Category Archives: All of Us

Why I’m Voting Third Party (and O.K.)

This election year I’m confronted with a compelling ethical choice. On the one hand, I cannot vote to re-elect President Obama because he has chosen to execute American citizens without any charges and without any trial. He has also pursued the prosecution of government whistle-blowers with inordinate zeal, creating a chilling climate for anyone who might consider bringing to light wrongs committed by our government. On the other hand, his competitive adversary, Mitt Romney offers no indication he would act more ethically and every indication he would act even more unethically, in even more areas.

Right now the United States has a two-party system. Despite any rhetoric, the differences between these two parties are negligible. Both use the collective might of the United States primarily to service financial interests, even financial interests that do not benefit the American people. That’s it.

As a minor aside, which inexplicably polarizes and paralyzes the American people, one party makes overtures to use our collective might for the immediate and tangible benefit of Americans, while the other party makes overtures to undo any power government wields over Americans. Both are perpetually unfulfilled promises. However, the ideological division it generates amongst the people insures the perpetuation of that two-party system.

I’ve never heard anyone entirely happy with their political party choice. People on both sides have considered voting for a different party that more closely represents their views. But they never do; myself included. You see, as the thinking goes, if you vote for the party you really want to, then you are throwing your vote away – effectively giving away the election to the party you hate. In other words, if you do not vote for one of the two parties, you are, in essence, voting for your opposite party.

I’ve even used that flawed logic on others, when I found out they intended to vote for a third party candidate. You’re just throwing your vote away! The other party will win because of your short-sightedness!

But I was wrong. Well, mostly wrong. I was wrong because they were not being short-sighted. They were, in fact, being rather long-sighted. They were voting their conscience and their convictions despite the two-party monopoly. They were lessening its power and grip over us all by ceasing to believe in it, and ceasing to feed it. I was also wrong because the only way to throw your vote away is by not voting.

Those people brave enough to vote for third party candidates are actually doing more with their vote than anyone voting for either a Democratic or Republican candidate. In a real sense it is one of the most profoundly revolutionary steps an American can take. And both parties know it. This is why they spend enormous sums of money and invest a considerable amount of manpower to keep third-party candidates off local ballots. It is a worthy investment of time researching what third party candidates must go through simply to survive staying on a ballot in one state.

I’m proud of those Americans brave enough and with enough fortitude to see the struggle through – to offer us all a real choice of candidates. I’m also proud of those Americans brave enough to vote with their conscience, not settling for a stick figure wrapped in glitz, spewing out platitudes like a high-priced prime time advertisement.

To be sure, any transition away from the two-party system will be a difficult one. It’s far more likely Democrats will allow their conscience to prevail than Republicans – potentially resulting in a long, desolate decline in what little remains, of humanity in government.

But perhaps not. Perhaps Republicans will take upon themselves that rebel spirit they claim to embody, like the tea-party terrorists of Boston harbor so long ago – and vote for someone they truly believe in, who is a real, honest American representative and not just some corporate/religious puppet. Stranger things have happened.

I know that I am done with the two parties now. Completely finished. Even though all other candidates are forced into silence and obscurity, I will actively hunt them down, and I will listen to them. I will get to know them; our own real people who are crazy and brave enough to stand outside in the open, saying, there is another way. I’m going to listen. And if I like them, I will vote for them. Because that’s my vote. And I am not going to throw it away.

Republicans, Listen – Unless You Are Very Rich Already

This will be yours, we promise

This is a flim flam man alert, brought to you by the letter “C” for “care”. Demand to know which taxes and why, when and how!

The Republican benefit to the American people, based upon the words of Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan, rests primarily in the promise of an economic boon for all. This benefit, they claim, will happen because tax cuts will create more jobs. More jobs will be created because business owners can afford to hire more people with any money not paid to the government, or can afford to buy more things from other companies, who, in turn, can use that money to hire more people instead of giving it to the government.

This notion appeals to our common sense and there is even some truth to it. We like simple, believable things. But as we know, common sense is rarely the whole picture.

The claim that Mitt Romney and company repeatedly make is that the majority of people are employed by “small businesses” and these “small businesses” are taxed as the individual who owns those small businesses; most likely a sole proprietorship or a simple Limited Liability Corporation. The misleading part of this argument is that federal taxes are assessed on your profit, not your expenses. You write off all of the money you have paid to employees, along with other valid expenses, and then you are taxed on that amount.

As such, changing this owner’s tax rate does nothing to help him hire more people – he can hire as many as he has income enough to hire, and not pay any taxes on the amount of money he has passed on to his employees. Even if his tax rate were 80% he could still hire as many people as he had gross income to cover, and only be taxed on the amount he personally had left over after he paid them.

