Category Archives: Stuckness

Stuckness June 8, 2018

Time To Rethink What Constitutes A Majority

How to avoid further crippling democratic paralysis and gridlock

Let’s start off with an interesting political affiliation test. No right or wrong answers, but an interesting series of preferences that positions us in the current body politic. I, Josh, took it and I was surprised with the results. More of a libertarian than I thought and I ended up more on the conservative side of things. A fresh start for me. Takes about three minutes and worth the discoveries. A good place for us to start this post.

If coin flips can decide who wins an election when the popular vote is tied, then we need to rethink democracy and the popular vote. Especially when the winner of the coin toss gets to serve the full two-year term of the election. In a fairer system, in a real democracy, each candidate should serve one of the two years and the coin toss would determine who serves the first year.

French historian and philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville saw democracy in its early days of the 19th Century. He wrote the classic Democracy in America. He warned then of the tyranny of the majority. And we have not heeded a word he said: what do the French know!

The breakthrough option to tyranny is to change the threshold for what constitutes a majority: we propose a modest and manageable 53 percent to replace the current 50.1 percent. For starters it is not an even number and within the margin of error of polls that split 50/50. It’s not much of a stretch from where we are. Secondly it broadens the concept of representative democracy and encourages third-party participation: the two-party system we have now is fully to blame for gridlock and legislative stalemates. A bi-product would be an end to gridlock and require politicians to find a working majority for all decisions. There are about a dozen higher thresholds for specific actions spelled out in the Constitution. These would remain as written.

This would require all procedures at the national level—for starters—including committee proceedings, to meet the workable threshold of 53 percent: otherwise the rot will continue and some form of oligarchy will take root. A new threshold would make democracy more efficient and effective. All national procedures would then be calculated on cooperation and broadening the middle ground for compromise as a perquisite for not bludgeoning democracy.

A major problem with the status quo is that the winner by one-vote (George W. Bush, 2000), the plurality winner (Bill Clinton 1992, 1996) and the Electoral College winner Donald Trump (2016) all acted as though they had a mandate to govern as a clear majority winner. They all paid lip-service to the quaint, but cunning idea that they are the president for “all” Americans. This is the biggest fraud perpetrated on the American voting public. Presidents only represent their own narrow interest and the broader public be dammed.

Proportionality is gone in our form of democracy that is collapsing around the edges.

Already the Speaker of the House is really the Speaker of the Republican Majority in the House only. He could care less about the by-a-whisker minority that fills the other side of the aisle. In general, more Democratic votes are cast for House members than Republicans, but Republicans control more seats through gerrymandering and seat distribution. Voting for Speaker of the (Whole) House is a fraud: it only requires a 50.1 percent vote. He, in this case Paul Ryan, is speaker of the House in name only. He does not have the interest of The American Public at heart or on his calendar. He is a fraud and a Myth-Maker—finally retiring to a dairy farm to milk something else.

Whatever problems or unintended consequences changing the threshold for what constitutes a majority may present, they would far outweigh the collapse of democracy we are witnessing every day.

Since no member of Congress is required to represent the wishes of its constituents or “the will” of the people, an administrative provision such as the CBO, the independent Congressional Budget Office, would be established to monitor public opinion of issues before Congress. As Congress is required to do on budget bills since 1975, this new office, let’s call it the People’s Voice Office, PVO, would need to be consulted on where the public stands are a particular issue. This would not require the PVO to become a polling agency, rather they could aggregate existing national polls and do much as they do at RealClearPolitics and with Gallop tracking polls.  This would then put a lie to the notion in Congress that the majority is speaking for everyone, even when they thwart the will of the majority of voters.

This People’s Commission would be tasked with HOW to achieve the goal, not whether the goal is achievable. It would be appointed by president, speaker of the House and minority leader of the Senate. Once appointed, the Commission would elect its own chairman by a 53 percent vote. It would include constitutional experts, historians, and a representative of local and state government.

The new threshold would be implemented on or before the 2024 national elections.

