Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Senate Push for Timely Iraq Exit.

"Tell the truth. Fire the incompetents. Get out of Iraq. Have health care for all Americans. These are pretty simple messages, and they're worth fighting for today." - Sen. John Kerry, Meet the Press

John Kerry was appearing on Meet The Press to call for a timely exit from Iraq.

Please sign the petition

I support John Kerry’s Senate resolution for a timely withdrawal from Iraq.

I believe that American combat troops should come home from Iraq in 2006 - not the distant future as President Bush does. Furthermore, I believe we must set a May15th deadline for the Iraqis to form an effective unity government. And, if the Iraqi politicians choose to ignore that deadline, then I believe things will only get worse and we will have no choice but to withdraw immediately.

We want democracy in Iraq, but it’s now the job of Iraqis to build it. Our troops have performed gallantly and heroically. The best way to keep faith with them is to set deadlines for bringing our troops home and getting Iraq on its own two feet. That’s the only way to give their sacrifice its best chance of resulting in success.


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I signed the petition, of course. It makes sense; we have reached the point of simply enabling a continuing war rather than preventing it.

As always, my support for Kerry is qualified by the fact that he's a Liberal Democrat in the best sense of both words, but nonetheless, he's pretty traditional in his view of the role of government. I trust him to see clearly what's broken; I'm not so sure he's the one I want fixing it. So while I support this campaign - I'm not supporting HIS campaign, save as a last resort.

My libertarian beliefs, and a more general view that our current structure of government is technologically obsolete and an unconscionable waste of time and resources, and is in large measure the means by which we got into this mess. It's something like a dark, coal-fired engine-room, hot, dangerous and difficult to navigate, requiring the knowledge of an engineer to make it go at all, much less anywhere in particular. Now, of course you want to keep stupid people out of dangerous dark places - but there are risks to smart ones being able to do pretty much as they like at the expense of the enterprise. Over my lifetime, I've seen increasing impatience with the proper functioning of government and an increasing reliance on regulatory bailing-wire and legislative duct-tape to manipulate it into doing things that are unconstitutional, impractical or frankly immoral.

What we need is a new and better engine of governance. I don't mean economic philosophy. I don't mean style of government. I mean infrastructure.

We need to rebuild the mechanism that does the practical work of getting from point a to point b, regardless of the who or the why. And in doing so, we need to add some air-filters, smoke alarms and speed regulators to prevent future mishaps of the sort we are currently in the midst of.

In signing this petition, I sent this quote from an earlier post along with it:

I also happen to believe that a robust social safety-net is needed, one engineered so that it doesn't trap people within it's sticky webs by means of punitive restrictions and expensive patronizations. Why? It is best management practice to have ONE system replace hundreds of overlapping and separately administered systems. It saves everyone a great deal of money, and if there is fraud - well, the fewer systems you have, and the fewer decision points in it, the less fraud there will be in an absolute sense.

Hurricane Katrina showed the inability - and the obdurate unwillingness - of our federal government to come running when their citizens needed them. Instead, they hid behind procedure and red tape to avoid being of any use at all - even as the money taxpayers spent towards our government being of use and congress appropriated for their use to that end melted away - like truckloads of ice waiting for authorization to proceed.

We need to start asking what we in common get for our 47% percent investment of our labor into this monstrosity we call government. And we have the right to demand a response.

The total failure of this particular government demonstrates not just ideological problems, but the fact that our infrastructure and regulatory bodies are insufficiently robust to withstand the meddling of political appointees. This needs to change.

But a more fundamental issue needs to change first; our government institutions need to be both transparent and honest; open to review by and participation in by any citizen.

This is coupled to another issue of equal practical value. Practical value. First, your tax dollars should be worked hard, with respect for the effort and time the represent. Second, contact with government at any level should be a positive experience. When you talk to any government official, they should be aware their job is not to control you, but rather to maximize the options (and hence, the liberty) of any citizen, rich or poor.

We also need a system of participatory taxation that allows citizens to legitimately influence their government. I'm in favor of tax simplification, and I generally support the idea of replacing income tax with a universal sales tax of some sort.

But I'd also like to replace welfare with a guaranteed annual income. Why?

Well, it can eliminate all kinds of entitlement programs - and it has a variety of positive economic benefits that are currently taken care of with a huge maze of grants and economic development programs, each with wasteful administrative overhead.

But there's a more important objective here. There are many people in this nation who are pretty smart with money. Let’s use that to keep overall taxes low. To the extent they can make it grow, they get to say where that surplus goes. Lets say you view your GAIN income as play money. Lets say you take that money and invest it for a 10% return. That ten percent is yours to either earmark to any particular budget line item, or to be donated to a campaign-finance pool with any damn strings you like.

