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Trump - time for some debates

One of the many concerns about Trump being President is his willfull ignorance. That won't do. He needs to learn a lot about a number of issues, and not just from his echo chamber. So here's an idea that won't happen, but would be good at any time of transition.

Hold some debates.

Pick issues where there are people who disagree. Climate Change, Fracking, Trade, whatever. Find the experts on both sides (and let the advocates of a side pick their experts and presenters) and hold debates. Each side gets 45 minutes to make their best case, uninterrupted by the other. No in-studio audience (but air it on the web and C-SPAN). Then, 15 minutes of back and forth discussion, asking questions of each other and letting the other side answer. A moderator only exists to keep time and stop overtalking. Each side also prepares a website with their presentation and additional data supporting it.

Even if the President-Elect ignores what he heard and goes with his echo chamber, there'd have been a chance for new information to seep in. And should the President-Elect choose to reverse course on a policy, he's got things to point to about WHY.

Posted on November 11, 2016, 8:56 am

Donald Brown
@GadgetDon

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I still support the Electoral College

As anyone who knows me in person or followed me on any social media site, I'm not happy with how the election turned out. (Better descriptions would be infuriated, appalled, and scared shitless.)  Since Hillary won the popular vote, many people are saying "Do away with the electoral college" and there's even an end-run being tried to effectively do away with it without the public debate and messiness of actually amending the constitution.

I disagree. I support the Electoral College. Not to say it can't be improved, but I think it's good for the country. Why?

(1) We are a geographically and economically diverse nation. It IS important that the rural states with their different needs than big population urban centers get listened to. Without the Electoral College, candidates will go where the people are, the big cities, and pay little to no attention of the rest.

(2) We are a very closely divided country on the right and the left. The differences in popular vote are always, as a porportion of the total vote, very small. Elections are like trials - their most important task is to render a decision, give some finality to the process so we can move on.

(3) We are unfortunately diverse in how we count votes, and there are errors in how they are counted. You know when pollsters talk, they give "bounds of error" meaning that they know their numbers are near reality but probably not exactly right. Well... vote counts are like that too. That's why we do recounts in close elections, and even those recounts are open to error. A standardized voting system would have real advantages (particularly one setting forth number of voting areas needed per capita, number of booths, etc.) though potentially be more subject to hanky panky - and in any case I don't see that happening soon. The times when the Electoral College "got it wrong" is when the popular vote difference was VERY small. Yes, I'd say within the bounds of error.

Here's my fear if the Electoral College was ended. Right now, the election is over. My side lost and a horribly wrong person was elected, but it's a fact. Now we make plans for how to deal with the next four years, how to put pressure on Trump to limit the damage he'll do. Without the electoral college, we'd see recounts and challenges and court cases until January. It wouldn't even matter if, within a district, if the election was close. Picking up a few thousand more votes is just as good in a district where your candidate won in a blowout as a tight district or where you lost in a blowout. No candidate would be able to start a transition plan. At some point the courts would have to step in and say "The election results stand as they are" and won't THAT be a popular decision for the losing side.

Again, I don't think the Electoral College is perfect. Every state gets one EC voter per congressional district plus two for the two senators. I think ending winner-take-all is a fine idea, instead have two votes go based on the state-wide popular vote and then have each district pick a EC vote.

But if we're going to get incised about how we do elections, I'm MUCH more interested in standardizing and fixing the way we do it.

First, any required ID has to be easy to get, whether you're a middle class person who has had a driver's license all his life and a birth certificate in a safe deposit box, or a poor person who has never had a driver's license, the birth certificate was lost in a fire or maybe your parents never got one and the DMV is two bus rides away meaning you have to take a day off work to get it.

Set standards for vote by mail, number of polling places per capita, early voting so EVERYONE has a chance to vote. And an idea to consider - make it a voting week, 7 days. In high population areas, consider 24/7 voting. Nobody should have to choose between voting and working. Nobody should have to spend hours in line to vote. Nobody should have to stand in a half-mile long line to vote. We're better than that.

