Saturday, February 13, 2021

Quelle surprise! (What surprise?)

Once again, Trump is not impeached.

No surprise since the process is 100% political. Maybe one could attempt to get a grand jury to issue an indictment, but I wouldn't put money on it.

On the other hand, the people who have been pushing to impeach Trump have engaged in willful ignorance of Hillary Clinton's, and even worse, Joe Biden's corruption issues. The link below isn't to a right wing rag, but is from a op-ed by Zephyr Teachout published in the UK guardian.

Biden's (and Harris') campaign was considered dead until their "Super Thursday" miracle.

Quite frankly, I think now that the distractor in chief is well out of office that the "Democrats" need to do some housecleaning.

"Why do you look at the speck of sawdust in your brother's eye and pay no attention to the plank in your own eye?

Wednesday, February 10, 2021

Ranked Choice Voting--Be careful what you wish for.

I have no illusions about Ranked Choice Voting (RCV). Europe has had run off elections for a while now, which is a longer version of what is called ranked choice voting. The person with the most votes wins. It's pointless if you have a single party, or two undistinguishable parties. Some places in the US only have one candidate running. Case in point, I voted in an election in DC where my choices were the "Democrat", Marion Berry, or the Socialist Workers Party.

I voted Socialist Workers Party.

The point is that Marion Berry won, but I was able to vote against him. Likewise I have said that I would have voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016 if RCV had been in place. Sure, I would have voted (1) Jill Stein, (2) Gary Johnson, (3) write in for my dog, and (4) Hillary Clinton. Not sure how I would have done it in 2020, but Biden would NOT have gotten my vote even with RCV.

The point is that RCV makes it easier for alternative parties to get into the game, which is why people like me and other reformers are interested in it. The mass of people who DON'T vote because they feel that their votes don't count. Or that they are voting for parties which don't represent them. I shouldn't have to vote AGAINST a candidate, but FOR a candidate I believe represents me.

On the other hand, some seriously conservative candidates can still end up winning. I remember sitting in an Antwerp Coffee shop after the Vlaams Blok won the election! Emmanuel Macron topped the ballot in the first round of voting, and was elected President of France on 7 May 2017 with 66.1% of the vote in the second round, defeating Marine Le Pen making him the youngest president in the country's history.

For the Americans out there who don't know who Marine Le Pen is, She was involved with the Front National, a French, far right party (like really far right, a party like that would really push US politics to the right).  She is the youngest daughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, the former leader of the Front National, and the aunt of former FN MP Marion Maréchal. Marine Le Pen joined the FN in 1986. The FN has changed its name and toned down a little, but most people on the left would go apeshit if a party like this had national prominence in the US.

FN and Vlaams Blok aren't neo: they ARE Nazi! Well, maybe they are the political descendants of the Nazis: Vlaams Nationaal Verbond and Action française

Get the point?

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green ain't got nothing on these people, or might seem like what the FN has become. But having dealt with FN members when I was living in Belgium, the US would be in for some REAL fun if a party this far to the right joined the political fray. People would be nostalgic for Trump.

The point is that the latest incarnation of the FN was up against Emmanuel Macron. That's a bit like Bernie Sanders running against David Duke.

While it might result in a left wing candidate winning a seat: that isn't totally a possibility. I supported Lisa Savage's run in the Maine Senate election which was run under RCV. The upshot of that was Susan Collins was reelected. This was despite a lot of outstate support for her Democratic Opponent, Sara Gideon.

In other words, it may be helpful to conservative candidates. I mean Marine Le Pen and the Vlaams Blok do well with this type of election. Which is why I say be careful what you wish for, you might get it. 

AOC could lose a future election to someone so far to the right she would move to Cuba.

Tuesday, February 9, 2021

Impeachment...or REAL reconciliation?

Time magazine has published an article, The Secret History of the Shadow Campaign That Saved the 2020 Election, as we wait for the beginning of yet another pointless impeachment. I am even more sure that the result will be yet another acquittal by the Senate 

One can get their own take depending on how you read the Time Magazine article, but the ultimate bottom line is that the US election process needs to be examined. I'm with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) who believes that it would be much more constructive to look into changing the system. I differ with him in that the process should be an intensive look into system.

