For president, this Scrogue endorses…

Is barring Mitt Romney from the presidency a good enough reason to pass on voting for a dream ticket?

This author has read every argument for why progressives should re-elect President Obama. He not only agrees with many of them, but his head tells him to vote for President Obama. He knows, though, that once in front of the voting machine, his heart will refuse to abide by the cold-blooded calculus that dictates progressives cast their ballots for the Democratic candidate.

Admittedly, I might be acting out of the vestiges of youthful political purity that I’ve failed to scour from my political consciousness. That’s one voter’s shortcoming. But President Obama has come up short on many count, from his affinity for Wall Street and drone strikes to his lack of same for civil liberties. He then added insult to injury by supporting a “grand bargain” on social programs that sells out those who depend on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.

When all is said and done, relying on voters to put aside their visceral dislike of a candidate’s policies and still vote for him is a risky policy. Progressives and those further left thus find themselves in the same position as tea partiers holding their noses while voting for Mitt Romney. It’s long been the province of the right to vote against, instead of for. However much my vote is “wasted,” I prefer to vote for someone and his or her policies.

Especially when the most appealing presidential ticket of my lifetime — Jill Stein and Cheri Honkala — is gracing the ballot. As I posted previously.

Ms. Stein and Ms. Honkala’s key platform, reports Yana Kunichoff at Truthout, “is the Green New Deal, a jobs program which she says will both build on the success of the New Deal in the 1930s and also help move the United States toward a sustainable, green economy.” As an example of their foreign policy platform, which fundamentally revolves around drastically cutting military spending, let’s examine excerpts from their stance towards Israel and Palestine.

We recognize that Jewish insecurity and fear of non-Jews is understandable in light of Jewish history of horrific oppression in Europe. However, we oppose as both discriminatory and ultimately self-defeating the position that Jews would be fundamentally threatened by the implementation of full rights to Palestinian-Israelis and Palestinian refugees who wish to return to their homes. …. We reaffirm the right and feasibility of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes in Israel. … We reject U.S. unbalanced financial and military support of Israel while Israel occupies Palestinian lands and maintains an apartheid-like system in both the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in Israel toward its non-Jewish citizens. Therefore, we call on the U.S. President and Congress to suspend all military and foreign aid, including loans and grants, to Israel until Israel withdraws from the Occupied Territories, dismantles the separation wall in the Occupied West Bank including East Jerusalem, ends its siege of Gaza and its apart­heid-like system both within the Occupied Palestinian Territories and in Israel toward its non-Jewish citizens.

Breaking the cycle of voting out of fear is a long process, but one that needs to begin at some point. At the New York Times, Susan Saulny wrote:

A general internist who grew impatient with the social and environmental roots of disease, Ms. Stein said, ‘I’m now practicing political medicine because politics is the mother of all illnesses.’”

Meanwhile, Nora Caplan-Bricker of the New Republic wrote:

Stein says her campaign is like “political therapy” for people who have had “self-destructive relationships to politics, like being stuck in an abusive relationship.” And her supporters think it will eventually work: Greens between the ages of 27 and 92 told me they think it’s possible they’ll see a president from the party in their lifetimes—that if they keep offering “political therapy,” mainstream voters who are frustrated by politics will start to want it: maybe in four years, maybe in eight, maybe in 50 or more.

With a president like Romney, most Obama supporters will argue, we may not even last 50 years. But repeatedly settling for short-term emergency management won’t bring us closer to long-term solutions that reduce the need for rescues.

For those considering it, voting for third-party presidential candidates is like deciding to have a baby: the time never seems right. That it requires a leap of faith can’t be denied.

Six days on Rwanda's roads

I recently spent six days traveling the Northwest corner of Rwanda. My brain has not yet processed the amazing, frustrating, enlightening adventures of the week. And, that makes writing about it difficult.

After my Internet-less efforts to write a blog post produced nothing but scribbled nonsense in a notepad, I decided to embrace the chaos. Truthfully, the need to process Rwanda has been an integral part of my life in Rwanda. So, I have summarized my trip in the best way my disheveled brain knows how: to describe the random, beautiful chaos of my week by stating the random simple events and emotions that filled my days.

In the past six days I…

Learned how to shoot a bow and arrow.  Walked through a thunderstorm (Rwanda has more lightning strikes than any country).  Road passenger while a friend drove a Jeep Liberty down the front steps of a hotel (the steps looked like a ramp).  Met a medicine man.  Bargained one night in a presidential suite for $13 more than the cheapest hotel room in town.   Continue reading

Congress: Why throwing the bums out won't improve it

I like sausage. I don’t care what names attach to them. I like sausage, be it bratwurst, kielbasa, bauerwurst, chorizo, bangers, Italian, summer, or linguica. Different meats (beef, pork, even reindeer) and seasonings produce the vast panoply of sausage found worldwide.

But, after a while, no matter how different the ingredients, it’s still just sausage.

At the heart of sausage making is a common device: the meat grinder. Drop meat into the hopper. Add seasonings. Crank the handle. Grind chunks of meat. Slide into casing. Result: Sausage. No matter what enters, what emerges is sausage.

Congress has become little more than the meat grinder that produces sausage. Yes, there’s the old saw: Laws are like sausages. It’s better not to see them being made. That’s not the point here. Rather, it’s about the machine. It’s about why no one should foster belief in the “throw the bums out” approach to correcting continual congressional ineptitude and ethical malfeasance.

Consider: I plan to vote for a 29-year-old hospital administrator, Nate Shinagawa, to replace my current congressman, Tom Reed. Reason: I don’t like Reed’s ethically ambiguous approach to communicating with constituents. I like Shinagawa because I was young once — and believed in politics as an honorable calling. He believes; I don’t.

Reed’s been a politician for a long time. He’s been in Congress just long enough for the machine — that influence-peddling, leadership PAC-manipulating, anonymous donor-condoning meat grinder — to have ground him into sausage indistinguishable from most other members.

Shinagawa’s public stances on issues paint him as youthfully idealistic. But if he beats Reed, there’s a high probability that the same machine will grind him, too, into sausage virtually indistinguishable from the other 434 representatives. Shinagawa’s campaign goal is poignantly liberal and hopeful — Working For Us — but impossible to accomplish now in a thoroughly degraded Congress.

Consider some of the political effluent surrounding Congress — how members raise money, from whom, and in what amounts; their inability to behave as adults and actually legislate; the revolving door that shuttles legislators and staff from the Hill to K Street to the Hill; Grover Norquist’s no-tax-hike pledge feared by virtually all members; and the minimal work week spent on us because the bulk of the week is devoted to fundraising from them. This is the meat grinder that young Shinagawa would enter should he defeat Reed.

This is the meat grinder that will stay firmly in place even if voters, as they did in 1994, 2006, and 2010, “throw the bums out” to change party control of Congress.

Whom we elect to Congress may no longer matter. In fact, it is hard to rid Congress of incumbents. Throwing out the bums has become particularly difficult to do, as John Avlon writes, because of gerrymandering risen to an exceedingly refined political art.

Over the past decade, has the performance of Congress in Working For Us improved by any significant measure? Has the rancor among members of Congress decreased by any significant measure?

What should be America’s best hope for the future — an intelligent, compassionate, effective Congress — has become merely a means of making sausage out of its members. And foul-tasting sausage at that.