Category Archives: Corporations

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. 

Carry On, Whether You Feel Calm or Not

This talk from Lucy Kellaway of the Financial Times is exactly what we need to stay focused on, those of us capable of rational thought today. Carry on Post-Brexit, whether calm or not easily applies to the US today and for the next few months after the disastrous returns from the 2016 general election.

In the spirit of carrying-on I decided to go through Robert Reich’s points published on his wall this morning point by point, just to get a feel for what I think we have in store for us. We’ll see if my post-election predictions are as off as my predictions of the election of our first female president were.

 Waking up this morning in an altered universe, trying to avoid despair, as I’m sure many of you are. 

What to do, now? Let me offer a few suggestions.

1. The first temptation will be recrimination – against the Democratic Party, the Democratic National Committee, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, and all the other establishment figures who prevented Bernie from getting the nomination. That’s understandable, but recrimination won’t get us where we need to be.

Bernie would have lost. Every other Democratic candidate presented would have lost (maybe not Julian Castro, but he didn’t want to compete with Hillary for the job either) because this is the same kind of malcontents who upset the Brexit vote. They want things broken, and their change agent will be expected to break things. They voted for him with the expectation of breaking things, that is why he is the President-elect, not for anything he promised to do, but the damage he is expected to cause. With cynics like that at the helm, be prepared for ugliness to occur.

2. As a practical matter, our first priority must be to defend civil rights and civil liberties. Trump has unleashed the furies, and the furies will now feel unbridled. Be conscious and beware. We must protect those who need protecting. Trump isn’t yet president. We still have a court system, at the least.

This is probably one of the few points that is actually doable, because we don’t have to rely on our opponents to get it done. We just have to fund the ACLU and other defense organizations with enough funds to pull this off. The one thing that the break-everything’s who won the 2016 elections cannot control is the actions of the sane half of the United States. If we keep our heads and stay focused on the important goals. Goals like that one.

3. Our second priority must be to hold on to as much of the progress already made as possible. Use political jujitsu to turn the Republican’s attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act into something closer to Medicare for All, which it should have been all along – based on the most popular program in the federal government. Hold on to the progress on the environment we’ve already achieved, and fight off attempts to link a carbon tax to a huge corporate tax cut. Use this populist moment to raise taxes on corporations and the rich rather than cut them.

There is a steep slope ahead for anything we do on this front (see the previous note about breaking things) the ACA is gone. It ain’t coming back. Anyone who had insurance? You will lose your insurance. The subservient congress he has been handed will tacitly do whatever he asks, and his plans are to balance the budget on the backs of the poor, disabled and non-citizen workers. Look to see a reversal of the private prisons decision and an expansion of prisoner work programs. Militias will probably start rounding up what they term “Illegals” which we will have to counter with the ACLU and other rights programs. Budget cuts for everything that isn’t the military are likely. The military will be expanded over the objections of the generals, who will probably be replaced.

Worse, Obama (whom I love) will hand the Birther-in-Chief a blueprint for how to screw all of this up in his attempts to hand off the baton in this relay race he thinks he is running, unless he suddenly gains an understanding that not all of us want the same things.

Which is why the taxes on the wealthy will be lowered, as will the corporate tax rates (which is a far more complex issue than I can outline here. Suffice it to say lower corporate tax rates are not necessarily a bad thing) the memory of Ronaldus Maximus will be served, even if the actual policies of Ronald Reagan are not.

A carbon tax has no chance now. The Birther-in-Chief thinks climate change is a hoax. So repeat this mantra till it sinks in Americans are dumber than most of us thought, the dumber than dirt kinda dumb. They voted for the conspiracy fantasist who will be sworn in next January, they are definitely not smarter than he is.

4. Those of us blessed to live in progressive states must use this opportunity to move the agenda forward at the state level — to show what can be done on the minimum wage, paid family leave, single-payer health insurance, tuition-free public college, and election reforms.

I see a mass exodus to the blue areas of the map in the near future, as if that isn’t already happening. This will further exacerbate the problems in the red areas,  areas which already do not have enough population to do the jobs they need doing, to maintain the industries they are demanding come back to the U.S. This is only going to make the in-fighting between the cities and the rural areas (blue and red, respectively) uglier, not better. How that will shape up is anyone’s guess. It might be possible to use the tax base of the cities to address problems of the rural areas that feed it, but that will take some pretty creative thinking on the parts of city managers across the country. City managers who are already underfunded and understaffed. Not holding my breath on that one.

5. Our fifth priority should be to organize with an eye to the 2018 midterms and the 2020 election. I know many of you are exhausted, and the mere thought of more politics almost sickens you. But we have no choice.

I’m trying to remain hopeful that there will be a recognizable US in 2018 at this point. I really don’t see how we get there. If we do, we better be sure that we are positioned to take back congress and the senate. That means the 2018’s start next week. Find your local precinct office, invite your neighbors, take over the party machine. Do it now so that we don’t have to think about it in two years, we’ll just be doing what we planned all along.

6. Finally, we must take over the Democratic Party, or begin a third party, in order to bridge the gap between the white working class and people of color – thereby creating a coalition that can not only win elections, but take on the moneyed interests and reverse the inequalities that have driven us to this point.

Third parties are a really bad joke. The delusion that another party will fix the problems of the party system which excludes them from the system they want to fix, is the same kind of insanity that has gotten us here (doing things the same way expecting different results) The system does not allow for them. If we are inordinately successful, a speed of change not seen in the history of the world, we might be able to see the system modified to allow for minority party voices. That means ending gerrymandering, reforming campaign finance and altering the voting system itself with some form of ranked voting. All of this will likely require amending the Constitution to be successful, and there are several active groups out there attempting this now. Go join one of them. Until they are successful, taking over the local party machines (both Democrat and Republican) is the only method we have for fixing this system which has delivered us here.

