Steven Paul Jobs
CEO, Apple and Pixar Animation.
February 24, 1955 – October 5, 2011
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.”
— Steve Jobs, CEO, Apple Computer and Pixar Animation Studios June 12, 2005, Stanford commencement speech.
“...don’t waste it living someone else’s life.”
For the 4,489 soldiers who have died in Iraq (32,223 wounded), and since 2001, the 2,357, and still counting, who have perished in Afghanistan (with 17,674 wounded), the worst kind of waste has been realized: losing arms and legs, and dying for someone else’s life, usually foreign and corrupt, for someone else’s voice, imposed with wealth and privilege to form slithering policies of wrongful entanglements that have brought death to the thousands of soldiers and their families, and in bits and pieces for the nation, as well, as all along, the defense industries of the military-industrial complex grow their profits and wealth in a bloody occupation where the defense obligation of 9-11 was actually won within the first 20 months, by 2003, with a far fewer 61 dead and 107 wounded U.S. soldiers.
President Obama, marking the 10th anniversary of the Afghan war, the longest in American history, said, “We are closer than ever to defeating al Qaeda and its murderous network.” This, as Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, said bringing security to his people (read, his government) has been a failure of the U.S. and his (Karzai’s) administration. Only months later, following incidents of shameful reflection (unfairly cast upon all occupation troops) of urination on the dead, burnings of the Koran, then the unconstitutional Blackwater army’s massacre of civilians (its name changed afterward to XE Services, and now is Academi LLC), and after these outrages, which were most recently compounded by the murder of 16 Afghan civilians, mostly children and women, at the hands of a single, maddened soldier, Karzai claims, “This is the end of the rope,” and orders all U.S. troops be removed from villages, killing the U.S. multi-year, dead-on-arrival plan of “winning the hearts and minds” of the Afghan people, who are regularly “collateralized” by the U.S. as “damage,” mostly in ceaseless drone strikes of shadowed, questionable vetting.
Still, America’s military chiefs and politicians resist the withdrawal call, and despite the stains of America’s own, unintended, “murderous network,” like Nixon, and Johnson before him, the president looks to the future involvement in the Afghan despair based upon responsibly ending the war “from a position of strength... and stability.” Fifty-eight thousand U.S. soldiers died in Vietnam as those presidents propped up another corrupt, ineffectual government, and prolonged the war that they could not win, should never have started, looking for the unattainable “position of strength” or “peace with honor,” before finally ending the conflict and the ever-mounting deaths, and with no promised cascading of the dominoes to follow.
This is the deadly “noise of others’ opinions” that repeats, today, as government “speak,” echoing the hollow, future promises of yesterday, where history holds no lessons for the arrogant and the proud, Republican presidential candidates, Rubio and Cruz, who exclaim they “won’t look back,” those fearful of confronting mistakes and their consequences, as the bloodletting continues... to no worthwhile end. At least, the stubborn stance of the Iraqi regime had forced the president to honor his promise for a near-complete pull-out of troops from that national killing ground, provided courtesy of the Bush/Cheney administration, the military-industrial complex, and a Republican party’s hawks and extremists who still propose spending blood for motives of unrestrained capitalist expansionism and profit.
“Don’t let the noise of others’ opinions drown out your own inner voice.”
That noise is also manifest in the voices Americans hear in their politics, and those they do not, the voices bought and paid for, imposed upon the nation in sound-bites, party lines, and propaganda, through unbalanced leverage of wealth and position, detached from any sense of community or social responsibility and spread through the biased, constraining control of vast media consolidations, to limit voices, to quell regulations, to narrow opportunities, to channel prosperity, ideas, to buy votes and perpetrate travesties like turning corporations into political entities, empowered to overcome the many voices of the individuals who are the solitary, collective “People” for whom the Declaration of Independence spoke and the Constitution, now so contorted by the Roberts Supreme Court, was penned to promote and protect.