So lowering this guy’s tax rate does nothing to help him hire more people, unless you believe that with his personal business profit he took for himself, he would choose to hire someone else for the company, instead of using the company to hire that person. And he would be very stupid to do this, because he already lost some of his profit to taxes – so why not just do it as a company expense before taxes? Of course, if he had enough profit he might want to hire a full-time maid or cook, and that couldn’t be expensed to the business. And in that case, perhaps there is some very minor economic benefit.

But the benefit is, most certainly, minor. When one has a good deal of extra personal money beyond the business, you only spend so much on personal things, putting that money into the economy. Most people will invest this money into stocks or bonds, taking advantage of even more tax breaks, making that money work for themselves.

This is where Mitt Romney’s smoke and mirrors are doing their best work. When Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan talk about cutting taxes, they are not talking about which types of taxes and why it might matter. When you buy stock, you are basically buying a chunk of a company, hoping that company’s value will rise. Well, some people use Wall Street trickery to hope the value decreases instead, but that’s another subject. If you buy enough of that company’s stock, you effectively own that company.

Now, when you buy a company’s stock and hold onto it, you might decide to sell it later for cash. Depending on what people are willing to pay, you might be able to sell your stock shares for more money than you originally paid for them. This money you made – this income – is called capital gains, and it is taxed at a different rate than people’s normal income tax. It is, in fact, taxed at a much lower rate. Right now, it’s 15%.

So if you decide you are going to buy Boeing, for example, and purchase 10,000 shares at $70/share, it will cost you $700,000. Let’s say a year passes, and Boeing’s value has gone up to $80/share, and you decide to sell all 10,000 shares for $80, meaning you get $800,000. That means that you have just made a capital gain of $100,000. You didn’t have to hire anyone to do it, either. You didn’t have to create a single new job. You just made $100,000 and you get taxed at 15%. If you were to make that same $100,000 by working for wages, you would have paid significantly more money.

This is the main way that people with money make more money. They do nothing whatsoever but ride the waves in the changing values of companies. There are companies out there, like Bain Capital, who purchase controlling shares in companies and subsequently do various things to that company to either increase that company’s value, or strip it down in order to help further other interests they might have elsewhere. You don’t give one whit about job creation. You can only care about increasing money for your own investors. Any impact on people can only be seen in terms of money, and if you make more money for your investors by destroying a thousand jobs, that’s what you do.

And the money you’re making for your investors is capital gains, taxed at that very low rate. This is the rate that Mitt Romney is most worried about. Honestly, the income tax on rich people doesn’t matter at all – it could really be 100% and it wouldn’t make any difference because most rich people aren’t being paid normal wages – they’re being paid capital gains at the 15% rate. Dividends count as income, though, which is a good thing – but very few companies even pay dividends any more.

Mitt Romney, Paul Ryan and the Republican party leadership don’t really care at all about income taxes on rich people. I honestly don’t think they care about income taxes on the middle class or poor either, other than they might be able to buy more things. What they do care about is the capital gains tax rate. They want it kept as low as possible because that’s how people with money make most of their money. It’s rich people income. And it’s the lowest tax rate we have.

Remember this when you’re hearing all the obsession on lowering taxes. Lowering taxes is good, especially for people with not a lot of money. But keeping capital gains taxes so low is doing nothing good at all. Now it might, if that vast amount of money was ever spent on things in the economy. But it’s not. It’s only used to buy and sell ownership in companies. It has to be, right? I mean, it’s the lowest tax rate, right? But it doesn’t help the economy. In fact it is the very essence of, if you want to make money, you have to have money first.

What escapes most Republicans, and indeed most people, is that companies – the management and the employees – are the ones doing the hard work, generating value and creating jobs. The people making capital gains are simply harvesting that hard work. Why not siphon out some of that “free money” and put it to work on such things as building our schools into cathedrals, elevating our next generation to levels unimagined? Why not channel that money into even more help in to private sector, who is just starting to reach out into space? Why not channel some of that money into making sure everyone can see a doctor?

It would certainly be a better place to live, here in these United States, using some of that money for our betterment as a whole, rather than giving only the wealthiest amongst us the lowest tax rates of all people, and even with that, allowing them to hide much of it off-shore. How does this demonstrate caring about anything but themselves? How can anyone believe we’re all better off that way?