There’s much more to talk about. But I wanted to start somewhere, and to give you a sense of possibility. Please do not fall into cynicism. That’s a self-fulfilling prophesy

What do you think?

I love Robert Reich’s posts for that last sentence. Sometimes it is maddening, but the professor in him makes him ask his students, his audience, to engage the problem directly.

Cynicism is what put the Birther-in-Chief where he is supposed to be in January. Cynicism drove his candidacy and cynics elected him to break the system. If we want to do better than the people who elected this real estate developer to the highest office in the land, cynicism is the first thing we have to evict from our minds.

The least productive congress, the least popular congress in history returning to office at 96% rate. That is the definition of doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. I’ve noticed this behavior in Texas for decades now, and I am at a loss to explain it outside of just calling it insanity. For twenty years and longer Texas has doubled down on electing the most conservative candidate they can find; and when that idiot turns out to be, well, an idiot, they elect the next idiot who claims to be even more conservative. So it has gone again and again and again and they never seem to figure out that if you want to see different results, you have to change the parameters, the criteria, whatever it is you think you want from your government, from the people you elect to government.

Until then, until we do that, we will be that crazy dude in the alleyway that keeps walking into the wall over and over again. The guy who smells like alcohol and urine, looks like he slept in his clothes for a month, and wants to bum $20 bucks off of you to buy gas for his car. The world isn’t going to follow us while we blunder into walls repeatedly like a crazy person. They will stop buying our debt, create their own default market currency and move on without us. I don’t even want to think about what happens then.

Don’t be Texas, America. Learn from our bad example. 

Authoritarianism vs. Humanism -Or- The Orange Hate-Monkey vs. A Village

What you’re reading now is a multiple-concept piece amalgamated from several other pieces, reworked and re-edited so many times I’ve lost count. The fact that several of my Facebook friends are now openly endorsing an unapologetic authoritarian, that I have severed my long-time association with the Liberty Dollar over their new commemorative coin, pushes me to complete this piece even though I remain dissatisfied with the way that it firms up.

I am troubled by undercurrents in politics that are presenting themselves these days. I have been troubled since I wrote the article Obama Best President Since Eisenhower and my tepid acceptance of who the next president should be, titled Hillary for President? What troubles me is elusive. It is hard to give it a label. It is even harder to find people discussing the perturbations that aren’t actually trying to cover them up in some way. This tendency to hide true motivations has made the process of expressing my concerns even harder to elucidate, to solidify into words, than they normally are.

I’ve written and rewritten this article more than a few times now with various titles and themes. It started out as Feudalism vs. Socialism, but I couldn’t get a handle on what precisely feudalism was based on the judgement of historians. None of them agree on what it was, when it started and when it ended. The death blow was that The Wife hated the original piece. She essentially forbade me to publish it because it was beneath me. I almost did publish it, but I knew I could do better.

While contemplating what it was I was trying to say with this piece, I ran across the concept of kyriachy; specifically it was this article on DailyKOS The Battle Over the Meaning of America: We Have to Fight It, and We Have to Win that got my attention, made me start reworking the article the first time around.

Colin Woodard’s American Nations

To imagine that our times are defined primarily by the struggle between “liberalism” and “conservatism” or between the Democratic and Republican parties is to be dangerously distracted and misled. There is a struggle that defines our times, all right, but it’s a struggle over what the United States of America is all about—what “America” means. And we have to be aware of this struggle and recognize it for what it is.

Here’s our task: We have to begin framing the debate not as liberal or conservative, Democratic or Republican, but as equality or neo-Confederacy. We have to do this every time we speak, every time we write.

We have to do this because we have to push the Democratic Party to stand for equality, not for equality-except-in-politics-and-economics.

We have to know what a progressive, pro-equality position is and what a neo-Confederate position is on every issue—which position promotes freedom for all, and which promotes only the “liberties” of a lucky, privileged class. We have to present those positions to every Democratic candidate and ask her to choose one, and if she chooses the patrician position, we have to ask her why she’s favoring inequality over equality. We have to make her see equality as sensible and popular and inequality as radical and unthinkable.

Because unless we have a Democratic Party that unequivocally stands for equality and rejects inequality—social, political and economic—we can’t have an America that stands for equality.

The Republicans have gone all in for neo-Confederate authoritarianism. We have to go all in, too, for liberty, equality, justice and dignity for all—or the long arc of the moral universe will bend away from us, away from justice, and back into the darkness of rule by force and fear.

Equality is the founding principle of socialism, of humanism, no matter how poorly attempts to bring the notions of socialism into the world have failed, equality remains its basis. I tossed the idea out to see if it floated at a BBS I’ve been known to frequent with the title Egalitarianism vs. Kyriarchy, and got some interesting (and not so interesting) feedback. I just couldn’t get it to gel the way I wanted, so I disgustedly shelved the piece again. 

Continuing my exploration of concepts, I ran across this Vox article The Rise of American Authoritarianism. That was when it hit me, the label for at least one of the forces at play in the world.

The political phenomenon we identify as right-wing populism seems to line up, with almost astonishing precision, with the research on how authoritarianism is both caused and expressed

After an early period of junk science in the mid-20th century, a more serious group of scholars has addressed this question, specifically studying how it plays out in American politics: researchers like Hetherington and Weiler, Stanley Feldman, Karen Stenner, and Elizabeth Suhay, to name just a few.

