The Country & The Country–America in 2012

In 2009 China Miéville came out with The City & The City, a fantasy novel about two cultures, living in one physical location, that were so alienated from each other that they believed they lived in two separate cities, even though both cities were located in the same geographical location.  Citizens of each city spoke a different language, had different laws and culture, and they had been trained since birth to ignore each other so well that they were invisible to each other.

When I read The City & The City I thought the idea too far out to believe, but the 2012 Presidential election is making me change my mind.  This afternoon was I was reading news feeds on my iPad with the app Zite about climate change.  There were two kinds of stories.  90% of the stories were science articles about the effects of global warming around the world.  Not stories theorizing the coming of global warming, but reports of its effect right now.  The rest of the stories were from climate change deniers.  They no longer try to attack the science of global warming, they laugh at the the absurdity that anyone should even consider the possibility of climate change.  They sneer at liberals who believe these science fictional fantasies.  They applaud Romney, Ryan and the Republicans for giving zero thought and time to such Chicken Little fears.

We’re now living in The County & The Country!

What I’m writing now is completely invisible to conservatives.  If they read this essay they would only see some silly story that sounds like nonsense.  It’s doubtful any would even try to read it.  And I’m not writing this to appeal to their reason.  I know I’m invisible to them.  They can’t hear me.

We have become so polarized in the United States that we can no longer see members of the opposite political party.

I could take the time to list many pro and con articles I read today, but what’s the point, those that see, do – those that don’t, can’t.  Anyone can go to Google Alerts and set up a news watch on any topic.  Just set up a “climate change” News Alert.  You’ll be sent an email once a day with all news of any kind about the topic.

Global warming has been happening for decades.  The effects have been felt for decades.  Humans change the planet all the time in endless ways.  We affect the weather all the time.  And it’s all invisible to you if you choose to ignore it.  I think even people who understand that climate change is happening refuse to pay attention.  People do not want to change their lives.  People do not want to make sacrifices.  People do not want to believe that bad things are going to happen.

New Scientist has an interesting article that asks:  “If 2013 breaks heat record, how will deniers respond?”  I often wonder about that.  At what point do the people who can’t see climate change suddenly start feeling the heat?  Will they ever?  How powerful is mind over reality?

The Republican party claims President Obama has been a failure as a leader and now it’s time for Republicans to lead the country.  Only they can lead us out of our economic mess.  I’ll admit that Obama hasn’t been a great leader.  I’ll also admit that Republicans can be great at leading the country.  But they are a one trick pony when it comes to leadership.  All they know how to do is lower taxes, regardless of the economic impact.  Voting Republican means voting to lower taxes on the wealthy.  You can be absolutely sure they can lead the country into lower taxes.  Whether they can lead us anywhere else is doubtful.  But it’s also a 100% guarantee, that they won’t do anything about the environment, other than run away, or stick their heads in the sand.

Voting Republican means:  “We want NO leadership on environmental issues.  Zip.  Nada.  Nothing.  Nix. Zero. Zilch.”

America is now two countries coexisting in the same spatial plane.  There are two cultures, liberals and conservatives.  They do not speak the same language.  They can not communicate.  Conservatives see reality on the North American continent different from liberals.  It’s cool and refreshing where Republicans live.  All they see is high taxes, wasteful governmental programs, welfare squatters, sin and a black man as President.

They want to grow the defense budget to protect America from any harm when our only real enemy is ourselves and climate change.  Is that leadership?

[One reason I don’t give Obama high marks for leadership is he hasn’t lead on climate change.  He does accept the problem, he just hasn’t made it a political issue.  Read “Obama and Romeny on Climate Change Science” at the Washington Post.]

 

JWH – 9/3/12.

The Clear Choice: Socialism v. Social Darwinism

When Mitt Romney selected Paul Ryan to be his running mate, conservatives were overjoyed, proclaiming America now had a clear choice in November.  Republicans feel America is going down the drain and voters should choose between Socialism and Capitalism.  As a liberal, I feel the choice is between Socialism and Social Darwinism, but I don’t think it’s a clear choice.  Romney and Ryan are already claiming the Republicans will save Medicare, because even though they’d like to delete it from the budget, they know millions of voters want it.  Conservatives are far more socialistic than they are willing to admit.

Obama-Romney

I’m more than willing to accept the Socialistic label, but I believe conservatives need to accept the Social Darwinism label.   The United States has been socialistic since the 1930s.  Republicans obviously want to reverse that trend, although I doubt many of them want to return to absolute free market capitalism.  I don’t believe there really is a clear choice, but I do believe the overall directions of both parties are clear.  Liberals want to spend the money on social support systems to give everyone a minimum level standard of living, and conservatives want to dismantle the safety net and introduce a kind of Social Darwinism so nobody gets a free lunch and everyone competes.

