Category: Politics


Earlier I had written a blog titled “The Fall of the American Republic“, which had also been published on my own blog.

This is really just a response to a comment in in that post, but it ended up being long enough (me? long winded? never) that I thought it might be a good regular post. As such, there may be a couple references that allude to people or topics that seem a little random.

For context, I was more or less told that I think the people are stupid, and that I think we should have an Plutocratic oligarchy. My response:

 

 

 

I never said that the masses were slobbering fools who must be led by those who are better, and the reason why I didn’t is because I don’t believe so.

What I said was that we need to find the best amongst us to serve as our leaders, and that those leaders must rise above the desire to do whatever the people want simply because that’s what’s popular at the time.

Such an idea isn’t new, and it was one shared by many of the founders and framers of our nation and the Constitution.

The reason why originally only Representatives were selected by popular vote, with the Senate and President being picked vicariously through several layers of democratic process, was to try to insulate policy and our laws from fickle desires of the majority, and to try to ensure that those at the top were the best we had to offer.

Whether that worked out as intended then is as questionable as whether what remains of those systems works for that purpose now, but the reason for them remains.

As for “career politicians”, that’s a nice buzzword, but that’s all it is. Except at the very smallest of localities (and to a limited degree, the State), politics is a full time job because the business of running a community has full time needs that require attention.

Whether we are talking about the farmers who traveled for weeks to get to the capitol in the 1700′s or the Governor of a State in 2011, political office almost always requires a full time (or at least majority time) commitment. Part time politicians isn’t practical, nor has it ever existed at the levels I was addressing.

But I suspect that wasn’t what you were talking about, rather I would suspect you meant those who spend years in various offices and make it a “career”. Quite simply, raging against such is stupid.

I’m guessing that you’re one of the Hill’s associated with the Utah gun loving group, so I’ll try to draw a comparison: Suppose you opened a gun store and wanted to hire a gunsmith (you may be one yourself, but for the sake of argument, let’s assume you needed to hire someone else). Would you rather hire a master craftsman, with years working on various types of weapons, or someone who is eager and energetic but knows little beyond what they read in magazines and on the internet? My bet would be that you would take the one with tears of training and hands on experience.

Running a city, county, state, or nation isn’t easy, and balancing the many issues while at the same time dealing with other politicians involves just as much, and perhaps more, skill and attention as running any company. That’s why a prime criticism of Pres. Obama during the election was his lack of experience in administration, whether in the public or private sector.

Now, I’m not saying that just because someone is in office means they are smart, wise, or even particularly good at what they do. Sadly, many aren’t, and until we as a people require better out of our leaders than what we currently do, that won’t change.

Our founders and framers tried to build a system, full of checks and balances, not just between the levels and powers of government, but between the government and the people. They didn’t trust the people or government to make the best decisions, and so they built a system where the people check the government through collective wisdom manifested through democratic process, and where the leaders check popular but bad ideas through republicanism.

It is a return to that system, a system which I believe has been weakened over the last 100 years through various progressive (crap, getting closer to Glenn Beck than I like again) democratic reforms. These reforms didn’t make politics, and politicians, any more reflective of the good ideas and lasting values of the wisdom of the people, but rather made them more reflective of the hot button election cycle issues and arguments.

This, I feel, is a bad thing. Thus, the point of this article and my feelings on the matter, is that we would be best served by a system more similar to the one we had for our first 120 some-odd years of nationhood.

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Here’s what I think will happen ( you might not want to place any money on me 😉 ):

I think that the Republicans will do pretty well (this upcoming election), possibly enough to take the House, but even if not they’ll have enough to make it much more difficult for the Democrats to get anything done.  Of the seats they gain, it’ll be split between Tea Party Republicans and more moderates.

Once in office, I think the Republicans will do a good job of saying “no” to what the President puts forward, but will have a difficult time putting forward anything of their own initiative.  The Tea Partiers (really, the emerging far right in general as some are likely just using the Tea Party movement as the wave to ride in on) will clash with the old guard and moderates, which means that the majority of the Republicans have to either get a significant amount Democrats on board (and get blistered by the far right in the process), or (more likely, given the emerging right’s all of nothing attitude of calling anyone who ever was seen within 30 yards of a Democrat a “RINO”) it means that the Republicans won’t be able to get enough of their own on board to win a few token independents and conservative Dems.

