How To Fix Politics: Eliminate Campaigning Completely

An article in the Washington Post talks about how Mitt Romney went to Ohio on his campaign trail and blatantly lied to the audience about Chrysler’s intentions (or lack of intentions rather) to move the manufacturing of Jeep vehicles to China. This was an outright lie and Romney knew it, but we the people, and they the media, permit this to happen.

All politicians lie, we know this. My question is why do we put up with it? Why don’t we start taking some proactive, problem solving approaches to this problem?

People, in the U.S. especially, have long talked about the need for campaign finance reform and how we need to get the money out of politics. I have a better solution: we eliminate the politicians’ ability to campaign, period.

No speeches, no advertising, no commercials, nothing except two questionnaires that the candidates have to provide written answers for, holding them to their words. (If I had my way, I would not even allow candidates to have a picture of themselves be public [I realize the complete impracticality of this, thank you] as people will be influenced by how good looking one candidate is vs another… see the results of the first televised debate ever between Nixon and Kennedy in 1960)

The first questionnaire, the Popular Questionnaire: a crowd sourced list of the top 100 questions on the minds of any and all of the voting public. On a website you can create a question, or vote that the candidates have to answer that question, or neither, or both. This way everyone gets their say in what they think the important issues are. Yes there may be a risk in the fact that the Popular Questionnaire be too populist, miss important issues, or ignore minority groups, but we could easily extend the list of 100 questions to 1000 and include everybody (I mean for crying out loud, politicians spend more time and money campaigning right now than they do solving problems! They could easily answer 1000 questions!) What’s more, any concern you may have about this part of the new model, should be addressed in…

The second questionaire, The Expert Questionnaire: peer selected groups of experts in all fields must come up with a limited list of questions. For example, we could have anyone who hold’s a terminal degree in a given field (a Ph. D. for sciences and humanities, an M.D. for medicine, etc) be allowed to contribute to the same crowd sourced website of questions and voting, it’s just that the only ones allowed to pose questions or vote for them would be qualified experts. Only the top 10 questions in a given field would have to be answered, and if they overlap with the Popular Questionnaire, then they would obviously be eliminated. The experts who participate would then be allowed to comment on the veracity, or lack thereof, of candidates proposals, drawing a consensus. All of this information would obviously be publicly accessible so that everyone can know what each candidate’s plans are.

After all, the only important thing that a candidate can bring to the table is a viable political plan for a given issue. This way, they have to commit plans to writing, publicly, and we can ignore the painful, annoying, detrimental, name calling, back stabbing and lying that drives us all nuts anyway.

Wouldn’t this be a much better way to find out what politicians are really all about? And couldn’t we finally hold them to their words and not let them twist facts? I fully recognize that a candidate could lie with the answers to these questions, but then it would be very easy to prove if the candidate did or did not do what he said in the answers to the questions posed. I mean, Mitt Romney actually vowed not to raise taxes at all if elected. What!?! (Sorry for you Republican readers out there, I don’t mean to continually bash Republicans, they Democrats do their fair share as well!)

The other thing that this does is it greatly simplifies and shortens the process of getting elected. Right now, after MORE THAN A YEAR of watching primary debacles, convention gaffs, Clint Eastwood arguing with a chair, and a series of spectacularly boring debates, I have had enough, I want it to be over.

We spend so much time and money on the campaign, and so little time and money creating sustainable economic growth, education, health care, energy solutions and so forth.

Why are we not demanding that our societies do better when it is really, honestly, so easy to imagine viable alternatives to the chaotic, costly mess that we have now?

The 800 Million dollars – yes nearly a BILLION DOLLARS – will be spent on this election. Well, you might say, this money fuels the economy doesn’t it? Well yes, it does, in the same way that sub-prime mortgages did. It is totally short term gain that does no innovation, no long term creation, creates no infrastructure and yields no net progress.

If we all agree that progress is the ability to control more of one’s own time, then you have to at least like the idea of this, even if you think its totally implausible.

If you like this idea, please email me, and let’s see if we can start to draw a consensus. If you don’t, then please tell me in constructive fashion how to make this better. Thanks!

