Voting into the Void

But now, I’m left with a basket of undesirables – but I have to chose. So here’s the part where I weigh my shitty, shitty options.

Thoughts on making my vote count when I know it won’t count…

If you’re reading this you probably already know that I live in Washington State. As such, because of the electoral college system, my exercise in democracy this November matters very little in the Presidential race. Save some natural disaster Hillary Clinton will secure our state’s electoral college votes. So, why bother voting in this race at all? (Note that I’m not talking about avoiding the down ballot contests here).

This is actually a question worth consideration. What are the good reasons to vote, and do they outweigh the reasons to not vote? First, I want to tackle the latter. The sole reason I can imagine possessing for not voting would be for an extreme aversion to all of the candidates on the ballot. However, even the marginal candidates have something to offer, so this line of thinking quickly dissipates.

But are there good reasons to vote? Well, if I don’t vote I’m essentially abdicating my responsibility to my fellow citizens. I would become a “free rider” that would reap the benefits of an institution that I had no part in holding up. Maybe it is the guilt I still carry as a result of an upbringing heavily colored by the Midwestern Protestant work ethic, but to me an abstention from voting seems almost unethical.

So now to my choices at hand. I have six choices on my ballot here in Washington, and not one of which am I excited about. For the first time in my life I registered as a Democrat in order to cast my vote in the Democratic caucus for Senator Bernie Sanders. This was a candidate that I firmly believed in and could actually get excited about. But now, I’m left with a basket of undesirables – but I have to chose. So here’s the part where I weigh my shitty, shitty options.

Donald Trump:

Pros: Seems to understand that our trade deals have left American workers competing against countries that don’t play by the same rules and can undercut labor and environmental costs so severely that our economy keeps moving toward a Walmart economy. Also may have a halfway decent student loan proposal.

Cons: The man is a walking excrement hydrant that brags about sexually assaulting women. He is a racist, a sexist, and is drumming up xenophobic mania among his supporters in a way that must be labeled as fascist, or at least neo-fascist. He has bribed public officials, ran a sham “university”, and will soon be subject of a trial in which he is accused of raping a 13 year old girl. He doesn’t understand why we can’t use our nuclear weapons. Despite decades of evidence to the contrary, he still believes that trickle down economics is a viable model for the country. He mistakenly believes we (he) can negotiate down the national debt. I could go on, but you likely already know the rest. I wouldn’t let this man manage an Arby’s, and it would be incredibly irresponsible for any thinking person to willfully elect a weak, thin-skinned, megalomaniac such as this to our highest office. There is zero chance I vote for Donald Trump.

Hillary Clinton:

Pros: Wants to keep our government intact. Thinks things like the EPA and Department of Education are worth keeping around. Wants to fix the ACA by implementing a public option. Wants to put in place training for displaced coal workers. Understands climate change is real and is a threat. Isn’t likely to roll back the civil rights gains made in the last decade. Might be willing to listen to progressives.

She has a good chance of getting elected, which means that the type of reforms I’d like to see take place have a slightly better chance of being enacted.

Cons: Her position on the Dakota pipeline is a complete joke. She will continue to implement neo-liberal policies as she has for decades. I don’t believe she will fight for real progress towards mitigating climate change.I don’t believe she understands the Black Lives Matter movement, nor does she see the problems the movement is so clearly articulating. She unequivocally supports Israel and will look the other way when it commits war crimes because she refuses to take a moral stand against countries like Israel and Saudi Arabia because of the “enemy of my enemy” policy we seem all too eager to cling to. She was endorsed by Henry Kissinger, a man who will never (though he should) stand trial for his own war crimes.

I also believe that she helped cover up her husband’s first rape accuser (though most if not all of the others don’t seem credible). I still don’t understand why she has stuck by such a sleazeball.

Voting for Hillary is essentially voting for 4 more years of the Obama administration, though I have a feeling it will be a much more hawkish one. It would also send the message to Donald Trump and his supporters that a large majority of Americans reject his brand of deplorable demagoguery. But would anyone notice my one vote?

Gary Johnson

Pros: He’s neither a Democrat nor a Republican is what you might expect me to say but that’s a statement with no weight behind it. There’s nothing inherently wrong with identifying with either of those two parties as plenty of capable and responsible politicians do.

I will say that his desire to see the US as less of a work police is enticing. We could use a dramatic cut back in our military spending (while still being responsible for the defense of our country) and its influence around the world which often fuels the flames of terrorism that it is supposed to extinguish.

