October 30, 2006

An Open Letter to Mikkel

(mikkel -- this letter is a bit harder hitting than i'd like in light of mr. psychaiku's sudden rattling of the cage. but it took me quite awhile to form and i don't feel like re-writing it, especially with the clock ticking. thanks for your forced understanding, b1)

Dear Sir,

As we've talked about, both publicly and privately, you know I consider your site to be one of the best things on the Internet. My passion and enthusiasm for your Web site is unmatched relative to anything else in the 'blog world.

That's not to say that it is without its foibles.

If I had to pick one way in which the Äcres disappoints, it's in the general form of political writing (although I'm quick to admit that I don't care much for political discourse in general). And your worst subset of those are your pieces on the United States of America.

I feel like there would be something to learn from what you say, but your prose is so laced with sardonicism and innuendo that your message often gets lost because of the way you're trying to express it. Like a nanny on a playground, the shrill nature of your advisories only makes the kids more likely to ignore you (and ultimately get hit in the head by the merry-go-round).

Further, I get the impression that you write it, hit "Publish Post" and with smug self-assurance consider things to be somehow "done." But I don't see much else.

Let's face it, making fun of the American political system, especially when it comes to the general topic of foreign policy, is as easy as trying to hit a barn with a rock. You pick up a rock. You throw it at the barn. You hit it. You look at the dent. You laugh with your friends. But what have you proven?

In essence, what I see from you is a whole lot of talk, and very little action. And in that way, to me, you feel remarkably Swiss. You're better than that. You and I both know it.

Now I'm the first to admit that life is a busy thing, and if you throw yourself at any given cause or effort, there is none of you left to actually live. And everyone has complications -- your biggest is probably being on the verge of being a new Dad (congratulations on that, by the way).

So as to not fall into the all-talk-and-no-action crowd myself, I need to come up with an answer for you, right?

How about this ...

November 7, 2006 is a major US election. The even years in America are the biggies because the House of Representatives seats come open (determined by population size every two years) and this particular year is also a Senatorial seat (two per state, staggered, with six year terms) for the state of California. This is not a Presidential election year -- that will be 2008.

In my effort to help you make a difference, and to get a better understanding of the American system you seem so eager to criticize, I offering you a chance to cast my ballot.

My particular ballot is here.

Note this comes with a gigantic caveat: to take on this responsibility, you have to familiarize yourself with the issues and give me a real reason why you wish to cast every vote on the ballot. (Not casting a vote in any particular spot does not void the ballot.)

This isn't something I offer to you lightly.

I am 11th generation American. My surname anscestors were persecuted Quakers who fled England in the 17th century and immediately fell in cahoots with William Penn to establish a peaceful and unarmed form of liberty. The family lineage switched over to being Methodist (it was the way I was raised, but do not practice) and with the exception of my grandfather (WWI) and dad (Korea) we have remained human-rights, minimal-government (sometimes those two play against each other) pacifists.

My family political line has always been what is now best termed as Libertarian in the US (more "human rights" than the Republicans, less "social programs" than the Democrats), similar to the Liberal Democrats (not Labour) in the UK. I have two different uncles who have served on the US Supreme Court (those are lifetime appointments), one of them acting as Chief Justice and penning the first human rights comments for the court.

I have relatives (that I can actually name) who were beaten and tourtured, by their persective governments, merely so I could cast this vote in the upcoming election. We take voting, and especially understanding of the underlying issues, seriously. I always vote in all the major elections.

Now, technically, there may be "polling fraud" or somesuch associated with what I'm offering, so, just for the record to the world at large:

I have a great concern for the government of the United States where I currently live, vote and pay taxes. I'm also becoming more and more concerned about the influence this country is having on "foreign" governments -- especially in light of the willingness to openly violate the mandates of the United Nations and mobilize troops. To this end, I am asking a trusted representative of one of America's largest oil exporters his opinion on the upcoming election. It's advice which I may, or may not, take.

Thank you for your consideration and taking this in the spirit (if not the word) in which it was written. A tutorial follows if you're interested in following up on this.