Our Greek Chorus
Opinions of The Vigilant
The Greek chorus was an integral part of ancient Greek theatre, a group of three or four performers who looked alike and spoke all at the same time. Their part was to comment on what was being said and help the audience know what the characters in the play were thinking. The chorus usually sang, or spoke. We honor that tradition here
Why Socrates Hated
Democracy
Updated Posts

Zuckerberg Puts on Angel Face

by Josh Hammond

What’s the Stink About?

by Josh Hammond

He’s a trickster, a conman, out to fool you and win at all costs, sparing no deception.

by Josh Hammond
Our Newsletter
The easiest way for you to stay on top of what’s happening at Free American News is subscribe to our weekly update. Out every Friday morning, bright and early, it lists the latest post and has some exclusive extras. Please use the pop-up subscription form or click on the subscribe to newsletter box on the lower right-hand column.
Go to the Newsletter Subscription page
Stuckness May 19, 2018

7 Words You Shouldn’t Say On TV

George Carlin was funny—these words promote divisiveness

Have you noticed that the media mannequins and their guests du jour pretend to bring civility to public discourse on their TV shows but insist it be presented in the form of an argument? “What argument would you make?,” asks one, while the other says, “I would argue that you can’t make that argument.” Or they preface a contrarian point of view by prefacing a statement with the word “arguably”–Meet the Press Chuck Todd’s favorite word. By putting it that way, they are encouraging an argument and exacerbating the schisms in the body politic. America’s new motto should be: e pluribus fractum.

Katy Tur, a floater host on MSNBC, used the word argue and its variations 15 times in her opening 10-minute segment in a late April afternoon show. In one span she used it four times in the span of a minute in an exchange with a guest. I was watching to listen and to learn something new, but then I realized she was itching for a fight. (My numbers may be a little off, but not by more than one or two either way.)

A reporter or expert knows that the word argue is an explicitly charged word. Their intent is to feed discourse and polarization. If they don’t know this, they should go into auto mechanics. This is why God created synonyms.

Synonyms for the word argue are much more interesting, inviting a more open dialogue. They include contend, assert, hold, claim, reason. Probably too formal or lawyerly for the single-minded personality-driven media. My guess is if they did pick a synonym they would prefer squabble, bicker, dispute, wrangle, lock horns. It’s as though they are edging for a quarrel or a verbal jousting, a fight.

Ah, ratings at the expense of comity.

The 7 Seven Words You Can’t Say on TV are:

1. Argue (and its derivatives such as argument, arguably, argumentative, etc.)
2. Discussion
3. The American People
4. Always
5. Transparency
6. Them (as in those people)
7. I don’t recall

The first thing you might say is “you forgot the word never” or you left off the expression that serves as a cover for many, “playing the Devil’s advocate.” We tried to sneak in the word accountability and the expression God’s Will, but we couldn’t let go of any on the final list.

In the dialogues or debates about Mueller’s investigation we should ban the use of the word collusion. Nicole Wallace on MSNBC was advised by her former FBI guests not to use the term, but she does anyway, always knowingly with that rehearsed grin of hers. The word describes illegal cooperation done in secret in order to deceive others. Words like cooperate or coordinate have no legal baggage, but it sounds like you’re going soft on Trump. And, soft on Trump or balanced on Trump is not her turf: in one early May afternoon segment she used the word collusion at least five times in her opening 2-minue statement, and her guests used it at least five more times.

So. What would you add to the list? What should be taken off? Can we get The Final Seven going and then chisel them in sand somewhere down by sea? These main-stream media toadies need some help. We could all benefit from a good list in our own private conversations. And what is good for them is good for us all.

On Eric’s podcast, Two Paisani & A Pizza, three Millennials go at professional sports for an hour or so at a time—plenty to ”argue” about. However, they don’t use the word. Rather they say, ”My take is…” or ”What’s your take?”

Nice.

Saying they are a role model is pushing it, right?

There have always been different kinds of talk—pillow talk, bar talk, locker-room talk, court-room talk, and so on. The meaning of words is clear. The intention of choice of words is clear. The goal is clear. Not so in politics where increasingly how you make your case is more important than the case you make. Talking points, rehearsed statements, reading a teleprompter are more important than context, nuance of news, analytics, dissection, understanding, finding the middle and avoiding the muddle.

In public we long for discussion. But even that word has problems.

Peter Senge, the author of The Fifth Discipline, founder of the Society for Organizational Learning and senior lecturer at MIT’s Sloan School of Management, starts at the most fundamental level of public dialogue. He reminds his audience that the word “discussion” ends up sounding like the clashing of symbols section of an orchestra. He urges the use of the word dialogue from the Latin to walk “with words.” Here is a good explanation of the difference.

So we have the easy Eric Podcast model—what’s your take—to the Peter Senge thorough explanation of the word and process of dialogue.

How have you approached this conversational knot? What has worked for you?

