Friday, June 08, 2007

Meta-politics 5: The Ends

Parts one, two, three and four laid out ideas on the principles, plan of action, and goals of the Meta-Party. This post, the last in the series, will focus on what kind of government we want to end up with after our reforms.

There will never be a perfect earthly government. But we can have one more responsible to the people, more comprehensible, more honest, more just than we have now. We can have less government waste, less corruption, and less obstruction. I think this is something the great majority of Americans can agree on.

The strong emotions about the Great Issues of the day won't go away. That will all still be waiting there for us, and at some point this coalition would fall apart. One faction or another would decide the reforms we've achieved will have been good enough, and we can all start back in on our political combat. But it will be with a much better government that will better represent all of us, and act more responsibly for all of us.

And maybe, having worked together on such a project, the members of the partisan sides won't forget that we all can work together to accomplish great things when it's necessary.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Meta-Politics 4: Partiers

Parts one, two, and three laid out the main points of my idea for the Meta-Party. This post will give my thoughts on who would be needed to start.

Certainly, bloggers who understood and were dedicated to the cause for Meta-Party communications and news . We would need experts, though members could become experts by doing their homework and paying attention to one area. Our experts would need to communicate what they learn to the rest, and also establish relationships with other experts who could be useful.

We would need to communicate to Congress because reform legislation will be a key tool for reform. It would probably be a good idea to have particular members strike up correspondance relationships with congresscritters. (Yeah, we could call them 'lobbyists' or something.) We would need to communicate to the public, both to recruit and to inflame them with the zeal of The Reform Issue Du Jour, so that means more bloggers, YouTube videographers, public speakers, writers of letters to the editor, etc.

And we need an informed, active membership, willing to do a little research on their own (distributed information systems are great), communicate with the group, to respond to calls for communication campaigns (mail, email, phone calls), to donate time or money to candidates as their conscience dictates, and to meet with other members in their area from time to time for fun, friendship and scheming. Or, maybe local meetings are a bad idea. Too much time and opportunity for partisan issues to crop up and cause bad feelings. Maybe separate conservative / progressive gatherings, with the leaders meeting with both groups?

Anyway, the thing is, enough people in all those categories are already wanting reform that, if a group were serious and got the word out, they'd probably have any number of people joining with many of the above skill sets in a fairly short period of time. Creating the 'buzz' to do that is something I've never done before. As you can see from my blog, I've been reduced to a multi-cellular organism in the TTLB Ecosystem. But, I don't see a reason it couldn't be done.

This almost concludes my series on meta-politics. Tomorrow's post will be a brief wrap-up of the topic.


Update 6/8/07: Part five is here.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Meta-Politics 3: Objectives

Meta-Politics 3: Objectives

Part one of this series discussed Meta-Party principles, and then principles we would apply to reforming government.

Part two discussed the opportunity we have right now and laid out the basic methods.

In the comments to part two, adolfo velasquez asked for examples of what such a group might accomplish, outside of Porkbusters. By chance, that is tonight's topic.

Porkbusters is a good example of the type of thing the Meta-Party would concern itself with and the methods it would use. Let's add a few things: Proven reformers would be helped with research, letter writing campaigns, campaign fundraising, re-election assistance (signs, pamphleteering, etc.), and in any other way the Meta-Party could support them. Proven opponents of reform would be hounded and hindered in every legal way.

So, what else would we attempt to do?

Our four principles for government are transparency, comprehensibility, accountability, and effectiveness.

Porkbusters is a good example of an effort toward transparency. Another goal would be the elimination of secret holds, or secret anything unless it supported reform in some way1. Another would be getting all the government records possible online. Another would be re-starting the effort to declassify classified documents more than 50 years old, which Clinton mismanaged and Bush simply ended. Yet another would be strengthening free speech. Also, simply publicizing what's already reported and making sure key information has an impact, typical reporter / blogger functions, would be part of this.

Toward comprehensibility, Clinton's initiative to require all legislation be in plain English, banning legalese, would be one effort. Another would be to require summaries of all bills to accompany their publication, including all amendments, etc., and that this be put online immediately. Another would be to require both House and Senate to wait a minimum of one day for each 20 pages of a bill before voting on it to give everyone time to read it, with an exception clause in the case of national emergency.

Efforts toward accountability are a bit more complicated to explain, so I'll put them in a list format.

1. Politicians and government employees who commit a crime in office haven't just committed a crime, they have damaged the public's trust in government. My suggestion would be to work for tacking on something like 'breach of public trust' and a mandatory two years in prison (no plea bargains, etc.) for any politician or government employee convicted of committing a felony while in office.
2. Make party leaders in Congress more accountable by flattening the heirarchy within each house of Congress. There is no reason a long-term congressman should have significantly more power than a new one, for the same reason that one set of constituents shouldn't have far more representation than another set.
3. Make bureaucrats more accountable, meaning easier to fire if they obstruct policy. Allow the President and Congress to request investigations of leaks, with leakers forfeiting all contract rights and liable to criminal prosecution. At the same time, strengthen whistleblower laws to protect government employees from abuse.
4. I would also like to make the judiciary more accountable, but I haven't looked into reasonable ideas to do this, and that's probably a dangerous area to go into.

