Showing posts with label Government. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Government. Show all posts

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Politics does not have to be a dirty word

US Constitution
US Constitution (Photo credit: kjd)
Say the word "politics;" people react negatively. Why is that?

There are many definitions of politics in Miriam-Webster, but my favorite is nearly the last definition: "The total complex of relations between people living in society."That is how I see it.

Yet most people think of politics, as it is defined in the first definition: "Activities that relate to influencing the actions and policies of a government or getting and keeping power in a government."

That definition made the hair on the back of my neck stand up. It would rile anyone. There is no hint of cooperation when the words "influence and power" are used. Politics doesn't have to be that way. It shouldn't be about influence and power. It should be about thoughtfulness and insight, intellect and understanding. And to use a different definition, it is up to us.

I've long been and remain a student of politics. I see it in the interaction among family members, on the school playground, i our communities, and all other places where a group of people are expected to peacefully interact.

I can't help but think that if we cared more about all of the people in a society rather than one political party over another, our government would be more inclusive, thus, run more efficiently.

But even party politics isn't a bad thing. In fact, it is necessary. I see it almost as a team sport with cheerleaders and the ability to win a game played by individual players. But where the rub comes in is after an election, when partisanship continues. It should not. Once an election is over, it is time to govern on behalf of all the people, not just those who voted for one person over another. And politics certainly isn't all about fundraising. Money does nothing for politics except act as a lopsided and corrupting influence.

While it is clear to me that we need to change the way our government responds to the critical issues that affect our society, any change has to be up to the people being governed.

We need to step it up when we select the people to represent us. We must step take personal responsibility with the way things are. If you are happy with that, read no further, but if you are not, it is time to get serious about changing the way we do things.

We need to start thinking, and thinking hard, about public positions and policies that affect our own futures. We must ask questions and demand answers from our leaders. It isn't enough to assume they will do right by us because they won't. They must be held accountable to those of us they represent, not just those who subsidize their decision making. When it comes down to it, corporations can throw millions of dollars at a politician, but it is the votes that count. The responsibility is ours. When we vote, we must know who we are voting for and why. Uninformed voters do a disservice to the rest of us.

Clean air and water, assurance of a healthy food supply, and protection of the health and welfare of all living species on earth are perfect examples of how our government is failing.  

We get the government we deserve. We deserve better. But that won't happen until we change our ways. If we want government to work on behalf of all the people, we need to think of all the people when we make our own decisions about how we feel about issues.

It isn't enough that we draw upon our life experiences to make decisions about how we feel about the ways of the world, our collective problems, and how to solve them. We must have empathy and understanding of those who are not walking in our shoes, the less fortunate, the downtrodden, the under-privileged. While our own life experiences are vital to our decision-making processes, there has to be more. We must look beyond ourselves when we decide about a myriad complexities such as social issues, like religion and abortion, as well as our natural resources, energy, and the environment to name a few. In many cases, we must look past even our locale to think of how the world is affected. We are after all an entire species of human beings and other living things that occupy a finite space. We have to learn to live together for the benefit of us all.

It is no longer enough to look to tradition to guide our principles. Our parents and grandparents did not have all the answers. And some of the answers they had were just plain wrong. Some of them were right, and need to be revisited.

We don't have to like where we are right now. We always have the ability to change, to move forward to a better place. What is our life good for anyway, if it is not to continually try to better ourselves, to learn more, to be more.

So, while no one likes to talk about politics, it is all about politics--the laws we live by, the happenings that affect our lives every day, the things that make us comfortable and happy or conversely, irritated and miserable.

But think for a moment about the men and too few women that make decisions for the rest of us. Right now, we are in a culture where our government leaders are making decisions for their own benefit and that of their friends. They don't consider us, yet, if we didn't supply the money, they couldn't afford to even take the field to play their games. It is our money that gives them the ability to do their job and our votes that put them there. Don't we have the right and responsibility to demand better?

But in order to demand better, we have to be better. Our public policy needs more thought, more insight, more intellect. Knee-jerk reactions to social ills is not the way to govern a complex society. It is not acceptable to step on the people hovering at the bottom--those who lack the money, education, youthfulness, or good health--in order to reach those with privilege at the top. Everyone has something to contribute in order to be successful. But to contribute, ideas must be well thought out. And everyone needs to participate. The time for change is now. We owe it to our children to make proper decisions, based on as much information as we can glean. We need to demand better and with this being an election year, there is no better time to start than now.
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Thursday, October 21, 2010

Not an informed voter, stay home!

