Why Americans Don’t Vote

2007/09/27

There are both operational and existential reasons why people don’t vote. There is a problem with having elections on Tuesdays. In this country in order to vote on a weekday one must forgo work, using time off with and sometimes without pay. One must struggle through traffic to the polling place and then back, and in some cases negotiate very long lines very poorly managed at the polling places to accomplish voting. Management of polling places and vote counting are local affairs and sometimes notoriously corrupt and incompetent. Finally, and essentially, many people are not convinced voting makes a difference. Though the names of office holders may change, the system remains the same. The minuscule differences between the two major parties generate hysterical rhetoric on the part of die-hard partisans giving the appearance of choice, but denying actual change. When voting is inconvenient, causes a financial loss, and results in only counterfeit change, it will be hard to mobilize the people over time.

The electoral college which was a useful tool initially is now problematic. The disconnects within and between the branches of the federal government, the 50 states and numerous localities make for a crazy quilt of jurisdictions and interests, that result in no straight line between conception of a policy and execution of that policy. I propose that the government and Constitution need to be updated with the knowledge, experience, and technology we have today.
There should be a national electoral authority, a professional non-partisan body designed to bring free and fair voting to all people on a national holiday. Election of legislators should be at large by state, these same members should be both the state and federal legislators in unicameral legislatures. The number of legislators should greatly expanded, at a guess the current number of legislators plus lobbyists plus staffers is a good start. The state and national executive branches should be selected by these bodies and answerable to them. Under these circumstances voting becomes important and available.

Mandatory voting is not a change that I would advocate if that alone is the proposed remedy to apathetic voters. The countries mentioned that have it Australia and New Zealand, have parliamentary systems, allowing for a more directly observable, if imperfect, connection between voting and national policy. I suggest the way to get Americans to vote is make voting important in the conduct of government, and to put all voters on an equal footing, one man one vote on a national holiday.

We need a new government.

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Take the Test!

2007/09/15

Are you authoritarian?

http://www.anesi.com/fscale.htm


Thoughtful Quote

2007/09/14

” Six years ago, immediately after the 9/11 attacks, would we have imagined that an open-ended anti-insurgent presence in a country that didn’t attack us would be the proper response?”
—James Fallows


Bush Lacks Empathy and Common Sense

2007/09/06

In answer to a friend’s question, “why would Bush send in troops knowing some would die or be maimed,” I’d say that primarily, Bush lacks empathy. I note that he has rarely visited the troops who are wounded and rarely went to visit a devastated family and therefore has shielded himself from the ugly consequences of his decisions. A few scripted p.r. events don’t have any weight. Also he seems to accept the idea that “Ends justify the means” theory, or that we are God’s chosen and are good by a priori definition. In the Western tradition one has no guilt for crimes committed while in a crusade, in the Eastern tradition one still has guilt for crimes committed and would have to do penance and seek forgiveness even if, your cause was just. I note that the Christian Crusaders believed the first. I hope that he doesn’t go so far as to believe that soldiers in “Christ’s” Army ascend unto heaven, and then we are in even bigger trouble.

Additionally I would say he lacks the knowledge and schema, and critical thinking skills. He lacks knowledge and schema in the sense that, his pattern seems to be to learn what he is required to learn, and no more. He is self admittedly incurious by nature, so he doesn’t read or travel, or challenge any of his assumptions and principles. By thus keeping himself to narrow intellectual and experiential limits, he lacks the means to measure or weigh the importance or accuracy of his decisions or the value of advice given to him. Since he cannot weigh or measure decisions, policy, or what have you against each other or against an objective measure, he chooses to be rigid once a decision is made. He surrounds himself with people he likes and that “like” translates for him, into credibility. He makes decisions within the framework of information provided him by associates and prejudices. And rigidity is the only way to prevent him from being manipulated by every competing interest he has to contend with and gives him the illusion of control.

I am very sorry to say that extended military occupations against a liberation insurgency never work. The one and only modern success typically cited, the Brits in Malaysia in the 50’s, is fallacious. That is not to say conquest and annexation don’t work, because they do: but then they are different things. In invading Iraq without context I suspect we have fatally undermined the idea of and defined the historical time limit of the Nation-State system.

We need a new government.


Remember the Soviet Union?

