Sunday, July 13, 2014

Principles, Power & Precincts - Part I

---This is Part I of a three part series, here's Part II and Part III---

Here is a wonderful guest article by Bruce Cavender in which he takes us through his personal political "awakening" and lays out why it is so important for everyone to stick to their principles, become involved in the political system, and why the precinct process is the best way to affect change in our communities.

I want to thank Bruce for taking the time to write this and for his continued efforts.

Part I, an Introduction

When Jacob asked me to write this article about the Precinct Process, my first thought was that I could knock it out in 20 minutes because the basic mechanics of how to participate in this very influential process are simple and straightforward. At the lowest level of participation, the basic activity can be carried out in a few hours every other year after a person becomes familiar with the procedure.  Even more can be accomplished by those willing to invest even a modest amount of time.

However, to only explain the mechanics of “The Process” in isolation would be about as valuable as walking into a movie halfway through. So I took a deep breath and expanded the scope to put together a cogent analysis … that basically could only be delivered by alternative media and link sharing among people that are deeply concerned about where our Country is going.

My goal here is to promote the understanding of (a) the context of how the Process works, (b) how special interests are involved and, maybe most important to understand, (c) how citizens' lack of participation actually becomes a sanction of the very waste and injustice that plagues us. Many, many people feel system reform is necessary for a broad array of reasons. As an old systems engineer and business manager, much of what is wrong, the waste, corruption and injustice, jumps out at me like sparks from a downed electric pole or blood spurting from an artery.  We have significant problems that threaten to cause great harm to our Country right at our doorstep. People are awakening to these threats and becoming involved to solve them. We need every hand on deck to do what is right for our County and our Country, especially younger folks. We have let much get out of hand and there is much to do.

I also want to pass along discussion about certain key principles that the United States was founded upon because of their exceptional relevance, no, necessity in making our situation better.  The United States of America is the greatest 'startup' this planet has ever seen. My greatest wish is to see it endure for my children and people who are like Thomas Jefferson that appreciates dangerous freedom over peaceful slavery.

It is clear that there are those that do not share the Founders' understanding and philosophy about how and why their system works. Too many are totally ignorant of how our system came to be. There are also those that want to destroy the Founders' model completely and make no bones about doing it. Some because they truly are tyrants like the Founders risked their lives to protect us from … others because they simply seek money and power and really don't think about the consequences of selling rope to those that would hang us. The worst offenders among us are those just don't care about injustice, waste and who gets hurt in the disaster they create while they are 'getting theirs'.  Over the last five years, our reform process has seen numerous successes, but it needs to be taken to the next level. We must fully understand what the higher level problems are and how to work within the system to bring about the reform that is necessary to prevent the loss of freedoms and liberties for ourselves and our children.  Let's start by thinking about you, the reader, personally.

A Question:

“Why should you become involved in the Precinct Process anyway?  Or put a different way … “What are the consequences if enough people like you do not become involved in the Precinct Process?

The Precinct Process is not taught in our schools, there is seldom free food, the people can be grumpy and you will not be remunerated for your time. Why not just stay home and turn on your thousand channel cable and zone out?  You work 40 hours a week. You pay your bills. You raise your kids right and set a good example for them. Maybe you even volunteer in church or civic organizations to try to help others. You vote, sometimes, even though you have this strong, nagging feeling that doing it 'makes no difference' … but can't logically put your finger on a solid reason why.

But that's all we need to do to be good citizens, right?  Besides … Politics … it’s a dirty business … who would want to be associated with that?  This, as it turns out, is a pivotal question to ask and far more important than I ever could have imagined when I joined “The Process” five years ago.

The description above was me for 35 years. I worked, I voted … in the big elections, but I left the rest for 'somebody else' to do.  I was a “Sheeple”. However, not to act, was to act. By not participating in governance of my County and Country, I gave my 'personal sanction' to all of the injustice and ills that were being visited upon us. I was guilty.  However, 2008 was a watershed year where it was clear to me the 'system' had come off the rails in a number of important ways. It was reaching inside our home and I wanted to know why. I felt that the system was directly threatening my children and without intervention, my kids specifically would not have even the basic chances at personal and economic freedom that my wife and I had enjoyed.  This was on our radar as a real threat.

Instead of a golfing retirement, I spent five years looking at where our Country came from, what it was doing, where it was going and who is taking us there. I have talked candidly with executives in our federal, state and local governments. Ditto regional Fortune 100/1000 companies, Mom & Pop family businesses and lot of regular citizens. Universally, everyone individually knows that 'something is wrong', but they don't know where the problem lies or how to do anything about it. Well, they are right. Something is wrong. Fortunately, there is much to do about it, but as with any problem, it must be properly understood before it can be solved. A problem buried, is a problem unresolved.

Let me share my wake up call and part of my journey to see if it resonates with your experience.


