Anthropological Motivation For Not Fighting About Politics

For context, look up popular American news articles for March 12th, 2016.

Raja Yoga (the Hindu philosophy of using physical movement to achieve a higher spiritual state–called simply “yoga” by most westerners) seems to have arisen out of a collection of movements and postures practiced as part of human life. From bowing to a king, to taking a wide stance in preparation for delivering a sword blow, to stretching in the morning and evening to alleviate muscle and joint pain, to picking up a baby–this is a system of kinetic learning intended to explain and teach the human condition and how to function within it.

Humans are loving. Humans are powerful. Humans fight for survival, spend their days gathering resources; humans follow leaders; humans battle for control over the followers and means of acquisition. (Anyone who tells you otherwise is probably seeing you as their follower…) This method of teaching translates literally to “royal yoga”. As profound as it once was, it fails to teach apt governance or understanding in the absence of the cultural understanding that could only be truly had in the more revered and wealthy circles of the ancient world.

What would such a system look like, if it were created out of the successful strategies of governing and being governed within our own society? Are there any motions that we can still use to universally increase our usefulness and success as a part of the human meta-organism? Today, we crave a method that works for almost everyone, and mourn the absence of any such thing that can make us happy. There is currently no “one size fits most” method for anyone born after 1980, or, perhaps, before.

In politics and religion, alike, we are bereft of truly effective guidance. We celebrate the death of “storge” love while complaining about lack of agreement in public matters. (This is a contradiction.) We seek ancient wisdom that hardly translates to how to make a real living, today. We are amply taught, in school, church, home, and in casual society everything but what is known to be truly, universally effective–because nobody knows of any universally “human” means of survival that has, itself, survived the test of time.

In the last decade, much of the world has awoken to this predicament, and we are fighting each other because nobody can figure out how to make things work, again. The information age arose out from Pandora’s box, and our greatest minds have yet to tame it in a way that lets everyone live happily, who is willing to keep trying.

Or maybe that is the nature of the human condition: as the Buddhists say, “suffering exists”, and it’s up to us to figure out how to deal with that.

It is a part of human nature to fight. We committed genocide against every human species that came before us, until only Homo sapiens remained. (A chilling thought, but true, according to archeologists, evolutionary biologists, and anthropologists.) A new way of living will one day emerge out of the ashes of analog society and the minds of those who, like Homo erectus, failed to adapt (despite having a larger brain). In the mean time, let’s limit our battles to the ones that actually matter.

If an idiot or a fool gets elected president, let them show us how not to do things.

Some arguments can only be won by letting your opponent win, and then realize, on his own, that he should have been wiling to compromise (A.K.A. “adapt”). We decided in the late 40s that killing all the stupid people is wrong, so if such people end up running things, and we don’t crash and burn because of it, we will have proven that the antiquated morals of centuries past–survival of the fittest, when you boil it down enough–are truly not as good as the softer ones we revere, today.

And if letting stupid people self-actualize turns out to be a problem, we can always decide that Hitler had the right of things and commit genocide until all the stupid people are extinct, and we evolve into a species that’s better than Homo sapiens. (Personally, I don’t advocate this method.)

Seriously, folks, don’t get into physical fights over political beliefs unless you think we should silence, cage, and eventually extinct all the imbuciles–including, possibly, you.

Trump and Sanders fans, I’m looking at you.


A Centrist’s Analysis of the 2016 Presidential Election

A.K.A. “You heard it here, first!”

This started off as a Facebook post, about a week ago.  Many of the people who replied to the original post are of a liberal persuasion, and some took umbrage to my assertion that Sanders isn’t as intelligent as some of the other candidates.  The second half of this essay is a response to those objections.  As with all my posts, I take no offense at being disagreed with, but do request that any disagreements be presented respectfully and intelligently.

The Analysis

As a self-described centrist, I’ve watched the most recent Republican and Democratic presidential primary debates. I’ve noticed some striking differences that have influenced my opinion substantially, at this juncture.

