Category Archives: Politics

2016 and moving forward

Last time I did this I was at a tea house.  That tea house is long gone now and my oh my how things have changed since then but then again some things haven’t changed.

Let’s rewind a bit before the tea house.  I was at a coffee shop with an acquaintance.  She noticed that I was limping round because of my ankle injury.  She told me that her husband had the same thing and that it took him over 6 months to recuperate.  I mentally winced.  6 months!?!?

It turned out she was pretty dead on correct.  The injury was the centerpiece of the first half of my year. A daily nagging and painful reminder of how things were in general. I worked my way back from the injury and in fact I ran a 10k race in November.  The ankle is not fully healed.  On cold mornings it still hurts and I still don’t run on a daily basis.  But perhaps given more time it will one day heal totally.

This year has in some ways been a wake up call and a reminder of how time has passed.  Injuries like this that I could shrug off now take time to heal.  Beyond that I find that some of the interests of my youth no longer hold the same allure that they used to.  The science fiction novels, the action movies, the loud music just don’t interest or thrill me as they used to.  From time to time I still indulge but I find that I am far more picky as to what I spend my time on.

The business part of my life has picked up during the course of the year.  A 4 month-long sales doldrum finally broke in February and I’m slowly returning to form.  I find that the sales arena is now much more competitive.  We live in leaner economic times and I have to do my utmost on each and every sales opportunity and lead to try to convert them into projects for our company.

But of course the big news of the year was and still is the election. Along with millions of others I stayed up that Tuesday night in early November and watched dumbfounded as all the election polls were proven wrong.  The implications of what this election might mean to not just my life but the country and the world in general began to sink in that sleepless night and for many nights to come.

Panic has given way to anger and then determination.

In the past couple of weeks that determination to stand up and resist the new administration and to work to oppose the dismantling of our freedoms has become more and more pronounced.

It’s curious.  Thinking about the effects of this election and my need to speak up and act has made me think more about my life and my life goals in the last month than I have for a long time.

I’ve begun to realize that in some ways my life goals in previous years have been somewhat shallow.  In general, those life goals consisted of maintaining my employment, paying off my house, building up a retirement nest egg, and finally selling the house and moving to a retirement spot.  Possibly some place in Europe or maybe the southwest US.  Not the worst life but not the best either.

But now, now I feel that this election has given my life a certain focus.  I feel that this is a call to take action and to become more involved. I can’t just sit idly by and just go to work while things are occurring right in front of my face and not take action.

I’m not blind and I can see very clearly what is happening and that I have to lend my voice to those that oppose the changes coming to our country.  I’ve never been what you would call hugely political but then again I’ve never before felt such a threat to our democracy.

I don’t imagine that the next few years will be easy and I don’t think that we’ve hit rock bottom yet.  But I do think that if I hold on with steadfast determination that things will change for the better.  I also think that no matter what happens that my life will be the better for having participated and having done my part.

My life will at least be more interesting.

The extremes

You can really get depressed reading articles about the upcoming national election.  Pedagogues and extremists are in style and everyone is competing to outdo everyone else in how far that they can push the national dialogue to the extreme edges of reason and good taste.  The most disturbing part is how much the public is eating it up.

Maybe it’s due to a change in perspective over the years or maybe the political environment has changed over time but I don’t believe that I have ever seen the politics of the nation as sharply divided as they are now.

I don’t see any spirit of cooperation or a genuine desire to do what’s best for the nation instead of finding advantage or benefit for the party or even just for single politicians.

Like I said it’s depressing.

The funny thing is that on the whole we need to have extremists out on the edges of the party.  You’ll never find new and innovative political thought in the center. Or at least not much.  It’s out on the extremes where new solutions or new approaches or new tacks are to be found that will solve problems that come up.  Usually we can derive great benefit from people along the edges as long as they’re controlled and their energies are channeled for the greater good.

Lately however there has been a dearth of leadership at the top of the large political parties and these extremists have taken the opportunity to seize power and to alter the trajectory of the political parties.  In true political fashion they have also taken care to keep themselves in power and in control.

So the longer that these extremists stay in power, the harder it will be to remove them.