Now it is time to focus, to put aside all the smaller issues that divide and distract from the singular issue which is at the hub of all others, because important as many are, nothing will change for the better, no measure taken will make a difference, unless first, above all else, the election machine that spits out a corrupt, insulated, bought-and-paid-for government is detached from the tender of greed and avarice that fuels it: campaign contributions, and then, party control of the election process must be severed or restrained.
Protestors rant against multiple ills, all symptomatic of one abuse — campaign contributions poisoning democracy.
The Wall Street protestors are on the wrong track when they focus anger on bankers and the wealthy. You don’t blame the bear for killing the man who gets too close to the cubs—you blame the man. Those financial “takers” are being human, doing what opportunity allows and greed compels for them, doing what comes naturally, succumbing to human weakness and vice, the very characteristics of which the Founders so clearly recognized as unchangeable and dangerous, and against which they knew only a “democratic government,” with checks and balances, serving and responsive to the common good, could prevail. What they could not foresee was a society so fraught with diversions aside from work: TV, games, malls, clubs and other avenues for self-indulgence and distraction of citizens in matters of no consequence to the foundation of their lives. The activities of citizens in the Founders’ time were centered upon occupation, neighbors, government and learning. The protestors should be angry at themselves, for not paying attention to things that matter so much, for paying too much attention to trivia, for waiting so long to see and to object, for letting it go this far, get this bad. And the protesters should be angry at their legislators, most for not having the intellect to see the problem and/or the strength of character and ethics to turn away from the abuses of the party system, or change it and uphold the ideals of the Declaration and the law of the Constitution, expressing their anger with their votes and all the votes they can raise to speak with them.
But the seemingly, awakening sight of the demonstrators on Wall Street, which grew to other cities, pointed out how all democratic governments are vulnerable, especially to apathy and ignorance, heightened when the unwritten branch of government, the “Fourth Estate” press, is swept from the streets and airways into a very few, towering centers of control, killing objectivity, repressing the reporting of independent investigation, limiting the inputs and outlets, channeling the rainbow of thought into extremes of black and white, substituting substance with trivia. The Federal Communications Commission, politically staffed by Republican presidents, accomplished most of this reduction during the Reagan and Bush terms. The tentacles of control writhed out from the few electronic-media conglomerates, spread with the growth of cable, the internet, and the means to access it, and are made all the more powerful as, at the same time, the market forces of media and technology change began to diminish and eventually strangle many of the independent providers of the airwaves and printed page.
Party control of the fund-raising and election process, from districting to post-election committee appointments, is separated from the view or control of the People, forming a government that is built in cloakrooms and behind closed doors, upon favors and the cash-and-carry success of legislators and their mini-machines, an industry that creates and reenforces extremism and gridlock while robbing the People of their representatives’ most important asset: the time that is spent on fundraising, from strategy meetings to time spent with donors, pursuing donors, servicing the desires of donors and looking to the future, not to secure the long-term policies needed by the nation, but rather to acquire the campaign funds and promises that will assure the next election’s continuation of the entire, abortive process.
“I only have two years,” think the House representatives,” and I have to make sure I put in the time and effort required to win the next election, above all else.” But that time and effort isn’t focused upon the three avenues all legislators must master for effective, responsive government; they are focused more on K Street and most upon the politics of electioneering. This is the situation facing the People, and what chance is there for productive, constituent-responsive government to address complex, long-term problems when the highest priority is to do whatever, twist whatever, say whatever, half-truths or outright lies, in the rush to get re-elected, and to spend the working hours of at least six or eight or more months of the two-year term working solely toward that end?
When the Constitution was framed, the population and the challenges and diversity of America’s interests and needs were such that elections every two years for representatives was not a burden and was effective enough for government’s purposes. But times have changed, and as the population has grown, the number of representatives has not increased in proportion, which contributes to the unresponsive government in two ways: reducing constituent accountability through increased difficulty of access as the number of constituents for each representative increases, and increasing the power of representatives, through the increased number of constituents they represent and from whom they are inherently more insulated. And since the Founders erred in not providing a Constitutional mandate for a per-capita increase in House seats, no member has incentive to initiate a change that will reduce his or her power by providing additional seats to make representative government as close and accessible and responsive to the People as the Founders intended it to be for the House.
