The Electoral College Explained

The Electoral College was designed to reflect the popular vote. A popular vote that depends on who is allowed to vote, and for whom.

For those of you who missed history class, or for those of you who don’t obsess about politics and elections on a regular basis, I offer this primer on the way that the United States picks its presidents and vice presidents. It is a method of selection like no other in the world. A needlessly complicated and arcane practice of voting for people who will vote for the people who will run this country, and we go through all these hurdles because of slavery. We call the result of that convoluted process the Electoral College (EC) and it still exists today, long after slavery is a thankfully distant memory.

Slavery? I hear you asking. Yes, slavery. Don’t take my word for it, look it up. Or you could just listen to this episode of NPR’s Throughline.

Throughline – The Electoral College – October 15, 2020

The EC has a long and troubled history. The EC wasn’t even in the first draft of the Constitution. James Madison, who wrote the majority of the document, claimed he preferred direct election of the president by the people, but instead wrote into it that congress was to select the president. This mechanism was deemed too prone to intrigue by the members of the constitutional convention, and was seen as crippling the independence of the executive branch by making it reliant on congress. At least two of the original attendees of the convention favored direct popular election of the executive, but this idea was sacrificed even before the writing of the first draft of the document in order to make inclusion of the slave states palatable to the Northern states.

There was one difficulty however of a serious nature attending an immediate choice by the people. The right of suffrage was much more diffusive in the Northern than the Southern States; and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of Negroes. The substitution of electors obviated this difficulty and seemed on the whole to be liable to the fewest objections.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The historical fact of American slavery is something that the defenders of the EC should take heed of. The numerous slaves in the Southern states, slaves that the Southern slave owners and state representatives wanted counted as people for the purpose of apportioning representation, would have skewed the college and congress towards the South, which the North objected to. The South wanted slaves counted as people, for the purpose of representation, but not counted as people, for the purpose of profiting off of their slave labor. The impasse over the problem of representation in the legislature and at the voting booth threatened the entire constitutional convention, much like the problem of slavery threatened the possibility of American independence, not to mention the continued existence of the Union itself in 1860.

It was the invention of the three-fifths rule, a rule that counted each slave as three-fifths of a person, that allowed for a compromise on representation, and through that a compromise on the election of the office of president. Changes have been made to the EC along the way from then to now, but the essence of the college itself remains the same as it was back in 1787; and that essence is a safeguard against factions having an undue sway over the selection of the President.

The concern was not that the people would pervert the process, but that the factions, the parties, were to be guarded against. This was the paramount fear in the minds of the crafters of the Union. The EC was part of the whole package of division of powers, allowing for the will of the voting population of each state to be carried directly to the then new capitol. The preservation of state power was what the EC was designed to protect, enhancing the ability of sectionalism to thwart the corrupting influence of faction.

Faction almost immediately took hold anyway.

Some states reasoned that the favorite presidential candidate among the people in their state would have a much better chance if all of the electors selected by their state were sure to vote the same way—a “general ticket” of electors pledged to a party candidate. So the slate of electors chosen by the state were no longer free agents, independent thinkers, or deliberative representatives. They became “voluntary party lackeys and intellectual non-entities.”Once one state took that strategy, the others felt compelled to follow suit in order to compete for the strongest influence on the election.

When James Madison and Hamilton, two of the most important architects of the Electoral College, saw this strategy being taken by some states, they protested strongly. Madison and Hamilton both made it clear this approach violated the spirit of the Constitution. According to Hamilton, the selection of the president should be “made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station [of president].” According to Hamilton, the electors were to analyze the list of potential presidents and select the best one. He also used the term “deliberate”.

Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The 1800 election saw the fears of faction take form for the first time. The Jefferson/Adams split and the resulting confusion of a tie vote for Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr in that election lead to the first changes in the EC creating the running mates system that is still in use today.

The 1824 election, the first election in which the popular vote mattered, was the second time the EC failed to produce a president. Once again the House of Representatives was forced to debate and vote on presidential candidates, eventually electing John Quincy Adams, the son of John Adams, to the presidency. This so infuriated the winner of the popular vote in 1824, Andrew Jackson, that he broke with the party of Jefferson (Democratic-Republicans) to create the Democratic party, a version of which still exists today.

The formation of the other half of the two-party factional control of the United States government came about with the election of Abraham Lincoln. It was with the election of Lincoln that the regional Republican party graduated to the national stage. Lincoln is one of four presidents who won the office while not being on the ballots in every state, and the only president to win the office while not being on the ballot in more than 5 states (he was not on the ballot in ten of the eleven slave states) he did win the EC successfully, probably because the slave states of the deep South were already pulling their support from the union and actively engaging in dissipating federal power to the several states so as to strengthen their own hands in the coming war that they were actively conspiring to start.

The electoral college is the only one where they choose their own masters.

Abraham Lincoln, Team of Rivals pg. 630

However, the EC was set up to reflect the population of the United States as a whole. It achieved this through tying a majority of the electors from each state to the number of representatives from each state in the House of Representatives. Each district of the House being determined through the arcane process of census and redistricting, the seats apportioned based on populations within geographical regions. One elector for every seat in the House of Representatives plus one for every Senator. Add in the three electors for Washington D.C. (the same number of electors as the least populous state) and you have the number of electors in the current version of the EC, 538. It is supposed to return results that roughly equates to the vote of the majority of the population of the United States, and has done its job pretty admirably right up until the twentieth century when Congress short-circuited the representation metric that the founders set up.

How did the House upset the metric? They crafted the last in several sequential measures that set the number of seats in the legislature. The membership of the House of Representatives has been kept artificially low for most of the modern age. the number of representatives was fixed at 435 in 1911 and has remained at 435 as the population of the United States has grown exponentially. This has lead to an ever-increasing number of people represented by a single seat in congress, a ridiculous number of people that the framers would never have envisioned as acceptable. The original minimum population per house seat was 30,000; but the current representatives for the House each represent about half a million people, at least, with the higher population districts containing about three-quarters of a million people.

This is important, because this is how you get to the point where a candidate can win by well over a million votes in the popular election, and yet lose the election by electoral count. The EC is rigged against the popular vote being reflected in the makeup of the college, because the electors are not properly apportioned to the populations of the various states. For that matter, the House of Representatives no longer serves its function as a direct representation of the people, because it too is not apportioned correctly even though it was set up specifically to serve this purpose.

If the House of Representatives was allowed to grow again, as it did throughout the history of the United States, we would end up with a House that was made up of several thousand people. This may sound like a radical change to you, increasing the size of the house, but we’ll get a better representational cross-section of America if we do this and thereby end a lot of the talk about disconnected Washington politics in the process. Will it be more difficult to get important work done? I doubt that it can get more difficult than it is already. I think we will have to find that out first hand. Keep this point in mind.

So we have this thing called an Electoral College that votes for our president for us. The EC is forced to vote for the party that controls the states who appoint the electors who make up the college. These faithless elector rules were recently upheld by the Supreme Court. The size of the EC is kept artificially small because of the size restrictions set on the United States House of Representatives, resulting in neither the House or the EC reflecting the thing they were supposed to reflect, the numbers of people who live in different areas of the country, directly.

Party/faction controls everything in the United States today and nothing can be done without one of the two parties holding a majority in both houses of the legislature both in the several states and in the federal government. Even if the parties manage to hold both houses, the president from another party can still keep the nation at a standstill if all they control is the presidency itself. One man who keeps the United States from doing its business both at home and abroad.

