Monday, April 25, 2016

The Democratic Party is really not very Democratic

The Democratic Party is really not very Democratic

Hey!  All you Democrats out there! The Democratic Party is really not very Democratic. Consider first the “Superdelegates.”  Not only does the Democratic electorate have no say in who they are but it has no say even about how many “Superdelegates” are designated by the Democratic National Committee,. Not only is the voting process at the Democratic National Convention weighted by the so called "Superdelegates," but the Democratic National Committee is itself weighted by the inclusion of elected government officials and party functionaries.  The executive committee of the party is even more so. You have to check the bylaws for the prescribed composition.

Anyway, Article Two, Section 4 of the Charter describes the procedures by which ‘ordinary’ delegates are chosen, and subsection (e) seems to exclude the creation of a significant block of delegates who were selected without the “participation in good faith of all voters…”  BUT:  Article Two, Section 5 throws democratic processes out the window.  While the number of elected delegates is limited by the charter, the number of delegates which can be ‘designated’ by the Committee is not.  Basically, Section 5 allows the appointment of any number of delegates by the Democratic National Committee, and if there are a mere 700 or so of them, it is because the National Committee has exercised some restraint.  That is by my reading.  For your convenience, I provide Section 5, so you may interpret, and decide, for your self.


ARTICLE TWO, SECTION 5: The delegate vote allocable to each state shall be determined as provided in the Bylaws, consistent with the formula:

a. giving equal weight to population, which may be measured by electoral vote, and to the Democratic vote in elections for office of the President; and

b. giving such additional delegate votes as may be specifically designated by the Democratic National Committee in the Call to the Convention, subject to such conditions as may be set forth by the Democratic National Committee in said Call, for the purpose of providing incentives for scheduling the event constituting the first determining stage in the presidential nominating process in each state later in the year of the Convention than such event would otherwise be scheduled in the absence of such incentive; and

c. which shall also provide additional delegate positions to members of the Democratic National Committee; and

d. which may also provide additional delegate positions to Democratic elected public officials specifically designated by the Democratic National Committee in the Call to the Convention, subject to the provisions of Section 4.

Subsection a: is the sop to democratic process. The rest of the Article is the work around. The Charter and Bylaws of the Democratic Party and The Rules of the Republican Party, can be Googled, and any participant in our political processes should.

In a way, it is not in the interests for those members who are elected or appointed government officials for the Democratic party to actually be successful.  The greater the success of the Democratic party, the greater the competition for positions on the National and Executive committees.  

For comparison, I have also checked out  The Rules of the Republican Party.  The Republican document seems to be more procedural, and the Democratic Charter more purpose driven.   The irony is that, (At least as far as I can tell.  The comparison is not easy.  Both documents seem to me to be unnecessarily obscure.) under their Rules Republicans are more democratically represented by their party officers than the Democrats under The Charter are by theirs.  The Democratic Party structure is rigged in a way which caters to the establishment and is contrary to democratic principles.  The Republican Party structure under its rules, anyway, is not.

The Democratic Charter seems to go back to 1972.  (This is from the revision of 2012.) So there has been plenty of time for the appropriate people to notice this and bring it to the attention of the party membership.  

A note of small humorousness:  The Republicans have no mention of God in their preamble, nor of the Constitution.  The Democrats mention both.

One other important question:  Why is the government at all involved in the primaries?  No one is elected to any government office, so why is it the government that is concerned with fairness or procedure.  It is the concern of each of the various parties, to assure fairness, in their election.   (Or not.  The officers of the party may believe that an unfair nominating process will not compromise, and may enhance, the electability of their party's candidates in the general election.)  The members of the various parties elect candidates they hope are both electable, and perhaps equally important, represent the interests and desires of a majority of that party's members.
As things stand, one party must overcome the opposition of the other party to follow the procedures it considers favorable to itself, and the other party must follow the procedures laid down by the opposition party, whether or not those are the procedures desired by its electorate.  

These interests of the party electorate are not necessarily the same as the interests of the government, in particular the interests of the establishment politicians of the various states.  Where they diverge, the government may be expected to interfere and impose conditions which harm the interests of the electorate.  Where the government imposes procedures, the government must be expected to impose procedures which distort the primary process to favor its interests, rather than the party's.  Granted, the party’s interests are not necessarily coherent.  The party elite’s interests are not necessarily the interests of the party voters or the rank and file, as they may expected to align more with the government’s interests.  Indeed, since one or another party is the government  only if the government is disinterestedly and competently serving what the voters desire.  Simply, it is the job of each party to run their own elections.  It is not the government's job.