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The Work Ethic Debate: The Role of Debt

I just got back to Buenos Aires from 5 weeks in the USA. It was one of the strangest times for me to visit, as the pre-election fervor was reaching a peak. I kept thinking to myself, “why are people acting so crazy?”

And the same themes that we always talk about on BA Cast came up again and again, in my face: Americans are in a hurry, time is money, they can’t sit and relax… it’s almost as if they can’t relax period. People worry in the USA like no other place I have ever been. This behavior, besides the obvious things like unemployment, making money, where your kids go to school, how big your house is, and any other way that Keeping Up With The Jones’s manifests itself, is even evident in tiny things like how upset people get when the milk jugs run out at Starbucks, when someone sweats on a machine at the gym, or when any outcome remotely falls short of an expectation.

But until I sat down with several different friends of mine, on this particular trip, it had never been as evident to me the role of debt in this impatient, ever forward behavior. Many of my friends mentioned to be how either they, their spouses or both had large amounts (over u$s 100,000) to pay of in either the form of student loans or a mortgage or both. They would all yell about the same stuff. The rising cost of food, clothing, housing, how much their education cost and how “shitty” the job market is in the USA.

I kept trying to remind them that they still live in the richest country that the world has ever known, and that their lives are all, on any type of scale you want to create, in material terms, fantastic. They all have multiple bedroom homes, with several TVs (always a good measure of wealth, no?), two cars, a large green yard and most have their kids in private school.

Yet they are all angry about the fact that they are in debt, and that things are not easier. Every month, they have thousands of dollars that they have to pay back to the banks to maintain this lifestyle. So this got me thinking: who is better off? Argentines, who normally have nearly zero debt, or Americans, who live with much more access to material wealth, but only because they go into debt to get it.

Debt is such a strong motivating factor that it forces people who would otherwise pursue less profitable ventures like starting their own business, teaching, coaching or art into jobs that they are less than happy with. This we can call living in fear. The fear is that all the matieral things that they will have, that this lifestyle that they have become so accustombed to, will be taken away.

Fear is the greatest motivating human emotion of all. More than jealously, anger or love, fear generates very real hormonal responses in all of us, that drive us to perform. We have all heard of the fight or flight response to danger, when the body releases a hormone called norepinepherine which increases heart rate, blood pressure and releases adrenaline. I am not saying that this is exactly what is going on in people in the USA, but it would make sense to me that given the extra pressure to generate income for most of the USA, that people are going to have a greater chance of making fear based decisions, especially when it comes to finances.

In Argentina, however (not that they don’t have their own forms of craziness!), people live essentially debt free. Why? Well there are all sorts of equally insane reasons for this, like the huge amount of tax that businesses have to pay for employees, which causes businesses to pay employees “en negro” (under the table), which causes them to do almost all business in cash. Combine this with the fact that Argentines inherently distrust banks, and therefore prefer to keep their money in cash, and not use credit cards… or not even have credit cards as is the majority case, and you have a society that lives off of the cash they actually have in their wallets.

So which society is more healthy? More free? Which society has more control over its time? I think the first two questions are very difficult to answer, but I think the 3rd is actually pretty clear. Argentines have more control over their time. We all know they work less, and spend more time with their families and friends. It has long been considered a measure of wealth to have control over your time. Time is ultimately what we trade for every other good or service that we obtain. We give our time to an employer for money, that money, which we traded our time for, gets us food, shelter, water, clothing, etc. Americans, therefore, have already traded a huge amount of their time in the future in exchange for goods and services now. Many don’t realize they have made this sacrifice, though, until they have lived that life for a while. The one where several 15, 20 or 30 year loans are being paid off little by little. They realize that they have lost control of their time and become angry about it. It is fully understandable.

I can only hope that more Americans begin to travel so they can see that other people, who live with much much less stuff, but have control of their time, experience a different kind of control over their lives.

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CFK makes my Facebook wall to go bipolar!

