Senators Jeff Flake, Bob Corker, Susan Collins, and John McCain, Switch Your Party Affiliation.

Dear Senators Jeff Flake, Bob Corker, Susan Collins, and John McCain,

In moments of peril, it is often difficult to fully understand the “moment” in a broad historical context.  The implications of certain actions or lack-of-action can remain obfuscated until years later.  Moments of armed conflict such as WWII, where territory is won or lost, and in which ideals are played out on a tangible battle field, offer some clarity.  But this moment is especially challenging – the threat is domestic – it is of our own making, abetted and cheered on by the hostile nation of Russia whether through their direct or indirect influence.

The moment is made especially more perilous because the “checks and balances” which James Madison and Alexander Hamilton wrote of eloquently in “Federalist Papers”, in which it is my interpretation that the principle of limited government – not less government or smaller government, per-se – but government in which one branch acts as a check on the other, is imperiled by a combination of extreme partisanship defined by fanatical devotion to party identity rather than to the Constitution and the Rule of Law, and by complicity through inaction by those who recognize this but lack the certitude and moral courage to lead with a strong voice those who are now being led astray by strong voices of dubious ethical standards.

Within your party, you have all demonstrated through speech and by some recent votes in certain cases, a degree of independence from Party and alignment with the Constitution and basic universal social norms over and beyond the loyalty of the moment.

Building on that courage, I call on you now to all abandon the Republican Party, at least temporarily, and re-register as Independent.  If the four of you do so, the Senate control will switch to the Democratic Party.  This switch is necessary, at this moment, to ensure a proper check on a chaotic Executive Branch.  While certain strong voices may deride you, the weight of History and of the vast majority of this country would be solidly behind you and this act of coordinated sacrifice and courage for the sake of this country will not be forgotten.  Words speak not as loudly as action.

I leave you with a quote from Abraham Lincoln’s Lyceum Address from 1838:

“Shall we expect some transatlantic military giant to step the ocean and crush us at a blow? Never! All the armies of Europe, Asia, and Africa combined, with all the treasure of the earth (our own excepted) in their military chest, with a Bonaparte for a commander, could not by force take a drink from the Ohio or make a track on the Blue Ridge in a trial of a thousand years. At what point then is the approach of danger to be expected? I answer. If it ever reach us it must spring up amongst us; it cannot come from abroad. If destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of freemen we must live through all time or die by suicide.”

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The United States of Irrationality

Here’s the idea: the United States was a country founded in Age of Reason by philosophical thinkers grounded on the principles of Rationalism; the idea that “regards reason as the chief source and test of knowledge” or “any view appealing to reason as a source of knowledge or justification”.

In the broad sweep of history, organized society could be seen as oscillating between empiricism and rationality, between feeling and thinking.  It is my conjecture that when George W. Bush narrowly was awarded the Presidency by the Supreme Court in 1999 (see Bush v Gore), in what was arguably a partisan and not entirely logical decision, that as I’ve stated in my post “The Antidote to the Alt-Right”,  irrationality and anti-intellectualism was validated as the predominant path to power in America.

The United States of America is at this moment an Irrational Democratic Republic.

I write this for posterity: W. Bush, was widely seen during his presidency as a leader who went with “his gut”.  He moved what was permissible in politics far to the “right” and away from reasoned thought.  There were protests and resistance, but to little avail (we still invaded Iraq without evidence).  And behind the scenes was the shrewdly calculating Cheney, Rumsfeld, etc.  They were a disaster for the country and for the world.  Take for example, the roll back of environmental regulations, the absolute time lost in advancing the moral case to confront climate change (we now see the start of the repercussions of Bush’s absolute recalcitrance on the matter – the universal lock-step Republican view that no action should be taken to mitigate carbon dioxide emissions – we see the oceans warming, more moisture in the air, and a succession of category 4 and 5 hurricanes this year alone, which has devastated major US cities in Texas and Florida and now utterly destroyed Puerto Rico.  This is the legacy of George W. Bush and Newt Gingrich (he should be included in any talk of ad-hominem, feelings-based decision making, being its main progenitor in its current modern form) beginning to emerge.

Or course, the elevation of non-intellectuals and anti-intellectuals such as Sarah Palin and Sarah Palin squared (Donald), has re-validated the importance of chaos , stupidity, and irrationality in holding and exercising political power in the United States of America.  Again, I am not being ad-hominem by calling Donald and other stupid.  I’m saying that they validate thoughtlessness, or action not rooted in thought but in personal animus or animus against key words like liberal or left.  If the “left” did something (like kissing a baby on the cheek, they would do the opposite (not sure what that is, but it’s likely not very nice).  And they would do the opposite for no reason, but just to be opposite and to “win”.

Now … we (the United States) is still a democracy … even in an uninformed democracy, the people are still responsible for voting.

Ok, this is somewhat tangential.  But I wanted to get the idea out there, that the United States of America is at this moment an Irrational Democratic Republic.  We are therefore, by action, by speech of our top leaders, a country which is illogical and does not advance forward on a Federal level, but figuratively mills about in an illogical, unthinking stupor, like a reeling schizophrenic drunk lurching to the center and to the right by turns.

Mitch McConnell and Donald are both irrational: one through non-thinking, the other through acting solely on personal ad-hominem animus.

