Salvage what we can

This is a longer one. Basically, I’m saying that I expected Trump to become president. I’m not happy about it, and I think I know how it happened. I have a few ideas on things we can focus on and maybe make the election process a little better the next time around.

What I originally wanted to do here was just write a big old “I told you so” in big old capital letters. Over and over and over again. I wanted to do that so badly, because it is unbelievably frustrating being someone who tried to speak up about the risk of running Hillary Clinton against Donald Trump. I was denigrated and harangued because of that, and I’m kind of not over it yet. But blowing a big raspberry at the general public is immature and unhelpful. It’s time to move on (see Michael Moore for his opinion on this matter). This will take longer to read than a big raspberry, but it’s time to look at the wreckage, salvage what we can, and move forward. That’s my perspective, and that’s my advice.

So what can we salvage? Well, if anyone was confused about or unwilling to believe how divided and angry our country is, that should be all cleared up now. Donald Trump won. If that’s not evidence of anger and division, I don’t know what is. Also, a bunch of people voted third party and exercised their option to write-in a candidate of their choosing. Don’t be angry at them, because they voted their conscience. We can work with them. Third, according to a variety of sources, voter turnout was lower this year than in both 2008 and 2012, though it seems to have hovered around the usual percentage of recent history at about 43% of the eligible voting age population. We knew early on that we need a high turnout for the success of progressive and Democrat ideas, and it didn’t happen. Lastly, the mainstream media — well, media in general — is not giving us the whole story and in fact may not know it. They were caught just as unaware by Trump’s election as the Democrats were. With an attempt and non-denigration and blame, I want to spend a little time talking about these and looking at what we can do in the future.

Anger & fear

Like we’ve been trying to do with institutional racism, it’s time to acknowledge the economic and gender disparities in the United States. A certain population of white males are feeling threatened (see the rise of Alt-Right groups meeting in the open, for example) by the idea that black’s and women’s lives matter. Women still get less pay than men. People living in poverty and out of work feel left behind by the “good news” conversations about our economy, and the concerns of the Occupy Wall Street movement have not ever been fully addressed. Multiple deaths at the hands of police, rise in paranoia among NRA supporters, and a fervent adherence to guns. All of these things have contributed in their own way to a pervasive and infections sense of anger that drives fear that feeds more anger. Trump tapped into this and used it as a lever to get elected. We can no longer deny these feelings in our country, nor should we.

Instead, we need to spend time as a nation understanding the sources of this fear and anger. Give honor to people’s feelings by recognizing them as real. We may not agree with the reasons for the feelings, but we cannot deny that they are being felt. Problems have never been solved by hiding them, nor have feelings ever been overcome by burying them. If we want to avoid more emotionally-triggered elections like this one, we need to understand where the triggers are and how to address them. For example, I may not agree with the Alt-Right, or be able to fully empathize with the Black Lives Matter movement, but I can work to understand the sources of their fear and anger (respectively) and see what I can do about addressing them. We may not find the right solution, but we can’t just ignore the problems.

Vote your voice & Voter turnout

This issue combines the rights of voters to vote their way without interference with the likelihood of voters to do that. I’ve been studying voter turnout trends for a few years, and since about 1964, we’ve elected a president and members of congress with around 40% of registered voters, or about 30% of the eligible voting population (some people don’t ever register to vote). What this means in shorthand, is that about 16% of the eligible voting population chose Trump. It looks like a large number when we look at the popular vote number, but the United States is a country with just over 330 million people. Trump and the Republicans will call this a mandate, but the reality is that it’s not more of a mandate than any other election. What his success truly represents is a very vocal minority brought him to power.

In truth, it is always a very vocal minority who participates in elections. Mostly because of lack of interest or lack of choices. This year was no different. About six to seven percent of the voters exercised their rights to vote for a candidate other than Clinton or Trump (full disclosure: I wrote in Bernie Sanders). You may not like it, but it’s completely understandable. Both candidates were more disliked than any other candidate in the history of the United States. The most liked candidate (Sanders) was left behind by the Democrats (or so it feels). People are frustrated (see “Anger & Fear” above) with the status quo, with what they feel is a rigged system, and the success of Trump along with the “inevitability” of Clinton led these voters to express themselves by choosing others as their candidates. We can’t avoid this happening if we truly want to live in a democratic society and the people who chose to do this are right to make that choice.