2007/09/06

Khrushchev tried to reform the system and was overthrown for his efforts in a party coup by those vested interests that would have had the most to lose. Gorbachev must have been very aware that a party coup was possible when he began his tepid reform efforts. His reforms served mainly to weaken the state apparatus, which in turn to midwife the sudden collapse of authority. The coup did come in fact; fortunately for us it was amateurish and far too late: it is now almost forgotten. The difference lay in that during the 30ish years between Khrushchev and Gorbachev, the people lost all hope and the vested interests had become complacent and effete.

Brezhnev was a party hack and pleasure seeker who was largely a caretaker and weak leader during his Chairmanship; empire building within the Soviet system ran amok during his tenure. Resources were looted and sold to the West for cash, specifically U.S. Dollars. The USSR didn’t make any product Westerners wanted, but they did have large amounts of Oil, Gas, Gold, Gems, rare metals etc. They even built a natural gas pipeline to Western Europe at their expense to sell cheap gas. So, the USSR became an exporter of raw materials and an importer of finished goods and food. By an economic definition they would almost be a colony. The finished goods went either to the well connected or the military and in both cases created a junkie like dependence. The productive effort they could make went into largely into military equipment, which if unused, is wasteful and counterproductive.

In 1980, the Soviets put about 40% of GNP toward their military, still fully mobilized 35 years after the defeat of Nazi Germany. In 1980 we put about 3.4% of our GNP toward our military, our NATO allies somewhat less. I am very skeptical that the increase under Reagan from 3.4% to 3.8% of our economy devoted to our military buried the USSR. More likely is a multi part proposition. The USSR was already exceeding the long term carrying capacity of its economy for the effort devoted toward the military: therefore they either had to reduce the military burden or expand the base upon which the burden rested, i.e. conquer and annex Western Europe. The problem with reducing the burden was that while that would be good for the nation, it would be bad for Soviet vested interests. The problem with conquering Western Europe is that a/ Western Europe could be wrecked in the process, which is a severe problem due to their dependence on Western finished goods and food, and b/ no U.S. Government would let that happen without a fight and c/ the fear that the Eastern bloc satellite countries or non Slavic parts of the USSR revolt, might rebel or simply tie down troops. The extended problem then with fighting is that the USSR could not add any additional military effort beyond the current efforts, yet were the USA to devote 40% of GNP or the roughly 28% of GNP we used during WW2 we could expand our forces anywhere from 7 to 11 times their current size. So the absolute maximum potential of the U.S. economy directed toward the military was far too great to risk unless the Soviet leadership were desperate. Whether or not another American infantry brigade or missile battery was sent to, or taken from, the European Theatre during that era had only miniscule significance. The Soviet leadership never found a viable strategy for victory, acted in accordance with the belief that the West would initiate conflict, and would not make any hard decisions: then dithered until finally, it was out of their hands.


The Futility of Interventionism

2007/09/06

I would contend that Western efforts to design a Western style Democratic system for another society are doomed: we cannot design their government, law or social structure; we can only prolong the agony of their own reordering of their society.

We had the power, have the power to smash any organized state, but we cannot build a new one for anyone. The power to kill is not the power to give life.

A country like Afghanistan requires either a Monarchial or Authoritarian (not specifically Totalitarian) government. Those type governments are not bound by an equalitarian view of law and custom. Equalitarianism is anathema when differences in culture are clear. And too the ethnicities overlap. Should the idea of Democracy take hold, and it may have, there will be a break up and ethnic cleansing to define new borders.


Congress v. Executive: Winner Declared

2007/09/06

For example the military on one hand vis-à-vis the Executive Branch Pentagon and the interlocking corporate entities that benefit so much from its policies. The military in the future may inherit executive power should the executive branch succeed in first pulling gaining all power and then fail from systemic corruption and incompetence. The military itself thought to be largely free from both at least these days, up to the level of Lt. Colonel. Above that rank, politics begins to intrude on promotion.

The Congress once could audit accounts of federal departments. They would pass budgets individually for each department of the Federal government and stipulate the sub account for each spending category. A shortfall would be made good by a special appropriation. Now Congress votes on one omnibus budget bill. It is unreadable and hard to decipher. The Executive Branch has successfully asserted their ‘right’ to move money between sub accounts and have control of the audit process. When in 1996 Congress tried to broadly withhold funds, they failed completely. Now congress has no access to executive branch routine doings. The stupid f*ck in the White House has through his incompetence and lack of grace shown us the unconstitutional nature of power now accrued to the executive branch. Congress is window dressing, giving the appearance of representation.

We need a new government.