Many of us remember in our lifetimes prior administrations which were rational: Obama, Bill Clinton, George H.W. Bush, and so on backward (yes, Reagan and others before him of either party were fairly grounded in thought and rationality even if they sought to subtly insinuate certain agendas, either to the left or right of center.    And so, many of us still believe we must be a rational country.  But right now, we simply are not.  With hyper-partisans, Mitch McConnel, the Republican “Freedom Caucus“, and the general notion that all Republicans must act under the principle of group think, as a solid unified Body, no matter the policy or bill presented.  Under the principle of group think, when loyalty is expected toward leaders and when those leaders become or are irrational, then the entire governing body is irrational.  Mitch McConnel and Donald are both irrational (McConnel is intelligent, but governs by personal animus as described above and therefore Calculatingly Irrational whereas Donald is Chaotically Irrational), therefore as they effectively account for two-thirds of the Federal Government, the United States at the national level is an insane and illogical body.  incidentally to be Chaotically Irrational is to be exceedingly dangerous as self-inflicted wounds are occurring (to the national fabric; to our perception by foreign allies, and unilateral, reason-less withdrawal from international pacts, accords, and treaties, to name just a few.

Notes:

Therefore I draw three possible conclusions: 1) The people WANT uninformed non-thinkers at the helms of power, or 2) the people are attempting to the make the best decision that they can, but the people themselves are uninformed non-thinkers and so their decision as to who to elect is wildly uninformed and dangerously incorrect.  3) the people intuitively know that experience and intelligent thinking make for better decisions for a country, but they choose to cast their vote based ENTIRELY on a partisan label.   If Hillary Clinton had re-registered as a Republican and uttered a few phrases about abortion and gun rights, she would now be president.  If Donald had run exactly as he did, but registered as a Green, his vote tally would have been quite low.  If a 3 pound lump of igneous rock was registered Republican, that lump of inert minerals would garner about 30% solid support from Republican voters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Anti-dote to the Alt-Right

Wikipedia defines antidote as: a substance which can counteract a form of poisoning. The term ultimately derives from the Greek ἀντίδοτον antidoton, ” given as a remedy”.

Let me be so bold as to conjecture that the alt-right/ light (otherwise known as “Ctrl-Alt-(right) Delete”) is a form of social poison that, having taken advantage of “hip” modes of communication  (social media youtube), has gained some recent prominence.

I follow some tangential thoughts below, but let me skip to the point here and state for brevity, that the antidote to this “Alt” movement (and first, the movement must be defined), is to turn the human mind away from fear and anger, to turn the human instinct away from nation-states, away from heraldic arms, away from bright banners waving in the wind.  These: banners (not Bannon), flags, crowns with seals, coats of arms- these are Feudalistic symbols of post-Roman states, when the empire fragmented along   geographic and tribalistic lines.  The Antidote is antithesis of the tribal – it’s the old forms of logic that transcended the ancient need to form small tribes and attack other people outside the tribe: Humanism; Cosmologism (not yet actually a word). It’s a realization that there are variations of humanity floating on a small rock in the immensity of the galaxy and near eternity of the universe and each of us is MUCH more like the other than any other beings we are likely to encounter anywhere else in the universe.

The Antidote is Humanism; Cosmologism; Universalism – a cosmological view of humanity that transcends a belief in nation-centrism

In the 1960’s – 1970’s, when science and reason was ascendant (it’s been descendant arguably since George W. Bush validated irrationality and anti-intellectualism as the predominant path to power in America) … when reason was ascendant in the 60’s and 70’s, a philosopher named Carl Sagan wrote eloquently of this cosmological perspective in his books, Cosmos, Pale Blue Dot, and others.  The Universalist view is non-intuitive. It’s non-emotional.  It necessitates that a person has to stop and think and put themselves in historical and global perspective.  The ethnic/ tribal view is ingrained in the human psyche.  Slipping into it is easier, more seductive, quicker (like the dark side of the force). The book, Thinking Fast or Slow,  talks about this as two modes of thinking.  System 1 (if I ring a bell, you automatically look around to find the bell) and System 2 (if I asked you to divide 111 bells by 7 bells, you have to stop and use your brain).  Universal Humanity requires use of System 2 (it requires that we stop and THINK).  The “Alt”-tribal-national way of thinking uses System 1 – it comes more naturally.  Of course, I’m white and you’re black – so let’s fight about it.  Which do you think is a better way to build a society – THINKING (system 2) or reflexive (System 1)?

Humans have long struggled toward the Universal because ultimately, without adequate protections (either a Bill of Rights or a benign dictator), the tribal/ feudal way generally violently oppresses people who are seen as “other” or outside the “tribal”.  After centuries of such purges, an uprising can lead to basic human rights as it did in the Age of Enlightenment  .  Since that liberal (LEFT and LIBERAL) movement was spectacularly successful in bringing unprecedented prosperity to centuries of human civilization, the forces of darkness (now calling themselves “Alt”) rise again, clinging to new forms of mass communication – many of them unwittingly plotting to destroy the very LIBERAL and LEFT freedoms they, their parents and children benefit from (sorry, a bit of a rant there).

