Friday, June 24, 2016

Did Britain just decide to become England?

Britain just voted to leave the European Union – Brexit passed 52-48.  This is not an issue that I have studied so I don’t really have an informed opinion, but I do want to mark what I think is probably a pretty important event with at least some random thoughts and wonderings.

It appears that Scotland, Northern Ireland, and Wales now are all talking about breaking from Britain because they don’t want to leave the European Union.  Did Britain just vote to become England?

Leaving the European Union might also unravel the European Union.  It is fine to have a common market, but a common currency, and bureaucratic control from Brussels without a common, united government seems to have stopped working around September 15, 2008 when Lehman Brothers in the United States declared bankruptcy and the entire world economy nearly collapsed, hitting the European Union particularly hard.

This is a big step in the general unravelling of the world, or at least the unravelling of many of the existing structures of the world.  I never really understood the European Union – how did such completely different peoples decide that they had a common identity?  After centuries of disastrous wars?  In order to prevent future disastrous wars, of course, was the objective, but the old WWII folks are mostly dead now, and newer generations might have to learn those old terrible lessons all over again?  I certainly hope not.

On the surface it looks like the biggest cause of the Brexit is saying NO to forced immigration policies onto England by Brussels.  I think there are a number of right wing movements in the rest of Europe pushing back very hard on the acceptance of immigrants from the exploding Middle East.  (thank you Osama bin Laden for leading these attacks, and thank you George W Bush for taking bin Laden’s bait and invading Iraq (that’s a bit of sarcasm just in case I was confusing)).

It’s all reactionary.  I think it starts with WWI, goes to the breakup of the Ottoman Empire, goes to Colonialism and Imperialism of the Middle East, goes to supporting despotic Middle Eastern regimes by the West (just send us the oil and stop Communism), goes to terrorism to drive out the “infidels”, goes to chaotic realignments in the Middle East, goes to massive immigration into the West out of the Middle Eastern slaughters, goes to xenophobic and nationalistic reaction against the immigrants out of fear of terrorism and out of fear of dilution of existing nationalistic boundaries and identities, goes to Brexit…

Where to next? Britain First!  America First? (Trump?  dear Lord please no ) France first? Sweden first? etc etc etc?

I think it is a natural response for people to pull into themselves when things are in chaos and they feel threatened.  But I don’t think it is necessarily wise.  

Sunday, June 12, 2016

ISIS claims responsibility for the Orlando slaugher

ISIS has claimed responsibility for the slaughter of innocents in Orlando last night where 50 were killed and another 52 were injured in a gay night club.  This is an unthinkable level of depravity and carnage.  

How is it possible for anybody to buy a weapon that can mow down over 100 people?  As far as I'm concerned it needs to be illegal to sell any weapon capable of firing more than 10 shots.  

Beyond that, how is it possible that someone who is on an FBI terrorist watch list to buy an assault weapon?  Must the weapons lobby, the NRA, insist on selling anything to anyone just as long as it gets its money?

My heart goes out to the killed and wounded and all those who love them or loved them.  This is just too much pain to have to live with.

Apparently, the fascist wing of Islam, the Islamofascists, think that they are justified by their holy texts to kill gay people.  What a stupid idea.  It's just bigotry and fear of homosexuality dressed up in religious robes.  I am convinced that those who are violently against gays are afraid that they actually have gay tendencies and are violently opposed to gay urges in themselves.  They manifest that fear by acting out dogmatically and violently against gays.  They are manifesting their own fears, and quite frankly revealing their own attractions to same sex people which is something they cannot come to terms with in themselves.

I believe that ISIS wants to have a say in this year's presidential election. They have been trying to bait the U.S. into a massive ground war in the Middle East because they believe it is written in their holy scripts that the Armageddon is coming and is necessary for the establishment of their caliphate where strict Islamic rule is the rule of the land.  They see this as required by their God.  So far, Obama has done a good job of not taking the bait and keeping the U.S. out of the religious civil wars in the Middle East (at least as much as possible)

I have expected atrocious attacks during this election cycle because I believe they want our presidential candidates to take the bait and promise to send massive troops to the Middle East.  It's bait.  It's a trap.  

