Rob Carlson, Democrat for US Congress
New Jersey District 1
Rob Carlson, Democrat for US Congress
New Jersey District 1
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The Blog

So a couple of weeks ago I was invited to take part in fireside chat (basically a video conference) with Lisa McCormick, who is running for Senate in NJ against Bob Menendez) and Tanzie Youngblood, who is running as the progressive alternative in NJ District 2.

The forum was sponsored by a group called CFAR 2018— with the unfortunate full name of Contract For American Renewal– those of you who were politically active in 1994 will know why this sounds bad, but I digress.  So the point of this group is that they have this contract that they want candidates to sign off on, most of which is pretty boilerplate progressive stuff which I agree with.  There are some things I don’t go along with– restricting the military to defensive use only, getting out of all trade compacts (which I think has to be handled on a case by case basis, and requires nuance) but again, it’s mostly a pretty liberal line.  Then there is the added language– this is a legal contract.  If you do not vote for these measures within 18 months of being elected you agree to resign and refund all campaign donations.  OK… probably absolutely unenforceable, but weird nonetheless.  Still, they appeared to be endorsing a national slate of candidates and maybe there is some good exposure to be had.  I certainly wasn’t going to commit to anything, but again, exposure is good.

I didn’t talk much at the beginning of the forum. I didn’t realize that I wasn’t going to be asked things directly and that I would have to jump in.  The beginning was largely focused on what it’s like running as an outsider, and the like.  Eventually (after Tanzie retired for the night) I got in some things about my pet issue, voting in America and then it took a weird turn.  Those of you who know me, or know of me are aware that I am as anti-Trump as one can get.  I let slip (intentionally) that one reason I was running is that I wanted some candidate running for national office to say that Trump was a traitor.  That seemed to strike an nerve with the hosts. “Do you have any proof of that”  which led to “there is no proof of collusion with Russia”  and “if we talk about Trump, we have to talk about Hillary”.

Now I understand reticence to use the word traitor.  It’s a strong word. It’s true, but still accusatory.  But the no proof of collusion statement, and especially the Hillary remark also crept in.  Then the conversation began to turn a bit more heated.  The hosts wanted to talk about the Democratic party and how corrupt it was.  By this time Lisa McCormick retired from the conversation and her husband and campaign director Jim Devine came on.  Jim did his best to guide the conversation back to progressive talk –largely agreeing with me on Trump and the Republican party and saying that while the Democratic party had corrupt elements, it was in no way like what the Republican party has become.  It was obvious that there was  disconnect, but we all reined it in on positive notes and said good night.

So a little about me and the Democratic Party.  I am a Democrat and I believe in the ideals of the party.  I am running against a sitting Democrat who is the pawn of the most powerful and corrupt regional machine in the country.  I do NOT however believe the entire party is bad or corrupt.  To be sure, there are corrupt and heavy-handed corporatist elements to the Democratic Party.  There are also a lot of good people involved in it and it is the only defense we have keeping the country from becoming a fascist state.  Full stop.

I have no dislike for Hillary Clinton.  I disagreed with her Iraq war vote, but I largely feel she was as qualified a person as there has ever been to be President of the United States.  I have no dislike for Bernie Sanders.  I liked his economic positions more than Hillary’s even as I thought she would be a more effective President.  I voted for Bernie in the end (knowing that by the time of NJ primary it was effectively over) because a friend of mine would have been a Bernie delegate.  I think the animosity between the two factions has been tragically damaging not just to the party but the country.  The only people I have a problem with in all of this are those who abdicated their responsibility to America and voted for Jill Stein or Trump.

Fast forward to this past Thursday night.

I got a call from Jim Devine (who was the one who told me about the first event) and he mentioned that if I was available I could do most of talking tonight.  OK.  I like talking.  I came on and Lisa wasn’t available yet (she actually never made it on– another interview was going on) so it was me and Jim and the CFAR people.  We started off nicely, I talked about how it is important that we have the option to use the Military for humanitarian purposes. We talked about voting again.  They really want open primary voting– I said I’m OK with parties getting to restrict voting to club members.  We talked about how in NJ if you are unaffiliated you can immediately declare, but if you are in a party you have to wait 50 days to change.  I said that sounds fair, right?  Hosts kind of went along.  Hosts then wanted to talk about how the nomination was stolen from Bernie (ed. note– again, I like the guy, but 100s of delegates and millions of votes say otherwise).  More stuff about the Democratic Party.  Hmm  the Democratic party really is the enemy to these guys.  OK,  lets take this in another direction.  I mention that in my case I AM running against an insider specifically because  the controller of the machine that runs him is in bed with Trump.  Then the defense mechanisms start.