Use a computerized national system to track any instance of double-voting. Make that a felony. It'll be a huge waste of money for a problem that doesn't exist, but if I can get the rest I'll throw the right a bone.

And... END GERRYMANDERING. Put every redistricting plan to a non-partisan commission with a judge having to approve them. Every congressional district needs to be poportional to the state's population, as geometrically even as possible, and where possible make the political and ethnic diversity within the districts match the state as a whole.

But DONALD, I hear some whine, that will cost money for the states who can't afford it. OK, make the feds pay it. Feds pay for it, Feds run it. Our elections are worth it.

Posted on November 11, 2016, 8:46 am

Donald Brown
@GadgetDon

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Two from Earth-2 - Macgyver and Lethal Weapon

There are two reboots this season. I like to think of reboots as the "Earth-2" version. (If you don't know, in the DC universe, there are multiple earths with slightly or significant differences of the heroes we know - and if you don't know, I'm curious why you find my stuff interesting.) Both of these shows have some of the same touchstones - but only one really gets the feel.

First, the good - Lethal Weapon. No, this show is not high thoughtful drama, but neither were the movies. They've created a new arc for the characters, but the same interplay, the same chemistry - and the same tendency for things to go horribly wrong resulting in car crashes, windows blown out, and usually an explosion. It's just for popcorn munching - FUN popcorn munching.

Then the bad - Macgyver. I really want to like this, and I haven't completely given up on it. The guy playing Macgyver, he's got the patter right, he shows the confidence when pulling off a Macgyver trick. But... Mistake #1 - he's got a team as opposed to Mac going into a situation alone. Mistake #2 - Mac hates guns, won't use them. In one episode of the old series, he got a gun and disassembled it to use the parts. Earth-2's Mac doesn't like guns either - but that's OK, one of his teammates is a young Jack Dalton who always carries multiple guns and uses them with abandon.

But biggest mistake - in the pilot his girlfriend is on the team, but things go wrong and she's shot - except whoops, she wasn't really, she was in on the plot and so Mac's got a tragic backstory and is looking to track her down. Wrong. Mac has a settled mind, usually, so sees the solutions no one else does, how to put things together no one else can. He's got some history that on rare ocassions arises - but it's the exception as opposed to the norm. The real Mac is a happy geek making things happen.

And yet... there are bits where they get it just right. When recruiting a hacker from jail, he describes his role as "That stuff you do with computers? I do it with everything else." So I'm still watching it. But the towel waiting to be thrown in.

Posted on October 15, 2016, 2:39 pm

Donald Brown
@GadgetDon

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Just WTF does Trump think the Generals have been doing

OK, I have HAD it with Trump's stupidity.

"I'll ask the generals to give me a plan within 30 days to destroy ISIS." IDIOT! You think until the Great Snakeoil Salesman gives they order they haven't worked on plans to destroy ISIS????

Here's my guess what they'll say:

Sir, we do not need 30 days, we do not need 30 minutes, here are the plans that represent our best thinking.

Plan 1 - Invasion. Massive numbers of boots on the ground. We take all of the ISIS controlled territories. Casualties will be significant. One issue will be separating out the ISIS members, can't even say it's a combatants vs. non-combatants because there's also a civil war going on. We almost certainly will wind up in a fight with the Syrian forces, Assad would not stand for another army in his country. There will almost certainly be massive civilian casualties which will radicalize the survivors creating the next terrorist threat.

Plan 2 - Massive bombing runs. Flatten all ISIS controlled territories. The ordinance required will probably require manned bomber runs and so will have some casualties, though less than Plan 1. Massive civilian deaths, survivors and relatives radicalized and quite ready to inflict what damage they can do to us - and to be honest, if someone did that to our country trying to take out some group, I'd feel the same.