Is this not the most disgusting election season in history?

The entire premise that rich people can buy elections has been around for decades, but never before has it been more obvious, at least to some. But some people still don't get it.

The I'm-mad-as-hell-and-I'm-not-going-to-take-it-anymore attitude is normally one I would endorse, but not this year. I am a strong advocate of exercising your right to vote, but only if you are an informed voter. If you are the kind of person that simply falls for the television commercials or glossy brochures that come to your door, please stay home.

Candidates of both parties are lying, manipulating, and waging the battle of their lives. I wish I could calculate the monumental costs of this election, but throw more than six zeros at me and I admit getting a little blurry-eyed. In truth, six figures is about all I can comprehend. Yet there are tens of millions being spent every day across this country. Doesn't anyone have a problem with that?

I used to bristle at the fact that only the wealthy could afford to run for public office. Now, I find myself completely freaking out about how unlimited corporate donations and anyone with tons of money and an agenda can turn any wacko into a candidate.

I've often wondered where this wealth comes from. I certainly don't have it, but then I'm a hard-working, honest person who tries not to hurt or take advantage of other people. My goal in life is not to be rich—I'd rather be happy. I would never step on other people just to get ahead. I don't rip people off. I try to tell the truth. I care about total strangers. I don't think I'm better than anyone else.

It isn't just the act of buying elections that is bothersome. I am horrified about the what if's. What if these nutjobs actually become representatives of our government? These people are going to speak on our behalf. They are going to make decisions that will ultimately affect us all.

I'm not sure what the answers are, but we have to learn from our mistakes. Why aren't we?

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Friday, September 4, 2009

South Suburban Airport fits pay-to-play system

Chicago and Wilmette
Chicago and Wilmette (Photo credit: Frank Kehren)
Since the late 1980’s, Illinois officials and their agents have tried every available means to push a huge public works project to fruition, with a keen eye toward ensuring their own political futures and continuing cycle of self-enrichment.

The project is a 23,000-acre airport three times the size of Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport, one of the busiest airports in the world. The state’s desired location is a small farming community north of the Village of Peotone, in eastern Will County, about 40 miles south of downtown Chicago. The project is often called the Peotone Airport.

Airport boosters have dismissed the long-standing practice of producing crops in eastern Will County. Instead, they view the prime farmland as vacant and prime for development. The people most affected, including the local governments of three of the surrounding communities and several adjacent townships, have resisted the development for more than two decades. But, the efforts of this sparsely-populated, politically-innocent region has fallen prey to Illinois’ well-funded, long-entrenched political "pay-to-play" scheme, one that rewards supporters and contributors with lucrative jobs and contracts.

Tax dollars have funded a multitude of government lobbyists who make regular trips to Washington, D.C. and Illinois’ capital of Springfield to guarantee that despite its inability to gain traction on its own; this is the project that will not die. Airport supporters have left tracks on campaign contribution lists and at political fundraisers for years.

CHICAGO, IL - NOVEMBER 5:  Illinois Governor P...
Illinois Governor Pat Quinn (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Instead of following through on his promise to clean up government, Gov. Patrick Quinn is following in the footsteps of his predecessors on the Peotone project. Ex-Illinois Governor George Ryan now resides in a federal penitentiary, convicted on numerous charges of corruption.

CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 7:  Former Illinois Gov...
CHICAGO, IL - DECEMBER 7: Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich (C) holds hands with wife Patti Blagojevich (R) as they get in an elevator in the Dirksen Federal Building December 7, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. Blagojevich was sentenced to 14 years in prison after he was found guilty of 17 public corruption charges. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Ex-Governor Rod Blagojevich was roused from his bed in the early morning hours last winter by FBI agents who took him into custody. He was later impeached by the Illinois legislature. Among other things, he was accused of trying to sell a seat in the U.S. Senate, formerly held by President Barack Obama, to the highest bidder.

One of those bidders was identified as Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., D-Chicago, one of the airport's biggest proponents. He too is being investigated.

English: Former Illinois Governor George Ryan
English: Former Illinois Governor George Ryan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Despite numerous factors that threaten to shelf the decades-old project, the former Lt. Governor under Blagojevich, Quinn pushed for another $100 million to buy land for the airport. Land acquisition, started in 2001 when Ex-Gov. Ryan paved the way. The state bought numerous unsold lots in an upscale subdivision belonging to one of his campaign contributors. The housing development was located just outside the airport boundaries, but was close enough to initiate a selling frenzy.

