A Ben Cohen Ink Comic


By Ben Cohen a “legendary master of the left field.” -BRP!

“Unintentionally misunderstood since 1975.” –Anonymous

“A big f@#k you, to the audience.” -B. Pendarvis

Ben Cohen's Facebook Found Objects Third Party News

Saturday, February 6, 2010

My State of the Union: Almost All of It

          What has been clear for generations now and perhaps always true is that our imperfect Union is the best the world has had to offer in the form of a society and government.  Our nations constitution, ethical and moral foundation and the qualities of our people have create the best that this world has seen, with limited acceptation (perhaps some of our allies, Japan post WWII, Canada, Iceland, Australia, Denmark has had a higher ground…regardless much of their modern success is influenced significantly by partnering with us).  It is in that reality that I plead we not become complacent.  That we strive within ourselves and demand from our government action, not just rhetorically bolstering our riotousness, but with the deeds based in truth, honor, and humility.  It is with this in mind that I urge we look seriously at unveiling the curtains of propaganda and truly create a transparent government that is controlled by an informed, not manipulated, citizenry.  A government that not just acts in the name of our founding fathers words, but through the actions their words truly compel us to take.  This would mean fundamental change that embraces many voices through our history (Sen. Wayne Morse, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Rep. Barbara Lee, Justice Louis Brandies, John Dewey, Ayn Rand, Ron Paul, ect…) that have been pushed aside out of convenience, political gain, ignorance and truly immorally impaired participants.  This is a call to actual and truthfully based moral, ethical change in our political and governmental aspirations that are there to act on the people’s behalf, but have failed in both understanding the problem and in providing the truth to the American people so we can make appropriate plans as a nation.

          The following are recommendations from a concerned citizen that sees this point in time as tipping point.  I have roots in most regions of this country, with parents from Illinois and Oklahoma, I was born in the mountain zone, grew up on the west coast, went to undergraduate and graduate school in the deep south, and now live with my family in the north east.  I have lived at the foots of an abandoned mine shaft, in a college town, in a prominently African American neighborhood, in our most affluent community, in an urban neighborhood, a historic district, in gentrification, on a marsh, and currently in a small rural town.  I am a descendent of our founding fathers and from minority immigrants in the late 1800’s.  This does not make my voice anymore valid then someone who was just sworn in as a new citizen of our grate nation.  Nevertheless, it should illustrate, I have a personal history that brings perspective that is both broad and deep.  Much of my opinion is flexible to truths presented to me, and this has allowed me to waver much in my vote, my commitment to a particular ideology, while always having an unbending commitment to our nations core values.  One who is open to the facts, open to the voices of my fellow citizens, but also sober in understanding that not all as it seems.

          Not that it should matter, but in full disclosure my professional and educational background only points to strong intellectual knowledge and “on the ground” experience with some of the issues I am discussing here.  It is purely through an insatiable appetite for information and honest concern that I speak with any knowledge on much of this.  I am a trained cartoonist who knows more the most about America’s only visual Art Form creation the Comic Book.  There is nothing more American then the Comic Book, and nothing more           American then its struggles on the front lines of workers’ rights, standing up against governmental repression, freedom of speech and intellectual property.  The Comics contribution to our culture in terms of the story of America and the Iconic symbols of America are immeasurable.  While the medium remains a product for promotion of sales and a populist product.  It has grown into a serious intellectually communication art form expanding its acceptation as a fine art and literary art.  One thing all cartoonist know is we do it for the love of the medium, vary few of us strictly make a living primarily on comics.  It is a pursuit of a dream and every day we peruse it is a sacrifice for the good of our voices as artists.  I am trained Art Educator and can speak much to the necessity of arts in our schools and culture, not just from a community and entertainment perspective, but also for its vital role in our democracy and most importantly in our economic and innovative future.  An area that is never acknowledged, but is in fact the cornerstone to our success in economic success based in innovation…to focus on just science and math is fools errand.  Despite these professional and educational backgrounds, my primary employment for much of the past decade has been in the area of medicine and I am very knowledgeable about the overall issues involving healthcare and in a specific of healthcare that has been underserved and appreciate in terms of its scope and effect on our citizens ability to prosper.