Neither of these issues can be solved through anger towards voters. The system we have in place that includes private organizations creating rules for who can be a candidate (political parties), the amount of money required to run for office, the reduction of polling places in certain areas, gerrymandering, the unraveling of the Voting Rights Act, the distribution of population, the size of our country, and the general feelings of the electorate all fed into turnout numbers and people’s decisions at the polls. We don’t correct those by blaming people. We correct those by looking at the triggers of human behavior and seeing if we can fix them. We can make it easier to vote. We can create public funds for campaigns. We can increase the number of political parties and change the rules for being included in debates. In short, if we want to experience an election where there are higher turnouts of people who are excited to vote, we need to make sure they are voting for things that make sense to them and can do it as easily as possible.

The media

It’s a standard truth of civics that a democracy (i.e., a society where government is chosen through a voting populace) requires an informed electorate. It is to this task that journalism — a portion of “the media” — is supposed to be bent. Journalism at its root should be informing the public about the activities of government, the goings-on of police, the happenings in their community. It should supply educated and opinion and perspective on those events, as well. Because of the importance of it, Thomas Jefferson once called newspaper “the fourth estate” of society, meaning that it should serve as a watchdog of the government, the merchants, and the people themselves. It is because of this importance that the First Amendment exists. Journalists must be allowed to speak freely in order to provide the fullest possible picture to their public. We all know, however, that this has not been true for some years.

News is big business and is handled by a handful of corporations who in some cases also own the means of distribution (Comcast, AT&T, ClearChannel). This narrowed ownership of distribution by big business creates a system that is about profit more more than it ever has been. While profit has always been required to ensure the existence of news, it’s a relatively recent endeavor to use the news to drive profit up (maybe in the last 75 years or so). The upshot of this is that the news covers only those things that a) ensure viewership/readership, b) do not anger corporate partners, and c) do not run afoul of advertising interests/investment partners.

Given these constraints, it is inevitable that journalism will begin to soften its reporting of controversial issues and increase coverage of things that “sell” their content. It’s generally known that people don’t like to be forced into thinking as much as they like seeing explosions, bad guys getting arrested, gossipy opinions, and the like. This kind of action moves the news industry away from the watchdog role envisioned by Jefferson, to a kind of entertainment that actually serves to dull the capacity of the electorate to understand what their government is doing and why.

So what can we do? Well, we could stop watching/reading/listening to the corporate owned news, for one. There are alternative options that did a pretty good job of reporting on controversy over the last two years or so. We can also avoid getting news from forums like DailyKOS, Reddit, or Facebook unless we understand the difference between fact and opinion (i.e. those sites provide user-generated content about events, so are always spun from a personal point of view). Also, we can report on news on our own through YouTube, Vimeo, TwitchTV, Periscope, WordPress, and other streaming and viewing sources. There are lots of resources online on how to do journalism (here’s a start), and there are groups available that provide the kind of legal protection afforded journalists. I’m a member of Investigative Reports and Editors (IRE) and their resources are pretty good. Just remember that journalism is not gossip, libel, or innuendo. It requires multiple points of view and research.

Wrap-up

In short, then, Trump’s election should not be a surprise to anyone. We are a country of anger and fear manipulated by stories told to us by a profit-driven media so that we either vote the way we’re “supposed to” or don’t vote at all. In this system, there is no room to blame the people or ourselves. Ultimately, we are responsible for our own actions, of course, but it is the system that generates the problems, and the problems will only go away if we change the system. Once we do that, once we can see the system for what it is, we can start to be more informed about the decisions we make.

Some final advice taken from, like, a ton of stuff I’ve written over the years:

  1. Focus locally. Hold your local politicians accountable for everything they do and say. If they falter, tell them. If they falter too much, vote them out.
  2. Think critically about what you read and what you are told. If it doesn’t make sense, or if you just want a second opinion, look somewhere else for the same story. Ask family or friends what they think.
  3. Never vote how you’re told. Vote the way you feel is best.
  4. Most importantly, never let anger or fear drive your decisions. Feeling anger and being afraid are normal emotions, but they also make it difficult for us to think and change our perspective on the world. Do fear or anger drive your decisions? If so, try to ask yourself why and take a pause

That’s it for now. Let’s see what we can salvage and where we can go from here. Don’t lose heart.