The field, after a breakthrough in the early 1990s, has come to develop the contours of a grand theory of authoritarianism, culminating quite recently, in 2005, with Stenner’s seminal The Authoritarian Dynamic — just in time for that theory to seemingly come true, more rapidly and in greater force than any of them had imagined, in the personage of one Donald Trump and his norm-shattering rise.

Authoritarianism is old, as old as humanity. Everyone in some corner of their mind can find some kinship with the notions of the great man, someone we can turn to in order to fix the problems that trouble us. If we can hand it all to him, he will make it all right. That is authoritarianism, in a nutshell. It manifests in the current election in the two counter-culture Presidential candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, but the dream of the great man predates all of us.

What is the other force though? The other codifying idea that people coalesce around. It really isn’t socialism per se. Those with authority want you to believe that capitalism vs. socialism is the fight that continues. The holders of old money, the inheritors of new money, the powerful who want to retain power. They raise the specter of socialism like a bogeyman to scare those of us who remember when socialism was the masque worn by dictators across Europe and Asia.

The mind reels at trying to communicate the fear that the word socialism engenders in the minds of people who remember the Berlin wall as a real barrier people were shot crossing. How to communicate the history? Twenty-eight years before 2001, the events that today’s generations remember as 9/11. Back in the time when 2001 was a symbol of a bright future in a film yet to be made, I was born. Born the same year Camelot came to an end. JFK was shot three months after mom gave birth. My mother escaped from Europe on the heels of what she figured was the beginning of WWIII, the general suspicion being that the USSR had a hand in the death of our president.

The end of an age, the beginning of another one.

What were those years like, what was the feeling during that time? It’s hard even for me to say. From 1963 to 1969 there was assassination after assassination in the political sphere. JFK. MLK. RFK. The riots. The marches. Vietnam. Then the 70’s. Nixon and Watergate. The fall of Saigon.

Carter and the oil embargo. The Iran hostage crisis. The return of Ronald Reagan.

When and where I graduated high school in flyover country, Red Dawn was seen as prophetic when it premiered in 1984. I mean really prophetic, not some kind of hokey, campy the Russkies are coming to get us kind of joke you hear so often these days. We knew the commies were coming to get us, it was just a matter of time, and the feds in DC were the real joke, because they had no idea what was going on in the world.

Saying it that way it seems like a substantial conflict, cognitive dissonance on steroids. How could there be a bright future in 2001, while Red Dawn was a real prophecy of the failure of capitalism, both at the same time? That was/is the kind of discord present in every mind that thinks there is a grand conspiracy out there somewhere running things. There is the world that is, and the world as it really is, and you have to decode the one to find the secret other world.

Besides, 2001 was nearly 20 years away. Who can see 20 years into the future?

It was all a lie. All of it. There were no (still are no) grand conspiracies and the USSR which had survived on graft for generations finally collapsed under its own weight. Not long after I got a job and started working for a living they redrew all the maps I memorized in school, and life went on as if we hadn’t spent the last 40 years afraid of our own shadows.

The war machine though, it went on without stopping. With no enemies to fight, the machine still wanted us to act like we were at war. Reagan was AWOL in his own head virtually from the day he took office. His VP barely squeaked out a win on Reagan’s coattails and had to raise taxes to pay for the killing machines conservatives wanted him to build. Bush I lost to Bill Clinton because of the fiscal reality of who pays for the war machines, the wars, but Slick Willy still had to appease the conservatives who held power and the majority, scared in their own beds at night of the commies waiting to get them. Bill fought every battle he found an excuse for just to keep them quiet and still couldn’t justify the military budget, which he had to cut.

Then came the surprise that created the world we know now; created it out of silicon and electricity. PC’s became widely available. Suddenly everyone had the ability to wax verbose across the entire US. Not too long after the US was wired, the whole world was wired. We went from having to do research that took months and years to complete in dusty libraries across differing regions, to being able to access virtually all of human knowledge with the click of a mouse.

Not all of the knowledge is real, though. Very little of it actually is.

It became possible to find news on your own, invent news on your own. No longer force-fed nightly at 6 and 10, you could binge on news 24/7. News that you wanted to read/watch/listen to, not the things that the media determined were things an educated public should know. The doors started to come off the media machine, the carefully crafted machine that fed the US and the world the news it wanted us to hear. Out of that chaos was born the conservative echochamber as we know it today.

The conservative echochamber elected Bush II. Conservatives fed off other conservatives, on channels they created to coordinate what it was they wanted done, how they wanted their arguments to proceed. What they wanted the grass roots to believe. Small government. Low taxes on the wealthy so they would spend more. Low taxes on everybody so that they had more to spend. A war machine to rival all others. Jobs for everybody. All of it born out of the half-baked plans that came to power with Reagan, that influenced Reagan. Neoconservatism. Libertarian economics. A perversion of Goldwater conservatism that even Barry Goldwater would be hard pressed to back.

With Jesus and the prosperity gospel, they brought their selected candidate to office.

I never did credit W with a wealth of brains. Familiarity breeds contempt, and as a Texan I knew what kind of lackluster thinker the Junior Bush was. He did know at least one thing, because it wasn’t that hard to figure out. Any human group works better together with an enemy to fight, and he started off his term in office with every intention of dealing with Iraq and Saddam Hussein, even before that fateful day in September of 2001.

A relative of his Saudi business partners, Osama Bin Laden, had similar if opposing goals. Having been betrayed by the US at the end of the Cold War when we abandoned the Mujahadeen in Afghanistan, outraged by the stationing of infidel troops in the holy land, OBL hatched a plan to start a war with the US by destroying the icons of US capitalism and dominance in the world, the trade center in NYC.

