Four out of Five

Four out of every five Americans hate their government.

The Democratic Party is the party of government.

This cannot be made to work.

“Hate” may be a little strong, but at best, by current surveys, slightly fewer than one out of five Americans trust their government to do the right thing at any time for any reason. Slightly more than four out of five distrust their government and believe it to be hopelessly oppressive, corrupt, and incompetent.

It has not always been this way but it is now.

This was the case even before the hopelessly corrupt and incompetent Trump regime and complicit Congress were elected. This is not a survey regarding “This specific government,” this is “The United States Government.”

80 percent of Americans are largely unaware that their government consists of the people they elect, and the people their elected officials appoint and confirm. 80 percent of Americans seem to view their government as some permanently existing, permanently corrupt, permanently incompetent entity, and appear, in turn, to view elections as choosing a sort of police agency to ride herd on said government. And this is how Republicans campaign: The Government is your enemy; elect us and we will constrain its power to hurt  you.

It is not possible to operate a healthy republic under these circumstances. It is even less possible for a party (presumably the Democratic Party) to campaign on providing government services to the public without acknowledging and addressing this widespread belief. Every time some Democrat says, “The Government can…,” four out of five Americans hear, “The Very Bad Evil Thing will…”

And we lose another election.

I frequently return to Lincoln’s immortal phrase from his Gettysburg Address, his fervent wish that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

I would say that it has, in fact, vanished, at least from the once-United states of America.

Allow me, if you will, to unpack that now-hackneyed phrase, that string of words of long-forgotten meaning. President Lincoln said them for the first time amid the stench of rotting dead soldiers at the Gettysburg battlefield, and his words had meaning. They were not yet a cliche.

Government,”
That entity which establishes and enforces the rules under which society lives

Of the people,”
Everyone is subject to the rules government establishes

By the people,”
The people themselves will form the government, the people will decide on the rules they live under

For the people,”
The rules will be established to provide the most benefit for the most people possible, with the least resultant harm or discomfort

Shall not perish from the earth.”

We fought the bloodiest war in our history to date to preserve that specific form of government over all the states which had originally agreed to participate.

Every people in world history has lived under some rules and some ruler. Chimpanzee tribes have a ruler. When proto-humans were nomadic hunter-gatherers traveling the savannas of Africa in extended family groups, some one individual decided when they would move and in what direction. Some set of rules kept them from freely killing, raping, and stealing from one another. Government of the people.

Throughout most of written history people have been governed by kings. Whoever could command the most men to kill others at his say-so was the boss, and that was government. Government of the people.

As long ago as we can find records or evidence kings had underlings who passed their rules and commands on to the separate households, neighborhoods, and groups of society. Between the king and the people were layers of government officials. Government of the people, by the few.

In most of those societies, the kings and their courts were more concerned for their own well-being than they were for the well-being of anyone else. Government of the people, by the few, for the few.

We are getting back to there today. Anyone who thinks that Donald Trump, or Charles and David Koch, or Vladimir Putin, or Robert and Rebecca Mercer, ever disregard their own benefit out of concern for the benefit of anyone else, isn’t paying attention.

In order to establish a route back to monarchy, a necessary first step was to convince a majority of Americans that the republic which had governed them for over two hundred years was their enemy. Their government was irretrievably, permanently, hopelessly flawed and corrupt. The government that Lincoln praised and wished might never perish from the earth was worthless and had to be discarded.

I address in other essays the means by which they did this. I am not going to go into detail again here, but I am going to acknowledge one simple fact that they used as their foundation: That government was flawed. The American republic was, and is, flawed. The Constitution is flawed. Every single thing that humans have ever created has been flawed; the larger and more complex the thing, the more and worse the flaws. Faced with that unpleasant fact there are two things one can do. One can accept it, commit one’s life to correcting such flaws as are correctable, and attempt to ameliorate the resultant damage. Or, one can deny the inevitability of flaws and throw away the flawed thing in pursuit of some elusive perfection.

Perfection is not possible for humans. Perfection is not possible even for one individual human, and humans do not exist in a vacuum. There is no society of one human. Humans are herd creatures. The more humans, the less perfection. We do not agree on what is good; we do not agree on who should be best served. We do not agree on religion, on food, on a comfortable temperature for a room. How could millions of us possibly agree on what a government should be and do? It is not possible.

So we face a quandary. We will be governed; we will be ruled. Every human society, and most primate societies, throughout all of time has been governed. We can’t agree on the details of how that governing should best be done. Now what?

I propose that, however flawed it is, the Constitution for the United States could be a workable framework for governing the people who live here. I further propose that any political party who advocates that we preserve government of the people, by the people, for the people, should continually explain to the people why that is best. Explain it clearly. Explain how government works. Explain why we want it. Explain that, no, it is never going to be perfect, but it’s the best we can do as humans.