          I have been virtually a lifelong Democrat who at a time was a Green Party supporter.  I have grown to have Librarian sympathies, but remain a Democrat, because it is the most practical of two evils.  I believe it was actually Washington who was correct; a one party transparent system with an informed citizenry would have been preferable to easily manipulated wedge issue system we have today.  That said, on a national scale I will likely always vote for the Democrat.  What is most surprising to me is how I have become so much more of a populist this year.  Therefore, in a way, I am the populist, independent voter…but I never hear my views being sounded from the talking heads when they speculate on independents or populists.  The poles and the pundants are clueless and an arm of the insular government we have created.

          My rhetoric will likely read as harsh, maybe even fringe.  But I am a very even-tempered, measured person.  I see a number of commonalities with our President Obama.  The first would be temperament; pragmatism and moderation.  It is a sign of the times that I speak out this way.  However, it is very likely this is as far as I will go.  My vote and my voice are as far as I can take my conviction.  I am a father, a husband, and a productive participant in my community.  I am perfectly happy saying my peace and then doing what I need to do, work hard, love my family, and have fun with my life.  I am despite the words on the page a fervent supporter of the middle ground, the balance of things; I am intent on complacency.  I just wish those who we elected did not impede our preservations and progress toward a broadening of opportunity to experience the middle class life style; we don’t need more multi millionaires, we need more people who can pay their mortgage…which has been harder and harder even for people in my currently secure position (which will not last forever).  We do work harder, spend more for necessities and find fewer dollars left to secure our future and our children’s future.  There are clearly big changes that need to be made to ensure our security, our economy, our planet,…but the solutions are so clear.  Why do I have to raise my voice?

A fundamental reform to our system should be an expansion not a retraction on separations of power.  It is my view that without the separations of Legislative, Executive and Judicial powers our nation would never have progressed as far as we have.  And yet we see clear efforts to blur the lines of responsibilities and the effects of conflicts of interest taking hold.  For example congress giving over co blanch control in war efforts to the President.  Also, from the way in which the 2000 Presidential election resulted in the votes not being counted, but being decided by backroom deals and judicial decisions.  I would strive for us to go further and include efforts to make clearer separations among the three branches (or at least stick to principles already there constitutionally).  I would in addition seek to see sincere effort to separate Business, Religion, Media and the three branches of Government.  It has been the short-sighted influences of business, the apocalyptic righteousness of religion, and the unwillingness of the media to seek facts and report them instead of being a megaphone for the government and advertising interests designed to sway the masses will and keep us as compliant consumers.

Doing the Right Thing:

          There are many laws already on the books regarding regulatory reform, which have not been enforced.  There are also changes to the law enacted under end of the Clinton Administration that enabled policy changes during the Bush administration, which blustered the recluse practices of banks, real estate and wall street.  In a curious move the current administration in conjunction with the Bush administration have put into position of control over these issues to navigate us through this financial crisis, people who were principle authors of the changes under Clinton administration and people who had close affiliations with Wall Street and banks during the Bush term.  While the connections, the treasury department had with Wall Street may have helped in preventing our imminent collapse.  The close relationship is no longer an advantage and there should be change in staffing the provides for a more objective hand.  The Federal Reserve System; Simply the Fed has in essence become a fourth member of our three part governmental system.  However, is suffers from the same ethical erosion we see through out the system.  Given the special powers it has had there needs to be an honest evaluation of its place and powers in our system.  And just because someone helped us out of a jam they helped create doesn’t mean we should reward them with further employment.  This is just one issue that needs regulatory reform, quickly and with the least amount of rule change.  In other words enforce those rules that work, eliminate those loop holes that hinder and add minimal, but necessary and effective rules to shore up any loose ends.  With the idea that Banks are to performing as banks and consumers are to have a clear understanding of transitions they are enacting in, as well as a clear understanding of what their investment is being used for.  The Obama administration has just recently made some changes in their approach and redirect to support these efforts more full heartedly. 