 

Urge Patrick Leahy to support Bernie Sanders

Please sign my petition to get Senator Patrick Leahy to support Bernie Sanders

Just a quick plug for my survey over at change.org.

Senator Leahy currently supports Secretary Hillary Clinton for president based on a verbal agreement made to her seven years ago. I believe that given the voting records of Senators Leahy and Sanders, and Clinton, Leahy and Sanders are more closely aligned than Leahy believes. Additionally, I believe that Leahy owes it to the state of Vermont and its citizens to support their adopted son, Sanders, in his bid for president.

Affecting political change: a suggestion

Lately I’ve been getting into some debates on Facebook about the nature of political change. My position in this discussion has always been that we have to avail ourselves of the tools given to us — free speech, right to vote, access to government officials, etc. — and use every means necessary to get what we want. For some people I’ve discussed this with, my opinion is incorrigible because it includes participating in the government that they loathe so much. My point of view is that we are governed whether we like it or not, so we might as well learn the rules better than those who govern and make the changes we can. My reasoning is that this has worked before: civil rights amendment, black suffrage, women’s suffrage, poll taxes, etc. Their reasoning is that since the government is corrupt, nothing will change, so why bother participating.

As an aside, this position aggravates me to no end. Here’s why. Imagine that 100 people are all stuck in a burning building and are told that the only way to get out is to build a machine on the bottom floor and that at least 75 people have to work on the machine in order to finish it in time. Immediately, 25 people start protesting those who started the fire and refuse to help build the machine. While that’s happening, 33 people head down to the first floor to start building the machine that will be able to break them out. We’re now left with 42 people to help build the machine. If they all helped, then the machine could be built and everyone could escape. Unfortunately, 25 of those people didn’t pay attention to the rules (to remedy this in reality, please read “The Federalist Papers” and “The United States Constitution” and take particular note of the flexible structure that is in place and how change can be affected both from within and without) and head up to the top floor to build their own machine. The result? Everyone dies. That’s why I hate the “protest is the only way to change things” line of thinking: it doesn’t address the problem in the way that creates a solution.

So let’s take a look at this “protest only” method. It’s usually run by a professional protester or activist who has done this kind of thing before. It’s well-organized and scripted, and always presents a particular vibe to outside observers. All of this is tightly controlled. The emphasis with this method is on volume and presence. From my experience in participating, reporting on, and monitoring these kinds of gatherings there is usually a unifying goal bringing a number of people together in one area for the purpose of visually showing how many people agree with one thing. In some cases the participants may not be clear on why they are all there (later adopters of the “Occupy” movement), but support whatever they feel is the purpose. There is also plenty of thematic signage, uniform chanting, and hard-to-understand bullhorn-based speeches. Flash mobs, flyers, community food locations, and distrust of all government sources are also common. In some cases these protests can become violent and dangerous. This depends on the purpose and location of the protest, of course, and more of these kinds of gatherings are peaceful. Civil Disobedience and ending revolution are all possible outcomes of this approach.

I have nothing against protesting and activism. There is a strength and passion to this method that cannot be denied. The media loves images of people with signs sharing their discontent, and quick sound bytes can be easily generated from the groups’ slogans and chants (“Hell no, we won’t go!” etc). If you want quick attention to a current issue, this is a great method. Many movements were started this way, and many more will be as well. The problem with this method is contained in its very DNA: what gathers in one place must eventually disperse or keep doing something new to maintain its energy. Entropy ensues. The message gets lost. This is the flash mob of social progress. Today’s issue is tomorrow’s trivia question. The movement that arose like wildfire fanned by the hot breath of mass media dies by the same group’s smothering blanket of public attention and advertising dollars. Revolutions eventually become the next target of protest — French Revolution, Russian Student Revolt — and the heroes of the picket lines — Napoleon, Lenin, Stalin — are just as quickly demonized by future revolutionaries.

Protest by itself as a method for changing policy doesn’t do anything. Protest is a means by which an issue gets noticed. Once that happens, there is still work to do in order to change policy. Our government is — like it or not — established by those who vote. And as such, the people in government are only beholden to those who voted for them, not the people in the park or street protesting. In fact, statistics are telling the government that those people don’t vote.