A Universal, Cosmic view of humanity as ONE PEOPLE (with slight genetic variations), is the way forward.

But, I think if you’re reading, you get the point.  A Universal, Cosmic view of humanity as ONE PEOPLE (with slight genetic variations), is the way forward.  We’ve united the world with the internet (a true wonder of the world).  It’s a natural reflex to pull back into the known and comfortable tribes of our recent recorded history.  But, if humanity is to move beyond the small pale blue dot of Earth and become a being of the cosmos (imagine 100 million Earths awaiting discovery), then we need to move beyond tribes and work as a unified people.  ONE PEOPLE, with small genetic variations (SNPs) and small differences in culture.

 

(other notes and thoughts here)

As an aside, it is also intriguing to note that groups which are traditionally seen as extremist by the U.S. and Western society (ISIS, etc.) are also very adept at radicalizing and proselytizing their message via social media and youtube as well.  This makes one wonder if social media/ youtube will be seen in the broad arch of history as a tool which began as a way to connect with old friends and very quickly morphed into a mechanism more suited to amplifying social propaganda than the benign chit-chatting with friends and family-friendly exchange of information.  Indeed, Slate and other publications have reported on the U.S. Intelligence Agency’s assessment that Russia has effectively weaponized social media.

But all of this is tangential to my central thesis, that the Alt-Right/Light is a social poison that must be remedied.  By claiming it is a social poison, am I not running a’foul of the First Amendment’s enshrinement of freedom of expression?  And, for that matter, can I be more specific?  For, if I assume that they are propagandistic (which is why they are so seductive to the weak-willed and weak-minded), then I must acknowledge that it is axiomatic (though by no means always true), that the seductive nature of propaganda lies in that there is generally some small grain of truth, which is then expanded upon by appeal to base emotions of anger and fear and presented in a one-sided intuitive way for easy digestion (although reality is always more complex).

To rebut these possible objections, I do not deny the ctrl-alt (right)-delete’s constitutional law (under US law) to express views.  I merely contend their views are extreme, founded in the base human emotions of fear and anger rather than neo-cortextual logic and reason and that therefore they constitute and regression to pre-liberal/ pre-democratic social orders.  If allowed to progress unchecked, the ctrl-alt (right)-delete’s, hyper-nativism would actually strip all people’s (including themselves) of the human rights enshrined in the Bill of Rights, AND the First Amendment (freedom of peaceable religious assembly).

Trump Saves the World

 

So I recently glanced at a New York Times article entitled, LePen Loses Luster, Signaling Far Right’s Retreat.  I didn’t even read the article, but the headline set me thinking about the last fifteen years of events set in motion largely by George W. Bush.  Specifically, the invasion of Iraq, subsequent disastrous decisions such as disbanding the Ba’ath Party with no viable substitute, creating a power vacuum in Iraq and allowing Iran to begin taking advantage of its neighbor’s political weakness and instability and to easily introduce … wait … ignite existing but previously suppressed divisions along religious sectarian lines, which disallowed any semblance of Iraqi stability (why would Iran WANT a powerful rival neighbor anyhow?)  Years of simmering and unresolved fighting and tensions eventually spilling over into Syria, in part blended with virtuous intentions by the majority of peaceable denizens who seized on the political instability to take a chance on changing into a democracy.  The people  ARE powerful, but entrenched systems are more powerful (in the short term).  … all of which led to civil war (as an armchair outsider, I don’t understand how a seemingly rag-tag band of insurgents with machine guns can plunge an entire country into chaos.  But then again, I’m used to the stable, trusted, and multi-layered local, area, state, and national guard, and federal military that keeps order in America (albeit, America is still amazingly internally violent).  Anywho… point is, non-stop Syrian self-destruction resulted in a non-stop exodus of the original peaceable denizenry to the only place they could realistically go without teleportation machines – northward to Europe.  … which … Europe attempted to absorb … which resulted in a boiling over of tensions, or at least a ratcheting up of tensions resulting from the somewhat too-rapid influx of culturally dissimilar elements in too short a span of time … resulting in the rise of nationalistic elements in France, Britain, Austria, the United States.

Why has Europe retreated from its march to the Authoritarian Right?  The same tensions are still there: economy hasn’t improved significantly; migrant crisis has not abated; terrorism is still a scourge…

Of course, all of this is well known and well documented.  My brief, slightly opinionated, and not well sourced thought here, stems from France’s recent rejection of LePen, the Labor Party’s unexpected good showing in the recent U.K. election, which could be a repudiation of the Nationalistic fervor which brought Theresa May to power and Brexit into being.  Why has Europe retreated from its march to the Authoritarian Right?  The same tensions are still there: economy hasn’t improved significantly; migrant crisis has not abated; terrorism is still a scourge (perhaps increasingly so)?

The reason: Trump.  The average European voter has likely been reminded of an important lesson from Trump – that stupid (objectively, not subjectively), nationalistic dictators, even if constrained by norms and systems, can cause great harm to countries, systems, and the over-arching cause of global human-civilization.

