y.4prez at the gmail.com address.
Q1. Your slogan - “An Adult White House- - it’s about time.” What does that mean? (Susan Schmidt, Washington Post)
Y: First, it means that my White House isn’t a party headquarters. No Carl Rove, no vice president hatchet man. Second, it means that 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is not a house of propaganda. We’ve had a lot of bad news in the last eight years. When a White House puts a cheery spin on all that, people just stop paying attention to anything that it says. When a White House puts a cheery spin on all that, people just stop paying attention. If you don’t have anything useful to say, keep your mouth shut.
For several years after he left office we kept hearing about the “Clinton recession.” Will I reciprocate by nattering on about the “Bush Recession?” No. Let’s move on.
(Note: there are many elements like attitude, judicial selection and federal appointments that make a White House adult.)
Q2. I’ve heard you play games? (Jim Pinkerton, FOX News Watch)
Y: I enjoy playing bridge, but it makes me the youngest person at the table. Nobody under 70 seems acquainted with the game. I’d take up poker but I don’t smoke cigars and my cussing’s rusty. Wait, I play golf…I’m okay on the second requirement.
Q3. Some say that adult democracy is like making laws by public opinion polls. (Rick Brand, Newsday)
Y: Just the opposite. No one with a wit of worldly wisdom wants to be ruled by a six-year old. But that’s what rule by the mob is. Juvenile democracy is fueled by public tumult while consensus judgment commands the adult system. Go to war in Iraq? I want to know what the key military, state department, CIA and non-governmental agencies have to say, and I want it unvarnished.
Q4. Both Obama and McCain are light on executive experience. How important is executive experience? (James Fallows, Atlantic Monthly)
Y: Maybe twenty percent of adults have eaten in one of my Weekly Fix restaurants. Close to 100 percent of Americans under thirty have exerted themselves in one of my Challenge Centers. Tiger Woods, Annika Sorenstam and I have traveled the world with the Woods’ Golf Challenge Centers. Stocks in my concerns have never tanked, and some say that’s a sign of a well-run corporation.
I can tell you that my White House will have rules, but not the self-protective rules of the typical regimes. Parameters are set, than people are expected to exercise self-initiative.
Now, how does that compare to the two Senator’s varied experiences? I let you judge.
Q5. Where does the authority come from in adult democracy? (Bill Moyer, PBS )
Y: In olden days a Moses, Mohammed or Joseph Smith gained authority by claiming divine intervention. “Follow my orders because God or an angel has delivered them to me.” In the age of credulity, when most persons who got sick blamed someone nearby for sticking pins in a doll or casting a spell, this kind of appeal works.
In our juvenile democracy a president can go to war, loot the treasury or appoint his poker buddy to the Supreme Court. His new divine intervention: the ballot. The people voted for me; they gave me a mandate. Now I can do whatever I please. If the citizens resist, he can hire a covey of lawyers who will say that he has rights guaranteed by some old gentlemen a few hundred years ago. The handy thing here: people long dead can’t defend themselves. This “fabulous duo”, the shaky ballot and dubious legal findings, is just a form of humbuggery.
Representative consensus backed by respect from the citizens—that’s the authority in adult democracy. The consensus isn’t dogma because it’s accepted that even the wise and reflective make mistakes. It’s a “best guess” business always open to re-inspection. The common citizen has a major role in keeping the game honest, by ensuring that new blood continually enters the representative system.
Q6. Why don’t you have your face on your website? I’ve never seen a candidate who didn’t have a large portrait. (Julie Bosman, New York Times)
Y: I got the idea from our Founders. When they had something candid to share, they used pen names. Of course I appear on television and at state counsel events so many know what I look like. But my face is irrelevant - listen to my words. Would my words carry more weight if I were five foot five than ten? If I had a blond dye, bobbed nose or cosmetically enhanced breasts, would that make me more marketable?
Q8. On Y’s first appearance on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart
Jon: Why do you pronounce your name “Yo?”
Y: I was raised a feral child in Yosemite. The Y stands for “Yosemite.”
Q9. Do you expect a bump in consumer spending from the $150 billion tax rebate checks being sent to Americans? (Dean Calbreath, San Diego Union-Tribune)
Y: It isn’t a tax rebate; it’s a loan from your kid. I’m sure the credit card & oil companies are jumping for joy. The increasing food and gas prices are going to take more than that few hundred bucks your family received, but for a short time it might let families make those credit card payments. Are you going to eat out more often? Are you going to Europe or play more golf? I doubt it. Come 2009 we won’t be able to see where that $150 billion went but Chevron and Bank of America will be smiling.
Q10. (Steven Colbert, Colbert Report)
Colbert: Where do you think the two parties will be in 2025?
Y: My friend Michael Creighton thinks that the mainstream media will shrink and die. Why? Because the consumer, partly due to the Internet, will have options instead of what Michael calls “flashy junk.” To the contrary, I think the newspapers will live. They better live.
But as soon as citizens realize that the two dinosaur parties are “flashy junk,” they will certainly die. And nobody will miss them, except the slime-eaters who generate the ads or call you at dinnertime.
