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Open Letter to Rep. Kate Segal; Sponsor of Michigan’s ‘Religious Absence’ Bill

Dear Rep. Segal,

I was reading up on the new ‘religious absence bill‘, HB 4454 a bill that you have sponsored, and I was wondering if there was anything in that bill that contained protections/exceptions for secular/non-religious children who might miss school for non-religious reasons to be able to still not have their absences counted against their ‘perfect attendance’ status?

There are many legitimate agencies, organizations, functions, celebrations and activities that are secular that students may wish to attend or participate in, so I would hope that somewhere in the bill there is protection for these students also.

I strongly believe in the freedom of religion, and I also believe in the freedom FROM religion. I have no problem supporting a bill like this so long as there is also a section that protects secular students along with religious students. By leaving secular students out of this bill, it is giving preferential treatment to that of organized religion, and I really do not think that is the right thing to do, nor is the role of the government. It appears as if government is taking a side in the religious debate and giving special privileges to those of faith and to me that is VERY wrong.

I understand that life isn’t fair, but that doesn’t mean we have to go as far away from fair as possible. I think by allowing secular students the same rights to have excused absences for secular events/activities is helping to bridge that gap and bring things closer to fair and equal as possible.

I am writing this because I believe you are a one of the few open minded and fair politicians that we have and I know that with this bill you mean well, but as a secular person; it appears to give special privileges to those of faith as opposed to secular individuals and we both know that whenever one group of people is treated different than another, you have inequality and oppression and I hope and I do not think those are traits that you stand for.

Please consider drafting or adding some sort of clause that would protect secular and non-religious students also.

If you have any questions or would like to discuss this further, I would be glad to be of assistance.

Sincerely,

Autumn Smith

Battle Creek, Michigan

 

*A version of this letter was sent to Rep. Segal via email and facebook on May 2nd, 2013

TOMORROW’S LECTURE: “The Art of Arguing,” Jeremiah Bannister

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GRAND RAPIDS – At 10 a.m. on Sunday, April 21, 2013, I’ll be lecturing about “The Art of Arguing” at Schuler Books & Music on Alpine Ave. NW in Walker, Michigan–just outside Grand Rapids. The lecture is part of “Cafe Inquiry,” a weekly get-together hosted by Center for Inquiry, Michigan.

SUMMARY – How is it that arguments about politics and religion can go any and every which way for hours on end, only to conclude with the ceasefire of, “We’ll just have to agree to disagree”? Why are so many political partisans and religious sectarians unable to think beyond their talking points, speaking past–if not shouting over!–one another on issues both great and small? More importantly, what are people to do in an effort to better understand, communicate, and coexist with those who happen to disagree with them?

To answer these questions, it would do us well understand:

1. Moral foundations and metaphors come first, reasons and evidences second. These foundations and frames, even more than reasons and evidences, both form and inform world- and life-views.

2. Humans are both reasonably and unreasonably groupish, and this groupishness–in tandem with a wide range of biases–plays a significant role in formation of their beliefs and practices.

3. Conversations about politics and religion are less a matter of pinning the tail on the donkey as they are of chasing the wildest of wild geese.

4. No matter what you believe, no matter how sound your reasons or how solid your evidences, people will disagree with you… and they aren’t going away any time soon.

The event begins at 10 a.m. and will be followed by Q&A and open discussion. After this, everyone is invited to join us for food, coffee and conversation at the cafe! It’s always a great time, and the coffee/food is delicious!

EVENT PAGE: “The Art of Arguing,” by Jeremiah Bannister

DIRECTIONS: Schuler Books & Music in Walker, Michigan.

CONTACT: If you have questions or comments, or if you’d like to contact me regarding a possible speaking engagement, you’re welcome to email me at jeremiah.bannister@gmail.com. You may also message me on Facebook or send a DM on Twitter.

America Without Social Security

In my last post I showed how Congress and President Obama are simply paying lip service to the need to preserve Social Security and Medicare.  Now, let’s take a look at what America would look like if there was no Social Security.

The March 2013 issue of the AARP Bulletin contains a chart that looks at the percentage of Social Security recipients 65 and older living in poverty today compared with the percentage of recipients who would live in poverty without the benefit of Social Security.  The chart was prepared using data from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and looked at all 50 states and the District of Columbia.   The 2011 threshold  for poverty was $10,788  for individuals and $13,596 for couples.

According to the data, in this country an average of 8.7% of America’s Social Security recipients are living in poverty.  The states with the lowest percentage of Social Security recipients living in poverty are Wisconsin (5.1%), Iowa (5.6%), Connecticut (6.2%), New Hampshire (6.5%) and Wyoming (6.6%).   The states with the highest percentage of their Social Security recipients living in poverty were Georgia and Arkansas at 11.9%, Mississippi at 12.5%, Louisiana at an even 15%, with the District of Columbia topping the list at 15.6%.  Michigan is in a 12th place tie with Massachusetts, with 7.4% of our Social Security recipients living in poverty.