I have on Facebook people of various walks of life, both pro and anti government, and, on the evening of September 13, my wall looked seriously bipolar during the latest cacerolazo, because of the completely opposed messages being posted, coming from the two groups the country can be seemingly divided into :


First you have Team Anti-Government (TAG): “There’s absolutely nothing positive about this past decade, this is a Dictatorship, we’re ruled by a despot regardless of the fact that  she was voted twice into office”… “The only thing that matters is to bring down Cristina so let’s forget our differences and unite our votes”… This group only reads and believes opposition media, and can’t accept any kind of detail, piece of news or commentary that can be positive and/or functional to the government. If there’s anything undeniably positive, they will add a “, but…” to underline the half glass empty. They consider the only way to side with CFK is because of bribery, corruption, political patronage, or sheer stupidity.


On the other side, of course, there is the Team  Pro-Government (TPG). There’s absolutely nothing wrong with the past decade, and if there is it can be justified or blamed on others. They read only pro-Government media, and interpret any kind of bad news, protest or demonstration that is against or detrimental to CFK and her government as a fabrication of the media engineered to topple her.


Obviously, TAGs were either in the protest, or supporting it via SM. Within this group, there can be no doubt, there is a portion of: conservatives, middle-upper class, anti-gay, anti-social programs, anti-trials against Dirty Warriors and so on. The core of the traditional Right, that the CFK camp states represents the entirety of the protesters universe. But those classic argentine rightwingers are only a portion of the “caceroleros”, because you could also find in the crowds middle-class angry at  inflation, dollar restrictions, crime, pissed off by repeated televised presidential messages, suspected corruption cases, etcetera. And there are those who personally despise the President and her team, their style, their ideas, everything, with some, let’s not deny it, calling out loud for her death.


The thing is that, actually, two other groups should be added to have a clearer understanding of the situation.


The mild Anti-Government. Those who criticize the Government, but recognize some good things they wouldn’t change. Some of them felt uncomfortable about joining such a crossover march in which they would walk side by side with some of the aforementioned in the TAG, so they stayed at home. Of course, many of these moderates also went to the march. Some might have even voted for CFK and feel now betrayed or disappointed, but they wouldn’t go as far as shouting “die you whore, son of a bitch”. BTW, in this group you can find many people who identify wholeheartedly as progressives and liberals, who say they don’t buy this is a leftist government. So being in the protest didn’t equate with right-leaning necessarily.


Conversely, you have also the mild pro-Government. They support CFK, but feel unhappy with various things. They may chose to focus on positive achievements, and/or they compare the current scenario to the past or to the opposition, and stick by her administration. But they don’t trumpet a positive-only picture of AR. However, it’s highly unlikely they went to the march.


The moderates on both sides are bashed by the extremists, respectively, for being “tibios”.


The TAGs would say to them:

“Hey, we have to be united if we are to bring down this bitch, forget that you’re left-of-center and I’m conservative, the only thing important is ending this situation”.

Or, the TPG

“By being like that you’re being functional to Rightwingers”.

Unfortunately, the mild anti’s and pro’s are almost absent from the media, they are hidden, or muted, and many times it seems that they keep their opinions to themselves to avoid pissing off somebody close to them, who’s on the extremes.


Furthermore, I noticed reading some threads that at least these two moderate groups can talk to each other, even agree on some things, instead of eliminating each other from their FBs as the TAG and TPG have been doing.


Let’s hope we hear more from these moderates, because arguing with the rest… the extreme loud ones, those who throw freely words like Nazi, dictatorship, Cuba, Venezuela, fascists, communists, all the time…seems to be a waste of time.

 

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Argentine Asado: A Newcomer’s Perspective

[Guest post by Nathan Mullin’s – recent arrival to Buenos Aires]

I have come to participate in an “asado”, on a few occasions while in Argentina.   From what I can tell, the best translation for this word would be “barbecue”. But it’s not a barbecue.  Like a barbecue, an asado is much more than just a way to cook meat.  It combines delicious, easy to prepare food with the company of friends and family.

