Thank you for helping to remove Donald Trump from office. The last four years have probably been the most dangerous since the Civil War. And I think I can speak for everyone when I say I support your call to be the President for everyone, free from all parties, not just there for the people who voted for you.
However, if we’re going to start restoring correct political norms that will benefit everyone, one of the first norms from the public has to be that we can not give in to a cult of personality and that we have a duty to oppose those in power, and especially those whom we voted for.
I voted for you, not because I agree with much of the policies you proposed, but because you seem to be a decent human being and that is what we need right now (I’d prefer a decent human being who has the correct policies, but I didn’t have that as an option this time). And I think that many of the people who voted for you are in the same camp. We are moderates, a few practical Libertarians, and Never Trump Republicans. We didn’t vote for you to expand the ACA or tax the rich or bring about the Green New Deal, but because we needed someone to restore sanity to America. And that milquetoast victory speech that was more boilerplate than substance is not a good start—I can admit that a victory speech may not be the best time to pick a fight and it might be a tactical choice to wait until January 20th before picking fights, but there did seem some missed opportunities there, but again, I will write it up as a tactical choice.
Now, I hope that you are looking to be what we hope you would be, but I’m going to state what I think most of us believe, and hope that at least the ideas presented here will reach you in some form.
First off you need to bridge the gap with conservatives, real conservatives, not the populist hacks that have taken over the PR functions of the party. That means there should be three to four Never Trump Republicans in your cabinet. Just one token Republican in the Department of Transportation won’t do it. You need to make a sincere effort to reach across the aisle and find the best people for every position. It might be a bit too much to hope that you put Paul Ryan in as Secretary of Treasury, but something that blatant is needed. Further, you need to reject BOTH extremes, obviously the Trump wing of insanity must be rejected, but so must the Warren/Sanders/AOC wing of your own party—if you want to heal this nation then these illiberal extremes must be given exactly zero power—the illiberal left is just as dangerous as the illiberal right. To embrace the far left is just as bad as Trump’s embrace of populism, it is an illiberal philosophy that has no place in America and if you tolerate it, then your words of hope, opportunity, and healing are only words. Also, if you’re going to go after Trump and work on reforming the police through legal federal means, you’re going to need a Republican AG to avoid making it look like a liberal crusade—I have no idea who, but a conservative AG would deflect most the criticism from all but the Alex Jones crowd (and there was never any hope of getting their support).
Second, you need to calm the worries over the Supreme Court. The left is justifiably angry over McConnell’s court-packing and the right is worried about court-packing from the left (whether that’s rational or not, that’s what governing for all side is, you have to calm as many fears as possible, even the irrational ones). My suggestion is you go to Justices Thomas and Alito, who are both in their 70s and might want to enjoy the end of their lives instead of dropping dead waiting for another Republican president. Come up with a list of Libertarian/moderate justices who believe in abortion and LBGT rights but in limited government in all other things (those first two are about limited government as well so it would be looking for actually consistent justices) and work with them to find a pick they can agree that they will retire if you appoint that pick. This calms the left and the right, defends the most important right you care about, and restores faith in the Court for all sides.
Now let’s come to your goals. First and foremost you need to re-establish our place in the world. That means a heavy use of diplomacy, of not just reestablishing free trade but pushing it (rejoining TPP, ending the Jones Act, quickly getting a new trade agreement with the UK, rolling back all of Trump’s tariffs, and challenging China in the legal format of the WTO). Free trade is an absolute good, and it needs to be encouraged no matter how much the illiberal sides of both parties hate it. And while Trump has done a lot of stupid stuff, don’t compound the stupid by just reversing his idiocy—for instance moving the embassy to Jerusalem was silly, moving it back would be just as silly and petty. Don’t be petty. And while we need to re-establish our relationship with the world let’s not be groveling and begging forgiveness. The world wants the US to be the world cop and the stable one in the room they can all look to for support, that does not involve going around and groveling (like your former boss did). We can admit that Trump was wrong without acting like America is always in the wrong.
Next, you must establish limits on the Executive branch. You need to push for a Department of Internal Affairs that can investigate every president and every elected official and which is free from partisan politics. Presidents are not above the law and this needs to be made clear. A president who breaks the law needs to know that he or she can be arrested and hauled out of the Oval Office in handcuffs. If you don’t push for some kind of way to limit criminal behavior in the executive then you’ve missed what the mandate you were given was.
Further, you need to limit the capricious dictatorial power of the Presidency. A president who refuses to work with Congress and just says “I have a pen and a phone” and rules by fiat is not a president but a wannabe tyrant. This can no longer be tolerated from either side. You are the president, if Congress is being obstructionist, you have the bully pulpit and your job is to convince the people to push Congress to act. Now, part of this must be using that bully pulpit to push Congress to return power to committee created legislation and not just letting the House and Senate being the fiefdoms of the Speaker and Majority Leader respectively. I know full well this is a long-term project that you will not see the end of, but it has to start sometime, and the sooner the better.
In terms of economics, again: Free trade. You’re not going to bring manufacturing jobs back, because even if a company moved production back to the US it would be done by machines. But what you can do is open up more trade which will create more opportunities in new fields. I’m fine with more investment for vocational training and retraining but we are never returning to a 1950s manufacturing economy, and I have to hope your rhetoric on this point during the campaign was simply a pragmatic realization that right now you weren’t going to win without that voting bloc. But now act in that voting blocs best interest and bring them jobs for the future, not lying to them about bring back the past.
In terms of taxes. Don’t raise taxes. Just get rid of the myriad of stupid deductions that exist. You know all those loopholes that Trump uses to avoid taxes. Get rid of all of those. The smaller the tax code the better. And if the upper and upper-middle class can’t just deduct all their income then tax revenues will increase.
It goes without saying that immigration needs to be reformed. But it needs to be said again and again that there is no power given to Congress to regulate immigration. NONE. Any laws that try to limit immigration are unconstitutional along with evil and economically idiotic. ICE needs to be ended and the borders need to be opened.
The CIA needs to put anything they can into Putin’s water that will speed up his Parkinson’s.
Finally, there needs to be a return to a semblance of honesty, reality, and humility. Real daily press corp briefings, hold the White House Press Correspondents dinner and demand they do a full roast of you (I get there is a pandemic, but this is a norm that needs to be restored).
Of course, there is a plethora of other things that need to be dealt with, but let’s focus on these.
Now, Mr. President-Elect, you could be all talk, and like your former always willing to give into bitter partisanship, always foolishly throwing gas on a culture war fire, always only looking to play to the most infantile of your base…but I, and I think most of America, is hoping you’ll be better than that.
I’m sure that quote means very little to most people. It translates to: Carthage must be destroyed. It was repeated over and over again by the Roman Senator Cato the Elder after the Second Punic War. If he gave a speech on the economics of Rome, he would end with Cathargo Delenda Est. A speech on the lack of morals in Rome, Cathargo Delenda Est. A speech on the new aqueduct…Cathargo Delenda Est. A speech on any…Cathargo Delenda Est. Cato the Elder believed that after the danger of Hannibal invading Italy in the Second Punic War that the only way to deal with the problem was to destroy Carthage completely. And he finally got his wish in the Third Punic War. Rome invaded the North African coast, laid siege to the Phoenician city where they worshipped Ba’al (you know, the god whose religion liked having babies thrown in the sacrificial fire), they defeated Hannibal for a second time, burned the city, crushed the stone, killed or enslaved the populace, and myth holds, salted the ground and cursed the earth that no one should ever dare rebuild on that spot. It seems a bit much, but I would also remind you of throwing babies into fires. And while Rome certainly then proceeded to make millennia of mistakes, one could argue that centuries of further conflict with Carthage would have been even more disastrous to all of human civilization.
Why do I bring this up? Because the Republican Party must be destroyed. And with all the finality of Carthage.
This is a party that has completely sold its soul, spine, and balls to a mentally stunted wannabe tyrant. The Republican Party must be destroyed.
It is a party that is beyond even hypocrisy—because hypocrisy requires you to have principles to be hypocritical about. The Republican Party must be destroyed.
A party who is seriously who is comfortable putting a person who wants a theocracy to replace the republic in a place of power. The Republican Party must be destroyed.
An embrace of racism, nationalism, white supremacy, crimes against humanity, a continued attack on free trade, and at this point meeting every single charge laid against King George III in the Declaration of Independence. The Republican Party must be destroyed.
They are encouraging a police state, unashamedly preaching that might makes right, will defend none of the rights enshrined in the constitution, and are making brazen attacks against liberty, capitalism, the free market, and rule of law. The. Republican. Party. MUST. BE. DESTROYED!
There is no reforming the Republican Party at this point. Yeah, Mitt Romney is still a man of character, virtue, intelligence, and maturity. There are probably still a few people in other offices who still have a soul, but their existence is few and far between and more proofs that there is nothing but rot and decay left in the Grand Old Party.
Even as late as the 2016 election the GOP still hadn’t fully shaken off the, by modern standards, minor crimes of Richard Nixon—if the party does not die it will bear the mark of Trump for at least a century if not more. That is not the vehicle to advocate for liberty, rule of law, and free markets. It can’t be. It is no longer and never again will be the party of Lincoln, Goldwater, and Reagan. It is the party of Trump, and that is all it ever can be from this moment on.
As I discussed before we need something new to grow in its place.
But to do that, say it with me now, The Republican Party Must Be Destroyed.
The name, the leaderships, the PACs, the mottos, the imagery. Everyone must go.
The good news is that history shows that it takes only 8-12 years after the collapse of a party in America for something new to take its place, but that is only after the party dies. The Whig party died a quick death after Willam Henry Harrison’s election…but the Federalists before them hung on as useless rump party for slightly nearly a decade after their last presidential election. We need a quick death. Why? Because it’s not like the Democrats are all that great. They have no understanding of how economics works, and while the liberal attitude to social issues might be better than the conservative one, it’s hardly the enlightened libertarian one. And while there are some Democrats who still understand foreign policy, too many of them are just as vile as Trump on this issue. They’re simply not a solution. No, we need to kill the Republican Party to ensure we have as short as a time as possible between now and when there is a viable alternative to the Democrats. (Sorry, Libertarians it will never be you—you’re simply not a party for adults.)
So how do we kill this evil?
