor this important broadcast.



Saturday, November 10, 2012

GMO Lobbying, Consumer Right to Know and alonovo


Please share far and wide! -alonovo.com will soon be providing easy to use information on the web and mobile devices -as to which Companies supported consumer's right to know about products containing GMO's -and which companies are on the wrong side of history.

While great organizations like California Right to Know will continue the political fight -lets hit bad companies in their most sensitive spot. You know ... right in their quarterly results.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

EU Implements "Robin Hood" Tax



This is excellent. The reason is that speculative short term investment is seeking to transfer capital and wealth -and this tax will raise the cost of speculative transactions (thus encouraging longer term capital investment that adds jobs while growing/strengthening the economy). It's really a tax on gambling -and goes to the heart of some of our thoughts about transfers of wealth as opposed to meaningful creating of value.

http://www.economywatch.com/in-the-news/european-commission-approves-tobin-tax.24-10.html

Monday, October 22, 2012

The case for alonovo ...



The fundamental reason that the alonovo concept is becoming more relevant than ever is that we spend much of our societal focus now debating issues that were resolved (or should have been) long ago. The fact that we debate women's rights, fair pay, anti-discrimination, trickle-down economics and foreign policy that is war and not diplomacy focused is due to economics. The last few generations have embraced policies that have directed the flow of capital to companies (and their investors) that add little to no value -they externalize their costs through pollution, plundering resources, abuse their workforce and corrupt government. Koch industries, WalMart, Halliburton, Big Oil -are all leading examples of such entities. As a people until we either insulate the political process from money (unlikely post-Citizens United) -the market is the place where we can add the engine that can connect demand affinity to companies operating in a fair and sustainable manner -which tends to drive capital to more evolved, socially responsible management and investors. It also provides natural societal protection against companies externalizing costs (as Chevron does -in Ecuador as well as in Richmond, California) where governmental protection and/or judicial relief may ebb and flow with the political landscape -consumers can make value-aligned decisions.