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Mayday PAC Answers Questions with Call to Faith and Declaration of Independence

A few days ago, I sent some questions to Mayday PAC, an outfit that says it will spend large amounts of money on American elections this year in order to stop the influence of large amounts of money in American elections.  These questions are:

Question 1: What are the Guarantees that Mayday PAC will Actually Do What it Says it Will Do? The mayday.us website features a frequently asked questions page and a general, informal essay about the PAC’s plan. But there are no firm commitments. No adopted bylaws. No document explaining exactly who is making decisions and how. This is from an organization that’s asking you to surrender $500, $1000, or $2500 of your own money to be used at its discretion. Is that appropriate without verification?

Question 2: Do Big Money Donors get a Big Say in Mayday PAC Campaign Spending? One way to think of the “matching funds” idea behind Mayday PAC is that a very small number of people are funding half the Mayday PAC operation — a very small group with very unusual financial interests. Did these big money matching donors secure any agreements from Mayday PAC as a condition of their participation? Do the big money donors obtain unusual access to Mayday PAC leadership? Do they play a formal or informal role in making decisions about how Mayday PAC spends its money?

Question 3: How Will Mayday PAC Choose the 5 Recipients of its Spending? As its own FAQ concedes, there are many more candidates than just five who support campaign finance reform. How do donors know that their money won’t be used for big spending on behalf of candidates who say they like campaign finance reform … and an end to environmental regulation? Or who like campaign finance reform … and tax breaks for multinational corporations? The Mayday PAC declares that when sorting out possible candidates to support, its leaders will avoid extremists “by selecting people who otherwise seem trustworthy and reliable.” But who decides what’s “trustworthy and reliable?” There is no clearly articulated standard by which this highly subjective decision will be made — and there should be.

Last night, Rachel Perkins of the Mayday PAC wrote back to me with a response:

“Hi Jim,

“Sorry it took me a while to get to your email, but I wanted to spend a little time answering it.

“There is, frankly, nothing *guaranteeing* that MayDay PAC will spend the money as we have committed to. We said we will use the money to get people elected based on the issue of campaign finance reform. That is our intention. This is something that folks are willing to take on faith, and I am personally super grateful for that. Any guarantee we could offer beyond our own word would be worthless, in my opinion.

“The one and only issue we are interested in is campaign finance reform. It is why our ‘big money’ matchers have chosen to match the donations of our supporters. They don’t have another agenda, or they would have spent that money elsewhere. They are not going to be involved in the selection of races we get involved in, nor are they going to direct our activities.

“In the coming weeks, we will be announcing the matchers for the $5M as well as plans for spending the money in the upcoming 2014 elections–our top priority.

“It’s important to us that we be as transparent as possible. To this end, we’ll be posting this information and ongoing communication from Prof. Lessig on the new MayDay.US blog:
https://mayday.us/blog/

“If you’re on our mailing list, you will also receive this information by email.

“Thanks for being with us,

-rachel

rachel perkins
MAYDAY.US”

I am grateful to Mayday.us for writing back promptly and sincerely.  That choice reflects a key difference from the political group its leaders were previously involved in, Americans Elect, which referred to itself as democratic but repeatedly refused to answer simple questions.

I don’t appreciate the suggestion that Americans hand over money to political operations and “take on faith” that they’ll spend the money with honor. The transparency movement is all about opening up the decision-making process so that everyday citizens can follow the activities of leaders and check leaders’ promises against hard data indications of what they do. On this point of obscurity, the Mayday PAC still bears watcing.

On the other hand, the declaration that the big money “matching” contributors to Mayday.us “are not going to be involved in the selection of races we get involved in, nor are they going to direct our activities” is a straightforward and reassuring promise that is

The next steps will be:

1) to note the identity of the $5 million “matching” big money donors and the $1 million “matchers” before them.

2) to pay attention to the candidates the Mayday PAC actually favors its spending. Will the favored candidates remain within a narrow range of general political ideology (for example, adopting pro-business “centrism”), or will they be truly ideologically diverse? Will the favored candidates show support for specific policies that would benefit the big-money contributors to the Mayday PAC, or will the supported candidates adopt some positions opposing the interests of big-money contributors?

The proof of Mayday PAC’s integrity will be at the second step, and we’ll have to wait for that. In the meantime, however, it is encouraging that Mayday PAC staff are both communicative and willing to commit the organization to a wall between money coming in and choices coming out.

