Category Archives: Faction

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 Donald J. Trump. They can’t stop talking about him. They can’t be kept from giving him airtime to talk about himself. Aside from Trump 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 Donald Trump says 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 Donald Trump’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,

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, Trump 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 Trump 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. 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 Donald Trump’s biggest fans? Perhaps they can’t see it because they too are caught in a previous age. The age of the gate keeper and the top-down adminstrator. 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 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.

The GOP Cuddles Up To the NSDAP

I’ve arrived at that certain point in time; November 8th, 2016. I’ve been stalling the inevitable. I have now listened to all the podcasts that were queued up from prior to that date. I even went back through the archives of Hidden Brain in hopes of delaying this confrontation with reality, and I say even because I’ve heard most of them as part of the science queue from the NPR feeds. I listened to them again even though I really didn’t need to.

Call it denial, call it whatever you like, I haven’t been able to listen to a newscast for the last two weeks. I still can’t listen, watch or read while pundits attempt to normalize what has just happened. Every podcast for the last year and an half that has included any attempt to break down the Orange Hate-Monkey‘s (OHM) flung shit, the sounds that normal people consider words with meanings, have been and will continue to be culled from my news stream. I have no time to waste on attempts to rationalize what is 80% bullshit, scientifically determined.

Now that the OHM looks to be destined for the White House, these sickeningly obsequious pundits are still trying to make sense of the patterns that emerge from words that he has said, blithely ignoring the adage that covers this particular waste of time.

That adage would be GIGO or Garbage In, Garbage Out.

The electoral college still hasn’t spoken, won’t speak until after December 19th. If they elect him he then becomes President-Elect. He won’t be President until January 20th of 2017. Until then everything that a pundit might think about what will happen is just another attempt at creating a fantasy narrative, much like your average fantasy football player talking about their team as if it existed anywhere outside of their own heads.

Life must go on, but the way forward may not include much in the way of news content for me. I will not be wasting my time normalizing the behaviors of proto-fascists. Any article which includes phrases like Trump says will be beneath notice from the perspective of actual value for time spent, simply adding to the amount of garbage in that has to be sorted for relevant life-sustaining facts coming out. Arguments to the contrary directed at me will simply be met with OHM quotations which might or might not be relevant to the argument presented.

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”Donald Trump 

“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?” – Donald Trump

“they’re allowed to cut off heads and they’re allowed to chop off heads, and we can’t waterboard.” – Donald Trump  

Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on”

“I love the poorly educated” – Donald Trump 

Who knows if they will be relevant? I certainly don’t; and no one can know, not even the OHM himself. He lost sight of what the truth was long, long ago, back in the days before his dad gave him the stake to start his business with.

Groopspeak on Facebook

The old anonymous quote (which I’ve used more than once recently) on the current problems with our country goes like this; “American fascism will arrive carrying a cross and wrapped in a flag” and it has. They aren’t fascists yet. Not yet. Speech is free, after all. You can say the things fascists say and still not be one. Talk is cheap. If they follow through on the OHM’s promises; when they seat their dictator with the express purpose of allowing him to do what he promised, they will no longer be proto-fascists but fascists in fact.

The one thing that can be said about the structure of a Trump administration is that we have a good idea of who the people that will ultimately be named as co-defendants at the war crimes trials will be. These are still the same paltry few facts that we knew two weeks ago when I wrote this piece.

The OHM announced this week that he has selected Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education, which means that gutting public schools nationally to line corporate schooling pockets will also occur along with misbegotten attempts to stimulate 18th century power production in the form of coal, denial of climate change and its effects, etc. It is worth noting that Devos’ husband Dick DeVos is the son of the Amway founder; consequently she and he are well versed in the nature of what has come to be known as the prosperity gospel, favored among pyramid scheme operators, conmen and hucksters across America. Favored by them because it clothes them in the robes of religiosity every time they cheat someone else out of a buck. God willed it to be that way.

There has been almost nothing that qualifies as news on the subject of the outcome of the election that is worth reporting beyond those few facts and the fact that Hillary Clinton has now racked up a whopping 2 million vote lead in the election held on November 8th (Electoral College Explained. Again.) Every other word out of the news organizations mouths on this subject for the last two weeks has been nothing but meaningless hot air.

The Republican Party itself though has come closer and closer to embracing its historical predecessor the NSDAP. Even long-time holdout Mitt Romney has decided he likes the idea of representing the United States under a President Trump. Never Trump? Apparently Mitt Romney misspoke as well. Another example of just how much corrupting influence there is in governmental authority. As if we needed a refresher on that truism.

These politicians aligning themselves with Trump, expressing willingness to work with Trump cannot understand some very basic facts relating to the OHM’s bid for the presidency, and those facts will come back to bite them in the end.

The beast that Trump has shackled himself to requires human sacrifice to be satiated. There are no two ways about this.

The notion that eleven million people can be deported from the United States, as the Orange Hate-Monkey stated when he launched his campaign, is pure delusion. No matter how many racists and sociopaths work the numbers in pretense that this is an exercise divorced of prejudice or bias, the fact is that Hitler wanted to deport the Jews prior to having to institute the final solution, and he only had to get rid of six million people. All the hand-waving in the world will not change what it is they want to do when they actually embark on the road to doing it. He and they are the American fascists we have been warned about, and that isn’t even touching on the promise to exclude Muslims from the country.  The corollary with the holocaust is even firmer there, and so is pointless to belabor.

If his supporters intend to force the OHM to comply with the sales pitch he made to gain office, to rid the US of the immigrant menace, the Muslim menace, then there will be concentration camps full of brown people all across the US. That is how you isolate and dispose of 11 million people. It is a herculean task and requires harsh measures and steadfast resolve to carry out. What is never mentioned in any of these discussions is what the rest of the world will do while we publicly dispose of 11 million people. War with the rest of the world? It is what we deserve for allowing the OHM to take office. He is quite literally an American Hitler.

You don’t see it? Let me spell it out.

