Tag: Politics

Not Oprah!

I didn’t realize people were seriously hoping Oprah Winfrey would run for president. I don’t believe an inexperienced individual instantaneously makes a bad president – they could know their limitations and rely heavily on experts, then use their judgement to decide. I’d probably have inexperienced people with trusted judgement as cabinet heads with dual second-in-commands – a guy from Exxon and a guy from the Sierra Club can explain why we should / shouldn’t be drilling in the ANWR, then the department head decides.

The problem I have with Oprah is her judgement of an ‘expert’ – the source of wisdom used to determine policy. Maybe all of the Dr Oz miracle supplements and Dr Phil moments are just to make money. Maybe she’s totally aware that whatever the miracle anti-aging eye cream of the week is a scam and that injecting mass doses of plant-sourced estrogen doesn’t do anything to keep you young. But she’s either hawking snake oil or she actually believes this stuff. Neither is a particularly desirable attribute of a president.

Alabama Special Election Results

Jones won! Write-in candidate votes exceed the margin by which he won, but he won. With exit polls indicating that allegations against Moore weren’t a big deciding factor. I’m curious what impact the allegations had on turnout though — the voter didn’t decide their vote based on the allegations, but they either felt it important enough to go vote. They didn’t want to vote for a pedophile *or* a Democrat so stayed home because of Moore’s sexual history. And how much Moore’s “the early 1800’s were great even if slavery was a thing because OUR families stayed together” and poorly obfuscated desire to return to a period when only rich white dudes got to vote drove turnout too.

Jones won’t be sworn in before the recess. Each county has until 22 Dec to certify their results, and some counties don’t have a lot of incentive to hurry that process. The state then has until 03 Jan to certify their results.

Moore On When America Was Great

Moore thinks getting rid of all of the amendments after the 10th would solve a lot of problems.

What’s he got against the 11th (states are immune from legal action from out-of-state citizens)? And I’d think he’d appreciate the 12th (the VP is elected in conjunction with the president instead of having a VP from a different party). Did he really think saying “everything after the 10th” was subtle and people wouldn’t infer that he actually objects to the 13th, 15th, probably 16th, and 19th amendments. Maybe even the 26th.

There’d always been an undercurrent of racism and sexism to “make America great again” … ‘again’ implies there is some previous halcyon period to which we should return. But while Trump teased sexism and racism, he did so while claiming to be the best friend to those he disparaged. Moore didn’t even bother with subterfuge. And it will be interesting how well this blatant racism and sexism serves him in the election. Will he, like Trump, manage to run out ‘the deplorables’ in sufficient numbers to win? Or will otherwise reliably Republican voters in Alabama sit home unwilling to vote for him or a Democrat.

The Politics Of Anger

Michael Kruse interviewed people out in Johnstown PA who had voted from Trump last year to see what they think of his performance thus far. Objectively, someone who campaigned on Muslim bans, enormous walls along the Mexican border, bringing back the steel mills, and bringing back coal mining … well, just another politician promising the world and delivering nothing. But these people still love Trump. And would vote for him again. Why?

It seems like voters want someone to be angry along with them. There is no easy solution, there is no painless solution … but no one wants to hear the truth. Or hear hard answers. But someone who obviously lies to them but conveys a story of their own victimization … that’s where they’re voting.

Those Who Do Not Know History … Are Doomed To Revolution

A facet of world history that stood out to me as a high school student was the difference a robust middle class made in the stability of a country. Lots of destitute people (aka people who don’t have much to lose) and you have lots of civil unrest, lawlessness, and insurrection. Lots of middle class people (people who aren’t rich beyond all telling, but have enough that they want to protect ‘their’ stuff), both the upper and ruling classes retain their power and resources for decades if not centuries.

I thought of this whilst reading an article about rebranding “entitlements” as “insurance” — Medicaid as insurance in case you yourself become disabled in the future. Social Security against you yourself getting old someday.

But taxes for entitlements are social stability insurance. The entire point of redistributing income is to ensure a sufficient portion of the population is happy enough that they work to preserve existing social structures.

Government as a Business

We’re getting another attempt to remodel the government as a business. If I had to run the federal government like a business, I sure as hell wouldn’t want to run it like one of Trump’s businesses! But lets ignore whose business.