Now, that’s what you would likely read on a travel blog about Argentine customs. After living here for a bit, though, I feel as though I have a slightly different perspective.  From what I’ve seen, the purpose of an asado ranges, from a way to fill up before going clubbing, to a mid-work meal, there is no wrong way to do an asado. Although I’ve heard that on The Buenos Aires Podcast that there are Laws of Asado…

One of my first experiences with asado occurred just the other night. I was with a group of friends at a local apartment complex.  Thirty to forty people joined us as we all drank an assortment of alcohol in preparation to go out clubbing.  All the while a few local guys were preparing massive steaks over a charcoal grill.  Once the steaks were finished, they were cut into little cubes so everyone could try them.  The meat was delicious, but frankly the pounds of salt that was marinated in ruined it.  I choked down a few pieces, and chalked it up to experience.

I’ve quickly found that not all asados are created equal.  It would be silly to expect the same quality from a guy cooking from his apartment’s shared grill as a chef at a five-star restaurant.  Honestly, though, the meat is so tender and delicious here that it is difficult to screw up.  In fact, walking into work today I noticed an asado occurring on the street.  Some construction guys had thrown charcoal into a dirty wheelbarrow, and added some fencing over it to act as a grill.  Even with such a terrible way to cook food, it smelled and looked delicious.

Though the asado may take some time to grow on me, I thoroughly enjoy the company.  An asado seems more like an excuse to get together, rather than just a way to feed people when they are together.  In time, and with better preparation, the asado may take barbecue’s spot in my heart, or rather, stomach.

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Nightlife in Buenos Aires – Kika

[guest post by Nathan Mullins]

Kika: A club for the adventurous

As I stood in the line of club-going Americans and dressed-down locals, I couldn’t help but think I was out of place. Luckily, were “on the list” due to a club promoting friend, and got in without charge.  If possible, I highly recommend that you make friends with a club promoter. While in the club, we were overrun with security.  We had to walk through a metal detector, as well as submit to a very thorough frisking… nothing like the USA.  Once we were determined to not be a threat, we were allowed to pack ourselves in the club with the rest of Buenos Aires.

You see, this was a very special night for Kika.  Apparently a very important local DJ, of whom I have never heard, was making a guest appearance.  Let me tell you, this isn’t your typical bar or club type of music (at least to my mid-western ears).  We were promised to hear the samplings of the local “dubstep” scene, and we heard just that.  If you don’t know, dubstep is a very new wave of music, which has made its way through Europe, to the U.S. and now all the way to Buenos Aires.  It is characterized by a hard, chest-thumping beat, with a “wobbly” bass.  Naturally it is very popular.

So here we are, a group of wide-eyed Americans trying to get a feel for the real Buenos Aires. In hindsight, this was not the best place to be with that goal. Because it is a very special type of music, it attracted a very special type of person.  The rebellious teenager with dreadlocks, the techno geek with light up glasses, and the hipsters, some of whom were disgusted to think that Americans were there, showed up in full force. Despite sticking out like a sore thumb, I ended up having a pretty good time.  Though I think I left with a misguided theory on what the youth in Buenos Aires is really like, I have expanded my horizons a bit. I may not have had the best time going out, but I learned something new.  So, if you’re trying to get a grip on the “real” Buenos Aires, you may find it a more difficult task than expected.  I recommend trying out places like this, and with enough luck, you’ll end up with more than you set out for.

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It was ten years ago today

Exactly ten years ago (about about 7:45 this evening), Fernando de la Rúa surprised even himself when he scurried into a helicopter on the roof of the Casa Rosada, and flew away from the country he ruled that had spun out of control.

The diarios – national and international – are stuffed with memories, analysis, and opinion about what the 10th anniversary of La Crisis means for Argentina, and for the European countries that find themselves in a scarily similar situation today.  (This article with a view from inside the Casa Rosada is fascinating

I’ve been almost obsessed with trying to learn what happened then –  because I can’t imagine what it was like, because I remember the blow-by-blow coverage from afar even as I was covering the aftermath of my own national disaster (here’s one story I did around that time), and because it’s hard to imagine that *this* Buenos Aires, which has come so far in just ten years, was once *that* Buenos Aires.  Scouring through the photos, my wife exclaimed, “hey, that’s Cotto, there was looting in Cotto!”.  That Buenos Aires is unrecognizeable to us foreigners today.