The NSDAP embraced the grassroots distrust of the other in their German midst as the way to victory. It was/is common for Jews to be viewed as other in Germany and across Europe and into parts of the US. This same language, this same course, is being used by the OHM, his appointees, his supporters, etc.  They don’t even pretend that Jews aren’t on the hit list with the Hispanics and Muslims. Fear of the other in our midst is what drives most of the OHM’s supporters, and they aren’t going to be satisfied with half-measures. There will be round-ups. There will be mass incarceration. There will be blood.  If the OHM allows any of these things to occur, he will be remembered as the president that brought fascism to America.

In other words, Trump and Putin are two of a kind: xenophobic, bigoted demagogues with dual histories of corruption, aggression, and celebration of white supremacy repackaged as patriotic nationalism. Their radical American and Russian followers, now linked by the internet, share similar goals and are part of a larger revival of white-supremacist movements happening across the West.

Quartz; Donald Trump’s bromance with Vladimir Putin

More troublingly, he has harnessed the power of the evangelical christian right.  DeVos was just his latest pick to illustrate this.  Before that it was Governor Pence, one of the most militant enforcers of christian dogma to come along in quite some time. This was also the way to power for the NSDAP and their leader. Famously, the belt buckles of German soldiers bore the slogan Gott Mit Uns (God With Us) just one of the more outward signs of the use that religion was put to in support of Nazi designs on power. Also like Hitler, the OHM has little use for religion himself. It is a means to an end and nothing more.

There are some serious shadings of The Handmaid’s Tale in the OHM’s rhetoric, but that really isn’t anything new in conservative circles. If misogynists and their ilk, the dedicated anti-abortion lobby, were vulnerable to comparisons to Nazism they would have modified their talking points ages ago. Fascists and authoritarians throughout history have taken an unhealthy interest in securing increased reproduction for the right kind of people. This is hardly a feature of Nazism alone, but it is worth mentioning that banning abortion was just another thing that the GOP and the NSDAP have in common.

These are just the most visible parts of the equation. 

Looking more deeply into the plans of the OHM, I would have you note that he refused to divulge his taxes or any of his financials. He refuses to divest himself of his businesses. We have no way of knowing who and what he owes to whom, or where his personal interests lie. What will make him a buck.  What will keep him in the good graces of the criminals who counted on him to launder money for them (the real purpose of most real estate development) he has steadfastly refused to budge on this issue even though it will put him in violation of the constitution,

During a discussion on CNN this morning, former White House lawyer Richard Painter made the case that if it appears that Trump will be in violation of the emolument clause of the Constitution, then the Electoral College must decide to not vote for him next month.

After he and fellow guest Jan Baran agreed that there isn’t an actual law that prevents Trump from being involved in his businesses while in the White House but that it does present numerous ethical issues, Painter said that he informed Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway of concerns around the emolument clause.

This is most likely what Trump had in mind if he were so unlikely as to be successful in his bid for the White House. A real estate developer is only interested in how much money he can make in a particular deal, and let’s be clear about this point. Him making money has absolutely nothing to do with protecting America, or making it great again. His personal aggrandizement has netted him a lot of gold-plated furnishings in his long business life; but it has served to destroy many other businesses and many other people along the way. His standard of practice is theft of service. He doesn’t know how to pay for any of the things he takes. There is where the problem lies.

He will lie, cheat and steal from the American people on a level that we haven’t seen since the days of Boss Tweed. This is the kind of business he has always conducted and I have seen no inclination on his part (much less ability) to change his patterns. He will break the tie between Warren G. Harding and George W. Bush for worst president in the history of the US, easily being the most hated President in the history of the US even before taking office. In my estimation he stands an equal chance of also being the last president of the United States, if we allow him to take office.

“The President of the United States has the power to affect how our tax dollars are spent, who the federal government does business with, and the integrity of America’s standing in a global economy,” said Clark. “Every recent president in modern history has taken steps to ensure his financial interests do not conflict with the needs of the American people. The American people need to be able to trust that the President’s decisions are based on the best interests of families at home, and not the President’s financial interests.”

Previous American presidents including Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have all used some form of blind trust or placed their assets in an investment vehicle over which they had no control. 

Press Release for H.R. 6340

I have faint hope, still, that the Electoral College will refuse to elect Donald J. Trump to the Presidency.  That they will refuse to endorse the OHM and at least kick the can to the House of Representatives, make them embrace their own destruction directly.

conservativelogic101

If the Republicans had any credibility left last summer they would have refused to nominate Trump. They didn’t, they embraced him. They claimed he did not represent the party, then embraced him anyway. They had their lackey in the FBI interfere in the election by submitting a false letter to congress less than a week before the election, which the OHM then paraded about with pretending that the GOP was finally going to get the butcher of #Benghazi. Lock her up! his mindless supporters chanted. Too late we learned that it was just another fake story, one among hundreds that the Republicans and their nominee’s Russian friends had flooded the internet with.

The Republicans appear to think “any way to power is acceptable” making them well and truly the inheritors of the NSDAP. They will most likely be remembered that way, if there is anyone left to remember after the dust settles.



October 26, 2017 addendum. Obviously Trump holds the office of president. Wishful thinking about alternatives has long gone out the window. Today I got a few notifications in the inbox that brought this article back to mind. One of them was this article headline Who Knew Trump Would Be a Weak President? from an article over at the New Republic. While I didn’t know he’d be weak, the moment he didn’t orchestrate the creation of Mexican concentration camps for the disposal of his purported eleven million illegal people, I was happy to discover he was a weak president. Being deemed and proven weak beats that alternative by several miles.

The OHM wants so badly for us to let him be Hitler. He begs for that kind of power constantly. Daily if not hourly. He derides the free press, excoriates people who protest against him, etcetera, as I’ve mentioned in more recent articles. But this article isn’t about the OHM. This is about the enabler in this codependency tragedy. This article was and is about the party of Lincoln, the party of Eisenhower, and now the party of Trump. The Republican party.