Representation, the vital function of democratic process, has been under attack far longer than the generation which began with the Nixon administration. In 1913, Congress raised the number of House seats to today’s 435. But in 1921, the newly elected, Republican-majority Congress failed to reapportion the House membership after the census, as required by the United States Constitution, politically motivated, because the effect such a reapportionment would have on future Republican electoral prospects was feared. Then, in 1929, Congress (with Republican control of both houses and the presidency) passed the Reapportionment Act of 1929, which capped the size of the House at 435, a step to control representation, and power, which has since become a bipartisan objective.
Districting is so important because it determines representation, and the lack of strong representation is a big part of the reason why government is unresponsive and unaccountable to citizens. Gerrymandering, as Republicans did to the Ohio 1st District this year, among others, further damages representation, in Ohio-D1, giving Republicans a better-than 2:1 ratio of registered voters over Democrats. Where is the political equality in that? And any good government scholar will tell you, without political equality, which is one of three pillars supporting the foundation of democratic government, you have no viable democracy. In that district, the whole of Butler and Warren counties were swapped, and a part of Hamilton County was cut out, immediately disenfranchising the voters in three counties, with voters, incumbents, and candidates suddenly unfamiliar with one another. Districting should strengthen and broaden the ties of representation, not tear them apart to provide unfair political advantage, which is both un-American and undemocratic... and unneighborly.
Districting is also important as it affects apportionment of House seats. On March 4, 1789, 226 years ago, the First Congress convened with about 65 House members, each representing about 75,000 of today’s-suffrage-adjusted voters. Now, with only 435 House members, the number in place for the most part since 1913, the representative for most districts will stand for more than 470,000 voters—more than 700,000 citizens, and that is far too many for effective representation in the House, and most significantly, with fewer representatives over which to gain control, they are made more susceptible and accessible to lobbying, the influence of wealthy and powerful special interests, including their political parties.
Career politicians have become complacent about what voters think and are happy with the system the way it is, keeping them wrapped in comfortable districts and in office, serving their interests before the People’s and the nation’s, and they won’t alter the system and reduce their power by voting to increase the number of House representatives and provide more responsive and accountable representation. It does not require a constitutional amendment, so put the light on your representative to ask why he or she allows the dilution of representation (and the reduced government responsiveness and accountability that comes with it) by keeping the 435 cap?
And adding representatives will also result in an increased number of smaller districts, making it easier for states to provide equality with more contiguous district mapping, improving representative government. A bonus is that no new office buildings would have to be built to house the new representatives, even if the number were doubled, because of the glut of empty federal buildings within a quarter-mile of the Capitol. This is one of the fundamental changes that must happen if democracy is to be restored, government improved, and the gulf of disparities and unfair advantage raging within the nation narrowed. The Founders put the House of Representatives first in the Constitution, in Article I, Section 2, (the Senate is Section 3; the president, Article II) because they knew that level of representation is the most important to a healthy democracy, being closest to the people, the most vital part of the government they intended for the United States, when properly apportioned.
But more than population has changed. The complexity of life, and of all the attendant prerequisites of government responsibility to provide for public liberty, welfare, and safety have increased as well, and two years is no longer a sufficient period for representatives to become familiar with and effectively carry out their common avenues of responsibility: committee assignments, let alone meet their legislative and constituent-relations responsibilities (fund-raising time is not included because it should and must be eliminated), or to be able to look ahead to the nation’s future and develop policies meant to address problems and challenges extending beyond the next election, over the horizon.