I realize this goes beyond my "rat period" of writing, but I wanted to get this out now. I could put some weak similie in here, but I won't.

Best wishes to Sara and blessings for a healthy new addition,

Government cheat-sheet:

The United States is, technically, a federated republic. The "federal" government (US government) is responsible for the protection of its borders and trade. The "state" government (California in this case) is responsible for the moral care and well-being of its citizens (that's why you can't buy liquor on Sundays in Colorado, but can in California). The "county" government (Santa Clara in this case) mostly takes care of land partioning. The "city" government (also named Santa Clara, but it's smaller than the county) takes care of day-to-day running of the city.

Any given branch of the government can pass its powers down to one "below" it if they choose not to enforce an idea across-the-board. That's why prostitution is legal in some counties of Nevada (Pahrump), but not others (Las Vegas); or why you can't buy liquor in the very county Jack Daniel's is made in Tennessee.

The state of California is gigantic, holding 10% of the US population and is 1300km in length. The big industries (aside from typical finance stuff) are movies & television (LA), computers (here), shipping (San Diego and San Francisco), agriculture (everywhere -- earthquake zones are great fruit producers) and to a lesser extent the military. If the state of California were a country in its own right, it would be in the top 10 in the world as far as GNP/GDP goes.

The big issues for the state are immigration (a much hotter issue in the South than the North because of the Mexico border), water; and to a lesser extent health care and the environment. Earthquakes, fires and mudslides are the largest natural threats.

For purely statistical reasons, your vote holds more sway in the smaller political areas, less in the larger ones. So, technically, the city voting is more "important" than the state stuff.

I won't try to sway your opinion in any area except one. Much to the dismay (and probably to the outright denial) of most Democrats, Arnold Schwarzenegger is doing a very good job as governor.

In an unheard of event, Gray Davis, a world class spudnut, was recalled. He had many problems, but his largest in my eyes was he actually felt it was acceptable to put California on a system of "rolling brown outs" -- meaning that you'd lose your power on a predictable schedule (e.g. "Next Tuesday, from 14:00-18:00 you won't have power, sorry"). If you're a first world country, the idea of no power is unacceptable to begin with, but I live and work in the hub of the computer industry for the planet. A shortage like that is like not being able to get film stock in Hollywood, or steel in Detroit.

There was some huge deficit (I can't remember the exact amount) when he took office and Arnold claimed he would balance it without raising taxes. Amazingly, he did. The way he did it was going to the Indian Casinos within the state and asked them to voluntarily pay taxation on their gaming receipts. This is something they definitely did not have to do (Native American territories, technically, are sovreign nations and not part of the United States), and have never done anywhere in the country. Unbelievably, they agreed. It was a stroke of incredible brilliance, nerve and negotiating skill (and don't worry, by voting for him you aren't making the next President -- that person needs to be a natural born US Citizen, Arnie is Austrian by birth).

You probably haven't heard much about him since getting the governorship -- this is partially because the print and televised media in America has a decidely left bias. He hasn't been misstepping, so there's been no reason to put him in the news.

I don't watch television, so I have no idea how he's doing in the polls. I'd be surprised if he's not favored.

Oh, and since he's been the governor, we've had power the whole time.

Typically the government is more effiecient the closer it is to home. Unfortunately the Santa Clara city government is mildly corrupt, so it's not as good as it could be. Anything you can do to help torpedoe those coneheads is the right thing.

You can research any/all issues over the 'net. If there's anything in particular you want to know about, let me know and I'll help in any way I can. I can also put any of the ridiculous phone campaign messages on here, or scan any of the political junkmail I'm getting, if you'd like to see the current state of the political propaganda art.


Blogger Lasse said...

Hey B1
I read this letter and Mikkel's reply -I just had to join the principal debate as I see it - hope I'm not stepping on any feet? Have a look here:

Wednesday, November 01, 2006 9:15:00 AM  
Blogger Mikkel said...

You've opened up a huge can of rats.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006 9:52:00 AM  

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