Finally, toward effectiveness, legislation should be put in terms of effect whenever practical. For example, on securing the border, 370 miles of fencing and doubling the Border Patrol are efforts, not effects. It would be better for legislation to include something like 'reduce illegal border crossings by 90%.' This, however, is probably the hardest thing to really know. Luckily, the government itself has agencies that assess such things, and there are other organizations that do as well. Until the Meta-Party could pay for expert studies to be done, publicizing agency and other organization studies on the effects of proposed legislation would be one way to approach this.

As you can see, I'm a bit short of ideas on effectiveness, and I haven't developed any of these ideas. Obviously, a lot of research, study, and thought will have to go into this. I've just started my thoughts on the Meta-Party, but I think it has promise. Any comments?


1For example, in voting for committee heads, a public vote would be nice, but would also allow Democratic and Republican party leaders to punish party members who voted against the leadership's choice. In situations like this, secret ballots would be acceptable.

Update 6/8/07: Part four is here.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Meta-Politics 2: The Opportunity and Method

Well, it's been a very long day, and it's very late. I have little time, so these ideas are very rough, but here goes.

Bill Whittle at Eject! Eject! Eject! offers a different vision for making a difference. To state it simply, it is to make America better by making Americans better. I think Whittle's vision is good and useful, but it seems like a very long term approach to me. It's one I may participate in, but I think there is another opportunity here that we shouldn't overlook.

In the first post in this series, I outlined some beginning principles. One of those principles is that the concerned group (the Meta-Party) NOT concern itself with issues government concerns itself with, but rather with how the government itself functions. This presents us with a great opportunity: A great many Americans of all political colors are dissatisfied with the way the government works. By avoiding discussions on the greatly divisive issues of the day, we can focus on fixing the government. The Meta-Party platform will appeal broadly to conservatives, progressives, libertarians, atheists, Christians, intellectuals, average people, and dogs and cats1.

If you've never looked into it before, here is Wikipedia's list of political parties in the US. In addition to individual Democrats and Republicans, I think some of these parties (though certainly not all, and probably not most) would be natural allies for a serious reform movement. There are also a great many Americans who are unaffiliated with any political party. All of these people are unhappy in one way or another with the current political powers and are potential converts.

How does this work?

I'm not proposing another political party. I'm proposing a group of people dedicated to reform that would use whatever power it has, from simple letter-writing to fund-raising and campaigning. The members could maintain political affiliation with the political party of their choice, and if no Meta-Party issue was at stake, would vote their conscience on the issues. I see it organized and directed online, with opinion leaders guiding activities towards, for example, monitoring government activity, organizing rallies, helping get a like-minded candidate elected or a proven reformer re-elected, and always working to expand the circle of members and contributors.

The 'opinion leaders' would not direct or order members to do things. They would apply Meta-Party principles to the current political situation, collect and synthesize data, mediate member information and communication, and work to convert others. All of this could be done concurrently with other political activities.

That's it for tonight. Part 3 is coming up tomorrow.


1Okay, cats, and libertarians, might be a bit polyanna-ish.

Update 6/8/07: Part three is here.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Meta-Politics: A Discussion of Principles

Our current political parties have all failed, either in the abuse of power by the two major parties, or in abuse of relevance by the minor parties. Jean and others have suggested a new conservative party as an answer to this. I think that's a good idea, but I have another idea first.

The ongoing widespread dissatisfaction in both parties gives us a great opportunity to change how the government itself works. Then we can see if new parties are called for. Toward that end, I suggest we address this as meta-politics, that is, talking about the political process itself rather than the things we achieve with that process. That is the focus of this five-day series.

In doing this, I want to be clear. This is something I've been thinking about for some time, but I don't have the answers. I have ideas that I'm going to set down in a silly blog named A Guy in Pajamas, and hope some of it is actually interesting. These are live issues for me, and I hope the process of writing my ideas out and getting others' responses, thoughts, etc., will help me settle some things and get going.

A second thing I would like to note is that I am not proposing a formal organization, although that may come later. But communicating my ideas requires talking about a group of people dedicated to the same principles, and purely for the sake of convenience I will call that group the Meta-party1.

Some key concepts for the Meta-party.

  1. Borrowing from Stephen Covey's 7 Habits, we must work within our circle of influence. That is, we must work to change the things we have the power to affect right now.

  2. We must also forget the idea that we are just three or five disaffected individuals. There is deep dissatisfaction across the political spectrum, and that is something we can capitalize on to expand our circle of influence further and further across our circle of concern (things we care about but currently have no / little influence over).

