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The Fatal Flaw in our System of Democracy
Shaun Kerry, M.D.
Diplomate, American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology
We have known that our government has been dysfunctional for decades. There is a very basic defect in the system. Fortunately, the situation is not without a remedy. Only when people realize the gravity of the present situation will they support the recognize the existence of a cost-effective solution, and support the necessity of fundamental change.
The idealistic belief that anyone in America can become President is false. In our current form of democracy, only a special few can become elected to office.
So what does it really take for someone to be elected? He - or she - must have the will and stamina to campaign for endless hours. He must convince the political party leaders that he will be loyal to the party and its financial supporters. Additionally, his supporters must believe that he has the charisma that will be necessary for him to win. Granted, a person of this personality type is fairly rare. Furthermore, these characteristics take precedence over the more important qualities of judgment, character, vision, and problem solving ability.
Individuals who do not associate themselves with a major political party must have massive financial backing in order to campaign. And to receive such support, candidates must remain loyal to the agenda of their political party/supporters. This leads candidates to take actions which might benefit specific organizations and individuals, but may not be beneficial to society as a whole.
This site will define the root problem that plagues our present political system. It is necessary that you understand this before going any further. A separate site will explain the solution to this problem, and explore a cost-free plan of action that you can undertake to participate in the reform movement.
What is a
Shaun Kerry, M.D.
Diplomate, American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology
"All the world's a stage,
And the men and women merely players."
-- As You Like It (II, vii, 139-143)
Put simply, functionality is the ability to perform a job smoothly, efficiently, and correctly. For example, when someone says, "My car doesn’t function anymore," they may mean that their car gets bad gas mileage, takes too much effort to maintain, and generally doesn't perform sufficiently.
First, let’s take a look at some functional organizations. Take movie-making, for example. The key person is the casting director. The concept of casting extends not only to the actors, but also to choosing the array of technical and support people. These decisions are critical to the success of the film. Everyone has a unique and special personality. It is the job of the casting director and producer to coordinate these personalities in such a fashion that everyone can function together. Such decisions can make or break the movie.
The same principles apply in any successful business organization. The management knows what personality characteristics are right for a given position. From a wide variety of applicants, they select the person best suited for the job; the person who most exhibits the desired characteristics. Imagine companies like Yahoo!, Sony, General Mills, or Toyota. They must be making good hiring decisions, and functioning with a minimum of red tape.
In government, however, we see the opposite: dysfunctionality. We witness terrible, costly decisions being made. Consider the Vietnam War, which lasted over ten years, cost billions of dollars, destroyed thousands of lives, and accomplished nothing. We see votes cast along party lines, with people voting according to their political party rather than using their individual judgment. This leads to gridlock, leaving our political system like a car stalled in traffic.
If an organization is extremely dysfunctional, then there is something in its core structure that is improperly designed. Our challenge is to find that root cause and fix it. When the underlying flaws are corrected, government, schools, and health-care will become highly functional organizations.
Our government is based on the principle that it is of the people, by the people, and for the people. This essentially means that we are in charge. And if our government is going to change, it is our responsibility to change it. We will have to take on the job of the casting director. To do our job effectively, we will need to get rid of the red tape and the bureaucracy. We will need the ability to fill these roles
To do our job effectively, we must be free of red tape. We need the ability to choose from a universe of people to fill these crucial roles.
The Ability To Win
Shaun Kerry, M.D.
Diplomate, American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology
If you speak to the leaders of any major political party, they will tell you that they select their candidates based primarily on one quality: their ability to help the party win. Political parties take polls of voters to determine what their concerns are. Armed with this information, they have professional speech writers weave these concerns into extremely persuasive sales pitches. It's something like a Madison Avenue production.
Political parties are driven by big money interests and have an annual budget in excess of $100,000,000. They are obligated to their donors.
We are prevented from getting to know the candidates on a more personal, candid level. This results in the candidate frequently having an artificial quality to his or her personality, which is often argumentative and competitive. The world of politics has attracted many people who are strong with regard to salesmanship, but weak in problem solving ability.
Most people I have spoken with are unhappy with either major candidate. Sometimes they settle for the 'lesser of two evils', and vote for the candidate who, far from ideal, is the better choice. Sometimes they don't vote at all. Sadly, a great many individuals who would be wonderful political leaders are left by the wayside. Most people simply lack the financial resources that they would need to get involved in politics. Sometimes, they are unwilling to endure the immense social pressures of a political campaign. You might know some people who fall into this category. Perhaps a teacher, a friend, or a neighbor.
If you observed the behind the scenes dealings of a political party, you would see that the delegates often act like an irrational mob. Many years ago, we actually saw this being broadcast on television. Currently, this embarrassing behavior is filtered out, and kept out of public view. We see a rehearsed and polished version of politics.
In my wanderings through life, I have found that most people I have encountered are very troubled by the current state of politics, but are unable to clearly define the problem, the root cause, or the solution. They feel helpless, and doubt that they could do anything to change the system. They simply accept the present circumstances as 'the price we must pay for democracy. People aren't very interested in political speeches and debates, despite the fact that the candidates are usually highly animated and talk about issues that concern everyone. Why is this? No matter how much a candidate practices a speech, it will always sound like a sales pitch, because that is exactly what it is: another attempt to gain votes.
If you haven't done so already, rent the movie Amistad. This film is much more about political values than violence. Anthony Hopkins portrays our fifth president, John Quincy Adams. At the end of the movie, he delivers a speech that will likely move you to tears. The president speaks of people acting passionately for a cause, rather than in the name of some material interest. The speech is so inspiring because it comes from the heart. We often discount the importance of the human soul, and its relation to the higher values of truth and justice. But when someone is able to touch us in that special way, stirring our very soul, it is a very moving experience.
Political Reform Parties
Shaun Kerry, M.D.
Diplomate, American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology
What elements must be present for real reform to occur?
Both reform parties still choose their own candidates. In order for true democracy to exist, people must be in a position to choose from a wide range of candidates rather than a select few. This would prevent relationships from forming between the government and special interest groups that only seek to further their own agenda. Allowing all eligible people to have a realistic chance of serving in government would provide a compromise between the self-serving concepts of capitalism and the harsh, single-mindedness of socialism. This would give the average citizen more choices, and a true democracy exists only when people have real control in the choosing of their political leaders.
Are you an activist? Here is what I suggest. Rather than become enmeshed in partisan politics, support a state-financed - or perhaps privately funded - structure which supports all candidates, regardless of their philosophy of government. I'm sure that your ideals are fine and noble, but wouldn’t it be best to set them aside and fight for the right of every candidate to be heard.
This kind of activism would help to transform our country into a true democracy, and would lead to a more functional government, which would prove beneficial to everyone, including you.
Political Reform and Soft Money
There can be no doubt that American politics involves too much money. In the 2000 election cycle, the Democratic Party raised over 520 million dollars. Even this insane figure pales in comparison to the republican's 715 million. Despite these staggering figures, the real issue is not the money itself, but its effect on policy decisions. We've heard about 'soft money' for years, but its impact is rarely discussed.
First of all, soft money allows an individual to donate more than his allotted maximum to a particular candidate by using an organization - a state party, for example - as a middleman. They donate to the given organization, and the organization uses their donation in the campaign of the candidate that the donor supports.
