Patriotism?

A willingness to love your country by looking at it clearly.

Heidi Schreck
Stay Tuned with Preet – What Patriotism Means to You (with Heidi Schreck)

What The Constitution Means To Me, nominated for two Tony Awards, and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, the show is inspired by her time as a fifteen-year-old high school student competing in American Legion speech and debate contests, where she spoke about the meaning of our founding document.

When I listened to last weeks show I contemplated recording myself reading some of I am a Patriot and sending it to Preet, but as usual my absolute terror of speaking in front of a group (even time-delayed speaking) drowned the idea and hid it’s body in the woods until the submission time had passed. There were still a respectable number of submissions, and the editor of the podcast (who doesn’t appear to be named anywhere) blended them together in a nice tribute that probably took several hours to get right. This episode is well worth the time it takes to listen. Maybe I’ll be able to catch Heidi Scheck’s show when it goes on the road.

National Forensics League?

The National Forensics League is a nationwide organization that gives high school students the opportunity to polish their speaking/acting skills, compete in regulated National tournaments, and be a part of a lifelong organization that promotes solid speaking skills and intelligence. Bruno E. Jacob began to contemplate the foundation of the NFL when asked if there was an honor society for high school debaters. Realizing such a thing did not exist, Jacob drafted a proposal and in 1925 the NFL was born. It is now the oldest and largest honor society for speech and debate high school students. The NFL continues to exude excellence by promoting achievement in debate, speech, and academics. For instance, the NFL awards around $153, 000 in college scholarships every year to help members who otherwise might not be able to afford college.

George Washington on Political Parties

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind, (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight,) the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration. It agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

George Washington’s Farewell Address

He might as well have named Donald J. Trump, the description fits so well. A hat/tip to Justin Amish and the Washington Post for publishing his opinion piece today. It motivated me to go look up Washington’s farewell address just to verify that was the language in the document.

Today, I am declaring my independence and leaving the Republican Party. No matter your circumstance, I’m asking you to join me in rejecting the partisan loyalties and rhetoric that divide and dehumanize us. I’m asking you to believe that we can do better than this two-party system — and to work toward it. If we continue to take America for granted, we will lose it.

Justin Amish

A Draft vs. Mandatory Civil Service

It looks like the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) is trying to get us into a war. If he isn’t trying to get us into a war, he’s stupidly making a future war inevitable, as Jim notes in the image above/right. In my opinion, this is just more Republican policy boilerplate, the part of the standard corporatist MICC approach to the world that echoes with the novel 1984 more frighteningly than the phrase alternative facts does. We are on a permanent war footing. We will be eternally at war with Eurasia or Eastasia.

It will probably be a war with Iran. They (the Republicans) have wanted to be at war with Iran since 1979. Their memories of historical intransigence on Iran’s part are more than slightly skewed towards seeing the US as the good guys in that relationship.

A good portion of this post was written in response to the OHM’s provocation of Iran two years ago, back when Jim posted the above images to Facebook. Here we are two years later, and the exact same shit is still going on. We will be at war soon if we do not remove this festering wound on the ass of America that is the entire Trump administration. These crises that have plagued the OHM since he lied his way into office will only get worse until we remove him from office.

I wanted Trump impeached the day he took the oath of office because I knew that his criminal business methods would take us to places like the one we find ourselves in now with Iran. They won’t pay him to say nice things about them, so they get punished. This article is an example of my understanding of who Trump is and where his kind of criminality would lead us to, in that I started the damn thing two years ago and it is still topical. Trump and his advisors are still trying to get us into war, a war with Iran, and Americans as a rule do not want to be forced to go to war. Can you imagine being drafted to go to war against Iran right now? This guy can,

I am in favor of a military draft with no deferments for any reason. If the risk were spread equally I think Vietnam, 16 years in Afghanistan and Iraq wouldn’t have happened. A draft is one of the few, easily observable times most of the citizenry can draw a straight line from federal government policy to their daily lives.

Facebook comment

A simple lack of knowledge about his own country’s history appears to be the fault in his thinking. He goes on to rage at great length in the comment that I replied to on Facebook two years ago, about the injustice of being forced to go fight wars he doesn’t want to fight in. The reason that the Vietnam war (known as the US war in the country of Vietnam) had such a high body counts is because the army had troops to burn. The army had troops to burn, the President and the Congress had troops to burn, because there was a draft. There had been a draft in force since the beginning of WWII, and the end of the draft in 1973, an outcome demanded by young men in response to the body counts of the Vietnam war, is probably why our leaders found other ways than war to solve international political issues for the last few generations.

Other ways? Arms reduction treaties for one. Using the populations of client states to do our dirty work was another way. Creating a mercenary, private army was also an outgrowth of the end of the draft. Jim put it this way,

Rich people don’t get drafted (see Trump et al). Connected people, even if they are drafted don’t go to war (see Bush Jr. et al). Drafts are NEVER EVER fairly and uniformly administered. In every single case, conscription become a way for the government to force the poorer part of the population to fight unpopular conflicts for the benefit of corporations.

Stonekettle Station

In all the times there have been mandatory conscription there has never been one where the wealthy cannot buy their way out, where the powerful cannot exempt themselves and their children. That simply isn’t how a draft is done. Conscription is just like slavery, and the sons and daughters of the powerful will not be allowed to be slaughtered like slaves, their parents will see to that. There is a reason conscription is not allowed any longer in civilized countries. As Jim alludes to, Old Bone Spurs himself managed to evade the draft. His personal unwillingness to die for his country doesn’t stop him from appointing people who want to take us into war and let others die in his place. After all, someone went to war in his place in Vietnam, why should this be any different? The poor are more suited to the task of living and dying violently. Let them go to war, or so the hateful bastards who currently lead this country think.

