Showing posts with label PACs. Show all posts
Showing posts with label PACs. Show all posts

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Post Midterm Thoughts

So broken: our political system and our way of life.   And still another mass shooting, this one in a CA bar.  We’ve become inured to them by lack of any action, the NRA’s tentacles wrapped around Congress.  There are solutions.  It only takes the will.

Anyone who caught Trump’s news conference yesterday, his firing of Sessions and replacing him with a Yes Man, should understand the fragility of our democratic system.   Demagogues play the Press to their propagandist advantage.  Demagogues demand obedience.

I had only one wish for the Midterms: gain the House, although like most moderate progressives, I was rooting for Beto, Gillum, et al.  Still, I sleepily emailed ebullient messages to a few friends at 3.00 AM declaring “victory” with the subject heading “bring on the subpoenas.”

But I am no Pollyanna, thinking that having control of the House will ameliorate the deep dark political divide in this country.  It might exacerbate it, but as with an operation, the aftermath therapy can be more painful than the procedure. 

We focus on Trump, which is the way he wants it but there are so many systemic issues. Our Constitution is the best political document ever drafted, but it was by 18th century thinkers. 

The 2nd Amendment needs updating.  Muskets are no longer the only “arms” that we have the right to bear.

The Electoral College needs fixing or abandonment, allowing the direct popular vote to determine the outcome of Presidential elections.  Slavery and concern that the average person might not be best suited to make those decisions led to the Electoral College.  We need to question its legitimacy in today’s world where information is readily available to everyone.

Similarly, another consequence of the great Constitutional compromise was the one giving each State the same number of Senators, irrespective of population.  I quote what Alexander Hamilton had to say about that in The Federalist below.  Who could have seen what now exists, with thinly populated states such as North Dakota, about the population size of an El Paso, Texas, having the same Senate representation as the entire State of Texas itself, giving the people of ND nearly 40 times the political clout to have their say over Supreme Court Justices, etc.?  Even a greater multiple when it comes to states like NY or CA.

Another bĂȘte noir of mine, and thankfully we now have a brief reprieve, is political advertising.  Super PACs representing special interests, as well as extremist political party advertising, are a form of government approved brainwashing, appealing primarily to emotional issues.  We’ve successfully removed cigarette advertising from our airwaves.  Time has come to remove political advertising and endless robo calls (spend the $$ on our decaying infrastructure, or healthcare, etc. instead!).  Make all political discourse over the airways subject to universally recognized debate rules.  If a candidate has something to say, write an opinion piece for local and/or national publication, maintain a Web site expressing plans and opinions.  Aren’t we sick of the political advertising which portrays the opposition as being sent from hell? 

Easier said than done, I know, but we have to do something to separate the democratic process from mass persuasion dollars.  The next couple of months before our new House representatives are sworn in are going to be critical. May we survive those days to get democracy back on track.

The Federalist No. 22 by Alexander Hamilton
Every idea of proportion and every rule of fair representation conspire to condemn a principle, which gives to Rhode Island an equal weight in the scale of power with Massachusetts, or Connecticut, or New York; and to Delaware an equal voice in the national deliberations with Pennsylvania, or Virginia, or North Carolina. Its operation contradicts the fundamental maxim of republican government, which requires that the sense of the majority should prevail. Sophistry may reply, that sovereigns are equal, and that a majority of the votes of the States will be a majority of confederated America. But this kind of logical legerdemain will never counteract the plain suggestions of justice and common-sense. It may happen that this majority of States is a small minority of the people of America; and two thirds of the people of America could not long be persuaded, upon the credit of artificial distinctions and syllogistic subtleties, to submit their interests to the management and disposal of one third.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

It’s Come to This

I’ve passed through Baltimore more times than I care to count but never toured the city.  I know the Baltimore portrayed by Anne Tyler, a place of comfy familiarity. She must be appalled about what’s happening in Baltimore, although it is not surprising. Racial riots and tensions are not new in America.  It is reminiscent of the 1992 Rodney King riots in L.A. which followed the acquittal of police officers after a police brutality incident was caught on video tape.  But that was a “one off” capture of an incident.

What is new is the widespread use of cell phone, surveillance, and dash board cameras that reveal the everyday nature of the problem.  Twitter and YouTube deliver the message to a nation crazed for user-generated content.  The more we see, the more inured we become to the root of the problem, racial and economic division. 

Meanwhile media firms are pouring endless money into creating “shows” designed to be watched on ubiquitous mobile devices, the holy grail of streaming Internet firms such as Netflix.  We’ve become a nation of somnambulists, cynical about the political process (ironically revealed by Netflix’s House of Cards – does life imitate art or vice versa?). According to a study done two years ago, “by 2015 Americans are expected to consume media for more than 1.7 trillion hours, or an average15.5 hours per person per day, again not counting workplace time. 

2015 is now. My wife recently boarded an aircraft from Atlanta and most people were watching videos on their laptops or iPods or even cell phones and although anecdotal evidence at best, many were of interactive games or slam-bang explosive Hollywood films.   Imagine, most of your waking hours consuming media of this nature?

