State Capture

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

I keep read­ing ar­ti­cles & news posts about how the Trump Administration is do­ing a bad job of com­mu­ni­cat­ing its poli­cies & gov­er­nance. This pre­sup­pos­es two things:

  1. That the Trump Administration has ob­jec­tive­ly and holis­ti­cal­ly com­pre­hen­si­ble poli­cies and gov­er­nance strate­gies
  2. That they have the de­sire to com­mu­ni­cate them clear­ly to the pub­lic via the me­dia

I think the press is still do­ing a bad job at un­der­stand­ing what’s go­ing on here. The eas­i­est way to #DrainTheSwamp is through ne­glect. Shut down what­ev­er you can, fill key po­si­tions with ad­min­is­tra­tors who will fur­ther ham­string the bu­reau­cra­cy, and leave the rest to dry rot.

This is the kind of state/​reg­u­la­to­ry cap­ture you learn about in an in­tro­duc­to­ry pub­lic ad­min­is­tra­tion course.

Sincerity

Sunday, 22 January 2017

In the apoth­e­o­sis of post­moder­ni­ty that we are cur­rent­ly sub­ject­ed to sin­cer­i­ty is hard to find. The alt-fact (pro­pa­gan­da) & alt-right (white su­prema­cist) are un­scrupu­lous­ly disin­gen­u­ous at dis­sem­bling. The so­cial jus­tice left has balka­nized due to self-in­flict­ed “No True Scotsman”-ship. Hipster irony in the ear­ly aughts was at least per­for­ma­tive — a joke that every­one was in on; and even if you didn’t think it was fun­ny, you at least knew it was a joke. Now, just about every­body is a re­van­chist.

The tools used to make noth­ing mean any­thing, and any­thing mean noth­ing have been so re­fined that 140 char­ac­ters can take 10,000 of analy­sis to un­pack. Speed, vol­ume, and anonymi­ty cre­ate so much noise that there might as well be no sig­nal.

I used to think hip­ster irony was the prob­lem & that sin­cer­i­ty was the an­swer. I was wrong. Postmodernity is the prob­lem.

I still think sin­cer­i­ty is the an­swer.

My General Political Philosophy

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Ethics

In gen­er­al I sup­port can­di­dates, leg­is­la­tion, and civil be­hav­iors that most close­ly meet my eth­i­cal and moral stan­dards. The dis­cern­ment process be­comes pro­gres­sive­ly more re­fined as nec­es­sary, which, it turns out, isn’t very of­ten. I was raised Catholic, so my moral and eth­i­cal foun­da­tions are Judeo-Christian. Core tenets:

…Thou shalt love thy neigh­bour as thy­self. There is none oth­er com­mand­ment greater than the­se.
Mark 12:31

But he, will­ing to jus­ti­fy him­self, said un­to Jesus, And who is my neigh­bour? And Jesus an­swer­ing said, A cer­tain man went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, and fell among thieves, which stripped him of his rai­ment, and wound­ed him, and de­part­ed, leav­ing him half dead. And by chance there came down a cer­tain priest that way: and when he saw him, he passed by on the oth­er side. And like­wise a Levite, when he was at the place, came and looked on him, and passed by on the oth­er side. But a cer­tain Samaritan, as he jour­neyed, came where he was: and when he saw him, he had com­pas­sion on him, And went to him, and bound up his wounds, pour­ing in oil and wine, and set him on his own beast, and brought him to an inn, and took care of him. And on the mor­row when he de­part­ed, he took out two pence, and gave them to the host, and said un­to him, Take care of him; and what­so­ev­er thou spendest more, when I come again, I will re­pay thee. Which now of the­se three, thinkest thou, was neigh­bour un­to him that fell among the thieves? And he said, He that shewed mer­cy on him. Then said Jesus un­to him, Go, and do thou like­wise.
Luke 10:29 – 37

And the King shall an­swer and say un­to them, Verily I say un­to you, Inasmuch as ye have done it un­to one of the least of the­se my brethren, ye have done it un­to me.
Matthew 25:40

Reiterating: Meet those stan­dards and get my sup­port. Oppose them and I’m an op­po­nent.

