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I just saw an announcement that the Army has called for proposals from agencies for its recruiting account because the number of qualified young adults enlisting has been dropping. The fees available for such a new account, currently held by McCann Worldwide is shown to be up to $4 BILLION over a ten year period! That’s a lot of dough for recruiting.
Wouldn’t this be a good time to create a universal draft, which could not only save most of that $4 BILLION tagged for recruitment, but much more importantly, provide a training and service opportunity for all qualified young Americans in both the military and other federal service (such as rebuilding infrastructure throughout the nation)? It would expand employment and training opportunities for young people after high school, and perhaps before college or other technical career training.
One other by-product of a universal draft is that the citizenry, not only those doing federal service but their families, would be more engaged with the federal government, and develop a keener sense of what it takes to be a true American citizen. And, there would also be closer citizen oversight and participation in our federal government, because families across the land would be engaged in serving their nation, as well as benefit from the work of these engaged young Americans.
- Two things collided: I voted early today, and Tom Hayden died. We were not far from the same age. He helped organize the 1968 convention anti-war riot in Chicago. I was shipped to Vietnam a couple months later. That was 11 Presidential elections ago, and I’m still voting, but none of the 58,000 Americans listed on that long black wall in D.C. are now voting, nor the legions of their unborn potential progeny. That could add up to hundreds of thousands, perhaps over a million in uncast
votes. Elections have been won and lost on less. So, if you wonder if your vote counts, think of all those votes lost because of decisions made 40 years ago, and the potential consequences of your vote, even 40 years from now.
Well, now it’s been 15 YEARS since democracy failed in America, updating my post below of Dec. 13, 2010. And, as we of into another Presidential debate tonight, we’re heading toward another such electoral failure next fall. Thanks to the Electoral College, my vote in Chicago is worth one sixth of a Presidential vote in Alaska. Want to learn more about this ongoing travesty of democracy? Google National Popular Vote. Want to learn even more? Send me a message and I will email you my essay written for the Chicago Literary Club on the obsolete and dangerous Electoral College. Whatever party you support, or none at all, the Electoral College is distorting the popular vote in America, together with gerrymandered Congressional districts and national election funding that should be government funded only.
December 13, 2010 in Electoral College, government, History, Politics | Tags: Electoral College, National Popular Vote, Presidency | 1 comment (Edit)
It’s been exactly a decade since the outmoded Electoral College system of electing our Presidents, with the aid of the Supreme Court, handed the Presidency of the U.S. to a man who lost the popular vote in the nation by the population of Milwaukee. It was a close election all right, and the finger on the scale of history tipped the balance away from the people’s choice.
It’s happened three times before in our history, and it will happen again, and again, until the Electoral College is eliminated or marginalized. The electoral college was a political compromise made in the founding days of the republic, when it was feared that the common man, in the days before mass media, could not know enough about the candidates to make an informed choice. So now, in all but two states, electors unknown to the people cast all of each state’s electoral votes for the winner of the popular votes in that state, throwing out all votes cast for the opposition, and in effect dumbing down the national electoral votes, so they do not necessarily reflect the overall popular will. How dumb is that?
Snowden — here is my blog post of June 10th last year. I stand by my thesis that part of the price of democracy is transparency.
New revelations of vast NSA programs to monitor telephone use to intercept terrorist plans again raises the question of whether the effect of such whistle-blowing of top-secret security processes adds to the cleansing potential of democratic transparency or degrades the ability of our government to protect the population.
The answer is that such revelations result in both increased public oversight, or in other words, enhanced democracy, but also a possibly somewhat weaker security apparatus. In our post-1984 world, where our national politics have been accurately described as “a carnival of dysfunction,” the regular exercise of democratic oversight by the people, through intrusions by well-meaning whistle-blowers and responsible news media, is one way to preserve the fundamental principles of our democracy. My belief is that the cost of such “intrusions” into the inner sanctums of our government security establishment are justified by the balancing results of political and governmental accountability to a society of free people — a people who yearn to remain free in a complicated, dangerous information age.
Near the height of the Vietnam War, just before Tet in 1968, the USS Pueblo, a military intelligence ship, was captured by the North Koreans, and her crew of more than 150 Americans interred, starved and tortured. The Koreans claimed the ship was spying inside their territorial waters, which the U.S. said was not so.
The Pueblo was one of the smallest ships in the Navy, and was first built as a military freighter in Kewaunee, WI, in 1944. It was refitted as an intelligence-gathering vessel, and was very lightly armed. She was sent by the Navy in an ill-prepared condition on a dangerous mission to gather electronic info on Russian and North Korean defense systems. The crew was released after agonizing negotiations on December 23rd of 1968, just as I was flying home on emergency leave from my position as a combat press officer near Hue, site of the Tet offensive earlier that year.
The captain and crew of the Pueblo were put through the ringer of hearings and suspicion by the Navy, and never to this day heralded and rewarded for their sacrifice and loyalty to a Navy that treated they and their little ship like unwanted step-children. To this day, the Pueblo, the second oldest commissioned ship in the Navy after the USS Constitution, lies captive in the harbor of North Korea’s capitol.
