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Election 2016 Mercifully Ends for Me! (See How I Voted.)

Arizona not only allows early voting, it actively encourages the practice with a registry where you can sign up to receive mail-in ballots in preference to trudging to a polling station on election day. My ballot arrived today, I promptly filled it out. And so I’ve entered my preferences, irrelevant though they may be, into the maw of the democratic machine for the hideous national election that would not end, 2016 edition.

At right, you’ll see a photograph of my presidential selection. Before you go telling me that I’ve broken the law, fuck you, no I haven’t, and I wouldn’t care if I had. Anyway, Arizona explicitly allows the practice of posting images of your own vote: “A voter who makes available an image of the voter’s own ballot by posting on the internet or in some other electronic medium is deemed to have consented to retransmittal of that image and that retransmittal does not constitute a violation of this section.”

Anyway, no surprise, I voted for Gary Johnson, the Libertarian candidate for president. I consider the former two-term governor of New Mexico and somewhat squishy advocate of liberty to be the best qualified candidate for the office this year, as well as the most ideologically compatible with my own views. He’s also not evil, which is a major consideration in a mid-20th-century-ish campaign season when the Democratic Party is represented by Eva Peron without the charisma, and the Republicans are fronted by a less-stable Benito Mussolini.

Down-ballot, I selected Libertarians where available, Greens where not. I skipped those races (quite a few, since the state deliberately made it tougher for smaller political parties) where only Republicans and Democrats had candidates. Let me clarify that: I voted for no Republicans and no Democrats. Not one.

I think it’s time for those parties to die and make way for something that doesn’t stink up the joint.

I voted in favor of Prop. 205, a measure which would introduce imperfect but real improvements in marijuana laws, partially legalizing the stuff for people 21 years of age and older.

I voted against Prop. 206, a measure which would reduce job opportunities for new and unskilled workers by raising their cost to employers in the form of a hiked minimum wage. It would also dictate paid sick time practices, further raising the cost of hiring people.

Those are the high points.

As you can see, I didn’t throw my vote away on inferior contenders for public office.

Dear Trumpkins and Clintonistas, Your Candidates Are Evil

Choose the form of your destructor!

Corrupt-ilicious or tyrant-tastic?

As I write these words, the FBI is reportedly investigating, after an aborted earlier attempt, Hillary Clinton’s use of the Clinton Foundation to, essentially, peddle access and government positions to generous donors. The revelations are actually just the culmination of a long-festering pattern of behavior that has seen suspicious favors done for individuals and companies including UBS, Uranium One, and the Saudi government.

Her Republican opponent, Donald Trump, is busy trying to shrug off reports that his campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, pocketed millions of illegal dollars in payments from a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party. Trump, famously, has a man-crush on the thuggish Russian strongman and has even gone so far as to deny Russian military designs on Ukraine after Putin seized Crimea. Or maybe the money is unrelated–after all, he praised North Korea’s ruthless dictator, Kim Jong Un and the Chinese government’s brutal suppression of protests at Tiananmen Square without obvious compensation. This is independent of Trump’s attack just yesterday on freedom of the press.

Oh, and both Trump and Clinton have very serious problems with free speech in general.

Let’s face it: These are two of the shittiest creatures to ever to crawl out from under a rock and scurry into American politics, which is saying something, considering that it’s not an industry that brings out the best in people. But even compared to the control freaks, Klansmen, and grifters who have long made their livings by seeking government office, Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton bring an unprecedented degree of overt grasping corruption and explicit contempt for the rest of the human race to their quests for the vast powers of the U.S. presidency. It’s no stretch to say that they embody evil in a way that we rarely have so openly rubbed in our faces.

Choose the form of the destructor, indeed.

To their credit, a good many Americans have glanced at what the Republican and Democratic parties left on the carpet and immediately gagged at what they’d stepped in. Clinton and Trump have consistently scored record high unfavorable ratings with voters. But they went on to win the nominations of their respective political parties anyway, testifying to the sad shape of these two senile and creaky organizations. Since then, “a full 13 percent of Americans would rather have a meteor hit Earth than vote for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton,” according to pollsters.

