All posts by junkrigsailor@gmail.com

Let’s Make Some Laws

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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A Well Regulated Militia

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“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.”

Everybody knows those words. The Second Amendment to the Constitution, part of the Bill of Rights.

More lies have been told about that simple sentence than about anything else in American history with the possible exception of sex and gas mileage.

The most pernicious lie of all is that the 2nd Amendment somehow justifies the people in taking up arms against their government. The framers of the Constitution did not write in a clause that said it would be acceptable for the citizens to murder them while they went about the business of governing the new nation. Forget that.

As of when this screenshot was taken this tweet had been retweeted nearly 8,000 times.

Senator Rand Paul, of the governing Republican Party in the United States, sent this tweet: He claims that he was quoting her, but the format of the tweet doesn’t look that way to me. But it’s real: his account sent it. Real men don’t make excuses.

Steve Scalise is paying the price. Rand Paul, some Fox News TV “judge”, and a million other Conservatives, all stood together and held the gun that forever changed Steve Scalise’s life. His wounding is in their hands. Some dim bulb took Rand Paul’s word, and Rush Limbaugh’s word, and Alex Jones’s word, that he had a right to do it, and shot at his government. It’s called Stochastic Terrorism

In the first place, all that fancy talk about overthrowing tyrants isn’t in the Constitution. It’s in the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson meant those other tyrants in England. (Of course, Rand Paul meant those other tyrants the Democrats.) At no place did Jefferson mean to imply that the same rules would apply to the Good Guys, the United States Government that they were fighting a war to create, after the Revolution was over. To say so is the purest form of lie.

The blurring of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution undermines the stability of the nation. It is a serious failure of education and a powerful tool in propaganda. The Declaration of Independence is specifically a challenge to the validity of government by King and Parliament over 13 faraway colonies. The Declaration of Independence was written to justify the colonies’ overthrow of that government.

Not this government.

The Constitution was written to create, codify, and hopefully operate into perpetuity this government. The United States of America.

The Declaration of Independence does not apply to the duly constituted government created after the Revolution. I have had dozens (at least) of misinformed people tell me that the the 2nd Amendment was written specifically to permit the overthrow of the United States government by force of arms; that the Constitution says so. I think that these people, without exception, believed that they were telling the truth. Violent overthrow of the government, these people believe, would be not a side effect of the Second Amendment but literally the framers’ reason for creating it. We are to believe that the framers, in Philadephia in the summer of 1787, said to themselves “we’ll make this Amendment so that if we annoy the people between elections they can come with guns and kill us all.” I cannot express how absurd this is.

The American people have been told, over and over, that they have a Constitutional right to overthrow their government by force of arms. Rand Paul, a sitting Senator told them that, on his United States Senate Twitter account which exists for official communications with his constituents.

Why would an average American even think that his Senator was lying to him?

Many of the people who have told them this currently are the government. Most of the remainder support the current government in various media and financial ways. By a marvel of misdirection that same government, the Trump Regime working together with the Republican Congressional Coup (with propaganda support from most of commercial media) has flipped the 2nd Amendment propaganda upside down and backward: Now they are saying that the 2nd Amendment gives some portion of the American people the Constitutional right to enslave the rest, to conquer all the people who would otherwise vote against them, again by force of arms. People who call themselves (but are not) militias claim a Constitutional Right to march down the streets of our cities in their camouflage suits and bulletproof vests with their (maybe semi-) automatic rifles and their war paraphernalia and order us around and kill one or two of us.

The President of the United States, The United States Congress, and most of the United States’s allegedly free press sees that same redefined Constitutional right in flaming letters written across the sky and bows down before it.

The party controlling the government today and the people who own over 99% of the money and media outlets in this country have spent 40 years pushing that lie. We are, today, in grave danger.

I have claimed that there is no Constitutional right to overthrow the government or enslave other Americans by force of arms. Why, then, do we have the 2nd Amendment, and what is a militia, anyway?

The “well regulated Militia” referenced in the 2nd Amendment is not an abstract, otherwise undefined armed group. The militia is defined clearly in the base Constitution. The 2nd Amendment, written after the base document, has its foundation in the Constitutionally defined militia.

Under the Constitution the Militia is primarily a creature of Congress and the States. The first reference to it is in Article I Sec 8. Article I creates the Congress; Sec 8 spells out several of Congress’s specific powers and duties. Par 15 says,

“To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;”

The Militia works for Congress. There are no self-employed militias in the United States.