Today I also get a notification that Steve Bannon is hell-bent to turn the GOP, the Republican party, into the de facto party of Trump, an organ that will rubberstamp anything that the OHM whimsically decides to do next. Javier Zarracina over at VOX penned an article titled The Republican purge has only just begun. Robert Reich poses his usual question at the end of the status he linked the article to. For those who haven’t been paying attention, Steve Bannon is the leader of the White Nationalist movement that backed Trump, and was recently ejected from the White House by more sensible members of the Trump administration for his openly racist and xenophobic proposals. That guy, the guy who was too crazy to be kept near the easily confused President Trump, now wants to turn the GOP into the German NSDAP in principle if not in fact.

…conversations with conservative activists, GOP operatives, and people close to Bannon and the White House suggest that the Breitbart executive chair is engaged in a bold, ambitious project that has a relatively clear vision. He doesn’t just want to destroy the old Republican establishment — he wants to build a new one.

To do that, he hopes to unite many factions of the right who have gripes against GOP leadership into a broad coalition. That would include immigration hardliners who fear “amnesty” deals. But it would also include social conservatives and anti-spending activists who feel their priorities are too often ignored or compromised away.

Overall, he wants Republican senators to care far less about what the Chamber of Commerce thinks, and far more about what Breitbart readers think.

There are a lot of people who read Breitbart. A lot. A scary amount of Americans believe the bullshit shoveled there and at FOX news without question. But is that a group large enough to win general elections? That really is the question here, not whether I like what Steve Bannon does to a party that I’ve never had any use for in the first place.

I think that if he wants to turn the GOP into an even less likeable version of the Libertarian inspired Tea Party (Now with More White Nationalism!™) so that the GOP loses seats in districts they gerrymandered to be unwinnable by any other group aside from mainstream GOP representatives, I’m cool with that. He can have the soiled corpse of the GOP to enact whatever disgusting acts he wants on it. Let the fate of the GOP be a lesson to any other group that thinks that power for its own sake is something you can pursue without risking your very soul. From Lincoln to the OHM in 150 years. That’s how fast a party founded on ending an injustice can turn into a party that promotes injustice. A cautionary tale for anyone who cares to tell it or read it.

It now falls to the Democrats to craft a message that will win hearts and minds and deliver the United States from the evil that would be American Fascism under a Trump government designed from the beginning to destroy everything that has been constructed in this country over the last two hundred years. Yes, the future really is that grim. 

The Electoral College Explained

If I never read one more report of there being a President-elect Trump, it will be too soon. I’m begging here, please. Please. This is fair warning. I will not be held responsible for blaming the messenger for the message when taking out my frustration on the next person who tells me this is a fact. Even the sitting President of the United States has referred to him as the President-elect, so it is somewhat understandable that reporting outlets and other even less well-informed sources would think that perhaps this is true.

It isn’t true. Yet.

Hand-in-hand with my frustration on that score, the media is full of stories of how the electoral college is not designed to reflect the will of the people perfectly; that the majority of the population should be expected to understand that their candidate lost an election even though they won it. That their candidate would not be the person who wins the votes of the electoral college, the body which selects the President-elect.

These observations are also untrue, and I will explain why both of these are facts, contrary to the numerous sources that report otherwise.

The electoral college has a long and troubled history; in fact, it wasn’t even in the first draft of the Constitution. Originally, congress was to select the president, but this was deemed too prone to intrigue and was seen as crippling the independence of the executive branch, making it reliant on congress. At least two of the original attendees of the convention favored direct popular election of the executive, including the author of the constitution, James Madison. This idea was sacrificed in order to make inclusion of the slave states palatable,

There was one difficulty however of a serious nature attending an immediate choice by the people. The right of suffrage was much more diffusive in the Northern than the Southern States; and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of Negroes. The substitution of electors obviated this difficulty and seemed on the whole to be liable to the fewest objections.

Something the defenders of the current electoral college should take better heed of. The numerous slaves in the Southern states, whom the slave holders and state representatives wanted counted as people for the purpose of apportioning representation, would have skewed the college and congress towards the South, which the North objected to.

After the three-fifths compromise, the electoral college was approved as the method of selecting the leader of the executive branch of the federal government. Changes have been made along the way to the electoral college but the essence of the college itself remains the same; that essence being a safeguard against factions having undue sway over the selection of the executive for the government.

Not the people but the factions, the parties, were to be guarded against.

The electoral college is inherently set up to reflect the population of the United States as a whole, providing one elector for every seat in the House of Representatives plus one for every Senator. Add in the three electors for D.C. and you have the number of electors in the current electoral college.

However, there is a fly in this ointment.

Public Domain image

The representation of the House has been kept artificially low for most of the modern age, fixed at 435 in 1911. This has lead to an ever-increasing number of people represented by a single seat in congress, a ridiculous number of people that the framers would never have envisioned as acceptable. The original minimum population per house seat was 30,000; but the current representatives for the House each represent about half a million people, at least, with the higher population districts containing about three-quarters of a million people.

This is important, because this is how you get to the point where a candidate can win by well over a million votes in the popular election, and yet lose the election by electoral count. The electoral college is rigged against the popular vote being reflected in the makeup of the college, because the electors are not properly apportioned to the populations of the various states. For that matter, the House of Representatives no longer serves its function as a representation of the people, because it too is not apportioned correctly even though it was set up specifically to serve this purpose.

This means that there will be a House of Representatives of several thousand people if we change the rules back to what they should be. I do understand the suggestion I’m making, and I think it is a good idea. I’m betting we’ll get a better representation of the cross-section of America if we do this, ending a lot of the talk about disconnected Washington politics in the process. Will it be more difficult to get important work done? I doubt that it can get more difficult than it is already.

This latest travesty of an election is not even the first time this century that a candidate for President received more popular votes and yet lost the election as it is calculated in the college, and still I run across statements from apparently well educated people who insist that these kinds of outcomes are to be expected.

I beg to differ. If the system worked as it was intended, then as a general rule the electors would reflect almost perfectly the will of the people, provided that the will of the people is not being swayed by factions with too great a control over the system.

Factions with too great a control over the system.

It is patently obvious to anyone looking at the election results for 2016 that this election was horribly flawed on many levels. However, the presumptive winner is unquestionably the least fit person ever to be put forward as the next president, erroneously called the president-elect before the electors have even cast their votes (slated to occur December 19th) if ever there was an election where cooler heads should be allowed to prevail, this is it. Thoughtful deliberation might actually be the only thing that can save this country now.

