Some Observations on the House of Representatives

Congress
The House of Representatives in Session.

I thought I’d be a nice guy and give the U.S. House of Representatives a chance to actually get itself in order by electing a new Speaker but it looks like it is not going to happen anytime soon. The problem, as I see it, for the GOP House caucus is both simple and complex. It is simple in that the fundamental issues are easy to identify and define. It is complex because there is no easy way to resolve conflicts between these issues.

The first issue I’m going to identify is the newest and least expected. The major the GOP caucus has in the house is microscopic only three votes over the 218 needed to elect a speaker and only 9 more that the Democrats. This tight a margin makes for difficult going for any political leader but it is especially difficult if the party is badly fractured like the Republicans in the House currently are.

This brings us to the next issue facing the GOP, it is a badly divided party and the Republicans has historically not dealt with competing political factions well. Ever since its founding in the 1850’s the Republican Party has usually had a dominant faction that controls the party. This dominate faction then makes deals with either the minority faction(s) in it’s own caucus or, failing that, the could find the votes they needed south of the Mason/Dixon line in the Democratic Party (note: I call this strategy the Dixiecrat strategy). The few time this strategy was either not used or did not work the Democrats could gain control. The Dixiecrat strategy stopped working once the new “Nixon Southern Strategy was adopted in the late 60’s early 70’s.

Still things could, and did, be made to work in the House but then came the Newt Gingrich Revolution and the concept of constant conflict as the way to get things done in the House. An while this strategy work a little in the house it did not play well with the Senate.

So now we come to that one of the biggest mistakes made, the idea that Politics can be successfully modeled using ‘Zero Sum’ game theory. This is a very seductive idea because it looks so simple. The problem is that you can end up worse off using a game theory that is incorrect than you can using the correct game theory a loose. Also most people who just have a casual understanding of Zero Sum game theory is that it has one deadly trap, there are actually three results possible. You can Win, you can loose and you can end in a draw. Even worse is that given the rules of the game you can end up where ending is a draw is the most likely result. Don’t believe me, talk with a ‘rated’ chess player.

An now to the last issue, seeing your opponent as the embodiment of everything you despise. This can be expressed as anything “D” touches we have to oppose. This is the death knell to getting anything done in a democratic polity where compromise is the name of the game.

So that is where the Republicans in the House find themselves. They have a small (45) subgroup (the Freedom Caucus) that is to the extreme right of the party and they see everything in a win/loose view. Worse yet they see it as if ‘they win’ I have to have lost. Next the majority of the Republicans in the House have very little to trade away to the Democrats and nothing that doesn’t mater much to their local base. So we end up with game after game after game in a draw, but what is worse is that the larger game, that game of running the country is about to be lost.

Next Posting: Thought experiment “What happens if the congress can not function for 6/12/18 months?”

Another Thought Experiment

NAZI American Flag
NAZI American Flag

Just for fun, let us try to think about the structure an Authoritarian United States would look like. I’m not talking about how it would come about, nor what life would be like but what the government and formal structure would look like. An yes this is a nerdie Political Science experiment.

First some rules:

  1. No magic, nor any fantastic science can be used. So no ancient evil demons or gods. No mind controlling computers.
  2. Keep the changes as clean and simple as possible. So no writing a completely new constitution. Amendments are ok, but no replacing whole articles with totally new text.
  3. Don’t get rid of the States. Yes you can reduce or remove their power but they have to still exist and function to some degree.
  4. You have to show how it would work. Think of how you would explain our current system to someone who has never heard of the USA.

Now I know a some few of you say this is not possible but I would like to point out that Caesar Augustus did this to the Roman Republic two thousand years ago. So think about what offices need to be changed and how. What changes to the three branches would need to be made? How they work together? Who controls what and when. How would you change things to get the several states to fall in line and do as they are told.

So lets get to it!

A Thought or Two on the 14th Amendment

USA Constitution
U.S. Constitution

With the filing of a lawsuit to bar Donald Trump from that states Primary and General ballots we have now given Donals Trump what many, if not all, Presidential Candidates want……A truly historical election. Article III of the 14th Amendment has rarely been invoked and never been tested in the federal courts completely. We now have the chance to see just what, if anything it means in a practical real world way.