Q11. Why can’t your state, California, pass a budget on time and why can’t the federal government balance one? (Gerald F. Seib, Wall Street Journal)
A. I saw a website recently. It had a list, “Fifty Things A Person Should Know How To Do.” One was frame and follow a budget. So we expect a family buffeted by change to manage this while we shrug at government’s inability? Nonsense.
A juvenile democracy doesn’t want a real budget. It wants every political actor to act as if money was a mere abstraction. Republicans are always saying that Democrats can’t meet a budget. It’s horse pucky. Neither can.
If you admit you’re broke, where’s your power?
Q12. Where is the economy going? (Evan Thomas, Newsweek)
In the 1950’s we used to say, “What’s good for General Motors is good for the USA.” We now know that what was good for GM wasn’t even good for GM. In the battle between engineering and marketing, engineering came in third.
We’re in for a rough patch. Attitudes are going to change. I’ve already seen it. More people are slowing down on the freeway. Many are tearing up credit cards. It’s a start.
My guess, which is about as good as yours, is that housing will remain a problem area for maybe two years, maybe longer. I don’t see a near upside for jobs. Layoffs are a lot more common than hires. A president doesn’t have a golden key. The Great Depression was solved by a world war. Hopefully the world is a little wiser, but it’s up for grabs right now.
Q13. Why do you avoid using the words “liberal” and “conservative?” (Tim Russert, Meet The Press)
Y: When you listen to the Sunday morning shows, a conservative is a person who mistrusts the mob and supports the elite so that the flotsam will not rob the treasury. A liberal is a person with an airy view of human potential who disregards the reality that he meets at the breakfast table. Words are tools and when a tool has been blunted and rusted by misuse you have to discard it.
Q14. How could an Adult Democracy handle the economy better? (Ronald Brownstein, Los Angeles Times)
Y: A juvenile democracy can’t handle our perfect storm. In California, between 2002 and 2005, the housing bubble created fifty percent of all new jobs. In recent times maybe one million worked walked in from the southern border and waves of SUVs were sold to Californians.
Our juvenile democracy just shrugged. An adult democracy would have noticed that a perfect storm was forming. It hit and forced hundreds of thousands out of medical care system. So you have four gathering forces that cried out for mediation. Juvenile democracy didn’t pay attention.
It failed first because the housing bubble was left to boil on because profit making and temporary happiness trumped common sense. It failed because the two parties didn’t have the guts to handle illegal immigration. It failed because our representatives are owned by their party, which are gutless, and by corporations, which look at the near bottom line.
Only government is equipped to look at the serious long run. But our juvenile democracy is fueled by greed and posture, so it does a lousy job handling the present and is ill equipped to handle a perfect storm.
Q15. Did Bush lies get us into the Iraq War? (Steve Kraske, Kansas City Star)
Y: Were Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and the neocons on a massive propaganda mission to go to war? Obviously. Don’t election campaigns involve the telling of stretchers, as Mark Twain used to call lies? Sure, so I don’t think we should fain being shocked.
I think the better question is: Did America ask the hard questions and did it ask the persons most familiar with the facts on the ground and the reality of war? No, we didn’t and that judgment should haunt us. When I talk about the difference between today’s juvenile democracy and the potential of adult democracy this is what I mean. If our political system valued candor and honest reflection, we would have never gone to war. Let’s blame ourselves and resolve to change the system so that honest discourse becomes the norm.
Q16. Bear Stearns’ Ralph Cioffi and Matthew Tannin have been charged with exaggerating the worth of funds that they knew to be faulty. Do you think fraud charges are going to hurt foreign investment on Wall Street? (Mike Dennison, Missoulian)
Y: From Asia to Europe, folks wonder what the heck is going on in America. Exaggeration is a Wall Street disease but it’s also a political disease. In the long run investor confidence is gained by telling the truth, whether you’re selling funds or boosting America. Do we have reliable financial institutions? Is our dollar going to recover? It depends on whether we are adult enough to withstand some pain; honest enough to quit spending money we don’t have.
Q17. Republican candidate Mitt Romney said that, “Americans acknowledge that liberty is the gift of God.” Do you believe that? (David Jackson, USA TODAY)
Y: Leviticus proclaimed liberty throughout the land and Corinthians said, “Where the spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” But moderns note that the contest between sects has commonly abridged liberty. One elemental truth: Liberty has been won by our blood. It will be kept only by eternal vigilance. If you believe all good things come from God, then liberty comes from God. So does chocolate.
Q18. When did our elections get out of hand? (Al Cross, Louisville Courier-Journal)
Y: Before you or I were born in the US and long before we were a nation in Great Britain. Here’s one of my favorite quotes, from 1933. As an old man of seventy-seven George Bernard Shaw visited New York where he gave a speech. He let out a bellyful of distaste for juvenile democracy with this blast:
“I have never spoken or listened at an election meeting without being ashamed of the whole sham of democratic routine. The older I grow, the more I feel such exhibitions to be, as part of the serious business of the government of a nation, entirely intolerable and disgraceful to human nature and civic decency.”
