The end of New Labour’s rigged game

On the day Saddam Hussein’s statue came down in 2003, I was at the East Midlands Labour Party HQ in Barratt Lane near Nottingham standing next to then regional secretary, Roy Kennedy, watching it on Sky News. The concern on Roy’s face was evident. So I asked, “What do you think?” Roy said bluntly, in his London Cockney brogue, “They’d better find those weapons, mate.” Roy is now in the House of Lords. There were no WMDs.

I was one of the first Americans to go work for Tony Blair’s New Labour in the UK in 1997, after being Bill Clinton’s 1996 Ohio GOTV State Director. That’s why Labour hired me – for the GOTV expertise. David Axelrod, you’re welcome.

Thus, I was at the very center of the Blair era, for three general election victories, plus Labour’s inaugural campaign for London mayor in 2000, plus a few party conferences. I brought Labour staff to work with me in the former soviet republics training political parties, and brought even more to the US for the Al Gore campaign in 2000. I love and cherish all the friends I made in Tony Blair’s Labour. I even tried to do a documentary film on it all once at party conference in Brighton in 2001; they couldn’t get rid of me.

As the Republican Party (and Hillary Clinton) knows all too well, there has yet to be a fair account and reckoning politically for Iraq, and that includes Tony Blair and New Labour. That is one root of this month’s thrashing at the hands of British voters. That’s not all that Labour must reckon with before voters trust them again with the time of day.

The target of Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, today’s rigged game, which has created the first American generation that expects to do worse than the generations before it, was built mostly by New Democrats, and New Labour.  We were the indispensable “progressive” window dressing on capital’s dismantling of the New Deal compromise.

Just look at what Blair’s ballot stuffing “reforms” left behind in the medieval City of London, a rogue state standing atop a mountain of systemic offshore financial risk, utterly uncommented upon by anyone in the Labour Party’s London collection of powerless elected officials, even as they select another candidate for London Mayor in 2016 who is just as silent on the matter, and who upon election will remain without jurisdiction over the Square Mile. I had never realized the role I played rigging that particular game in 2000 until I studied it this semester 15 years later as a student at Cleveland State. No zeal quite like that of the recently converted.

After Labour’s 2015 defeat, a campaign in which no Labour candidate would dare be seen in their presence, we now hear from Blair, Alan Johnson, Peter Mandelson, John Prescott, who, incredibly, argued after the election that Ed Miliband should have campaigned on the banking bailout. This predictable parade of Blairite lords and ladies, at this point indistinguishable from Mitt Romney, lectures us that Labour needs to stay “aspirational”, as if one can aspire to anything in a rigged game. Lord Mandelson is even pimping to be the new leader Chuka Umunna, a City of London “employment” lawyer (read: outsourcing and union busting) straight out of the City’s offshore petri dish. It’s become comical.

Is anyone awake in Britain? Does it not bother me old mates that Jim Messina, late of Barack Obama, now takes credit for electing Tories, and next shall cash in on Hillary Clinton? Are the lights on? There’s a reason Democrats want to push Hillary leftward for a solid two years. No one joins the Democratic Party, or the Labour Party, to start wars based on lies, or rig their country and the world for plutocrats and oligarchs, but turns out that’s exactly what we did. Some of us are in a mood to reverse that course.

Labour members know better. It isn’t 1997 anymore. The days when a Labour staffer could fool a Trot into missing a key policy vote at conference by offering them tea are well over. The blinders are off, voters know to their bones the game is rigged, quite aware of who rigged it, and to those voters, Labour in 2015 stands for nothing other than access to power. No matter how many vapidly facile “pledges” get carved into an Ed Stone, when a party loses trust this badly, voters do not wish to hear how aspirationally sincere a party’s rigged noncredible leadership claims to be.

Labour’s conference is again in Brighton this September. Before deciding on a new leader, Labour needs to hold a broad, inclusive, loud, air-clearing debate at party conference in Brighton, hold itself to account, rebuild credibility from the bottom up, and begin the long struggle of unrigging this game. A party called Labour ought to be counted on for at least that. Across the pond, we could use the help.