I will not be addressing whether what is happening is a good thing politically; I leave that for a later posting. Rather I want to encourage everyone to read up on the 14th Amendment, both its history and legal scholarship. I think you will be both shocked, surprised, and disappointed by what you find. I was but I was also please to note one thing. Since the Civil War the United States has had no significant insurrections , in fact I found only three possible candidates and all three could be and are no more than what happen on January 6th 2021 (excepting the occupation of the Capital). An until now the 14th’s Section 3 has been little thought of and invoked even less. Why this should be makes for a great history paper and I will refrain from do that here.

What is going to be happening, starting now, is a test of just what the 3rd article of the 14th Amendment really means. With the death of the last person to ever fight in the Civil War in 1959 is the 3rd article a “dead letter”? There are good arguments for this. The debate on the 14th Amendment hardly touched on the 3rd article an I have found nothing in the debates about disqualification. (See CREW for details of disqualification)This will be the first time since the 1860’s anyone on the level of a National office is in danger of being disqualified. This is important for both legal and political reasons. With Donald Trump facing this problem rest assured the MAGA-GOP will, somehow, take actions to apply disqualification to the first non-MAGA-GOP to run for President or Vice President. It will happen.

As for the law? I don’t know. I do know that every American needs to watch the coming trials carefully. I mean not just the trials of Donals Trump and his Co-Conspirators but also all of the trials dealing with who is allowed on the ballot(s). Even the most radical judge can be a good judge when they know they are being watch. Watched not only by their peers, nor the scholars of law, but by also by the electorate at large. You don’t have to do much, just let anyone and everyone know you are watching. An unlike the radical right, the common electorate needs no threats, just their eyes and minds.

A fun little thought experiment

Thomas Paine
Thomas Paine

I would like to share a fun little thing I do to get a perspective on things. I also use it to show why I have such high hopes for the kids of today. So here we go….

First think about the year you were born. In my case that is 1951. Now think about 100 years earlier, again in my case that would be 1851. Now here comes the first hard part, think about how people lived in that year. Then think about how things were 100 years ago, 1923 and how people lived back the. This last part is easier to do because there is an excellent and very readable history “Only Yesterday’ by Fredrick Lewis Allen to help you out. Now just think about just how much things changed in that time. In 1851 the telegraph was brand new. There was no Republican Party. Most Americans lived either on farms or in small market towns, lest than a few thousand people. Slavery was still going strong in the south. Most people depended on walking to get anywhere, you were both luck and well off to be able to ride a mule or a horse and that for a long trip, like 20 miles to town. Finally a dollar a day was very good wages, especially if you were paired in gold coin.

Now let us look at 1923. The telegraph is being changed by the Telephone. Railroads are “The” way to travel long distance over land. Commercial Radio stations were springing up and in two years the live broadcast of a Presidential Inauguration will take place. The start of the age of the automobile and expanse of paved highways between towns. The idea that to become a medical doctor you need to have a college degree before medical school. The list seems to go on and on.

Now look at your life, in my case 1951 to 2023 and look at what you took for granted when you were in grade school or Middle school or High school. For me one easy way is to watch old movies of the 1960’s that I watched. Not just science fiction, spy dramas, crime dramas, even comedies. With Science fiction it can be an especially big giggle when they talk about the distant future like 2001: A Space Odyssey and Solent Green (set in 2022)., By the way I’m still waiting for my self driving flying car. Other movies like “Fantastic Voyage” and “ Satan Bug” can remind you of cutting edge technologies of the 1960s. In any case it will give you a wonderful feel for how we misestimated the changes we will see, both what we thought would happen and things we never saw coming.

Now to the whole point of this experiment. When ever you start getting down about the state of the world. When the “Doom” sayers get to you take a look and all we have accomplished in just your life time and even before. An have faith in the kids to over face what comes, to adapt and to over come.