And yet…I’m still hearing people say that we have to choose between the psychopath and the sociopath. We must choose the form of the destructor, because it’s irresponsible to vote third party/refuse to vote. They insist that Gary Johnson and Jill Stein can’t win the election (because you shouldn’t vote for them, I guess) and not voting makes you responsible for the the destructor who ultimately triumphs. We must embrace evil, or else the other evil will win.

I think Julian Assange of Wikileaks had it right when he said, “You’re asking me, do I prefer cholera or gonorrhea?” Neither for me, please.

Look, you can talk the inevitability of the two-party system all you like, but that doesn’t mean it has to be these two parties. In healthy democracies, political parties rise and fall. In recent years, Canada’s Reform Party competed with and then supplanted the Progressive Conservative Party before changing its name to “Conservative.” Before that, Britain’s Labour Party bumped the Liberal Party out of the ranks of the two dominant parties (though the displaced entity, now known as Liberal Democrats, hung on and is part of the current government as a junior partner to the Conservative Party). Even in the U.S. the Republican Party croaked the Whig Party in the 1850s and took its place. Political parties are private organizations. They live only so long as people see a need for them, and can be replaced when they do awful things like nominating evil people as their candidates for president.

Did I mention that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are both horrible human beings and that to pick between them is to choose different brands of malevolence?

Look, if you really just can’t get enough of corrupt-ilicious Hillary or find the Donald just tyrant-tastic, knock yourself out with your chosen destructor. Just don’t act astonished when the rest of us back away with a frozen look of horror on our faces.

Because we’re better than that. And we’re still trying to scrape your candidate off our shoes.

Trump (and Sanders) Damage Not Just America, But the Liberal Democracy Brand

Lee Kuan Yew

Lee Kuan Yew / Photo by U.S. Department of Defense

A few days ago, the editorial page of China’s Global Times basically pointed at America’s political system and laughed. Look at what the nagging democrats coughed up!

Big-mouthed, anti-traditional, abusively forthright, [Trump] is a perfect populist that could easily provoke the public. Despite candidates’ promises, Americans know elections cannot really change their lives. Then, why not support Trump and vent their spleen?

The rise of a racist in the US political arena worries the whole world. Usually, the tempo of the evolution of US politics can be predicted, while Trump’s ascent indicates all possibilities and unpredictability. He has even been called another Benito Mussolini or Adolf Hitler by some Western media.

Mussolini and Hitler came to power through elections, a heavy lesson for Western democracy. Now, most analysts believe the US election system will stop Trump from being president eventually. The process will be scary but not dangerous.

Even if Trump is simply a false alarm, the impact has already left a dent. The US faces the prospect of an institutional failure, which might be triggered by a growing mass of real-life problems.

Pundits immediately (and rightly) jumped on this, pointing out the flaws that the paper was ignoring in China’s own authoritarian system of government, which not only excludes public input but also suppresses dissent. “Of course, there are a couple of glaring lacunae in that argument,” noted the Washington Post‘s Simon Denyer. “The most obvious being the tyranny and mass insanity unleashed by Mao Zedong, who killed tens of millions of his own people, (as indeed Stalin did in the Soviet Union). But hey, that bit of history is officially glossed over here.”

And no matter the populist lunacy into which democracies descend, they’re pretty good at peaceful shifts in political leadership. Dictatorships are a bit clumsy at that whole transition of power thing.

But Denyer and other commenters missed the fact that the Global Times editorial wasn’t a one-off. It’s part of a much larger reconsideration of the principles of government by much of the world that hasn’t fully (or at all) adopted liberal democratic values.A lot of that “reconsideration” is self-serving twaddle by autocrats looking to retain power while granting their subjects sufficient access to prosperity that they don’t revolt. But there’s enough truth to the analysis of the West’s flaws and the growing political crisis in supposedly stable, established systems that editorials criticizing democracy can gain traction among educated people who are deciding on their own future path.

Similar criticism could also be directed at Bernie Sanders–a surging politician who would and should be the year’s astonishment if Americans weren’t flocking in even greater numbers to support an orange authoritarian narcissist. The Vermont socialist’s promises to loot prosperous Americans to support a ludicrous grab-bag of unaffordable goodies are excellent examples of a prevailing problem with western democracies that dominated attention before the emergence of an open thug on the U.S. scene.