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The City of London vs. Bretton Woods

Worshipful Whatnots

Worshipful Whatnots

Completed for the International Political Economy class in the CSU MAGI program, Spring semester 2015. This paper includes some of my personal collection of campaign leaflets from my time working for Labour’s London mayoral candidate Frank Dobson in 2000.

ABSTRACT: Based on an analysis of Krasner’s four factors of sovereignty, the 1,000 year history of the Corporation of the City of London, and the inaugural election of the Greater London Authority in 2000, this paper will argue that the Corporation is a sovereign state which in 1955 breached the Bretton Woods framework by creating the Eurodollar market, embedding a systemic risk into the international monetary system through the sovereignty of the City’s offshore. 

Read the paper here - CityOfLondonVersusBrettonWoods

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Kant’s Trickster Quotient

So this paper disappeared from my website while I revised the paper at the end of last fall’s semester, and submitted it for publication to various academic journals. It’s still under review for publication, so in the meantime, I provide the paper at the link at the end of this post. There is almost no theoretical study in academia addressing the internet’s role in political risk; in fact, I’m pretty sure this paper is alone in applying settled international relations theory to political risk arising from the internet.

TITLE: Kant’s Trickster Quotient – A Non-State Actor Accesses International Relations Anarchy From The Internet

ABSTRACT: Kant’s 1795 essay Toward Perpetual Peace forms the basis for “democratic peace” theory in international relations. Kant posits a moral enforcement mechanism upon mankind, “nature” or “providence”, i.e. God, or a god, based in reason, which forces mankind to evolve toward perpetual peace. Functioning as a mythical trickster deity, the internet, via groups like Wikileaks & Anonymous, opened a channel during the Arab Spring through which Kant’s normative global consensus acts a “trickster” upon international relations as a nonstate actor with unprecedented power to threaten the survival of states incompatible with perpetual peace. This paper introduces “T”, a political risk index that can measure, observe, and potentially predict Kant’s trickster at work.


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I’m a student again

Last year, summer 2013, I applied to my 1989 alma mater Cleveland State University for the Master of Arts in Global Interaction (MAGI). Some folks will recall that didn’t go so well. I was denied admission based on my 2002 criminal conviction. I appealed the denial directly to CSU president Ronald Berkman with a letter writing campaign from friends, family, and supporters, to no avail. After my run for County Executive in the May 6, 2014 Democratic primary, I decided to re-apply to the same MAGI program based on my performance in the election. The only additional information required for my new application was an updated personal statement, which follows.

In 2013, I applied for the MAGI program, and was denied admission based solely on my 2002 criminal conviction. A few months later, I decided to run in the 2014 May 6 Democratic Primary for County Executive. 
The reason I decided to place my name on the ballot for the second time (first in 2010 for County Council Disrict 7 where I earned 730 votes), is that the political process, and specifically the voters, are the only forum in which I can be judged as an entire person, not by one mistake. Voters decide who should lead them based on the entirety of a candidate’s record, biography, achievements, faults, mistakes…warts and all.
I earned 9,171 votes on May 6, placing third among six candidates, well ahead of both a former county sheriff, and a former mayor. Voters were given ample notice of my mistakes and faults, in fact, every single mention of my candidacy in Cleveland media pointed directly, and often only, to my past.  Still, I placed third.
I believe CSU, my alma mater, did me a great and very personal wrong in 2013. Thousands of voters in Cuyahoga County disagree with CSU’s admissions committee decision in 2013, with their votes. If someone like me cannot attend a public university, even after proving himself not just professionally & academically, but politically, then I believe I have proven CSU’s admissions policy as unjust and wrong as applied in my case, and that policy must change. 
CSU has an excellent opportunity to right that wrong, today, in 2014. It would be an honor to help CSU move forward beyond this mistake as a MAGI candidate. 
I learned this morning, August 9, 2014, my application was successful and I begin classes as a full time student in a couple of weeks. I would like to thank everyone who helped me along this journey – you know who you are – and I promise I won’t let any of you down.