You want policy change? You contact your rep over and over again. You can even tell him you’ll be at the rally tomorrow, but you need to contact him. It doesn’t matter if you voted for him or not, you’re still beholden to his decisions. While your at it get everyone at your protest to contact their reps over and over again. If a representative’s constituents present an overwhelming — or even slightly-whelming — position, he has to listen if he wants to get elected again. And don’t give me that crap about corporations and bribery. If he doesn’t get votes, he won’t be there to get bribes. We’re still in control if we want to be.

Case in point: PIPA/SOPA became a massive issue started online. All of those people posting in forums, blacking out sites, creating comics also did something else: they called their representatives. The sponsor of PIPA pulled the bill. He pulled the bill he wrote because people from his district told him to. In the case of SOPA there’s still work to do, but the vote was delayed indefinitely as a direct result of the voting public contacting their representatives.

Counter-case in point: Scott Brown (R MA) was elected to the US Senate by a majority of voters during a low-turnout election. Republicans knew that in order to try and block the health insurance reform bill, Martha Coakley would need to lose. They turned out in droves, while the democrats from a democratic state assumed victory and stayed away — even though a bulk of them would have been participating in cheering for the health insurance reform. Brown won and voted no. Voter turnout had a direct impact on the process in Washington, DC.

There is nothing wrong with protesting, but going around insisting that it’s the only way to affect change in government is absurd at best and dangerous at worst. Apathy is what your opponents bank on. They assume that if you’re in a picket line, you’re not at the polls. Unfortunately that’s more often than not the case. How about surprising the bastards and doing both? Here’s why: effectiveness at the polls is achieved through mass participation. Protesting gets people’s attention, voting tells the system what they want. If we can use both together, then that’s something that could finally tip the scales in our favor.

As an example, let’s look at China and Iran. Protests in those countries have made the news, changed our minds about the nature of social media, gave us some shocking imagery, and maybe inspired some of us along the way. However, little in the way of progress can be reported as a direct result of those protests. Why? Because there’s no recourse for those protesting to directly control the actions of government. Because that’s what voting is: a group of people coming together to express their approval or dissent with issues and people. It only works if we all do it.

In closing, I’d like to point out that a vote-based system of government is very grass roots and egalitarian in nature. It requires broad communication of issues and ideas as well as coordination of efforts and people across social and financial divides. In short, voting en masse is a grass roots, people-powered method of governing. I’m constantly told, though, that the representative democracy we have is selfish and doesn’t account for a greater good. It’s pretty obvious to me that unless we all work together, the building’s going to burn down and we’re all going to die. How’s that for greater good?

Elections are over; what’s the score?

The 2010 mid-term elections are complete. I’ve always hated that term: “mid-term”. I don’t like that the election cycle is defined by the president’s time in office. It somehow dumbs-down the legislative elections in the same way that a mid-term exam might not be worth as much as the final when in fact the legislative elections are worth much more.

This is the election cycle that has the potential to drive and shape policy, most accurately voice the will of the voters, and generally set direction for the country in terms of what is likely to be debated. It’s a huge deal. I prefer we go with the term “general elections” and “presidential elections”.

The democrats finished badly — though not as badly as some had said — and it looks like we’re in for an interesting and corruption-filled two years before we try and fix this. I can’t believe you all voted for republicans. What were you thinking? Do you seriously think we’re better off with the same people who supported Bush for eight years? Really?! Why do you think we’re in the mess we’re in. The debt, unemployment, financial crisis, wars, pollution: all of them were inherited by the current administration. Left as a legacy by Bush.

So that’s the national picture, and I’m unpleased. While I’m not by any stretch of the imagination a democrat, I’m certainly not in the fold of the current republicans. Locally, things look a bit better.

My county district voted back in our long-standing representative at the state level — Lucy Leriche — over a former schoolmate of mine, Nicole Ling. I had to learn quickly about the two, and found out that Leriche would be my choice. For one, she’s experienced and has actually accomplished stuff. Secondly, she can spell her position. Thirdly, she’s not republican and doesn’t seem to let religion or morality interfere with her political work. I’m happy there. I don’t know that much about our state senators, but I will find out.

As the dust settles, I’ll be posting data on the turnout and who voted for whom. We’ll see exactly how many people have just decided upon fate for the rest of us, eh?

Vote your Voice!

