Democracy

testimony and questions

skeptics and bias

rallies and riots

ballots and delegates

lies and deception

demagogues and populists

elitists and insiders

jail and immunity

signs and shouting

chants and marches

police and protestors

 

 

The Time for Courage is Now

Our country is facing an enormous lack of leadership right now. Sure, the corporate elite are tacitly running the show, but the loudest voice of all has remained relatively silent. That voice is that of the people, the working people, of the United States of America. The people who really run this country–only they don’t know it. By the force of our labor, we keep the wheels turning. Nothing gets done without working people. The richest three American men (without whom everything would run fine) own significantly more wealth than the bottom half of Americans–about $90B more.

Meanwhile, there are people being price-gouged out of affording life-saving medicines and others who go to bed in the streets and/or hungry. This injustice is egregious. The wealthy let their money work for them while the poor (in some cases literally) break their backs working everyday. The corporate elite have provided a seemingly endless series of distractions as well as employed other tactics to keep the working class ignorant of their daily atrocities. They’ve also bought and paid for the mainstream media which, despite 45’s ranting, actually is biased, but not against his stupid, inconsequential self. Do they entirely fabricate stories? No. However they do focus on drivel when more humanitarian and legitimate stories should be under the spotlight. Or, if they do cover such stories, they slant them towards the interests of the American Military Industrial Complex.

Are you satisfied with the way things are going? No? What are you going to do about it? Vote? That won’t be nearly enough even if, God-willing, we get a true non-establishment candidate. It’s time to organize to use any means necessary to end this national order. We may be best-off by working within the channels of law and civil disobedience to achieve a more egalitarian society. Yet we must not falter now. We owe it to our working brothers and sisters to lift them up. The wealthy must be knocked down in order to accomplish this. Withholding labor is the key to bringing the wealthy to heel. With no one to wash their Porsches, cook their meals, or build things for them they will quickly realize how helpless and worthless to society they are.

Sure, things would get ugly, but if the working class held firm and only worked to directly benefit their own class and let the wealthy “eat cake,” things could change. If we seize their properties, all the better. They need to learn the lesson that no one earns anything. The overwhelming majority of American society is entirely dependent upon itself. It needs food raised or grown elsewhere in the nation. Some say we aren’t ready for a revolution for this very reason. Bullshit. We are the ones who grow and raise the food. We are the 90% and the 10% aren’t going to be able to kill us all. They will realize they’re hopelessly outnumbered and relent, or suffer the consequences if they don’t. But aren’t they us too, just more lucky and greedy? Perhaps, but it is that greed and economic system which bears no relation to merit which must die.

Automation is only going to make this crisis worse, as those who own property will be able to produce goods and services without human labor. This is why we should seize the moment now and start a national strike. This would be a working strike, using old fashioned barter and trade instead of a currency which has been so ill-distributed that it should be meaningless. People don’t need much; safe food, shelter, and water are basic human necessities that are currently being denied too many people in our current system. Poor cities across the country are struggling with water quality issues and this is unacceptable. Why hasn’t the work been done, the pipes in Flint replaced? Because no one is paying for it. Flint probably doesn’t have the funding for such a large infrastructure project. So one of two things should happen, A) a larger government such as Michigan or the federal government should provide financial aid for the project, or B) infrastructure workers should come to an agreement with the citizens of Flint for compensation. This would require the seizure of farm and ranch properties by and for the people of Flint. Obviously doing away with traditional currency would complicate trade, but the benefits of equality would be worth it. Money is often misspent on things people don’t need.

The whole developed world is going to need to change its lifestyle to accommodate the growing population and adapt to the effects of the climate crisis. We mustn’t be afraid of enormous structural changes to society–they will happen to us if we don’t make tough decisions now. Forget Andrew Yang’s $1000 for those 18-60 or whatever his plan is. Let’s go out and take that over $1000 worth of resources for every single person that Bezos, Buffet, and Gates are sitting on.

Should You Vote for the Lesser of Two Evils

(image by Jean-Pierre Dalbéra from Paris, France – Le Penseur d’A. Rodin (MAMC, Strasbourg)

I will apply normative ethics to this situation. Normative ethics assumes that there is only one ultimate criterion on which moral conduct can be judged e.g. the “golden rule” i.e. “do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” The two major ethical schools of thought that I will apply to this dilemma are, utilitarianism, which bases ethical decisions on the consequences of the act, and deontology, which is concerned with the purity of the motive behind the action. I will be using the framework of the United States federal election system to address this question using the different ethical methods. What complicates this question is the fact that one has several choices and not one binary choice. One can choose to vote for the greater of two evils, the lesser of two evils, not vote at all, write someone in, or vote for a third party candidate. Obviously voting for the greater of two evils is unethical.