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Insight into the inevitable, Loren Naji edition


playbill, 1966

Art, if it works, holds a mirror up to the observer where they see themselves, forcing them to question their assumptions about their world. In performance art, the observer ideally becomes part of the art piece in some way. Hence, The Exploding Russo Inevitable, i.e., my campaign for county executive in 2014. It was a group performance from Day One.

The origins of the piece’s title were foreign to almost everyone, even the finest artists in CLE – very few people “got it”. (isn’t CLE the birthplace of rock ‘n roll? Come on, people.) Getting it required that you at least had heard of The Exploding Plastic Inevitable, a performance art combination of pop art and rock n’ roll, performed by Andy Warhol and The Velvet Underground & Nico across America in 1966. It’s music forms the entire “Banana Album”, the Velvets’ debut, widely understood as one of the most influential albums in the history of popular music. No one really “got it” either when the album was released in 1967 (the year I was born). It never sold. The Brian Eno saying goes that everyone who did buy the album started a rock n’ roll band.

The “art” of the Exploding Russo Inevitable, the work product, wasn’t done by me – it was done by others via their reactions to it. From all manner of social media silliness all the way to the banal of hand shaking at bingo games, speeches, debates – I may have held the paint brushes. Everyone else was the paint.

My favorite example was, of course, the media reaction to my candidacy. Very reliable materials. No paint on a palette behaves as predictably as our local media behaved in response to me running for office. Almost unanimously, they hit the canvass in one of two ways – invisibly with their silence, or spectacularly with their despise. When I got lazy, or depressed, or tired, like any artist, they were my go-to can of Pollock splatters. They were too easy.

Good art, of course, doesn’t rely on two colors used predictably. Like in a Rothko, or a Turner, the interesting bits are where the better colors bleed into each other, “react” with one another. That began happening as observers saw themselves in the mirror, and did something. Today, social media allows you to often watch that reaction in real time. See whose reflection in the mirror affects them most, or least. I ended up with just over 9,000 votes. Each one, a splash of paint, a carve on a marble, or a note of music.

But those were just the votes.  Mixing art and politics in a performance piece goes well beyond the artificial “deadline” of an election and its crossed T’s or dotted I’s. Henry Senyak was a late arrival in the paint box – his raid on Loren Naji the Friday before the election should have been something I ignored – if I was a typical candidate. For the Exploding Russo Inevitable? It was an opportunity.

Seeing how people reacted to learning, from me, two days before the election, how Senyak became Joe Cimperman’s Senyak, how this one sorry buzz killer had accrued enough power to send 7 cars of tactical geared jackboots to an art gallery opening – the first brush strokes have been very revealing. Lots of people seeing lots of things in the mirror. Drops of paint are still hitting the canvass, behaving very interestingly.

Pay attention to them.

They’re inevitable.

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Senyak vs. Cimperman – Pass the popcorn!


Ah, the sweet sound of rats fucking each other in spring. Joe Cimperman has been adamant to anyone who will ask that he knew nothing about the raid on Loren Naji’s gallery Friday night, nor anything about any complaints or investigations by Liquor Control of Loren’s gallery openings. As in this email which was posted on Facebook by someone who contacted Cimperman to protest..


Good thing Joe gave us all permission to “share this with anyone!” Because Henry Senyak doesn’t like being thrown under that bus. Senyak yesterday, right before a late night flurry of self aggrandizing links documenting his Hero of Tremont status (bestowed upon him by Cimperman of course), posted this yesterday, claiming Cimperman knew all about the raid, was contacting the city & police morning of, and that Senyak has documentation that Cimperman knew.

SenyakCimpermanRaidStatus050714In addition, Cimperman is now telling anyone within earshot (except Henry of course) that Henry Senyak is insane, that he has no control over Senyak because Senyak is insane, that Henry and Cimperman have nothing to do with each other anymore, that Cimperman washed his hands of Senyak oh so long ago, because of said insanity. I’m gonna need more popcorn.