Over population and the removal of real survival of the fittest cruelty, has produced an excess of humans that can’t compete.  The world is fat with people, and there’s not enough natural jobs to let them all survive.  Republicans want to go on a diet and let the excess fat die off.

Either we’ve got to create a safety net, or let nature take it’s natural course.  Free market capitalism is based on survival of the fittest competition.  As a liberal, I don’t want to see the kind of suffering that real Social Darwinism will create and wish to fall back on Socialism.  Nor, do I think Republicans really have the stomach for tooth and claw competition.  What the leaders of the Republicans really want is unrestrained competition to pursue wealth and they see the safety net, environmental protection, and other social engineering as getting in the way.

Most conservatives aren’t rich, and just as vulnerable as liberals to fall victim of Social Darwinism.  In their struggle to stay afloat they have developed a tremendous resentment against others who don’t struggle because they are protected by Socialism.  You can’t blame them, but do they really want to see millions suffer without government handouts?  Would the Republicans really have let the banks and car companies go bankrupted a few years ago?

If we could reach some kind of consensus most people wouldn’t mind giving food stamps and welfare to the truly needy, if we also had an effective system that could distinguish the Meek of the Earth, from the free lunch opportunists.  Americans give billions to charity every year to help the helpless, but Americans also hate ineffective charities that waste money.

There is no clear choice in how be efficient with tax money.  Republicans scream they want to reduce spending, but all they ever do is reduce taxes, and going into national debt is no solution to the problem.  Neither Obama or Romney offer an effective solutions to problems we face.  All they do is play on people’s emotions.  I really believe many Republicans feel the United States will suffer an economic collapse if we don’t elect Romney.  They really are in an emotional panic over this, but us liberals just as strongly believe Romney has no magic bullet to save the country. 

Predicting the future is impossible, but I’m to describe the liberal’s fear of the future.  Republicans will win in November because the party in power seldom maintains power in a bad economy.  Wall Street will be overjoyed at this Republican victory and the economy will heat up, and the unemployment rate will go down.  Republicans will then start dismantling Socialism in America to a small degree reducing the middle class and increase the poor.  Unless there is some kind of new economic bubble, growth will be slow, and hidden unemployment will be high.  The Republicans will cut taxes but not pay off the debt.  If there is a bubble that heats up the economy, it will eventually pop like the housing bubble and we’d go into an even worse recession than we’ve just had.  The Republicans will not do anything about the Environment and will work to dismantle the EPA.  In the next twenty-five years global warming will become obvious to all, but it will be much too late to do anything about it.

See, us liberals fear for our country too, just as much as conservatives.  There are real solutions to our problems, but the clear choice Republicans talk about from both parties in 2012 won’t help us all find them, and we can’t find them without working together, which appears to be unlikely in this ever growing politically polarized society. 

I think both current choices will lead to doom.  We need a third option, but not a third party.

JWH – 8/16/12

Can Politicians Really Help Us?

I fear the Republicans and I’m disappointed with the Democrats.  Can either party help America get out its economic rut?  No matter what politicians promise us to get elected, the only real work they do is to stay in office.  Once elected they won’t make waves, won’t make hard decisions, won’t do what’s needed to get the job done unless it keeps them in power.

I fear the Republicans because they only have one goal – pay less taxes.  Everything else about their endless soap boxing is smoke and mirrors.  Republicans want to be rich and there’s nothing wrong with that, but they want to get rich at the expense of everyone else.  If we followed Republican desires America would end up like India, lots of poor people and a few rich ones.  Basically Republicans believe that nothing should stand in the way of getting theirs, and they don’t give a fuck about what happens to anyone else because that’s their damn problem.

Democrats want to be social engineers but they don’t want to put in the study and work it takes to help America without without causing economic hardship.  Obama had a tremendous opportunity to be a historically great leader, but he won the election and then pulled back.  He was given over eight hundred billion dollars to jump start the economy – that’s a lot of graft to buy favors, so why has a nearly crushed Republican party roared back to life?  Because few people know how that money was spent.  That would take work, and the democrats don’t seem to want to do that kind of work.

The size of the stimulus package should have had some kind of checks and balances.  It should have been spent completely publically, and with public involvement.  I think the essential problem with the political system is people want politicians take care of everything, to treat voters like babies, to wipe their ass, change their diaper and tell them goo-goo, ga-ga and bounce them on their knee.  As long as the people are babies, politicians have all the power.  They want to be the grown-ups and make all the decisions.  But can so few people make wise decisions?

