The Supreme Court and Texas redistricting.

2006/06/30

Well the Supreme Court has done it again, made a mess of a simple question. They have neither resolved the issue in a way that ends this dispute with finality, nor given consistent and coherent guidelines. In fact we will see more of this funny business across the country from now on. For forty years the court has been screwing around with redistricting. Once upon a time, the Supreme Court stipulated that compactness and communities of interest were critical guidelines in drawing districts.

The districts drawn in Texas were thorough violations of principles of compactness and community’s of interest. Gerrymandering is an old tradition, and was given new life by the the Supreme Court when it invalidated numerous districts in the early sixties. In Texas in 2003, gerrymandering has reached it logical conclusion, through a logical progression. In Texas, the GOP leadership acting under nearly incomprehensible rules and in accordance with the incentives of greater party power and money interests, made no pretense of fair play, and gave no thought to the needs of the state or country, only the party. We shouldn’t be surprised when crooks respond to an incentive, but we should consider eliminating the incentive.

The Supreme Court’s assumed power to review Constitutionality is not in the Constitution and seems in practice to fail miserably. Whether the issue is redistricting, slavery, voting rights, property rights, and of course abortion, the Supreme Court is unable to settle these issues. The court arrives at decisions, but they are rarely accepted as the final word on policy issues. The court merely randomizes the process of achieving an outcome. Each time the court interferes, one can never be sure of the outcome, though one can be sure there will be additional complications.

The justices represent no voters and therefore cannot settle policy questions. They are surely not Tribunes of the people. The Taney court broadened the scope of slavery. Far from ending that debate, the Republican party was formed to destroy slavery. The Warren court made abortion theoretically, legally available in all states. Their decision ignited an ongoing controversy that created and fueled the Religious Right political movement in America. And in practical terms abortion is highly restricted in availability, perhaps more restricted than if left to the states individually to have decided. Far from settling issues, the court fans the outrage of those who fail in the court. The have no power of persuasion or coercion.

Both the elites of the Right and the Left appeal to the court when they can’t or won’t bother to persuade enough voters to their view. They view the court as a quick fix that avoids the messy business of making a good case for their view and persuading the voters over time. The true believers storm the court and we all live with the wreckage.

The Supreme court is the eight-ball of American politics, it is problematic and should be eliminated. What we need is a new government.

Advertisements

The Gang that couldn’t Shoot Straight Aims for Iran.

2006/06/24

Since the Iranian leadership states that Iran doesn’t want nuclear weapons, and stipulated arguable reasons for pursuing peaceful nuclear energy, shouldn’t we have proof that they are pursuing nuclear energy before we make threats? There is a much hysteria and situational rhetoric around this, and very little fact. Could the same government that was wrong about Iraq’s NBC weapons programs be wrong about Iran? Yes. Can anyone point to actual proof that Iran has a nuclear weapon program? No.

Nuclear proliferation is already occurring, but it is not Iran, it is Pakistan that is the proliferate. A.Q. Khan, with the assistance of the Pakistani Intelligence community has widely disseminated nuclear know how. Why does Pakistan get a by on that? Pakistan has been and still is harboring anti western terrorists and Taliban. Why is this all ignored? Whose purpose is being served? Certainly not the American people.

I don’t like the Iranian government. The leadership are gangsters, they’re looting the country, they’re oppressing their own people, yet that isn’t a threat to the U.S.. The Iranian regime has changed its tactics since its inauspicious beginnings. No terrorism has been directed by Iran toward the U.S. in around 17 years. The Iranian people held a candle light vigil for the 911 terrorist attacks. The Iranian government tried to open dialogue with the U.S. in 2003 A.D.. Our American government has failed to respond. We remember their wrongs and brush aside our own. Diplomatic exchange doesn’t require either side to like the other, it is simply real world recognition of who runs what.

So Iranians still march in the streets eh. And American TV loudmouths still incite fear eh. How about everybody grow up. We should acknowledge our history as they should acknowledge their own. I’d like the Iranian government to say the hostage taking in ’79 was wrong. By the same standard we could acknowledge that overthrowing the democratically elected government of Iran in ’52 was tragic. Americans should at least do some opposition research, what makes these guys tick. I’ll get it started: they want money and power. Iran has a crappy economy, the main export is oil. No westerner is clamoring for Iranian cars, radio, clothes or anything. What else have they got to sell but oil? Also the oil will run out one day. So, it makes sense to buy nuclear energy production plant while you can and maximize cash sales of oil. On the power side, the Iranian leadership is caught between their greed and their brittle hold on power. A large part of the population wants this government gone. Foreign aggression would completely upset their apple cart, they would possibility lose control of the country in an aggressive war. Patriotic war is another story. We Americans should know that when trouble comes people will rally to the colors of their people. My family remembers. And as we all should know by now, the notion of the short victorious war is a fatal siren song.