A Personal Reaction to the First Presidential Debate of 2012

The first of three Presidential debates occurred last night. I set them to record from an over-the-air broadcast by my local Public Broadcasting System channel. Oh, I get NBC, ABC and CBS channels too, as well as CW, Fox, Ion and a small plethora of odd others, several of whom were also carrying the debate. But there’s something more honest, less phony, or dare I say, more trustworthy about listening to news and debates without the backdrop of Coke commercials, wise financial institution sales pitches, and being instructed which car would bring me the most happiness.

It’s early morning for me right now at 1:10pm. I’m awake with just over 6 hours of very restful sleep. This essay is in a small deviation in my morning routine which starts with the brewing of coffee. I then sit down at a computer and examine the day’s effect on my stock portfolios. Currently, I’m very pleased with the National Bank of Greece. I bought it when everyone was saying it would collapse. But it’s one of the oldest financial institutions in the world, and Greek people are more than a little impressive. And I trust the Europeans to do what’s best for their people, in the end. They’re a smart bunch, broadly educated, aware of history – and this brings wisdom.

To be fair, I also bought Bank of America stock, when it tumbled to the floor in value, abandoned by all the other financial institutions. I think they wanted it dead. But it came back, started to rise a great deal, and on the late April crest, I sold my interest, only to buy it back, and more, in a few weeks after the first great swell had past. It’s now back to its late April value again. And you know what? I’ll be an Bank of America owner for the long haul now.

I have to tell you, my favorite ownership is a company called Orbital Sciences. I mean, it’s space! I can’t own Space-X because it’s privately held, and Orbital Sciences has far more experience than Space-X anyway. They’ll both be shuttling cargo to and from the International Space Station, and Orbital Sciences works on a great deal more.

Oh, right, the Presidential debate. Well, first, you should know I’m not a Democrat. Nor am I a Republican. I’m not a Libertarian or a Socialist either. I’ve been accused of being each of them. I’m not exactly impressed by group thinking, like a herd of so much cattle. Nor am I impressed by rebellious thinking, simply for the sake of being different. Intelligence is what matters. Informed intelligence. And even greater than that, wisdom. Wisdom never clings to a set of beliefs. Wisdom is always open, fluid, and bound upon its best course toward Truth.

This morning I have purposefully avoided reading anything about the debates. I do not want anything I write here to be influenced by other people’s interpretations, or any organization’s agenda. I want my reaction to be as purely my own as it can be.

I was surprised by President Obama’s largely passive stance last night. I was not surprised by Mitt Romney’s aggressive one. As the CEO of a large, multinational organization, particularly one dealing in venture capital where you buy and sell businesses, you can expect firmly rooted and well-contrived stances. You can expect to see a position taken, pushed through and sold. That’s what he does. And he does it well.

Anyone who has ever dealt with the personalities who own and run large companies has a good insight into the professional character of Mitt Romney. Once you decide what you want, you gather your resources, you strategize a main plan of attack with a few minor contingencies, then plant your feet firmly and ram your agenda through.

The question I was left with after watching the debate was, what is Mitt Romney’s agenda, other than to become the next President of the United States? The only hard facts he used were numbers used to attack President Obama, while providing no substantial alternative of his own – and some of the numbers he used were used deceptively and manipulatively, such as the amount of money taken out of Medicare by President Obama (which Mitt Romney would never do, he claims).

I understand the tactics. This was pure sales. And aggressive sales at that. I even respect it, to a degree. The thing is, when you’re a business man, and you’re doing aggressive sales, there is always something in it for you. You’re not selling solely for the benefit of the people buying. And it comes down to, with Mitt Romney, will it be a win-win scenario, with all American people included?

I would like to believe so. That man could sell a lot, and get a lot done. But I’m not at all convinced it would be for the best. Beyond the sales tactics, I heard no details. And I don’t buy hardware without first looking over the technical specifications.

The thing is, I might well be better off financially under Mitt Romney – particularly if he keeps capital gains taxes low. But the thing is, I know that this country’s wealth is completely jammed up in just a few pockets. It needs to be shaken loose to get the economy flowing again. This is the only way the economy can start flowing again, unless you go printing more money, which I’m sure neither candidate considers a good idea. Lowering taxes on rich people does nothing except make them happier.

I am not happy with President Obama. Financially, I’m doing great. The corporate sector of America is making record profits since he came to office. I am not happy with President Obama because he is using automated drones to bomb people in other countries. He is prosecuting government whistle-blowers worse than anyone else. He has killed American citizens abroad without any trial or even charges. And he’s pushing for expanded domestic surveillance. Even though all of this was done by, and started by his predecessors, I cannot vote for him and retain a clear conscience. I strongly doubt Mitt Romney would be better and suspect he would be worse, considering his sabre-rattling and obscene increase in our tax dollars feeding the military-industrial complex. Interestingly, even though Mitt Romney wants to increase military spending, he wants to decrease the Veterans Administration. That’s pretty telling – care about the military machine, but not really so much about the troops.