“We can’t just overturn a legitimate election.”    I point out that this assumes the election was ever legitimate.

“If Hillary won we’d be bombing Syria already”.  Oh really?

A ton of back and forth follows about collusion, with the hosts insisting IT HAS BEEN TWO YEARS and there is no proof.  Jim Devine, to his credit, pretty much agrees with me and starts itemizing all the guys who are under investigation or are co-operating with the Mueller investigation.

Then Mueller is castigated.  They don’t like Mueller.

I ask at one point flat out if they are pro-Trump.  They kind of laugh… “oh no, we get that a lot.  We just…”

Later I ask if Putin really cares about the American people.  Response: “I don’t think he wants war anymore than any one else”

Jim says at one point that we would obviously be better off under Hillary.  The hosts don’t like this.  “How?”  Jim rattles off  healthcare stuff, taxes, we’d still be in the Paris accords, etc.  Host:  “I don’t agree with the Paris accords!”.  My jaw drops.  Every country in the world is signed off on this!  What’s your problem with it?  “It doesn’t take into account deforestation.”  OK.  A measure that the entire world agrees with doesn’t deal with your pet issue so you are willing to throw out the entire good?”.  The creepy feeling I had the first time  has been much more pronounced this second time, and now it is reaching full on paranoia.  It’s getting late and we agree to cut off, and I say something civil about we’re all in this together, if we agree on 80% of things we should be able to work things out and make things a better place and eventually we say good night.

The next day I’m bothered, and I talk to my wife, a couple of friends and my oldest daughter about this.  I think this group is a Russian front.  I feel like an alarmist, then I do some research.  I ran an Internet whois command on  Registrar is John D Rachel.  Country of registration,  Japan.  Say what?

I go to the CFAR website and check “About us”.  There are the two hosts and John D Rachel, book author and creator of the contract.  After leaving America in 2006, he visited 34 countries before settling in Japan.  Why the f— is he creating conditions for running for Congress in a country he doesn’t even reside in?   Amazon search of his books reveals he has written for Greenville Post and ..the Russia Insider??

From Wikipedia entry on the Russia Insider–

The website has been criticized for its pro-Russian stance, and considered a “pro-Kremlin propaganda site” by Newsweek,[5] BBC News[14] and Slate,[15] among others. It is considered by the Euractiv website to be alongside “several highly visible partisan outlets such as RTRuptly and Sputnik“.[9]

And ad some anti-semitic editorial content for good measure…
In conclusion, if you think that Russians aren’t trying to interfere in our elections, I just gave you a first hand account.  Putin wants to destroy the Democratic party, because that is what threatens his puppet.

The power of “Not Possible” is the addition of the word “yet”. A proposal may initially fail. In some cases, we may know for certain that it will not gain necessary support. But it is important to bring that idea up anyway, because otherwise it is never considered.  To this end we need to talk about problems with voting in America.

The biggest failing of our current system is inherent unfairness in representation.  Much of this happens through Congressional Acts that were written for different ages, but the immediately addressable aspects concern vote suppression and obstacles. The latter are more visible, and more easily addressed*, through some very specific actions that do not change the structure of our government. To wit:

  • Voting should be easier.  Same day registration should be allowed for general elections and measures outside of party primaries.  (NJ took a big step forward in this regard.  We need the whole country there.) Voting by mail should be universally allowed.  It should be easy to get State or National issued ID for voting, and provisional ballots should always be provided in case of disputes.  Most importantly, the general election should be a national holiday — preferably in the middle of the week.
  • Voting should be less susceptible to corruption and shenanigans.  A national system of voting should be introduced with open source software and a paper trail that can be created on demand.  We can ensure privacy and guarantee a vote is counted at the same time.  We can make sure recounts are fair and that data does not get wiped away.  We also must mandate that populations are guaranteed  sufficient voting machines for their density.  There can be no more episodes of inner cities having much fewer voting machines in their precincts than the less-populated suburban areas do.  This must be mandated by law.
  • Voter intimidation should be treated as a serious crime.  One shouldn’t be allowed to approach voters and tell them that their vote is potentially illegal and/or threaten them with prosecution.
  • Time served restores voting rights. If someone has paid their debt to society, they should be allowed to rejoin and take part.
  • The electoral college should be abolished in favor of a popular vote, optimally with preferential voting.