We Americans could help ourselves by doing a few simple things. Educate ourselves in our history and the history and culture of those we wish to engage. Talk, but listen as well. Have goals of national interest and avoid double talk. Remember that we are top of the heap right now, the only way to upset that, quickly, is through the exigencies of war. We have all the good cards, which is we have military force that can smash Iran, but not occupy it. We are also right on their border. For my part if Iran had troops in Mexico and carriers of the coast I’d be mad. Do you think they could be too?


Operation Barbarossa

2006/06/23

Yesterday, June 22nd was the 65th anniversary of Operation Barbarossa: Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union. Ultimately the struggle with the Soviet Union destroyed the German Wehrmacht and Nazi Germany. Arguably the war was lost for Hitler by 30 SEP 41: the staggering losses in the Infantry branch were never made good and the carnage in the Panzerwaffe limited future operations drastically. Then to raise bad judgment to a new level Hitler gratuitously declared war on the U.S. in December.

Hitler ignored the empirical evidence of looming catastrophe, and thank god for that. He surrounded himself with sycophants and called contradiction treason. He thought this latest reckless venture could still be won, if only by a strength of will. But will is an neutral thing, it can allow for either great feats or utter failure. What will doesn’t do is change any facts.

Hitler was concerned with the home front, in his opinion the German home front cracked in 1918, causing Germany to lose the Great War. The facts in evidence do not support that. The German Army in both wars was defeated. Wilhelmine Germany had the good sense to surrender after their army was irredeemably defeated but before incipient revolution got out of hand at home. Hitler’s Germany, through propaganda, terror, patriotism, bribery and complicity got a home front that never wavered till the end.

Hitler’s will and the solidity of the German home front in WW2 led that country to the greatest defeat of a first world country in modern times. The defeat was utter, without mitigation and most importantly undeniable. Thus was made a fertile field for reconstruction.

I’m proud America helped the U.K. and U.S.S.R. rid the world of Hitler and his brand of Totalitarian Capitalism. The outcome wasn’t ideal, but it beat the heck out of the alternative. The Soviet Bloc heads had the good sense to only poach around the edges of the Western Alliance, but avoid world war.

Fortunately for America, the Soviet leadership believed too long in their preposterous ideology. I thank the Russian people for beating the crap out of Hitler: glad we could help. And thank you for quietly forgoing empire at long last. Too bad we have botched the great opportunity that provided.


God isn’t Worth a Damn.

2006/06/23

God isn’t worth a damn. The Religious Right, in this country and abroad have created a
demented version of God, who wouldn’t be worth worshiping if true. The idea that a god who created the entire universe needs anyone’s help or approval is absurd. The idea that a mortal human could comprehend the vast depths of a god who could create the universe is fantastic.

The Religious Right in America seem unacquainted with the teachings of Christ. The Religious Right here, like elsewhere, are more interested in political and economic control than Christ’s teachings. The Religious Right are at the least Manichean heretics and blasphemers. They read the Bible they say, they interpret it literally they say, but they simply pick what suits and then interpret it narrowly and rigidly. In fact they do the opposite of what Christ taught as routine. When I think of Christ I think of a man who would stop to aid a homeless wretch lying on the sidewalk or feed a hungry child. When I think of a Religious Rightist, I think of a person who would step over a homeless man, pass by a hungry child, hop into his Lexus to rush to a bible meeting where they tell him he’s just great.

The people who crave judgmental certitude created a small, vindictive and magical god who would do their bidding. Born in the U.S.A lately… you’re in luck God chose you! Unlike all the previous people who thought God chose them because of the fortunate time and place of their birth, this time it’s for real. The arrogance and self deception required to think ones group alone understands God are stunning. Then to take action based on that mania, to raise the Holy Banner and smite those who disagree and blame God is madness.

It should be no surprise that people who believe they have exclusive knowledge of and sanction by God are killers. The terrorism of this day and age come from Religious Right monotheists of the Abrahamic tradition, like Tim McVeigh, Osama and Menachem Begin. There is no war on terror, there isn’t a clash of civilizations, there is just the ongoing saga of bloodshed that is the essence of monotheistic true believers. God may or may not exist. But the god described by the Religious Right isn’t worth the candle, and not a damn bit good.


What’s the Matter with American Politics?

2006/06/20

The notion of Left and Right in American politics is worse than meaningless; it is misleading disinformation that makes simple understanding of our world yet more difficult. The difference between Left and Right is simply the conglomeration of special interests that they represent. Contrary to conventional wisdom, competing special interests do not lead to democratic outcomes; they lead to elitism, corruption and widespread disenfranchisement.

The American Left and Right are in opposition on the issue of Gay marriage or prayer in school and other abstract causes, which cannot be resolved through law. They are however, in agreement to leave the system at large unchanged and to never raise any issues of first principles. They are simply teams, forever swapping places: one The Washington Generals, the other The Globetrotters.