Q19. Tran Trong Duyet, John McCain’s Hanoi jailer, says he never tortured John McCain after his capture. Whom do you believe? (Dick Polman, Philadelphia Inquirer)
Y: President Bush says we never torture. Sounds like we’re even.
Q20. Do you worry about the falling birth rates in the Western world and the prosperous East? (Tom Humphrey, Knoxville News Sentinel)
Y: It is a worry. People now expect better support for child rearing. Help during the first year and job flexibility. Birth rates are holding well in Scandinavia but falling in Eastern Europe and Southern Europe where the old mechanisms are in play.
We need to study this situation for our own policies to keep the birth rate at replacement levels without massive immigration.
Q21. John McCain is said to have flip-flopped on offshore drilling, nuclear energy and ethanol. What do you make of it? (Gardner Selby, Austin American Statesman)
Y: Poor John. He’s a good man but he’s engaged in a sport with a shifting field. It used to be you could tell New Yorkers that nuclear energy was the fix. Next week, in Texas you’d push offshore drilling and later, in Iowa, you’d tell the farmers that more corn is the way to energy independence. You’d end up in California singing solar energy.
The problem got out-of-hand with the Internet. Ordinary folks starting linking this isolated pandering and showing the inconsistencies. Then the put-upon talking heads at CNN and Fox had their hands forced. They now play the same game so that they aren’t considered fossils.
So I don’t pay attention to election speeches. Our great poet, Walt Whitman, used to give rousing election speeches. In old age he admitted that they were just “parade day palavers.” My advice to you: If you have a choice between a picnic and attending a political speech, choose the picnic - the games there are more useful.
I have it easy. My job is to explain why U.S. energy policy failed dismally. Then I only have to say how we can avoid such future calamities by moving to adult democracy, where special interests don’t run the show. I don’t have to say I have the answer. I’m not running for ruler, king or wise woman on the mount. Our solution will be part entrepreneurship, part pain, and part serendipity. My job in an adult White House is to help the elements come together in a timely fashion. Piece of cake compared to being the juvenile democracy’s Answer Man.
Q22. But you have to provide more direction in energy policy than that.
Y: A one-word start: Conservation. I used to go to the hardware store to buy a screw. Now I keep a list and wait until I need four or five items. Conservation works and everyone is doing it, even if they think of the idea as pouring fewer dollars in the gas tank.
Next the government needs to free itself from oil. Renewables, in my opinion, can put a big dent in oil imports. They’re good for the environment. If we invent good stuff, we can sell it to other nations. What’s not to like about local fixes, jobs and clean air? The oilmen will still be okay. They’ve been quietly buying up renewable energy businesses. They knew what was coming.
Q23. Obama has said he’s going to expand on President Bush’s faith-based initiatives. What is your stance? (Bill Schneider, CNN)
Y: Any time you have a high humbug factor in a handout scheme, it pays to reconsider. The famous Boston Episcopal Church, for example got $317,000 for restore its antique windows and other renovation. Aren’t there thousands of other churches, temples, mosques, pagodas, tabernacles and ziggurats in need of repair? Couldn’t private donors provide the funds, as they have for 400 years?
The federal separation of church and state worked well for 200 years. Ask someone in the White House to choose among competing petitions for money and the outcome is predictable. If a heavy majority insists on it, I’ll have this in my White House. And my faith-based grants will also become a sore point. I prefer policies that cut out the middle man. If we had added a buck to the price of gas twenty years ago, we’d be importing far less oil today. No government mileage requirements, just more pain at the pump. Same way with giving religious orders money. Let’s keep it the way we always did. Let the private citizen decide where he wants to put his charity money.
Remember, religions have always been the major source of charity in this country. That’s why they’re tax exempt. Keeping them out of politics could be the path to their salvation, it could save their souls.
Q24. Is nation-building in Iraq going to be a major issue in this campaign? (Tom Suddes, Cleveland Plain Dealer)
Y: Probably not. I agree with Thomas L. Friedman, who said in the New York Times that it’s nation-building in America that’s going to be the issue. People have already made up their minds that we need to take most of our forces out of Iraq soon. I don’t set a date, but soon doesn’t mean two years. I’m also open to keeping a base there if the Iraqis so desire. We already have about 700 bases or stations in 130 countries, so one or two in Iraq would not be abnormal.
Q25. You’ve said that the high cost of oil might be a blessing in disguise. What do you mean by that? (Jonathan Epstein, Buffalo News)
Y: High oil prices can lead to more U.S. jobs because the cost of transporting goods made in China will make local manufacturing more competitive. Add the reliability factor of having your supplier close by and you have a renewal of American industry. That’s jobs and jobs are the bottom line to a healthy America.
Obviously the cars that are made in the U.S. are going to get better mileage and be less polluting. We can sell them everywhere. The oil shock will, ten years from now, be seen as a blessing, if we have the backbone to re-invent ourselves.
Q27. Senator Obama, after saying he opposed giving retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies, later turned around and supported immunity. After calling NAFTA “an enormous problem” in Ohio he now says his rhetoric was “overheated.” What is your stance and how do you see the Senator’s changes in stance? (Amy Goodwin, “Democracy Now” radio show)
Y: In a juvenile democracy the candidates pander to one crowd to win a primary and another to win a general election. It’s largely a waste of time to listen to campaign speeches until maybe the last couple months.