What happened to reading?  Same answer as to what has happened to education.  As long as we put a premium on consuming video content while minimizing education, there really is no answer to the racial and economic tensions that will play out in the future.  Along with rebuilding our infrastructure, and our inner cities, education must be this nation’s highest priority to provide opportunity where people feel there is none. Better police tactics are needed, and research and education is required there as well.   No wonder there is such despondency.

Easier said than done naturally, and having a dysfunctional government is not helping. As presidential electioneering gets underway the failings of the whole process will become even more apparent, thanks to Supreme Court sanctioned unlimited campaign contributions by corporations and individuals: its a few mega billionaires and corporations vs. the rest of us. 

And it’s come to this in Baltimore today: the Baltimore Orioles will play the Chicago White Sox in an empty stadium -- our National Pastime with no spectators allowed because of safety concerns. Eerie symbolism of things to come? Is that how we want to live our lives? 

Monday, November 5, 2012

Storm Aftermath and the Election

Hurricane Sandy left destruction in its wake, underscoring the fragility of our coastlines and infrastructure.   More on that, and its connection with the upcoming election later, but first a follow up on my last post which was filled with anxiety and speculation about Sandy's potential impact on our friends in Connecticut, our boat club, and our boat. It's mostly bad news but a fortuitous wind change from the east to the south just before the peak high tide during the storm made the difference between disaster and catastrophe.  It meant that the water level in the parking lot where our club’s boats are on the hard for the winter was "only" about 4-1/2 feet vs., potentially, 5-6.  As for my own boat, which has a draft of 3-3/4 feet and was blocked about a foot off the ground, the peak tide slightly lifted it, enough for it to shift off of its keel stands, but settling onto three of the four boat stands that hold the hard chine of the hull.  These stands are mainly for stability, not to support the entire weight of the boat, the keel stands doing the heavy support.  So, in a sense, my boat is hanging in mid air right now by those boat stands.  This might put strain on the hull, but my older, heavily built boat should come through as long as it can be reblocked successfully.  A crane has been brought in to remove damaged boats so, hopefully, the travel lift can get to those that need reblocking such as mine.

Unfortunately, many other boats in the yard were damaged or totaled.  Boats were strewn all over Water Street of South Norwalk.  And where we used to live across the Norwalk River on Sylvester Court, boats were on the street as well. 

This is but a microcosm of the coast above south Jersey where the storm came ashore, with places like Staten Island which is as low lying, and directly exposed to the east, taking a direct hit. And now they say there may be a Nor'easter in the cards for later this week which will just exacerbate misery and increase the potential for more damage.  We can only hope for the best.

Hurricanes seem to follow me wherever I might be, sometimes the same storm threatening us both in Florida and Connecticut.  The first hurricane I had to deal with in my life of any significance was Hurricane Carol in 1954.  My parents usually rented a cottage in Sag Harbor towards the end of each summer for a couple of weeks, a block from the Peconic Bay. Carol drove us out of our rental, and although a block away from the Bay, water was half way up the first floor.

Then in 1985 Hurricane Gloria came to call on Connecticut and although only a Cat. 1, the winds were from the southeast, driving water and tremendous wave action up the Norwalk River where we had a smaller boat at the time  – at a different marina than where we are now -- and between the heaving of the docks and the wind, boats broke free, another boat's bow pulpit plowed through the hull into our v-berth, but above the waterline so at least it didn't sink.

I anxiously watched Hurricane Bob form in 1991 as we were spending a two weeks summer vacation at Block Island.  A couple of days out from the storm a direct hit seemed unavoidable, so unlike some friends who decided to "ride it out" I packed up the boat and ran back to Norwalk, safe enough from the effects of the storm.  Boats were strewn all of the shores of Block Island although my friend, John, who tied his boat in a spider web maze of lines between the fixed docks of Payne’s, thankfully escaped relatively unscathed.

The next memorable hurricane was a terrifying one, Floyd which hit in September 1999.  We had just bought our home in Florida that prior June and Ann was living in the house, while I lived on the boat in Connecticut, finishing out my job there until the end of that year (we had already sold our home in CT).  Satellite imagery made Floyd look like the storm of the century, and it did grow to a Cat. 4, huge in size, heading directly at Florida, causing massive evacuations on the coast.  The traffic north was colossal.  I was terrified for my wife who was in the house alone (but with our dog at the time, Treat), and although it was completely shuttered, everyone was screaming evacuate north!  It seemed to me, amateur meteorologist extraordinaire, that while the storm had the potential to hit us head on in the North Palm Beach area, it was highly unlikely it would turn south or even have much of an impact far south of us, so while I95 and the Turnpike were clogged with cars going north, Ann and I decided it best for her to go south to a friend's home, inland, about 40 miles to the south which turned out to be the right decision.

With hindsight, she could have stayed put in our home as the storm took a sharp right hand turn up the coast and ironically had more of an impact on me living on our boat in Norwalk, CT.  I had to strip the enclosure and remove everything from the decks, tie off the boat with double lines and springs, put out extra fenders, etc., but I stayed on the boat through the storm and as it was not a direct hit, I merely rocked and rolled, and was fine. Tides never even approached the levels of Sandy.