First, stop voting for them and stop giving them money. In all forms. No politician, no PAC, nothing. Places like the Institute for Justice, Lawfare, and sane outlets like the Bulwark are fine, but at this point, I can’t think of a single previously conservative think-tank that hasn’t been polluted by nationalism and Trumpism (even my formerly beloved AEI is too welcoming to this evil). But anything that associates with the GOP cannot be supported.
The same goes for voting for them. Vote for the libertarian until we can get a sane party back.
If you can stomach it, ugh, you might want to join the Democratic Party and be involved in trying to push neoliberalism instead of progressivism (which is just populism under a different name). You probably won’t win, but you will show other neoliberals that they’re not alone and prime them to leave the Democrats whom they will eventually realize have nothing in common with the progressive idiots.
And it would be wonderful if we could boycott every company that supports Republicans and forces them to let the vile party wither from lack of funds. But the fact is that most companies give to both parties (they want to access no matter who wins, and I can’t entirely blame them for what is otherwise good business policy). But what you can do is look at what you can do is look for things you buy that you could do with two brands equally well and write to the company that gives more the GOP that you will not buy their product until the balance is changed greatly. And then actually boycott them, and tell everyone about why you’re doing this, don’t be pushy, but make it known. Granted there are only a few areas where there two equally useful products that it makes little difference what you pick but there is a lot of stuff with reasonable substitutes (I’m sure we could never get a firm consensus on whether Ben & Jerry’s or Baskin Robins is better, but we could all suffer through our lesser preferred one if we had to boycott one). I loved Sam Adams beer but then their CEO said nice things about a Nazi and I shifted to craft beers. And I know this is usually not worth your time, the last boycott I remember working was…well the Montgomery buses is all that comes to mind, but there has to be something more recent, but you get the point it’s not effective. But if you do decide to boycott you need to then put in the time to send letters to the company letting them know why they need to be boycotted. A letter, a tweet, and a post about why the company is supporting evil are probably more effective than you just not buying their crap.
The second thing we need to do is support any organization we can that is focused either on policy or legal changes (like the Institute for Justice) or that is working to restore some dignity and reason in politics (like Stand Up Republic, even though I know they haven’t entirely given up on reforming the GOP). And being involved as much as you can in local government. Especially difficult in these pandemic times…but I didn’t say this would be easy.
And then we get to the really hard things we need to do.
Like being involved in charity or community service of some kind. Again, I get this is difficult, near impossible in the middle of a global pandemic, but these are the kind of activities and interactions that actually build up community and social bonds. People retreat to tribes when they don’t have connections with the world around them. Now you won’t be able to reach everyone this way, but it will offer a way to build up a bulwark against further degradation. Find out what your church or other local community has for charity and community service going on in these wacky times we live through and do your best.
Finally, what should be the easiest, but will prove to the most difficult for all of us. We need to stop sharing news and posts and memes that make us angry or gleeful at seeing the other side gets hurt. We need to focus on policy, on actually working to hold to truth and facts and forcing our elected representatives to do the same. We need to check where things come from…for instance every few times TurningPointUSA will put out a meme or an accurate quote…but given that they are a bastion of populism, idiocy, and hatred of core American values, we can’t give them a free platform by reposting or reblogging or retweeting their crap. It might be true, but don’t give the vile shits who know that the most effective lies come between two truths. We’re all guilty, I know I am, but we have to be better. Honestly if it’s that good, just remake the meme…it’s not like it’s all that hard these days, even a five-year iPhone can mix text and pictures you find on the internet. If you reblog a meme, attach a real article that explains it and doesn’t let fools read into it things that aren’t there. If you an article that makes you angry, check it first, see if you can find a more authoritative version, make sure everyone agrees on the facts, and more importantly focus on remedies for what made you angry rather than reveling in the anger.
In counseling, you will hear that successful relationships are ones that look for the solutions for the future and unsuccessful ones look to cause blame while looking to the past or judge who is right and wrong in the present but only looking for solutions works. In relationships, we call society and the government has to be the same. We need to look for solutions, not blame or judgment, solutions. And in doing that we will simultaneously eat away at the foundations of the GOP and lay the foundation for whatever comes after it.
And this is made all the more difficult that this 67 million idiots country just doubled down on the evil of the Republican Party. But it has to start somewhere. Sure any new party will have to include some of this useless scum that voted for Trump, it’s simply not practical any other way…but a huge number of them are more sheep than human and will follow just because it’s the party opposed to the Democrats. Just so long as the party is structured to make sure this degenerate sector never gets control of the platform or the primaries we’re good.
So once again there is, as always a call to end the Electoral College and replace it with just a national vote.
As if replacing one broken system with an even more broken system is a solution. Yes, the current system gives a bizarrely huge advantage to small states that have effectively zero population like Wyoming and the
Dakotas. But going to a pure popular vote will make all elections just pandering to the wants of the 10 largest cities in the country and will be just as off-kilter, possibly even more so, than the current situation. Both systems give too much power to one group or another and neither is a viable solution. Let’s not forget that the Founding Fathers recognized that there are supreme problems with democracy and the tyranny of the majority and that the more democratic you make a system the more likely you will have demagogues like Trump and Obama, not less.
But clearly, the system has given us hollow men with cults of personality for the last twelve years so it is clear that something is off and needs to be fixed. But complete democracy is not the answer.
To find a solution we need to go back to why it’s the way it is. Like so much of the Constitution’s creation, it was designed to allow for majority rule but allow for the minority rights to be protected. At the time of the first census, the smallest state was Delaware which had 1.5% of the population and 2.3% of the electoral votes. Now Wyoming has 0.17% of the population but .55% of the electoral college (from having the smallest state have 1.5 advantage over their population to now our smallest state having a 3.2 times advantage over what a pure democracy would give them).
We have too many states with next to no population and therefore a huge advantage in the electoral college.
On the other hand, we have a handful of massive states like Florida that make their swing state status make them disproportionately important.
So we need a system that both ensures states with smaller populations are not powerful and that huge swing states don’t control everything. The point is to force candidates to care about the largest swatch of the country if they want to get elected and reelected not just worry about their states and a couple of swing states (seen by Trump not caring if people die in blue states, and Obama foolishly dismiss the people who cling to their guns and Bibles). The point is to make sure that the President must care about the most states as possible. To do this we must have no bizarrely small states that one side can ignore, and no huge states that get all the attention.
And, while I know this is not popular (but one of the jobs of leadership is to explain to the public why the right solution should be popular—it is only unethical demagogues that pander to what is popular) by any means there is a way to solve this, here is what we need to do:
A constitutional amendment that states any state over 20 electoral votes has to split apart and any state under 6 votes has one census cycle to either get their population up or have to join with the lowest state that they’re next to…failure to do so will have their electoral college votes annulled.
The Dakotas become one state because it’s simply preposterous to think that a whole lot of nothing requires two full state governments. Idaho, Montana, and Wyoming the same. As with everything north of Massachusetts. Rhode Island and Delaware serve no conceivable purpose and we all know it. But California would be broken up into three states, one probably blue one red, and one swing, New York would be NYC and everything else. Florida two states because no single government should be responsible for that much crazy, and Texas would thankfully be broken up because I think we can all agree that shithole excuse for a state deserves to be knocked down a peg (also, as a Dodgers fan, I need to point out that every member of the Houston Astros needs to be publicly executed).
By doing this states will now be in a nice 6-20 vote margin which means that now middle red states are important enough for democrats to care and the huge bastions of liberalism are broken into areas that become an attractive target for conservatives…i.e. the candidates will have to moderate their view and policies and actually be president for ALL OF AMERICA, no longer will strategies that just focus the parts of the country they want to pander to and two or three swing states. A conservative will finally have to care about things that happen on the West coast, a liberal will have to look into the concerns of the people in the middle part of the country who are afraid of the fact that their ways of life will be done away with by technology in another generation.
The only other thing that probably needs to occur in every state should probably reserve two of their votes for statesmen chosen for their common sense before the primaries even begin with the right to vote their conscience. How many godforsaken presidents might we have been spared if that check existed?
Finally, these laws that some states are putting in that force electors to vote with the state vote have to be eliminated also by Constitutional Amendment (because the Supreme Court recently made the dumbest error in thinking that electors, not representative who are elected to use their best judgment, which they are). If a presidential candidate picks John Doe to be their elector in the electoral college and come the day of the election John Doe feels that he can’t vote for the candidate that choose him…there is probably a damn good reason, and forcing them to vote against their conscience is just endangering the nation.
…Oh, and while we’re on the issue of the size of states, every state should take a long hard look at the size of their counties. Most counties were set up with the idea that a person could reach a county seat within less than a day at the time they were founded. For most of the history of the country that was the distance a horse and carriage could go in a day. And in modern terms, that’s about 20-50 miles. There are places in the country where if you’re just driving a legal speed of 65mph you can cross four or five counties in a single hour. This was a practical size when your governance was limited by the speed of a horse…it is no longer necessary to have that. Every country has swaths of redundant public officials and corrupt officers who like to keep their own fiefdoms and do so because they are able to control such a small area with a small level of corruption. Two-thirds of the number of counties in America do not need to exist because a single county seat for four or five existing counties would probably be able to offer the same level of service for a fraction of the overhead price. The government should be local in many cases, but that is what cities are for.
So at this point, the odds of Trump winning are getting closer and closer to zero. His people are worried they’re going to be prosecuted (they will be), some are even attempting suicide (can’t say I will miss the scum that pretends to be human or American), and a sane person (which Trump is not) would be running to daddy Vladamir right now begging for protection (he can bunk with Snowden, traitor roommates, I see a sitcom here). But the fact is that even though the fascist will be leaving office (god I hope he tried to resist and needs to be forcibly removed) the court has been tainted by his (and McConnell’s) unquestionable hypocritical and unethical behavior.
This is going to leave us in a position where the Democrats are going to want to pack the court (which will hurt the court’s image) or the current nine justices stand with the mark of corruption on them. Neither is good and neither is in anyone’s best interest because we need to restore the three branches of government to some sense of reason, honor, and virtue. But there is a way out of this.
Right now, Justice Clarence Thomas is 72 years old. The life expectancy for African American males is 72. Playing the odds, he is living on borrowed time and will likely die during the administration of President Biden—if he’s lucky, as Biden won’t be filling the whole term, he might make it to President Harris. If he thinks he’s going to just wait until there is a Republican in office again, he’s crazy. And either Biden or Harris will replace him with a liberal if he dies during their administrations.
