How Not to Define Government

This image popped up in my Facebook news feed some years back. I can’t even find the originating image for it, it has been that long ago and had so little impact. I had several thoughts at the time which I lined out as bullet points. A rather lengthy breakdown for what is a five-minute throw-away joke image for Facebook.

Still. I know there are thousands, possibly even millions that would laugh at that joke. I in my previous libertarian persona would have probably accepted it as wryly humorous fact, which is precisely why I took the time to break down the many heuristical errors present in just thinking the observation true enough to be funny.

Not satisfied with wasting an hour or two breaking down a meaningless joke image once and filing it away, I have now spent even more time writing a lengthy post about it, proving the tagline of this blog is accurate.

As to the offered definition of government itself. You can believe any fool thing you want including that gravity doesn’t exist because it is a theory. I wouldn’t suggest jumping off buildings if you do, even though Douglas Adams describes learning to fly as throwing yourself at the ground and missing. Never mistake a joke for something that is true or actually possible. The image is a joke, it just isn’t a funny joke.

Government cannot actually defy science because government cannot change the laws of nature. That is why pi remains an irrational number most accurately described as 355/113 even though several governments have mistakenly believed they could change it. Math is always going to be math and 2+2=4 is true for every instance of reality as we know it. Do not throw the word quantum at me as a counter-argument because I will know that you are stupid if you do.

Economics really isn’t a science in much the same way and for the same reason that psychology is only vaguely a science. Both are in part human constructs held as beliefs within human minds. Therefore “laws of economics” are more rules of thumb than actual laws.

In short, even if there are laws of economics, we haven’t been observing them for long enough to know what they actually are. And given the vagaries of human behavior and the mercurial nature of states, people and institutions, the notion that there’s some grand mechanistic, master system that explains all and predicts everything is at best a comforting fiction and at worst a straitjacket that precludes creativity, forestalls innovation and destroys dynamism.

Referencing “the laws of economics” as a way to refute arguments or criticize ideas has the patina of clarity and certainty. The reality is that referencing such laws is simply another way to justify beliefs and inclinations. I may agree that the war on drugs is flawed, but not because it violates “laws of economics,” but rather because it fails in most of its basic goals. The test of whether government spending or central bank easing is good policy should be whether they succeed in ameliorating the problems of stagnant growth and high unemployment, not on what the “laws of economics” erroneously say about certain future outcomes.

The Atlantic, The Laws of Economics Don’t Exist

As an example, one can continue to print money without limit so long as the money isn’t allowed to collect anywhere in a volume large enough to break the system. People will continue to use and spend money blithely believing whatever they want to believe about the system they are part of so long as the system continues. That is the beauty of the human animal and its selective cognition machine that we call a brain. We only tend to notice structures when they fail,  and then we marvel at the complexity of the system that functioned so well that we never noticed it until it was gone.

If It Bleeds, It Leads. Same as It Ever Was

For the last year and a half the media have fawned all over His Electoral Highness, The Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) They can’t stop talking about him. They can’t be kept from giving him airtime to talk about himself. Aside from the OHM himself, his biggest fans are the media who think that what this lame duck of a leader says means anything at all. Because of the media’s fawning, I have been forced to spend the last two years ignoring everything the OHM can be heard saying with their generous gift of free airtime. I ignore everything he says because listening to him is what he wants us to do. I ignore him because attempting to make sense of what he says makes me feel ill. I ignore him because listening to him demonstrably makes you dumber; the media being a prime example of people made stupid by the sound of the OHM’s voice.

The media’s free gift of airtime helped give him the momentum to take the electoral college if not the popular vote; and now they ask, why is America so divided? If anyone should know the answer to this question it should be the media, but I wouldn’t look to them to give you a truthful answer. Division is what they want. It sells. Conflict and violence always lead the news. The division they are trying to illustrate here is largely a matter of perception. The division is almost entirely of the media’s making, their policy of going with taglines that hype the separation, the division, the conflict,

CBS Sunday MorningA polarized America – Mar 26, 2017

There’s nothing new about simmering hostility between a President and the press. As Richard Nixon once stated, “The President should treat the press just as fairly as the press treats him.”

In March of 1974, the Nixon presidency was lurching toward destruction by Watergate, and there was an ongoing tension between the President and the CBS White House correspondent:

President Nixon: “Are you running for something?”

Dan Rather: “No, sir, Mr. President, are you?”

Norm Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, was then, and remains now, a student of our political system and our media:

“We would watch network news shows and we would sit there and we would have basically a common set of facts that would emerge from them,” he said. “As we’ve moved to the new media world, the more you’ve got this cacophony of voices, the more you cut through it by, basically, shock value. And that’s why people now are driven not by their own attachment to their own parties; they’re driven by a hatred for those on the other side.” 

CBS News, The great divide: Politics in the Age of Trump

Much like Nixon ushered in the end of the Republican party that elected him, the OHM signals the ultimate end of Reaganism and Reaganomics. There will be no possibility of doubt remaining as to the bankruptcy of Reagan’s policies by the time the OHM is drummed out of office; policies which have held sway since Reagan was president. The question the media should be asking is, will the Democrats find themselves and their new direction, or will they waste their resurgence as they did with the Carter years? Let me unpack these observations for you.

The eight years of Clinton were not liberal years. The most damning thing to be said about Clinton is that he was and is Republican lite, conservative-ish. He ended welfare in the US because the conservatives demanded that he do it. Because it was something that Reagan promised and compromising with Reagan Democrats was how Bill Clinton got into office. Over and over again he proved that he wasn’t liberal in any real sense of the word. He was a conservative from the old Southern wing of Democratic conservatives who just happened to have married well. Without Hillary’s influence I am convinced he would have been even harder on the poor, even more militaristic than he was. Weirdly, I doubt that would have kept Republicans from manufacturing a scandal in their attempts to remove him.

Barack Obama was pretty close to liberal but still enacted conservative policies because conservative policies were the only ones that the conservatives in the congress he was saddled with would vaguely go for. Obamacare was and is Romneycare. That is why Romney had such a hard time dissing the ACA, because it was his idea offered by a Democratic president and he knew it. Obama was the deporter-in-Chief because, again, that is what conservatives wanted him to do. He was tough on immigration because he hoped it would win points with the other side of the aisle. Only in his last two years did he realize that Republicans would never work with him and so he spent those years ruling by executive order. The Republicans didn’t refuse to work for him because he was black if we are to take them at their word. they didn’t refuse because he was liberal because his policies prove otherwise. They refused to work with him because he was a Democrat.

