Steve G.

Posts Tagged ‘Bush’

The Audacity of Hoping for Change: Barack Obama’s Broken Promises to America

In Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Corruption, Democrats, Libertarian, Libertarian Politics, Media, Politics, Republican, War on June 15, 2010 at 11:16 pm

This article was written almost a year ago. I have not added to it or expanded on my concerns. I think that anyone who reads this can themselves think of the President’s stance on issues, his lack of actual leadership, his failures over the year and a half to give us any hope that things will be better by November, 2012.

_____________________________________________________________________________

On March 26 [2009], only two months after Barack Obama had been sworn in as President, I wrote and posted an article on “Constitutional Oaths“. I also sent an email message to friends and family about the article with this message:

 “I proudly voted for Barack Obama for President of the United States. I never thought that I would so soon think that impeachment for violation of his Constitutional Oath of Office should be discussed. I feel sick and ashamed of my country.

https://lastfreevoice.wordpress.com/2010/01/30/constitutional-oaths-and-a-plea-to-president-obama-2/ 

“Right now I am feeling that there is no point in continuing giving a damn about any of it. I am about ready to unplug my TV, turn off my computer, crawl into my dark room and only come out to get a book, relieve myself and maybe eat. Our national evil has now passed to ANOTHER administration and I don’t know if I can take it.

“I do NOT want anyone to call me or pester me about talking about this. My own words in the past and the news are very clear and speak for themselves. I am tired and I literally want to vomit. I don’t think that this bridge can be unburned. Now, I just want the whole thing to collapse and get it over with. I am still waiting for that meteor to land on me and save me from all of it.

Yes, that was me back in March [2009], when I first believed it might be appropriate to investigate whether or not Obama should be impeached. Not for some far-right extremists cries for his head for any and everything he does… for even simply existing and holding the office of President; not for some lunatic conspiracy theories but rather for legitimate constitutional reasons. Was I the first Obama supporter to raise the issue of impeachment? I personally believe that when a candidate makes campaign promises they are creating an oral contractual agreement with their constituents… “You elect me and I will DO these things, and / or make my best EFFORT to accomlish these goals“. They don’t necessarily have to SUCCEED at what they promised but they DO have to at least fight for those things. I said in the 1990s that those Republicans who signed the ‘Contract With America‘ should have had class action lawsuits filed against them for BREACH of Contract. Until we hold our politicians accountable for what they say to us when they are running for office, what is their motivation to change their relationship with those that they ask for their votes?

I was watching The Daily Show tonight (because both Countdown and The Rachel Maddow Show were supplanted with non-stop crap about the death of Michael Jackson… big deal… NOT news) and Jon Stewart was talking about how Obama, a former teacher of Constitutional Law, thinks that it is appropriate to block access to information about Dick Cheney because HE MIGHT BE MADE FUN OF. (http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-june-25-2009/cheney-predacted) After that, Stephen Colbert did his Word of the Day segment about Obama’s failure to keep promises that he made on gay issues… and his latest is being done almost exactly 40 years after New York’s Stonewall riots.  (http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/232014/june-25-2009/the-word—stonewalling)

I was going to list categories of Obama’s broken promises (on government transparency, on the ‘war’, on Guantanamo, on torture, abortion rights, on pretty much everything) but it would already fill a book to try to do so. Instead, I copied links to legitimate news stories (mostly, if not all, from the left or neutral positions). These stories are NOT by Obama haters. They are by people who supported him and are feeling betrayed or by neutral news sources. Here are some of them so that you can read them for yourselves:

 http://www.alternet.org/story/140507/obama’s_broken_promises/

 http://www.salon.com/opinion/feature/2009/06/06/sirota/

 http://www.politifact.com/truth-o-meter/promises/

 http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5hRdIJDxVpdhYoXnxKGfPOn8lZJKAD991TH9O0

http://promises.nationaljournal.com/

http://www.democracynow.org/2009/6/17/despite_campaign_promises_president_obama_adopts

http://www.suntimes.com/news/sweet/1548444,obama-100-days-promises-kept-broken-042909.article

http://www.worldnetdaily.com/index.php?fa=PAGE.view&pageId=91286

http://firstread.msnbc.msn.com/archive/2009/05/15/1933734.aspx

http://www.thenewamerican.com/usnews/election/1129-obamas-broken-promises-openness-ending-military-commissions

http://www.politico.com/news/stories/0609/23915.html

Now, I want to take a slight shift here and lecture to those on the far right, the conservative extremists who hate Obama and would no matter what he does… especially Fox News and Rush Limbaugh. You have already made yourselves irrelevant to any but those who already agree with you. You spent eight years with your nose shoved up George Bush’s ass and, no matter what he did, you defended him. The problem with news in America is NOT bias. Bias itself is not bad… as long as it comes with honesty. I do not watch Kieth Olbermann because I agree with what he says. I watch Keith Olbermann because when he makes an attack on someone he backs it up with verifiable documentation as to when something happened, and what the context is. I would watch a conservative Olbermann as well, if there were one, but there isn’t. The far right media long ago abandoned honesty and integrity when they were on the side of those in power. Because of HOW they tried to defend Bush and attack his critics, they cannot be accepted as legitimate voices of opposition now. Opposition is NOT about blindy attacking who or what you hate, it is about journalistically showing why your opposition is valid. It is also about supporting what someone you are in opposition to does that is acceptable and ONLY attacking them when they are legitimately in the wrong. The far right has no concept of how to fulfill the necessary role of ‘loyal opposition’ so they simply attack blindly and maliciously in the simple hope of hurting… someone. What they don’t see is that they don’t have to make up ANYTHING because there are so many legitimate and supportable reasons to attack that all they are doing is showing how devoid of integrity or intelligence THEY are. All they have to do is investigate and tell the stories that they can back up and let the rest go.

I know that it is a mantra of the far right to hate Olbermann and the “liberal media“, but he backs his attacks up with who, what, where, when, why, and how… he gives names, dates and places to allow us, his viewers to verify what he is reporting to us.. The other thing that the far right misses is that most journalist on the left will not cover up for the side that they support when it is in the wrong. When Obama screws us all, the legitimate media which supported him will also openly and publicly denounce him when he is wrong. IT ISN’T ABOUT BIAS, IT IS ABOUT HONESTY!

I voted for Barack Obama as President. I did what I don’t do… I trusted a politician… and I trusted the Democratic Party to actually change things and push hard to the left in order to shift American back to the middle. I was not wrong to vote as I did. I voted for who I believed would be best as President. I voted for who I was willing to take a chance on but, unlike most people I know on the far right, I am intellectually honest enough that I will say when the emperor has no clothes… even the emperor I supported. The are many things that make politics in America the shame it is. One of them is when people put their own personal egos above honesty about those they support. What is important now is NOT how those who were in opposition to Obama criticize him, it is how those of us who supported him criticize him.

I could probably go forever about this but if my point hasn’t already been made and understood, more words won’t change that. To anyone who wants to comment on this article, this is NOT a forum for hit-and-run drive-by comments from the left OR the right. I don’t want to hear from anyone on the right making blanket attacks or smears saying that “lefties” or “libs / liberals” or “Democrats” are ALL like something and neither do I want to hear anyone from the left making blanket attacks saying that “right wingers” or “conservative nuts jobs” or “Republicans / Repubs” are all like something. I don’t want to hear anyone from either side making some ‘clever’ play on words, like “Repukes” to describe the other side. America needs both liberals AND conservative, Republicans AND Democrats. It isn’t whole sides who are to blame, it is specific, usually extremist ends of different ideologies that are what most people REALLY hate. And don’t attack those you disagree with JUST BECAUSE you disagree with them, attack or mock someone for being a moron, for writing something stupid that they can’t document or support. It is much more effective to challenge someone to prove what they make claims about that it is to just hate them. So, talk about specific promises he has broken or WHY you think it is good or bad that he broke a specific one; talk about the law and The Constitution; talk about… God, just talk like you have a God-damned brain in that head of yours.

Rhys M. Blavier

Romayor, Texas

“Truth, Justice and Honor… but, above all, Honor”

© Copyright 2009 by Rhys M. Blavier

Advertisements

“Mommy, why is Daddy so angry… and insane?” (The Internal Breakdown of the Republican Party in 2009)

In Congress, Corruption, Democracy, Democrats, George Bush, History, Libertarian, Libertarian Politics, Politics, Republican, US Government on October 27, 2009 at 7:20 pm

There are many archetypes for the father figure. The most disturbing one is probably the domineering task master whose “love” comes at a cost that can never be paid. That cost is absolute deference, obedience, compliance and respect and, to him, deference, obedience and compliance are the proof of proper respect. He finds humor in ‘jokes’ which categorize and belittle others because they support his own view of his natural superiority over “lesser” (i.e. – different) people. This archetype believes that his children also begin their life owing him a debt that can never be paid back, life itself. As such, his children are his property, chattel that he has paid for. He sees himself as all-knowing, all-powerful and always right. He is focused on rules and control. He will not tolerate backtalk or even being questioned. He not only wants to instill fear in his children, he wants them to fear that, even if they somehow do something that he sees as wrong without his knowing about it, they will still face retribution and punishment for eternity from a vengeful God; the same God who gives the father-figure his authority by giving him children. This father-figure believes that his right to have power over others is given to him directly by God; that his power and authority cannot be questioned or limited by anyone, and that few in the world are his equals. His God has also given him the ultimate power, the power to banish to the wilderness those who violate his given order. What he gives, he can (and will) take.