The draft will not stop the repetition of senseless wars. Even without the example of Old Bone Spurs there is plenty of other evidence to represent this fact. Napoleon proved this handily by being able to draw up conscripts time and time again for his military adventures. The reason that the USSR had such astronomical losses on the Nazi Eastern front is because Stalin had millions upon millions of starving peasants to throw at the better equipped, mechanized Nazi army. They sent unarmed, untrained civilians straight into battle, telling them to take the arms of their fallen comrades and take the fight to the huns with them. When you live in a country that is organized on social equality, every person is a number. An expendable part in a greater machine that must be kept running.

Aside from all of that. Aside from the meat grinder that is the modern military. Aside from the problems of military conscription giving the modern military more meat to grind, there is the further problem of disconnect between the average citizen and the government that works so well that it allows him to believe that he can get by without government’s help. There is something we can do to remedy these delusions and it isn’t a military draft.

Mandatory civil service.

A requirement that every young person spend two years as part of their continuing education in the civil service of the United States. As an alternative they could join the military, but only if that is their freely selected choice. Either before or after college, take your pick or let them take their pick; but there would be no exemptions from this service except for permanent mental or physical incapacity. Permanent wards of the state, in other words. With all of the menacing overtones that condition entails.

As part of their required civil service they could help out as interns in D.C. or they could go overseas as part of the Peace Corps (A thing that I was surprised to discover still exists) or they could join government outreach programs (poverty relief, healthcare, education, etc) within the US as well. This kind of not killing and blowing things up service would foment an understanding in our population of the real nature of government and the human condition as other people experience it, and it would also not require them to give up their lives for their country. They would be bound by the same code as all the other civil servants in US government employment not the UCMJ like military conscripts. It is the proverbial win-win situation.

Requiring civil service as part of being a citizen of the United States would overturn the political norm, and that is a good thing. Right now the average American citizen thinks they can get through their lives without government making plans for them, no matter how many times you point out that everything they use on a day to day basis has to be planned out and constructed by somebody. I know because until I was disabled, I was one of those clueless rubes myself.

How do you think the Tea Party started? It started because people who think they currently live without government oversight and intervention believe that ending all government would be a good thing. My former libertarian friends tried to convince me to go with them and subvert the Republican party in 2006. Back then it was part of Ron Paul’s movement. They were going to change the world. They have succeeded in getting Trump into the White House. Congratulations? Never have I been so happy as I am right now, knowing that I never contributed a minute towards the Tea Party.

But the belief that what is needed is a reformation of the political norm is well-founded if poorly understood by anarchists, libertarians and the MAGA that support the OHM. We need to change the political and social norms to the point where we all understand that voting is the absolute least that can be expected of us as citizens. We have to get to the point where we thank everyone for their service, not just the soldiers who are lucky enough to return from war. Everyone who does their part is worthy of our respect, in peacetime as well as in wartime, and everyone needs government whether they are conscious of it on a daily basis, or not.

But war is as old as humanity. You won’t end it.

That is a cop out as old as humanity. It was probably mouthed by the same people who frequented the first purveyors of the oldest profession. As I said previously, starting with the Napoleonic wars and going straight on through Vietnam, You can see how modern democracy and modern warfare exact greater and greater tolls on the humans caught in this increasingly mechanized business. All of those wars were fed by conscription that kings could never manage prior to the benefits of a popular mandate. But a dictatorship of the proletariat? The meat to grind never ends in one of those places. The OHM’s dictatorship would grind meat just like Hitler’s did, with zealots guarding his corpse at the end as whatever city he was hiding in last is reduced to rubble around them. That way lies death.

If my antagonist in that thread two years ago had read and understood the article on the end of the US draft, he would have seen how Nixon ended conscription to end the war protests. The nation would have come apart at the seams if he hadn’t ended it. And that strategy combined with his drug war allowed him to destroy the burgeoning political movements towards equality and democracy that were present in the late 1960’s. Locking us back in the same repeating domestic struggle that we’ve been in since 1865, the same one that has lasted until the present day.

Reinstating conscription like he proposed will simply drive up body counts in wars that shouldn’t even occur. Wars that wouldn’t occur if there was a world government with the ability to enforce an end to war. Something that gives nationalists like the OHM and his supporters nightmares that they wake screaming from. I hope their nightmares come true. More than that, I think that revealing the true interconnectedness that lies at the heart of human society will strip away the disguise that allows the wealthy to set the poor and middle class at each other’s throats over the scraps they leave on the table. We are all in this together whether we like it or not, and the only exit from this existence is non-existence.

How about we change the beat and see if we like the new music before checking out for the last time? Sounds like a plan to me.

Compiled and expanded from several Facebook comments.

The Paradox of Tolerance

Someone on Reddit took the time to read the article I wrote titled GIGO is a Thing, or Why Freedom of Speech Isn’t Free (weird, isn’t it? That someone would actually read links provided as feedback?) and offered some commentary feedback of their own,

you’re probably already aware of paradox of intolerance, which applies perfectly to your article.