Because as long as four out of every five Americans disagree with that proposition there is very little chance said government will survive.

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Let’s Make Some Laws

Just for fun, pretend that non-Republicans (many of whom refuse to call themselves Democrats for reasons too complex to go into here) elect an entire governing majority in the United States. Say, 227 members of the House, 64 Senators, and a President of your choice. Then what?

For starters, in order to elect a House majority, voters in districts in a sizable number of states would have to elect non-Republicans. Exactly what the distribution of states might be would depend on how the voting played out. 

If we won every district in CA, we would still need 174 more. Throw in every district in New York, we’re still 147 short. Sweep Illinois and we need another 129. The second and third most populous states, Texas and Florida, have 65 Representatives between them, and there is not much likelihood of not-Republicans taking a majority of those 65. Any way you shake it, it will take numerous Representatives from lesser populated states to get the required minimum. That would have to include dreaded Red States.

And given that there are two Senators from each state it would take an absolute minimum of 32 states to give us 64 Senators. Again, depending on distribution, it might take more than 32 states but not less.

Astute readers might wonder why I picked those particular numbers, 227 and 64. It’s partly arbitrary. It takes 218 Representatives – Members of the House – to elect a speaker and pass a bill. Given that no two humans agree entirely, I put in 9 more than the minimum to improve the odds of getting a majority vote for our proposals.

Technically it only takes 50 Senators plus the Vice President to pass a bill, but traditionally our Senate has allowed minorities to block most actions. It takes, at a bare minimum, 60 Senators to pass any bill which has opposition, and getting 60 on board can be difficult. As an example, one of the reasons the ACA doesn’t offer a public option is because there were exactly 60 not-Republican (58 Democrat, 2 Independent / Socialist) Senators who would vote for any sort of health care bill at all, and not all 60 were willing to support a public option. So for the sake of this essay I have given us 64 – room to lose a few and still get things done.

I am proposing real numbers. The minimums I give here are absolute. Any group, by whatever name you call them, party or faction or – I don’t know what other terms might apply – any group must muster 218 votes in the House, and 51 (or 60 in case of opposition) in the Senate, to enact any idea or policy into law.

That means that Representatives of some number of Americans who choose to not live in crowded states or megalopolises absolutely must actively support and vote for any law or it will not pass. There is a vast number of Americans living crowded together in huge cities and urban corridors, but not enough to legislate for the nation.

Under our Constitution, in order for any bill to become law, it must satisfy a majority of the members of the House of Representatives, a majority of the Senators, and satisfy the President. If it doesn’t satisfy the President it must satisfy two-thirds of all the members of the House and Senate. My imaginary numbers for the two chambers do not reach the two-thirds threshold for either House. But that shouldn’t be a problem, because we have both Houses and the Presidency. Just like the Republicans do now. It would surely work at least that well.

Oops.

So we want to make some laws. What laws do we want to make?

Based on what I read on Twitter I’d say the number one priority of most not-Rs would be “get rid of the Electoral College,” but that’s not a law, that’s an amendment, and they’re harder.

First, the proposed amendment has to be passed by 2/3 of each House of Congress. The very optimistic numbers I have proposed here don’t give us 2/3 of either House. But presume, just for discussion, that both Houses choose to pass it.

The next step is ratification by 3/4 of the states. That’s 38 states. All but 12.

California contains more people than the smallest 21 states combined.

If I were betting my own money, I wouldn’t bet that 9 of those 21 states would vote to give up their amplified voice in Presidential elections in order to please the people of California. If at least 9 didn’t so vote, the amendment would not pass. Period. You can’t get to 3/4 without them.

Another popular – and important – desire is to get the power of money out of our political process. Reverse the Citizens United decision. That’s another amendment. While there is less obvious reason for small states to stand together against that one than there is against repealing the Electoral College, I’m not that confident. I suppose it is remotely possible. To even find out Congress would have to pass the 2/3 of each House threshold.

You could make a convincing case that our Constitution is irretrievably flawed, but I don’t think a reasonably non-Republican Congress and Presidency would be in a position to fix it. I’m going to disregard amendments for the duration of this essay.

What could we realistically fix with conventional legislation? Remember, we have the power. Anything the President will sign, my hypothetical Congress has the power to pass.

My recommendation would be to begin with a strong Voting Rights Act to repair the damage done by recent Supreme Court decisions. In the first place it would be fair. Racial equality in voting is a long held, but not yet realized, goal for America’s republic. The 15th Amendment, ratified in April of 1870, was an attempt to codify that Americans have the right to vote regardless of race. Unfortunately it wasn’t long before it had been swept under a carpet of lies and tricks, poll taxes and rigged tests. We tried again 95 years later, and for a short time that attempt appeared to have been successful, but forces of racism, white supremacy, and wealthism have whittled away at it until today we have returned much of the way back to the bad old days.