I don’t make judgments on Senator Obama, let the voters decide. I don’t need to play the pander game because I’m not a member of a party and I don’t go around telling folks that I have the answers to our thousands of policy questions.
Rather, I have a specific role to play as president where I will moderate and conciliate and sometimes be the final decision maker. With something like NAFTA we need a fair consensus. Take truckers. Companies would love to see America’s independent truckers compete head-to-head with Mexican truckers. Guess who’d win? We can’t keep our employment up, our taxes flowing, if we allow a race to the bottom on all salaries and small company profits. There has to be some consideration of community obligation. The last thing we need is a continuation of our shrinking incomes. So that has to be part of the negotiations, some safety for the little guy, some consideration for the community.
As far as retroactive immunity to the telecoms, I’m not for that. Immunity is too often a political payback. That doesn’t mean I’m in favor of allowing suits to go forward en masse. There has to be a reasonable middle ground. The pressure on the telecoms from the Bush administration must have been fierce.
It’s important to re-institute the checks and balances of independent oversight of wiretapping. The Bush administration went way overboard and we must make sure we are never, as a people, put in that kind of bind again.
Q28. Military manpower is short. Do we need a draft? (Wayne Slater, Dallas Morning News)
Y. A draft is not in the cards. But America is out of whack. As Slate’s Jacob Weisberg says, “The real "two Americas" are not rich versus poor or religious versus secular but military versus civilian.” As he documents, our military personnel get a raw deal, not just the many thousands killed and injured. (According to Newsweek a higher percentage are wounded in Iraq than Vietnam.) The kids of the middle and upper classes aren’t in this war and it can disappear from the television news. Despite a huge defense budget, they go to war in second-rate vests and crummy unarmored Humvees? That’s BS.
I like the idea of universal service, so that all post-high school or post-college youth serve the nation. We need some kind of change so that our nation is less about the haves vs. the have-nots, the grunts in Iraq vs. the youth at home cruising the mall. We need more spirit of community.
Q29. Reverend Jeffrey Spelwell has called you this presidential campaign’s “Demon Seed.” Many religious citizens think that you, a non-religious person, are unfit for higher office. How do you respond? (Keith Olbermann, “Countdown” MSNBC)
Y: The history of mankind is the history of bigotry and exclusion. In some states in early America Catholics, Jews and Muslims were excluded from office. We got the disease from Europe where religious persecution surged through the centuries. Our Founders had yet to get the bad taste out of their mouths when they crafted a Constitution that prohibits a religious test for office. Some folks just have to keep partying like it was 1554.
Q30. What is your stance on Israel, especially in regards to Iran? (Michael Goldfarb, Weekly Standard Blog)
Y: We need detente with Iran and that should help Israel if we can persuade Iran not to develop a nuclear bomb. Whoever wins this election will be a friend to Israel, despite the neocon publications that routinely smear Senator Obama. They may be honest in their regard for Israel, but they are dishonest when they say that the Republican Party is Israel’s savior. There are only 27 other solid democracies in the world and America is close friends with all of them.
Q31. What do you think about the Supreme Court decision overturning the Washington D.C. ban on handguns? (John Farmer, Newark Star-Ledger)
Y: The right to own a gun comes from a higher authority than the Constitution. It’s the American people who, by a wide majority - myself included, believe we have the right to own a gun. I think the court of public opinion agreed that the law was draconian, wrong.
Some people look at government as a religious institution. If they can find a word in the Constitution, than everything we need to know about that subject has been rendered. That’s what some Supreme Court members think and that’s why the institution supported slavery and slammed worker rights for decades. It’s a peculiar idea. Do you think that the dead should rule the living? Democracy is a practice that says, “NO!” But there are those who, like rabbis arguing over when a food is cooked properly, believe that moderns should bow to what people decided long ago.
I’m glad I’m not a slave to the Founders’ opinions. I wouldn’t be allowed to run for president. Some of my friends in Congress would still be hoeing cotton.
Q32. But do you believe that we have the right to own a gun?)
Y:Sure. I grew up reading the American Rifleman. I learned to fire a gun when I was eight. I have three guns in my house. It’s an agreed right by the vast majority of Americans.
Its funny: most who are gun-ho for everyone to carry guns in public are the same guys who believe that humanity is on moron overload. If you believe the latter, most folks shouldn’t be allowed to carry sharp sticks.
Q33. Is democracy on the move? What is ACC2012? (Justine Webb, BBC)
Y: There are 82 supposed democracies in the world, but most are flawed or in decline. Democracy without liberty is a sham. We need a better description of what we mean by democracy, so I seldom use the word without the qualification “adult” or “juvenile.” Just because you have elections and parties doesn’t mean you avoid corruption, have adequate representation, free speech or balanced laws. Put another way: neither elections nor parties seem to turn a nation into an adult democracy.