Plan 3 - What we're doing now. Targetted drone attacks on leaders, provide support for armies in the area, and work to negotiate a resolution for the revolution in Syria. It's not fast, but it's working, ISIS has been forced out of most of the territory they had held. Minimizes civilian deaths, because the armed forces are neighbors may be viewed less as an invasion force and any desires for revenge will focus on the countries supplying troups.

Posted on September 8, 2016, 1:40 am

Donald Brown
@GadgetDon


On the nature of dictators

Was having a discussion with someone on Twitter about whether dictatorships were left or right and things got past the 140 character limit. So I'll put my arguments together here.

Dictatorships can be recognized by an assumption of absolute power. No opposition is allowed. The population only has what rights the ruling person/party allows (and usually can withdraw those "rights" as desired). But there are several paths to dictatorship in our modern world, and no, they aren't all leftist. (I'm leaving out more historical methods like conquering territory or hereditary kingships/emperors)

Communist Dictators

These gain power with a message that the common man gets a raw deal because the rich have all the money and own all the businesses and treat everyone else as serfs to be abused. Lenin and Mao are the best examples. Once given power, they have the ability to seize anything and parcel it out "for the common good" that tends to be for the rulers' good. No opposition is allowed because the Party is the worker's party so any other party would be against the workers. (Yeah right). These dictatorships are strong left wing. Under them, while the common man's condition may improve from prior conditions (if you were poor and don't offend The Party), only members of The Party will thrive. Absolute top-down economic plans just don't work.

Side note: not all leftists are working towards communism or a dictatorship. No, socialism is not a synonym for communism.

Strong Man Dictatorships

In these cases, the general populace feels put upon but rather than a primary economics argument, the dictator promises to protect the people. They'll bring "Law and Order". They'll make the country great again. Often, they'll also talk about rebuilding the military and make the country strong. There will often be a scapegoat to blame for the country's problems (Jews, Communists, whatever) and they promise to crack down on that group. Opposition parties are "discouraged" and eventually banned because Our Fearless Leader is the one who knows where our country must go so anyone challenging him wants to take the country in the wrong direction.

Once in power, these dictators often don't fiddle much with economics and those with property can keep it (unless you're a member of the scapegoated groups). Businesses may thrive under the new regime, so they support it's continued existence. And even the general populace may prosper (again, the general populace not in the scapegoated groups) and the dictator may be popular for quite a while. But eventually the despotic nature asserts itself, Lord Acton is proven right again, and they're set for revolution.

Under the normal classification of political philosophies, these dictators are right because they aren't trying to run the economy and support capitalism (within limits). Examples of strong man dictators include Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, and Pinochet. (And yes, Hitler was a classic right-wing strong man dictator. The fact that he called his movement National Socialism has as much meaning as The Democratic Republic of Vietnam which was neither Democratic nor a Republic.

Religious Dictatorships

Or for a shorter word, theocracy. We must live under the rules of God as the ruling party believes them to be. No opposition is allowed because they want to take the country away from God. The economical system is dependent upon the religious belief system, though usually restricted capitalism will take place.

In modern times, these dictatorships are almost completely Muslim. But there have been Christian dictatorships (and there are those who speak as if they want to institute it here.

Is Israel a religious dictatorship? I don't believe so, because while it does identify as a Jewish State and many laws clearly favor jews (particularly orthodox jews), one can be a citizen in good standing and yet be in a member of another religion.

In theory, theocracies are neither inherently left or right. They are almost always the more conservative wing of the religion, but that's not the same as economic conservatism.

After the revolution

Once a dictatorship is in firm control, they do start to resemble each other. Whatever the initial justification for seizing power, holding onto that power becomes the top priority. Informers, harsh punishment for those who threaten the state, etc. The early ideals (if they were ideals as opposed to just political points) become less important than staying in power. As Lord Acton said, "Power tends to corrupt and abbsolute power corrupts absolutely."

 

 

Posted on August 4, 2016, 2:17 am

Donald Brown
@GadgetDon


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