What I learned from that feedback is that I need to read more Karl Popper. Once I went looking for the paradox and found it as well as Popper’s name, I was happy to be reintroduced to some of his thinking. For those who haven’t run across this concept before, the paradox is stated as follows,

…if a society is tolerant without limit, its ability to be tolerant is eventually seized or destroyed by the intolerant.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Having refreshed the idea in my head, I remembered running across the paradox of intolerance before, or heard someone expressing it before, back in the seventies. Sometime in the immediate aftermath of white supremacy first being separated from federal power. The idea that we had somehow encouraged this evil in our midst.

None of us thought of it in the terms of unlimited tolerance, back then. We just knew, causally, that neo-Nazis started to appear among us. The subsequent discussions were about how to respond to them. The ACLU, rightly or wrongly, defended the rights of the neo-Nazis and Klansmen to speak. Many other Americans condemned them for this action, but I don’t think we’ve ever successfully dealt with the problem. It simply keeps re-emerging every generation to be dealt with again. Perhaps that is the human curse, to always be weeding out the bad ideas.

It’s only in hindsight, with a view towards history, with increasing experience, that you can see the unlimited tolerance as the weakness that needs to be offset, because it is a weakness as Popper rightly observed. It is a weakness and also a strength. How to filter the garbage without filtering the learning that comes from being exposed to the garbage? That is the crux of the paradox. You can’t see authoritarianism as an ill to be avoided from inside the authoritarian bubble. You only see it from the outside once you emerge. From inside it seems like a just use of power, like an anti-abortionist might see stopping what they deem murder or anti-vaxxers stopping harm to children. Until you stop believing a thing and look at it from outside that thing, you can’t test it’s falsity. While you believe, state power looks like the answer to stopping the sickness that you see.

This is why critical thinking is an absolute good that needs to be taught to everyone. Without critical thinking you simply do not have the tools to determine whether your beliefs are false or not. As I said in the GIGO article,

Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty

To be eternally vigilant is to practice due diligence as often as required when it comes to the things you believe as well as the things you are told. What is due diligence? Caveat Emptor. The two states of mind are interchangeable. Healthy caution and skepticism. If you want to be at liberty, if you want to maintain liberty, then you must be skeptical of all things that are not immediately apparent. Due diligence is another way to describe critical thinking.

This is the difference between a belief and a philosophy. Between knowledge and belief. You can believe any damn fool thing you want, even demonstrably false things (doublethink) a philosophy (specifically scientific philosophy) requires that you test new beliefs against old beliefs to determine which is the sounder thing to believe in. Whether or not this new idea conforms to the other things you think you know already. When an old idea fails it should be rejected in favor of the new thing which at least appears to be more true.

Do You Believe in a Secular America?

Memorial Day Quotes

“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart and hearthstone all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” 

Abraham Lincoln, First Inaugural Address, Marcy 4, 1861

Robert Reich contrasts the quote from Lincoln’s first inaugural with one of the Orange Hate-Monkey’s recent tweets, in a cynical strategy illustrating just how little of the progressive Republican spirit, so present in the election of 1860 and in the body of Abraham Lincoln and his presidency, remains in the Republican party. I’ve beaten that dead horse enough. Appealing to conservatives (the bulk of modern Republicanism) requires looking to the distant past, preferably a past they hope to emulate. So they get Lincoln from his first inaugural sans any reminders of just how low their current leadership is on the scale of great leaders from American history.

Everyone else can read on and enjoy the paragraph from Stonekettle Station’s latest post on the subject of the military and how we honor them.

You don’t think the military is appreciated in this country? Seriously? There are two national holidays dedicated to the military and I don’t know how many state holidays. None for teachers or doctors or peacemakers. But two for the military and they’re trying to turn all the rest of them into some statement on military service too. Every town in this country suddenly has some sort of park or monument dedicated to veterans. There are parades and fireworks and TV shows. There are two Executive departments of our government dedicated to the military. TWO. We spend more than 50% of the national budget on the military. Every car has one of those idiotic magnets on the back of it, or some sort of bumper sticker. I can see three of them from here. Every goober in this store is wearing some sort of military shirt with eagles and guns and flags on it. We idolize the military. It’s a goddamned fetish! (I might have been shouting by this point). What the hell are you even talking about?”

Stonekettle Station – Thanks, But It Was Never About That

…his other post on the subject of Memorial Day was one written back in 2017.

The Perfect is the Enemy of the Good

Dans ses écrits, un sage Italien Dit que le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.

(In his writings, a wise Italian says that the best is the enemy of the good)

Voltaire, Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

An aphorism that we should be taking to heart as we approach the coming 2020 elections. Also? A personal struggle every artist engages in when trying to determine if a work is done or not.

Google Delivers Russian Propaganda

I’ve got some feedback for Google

I don’t usually use Google now. I don’t know how many people even know what that is. If your phone is an android phone, you should be able to swipe right on the home screen to get to Google now. Google now isn’t even what it is called anymore, but it still is exactly what Google now used to be, it’s just referred to as “Google” these days. That makes the following feedback even more succinct.

Russia Today – RT.com

The above story was at the top of my Google feed today. A prime example of why I don’t use Google now very often in the first place. Top stories on my feed are almost always some flame-inducing bullshit from some less than trustworthy source. What does Google think I should read first today? A story from rt.com on Rachel Maddow. Google is suggesting I read an RT story about Maddow when there is a perfectly decent news article over on the Washington Post website that actually tells me what the real facts in question are. A news piece that isn’t about Rachel Maddow in the first place. So Google? Are you officially acting as a propaganda arm for the Russian government now? Why would I be offered a news story from rt.com in the first place, if not? RT is not a legitimate source for anything newsworthy. They are an even less reliable source than FOX is, which is saying quite a bit.

