Last Thursday you got to Ask Questions of the Green Party's US Presidential nominee, David Cobb He answered 12 of the most highly rated comments. A thanks goes to Mr.Cobb for taking the time to explain some of his positions to us. Read on to see what he has to say.
If I was a Republican or Democrat, what would you say to me to make me switch to the Green Party?
The Green Party offers both Republicans and Democrats the true essence of what each of their parties should be. For Republicans, the Greens offer true conservatism, which means keeping the government out of your personal business, out of your bedroom and out of your library. A true conservative would never support the so-called "Patriot Act;" nor would a true patriot for that matter. A true political conservative would recognize that public resources, such as forests, parks and oceans, should be conserved for use and enjoyment by future generations.
For Democrats, Greens are the party which champions what Democrats used to: support for working people and people of color and protection of the environment.
Both Democrats and Republicans don't represent the people of this country, they represent the transnational corporations who line their pockets and make their election to public office possible.
It's commonly accepted that power corrupts politicians. The Greens are always speaking out against politicians who sell favors to their corporate buddies or other special interests. But the Green party also espouses a system where the government strictly regulates most industry. How do you propose to have such strong government controlled regulation, without falling victim to the corruption inherent in a bureaucratic system?
The bureaucratic system may well be corrupt but what we really need to address is the corruption in the White House and in Congress-that's who makes the laws and the decisions which support the transnational corporate empire. The halls of Congress are filled with lobbyists representing the international profiteers who play Congress like puppets on strings. Although, I suppose, instead of strings it's campaign contributions which make the puppets dance.
If we take the private money out of our public elections and away from our public officials, we'll go a long way in addressing corruption and ensuring that we truly have a government by the people. We also need to strengthen public meeting laws so Dick Cheney and Enron can never again meet in private to determine the energy needs of this country. We also have to stop the revolving door between industry, Congress and the White House. There have to be much tighter restrictions on public servants going over to private industry.
I'll ask the same questions I posed to the Libertarian candidate:
Would you approve of, and what would you think would be the results of, the following election reforms:
1. Abolition of electoral college, president is elected by simple popular vote.
The Electoral College is an historical, anti-democratic and racist anachronism which needs to be abolished. If you're wondering why it is racist, remember that when it was created, slaves were counted as three-fifths of a person to determine representation, yet they couldn't vote. Therefore, slave states had greater representation in the Electoral College-as if counting any human being as a portion of person wasn't insulting enough.
However, replacing the Electoral College with what you call a "simple popular vote" really doesn't go far enough. We need to replace it with Instant Runoff Voting to ensure that the winner of the popular vote wins with a majority of that vote. Instant Runoff Voting is a voting system, used to elect the mayor of London, the president of Ireland and many office-holders in Australia, which allows you to rank candidates in order of preference. If someone wins a majority of first choice votes, the election is over. If no one wins in the first round, the candidate with the fewest first choice votes is eliminated and a runoff is held instantly taking into account the second choice votes of people who voted for the eliminated candidates.
Instant Runoff Voting will be used in San Francisco this November and a number of other cities and counties have approved of using it or are considering doing so. Instant Runoff Voting, or IRV, solves the perceived "spoiler" problem because you can vote for all the candidates you like; you don't have to make a lesser-evil choice. I encourage people to learn more about IRV at Center for Voting and Democracy.
2. Federal mandate that electoral votes from a state be split proportional to the popular vote within that state. (e.g. if California splits 60-40 Kerry-Bush, then their electoral votes are split 60-40 as well). This helps move away from the very brittle "all or nothing" electoral system, where as few as 1 fraudulent or defrauded vote can change the outcome of the national election for president.
I believe we should move rapidly towards Instant Runoff Voting, as outlined above, rather than tinker with an anachronistic relic.
3. Constitutional amendment granting naturalised citizens the eligibility to run for president or vice president. This would allow for the 2008 ticket for the new political party, C.O.P. (Cast Of Predator) to field Arnold Schwartzeneggar and Jesse Venutra as their presidential ticket.
Democracy should be as inclusive as possible. While I don't necessarily find myself opposed to this proposed amendment, I believe there are much more profound and necessary reforms, such as Instant Runoff Voting and proportional representation, where we should focus our energy and attention.
Our country is made up of immigrants. Your place of birth should not disqualify someone from serving as president or vice president.
Lastly a question: is the democratic system as instituted in the United States hopelessly mired in a two-party stranglehold, leaving corporate interest in defacto charge of the discussion? Is legal election reform necessary, or even possible?
Election reform is absolutely necessary, it is possible and we are being successful in changing our system for the better. Instant Runoff Voting is part of the equation. So are open and unrestricted debates, free media for candidates on the public airwaves which we own, less burdensome access to the ballot, proportional representation and public financing of campaigns. A number of states, including Maine, Massachusetts and Arizona, have been successful in implementing campaign finance reform.