1) Right or wrong in her policies, Hillary Clinton is the most intelligent person in the running.

2) Sanders is the only one who seems to care about or understand the major concerns of the millennial generation. He is, however, extremely vague (compared to Clinton) about how to fund any of the changes he wants.

3) The Republican candidates disagree with each other a lot less, but they don’t go into as much detail about their positions, or how they intend to accomplish their goals.

4) The Democratic debate facilitators ask much harder questions. Their candidates often dodge the question, but have stayed on topic better than in past elections. Republican debate facilitators ask much easier questions, and their candidates don’t dodge them as often.

5) The Democratic candidates put more focus on how they intend to do things, and are more specific about what they intend to do. The Republican candidates focus more on who they’re angry at.

6) Governor O’Malley makes much more concise, salient remarks, and asks harder, more intelligent questions than the facilitators or other candidates. He seems to lack the assertiveness to lead effectively at the presidential level, but he adds much to the election by way of keeping the other candidates honest.

7) Sanders and Trump are more childish than the other candidates, in their mannerisms and speech patterns. Trump is extremely so, to the point that I wonder if he suffers from a neoteny-related disorder.

8) Bush made more sense than any other Republican candidate, and seems to have some understanding that issues that have yet to be solved are unsolved because they’re complex and are trade-off centric. Clinton has a much better apparent understanding of this than any of the other candidates, including Bush, although Bush may be catering his responses to the less detail-oriented format of the Republican debates.

9) Sanders and O’Malley seem to be the least corrupt, in terms of taking money from special interests.

10) Sanders and Clinton get almost all the attention, and are rude to O’Malley when he tries to speak.

11) Trump really is an idiot. He has basically no understanding of politics, diplomacy, foreign affairs, economics, the economics of immigration, etc.  (Research early 20th century immigration and it’s effects, if you don’t believe me.)

12) Sanders is also pretty stupid, but he has a handful of ideas that could basically save my generation if he implements them with sufficient foresight (which he may or may not possess). If elected, he would screw a lot of stuff up, but maybe fix the things that most need fixing. He also doesn’t understand foreign relations, many aspects of economics, diplomacy, etc. In other words, a vote for him is a vote for sacrificing a lot of things that (mostly) work in favor of fixing a few things that are severely broken–if he’s clever enough to pull it off, which is worth questioning.

13) Clinton would hold down the fort with stunningly apt alacrity, but not seriously work on our country’s most severe domestic problems. She would make small, incremental improvements, and do a darned good job of that…slowly. Under her rulership, we should expect small, consistent improvements across the board (barring unforeseen circumstances). She has foresight, leadership ability, and genius-level I.Q. She’s one of the greatest diplomats alive. What she lacks is out-of-the-box thinking on some pressing issues.

14) I’m sad to admit that, in spite of my centrism, I can’t see any of the Republican candidates’ proposed solutions as being very sapient or realistic. Sorry, guys: you’re going to lose, this year.

15) Clinton listens intently to each of her opponents and nods appreciatively, apparently to herself, when they say something particularly intelligent. I expect that, like Obama, she’ll ask some of her former opponents to join her cabinet. Sanders is an ideologue who is too busy concentrating on making his next point to listen very well. (Referring to active listening, not hearing loss.) He may or may not have the wisdom to hire his former competitors.

16) Sanders has an annoying demeanor. Those I was watching the debate with (stalwart democrats) kept turning him down because he was a “loud mouth” and a “hot head”, which mostly speaks to his presentation, rather than his ideas. If people can’t stand listening to you, it doesn’t matter how good your ideas are.

