Unwatchable Debates

Confession time.  I have watched none of the debates so far in this election season.  I didn’t watch any of the Republican debates because the only centrist running (that would be John Kasich) wasn’t in them.  The Republicans, as I referenced in this piece about Hillary Clinton (?), have decided they don’t need the 75% of the nation that isn’t conservative/religious fundamentalist/whackadoodle and excluded anyone who might have been electable in the general election from the main debate stage.

I guess they just want to lose this year.
I didn’t watch the Democratic debates either.  Not because I wasn’t interested in the candidates, but because I knew that Hillary Clinton was going to be the nominee.  It was a close thing in the end, but since she was the favored Democrat running (the only one at the end) I knew she would ultimately end up with the nomination one way or the other.

Party politics are pretty predictable if you know what the rules of the game are.

I did watch the Democratic convention.  I started to pay attention to the Republican convention, but as soon as the rules committee reported that they were not going to advance any real rules changes, I knew that the Orange Hate-Monkey (Donald Drumpf) The Birther-in-Chief, the Real Estate Developer, had bought the leadership of the convention and he wasn’t going to be facing a floor fight for the soul of the GOP.  That is, if the Republican party actually has a soul.  It doesn’t appear that they do; as in they don’t appear to agree on what their core principles really are and it is pretty hard to defend them if you can’t name them. 
All that aside, I watched the entirety of the Democratic convention.  Watched the hardcore Berners exit stage left as predicted. Watched Barack Obama give yet another excellent speech. Watched Bill Clinton spend a half-hour apologizing to his wife on national television in the best way possible.  Watched Hillary Clinton accept the nomination, making US history when she did so. 
I left that experiencing thinking I might be able to watch the general election debates, and I might have stuck to my guns if the Libertarians had managed to leverage their candidate onto the stage. It briefly looked like he might pull that off, but a series of gaffs, plus the rigging of the system mention repeatedly in this blogs history, kept them from reaching the potential number of voters.  The hinted at support from Mitt Romney never surfaced and the funds that were supposedly going to go to finance the LP’s candidates this year doesn’t appear to be making any difference either. 
It is just the two of them, Hillary and the Orange Hate-Monkey on the stage together.  Talk about politics making strange bedfellows. 
Why can’t I watch? Here’s why; they let the Real Estate Developer talk, and he’s been demonstrated to be lying 80% of the time. It is actually detrimental to my own mental health to consume that much untruth in so short a time. Besides, while I support Hillary Clinton in the most lukewarm fashion possible, I really don’t like to listen to her talk either. 
Can’t laugh at the Orange Hate-Monkey, the threat to civilization is too serious. Can’t take him seriously because he is such a bad, bad liar. As someone who grew up surrounded by used car salesmen, as someone who has worked directly for more than one Real Estate Developer, I’m pretty well versed in the art of the deal. I can’t watch, and I can’t listen.
But I can watch and/or listen to others dissect the event. Nate Silver and Fivethirtyeight are the only resource I’m willing to lend credence to in this election as far as predictions go.  The rest of it is just so much guessing that I really don’t have time to waste trying to understand what they are telling me. 
Unfortunately Nate Silver and Fivethirtyeight don’t make themselves easily quotable or particularly shareable, so you’ll just have to click one of those two links to read what they had to say.  NPR on the other hand has a lot to say on the subject.  More, in fact, than I really wish they would say.  They aren’t nearly hard enough on the Orange Hate-Monkey for my taste, but then I guess they have to pretend he isn’t a certifiable nutjob.  Here are the two podcasts dealing with the debate (one I will link again later)

Ms. Clinton did well for the few short minutes that I did watch; and the Real Estate Developer looked like a petulant child being told to do something he didn’t want to, which made Ms. Clinton look downright presidential by comparison. I may peek between my fingers again for the next debate. Doubtful but possible. 

Libertarian Hostility for Hillary Clinton

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

This was my initial response.