Just think of committees. They are created to divide the focus of the total membership of the House and Senate on individual problems and goals, to provide a means by which legislators can become expert in the industries and activities that fall within the scope of their committees’ charters and thereby guide their colleagues in passing useful legislation. This is how a legislator’s committee-responsibility time is supposed to serve the People, by developing the expertise to provide effective legislation to provide for safety and promote prosperity—a balance in which safety must always carry the greatest weight, but often has not, as one tragedy after another in every decade of American modern history attests. Often, legislators, especially in the House, have not become knowledgeable enough about the complexities that exist within the activities their committees are intended to oversee, and just as often they have only turned an ear to the interests of the lobbyists for those industries, always at their ears, and often on their staffs, sitting at their right shoulders in hearings. This is how disasters, like Gulf oil spills, sub-prime-loan-deflation recessions, commuter-airline crashes, profit-motivated drug unavailabilities, drug and food illnesses and deaths, mining explosions, and Shuttle disasters, etc., etc., happen, and why government is mostly reactive to these disasters instead of proactive to prevent them. This will improve, if and when legislators’ ears are ever freed of lobbyists and their time freed from fundraising, and the revolving door of legislators, turned by two-year elections, is slowed, a revolving door that is self-serving to the election machine, elected officials’ post-legislative careers, and special interests... not the nation and certainly not the People.
Today, policies are designed to meet the needs of what will get a representative re-elected 24 months after the oath of office is taken, or a president in four years, all eyes on the next election after three. America’s future depends upon better governance than has been serving the privileged and wealthy in this generation, and legislators, even if free of fund-raising, need more time to master their responsibilities serving America, and everyone, except the media and bloated election industry, needs fewer elections. A constitutional amendment extending the terms of office of the House of Representatives to four years, and to preserve the Founders’ intent for overlapping stability, the Senate to eight, must be accomplished along with the ban on campaign contributions. And to insure that the behavior and performance of representatives is not separated from the People by the lengthened terms, or left to the unreliable, institution-biased, internal rules of the House, a district-level recall procedure must also be specified which provides the People of a representative’s district reasonable means by which to stage a recall election, if desired, at the mid-term.
These are the first changes upon which Americans must focus. When accomplished, other necessary changes will far more easily follow, like ending the unfair, manipulative, onerous, April-killing income-tax code in favor of a value-added tax, with fixed exclusions for medical products and services, most food, education, and some non-food-derived fuels, and percentage levels within categories of goods to insure fair-share payments for all and loopholes for none; and unwinding the knot of media consolidation that muffles voices, constrains thought and discourse, and constricts the oversight of investigative journalism; and also reining in the dangerous and unnecessary military expansionism and unconstitutional, presidential military authority that has been allowed by Congress to develop, and which has cost America so much in this generation and which is irrevocably bleeding into the next.
In that commencement address, Jobs also said:
“...you can’t connect the dots looking forward; you can only connect them looking backwards. So you have to trust that the dots will somehow connect in your future.”
Looking back, the connected dots form a clear enough picture of how government in America has changed for the worse. The underlying causes are often less clear, hidden in things like secret, pre-war, vice-presidential “energy” meetings. But Jobs wasn’t entirely correct when he said that the dots of our futures can only be derived through trust, at least, where our political futures may lead. That’s because we have a precious gift to guide us, one that was fashioned by minds as great as any this nation has ever produced, men with sharp insights into the pitfalls of human nature and interaction, and who, through times of the greatest possible danger and uncertainty, and divisive discord, devised a system that would both protect against the worst abuses of man’s nature and preserve the greatest opportunity for realizing the hopes for the future and liberty and prosperity, for themselves, their children, and for the generations to follow. That gift, at the foundation of the government Republicans so disdain, is the Constitution, defining a system of government, which nonetheless so reviled by the “dogma” of Republicans, is what the Founders crafted for the preservation of their heritage, and ours, if it is not spit upon, or relegated to be a relic, encased in gas and glass and displayed to tourists, as it has been with the power grabs of presidents, the failures of Congress to jealously guard its powers, and the axe-swings taken by the conservative-Republican majority on the Supreme Court, which have chopped two of democracy’s three foundations, popular sovereignty and political equality, into splinters, leaving political liberty tenuously strained within the rubble.
For this objective of following and connecting the dots to restore a bright future for America, all that need be done is to follow the Constitution, and the money, to purge it from all influence in government activity and purpose.
If any leg breaks, democracy falls. Each leg has been under sustained Republican attack since before President Nixon—generations of decay.
Why is democracy dying? Think of gov’t/conservative-court effect on its framework: popular sovereignty/political liberty/political equality.