I’m especially interested in the individual stories, what this day and the days that followed were really like.  That’s why I’d really love to see this movie tonight at CCEBA (HT: Time Out BA).

If you are from here and/or lived here at the time, what do you remember?  If you weren’t, what do you want to know?  We’d love to hear your comments….

One thing’s hit me by living here.  It was summer, it must have been hot as hell, and a hot city can be explosive all on its own.  It reminds me of the ambience in this groundbreaking movie:

 

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Confused about the newsprint war?

Update, 12:34pm – Just went to the kiosco to find Clarín dropped this bomb on its Sunday cover.

Yeah, me too.  The Kirchner government and its allies want to push through a law to bring newsprint production and sale under government oversight.  Kirchner foes Clarín and La Nación have laid out pages of outrage, warning of an ominous power grab against democracy.

Marcelo García at the Buenos Aires Herald has a decent middle-of-the-road explanation:

[pullquote]It makes little sense to analyze the newsprint market news coming from Congress this week without first understanding what sort of State and private sector practices Argentina has built over the years. Abuse has been norm rather than exception and the history of Argentina’s virtual newsprint monopoly Papel Prensa is testimony to that. [/pullquote]

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Argentina losing its famed grass-fed beef

I’ve been seeing various versions of this story since I arrived in Buenos Aires last spring.  Farmers are taking advantage of high prices and easier work, and turning their grazing ranches into fields of soy and other grains.  So more and more your ojo de bife and mollejas are raised in feedlots, just like in the good ole USofA.  According to the Argentine Independent:

[pullquote]A 1993 report by the National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA) could still affirm that cattle in Argentina “are almost exclusively grass fed”, yet the feedlot was already making headway in the nation’s rural areas. Originally, the feedlot model was adopted as a stopgap measure, a way to mitigate loss of capital, as well as a way to feed the cattle in a limited space. Nevertheless due to the limitations of available pastureland, beef production was lowered and domestic prices for beef went up. In an attempt to keep beef prices down, legislation was developed which provided for subsidies for the corn fed to the cattle in the feedlots. These subsidies were understood as ‘compensation’ for the producers, who in turn did not raise beef prices to the consumer.[/pullquote]

The result has been less and less grass-fed beef, which is what locals and tourists alike most likely expect from Argentine beef.

A couple questions – do you care where your parrilada comes from?  (Personally, I think you should – think E Coli risk, level of healthy omega 3s, etc.)

And does anybody know of a parrilla or chef in Buenos Aires who actively advertises their meat as “organic” and/or “grass fed”?

 

 

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Is Buenos Aires a bike-friendly city?

Sounds like a joke, right? The insane traffic, the roaring colectivos, the crumbling sidewalks and street shoulders, the dog shit.

But when you compare Buenos Aires to many other cities – and most in Latin America – La Capital is pretty two-wheelin’ friendly.

Please don't steal this cheap-ass bike.

Not many cities anywhere in the world have a free bike rental system (it’s become so popular they’ve reduced the time you can take one out from two to one hour).  The network of bicisendas is growing everyday.  And consultants are working with the city government to make the city more bike-friendly.

I just bought a used bike, and I’m loving it.  I get some exercise, get around faster than even in a car sometimes, and of course, reduce my carbon footprint.

What are your experiences on two wheels in Buenos Aires?  What could the city do better to make life easier for bicyclists?  What it is doing well?  Comment below.

BTW, I was going to title this post “Godoy Cruz’ Got a Brand New Bicisenda” because I was so excited to see a new stretch of bike lane this morning connecting Gorriti with Santa Fe.  If you’re missing the musical reference, you could do worse on a feriado than listen to this:

 

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Foto del Día – 1 diciembre

Celebración de fin del ciclo lectivo (casi) en Villa Crespo.  Soundtrack = los Wachiturros, claro.

Here’s the deal:

You read the BA Cast blog.  You listen to the BA Cast podcast.

You take pictures.  You document your life around you.

Share a bit with BA Cast.  Send a pic to BA Cast Foto del Día:

photo@bacast.com

¡Gracias che!

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