Also, I generally hate the GOP. Today’s Republican party is absolutely a reflection of people like Trump and Ted Cruz. And by voting for Johnson, I could help get their party to the 5% needed to qualify for federal matching funds. Meaning that a vote for Johnson might mean even fewer votes for the GOP candidate in 2020. That’s a long-game spoiler but given the options…

Cons: He’s a libertarian (I can’t wait till some jackass tells me he isn’t a “real” libertarian because a he thinks driver’s licenses are a good idea) which means a host of awful things if put into practice. And as John Oliver recently showed, his fixation with reducing the size of government leaves all sorts of practical implications up in the air (such as his wanting to close the Dept. of Commerce but not realizing that includes the patent office). He doesn’t seem to understand the government he rails against. And can’t convince even 10% of voters that he’s the right guy for the job.

Jill Stein

Pros: She would fight hard for a stronger minimum wage. She would fight hard for climate policy. She would fight hard for a number of causes that I do believe in. And like voting for Gary Johnson, my one vote would get the Green Party closer to the 5% needed to help them in future elections.

Cons: Her foreign policy is kind of a disaster. Her stance on Syria is extremely troubling. She doesn’t seem to have concrete plans for her proposals. Also, we live in America where there is a Senate and House of Representatives where she would have exactly ZERO members of her own party to support her. Democrats might be on her side, but do we really think she could get her plans through Congress somehow, even if by some miracle she was elected?

The Green Party has had some minor success in getting down ballot candidates elected. But that’s where their focus needs to be at this point. They need a coalition and strong Congressional support in order to help a green POTUS enact the type of legislation they desire.

Yes, there are a couple of other alternatives, but none of which have even the slightest chance of making it to 2% of the popular vote. And yes, I already understand the duopoly and how our lawmakers and media have rigged the system against outside voices. I get all of that. But my one vote only has so much opportunity to do anything, to mean anything in a country of 300+ million.

And this post isn’t to tell you who to vote for. That’s up to you (but really please don’t vote for that fucking asshole Trump). Maybe you live in a swing state and your vote might really help decide if we do or don’t end up with an orange toddler for a president. You have your own choice to make, as do I. These aren’t the options I had hoped for, but they’re the options I have. And I feel that not voting just isn’t a choice that I can willfully make.
Cheers.

Of course we won’t forget

Starting late last night I saw a lot of people changing their Facebook profile pictures to some sort of 9/11 commemorative logo, and lots of the “Never Forget” images have started appearing. I have to wonder why anyone needs this reminder.
You never see people of the WW2 generation carrying signs asking us to never forget D-Day. Our history books have not erased Lexington and Concord, Wounded Knee, the Iranian hostage crisis, or Waco from their pages, nor has time allowed them to slip from our collective memories even as the generations that lived through these events have long since passed. You don’t need to carry a sign saying “Never forget D-Day!!!!” because….

IT WAS FUCKING D-DAY. Holy shit, it was a terrible, terrible tragedy that altered the course of world history, geography, and touched hundreds of millions of lives. Just like 9/11. It was one of those events where people will always remember where they were. We don’t need t-shirts or commemorative plates or coffee mugs made in China to recall what happened that day. Thirteen years later and you can’t go a full week without someone invoking 9/11 on the news or in popular culture.

So, maybe instead of “don’t forget” we go with “don’t abuse”.

Don’t abuse the memory of that day in order to show me how “patriotic” you are. Waving a bigger flag and yelling ‘MERICA!!! at the top of your lungs doesn’t make you more patriotic. (There’s also not *one* way to show your patriotism).

Don’t abuse the memory of that day by invoking 9/11 as a way to end a conversation.

Don’t abuse the memory of that day by using what happened as political fodder. You are not a better politician or contributor to the national dialogue because you show concern for the victims of 9/11 and their families. Everyone does. That you do so with a bullhorn just makes you look like an asshole.

Don’t abuse the memory of that day to sell your message/merchandise/self/network or for a promotion.

Don’t abuse the memory of that day to try to sell the public on an unnecessary and unjustifiable war.

Don’t abuse the memory of that day for an applause line or to get facebook likes. It makes you a grade-A asshole.

Don’t abuse the memory of that day by removing it from its historical and global context.

It is impossible for anyone that lived through that day to forget about 9/11. It’s one of those events that we will never outlive and will never disappear from our collective lexicon. There are ways to honor the memory without trying to be the loudest asshole in the room, shoving your fake patriotism in everyone’s face. You might start with placing the day’s events in their proper historical context, or by drowning out those idiots following Alex Jones that still claim it was a false flag attack or the New World Order or other similar bullshit. Just please save me your holier-than-thou faux patriotic nonsense. It belittles what occurred and relegates what should be a greater conversation into the bargain bin of slogans, catch phrases and knee-jerk reactions.