The sin that Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are all guilty of is the sin of being members of the Democratic party. If they had been Republicans they would have been deemed typical centrists willing to make deals in order to get the government’s work done. It is deal making that the new conservatives hate. They are convinced that there is a true conservative ideology and all they have to do is adhere to it. Never mind that no two conservatives can agree on what conservatism is aside from prosperity gospel Jesus, a completely different kind of Jesus than that socialist hippy Jesus of the seventies. That is religion masquerading as ideology which is all conservatism has left to appeal to, the shadow of religion that Reagan rode to power on.

None of this has anything to do with real ideology beyond the ghost of Reagan that even Reaganite priests can’t quote because Reagan was more liberal than the country is now. The ghost of Reagan and his trickle-down Reaganomics is why the tax rates on the wealthiest people in the US remain low. Anyone making more than a million dollars a year should be taxed at the confiscatory rate of 99% just as the progressive tax rates did during the post-war era. During the times when the middle class grew and the poor were not quite so desperate. Back when Jesus was a socialist hippy. They should be taxed at this extreme rate because they don’t spend more when they have more, so it benefits society not one bit to allow them to keep their incredible wealth.

The subject of monetary policy is too lengthy to get into here, but in the end upper income tax rates were lowered because the increased wealth was supposed to generate more benefits for the rest of us, and the reality we live in has demonstrably proven that the opposite is true. Ergo, some form of income cap has to be reinstituted. Either a scale requiring all boats be raised when the wealthy get paid more, or confiscatory taxes on pay greater than the scale would dictate.

So here we are at the tail-end of the Reagan era, just waiting for the Reagan Democrats to bleep their last heartbeat on the heart monitor they are strapped to before we can get on with progress. It has to be those people because they are the only ones left watching TV, getting their news from TV and from radio. Those are the people who went out and voted for Trump, his core base of stormtrumpers. Those are the people who in their political ignorance voted Republican not realizing that Republicans and conservatives ran everything in the country aside from the presidency already. Politically ignorant people who don’t understand that the president’s job isn’t to fix the country, that is the job of the congress. A job the congress is supposed to achieve through legislation and funding and programs to keep the myriad systems this country depends on, running.

Unfortunately for the rest of us, conservatives have swallowed the anarchist notion that government doesn’t work. Republicans have echoed this falsehood because their base believes it, never questioning why they want to elect people to do jobs that they believe don’t need to be done. So it falls to the Democrats to make proposals for government that will work. It falls to them to prove that the poor can get a fair shake in this new America, that the wealthy don’t always get their way. Falls to the Democrats to propose the kinds of changes that populists on both sides of the aisle wanted and would get behind, because the Republicans and conservatives are too scared of socialism to even go someplace where government just might work. If the Democrats can do this, it will be the end of the Republicans for at least a generation.

What I don’t understand is how the media can’t see this happening? Why do they see fractiousness and faction rather than seeing what is really going on? The politically informed vs. the politically ignorant that gave us the current administration? Why can’t they see that they are the OHM’s biggest fans? Perhaps they can’t see it because they too are caught in a previous age. The age of the gatekeeper and the top-down administrator. The feudal society of corporate America, what is fast becoming a corporate globalism. The history of dictators and their five year plans that never worked out. They are soon to be as irrelevant as the Reagan Democrats who will be cashing their last Social Security checks soon. Checking out as movers and shakers and are left behind as the world starts dancing to a different beat.

The media and Reagan Democrats will be as baffled by the next election as they were by the last one, because they think the narrative is one they set, and not one that we the people decide.

Killing in Cold Blood

The state of Arkansas plans to put to death eight inmates over a span of 10 days next month, a pace of executions unequaled in recent American history and brought about by a looming expiration date for a drug used by the state for lethal injections.

New York Times, Arkansas Rushes to Execute

This strikes me as a really stupid reason to schedule a massive number of executions. Perhaps the stupidest reason I’ve ever run across since realizing that the death penalty is a holdover from the barbarity of our past that we should really leave in the past. The fact that businesses will not sell you drugs to kill your inmates with should be your first and last clue that the thing you want to do isn’t something you should be doing.

Moviewizard – Sep 6, 2014 – The Green Mile best scene

I want it over and done. I do. I’m tired, boss. Tired of bein’ on the road, lonely as a sparrow in the rain. Tired of not ever having me a buddy to be with, or tell me where we’s coming from or going to, or why. Mostly I’m tired of people being ugly to each other. I’m tired of all the pain I feel and hear in the world everyday. There’s too much of it. It’s like pieces of glass in my head all the time. Can you understand?

Stephen King, Frank Darabont The Green Mile

I believed in the death penalty when I was a child. I took the pro death penalty side in our high school debate team. We patted ourselves on the back for discovering the notion that beyond a shadow of a doubt meant the convicted were guilty. As a child, everything I knew was certain knowledge. What a comfort it was then, absolute certainty of truth.

When I was a child, I spake as a child,
I understood as a child, I thought as a child:
but when I became a man, I put away
childish things. For now we see through a
glass, darkly; but then face to face: now
I know in part; but then shall I know even
as also I am known.

1 Corinthians 13:11

I know so little now, it is a wonder that I find the certainty to set words to paper. I do know this; The Innocence Project has tracked the number of exonerations in the United States since DNA evidence was allowed. As of this writing, 349 people have been exonerated. They couldn’t have committed the crime they were convicted of, because evidence from the crime does not match their DNA. Twenty of those 349 people were serving time on death row. Thirty-seven of the 349 plead guilty even though they could not have committed the crime.

When I realized that people were fallible, that government was frequently in error, that majority opinion had no more connection to reality than the flipping of a coin, I backed away from believing that we were ever going to be smart enough to know who really needs killing. I have a challenge for those who hold fast to the belief that the death penalty is right and good. Listen to this podcast, a portion of the radio documentary Witness to an Execution which aired in 2000, and then imagine yourself in their shoes, if you can.

