Politics

Entries related to things political.

Conveying Wisdom

Recently, I received a candidate questionnaire from the Connecticut Realtors Political Action Committee. Their first question is:

Connecticut presently permits eighteen distressed communities to add an additional local option conveyance tax on home sellers. This tax should be repealed as it is regressive tax that unnecessarily increases the costs of selling a home in Connecticut. Would you support repeal of this regressive local option conveyance tax?

A regressive tax is one where the rate decreases as the amount subject to taxation increases, yet as I understand the local option conveyance tax, it is a flat rate no matter what the selling price is. I wonder if they really meant to say that it is a tax that hits poorer people harder since their homes are often a larger percentage of their wealth.

It raises some interesting questions. Does this tax hit poorer people harder? What sort of effect does this tax have on communities in terms of house sales, house prices, economic opportunity or the health of the community? Would changing or eliminating this tax make health and opportunities more equitable? How would it affect house opportunities for different people or how would it affect smart growth plans. If such a tax were removed, what would be used to replace the money necessary for our already cash strapped communities?

I’ve read through their Public Policy Statement which doesn’t seem to address these issues. I will follow up with them to see what they have to say on these topics.

On Facebook, today, a friend, Miles, posted a link to the Thai Life Insurance Company commercial, “Unsung Hero”. Please, take a moment to watch this commercial and think about commercials in the United States.

With the link, Miles posted,

America today seems to be all about money. I don't think that was always the only thing we valued, and I hope we find our way back from that delusion.

Just before his post was one from Zephyr Teachout. Zephyr is running for Governor in New York State. I met her through Howard Dean’s Presidential campaign over a decade ago, which is also how I met Miles. They live on opposite sides of the country, but share a lot in common.

Zephyr posted

Over 1,000 ALL-VOLUNTEER Teachout-Wu petitions came in this weekend from Long-Island!

These are teachers and parents who are determined not to allow Governor Cuomo to keep taking money from schoolchildren to give away in tax breaks for banks. Your committed fight for our children and future is inspiring. Thank you.

They volunteers are the unsung heroes that the Thai Life commercial talks about. They are those who have stepped away from the delusion that money is the only thing of value.

Another friend, Ed, posted a picture of an Italian Renaissance painting at the Metropolitan Museum in New York, talking about visiting the Met as being a wonderful way to spend the day and after that, my friend Elia posted a cartoon with a signpost. One direction pointed to Truth, Justice and Wisdom. The other pointed to 99 cent burgers. The crowds were all headed towards the burgers.

Perhaps the crowds will vote for my opponent in the election this fall. Perhaps the crowds in New York State will vote for Zephyr’s opponents in the fall, but I will stand for Truth, Justice, and Wisdom, for Unsung Heroes and appreciating the arts, even if all I do is to get a few more people to sit back and wonder what their lives are really all about after all.

Hobby Lobby and the Church at Laodicea

Last Sunday at Church, the priest spoke about the challenges mainline Christians have today. In our modern secular society, we don’t talk about religion, except for talking about the extremists, whether they be Muslim extremists or Christian fundamentalists. God call to us to love everyone created in God’s image too often gets lost. A friend had shared that last Sunday was #SocialMediaSunday and so I was sharing posts about the service online.

I thought of my friends who are people of faith online, some Christian, some Muslim, who often share their belief online, not as an effort to proselytize, but as living examples of being in a loving relationship with God, Allah, and the people around them. People who share prayer requests as well as moments of sadness and moments of joy.

At coffee hour, I talked with a friend about the Church in Laodicea. I’ve always been struck by Revelation 3:15-16.

I know your deeds, that you are neither cold nor hot. I wish you were either one or the other! So, because you are lukewarm—neither hot nor cold—I am about to spit you out of my mouth.

Has the mainline Christian Church in the United States become too much like the Laodicean church? Neither cold nor hot, afraid to offend members of secular society, or become too much like the extremists?