This archetype is what the Republican Party has become.

_________________________________________________________________

Like most political observers, I have watched with fascination the Republican Party’s rapid descent into madness throughout the course of the year. In fact, that breakdown has been so spectacular that even people who DON’T widely follow politics or news are aware of it, whether they recognize it or not. While I have heard much discussion of what they are doing, I have not, however, heard anyone pinpoint a single core cause of that breakdown. We have plenty of “what” being talked about but little to none of “why”. As I have spoken of before, people are focused on the “symptoms” of a disease without identifying the “disease” itself. Two recent incidences with my own brother gave me a clue about what that “disease” actually is. The core of the Republican Party is simply an authoritarian “father” who is mad that their “dependents” (the American People) aren’t respecting or listening to them anymore. They are angry because they have no control over their “children” and authoritarians THRIVE on being in control.

The Authoritarian Personality was a 1950 book written by UC-Berkeley psychologists Theodor W. Adorno, Else Frenkel-Brunswick, Daniel Levinson,, and Nevitt Sanford. In their book, they first described the “authoritarian personality” theory of personality. Their research lead them to the conclusion that this personality is developed by psychodynamic, childhood experiences which make them predisposed to follow the dictates of a strong leader and traditional, conventional values. They identified nine traits, which they hypothesized were clustered together as a result of those experiences, which identified this personality type:

     • Anti-intraception;
     • Authoritarian Aggression;
     • Authoritarian Submission;
     • Conventionalism;
     • Destructiveness and Cynicism;
     • Exaggerated Concerns over Sexuality;
     • Power and “Toughness”;
     • Projectivity; and
     • Stereotyping and Superstition.

In 1981, Canadian psychologist, Bob Altemeyer, gave us a refinement of the authoritarian personality theory, which he introduced as the concept of “right-wing authoritarianism”. Altemeyer found that only three of those nine traits correlated together:

     • Authoritarian Aggression (a general aggressiveness directed against “deviants”, outgroups, and other people that are perceived to be targets according to established authorities.)

     • Authoritarian Submission (a high degree of submissiveness to the authorities who are perceived to be established and legitimate in the society in which one lives.); and
     • Conventionalism (a high degree of adherence to the traditions and social norms that are perceived to be endorsed by society and its established authorities, and a belief that others in one’s society should also be required to adhere to these norms.)

The “right-wing” in right-wing authoritarianism does not necessarily refer to someone’s politics, but rather to their psychological preferences and personality. It means that the person tends to follow the established conventions and authorities in society. In theory, the authoritarian personality could have either conservative or liberal political views.

In his 1996 paper, The Authoritarian Specter, Altemeyer reported that his research indicated that right-wing authoritarians tend to exhibit cognitive errors and symptoms of faulty reasoning. Specifically, they are more likely to make incorrect inferences from evidence and to hold contradictory ideas that are the result of compartmentalized thinking. They are also more likely to uncritically accept insufficient evidence that supports their beliefs, and they are less likely to acknowledge their own limitations. The RWA-scale reliably correlates with political party affiliation, reactions to Watergate, pro-capitalist beliefs, religious orthodoxy, and acceptance of covert governmental activities such as illegal wiretaps. Altemeyer found that those who scored highly on the RWA-scale are likely to exhibit several common traits. These personalities tend to:

     • Be Highly Nationalistic;
     • Have Conservative Economic Philosophies;
     • Not value Social Equality;
     • Oppose Abortion;
     • Oppose Gun Control; and
     • Support Capital Punishment.

In role-playing situations, Altemeyer found that authoritarians tend to seek dominance over others by being competitive and destructive instead of cooperative. In his study, sixty-eight authoritarians played a three-hour simulation of the Earth’s future entitled the “Global Change Game”. While a comparison game played by individuals with low RWA scores resulted in world peace and widespread international cooperation, the simulation by authoritarians became highly militarized and eventually entered the stage of nuclear war. By the end of the high RWA game, the entire population of the earth was declared dead.

Research by D. J. Narby, B. L. Cutler & G. Moran (1993) found that authoritarians are generally more favorable to punishment and control than personal freedom and diversity. For example, they are more willing to support the suspension or abolishment of constitutional guarantees of liberty such as the Bill of Rights… at least where those guarantees protect others who they, themselves, have judged to be inferior. They are also more likely to advocate strict, punitive sentences for criminals. Researches by J. Duckitt & B. Farre (1994) and by M.B. Goodman & B. Moradi (2008) found that people with high RWA scores report that they obtain personal satisfaction from punishing those who they perceive as criminals, and that they tend to be ethnocentric and prejudiced against racial and ethnic minorities, and homosexuals.

The modern Republican Party has been dominated by individuals who are not just authoritarian personalities; they are right-wing authoritarian personalities. Since the period following the War Between the States, they have moved steadily away from being a populist party to being a party focused on being able to exert their will on others, even while in the minority. Money, power and political manipulations made them a corrupt party of “elites” who viewed themselves as being superior to those they “governed”. They used demogoguery as a strategy to gain political power by appealing to the public’s prejudices, emotions, fears, and expectations. They mastered the use of impassioned rhetoric, propaganda and abductive reasoning, often through the use of nationalistic, populist, moralist and / or religious themes.

The current schizophrenic behavior of the Republican Party began, in my opinion, with the almost worshipful attitude of the conservative and Christian far-right to their mythology of Ronald Reagan. They see him as their Moses, who was leading them to their conservative “Promised Land”. In 1994, this Promised Land seemed to be within sight with their takeover of both Houses of Congress. Suddenly, the Republican Party was filled with average, everyday people who not only viewed themselves as being elite, but also as being responsible for “fixing” what they saw as the broken soul of America. The big problem is that, by definition, average, everyday people cannot BE elite. This was the political equivalent of the common people of France deposing their nobility and establishing their “committees of the people” to rule instead. As happened in France, once they were in power, they also eventually turned on those among themselves who they did not see as supporting the orthodoxy or dogma of their revolution. Their equivalence was creating the label “Republican In Name Only”, or RINO. With that label they would work to purge their own ranks of those who were not “pure enough” in their belief in the “correct” orthodoxy, essentually removing the very real existence and accomplishments of the historical moderate and liberal wings of their party from their mythology.

Regardless of what the Republicans “promised” in their infamous Contract With America, once they gained the power and positions they believed were ordained for them, they moved to solidify their control over our government by making the Party (rather than the individual elected members) the dominant feature of American Government. They changed rules for determining committee chairs from being based on seniority to being based on how well members followed the dictates of the party. They collectivised their party to minimize the power of individual members and maximize the power of the party itself. Again, the similarities (in action, if not degree) to the French Revolution and the Reign of Terror are remarkable. At this point, they became “Daddy”, saying to America “Do what I tell you to do or I will punish you.”

Following in the footsteps of their mythology’s greatest human hero, Ronald Reagan (under whose administration, for example, federal funds and tax dollars were withheld from states which would not comply with federal demands for conformance on issues like drinking, drugs, speed limits, etc. – essentially blackmailing the states), the Republican controlled Congress with a view to its own dominance, power, and control over the “misguided” states and the people who did not want to do what “Daddy” told or expected them to do. They also envisioned an America under their rule in perpetuity (Karl Roves infamous “permanent majority”). Regardless of their often espoused support of states’ rights (an idea which is not found in The Constitution, contrary to the beliefs of many), they only want the states to be independent of their federal government when the states are ruling as the Party wants them to. In all other cases, they believe that their obligation as the “rulers” of our federal government is to impose THEIR will upon the states when the states aren’t “competent enough” to agree with them.

Even with the 1995 Republican majorities in both Houses of Congress, their first since 1955, they were still “impeded” in their movement towards creating the America they envisioned by having a moderate Democrat, Bill Clinton, as President. Thus, much of their effort was to limit, if not remove altogether, political resistance against their power, including their impeachment of Clinton. In 2000, however, all of their wet dreams o be on the verge of coming true with elevation of George W. Bush to the Presidency. Not only did they get a majority in the House, once seated, on January 20, 2001, Dick Cheney, as President of the Senate, turned an evenly split Senate into one with a majority controlled by the Republican members. During this period, there was, of course, no talk or consideration of working with the members from the Democratic Party and their ideal of bipartisanship was the Democratic members doing what their Republican masters wanted them to do. This, of course, went so well that Republican Senator Jeffords (Vermont), holding the Senate seat that had been continuously held by Republicans for the longest period in American history (144 years), quit the party and became an Independent who caucused with the Democrats. This was the first time we, as a nation, got to see how the modern Republican Party would react to being challenged in its holding political dominance and absolute power. How many of us remember THAT little brouhaha?