We also have to strike right at the heart of the corporate empire and rescind the human rights which have mistakenly been conferred on corporations.
Thank you for your time. Recently in San Francisco, Matt Gonzalez, a popular local Green Party politico, has been pushing for the ability for noncitizens to vote in some of the local elections. While there are other places that offer this long before SF, it seems as though this erodes the differences between having citizenship or not. Rather than expanding the franchise this way, why not work to streamline the process for getting citizenship and encourage people to seek it?
Can you expound and explain a bit on your stance on this?
Matt Gonzalez has championed the ability of non-citizens who have kids in school to be able to vote in School Board elections. This makes sense and we should support it.
I would like to see the process streamlined so that undocumented workers, who are here and are paying taxes and contributing to our society, can obtain citizenship more simply and easily. We have to remember that we are all immigrants or the children of immigrants, with, of course, the exception of the Native people of this continent.
The Green Party is best known for its progressive policies on the environment, however its other policies are often shrouded by this, most people not knowing where the Green Party stands on issues like abortion and same-sex marriage.
What do you think might be the best approach to educate the masses about the rest of Green Party polices?
Greens work both within and outside of the electoral system for genuine democracy, social and racial justice, a healthy environment and for peace and non-violence. We have to march both in the streets and into the ballot box. If we do one and not the other, we won't be successful. All great social movements have used this approach.
Greens believe in freedom and privacy. We support same-sex marriage and reproductive choice.
Obviously we here at slashdot are a bit on the techie side. I know that I have personally watched my rights being taken away from me over the past few years. Mainly my right to fair use. Under current law it is illegal to watch CSS encoded DVDs under Linux or any other Open Source operating system. What are you and your party's feelings on loosening certain restrictions to make the act of fair use a right again.
Also, on the concept of intellectual property and copyright laws. What are your party's and your feelings on the current trend of extending the length of copyright terms? Do you have any plans to reverse the current trend or perhaps to set the lengths back to their original terms?
Nick, first let's look at what the Green Party's platform says about open source: copyrights:
"10. The Green Party supports protection of software (free or proprietary) by means of the copyright. We strongly oppose granting of software patents. Mathematical algorithms are discovered, not invented, by humans; therefore, they are not patentable. The overwhelming majority of software patents cover algorithms and should never have been awarded, or they cover message formats of some kind, which are essentially arbitrary. Format patents only exist to restrain competition, and the harm falls disproportionately on programmers who work independently or for the smallest employers."
Greens favor information flows that come from the grassroots and empower the grassroots. Excellent examples include free/open-source software, open document formats, and the Creative Commons Licenses. We recognize that creativity and productiveness do not exist in a vacuum. Rather, most innovations build on earlier innovations. Creators and producers should be entitled to seek financial compensation for their work - or not, as they choose - but to wall their work off from public access for unreasonable lengths of time is, well, unreasonable.
For most of the history of the US Patents and Copyrights Office, most patent applications were denied. Most "inventions" didn't meet the triple test of being novel, useful/valuable, and not obvious to "someone skilled in the art." Patents that were granted lasted 12 years which was considered to be a third of an invention's useful life. Today, the patent office rubber stamps just about anything. We don't need a new policy, we need the old policy. Let's give standing to all stakeholders to challenge and strike down mistaken or overly broad patents, or patents granted despite the existence of prior art. (Besides genetic patents being a particularly vile abuse of corporate power, genes are, by definition, prior art. We oppose the genetic modification of organisms, as well, but that's another topic.) There's also a place for an eminent domain process for striking down a patent when there is an overriding public interest, as in the case of absurdly overpriced life-saving drugs.
In copyrights, as in patents, we favor not a new policy, but a return to the original, which provided for protection for 20 years.
If we get the general principle right, we won't need a special policy for protecting proprietary digital artworks or people's right to make fair use copies of them. But we do need a prohibition on abusive license agreements. The case law striking down "shrink wrap licenses" should be legislated. A valid contract provides an equal exchange of value: It's not all prohibitions on one party while the other party has no obligations and retains all rights. It shouldn't be legal for Microsoft, for example, to license its OS for use on only one particular CPU. That is, you shouldn't have to buy a new copy of XP when you upgrade your motherboard. When you buy a movie on DVD you should be allowed to play it on any DVD player, and when you buy a copy of an OS you should be allowed to run it on all your computers. This should be a natural result of a more general prohibition on unfair contracts.
I am happy to say that our website is open source (Plone/Zope, running on BSD).
Here are three technologies which environmental groups have generally been opposed to, but which have undergone major advancements in recent years: * Nuclear energy. * High-temperature garbage incineration. * Genetically modified foods.