In fact, it is in the interests of each party to establish those rules and procedures which that party considers the best able to attain the goal of nominating the candidates who best most likely to win in the general election, while taking those positions the majority of the voters of that party desire.  Failure to do so would disadvantage not only the particular party in the general election, but compromise the ability of the government to  properly respond to the needs and desires of their electorate.   It would thus  compromise their ability to govern.  Democracy is the best system while it is the most responsive to the electorate.  When it fails to do this, when it corrupts the process or violates the principles of impartial access to information by the electorate, it is no longer.  

Now, as it is, the government does subsidize the primaries by providing and servicing the polling places and vote counting and so forth.  But as we have seen in places like Arizona, the government need not always provide these services fairly and in the desired quantity.   So the government could provide the necessary services while allowing the various parties to form and follow their own policies and procedures.   Provisions could be made to accommodate the minor parties.  

Monday, February 29, 2016

Disarming Terrorists

Recently, a nearby community college proposed arming its guards.  Let’s suppose it wasn’t just to protect against ISIS, but against the locally grown dangerous and the locally grown insane.  One could claim that there is cause, since a few years ago a young individual brought an assault rifle into a neighboring elementary school and killed 20 small children and  6 adults. 

While arming the guards may perhaps make the students at the particular college safer, while they are at the college, it does not address the broader problem:  How to keep society safe, given the wide availability of weapons capable, from use by someone so motivated, of killing a fair number of people very quickly. But if we make that particular college safe, what of other colleges?  If we make the colleges safe, what of other schools?  If we make the schools safe what of the plazas, and the stores, and the factories and the hospitals, and the homes?  What of the water supplies and power grids?

It is clear that what ever we protect, what ever we do not protect will become the target.  And so we must protect it all.  The material cost would be stupendous, not just in capitalization, but in maintenance.  We cannot pay sufficient guards, so citizens must go armed.  And then how to tell, who among the myriad of armed citizens, is not a terrorist, armed and on his way to destruction.  Further, even if armed, how can the citizens be protected against suicide bombers.  Explosive fireworks, albeit of limited gunpowder content, are available in 26 states.  Will potential terrorists find these limitations to be insurmountable? 

The fact is, we cannot prevent any terrorist, of either foreign or domestic origin, once sufficiently determined, from inflicting damage on our society or our infrastructure. 

What can be done is minimizing the strength and power of the motivations behind the terrorist and his acts.

Two things must be done.  The first is to stop inflicting violence.  The second is to excite admiration, rather than to incite envy.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Politics in More than One Dimension

The terms ‘right’ and ‘left,’ as political terms in use today appear to me to be applied in an ad hoc and makeshift manner.  Certainly, there seems to me to be no clear theory underpinning their application to politics.  So let’s develop one.

We will start with two positions: 1)  Society should act to benefit the individual.  We will suppose that to be the premise of the right.  The nest step is the notion that society is best served when it serves the individual.  The extreme logical conclusion is that society can be sacrificed for the individual.
                                                      2)  The individual should act to benefit society.  We will suppose that to be the premise of the left. The next step is that the individual is best served when he serves society. The extreme logical conclusion is that the individual can be sacrificed for society.

This is just where we are starting.  We will come back to this. 

This will not give us our usual alignment of interests.  For instance, from this basis, universal health care is something which should be desired by someone on the right. On the other hand, the justification for national defense is found on the left.  So, apparently we have another axis, independent of the left or the right, which is the size of government.  The argument against universal healthcare, then, is against a larger government, and in favor of a smaller one. But it cannot be one of efficiency.  There are dozens of examples where universal healthcare is more efficient at delivery of services to citizens than what happens in its absence.  Neither can it be a liberty argument, and it cannot be a danger argument.  

We also observe that while totalitarianism is indeed on the left, anarchy, reputed to be a phenomenon of the left, is under these premises, in fact a possibility of the right.  Note we have said nothing about inequality.  We have not mentioned any relationships between individuals, but only between an individual and the rest of his society.

Now our two premises are incomplete, and in fact pejorative of the left.  We have placed the benefits to the individual on the right, and the costs to the individual on the left.

