Wednesday, January 13, 2021

More Partisan BS

It has long been my position that the more productive course of action after the 2016 elections would have been election reform instead of blaming the Russians (and pretty much everything and everyone other than the Democratic Party).

The Democrats did protest the 2016 Election. Maybe not as violently as current events, but they still protested.

Let's not forget that the Democrats have been doing everything in their power to harass Trump.

US elections are not free and fair and held on a secret ballot. The two parties have a lock on the process which needs to be broken.

The problem is that the Duopoly will lose its power if real election reforms are enacted. Toss in that there would be a shift in power from the wealthy to the people.

See also.

Tuesday, January 12, 2021

The United States is a De Facto Parliamentary political system.

 I've been wanting to write this for a long time, but haven't. Current events are pushing me to point out the reality of the US political system.

Despite the founders intent of three separate branches and checks and balances: The real power is in the legislature

De facto describes practices that exist in reality, even though they are not officially recognized by laws. De jure is according to the law. 

Law does not always reflect the reality. 

The reasons I say that the US is a de facto parliamentary system should be obvious, but most people are distracted by the president that they miss the body with any real power is the legislature. The legislature holds the power of the purse, among many others that make it the strongest and most powerful branch.. 

The failure to pass a budget in any true parliamentary democracy would lead to automatic dissolution of the government. This is due to the concept of "loss of supply":

A defeat on a budgetary vote is one way by which supply can be denied. Loss of supply is typically interpreted as indicating a loss of confidence in the government. Not all "money bills" are necessarily supply bills. For instance, in Australia, supply bills are defined as "bills which are required by the Government to carry on its day-to-day business".

When a loss of supply occurs, a prime minister is generally required either by constitutional convention or by explicit constitutional instruction to either resign immediately or seek a parliamentary dissolution.

Some constitutions, however, do not allow the option of parliamentary dissolution but rather require the government to be dissolved or to resign. 

The US system has specified terms limits, which is one way that dissolution of government resulting in new elections can be prevented. On the other hand, the US government could conceivably go into a prolonged budget crisis and government shutdown. That's one reason that US Budget crises tend to be short.

On the other hand, if one party really didn't like the other one. The budget crisis could last until the end of the legislative session.

Next reason why the US is actually parliamentary is that the legislature can remove the executive. While the criterion for doing this is "high crimes and misdemeanours": the reality is that it can be for frivolous reasons  if one political party dislikes the executive of the other party. While the criterion is "high crimes and misdemeanours", the reality is that the process is blatantly political. That is because other executives have engages in "high crimes and misdemeanours" by violation of international law (e.g., illegal war) with little or no consequences.

On the other hand, don't lie about blowjobs.

Not sure where this comes into the strength of the argument, but the legislature offers the best place for representing the people. The legislature is directly elected and proportional to the population (at least in the house of representatives). On the other hand, it is one place where alternative parties can have a voice.

The president is not a directly elected, which is another place the legislature has control over that office. In a way, the current situation is like the English Civil War where the question was which body had the power: the monarch or the legislature? 

The legislature (parliament) won the battle.

Those of us who feel the current system is not representative should put our efforts into getting alternative parties into congress: not being hopeful that either party will change. Tip O'Neill said "all politics are local". 

Realising that the real power in the US is in the legislature is the beginning of the battle to bring about a change in US politics.

Monday, January 11, 2021

More historical ignorance

People in the US really love the idealised version of themselves and their history. Problem is that the real deal is not as nice as what they want to believe.

Let's take the Presidential Election of 1800, which I mentioned in a previous post. While probably not as bad as current events, things were pretty bad. The founders didn't always get along and this was one where Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were in a rough and tumble battle.

It also demonstrated that the founders DIDN'T get it right with their concept of what the US would be. The electoral college was already proving problematic (and was the subject of an early amendment). 

The founders also didn't believe that republics would divide into factions, but there was pretty extreme partisanship in the 1800 Election.

Adams didn't attend Jefferson's inauguration.

