Is Politics Dead?

A little full disclosure…….when I was at university I took many philosophy courses and by grad school I was intrigued with political philosophy…….I wanted to find answers to the really big questions of life and thought that philosophy would help in that search……

To me politics, in the beginning of my quest, was to help me in my search for the right balance to turn this country that I felt it could become…but year after year things have gotten worse………No longer does politics help in answering questions….all it accomplishes is creating more questions without useable answers……

When I began this post I was trying to work out the best way to present it….and then I saw this bit of info that will help…….

Politicians devote a lot of energy to what Ezra Klein calls the “More Information Hypothesis,” the theory that voters would agree with them if they understood the issues better. But a 2013 study suggests that’s not true, Klein points out at his launched-last-night site Vox. Researchers first polled the participants on their political ideologies and tested their math skills using a word problem about skin cream. Then they gave them some more word problems, about gun control and climate change. The result: Respondents were drastically more likely to arrive at the right answer if they agreed with it politically, and vice versa—and being better at math actually exacerbated their likelihood of getting it right or wrong depending on their political sensibilities.

The authors theorize that “humans reason for purposes other than finding the truth,” like “ensuring they don’t piss off the leaders of their tribe,” Klein explains. If Sean Hannity changed his mind about climate change tomorrow, it would have profound personal costs. “He would lose friendships, viewers, and money. He could ultimately lose his job.” He’s incentivized to use his intellect to reinforce the ideology he socially identifies with—and to a lesser extent, that’s true of almost everyone. Washington has made this easy; our two parties (or “tribes,” per Klein) have developed “their own machines for generating evidence and their own enforcers of orthodoxy. It’s a perfect storm for making smart people very stupid.” Click for Klein’s full column.

We put ourselves in political camps……we do not know what a conservative is or for that matter what a liberal….what we have is what the media and select special interests that form our opinions for us…….it is as if we do not really want to have to think about solutions to our problems…..we had rather to point fingers and accuse each other of dogmatic ideals…….

NO politician can stay on topic beyond a 30 second ad…….henceforth there will NEVER be any useable answers to our mounting problems…….ergo…politics, in the classical sense, is dead!

What Happened To Democracy?

Let’s play politics today……there is plenty of chatter but little dialog…….

There is a lot going on in this country, the good old US of A, you know that shining light of democracy that we love to point to as the cure for all ails?

Before I go any further….please if you want to attack this post do NOT use the BS of “we are not a democratic country but rather a republic and a representative republic at that…….if you believe this then everyone needs to cease the use of the words “democracy” and “democratic”  (notice that is a small “D”)….it is that simple…..cannot have both no matter how much one desires.

One of the main tenets of a democracy is the free and unhindered elections and the right to vote.  In the last years there seems to be a push to make voting more difficult……I am not talking about the elimination of the right just that there are laws that make it a wee bit more difficult to do so……another thing….please do not use the voter ID thing as a defense……that has nothing to do with what I am writing.

This is what I am writing about……..

The Presidential Commission on Election Administration has released its report and recommendations, and reasonable people everywhere rejoice. The bipartisan commission was formed by Barack Obama following the 2012 election, which was a bit of an embarrassment for a nation that considers itself something of a model democracy. Across the country (but mainly in urban areas and black and Latino neighborhoods), Election Day featured hours-long lines, broken voting machines, inaccurate voter rolls and confusing ballots.

“The Editors” of Bloomberg View declare the report “so resolutely practical that it’s hard to imagine its recommendations stirring much debate, much less controversy.” (They acknowledge that “not all politicians want to make it easier for Americans to vote,” but they fail to specify that that’s more or less part of the Republican Party platform.) Jeffrey Toobin calls it “an unexpectedly bold document.”