In conclusion, either Sanders or Clinton will most likely be our next president. I like what Sanders is trying to do, but his demeanor is unpalatable, and he lacks the intellect to do a good job, on most fronts. He has admirable compassion, but precious little logistical sense, and would end up a lot like Jimmy Carter, in the eyes of history, were he to win. Clinton will probably be our next president, and will almost certainly do a very solid job of it, taking into account the quirks specific to her party (fixation on gun control, LGBT/race/female issues–all of which are sometimes sensible, and often not), and a penchant for small, safe changes, rather than large, riskier ones (some of the latter we seem to need). To put it simply, we are probably in safe hands, this time around, and the big changes will probably have to wait.


“But I like Bernie Sanders, and I think he’s smart!”

“He’s been working for decades to do what he claims to want, so shouldn’t we give him more credit?”

I don’t doubt that Sanders is sincere, or that he’s been working toward his goals for a very long time. He is, indeed, very committed. My concerns about his intellect come from a variety of things about him, most of them small and hard to explain to anyone who hasn’t also noticed it. Here are a few that seem relatively easy to communicate.

1) He stays “on message” a lot more than the other candidates. When asked about gun control, he talked about Wall Street. When asked about digital security and Constitutional concerns, he talked about Wall street, and then, eventually, about terrorists. When asked about racial inequality, he talked about Wall Street. Yes, the financial sector (which is larger than just Wall Street in New York City!) needs to be sat on for the way they have screwed up our economy and some other stuff. Yes, they’re crazy rich, while their employees are just getting poorer. They’re on my “sh*t-list”. They are not, however, the cause of every evil in the world, and changing how we interact with them isn’t going to solve most of our problems. That’s lazy thinking. He’s been on the job for long enough to know better…but he apparently doesn’t.

2) His vocabulary is limited.

3) He’s reactionary in the same way as people I know who have a fanatically-held set of beliefs, but who lack the wherewithal to justify those beliefs saliently to others. He gets upset, raises his voice, interrupts incessantly, gesticulates to get attention, etc. This is another sign of a weak mind.

4) His facial expressions are very limited. This one is a bit harder to explain, but I’ll try. For illustration, watch Trump speak and count how many distinct expressions he has. That’s an approximate number that can be used to extrapolate his range of emotions. People who have only, in the extreme example, “happy” and “sad” make you think of what group of people?  According to psychologists, what is the average IQ of people with that kind of disorder? (Down Syndrome sufferers are one example.  They have an average I.Q. of 80, whereas “normal” is ~100.) A person without nuanced feelings is probably incapable of understanding partial victories, mitigated defeats, trade-offs, moral gray area, etc.; if they did understand these things, they would have a decidedly more developed range of emotions, which would result in more unique facial expressions. Trump regularly displays fake sadness, sullenness, child-like delight, and anger–and not much else. Now, watch the same length of video and count Sanders’ unique expressions. There aren’t many more. Now, take a look at either of the Clintons (who have approximate IQs of 138 and 140, respectively). Do they look sideways in amusement? Do they smirk, wink, look ponderous, etc? You bet they do. They have also been shown to understand things like partial victories, mitigated defeats, trade-offs, moral gray area, etc. I know this might not make a lot of sense unless you’ve already noticed it, but here’s hoping…

5) He doesn’t seem to know when he has made his point, and people have stopped listening intently.

6) When he was asked whether he was raising taxes on the middle class to pay for universal health care, he prevaricated for over 2 minutes, apparently without realizing that everyone with half a brain cell would see that he was doing so. If you boil it down enough, his answer was, “Yes, I’m raising taxes on the middle class, but the savings from medical costs will be bigger.” For many, including me, this is probably true. However, anyone with a little life experience knows that some people get sick and/or go to the doctor more than others, so for the latter group, the math doesn’t add up. (I go to the doctor more than most people.)  Having worked on this problem for several decades, he should know better than to make such a brash assumption, but either he doesn’t know better, or is lying. It’s been previously agreed (by most in the conversation, so far) that he’s genuine; therefore, he’s stupid.