Even if the Republicans manage to get some decent stuff through the House, the Senate will be a problem.  There are enough old guard Republicans in office that the emerging right is alienating to cause problems, and those who might be swayed are going to be wary of the new batch’s ability to maintain enough momentum over several election cycles to realistically gain enough power to secure the Republican agenda.  Thus far the emerging right has shown itself to be inconsistent in securing traditional Republican seats, while it is doing well in Utah it got its butt kicked in Arizona.  It’s those seats that people will want to see them win, and hold, before they’ll really start setting the priorities.  People aren’t going to be wary of Republicans who win in battle grounds or traditionally Democratic areas, and want to see if they were flukes that’ll be out in a term or two or if they’ll stick around.  So, if the either the merging right or the old guard can’t find a way to bridge the gulf that the Palin/Beck/Tea Party candidates are happily digging in order to unseat incumbents, the Republican agenda is going to have all the success of people fighting over the steering wheel of a car gone off a cliff.

If that happens, I think the President will then be reelected.  The Republicans will have a bloody primary between the emerging far right and a moderate old guard candidate, which will not be at all pretty.  Ultimately, we’ll get a candidate that either no one likes or that half the party hates (maybe both).

Meanwhile, the President will capitalize on the last two years of Republican congressional ineptness and their constant voting of “no” on anything he does by claiming that they are either sandbagging the nation’s economic recovery or just plain unable to lead, and after the ugliness of the Republican primary the moderates will probably listen.  Meanwhile, the liberal base will be energized by fearing that the love child of Limbaugh and Beck is the Republican candidate and so they’ll rally behind the guy they aren’t pleased with but would much rather have.

The election will go more or less like ’96 or ’04, a weak opposition candidate running largely on a wave of partisan dislike, which despite general lack of enthusiasm for the incumbent won’t be enough to actually win.

I think that if the Republicans want to win they need to crystallize around a central message that is distinct and consistent enough from the Democrats to really be seen as an alternative that isn’t there simply to be an alternative.  It needs to be championed by people who aren’t seen as ideologically compromised by the Bush years, but lacking the inexperience and populist emotional rage that is, in far too many cases, the primary qualification for office being offered by the Palin/Beck/Tea Party inspired Republican challengers.  And those being elected need to be both competent in what they are doing (it’s a lot harder than just showing up, contrary to popular opinion) and show themselves to be consistent in their cause, which quite frankly, the emerging right’s candidates have shown no reason to believe that they are (they are usually those who have either shown little to no consistency in their policies, or who have virtually no experience in politics, neither of which gives us anything to go on rather than “trust me!”).

But regardless of what the message is, if the Republicans don’t find some why to not only unify, but also to support the candidates that emerge from that unity, I don’t think they’ll unseat the President, nor effect significant change.

Hopefully by the time I’m done with law school the Republican civil war will be over, with sanity prevailing, and I can work for a proper Statesman…

The Fall of the American Republic

I don’t subscribe to the rosy idea that once not so long ago American politics was a bastion of selflessness and altruism, yet it does seem as though there has been a marked decline over the last two decades of the level of political professionalism and discourse in our society.

What happened?

Infotainment happened, pop culture politics, the fall
of the political parties, and too much democracy in our republic.

Why spend years working on building party ties, meeting people and
developing educated, moderated views that result in the party trusting
you when you can put out a youtube video and tell people just what
they want to hear? Why settle for a politician who you agree with 90%
of the time when you can have someone who promises you that you can
have it all? Why look for the person who can solve the problems we
don’t know about when we can have someone who promises us they’ll make
us feel like we think we did yesterday?

American politics is a reflection of American life, for better and for
worse. With notable exceptions politicians act the way everyone else
does, few rise above the image of those who created them. Sadly,
those true Statesmen have a hard time doing the hard, time and labor
intensive work of government while competing with every clown with a
web cam back home that thinks their fifteen minutes of fame will come
through fifteen second increments of attention.