Reason

I sup­port can­di­dates and leg­is­la­tion that make the cor­rect moral, eth­i­cal, and rea­son­able de­ci­sions, even when they are dif­fi­cult. Policies and po­si­tions based on sci­ence, em­pir­i­cal re­search, and long-term vi­a­bil­i­ty get my sup­port. I don’t be­lieve in quick fix­es. Government works best when it is evo­lu­tion­ary — a se­ries of very grad­u­al changes we can be­lieve in. If a leg­is­la­tor or piece of leg­is­la­tion does not meet or im­pedes the pro­gress of cor­rect moral, eth­i­cal, or ra­tio­nal de­ci­sion-mak­ing, I op­pose.

Anti-in­cum­ben­cy, Complacency, & Overton Windows

Barring dis­qual­i­fy­ing ide­o­log­i­cal dif­fer­ences, if a can­di­date or par­ty has been in of­fice or in pow­er in an area for a long time, I’m prob­a­bly go­ing to vote for their op­po­nent, es­pe­cial­ly in a pri­ma­ry. I blame this on 30 years of hear­ing the same names on the night­ly news. A Bush has been ei­ther President or Vice-President for 20 years of my life. Clintons have been in the spot­light for the same amount of time. The same names have been around in Cleveland for as long as I’ve been here. I’m not in­to dy­nas­ties — fa­mil­ial, eth­nic, or oth­er­wise. I thought it was hi­lar­i­ous that the best the Ohio Democratic Party could come up with for Senate this year was Ted Strickland, & the best they could do for the last Governor run was Ed Fitzgerald. Reheated, thin gru­el. Yum! ← This, by the way, is how I feel about most ma­jor can­di­dates that run for of­fice.

I al­so think that the longer a can­di­date is in­cum­bent — the longer they have to be­come com­fort­able, com­pla­cent, and like­ly to ig­nore their con­stituen­cy. You keep a knife sharp by hon­ing it. The same prin­ci­ple ap­plies to peo­ple. Comfortable peo­ple are dull. I think every in­cum­bent should be chal­lenged in a pri­ma­ry when up for re-elec­tion. No free pass­es.

I al­so vote to shift the Overton Window closer to­ward the Judeo-Christian ethic il­lus­trat­ed above.

Hoosier Libertarianism

I don’t want leg­is­la­tors or leg­is­la­tion to dic­tate to me or oth­ers how and in what way our pri­vate, per­son­al busi­ness is han­dled. All y’all de­serve the pro­tec­tions enu­mer­at­ed in our con­sti­tu­tion. And by all y’all I mean all y’all.

Whatever Remains

I re­al­ize that this de­scrip­tion of my po­lit­i­cal phi­los­o­phy isn’t nailed down to the last shin­gle, but I don’t think it needs to be. That or­tho­doxy re­sults in the po­lit­i­cal cli­mate we cur­rent­ly loathe. When there were grey ar­eas to be had in a pol­i­tics, I wel­comed the chance to dis­cuss them, learn, and pos­si­bly have my mind changed. Those days seem to be long past, and not re­turn­ing any time soon.

7 Years of Political Silence

Wednesday, 16 November 2016

I stopped writ­ing about & voic­ing my po­lit­i­cal opin­ions back in 2008 or 2009 af­ter J. Kevin Kelley & Kevin Payne got bust­ed by the FBI for their cor­rup­tion. At the time I tweet­ed some­thing along the lines of “I can’t be­lieve I worked on a project with the­se scum­bags.” That project be­ing a re­design of the County Engineer’s web­site that had lan­guished for over a year, com­plete, but with­out sign-off to go live. The next day I got called in­to the Director’s of­fice with my boss and syn­tax was struc­tured that tan­gen­tial­ly im­plied that fur­ther pub­lic com­men­tary from me on any­thing job-re­lat­ed would af­fect my em­ploy­ment. That Director, Dan Weaver, lat­er got sen­tenced to 3 years in pris­on as part of the same gi­ant pile of cor­rup­tion that in­fect­ed the man­age­ment of the en­tire County. I think the FBI stopped fish­ing soon af­ter be­cause every­thing left was small fry.