7) As obtuse as Congress is, if he were even a little bit good at explaining his ideas in a way that made other people who knew about the subject matter agree with him, he would have gotten the Democratic Party leadership on-board with his plan, after all this time.  Overwhelmingly, his colleagues seem to think of him as being unrealistic.  Often, when he seems to have “stumped” his opponent with a response, the expression on the opponent’s face isn’t one of concession or sullen disappointment about being bested in an argument, but of bafflement that he would even say such a thing.  How do you deliver a snappy retort to a statement that’s factually incorrect on a dozen different levels?  If you think back to a time when someone made such an argument to you, that debate dynamic will become painfully clear.  As previously mentioned, he consistently dodged Clinton’s questions about his previous voting record, and likewise refused to explain in any detail how he intended to mitigate the negative side-effects of his proposed changes.  Many of the bills he authored are only a couple of pages long, and make no effort to state, in practice, how they are to be accomplished, if made law.  Valid questions include: How do you enforce it?  What are the specific rules that businesses, individuals, and government agencies must follow, in day-to-day life?  Are those people actually able to follow those rules without it putting them out of business or turning everyone into a criminal–technically or judicially, depending on enforcement?  A 2-page bill can’t address these concerns, and Sanders repeatedly presents such bills, trying to make them into laws.  They are consistently voted down by his peers.  (Yes, he has managed to pass a handful of laws in the 25 years since he first got elected to Congress, which means that he occasionally writes a law that his colleagues don’t think is asinine.)  To my understanding, his biggest accomplishments as a member of Congress center around adding a little “heart” to bills that others have written–which makes him a decent Congressman, but doesn’t qualify him for the duty of vetoing poorly-written laws.

I could go on, but this should provide a little justification for my assertions about his intellect. Again, I think he has a few really good ideas; but I doubt that he has much understanding of what the side-effects of those ideas will be.  Therefore, I’ll reassert that a vote for Sanders is a vote for sacrificing a lot of things that (mostly) work, in favor of fixing a few things that are badly broken.  This comes down to the priorities of an individual voter; but be warned: some of the things he wants to change will make essential goods like food, fuel, clothing, and building supplies more expensive.  Will his other ideas counteract this by making you richer?  Will you be made richer in a way that doesn’t prevent industrialists from making those goods at a reasonable price?  Maybe, if he’s smart enough.  Do you care to roll the dice?  Vote according to your mind, heart, and conscience.

Should We Be Supporting “Third-Party” Candidates in the 2012 Presidential Election? Good Question…

I wrote the following essay as a response to an email on the Chico, CA Occupy the Dream (part of the 99% movement) list, in regard to a post about Americans Elect, and their admirable effort to get viable, public-sponsored candidates onto the presidential ballot (and other ballots), this November.  It’s really an interesting group, and for those interested in doing so, I recommend checking out what they’re trying to do–though, as you’ll read below, there are certain risks/considerations you should at least think about before doing so (in my not-too-humble opinion).

So, should we support such efforts at this time?

Short answer: I don’t know; but I do know that it’s a very large gamble.  There high risks, and potentially high–or disastrous–rewards.

Much longer answer: Read everything you see below!  🙂

This is an interesting topic that I’ve given a lot of thought.  Those in the former Rebuild the Dream–Chico, CA group (later renamed to distance ourselves from the Democratic Party’s propaganda-and-funding group by the same name; see references at the end of this document) may recall that when Rebuild the Dream got started, I mentioned Americans Elect as something to take note of.  I’ve since revised my opinion somewhat, and I venture to say that the following is worth considering.

First, to be clear: I’m 100% “in favor of” getting more candidates on the ballot, and in positions to actually get elected.  That being said, here is how the 2012 presidential election will play out, if AE and similar groups manage to get enough popular support to have an impact on the election.  Please note that while certain parts of this analysis are pretty scary (and may look far-fetched, at first glance), the end result may ultimately be worth it–and it also might not be.