The towers fell and the wars started, and the jobs never came and the debts mounted.

That is what it has been like, from then to now. Conservatives afraid of commies, of socialism, suspicious of even their countrymen, especially their liberal countrymen who didn’t see the threat, backing whatever horse showed up, because they prayed to their god to send them a saviour. Faith in the supernatural, reliance on the unknowable, fear and betrayal and more betrayal. That is why the conservative base is backing a demagogue in the current election. They are tired of being betrayed by complex people with complex arguments, and they want a war to destroy their enemy (whoever that is) before they are themselves destroyed.

Dissolved into history.

Returning to the narrative, that is why socialism is a non-starter in fly-over country, the vast angry red areas of the United States. They still think socialism is a thing to be afraid of. They have no idea that socialism is their insurance coverage. Their police force. Their fire fighters. Their hospitals. Any effort that benefits us all and doesn’t have a clear profit motivation to push it forward, that is socialism at work.

Socialism means no more and no less than control of social systems being held by the many rather than the few. That costs to maintain and run the system are spread across the social groups the system serves rather than paid directly by the person who receives the benefit.
When you get a check from your insurance company, you have benefited from a socializing system. The cost to reimburse you for your loss is borne by the group who pays premiums to that insurance company. When you are injured and rushed to a hospital, the existence of those systems being there to keep you from dying is due to socialism’s influence. When you log on to your computer to check Facebook or whatever social site is popular right now, the existence of that system is due to the socializing influence of government investment in technology.

The internet was not conceived of by a single corporation, was not the brainchild of a single mind. It was conceived of by many people working separately with funds infused by government for the purpose of stimulating research. It was the product of many people working towards the goal of making knowledge available to a larger and larger group of people, for the betterment of humanity as a whole. The internet is the most social of social structures ever invented by man. More social than the grandest ideals of socialism, more liberating than millions of dollars handed to each and ever poor person.

The opposing force for Authoritarianism is deeper than socialism, which is why acceptance of socialism as the good is irrelevant in the long run. Authoritarianism is the godhead. The worship of absolute authority over all things living. What opposes it is just as strong, but largely unvoiced. It is an expression of the value of each human life. It is at its core humanism, the valuing of the human over the spiritual or supernatural. The movement that was spawned with the enlightenment and has been forgotten by most people today.

Those of us who do remember 30 years ago remember Hillary Clinton’s first entrance on the world stage as First Lady to William Jefferson Clinton’s Presidency. Sadly it is against the backdrop of his presidency that her suitability for office is judged, rightly or wrongly. Her first book It Takes a Village was routinely derided by conservatives who knew the harsh cruel world for what it was, never actually asking if that was the world they wanted to live in or not. Whether it might be in our power to change the nature of the world, at least among us humans.

But the humanist notions of It Takes a Village have proven to be true over time. We do need to create a better world for our children and grandchildren and generally the word to describe what we have experienced from the 60’s through the present day in 2016 is progress. Perhaps social progress without economic progress, but progress all the same. A leveling out of society at a lower economic status than American’s have had to make do with since before our grandparents were born.

Well, your grandparents anyway.

Economics and capitalism is where the American population needs progress now, and capitalism is the subject that authoritarians want us to talk about the least.

Capitalism is nothing more or less than an outgrowth of the creation of money for trading goods and services. An outgrowth of the common notion that one should profit from transactions with others. Capitalism and money are themselves tools, part of the bigger picture of human interactions. Money cannot exist without others who accept that currency represents a fair trade for value, making capitalism/socialism a false dichotomy easily destroyed by authoritarians bent on altering the system to suit their goals.

Historical feudalism was an expression of authoritarianism, and facets of feudalism persist into the modern age long past the time when historians have credited it as dead. The notion that one can be granted title to people as well as property by a King or other warlord who controls a region seems outmoded or medieval; however the actual governing of areas, the ownership of lands and systems in the modern age seems hardly different in practice. Holding title to lands was first introduced as a feudal practice. Inheriting that title and associated wealth was also introduced then. 
Obviously a family will and should be allowed to continue to use what was held by the head of the household before death. That seems like common sense. But the idea that it belonged to his/her heirs, the notion of heirs, that is feudalism. Is it justice for inheritors to possess gains which were ill-gotten? Gains handed to the original owner on the basis of skin color or where they called home previously? Where is the justice in that, where is the room to be merely human in a world of rigid structure like that?
One can argue that people are no longer property, held with the lands. That is probably the one big difference between the modern world and the ancient world. People are no longer legally property in most places around the world. But if you are poor and cannot afford to leave the lands you were born into (Greece in perspective) the functional difference between the two states blurs. The poor and unfortunate are the pawns of today’s systems just as they were in feudal systems; entirely at the mercy of those who control them. For the poor, there is little improvement through the ages aside from modern plumbing
Capitalism is not a social structure. It is an economic philosophy of a value for value trade, a good solid basis for dealing fairly with those around you. A basis for labor having a value of its own which can be traded for goods and other labor at a later time. Capitalism has nothing at all to say about the content of society, what the minimum standards of living should be, what humane treatment of the sick and injured should be, how the elderly are cared for; in fact, it has little of merit to say about most things human.
During the course of the First World War the old establishments of feudalism/authoritarianism started to give way to the new ideas of democracy and self-rule. If you aren’t a student of history, you might not know that WWI saw the end of one of the longest running governments in human history, the Ottoman Empire. It was itself the inheritor of much of the wealth and knowledge of the Byzantine Empire which marked time all the way back through the Roman Empire almost to the beginning of recorded history. So the belief that feudalism was a practice limited to the middle ages is not much more than a quaint notion for scholars to debate. The practices of feudalism were encoded into law, and some of them continue to this day.