Cheers.

Not much of a choice

We like to pretend like there is a real choice in politics, but there isn’t. Because of decades of gerrymandering safe districts, the two-parties have infected national politics with the old stereotypes of entrenched ward bosses with near lifetime appointments in both houses of Congress.

Our Presidential choices aren’t much better either. In the primary races, candidates pathetically pander to a small fraction of their party’s base that is ideologically driven and has the loudest bullhorn, no matter how much of the party they truly represent. After a candidate is chosen, they then spend the next few months and hundreds of millions of dollars pandering to just 4-6 million “undecided/swing” voters. These people largely vote with their pocketbooks in mind and are far less independent than they would have you believe.

There are, of course, the “3rd” party candidates that run too. Occasionally they are successful but usually at city-council and state legislative levels. People will tell you that you’re throwing your vote away when you vote for them, and that the mere fact that they dare to challenge the status quo of the 2 party duopoly makes them a potential “spoiler”, which is like labeling someone as being a leper.

It isn’t any wonder that people are generally fed up with politics today.

I heard this one today: “Romney and Obama are both stranded in the middle of the ocean. Who gets saved? America.”

But is it really just an either-or, two sides to the same coin choice? Looking at my options, I really don’t think so. I stand firm that I’m a limited-government type of guy, but not in a rigid Ron Paulite type of way. I’d much rather the government left me alone to make my own choices and didn’t tax me to pay for land wars in Asia to feed the coffers of plutocrats. But when asked to vote Republican, 9.9 times out of 10 I have to say no.

You can chose to blame some of what I’m about to say as one-off crazies or individual lunacy that doesn’t reflect the party as a whole. But I call bullshit. While I’m all for smaller, more efficient government, voting for a Republican on the federal level means that I support the following:

Trickle-down economics – this is of course the theory that if the already wealthy just had a bit more money and were burdened with taxes less, that they would just hire all of the unemployed people out there and the economy would have room to grow. We know this doesn’t work having tried it on more than once occasion in the last century. Currently we’re in a demand-slump. Meaning that it is weak consumer demand that is slowing down the economic recovery. The rich spend less of their income, while the middle and lower class tends to spend more of it. Until those people are spending more, we won’t see continued growth. And if wages continue to be stagnant, we’re going to be living in a Walmart economy for decades.

Science denial – Only 6% of scientists associate with the GOP. Why? Maybe because a plurality believe that the world is less than 10,000 years old and that we came about from the literal garden and a magical talking snake that told us knowledge was a bad thing. Or that they deny the very well established science on global climate change.

Crazy – The GOP has enacted or tried to enact laws that force a women to have a vaginal probe stuck in her if she’s considering an abortion. One of their reps thought that women couldn’t get pregnant if she was “legitimately raped”. A one time front-runner for POTUS claimed that the HPV vaccine made people retarded. A majority of republicans believe that the current President of the US was either born outside of the US or is a Muslim.

Imperialism – Many want to go to war with Iran preemptively, ignoring a decade of a similar failed policy in the US. Paul Ryan calls for an annual increase in military spending – indefinitely (with seemingly no way to pay for it).

Destroying the Environment – Republicans have even included it in some of their official platforms that the dissolution of the EPA is one of their priorities, as well as repealing the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts. A vast majority don’t accept the overwhelming evidence that humans are the primary cause of global climate change.

 

I could go on, but I won’t. I could also point out stupid shit democrats do like react to everything bad that happens with a ban, such as the large soda ban that has taken place in New York. Their constant lip service to responsible spending while never (on their own) tackling the long-term problems we will face when it comes to entitlement spending and the growing national debt. Yes, I know exactly how we got to the mess we’re in now, but dealing with it is a whole other issue.

So, when given the choice between someone that understands science and someone that thinks rape babies don’t happen, or given the choice between someone that understands that unions have been a positive impact on the middle class for the last century versus someone that still believes in the myth of trickle-down economics, I generally, reluctantly, raise a blue flag.

 

 

*I’m drafting a post on alternative choices, as well as a sort of meta-post on where I personally stand on the important issues of the day. As always, constructive comments and suggestions more than welcome. Cheers.