One example of this situation is the oil/energy industry. They support the republican party's stance on the environment, and their donations show this. They attempt to influence the election with money, thereby solidifying their interests.
|Election Cycle||Total Contributions||Soft Money||Donations to||Donations to||Percent to||Percent to|
|2002 so far||$5,380,345||$2,627,694||$1,017,599||$4,305,246||19%||80%|
Any type of organization can act as a middleman between large donors and political parties. Political parties, corporations, unions, and special-interest groups all play a role in the soft money loophole. Despite the outrageous amounts of money being spent on election campaigns, the biggest problems with large donations is that they attack the principle of all votes being equal.
Under the current system, individuals are limited to donating a certain dollar amount to parties or candidates. However, the soft money goes into a general party fund and can be raised through such things as dinners with politicians. In the 2002 election cycle, the largest donor to the republican party was the 2001 President's Dinner Committee, which raised a full ten times as much money as the next highest donor. Suppose a politician has one of these $10,000 a plate dinners. Company X pays for twenty people to attend. This leads to certain corporations or industries, making very large donations, and thereby greatly influencing policy decisions.
Some organizations - Microsoft, Citigroup, and SBC Communications, to name a few - donate responsibly. Many groups, however, think otherwise. The Service Employees International Union donated almost all of their 8.5 million dollars to the democrats, while the NRA and Philip Morris each donated over 90% of their 3 million dollars to the republicans. Politicians know who their biggest supporters are, and make concessions to their wishes. In effect, this can make the votes of twenty people far more important than that those votes of most other citizens.
The problems of the system are obvious, and although this cycle seems impossible to end, several ideas can at least make the system less financially driven, and somewhat equalize the importance of votes. Legislation that effects such change much be passed through congress. In 1986, Bill Bradley proposed a bill to limit campaign contributions and 'pork-barrel legislation.' Before it was passed, however, congress debated it, and changed it such that it not only made the financial situation worse, but also had unnecessary legislation attached to it. ( 2 )
Simply put, there is too much money in politics. The votes of large donors are worth more than the votes of average citizens. And even when legislation is introduced that would reform the present state of campaign financing, it often gets modified by congress, and in effect, waters down its impact. The first step towards campaign finance reform is to show politicians that we care about the issue, and then elect people who are willing to tackle the problem.
1: All the statistical figures on this page are based on Federal Election Commission data released on Monday, October 01, 2001 and November 01, 2001. All numbers are credited to the Center for Responsive Politics, as reprinted through www.opensecrets.org
2: Showdown at Gucci Gulch : Lawmakers, Lobbyists, and the Unlikely Triumph of Tax Reform by Jeffrey H. Birnbaum, Alan S. Murray (Contributor). Pub. by Random House Inc. 1987.
The Power Elite
Both Thomas Dye and William Dumhoff argue that in the United States, power is no longer vested in the people, but rather, in a select group of upper class individuals, or, the "power elite".
We like to think of the United State as a democracy, where power is vested in the people. But does power truly belong to the general population? Or does it belong to an elite group of individuals, namely, leaders of large corporations. Both Thomas Dye in Who's Running America? The Clinton Years (1995) and William Domhoff in Who Rules America: Power and Politics in the Year 2000 (2000) present evidence supporting the latter hypothesis. As Domhoff puts it, "the owners and top-level managers in large income-producing properties are far and away the dominant power figures in the United States". It is this arrangement that most severely undermines democracy in the United States.
In Domhoff's view, a power elite exists in the United States. This group is made up of the nation's corporate community - along with those who have vested corporate ties - and their policy formation organizations (such as chambers of commerce) . Domhoff points out that both the corporate community and policy formation organizations are predominantly made up of members of the upper class. This occurs because "(1) members of the upper class own almost half of all privately held stock, (2)many large stockholding families in the upper class continue to be involved in the direction of major corporations through family offices, investment partnerships, and holding companies, (3)members of the upper class are disproportionately represented on the boards of large corporations, (4) the professional managers of middle-level origins are assimilated into the upper class both socially and economically and share the values of upper-class owners."
The power elite is bound together by their common upper class values. Domhoff argues that this "social cohesion" is important from a class-dominance perspective because the most socially cohesive groups are the ones that do best in arriving at a consensus when dealing with a problem. Attending the nation's exclusive prep schools and universities, and becoming members of the country's most exclusive social clubs and resorts serves to solidify this cohesion. Dye concurs with Domhoff's idea of the upper class's social cohesion, stating that "agreement among elites to abide by the rule of law and to minimize violence has a strong utilitarian motive, namely, to preserve stable working arrangements among elite groups."
The power elite adheres to upper class values, which they seek to perpetuate in order to maintain their class position, i.e. the status quo. "Elites in all sectors of American society share a consensus about the fundamental values of private enterprise, limit! ed government, and due process of law. " According to Dye, "6,000 individuals in 7,000 positions exercise formal authority over institutions that control roughly half of the nation's resources in industry, finance, utilities, insurance, mass media, foundation, education, law, and civic and cultural affairs." A relatively small number of people actually direct the activities in these areas or institutions, giving each member of the elite a great deal of power, and further adds to the group's cohesion.
1 Domhoff, William. Who’s Rules America. Power and Politics in the Year 2000. New York: Mayfield Publishing. 2000.
2 Domhoff, William. 2.
3 Domhoff, William. 71.
4 Domhoff, William. 72.
5 Dye, Thomas. Who’s Running America? The Clinton Years. New York: Prentice Hall. 1994. 242.
6 Dye, Thomas. 246
7 Dye, Thomas. 244
Socialization and the Transfer of Values
The power elite never disappears because it is self perpetuating. Young people who are on their rise to the top accept the values of the power elite, making them their own.
Though the majority of the power elite is made up of upper class individuals, there is a very small segment of the elite that is not. These are the people who are still on their rise to the top, and while on their way up, are socialized into an upper class belief system. After all, a prerequisite to rising up the ladder of power seems to be attending one of the nation's prestigious universities, which Dye defines as Harvard, Yale, Chicago, Stanford, Columbia, MIT, Cornell, Northwestern, Princeton, Johns Hopkins, Pennsylvania, and Dartmouth9. According to Dye's study, at least 50% of top corporate leaders in the areas of industry, utilities, insurance, investment, media, law, foundations, education, and politics have come from one of these schools. It is at these prestigious universities that students develop certain class-specific habits. Robert Gransfield points out that the "habits and tastes developed by these students direct the vast majority away from lower status legal positions. In fact, affiliating with the social network at Harvard demands that students gravitate toward positions in large urban law firms, in spite of the reservations they may harbor10." Therefore, a student who doesn't originally come from the upper class - who may have initially intended to change the system after receiving his degree from a prestigious university - is socialized into being part of the system, and eventually becomes a member of the power elite.
Additionally, upwardly mobile managers are also socialized into the upper class. As Domhoff points out, new managers "come to believe that they have to be part of the 'old-boy network' to succeed in the company11." One of the primary reasons that managers feel this way is because of the great uncertainty that surrounds the decision making process at the top of complex organizations, which makes trust essential12. What better way for new managers to develop trust with those around them than to conform to their belief systems and behaviors. As sociologist Rosabeth Kanter says: "It is the uncertainty quotient in managerial work, as it has come to be defined in the large modern corporations, that causes management to become so socially restricting; to develop tight inner circles excluding social strangers; to keep control in the hands of socially homogenous peers13."