All of these technologies have drawbacks, but they also have many advantages over the alternatives. Nuclear energy does not produce greenhouse gases, incineration destroys toxic chemicals and does not require land fill, and GM foods can greatly reduce the amounts of pesticide, herbicide, fertilizer, or water needed to grow food.
What is the Green Parties' stance on these, and do you see them changing their stance in the near future?
Greens have moved beyond a lesser-evil approach to politics as well as to the issues you describe above. I cannot under any circumstances accept nuclear power and genetically modified foods as a healthy alternative. There are such simpler and more sensible ways to approach these issues. We could easily eliminate the need for nuclear power by conserving more energy. We could replace nuclear power-and coal and other dirty forms of producing power-with the abundance of solar energy which shines on our country. Wind turbines, like the one I visited in Nebraska recently, are also part of the solution.
Food was grown by humankind for an awfully long time and rather successfully before the advent of pesticides and herbicides. We don't need that poison on our foods, on our soil or in our water supplies. And we don't need Frankenfood either.
As to our shortage of landfill space, we need to increase recycling and require manufacturers to take material back if it is not completely recyclable or biodegradable.
What is your stance on the use of medical-marijana? What do you think can be done to change the way in which the war on drugs in America is being fought, either legalizing/decriminalizing and taxing or otherwise?
Furthermore, How will you deal with our budget deficit and reform the GOP's relentless tax cuts and the Democratic Party's exorbanent spending?
Marijuana has been declared by an Administrative Judge for the FDA as one of the safest therapeutic substances known. I fully support the right of physicians and patients to use what they deem best for treatment.
The "war on drugs" is racist and an insult to all Americans. This "war" has incarcerated people of color at a much higher rate than white people. It has resulted in senseless attacks on innocent people and on our Constitution. We have to treat drug addiction as a health problem, not as a crime.
The main contributing factor to our national deficit is the world's largest military budget. The Green Party supports closing overseas military bases and reducing the military budget by 50% over ten years.
You often point out that pretty much every developed western country except the US has some form of single payer healthcare, and I think it is a valid issue, worth dicussing. However, having lived in a few countries that operate such a system I have generally found the governments involved to be having difficulties sustaining the system.
"The dilemma amounts to this: as medical science continues to advance, and as we in general live longer and longer, the amount of things that can be done continues to expand, along with the costs involved with any new technologically advanced treatments. Because of this, the costs of providing complete healthcare continue to expand at a rate faster than we can pay for. With healthcare, if something is possible, people tend to demand that it be done, even if we do not have the resources to do it.
Complete provision of healthcare simply isn't a sustainable practice as the costs are not proportionally bound by population (and hence very roughly speaking, government income), but instead by the ever expanding limits of medical science.
How do you intend to deal with this dilemma? Do you only plan to provide single payer healthcare for core and emergency services only? Do you intend to allow a parallel private health system to provide the more expensive treatments?
The basic point of single payer is that it is cheaper to administer and also that the cost of pharmaceuticals are lower as a result of bulk purchase. It is true what you say, the costs of medical care will increase in all countries as a result of innovation. However, empirical evidence shows that they will increase far less in countries that employ single payer. The best example is that of Canada and the U.S. When Canada enacted single payer their health care costs were the same percent of GDP as the U.S. Now, some 30 years later, they spend 8.9% while we spend close to15% of GDP. They spend much less in Canada on health care while treatment outcomes are similar overall in both countries.
Besides, we could pay for lifelong health care for every citizen in this country, along with college tuition for everyone who wanted to attend universities, if we stopped waging war in Iraq and Afghanistan and cut 50% from the biggest and most bloated military budget in the history of our planet. We could also do a much better job of focusing on preventative measures and take special care of infants and pregnant women, thereby ensuring a healthier start to life and reducing costs later on.
We are not opposed to allowing a private system to offer services not covered by a public system, such as Canada does. However, it is our intention to offer a comprehensive health care system which includes outpatient, inpatient, medication, dental, mental health and long term care, as research shows that this is both the most efficient and effective means for delivering health care to our population.
Mr. Cobb, What do you believe is necessary for your party or any other to become a viable third party in American elections? Even though George Washington warned against having a partisan political system in his farewell speech, America seems to have developed a two-party system that forces third-parties out of the political process.
Also, what do you think of the Democratic and Republican parties shift away from what's good for America toward what is good for their respective parties and the businesses / people that support them while leaving the majority of Americans out?.
The need for a viable third party-or a second one, given the similarities between the two old establishment parties-is obvious and dire. We need a viable political alternative because thousands of innocent civilians and hundreds of young American kids have been killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. We need a viable political alternative because we are the only industrialized nation which doesn't provide health care for its citizens. We need a viable political alternative because our country is addicted to fossil fuel and will literally kill to sustain this addiction. We need an alternative because both of the old parties support the expensive and failed "war on drugs." We need an alternative because they are more intent on building prisons than schools; because they conspired to pass the unconstitutional civil liberty-threatening "Patriot" Act and because we need to develop a solar-based economy and create family wage jobs.