(Note: I’m not an expert in government legal processes, and I don’t claim to be.  Just how the below will be accomplished, in a legal sense, is for the politicians, lawyers, and judges to figure out; but I’m certain that they will find a way, given enough impetus.  The D.C. folks certainly have a history of misinterpreting the wording of laws in order to make things happen as they want/need them to.  Review the Bill Clinton impeachment debacle if you need a reminder.)

How It Will (Likely) Happen
(I realize that this might work better as a flow-chart, but I don’t know how to make one easily.)

1) Multiple centrist-to-liberal candidates will play a “spoiler” role to Pres. Obama, causing a Republican candidate to be elected, despite getting a low percentage of the vote.
2) This will cause mass civil unrest, and millions of people will call for the election result to be invalidated by various means.  It’s possible that some unhappy citizens will become violent, but this would be a very tiny minority, I think.  (Nevertheless, it could have a nasty impact on the freedoms to protest, etc.)
3) Eventually, the public will settle on a “best method” to remove the Republican president, most likely via some form of recall, which (if I understand correctly) will require a certain amount of new legislation or legal wrangling to happen at the federal level.  Impeachment might also be tried, but I’m pretty sure it would fail, unless there’s irrefutable evidence of actual felonies being committed.
4) After a protracted, heated, and highly divisive campaign, there will be some kind of “final showdown”–perhaps a court battle or call for a 2/3 majority vote by Congress (to overrule a veto).
5) If the above effort fails, further options will be tried, but momentum for removing this president before his first term is over will fade somewhat and be transformed into further social dissatisfaction among the general population.  Some of this will “spill over” into the 99% movement, but will be ultimately ineffectual for the remainder of the president’s term.  This may ultimately lead to large-scale violent actions by some factions, which would have disastrous consequences.  (I see civil war as an eventual possibility, should the 99% movement ultimately fail to be satisfied/placated; but currently, this isn’t something I consider “inevitable,” and is a much too complex theory to discuss here.)  If things manage to remain peaceful, return to step “1.”
6) If the above legal action DOES succeed, there will be a sort of “re-do” of the election, probably with (A) the new president excluded from the list of candidates; or (B) both the new president and Pres. Obama excluded from the list.  (The latter is preferable, as explained below.  It is, however, less likely, as I see it.)
Important Note: The option of ending up with a “do-over election” without Obama or the Republican candidate on the ballot–which would produce the best results, as far as I can tell–is only feasible if the election goes to a Republican who didn’t get many votes (percentage-wise), and the 3rd party candidates got more, combined, than Obama did.  Unfortunately, this is pretty far-fetched, compared to the Republican or Obama winning outright, or the “do-over” resulting in a win for Obama, and all that would follow (see below).
7) If option “B” is chosen, we’ll have the first worthwhile election in about 100 years, and a “third party” candidate will become president.  If the public then pressures that new president  and Congress to implement legislation to prevent a similar debacle from happening again, we’ll probably achieve an end to the two-party system, or at least an easier path for “third” parties to get into an election as almost-equals.  Depending on the level and type of social pressure, we may end up with a Condorcet (preferable) or IRV (good but less preferable) voting system.  This is, of course, a “best-case” outcome.  (Depending on the disposition of this new president and his/her party, he/she/they might or might not be in favor of bringing any party other than their own into their new position of equality with the D. and R. parties.  Therefore, public pressure would be required, here, in any case.)
Further note: the legal wranglings above would basically have the effect of creating a very expensive, protracted, one-time-only “Instant-Run-off Vote,” when all is said and done.  This would create some momentum for making that system quick, painless, and standard, by eliminating the the electoral college and/or implementing IRV (or similar) for all federal elections.
8) If option “A” is selected, Obama will be elected again, and will work (semi-covertly) to prevent IRV, Condorcet or other reforms that would remove his party from its present position of relative dominance.  Public pressure could combat this, but we’d essentially be back at step “2,” above.  It’s unlikely that reform of a truly proper, significant kind will happen until his term ends–which may well be after the 99% movement is pacified/placated/satisfied enough to (essentially) remove its political “teeth.”  This is probably the worst option, short of civil war.  (Incidentally, I believe that both parties are currently seeking to create a situation wherein the 99% movement will be easy to pacify/placate whilst requiring the fewest significant concessions from the current holders of power.  This is another theory too complex to discuss in this post.)