Consequentialism

act utilitarianism: a tallying of the pleasure versus pain an act produces.

Voting for the lesser of two evils would be morally correct under act utilitarianism, because if one does not vote for the lesser of the two evils, it is more likely that the greater of those two evils will win and everyone will suffer those consequences. Under this ethical method, one would be obligated to set aside their personal dislike of the candidate they find less objectionable and vote for that candidate in order to increase the overall happiness of society by preventing the election of the worse of the two.

The problem here is that this will never lead to better choices of candidates to vote for, because one is never voting based on who they really think would be best to lead the country–the choice is predetermined based on whichever two candidates run. If both candidates are awful and one cannot distinguish any significant advantage one has over the other, it would be morally correct to not vote, write someone in, or vote third party.

rule utilitarianism: would the action lead to more happiness if it became universal law?

If everyone voted for the lesser of two evils, the lesser of two evils would win every time. One problem here is that which candidate is the lesser of two evils is supposedly objective. So really, this would lead to what most people currently do. In 2016, according to a Pew study, the majority of voters chose their candidate primarily because they were the opponent of the other candidate.

The second problem with deciding who to vote for based on this criterion is that, again, it will never lead to achieving better candidates for office–better meaning candidates running on policies more in tune with the goals and dreams of the people. As a rule, it leads to worse outcomes in the long run. Now if everyone boycotted the election, wrote someone in or voted third party, either there would be no winner and the country would be in a state of turmoil–which could easily have negative consequences–or we could have the first third party candidate in decades which could only be a good thing due to the two-party gridlock that has been plaguing our political system. Therefore rule utilitarianism dictates that one should write-in or vote third party, provided they think that choice would be better for the country than the top democratic and republican candidates. Otherwise, there really is no ethical choice to be made, aside perhaps from not voting. If a large enough number of people don’t vote, the candidates should realize that they do not have the mandate of the people to govern as they see fit, but again if no one votes as is the circumstance rule utilitarianism would require, the consequences would be negative, so it would be most unethical not to vote.

Deontology

Kant’s categorical imperative: Treat people as an end, and never as a means to an end.

The opposite of this is using someone as a tool to achieve something. This means one should vote for the candidate they actually believe would be the best leader. If one votes for the lesser of two evils, they are using their vote for one candidate as an instrument to keep another candidate out of office. Voting for someone you actually want to win, rather than against someone you want to lose, accounts for the intrinsic merit of the candidate. This of course could mean writing a candidate in or voting third party. The danger here in the federal election system of the U.S. is that, unless a large portion of the electorate happens not to vote for one of the top two candidates, which is highly unlikely, your vote is not helping the lesser of two evils win. Contrary to popular belief, this is not the same as helping the greater of two evils win. It is wrong to vote for one candidate who you believe to be the lesser of two evils because it would be using them to beat the candidate you are most afraid of which is morally unacceptable under the categorical imperative.

Questions? Comments? Disagreements? Click the speech bubble icon on the top right of the post to respond. Thanks for reading.

 

 

Enough Straw Men Already

Moderates. The word disgusts me. It calls to mind unimaginative, wary, passionless fools doing their best to protect a status quo that sucks for most Americans. They’re watered-down conservatives. They’re constantly attacking any bold idea that might actually change things for people. They are slaves to the mythical ideological center of voters. They believe that if we can’t get these people to sing “Kumbaya” with us, we’ll never win and all is lost. You may not adhere to every policy proposal your party makes, but you’d damn well better know what side you’re on. Don’t get me wrong, I’m no fan of either of the two major parties, yet I do believe they represent two competing world views that are useful when gauging someone’s beliefs as more conservative or liberal. This center is a supposed majority, but it’s really people who barely pay attention and just feel some silly moral obligation to vote rather than actually being interested in or believing that things can change for the better, if they decide to come out to vote at all. These people are not the impediment to change that moderates believe they are. They are not engaged enough to stop it and are followers, not leaders.

Moderates spend their time trying to scare centrists into voting for them–much like Trump did with his base. Is “The liberals will take away your private health insurance and make you pay more taxes!” really much different from “The Mexicans will rape your wife and take your job!”? This private health insurance disappearing argument is a deliberate misrepresentation of the policy. It’s a straw man that moderates are eagerly stabbing with abandon as though it really was a good argument. Medicare for All does not outlaw private insurance, it merely changes the market such that private insurance companies must compete for different business. There will still be private insurance for cosmetic surgery for example. These plans will be luxury plans that will not directly compete with Medicare for All.

