Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Open Source Politics

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This weeks guest blogger (I know, and yes we are making a habit of this) is The Cranky Liberal of The Cranky Liberal Pages. He is a well read, well written, opinionated, Classic Liberal, and we wouldn't have him any other way. So without further adeau, please welcome... Cranky.

Sometimes the best ideas come out of left field. I was sitting at home on Friday night reading Thomas Friedman's "The World is Flat." Friedman was talking about the Open Source movement as one of the 10 things that "flattened the world." For those of you not quite geeky enough to know what the Open Source movement is, think Linux. Open Source is the opposite of Microsoft. Open Source depends upon the brilliance of individuals working together to continually create and improve software to meet a need, rather than buoy a balance sheet. Open Source is just that - open code, available for anyone to use (for the most part).

While I'm not ready to throw away my Microsoft software (don't laugh you snob, I run enterprise systems and the stuff works great for us), the idea of tapping into the collective brilliance of individuals to solve problems made perfect sense to me. After writing my We're#1 We're#1? piece a few weeks ago, I've struggled with how we fix the problems we face as a nation. Then it hit me - If we can make software that rivals the the best that corporations can provide, why can't we make a political system that rivals, no exceeds the best (or more often the worst) of the Part system. In effect, Open Source politics.

I know I'm not original with that thought. A quick search on the web finds a bunch of references to the idea, especially as it relates to either Howard Dean's Internet fund raising, The Daily Kos, or Moveon.org. Certainly, the blogging community is a great example of empowering individuals to interact with the system. Also, the ability to raise money directly from the people has opened up financing to more potential candidates than ever before. However, neither of these examples is exactly what I was thinking of. I'm not looking for a way for the parties to communicate easier with the masses, I'm looking for a way to find solutions to problems, to fix whats broken, to use our collective intelligence to move beyond the parties.

We need to replace ideology with ideas. We need to replace partisanship with pragmatism wherever we can. We have to take a step back from the fighting and start looking at the fixing, or so help me God, America is a goner. The parties, BOTH parties, are to often closed source companies whose sole job is self perpetuation. Both sides are to beholden to a mix-mash of string pullers making sure that nothing really gets done the way it should be.

It has to start with realizing the guys in power now, in both parties, are a big part of the problem. Further, and no offense to my conservatives readers out there, but you need to realize your party is the one with all the power, and your party has made a royal mess of the situation. I'm going to keep attacking Tom Delay, Bill Frist and George Bush because they are at the heart of why we need Open Source politics - institutionalized cronyism and illogical policies. You can't keep over spending and underfunding. You can't grow the deficit and shrink the revenue forever. You can't keep hiring people with no ability to do the job. You endanger the country. You sabotage the future. Is that fair?

Liberals - we have a lot of issues we need to come to grips with as well. We are dysfunctional. We are a party that looks at the past more often than to the future. We are caught in a cycle of should-be and once-was instead of what-is and it kills us. Globalization happened. Get over it. Get out of bed with the labor movement. Manufacturing counts for less than 10% of the jobs in this country. It is the sign of a maturing economy to increase productivity and reduce labor. It happened in the farm industry (once 70% of the countries occupation, now 2% - and yet we have abundant food). It happened in manufacturing. It happened again in technology. Yet we still thrive on whole. Ignoring the reality of globilization will not stop it's march, but will hamstring us from being able to compete and prosper in it. And we CAN prosper.

Both groups, you need to stop making Abortion your only issue. It is legal. The majority of Americans want it to be legal in some form or another. The majority of Americans also want it to be the option of LAST resort. We have to move on to a place in this country where both ideas are given equal merit. At the point a woman (or little girl) needs an abortion, it's already to late. The damage is done.

We have to make education our top priority. I don’t just mean "No Child Left Behind" but an aggressive program to push science, math and engineering. That's the future. We need less communications majors and more people who can design the communication networks. That's the ONLY way we will compete with the China's and India's (and Cambodia's, Vietnam's, and every other emerging economy) of the world. We need to focus on a local level, a state level, and a federal level. We need to look at creative ways to inspire and encourage kids to pursue these fields. The day's when we could count on attracting the best and brightest from the rest of the world to mask our domestic indifference is waning.

If you're conservative that means you need to pony up the money to better the schools. I've said it before, and I will say it again but investing in education is strategic pragmatism. It is how we secure our nations future. It is the only way we will compete in the new world. You get what you pay for, and if you look at our kids scores, you are getting what you pay for. We should lead the world in education. Our children should be the worlds elite. It is a sin that the richest nation in the history of the world has to settle for mediocrity. When every kid in this country has the shot at a great education, it won’t just be America that is better off, but all of humanity.