Alternate Outcome: Of course, Obama might win the election despite all the spoiler candidates.  This would be somewhat preferable to “8,” since it won’t require a long, protracted battle to get Obama re-elected in spite of support for the third parties.  Essentially, since the public won’t have had to “work/fight” to get Obama re-elected, there will be less sense of “owning” his re-election–which would cause the public to be more active in opposing his bids to keep “third parties” out of power, in addition to maintaining reasonable pressure in opposition to the various bad/stupid things he does in the future (as he–like any recent president–is bound to do).  This will basically be an advancement of our current “waiting game” for the proper impetus for real change in our election practices.

So, I guess what I’d call the “bottom line” is this:

Supporting the introduction of “spoiler” candidates into the 2012 presidential election is a very big gamble that would result in one of three(-ish) probable results:
1) Major, meaningful reform of the federal election system.  (Probably the best-case scenario.)
2) Stalemate with regard to the above change, with the Democratic and Republican parties being given ample reason (and some opportunity) to “dig in” and defend against future threats to their power.
3) Catastrophic social upheaval that could (A) end the 99% movement (possibly by the application of armed force against it); (B) result in multiple large-scale armed conflicts between government personnel and dissatisfied citizens (possibly leading to civil war); or (C) create a more energized and effective 99% movement that would result in many protestors being confronted by armed forces (police, national guard, marines, and/or air force), but ultimately result in overwhelming victory against the current government’s way of doing things.  (The rationale for this conclusion is pretty lengthy, but it basically relies on historical observations of how populist movements against their governments have gone in the past.  This doesn’t necessarily denote any particular wisdom in whatever government comes next, mind.)

I honestly don’t know whether it’s best to support AE or other such efforts, and can’t even say with certainty whether the latter option “3C” would be worse or better than what we might obtain without such conflict.  I can, however, say it would be a lot scarier and more harmful to individual protestors.  (Obviously, I’m not advocating violent conflict; I’m only attempting to predict what the outcome of such conflict might be.)

One thing’s certain, though: the whole gambit is risky.

I know that much of the above sounds like nay-saying and doomsday predictions, but I honestly don’t intend it that way.  This is what I’ve come up with after months of thinking on the topic.  Please forward this on to your friends (via the buttons below, emails, etc.) if you think it’s worth doing so.  In any case, it’s something that I would like people to truly think about and consider before making any decision about whether to support a “third party” candidate (or organization), or to seek to re-elect President Obama.

Note: I’m working under the premise–which I wholeheartedly believe–that electing a right-wing candidate at this time is a very bad idea for all but a privileged-few Americans–even if many of the rank-and-file conservatives don’t yet realize it.  While I actually respect many of the “planks” upon which most conservatives find virtue in the Republican party (including some positions on sexual morality, and the “conservation” vs. “preservation” argument–though they’re not typically called by those terms, these days), my present position is that the Republican party has basically gone mad (from the top down), and the Democratic party isn’t very far behind them–but is, as often, the “lesser of two (very, very, very) evil choices.”

References with regard to the nature of MoveOn, Rebuild the Dream, etc. (PDF)

I could (and may, yet) post my previous essay to the local group on this topic, to my blog; but for now, I’ll only assure you that MoveOn, Rebuild the Dream, and other supposedly “progressive” groups (especially those affiliated with “Van” Jones) are basically “patsies” for the Democratic party, and as such, the 99% movement would to well to avoid them.  Please keep any comments on the topic of “third” parties in the presidential election, since that’s the main thrust of my post, today.

Thanks for reading!