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Old 05-18-2011, 12:27 PM   #1 (permalink)
Location: Charleston, SC
Politics Corrupted By Conflict of Interest

POLITICS is the term we apply to our system of selecting our governmental
representatives and to their actions once in office. We also use it to refer to the maneuvering for power and control in non-governmental organizations and institutions. Except in cases where a decision is unanimous, it always involves a power struggle.

The subject of politics comes up in our day to day conversation with family, friends and acquaintances because everybody has their own pre-conditioned viewpoint about social, legal and governmental issues.

Politics has been called “the art of compromise”, which, at its best, it is. At its worst, it involves injustice, selfish personal gain, bribery, lying, and about any form of skulduggery the human mind can conceive.

For me, the most critical aspect of politics today has become the polarization of the political parties. Bipartisanship has been relegated to the past. The present is all about which party will gain control in the next election--a struggle over power. Candidates for political office, and the party leaders, all resort to half-truths and innuendo in order to persuade all who will listen to support their particular party’s legislative efforts and candidates. The struggle for power is so pervasive that even those newly elected who start with the best of intentions succumb to the conflict of interest between
what is best for the country and what will get them re-elected. After living in that heady atmosphere of our nations capital for 3 or 4 years and seeing how the old-timers play the game of power, they eventually begin to believe “I can do no wrong” or “I deserve to get whatever I can get for myself”. Nobody says this out loud, but their actions demonstrate it. The corruption of politics becomes a way of life.

I believe that it will take a catastrophe, such as hyper-inflation, before the people unite in demanding that our constitution be amended so as to remove the possibility for anyone to make a career of political offices and we again have only true statesmen running for office. Maybe, if enough of us shout louder and often, we can bring about the needed changes before a catastrophe occurs. I am not optimistic.
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Old 05-18-2011, 12:35 PM   #2 (permalink)
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I'm more in favor of radical campaign finance reform than I am term limits. I'm okay with Dennis Kucinich being in the House or Bernie Sanders being in the Senate for many years because they're honest and have good ideas.
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Old 05-18-2011, 02:25 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Location: Washington DC
Term limits is a terrible idea and undemocratic. We should have the right to vote for anyone we want.

The idea of career politicians is a myth. The average length of service for Representatives at the beginning of the 112th Congress was 9.8 years (4.9 terms); for Senators, 11.4 years (1.9 terms).


That is a good mix of turnover and holdovers so that we get the benefit of experience and fresh perspectives.

Among the current members:
• 49 Senators have previous House service;
• 81 educators, employed as teachers, professors, instructors, fundraisers, counselors, administrators, or coaches (68 in the House, 13 in the Senate);
• 2 medical doctors in the Senate, plus 1 veterinarian and 1 ophthalmologist; 15 medical doctors in the House (including one delegate), plus 2 dentists, 1 veterinarian, 1 ophthalmologist, and 1 psychiatrist
• 2 psychologists (both in the House), an optometrist (in the Senate), and 6 nurses (all in the House);
• 5 ordained ministers, all in the House;
• 39 mayors (29 in the House, 10 in the Senate);
• 11 state governors (all in the Senate) and 9 lieutenant governors (3 in the Senate, 6 in the House, including 2 Delegates);
• 10 judges (all in the House), and 26 prosecutors (8 in the Senate, and 18 in the House, including a Delegate), who have served in city, county, state, federal, or military capacities;
• 1 cabinet secretary, 1 secretary of the navy, and one ambassador (all in the Senate);
• 263 state or territorial legislators (222 in the House, including 2 Delegates, and 41 in the Senate)
• at least 105 congressional staffers (21 in the Senate, 84 in the House), as well as 9 congressional pages (6 in the House and 3 in the Senate);
• 4 Peace Corps volunteers, all in the House;
• 3 sheriffs and 2 deputy sheriffs, 2 FBI agents, a border patrol agent (all in the House), and a firefighter in the Senate;
• 1 physicist, 1 chemist, 6 engineers, and 1 microbiologist (all in the House);
• 4 radio talk show hosts (two House, two Senate), 3 radio or television broadcasters (all in the House), 6 reporters or journalists (2 in the House, 4 in the Senate), a radio station manager, a public television producer, a sportswriter, and a television commentator (all in the House);
• 7 accountants in the House and 2 in the Senate;
• 4 pilots, all in the House, including a former pilot of Marine One (the President’s helicopter), and 1 astronaut, in the Senate;
• 2 screenwriters (1 House, 1 Senate), a comedian, in the Senate, a documentary film maker, also in the Senate, and 2 professional football players, both in the House;
• 17 farmers (15 House, 2 Senate) and 11 ranchers (9 House, 2 Senate);
• 2 almond orchard owners, both in the House, 1 farm manager (a Senator), 1 cattle farm owner (a Senator), 1 vintner (a House Member), and 1 fruit orchard worker (a House Member);
• 7 social workers in the House and 2 in the Senate; and • 5 current members of the military Reserves (3 House, 2 Senate), and 4 current members of the National Guard (3 House, 1 Senate).

