Here’s my latest e-letter.(to subscribe send blank message to
[log in to unmask] ) I plan to get them out far more often (every
couple of weeks, perhaps).
To help you decide whether to open or delete each letter I will label
ACTIONS — mostly political statements I encourage others to get involved
in carrying out,
or IDEAS --- mostly my own noodlings theories, hypotheses, speculations,
ruminations, suggestions, inventions, and sometimes summaries or
critiques of others’ ideas.
[This entire e-letter’s contents is Copyrighted by Michael H. Goldhaber
([log in to unmask]). Permission is granted for distribution without charge
and not for profit, provided this statement is included. Any other
distribution requires my advance permission.]
2000 (POLITICAL) PLATFORM - FIRST DRAFT
Preamble: the beginning of a new century in a time of unprecedented
wealth is a time for a humane, generous and creative fresh start in the
US and abroad, including a new surge of concern for those who have
dropped out of the picture, for facing up to unfinished or neglected
business at home and in the world, for new ambitions for what we can do
and be as a country, as a culture, as part of the human race as
occupants of the planet....
The political process seems to have ignored such openings; at best we
are offered incremental improvements in a few areas, not broad visions,
not calls for changes of heart (except of course for the right-wing
Republicans, which are almost entirely in the wrong direction).
So let’s do better. I want to build a model of a worthy political
platform for 2000. I urge others to join me in this project, to enlarge
and develop what I offer, to propose your own platforms which build on
this, to circulate this and/or yours, and to ask politicians WHY NOT?
Without such measures, we are sure to have nothing but more of the same
—or worse. With this effort, we’ll still likely have more of the same,
but there’s a chance we’ll do better.
I hope the specific proposals are provocative. They will surely strike
some as hardly radical—just plain common sense. Sometimes the language
isn’t as exciting as I wish. We need leaders who dare to take eloquent
stands on key issues, rather than just following the polls or sounding
like them. If you can say it better, please do.
[Note: Only the first two planks are more or-less fleshed out at this
point. (I wanted to get something out quickly) The others are mere
hints, and even more planks will come. These first two are positions I
happen to feel strongly about right now, and are ones I have a fairly
good idea of how to proceed with. They matter deeply to me, but they may
not stay the most important, as this evolves.
[PERSONAL NOTE: In my 1986 book, Reinventing Technology, I offered a
great many specific policies, that all fitted together as best I could
make them. In retrospect, I view that book as a form of “policy fiction’
and you can take this letter as another attempt at the same genre.]
HERE’S THE PLATFORM as of now:
1. AN END TO PUNITIVENESS. A punitive stance now dominates in this
country, especially against those with few resources. We must change
Our jails have never been so full. Many of the prisoners are there for
non-violent crimes such as low-level drug dealing, or even merely
assisting in such dealing, with sentences often longer than those for
violent crimes, with unequal prosecution and sentencing depending on who
they are and what drugs they were involved with. Others were mere
children when they committed their crimes, or had serious mental disease
that went (and still goes) untreated. Far too many are on death row.
Anyone who has difficulty supporting themselves and their families
without welfare is now viewed as a near criminal, to be enslaved if not
imprisoned for the sin of being poor, or of not having their act
It is time to make an end of punitiveness, to legalized lynching, as an
unfit philosophy for dealing with fellow human beings. We must—
• Start freeing non-violent prisoners.
•Assure humane conditions for violent ones; even prisoners who are
extremely unruly must be guaranteed humane conditions, including a
chance for considerable contact with other people (by phone or video if
necessary) and also access to psychiatric evaluation and care.
•End the barbarity of capital punishment; and the idea that capital
punishment is a way for victims’ families to obtain “closure;”
• Provide adequate caring for and consoling of crime victims, but no
encouragement or carrying out of punishing perpetrators as the means to
satisfy the vindictive urges; revenge cannot be permitted as a motive
in civilized society.