Together with threats of eminent domain, an inability to sell property in the doomed real estate market long-manipulated by the threat of an airport nearby, and the fear of the future; some landowners sold to the state. They simply gave up and moved on with their lives. The first talk of an airport in the Peotone area was a headline in the local newspaper forty years ago, in 1968.

Many of the remaining families who live in the airport footprint are what the state calls, "unwilling sellers." They have dug in their heels, refusing to be intimidated. Undaunted, the state continues its efforts to coerce real estate sales. Some landowners have farmed there for generations.

Several farms have been in the same family for more than 100 years, honored as centennial farms; by the same state that now wants to take it from them. In some cases huge signs marking “Illinois Centennial Farm” is down the road from signs that read, “State Property No Trespassing.” Many believe the only reason the state hasn’t used eminent domain is because they would have a tough time proving there is a project in a court of law. No need has ever been proven for the project nor has it been authorized by the Federal Aviation Administration.

The state owns about one-third of the land needed to build a scaled-down “starter airport,” with only one runway and a terminal building. Ryan decided that the only way to gain approval for the mega airport was to start small. He decided to propose building the "inaugural airport," reducing the size from 23,000 acres to 4,000.

With unending funds, tied directly to the pockets of Illinois taxpayers, the public relations work continues. Upwards of $100 million has been spent on what the state has called ‘studies.’ In actuality, the ‘studies’ are a set of organized reports, containing cherry-picked pieces of data tied together to induce a favored outcome. Since the beginning, and to this day, consultants, lobbyists, and other campaign contributors form a closed circle of airport backers.

Will County government, which would have jurisdiction over the airport if it was ever built, has long been on the state’s bandwagon, despite a majority of residents opposed to the project. County officials recently hired a consultant. They also employ a lobbyist.

Will County supports an effort to write a new law to establish an airport authority which would take effect even before an airport is built. Their aim is to thwart the efforts of Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr., D-Chicago who started an airport authority of his own.

For more than twenty years, an organized group opposed to the airport, has found it difficult to gain traction against the systemic political machine in Illinois with its 'pay-to-play' structure heavy with lobbyists and campaign contributors. It is a never-ending cycle that must be broken.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

George Ryan’s appeal opposed by Solicitor General

U.S. Solicitor General Paul Clement filed a brief Friday, April 25 stating that the U.S. Su-preme Court should refuse to hear the appeal of convicted ex-Governor George Ryan.

The U.S. Solicitor General, who was nominated by President George Bush in March, 2005 and confirmed by the Senate in June.

By definition, the solicitor general is to argue for the Gov-ernment of the United States in front of the U.S. Supreme Court when the government is involved in a case.

Clement said complaints about jurors were misguided and a hearing was not warranted.

Following Ryan’s conviction, his attorneys Dan Webb and former Gov. James R. Thompson did as they promised – to take Ryan’s case all the way to the Supreme Court.

Thompson was adamant that Ryan should receive a fair trial. His argument, that the trial was not fair, was based on some in-consistencies with some of the jurors during the six-month long trial. Thompson’s opinion was bolstered by the sole dissent in the Court of Appeals and a mi-nority opinion by Circuit Judges who ultimately refused to rehear Ryan’s case.

On Jan. 23, Thompson filed a petition urging the U.S. Supreme Court to act on Ryan’s behalf to overturn his conviction.

That was a final step in a long line of legal maneuvers that could no longer keep Ryan out of federal prison.

Clement also weighed in last November when Ryan’s bail was denied by U.S. Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens.

Ryan reported to prison in No-vember 2007 to serve a six and one-half year sentence. He was initially sent to Oxford Institu-tion, in Wisconsin, but was re-cently moved to Terre Haute Federal Institution in Terre Haute, Indiana. Under new regu-lations, of which Ryan was un-aware at the time of his sentenc-ing, Oxford could no longer care for inmates over 70 years of age. Ryan is 74.

Ryan and his business partner Lawrence Warner were con-victed on April 17, 2006, of mul-tiple counts of racketeering, con-spiracy, mail fraud, obstruction of justice, money laundering, and tax violation while he served as Secretary of State.

Ryan is expected to be re-leased from prison in 2013.

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