All of these concepts except abolishing the electoral college could be included in single bills or in an omnibus Voting Rights of 2019 Act.  These should be pushed even if they fail, because those that vote against (or more likely, refuse to consider) these measures can be singled out as those opposing fairness in representation. It’s not an issue unless we make it an issue.

The greater problem we face in America is systemic.  A bias against denser areas is built into our laws.  While gerrymandering is a problem and needs to be countered, there will, under our present districting laws, always be a problem with the voting strength of urban areas being too concentrated.  Combine this with the fact that our House of Representatives, has been capped at 435 since 1911.  Less densely populated states are always guaranteed a minimum of one representative and two senators (meaning 3 electoral votes), while states growing at a faster rate have their ceilings capped, meaning that the small states hold greater and greater power as our population grows.  This leads to a permanent tyranny of the minority.  Population centers (meaning cities) have more people.  They should have more power.  Those in favor of status quo will argue this results in the cities having the final say.  So what?  Civilization is cities.  Check out this video:  Why Cities Exist .  This is the natural order of human being interaction, to devalue the rule of the most people is inherently un-democratic.

So we have two issues we need to address.  The first is unfairness in distribution, the second is a ceiling that always favors less densely populated states.  Both of these problems can be fixed by repealing Congressional acts that had little foresight.  Overturning H.R. 2508, Uniform Congressional District Act of 1967 would allow states to combat gerrymandering if it were accompanied by an act mandating a certain number of at-large seats either statewide or in mega districts. While this act originally was meant to combat minority votes being disenfranchised by a slate of majority candidates, this is drawback is negated through the introduction of preferential voting. (See also this from Fair Vote and this from The Hill.) We would end up with a wider spectrum political positions among winners, as well as more representation for those with minority opinions in their immediate locales.

The other no-brainer is repealing the Reapportionment Act of 1929, which was a continuation of the Apportionment Act of 1911. This would allow us to implement the Wyoming Rule, which is proposes that the representative to population ratio should be based on the smallest state. This would increase California’s share but also Texas. It would also make the discrepancy between the states with the least representation per population and the most representation a slight bit more fair. As part of this arrangement Puerto Rico and Washington DC should be offered full statehood. In the past arguments against increasing the house size have included of all things the capacity of the current building’s chamber. I would think that a country as great as ours could figure out a way to make the physical chambers larger for the greater good.

Now obviously, many congresspersons would not want these changes because their comfortable districts may be threatened. I say this; If you are against the greater good and greater fairness for the electorate, you don’t deserve your office.

*Assuming a bunch of corrupt republicans lose their jobs in November 2018…

..while the house has been burning?

Well, a lot of administrivia, forms, registrations, etc. Bank account comes online this early next week. On that day, an ActBlue will be made live, the donate page will be open and I will send my registered letters to various members of the press. Now comes the time when I need to gather signatures.

Granted there were some days I took off because I work for a living, and have a family. I also have to occasionally suspend belief, because an activity like this borders on the insane. But the goal lives on, within reach. In this case the metaphor will be reversed — this is a sprint, not a marathon. That is really the only way the long shot works. You never see it coming.

or so I hope. 😉

So a lot of people, including some I respect and truly admire say you have to stand for something, not just be against something. I agree. Look, my liberal bona fides are pretty documented. I also think I have some creative solutions to offer especially in terms of voting. I stand unapologetically for universal healthcare. I believe I have concrete (though tough to pass now, for sure) solutions at improving voting and representation in America. I believe in total equality of the sexes, and I believe in taxing the rich more. There are a lot of things to vote upon and propose– and I will continue to do so.

But right now, until Trump and Pence are removed and every Republican in national office who knowingly supported a traitor to our highest office is punished with at least a loss of power, these goals are moot. The house is burning. The fire must be extinguished with extreme prejudice and ruthlessness. The policies are vile. The crimes that brought us the policies are somehow even worse. I don’t think most Americans (save the whack-job evangelicals who believe in alpha-male anointed kings to lead) want to serve Putin. Right now we are disgraced. We must save our national soul.