If you’ve come by these pages a lot, you’ll know that I’ve spent a good deal of time discussing various points on the state of our republic here in the U.S. Throughout, I have always maintained that a stronger voter turnout could go a long way towards correcting some of the trends we’ve been seeing magnified lately: corporatization of government, disenfranchisement, increased lobbyist control, career politicians. I truly believe with the utmost optimism that those ills of our government can be either corrected or slowed if more citizens would just vote in every election.

Why do I believe this? Because that’s how our system works. The more people who vote, the more government truly represents the voice of our entire country as opposed to just a few sects of angry factions.

I created a group called Vote Your Voice in order to try and spread my optimism on these issues.  The sole purpose of the group is to spread the word that increased voting numbers are tantamount to an improved government.

It’s going to be a tough road and one that will require all of us involved to maintain a spirit of possibility and optimism in the face of naysayers, ne’er-do-wells, and counter-arguments. I will do my part by continuing to be loud, optimistic, and paint pictures of the voting numbers so that the disparities can be seen. What I’m asking for is your support.

Join the group over on Facebook, participate in the commentary discussions on the website, or just get your own circle of influence to go vote whenever the opportunity arises.

Voting is not a privilege. It’s not a right. Voting is a duty of all U.S. citizens and should be taken seriously.

Voting accomplished, conscience muddy

Well, I voted. I braved the rain, the cold slush, and all of everything else today to cast my vote for the person who I feel is less likely to destroy our country in the future. Neither Martha Coakley nor Scott Brown appealed to me as an ideal candidate for a state senator. Joe Kennedy just was never an option for me.

So given the field, Coakley was it. If anything, I hope that replacing a democrat with a democrat does less damage than the other way around, because I’m sure it won’t do as much good as I want it to.

All three of the candidates claimed to be the answer to the “status quo”. And they are, depending on what you define as “status quo”. My definition is such that nothing short of a complete changing of the guard on capital hill can provide the answer. The only way to get our country back on track is to remove every politician on the take from office and then remove all lobbyists. The only way is to change the platforms of both major parties. To allow third parties a fair chance at winning. To get the citizenry of this country to participate in the process and reduce the power of factions.

Will either Brown or Coakley help us accomplish any of that? Probably not. I figured, though, that a former attorney general is far less bribeable than a man who posed for Playgirl, so she was the safer bet for me.

Tuesday’s election not just about health care

So on Tuesday, we’ve got a special election here in Massachusetts to fill the senate seat left by the late Ted Kennedy. Naturally, the primary candidates for the seat are a Republican — Scott Brown — and a Democrat — Martha Coakley. I’m very torn as to how I’m going to vote. Without revealing too much, here’s my dilemma.

We’re told that this vote will determine the balance of the senate and — consequently — the success potential of the current health care legislation being considered in the two houses. Voting Coakley is, we’re told, a vote for the current health care legislation and voting for Brown would logically be a vote against it. The trouble is, I don’t agree with some primary items within the health care legislation, so this election for me is more about ideologies going beyond this particular piece of legislation.

Do I send in someone who will maintain the status quo of the current Democratic platform and continue moving things in the direction that they’re going, which is not necessarily a good thing? Or do I send in someone who will attempt to override the status quo with a different kind of status quo that is what I feel the country is trying to run from.

Whatever I end up deciding, please try and see that this upcoming special election is not just about health care — no matter how many well-written radio ads may tell you otherwise.

This is an election about personal liberties, responses to terrorist plots, the war in Afghanistan, the FED, and everything else that is plaguing the country at this point. The health care bill as written does nothing but ensure that health insurance companies will always have customers. Period. No matter what other reforms are within the x-thousand pages of that document, it forces every american to have health insurance. Mandates under penalty of law that we all purchase insurance from some gigantic corporation. Reform? Maybe. Maybe not.

In the long term, there are many other issues at hand than this year’s particular bill, and those are things we need to think about when casting our vote on Tuesday. How will Brown and/or Coakley handle the approvals of a supreme court justice? Potential impeachment? Future bills on domestic security? Vote your conscience, vote your voice.

Factionalization is killing our country

The United States Congress has betrayed its purpose: the representation of the ideals of its constituents is no longer a primary motive. Rather, the concerns of corporate entities, personal gain, and political favor have corrupted the work our government does and the general population is left to ponder the outcome and live in the aftermath.