I thought about this when I heard about the Hobby Lobby decision. It has been a major topic amongst many of my friends online. One of the first articles I read was about how the decision was bad for religious people in the United States. It increases the power corporations, which do not have souls, over the people of the land in the name of religious freedom. It casts religion in a more negative light for many. In such an environment, it becomes more difficult, and more incumbent for mainline Christians to stand up and proclaim the Gospel of God’s loving kindness to all God’s people. I believe that showing God’s love is the deeds that Laodicean church lacked, and the real lukewarm church of modern day are those, like the people at Hobby Lobby who use their religion as an excuse not to show God’s love to all people.

This came home to me recently when I read a comment on Facebook. Middletown, CT Mayor Dan Drew shared a link to an editorial in the Middletown Press, "Increased patrols in Middletown show proactive approach". One person commented "Why'll your at it keep those freaking crazy Muslims out of Middletown."

Mayor Drew responded, " I feel badly for you, Mr. Salonia, because you're guided by fear and xenophobia. Judge people by how they treat others - not by their religion. There are billions of peaceful Muslim people throughout the world. Instead of fearing the "other," let's remember our common humanity and the fact that we all have so much more in common than not. I hope and pray that you find it in your heart to love rather than hate. We are all brothers and sisters."

I do not know Mayor Drew’s religious beliefs, but I find his words more in line with my understanding of God’s call to us than the actions of the folks at Hobby Lobby.

Independence and Interdependence

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.--That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, --That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government

Happy Independence Day. The past few weeks have been fairly trying and I slept late this morning. When I awoke, I glanced at a couple discussions on Facebook. My eldest daughter was asking if believed there could be such a thing as a just war. Friends were discussing the implications of the Hobby Lobby decision. There is probably enough material in the Hobby Lobby decision for several blog posts, so I’ll save that for a later day.

Tomorrow, Mairead will be a facilitator in a discussion, “America and Japan: Talking About Peace” in Kobe Japan. She says that “probably the reinterpretation of the Japanese constitution to allow for collective self-defense will be a big topic”.

As we celebrate the signing of the Declaration of Independence today, I suspect many would suggest that was a just war. To the victors go the spoils of war, and after the fact, I suspect most Americans believe the revolution was a just war and a good thing. However, this does not seem to have been the thinking in colonial times.

The most common piece of evidence cited in numerous books about the Revolution is a letter of John Adams indicating that one third of the Americans were for the Revolution, another third were against it, and a final third were neutral or indifferent to the whole affair.

See more at: http://hnn.us/article/5641.

I’m interested in genealogy and know that I have ancestors that fought on both sides of the war. So, how do we determine if this, or other wars are just? Perhaps a useful, but maybe slanted viewpoint can be found in the section of the Declaration of Independence quoted above.

While we call this the Declaration of Independence, it is really talking about our interdependence. Governments derive their power from the consent of the governed, to protect our life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness. The problem is that one person’s pursuit of happiness may threaten the life, liberty of pursuit of happiness of others, so we need to seek ways to find balance between different peoples pursuit of happiness.

Those supporting the revolution felt that King George’s pursuit of happiness, for himself and his friends, was done at the expense of the colonists, that the form of the British Government had become destructive to the rights of the colonists.

A just war, would then be considered a war that seeks to protect the rights of the oppressed. Those arguing for war are bound to frame their arguments in this context, even if the war is about land or access to natural resources, and both sides will try to wrap themselves in the mantel of protecting the oppressed.

In all of this, it seems like the underlying issue is not individual independence, but corporate independence, the independence of one group of people from another group to find ways to work together to protect the interdependent rights of all the individuals in the group.

Unfortunately, too much of the American dialog these days is about individual independence at the expense of the individual independence of our family, friends and neighbors. I hope that as people in Japan think about collective self-defense, they focus on what they are defending and whether or not such a defense is truly justifiable.