StoryCorps 496: Witness to an Execution

For my part, I recognize hell when I hear it described. I can hear eternal torment in every voice that speaks, especially the ones that say how much they believe in the death penalty still. I would not willingly stand in any of their shoes even for one execution.

The government should not be allowed to do anything that individuals within the society are not allowed to do. In the heat of the moment, in the crisis of real time, certain actions are valid that wouldn’t be valid in other cases. When no other option presents itself, it is permissible to kill. Cops and prison guards should be armed and forgiven for actions taken in legitimate self defense of themselves and society, just like any other member of society would be forgiven in their place.

An unarmed prisoner strapped to a gurney or a chair is not a threat. Killing that person is killing in cold blood. It can only be counted as murder, making us no better than the murderer that we have exacted justice upon. Life imprisonment without the possibility of parole is preferable to making myself a party to murder, even if the man that we are killing needed it.

(based in part on this post)

On Hawks vs. Pacifists

How do you explain away Hillary Clinton’s assumed hawkishness?

Like this.

Everyone voted to invade Iraq. I remember, I was active in politics that year. I mentioned this fact in the article Libertarian hostility for Hillary Clinton. Either you were with Bush II or you were against him.  Painting a target on your back is not how you get things done in a political sphere.  It is how you get eliminated.  She was a savvy operator then, and she is one now.  A survivor.  Someone who gets shit done. Someone who will make a good leader.

Obama let France take out Muammar Gaddafi like they wanted to do, and I don’t shed tears for dead dictators. They get what is coming to them. The same fate is waiting for Assad in Syria.  You don’t destroy your country the way he has done over the last five years and walk away from that. Justice is waiting for him when this conflict ends.

If Hillary Clinton was a war hawk, she wouldn’t have worked to get a deal with Iran. Pacifists dismiss this fact because it destroys their narrative. However, all of these are the president’s policies; Barack Obama, not Hillary Clinton. The President calls the shots, not the Secretary of State. That I happen to agree with them is beside the point. Those policies are his policies, not hers.

Let me frame the question of who Hillary Clinton really is with her own history.  Her history as related in this piece contrasting her past with the past of the Orange Hate-Monkey;

Consider, for a moment, two people. One, as a young woman at the beginning of a promising legal career, went door to door searching for ways to guarantee an education to the countless disabled and disadvantaged children who had fallen through the cracks. The other, as a young millionaire, exacted revenge on his recently deceased brother’s family by cutting off the medical insurance desperately needed by his nephew’s newborn son, who at eighteen months of age was suffering from violent seizures brought on by a rare neurological disorder.

Now let’s talk about the future.

Daesh has to be destroyed. Daesh in all it’s forms, all across the world. no amount of wishing will make them go away. It is going to take killing. Also, we have an uppity Russian dictator who needs to be treated with a firm, sure hand. Those tiny hands the Orange Hate-Monkey has will not do the trick. It’s going to take someone who knows the ins and outs of diplomacy.  Someone who has been on the scene for the last thirty years or so would be good.

“Suppose They Gave a War and No One Came”

Charlotte E. Keyes, Carl Sandburg

Much as I don’t like it, and I don’t, war must be met with war. Violence can
frequently only be countered with violence. I’ve protested every war that has occurred while I was breathing, but we need someone who can credibly hold the keys to the largest military machine in the world and be trusted not to blink. We need someone who is going to be able to do the job in front of her. That someone is Hillary Clinton. If we’re lucky.

Ideologues should stick to theorizing and stay out of real politics. They just screw up the real world for the rest of us.  There is no panacea that will fix the world.  War isn’t the answer.  Peace isn’t the answer. Walking the path before us is going to take hard decisions.  It requires someone who isn’t constrained by an ideology that keeps them from doing what they have to do. Whether that thing is taking the fight to a credible threat, or walking away from an unwinnable conflict. It takes someone willing to occupy the middle space. Like most things in life, it requires compromise.

Why Would a Liberal Vote for Gary Johnson?

This is actually a very good question, one that echos why I don’t identify as libertarian anymore, and why I don’t support most of the candidates that the LP fields. The LP is GOP lite these days. Or if you believe him (which you’re a fool if you do) Donald Trump, whose website is a laundry-list of libertarian wish-fulfillment. Just don’t listen to the words coming out of the Orange Hate-Monkey‘s mouth. If you do you’ll notice a jarring disconnect between what he says and what his website says.

Here is the Mother Jones Article the title comes from.  Here is the list as a quote;

  • He supports TPP.
  • He supports fracking.
  • He opposes any federal policies that would make college more affordable or reduce student debt. In fact, he wants to abolish student loans entirely.
  • He thinks Citizens United is great.
  • He doesn’t want to raise the minimum wage. At all.
  • He favors a balanced-budget amendment and has previously suggested that he would slash federal spending 43 percent in order to balance the budget. This would require massive cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and social welfare programs of all kinds.
  • He opposes net neutrality.
  • He wants to increase the Social Security retirement age to 75 and he’s open to privatization.
  • He opposes any kind of national health care and wants to repeal Obamacare.
  • He opposes practically all forms of gun control.
  • He opposes any kind of paid maternity or medical leave.
  • He supported the Keystone XL pipeline.
  • He opposes any government action to address climate change.
  • He wants to cut the corporate tax rate to zero.
  • He appears to believe that we should reduce financial regulation. All we need to do is allow big banks to fail and everything will be OK.
  • He wants to remove the Fed’s mandate to maximize employment and has spoken favorably of returning to the gold standard.
  • He wants to block-grant Medicare and turn it over to the states.
  • He wants to repeal the 16th Amendment and eliminate the income tax, the payroll tax, and the estate tax. He would replace it with a 28 percent FairTax that exempts the poor. This is equivalent to a 39 percent sales tax, and it would almost certainly represent a large tax cut for the rich.

It is an excellent reference list of things that the average liberal disagrees with the Libertarians about. I could add more things that I quibble about, but we can start with this list and work from there. 

There Is An Evil Party, But It Isn’t the Democrats.

I was a die-hard libertarian when Gore lost to Bush II. We told ourselves from our high ideological horses that the one was no worse than the other.