If you're a liberal you need to get over your hatred of vouchers, your desire to be "fair" and your ass kissing of the unions. That made me very unpopular with my own crowd, but I stand by it. Teachers should be paid better than they are. They should get more support than they do. They should be seen as the critical cog in the future of our society that they are (and not just by some cheesy Hallmark card on Teachers Appreciation Day). However they need to be open to change too. If a school is failing, I understand that vouchers will cause money to leave the school. I also know that I don't care. I don't go to a restaurant that sucks to support the cooks. The point is getting each kid the best education possible. While eventually an "F" school may get better, how many kids have to suffer until that time?

Bad teachers need to be fired. I went to school in one of the crappiest school systems in the country (hence my grammar and spelling). I had great teachers, and I had teachers that hadn't done more than babysit a class in a decade. I had teachers so bad, that in any other business they would have been fired for incompetence years ago. We need to insist that good teachers are rewarded and bad teachers find new careers. Schools are a business and we are the employers. We do not owe bad teachers a living. We do owe good teachers whatever they need to do their jobs.

It's more than just teachers and paychecks though. We have to find new ideas. I read recently about a school near me that went back to same sex classrooms to see if it had an impact on test scores. The difference was dramatic. When separated, the kids taking their competency test destroyed the kids in mixed classrooms. Does that mean we do away with co-ed learning? I doubt it, but maybe we need to keep experimenting with the idea. At the end of the day, it isn't about equity, but about education.

Another idea is economic integration. Mixing schools not by race, but by income. An example is Wake County, North Carolina where the school board passed a resolution that no school should have more than 40% of its students eligible for free or reduced lunch and no more than 25% reading below grade level. That means busing kids to mix up the schools, but the results are encouraging. Concentrations of low income students in one place is a huge barrier to academic success. Economic integration helps pull kids up that might have been lost.

None of these ideas will fix education in this country by themselves any more than just throwing money at the problem will - but that's not the point. We need to be open to trying things and judge them on their results, not pre-judge them because of the (political) repercussions. When something works, lets expand it, improve it, implement it in other places and see how it does. The heart of the Open Source movement.

How would you solve the problems we face? How would you tackle the Health Care crisis? Social Security? How would you fix the illegal immigration issue? What ideas do you have for cutting down on pointless litigation and corporate malfeasance? What do you think we can do to return religion back to where it belongs - in front of the congregation not the court room? How do we find ways to respect the fact that EVERYONE deserves equal treatment under the law, and the law needs to protect the rights of people we don't like as strongly as it does for those we do. I don't have the answers (contrary to what my wife may say I really think) but someone does. Someone has an idea that needs to be explored. We need to cherry pick those ideas from the Left and the Right. From the Private and the Public.

Then we need to put people in place who are willing to implement the ideas. We need to convince the ones that are there, or find new ones to replace them.

Open Source politics - ideas not ideology. Are you game?

The Cranky Liberal of The Cranky Liberal Pages

I don't think I could agree with someone on either side of the aisle more than I agree with Cranky on this post. Cranky you did a wonderful job on this post and I feel you are welcome back here any time.

Cranky did hit on the frustrations that I believe most of us feel allot of the time. Our options (for those of us who consider ourselves to be moderate) as of late have been the lesser of two evils. If you lean conservative, the republicans are less scary to you, if you lean liberal, the Dems seem to have your ticket. Oh of course there are other parties that may agree with your philosophy more, libertarians for example, but as of yet they are not nearly as viable, and I often feel I would be throwing my vote away. That is a hard thing to do.

I agree with cranky that the solution, at least in part is to vote for a person, not a party, and to make those we elect, accountable. I have been saying that for quite a while.

Zaphriel Michaels of Zaphriel's Blog

What a timely and wonderfully thought provoking piece of reading we have here! *Applause and Accolades*

As most of my own readers know, and many here at BoP know, I am a person that talks about issues, and not partisan politics. I vote for candidates by what they say and do, not by if they are followed by a Pink Elephant or an Ass. *heh, punny of me!* So I find this article more then relevant, more than fair and something that I wish we could disseminate to the whole of the entire nation!

I am in total agreement that we need to use some of the collective intelligence (nay.. brilliance) of persons in this Nation to set it back on its feet and get it moving in the right direction once again. Long and short of it folks…this Nation is going to hell in a hand-basket and the trip isn't a long one!

Partisan politics, career politicians and the big business of "Gub'ment" is destroying us-- destroying the freedoms we've enjoyed for over two hundred years, plucking away the threads that have woven this country together and kept us all brothers and sisters with a somewhat common vision. The back-stabbing and heel-biting has set the precedents for even the younger generation to simply muddle in the mire we've made and the fresh insight and ideas have waned and given rise to another generation that will come up with more of the same. It is time for change.

Sometime ago, Joseph Seals wrote a series of articles about changes and how they could be implemented. He had some fresh ideas! I myself sat and pondered ways that we might reduce or completely eliminate the need for Social Security, Welfare and various other social $'s programs, good ideas too! Here in this article we see some great suggestions for how to set a toppled bowl aright and fill it up with prosperity and kindness again. Point is--there are some GREAT THINKERS out there, so why are they not in Washington? Why does Washington not want YOU to know about them?? Ahhhh--now there's the rub: they don't want you to know about them because *gasp!* they realize that if enough people get together and begin truly problem solving--they might be out of a job in short order!