Clarence Thomas is one individual who encapsulates this process of socialization in which upper class values are accepted by or conferred upon rising members of society. Thomas, who grew up in the poor neighborhood of Pin Point, Georgia, could never have imagined that he would one day become one of the associate justices of the Supreme Court. Though hard work and determination, Thomas was able to rise to the top. However, on his way up, he adopted the values of the upper class as his own. During his tenure on the Supreme Court, Thomas has continuously proven to be one its most conservative members. He has repeatedly stood against affirmative action. Even the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People was unsure about supporting his confirmation to the high court. And perhaps most significantly, Thurgood Marshall - one of the justices who was most instrumental in the fight to end segregation, and the justice who Thomas replaces - was fervently against Thomas' appointment.
Thomas' progression is an excellent demonstration of this process of socialization. For all intents and purposes, the power elite is composed of upper class individuals. And if these individuals cannot yet be considered upper class from a financial standpoint, they have adopted an upper class belief system, and are well on their way to economic prominence. Traditionally, top government officials are chosen from the pool of corporate upper class members and members of the pseudo upper class. To Domhoff, "most top appointees in both Republican and Democratic administrations are corporate executives and corporate lawyers-and hence members of the power elite14." Therefore, it follows that top government officials exceedingly represent the values of the corporate sector, and hence, the values of the upper class. This situation directly diminishes the existence of democracy in America. Power is not vested in the people, but rather in an extremely small segment of the population. Nearly all of those individuals who make the decisions that affect the entire nation come from the same upper class mold. Their decisions reflect this mold, which conditions them to view the world through a certain biased filter. How can a tax increase on the upper classes of America ever occur, if those responsible for making such decisions are themselves part of the upper class?
9 Dye, Thomas. 111.
10 Domhoff, William. 48.
11 Domhoff, William. 93.
12 Domhoff, William. 93.
13 Domhoff, William. 93
14 Domhoff, William 240.
The power elite, largely through their influence in the area of research and their use of 'policy planning groups' are able to shape, and in some cases, create public policy.
Domhoff also points out that "corporate leaders have personal contact with both appointed and elected officials as members of the two policy organizations with the most access to government, the Business Council and the Business Roundtable." It is through this contact that corporate leaders are once again able to influence the decision making process of political officials. This personal contact is something that the masses do not have access to. As a result, their voices are seldom heard. This personal contact between corporate leaders and the government extends all the way to the presidency. Domhoff believes that corporate leaders serve as informal advisers to the President during foreign policy crises. Dye echoes this statement, and points to the fact that David Rockefeller of the Rockefeller dynasty, was "personally involved in Nixon's arrangement of détente with the USSR, the Strategic Arms Limitations Talks (SALT), and the 'normalization' of U.S. relations with the mainland of the People's Republic of China." Once again, a member of the corporate upper class is able to do something that the masses cannot: influence government policy.
In his "oligarchic model of national policy-making," Dye is able to further demonstrate the influence that the corporate upper class exerts over our government's decision making process. In the first step of this model, corporate and personal wealth provide the monetary resources necessary for research, study, planning, and formulation of national policy. Not all research is objective. Many of these individuals or corporations fund biased research in order to arrive at conclusions that will support their desired policies. In fact, many of these individuals play a direct role in the research process, ensuring that it cannot be entirely objective. After all, "corporate presidents, directors, and top wealth-holders also sit on the governing boards of the foundations, universities, and policy-planning groups to oversee the spending of their funds." The vast majority of Americans simply lack the financial resources needed to command the same kind of influence. Democracy is weakened in the name of corporate interest, and the power that was formerly reserved for the people continues to belong to a select few.
The corporate upper class is further aided in its domination of national policy making by forming 'policy-planning groups.' According to Dye, these groups "bring together people at the top of the corporate and financial institutions, the universities, the foundations, the mass media, the powerful law firms, the top intellectuals, and influential figures in the government." Their purpose is to review university or foundation supported research, and to reach a consensus about what action should be taken regarding the problems that they have studied. The policy-planning groups then formulate action recommendations, "explicit policies or programs designed to resolve or ameliorate national problems." These recommendations are then circulated to the mass media, federal executive agencies, and Congress. In this way the policy-planning groups influence national policy by attracting public attention to their recommendations. Again the point of view of the masses is rarely represented. Those that make up the policy-planning groups can hardly be considered representative of the 'average citizen.'
These policy planning groups further influence national policy by preparing legislation for congress. Dye points out that "before the results of government-sponsored research are available, federal executive agencies, with the assistance of policy-planning groups, will prepare legislation for Congress to implement policy decisions. Particular versions of bills will pass between executive agencies, the White House, policy-planning groups, and the professional staffs of the congressional committees that eventually will consider the bills" . Not only are they influencing national policy, they are, essentially, writing it. And while this process continues unabated, democracy continues to weaken.
The Economy's Oppressive Influence
All facets of a capitalist society are ultimately influenced by the economy and the corporate realm; even those areas that we would usually consider completely unrelated to the power elite.
In Liberal Democracy Into the Twenty-first Century: Globalization, Integration and the Nation State (1996), Axtmann agrees with the emphasis that Dye and Domhoff place on the economy. He states that "if we include the economy in civil society, then we have to pay systematic attention to the oppressive force operating within it. A theory of civil society that does not do so is seriously deficient." The economy's "oppressive force" comes to influence all of society. Axtmann gives the example of hospitals operating in a capitalist environment and being "ultimately" affected by it ." Based on their line of reasoning, it is highly likely that Dye and Domhoff would agree with this assessment. If the hospital is funded by a corporation, then the corporation will perhaps decide where the hospital is located or what kind of research it will undertake. The corporation is directly influencing the hospital and its policies, just like it influences political decision making in Dye's "oligarchic model of national policy-making." In both cases, the economy's "oppressive force" dominates society.
Both Domhoff and Dye present evidence that a small group of corporate executives and their peers, united by the common thread of upper class values and beliefs, have come to dominate the United States. Regardless of their initial background, members who seek to rise up the power ladder undergo a process of socialization during which they adopt these values as their own. As a result, such values are most disproportionately represented in our government and by its policies. Domhoff points out that most appointments in both Democratic and Republican administrations come from the corporate sector. Dye gives evidence to support the argument that almost every single step of the national policy making process is dominated by the corporate upper class. Both of these theorists paint a picture of America in which democracy continues to diminish; an America in which power rests in the hands of a select few. Unfortunately, this is not likely to change. Sadly, members of society who are on their way to the top, and who once hoped to challenge society's status quo, often end up buying into the upper class values system. The potential threat that they once posed - the threat to alter an imbedded system that perpetuates inequality and removes power from the people - is now gone. And the wheel roles on.
Influence of Money on Politics
Kah Ying Choo
In 1995, an independent study commissioned by the Congress determined that no more B-2 bombers should be built in 1995. At the cost of $493 million per plane, the B-2 bombers were costly. Furthermore, the Pentagon had declared that they did not want any more B-2 bombers. However, one year later, members of the Congress voted to allocate funding to build another B-2 bomber. Why did members of the Congress agree to this needless expenditure?
One possible reason: The political action committee (PAC) of Northrup Grumman, the builder of B-2 bombers, donated $320,775 to members of Congress in 1995. This amount was twice the sum given to Congress in 1993 and 1994. In fact, when another bill was proposed to eliminate funding from the B-2 in June 1996, Northrup Grumman gave another $75,200 to finance campaigns of members of the Congress (Beaulieu, 1996, p. 15).
This incident testifies to our politicians’ excessive financial dependence on well-endowed donors. More importantly, it demonstrates how these donors have played a significant role in shaping public policy. By paying substantial amounts of money to politicians, corporations and rich individuals have been able to gain direct access to political representatives and lobby effectively for their causes. Concomitantly, low-income and poor people who do not offer financial contributions do not have the opportunity to voice their opinions on behalf of their issues (Beaulieu, 1996, p. 15).