Other occupations listed in the CQ Roll Call Member Profiles, although not necessarily the professions practiced immediately before entering Congress, include restaurateur, real estate agent, auctioneer, car dealership owner, construction worker, software engineer, paper mill worker, stockbroker, insurance agent, and funeral home owner.
I want people with knowledge of public policy and the intricacies of government, or at least the willingness to learn, not single issue narrow minded ideologues like many of the Tea Party members.

---------- Post added at 06:25 PM ---------- Previous post was at 06:20 PM ----------

Originally Posted by Willravel View Post
I'm more in favor of radical campaign finance reform than I am term limits. I'm okay with Dennis Kucinich being in the House or Bernie Sanders being in the Senate for many years because they're honest and have good ideas.
Campaign reform makes much more sense. I just dont know how it can be accomplished.

BTW, Kucinich is likely to lose his seat in redistricting (Ohio to lose 2 seats) and is reportedly considering moving to Washington state where a seat will be added.

Kucinich may look to Washington State if his Ohio seat falls in redistricting - The Hill's Ballot Box
"The perfect is the enemy of the good."
~ Voltaire
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Old 05-18-2011, 04:43 PM   #4 (permalink)
... a sort of licensed troubleshooter.
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He's welcome here in San Jose. He has a surprisingly big following in the Bay Area.

Regarding how it would be accomplished, the only thing I can think of is unprecedented public pressure and a few big allies. The public alone can't do it, but if there's a big enough, loud enough movement to gain the backing of, say, Google (which is about to jump into the fight for Net Neutrality and national broadband with big guns), it could be done. I'm thinking a well-organized movement to dethrone campaign finance reform's biggest opponents, replacing them with people who are not politicians at all.
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Old 05-19-2011, 10:51 AM   #5 (permalink)
Location: Charleston, SC
Term Limits

Having the right to vote for whomever you want is not of much value when your choices are only ones of power-addicted, self-aggrandizing careerists who have a conflict of interest. It will take term limits (step 1) and campaign finance reform (step 2) to make a dent in this.
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Old 05-19-2011, 12:02 PM   #6 (permalink)
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Location: Washington DC
Originally Posted by lofhay View Post
Having the right to vote for whomever you want is not of much value when your choices are only ones of power-addicted, self-aggrandizing careerists who have a conflict of interest. It will take term limits (step 1) and campaign finance reform (step 2) to make a dent in this.
Only if you believe that an average of 9.8 years in the House and 11.4 years in the Senate is a "careerist."

I want people with 10+ years experience developing our comprehensive and intricate domestic and foreign policies. Along with new faces with a fresh perspective as long as they bring more than buzzwords and rigid ideologies.

Campaign finance reform is absolutely necessary. The problem is getting around the ruling by the conservative Supreme Court that corporate spending is a First Amendment right of freedom of expression.
"The perfect is the enemy of the good."
~ Voltaire
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Old 05-19-2011, 12:52 PM   #7 (permalink)
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Location: East-central Canada
I'm unconcerned with term limits with regard to politics and corruption. Christ, we don't even have term limits on our prime minister here in Canada. If Stephen Harper wants to continue to be prime minister, so long as he and his party keep getting re-elected, he can continue to serve in that spot at Her Majesty's pleasure. Our longest serving prime minister was the Right Honorable William Lyon Mackenzie King, who served 22 years. Just keep in mind, though, that the people of Canada don't vote directly for the prime minister; they technically vote for their local member of parliament, and the party's leader who wins the most seats is designated prime minster.

And though Canada is not without its problems of corruption, the few problems we do have are unlikely to stem from this lack of term limit. I'm more concerned with campaign financing. Canada has rules that differ from the U.S. We have restrictions that limit the cash that flows during elections. One limitation is that each party has a maximum amount of money that they can spend on advertising during a campaign.

There are others, but let's focus more generally: I think that money should be regulated to have limited influence on political campaigns. Just as it's important to keep the state separate from the church, I think that wealth should be kept relatively separate. I think it's undemocratic that the wealthy should easily have the greatest and most widespread voice during elections. With the sophistication of current media, it's more so the case than it has been in the past. Where the boundaries between entertainment and news, opinion and journalism, blur, I think campaign financing indeed should be reformed to ensure that the rich don't carry the election as though it were their show.

