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Showing posts with the label politics

The Most Successful Organization in America

Guns are in the news, again. There is a way to put that to constructive use, while avoiding the stuff that has been talked to death already. This is easier to do if you have no real interest in the issue of guns or their control, and that is the case with me.

Think of how alien gun culture is to the average soccer mom in the big city. Think of how out-of-date gun culture is to modern, city-centered culture, where all the money and votes are. And yet gun ownership is still alive! How do you explain the success of the gun lobby in defending their hobby?

There has got to be a lesson in their success for anybody in any organization which wants to succeed. Somebody should write a book on this. 

I do not want to talk about 'gun control.' I want to talk about how a lobby can succeed when everything seems stacked against it.

A Classic Movie and the News

If you feel that you are wasting time watching too much News, here is something that might make you feel a little better: sometimes the News makes you see a classic movie in a new light. It can renew your interest in the movie. Perhaps movies or books that lend themselves to new interpretations are the very ones that become classics.

It happened to me last night, as I rewatched Billy Wilder's "Stalag 17."  At the end of the movie, William Holden identifies the German spy in the barracks of the prison camp. The spy has been tipping off the Germans, sometimes lethally.

Holden makes a short speech towards the climax of the movie. It fits in perfectly with the news about the FBI's dirty tricks. 

Machiavelli and "the Memo"

Earlier I praised reading hotheads on the internet. As long as a reader can gloss over emotional rants over their hobbyhorses, one idea in their post might be useful.

And this benefit came again, when reading about the memo. Yes, that memo. Let's not waste each other's time preaching about morality, integrity, what the 'Founding Fathers' would have thought, good versus evil, or any other irrelevancies.

Let's look at it the way Machiavelli would have: as power-seeking leaders think of things as they try to get what they want. 

Some Republican pundits were disgusted with how long it was taking to bring The Memo out, since that was giving the Democrats time to organize a counterattack. 

Have the Republicans failed to gain what they should have from this scandal?  And is sheer stoopidity the only reason for this?

Actually the Republicans had a good reason to hesitate bringing the memo out to the public. Think back to Watergate: Nixon and the Republicans had won big in 1972.…

Machiavelli's Advice to the President

Yes, predictions are indeed hard, especially about the future. Still, it is that time of year. I predict that Trump will become a lame duck president in early November of 2018, and a one term president after that.

These predictions are not based on how much I like or dislike him. I am simply thinking like Machiavelli -- that is, non-morally -- and trying to guess how things will play out. If you were a highly paid political consultant, what would be your advice to Trump?

But first, consider a vivid memory of the day after the election in 2016. I was in a parking lot in Nevada, which is now a Blue State, with all its refugees from California. An old and very noisy pickup went blasting through the parking lot at high speeds. He had an American flag attached to the cargo bed of the truck. It is as if he were saying gloating, "Take that, you bleeping Hillary voters -- and why don't you move back to California!" 

Presumably he had guns and Bibles in the front seat of the truck. …

More Equality is Needed for NFL Team Rosters

Some cynics say that politics is a sour and depressing topic, and that we should just avoid discussing it. Nonsense! I am enjoying the 'take-a-knee' protests by NFL players during the national anthem.

For one thing, it takes gumption to do what they are doing. That used to be a trait of Americans when they were a free people, way back when. 

The anti-protesters say that the players are welcome to their political opinions, but they shouldn't use their workplace to trumpet those opinions.

Oh really? Why aren't the anti-protestors concerned about the Military using NFL games as recruitment posters? Look at the military brass bands at half-time, the moments of silence to honor dead Heroes, and the flyover of Air Force jets. Do none of those things express a political opinion, at least implicitly?

The anti-protesters could win this situation by simply eliminating the tradition of playing the national anthem. Why don't they? Most entertainment industry events in America or t…

Identity Politics in a Campground

It has been a long time since I have been this positive about the political scene in the US. But don't misinterpret me. The situation has become so surreal, on both sides, that it has become easy to laugh the whole thing off. And laughter is more positive than anger.

For instance, identity politics is drowning in its own absurdity. The other day I was invited to give my comments to a large corporation where I had recently made a large purchase. Considering the blue-state headquarters and clientele of this corporation, it shouldn't have surprised me to be asked about which gender I "identified" with.

What phoneys!  If they really wanted to liberate human beings, why not broaden the question to "which animal species do you identify with?"

I know my answer. The other day I was making the rounds at dawn at the campground. No members of homo sapiens were up and about. But several dogs were already living the good life. A society of dogs seemed to be sharing a secre…

What Exactly Is a Conspiracy Nut?

Everybody has their deficiencies. If it happens to be paying attention to the news, then you no doubt hear the word 'conspiracy theory' bandied about, quite a bit. Nobody ever talks about what exactly is meant by the term. Why does conspiracy-mongering appeal to some people and not others? There are questions that are worth asking about the subject. But all you really hear is somebody using 'conspiracy' theory as a handy smear against anyone with a different political viewpoint.