The hope that the electoral college represents something real may seem pretty frail, but I’ll take it. I sincerely hope that it is not the formality that so many stormtrumpers insist that it is.

In any case, anyone who says the electoral college is not intended to reflect the will of the people is lying, because it was the intent of the framers to do just that. It falls to us now to insist that our will be respected, and not the manipulations of the various states and factions who wish to control this country through the selection of our next president.

http://december19.us/


Well, the votes are in and they say the Birther-in-Chief has earned the title. We won’t know for sure until the ballots are certified on Jan. 6th, but really there is little doubt that the electoral college failed to do its job on the one occasion that its job was crystal clear.

Just read back over the posts on this blog. Authoritarianism vs. Humanism. The Orange Hate-Monkey. The various MAGA posts (more of those to come) including On Presidential Tax Returns. When I penned Hillary for President?  I made the observation,

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 who accepted science, wasn’t knee-jerk opposed to immigration, accepted that women have a right to medical care including abortion services, if they nominated someone who didn’t espouse belief in Reaganomics, I might have to revise my opinion of them.  I don’t see much chance of that since none of the more than 10 potentials vying for the nomination meet this criteria.

Not even in my wildest dreams did I think they would be so stupid as to nominate a lunatic as their candidate. One that pretended to a lunatic, sure, not an actual lunatic. But the OHM, he’s a true believer, a nutcase. If he isn’t, he’s convinced his followers that he is, and they’ll back him even if he does shoot people in the street himself. Which makes him the equal of every tin-pot dictator that ever strutted his hour upon the stage…

But it doesn’t make him eligible to be president.  He isn’t eligible to be president. 

Undiagnosed mental instability aside, he refuses to comply with the constitution’s emoluments clause. Isn’t going to divest himself of his businesses. He has named appointees who will clearly gut every department of the federal government just based on their stated previous desires. Only the military will be preserved; and that will, of course, be enlarged. He’s planning to profit form being president, this swindler of a man, and he isn’t even being coy about it. We cannot allow him to take office. If he takes office, we cannot allow him to do anything unchallenged. The racist gauntlet that the GOP forced Obama to go through for six out of his 8 years has got to pale by comparison, or we will all be branded as racists along with these white supremacists who are riding into power along with the OHM.

This cannot be allowed to stand, but more on that after the holidays.

This addendum is here for one purpose and one purpose only. That purpose is to point out that the Electoral College has failed to do its only job in the one election in history that it could possibly have proved its worth. With this travesty of an election in the rear-view mirror it now becomes painfully obvious that we must amend the constitution to remove the Electoral College, or we have to legislatively render it toothless in every state legislature in the US. Since it won’t do the job intended, can’t serve the purpose intended, it needs to be replaced with a simple majority of the popular vote, or legislation that compels them to vote for the winner of the popular vote. That is the only reasonable answer left to us.

Video from National Popular Vote! National Popular Vote! What It Is – Why It’s Needed


A study released this week demonstrates that the best way to influence your representative is to hire a representative to visit him, or go yourself.

It is worth noting that the findings that paid representatives visiting your congressional representative for you has positive results is based in part on the reports of those same paid representatives. No conflict of interest there, I’m sure.

But what this report does show is exactly what I said in the body of this article about the imposed limitation of 435 members placed on congress by congress itself. This is one of the easiest things that we could fix, and it would fix the electoral college at the same time.  Increase the size of congress, make the representatives more focused on communicating with their much smaller groups of constituents, much more replaceable by those same groups.

A constituent base of 30,000 people means that my specific region of Austin would have their own representative in congress. A larger congress would be impossible to control externally by factional politics. It would lead to the formation of regional parties and a dilution of power in Washington D.C. We’d need to build facilities to house the additional several thousand representatives, which will be a windfall for the states and Washington itself. I don’t see how this works out as bad in any real way.

So rather than paying more money to influence my congressman I propose we pay the congressmen less money and multiply their number by about a magnitude. Require them to listen to us if they want to keep their jobs. As a bonus, the electoral college will increase in size and we won’t see a repeat of this last election again. 

US Politics Fix; Starting the Process

From Robert Reich’s Facebook Feed

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.

It wasn’t anymore because it became clear to me that;

  1.  The majority of the U.S. population was never going to embrace anarchism and/or smaller government than currently exists and 
  2. Majority is what determines the leaders in a democratic process.  Finally 
  3. 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, because government works in other nations. 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. 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 the current President has been forced to cater to the whims of the religious right, 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 canvasing 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.

The harm of Gerrymandering Austin

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) allowing contributions that favor your party over your opponent (campaign finance) 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.

The Corrupting Influence of Faction

Another observation and question from Robert Reich,

I was speaking yesterday with a group of European politicians, who expressed surprise at how “undemocratic” our presidential nominating process is. They pointed to:

1. The large percentage of “superdelegates” (political insiders) that will decide on the Democratic Party’s nominee. 

2. The large number of primaries (such as the critical New York primary on April 19) that are closed to independents – even though there are more independents than registered Democrats or Republicans.

3. The increasing likelihood that the Republican convention will be “brokered” and that neither of the leading Republican candidates will emerge as the Republican nominee. 

I explained that before the early 1970s, it was even worse; each party came up with its nominee in party conventions, without relying on the outcomes of primaries or caucuses. 

“And we thought you were a democracy!” said one of my visitors.

What do you think?

The parties organized themselves outside of government as a way to control government to profit themselves. We were never a Democracy, and to the extent the parties have subverted the election process, we are that much less a Republic.

I have never been interested in living in a “dictatorship of the proletariat” no more fond of one dictator a thousand miles away than I am of a thousand dictators a mile a way. Democracy is and should be limited to the vote, the selection process of our representatives.

The parties should only endorse candidates that embody what the parties sees as their core principles. Should only embrace candidates that further the cause of the party. That is their purpose. The problem arises when the only candidates which can appear on the ballot are the candidates from the two parties. When the only candidate which can win belongs to one of the two parties.