• Stop treating mental illness or poor coping skills as crimes. Develop
a social safety net that involves and enriches communities that is there
for everyone who might go through tough times for whatever reason. [More
on this below]
•Bring to light and challenge the punitive attitude whether it occurs in
arguments about education, welfare, immigration, military of foreign
affairs, sexuality, or anywhere else. Even “progressives” to often fall
into this mode of thinking.
We are a country of unprecedented wealth and affluence; everyone should
have some share in this.
2. A SANE DRUG POLICY We need a unified policy for all drugs, ranging
from alcohol, caffeine and tobacco, to prescription drugs to those that
are currently illegal. The “war on drugs” has been, predictably, a
failure which keeps drug prices high, thereby ensuring a lucrative
criminal operation, massive corruption—not only here but especially in
poor neighboring countries. Colombia and Mexico are being devastated by
this ‘war”. Too many lives have been destroyed, and neighborhoods torn
apart, not by drugs themselves, but by senseless prosecution, or by the
gang wars that result because drugs are ,.
We must realize that as long as there is a demand there will be a
supply; adults are not harming society just by using drugs, any more
than they are by eating too many sweets and pizzas, which also have
negative health effects. Whether or not people use drugs, they should
be held responsible for violence or recklessness or direct effects on
others, such as side stream smoke. If we allow non-profit distribution
of drugs, without advertising, but with adequate warning and education,
prices will fall, and the incentives to push drugs or smuggle them into
the country will decline sharply.
Most people who get into trouble with drugs of any kind do so partially
because there is something amiss in their lives, for which drugs offer
one of the most obvious, if at times unwise, remedies. The greater the
number of healthier alternatives, the less the stigma associated with
making some regrettable decision in the past, the less likely drugs will
As far as legal, prescription and over-the-counter drugs, currently drug
companies use the fact of massive research costs (of which the
pre-approval trials of drugs are among the most expensive) to justify
fantastically high profit margins on new drugs. Most of these drugs
could never have been developed without publicly funded research. The
profit margins are used in turn to justify massive efforts to “push”
these new drugs on the public, often without adequate consideration of
their side effects, or the fact that they may be just slight
improvements over much cheaper alternatives or, in many case, no drugs
at all. This legalized drug pushing helps to create a climate for abuse
of all drugs, legal and illegal.
•legalize the non-profit (or low-profit) sale of all drugs, and make
sure that there exist non-profit (or low-profit) outlets for all adults,
with adequate warnings but not browbeatings about possible dangers
•limit advertising of all drugs and drug-like substances
•continue and expand a sophisticated public health education program
about the dangers of misuses of drugs of all kinds; children should not
be taught total abstinence, but rather wise moderation.
•greatly increase private and public mental health coverage, with
adequate guarantees of privacy; we can do this with the money we will
save by ending the drug wars. This must include adequate and human
treatment for the seriously mentally ill, and reasonable treatment
programs for those who find themselves “addicted” to anything that they
see as harmful to them.
•Limit employers’; rights to do drug testing to cases where no other
method can ensure public safety
•make massive efforts (see below) to improve the quality of life for the
•phase in a policy of public support for research and development of
drugs and non-drug treatments to replace systems that now makes drugs
unaffordable to many. Existing drug companies and their research arms
should be made partners in this effort, which should also enlist
international cooperation. Drug trial costs, beyond some initial effort
to show a degree of promise, should be funded through pooled private and
public money. Great efforts should be made to improve the current drug
trial system, both to speed it, lessen its cost and make it more
humane. All drug approvals should be provisional, though careful; no
matter how careful, new and unexpected side effects and drug
interactions will always crop up when larger populations use the drugs,
so the drug delivery system must include means of continuous updating of
doctor and patient involvement and education.
•Offer aid for countries that have been torn asunder as indirect result
of our unrealistic drug policies and our domestic demand.
The rest of this is much less complete, sent out now just to offer a
hint of what ought to come; I will send more complete versions as time
and inspiration permits
AND MORE BRIEFLY....