Our Greek Chorus
Opinions of The Vigilant
The Greek chorus was an integral part of ancient Greek theatre, a group of three or four performers who looked alike and spoke all at the same time. Their part was to comment on what was being said and help the audience know what the characters in the play were thinking. The chorus usually sang, or spoke. We honor that tradition here
7 Words You Can Never
Say on TV

George Carlin

Supreme Court ruled these words
Were “indecent” not “obscene.”
Updated Posts

Zuckerberg Puts on Angel Face

by Josh Hammond

What’s the Stink About?

by Josh Hammond

He’s a trickster, a conman, out to fool you and win at all costs, sparing no deception.

by Josh Hammond
Our Newsletter
The easiest way for you to stay on top of what’s happening at Free American News is subscribe to our weekly update. Out every Friday morning, bright and early, it lists the latest post and has some exclusive extras. Please use the pop-up subscription form or click on the subscribe to newsletter box on the lower right-hand column.
Go to the Newsletter Subscription page

Stopping the Advance of Forgetfulness

What happens after thoughts and prayers vanish?

Will this be the century of gun violence in schools? Already, since the Columbine High School shootings on April 20, 1999, over 210,000 students on 93 campuses have experienced gun violence while attending school, enough to fill 350 of those double decker 747’s.

The number of students impacted directly is larger than we imagined, but it includes those exposed to shootings. While not killed, many exposed to violence were mentally and emotionally wounded with scars that may never heal.

The Washington Post has put together a remarkable graphic and analysis of these seemingly endless shootings.

We gag at how blithely presidents and vice presidents, governors and other elected officials offer only “thoughts and prayers” to the families of those who have been impacted by gun violence. Of course, none of them disclose the nature of their prayers: we do know that most of them worship the NRA and Second Amendment, but who they pray to and the content of those prayers is a mystery. Are these prayers ecumenical? Latitudinarian? Catholic? Universal? Is the “Lord’s Prayer” looped into this process—something about “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”?

The “thoughts” part of this equation is less troubling: that seems natural and more welcoming. But it seems to us that those impacted by school shootings would forgo the prayers and thoughts in exchange for concrete action on gun management issues that the overwhelming percent of Americans support—but one that a handful of members of Congress block.

Then there is just arrogant bad behavior with guns. This is happening now: a man is checking out the views of a prospective son-in-law while pointing an assault weapon at him. The kid gets all the answers right. It’s a political ad, so the voters get to decide if this is the kind of guy who should be running for public office.

We can think of no issue that has more people proposing different solutions than the gun violence in schools. Many of these are kids talking to adults acting like kids. The adults don’t have the will or courage to change the order of violence, rather they seek to blame and say the problem is simply a lack of respect for the Second Amendment.

We saw part of what we would consider a long-term solution emerge at the March for Our Lives this past spring in Washington, DC. The students from the Newtown, Connecticut shooting presented a banner to the students from Parkland, Florida school shooting. The banner/flag was Newtown’s way of saying we are with you and here is a reminder of our pledge—prayers with roots.

We have high hopes for this idea of exchanging a tangible reminder of the violence. We would love to see every school district in America adopt one kid who has been killed or impacted directly by school shootings. Then we propose a National School Violence Prevention Day where each of these schools holds a ceremony of their choosing to honor the memory of that lost student. A memorial of the school’s making would be a source of information about that student, who she or he was, what they liked to do, where they were born, what their favorite video game was, who they thought was the best guard in the NBA or WNBA, or is Messi better than Ronaldo, their favorite snack, who’s on their play list.

Our confidence in this being a workable solution is the success students in Ireland and France have had remembering individual soldiers who were killed during WW1.

In Ireland all 32 counties have such a memorial in their schools. So a soldier who was killed is no longer just a statistic but a real person in history, maybe a hometown lad who had his last pint at McDonald’s, the pub. These students keep their 100 year-old heroes alive, and freedom is no longer an abstract idea, but one payed for with Irish blood.

The same kind of activity is done in France. Here a community remembers the Australians who fought and died to liberate their village.

These school children are pictured above.

The news account says: “There is little to distinguish the village of Villers-Bretonneux in northern France from any other hamlet about the Somme but for its numerous references to Australia, from flags in shop windows and its streets named after Aussie cities.

On April 24-25, 1918 the village was the scene of the world’s first tank battle between British and German troops which the Germans would win and occupy the township only to then face two Australian brigades in counter attack.

By the end of the battle, there were 2400 Australian casualties with the decisive battle marking the end of the German advance in the Somme.”