Lets go back to what we see. Or rather what we are told is what we see:   We see Right and Left.  We see Republicans and Democrats.  We see the rights of the individual versus the demands of the state. But I do not think that is the real situation.

Consider instead that all politics comes down to who gets the benefits, and who bears the costs.   And remember, all benefits have to be paid for.  The extreme positions on each of these then is either the individual as a particular, or society as a whole.
But this gives us the following table:  I have also included some rubrics one might consider these positions, and their arguments, to go under.

  Society pays: Society Benefits                     Society pays:  Individual benefits
           (Communism)                                                      (  Capitalism )

Individual pays: Society benefits                 Individual pays: Individual benefits  
           (          ?           )                                                   (Libertarianism)
So these statements are like the corners of a physical table.  They are the extremes, and all of politics, all the actions of and in society, goes on on the surface of this table, inside these corners. 
Now, no society really exists, or has ever existed, at the corners, or even at the edges, of the table.  Robinson  Crusoe, for instance, being both the individual and his complete society, is squarely in the middle.   They are ideals that (misguided) individuals strive for.  They are misguided because these corners properly apply to different aspects of every society.  These values are themselves a higher dimensional structure than we have come to understand, and -  and the table,  it’s actually a tetrahedron.  I am preserving the line of my thinking because, even described, it is far more difficult to jump directly to the tetrahedron.

But to return to consideration as a table, the left-right axis is from the lower left corner to the upper right hand corner.  The lower left corner, we can substitute for the question mark "altruism."  Or, taxes.  Similarly the upper right, which we have shown is congruent with universal health care, we have put capitalism. As we have stated above, there is another, independent, dimension, which is size of government.  On the right we can have all government, (which de facto I suppose would be fascism,) and on the left no government, which we have named "altruism," extending the definition of the word to include the corresponding political structure, however it may be constructed.   

Monday, December 7, 2015

I Just Got Gallup Polled.

I just got Gallup polled.  Over the phone. The lady was quite nice and quite patient.  Some of the questions were- limiting, and I was unable to provide a correct or at least an accurate answer that I considered truthful.  But maybe my thinking is too literal.  Anyway.  Their education question wasn't easy, as I have a lot of college, not some, though no degree, not even an Associate's.  Also, they didn't ask what my job was, but maybe the sample wasn't large enough for that to be useful. Hmm- No they could have grouped occupations so the statistics could be meaningful.  By economic sector, say.  There's like 8 or 10, so each would have had on average about 170 people out of a sample of about 1500, which I believe is typical for these kinds of polls. Or if I was retired, or disabled.  (According to the article linked below, they take 1000 samples per day. 

No questions on hobbies, which I think could also be grouped into a few useful categories.  They asked an interesting question- something about whether I had a leader in my life who helped me ah, feel good about things?  Something about that.  I told her no.  Lots of questions about my health.  I don't actually have diabetes, but I am pre-diabetic. How to answer that? Same with my blood pressure, for which I receive  minimal treatment.  I do have other health problems, but they are mostly pretty trivial. I won't go into them, here.  An I a Christian?  I value Christ's contribution to humanity, in general, and to society and theology in particular, but I don't obsess about it.  That I consider inappropriate.  Even un-Christian. Questions about depression, but not other mental conditions, of which I have one.

Some redundancy, but that may be for 'truth checking,' on which I may not have done well.

She did ask my opinion about the economy.  Is it good or poor?(Poor.)  Is it getting better?(No.)  I did say I thought my situation was going to get better.  Didn't ask where I got my news, (very little mainstream, mostly off the Web,) or whether I identify as a Republican or Democrat or neither, liberal or conservative.

They asked a lot of questions.  I think, by asking a few more and by further partitioning the domain of their sample space, they could have gotten a lot more information.  

For the interested:

Oops.  I got Gallup polled last night, but I forgot to publish this then.

Language and the Ability of Societies to Respond to Change

This post is a comment in response to another post over at Crooked Timber:

A History of Semi-Popular Philosophy of Mind (No, not a semi-popular history of philosophy of mind) by John Holbo on December 7, 2015 

 The issue is how language affects the ability of a society, and its members, to deal with the real world.  We have the following from a paper referred to in a comment by John Quiggin

"Basically, the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis proposes that learned linguistic structures affect how the human brain can perceive and process environments. In other words, that our learned cultural and linguistic conventions affect how we can perceive the world. Examples on how the hypothesis has been used have included cultural conceptions on colors or time: if a culture has the same word for green and blue, how can its inhabitants perceive the different colors? Likewise, if a language has no past or future tense, how does this affect the people’s sense of time?