The commission’s key recommendations are eminently reasonable: Expand online voter registration, expand early voting, improve and modernize voting machines, and improve efficiency and alleviate wait times at polling places with better training and techniques that have been proven to work elsewhere. Everyone should be able to support all of this, and, best of all, the commission’s recommendations don’t require any federal action at all. They just need to be voluntarily implemented by state and local officials. And how hard could it be to convince state and local officials to make voting easier?

Okay, for Obama haters this will be a point of contention…….only because it is a presidential report….which is just silly……I have read many reports from many states and most of them have some sort of voting “reform” and most of them either want to close polling stations or lessen early voting or shorten the hours or……I am sure you get my drift here.  None of these have anything to do with voter fraud…….they are attacks on the rights of citizens to vote……..PERIOD!

With this assault on our democratic right there is an idea that has more than a little merit……that is a new movement for Americans to embrace….a pro-democracy movement……

What would this movement detail?

One–get rid of cash!  Citizen’s united must be repealed or blown up or whatever we have to do to rid the process of all that cash….it is destroying what little integrity we had……

Two–open up the voting process……..

Three–Prosecute ANY breeches in ethics!…..and that means even minor breeches.  (Think Vitter, Ensign and the coke dude from last week)

Four–Make elected officials work at their job, not at making contacts……(force to work at least 150 days a session)

Five–If you truly want a democracy then go to a direct democracy where the people are involved at almost every stage…..

Without substantial change…..nothing will be repaired…the country will stay in the grips of those that we all profess that we dislike……as long as the money remains….so will be the buying of election….as long as the Congress works less than 150 days a year then no substantial laws will be enacted…..obstructionism will be the rule of the day……as long as the voter is being taken out of the equation there can be NO democracy and less representation…….

So ask yourself…..what has happened to our democracy?

Conservative Vs Conservative

College of Political Knowledge

Subject:  Conservatism

Today is my final day of policy and issues analysis for the coming year……today I want to focus on politics.

Remember Mad Magazine and its strip Spy vs Spy?  Real life has a situation as comical as the strip…..that situation I will call conservative vs conservative.  It seems that the conservative movement is attacking itself…..why?

An excellent question!  It appears that everyone in the “conservative” movement is trying to redefine what it is to be conservative.

I am an old fart and educated in the ways of political philosophy and in my studies I found NOTHING in the modern conservative movement that bears any reflection of the conservatism of Edmund Burke.  Of course we could always say that we, as Americans, have a unique brand of conservatism…….yes we could say that but it would be bullsh*t.

Conservatism….real conservatism means…….a political and social philosophy that promotes the maintenance of traditional institutions and opposes rapid change in society. Some conservatives seek to preserve things as they are, emphasizing stability and continuity, while others oppose modernism and seek a return to “the way things were.” The term derives from conserve; from Latin conservare, to keep, guard, observe. To a conservative, the goal of change is less important than the insistence that change be effected with a respect for the rule of law and traditions of society; since the 1940s the term has been closely associated with preservation and promotion of capitalism and opposition to liberalism, socialism and communism.  (thanx to wikiquote)

But in today’s American political climate, conservs are not true conservs but rather a neo-liberal.    That’s right if you adhere to the percepts of the GOP or the Tea Party you are a neo-liberal.

Think not?  Then answer these questions…….do you hold any of these ideals sacred?