Raphael Teixera, a 10 year-old from L’Ecole Victoria, is one of those younger generations who appreciated what went on and what it means. “Because you helped us we are here and we learn about the war to remember you help us,” he said.

Updated Posts

Zuckerberg Puts on Angel Face

by Josh Hammond

What’s the Stink About?

by Josh Hammond

He’s a trickster, a conman, out to fool you and win at all costs, sparing no deception.

by Josh Hammond
Our Newsletter
The easiest way for you to stay on top of what’s happening at Free American News is subscribe to our weekly update. Out every Friday morning, bright and early, it lists the latest post and has some exclusive extras. Please use the pop-up subscription form or click on the subscribe to newsletter box on the lower right-hand column.
Go to the Newsletter Subscription page
Editor's Select March 4, 2018

Judge Soggy Sweat’s Whiskey Speech

An old dusty template to advance all public policy development and understanding.

It was first said in 1952 by a twenty-something lawmaker in Mississippi, a Millennial of his day without a Twitter, before texting was invented.

Soggy knew then what we have forgotten now. One-sided arguments achieve nothing except polarization and duginness. However, if you and I can demonstrate that we know the case for and against something, then we are more likely to be able to achieve a compromise than if I only know my position and you only know your position. It is not enough to say, “I respect your option,” rather, if I can articulate your position as well as I can mine, then I have earned your respect. Then—and only then—can progress be made on all controversial issues: gun control, the death penalty, sexual harassment, abortion, same-sex marriage, climate change, school vouchers, civil rights, human rights, health care, weed, hillbilly heroin, bourbon and other matters that keep us parted.

Here’s the template: Judge Soggy Sweat’s Whiskey Speech.

“If you mean whiskey, the devil’s brew, the poison scourge, the bloody monster that defiles innocence, dethrones reason, destroys the home, creates misery and poverty, yea, literally takes the bread from the mouths of little children; if you mean that evil drink that topples Christian men and women from the pinnacles of righteous and gracious living into the bottomless pits of degradation, shame, despair, helplessness, and hopelessness, then, my friend, I am opposed to it with every fiber of my being.

“However, if by whiskey you mean the oil of conversation, the philosophic wine, the elixir of life, the ale that is consumed when good fellows get together, that puts a song in their hearts and the warm glow of contentment in their eyes; if you mean Christmas cheer, the stimulating sip that puts a little spring in the step of an elderly gentleman on a frosty morning; if you mean that drink that enables man to magnify his joy, and to forget life’s great tragedies and heartbreaks and sorrow; if you mean that drink the sale of which pours into our treasuries untold millions of dollars each year, that provides tender care for our little crippled children, our blind, our deaf, our dumb, our pitifully aged and infirm, to build the finest highways, hospitals, universities, and community colleges in this nation, then my friend, I am absolutely, unequivocally in favor of it.
This is my position, and as always, I refuse to be compromised on matters of principle.”

Found it: eventually a good idea makes it on a t-shirt. Now you can have a soggy Soggy tee. Here.

Our Greek Chorus
Opinions of The Vigilant
The Greek chorus was an integral part of ancient Greek theatre, a group of three or four performers who looked alike and spoke all at the same time. Their part was to comment on what was being said and help the audience know what the characters in the play were thinking. The chorus usually sang, or spoke. We honor that tradition here
To booze or not to booze. This is a classic example of doublespeak in politics. Are they terrorists or freedom fighters? Job creators or welfare enablers? Constitutionalists or revisionists? Liberals or conservatives?
Updated Posts

Zuckerberg Puts on Angel Face

by Josh Hammond

What’s the Stink About?

by Josh Hammond

He’s a trickster, a conman, out to fool you and win at all costs, sparing no deception.

by Josh Hammond
Our Newsletter
The easiest way for you to stay on top of what’s happening at Free American News is subscribe to our weekly update. Out every Friday morning, bright and early, it lists the latest post and has some exclusive extras. Please use the pop-up subscription form or click on the subscribe to newsletter box on the lower right-hand column.
Go to the Newsletter Subscription page
« Previous post
Category
Myth Makers
Stuckness January 25, 2018

Money and Ego Politics

Here is what happens when individuals have money and pay to play.

Money talks and bullshit walks is the saying. But money also pays for a lot of bullshit. Here is a classic example. Rich guy, the billionaire type, Tom Steyer with too much money decides to spend $30 million to get folks, mostly Democrats to sign his petition—not to fund medical research, not to help rebuild homes in Puerto Rico, not to send kids to college, not to underwrite a contest among 14-year olds for new solutions to climate change—no, none of that. His brightless idea is to impeach the president.