The hypothesis (and again, it isn’t a hypothesis as such) has two forms: a strong form, which, to put it simply, claims that our ability to perceive the world is governed or dictated by the linguistic structures we have learned. The weak form, on the other hand, claims that our ability to perceive the world is affected and influenced by the linguistic structures we have learned.Even though the “weak” version has found support in various studies starting from the 1960’s, the “strong” form of the hypothesis has been discredited widely through various studies. Even the basis of the observations that led to the formulation of the hypothesis became criticized..."

There are several considerations:  First, the real world, including human relationships, place strong restrictions on the possible useful structures of language. Indeed, there would seem to be a certain Darwinian process which selects for languages which are most useful in dealing with the world, and with other people.

Second, language is not the only mechanism that people use to relate to their world. It is not even the only, and perhaps not even the defining way, people relate to each other.  These other forms of relating impose their own imprints on the brain, on different structures in the brain, largely independent independent of language.

Third, the structures of thought represented by language are not uniform and monolithic throughout a society.   Indeed, each institution within a society has its own peculiar and unique usage of a society's language, each responsive to demands both interior to that institution, and through its unique boundary with its larger society.  

And fourth, the brain is not strictly limited by its past experience, nor is society.  However, we must consider that language is one of the factors limiting the range of adaptability of the individual and society to novel experience.  There are others, though the characteristics of a language may also be both an influence on and a consequence of these other factors.

The comment:

"Well, I don’t know if it is impossible, but it is certainly difficult to think about a concept you don’t have a word for. Even if the barriers to novel concepts are not impenetrable, they are certainly discouraging, confining, and confusing. Indeed, much of the power of the English language has come from the willingness of its practitioners to assimilate the words, and often directly the concepts associated with them, from other languages.
If you think this is not a problem, consider instead the truth of the following proposition: “The totality of the definitions of all the words of a language cover the space of all possible concepts in the universe.”
The mathematical notion of cover, and the possible characteristics of that cover, suggest the possibility of different partitions of the space of the universe of concepts, and thus different understandings of that space.
An alternative, but not exclusionary hypothesis, is that the universe of concepts has a structure independent of the languages which represent (some portion of) it. And that all languages tend to conform to this structure.
So consider Chinese. Whereas anybody can string together a series of letters in an alphabetical language, in a character based language like Chinese, combining radicals to create compound characters is something which is not causally done. Which raises the issue, how much has the nature of Chinese written language affected the character of the spoken language?
And does Chinese, and thus do the speakers of Chinese, partition the space of all possible concepts differently?
As for the macro-social effect, we would expect the boundaries of all different languages to conform to the demands of physical reality, although the cover at the boundary could still have different characteristics. However, representations of concepts which were not closely grounded in the concrete we should not expect to be identical in form or substance.
I believe this line of reasoning offers support to the weak form of the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. As for the strong form, any society must conform to the demands of its physical reality, and its language must enable it to do so. Sapir-Whorf cannot contravene this. However, in the ability of different societies to adapt to previously unexperienced change, the strong form would seem to apply."  END

The person who only speaks one language, or who at least has not given the different structures of other languages due consideration, is in a sense restricted to the labyrinthine pathways of his language.  this restriction cannot be absolute.  The brain is simply not so limited.  What it is is lazy, and transcending the patters of thought imposed by the necessarily limited knowledge it has of its language requires real effort.

The same is true of any society, and as is true for the brain, society must have the energy available needed to transcend its limits.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Our Financial Sector has Become a Parasite

This post is (mostly) a copy of a comment (@131) in response to reason (@123 & @ 124) over at Crooked Timber:

This is John Quiggin, the original poster, quoting himself in a previous post:

The financialization of the global economy has produced a hugely costly financial sector, extracting returns that must, in the end, be taken out of the returns to investment of all kinds. The costs were hidden during the pre-crisis bubble era, but are now evident to everyone, including potential investors. So, even massively expansionary monetary policy doesn’t produce much in the way of new private investment.