The situation we find ourselves in now.

I don’t think the GOP should nominate Trump. The fact that he has won primaries has no bearing on his benefit to the party itself. His status as an outsider is detrimental to the party if they embrace him as a nominee, giving him power to set the course of the party for several years to come.

So too the Democrats should not embrace Bernie Sanders if they are not convinced that he would improve the prospects of the party. That doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t be on the ballot. That Trump shouldn’t be on the ballot. It means that the system as it currently exists is broken in ways that most people are only now beginning to understand. What is needed is to break loose from the calcium deposits that have formed around the structures of our government, and shake up the ways that our representatives are selected.

If you are dissatisfied that your candidate will not appear on the ballot, I say “it’s about time. Now roll up your sleeves and get to work” because it’s going to take a lot more than one election to fix this mess

The Cost of War vs. The Cost of Peace

I listened to Waking Up #26 – The Logic of Violence today. I was left troubled by the way that Sam Harris seemed to be drawn down the garden path by his guest.



This is another episode of a podcast that I’m listening to and wondering “What Would Jim Wright say about this?” I mean, he wouldn’t be critical of the man’s service, that much is sure. He has a rule about that which I agree with. There are a few other points that can be made without going there. The Iraqis asked us to leave, so insisting that we stay just invalidates the premise that we went there on, to free the people. So too the majority faction voted for the government they have, which created the fertile ground that Daesh spread into.

Syria and Russia contributed to the current mess Daesh mess, and too few voices point this out. Shall we go to war with Russia over Syria? Daesh is a world problem, it should not fall to the US to fix it, or should it? Are we the world’s policeman now, is that our job?

Allusions to the paving stones in the road to hell, or to what ‘big brother is watching’ means in a twenty-first century war aside, I have to really wonder at intelligent people who claim that war ended the ideas of fascism while the Republican front-runner openly voices fascist proposals and is applauded for it. Fascism is clearly alive and well here in the US.

We having an identity crisis right now. Perhaps we should figure out who we are before we try to tell others who they should be.

Facebook musings duplicated on the blog at the time. Linking for reasons of personal sanity. 

The State of the Union Requires No Response

As I have confessed previously, I watch the State of the Union address pretty much every year as a matter of course. Some years I grit my teeth and bear it, some years I have to watch it with an accompanying joke track (the only thing I tolerate an MST3K treatment for is politics) since Barack Obama has been President, I’ve pretty much sat down to watch with something akin to interest if not utter fascination.

The State of the Union address is provided for in the Constitution, Article 2, Section 3;

“He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient”

George Washington and John Adams delivered the address in person. Jefferson, who hated the pomp that surrounded much of the Presidency, declined to give the address in person and had it sent to Congress to be read by the clerk. Every President followed Jefferson’s example until the time of Woodrow Wilson. Carter was the most recent President to decline to address congress in person.

I’m not sure which is more disdainful of the legislature, to have the President speak to them directly or to have his message read to Congress by the clerk. But I can say with pretty firm conviction that the worst and most presumptuous idea ever hatched in American politics is the response to the State of the Union crafted by the opposition party and read by some sacrificial lamb that they’ve convinced to stand up and embarrass themselves before the nation.

The President speaks for the people when he delivers his message; that is the point of it. Here is this year’s State of the Union address;

It has been patently obvious to this concerned voter, pretty much since I started viewing and reading these speeches, that the majority of the content was pretty uncontroversial. At least, uncontroversial at the time. What history teaches is another thing entirely. And yet, every single time that a speech is delivered these days, someone is tapped from the opposition party to make pretense that the content of the President’s address is incorrect in some real fashion.

In the years since 2008, this tendency to pose in mock outrage before the camera has fractured, though.  Not content to offer just one critique, for the last few years the various factions of the opposition have felt that they needed to voice their particular flavor of outrage lest their self-importance be forgotten.

This year was no different. In fact, the clamor for attention after the SOTU was delivered has been comic in proportion. From what I can gather, virtually every Republican member of the House of Representatives felt they had to personally put the President in his place.  Here is the video posted by the bloviating windbag that pretends to represent my section of Austin;

I say bloviating because, like all of the statements in opposition, this one is made up largely of nothing but air. They could have showed up and simply yelled fear! fear! fear! repeatedly for all the facts contained in the (mercifully) short responses.

I am regularly spammed by this… person (and both the Senators for my state) Having unwittingly corresponded with his office, I am now permanently on his spam list, as if I have any interest in anything these Republicans might say.

Which leads me back to the adjective, pretends. Pretends to Represent. This is demonstrable. Austin is overwhelmingly liberal. Not going to change at any point that is discernible to residents within Austin.  They were dope smoking, nude sunbathing hippies long before I got here, and the weed has not gotten less potent with time.  Willie makes sure of that.

The leadership of this state is elected by the rest of Texas which is angry and conservative. (medical marijuana should help with that. Talk to your doctor!) They have taken it upon themselves to attempt to remove the only liberal Representative from Texas by breaking the only liberal areas IN Texas into as many districts as they can reasonably separate them into.  So Austin doesn’t have one or two districts, which would be liberal.  No, Austin is split into no less than 5 different districts, with my district being a narrow strip through the center of Austin that then spreads out to cover 9 additional COUNTIES in Texas so as to dilute the Democratic vote in central Austin and place it in the hands of this… person.

It is also worth noting that the Republicans who have controlled this state since the dear departed Ann Richards was unseated by the then owner of the Texas Rangers, George W. Bush (you’ve probably heard of him) have failed at their dream of removing all traces of the stain of liberalism from their great state because they not only have one liberal member to caucus with, they now have two.

Back to the subject at hand.  This pretender who poses as my Representative (not that I liked the Democrat he replaced. That is another story) helpfully emailed me the text of his response, a further mercy that saves me from having to endure the sound of his voice.  Here is a snippet;

It’s been seven years since President Barack Obama took office. In that time, the United States has accumulated the largest national debt in its history, the fewest number of adults are working since Jimmy Carter’s presidency and the executive branch has expanded its power immensely – the president has chosen which laws to enforce and created new ones without Congress’ approval.  