We not-Republicans have a fifty-plus year tradition of being the party of racial equality. For fairness we should pass a voting rights act with teeth. Beyond fairness, it is clear that the Republican party has, for now at least, a pretty solid lock on the racist / white supremacist vote. If we wish to remain competitive in the quest to govern the United States, we have to insure that our voters can go to the polls and vote. Not all our voters are blocked by racial voter suppression, but too many are.

Continuing on the voting rights line, we should and could immediately legislate that election day is a National holiday. We could and should legislate other policies which insured widespread access to the ballot box, from extended voting hours to registration based on Social Security number.

Additional legislation to prohibit racial and otherwise biased gerrymandering would be equally important.

If we had, for just one Congress, entire control of the legislative process, as we did during 2009 and 2010, the fairest, smartest thing we could possibly do would be to guarantee all Americans access to the ballot box, with as unbreakable legislation as we could possibly fashion.

While it would take a Constitutional Amendment to directly overturn Citizens United, it is possible that Congress could pass a law that the terms “speech” and “money” as used in the Constitution were exactly as defined in the standard dictionaries of the English Language. If the Supreme Court did not overturn that law, a challenge to Citizens United would be possible without an amendment. It is obvious that the Citizens United decision is the most destructive single act by a Supreme Court since at least the Dred Scott decision. A wise Congress and Executive would do everything in their power to overturn it by legislation, as averse to amendment.

I propose the above recommended legislation to restore the United States government to some semblance of Lincoln’s “government of the people, by the people, for the people.” If the people writ large are not allowed to vote, they cannot govern themselves. The government “of” them will not be either “by” them nor “for” them. Voting is the foundation.

Unfortunately, voting can only assure this ideal government to the extent that it is informed voting, based at least broadly on fact and on the legitimate powers of government. Roughly half of the American people today literally believe things which have no basis in fact, and disbelieve provable, empirical fact. When a sizable portion of the electorate votes against a candidate based on the accusation that she is secretly running a pedophile sex business out of the basement of a pizza restaurant which has no basement, the entire process of holding elections is invalidated.

Congress has passed laws requiring truth in commerce, and forbidding outright lies in commercial advertising. Electing a government is no less important than choosing a toothpaste or an automobile; Congress has every right, long established, to establish reasonable limits on free speech. Our Congress, our majority, must be used to prohibit the promulgation of outright lies as news. We can do this.

From the early days of electronic media to the Reagan Administration the United States operated under a Fairness Doctrine. No broadcast media outlet could operate as a house organ for one political party. Ronald Reagan halted that doctrine.

Congress could, and should, restore it.

The United States, and indeed the world, faces major, possibly existential, threats, and in spite of that I have spent over 1500 words so far addressing only legislation insuring fair governance for the nation. That is because without fair governance the people cannot work toward solving broader, real problems. The reason that oligarchs have seized control of our government is because they know that only government can address national and worldwide problems, and they do not want those problems addressed. So now that we have (hypothetically) provided for a fair government, what next?

I would propose that the biggest problem, external to our right to govern ourselves, is global warming. It is already here; it is having the predicted violent effects. We need to do two things about it: we need to address surviving it in the short term, and we need to move quickly toward halting the increase of heat energy stored here on earth. This is possibly the greatest threat humans have ever faced. While we do not know exactly what the outcome of increasing temperatures and available free energy might be, we know for certain that the ecosystems with which we evolved are those which exist and operate at the current energy and temperature levels. Rather than argue about what the resultant, different, higher energy ecosystem might look like, we should do everything in our power to preserve the one that has supported us for the recent few hundred millennia.

Global warming is a bigger threat to human civilization as we know it than any other we have ever faced. Virtually no approach to it is too extreme. Look at the changes the United States made in our economy and lifestyles at the onset of World War II. Global warming is a bigger deal than World War II. The question is not whether we will have to change our lives; the question is whether we choose the changes or have them imposed on us.

I have written some essays on particular avenues I would recommend we take, facing this inescapable, obvious threat. I am only one man and have no claim to particular expertise and specifically no claim to omniscience. I cannot see all the possible solutions. America has some brilliant people, scientists, legislators, designers, sociologists, It is imperative that a Congress with the interests of a majority of the American people in mind make a top priority of modifying our current lifestyle to minimize the damage and suffering caused by global warming weather, and of moving us away from a carbon-emission based economy. We have already jumped off the bridge; the question now is whether we open the parachute.

Having discussed a few laws I would recommend, consider for a moment what it would take to pass them. Let’s consider legislation to provide relief in advance for global warming damage.

Coastal states are obviously threatened by global warming. By a quick count, there are about 18 coastal states of the lower 48, plus Alaska and Hawaii makes 20. We have already established that we must have Senators from 32 states, so at a minimum we have 24 Senators whose states do not have anything to lose if coastal states are flooded. Taking the House, elections are by district, not by state. There is no guarantee that a Representative from, say, upstate New York is totally committed to spending tax money to protect Manhattan Island from flooding. Nor is there any guarantee that a Representative from the Central Valley of California is deeply concerned about sea level rise in Malibu.

