Category: Populism

Advice to Hillary

The latest Silly Season is weighing on me. I had the following dream last night

  Clinton has won the Primary and the General Elections. Between November and her inauguration, she has embarked on a a cross-country trek of ‘town hall’ meetings, ostensibly to thank the voters. For some reason, I am attending one of these meetings (What can I say? I’m a glutton for punishment). Hillary picks me out of the crowd (my Abe Lincoln appearance, probably) and invites me to share the stage and talk with her, tell her what I think she needs to do, where I think the country needs to go. Mentally licking my political chops, I agree.

  You will make history as the first Woman President. That is largely due the change in the way Americans treat gender nowadays and is vindication of the efforts of a lot of women – and a few men – over the decades. It’s not you.

  You should understand that you won the election not so much on your own merits or positions on the issues. You won because enough voters realized that Donald Trump is a 4-door, brass-plated, air-conditioned, turbo-charged, 12-cylinder, 5-speed asshole. They were scared shitless at the thought of what he might do as President. Many – on both sides of the aisle – are also worried about what you will do as President.

  Much has been made of the fact that Trump’s campaign fed on and fed racism, bigotry and xenophobia. But the bottom line on his support and the support for Bernie Sanders should tell you that a great many Americans realize and resent that they have seen their income, privacy, freedom, security and future worsened or destroyed by the policies and practices of the Money Elite, many of whom contribute heavily to your financial undertakings and campaigns – and we both know they expect the favor to be returned. Screw the bastards.. They richly deserve it.

  A woman President was inevitable. It happened to be you. If you want to be a great President, you need to address the real problems of people, both here and abroad. Some of the solutions are not under your direct control but will require action by Congress and the Courts, but even there your leadership could wield influence, as a ‘bully pulpit’ and through appointments in various departments, particularly Justice and Defense.

  Get big money out of politics. Finance elections from tax money and limit spending to some reasonable amount. Ban lobbying. Entirely.. Proposals for government action should never come from corporations with a financial stake in that action. It’s bad enough that when the government puts out an RFP, those who respond will naturally toot their own horn, but we don’t need retired generals/admirals or bankers bullshitting the selection process via the Old Boy Network. Stop it.

  Implement Single Payer Healthcare by simply expanding Medicare to everyone. The procedural and IT infrastructure is already in place and functioning pretty well. At most, it might require an upscale of computer hardware. Healthcare, like education, clean water & waste disposal should be the right of every citizen – and on a not-for-profit basis.

  Stop trying to control the entire world. We are no longer the envy of the world we once were. Instead we are much of the world’s worst nightmare. Our wars, our financing and support for any petty dictator that we approve of, our CIA-led coups in various countries for decades should stop. It is true hypocrisy to criticize and even hate refugees who are are fleeing the hell we created or support. When we destroy Iraq, Syria, Libya, we can’t complain about the consequences. Stop it.

  Stop supporting privatization of things which are inherently public. Prisons and schools and water systems are not being privatized to improve efficiency but to enrich those with friends in power. Stop.

  End the ineffective (though profitable) war on drugs. Just stop it. Legalize and regulate (reasonably) all drugs.Empty and issue a blanket pardon for the thousands of people in prison for posseesing pot. If that’s their only rap sheet, wipe the record clean. And always help them reintegrate into society.

  Instead of prosecuting whistle blowers, prosecute the high-level, wealthy and well-connected criminals. The financiers responsible for the economic meltdown (and who have continued to profit). Politicians for war crimes, torture, the lies that put us in Iraq, the indiscriminate use of drones. Stop it.

  End the militarization of non-Federal law enforcement. All it does is enrich crony capitalists and facilitate an authoritarian mindset among officers who are supposed to be public servants and are increasingly acting as public masters. Stop it.

  End the NSA’s and DOD’s over-the-top spying on innocent people. Put all wiretaps and snooping back to requiring a traditional search warrant – person(s); item to be searched for; reasonable cause – before a judge. And if that overwhelms the judges, it might just indicate too much snooping. You think maybe?

