Venn

When trying to describe my political orientation I have morphed through many descriptions. Some have been decided by the state of my own beliefs, other times I have tried using terms that describe what political party I most associate with. I have toyed with using what is in vogue for most people that I politically agree with, and with using what most aptly describes my leanings.

My grandfather was involved with Boston city politics, becoming a campaign manager for a long time City Councillor. That meant he was a Democrat. It was from my mother’s side that I inherited the Democrat bent. My father was a cynic who rarely voted. He never subscribed to any party because he believed they were “all a bunch of crooks”. From my father, I inherited cynicism; which rested dormant in my mind until world events pushed me to recognize in an abstract way my father was right. All politicians are a bunch of crooks. Not because they necessarily stole from public coffers, but because most put the comfort of the wealthy before that of the voters. Oddly, as my own cynicism began to blossom during my later teen years and the Vietnam War through the Reagan administration, his lessened as he began to dutifully believe the President was justified to do whatever was needed because he knew things we didn’t. For a while I considered myself a Democrat.

In fact, I am still registered as a Democrat. But I cannot participate in their party activities. I’m still invited to their get-togethers, but I cannot find the space in my life to go. I am not #Demexit. I am #NoMorePoliticalParties.

My wife was brought up in an Italian Catholic home, but their religion was belonging to the Democratic Party. She has never wavered from that. She did try a few religions before settling on becoming a Jew. So a nice Italian Catholic Democrat girl, became a Jewish Democrat. Those are the Venn Diagram she individually lives in.

As I noted over the years I modeled my descriptions along more esoteric terms. Lately I have bundled them all together into a long stream such as “Progressive, Liberal, Left Wing, Bleeding heart, Social Democrat. I intentionally leave out the Liberal Libertarian part that was actually a moniker I used online for a while. Inevitably people would accuse me or tell me that if I used Libertarian in my self description that regardless of any modifier I use (such as Liberal!) then I am a Libertarian and are therefore required to follow the Libertarian agenda. I realized that thinking was true across the political spectrum when I stated opposition to early voting and was rebuked by someone telling me that “Democrats are in favor of early voting”. Perhaps I am not a Democrat? Is autonomy dead? Do most people actually look to political parties to tell them what to believe? Current events tell me this is so, more now, I think, than ever.

Watch the news, read the paper and everything is characterized into one single grouping for Liberals. Liberals believe Russia hacked the election, they tell us. Conservative voters believe that Trump will bring good business sense into managing US economic issues. None of that makes any sense. Russia did not hack the election, Trump has no business sense at all. I’m a Liberal and I know Conservatives that don’t believe Trump would know how to run a lemonade stand.

In reality, we are all defined by the Venn Diagrams that describe each of us. The media, in a day when there is time to tell the story that is real are supposed to be cynics, instead they are toadies of the lowest sort. I have noted some of the Venn circles that I find myself in, I bet almost every person that reads this shares at least one circle with me. That cannot be covered in today’s political party setup.

From here on I will call myself a #TrueLiberal. Anyone can use the nomenclature, it’s only purpose is to separate those of us that want to disassociate themselves from the any of the established Political parties.

Keep Political Parties Away from our Elections

The evidence proves that Political Parties running elections is bad for Democracy.

Ideas for election reform have been flowing across my facebook screens nearly daily for the last month. Many of the ideas individually have a lot of merit, but there are some that are downright dangerous. The most common ideas are ranked choice voting, eliminating gerrymandering, open primaries, making election day a holiday, even more early voting, vote by mail, automatic voter registration, and mandating paper ballots. I am sure there are others that I missed listing and others that I have not heard about.

Why is election reform such a hot topic all of a sudden? A major driver was the recent election for president that did not turn out in any way how the experts all expected it would.  Their malfeasance has turned into a state of shock all across America. So the next question is, what went wrong that never went wrong before. As far as I can tell, nothing went wrong that hasn’t gone wrong before. That means that the problems that need fixing haven’t changed. Why all the fuss now? My thesis is that nobody wants to admit that anything was going wrong before. Especially the pundit class, that group of people who sit around tables that are near TV cameras and pontificate just as I am doing now, except my laptop camera is turned off and I don’t get paid. Also the pundit class keeps getting to talk into cameras and say stuff and two weeks later when they are all wrong, the same group gets brought back in front of the cameras and are asked to pontificate some more. Instead of looking back and asking what are we missing, they pretend that the real problems with our entire election are not consequential, and as the cognitive dissonance distance between what is broken and what the pundit class bases their predictions increases, the less reliable the predictions are, and the less the public believes them.