According to Public Campaign (2000), an organization that is dedicated to the creation of a public financing system, 80 percent of donors who contributed $200 or more had an annual family income of more than $100,000 a year, with five percent having an income of $50,000 or less in 1996. Therefore, even though U.S. household with at total income of $100,000 or more constitute 12 percent of the total number of households in the U.S., 80 percent of these households exert the greatest influence on public policy. The Center for Responsive Politics also reports that almost 70 percent of the PAC contributions in the 2000 election stems from business interests, 21 percent from labor and 11 percent from other groups (in Public Campaign, 2000, p. 5).
Research studies have also revealed that money donors do not donate large sums of money for altruistic reasons or affirmation of their political beliefs. Based on a survey of donors in the 1996 presidential elections, Francia and others (1999) report that 76 percent of the respondents stated that their primary reason for donating to political candidates was to shape government policies. A 2000 poll conducted by Lake Snell Perry and Associates involving 1,000 voters and 200 donors also revealed that 54 percent of the donors spoke directly to a major elected official compared to nine percent of the voters (Lake & Borosage, 2000, p. 2). Therefore, it is evident that money exerts a significant impact in determining which political constituents are heard by their political representatives. These studies demonstrate clearly that the donor class that represents only a minority of the nation has considerably more latitude in influencing government policy than the majority of the population in the nation.
The following section offers a sampling of concrete examples of how the Congress has been influenced by their donors and acted in accordance with their interests.
● Automotive Industry: Only after the tragedy involving Firestone tires on Ford Explorers that resulted in the deaths of over 100 people did Congress finally decide to update the 30-year-old standards for tires in October 2000. Auto safety experts believe that the long overdue legislation to improve tire standards is insufficient in providing genuine safety to the public. As Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook puts it, “Congress passed a face-saving bill for industry, not a life-saving bill for the public” (qtd. in Public Campaign, 2000, p. 6). One of the primary reasons for Congress’ protective stance towards the auto industry is that it has contributed over $12 million to political campaigns in 2000, up from nearly $11 million in 1998 (Public Campaign, 2000, p. 6).
● Telecommunications: Passed in 1996, the Telecommunications Act was touted by Congress as a means to increase competition in the industry, decrease prices and improve service for the public. In reality, the new legislation essentially deregulates the industry, thus enabling large telecommunication corporations to merge with one another and increase prices at the expense of the public. Telecommunications corporations contributed $3.5 million to members of the Congress in 1995. The two most enthusiastic supporters of the new legislation, Senate Commerce Committee Chairman Larry Pressler who received $103,165 from telecom PACs and House Telecommunications and Finance Subcommittee Chairman Jack Fields who received $97,500, were the two chief beneficiaries of the corporations’ generosity (Beaulieu, 1996, p. 16).
● Ergonomics: In response to rising injuries in work environments because of increasing mechanization, President Clinton established new workplace safety regulations on ergonomics. However, in March 2001, the new regulations were repealed with voting results that followed the party lines. This reversal of policies can be attributed to campaign contributions. During the 2000 elections, corporations exceeded the contributions of labor leaders by a ratio of 1,000:1 (Public Campaign, 2001, p. 12).
In spite of the democratic principles of the American political system, politicians cannot be considered to be true representatives of their people. It is little wonder that American voters and donors concur that politicians are not governed by their political beliefs. Rather, their opinions and behavior are heavily influenced by the vast resources of their political contributors (Lake & Borosage, 2000, pp. 1-2). Even more significantly, these politicians are not representative of their constituents when they lend their ears solely to those who can pay. The reduction of federal taxes for corporations from 39 percent in the 1950s to 17 percent in the 1980s is symptomatic of the political clout of business interests. Similarly, the failure of Congress to pass a health-care reform bill for many years reflects the capacity of wealthy contributors to sabotage legislations that will genuinely improve the quality of health care for ordinary Americans (Beaulieu, 1996, p. 18). Unless political reforms occur to sever the connection between politicians and big business interests, Americans will continue to lose their trust and faith in the political system.
Beaulieu, D. (1996, October). The public should finance election campaigns. U.S. Catholic, 61(10), 15-20.
Francia, P.L., Goldberg, R.E., Green, J.C., Herrnson, P.S., & Wilcox, C. (1999). Individual donors in the 1996 federal elections. In J.C. Green (Ed.), Financing the 1996 election (pp. 127-154). Armonk: M.E. Sharpe.
Lake, C., & Borosage, R. (2000, August 2). Money talks. In The Nation.com [Online], 1-5. Available: http://past.thenation.com/e2k/recent/poll.shtml [2002, January 23].
Public Campaign. (2000, October). Hard facts: Hard money in the 2000 elections. [Online], 1-10. Available: www.publicampaign.org/hardmoney.html [2002, January 23].
Public Campaign. (2001, March). Why the battle over hard money matters: Hard facts on hard money. [Online], 1-14. Available: www.publicampaign.org/hardfacts/ [2002, January 23].
Money Buys Political Power
With the recent criminal investigations into the Enron Corporation, our need for campaign finance reform has become even clearer. As the justice department attempts to discover whether or not the company's campaign contributions have influenced the policies of the current white house administration, we must ask ourselves whether this is a common occurrence or an isolated incident.
Without assuming what will come out of the Enron investigations, we can recognize that there are a number of important issues raised: Is it fair that candidates vote according to the wishes of their contributors? Do contributions give such donors more access to politicians? And so on.
The executive branch: How the president’s donors are paid in full:
The president has the ability to draft legislation and then present it to congress for a vote. Most notably, President George W. Bush asked congress to take a look at his Economic Stimulus Plan. He claims that it would give businesses tax breaks and bailouts in order to help them pay off creditors, and prevent them from laying off thousands of workers. However, under the original draft of the plan that was passed by the House of Representatives, large amounts of money would have ended up in the hands of very few, namely, those who had donated substantial funds to the president and the republican party [i]. For example, Chevron Texaco has given the republican party more than $5.2 million since 1990. Under Bush' stimulus plan, they stood to receive around $572 million in the form of a retroactive tax cut. Enron has given $5.5 million during the same period, and they stood to receive $254 million. General electric stood to receive over $600 million in return for there contributions of less than $2 million. The list could go on extensively. It seems obvious that the money spent to get a candidate elected is much less than the eventual pay backs.
If this is not bad enough, the package approved by the House also gives a tax break on foreign profits to companies such as Merrill Lynch and Citigroup. Not only is this problematic because of the large returns these companies receive from their investments into certain candidates or political parties, as the Washington Post reported, "it's hard to see how this measure would do anything to stimulate the American economy.'' This bill directly demonstrates the powerful impact that can be made by large donations to political parties. Not only will candidates reward their donors with large pay backs, they are even willing to do so at the expense of our nation during its time of need.
Congressional Branch: Where profits meet partisanship:
The influence of donors works similarly in congress. Just as the president, a congressman can submit legislation for vote. Also in the same way, the legislation is often based upon the wishes of a congressman’s donors. Members of congress can show the influence of their donors by adding various amendments - that may seem totally irrelevant - to legislation that is often urgently needed (disaster relief aid, for example).
This is when the need for campaign finance reform becomes most evident. The aforementioned Economic Stimulus Package was passed by the republican majority in the House of Representatives, most of whom share the same donors as the president. That version of the bill was defeated in the democratic-controlled Senate. When donors exert their influence over the legislative branch, congress becomes full of partisan bickering. The entire process begins to take on the tone of "you scratch my back, I'll scratch yours", until one side ends up ahead. The needs of the people are never placed first.