I don’t know what Gore would have done in the short time before 9/11 and I don’t know what he would have done after it, but I’m reasonably certain we wouldn’t have gone to war in Iraq, because that was an invention of the Bush II administration as payback for what Saddam did to Bush I; or alternatively, as establishing the beachhead that the Republicans had always planned on executing with Iraq at some point. Were planning to inflict on Iran in the years following. Fortunately those plans were foiled by the complete lack of substance in conservative and libertarian economic ideals, and the collapse of the housing bubble in 2007.

In any case, I’d give almost anything, as an American who voted the wrong way in 2000 (fortunately not in Florida) to be able to go back and change my vote in that election. Give Gore the chance he should have had instead of dismissing him with the throw-away line “They’re both the same”. How hollow those words seem now.

Facebook status backdated to the blog.

‘I might be old, but I’m not stupid. And I suspect that a lot of other members of my generation feel the same way. We remember when we were impatient. And we remember the mistakes that our impatience created.

“Old people don’t tell young people what to do and what not to do because we want to control your lives — we just want to warn you not to make the same mistakes we did.

“But you will. Or you won’t. Because it’s your choice. Always.”

David Gerrold

What Flavor Politician Are You?

Being Libertarian

I found this image on the Being Libertarian page on Facebook. I have to wonder at naming a page Being Libertarian when it’s been demonstrated that Being Liberal was a thing on Facebook before there was a page called Being Libertarian, but I digress.

The image is attempting to show how silly it is to say that Libertarians are Democrats or Republicans. Stealing votes from Democrats or Republicans. However, there is a problem in their logic, which I will illustrate literally.

Gary Johnson is Crystal Pepsi, not Dr. Pepper. If it means anything, the Orange Hate-Monkey is Pepsi laced with arsenic.

Clinton is not Coke, but then neither is Coke these days. Lacking access to a Coke (to take the metaphor to its proper conclusion) I’ll vote for the thing that says it’s a Coke. At least the can is the right color and the drink will be carbonated and not too sweet.

I don’t like Dr. Pepper anyway.

Just in case that isn’t clear enough, I will elaborate further. Gary Johnson and much of the Libertarian Party (LP) philosophy and platform is Republican. I know they insist they are different, but in reality the GOP morphed into a variation of the LP about the time Reagan was President. They’ve been becoming more and more the LP as the Tea Party took over with each succeeding election since that time.

So there are still only two flavors to choose from. That is by design. The system only works the way we see it working, unless we take the effort and energy to alter it’s framework.

In a system where winners are decided by earning at least 1/N of the vote, there will be N choices.

As I’ve said many times, I’m voting for Clinton. I prefer centrism. I prefer we not wreck the system. I prefer we reduce suffering rather than increase it. So I won’t dilute the vote by shifting my vote to some other candidate which has no chance of beating the two major parties who have hardwired themselves into the system.

Facebook status and consequent comments incorporated and backdated to the blog.

Libertarian Hostility for Hillary Clinton

Yesterday a friend of mine published this video from Reason on Facebook. It struck a chord with me. A negative cord.  Did I laugh? I’ll let you be the judge of the humor content.

This was my initial response.

Yes, let’s piss on the one good thing that is occurring in this election. Surely that won’t piss off the other 80% of the population.

“Nice shooting, Tex.”

What the video represents is precisely the kind of miscue that first started alienating me from the LP and libertarians. They just can’t see the kinds of emotions their attempts at humor generate.  That their principled stands generate.  They are, as most of us are, their own worst enemy.

What this reminds me of is the LP precinct meeting I attended immediately following the attacks on 9-11.  I’m going somewhere with this.  Let me take you there.

Try if you can to imagine that time, even if you were there.  Shell shocked.  In denial that we could be targeted by a foreign group, in the heart of one of the greatest cities on Earth.  The entire world in mourning over the senseless loss of life and destruction.  The first rumors of retaliation were circulating, and a meeting was convened at the precinct level of the Libertarian party with the specific purpose of passing a resolution condemning retaliation and war.

Now try to imagine me in this situation. It’s hard. I know.  I’ve been told enough times. Here I am, a guy who roundly condemned Bush I for being a warmonger. It was how I became a libertarian. Hung images up in my cubicle at work that made my employers livid.  I was a radical advocate for staying the hell out of the Middle East, slipping flyers into free magazines and newspapers in the area condemning the First Gulf War. Celebrated joyously when the conflict was over in weeks.

And I know that this resolution proposed by my peers in the Libertarian party was completely the wrong move.  I know it, in my gut.  It is going to alienate people who rightly think we have to strike back at whoever attacked us. It ignored the real possibility of continued violence on the part of the group that we had just started hearing about, Al Qaeda and their leader Osama Bin Laden. It was the wrong thing, politically, morally, strategically.

So I went to the meeting specifically to scuttle the motion, prodded by a few members who agreed with me that sometimes it is best to let sleeping dogs lie. We were on a surge in popularity in Texas at the time, needing to get recognizable percentages of votes to stay on the ballot, and negative press about the pacifist Libertarian party was not going to play well in gun-toting Texas.

I had been looking into how to postpone a motion and had stumbled across the idea (or it had been whispered to me, I can’t remember) of motion to table.  So I made that motion and it was promptly seconded by my allies and the purpose of the meeting was defeated.  Some of my more pacifist friends were livid with anger.  Why?  Why would you do that?

I tried to explain to them that the trends that had been set in motion were bigger than a personal stand against war and violence.  That standing in the way of the juggernaut that was about to be unleashed was suicidal at best. In the end, several of them never forgave me for that sneaky tactic, and that is understandable. The discomfort I felt after that event lead me to study Robert’s Rules and in so doing I realized that I had broken the tabling rule as it is currently spelled out.  But we got what we wanted and the Texas LP was one of the few branches of the LP that didn’t denounce the retaliation that occurred in Afghanistan.

I questioned my own wisdom when Bush II decided to go to war in Iraq on what I just as firmly believed was a contrivance, a method to establish a firm beachhead in the Middle East from which to advance throughout the area, subjecting it to American rule through proxies.  And for awhile it looked like he might actually succeed in that operation.  Until the resistance started, and the costs mounted and the housing bubble collapsed in 2007.