A reliable election process is where the best candidates are selected and those candidates should represent as much of the spectrum of ideas as possible. It also depends on all the votes being counted, and anytime the count is in doubt, a recount should be expected as a matter of course. Enforcement of election procedures along with the same level of audits used to validate that a bank is responsibly and honestly counting all the money individuals have handed to them for safe keeping is the minimum we should expect if protecting democracy is a true government objective. Are any of those standards happening in our election system? I don’t think so at all. In fact until we implement procedures to assure we have a process that brings forth candidates that advocate a broad spectrum of ideas, and elections whose results are trusted by the electorate, then any changes that do not directly address those problems will remain small band-aid patches on a deep wound. And if that is all we implement, then the band-aid will fall off and the wound will open even wider.

In order to bring forth multiple candidates with differing philosophies the two-party system has to be relegated to back of the line. It was obvious to the Founding Fathers that as odious as political parties are, they will form nonetheless. That should be accepted but in no way be legislated as a requirement for candidacy nor should parties be outlawed. People will do what they always do and form cliques, it is government’s role to make sure that parties do not make the rules.  Right now, our election system is so locked down as Democrat vs. Republican that around 98% of all elected officials in the US are members of one of those parties. That only two candidates are considered viable in at least 98% of our elections means that other ideas are literally stifled. Actual discussion is diminished and the voter finds nobody that truly represents their personal point of view, resulting in lower voter turnout. Counting ballots must take place on paper, but technology should not be eliminated. While scanner software is easy to manipulate, there is no reason that programming the machines cannot be done using open software, data entered (such as candidates names and their related printed information that appears on the ballot) should be in plain language. The program code should be written in an interpretative language so that any literate individual can read and understand how the program tabulates the votes .  Audits of at least 10% of the polling places must be mandatory and the audits must be a hand count of the scanned paper ballots.

There are two more critical issues that must be addressed since their impact on elections is profound. First, a law must be passed overturning the Supreme Court decision to release certain states and other jurisdictions from Justice Department oversight of changes to their election laws. It became obvious within days that the court had made a mistake since one state after another passed voter restriction laws as soon as the oversight was removed. Along with that, the law should provide tools for any polling places that are insufficiently supplied with voting machines or ballots to have those ballots printed at any nearby printing facility via a temporary eminent domain authority.

The second critical point is to remove any political party restrictions for Primary elections. This has become a frequent point made by many, but most do not go far enough since they only require that anyone can pick which party’s ballot they want. But consistent with my earlier point that parties must be relegated to the back of the line, each person showing up to vote in a Primary gets only 1 ballot with all the candidates on it. This becomes more critical when there is more than one office on the ballot. A person can then vote for the person they want in the primary no matter what parties their choice of candidates aligns with.

Thanks, Russia!

All over the press, mainstream media, social media, water coolers, and barstools the talk is about President Trump’s relationship with Russia. Every person he knows that ever spoke to a Russian is being presented as further evidence of collusion with Russia between his campaign and even President Trump himself in order to alter the results of the vote last November. A serious charge that if proven true should mean more than the removal of just Donald Trump as President. Since the accusations extend to numerous individuals within his campaign, a legitimate case could be made that the election itself is invalid. However calling telephone conversations that have been documented as not having been found to have any evidence of collusion along with the total lack of any hard forensic evidence means that the charges, if true would be hard to prove. In fact, there are significant reasons to discount every justification being made by the press and the government to take the idea of Russian meddling in the US Presidential election seriously.

But there was election tampering and it all occurred by US interests without any foreign assistance. Hillary Clinton actively rigged both sides of the primary. She manipulated the media with the assistance of the “unbiased” DNC, laundered contributions that were intended for other Democratic candidates in other races. There was also money used by the DNC and the Clinton campaign to create a hidden stash that was used to create social media propaganda and outright attacks on Sanders and his supporters. Additionally there are questions outstanding as to the validity of the actual votes counted in the Primaries due to red flag discrepancies between the count and exit polls. On the Republican side, the Clinton campaign enlisted assistance from various media outlets to minimize their coverage of Sanders and fill in that void with an overdose of coverage of the two most extreme Republicans, Trump and Cruz.