However, if Thomas went to the White House during the first week of the new administration and said “I will retire if you nominate one of these 10 or so moderate justices” it would be a win-win (a libertarian judge who will not attack the liberal key points of abortion and minority rights, but will check the government on size and scope of government would appease the principled people on both sides). The rage over the Trump/McConnell sleaziness is quickly dissipated by the fact that you have a Democrat filling a previously Republican seat. Thomas ensures that the court only moves one step to the left instead of two. And the reputation of the Supreme Court is not destroyed in a fight to pack the court. Further, this means that Republicans are not encouraged to pack the court the next time they are in charge. And Biden would take it because it would mean he would not have to expend political capital on packing the court.
And the cherry on top is that Thomas gets to leave with the halo of a true statesman and won’t be just remembered for Anita Hill and living in Scalia’s shadow. Few opportunities ever come up to so clearly rewrite how history will remember you, and Justice Thomas would be a damn fool not to take this opportunity.
Quite frankly it’s a win-win for everyone. And that sadly is why no one would ever do it because there is nothing but pettiness and short-sighted idiocy in Washington on all sides at this point.
So as I suggest in a previous article, many of us should vote for the Libertarian candidate where it will not harm the chances of Trump being thrown out of office. To call the orange thing a cancer on the nation and the Constitution is frankly an insult to cancer. He is a wannabe tyrant who surrounds himself with the most vile filth in existence who have no respect for the law, rights, reason, or truth and they cannot be allowed. They are small bigoted people who want only temporary power and care nothing about securing “the Blessing of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.” Trump and all of his ilk need to go. There is no question about this at any level. They are an evil that cannot under any circumstances be allowed to continue to be in power, and after they are out they cannot be allowed to roam free, they must all be jailed for the rest of their disgusting lives as a testament to what trying to destroy this country will get you. Vote for the Libertarian in safe blue and red states, especially in safe red—see if you can pick off as much as possible. But in swing states, if you can stomach it vote for the dumb guy over the dumb and evil guy. I know it’s not a great choice but we need to keep the union alive if we are going to fix it and Trump has the goal of burning it to the ground.
But getting rid of Trump is only the first step. The problem is that he tapped into a vein of evil in this country that I think many of us didn’t want to admit existed. Before this sad excuse for a human got the traction I would have said that honest to god racists were only about 5%-10% of the Republican party and Independents, and between 10%-15% of the Democrats, and maybe, just maybe 20% of the people who didn’t vote. Holy shit did I underestimate those numbers. I still think there are way too many racists and bigots in the Democratic party and they pander to interest groups without shame of the fact that they work to ensure progress and harmony don’t continue. But whether the racists were always there in the GOP (yeah I underestimated) or Trump brought in all those racists who didn’t usually vote (which he did). Honestly, I’ll never know exactly how far off I was because there is probably no way to measure accurately who came into the Republican party and who left when the stench of bigotry went from the fringe that everyone ignored to party plank, but it doesn’t matter. The Republican party has become a party of white supremacy, fascist big government control, and a complete opposition to the Constitution and rule of law in their piggish desire for power. Their own party platform says they stand for nothing but a blind devotion to Der Fuhrer.
In 2014 the GOP was still suffering for what now comes off as minor infractions of Richard Nixon. It would take a century to end the taint of the evil of Trump. And as the Democratic Party keeps leaning towards mindless progressive socialism we don’t’ have a century to wait to stop them. So there is really only one answer on what to do with the Republican party. Take a page from the Romans at Carthage, burn the party to the ground; jail, destroy or exile those who still hold to the name Republican, salt the ground, and never look back.
Luckily there is historical precedence for this. The Whig died after they elected Zachary Taylor (a man with huge popularity, no experience, and no adherence to the Whig party platform) because the party was torn asunder after his win in 1848 (unlike Trump, Taylor at least had the good manners to die in office and spare us the hassle of hanging him for gross incompetence.). But after Taylor, the Whigs quickly died and a mere 12 years after he was elected to his pathetic term (so really only 8 years after the Whig term ended).
So history shows that a new party can rise up in a relatively quick fashion. (And if it has to involve a Civil War where we slit the throats of every last bigot and not make the mistake of Reconstruction where we thought we could bring the traitors back into the fold…so be it. The good news is that now all the bigots lack having the best generals on their side as the South did, it would not be a national tragedy, only a massacre of mowing down Klansmen, skinheads, and Proud-boy incels showing them all the mercy they have shown to others.)
But what should that party be about?
We need to start thinking about this now.
So here are my suggestions. I’m under no illusion that huge numbers of people listen to me, but ideas have to start somewhere and if you find this and spread the ideas to other who talk about them to others, so forth and so on, maybe this can be the spark that will reach someone who really can change things.
Social Safety Net:
Replace everything (Social Security, Medicaid, Medicare, SNAP, unemployment insurance, everything) with a Universal Basic Income ($1,000 a month) which will guarantee that no one falls into poverty but no one has to waste dozens of hours every week justifying to the government why they shouldn’t be in poverty. A $3,500 voucher to buy any private insurance plan of your choice—along with a law every insurance company has to offer a plan for that price that will cover all major and emergency medical— will guarantee that no one goes without health care. We can therefore get rid of ACA and all other laws, rules, and regulations governing healthcare. Also with a UBI there no longer needs to be a minimum wage.
Everybody pays the same rate income tax rate. No other federal taxes, no tariffs, no death tax, no capital gains, no taxes on anything other than a flat tax on income. If corporations want the rights of individuals, I support that and they will pay the exact same rate. I calculate it’s 33% and a 14K deduction, plus a 2K deduction for every child (keep in mind you’re no longer paying social security or medicare taxes and you’re now getting a $1,000 a month from the UBI…basically, everyone, making under $75K is probably going to have more take-home money under this plan). Corporations get to deduct payroll, capital investment, and R&D, but not things like advertising. No other deductions for individuals.
Charities will have to spend everything they take in within 12 months of getting the cash (being allowed a 6-month reserve and probably some way to store money without taxation for larger projects). But otherwise, this will stop the practice of hiding family money in fake charities to pay out the kids from said charity…it’s not just the Trumps who do this.
Once the debt is paid down we can probably drop the tax rate further.
The numbers of course are all best guesses on my part and economists who can run better models with dynamic scoring should probably be listened to more what I can calculate on my spreadsheet.
I would like a return some sane foreign policy. Things like supporting the free market through trade treaties and engaging in the WTO, pushing for human rights, opposing tyranny through soft pressure where possible…and if necessary have small targeted and well thought out military action. And when that all fails to actually have a plan for what to do after a war is over (because the Wilson/Bush idiocy that democracy just magically springs up is just preposterous even before it was tried after WWI, and W. has no excuse for that shortsightedness). Support the good and push back on the evil, you know act like an adult and realize that isolationism has never and will never work, no exceptions.
The goal also needs to be absolute free trade, no tariffs, no Jones Act, no subsidies, let the free market rule and we need to push that for all of our allies as well.
With that, we also need to modernize the military. The future of any war is more about technology and not about the biggest army and biggest navy. Out tooth to tail ratio (the number of people in the military who are in combat versus those who are not in the field providing support) is one the highest in the world, but that is more a symptom of waste than efficiency. There is a lot we can cut from the military and still have it be stronger and more able to react to the needs of the nation.
This is more a state thing but we should start pushing to transition to a completely voucher-based education system (about $10,000 a year). You can have public education, and they get the voucher, but charters, private, pods, and homeschooling need to be treated as entirely equal in funding and we will see who can get the best result for society’s investments. And if we make those vouchers go from 3 to 21 then we can guarantee universal pre-K and have everyone get at least some trade school or college it’s up to them. Really bright kids with a dedicated parent can probably get done with high school before the age of 18 use that voucher for community college, AND get a trade school degree, before still having time to put those remaining voucher years to a state school.
All we have to do is ensure there is a national set of standards and tests to make sure the institutions or individuals. It would again be cheaper than the current system, have far less bureaucracy and waster, and get much higher rates of graduation and college attendance with vastly less debt.
End the War on Drugs:
Let’s admit it, the corruption, abuse by police and prosecutors, gang wars it funds, and general idiocy in government caused by the war on drugs is vastly more destructive to society than drugs could ever be.
Just legalize it all and let states tax the sales.
Open Borders. First, because there is no power in the Constitution to regulate immigration—every member of ICE should be on a gallows for trying to enforce blatantly unconstitutional laws. Second, because all laws of economics and human decency show that there is no downside to immigration and anything to the contrary is racist lies. THERE ARE NO GOOD REASONS TO RESTRICT IMMIGRATION. NONE.
Limits on the Executive:ddddd
It has become abundantly clear over the last 12 years that presidents all too often are in their position because of a cult of personality, not because of their character, virtue, intelligence, or skill. Too often now presidents are ruling by fiat than by law and we need to stop that. We need Congressional veto of executive orders, we need an independent Department of Internal Affairs that can investigate anyone in government and arrest anyone but a Congressman (because the Constitution says they can’t be arrested while Congress is in session, notice how the founders put no such rule for the President so the DOJ’s policy that the President can’t be arrested is unconstitutional and right now anyone enforcing that should be strung up for aiding and abetting), removing the president’s absolute ability to declare national emergencies without having his declarations questioned, removing this insanity that executive authority means the executive doesn’t have to comply with the law…you know basically make everything that Obama and Trump things that will land future executives on the receiving end of a firing squad. Over the course of the Cold War, we gave the president vastly too much power and that needs to be undone.
Move as much power as possible back to the states for things that they can control by themselves
90% of the Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Energy, Interior, Education, Transportation, Labor, Housing and Urban Development, and Health and Human Services are things that the states can do on their own, and as much of those departments need to be returned to state power with only minimal federal oversight for issues of true interstate commerce, the tragedy of the commons, and externalities like pollution.
The Departments of Veterans Affairs, Homeland Security, and the Secret Service were all cute experiments but have clearly been shown to have no value, made everyone’s life worse, and serve absolutely no purpose.
Removing government waste
Granted everything above would remove a vast amount of government waste and insanity but there should always be a goal to cut as much of government as possible, specifically the federal registry. Right now there are more rules that govern every part of the government than any human could ever be expected to read let alone understand. We must return, as much as possible, to have the rules of government be limited enough that a person can be expected to read up on any area they are working in and thus once again ignorance of the law is not an excuse…as it stands right now ignorance is not only an excuse it should be expected.