Now, what happens if Social Security goes bye-bye?   The average percentage of people 65 and older living in poverty goes from 8.7% to 44.7%.  The states with the lowest percentage of people 65 and over living in poverty would be Hawaii at 33.6%, the District of Columbia at 34.9%, Alaska comes in at 36.8%, followed by Colorado at 36.9% and Connecticut at 37.6%.  The states with the dubious distinction of seeing the largest percentage of their senior citizens living in poverty would be West Virginia with 51.8%, South Carolina at 51.9%, Georgia with 52.8%, Tennessee and Mississippi with 54.8% and topping the list,…Arkansas at 55%.  Michigan would be squarely in the middle of the pack at 47.6%.

Another way Of looking at what America would look like with no Social Security is to look at the change between the two numbers for each state and DC.  Nationwide, the number of people 65 and over who are living in poverty would increase an average of 536%.   The District of Columbia would see the smallest increase, 223%  more senior citizens living in poverty.  The other members of the bottom five are Louisiana (335%),  Alaska (353%), Texas (386%), and New York (392%).  The states with the largest increase in the number of senior citizens who would be living in poverty are Missouri (685%), New Hampshire (693), Kansas (700%),  Wisconsin (835%) and Iowa, with 844% more impoverished senior citizens.  Here in Michigan we would see 643% more people 65 and older living in poverty.

Keep in mind, this data concerns only the number of people 65 and older receiving Social Security retirement benefits.  It does not include those who retire early at 62 or those who receive Social Security disability benefits.

In my opinion, this data underscores the need for President Obama and Congress to finally get serious about saving Social Security and Medicare.  Their proposals involve cutting benefits to one degree or another.  Of all the ideas that have come forth, one one idea is sure to save Social Security and Medicare—the legislation sponsored by Senator Bernie Sanders in the last Congressional session which would have lifted the cap on the amount of income taxed for Social Security.  The Congressional Budget Office said that Sanders bill, if approved by Congress and signed into law by the president, would save Social Security for the next 74 years, the furthest into the future the actuarial tables can forecast.

The stated goal of Social Security was to provide economic security for this country’s retirees.  The economic security of our retirees is not achieved by cutting benefits.  It will not be achieved by anything President Obama and Congress have proposed so far.

A Better Way than the ‘Lesser of Two Evils’

When  people go the polls in November’s general election many of them will be faced with a dilemma at the top of the ballot. People have serious concerns about both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.  They may decide who to vote for on the basis of which man would be the lesser of two evils.  Their options will be to vote for the man they believe will do the least harm to this country; vote for a third party candidate reflects their views but has no chance of winning; or simply not voting at all.

I’m not going to sit here and tell you which option you should exercise when you step up to cast your ballot and find yourself facing that dilemma.  I simply want you to know that there is a better way.

Here in America our most popular system of voting is the “Winner Takes All” system where the ballots are counted (hopefully) once and the person with the most votes is declared the winner.  I believe “Winner Takes All” is great for poker and bad for elections.  In other countries,  and indeed in some cities in this country, voting systems are used which give the voter more choices and third party candidates a genuine chance of being elected.

Instant Runoff Voting

The first such system is instant runoff voting.  In instant runoff voting each voter has one vote, but with that vote they can rank the candidates in order of choice:  1, 2, 3, and so on.  When the ballots are counted initially the first choices are counted.  If one of the candidates has a majority of first choices they’re elected.  But in instant runoff voting if no candidate has a majority of the votes another round of vote counting is done in which the ballots that had the last-place eliminated candidate as their top choice have that voter’s second choice counted.  If that round of vote counting does not produce a winner the process of eliminating the last-place candidate and recounting the ballots continues until one candidate receives a majority of the votes.

If we had instant runoff in place for the upcoming general election here’s how it would work in the presidential race.

A progressive might have Rocky Anderson at the top of the ballot with Dr. Jill Stein second and President Obama third.  If the initial count had no candidate with a majority of the votes and Rocky Anderson in last place, a second round of counting would be held in which that voter’s ballot would be counted for their second choice, Dr. Jill Stein.  If no candidate had a majority of the votes in that round, and Dr. Jill Stein was in last place, a third round of counting would be done with that ballot counted for Barack Obama.

Instant runoff voting (IRV) does not give extra votes to defeated candidates.  IRV is a one-person, one-vote system because in any given round of vote counting every person’s ballot can only be counted for one candidate.  Instant runoff voting can be compared to the two-round runoff system.  You vote for your favorite candidate in the first round.  If your top candidate survives that first round you keep supporting that candidate.  If they don’t you choose from among the remaining candidates.  Instant runoff voting’s constitutionality as a one-person, one-vote system has been upheld by both state and federal courts.

There are some advantages that come with instant runoff voting which must be noted.  First, instant runoff voting avoids third party candidates spoiling the election when splitting the majority vote.  For instance, in the 2000 presidential election some people believe that Ralph Nader cost Al Gore the election because he took away votes from people, especially in Florida, who may have gone for Gore.  Such spoiling of election results do not happen in IRV elections.