The United States, an early precursor of the modern age of democracy, one man one vote, wisely adopted many of the mechanisms established by the successful feudal societies that founded the colonies it sprang from. Things like corporations to shield business owners from direct personal liability for business losses. Things like a sound money system which established a commodity as the base measure of value. But the US has always been a mixed economy; mixed as in respecting the feudal/capitalist nature of the systems that were inherited from the English and the Dutch.

Corporations are feudal creations, originally charters granted by emperors and kings, and their structures are feudal in execution. Yes, a group requires a leader, that is a given of all human systems. But the value of that leadership in today’s world is highly over-rated. The pay for corporate executives far out-weighs the contributions they make to the process of creating the goods and services a corporation produces (Saving Capitalism) the average person on the street cannot name the current head of a single corporation. Some of the more savvy could probably name Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, but neither head corporations any longer. Political junkies could point to Carly Fiorina or Donald Trump.

This is the intersection which we are currently attempting to navigate. Donald Trump represents exactly what economic conservatives have wanted for a generation; a businessman willing to take on the job of running the country; running the country like a business. Unfortunately for them he exhibits even less control than the previous businessmen conservatives have flirted with nominating. He launched his candidacy by laying this turd in full view of the watching world;

“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 

Donald Trump. Or as I like to refer to him, the Orange Hate-Monkey. Fake tanned, he has embraced the conservative tropes of yesteryear, flinging the hatred of other like a monkey flings shit at gawkers at the zoo. His supporters hear only that they will be saved, if they follow him. That is all they want to hear.

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

Donald Trump is the poster boy for feudal privilege. Far from being a hero of the common man, an example of bootstrapping, Trump inherited his wealth and businesses from his father. He has bankrupted those businesses not once, but four times. His claim to authority is based entirely on his birth to a position of wealth and influence, the modern equivalent to nobility. The Dukes & Earls of previous societies are now referred to as CEO or CFO. Positions on the boards of large corporations mark your power within modern feudal society. Governments bow to your whims, write laws to benefit your finances, cater to your desires to the detriment of the poor forced to work for a living within the societies you rule.

“I love the poorly educated” – Donald Trump

Many, many people look at Hillary Clinton, look at her with the backdrop of 50 years of increasingly more conservative dominated politics, as well as the Presidency of her husband, and can’t see how she is an improvement on the President we currently have. There are independents who look at the two major party candidates and inexplicably cannot see a difference between the two of them, because they can’t separate the woman from the men she has been required to serve with, the real estate developer who has lied to himself for so long he doesn’t even know what the truth is anymore.

Maybe I’m just weird.

I’m struck today with the same sense of surrealism that I’ve had since the day I first heard the term Birther, long before there was such a thing as Birther-in-Chief, another apt Trump label. When I heard the accusation that Barack Obama wasn’t an American, I recognized it immediately as racism and dismissed it. When the conspiracy fantasy wouldn’t go away, when the Birther-in-Chief picked up this obvious dog-whistle and wouldn’t stop blowing it, I realized that the conservative echochamber was a thing, not just a possibility.

These people don’t know reality from fantasy. Their fantasies about what goes on in the world mean more to them than the facts that govern it. They dismiss those facts when convenient, when the facts get in the way of their fantasies. And since the echochamber reflects back to them what they want to hear, they never get the corrective feedback that reality attempts to deliver.

In much the same way, it is painfully clear to me that misogyny governs most of the reporting that goes on in relation to Hillary Clinton. The media desperately attempt to echo the narrative that the long-dominant political forces in the US seem to want to hear. But there are voices out there sending the feedback that we need to be listening for, if only we are paying attention.

However, even if the worst of the worst of the beliefs about Hillary Clinton are true (and they aren’t) There is no way, NO WAY POSSIBLE that she could be as bad, much less worse than Trump. The beast that he has shackled himself to requires human sacrifice to be satiated. That is what happens when you found your campaign on creating an enemy in our midst. When your every other pronouncement decries the barbarian at the door.

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”

“American fascism will arrive carrying a cross and wrapped in a flag” and it has. However, there is no one person to fear that enters dragging fascism in their wake. The threat is not the figurehead, the Trump or the Hitler. The people to fear are those willing to vote for wrong, to back wrong with force, in the mistaken belief they are right. And that is scarier than the mere presence of the Orange Hate-Monkey on the political scene.

These people desire the destruction of the system itself, in their mad desire to be free of their fears, to the potential destruction of us all.

How is that, you ask?

The delivery of modern technology and modern medicine are such complex ventures that their continuation virtually requires the existence of government, government which is now threatened by corporate greed and corporate malfeasance. It is corporations who benefit from the loss of governmental power, not the individual. Corporations who stand ready to reap larger and larger profits at the cost of the lives of the poor and the sacrifice of the rest of the middle class in the US and across the face of the world. Corporations which must be brought to heel by government if we are ever to see the dawn of a new age. The age of the individual as expressed through humanism, the leveling of the playing field with the more equal distribution of information through technology.

Humanism is the vehicle which will bring the corporations to heel. Its time has finally arrived, let us not waste this opportunity to grasp the future for ourselves, our children and our children’s children. Trust in our ability to make the systems work to our benefit, using modern technology as our tool. It matters little what Hillary Clinton wants to do, so long as she keeps the systems running long enough for us to realize the potential present in the technology we now have at our disposal. Let us not fear the future, but embrace it.