In 2014’s The Fourth Revolution: The Global Race to Reinvent the State, John Micklethwait, then editor-in-chief of The Economist, and Adrian Woolridge, management editor of the same magazine, sketched the “revolution” in government through the nation state, the liberal state, and the welfare state. Published just two years ago, the book seems almost quaint as it discusses the crisis in which the modern welfare state finds itself–before the political eruptions of the last year which drove a populist thug to prominence in the Republican Party, an economically illiterate socialist to draw crowds of young Americans, a crazy Trotskyite to gain the leadership of Britain’s Labour Party, the surge of nationalist-populists in Germany, France… But though overshadowed since, the authors’ points about the crisis of the modern western political system remains valid. Describing the condition of Britain in the 1970s, they write, “Ever-bigger government meant ever-greater social dysfunction. Vested interests competed ever more viciously for their share of the pie.”

More importantly, those flaws have been picked up by those seeking an alternative–an alternative to western democracy, and also an alternative to loosening their own grip on power.

“When you have popular democracy, to win votes you have to give more. And to beat your opponents in the next election, you have to promise to give more away. So it is a never-ending process of auctions–and the cost, the debt being paid for by the next generation,” they quote Singapore’s Lee Kuan Yew as commenting. Lee, who died last year, famously created an economically free and socially authoritarian city state that has limited  democratic input–and stiff penalties for too vigorously criticizing the powers-that-be.

Lee was listened to and is eagerly studied, partly because he tells many people what they want to hear, but also because even when his tightly controlled system suffers an economic setback, it still seems to be doing better than the much freer democracies of the West.

And his example has been adopted and touted elsewhere. At the China Executive Leadership Academy in Pudong (CELAP) which trains the country’s future government apparatchiks and considers models to take the massive country into the future “there are better places to look than gridlocked America–most notably Singapore.”

The Singapore model is also admired, write Micklethwait and Woolridge, in places including Russia, Dubai, and Rwanda.

So the Global Times editorial fits into the ongoing erosion and disparagement of the western model of liberal democracy–often on a very calculated and deliberate basis–by people considering what system of governance should take them into the future. Many of those people obviously want an authoritarian model that maintains their clout and privileges. But to the extent the established western democracies keep shitting the bed, the Lee Kuan Yews of the world will find an increasingly receptive audience among those who need a system that effectively allows them to get rich while protecting lives and property. Civil liberty…well, if it leads to Trump, maybe they’ll pass.

While critical of libertarianism–at least in quasi-anarchist form–Micklethwait and Woolridge call for a revival of classical liberal solutions which most people would recognize as libertarian. They want to see the state restrained and reduced in size, power devolved, and rights protected. They see that–convincingly I think–as reinvigorating liberal democracy and securing its continued existence where it is already established, as well as its status as a model for the rest of the world.

“It is time to put the ‘liberal’ back into ‘liberal democracy’: to persuade both voters and governments to accept restraints on the state’s natural tendency to overindulge itself.”

Yes, I think that’s convincing. But how to accomplish that is the trick. How do you convince people to rein it in when they’re reveling in the use of the state as a bludgeon (Trump voters) or a mugger-for-hire (Sanders supporters)? Because if they don’t limit themselves, the system will fall apart–and then the Lee Kuan Yews of the world will happily do the limiting for them.

With Clinton Campaign Collapsing, Brace Yourself for a Brown vs. Red Election

Offered, for your edification, this comment from Hillary Clinton’s campaign spokesman, Brian Fallon:

“It is alarming that the intelligence community IG, working with Republicans in Congress, continues to selectively leak materials in order to resurface the same allegations and try to hurt Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.”

The offended protest came in response to revelations from an inspector general for the intelligence community that some of the emails the presidential candidate stored on her home-cooked email server when she was secretary of state included “special access program” information. That’s the sort of super-secret label slapped on black projects and other we’d-tell-you-but-then-we’d-have-to-kill-you data.

I’m guessing that the latest details are a deliberate intelligence sector leak, but not necessarily as a gimme to Republicans. I have to think that the country’s spooks are pretty damned appalled at the prospect of a chief executive who cavalierly leaves sensitive data lying around her apartment rather than stored at the office as an attempted end-run around freedom of information requests. Slipping that nugget to the press is probably a shot at torpedoing Clinton’s candidacy and/or pressuring the Justice Department to prosecute, without regard for who else may benefit as a result.

