The Math of the US Senate

For all the bombast of presidential candidate supporters, they fail to admit that, unless one of the major parties has fewer than 41 senators, it’ll be a cold, cold day before there’s a new Supreme Court justice. There’s no compromise there, and given that a party with 41 or more senators can just say “filibuster” to kill a bill, halt a nomination, or spoil some other plan of the majority party.

It doesn’t matter which party has the majority in the Senate. That party needs a supermajority to get anything done. I have to admit this, as well. I’d like to see what happens if a Libertarian is in the White House, maybe he could open up negotiations… but he’d only be able to get his way if the Senate agrees. Same for either major party candidate, and they have the burden of having the other major party making it its sworn duty to oppose all the way, unless a major bank needs a bill passed. Then they all come together.

Maybe that’s what I can use to defuse effusive supporters of any candidate: without that Senate, he or she will have to rule by executive order. Obama wanted stuff done, and had to resort to executive orders. So did Bush the Second. So will the next president, if he or she wants stuff done. It’s all due to the math of the Senate.

You Want to End Islamic Terrorism? Don’t Have Another Republican President

Republican convention speakers were screaming about how Democrats won’t stop radial Islamic terrorists. Well, at least they didn’t put their organizers on jets and send them safely back to Saudi Arabia like George W. Bush did. At least they didn’t shake hands with Saddam Hussein like Donald Rumsfeld did. At least they didn’t sell arms to the Ayatollah like Ronald Reagan did. Maybe the best cure for radical Islamic terrorists is to *not* have a Republican president… I mean, didn’t Black September attack during the Nixon administration?

And before any Republicans get high and mighty and try to twist the truth to convince themselves that, somehow, a blowhard like Trump will make any difference over the status quo, the failure of intelligence and leadership in Benghazi was peanuts compared to the colossal failure of intelligence and leadership in 9/11. I agree that Syria is a huge mess, but it’s an extension of the neocon thinking that penetrated the US bureaucracy under Bush – the same thinking that brought on the nightmares of Iraq.

Trump is promising easy solutions that are also non-existent. To truly end Islamic terrorism, end US adventures overseas. To truly end racial unrest, stop engaging in practices that disenfranchise and marginalize minorities. To truly end violence against police, end the militarization of police that has some departments acting in a way that was unthinkable 20 years ago.

Even if Trump says he’s in favor of any of the above, he’s also a guy that will say anything to get what he wants. This is well known. He is everything that the Republican commentators have laid at the feet of Barack Obama, except while the accusations against Obama were overblown propaganda, this guy Trump delivers the goods. And the conservative media have done a full about-face to laud a man who is in every way like the Barack Obama they described.

I’m not going to give Clinton a pass, either. Face it, GOP, she’s so neocon, the Koch Brothers are backing her campaign. As in the Koch Brothers that bankroll everything that is holy and sacred to the Republican party. They are backing Clinton.

Either way, Trump or Clinton, we’re going to see a continuation of neocon policies. Either way, Trump or Clinton, we’re going to have a Republican president, who will do horrible things to people in the Middle East and continue to fuel radical Islamic terrorism with the twin policies of killing innocents at weddings and ignoring everything Saudi Arabia does to stoke the radicals.

This is why I support Gary Johnson and a full Libertarian ticket. Libertarians still have their ethics and principles and have the best chance of getting America on the path towards true peace. You want someone like a founding father that believes serving in government is a duty, not a chance to build a power base and then charge massive speaker fees after such service? You elect a Libertarian – it’s not a 100% guarantee, but the odds are in favor of a guy that will serve a few terms and then go home again, back to the people.

If I DON’T vote Libertarian, I’m throwing away my vote.

New Web Host

Just moved to a new web host after many great years with my friend, Dave Rolling at Infovue. The seasons change, and he is discontinuing his services. It’s sad that I won’t be getting tech support from a good friend, but life – and the Internet – goes on. Best of luck to Dave and his work, and I know I’ll always fondly remember my 17+ years with his hosting.My new host is bluehost and i got a nice deal from them trough a BlueHost Black Friday Deal.