ACC2012 stands for Adult Constitutional Convention 2012. References are made available and anyone who wishes to participate in one of the national ACC’s can take a test and be added to the pool of potential delegates. A random drawing among those who pass selects the initial delegates, who then organize the Convention.
It’s obviously a detour around the political establishment and a way to allow those of merit but without power to engage in a useful debate using modern standards. What happens at the conclusion is up to each national press and citizenry. We hope many nations partake, though some will have to do so in a secret manner.
Q34. There’s been a lot of war talk regarding Iran. What do you say to the Iranian people and their leaders? (Tom Humphrey, Knoxville News Sentinel)
Y: Negative news from America quickly wings around the world. Let my reply also fly: Americans have no wish for conflict with Iranians. We want a world where we can get along with others. Our core values are to be blind to religion, color and background.
Obviously, when a nation becomes a threat to the security of other nations, the world takes note. The leadership of Iran, right now, is bellicose. The leadership of the U.S. is also pretty bellicose. These things will pass. It’s up the citizens of our respective nations to get themselves good leaders who can promote peace. If Iranian citizens are allowed to freely participant in ACC2012, it will show me that Iran is open to the kind of freedom that the modern world believes in.
Q35. Are you in favor of committing the U.S. to cutting greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2050, as decided in the recent G-8 meeting in Japan? (Carla Marinucci, San Francisco Chronicle)
Y: If we don’t do it, China won’t do it. The mind-bending pollution from China is already fouling the skies of Seattle. Do it for high-mindedness or do it for self-interest. Either way it makes sense to clean our air.
Q36. Senator Obama says he can, by stopping the Iraq War, closing loopholes and ending the Bush tax cuts, fund six new programs or expansions that will cost over one trillion dollars over the next ten years. Senator McCain says he can balance the budget while extending the tax cuts. How do you respond? (Peter Nicholas, Los Angeles Times)
Y: Every four years, like political locusts, candidates arise to promise the moon with a side of cheese. We’re 400 billion in debt with a falling dollar. When we stop the fiscal bleeding from the Iraq War, we will have to address replacing manpower and material losses.
If the economy continues to slide, a new administration will be forced to spend some serious money on internal programs, but I don’t see any near term free money or public support for massive new programs. Study the last dozen campaigns and see if any of the promises to squeeze money from federal reform have generated significant dollars. We have earned our skepticism.
I don’t promise tax cuts and I don’t promise expansive programs and I don’t think we should plunge into universal healthcare without a more realistic review of our options. Instead I promise a different kind of presidency which, compared to a check in the mail, may seem a bit dull. Hopefully some folks will appreciate the candor.
Q37. The large (G-8) nations have pledged to raise more money for Africa. Do you support this? (Craig Gilbert, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Y: Most of this foreign aid is wasted. It either props up corrupt governments or it’s spent on weapons that are turned on their own citizens. Some want to stop the money flow so that the dysfunctional states will collapse allowing better government to follow.
History shows that this would be a breeding ground for “saviors” like Al Qaeda. I have a better idea: channel foreign aid into building adult democracy. This means you don’t start with elections, but with blind drawings of citizens who have passed some hurdle of merit. This force can be potent opponent to the kleptomaniacs that rule some nations and the systemic bribery and government corruption that makes most Africans wish they had never heard of Europeans.
If you want to feed people or help develop agriculture, do it through international agencies – don’t let most so-called leaders get their hands on the funds. Hundreds of billions of dollars have gone to Africa and it’s in terrible shape. Let’s try another route.
Q38. Senator McCain says he is a Teddy Roosevelt conservative. What do you think? (Charles Gibson, ABC News)
Y: An most important thing to remember about Theodore Roosevelt: the Republican Party Bosses tried to throw him under a train. As a NYC Police Commissioner and most notable Governor of his time, he knocked heads with corporations, replaced political appointments with civil service, stood up for the worker and enforced unpopular laws. The establishment hated him and cooked up a scheme to get rid of him. They ran him for Vice President. Most political observers agree with Scott Adams (Dilbert) who says that the typical U.S. Vice-President wins the “Most Useless Job in the Universe” contest. Teddy, thanks to a bullet, fooled them.
Q39. What do you make out of places like Canada and California moving against plastic baby bottles due to an disclosures about bisphenol A from a newspaper rather than from a governmental agency? (Craig Gilbert, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)
Y: There’s no substitute for the press as the people’s guardian. Regulators like the EPA or the FDA are, first, too tied to industry and, second, hindered by political appointments. As President I will appoint department heads who exhibit merit and ask them to let the chips fall where they may. That’s the way science is supposed to work.
Industry, going clear back to the tobacco folks, has learned how to game the system by snowing the agency with study after study which are often little more than variations on the same theme. Their lobbyists have no shame; they actually try to suggest that independent laboratories are either incompetent or have an ax to grind.
Our regulatory agents are seldom caught with safety vaults full of cash, but they are too cozy with lobbyists and industry to be impartial. This can be said for the chemical industry and the drug companies.