I don’t hold out much hope for 2016.  I said previously that no new solutions or ideas can be found in the center.  For the most part this is true but one old idea may come back in vogue.  The idea of mutual cooperation and bipartisanship.  A rather old and not at all glamorous idea but I think if the old party leaderships want to oust the extremists that they will have to turn to each other and support each others bid to wrest power back from the new leadership.

Otherwise we will find ourselves in a gloomy future ruled by those that can spend enough money to get their candidates into power and by those that can yell the loudest.

Birthday lessons

We celebrated America’s 239th birthday yesterday.  To most people it’s a chance to get off work and relax. Most of the population doesn’t sit back to consider the declaration of independence or the revolutionary war or the impact and meaning of these to their lives.

The few people who are paid to do this, social commenters, political writers, and those that make a living speculating about such things will usually crank out the same series of articles every year.  Either the founding fathers were God-fearing capitalist patriots trying to forge a new form of government in a howling wilderness or they were atheist, proto-marxists throwing off the shackles of oppression and  creating universal suffrage for all.  Most of the written pieces fall somewhere along this continuum with some detours delving into the issues of women’s suffrage or slavery. Depending on what websites you visit you will see one opinion voiced more than the other.

Of course not one of these views is wholly correct.  The founding fathers were a mixed lot of idealists and scoundrels, laissez faire capitalists and anarchists, land owning gentry and yeoman farmers, church elders and worldly men.  Each group had its own agenda and reasons as to why they wanted to break away from London’s control and the only thing they had in common was a realization that they would need each other’s support to achieve independence.

One thing that they all recognized however was the need to do something new and radical.  To post a logical declaration of grievances against their existing government and provide a sort of logical proof for the need to break away and to form a new government of their own.

I think that has been a vital part of the American character since before the start.  The urge and ability to try something new and not shy away from it just because it wasn’t something that had been done before.  Of course innovation and new thinking can occur anywhere in the world and at any time in history but I think it’s rare that it has ever been so widely accepted as it was in the early American era by such a large population.

I think it was a side effect of the excitement of being part of a new nation in a new land that allowed people the freedom and flexibility to think about new forms of government, the willingness to gamble on new ventures, the acceptance of new technologies, that sense that over time the nation would “improve” itself and that technology would leverage us all into a new golden age.

I find that somewhere along the way we lost that vital spirit.  Perhaps as early as the late 19th century but certainly after World War II.  We went from being a nation excited and curious about the possibilities and challenges of the future to being a nation in love with a past that for the most part didn’t exist in one way or another.  From being excited at the prospect of change and new thinking to being terrified of the idea and demanding that we stay in a social and mental limbo.  From pulling together in common cause to blaming each other for past and current woes.

Rather than trying to solve situations to find the maximum benefit for all of us we have balkanized our populations into competing and often hostile camps that could maybe pull together and benefit each other but for the most part practice mutual antagonism as a sport.

If we continue on our current route I am certain that we will not see another 239 years.  I don’t see us going past another 100 years.  Either our own inertial forces will rip us apart or competing nation states will begin using our confusion against us and will feast on our self-made misery.

We should respect the past and learn from our mistakes and follies if at the very least to honor the sacrifices of those that came before us.  But we should also remember that they made those sacrifices not for us to stay in the past but to progress forward and up into a better tomorrow.


Discussions that we should have but we’re not having

I rarely watch TV anymore.  I don’t find all that much that excites my intellect or that is thought provoking or that I can respect.  I find the opposite to be true.  I feel that most television programming is an insult to the viewing public.

I find most programming to be a waste of time.  Most programs pander to the lowest common denominator, sex and violence.  They rehash or rework tired old ideas and concepts and expect the viewing public to not notice that the plot lines are painfully and ridiculously predictable.  But what I find most disturbing about television is how it serves as an electronic anesthetic and distraction for the public when real issues come up that need to be discussed.

The viewing public would much prefer to pay attention to the most vapid and banal television shows rather than to become informed and or take action on matters which direct or indirectly affect them.  Matters which they very much need to voice their opinions, yet they don’t.