It is damnably unfortunate for the sane people who live in the United States that the Republican party is demonstrably insane, and is being led by someone who either does believe or pretends to believe insane things. It is even more unfortunate that the Republican party has rigged the census and the districts that are currently in effect to favor their insane party leadership.

It is of small comfort to the 240,000 COVID dead Americans that the current governmental travesty is not even the first time in twenty years that this kind of miscarriage of justice has occurred. If the system worked as it was intended, then as a general rule the electors would reflect almost perfectly the will of the people who vote in a presidential election. But the system is being held hostage by parties that see their interests as more important than the interests of the population as a whole, even the populations that they are supposed to represent directly. They hold all the keys to the power that supposedly resides in the people themselves, and we have to take it back from them while we still have a country that is worth saving.

These parties/factions will stop at nothing to get into power, that is the reason that they exist. The reason that they were created in the first place. Party has replaced intellect and reason. We have become a nation of political face painters with no more understanding of the systems that supposedly rely on our input than our pets understand the workings of a can opener. Idiocracy was too real to be funny. The Trump presidency has proven this to me several times over now. The parties tell us to wag our tails, and we wag away expecting to be fed, never understanding that we could work the mechanisms ourselves if we simply stood up and used the political voice that is guaranteed to us by law.

The thing I learned from listening to that episode of Throughline that I linked earlier is that the EC was almost removed from the constitution by amendments twice in our history. Once, when the changes in 1800 were worked out, and the second time when we almost got George Wallace as a president instead of Richard Nixon (Now, there is an alternative history that I’m glad to not be in) As recently as 2018, Elizabeth Warren and other notables have called for the elimination of the EC. Fixing the election system is doable, if only we make it clear that what we want is everyone to be included and everyone to be heard by someone who represents them.

The EC has failed to do its job. It has failed to justify its inclusion in the fabric of American society, three-fifths compromise notwithstanding. With the 2016 travesty in the rear-view mirror it becomes painfully obvious that we either must amend the constitution to remove the EC, legislatively render it toothless in every state legislature in the US, or modify the structure that dictates its size and representation. One of these three things must occur. Several states have already passed the legislation mandating the popular vote outcome.

Video from National Popular Vote! National Popular Vote! What It Is – Why It’s Needed

If we cannot render the EC toothless legislatively, and if we cannot amend it out of the constitution replacing it with the direct election of the president by the population of the United States, then what we have to do is the easier thing that I alluded to earlier. We influence our representatives to do the thing they can do for us and themselves, and it’s part of the job we send them to Washington D.C. to do in the first place. They should legislate an increase in the size of the House of Representatives, and through that increase negate the corrupting influences of faction and money.

View Post

What the study and report above shows is exactly what I said. The imposed limitation of 435 members placed on congress by congress itself is the limiting factor for gaining more influence over our representatives, for gaining an equitable voice in electing our president. This is one of the easiest things to fix, and it would fix the EC at the same time. With one simple bill introduced in congress we could increase the size of the congress and reduce the numbers of us per representative. We could make the representatives more focused on communicating with their much smaller groups of constituents, and be much more replaceable by those same groups.

A constituent base of 30,000 people means that my specific region of Austin would have their own representative in congress. A larger congress would be impossible to control externally by factional politics. It would lead to the formation of regional parties and a dilution of power in Washington D.C. We’d need to build facilities to house the additional several thousand representatives, which will be a windfall for the states and Washington itself. I don’t see how this works out as bad in any real way.

So rather than paying more money to influence my congressman, vying for influence with dollars I do not have, I propose we pay the congressmen less money and multiply their number by about a magnitude. Require them to listen to us if they want to keep their jobs. As a bonus, the EC will increase in size and we won’t see a repeat of this last election again. Pick one of those three options and work towards it, if you want to save this country from itself. 

Editor’s note

This is an update to the 2016 piece that I wrote anticipating that the EC could be made to do its job when Donald Trump had appeared to win the EC vote, even though three million more Americans voted for Hillary Clinton. I expected that a majority of EC members would rebel and cast their votes for some other candidate rather than either of those two. I would have taken John Kasich at the time. At least he had a working brain, unlike Trump, and wasn’t hated by every conservative in the country, unlike Hillary Clinton. My hopes were dashed and there was no rebellion. The sheep that were put in place to vote for their party’s nominee bleated, and we got President Donald Trump for four years.

I have now updated the update again, and moved it forward in time from it’s first publish date March 22, 2019 @ 6:54 am. I like this version better anyway.

Featured image is Howard Chandler Christy’s Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States which replaced a screencap of washingtonpost.com – How The Electoral College Works

George Washington on Political Parties

The alternate domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissension, which in different ages and countries has perpetrated the most horrid enormities, is itself a frightful despotism. But this leads at length to a more formal and permanent despotism. The disorders and miseries, which result, gradually incline the minds of men to seek security and repose in the absolute power of an individual; and sooner or later the chief of some prevailing faction, more able or more fortunate than his competitors, turns this disposition to the purposes of his own elevation, on the ruins of Public Liberty.

Without looking forward to an extremity of this kind, (which nevertheless ought not to be entirely out of sight,) the common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.

It serves always to distract the Public Councils, and enfeeble the Public Administration. It agitates the Community with ill-founded jealousies and false alarms; kindles the animosity of one part against another, foments occasionally riot and insurrection. It opens the door to foreign influence and corruption, which find a facilitated access to the government itself through the channels of party passions. Thus the policy and the will of one country are subjected to the policy and will of another.

George Washington’s Farewell Address

He might as well have named Donald J. Trump, the description fits so well. A hat/tip to Justin Amish and the Washington Post for publishing his opinion piece today. It motivated me to go look up Washington’s farewell address just to verify that was the language in the document.

Today, I am declaring my independence and leaving the Republican Party. No matter your circumstance, I’m asking you to join me in rejecting the partisan loyalties and rhetoric that divide and dehumanize us. I’m asking you to believe that we can do better than this two-party system — and to work toward it. If we continue to take America for granted, we will lose it.

Justin Amish

There Never Were “Good Ol’ Days”

Anyone who talks about the good ol’ days is lying to themselves. Any student of history can confirm this.

On the Media – The (Nonexistent) Good Old Days – April 3, 2017

In the midst of several days of his Supreme Court confirmation hearings last week, Judge Neil Gorsuch took a moment to wax nostalgic for the days when the process took only 90 minutes and a nominee could relax, even smoke cigarettes, throughout the process. Later, one of Gorsuch’s interrogators, Vermont Senator Patrick Leahy, did some reminiscing of his own, pointedly recalling a time when nominees offered up useful answers to questions and engaged in sincere discussion. Ah, the good old days.

I don’t see it as anything nuclear or even unprecedented witnessing the Gorsuch hearings as On the Media discussed in the episode. This is just more “same as it ever was” and the funny part will be when Democrats retake the Senate and the House and do to the GOP exactly what is currently being done to them. If there still is a GOP.

I have worked in party politics for years. Studied politics for decades. Having a plan and the authority to execute that plan is how you make the changes you want. The GOP doesn’t have a plan aside from some vague hand-waving about the prosperity gospel (Ayn Rand meets Jesus) and the anarchist delusion that government doesn’t work. That is why they can’t govern, because they have disarmed themselves with their own beliefs.

I am getting really tired of the sophomoric “it’s easy” solutions to thorny political issues. If it was easy, would it have taken 6 months to write the Declaration of Independence? Two attempts and more than 20 years to get a functional union in the American colonies? Politics isn’t easy and it takes compromise with the people you think are poison to make it work. That is just how it goes. That is politics.