          The economy is just one part of the rules and regulatory issues.  Even more importantly there needs to be an honest overhaul of congressional conduct, so that our representatives can no longer perform in partisan and for personal gain in the name of the American people.  For me this also includes a limit on terms for members of congress and a limit on affiliations after their terms.  This limit may reduce their depth and understanding of issues over time, but there is less and less evidence that they know what they are doing any better over time. Given corruption concerns and focus on reelection, not the issues we sent them to resolve.  When the Supreme Court reversed the rules on Campaign Finance last week one of the Democrats chief complaints is how it would effect the Incumbents…Well I have news for you, as much as I would like to see a Democratically controlled Congress, I personally think the entrenched politician, who is more concerned about reelection, regardless of party and ideology, is far more dangerous then the newbie enthused conservative Republican.

OUR Budget, OUR Taxation:

          We must no pay for what we owe; this means a budget that is balanced, a tax rate that is fair and affordable to individuals, but also pays down our debt in this generation not the next.  Here in Vermont we are struggling as everyone else with balancing our budget.  But because of long standing rules and community fiscal discipline we have a Pay-Go policy (Raising the debt ceiling with Pay-Go is basically cheating), and we tend to stay within our means.  I am clear in understanding the seen necessity and actually the wisdom of spending our way out. But as the Administration has said throughout, and as they are now enacting modestly with targeted freeze on discretionary spending proposed (this is not as proposed a freeze that would hurt the most needy during this time or at all reduce our potential recovery.  In fact it is necessary for our success in these efforts.) that we must reduce the deficient and certainly don’t need to be continuing wasteful spending.  This is why I would like our congress to return to the pledge of not adding spending proposals to bills unless it makes sense as part of the specific intentions of the bill.  I would also call for us to only put clearly related proposals on Bills, but also to keep the titles accurate and plane, not misleading and political.  If we are to make it through this and to build a future for our children, we establish a reasonable clear tax code that is based on projected affordability for individuals and small businesses.  I understand the advantages that some flexibility in tax policy has allowed the government to provide needed targeted tax relief and incentives…but I also feel that this effort in putting their finger on the scale has created more confusion and perhaps problems then it solves.  We are working harder then we have ever, paying higher taxes and higher rates for our life style then not just others all over the globe, but compared with our own society 40 years ago.  And my understanding finically the 70’s were an unsustainable economic time for most American’s.  I am with those who say that the income tax is unconstitutional and has been carried out through first conspiracy and then accepted loopholes in the law.  We should consider seriously looking into the constitutionality of our tax system and to at least have congress stand up and make it legitimate if that is what we want as a community.

          I sincerely understand the risks we face in having a heavy bourdon tax wise on the rich and big business (it goes without saying affordable taxation on small business and the middle class with none on the poor should be a rule of thumb).  Nevertheless, it is their patriotic duty as part of our community to pay back a reasonable portion of what they have accrued through, yes their own efforts, but also on the backs of the rest of us.  This includes philanthropy, but even more importantly this means a heavier tax burden, which I realize is high already, but less then it should be in those cases who chose to have found loopholes provided by their close association with congress and others in their industry.

The little BIG things:

          Some people have concerns for our security, some for our ethics, some for our economy, some for their health, some for their retirement, some for their children, some for others, some for justice, some for our planet.  Most have concerns for all and have no time or real power to do much about any of it.  As easily as we are manipulated, we are intelligent.  It is a paradox that has played into the hands of the system and those in power at any given moment.  But make no mistakes, if we are given the facts and it is plainly stated we get it and we can share our opinion if honestly asked.  I am increasingly frustrated with the one way conversation.  WE HAVE IDEAS.  WE HAVE ON THE GROUND EXPERIENCE.  WE ARE NEVER ASKED.  We are given questions that are spin.  We need an email address for all our representatives, not a little box that does not actually make it past our presidents screen.  So what if your box is full?  Sort your mail.  Learn to speed read.  Use the key stroke control F.