IRV can increase voter turnout because it gives every voter an incentive to participate. Their vote would still count even if their top choice candidate is defeated and eliminated.  Instant runoff voting can also elevate the debate because all of the candidates have an incentive to focus on issues, to attract voters to their positions, and to form coalitions.  Negative campaigning and personal attacks are much less effective in IRV elections.

Instant runoff voting gives voters more power because they can exercise a range of choices.  This system of voting does not inherently advantage or disadvantage any political group, ideology, or interest groups.  All of the parties are on equal ground.

If you believe that instant runoff voting sounds hard for the voters, consider this; all the voter has to do is rank one or more candidates.  It’s like going out for an ice cream cone.  The store has sold out of your first choice, fudge ripple.  So, you go with your second choice, blue moon.  If they don’t have that you go with your third choice, butter pecan.  That’s all there is to it.

And, if you think this voting system sounds very foreign, consider this:  Instant runoff is used to elect candidates to city offices in cities such as San Francisco, Oakland, Minneapolis and St. Paul, and Portland Maine.  Many major universities are using it for their student govenment elections, and the Academy of Motion Pictures uses it for awarding their awards such as Best Picture.

Instant runoff voting is great for electing one person to one office, but not so good for multi-seat elections such as congressional elections.  For those elections another system is much more beneficial.

Proportional Representation

The basic principle underlying proportional representation is that everyone should have the right to fair representation; all voters deserve representation and all political groups in society deserve to be represented in our legislatures in proportion to their strength in the electorate,  There are a number of proportional representation models in use.  In order to achieve the basic principles of fairrepresentation , all PR models in use have certain basic characteristics.

First, they use multi-member districts.  Instead of electing one person to one district as we do in the U.S., several people are elected.  These multi-member districts may be relatively small, with three or four members, or they may be larger with ten or more members.  The second characteristic of all PR systems is that they divide the seats in these multi-member districts according to the proportion of votes received by the various parties running candidates.  So, if the candidates of a party win 40% of the votes in a ten member district, they receive four of the ten seats–or 40% of the seats.  And if another party wins 20% of the vote, they get two seats, and so on.

That’s the basics of proportional representation voting.  As I mentioned, there are different models for achieving fair representation.

In Party List Voting each party puts up a list of candidates equal to the number of seats in that district.  Independent candidates may also run, and are listed separately on the ballot; as if they were their own party.  On election day the voters indicate their preference for a particular party, and the parties are then allocated seats in proportion to their share of the vote. The order of the candidates on the party’s slate is set by the party.  The voters have no say in which of the party’s candidates receive the seats allocated to them.  Thus, if the Democrats are allocated two seats, the top two candidates on the Democrats’ list would get those seats.  That’s the Closed Party List system.

Most European democracies now use the Open List form of party list voting.  In this form a primary election is held in which the voters vote for the individual candidates of their choice.  The orde of the party’s slate is set in that primary, with the candidates with the most votes winning placement at the top of the list.  Candidates at the top of the list have a greater chance of being elected.  In the general election the voters select the candidate of their choice, with their vote counting for both the party and the candidate.  When the seSats are allocated to a given party the candidates within that party with the most votes win those seats.

Here in the United States we would not be able to employ a classical proportional representation model in our Congressional elections.  Article 1  Section 2 of the Constitution sets the number of members in the House of Representatives at one representative for every thirty thousand people in each district.  So, we would not be able to have the multi-member representatives for each district characteristic in our PR system.  But that doesn’t mean that proportional representation couldn’t be used for our Congressional elections; we’d just have to come up with our own model.

For instance, we could drop that first characteristic of multiple representatives for a district and use proportional representation for allocating seats for single representative districts.  Here’s what that might look like.

As a result of the 2010 census, Michigan has 15 seats in theHouse of Representatives.  Suppose general election results had the Democrats with 45% of the vote, the Republicans with 40%, the Green Party with 8% and the Libertarian Party with 7%.  The Democrats would be allocated 45% of the seats or 7 seats.  The Republicans would have 40% of the seats or 6 seats.  The Green Party and the Libertarian Party, with 8% and 7% respectively would each be allocated one seat in our Congressional delegation.  One seat each for the Greens and Libertarians may not sound like much, but if other states also used this model the number of minority party members holding seats in Congress would certainly reach significant levels.  The minority parties would see their ability to advance their agenda increase significantly by forming coalitions with majority party members.

If proportional representation seems to be more complex than you can wrap your brain around consider this:  when you turn on your television you don’t need to know the technological ins and outs of television broadcasting.  All you need to know is how to turn on the TV.  Similarly, with proportional representation it’s not necessary for you to understand how seats will be allocated for Congress based on which party you voted for.  You won’t be counting the votes and allocating the seats in Congress.  And you can be sure that the parties will make sure they get every seat they’re entitled to.