And let's not forget that Aaron Burr came really close to being President, but became vice president instead. In case you missed that part of US history:

During his last year as vice president, Burr engaged in the duel in which he fatally shot Hamilton, his political rival. Although dueling was illegal, Burr was never tried, and all charges against him eventually were dropped. Nevertheless, Hamilton's death ended Burr's political career.

Burr traveled west to the American frontier, seeking new economic and political opportunities. His secretive activities led to his 1807 arrest in Alabama on charges of treason. He was brought to trial more than once for what became known as the Burr conspiracy, but was acquitted each time.

Alas Burr wasn't made president by the Electoral College.

But maybe that was a good thing.  Especially since Hamilton became a money making Broadway Musical.

Sunday, January 10, 2021

Sorry Mitch, but you are WRONG! WRONG! WRONG! about Biden and Gun control.

I wanted to comment on your Grabbing While The Grabbing’s Good post, but my wordpress account doesn't work there. I stand by what I said in my Biden and Guns post. I'll toss in pretty much everything I said about why Trump would have won.

The money shot is Biden's campaign was:

increasingly worried about the polling in Pennsylvania and fear that his previous, slim lead could be slipping away at the eleventh hour. But this doesn’t sound like a move that would help him much, if at all, on that score. The vast majority of Biden’s support in the Keystone State is going to come from Pittsburgh and Philadelphia. But the latter city is currently overrun by mobs and is going up in flames. Philly is one of the places where the demand for guns is off the charts in a Democratic stronghold and people can’t even get applications for permits, to say nothing of laying their hands on a legal firearm. Something tells me that even his base there doesn’t want to hear any gun control claptrap at the moment.

Let's toss in the ultimate opportunity for the US to do what Britain and Australia did: The Sandy Hook Shooting. They could have pulled off enough "moderate" republicans to ban "assault weapons", but weren't able to.  No matter how many toddlers get popped.

Las Vegas would have done it for enacting gun control in any sane country. Even Trump banned bump stocks after that, but that was the extent of it.

Let's face it. People in the US are really fucked up and stupid.

There will probably never be any serious firearms control in the US. Even if real domestic terrorists pull off Bataclan level mass shootings on a daily basis. people will be cringing in fear to do anything, yet pro-gun galahs will be saying how wonderful the situation is.

People like you will stick by your WRONG interpretation of the Second Amendment. Show me the words "self-defence" or anything other than its purpose related to anything other than the militia. Fact is that if you got a couple of words past "we the people" you would see how incongruous the concept of gun rights happens to be in the constitutional framework. Fortunately for the people peddling the bullshit, most people don't know what exactly the US Constitution actually says. They know a couple of phrases taken out of context.

If even that.

The idiots who wrote the constitution could have saved a lot of pain by just saying "fuck it" if the interpretation you believe is correct were what they had in mind.

The US was pretty fucked up before 1789. It is even more fucked up because people like you have no fucking idea of what you are talking about. You have a choice.

Stay the course or make some serious constitutional and legal changes.

Otherwise, enjoy living in your failed state.

"We are a REPUBLIC not a DEMOCRACY!"

It's amusing that most of the people who chant this usually side with the crowd storming the US Capitol. Let's toss in that the First French Republic pretty much contradicted what was being asserted at the same time across the Atlantic in Philadelphia. Although we have this interesting version of an 1800 attack ad on Thomas Jefferson which was created using actual contemporary criticism of Jefferson.

Actually, the founders were familiar with the French Revolution, First republic, and its excesses. The Alien and Sedition Acts from 1798 were aimed at the French.

And Jefferson's comments about frequent revolution and "watering the liberty tree" helped to make his reputation shown in the above ad.

Unfortunately the right is attracted to the more puerile aspects of the War for Independence and not its realities. My ancestors on the Pennsylvania Line at Morristown were some of the early grumblers, but the vicissitudes caused by the war led to more rebellions. Shays' Rebellion being the one which led to the drafting of the US Constitution.