Health: Physical and Spiritual Elements

As a Mormon, I have a health code to follow, known as “The Word of Wisdom.” It basically stipulates no consumption of tobacco, coffee, tea, and alcohol while encouraging one to be sparing in eating meat and not eating fruits out of season. While there are discussions in our community about whether or not anything should be added to the list, like caffeinated drinks or chocolate, the only official additions have been in regards to drug abuse, both illegal drugs as well as prescription medications. Still, Mormons will go on about the physical benefit of not ingesting one or more of the substances which we are told not to ingest. But what if the uniting characteristics of these forbidden substances is not their physical health implications, but their spiritual health effects?

At the time, tobacco, coffee, and tea were products of slave or forced labor. Being commanded to not partake of them may have been God’s way of initiating a “fair trade” boycott of those products. I know there’s nothing written to that effect, and I would never put this forward as official doctrine, but it’s a thought I had as I toured an exhibit on slavery in the National Underground Railroad Museum in Cincinnati, Ohio. While, to me, the physical health benefits of not ingesting tobacco are readily apparent, those of coffee and tea seem to be a bit of a reach for me. But refusing to eat of the products of slave labor? That unites them all. It unites them, and causes me to think about what I’m eating.

While I will continue to observe The Word of Wisdom regardless of a rationalization justifying it – it is a commandment from God to my faith, and that is enough for me to observe it – it makes me ponder what things do I eat that involve the exploitation of my fellow man. The list, sadly, is long and torturous. It weighs on my soul that chocolate is frequently the product of the exploited. Cashew nuts and other luxuries tend to be provided via slavish conditions. Shrimp platters come to us from enslaved families in Thailand. The list marches on and is more a comment on modern capitalism driving the cost of inputs as close to zero as possible than it is a commentary on the health benefits of the foods described.

But, spiritually speaking, I don’t want to eat the things that have been made by slaves because of the evil that went into their manufacture. I know that I can’t avoid it entirely, but I don’t like it when it happens. And although I’ll never lecture someone else on how God would ban something that He hasn’t banned – if it needs banning, He will do it when the time is right for us – I will think about what I eat and drink and what the spiritual effects on me attendant with that consumption.

To me, The Word of Wisdom is still the same proscription against certain things and encouragement towards others. But now that I’ve considered a different way of interpreting it as a means of maintaining spiritual health, I have to ask what else is in my spiritual diet that needs addressing? What do I have not enough of? What do I have too much of? What do I need to do to increase my spiritual health? Answering these questions involves a journey, and if I wish to have the following benefits…


Doctrine and Covenants, 89:18-20 (Section titled “The Word of Wisdom”)

18 And all saints who remember to keep and do these sayings, walking in obedience to the commandments, shall receive health in their navel and marrow to their bones;

19 And shall find wisdom and great treasures of knowledge, even hidden treasures;

20 And shall run and not be weary, and shall walk and not faint.

… then I must start with keeping The Word of Wisdom. For, truly, as I walk on my spiritual journey, I do not want to faint, lest I be denied finding wisdom and knowledge. Spiritual health is every bit as important as is physical health.

Segregation and Computing

Having seen just how rabid the segregation laws were all through the USA – not just the South – I wondered what would happen if segregation were still in effect today? I couldn’t imagine bigots being comfortable with the very thought of black data and white data intermingling. Bigotry is a form of mental insanity, and this insanity is typified by an obsessive compulsion to keep everything that touches or involves one kind of person totally separate from another class of person. These people segregated radio broadcasts and movies, for pete’s sake.

Data networks would have to be separate, with state communications safety commissions specifying which parts of the spectrum were for colored wireless networks and which ones were for white wireless networks. Wireless specifications would have to stipulate that the networks were separate but equal… even if the ones serving colored people had substandard equipment.

Wired networks, as well, would be separate but “equal”, with firewalls keeping the rules on what traffic should go where. This would naturally lead to different storage networks, different logon servers, different databases… all in the name of keeping things separate. Why should the records of a colored person be stored on the same hard drive as those of a white person? If they do not mingle in society, they surely should not mingle in the datacenter, or so the reasoning would go.

As an economist, this brings up the economic lunacy of segregation – why should a business be burdened with parallel systems, or deny a segment of the customer base services? It makes no economic sense, whatsoever. The same people that throw a fit about how Washington is meddling in their affairs are not above doing that very same sort of meddling on their own, even if it is more burdensome than the stuff coming out of DC.

As a network engineer, it would have been a nightmare trying to keep and prove all the data bits were truly separate from each other. Networks are designed to serve everyone. In networking, we give preference to services and types of traffic, not people.