I don’t buy the “poor rural hospitals will close” argument either. Sure, Medicare currently pays out at a lower rate than private insurance. However the rate can be adjusted if necessary and hospitals will no longer have patients who don’t have insurance and can’t pay–they’ll get something rather than nothing in these cases. AND these hospitals will spend significantly less on billing. A 2014 Commonwealth Fund report stated that hospitals in the U.S. spend more on administrative costs than Germany, France, England, the Netherlands, Canada, Scotland and Wales.

Oddly, one of these moderates, Tim Ryan, spoke to the problem that we have a “disease care” system and not a wellness one. While he didn’t expand on any policy that would change this fact, the first step towards such a fundamental change is making sure everyone has a primary care physician. If that was another attempt to say that Medicare for All isn’t the right approach to healthcare, it is wrong about that.

As for providing health insurance for undocumented immigrants, it may be politically volatile, but dammit it’s the right thing to do. We’re all better off when people are healthy and therefore better able to contribute to society. But wait, say the moderates, “You’ll lose the election by decriminalizing illegal border crossing and promising healthcare and free college to undocumented immigrants!” While those policies would certainly infuriate Trump voters, hopefully everyone else will see that having 3% of the population without healthcare or access to education is counterproductive.

Trump once again proved you can win an election on fear, but winning on fear of fear? The fear of the fears of Trump voters about undocumented immigrants bolstering their numbers at the polls is real. But more is at stake in 2020 than merely who occupies the White House. As much as I hate to parrot Biden, the values and moral standing of the country is at stake. Do we want to be a country that treats people on our soil with dignity or not? Of course the argument that we should take care of American citizens first is not entirely invalid. I particularly think of prisoners and women as two marginalized demographics in need of the government’s help to ensure they are treated fairly. But it is important to take the attitude that our country takes care of people, no matter who they are. This country needs to be about doing the right thing for the sake of doing the right thing, and we cannot hope for such an enormous shift if the moderates remain in power.

 

Freedom of Speech in the Free Market

Although many Americans don’t understand where it applies, almost every American cherishes the ideal of “freedom of speech.” The Supreme Court has heard many cases concerning what is protected speech and what isn’t–as in the famous Schenck v. United States case in which a ruling was made that decided that “shouting ‘fire’ in a crowded theater” is not constitutionally protected speech. More recently Masterpiece Cakeshop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission had the court contemplating what “speech” even really is.

Controversy over freedom of speech sparked anew earlier this month when Facebook and its subsidiary Instagram banned such people as Louis Farrakhan, Alex Jones, Paul Joseph Watson, Laura Loomer, Paul Nehlen, and Milo Yiannopoulos from their platforms. While a Facebook spokesperson told news outlets that “We’ve always banned individuals or organizations that promote or engage in violence and hate, regardless of ideology,” questions remain. Questions such as “where the line is drawn for banning?” as well as “were the moves made due to a social obligation to clean up the platforms, fear of lawsuit, or just as a public relations reaction?” Being publicly traded companies, it seems most likely that these decisions are based in a responsibility to shareholders rather than the common person. Then perhaps in this case, the two parties share in the benefits of these bannings, or are they beneficial?

There are still platforms where these people’s content can be accessed e.g. their private websites and 8chan, but they are clearly on the “shoulder” of the information highway. Tech giants like YouTube, Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have all banned users and organizations from their platforms. What is these tech companies’ role when it comes to hate speech and incitement of violence on their platforms? Are they public forums or publishers? Publishers mediate and edit content. By censoring otherwise legal content, these companies are saying “we are publishers,” and therefore taking on the responsibility of trying to eliminate hate speech and incitement of violence on their platforms. They are already forced to uphold, yes even 8chan, copyright and child pornography laws. But by taking the moral step of trying to eliminate pornography and revenge porn, these companies thereby acknowledge a responsibility to the user of the platform. This responsibility seems to be to provide a less disturbing or agitating experience. Perhaps one of the most interesting questions is “are these companies censoring for their own benefit or for the common good?” The follow-up, “does it matter?” is an ethical question that I won’t address here.

