power to the people

Of all things to be looking into over the internet (and perhaps I’ve exhausted all of the juvenile ones), I’m looking into how to form a political action committee and starting one with my friends. Yes, seriously. And why not? The age of Obama has proven that the internet is a perfectly viable means of harnessing a grassroots effort. Political activism is currently in vogue right now, my interest in the World of Warcraft is winding down, and I’d like to do something different that is both helpful and meaningful to me.

The good news is that finding information on PACs is relatively easy. The Federal Election Commission has a good FAQ complete with a guide and forms for an interested individual. The bad news is trying to read the guide. I wish I could say that it was a file thing, but it’s more of the fact that it is written by lawyers under the direction to write something “user friendly”. So it meanders through regular people talk and ominious awful legal talk. I had a year of law school before going into library science and this crap gives me flashbacks. However, in cursory reading, it’s not that bad. Sure, it’s a 134 pages of gobbelty gook, but it doesn’t feel like a hot fire poker enema. So, it might be worth sloshing through.

This has also been a (gasp) educational experience. I didn’t know they came in multiple flavors (organization or company based versus nonconnected versus a leadership variety) and that that their spending limits are comparable to individuals (which makes sense when I think that people make their own PACs or donate to other PACs so they can make multiple contributions to a single campaign, thus gaming the system; yay American democracy). The most important position in the PAC is the treasurer since apparently you cannot function without one. In fact, it’s the only position listed and discussed to any extent. Since it’s all about money, it makes sense. Then, oh yes, there is a section that is all about communication. It’s like tips from your grandparents about what you can say or can’t say on a date. If you mention a candidate, the money goes there. If you get money that is earmarked for a candidate, then it goes there (I think). Then there are types of solicitation that resemble downhill slalom skiing. And you have to spend $1,000 before you have to register with the FEC. And then what I read starts to meld together in my head as it gets into filing and filling out the forms for filing and so forth.

From there, it is about what kind of candidates to support. This is a two fold question. The easier of these is whether you are going to support local or federal or both. If it is both, then two bank accounts will need to be maintained. Of course, this begs the question: what sort of platform would this sort of PAC support?

I have a firm faith in my friends that there could be a consensus found for a platform that we would all support. We cover a range of the political spectrum, but I don’t think we are incapable of finding compromise on issues. Obviously, this could be a fatal error to the whole PAC idea, but I have some hope. What I would be looking to support would be pragmatic politicians who could supply sensible solutions to various issues (e.g. energy, education, and other domestic issues) regardless of their political party. This might be the most complicated part of this proposal, but it also might be the most exciting in getting into some good political discussions with friends.

Now, as a nonconnected PAC, you can solict the general public for funds. In looking at the Obama campaign, my take on it would be utilizing PayPal and CafePress. I’d have to investigate PayPal more, but it is an excellent means for collecting money and moving it to actual bank accounts (especially in combination with CafePress). Why CafePress? Merchandising. Bumper stickers, bags, hats, t-shirts, and everything in between. It would raise money for the PAC and it gives people some unique swag. (Ask about our $100 bumper sticker!)  And it is harnessing the power of the internet to boot.

This might be the dawn of a new age of politics. Or something like that.

pretty soon, nothing happened

After being issued the challenge to put forth a budget, the Republicans answered… with a 19 page document that contained no actual numbers. (You can see it for yourself here.) Glenn Thrush from Politico reports that even the release was subject to some bickering as the party members split between actually creating a budget with numbers versus putting *something* out there to win the news cycle. Sadly, a budget is longer than a news cycle. This budget is something we have to live with long after the cameras turn off.

Now, I will admit that, at the Center for American Progress (a noted progressive site), I scored in the ‘liberal democrat’ range on their Interactive Quiz. (Although, it is hard to take a website quiz where you rate issues 1 through 10 as gospel, but that’s another story.) But I’m not a partisan hack. If there is a house on fire, I’m not going to argue about where the water comes from. I want to see all the solutions brought to the table. And this just disappoints in a way that makes me very, very sad.

I used to think I was a Republican in Exile, someone who was driven away by the social conservatives who hold views that I find disagreeable. (The pro-life, pro-death penalty stance makes my head hurt.) The conservatism of my youth (small government, fiscal responsibility) has been replaced by the pragmatism of the absolute cluster fuck of a mess we are in. And if the Democrats and liberals of this country are offering the better solutions, I’m willing to go along with them. For those who think this is a compromise of my values, it might be. But I live in the real world which demands solutions for the moment. And a 19 page critique of the President’s budget without hard numbers is not a solution as much as it is a partisan talking points memo. Like Cuba Gooding Jr. in Jerry Macquire, show me the money.