2004 was another lousy hurricane year with both Hurricane Francis and Hurricane Jeanne striking Florida only some twenty miles north of us, and causing some minor damage to our home, although it was completely shuttered (mostly a roof tiles missing and plantings ruined).  We were not in Florida for Francis but had the pleasure of dealing with the aftermath of Jeanne with no power for days. Luckily, our cousins owned a condo south of us so we occupied that while waiting for power.  And let's not forget Hurricane Ivan that same year which dumped enormous amounts of rain, but was less of a wind event where we are.

Then there was 2005's Hurricane Wilma which we rode out in our home, all shuttered up again, a storm that was coming from the west and, therefore, Florida folklore would have you believe would be merely a minor inconvenience.  Unfortunately, the eye went over our house and as the storm emerged over the Atlantic the back end picked up significant strength, probably even a Cat. 2 or 3 at one point.  Our home was groaning in the wind, the sliding glass doors, although behind heavy steel shutters, bowing in and out just from the storm’s barometric pressure change. Wilma also knocked out power but, luckily, it turned cool, not the usual tropical air mass behind the storm, and living for days without power was even a little fun, cooking on sterno stoves, flash lights to read by, my piano a constant companion.

Finally, last year we dealt with Hurricane Irene, having to shutter up our house while living on the boat, expecting the worst for our home, which the storm completely missed, while we had to evacuate the boat! 

Florida, although very vulnerable, deals with hurricanes better than the northeast, especially one like Sandy that was both a hurricane and a Nor'easter rolled into one, bringing in a cold air mass in its wake.  It's one thing not to have power, and it’s another to also have no heat in the cold.  Also, gas stations here are required to have generators to pump gas and that is now a problem in the northeast with no such requirements. That will change in the future, I'm sure.

And here is the connection to politics. Mayor Bloomberg has it right to endorse President Obama even for no other reason than his stance and record on global warming.  Most scientists are in agreement that hydrocarbon emissions are responsible, not merely some grand cyclical weather factor.  Can this be reversed short term?  Of course not.  But it is an issue that has even greater consequences than our debt, and it is more difficult to solve than our man made fiscal crisis.

Watching the rise of the tide as Hurricane Sandy past by Florida, my neighbor, who has lived on our waterway for fifty years, remarked that during those years he has witnessed higher high tides and higher low tides until, finally, reaching the top of our sea wall during Sandy, submerging both my docks.  It took days for it to recede, long after the storm was battering the northeast.  Yes, this is merely anecdotal evidence, but even our short thirteen year stay here seems to confirm the observation.  How can we deny the existence of what we have wrought and the need to address this terrible problem? How will not only Congress, but world governments agree upon global warming mitigation priorities?

This brings me to the importance of this election.  It has been the most bitter election campaign in my memory, not surprising given the polarization and subsequent action calcification of our government.  It also is the consequence of the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision which opened the flood gates to Super PACs funded by corporations, wealthy individuals and special interest groups.  This has led to the pollution of the airways, endless robot-calls and an inundation of direct mail.  In one week alone, these flyers pictured here were sent to us.

Imagine the billions of dollars wasted on these brainwashing attempts.  Why do we permit political advertising at all?  There must be other alternatives.  But I guess they work, just judging by the letters to the editor I read in the Palm Beach Post. Many simply regurgitate the sputum of those ads.  It is an amazing circular process, garbage in, garbage out, and then making such important decisions on highly emotionally charged accusations and innuendoes.

We voted early, the lines unbelievably lengthy.  There are several proposed amendments to the Florida State Constitution and the ballot is several pages long. GOP controlled Florida had made the decision to make advance voting a much shorter period than voters had in 2008.   I can imagine how the lines will be tomorrow..

As to the outcome, here is an unscientific survey conducted by my grade advisor from high school, Roger Brickner (yes, we are still in touch more than fifty years later).  Politics has been his avocation since HE went to high school, and he has accurately predicted presidential election outcomes since he incorrectly picking Dewey in 1948.   He has an email following of similar-minded friends and he canvassed  their predictions for this election and, based on that approach, Obama will win both the popular vote (by 2.1%) and the electoral college (289 to 249). 

Intrade, the popular prediction platform, where you can "bet" on a winner, most recently has the probability of an Obama win at about 65%.
At to my own "prediction," I think the anti-Obama vitriol runs deep, and that has been effectively harvested by his opponents.  For that reason, and using the anecdotal evidence of the ubiquitous Romney / West signs lining our own road, I think the popular vote will be closer than 2.1%, with the distinct possibility of Obama losing the popular vote but winning the Electoral College. But trying to quantify it is just guesswork.

PS: Last minute email from Roger (his own prediction, not the average of his email followers):
I forgot to give the grand summary... Guess I was so glad to complete all the states and all the elections!

President    electoral votes OBAMA 290   ROMNEY 248
                    popular vote OBAMA 51% ROMNEY 48% OTHERS 1%

The Senate will be Dem 53, Rep. 45  Too close 2 (one held  by a Rep., one held by a Dem.)
 The House will be Rep. 235  Dem  200