Saturday, January 30, 2021

Robin Hood revolution

I've not really paid that much attention to The GameStop thing, but it points out something I have been pointing out about how the current "market capitalism" works: Or Las Vegas on Wall Street.

The short form is that a group on reddit decided to invest on GameStop since the Hedge Funds were looking at it. Their purchases were aided by a broker called Robinhood Investing, which offers no fee trades. I have some idea of how hedge funds work and it sounds as if the reddit crowd were doing something which the "big players" have been doing for a while.

The big problem is that it was a group of small investors making money instead of the few, wealthy getting rich(er).

That goes against the rules. The powers that be are upset that people outside their circles are using their methods to make money.

It also highlights that the people in power are the ones who caused the problems with the economy of a while back. And they were the ones who got bailed out: not the little guy. 

The current US political situation is also run by pretty much the usual suspects, which is one of the many reasons why I demexited in 2016. I see the power people circling their wagons to put down the revolution.

Unfortunately, the dam has broken.

The powers that be had their opportunity to make a clean transfer of power, but their bets were on the status quo. Unfortunately the best way to handle a revolution once one gets started is to try and control it. Try to keep the forces of change in control.

The problem is that is an option which is being applied FAR too late in the game. The time for real change was 2016, but the powers that be opted for the status quo.

Now it's going to be hard to blame any of the mess ups on anybody else than the people running the show.

Thursday, January 28, 2021

Gun rights isn't a sign of freedom: it's a sign of a failed state!

The concept of Gun rights equalling freedom seems as close to propaganda as one can get: especially if one sits down to look at it objectively. Totalitarian regimes wave around firearms in the same way that people who proclaim this to be a sign of freedom do in the US.

Let's also get down to the reality of the German Reich under Hitler, which liberalised its gun laws. That is the opposite of what the Gun rights crowd want to believe, but it is the truth. The best known case of dissension in Nazi Germany, the White Rose Group, had a firearm with 150 rounds of ammunition. And Operation Valkerie, the largest plot to kill Hitler, was run by military officers.

Wouldn't those people have been armed? Oh, yeah, my fav refutation of the "poor victim" argument for gun rights here.

This is what I call the Cold-Dead-Hands Test. If the only way to get someone's gun is to pry it from their cold, dead hands (literally or figuratively), that's not gun control. When Grant disarmed the Confederates at Appomattox, that wasn't gun control; that was taking prisoners. When the Soviets disarmed the remnants of the German 6th Army at Stalingrad, that wasn't gun control either. Mao didn't come to power in China by tricking the populace into surrendering their arms. He pummeled his well-armed opponents in a stand-up fight. There's a big difference between unable to fight back, and fighting back but losing...

Frankly, this list is a pitifully weak argument against gun control, simply because most of the victims listed here did fight back. In fact, if there's a real lesson to be learned from this roster of oppressions, it's that sometimes a heavily armed and determined opposition is just swept up and crushed -- guns or no guns.

There is another aspect to the relationship of gun rights, propaganda, and totalitarianism which is why do people tolerate authoritarian regimes, which I am not going to get into.

My real interest is in the concept being pushed of "gun rights" which is not that common despite its adherents wishing it were. This blurb from Wikipedia:

Inclusion of this right in a written constitution is uncommon. In 1875, 17 percent of constitutions included a right to bear arms. Since the early twentieth century, "the proportion has been less than 9 percent and falling". In an article titled "U.S. Gun Rights Truly Are American Exceptionalism," a historical survey and comparative analysis of constitutions dating back to 1789, Tom Ginsburg and colleagues "identified only 15 constitutions (in nine countries) that had ever included an explicit right to bear arms. Almost all of these constitutions have been in Latin America, and most were from the 19th century"
Wikipedia lists the following as recognising the concept of gun rights: Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Czech Republic, Switzerland, The United Kingdom, Sharia law, and Yemen. Amusingly, the Ginsburg article says, "We code only Mexico, Guatemala and the U.S. as having a right to bear arms." While the constitutions of Haiti and Iran do mention guns, "the provision was too ambiguous for us to consider it a true right to bear arms."