I'm trying to pass one of my policies now. Anybody got some prune juice?

Bernie Sanders/Photo by Gage Skidmore

But the obvious beneficiaries include not just Republican presidential hopefuls, but also Bernie Sanders. The socialist from Vermont is the only serious remaining alternative for the Democratic nomination at a point in time when it’s really too late for anybody else to jump into the normal selection process with hope of getting the donkey party’s nod. He’s already leading Clinton in New Hampshire, competitive with her in Iowa, and gaining nationally. I’m not sufficiently versed on party bylaws to know if there’s still a chance of something being engineered at the convention (both major parties have democratized their procedures over the decades so that the process is far more grassroots-driven than in the past), but it would be exceedingly difficult to foist a top-down establishment pick on the party if Sanders shows up with the requisite delegates.

Would you believe it started as a Y-O-O-O-J joke?

Donald Trump/Photo by Gage Skidmore

With Donald Trump chewing up the scenery on the GOP side, there’s a very real chance of seeing two outsiders seize the major party nominations based on populist campaigns exploiting the collapse of establishment efforts. Sanders is a self-described socialist, while Trump is a personality-driven authoritarian centrist who stirs up nationalist sentiments while vilifying out groups–a fascist at least in the broad sense, if not a Mussolini fanboy.

That means America’s major political parties (which have effectively delegitimized competitors through the schools and media) are within a whisker of handing us a brown vs. red presidential race in the fall of 2016.

For what it’s worth, I recommend bourbon. Or Victory Gin, if you wait a year.

Between the devil and the deep blue Santorum

The list of presidential candidates over whom I’d prefer Barack Obama is a short one, indeed. I’ll admit that I never had high expectations for old Barry — honestly, how could anybody? In 2008, when he was running for the presidency for the first time, he was a TV-ready politico-academic dilettante with an obvious social-democratic view of the ideal relationship between individuals and the state — a good-looking guy who wanted to turn the U.S. into Holland, but was ill-equipped to do so. (But he’s well on his way to turning it into Greece! Bring on the retsina!)

But, at least, I hoped, he could nudge the U.S. away from its Bush-driven role as the bombs-and-waterboarding capital of the world, right? Maybe a little more peace and a little less security state. That would be a good thing.

Now, of course, we’re reading headlines about the widespread popularity of President Obama’s scheme for using drones to assassinate American citizens living abroad who have been accused (but not convicted) of terrorist ties.

Yeah. So much for that plan (I say as I nervously watch the sky).

But, even so, Obama remains … less horrendous than some people who want to be president. I’m looking at you, Rick Santorum, you liberty-hating, authoritarian freak. I mean, really … This gay-baiting, collectivist control-freak is now the leading contender (for the next five minutes) among the Republican faithful?

Well, sure. When campaigning against an incumbent president who favors an expanded role for the state in people’s lives, why not go with a guy who favors an expanded role for the state in people’s lives, but in a different way.

That’s choice, American-style!

Democracy didn’t look so good yesterday

Well, I tried keeping these two links open in adjacent browser tabs, but then they started beating on each other (and liking it — you never can tell about these media stories):

I really am happy to see Prop. 8 knocked down, and no, I really don’t give a shit about the “undemocratic” nature of a court voiding the hateful, anti-liberty will of the people. I believe in freedom and am willing to use democracy as a tool — or to push it aside as needed — in order to maintain and expand freedom and minimize the constraints placed on human action by the coercive power of the state.

My chastity belt is pinching my junk

Rick Santorum, when last he sucked off the public tit

As further support for my disdain for democracy, I point to the fact that Rick Santorum topped the polls in three states, yesterday. That’s Santorum who not only hates the chaps-and-flannel-wearers who prevailed in yesterday’s court decision against Prop. 8, but also the libertarians and fellow-travelers who were equal victors in that case. Santorum has openly denounced those of us who “have this idea that people should be left alone, be able to do whatever they want to do, government should keep our taxes down and keep our regulations low, that we shouldn’t get involved in the bedroom, we shouldn’t get involved in cultural issues. You know, people should do whatever they want.”

And people voted for this intolerant, authoritarian tool.