The problem with the swat team Trump’s announced is that it seems to presuppose that the problem with government is a top-level management issue that could be sorted by sound business practices. What corporation has their top level leadership appointed by its customers? Or even its owners – sure, corporate boards are voted by shareholders … but not the C-level positions. Additionally, what business would almost guarantee multi-year positions to their high level leadership team? Regardless of performance?!

There is something to be said for bringing private sector innovation into government operations — especially at a lower level. Match up individual functions of government agencies with private sector businesses or even non-profits that have similar functionalities. Several government agencies have large logistical operations (FEMA, military) that a logistics company could help. Maybe Habitat for Humanity has ideas that would farther HUD’s goals. University teams may have interesting input too. And marketing — corporate experience would certainly be beneficial in selling legislation and initiatives.

But the fundamental problem I have with the principal that government should run like a business is that few businesses are monopolies. If you don’t like how a business operates, what values they support, the product they create … you shop around and select another one.

There was a whole thing a year or two ago with a baker who didn’t want to make a cake for a homosexual couple’s wedding. But as a customer, I can chose not to contract with a bigoted pastry chef for my events either. It is possible enough people don’t care and she remains in business. Or her choices mean her business goes under. Either way, you are not forced to support her beliefs because there are other bakeries.

Government provides services that cannot be privatized – for reasons of efficiency, non-profitability, or sensibility (privatizing the military security and prisons are a good counter-example of why government should provide these services). As such, I cannot just pick another military if I think the federal one is engaged in too many offensive operations. I cannot select a new environmental protection agency if I think the federal one fails to actually protect the environment.

If we’re going to operate the government like a monopoly (see: industries generally subject to a LOT of regulation), we are not just the customers! The government is a customer owned co-op. One that operates in hundreds of different verticals.

 

 

“Winning” War

Lamenting a lack of “winning” — especially if the solution is increasing military budgets — shows a frightening lack of understanding the purpose of our participation in modern wars. We’ve entered into some untenable situations from which it was difficult to cleanly extract our forces. We’ve intervened in situations where we were not really wanted.

Money is not going to magically create “winning” situations. The problem is not insufficient tech, hardware, or troops. It is bloody impossible to hold hostile territory in the long run – and trying is socio-economically draining. Ask the Romans – demanding tribute engenders animosity. Consult the Brits – colonialism is quite possibly the technique most apt to succeed (create an economic incentive to accept the new rulers), but eventually the colony wants legal and economic independence to get a fair market price for goods. Replacing the government with one that supports you? Germans can tell you how well that works (La Résistance, for instance).

You hold a conquered territory by leaving sufficient military presence to continually re-take the area from the locals. So when I hear someone saying they want to “win” wars … I expect they don’t know exactly what it takes to win. Or what winning even means. Who really wins in a war? Executives and stockholders for companies with multi-million dollar contracts to manufacture equipment whilst remaining safely away from the combat zones.

 

Something In Common

There have been a couple of recent articles that highlight how very similar the opposition party’s view of Trump and Obama actually are (although the articles seek to highlight the hypocrisy of objecting to behavior in which you engaged just last year). To some degree, I understand — if I think my position on an issue is the only good, upstanding, moral, godly position … there’s no compromising, the other side is not only WRONG but an immoral force looking to corrupt others. And it’s a logical conclusion that the figurehead of the immoral force is going to be vilified. I didn’t really understand it with Clinton – right-leaning friends acted like the chap had personally offended them. But it’s something that made sense to me with Bush 43. Invading a foreign country on flimsy evidence (that turned out to be wrong) was offensive to me. Maybe not immediately personal as I couldn’t be drafted … but friends getting called back into service because of linguistic skills or SIGINT training is personal. Wasting the country’s money, farther destabilizing a region … and doing so in my name was offensive. Trying to privatize social security was personally offensive (and created my retirement plan of “if social security actually pays out, there’s extra mad money for you”) and impersonally offensive (the government program enacted due in no small part due to the Great Depression and associated stock market collapse was going to allow people to invest money in the stock market because you could make more money that way?!? Seriously, consult big huge event that led to the program in the first place. Then repeat your idea.). I tried to keep this in mind when Obama encountered the immovable Republican congress. No, I don’t understand why getting rid of preexisting condition exceptions is controversial – and I understand why no for-profit business is going to be willing to operate if they have to cover your sudden (and expensive) illness but you don’t have to buy their coverage until you get your diagnosis. And I really don’t get why Republicans who advocated for a lot of the components of the plan suddenly deemed it anathema … except that the figurehead of the opposition is so vile that anything they support must be somehow wrong.