We can do this because we have these wonderful things called "computers."

So a billionaire could not just dump a million bucks on a campaign. But he can (I would hope) invest that money for a far better return than most folks in ways that could make a positive social difference and then allocate profits to influence politicians, policy or both. Oh, and George (and anyone else, for that matter) would be free to fund any budget line item to the extent they wished.

And it's a game anyone can play - because there will be a clawback, based on income, minus taxes paid. And these "clawbacks plus" would fund everything that it would be nice if the government could do, if it seemed like a good idea to enough people. So, we are creating a useful and socially responsible game, using money to keep score, and giving recognition and status to people who play it well.

In other words, about half of the federal "budget" would be an un-funded wish-list that would not be accomplished unless enough people felt it was worth it.

The largest reason for having a tax system at all would be to get the nation to sit down once a month and look at the budget. Theirs, that of their communities, and those of their nation – and consider themselves part of and important to each. Imagine a nation in which just half of the population spent an hour or more considering the Way Things Work and how they could be made better.

By taking away the need for our representatives to pack pork and ship it home, we could actually invest in sending smart people who could identify things that need doing, and inform us of them.

Now, some may well say that paying people to not work is insane. And it would be, if it were a general feature of human nature to not work. But I've lived in Canada, and there is a social safety net. People still work; even people on welfare and disability. They volunteer or they get involved in community programs, or they make wonderful artworks; they help out neighbors; all kinds of things. Mostly, they identify potential problems and take care of them before they become big problems. They have the time to be involved in local, provincial and national politics, and are relied on to quite a great extent. GAIN would be the base-level paycheck of any government employee. The “Way off Welfare” could be to find a job – and it could be to seek promotion.

But let it be understood: every citizen is entitled to Welfare – so long as they are fulfilling the constitutional mandate of “Promoting the General Welfare.” There is a “Job Jar” and anyone can drop a job that needs doing into it.

The Canadian system of welfare has done amazing things for the small business community and the entrepreneurial class by making it possible to work on a dream for a year or two, without starving to death. It makes it possible for people to be involved in their communities, to seek further education, and – most importantly – it makes it possible for people to make free-lance and net-based “demand” jobs a full-time career.

The idea is simple; bet on smart people to help you govern effectively instead of betting on stupid people to allow you to get away with governing as you damn well please.

Our government needs to be as lean as possible, with as few full-time employees as possible, relying instead on citizen participation to do much of the work.

Had we used the Internet to address the issue of electronic voting, for instance, I am sure to a degree of factual certainty that we would have saved billions of dollars, and had secure and verifiable voting in 2002. We can do it now. I know that, because much of it has already been identified, tasked and perhaps even worked on to some degree by frustrated computing and encryption professionals.

You see, we do not need a Big Daddy government, and we do not need a Big Mommy either; we need a government that treats us as grownups, until or unless we prove that we are not or cannot function as full adults. Only then should it act toward us in any paternal way.

For most of us, Government should be something we take an active part in to the extent that we can, and to the extent we cannot (or find it more profitable not to,) we need to support the people who do the work of Government.

The attitude of those people toward us should be respectful, co-operative and helpful. We need to start thinking of Government it as a mechanism for effective neighborliness. Neighbors help one another when asked or when needs are obvious, but otherwise mind their own business; especially in regards to matters of private, individual concern.

Our entire economy is becoming driven by service and information. Our government needs to reflect that, because those that regulate us need to understand what it is that we do and what it is that we need. Millionaires, lawyers and religious fanatics govern us. This explains a great deal about our government and who it benefits..

This foresight applies to corporations as much as to government. Despite the clear intention of various Mega-Corps to control and profit by everything in our lives, the ability of people to simply network around them is manifest; at your fingertips. Most of the things Corporations exist to do are actually done as well or better by the thing in front of you, or by individuals networked by means of such things. The reality has already penetrated their IT departments fully, even those where the clue has not yet been transmitted to management or shareholders.

If you want to bet some money for or against this prediction, find small companies who are structured internationally or globally, with all their office structures in the pockets of their employees.

These will be the ones who will be moving and shaking faster and better than anyone else. Ultimately, a corporation has no reason to exist save to bring people together to do profitable things. It was once the best possible way to do it – but the entire decision-making structure of the modern corporation is based on railroads and telegraphs, where middle management was needed to do essentially what a packet-switch network does automatically. Throw in a bit of fuzzy logic to assign value to information based on evaluations of prior submitted information and you might not need a CEO at all.

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