Obama should have told the states and cities that there was stimulus money but the mayors and governors were responsible for spending it wisely.  Governors and mayors should have been required to propose projects that would have created the most jobs and offered the best long term benefits for their communities, and then held referendums and let the people decide which projects to back.  Everyone should have been involved.

Instead of blaming political parties for our failures we should be blaming ourselves.  We treat politics like an endless playoff game between two long-time rivals.  It’s rah rah rah for my side against yours.  Switching leaders every two, four or six years really doesn’t do much, has it?  Isn’t it just playing Mom off against Dad, or Dad against Mom?

What we want is prosperity.  That requires full employment.  More Americans than ever are living in poverty.  You can’t have prosperity with numbers like that.  We can’t change anything by just picking which team we want to win, the Republicans or Democrats.  I think we need a more participatory government where voters directly decide the issues and the spending.  Let’s cut out the middlemen.  Everyone needs to study the problems, and everyone needs to take responsibility to solve them.

Unless everyone is studying the problems, unless everyone is working on the solution, things are going to stay a mess because what we’re doing is shirking responsibility.  Expecting politicians to do everything is crazy.  How can a few thousand people make the decisions for over three hundred million people?  How can two philosophies be the only solution for a reality as complex as ours.

The philosophies of lowering taxes or social engineering are as silly and simplistic as Santa Claus delivering Christmas presents in one night by a reindeer powered sled.  We need a new system for processing complex economic and social problems.  We need a Democracy 2.0.  Power and responsibility needs to be shifted to everyone.  I’d say get rid of both parties and find a way to deal with issues one at a time.  We need open source politics where the source code for how everything works is open for all to inspect.

JWH – 9/19/10

State of the Union

According the Republicans, the United States is the most perfect nation on Earth, and can do no wrong, except that they hate the size of the federal government, think we have too many laws, we’re way over taxed, and our ideal political system is crushing their personal freedom.  On the other hand, Democrats think the United States is a magnificent country that keeps making huge mistakes that could easily be fixed if we pass the right laws, raise taxes to pay for the right programs, and act cool with the other nations.

The state of our political union is a polarized ideology that operates a political machine that’s so big that change of momentum is almost impossible.  For decades now we’re pretty much a divided population that throws mud at each other.  Both tickets practically blather about the change they will bring about, but will either man actually do anything beyond ride the tiger?

I think Congress has dug itself into a hole so deep with partisan politics, influenced by special interests, corrupted by pork barrel dealings, that we’re almost in political gridlock.  I’m tired of being a citizen that feels like my only power is to root for my team, the Democrats, hoping the Republican team will lose the game this time.  How can we get ahead when at each election half the population goes home mad?

I think we need to introduce a change.  One tiny change, and see if it has the right ripple effects.  And I don’t think it should be a top down change, we could never agree on something so big.  I was thinking we could make one change in how Congress conducts business that might improve things in a way that would make more people happy on both sides of the political spectrum.

I think we should pass a law that Congress can only vote on one item in each bill.  In the debates the candidates keep slinging attacks by using voting records, but it’s always deceptive because they can claim they didn’t vote for a particular bill because of another item in the bill.

With such a simple change, voting records would be much clearer.  However, it would solve other problems too.  A lot of corrupt wheeling and dealing in Congress is done by attachments to a bill that allow special interests to get what they want, or congressmen to get pork for their districts.  If every bill had to be based on one item, I think politics would be much cleaner and clearer.  Look how backers of the financial bail-out package are having to buy votes with pork promises.

Another thing I noticed during the bail-out crisis was how Congressmen justified their vote by claiming to be responding to phone calls and emails from their constituents.  I think if every bill had only one item it would be far easier for the public to understand and express their opinion.  Every Congressmen could put web polls for forthcoming bills and let their voters have their say before making their vote in the House or Senate.

I think making this one change in how we play the game could have lots of ramifications that might break the gridlock and depolarize our political system.  Think about it.  When you watch the news see how often issues come up that are related to bills with multiple items being quickly pushed through the system.  Our political representatives seem to be getting lazy, and want to make huge packages that have a little something for everyone, but are bad for the nation as a whole.