And now those same people think left-wing opponents treat Trump cruelly, use parliamentary machinations to block vital legislation … the people who did exactly that to Obama … don’t see it as the same thing because it IS different to them. A bit like vilifying Pol Pot and then vilifying Mother Theresa. One of them deserves it.

A friend of mine had a thread on Facebook denouncing moral relativism … but moral relativism is what you need to address these situations. Yes, your morals say X is completely wrong. But someone else’s morals say X is the only reasonable course of action … and neither set of morals are wrong. They are just different. Maybe the hope is that the opposing party will just run out of members and lose power forever. Doesn’t seem likely. The alternative is that we have a government vacillating between positions as different parties are elected. There would essentially be a set of laws enacted on day 1 for Republicans that gets completely supplanted with an alternate set of laws enacted on day 1 for Democrats. Long term business planning would be neigh impossible — who knows which set of laws will be in place two years from now! You’d have to develop a business that could comply with either or two different business plans. Even managing your own home would get silly — I want to install solar, but I need to wait until the Democrats come back into office so financial incentives are restored. Want to buy a big gas guzzling vehicle? Better wait until the Republicans are back to suspend fleet fuel economy requirements.

And if we’re going to have a set of laws that essentially ignores the minority (remember majority rule, minority rights … won’t have that anymore) … then we should go farther than what this silly compromise stuff has given us. In R terms, our SS contributions will go into stock funds. Then in D terms, we’ll be buying government bonds. During R terms, you’ll get vouchers and pick whatever school you are willing to drive your kid over to. During D terms, anyone who didn’t pick (a) their local district or (b) a private school they can afford anyway will transfer their kid to the local district. Reductio ad absurdum.

Innocence

“You think our country’s so innocent?” … now Trump was talking about murder, but I am thinking about it in light of Russian interference in the election. We’ve backed regimes coming into power, supported coups overthrowing foreign governments … sometimes both for the same individual (e.g. Ngô Đình Diệm). We distribute propaganda for favoured candidates, obtain and publicize embarrassing information about unfavoured candidates … and with the proliferation of computer technology, I am certain we have used hacking to obtain this information.

Trump’s seems to assume public objection to Russian meddling presupposed the US hasn’t taken the same actions. Not true. It isn’t anger that Russia turned these techniques on us … or even sour grapes that they managed such a stunning success. A significant number of people object to this behaviour when the US does it too — I don’t agree with assassinations, executions, or interference in elections be it by the CIA, MI6, KGB, China’s Ministry of State Security, or any other state security apparatus.

My Latest Conspiracy Theory (Movie)

There is a logical extrapolation to a world with facts and ‘alternative facts’ — why would alternative facts just be used to refute a report? They can just as easily make a story of their own. Trump has made a lot of outlandish campaign promises — ones that require significant money, legal maneuvering, and time to complete. But why bother completing them at all? You can just say it is done.

So they declare the wall built. Then there’s a whole conspiracy theory about it not actually having been built, people trekking down to Southern Texas and to get pictures of the not.a.wall down there. Government press releases with this huge, aesthetically pleasing, immigration stopping wall. How do you know which is the fact and which is the alternative fact (i.e. an obvious lie).

The problem with lying is you’ve either got to have people sufficiently willing to believe you to overlook the missing logical consequences of whatever you lied about OR you’ve got to create the same conditions either way. There are a lot of people willing to believe Trump *now* … but if they don’t start seeing results, either his wall was a complete waste (yeah, it was – I still say a massive fleet of drones could actually stop human traffic across unauthorized checkpoints for FAR less money — not saying I think the stopping human traffic is a good thing or not, but if we’re hell bent on DOING it, at least DO IT) or illegal immigrants were not the cause of unemployment and huge government spending on entitlements (yeah, they weren’t).

A priori assumption: an insufficient number of people are willing to believe the lie as evidence against it mounts to sustain a re-election campaign. Now they need to recreate their predicted result … government assassins offing some percent of people on public assistance (so they can declare reducing illegal immigration eliminated this money we’ve been wasting) and maybe even offing a random percent of the gainfully employed population (to open up jobs now that illegal immigrants aren’t “stealing our jobs”).

Just need some out there hippy type in an old VW bus cruising around the country trying to stop this murderous conspiracy.