I have little doubt that Mitt Romney really is just planning another hit-and-run like Dick Cheney. With the wars, during the Bush term, you can watch Halliburton stock rise up to new heights starting, pretty much, on the day Dick took office. It continued rising all through Cheney’s term, even while nearly all other stocks tanked during the resulting financial crisis and Great Recession. And then, Halliburton leaves the United States, relocating its headquarters to an Arabic country in the Middle East.

The hard truth is, you small little business owners and cutesy property owners, who think you know business, and who believe people like that – other business people – will look out for your best interest… Well, maybe you don’t know business as well as you think you do. They will look out for themselves, and their own, well before anyone else.

Mitt Romney’s business is taking over an organization and harvesting it for its money and/or assets. That’s what he does. I have no reason to believe he has any different intentions with the United States itself. His presentation was long on tactic, short on substance. It was obviously well-planned and polished, and aggressively rammed through.

You can see this most poignantly in the candidates’ closing remarks, where Mitt Romney looks at the camera like the perfectly-oiled sales machines and methodically ticks off the attack points, with the couple vague promises about something he’ll do. In contrast, President Obama forms his words and thoughts on the spot, which made him appear a little stammering in comparison to such polish.

The interesting thing is, I’m not sure that isn’t a good thing. The American people have been sold so many things. We know the lingo, the sure postures, and true believability of vacuous words. We know when we’re being sold something, as opposed to seeing someone struggle to do something. Unfortunately, one is simply less effective while the other can be dangerous.

I will not vote for Mitt Romney. He looked at the moderator of the debate and told him he would put him out of a job. Jim Lehrer is one of the most respected, and one of the last, of the old school newsmen left. He reeks of integrity, through and through. Because of public funding, Mr. Lehrer is free of commercial concerns, allowing his journalism to remain as unbiased as possible. To my mind, this is where Mitt Romney fails, in a way so profound and substantial, that there is no doubt about his incompetence as a leader of the United States, or any nation on this Earth: Mitt Romney does not realize that Truth is colored by money.

Actually, I think Mitt Romney does know that truth is colored by money, and he relies on it. Just like good science, good journalism cannot have strings attached to the money sources. When you rely on other people for money – other people with their own agendas – it’s in your best interest to make those people happy. This can quickly color truth, in science and journalism (and just about anything else) – and it does. If we are to progress as a species any further, our concerns cannot be just financial. Truth must always come before finance – because without Truth, we’re at the mercy of those who control what we can know to be true. Mitt Romney is either too stupid to know this, or he is too eager to exploit it. Either way, this is the critical flaw for me.

I don’t want to see another hit-and-run raid performed on the United States. This has been Mitt Romney’s business for quite some time. For as much as Republicans say they are financially conservative, they’re the ones I swear are trying to bankrupt the government. What’s happened to them? I really doubt I’ll be voting for President Obama, either. He has not lived up to his promises, and has offered no detailed explanation why. His administration is also behaving unethically. I believe Mitt Romney’s administration would behave even more unethically.

Left with a choice between to the two, I would have to choose President Obama. However, despite what money buys you as truth, there are more than two political parties. And right now, am voting for neither one of them.

The Bill Making Assassinations of US Citizens Illegal Died in House Constitution Committee

Constitution and AssassinationA lot of stuff goes on, even when we’re not looking. For example, the Patriot Act is coming up for renewal. Congress displayed unusual foresight when enacting this draconian legislation, forcing the Patriot Act to die each year unless its provisions are purposefully renewed.

The so-called “Patriot Act” grants the government and the President many special powers they were never meant to have. If you do not want our government having these special powers, you are unpatriotic. It’s like supporting the troops, by making sure young men and women are always being shipped off to war, and kept there.

In the Patriot Act, it is very easy for the government to label people as terrorists. It is also very easy for the government to gag people from even speaking, under the penalty of prison. It is even very easy for the government to seize money or assets from individuals, groups, or organizations if they are labeled terrorists, terrorist supporters, or even friends or family of “terrorists”. None of these actions require a court warrant or judgment — it just happens one day.

Maybe this is good, in many situations. After all, even when judges are involved, it doesn’t seem to make much difference. The FISA court, for example, approved all surveillance requests by the government last year. We only know this because people have fought very hard to bring at least the number of surveillance requests that FISA receives, out into the light.