Just the first paragraph. I can’t stomach the rest of the twisted realities presented. The first paragraph is enough anyway, because it shows the agenda of the response, of all the responses. It is the same theme I pointed out last year, the Republicans are in it for the power alone. The welfare of the general populace be damned, we have a budget to manage! Never mind that the sitting President has presided over the least spending of any President since Eisenhower, or that he has been the deportation President and the anti-drug President and the terrorist-fighting President to a tune that dwarfs the last two holders of that office, that is not good enough. Truthfully nothing would be good enough.

Democrats Organizing for America

Obama came into office with an olive branch, and the Republicans batted it away.  He adopted their policies and positions, and they abandoned them for even more radical conservative positions, taking stances on subjects like healthcare that are frankly hard to fathom. So the poor should be left to die without care? Am I understanding you correctly? We should send the children who surrendered to our border guards voluntarily, back to the gang-run South American states they fled from, so that they can be forced to join gangs or become their sex slaves?  Seriously, what is it conservatives expect to be done about these very real problems that they simply try to wish away?

Last night, Obama once again offered an olive branch to the Republicans. He went so far as to praise the new Speaker of the House, even though his work has been limited to actually doing the job that the previous Speaker simply couldn’t cope with. The Republican response? To once again bat the offer of cooperation away.  Cooperation means progress, and progress means hope. Give the people hope and they might actually vote without fear in the next election. Republican victory is grounded on a fearful voting public.

The most promising part of the State of the Union address?  Obama’s statement that he intends to campaign to fix the gerrymandered districts that plague the House of Representatives in many other states aside from my own. I welcome his help in getting sensible, non-partisan rules for redistricting put into place.  It is about time someone took this issue seriously. maybe then Austin will have a real Representative in Washington. Hope springs eternal.

Paris in Perspective

As the Charlie Hebdo artist said after the recent attacks in Paris, #ParisIsAboutLife. I tried to broach a tangent to this subject when I wrote the recent piece, Greece in Perspective. I sometimes wonder if I’m not too subtle in my writing.  Other times I know I am, because the message never seems to get across.

Joann Sfar on Instagram
h/t to Independant

Jim Wright wrote a particularly moving piece today that reminded me of the more subtle point I was trying to make with that other blog entry.  Titled The Price of Civilization he goes into precisely why I ended the Greek piece with a reference to war and the Marshall Plan.

I’ve always been struck by the apparent contradiction that the most humane policy ever adopted by the United States was crafted by a General who oversaw so much bloodshed.  But that was the wisdom of Truman and Marshall, overlooked by many these days.

Which is too bad.  Because Jim got it right when he said;

Terrorism, the kind we face today? It comes from the fact that we, us, we keep blowing up civilization and leaving nothing but death and ruin in our wake. Terrorists are like cockroaches, they thrive on chaos and destruction and we’re damned good at creating that chaos. 

Those of us on the liberal side of the aisle like to point at Bush II for creating the problem of Daesh by removing Saddam Hussein from power (as his father predicted would happen during the first Gulf War) but truthfully it is the American people who are to blame. Our own imperial nature which we coyly disguise and defend as capitalism.

We’re the ones who insisted that we wanted out of Iraq as soon as we could get out, instead of actually spending the additional decades it was going to take to make the region into a self-sustaining conglomeration of disparate elements.  The kind of time that was spent helping to rebuild Europe after the war. A Europe that was already embracing self-determination and democracy.

Maybe we’re just blind to it, we inhabitants of the most egalitarian association of completely disparate influences, commonly referred to as the US.  Because, no matter what detractors might say, no where on Earth do you have the mixture of varying cultures like those present in the current US social structure (maybe Oz. Maybe) all of them more or less harmoniously governed as a single nation.  We take the bloodless transfers of power that occur here like clockwork as something everyone experiences, when the truth is that nowhere is there anything like the US when it comes to government, good and bad.

Listening to the Polish election celebrations, where a new isolationist government has been elected, it becomes apparent just how insulated most other places in the world are when it comes to exposure to other cultures.

Even in the conservative bastion of Texas all I have to do is travel to a different part of Austin to experience a whiff of almost any culture you can name. Asian cultures. African cultures. Native American cultures. These flavors are spread all over the nation in pockets. When I lived in Garden City several hundred Vietnamese refugees were dropped just outside of town in a little makeshift neighborhood constructed hastily to accommodate them. There was a lot of grumbling about this, but little violence. Why would there be? It’s a free country, isn’t it? Most of them moved away before too long, apparently to places like Austin where I live now, but we folded them into our society with hardly a hiccup, compared to the experiences of previous generations.  That is what America really is good at.

It is a shame that more people don’t understand this. Even the average American doesn’t get it.  As violent as we are, the thought of seizing control of the levers of government with force occurs to almost none of the citizenry.  This is because there is no need to use violence.  Those interested in getting involved in government do so; the doors are open, come on in and roll up your sleeves. If you are among the conspiracy-minded who doubt this is true, find your local precinct meeting place and show up for a meeting.  You might be surprised.

Yet the government we set up in Iraq was seized by the majority religious faction in the first election held there, and they proceeded to exert their authority over the other minorities in ways that lead directly to the creation of Daesh-held areas of the country in response. We allowed this to happen in a country we had effective control over. What did we do? We left, not that we really had much choice.  But we failed to impart the most important bit of knowledge that all of us should have gathered from our experiences in this free country before we left there. That is to our shame and the world’s detriment.

Freedom doesn’t mean you get to have your way. Freedom means you get to present your arguments. You get to present your arguments without fear of being killed for expressing them. If you are very persuasive, you might actually get to see your arguments accepted by others.

Pointing a weapon at someone will get you compliance, but it will ultimately lead to betrayal and violence, because coercion has a way of backfiring. That is why our military adventurism fails us as a nation. The civilizations we invade at the point of a gun just see the gun. They certainly don’t see the America that the average American actually experiences. The America where guns are frequently a topic of discussion, but almost never used anymore. We all know that when someone points a gun at you, you do what they say. But we also know that the tables will turn, that the aggressor will one day be the victim. Because that is the way of all things human.

