Saturday, January 19, 2008

CRACKPOT POLITICAL RANTS: Enter at your own risk

I thought I’d drink some koolaid for this weekend’s posting. Some off-the-wall stuff to ponder and either call brilliant or way silly. But in any event, different than you’ll get elsewhere.

Starting with...

Dateline WASHINGTON - A former congressman and delegate to the United Nations was indicted Wednesday as part of a terrorist fundraising ring that allegedly sent more than $130,000 to an al-Qaida and Taliban supporter who has threatened U.S. and international troops in Afghanistan.

I’m sorry, but will somebody, somewhere, please connect the dots? Across the last fifty years, please find me the names of any infamous American traitors, who unambiguously sold out their country to its enemies in ways that did it grievous harm...

...who weren’t dedicated, lifelong Republicans?

Seriously, make your own list.

Aldrich Ames. Robert Hanssen, The Walkers, the Moscow Embassy Marine guards, Bernard Kerrick (oops, that one is for later revelations and history to decide). And now, Mark Deli Siljander. Yes, I know this causes cognitive dissonance. Ostrich Republicans can hypnotize themselves into ignoring such patterns, while liberals and moderates consider it demeaning to tar whole groups with the sins of the few. And yes, that’s right. It is more honorable and noble and fair not to go there, since the percentages are still so small as to be insignificant...

Except, that is, in a situation where we moderate Americans keep getting hammered, year after year, by holier-than-thou super patriotism, mouthed by folks who are really good at flag-waving, but darned lousy at recognizing clear patterns. Patterns that are harming the country they are supposed to love.

If there’s any treason going on, it ain’t on the side that’s accused of “allowing flag burning.” Go tend your own house, and examine your own side of the culture war. A war you folks started, by the way.

Want to hear a dream?

California's Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, one of the nation's most popular Republicans, will almost certainly get to make a speech at the Republican National Convention. They have no choice. To refuse him will be impo,ssible, even knowing that he'll likely ream the neocons.. Oh, he’ll also attack Democrats and liberals, for the sake of balance and to retain GOP cred. Fine. If the Republican mainstream still did that kind of talk, it would be called “politics” and not “culture war.”.

Still, that speech is the tip of the iceberg, compared to other things Arnold could do. Things to make up for his being forbidden the presidency.

Here's what I wish Schwarzenegger would do.

Call a meeting of all 50 states.

Yes, there's an annual National Governors' Conference. A tepid and emasculated thing. I propose that Schwarzenegger could take advantage of his potential as a bridge-builder and problem solver, at a time when the federal government is proving ever more irrelevant at solving the problems of America and its people. In fact, the Governors’ conference could be just the place to try something radical.

If I were him - knowing this would be my one chance to change things on a truly national level - I would insist that the governors bring their top legislative colleagues, from both parties, and I would drop in their laps a pile of ten urgent things that the states could decide to do themselves, bypassing our crippled federal government.

Do you think states can’t act nationwide, or are hampered by federal supremacy? Guess again. There are plenty of precedents. For example, most states use the Uniform Business Code, which was negotiated among the states and adopted by sovereign treaty(!) many years ago. There are few laws more important to the daily regulation of commercial and corporate matters, affecting all our lives.

Look, most Americans - of both parties - have no longer any hope vested in the federal govenrment, to pragmatically address today’s domestic problems. We can blame the opposing party... and indeed, I do! Still, the fact is that paralyzed rigor mortis has set in. Even if the democrats win by a landslide, come November, the rump GOP will set about making life a living hell for the next President and Congressional leadership. Culture War ensures that no large endeavor can be undertaken, without it becoming a matter for bilious hatred, suspicion and total blockage

State officials - in contrast - are often more pragmatically oriented, no matter which party they come from. They have firm budgets to balance and schools and roads to maintain. There are matters the people want attended-to. Would it hurt to try to bypass the mess in Washington?