So it’s worth noting when a program comes on that at the very least brings some of these topics up and captures the public imagination in an entertaining yet informative format.  The program that I am thinking about is Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

Episode dealing with Net Neutrality

For those that don’t know, John Oliver is a British comedian that emigrated to the states and began writing material for comedy shows like The Daily Show with John Stewart. After a successful run at the Daily Show he decided to try his hand at his own news oriented comedy show on HBO.

The results have been significant.  Not only is the show extremely popular but several of the topics that he has covered have been given closer scrutiny by mainline news organizations and his efforts have gone viral on social media and have arguably helped promote some changes in some contemporary topics.

Oliver has covered topics such as the above mentioned Net Neutrality, FIFA, the wealth gap in America, police militarization, and the prevalence of Sugar in the American diet.

Now, I don’t happen to agree with everything he does.  I don’t agree with all his view points, as a comedian he tends to frame the debates in humorous ways, and he doesn’t cover all the topics that I wish he would but I have to give him high marks and praise for bringing these topics to light and giving them the attention that they are due.

I think that in an age where too often television executives don’t want to bother with sophisticated or thought-provoking television shows and would rather just distract the public, that we need to give praise and promote shows that at least encourage the public to think and start important conversations about topics that affect us all.

bit of a rant

We are still about 2 years away from an election and already the political machines on both sides of the aisle are revving up and starting to sling mud.  We’ve entered a phase in american politics where the election season never ends and both sides engage in endless posturing, diatribes, and pointless bickering.

I find it amazing to see that with all the work that needs to be done such as fixing infrastructure, reforming our immigration system, balancing the budget, restoring our education system to prominence, and a host of other issues that the only thing we seem to have time to do is to launch accusations and suggest investigations back and forth.

How do the american people accept this soap opera to be a functioning system of government? Someone somewhere must be saying that there’s got to be a better way of doing things, but if they are, they are being drowned out by the media pundits that salivate at the thought of the latest outrageous lies that they can capture and rebroadcast to a seemingly insatiable public that seems to love hearing their utterances.

Now with the internet and instant contact on social media these attention leeches not only feel free to express themselves more but seemingly feel obligated to outdo themselves with even more stupidity.

Really it makes one despair for the political process.  I could say that things were better when I was young and inevitably someone might answer that my perspective is warped and it really wasn’t better when I was young.  But truth be told, it really was better when I was young.

The way things are going we will see record amounts spent on the next national election cycle.  Money that comes from political action groups.  All in the name of free expression and most of it from the vaults of concerned corporations that will have access to the winners and in some cases will be writing the legislation for the winners to submit to congress.

Is this what you want out of your government?



How late is it?

Last week a relic from a past age made its presence felt once again.  The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (BAS) moved the doomsday clock forward to 3 minutes before midnight.  For those too young to remember the cold war, the BAS, first introduced the Doomsday Clock in 1947 as a way to inform the public of their belief of how close to a global disaster that we were at.

My watch, set nowhere near to Doomsday.

My watch, set nowhere near to Doomsday.

Over the decades the Doomsday Clock has moved forward or backwards depending on the combined opinions of the BAS governing board primarily with regards to the Cold war.  Recently however the BAS has expanded its scope to include such things as terrorism and global warming as possible factors that may lead to a global disaster.

I have to wonder however if the Doomsday Clock is still relevant or even all that accurate.  The governing board of the BAS has stated that the clock is not meant to track all the everyday ups and downs of the world situation but meant to track overall trends.  Not so much a clock but maybe a barometer or perhaps even a farmer’s almanac of doom.

The Clock has two problems.  Firstly, the global situation can change so quickly sometimes.  Sometimes these changes are substantial and the Clock misses these.  I know that they want to predict the overall threat of a global disaster occurring but minimizing or even disregarding these changes makes the clock less accurate.

Secondly the Clock has an image problem.  The general public has become somewhat immune to the Clock’s dire predictions over the years and announcements from the BAS are treated as pretty blasé and unimportant.

If the BAS intends the Clock to be more impactful, then they have to announce the meetings to change the time beforehand and make the deliberations public to let the general population know what they are thinking.