Again, this is not an isolated incident. After the recent acts of terrorism, it became obvious that our nation was not prepared to deal with such large scale attacks. In response to the threat of bioterrorism, both the Senate and the House drafted legislation to stockpile the nation’s supply of vaccines. The sponsors of this bill were Billy Tauzin (R-LA.) and John Dingell (D-MA) in the House, and Bill Frist (R-TN) and Ted Kennedy (D-MA) in the senate. They have all received large contributions from pharmaceutical companies and healthcare agencies ($35,000; $32,000; $116,000; $75,000 in 2000 respectively) [ii]. Obviously, there could be a need for these vaccines. And in such a case, it would be much better to be safe than sorry. But the pharmaceutical companies are using this an excuse to lobby for deregulation of the industry, and this is something that will not affect bioterrorism. This is something driven, not by a desire to help the American people, but by a desire to profit.
In the House Energy Plan, H.R. 4, the controversial measure to open up parts of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling was included [iii]. This measure’s passing is largely due to the substantial donations made by the oil industry to the republican controlled house and the president. Even so, representatives Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), John W. Olver (D- MA) and Wayne T. Gilchrest ® -MD) - none of whom receive much, if any, money from the oil industry - stood against the drilling and gave examples of more profitable, and environmentally sound ways of curbing our nations need for oil [iv]. Their proposals intended to require auto manufactures to make sport utility vehicles and light trucks meet the same fuel efficiency standards as cars by 2007. This plan would significantly reduce carbon dioxide emissions, and would save over a million barrels of oil per day, which is the maximum amount of oil that President Bush thought could be gained from the Arctic drilling. Additionally, the one million barrel per day savings does not even take into consideration an additional proposal to increase fuel efficiency in cars. In this situation, it can't be doubted that the big oil companies have the president and the house of representatives firmly clasped in the palm of their hands. There is no way that a government so entrenched in a system of donations and pay backs, and so loyal to the will of an industry, can produce legislation that is drafted in the best interest of the people.
1 According to Common Cause and Citizens for Tax Justice, mentioned in congressional records S11932, a speech by Senator Mr. FEINGOLD
2 This, and all financial data, is received from the Center for Responsible Politics, Rpt. www.opensecrets.org unless otherwise stated.
3 HR.4.IH, SAFE Act of 2001, Division F, Title V, sec. 6502-3
4 House Documents H2716 - H2717
THE TRUE PARTISAN POLITICS: High speed internet, prescription drugs, and insurance:
Under the 1996 telecommunications act, the "Baby Bells [v]" are not allowed to offer high speed internet access (without allowing other companies to use their infrastructure) on the grounds that they own practically all of the phone cable in the United States. This issue has little or no relation to party politics. Neither democrats nor republicans have taken any stance that is directly for or against this act. However, the Baby Bells have been lobbying extensively to get the act amended to allow them to offer such access without allowing their competitors to use their infrastructure. Senators Billy Tauzin (R-LA) and John Dingell (D-MI) proposed a deal in which the Bells can offer an exclusive lease to use their cable. The two companies that stand to loose the most are AT&T and AOL/Time Warner: currently the two largest suppliers of broadband internet in the United States. Not surprisingly, Senator Tauzin had Verizon and SBC Communications as his number one and four contributors during his 2000 election campaign. And this doesn't even include contributions from SBC and Bell South used to pay for Tauzin’s half-million dollar Mardi Gras party during the Republican Convention in Philadelphia [vi]. Senator Dingell had these companies - Verizon and SBC - as his number three and four contributors, with Bell South at number seven. Not surprisingly, the opponents of this bill have received large amounts of money from AT&T and AOL/Time Warner. John Conyers Jr., (D-MI) received a total $21,500 from these corporations for his 2000 election, making them his second and fourth largest contributors, respectively [vii].
Despite many politicians’ promises for prescription drug coverage, and the belief of many American's that such coverage is necessary, this reform is unlikely to happen as soon as promised. There is nothing close to a consensus on how to reduce the cost of prescription drugs for the American people. Obviously, some debate on a subject is necessary to determine the best possible solution. However, this debate is not about who has the best ideas, but rather, whose donors’ have the most clout. In its two forms, the bill provides for a type of voucher system that senior citizens can use to purchase private health insurance at a lower cost [viii]. This bill benefits the pharmaceutical industry, as a voucher for health insurance will not actually lower the price - and thereby won't decrease the profits made by manufacturers - of prescription medication. The supporters of this bill are Bill First (R-TN) and John Breaux (D-LA), who received $120,000 in 2000 and nearly $70,000 in 1998 from the pharmaceutical industry, respectively. Not surprisingly, neither of them received much, if any, money from insurance companies. Another option, for example, could have been for the government to control the outrageous costs of medication. This approach would benefit insurance companies and lower the profits of the pharmaceutical companies.
These are just a few examples of congressional representatives displaying their loyalty to the wills of their donors, rather than to their constituents or their own personal conscious. We have presented here a limited number of instances; there are many more. Reverting to the Economic Stimulus Plan, we see that even the few members of congress who are opposed to the heavy influence that corporate America exerts upon the legislative process fall prey to the same influences. More specifically, consider Senator Feingold. Although his statements against the president's Economic Stimulus Plan should be commended, it must be noted that he didn't receive donations from any of the corporations that stood to gain from this particular proposal.
5 “Baby Bells” being defined as Qwest, SBC Communications, BellSouth and Verizon.
7 Committee Report 2 of 2 - House Rpt. 107-83 Part 2 “Unfortunately, the Tauzin bill is so deeply flawed that we cannot…fix this bill.” Financial data is still from Center for Responsible Politics.
8 S.357 S.358; referred to Senate Finance committee Feb 15 2001, destined to begin Jan 1 2004
Money Buys Political Power 3
The few members of congress opposed to these blatant abuses and undue influence that corporations put on their colleagues are under the same influences. Although Senator Feingold’s statements against the presidents and the house’s Economic Stimulus Plan should be commended, it must be noted that none of the corporations that stood to gain donated to his campaign. His largest contributions came from lawyers and law firms, the retired, and the education sector (University of Wisconsin, for example). So long as campaign financing plays a major role in shaping legislation, one must wonder whether these representatives ever act according to their own personal convictions, or in the best interest of the population that they represent.
When Schakowsky, Olver, and Gilchrest stood out against the president’s energy plan, claiming that the outrageous gasoline prices across the Midwest were the result of price gouging by the oil industry, it seemed as though they were simply being sensible. However, after looking at their main contributors, we must wonder if they were working for their constituents or their donors. Olver received the vast majority of his money from various unions, such as the United Auto Workers, the Teamsters Union, the Intl Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, and the United Transportation Union. Combined, Olver had a large portion of his campaign financed by industrial and transportation unions. The steel workers of America, on congressional record S11284, stated their opposition to Bush’s plan to open up the Arctic wildlife refuge for drilling. Olver was, in fact, saying exactly what his donors wanted him to say.
Ms. Schakowsky had similar donors, with the United Auto Workers at the top of her list. In addition, she received almost $17,000 from liberal one-issue and non-profits groups , which included environmental and human rights organizations. Once again, her stance is based those who funded her election as much as those who voted for her.
Mr. Gilchrest received most of his money from the retired community and another sizable percentage from Baltimore Gas & Electric Company. Again, these are groups that would be effected negatively by the president’s energy plan. Despite the environmentally conscious position taken by these politicians, the data shows that they may have been more concerned about who paid for their campaigns, and less concerned about the actual issues at hand.