(Note, none of the following items requirtes a Constitutional Amendment. Indeed, the meeting should be gin with a vow to leave Constitutional matters alone.)

Top of the list?

1) Cure gerrymandering. Seriously, it can only be done on a multi state basis. Anyone who proposes doing “fair redistricting” one state at a time is just a lying political hack who wants to cripple his opponents in a state that they control, without ever touching states run by his own party. Again, anyone proposing to fix re districting in just one state is a lying hypocrite who should be run out of office. Flat-out. No exceptions.

But across the board? Or if California agreed to do it, in exchange for neutral districts in, say, Texas plus Florida? Then the overall party numbers would not change much. No single party or mass of Americans gets is side’s ox gored. Partisan self-interest fades. An this monstrous injustice can be dealt with at last.


3) Push environmental needs, bypassing the (currently) corrupt feds, the way leaders like California have done. Only forge a united front in favor of states’ rights - especially the right to experiment.

4) End bidding wars between states, for factories, sports teams etc. The taxpayer always loses! Time for the states to come up with an agreement to stop falling for this trap.

5) Stand up to the neocons over the National Guard! Take back our state militias, in time to get our citizen soldiers back to their families and jobs and training to actually protect and defend us. If our nation must fight a protracted war overseas, let the federal government come to the people and ask for money. Ask for a bigger regular army!

6) Threaten to fix health care, if Congress won't. (Just the theat of states doing this, in a group-organized manner, would make the HMOs and insurance companies sweat so much, they might be be more willing to cut a deal on the national level.)

7) .Work out a sane approach to Native Tribal gambling. One that helps tribes far from cities, ensures fair distribution and services and supervision. And one that lets the nation re-evaluate the whole deal again, top-to bottom, in 20 years, after a whole generation of this weird wealth-rebalancing has had a chance to redress old wrongs..

8-10) These are just the ones off the top of my head. Do you have your own suggestions?

Key point. It would let Arnold do some Presidential-level things and - in fact - BE our president, in a small way, without necessitating any Constitutional changes or the stress of actually running for the office. How cool.

And how weird it is, that we have turned around so that liberals and moderates are the ones pushing for “states rights”! Just one of dozens of reversals that the democrats should point out, hammer and exploit, this year.

That is... if they only had a brain.

Final political note

Again, I got no beef against Hillary. She’s smart and would appoint great people... especially promoting them from the ranks of the much-abused civil service and officer corps, ending the brutal war that has been waged against our professionals, by the Bushite cabal.

Still, consider how many millions of demoralized Republicans will drag themselves out of a resigned stupor, and slog through sleet and hurricanes, to the polls, if she’s the democratic nominee. Let’s not energize them. Let em sit home and sulk. Frankly, they deserve it.

Also, recite the chant: BUSH BUSH BUSH CLINTON CLINTON BUSH BUSH CLINTON CLINTON. And that just takes us from 1980 to 2012! Do we really want the world to see us as a nation of dynasties? The Romans went down that road. Please.


Anonymous said...

Undeniable proof that the Bush Administration is worth than useless when it comes to tackling environmental issues, and indeed should not be trusted with authority over anything:

EPA won't give details on denying emissions waiver

"Invoking executive privilege, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency refused to provide lawmakers Friday with a full explanation of why it rejected California's greenhouse gas regulations.

The EPA informed Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., that many of the documents she had requested contained internal deliberations or attorney-client communications that would not be shared with Congress.

'EPA is concerned about the chilling effect that would occur if agency employees believed their frank and honest opinions and analysis expressed as part of assessing California's waiver request were to be disclosed in a broad setting,' EPA Associate Administrator Christopher Bliley wrote."

You know, the best way I can express my feelings about this is:

What the FUCK?

Rob Perkins said...

I look at the delegate count so far, and at polling which shows Florida in a four-way dead heat for Republican delegates.

I go to CNN's ElectionCenter2008, where they keep track of things.