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

“Nice shooting, Tex.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ezra Klein on Vox.com

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

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

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

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

Journalism? General Education, That is the Problem

A comment on Robert Reich’s status went a bit long;

Trump is a manifestation of poor education in the US exacting its price on the US and the world.  The chickens have come home to roost. The wide-spread, wrong-headed notion that a strong leader is the way to get the change you want in a complex system, has manifested in the personages of Trump and Sanders, the demagogic “outsiders” who are believed by the uninformed to be capable of effecting change on a system by themselves.

While Sanders elected alone would fail just as Obama failed to live up to the dreams of the people who voted for him in 2008, Trump is quite capable of wrecking the system all by himself if he is elected. 

It is much easier to destroy than it is to create. 

At this point in this election all that is left to hope for is that the Democrats can pull out a win.  It would be nice to think that they could gain a sweeping victory that would bring in enough progressives to alter the system in a positive way.  It would be nice to hand the Republicans such a crushing defeat that they are forced to re-invent themselves into a opposition party that doesn’t deny science and embrace religion as its starting point.  The Bernie or busters are going to make that possibility as remote as they can, unfortunately.

The Bernie or busters are not interested in reforming the system any more than the Tea Party Trump supporters are.  They want to re-invent it, which is just one step more than simply destroying it.  They tell themselves they’ll be happy with a Trump presidency because at least the status quo will end.  Both the Trump supporters and the Bernie or busters don’t really understand the kind of misery bringing down the US system will create.  I’m becoming afraid we might just find out how deep that well of misery is.

The fix for this is so much more than just reporting.  Being able to predict what the population will go for in an election is beyond the capacity of polling and reporting when the citizenry is so woefully uninformed as to vote for a demonstrable liar like Trump is. That is not even scratching the surface of the problem. First you have to educate the voting public on just how blind this faith in a strong leader is.  The journalists who inform us on politics cannot be held responsible for the failure of the education system in the US to actually educate the population to the dangers of dictatorship.  As college educated people the reporters of course discarded the idea that the average American would fall prey to a demagogue like Trump.  It’s obvious he’s lying and has no clue what he’s talking about.  Why would anyone take this orange hate-monkey seriously?

…Unless of course you believe that a strong leader is what we need, in spite of the obvious fact that a system as complex as the US government cannot possibly be run by one person. Then all bets are off and the people who want a guy who pretends to have all the answers have control of the mechanisms of statecraft through the selection of the next head of state.

We’ve been so busy propping up dictators in other countries that we’ve forgotten we might be subject to one ourselves.  That fate is now just the flip of a coin away. 

US Politics Fix – Starting the Process

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…and 

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

…Finally 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

…and it will be wrested from you, eventually.

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


Another complaint voiced during the 2016 primary season.

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

Facebook

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

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

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

Facebook comment and status backdated to the blog.

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

David Gerrold

Who Gives a Shit About Iowa Anyway?

So the news is engaged in a full court press today, bound and determined to prove that their horserace really is a race and they really aren’t blowing smoke up our collective asses.  I’m doing my best to avoid this mess today, not listening to the news in a complete reversal of my normal patterns for daily life.

It is Monday though and Monday is Freethought Radio day (as well as Point of Inquiry day lately) so I have been listening to my regular podcasts (and BBC news) and Freethought Radio had an interesting interview with Justin Scott who has been doing some brave work in Iowa, going around asking questions of presidential candidates at various meetings attempting to call attention to the slights being offered to minority groups in the US when it comes to the subject of faith.

I wanted to highlight the bigotry by omission of candidates for government office; candidates who go around touting their religion prominently.  This importance placed on their beliefs in the supernatural leaves me wondering openly if they understand how those who believe differently feel when they stress how important their religion is to them. How important they think their religion is to good governance in the US.

The problem for me is, neither Justin Scott nor FFRF seem to be interested in producing content to be consumed directly on the internet and only on the internet.  FFRF’s near cluelessness when it comes to web programming is what lead me to attempt to catalog all their episodes several years ago, a project that I finally had to give up when I realized that I wasn’t willing to volunteer my effort on the project indefinitely.

First off, the videos of his interviews are not where he said they were; they are on his personal youtube channel which I finally located here. This is a playlist of all the interviews to date;

Justin ScottJohn Kasich on Religious Based Discrimination – Feb 1, 2016

FFRF’s link resolves on Facebook to look like this;

The youtube link conveys about the same level of information.  Therefore it falls to me to write something that I can share even though, as the title of the piece says, I really couldn’t care less about Iowa. Or New Hampshire, for that matter.