Starting in 2003, the Republican Party did have complete control of the Presidency and both Houses of Congress… and they had their eye on having the opportunity to also stack the Supreme Court with those who shared their vision of America. I won’t rehash what those of us who opposed Bush and the far-right conservatives believe about how he governed and what was done to damage The Constitution under their period of dominance. Suffice it to say that we welcomed the slight shift in power which gave the Democrats narrow control of both Houses of Congress a mere four years later. It was at this time that “Daddy” really started to go seriously insane. What happened in 2008, of course, drove “Daddy” completely over the edge of reason.

What I see now in the Republican Party is the equivalent of Cole Oyl, Olive Oyl’s father in the Popeye cartoons and movie, running around telling everyone “You owe me an apology!” The Republican Party has become politically impotent and its impotence has caused rage among the far-right wing of the Party. They are trying to find something, ANYTHING to latch onto to demonstrate to others that they aren’t impotent. Their quest, however, keeps getting more and more trivial, pedantic and ridiculous with each passing week. They are so blinded by their impotent rage that they are once again attacking those among their own ranks who question the power that they believe is their divine right by not ascribing to the “proper” orthodoxy, dogma and “tenets of faith” as the “true believers”. Like any angry, old authoritarian confronted with their impotence, they are searching for a political orgasm.

Yes, that is what I believe it comes down to… they can’t get themselves off politically. That is, in my opinion, the only explanation for their increasingly erratic and dangerous actions… impotent rage. They have a collective need to not only feel that they are vibrant and virile but also that they can reproduce. I believe that all sociological creations of Man (governments, clubs, businesses, etc.) can be viewed and understood by seeing them as living organisms. They all have the same needs and desires of a living organism and, as a living organism, the far-right Republicans see themselves being replaced by other organisms that do not come from their own seed; they suddenly see themselves as mortal and approaching an ignoble end. Unfortunately, there is no little blue pill that they can take to compensate for their electile dysfunction.

Like a once vibrant and dominant man reduced to wearing diapers and drooling; like an alpha-male pack animal who has lost his teeth, those members of the Republican party who are making ever greater fools of themselves are filled with rage against those who robbed them of what they see as their rightful place in American life. In their rage to reclaim their “rightful” place in society they will use any and every means at their disposal to destroy what they can’t have for themselves. If they can’t be in control of our country then they will reduce it to ashes so that there won’t be a country for anyone else to be in control off. It is an attitude that the world has seen before. That is the final lesson that “Daddy” has to teach his errant and ungrateful children… that it is easier to destroy a nation than it is to build one.

Vive’ la Revolution.

Rhys M. Blavier
Romayor, Texas

“Truth, Justice and Honor… but, above all, Honor”

© Copyright 2009 by Rhys M. Blavier
_________________________________________________________________

Thank you for reading this article. Please read my other articles and let me know what you think. I am writing them not to preach or to hear myself think but to try to create dialogs, debates and discussions on the nature of our government and how we can build upon and improve it based on what we have seen and learned over the course of the 225 years of The American Experiment.

This is a link to Bob Altemeyer’s book ‘The Authoritarians’ which you can read on-line:
http://home.cc.umanitoba.ca/~altemey/

The American Vice Presidency… Graveyard of the Constitution

In Congress, Democracy, Democrats, History, Law, Libertarian, Politics, Republican, US Government on August 27, 2009 at 7:12 pm

America’s first Vice President, John Adams, described the office as “the most insignificant office that ever the Invention of Man contrived or his Imagination conceived”. When Daniel Webster was offered the nomination of Vice President, he said “I do not intend to be buried until I am dead”. Perhaps the most succinct assessment of the office was given by Texan John Nance Garner, a former and powerful Speaker of The House of Representatives and Vice President under FDR for two full terms, who claimed that the office wasn’t “worth a bucket of piss”.

In many ways, the office of Vice President of The United States can be seen as the most singular indication of the noble goals and yet practical failure of The United States Constitution, and its fate was sealed before the 19th Century even began. While there might have once been a chance for the Vice Presidency to have been an office of viable contribution to the functioning of The United States’ government, there are five key moments in early American history which, I believe, combined to relegate the office itself to impotence and insignificance only moderated by either the good will of any particular President or by the vacation of the office of President and subsequent elevation of a Vice President to that office. The first of these moments was the creation of the office itself (1787).  The idea was that it would be held by a major statesman, the candidate for President who came in second and who would, for the greater good of his nation, join the administration of the victor.  Yet within this idea was still recognition of the reality of opposition and the understanding that you would not want to give the primary challenger of the President any real power with which to work against the Chief Executive.  Thus was an office created in which the primary requirement was, apparently, to have a pulse. 

While, primarily because of their revolutionary credentials, Washington’s Vice President, John Adams succeeded him as President, and then Adams’ Vice President, Thomas Jefferson succeeded him, the office of Vice President has not been seen as a natural stepping stone to the Presidency.  After Jefferson, and after the adoption of the 12th Amendment to The Constitution (which provided for the direct election of the Vice President) the only Vice Presidents who have been elected to be President WITHOUT FIRST having already assumed the office through the death or resignation of the previous holder of that office have been Martin Van Buren (1836), Richard Nixon (1968), and George H. W. Bush (1988).  Furthermore, of those three men, Richard Nixon was not the current Vice President when he was elected, having lost to John Kennedy in 1960.  Thus, the two men after Jefferson who were elected to the office of President while holders of the office of Vice President served only two terms between them for a total of eight years, and the three men combined for 4 terms and less than 14 years out of the whole of the history of The United States.  By contrast, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, James Monroe, John Quincy Adams and James Buchanan (the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th and 15th Presidents) all served as Secretary of State and served as President for eight terms and a total of 32 years, while several others served as Ambassadors or envoys to other sovereign nations.  So, we can see that diplomatic credentials have been seen as better qualifying a candidate to be President than serving as Vice President has been.

The second moment in history’s conspiracy to insure the insignificance of the office of Vice President was George Washington’s view that the office was a part of the Legislative branch of the government rather than part of the Executive branch (1789). As a result, Washington not only did not include Adams in his cabinet meetings or consult him very frequently on matters within the Executive Branch. He believed, in fact, that he was not ALLOWED to do so as part of The Constitution’s requirements for separation of powers. It is impossible to minimize the influence Washington had on establishing the precedents and operational functions of The United States government as established by The Constitution. If any man in history had it in his power to make from nothing a relevant constitutional office of the Vice Presidency, it was Washington; but he did not do so. As aware as the Revolutionary generation was that they were making history, they seemed to have had no awareness of the importance of the precedents which they were establishing every day as part of a continuity of history which would last for centuries.

In many ways, they were making it up as they went along and the openness of the Experiment they had initiated would have permitted them to follow almost any vision that they could have put into practice.

The third moment in this sorry tale was the decision of The Senate to forbid the Vice President from being part of the debates and deliberations of their body (1789). We can never know how much of this decision was inspired by the personal rancor and dislike felt by many members of The Senate for the person of John Adams and how much was an inevitable course which would have been followed no matter who had been The Senate’s first presiding officer.

In the end, it makes little difference. While Washington did not consider the Vice President a member of the Executive Branch, The Senate did not consider the officeholder a contributing part of their august body or, therefore, of the Legislative branch of government. While a man with more people skills and a more stable temperament might have been able to make the Senators accept the Vice President as a full member of The Senate, John Adams was not that man. As Adams wrote to his wife Abigail, “It is to be sure a punishment to hear other men talk five hours every day and not be at liberty to talk at all myself, especially as more than half I hear appears to me very young, inconsiderate and inexperienced.” If Washington had made the Vice President insignificant as a member of the Executive branch, The Senate itself made him insignificant as a member of the Legislative branch. All of this, of course, reaches new heights of irony in the person of our former Vice President, Dick Cheney, who has used this ‘confusion’ to declare himself the beneficiary of the rights and privileges of both branches while, at the same time, free of the obligations or restraints upon either branch. The burden of the fourth moment in our tragic history of the establishment of the role of the Vice Presidency falls squarely on the shoulders of the second holder of that office, Thomas Jefferson (1797).

Adams, for all of his faults of personality, truly cared for what was best for the nation he served. He did not plan to treat Jefferson, as Vice President, as he had been treated himself (or, as Tom Lehrer put so humorously in his satirical song about Hubert Humphrey and the treatment of Humphrey as Vice President by Lyndon Johnson as President, “I’ll do unto you as they did unto me.”).  As Joseph Ellis tells so well in his Pulitzer Prize winning book ‘Founding Brothers, Adams fully desired to work with Jefferson to create a bipartisan administration which utilized both of their talents and skills (Chapter Five: The Collaborators). 

He wanted Jefferson to be a functioning member of his cabinet and an active participant in foreign policy efforts. Jefferson, influenced greatly by the advice of James Madison, chose to be a party man and watch the Adams administration fail without him. Jefferson, at this time, chose the good of his party over the good of his nation. After Adams’ desire to give the office a ‘place at the table’, it wasn’t until Warren G. Harding took office in 1921 that a President again made the choice to include his Vice President in his cabinet meetings, and it wasn’t until Richard Nixon’s service under Dwight Eisenhower that a Vice President was given a substantial and public role by the President but, in all cases, up to and including the present, the role and power of a particular Vice President has been dependent upon their President to give it to them.