At this point there is relatively little a federal government would need to do for national infrastructure as so much of it should be turned over to the states, but one thing the government should be putting money into in R&D, especially in sciences where the commercial value isn’t immediately obvious, there is a growing body of research that a lot of what we take for granted today was the private sector building off of scientific discoveries made in the immediate post-war period on scientific research that didn’t have immediate value to the private sector. If we want to retain our edge we need to be at the forefront of science and that requires not just improving what is known but breaking new ground and finding out new things. The market has yet to fully find a way to fund these otherwise expensive but not usually immediately profitable kinds of research. The best way to do this would be to set up public-private research funds (where the government will match a donation made by individual interested in this kind of research—it’s a policy that was created by Benjamin Franklin, so it’s not like it doesn’t have some impressive roots). Further rewards for coming up with solutions to major problems should be offered in return for only earning a minimal fee off their patents (because a person will spend hours trying to find a solution to a problem if there is a $100M reward plus the possibility of an equal amount in patent fees for that discovery whereas they won’t spend the time if they have to make the discovery and then spend a lifetime marketing something only to earn $200M, people have short-term thinking we should use it to our advantage rather than pretend it isn’t there). Batteries that will hold the kind of changes we need to make solar, wind, and electric cars actually useful, concrete mixtures that won’t wear down and require repaving every three years, room temperature superconductors, you know things that we all could benefit from but which may require the wacky genius of someone not working in a lab and trying something that no legitimate scientist would try because the scientist “knows” that it will never work.
Let’s take the intelligent libertarian take on social issues and neither fund nor hinder these things and let society deal with them and keep them out of government.
There are dozens of other little things I could go over but at the heart of it is a faith in the free market and individuals on the whole, with an admission that there are a few things it doesn’t work for very well. Respect for individual rights, and dedication to rule of law, and belief that human progress is both a good thing but that it doesn’t require either radical revolution or intractable stagnation.
So this is the goal. Does it have to be exactly like this? I wish, but I doubt I would ever get everything I would want. But this is a start for the conversation.
Recently I have heard the issue of the reparations come back up. Now, on the one hand you certainly can argue that slavery, institutional, legal, and systemic racism has held people the defendants of slaves back…but it is just as unjust to demand that those who never engaged in slavery to pay for those past mistakes. You don’t make things better by just adding to a number of wrongs and punishing the people who are not responsible.
So how do you make it so that only those who are to blame pay the price?
Further, the logical problem comes up with how long do you go back? Some of my ancestors came from Ireland, they were treated with bigotry when they came to these shores, they were certainly treated with outright hatred from the rest of Europe for over a millennia…but no sane person thinks that Britain should pay for the suffering my Irish ancestors endured. I mean, if you want to get crazy some of my ancestors came from France…should Italy pay reparations for their invasion of my ancestral homelands under Julius Caesar? That last line is preposterous but it makes the point at what point in history do you just say the past is the past and get over it?
Luckily there is a rational answer to both.
The first comes from the joys of genetics where we find that epigenetics is beginning to answer a lot of questions about why genes behave the way they do. Epigenetics is the study of which genes get turned on which ones don’t. For instance, that low metabolism you have, it might be because your parent or grandparent suffered from a period of great want in their life and certain triggers turned on in their DNA to ensure that their offspring process nutrients in a much more efficient way and store tons of it in fat because as far as their metabolism can tell the food is scarce and thus their offspring will need to have a metabolism that can store lots of food because there will be times it needs to run off only that fat…so one 10 year Great Depression ends in two generations of obesity and heart disease. And as far as science can find out, these triggers usually only go back to grandparents. And this affects numerous issues, such as IQ, metabolism, health, and personality, which in turn can have a massive effect on your life now. So from a very science-based way of looking at things, systemic racism against your grandparents is something that likely had an effect on you personally. So we will go back two generations. That is not going to address every wrong ever done, but it will address the wrongs that have a direct effect on an individual. And that is just, because it is not saying you should suffer or benefit from what your ancestors did, only from the very real environmental factors that had a direct effect on you.
The next question is who should pay for this? Because putting a tax burden on people now who were never born doesn’t make sense. It is the idea that the child should pay for the sins of the father (now it might be tempting to throw the whole Trump clan in Chateau d’If and throw away the key, but let’s be honest the kids have committed crimes on their own and can be tried and locked away for their own crimes and humanity is just as safe). So we should only make those who had a hand in these forms of racism pay. Luckily, due to the fact that corporations and governments are immortal, there are some very attractive targets to actually payout on this one.
First off, as anyone who has read Richard Rothestein’s excellent book The Color of Law knows that the entire housing market for the last century has been a racist mess (you should read it, it will make you unspeakably angry at the government for engaging in racist evil well into most of our lives, and then angry at liberals for not presenting these facts years ago…seriously if courts are ruling that segregation is only de facto and not de jure when it most certainly is de jure, a reasonable person is not going to get upset until they see the evidence that it is de jure…this book should have been published no later than 1990…and yet…). And we all know about the government’s last attempt to solve this problem: the subprime loan! Yeah, they not only encourage racism but helped to tank the whole system. But the government through the FHA made racism the de jure law of the land, and FHA’s inheritors Fannie Mae and Freddy Mac still have the blood on their hands. But in addition to blood, Fannie and Freddie have money and a lot of notes on house loans. Make them payout to everyone who can even suggest – that they, their parents, or their grandparents were prevented from owning a home get paid out from the complete, total, and irreversible liquidation of everything Fannie and Freddy own. Their total assets are around $5.5 Trillion but you’d probably have to fire sale that, so that’s only about $550 Billion…so that’s only a payment of about $13,000 for every single African American in the US. And the added advantage is that by killing Fannie and Freddy as they should have been eliminated a decade ago will do three things (1) make the banking system stronger as they will be able to acquire lots of mortgages at a fraction of the list price and less likely to fail again (2) lower the price of houses which in the long run is a much better system and (3) make that payout worth more in purchasing power as compared to today. Oh, government control over the economy would also be radically lowered. So actually paying out reparations in this way wouldn’t be hurting people who never engaged in these evils, but actually helping them. Yes people who over invested in real-estate will be hurt in the short-run…but if you did that after the 2008 crash you deserve to pay for your foolishness.
But $13,000 isn’t going to make up for everything. After all the government engaged in contracts that prevent non-whites from getting jobs, police have harassed non-whites in ways ranging from annoyance to unjust fines to outright murder, and schools have systematically ensured that certain communities get lower education. No soft bigotry of low expectations here, this is outright evil. And you know who was behind those evils? Labor unions preventing non-whites from getting jobs, police unions keeping the racists on the street and preventing reform, and teachers unions making sure that the inept stay in their jobs. And you know what unions have, be they public or private? They have nice fat pensions accounts. Yeah, I’m suggesting taxpayers cease all contributions to those funds (because not everyone is to blame for this and doesn’t need to be punished further by continuing to fund this evil) and that those accounts be raided for every last cent. Yeah, some racist cops and some racist teachers will now be broke in their old age. I don’t care. (Please keep in mind I am a teacher and I do have some skin in the game when it comes to this proposal…not a lot, but money is money, and this is still the right thing to do even though I will be taking a loss.) Let’s throw in the pensions for every elected official in the country because their votes allowed all this evil to continue and they can pay for that. It is better that the people who had a hand in this evil pay, rather than a whole nation which would only lead to more animosity thus giving more fodder for the nationalists and populists to use against those who have already been abused. I couldn’t begin to calculate how much money that will be, but it probably will not be small. And we’ll see how much the nationalists believe Blue lives matter…if they take care of the aging racists then they’ve put their money where their mouth is, but we all know that their support goes only as far as it hurts non-whites.
After that, we can certainly sue every cop, teacher, union rep, and legislator who you can show actively continued these policies, but that will only be pennies on the dollar compared to those pension funds…but those responsible must suffer.
Now, I’m sure there are companies and specific funds that can be gone after with the same logic. But this is the point, only those responsible and only going back two generations. This holds to justice and doesn’t allow people to think that they’re being abused.
Will this solve every problem in every minority community. Hardly. But it is a start and maybe if we’re lucky it’s a start that hastens the justice we yearn for actually getting here.
So, there is a problem right now for those of us who used to think of ourselves as conservatives as to who to vote for. And I use the words “used to” because right now at best the term means absolutely nothing and at worst it means a Pharisee type of Christianity that bows downs to the altar of the orange Nazi god-king believing in nothing but white supremacy, tyranny, isolationism, and violence.
Ugh…are these really our choices?
But there was a time– not even a decade ago –when conservatism meant things like:
Adherence to the Constitution and Rule of Law
Free Markets, Free Trade, and leaning more on the side of Laissez
Faire without falling into anarchy
Globalization of the economy
Economic Progress that raises all boats
Equality before the law and shunning identity politics
Strengthening international relations and promoting liberty abroad and opposing tyranny.
These used to be the ideals of conservatism. And right now we have a Republican candidate who not only opposes but is completely antithetical to all of them and would do everything in his power to see tyranny and white supremacy be the only thing in the world, a Democrat candidate who only supports the international relations point, and a Libertarian who sort of supports the free market one (but to be honest is leaning just a little too much toward that anarchy extreme that conservatives don’t believe in). The only thing either has going for them is that they don’t have the blind cult-of-personality behind them that Trump does, which makes them infinitely less dangerous even on policies that are equally stupid as Trumps. Further, whereas Trump is unquestionably criminal and evil, the other choices are merely dumb.
So, our choices are voting for Mickey Mouse as a protest vote that will be ignored or maybe voting for one of the two barely tolerable candidates that might have a chance of sending some kind of message.
Obviously voting for Trump is out. The man is everything this country is supposed to oppose and there is no excuse, no justification, no reason to vote for a man who is a traitor, a fascist, a racist, a mentally deficient idiot, whose one and only virtue is that the morbidly-obese trailer-park slob is the living embodiment of sloth and we have only gotten a small taste of the evil he could have accomplished. But what we really want is that we never have to deal with this kind of vile ignorance again. And that’s going to be a problem because there is still a massive group of Americans who are vastly too stupid to be trusted to vote—God help us if the Bernie and Trump supporters ever realize they both support isolationist racists who want big government to have total fascist control of the economy. They’re probably not a majority but they’re a hideously frightening sizable plurality that has nothing but willful ignorance and hatred going for them. So we need to reduce the power of the populists and the progressives to continue their attempts to ruin America and the world (both extremes have fooled themselves into thinking that’s not what they’re doing, but it is).