Short little notes like the ones that they currently release cause a flurry of news activity for a few days or weeks but overall they do nothing to affect change.

Really if they intend the Clock to mean anything then they need to change the way that they present the information to the public.


I was watching my Facebook feed the other night out of the corner of my eye while I was doing other things on the computer.  People were reacting to the Ferguson news.

Last weekend police in Ferguson Missouri shot and killed an unarmed black teenager and the local community erupted in protests and then riots as the police department used heavy-handed tactics to deal with the problem.  Tactics that included restricting the airspace over the area, hiding the officer’s name from the public, arresting city officials and media personnel in the area and using large amounts of tear gas canisters and rubber bullets on the protesters.

One poster on Facebook commented in part “How can this be taking place?”

How?  How has it not is more to the point.  The equipment, the laws, and the attitudes for such overuse of state force have been slowly accumulated across the local, state, and federal levels for the last 30 or so years.  Training manuals, courses, and equipment now emphasize the use of force over discussion for all new police trainees.

Police training now emphasizes that the officer should do everything up to and including the use of deadly force to protect himself in any situation that he feels unsafe in.  Since the 9/11 attacks in 2001 there have been more than 5000 civilians killed in the US by police forces.  This is roughly the same number of casualties that the US armed forces took during the same time during the occupation of Iraq.  In addition just for the year 2010 there were recorded more than 4800 instance of police misconduct which included everything from excessive force, sexual misconduct, and theft.

Most of these incidents go unreported as police internal review boards label the majority of these incidents as justifiable actions or police departments will settle things with victims quietly out of court.  In those few cases that do end up as criminal cases the conviction rate for police officers is about half that of the general public.

The thing is that this is not a new phenomena that sprung up overnight.  This has been building up slowly but surely over the decades one law at a time, one incident at a time, one slip of our civil liberties at a time.  The cumulative effect is only now becoming apparent as these abuses of power are becoming more and more overt.

Those of us that wrung our hands whenever these little slips in our freedoms took place were labelled as “crack pots”, “worry warts”, etc.  I suppose we could crow about how right we were and how wrong everyone else was but seeing it all unfold as we predicted it would, I don’t feel like crowing.

So what’s wrong with that?

We’ve all heard about all the excesses of the federal government collecting data on American citizens or of the attempts to regulate the internet more and more.  But have you taken a look at what’s happening locally?

A few weeks ago the Houston city council voted to pass a law allowing neighbors to inform the police if their neighbors are “hoarders”.  The law would allow the police to enter the home and assess if the person is a hoarder and then fine them if necessary.

Yesterday I caught a story about a parent whose son participated in sports and died during spring training due to a heart defect.  He has begun a campaign to make heart EKG screenings mandatory for all student athletes in Texas.

Little things.  You could argue they’re innocuous if not beneficial for individuals and society as a whole.  Why would anyone in their right mind complain about such things?  You’d be right in thinking that by themselves they are beneficial but these laws don’t exist in a vacuum.  You can easily argue that they’re the stepping stones to laws that will have greater latitude to intrude on your privacy.

Mayor Parker already alluded to that as she commented that at the current time the new anti-hoarding ordinance would only apply to townhouses and apartments but that it could easily be expanded to single family homes in the future.  The public good is what is important.  The individual counts for little or not at all.  What really gets to me is that this law relies upon neighbors to become government informants.

The EKG screenings?  Wonderful for student athletes but what happens when someone wants to make the program mandatory for all students and wants to include other conditions besides heart defects?  What happens to all that private medical information when it’s in the hands of a bureaucracy?   Maybe someone in the insurance field or some future employer gets his hands on it?

So what’s the answer to these 2 problems?  I don’t really know.  But thrashing our individual liberties sure isn’t the answer.  Giving away our right to privacy for convenience sake is the last thing that our government should be engaged in.


Libertarians: Reckless nuts or utopian idiots?

Are all democrats, Birkenstock wearing tree huggers that drive hybrids and carry around Apple products?

Are all republicans, Mercedes driving three-piece suit wearing bankers that would sell their grandma for a nickel?