  Note that most of the items involve stopping what we’d doing. It’s enough to make one contemplate the virtues of a government too small to make the mistakes we have inflicted on our people and the world. Unfortunately, the modern world does require Big Government. Stopping the misuse of government power would meet stiff resistance from those who profit from the status quo. But perhaps if we stop wasting time, money and effort on the wrong things, we would be able to spend our time, money and effort on things like improving peoples lives (at home and abroad) and limiting or even reversing Global Warming – for the sake of your new grandchild and and my great-grandchildren.

  You will make history as the first woman President.
  You could make history as a great President.
  Or not.
  It’s up to you.

Binary Choices

The media favors reporting in terms of binary choices. Maybe we, the consumers of media, are easily beguiled by them because that is the way we naturally tell and listen to stories.

Binary choices work best because they are easy. Democrat versus Republican, Black versus White, Good versus Evil, Have’s versus Have Not’s, Easy versus Hard, Cheap versus Expensive, Efficient versus Wasteful, Happy versus Sad, Secure versus Insecure, Fearful versus Fearless, Us versus Them, In versus Out, Fight versus Flight.

It’s a very long list. You can fit a lot into a handy binary schema.

We are told there is a presidential race now limited to two figures. We have Donald Trump v Hillary Clinton if you accept the media’s insistent theme “do the math and resign to the inevitable”. Cruz and Sanders are seen as desperately flapping their arms as the hook pulls them off stage right and stage left respectively. Nobody else is viable, so why “waste” time even thinking about them?

If you value your time so preciously, you will focus on the binary choices. You have concluded this is the way the election process works, and you have gotten used to it. Pick your poison. Choosing one of two is better than not choosing at all. Choose even if it’s only a choice between the bad and the least bad. Hold your nose and vote. If you don’t vote, you are going to be a bad actor in the binary schema. If you forfeit your choice, you are really choosing sides because you are aiding-and-abetting the bad over the least bad. So get used to it: you’re choosing. There is no such thing as a boycott or abstention. You are not an innocent by-stander. You are an accomplice.

Many who assume this line assume themselves to be ‘practical’ analysts of the situation. They obviously like the mathematical simplicity of binary choices: One versus Zero. It is a digital world after all, ruled by binary choices. It’s so powerful, yet so elegantly simple.  It is also determinist.  It is forced format. It is divisive.

Picture Yoda. Do or do not. There is no try.

It almost sounds like the perfectly unambiguous mantra for a binary theorists’ reductive argument except that it is really the voice of a mentor trying to inspire a pupil to believe sufficiently in his aspirations, to act on hope despite the odds. ‘Do’ act on hope, but ‘do not’ sit idly by. Remember that both Yoda and Luke were in the position of Total Losers at this point in their story, malcontents in a galaxy administered by Dark Siders and populated by an array of mercenaries, swindlers, cynics, petty tyrants and cute teddy bears, all of whom were mightily oppressed and disorganized. Until they weren’t.

Okay, you say, that’s just a latter day fairy tale. It isn’t real. It wasn’t meant as “practical” advice. There is no realpolitik there. Until there is.

For all the hue and cry over Donald Trump’s candidacy and the fearful chord he strikes in the hearts of many Americans, he was a mere externality to government until he wasn’t. A peripheral character. A wannabe with a delusional sense of self-worth. Now he is a dagger pressed against the heart of the Free World.

And the anointed foil to Trump the Evil is who?

Hillary the Good? Only for an ecstatic core. What it means to most candid binarists is Hillary the More Powerful, Hillary the Not-Trump, which boils down further to Hillary the Mitigator of Greater Harm, which is to say Hillary the Diluter of Toxic Contamination, and eventually Hillary the Least Worst.