When considering almost any issue, the solution advocated by either congress or the president will not necessarily be in the best interest of the people who these elected officials are supposed to serve. Essentially, everybody will find a solution that is in the best interest of their financial supporters. For example, those politicians who were funded by the airlines, energy companies, and environmental groups would say that the key to dropping greenhouse gas emissions would be doing the following: forcing car makers to be more efficient, making SUV's conform to the same emissions standards as cars, or forcing designers to employ new technologies such as the emission recycling engines in the large truck engines made by Caterpillar and Cummins. However, those who received money from the automakers would blame the problem on industrial emissions, or on the transportation sector.
Who will come out ahead in the congressional struggles? I would like to believe that those who had the best ideas, the most well-thought-out proposals, would come out ahead. I would like to say that the best leaders, those who took a stand based on their beliefs - rather than based on the desires of those who finance their campaigns - would emerge on top. This is what I want, and what I feel we need in Washington.
Think Tanks and Political Reform
Shaun Kerry, M.D.
Diplomate, American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology
There are a number of organizations - think tanks, for example - that devote themselves to solving a wide variety of social problems. Sometimes I receive packages of materials from political foundations in the mail. The cover letter essentially describes the organization as being non-profit, and having a think tank that evaluates governmental operations. The organization's central theme with regard to the current state of politics is usually that our government is too big, inefficient, and intrusive. Another key theme that appears frequently is the idea that many of the functions presently performed by the government could better be performed by the private sector. As usual, the organization includes in their correspondence some request for a donation.
Most think tanks tell us the same thing: our government is dysfunctional. This confirms what most of us already know. They also tell us that we have tried a great many governmental ideologies, which have failed. We also know this already. Most intellectual approaches to the problem have failed, and we know this too. Given the large number of think tanks that exist, then why do we still have a dysfunctional government? If the solution to our government's problems lay in some type of intellectual approach, then wouldn’t we have solved the problem already?
One of the most fundamental things that people fail to realize is that there is an important difference between intellectuality and mindfulness. Intellect alone is not sufficient enough to solve our problems. Once we grasp this concept, and incorporate this knowledge into our mental development, we can move forward.
We have very intellectual people in education, government, medicine, and law. But these people are often mindless, and their intellect is deceptive. Regardless of the size of our government, we'll need to have one. The question is this: What are the fatal flaws in our system of government that make it so dysfunctional? This is an issue that everyone seems to glance over, but why? We can analyze a subject in exquisite detail, yet miss what would be obvious if we were trained to use our whole mind.
The human brain has many components, far more than I could ever explain. There are some things that are difficult to put into words. Things that you have to experience first hand. The missing ingredient in the present political system is mindfulness.
Ideological Thinking in Politics
Shaun Kerry, M.D.
Diplomate, American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology
I can remember, that when I was a boy, my mother argued politics with my grandfather. She was a republican. He was a democrat. They just seemed to go round and round in circles. It was an ongoing debate in which nothing got solved.
Simply put, an ideology is a belief. A person can argue all he wants, but it is still just a belief. It is not an empirical truth. There will always be disputes over beliefs. If, however, an idea is of a scientific nature, than it is testable. And once tested, and proven, almost everyone will come to agree with it. Galileo concluded that the earth revolved around the sun, and during his time, a lot of people were not too thrilled with this idea. But over many years, as more and more evidence arose to support his initial conclusion, people began to accept his beliefs as truth. Today, no reasonable person would disagree with the notion that the earth revolves around the sun. It has been scientifically proven.
Communism. Socialism. Capitalism. These are all words that describe ideologies. In the world today, there are a great many people who are very attached to their personal ideologies. They have accepted them as gospel, to the point where they believe that all of the world's problems could be solved, if everyone else just accepted them as well. This kind of thinking is flawed, and has no grounding in objectivity or truth. Regardless, ideologies are extremely powerful.
I know an American who was in the Viet Nam war. He murdered people, and was involved in unspeakable atrocities, by his own admission. Today, he still believes that his actions were justified because, "We had to stop communism at all costs." His destructive behavior was based on this terribly erroneous assumption. His actions were the product of his belief in an ideology that was false.
People continue attempting to solve social problems with ideologies. This is not only ineffective, but also damaging. Granted, we are all entitled to have our own beliefs. But we need to recognize them as simply that: beliefs. Not truths.
Today, the people in political parties who select their candidates are usually ideological thinkers. They select candidates who think like they do. The general public can recognize this. With proper electoral reform, I believe that people will be able to see a clear difference between the problem solving personality and the ideological personality.
Ideological thinkers can be extremely deceptive. They may be wonderful orators. They may articulate their noble ideals using beautiful words. When I hear such rhetoric, it often makes me feel very uncomfortable, because I sense that it is merely an illusion, which conceals a faulty understanding of the system, its mechanics, its flaws, and possible solutions.
When an ideological thinker is asked how he will solve a problem, he usually is evasive, responding with an answer that is overly general and superficial. Perhaps he should work in sales, but not in a position of executive responsibility. But sadly, he can often hypnotize a crowd with his oratorical ability. Fortunately, however, he can be exposed by using the proper strategy.
Some Advice From Abraham Lincoln
Shaun Kerry, M.D.
Diplomate, American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology
In Lincoln's first inaugural address, he said:
"I do not forget the position assumed by some, that constitutional questions are to be decided by the Supreme Court; nor do I deny that such decisions must be binding in any case, upon the parties to a suit, as to the object of that suit, while they are also entitled to very high respect and consideration in all parallel cases, by all other departments of the government.
And while it is obviously possible that such decision may be erroneous in any given case, still the evil effect following it, being limited to that particular case, with the chance that it may be overruled, and never become a precedent for other cases, can better be borne than could the evils of a different practice.
At the same time, the candid citizen must confess that if the policy of the government, upon vital questions, affecting the whole people, is to be irrevocably fixed by decisions of the Supreme Court, the instant they are made, in ordinary litigation between parties, in personal actions, the people will have ceased to be their own rulers, having, to that extent, practically resigned their government into the hands of that eminent tribunal."
If our founding fathers were alive today, I believe they would say that people have ceased to be their own rulers: That we have abdicated our role as leaders in our own democracy, and instead, resigned that power to the government, political parties and their money, and the institutions that those entities have created.
A Plan of Action
If the people are going to take control of the society and become their own rulers, they must first clearly define what they hope to accomplish. If their goals and plans are vague or conflicting, then nothing will change. Furthermore, we must not be totally preoccupied with smaller - though important - issues, and for the time being, focus on the root causes of our societal problems. If someone is obsessed with abortion or school prayer, he is bound to come into some type of opposition. Most likely, he will not accomplish anything.
But if we focus on the bigger picture, we will find that most everyone agrees that our society is dysfunctional. Declaring that someone or something is evil will do nothing to help change the present system. Neither anger nor an excessive list of complaints is going to solve the problem. We need more than dissatisfaction to bring about change. Some people may be apathetic, because they have been raised to believe that our problems are an inherent part of our form of government. Someone once said, "It is very imperfect, but it is still the best form of government formed by man." This implies that we have to accept these flaws that plague our present system, but that is not the case.
If people clearly define the root causes of our government's dysfunction, and create clearly specified demands as to what should be changed, they will get what they want.
Shaun Kerry, M.D.
Diplomate, American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology
A magnificent film with a powerful lesson. It portrays characters in both Washington and Tokyo and gives a deeper insight into their attempts to either end or prolong the war.