They scared me. I had a brand new in­fant, a mort­gage, there were no job prospects in Cleveland, so I delet­ed the afore­men­tioned tweet and kept my head down for an­oth­er 5 years. The FBI burst in to my of­fice be­cause the­se crim­i­nals spat up­on the same civil re­spon­si­bil­i­ty that I was hon­ored to con­tribute to. Everyone at the County was im­pli­cat­ed. I know how louche it is to voice per­son­al opin­ions re­gard­ing one’s pro­fes­sion­al po­si­tion, but some shit needs to be un­equiv­o­cal­ly re­pu­di­at­ed. The fol­low­ing tweet is, as far as I can tell, the on­ly one left stand­ing from that time:

I’ve spent 7 years with my lips zipped — which is not an easy thing for me to do. I’ve tried to be as non-par­ti­san as pos­si­ble in my deal­ings with every­one. Going along to get along. I’ve avoid­ed en­gag­ing in any­thing that might be politi­cized, but what isn’t the­se days? Ain’t no­body play­ing for low stakes.

I can con­tin­ue to kib­itz, or I can throw my two cents on the pile & see if any­thing shifts.

Mainly, though, I’m tired of keep­ing my mouth shut.

Empathy is Not Always a Virtue

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

I’ve writ­ten a few times about the qual­i­ties of em­pa­thy and our society’s gen­er­al need for more of it in the last year or so. However, em­pa­thy is not al­ways a virtue. When you em­pathize with some­one so much that you be­come emo­tion­al­ly in­ca­pable of meet­ing your own re­spon­si­bil­i­ties (like, say, tak­ing your fi­nal ex­ams), you have left the path of rea­son and ac­count­abil­i­ty, and be­come a type of fun­da­men­tal­ist.

And there is no ef­fec­tive mode of dis­course with a fun­da­men­tal­ist.

Ray Rice is just a symp­tom

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

I’m not nor­mal­ly one to beat up­on a string of ide­o­log­i­cal ad­jec­tives when mak­ing a point, but late­ly it seems nec­es­sary.

Racist pa­tri­ar­chal cap­i­tal­ist so­ci­ety trains us to think that the lim­it of knowl­edge is ob­tain­ing max­i­mum mon­ey — the most ad­mirable goal; and then does all it can to pre­vent mi­nor­i­ty groups from achiev­ing it. Racist pa­tri­ar­chal cap­i­tal­ist so­ci­ety trains us to think that we are not peo­ple, but hu­man re­sources; (celebri­ties are not even hu­man — they ex­ist on­ly as a brand, a pro­duct) and then does all it can to make mi­nor­i­ty groups ap­pear gener­ic & cheap. Racist pa­tri­ar­chal cap­i­tal­ist so­ci­ety trains us to think that ob­jects sold in the ma­te­ri­al world will sat­is­fy our de­sires, and, fail­ing that, ob­jects pro­vid­ed in the vir­tu­al world will do the same; and mar­kets to every­one so they will be­come more racist, more pa­tri­ar­chal, and more cap­i­tal­is­tic. Racist pa­tri­ar­chal cap­i­tal­ist so­ci­ety trains us to think that its par­a­digm is the on­ly par­a­digm.

