My Progressive Platform For 2006

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Terrance, over at The Republic of T, asks a simple, yet provocative question in preparation of the 2006 elections: What’s Your Platform?

Okay, I’m game. Here are my most imperative policy reforms, in no particular order:

1) 2.0 the hell out of government
Congress was only able to see “finished” intelligence before voting to give the Bush administration power to go to war (as a last resort). In my world, anything that the Executive branch sees, the Legislative branch sees. My voice is represented by my state officials, not the president. This one example of a non-transparent government directly led to the deaths of more than 30,000 human beings.

The most applicable 2.0 philosophy for reforming government is the philosophy of openness. From open source to open content, imagine the possibilities of employing a government that makes all de-classified government documents, congressional voting records, appointee resumes, etc. instantly available in a relational database with open APIs for public use. All of this information is available now, but it’s not prepped for accessibility and reuse. This is the future of accountability. Up communication and transparency, reduce the “Fuck You!” noise of the left vs. the right blogosphere to constructive collaboration… that is until government tries to pull something, and then we get back on them like white on rice.

2) Create a nominal tax to directly supplement teacher salaries
Great teachers are few and far between nowadays. Why? Well, you try dealing with kids, administrators and parents all day, adhere to and circumvent the red-tape and legalities of this age with the grace of a seasoned politician and pull in ~$45k per year.

I’m talking about, say, a .1% tax that goes directly towards teacher salaries. I gotta admit, I got the idea from Mini-Me when he appeared as a genius teacher on an episode of Boston Public a few years back. His thesis was that the degree to which students are prepared by their public school years directly impacts their earning potential, so reward their hometown education system with a nominal, flat tax return to impact teacher salaries. Tell ’em. Verne!

3) Rip up the Patriot Act
As alluded to in the first part of my platform, transparency of government will lead to politicians being held accountable to create humane national and global policies. It’ll also foster the innovation of extremely real-time and smart communication user experiences, which can then be applied by government in the authenticated realm of classified material.

This edict of transparency cannot be applied to individuals. Our individual right of privacy is what has distinguished us from the rest of the world for centuries. The Patriot Act is legislation with language that allows for the control, intimidation and investigation of Americans through the guise of terrorism. It’s like the old censorship debate; who defines what is terrorism? The abuse of American rights have already begun.

4) Election reforms
First, all television campaigns are free. Each major candidate (there would have to be some way to determine “major,” possibly something akin to the BSC polls/stats via past political progress made) is provided a set amount of credits to apply to the “purchase” of air time. This opens up the playing field to a diverse class of politicians who can focus on the issues, not their fund raising. I bet Tom Delay would even go for this.

Second, ensure that voting is both easy to access and secure. All voting systems could easily be tied together into one database, while creating alternative voting options, such as over the internet and by phone. We’ve been to the moon people…

5) National health care for everyone… Yes, you too
Riddle me this: Large corporations get major discounts on health care coverage due to the amount of employees they staff, right? Okay, then why not treat congressional districts as semantic equivalents of large pools of employees (citizen residents) by submitting them as huge groups into the bidding process? C’mon, try to tell me why that doesn’t make any sense.

6) Incentivize industry to reduce our dependency on oil and clean up the environment
I know, the oil industry has major power claws dug deep into our political system, but this is my platform, so I’ll risk the blunt gas nozzle to the back of my head. This current administration gave tax breaks to manufacturers who create hybrid vehicles, but capped the production of cars to 60,000 that qualify for the break. Yeah.

First, we create California-like emmission standards and apply it nationally. Second, we apply money to develop alternative forms of fuel instead of planning a trip to Mars or building that damn bridge to nowhere in Alaska. Third… well, I’m not that smart, but these people are.

Well, that’s my platform. God knows there are other extremely important issues (like getting out of Iraq, impeaching Bush, etc.), but that’s all the brainpower I have for tonight. I’m sure many of you want to label me as a liberal communist or some other disparaging nomenclature, and if I just described your take on me, my message to you is grow the fuck up. These are serious times, calling for serious people. The longer you avoid engaging in honest discussions along these lines, the easier it becomes to spot your agenda.

To the rest of you, let’s work together to get these bozos out of office in 2006.

Art Prophesying Reality?