YouTube’s recommendation algorithms are designed to steer viewers to videos they may not have otherwise searched for, including by automatically playing more videos through its “Up next” function. But experts said that functionality can lead viewers down a rabbit hole of increasingly concerning videos of conspiracy theories, disinformation or offensive content.

YouTube’s algorithms have previously been designed to maximize watch time, which Chaslot and others have criticized as rewarding more shocking or sensational videos. YouTube said it now relies on information such as user surveys, likes, dislikes and shares to improve its recommendations.

Even its efforts to combat misinformation have in some cases backfired, as happened this month when videos of the flaming collapse of the spire of Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris were incorrectly identified by YouTube as imagery from the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in New York.

Washington Post

Here’s a thought, Google. A thought I’ve offered to you as design advice more than once. I want the ability to exclude URL’s directly as an input function. I want to be able to key in URL’s directly and exclude those URL’s from my news feed. This would be useful in two ways. One, it would stop your customers from flaming you every time you offered an article that the user felt did not adequately outline the facts in question. Secondly, this block information should be useful as a rule of thumb determinate for the reliablilty and general acceptability of the source among the general public. A general trustworthiness rating of a site.

The subject in question is an excellent example of the problem. If I want to know how to get to the meaning of the Mueller report, I have plenty of reliable sources that I could go to, none of them controlled by the Russian government. Here’s one.

Thursday I surveyed the entire Mueller report. I read some sections carefully; I skimmed others. My job was to anchor Lawfare’s initial coverage, so I needed to have a sense of the big picture, as well as detailed knowledge of certain findings and arguments. Starting Friday, however, I am reading the entire document carefully, starting at the beginning. I’m writing up my thoughts as I go in this post. There will be no cohesive argument to this journal. It will simply be a collection of my observations, questions and thoughts as I go through the document. It will get long. I will not attempt to summarize the underlying document, merely to reflect on it, but I will organize this post by document section. I will update the post as I read. I hope people find it useful.

Lawfare Blog – Notes on the Mueller Report: A Reading Diary

Lawfare is world’s above in reliability for communicating legal information than any other site I that I can think off right off the top of my head. So, contrary to the talking head on the RT Youtube video that dismisses the entirety of the report as some kind of conspiracy against the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) you might discover that the Mueller team uncovered real crimes committed by the sitting president of the United States, and we might want to impeach him for these crimes. It would probably be a good idea.

It would probably also be a good idea not to act as the propaganda arm of any government, Google. The numbers of propaganda organs that survive unscathed after the existing powers are unseated is a number very close to zero. You might want to contemplate your future employment plans if you continue down this road. The vast majority of the American people are not fooled by this chicanery conducted by the OHM and his Russian buddies. There will be hell to pay, eventually.


Google is not the only culprit here. Google is simply the culprit pushing misinformation on my personal device. In this TED talk, listen while this journalist describes the multiple crimes and misinformation spread by the leave campaign, with direct ties to Donald Trump and Russia.

Carole Cadwalladr – TED2019 – Facebook’s role in Brexit — and the threat to democracy

This is the real harm in allowing ourselves to be used in this fashion. Allowing ourselves to be pushed in a direction we really don’t want to go except for the lies being told to us. The referendum that Theresa May thinks she has to honor was conducted outside the law. It baffles me why she thinks doing the stupid thing the referendum calls for, leaving the EU, is the thing that has to be done. What has to be done is to punish the lawbreakers who enacted the sham on UK citizens. The felonious results of the sham are irrelevant.

The Electoral College Explained

This revised article was inspired by the March 21, 2019 NPR Politics Podcast where they once again repeated the myth that the EC was not designed to reflect the popular vote. That is simply not the truth of the matter. The story is far more complex than that.

Elizabeth Warren Calls for Ending Electoral College

The electoral college has a long and troubled history; in fact, the electoral college wasn’t even in the first draft of the Constitution. In the original document, penned by James Madison, congress was to select the president. This mechanism was deemed too prone to intrigue by the members of the constitutional convention, and was seen as crippling the independence of the executive branch by 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 document himself. This idea was sacrificed even before the writing of the first draft of the document in order to make inclusion of the slave states palatable to the Northern states.

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.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The historical fact of American slavery is something that the defenders of the electoral college should take heed of. The numerous slaves in the Southern states, slaves that the Southern slave owners 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. The South wanted slaves counted as people, for the purpose of representation, but not counted as people, for the purpose of profiting off of their slave labor. The impasse over the problem of representation in the legislature and at the voting booth threatened the entire constitutional convention, much like the problem of slavery threatened the possibility of American independence.

It was the invention of the three-fifths rule, a rule that counted each slave as three-fifths of a person, that allowed for a compromise on representation; and through that, a compromise on the election of the office of president. Changes have been made to the electoral college along the way, but the essence of the college itself remains the same as it was back in 1787; 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. This was the paramount fear in the minds of the crafters of the Union. The electoral college was part of the whole package of division of powers, allowing for the will of the voting population of each state to be carried directly to the then new capitol. The preservation of state power was what the electoral college was designed to protect, enhancing the ability of sectionalism to thwart the corrupting influence of faction.

Faction almost immediately took hold, anyway.

Some states reasoned that the favorite presidential candidate among the people in their state would have a much better chance if all of the electors selected by their state were sure to vote the same way—a “general ticket” of electors pledged to a party candidate. So the slate of electors chosen by the state were no longer free agents, independent thinkers, or deliberative representatives. They became “voluntary party lackeys and intellectual non-entities.”Once one state took that strategy, the others felt compelled to follow suit in order to compete for the strongest influence on the election.