3. HEALTH CARE FOR ALL: we can’t afford NOT to have it. That includes
effective public health measures; the right to checkups ,and other
preventive measures;we must do much more to clean up and prevent toxic
environments in cities and metropolitan areas, ensure clean water, and
limit toxins in food supplies, along with up environment in cities;
mandate and to diesel buses and other major municipal polluters; stop
allowing light trucks and SUV’s to evade pollution limits
4. REVERSE GLOBAL WARMING Drive for reduced energy use, concerted
international efforts to reduce emissions and slow down the warming—
including research on countering warming directly by reducing sunlight
trapped in atmosphere.
5. SIGN AND RATIFY INTERNATIONAL TREATIES including test ban treaty and
international war crimes tribunal treaty, land mines ban, etc.
6. MOVE FOR A HUMANE AND OPEN WTO which understands need for
environmental protection, protection of local cultures, rights of
workers; plan annual and public conferences;
7. SEEK AN ENHANCED UNITED NATIONS
8. TWO WAY INTERNET ACCESS FOR EVERYONE Make sure world’s knowledge
resources and expressive resources are fully available, ESPECIALLY to
the most deprived
9. ONLY WANTED CHILDREN Work to find new ways to make sure all children
are not only wanted but that they continue to get sufficient attention
from caring adults as they grow.
9. TAX WEALTH Pose an extra tax on large houses with small number of
dwellers to help provide care, and homes for homeless; offer tax
deductions for volunteer work.
10 IMPROVE AND EXTEND PUBLIC AMENITIES in cities and suburbs.
11. END SO-CALLED MARRIAGE PENALTY in taxes, but also in welfare.
Recognize taking care of one’s own children as a form of work, and award
excellence in doing it. Let any group of people who care for each other
form a family or a marriage if want, with all the same benefits as
12. DEVELOP A PEACE COMMISSION that will offer proposals and help to end
civil wars, settle territorial disputes find creative solutions
throughout the world.
13. PREVENT COMMUNICATIONS MONOPOLIES While there is much talk of a
future of unlimited number of radio and video channels, today a small
number of companies control the majority of both broadcast frequencies
(licenses granted and protected at taxpayer expense) and cable
transmission systems ( most cities and other areas have granted cable
companies exclusive licenses to place cable in each neighborhood, so
there is no real competition in either sphere (even satellite signals
are part of the monopoly. Limit total air time for all commercials.
Re-create government supported, strictly non-commercial uncensored radio
and television; support this by a tax on profit-making broadcasting.
Also make sure that state of the art internet “production” facilities
remain available to all. Require commercial stations to provide free
air time to counter any political commercials, and specify minimum of
free air time that must be provided. Free speech should not be only for
the well off and for profit.
14 TREAT IMMIGRANTS FAIRLY Repeal odious laws on deporting non citizen
permanent residents guilty of minor crimes. Require administrative
judges in the immigration system and elsewhere to be publicly identified
and to open their decisions and the reasons for them to public scrutiny.
15. RETHINK CHILDHOOD We have schools because our parents did, not
because they are necessarily the best way we can come up with for
raising the young. We must think outside the box of schooling with its
built in segregation by age, a segregation compounded by the break up of
extended families and by parents all working (where raising a child is
not considered work). And school should not become a job of preparing
for an eventual career and nothing else. Here again, punitive ideas have
come to dominate, increasing the boredom and alienation felt by many
kinds in typical schools Schooling cannot be just a local problem,
because families move, and a large percentage of kids will move as they
16. REFORM INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY LAWS---such as patent, trademark and
copyright, so that the public interest and the rights of individual
creators for reasonable control over their creations trumps the rights
of corporations to seize control over expression and creativity, use,
and rewards, and so that communities are included in ownership as well.
Contract clauses that limit rights of creators over their work beyond a
reasonable limit should not be enforceable. Companies should not have
unlimited rights over the use of their trademarks. Copyright ownership
should not extend so far as it now does past the death of the creator.
Genes, naturally occurring or cultivated life forms should not be
patentable. A broad “fair use” doctrine is needed.
.....And more good things
Michael H. Goldhaber
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