I won't go into the whole Partisan thing, because we all have heard it before. Redundancy does not serve us well. We have no need to hear more of the same and that is the point of this article and my response. I'm weary of hearing the same old things--the same old arguments, the same old reasons why, the same old excuses, the same old 'day old bread' answers. I mean, I feel the Nation by far and away is tired, no.. sick and tired of the SSDD.

We need a breath of a moment to take stock of where we came from and how we got where we are right now. It is said that people should "take what is useful and keep it and leave behind what is not." I believe this to be true. It's called learning from mistakes and following threads out of the maze of confusion. In all of this, there are common threads that if the great minds would begin to follow them --we could in fact, find our way out of the maze.

Once we've accomplished this, to bring together the collective conscience of the nation, the collective wisdom would help us to pave a way for the future. We must begin to evaluate what is truly NEEDED and what is DESIRABLE. For now, we need to make sure that all have what is truly needed. Perhaps, in the denouement of this cathartic activity we will all find that what we thought we "needed" was only a "desire" and that being humanitarian is a job for us all... not for a choice few. We saw this in this Nation, following Hurricane Katrina. Every day Americans opened up their homes, their wallets, their storehouses to provide for those that were in need. NOW THAT'S WHAT I'M TALKING ABOUT! The fact is: it was with great spirit of community and togetherness that this Nation became what it did.

How can we teach our children and future generations what it is to be TRULY American and TRULY a part of a community if we cannot exemplify it ourselves? Children learn what they live… they imitate what they see every day in their homes, their schools, their churches, their peer groups. So part of the change does not involve only the adults of this nation but the children as well.

We have created a Society in which dual income is the necessity to support what we view as our NEEDS (as opposed to what we THINK we need!) Mothers and fathers are by large away from their children the bigger part of the day and reliant upon teachers to teach their children well. News flash! News flash! In order for them to teach our children well...in order for them to desire to be there doing that job they need a fair wage! Our teachers receive a paltry sum for what they do and in most cases they spend a large part of their day dealing with unruly children that come from dysfunctional homes which are by far and away created by a dysfunctional Society and its approaches to acquisition of THINGS.. STUFF.
Schools should NOT have to beg for supplies. The Arts and Humanities classes should NOT be on the chopping blocks for they are a LARGE PART of what creates CREATIVE INDIVIDUALS (ie, which is what we need more of!) The Arts foster the human spirit, the love that is inherent in every heart, the music of people like Beethoven who overcame tremendous physical challenge to become one of the World's greatest composers. These should not be optional and they should not be last in line for funding. Children should be safe in the schools and schools should not have to beg to make that possible.

This nation should not have its people dying of the common cold or flu. With as much money as this nation has and could glean there is no reason why we cannot have some form of social healthcare that is available to all. Before the nay-sayers say NO... remember, not all have healthcare or even the ability to GET it. Social healthcare is NOT about going to the lowest part of shanty town and waiting for seven hours to see a doctor. There are ways to accomplish this, if we could simply get both sides of the table to sit down and think about it and then stand up to the partisan politics and antics that would bash it down on a whim.

Our borders need to be closed to immigration and it needs to be enforced. Not for all time folks, but until such time as the people that we already have here are taken care of and have their needs met. We cannot fix a problem if it is exponentially increasing by the day. Yes, this will NOT make us popular in other nations but guess what? We are already like the LEAST popular nation worldwide as it is. Funny really how that worked out… we have loaned and given more aid to foreign nations than many countries combined yet we are the least likely to be the recipient of equal generosities. And while we are on that topic…how about calling in the debts that some of these nations have to us and have had since time immemorial?? Wouldn't that money help some of our own fiscal woes?? Interesting concept! You just TRY to take out a government loan and then not pay it back! They WILL find you and they WILL get their money… WITH INTEREST… YET, where are the money collectors in the nations that owe US money? Hmmmmmmmmm.....

Religion belongs on the pulpit and in our homes… not in our courtrooms, our school houses, our Local government offices or even in our National government office. More wars and fighting and dissention have been caused by Religion than naught. At this point in our Nation we don't need MORE trouble then what we already have to deal with. 'Nuff said.

My best suggestion would be to create think tanks in our locales. Groups that get together with current National issues. A presenter should be established for each group and then let these community presenters meet. Then these suggestions and recommendations should be brought before State Senators and Representatives for action on a larger State and Federal Level.

Sound hard? It really isn't that hard. Consider for a moment for example... the campaign against Breast Cancer. You get ENOUGH voices to stand up together they will eventually create a din that can be heard in Washington. Enough communities do this it can change the course of the State's voice. Enough State's voices standing up and presenting can change the course of the Federal Government.

Shake things up or shut the hell up - these are ultimately our choices.

Nariel of Ancient Eyes for Current Times
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