And it's not just about who owns the message. Of course, the deeper problem as has been brought up is the idea of having politicians in people's pockets. With regard to politics, few ideas disgust me more than a supposed elected member of public office being essentially beholden to powerful, elite, and ultimately faceless forces.
Knowing that death is certain and that the time of death is uncertain, what's the most important thing?
—Bhikkhuni Pema Chödrön

Humankind cannot bear very much reality.
—From "Burnt Norton," Four Quartets (1936), T. S. Eliot

Last edited by Baraka_Guru; 05-19-2011 at 12:55 PM..
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Old 05-19-2011, 01:35 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Location: Washington DC
I did agree with the point in the OP that "politics has been called the art of compromise, which, at its best, it is.." and that "politics today has become the polarization of the political parties. Bipartisanship has been relegated to the past."

But assuming that lofhay is a Tea Party supporter (based on the limited information I have from his posts. I will stand humbly corrected if I am wrong.), the election of rigid ideological, no-compromise Tea Party members certainly wont restore that bipartisanship. Compromise and consensus building is not in their vocabulary from what I have seen to-date.

Baraka hit the nail on the head, but the circumstances in the US, guided by the recent Court decision, put enormous roadblocks in the way.

The simplest in concept, but hardest to implement, would be publicly funded elections for all federal offices, thus eliminating all direct political contributions and, as a result, the advantage of incumbents.

But we would still be left with independent expenditures (remember the Swift Boating of John Kerry?) which are unlimited and unregulated expressions of speech.

---------- Post added at 05:35 PM ---------- Previous post was at 05:26 PM ----------

The other piece of it is comprehensive lobbying reform, distinct from campaign finance reform. At the very least, more transparency is needed.
"The perfect is the enemy of the good."
~ Voltaire

Last edited by dc_dux; 05-19-2011 at 01:40 PM..
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Old 05-21-2011, 06:53 AM   #9 (permalink)
Location: Charleston, SC
So far, nobody seems to be as concerned as I am about a careerist's conflict of interest between doing what is best for the nation and doing what will get him/her re-elected. Without a constitutional change that will make it impossible for anyone to make a career out of political offices, we will be governed by self-interested office-holders who will just let tomorrow take care of itself because they will not be around anyway. I see such a constitutional change as only the first step--to be followed by campaign finance reform. We are not likely to have the second unless we get the first.
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Old 05-21-2011, 07:33 AM   #10 (permalink)
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Location: Washington DC
Or maybe some just dont agree with you that an average of10-12 years in Congress is a careerist.

But I'm curious, what would you set as term limits?

I'm also curious if you think its good for the system when new members of Congress come into the job with a rigid, extremely narrow focus of public policy issues and an attitude that they will not compromise.
"The perfect is the enemy of the good."
~ Voltaire

Last edited by dc_dux; 05-21-2011 at 07:36 AM..
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Old 05-21-2011, 07:48 AM   #11 (permalink)
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Location: essex ma
i agree with dc that term limits are not going to do anything. well, that's not true: what they'll do is increase the speed of faction rotation within the plutocracy and increase the technical incompetence of the people who's gig it is to fashion, assess and vote on legislation. it'll devolve enormous power onto unelected staff members who will become respositories of continuity and competence to an even greater extent. it'll also likely increase the roles of (largely conservative) think-tanks and those little bullet-summaries of legislation that over-worked staffers can use like cliff notes to appear get briefed on bills they may not have time to review and to acquire the think-tanks ideological interpretation of the bill along with a pre-fab recommendations for votes. it'll also push more power into the degenerate machinery of the major political parties by requiring the development of political farm teams and creating problem of fund-raising continuity that would, logically, devolve back onto the party machines.

tea party positions: it's difficultto imagine a level of naivete sufficient to accept them. i mean, seriously?

i'm interested in the 15M movement that's taking shape in spain which is a left-oriented popular move inspired by egypt and tunisia that emphasizes direct democratic process and is occupying central public spaces in several spanish cities as i write this. the movement is entirely against the whole neo-liberal logic--which it the only coherence that american conservatives have---so it's entirely opposed to the dominant ideology in the united states--and the political structure that serves it and which it serves---and the fake/stupid/debilitating choices that ideology leaves folk with in times of crisis like this....

the right has nothing to say. it has nothing coherent to offer. it is merely about itself trying to survive. maybe soon people in the us will start to catch up with egypt and tunisia.
a gramophone its corrugated trumpet silver handle
spinning dog. such faithfulness it hear

it make you sick.

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Old 05-21-2011, 09:41 AM   #12 (permalink)
Location: Charleston, SC
The kind of term limits that I visualize could be anything from 5 years to 10 years total public service--no moving from one office to another more than once. This would eliminate all running for re-election and thus remove the conflict of interest.

Any office-holder worth his salt should be able to get what he wants from his staff without being at their mercy. Couple this with a campaign finance system which limits spending to an equal amount for every candidate, no private or corporate money allowed, and you remove most of the influence of big monied interests. Who, then, would want to run for office except those who wish to serve their country?
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addiction to power, conflict of interest, corruption, politics, term limits

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