We need a viable political alternative because we need to manufacture democracy here at home before we can export it.
We don't have a "two party system" so much as we have an electoral system which favors two center-right political parties. And those two parties have done everything in their power to maintain their power and eliminate, ridicule and harass the competition.
To establish viable political alternatives, we first have to create a genuine democracy. Let's remember that this country was founded by rich, white landowners for their benefit. Our founders did not create a democracy. "The people" did not-and still don't-elect the president or the judiciary. Only the House of Representatives was elected by the people when this country was founded and those people were not women or people of color or the poor.
Our democracy is evolving and we still have a long ways to go. We need to get private money out of public elections and public policy. We can't have Enron and Dick Cheney's friends writing our energy policies in secret. We need to open up the whole process including how we make decisions on who will represent us. We need to have presidential debates open to all candidates on enough ballots to win the presidency. We need to address our voter participation rates which are among the lowest of any democracy.
I'm glad to see that we are making inroads with Instant Runoff Voting which will be used this fall in San Francisco's city elections. Instant Runoff Voting is a voting method which eliminates the perceived "spoiler" problem and ensures that the winner of an election has the support of a majority of voters. Our last three presidential elections were won with less than a majority vote. Instant Runoff Voting solves this problem and allows you to vote your hopes instead of your fears.
Most democracies use proportional representation to elect their legislatures. Countries which use proportional representation have a much broader representation of political parties and also have greater representation by women and higher voter turnout.
Of course, first a party has to get on the ballot in the first place and here again, the U.S. is light years behind the rest of the world. The United States is the only country where someone has to comply with 51 different and separate requirements to run for national office.
We also have to address the corporate control of the media. It's gotten to the point where, literally, a handful of companies control everything most people see and hear on the radio, on television and in the movies. We, the people, need to reclaim our public airwaves and we need to support our local, grassroots broadcasters.
Green activists are working on all these issues and, with San Francisco as just one example, we are succeeding, even if success is often incremental and not as quick as we would like. These issues also provide an opportunity to work in coalition with other political parties, concerned citizens and "good government" organizations.
To address your other question, I'm not sure that the two old parties actually ever represented the people. As long as there have been powerful, monied interests in this country, they have had their servants in Washington, D.C.
The Green Party is beholden to no one except the people. That, above all else, is what makes us unique.
In the words of Tip O'Neill, "All politics is local".
What is this desire to aim directly for the Whitehouse? Why not pool resources and fight the local battles? By aiming for the presidency (and ignoring the local politics), you are setting yourselves up for a fall. We all know that in a 2-party system, rigged the way it is, your chances of winning the Whitehouse are somewhere between 0.00 and 0.000. Then why waste the resources on this race?
How many members of Congress do you have? How many locally elected officials does the Green Party have? How many judicial appointees do you have? See the pattern here?
Maybe this isn't a question as much as a rant, but if you feel like, please answer why you are wasting the time and effort on a run for the Whitehouse, when the same resources, applied at local levels, would yield immensely more benefit.
I'm glad you asked this question because many people are not aware of the fact that the Greens have elected hundreds of local officials all across this country, including Green judges. We have elected city and county councilors, school board members, soil and water conservation board members, mayors and members of state legislatures. And that's just in this country. The Green Party is an international movement and around the world we have elected members to over two dozen national legislatures and parliaments. We haven't yet elected a member of congress in this country but we will. We are getting bigger, stronger and better organized in each election cycle. We are the fastest growing political party in America.
One of the reasons why we are the fastest growing party in America is because we participate in presidential elections. Like it or not, much of the nation-indeed the world-focuses on our presidential election. One of the main reasons I'm running is to continue to build the Green Party; to register more Green voters and especially to support local candidates. Running a national and a multitude of local races are not mutually exclusive endeavors. They are actually symbiotic and each enforces and supports the other.
Obviously with the current unpopularity of Bush and Kerry the final vote is down to either you or Ralph Nader. What decisive advantages do you feel you have over Nader that make you more likely to win the presidency? ;-)
Thank you for the vote of confidence, but I am a realist and realize that until there are some significant changes in this country-especially how we conduct presidential elections, including campaign finance reform, Instant Runoff Voting and free use of the public airwaves, the chances of a Green winning the presidency are somewhat remote. I do believe, however, that we will be successful in time.
In this election, the Cobb-LaMarche campaign is the only campaign which supports a genuine, progressive agenda for change and which will continue building a movement beyond Election Day. Greens are in this for the long haul. What we are trying to accomplish is greater than any one candidate or any single election. People who want to invest in a long-term movement for peace, for social and racial justice, for grassroots democracy and for a sustainable economy and environment should vote Green.
We are the party of peace, we are the party of hope and we are the party of America's future.