Robert Reich’s Big Picture for Fixing the Economy

The series of  linked videos below highlight ideas to fix the economy, the top 11 12 points on Robert Reich‘s mind when it comes to our current economic problems.  These aren’t rocket science or socialism, just some pretty hard-nosed factual recommendations; and we’d do well to follow them.  They run contrary to the long debunked refrain of Reaganomics or trickle-down economics that has held sway in the US since Ronaldus Maximus was President, long before most of the people currently breathing on this planet were born.

They also run counter to most current libertarian economic theory. It is painful to say this, but most libertarian thought on the subject of economics is so woefully uneducated that I almost balk at calling them out. Doing so is not likely to be profitable based on the standard of keeping old friends. As I was crafting this article a post from a good friend on Facebook showed up, trumpeting the flat tax proposals of Libertarian darling Rand Paul.

A flat tax will do nothing to recapture the ill-gotten gains of the wealthiest Americans, the people who profited from the latest boom and bust, as well as the previous boom and bust cycles. Cycles that have grown shorter and shorter since deregulation went into effect under…  Ronald Reagan, who was also influenced by libertarian ideas of his time.

Recapturing this cash and redistributing it to the vast majority of Americans through increased pay and investment in infrastructure is essential if we are going to build a functioning economy and not fuel the next cycle of boom and bust.  It is the outrageous amounts of cash that allow the 1% to engage in risky stock market betting like we’ve seen since the 1980’s.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

A word about the composition of this post. Linking videos that are native on Facebook is a stupidly fiddly process, and Facebook is where I found these videos first. Consequently the text intro for each is a Facebook link, while the videos are from Youtube, giving me the ability to watch and comment on each video while it is running.

#1 is raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

There are several common misconceptions about the minimum wage. He hits most of those points in the video. The free market types who object to minimum wage laws on the basis that it interferes with employer/employee contracts, or that it could cause inflation, only see part of the bigger picture which Reich addresses in the video.  Commerce relies on the majority of the population being able to afford the goods generally available to that population.  That means paying the working class enough for them to live on.

#2 is to make work family friendly.

I quit my regular job to raise our second child. We could not afford to put our child into expensive daycare; and really, I wanted to spend time at home with what I knew would be our last baby, having missed seeing much of our firstborn’s early years due to the demands of an architectural career in the job climate prevalent in the US.  Had it been possible for me to take on outsource work at home, work from home, etc. the impact on our families’ finances would have been less drastic. Had it been possible for the Wife to spend meaningful time with the baby while still working in her tech career, I might not have had to give up architecture for a few years longer, might have enjoyed my final years in my chosen profession before being sidelined with a disability.

#3 is to expand Social Security.

As a current Social Security beneficiary, I should probably recuse myself from commenting on this video. Still, it bears mentioning that the the cap that he focuses on is far too low (because of past inflation) and that rather than set a dollar figure cap, if a higher cap is the compromise solution, there should be a median income calculation involved in determining what the cap should be.  Inflation will continue. Wages will continue to rise. Upper range incomes will continue to get higher unless we re-institute confiscatory income tax (90% as it was when introduced) for high wage earners. Might as well write laws that take it into account.

#4 is to bust up Wall Street.

How I wish this one stood a chance of happening.  I only do business with a bank when I’m required to; unfortunately that happens more today than it did in decades past. The reason for this is the lax rules on banks that should never have been relaxed in the first place.

Most of what is happening today is reminiscent of what occurred at the turn of the last century.  One of the books I’m currently reading is The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism much of the battle the occurred then is re-occurring now.  Nearly daily I get a sense of deja vu reading the news.  I recognize this struggle.  It is a shame that more people do not learn from history.

#5 is how to reinvent education.

This one carried no real news for me. Having gotten one child through college and working on getting the second one through high school, and being an involved parent, has left me with few delusions about the state of US schools.  They are pathetic.  So pathetic, in fact, that I paid for private school for my children (Montessori) until their needs weren’t met by the school. Then I took the time to make sure they went to good charter schools, magnet schools, etc.  Anything except the standard schools offered to average Texans.

The objection often raised to charter schools is that they are religious in nature.  While it is true that some alternative schools are religious, the schools I selected for my children have actually had less religious content (generally) than the public schools in Texas promote.  Sometimes people seek alternatives for very good reasons.

#6 is to end corporate welfare.

This is an old favorite of mine.  If corporations get handouts then everyone should get handouts; because the corporations demonstrably don’t need anything to continue existing.  They have no physicality to maintain, being figments of law in the first place.  We would be much better off handing money to every citizen rather than handing it out to corporations.

#7 is to strengthen labor unions.

I’ve never been a fan of unions; still, it is hard to argue against the positive effects that collective bargaining can bring to the employment side of the equation.  Collective bargaining levels the playing field when negotiating with large employers.  Unionization lead to days off, 8 hour work days, breaks for meals, extra pay for overtime, etc, etc, etc.

When capitalists spit at socialism in my presence these days, I point out the benefits that have come to the working masses due to the influence of socializing forces like unionization.  If you don’t want to go back to working nude in the same place you sleep, with your children huddled around you at night for warmth because your employer is too cheap to heat the workplace (read The Bully Pulpit as mentioned previously) unions are a good thing to have.

#8 is to raise the estate tax on the very wealthy.

Everyone who can work, should work.  The existence of a wealthy class who feel entitled to live off of the earnings of their parents and grandparents is contrary to the ideals that the US was founded on. Contrary to the Midwestern work ethic most of us grew up with. It is hard enough for me as a disabled person who is lucky to get from the bed to the chair some days to justify not working.  I can’t even fathom the thought processes of the 1% who wouldn’t dream of working for a living.