This has not happened just this year, nor in the last decade, nor indeed over the last 50 years. It has been a slow and inevitable process brought on by the one weakness in the armor of the United States Constitution: it’s ability to become beholden to factional influence. It is a process described in the Federalist Papers, as well as in George Washington’s farewell address to congress. It is the reason why Washington was against the idea of political parties, and the primary reason why Thomas Jefferson believed that every citizen should be educated: to protect the country from factionization. Their warnings have not been heeded, and our country is failing. It is not the fault of our elected officials, however.

We, the people, have allowed the factions to elect those unscrupulous men and women who pervert their calling in the halls of congress. We have allowed it to happen by not participating in our own government. Congressional elections since the 1960’s have had participation in the 20 – 30 percent range. An average turnout of around 35% has been seen during those elections over the last 40 or so years. After accounting for the non-voting population, that is approximately 17% of our citizenry who are determining who remains a representative.

By deciding to not participate in congressional elections, we have handed our country to the entities that most desired it. Those entities and their bank accounts are now controlling how laws are written and which ones pass.

The cynical amongst you will come forth with some kind of “well, it would have happened anyway” or “my vote doesn’t count” quote. To you I say shut up. The reason your vote is slowly counting less and the reason this is happening is because of that very thought process. Our government only works when everybody participates in its operation. It’s not just a right, but a civic duty to follow, analyze, decide, and act on the decisions your representatives make — in your towns, states, and otherwise.

Whether you voted or not, the people from your district will work to determine your quality of life.

This is not a country for cynical people, unfortunately — a fact I have had to come to terms with myself. Cynics will look at a system and see how it has failed them, see the utter futility of trying to correct what seems so obviously wrong. Our country is designed, however, to be fixable. To provide us the view into what is wrong and the means by which we can repair it. All we need do is act.

The massive turn-out in the 2008 elections and its historic result — while not my personal choice — is an example of the voters trying to fix a system. That election was easy, though.  Can you do it in 2010 when it matters more, but will be far less glamorous? Will you turn out and discard those representatives who have failed you, your families, your neighbors and your towns without the television telling you to do so? Will you become the moral compass for those who have none even if your favorite news station disagrees with your ultimate decision?

We are not lost yet. The factions are winning, yes, but they are no longer a concern when we override them with sheer participation.  We can still reclaim the US Congress and give it back to those who would do a better job of representing the people of this country over corporations. It is, after all, our congress to control. The people who sit in those aisles are merely stewards of our rights. And as stewards, they are beholden to our disgust, our wrath, our choices.

from “Progress Report for a Goodthinking UniSocAm”

I found this fragment buried in a government website a few weeks ago and wanted to share it. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t supposed to be public, as I haven’t seen it since. I don’t know the author or to whom it’s addressed, but it’s obviously fairly recent and seems to be part of a larger document or book. Please read it and spread it around. It’s important we don’t allow this kind of thinking to continue. In the meantime, I will see if I can find more.

– sd

There are five primary beliefs that must be imparted upon any citizenry in order to ensure the party’s long life. They are as follows:

  1. Participation in a republic is voluntary
  2. Responsibility for the republic rests solely on the shoulders of the elected
  3. Public is private
  4. Protection is control
  5. War is peace

During the early and middle stages of conversion to a single system of political and social thought, we must put all of our efforts into the five beliefs above. As the years go by and we find that the citizenry truly believes in the five points above, we can turn our efforts to other efforts (outlined in chapter 5 below).

At this point in time, we are very close to a complete adoption of the above beliefs by the majority of the voting public. The rest of this report will outline how we’ve accomplished what many people have said is impossible.

First is the task of getting the public to believe that participation in a republic is voluntary. We worked towards this goal first as it is the single weakness of our current government’s constitution. If enough people are convinced of a voluntary participation, then general human apathy will ensure that only a handful of the total population will turn out to vote. By limiting the numbers of voters, we can ensure a larger percentage of our own sympathizers, or sympathizers of issues that are not important to the running of a government. Recent history can give us many examples: religious freedom, abortion, homosexual marriage. None of those issues are truly important to the longevity of our current republic, but by ensuring that the only people participating are those who see them as issues, we have created a distracted and frustrated citizenry that is – in turn – less likely to vote in the next election.