And as we look at the fruits of our tree we grow angry at what we see,
so we demand that politicians and politics be “closer” through
referendums and term limits. We bind them close through polls,
commentary, and short elections, and if they aren’t sycophantic enough
to our demands we cast them aside in favor of someone who will be.
Rather than leaders, stewards, statesmen or trustees we make them
puppets, and destroy any sense of deliberation and debate that a
republic desperately needs in order to produce wise legislation.

Despite my cynicism I do have faith in America and its people, I
really do. But at the risk of sounding like Glenn Beck, I don’t
expect the quality of politicians or politics to improve until
Americans change, until we stop thinking ourselves so wise as to mock
the educated, until we stop thinking ourselves so exceptional as to be
beyond accountability, until we stop looking for the next Patrick
Henry or Ronald Reagan, but instead look for the next Madison and
Marshall.

We can’t expect politicians to be giants among men when we demand our candidates to think and act “just like me”, while decrying those who achieve more as “elites” who aren’t to be trusted. It doesn’t matter what Washington, Jefferson or Madison would think of politics today, because were they here we wouldn’t trust them anyway. Athens fell to Sparta, and Rome fell to Caesar, but America will fall to the MTV VJ.

*This will probably be adapted later on for a larger piece I’m wanting to write, which will likely be titled (originally enough) “The Rise and Fall of the American Republic.” It’s been on my mind lately and an opportunity came up earlier (after a long day at work that left my mind only partially functional) to talk about it some, with this being a result of that discussion. So, if it looks disjointed, incomplete, sporadic or not terribly well thought out… it probably is. The next one will hopefully be better. Also, read Hel. 13: 25,26

This video is of Green Day’s cover of the John Lennon song “Working Class Hero.” I think this song serves as a good reminder of the social outlook that goes along with the socialist political and economic program. It is this outlook that I so very much relate to. It is probably the reason that I am comfortable with the socialist label. While Lennon’s song “Imagine” addresses a  form of a social utopia, this song addresses socialist social theory, in particular the concepts of alienation and exploitation.

Green Day covered this song as part of a Save Darfur album that was put together by Amnesty International. The best part of the above clip is that this performance was at the American Idol charity show. Like so many charity events, little mention is made about the root causes of poverty and suffering. It is more about the advantaged feeling better about themselves. Green Day brought the issue to the table.

Lyrics to Working Class Hero :

[By John Lennon]

As soon as your born they make you feel small
By giving you no time instead of it all
Till the pain is so big you feel nothing at all
Working Class Hero is something to be
Working Class Hero is something to be

They hurt you at home and they hit you at school
They hate you if you’re clever and despise a fool
Till you’re so f###### crazy you can’t follow their rules
Working Class Hero is something to be
Working Class Hero is something to be

When they’ve tortured and scared you for 20 odd years
Then they expect you to pick a career
When you can’t really function you’re so full of fear
Working Class Hero is something to be
Working Class Hero is something to be

Keep you doped with religon, sex and T.V.
And you think you’re so clever and classless and free
But you’re still f###### peasents as far as I can see
Working Class Hero is something to be
Working Class Hero is something to be

There’s room at the top I’m telling you still
But first you must learn how to smile as you kill
If you want to be like the folks on the hill
Working Class Hero is something to be

Yes, A Working Class Hero is something to be
If you want to be a hero well just follow me
If you want to be a hero well just follow me

HAPPY LABOR DAY!

Wingnuts in Texas

So, I just recently discovered John Avlon, who is the national commentator who best articulates my position on politics (aside from me, but I’m not national). On Monday, Avlon wrote a short piece describing the Texan Republican Primary candidates for Governor in which he argued that Conservative extremists have absolutely derailed the election. As a result, a man who briefly flirted publicly with the idea of secession is still the Republican candidate for Governor of Texas.