Thoughts from the GOP “Debate”

Trump

I followed, as closely as I could stand which was not much, the first of the GOP debate and I heard nothing to make be think about voting for any Republican next year. Frankly this is quite sad for me. While I am a life long Democrat I have, from time to time, voted for Republicans. In fact my first Representative in the House was a Republican and I voted every time he ran for reelection. I was what was known as a Reagan Republican in the 1980’s

So what did I hear in the Debate that I didn’t like? First the response to the idea of ending Social Security and Medicare. I admit that this is very personal for me as all I have to live on now that I’m retired is Social Security. An before you say it, yes it is my own fault that I’m in this position. Back in 2006 Lin and I decided to start our own business. 2009 was our break-even year and we got hit by the Great Recession. In an effort to save the business we put everything we had into to it. To no effect. I lost everything. But I would still be totally apposed to ending Social Security. As to Medicare/Medicaid just try and get medical insurance if you are over 35 on the open market and have any kind of medical issues, like higher than “normal” blood pressure. Go ahead, I’ll wait.

What got me in the debate was not that a candidate proposed the idea, no. What got me was the enthusiasm the proposal got. The audience loved it. I also noticed the lack of any defense of Social Security and Medicare by any of the other candidates. I heard nothing. Did Fox just ignore any response or was there just none? I don’t know.

The second major take away for me was the idea that Climate Change (Global Warming) is a myth. Once again it is personal, I am a scientist. Yes it is a Social Science but it still is a Science. I still use the scientific method and math. Get over it. The very idea that millions of individuals have colluded to pull a great hoax on the American people for the sole purpose of destroying the ‘Carbon Industry’ (an just what is the ‘Carbon Industry’ anyway?) just blows my mind. That the GOP would give this idea even the time of day worries me. Not because the party leadership believes it but that they are so clinical that the are willing to use it for a few more votes. What else are they willing to do to get and keep power? I don’t want to find out.

In their effort to scare the mass of GOP voters I think the ten candidates last night have accomplished something else. The are scaring the great mass of the Middle voters. Not right nor left but the middle. The very voters you need to win in the general election. Last night I heard nothing to attract that voter. Now we can wait and see.

A change in view and Tactics

Weather Control
Coming Soon: Weather Control

A little while ago a friend of mine suggested a new way of talking about the Climate Change Crisis. She recommend I use the phase “You can pay me now, or you can pay me later.” I tried it and it worked. We got away from arguing about if it exists or not and started discussing just how we will pay for either just letting things happen or trying to do something preemptively. I was even able to change the wording. No longer are we trying to reverse the effects of “Global Warming (AKA Climate Change) we were now talking about controlling the Climate aka Weather.

Controlling Weather has be a staple of Science Fiction since forever. It is right up there with sailing under the sea and flying to the Moon. Both of which we now have done and take for granted. One big advantage is we can take off the table how we get other countries to cooperate. We can just assume they will joint in just so they have some say in what kind of weather. This also gets the Climate Change Deniers off of defending their denial, very non-productive, and onto thinking about what we can do that benefits us.

Another thing is we can get them to look at just how much the recovery from ‘Natural’ disasters cost and looking at how much preventive action would have cost. One example is the cost of improving the levy system of the lower Mississippi vs building all new sea ways when the river changes its path it has now away from the Port of New Orleans. The river has tried to do this a couple of time already and preventing it has been both costly and difficult. We even have a great ‘Bad Example’ in the wild fire in Hawaii, recovery costs of over $5 billion or greater are being talked about. What would it cost in recovery cost be for Miami when it is hit head on by a mega Hurricane?

Finally we can point out, with hard examples, that the money we put into the research on Climate Control will, 1) be mostly spent in the USA and 2) even pure research has always pay itself back many times over. A when the research is targeted, like in the space program, the return on investments is even greater. An as an added bonus we can go looking for the hidden examples of where research in one area has given great benefits in totally unrelated areas.

You can pay for it now, or you can pay for it later.

The Coming Republican Era

Something we all should think about is just what will happen if the GQP/MAGA win in 2024. I will not go into what some liberals fear, but rather just what the Republican Party and its leadership have promised to deliver upon election to power.

