Look: I am eager to learn stuff I don't know--which requires actively courting and posting smart disagreement.

But as you will understand, I don't like to post things that mischaracterize and are aimed to mislead.

-- Brad Delong

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Friday, January 22, 2010

What the Hell?!? Friday

Even after the Cheney-Bush administration was appointed our overlords, protectors, and deciders by judicial over reach in 2000, I was willing to give them the benefit of the doubt.  But after Bush's 7 minutes of catatonia on 9/11, the resulting lie-based decision to wage an unjust and unjustifiable war against an uninvolved country, the unsuccessful attack on Social Security, etc., I gradually came to the realization that when thinking about them it was virtually impossible for a reasonable person to be cynical enough.

Here are some more impossibilities.  It is impossible to overstate:

The sheer terrible awfulness of yesterday's Supreme Court decision.

The destructive effect it will have on the tattered remains of our shattered democracy.

The degree to which international corporate interests already dominate both political parties.

How much people who call themselves "conservative" hate democracy, the Constitution, and what the U.S. is supposed to stand for.

The extent to which the Republican Party is dedicated, as Rich Limplow demanded, to making Obama fail - no matter what the consequences are for the country.

The contempt of the religious right for the separation of church and state.

The stupidity of that subsection of the Massachusetts electorate who voted for Obama in '08 and Scott Brown this week.

The insanity of teabaggers, birtherers, 12ers, and their ilk.

How far we have devolved toward fascism.

How thoroughly we now are screwed.

Did I miss anything?


J said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
J said...

What sort of inferences might one make from these recent factoids, jzb? Something like, Democracy doesn't work. Neither does anti-Democracy.

Viva Moe-Howard-ocracy!

Really, man, one problem may be ..agency. Or voter competency, if you will. Do we have enough faith in the common human to trust him/her/it to vote intelligently? Probably not. I don't necessarily mean always vote Demo, either (there are of course Demo-idiots, but GOP-stooges outnumber them).

Personally I don't think any real reforms will come about WITHOUT revising the popular vote, upgrading it, calling for education requirements--though intelligence is no proof of integrity or virtue either, as the Supreme court shows.

'Mericans generally don't know enough about politics--or history, econ., etc--to really be trusted. So...barring VI Lenin--or Mussolini--tactics--some type of Voter-intelligence program should be implemented by progressives, even if that bothers some on the left--not that that will likely occur. Both sides bank on populism, and campaign-hysteria, really.

BadTux said...

What astounds me is the hatred of today's right-wing for democracy. For example, the entire birther movement's point is that it doesn't matter that Obama got the most votes, it wasn't "legal". I.e., the will of the majority simply doesn't matter to them, only whether they can twist the laws to get their own way even though they LOST a free and democratic election.

Of course, it's not just the right wing. J, you're a case in point. Yes, democracy sucks. Direct democracy in particular sucks worse (just look at how California has been fucked up by all those initiatives that mandate every expensive feel-good program under the sun but also mandates that California can't raise taxes to pay for all that shit that has been passed by initiative). But everything else sucks worse. In the end, it appears that indirect democracy (that is, electing representatives who have the ability to hire staff to research issues and then vote appropriately on them) is the only thing that has even halfway worked in human history (and as you point out, direct democracy is generally a failure for the reasons you point out -- most people simply don't have the time or expertise to handle complex issues).

As for your notion of IQ tests for voting (or for running for office), doesn't work. We tried that, and it turned into a mechanism for removing the votes from "them" (for some arbitrary "them" that isn't "like us"). Besides, it misses the main point of democracy, which is that NO GOVERNMENT WITHOUT THE SUPPORT OF THE MAJORITY CAN PERSIST WITHOUT DESCENDING INTO TOTALITARIANISM. If you prefer totalitarianism, just deny the vote to everybody who is "below average" (remember, 50% of American are below average, and average ain't so smart), and the only way that the resulting government will be able to hold power will be via a totalitarian police state like East German or Saddam's Iraq. Thus far we simply have not found any alternative to representative democracy that does not lead to a totalitarian police state, and I doubt we ever will, because human nature remains the same no matter how much we pretend that human beings are anything other than jumped-up funny-furred monkeys with delusions of grandeur.

- Badtux the Democracy Penguin

J said...


Your point generally holds, but it doesn't AlWAYS hold. History provides many instances of majorities voting in tyrants (Hitler received the largest number of votes in Germany of the '30s). Reagan, Nixon, Schwarzenegger easily won. Bush II may have ripped off Gore in 2002, but won pop. vote in 2004. So the majority can and does support demagogues, tyrants, incompetents. Many naive or sentimental Democratic-populists might not care for that, but dem's the facts.

A popular vote's no guarantee of fair or equitable politics, and that's not just a rightist view: really, Marx said as much. As did some ancients (Plato I believe). When Jr. works out his solution to a tough algebra problem, he does it himself: a show of hands among his friends--hey, what is the binomial theorem,dewd---would unlikely provide the answer, even if a majority agreed on one answer. Ad populus fallacy actually. Ad Populus of Amerika, Penguincrat.

The CA assembly's limited by 2/3s rule, mostly. So another negotiable point (and not even simple majority rule). W/o 2/3s rule, taxes could be raised. Senates were built by and for the Lords, mostly on some roman nostalgia trip. Robespierre realized that.

And IQ test? A bit much, but perhaps a test, or a licensing program, like being able the read the voter's guide, or pass a pie graph test, even offer it in espanol. CA Dept of Voter Competence! yeah.

BadTux said...