Some general themes arise in the movie that are particularly valuable to us:
People frequently have little control over the selection of their government officials, and even less control over the actions of those officials.
A handful of people in the government often make monumental decisions which impact or destroy the lives of millions.
People in government often communicate poorly and make outrageous errors in judgment.
Mindlessness and lack of empathy go hand in hand.
Motion pictures can portray the nuances of character and personality in such a way that no other media can, while at the same time being both entertaining and enlightening. Try to rent this superb film from your local video store. If it is unavailable, try the following links.
Over fifty years have elapsed since the second World War, and still, we have not solved the fundamental problems that are portrayed in this film. When considering issues of this magnitude, one's first impulse might be to blame somebody. But blaming people or nations doesn't solve the problem. We have to take a deeper look at the structure of our government, and also, a critical look at the way in which our educational system impacts the development of character.
A Call to Action
Shaun Kerry, M.D.
Diplomate, American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology
The following is a vignette of the insanity that presently manifests itself in our political system. I am neither attacking any particular politician, nor advocating the idea that more punishment would solve the problem. Indeed, America has enough people in prison already; more than any other country in the world.
James McDougal - Clinton's convicted Whitewater partner who died of an apparent heart attack while in solitary confinement. He was a key witness in Ken Starr's investigation.
Mary - A former White House intern who was murdered in July 1997 at a Starbucks Coffee Shop in Georgetown. The murder occurred shortly after she was to go public with her story of sexual harassment at the White House.
Vince Foster - Former White House councilor and colleague of Hillary Clinton at Little Rock's Rose Law Firm. Died of a gunshot wound to the head. Ruled a suicide.
Ron Brown - Secretary of Commerce and former DNC Chairman. Reported to have died on impact in a plane crash. A pathologist close to the investigation reported that there was a hole in the top of Brown's skull, which resembled a gunshot wound. At the time of his death, Brown was being investigated, and spoke publicly of his willingness to cut a deal with prosecutors.
C. Victor Raiser II & Montgomery Raiser - Major players in the Clinton fund raising organization who both died in a private plane crash in July 1992.
Paul Tulley - Democratic National Committee Political Director who was found dead in a hotel room in Little Rock, September 1992. Described by Clinton as a "dear friend and trusted advisor."
Ed Willey - Clinton fund raiser found dead November 1993, deep in the woods in Virginia of a gunshot wound to the head. Ruled a suicide. Ed Willey died on the same day that his wife Kathleen Willey claimed Bill Clinton groped her while they were together in the oval office. Ed Willey was involved in several Clinton fund raising events.
Jerry Parks - Head of Clinton's gubernatorial security team in Little Rock. Gunned down in his car at a deserted intersection outside of Little Rock. Park's son said that his father was building a dossier on Clinton. He allegedly threatened to reveal this information. After he died the files were mysteriously removed from his house.
James Bunch - Died from a gunshot, ruled a suicide. Reportedly, he had a "black book" that contained names of influential people who visited prostitutes in Texas and Arkansas.
James Wilson - Found dead in May 1993 from an apparent hanging suicide. Reportedly had ties to Whitewater.
Kathy Ferguson - Ex-wife of Arkansas Trooper Danny Ferguson. She was found dead in May 1994, in her living room with a gunshot wound in her head. Ruled a suicide, even though several packed suitcases were found in the proximity, which would suggest that she was planning to go somewhere. Danny Fergeson was a co-defendant along with Bill Clinton in the Paula Jones lawsuit. Kathy Ferguson was a possible corroborating witness for Paula Jones.
Bill Shelton - Arkansas State Trooper and fiancée of Kathy Ferguson. Critical of the suicide ruling of his fiancée, he was found dead at the grave site of his deceased fiancée in June 1994 of a gunshot wound. Also ruled a suicide.
Gandy Baugh - Attorney for Clinton's friend Dan Lassater, died in January 1994 by jumping out a window of a tall building. His client was a convicted drug trafficker.
Florence Martin - Accountant & sub-contractor for the CIA, was connected to the Barry Seal Mena Airport drug smuggling case. He died of three gunshot wounds.
Suzanne Coleman - While pregnant, died of a gunshot wound to the head, and was ruled a suicide. Reportedly had an affair with Clinton when he was Arkansas Attorney General.
Paula Grober - Clinton's speech interpreter for the deaf from 1978 until her death December 9, 1992. She died in a one car accident.
Danny Casolaro - Reporter who was investigating the Mena Airport case and the Arkansas Development Finance Authority. He apparently slit his wrists in the middle of the investigation.
Paul Wilcher - Attorney who worked alongside Casolaro in investigating corruption at Mena Airport and also the 1980 "October Surprise". Found dead on a toilet in his Washington D.C. apartment in June 1993. Three weeks before his death, he had delivered a report to Janet Reno.
Jon Parnell Walker - Whitewater investigator for Resolution Trust Corp. Jumped to his death from his Arlington, Virginia apartment balcony on August 15, 1993. He was investigating the Morgan Guarantee scandal.
Barbara Wise - Commerce Department staffer. Worked closely with Ron Brown and John Huang. Died November 29, 1996. Cause of death unknown. Her bruised body was found locked inside her office at the Department of Commerce.
Charles Meissner - Assistant Secretary of Commerce who gave John Huang special security clearance, died shortly thereafter in a small plane crash.
Dr. Stanley Heard - Chairman of the National Chiropractic Health Care Advisory Committee, died with his attorney Steve Dickson in a small plane crash. Dr. Heard, in addition to serving on Clinton's advisory council, personally treated Clinton's mother, stepfather, and brother.
Barry Seal - Drug running pilot from Mena Arkansas. Death was not an accident.
Johnny Lawhorn Jr. - Mechanic, found a check made out to Bill Clinton in the trunk of a car left at his repair shop. He was later found dead after his car hit a utility pole.
Stanley Huggins - Investigated Madison Guarantee. His death was ruled a suicide and his report was never released.
Hershell Friday - Attorney and Clinton fund raiser, died March 1, 1994 in a plane explosion.
Kevin Ives & Don Henry - Known as "the boys on the track" case. Reports say the boys may have stumbled upon the Mena Arkansas airport drug operation. The initial coroner’s report was highly controversial, and stated that their death was caused by their falling asleep on railroad tracks. Later reports claim that the two boys had been killed, and then their bodies had been placed on the tracks. Many people linked to the case died before their testimony could come before a grand jury.
The following persons had information on the Ives/Henry case:
Keith Coney - Died when his motorcycle slammed into the back of a truck, July 1988.
Keith McMaskle - Died of excessive - 113 - stab wounds, Nov 1988.
Gregory Collins - Died from a gunshot wound, January 1989.
Jeff Rhodes - Shot, mutilated, and found burned in a trash dump in April 1989.
James Milan - Found decapitated. The coroner, however, ruled that his death was due to natural causes.
Jordan Kettleson - Found shot to death in the front seat of his pickup truck in June 1990.
Richard Winters - A suspect in the Ives/Henry deaths. He was killed in a set-up robbery in July 1989
Additionally, the following Clinton body guards are dead:
Major William S. Barkley Jr.
Captain Scott J. Reynolds
Sgt. Brian Hanley
Sgt. Tim Sabel
Major General William Robertson
Col. William Densberger
Col. Robert Kelly
Spec. Gary Rhodes
Again, I am not trying to target any particular government official. Actually, I'm a very forgiving person. But there is enough shocking information about governmental dysfunction to fill thousands of encyclopedias. Anger and more jail terms will solve nothing. Mindful activism will.
