22 Nov 2017

banner for term limits post
The argument for term limits is one of those rare cases that you can accurately apply the label of 'transpartisan'. For as long as I can remember, since I began engaging in political activity in the late '90s, polls have shown a super-majority of US citizens - myself very much included - support this idea, but apparently scientific studies in recent years now lend objective, measurable credence to the old truism that 'power corrupts'.  Research Shows Keeping Power for Long Dulls Empathetic Neural Processing A wonderful long-read article on the subject, by Jerry Useem at The Atlantic, outlines several lines of research that all point to the conclusion that there is a strong correlation between the collection of power (be is political, social, economic, etc) and a range of negative behaviors. These negative behaviors aren't merely bad habits, but - according to the evidence collected - stem from measurable neural impairment. That's right - powe...

01 Apr 2011

These are the kinds of stories that show why I love nonpartisan transparency organizations like The Center for Public Integrity. They've got a very interesting profile of a certain Steve Westly - green business owner and major Obama campaign donor/bundler - who has seen his company's growth skyrocket since Obama has been in office, mostly because of all of the government contracts he's picked up from the administration his pile of bundled donations helped get into office. Here's a taste: One of President Barack Obama’s most prolific fundraisers, Westly was among guests at January’s state dinner for the president of China. A month later, he dined with Obama again at an exclusive San Francisco Bay area gathering for prominent high tech CEOs, including the leaders of Facebook, Google and Apple. He visits White House staff and, as a member of a government advisory board on energy policy, has the ear of Energy Secretary Steven Chu, whose depart...

18 Mar 2011

This may sounds counter-intuitive, but the landmark McCain-Feingold campaign finance reforms are actually the direct cause of the rise of the super wealthy as even bigger players in politics than they have always been. It banned huge amounts of money from being donated directly to political parties, but that resulted in even more money going to less regulated outside groups instead. I wrote about this in my latest piece at WNYC's It's a Free Country: Although some of those rules have since been overturned, the ban on soft money is still in place, and the power of political parties has waned. But the monied interests didn't just pack up and go home after they were barred from as direct a control over the political process, as huge soft money donations allowed them. They just found other avenues to exert influence with their money. It is no coincidence that we've seen the power of political action committees (PACs) and 501(c)4 nonprofits - so c...

22 Feb 2011

There are assuredly a whole slew of lessons to be learned from the ongoing mess in Wisconsin, but one of the bigger ones is we just can't trust either party with power anymore. Just a few short years ago we gave George W. Bush and the republican party near total control of Washington and we got record spending, a series of tax cuts we couldn't afford and a long list of foreign policy mistakes that we'll be dealing with for generations. The American people got sick of their overstep and split government for a few years, then gave the democrats a shot, with the rise of Barack Obama. It didn't take long for the Democrats to take their own version of partisan arrogance to the next level, ignoring the will of the people on legislation like the health care bill's individual mandate, overpromising ad under delivering on the stimulus and racking up deficit spending unlike anything we've seen since World War II. Give either party total control in Wa...

29 Jan 2011

I'm not at all surprised that these four did this... they're all examples of some of the most extreme politicians in positions of power, and DeMint and Ensign are some of the most corrupt politicians in Washington (I'm not very familiar with Lee, and Paul is new) but they deserve particular scorn for this. I'd heap a portion of the same scorn for those who didn't vote at all, but I'm not sure what their excuses are. The four U.S. Senators voted to keep secret holds... where a single Senator can not only stop a bill, but it can be done without anyone knowing who it is. This cowardly tactic has been overused so much recently that this issue has become one of those rare things that everyone from left wingers to right wingers, and everyone in between, agrees has no worthwhile purpose. Jim DeMint - South Carolina Rand Paul - Kentucky Mike Lee - Utah John Ensign - Nevada There is a chance I may be moving to one of these four states. I...

28 Jan 2011

Those who have bought into the talking point, used by congresspersons on both sides of the aisle, that earmarks wont really save us much money and that its taking away rights that they are supposed to have and giving it to the executive branch... they really are getting suckered. I wouldn't say tens of billions of dollars is chump change... and anywhere we can save billions is something we should be doing... but that isn't the big issue here. Its also garbage that congress gives up power they should have to the executive branch. The regular way of designating money back to the states can be done in a way that congress determines how the money is allocated. The Executive Branch has to follow those rules. Banning earmarks doesn't transfer power to the executive branch, it transfers power from individual powerful lawmakers in certain positions and spreads it out more among all of them. It forces them to go through a much more open process... and ...

23 Jan 2011

One can argue that given our current situation the two party system has some real failings, despite our advantages. There is real discontent with both parties. This suggests some sort of problem. Reasonable questions include asking how and why we got here. Although there are multiple reasons, three major factors keep coming up: Special interest money, rigid political and religious ideology and self-interest before public interest. The last one is hard to pin down. Politicians in office rarely admit they put self-interest above the public interest. However, politicians out of office occasionally do. A recent example (brought to my attention by Jeff Vanke) is comments made by former California legislative leader Willie Brown, who recently said that the the civil service system was "set up so politicians like me couldn't come in and fire the people (relatives) hired by the guy they beat and replace them with their own friends and relatives. . . ....

01 Jan 2011

Garbage in, garbage out Politics consists of a lot of garbage in. Its not surprising that most of what comes out is mostly the same. We get garbage from pundits, politicians, ideologues and special interests. For them, politics isn't about informing the public. It is about winning arguments and influencing opinion. Standard tactics include deceiving the public with irrational arguments, false conclusions and bad facts, i.e., it's much easier to cheat than win on the merits. For the most part, partisan politics is pure, raw advocacy. In the context of lawyers fighting in court, pure advocacy may be OK or even necessary. But, in the context of politics it usually leads to waste and failure. Failure is what we have today - in abundance. What are garbage and bad facts?: Those are fair questions. From the point of view of service to the public interest over special interests, garbage is reasonably defined like this: Garbage is political arguments...

29 Nov 2010

Special Interest Money in Politics Hurts the Public Interest None of the parties involved in political finance admit that special interest money ever buys votes or has any untoward effect on politics or the public interest. That is true for politicians, their staffs, government bureaucrats, lobbyists, special interests who hire lobbyists and most media outlets who benefit from campaign spending. It is true at the national and local levels. To everyone involved, practices surrounding campaign contributions and financing are pure, innocent and always in the public interest. But, is that assertion believable or not? To me it isn't. But if it is true, then what are the defenses for having money in politics. Why does special interest money need to be there at all? What public interest function does it serve? Why can't lobbyists just call a politician or bureaucrat to discuss what it is they want without quietly putting money into a bank account somew...

23 Nov 2010

After finding that spending by outside special interest groups apparently wasn't the flood from the right that the left tried to convince the country it was, the Washington Post is now reporting that Democrats are planning to match said flood of the very same anonymous donor funded organizations that they rightfully railed on the GOP for using up until just a few weeks ago. The change in Democratic strategy illustrates the extent of the fundraising earthquake that has shaken the U.S. political world this year. A series of court decisions effectively wiped away decades of campaign-finance restrictions, helping groups operating outside the political parties spend an estimated $500 million on attack ads and other election-related activities, most of it favoring Republicans. The apparent change of heart is particularly notable for Obama, who has long advocated strict campaign-finance limits and has sharply criticized the Supreme Court for allowing u...