There is an old saying attributed to Otto von Bismarck: “If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made.” (Sausage makers object, saying this isn’t fair to their industry.) Even if we have not-Republican legislative majorities, the needs and desires of the individual legislators are going to differ. The legitimate needs of the voters in the differing legislative districts are going to differ. It might be possible to get widespread agreement on legislation to improve the honesty and fairness of our voting system, since each and every not-Republican member of Congress could see advantage for themselves, but when it comes down to spending money to alleviate and reduce global warming, it is reasonable to expect every single member of Congress to say, What’s in it for my district? That is, after all, why we vote for members of Congress: to represent us. Not some vague “Americans” but: us.

Remember: 218 Representatives must agree to pass any bill. The member-elected Speaker of the House must, in most cases, agree to bring a bill to a vote or it will never get voted on regardless of how many individual Representatives might favor it. It is highly unusual for a bill in Congress to get voted on unless a majority of the controlling committee approves. An absolute minimum of 50 Senators plus the Vice President must agree to pass a similar bill. It is not unusual for it to take a minimum of 60 Senators to even bring said bill to a vote.

Legislation is a messy process. Observe the paralysis of the United States Government under Republican control in 2017. So far they have been unable to enact nearly any significant legislation whatsoever aside from a few critical bills to keep the insane President from giving away the store while they were out of town. They have not been blocked by Democrats, but by members of the same party.

This legislating business is harder than it looks.

Could we not-Republicans elect majorities in both houses? Under current conditions among our ranks I am not that confident, but it is possible.

If we succeeded in electing majorities in both houses could we accomplish anything with our majorities? Given, again, the current condition among our ranks, I am dubious.

Politics, it has long been said, is the art of the possible. In modern, disputatious America, is anything possible at all?


Supporting essays:
Global warming
Addressing Global Warming
Rational Transportation
A Repairman Looks At Weather
and others, see Table of Contents, No Package Deals

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What Democrats Believe

The following is an excerpt from a longer essay. I hope it is self explanatory. I plan to link some other essays to it; it underlies much of my political thought and writing.

***

I’m going to take the liberty here to define Democratic values. I don’t speak for every Democrat, but this is a good faith effort.

Democrats believe that a good, functioning government can solve social and economic problems that cannot be solved by any other entity.

Democrats believe that, although scientists don’t know everything there is, science is the way to bet, and that betting against science is a sure fire recipe for disaster.

Democrats believe that the richest among us, the people who have benefited the very most from life in America, can help out the people who haven’t done as well, and can help fund some other public needs like a sensible, non-carbon-based nationwide transportation system.

Democrats believe that everybody has the right to a fair shake. We don’t care where you go to church, who you love, what color you are, or what your IQ is, we believe you have a right to be warm and well fed in America and should have a realistic chance to do such work as you are capable of, and make a decent living doing it. And be left alone to live in peace.

Democrats believe that if your church says you should not do something or marry somebody then you yourself should not do that. However, nobody else is obligated to what your church believes. At all. We actually don’t care. It’s not relevant to governing.

Democrats believe that when Americans get sick they have the right to go to a doctor and get the best treatment realistically available. We also understand that everybody dies sooner or later and we should help make that transformation as easy as we can for people.

We believe that, by ratifying and agreeing to our Constitution, Americans agreed join together for our common defense and to promote our general welfare. Because that’s what the Constitution says, after which it spells out some details. Republicans stopped reading after they saw the word defense.

We don’t think government is everything, but we believe that a good functioning government is necessary for a healthy and free society. We understand that everybody everywhere lives under some government. so we think we ought to make ours the very best that we can for our people.

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This Can’t Be Happening

I am about to tell you something you already know. Pretend, when you read it, that you didn’t already know it and are just finding it out for the first time.

One of the two political “sides” or what used to be “parties” in the United States is telling almost 100% lies. They have chosen to not participate in reality as we know it.

Not Trump. The entire Republican Party, at least all I can see from here. Even the Never-Trumpers live so far off in a maze of untruth and outright fiction that one really cannot have a conversation with them. It is worse than not sharing a common language: Republicans refuse to acknowledge the existence of everyday reality. They have Alternative Facts. Their entire public position is One Hundred Percent Fiction, or close enough for the FDA.

***

Science is real. We’ve had that argument. We had it from about the 12th through 16th or 17th Centuries. That is a done deal. Denying science is one hundred percent a lie.

This is where I’m supposed to produce a convincing case for science, because of course the other side is worth rebutting.

No.