Why?  Because they aren’t representative of America.  They just agreed that they would go first, and they are determined as small Midwestern states to make themselves out to be more important than they are by being first to caucus and first to primary in the US, because they are utterly forgettable by almost any other measure unless you like snow.

So the presidential candidates run around in these little isolated areas of the US for months at a time, far longer than the voting block that they represent merits if you were looking at national influence, percentage of voting Americans. The idea that these two races mean anything would be laughable if only the media could be convinced to laugh.  Instead they insist on portraying the primaries as horse races and build up the competition as if what we are witnessing was a sporting event and not the future leaders of our country vying for attention.

Which is why the subject of Justin Scott’s videos interests me, even though his location in Iowa galls me ever so slightly.  Iowa is one of those regions where religion figures prominently; and when I say religion, I mean evangelical christians, the omnipotent WASP‘s who have run the country since its beginning.  The people who are most threatened by the presidency of Barack Obama and the likely potential that he will be succeeded by Hillary Clinton, if we are lucky.  If we aren’t lucky we’ll have any one of the current GOP candidates currently doing their best to out-conservative each other.

Being brave enough to go out in public and film, to identify oneself as an atheist and ask how the candidates plan on protecting your right to not believe.  That takes real courage.  I wanted to let Justin know that I appreciated his work, even though I have to spend several quality minutes (hours actually) writing a post highlighting the important work that he is doing.  I wish that more members of the media had the balls to ask the really hard questions.

The State of the Union Requires No Response

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Democrats Organizing for America

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

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

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

Hillary for President?

I tuned in (very briefly) to watch Hillary Clinton testify before the latest of 8 separate investigations into #Benghazi, the most investigated event in US history and one of the most notable wastes of taxpayer dollars since whatever military weapons system was last funded by Republicans.

h/t to DailyKos

I say briefly because I had no stomach for listening to the latest Republican pretender attempt to justify yet another investigation into these events; as if the investigations weren’t patently politically motivated the last 6 times (at least) that they were embarked upon. So the minute that the look-alike for the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz started speaking, I tuned out and went on to some other news item.

The Republicans are running around in terror at the prospect of a President Hillary Clinton.  They’ll do anything, say anything to avoid the future where they have to acknowledge her (or any woman) as the leader of the United States. I myself have a pretty demonstrable hatred for Hillary Clinton, as a walk down the memory lane of this blog will easily demonstrate.

It bears mentioning that I voted for Barack Obama in 2008 in the Democratic primary specifically to lend weight to the candidate most likely to be President that year.  2008 was the last year I pulled the lever for the Libertarian Party in the general election.  In 2012 I voted Democratic, only shifting my votes down ballot in an attempt to unseat local Democrats that I really don’t care for and have held offices for longer than I think is healthy. I voted Democratic because in 2012 it was an undeniable fact that Republicans were opposed to anything Obama did just because it was Obama who was doing it. It made me question how many other things Republicans are opposed to just because Democrats are in favor of them.

I changed my opinions in 2012; I confess, I’m a flip-flopper.  It’s the kind of thing that happens when you aren’t an ideologue, aren’t married to concepts that could prove to be unworkable in the real world.  Having seen that Obama was doing a pretty good job at being President, better than I myself had expected prior to the election, I had to revise my opinion of Democrats in general, and of Obama and his cabinet selections in particular.

That wasn’t the only thing that changed.  As the blog entry A Big Bowl of Crow goes into, I finally had to come to grips with some of the cognitive dissonance that I’ve been struggling with since I filed for and got disability.  The government has saved my family from ruin (albeit that it was dragged kicking and screaming into the effort) Accepting that fact meant that a number of other dominoes had to fall in sequence afterwards. Namely; that socialism is not a dirty word, that socialism is not opposed to capitalism but is actually opposed to feudalism (strange as that may sound) and  has never actually been credited for the benefits to the poor it has inspired since being introduced a few hundred years ago.