America has no mirror, so we lounge on the sofa of the world, eating chips, drinking beer, getting a gut, and basically being obnoxious

America is a mirror for Europe, which allows the sensible to figuratively comb their country’s hair, take a shower, and wear nicer clothes than us (America has no mirror, so we lounge on the sofa of the world, eating chips, drinking beer, getting a gut, and basically being obnoxious.)  That said, the mirror of Trump scared the crap out of sensible Europeans.  The never-ending media coverage, corruption, nepotism, self-serving, alternate-reality, unfolding treasonous calamity of Trump (I could source all of those opinions axioms with multiple instances, but why even bother?) and his anti-intellectual (and anti-intelligent) obsequious team of ad-hominem, hyper-partisan, kiss-uppers, was a salve; a panacea; a way for Europe to experience through us what retreating to nationalism looks like.

So, thank you Trump, thank you Electoral College, and thank you mis-informed voters who rubber-stamped the Electoral College’s rubber stamp.  Your calamitous mistake for the United States helped to restabilize the world.  Albeit, it’s a world, increasingly less enamored of the United States.  But it’s a world that, at least for now, is inoculated against slick-talking, imbecilic “strong-men”.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dear World, Trump (the Siberian Candidate) is Working (right now, at this moment) for Russia

Alright, alright, so the title of this post “Trump is (right now, as I write this, literally – ACTUALLY) working for Russia (i.e. Putin et al)”, is … at present blush, unsubstantiated.  It is mere supposition.  It is, based on the process of Inductive Reasoning (Inductive reasoning is a logical process in which multiple premises, all believed true or found true most of the time, are combined to obtain a specific conclusion.)  It is a premise which niggles, yes, tickles, at the back of consciousness.  It’s something that when an ordinary, rational American falls asleep at night and drifts into a certain stage of REM sleep, is clearly and obviously factual and that they have at least one dream about but then promptly forget upon waking.  And it’s also something that can never be stated in word or speech in conventional communication by media outlets until or unless Robert Mueller’s FBI investigation conclusively validates such a conclusion supported by unequivocal evidence gathered through deductive reasoning.

So, how am I arriving at my conclusion?  Most clearly and most recently, as a result of Trump’s (hereafter referred to as “The Fool”) recent over-seas “big-boy” trip.  Yes, yes, I’m speaking like a partisan, but hear me out for the content and substance.  The Fool, praised  and acclaimed the Saudis (in and of itself not necessarily a bad thing), but he has done the following diplomatic damage before and after his scripted, high-school-like trip abroad.  Of course, this is highly abridged and only represents a tiny fraction of the actual damage the Fool has and continues to perpetrate for unknown reasons.

  1. ASKS AN ADVERSARY (RUSSIA) TO ATTACK US ON HIS BEHALF 7/27/16: he publicly calls on Russia to hack a former Secretary of State.
  2. WEAKENS U.S. INSTITUTIONS 2/4/16: he publicly degrades the Judicial branch, by calling a Judge “so-called” because he disagreed with a decision, thus weakening the institution of both the Presidency and the Judiciary, ultimately weakening U.S. democratic institutions over-all.
  3. VERBALLY ATTACKS A LONG-TIME ALLY, CANADA 04/25/16: creates a diplomatic row with out most important trading partner
  4. ABUSES HIS POWER AS PRESIDENT TO FIRE A HIGHLY QUALIFIED STAFF MEMBER 1/30/17 fires the acting attorney general because she defied an Executive Order which was unconstitutional.  The unconstitutionality was later upheld by two separate courts.
  5. ABUSES HIS POWER AGAIN AS PRESIDENT TO FIRE A HIGHLY QUALIFIED STAFF MEMBER 5/9/17 fires the FBI director, Comey, who is investigating his connection with Russia.
  6. DEGRADES DEMOCRATIC NORMS AND BOLSTERS AN ADVERSARY (RUSSIA) 5/19/17: visits privately with Russian envoy and forbids U.S. media from observing a meeting in the Oval Office where he intentionally passes super secret intelligence to Russia.
  7. PHYSICALLY ATTACKS AN ALLY AND ALLIED DIGNITARY ON A PUBLIC STAGE, 5/25/17: he shoved the prime minister of Montenegro  and NATO leader on a stage
  8. VERBALLY ATTACKS A STRATEGIC ALLY, GERMANY, FOR THE BENEFIT OF RUSSIA. /26/17: he clumsily called the U.S. trading goods with Germany “very bad”
  9. VERBALLY ATTACKS A STRATEGIC ALLY, AGAIN, (GERMANY) FOR THE BENEFIT OF RUSSIA. 5/30/17: he double-downed and called Germany “very bad” a second time

Of course, I could sit here for the next 3 years typing the list of constant affronts to the standing of the United States and cherished norms of civil democratic organized institutions, but doing so would be a waste of both of our times and lives.

It’s obvious that the Fool is acting at the direction, the behest, and at the personal request of Russia and Putin to further Russia’s monetary and political gain (and therefore the Fool’s monetary gain) by sewing long-term political discord and chaos among friends and allies, by breaking alliances where able and by degrading and weakening the United States by attacking checks on his power (firing the checks such as Comey when able to), or verbally accosting them such as the Judiciary and (4th Estate) Media when he’s not able to fire them.  This is not just the Fool being a wily, rough and tumble “American” – this is true, pre-meditated, malicious intent by the Fool.