Q40. You say that we need to reexamine the meaning of employment. What does that mean? (Bob Von Sternberg, Minneapolis -St. Paul Star Tribune)
Y: In the late 1920’s Americans would have been aghast at the idea of work programs, like those employed in the 30’s. As the idea of public opinion polling caught on near the end of the Great Depression, folks were asked: Should the government guarantee a job? Over two-thirds replied “yes.” Only a few years of difficulty and the pubic was “radicalized.’ A bit like our new view of our cars as transportation rather than a beauty contest.
When we talk about some area’s invasive crime, gangs, spotty coverage of healthcare, the need for replenishment of our armed forces and such, a lot of it comes back to job opportunities. How do we, as a nation, regard forty percent youth unemployment – which some areas have? Does the middle-class see healthcare for these people as welfare?
I’m not giving you answers, I’m asking questions. In 2006 about 28 percent of the major companies anticipated layoffs. In 2007 successful pharma and biotech companies laid off 45,000 workers. Are we going to treat this trend the same way we treated our energy problems, with glib retorts and putting our heads in the sand?
I think we need to explore universal service for the youth of our nation. It’s like the old mechanic ad: “You can pay me now or pay me later.” Maybe we need to re-think the links between education and work. A mature president is willing to ask hard questions. A nation not torn apart by phony party ideology is ready to look for answers.
Q41. Why is it so hard to reform government? (Susan Milligan, Boston Globe)
Y: Maybe it’s the power of the dark side. The universe is 74% dark energy and 22% dark matter. Seriously, I’m more interested in system invention than reform. Most reforms don’t work. Somebody’s always trying to tame elections: public contributions, censoring speech, dictating primary dates and so forth. Elections are more civically disappointing now than they were fifty years ago.
Q42. Although you’ve castigated the current administration for the war in Iraq, you support the one in Afghanistan. What do you really expect will happen in Afghanistan if U.S. troop levels increase? (Lara Logan, CBS foreign correspondent)
Y: The Taliban mindset isn’t convinced by debate or civil contests. To make a fresh start you sometimes have to stop or kill the enemy of freedom. That’s why wars will be around a long time after you and I are gone. But we have to do more.
The battle for minds won’t be won by troops and bombs. I believe that the Afghanistan people, like citizens around the world, want better education, less corruption and a chance to improve their lot. That is the mantra of adult democracy: empower the civic minded, the reflective.
The Loya Jirga, the gathering that emulated our Constitutional Convention, could neither fend off the tribal chiefs nor counter outdated colonial ideas. Most aid funds never reach their Afghan objective, the people. We’re more likely to build an office in the capital than help farmers. We need Afghan panels of citizens helping with our foreign aid, which is considerable.
We once saw Afghanistan for its role in the cold war, then as a source in the drug war. It’s time to forget the old wars and focus on people. Let our foreign aid fit the realities on the ground.
Q43. Al Gore says we should tax carbon dioxide production. He goes so far as to say, “We should tax what we burn, not what we earn,” How do you respond? (David Stout, NY Times)
Y: I’m sure he has some idea how this would work. That slogan? Get back to me when someone pencils this out. We’re going through a lot of changes, but I doubt anyone’s ready to throw out the monetary system just yet.
A carbon tax? Can we figure out how to keep a deep pocket from polluting the skies and just considering it the cost of doing business, like hiring a lobbyist? We already have that. Most reforms fail, but that’s no reason to end experimentation. Just keep it simple and experimental, that’s all I ask.
Replacing dollars with carbon dioxide? Not in this lifetime.
Q43. Retired Gen. Antonio Taguba, lead Army investigator of the prison abuses at Abu Ghraib, recently wrote, "There is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes." The Red Cross, in a secret report, says that the U.S. uses torture. As president what would you do about the international flood of lawsuits that are bound to hit Bush administration officials? (Dahlia Lithwick, Slate.com)
Y: This is a serious situation. It reflects on our nation as well as on certain individuals. The last thing I want in my administration is a protracted witch hunt or the continuation of the polarization that marks America today.
I would ask that we pass a reconciliation act to put these matters behind us. This act would also state that America does not stand for torture, anti-constitutional renegades or secret interference into the political process of other nations.
We could then focus on moving towards adult democracy and away from government by party and pandering. We have other serious economic and social matters that should preoccupy our collective efforts.
I know, people are angry about election manipulation, about extraordinary acts indifferent to the rule of law and, of course, an unnecessary war. What we need is less anger and more specific acts to prevent future outrages. If South Africa could forgive persons who acts led to the killing of blacks, we ought to be big enough to forgive and to work at ending practices that diminish our nation and tarnish our hard-earned national honor.
Q43. The Bush administration plans to shift $230 million in Pakistan counterterrorism aid to upgrading its fleet of F-16 fighters. What do you think of this? (Eric Schmitt, NY Times )
Y: There needs to be more intelligence in this business. Spend the $230 million on schools and you’ll get ten times the return. Jets won’t cost the bad guys a lost night’s sleep, but they are gravy to generals who would rather fight India than OBL.
Q44. As President, what is your greatest challenge? (David Corn, Mother Jones)
Y: We can turn the White House into an adult democratic agency, but I still have to work with a broken Congress. Remember, it has lower respect among Americans than George W. Bush. A contaminated business model runs it where the long-timers and crooks have more power than the hard workers or the reflective.