That, my friends, is 46 years a captive commissioned U.S. Navy ship, a long forgotten son of Kewaunee, and a crew of brave once-young sailors, now aging veterans, that deserves at least the kind of Federal recognition afforded pro basketball and football teams.
Congress shouldn’t be in a fight about whether to fund the U.S. government, closing it down in the process, but better in a fight over how much (a budget) and for which things (an agenda). In Australia, they have a solution when both houses are deadlocked, and it’s called double dissolution. In such a circumstance, their Congress is dissolved and a new election is held. What we need in the U.S. is a new Congress, because the one we have in stalemated and inoperative. By the way, why are they getting paid now? Oh, that’s right, they make the rules. We’re about ready for a quiet, non-fatal version of the French Revolution. In fact, France has peacefully replaced their entire government six times since the real revolution. Wouldn’t that be a “revolutionary” concept for our loggerheaded Congress to consider?
Just watched the 1996 sci-fi spoof, Mars Attacks, and after the Martian ambassador appears before Congress, then turns the tables and kills them all with his ray gun, the film’s star, Jack Nicholson, consoles his staff with the optimistic comment, “Well, we’ve still got two branches of government, and that ain’t bad!”
Where are the Martians when we need ’em?
As the US seems on the cusp of beginning military action in Syria, for the humanitarian reasons being touted by the State Department and in the news media, I’m reminded that cruel treatment of human beings is going on across the globe, with no military intervention by our country. What about the political gulags in North Korea, the suppression in China, the injustices in Russia, the mayhem in our mid-eastern countries, and issues in Africa and south and Central America?
Yes, poison gas is still a vicious memory lingering from WWI. But hanging, starving, shooting and dismembering are equally vicious, as are beatings and endless imprisonment. And what, fellow Americans, about water boarding and Guantanamo?
And yes, even if the Syrian government deserves to be punished for their inhumanity, what happens after an initial attack? What new fuse do we risk lighting? And why not take out Assad? Well, leaders don’t usually do that to fellow leaders — remember when Ford forgave Richard Nixon for Watergate, and the resulting 22,000 American deaths after Nixon killed the Paris Peace talks, so he could steal the 1968 election?
So, the least we can do is think once, twice and three times before launching our un-manned missiles to kill even more Syrians, and trip another wire in the Middle East. Those who are saying our President is weak and indecisive need to weigh a lot in the balance before they render judgement. America’s vested interest may lie just as much, or more, in NOT pulling the trigger in Syria as in doing so. As anyone who has been alive and awake over the last 50 years can attest, we’ve made the wrong call more often than not.
My Facebook friends have already seen this, but I think it deserves a wider circulation on my blog, even if it means there will now be a low hum on my phone lines…
Mr. Toobin is naive. Whatever “damage” Snowden has inflicted to our intelligence system is more than offset by the benefits his transparency of the pervasiveness of our government’s monitoring capacity of private lives has revealed. If we are to be a democracy, even an awareness of our intelligence gathering processes is necessary, or we forsake that democracy for a totalitarian regime. Government’s fear of sharing too much of the truth with the people is a cancer which threatens our way of life. I choose to conclude that The New Yorker’s decision to run this ridiculous story is but a provocation to reasoned thinking.
Edward Snowden’s Real Impact
The assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert F. Kennedy led directly to the passage of a historic law, the Gun Control Act of 1968. Does that change your view of the assassinations? Should we be grateful for….
In today’s New Yorker, in an article about the NSA by Hendrik Hertzberg, he recounts how our calcifying government and political system is increasingly eating away at the core of democracy, as minority, economically-powerful interests co-opt the economic and social balances in our American society. He makes it clear how the antiquated Electoral College system of electing our Presidents is increasingly being manipulated to serve these undemocratic interests. Here’s the relevant excerpt from his article:
“The real danger to civic trust (and ultimately, perhaps, to our freedoms) is the calcification and unresponsiveness of our political and governmental machinery. The post-2000 Supreme Court is part of that long, sad story. So is the filibuster, which is a bigger threat to small-d democratic governance than the N.S.A., the C.I.A., and the I.R.S. put together. The same goes for the electoral-college status quo; the built-in, and increasing, malapportionment of the Senate; and the malapportionment of the House, both deliberate, via gerrymandering, and demographic, via population patterns.
“These structural horrors don’t make us a police state, encroaching or otherwise. But they do enable minorities—usually conservative, mostly monied minorities—to systematically thwart the will of the majority. They don’t necessarily require anybody to act in bad faith in order to do their damage. And they damage not just people’s faith in democracy but democracy itself.”
And, as to what we are losing as a society in the tightening national security state, which some describe as neutral to the interests of everyday Americans, the 5th Amendment itself is being neutralized. While the Amendment proclaims we may remain silent and not be forced to incriminate ourselves, the increasing surveillance in all aspects of our lives makes our option for “silence” unlikely to be possible, when cameras and monitoring of every kind of communications is pervasive. The anxiety alone that this sort of intrusion into our personal lives permits undermines the very sense of democratic self-determination upon which our modern society is built, and certainly undermines the essence of the 5th Amendment.
If you care about these issues, and you should, do something. Tell your family and friends, write your newspapers, blog about it, put your views on Facebook, and, of course, tell your representatives in government that you are on to the erosion of our personal rights to democracy and privacy.