During the general election, Republicans had already proactively rigged the vote by engaging in wholesale voter suppression of targeted likely Democratic voters. There was minimal, exit polling which is the international standard in which to gauge the validity of the vote. Additionally when challenges did arise, recounts were either impossible due to all electronic votes tabulated without a verifiable audit trail, or both parties conspired to raise the costs of funding recounts as to make them all but impossible to achieve.

And after all that known improprieties by US interests we are supposed to get all worked up because the Director of the FBI stated that Vladimir Putin hates Hillary Clinton? That was an actual reason provided at one point by then FBI Director Comey.

But still, when I mention these issues, people tell me to ‘get over it’. Why? The supposed two party system was manipulated so that the choice would be between a person whose only accomplishment in life was marrying a guy who later become President, while she garnered an incredible resume, but little else and a man who rose to fame and fortune by the grace of his father’s business acumen backing him up. Ever since his father’s death, his career has been a string failures punctuated with a few get rich quick schemes. In other words, this election was not between two people who have been proven capable, but between two corrupt and incapable individuals. Whether the Russians had any influence in the outcome, the damage was done before they ever got involved. Maybe, the Russians did us a favor, or more likely we are just giving them another reason to make a toast and down a shot of vodka.

The Apprentice Learning on the Job

BradFromSalem

Pardon me for revisiting the election, or should I say “election” that happened last November. Before anything else, I would like to apologize to all my friends that supported either Hillary or The Donald. I truly do respect that you made your choice and acted upon that choice by voting, but I get the feeling from both camps, inspired by the candidates themselves, that the implications and the stories of the November 2016 Presidential election are still reverberating and being digested. Listen up folks that support or just voted for The Donald, let’s talk about your guy. Mainly because you won, but also because I am pretty sure that most of you just thought your vote was a middle finger statement to the establishment. Admit it, you probably thought your guy would not win. Not for popularity issues, but because you were sure the election was fixed.

You voted for The Donald, and some of you still embrace his Presidency; while others are pissed that you had no choice. It was the hated Hillary Clinton or the middle finger to the establishment Donald. Those were the choices. But oddly, a number of persons that voted for The Donald have come forward and have spoken out that Bernie Sanders was their first choice, or that at least in a race between The Donald and Bernie, there was a distinct possibility their vote may have gone to Bernie. – Fascinating. But the choice was not Bernie vs. The Donald, you voted for Trump, you got Trump. If you really are happy with his performance so far, then God bless you. It truly is beyond my comprehension, because he has failed at every attempt to implement his agenda. Either by the courts, performing their Constitutional duty to uphold the Laws of the US and defend the Constitution; or by politics. It is a funny thing about being a politician, it’s sort of like any other profession. Take Librarian for example. A Librarian needs to know how to manage a library and what the numerous tasks are that only a librarian could enumerate. The same is true for a politician, they don’t just make laws and there are numerous tasks they must perform. Someone that has demonstrated little patience to actually learn the job, or bring in as close advisors people that have learned the job, is destined to fail. Donald Trump is failing, his campaign positions are melting away and his promises are morphing into mere suggestions when they are not being spun around 180 degrees. This emasculation has taken place over his first 100 days. He may recover, but until that happens I will find it very hard to support him on any issue. One last comment to all my Hillary supporting friends, no I do not regret not voting for her. The Donald is worse than I thought he would be, but I should have seen that coming based on his business success rate.

VOLUNTEERS OF AMERICA

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BRADFROMSALEM

What is the political Revolution that Bernie Sanders is talking about? Is he asking that we take to the streets, block traffic and commerce until the wealthy agree to share their riches? How about, we congregate at nearby military bases and police stations and block all the exits until the various government agencies agree to make the wealthy share their riches? What is this revolution about, how does it work, and will the US be the new Soviet Union after it’s all over?  I have no doubt that as the 2016 Presidential campaign continues, this is a subject that Senator Sanders will discuss at length. Until then, here is my take of what a political revolution in America is about.

As Bernie Sanders has pointed out, our political system is broken and it’s in danger of collapsing under the weight of oligarchy. An oligarchy is where all the functions of state are managed by a few. In the case of America the oligarchy manages the state covertly to its own financial gain. To do that, they have strategically manipulated the voice of the people to either agree with their agenda or be unaware of its existence. Take a step back and consider how we would like the system to work without an oligarchy. Then consider how the system actually works, and the existence of an oligarchy becomes plain. If you are like me and nearly everyone I know, no matter what political persuasion, the system does not work how we would like it to.