Of course there is a wealth of irony in the party of Lincoln putting forward someone who has brown-nosed secessionists. However, the purpose of the piece is not merely to mock the crazy in Texas. What is wrong with America (for which Texas is standing in) when someone like Perry is elected? Certainly he had a Tea Party candidate in the mix, but she seems relatively moderate in comparison. And, most importantly, why can’t a practical centrist who isn’t spouting crazy get elected over him?

Can anybody explain the election in Texas to me? Or should I just give up hope for America?

Palin thinks more war would help Obama

…but what else is new? I wouldn’t expect any less from a neocon. Granted, I think she might be right about Obama’s general approval and the thrust of his administration, but not for the reason she gives. From my own perspective, Obama has lost some steam for the exact opposite reasons Mrs. Palin states. I believe his ramping up of war in Afghanistan (Iraq too) hasn’t helped. Moreover, his promise to shut down Guantanamo Bay prison, while some effort has been made, is coming to pass much more slowly than I had anticipated. His military budget capped $600 billion, signaling no end to Leviathan’s quest for empire. So there are things I don’t like about Obama (I understand some of that is inheritance from W, but it’s been a year, and I haven’t seen too much undoing).

But more war? That’s how Obama could gain some momentum and steam? Moreover, does anybody find it odd that Obama’s potential opponent in 2012 is giving him popularity advice? Isn’t that like a deer taking advice from the N.R.A.? And wouldn’t more war alienate Mr. Obama’s base, which for the most part are typically non-interventionist?

Mr. Obama, I don’t like you as much as the media does, but I recognize you’re the best thing that was on the table 2 years ago. With that said, I want you to have success (contra Mr. Limbaugh’s wishes). Do the opposite of Mrs. Palin’s suggestions – bring our troops home. Be the non-interventionist. Show this country that you don’t believe in illegal, unprovoked, and unconstitutional warfare. Deal with these countries through compassion and fair trade, not through bombs. Furthermore, let’s show Mrs. Palin that a foreign policy of peace would do just the opposite – get you re-elected.

* Side-note: I caught her subtle support for Israel in there. America’s love affair with the AIPAC has caused a myriad of problems, but that’s for another discussion.

Yoo, Bybee, and the OLC

Yale Law Professor and political philosopher Bruce Ackerman responds the exoneration of Jay S. Bybee and John C. Yoo in this article in the Washington Post.

I found this section interesting:

Sometimes the OLC will resist presidential overreaching. But James Madison warned us that “enlightened statesmen will not always be at the helm.” And it is not at all certain whether OLC lawyers may resist unreasonable claims down the line.

The Constitution requires the president to “take care that the laws be faithfully executed.” He is not free to create a system in which his lawyers have powerful incentives to subordinate the law to short-term political imperatives. Since this is precisely the current situation, the president and Congress have a constitutional obligation to establish an institutional framework that will keep future John Yoos under control.

In coming weeks, Congress should do more than call Bybee and Yoo to testify. Lawmakers should work with President Obama to create an executive tribunal that will ensure the integrity of the rule of law. Members of the tribunal will operate as judges for the executive branch, not as lawyers for the sitting president. There will be nine judges on the panel, each serving staggered 12-year terms, giving the president the chance to nominate three judges during a four-year period. Nominees must gain Senate confirmation — which will encourage the president to nominate candidates with reputations as fair-minded professionals, not legal ideologues.

For me, I am not all that interested in prosecuting Yoo or Bybee. However, steps should be taken (as Ackerman argues) to prevent this from happening in the future.

It seems to me that my state legislature, the Utah State Legislature, tends to busy itself with identity politics rather than legislation. While identity politics often refers to appealling to some minority by putting up minority candidates, in this case the Utah State Legislature appeals to paleocon/libertarian ideologues by passing the craziest laws imaginable. Most of these are symbolic moves, standing no chance of surviving judicial review, and are a colossal waste of money as a result. Hopefully, they won’t make their way out of the legislature (but sometimes they do). It is like the local caucuses just send their craziest, most strident members out as state representatives and senators so that they won’t bother them anymore with their paranoid theories regarding the UN or the Federal Reserve.

