Friday, January 26, 2007

Democracy Inaction

(with apologies to Jon Stewart, of course)

Sure, the process is futile, sure it's a choice of dumb or dumber, Pepsi or Coke (when the choice I really envision is between whiskey and mother's milk), the evil of two lessers, a military- or prison-industrial complex with or without emission controls. So yeah, I'm cynical, I'm jaded, and I have never been much of an activist. But there are certain things you must do to earn your complaining rights, and it's high time I did. What's more, if you're, say, under 50, then you should realize that you're paying for the retirement and medical insurance of your parents, while pretty much abrogating your own. If you want some of that good pander, you have to do your duty and bitch about what you ain't getting.

I've always voted, but one thing I've never done is write my congressman. My friend hipparchia has made the point that it's about time I embraced my responsibility as a reasonably intelligent person. She's begun a campaign to write every member of the congress, and I support it. I encourage you to visit, copy and paste or contribute your own letters as is your desire. Write in, it's your civic duty. And if you don't accept that it is, then you should at least do it to cover your ass when it comes time to make your complaints.

Here's my letter to Senator Kerry:

You will perhaps be pleased to know that I voted for you in your last Senate run, and also in your more recent presidential bid. My condolences on the outcome of the latter. I thought your views on a "Manhattan Project" for alternative energy were wise (though understated), and though I wish you targeted us better, I thought that you were in a unique position in that race to capture us voters who believe in both sound budget policy and individual liberties. Again, my condolences--we're all worse off for your defeat.

I am writing because I feel it's my civic responsibility, and one forestalled for much too long. I am a 34-year-old research scientist with a young family, and, I think, exactly the sort of person who is under-represented in the political process. Although I vote (registered as unenrolled, but courting Democrats), and although I follow politics with some interest, I have little time for telephone polling. Although I am fairly jaded about the process, I am not without hope. I am a member of the blogging community, and converse regularly with many political activists in that arena.

Getting to the point, here are the priorities that this constituent envisions for the upcoming congressional session:

  • Avoid a war with Iran at all costs.
    The administration is making similar motions now as it did in the run-up to the Iraq war. Please Mr. Kerry, insist on the congress' unique right to declare war under the Constitution. Do not let this president act to invade another country.

  • Get out of Iraq as soon as possible
    I remain disgusted with the disingenuous talk about timetables or set deadlines. Immunize yourself from these idiotic slurs, please, especially since it's the language of your opposition. Criteria for withdrawal are reasonable. Please take the initiative to define them concretely. (The president hasn't.)

  • Energy independence
    The president's ethanol initiative is foolish, and amounts to little more than a sop to the industrialized farming lobby (which, I am sure you are aware does not reside in Massachusetts). I encourage you to fund research in solar, wind, hydroelectric, and geothermal power. Coal may work as a stop-gap, but it is damaging to the environment, and contributes to global warming. "Clean coal" still contributes to atmospheric contamination in the form of CO2, and conversion of carbon to carbonate (the product of scrubbing technology) is not very energy efficient, limited so by the laws of thermodynamics.

    Energy independence also means conservation (not an easy sell!) and it also suggests making it more affordable to live closer to places of employment. As it stands today, living in the city means either living beyond one's means or living in crime and disrepair. Although I'm not ideologically disposed to promoting urban welfare, it makes more sense than sponsoring highway development over the years.

  • Sponsor more R&D, especially R&D outside of the Department of Defense
    Massachusetts, with possibly the strongest technical university system in the country, is in a special position in this regard. Housing can be an economic pillar only so long as there is space for new homes, or as long as we can afford the commute. Meanwhile, manufacturing continues to decline. One reason the U.S. has been competitive in the twentieth century is that we have fostered entrepreneurialism and because we have a superior secondary education system. New technologies need to incubate in this country and grow into real industries to support future economies--this should be a national priority.

  • Repeal criminal acts against civil liberties
    Although I realize Democrats have been in a minority for the last several years, your priorities have nonetheless been skewed. Medicare legislation, for example, was threatened with a filibuster, but the enemy combatants act rolled through. This is unconscionable. Between this act, the detention of inmates in Guantanamo Bay, the PATRIOT act, and warrantless wiretaps, the congress has abandoned its vigilance under the Bush administration. Now that the Democrats are in a majority, reverse these intrusions now. Please.

  • Universal Health Care
    Health care is something I think about a lot. Although I don't like government planning, a widespread insurance model is nearly the only thing that makes sense. Even if the opponents' view is true, that U.S. medical care is superior, then still the universal insurance model should hold. A possible way to communicate this is to discuss how (1) the public health is best served this way, (2) the risk is shared to the highest degree (which is the entire basis of insurance), and (3) it will reduce administrative costs for insurance users. Reports have shown that Medicare, which includes the population most likely to be sick, is more cost efficient than private plans. Something to consider.

Thank you for your time, Senator. I hope that you represent me well in the new session.




hipparchia said...

holy cow, dude! you put me to shame. a most excellent letter.

mbhfh: [mumble mumble] for health

Artemesia said...

Excellent letter Keifus.

It's obvious that this president and his cronies had the war agendas in place before Iraq and the current chaos there was/is part of their game plan.
This 'War President' has 2 more years to wreck the world, drop some clean bombs and carve some new puppets (Chuckies) for the Middle East.

Inertia has been in force since 9/11. I think he and the Pentagon will send in their 20,000 with or without funds..and cry for money 'for the troops' later.

No one has yet tracked the vanished billions that disappeared being trucked en route from a bank in Iraq..It's probably greasing the Bush/Chaney Hell machinery right now.

Your letter's great, but with this administration, I have always expected..and have been correct when predicting the worst.

But, we must keep screaming, talking, hoping and writing letters. Being active witness to demanding that America be restored to its Congress and Constitution.

Keifus said...

Hi Artemesia: I encourage you to participate in hipparchia's project as well. I fear you raise some good points, but I also think that these guys' principle job skill is making noises the voters want to hear (if not actually do anything). If they fail to find the right path, I don't want it to be because I wasn't pointing. (How much of this filthy authoritarianism is a function of who the congress thinks is voting? Too little, but some.)

(Off the wall: would it have been a good letter if you disagreed?)

hipparchia: graciously consented? Oh man, take the credit for lighting the fire under my butt.


Some research scientist I am. wind, solar, hydro- and geothermal are all carbon neutral. (So is biomass.) Coal, "clean" or otherwise, is not. (edited.)

K (and if I exaggerate my membership in the blogging community...)

TenaciousK said...

Ah, Keifus, you've put me to shame - that's an excellent letter! And I'm very glad you posted it [exaggerated indeed!], because it's far too good to be wasted solely on a senator's assistant's unpaid intern. Putting it in the blogosphere means at least broadening the exposure.

I read it - I'm inspired.

I think you should post it on wiki*.

*Names don't have to be named: inspirational credit can be given euphemistically, and permission to link could be granted or denied beforehand.

Keifus said...

If you're feeling peer-pressured, then go do your duty, mister.

You're right about wiki, of course. (Sigh. Why can't we all just play together nice?)


obfuscati said...

no euphemisms needed.

rbwacsms: robot camera swarms
nvwdkkxt: nouveau wierd meerkat text

hipparchia said...

update: people do apparently have some interest in writing letters. hooray!

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