It’s bullshit. Even having the conversation is bullshit. A people cannot govern themselves when at least half of everything they are told is empirically false. It cannot be made to work. Presenting the opposing case is a waste of time and energy.

I’m pretty sure they all know they’re lying. They’re not that stupid. They just figure they’ll be dead before reality catches up with them. The young ones better not plan on getting very old. It’s here now.

***

Everybody knows tax cuts don’t balance the budget. There is no case in history where tax cuts can be shown to have improved an economy. The harder it is tried the worse it fails. Kansas tried it real hard, and it was an abject failure.

Republicans say, “We’re going to cut taxes to get this economy moving,” and everybody pretends there might be some truth to that. But everybody knows it’s a lie. They know it. Unfortunately not all the suckers on the sofas know it’s a lie. The reporters and talking heads know it. It’s just another lie. Alternative Facts were here a long time before Kellyanne Conway.

They are stealing your money. T-Bills provide an unending, streaming, upward redistribution of wealth.

Don’t say, “Trump.” Don’t say, “Fox.” I’ll bet you that for a thousand times various Mitch McConnells and Paul Ryans and Some Talking Heads say “tax cuts… get the economy going,” never once does the moderator say, “No it won’t. Everybody knows that. Kansas. We’re tired of your lies.”

I understand that politicians make rosy scenarios. I understand that politicians, try though they might, can’t make all their promises come true. Welcome to real life. What we are going through today is fundamentally different. One party is basing their entire position on a broad fabric of empirical lies. Denying arithmetic and the public record is not the moral equivalent of figuring out you have to raise taxes. No.

***

They lie about science. They lie about the economy. They lie about the debt. Every Republican in Congress knows Absolutely For Sure that no President ever spent one dime of that borrowed money. Congress spent it. Republican Congresses borrowed and spent it. We were in tolerable, although not great, shape regarding debts and deficits when Republicans took over Congress in 1995. Now our debt looks like Greece.  (OK not quite.) This really matters. Any sensible person would be at least concerned.

The Republicans borrowed it. All of it.

On purpose.

They cut taxes so they didn’t have enough income to run the government. They borrowed the difference.

This is the simplest arithmetic, written in the Congressional Record for all to see.

A people cannot govern themselves when one of the contestants for leadership bases every single concept of their program on out-and-out lies. It cannot be done.

***

Republicans run for government, get elected to govern, and still say government is terrible. The government can’t do anything. Government is an imposition on an otherwise blissfully unencumbered citizenry. Government is supposed to be Small. The Constitution Says So.

The government of the United States is huge, vast almost beyond comprehension. It could easily be the largest organization in the history of humankind. China might. One of the two is, almost for sure. Here is just a partial summary. At no time in their public presentations do Republicans acknowledge what government does, they just pick some one tiny thing and rave about how terrible it is that we don’t have Limited Government.

The proper scope and powers of government cannot be discussed with Republicans because they will not acknowledge the existence of the very entity they are both operating and denigrating. There is no agreed on factual basis from which to have a debate.

A people cannot rationally govern themselves when the choice they are offered is between reality and outright fiction.

Some Republicans – not all, but not just fringe loonies either, some people who are considered to be “reasonable” – have publicly said that it is acceptable and Constitutional for citizens to take up arms against their government. American citizens have been told this by sitting Senators and by widely heard and seen media figures. This is utter madness. The very concept is madness. There has never been a government in world history which has had a written policy that citizens could take up arms against it, and ours is not the first one, either.

Why do we have to waste so much time on bullshit, lies, fabrications, falsehoods, malarkey – these people are governing the United States of America. There is never a day when any one of them presents a predominantly factual position on anything to the citizens. What world is this?

I don’t know what to do. Anybody got any ideas?


I take a related look at this subject in the short essay here.

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The Republican Platform Debunked

Republicans can tell you what they stand for. Ask Rick Wilson. Ana Navarro. Ask any of the Never Trumpers. I’m not talking about the obvious lunatics, I’m talking about the former, allegedly grown up, Republican Party.

Republicans, they will tell you, stand for Limited Government, Fiscal Responsibility, and Social Conservatism. And everybody nods their heads.

This entire claim is empirically, provably false. Republicans do not stand for any one of those things. Republicans have a public record.

Limited Government: The U.S. Government is a vast enterprise (details here) possibly the largest on earth. The Republican Party only specifically wants to “limit” those portions of the government which provide direct benefit to over 90% of Americans at modest cost to the other 10%. National Parks. Public Use Areas of all kinds. Safe food. Food. Shelter. Medical care. Your retirement (which you paid for). A habitable planet. That’s it. Otherwise Republicans like big government. It’s on record. The Congressional Record.

Fiscal Conservatism: The Republican Party has controlled the Congress for 18 of the past 22 years. Congress has the sole power to tax, borrow, and spend the people’s money*. During that time Republicans have established tax, spending, and borrowing policies which have created an aggregate debt which the human mind can barely comprehend. This is empirically not fiscally responsible or conservative.