Cubity Showcase Showcases Problems

Has 3-D printing gone mainstream?

Cubity 3DSystems Display at Staples Displays Broken Plastic

Not if this display at my local tech store is any indication.  You, too, can print a model as an actual 3-D plastic object that… um, is brittle and breaks.

But, but, wait!  Look at the glasses it prints out:

Cubity Model: Black Glasses that are rough and can't hold lenses.

Those glasses are just great, except for the ragged bits of plastic that might cut your face, and the lack of a place to put any lenses.

The printer costs a thousand dollars.  The plastic comes at less than a kilo for fifty dollars. The showcase product isn’t workable.

Sigh. I’ll check back in in three years.

American Teenagers Riding A Hookah To Hell!

My attention was caught this morning by a headline from USA Today that read: “Some teens gravitate toward hookah use”.

Whenever teenagers gravitate toward anything, you know it’s not good.

hookah hellA quick survey of teen gravitation leads me to the information that teenagers are gravitating toward:

- Instagram… and a life of unpaid social media pornography
- Juice and soft drinks… and the ignominy of amputations due to diabetes
- Satanism and the occult… and associated poor fashion choices
- Dark and cynical thinking… and isn’t that exactly what adults want, to keep them out of the way?
- Video arcades… and temporal distortions that threaten the integrity of the space-time continuum

The USA Today article actually reveals that most teenagers aren’t even in a distant orbit around hookahs. Citing a study in the journal Pediatrics, the writer explains that only 20 percent of surveyed teenagers had smoked a hookah at least once in the previous year.

Once a year? That isn’t what gravitating was like back when I was a teenager. Oh, no. Back then, if you were a young person, and you wanted to qualify as gravitating toward something, you had to do it every single day. When we smoked, we smoked cigarettes, and we got really addicted, not just curious.

I worry about the casual nature with which this new generation of adolescents seems to think it can just gravitate toward something one day, and then leave it the next. It suggests a lack of commitment to me.

Of course, it really isn’t the teenagers who are to blame. I blame the parents.

Can you blame today’s teens for failing to gravitate effectively, when their parents have failed to vigorously warn them about the perils of having fun? Back in the day, our parents told us that watching TV would cause us to go blind. Nowadays, parents just advise their kids that they should “balance” their “screen time” with other activities… like going to school.

I won’t be a part of this molly coddling. I propose a return to good old-fashioned parental advisories, with a real sense of urgency, fueled by impending doom. I urge American parents to join me in warning their teenagers that a puff on a hookah is a ticket to damnation!

Homeland Security Rushes To Grab Cell Phones And Laptops From Travelers

There is no actual known plot to use hollowed-out electronic devices to smuggle bombs onto airplanes headed to the United States, Homeland Security Administration officials admit. Nonetheless, Homeland Security announced this weekend that it is implementing a draconian new policy against electronic devices. Any electronic device, such as a cell phone, tablet or laptop computer, that is not sufficiently powered to turn on at the request of TSA officials will be taken away from travelers. If you didn’t happen to power up your phone or computer before going to the airport, that’s tough luck. You’ll have to give up possession of your equipment.

take my phoneCombine this announcement with the old story, from the last days of George W. Bush, that border officials have been given the authority to search through cell phones and laptops carried by people traveling in and out of the United States, and it looks like the Department of Homeland Security is gaining a new method for spying on the private, personal, lawful activities of its own citizens.

Reason to be suspicious of the motives of this latest Homeland Security tactic is considerable, given another revelation this weekend: Edward Snowden’s data shows that for every one foreigner targeted by the National Security Agency, nine Americans have their data seized as well. As we’ve been warning for years, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act Amendments Act actually seems to have been designed to operate as means to create surveillance against Americans, not foreigners.

The Mystery Of The Hum

global humHave you heard The Hum?

The World Hum Map and Database isn’t a directory of people who like to repeat catchy tunes they’ve heard, but in a low key way.

It’s a web site that is attempting to document the perception, among a very small portion of any given human population, that there is a persistent, annoying low humming noise that can be heard practically anywhere.

It’s called a mystery hum, and scientists have proposed that it could be coming from Navy sonar or breeding fish.