How have we done this? The primary method is by not revealing to the public the weakness of the constitution. While our publicly funded education programs certainly outline the structure of the government, they do very little to educate students on the reasons for the structure or, indeed, the participation from the governed on which that structure depends. That added to a general human apathy, confusion around what the electoral college is, which election cycle is truly important (as an aside, we have been working very closely with the press on this one and have truly convinced citizens that the presidential election is more important than the congressional), and the convoluted unimportant issues mentioned above, we have come very close to bringing the voting pool down to a manageable and steady 30 percent of the populous.

Second on the list is to convince that the tasks of governing and oversight are the sole responsibilities of the elected and appointed officials. This is a key point. Imagine for a minute what might happen if each citizen took it upon himself to keep track of what government was doing. It would undermine our current progress and become very difficult to implement some of the future changes that are being planned. However, by the combination of human apathy mentioned above and a belief that governing is not a citizen’s responsibility, we can foster feelings of frustration and helplessness within the general public. These feelings lead to a continued trend of non-participation which leads to deeper feelings of alienation. When citizens feel alienated and disenfranchised, it makes it easier to suppress them with work, entertainment, the lottery, etc. (more on our work in those areas in chapter 2).

Third is that the public must believe that the behavior of government is private while their own private information is in fact public. The accomplishment of this step has taken many years and is only 60 percent complete at this point; however we anticipate great strides in this area with our current administration. The keys to this are jargon and volunteerism. Let me explain.

By wrapping governmental work within complicated language specific to certain areas of expertise such as law, science, economics, etc. the government can actually convince citizens that there’s nothing within the information for them. Additionally, our current administration’s pledge of openness will convince citizens to look at only what they are told to monitor – www.recovery.gov for instance – and keep them away from the inner workings that could actually tell a complete story. The press, of course, will request deeper access, but these few individuals are easy enough to control (more on this in chapter 3). With the citizenry volunteering to be left out of public processes, it’s very easy to convince them that those processes are actually private. From there, it’s even easier to convince people to volunteer personal information to the government: spending, travel, food preferences, closest friends’ names, political and religious views, etc. We can accomplish this in one of two ways.

The first is to simply say that we require such information to better understand their needs in order to properly govern. We could conceivably use the current US Census for such a purpose if necessary. The second method – which is also beneficial to our business interests and therefore preferred – is to allow the public to willingly send all kinds of information to their favorite companies. Once that’s gone on for a couple of years, we can institute oversight on the companies to ensure a protection of privacy. Of course, in doing so we gain access to unprecedented amounts of data.

In these ways we can ensure that the information our citizens think of as private becomes public, and at the same time generate a disinterest in government processes without passing any laws that could raise suspicious too early.

Fourth, we must convince the public that protection and control are the same activities with the same ends. Already there is evidence that people believe protection can only be gained by giving up control of their lives. This is a good first step. The next step is to demonstrate how without the government controlling their lives they would lose the protection that it offers. This demonstration has already begun, in fact, with the advent of the current financial crises and our work towards indicating blame.

People already believe that the sole reason for the banks’ collapse was lack of government oversight, and that it had nothing to with greed, mismanagement, and a healthy shove from the Fed. Now are nationalizing the problem banks, increasing oversight, and gaining control of those finances. The people – according to stock market movement – have reacted favorable. It’s apparent that society is beginning to equate control with protection.

Outside of the financial arena, we are using fear and paranoia in order to increase people’s desire for protection. This works especially well where many people are gathered together: airport, subway, train station. This, too, seems to be having a positive effect. We’re able to request identification at our leisure, subject anybody to an invasive and unwarranted search, as well as broadcast messages to everyone that encourage them to be suspicious of others’ behavior. All of this with little or no protest. We are very close to accomplishing our goals in this area much sooner than we expected.

The last important item to discuss is a concept popularized by George Orwell’s 1984. Surprisingly, the widespread popularity of this novel has not prepared people against many of the practices it attempts to vilify, among them the concept that war is peace.

We have been able to quite successfully convince citizens that only by violently protecting our interests in an area of the world can we assure a peaceful existence in our own country. Of course, this is not a new concept and precedent for such a philosophy can be found throughout documented history. Luckily, however, we have at our disposal governmental approvals of such behavior with the Monroe and Truman Doctrines. This ensures that even if a body of citizenry were to point out the fallacies of such a philosophy, we can simply respond that it is in the nature of our country and begin the process of proving them unpatriotic (chapter 6 for more on this).