Before either Joe Cimperman or Eric Wobser of Ohio City Inc. met with Loren after the raid (on Tuesday), they met with each other (on Monday). Wobser won’t tell me why, but Wobser flat out denies to me that he and Cimperman have designs on Loren’s property other than Loren owning it. Now that everyone is lying through their teeth tossing each other under buses, I have a real hard time believing Wobser.

Ari Maron, everyone’s favorite Issue 7 sin tax “Daddy Bought Me A Bar On E. 4th St.” pimp, owns the properties contiguous to Loren’s gallery. One of those buildings used to house a bar called Envy, which may have been the only black gay bar in the entire city. Senyak is quite proud he was the heavy in going after Envy and getting them shut down. Shortly after Envy was shut down, Maron had the building torn down. As a result, Loren got a big empty wall where Maron’s building used to be, and of course, made art out of it. Because awesome.

There are rumors galore from multiple sources that Ohio City Inc. would like to put a brewery on that block. I can understand these denials from Cimperman & Wobser, because if OCI and Cimperman are in fact using Henry Senyak’s special talent for assholery in order to intimidate a land owner on the down low in favor of another development, that would likely be a federal crime. See Chris Christie. So if I were Henry Senyak, I’d find myself a lawyer toute suite.

And I’m gonna need to have Orville Reddenbacher deliver wholesale.

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A change gonna come

Yesterday, I came in third place, crushing both a former county sheriff, and a former mayor, raising nor spending not one nickel on my campaign.

I never got one phone call from a TV station about this election.  The last time any TV news covered the county executive race, about any candidate, was in January, to announce Armond Budish’s Democratic Party endorsement, and that was on WKYC, which has been on Budish’s payroll for the last 15 years. Every other mention of my name in any other media, print, internet, or radio, obsessed over one thing about me – my ancient criminal conviction, nearly always mentioned with gratuitous bullying glee, as if it was news the 20th time they said it.

Still came in third.

Birthed from the grotesque chaos of a Democratic, a Democratic council, voting unanimously to take money from the poor and give it to the rich, the only election Cleveland TV covered was a campaign by 3 billionaires to fund themselves, which every TV station endorsed, some explicitly, to the point that watching an Indians game felt like subjecting oneself to a pitch from Tammy Faye Baker for 3 hours.

But this too was a blessing.

Because it united the widest political divide in America in my lifetime. Me and Cleveland Tea Party founder Ralph King were at each other’s throats online for years in the most vicious ways imaginable. Over the last month, Ralph and I became thick as thieves, talking on the phone almost every day, right after, or before, talking to Erin McCardle about the same campaign we all worked on. Did so today.

Erin’s 2011 Occupy Cleveland arrest awaits an Ohio Supreme Court ruling.

Ralph has spoken at every Tea Party rally in Cleveland since 2009.

The clock is ticking on this rigged game, which sends tactical geared dick wagging tools to seize beer from an artist giving it away for free on his own property while, at the very same moment, shoveling nickels and dimes by the hundreds of millions from people in poverty to out of town billionaires on the public teat.

Post soviet dictators buy the TV stations and newspapers first. After that, it’s all academic. The politicians come very cheap. The laws write themselves. The ballot box rolls right over. Money flows in predictable ways, scientifically. Power concentrates until its density is so great almost no one has access to it, no voice is heard other than that of cash.

The light bulb is going on. Our plutocrat oligarchs’ days are numbered.

They have a choice.

They can unrig this game themselves, or it will soon be unrigged whether they like it or not, with not a care in the world as to who gets run over, how they get run over, or what’s left by the side of the road. History is littered with their remains in every corner of the globe. They think it can’t happen in America? How un-American.

We’ve been taking notes. The 1% is laughably inaccurate anymore, it’s too big a number. Fewer than the number of lords and assorted royalty who owned medieval Europe’s serfs. We know who they are, we know how few of them there are, we know who their whores are, and we know precisely how they have divided us for so long to keep their pockets bursting at the seems with our money, our futures, our lives.