The most prominent question, without a doubt is “should these platforms have banned these people and organizations?” While some are prone to believe the slippery slope fallacy when it comes to censorship, others would prefer a sterilized, if meaningless conversation. The question isn’t so much what do we want to hear, but what do we need to hear? Should we ignore people’s beliefs because they make us uncomfortable? Yes, hate speech is ugly, but knowing who is “drinking that Kool-Aid” is indispensable. Those erroneous and evil beliefs must be addressed, not pretended away. It is painful to be the subject of such speech, but in terms of survival, it is critical to know exactly what some people think about you. Life can often be disturbing and agitating, but we cannot punish everyone who offends us or, more importantly, ignore threats. There is a terrible consequence to not shouting “fire” in the theater when one is starting, as Holocaust survivors could tell you. Those who ally with the people being persecuted will also generate noise. Shouldn’t the good voices be given a chance to drown out the bad? There is a powerful message to be sent to the hateful people by letting that happen instead of banning them.

However, it could also easily turn into a shouting match and result in more physical violence from holders of each perspective. It is hard to say if internet disagreements often yield tangible violence or not. Those who do commit hate-crime violence also typically share what they are planning with other like-minded individuals before the fact. Law enforcement seems to already have access to this, as they have connected manifestos to shooters which were “published” on 8chan–a platform designed above all else to protect the users’ anonymity. This is a tough balance to find as well–when should law enforcement intervene, and at what point does it become more like Big Brother looking over everyone’s shoulders? Right now, it seems the interventions hit and miss as some terrorists have been prosecuted for their plans while others have successfully realized theirs. Though it must be a trying process to determine real threats from “mouth-running,” use of specific details in the manifestos and plans are damning. If only these shooters were prosecuted before they got the chance to carry out their heinous plans, the world would be a better place. However, In the many years since Schenck… the first amendment has been re-interpreted yet again, giving prosecutors new angles to work.

The “clear and present danger” test of Schenck… has since been replaced with the “imminent lawless action test” of Brandenburg v. Ohio. How would today’s Supreme Court handle the Schenck… case in which a man was prosecuted for handing out anti-draft posters in wartime, given the precedent of Brandenburg…? How would they handle the hypothetical case if, God forbid, the FCC or FBI took down infowars.com? Hopefully, the Court would preserve freedom of speech in these cases so long as the organizations’ speech did not cross the “imminent lawless action test.” One form of speech I haven’t addressed is the conspiracy theory.

Conspiracy theories may be horribly disturbing, as was the one that the Sandy Hook shooting was fake. But not knowing the extent of those who believe that is perhaps more dangerous than allowing the lie to be spoken. Conspiracy theories present another balance to find–does it legitimize or give credence to them when they are denied by the mainstream media, does working to disprove them actually work, or should they be gagged to prevent them from spreading? If one has any faith in people’s ability to be rational, they would err on the side of letting the facts convince the skeptics.

Again, the truth has the power to drown out the false, but instead of directly addressing the lie, silencing the “speaker” almost gives the lie more power and adds to the conspiracy mystique. This further alienates a subculture–a dangerous move. Communication is the key to educating and changing beliefs, however this key works on both the doors of truth and bullshit. People who believe conspiracy theories are thinking with their emotions rather than their rational mind. As the rise of the Trump regime has proven, the masses’ emotions are easily swayed and used to manipulate them. We cannot omit the lies no matter how hard we try. Our only logical recourse is to drown out the hate with compassion and the lies with truth. If truth and compassion, by their own virtues cannot win over the hateful and the ignorant, there is no hope for humanity. Truth and love do and can win, when they are allowed to compete with hate and lies.

Nearly all of humanity’s institutions and communities regard truth and love as essential. People go online to find community. Ultimately, no matter how much influence one allows others to hold over their beliefs, people can only decide for themselves what the truth is. The Supreme Court seeks to find the truths embedded in the United States Constitution, and as a national community, we agree to abide by the truths it determines. The Supreme Court’s rulings on this matter of freedom of speech are sage ones–and ones that the tech companies, though not legally bound to, should implement on their platforms, rather than banning bad actors.

The Pledge

“I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”—should be rendered by standing at attention facing the flag with the right hand over the heart.

(Wikipedia)

The Pledge of Acknowledgment

“I pledge acknowledgment that there is nothing exceptional about the USA except perhaps the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence concerning equality, liberty and justice. I acknowledge that peace is another ideal we should strive to achieve. I realize that many people are excluded from enjoying these concepts and we have a lot of work to do as a country to continue striving towards those ideals. I acknowledge that I am subject to the laws and criminal code of the US whether I agree with them or not. Hopefully the republic grows no more divided than it is now and reverses this trend. If there is a God, we would certainly ask for its help in this endeavor.”–should be rendered standing on one foot, patting one’s head and rubbing their belly in a counter-clockwise motion.