Every one of the general concerns and more are contacted.  When communicating back to us, you must tell us a story.  Connect the pieces, but make it pithy, honest and clear.  I started writing this before and continued after the state of the Union.  I honestly think the President gets it.  It was a GREAT speech and one I back. But he is surrounded by people who are unable or entrenched, despite what they tell themselves.  You can not know everything, but you need to.  It is an impossible situation, but doing your honest best and fessing up is all we can ask for.  Fight without hubris.

          Ok so the story as I see it.  We must save the planet.  To do so we must do the three R’s, clean our air, save our oceans and reduce our CO2.  To do this we must regulate and create a system that ACTUALLY reduces the amount of packaging in our products and makes seamless our process of reusing and recycling.  We should be composting ect…  We need to make sure that we are reducing our emotions most importantly in factories, buildings and homes, secondly in the transportation sector.  We should all have white roves with solar panels on them.  We should all have wind turbines.  We should all have electric and/or biofuel cars.  All people in urban areas should have metro cards.  And yes we need a national high speed train.  Our infrastructure should accommodate these needs and include bandwidth, plus be ready for fusion or what ever else is out there for the future.  These plans will help with job creation, as we all know, it will also reduce our security issues and improve our health and ethics.  We have no time to wait.  We must take action yesterday.

          In addition to job creation through infrastructure updating and energy reform we must make our banks smaller, transparent and accountable.  Local is the new global.  See other economic solutions through out this.

          Healthcare needs to do a few things.  We must number one change the incentive for doctors from fee for service, to incentive to efficiently and correctly diagnosing issues (I would look to Kaiser for this type of model).  Doctors should be paid for solving problems not performing expensive procedures.  Conservative medicine should be the priority and we should end the discrimination against TMJ patients and include TMJ care in medical coverage nationwide.  Actually we should end the divisions between medical, dental, alternative and psychological...it is all related and it should all be covered as long as it is the most efficient and appropriate treatment for the individual with a long-term and individual production and quality of life consideration.  Our preventive medicine approaches should be considered more then just a medical problem and be part of a comprehensive plan that includes economic, environmental, psychological, dental, work load, family planning ect… Chronic pain care through conservative treatments in conjunction with psychological, social, criminal, prescription monitoring, surgical, dental and preventative treatments should not be discriminated against and should be managed appropriately without the assumption that the DR. will solve the issue, but should help the patient improve their quality of life.  For all of this the goal is to reduce cost and above all improve the productivity of our citizens.  I would look to Vermont for some of this guidance.  More money needs to go to research, less into advertising.  The research should be transparent and treatments and drugs that are effective for some should be available to those patients that it does not harm (ie Viox).  Electronic medial records goes with out saying.  It is a good thing that patients have more information, but it is a bad thing that they are manipulated into pressuring DR. into doing the wrong thing.  Insurances companies should not have the ability to discriminate or find loopholes in state or national mandates on health care.  It never saves them money.  His or her rates should never exceed a certain affordable percentage of an individual’s income and everyone should be covered. In the end we will save our government, our businesses and our citizens finically while improving our productivity.