JWH 9-19-8

Sarah Palin

Last night while watching Sarah Palin speak at the Republican convention I came the closest I ever have to wanting to vote conservative.  Sarah Palin is one of the most engaging plain-talking politicians I’ve ever heard.  What’s terribly amusing is she is a product of liberal evolution.  It’s been only a few years back that most conservatives believed that women belonged in the kitchen, and less than a century since they were allowed to vote.  It would be rather ironic if the conservatives elect the first woman Vice President and possible future President.

Conservatives may not like change, but they are adapting quite well with Sarah Palin.  They have been quick to accept the idea that she should be treated like a man and be freed of maternal slavery so she can put in the long hours needed be a political leader.  It’s either that, or not allow any candidate, male or female, with dependent children to work in the White House.  Hell, it hasn’t been that many years since I’ve heard conservatives talk about how women can’t be President because of hormones.  I’m proud of you Republicans for evolving in your liberal thinking.  Now, if you could only get over your hang-ups over gays and lesbians.

I really liked John McCain’s comments tonight about Obama and how we’re all Americans.  I get so sick of Republicans acting like liberals aren’t patriotic, and believe we don’t love this country as much as they do.  Republicans have this really offensive behavior of thinking that anyone that doesn’t agree with their philosophy is a traitor to the U.S.A.  I think that attitude is un-American because it erodes free thinking and encourages ugly group-think.  I believe the McCain-Palin ticket has tried to back off from acting like that.  I think McCain knows it’s offensive, but I don’t know about Palin yet, with her pit-bull with lipstick demeanor.

While listening to Sarah Palin I had to keep reminding myself why I don’t vote Republican.  The thing is I have lots of conservative beliefs myself, but Republicans have such a smug holier-than-thou attitude towards everything that I don’t think I’d fit in with my Hamlet like indecisiveness of seeing a thousand gray shades in every issue.  Besides, they really hate atheistic evolutionists like me.

Of course I also have problems with Democratic ideals too.  I’m comfortable in the political middle and feel both parties are extremists.  I’m for free trade and globalism, lower taxes, smaller government, but I’m also for helping the poor, some entitlements, and a minimal level of universal health care.  I love both business and the environment.  I think abortion should be legal but wished no one would ever get one.  I think capital punishment can be an ethical solution but doubt if we have the discernment to see the true distinctions in what’s involved.  I think war is often necessary, that it’s important to keep a prepared military, that the Iraq War might be the biggest mistake our country ever made, but since we broke it we should pay for it.  I wished the Republicans would admit that Iraq was a huge mistake and I wished the Democrats would admit that sticking with the surge and going the distance is the right thing to do.

Politics is so far from black and white that I can’t believe people get so polarized.  I disagree with many of Sarah Palin political stances, but I think she might make a good leader.  I think her small town salt-of-the-earth good-people philosophy is fine as long as she doesn’t press personal and religious beliefs into law for everyone.

I have an odd view about Republicans and Democrats in relation to religion.  I think Republicans are really Old Testament thinkers, and Democrats are followers of the New Testament.  The Old Testament is about God, the Law and the Chosen people.  The New Testament is all about compassion for the poor, sharing the wealth of the fish and loaves, understanding criminals and prostitutes, and so on.  The Old Testament is about being powerful, prospering, forming a strong nation to please God, and most of all, law and order.  The New Testament is about uplifting the meek and helpless, understanding your neighbors, and walking in other people’s shoes, breaking out of the old ways and forging a compassionate philosophy.

I can understand all that Old Testament thinking – it’s how mankind got its act together to create civilization.  The New Testament is the origin of liberal thought.  It’s the beginning of the shift from believing that the nation is of ultimate importance, to the shift in valuing the importance of the individual.  All people in this world, except the most extreme fundamentalists have been affected by liberal thought.  The trouble with the most extreme liberals is they threaten the stability of the nation.  For example, would universal healthcare damage the economy?  Would gay marriage threaten the social fabric?

In other words, I can understand why conservatives are threatened by liberals.  But to my conservative friends, has women in the military, boardrooms, legislative houses and maybe the White House hurt us?  Is education about how not to get pregnant or acquire a STD so scary, especially when children are bombarded with pro-sex television, movies, books, songs, and advertisement from the time they are tiny?  Sex education in the schools of any kind is completely anti-sex compared to pop culture.  And do you not realize that teaching creationism or intelligent design is defective thinking similar to astrology, Tarot cards and palm reading – something the Enlightenment passed by hundreds of years ago?

If the Republicans get more liberal, more into the New Testament, more concerned about the environment, maybe I’ll consider voting for them.  Sarah Palin, I think you are beautiful, charming, full of grit and sand, honest, and worthy of the job, but also still too Old Testament scary for me.

Jim