The very next paragraph continues to define Congress’s duties regarding the Militia:

“To provide for organizing, arming, and disciplining, the Militia, and for governing such Part of them as may be employed in the Service of the United States, reserving to the States respectively, the Appointment of the Officers, and the Authority of training the Militia according to the discipline prescribed by Congress;”

If Congress didn’t organize it it’s not a militia.

If Congress didn’t arm it it’s not a militia.

If Congress doesn’t discipline it it’s not a militia.

During such times that the militia might be activated for duty service to the country, Congress would directly govern the militia.

If the state of Virginia did not appoint officers for, and train, those thugs on the streets of Charlottesville, they were not a militia.

As envisioned under the Constitution, the United States of America did not have a standing Army. The only somewhat permanent army would be the Militia, organized by Congress but operated by States except in times of invasion or insurrection, when Congress (only) could call them up, after which the President would command them.

Article II of the Constitution creates and defines the Presidency. Section 2 defines his or her powers and obligations. The first paragraph of Article I Section 2 begins with

“The President shall be Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy of the United States, and of the Militia of the several States, when called into the actual Service of the United States;…”

Notice that the President only commands the militia after Congress calls them up.

Why does some huge majority of Americans think that little bands of armed thugs are militias? Because virtually every reporter in my lifetime has told them so. The thugs in Charlottesville were reported to be one or more militias. The difference is not a semantic quibble. A militia is an armed force in service to one of, or all of, the United States. A militia is to serve and protect the United States. These bands of thugs are specifically threatening war against the United States. Some – the Bundy mob comes to mind – have taken up arms against the United States more than once. The difference is as significant as the difference between birth and death.

The groups on the streets of Charlottesville may have been called militias by every TV and radio station and every newspaper in the country. If not, it was close. They were not, by any definition of the term applicable in the United States, militia.

Those groups were one of the following:

  • Armed gangs
  • An insurrection

If in fact the United States had a militia – and some believe that the National Guard is exactly that, our Constitutional Militia – it would have been Congress’s duty to call them out to preserve the peace in Charlottesville. Again:

“To provide for calling forth the Militia to execute the Laws of the Union, suppress Insurrections and repel Invasions;”

The thugs on the streets of Charlottesville, VA, on the 11th and 12th of August, 2017, were not militia. They were an insurgency. Congress, every single member sworn on their honor to uphold and defend the Constitution, failed their duty and violated their oath.

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Negative Campaigning: The Death of Democracy

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“Negative campaigning works!” You hear it or read it if you are interested in the mechanics of politics and the people who operate it. “That’s why we do it.”

Essentially there are two ways to win an election. One, get people to vote for you. Two, get people to not vote for your opponent.

Unfortunately one of our political parties has spent the last 40 years teaching Americans to hate their government. If everybody hates the thing you’re running for it’s much harder to tell someone a positive reason to vote for you. Except, “She’s terrible. You can’t vote for her!

Think of your own life. Now imagine someone takes at least a million dollars, and often more, and hires investigators to go back over every day of your personal life, looking for anything which might be dirt, or which might even be made to sound like dirt. Your life.

Say they went back to middle school or junior high. Because they would. “Hillary was a Goldwater Girl when she was 15. She’s a flip flopper.” Yes. That really happened on national TV and all over social media. Now we’re doing it with your life.

You can hire a lot of person-on-the-street hours with a million dollars, or five, or ten. Those people look for everybody you ever met who didn’t like you. They look for everybody who called you a slut or a fag in high school, and if they’re still mad at you they get them on video.

Did you get too drunk to walk and then drive home? Good. Plan to see that on TV in every major market. 37 times a week.

Were you a butt patter? (I was. It was the 1960’s and we hadn’t heard your side yet.) Plan to see every pitiful aged remnant of the flaming foxes you knew in the parties of your youth, on TV, telling America that you sexually assaulted them on 16 separate occasions.

Did you shoplift a pair of sunglasses when you were in junior high?Headlines. Today. Nationwide.

It’s even worse if you have dared to try to help run your society, from school board through US Senator. Every  word you said in official business or campaigning for office, plus half of everything else you said during that time, is on official record and digital video. Ever say anything you wished afterward you hadn’t? Plan to hear that, every day, for the rest of your political life, any time you run for office or do anything that annoys somebody with money.