Recently I stumbled across an interesting discussion on, of all things, a mountain bike forum that bears on the subject of conspiracy theories. The topic was 'Which goodie on bikes is most over-rated?" Considering the cost explosion in the mountain bike industry, it seemed like a topic that was worth reading. The discussion was better than usual: the commenters were knowledgeable, and thread-hijacking and trivial quips were minimal. 

And yet, something was missing. The discussion was mir…

How Real World Experience Affects Political Theories

Although I am not one of them, there are people who enjoy reading political science or 'theory of government' books. It would be interesting to see what a person of that type would go through if exiled from their reading lamp to the right place in the real world.

Let them take a campground hosting job for awhile. Quite aware that my suzerainty is much better than the average gig, or rather, that its clientele is much above average, I am still affected by the experience. It gives me a chance to see how people behave when they act as they really want to act.
Many people immediately turn to generating noise, destruction, or filth. Unmindfulness of the consequences of their own behavior on their neighbors, who have an equal right to enjoy their public land.Using a construction site generator to power a microwave oven to make a cup of tea or coffee. Are they really unable to understand that they can heat a pan of water on the propane stove in 3 minutes?Do they need high power applian…

Trump's Post-White-House Career

I am officially going on record as predicting that Trump is going to be a one-term president. It is reasonable to ask what his plans are for his emeritus years. An ex-president should do something with a certain amount of importance; but it shouldn't be too strenuous, either.

Perhaps he should get on the board of United Airlines. Maybe he can drain the swamp there.

Popular Tastes and the Recent Election

My entire central nervous system, my soul, my personal dignity, everything that seems to define my existence, is under assault right now.  I am having breakfast at a fast food joint, and using the "free" wi-fi. Free, my butt. Look at the price I am paying for it. A loudspeaker (of rather good quality) is blasting trashy popular music at me, as I try to read, write, and think.

Who selects this music?! But I should stop complaining. It could be rap music. Most of it is just lewd female shrieking in rather standard love songs. Gawd, I hate Whitney Houston.

But from a different angle, this torture is beneficial. Sometimes you need to be shocked into confronting unpleasant truths. Consider the recent elections from the perspective of popular music, movies, or whatever.

If this election did not prove 'Democracy: the God that Failed,' then at the very least it shows that universal suffrage is an absurdity. And yet, in the 1800's it was seen as 'progress' that ideal…

A Healthy Downsizing Project for Election Day

Election day is probably the only day that brings more relief than Christmas. And for pretty much the same reason: a protracted, half-insane process has finally ended. 

From an individual's point of view, both Christmas and presidential elections represent a marvelous opportunity to practice mental hygiene, by ignoring these two seasons as much as possible. If you do a good job at that, you have accomplished a lot more than by downsizing physical clutter in your life.

It's possible that I am fooling myself about how well I've performed this mental downsizing over the last 18 (?) months of the presidential election cycle. Very well then, at least I'll do a good job on election day.

Today's project will be the ultimate downsizing project. I will spend the day reading Benjamin Constant's "Political Principles." He seems rather forgotten today. A real shame. So far his book has been interesting and easy to read. For the most part it is an attack on Rousseau&…

Some Hope for a Clinton Presidency

I have no prediction about who will win this presidential election. It is humbling to see my supposed knowledge of history provide so little perspicuity at this time. The closest thing you could offer to a 'solid bet' is that a Clinton presidency -- if one comes -- has no chance of accomplishing anything, because it will be mired in legal battles, scandals, charges and counter-charges.

Ah but wait...maybe history does offer hope for a Clinton presidency. In order to distract the public from her endless scandals and legal problems, couldn't she go 'all in' for War? It would be easy for her to go that direction. She is already a neo-con, and part of the Beltway foreign policy consensus. She is the Defense sector's favorite candidate, other than John McCain.

More American involvement in Syria is the most likely course. But considering the sheer number of scandals and possible indictments, she should keep her options open on bombing and invading Crimea, Poland, the B…

Unfair Videos of Mrs. Clinton's Medical Episodes

Once, I almost read a book of the under-rated role of the health problems of famous leaders and events. For instance President Kennedy was a symbol of youthful vigor and charisma as the baton of leadership passed to men who had been soldiers in World War 2. Apparently he took some very strong medications for his bad back. Did I say "apparently?" That's the problem: how much was hidden at the time? What can ever really be proved?

How open was the press with President Roosevelt's wheelchair?

Hitler might have been heavily drugged by a quack doctor. How did this affect the fortunes of the Third Reich?

Did the masses in the early Soviet Union understand the strokes that Lenin had had? A few years before that, how open was the press allowed to be about the quackery of Rasputin in helping the doomed Romanov dynasty in dealing with the hemophilia of the heir-apparent?

I read a biography of Bonaparte recently. The historian thought that his famous stamina had been undermined be…

Orlando Tragedy Can Make a New Roosevelt

The leaders of the Democratic party are struggling with a dilemma: how can they avoid appearing too friendly or not friendly enough to Muslim immigrants? And will they appear unsympathetic to their LGBT block? Of course, the LGBT block has nowhere to go outside the Democratic party. Its votes are taken for granted.