I notice that *every* *single* caucus and Primary has allocated delegates proportionally, rather than first-past-the-post.

And I see that Obama and Romney are the winners, so far. Add in the superdelegates on the dem side, and the unpledged endorsing delegates on the rep side, and the result is Clinton and Romney.

But in the TELEVISION NEWS MEDIA, that is, the talking-heads hours on cable news and in regular-broadcast news, all they can talk about is first-past-the-post wins. Wins which are not actually wins, but proportional allocations.

That alone has caused me a bit of dissonance, since it appears that the press is not serving the public on election night, all while they claim to be doing so by piously waiting to call elections until after the polls are closed. Instead, they're feeding a horse-race mentality. As if Romney and Edwards had won nothing in Iowa, when they actually came back with proportional prizes.

Meh. As David points out, Clinton is a polarizer. For Republicans. Ask yourself if you want that in this election cycle, whoever the 'Pubs nominate. Super Tuesday is going to be mighty interesting this year.

Reforming the electorate is going to have to start with the bubbleheads, though.

Rob Perkins said...

@Stefan, the only thing I can think of for such a reaction is that the EPA record must contain some pretty embarrassing stuff.

Did EPA give any reason at all for denying the waiver?

sociotard said...

I'm not a governator fan just because of my neighbor. She worked at the Idaho Falls Airport. Every time he came through he was a pompous @$$hole with a serious case of dont-you-know-who-I-am disease. "No, mr Schwarzenager, you can't walk through this area. It's restricted." "DON'T YOU KNOW WHO I AM!"

That and he's just another example of republicans having more than their fair share of sexual predators. But on to the rest of your post.

>>3) Push environmental needs, bypassing the (currently) corrupt feds, the way leaders like California have done. Only forge a united front in favor of states’ rights - especially the right to experiment.

You are aware how much of California's power comes from other states, right? If the states worked together to be more environmentall aware, where would our power come from? It's a bit like how the United States has a lot of laws protecting its forests, and now we're a net importer of wood. We just shuttle of our environmental problems to other countries, the way California shuttled off its air pollution problems to other states.

>>7) .Work out a sane approach to Native Tribal gambling. One that helps tribes far from cities, ensures fair distribution and services and supervision. And one that lets the nation re-evaluate the whole deal again, top-to bottom, in 20 years, after a whole generation of this weird wealth-rebalancing has had a chance to redress old wrongs..

Why do you keep brining up "redress[ing] old wrongs" with regard to Indian casinos? The one has nothing to do with the other! They get casinos because they are sovereign (to some extent).

To what degree do you think that first nations should be sovereign? See if you can answer that question better than George W. Bush did.

If you really believe that they should only get casinos to redress past wrongs, do you think there should be Black casinos? Gay Casinos? Women? Irish or Jew?

Anonymous said...

Across the last fifty years, please find me the names of any infamous American traitors, who unambiguously sold out their country to its enemies in ways that did it grievous harm...

...who weren’t dedicated, lifelong Republicans?

John Walker Lindh?

Dunno if being a grunt soldier counts as "grevious harm", but he probably qualifies as a traitor...

Unknown said...

@rob et al.

Don't forget the superdelegates.

Hilary has ~95 more than Obama pledged to support her.

Anonymous said...

Regards traitors:

Not a stellar cast of characters to be sure. I suppose if you really wanted to find effective traitors you would work to recruit "flag wavers" as being more likely to be closer to the levers of power than "flag burners". This by the way is an explanation, without any degree of justification.

Johnathan Pollard also comes to mind. His politics are not much on display. The most I can find is the opposition of Rumsfeld (and others) to a possible B. Clinton late term presidential pardon.

Varied opinions as to whether he is/was an Isreali patriot or just another mercenary.


Anonymous said...

"Across the last fifty years, please find me the names of any infamous American traitors, who unambiguously sold out their country to its enemies in ways that did it grievous harm... ...who weren’t dedicated, lifelong Republicans?"