Maybe I should feel sorry for them. It’s not easy to be a Republican these days. They really do need some time in the wilderness. Or we need more political parties. Or less yelling at the far right and the far left and people like myself feeling like a kid passing notes between feuding parents.

I need a drink.

Update: Vermont gay marriage bill

(Via Andrew Sullivan)

“Douglas Will Veto Marriage Equality

The Vermont governor will veto the marriage equality bill passed overwhelmingly by the state Senate. The margin in the House is also very high, as Douglas conceded:

“I’m sure that legislative leaders would not have advanced this bill if they did not have the votes to override a veto. I will accept the outcome of their vote either way.”

So why Douglas veto? His purported answer is unserious:

“The urgency of our state’s economic and budgetary challenges demands the full focus of every member and every committee of this Legislature.”

He can’t sign a bill and focus on the economy as well? Here’s hoping the legislature hangs tough and a third state legalizes marriage equality. Next up: Iowa. Then back to California, where the legislature already voted for the measure, only to be stopped by a funamentalist-funded initiative.”

Yeah, this “we have to concentrate on the economy and nothing else” mindset is just plain baseless. The best way to describe it would be like this: no one pays to see someone who only juggles one object at a time.

To the death of marriage

Today, the Vermont senate voted to allow same sex marriage. It still has a step to go as Governor Jim Douglas has indicated that he prefers the civil unions that Vermont currently supports. I’m not sure if this means he’s going to sign it since it passed by an overwhelming majority nor does it appear that the legislature would move to override any veto. As noted in the article, this would be the first state to recognize same sex marriage without the prompting of the state judicial system actually reading some of the discrimination laws the legislature passed.

This headlight reminded me of an article in Time I read a couple of days ago about getting the government out of the marriage business. I can’t possibly agree more with this position. As the single most controversial connection with the  religions of this country, it is past due for the government to drop its interest in something so intertwined in spiritual and political semantics.

The basic goal would be reduce it down to the benefits that couples (gay or straight) seek to provide their partners. Leave the word “marriage” to the churchs, synagogues, and mosques; it is a word whose definition is loaded with spirituality. If a church wishes to perform a marriage, fine; if not, fine as well. It is not the domain of government to dictate the rite of marriage in the church, nor should the church dictate who can become a legally bound couple outside of it.

Although, I will confess, the taking of the word “marriage” from the legal document would hurt. I was married in a church, so the spiritual aspect is there for me. But to have the marriage license seemingly boiled down to a civil union boilerplate document (which it really is already if you think about it and how many have been issued) feels a bit off.

But, then again, sometimes doing the right thing can feel a bit off.

And so it begins

I read a lot of blogs. It started as a work assignment at the library. I was collecting political websites to gear up for the presidential election. And, naturally, no actual questions actually materialized. In fact, I don’t think I had any patrons even remotely come close.

In any event, I got to collecting blogs in my Google Reader. These were the best of the bunch, the links that when I clicked on that didn’t make my head explode in one way or the other. I’ve added a few since, taken out a couple, but they have mostly stayed the same.

The political blogs are the widest collection that I read. They run the whole gambit from conservative to liberal to progressive to whatever other political stance buzzword they have out there. I like them all, even when they are posting or saying things that I don’t agree with. In fact, I might like them more in that case since it puts me outside my comfort zone. I get to mull over the points, digest the meaning, and come out with a new or refined belief. I think the questioning is what makes the arguments stronger, what makes it so I can argue both ways, and what makes me really think about what is going on.

Of course, there is an insane amount of “white noise” in political blogs. The petty issues can stymie any sort of actual conversation with the petty bullshit that prevents us from truly moving forward as a people. And while there is some blame to sling around, the real blame falls to everyone: those who partake, those who allow, those who abstain, and all who don’t call shenanigans on it. But sometimes, sometimes, you get lucky and find something that you didn’t know, whether it is about yourself or the world around you.

The second largest contingent of blogs are all library based. Being a librarian (or, the technical term for a male librarian, a “guybrarian”), I like to keep up with the news and trends. A news feed from Google News and LISNews along with some other smaller blogs covers the territory nicely for me.

Beyond that, it’s all the light stuff. Cartoon strips (Calvin and Hobbes, Garfield without Garfield) and World of Warcraft blogs make up the true time wasting end. Well, ok, they aren’t complete time wasters, but fun stuff after all the dreary political crap.

And so, here I am. I started a public blog before and then just let it die. I maintain a LiveJournal because all my friends are there. But with the advent of Facebook and Myspace, there is just too much social networking crap. This is a public journal, a soapbox, a place where I can jam my note into a bottle and toss it out into the sea of the internet. For, in my experience, people just want to be heard by other people. It is less about trying to bring someone over to your side as it is tryng to get your viewpoint out there.

And so it begins.