Now, why would the Fool do this?  Simply .. he’s either been literally brainwashed by an unknown and potent Russian brainwashing weapon, or the Russians drugged him and implanted a radio transceiver and small explosive device in his skull.  Putin is therefore able to directly communicate and transmit messages one-way to the Fool, actually telling him how to behave.

<Putin’s voice sounding clandestinely in the Fool’s head> “Number TK-1004, now shove the minister from Montenegro.. … Excellent… Excellent!”

Of course, if the Fool does not shove the minister from Montenegro and then pick a verbal fight with Germany, Putin will order the explosive in the Fool’s skull be detonated.  Of course, this sounds James Bondian, but then, who was Bond’s arch nemesis classically, if not Russia?

I can’t prove it – I simply know it to be true, like Luke Skywalker knew Darth Vader was his father (yes, I am using the Force).  I hereafter hand the reigns of the deductive portion of this investigation back to Meuller and other public patriots and defenders of the Constitution [of the United States].  Meuller, do your job – we have a true Siberian Candidate on our hands.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Republicans” = Plutocratic Individualists

I’m reading an interesting book, “The Myth of the Rational Voter” by economist, Bryan Caplan.  Simply on Chapter 2, I was struck by some interesting insights that I immediately felt compelled to share.

In Chapter 2, Caplan discusses types of economic and social biases that individuals have including anti-foreign bias: a “tendency to underestimate the economic benefits of interaction with foreigners” in economic decisions.  Among them, the insight that there are two technologies for producing automobiles in the US: 1) to manufacture them in Detroit or to 2) GROW them in Iowa.  This is actually an excerpt from “The Armchair Economist” is diagrammed here on a facebook post quite well.

America-the-international-trader is more efficient for individual productivity than America-the-“first”

The crux of the idea is that people intuitively assume that trade with a foreign state is a zero-sum game, one loser and one winner.  This sentiment is logically incorrect, however as world output or total output can be increased for everyone by trading in accordance with one’s comparative advantage.  In other words, if the US has an advantage in producing corn and Mexico has an advantage in producing automobiles (due to cost efficiencies presumably), then the US producing more corn to trade for more cars from Mexico will benefit both countries more than an isolationist, do-it-ourself approach.

Think of another analogy: how productive would you be if you had to grow all of your food in addition to your other responsibilities (assuming you’re not a farmer, etc)?  And how productive would you be if you had to build you own car from parts?  By exchanging a few days of work pay for a month’s worth of food, your time is freed up to do other things.  Everyone benefits.

Segue from this to Trump’s (not-entirely-logical, but feel-good) populist message about America first.  Clearly Trump (and his adherents – those who simply believe him without being skeptical or thinking for themselves), are clearly falling prey to an economic misconception/ bias – anti-foreign bias.  If we’re not careful and intelligent with our economic policy and trade, retreating into our own national shell of “let’s grow everything and make everything here”, will – in a world that has the internet, trains, cargo jumbo jets, and international shipping ports, make our country and society less efficient relative to other countries that participate more freely in trade.

Our trade deficit is also our Goods surplus!  Lots and lots of cheap goods.

Our trade deficit with China is a common refrain that feels right, but is only half the story.   A trade deficit with China in which cash (I assume without googling it, US treasury bills or some-such currency proxy) is going into China is half the equation.  What do we get for our US treasury bills; clearly we get Goods.  iPhones, machine components, dishes, glassware, etc.  The US is massively goods rich if China is massively US treasury bills rich.  The equation balances.

But after a certain point, lots of cheap goods do not a society make happier…

Where the nationalist message does maybe hit nearer the mark of reason is that (and it’s never really stated by Trump), goods, I mean a lot of cheap goods does not after a certain point make the average US citizen feel happier or give them a sense of purpose.  Your cheap(er) iPhone is a nice nick-knack, but if you’re perennially unemployed, it’s not enough to give you a sense of purpose in life.

The next step in the logic is where Trump and the “Republicans” veer far off the mark.  They retreat back into a nationalistic “us first!” approach.  Certainly, we could “reset” the world order and become agrarians again.  A Luddite society with no airplanes, no internet, just revert to 1810 technology… or.. we could strive to innovate in the economically depressed rust-belt regions – the regions that voted (narrowly) for Trump, and more disturbingly tolerate his chaotic anti-democratic “leadership” in exchange for the chance of something different.

Caplan explains that being out of a job hurts the person in the short term, but can (and will eventually) benefit the society.

Think about it: America created and commercialized the innovative technology that has and is reshaping the global economy.  And just when that innovation has lead to global shifts and those global shifts start to reverberate back home (and not just on the coastal regions (i.e. Silicon Valley), where they largely originated)), the US suddenly pulls back to reinvigorate Coal technology!?  The better solution is for depressed Michigan and South Carolina to embrace the service and high technology industry (computer and biological) and become a new engine of innovation.  Afterall, having read further in the “The Myth of the Rational Voter“, another economic bias is “Make-work”‘ bias.  That simply doing a job is itself productive.  The myth of Sisyphus lets us see the fallacy of this train of thought. Sisyphus was eternally busy rolling a boulder up a hill, only to have the boulder roll back down and have to start all over again.  He was doing a job that bore no fruit.  Caplan explains that being out of a job hurts the person in the short term, but can (and will eventually) benefit the society.  A person who is out of work, will generally seek new work.  Which is why we used to have a lot of horse shoe makers and black smiths, but now we have lots of computer coders and marketers.  Economists call the cycle of change, “churn”.  When Trump extols the virtues of coal and puts coal miners “back to work”, he is actually hurting Coal Country’s chances at innovating into the future.  He is holding them back.  It would be like subsidizing wooden catapult makers for the military or making sure we keep our brave oil-lamp-makers productive.  It’s a populist message that makes people feel happy today, but just will perpetuate a cycle of boom and bust for an industry that employs technology from the 1880’s in a world awash with hydrogen fuel cells, gas fracking, and elegant wind and solar technology.  Not to mention sequencing the genomes of cancers and developing technologies for remote doctor visits, etc.