Having a plan is the important part. ending gerrymandering with nonpartisan redistricting, ending campaign finance with public finance and barring monetary contributions to members of government, ending factional power by instituting non-partisan primaries and removing the 435 cap on congress (the 435 cap being the easiest thing to change, frankly, and would make the most difference immediately) these changes would alter the political map for the first time in a century. We can see what to change after that as we move forward.

Executing the plan; encourage everyone who thinks they want to take back government of the people, for the people, by the people to join their local precinct meetings and advocate for the kinds of changes that will make government institutions themselves more responsive to the people.

It’s not easy, but it is an achievable plan, especially ending the 435 cap on congress. Breaking that log jam will completely alter the power and makeup of the House, requiring that they work directly with the 30k-ish people they will represent. Compromise with the thousands of representatives that will make up the new House. Institute new policies and procedures for dealing with such a large and uncontrollable body as a properly responsive house can and should be. Parties will no longer be able to control them and most parties will be regional at best. The political map will be altered permanently with just this one change, and that change can be made with a simple piece of legislation from the House.

We need Congress to signal their abandonment of party adherence. We need them to back this kind of proposal as a litmus test for being reelected. No more politics as usual. If you are going to be part of government, you are going to start fixing government.

facebook & facebook/Stonekettle

If It Bleeds, It Leads. Same as It Ever Was

For the last year and a half the media have fawned all over His Electoral Highness, The Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) They can’t stop talking about him. They can’t be kept from giving him airtime to talk about himself. Aside from the OHM himself, his biggest fans are the media who think that what this lame duck of a leader says means anything at all. Because of the media’s fawning, I have been forced to spend the last two years ignoring everything the OHM can be heard saying with their generous gift of free airtime. I ignore everything he says because listening to him is what he wants us to do. I ignore him because attempting to make sense of what he says makes me feel ill. I ignore him because listening to him demonstrably makes you dumber; the media being a prime example of people made stupid by the sound of the OHM’s voice.

The media’s free gift of airtime helped give him the momentum to take the electoral college if not the popular vote; and now they ask, why is America so divided? If anyone should know the answer to this question it should be the media, but I wouldn’t look to them to give you a truthful answer. Division is what they want. It sells. Conflict and violence always lead the news. The division they are trying to illustrate here is largely a matter of perception. The division is almost entirely of the media’s making, their policy of going with taglines that hype the separation, the division, the conflict,

CBS Sunday MorningA polarized America – Mar 26, 2017

There’s nothing new about simmering hostility between a President and the press. As Richard Nixon once stated, “The President should treat the press just as fairly as the press treats him.”

In March of 1974, the Nixon presidency was lurching toward destruction by Watergate, and there was an ongoing tension between the President and the CBS White House correspondent:

President Nixon: “Are you running for something?”

Dan Rather: “No, sir, Mr. President, are you?”

Norm Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, was then, and remains now, a student of our political system and our media:

“We would watch network news shows and we would sit there and we would have basically a common set of facts that would emerge from them,” he said. “As we’ve moved to the new media world, the more you’ve got this cacophony of voices, the more you cut through it by, basically, shock value. And that’s why people now are driven not by their own attachment to their own parties; they’re driven by a hatred for those on the other side.” 

CBS News, The great divide: Politics in the Age of Trump

Much like Nixon ushered in the end of the Republican party that elected him, the OHM signals the ultimate end of Reaganism and Reaganomics. There will be no possibility of doubt remaining as to the bankruptcy of Reagan’s policies by the time the OHM is drummed out of office; policies which have held sway since Reagan was president. The question the media should be asking is, will the Democrats find themselves and their new direction, or will they waste their resurgence as they did with the Carter years? Let me unpack these observations for you.

The eight years of Clinton were not liberal years. The most damning thing to be said about Clinton is that he was and is Republican lite, conservative-ish. He ended welfare in the US because the conservatives demanded that he do it. Because it was something that Reagan promised and compromising with Reagan Democrats was how Bill Clinton got into office. Over and over again he proved that he wasn’t liberal in any real sense of the word. He was a conservative from the old Southern wing of Democratic conservatives who just happened to have married well. Without Hillary’s influence I am convinced he would have been even harder on the poor, even more militaristic than he was. Weirdly, I doubt that would have kept Republicans from manufacturing a scandal in their attempts to remove him.

Barack Obama was pretty close to liberal but still enacted conservative policies because conservative policies were the only ones that the conservatives in the congress he was saddled with would vaguely go for. Obamacare was and is Romneycare. That is why Romney had such a hard time dissing the ACA, because it was his idea offered by a Democratic president and he knew it. Obama was the deporter-in-Chief because, again, that is what conservatives wanted him to do. He was tough on immigration because he hoped it would win points with the other side of the aisle. Only in his last two years did he realize that Republicans would never work with him and so he spent those years ruling by executive order. The Republicans didn’t refuse to work for him because he was black if we are to take them at their word. they didn’t refuse because he was liberal because his policies prove otherwise. They refused to work with him because he was a Democrat.

The sin that Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are all guilty of is the sin of being members of the Democratic party. If they had been Republicans they would have been deemed typical centrists willing to make deals in order to get the government’s work done. It is deal making that the new conservatives hate. They are convinced that there is a true conservative ideology and all they have to do is adhere to it. Never mind that no two conservatives can agree on what conservatism is aside from prosperity gospel Jesus, a completely different kind of Jesus than that socialist hippy Jesus of the seventies. That is religion masquerading as ideology which is all conservatism has left to appeal to, the shadow of religion that Reagan rode to power on.

None of this has anything to do with real ideology beyond the ghost of Reagan that even Reaganite priests can’t quote because Reagan was more liberal than the country is now. The ghost of Reagan and his trickle-down Reaganomics is why the tax rates on the wealthiest people in the US remain low. Anyone making more than a million dollars a year should be taxed at the confiscatory rate of 99% just as the progressive tax rates did during the post-war era. During the times when the middle class grew and the poor were not quite so desperate. Back when Jesus was a socialist hippy. They should be taxed at this extreme rate because they don’t spend more when they have more, so it benefits society not one bit to allow them to keep their incredible wealth.

The subject of monetary policy is too lengthy to get into here, but in the end upper income tax rates were lowered because the increased wealth was supposed to generate more benefits for the rest of us, and the reality we live in has demonstrably proven that the opposite is true. Ergo, some form of income cap has to be reinstituted. Either a scale requiring all boats be raised when the wealthy get paid more, or confiscatory taxes on pay greater than the scale would dictate.

So here we are at the tail-end of the Reagan era, just waiting for the Reagan Democrats to bleep their last heartbeat on the heart monitor they are strapped to before we can get on with progress. It has to be those people because they are the only ones left watching TV, getting their news from TV and from radio. Those are the people who went out and voted for Trump, his core base of stormtrumpers. Those are the people who in their political ignorance voted Republican not realizing that Republicans and conservatives ran everything in the country aside from the presidency already. Politically ignorant people who don’t understand that the president’s job isn’t to fix the country, that is the job of the congress. A job the congress is supposed to achieve through legislation and funding and programs to keep the myriad systems this country depends on, running.

Unfortunately for the rest of us, conservatives have swallowed the anarchist notion that government doesn’t work. Republicans have echoed this falsehood because their base believes it, never questioning why they want to elect people to do jobs that they believe don’t need to be done. So it falls to the Democrats to make proposals for government that will work. It falls to them to prove that the poor can get a fair shake in this new America, that the wealthy don’t always get their way. Falls to the Democrats to propose the kinds of changes that populists on both sides of the aisle wanted and would get behind, because the Republicans and conservatives are too scared of socialism to even go someplace where government just might work. If the Democrats can do this, it will be the end of the Republicans for at least a generation.