So, we need two things for that. The first is we need new limits placed on the executive branch. The Senate needs the power to veto executive orders; Senate approval needs to be required to withdraw from a treaty; DOJ policy must be changed by law so that a president can be arrested for high crimes while in office; a Department of Internal Affairs (with two heads, one from each party) must be created to investigate all high ranking officials in the governments and, if necessary, charge and prosecute them; all of the Cold War-era emergency powers given to the president must be removed or, at least, subject to Congressional review from either house of such a declaration; Congressmen and Senators (or at the very least either of the Houses as a whole) must be given absolute standing to challenge Presidential action in court; a policy to allow for more challenges to the Executive Department’s extra-legal actions must be put in. There are of course further ways the President’s power must be pulled back, but that would be a start.
Will we get all of that under a Biden/Harris presidency. I doubt it, but if we start pushing Congressmen and Senators now we might get some of it. If you live in swing districts go to the town hall meetings and debates and ask what they plan to do to limit executive authority in the future…and no matter who wins hold their feet to fire through calls, emails, and, of course, traditional mail. This is going to be a long slog to get all of that power put in, but it is possible.
But more importantly, the power that Trump and his treasonous cronies need to be removed from the Republican party (or more likely the Republican party just needs to be killed for all time so that something new can grow in its place). So how do we do that?
I hate to say this, but, some of us are going to have to vote for the Libertarian candidate. I know, I know. As any longtime reader of this blog, while I have many leanings toward libertarian economic and social policies, the Libertarian Party is a joke. I will at least give them that they didn’t put Gary Johnson on the ticket again…I think they finally figured out that when one of the chief insults claims against the Libertarian party is that they’re just a bunch of stoners who want legal drugs it might not be a good idea to put up Johnson who looks like he’s stoned 24/7 on the ticket. Who would have thought? But that doesn’t mean that Jo Jorgensen is all that great. Like all Libertarians, she has a truly infantile understanding of foreign policy and would like to turn this country into an isolationist nation (the wet-dream of every dictator) because Libertarians for all their noble words of caring about natural rights would be perfectly happy to see the rest of the world subjugated to tyranny so long as they weren’t being bothered (they seem to have learned nothing from history that this is a policy that only leads to strong dictators eventually attacking the US…but Republicans never learned that making deals with populists and racists is evil…and Democrats have never learned the first thing about economics…so every party is terrible in its own way). So, I’m not saying some should vote Libertarian because they’re doing such a bang-up job. Some should do it because it will show that there is a percentage of the Republican electorate that is willing to turn their back on the party, that unless the GOP expels the populists, racists, tyrants, and Trumpists from their ranks wholesale, we will not support them. Just think if the Libertarians could get 10% nationally that would terrify the GOP that they might not ever win again and rather than having a party platform of “we will mindlessly bow down to our orange God-King and do whatever illegal thing he wants” (they use different words but that is the actual Republican platform for 2020, servile obedience to Trump). To anyone who has listened to politics over the last four years, you have heard again and again that most Republicans hate Trump but they’re afraid of his base voting against him. Well, they need to be afraid of those who want small government and capitalism and adults in charge. And the only way to do that is not by not voting, but by showing we are willing to vote for someone else. They know the crazy Trump loons who listen to QAnon and are not so secret about their want for an all-white America, are willing to drop out and not vote for them we need to show them that actual conservatives in the mold of Goldwater-Reagan-Romney are not just as willing to abandon them, but more willing to do so. They need to have abject fear put to them, and as a pair of pliers and a blowtorch are out of the question, this is the only way. They don’t care if you don’t vote, they only care if you vote for someone other than them. (It will be interesting to see which Libertarians attack me for more A. That I insulted them by pointing out how dumb they always are or B. That I’ve made a better case for voting Libertarian than they ever have.)
If your choices are wasting your vote on not voting, and wasting it on a candidate who can’t win, but with the possibility of sending a message—the option that has a glimmer of hope for change in the right direction has to be the better bet. Doesn’t it?
Now, I’m not saying donate to the kooky Libertarians. No. And you don’t exactly have to campaign for them, maybe people who are thinking of voting for Trump or not voting. But if you really want a change this is the only way I can see forward—it’s only a first step, but it is THE first step.
Now, who should vote for whom? Obviously, if you can’t ever bring yourself to vote for Biden (and I get that) vote for the Libertarian. But if you could go either way if you’re in a swing state (Colorado, Main, New Mexico, Virginia, Connecticut, Oregon, Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida, Georgia, North Carolina, New Hampshire, Iowa, Missouri, Arizona, Nevada, Minnesota, Nebraska, Texas, Indiana, Montana, South Carolina) you should probably vote for Biden—I know, it’s not great, but, again, the lack of a cult-of-personality and the lack of being pure evil does actually make him marginally better, his policies are just as bad, but as we’ve seen so many things come down to character, not policy. Character matters, and Joe is dumb, not evil, Trump is dumb AND evil. If you live in any other state and you were thinking of just sitting out because you can’t bring yourself to vote for Trump, vote for the Libertarian. And try and convince every other Republican you know to also vote Libertarian as
And send messages to every other elected official around that you didn’t vote Libertarian because they’re just a mature party worthy of respect, but because you expect that the government needs to limit its power and this was the only way you could convey that message. And try and if you can see if you can get any Trump voters to vote for the Libertarian as well. Tell them “Look, it’s pretty much a given that Biden is going to win” (I mean Trump could win if he started acting like an adult, but Trump is completely incapable of doing that, so Biden is going to win) “and if you want your vote to actually count make it clear that you support small government, not Trump, not the Republican Party, actual principles and this is your way to show it.
Trump is getting blamed for the deaths caused by COVID. Is this fair? It is after all a natural disaster not an act of human agency. Should he get the blame for all of the death and economic suffering from a natural cause that didn’t even start in this nation?
To answer this let’s try a thought experiment and imagine how this plays out in two parallel universes. One where America was actually intelligent and Mitt Romney is winding down the last year of his second term, and one where America is at least less stupid and Hillary Clinton is finishing her first and probably the only term.
Alternate Universe 1:
If Mitt Romney had been put in in 2012 then on a global stage you would have seen Russia being treated as the greatest threat to our security that it is. And rather than cozy promises from Barry followed by Trump doing whatever tricks his master wanted just for a scratch behind the year, economically and politically they would have been constrained (and any Russian soldiers dumb enough to venture into the Ukraine would now be working as fertilizer for Ukrainian soil). Why is this important? Because it would mean that Russian actions over the last 8 years to destabilize the world order would have been challenged if not halted. This would mean a stronger NATO, a stronger WTO, that TTP along with numerous other trade agreements would be implemented, that Brexit and its Russian support would never have gotten off the ground. The world order would be more efficient. And because of that, and especially because of TTP, there would be less business centralization and more business in other nations. Now it’s hard to say if this would lead to less business in China or simply more business for everyone else with China holding about the same amount of growth, but what would be clear is that China would in a position where they would have to be more transparent. As they would be more transparent they would be revealing the severity of the first COVID outbreak weeks if not a month earlier. With that additional information work on a vaccine could have started weeks earlier (doesn’t seem like much—but with hundreds of thousands of infections a week, a two-week head start could mean a lot).
But let’s say that the disease still spreads out of China in this universe at the same rate, the fact is that a stronger international order could have worked to a faster consistent, and organized plan on how to deal with this. A united international order would likely have resulted in a must faster closing of flights, screening, and quarantine of passengers and perhaps better sharing of resources. No country wanted to be the first to close down its borders and flights because that was an obvious economic disaster, but international cooperation would have come with a perceived sharing of burdens and the spread could have been dealt with much faster. One of the key flaws of this entire process has been the lack of international cooperation anywhere. That breakdown can be placed squarely at the feet of Obama and Trump (not saying that Bush didn’t also have a hand in that, but 12 years of competence could have undone all the strain Bush put on the system).
But once it got to US shores would Romney have done any better. The answer is obviously yes. As the spouse of someone with a severe immune disorder, he would already have been more open to the science side of this issue, would have not gutted the CDC pandemic response programs, and possibly there would have been more money to the CDC as he would have worked over the previous 8 years with Democrats across the aisle even if he had majorities in both houses because that’s the kind of guy he is, and the CDC would have been an easy thing that both sides could agree to give more money to—not saying a lot, but certainly not the dismissive nature that Trump has treated it with. He was also a cautious man so he probably would have been issuing guidelines for masks much earlier as it would come under the “it can’t hurt and it can only help” mentality, thus it would have reduced the spread, especially early on.
Further, his business background would have made sure those national stockpiles that both Obama and Trump ignored on medical supplies would be, if not fully stocked, at least in a better position.
Finally, there would no political fighting about masks. The government would be on a united front on this and thus the spread of the disease would be much slower.
In this situation, COVID-19 would probably still be in every state, but the curve would likely be far flatter. Further, as there would be more coordination the impact on business would be less (there would still be some but it would be less). We would be in roughly the same position as most European nations, still not fully open, still not firing on all cylinders, but in a stable place without mass unemployment and infection and death numbers greatly reduced.
Alternate Universe 2
Hillary Clinton is winding down her first, and likely final term as president.
Not the great negotiator that her husband was or Romney could have been her relationships with the rest of the world would, like her predecessor be strained but not irreparable. She would, however, have likely signed TPP and thus China would have been boxed in again and some divestment of industry would have occurred from China meaning that there would have been less economic contact between China and the rest of the world, thus slowing down the spread, at least partially, but not as much as in Alternate Universe 1.
However, while some appointments may have been just as corrupt as Trump’s appointments, they would likely not be at the Cabinet-level and thus there would still have been competence running through the departments that oversaw issues of travel, trade, health, and other such issues.
Given that Republicans would likely have held onto the House under a Clinton presidency, she would have taken a page from the previous Clinton administration and worked with conservatives, specifically Speaker Paul Ryan who would have never felt the need to resign in a universe where the Trump brand of idiocy and evil prevailed, thus the economy would be in a better place and the social safety net would be in a far better position and able to handle a new shock to the system (given Ryan’s fiscal genius and the Clinton propensity for making deals across the aisle there would likely be a yearly surplus in the budget and principal on the debt would have gone down instead of up as it has with Trump.)