Conclusion

Under our current model of holding elections, the two major parties hold a near monopoly on governing power.  Third parties have very little chance of winning state and federal electoral offices and putting forth the views of their supporters.  Third party voters are left with the choice of tilting at windmills by voting for candidates who share their views but have little to no chance of being elected; or voting for someone who they have significant issues or differences of opinion with—the lesser of two evils.

Instant runoff voting would strengthen the voice of the voters.  Voters would have the power to express more choice; and their vote could play a role in determining a winner much longer than our current plurality based “Winner Takes All” system.  Proportional Representation would give third parties a genuine chance of winning seats in the legislature or congress; and advance an agenda that reflects the views of their supporters.

When you step up to cast your ballot on election day and prepare to hold your nose and vote for the lesser of two evils, remember, it doesn’t have to be that way.   By adopting instant runoff voting and proportional representation we can strengthen the voice and power of the voter and give third parties a legitimate chance of winning elections and expressing the views and will of their supporters.

How Far We’ve Fallen

How far we’ve fallen from the kind of people who laid the foundation to this great country we live in.  I’m sure that if the Founding Fathers are aware of what passes for governance and politics in this country they would be absolutely shocked and disappointed.

Many people have this image of the Founding Fathers as a group of courageous men unanimous in their beliefs of what needed to be done to lay the foundation for this country.  Courageous?  Certainly.  Unanimous in their beliefs?  Absolutely not.  They had different ideologies and beliefs.  But, they also had the willingness to set aside their ideologies and compromise where needed for the good of their young nation.

After all, this country was founded on the basis of compromise.  The Constitution is not our first guiding document for this country.  Before we had the Constitution we had the Articles of Confederation; a document that gave power to the states with a weak central government.  Those circumstances led to a weak confederation and European powers England, France, and Spain licking their chops over the states they planned to divide among themselves when the United States collapsed.  Here on this side of the Atlantic our Founding Fathers saw the inadequacy of the Articles of Confederation and began discussing a new document–the Constitution.  But, there arose a disagreement about whether to pass the Constitution immediately as it read and those who saw the need to strengthen the Constitution by including other provisions–what we know as the Bill of Rights.  Those favoring immediate passage told those who were holding out for the additional provisions that if they agreed to pass the Constitution as is, the provisions they wanted would be added as the first amendments to the Constitution.  That’s exactly what happened.  Both sides gave a little, and we ended up with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights because of compromise–that ten letter dirty word in today’s political world.

If you study the papers of the Founders and the history of the that time you learn that Hamilton and Adams were urbane businessmen who favored a strong central government.  At the other end of the spectrum was Jefferson, who was pro-states rights and a farmer by profession.  In the middle was our first President, George Washington, a politically moderate elder statesman.

There was an excellent editorial in the July/August issue of the AARP Bulletin titled “Try Greatness, Not Meanness” which forcefully made that point about how the Founding Fathers built this country:

“In life these four great men did not like one another.  Journals of that time are full of stories of their conniving and bitter rivalries.

Yet look at what they accomplished when they set aside their vanity, ideology and shortsightedness; a federation of distinct regional and economic interests bound by core principles and liberties upon which a carefully balanced national government could function and thrive.

We’re deep into a campaign season that amounts to a 21st -century explosion of vanity, ideology and shortsightedness.  Angry divisions with no interest in compromise have picked sides and launched a seemingly endless barrage of costly and inflammatory advertising.”

Look back a few years to the days following the 2008 election in which Barack Obama was elected president.  As was pointed out in an article in the September 3 issue of Time magazine titled “The Party Of No“, from the get-go the Republicans had no interest in working with Obama and the Democrats in Congress to solve the many serious  problems we faced ind the midst of the Great Recession; they were interested only in defeating him and making him a one-term president.  Who can forget Republican Senatre Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, in a remarkable moment of candor, stating that his number one priority in the coming congressional session was to make Barack Obama a one-term president.  Less well known, but equally telling, was a statement made by Congressman Pete Sessions in a presentation to a Republican leadership conference when he posed the question “If the purpose of the majority is to govern, what’s our purpose?”  Sessions answered his question by telling the audience, “The purpose of the minority is to become the majority…. That is the entire conference’s mission.”

Sessions couldn’t have been more wrong.  Yes, the Republicans were in the minority following the 2008 election, but they still had a role in governing this country.  Their role was to do as the Founders had done;  set aside what would benefit them politically and work with the Democrats to solve the serious problems this country faces.  They adopted the strategy of opposing anything and everything President Obama tried to do, even if it meant opposing something they had proposed or supported in the past.  The individual mandate in Obamacare was first proposed by the conservative think tank The Heritage Foundation, and a major part of Mitt Romney’s health-care reform plan for Massachusetts; but when it came time to vote on Obamacare not a single Republican voted for it.  Republicans pound the drums for tax breaks for small businesses, but when Obama’s jobs bill, which included many tax breaks for small businesses, came up for consideration last year it was blocked by the Republicans.

