Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Put A Little Love in Our Hearts

When Dennis Kucinich announced his Champions for Change were Elizabeth Warren, Sherrod Brown, and Alan Grayson, I had no idea who Sherrod Brown and Alan Grayson were (while Elizabeth Warren is a very sensible and likeable repeat guest on The Daily Show), but I trusted Dennis enough to donate something to each of their campaigns. Since then I've been getting a series of rather unpleasant-sounding emails in which he complains loudly about certain Republican candidates such as "David Rivera of Miami" about whom, he says, "I do think that the taxpayers should be paying for David Rivera's room and board. But I don't think that the federal institution at which Rivera serves should be the U.S. Congress." (*cough*prison.)

Well frankly it was getting annoying, because I don't know anything whatsoever about the guys on Grayson's hit list and I hate to make judgments about politicians based solely on attacks from ... other politicians. Bias just doesn't get more obvious than that! Especially since he sounded so much like a typical politician, mixed with a bit of Rush Limbaugh. And in today's "make up you own facts" political climate, I tend notice when an article lacks citations.

But I have to like his latest email. After declaring Obama the winner in the recent foreign policy debate, he said something I can agree with with all my heart*. Oddly his letter doesn't have a home page so I'll repeat it here:
The bad news is that the entire debate, questions and answers, seemed premised on the false assumption that virtually everyone else on this planet wants to kill us.

Here is a list of the topics last night: (1) Libya embassy attack. (2) War in Syria. (3) Why we shouldn't cut military spending. (4) Israel or the U.S. attacking Iran. (5) The war in Afghanistan. (6) "Divorcing" Pakistan. (7) What is the greatest future threat to our security?

In other words, seven variations on the same theme: xenophobia. Fear of foreigners.

Let's go over the basic facts. There are two large oceans that separate us from 191 of the 193 other countries in the world. Our northern border has been peaceful since 1812. Our southern border has been peaceful, more or less, since 1848. In the 229 years since the Treaty of Paris, establishing our independence, foreign military forces have attacked American territory only twice - in both cases, on the outermost periphery.

So how is it that a "foreign policy" debate can be devoted entirely to the single, narrow subject of who is going to kill whom? It appears that the military-industrial complex has not only occupied huge chunks of the federal budget, but also huge chunks of our political discourse, and even our thinking.

Why is it that every candidate for public office keeps pressing that big, red PANIC button? Isn't there anyone out there who will try to put a little love in our hearts?

Here are some questions that should have been asked last night, but weren't:

(1) What should we do about the 10+ million undocumented people in this country, more than half of whom came here from Mexico? (2) Speaking of Mexico, the drug war in Mexico was the most deadly armed conflict in the world last year, killing more people than the war in Afghanistan and the civil war in Syria combined. What should we do about it? (3) We have run the largest trade deficit in the world every year for roughly the past 20 years. This year, it's half a trillion dollars, again. Other developed countries like Japan and Germany run consistent trade surpluses. What should we do about this? (4) The United States is the only industrialized country without universal healthcare, paid vacations and paid sick leave. Why is this? What should we do about it? (5) Climate change obviously is a worldwide issue. Should the United States participate in efforts to mitigate it? If so, how? (6) There is tremendous suffering now in both Greece and Spain, with unemployment of 25%+. Should we do anything to help people in those countries? (7) In poor countries, three million people die each year of respiratory infections, 2.5 million die each year of diarrhea, and two million die of AIDS. Virtually all of these deaths are avoidable. Should we avoid them?

As Charles P. Pierce of Esquire put it, before the debate last night:

Trade is foreign policy. The environment is foreign policy. Energy policy is foreign policy. Human rights are foreign policy. Drought is foreign policy. Starvation is foreign policy. War is generally only foreign policy when one of those other things I mentioned get[s] completely out of control. However, as I suspect we will see argued enthusiastically from both sides tonight, war, and not its historic causes, has come to define foreign policy. Increasingly, it has come to define us as a nation as well. This is a problem that, I predict, will not be addressed at all this evening . . . .

He was right. It wasn't addressed at all.

Look - the world is a beautiful place. I know; I've seen it. This planet is full of people just like us. It's not full of monsters and demons and ogres and beasts. And there are solutions to problems other than "shoot it," "bomb it," "burn it," and "kill it."

Let me make this as simple as possible: The Earth - love it or leave it.


Alan Grayson

Think of your fellow man,
Lend him a helping hand,
Put a little love in your heart . . . .

Another day goes by,
And still the children cry.
Put a little love in your heart.

If you want the world to know,
We won't let hatred grow,
Put a little love in your heart.

And the world will be a better place.
And the world will be a better place.
For you and me --
You just wait and see.

Put a little love in your heart.
* (except for point #4. I'm all for universal healthcare--but how is it a foreign policy question?)

I predict that the U.S. election winner...

...will not make a big difference to the country!

So vote 3rd party... and support electoral reform! If the people you would approve of aren't running for office, don't you think that could have something to do with our voting system?

First-past-the-post favors a two-party system and incumbents in particular. Right now, most rational independents wouldn't consider running for office, knowing they can't really win. That means that the independents that actually do run for office are few in number and either (1) know they can't win and just want a bit of spotlight for themselves or their message, or (2) are insane. It's no great surprise if you don't approve of any of them.

And if you're gonna support a new voting system, let me suggest that you support anything except IRV (instant runoff voting). Well, support IRV if it's the only choice, because anything is better than first-past-the-post. However, the other single-seat systems (where many candidates compete for a single-seat), such as Approval, Range voting (where you just give each candidate a rating from 0 to 5 or something), Ranked Pairs, are better.

Mind you, all these single-seat election systems are very flawed: they always reject (N-1)/N of the candidates running, which means everyone that runs (apart from the forerunner) must be willing to burn lots of cash with low chances of success, which tends to favor rich people (and a few others who have either strong stomachs for failure, or delusions that they have a shot).

Another major flaw with FPTP, IRV, Approval and so forth is that they assume that I want to vote for someone local. Where I live has nothing to do with who I want in the federal government! Why can't I choose among candidates across the country, or at least across the state? Give me Direct Representation!