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Here’s a new way to elect a President that doesn’t depend on either the Republican or Democratic parties. It’s called Americans elect 2012, and it’s a virtual election process that is legal and is beginning to gain supporters — a couple of millions already — across the nation. If you’re not hearing much about them on TV, at least yet, consider that they don’t buy advertising and don’t host endless debates, nor do they hold the White House.


If you are dissatisfied with both the Republicans and the Democrats, check this out online. It’s pretty cool, and who knows, it could catch fire.

It is the 85th anniversary of the first Macy’s Day Parade, hosted on this day in 1924 in New York City. Although held on Thanksgiving, as has been the tradition ever since, the event was originally called Macy’s Christmas Parade, since it officially welcomed Santa Claus and ushered in the holiday season.

That wasn’t the only thing that’s changed since the original event. An advertisement appearing the day before promised it to be  “a tremendous pageant of tableaux, comedians, tragedians, elephants, bears, camels, monkeys, clowns, brass bands, and everything that makes a real Circus Parade so dear to everybody.” The store delivered on the claim, leading a throng of Macy’s employees and professional entertainers on a six-mile path from Harlem to the store’s location on 34th Street in Herald Square. (Today the trek is closer to two miles.) With them were floats depicting nursery rhyme favorites like the Old Lady Who Lived in a Shoe, Little Miss Muffet, and Red Riding Hood, as well as four bands and the promised animals, borrowed from the Central Park Zoo.

What was not included in the spectacle were giant balloons — they weren’t introduced until the fourth annual parade, when Goodyear Tire manufactured a 21-foot caricature of the singer Eddie Cantor, a 60-foot dinosaur, and the first licensed character balloon, Felix the Cat. Having no plan to deflate the balloons, Macy’s simply released the balloons at the end of the parade — they promptly popped. The following year Macy’s designed their five balloons with slow-release valves and a return address, so they would float off and descend slowly, to be found by lucky, far-off scavengers and returned for a $100 prize. Of those five launches, one balloon landed in the East River, one drifted out to sea, and a third was destroyed by Long Island neighbors battling for the reward.

I was privileged to be either the overall program coordinator or one of the organizing and public relations staff for the participation in seven Macy’s parades by the McDonald’s All-American High School Band, from the mid-70’s to the early 80’s. McDonald’s created a program in which a musical selection committee picked a top musician from each state and the District of Columbia each year, to comprise a marching and concert band. the selection committee was initially headed by maestro Paul LaValle, former musical director of Radio City Music Hall. The Bands would march in the Macy’s Parade and then in the Tournament of Roses Parade, as well as do TV appearances and concerts in places like Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center.

My experiences related to Vietnam, including Thanksgiving 1968 in Saigon, not to mention what happened to all that gold at Fort Knox, are at Click on “Scheme of Exercises” and then on “Roll of Members” then on my name, then on the story title, “All That Glitters…”. The essay was presented on November 21 this year at the Chicago Literary Club meeting.

I’ve been sadly reminded twice this week of political refrains that echo extremes of reaction during the Vietnam era.

Conservative political leaders have reacted negatively to the “Occupy” movement, and what I’d characterize as the excessive “police state’ enforcement in ways that remind me of the “hippie bashing” that became widespread regarding those who openly organized to oppose the Vietnam War. Of course back then, it wasn’t just the Republicans who went too far in restricting First Amendment rights of protestors — Mayor Daly’s over-reaction to demonstrators during the Democratic National Convention in Chicago was one such disgusting example.

The other conservative comment I found so evocative was in the national security Republican debate last night, when one candidate criticized the idea that the U.S. should withdraw from the Afghanistan War, after 10 years, as a “cut and run” strategy. We heard that from the politicians in the late 60s, and the Vietnam war went on until 1975, with 55 thousand American deaths.

Is there no sense of history in our leadership? Is there any sense at all?

Yes, the Super Committee empowered by Congress and the President to work out part of our national debt issue, after Congress itself failed to do so — has failed.

What to do with the “Blooper Committee?” I think the people, including Congress, the President, the media and the people should call for their mass resignation from Congress. They have failed all of those groups, and failed in their jobs. They should resign, now, admitting their failure and sending a message to the rest of Congress and the nation, that failure is no longer an option for our leaders.

They have failed to lead. Give the next guy (or gal) a chance. It’s not a real gallows, just a political one.

As a lifelong student of public relationships, it is increasingly clear, perception-wise, that the U.S. Federal government is incompetent. The apparent looming failure of the bi-partisan Super Committee to reach agreement is just the latest example. The question: is it the institution itself that has become irrelevant and incapable of adapting to the needs of our times, or is it the people “occupying”, to use a current phrase in a different context, government offices who are incompetent? Or is is both, to varying degrees?

Representatives are elected and sent to Washington to work out issues that pertain to the masses. Their greatest recent achievement along that line were to declare pizza a vegetable in public schools!  For a long time, I’ve thought we need a new Constitutional Convention to update our scheme of governing. The Senate is dysfunctional. Campaign contributions and lobbying have gone amuck. The Electoral College subverts our democracy in electing Presidents. Endless terms in office undercut the representative philosophy of governing. The military and their corporate surrogates have too much power inside our government. Government has repeatedly demonstrated their inability to understand and control the economy. On and on.

