Archive for July 16th, 2012
A Ferguson Missouri man is being harassed by the city of Ferguson for growing vegetables in his front yard. I have no patience for heavy-handed government action like this (and attempts to prevent people from putting solar panels on their roofs) that interfere with sustainability. We are so incredibly busy rearranging the deck chairs while the Titanic sinks.
Or perhaps I’m just grumpy because I saw several “clean coal” adds on CNN today in the lunch room at the office.
Verizon has just filed an appellate brief arguing that they have the right to tell you how to use the Internet. They are couching their thirst for power and control in Orwellian terms–they are claiming that the GOVERNMENT is trying to regulate the Internet. Don’t be fooled.
Senator Al Franken is dismayed that Congress, won’t even consider passing the DISCLOSE Act. It’s up for a vote again, and Franken is not at all optimistic. What is DISCLOSE?
This bill doesn’t overturn Citizens United. It doesn’t limit how much money individuals or corporations can spend on independent expenditures. All it does is require that this spending be disclosed publicly. It reflects what used to be a bipartisan consensus around the effectiveness of transparency and disclosure in avoiding corruption.
Why do we need to pass the DISCLOSE Act?
Already in 2012, we’ve seen a single individual write multi-million-dollar checks in support of his favorite presidential candidate. We’ve seen corporations spend tens of millions of dollars on attack ads. We could see $1 billion in outside spending before Election Day.
Worse, there is little sunlight to be found in the post-Citizens United political system. Corporations that want to hide their spending can create shell corporations to contribute unlimited money to a group — so that when you look at the outside group’s fundraising records (which are published only occasionally), you’ll see the shell corporation but not the original source of the money.
And that guy who wrote all those seven-figure checks to support his favorite presidential candidate? We only know about that because he announced it himself (adding that some of his future spending would remain secret).
And because none of this spending is transparent, none of these spenders (or the candidates who profit from their spending) can be held accountable. We simply don’t know who is wielding all this financial power in this year’s elections. We just know it isn’t us, the people. That’s a system in need of disinfecting.
There’s a lot of people out there who think that as long as they have the right to vote, democracy is alive and well. This is dangerous thinking. It’s like arguing that as long as I can choose to buy one of the two brands of bread at the grocery store, I still retain meaningful choice. But what if both brands of bread are corrupted with bugs, pesticides, mold and chemical additives? Would you really waltz out of the store announcing that you had a meaningful choice, just because you were allowed to choose between Brand A and Brand B, where both of them were bad choices?
These huge secret campaign contributions corrupt our candidates. They are given to buy access and special attention to the donor’s wish list. If the candidate fails for follow through with the promises that WERE made in order to get these big contributions, the candidate’s OPPONENT will get that money next time.
And by the way, when was the last time that your President, Representative or Senator invited you out to Washington D.C. to discuss the important issues of the day? Maybe you need to get a job that pays 100 times as much as you are now making, so you can make a huge contribution, which might get you on the political radar.
As I do much of the time, I commuted to my job on a bicycle. It’s a 4 1/2 mile trip that offers me many benefits. I park on the 6th floor of the garage. Though I sometimes ride up the circular garage ramps, today I decided to take the garage elevator. A woman stepped in; then I joined her with my bike.
“Oh, I suppose you are delivering something, but you are taking your bicycle with you in this elevator?”
“No, actually, I’m an attorney and I work in this office building.”
“Oh . . . ” [Giving me the expression of "Why would a lawyer ride a bike to work?"]
I work in a building that probably has more than 1,000 employees, and as far as I can tell, I’m the only person who rides a bike to work. That’s not how it would be in many cities, such as Denver or San Francisco, but that’s how it is here in St. Louis.
One of the many benefits of bicycling is the cost savings, and it’s not just about gasoline. On Thursday, a local bike shop is going to change out my chain and give the bike a complete overhaul, essentially for the cost of two gasoline fill-ups. Other than that, yearly maintenance mostly consists of a few tire tubes and some chain lube. Further, when the commute is less than five miles in city riding, it takes only a a bit longer than it takes to commute by car. It’s win, win, win, but a lot of people won’t consider switching over to bicycle because it’s undignified, or a “toy,” or you might get wet if it rains, or it’s simply not the way that they have commuted for years, and they are not going to consider changing. They should reconsider, because they are losing out.
Cory Booker, Mayor of Newark is the latest public figure to slam the “war on drugs.” As reported by Huffington Post, Booker described the war on drugs as ineffective it
“represents big overgrown government at its worst.”
“The so called War on Drugs has not succeeded in making significant reductions in drug use, drug arrests or violence,” the Democrat wrote during the Reddit “ask me anything” chat. “We are pouring huge amounts of our public resources into this current effort that are bleeding our public treasury and unnecessarily undermining human potential.”
Booker then called drug arrests a “game.”