Ray Rice is a vic­tim of racist pa­tri­ar­chal cap­i­tal­ist so­ci­ety. It has made Ray think he is a pro­duct shaped and re­ward­ed for his strength and skill at vi­o­lence. It has not re­ward­ed him for em­pa­thy, com­pas­sion, or wis­dom. It has sup­port­ed this train­ing by cov­er­ing up his vi­o­lent be­hav­ior out­side of the game he was paid to play. Ray Rice is a tone-deaf, un­re­pen­tant abuser — but he didn’t have to be.

Janay Rice is a vic­tim of racist pa­tri­ar­chal cap­i­tal­ist so­ci­ety.  Orders of mag­ni­tude more a vic­tim than Ray. It has made Janay think that she should silent­ly ac­cept and ig­nore be­ing abused by her hus­band. It has not re­ward­ed her for au­ton­o­my, as­sertive­ness, or wis­dom. It has sup­port­ed this train­ing by blam­ing wom­en for every­thing that hap­pens to them: rape, vi­o­lence, stolen cell phone pho­tos. Janay Rice is blind to her op­pres­sion, but she didn’t have to be.

I am not as­sign­ing all blame for the be­hav­iors of Janay & Ray Rice to racist pa­tri­ar­chal cap­i­tal­ist so­ci­ety. Despite what they have been trained to think, they re­main ca­pa­ble of healthy choic­es and healthy be­hav­iors. The tec­ton­ic weight of racist pa­tri­ar­chal cap­i­tal­ist so­ci­ety has just made it much hard­er to be a healthy per­son and much eas­ier to be­have like a racist, pa­tri­ar­chal cap­i­tal­ist. That’s why it’s so eas­ier for po­lice to shoot & kill than do ac­tu­al po­lice work. That’s why some men think they can hit peo­ple & some wom­en think that be­ing hit is okay.

We are an­i­mals first. We re­spond to what is in front of us. We are out­raged at Ray Rice, the NFL, Janay Rice, the po­lice of Ferguson, MO. We re­act to stim­uli as we have been trained to do. We are sapi­ent sec­ond, and rarely. Though each in­di­vid­u­al is and should be called up­on to be less racist, pa­tri­ar­chal or cap­i­tal­is­tic — play­ing whack-a-mole each time we see an egre­gious ex­am­ple of our racist pa­tri­ar­chal cap­i­tal­ist so­ci­ety does lit­tle to ef­fect change. Change re­quires ac­tion. Effective change re­quires know­ing where to act, and how. We can go on iden­ti­fy­ing the symp­toms, or we can try to end the dis­ease.

Quotes from The Moon is a Harsh Mistress

Saturday, 29 October 2011

“A ra­tio­nal an­ar­chist be­lieves that con­cepts such as ‘state’ and ‘so­ci­ety’ and ‘gov­ern­ment’ have no ex­is­tence save as phys­i­cal­ly ex­em­pli­fied in the acts of self-re­spon­si­ble in­di­vid­u­als. He be­lieves that it is im­pos­si­ble to shift blame, share blame, dis­trib­ute blame… as blame, guilt, re­spon­si­bil­i­ty are mat­ters tak­ing place in­side hu­man be­ings singly and nowhere else. But be­ing ra­tio­nal, he knows that not all in­di­vid­u­als hold his eval­u­a­tions, so he tries to live per­fect­ly in an im­per­fect world…aware that his ef­fort will be less than per­fect yet undis­mayed by self-knowl­edge of self-fail­ure.”

[…]

“My point is that one per­son is re­spon­si­ble. Always. […] In terms of morals there is no such thing as ‘state.’ Just men. Individuals. Each re­spon­si­ble for his own acts.”

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein pp 84 – 85

I’m struck at how very ex­is­ten­tial­ist that quote is. Just as I’m struck at how very apro­pos the fol­low­ing quote is to the #oc­cu­py move­ment.

“A man­aged democ­ra­cy is a won­der­ful thing […] for the managers…and its great­est strength is a ‘free press’ when ‘free’ is de­fined as ‘re­spon­si­ble’ and the man­agers de­fine what is ‘ir­re­spon­si­ble.’”

The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein pg 256