First Debate and False Equivalence

The first Presidential debate was aimed at a specific group of people. Whoever has already decided their vote, this wasn’t for you. Nothing either candidate said or did would have swayed you away from your choice made after the primaries. There’s a solid core of folks for each camp that can’t bring themselves to switch.

I watched tonight to see if Clinton could show a contrast to Trump, a clear contrast between smart, capable, rational, to pessimistic, ignorant, and ill-tempered. I want this difference as obvious as night and day. It’s the difference between stability and impulsive amorality.

Trump is a man who cannot complete a cohesive sentence. Great extemporaneous speakers can at least put together harmonious thoughts. Trump has trouble with this, particularly if he’s already ignorant of the subject matter and getting flustered. He does a trick where he sort of trails off and lets the audience fill in the blanks how they like and then applaud for him. It was telling tonight when he didn’t elicit those audience reactions that he was floundering.

This debate’s contrast was for my dear undecided, independent, third-party-leaning friends who need it most:

Please stop trying to shoot the moon. I know full well how sick everyone is of voting for the lesser of two evils. But putting your vote to a candidate or party so far outside the bounds of potential victory is taking your voice away to stop the greater of two evils.

#PlayHeartsNotWar

In all clarity: this is an election between a life-long policy wonk of a politician and lying, mysogynistic reality TV show personality. One candidate understands the intricate web of connecting politics, economics, and military strategies that interweave our complex world, and the other stays willfully ignorant and is only looking out for his monetary advantages.

You can dislike Clinton’s policies, but she has them. You can bring advice, compromise, options to her and she will listen. Being the opposition party in Congress to a Clinton White House can be your voice of dissent.

To my Republican friends, the ones who cannot conceive of voting for Clinton at the top of the ticket, you’re welcome to abstain. Vote for Senate on down and avoid claiming Clinton is the better candidate for President if you must.

But to my young, independent, ruckus-loving friends: do not throw your voice away for spite. Please do not see Clinton and Trump as cut from the same cloth. You may not like the status quo, but the status quo is at least stable. Electing someone beholden to no party, prone to vindictive spats, praising authoritarian leaders (you do know autocracies are far worse for freedom than democratic republics, right?), and willfully ignorant of how large economies work, is legitimately dangerous to us and everyone else. We’re too large of an economy and military to be operating at the whims of someone who would prefer checks and balances be beholden to his golden name.

If you think that the onerousness of our military and bureaucracy would stop him, there’s a point where disobedience becomes a mutiny and a coup. This would permanently damage the bedrock of our great republic.

To be perfectly clear: your third-party candidate cannot win. And nor should they. A third party should start smaller, grow more organically, and build an infrastructure, get a few state houses and congressional seats in their camp. Republican and Democrat candidates both start getting intelligence briefs and start building their cabinets and policy papers at least the summer before election day so they can be best prepared for the massive task of running the United States government. Without starting smaller, building a base infrastructure for governance of maybe a couple states first, I don’t think it safe to put that on the world stage against a Congress with no allies.

All presidential candidates speak big about what they will do in office, but it’s an office of limited scope and power. Without any other elected officials backing them, without walking into the office backed by institutional knowledge, it’s a weak position for domestic affairs and a dangerous one for international affairs.

The current election can only be won by one of two people. One person has never held public offic, has revealed massive dark underpinnings of American culture, has caused a schism in the party that nominated him, has shown petty vindictive mood swings, and has made a complete and conscious refusal to advance and learn anything for the massive responsibility of representing our replublic. But at least he elicits feelings.

The other has a long career in politics with the trail of dirt and deals that follow it, has been in the national spotlight so long that every opinion shift can be seen, comes off as calculated and robotic in giving speeches. But at least she knows policy and international relations inside and out. Those policies may be awful to you, but the stability of the United States government and its relations around the world will not be at risk. All the unknowns that a Trump presidency might bring aren’t worth that risk.

Those are the two options. If you vote other than those two, you’ve thrown your hat in with risking our stability and standing in the world. You’ll be voting for the greater of two evils.

Simpsons Conventional Wisdom

Rewatching two decade old episodes of The Simpsons means I am privy to the culture of the mid nineties. And it is still amazing how little the world changes.

In this slice of wisdom, Bart’s elephant Stampy visits the RNC and the DNC.

Yup.

I feel that way still. I’ve never felt comfortable under the tent of either party. Since coming of age during the Bush Junior presidency, his failed economics and watching the Ailes and religious culture warriors hijacked the Republican Party has sent me furthest from their camp.

Democrats have become who I side with by default. Though they definitely are not my natural inclination, at least they are the party of inclusion. Supporting the 19th Amendment (women), the 1st Amendment (speech and secularity), the 4th Amendment (due process), the 2nd Amendment (bear arms), the Civil Rights Acts, etc. Though I’ll be the first to admit that Obama’s administration has fallen ridiculously short on the 4th. And I was plenty offended by the bullshit vote at the convention injecting God into the platform without a two-thirds majority. Yet still, I’ll take people who work with facts and reality and are willing to make a bargain.

The Democrats’ willingness to bargain and compromise and include all views does bite them in the ass, hence the inability to govern effectively. I know, because that’s how I try to operate. Everyone should have a say, everyone can get a little something from the deal. Trying to deal with those who reject science, reject compromise, reject a difference of opinion being allowed to exist. Failure is almost inevitable.

Let us never forget that our dear nation and home was built upon shitty, shitty compromises. A lot of them. At every turn. And still, here we are. Better off and further forward than we dreamed 30, 50, 100 years ago.

Of course, all this is really just an exaggerated form of my original caption to these:

Yup.

