Archive for Elections

It Is Precisely Her: Yulia Tymoshenko

In Kyiv, people are awaiting the end of the trial of Yulia Tymoshenko, some for less obvious reasons. In the center of town, the two sides gather right next to each other on the main street, Kreshchatic. At precisely 9 a.m. every morning the loudspeaker comes on, blaring an uplifting patriotic song, which says that for everything to change for the better, it depends on us. Then comes the recorded repetitious chanting of “Yulia to Jail!”

The other side counters with “Yulia Is Our President!” and their own pop music tailored for the protests. Back and forth they go with song, rhetoric and flag-waving all day long. During late July these gatherings remained quite peaceful, but for the people who live and work nearby, the sound assault was maddening. One resident called it “audio terror.”

At first it felt like North Korea, with the propaganda screaming, making it impossible to concentrate, sinking into the psyche. An extreme comparison, of course, and once on the street it quickly became apparent that this was more like democracy in action, people practicing their right to protest. Getting closer, the demonstrators were fewer in number than the volume indicated. There was speculation that the regulars from both camps were being paid to stand there every day.

The anti-Yulia side, with the better sound system but less enthusiastic support, was cordoned off by a black scrim. Behind it stood neatly lined up rows of young people waving flags in unison, mostly boys who seemed completely bored.

The open, more populated pro-Yulia side appeared to be truly infatuated with their hero and included men and women of varying ages from different parts of the country. They were eager to pose for the camera.

Click Here to Watch the Slideshow:
Yulia Tymoshenko Trial Demonstrations

Most people walked by and through the crowd totally uninterested. The general feeling leaned more toward apathy and disillusionment with the political process.

Little wonder. The heroic efforts of the Orange Revolution in 2004 saw the Ukrainian people challenging the election and coming out victorious. They rose up and got into office their preferred candidate Victor Yushchenko, who was maimed by poison. His Prime Minister, Yulia Tymoshenko, with the signature blonde braid, became the face and largely the voice for the uprising.

Amidst infighting and little improvement in ordinary living conditions during their term, many of the dissatisfied voting public sat out the 2010 election. Tymoshenko ran against Victor Yanukovich, the very man who was ousted by the revolutionary repeat election vote. He won the presidency, and she is facing corruption charges in this current trial.

On August 5th, Tymoshenko was jailed on contempt-of-court charges for allegedly refusing to stand while addressing the judge and repeatedly calling him a puppet of the president. Apparently thousands of people flocked the streets and military blockades were installed, just on time for the 20th year celebration of Ukrainian Independence. Now the trial has been postponed, as the West voices concern that it is politically motivated.

For the latest on the trial of Yulia Tymoshenko, click here.

–Dana Davison

(This story was updated September 15, 2011.)

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Nuclear and the Democrats

Today I received a very disturbing letter from a group called Public Citizen, whose mission includes keeping an eye on campaign finance reform, which was dealt a huge blow by the Supreme Court last year. It is a call for action, and I wanted to pass it on. If nuclear energy is progressive, then I am not a progressive. -DD

From Public Citizen (March 23, 2011): “Just days before the Japanese earthquake, nuclear power company Duke Energy extended a $10 million loan to Obama’s re-election convention committee. Tell President Obama to reject the $10 million loan from Duke Energy. Public Citizen is firmly opposed to politicians accepting huge sums of money from corporations. President Obama accepting a line of credit from Duke Energy — a company that operates three nuclear plants and is negotiating with federal officials on subsidies to build a fourth — while formulating his response to the crisis in Japan and reviewing our own energy policy presents the potential for a disheartening and disastrous conflict of interests. Furthermore, accepting this loan would seriously undermine the administration’s efforts to clean up electoral politics, which have included the Democratic National Convention banning direct corporate contributions for the first time ever. Send President Obama an email urging him to reject corporate loans to his re-election committee.”

http://www.citizen.org/reject-duke-energy-loan

Links to related articles:

From the National Center for Public Policy Research (March 17, 2011):Duke Energy to Bail Out the Democratic National Convention by Committing $10 Million Loan Guarantee