When James Madison and Hamilton, two of the most important architects of the Electoral College, saw this strategy being taken by some states, they protested strongly. Madison and Hamilton both made it clear this approach violated the spirit of the Constitution. According to Hamilton, the selection of the president should be “made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station [of president].” According to Hamilton, the electors were to analyze the list of potential presidents and select the best one. He also used the term “deliberate”.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The 1800 election saw the fears of faction take form for the first time. The Jefferson/Adams split and the resulting confusion of a tie vote for Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr in that election lead to the first changes in the electoral college and to the running mates system that is still in use today.

The 1824 election, the first election in which the popular vote mattered, was the second time the electoral college failed to produce a president. Once again the House of Representatives was forced to debate and vote on presidential candidates, eventually electing John Quincy Adams, the son of John Adams, to the presidency. This so infuriated the winner of the popular vote in 1824, Andrew Jackson, that he broke with the party of Jefferson (Democratic-Republicans) to create the Democratic party, a version of which still exists today.

The formation of the other half of the two-party factional control of the United States government came about with the election of Abraham Lincoln. It was with the election of Lincoln that the regional Republican party graduated to the national stage. Lincoln is one of four presidents who won the office while not being on the ballots in every state, and the only president to win the office while not being on the ballot in more than 5 states (he was not on the ballot in ten of the eleven slave states) he did win the electoral college successfully, probably because the slave states of the deep South were already pulling their support from the union and actively engaging in dissipating federal power to the several states so as to strengthen their own hands in the coming war that they were actively conspiring to start.

The electoral college is the only one where they choose their own masters.

Abraham Lincoln, Team of Rivals pg. 630

However, the electoral college was set up to reflect the population of the United States as a whole. It achieved this through tying a majority of the electors from each state to the number of representatives from each state in the House of Representatives. Each district of the House being determined through the arcane process of census and redistricting, the seats apportioned based on populations within geographical regions. One elector for every seat in the House of Representatives plus one for every Senator. Add in the three electors for Washington D.C. and you have the number of electors in the current version of the electoral college, 538. It is supposed to return results that roughly equates to the vote of the majority of the population of the United States, and has done its job pretty admirably right up until the twentieth century when Congress short-circuited the representation metric that the founders set up.

How did the House upset the metric? They crafted the last in several sequential measures that set the number of seats in the legislature. The membership of the House of Representatives has been kept artificially low for most of the modern age. the number of representatives was fixed at 435 in 1911 and has remained at 435 as the population of the United States has grown exponentially. 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 direct representation of the people, because it too is not apportioned correctly even though it was set up specifically to serve this purpose.

If the House of Representatives was allowed to grow again, as it did throughout the history of the United States, we would end up with a House that was made up of several thousand people. This may sound like a radical change to you, increasing the size of the house, but we’ll get a better representational cross-section of America if we do this and thereby end 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. I think we will have to find that out first hand. Keep this point in mind.

The 2016 election travesty is not even the first time since 2000 that a candidate for President received more popular votes and yet lost the election as it is calculated in the electoral college, and still I run across statements from apparently well educated people who insist that these kinds of outcomes are to be expected. 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 the election was flawed on many levels. From black box voting machines in some districts to questionable primary practices to interference on the part of the FBI in how the Democratic candidate was viewed. However, the presumptive winner was unquestionably the least fit person ever to be put forward as the next president, and he was erroneously called the president-elect before the electors had even cast their votes. 2016 was the election that the electoral college was created to prevent, and it failed to prevent the farce we are currently living through, not to mention the hanging chad bullshit of the 2000 Florida recount and eight years of Bush II.

Just read back over the posts on this blog. Authoritarianism vs. Humanism. The Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) The various MAGA posts (there are more of those still in the edit stages) The article On Presidential Tax Returns. The facts in that article alone being enough to exclude the OHM from the office of president if reasonable people had been in charge of the 2016 election. However, the Republican party has apparently gone over to the magical thinkers, and magic doesn’t exist. If the Republicans in 2020 nominated 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. Might have to allow for the corruption of our system represented in their factional control of parts of our government. Not even in my wildest dreams did I think they would be so stupid as to nominate a lunatic as their candidate in 2016, and they are liable to do it again in 2020 even if the OHM goes to jail before that election is held.

But they did nominate a lunatic in 2016, and they are one-half of the two-party factional control of our government that has been allowed to calcify in place over the last century. The entire legislative system is set up to cater to party authority and one of the parties is demonstrably insane, being led by someone who either does believe or pretends to believe insane things.

The electoral college has failed to do its one and only job in the one election in U.S. history that could possibly have proved its worth. It has failed to justify its inclusion in the fabric of American society, three-fifths compromise notwithstanding. With the 2016 travesty in the rear-view mirror it becomes painfully obvious that we must amend the constitution to remove the electoral college, legislatively render it toothless in every state legislature in the US or modify the structure that dictates its size and representation. One of these things must occur. Several states have already passed the legislation mandating the popular vote outcome.

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

If we cannot render the electoral college toothless, If we cannot amend it out of the constitution, replacing it with the direct election of the president by the population of the United States, then what we have to do is the easier thing that I alluded to earlier. We influence our representatives to do the one thing they can do for us and themselves, and it’s part of the job we send them to Washington D.C. to do in the first place. They should legislate an increase in the size of the House of Representatives, and through that increase negate the corrupting influences of faction and money.