Wrong. In the past 50 years or so, one of the most damaging A-bomb spies ever was Iowa native George Koval, who was left-wing.

David Brin said...

Koval and the Rosenbergs were more than 50 years ago. Lindh was patherically ineffectual. Pollard did not betray us to "enemies" or, indeed, do our nation any unambiguous harm.

Tribal gaming has happened much less because of sovereignty than because of a public consensus to accept the vice of gambling near their cities. All of this started with tribes suing for the power to stage any games that were already legal, anywhere within a state, hence they could stage Bingo and card clubs, since both were already happening in California. This expanded into slots and other games but only after compacts or agreements were made with state government, ratified by both ballot initiatives and strong public consensus.

Don't imagine for a minute that that public consensus wasn't influenced heavily by an opportunity to create jobs and a massive wealth transfer that might compensate for past oppression and neglect! Especially when the voters involved needn't pay any of the actual money, themselves... or else might have fun doing so.

Complaining that domestic laws to protect labor, forests, environment etc only exports those problems -- well, globalization might be viewed as a bitch. But it just means there are more problems to solve. We need to help other countries get law, too. That's been off our agenda, for a while. All progress has been off the agenda for a while.

50th anniversary of Explorer I. I'd of expcted we'd a been on Mars and all riding monorails by now.

Anonymous said...

"An article published in The New Yorker on [11 January 1999] cites those officials as saying that Pollard, who was arrested in 1985 and is now serving a life sentence, gave Israel invaluable American intelligence secrets in exchange for payments of $50,000 and promises of $540,000 more."

"It is not surprising that [Pollard] should try to rally American Jews to his aid -- criminals often play the ethnic card when it is all they have left." - Peter Beinart

Guy said...

We're all ready to be done with the bush-clinton old world elitist oligarchy. Not that I'm in favor of turning the executive branch over to a muslim manchurian candidate.

The traitors you list would've been dyed-in-the-wool anythings to get a position from which to act. Of course flying in as a RINO has been an effective locus for the last 60 years. You don't think nazi spies portrayed themselves as communists do you? Nor did communist traitors portray themselves as fascists or hippies. Like they say about serial killers "he seemed like such a normal person"

And you can add William Jefferson (D-Louisiana) to that list too...

David Brin said...

Puh-lease. When was Israel an enemy? And show me what Wm Jefferson did that harmed our security?

This bashing of Obama without a scintilla of evidence is just like the swift-boating of Kerry and the outright fantasy-slanders about the Clintons murdering their best friend over a glitch in manpower rules in a travel office. Only utter nutters would go down those roads...

...when there is a far more plausible "manchurian" scenario.

Manchurians who deliberately ended our energy independence programs, ensured that two TRILLION extra American dollars would flow to petrocracies, emasculated the US Army, crippled the FBI, waged war against our US civil service and officer corps and drove away all of our allies.

If you had written all that (and much more) as a thriller scenario, back in the 90s, you'd have been laughed outta town.

Don't believe you can change any of that by disavowing Bush and going with one of the other GOP horses. They are all owned by the same program.

Stop following imaginary glimmers. Look at what ACTUALLY HAPPENED. We grew stronger under Clinton and we have weakened unimaginably under Republican rule. Look for manchurians where there already exist.

Anonymous said...

Americans financing terrorist organisations is nothing new. The IRA (certainly), and (probably) several other of the organisations involved in "the Troubles" (a thirty plus year civil war between the British State and various groups who believed they had the right to impose their politics on their fellow human beings by the bomb and the armalite).

The only difference I can see is that this one is accused of helping your enemies, rather than the enemies of just your allies and friends.

Anonymous said...

Oops. The last sentence of the first paragraph should read:- the bomb and the armalite) were financed by Americans.

Anonymous said...

"Puh-lease. When was Israel an enemy?"