From All Gov (March 18, 2011):Duke Energy Gives Democratic National Convention $10 Million Line of Credit

From the National Legal and Policy Center (March 16, 2011):Duke Energy CEO Rogers Plays Politics With Shareholder Money; $10M Credit Line for Democrats

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Centrism and the Third-Party Reality

By Dana Davison

John Reisman is a conservative by definition, which he says frightens a lot of people because they misunderstand the meaning of the word. “How conservative is a Hummer?” he asks. “That’s not a conservative car. A conservative car is a Hyundai or a hybrid.” (He drives a Honda Civic.) He has friends in the military who say they hate the socialists and equate them with Democrats. Reisman likes to point out to those friends that the definition of socialism is owned and operated by the government, so they actually earn their paychecks under a socialist reality.

Reisman is methodically building the structure for a third political party that he believes will resonate with the largest swath of Americans. He registered the Centrist Party with the Federal Election Commission in 2006 and set up a website to provide the foundation. He wrote and posted five centrist editorials, and sent them to 13,000 press contacts, hoping to the change the language. He wanted to differentiate between moderates and centrists.

“We don’t need moderation, necessarily,” Reisman says. “Moderation is more malleable; it’s almost mealy. Centrism has to be about standing for tough subjects. It has to be strong.” He designed the Centrist Party on what he sees as the seven most crucial platform planks: economy, education, energy, environment, healthcare, political reform and security.

The notion of centrism is not new, but Reisman is the first to attempt establishing it as a viable third party. At the same time, he wants to protect his ideas from being misused, which makes him cautious. He won’t divulge any exact number of members, but he says that people across the country responded to the editorials and joined the party.

A recent Gallup poll indicated that 58 percent of Americans favor an alternative party, and independentvoting.org put independents at 40 percent of the electorate. Last year, a Washington Post poll found two-thirds of Americans “unhappy with the government.”

Reisman is a systems expert. He studies the ways things work, and how different parts work together. He worked on developing a new education system. He conducted research and analysis in energy-efficient urban and industrial buildings, and he was awarded a patent for his time management system. He studied engineering and worked in media production and information technology systems.

Fellow entrepreneur Amir Banifatemi says Reisman started his party as a way of focusing on common sense solutions. “His passion is solving problems,” he says. “Initially, I was looking at him as a weird person. He has so many ideas and different perspectives. As I got to know him, I realized that his mind is connecting things together like very few people can.”

Currently, Reisman is examining climate, energy, economics and healthcare systems, becoming well versed in all the pillars of his proposed party. He says he wants to apply his knowledge to the political system because it is critical to the collective future of the nation to start putting people before corporations.

“I do not believe we will be able to reverse these trends without a truly reasonable third party,” he says. For Reisman, a new party is the only way to break the gridlock between special interests, campaign influence and the resulting mediocre, ineffective legislation.

“He’s not trying to get anything for himself,” Banifatemi says, “He’s not backed by anybody. He used all his own money to do this, spent hours and nights on it, and he’s doing it alone.” He adds that Reisman, with his deep understanding of complex problems, sometimes gets too focused on solutions and has difficulty keeping it simple.

Reisman’s wife Harito, a Swiss marketing and communications specialist, explains this difficulty as related to his 160 IQ, but she says his sense of humor and comedic wit help keep it all in perspective. Reisman himself is working to make his approach more accessible.

“When you look at it from a holistic view, I mean the entire system of the political reality in America – the parent systems, collateral systems and subsystems as defined by Systems Science – everything’s intertwined; everything’s tied together,” he says. “We now have a political landscape that’s largely manipulated by legislative values, gerrymandering, media bias, profiteering and greed. All of these things are in play.”

While state ballot access, media coverage, debates and the Electoral College present obstacles for a third party, Reisman thinks the biggest challenge is making people aware enough to act. The Centrist Party is not on any state ballots yet. It would need petitions in 50 states. “It’s a concept,” he says.

The website allows membership by name and Zip code, to aggregate the districts. Once enough signatures are collected for a state, then that state can be registered with the secretary of state’s office so people can sign up for it in the next election cycle. Reisman is looking for an individual in each state to organize and set up the ballot, but he is being careful to find people truly in the center.