What the study and report above shows is exactly what I said. The imposed limitation of 435 members placed on congress by congress itself is the limiting factor for gaining more influence over our representatives, for gaining an equitable voice in electing our president. This is one of the easiest things to fixed, and it would fix the electoral college at the same time. With one simple bill introduced in congress we could increase the size of the congress and reduce the numbers of us per representative. Make the representatives more focused on communicating with their much smaller groups of constituents, and be 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. 

An update to the 2016 piece that I wrote anticipating that the electoral college could be made to do its job.

Stepping on the Rattlesnake

There was a time when I was a Gadsden flag devotee. In my libertarian days I even used it as a prop for a speech, back in those days when I believed that overcoming fears was something that you just had to put your mind to in order to achieve. I never did get over my fear of public speaking, and I’ve long since given up even trying to do it. No two groups are ever the same, and repeated embarrassment in front of larger and larger audiences just spreads belief that you are incompetent at the task you are trying to achieve. Stop while you’re ahead, advice I should have taken a long time ago when it comes to public speaking.

By Benjamin Franklin – This image is available from the United States Library of Congress Prints and Photographs division under the digital ID cph.3g05315.

The Gadsden flag is itself a token of fear, but it says more about the fear of the people who carry it than it does about the people they are opposing.
When Franklin came up with the severed snake image for the thirteen colonies, the imagery was undeniably effective. If the colonies didn’t form themselves into a cohesive whole, they would be killed and consumed separately by the world powers of the time. It was such an effective image that it was used more than once by Franklin to call the citizens of the colonies together to support a common cause. It reverberated again and again through the varying crisis that faced the fledgling colonies. Colonies that dreamed of one day being free of their European masters.

The snake on the Gadsden flag is whole. That snake represents the colonies standing as one. It’s a rattlesnake because early Americans had enough experience with rattlesnakes to appreciate the warning rattle they gave. The flag itself was a warning rattle to the British and their Scottish and German mercenaries that the American colonies were determined to be colonies no longer. But since the common European conscript had no idea what a rattlesnake was, the caption DON’T TREAD ON ME was added to communicate the important fact that the flag failed to communicate with its visual representation. We will fight you to the last man to establish our independence. We will take you down with us if you persist. This was a sentiment that we understood for ourselves, but have repeatedly failed to recognize in other former colonies when they fought for their freedom.

However, the necessity of putting text on the flag makes it a bad flag in the eyes of vexillologists. If you have to put words on your flag, your flag has failed to communicate the information you want to pass on. It’s also the first in a long line of bad revolutionary flags. Juvenile attempts to provoke an enemy that proceeds to do the thing that the flag says they can’t do.

Like this image does. It doesn’t matter that that foot will be bitten and probably have to be amputated. That the corporations will face retribution and regulation for their unwise actions curtailing free expression. Not all governments are equal, and not all societies are free. Doing the bidding of the powerful will never make you the friends of the weak, and the weakest among us is always going to be an individual somewhere. The corporations, if they proceed to tread on the snake of free expression, will die along with free expression. It is in the nature of ideas that this is true.

Stepping barefoot on a rattlesnake is a bad idea. Stepping on free expression is similarly a bad idea if you are a corporation that relies on people being able to speak their mind on your platform. Users will leave the platform for other platforms where they can express themselves the way they like without threats of punishment. The individual users need to be smart enough to know that they are being lied to, though. That they aren’t smart in that way is a failing of education, and there is no easy way out of this conundrum. You can’t foment revolution without consequences, and you can’t stop people from calling for revolution without infringing on free expression. GIGO, as I said previously. Garbage in, garbage out. Separating the worthwhile communication from the informational junk food. Not going on Facebook seems to be the first step to kicking the current informational junk food habit.

The Delusion of Money

The delusion of money is why US libertarianism has become laughable. Specifically, their conceptualization of what money is precludes them from understanding what will solve the recurring economic crises we’ve suffered over my lifetime. This is another one of those if I had a nickel moments. If I had a nickel for every time a libertarian spouts off about taxes being theft, or the poor stealing from the wealthy, or some other expression that lets the hearer know that the speaker thinks their money belongs to them. That money is something earned through work and work alone. If I had a nickel for every time I tuned one of these guys out in recent years, I’d be a very wealthy man.

When I take the time to listen to them these days, to read their arguments, I’ve started posing this counter question. What is Libertarian Socialism? They generally short circuit like a drone android calling for Norman. Libertarian Socialism, a political movement that dismisses notions of taxes as anything other than the monetary recapturing tool that taxes are, sees Guaranteed Minimum Income as a necessary function of living in large groups. Just one more movement afoot to bring economic freedom to the problem of worldwide poverty. A real solution to a real problem, not hidebound ideology and wishful thinking.

The process of discovering what money is and what its functions in human society are has lifted a veil from my eyes. And I have struggled with how to present the idea that seems so clear to me, present it in a way that will be understood by others. Understood by others who have not dropped their preconceived notions about money on the wayside. Understood by them and not simply have the argument rejected out of hand.

Year after year, when I was a libertarian, I promoted the World’s Smallest Political Quiz (WSPQ) as the way to illustrate, concretely, just how libertarians were different from liberals or conservatives. I wish I had spent that time studying economics rather than promoting fringe ideology, now. The WSPQ is a variation on the Nolan chart, a political spectrum diagram created by American libertarian activist David Nolan. The WSPQ slims down the questions asked by Nolan to ten yes/maybe/no questions, and then places people in their political quadrants based on their answers. I never understood the pushback offered by people who suggested that financial freedom wasn’t what the diagram described while I was out stumping for it. Now I can see the problem more clearly.