Which finally led me to another train of thought – and the title of this post.  What are “Republicans” or “Conservatives” actually doing?  Who are they?  Ideally, such a broad topic is deserving of its own post.  The same parts of the country most hurt by Republicans/ Conservatives over the past 40 years are also the regions that continue to steadfastly vote them back into power each election.  The rust belt/ Michigan/ coal regions of the country are, I contend,  duped by the populist message; duped by economic misconceptions and biases that seem correct but are actually wrong.  Not touched in the above, but of central importance is also taxation (revenue generation for the public good) (also, deserving of its own post).

Imagine the following: a Republican lowers all taxes by 10% across the board.  The little guy feels great – he might save an additional $600/ year.  Where as the big guy who earns above $200,000/ year might save $10,000/ year, and the very big guy who is a millionaire, will net $100,000+ per year in savings.  What the little guy is not considering is that when we defund societal services, we have no money left over for trains and subway systems (for example).  Communities get spread out and now the little guy must own a car and drive long distances everywhere or take an expensive, dirty, loud, unsafe, and very slow bus from point A to B.  The little guy, in voting to reduce his taxes, also votes to defund his own community.  He saves $600 per year via a tax refund (for example), but now has to pay $300/ month to lease a car and pay $50 in insurance and another $50 in gas per month.  He saves $600 in taxes in order to pay $4,800 ($400 X 12 months) for the pleasure of owning a car.   This is sacrificing the social good (the good of the many) for the individual potential good (the good of the very few).

This is a call for a change from Plutocratic Individualism to Balanced Democratic Collectivism; for social inclusiveness (i.e. tax the rich … please)

I understand this conclusion is somewhat hastily arrived at, but the essence of all of this is that if we’re going to refer to a political party by a term, let’s call them what they actually are.  Conservatives conserve the wealth of the wealthy.  They sacrifice the collective welfare to maximize the potential of the individual.  In reality, we can’t ALL be millionaires.  I know the dream is seductive.  I can do it!  The reality is, even the middle class are now struggling with student loans, stagnant wages relative to housing prices.  We should dream, but we should also balance individualism with pragmatic collectivism.  Are we, America, an ultra-individualistic society, prioritizing the illusion of individual gain over the very real gains that we could realize with more collective action.  This is not a call for extreme socialism.  It’s a call for a change from Plutocratic Individualism to Balanced Democratic Collectivism; for social inclusiveness.  Past politicians extolled this virtue; united we stand, divided we fall.  When we wildly unbalance our economic prosperity such that the top 10% of earners in the US hold 3/4 of all of the wealth, and the entire other 90% of people hold all but 1/4 of the wealth, we destabilize the whole fabric of society in the long run.

To put it right, people were duped into electing Trump.

 

To put it right, people were duped into electing Trump.  As we’ve seen in just 100 days, this will deepen misery for all of us, especially the Trump voters who – once again – have voted against their own self interest.  Next time, vote for your self interest – vote Independent or Liberal – vote for social and economic inclusiveness, not for plutocratic individualists.

Does “Black Lives Matter” Unite or Divide Us?

Summary: “Black Lives Matter” has as its premise the intent of furthering the civil rights objectives of equality for all (and in this case African Americans).   But I believe the name of the movement (which helps to catalyze that movement’s actions and our understanding of it) should reflect its objectives, not its grievance.  A better name would be: “We are American!”  or “We are American  Too!”

Is “Black Lives Matter” and other social advocacy groups dividing or uniting us?

The premise underlying social advocacy is tied to our interpretation of the Declaration of Independence.  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.”

This statement has been progressively  broadened from literally “men” to all men and to women … and so forth.

 1868 -14th amendment (anti-slavery): No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

1920 – 19th amendment (universal suffrage, women’s right to vote): The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

1963 – I have a dream speech – civil rights movement -“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation Where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character. ”

2015 – Supreme Court decision – Gay Marriage legal

I believe what accounted for the popularity of these decisions and cultural movements is they represented an expansion of what type of citizen should enjoy Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness as equal citizens under the law.  The premise was: if you are of African ancestry, then you too are a citizen entitled to the same guarantees under the law; if you are a woman, then you too are a citizen entitled to these same guarantees; if you have different color skin, you should be treated equally, if you are gay and want to get married, you should have equal opportunity, etc.

