Democracy Rip Off

 

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I am incensed right now. I just returned from the polling center to cast my vote in the Pennsylvania presidential primaries. Guess what! I was not allowed to vote for a presidential candidate. I was only allowed to vote for congress and some other petty PA stuff. “What?” I asked the polling center volunteer in disbelief when I heard I could not vote for a presidential candidate. The volunteer shared that the state of Pennsylvania requires that you declare a party affiliation in order to vote in presidential primaries also known as “closed primaries”. I registered to vote in Pennsylvania when we moved here in 2007. And it’s very likely that I marked “other” when asked about political party affiliation because of my frustration with our very limited two-party political system. But not being able to vote today felt like an infringement of my civil rights. It felt like discrimination. I felt bullied by the both the Republican and the Democratic parties. And shame on me for not being more informed on our electoral process. Here is what I learned.

Time to take some action.

  1. I did research on-line. I am not alone in feeling disgruntled about the PA closed primary systems. I have attached a link to an article posted on PennsylvaniaWatchdog.org, called “PA’s Closed Primary System Shuts Out Independent Voters”. The author comments how the political parties in Pennsylvania have the right to limit who participates in their primaries, but we all help foot the $20 million bill to conduct the primary election. The article goes on to say that PA is one of 13 states with closed primaries and another 15 have semi-closed primaries. To read the whole article: http://watchdog.org/217449/paindy-pas-closed-primary-system-shuts-out-independent-voters/
  2. I learned about open, closed, and semi-closed primaries at FairVote.org. FairVote is a non-partisan, non-profit organization that seeks to make democracy fair, functional, and more representative. I signed up to receive updates from FairVote. To learn more about FairVote visit: http://www.fairvote.org/about and http://www.fairvote.org/primaries#open_and_closed_primaries
  3. My online search led me to a website called openprimaries.org. I found out US Maryland Congressman John Delaney (MD-6) introduced the Open Our Democracy Act H.R. 5334 in July 2014. If passed, this legislation would mandate open primaries for House elections giving voice to independents. I showed my support for the legislation by filling out the electronic form that sent a message to my state representative. I must admit information of the Open Our Democracy Act is confusing. It appears in the CONGRESS.GOV website with a different number, H.R. 2655 and says it was introduced in June of 2015. Nothing has been done with this legislation. It’s probably bogged down with hundreds of other proposed laws.To show support for the Open Our Democracy Act and contact your U.S state Representatives: http://www.openprimaries.org/opendemocracy For information on the Open Our Democracy Act of 2015 https://www.congress.gov/bill/114th-congress/house-bill/2655/actions
  4. I found an organization call Independent Pennsylvanians and signed their petition “Help Open Our Primaries” that would open primaries in Pennsylvania. To sign a petition supporting open primaries in Pennsylvania: http://www.paindependents.org/Action-Center/Open-Primary-Petition/70/
  5. I joined the mailing list, filled out a survey, and offered to help with grass root efforts with Independent Pennsylvanians. To visit Independent Pennsylvanians: http://www.paindependents.org
  6. The topic for tonight’s family dinner conversation will be Open Primaries, Closed Primaries, and Semi-Closed Primaries. And of course the injustice that I suffered today!
  7. Statistics: As published in Gallup in January of this year, the percent of individuals identifying as Republicans or Democrats is at a historical low. From data collected in 2015, 29% of people identified as Republicans, 26% as Democrats, with 42% identifying as independents. It is the fifth year in a row that people identifying as independents has been over 40%. Given these statistics it is imperative that we give independents a voice.  http://www.gallup.com/poll/188096/democratic-republican-identification-near-historical-lows.aspx
  8. Interesting article in NPR “Sick of Political Parties, Unaffiliated Voters are Changing Politics: http://www.npr.org/2016/02/28/467961962/sick-of-political-parties-unaffiliated-voters-are-changing-politics
  9. Consider moving to a state with Open Primaries:
  • Alabama
  • Arkansas
  • Georgia
  • Illinois
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Mississippi
  • Missouri
  • New Hampshire
  • North Carolina
  • North Dakota
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Vermont
  • Virginia
  • Wisconsin

I Continue My Quest as a Political Party Orphan 

Allow Independent Voters a Voice

 

The Freedoms I Take for Granted

Dragon Bridge over the River Hàn in Da Nang, Vietnam.