Part of this change has required me to revisit my beliefs about healthcare and other complex systems which rely on funding from government in order to do the necessary and valuable jobs that modern life demands.  Understanding that Hillarycare probably was a better plan than Obamacare has turned out to be. Grudging acceptance that Hillary Clinton was a damned good Secretary of State, largely because of the way she dealt with Republican criticism, rather than in spite of it.

So it is with some trepidation that I face 2016 and acknowledge that I really don’t have a problem with a President Hillary Clinton. No one is more horrified by this than the tiny voice in the back of my head.  It’s hard to argue against the logic of this. Let me spell it out for you.

When it comes to Presidents, for the foreseeable future, I will be voting for whoever the Democratic party nominates. 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.

Third parties are a joke, in case you are wondering what about the LP & Greens? I’ve wasted far too long working on third party issues (again, look at the history of this blog if you doubt it) The experience was invaluable, but having the power to effect change means actually winning elections, something that third parties in the US have failed at doing in every election since the beginning of the country, with the notable exception of the one where Republicans became the alternative to Democrats.  From that time forward it has been D’s or R’s and it will remain that way until the next big shakeup on the level of ending slavery occurs.  I don’t see anything remotely on that scale occurring this year. Could be wrong, but I doubt it. I’ll be writing more on this subject in the future, if I ever manage to get my notes in order.

I’m not opposed to Bernie Sanders, given my revised opinion on socialism.  I don’t think the rest of the US is as willing to think outside the box as I am in large enough numbers to make a difference, so I don’t think his prospects are good outside of the primary process. What the Democrats have to avoid doing is giving away the election to the Republicans as they have historically done many times in the past. While a goodly portion of the young people on the street really do seem to feel the Berne, will they show up on election day in enough numbers to secure victory for the Democrats for the next four years? That really is the only question.

Hillary Clinton is the overwhelming favorite to win the election among the betting public, in those areas of the globe that allow betting on Presidential races.  One of the mantras that I still hold to is follow the money, and the money says Clinton will win.  Of course, we still are a year out from election day, and a lot of things can happen in a year’s time. Barring the appearance of a really centrist Republican nominee (one that isn’t named Bush) or a bad fumble on the part of Hillary, we’re likely to see her taking the oath of office in the early days of 2017.

I’m sanguine with that fact.


I have said on several occasions on various social sites “no one can compete with Hillary in full campaign mode”. Many people may not remember the campaign that was run for Bill before his time in the sun.  These guys were fast on their feet.  The best that money could buy and they earned every penny.  Front and center in all of that was Hillary Clinton, and now she is the candidate herself.

Hillary’s South Carolina ad came out last week.  When I said “no one can compete” this is what I meant.

All The Good – 2016 Hillary Clinton Advertisement

Hillary Clinton is still the overwhelming favorite to win amongst the betting public.  Bernie Sanders’ support is still high, but it isn’t as high as Barack Obama’s was when he won against Hillary, when she surrendered to public pressure and yielded the floor to the Democratic favorite.  That is one of the differences this time, her opponent is not a Democrat.  While I agree with much of Sanders’ goals, I don’t agree that he is deserving of the party’s endorsement just because he gets a majority of the popular vote.  The process is what it is, and if Hillary gets the nomination by working the process, that makes her the better candidate.  Perhaps Bernie should have joined the Democrats years ago and then he too could be a Democrat rather than just seeking the bona fides of the Democratic party.

Huckabee, Cruz Embrace a Democratic Official

The last political piece I wrote for this blog was titled Pharisee vs. Christian and it was about the Kim Davis farce that continues to play out in Kentucky.

I’ve apparently pissed off some people on this subject.  Not the religious people that the wife said would firebomb us for the title; no those people really can’t seem to care one way or the other (as I’ve noted over most of my life, the vast majority of people who identify as christian are reasonable, sane, and capable of rational discussion even on the subject of religion. There are exceptions as there are in any group) no, the group that I appear to have pissed off is Democrats.

Why? Well, Kim Davis is a Democrat.

The most frequent response I get from this observation is that conservatives can be Democrats, stated in a voice that seems to drip with disdain for requiring them to state the obvious.  This isn’t news to me, nor is it the point that I’m trying to make when I bring this fact up, although I could have worded my initial comment more clearly.