The Republicans will accuse Obama of showing a lack of leadership, and claim that his plans have failed, but the fact is the Republicans have shown themselves to be a disloyal opposition that has refused to work with Obama and the Democrats in governing this country and solving the problems we face.  Congress cannot work when one party refuses to do the job they were sent to Washington to do and govern this country.  And please understand that when I call the Republicans a “disloyal opposition” I am not saying they are disloyal to the President.  What I’m saying is that they are being disloyal to this country by placing their political interests above the job they were sent to do—govern this country.

And to be fair, the hands of the Democrats are also dirty.  They have also been guilty of putting politics above responsible governing and doing what’s right.

Consider for example, what Nancy Pelosi said when she became Speaker of the House.  She said that investigations of the Bush administration for possible wrongdoing was “off the table”.  Now, there was fertile ground for investigations.  There was the redefinition of torture to permit waterboarding, and the warrantless surveillance  of American citizens in this country.  But, investigating possible wrongdoing in those things would not be done.  Why was investigating the Bush administration taken “off the table”?  Most likely because Pelosi knew that there would be a day the Republicans would be able to investigate a Democratic president.  She refused to do the right thing, investigate and let the chips fall where they may, because that could have political repercussions in the future.

An even more egregious example came recently when Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid decided to inject himself into the presidential campaign by refusing to act on a bill passed overwhelmingly by the House which dealt with auditing the Federal Reserve; choosing instead to claim that he had been in contact with someone who claimed to have proof that Mitt Romney did not pay taxes for several years—a contention for which he offered no supporting evidence.

To understand why I consider this to be an egregious example of playing politics rather than governing it’s important to understand why that legislation was overwhelmingly supported in the House.  Let’s take a look at the Federal Reserve.

The Fed was created in 1913 in response to bank panics which had occurred.  Functions of the Federal Reserve include serving as the central bank of the U.S.; supervising and regulating banks as well as protecting the credit rights of consumers; managing the nation’s money supply; and maintaining the stability of the financial system.

There have been several criticisms of the Federal Reserve.  It has been alleged that the Fed caused the Great Depression and is partly responsible for the Great Recession of 2007; as well as that it is ineffective in its role of supervisor and regulator of the banking industry; that it has been responsible for booms and busts in the economy; and lacks transparency.

It is clear that the Federal Reserve impacts every one of us in many ways, yet according to the law that established the agency, it is not under the supervision of Congress or the White House.

There was legislation passed in 1978 which established that the Fed can be audited by the Government Accountability Office, but there are several restrictions as to what the GAO can audit in the Fed.  How sweet is that?  Wouldn’t it be great to be able to tell the IRS if they choose to audit your tax return that they can look into your business expenses but not your entertainment expenses or charitable contributions?  In essence, that’s exactly what the Fed has been able to do.

Given the important functions of the Federal Reserve, the criticisms which have  been made of the agency, and the fact that it is unsupervised by Congress and the White House, legislation which would allow a real audit of the Fed would seem to be a good thing.  But Harry Reid put more importance on playing politics than advancing this legislation which would have provided some transparency into that very secretive agency.

No one’s hands are clean in this.  Both parties are guilty of putting  politics over responsible governance.  Have we and the national leaders we send to represent us in our nation’s capitol  totally lost our way?  Are we incapable of learning from our past and seeing that the way things are today is not the way it has to be or should be?’

I will close this by quoting once again from that editorial in the AARP Bulletin:

“John Adams could just as easily been talking about today when he wrote in 1776 of his fears that the Continental Congress’ decisions would be dictated by ‘ noise, not sense; by meanness, not greatness; by ignorance, not learning; by contracted hearts, not large souls.’  His conclusion is appropriate today as it was  then:  ‘There must be decency and respect and veneration introduced for persons of authority of every rank or we are undone.  In a popular government this is our only way.’  Decency, respect and veneration produced compromise and a foundation that has endured for 236 years.  We are surrounded by noise, meanness and ignorance.  The measure for our leaders must be their ability to rediscover that proven formula of sense, greatness and learning.’

We should not; and indeed cannot settle for anything less.

Romney Has An Ipod

The following is a response to a couple of things someone posted to my personal Facebook wall as I was commenting on Mitt Romney’s GOP acceptance speech.

I made a comment making fun of Romney’s polished attempt to appear to be hip with younger voters when I posted, “Romney just proved he’s so hip by mentioning his Ipod.“ Then I commented on Romney’s criticism of Obama’s record on the economic recovery, and hyperbole fluff statement made by Romney on “restoring the promise of America.” The FB thread is located here.

I wanted to respond to couple of the comments by someone. Being that it involves quite a bit of explanation exceeding Facebook’s 8000 character limit, I’m posting it here instead.

A reply to my post goes like this:

Your killing me Jim! You are a funny man…OK but seriously..Living off the teat of society is so college and hippie….I mean really? Time to put on big boy pants and support yourself and stop blaming others as to why you and others feel so deprived…support yourself, look to no one but yourself to survive and help others along the way..its pretty simple..Oh and stop blaming others for your lack of intestinal fortitude, it’s so liberal and out dated. Oh and PULHLEESE…Bush has been gone for 4 years …stop blaming him, It’s Obamas mess that he created, stop blaming everyone else and own up….