The financial bubble bursting is what made it possible to hope again, politically. Which is a weird way to look at it, but it was the culmination of nearly 30 years of Reaganomics and it was bound to happen eventually given that trickle-down economics just doesn’t work.

So it wasn’t just coincidence that Obama’s campaign tag was “Hope & Change” and I really wished him luck on that course. In hindsight it looks like he’s been a very good  president, possibly the best one to serve in my lifetime.  But now his 8 years are at an end, and we need to decide where to go next.

Which brings us to that video, and my sense of where we are now.

There is a wisdom in large groups. Large groups of people will generally come to a better estimate of value, quantity, etc. than any one member of the group can achieve.  We have known Hillary Clinton for a very long time. I hated on her along with most of my fellow Texans through her husband’s entire presidency.  Still cringe remembering how I had to explain sex to my children because of something the president was caught doing.  Was outraged by the parsing of is in lawyer speak like so many others.

But Hillary Clinton happened to be right.  Which is also weird to admit now. Right on a number of things. We rejected her as not having enough experience in 2008, and she wisely went back to the drawing board, was appointed Secretary of State and managed to do a passing good job at a very difficult task. Perhaps one of the most difficult times to be a Secretary of State for the United States.

And now she is the presumptive nominee of the Democratic party, a feat that no woman in history has achieved.  She has proven herself to be a consummate politician, outmaneuvering many of her peers so that she was the presumed candidate for the Democrats long before she even officially threw her hat into the ring.

But another way to look at the primary is that Clinton employed a less masculine strategy to win. She won the Democratic primary by spending years slowly, assiduously, building relationships with the entire Democratic Party. She relied on a more traditionally female approach to leadership: creating coalitions, finding common ground, and winning over allies. Today, 208 members of Congress have endorsed Clinton; only eight have endorsed Sanders.

Ezra Klein on Vox.com

The fact that a woman has finally run the gauntlet and will likely receive her parties nomination is well worth celebrating; and if she wins, it is more likely to be because she is perceived to be a better leader by the average person, than it is that she’s a woman.

Deriding her because of the imperfections (near fatal flaws, worst case) of the government she will take control of is not only unfair or unjust, but puts the lie forward as the truth; that we cannot change government with her in charge.   If that is true then nobody in that chair or in any chair in government can make changes to government by their participation, and that is obviously false on its face.

The bully pulpit has limited power. There are a whole host of ways to make changes in government without taking control of the presidency. Ways that are better, more reliable and possibly welcomed by her government if she is elected.  What she will bring with her is the most progressive slate of Democrats to be seen since at least LBJ’s time in office, and if we support them we may actually see the change that Obama promised eight years ago.

I’m not supporting Hillary Clinton because she is a woman.  I’m not supporting her because I think she will win. This is the first time in my life where I actually think one of the candidates for the two major parties is a decent choice before they were elected to office. Weirdly that happens to be Hillary Clinton. No one is more surprised by this than I am.

US Politics Fix – Starting the Process

This will probably turn into a page of its own at some point, a book-length outline of the problems and processes that have to be reformed, and the obstacles in the way of average Americans retaking control of their government from the political bosses, corporate sponsors, and wealthy contributors who currently control it.

We have to start somewhere, so let’s start at the beginning.

A bright, fresh-faced teenager sees the problems in the world, the calcified systems in the US that seem incapable of dealing with these problems and asks himself/herself

how do I get involved in this? How do I change this?

The answer to that question is related to current events, and the image at right.

In the midst of a sideshow barker taking over the Republican primary process on the one hand, and a proud Socialist trying to pull the Democratic primary onto liberal ground it hasn’t seen since the 1970’s, I find myself without a group I feel can align with once again.

I left the Libertarian Party due to their inability to separate their ideological dedication to anarchism from the goal of actually winning the democratic election process.

Now I’m wondering just what the rest of the American populace is smoking, not just the libertarians, because it must be some good shit for everyone to be so clueless all of a sudden.

I really can’t make heads or tails of the purpose of all of this noise. I’m once again reminded of the Babylon 5 episode with Drazi killing Drazi over what color sashes they randomly select.  What I can say for certain is that Americans in general are dissatisfied with the political process as we’ve come to know it.  I can say that because the only reason that two outsiders could dominate the early potential candidate fields in polling is because Americans don’t like either of the two parties.

So what about third parties? is the question now being asked.  That would be backtracking for me.  I’m a veteran of the failed political process that is third party attempts at wresting control from the two major factions. For more than a decade I worked in the trenches, canvassing, promoting, representing the Libertarian Party in Texas in the best light that I could generate for it. I was never very important to the party (as I’m sure local activists will be quick to point out) but it was important to me, until it wasn’t anymore.

The Libertarian party wasn’t important to me anymore because several points of reality became clear to me over my time in the party. The points of reality?

  •  The majority of the U.S. population was never going to embrace anarchism and/or smaller government than currently exists in the US right now.

…and 

  • Majority of a population is what determines the leadership in a democratic process.

…Finally 

  • I was no longer personally convinced that the U.S. actually suffers from too much government. What the U.S. suffers from is ineffective and inefficient governance. Looking at the circus acts currently playing, one might well wonder if that wasn’t the purpose from the beginning. Harry Browne said government doesn’t work long before Ronald Reagan said it. Both of them are incorrect. They are incorrect because government works just fine in other nations of the world. It is just that the US government seems doomed to drown in a puddle of its own inefficiencies unless something fundamental to the process is changed.

There have always been third parties. There are several third parties right now (parties 4, 5 & 6?) The system is rigged to only allow two parties to have any real power. Has been rigged since the Republicans rose to national prominence with the dissolution of the Whigs in 1854 over the question of slavery. This is the point that seems to be glossed over. It isn’t that I don’t care about third party politics. The system itself isn’t setup to recognize minority parties in any real way.  It has been codified and calcified over the course of 200 years to the point where, in certain states, it is all but illegal to be a member of any party aside from the Democrats and Republicans.  Third parties, minority parties, minority factions cannot alter the system because it is insulated from their efforts by layers of interference.

And still the question appears “how can anyone vote Democratic or Republican?” The answer is demonstrable; we vote for them because one of the two of them will win. One of the two of them will win because in the vast majority of races throughout history the political system in the US has been controlled by one of two dominant parties in the US.