Dragon Bridge over the River Hàn in Da Nang, Vietnam.

Well-known Vietnamese blogger, Nguyen Huu Vinh, and his assistant, Nguyen Thi Minh Thuy, were found guilty yesterday and imprisoned for five and three years, respectively. There were found guilty of abusing their democratic freedoms. What freedoms? Let’s not kid ourselves.

In 1975 the Communist regime of Vietnam took over the whole country. By 1985, Communism had not worked very well for the country’s economy so they introduced a socialist-oriented market economy. Today, Vietnam has a thriving economy with tons of tourism but there is a dark side. I visited Vietnam in 2013 and witnessed this firsthand. The reality is that although Vietnam has one of the fastest growing economies in Asia, it is still a single political party country that does not tolerate dissent. There is no democracy in Vietnam and citizens have limited rights. A citizen cannot speak against the government and the government controls the media. The Vietnamese government arbitrarily arrests activists, lawyers, and bloggers if they feel they are criticizing the government.

Vinh’s blog, “Ba Sam” was a political and social blog founded in 2007. The blog aggregated news stories from major state-run newspapers and also published individual blog posts written by activists. His blog reached up to 3.7 million page views. What also made Vinh a unique blogger was that he had once been a policeman and had had ties to the communist party elite. His father had been a government minister and his grandfather a former ambassador to the Soviet Union.

Vietnam stands the chance of becoming the biggest winner in the upcoming Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement making them even more important players in the global economy. But I have always felt that a country that does not treat its citizens well, can only go so far, i.e. like China. Ironically, in 1945 Ho Shi Minh, the leader of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (north communist Vietnam) was inspired by the United States Declaration of Independence and the words of Thomas Jefferson that say, “All men are created equal. They are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness”. The constitution of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (north communist Vietnam) adopted these lines in their 1946 constitution and provided for freedom of speech, press, and assembly. Of course these rights were never really instituted. By 1959 the North Vietnamese constitution took a more communist tone. The constitution was revised yet again in 1980 to better serve politically unified Vietnam. In its article 67, the Vietnamese constitution guarantees the citizens’ rights to freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and association, and the freedom to demonstrate. But here’s the kicker, the government says, “ no one may misuse democratic freedoms to violate the interests of the state and the people”. Vinh and Thuy were found guilty of violating their so-called democratic freedoms.

At moments like this I truly appreciate our founding father’s gift of the First Amendment. I share it below with you for your reading pleasure and to remind ourselves that we are very fortunate to live in a country with real democratic freedoms.

Today my thoughts are with the people of Vietnam. I wish that someday they enjoy true democratic freedoms. Today, my thoughts are also with blogger activists around the world who promote human rights and peace.

Faces of Vietnam

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Amendment I

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

The First Amendment guarantees freedoms concerning religion, expression, assembly, and the right to petition.  It forbids Congress from both promoting one religion over others and also restricting an individual’s religious practices.  It guarantees freedom of expression by prohibiting Congress from restricting the press or the rights of individuals to speak freely.  It also guarantees the right of citizens to assemble peaceably and to petition their government.

 

One of our wonderful tour guides. He views life as a glass half full. He is appreciative of the few democratic freedoms he does have and he is very optimistic for the future of Vietnam.

One of our wonderful tour guides. He views life as a glass half full. He is appreciative of the few democratic freedoms he does have and is very optimistic for the future of Vietnam.