Note that the majority did NOT vote Hitler into office. Hitler never had a majority government. His party had less than half of the seats in the German parliament and he won only 1/3rd of the vote in the Presidential election that elected President Hindenberg. He managed to scrape up enough support from other parties to become the Prime Minister (Chancellor), but it took Hindenberg's signing of the Enabling Act in the aftermath of the Reichstag Fire and the resulting police state in order for Hitler to seize power at gun point and impose dictatorship upon Germany.

In short, Germany does not say what you think it says. The German people never voted for dictatorship. It got imposed upon them at gunpoint.

But anyhow, that wasn't what I was saying anyhow. I said that ignoring the majority could only work if you imposed a police state at gunpoint. I didn't say that the majority itself in a democracy could not impose dictatorship at gunpoint upon minorities. Indeed, that was the U.S. de-facto state for close to 100 years after 1865, when the civil rights of blacks were denied at majority gunpoint. Rather, I was saying that the only way to ignore the desires of the majority was to impose a police state upon them. Which is true, because the majority simply will not voluntarily follow the rule of a minority, no matter how "enlightened" that minority claims to be.

In short, we can trumpet all we want about how the majority is stupid, ignorant, and ill-suited to rule themselves. But other than imposing a police state at gunpoint, there's no alternative other than democracy. And BTW we don't have democracy in America today due to various stupid rules (such as the 2/3rds requirement to pass a budget or a tax in California, or the filibuster rule in the U.S. Senate or for that matter the U.S. Senate itself which is unrepresentative of the general population due to its giving smaller states more power) which is why the United States has the highest percentage of its population in prison of any nation on the planet... we're already well on the way to police state here already. Which is why I want us to return to democracy. You, apparently, disagree.

- Badtux the Democracy Penguin

J said...

That's not correct. Hitler and the nazis (NSDAP) took the largest piece of the pie, by far even in '32. But there were like 5 or 6 parties (if not more). So they got like 40% ; the next place was like SPD or something (see the WikiStein!) with 20% or less. So it's the majority in the sense of winning the largest share of votes, but not over 50%--and merely a semantic point: in most contests with say 3 or more candidate/parties, we would say who ever won the most votes WON regardless if it was over 50% or not; you would only need to beat the other two candidates, not get 50%--you could win with say 35% of vote. You're merely thinking in two party terms.

The nazis did have to make a coalition--like '37 I think--with nationalists. But they were still getting the most votes, and the nationalists were hardly different from the nazis (and many joined).

I think voter- education would prevent a police state from being VOTED IN, or declared by judges, or executives. Scalia's taking us to a police state. The GOP, and even centrist Demos (ie Feinsteins,Liebermans, even Clintons) have taken us towards a police state.

Besides, who would be most affected? Making say people in the dirty south read the constitution, or pass some test on US History, etc. get a voter-license would probably keep rednecks and extreme right out of voting booths (and some naive leftists, perhaps). Generally the Demos do well in college-towns, don't they? So connect the dots, penguin, instead of being obsessed by....booj-wah moralitay.

BadTux said...

J, as usual, you missed my point. My point was that a) in the Presidential race, Hindenberg had 54% of the vote and Hitler had 36% of the vote, meaning that Hitler had the support of only a minority of Germans, and b) after Hitler assumed "extraordinary" powers after the passage of the Enabling Act, the only way he could RETAIN power was by imposing a police state upon the German people and canceling all future elections. In short, while undoubtedly many of Hitler's programs were popular with the majority of the German population (Germany was the first major economy to emerge from the Great Depression due to Hitler immediately leaving the gold standard and launching a massive jobs program), saying that Hitler remained in power due to the power of democracy is just plain wrong -- he had to run a totalitarian police state (with no democratic elections) to remain in power.

Yes, education is good. We should definitely resume having a high school requirement for Civics, for example. But the only way to impose an education requirement that would have the effect of changing the voter population in such a way that the will of the majority is no longer heard is via a totalitarian police state. You apparently have no problem with that. I, on the other hand, do.

- Badtux the Democracy Penguin

J said...

Nope. As usual, you missed the point. Hindenberg did at first defeat Hitler, but there was a run-off. In july '32 Hitler and the NSDAP WON, by far. Hindenberg was President. Then Hindenberg himself appointed Hitler Chancellor--he had to, really, since Hitler/NSDAP was majority power. They won again in '33--THAT was the Enabling Act, and Hitler won hands down, and shut down opposition parties/civil law. Hindenberg died in '34, and the nightmare began in earnest. So my point holds: Hitler/NSDAP came into power via a popular vote, even if there were setbacks.

Without additional restrictions (like.....smart voters, not to say candidate criteria), there is no easy way to prevent people from voting in tyrants, or imbeciles for that matter (ie Schwarzenegger). The backlash against Obama will empower the GOP right, and who knows--Mitt Romney, Palin, Scott Brown, Hucklebeee --could conceivably win.

BadTux said...

Dude? You apparently live in an alternative universe where Hitler won the election of 1932. He didn't. He lost. Big time lost.

I won't address the rest since you appear to be operating in an alternate universe where anything I would say doesn't apply. Tell me, are unicorns real over there?!

- Badtux the Snarky Penguin

J said...

I don't think you can read too well, can you, Penguin-dude.

The german system does not only elect Presidents, but political parties. It's a bit more complex than GOP vs DEM. As I just SAID, Hindenberg defeated Hitler initially for President in 32. But that was only ONE election in '32. Note the run-offs. And the later election which brought NSDAP into power, with like 1/3 of total seats (not over 50%, but largest). Then Hindenberg appoints Hitler Chancellor.

After the Reichstag fire, Hitler passes the Enabling Act, with complete support of german govt. All democratic processes (though violent of course). So, Hitler came to power via democratic means, my original point.

And did you, or did you not vote for Schwarzenegger? I wager you did.