Indeed, looking at the list, we see the person trying to make this argument that these nations have "gun rights" is making a stretch. Let's start with The United Kingdom, which anyone vaguely familiar with the UK and its legal offspring knows doesn't really have "gun rights". Australia and New Zealand are the best examples of how common law offspring have handled "gun rights".

Let's go to Guatemala, Honduras, and Mexico. Anyone who has had an argument with someone who supports "gun rights" knows that these are brought up when discussing the United States' gun problem. Maybe the advocates for regulation need to point out that the countries with the high rates of gun violence also enshrine "gun rights" in their constitutions!

The European Countries are a bit more problematic since while the Czech Republic and Switzerland may believe in "gun rights", they also don't hand out guns willy nilly. And Switzerland does have mass shootings, but the Swiss are so law abiding that they obey the gun laws, which they do have. The Zug Parliament mass shooter didn't use his service rifle, but used a civilian version instead! I would toss in that the Swiss have been working on legislation that would require military members to store their weapons in armouries. And military service is not "universal" and hasn't been for a while.

And the money shot on Switzerland from Politifact (that whole article is useful to the argument about gun rights and failed states):

Switzerland does not have a constitutional right to keep and bear arms, Kopel said.

But even the wikipedia article admits that the nine country list is a stretch.

Which including Sharia Law and Yemen highlights. I was under the impression that Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan also believe in gun rights. And I have heard that Iraqis also kept guns. Having to mention any of this highlights the failed state nature of the concept of gun rights. I really shouldn't have to mention that Yemen and Afghanistan have been war zones for a while now.

And they have shitloads of guns...

Toss in that the Northwest Frontier of Pakistan is gun maker heaven. Look up Darra Adam Khel. I'm not sure if this place is history yet, but there is a long tradition of gun making in that region.

In fact choosing most of those countries for trying to push the concept of gun rights highlights the point I am making: places with gun rights don't really have effective governments. And places with effective governments don't really believe in gun rights.

I've already mentioned the characteristics of a failed state in a previous post, but will do so again since part of the "gun rights" belief hinges on this.

A failed state is a political body that has disintegrated to a point where basic conditions and responsibilities of a sovereign government no longer function properly (see also fragile state and state collapse). A state can also fail if the government loses its legitimacy even if it is performing its functions properly. For a stable state it is necessary for the government to enjoy both effectiveness and legitimacy. Likewise, when a nation weakens and its standard of living declines, it introduces the possibility of total governmental collapse. The Fund for Peace characterizes a failed state as having the following characteristics:
  • Loss of control of its territory, or of the monopoly on the legitimate use of physical force therein
  • Erosion of legitimate authority to make collective decisions
  • Inability to provide public services
  • Inability to interact with other states as a full member of the international community
Common characteristics of a failing state include a central government so weak or ineffective that it has an inability to raise taxes or other support, and has little practical control over much of its territory and hence there is a non-provision of public services. When this happens, widespread corruption and criminality, the intervention of state and non-state actors, the appearance of refugees and the involuntary movement of populations, sharp economic decline, and foreign military intervention can occur.

One thing I have noticed with people who believe in gun rights is the tendency to talk about government having an inability to protect people. Also the failure of government to enforce laws. In fact gun rights people basically talk as if we already live in a failed state.

A major part of the rush on firearms is based on the fear of lawlessness, which was somewhat fatuous in regard to covid. On the other hand, the riots did provide an apparent slide toward being a failed state. Especially when people were running around talking about dismantling the body which provides security and order.

I'm sure that someone can take this argument and run with it since there is more than enough evidence that the concept of gun rights really has no constitutional basis (something else I have gone into in depth). Any true "originalist" can rip that argument to shreds even without having to go beyond the text of the US Constitution and decisions interpreting it.

On the other hand, I haven't seen too many people pointing out how bankrupt the concept of "gun rights" happens to be when one examines it. But even the Heller and McDonald decisions pointed out how limited in scope this concept should be if it is to be considered a reality (again, something I have gone into detail about).

Think about it "pro-gun" types: your beliefs rest upon the US being a failed state. The government is ineffective and cannot protect you. That defines a failed state.