First and foremost remember that unless the coming Republican Convention does as it did in the last election the GQP takes as its platform what ever Donald Trump says it is for. Nothing more Nothing less. The Republicans, as a political party only promises only to do as Trump directs. So forget what Republican Leaders like the Governors of Florida and Texas are doing now. Forget what they are saying in Congress. Pay no attention to what the blogs are saying. None of it maters. All that maters is what Donald Trump does.

So what can we expect? We can’t go by what he says as he really has a hard time delivering on what he promises. Like his wall on the southern border that Mexico would pay for. Or that Covid-19 would be just a memory before the election of 2020. In fact the only promises he does seem to follow thru on is when he promises to get ’even’ with someone. Now those are promises he seems to go out of his way to keep.

So we should be expecting the GQP to enable the next Republican President to take ”full direct control” of the DOJ, DOD, Internal Revenue Service, just to name a few. We should see the Democratic party both directly and indirectly attacked an emasculated to the maximum extent possible. We should see the State election officials also attacked with the aim of bringing them under the control of the GQP. This will includes every ’Purple’ and ’Blue’ state possible.

I would also expect to see as many of the people held responsible by Trump for his Impeachments to be brought up on as many criminal charges as possible. I also expect to see a total house cleaning of ’disloyal’ Republicans (aka RINOs) from the party. Also look for the aggrandizement of anyone Trump believes might be of use to him.

Finally look for a lot of infighting behind the scenes and under the table.

What the Lib’s are learning from the GQP

The GOP elephant is on his deathbed.

It may seem strange but all of the liberal factions of the ”left” are, in many a strange way, benefiting from the Tumpian era of politics. Not to say that the Trumpian era did good things, no. What I’m saying is that the Libs can learn a lot from what has happened, is happening, and will continue to happen.

The time period I am calling the Trumpian era does not start back in 2016, it started back in the mid 1960s. What I mean is that the seeds that came to fruit in the Trump years were started to be planted with the formulation of what is called ”The Southern Strategy”. It continued thru the Reagan years and the Gingrich revolution till Trump and todays GQP/MAGA. It started with the equal rights movement that was to deny a fundamental right of all white men. That no mater how lowly you position was in the social/economic world there was someone who you could treat just as bad, if not worse, than you thought you’d been treated. That you, as a white male was still a member of the upper tier of society.

So just what did they do? It was not one thing nor was it a well thought out strategic plan. Rather it was a coming together of a conglomeration of ideas and actions over the years. It started with coming up with methods of weening away White Southerners from the democratic party by embracing any and all opposition to expanding voting rights to non-white people. It then continued with breathing new life into the traditional fear and hatred of those immigrants who came after ”my” ancestors immigrated to the USA. The classic ”We are Good, They are Bad” trope. All the while ranting about it is all the ”Liberal Courts” fault and working behind the scenes to load the courts with persons whose political philosophy matched the most extreme conservative view.

Next came the idea that ”Conservatives” were and are the “VICTIMS”. Just victims of what is never made clear. In fact to make clear just how and of what they are victims is vigorously suppressed. All the while decrying the victim hood of the poor, immigrants, non-white, the women, you get the point. Decrying and putting down anyone who tries to present hard facts/data/evidence of persecution of a group. The cry of ”We are the true victims here, not ‘those’ people.” Until the Trump era this was not easy to do but Donald Trump has shown how to do it. Just cry out that ”I am the Retribution for all the wrongs done by the _______ to you.” No need to say how you were wronged. How you were victimized. Now all you need to do is cry out you are getting ”retribution” and no one can challenge your claim to being the victim.

On a personal note: Have you noticed that often as not the people who cry out how they are the Victim(s) here are the same people who told who ever would listen that this was just the ”Culture of Victimhood” and they should just pull themselves up by the bootstraps just like ”My ancestors did.”?