But the second post, seems to be more informed, and eludes to a really good point about Ron Paul/Lieberman.

Agreed Jim…but the lesser of 2 evils at this point is by far Mitt. Nobody outside the 2 major parties stand a chance due to the organized crime they call Republican/Democrats. Just ask Sen. Joseph Lieberman (ID-CT) who was ostrasized by the DEM’s…. and Ron Paul….BOTH stand -up guys, but threaten the mafia…I mean government and were casted out. Until we take our government back…by force.. we are destin to the Russian election…who THEY think we should vote for. In the meantime, I don’t need the government stealing…..er I mean taxing me out of my ass and giving it to who they hope will defend them when the revolution comes. Both of these guys are a joke, but at this point, only 1 has proven it so far.

FAIR & BALANCED v TRUTH & LIBERTY
Even though I was commenting on Romney, please do not take that out of context. I posted on his speech, because last night was his night to speak at convention. Taken at face value, out of the context of everything else I’ve been saying, I can see how one might think I’m taking sides in the attacks on Romney. However, it’s not Obama’s convention, and he’ll get his turn and you can be sure I’ll be writing parenthetical remarks to many of his talking points as well. I may or may not post it on Facebook, but it will certainly be discussed on PaleoRadio.

HOW I BECAME A PALEOCRAT
It is easy to assume that if I am critical of Romney, that this automatically places me in the Dem camp. That is the problem of partisan politics in our country, it creates a false paradigm that everyone is an either or between an R or an D. So I will give some background on my worldview evolution in regard to politics.

In my teens and 20′s I viewed myself as a Republican mainly because of cultural presuppositions and voted as such. I shifted away from Bush due to him ignoring a genocide of which he had the resources and legal authority to intervene upon and his subsequent hypocritical words at the grand opening of the Holocaust Museum. My thought of Clinton at the time, with his saxophone on late night TV, was ‘who is this goofball?’ Bush – hypocrite (twice over), Clinton – goofball, Perot – great charts.

During the Clinton era I gradually became more intentional about politics, but in doing so, I slowly began to buy into the idea of partisanship. I first ran for political office in 2004 and with the partisan paradigm as the prevailing worldview in our culture, even though I felt more like an Independent, and ran as a Democrat caving into the belief that Independent candidates do not have a chance.

During that time period of direct involvement in politics, I also served as the organizer of a grassroots group. From time to time, through this activity, I became aware of the Party pressure to squash the truths we were realizing as a grassroots group, in the interest of propping up the Party. By the end of my first run for office (I was not elected), I had become more entrenched in the partisanship. In addition to my campaigns, I worked as a Communications director on a couple of Congressional campaigns (Dems) and advised a State candidate (Dem) on speech writing.

Also during this time of direct political involvement, I became acutely aware of big problem in the local scene (later I learned it was a problem across the nation/world). And that was (and still is) that the bias of the local established media. Biased in their selectivity over which races to cover or not cover, in the way they downplayed/up-played some aspects of local races, in the ways they misquoted people, in the ways they got only one side of the story, in the ways they allowed partisan wonks to manipulate the message via the local media and in the abdication of getting beyond the horse-race to serve the public with coverage that gets to the heart of the heart of the matter.

And yet, I had been studying the propaganda machine of the Republican Party, and the psycholinguistics of propaganda in general, so that by the time I went back to college in 2008, because I still embraced the partisan paradigm, I was fully prepared to become a propagandist for Democrats.

Then something wonderful happened when I returned to college. I changed my major to psychology to journalism, and my views were further challenged and reshaped by the collision of two notions: the role of the press and the false dichotomy of partisan politics.

THE ROLE OF MEDIA
I came to understand that the press has a historic and Constitutional duty to be liberal. Not liberal by the definition of Bill O’Reilly, (albeit there is left-biased media such as Thom Hartman, just as their is right-biased media such as Bill O’Reilly) but liberal in the root meaning of the word, which is to protect liberty by seeking the truth. In doing so, being liberal includes having a critical truth-seeking eye toward all politicians.

In taking this position, inevitably people with their Party blinders on will get mad at the media/press, whenever we reveal truths which may threaten the power-hold their Party has or is attempting to have. Because I used to embrace a partisan position, now some people in the Dem Party have a hard time when I might cover Ron Paul’s visit to West Michigan, the Occupy movement’s criticism of Obama, or when I have an unwillingness to promote a particular candidate over another one. Some of them seem to think, because of my prior work with them, that I am obligated to helping them stay on their message.

For the most part, most of the established media plays into the partisan game, especially when you have less than a dozen corporations or people who control 90% of the most prevalent media. Brittany Spears becomes more important than the details of someone’s economic plan, because the company that owns the news channel, also owns Spears’ music label. And, somewhere tucked into that plan, the corporate office or a subsidiary has something to gain by the economic policy. It’s not entirely the news corporations’ fault either, few of us have the time in our busy, recession impacted lives to pour over boring economic plans until we can’t take it, take it, take it no more.