Whoever the Libertarians nominate (or the Greens nominate) will lose again as they have in every previous election. They will lose because they aren’t Republicans or Democrats; which the rules at the national level and at the state level virtually guarantee will win all electoral races especially the president.

Running for President as a third party is a waste of time, worse it is a waste of resources which could be used to fund campaigns to change rules so that candidates who aren’t part of a party structure can compete. What we get from that investment of time and money is the exact same argument over and over again. Why are you voting for Democrats and Republicans?

First admit that there is a problem and that problem is the electoral rules themselves. Then fix that problem before doing anything else.

Go read Ballot Access News, edited by the magnificent Richard Winger. Top of the page today is a notification that a majority of seats in a particular state are unopposed. Tomorrow it will be a different state. Unopposed means the incumbent will be re-elected. It means no change. It means that the system will remain unaltered.  Why are the seats being handed to the incumbent?  Because ballot access is gated by a huge hurdle in nearly every state.  If the hurdle (be it signatures or party requirements) is topped, the next legislature will simply raise the bar for the next election.

The never asked question is why do Americans insist that voting by itself constitutes meaningful involvement in government? Voting is actually the very least we should be doing if we hope to ever live up to the promise of self-government. Why is the least we can possibly do that constitutes doing something considered active involvement in the political system?

If you concede that voting is not enough, and you should, then the question becomes how to make effective change in our government without reinventing it? The answer to that question is to co-opt an existing party and make it do what we want it to do.

This really isn’t news.  The religious right took over the Libertarian Party with Ron Paul as their nominee in 1980, and then shifted their support to Reagan and their membership to the Republican Party when Reagan invited them to move in and take over the GOP.  The religious right have been the motivating force behind party politics ever since, and were effective at getting their way politically until the election of Barak Obama in 2008.

Even President Obama has been forced to cater to the whims of the religious right, the whims of the minority party, modifying many of his programs specifically to accommodate demands made by them.

This lays bare the how of how to change politics for all to see.  Simply have enough agreement among the population who vote to effect change at the city, state, and national level.  But that agreement is the hard part, the part that requires attention long before you go into booth and cast your ballot.

Political veterans will tell you, it takes work. Years of work.  Which is how we got where we are today, people who went into politics with a clear vision of what they wanted to achieve have been co-opted and subverted by the process of hammering out agreement after agreement in decades of struggle with people who think differently.

Eventually you end up voting for a candidate that you really don’t agree with on any specific issue, but remains the best choice given the compromises required, hopefully not loosing sight of your overall goal in the process.  Not being able to see the forest because of all the trees.

Hillary Clinton is probably going to be that candidate for me. If you read back over this blog you’ll discover that I first abandoned the Libertarian Party to support Barak Obama so that he would be President instead of Hillary.  In 2016 I would vote for Hillary Clinton with almost no reservations.

I will be voting for whoever the Democratic party nominates in this election. I will be voting for the Democrat, because the Republican party has apparently gone over to the magical thinkers, and I don’t believe in magic.  The entirety of the Republican Party has been dispatched on a fool’s errand by the Tea Party’s co-option. Until they can figure out who they are and what they stand for, I don’t have the time of day for the party as a whole.  If they were to nominate someone like Governor Kasich I might have to revise my opinion of them, but I don’t see much chance of that, of Republicans being willing to compromise enough to embrace a man who supports the ACA.

I vote down ballot based on candidate qualities alone, discarding anyone who pretends at being the better conservative. These candidates generally win in Texas (because conservative=correct in the mind of the average Texas voter) outside of Austin, but you can’t fix any stupid aside from your own. In Austin the down ballot offices (state senate and legislature) are held by Democratic incumbents, usually running opposed only by independent candidates. The independents almost always get my vote, because I want to see change and you won’t get change from an incumbent.

But I’m still talking about voting, the last thing on the list.

The only way to change the system is to infiltrate the two parties and alter them from the inside, thereby altering the system they control. It has to start with ending gerrymandering and real campaign finance reform.  Opening up ballot access and ending party control of the ballots in every state in the nation. Not doing this will simply kick the can forward again. That is the forest that we must keep in sight, the big picture. Gerrymandering must be ended across the entire nation. Districts must be drawn blindly with no consideration of the political, racial or social strata that the people in the districts represent. Campaign finance must be addressed, or the corruption of our electoral process by the wealthy will continue in spite of any other change we might put in place.

Changing any of these fundamental corruptions of the system will take a long, hard effort. It will require canvassing of your local precincts to get a feel for who supports or doesn’t support these changes. It will take joining the local precinct and becoming involved, and bringing enough people along with you to alter the votes at the precinct level. It will take making sure that county gatherings and state conventions also support these measures.

Faction is why these rules, this corruption, has taken hold.  Madison was correct when he cited faction as one of the biggest threats to the Republic.  The Democrats are a faction. The Republicans are a faction. Third parties are all factions.  Faction leads generally sane people to do insane things like drawing districts to favor your party (gerrymandering. The solution? Redistricting commission) allowing contributions that favor your party over your opponent (campaign finance. The solution? Public funds) never taking into account that the practices you use to force the system to cater to your faction can be used to exclude your faction when power is finally wrested from you.

…and it will be wrested from you, eventually.

Wildly expanded Facebook comment and status post. It hopefully will expand even further.


Another complaint voiced during the 2016 primary season.

Allowing independents to vote in Democratic primaries would be like allowing non-union members to vote on union contracts. They want the benefits without having to bear the cost of joining.

Facebook

I agree in principle. The Democrats and the Republicans (as well as the Greens and Libertarians) should be able to say who is or is not a member of their group, who can most effectively carry their ideas forward.

The problem that independents have, and it is a valid concern, is that good candidates can emerge on the political landscape that don’t toe the line of any particular party. Those candidates should be able to appear on primary ballots in spite of not having a political affiliation. Not just for president and not just for independants. There needs to be an overhaul of the entire election process.

Until such time that the ballot is opened up to multiple views (jungle primaries, where ranked voting becomes a solution to a real problem) the voting public will have to be contented with exerting pressure on the parties to conform to popular views; and the only way that pressure can be applied effectively is from within the party.