All he has succeed in doing is getting folks to remember his name, sidetrack the Democrats from some serious public policy challenges and trying to turn this year’s mid-term elections into a one issue campaign. Single issue campaigns never win.

I know it is his money. And I know there is a First Amendment. And the Supreme Court ruled that companies are people—so they too can throw money at politics and pay for their amendments. But there are already two provisions in the Constitution for this to happen, and Steyer has not been elected to anything.

Toward getting unstuck: There is something wrong when one person can force their view on a whole community by just paying for the advertising space. Yes we can switch the channel. Yes we can put it on mute. Yes we can ignore it. But this is air pollution. It no more bumps up against the First Amendment guaranteeing free speech than shouting fire in a theatre, showing nudity in ads, selling food that has no Food and Drug Administration approval or lying about a product. Look, the networks couldn’t even say “shithole” for fear of the FCC, Federal Communication Commission: they had to say or show “s***hole”.

The networks should set aside one percent of their profits for a one-hour special on cable, like Showtime, HBO, Hulu or the cartoon channel for guys like Steyer to say what they want to say. Scheduling the show for around midnight has a certain rightness about it. Maybe it could be called: Money Talks or Loose Change.

What do you think of the problem and how would you fix it?

Our Greek Chorus
Opinions of The Vigilant
The Greek chorus was an integral part of ancient Greek theatre, a group of three or four performers who looked alike and spoke all at the same time. Their part was to comment on what was being said and help the audience know what the characters in the play were thinking. The chorus usually sang, or spoke. We honor that tradition here
Boz Scaggs: Loan Me A Dime

Somebody loan me a dime
I need to call my old time
Used to be…
Updated Posts

Zuckerberg Puts on Angel Face

by Josh Hammond

What’s the Stink About?

by Josh Hammond

He’s a trickster, a conman, out to fool you and win at all costs, sparing no deception.

by Josh Hammond
Our Newsletter
The easiest way for you to stay on top of what’s happening at Free American News is subscribe to our weekly update. Out every Friday morning, bright and early, it lists the latest post and has some exclusive extras. Please use the pop-up subscription form or click on the subscribe to newsletter box on the lower right-hand column.
Go to the Newsletter Subscription page
Stuckness January 21, 2018

BROKEN NEWS REPORTING

News not breaking, news reporting is broken

In order to hold an audience, the pharmaceutical company pimps pump money into the studios to make them happy. We the viewers sit there like birds on a wire waiting for the big story. All TV news outlets use the same words and same colors (mostly red) to announce a story that is just developing, and they repeat the announcement every hour until midnight—although the story has remained the same. Within a network, say NBC (and MSNBC), the host of a show will tell you what the previous host said and show you the same footage over and over again while repeating the tag: Breaking News.

The way out of this stuckness is to have a four or five level alert system. Like hurricane categories, or degree of difficulty in diving, or grades in school. We know what a 1 to 5 level hurricane means and what we should do about it. Movies and restaurants are rated on a 5-star basis, so we have some guidance about what to see and where to eat. News could be delivered in the same way. A story about a government official ‘who can’t recall’ anything before a congressional committee is not breaking news, not even a Level 1 story. The recent false alarm in Hawaii is at least a Level 4 news story. If you were in Hawaii it would be a Level 5.
That’s not too much to ask or expect.

Our Greek Chorus
Opinions of The Vigilant
The Greek chorus was an integral part of ancient Greek theatre, a group of three or four performers who looked alike and spoke all at the same time. Their part was to comment on what was being said and help the audience know what the characters in the play were thinking. The chorus usually sang, or spoke. We honor that tradition here
John Fogerty
'I Saw It On TV'

I know it's true, oh so true
'Cause I saw it on TV
Updated Posts

Zuckerberg Puts on Angel Face

by Josh Hammond

What’s the Stink About?

by Josh Hammond

He’s a trickster, a conman, out to fool you and win at all costs, sparing no deception.

by Josh Hammond
Our Newsletter
The easiest way for you to stay on top of what’s happening at Free American News is subscribe to our weekly update. Out every Friday morning, bright and early, it lists the latest post and has some exclusive extras. Please use the pop-up subscription form or click on the subscribe to newsletter box on the lower right-hand column.
Go to the Newsletter Subscription page