In the second decade of the 21st century, there’s been another blossoming of this sentiment: “treat me fairly, treat me the same.”  Only this time the movement, while its intentions echo these previous movements toward civil justice and equality, and while its grievances are no doubt based on real, shared experiences of prejudiced interactions (evidently with a bias from law enforcement), I believe the way in which the message is being delivered runs counter to that of Dr. King’s message and to the other decisions cited above.  I believe the way in which the message is being delivered divides rather than unites.

Why does it divide?  Because the message is narrow and pertains to a narrow demographic.  African-American, Asian-American, Irish-American, Italian-American, German-American: these designations call attention to our differences, they highlight a group’s singularity as opposed to just … American.  To  work toward post-raciality we should be post-designation, we should all simply be American.  “Black Lives Matter” excludes by its name all other colors as surely as would “Yellow Lives”, “Red Lives”, “White Lives”, etc.

To be clear, I support the cause and the intent of equal treatment and equal opportunity. I simply believe the name, which may serve to define the approach and actions of its members, divides and excludes rather than unites.  It is accidentally the opposite of Dr. King’s movement – define me not by my skin tone but by the content of my character.  Dr. King would say (in my opinion) “I have an American dream”, not “I have a black (or yellow, or brown, or red) dream.  Dr. King spoke from his experiences as a black man but then transcended that to the universal, a dream we all share.    For a movement that wishes to accomplish something similar, the name of the movement should reflect its objectives, not its grievance.  A better name would simply be: “We are Americans Too!”

The Electoral College Failed to Perform its Intended Duty (yes, it’s been two months and I’m still talking about this)

Summary: It’s been about two months since the Electoral College elected Mr. Trump as President.  Why am I bringing this up now?  Because our institutional memory is low or non-existent in the US (because of the fast pace of life).  Because we deserve to be reminded that the election of Trump was a shameful act.  Because we deserve to be reminded that the Electoral College failed to execute its duty in accordance with its original intent.  Why have a Body if its intent is to be a rubber stamp?  Its intent was to think and act independently.

By Voting for an unqualified candidate, the Electoral College failed on a monumental level

It’s been about two months since the Electoral College (EC) elected Mr. Trump as President on December 19th.  Notice I do not say they “confirmed”.  The task of the EC  is not to confirm (that is the task of the Supreme Court Justice.) In our democracy, the people vote for the EC and the EC in turn votes for the president.  The EC is established as part of our constitutional process (the Twelfth Amendment).

The Twelfth Amendment

“The Electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President ….  The person having the greatest number of votes for President, shall be the President …. ”

Note: the amendment denotes a process, not an ethic.  It’s more of a physic (this shall be done in such and such a way) as opposed to the intent – it is good or bad to do the process a certain way.

The Intent of the Electoral College

Indeed, Hamilton elaborated on the intent of the EC in Federalist Paper #68.  If you read carefully and accustom yourself to the style of the language,  you see the following passages:

“It was equally desirable, that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice. A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.”

“The process of election affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualificationsTalents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States.”

Let’s break these important passages out to discern Hamilton’s intent better.

  1. The … election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station.
  2. A small number of persons .. will possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.
  3. The office of President [should] never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications
  4. Talents for low intrigue, and … popularity, may elevate a man

On point 4, Hamilton believes that low intrigue and popularity may elevate a man only so high, but not to the office of President because of the last check, the last safety valve, the electoral college.  But … do I need to point out that #45, Trump, is just exactly such a man, elevated through low Twitter intrigue and TV show popularity to popular myth among a partially-informed public (we still don’t have his tax returns.  Is he indebted to Russia or another hostile nation in a way that would compromise his judgement?)

I created a petition over 2 month ago on change.org elucidating these exact points and extolling the EC to not be a rubber stamp, but to be an actual body with free judgement.  I wrote the following and two months later, with Trump’s white house in turmoil, roiled by scandal, riddled with a constant machine-gun fire of lies and shaded truths, and rotted at its core with ethics violations.  The shaded truths of Sean Spicer, the “alternative fact” world of KellyAnne, the Chief of the National Security Council (NSA) lying to the Vice President about illegal contacts with a foreign hostile power, the ignoring of the Justice Department’s warnings about his corruptibility, the many seats and posts in the West Wing and Executive still unfilled, the general incompetence that leaves a dangerous vacuum for Russia to fill with its next military adventure and invasion …. THE ELECTORS FAILED BY BEING A RUBBER STAMP AND SHAME TO THEM.

a excerpt from my petition that (evidently) gained absolutely no attention even though it was 100% correct in its warning, good intent, and interpretation of the 12th Amendment vis-a-vi the current occupier of seat #45.

That the Presidency should pass to an individual whose guiding internal temperament –unpredictable and self-aggrandizing – a temperament at absolute odds with the principles of selfless sacrifice and magnanimity which Americans and others collectively admire about this country; that this should come to pass is the solemn duty of the Electors of the Electoral College – of YOU – to prevent.

While going “faithless” to your state is no easy task, this petition and the broad support it will evoke, is to ensure you that you have the support of your countrymen in this difficult task.  Recall that you are not bound to vote a particular way by law.  Your independence was the College’s original intent.  That the College has rarely exercised its independence is testament to the strength of this country’s election process in bringing forth the most qualified of individuals to serve. At this point in our country’s history, your independence is sorely needed in selecting that qualified individual.  When you are “faithless” to your state you will, in this extra-ordinary time, be faithful to your country.