Couldn’t it just be tinnitus, a medical condition in which people hear ongoing, often annoying ringing, roaring, or humming sounds? The National Health Service of the UK explains that “for some people, tinnitus can be a low-frequency noise, such as humming, murmuring, rumbling or deep droning.”

What’s the mystery?

Mystery aside, have any Irregular Times readers heard The Hum?

DocDawg: Why Not Just Trust Lawrence Lessig’s Mayday Super PAC?

Why not just trust Lawrence Lessig’s Mayday Super PAC? Blogger DocDawg has a few reasons. You can read his full essay here, but here are a few excerpts:

“Lessig’s flirtation with the concept of Using Big Money in Politics to Get Big Money Out of Politics isn’t new. In his previous effort he served as a member of the Board of Advisors to and vocal public advocate for 2012′s most quixotic and shady (and failed) political adventure,Americans Elect (AE), the not-a-party political party (and corporation) that aimed to appeal to teh kidz by staging an online primary to choose a “centrist” presidential candidate that AECorp would subsequently provide, for ‘free,’ with 50-state ballot access. That kind of technology development and ballot-access petitioning doesn’t come cheap, and AECorp brought serious money…$35 million…to the effort.”

“Unsurprisingly, throughout its short intense life AECorp categorically refused to divulge the names of its millionaire and billionaire donors.  Despite its dark origins, unsavory leadership, and impenetrable plutocratic funding, Lessig was an active and vociferous champion of AECorp.”

“Vitally important in our effort to measure Lessig’s judgement in matters concerning his pet cause is also the issue of AECorp’s ‘how’: how it proposed to select its non-party third-party presidential ticket. On the surface, this was egalitarianism itself: anyone could nominate either himself or someone else, and the surviving nominee through multiple rounds of online voting would be the recipient of AECorp’s hard-won 50-state ballot access. But, below the surface, careful readers of its Bylaws and rules discovered just the opposite: the corporation’s Bylaws reserved to its unelected and self-appointed Board of Directors “extraordinary power and authority to take or compel any action,” including arbitrarily disqualifying candidates whom the Board did not favor, and even including rejecting the primary-winning ticket and crowning a ticket of the Board’s own choice, instead, leading some wags to re-christen Americans Elect as “Ackerman Selects,” since chairman Ackerman selected the Board’s members who, in turn, had the power to select the corporation’s nominee without reference to the convention balloting. Additional anti-egalitarian measures enshrined in AECorp’s rules set the bar for winning the online vote several times higher for ‘nobodies’ than for Board-sanctioned ‘somebodies’ such as congressmen, senators, CEOs, large university presidents, and high military brass.

“With his vociferous support for this sort of pay-no-attention-to-the-man-behind-the-curtain legerdemain blotting his judgement’s reputation, it seems fair to insist that Lessig has some ‘splainin to do when he proposes to found and lead his own crowdfunded SuperPAC.”

For DocDawg, trusting Lawrence Lessig’s Mayday Super PAC comes down to a question of trusting Lessig’s character in light of his past choices. There do seem to be some legitimate questions about Lessig’s judgment, particularly when considering his choice to put fellow Americans Elect leaders Kahlil Byrd and Mark McKinnon in charge of the Super PAC.  But would this kind of effort be made better simply by putting someone supposedly more wholesome at the head of the Super PAC? I’m not sure that’s the case. How many entirely wholesome people do you know? Each and every one of us has some unsavory tendencies; this is what makes humanity both interesting and occasionally dreadful. This is why heroic politicians put forward as champions for the right and good in the world inevitably disappoint; power corrupts and we all like our little nibbly bit on the side.

Lawrence Lessig’s intentions and character are not perfect. But even if Lessig were an absolute angel, his Mayday Super PAC gathering money to influence people to get rid of the influence of money could so easily run into trouble if it weren’t set up to clearly deflect corrupting tendencies. Transparent rules and procedures have the effect of thwarting nefarious machinations in political campaigns. Opaque rules and procedures have the effect of drawing out our sneaky sides. This is why Lessig’s “just give me the money first and trust me to give it to the right people” approach should attract questions.

Four days ago, I asked Lessig some questions:

Question 1: What are the Guarantees that Mayday PAC will Actually Do What it Says it Will Do? The mayday.us website features a frequently asked questions page and a general, informal essay about the PAC’s plan. But there are no firm commitments. No adopted bylaws. No document explaining exactly who is making decisions and how. This is from an organization that’s asking you to surrender $500, $1000, or $2500 of your own money to be used at its discretion. Is that appropriate without verification?