So the Democrats are spinning Orlando as a gun problem or as a homophobia problem, being careful to avoid mentioning Muslim immigrants, at all cost.

The very future of the Democratic party is at stake. The LGBT block is not a growing one. And the Hispanic block might betray the Democrats, if they act like the Italian immigrants of 1910. They will work hard, marry whites, and a generation from now there will be lots of Republican suburbs with residents that have Hispanic surnames, but don't otherwise seem too Hispanic.

Imagine what a Democratic leader feels when it/she/he sees the juicy promise of a Europe that is being invaded by Muslims? If only they could have a success…

Turning Election Ugliness into Intellectual Pleasure

It is hard to settle on an attitude toward these ghastly presidential elections that satisfies me. The easy thing is to say, "Just ignore it. Why make yourself depressed or angry when you don't have to be?"

But this approach is too facile. We do, after all, live under a system of self-government. Something better than mere avoidance is called for. But don't worry: I'm not about to give you a pep talk that belongs in school civics class.

Rather, I want to be candid about how hopeless the USA is, and face up to the fact that we are looking into an abyss. Don't avert your eyes from it. Wallow in it a bit -- not for the mere sake of misery of course, but for the sake of moving on to something better.

For instance, lately I have been on a streak of books about Muslim history. Think how narrow public discourse is about Muslims as 'terrorists'. Does anyone ever define what a terrorist is? Isn't it just an example of asymmetrical warfare? Does anyone ever di…

The "Awakening" When Coming Back to a City

I have written before of how thought-provoking it can be to come into a city after a lengthy spell in the backcountry. The greatest difficulty in doing a good job at this is to belittle it right from the beginning: "Oh this is just some kind of thought experiment. It isn't practical. I don't want to waste time by acting like a kook, in his own little mental playground..."

Recently I experienced a special version of this. I was visiting a small metropolis that was big enough for a tumescent growth of big box retail stores on the edge of town. The Republican party's debate was in the news. As tempting as it might be to throw mud-pies at each specific runt in the debate, it is more important to ask something more fundamental: if Democracy were so great, and if Americans were so suited for it, how could a country as large as the USA and with all its achievements and deep pool of talent, produce such a pitiful list of candidates?

Something is fundamentally wrong with ou…

Trump, Denali, and Ohio

Donald Trump is following in the recent tradition of GOP presidents and candidates. Indeed, he has already proven that he is the most qualified candidate: he thinks that re-naming a mountain in Alaska with its traditional Indian name is an insult to Ohio, despite the fact that 'Ohio' itself is derived from the Iroquois word for 'great river'. 

Perhaps we should rename the state of Ohio after a congressman from Connecticut.

The anti-intellectualism -- or rather, non-intellectualism -- of the modern GOP can be a source of merriment, but actually it is a serious issue for a later post.

Financial Turmoil As Opportunity to Crawl Out of the Information Gutter

If our consumption of information was analogous to food-diet, what diet plan would we be on? What is the informational equivalent of vegetarianism, veganism, paleo-carnivorism, or Old Roy dog chow? It is hard to see all the analogies. But one can be seen: most people are on an information-diet analogous to eating all of their food out of gas-station-convenience stores. That is, their informational junk food comes from the mainstream media, mainly television.

What a shame. The financial turmoil going on now should be an opportunity to ask fundamental questions about our banking and political systems. At the very least, the general public should learn how our system really works, not just in theory, but the brutal and unseemly realities of it. 

Who is benefiting from the basic policies?

What are the incestuous relationships between banking and political power?

How do they hide it or at least deodorize it from the general public?

Why are the losers so complacent to the winners?

Why is debt he…

Complaining About Torture is Anti-American

I haven't read everything that there is to read about the Torture Report, the big news story of the day. So at the risk of making a mistake, based on pure laziness, I would still like to point out what isn't being said: everybody is ignoring the fact that the American CIA didn't practice beheading.

Beheading is shocking and barbaric. Only medieval Muslims would practice that. America is the sort of country that aims at higher ideals. We are a civilized and Christian nation. We restrict ourselves to torture.

What Keeps Bloggers Tied Down?

Surely most internet readers have learned from experience to temper their expectations about websites that are new to them. How many times have you gotten excited about a newly-found website, only to learn that your first half-dozen visits have shown everything that you are evergoing to see there? Then, when the sting of disappointment sets in, you just want to grab the blogger by the throat and scream, "Come on! You can do it. Take a step upward." But they seldom do. [*]

What is stopping them? Are they just dummies? Or completely static? Maybe they are afraid of something.

Lately I have been fixating on a simile from Arnold Toynbee's abridged "A Study of History," Vol 1, Chapter IV. Maybe it will mean something to readers:
Primitive societies...may be likened to people lying torpid upon a ledge on a mountain-side, with a precipice below and a precipice above; civilizations may be likened to companions of these sleepers who have just risen to their feet and have …