REDEFINATION OF TRUTH
The greatest influence in the call to make “seek truth” as my top priority in journalism, was inspired by the way by a guy who was a Republican who served in the Iraq invasion. He is now is a journalist and and documentary maker. You may have seen him in the movie called, “Control Room,” I’ve met him in person.

Recently, the NYT, took the time to study Romney’s tax records -the two years that he did release. The NYT, typically disparaged as a Party-liberal newspaper, found that Romney indeed has been paying his taxes for the past 10 years. This is an example of the media being truth-liberal. Regardless of who it helps or hurts, the NYT researched and published the truth… this is what journalism is supposed to be. People on the left, are not going to be happy about this finding, the people on the right will post it all over their Walls, but perhaps not until FOX covers the story. The partisans pick and choose which stories and media outlets they will promote merely to promote their definition of truth.

A great deal of our society’s effort it seems is involved in the redefinition of truth. Truth, it seems, by and large in our culture, is not ‘truthiness’, but rather a set of often hypocritical policies and imaginary ‘facts’ in order to promote a certain world view, with convoluted explanations for the exceptions.

And if someone does not agree with another person’s political truth, three things are promised to occur:
1. The person who does not agree is told to shut up. “How can you call yourself an American, if…” “Well you must not care about…” “If you don’t like it here, move to Russia”

2. There will long term consequences for the person’s life, involving either an eternal burning sensation or the weight of a millstone around one’s neck, giving the professors of their own truth, permission to condemn, reject and ostracize that person, instead of engaging in an honest dialogue.

3. And as it that’s not enough, there will eminently dire consequences as well. Yellowcake, mushroom cloud, daisy girl…

4. Oh, and fourth, if you are not with us, then you are against us. So you media people, you really should only report on positive stuff from your embedded positions. In January, I attended a Michigan Press Association conference where Gov. Snyder was the keynote speaker. He told the audience in so many words, that he only wanted us to report on the positive things he’s doing.

Don’t question the “truth” they will say. My President knows things we don’t know, and we just have to trust that killing a few million people is a good thing. Let’s throw God into the mix, because you are not supposed to question God, right… so yeah, God wants this war too. They will also say that your President isn’t even a natural born citizen, or he’s not a true Christian or that the stars line up to indicate he’s bears the mark of the beast. Politicians, particularly within the partisan system, refuse to be honest with themselves and they make up lies about the “other side” (that’s assuming there really is an “other side”). And often lies based on imaginary beliefs which conveniently cannot be proven, but are quite convincing when supplied with a good narrative. All of this sets the minds of voters up for believing in all kinds of myths promulgated by the politicians who sometimes have entirely different reasons for what they want to do, but they need us to agree with them, or perhaps they need us to believe that some sort of democratic decision making is taking place.

BACK TO THE ROLE OF MEDIA
The established media plays along with this game, by and large. But this is not what journalism is supposed to be. And because I’ve been willing to place ‘seek truth’ at the forefront of my journalistic pursuit, I’ve had to receive veiled threats, false accusations of harassment in the pursuit of truth.

The Pulitzer prize is not awarded to people to regurgitate spin.

The press’ duty is to hold the government (and by extension all public affairs) accountable to the people – all the people, and the way to do that is by revealing the truth. Ignoring the truth, publishing propaganda under the guise of truth, promoting only one side of the story or simply ignoring it – that makes the media a Party machine tool.

Nixon didn’t like this whole truth thing. Neither did did Bill Clinton; Cheney really hated it… the list goes on. The conservatives call it the ‘liberal’ media trying to equate it with pro-Dem bias (a clever twist on the true definition of liberal), and the Dems accuse the media of ‘sensationalizing’ or they attack the messenger, claiming that he/she didn’t get their facts right. Dems love their facts.

I observed this in college. Every time my college’s newspaper covered an incidence of alcohol-related fraternity violence on campus, what did the Greeks do? – They tried to steal the newspapers so no one would be able to read the truth, or they attacked the reporter, saying things like, ‘Oh, this was so poorly written (citing supposed grammatical errors). Not once did I ever hear a Greek say something honest like, ‘Yeah, things got out of hand, that’s something we regret.’ World leaders/dictators or supposedly democratically elected ones, with their pack of lies and charades want us to continue to believe their truths… and so they don’t like the ‘liberal-truth seeking press. Journalism is at times a dangerous gig. That danger reveals just how essential the free press is to a free society.

THE FALSE PARTISAN DICHOTOMY
Today, I’d call myself a Paleocrat, which is what I have listed in the About section of my Facebook profile. Among other things, Paleocrats do not accept the false dichotomy of partisan politics. We do not wear the Party blinders, nor do we allow others who do wear them to get away with controlling the message.

If you get a chance to listen to PaleoRadio, you will discover that the host of the show, Jeremiah Bannister, and I have been critical of Obama as well as Romney. We’ve consistently included perspectives which fall outside of the partisan paradigm.