If the damage done to the office of Vice President was not already irreversible by the election of 1800, that election itself ensured that it was permanent, and the blame for it can be placed on the personage of Aaron Burr. If one wants to make the case that the Adams’ Vice Presidency was not a standard to judge by because of the newness of the office, or that the Jefferson Vice Presidency cannot be used because he was of an opposition political position to his President, then there is no excuse for the damage done to the office by Burr before he was even inaugurated, damage so great, in fact, that the first substantive change to The US Constitution was made to prevent the circumstances from ever again even being possible through the adoption of the 12th Amendment. For the election of 1800, the supporters of Jefferson and his Republican / Anti-Federalist movement conspired to maneuver the election so that their candidates would end up holding the offices of both the Presidency and the Vice Presidency. While they succeeded in the goal of having all of their electors vote for both Jefferson and Burr, they apparently never considered the ramifications of this actually happening. They believed that somehow, without any need to orchestrate it as well, some random elector would cast his vote for Jefferson but not cast their second vote for Burr. The conspiracy, however, was too well planned and the soldiers followed their marching orders without deviation…and Jefferson and Burr ended up exactly tied in the electoral vote totals.

At this point, a good party man would have fallen into line and worked to finish what had been started, but Burr was an opportunist whose personal desires completely overshadowed any belief he may have had in the greater good. When the election went to The House of Representatives, Burr fought to win the Presidency for himself. He almost managed to pull the feat off as it took 36 ballots in The House before Hamilton intervened and one member chose to abstain. Well, after that, what President would trust the man he was stuck with as Vice President? And so, Burr alienated himself from any role in Jefferson’s first administration and The Constitution was changed…and changed VERY quickly.

The new nation went through only four elections, three administrations and 12 years before the first substantial flaw in the design of the governmental structure of The United States had to be addressed. 46 men have been dumped into the graveyard of The Constitution, including 2 men who each served under two different Presidents (George Clinton under Jefferson and Madison, and John C. Calhoun under John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson). Except for the ones who eventually became President themselves or who have served in a person’s own lifetime, how many people can name even one of them? The Vice Presidency is a unique office with a unique role in government. If we want evidence of the lack of experience which burdened the men who created The Constitution, all we need do is look at the Office of The Vice President of The United States. However, if we do look at it, we will have done more than most people ever do.

P.S.– It might also be of interest, for anyone who wants to consideration how truly UNimportant the office of Vice President has been to our nation over the entire course of its history, for me to point out that, while we have never had any real period without a President since Washington first took the oath of office in 1889, between the years 1812 (when the office was vacated upon the death of Vice President George Clinton) and 1974 (when the office was vacated by the elevation of Vice President Gerald Ford to the Office of President) (a period of 162 years), there were 18 different times when we were without a Vice President totaling more than 426 months (35.5 years, an average of 23.666 months per vacancy). This includes two periods when the office was vacant for 47 months (out of a 48 month term of office), but does NOT include any periods when the holder of the office just left Washington and ignored his role in government (as, for example, Richard Mentor Johnson did during Van Buren’s administration).

As an indication of how little impact the absence of a Vice President has meant to the functions of our government, I would simply ask how many of you reading this have ever even wondered just how often the office has even been vacant because there WAS no holder of the office?

As a point of useless trivia from an infomaniac, did you know that the first Vice President to die in office (George Clinton) died about a year before the end of his second term (Clinton had served one term as President Jefferson’s second Vice President and his second term as Vice President was consecutive to his first when he was elected to be Vice President under Jefferson’s successor, President James Madison, for Madison’s first term.  For Madison’s second term of office, he ran and served with Vice President Elbridge Gerry, who THEN proceeded to die in office after about a year and a half into his term.  As a result, President James Madison served with a different Vice President for each of his two terms in office and neither of them lived to complete their own terms.

Rhys M. Blavier
Romayor, Texas 
 

Truth, Justice and Honor… but, above all Honor

© copyright 2008 by Rhys M. Blavier
________________________________________________________________________________  

Thank you for reading this article. Please read my other articles and let me know what you think. I am writing them not to preach or to hear myself think but to try to create dialogs, debates and discussions on the nature of our government and how we can build upon and improve it based on what we have seen and learned over the course of the 225 years of The American Experiment.

Groupthink as a Political Mental Illness (Part I)

In Congress, Corruption, Democracy, Democrats, History, Libertarian, Libertarian Politics, Politics, Republican, Science, US Government on June 18, 2009 at 1:53 pm

[When I was researching information for my Master’s Paper in 1989, I was looking into the subject of how Greek students being involved in student activities impacted the ability of independent students to be equally involved. What I quickly discovered was that, apparently, NO ONE had ever written anything about this. I was teaching myself how to use a computer while I was doing this and on-line research was rather limited back then. Never-the-less, in trying to find information which would even relate to my topic I discovered studies on groupthink, conformity and shame theory… three areas of psychology that I could also not find any evidence of having been studied together. I was creating my own database on the subject.

I had no knowledge about these things before I started doing my research but, one day that Fall, it all came together in my mind. When it did I was literally stunned and shaking in fright. I called a friend of mine in California and it took me around four hours of talking (pretty much me talking and rambling for four hours and him listening) for me to even calm down. These things haunt me to this very day. While I was doing my research with regard to application within the field of Student Activities and College Unions, I also immediately saw its implications within politics. My entire research paper was close to 90 pages long, but a year later I took a portion of it to create a smaller article to try to get published. Unfortunately, I never heard any response from any of the researchers or student activities / college union journals I sent it to. And so it was all put away in a box and carried around with me for 20 years.

Not too long ago, I found the box the papers were in (hard copies only, of course) and have been wanting to transcribe them so that I could have them computerized. I am starting with the shorter article and, because I reference it or base portions of other articles on what I learned for it, I have decided that I would post it on here… in two parts because it is still too long for a single article on here, and with references to student activities changed to ones about politics… to see if it can help others understand aspects of social psychology within politics that they might not be consciously aware of.  I sincerely hope that this disturbs you, the reader, as much as it has disturbed me.

P.S. — I also developed a method that I thought could successfully combat hazing in schools, especially in Greek systems but, when I would try to get ANY school to let me try them, once it was learned that I, myself, had been an independent student… mostly by administrators who, themselves had been Greeks, I was always told that since I hadn’t been a Greek then I didn’t have basis upon which to make claims to understand them. They would tell me that only other Greeks could understand their ‘culture’ or fix what was broken in it… a classic example of groupthink in action. I eventually let it go, as I did my career in student activities.

P.P.S. — After reading this, can anyone NOT understand why I hold the entire Bush Presidency and administration in contempt? I would like to see someone write a book about the Bush Presidency SPECIFICALLY as a study of groupthink and how it illustrates every indication of the phenomenon.]

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

In 1972, Irving Janis, in his book Victims of Groupthink, added a new dimension to the study of group behavior and group dynamics when he described “groupthink” as:

… a quick and easy way to refer to a mode of thinking that people engage in when they are involved in a cohesive in-group; when the members’ strivings for unanimity override their motivation to realistically appraise alternative course of action… Groupthink refers to a deterioration of mental efficiency, reality testing, and moral judgment that results from in-group pressures.

(Janis, 1972, p. 9)

That single work seems to have had an immediate and almost historic impact on the study of group behavior.  Since the first publication of Victims of Groupthink, many researchers have been moved to study, to support, or to refute both Janis’s theories and the implications of groupthink.  Whatever has motivated any of these people, one thing is clear; that single work has been the starting point for many, if not all of these studies, and research on this phenomenon uniformly refers to Janis as the originator of the concept of groupthink, as well as its definer.

Early in his book, Janis gives the following story as an example of groupthink:

Twelve middle-class American men and women wanted to stop smoking, and attended weekly meetings at a clinic to discuss the problem.  Early in the sessions, two people stood up and declared that cigarette smoking was an almost incurable addiction.  The group agreed.  The, one man stood up and said “I have stopped smoking and, with a little willpower, so can the rest of you.”  Immediately, the other group members began to abuse him verbally, and the meeting ended in chaos.  The following week, the dissident stood up again and said that he could not both attend all of the required meetings and stop smoking; so he had returned to smoking two packs of cigarettes as day.  The other members welcomed him back into the fold with enthusiasm but no one mentioned that the original purpose of the group was to help each other stop [emphasis in original] smoking.  Their new aim was maintaining the status quo at any cost.