What I don’t understand is how the media can’t see this happening? Why do they see fractiousness and faction rather than seeing what is really going on? The politically informed vs. the politically ignorant that gave us the current administration? Why can’t they see that they are the OHM’s biggest fans? Perhaps they can’t see it because they too are caught in a previous age. The age of the gatekeeper and the top-down administrator. The feudal society of corporate America, what is fast becoming a corporate globalism. The history of dictators and their five year plans that never worked out. They are soon to be as irrelevant as the Reagan Democrats who will be cashing their last Social Security checks soon. Checking out as movers and shakers and are left behind as the world starts dancing to a different beat.

The media and Reagan Democrats will be as baffled by the next election as they were by the last one, because they think the narrative is one they set, and not one that we the people decide.

Several facebook status posts lead to this post. Here was one.

The GOP Cuddles Up To the NSDAP

I’ve arrived at that certain point in time; November 8th, 2016. I’ve been stalling the inevitable. I have now listened to all the podcasts that were queued up from prior to that date. I even went back through the archives of Hidden Brain in hopes of delaying this confrontation with reality, and I say in hopes of delaying this confrontation with reality, and I say even because I’ve heard most of them as part of the science queue from the NPR feeds. I listened to them again even though I really didn’t need to.

Call it denial, call it whatever you like, I haven’t been able to listen to a newscast for the last two weeks. I still can’t listen, watch or read while pundits attempt to normalize what has just happened. Every podcast for the last year and a half that has included any attempt to break down the Orange Hate-Monkey’s (OHM) flung shit, the sounds that normal people consider words with meanings, have been and will continue to be culled from my news stream. I have no time to waste on attempts to rationalize what is 80% bullshit, scientifically determined.

Now that the OHM looks to be destined for the White House, these sickeningly obsequious pundits are still trying to make sense of the patterns that emerge from words that he has said, blithely ignoring the adage that covers this particular waste of time.

That adage would be GIGO or Garbage In, Garbage Out.

The electoral college still hasn’t spoken, won’t speak until after December 19th. If they elect him he then becomes President-Elect. He won’t be President until January 20th of 2017. Until then everything that a pundit might think about what will happen is just another attempt at creating a fantasy narrative, much like your average fantasy football player talking about their team as if it existed anywhere outside of their own heads.

Life must go on, but the way forward may not include much in the way of news content for me. I will not be wasting my time normalizing the behaviors of proto-fascists. Any article which includes phrases like Trump says will be beneath notice from the perspective of actual value for time spent, simply adding to the amount of garbage in that has to be sorted for relevant life-sustaining facts coming out. Arguments to the contrary directed at me will simply be met with OHM quotations which might or might not be relevant to the argument presented.

When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

Donald Trump

I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?

Donald Trump

They’re allowed to cut off heads and they’re allowed to chop off heads, and we can’t waterboard.

Donald Trump

Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on

I love the poorly educated.

Donald Trump

Who knows if these quotes will be relevant? I certainly don’t. No one can know, not even the OHM himself. He lost sight of what the truth was long, long ago, back in the days before his dad gave him the stake to start his business with.

The old anonymous quote (which I’ve used more than once recently) on the current problems with our country goes like this; “American fascism will arrive carrying a cross and wrapped in a flag” and it has. They aren’t fascists yet. Not yet. Speech is free, after all. You can say the things fascists say and still not be one. Talk is cheap. If they follow through on the OHM’s promises… When they seat their dictator with the express purpose of allowing him to do what he promised, they will no longer be proto-fascists but fascists in fact. [They are now defacto fascists, just FYI.]

The one thing that can be said about the structure of a Trump administration is that we have a good idea of who the people that will ultimately be named as co-defendants at the war crimes trials will be. These are still the same paltry few facts that we knew two weeks ago when I wrote this piece.

The OHM announced this week that he has selected Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education, which means that gutting public schools nationally to line corporate schooling pockets will also occur along with misbegotten attempts to stimulate 18th century power production in the form of coal, denial of climate change and its effects, etc. It is worth noting that Devos’ husband Dick DeVos is the son of the Amway founder; consequently she and he are well versed in the nature of what has come to be known as the prosperity gospel, favored among pyramid scheme operators, conmen and hucksters across America. Favored by them because it clothes them in the robes of religiosity every time they cheat someone else out of a buck. God willed it to be that way.

There has been almost nothing that qualifies as news on the subject of the outcome of the election that is worth reporting beyond those few facts and the fact that Hillary Clinton has now racked up a whopping 2 million vote lead in the election held on November 8th (Electoral College Explained. Again.) Every other word out of the news organizations mouths on this subject for the last two weeks has been nothing but meaningless hot air.

The Republican Party itself though has come closer and closer to embracing its historical predecessor the NSDAP. Even long-time holdout Mitt Romney has decided he likes the idea of representing the United States under a President Trump. Never Trump? Apparently Mitt Romney misspoke as well. Another example of just how much corrupting influence there is in governmental authority. As if we needed a refresher on that truism.

These politicians aligning themselves with Trump, expressing willingness to work with Trump cannot understand some very basic facts relating to the OHM’s bid for the presidency, and those facts will come back to bite them in the end.


The beast that Trump has shackled himself to requires human sacrifice to be satiated. There are no two ways about this.

The notion that eleven million people can be deported from the United States, as the Orange Hate-Monkey stated when he launched his campaign, is pure delusion. No matter how many racists and sociopaths work the numbers in pretense that this is an exercise divorced of prejudice or bias, the fact is that Hitler wanted to deport the Jews prior to having to institute the final solution, and he only had to get rid of six million people. All the hand-waving in the world will not change what it is they want to do when they actually embark on the road to doing it. He and they are the American fascists we have been warned about, and that isn’t even touching on the promise to exclude Muslims from the country.  The corollary with the holocaust is even firmer there, and so is pointless to belabor.


If his supporters intend to force the OHM to comply with the sales pitch he made to gain office, to rid the US of the immigrant menace, the Muslim menace, then there will be concentration camps full of brown people all across the US. That is how you isolate and dispose of 11 million people. It is a herculean task and requires harsh measures and steadfast resolve to carry out. What is never mentioned in any of these discussions is what the rest of the world will do while we publicly dispose of 11 million people. War with the rest of the world? It is what we deserve for allowing the OHM to take office. He is quite literally an American Hitler.

Let me guess. You don’t see it? I’ll spell it all out for you.

The NSDAP embraced the grassroots distrust of the other in their German midst as the way to victory. It was/is common for Jews to be viewed as other in Germany and across Europe and into parts of the US. This same language, this same course, is being used by the OHM, his appointees, his supporters, etc.  They don’t even pretend that Jews aren’t on the hit list with the Hispanics and Muslims. Fear of the other in our midst is what drives most of the OHM’s supporters, and they aren’t going to be satisfied with half-measures. There will be round-ups. There will be mass incarceration. There will be blood.  If the OHM allows any of these things to occur, he will be remembered as the president that brought fascism to America.

In other words, Trump and Putin are two of a kind: xenophobic, bigoted demagogues with dual histories of corruption, aggression, and celebration of white supremacy repackaged as patriotic nationalism. Their radical American and Russian followers, now linked by the internet, share similar goals and are part of a larger revival of white-supremacist movements happening across the West.