Admittedly, we have had undreamed of success in this area over the past 20 years. There was some initial concern among some of our group based on how the constitution set forth the rules of declaring war. This was soon overcome, however, through a steady application of principals one through three and we eventually saw put in place a congress fitting our needs. That body put into law the War Powers Act in 1973 which gives the president the ability to preemptively invade another country. This relegated congress to the role of financiers, and while that could theoretically lead to problems, the successful disenfranchisement of citizens has ensure a steady stream of war-bound funds even to the point – if we may celebrate a bit – of bankrupting the country for generations to come. There is always a risk of relapse, however, so we must continue to devise a method of ensuring a steady stream of money (see chapter 4).

We hope you’ve found this overview of principles and application of same to be enlightening. Remember: through the steady, confident, daring, and unwavering application of the five principles outlined here, we will continue to march towards a future we can all be proud of.

In Defense of the “Oath of an American Citizen”

A number of people with whom I shared the Oath of an American Citizen balked a bit at me using the word “responsibility” in relation to when our government goes awry. Responsibility, their argument went, creates too much of a commitment and renders the pledge too harsh. A better word would be “right”, they said. I want to take the time today to answer those concerns.

The fact is that I chose the word “responsibility” over the word “right” on purpose. A right is something one is allowed to or encouraged to do, but it’s also optional. Free speech and religion, the right to bear arms — these are rights. Nobody is required to exercise them, but they’re there just in case. A responsibility, on the other hand, is something one must do. It is not only allowed, not only encouraged, but necessary. Paying taxes, defending your home or family. My oath is all about responsibility, because having rights isn’t enough. Let me explain why.

There were two attempts at framing a government after the Revolutionary War, and the first was an utter failure. It failed for a number of reasons, but foremost among them was that it didn’t properly connect to the citizenry. While the Articles of Confederation did combine the 13 states as a nation and created an overarching federal structure, the citizens felt no responsibility towards it because the government had no power over their lives, and for their part the citizens had no direct voice in the government. The states had that responsibility. Within 10 years, as citizens ignored the national government, the founders could see anarchy on the horizon, their enemies in Europe waiting with bated breath. Their answer was the Constitution.

This second attempt created a federal structure with three branches, one of which consisted of two parts: one representing the states (the Senate) and one representing the people (the House of Representatives). Additionally, the federal government was given more power than it had before: ratify treaties, to raise an army, handle trade, and levy taxes, among them. The Constitution, in other words, gives the federal government direct say over people’s lives in very specific ways, but also gives people a direct voice in the government without removing states’ rights.

The Republic we are involved in requires full participation from all of its parts in order to be a cohesive whole, and one of those parts is the citizenry — it’s not a “House of Representatives” if they don’t “Represent”. It has survived — a second war with Britain, a civil war, the expansion west and the addition of 37 new states, two world wars — on the assumption that voters will choose representatives who serve their region’s needs, but also will have the presence-of-mind to understand those needs on a national scale. However, when a small percentage of a region’s voters turn out to vote, representation becomes “factioned”. In other words, a specific group becomes represented over a particular region.

And that brings me back to the topic of “responsibility” versus “right”. If it is only our “right” to vote, then we can choose not to exercise it. When that happens, it is inevitable that we will become a faction-controlled Republic, and the evidence is mounting quickly that we are already there. Voter turn-out has declined steadily since 1870 to the point where a “mandate” in 2006 was enacted by just 37% of the eligible, registered voters. We can see the results of this kind of “governing by the few”.

However, if each of us sees voting as our responsibility to the sanctity of our nation, each citizen sees the fate of the country as partly their task, and each citizen spends their requisite amount of time and energy applying themselves to that task, a faction-controlled government is theoretically impossible. Imagine, for instance, a mandate that was really a mandate. Imagine a president elected by more than a 25% “majority” (George W. Bush received 49% of the vote from 67% of the voters in 2004).

So yes, I used “responsibility” instead of “right” and I meant it. It’s not easy being a citizen of this experiment that is the United States of America, but then it was never intended to be. Easy citizenship leads to anarchy, fascism, monarchy. The founders expected their descendants to be intelligent and worthy of the mantle of responsibility thrust upon them by the Constitution. Are we, though?