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.

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.

Wednesday, January 6, 2021

And the bad news is: You can't blame Donald Trump for what is wrong in the US anymore.

Of course, the people with Trump Derangement Syndrome probably will continue to do so long after he has passed from the scene.

Seriously, I wasn't sure which would be worse: Trump winning the same way he did in 2016 by taking the electoral college, but not the popular vote. Or Joe Biden winning and then having to deal with all his shit.

It looks like option two is the one on the cards. With an addition of Horrible Harris to make the package even more fun to swallow.

The real problem is that the "Democrats" spent the past four years blaming everything and everybody, but the people responsible for making Donald Trump president in the first place.

The "Democrats" themselves.

Toss in that the system is pretty much a mess to begin with.

I walked away in 2016 with the Demexit and will not go back, but the system has to catch up with those of us who know it is broken. The electoral system is in serious need of reform and trying to pass the blame on the other guy won't help the situation.

Friday, January 1, 2021

The Duopoly is like Brexit

I would have thought that the culmination of all the past four years of Brexit negotiations would have been much more exciting than the footnote it appears to be for the past four years. It reminds me of how David Cameron's gamble on an EU referendum was like the "Democratic" party's trying to get Hillary Clinton into office. The big difference between Brexit and the past two US elections was that there was an escape clause of an election for the US.

No second referendum for Britain.

On the other hand, the 2020 US election was like the Brexit negotiations with the Trump presidency being Brexit and Biden being the escape clause. Biden's campaign was like the effects of the Brexit negotiations in that people would make assumptions about what a Biden administration would be. Biden was somehow "better" than the alternative.

The real problem was that neither Brexit nor the US campaigns offered anything of substance for the electorate to make a choice on. The only thing being voted on was the dissatisfaction of the electorate for the status quo.

Things were "wrong", but no one was really addressing them. It was easier to blame "them" whether it's the people in DC or the EU. On the other hand, the real problem isn't them, but "us". There is a drift in both US and UK politics which has led to trying to come up with differences where none really exist.

The US duopoly parties are pretty much the same. Despite certain people trying to make Hillary Clinton seem wildly radical, she was fairly conservative. And she couldn't run on the issues. Thus insane concepts such as "defund the police" can see the light of day instead of more bread and butter issues.

The past year was the best argument for a Sanders Administration with Medicare for All (M4A), Universal basic income (UBI), and general social insurance to make sure people can survive being forced to not work for the public good. No, these are not "free", but will require increased taxation. On the other hand, isn't taxing billionaires a good idea? 

Especially when those billionaires are literally making money off YOU!

The people who are afraid of government, yet are willing to give up their personal information to corporations that are making big bucks off that. There is a reason I like the EU and its data protection rules. Not to mention that the EU has been going after these monopolies for some time. the US just hasn't caught up.

But remember that the US tech companies helped get Biden and Harris where they are now if we are going down that track. 

The bottom line is that despite all this information out there, a lot of it is not really useful. There are a lot of reasons for that, but there seems to be a need for a true marketplace of ideas.

And the education to be able to use them.