The Nolan chart and all it’s minor variations don’t deal with the reality of economics; and consequently, these attempts to measure political beliefs do not measure economic freedom as they claim to do. This fact makes all libertarian ideas that deal with economics flawed at the precept level, shattering the entire structure of libertarian philosophy. Shatters not just libertarianism, but any philosophy that includes the ideals of money as an individual possession. You cannot define libertarianism as different than the same flawed left/right and/or liberal/conservative political lines without a measuring stick that is separate from social freedom, and economic freedom enables social freedom more than any other kind of freedom one can imagine. The two go hand in hand (Four Freedoms) Understanding what money is, conceptually, is the first step to understanding how the systems we live in can be improved.

Money is not a thing; or rather, money isn’t just one thing. Money is not a possession, although physical representations of money can be possessed. Money is not a commodity even though it is currently traded like a commodity. If I had the last glass of water you could have all the money in the world and you couldn’t buy that last glass of water from me. That is the difference between a commodity and a currency. Money isn’t even a set value as my previous writing on the subject of money skims over. So what is money?

I’ve been bashing my head against this wall and several others for the last decade and more. It’s part of the overall arc of EPHN, my languishing work on Emergent Principles of Human Nature. The work languishes because I lack the depth of knowledge to deal with the questions posed by writing the work, not by my ability to express the ideas contained within it. The accumulation of information takes time, and so the work languishes, in a general sense. At the same time, my understanding grows about certain subjects that interest me, and one of those subjects is the delusion of money.

Money = Lubricant

Any mechanical part that moves in relation to another part of a mechanical construct, like a motor or an engine, has to be protected from the friction present when any two parts come in contact. This protection can take several forms, and even several forms at the same time. Motor oil. Hydraulic fluid. Ball bearings. Grease. Money is like these things in many ways. It reduces the friction between one side of the economy, supply, and the other side of the economy, consumption.

If you provide sufficient funds to each household to allow them to meet needs you will see how much of each product needs to be produced based on the value assigned to the product by the consumer. Thusly, money eases the acquisition of goods and services for the people who need them. Without money we are forced to barter one good for anther one, and that system has never functioned in a way that the average human found acceptable, which is why we invented money in the first place.

Then you, the money issuing authority, sit back and wait. You wait to see where the money goes. When you notice that money is pooling in areas and not being spent, you tax those pools that don’t enhance the economy, the economic backwaters that don’t serve the purpose of lubricating the system generally. You tax them because money hoarding is a corruption of the intent of the system. Money is for spending not for hoarding. Property is what you keep. If you want to hang on to wealth, invest it.

Money=Contract

Money is a third-party contract that is carried along with every other financial contract that is agreed to. Money is the underlying agreement between the people who are giving over goods or services and the people receiving said goods or services, that the compensation will be in X currency at a particular value. Anyone who has read a financial contract should recognize this language. The value of money, that money will have value at all, is an agreement between every working and consuming person on the face of the planet. When that agreement breaks down, commerce breaks down. Goods rot in warehouses. Families starve.

Money=Narrative

On the Media – Full Faith & Credit – October 12, 2018

Ten autumns ago came two watershed moments in the history of money. In September 2008, the bankruptcy of Lehman Brothers triggered a financial meltdown from which the world has yet to fully recover. The following month, someone using the name Satoshi Nakamoto introduced BitCoin, the first cryptocurrency. Before our eyes, the very architecture of money was evolving — potentially changing the world in the process. In this hour, On the Media looks at the story of money, from its uncertain origins to its digital reinvention in the form of cryptocurrency.

Money is a collective belief in the value of a thing, a story we tell ourselves about buying what we buy and what we buy it with. Bitcoin is the essence of this narrative. It only has value because calculating entries in the blockchain is currently rewarded with bitcoin, funding all of the Bitcoin mining centers all across the world. What happens when the last Bitcoin is minted? Where will the value in maintaining the blockchain ledgers come from then? No one who invests in Bitcoin wants to know what the answer to that question is. In the meantime the story of the value of Bitcoin continues. But any currency is only as valuable as the people who trade in it think it is. If you can’t buy anything with the currency, the value of the currency is zero.

Money=Debt Obligation.

How can you make money to spend if there is no debt to create money from? This was the problem that faced the world after the crash of 1929. There was insufficient money in circulation. No one had money, and the reasons for this defied explanation according to the rules of the time. Europe needed gold to create money. Europe did what the gold standard required of them and raised taxes on their poor citizenry to the brink of starvation in an attempt to create gold reserves, creating backing for government spending that they needed in order to dig out of the holes that World War One left them in. The hordes of gold that the US held in reserve profited the American people not one bit, even though the rules of the gold standard dictated that America should be swimming in cash. Why was there no cash? Because the rules of the gold standard did not accurately describe how economics works. (Lords of Finance) FDR had to create new, insane rules, by the standards of economists of the time, to justify creating money that did not already exist, so that he could hand it out to people who wanted to work but could not find work.

Making sure that everyone has money to spend simply shortcuts the requirement that incomes will start at zero. Work is not required to generate debt, to create money. Work is how you pay off debt, and government generates money to make these transactions possible. But money is more than that, too. It is more than a lubricant that makes nearly frictionless exchange of goods possible. More than a contractual obligation that we all agree to every day when we buy or sell anything. More than a story we tell ourselves and more than a debt obligation that we must dig out from under.