The founders could have just said "fuck it" and done nothing had they wanted the America of the extreme right. The factionalism has been in the US since early on. What we are seeing at the US Capitol is nothing new in US politics. And probably much more common than most political commentators are willing to mention.

While one side of me is first generation American and much happier in Europe. The other side of me is the American Experience. Literally. The Americans thought they had the rule of law, but was it more of the factionalism we see exhibited in the US, and state capitols?

I don't think that the people who built this nation would be too keen on keeping a dysfunctional system. Would they go to the Jeffersonian extreme? Or would they take the route of the people who wrote the Constitution? My bet is on retooling the workings of the political system since that was the choice made in 1789.

On the other hand, it seems more like people are going with the "fuck it" option. But that is the option of defeat. That's the one where people admit that the efforts of the people who built the nation were all in vain. That's the one that says to the soldiers of the Pennsylvania Line at Morristown (and Valley Forge): "You are a bunch of chumps sitting there in the cold. The ones of you who go AWOL to tend their farms are the real patriots."

Maybe we should take solace in the fact that there actually was a peaceful transition instead of the 1800 election turning into as blood bath because there couldn't be a peaceful transition. I think there will be a peaceful transition, but what is made from it needs to be an examination of the system.

The people who will soon be in charge of the government are the ones who gave us Donald Trump. They made the situation right for the campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump. I don't see any significant changes on offer from the returning regime. It's like the Bourbon Restoration, which was overturned by the Revolution of 1830.

Unfortunately the Founders were blinded by a romantic history of the ancient world. There is no difference between a republic or a democracy other than one does not have monarchs. But Republics can have dictators, oligarchs, and Tyrants. Plato's ideal republican leader was the "benevolent despot". They can be just as faction ridden (if not worse) than a Democracy.

Especially if one believes there is a right to revolt against the lawful order. Or that any violent revolt is somehow better than following the law.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

Who was president on 4 January 2016?

Barack Obama if I remember correctly.

And the reason I'm asking this is because of this article from Salon which was published on that date. The right wing extremists we see in the US Capitol didn't happen over night. It was pretty much well under way long before 2016.

So, yet another thing we can't pin directly on Donald Trump.

And it's also not a phenomenon that is limited to just the United States. Cas Mudde has a really great opinion piece in the Guardian about all this:

How and why did we get here? First and foremost, through a long process of cowardice, failures, and shortsighted opportunism of the mainstream right. Already in 2012, in the wake of the deadly terrorist attack on a Sikh temple in Wisconsin, by a longtime prominent neo-Nazi, I wrote, “the extremist rhetoric that comes from so-called law-abiding patriots should be taken more seriously”. I advised Republican leaders to “be more careful in choosing their company and insinuations”. What happened, however, was the opposite: far-right ideas and people were mainstreamed rather than ostracized.

As in so many other things, Donald Trump has been a major catalyst of this process, but not its initiator. The radicalization of the US right wing predates Trump by decades. It even predates the Tea party, which mostly helped to bring the far right into the heart of the Republican party. Obviously, racism and racist dog-whistling have been key to the party since they launched their infamous Southern Strategy in the 1970s, which brought white Southerners to the Republican party, but this goes far beyond that. The radicalization is not just ideological, it is anti-systemic.

I'm not sure if I would say that Trump was a "major catalyst", but he has definitely played and been associated with this trend. I am also not sure that I would put the blame solely on the right, since no one has called out this movement with any real force on either side. It's too easy to finger point than to address this issue.

On the other hand, it is long past time to have done anything about this issue. But what needs to be done is some serious self-examination by all sides as to WHY the situation is what it is. There are some very real issues raised by all this, but it's easier to play games than to address the flaws in the system.

A major flaw is that US elections are indeed not very democratic from a two party system that shuts out other players, to gerrymandered districts, not directly electing the president, among a long list of problems screaming for reform. These problems are internal and not caused by foreign nationals.

The writing was on the wall long before Trump and may bring someone far worse than Trump unless the problems are addressed.