So it will be with the violence in Paris that we all witnessed yesterday. The perpetrators of violence will either die violently or be subjected to French justice, a good bit more genteel than American justice. But Paris will go on just as before. Cities are for the living.

In the end, that may be the best response to terrorists everywhere.  The best response to those people who encourage us to do violence out of fear. Create a civilization, a society, that can withstand their attempts to destroy it with fear.  To slowly smother those who believe that there are things worth dying for with the millions more of us who know that there are many things worth living for. To go on living as if these fear-mongers never existed in the first place.

To pay the costs of establishing a civilization that can withstand the trials of living.  Like Marshall did after seeing so many good men die. You either go on living or get busy with dying.  There aren’t any other choices.

A Big Bowl of Crow

Ted Cruz is now touring the country denouncing Social Security as a Ponzi Scheme. Ah, that takes me way, way back. I remember a young idealistic Libertarian who noted on his blog back in 2008;

The local talk show host, Jeff Ward, refers to Social Security in this fashion repeatedly. (he even has a sound bite of Republican front runner John McCain calling Social Security a Ponzi Scheme. I was listening to the show when he said it, and I was listening to the show when Ward found the clip again. I wonder if McCain would be willing to repeat and affirm his words today?) It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure this out.

 Yes, that was me. That’s not the only time I talked about the program being a Ponzi Scheme, or other government programs being such. It was a common refrain, repeated by many other libertarians and non-libertarians at the time. Clearly it’s still a refrain repeated by the ideological inheritors of the small government talking points that hold power today.  That was the last time I referenced Social Security this way, and at that point my opinions were already shifting. I just wasn’t ready to admit it.

I can admit it now. Pass me that bowl of crow, I’m ready.

Courtesy Occupy Democrats

No True Scotsman fallacies aside (libertarian or not) it is worth noting that the label of Ponzi Scheme applied to Social Security by the people in charge of seeing the program remains solvent, is a declaration of their intent, not an assessment of the viability of the program. That is the most crucial point to be made on the subject.

If the programs are allowed to fail because of funding shortfalls, then the government made the program into a scheme that would fail. There are many variables which could be tweaked, in a program as complex as Social Security is; and any number of simple alterations in the tax code would make the program solvent from a funding standpoint, if only our political leaders had the courage to make those changes.

If the program fails, it is because we allow it to fail by refusing to support it. We allow it to fail by voting for representation that sabotages the program causing it to fail. If we allow it to fail, it is a failure of government as an institution, not a failure of the specific program. Government is charged with the authority maintain programs like this one, and if it can’t keep these programs running then the institution of government is itself bankrupt and not worthy of of the allegiance of the people.

When your Representatives or Senators tell you that caring for the elderly and the infirm is a fraud perpetrated on the public, that should give you pause to think, not cheer.  Are the elderly and infirm worthy of our empathy? Categorically, I’d say yes. Republican budget writers seem to disagree with this sentiment.  The question is, does the population of the United States agree with the controlling faction of the Congress? If not, we have a lot of work to do in the near future.  If they do agree, then there are a lot more anarchists out there than the polling reveals.

That brings me to the next mouthful of crow. One I’ve needed to take for awhile now.

Socialism is not a dirty word.  There, I’ve said it. Contrary to virtually every sentiment I’ve expressed in the past, the idea that society should care for it’s people; that programs should serve the group as a whole, not just those capable of paying, is a laudable goal. Socialist mechanisms exist within the system as it currently stands, have existed within the system since the first time shipping firms and international traders pooled their collective resources and insured themselves against losses, allowing them to venture out on the high seas without worrying about the loss of one ship bankrupting any one particular firm.

State Socialism (or Marxism) which is just dictatorship with a pretty label, has been unmasked. That bogeyman should be retired to the halls of a museum, along with the strident defenses of capitalism that sprang up in its wake. Capitalism is as oppressive to the poor as any of the feudal systems of history, as any decent study of history can reveal if you approach it with open eyes.

The notion that ability to pay was not a baseline for survival wasn’t something that occurred to me just when I was no longer capable of paying (correlation to the contrary) I was never one of those libertarians in the first place.  I truly was an idealist, I thought that people would voluntarily contribute enough in charity to pay for the necessary systems that would keep the poor, the elderly and the infirm from starving and dying in our midst. I mean, it works that way in the Netherlands, why not here?

This ideology, this dream of mine, that charity can do what government does currently, provide for the less fortunate in our midst, might still be possible at some time in the future.  One day, Americans might care about their fellows on such a level that they voluntarily support them at a high enough level that no child goes hungry, that no elderly person dies for lack of care.  That the infirm are not left on the streets to die. That day is not today.

In today’s America, it is all but illegal to be poor. The disabled are routinely ridiculed and derided as lazy (an even more valid observation in 2017 Trump’s America) The elderly who, for the first time in US history are not the poorest of the poor, are now viewed as profiting from the work of others rather than benefiting from the contributions they made to society in the past.

The immigrants who do most of the hard work constructing, farming, cleaning, (the same position they have always occupied historically) are dismissed as illegals, paid as little as possible, and deported the moment they are no longer useful.


The leadership of this country, with the exception of President Obama, has gone to great pains to set average Americans against each other, squabbling over the scraps of the budget left over from funding more military hardware than we will ever have need of. This is not the America I want to leave for my children.

It is time for a change. It is time to admit that we are not individual islands, that we do need other people in order to survive, to thrive.  That social caring is not an ill but a blessing. That it is possible for government to work; that not only is it possible, but it is our duty to make sure that government does work. What does it mean to be a citizen in good standing, if it doesn’t mean that? Government for the people, by the people.  If that government fails, it is because we have failed as a people.

If Social Security is a Ponzi Scheme, it is because we no longer value the contributions of the most vulnerable among us.  If socialism is a dirty word, then we are nothing more than cannibal tribes eating our own to survive.  Life should mean more than that.

Emergent Principles of Human Nature; Inalienable Rights

Part 1 of a series of posts defining Emergent Principles of Human Nature; an outgrowth of a challenge issued to me ages ago by a fellow libertarian that I “explain inalienable rights without including god“.  Like most challenges of this type, the work is larger than the speaker or hearer understands at the time. 