Remaking Congress – note I didn’t say reforming it – is a long slog. I expect that the next election cycle will present voters with a slate of non-party candidates who run on the adult democracy platform. That is, merit above party, independent thinking over lockstep policy domination.
I will establish new practices that will make it more difficult for party partisans to work their propaganda magic. For example, we will have a Critical Thinking resource that will debunk the shell games typically used by the party folk to front industry-created legislation. An example comes from an article you wrote about how Phil Gramm introduced a measure to block regulation of “swaps,” as he put it, to “protect financial institutions from overregulation.” These bundling of mortgages into esoteric hedge fund gaming were taken off the examining table resulting in taxpayers having to fork over billions of dollars in bailouts. A Critical Thinking panel could ask why “protection” isn’t even more needed is such instances. The more crooked a bill is, the less likely it’s called by a name that actually means anything. Clear English is a strong antiseptic.
Q45. You’ve been more critical of Israel than most American presidents. How do we know you will be a friend to Israel? (Shmuel Rosner, Chief U.S. Correspondent, Harretz )
Y: One of three will be elected in 2008. Whoever wins will be a friend of Israel. There are two kinds of friends. Suppose that you have a buddy who tells you he just lost $10,000 at the local casino. Friend A might say, “That place is known for screwing down their slot machines. Nobody’s winning there so gamble somewhere else.” Friend B says, “You are a damn fool. You are going to lose your family and ruin your life if you don’t get help for your addiction.”
I’ll be a friend B. If I think that a policy is wrong, I’ll privately say so in candid terms. In public I won’t slant my words to applaud the policy. I stand in a nation that had longtime slavery; that had chattel slavery in some places up until 1940 and segregation for another couple decades. I can’t preach that we’ve always done the right thing. I will support anything that I think is helpful to Israel’s long-term health.
I’ll look with interest at whether the public in Israel will participate in the International ACC2012. This project tasks the thinking citizens of a nation to informally forge a modern constitution, built on the world lessons of the past two hundred years and modern standards of liberty. It’s a healthy exercise and it will be interesting to see what transpires in Israel.
Q46. Obama and McCain have specific energy, healthcare and foreign policies. They will have detailed platforms derived by the party conventions. How can you run without revealing your answers to the high cost of gas or how the little guy gets his kid to the doctor? (Steve Inskeep, NPR’s Morning Edition)
Y: The president as Answerman is as artificial as Batman. Anyone who votes for me because I am going to lower the cost of gas should be voting for someone else. I’m not going to sit in the White House and set commodity prices. FDR tried that with gold and failed utterly. I’m also not going to tap our emergency supplies to ease the pain. We collectively deserve our pain for ignoring something that was 100 percent certain: Oil prices were, for anyone born in the last half of the 20th century, going to snowball with dreadful effect.
The drain on our national treasure is harmful. Since 1990 our direct economic hit has increased five times. Imported oil will hammer us for $560 billion in various ways in 2008. Perspective: The Iraq War has cost us maybe $540 billion.
The pressure is on for us to implement alternative energy sources and that will be a major focus of my administration. Am I going to provide the implementation designs? Of course not. My job is to provide, with the help of Congress, ways of making decisions in a timely manner. In a healthy democracy we don’t have Dick Cheney and his oil buddies setting national policy. One of my jobs is to set a timetable for a national plan. By the end of 2009 we need to have in place a solid plan - not a “political dodge” - to stop the bleeding, to end the current drain on our wealth.
Now, we’re not ready for a national health plan. Years have been spent on this, but Congress and the previous administrations have been in bed with the major players. This means we can’t be inventive enough. We are the only advanced nation that ignores the health care of millions of its citizens. Insurance companies, hospital conglomerates or pharmaceuticals will not straitjacket my independent commission. Since we’re Johnny come lately. we’ll do what Taiwan did, analyze the pluses and minuses of other national experiences and come up with a plan.
I will establish a two or three-hour class on the pros and cons on the plan and ask for a national response by those citizens who have taken the class and passed a summary exam. This presents Congress with a national resolve for change and one that isn’t crafted by interests who have been busy buying Congress.
Q47. This class and test, that’s an unusual way to conduct a plebiscite, isn’t it?
Y: I don’t like the words plebiscite or initiatives. They convey a political exercise where heat blocks out light. Let’s call this kind of dedicated public action a “Judgpol,” for judgment poll. Opinions are cheap, easily swayed by slogans and propaganda. Is there any element of propaganda that hasn’t been used in the healthcare wars?
Q48. Walter Russell Mead, the noted historian says that presidential elections are won by appealing to what he calls the “Jacksonians.” These are the Florida speedboat owner, the Southern good ol' boy, the toothless miner from West Virginia, and white-ethnic Joe Sixpack. Is your campaign going to appeal to these folks? (Barron YoungSmith, The New Republic)
Y: When candidates appeal to patriotism, tradition and party they are going for the emotional juggler. Sure that works. I say to Jacksonians: You are pandered to during elections and discarded between.