The political system is the processes we follow in order to select the people to administer our various governments. But for this entry, lets just stick to the federal government. It is this political process that Bernie Sanders wants to revolutionize by reinventing it. We can also call the revolution he is championing as a reinvention of the political processes used to elect members of the House, the Senate and the Presidency. Currently our elections require (unofficially) for candidates to belong to one of two parties, obtain funding to mount a campaign and devote themselves almost 24/7 to campaigning and funding. Running for elected office forces one to compromise their principles and ignore morality in the belief that you can overcome the compromises and amorality. But once you enter this world and make your first bargain, you are forever in the debt of the oligarchs that supplied you with the money to buy some newspaper ads, and a few TV ads. And you can say whatever you want, but don’t actually do anything that will jeopardize the oligarchs. Over and over, well-meaning people choose a party, get some funding and suddenly find themselves having to choose.  The hardest part is avoiding that first compromise.

The political revolution will change that. The very fact that Bernie Sanders, a Congressional Independent, who claims his political leanings are toward a Democratic Socialist system, can legitimately run for President as the candidate of one of the two established parties is itself a political revolution. Sanders is in a unique position to be able to this. He began as a mayor of the largest city in a state that at the time really did have more cows than people. However he won that position without going the party route and won by a razor-thin margin. When he decided to try for a promotion to Congress, he refused to use a party, refused big money and he won. Then he went on to become a Senator using the same model. Now he is running for President following the same revolutionary model and undertaking a long shot revolutionary takeover of the Democratic party. He can lead the revolution because he is not compromised by the oligarchy.

But, Sanders has never been about himself. He is the well-meaning person, except he never had to change his mind on issues just to keep getting elected. He wants to alter the system so that all the well-meaning people don’t have to join a party, their campaigns will not be dependent on who can get the most money for the most ads. Public financing of elections and outlawing Super Pacs are two of his campaign platforms. That alone will revolutionize the political process.

The revolution can expand from there. The idea that government is limited by what it can do to help people live up to their potential will also be changed, because women and men of vision and integrity will be able to serve. A recent newspaper column claimed that Sanders is turning the phrase that JFK spoke at his inauguration from ‘ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can for your country’ around to ‘ask what your country can do for you’.  The writer is wrong, Sanders is doing exactly what JFK was talking about. He is not asking that the country elect him president for himself or even the oligarchs, he asking that the country elect him for what he can do for the country.  He is trying to revolutionize how our political process works, a process nearly everyone agrees is broken and corrupt. Without a reliable political process with integrity, how far away are we from handing it all over to an elite that only think ‘don’t ask what your country can for you, ask what you can do for us, the oligarchs’. We can stop that from happening by a political revolution, because if we continue to elect people who have chosen the party and big money route we will need a revolution that won’t resolve at the polls.

 

What In Tarnation is a Progressive anyways?

Maine Desert - Created by good intentions gone bad
Maine Desert – Created by good intentions gone bad

BRADFROMSALEM

We in America all talk of how we have a two-party system. Many persons disappointed in the current state of affairs have expressed a desire for a third-party.  Usually they want the third-party because “neither party is for the people”, or “they’re all a bunch of crooks”, and “it don’t matter who I vote for, they are all the same”.  All true statements, but only partly. Our present election system indirectly encourages office seekers and officeholders to put the interest of the people low on their priority list, it allows for unsavory legal and outright illegal deals to be made, and both of the two major parties have created a political infrastructure where you either sing the same song or don’t sing at all. But inside all the noise, there is a lot more going on and America is not really divided into two. We are not just either a Democrat or a Republican, a Liberal or a Conservative; or any of the tiny and not tiny offshoots of those four major alignments. What is unusual is that with negligible exceptions the Democrats have all the Liberals in their tent, and the Republicans have all the Conservatives. In the past, each party consisted of a coalitions of other groups along the political Right to Left spectrum. Not anymore. Right are Conservative Republicans, and Left are Liberal Democrats.