But as a historian, I am sure that had segregation not been defeated and brought to an end, we would have such unwieldy rules in place. Their impact would be more than just economic and technical: they would be a further extension of the brutality of bigotry.

We cannot allow the rules of our world to be dictated by those who are mentally insane. Bigotry is insanity, and the cure for it certainly does not lie in holding a position of power.

Are We the Bad Guys?

This is always a good question to ask. There’s a very wry bit by the British comedy duo Mitchell and Webb (no close relation, I think) in which they portray German SS officers on the Russian Front. One asks, “Are we the baddies?” and then notes how they have skulls on their uniforms, and how that’s never a good sign.

I’m currently touring Civil Rights sites in the USA, and although not all the horrors visited upon those who fought for their rights were done by men with skulls on their uniforms, there were clear signs of “bad guy” behaviors that should have been reviewed and then abandoned by those who did not want to be actual bad guys. Keep in mind that merely fighting other bad guys alone is not sufficient evidence of being a good guy. There are lots of times that bad guys fight other bad guys.

So, here’s a checklist of things that bad guys do. If you are doing them, please stop. If people on your political side are doing them, please get them to stop or, failing that, disavow their extremism vocally and oppose it at every turn, so as not to have your own political position undermined by its association with bad guys. Now, the list:

1. INTIMIDATION… this is a big one. When, in response to a reasoned argument or appeal to mercy, one chooses instead to emphasize one’s power of one form or another, that is intimidation. Bad guys are always doing this thing, and it underlines the lack of justification for a particular position.

2. VIOLENCE… this one is frequently employed when the intimidation fails. If one has to initiate aggression in order to maintain one’s views and preferences, one likely has views and preferences that are wrong. At any rate, concessions won through violence are either tainted, temporary, or both. Winning through violence does not imply that one is right: it merely indicates one is perhaps better-armed and/or more desperate and inhuman in the application of that violence.

3. MISREPRESENTATION… this is insidious, as one appears to be offering one thing, but instead proffers another and then uses that confusion to entrap another person. If this happens accidentally, good people resolve the confusion and apologize sincerely without using the language of the contract or agreement to extract unwilling concessions from the other party. Bad guys do this stuff intentionally most of the time and, should they find a bonus area for entrapment, seize upon that, as well.

Individuals are, of course, capable of much more bad stuff. These three things, however, exemplify what groups of bad guys will do in order to further their agenda and increase their power over others. Take a possible scenario with individuals out of the picture and consider instead a group conflict. Good guys can disagree on a political point of view: they do so without resorting to intimidation, violence, or misrepresentation. An opponent is not necessarily a bad guy.

However, as I noted earlier, if one’s side is doing any of the above things, one may be on the same side as the bad guys. If this is not desirable, consider either a gradual or abrupt shift away from supporting that side. In a recent example, both Trump supporters that initiate violence with protesters and protesters that initiate violence with Trump supporters are bad guys. Protesters and Trump supporters can both be good guys, provided they abstain from intimidation, violence, and misrepresentation.

Why does this make a difference? Well, I hold the view that a person’s actions determine a path that person will follow beyond this mortal existence. There is a value to being a “good guy”, no matter what suffering one endures in this life. For those who built up their power through intimidation, violence, and/or misrepresentation, shame, regret, and sorrow await them in the eternity to come. In that sense, there is great value, nobility, and dignity in heeding the words of those who said that mercifulness, nonviolence, and honesty were principles by which to live one’s life.

So, take some time and ask the question, “Are we the bad guys?” If not, hooray, you’re on the path towards light, love, and joy. If you are, then you have a crisis of the soul ahead of you, either now, later in your life, or when you’re dead and can’t do much about it.

Choose this day whom you will serve.

The Path to America

I am on a tour of Civil Rights history sites in the USA. What strikes me deepest is the degree to which fascism had a hold on the American South during the period of Jim Crow and Segregation. The language I hear today from many Trump supporters is an echo of the words said not very long ago to oppress fellow Americans. Lots of times, those words are preceded by, “I’m not a racist, but…” It is my experience that racists tend to start a lot of their sentences that way, so it’s best to avoid that phrase if one is not a racist. Racism is the brother of fascism, in which the government is hand-in-hand with businessmen to create pyramids of power. Someone has to be on the bottom, and racism supplies those slaves, prisoners, and second-class citizens quite easily.

Alongside the racism, fascism also involves networks of informers and people willing to commit extrajudicial killings. Sometimes the networks are formal, sometimes informal. In the South not too long ago, those networks existed, and they oppressed good people of all kinds.