In an adult democracy nobody is barred from office because they have a low class job, because they are poor or because their parents were less educated. This logic carries weight. I’m not doing badly in the South, for example.
Sure, if I become president, it will be partly because I’m rich. As long as money rules, the Jacksonians are election fodder. Twenty years from today a special poor man or woman will have an honest chance, because of my takedown of the party system.
Q49. On the oil situation Senator Obama slams the Republicans and Senator McCain in particular, saying he voted against increased fuel efficiency standards against funding renewable sources of energy. (Michael Rollins, The Oregonian)
Y: Both parties have been in and out of power during the past thirty years. It strikes me as overwrought to say that it was the Republicans alone who yoked us to Middle East oil. In the late 70’s, when planning could have made a big difference, President Carter was one person who took energy seriously. Despite having a Democratic House and a heavy majority of something like 58 to 41 in the Senate, nothing came of it. It’s historically inaccurate to say that our energy mess is a Republican vs. Democrat outcome. It’s more accurate to say that the mess comes from our juvenile system which doesn’t have the guts to ask citizens to suck it up; which doesn’t have the intelligence to plan for the end of easy oil that everyone knew was coming.
50Q. Your description of an “adult White House” - its greater plurality, its reliance on independent commissions and the like, make it seem to be what theorists call a “weak” rather than a “strong” presidency. (Jeff Greenfield, CBS News)
Y: We’ve all known dads that constantly beat their kids. If we used the shaky logic behind the “weak vs. strong” presidency then we’d have to call those guys “strong parents.”
If a president can have the respect of most Americans, if there is the courage to go against common tradition, if a rare kind of candor can prevail, then I think that White House will be seen as quite “strong.”
We’re nearing the end of the Bush years where the media has painted him as a very “strong” fellow. I suspect that most of his accomplishments are writ in sand. Twenty years from today who will remember one lasting accomplishment? Sure, we’ll remember a war, but now we’re back to child beating as macho behavior.
Q51. You say that an adult democracy could have avoided today’s energy crisis. How? (Lowell Cohen, Santa Rosa Press Democrat)
Y: If America had added a buck to the cost of gas during the 70’s gas crisis, we’d have saved tens of billions and GM might be riding high instead of losing 39 billion in 2007. An adult democracy can inflict pain for the greater good. A juvenile democracy is gutless.
Each rep calculates his chance of being voted out for an unpopular tax. A juvenile democracy is like child rearing where the kid is never reprimanded, always praised. Backbone is created by an individual’s gut checks. A healthy economy is created by economizing and saving so you can have the dividends when you need them.
Look at Denmark. After the 1973 oil crisis they banned Sunday driving for a time. They got serious about producing low-energy appliances; they got into wind energy big-time. Japan also acted. They became the champion of energy saving technology while they prepared for $100 oil.
The U.S. dallied and now we’re hurting. Small pain for the future good is adult; big pain due to neglect is the way of our juvenile democracy.
Q52. How would a Y presidency be any different than an Obama presidency in terms of energy policy? (Rick Pearson, Chicago Tribune)
Y: Everyone talks about wind power, solar, and so on. Sounds good, right? Problem: our generation is growing four times more than our capacity to transmit the power from point A (maybe a windswept plain) to point B, likely a major city. About 500 companies own the transmission lines and I'll bet that each of those companies donates to the representative of their choice. How is a juvenile Congress and a party White House going to do what we need to do: Nationalize the transmission system so that we can rationally invest in a major upgrade so that the next plug-in car that you buy will have the juice to run? My non-party White House can propose a rational energy policy instead of today's political energy policy. The reps in Congress that are owned by the power interests will fight this, but I can establish an independent commission, I can appeal directly to the people.
Q53. I make you king: How would you reform Congress? (Jon Stewart, Daily Show)
Y: Not reform, invention. Ask the House of Representatives to take their toys (lobbyists) and leave. Our new lower unit is the Home Representatives.They aren't elected, but self-selected. People take a class, read some references. They take a test on American history, economics, critical thinking...
Jon: Critical thinking, who knew? (laughter)
Y: and each year maybe 5,000 are chosen by lot.
Jon: Now that's cheaper. (laughter)
Y: They work mostly at home – don't even have a desk in Washington. It's the end of party government. We've got merit and, just as important, variety. Without a single quota, a single appeal to better child care, fifty percent – more or less – are women. Teachers, stevadores, clerks, professors – you name it, all in technicolor glory. And not one was forced to join a party. It would spell the end of both dinosaur parties.
Q54. What's your stance on keeping the Internet open and available to all? (Craig Newmark, Craigslist)Y: The big boys tried to keep news off the radio in 1933 - even signed a pact that would limit news items to 25 words and eliminate sports news. Then television came along. The same guys decided to use VHF which restricted the number of channels - which they gobbled up, in the big cities anyway. You're old enough to remember television's vacuous and stupid 50's and 60's. Now there are those who would price the Internet out of sight, who would hog the bandwidth as they did with television. I consider the on-line phenomenon to be more important to adult democracy than our Constitution and all the members of Congress put together.
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