  1. THE RULE OF THE MARKET. Liberating “free” enterprise or private enterprise from any bonds imposed by the government (the state) no matter how much social damage this causes. Greater openness to international trade and investment, as in NAFTA. Reduce wages by de-unionizing workers and eliminating workers’ rights that had been won over many years of struggle. No more price controls. All in all, total freedom of movement for capital, goods and services. To convince us this is good for us, they say “an unregulated market is the best way to increase economic growth, which will ultimately benefit everyone.” It’s like Reagan’s “supply-side” and “trickle-down” economics — but somehow the wealth didn’t trickle down very much.
  2. CUTTING PUBLIC EXPENDITURE FOR SOCIAL SERVICES like education and health care. REDUCING THE SAFETY-NET FOR THE POOR, and even maintenance of roads, bridges, water supply — again in the name of reducing government’s role. Of course, they don’t oppose government subsidies and tax benefits for business.
  3. DEREGULATION. Reduce government regulation of everything that could diminsh profits, including protecting the environmentand safety on the job.
  4. PRIVATIZATION. Sell state-owned enterprises, goods and services to private investors. This includes banks, key industries, railroads, toll highways, electricity, schools, hospitals and even fresh water. Although usually done in the name of greater efficiency, which is often needed, privatization has mainly had the effect of concentrating wealth even more in a few hands and making the public pay even more for its needs.
  5. ELIMINATING THE CONCEPT OF “THE PUBLIC GOOD” or “COMMUNITY” and replacing it with “individual responsibility.” Pressuring the poorest people in a society to find solutions to their lack of health care, education and social security all by themselves — then blaming them, if they fail, as “lazy.”

Do you like the sound of any of the above?  If your answer is yes then you are a NEO-LIBERAL!  Congrats! Did you notice there is NO mention of a “moderate conservative”?  That is a new term coined by the media to explain what cannot be explained.  If you are moderate does that make you a centrist?

Meanwhile back to the conservative movement…..who decides who is a conserv?  There are many sub-species of conservative thought…..there is the liberal conserv…..the libertarian conservs…..fiscal conservs……religious conservs and my fav “progressive conservs……my point is that there are many many strains of conservatism and to belittle someone for not being conserv simply because they will not agree with you is nothing short of MORONIC!

Just like all Americans need to find a way to work together to move this country forward….so should the conservs….if they cannot move forward then they will remain just a minor player that has nothing but NO as a platform……maybe that is what these tools from the Tea Party want….if they have NO plans to govern then it is easy to be a thorn in the foot of democracy…….maybe that is all they aspire to…..there is NO future for the conserv movement as it is today………and unity is not something they understand only on their terms…nothing these will do…….the movement is screwed!

Man Without A Party

For some time now my readers get confused on where I stand on political spectrum……to give you an idea….on a quiz called the Political Compass I rate Economic Left/Right -10.00 and Social Libertarian/Authoritarian -4.77….I could not get further Left.

Let’s go back a few years……after I returned from Vietnam I was already radicalized and I became an activist from day one…..eventually that lead me to join the Socialist Party and for years I wrote and did party business and in 1995 I resigned from the party because I opposed wasting money on elections by running candidates that could not win and because the Part recognized a Lithuanian Nazi collaborator as the country’s leader after they broke from the USSR………now I was party-less and not an activist any more so I went into my down time mode until 2005….then I was badly hurt after Katrina and started back with politics, economics and history as a way to rehab…..

I thought about the Democratic Party but most of the members are neo-liberals and do not work for the country but rather business……and then there is the GOP…..(insert raucous laughter here)……….I wanted nothing to do with a party that was so devoid of truth….so where does that leave an aging activist?

And then out of the blue comes my answer…….I recently took the Esquire political quiz to see where I fell in the political world.   To my surprise I am part of the New American Center….a Pick-Up Populist.  Say What!

Over the years I have taken many different political quizzes and it always put me on the Left….but now I learn I am part of the Center…..I answered all questions as I had in the past…..and yet I am not, according to Esquire, a Leftist.

Something has changed!  I have not changed my political views and yet I am a centrist.  So what has changed?  Not me so the only other variable is….society.  Has society become more radicalized?  Until we find an answer to what is happening to this country politically…..I will remain a….Man Without A Party!

Is The Republic Disintegrating?

I will be in and out of the blog…my 93 year old father is in the hospital…..so if you miss me I will be checking in whenever I get the chance…….thanx.

The world is coming down around our throats……the government shutdown, the Congressional dysfunction and the talk radio crowd….all these parts of the equation are falling into place….into place for the government to fail and fall…….there is so much that could happen and none of it will be good……

To be truthful as an old aging hippie radical I could get into all this….the problem is that if and when the government goes down in flames it will open a door that could very well never be closed…..the door to the other side….the dark side.  Now it will depend on where you are on the political spectrum on whether this is a good thing or not…….