In this session, we have had resolutions rejecting health care legislation that doesn’t exist yet, an attempt to tie Martin Luther King, Jr to gun ownership advocacy (stay classy, Utah Legislature), an amendment attacking affirmative action (except for religion), two resolutions (at least) asserting states’ rights (again, focusing on potential federal actions that have not been proposed and aren’t being enacted), a bill privatizing state parks, a resolution formally questioning climate science, and finally, and most irritatingly, passed a law that will certainly get us embroiled in a lengthy, expensive test case for gun’s rights for which there is already a test case.

The last law demonstrates that the legislature isn’t interested in the interests of its constituents so much as it is interested in declaring itself the most conservative legislature in the states. I’m certain that before the session ends there will be various resolutions trying to make it even harder to get an abortion or to get welfare in Utah. I’m absolutely certain that cuts will be made to higher education while demands for quality and efficiency will be increased. Heck, they are putting ads on school buses, why should higher ed be left out?

In any case, the motivation for all this seems to be an attempt to demonstrate that the legislature is hard-core conservative. And it is, no one is questioning that. But the legislature’s quest to establish, over and over again, its conservative bona fides means that the lengths it goes to are crazier and crazier, each session trying to outdo the one before it. Why limit education spending, when you can just eliminate 12th grade?

Most of the reason that they can get away with this is because of a sense of conservative identity politics. However, instead of representing an oppressed and underserved minority, the conservative demagogues supporting this nonsense argue that they represent an oppressed and underserved majority. So they blithely adopt resolutions against the UN, thinking that people back home don’t object because they support it. This is wrong. People back home don’t object because they don’t have a clue what the state legislature is up to. They don’t even know who their state representative is. The perceived unimportance of the legislature is what allows this craziness to continue (who cares what those yahoos at the capital do?). But while they are wasting time of these pet, crazy topics, there is real, important stuff going on. Budgets are being decided, programs are being support (or not). Do you want those decisions in the hands of people who don’t understand the use and value of an amicus brief?

Utah is a laughingstock, not because of religious prejudice, but because our legislature consists of a group of people who spend their time debating climate science and evolution in schools instead of actually running the state. But, in this age of state budget cuts, I suppose it might be cheaper than sticking them in treatment facilities.

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Who is Henry Louis Gates?

We know that he is a Harvard historian (not bad in my book), but I pulled a few youtube clips to give a glimpse of the man. Many are trying to demonize him. Don’t fall for it.

I also found a very interesting clip of Gates discussing his documentary on Lincoln (which is wonderful). However, it will not allow me to embed it. So follow this link.

Schumpeter and the Future?

            Brad Delong argues that while dead almost six decades, Joseph Schumpeter’s economics are to the 21st century what Keynes was to the 20th century.[1] This is interesting to me because Schumpeter seemed to me to be very much stuck in past eras, particularly the industrial revolution and the Great Depression. But to view Schumpeter as a figure of the past is to confuse his economics with his politics. Delong admires the economics, while he dismisses the politics.

            For Delong, the primary contribution of Schumpeter was his attempt to put long-term economic growth, emphasizing entrepreneurship and enterprise, at the “top of the discipline’s agenda.”[2] Schumpeter bemoans that the success of capitalism, which is rooted in entrepreneurship, ultimately leads to a bureaucratic society which will stifle, rather than encourage, that very entrepreneurship. These anti-entrepreneurial bureaucracies include both large corporations and government agencies, both of which rely on capitalist success, but neither of which produce the type of enterprise that Schumpeter sees as the heart of capitalism

            I found it interesting that Schumpeter condemned government bureaucracy for undermining entrepreneurial creativity since he is also a fan of capitalist monopolies. Could it not be argued, and is it not now argued by free-market capitalists, that monopolies undermine entrepreneurial activities by squeezing out the smaller and newer innovators from the market. So while Delong thinks that Schumpeter’s focus on entrepreneurship and enterprise might define the next phase of the American and Western economy, Schumpeter might just be a historical footnote to a renewed interest in entrepreneurship and enterprise within the discipline of economics. Continue reading