American Discourse

A rather reasonable discussion on the tough topic of abortion.

I’ve always been pro-choice. Nobody should be forced to be a parent, nor should anyone be forced to find a far more dangerous medical procedure (which they always have and will fine). Michelle Goldberg, for me anyway, helped solidify the political theory behind that argument.

It is certainly a matter of liberty for a woman. The idea of the state imposing its will on a woman, essentially declaring that she will become the indentured incubator for the fetus, hits me not only as bad but un-American.

I have no qualm with those groups who are anti-abortion (I call bullshit on the term ‘pro-life’ if you ignore the mother’s). Anyone has the right to say and promote programs that suit their beliefs. I love me some First Amendment. And I can understand the debate on questioning at what point a clump of mammalian cells becomes fully human, becomes a person. But the line is drawn at the state dictating what avoidable physiological tolls are placed on a person.

Goldberg’s analogy to the state forcing a person to give blood or a kidney seems somewhat apt. That would be a forcing of bodily alteration, however survivable, to be beyond choice. If living under such a regime, I would definitely wind up doing one of two quintessentially American acts: fighting or leaving.

(Found via The Daily Dish | By Andrew Sullivan.)

To Hell with Gerrymandering

After the 2010 Census, it looks like my state will be holding its 8 Congressional seats. Texas, however, has won big:

The Census apportions congressional districts every ten years, while state legislatures are generally in charge of redrawing the districts based on those apportionments. The population of the United States is now 308,745,538, and each congressional district will average 710,767 persons.

Texas, where Republicans have a supermajority in the House and Senate and hold the governor’s mansion, gained four new House seats with the population growing by 20.6 percent in ten years. However, the growth broken down by race will be released in February — the Voting Rights Act could mean that some of those seats have to be drawn with a majority of Hispanics that have accounted for much of the recent growth.

Florida gained two seats, where Republicans also have a supermajority in both legislative chambers and hold the governor’s mansion. Amendment 6, limiting the power of the legislature to redraw congressional districts, passed in the November elections, but it is being challenged in court by Reps. Corrine Brown (D-Fla.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.).

My personal party opinions aside, I think this is one of the biggest factors undermining our Republic. The art of Gerrymandering will be in full-swing this year in the losing and winning states alike. Also, due to the WAH!-the-recession-make-us-hate-Congress sentiment of the 2010 midterms, there are a lot of single-party state governing bodies that have the district lines in their hands.

Gerrymandering needs to be rightly illegal. Completely illegal. There needs to be a basic formula of X people per Representative. Of course, I also take issue with even on average, each Representative covers over half a million people, some even get up to 1m. But then because the US is one of the largest countries in the world, lowering that ratio would balloon the House rapidly (500,000 per Congressman would mean 616 Members, a number I could live with as tops.)

My other silly idea is that metro areas should be based on proportional representation, because really the difference between us in the northwest metro and those in the west metro is nil. We’re not dealing with different crops, we just commute into the same cities from different directions. It’s a funny trick, but would be interesting to see a group of Twin Cities Congressmen, a group of CA Bay Area Congressmen, etc. That way we couldn’t be Gerrymandered into enough rural/conservative area that keeps the batshit crazy in office.

This may even do the silly thing of getting more minorities and women in Congress rather than Gerrymandering districts to ensure minorities maintain their minority status.

But that would be silly, wouldn’t it?

Freedom for Risk

In the past week I have come down with a nasty case of strep (the rest of the family did too) and then starting Sunday I have been fighting a bout of stomach flu to boot. I do my best to keep calm and carry on, but my immune system has been working overtime, preventing me from doing the same. The best that can be hoped for is my stomach to realign itself in time for a bit of turkey and gravy. Pie may be off the menu entirely this year. For now, I’m nursing some tea and about to head to bed.

When able to focus without nausea, I have really been enjoying the writings all over the blogosphere about TSA rules and common sense. It is great to read, but it is not much of a debate. Most seem to end feeling futile and defeated in the face of The Nothing that is irrationality.

I hope to read and write more. Right now, I’m back to my tea and lingering on this quote from our great Benjamin Franklin:

Any society that would give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.

Me Commenting on Bill Maher Commenting on the Rally

(Found via Ta-Nehisi Coates :: The Atlantic.)

I’m with Mr Coates and Bill Maher that the idea that the current crazy left is kin to the crazy on the right is false. I don’t agree with everything in the clip, but the broad point is correct. I think I am naturally conservative, but any time I think that, I have to qualify the statement with lots of “except for”s.

Going back to my previous points, I’m for science. For following the evidence. Tax cuts do not generate wealth, deregulation hurts economic stability (and lets my house, my only real asset, lose 1/5 of it’s value in 2 years), and torture undermines both our standing in the world and the very values of our country.

Couple that with the fact that Republican Members of Congress actually believe Obama is a Muslim, but no Democrat Members believe that 9/11 was a conspiracy says a lot. I, and my friends will surely attest to this, am not now nor have I ever been a liberal. But damn if I don’t keep taking their side when their math adds up better than Republicans.

One last piece of math just to toss out: denying gay marriage means fewer stable, two-parent families, not more.

Reagan and Obama

From Sullivan’s Daily Dish:

”For all our troubles, midterm finds this Administration and this country entering a season of hope. We inherited a mess, we didn’t run away from it and now we’re turning it around … My biggest regret is that because the accumulated damages piled up so high for so long, putting America’s house in order has been a tough and painful task … We’ve got to prove that what we said about it is true – it’ll work,” – Barack Obama November 2010, Ronald Reagan January 1983.