Now the issue of calling for masks. The animosity and hatred of Clinton would probably have powered the alt-right still, however, the defeat of Trump would not have turned them into the powerhouse that they currently and they would be exiled to the fringes of internet trolling (where they belong) rather than in seats of power. Thus, while it is likely all government officials would provide a united front, there would still be a portion on the alt-right who would want rally all the same Karens to make the same ignorant “freedom” arguments against masks—but it would be a smaller segment and the spread would still be much slower.
There are of course thousands of other smaller issues and opportunities that the official government plans for these scenarios that would likely have been followed by literally ANY other president because following the official plan is what bureaucracies staffed with even barely competent people do. But Trump has gotten rid of most of the barely competent people because any level of intelligence has an aversion to working for him and so he only hires knuckle-dragging buffoons who praise him as the god-king he thinks he is. The fact is that more people died because of what Trump has done then would have happened under any other president, and thus he is responsible for those deaths. Can I give you an exact number? No, but given that part of the problem is that his destruction of worldwide cooperation has helped this thing spread, he is morally (and in an ideal world legally) responsible for deaths the world over. But it’s not just him as I pointed out above the destruction of this worldwide cooperation began under Obama…because extremes of populism and progressivism are equally destructive and antithetical to the rational balance between moderate liberal and conservative thinking.
So yeah it is fair to blame Trump for deaths, not all of them, but certainly a huge amount of them because the rapid spread is primarily responsible dd
And this is the real problem. It’s idiots who do things for stupid reasons. Idiots who gave us Trump, and Clinton, and Bernie, and Biden, and Cruz, and AOC, and Rand Paul, and every other buffoon currently in politics. These idiot elect morons who do stupid things, attack free markets and international agreements that would have lessened these disasters on numerous levels and thousands, perhaps millions by the time this is over, would not be dead from this disease and the economic hardships that come from handling it so ineptly.
So, in the end, the most guilt goes not to Trump, or even Obama who helped destroy the international order that Trump only finished working to destroy, it goes to the morons out there who voted for Obama in 2012 and Trump in 2016 (doubly so if you did both acts of evil—seriously if you got it wrong both times ethically you’re guilty of crimes against humanity). And understand this is not a glowing endorsement for Biden and the Democrats, it’s not. We, the people of the United States are going to have to hold all of their feet to the fire of whoever is in power and demand we not give into isolationism just as much as we demand that we return to a policy of free trade and free markets with the world.
“It’s my estimation that every man ever got a statue made of him was one kind of a son of a bitch or another. –Malcolm Reynolds, Firefly
Okay, so there is a lot of discussion about statues at the moment which is really stupid for three important reasons.
The first is that there are actual racist laws that need to be changed. There are organizations that have to be gone through with a fine-tooth comb to remove every corrupt racist/stupid/corrupt/violent SOB we can find. There are people in jail for crimes that shouldn’t be crimes that need to be released. And of course, there is a cadre of felon in the White House. You know, actually important things that need to be changed immediately because they actually affect people’s lives. Secondly, I’m not convinced that the attacks on some of the less objectionable statues—like the statue to the idea of Progress that was ruined in Wisconsin or demands to take town statues of abolitionist Founding Father Caesar Rodney of people who fought against slavery and injustice—aren’t being done by Trumpkins and the police with the intent of making legitimate protesters look bad. We already have a video of cops doing the looting and cops destroying their own property and then saying it was protesters…so until you can prove that it wasn’t the MAGA crowd behind this, these acts of violence are suspiciously up their avenue. But, thirdly, and what I actually want to deal with in this article is that, in the end, we have got to get away from all of this nonsense of revering people. This is not a nation based on people. Most nations are based on people and groups and ethnicities. They’re based on one conquering ass coming in, taking over, and putting themselves as a ruler and their subordinates as nobility, and they get statues made of their glory and conquests. That’s the history of most nations, they’re about people and the ethnicities that are associated with them. We’re not. This nation is about ideas and ideals. We are about concepts. We are about the supremacy of law. This is why statues or days honoring any individual. And this applies in every case. There shouldn’t be a day or statue to honor Martin Luther King Jr., not just because as history goes on we find out more and more that the man was far from a saint or the pinnacle of ethics that his speeches would have you think, but because it limits the idea of civil rights to one person, and a person can always be attacked. Instead of a day for King, there should be a day for Civil Rights which can acknowledge, honor and teach about the struggles of not just one man but of Medger Evers and Rosa Parks and The Freedom Riders and Thurgood Marshall and of everyone who marched and worked to achieve and is still working to achieve equality under the law. If you have a statue to one person, if you find anything that is flawed (as most human beings tend to be) it taints the causes for which they fought and makes their quest seemed imperfect because it was taken up by a human being. Let’s not forget that most of those hated Columbus statues that are getting so much justified hate, were originally put up to honor what was at the time another ethnic minority, Italians. We shouldn’t have a president’s day, because less than a quarter of the people who have held that office have been competent or even decent human beings…rather have a day to the just execution of law and how all are equal under it, and how those who are entrusted to enforce should bear the highest scrutiny. The Fourth of July is the model you should focus on. There are many individuals we talk about with that day, but the day is a day of celebration of an idea, possibly the most important idea—liberty. But it is not about one person. It is encapsulated in a document, not in a person. Yes, Thomas Jefferson was an asshole and bastard from every possible perspective you can find (personally wouldn’t mind seeing his statute go, but he monument with the words of the Declaration on the walls needs to stay). If we want to move forward as a country, what we should probably do is admit that all human beings are flawed. Yes, we should never condemn someone for not being ahead of their time (god knows what future generations will think even the most inclusive of us were backwards for in a thousand years, not because we are bigoted but because we never even considered something). But we can, and should always condemn people for being behind their times. And I realize my dream of taking down every statue and replacing them, if at all, with monuments to ideals like Liberty, Justice, Freedom, Rule of Law, Limited Government, Classical Liberalism, Capitalism, Reason, Logic, and Virtue…you know the things that actually make this country great…is a pipe dream. I know it’s not going to happen. But maybe what we should do is the following: First, any statue of anyone associated with the Confederacy gets destroyed. They were traitors, Johnson’s pardon of them was beyond unforgivable, as was his not being removed, and not a single one of those slaveholding assholes should be honored unless you want to show them boiling in the fires of Hell as they deserve. There is no excuse, no justification, no reason for any soul of the confederacy to be honored in a statue. As for the rest, namely, the every complicated Founding Fathers, maybe in addition to the monument that marks what they did that was good, which it was, we can put up large signs of that list all of their less than spectacular actions (again, with Jefferson it might be easier to take the monument down because to list everything that asshole did might require the building of another monument), but most Founding Fathers and other historical figures it will be easier to list their mistakes. For instance, if we put up the sins of General Sherman it would be a simple little sign: he didn’t burn nearly enough (kidding aside, and even though they did have it coming, yes we probably should list some of his actions as being what we would now consider war crimes). This would allow all the non-confederate statues to stand and still not be accused of whitewashing history or ignoring the ignorances and flaws of the past. Of course, it’s probably too logical to ever get buy-in from all sides, as solutions aren’t the goal anymore, making sure the other side loses is all anyone seems to care about anymore.
So it’s pretty clear that an act of God that removes Trump, Pence, McConnell, Barr, Pompeo, Cruz, and Paul from this mortal coil–2020, you can still redeem yourself here; no one would mind if you brought the fabled meteor of death down on DC while both houses of Congress are in session and the idiot is in residence. The only question is are Republicans going to lose control of all branches of government by a little bit or by a huge amount. Trump, along with his loyal supporters, is a garbage fire on steroids and doesn’t have the intelligence, ethics, or even basic humanity necessary to pull out of this disaster. So since it is fairly obvious that the people working hardest for the Democrats to come to total power is the Republican party, we should accept that at least until 2022 Democrats will be setting the agenda. Now they could do one of two things. The more likely is that they’re just as stupid, petty, and short-sighted as the Republicans and once again try to push through really dumb legislation that only appeals their far-left base along with cronies. They’ll pass essentially no useful legislation but hand out huge payoff and handouts to the people they like, piss off the moderates in the nation and lose the House in 2022. You what all of these idiots do. Of course, there exists a small sliver of a chance that they might not be that stupid. Not that I think dimwitted Biden will be that smart, but I don’t think any of us think that he’ll be little more than a puppet for his Chief of Staff and Vice President to move until the moment he dies, likely in the first year of his presidency. What might, just might (and I realize that this is stupid crazy speculation, but goddamn it, I have to hope) happen is that they spend the first two years putting through all the easy bills. All the things that not only the left agrees with, but that most of the moderates and even the majority of the Never Trump Republicans can get behind. You know, caring more about the good of the country than simply pandering to the idiocy of the Bernie/AOC fringe that has never bothered to read an economics text or a history book. (And I understand that the idiot has already put out a very Bernie influenced plan, but when has a president ever done what they promised to do…maybe Pelosi will put her foot down as she didn’t do with Obama and actually do things that will not guarantee the Dems get voted out in 2022.) So what would that be? Here are some of the major points: `1. Starting with low hanging fruit: ending qualified immunity all police and government officials. If you violate the rights of an American citizen you should suffer more as a government official, not be protected from having to face the music for your crimes. We pay police especially, but really all government officials, to be the adults in the room. They need to act like it. And if they don’t they need to have an Acme Anvil level of pain dropped right into their lives.
End the sale of all military equipment to the police. They don’t need it. Maybe even a buyback program.
Strengthening of Civil Rights laws to prevent abuse of government authorities.
Make all federal funding dependent on all state police operations having body cameras, having complete reporting on every single time that police pull their guns and the outcomes of every one of those incidents, not using facial recognition technology, DNA searches, or any kind of access to private files or data without a court order.
Federal laws requiring that all special treatment given to police in shooting by their utterly corrupt police unions (pro-murdering scum) is absolutely and totally illegal. In fact, if we could outlaw public unions that would be great, but I doubt the Democrats have the spine for that even though it would be popular and in their long term best interests.
Outlaw every form of civil forfeiture unless it comes after a conviction and the government has proven beyond the shadow of all doubt that the property in question is a result of criminal acts (which has to be a separate court battle that occurs only after said criminal conviction). Regrettably, there is not much more that can be done on the federal level in regards to this issue because these are state issues.