So just what are the Liberals learning from all this? First, and for most, the use of hard facts with logical/reasonable arguments is not going to work in this debate. At lest when dealing with the hard core GQP. It needs to be aimed at the sizable middle who can and will be open to hearing what is said. We must accept the lamentable fact that reason will have no effect on the GQP. That they are so deeply invested in they ideas of the GQP that to question any of it’s dogma is an anathema. That the liberal have to accept that someone will reject out of hand a reasoned argument is very hard to take. But take it we must and we need to stop trying to make it work. They need to focus on what can and does work. Humor and ridicule, and this will not be easy to do. But it can be done. It is being done. An it must continue to be done.

The Continuing Sheldon Crisis

Foundation
Hari Sheldon

Recently I’ve been rereading the Foundation Trilogy by Dr. Asimov and I noticed something for the first time. In the stories Dr. A never really gives the ready a good idea of just how long a ’Crisis’ takes to build and just what all of the key and/or important events are. Only the ones key to the story line. Which is great for telling a story but not so great for someone who is trying to extrapolate a Socio/Politico/History.

I’ve become aware of this with all of the small (relatively) small events that have been happening this past year. With the release of the latest Trump Tape where we can hear what is reported to be Donald Trump actually revealing what he said was/are classified documents/information to person(s) not cleared to have that information. He also made it clear that he understood, at that time, the rules and regulations regarding classified documents/information. What is important is currently Donald Trump has yet to be charged with the improper revelation of classified information, only the improper possession and failure to return government documents.

I’ve gone in to this detail to illustrate just how complex a Sheldon Crisis is and how it can turn on the smallest things. The small detail here is that he talked about it. Another detail is he let himself be recorded. Finally it shows that even if the Trump wins the Mar-A-Largo case he still faces possible charges in New Jersey for the actual act of disclosing the information to person or persons not cleared for that information.

So inclosing we currently have two major ’crux points’ in the Crisis, the New York State charge(s) and the Federal Mar-A-Largo charges. We have another two potential ’cruxes’; the possible Federal charge(s) on reveling of classified information in New Jersey and the Federal Sedition charge(s) in D.C. Both of these could be made up of many smaller crux points. Which points are important and which are not is the question. I guess we will just have to wait and see, or until the Vault opens at Terminus City.

The Problem with the Double Standard

Orange Koolaid
Still Drinking the Kool-Aid after seven years

Once again the Nation gets to watch the MAGA/GOP swill down the Orange Kool-Aid as Donald Trump does his best to help the prosecution in the Florida trial. An what is even better is how much the GOP leadership is doing it’s best to look like total idiots and fools. Lets just look at what has happened over the last few days.

First Donald, in an interview over the week-end, once again admitted to knowingly keeping the documents while, at the same-time, not doing anything to help keep him out of trouble. He also has shown he has no idea of what laws he has been accused of violating. He keeps talking about the ”Presidential Records Act” and that hasn’t even been mention in passing in the indictment .

Next let’s look at what the House Leadership is talking about, the ”Double Standard” that Trump is be teated with. Now this is something I can agree on, Donald Trump is being treated differently than Richard Roe, private citizen. If you know someone who has or had a security clearance just what would have happened to them if they took home a classified document. I bet they would have told you Federal agents of the appropriate agency (FBI, DIA, USMsh) would have arrested them and taken into custody and then figured out if they should hold you. An if you were charged you would have had a good time trying to get released, much less keep your passport. Now I ask you, did anything like that happen to Donald Trump? Did anything happen to Donald Trump? Was he told to surrender his passport? Was he told to not leave the jurisdiction of the Court? Of the State of Florida? No, he was not. He did even have to post any bail!

So we now have hard evidence that a double standard does exist. It just not what the GOP Leadership is complaining about or maybe it is but they don’t want the GOP rank and file to notice just what is happening. Most people understand where the MAG/GOP rank and file are coming from when they get upset about the perceived special treatment for Biden or Hilary. But what gets hard to take is when they refuse to see it when it applied to Trump. Go ahead and complain about a double standard but keep your eyes open for where and when it happens. The double standard has little to do with what political party you belong to. It has everything to do with how much power/influence/fame/wealth you have.