I feel great today. It may take twenty years. Or, a spark may be lit in an unpredictable moment tomorrow. Tonight. Or this afternoon. Maybe next week.

But a change gonna come.

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A two headed snake targets Ohio City next


I of course had no intention of spending the last weekend of the campaign defending my friend Loren Naji from known Tremont bully Henry Senyak, who had Loren’s gallery on W. 25th in Ohio City raided on Friday night for having beer at a gallery opening. But I’ve known Loren for a long time – Loren has been a good friend to me – when I ran for council in 2010, he covered the gallery’s front with Russo signs. Practically every video of Loren’s art that’s online, I shot, edited, produced, and directed, since 2008. (here’s my fave) So when the petty piss ant politics of this town jacks up my friend in the court system, I have no choice.

Cleveland Councilman Joe Cimperman and Henry Senyak have a little shtick, birthed out of the corrupt cess pit of Tremont development scams. I learned about it almost the minute I moved into Tremont in 2004. First, Senyak starts a jihad against a business owner on email. Senyak has a few online minions who make a bigger stink for him. It lasts for months, often years. It gets vicious, personal, and entangles the target in endless harassment. They targeted me a few times.

Cimperman and his cast of landed gentry apologists pretend they are oh so outraged by Senyak, pretend to get Senyak to stop, which never happens of course. Then Cimperman showers Senyak with awards and plaudits and positions on boards, pictures with VIPs from the city, the police department, etc. Then Senyak’s target is on their own, either going out of business like the Starkweather Bar eventually did across the street from Senyak’s home (which is now the Tap House), or ends up in court, or a zoning morass of Senyak’s choosing, sucked dry. Cimperman then has people begging him for help. He loves it.

Cimperman and Senyak then lather rinse repeat. For at least a decade. Maybe longer. Tremont West Development Corporation, which actually elected this shit stain Senyak to its board (with Cimperman’s support), has not just enabled Senyak, but empowered him, with the total support of Joe Cimperman, every step of the way. When I moved out of Tremont in 2010, one of the great pleasures was thinking I’d never have to deal with this nonsense ever again. But then the Senyak-Cimperman two step visited my friend Loren.

Lo and behold, turns out these two frauds picked the wrong target this time. Support for Loren is broad, wide, deep, and unanimous. So unanimous, Senyak and Cimperman have been throwing each other under the bus to blame the other, both lying about who knew what about the raid. Cimperman claimed initially he had no idea anyone had any problem with Loren Naji’s gallery on W. 25th, then Senyak posted an email from 15 months ago from CPD’s Keith Sulzer showing Cimperman knew as far back as March 2013. (along with all the plaques Cimperman handed him declaring Senyak’s awesomeness.) Now Senyak is claiming Eric Wobser of the Ohio City CDC has some other plan for Loren’s property, so Cimperman sent in the raid. I can’t wait to hear what Cimperman’s next lie is. He’s skilled at it. Senyak is doing his predictably bizarre victory lap.

The response online among Loren’s supporters is wonderful, but it needs a little bite. Namely, this is not some out of the blue random state power abuse. It is a known pattern. Knock on any business door in Tremont, and they will tell you their own horror story about Senyak and his pathetic online minions descending upon them with a flurry of insanity. Then they’ll tell you just how pointless Cimperman was in response. It’s not new. Senyak and Cimperman’s sick game is as predictable as the sun rising in the east tomorrow.

Now, how does this matter to a guy running for county executive on the ballot Tuesday? Not much. I could make some big pivot to my message here, but there isn’t one really. Cimperman endorsed Armond Budish. And Issue 7. Of course. But no, this has nothing to do with me.  If my friend is in trouble with the law from a low rent protection racket that I’ve seen play out many times myself, I am done playing nice with liars and bullies, and I need to chime in, no matter what else may be going on in my life. I may lose a few votes in the Cimperman Sycophant crowd, but I never had those anyway, because they all like to play this rigged game just as it is.

