Posts Tagged ‘politics

Let’s call a truce on presidential vacations.

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Obama’s been criticized lately for golfing while the world burns. This is stupid now, and it was stupid when Democrats mocked Bush for spending time on his ranch ten years ago. I’d like to propose a truce, in which we all give up this bit of purely partisan nonsense.

Any presidential vacation is a working vacation. This isn’t 1820; our wireless telegraphs are so good that the president can instantly respond to any crisis without being in Washington. There is no difference between considering policy in the Oval Office and considering policy while clearing brush or playing golf, unless you resent the president’s physical fitness.

 It’s incoherent even on its own terms.  Suppose it were impossible to conduct state business on vacation. Would Republicans be happy if Obama agreed to quit golfing and focus full-time on the redistribution of wealth? Did Democrats really prefer tax cuts and bombings to brush clearing and quail hunting? Abandon this criticism and we deprive the lying hacks of both parties, at no cost to anything that matters.


Written by pinkocrat

August 27, 2014 at 4:07 pm

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You get your own vote but not your own reality

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If you run a blog, it might be a good idea to ban discussion of certain topics, especially ones that quickly bore most readers and drive the rest to pointless acrimony.  You might prohibit debate over voting strategy if you want to avoid constant shouting matches about Ralph Nader.

Melissa McEwan of Shakesville, on the other hand, prohibits these shouting matches with more muddled reasoning:

Voting for a candidate in one of the two major parties is a legitimate choice. Voting against a candidate in one of the two major parties is a legitimate choice. Strategically voting for a third party candidate in a decidedly blue or red state is a legitimate choice. Voting for a third party candidate in a swing state is a legitimate choice. Not voting is a legitimate choice.

Some of these choices are ones I can imagine making; some of them are not. That does not mean they are not legitimate choices for individual voters to make with their votes. Period.

This doesn’t mean anything!  Of course a choice is “legitimate” in the sense that it is legal and physically possible to make.  But if you have a goal in mind (say, moving the country to the left), then some choices are wrong.  Voting Republican, for example, will almost certainly be ineffective at reaching that goal.  You might think voting straight-ticket Democrat will get you there, or you might have a longer-term strategy involving third parties, but these are competing hypotheses about reality, so at least one of them is wrong.  If you want a certain policy enacted, there may be an objectively optimal way to vote, even if it’s sometimes difficult to discover it in practice.

This difficulty is one of the reasons for discussing voting strategy.

Admittedly, this argument only works if you care more about increasing your chances of getting a good government than avoiding a feeling of disgust as you leave the voting booth.)

Written by pinkocrat

November 4, 2013 at 11:30 pm

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Making sortition effective

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This isn’t an argument for sortition, but a couple proposals to consider when designing a sortition-based legislative.

1. Raise the minimum age.

It doesn’t have to be eighteen.  Setting the minimum age at twenty-five would mean almost everyone would have either higher education or five to ten years of work experience.  Legislators’ brains would be more fully developed and their opinions would be backed by independent experience in the world.  This would slightly increase the quality of the legislature without denying any citizen an eventual chance to join.

It’s true that a minimum age of twenty-five would underrepresent young people in general and younger-leaning groups in particular (Hispanics in the US, for example).  But the same could be said of any age requirement, making it a problem of degree and not kind.

2. Make votes anonymous.

Eliminating elections means elite interests can no longer disproportionately influence who makes up the government.  But citizen-legislators could still be bribed once in office, or promised lucrative future jobs in exchange for favorable votes.  Such corruption would be much more difficult if you could never be sure the person you bribed actually voted your way.

3. Let people kick out assholes.

A large body chosen by sortition might include a few people whose behavior makes democratic deliberation impossible.  If someone constantly speaks out of turn or harasses a fellow legislator, there should be some process by which a supermajority can eject them.

Written by pinkocrat

August 16, 2013 at 4:44 pm

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I have little sympathy for Anastasia

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What’s with all the enthusiasm for finding a living Anastasia?  Do people look at Russia and think, “What they need is more autocracy” ?

Here’s the thing about monarchy: it’s hereditary.  If you’re trying to destroy a monarchy, you kill the kids.  Is it fucked up?  Sure.  But it wouldn’t happen if Russia were using elections or sortition or some kind of not-completely-stupid way to choose rulers.

Written by pinkocrat

May 20, 2013 at 3:38 pm

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Marriage equality and the “right side of history”

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The slogan “Join the right side of history!” assumes at least one of the following:

1) That opponents of same-sex marriage actually know deep down that same-sex marriage should be legal, and just need a bit of prompting.

2) Opponents care more about the judgment of future people than for their current peers, consciences, or God.

3) All historical trends should be supported because the future is always better in every way.

Written by pinkocrat

April 28, 2013 at 11:57 am

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I am not voting for a best friend

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Today one of my senators, Bill Nelson, announced his support for same-sex marriage.  But why now?  Isn’t it suspicious that he’s only changed his opinions once his old stance became unpopular?  Is his change of heart authentic?

I don’t give a shit.  What goes on in Bill Nelson’s brain is of no consequence to me until it effects his public behavior.  Now, if he had announced his support years earlier, it might have nudged public opinion on the acceptability of same-sex marriage, and that would have been preferable.  But a Bill Nelson who just changed his mind is identical to a Bill Nelson who has been secretly supportive for years but too afraid to speak, if what you care about is not a politician’s soul but an increase in freedom and joy.

