Friday, November 30, 2012

A Bad Day For Freedom

Syria shuts down internet and cell phone connectivity: (#SyriaBlackout.) BBC. Atrocities, presumably, to follow.

Reuters: Egypt constitution finalized as opposition cries foul. Morsi rammed it through. There seems no English-language translations yet, or even detailed summaries, but "The draft injects new Islamic references into Egypt's system of government but keeps in place an article defining 'the principles of sharia' as the main source of legislation - the same phrase found in the previous constitution" and "activists highlighted other flaws such as worrying articles pertaining to the rights of women and freedom of speech." Still haven't seen a full analysis in English, though.

In other news, the UN has recognized Palestinians as a state, effectively endorsing a two-state solution, but they are a state with little territory. Whether this is a positive or negative remains to be seen. At least, it is a strong rebuke to Israel.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Saudi Arabia Implements Electronic Wife-Tracking System

This is right out of The Handmaid's Tale: Time magazine reports that the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has introduced an electronic tracking system alerting male guardians when a woman has left the country.

Widespread cybersecurity, it seems, is a necessity of freedom.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

On the formation of third parties in the USA

Blog comment to a libertarian.

The US electoral system is set up so that building up enough votes for a third party to win means losing multiple elections to the opposition. Trying to build up, say, a Libertarian vote means losing elections to the Democrats, just as trying to build up a Green vote means losing elections to the Republicans. It's hard to hold a third party vote together long enough to get anywhere in the US system. The only time it was ever been done is when the Whigs split over slavery, when the Republicans became the second party, replacing the Whigs, and then the only reason the Republicans won the Presidency was because the Democrats split over slavery again.

Now, if the instant runoff or range voting was used, and then proportional representation, matters would be different—a vote for a third party would have less of a chance to put your opposition in power. Over to:

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Third Parties in American: Shared Sacrifice

How much pain is the "Vote, even though it helps the Republicans" faction willing to put the country through?  How much sacrifice?  It's the problem of third parties in America that to establish themselves, they have to allow their opponents to win. By the time a new progressive party established itself in the current electoral regime, the Republicans would have held power for at least a decade--that is, if the NPP's members were allowed the vote by the end of that time. But it is more likely long before that time, the hopeful third party would have fallen apart.

I think we'd do better to work for electoral reform, and hope that the Zombie Party falls over from a deficit of brains.  Maybe we can give it a push.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

I Seriously Do Not Get Conservatives

I wrote this on a blog in response to a conservative woman planning to vote for Romney, despite her arguing that the candidates are equally poor. I like it enough to reproduce it here.

You ignore Romney's appalling lack of integrity to set up your equivalence between the two candidates. He is sexist, racist, and homophobic—again, why any woman would support someone so sexist, I do not understand. Romney has a record as a businessman and a politician. He has repudiated all of it to win the Presidency and then repudiated his repudiations. He has changed his positions not just once, but multiple times. The only policy goals he has reliably supported are lower taxes for himself and his class, and less regulation on his business activities, and those of his class.

I see no indication of political courage in the man, and if he has any honor, it is reserved for his small group of peers. As someone from a military family, why would you want to see someone with so little honor and integrity as commander in chief?

Turning to Obama, I am struck by how little he has lied.  He has dissembled, he has misdirected, he has stonewalled—he is after all a politician. But he seldom has lied outright.  I am not sure he ever has, except in the slanders of conservative commentators.  I am surprised how little of their own ideals conservatives see in Obama.  Distressingly, it appears to me that his egalitarianism and his skin color trump his conservative virtues in conservative eyes.

Later thought: this is actually very interesting. Obama is honest. How unusual is that?

This is, more than anything else, an election about identity.  Romney is the candidate of Wall Street and the rich old white guys; Obama is Wall Street's less favored son and the candidate of everyone else.

Turning to policy issues…

To begin with there is no left of any power in the USA. The Democrats are a conservative party with a weak liberal wing; the Republicans have come to be dominated by the radical right. This is not hard to see. The Tea Party Republicans are routinely on television. Their ideas have been aired repeatedly and some of them have even found their way into the Republican platform. The Democrats treat Occupy, the only publicly visible left, like it has leprosy. Their ideas have seldom if ever, gotten air time on a major network. Grover Norquist controls the votes of most Congressional Republicans on taxes. See any radical leftist policy advocates with similar power? Seen Congresspeople quake in their boots when they speak?

Me neither.

Second, why do you credit conservative economic analysis? It has had a 30 year run that has impoverished much of the country and ended in a depression.The same economists who are predicting the doom you describe are the ones who have been—for four years now!—predicting an explosive rise in interest rates and hyper-inflation. You see those high interest rates and hyper-inflation?

Me neither.

Conservative economists have revealed themselves as unscientific political hacks, and it is time to start treating them like flat-earthers.

A sub-point here: If Obamacare is going to be as destructive as you claim—why do you trust Romney to make health care policy? Romney was for Obamacare—invented it—before he was against it.

Third, why is a World War II level of military readiness necessary to the USA? Is there an enemy comparable to Nazi Germany or Imperial Japan? We are ready to fight World War II again, yet future global conflict will not be World War II again.

Einstein frequently remarked that we do not know with what weapons World War III will be fought, but that World War IV will be fought with rocks. For some centuries wars have been increasing in intensity. We are now at a level of military technology and organization where a global conflict will destroy civilization, and perhaps even the future chances of a revived civilization. The national security of the United States depends on a reduction in global tensions. You see any conservative advocates of global peace and justice?

Me neither.

Actually, there are a few. The economist Jeffrey Sachs comes to mind. And of course there is (redacted), in this discussion.

I seriously Do Not Get conservatives.

I am writing, I suppose, to underscore some of the contradictions I see. I have little hope of changing anyone's mind at this time, but I hope I will influence thinking in the future. Right now, like the crying girl in the YouTube video, I just want to get through this election.