(Ibid, p. 9)

Janis illustrated his theories by using seven recent major historical events; five of which he labeled as fiascoes and the other two which he termed successes relating to the resultant outcomes of those events, based on the decisions that were made.  He argued that the decision making processes in the five fiascoes were faulty, regardless of the outcomes, and, likewise, the decision-making processes used in the successes were effective, even if the events would have not turned out positively.  He stresses that it is the processes used in a group’s decision-making that determines whether or not that group is a victim of groupthink and not the outcomes because bad-decision-making processes can result in good or successful results or outcomes, just as good decision-making processes can result in bad or unsuccessful results or outcomes. (Janis, fig. 10-1)

In his original work (Janis, 1972), Janis identified six major defects in the decision-making process which result I groupthink and which, in turn, result in poor quality decisions.  In the 1982 edition (Janis, 1982), he added a seventh defect to his list.  These seven defects are:

1.)    Discussions are limited to only a few alternatives without surveying all possible alternatives;

2.)   The originally preferred solution is not re-evaluated for non-obvious drawbacks or risks after its initial evaluation;

3.)    Alternatives which are initially discarded are never re-evaluated for non-obvious gains;

4.)   There is little or no attempt made to obtain information or advice from experts on alternative courses of action;

5.)    Where advice IS presented, selective bias on the part of the members is used to evaluate that advice and, thus, they use information which supports the group’s preferences and ignore evidence which is counter to the group’s preference;

6.)   Members fail to consider how groups external to the focal group might react and, therefore, fail to develop contingency plans for possible setbacks or failures; and

7.)    There is a failure to consult all members regarding the objectives to be fulfilled and the values implicated by their choice.

(Janis, 1972, p. 10; Janis, 1982, pp. 9 – 10)

Janis then went on to identify several antecedent condition which are necessary for groupthink to exist, and which relate to structural faults of the organization and the decision-making context.  The primary antecedent condition necessary for groupthink is a highly cohesive group.  The secondary conditions (which relate to the organization’s structural faults) are:

1.)    Insulation of the group;

2.)   Lack of a tradition of impartial leadership;

3.)    Lack of norms requiring methodical procedures; and

4.)   Homogeneity of members’ social background and ideology.

The tertiary conditions (which relate to the decision-making context) are:

1.)    High stress due to isolation of the group (usually for security reasons instituted because of perceived external threats);

2.)   Low hope of a better solution than the leader’s; and

3.)    Low self-esteem temporarily induced by the group members’ perceptions of:

A.)   Recent Failures;

B.)   Moral dilemmas; and

C.)   Excessive difficulty in current decision-making.

Finally, Janis postulates that the existence of these conditions generates eight symptoms of groupthink, which were evident in the fiascoes studies and which serve as the primary means of identifying the occurrences of groupthink.  These eight symptoms are:

1.)    An illusion of invulnerability that is shared by most members, which creates excessive optimism and encourages the group to take extreme risks;

2.)   Collective efforts to rationalize in order to discount warnings which might lead members to reconsider their assumptions before they recommit themselves to past policy decisions;

3.)    An unquestioned belief in the group’s inherent morality, which makes the members inclined to ignore the ethical and moral consequences of their decisions;

4.)   Stereotyped views of enemy leaders, usually considering them as too evil to warrant genuine attempts to negotiate, or as too stupid and / or too weak to counter whatever attempts are made to defeat their purposes;

5.)    Directed pressure on any member who does not conform to the group’s norms, who express strong arguments against any of the group’s stereotypes, illusions, decisions, or commitments, thereby making it clear to all that this type of dissent is contrary to what is expected of all loyal members;

6.)   Self-censorship of individual deviations from the apparent group consensus, reflecting each member’s inclination to minimize to him or herself the importance of his / her doubts and counter arguments;

7.)    A shared illusion of unanimity concerning the judgments conforming to the majority view (partly resulting from self-censorship of deviations, and augmented by the false assumption that silence means consent); and

8.)   The emergence of self-appointed mindguards – members who protect the group from adverse information that might shatter the group’s shared complacency about the effectiveness and morality of their decisions.

(Janis, 1972, pp. 197 – 198)

While Janis’ theories are not perfect, nor even necessarily complete, he has still provided a very strong starting point from which to begin exploring this issue.  Regarding the studies on groupthink which have been reviewed, there are some weaknesses which have been noticed in them, at least as far as their being of any potential benefit to the study of larger groups or political parties. Among these weaknesses are:

1.)    The studied laboratory groups are very small, usually three to five people (six reports studied).  These sized groups do not allow for the effects of internal cliques or sub-groups within a main group to be incorporated within the studies, or to arise independently over the course of the studies.  Thus, while there may be dissension (and / or other such factors) which is created / controlled by the researchers, or which arises independently, these studies groups are still small enough to leave individual subjects as each being a significant percentage of the entire group (33.3% — 20%) and, thus, more individually significant to the group.  Theories and research on ‘diffused responsibility’ indicate that when individuals are such a significant portion of the group, they are more likely to feel that they are more individually important to the group and are, even alone, able to have an impact on the group.  This generally means that they are more likely to retain their personal feelings of responsibility for the decisions and / or actions of their group, as a whole.  If there is dissent, etc., within the group, it can still be dealt with on a person-to-person basis.  In these small groups, if the ‘group’ puts pressure on dissenters, it cannot do so and ‘disguise’ the fact that it is made up of distinct individuals by their being a ‘force’, ‘it, or ‘them’ instead of ‘Mark, Jody, Bill, and Mary’, or ‘those four’. The group dynamic in groups within such a size range is dramatically different from the group dynamics within groups the size political parties, or even local communities.

2.)   There is little, if any, attention placed on what the members of the laboratory groups have to lose if they should feel inclined to dissent from the group’s decisions or actions.  In politics, we deal with the day-to-day lives of average citizens and, while citizens might be able to hide their personal discomfort levels when they are simply, for example, at work by leaving that ‘life’ behind them when they leave work for the day and enter back into their ‘outside-of-work social-life’, it is very difficult, if not impossible, for them to retreat from pressures and discomforts in their social lives in any way other than by withdrawing into themselves and isolating themselves away from inter-personal contact which causes them discomfort.  Therefore, if all that individuals risk losing in a study is closeness with others in that laboratory setting, are they more or less likely to risk that closeness and acceptance by retaining their individuality and dissenting from group pressure than they would be to risk being socially or professionally ostracized from, or losing prestige among their peers (prestige here can mean status but does not necessarily; it is more related to levels of confidence, respect and / or acceptance which an individual feels from their peers) if they should attempt to retain their individuality and dissent from the majority views in a social or political environment?

3.)    There is little mention mad of the emotional or intellectual comfort levels of the subjects when they are within the confines of their group situations.   It would seem to be obvious that these are important factors which need to be considered in such studies.  The more uncomfortable a person feels, or feels they will become if they take a particular dissenting decision or action, shame theory, as well as common sense tells us the more likely they are to do, say or go along with whatever they have to do in order to remain or to once again become comfortable.

4.)   Those studies which use dominant leadership as a factor or variable do not also use group leadership or dominance which comes about through the backing of, or support from, a clique or sub-group within the main group or even, as far as can be told by reading their studies, recognize it as being different from charismatic or personality-based leadership or dominance.  However, in real-life, such group leadership or dominance is a common occurrence, such as the promotion of those who are incompetent to lead or manage, or a ‘puppet’ leader put in place so that those with real power can stay behind the scenes.

5.)    While some of the studies try to create artificial cohesive in-groups in some of their laboratory groups, there is no mention made of the effects which real social relationships between group members has on their responses within a group setting.  For example, if group members do not know each other from outside of their group environment prior to their joining it and, thus build any in-group cohesion, friendships or inter-personal relationships with other group members, are they more or less likely to be a strong group member, concerned with the greater good of the group, than are group members who know each other from outside of the group, or who were friends with or colleagues of other group members prior to their becoming a member of the group?  Are group members who know other group members or are friends with them before becoming a member of the group, especially those who join the group BECAUSE they already know, or were friends  with other members (in fact, who might have been specifically recruited into the group by friends, etc. who are already group members), more or less likely to be conscientious group members who are willing to dissent from or even question the group’s decisions or actions (since their outside acquaintances with other members can be affected positively or negatively by their own personal words or actions within the group) than are group members who became acquainted with other group members only through membership in the group?  What about those who know other group members outside of the group and have pre-existing animosity of them, or who become a member IN SPITE OF members they already who they dislike or who try to keep them out of the group?  What about those who join for social acceptance by people that they know outside of the group?  These possible variables are numerous and are important considerations within our political groups or organizations because a common way for new members to be brought into a group or organization is for them to be recruited by friends and / or acquaintances.  We need to know what effects such membership recruitment has on the very real functioning of those groups and organizations.

6.)   When a study makes ‘getting input from group members about possible decisions to be made or actions to be taken’ a factor or variable of the study, is there any assessment about whether or not there is any difference between input which is sought and / or received under a ‘glaring spotlight’ or in a situation of possible derision or resistance, and input that is sought and received in confidence and / or in a situation of respect and / or openness?  If not, have any of the researchers given any consideration within their studies to the effects that the manner in which input is sought has on the input that is received?

7.)    While Janis gives us examples of, and specifications about groupthink, it would be helpful if, to demonstrate the point that the presence of groupthink is determined by the decision-making PROCESS, itself, and not of the outcomes of that process (good processes can still result in bad outcomes and bad processes can still result in good outcomes), it would be helpful if examples were included of such good / non-groupthink processes which resulted in negative outcomes AND of bad / groupthink processes which resulted in positive outcomes. The theory is stated regarding this, but the case is never made.