The odds are, if somebody spent, say, 7 million dollars digging up dirt on you, and 240 million dollars buying ads spreading that dirt nationwide on prime time TV and drive time radio, if you’re just a regular, mostly good person, they could make you look so bad your mother wouldn’t vote for you.

To make it better, your own party would do it too. We got rid of the bad old days where party pro’s got together and said, “Lucille looks good for the House, and Bob for the Senate, and…” picked candidates and people just went along with it. Now some old man and some old woman want to be president, and the next thing you know people supporting each of them are buying up dirt and putting it on TV. And Facebook. And Twitter.

The separate entities, the Democrats and the Republicans, the Sam campaign and the Mary campaign, don’t each have to hire their own flocks of investigators to do this. They used to, but it became so lucrative that investigators started searching out dirt on spec. Forming big multi-million dollar companies to dig dirt. Now when some campaign needs to butcher Mary’s reputation all they have to do is call one or more Opposition Research Professionals. Pretty soon if you wet your pants in second grade it will be on national TV.

None of the dollar figures I am using here are exaggerations. People really would spend that kind of money to savage your reputation and your public image if you ran for President. Maybe for Governor or Senator, depending on the state. Possibly even Representative if you’ve stumbled into a Media Frenzy Race.

Because the ads aren’t the big deal. What they really want is Free Media. If a campaign can run a really sneaky, nasty negative ad on you, they have a chance of getting all the Sunday morning TV shows to talk about it. “Did Mary really run over her neighbor’s dog over poop in her flowers? Video after these messages…”

And nobody will ever know whether you did in fact run over your neighbor’s dog out of spite or not. Fact will not be established. Even if you never drove a car, the TV station will have somebody on each side of the story. One will swear it didn’t happen. The other will swear it did. Next story.

Leaving aside for a moment the question of why anyone would run for any office anytime anywhere ever, why would anyone vote?

By the time the election rolls around everybody in the country is certain that at least one of the candidates is all the terrible things that have been reported plus more. In fact, the plus more, made up dirt industry is booming too.

Unfortunately, about half of the voters are convinced that both candidates are every bad thing that’s ever been said about them, and figure, why vote? It’s not the lesser of two evils, it’s the flip-a-coin no difference choice between two total slimeballs you wouldn’t trust in your house.

To add insult to injury, besides doing it to individual candidates they do it to political parties. Many of the people I talk to appear to be utterly convinced that both political parties are entirely corrupt and evil. Katherine Pickering Antonova, in The GOP is No Longer a Conservative Party (Huffington Post, July 25, 2017) gives the clearest definition of a political party I have ever seen: “Political parties are fundraising organizations attached to a policy platform.” A political party coalesces around a theory of government and raises money in order to get people elected and try to govern according to that theory.

If you’ve ever done, made, or attempted anything you are probably aware that theories never translate 100% into practice. So it is easy to slaughter the reputation of any political party. Almost no matter what they said they would do, it didn’t come out quite like that. So they didn’t do what they said they’d do. Liar, liar, pants on fire. And more Americans register as Independent than as either Democratic or Republican, even though Independent is technically defined as “no fundraising organization attached to no policy platform / theory of government.”

So over a third of voters hate both political parties and some unknown quantity appearing to be up around half of voters hate both candidates. Half the people don’t bother to vote. Can’t bear to vote.

The press and TV spends all the time between elections telling the American people that of all the candidates are being pushed into office for nefarious reasons by bunches of anonymous crooks called political parties, and none of them are fit to vote for anyway. Then the day after the election this same press corps looks up and says, Gee, why didn’t anybody vote? Couldn’t they see this was an important election?

Um… fellas…

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Third Parties and Independents

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In states where voters choose a party affiliation when registering, the largest single affiliation is “Independent.” More people register and identify as Independent than as either Democrat or Republican.

The largest “party” cannot participate in Congress without “caucusing” (sitting, meeting, and voting) with one of the two “smaller” parties.

The largest party cannot run candidates in most elections or get on ballots in most states.

The largest party is, in governing terms, irrelevant. The largest party does not participate in self-government in the United States.

This is bizarre.

I have a feeling that most self-identified “independents” really are either Democrats or Republicans on election day. I think that most of them vote for the same party over and over but just don’t want to have the name hung on them,  but I don’t actually know that. If this is not the case, these people’s view of governance is so different from mine that it is not likely that I could comprehend an explanation should they offer one.