Or to quote Chris Rock ‘If poor people knew how rich the rich are, there would be riots’.

This isn’t one of the series I’m commenting on here, but it bears reposting;

It and the other videos in the playlist talk about this same subject, how wealth inequality is worse than it has been in almost a century, and the last time it was like this, the economy didn’t improve until after we fought the second world war.  That should not be a direction we should head in this time around.

Also in that playlist is a trailer for Robert Reich‘s excellent film Inequality for All.  I have viewed the film several times on Netflix and recommend it to anyone who wants to get a feel for the problems America currently faces.  This as opposed to repeating trickle-down mantras in the hopes that they will self-correct and prove themselves true in the long run.

#9 is to make polluters pay US.

I can still hear the screaming raised against the carbon tax back when President Obama first took office and suggested some of these very things.  Six plus years later, it is even clearer that the only solution is to do exactly what this video suggests. Make the oil companies and energy companies pay to use carbon producing fuels.  Incentivize the use of green technologies.  CO2 is over 400 now.  We can’t keep adding it to the atmosphere.  We just can’t, if we want our species to continue.

#10 End mass incarceration, now!

This is probably the biggest point of agreement with libertarian/anarchist thinking on the subject of governance and the economy. The kind of thinking I was most frequently exposed to while active in the LP of Texas for about a decade. The business of keeping prisoners has been a target of small government types for years, long before the average American or the re-emerging liberal majority took notice of it. It is a serious embarrassment that the US has 2.5 million members of its population behind bars; more than any other nation on the face of the planet.


Needless to say, as soon as the 10 were out, there was a glaring need for one more item on the list (isn’t that the way it always works?) So here is the latest one;

#11 Medicare for all.

The problem with most free market approaches to healthcare is that modern medicine is too complex. It’s ability to function, to deliver its product (if health is even a product that can be sold) is tightly linked to corporate structures that are themselves an imposition on free markets. Price gouging is a part of the calculation of every new drug introduced to the market, how much can we get away with charging for this drug? And testing and development of these drugs requires large staffs, deep pockets, wide access to the population. The only way to counter the corporate nature of modern medicine is to either subject them to public control directly (which would be socialism with all the baggage that a state-run organization brings to the table. This would stifle innovation) or to leverage the pricing of the drugs and services produced with collective bargaining. It has to be one way or the other. Neither solution is pretty, but the group purchasing option that medicare provides leaves the companies free to do what they do best, produce goods for the general public.


He swears this is the last one.  Makes an even dozen.

#12 Get Money Out of Politics.

I’ve been on this bandwagon for about a year now.  Maybe longer.  I blogged about this subject after reading several scholarly articles on the subject of campaign finance, and reading Lawrence Lessig’s book Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress–and a Plan to Stop It which is free online now. In my article from last November, following the election, I list the various groups working to get money out of politics.  If you want to get involved in politics, if you want to see any of these many points acted on and made policy, then I suggest you contact one of those groups or get involved in your local precinct for whichever flavor of the two major parties that you prefer (D or R) if you object and say “I want more choices than that” then I need to be frank with you.  Including more choices than those two on ballots requires more work than even the 12 points addressed here would require.  You’re welcome to engage in that struggle if you have the strength for it. Or just go vote when the time comes. If you don’t know where that is, go here.

His book Saving Capitalism should be in bookstores (if you can find one) soon.  You can vote on which one of these 12 ideas will be a new campaign for Moveon to promote here.  Has to be #12 for me.

Labor Unions; Disinfectant for Corporate Largesse

Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker is the new right-wing Republican star. He came in a strong second to Rand Paul in the CPAC straw poll (while Jeb Bush came in a mediocre fifth, and former Sen. Rick Santorum, Sen. Marco Rubio, Gov. Chris Christie, and former governor Rick Perry were even further behind). What’s Walker’s allure? For one thing, he hates unions. Walker compared his own crackdown on teachers and other public employee unions to Ronald Reagan’s 1981 firing of 11,000 air-traffic controllers, and he’s ready to sign a so-called “right-to-work” law approved by the Republican-controlled Wisconsin Senate that would ban private-sector workers from being required to join a union or pay dues.

Walker is the opposite of his predecessor more than a century ago, “Fighting Bob” La Follette, who as Wisconsin governor from 1900 to 1906 led America’s progressive movement against the growing dominance of big corporations over government. La Follette fought for worker’s compensation, a minimum wage, progressive taxation, women’s suffrage, and more direct democracy – including the right to recall public officials. Scott Walker survived just such a recall — with the benefit of generous funding supplied by Charles and David Koch. – Robert Reich on Facebook

The part of free-market capitalism that most capitalists these days don’t understand is that the government largess towards corporations takes the ‘free’ out of it. If the playing field were truly level, the market truly free, there would be no corporations. Individuals would have to own businesses directly with all the liability that entails.

When you suggest this to modern day freemarketeers they either a) screech in horror at being required to be responsible for their businesses actions, or b) don’t understand the amount of liability actually involved in conducting business in today’s world and so think that’s a great idea.

In either case the corporation is here to stay, and so unions should be as well.

Facebook status update backdated to the blog. 