SPECIFIC ASK:

We ask for only a total of 24 Electors from Florida, North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, or about 6 Electors from each of these states, to go “faithless” and not cast your vote for Donald J. Trump on December 19th.  We do not advocate for a specific alternative.

 

Why Being Elite is Better than Being an Outsider

Summary: In the last 1 – 2 decades of American political life (starting in the late 20th century), there’s been an anti-establishment rising among Republicans, Conservatives and some Populists. The Establishment (institutions and bureaucracy) is associated with elitism and self-interested enrichment; with being out-of-touch with the every-man.  The insurgent outsider is extolled as pure of motive and (not yet corrupted) virtue and this in turn will be a boon and benefit to the individual and to society.  Let’s bring in the Washington outsider; the Trump.  Yet, this notion is incredibly misguided as I describe below.

Why Being Elite is Better than being an Outsider

a.       On the surface this would seem obvious.  Of course, being an elite is better than being a common “everyman”.

b.      However, in the American historical mythos,– elites are associated with aristocracy, the King, Monarchy, empire, royalty, corruption, and therefore being out of touch with the needs of the populous.

c.       Elites are seen as intellectuals – and there’s a strong anti-intellectual tradition in American culture for the same reason – the rebellion again King, Monarchy and empire that catalyzed this country. (see Anti-Intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstadter, published 1963).

d.      The Old World was a world of rigid class structure – the New World, a land of opportunity for everyone; where the commoner could rise or fall – on his merits, unfettered from inherited class and status.

e.      In the last 1 – 2 decades of American political life, there’s been an anti-establishment rising among republicans, conservatives and some populists.  The Government establishment is associated with elite.  So now we’re anti-elistists.  Populism is in fashion; elitism is out of fashion.

f.       One might argue that individuals and groups that have ridden this wave of anti-elite populism have been the Tea Party, Sarah Palin, and now President #45 .. Trump himself – the ultimate Washington outsider

g.       But while this populist “take over” sounds great and might even feel great for a day or two.. it’s very bad for our country.  And here’s why.

Let’s start with a definition.  Elite:  representing the most choice or select; best

a.       Now, let’s think of some examples:

i.      if you brought your car to a mechanic to fix a problem, would you want that mechanic to be elite, or an outsider with no experience?  How about you bring your car to an eye doctor next time you have an issue and I’ll bring my car to elite mechanic?

– One of them is elite – one of them is not.

ii.      If someone said: here’s $100, buy yourself some classical concert tickets.  Would you buy tickets to see the local 7th grade symphonic band play Mozart’s 8th symphony, or would you prefer to see the London Symphony Orchestra?

– One of them is elite – one of them is not.

iii.  How about our military?  The United States has an Elite Military – arguably, the best trained and equipped in the world.

iv.      If your house was on fire, would you want the best, most elite fire department to put it out, or maybe just grab some local people off the street – total outsiders with no experience?

v.      Would you want your school civics teacher to be an elite teacher, or maybe just a random kid off the street who’s never studied the subject?

I could go on forever.  But you get the point.  In just about all spheres of life, elite is preferred, elite is better.  Except for politics (apparently).  Suddenly, being elite is “bad”; being an outsider is “good”.  Having no prior experience in government is now good for running the government.  I posit that that is … irrational.

The best government is that which governs best

Hamilton in the Federalist Papers #68 wrote something to the effect of: the best government is that which governs best.  I don’t recall reading from Hamilton that the best government is that which has no idea what to do or how to do it well.  Is the best government an incompetent government or an elite one? Do we want the choice or select or best government, or the opposite? [note: the actual quote is from Alexander Pope “For forms of government let fools contest, That which is best administered is best.”]

Of course, an elite could become out-of-touch, engrossed with their own self-enrichment and corrupt. I think we are all familiar with an elite real-estate and marketing mogul who fits that description.  Oh, I’m sorry, he’s supposed to be the ultimate outsider, right?

My point is: being the best at something doesn’t make you out of touch, a snob, or corrupt. There will be corrupt elites [such as Mitch McConnell] and virtuous elites [such as Joe Biden].  Just as there are corrupt outsiders [Trump] and virtuous outsiders.

Judge a person on their value; not if they are “elite” or “outsider”

The rational thing is to judge a person on their value and virtue.  To elect a governor on their ability to govern.  Now we see an administration of #45 populating itself with incompetent and unprepared “outsider, everymen commoners” for many of its cabinet picks.  By selecting Trump, the voters have confused virtue with incompetence; symptoms with cause.   Knowledge and competence in government does not corrupt or make one out-of-touch any more than a lack of knowledge does.

An elite diplomat from Russia, China, or India is going to beat our commoner diplomats every time.  Just as their elite scientists will beat our “common” outsider with no experience scientists.We become a common nation over time when we shun elites and settle for unprepared outsiders instead.

Hillary Clinton was elite and we (47% of those who voted) shunned her because she seemed cold and distant.  Now we have a dangerous but entertaining clown in office because he seemed fun to watch or say things we (47%) wanted to hear.  And he is surrounding his administration with other unprepared commoners.  And so when we start to decline in relation to other countries which promote their elites, I’m sure it will be very entertaining.