Quartz; Donald Trump’s bromance with Vladimir Putin

More troublingly, he has harnessed the power of the evangelical christian right.  DeVos was just his latest pick to illustrate this.  Before that it was Governor Pence, one of the most militant enforcers of christian dogma to come along in quite some time. This was also the way to power for the NSDAP and their leader. Famously, the belt buckles of German soldiers bore the slogan Gott Mit Uns (God With Us) just one of the more outward signs of the use that religion was put to in support of Nazi designs on power. Also like Hitler, the OHM has little use for religion himself. It is a means to an end and nothing more.

There are some serious shadings of The Handmaid’s Tale in the OHM’s rhetoric, but that really isn’t anything new in conservative circles. If misogynists and their ilk, the dedicated anti-abortion lobby, were vulnerable to comparisons to Nazism they would have modified their talking points ages ago. Fascists and authoritarians throughout history have taken an unhealthy interest in securing increased reproduction for the right kind of people. This is hardly a feature of Nazism alone, but it is worth mentioning that banning abortion was just another thing that the GOP and the NSDAP have in common.

These are just the most visible parts of the equation. 

Looking more deeply into the plans of the OHM, I would have you note that he refused to divulge his taxes or any of his financials. He refuses to divest himself of his businesses. We have no way of knowing who and what he owes to whom, or where his personal interests lie. What will make him a buck.  What will keep him in the good graces of the criminals who counted on him to launder money for them (the real purpose of most real estate development) he has steadfastly refused to budge on this issue even though it will put him in violation of the constitution,

During a discussion on CNN this morning, former White House lawyer Richard Painter made the case that if it appears that Trump will be in violation of the emolument clause of the Constitution, then the Electoral College must decide to not vote for him next month.

After he and fellow guest Jan Baran agreed that there isn’t an actual law that prevents Trump from being involved in his businesses while in the White House but that it does present numerous ethical issues, Painter said that he informed Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway of concerns around the emolument clause.

Former Bush Counsel: Electoral College Can’t Vote For Trump

This is most likely what Trump had in mind if he were so unlikely as to be successful in his bid for the White House. A real estate developer is only interested in how much money he can make in a particular deal, and let’s be clear about this point. Him making money has absolutely nothing to do with protecting America, or making it great again. His personal aggrandizement has netted him a lot of gold-plated furnishings in his long business life; but it has served to destroy many other businesses and many other people along the way. His standard of practice is theft of service. He doesn’t know how to pay for any of the things he takes. There is where the problem lies.

He will lie, cheat and steal from the American people on a level that we haven’t seen since the days of Boss Tweed. This is the kind of business he has always conducted and I have seen no inclination on his part (much less ability) to change his patterns. He will break the tie between Warren G. Harding and George W. Bush for worst president in the history of the US, easily being the most hated President in the history of the US even before taking office. In my estimation he stands an equal chance of also being the last president of the United States, if we allow him to take office.

“The President of the United States has the power to affect how our tax dollars are spent, who the federal government does business with, and the integrity of America’s standing in a global economy,” said Clark. “Every recent president in modern history has taken steps to ensure his financial interests do not conflict with the needs of the American people. The American people need to be able to trust that the President’s decisions are based on the best interests of families at home, and not the President’s financial interests.”

Previous American presidents including Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have all used some form of blind trust or placed their assets in an investment vehicle over which they had no control.

Press Release for H.R. 6340

I have faint hope, still, that the Electoral College will refuse to elect Donald J. Trump to the Presidency.  That they will refuse to endorse the OHM and at least kick the can to the House of Representatives, make them embrace their own destruction directly.

If the Republicans had any credibility left last summer they would have refused to nominate Trump. They didn’t, they embraced him. They claimed he did not represent the party, then embraced him anyway. They had their lackey in the FBI interfere in the election by submitting a false letter to congress less than a week before the election, which the OHM then paraded about, pretending that the GOP was finally going to get the butcher of #Benghazi. Lock her up! his mindless supporters chanted. Too late we learned that it was just another fake story, one among hundreds that the Republicans and their nominee’s Russian friends had flooded the internet with.

The Republicans appear to think “any way to power is acceptable” making them well and truly the inheritors of the NSDAP. They will most likely be remembered that way, if there is anyone left to remember after the dust settles.


October 26, 2017 addendum. Obviously Trump holds the office of president. Wishful thinking about alternatives has long gone out the window. Today I got a few notifications in the inbox that brought this article back to mind. One of them was this article headline Who Knew Trump Would Be a Weak President? from an article over at the New Republic. While I didn’t know he’d be weak, the moment he didn’t orchestrate the creation of Mexican concentration camps for the disposal of his purported eleven million illegal people, I was happy to discover he was a weak president. Being deemed and proven weak beats that alternative by several miles.

Nazi Dog Whistle, Stonekettle Station

The OHM wants so badly for us to let him be Hitler. He begs for that kind of power constantly. Daily if not hourly. He derides the free press, excoriates people who protest against him, etcetera, as I’ve mentioned in more recent articles. But this article isn’t about the OHM. This is about the enabler in this codependency tragedy. This article was and is about the party of Lincoln, the party of Eisenhower, and now the party of Trump. The Republican party.

Today I also get a notification that Steve Bannon is hell-bent to turn the GOP, the Republican party, into the de facto party of Trump, an organ that will rubber stamp anything that the OHM whimsically decides to do next. Javier Zarracina over at VOX penned an article titled The Republican purge has only just begun. Robert Reich poses his usual question at the end of the status he linked the article to. For those who haven’t been paying attention, Steve Bannon is the leader of the White Nationalist movement that backed Trump, and was recently ejected from the White House by more sensible members of the Trump administration for his openly racist and xenophobic proposals. That guy, the guy who was too crazy to be kept near the easily confused President Trump, now wants to turn the GOP into the German NSDAP in principle if not in fact.

…conversations with conservative activists, GOP operatives, and people close to Bannon and the White House suggest that the Breitbart executive chair is engaged in a bold, ambitious project that has a relatively clear vision. He doesn’t just want to destroy the old Republican establishment — he wants to build a new one.

To do that, he hopes to unite many factions of the right who have gripes against GOP leadership into a broad coalition. That would include immigration hardliners who fear “amnesty” deals. But it would also include social conservatives and anti-spending activists who feel their priorities are too often ignored or compromised away.

Overall, he wants Republican senators to care far less about what the Chamber of Commerce thinks, and far more about what Breitbart readers think.

The Republican purge has only just begun

There are a lot of people who read Breitbart. A lot. A scary amount of Americans believe the bullshit shoveled there and at FOX news without question. But is that a group large enough to win general elections? That really is the question here, not whether I like what Steve Bannon does to a party that I’ve never had any use for in the first place.

I think that if he wants to turn the GOP into an even less likeable version of the Libertarian inspired Tea Party (Now with More White Nationalism!™) so that the GOP loses seats in districts they gerrymandered to be unwinnable by any other group aside from mainstream GOP representatives, I’m cool with that. He can have the soiled corpse of the GOP to enact whatever disgusting acts he wants on it. Let the fate of the GOP be a lesson to any other group that thinks that power for its own sake is something you can pursue without risking your very soul. From Lincoln to the OHM in 150 years. That’s how fast a party founded on ending an injustice can turn into a party that promotes injustice. A cautionary tale for anyone who cares to tell it or read it.

It now falls to the Democrats to craft a message that will win hearts and minds and deliver the United States from the evil that would be American Fascism under a Trump government designed from the beginning to destroy everything that has been constructed in this country over the last two hundred years. Yes, the future really is that grim.