You won’t hear any of this reported in the local media, either. Cimperman will make damned sure of that.   Cimperman this minute is probably weaving together some flimsy tissue of lies to pretend this has NEVER EVER happened BEFORE, MY GOD HOW HORRIBLE. You’ve all heard that line from Joe, no?

I’ve spent the last day trying to warn folks in Ohio City they’re probably next, and assure Loren that this ain’t over by a long shot. Senyak and his minions most certainly already have a list of businesses up and down W. 25th St. who he’s stalked, like a self-appointed vigilante in the night complete with infrared binoculars or some other bullshit, who have no idea they too are on Cimperman’s 15 month wait list for a raid. Maybe they’re listening, maybe not. They will be 15 months from now, I guarantee you that. But it’d be nice if for once, a group of local business owners in a high profile neighborhood like Ohio City stood up to a bully and his political sponsor. We’ll see.

Anyway, vote for me.

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On May 6th, perpetuate, or end, the rigged game


It’s hard to be a more terrific fraud than Armond Budish. Fifteen years lying to seniors on television to get them to liquidate their assets so they live on public assistance (after Budish takes his cut, of course) selling them pointless and expensive cosmetic dentistry…that ought to convince anyone. But no, there’s a six figure no bid public teat off which to suckle, laundered to his wife, then lied about, to the Ohio Legislature for 9 years. Jimmy Dimora and Frank Russo never learned Armond’s lesson - if you’re going to be stinkingly corrupt, you’d better buy the media too, so instead of crowing COUNTY IN CRISIS ’til they’re hoarse, they’ll quietly edit your words on demand, then endorse you, ignoring your taxpayer gravy train because you’ve spent the past 15 years lining the pockets of the NBC affiliate in town. Paging Tom Beres.

Even Ray Charles could see this fraud from a mile away, but the Cuyahoga County Democratic Party, and every media glitterati in town, has spent the last year crowning Budish as if he were the second coming, lying through their teeth too, stitching up endorsements, corralling lap dog media puff pieces from the cocktail circuit of NEO’s great and good, all for a meritless, senior fleecing money laundering camp following pimp whose entire platform for county executive is a vapid recitation of platitudes so boilerplate it’s an insult to cookie cutters.


The exact same process has produced Issue 7, the sin tax renewal of Art Modell’s 19 year old chump’s deal. Armond Budish and the sin tax are the same work product, both manufactured and rolled off the same assembly line that built an empty Med Mart, is building a hotel with county money, is funneling casino tax revenue this minute to the wealthiest people in Northeast Ohio by the millions. What wrought Armond Budish and the sin tax also strip mined Slavic Village, my birthplace, putting every cent of property value on my grandmother’s street into some yacht’s gas tank floating in an oh so quaint Connecticut harbor.

When will we wake up? We cannot let money govern us like this anymore. Just look at what it’s done to our city, our county, our country. This rigged game doesn’t work. At all. It works only for the wealthiest and most powerful, a tiny minority shrinking so rapidly it’s an overstatement to call them the 1% anymore. Armond Budish, who has no reason to be elected other than money, is the Platonic Form. It’s his platform, his entire argument, it’s all his supporters claim, and he’s proud of it. Do we enjoy being played for such fools?


I made a bet entering this race, that voters have already turned this page, that they indeed see what’s right before their eyes, whether or not their public airwaves sit bought and paid for in silence, too. By not raising or spending any money on my candidacy, I hope I’ve proven there is another way – that we can govern ourselves, rather than letting money govern us. I spent a career in this rigged game, and I’ve spent another lifetime on the outside of it looking in.

Now, it reminds me of my days in the former soviet republics with eerie certainty – we aren’t on some slippery slope, we’ve careened down it straight into the cess pit below. The only difference between our rigged game and post soviet dictators is scale – Armond Budish is a small time street hooker in comparison, at least in Armenia, they know to purchase the entire TV station.