(This Article will be concluded in Part II, which will include information on conformity studies and on shame theory)Rhys M. Blavier

Romayor, Texas

Truth, Justice and Honor… but, above all, Honor

© Copyright 1989 by Rhys M.  Blavier

_______________________________________________________________________________________________________________

Thank you for reading this article.  Please read my other articles and let me know what you think.  I am writing them not to preach or to hear myself think but to try to create dialogs, debates and discussions on the nature of our government and how we can build upon and improve it based on what we have seen and learned over the course of the 225 years of The American Experiment.

HOW I THINK THE CONSTITUTION CAN BE FIXED (Part II: The Preamble)

In Activism, Congress, Constitutional Rights, Democracy, History, Law, Libertarian, Libertarian Politics, Military, Politics, US Government, War on May 26, 2009 at 8:00 am

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

At 53 words (1.15% of the total words in The Constitution), The Preamble to The Constitution of The United States is, not counting any of the Amendments, the shortest section of The Constitution after Article VII (Ratification). It has never, to my knowledge, ever been used as a basis for any constitutional court case, or for any decision (majority, dissenting, or separate) made by The Supreme Court. The Preamble is essentially considered to be the ‘pretty words’ before the ‘actual’ Constitution. That is kind of like seeing it as a short, light poetry reading for entertainment purposes before the start of the ‘real business’ part of the program. I think that such a view is a tragic mistake.

First of all, The Preamble is fully a part of The Constitution, written with it and subjected to the same ratification process as every other part of The Constitution was. It is a shame, at best, and short-sighted, at worst to not give it the same respect and standing as every other part of The Constitution. For example, for the hawks and for those in the Bush administration, it provides the best justification in the entirety of The Constitution for their aggressive military views and focus on defense issues (“We the People of the United States, in Order to…, provide for the common defence). In my view, the ‘Commander-in-Chief” clause (which I will talk about in my part of this article which will deal with Article II – The Executive Branch) does NOT give the Executive Branch the power or authority that it wants to claim under that clause. Their best arguments can be made using the relevant words in The Preamble.

Unfortunately, for those same hawks and those conservatives who are against progressive social policies, if they want to use the ‘common defence’ wording of The Preamble upon which to build a case, they must also concede equal standing to all of the other provisions of The Preamble. To me, The Preamble is an active part of The Constitution which establishes objectives which our government under The Constitution is obligated to strive to try to achieve. I will discuss this idea in more detail in the part of the article which will deal with Article I (The Legislative Branch) but, briefly goals and objectives are the same as strategies and tactics. Objectives / tactics are the broad, general, rather nebulous overarching purpose of something which cannot be quantifiably measured or ever be truly achieved… we will make the world a better place, we will create a more perfect union, we will explore space, we will end sickness and disease, etc.… these are all objectives. You cannot measure them, you cannot quantify them, you can ONLY work towards them. What helps you work towards achieving your objectives / tactics are your goals / strategies. Goals / strategies are the specific, quantifiable and measurable and specifically achievable progress points which are established as as ways to help us achieve our objectives / strategies … we will reach the moon by the end of the decade, we will give the vote to eighteen year-olds, we will defeat Hitler, we will wipe out smallpox, etc…. these are all goals.

For my section on the Legislature, I will advocate, and give my rationale for making goals and objectives a specific part of the legislative process. For this section on The Preamble, I will simply say that it is where I see the founders listing the objectives which they wanted us to work towards. To me, this makes The Preamble one of the, if not the, single most important parts of the entire Constitution. All that WE need to do is pay attention to it and give it the same respect and standing that we give to any and every other part of The Constitution.

The lack of consideration given to The Preamble is yet another shining example of what I see as the base hypocrisy of those who cry and scream that The Constitution needs to be read literally and without interpretation (the second part of which is, of course, impossible) but do not practice what they demand. The Preamble is just as much a part of The Constitution as any other part is. It was subjected to the same ratification procedure and cannot be changed without such changes going through the same amendment procedure as any other changes to The Constitution would have to go through.

The only change that I would make with regards to The Preamble would not be to change any of its words, it would be to change what respect and legal standing we give those words among our other laws and constitutional provisions.

Rhys M. Blavier

Romayor, Texas

Truth, Justice and Honor… but, above all, Honor

© copyright 2009 by Rhys M. Blavier
________________________________________________________________________________________

Thank you for reading this article. Please read my other articles and let me know what you think. I am writing them not to preach or to hear myself think but to try to create dialogs, debates and discussions on the nature of our government and how we can build upon and improve it based on what we have seen and learned over the course of the 225 years of The American Experiment.

The Laboratory of Democracy — Alternative Voting Methods

In Candidate Endorsement, Civil Liberties, Congress, Constitutional Rights, Democracy, History, Law, Libertarian, Libertarian Politics, Local Politics, Politics, Presidential Candidates, US Government on May 1, 2009 at 9:22 am

“It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous state may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.”

Supreme Court Justice Louis D. Brandeis, Dissenting Opinion: New State Ice Co. v. Liebmann (1932)

The above quote from Justice Brandeis’ famous dissent is the origin of the idea of ‘the laboratory of democracy’. This is an idea with much merit but which we have, unfortunately, not seen utilized within The United States to any kind of a significant degree. Whether through fear of losing power, fear of interference from the federal government, lack of imagination, lack of interest or fear of the unknown, ‘experiments’ with democracy in this country take the shape of trying to impose different sets of laws and rules upon the citizens rather than on the process by which those laws and rules are determined. The idea in this nation is that differences in democracy are measured solely by the end result of the legislative process rather than the process itself.

A large problem with mankind, in general, and Americans, in particular, is our hubris. We think that, because we are as far along as mankind has ever been, we are the end of the road and have to have everything right. What we should keep in mind is that we are just another middle age. As we express shock, disgust, and amusement at the attitudes, beliefs and lack of knowledge of the world of a thousand years ago, so will mankind view us a thousand years hence. We will not fail the future if we don’t have everything right; we will fail them if we don’t try new things to give those who come after us additional data which they can use to get closer to being right than we ever can.

I try to occasionally write articles under the Laboratory of Democracy umbrella to look at different ideas which might be worth experimenting with (if not at a federal level then perhaps at a state or local level) to see how our idea of constitutional government can be improved based on lessons learned from our own 225 years of history conducting the American Experiment. Today’s topic is about how we can change how we conduct voting to better represent the views, needs and desires of ‘we the people.’

The reasons to change the way we vote are numerous. A fundamental reason to change it is that Americans tend to vote AGAINST candidates rather than FOR them. We have shaped the idea of democracy into an expression of our personal fears. We seem to feel stronger about candidate’s who we DON’T want in an office than we do about those we support. Usually this is perfectly understandable, as the candidates we have to choose from are often not that good, so it is often easier to identify candidates who are LEAST in line with what we want than it is to identity ones whom we can wholeheartedly support.

One obvious problem with this method is that when people are primarily voting AGAINST a candidate, they are afraid to ‘waste’ their vote by casting it for someone who they might approve of but who has no actual chance of winning. This fear of ‘wasting my vote’ was intensified after the 1992 Presidential election saw a significant number of votes cast for Ross Perot (who supporters of losing candidate George H. W. Bush blamed for costing him his bid for re-election) and after Al Gore’s narrow loss (or win, whichever you consider it to have been) to George W. Bush in 2000, which was partially blamed on those in Florida who had voted for Ralph Nader. Aside from the fact that no candidate is ever OWED any citizen’s vote (a candidate bears the burden of needing to EARN someone’s vote), those who support a candidate (or, more accurately, who OPPOSE a particular candidate) are afraid to ‘waste’ their vote by casting it for third party candidates who have no chance of winning.

Bill Clinton’s first nominee for Assistant Attorney General for Civil Rights, Lani Guinier, supported a change in how we cast votes for political candidates in this country. Termed ‘Cumulative Voting’, the method which she supported was that each voter would get one vote for each candidate for a particular office and that they could spread those votes among the candidates and give any candidates as many of their available votes as they wanted. For example, if there were four candidates running for President, then each voter would get four votes to cast for President, any one of those candidates getting any or all of those votes, and multiple candidates being able to be given votes by each voter. While she was on the right road, I believe, she was headed in the wrong direction.

Academic studies and theories on Alternative Voting Methods go back at least several hundred years. In 1770, Jean-Charles de Borda proposed the Borda Count as a method for selecting members of the French Academy of Science. The last 30 years has seen an increase in such studies and research, in large part through the various researches which have been done in Game Theory. There are also MANY historical examples of the effectiveness of quite a few different methods of conducting and totaling votes. The Republic of Venice, for example, thrived for over 1,000 and developed a VERY complex but very effective form of Approval Voting for selecting the Doge which survived almost unchanged for over 500 years, until the Republic was conquered by Napoleon Bonaparte in 1797. Many articles with additional information about Alternative Voting Methods, including Approval Voting, are available on-line. Some of these include:

http://bcn.boulder.co.us/government/approvalvote/altvote.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voting_system

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Single-winner_voting_system

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voting_systems#Multiple-winner_methods

As with most of the alternative voting systems I have heard of (equal & even; weighted ballots; fractional ballots; instant run-off; etc.) none of them truly address the idea that most people, at least in America, seem to cast their votes, at least for higher offices, against candidates rather than for them. This means that they see ANY method of spreading their voting strength around as weakening their opposition to a candidate they oppose. For example, under cumulative voting, say you have four votes you can use to vote for a particular office and you do NOT want Candidate A to win. You know that everyone else who is voting for that office will also have four votes to allocate and you fear that those who support Candidate A (or who oppose Candidate B) will each cast ALL of their four votes for Candidate A. Will you then be willing to risk the election of Candidate B by only giving him three of your votes while you ‘waste’ your fourth vote on Candidate D?