The Electoral College Explained

If I never read one more report of there being a President-elect Trump, it will be too soon. I’m begging here, please. Please. This is fair warning. I will not be held responsible for blaming the messenger for the message when taking out my frustration on the next person who tells me this is a fact. Even the sitting President of the United States has referred to him as the President-elect, so it is somewhat understandable that reporting outlets and other even less well-informed sources would think that perhaps this is true.

It isn’t true. Yet.

Hand-in-hand with my frustration on that score, the media is full of stories of how the electoral college is not designed to reflect the will of the people perfectly, that the majority of the population should be expected to understand that their candidate lost an election even though they won it. That their candidate would not be the person who wins the votes of the electoral college, the body which elects the President-elect.

These observations are also untrue, and I will explain why both of these are facts, contrary to the numerous sources that report otherwise.

The electoral college has a long and troubled history; in fact, it wasn’t even in the first draft of the Constitution. Originally, congress was to select the president, but this was deemed too prone to intrigue and was seen as crippling the independence of the executive branch, making it reliant on congress. At least two of the original attendees of the convention favored direct popular election of the executive, including the author of the constitution, James Madison. This idea was sacrificed in order to make inclusion of the slave states palatable,

There was one difficulty however of a serious nature attending an immediate choice by the people. The right of suffrage was much more diffusive in the Northern than the Southern States; and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of Negroes. The substitution of electors obviated this difficulty and seemed on the whole to be liable to the fewest objections.

Something the defenders of the current electoral college should take better heed of. The numerous slaves in the Southern states, slaves that the Southern slave owners and state representatives wanted counted as people for the purpose of apportioning representation, would have skewed the college and congress towards the South, which the North objected to. The South wanted slaves counted as people, for the purpose of representation, but not counted as people, for the purpose of profiting off of their slave labor. The impasse over the problem of representation threatened the entire constitutional convention, much like the problem of slavery threatened the possibility American independence.

It was the invention of the three-fifths rule, a rule that counted each slave as three-fifths of a person, that allowed for a compromise on representation, and through that, a compromise on the election of the office of president. Changes have been made along the way to the electoral college but the essence of the college itself remains the same; that essence being a safeguard against factions having undue sway over the selection of the executive for the government.

Not the people but the factions, the parties, were to be guarded against.

The electoral college is inherently set up to reflect the population of the United States as a whole, providing one elector for every seat in the House of Representatives plus one for every Senator. Add in the three electors for D.C. and you have the number of electors in the current electoral college.

However, there is a fly in this ointment.

The representation of the House has been kept artificially low for most of the modern age, it was fixed at 435 in 1911. This has lead to an ever-increasing number of people represented by a single seat in congress, a ridiculous number of people that the framers would never have envisioned as acceptable. The original minimum population per house seat was 30,000; but the current representatives for the House each represent about half a million people, at least, with the higher population districts containing about three-quarters of a million people.

This is important, because this is how you get to the point where a candidate can win by well over a million votes in the popular election, and yet lose the election by electoral count. The electoral college is rigged against the popular vote being reflected in the makeup of the college, because the electors are not properly apportioned to the populations of the various states. For that matter, the House of Representatives no longer serves its function as a representation of the people, because it too is not apportioned correctly even though it was set up specifically to serve this purpose.

This means that there will be a House of Representatives of several thousand people if we change the rules back to what they should be. I do understand the suggestion I’m making, and I think it is a good idea. I’m betting we’ll get a better representation of the cross-section of America if we do this, ending a lot of the talk about disconnected Washington politics in the process. Will it be more difficult to get important work done? I doubt that it can get more difficult than it is already.

This latest travesty of an election is not even the first time this century that a candidate for President received more popular votes and yet lost the election as it is calculated in the college, and still I run across statements from apparently well educated people who insist that these kinds of outcomes are to be expected.

I beg to differ. If the system worked as it was intended, then as a general rule the electors would reflect almost perfectly the will of the people, provided that the will of the people is not being swayed by factions with too great a control over the system.

Factions with too great a control over the system.

It is patently obvious to anyone looking at the election results for 2016 that this election was horribly flawed on many levels. However, the presumptive winner is unquestionably the least fit person ever to be put forward as the next president, erroneously called the president-elect before the electors have even cast their votes (slated to occur December 19th) if ever there was an election where cooler heads should be allowed to prevail, this is it. Thoughtful deliberation might actually be the only thing that can save this country now.

The hope that the electoral college represents something real may seem pretty frail, but I’ll take it. I sincerely hope that it is not the formality that so many stormtrumpers insist that it is.

In any case, anyone who says the electoral college is not intended to reflect the will of the people is lying, because it was the intent of the framers to do just that. It falls to us now to insist that our will be respected, and not the manipulations of the various states and factions who wish to control this country through the selection of our next president.


Well, the votes are in and they say the Birther-in-Chief has earned the title. We won’t know for sure until the ballots are certified on Jan. 6th, but really there is little doubt that the electoral college failed to do its job on the one occasion that its job was crystal clear.

Just read back over the posts on this blog. Authoritarianism vs. Humanism. The Orange Hate-Monkey. The various MAGA posts (more of those to come) including On Presidential Tax Returns. When I penned Hillary for President?  I made the observation,

I will be voting for the Democrat, because the Republican party has apparently gone over to the magical thinkers, and I don’t believe in magic. The entirety of the Republican Party has been dispatched on a fool’s errand by the Tea Party’s co-option. Until they can figure out who they are and what they stand for, I don’t have the time of day for the party as a whole. If they were to nominate someone who accepted science, wasn’t knee-jerk opposed to immigration, accepted that women have a right to medical care including abortion services, if they nominated someone who didn’t espouse belief in Reaganomics, I might have to revise my opinion of them. I don’t see much chance of that since none of the more than 10 potentials vying for the nomination meet this criteria.

Not even in my wildest dreams did I think they would be so stupid as to nominate a lunatic as their candidate. One that pretended to a lunatic, sure, not an actual lunatic. But the OHM, he’s a true believer, a nutcase. If he isn’t, he’s convinced his followers that he is, and they’ll back him even if he does shoot people in the street himself. Which makes him the equal of every tin-pot dictator that ever strutted his hour upon the stage…

But it doesn’t make him eligible to be president.  He isn’t eligible to be president. 

Undiagnosed mental instability aside, he refuses to comply with the constitution’s emoluments clause. Isn’t going to divest himself of his businesses. He has named appointees who will clearly gut every department of the federal government just based on their stated previous desires. Only the military will be preserved; and that will, of course, be enlarged. He’s planning to profit form being president, this swindler of a man, and he isn’t even being coy about it. We cannot allow him to take office. If he takes office, we cannot allow him to do anything unchallenged. The racist gauntlet that the GOP forced Obama to go through for six out of his 8 years has got to pale by comparison, or we will all be branded as racists along with these white supremacists who are riding into power along with the OHM.

This cannot be allowed to stand, but more on that after the holidays.

This addendum is here for one purpose and one purpose only. That purpose is to point out that the Electoral College has failed to do its only job in the one election in history that it could possibly have proved its worth. With this travesty of an election in the rear-view mirror it now becomes painfully obvious that we must amend the constitution to remove the Electoral College, or we have to legislatively render it toothless in every state legislature in the US. Since it won’t do the job intended, can’t serve the purpose intended, it needs to be replaced with a simple majority of the popular vote, or legislation that compels them to vote for the winner of the popular vote. That is the only reasonable answer left to us.