His caution stems from personal experience, and Reisman avoids the media for the most part. He says that candidates from both major parties lifted his material. He believes the current “media storm” makes it difficult for the public to be informed accurately and in context. “There are a lot of media biases fighting it out in the public and a lot of political biases fighting it out through the media,” he says. He wants to keep the Centrist Party out of that and keep it focused on the best ways to run the country.

As for getting into the debates, Reisman says he would have to see how things develop to that point, but that televised debates may not be so important if people are already seeing centrism as the right choice. “If they saw that the foundation work is there, and there was the notion that it is in motion, then it’s as simple as signing up on the Internet,” he says. “But for a Centrist Party to work, it has to be an intelligent and pragmatic party.”

Reisman says he is not convinced the Electoral College is as flawed as some people think, adding that it requires further investigation. He stresses that it is all about finding the right candidate. “We need candidates who are strong enough to argue for reason,” he says. “People who aren’t going to smile all time just to get people to like them. We don’t need baby kissers. We need somebody willing to look at all the exigencies of our reality and how to realistically address those.”

Although he does not intend to run for office himself, Reisman believes none of the hurdles are insurmountable, as long as the organization comes from people being aware. He put the system in place, and now the public will have to decide whether or not to mount a third-party attempt and get the Centrist Party on the ballot by 2012.

Read the Centrist Party tenets and positions at: http://www.uscentrist.org

And more John Reisman here:
http://www.johnreisman.com/bio/
http://www.ossfoundation.us/
http://www.enovant.ch/

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The Influence of the Super Delegates

As Barack Obama chooses his cabinet, I am watching with cautious optimism. I’m glad that Hillary Clinton will likely be Secretary of State, and I wish I felt more excited about the whole thing. But throughout this election season, I became increasingly disillusioned with the Democratic Party, and I’ve yet to shake that disenchantment, unfortunately.

It started when I decided to get more politically active again, after feeling like I hadn’t done enough to try and prevent the eight-year scourge of the Bush administration. Back in August, through VoteBoth.com, a website promoting a united Obama-Clinton presidential ticket, I found a way to take action through another website called LobbyDelegates.com. I sent an email to each of the 796 Super Delegates, this unknown unpledged group who I’d heard might have the privilege of determining the Democratic candidate in this year’s election. I wrote expressing my wish for the dream ticket. Imagining they would be inundated with emails, I kept mine short and took a strong position, hoping they would notice it among the many, and that it would make an impact.

The replies I got surprised me. They effectively started an evolution in my way of thinking, not only about our electoral process but the two-party system, the candidates themselves, the influence of modern media, and the reactions of the voting public, including the people around me. The experience made me question my own party more than I ever had before, and I started looking into the Third Party candidates. At the same time, thanks to a few reasonable, well-informed, socially liberal Republicans who were willing to talk candidly despite our differences, I also began to see the other side more objectively. I suddenly found in myself a new and bold openness, which felt great, but I found myself alone in this transformed perspective among my peers, who are mostly very much on the liberal Left side of politics.

When I emailed the Super Delegates, I was simply taking a stand as a citizen, one that I thought might make them take action. According to the news at that time, these particular individuals were the only people with any real influence. Eleven Super Delegates actually replied to my email, and their answers were revealing on several different levels.

First, coming from members of the party’s upper echelon, I was surprised that most of the replies contained bad grammar, spelling errors, and a general lack of professionalism and formality. The tone of the responses ranged from kind and thoughtful, even if disagreeing with my position, to dismissive, rude and angry. Those were the most disappointing, but they were also the ones that made me want to know exactly who these people are. What I found was no less surprising. The Super Delegates, who are endowed with the power to choose the candidate in a close primary race regardless of the popular vote, include union bosses, corporate lobbyists, TV personalities and financial consultants. This time they didn’t get to decide, but they might have, and I couldn’t help but question their ties to special interests. It led me to many more questions, which I hope to explore here.

To accompany this first offering, click here for several links about the Super Delegates, my correspondence with them, and brief bios of the respondents.

–Hope Dascher

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