T-shirt political humor. What different governments would do with your cows.
Amusing, but not true.

The disconnect over the subject of money really isn’t the fault of libertarians, they are nothing more than my target of opportunity because of their culpability in promoting the ideas that have come to dominate most thinking about money and economics in the US these days. Classical economics itself deals with the individual rational actor the homo economicus as he is occasionally referred to. Economics was set up at the outset to create the delusion of the supreme individual modifying the market with his rational demands. This has proven not to be the case, but most economists who come from the Chicago school are still caught up in the delusion. Capitalism, as classically taught, was at war with a socialism that eschewed profit. The Marxist utopia of communism. Like most utopias, Marxist communism is a dystopia that we would be better off not pursuing. However, in a general ideological sense, capitalism and socialism aren’t even in conflict. Authoritarianism and democracy are in conflict, and authoritarianism is in ascendency.

Authoritarianism has been in ascendancy since Vladimir Putin started trying to dismantle the democratic West, and China decided to help him. When there is one party, and you control that party, knowing who your enemies are makes controlling that government child’s play. Consequently these rising authoritarian regimes (including the United States under Trump) have a lot of political prisoners. Removing them into the slavery of the prison system is the best way to clear your path. This is one of those facts that should have been obvious to us in the US for a very long time. We’ve been growing the prison population since Nixon was in office, and we now have the largest prison population per capita. Most of those people are there because of crimes that were invented in order to criminalize Nixon’s political opposition, and it has proven prudent for each president since Nixon to leave those people there.

Capitalism and socialism are not in opposition. Capitalism and socialism can be present in the same mixed system because they deal with different parts of human interaction. Profit is not evil. Profit, when properly managed, is the reward for the entrepreneurial spirit. Profit, when held as an inviolable sacrement, leads to worship of the wealthy, what Objectivism has turned into over the last half-century. The Trump administration is laboring under this delusion of money. This holy profit-taking. Trump has started beating the drum of red baiting. He is promoting the same old schtick that Nixon and McCarthy did so well with two generations ago. I’ve said this from the moment that he announced his candidacy and he’s proven it daily since the broken system we live in delivered him into office. Trump believes in the zero-sum game and is right now rigging it to favor the wealthy who currently own our country.

Subscribing to the delusion of money as Trump and the average American thinks of it today is to go back in time to the days of the robber barons, when monopolies ran roughshod over Americans and the the world at large, when the simple fact that you had money meant that you had the right to rule. We don’t want to go back to those days. This is why Make America Great Again is the chant of mouth-breathing idiots. The America that they think was greater than it currently is was an America where they would have died young of a preventable disease, probably at the hands of someone like Don Jr.

To paraphrase what I said to Trump Jr: Never too earlier to teach her about conservative capitalism either.

Put her in an orphanage that sells her out to work in a coal mine. Kid that size can get into spaces an adult can’t, business can find all sorts of uses for them. You don’t have to pay them. They don’t need safety equipment. You hardly have to feed them. And if they die, fuck it, you can always get more.

Meanwhile, the Robber Baron she works for gets 99% of all the candy in the world and she and all the other kids get to split 1%.

Oh, and while you’re teaching lessons, Junior, make sure she knows her lady parts belong to you.

Jim Wright, Stonekettle Station

The reason why those of us who live in the great post-WWII dollar hegemony can be so secure in our delusion of the value of our money is explained in this episode of Planet Money.

Planet Money – Episode 553: The Dollar At The Center Of The World


If you combine the dollar being the world currency with the results of moving off of the gold standard as detailed in Lords of Finance you can create a money background for yourself to muse about the current perilous status of the dollar against. Or you can be like the libertarian that I was trying to enlighten today who called out for Norman before locking up in the illogic of money being a social construct. Pick one.


If you need further examples of just how confused the problem of money is, here is another one. TED Radio Hour, The Money Paradox. I did get one response from a libertarian after writing this piece. He informed me that I wouldn’t be taken seriously on the subject of money unless I looked like a rich man. People who are wealthy don’t bother with trying to look wealthy. They don’t need to convince anyone of their wealth because they are reassured that they have wealth in simply living their lives.

Frugality is how you establish wealth. The richest woman in America ate cold porridge every morning because she was too cheap to heat it. Doing well with less is how you illustrate monetary wisdom. Not paying too much for clothing is bedrock for doing well with less. Fooling stupid people with nice clothing that you pay too much for is nothing more than a confidence game. Red ties are a dead giveaway for a schyster. Never take a man in a red tie seriously. Words to live by.

Star Trek was an attempt to say that humanity will reach maturity and wisdom on the day that it begins not just to tolerate, but take a special delight in differences in ideas and differences in life forms. […] If we cannot learn to actually enjoy those small differences, to take a positive delight in those small differences between our own kind, here on this planet, then we do not deserve to go out into space and meet the diversity that is almost certainly out there.

Gene Roddenberry

This article was posted when it was because of a conversation that was evolving on a Facebook group I’m part of. A conversation between people convinced that their personal beliefs are somehow manifested in a show they love, Star Trek in this instance, and then argue that their political beliefs somehow are justified in the show. Star Trek represents a post-scarcity economy, as several people went to great pains to explain during that evolving conversation. As expected, the notion that there could be a society where everyone gets enough to eat and has a place to sleep that protects them at night from predation, that notion is conceptually beyond the thought processes of your average Stormtrumper. This fact doesn’t change what the show’s creator set out to do.