Video from National Popular Vote! National Popular Vote! What It Is – Why It’s Needed

A study released this week demonstrates that the best way to influence your representative is to hire a representative to visit him, or go yourself.

It is worth noting that the findings that paid representatives visiting your congressional representative for you has positive results is based in part on the reports of those same paid representatives. No conflict of interest there, I’m sure.

But what this report does show is exactly what I said in the body of this article about the imposed limitation of 435 members placed on congress by congress itself. This is one of the easiest things that we could fix, and it would fix the electoral college at the same time.  Increase the size of congress, make the representatives more focused on communicating with their much smaller groups of constituents, much more replaceable by those same groups.

A constituent base of 30,000 people means that my specific region of Austin would have their own representative in congress. A larger congress would be impossible to control externally by factional politics. It would lead to the formation of regional parties and a dilution of power in Washington D.C. We’d need to build facilities to house the additional several thousand representatives, which will be a windfall for the states and Washington itself. I don’t see how this works out as bad in any real way.

So rather than paying more money to influence my congressman I propose we pay the congressmen less money and multiply their number by about a magnitude. Require them to listen to us if they want to keep their jobs. As a bonus, the electoral college will increase in size and we won’t see a repeat of this last election again. 

The Corrupting Influence of Faction

Facebook – Robert Reich

The parties organized themselves outside of government as a way to control government to profit themselves. We were never a Democracy, and to the extent the parties have subverted the election process, we are that much less a Republic.

I have never been interested in living in a “dictatorship of the proletariat” no more fond of one dictator a thousand miles away than I am of a thousand dictators a mile a way. Democracy is and should be limited to the vote, the selection process of our representatives.

The parties should only endorse candidates that embody what they see as their core principles. They should only embrace candidates that further the cause of the party. That is their purpose. The problem arises when the only candidates which can appear on the ballot are the candidates from the two parties. When the only candidate which can win belongs to one of the two parties.

This is the situation we find ourselves in now.

I don’t think the GOP should nominate Trump. The fact that he has won primaries has no bearing on his benefit to the party itself. His status as an outsider is detrimental to the party if they embrace him as a nominee, giving him power to set the course of the party for several years to come.

So too the Democrats should not embrace Bernie Sanders if they are not convinced that he would improve the prospects of the party. That doesn’t mean that he shouldn’t be on the ballot. That Trump shouldn’t be on the ballot. It means that the system as it currently exists is broken in ways that most people are only now beginning to understand. What is needed is to break loose from the calcium deposits that have formed around the structures of our government, and shake up the ways that our representatives are selected.

Amazon – the correct image, not the one Secretary Reich used.

If you are dissatisfied that your candidate will not appear on the ballot, I say “it’s about time. Now roll up your sleeves and get to work” because it’s going to take a lot more than one election to fix this mess.

Facebook

The Cost of War vs. The Cost of Peace

I listened to Waking Up #26 – The Logic of Violence today. I was left troubled by the way that Sam Harris seemed to be drawn down the garden path by his guest.

YoutubeWaking Up #26 – The Logic of Violence

This is another episode of a podcast that I’m listening to and wondering “What Would Jim Wright say about this?” I mean, he wouldn’t be critical of the man’s service, that much is sure. He has a rule about that which I agree with. There are a few other points that can be made without going there. The Iraqis asked us to leave, so insisting that we stay just invalidates the premise that we went there on, to free the people. So too the majority faction voted for the government they have, which created the fertile ground that Daesh spread into.

Syria and Russia contributed to the current mess Daesh mess, and too few voices point this out. Shall we go to war with Russia over Syria? Daesh is a world problem, it should not fall to the US to fix it, or should it? Are we the world’s policeman now, is that our job?

Allusions to the paving stones in the road to hell, or to what ‘big brother is watching’ means in a twenty-first century war aside, I have to really wonder at intelligent people who claim that war ended the ideas of fascism while the Republican front-runner openly voices fascist proposals and is applauded for it. Fascism is clearly alive and well here in the US.

We having an identity crisis right now. Perhaps we should figure out who we are before we try to tell others who they should be.

Facebook musings duplicated on the blog at the time. Linking for reasons of personal sanity. 

The State of the Union Requires No Response

As I have confessed previously, I watch the State of the Union (SOTU) address pretty much every year as a matter of course. Some years I grit my teeth and bear it, some years I have to watch it with an accompanying joke track (the only thing I tolerate an MST3K treatment for is politics) since Barack Obama has been President, I’ve pretty much sat down to watch with something akin to interest if not utter fascination.

The State of the Union address is provided for in the Constitution, Article 2, Section 3;

“He shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient”

George Washington and John Adams delivered the address in person. Jefferson, who hated the pomp that surrounded much of the Presidency, declined to give the address in person and had it sent to Congress to be read by the clerk. Every President followed Jefferson’s example until the time of Woodrow Wilson. Carter was the most recent President to decline to address congress in person.

I’m not sure which is more disdainful of the legislature, to have the President speak to them directly or to have his message read to Congress by the clerk. But I can say with pretty firm conviction that the worst and most presumptuous idea ever hatched in American politics is the response to the State of the Union crafted by the opposition party and read by some sacrificial lamb that they’ve convinced to stand up and embarrass themselves before the nation.

The President speaks for the people when he delivers his message; that is the point of it. Here is this year’s State of the Union address;

It has been patently obvious to this concerned voter, pretty much since I started viewing and reading these speeches, that the majority of the content was pretty uncontroversial. At least, uncontroversial at the time. What history teaches is another thing entirely. And yet, every single time that a speech is delivered these days, someone is tapped from the opposition party to make pretense that the content of the President’s address is incorrect in some real fashion.

In the years since 2008, this tendency to pose in mock outrage before the camera has fractured, though.  Not content to offer just one critique, for the last few years the various factions of the opposition have felt that they needed to voice their particular flavor of outrage lest their self-importance be forgotten.

This year was no different. In fact, the clamor for attention after the SOTU was delivered has been comic in proportion. From what I can gather, virtually every Republican member of the House of Representatives felt they had to personally put the President in his place.  Here is the video posted by the bloviating windbag that pretends to represent my section of Austin;

I say bloviating because, like all of the statements in opposition, this one is made up largely of nothing but air. They could have showed up and simply yelled fear! fear! fear! repeatedly for all the facts contained in the (mercifully) short responses.

I am regularly spammed by this… person (and both the Senators for my state) Having unwittingly corresponded with his office, I am now permanently on his spam list, as if I have any interest in anything these Republicans might say.

Which leads me back to the adjective, pretends. Pretends to Represent. This is demonstrable. Austin is overwhelmingly liberal. Not going to change at any point that is discernible to residents within Austin.  They were dope smoking, nude sunbathing hippies long before I got here, and the weed has not gotten less potent with time.  Willie makes sure of that.

The leadership of this state is elected by the rest of Texas which is angry and conservative. (medical marijuana should help with that. Talk to your doctor!) They have taken it upon themselves to attempt to remove the only liberal Representative from Texas by breaking the only liberal areas IN Texas into as many districts as they can reasonably separate them into.  So Austin doesn’t have one or two districts, which would be liberal.  No, Austin is split into no less than 5 different districts, with my district being a narrow strip through the center of Austin that then spreads out to cover 9 additional COUNTIES in Texas so as to dilute the Democratic vote in central Austin and place it in the hands of this… person.