Question 2: Do Big Money Donors get a Big Say in Mayday PAC Campaign Spending? One way to think of the “matching funds” idea behind Mayday PAC is that a very small number of people are funding half the Mayday PAC operation — a very small group with very unusual financial interests. Did these big money matching donors secure any agreements from Mayday PAC as a condition of their participation? Do the big money donors obtain unusual access to Mayday PAC leadership? Do they play a formal or informal role in making decisions about how Mayday PAC spends its money?

Question 3: How Will Mayday PAC Choose the 5 Recipients of its Spending? As its own FAQ concedes, there are many more candidates than just five who support campaign finance reform. How do donors know that their money won’t be used for big spending on behalf of candidates who say they like campaign finance reform … and an end to environmental regulation? Or who like campaign finance reform … and tax breaks for multinational corporations? The Mayday PAC declares that when sorting out possible candidates to support, its leaders will avoid extremists “by selecting people who otherwise seem trustworthy and reliable.” But who decides what’s “trustworthy and reliable?” There is no clearly articulated standard by which this highly subjective decision will be made — and there should be.

He hasn’t gotten back in touch or answered my questions on his website yet.  Instead, posting my question has gotten me signed up for his PAC e-mail blast list.  I’ve received multiple solicitations for money instead.  I hope that Lessig answers the questions, and will let you know if he does.  Until then, the Mayday Super PAC bears close watching.


UPDATE, 7/8/14: The Mayday PAC has responded with answers to my questions, which you can find here.

America Inc. Tries To Buy America For God And Corporations

What is America?

Some say it’s a pair of continents. Some say it’s a nation. Some say it’s a state of mind.

Does anybody think that America is a corporation?

america incorporated

L. Brent Bozell The Third seems to think that America is a corporation, and he fancies himself at the head of it. He chairs a political action committee called America, Inc. – as if he has the power to claim the word America as his own commercial trademark. As you see in the America Inc. graphic above, he’s even trademarked the bald eagle, just to show that America is all his.

Actually, spreading the America, Inc. trademark seems to be at the core of Bozell The Third’s zeal. He’s using America, Inc. as a PAC to funnel money to prop up political candidates who agree with his own trademarked form of political extremism.

Bozell The Third’s trademarked political mission, as described on America Inc.’s web site, is “to reinvigorate the American people with the principles of American exceptionalism: personal freedom, personal responsibility, a commitment to Judeo-Christian values, and a strong national defense.” America Inc claims to “believe in limited government with Constitutionally-enumerated powers only,” but seeks to use the power of government to impose Judeo-Christian values on all Americans, whether they’re Judeo-Christian or not. Apparently, Bozell The Third’s vision of “personal freedom” doesn’t extend as far as the first line of the First Amendment of the Constitution, which reads, “Congress shall make no law regarding an establishment of religion”.

So, if L. Brent Bozell The Third gets his way, and replaces the United States of America with America Inc., what kind of leaders will be allowed to hold power in the new theocracy? Not leaders like David Perdue, apparently.

David Perdue, who is currently challenging Jack Kingston for the Republican Party’s nomination to one of Georgia’s seats in the U.S. Senate, isn’t Judeo-Christian enough for America Inc. and L. Brent Bozell The Third. They slam Perdue as “the wrong choice for Georgia.”

Come to think of it, though, how Judeo-Christian is America, Inc.? Does the Christian Bible ever say that its followers should form political action committees to funnel money to control democratic elections? I don’t remember any such passage. What I do remember from the Bible is a passage that admonishes, “Judge not, lest ye be judged,” and another that advises, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

If I had written the Bible, I might have included another passage: Let he who is from Georgia decide which politician is the wrong choice for Georgia. America Inc. isn’t from Georgia. It’s headquartered in Reston, Virginia, and has hired Virginians to conduct its anti-Perdue campaign.

Then again, what the Bible says as a book and the ideology that Christianity actually seeks to impose upon the world are often not in synch.

The theology of America Inc. and L. Brent Bozell The Third is less about the Bible than it is about replacing democratic power in the USA with theocratic and corporate power. The Bible is just a prop that Christian theocrats can thump in order to suggest that their political agenda has the endorsement of the supernatural realm. In practice, they’ll use whatever tactics they can to bully their way to the top.