But if you need a more graphic representation of the dark slope we’ve embarked upon, you need look no further than a single bill introduced last year, HR 6010 “To prohibit the extrajudicial killing of United States citizens, and for other purposes.”

This bill makes it illegal for the US Government to kill any of its citizens without first giving them a court trial. Right now anyone can make it onto a targeted assassination list and be killed without any trial, whether you are a United States citizen or not, despite Executive Order 12333 from Ronald Reagan and Executive Order 11905 from Gerald Ford which forbade assassination.

It seems simple, yes? We have to be convicted of a crime, and then sentenced, and if the sentence is particularly harsh, we may be executed. Unfortunately, that’s not how it is. We can be executed outright with no judicial process, and not even any real oversight.

The bill that would ban our government from killing its citizens was sent to the House Judiciary Subcommittee on the Constitution, Civil Rights, and Civil Liberties on September 10, 2010. And there, most aptly, it died.

The Deparment of Defense is Defying Presidential Orders

We Americans like the notions of freedom, liberty and democracy. We grew up knowing they were ours; fundamental rights that all humans deserve – and if any humans don’t have them, they ought to aspire toward winning those rights. And we’re willing to help. Even eager.

It’s always a dangerous thing when you have not only all the answers, but also all the guns.

It’s also dangerous when you discover you’re not actually fighting for freedom, liberty and democracy – unless freedom, liberty and democracy are equivalent to money, that is. And there are, actually, reasonable arguments that support the notion of money as a tangible quantity that represents freedom, liberty and democracy.

But money is not for everyone, equally. Was some notion of equality intended to exist within these notions of freedom, liberty an democracy? Perhaps different “types” of equality, based upon… merit? What we consider realistic is wholly dependent upon the predominant agreements between us all – or by who controls the water, food supplies, housing – or who directs the big guns.

Yesterday, the last US citizen left alive, who served in the first World War, died of old age at 110. Frank Buckles saw the birth of America’s fledgling war industries. Indeed, those industries allowed us to eventually successfully complete the second World War as well.

The Supreme Allied Commander of World War II was Dwight Eisenhower, who eventually became President. He was intimately familiar with the industrial businessmen and their growing coziness with politicians and military leaders. He also knew very well that when you combine money and profit-making with the instruments of killing, a recipe for disaster is close at hand.

And this is exactly what we are left with: baked from that European oven is our “military/industrial complex”, as he coined the phrase. The Supreme Allied Commander of the free Western World’s military arsenals, and our President, warned us with the utmost gravity against the military and industry’s growing influence. And even today we are left with war, in the name of profit.

So it is not surprising the industrial machines react so menacingly against “whistle blowers” or any others who bring to light any truth behind their publicly-oriented propaganda. Nor is it surprising that the majority of military leaders go into high-paid positions after their retirement from military service, into the same companies they previously channeled billions of our taxpayer dollars. And it is not surprising that we must continuously demonstrate a need for the most outrageously enormous military, no matter how that need is demonstrated.

But it may be surprising that the Department of Defense is perfectly comfortable defying Presidential orders – in this case, orders to revise their classification system – a system that classifies far more than it should, and that often does not release historical documents when it is required to by law. Let me be clear (that latest in fashion propaganda emphasis): right now the heads of the Department of Defense are defying orders – Executive order #13526 to be exact.

As Steven Aftergood notes, “The promulgation of implementing regulations for [President Obama’s] E.O. 13526… is not an optional activity,” said William J. Bosanko, director of the Information Security Oversight Office, which oversees the classification system.

The industrial war machine is a perpetual and enormous drain upon our country’s wealth. We can’t even discuss taking some of that money and giving it to people who might need help with winter heating, let alone an operation or medicine to save their lives. We are the richest country on the planet, yet we cannot afford schools. All this, and our military can defy Presidential orders, and work its propaganda on Congressional lawmakers? Cheney’s Halliburton can take billions servicing the war machine, then move the company to the United Arab Emirates to avoid US law and taxes?

Propaganda is a powerful tool. Beliefs we hold dear that can be manipulated to serve an end is a weakness to which even the most headstrong among us are susceptible. The War Machine mentality is like a drug addiction – it kills while making the dealers and players rich. Right now, it is withering us, even spiritually.

And the alternative? Life! Or as a first step, perhaps, just not-death. For anyone. Or maybe, if you must, err on the side of not killing this time. Have a sit-down. Think it through. Imagine what else we might accomplish, with such a committed focus of money and attention. I imagine such a thing would cause the history books to tremble, just a bit.