The government which governs best…

Just yesterday I was listening to NPR and they were talking about how President Obama had recommended combining several government agencies into one, thereby reducing government waste, bureaucracy, costs to taxpayers, and government workforce. The agencies involved are all related to the Commerce Department and are all business related. The Commerce Department itself would cease to exist, but this plan actually provides for a practical solution as to what would happen to the department and it’s functions after the re-alignment of agencies, something that libertarian and conservative ideologues like Ron Paul and Rick Perry have yet to provide.

This should be an almost no-brainer, depending upon all of the particulars of course. I’m a huge advocate for these types of moves, and if successful I’d like to see more of it. For instance, we could combine the EPA and Department of Agriculture with the Department of the Interior. We could merge the Departments of Transportation and Energy, and I’m sure there are other agencies out there that we could combine to be more efficient, intrude upon our liberty less, and function as a valuable service for citizens and business owners. (I’d also do away with Homeland Security altogether but that’s another post…)

Maybe this has always been on the President’s agenda, since he did talk about this in his last State of the Union address. Maybe it’s a new idea born of general concern for the behemoth of beaurocracy that our government has become. Or maybe he’s just doing it because it’s good politics in an election year.

Personally, I don’t give a shit why he’s doing it. Just do it. Really, it’s a great idea.

Of course, our Republican friends might not agree. No doubt they’ll use this as another political football, even though we all know if it was a Republican President proposing this, it would have received nearly unanimous approval. I’m eager to see where this actually ends up going, and maybe Washington State could take a page out of this book. I’m looking at you, Departments of Ecology and Department of Natural Resources.

 

 

 

The mistake was what he did say, not what he didn’t…

Last night in the 3,756th Republican debate, Texas Governor Rick Perry made what many are calling a “gaffe” by drawing a blank when talking about the three government agencies he would do away with when elected President. He was able to name the Department of Education, and the Department of Commerce, and when offered help by his fellow candidates, said that the EPA needs to be rebuilt, but that it wasn’t one of the agencies he’d get rid of. The talking heads are saying his campaign isn’t likely to recover, all because he stumbled during a “debate”.

First, this wasn’t a debate. This was a highly commercialized hour of campaigning brought to you by CNBC and their many sponsors. There was no honest discussion because candidates are not held accountable for the nonsense that they are uttering.

Next, why was the “pause” the greatest mistake that Perry made? He’s talking about shutting down the Department of Commerce for cryin’ out loud! Let’s take a quick peek at what the DoC does:

• They oversee international trade, and gather labor and other important economic statistics and data that is vital in shaping domestic and foreign trade and monetary policy.

• They oversee NOAA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Shutting this agency down would be bad.Very bad. This isn’t just a bunch of nerds sending weather balloons in the air. NOAA forcasts hurricanes and other major storms, and provides time-critical information to local authoritites to advise them on evacuation procedures. This is a risk to life, property, and the economy. There is a lot of other things that NOAA oversees as well (like weather forecasts that farmers and companies that transport goods rely on, or assessing the damage from the BP oil spill), all of which directly impacts the environment, lives, and the economy.

• The Department of Commerce issues patents and trademarks.

• The Department of Commerce has under it agencies like the National Insitute of Standards and Technology, which puts scientists and engineers to work developing technology and setting standards in the scientific community. This is something that goes way back to our founding fathers, and how they saw a need to have a set standard for weights/measures and other matters of science.

Why isn’t this a much, much larger issue than his forgetting another agency to shut down? Or how about the Department of Education? What possible good could they provide to the public?

• It helps to fund Gallaudet University – the only deaf college in the United States

• It issues student loans and pell grants so that people can afford to go to college

• Sets standards for schools at a federal level

• It makes sure that students have equal access to educational opportunities (though improvement is still clearly needed here)

In my opinion, the Dept. of Education doesn’t go far enough, and is probably a bit too decentralized. While local communities should have the most influence over their children’s education, a strong agency like the DoDE needs to set higher standards in Math and Science if we ever want our children to be able to compete on a global level once they enter the job market. I’d also like to see a national apprenticeship program, but that might be another post altogether. Reform these agencies and get rid of waste? Of course! Close them down entirely? Insanity!

Yet none of these things apparently matter in these debates. According to Governor Perry, we can just shut down the DoC and offer no viable solutions for issuing patents. How does a market economy drive innovation without a guarantee of patent protection?

I guess those types of questions don’t fit on a bumper sticker though. And that’s all we’ll hear going into this 2012 race; bumper sticker politics. Change. Hope. Less Government. Job Creators. Taxes bad. Support the Troops.