The signs are there and Howard Fineman of the HufPo has listed them……

1. The Tea Party

In radical reaction to the Wall Street bailout of 2008, the stimulus of 2009 and Obamacare in 2010, the tea party aims to defund and delegitimize the federal government. Crippling the legislative machinery is a means, but also an end in itself.

2. Slow Growth

The tea party has a point — up to a point. Politicians flagrantly overspend on wars and social programs simultaneously because the U.S. economy had always risen fast enough to keep us afloat. That era is now over. We have to make painful choices, but aren’t willing to confront them frankly.

3. Obamacare

The U.S. was the only major industrial country without national heath care, and even though Obamacare relies on the typical American mix of private sector profit and government regulation, it remains a bone in the throat of American politics. No entitlement program ever passed with so little bipartisan support (though Social Security was close). President Barack Obama assumed that a favorable Supreme Court ruling and his own reelection in 2012 would settle the issue. He was wrong. Whether he could have done anything else to soothe the tea party fear and anger is doubtful, but he didn’t really try.

4. Scorecards

The AFL-CIO invented a rating system for “pro-labor” voting records; Christian conservatives adopted it. But anti-tax activist Grover Norquist and Heritage Foundation President Jim DeMint amped up the volume. Republican members of Congress live in mortal fear of a bad rating and vote accordingly.

5. Two Cultures

Americans used to inhabit a world of shared social mores, even if millions of people were coerced into accepting them. Now voters now live in two barely overlapping moral worlds: Secular Metropolitan America and Biblical Traditional America. And that separation is enhanced by the isolating force of modern media. Americans can spend most of their waking hours enveloped in one journalistic gestalt or another, staring at one cable show/website version of reality or the other. It makes political differences harder to bridge.

6. Congressional Ignorance

For a host of reasons — the collapse of Congress’ committee system, the frantic pace of media coverage, the increasing complexity of legislation, the rise of massive, catch-all “continuing resolutions,” the time spent on raising campaign cash — for all of those reasons and others, a shocking number of lawmakers have no idea what they are debating, denouncing or voting on. “An amazing percentage of people here are intellectually lazy or distracted or ignorant or all three,” one senator told me, anonymously.

7. Gargantuan Money

As Democratic strategist James Carville once said, money is not only the “milk of politics, it is the powdered milk and even the evaporated milk.” But not since the Gilded Age has fantastically rich money been able to exert such single-minded and focused control. The U.S. Supreme Court is hell-bent on expanding that power. The result so far has been to unchain the militantly anti-government right, led by the billionaire likes of the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson. They have neither the patience for nor a belief in the “regular order” of Congress or its half-a-loaf legislative agreements. They are used to spending cash to enforce their unconditional way.

8. No Big Tents

Political parties have collapsed as a means of whipping up consent. They don’t control the money; fat cats do. They don’t control the agenda; ideological interest groups do. All they have left is their reassuring absolutes: no new taxes for Republicans; defend Social Security, Medicare and Obamacare for Democrats. The more ideologically monochromatic the parties have become, the less able they are to engineer pragmatic legislative deals. As political scholars Norm Ornstein and Tom Mann put it, we now have all-or-nothing parliamentary-style “tribal” parties in a delicately balanced separation-of-powers system.

9. My District Is My Castle

Gerrymandering is nothing new. The name and the practice date to the early 19th century. But a combination of technology and federal civil rights laws has produced an unusually large number of “safe” congressional districts, both red and blue. Democrats obtained more high-percentage “minority” districts; Republicans used control of state legislatures to draw more white conservative ones. The situation suited both parties, if not the country. The result: tea party Republicans can issue demands with impunity, and “moderate” Republicans risk a challenge from the right if they’re seen as collaborators.