But as I noted, there used to be Republican Liberals. And most notably, the Republican Party under Teddy Roosevelt created the modern Progressive movement.  Progressives were and are a liberal faction that places as it highest goal the supremacy of the individual person.  This is similar and yet the opposite of the Objectivists, AKA the followers of Ayn Rand’s Libertarianism. The key difference between Progressives and the Objectivists is simply a question of how the supremacy is defined and how it is accomplished.  The Objectivists believe each individual is solely responsible for their accomplishments and that means in the Objectivists worldview that the more an individual achieves is an indicator of how much better or worse that individual is as compared to others.  A Progressive on the other hand believes that individual supremacy occurs when all persons are helped, guided, and encouraged to achieve whatever they are best at. This requires that our social mores and government (communal) actions are all biased toward the goal of each person achieving their individual supremacy. Objectivists are a special case of Conservative and Progressives are a special case of Liberals.

But beyond the individual person’s achievements there is another even larger gap. Progressives do not recognize the supremacy or even the legitimacy of the artificial person known as corporations to overrule the supremacy of natural persons. Objectivists, see the corporation as a collection of persons.  The persons who run the corporations then use the corporation’s achievements to justify supremacy over other persons natural and artificial. It is a difference of perception, one which I personally choose the Progressive argument.

So here is the Turing test to see if a person is truly a Progressive.  Many Liberals and Progressives will agree on policy details, but there is a big, huge, difference that will steer the decision-making once they have achieved public office. The test is an answer to a simple question. Do you believe that we, as a society, can achieve our loftiest ambitions by allowing corporations and it’s representative Natural Persons to have any say in our laws and regulations? Any person that answers ‘yes’ is not a Progressive.

 

So What Happens Now?

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BRADFROMSALEM

I read posts and comments and columns about the upcoming catastrophe. The end of our nation, is how I would best summarize it. The Democrats lost the Senate and as I noted in my previous blog, it was not the fault of the electorate, but instead it was the fault of the party. So, does that mean, next week when the new Congress convenes, their first order of business will be to mobilize a special military force or perhaps a special media force, whose entire purpose will be to dismantle the US as we know it. Or, at least think we know it. How much will change?

From where I sit, not much. First of all both of the mainstream parties are terribly fractured. So that on the Republican side you have a small vocal minority of individuals that mostly have no idea how government works. These, of course, are the Tea Party adherents. There are just enough of these silly people to allow the other two Republican factions to actually put together a coherent Birthday Party, let alone a political platform.  The other two are the Ayn Rand Libertarians/Objectivists and the rest all want to be Ronald Reagan, or at least what they imagine him to be.  Whatever comes out of this crew is sure to be horrible legislation that in most cases will rarely have enough Republican votes to pass. And the ones that do get through, usually with the help of some Democrats will almost never have enough support to pass a Presidential veto.

Democrats of course have their Progressive Wing and the Blue Dog wing, they at least talk to each other, but it appears they have not figured out that if they had a common agenda, they can probably run the board. Instead, they just run away from using common messages. The look just like Will Rodgers described them years ago.  “I do not belong to any organized politic party! I’m a Democrat.”

And there, my friends is the problem. Knowing this tells us exactly what the outcome of this Congress will be. It will be whatever President Obama wants it to be. The worst of it is called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). A treaty with a group of Pan asian nations that has been years in the making, a treaty that for most of those years was being negotiated in secret, a treaty that the administration is looking for Congress to authorize it without amendments, and to give that authorization prior to actually seeing the agreement.  This agreement is more of the same ilk as NAFTA, only more so.

By taking our cue from this particular treaty, we can surmise that the President will allow us continue down the same path started by Reagan (perhaps Nixon, but that is another story). Pushed onto the American public by Presidents Clinton and both Bushes. President Obama had a chance to break this cycle when he first arrived in office. Instead he brought on board the old Clinton crew. We can expect that public policy will mostly be framed by a simple concept. The American government should do nearly anything in its power to ensure that American corporations are profitable in the world markets.

Of course, I do expect that in really lame cases, such as the Keystone pipeline and a few other environmental issues, Obama may show some toughness. In other words, it won’t be all bad, and the worst stuff will be mostly the same as it is now. Foreign policy is run from the White House, and will continue to, so that won’t change much.

Real, transforming change can occur in 2016. Until then. Let’s just watch the show, let the Republican pro business agenda loose. Let the American people see for themselves what it really means to believe that supporting businesses over people actually helps more than a few persons. I am willing to bet the 2016 election it, unless Hillary is the Democratic candidate.