So those two browser tabs were a double exercise in juxtaposition: bigotry vs. tolerance and democratic betrayal of liberty vs. antidemocratic support for it.



Ron Paul polls strong as opponent to Obama

The latest CNN poll is out, including a variety of hypothetical matchups between potential GOP nominees and the sitting president. The strongest contender is … Rep. Ron Paul!

That’s right, in a what-if race between Barack Obama and Ron Paul, polling 1,034 Americans, the results come in at 52% for Obama and 45% for Paul. The next strongest candidate is (gag) religio-fascist Mike Huckabee at 8 points behind the president. Supposed favorite Mitt Romney trails by 11 points.

It’s way early yet, so take this poll with a grain of salt — although it taps the leading advocate of libertarian ideas in the Republican party as a serious contender.

A serious contender with the general public, that is. Among Republicans, Paul comes in with 10% support as a potential nominee, behind Huckabee at 16%, Trump, Romney and Palin. That still puts him in play, of course — and let’s see if the numbers move after this poll and today’s debate.

Light ’em up, desert rats

Contrary to early claims that Arizona voters had rejected a medical marijuana initiative, state voters appear poised to approve legal use of the weed yet again (third time is the charm!). As early and provisional ballots finally get tallied, Prop. 203, the latest medical marijuana initiative, is sliding from narrowly defeated to narrowly approved.

The latest count has the measure ahead by about 4,400 votes, with little chance for the antis to make up the difference.

What’s that I smell in the air? It must be victory.

Oh hell no. It’s the sweet smell of weed.

Next stop, sniff, is cocaine.

Election horror! I’m moving to (fill in the blank)

Why is is that, after every disappointing election, libertarians generally just grin and bear it (and tunnel a little deeper into the underground economy and counter-culture), conservatives vow to try harder next time (and win back their country for Jeezis), but lefties are forever vowing to toss their Patagonia gear into their hybrid put-puts and flee to Canada or France or some other mythical social-democratic paradise? My Facebook feed is currently speckled with progressive chums contemplating the good life in Toronto, Paris or Lilliput, about all of which they seem equally well mis-informed. This isn’t the first time, either.

Gawker captured the situation nicely with a round-up of five potential cities to which refugees from the recent dastardly Tea Party coup could consider fleeing. Kudos to Gawker for mentioning the uncomfortable truth that much of the world is a tad less lollipops-and-unicorns social-democraticky than progressives might like — less so than the U.S. in many cases. As Gawker points out of our neighbor to the north, “Well, it’s not that liberal. Prime Minister Stephen Harper is a conservative leader, after all,” and even “[t]ax-heavy, expensive Sweden is also moving into a more American style of limited-ish federal government, privatizing many formerly state-owned business to stave off economic woes.”

In fact, deprived of the huge line of credit possessed by the United States, many countries to which trendy lefties might flee have long-since started slashing state spending, freeing their economies (a bit, anyway) and turning toward Tea Party-ish smaller-government solutions.

Canada, for instance, is no longer so much the big-government contrast to the United States. Canadian federal spending topped out at over 50% of GDP back in the ’90s, after which somebody went to tap the piggy bank yet again and found nothing but moths and good wishes. Out of necessity, the old Liberal government began cutting spending well before the Conservatives came to power.

Likewise, Britain is only one of the European countries that have explicitly rejected the Obama administration’s hoary Keynesianism in favor of some sort of fiscal discipline. Sweden really is deregulating and privatizing its economy — to the point that the Christian Science Monitor says, “some believe it should be held up as a bastion of market capitalism.”

On a less-encouraging note, the French have their own problems with nativism and immigration fights. There’s no escaping the border warriors in Paris.

I’m not entirely sure what sort of Erewhon the folks on the losing side of the latest election think they’re going to find once they disembark in the imagined promised land, but it’s probably going to leave them a bit disappointed.

It’s not that the latest crop of elected officials won’t be as bad as everybody fears; the last few batches have certainly lived down to expectations, and why should things change now? But, if progressives insist on fleeing the latest electoral catastrophe (after the previous one, which they themselves brought on us) they might trouble themselves to do a little research to make sure that they won’t be greeted in their new homes by poutine-munching, Gauloises-puffing clones of the scary villains they left behind.

Post-election …

… I just feel … dirty.