Specifically the fracas emerged on a Facebook post on Jim Wright’s wall. Jim rightly notes that the comparison that Huckabee is making (go to the link and read about it, I don’t care enough to even try to summarize it) really doesn’t hold water for various reasons; mostly because Huckabee is a grandstanding buffoon competing with Donald Trump for air time. Huckabee and Ted Cruz (another buffoon) are now embracing Kim Davis as their poster child for the persecution of christians. But I’d still like to point out to these two Republican Presidential hopefuls that they are defending a Democrat as being the best example of conservative christian in office.

A Democrat. A Democrat who refuses to do her job.

Now, I’ve been active in political circles for a long time.  There was a time when fraternizing with the opposition was commonplace, but that was before Newt Gingrich and the birth of FOX news. These days having anything nice to say about a Democrat spells disaster for conservatives who are trying to out-conservative all the other conservatives.  To this day the most telling criticism that can be leveled by conservatives at fellow conservative Governor Chris Christie is that he hugged President Obama. His hand in costing the state of New Jersey uncounted man-hours with the George Washington Bridge fiasco barely registers outside his own state.  Now these two buffoons are hugging a Democrat on national television.

This Democrat might be conservative, I don’t know.  She hasn’t changed her party affiliation, something that former Democrat and former Governor Rick Perry can tell you is easy to do. So her claim to be conservative doesn’t equate to her huggability as a Republican by other Republicans. She is demonstrably not acting in a christian manner, so I doubt very much that she really qualifies as a christian.  She is acting in a way that the homo-obsessed religious-right lead GOP embraces, I get that part of the equation. Homophobia equals conservative in that light, if conservatives want to go there that is their business. If the GOP wants to endorse homophobia as a plank in their party platform, more power to them.

But what will this little farce look like in a year, a month before the 2016 elections?  That really is the question.  What will the optics be in the rear-view mirror?  I imagine that neither of these two will be on the dais debating whoever the Democrats end up nominating, but just how will the GOP attract votes from any group outside of the aging white demographic of the religious right when they’ve gone out of their way to embrace lawlessness, racism and homophobia all in the space of the campaign for selecting their nominee?


Stonekettle

11/09/2018 – Neither Huckabee nor Cruz were ultimately the nominees for the Republican party in 2016 in spite of all the demagoguery and pandering. They were apparently too sane to make the cut. We got the Orange Hate-Monkey instead. Kim Davis switched to the Republican party and ran for reelection this year. So at least the headline Huckabee, Cruz Embrace a Republican Official can now be substituted for what actually happened that day in 2015.

However, Kim Davis lost her reelection bid. The gay man who was refused a marriage license by Kim Davis was not the candidate that defeated her, unfortunately; although he did run as a Democrat in the primaries this year. That would have been a priceless bit of news. But he lost to the same challenger that faced off against Davis previously and lost, when she was also running as a Democrat. This time the Democrat won, again. Hooray for partisan loyalty? I guess so. Let’s see if he’s a better human being than Kim Davis was when she was a Democrat holding that office. It would be hard to be worse.

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.

The ACA vs. Delusion

VOX – Republican senator criticizes Obamacare

I stumbled across this in my news feed this morning. My fellow liberals were attacking this Senator for the stupidest tweet ever. Hyperbole aside, this isn’t even a remarkable example of the kind of thinking that goes on in libertarian and conservative circles in their attempts to justify their beliefs concerning small government, the evils of government. Far from being the stupidest tweet ever this is much more like standard operating procedure in any subset of humanity that is trying to justify their unjustifiable beliefs.

I can’t count the dozens of times I’ve gotten in an argument with a small-government type who insisted that laws create crime, ergo fewer laws means less crime. Less government equates to more freedom. Less regulation yields a fairer, free-er marketplace. It makes sense, if you stand back and squint at the concept for awhile. The mind is amazingly agile at creating justifications for things that you believe, whether or not those beliefs are justified.