This post will be updated and reposted ahead of each subsequent post in the chain, with links to each as they are completed. A lengthy endeavor, but hopefully worth the time and effort for both writer and reader.

Throughout human history we have attempted to find meaning in the world around us.  We do this imperfectly because we are imperfect beings in an imperfect universe; perfection is an unattainable unknowable state which only the deluded think they understand.

As a group we have tried many approaches to find this meaning.  We have given this discipline a name, Philosophy, and established schools of thought within the discipline as varied and as many as there are philosophers in history.  Down through the ages we have dallied with gods and flirted with the idea of the absence of gods, and fooled ourselves that we group of blind men can fully describe the elephant with only our hands and words.

I do not harbor any delusions about the ability of one uneducated man to be able to perfectly describe the universe or establish it’s meaning; for myself, I can only hope to find my meaning within the universe.  To this end I have pursued my lifelong obsession with philosophy; and when I say obsession I do not mean that I have exhaustively read the treatises of other philosophers.  I have done some of that, but I have found that most philosophers aren’t actually interested in exploring naked truths.  They are more interested in explaining why the world is the way they perceive it.

After that fashion, I guess I’m no different than they are.

However, I think that meaning can be found that is universal, objective.  It was because of the word Objective that I first allied myself with Objectivists.  Ayn Rand in her ultimate folly thought she understood the natural universe perfectly. Her writing on the subject, compelling as it is, is incomplete at best.  At worst, her work is used as it is today; to justify horrors by those willing to enact them, citing her works in ways that the author herself would never have condoned. Her claiming of the title Objectivism for her philosophy is illustrative of the massive ego of the woman herself, made obvious by the study of her life, if you are simply inquisitive enough to take up the challenge.

Within every lie is a kernel of truth, as the saying goes, and within the brashness of Objectivism is the truth of materialism, the denial of post-modernism and it’s still-born sibling, solipsism.

The original challenge to define inalienable rights was issued because god; and yet god himself is a hopeless contradiction, a failure of man’s imagination to grasp that the complexity around us is achievable through time multiplied by error alone. The uncreated creator is a substitution for understanding, not an explanation. Accepting this conclusion, it fell to me to offer a real explanation for the concept of rights; an explanation grounded in science out of necessity, since scientific evidence is the only demonstrable way to objectively prove anything.  At least, the only way that we’ve yet discovered.

Aristotle’s unmoved mover may indeed exist, the god of scientists and philosophers, the natural god, but that god does not offer explanations beyond mere existence itself.  It falls to us to explain what things mean to our own satisfaction.

The title of this piece was chosen consciously and deliberately. There are many philosophers who have written over the years of natural rights and inalienable rights. why what I am writing about cannot be simplistically pigeonholed as natural rights will be discussed in the next piece. This piece hopes to offer up a bare bones explanation of inalienable rights, and their grounding in science.  The planned series of posts to follow will embroider nuance into the bare structure I’m presenting here.


The theory of emergence  provides the grounding for inalienable rights.  While rights are vested in the individual, it is only through seeing the interactions of individuals that the pattern of rights becomes clear. There is no concept of property when alone on a desert island (where Rothbard’s simplistic outline of rights fails) all of everything the sole inhabitant of the island touches is his property by definition; but the individual marooned on a desert island cannot hope to do more than survive while his health endures, alone on an island.  Simple survival is the least of any of our human aspirations.

Most of the concepts we deal with on a daily basis emerge from our interactions with others.  Money is a concept that becomes useless in a social grouping small enough to provide for it’s own needs. Families everywhere struggle with introducing money into the social structure of the household, grapple with educating children on what money is, what it means, what is it’s value. If you corner any given individual and challenge them to define money, most of them will be unable to do so beyond showing you a physical representation; which is not of itself a definition.

In groups large enough that the contributions of the individual cannot be valued and compensated accordingly, money becomes a necessity. How else is the individual who makes widgets all day to be afforded to directly purchase food and shelter for his continued existence? When the value of the widget cannot be directly translated by the average person into a quantity of food, the quality of shelter? Money makes that possible, however it is defined. Money is an emergent system, an outgrowth of human interaction.

But rights are not systems themselves. Rights are principles that systems are based on.  Like systems which emerge from human interaction, the principles that those systems are based on are also emergent; revealed through the interactions of individuals.

That money should have a definable value to the individual is a principle (albeit flawed) of the monetary system.  All of the systems around us that we take for granted are based on these principles that most of us never even bother to seek out, let alone question.  Jefferson’s (through Locke) immortal listing of Life, Liberty & Pursuit of Happiness is, as it says in the Declaration, truncated. There are many other principles that can be inferred from the interactions of individuals, there for anyone to see if they simply take the time to look.

Which is why what we are wrestling with here is Human Nature, not ideology, theology, or the natural world as revealed in the study of other animals. How we as humans value each other, or fail to value as the case may be. The nature of the human animal, as it relates to other human animals within the structures we create for ourselves. As I observed in my first outing on this subject;

A prisoner has rights. Not because we ‘allow’ them; but because his [human nature] enables them. The fact that there are prison breaks is merely proof that the prisoners maintain their rights in spite of the full force of government and the people being intent on denying them the exercise of same. 

In the broadest sense, Emergent Principles of Human Nature represents what most people mean by inalienable rights; what has been lacking up to now is some way of objectively defining why rights cannot be separated from the person; this is satisfied in the concept of emergence.  They cannot be separated from the person, because they are only revealed through common interactions with other individuals. Without them, survival in a group is impossible because the basic needs of the individual cannot be met; and any system created that doesn’t take them into account will fail through the actions of individuals intent on fulfilling their own needs.

Rights are not listed on some government document. They aren’t granted by sovereignty, even your own.  They emerge from the requirements for human life, and the process of securing those requirements on an individual basis.

I finished my first entry on this subject with the observation;

That’s about as far as I’ve taken it. Much more to be written…

Apparently I have the gift for understatement, as the length of the many posts to follow should reveal.