Pollard stole more classified documents than any spy in American history. The material included a computer file of reports from United States agents abroad that could allow foreign governments to determine their identity, and a 10-volume guide to how America intercepts foreign intelligence signals. And The New Yorker and Newsday reported that Mr. Pollard also offered secret documents to countries other than Israel.

And he did it only for the money. But I suppose that makes it alright in your book anyway. Quite the interesting little world you live in there Mr. Brin.

Anonymous said...

There seems to be much about the Pollard case that is unclear. Perhaps Dr. Brin will consider it as a possible exception to his thesis?

Regards gerrymandered districts:

I would love to see a rule that says that any congressional district have horizontal and vertical dimensions that vary in proportion no more than 50% from the proportions of the state. (Not fair to mandate square districts in rectangular states). Perhaps anything with more than that variance should require a 2/3 supermajority vote in the state legislature. No more congressional districts that follow interstates!


David Brin said...

Not a chance I am defending Pollard. But I want to see the unambiguous harmful effects. Ames, Hanssen, the Walkers directly caused the deaths of American agents and aided those with missiles aimed down our throats. Just as the neocons have slavishly helped the ruling caste of the one country that most assuredly backed and funded the 9/11 attacks.

When the Bushes & co. are seen bowing and kissing Saddam Husseain... when they coddled and subsidized Osama bin Laden... when the US President BOWS in public before a petrocrat king... is there a chance that their credibility might -- um -- decline just a little?

Naw. Bill Clinton fibs about some nookie in a hallway. Now THAT matters!

David Brin said...

The simple solution to gerrymandering requires just one sentence! See my article.

"In any state, the legislature may pass any law or districting it wants, with the following proviso: that the districts for state assembly, state senate, and Congress should have as little overlap with each other as can be practically arranged."

Let em gerrymander the State Assembly districts to their hearts content! The key thing is:

1) they can't succeed at all three, at the same time

2) neighborhoods will be forced to deal with different neighbors, different issues and priorities, when electing for these three different posts.

Rob Perkins said...

@Andrew, while it's true that Hillary has more superdelegates pledged than Obama, Democratic party rules make them effective only if the Primaries and Caucuses produce a tie in delegates. And the Republican "unpledged" delegates are an even smaller proportion on that side.

And in any case, read my screed again, because I did take that into account. There's plenty about Obama which gives me unease. But Clinton will energize her enemies. (I know a *Kucinich* supporter who would rather see a Republican in office than see H. Clinton take the oath.)

The point I'm making is that the first-past-post treatment of these primaries minimizes something that could be really cool: Especially this year, we're seeing the rise of someone (Romney), who is probably everyone's second or third choice for that nomination, who could win because noone can agree on a good first choice.

That resembles the Australian system in effect, even if the mechanisms to get there are wildly different.

We saw the same sort of thing, it seems to me, when B. Clinton ran in '92.

Anonymous said...

What about the unambiguous harmful effects of a bunch of liberal spies (Klaus Fuchs, Koval; the Rosenbergs) handing the secrets of the A-Bomb over to the Soviets?

I suppose that must not be a big deal in your book either.

sociotard said...

I like the word "petrocrat." Did you make that up yourself?

Anonymous said...

(Zorgon the Malevolent. Logon no mas)

Three political science professors have run a statistical analysis on the votes that produced Hillary Clinton's victory in New Hampshire. They find no evidence of anomalies:

So enough with the conspiracy theories, okay, folks? Are we supposed to believe that not only have evil mustachio-twirling uebervillains rigged the NH primary...but they've somehow managed to blackmail three of the most prominent political science profs with expertise in statistical analysis into fiddling with their statistical analysis of the NH primary?



On another note: it's amusing to realize that the elimination of gerrymandering can be reduced to a single mathematical lemma: minimize the total line integral of each congressional and senatorial district. An elementary exercise in the calculus of variations.