If you were to approach one of these small government types and suggest that the behavior in question, let’s say murder for example, remains egregious or unacceptable even if the laws don’t exist, they would probably brush the argument off as reductio ad absurdum, without realizing that the argument is legitimate in any case. The thought never crosses their minds, or is easily diffused with some other simple heuristics. People are peaceful and don’t murder. It is government that murders, not individuals defending their rights.

What happens when individuals without government have competing claims, though? What if neither of the parties involved actually knows who has prior claim to property, as another example. Who is defending their rights and who is the transgressor? What authority will they empower to potentially strip their claim from them? The thought that government might have been created specifically to address these kinds of conflicts doesn’t even occur to the anarchically minded, small government types. Can’t occur to them, in a general sense. To contemplate how laws and government serve a legitimate purpose brings on cognitive dissonance, which the believer will avoid at almost any cost.

Apply double-think (thank you George Orwell) like that illustrated above, and you can reverse cause and effect and suffer no cognitive dissonance.

The ACA isn’t good in the estimation of the libertarian and conservative mindset. It can’t provide a benefit, because it is a bad program. The people who benefit from the program can’t actually be benefiting; that would be an admission that the program isn’t bad, that it served some larger purpose. The blind assertion that healthcare is a personal choice rules out any possibility that healthcare might be a public good. That the group as a whole benefits when the health of individuals in the group is improved. That poor people will economize with healthcare to the detriment of their health if they are allowed to include those costs in their calculations of how much money they have to spend on other necessities. Things like food, shelter, etc.

No, the ACA is bad in their estimation, so ending it is good. How then to justify denying care to millions of poor people who will not get care without the ACA? It extended false hope of being seen as valuable while remaining poor. The poor cannot be of value because they are poor and beneath notice. Insurance is for those who can afford it. Everyone else should get to the business of getting wealthy or dying, makes no difference to those who have the benefit and don’t want to share access to it.

As the date shows, Robert Reich posted that status quite some time ago. I saved it for this article I’m writing now. I knew I would get around to writing it at some point in the future, because I knew I’d stumble across some idiot who hadn’t bothered to check his beliefs before posting something stupid on the internet.

The ACA is unpopular precisely because it shares the benefits of living in the US with the poor people who cannot afford those benefits without help. There is no other reason for opposing it, because it has been demonstrated to be a benefit to those who did not have access to healthcare before it was instated. There is no cost-based reason for opposing it, because the US government already subsidizes everyone else’s healthcare in the US, with tax dollars taken from the pockets of the poor as much as from anyone else in the nation.

The poor are a hated group in the US. The hatred of the poor for being poor (generally by poor people who can’t admit that they themselves are poor) is so pervasive that it is masked by quite a few other prejudices which are really just a shorthand for saying poor people. The sooner we Americans realize this, the sooner we can escape some of the delusions which entrap us. Delusions which shackle us to concepts which no longer serve a useful purpose.


The SCOTUS did as I expected and interpreted the phrase “the state” to mean the US government (which is also a state; i.e. government) the fact that anarchists and small government types would willfully spend millions of dollars to contest the meaning of one word in one phrase in a several thousand page set of laws simply speaks to the desperation motivating the people who brought the suit.

The case was, in other words, a sophisticated game of gotcha, based on what was, again, essentially a typographical error. The case was only about trying to destroy the law by denying insurance to millions and setting in motion a death spiral of raised premiums, cancelled policies, and more rate hikes until the system collapsed.

The New Yorker

So that is that. The ACA will stay in force for the foreseeable future. If the Republicans want to overturn it or modify it they are going to have to come up with a better plan than just throwing the poor back out in the cold (as the lawyers in the case alluded to with their response “deal with it”) but I doubt that the Republican party leadership really wants the law repealed. There is little doubt the base of the party does, which is why you get the kind of hypocritical pandering from their representatives that I started this post with.

In the end, the poor will exact the cost of their existence from the system, whether the government factors that cost into the calculations it makes or not. Personally, I’d rather they had access to the cheaper preventative care rather than have them clog the expensive and already overburdened emergency care system. That will mean building out the system more than it is now. Recruiting healthcare professionals to fulfill the needs of the poor. Making it easier to become a doctor or a nurse. You know, economic investment.