The rhetoric around the cause of the moment is exclusively moralizing in tone, neither side appeals to any empirical evidence. Arguments are made in a context of their received wisdom, and derived from differing sets of beliefs that are each arbitrary and irrational.

Moralizing is often confused with ethical consideration. Ethical consideration would require thoughtful analysis and empirical evidence; moralizing requires only belief. Therefore ethics and morality are ideas in opposition. We have two competing factions of belief in this country, neither grounded in the real, empirical world.

The Left supports Gay marriage, and in order to do so they must first disregard the long standing meaning of the word marriage in our culture. One has to ignore the Orwellian implications of the casual redefinition of long accepted word meanings. Simply put, if the meaning of words is not consistent and generally accepted, then communication certainly, and even thought become difficult or impossible. Though often on the right side of change, social liberals have time and again failed to deliver the goods to all people. Instead the Left tends to seize benefits for some, misunderstanding the nature and meaning of progress. The moralizing figures most loudly supporting Gay marriage come from a long line of divisive opportunists who supported in turn: involuntary eugenics, grand government programs without subsequent review for effect, international double standard, world changing ideas substantiated by nothing but hope, and social engineering.

The Right opposes Gay marriage from a situational and narrow interpretation of religious mythology. That is to stop all thought, slaughter free will, and create heretics. Further, it is likely to become yet another in a long series of losses for social conservatives who seem to be consistently on the wrong side of change. The moralizing figures most loudly opposed to Gay marriage come from a long line of divisive bigots who supported in no particular order: Indian genocide, slavery, segregation, no enfranchisement of women, capricious and strange dress codes, an international double standard, religious power and witch burning.

Neither the Left nor Right ever seems to check their premises, or seek empirical evidence to support their view. Marriage is much ballyhooed by some as the glue and cure all for society. Where is the actual evidence for that? Marriage in America is a mess, but crime is down. Marriage is much ballyhooed by some for its presumed legal and economic benefits. Adults, children and the courts are endlessly at odds over the distribution of authority and property at the dissolution of a marriage. Why would we want to expand the scope and magnitude of all that?

A good marriage is probably the result of a good relationship; a bad marriage and divorce probably come from a failed relationship: marriage or divorce are the effect not the cause. The quality and duration of marriages is probably a trailing indicator of stability, not a cause. Easy to enter and messy to leave, and still treating children as property, civil marriage is an anachronism. It is probably long past time to leave marriage solely as a religious ceremony, with no legal consequences, and to require and allow any adults to enter voluntary civil union contracts.

The Right’s consistent opposition to any social progress across the board causes them to lose time and again, preparing the way for future losses. Would we now be fighting about Gay marriage if the Right hadn’t fought for elitist division and lost, in the matter of race and gender? They should support traditional customs as they make sense and allow sensible progress. We have the ridiculous example of often married, philandering politicians trying to protect ‘marriage’ through legislation: all they had to do was remain faithful and married and set a good example. They belittle their own beliefs and fail to rectify their own sins, by harping on the perceived moral failings of others.

The Left’s consistent advocacy of underhanded and deceitful methods to gain advantage for a special interest of theirs in the name of the greater good is the reason why they are out of power and without widespread credibility. It is why even their victories taste like ashes in the mouth. Would abortion still be such a political football if the Left hadn’t ‘won’ in a manner that seems like cheating to some? It is why if they return to power, it will be due to the self destruction of the Right alone that will be the cause. They should broadly push for social progress for all people; not just the increasingly affluent; then they would gain victories with enduring meaning.

As we have seen with race and gender, once victory is achieved, the special interests’ beneficiaries’ harbor no loyalty to their champion: progress. Things like education, employment, and healthcare are not available to all people, and are not even being discussed. Newly elevated and money oriented, the beneficiaries philosophically move Right, satisfied now with the new status quo and only concerned to lower their taxes: the hindmost be damned.

How did we come to such a wretched pass, where so much effort is devoted to the special interests of so few? Though difficult to hear, our people are ignorant and misled, and our government undemocratic and corrupt. The so called separation of powers is better described as a conflict of institutions and a diffusion of responsibility. Our electoral system is corrupt and not motivated to reform itself. The law facilitates the organization of Capital, opposes the organization of Labor and harnesses Government in service of Capital. The dynamic balance between Capital, Government and Labor is entirely skewed toward Capital, yet Capital is still fearful of losing its transitory overreaching status. Capital is daily more irresponsible and less loyal, and America becomes more and more like a banana republic.

The Left and the Right have marketed the American people into believing that they two are the only political options. Well, they’re not. The received wisdom is that we cannot make fundamental changes. That’s simply a self fulfilling prophecy. We need to do more than simply change labels on the doors of government offices if we expect real change.

America has been betrayed. America needs a new government.