Driver-less Cars Need Not Equate to Starving Drivers

Robert Reich Facebook status,

Uber just announced it’s partnering with Carnegie Mellon University to develop a driverless car (presumably in direct competition with Google’s soon-to-arrive driverless auto). So where will this leave Uber drivers? Uber didn’t say, of course, but we all know the answer: They’ll be replaced — the same way Amazon Mechanical Turk workers, TaskRabbit taskers, HomeJoy cleaners, and 99design contestants, along with legions of lawyers, accountants, engineers, teachers, even doctors will be replaced — by robots. We’ll be left with a single tiny iEverything that will able to do everything for everyone, but no one will be able to afford to buy it because no one will be employed.

…which is why the need for [Universal Basic Income] for all of us to legitimately claim that we have the right to not be left to starve in the streets, is so important.

This kind of anti-progress agitating is something that just sounds ignorant. Technology will not stop. Driver less cars will happen. Shovels made fewer diggers necessary, but that doesn’t mean we should hire an army of diggers equipped with spoons. It means that maybe no one likes to dig and we’d like to have a machine do it for us. But that also doesn’t mean that people who used to dig should simply roll over and die.

Uber is just one ride-sharing app. There are several. I think writing laws to combat how Uber does business is essentially wasting time, because there really isn’t any functional way to stop people from ride-sharing. It’s going to happen, and some of those people will exchange cash for the ride.  I really don’t care about what Uber says they are doing, when faced with a full-court press against them. I didn’t care what the music-sharing software companies said back when they were under attack. When that was the case, I observed that I didn’t think making music sharing illegal was going to stop music sharing. It didn’t. There is a serious vein of Luddite running along this anti-Uber rant I keep hearing. Which is why I pointed out that shovels put people out of work too. There needs to be a reality check involved when people start screaming about loosing their jobs. Loom workers and carriage makers lost their jobs too. Shall we de-automate that process? Go back to using horses? Seems silly to me.

Uber is flouting public transport regulations, I can grant that as a premise with no qualms in hindsight. All of the new internet services disrupt the previous social structures in some significant ways. Music sharing sites destroyed corporate music systems as they existed previously. There is big money behind taxi medallion holders in NYC. I think that’s the only reason Uber is in the news at all. File sharing and corporate music was a similar situation, and the last thing we want is another DMCA that addresses cabbies. Crying for the poor taxi drivers is a front; because that’s not what it’s about. It is about gatekeepers and control, just like the music industry. There is far more music now, and better music, than there ever was when corporate gatekeepers had the lock on music. There are plenty of people (I’m one of them) who pay for things even though they don’t have to, because I know that rewarding effort is how you get more of the things you like. Robert Reich in this instance is fighting against the tide of history. It’s not been shown to be effective in any real way.

One final word. You might be able to take down Uber because they are for-profit. You cannot and will not take down the next app because it will be a grinder-like app that allows people simply to offer and accept open seats in vehicles going where they are going. That is where the demand is, and where the supply is wasted. That trade will continue in the absence of Uber and other profit-making companies.

…which is and was the point I’ve been trying to make.

Facebook status and resulting argument summarized and backdated for the blog. UBI replaces “dole” in the original post. UBI is what I meant at the time but hadn’t stumbled across that concept then, or hadn’t applied that label to the concept.

Free Talk Live: IP and Disney

Listening to the Wednesday edition of Free Talk Live on my Treo 650 today; listening to Ian pound Mark over the head for his support for Intellectual Property rights. (third day in a row, I might add…)

Generally, I agree with Mark on this issue. As an architect, I know that the thought that goes into design is a valuable commodity that needs to be protected. Otherwise the less scrupulous out there will simply wait for someone else to do the hard work of invention so that they can then profit from it at the inventor’s expense. Contrary to Ian’s assertions, I’ve not seen any evidence that people will do the months and years of work required to bring something to market unless they have reasonable confidence that they will make a profit from it. If anybody can copy a design and be free to sell it the day after it hits the market (or as in the case of the Chinese clothing ‘pirates’, even before it hits the market) then the chances for profit are greatly reduced. I don’t know of any business that stays in business without making a profit.

On the other hand, I don’t really believe that corporations (like Disney) should be allowed to hold rights to intellectual property. Those rights should be limited to real people, not legal entities that will continue to expect a profit long past the lifespan of the original author. Disney is a prime example of this, since their lobbying was instrumental in getting the latest extension to copyright terms passed.

There is a phrase that applies to the subject of Disney characters and the school mural that was the subject of rather heated discussion on Wednesday’s show. That phrase is “work of art”. A work of art is generally exempt from claims of copyright infringement. That doesn’t stop the corporations with lawyers and money at their disposal threatening people with legal action if their demands aren’t met. The truth is that the school blinked when Disney decided to play hard ball. If push had come to shove, Disney would probably have dropped the case.

Copyright terms expiring was the real reason for Disney going after public displays of their copyrighted works. Like Coke being synonymous with cola and Kleenex with facial tissue, Disney was fighting the battle of keeping their property from passing into the public domain; and they won that battle by passing new legislation. If corporations were excluded from owning these types of property, the entire battle could have been avoided.

[On the question from a listener concerning the objectivist opinion on the subject; as an objectivist myself, I think I can vouch for the fact that objectivists in general understand the need to protect the “mind’s contribution” to the creative effort]

Oh, and Ian, your disbelief in intellectual property doesn’t equate to the non-existence of intellectual property. But your willingness to steal other peoples ideas speaks volumes to the subject of why the MPAA and the RIAA are willing to go to such lengths to protect their investments.

For what it’s worth, this is one of those arguments that illustrates the very narrow difference between a communist (in the government-less nature of the word ‘commune’) and the little ‘a’ anarchists and the extreme edge of the Libertarian party. They would also tell you that ideas ‘should be free’, but I’m not willing to live in their version of utopia either.