Written by pinkocrat

April 5, 2013 at 7:26 pm

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Notes on the National Atheist Party platform

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I don’t think an atheist political party is a good idea in the US for two reasons:

1) I don’t think any third party is a good idea.  First-past-the-post electoral systems strongly encourage two and only two parties, and neither the Democrats nor the Republicans are going to collapse soon.  If the NAP runs candidates (which they currently cannot, but eventually intend to), they will not win a single seat in anything.

2) Even if you like third-parties, it’s still a waste of time to make one that duplicates an existing party.  And someone who supports the NAP platform is basically a progressive Democrat who wants to tax churches.

Like any political platform, though, it has its interesting bits.  Dive in with me!

A) Economy

With a cognizance of our national security, an awareness of the scientific community’s research into global climate change, and a desire to create new jobs, we must as a nation bring to a halt our national dependence on fossil fuels and foreign oil. To this end, we call for a “Manhattan Project” or “Apollo program” level of national commitment and research into green energy solutions.

I’ll try to avoid points on style and structure, but this platform needs an editor.  One who might suggest writing a snappier opening sentence, and removing duplicate points (like universal healthcare and church taxation), and not using the word “surcease”.

The phrase “foreign oil” is misleading, because oil is traded in a global market (and NAP opposes domestic oil regardless).

This party recognizes that the criminalization of drug use stems from a position grounded in religion.

Neither the stated reasons for drug prohibition (health, productivity, crime) nor the widely accepted unofficial reasons (competing economic interests, with a seasoning of racism) are primarily religious.

B) Jobs

 The traditional policy of “spend-down” – in which each department tries to spend its entire budget each fiscal segment, in order to justify receiving more money in the next – shall be halted.


Jobs are created when innovation occurs. There is no argument or question that this is true.

This unusually dogmatic statement is false, especially in the short term.  Innovation makes certain activities and skills obsolete.  Innovation often increases a population’s net well-being, but it doesn’t always lead to more jobs.

All of our modern technological conveniences, from LCD and LED display technology to studless tires and athletic shoes, have been developed as spin-off technologies from NASA. The lesson is clear: investment in advanced technology reaps huge economic rewards. …

The NAP believes that the alternative energy industry, or “green energy”, is an untapped source of jobs. If a national mandate for alternative energy research and installation in existing homes and businesses would create jobs and revitalize the economy.

I’ll assume there’s a typo and NAP doesn’t actually credit NASA for the entirety of modern technology.  More seriously, it’s dangerous to justify green energy by promising jobs.   Green energy is good for the environment only to the extent that it replaces fossil fuels, which leaves fewer jobs in coal, oil, and gas.

E) Abortion

It is our position that legislation inhibiting a woman’s right to choose is based on religious concerns of morality and conception, and does not reflect the scientific community’s consensus of when a fetus can be said to be an independent organism.

What is that consensus, and how does wanting to ban abortion reject it?  Are they talking about the morning-after pill?

F) Gay Rights

We call for a Constitutional amendment recognizing the rights of the GLBT, alongside other distinguished characteristics like race, creed, and national origin.

We already have one.

H) Immigration

The U.S. is currently experiencing a large influx of documented and undocumented immigration from Mexico and other places. Many of these workers are paid “under the table,” and many more pay into a system from which they will never see a benefit. The National Atheist Party believes that the current system of Immigration policies is deeply flawed. We move for a relaxation of Citizenship Qualification Standards, and a liberal border policy allowing workers to come and go as they please.

This might be the most radical plank in the platform, and I suspect it’s here only because they didn’t really think through the consequences.

P) Foreign Policy

In order to move forward in a peaceful and responsible manner, the NAP believes that the U.S.’s role in U.N. Peacekeeping missions should be reduced and eliminated entirely when possible. The U.S. should modify its role to an advisory position and only field troops in a dire emergency of last resort. For too long, we have spent taxpayers’ money and the lives of our young men and women in support of conflicts that may have been diplomatically solved.

The whole point of peacekeeping missions is to prevent eruptions of violence so that they can be diplomatically solved.

The U.S. is in a deficit position with foreign economies like China and Japan. To combat this, we support a leveling of the playing field by de-incentivizing the movement of manufacturing overseas and imposing a fair tariff on imported goods. Our focus now should be on debt reduction.

Which imported goods?  All of them?  How is debt reduction involved?

Q) Faith/Religion

The National Atheist Party believes in the U.S. Constitution, and in the wisdom of the Founding Fathers who wrote it. These great men had the foresight to erect a wall of separation between church and state; a wall that has been eroding for many years.

I would take tax-supported churches and Jesus on our money in return for never hearing about the Wisdom of Our Founders ever again.

R) Organ Donation

Organ donation can save a life that would otherwise end in tragedy. Recognizing this, we believe that the parents of a recently deceased child should be given full authority to donate the remains and help others who are less fortunate.

Huh?  Is this not currently the case?

S) Constitutional Matters

Although today’s proliferation of media outlets, including the Internet and other electronic news sources virtually guarantees that any viewpoint can be heard, a cursory examination of primary national news outlets shows an increasingly biased and polarized reporting atmosphere. Reinstating the Fairness Doctrine, especially in a modified form that accounts for the growing number of independent and electronic media outlets, would restore the level playing field that has been missing from the post-911, hopelessly partisan news media.

Skeptics should demand more than a “cursory examination”.

* * * *

(Apologies for lack of comment on NAP’s signature policy, the tax-exempt status of churches.  I don’t know enough to have an opinion.)

Written by pinkocrat

March 8, 2013 at 6:15 am

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