I’m ready for this challenge, and I hope I’ve convinced voters too. Lord knows I ain’t perfect – none of us are.  The choice between cursing the darkness forever, or lighting my candle, wasn’t easy. I should be the last guy standing up and asking for votes. But based on all my experience, good and bad, I have a unique capacity to see and fight injustice, and an even more unique capacity to smell a rat. And this is no time to sit on the sidelines.

I made a promise when I left Armenia in 1998 after watching a coup and two rigged presidential elections. I told my Armenian colleagues trying to keep me there that I was leaving to fight for my own democracy just as hard as they fought for their own. I had no idea how hard that fight would be.

On May 6th, Cuyahoga County can turn a page. Let’s do it.

Lighting Money on Fire, Tim Russo Announces for County Executive from the exploding russo inevitable on Vimeo.

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Issue 7 is the problem


The civic election observer group I worked with in Armenia from 1997-99 called themselves (and still do) It’s Your Choice. Harut Hambartsumian, the crazy bald guy on the left, used to say, when asked why bother voting in rigged elections, “if we don’t vote, the authorities know what to do with our votes.” Harut also sang like Louis Armstrong, but that’s another story.

Low voter turnout is a reasonable response to a rigged process. Why endorse a corrupt process by our participation? Why invest hopes, dreams, expectations in a process that will inevitably dismiss them? Why play their game?

Two weeks out from the May 6th primary, I’ve learned a lot on this unlikely journey. Committing not to raise or spend any money has been as educational for me as anything I’ve ever done in politics. When money is out of the equation, our humanity rises in stark relief. When money is there, humanity disappears.

Cash looks small when politics is about human beings. It seems unimportant, petty, yet holds danger. Its siren song gets easier to hear, not necessarily louder, just more obvious. Like Gollum’s Ring. For example, at Democratic ward clubs, as a candidate, you are expected to pay the membership fee whether or not you live in the neighborhood. You are treated differently if you pay that few bucks. If you don’t, you can watch that tiny amount of money pull the humanity of those around you behind a curtain, in real time. It doesn’t take seconds, it’s instantaneous.

When I started running as a pure performance art project, the sin tax, Issue 7, was just a glimmer in Joe Roman’s eye at the GCP board room. The sin tax crystalized this journey for me profoundly – as did one of my opponents being a carbon copy of the same rigged game. I went from Hunter S. Thompson on a crusade to, well, me on a crusade. Because the sin tax IS the problem.

When money purchases the power for a tiny minority (you know…the 1%) to write the rules the rest of us have to live by, that is called oligarchy. Or plutocracy. Or kleptocracy. It isn’t democracy. The sin tax in 1990 or 1995 was another time, another Cleveland. Today, the sin tax, Issue 7, is just the latest, stark example that our democracy is utterly controlled by money alone, not by us.

That 99% of us are subjected to relentless sales swindles funded by bottomless pits of money owning our public airwaves, our public spaces, our publicly owned buildings, all to put our future into the pockets of the richest people in America by government fiat is a stain on our city, our county, our state, and our country. We should be ashamed. But we’re not.

We’ve removed ourselves from the political process en masse, in total rejection of this rigged game. As a result, the playing field – voting, democracy itself – shrinks. An ever smaller number of voters are the target of ever larger pots of money seeking to manipulate them.  It takes a lot for a guy like me to continue putting faith in this allegedly “democratic” process. More than anyone will ever know. But…..

My mom hates deer – they turn up every spring to eat her flowers. You can see Mom in the morning surveying the damage like Napoleon at Waterloo, carnage everywhere, tulips just clipped off at the top. Roses chomped. Yet, every year, she continues to plant, tend, try home remedy deer repellants like tobasco sauce from a spray bottle. Because if she didn’t tend her garden, it would be overrun by parasites and predators, leaving nothing but a barren dusty landscape.

We have a serious problem with our democracy. It’s our choice to address it, or not. Let’s tend our garden again. There’s a lot of work to be done.

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