*How many times have you heard that a President's budget was "dead on arrival" at Congress? Of course they control the money,and they know it.

Social Conservatism: If by Conservative you mean a society which lives according to its traditions, the increasing power of the Christian church in government is about as far as you could get from 20th Century America’s traditions. Or 19th Century. Or 18th Century. Or any other time except right around the Salem Witch Trials. Church rulings drove Blue Laws, but the legislated Christianity in America today is like never before. Possibly worse, the United States of America has paramilitary gangs in full combat garb at high security carry swaggering around our cities intimidating citizens on the streets. This is farther from traditional American society than I ever dreamed we might come. This is radical and extreme. And dangerous.

The Republican Trademark Platform is a lie.

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Systems

An attempt to express the inexpressible: how do you show a universe?

I take a “systems” view of everything. That is, I view everything as a system made up of subsystems which in turn are made up of smaller subsystems which, at some very basic level, perhaps only at the atomic or even quantum level, are made up of individual components which themselves would surely not exist were it not for the overarching system.

Everything – the universe as we perceive it – is the overarching system. It is made up of energy and matter, dark and otherwise, doing things we can’t understand and doing them at some level where the human concepts of “purpose” or “cause” are meaningless. Why is the Universe? Because it Is. That is good enough for me.

Milky Way Galaxy. The local one.

Within that universe system one finds subsystems. One finds, for instance, galaxies, and within them solar systems and other components. One individual atom is a system made up of smaller components and bearing, perhaps not coincidentally, an uncanny resemblance to a solar system.

One of the solar systems is ours. In turn, one of its subsystems is this planet. Earth. This planet is a system made up of everything on it and in it, all the atoms, all

Cross section of the varying layers of the earth – ALL design on this image is created from scratch by Yuri Arcurs’ team of professionals for this particular photo shoothttp://195.154.178.81/DATA/i_collage/pi/shoots/783432.jpg

the energy, all the rocks and dirt, all the biological entities, the tectonic plates, the atmosphere, the oceans, the mantle, the molten core. Each of these systems operates in ways which are still too large for even the smartest human to fully grasp.

We humans tend to get this all wrong. We tend to think of ourselves as separate from, not part of, the system which is Earth. We are – to no-one’s real surprise – anthropocentric. We think we are somehow special and stand aside from or apart from the systems around us. We think of “the environment” as “out there,” but that’s simply incorrect.

I watched Wes Jackson speak on this topic once, and have never forgotten his illustration. Holding his hand out in front of himself he said (not a direct quote, just as I recall it) Say a molecule of air is out here, and it’s The Environment. (He drew his hand closer to his face.) How close does that molecule have to get to still be The Environment? (Touches his mouth and nose with his fingers.) When you breathe it in, is it still The Environment? When it enters your blood stream? When it is combined with carbon in your cells? When you exhale it?

There is no dividing line where “we” start and “the environment” ends. There is no separation. If you put a barrier around us, separate “us” from “out there,” we immediately die. We only exist and live to the extent that “the environment” enters, merges with, creates, is created by, and again departs our bodies. Well under half of the cells we carry around within our skins even contain any human DNA. Three quarters of everything we are is simple water. We are majority Environment and only minority Human. We – each of us – are small systematic organizations of portions of the overarching system which is everything. We are aware and conscious subsystems. We are exactly as much a part of the Earth system as is, for instance, a hurricane, except we appear to be, over the long haul, more destructive.

The things which we create are also systems. The automobile does not exist apart from the system that it inhabits. If we had no roads, if we had no fuel stations, we would have no automobiles. We are also merged into that system, and it into us: it is blindingly obvious that, without drivers and passengers, there would be no automobiles.

Taking that example farther, look at the evolution of transportation. A million years ago proto-humans walked the same path day after day, following after the coyotes, deer, and woolly mammoth. They, and we, created trails. Trails were the predecessor of interstate highways.

After we settled, created agriculture, and developed ever more complex systems within which to arrange our lives, the trails got wider. Flatter. More convenient – and slightly less robust. It came to pass that, after a rain, our trails might be nearly unusable for a period of time. Mud. Because more complex systems are inherently less robust. Murphy was right: whatever can go wrong, will go wrong. It cannot be any other way.

Continuing on, after some time we found that animals would pull our loads, transport our bodies. We invented the wheel. The trail system which went back with us to the mists of time continued to develop. We built on the subsystem of fallen trees

A Log Bridge Spans Oak Creek Just Out Of Sedoan Arizona In Oak Creek Canyon

that had long taken us across rivers, until we could drive our horses across them.

By the early days of the 20th Century the road system had evolved to where it could support auto (self) mobiles (moving devices.) Horseless carriages.