“Hugely costly financial sector” does not really describe what is going on:  Massive tumor sucking the life out of its host is a much better description.  The financial sector no longer serves society.  It serves itself.  Indeed, is 'Serve Oneself." not the motto of Capitalism?  While the financial sector, (and we are talking about the activities of the large, and very large, and the wealthy, and very wealthy,) does occasionally allocate resources in the rest of the economy, to the rest of the economy, mostly it plunders the resources of society and allocates those resources to itself, for its own engorgement.

My comment:

You have disinflation in the real economy, but inflation in the fictitious (financial) economy. They have become separate economies. Money is being taken out of the real economy and pumped into the financial economy. Not only does this drive up the price of financial assets, (like money, BTW. but other assets which do not have a real value in themselves, but only value depending on the health of the real economy. Most tech toys and their industries, for instance. ) but financial assets chasing each other also drive up the price of financial assets.

Imagine a continuum of reality, starting at the left and going to the right, most real on the left, and decreasingly real and increasingly imaginary as you go to the right : Food and energy, on the left end, mining, then manufacturing, transport, etc, retail, hospitality, etc. in some order, high tech in there somewhere, then money in its various forms, bonds, stocks, etc. derivatives, other phantasmagorical financial instruments. It is an enormous bubble of ‘value’ where each item to the right is dependent for its survival on the health of the parts of the economy to its left. If, for instance, the food and energy sectors collapse, none of the rest of it will have any value.

The economy on the right is easy to capitalize and leverage and extract (financial) profits. So all investments are allocated over there. ( Capitalism invests in what is profitable, and only incidentally in what is needed.) The economy on the left, however, is leverage poor, and profit poor, so it is instead being allowed to deteriorate, and even where possible, plundered for its capital.

It is the size of this bubble which is maintaining the value of the dollar. And as the bubble increases relative to the size of the money supply, the value of the dollar also increases. (There is also a deflationary effect due to the trade deficit, since money is continually being taken out of the real economy, and put into the fictitious economy when, say, the Chinese deposit their money in US banks.)

It is all, of course, a manifestation of debt. Were the debt of the real economy honestly accounted for, it would be clear to everyone that there was no possibility that the people who actually produce the things we need could ever paying those f**king bloodsucking leeches even a fraction of what our f**king masters of the universe have defrauded the people of the world out of.

Indeed, our masters own our world, and our country several times over.
It just comes down to the day they decide to collect what is owed them.

Progress and Pseudoprogress

What changes to what elements of society would qualify as evidence of ‘progress?’  We sort of assume society is making ‘progress,’ but we seldom check to see what is actually happening, or ask if what is happening is really motion toward a desirable, and necessarily sustainable, goal.  So let’s look at some trends, and decide whether they are indicative of ‘progress.’
Let’s start with some of the good ones. 

For instance:  Is increasing inequality a sign of ‘progress?’  One could argue that it is a (necessary) price for progress, one that fortunately doesn’t have to be paid by the wealthier beneficiaries of progress.  But do those who do have to pay this price benefit from ‘progress’ at all?  Or is other people’s progress bought with their decline? 

The environment is mostly more polluted.

More people, greater stress on limited resources.

More forests cut down.

Fewer wild animals.

More fisheries depleted or facing depletion.

Soil depletion.

Increased depletion of ground water.

Warmer more acidic oceans.

(US).  Fewer factories  More office space

 Fuel efficiency

But use more energy

Increasing reliance on distant sources of oil minerals which must be extracted at increasing cost.   including mineral fertilizers.
Increased incarceration.

Increased polarization of society

Increased concentration of ownership of the means of production
  Increased concentration of ownership of media.

Increased concentration of ownership of whisky production

Increased debt burdens of government and non-wealthy

More people:

More land planted

Increased spending on military.

Increased threats from terrorism

Lots more ‘data’

More money

(US)More guns in private hands.

(US) Increased costs of health services

(US) Increased costs of higher education.

(US) Increased trade deficit
(click on the little ‘MAX’ button)

Reduced spending on infrastructure.

More and more expensive technology for non-poor  especially the very rich

The Internet.

(US ) Bigger houses.  More mega mansions.

(US) More homeless.  Increased poverty.

More useless anti-biotics

The rise of neo-liberalism

(US) More militarized police force

More corrupt politics  Serving narrow constituency, vs, the people.  

Increased concern with the self. Vs public.

Increasing privatization of the commons.

More mega yachts

I'll get around to filling in most of the other references. (Or you could.)  And perhaps some other indicators. (Or you could.) I apologize that some data are merely indicative.   But I wanted to get the next post out.

Thank you.