A Picture Of Progress

image

This is what progress looks like to me. What does it look like to you?

Your Belief is Myth and My Belief is Real

image

Maybe we’re all myth makers.

Fake Grassroots PAC From Maryland Interferes In Michigan Democratic Primary

Astroturf was originally the term used for fake grass, made out of plastic and other synthetic materials, installed as a replacement for turf in highly-used sports fields. These days, the term is more frequently used to describe political operations that pretend to be grassroots efforts organized by the rank and file as a result of popular demand, while they’re really top-down inventions created through big spending by wealthy individuals or corporations.

An awful lot of astroturf has been spotted this year in the area around Southfield, a suburb to the northwest of Detroit, and a hub of power in the 14th congressional district of Michigan. The Democratic primary in the district takes place in just one month, and one organization that has involved itself in the political battle there is the Grassroots Organizing Acting & Leading PAC – known as GOALPAC for short.

The 14th district race is attracting a great deal of attention, because the incumbent, U.S. Representative Gary Peters, has decided to run for U.S. Senate rather than to seek re-election. There are four different Democratic politicians competing for their party’s nomination for the seat.

goalpac astroturfOne of these candidates, Rudy Hobbs, has attracted the support of the Grassroots Organizing Acting & Leading PAC. Just yesterday, the organization spent over $42,000 to promote the Hobbs for Congress campaign.

Where did the money to that GOALPAC used to support Hobbs come from? Was it from typical rank and file Democratic voters in Michigan, as the name Grassroots Organizing Acting & Leading suggests?

Far from it.

First of all, the Grassroots Organizing Acting & Leading PAC isn’t really a Michigan organization. It’s a political operation that’s run out of the nation’s capital, with a mailing address in Bethesda, Maryland, and a bank account set up at a branch located at 730 15th St NW, Washington D.C. The accountants who keep books for GOALPAC work out of an office at Suite 590, 1050 17th St NW, Washington D.C.

Second, the sources of the money that the Grassroots Organizing Acting & Leading PAC spends are anything but grassroots. Top contributors include:

  • J. Eric Gould, of the Florida lobbying firm Thurman Gould
  • Melanie Nathanson, of the Virginia lobbying firm Nathanson & Hauck
  • Anthony Podesta, of the Washington D.C. lobbying firm The Podesta Group
  • Beau Schuyler and Charles Brain of the Washington D.C. lobbying firm Capitol Hill Strategies
  • Arshi Siddiqui of the Washington D.C. lobbying firm Akin Gump Strayss Hauer & Feld
  • Steven Champlin of The Dubberstein Group… yes, another lobbying firm based in Washington D.C.

    Also contributing big checks to GOALPAC are the political action committees of:

  • The American Association of Orthapaedic Surgeons
  • BAE Systems
  • DaVita Health Care Partners
  • DTE Energy
  • The Investment Company Institute
  • The National Association of Realtors

    The cash is not coming from the salt of the earth, so the heavy involvement of lobbyists and corporate PACs in propping up the congressional candidacy of Ruby Hobbs should lead discerning Michigan voters to ask: Exactly who will Ruby Hobbs owe favors to, if he is elected as the 14th district’s next representative in Congress?

  • Scapes Aplenty

    Although I’ve gardened for some years, I didn’t start planting garlic until three years ago. Living in the desert, I couldn’t grow garlic without an unseemly amount of irrigation. Living in the South, so many grand oaks grew around my home that I was restricted to shade gardening. Now that I’m in Maine and have a sunny hill, I’ve been learning through experience about growing garlic.

    Two summers ago, I eagerly pulled up my first garlic crop but was terribly disappointed by the measly bulbs I found. I asked around and quickly learned my mistake: I hadn’t clipped off the flower growing at the tip of each plant, and all the plant’s vitality had gone there instead of to the bulb. Last summer, I clipped off the garlic tops and tossed them in the compost; my bulbs came out big, lovely and smelly.

    It wasn’t until this year (Just today as a matter of fact) that I learned the name and use of the top part of the garlic plant. The tops are called “scapes,” and apparently you can cook with them, just as you might use green onions.

    20140703-170340-61420121.jpg

    These are going into a stir fry with loads of ginger and a teriyaki sauce tonight. Yum, yum.

    What do you do with your garlic scapes?