Let’s just grow up and realize that the war on drugs is a complete total failure and completely decriminalize it at the federal level. And I don’t just mean marijuana. Everything. Every level of government has proven that as much harm and despair that drug use can cause, the corruption, violence, government overreach and abuse in fighting drug use is vastly more damaging to society at every level. If states still want to have laws about use, trafficking, and sales, that’s a state’s rights issue, but the federal government just needs to end the drug war, remove all punishments for use and trafficking and give a pink slip to every employee of the DEA.
In other issues, it has become clear that many of the rules of the medical profession, which were suspended for COVID, were never really needed. Their suspension needs to be made permanent.
Trump’s tax cuts will probably be up for the chopping block very early in any Democrat administration. However, they should take a cue from actual conservatives who said part of the problem with Trump’s tax cuts was that it was not accompanied by cuts deductions. Rather than raising the tax rate they should go through the list of deductions and get rid a lot of them—I’d be happy with all of them for individuals and just letting everyone use the standard deduction (it would then take most people 10 minutes to fill out their taxes, and the rich will never be finding ways to avoid paying taxes…which reduces the need for an IRS and thus brings in more revenue, encourages money to be spent in a free market way, and reduces government power, not to mention bringing in more revenue) and any of the special carve-outs for industries (payroll, capital investments, and R&D, should still be valid deductions). Now if they were really smart they would realize that if they removed all deductions for it will give them the revenue they want without raising tax rates and it will actually make the economy more efficient as people will no longer be spending money just in government pet projects for the sake of tax benefits but rather choosing where they think it will best be served. So less cronyism, more revenue, more equity across the board.
Starting with TTP Biden needs to sign and the Senate needs to ratify every free trade agreement we can find. Tariffs should be lowered to levels below when Trump took office, and Congress needs to put serious reigns on the president’s ability to arbitrarily raise tariffs. I understand that these powers were given to the executive to prevent cronyism, but it only works if Congress keeps a veto power to not allow haphazard behavior. We should also negotiate as many new trade agreements and lower every barrier we possibly can. We have learned from the current COVID crisis that dependency on one source is not effective in an emergency, and the idiocy of isolationism would only make things worse so we must work to help the whole world embrace globalization so that for every part, product or service we have multiple choices available to us.
Money and due deference to such important organizations as the WTO and ICC needs to be given. Globalization is a great thing, and it is hated only by bigots and people who don’t understand how economics works…and actually, nothing will put China and Russia in their place like a strong international order.
Look back in early 2001 Bush wanted to modernize the US military so it could be much smaller, cheaper, and fluid with a better ability to handle the challenges of the 21st century which don’t call for the massive armies strategy of the last century…and then some things happened that got him sidetracked, you know the story. Why don’t we pick up where he left off? A much smaller, more technological military that is faster, more efficient, and cheaper…and able to hand all the bullshit coming from China, Russia, and Iran. Cuts military spending and makes the country safer. Just a thought.
Finally, (not because I couldn’t keep going but lucky 13 seems a good place to stop for the moment), we could pass laws that actually understand that the Constitution, the Federalist Papers, and the writing of all the early founders are quite clear: THE GOVERNMENT HAS ABSOLUTELY NO RIGHT TO LEGISLATE IMMIGRATION. Open borders is the only constitutional option. For safety issues we have the right to detain people at the border for a reasonable period to run a background check and make sure they’re not carrying anything contagious but if we can’t prove they’re a violent criminal and aren’t a health risk EVERYONE, and I mean everyone from every country has the right to come to the US and work. Now Congress can put limits on who gets to be a citizen (but to simply try and transfer the nothing but racists immigration system to our naturalization process would be dumb even for Democrats). Yeah, I would also like the UBI and further deregulation, but I realize that even if Biden was interested in building coalitions, these would be hard to push for at times like this (not that his stated plans are really looking to build coalitions).
(And yes I realize if I actually thought I was getting any of this it would mean I was in a fever dream more severe then that “Of Monsters and Men” music video…but I am allowed to dream)
Okay because all too many are willing to go into knee jerk behavior where they see that one side of an argument is wrong they blindly defend the other side. This is stupid but it happens all too often.
So the latest issue is the protests/looting/riots in the cold-blooded murder of George Floyd by corrupt police.
As the chart above shows, there can be lots of people who are wrong in this situation. There should not be looting, there should not be riots but there should not be a corrupt police force or a government that doesn’t respond to obvious problems. But here’s the thing, we, the people, pay the police and the government to be the adults in the room, and they are failing, miserably. And thus their sins are far worse than those committed by rioters.
The fact is that we pay taxes to the government to prevent anarchy, to defend and secure our rights. And for those payments, we have the right to expect certain things, and government has the duty to perform them. The first and foremost of them is due process of law. And they’re failing at this. Why? Because we seem to be hiring idiots at every level of government. Certainly, the voters are partly responsible for this, what with the major parties for the last few decades in the last eight presidential elections we have only once been offered a candidate with both brains and ethics by the major parties (long time readers know who I’m talking about, for those of you who don’t, ask yourself who is the only Senator to not vote with party and admit that Trump was guilty, guilty, guilty). But the problem clearly goes all the way down to code enforcers who think a kid’s lemonade stand is a public safety crisis and police who are, quite frankly, completely inept at their jobs and should be swinging from a tree limb. The most obvious of these are the police because they have guns and itchy trigger fingers, but make no mistake the Institute for Justice if full of stories of other people whose lives are made hell by the brainless legions of government employees who think that because they have the power they have the right to make the lives of citizens living hell.
Finally, government is supposed to be the part of society that thinks long term. The part that sees that corruption is starting in a part of its own apparatus (like the FBI warning that racist behaviors are increasing local police, so maybe they start working on how to find the bad apples and eliminate them). Or seeing that the criminal justice system was letting corrupt cops get away with murder and putting heavier internal punishments in place. Or maybe training, like the effective system that is in Camden, NJ…but apparently we did none of that. Or, maybe, just maybe, realizing that people the stress of lengthy lockdowns is going to exert stress on both the lives of citizens and the lives of police and thus make both sides more prone to being hostile to one another and working to reduce stress and reminding cops that they are paid to be the adults in the room and that they need to work extra hard to be that in these times. But we seem to want to do none of that.
And there are idiots who want to bitch and moan that protests should peaceful. Uh-huh, as has been pointed out all too often in recent days, the same people saying that we should only listen to peaceful protests are the same ones who wanted to bitch and moan about a football player taking a knee during the national anthem. I can’t think of a more peaceful protest. There also seems to be a heavy crossover with the idiots who liked to protest lockdowns with semi-automatic rifles (so peaceful). And last time I checked cops weren’t supposed to target the media and medical workers, but the cops seem hell bent on being the bigger criminals in all of this.
But any sane person could have seen this coming—certainly there was no way to predict when but with lingering social problems, a pandemic, millions unemployed, it was a given. When peaceful protests don’t work things get violent. Acknowledging this fact is not condoning the violence, but it is condemning that no reasonable moves were made to relieve the pressure and make things better. Such has been the history of the entire United States. Usually unplanned and inefficient at getting their goals done, with examples ranging from John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry the riots of the late ’60s, there have been some organized violent protests (everything the Sons of Liberty did in intimidating tax collectors from destroying their homes to tar and feathering, the systemized intimidation of Loyalist at the behest of the Continental Congress, the burning of the British naval ship the Gaspee, and still some disorganized killing of loyalists as there was a jump in the murder rate before the Revolution). But be it organized or not, it was all a very predictable out outcome of government incompetence.
Yeah, people should not be burning private businesses. Although, let’s be honest, there are so many questions about these masked umbrella men showing up breaking things. It’s irrational, ill-conceived, and doesn’t get anyone what they want. But government exists for the very reason that people cannot always be trusted to be rational. And it should be proactive in dealing with problems before they become riots or revolutions, not only after. And as much as I have major sympathies to the most extreme libertarians, I realize that near-anarchy will result not in a capitalist paradise but in a repeat of the French Revolution. Now I still would argue that protesters should do everything they can to be the adults in the room, because the least child-like actors are the ones who tend to win in the long term and just because the cops right now are trying to be the most tyrannical asses around shouldn’t be excuse to be just as petty—I know it’s hard, but be the adult in the room.
So, yeah the people who are committing crimes and burning buildings should be arrested and prosecuted. But if that is where you think that government actions should stop you are completely missing the point.
So what does need to be done?
Among the first things that need to be done is reform for police organizations.
You know, I used to think that if we just got body cameras on every cop the worst abuses would stop because every cop would know they would have a record of their actions and thus would watch what they do…but Floyd’s murderer knew he was on camera and continued in tactics that are only acceptable in the Reich. I had assumed that cops were only emotional, ignorant, and short-sighted. But I now know some police departments are hiring full blow sociopaths, and not even high functioning ones. How else do you describe someone who not only can murder a man who is begging for mercy, but who can do it knowing he’s on camera? But still, body cams should be put in place for the ones who aren’t sociopaths.
And a lot of money needs to go expanding internal affairs (honestly this not just a problem with police but with all levels of the government) and their ability to initiate prosecutions and let the public know what is going on. There needs to be a lot more transparency on the record of every officer. We clearly need better psych screening, but I suggest we start with the simple idea that any cop with racist tattoos be fired immediately (I’d prefer gutshot with a shotgun at close range, but I’ll deal in reality). Horrifically that would take out a staggering number of cops right then and there…and it’s so sad we’ve let it come to that.
And unions with their ability to defend their corrupt members need to be neutered (anytime you have government unions you have corruption).
And as stated above the seemingly far superior training program of Camden, policy needs to be adapted to every other police force in the nation. If someone can improve on it, great, but it needs to be the absolute minimum.
Now we could try and pay for all of this or we could cut costs. I prefer the latter. How? One of the biggest (and most racist) boondoggles in existence is the war on drugs. Since its inception, it has been a waste of time, money, and resources that only serves to hurt people. Keep the public intoxication and intoxicated driving laws, and put in a reasonable age limit, like 26 (it’s also what should be the voting age) and literally let everything else be legal. Almost all police abuses, from barging into people’s houses on bad warrants, to the murder of thousands of dogs every year by police, to the criminal racket that is civil forfeiture, qualified immunity that makes crime legal for cops, militarizing the police, to an unhealthy percentage of our incarcerations trace back to the war on drugs. Get rid of that and just not care what adults do in the privacy of their homes and guess what we can get rid of the entirety of the DEA, a good portion of the ATF (as much of their work is detailing with guns going to those in the black market drug trade), and most of the bullshit done by the state, county and city police. I’m making an educated guess here but I would say that this could remove anywhere from 10%-30% of all police forces. Which either leaves those cops to go IA, reassigned to real work walking communities, or just firing the corrupt SOBs. And when drugs are not illegal then you won’t have street gangs and cartels using violence to keep their product safe which in turn will lower crime rates even further and further reduce the need for police work (Season 3 of The Wire was right, legalize it and you will end a lot of crime, as has also been shown in every nation that has either outright legalized it or turn a very blind eye). And a lot less crime means even less need for cops.