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It was around 1989 when I read Six Days of the Condor; a perfect story for an 18 year-old male, chock full of deceit, murder, paranoia, sex, intrigue and spies. For some reason—possibly my attention span at the time—the end of the book threw me for a loop. So tonight, I kicked back with my Netflix choice of the week and watched the film adaptation: Three Days of the Condor.

Three words: Rent. it. now.

It was made 28 years ago, yet the plot line has come to life in eerie fashion over the last few years. I don’t want to ruin the movie for you, so if you are going to rent it, don’t read on.

Condor (played by Robert Redford) is a spy, and per chance, misses a hit on his office that leaves the all seven of his colleagues executed. After some brilliant screenwriting, we come to find out that one of his previous reports sent off to Langley hit a nerve within a secret faction of the CIA that just happened to be playing war games concerning the overthrow of an unstable regime in the Middle East in order to gain control of oil reserves.

Sure, the US has been meddling with numerous foreign spots in the Middle East over the past 50 years to keep a stranglehold on power, but shivers the size of nine inch nails traveled down my spine just the same.

The rogue CIA unit ordered the execution of the entire office after reading Condor’s spot-on investigative report, so he does the only thing he can and goes off the grid to plan his next steps. After outwitting numerous suits over the course of the film, he ends up confronting the CIA Director directly in front of the New York Times office in Manhattan.

After a quick verbal sparring over the morality of what our government was doing, Condor tells the Director that the story is out and the Times will be publishing it all. The film ends with the CIA Director asking Condor,

“What if they don’t print it, then where will you go?”

Redford’s face drops a bit as the last frame freezes on him.

Does Our Press Get Squeezed?

Forget the uncanny plot line that syncs up with the recent activity in Iraq and the coincidence of the NYC CIA office being found within the WTC. It’s eerie to experience this 70s flick being so prescient, but I’m more interested with the final jab.

I often wonder how free the press is in our capitalistic society, where over the years the fourth branch has moved away from reporting and more toward media. Our government has indoctrinated us to speak harshly against news practices around the world, especially during the eighties during the heart of the Cold War (when I was an impressionable teenager); the old “look, over there!” trick has build a sycophantic capitalist society of productive worker bees at home, much less apt to question authority or the authenticity of “news” when delivered.

Here’s something to ponder: Did you know that congress is on the verge of passing unprecedented legislation that allows media entities to merge with minimal to no limitations? Can you imagine what this could mean in an Orwellian novel? Or in this actual capitalist society where one individual, such as a Bill Gates, has more wealth than the bottom 45 percent of American households combined?

A less competitive press = a singular perspective.

  • Advertising revenue begins to drive the editorial premise and impedes journalistic objectivity
  • Agendas are deployed and met
  • A top down, targeted media push (via news, marketing, advertising, programming, etc.) becomes the mainstay of communication operations

Our society has evolved from watching the news on TV at 6 and 11 (1970’s) to digesting news 24 hours a day on TV, radio, and the internet (1990’s) to having access to hundreds of thousands of individual perspectives of news events blasting on blogs (present). With all this newfound decentralized access we should feel both informed and empowered, right?

That’s what they want us to think.

For even the most invested netizen, information technology is still a hindrance when trying to decipher noise from news, and fiction from fact. Simple to use, individually operated publishing channels are now available to the masses through blogging, but actual reach to the mainstream, less tech savvy, older audiences is minimal at best as information is still presented in a hard-to-access online ecosystem.

I can imagine the power elite in media and government thinking something along the lines of:

Let the bottom feeders play with their toys—be it bloggers publishing opinions based on theory or fact—no one will be able to tell the difference. It’ll be our facts that they base their opinion upon. And the noise in the sheer amount of opinions projected outwards will make all opinions null and void.

Our organized, top-down messaging is so strong via advertising, marketing, media, etc., that the bottom-up representation of the people will become lost in the noise of the the mainstream media, as well as in it’s own scattered presentation.

We’ll then use their information as data to feed our strategic messaging and market right back to them.

Americans have turned into thought veal over the past twenty-years. We’ve been tenderized perfectly to be devoured oh-so-nicely in a propaganda system that is set up to succeed only if the masses over-consume everything from food to entertainment to material goods to political punditry.

This is the boogie man that lives under my bed.