ANOTHER VOICE: Get steroids out of U.S election campaigns

By ROD PARROTT

With the 2012 elections past, what some have called “the politico-industrial complex” grinds on. But the average American might do well to reflect on what we just experienced. The New Normal, we’re told.

I don’t know about others, but this recent election left me feeling more like a pawn in a huge table game than a truly enfranchised member of a representative democracy. It was like watching from the sidelines while “the big kids” played.

Social scientists, in describing change, sometimes talk in terms of phased movement from old rules through no rules to new rules. That description helps explain the election: The Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision ushered in a no-rules era, one that in 2012 was incredibly ironic.

In an interview on the halftime show of ESPN’s Monday Night Football, candidate Mitt Romney, when asked by Chris Berman what he had most learned from his involvement with the Salt Lake Olympics, said something to the effect that sports need to be rid of performance-enhancing drugs. I don’t recall particular athletes being disqualified at Salt Lake, but even as Romney spoke, Lance Armstrong was being stripped of his Tour de France wins. So it was an apt response.

The irony is that the 2012 campaigns were like elections on steroids! A handful of fat cats with money to burn poured it into the primary and general campaigns to enhance the performance of their candidates. Some of it was done quasi-openly. Much of it was done away from public view, just as doping is in athletics.

Therein lies a second irony: What the Supreme Court declared perfectly legal was practiced as though it was criminal — hidden away, laundered by front groups [501(c)4 PACs], etc. “Stealing an election” seems the appropriate phraseology!

Now I agree with Mitt Romney: Sports need to be drug-free. But elections do, too.

So here are some new rules I propose going forward:

First: Bench the “super-PACs” altogether. Let the political parties play.

Second: Cap contributions (by corporations or individuals alike) to the same amount across the board for presidential elections. (Or actually go to federally funded elections.)

Third: For candidates in representative races (House and Senate), declare that contributions are allowed only from constituents in the candidate’s respective area (state or district), and the same cap applies to individuals and corporations. It is highly unrepresentative to have outside money skewing those elections. And, besides, most of the Senate and House email systems already refuse access if you are not from the proper district or state. Why not money?

Realistically, I would expect major resistance to these rules. After all, the 2012 election was a $6 billion windfall for the media alone. Add in the rest of the politico-industrial complex, and adopting new rules would be like trying to touch the DOD budget.

But it needs to be done to preserve a truly representative democracy.

n

Rod Parrott lives in Hood River.

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Parkdale third graders sing "12 Disaster Days of Christmas"

Welcome to your sing-able Christmas gift list. What follows is an emergency rendition of “12 Days of Christmas” – for outfitting your home or car in case of snow storm, earthquake, flood or other emergency. Read it as a simple list, or sing it to the tune of “12 Days” – you know, as in “ … and a partridge in a pear tree…” Not to make light of it, but the song is a familiar framework for a set of gift ideas that you could consider gathering together, even if the recipient already owns items such as a bunch of coats, tire chains and flashlights. Stores throughout the Gorge are stocked up on all these items. Buying all 12 days might be prohibitive, but here are three ideas for checking any of the dozen off your list (notations follow, 1-12.) The gift items needed to stay warm, dry and safe are also coded to suggest items in your abode (A) in your car (C) or both (B). 12 Gallons of Water (A) 11 Family meals (B) 10 Cans of propane (A) 9 Hygiene bags (B) 8 Packs of batteries (A) 7 Spare coats (B) 6 Bright red flares (C) 5 Cozy blankets (B) 4 Tire chains (C) 3 Flashlights (B) 2 cell phone chargers (B) 1 And a crush-proof first aid kit (B) Price ranges? Here’s a few quotes for days Three, Two, Four and Nine: n A family gift of flashlights (three will run $15-30, Hood River Supply, Tum-A-Lum) n Cell phone chargers (two will run $30-60) n Tire chains (basic set, $30, Les Schwab, returnable if unused for the winter) n Family meals ($100 or so should cover the basics for three or four reasonably well-fed days) n The home kit should be kept in a handy place near an exit, and remember that water needs to be replenished every few months. If you have a solid first aid kit already, switch out the gift idea with “and-a-sto-o-u-t- tub-for it-all …” Otherwise, it’s a case of assembling your home or car kits and making sure all members of the family know what the resources are and how to use them (ie flares and propane). Emergency situations are at worst life-threatening, at best deeply uncomfortable if you and your family are left without power for an extended period, or traveling and find yourself in a situation where you need to wait out a storm, lengthy traffic delay, or other crisis. Notes on the 12 gift ideas: 12 – Gallons of water: that’s one per person in a four-member family to last for three days, the recommended minimum to be prepared for utility outages. 11 – Easy-open packaged goods, energy bars, dried food and nuts are good things to include for nutrition. Think of what your family of four needs for three days to stay fortified and hydrated (see number 12). Can-opener also recommended 10 – If you have a propane camping stove, keep extra fuel handy. 9 – Hygiene bags: put packaged moistened towelettes, toilet paper, and plastic ties in large garbage bags (for personal sanitation) Resource list courtesy of Hood River County Emergency Management, Barbara Ayers, manager/ 541-386-1213. The county also reminds residents to Get a Kit, Make A Plan to connect your family if separated, and Stay Informed. See www.co.hood-river.or.us to opt-in for citizen alerts. Enlarge



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