Aren’t the issues we face much more complex?

Cheers.

Voted.

Last week I was able to vote in my underwear, and no one seemed to mind. Thankfully, my state has mail-in voting, where nearly all ballots cast are done by mail. There are still a few polling places around for people to go in-person ( I believe they can also fill out a provisional ballot if they haven’t registered as well) if they want though.

Personally, I think this system is fantastic (though could be more successful if postage wasn’t required, though you can drop your ballot off at a few different ballot boxes in each county) as far as allowing as many people as possible to vote. In many places, voting still takes place in person, on a Tuesday during the day. This is prohibitive for many working people to find the time to go and vote throughout the day, and isn’t a very efficient process. Also, I find that I am able to make a more informed vote from the convenience of my home, with my laptop open next to me. I can take a look at who is sponsoring a particular initiative, follow the money used in campaigns, and do some thorough research of the candidates and the claims they make.

Right now, we’re seeing quite a few efforts at voter suppression guided by the GOP and powerful moneyed interests. Other than move to mail-in ballots and maybe changing the election day (either to a week-end or having a national holiday on election day), what are some other ways to increase voter turn out?

Time to make progress

 
via Treehugger

This is a picture of a dead bird. This bird died because it ate all of that plastic you see there. Plastic that you and I threw away, and ended up in the ocean, or washed up on the shore. This bird doesn’t know any better, because evolution in our feathered friends hasn’t had time to adjust to the industrial revolution. Evolution has also failed to equip this bird with the ability to digest any of this plastic, so it just sits inside the bird, and the bird will either starve or hemorrhage or choke to death.

 

These are the stomach contents from a dead sea turtle. Again, a ton of fucking plastic. Chances are, the turtle found the plastic here:

This is a small part of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a swirling mass of floating plastic and other garbage that is twice the size of Texas in the middle of the Pacific Ocean. This is where my trash ends up. This is where your trash ends up. We’ve made this garbage patch.

This is another dead fucking bird. It died due to the oil that spilled in the Gulf of Mexico last year from the BP spill. That oil was being pumped for you and for me. We were going to use it to get to work, heat our homes, make our blue jeans, and to create a bunch of plastic, the same type of plastic the bird and the turtle died from.

This is one of the ways in which we source the oil that killed the bird and produced the plastic that created the trash that killed the other bird and that fucking turtle whose stomach contents are pictured above. We just fucking take it from other people. We make up all kinds of excuses for war and our international relationships and dealings, but it so much of it comes down to securing our unlimited access to oil and the profis that oil will afford a select few.

 

This is natural gas, and it is what some people are proposing we use to help get us off of oil. This is a picture of someone lighting their god damned drinking water on fire, because of the practice of hydraulic fracking for natural gas. Fracking allows natural gas to leak into the wells and aquifers that people use for drinking water, agriculture, and farming. Then the water is pretty much ruined forever. Though this is a pretty kick ass party trick. If you’re throwing a ” I can’t drink my fucking water any more” party, that is.

Meanwhile, while we’re burning all these fossil fuels, we’re making the Earth warmer. “Isn’t that a good thing?’ a total idiot might ask? No, it isn’t. One of the effects it is having is on the forests in British Colombia. “Who cares, because it’s only Canada?” you might ask? Well, that’s also something a complete idiot would ask. All those trees in the picture above aren’t supposed to be that color. They are brown and red because they are infested with bark beetles. Those bark beetles are experiencing warmer, shorter winters thanks to global warming, and that means that their offspring aren’t dying off during due to frigid temperatures, and their population is exploding. These trees are part of a system that forms an enormous carbon sink. But because they are dying, that carbon can’t be stored there. Which creates more warming. And more warming will cause more severe weather. So you’ll probably want to turn up the heater a bit more in the winter depending on where you live. And you’ll want to turn up the A/C a bit more in the summer. And that’ll require a bit more energy, which will end up using more oil.

Please, please do at least one thing today to change this. And then do it again tomorrow, and the next day, and the day after that…

One thing you might even do is write to your representative. Let them know that the EPA needs to be able to regulate greenhouse gases, including CO2. While you’re at it, let them know that you don’t want mercury, sulfur dioxide, and other particulates in the air you breathe.

Just do something, stick with it, and make progress. We need it.

“…progress,
man’s distinctive mark alone,
Not God’s, and not the beast’s;
God is, they are,
Man partly is,
and wholly hopes to be”                     ~ Robert Browning Hamilton
 
 
Cheers.