Facebook comment and status backdated to the blog.

A political party — like it or not — is a continuing institution, an evolving body that reflects the convictions of its various members, and the organizers who keep the party functioning. For someone who is not a member of the party to demand changes … well, remember the story of the little red hen? “Who will help me plant my corn? Who will help me harvest my corn? Who will help me eat my corn?” If you’re not going to do the work, you don’t get a seat at the table.

David Gerrold

Bringing Down the System

I’ll be voting for Jill Stein in the general election. It’s hopeless, but it’s the right thing to do. If Trump is ultimately elected well I’d say that’s no more than we deserve. We’ve voted for the lesser of two evils over and over again for decades. Trump is the logical conclusion of such a national voting pattern. In the short term, voting for Hillary might seem like the smart thing to do, but in the long term a Hillary presidency will lead to fascists even worse than Trump. My great hope, is that the next President’s mediocrity is enough to convince people to abandon the two parties.

Hillary is directly responsible for the coup in Honduras. That alone is enough reason to not support her, in addition to the fact that she has received millions of dollars from the big banks.

A Facebook friend

These twisted narratives regarding Hillary! (we know where they came from nowed.) All available evidence that I’ve seen indicates that we didn’t orchestrate the coup in Honduras. Instead, that was just a good old fashioned power grab, without our influence behind it. Our complicity in that mess happened after the fact. We continued to give them financial support, and refused to call the coup a coup, because US doctrine states that we are to suspend aid when countries have military coups. So, we’re not “directly responsible for the coup in Honduras.” We just acted unethically after it happened. The same policy is still being implemented with John Kerry as the Secretary of State, so this is not a Hillary problem.

Try to understand how the Secretary of State‘s job works. The Secretary doesn’t get to act unilaterally in any way that they see fit, regardless of what the president wants. In fact, it’s the exact opposite. They get to make suggestion based on what they think is best; and, once the president make a determination regarding what they think needs to be done, the Secretary is allowed a certain degree of discretion with respect to how to accomplish the goals they’re given by the President. Hillary Clinton, as Secretary of State, was not allowed to determine what we were doing in Honduras. That decision came from Barack Obama. Maybe she would have done the same thing in his place, Maybe she wouldn’t have, but giving her all the blame/credit for decisions like that reveals a misunderstanding about the Secretary of State’s role in policy.

The slippery slope argument as it is applied to the subject of voting for Hillary or the Democratic party is fallacious. It simply hasn’t worked out the way that the naysayers who have been naysaying all my life have said it would work out.

We are no-fooling way on the other side of the problem of slippery-slope and reaching the point of collapse for lack of participation in the system; and this is all because the people who live under the system refuse to take any interest in the running of that system.

The parties are the problem. I’ll grant that as a precept. But this means that ALL of the parties are the problem. Even the Greens, the LP and whoever else pops up this year. Only the Democrats and the Republicans can change the system as it stands now. Either we motivate them to change it by participation (participation that is only capped by voting) or we allow the system to collapse entirely and build something fresh from the remains. Personally, I think there is something worth saving in the Republican system the forefathers gifted us with. That is why I will be voting Democratic this fall.

Voting for the Democrat is simply accepting that the only way to reform the system is to engage with it. Voting third party is thinking you’re going to reform the foxes in the henhouse by leaving the foxes alone to their devices while you sit a mile down the road twiddling your thumbs.

The only systemic progress we make in this country is the result of mass movements, not the ballot box. The women’s suffrage movement, the civil rights movement, the labor movement of the early 20th century, the anti-war movement during Vietnam…these are the source of real progress. The idea that the two parties are going to magically decide to reform themselves is ridiculously naive.

It has been a thing in independent circles for awhile now, a desire to see the system fail rather than participate in it. This shouldn’t be the first choice if there are other possibilities out there. Reform is something that can be done if only 10% more of the population took an active role in politics. We know what the solutions are, we simply lack the numbers participating in the major parties to make the changes.

…and if you could get a movement of that size and power then you will make change. But, voting doesn’t stop you from engaging in that movement. The two things aren’t mutually exclusive.

I never said “boycott all voting.” I am voting for Jill Stein after all. I’m saying we should stop voting for the two parties until they give us what we want. There’s no reason to vote against the future of this country,which is the choice we are presented with.

The teabaggers have taken over the GOP and they will see their demagogue nominated. They have done exactly what I am suggesting be done to the Democrats, but in this instance we want to change towards equality, not away from it. This is what the teabaggers want, white supremacy, white nationalism. Christianism. Not equality.

Without pressure exerted from within, the Democrats will never change.

The Democrats don’t want real change and you know it. Look at their record of warmongering, handouts to the big banks, the continued refusal to push for single payer health care, and their refusal to even attempt to reform the system.

I’m saying that you’re boycotting contributing anything productive to the system. Don’t do that. You can do all you can to make change in the fashion you were alluding to above, and then vote for the lesser of two evils (quoting) so the world doesn’t burn around us while you try to make major changes. These things aren’t mutually exclusive.

The Democrats are a collective made up of the people who participate in the process. What I’m suggesting is we alter the makeup of that collective, thereby altering the party and its goals. You can’t just create a viable national party in the United States. First the party has to control a city, then a state, then a region, then become national. That the two we have are encoded into the system is one of the many corrupting factors we have to change.

I left the Libertarian Party because they are wasting their time. They try for national status without first controlling a region. This same observation also applies to the Green party. They can’t be national without first controlling a region. It takes regional support to make a national party viable.

Look at the success of the pro-legalization movement. They have very nearly gained control of a region. That is effective use of the process for good. How many decades must third parties bash their heads against the notion of running national candidates and failing before they realize their approach won’t work? The Democrats or the Republicans will win nationally. That is how the system is set up. Pick a party and change that party.

If the system is rigged, why would I want to participate in it? Progress isn’t made that way, historically. When it comes to cosmetic issues like legalization of marijuana, the system is responsive. But when it comes to structural issues, like campaign finance reform, the system is utterly incapable of reforming itself.