We should treat this as terrorism, not as an existential war.  So far, Obama is doing that.  Will Trump? How about Hillary?  I think Trump will see this as his ticket to the White House because the only people he pays any attention to are the Right Wing radicals on the radio and Fox News.  And I presume that there will not be any call for thoughtful response in those quarters. 

I would love to be wrong about this.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

The problem with gerrymandering and with the primary elections process

Two of the biggest political problems, in my opinion, are gerrymandering and the current primary election system.

Gerrymandering is where the party in power in a state draws the lines of voting districts.  They do this in a way that will most benefit their own party for elections over the next ten years.  As has been said by others, it changes the whole idea of democracy.  Rather than having the voters choose their politicians, the politicians choose their voters.  And we end up with an unrepresentative democracy.  In 2014 Republican House members in total received 51.2% of all the votes cast nationwide, yet they got 56.8% of the House seats on D.C.  That is not what the Founders had in mind.

Solution? Eliminate gerrymandering by having independent, non-partisan committees draw voting lines in each state, legislated by Federal law.  Or better yet, have a mathematical formula based on geography and population applied to each state so there is no human bias possible in the drawing of the voting districts. Probably a complicated math problem but should be solvable.

The second big problem is what we are seeing in these 2016 elections – the primary voting system being used by both parties to choose a nominee for president. 

The biggest distortion is that the voters who turn out in primary elections are more politically committed, and more ideologically extreme than the general voting public.  So, we get extremists nominated who do better in primaries than they would in a nationwide general election. 

Also, there is a set order, established by tradition, that puts some states at the beginning of the cycle and others at the end.  So, Iowa farmers have an outsized influence on who survives the primary gauntlet.  And South Carolina too, with it’s strange effect of having lots of African Americans voting in the Dem primary, and white not so unbiased whites voting in the Rep primary.  And then California ends up at the tail end despite being the largest state by far.

Primary elections were not handed down from the Founders of America.  They have only been around for about fifty years, and the flaws are becoming more and more apparent.  What to replace them with?  There was something to be said about the old smoke filled room party leaders that chose who would represent their party.  They were a vetting system.  They were natural suppressors of extremist nut jobs.  They were a force for stability.  Turning the selection over to the voters opens up the parties to change, and that is good, but it also opens the doors to extremists and populists, and in this year of Trump it opens up the Republican Party to a populist demagogue who threatens to be an authoritarian despot.  Not good.

My suggestion would be to keep the primary system, but moderate its effect in two ways. 

First, have the order of primary states be on a rotation basis based upon random distribution – with a mix of large population states and small population states having their primaries every two or three weeks in groups of about five or ten until the cycle is complete.

Second, have the total number of delegates selected by the primary voters be only half of the delegates who go to the conventions, where the real election to nominate each party’s candidate happens.  The other half would be professional elected politicians, men and women who have already succeeded in winning their positions at the voting booth.  These folks would be the governors, attorney generals, the state legislators, the city mayors, etc.  The math would have to be worked out and guidelines set as to their qualifications to attend the conventions, but that should be doable.

That way, a populist or ideological extremist would have substantial mitigating forces of professional politicians that would either support or not support him or her.  And at the same time, corrupt or intemperate or unethical candidates would have those who knew them behind the scenes there to stop them as well.  Also, a traditional candidate would have these same elected politicians who might be part of a movement or populist sentiment there to push back against them. 

So I think we need some balance in our electoral system.  End the corrupt, undemocratic gerrymandering.  And balance the popular vote which is now overly influenced by extremist ideologically committed voters and those vulnerable to populist frenzies with professional already elected politicians in each state.  Checks and balances.  We need them, I believe.  A Trump nomination is wake up call for both parties and for the nation.