Of course, the problem with having a Constitutional Convention is who will participate? Will it be the same goons who populate Federal government now? Probably, for the most part. Then, what do we do? Have another revolution or civil war? I hope not. I think direct public demonstrations, like the “Occupy” and “Tea Party” movements, are one way to send messages to our current leaders. The ballot box is another. If your legislator is not actively negotiating on your behalf with their counterparts, and representing your views, vote them out and someone better prepared in.  And, demand honest, balanced and probing truth from the news media, which so often let us down in that regard.

The bottom line: we must struggle through this, enact reforms large and small, keep trying to elect better people, get as much of the money and clout out of politics as possible, reform our failed institutions of government decision-making and regulation,  and tweak our economy wherever needed, and get on with it, now.

Perception eventually becomes tantamount to reality. If we want perceptions of the trajectory of our society to be positive, we must take action, quickly, before perceptions of incompetence become accepted as the new reality.

We have a black feral cat named Gala, who lives on our back deck. Vicki brings her in on most evenings to be stroked and played with by the fireplace, along with our indoor cats Cider and Banner. Samuel Johnson, author of the first dictionary of the English language in 1759, lived and worked on Gough Square, just off London’s Fleet Street, where we visited while researching an essay on him for the Chicago Literary Club. His favorite cats were Hodge and lily. Hodge, also a black cat,  became quite famous, and is immortalized by a statue of him, opposite Johnson’s house on the square.

(from Wikipedia) Boswell also noted how Johnson went out to purchase valerian to ease Hodge’s suffering as death approached.[3] Although Hodge was not Johnson’s only cat, it was Hodge whom he considered his favourite. Hodge was remembered in various forms, from biographical mentions during Johnson’s life to poems written about the cat. On his death, Hodge’s life was celebrated by an elegy by Percival Stockdale. In this poem the phrase “sable furr” indicates that Hodge was a black cat; also, the fact that Stockdale was Johnson’s neighbour from 1769 onwards suggests that Hodge was alive at that time.

…Who, by his master when caressed, warmly his gratitude expressed, and never failed his thanks to purr, whene’er he stroked his sable fur.[3]

Today he is remembered by a bronze statue, unveiled by the Lord Mayor of the City of London in 1997, outside the house in Gough Square he shared with Johnson and Barber, Johnson’s black manservant and heir.[4] The statue shows Hodge sitting next to a pair of empty oyster shells atop a copy of Johnson’s famous dictionary, with the inscription “a very fine cat indeed”.Hodge’s statue stands just in front of Boswell House, across the square from Johnson’s, pictured below, and below that is the view of the square Johnson had himself (2nd floor, 2nd window from the left), while writing his great dictionary, and presumably, stroking Hodge, his cat. 

Of the 2.59 million U.S. soldiers, sailors, Marines and Air Force people who served in Vietnam, the biggest lament of many is that the U.S. seemingly learned nothing from the experience, other than how to isolate the majority of the American people (the 99%) from direct involvement in the horrors of warfare, giving political and military/industrial leaders more free rein in pursuit of military adventures.

On Oct. 4, I blogged about the lousy AT&T service I was getting, particularly in southeastern Wisconsin, with my IPhone 3GS .  My blog was titled, “Will the IPhone 5 Work?” Well, there is no IPhone 5, at least not yet, but the new IPhone 4S, now that I’ve switched to Verizon, is fantastic.

Not only does the phone almost always connect, but the data service, which I use much more often, like a sort of alternate mobile computer, connects instantly and is fast.

Bottom line: the 4 S, with it’s cool voice-interactive function and better camera and enhanced features, plus the well-connected and very reliable Verizon service, is every thing I’d hoped it would be, and goes a long way toward justifying the considerable cost.

With the unchecked excesses of Wall Street and the financial markets in mind, and the growing, yawning gap between the “have’s” and burgeoning “have-nots” of American society in mind, maybe it’s time to move to some Americanized version of the German Social Market Economy model ( Germany’s hybrid of a U.S.-type mixed economy, with its commitment to free enterprise, together with strong government regulations to protect social services and prevent private excesses, has been in place since after WWII, and pretty successful by most standards. It is NOT socialism, but a modern system that recognizes the pragmatic reality of the strength of a robust private economic sector, with the social protections that economic self-determinism alone cannot assure.

Of course, and I say that because it is self-evident to me, our government needs major reform, if not a new Constitutional Convention, if it is to assume a responsible role in a sane and democratic future. Lop-sided influences need to be removed from the electoral process, starting with federal funding of federal elections, term limits in Congress to restore “citizen government.” Further we need to reform institutions that defeat the “one person/one vote” democratic principle. Kill the obsolete Electoral College system of electing Presidents, that allows election in 11 or 13 “swing states” to determine the Presidency.  Consider eliminating the Senate, which is a weak shadow of the old British House of Lords, and represents real estate rather than people, with its two-senator-per-state system that gives the citizens of some states 60 times the voting power of the largest states.

It is time to reform and evolve both our market economy and our representative government, and it must be done soon and together if either, if both, are to remain viable through the 21st century.

November 2011

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