That is special pleading. Fallacious thinking. Either the system will reform under pressure, or it will fail under pressure. There are no other choices available. Voting for the lesser of two evils (quoting again) doesn’t stop you from being able to make progress in the fashion you’re indicating. It just puts someone in power who will be slightly better for the environment, for the country, etcetera. Can you deny that Obama was leaps and bounds better for the than W?

As an atheist I deny the existence of evil. It is a religious concept with no bearing on the real world. Bad exists, as in bad outcomes exist. A bad outcome in this election would be for the Republicans to do anything other than to lose badly. If they don’t lose badly they will be emboldened to continue the course that are on. That cannot be allowed to happen.

Obama is more conservative than Clinton, and Clinton was more conservative than his democratic predecessor before him. Obama represents a step backwards, and those who voted for him are complicit in that step backwards. The two parties shift further to the right every year, because we keep encouraging them to do so.

That is demonstrably false. President Obama repealed conservative orders, signed repeals of conservative legislation executed/passed by Bill Clinton, W., W. dad, etcetera, making Obama demonstrably more liberal than all of them. I voted for Barack Obama with pride in 2012. I would do it again this year (2016) if he could run again.

…Even if that were true (hypothetical) the only question is what is better for the country. You can engage in the kind of progressive movements for change that you like, and then vote for one of the two main parties candidates that most align with your principles, just so that things are less shitty while you get out and create a movement (as Bernie Sanders has done –ed.) this is not complicated. There’s no reason not to vote for the more liberal party, even if that party is corrupt.

The “liberal” party is just another mechanism in the Capitalist system of control. It provides us with the illusion of choice,and the ability to feel like we’re “doing something” when we vote. It also lends a veneer of legitimacy to an illegitimate power system. The “liberal” party is one of the primary reasons we’re in this mess today.

Obama was better than W., the way hemlock is better than arsenic. Either way, you’re still left with poison. In fact, another dose of “arsenic” may have been exactly what this country needed. Without Obama’s presidency, OWS might have amounted to something.

You are aware of the Snowden revelations, right? You are aware of our global drone campaign (a terrorist campaign, by the way)? You are aware of the National Defense Authorization Act? It’s all poison, and it all stems from Obama, who actually built upon the programs Bush left behind.

I swear, if the choice were between Hitler and Stalin, you’d be trying to explain to me why I should vote for Stalin because he’s the “lesser of two evils.” The point being, there is a limit, a point beyond which you have to draw a moral and ethical line. I guess we’ll never agree, because my “line” is far closer than yours.

I recognize where that viewpoint comes from, it is the same glamour that Dan Carlin is under. It comes from Glenn Greenwald and the rest of the fourth amendment is under attack contingent. The problem for them is that the most pressing problems in the world have little or nothing to do with that subject; consequently, peering at the problem through that lens produces no useful information but leads to a myopic belief that the problem you are focused on is the only one that counts.

Obama may be to W as eating McDonald’s every day is juxtaposed to Arsenic, but to call them both poisons of the same kind is crazy. It sounds like conspiracy fantasy and the belief that there is some they out there somewhere that controls the levers of the machinery of government with fine-grained control. I don’t see that happening at all at this point. (I would love for some of those people to explain the Orange Hate-Monkey from the perspective of 2020, though. –ed.)

I know about the drone campaign (W started that. Can someone defend the 2019 NDAA? Good luck with that.-ed.) and many other reasons why Obama isn’t an ideal president. I also know that

  • the ACA got 90% of the country covered with healthcare,
  • he had the foresight to bailout the auto industry,
  • the Iran nuclear deal,
  • his stance on gay marriage,
  • he repealed don’t ask don’t tell,
  • he increased fuel efficiency standards,
  • he created new EPA restrictions on mercury and toxic pollution,
  • he picked the third and fourth women to ever sit on the Supreme Court including
    • the first hispanic person of either gender,
  • he got Russia to agree to further nuclear disarmament,
  • he gave the FDA the power to regulate tobacco,
  • he issued an executive order requiring all federal agencies to limit their carbon footprints,
  • he expanded stem cell research,
  • he helped Sudan declare independence,
  • he cut the Global Gag Rule,
  • he strengthened the Endangered Species Act,
  • he didn’t interfere with states legalizing recreational and medical marijuana,
  • he started a program training veterans in green collar jobs,
  • he donated his $1.4 million Nobel Prize to nonprofits,
  • he invested $90 bil in smart grids,
    • energy efficiency,
    • electric cars,
    • renewable electricity generation,
    • cleaner coal,
    • and biofuels.
  • Then there’s Dodd Frank,
  • the Credit Card Accountability,
  • Responsibility and Disclosure Act,
  • the Omnibus Public Lands Management Act,
  • the Fair Sentencing Act,
  • the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act,
  • the Children’s Health Insurance Reauthorization Act,
  • the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act,
  • the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act.

…Oh, and there’s the little thing he helped Bush II do (W. wasn’t all bad. -ed.) saving this country from a massive depression by continuing the bailouts needed to keep the financial system afloat, and offering stimulus that the Republicans never forgave him for.

Obama/Bush II Stalin/Hitler, or Arsenic/Hemlock. Barack Obama is much better than Bush II in many ways (something that I go into in Obama Best President Since Eisenhower -ed.) and if you truly believe that nonsense then I feel sorry for you. That is the view that produces a downward spiral that there is no recovery from. I’m glad to be rid of that focus. When looked at through a different lens you get a more realistic picture, a more complete understanding.

…which is why I’m going to continue working to salvage the system rather than bet on scuttling it in favor of smaller, more agreeable vessel.


Editor’s note. The Facebook friend and I are old friends from way, way back. Back in the pre-Facebook bad old BBS days on Dan Carlin’s website. I linked him to a thread on Dan Carlin’s Facebook group (now deleted or made private) because I hadn’t seen him on the Dan Carlin group contributing, and because he was illustrating delusion in relation to the Democrats in general and to Hillary Clinton in particular. It was a friendly disagreement that I found productive in a thought-provoking way. I appreciate a good counter-argument when I can find one. I borrowed liberally from his and another friend’s words to make this article for the blog. I hope they appreciate the work.

This was an article that my friend from the DCBBS should remember.

RAnt(hony)-ings

I have to wonder, now that we’ve met his Ochre Highness, the Orange Hate-Monkey. Does he still think Hillary would have been that bad?

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