So, when we explore the idea of alternative voting methods, we MUST consider realistic human nature (and human fears) when we think about the problem. To do otherwise, to pretend that man will make his choices based on the greater good rather than base self-interest, or that he will willingly and comfortably accept the idea of his candidate losing because it is ‘the will of the majority’ and put aside his personal animosities after an election is unrealistic, at best. Therefore, the question is, how can we change voting into a positive process where people vote FOR candidates because there is NO NEED to vote AGAINST any candidates.

One possible solution is simply to allow a voter to vote equally for EVERY candidate that they think would be worthwhile to support. This method of voting is termed ‘Approval Voting’. To use the Approval Voting method, as an example, say that there are five candidates (A, B, C, D, and E). You personally support candidate C; candidate A is a major party candidate who you do NOT want to see in office; candidate B is a major party candidate who you have no real objections to and see as a better alternative to candidate A; candidate D is an independent candidate who you think could be interesting but who has no realistic chance to win; and candidate E is the local homeless wino transvestite who somehow manages to get on the ballot for EVERY election.

Under this scenario, you can not only cast your vote for candidate B (to help oppose the candidate you don’t want to win) you can ALSO cast an equal vote for candidates C (your preferred candidate) and for candidate D (the one you think is interesting and have no objections to). In such a case, you have accomplished all of your positive voting goals, you have shown your opposition to the candidates you do NOT want to see in office (A and E) by not voting for them, you supported your preferred candidate (C) and you gave support to the other candidates that you had no objections to. In this scenario, none of the votes you cast weakened your personal voting power in any way while, at the same time, made it more likely that candidates other than those from the major parties could win because EVERYONE else who liked candidates C and D could also vote for them but, maybe instead of voting also for candidate B, they voted for candidate A. In a very real way, the candidate who had the most REAL support, who was APPROVED by the most voters, would win the election because all votes cast for any and all candidates would count equally to their totals. In this system you can vote for any one of the candidates, any possible combinations of the candidates, or all of the candidates for that office… you can vote FOR candidates rather than AGAINST them.

Now, are there potential problems with a system such as this? Of course there are. A primary one, obviously, is how to prevent ballots being stuffed because the total votes cast for an office can (and would) be greater than the voting population as a whole and not by a predictable percentage (as if every voter HAD to vote for three candidates, no more or less, which would result in a vote total that was three times the number of voters). Another obvious one is to ask if the winning candidate would have to get a majority of ALL votes cast, or just a higher total number of votes than any other candidate. The first of these two possibilities could lead to either a need for a run-off election or a ‘None of the Above’ result. THAT, however, is where the Laboratory of Democracy comes into play. Let’s encourage some cities and/or counties to experiment with it (or, in fact, with ANY of the other alternative voting methods) before any states try it, and then let some states experiment with it. The is the beauty of the Laboratory of Democracy idea, not every location has to use the same processes and, by allowing and encouraging them to experiment with different process, we can gather data about which process variations work well, work partially but need more tinkering with, and don’t work at all.

Too many people in this nation think that trying different ideas of government means having different laws (like using the Ten Commandments as the basis of their laws, for example). They miss the point that democracy is not the RESULTS of the democratic process but the PROCESS itself.

Thank you for reading this article. Please read my other articles and let me know what you think. I am writing them not to preach or to hear myself think but to try to create dialogs, debates and discussions on the nature of our constitutional government and how we can improve it by building upon what we have seen and learned over the course of the 225 years of The American Experiment.

Rhys M. Blavier
Romayor, Texas

“Truth, Justice and Honor… but, above all Honor”

© copyright 2008 by Rhys M. Blavier

Obama Represents “Real” Change… In America’s Perception…

In Barack Obama, Corruption, Human Rights Abuses, Iran, Iraq War, Law, Libertarian, Lies and the lying liars who tell them, Middle East, Terrorism, Torture, US Government, War on April 20, 2009 at 4:36 pm

There might have been a short time when I considered myself democrat or republican. That was a long time ago. Just like people don’t allow themselves to be duped to many times by the same trick; I decided not to be suckered in by the false rhetoric of these (allegedly) different parties. Bush supporters dug their grave so deep the last 8 years that they had to stick with his false allegations of Iraq’s WMDs to the very end. They suffered through the surprise of Bush when he tried to clean his hands by saying “I never said Saddam was responsible for 9/11“. He managed to assert and insinuate his way at his goal (gaining popular support to attack Iraq by associating it with 9/11).

There’s a new guy in town now. One who’s suppose to “change” everything. This is old news, however there have been some new developments worth noting that point out the solidarity of the Bush regime with that of Obama’s. Firstly, there the fact that Obama is not pulling out of Iraq at all. Secondly, he’s expanding the war in Afghanistan even though it has no clear goals. Thirdly, he is not seeking legal action against the those who sanctioned torture in the previous regime. Fourthly, he’s allowing torture under his own watch.

When Obama first started running for office he promised the voters that he would start pulling out troops from Iraq within 6 months. He later extended this time frame. Then extended it again. Some people believe that the reason he extended the time frame was because he became privy to some “secret presidential” information that made him change his mind, but I argue that this “secret” information is nothing special. We’ve just gotten through with 8 years of lies (oops), secret information and see where it got our foreign policy? What makes the above different from what any other politicians do? Am I to believe that even though he lied to the American people that deep down inside he wants to do different than Bush’s agenda????

When we first went into Afghanistan (on the heels of 9/11) we were suppose to be capturing Osama Bin Laden. Instead we just ended up staying there to die like all other great empires have done. Obama isn’t going to “Change” this situation either. Instead we will put more people there. Since when was an occupation necessary to capture one man in a country? Assuming that you think we went there without intentions of staying forever (which I don’t), then you have to wonder why we’re still there. We’ve overthrown their government, installed a new government, defeated the Taliban, and trained their new Army and Police. Why didn’t we leave after this was accomplished? Osama was already known to be in Pakistan by this time. Why didn’t we send in small strike teams to capture him and bring him back? Instead the policy shifted to occupying Afghanistan indefinitely while using RC planes to piss off the Pashtuuns on the other side of the border. Obama must have realized the futility of this military occupation by now. What does he expect to take place of the Taliban even if he kills them all? Another Taliban? Because that’s all he’s going to get.

One of the reasons that so many voters voted for Obama was because he said that he was going to restore America’s global image. This hinted that the human rights abuses of the previous regime were over.  It also hinted that there would be some justice. Instead he has actively shielded them from prosecution. His narrative on this has been “We must look forward not backwards”. According this slogan anybody should be forgiven, even Iran and the Palestinians, because we are looking ahead not backwards to what they’ve done in the past. However, this slogan has proven to be selective. You see we can’t forgive Iran for seeking Nuclear power because they had a weapons program in the past. Likewise, we cannot forgive the Palestinians because they’ve used terrorist tactics to try to push Israel out of Palestinian territory. Instead we should forgive the Bush regime and it’s accomplices for torture and the murder of 1 million plus civilians. Likewise, we will have to forgive Obama for the mass killing he has already commited according to this slogan. However, there can be no forgiveness for the drug user who’ll be locks in prison on felony charges. No, these crimes are too bad…..

Recently a detainee from Guantanamo was able to call out to Al Jazeera while making his 1 allowed phonecall. He was able to confirm that he was still being tortured even after the Obama regime had taken power. If fact he said that the treatment had intensified under the Obama presidency.

Is this really change?

No. It’s not.

What this presidency has done is change the American perception. Obama seems to have campaigned so effectively in the run up to the election that most people think that he’s incapable of doing anything wrong. I would like to remind people not to bury themselves too deeply with Obama. Remember that all people are just that “people”. Nobody is perfect or more than human. The moment that you put 100% of your faith in a president is the same moment you’ll be disappointed. As for myself… the government is illegitimate anyway so nobody will get my vote except for someone willing to stay out of Washington.

Peace….

Meet the New Boss, Same as the Old Boss

In Libertarian Party-US, Politics, War on November 6, 2008 at 8:49 pm

In 2006, I predicted that the winner of the 2008 U.S. presidential election would either be a pro-war Democrat or an anti-war Republican.

I predicted correctly.

Don’t get fooled by the rhetoric of change.  We need real change, and as I explain here, Mr. Obama will not provide it.  All he will provide is four-to-eight more years of Bush-styled big government.

The bipartisan surveillance state

In Barack Obama, Civil Liberties, Congress, Constitutional Rights, Courts and Justice System, Democrats, First Amendment, Fraud, George Bush, History, Human Rights Abuses, Iraq War, Law, Lies and the lying liars who tell them, Media, Middle East, People in the news, Personal Responsibility, Police State, Politics, Presidential Candidates, Terrorism, US Government, War on July 24, 2008 at 10:59 pm

Anthony Gregory in the San Diego Union Tribune:

The Democratic Congress passed and President Bush signed the “FISA Amendments Act of 2008,” legalizing the president’s illegal wiretapping program.