Of course, the swing-binarists must be taken into account and they view Trump v Clinton as Outsider versus Insider. They are hugely disgusted with Insiders as a class. Just how disgusted remains to be seen, but figures suggest a large number of them have already leaned toward Trump. Remember: true binarists “do” or “do not” vote. There is no try.

True terror for a binarist results from the realization there is choice lying outside the prescribed range. Why do you suppose third party candidates are so reviled in this country? Why do you suppose they keep coming back?

I am faced with binary choices all the time just like you are, but I know that is not the only schema for life or its situations. Do you really think you live in a world of Man Versus Woman? Do you honestly think is it good to pit Straight versus Gay? Do you honestly think binary choices must absolutely be linked to other binary choices—are Straight versus Gay choices also Good versus Bad ones?

I am pretty sure you don’t really think this way, but I am also pretty sure you won’t consciously think about the permutations that flow from whatever first set of choices you are given. You certainly react to the first set but, if you are like most people, you won’t think about it much beyond the second or third set before you get tired of the process and just want to get on with your life. Leave the complicated philosophy to people willing to blend—Hegel or monks pondering Yin and Yang instead of Yin versus Yang.

Binary choices are easy to construct, easy to communicate and easy to accept because they can capture a theme by defining it in terms of its extremes. Works well for numbers, algorithms, but I don’t think it works well in most human affairs.

Do we really want our lives to be the average of least bad choices?

I don’t. The average of the least bad excludes the value of “try”. It presumes extremes are known and fixed. I think history demonstrates the contrary, don’t you?

True or False?

 

The US State Religion

Despite claims to the contrary, the US has a state-sponsored and supported religion.

Like all religions, it has its dogma, a group of fundamental beliefs, that are accepted “on faith,” without any physical proof. And like all religions, it has its clerics/priests, an organized structure for its support, and the priests have their own body of laws inviolate from laws governing the common people.

The high priest of this religion is the Chairman of the US Federal Reserve. He makes religious pronouncements, which have enormous effect, and do little to explain the dogma – rather they make understanding the dogma more difficult. The goal is to confuse the masses, and insulate the priesthood. Clearly, only He can talk directly to God, because when he explains, the message is incomprehensible. Continue reading

Dear Elected Politicians

pverty-creatorsDear Elected Politicians:

I’d like to address some things that I think may be going wrong in Washington D.C. and offer some solutions as I see them. This is also happening at the state level and should have a similar message to them. Who I am doesn’t really matter. It doesn’t matter if I’m a man or a women. It doesn’t matter what race I might be or my political affiliation. The problems I feel that need to be addressed, most crucial at this time like no other in the past century, have nothing to do with political interests or interests specific to one person. The only identifying thing you need to know about me is that I am a citizen of this country and my concerns are the concerns of America.
Continue reading

Democrats are not populists

Obama with 'job czar' GE CEO (and job exporter) Immelt
Obama with ‘job czar’ GE CEO (and job exporter) Jeffrey Immelt

If any event ever disproved the liberal position that electing Democrats is necessary, or even valuable, for the populist cause, this new budget deal should certainly do the job. It won’t, of course, because liberals hold fast to the position that “my mind is made up so don’t confuse me with any facts.”They also steadfastly focus on what Democrats promise and staunchly ignore what they actually do in office.

Neither side will mind the fiction, to repeat myself, that this budget is a false pretense; promising to do something in ten years while being only a two year deal. Nor will they mind that it doesn’t even actually do what it proclaims to do; actually reduce the deficit to any meaningful degree. It actually replaces a $6.3 billion deficit reduction with a $2.3 billion reduction, which looks like a $4.0 billion increase to me. Even if you ignore reality and accept the $2.3 billion reduction; the CBO estimates the deficit to be $6.3 trillion over the next ten years, so that $2.3 billion amounts to a reduction of one third of one percent.

If I tell a prospective client that I am going to solve one third of one percent of his problem, and that I am going to take ten years to do it, he is going to tell me to take a long walk on a short pier. But I’ve covered all that before; back to Democrats and their claims to populism.   Continue reading