So why are we libertarians those far out loons that tote guns everywhere, smoke pot, believe in no government and pay for everything in gold?

I don’t like politics.  I never cared for it too much, but after the 1992 elections I dropped out for a long time.  The self-serving deceit, the pettiness, and the focus on special interests to the exclusion of all other things made me want to never touch politics again.  That is until I took the unthinkable step of dropping out of the two-party system and tried an alternative.  The Libertarian party.

Yes, those losers that never win anything.  The ones with the home-made campaign signs, the rumpled suits that never seem to fit, the cheesy public access TV show that nobody watches, and the never compromise attitude.

But what exactly do they stand for?  Well lots of things.  Just like both of the big parties have wings (the democrats for example range from the southern democrat that might as well be a republican to the hard left democrat that might as well be a communist) so too do the libertarians encompass a whole range of issues and ideas.  The core idea however is to extend and promote the liberty of the individual as much as possible.

Keep in mind I said as much as possible.  Libertarians are not anarchists and don’t propose to do away with government but they do see that like any other institution that government will grow at any opportunity and it is not always to the benefit of the individual.

Some things have to be done by government.  We have no choice in the matter because these things are too large to do by individuals and corporations would not do these things without a profit motive.

But when these things are done they have to be done in such a way that the rights of the individual are held sacrosanct as much as possible.  Government loves to seize property and tell people what they can do on their property and I don’t hold to such things.

What about pollution or food and safety standards you say?  I say these are resolved the way they ought to be.  In the courts.  Some company pollutes a river or air then they are damaging a property held in the common trust.  Sue them for damages and clean up.  Not just a slap on the wrist amount but something damaging, something commensurate with the crime.

Someone putting out toxic food.  Again lawsuit.  Not just at the corporate entity but the officers in charge and not just punitive but criminal charges if necessary.  Something big.  Something that tells others in that industry that there would be dire consequences for turning out products that harm the public.

Another thing libertarians don’t hold with is crony capitalism.  Altering the rules to favor the few.  This again limits the rights of the individual to favor another party.

Why do libertarians go on and on about gold?  Because our money is backed by nothing and represents nothing.  We can print and print money to fund projects and devalue the currency.  That in turn makes things cost more and means people living at the bottom face rising prices.  Is gold the answer?  I doubt it but continuing with fiat money the way we have certainly isn’t.

Drugs?  Don’t use’em.  But if you’re an adult and you’re not hurting anyone and you’re not becoming a burden to anyone else then do what you want.  But if you get fired from your job for showing up stoned or if your spouse leaves you because of your drug use then be prepared to face the consequences.

Libertarianism is as much about responsibilities as it is about rights.

Will libertarians see any of this implemented?  I don’t know.  Maybe when people start getting sick and tired of the status quo and maybe if they can get away from the fears of leaving the old comfortable system behind then maybe they will give it a try.

The federal budget and weight loss

A few silly similes, muddled metaphors, and addled analogies concerning weight loss and how the US government spends money.

If you think about it, the way the federal government taxes and spends is a perfect method for losing weight.


At the beginning of a health and fitness regimen you need to be thinking about running a deficit.  This of course will mean running at a loss, which is what you want to do.  The last thing you want is to collect more income (in the form of weight).

We have to be republican about things and lower our taxes (intake of food) but in an obverse fashion.  We have to drastically lower our intake of taxes from the poor (fatty and carb rich foods) and increase taxation of job providers (protein and vitamin rich foods).  These will create the jobs (more muscle) that will burn more fat in the future.


Here you need to be democratic and be lavish on the spending of revenue (exercise).  Make sure all the constituencies get some (exercise the entire body) but also fund some special programs to fund those job creators.  Those muscles will later on scream for more revenue to spend (burn fat)

Each day will be your fiscal year.  Tote up the losses happily as you recklessly spend your way down to nothing.

Striking a balance

Once you do get to your ideal weight you need to put the brakes on the spending and increase the tax revenue.

More importantly once you do get to that ideal weight you will want to become a libertarian and pass a balanced budget amendment to maintain your weight.