I don’t know the details of registration in other states. In my state we don’t state a party preference until primary election day; we ask for a Democratic or Republican ballot to vote in the primary. So maybe some of the Independents are people who would register Green, or Libertarian, or Constitution Party, but they don’t get that choice in their states. So third party affiliation might explain some of the imbalance too. I don’t know.

But whatever the reasoning is, registering Independent is a poor fit with the American system as it has evolved.

There are many Americans who express dissatisfaction with our two party system. If, as I believe, registering as an Independent is an expression of dissatisfaction with our two party system, then more than a third of registered voters are dissatisfied. Fewer than a third are registered Republican; fewer than a third are registered Democrat. That’s our two party system. Over a third are registered Independent. That is dissatisfaction.

It may not be obvious, but every actual real republic, every openly and honestly elected government, is a two party government every day but election day. There is a majority party, and there is a minority party. That’s it. One group of elected officials controls the government. The other group of elected officials tries to keep the group in control from going off the deep end.

That’s it. Two parties. Majority, and minority. I don’t care if there are two names, three names, or twenty named parties. Except on election day there is a governing majority and everybody else.

We hold elections to choose our government. How do you want to be governed? That is the question.

Most of the people I hear talking about third parties – parties in the United States other than the Republican Party or the Democratic Party -seem to have an image in their mind of a governing party. I don’t think anyone really desires to create a party that gets, year after year, 1/10 of 1% of the vote nationwide, and 2% of the vote in their stronghold states. Why bother? No, I think people have a vision of displacing the Democrats (at least of the ones I talk to most want to displace the Democrats) and replacing them with a different second party in a two party system.

Because remember: Majority Party. Minority Party. Show me a legislature on Earth that can’t be defined in those terms, or accept them. Majority parties enact laws. Period.

OK, so what is a political party? If one were to make a serious effort to replace the Democrats what would it take? Tweets? Facebook pages? Voting for Greens? Libertarians? So far none of those approaches have shown any sign of success. They are 1/10 of 1% parties. Their voters are not attempting to elect a government.

I operate on the following principle: to produce results requires action. Laws of thermodynamics: nothing moves until energy is applied to it. So say the desired result is to replace a nationwide political party which has ballot access in 3,142 counties or county equivalents in the United States and is written by name into the rules of the U.S. House and the U.S. Senate as well as many state governments. What actions will this take?

First, a political party requires organization. A national political party requires a national organization. Humans cannot even make a grade school co-educational soccer league without creating an organizational structure. It is how we work, we herd creatures. I am confident that when we were pre-human hunter gatherers, even before we evolved into Homo (allegedly) Sapiens, we had organizational structures. Wolves have organizational structures. Coyotes do. Chimpanzees do. So let’s just agree that in order for a group of like-minded people to be a nationwide political party requires a nationwide organizational structure. This new party needs to organize 3,142 county committees. These 3,142 local committees need to work towards a common goal, electing a government. In order to communicate and share efforts they will need a nationwide umbrella organizational structure to collect and pass messages if nothing else. The most logical place to put such a headquarters would be in Washington DC, because  Washington DC is where the national government is. Once again, the stated objective is to create a governing political party.

So far we have 3,142 county offices and one national office. That won’t work. One office can’t communicate with 3,142 offices. Information going up has to be consolidated; information going out has to be distributed.There will have to be one or more intermediate layers of organization. States. Districts.

This is why armies have generals, two layers of colonels, majors, captains, two layers of lieutenants, and and four layers of non-commissioned officers between the civilian command and the troops on the line. One general can’t command a few hundred thousand soldiers directly. And those few hundred thousand soldiers are just one tiny fragment of what the new political party will have to manage, should they become the majority party.

Remember, the United States government is probably the largest organization ever created by humans. If the objective is to create a party to operate this government, that party has to be widespread and organized.

In my lifetime this is not how attempts to create a third party or independent party in the United States have gone. Some small group of people, loosely organized in a few dots on the map, picks a candidate for President. They get their candidate on the ballot in some states. They campaign ferociously, negatively, against the opposition candidate who most nearly agrees with their policies.

This is not an attempt to elect a government. This is not even a serious attempt to elect a President. This is an attempt to pass a miracle.

 

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