10. The End Of ‘Regular Order’

The old legislative machinery of Congress has been largely destroyed, which means that every major bill is an existential crisis and every crisis a possible meltdown. Budget reforms of the 1970s, meant to smooth the flow of financial decisions, gummed up the works instead. The committee system lies in ruins, robbed of patronage, earmarks, privacy and seniority – that is, the discipline and grease that enabled deal-making. Everything is rolled into one life-or-death struggle.

11. They Either Don’t Know Or Hate Each Other

Congress mirrors our socially divided culture. Members have little contact with those in the other party. They are too busy raising money, feeding their favorite media beasts or plotting partisan strategy. The “schmooze factor” can be overrated, but deep personal relationships do help, as MSNBC host and former Hill staffer Chris Matthews documents in his new book, Tip and the Gipper: When Politics Worked. Today it’s just the opposite: Members of one party campaign against their “colleagues” in the other, even showing up in person in that colleague’s home state or district. Check out the relationship between Senate leaders Harry Reid and Mitch McConnell.

12. Misjudging Obama

Much of the “mainstream media” has dismissed the president as a weak negotiator, and many Democrats were upset at his deals to extend the Bush tax cuts in 2010, to install the sequestration mechanism in 2011 and not to enact more sweeping tax hikes in 2012. But that chatter led Republicans to underestimate Obama’s resolve and to assume they could force concessions on the one item he held most dear: Obamacare. It was a disastrous tactical choice. The public has doubts about the health care program — doubts reinforced by the sloppy rollout of the insurance exchanges. But the public also doesn’t want to use the government shutdown or debt ceiling fight to send health care messages.

13. The New Iowa

There once was a hiatus between presidential campaigns. And there used to be a tradition that new senators didn’t start running for president the moment they arrived in Washington. No more. The insatiable demands of fundraising, organizing and media attention are one reason. Then-Sen. Obama’s example in 2005 is another. No wonder Sen. Ted Cruz, who arrived only months ago, is leading the Republican rebellion as way to run for president. He couldn’t care less if he ever passes a bill in Congress. In fact, his whole campaign is premised on not passing things.

14. Apocalypse America

Win-win is a cool idea — for social media and much of business life. But America’s public and entertainment culture wants a narrative of total victory, crushing blows, winner-take-all contests and paranoid, apocalyptic sagas. White House aides talk about “breaking the will” of the tea party, and they glory in each new poll that shows the GOP’s public approval is plummeting toward single digits. (Yet how can you celebrate a prostrate GOP if the worldwide economy is in shambles?) We live in a time when ultimate fighting trumps boxing; football trumps baseball; talent contests trump variety shows; “The Walking Dead” is the new “Friends.” No wonder Washington is the way it is. The biters are everywhere.

15. You’re Not My President

It’s hard to know when in the modern era Americans stopped believing that whoever was president was president of all the people. It may have started with Lyndon Johnson, whose ascension after the assassination of John F. Kennedy was bitterly resented by the Kennedy crowd. Many voters came to see Richard Nixon as an illegal usurper. In 1992, many Republicans refused to accept the legitimacy of Bill Clinton’s election, an attitude that led ultimately to his impeachment. But there is nothing in recent decades to match the visceral fear and hatred that a minority of Americans express for Barack Obama, whom they see as an alien, dictatorial force. There is no denying there is an element of race and xenophobia to it. To be sure, Obama’s most passionate foes wouldn’t like any big-city, liberal, Harvard-trained constitutional lawyer. But the fact that this one is black and has an unusual-for-America name just adds to the alienation. Obama’s fans flocked to him because of his biography. But the flip side of hagiography is demonization, and that is where his enemies are now. To say the least, that makes doing a deal with him difficult

We Americans can save our beloved Republic…..but not by sitting on our hands and ignoring the problems with the hope they will go away….they will NOT!  Or we could do nothing and let the disintegration continue……it is your choice….all I ask is that you choose wisely!