The law allows broad warrantless surveillance of Americans in the United States, so long as the call or e-mail is thought to be international.

Eavesdropping on domestic communications is legal for a week before court papers even have to be filed. The telecom companies that cooperated with Bush are immune from civil lawsuits. Most important, the administration’s illegal conduct has been retroactively approved and future administrations have wider powers than ever to spy on Americans.

The Democratic leadership and virtually all congressional Republicans approved the law. In a complete reversal of his campaign promise, so did Sen. Barack Obama. Last October, his campaign announced, “To be clear: Barack will support a filibuster of any bill that includes retroactive immunity for telecommunications companies.” Instead, he voted to prevent a filibuster and then he voted for the bill.

Democrats and Obama supporters defend the betrayal with hollow claims that the law actually protects civil liberties. Why then was Bush so eager to sign it? Missouri Republican Sen. Christopher Bond, a leader in this “compromise,” says “the White House got a better deal than even they had hoped.”

Two years ago, the Democrats seemed outraged after we learned Bush had ordered the National Security Agency, a military outfit, to spy on Americans without warrants, in violation of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act. Now they control Congress with good odds at the presidency. Power and the hope for more power corrupt.

Bush sings “Sunday Bloody Sunday”

In Activism, Big Brother, Courts and Justice System, Crime, George Bush, Law, Politics, Presidential Candidates, Protest, War on April 5, 2008 at 9:00 pm

From the comments section …

In Activism, Immigration, Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Music, Politics, Protest on March 31, 2008 at 11:06 pm

I have no earthly idea why anyone would think this is a song that libertarians would enjoy – and perhaps the person who posted it doesn’t realize how libertarians view immigration, and just looked for blogs where “immigration” was a tag – but we received a comment on the “A Conversation With Mike Gravel” article, asking us to post this video.

Senator Gravel is for completely open borders, of course, so either this gentleman read the entry and disagreed with that stance, or didn’t read the entry and made the assumption that Senator Gravel is against immigration. It’s really unclear at this point why he posted it here; perhaps he will stop back by and fill us in on his motivations.

That being said, I am a big proponent of the arts, and like to support struggling musicians and songwriters whenever I can. So I thought I’d be a nice gal and post it as he requested; and perhaps in exchange, some of our readers may wish to educate this gentleman on libertarian views of immigration.

Here is the comment, as received:

Hi,

Can you please place a link on your website / or blog; to this Take Back Our Country Song it’s a patriotic song that is very inspiring, and truthful. I wrote this song after being fed up with what I see happening in my neighborhood and to our country daily on the news.

I am just an ordinary citizen that went away to serve at age 19. And I am sick and tired of the lies and chaos our ELECTED SELLOUT OFFICIALS has put this country into. So I wanted to do my part, as a soldier of the USANG, I wrote this song and put it on this video.

My state Louisiana was hit hard by hurricane Katrina and hundreds of illegal aliens moved into our community took away jobs that we Americans were ready to do, and now crime has gone thru the roof. I am sick and tired of these people in my neighborhood and hanging out on our street corners. WE MUST DO SOMETHING TO PUT A STOP TO THIS!

Please check out my video Take Back Our Country Song on YouTube.com here’s the link. And FORWARD it to everyone on your email list. This is my way of fighting back and giving back to my country.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yl6Ol64aGMY

Please, I served my country in the US Army National Guards, and I hate what’s happening to our country. We must do all we can to Take Her Back!

Thank you,
Richie Collins
http://FalseArguments.net

Take Back Our Country

The YouTube description of the song is as follows:

Get your copy of the Take Back Our Country song burn it to a CD and get ready to PLAY IT LOUD on May 2008 this is the next planned march of the SPAM (Spanish People Advocacy Movement)! WANTED: Established Male Artist, Establish Male Bands wanted to sing this song! Let’s negotiate you putting this song on your next album release! I am not a singer; I need someone to sing this song for me with a band….etc…. Send me your videos at, mrcfunds@bellsouth.net but you got to get the song first.

This is my way of doing my part to fight this illegal invasion of our country. This video is a National Boycott against illegal immigration and everything it stands for. All Legal People of this land know there is a right way and a wrong way to do things. And “The American Axis of Evil” know they have done this wrong! (The American Axis of Evil 1. The President 2. The Congress 3. Anyone who thinks illegal immigration is ok, this is done all for GREED. You don’t sell out the country that I served in proudly USANG FOR MONEY! HOW MANY BILLIONS DO DICK CHENEY need? This is harming this nation. Most of our United States Representatives have allowed these illegal aliens to linger in our country. WE THE LEGAL PEOPLE of the United States demand that you DEPORT everyone that has entered illegally! They must come in this country the right way! Please join me at my Blog and to get your copy of Take Back Our Country go to http://www.falsearguments.net

Thoughts? Comments? Criticisms?

American death toll in Iraq reaches 4000

In Activism, Children, Congress, Corruption, George Bush, History, Human Rights Abuses, Iraq War, Libertarian, Libertarian Party-US, Lies and the lying liars who tell them, Middle East, Military, Music, Obituaries, Personal Responsibility, Politics, Presidential Candidates, Protest, Republican, US Government, War on March 24, 2008 at 6:17 am

Today, the official death toll for American soldiers in Iraq hit 4000. The actual number is undoubtedly higher.

4000+ Americans are dead, because Bush lied about Iraq possessing weapons of mass destruction.

4000+ Americans are dead, because Bush claimed that Osama bin Laden was hiding in Iraq.

4000+ Americans are dead, because Congress blindly accepted Bush’s lies.

4000+ American are dead, because Americans reelected Bush for a second term

4000+ Americans are dead, because the American people elected a Democratic Congress to put an end to the killing, and they failed us miserably.

There are far more Iraqis dead, though. Just today, soldiers killed a 10-year-old Iraqi girl. They claim they didn’t do it on purpose, but who knows the truth of that situation. When you put soldiers in a country where their lives are constantly at risk, and you arm them with automatic weapons, it is inevitable that many innocents will be killed. Some will be killed accidentally. Some will be killed due to mistaken identity. And some will be killed because the armed soldiers snap under the pressure, and just start killing people.

Unlike many in the antiwar movement, I don’t blame the soldiers. After all, they are doing what they were trained to do, under circumstances that no human was ever intended to experience; and the vast majority of soldiers became soldiers to protect us, and not to kill innocent civilians. So no, I don’t blame our soldiers when the inevitable happens. I blame Bush and Congress for putting our soldiers in that situation.

Of course, our tax dollars will be spent for the foreseeable future treating the injuries, physical and mental, those soldiers received while fighting in the war that should never have been fought. Some of them will recover from their wounds, but many won’t. I don’t complain about spending our tax dollars on the soldiers in need of medical and psychiatric care; we owe them that. I do complain that they should never have been sent to Iraq and injured in the first place.

Let us all look forward to the day when the killing stops, and our soldiers are brought home from the Middle East once and for all. When will that happen? It’s up to the American voters. If Americans put another warmonger in the White House, the blood will be on their hands. It is already on the hands of those who voted Bush for a second term, knowing full well he was a warmonger.

When considering candidates for the Libertarian presidential nomination, especially given that there are so many candidates brand-new to libertarianism, ask them whether they voted for Bush. If they did, they have blood on their hands, and therefore can never truly represent the Libertarian Party.

My hands, I’m happy to say, are clean in this situation (though I am not running for any political office). I didn’t vote for Bush the first time, and I actively worked against his candidacy the second time. Many may think my efforts were for naught, but I disagree. The message of true freedom is spread one person at a time.

I’ve asked this before, and I’ll ask it again. Where is Osama bin Laden? We can see a dime on the sidewalk from outer space, but we can’t seem to find a strange-looking human giant hiding in the desert. I find that extremely hard to believe. I also won’t be the least bit surprised if we suddenly “find” him just in time for the presidential election. Younger readers may not be cynical enough to believe our country would play us for fools like that. To them I would simply say, history has been my lesson; let it be yours as well.

To that end, I offer the song “End of the Innocence”, which was a hit song when many of our readers were but infants. It applies more today than ever.

Bush clueless about the economy

In Corruption, Crazy Claims, George Bush, Humor, Iraq War, Lies and the lying liars who tell them, Media, Military, Politics, Republican, Terrorism, US Government, War on March 8, 2008 at 10:19 pm

Once again, President Bush proves that he has absolutely no idea about … well, anything. Here, he claims that the economy is not being harmed by the war, and the extraordinary amount of money being spent on the war. Instead, he thinks the war is helping the economy.

Um, yeah. That may be true if you’re one of his fat-cat friends who own companies which supply equipment and necessary (and sometimes unnecessary) items to feed the war machine. Otherwise, it’s not helping you (or me) economically at all.

By the way, since he mentions the rebate, just where exactly where is the government supposed to get the money to do that?  It’s just more debt, and more interest on debt.  It’s just the Republicans trying to look better before the presidential election in November, pure and simple.

________________________________

Originally posted on Adventures In Frickintardistan