After clicking off another upsetting newscast halfway through, our family sat down for a weekend dinner. My son was home from his university and told us about a professor that interrupted a group of students taking a critical final exam by barging in and announcing “Half you are going to fail and wash out of this program!” I was incredulous. This kind of despicable behavior by a person in 'authority' could not be happening in a learning environment ... not in a “prestigious” university classroom. When I expressed my shock to my son, he simply frowned, looked me in the eye and said “I can give you the phone numbers of five of my classmates who were there.” I wanted to escalate this incident to his chairman, dean, university president or the media, but my son told me I couldn't or he would never have a chance to graduate because of retribution. I was floored. I was angry because my son was being harmed, our family money was being wasted and there was not single thing I could do about it without making the situation worse for him.

From the other side of the dinner table, my daughter told me about an electronic media arts history professor at her university that was requiring them to memorize 5000 individual photographs, the names of the photographers, the dates taken and the technologies used to develop each of them. 5000?  I thought, this is a “university” level course? I remember thinking, with my poor memory, I would have zero hope of passing this 'course requirement'.  Wait. Why is this even happening?  The reason for studying the leaps of historical achievement is so students have the chance to blaze new trails ahead … innovating in the here and now just like the great leaps of the past. Right?  No. My daughter's tuition money being spent to indoctrinate her with skills of basic, dulling, rote memorization. “University”?  Was this to prepare her for a career competing against a $60 multimedia database program that would be 100,000 times faster than her and perfectly accurate every time?  Nope. On further digging, this prof had a track record of grinding down students into dropping his class and failing half of those that attempted to actually make it through. My daughter similarly feared retribution and my hands were tied again.  To my daughter's credit, she passed the class, the second time she took it, but all I could do was shake my head at the malinvestment of tuition money in a mismanaged educational system and her time that was wasted forever.

Something was very wrong here and it hit me like a baseball bat to the face. The system that had worked for my wife and I nearly a half century ago was now clearly harming our children. Our students were unhappy and we were furious. Our money was disappearing and we were getting nothing for it.   Most worrisome, our student’s future prosperity was being threatened.

The Moon:

I clearly remember a different time. In the 1960s and 1970s, those in our educational system had their marching orders to produce students proficient in science, technology, engineering and math.  I will never forget John F. Kennedy's speech setting the goal of putting a man to the moon. I remember my eyes growing large. What inspiring leadership! Later a fellow from NASA showed up at my high school. After showing some slides and models, he lit a small kerosene lamp on the front of the stage and while describing a rocket engine, he lifted a gloved hand holding a flask of liquid oxygen as high as he could reach and let the stream pour out onto the burning lamp. The liquid stream turned into a mist just above the small flame. As the oxygen touched the flame, that dinky little lamp filled the auditorium with a rocket's roar that set everyone back in their seats. This tiny demonstration got inside our heads. Everyone talked about it incessantly and we left that day thinking differently.  Anything seemed possible to us … because those teaching dared us to think it was. The road ahead was clear and we were welcomed to it. Those teaching were rooting us on. We were to do great things. In retrospect to me, it was a defining moment for many students that day.

The Teachers working behind the scenes that orchestrated this simple demonstration wanted us to succeed. They wanted to motivate us to success. They got it. Now contrast the leadership and vision of that line of thinking to those of the university profs that have done everything possible to set up students to fail through behavior like I just described.  Either they are are hopelessly incompetent or they have a covert mindset intentionally designed to rob students of both their tuition money and their future economic prosperity.  Clearly, neither of those two situations are good or acceptable … let alone be allowed to continue.  $100s of millions of dollars of palatial campus buildings do not guarantee a mind capable of logical, critical thinking … let alone a mind that is full of enthusiasm for learning every day going forward. Don't just take my word for this.  Ask any university student now out looking for good paying, meaningful work about how useful they feel their classes were for their future economic prosperity.  Do you see enthusiasm or burn out?  If you see Burn-Out, you have confirmation of my problem.

Now if you are still with me, it is likely that you have also experienced some defining off-the-rails moment and need a way to make the situation better. 

The news is bad and good.

Bad news:

The bad news is that there is a significant number of people out there that are willing to do unethical, even evil, things to get their way and many of them are in positions of political and government power.   Many that are out of bounds are simply self serving or ignorant of the right path, thus open to correction. A small handful are very aware of the impropriety of their actions, but the end goal of power-at-any-price is the justification for their means.  These people are incorrigible and must simply be removed from the 'system'. Our situation is not unique. This has occurred for millenia and is simple human nature. Similar situations in history developed only two ways: (1) descent into destruction or (2) reform back to health. The actions of the People and their leaders determine the outcome.

Good news:

The good news is that the self-serving, unethical or just plain evil guys' numbers are small relative to people that need free markets, a stable rule of law and fiscal sanity in our nation and that every one of them can be removed, from all levels of government, national through local, by the voters. When a large enough number of people tire of corruption and become involved, they can be taken out, but there is no guarantee. The only question is will the system be cleansed via an orderly reform process or will there be a systemic moral and economic convulsion with an unnecessarily dangerous probability of uncontrolled mayhem, disaster and even death. There is a tsunami coming either way and it is time to choose our ground.

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