In turn, the footpath through the jungle system, now developed into dirt roads, evolved further, to support the horseless carriage. People began selling this previously nearly useless “gasoline” stuff along the roads, and Hey Presto: Road Rage. Gridlock. Pavement. Interstate Highways. Global Warming. It’s all part of the system.

Woman showing bad gesture

The reason the system view is important is because all of these characteristics, both the desired characteristics and the undesired ones, are part of the same system. Cars give us nearly unimaginable (by historic human standards) mobility. They are part of the system which warms the globe as well. In turn, global warming causes floods. But pavement itself also causes floods. Road graders cause floods. There is no one discrete unit which can be repaired, corrected, eliminated, or redesigned which can alter all of the outcomes of a system. The invention of the automobile altered the jungle trail system but it did not create some new, entirely different thing. It simply was an evolutionary step in the formation of the transportation system we have today.

Cities of six, ten, twenty, or thirty million people are also systems, which in turn are made possible – and possibly inevitable – by other systems. Without some type of powered high speed transportation it is nearly inconceivable that people could live in groups that large. Food couldn’t be brought in; waste couldn’t be taken out. I can’t say how we would live, but with different subsystems we would have different aggregate systems.

The reason all this might be relevant today is because the systems we have developed have unforeseen deadly characteristics which, if not addressed, could cause said systems to fail in sudden catastrophic fashion. Once again, more complex systems tend to be less robust. A fifty thousand dollar car can be turned into a large lump by the failure of any of hundreds of subsystems, from a pneumatic tire to a fuel pump to a computer. Yes, we have developed all those subsystems to a reasonably high degree of reliability, but there is never a day in any major city without a certain number of these “highly reliable” transportation modules stranded, inoperable, by the failure of one or more of their highly reliable subsystems.

In contrast, the United States dropped more tons of bombs on North Vietnam during our war with them than all that fell onto Europe during World War II, all without ever bringing their very crude, basic systems of food, water, and transportation to a halt, because their systems were simple. It is almost impossible to starve out an agrarian culture raising its food with early iron age technology. The system is simple, not very efficient, and incredibly robust.

Global warming is indisputably a systems problem. I submit that terrorism is also a systems problem. I believe that the possible or probable end of the First American Republic (AKA The United States of America) is a systems problem, in this case rooted in several of our systems, notably our communications system.

For the moment global warming – the increasing storage of available free energy in the Earth system – is probably the biggest single threat we face. This is not to say that, for example, nuclear war is not a severe threat, but rather to say that global warming is an inevitable output product of our current system of living, producing, and transporting the goods of our lives. Nuclear war is maybe; global warming is now. And global warming is the absolutely inevitable result of the systems of life in the so-called modern, advanced, developed world.

If we are to avoid the unpleasant realities of a global warming world, most of which we can’t even begin to foresee, we must think at a systems level. What different systems can we develop which will not include this outcome?

We don’t have very much time; large systems have a great deal of inertia.

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The View From Here Late August, 2017

This is a work of speculation. I do not have any sources; I do not have any inside knowledge; everything I'm looking at today you can probably see on Google whatever day you're reading it.

Say Mueller goes to the Supreme Court with incontrovertible evidence that the Executive and Legislative branches at the highest levels engaged in careful systematic fraud and treason with Russia to, in the gentlest possible terms, install themselves as a Russia-friendly government in the United States. Then what?

From here as I look out over possible futures I see many. It is like sitting at the hub of a wheel and looking down the spokes. I am not offering a prediction; I am painting you a picture. I’m not trying to tell you that things are now or are going to become some specific way because I don’t know. What I am saying is, the things I see could support these results.

I am of the opinion that the end of the Constitutional Presidential system republic which was the United States is in the past, not the future. The country we knew is already over. It no longer exists. I have written of the event which, in my opinion, marked the end of the First Republic. If you haven’t already you can read that essay here, as well as one speculating about the people involved, here. 

I’m not going to bore you with details of all the ways the Executive Branch is blowing off not only established norms but the clear instructions in the Constitution. It’s out there. That follows the overthrow of a Democratic President by a Republican Congress. The only intervening event was an election during which Russian propaganda was disseminated over a complicit media by our governing oligarchy in cooperation with the Trump Organization and the elected Republican Congress. Senate Majority Leader MItch McConnell told President Barack Obama to shut up about it and he did. This last is not in dispute: it is a matter of public record. Not by any stretch of language or meaning could we be said to be living under the Constitution. The Republic is not here today.

From here one possibility is that the forces of good led by Bob Mueller III find evidence and trigger some action that frees us from the entire coup; I don’t think that is very likely but it is possible.

It is also possible that Mueller takes incontrovertible evidence of Trump coordination with Russia to Congress and they say, Yeah, so what? and go on about their business. No impeachment. This isn’t as crazy as it sounds: Congress is already looking at incontrovertible evidence. They’ve got most of the same documents Mueller has. They’re OK with it.