Frequently Asked Questions
Shaun Kerry, M.D.
Diplomate, American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology
The following are questions submitted by our readers.
Q. What are the circumstances surrounding the deaths of the eleven Clinton bodyguards you cite?
A. We don't have any more details. In time we hope to have a more substantiated example.
Q. How can we combat the pollution and global warming that threaten the survival of our planet?
A. Join the Action Network. They periodically have campaigns on these subjects which allow you to send automatic letters to your congress people on pending bills.
Q. You site the fact that America has more people in prison than any other nation in the world. Why is that?
A. We are a very punitive society. Judgment, reward, and punishment are values that form the very core of our educational system.
Q. To illustrate corruption in our government, you give a rather lengthy list of mysterious deaths surrounding people involved with former president Bill Clinton. Why did you choose to discuss his administration and not a Republican one.
A. We chose this illustration because it had dramatic impact. There was no partisan intent. We are open to your submitting other stories that illustrate a similar point, preferably with references.
Q. Under the heading YOU MAY HAVE A FAVORITE CAUSE, you say there are many thousand of causes to improve society and the environment. Is there an internet site I can visit to peruse a list of causes to see which ones most closely support my personal beliefs?
A. Action Network is the best one of which we are aware.
Q. Please define" unintentional corruption" and how it is worse than intentional corruption?
A. Unintentional corruption describes a system that is failing out of ignorance rather than intent. It is worse because it is more widespread, and less easily recognized.
Q. Isn’t America the land of the free, because everyone still has an opportunity to be successful?
A. That opportunity would be greatly expanded if each of us could be a legitimate candidate for office without having to navigate through an elaborate party structure that excludes the vast majority of citizens from ever seeking office. Additionally, that opportunity would greatly increase if everyone had access to a more functional education system.
Q. Aren’t the people already exposed to different personality types and views in the present presidential campaigns?
A. The personality types, while different, are still very limited in their problem solving skills, and do not have the character necessary to reform the current system.
Q. Aren't there chances for anyone to serve for the government? All they need is the drive and desire to achieve it?
A. It involves much more than drive and desire; it also takes a ton of financial support. Furthermore, there are millions of personality factors in each of our brains. They largely determine what we are best cut out to do. The system excludes the most capable people.
Take Albert Einstein, Walt Disney, and Henry Ford, for example. Each of them actualized their own unique gifts, which were largely genetically determined. Fortunately, these people were able to express their talents without interference. But in government, there is a massive bureaucracy that stands in the way of the free exercising of our capabilities. Let's suppose that Albert Einstein was best suited to be president. I don't think that he was, but this is just an illustration. That would mean that in addition to all of his other skills, he would have to be willing to give countless speeches, shake thousands of hands, and cope with party politics. That would be totally unrealistic.
Q. Don’t these ideologies describe and justify the party’s beliefs?
A. Yes, and that is valuable to know. But formulating and discussing ideologies is easy. The hard part is functionality. That is the candidate's capacity to size up a problem and design a solution.
Q. Don’t these ideological thinkers over-generalize how they will change the nation just to show a brief overview on how they will help us?
A. No. They frequently dodge important questions because they don't know the answers.
Q. Aren’t a majority of the political campaign speeches from the heart because they wish to make America a better nation? Isn’t discussing present day issues and how to resolve them enough sentiment from the presidential candidate?
A. The reaction to most campaign speeches is boredom. That should be a significant indicator that we have a problem. The speeches lack real substance about the core issues.
Q. Do you believe that the film Hiroshima is an allegorical tale of what is happening in present day government as well?
A. Yes. It illustrates, among other things, that when the people do not have control of their government, they pay a terrible price.
Q. What exactly are you trying to suggest about our former president Clinton in these miscellaneous assassinations during his term of presidency?
A. The story was not intended to say anything about former President Clinton. It was offered as a dramatic example of the insanity surrounding modern day government.
Q. You feel that you should not blame others for the dysfunction, but aren’t they responsible for causing the dysfunction to arise in our society? Especially the corrupt politicians that exist today?
A. Punishment is not a long term solution. Much of the time it provides little or no deterrent to wrongdoing. As a society, we spend an inordinate amount of time, money, and energy on punishment. Many societies and individuals view us as cruel. A good reference is the book Beyond Discipline: From Compliance to Community by Alfie Kohn. We are all accountable for what is happening in our society.
Q. Haven’t the traditional methods established rights for some citizens? For example, the Civil Rights movement, and the Berkeley protests?
A. Yes. But the concept of mindful activism serves to educate as well as promote. Values are important, but our people must understand that there are better ways of doing things.
Q. Aren’t the ones who are already running for presidency self-motivated and isn’t this also possible to achieve for any citizen?
A. We need much more than self-motivation. People need the opportunity to choose from a wide selection of candidates, each with a unique array of personality qualities that are presented without the intervention of a group of middlemen to obscure our perception.
Q. Isn’t the "high energy" vital to any campaign because it motivates the people to become involved in present day politics? How does this affect who can run for presidency?
A. Energy can be directed in a variety of ways. It can be mindless ranting or mindful problem solving. We need leaders who would rather solve problems than play political games. Giving all of the people a voice in government would inspire their enthusiasm about the political process.
Q. You say that campaign money and paid political advertising are "like buying votes." How is this true when voters have the ability to choose who they want to believe?
A. Primarily because there are usually only two candidates who have any chance of winning. Those candidates have big money and elaborate organizations behind them.
The Root Causes of Social Dysfunction
Shaun Kerry, M.D.
Diplomate, American Board of Psychiatry and Neurology
We have spent centuries struggling with the major problems that plague our political, educational, and healthcare systems. Imagine that all social dysfunction is configured like a tree. There are roots, large branches, smaller branches, and leaves. The purpose of this group of sites is to expose the roots of this tree, and propose effective solutions. Presently, we have blind spots that prevent us from clearly perceiving the defects of the current system. The blind spots heavily influence our laws, policies, customs, traditions, and belief systems. They cause enormous amounts of human suffering, as well as economic and environmental damage. This material is part of an international conversation on social dysfunction. A discussion forum exists to help improve our base of knowledge, our conclusions, and our recommendations.
You may have a favorite cause. There are thousands of activist movements that exist. You could do anything from protecting the Cook Inlet in Alaska to working for the Zero Population Growth Action Network. Imagine what would happen if all concerned citizens in these groups devoted just a little of their time to thinking about the core causes of societal dysfunction. Just considering these root causes would cost no money, and help everyone's cause. Do you want to promote world peace? Improve the environment? It will not be possible to achieve these goals and bring about any lasting change without addressing the root causes of social dysfunction. When you do that, the other goals will follow automatically.
The traditional, primitive, and less mindful way of approaching the problem has been simply to blame people for causing these problems. We have tried this method, and it has proven highly ineffective.
Most activism in the past utilized rallies, marches, sit-ins, and so forth. There was a high amount of energy output for a small amount of effectiveness. The result was only a temporary solution. The root causes remained untouched. Mindful activism, on the other hand, requires a much lower energy output and provides a much greater level of effectiveness.
What's In It For Me?
A lot. Being able to see what is really going on around you is critical to your well being. Acquiring mindfulness is essential to your happiness. We are all interdependent and must pull together if we are to move forward as a society.
Please take action by sending letters to the government reform committee members that represent you. This will be done automatically based on your address. (link)
Additionally, please read the specific plans: Campaign Reform Health-Care Reform School Reform
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful citizens can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." - Margaret Mead