I’m sure there has been a more dishonest, disingenuous, despicable politician in American History then Mitch McConnell, but I can’t really think of any.

have condemned Trump’s “shithole” remarks?

Chirp.  Chirp…

As Josh Marshall at TPM says, The Only News Out of The Simpson Testimony is Republican Disgrace.  Give it a read.  Nothing new here.  The GOP tries to make the guy who uncovered malfeasance the criminal.  Truly a party with no soul or redeeming features.

On Capitalism.

Incentive is a great thing. It inspires people to do more than they may have done. Those who innovate, wok extra hard, study for a long time, or even just persevere in the face of improbability should and usually do get their reward. The private pools, expensive cars, fine dining and travel that accompany money are a necessary part of a society trying to move forward. Truly, capital is an engine that propels us.

But should that engine lead us or control us? To put things in a more ancient vernacular, Capitalism is an ox. If you are a solitary family farmer, even if you have nothing else, you might have an ox to help you break up the ground, to plow that field. Its brute strength is just like what you may get with a tractor— raw force. The ox is strong. The ox is valuable. Your use of that ox gets you more crops than you would have gained solely with the strength of your arms and legs.

However, the ox doesn’t eat at your table. The ox doesn’t decide when you work or when you get up, and doesn’t sleep in your bed. The ox, god bless it, is just a tool.

Capitalism is a tool like that ox (though less adorned with fur and animal innocence, and more endowed with gold-plating). Capitalism will help you plow that field. But to live according to precepts that say Capitalism should be given unlimited free reign and should be the guiding force in people’s lives is to worship that dumb ox.

Or calf.

Apparently the price of freedom involves wondering if whatever public event you might be attending could be ripped apart with death. Or maybe it does get ripped apart with screaming and dead bodies, and an emptiness in family and friends forever. And that, that is the true price of freedom.

The freedom being protected isn’t that of most people who happen to own guns. Nor is it preventing infringement on hunters. The only “freedom” being protected is the right of the gun fetishist. Those who need guns. Powerful guns. Guns that kill lots of people quickly. Who needs to have guns like that anyway? Self defense isn’t being protected here. This “right” is a right to mass murder. Some people apparently really really need this “right”– which is not a right, but rather a perverted fetish. A snuff fetish. A fetish of control through fear, terror and death.

But there is another freedom being protected.

It is the freedom to make money through death profiteering. The weapons and ammo industry and its associated gun lobby and its official mouthpiece, the NRA, make a lot of money on suffering. Which is worse– the consumer of kiddie porn or the distributor? The freedom to use instruments of mass murder is a guaranteed money maker for those who want freedom to sell tools of death.

But a freedom it is. And we in America go to war to defend our freedoms, as they are absolute. To that end we must defend the veterans of this war. We must honor the fallen in this war like we do the fallen heroes in any war. In the war to preserve a small percentage of the population’s capacity to own instruments of mass murder, we must bestow upon any person who dies from gun violence full Military death benefits. They did not volunteer for this service, but they were certainly drafted into it.

This is the least we can do for anyone who dies to preserve freedoms.

And if we Americans go to war, we pay for that war (as we do always, whether we wish to or not). We pay in the form of SWAT teams, in the form of first responders. We pay in the form of emergency rooms, funeral homes, therapists, and trauma care. We pay as a people living in grief, terror and resentment. The many pay for the fetish of a few, and for the fetish provider.

Looking forward we may decide to reduce what we as a society pay for such freedoms in the form of grief, medical care, lost productivity, lost promise and lost opportunity. We can change an amendment written for eighteenth century conditions and eighteenth century knowledge. In doing so we can create new beneficial freedoms to replace old false ones. We can become a society colored by cooperation and healthy competition rather than a one known for violence. Rather than clinging to our past, we can embrace our promise.

with only one entry, so here’s another one.   This is about a Congressional race.  For US House NJ-1.  The purpose of this blog will be to advance the cause of a candidate for that race, running as a Democrat, both in the primary and in the general election.  I would like to be the Democratic nominee, and then the Congressman from New Jersey’s first district.

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