What next? Would he take it to the Supreme Court? I believe that the Supreme Court has jurisdiction but I’m just reading the Constitution. Lawyers were made expressly to argue about this stuff and I’m not one. But say he does, and the Court takes it, and he’s got the whole ball of wax. Say Mueller goes to the Supreme Court with incontrovertible evidence that the Executive and Legislative branches at the highest levels engaged in a careful systematic fraud and treason to, in the gentlest possible terms, install themselves as a Russia-friendly government in the United States.

Taking that road further, say that the Court finds for the republic and calls for new elections, appoints George W. Bush and Bill Clinton as caretaker President & Vice President, and fires Congress pending new elections. A bunch of particularly corrupt members of Congress – McConnell and Ryan and their cronies – would be, at a minimum, banned for life from public office, but the rest would be allowed to run again. Without some institutional memory it would be much harder.

That would be my personal ideal outcome. Except: What if they all refused to leave? The orange guy is currently living in blissful disobedience of a court order that he not block American citizens on Twitter, and everybody says, (hold your nose and make your voice weird) “Oh, that’s Trump.” and ignores him ignoring the court. His pardon of Joe Arpaio was a dictator’s thumb in the eye to the concept of an independent judiciary. One member of the Supreme Court is also a member of the coup. Nobody can stop him.

Nobody can stop him because our Constitution is fatally flawed: there is no provision to keep a President and a Congress from working together to take America private. If the easiest way to accomplish that is by signing up with Russia so be it. I suspect that it wasn’t technologically possible to have done this in 1800. With today’s money, computers, and communications it’s not only possible, it’s almost inevitable.

There’s an assumption that if the Supreme Court fires them they’ll leave. I’m not that confident. When he stops being President he’ll probably go to jail. Ryan and McConnell too I would think. Along with a bunch of others. I doubt if they’re up for that.

If they all (Trump, Ryan, McConnell, Trump’s pet generals) look at the Supreme Court and say, Nope – then what?

Then either they stay in command or the military throws them out. If they don’t leave by their own power it will come down to force. Historically Presidential System Republics tend to end in military coup. If we step into that morass it will be grim, but I’m going to proceed from here based on the assumption that even if that happens an almost genetic memory of self government will eventually win over and we will throw the bums out. I’m going to tag that – the throw the bums out day – as point A. I’ll come back to that.

Another whole possible road follows from some power – Mueller or Congress or even the Supreme Court – taking out Trump or even the whole Executive Branch but leaving the original Congressional Coup in place. Things may quiet down, but the republic is still over. We’ll be Red China, more or less, with a semi-command economy worked by technoserfs, governed by a self selected Central Committee. Or a Russia variant. Or Mexico. One party rule, abject poverty and incredible wealth, with a big empty space in between. We already have one characteristic of Soviet Russia in our economy: as they used to say in Russia, “They pretend to pay us and we pretend to work.” America hasn’t had a raise in 40 years. Most people have had a cut in pay. It shows.

If the Congressional Coup stays in place, McConnell and Ryan and the Koch Brothers will stuff some other, hopefully less colorful, stooge in there and we’re still an oligarchy. The Republic is still gone.

In that case – Trump out, the Republicoup Congress in – elections are probably hopeless. Every dictatorship on Earth holds elections. You let the people you want to vote, vote. They elect you. Return to top.

I do a lot of rooting for elections, but personally I don’t expect to see the formation of a functional, actually voting, Democratic coalition big enough to overwhelm gerrymandering and take Congress back amidst the propaganda storm. I like to root for it because it is theoretically possible and would be a wonderful outcome. Please do go vote for Democrats, it might work. But otherwise…

There’s no telling how long it will last. In Mexico they’ve been doing it for I think ninety-some years. One party oligarchy, sham elections, the people get so poor they’ll risk their lives to come to The United States to make a little bit of nothing doing hard dirty work. Well, before Trump’s Troopers. Amongst the poverty Mexico has at least one candidate for Richest Man on Earth plus a handful of other billionaires, most of whom are professional criminals but that’s to be expected. We could go that way. We’ve got a good running start. But.

But say Americans in large numbers notice they’ve been had. The bottom 2/3 to 3/4 of everybody really are natural allies. Believe it or not, we and the rednecks ought to be voting for the same things. We’re all getting screwed together. Many everyday Americans have fallen for a propaganda storm that has turned them against one another. Mostly it has been done by focusing on religion, race, and guns. The Central Committee might just come and take away their guns after they are no longer needed to intimidate the rest of us. Or we might study and outwit the Propaganda War. I don’t know. It may be, by whatever road we travel, we all reach point A. We throw the bums out. We get past it. I feel confident that eventually we will, again based on history. People have stood up to kings since at least 1200 or so. So once we get to point A, once we throw the bums out, then what? Now what?

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