  3. In talking meta-politics, we talk about how politics/government works, not the resulting policies. E.g., the Meta-party would have no official position on the Iraq war, or abortion, or home schooling. These are not the issues for us. How the government and people interact (voting, law enforcement, information flow, etc.), how the members of the government interact (Congressional / Presidential interaction, etc.), how policies are enacted (Senate procedure, pork, etc.), these are our kinds of issues.

Now, some principles to help us bring our goals for government into focus:

  1. Transparency

  2. Comprehensibility

  3. Accountability

  4. Effectiveness

That is where I begin, and that concludes Monday's post on meta-politics. I welcome all comments, chocolate, and beer and edamame. Part 2 tomorrow.


1'Meta-party' could also be 'partying over parties,' a 'to-the-pub!' rallying cry, perhaps? (After our massive election wins here in a few years, no doubt.)

Update 6/8/07: Part two is here.

Friday, June 01, 2007

Chocolate (immigration) Chocolate, Mmmm

Yeah, we're all comprehensively sick of the immigration bill reforms, so I thought I'd candy-coat it in the title. Sorry.

[Update, June 5: I'm blogging from the hip these days, so I'd forgotten a number of immigration reforms I'd blogged about before. Oh well. I'll leave the following up anyway, but it's not my "final proposal," so to speak, or my best.]

So, here's my counterproposal for your consideration:

1. We cannot deport American citizens. Also, it is wrong to ask poor immigrants to pay a $5000 fine to remain in the country. If a currently illegal alien is the parent or legal guardian of an underage American citizen, they should be granted amnesty and legal residence status, based on filing and paying a reasonable filing fee. Any underage siblings of an underage American citizen should also be granted the same. Finally, if an underage illegal alien has spent three or more years in the US public schools, it would be harsh to force them to return to a school system in their home country where they will have language problems. If their parents and / or guardians have been, except for their illegal presence in the US, law-abiding residents, resident status should also be granted to them. Yeah yeah yeah, it's amnesty, with compassion.

2. Outside of compassion and mercy for the children of illegal aliens, the US cannot reward illegal behavior nor punish those who have gone through the legal process to be here. Illegal aliens ineligible for amnesty will be deported as they are discovered. Additionally, the following steps will be taken: a secure national ID for all, mandatory employer checks before hiring for everyone, and for current employees, within one year. Make the fines for knowingly employing illegals to something like $5000 a head. Illegal aliens must be reported by all, except emergency medical care providers, or be considered accessories. Any "sanctuary" city is denied all federal funds; "sanctuary" is defined by the existance of a law or policy preventing police from asking about legal residence status, investigating same, or taking suspected illegal aliens into custody for checking. Local and state law enforcement agencies will be reimbursed for the expense of investigating, arresting, and holding illegal aliens. All areas along the border passable by 4WD vehicle or easily passable by foot will be fenced. The Border Patrol will be given effective numbers to patrol the border & interdict illegal ingress (with funding provided to double or triple the size, or more if that's determined to be necessary).

3. The American people strongly favor legal, mutually beneficial immigration. The immigration agency should be federally funded (instead of funded by fees as it is now) and immediately double in the number of front line workers; an additional, equal number (effectively tripling the current number) should be hired the following year. For normal green cards, the priority goes to the highly educated, technically proficient, and persecuted minorities, and the immediate families of these groups. Limits on the number of green cards available each year should be drastically raised so that the actual limit is what the agency can process, and of course, they need to have found employment or be joining an employed family member, so the job market would also affect the number admitted each year.

4. A real guest worker program wherein employers state the number of guest workers they need and recruit them at US Government-sponsored recruiting fairs abroad, which would of course include criminal & counter-intelligence background checks. These new employees are given guest worker visas. The limit should be based on the number of jobs offered, possibly with a very high annual maximum (one million / year, 4 million maximum? or, 3 million / year, 12 million maximum? or ...?). The guest worker visas are good for two years and are renewable once dependent on employer satisfaction and no criminal activity. Immediate families may come after one year. After four years, the guest worker visas can be converted into green cards with two additional years needed before the immigrant can apply for citizenship (this actually means it would take six years, instead of the standard five). Only natives of the Americas, and select oppressed minorities from other areas, qualify.

5. Points of precedence: From allied nation, from democratic nation, from the Americas, non-violent oppressed minority. Each point moves the applicant up in the line.

6. Religious visas should not be exempt from FSO judgment calls. No religious visas for anti-American polemicists.

7. Reciprocity w/ Mexico and other countries that supply large numbers of immigrants. That is, we would ask Mexico, on pain of ending their participation in the guest worker program, to exempt US citizens from their draconian immigration and legal resident laws, allowing them to own land near or on the coast, own businesses, demonstrate, etc.

Hey, it's all rough, but whaddya think?