It is also worth noting that the Republicans who have controlled this state since the dear departed Ann Richards was unseated by the then owner of the Texas Rangers, George W. Bush (you’ve probably heard of him) have failed at their dream of removing all traces of the stain of liberalism from their great state because they not only have one liberal member to caucus with, they now have two.

Back to the subject at hand.  This pretender who poses as my Representative (not that I liked the Democrat he replaced. That is another story) helpfully emailed me the text of his response, a further mercy that saves me from having to endure the sound of his voice.  Here is a snippet;

It’s been seven years since President Barack Obama took office. In that time, the United States has accumulated the largest national debt in its history, the fewest number of adults are working since Jimmy Carter’s presidency and the executive branch has expanded its power immensely – the president has chosen which laws to enforce and created new ones without Congress’ approval.  

Just the first paragraph. I can’t stomach the rest of the twisted realities presented. The first paragraph is enough anyway, because it shows the agenda of the response, of all the responses. It is the same theme I pointed out last year, the Republicans are in it for the power alone. The welfare of the general populace be damned, we have a budget to manage! Never mind that the sitting President has presided over the least spending of any President since Eisenhower, or that he has been the deportation President and the anti-drug President and the terrorist-fighting President to a tune that dwarfs the last two holders of that office, that is not good enough. Truthfully nothing would be good enough.

Democrats Organizing for America

Obama came into office with an olive branch, and the Republicans batted it away.  He adopted their policies and positions, and they abandoned them for even more radical conservative positions, taking stances on subjects like healthcare that are frankly hard to fathom. So the poor should be left to die without care? Am I understanding you correctly? We should send the children who surrendered to our border guards voluntarily, back to the gang-run South American states they fled from, so that they can be forced to join gangs or become their sex slaves?  Seriously, what is it conservatives expect to be done about these very real problems that they simply try to wish away?

Last night, Obama once again offered an olive branch to the Republicans. He went so far as to praise the new Speaker of the House, even though his work has been limited to actually doing the job that the previous Speaker simply couldn’t cope with. The Republican response? To once again bat the offer of cooperation away.  Cooperation means progress, and progress means hope. Give the people hope and they might actually vote without fear in the next election. Republican victory is grounded on a fearful voting public.

The most promising part of the State of the Union address?  Obama’s statement that he intends to campaign to fix the gerrymandered districts that plague the House of Representatives in many other states aside from my own. I welcome his help in getting sensible, non-partisan rules for redistricting put into place.  It is about time someone took this issue seriously. maybe then Austin will have a real Representative in Washington. Hope springs eternal.

Featured image is from nbcnews.com

Paris in Perspective

As the Charlie Hebdo artist said after the recent attacks in Paris, #ParisIsAboutLife. I tried to broach a tangent to this subject when I wrote the recent piece, Greece in Perspective. I sometimes wonder if I’m not too subtle in my writing.  Other times I know I am, because the message never seems to get across.

Joann Sfar on Instagram
h/t to Independant

Jim Wright wrote a particularly moving piece today that reminded me of the more subtle point I was trying to make with that other blog entry.  Titled The Price of Civilization he goes into precisely why I ended the Greek piece with a reference to war and the Marshall Plan.

I’ve always been struck by the apparent contradiction that the most humane policy ever adopted by the United States was crafted by a General who oversaw so much bloodshed.  But that was the wisdom of Truman and Marshall, overlooked by many these days.

Which is too bad.  Because Jim got it right when he said;

Terrorism, the kind we face today? It comes from the fact that we, us, we keep blowing up civilization and leaving nothing but death and ruin in our wake. Terrorists are like cockroaches, they thrive on chaos and destruction and we’re damned good at creating that chaos. 

Those of us on the liberal side of the aisle like to point at Bush II for creating the problem of Daesh by removing Saddam Hussein from power (as his father predicted would happen during the first Gulf War) but truthfully it is the American people who are to blame. Our own imperial nature which we coyly disguise and defend as capitalism.

We’re the ones who insisted that we wanted out of Iraq as soon as we could get out, instead of actually spending the additional decades it was going to take to make the region into a self-sustaining conglomeration of disparate elements.  The kind of time that was spent helping to rebuild Europe after the war. A Europe that was already embracing self-determination and democracy.

Maybe we’re just blind to it, we inhabitants of the most egalitarian association of completely disparate influences, commonly referred to as the US.  Because, no matter what detractors might say, no where on Earth do you have the mixture of varying cultures like those present in the current US social structure (maybe Oz. Maybe) all of them more or less harmoniously governed as a single nation.  We take the bloodless transfers of power that occur here like clockwork as something everyone experiences, when the truth is that nowhere is there anything like the US when it comes to government, good and bad.

Listening to the Polish election celebrations, where a new isolationist government has been elected, it becomes apparent just how insulated most other places in the world are when it comes to exposure to other cultures.

Even in the conservative bastion of Texas all I have to do is travel to a different part of Austin to experience a whiff of almost any culture you can name. Asian cultures. African cultures. Native American cultures. These flavors are spread all over the nation in pockets. When I lived in Garden City several hundred Vietnamese refugees were dropped just outside of town in a little makeshift neighborhood constructed hastily to accommodate them. There was a lot of grumbling about this, but little violence. Why would there be? It’s a free country, isn’t it? Most of them moved away before too long, apparently to places like Austin where I live now, but we folded them into our society with hardly a hiccup, compared to the experiences of previous generations.  That is what America really is good at.

It is a shame that more people don’t understand this. Even the average American doesn’t get it.  As violent as we are, the thought of seizing control of the levers of government with force occurs to almost none of the citizenry.  This is because there is no need to use violence.  Those interested in getting involved in government do so; the doors are open, come on in and roll up your sleeves. If you are among the conspiracy-minded who doubt this is true, find your local precinct meeting place and show up for a meeting.  You might be surprised.

Yet the government we set up in Iraq was seized by the majority religious faction in the first election held there, and they proceeded to exert their authority over the other minorities in ways that lead directly to the creation of Daesh-held areas of the country in response. We allowed this to happen in a country we had effective control over. What did we do? We left, not that we really had much choice.  But we failed to impart the most important bit of knowledge that all of us should have gathered from our experiences in this free country before we left there. That is to our shame and the world’s detriment.

Freedom doesn’t mean you get to have your way. Freedom means you get to present your arguments. You get to present your arguments without fear of being killed for expressing them. If you are very persuasive, you might actually get to see your arguments accepted by others.

Pointing a weapon at someone will get you compliance, but it will ultimately lead to betrayal and violence, because coercion has a way of backfiring. That is why our military adventurism fails us as a nation. The civilizations we invade at the point of a gun just see the gun. They certainly don’t see the America that the average American actually experiences. The America where guns are frequently a topic of discussion, but almost never used anymore. We all know that when someone points a gun at you, you do what they say. But we also know that the tables will turn, that the aggressor will one day be the victim. Because that is the way of all things human.

So it will be with the violence in Paris that we all witnessed yesterday. The perpetrators of violence will either die violently or be subjected to French justice, a good bit more genteel than American justice. But Paris will go on just as before. Cities are for the living.

In the end, that may be the best response to terrorists everywhere.  The best response to those people who encourage us to do violence out of fear. Create a civilization, a society, that can withstand their attempts to destroy it with fear.  To slowly smother those who believe that there are things worth dying for with the millions more of us who know that there are many things worth living for. To go on living as if these fear-mongers never existed in the first place.

To pay the costs of establishing a civilization that can withstand the trials of living.  Like Marshall did after seeing so many good men die. You either go on living or get busy with dying.  There aren’t any other choices.