For example, check out the August 30, 2012 editio In the first hour, we criticism the Dem Party’s attempt to co-opt the Occupy Movement, in the third hour we’ve got some criticism for the RNC as well.

You rarely, very rarely will find a talk radio show like PaleoRadio, because it is so much easier and lucrative to play the partisan game.

RON PAUL & THE PARTY SYSTEM
In his Facebook reply, the person mentioned of Lieberman and Ron Paul and I would say that he is quite right in pointing out they were ostracized. Something the established, corporate-owned media did not even mention, is how Ron Paul’s valid attempt to be on the GOP nomination slate was squashed. We talked about this the Thursday, August 30th episode of PaleoRadio. We are working on getting some guests on the show to talk about this in the coming weeks.

The Party System, which will be talked about more on PaleoRadio in the coming weeks, has not always been what it is today. The ‘lesser of 2 evils’ argument is an invalid compromise because we could do so much better. Until Americans break free from it, we will fail to break free from the inertia of partisanship that paints a broad brush that the guy (or gal) on the ballot with a D or an R is the Messiah and the other guy (or gal) is the AntiChrist. And then 4 years later, we do it all over again. As long as we accept the partisan system, and act as if it is the only thing we have to work with… then we will never be able to take our government back, because the partisans won’t let us.

So, I hope you get a chance to listen to PaleoRadio, you might hate us some of the time, and love us some of the time, and who knows maybe you’ll agree with us that there is a better way than partisan politics to resolve our shared quality of life concerns. Get too many of us thinking that way and Glenn Beck will find out what a real revolution looks like.

Day 133 (R 8/30/12) Excuses, Excuses

Thursday August 30, 2012

Summary:
Bad Excuses People Make to Justify Bullying; Analysis of Rand Paul’s speech at the GOP Convention; Evolution & Religion in Public Schools

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Hour 1
Bullying, the bad excuses and reactions people make in response to drawing light on bullying.

Hour 2
Rand Paul attempting to frame the debate with the phrase ‘you didn’t build that’. Apparently according to Rand Paul, businesses create the roads, not government. He claims the individual is stronger than the collective… and other claims – check out Jeremiah’s analysis of the speech and how Rand Paul sells out to the GOP.

Hour 3
Creationism v. Evolution, should religion be in public school? Bill Nye the science guy weighs in… and so does Jeremiah Bannister.

Day 117 (T 7/3/2012) Ubiquitous and Central

Tuesday July 3,2012

Summary:
Occupy & change. Corporate Tax Welfare. Constitutional Right to Marriage.

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Hour 1: Van Jones and Occupy. Does Occupy have a chance of really changing things in America? And what’s involved – being a part of the system.

Hour 2: Corporations complain about taxes when they don’t even pay taxes!

Hour 3: The Constitutional right to marry. The first of probably about 3 episodes on this issue with inspiration from Dissent Magazine.

Ron Paul Visits West Michigan

HUDSONVILLE, MI – About 1500 people packed the Pinnacle Center in Hudsonville to hear Ron Paul speak in a surprise campaign visit Sunday evening, with 400 more standing outside in the cold listening to Paul’s words over a speaker.

The crowd included people who identified themselves as libertarian, liberal, and conservative, however most identified themselves as Greg Dykema of Hudsonville. “I don’t consider myself being bound to other people’s agenda. I believe inthe Constitution and that people should be able to live their own lives as long as it doesn’t harm the person of possession of another.”

Dykema, who wore a brightly lettered t-shirt that read “End the Fed,” said, “The Federal Reserve is a fraudulent system that keeps us in perpetual debt.” Ending the federal reserve and ending wars were Dykema’s top two concerns in this years election.

Ron Paul spoke for nearly an hour. He called the Patriot Act unpatriotic, referred to NDAA as unconstitutional, touched on the war on drugs as a failed policy and he said that the golden rule should be our foreign policy standard.

“We need to mind our own business,” Paul said. “You don’t have to give up liberties to be safe.”

Speaking in one of the most religiously conservative cities in West Michigan, Paul said, “We’ll never agree on how we want to use our freedoms. In a room like this there might be 50 different religious values and some with no religious values at all. But freedom answers the question because we don’t impose ourselves on other people. You do what you want.”

Ron Paul supporter of Berrien County, John Mumaugh, was standing closer to the street, sporting a big sign encouraging people to support medical marijuana legislation. “We are trying to get a Constitutional Amendment on the ballot, mainly because of the erosion of the Michigan Marijuana law that’s going on in the legislature.”

Just ahead of the upcoming primary on Tuesday, Ron Paul started his swing through Michigan on Saturday at Central Michigan University, before stopping in Hudsonville today.

Sally Brooks of Plainfield Twp, said, “I am here because I believe in freedom.”

Day 39: War on Conscience

Today on PaleoRadio: money in politics; have the super-rich succeeded from the United States; doctrine v actual practice, how the anti-abortion crusade is an attack on the middle class, gay marriage, conservative archetypes.