 

 

 

 

Brussels – Our Other Home

Brussels Arc de Triomphe in Cinquantenaire Park

Brussels Arc de Triomphe in Cinquantenaire Park

By now you have heard the terrible news of the bombs that went off in Brussels. Brussels is our other home. We lived in Brussels close to 5 years, from 1997 until  2001. It was an amazing experience and was made even more special because both our children were born there. We left a little bit of hearts there. Today my thoughts are with the people of Belgium.

The Town Hall Building in the Grand Place/ Grote Markt

The Town Hall Building in the Grand Place/ Grote Markt – Brussels

Our early years in Brussels 1997 – 2001…

Walking the streets of Brussels with our son.

Walking the streets of Liège, Belgium with our son.

 

Walking the children and the dogs in our neighborhood.

Walking the children and the dogs in our neighborhood.

 

In the Hallerbos, The Bluebell Forest of Belgium located in Halle

In the Hallerbos, The Bluebell Forest of Belgium located in Halle

Our return trip back in 2005…

Visiting the hospital the children were born in: Clinique General St. Jean or in Femish

Visiting the hospital the children were born in: Clinique General St. Jean or in Flemish Algemene Kliniek Sint Jan located in downtown Brussels

 

The Mannekin Pis, a famous statue of a little boy peeing into the fountain's basin.

The Manneken Pis, a famous statue of a little naked boy peeing into the fountain’s basin located in Brussels.

Tasting and learning about the most delicious chocolate in the world, Belgium Chocolate. Here we are in front of Pierre Marcollini with our loot.

Tasting and learning about the most delicious chocolate in the world, Belgian Chocolate. Here we are in front of Pierre Marcolini Luxury Chocolates with our loot.

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Enjoying and climbing the sights of Antwerp, Belgium At The Het Steen Castle

Photos from our return trip in 2013…

The magical medieval city of Bruges

The magical medieval city of Bruges, Belgium

 

Eating the most awesome waffles in the world!

Eating the most awesome waffles in the world!

 

With my children in the Grand Place/Grote Markt

With my children in the Grand Place/Grote Markt 2013

 

 

 

A Letter to Michael Bloomberg

Dear Mr. Bloomberg,

I will get right to the point. The time has come for you to enter the 2016 United States Presidential Race. After last night’s results I am truly a political party orphan along with many other citizens of this great nation. Give me a call and we can discuss some strategies for your campaign.

Sincerely,

Ariadne R. Petrucelli

 

Don’t talk, just act.

Don’t say, just show.

Don’t promise, just prove.

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The Blizzard of 2016

Mother Nature delivered on her promise. The Blizzard of 2016 started on the evening of Friday January 22nd and continued through Saturday January 23rd. Approximately 30 inches of snow blanketed our area of West Chester, PA.

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My husband and son did several passes of snow blowing and shoveling on Saturday.

On Sunday we woke up to a beautiful sunny day. We went to play in the snow.

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Trekking on unchartered territories!

Trekking on unchartered territories!

Follow the Leader

Follow the Leader

Jessie, our puppy, discovering the joy of snow!

Jessie, our puppy, discovering the joy of snow!

Our seasoned snow expert, Maya, taking it all in!

Our seasoned snow expert, Maya, taking it all in!

Resting after playing in the snow.

Maya and Jessie resting after playing in the snow.

 

Coat of Arms in Fondant

 

Our son’s birthday is on Christmas Eve. Our family follows the Latin American tradition of celebrating Christmas on Christmas Eve night. So the 24th of December in our home is a very busy and festive day, birthday celebration during the day followed by our Christmas celebration at night. When my son turned 7 years old he was into knights. So for his birthday that year I made him a cake covered in fondant icing and decorated with coats of arms made of fondant.

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I never imagined that 11 years later I would be making a coat of arms in fondant again. This time it would be an even more meaningful project for me since I was replicating the coat of arms of the university that just admitted my son in December. My husband made the delicious double layer chocolate cake and we topped it off with my fondant university coat of arms creation. When my son saw the cake he said with a big smile, “That’s pretty cool”.

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Proud Mama