          The fundamentals of our prosperity is in education.  Number one, Teachers should be freed to fail and be fired.  There are lots of qualified, educated, up to date, cheep and eager young teachers looking for work (like me).  We should be recognizing that all students have specific motivating interests and unique strengths and weaknesses.  These strengths and relevant interests should be used to help improve fundamentals we are weak in and to help our fellow students learn.  The goal of our PreK-12 education should be to create ethical citizens, active members of the democracy, informed consumers, people who have fundamental skills that will help them balance their budget, understand the lessons of the past to make good decisions for their future, people with a good work ethic, a healthy mind, know how to communicate verbally and visually, and most importantly know how to innovate.  It should finally be recognized that the ARTS are an equal and vital part in these efforts, most notably innovation.  All students should have affordable laptops and wireless connections.  Classrooms would be virtually paperless.  A stronger national standers and framework should be made (again I would look at Vermont’s).  Our colleges are great, but we need to make our education their affordable and sustainable, as well as open to local Americans over foreign students.  Students should be listened to, challenged, and not discriminated against.  Diversity in classrooms should be encouraged.  We should see equality in resources.  We should be learning about our local communites and partispating in community projects.  We should learn outside and inside.  We should learn from our students and they should be active participants in creating curriculum.  Students should have time to be kids; have fun, make mistakes, get injured (home work should be limited).  Students should have healthcare, good sleep and food in their stomachs.  Diversity in teaching methods outside of this is a diversity in experience to model in a variety of adult situations with authority.  As long as teachers are being safe and effective there should not be just one way to teach.  Teachers should collaborate with parents, but be open the fact that not all parents will partner with them.  Doing these things will improve our efficiency and competitiveness across the board and change our education from sometimes economic burdens to productive partners in our communities and economy.

          Our farmers still need our help, but the system of subsidies and larger farming operations has created an unsustainable system.  There are huge advantages yet unsustainable realities for genetic and organic growth...we need something that resolves both...at this point we both are killing the land, losing our ability to survive as individuals and still not making enough food for the land.  We should export farm products, but in the US we should create a local, seasonal system of agriculture to help reduce our emissions, improve the quality of our food, improve the quality of care of our animals, reduce our addiction to red meats, and renew our connections with farmers and our community.  We need comprehensive reform for immigrations that allows these vital citizens to come out of the shadows and not put our small businesses and farmers in harms way for doing the work we are not willing to do our selves.  If there is a bio fuel, ethanol and methane (methane control as part of our environmental issues is huge) the future our farmers should be part of that.  In Vermont we have lost almost all of our local farms and our dairy industry is on the brink because of the policies we currently have in place.  We can’t afford to continue this way.

          I have come full circle back to my Berkeley roots after just a few months ago supporting the war in Afghanistan and liking the virtual fence.  The drug war is a failed policy.  The war on terror is a continuation of the worst manipulation and cover up our government and media has performed on its citizenry.  We should focus on reducing demand for drugs.  This will result in a better immigration policy, health policy, productivity policy, and war policy.  We should not have a wall around our nation.  We should not be fighting wars.  90% of the people killed in our wars today are civilians in other countries.  We funded and put our enemies in power.  We have killed way more of other citizens then we have had of ours killed.  If we pull out, open our boarders, reduce demand on drugs and focused on improving the efficiency, education and communications of our intelligence agency while protecting the privacy of our citizens, we will stop enough people who wish to harm us, while reducing the anger towards us out there.  We will also save enough money to pay for everything else above.  If we are acting ethically, humanitarianly and sharing communication we will end this two thousand year struggle.  I am as surprised as you that I have awakened to this fact, Dr. King was right.  We should take care of all those who have served our nation with the best healthcare we can right now they get some of the worst…with exception of Bethesda.

          Despite being a strong supporter of states’ rights and one who is open to the reality that growing up in the Bay Area, I did not grow up with all the best ideas and the solution that fit each community.  I have tremendous empathy for the belittling that comes from the coasts and the north.  I am very proud of my southern roots.  But I cannot stand by and support bigotry and injustice which is what we have without gay marriage in all fifty states. 

          The one issue that is truly hard to resolve is abortion, and I think it is the right of the women, but that there is a tremendous toll and ethical breach that happens.  We should work to reduce, but it should remain legal.  But this should be the last issue we resolve.

          OK I cannot rant any longer…

          Thank you for reading.  I am now going back to playing with my wife and my kid.

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