Little Brother

Recently, a friend posted on Facebook a link to Cory Doctorow’s post on BoingBoing, Why I'm sending 200 copies of Little Brother to a high-school in Pensacola, FL.

The principal of Booker T Washington High in Pensacola FL cancelled the school's One School/One Book summer reading program rather than letting all the kids go through with the previously approved assignment to read Little Brother, the bestselling young adult novel by Cory Doctorow. With Cory and Tor Books' help, the teachers are fighting back.

Before I learned that I’m supposed to be embarrassed to read young adult novels, I downloaded it for free.

At the top, Cory has “THE COPYRIGHT THING”. It is chock full of great quotes:

Universal access to human knowledge is in our grasp, for the first time in the history of the world. This is not a bad thing.

As to why he gives away his ebooks, he says,

For me -- for pretty much every writer -- the big problem isn't piracy, it's obscurity… I'm more interested in getting more of that wider audience into the tent than making sure that everyone who's in the tent bought a ticket to be there.

Well, I’m glad to help with that. Perhaps this blog post will encourage a few more people to check out Cory’s writing.

Yet the quote that has particularly jumped out at me is this:

If you're not making art with the intention of having it copied, you're not really making art for the twenty-first century.

Of course, I wonder what people who advocate not making art, just making something think about this final quote.

Influence and Incentive

On Friday, I filed my SEEC Form 1 with the State Elections Enforcement Commission. This form, along with others, provides the SEEC information about how the candidate is complying with campaign laws and provides the public an opportunity to find out who is influencing the candidate, at least in terms of financial contributions.

Yet with campaign finance reform in Connecticut, at least for state offices, the effect of financial influence is not as significant as it used to be, and it may be time to look at other forms of influence. We are all influenced by our family, friends and neighbors, and what we see in the media. An interesting book that explores this is Personal Influence: The Part Played by People in the Flow of Mass Communications by Elihu Katz and Paul Lazarsfeld. It was first published back in 1955 and is perhaps even more relevant today as we think about influence online. This book influences my own thoughts about how we can work together for the sake of our community, state, and country.

Another key influence shaping my run for State Representative is the Connecticut Health Foundations Health Leadership Fellows Program. I became a fellow in this program last year. A key focus of the Foundation and the program is ‘Expanding Health Equity’. The program provides many great opportunities to gather with thought leaders to find ways to address health issues in Connecticut.

One opportunity was when Francois de Brantes from the Health Care Incentives Improvement Institute spoke to fellows about payment reform. In preparation for the talk, the fellow read the policy brief, Improving Incentives. It is well worth the read. What incentives can we offer to medical providers, insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and others to reduce the cost and improve the quality of healthcare in America? As an example, are their incentives for medical providers to encourage caesarean sections when natural childbirth would provide better health outcomes? Are their incentives to have a caesarean section prior to 39 weeks, even though, as the March of Dimes notes, at least 39 weeks is best for your baby.

Through the fellowship, I’ve connected with people at many great organizations, the Universal Health Care Foundation of Connecticut, the Connecticut Multicultural Health Partnership, the Commission on Health Equity, the Connecticut Health Policy Project to name just a few.

Yet there is much more that needs to be considered when we think about the wellbeing of our community, state, and country. On Friday, I spoke with the producer of Conversations on Health Care about an upcoming guest, Elizabeth Bradley, who wrote the book, The American Health Care Paradox: Why Spending More is Getting Us Less. While we spend more per capita than any other country on health care, our results are not as good as other countries. Why is this? Perhaps some of it comes from failing to spend enough of what leads to healthy societies, like good food and housing. Perhaps some of it is due to flaws in our educational system or transportation system.

These are the issues that we need to be thinking about. We need to find incentives that will help our communities, our state, and our country be stronger and healthier. This is where you come in. Who influences you? Who do you influence? Who has good ideas that need to be brought into the conversation? What are those ideas? Let’s talk. Let’s use this as an opportunity to work together for better communities.

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