More than anything else, this trip is helping me to see the ugliness of racial hate and the deep nobility of the men and women who struggled against it. If America is not a place, but an ideal we seek to attain, then it was the bravery of the Civil Rights Movement that showed us the path we should follow in order to attain that ideal.

Minitruth to Clinton’s Rescue

1984 was not supposed to be an instruction manual… all the same, the news headlines trumpeting that Clinton was the presumptive Democrat Party nominee like so many Buzzfeed links was a disgusting sight to see. There are some major primaries today, primaries that Clinton could lose, and this kind of news is the kind of propaganda that can sway some voters to “vote with the winner,” even though she’s not actually the winner. The reporting was completely orchestrated. There’s a Ministry of Truth out there, maybe part of the government, maybe not, and it’s working on behalf of Clinton.

To me, the “why” is clear: there are strong forces that fear the prospect of a president that would reset the rules they’ve so carefully constructed to favor themselves. Trump has a strong chance of upsetting a number of apple carts, Sanders would definitely upset even more of them. Clinton? Well, those $250,000 speech fees from Goldman Sachs don’t tell no lies: she’s the choice of the status quo. At a time when America desperately needs a safety valve to release a great deal of anger, frustration, and potential violence, Clinton represents keeping a lid on all that explosive pressure.

There were times when the USA was about to blow apart in its past. In 1860, it actually did when a no-compromise Lincoln got elected. But in 1900 and 1932, the nation was about to face tremendous upheavals if something wasn’t done to make it possible for average working families to get by. Socialism and even Communism loomed large as possible solutions for America’s problems, but Roosevelts in both those elections were elected on trust-busting and New Deal platforms that they largely carried out. Leftist agitation subsided with those victories, and the far right was placated enough to not launch a coup.

But this time around? We really should have had our reset in 2001. Instead, we got a Bush and the status quo. We were promised a reset in 2008, but Obama delivered more of the same. Clinton in 2016 is not going to be good for most Americans, but her backers are too blind to history to see that their best chances for survival lie in letting go of the throttle a bit and allowing things to get back to where they were 50-60 years ago.

What happens if they don’t let up? Simple. Other countries have shown the pattern. Either the peasants with nothing to lose rise up and put their mansions to the torch while they rend the rich limb from limb, or the authoritarian government put in place to keep the peasant uprising from happening turns on the rich and uses their profits for “the good of the state.” Democracy doesn’t survive in a world where the media blatantly lines up to lie on behalf of a candidate, not for long.

Muhammad Ali

Ponder well his words… There is a deep connection between sports and the Civil Rights movement. Muhammad Ali spoke for millions when he said these words. But for changing where the war is, these words could be said today and ring as truly as they did in the 1960s. He has passed on, but his spirit inspires me…

“Why should they ask me to put on a uniform and go 10,000 miles from home and drop bombs and bullets on brown people in Vietnam while so-called Negro people in Louisville are treated like dogs and denied simple human rights?

No, I’m not going 10,000 miles from home to help murder and burn another poor nation simply to continue the domination of white slave masters of the darker people the world over.

This is the day when such evils must come to an end. I have been warned that to take such a stand would cost me millions of dollars. But I have said it once and I will say it again. The real enemy of my people is here.

I will not disgrace my religion, my people or myself by becoming a tool to enslave those who are fighting for their own justice, freedom and equality. If I thought the war was going to bring freedom and equality to 22 million of my people they wouldn’t have to draft me, I’d join tomorrow.

I have nothing to lose by standing up for my beliefs. So I’ll go to jail, so what? We’ve been in jail for 400 years.”

About Those School Bathrooms…

My thoughts on the school bathroom issue… it shouldn’t be an issue. Kids know which bathroom they need to use, particularly at a high school age. When we take time to understand one another, there’s no need for a law, one way or another. But if we’re going to have a law – and I speak directly to the conservatives here – one that respects property rights and individual freedoms is the law to support. We must support nondiscrimination in housing, employment, and access to government-owned facilities.

As for restaurants, bars, gas stations, and other small venues, most of those are one person per bathroom affairs, regardless of gender. They are essentially private, so it makes as no difference who goes into which one, unless there’s a line.

A few years ago, this wasn’t a federal, state, or local decision. It was a personal decision. It should remain that way and the law should protect that personal decision.