But this is only a start.
Police may be the most egregious and newsworthy form of petty bullies using government force against a civilian population but it is not the only kind. Every state, county, and city needs to go through all of their laws and codes and remove every power and regulation that has no purpose. Because understand it is in abuses of regulators acting like little Napoleons for idiotic rules that spark confrontations with violent cops (or do you need to remember that Eric Garner was choked to death by NY police because he was selling cigarettes without the proper permits to avoid paying the ridiculous NY taxes…and we used to praise men like John Hancock for selling things like contraband tea to avoid taxes, but now police are as petty and vile as the redcoats we used to justly shoot). There will regrettably always be petty tyrants in government because power attracts the corruptible (it doesn’t corrupt it only attracts those who want to be corrupt), but we can limit what they can do by limiting their powers.
You want to further stop this kind of insanity? Read Richard Rothstein’s The Color of Law, and realize that there is still a lot of de jure racism in our laws (although ignore Rothstein’s recommendations on how to fix things, he seems to think that if the government that caused the problem then MORE government will solve it), and as long as its there it’s going to attract the corrupt to enforce those laws. Get rid of all the zoning and housing regulations, and NIMBY BS that prevents affordable housing, actually implement full-scale school choice to prevent lack of education from still being something that holds people in the same economic bracket they’re born into, put in a nationwide UBI to replace the current insanity of welfare that keeps some people busy with a nearly full-time job to prove that they need assistance instead of actually going out and getting a job.
And there are dozens of smaller things, but to do any of that we’d need to realize that government’s job is to be proactive, solve the small problems with mild nudging and letting people live their lives long before it becomes big problems the merry playground for bullies and idiots.
I’m sorry for how rambling this is, but I haven’t been commenting on media for a few years so there is a lot of small things I need to deal with.
As might know by now HBOmax will be releasing The Snyder Cut version of Justice League in 2021 (possibly along with the Ayer Cut of Suicide Squad and maybe a lot of other DCEU content coming in the future).
If you have no idea what I’m talking about, I’ll try and give a truncated (ha! if you know the story you might want to skip down a little) version of what happened.
So, following the success of the more serious and adult version of Batman provided by Christopher Nolan in the Dark Knight Trilogy, Warner Brothers picked director Zack Snyder to direct a new Superman movie with Nolan as Executive Producer. Snyder decided to go in the same direction of the Dark Knight Trilogy and treat the story as an adult subject. Rather than putting his hero in a situation where there is an easy and satisfying resolution, the kind you usually find in comic books (especially of the Silver Age of Comics from the ’50s and ’60s) where a character is unquestionably good because they’re never put in a situation where they have to choose between only bad options. If only life were that simple. This culminated in a scene where Clark is made to choose between killing his enemy Zod or letting more people die (this is after Zod actually does the unthinkable and actually kills people in his evil scheme—up to this point most comic book villains threaten to kill millions but never seem to get the job done). Clarke does the right thing and kills Zod and then immediately has an emotional response to just an act, because that’s a big thing for Snyder’s movies, dealing with the effects of one’s actions, even the right ones that aren’t easy. But everyone freaked out that because “Superman doesn’t kill people”—which is odd because Chris Reeve’s Supes killed Zod after making him a powerless human (oh there was some unnecessary torture in there too), and the early comics has Superman killing people—but never let reality intrude on what golden past people’s nostalgia wants to believe was the case. I’m not terribly surprised, the entire world is caught between two political philosophies—one that sees a golden past where nothing was wrong, and one that sees a dystopian past where nothing was right, neither side wanting to deal in reality. But for some of us, we saw the genius of Man of Steel. Like Homer many generations before, Nolan and Snyder had taken crappy tales that had been told for generations and raised them to an adult art.
Then, Warner Brothers, seeing the money Disney was making with Marvel, pushed for more DC movies. It’s unclear if Snyder wanted more films before having the Superman/Batman/Wonder Woman team-up or if he was simply rushed in production but we got Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. The first part of the title was clearly WB executives playing to the lowest common denominator, the second what Snyder wanted. We know there was some executive interference because we finally got a director’s cut that that was a vastly superior movie over the studio approved original showing because the director’s cut had more character development and focus on thematic points and less of a push to make this just a fight movie. I noticed that people who went in looking for Batman v Superman were inevitably displeased with the movie, but those who went in looking Dawn of Justice were happy with it. But the people who hated it were just vicious in their reviews. And they latched onto absolutely bizarre things (the weirdest was that they were taken aback that clearly mentally unstable person would have a PTSD breakdown when he was reminded of the death of his parents—just shocking, that characters should actually act like real people). Attacks were made against the fans who liked the movie, against the director, against the actors, the writer. It was weird. I don’t like Marvel movies, so I don’t see them…I don’t claim the Russos are terrible people, I just don’t go see their movies, and when I was still seeing them for trying to be put up movie reviews attacked their thematic plots not claiming they were racists or misogynists or other weird things I saw labeled against the people behind of Dawn of Justice.
Between the two films, Snyder and writer David S. Goyer gave us two movies that had deep philosophical material—Man of Steel was a deconstruction of the problems with Plato’s Republic, Dawn of Justice a similar look at the popular view Nietzsche’s philosophy. Then WB not thrilled with profit margins of about $200-300 million per film and wanting more of the Marvel style profits (around $400-600 million per film) started using more executive control over their DC films. This is a process I have never seen to be good, personally, I have only seen one director’s cut worse than the original film* and only a couple of movies that had a superior alternate ending that was the studio’s picks rather than the director’s**. This first resulted in heavy re-editing of Suicide Squad (leading to almost all of Jared Leto’s Joker being cut from the film), but since in terms of pure profit this had a higher return than the Snyder films the higher-ups at WB/DC decided they knew better than directors.*** They took Snyder’s plan to have three more movies (one where we have a future where Darkseid corrupts Superman and Batman, Cyborg, and the Flash have to send a message to the past to prevent that future, one that is closish to Snyder Cut we’re about to get, and one where the Justice League takes on Darkseid) and just told him to skip the third movie and just go to Justice League. So Snyder did that. And then he had to step away because his daughter committed suicide, and dealing with his family was the more important thing. So Joss Whedon was brought in. I’ll be honest I was hopeful because while he had been stumbling this was the man who created Buffy, Angel, Mal Reynolds, Echo—he knew how to deal with depth (in the years since Justice League I’ve become more convinced that he knew how to assemble a great team but when working solo he may not be as good as the writers he used to work with). We thought he would touch up a few scenes and get the final product ready. What we got was an almost entirely reshot movie. We know because of the terrible CGI that almost every Superman scene was redone, the weird Russian family was added, terrible sexist jokes were added, and that crappy ethics of Age of Ultron where heroes suddenly don’t understand that when the fate of the entire world is at stake that the needs of the many outweigh the lives of a few, but hey let’s go back to Silver Age nonsense were acting like a boy scout doesn’t have negative repercussions real life. Between Whedon and his bosses at Warner Brother, they tried to make a Marvel movie. Not only did they fail at even that, but they also lost money, a lot of it. Which is good.
The calls for the release of the Snyder Cut started almost immediately, and that’s a story in itself, I’ll just link to that because this getting too long already.
But here’s a summary of what I saw. Fundraising. Online Petitions. Facebook pages and calls to hit social media with #ReleasetheSnyderCut. A lot of sales of shirts and whatnot with the theme of #ReleasetheSnyderCut. Now I’m not privy to all the internal of every fundraiser for this movement but I know a lot of that money wasn’t just used to buy adds but a good portion of it was used to a charitable organization that works for suicide prevention. Personally all I saw was people who wanted a movie and protested politely about it. Yeah we called Whedon, and Geoff Johns, and other WB executives idiots, because they were. They had something people wanted to see that, we now know, would only cost $30 million and will probably vastly more than that.
Luckily for human civilization AT&T recently bought Warner Brothers and it is clear they have cleared out the people who cared more about their egos than profit or artistic integrity. And they have announced that we’ll be getting the Snyder Cut of Justice League in 2021.
So that’s the background to this. (And here’s another take on it)
Now let’s get to the important stuff. Why is this important? Well there are as far as I can tell 4 reasons.
1. The first reason is that this shows that movies with depth can make money. Man of Steel, Dawn of Justice, and Wonder Woman—which I argue are discussions of Plato, Nietzsche, and Calvin respectively—made money. Yeah sure not Star Wars or Avengers money, but a mentality that scoffs at a $200 million profit is bad business, especially when scoffing at it makes you lose money. This shows that while Disney can make formulaic movies that everyone will go see it’s mainly because they’re Disney. Trying to beat Disney at their own game is, at best, suicidal. They have the market cornered for simple films that don’t need a lot of depth (not that all their stuff if without meat on the bones, but they’ve always been a fan of skeletons that appeal to the audience)…and what they don’t have Dreamworks and Spielberg take up. The market can only bear so much simple.
Less than a week out from the Snyder Cut announcement it’s hard to say exactly how HBOmax is doing with signups, but I don’t think anyone thinks this is going to hurt their bottom line. And this means that market will continue to give a diversity of movies. Had the #ReleasetheSnydercut movement failed we would have probably had to deal with a revival of the 1990s where there were some years where the deepest thing Hollywood would put out would be a Grisham movie. Thankfully this means that works of both high and low brow material will continue to made and thus everyone can be happy.
2. This shows that directors should be trusted. WB screwed up trying to get too involved in the Justice League and Suicide Squad, not happy with getting $200 million a movie they wanted more and they ended up getting less. And you know, while Last Jedi and Rise of Skywalker made obscene amounts of money, I don’t think anyone thinks that the studio system over at Disney is exactly churning out anything to please fans, they’re just coasting on a nostalgia…and 2020 may reveal that Disney had better switch to a new model as I don’t think fans are ready for another subpar Star Wars trilogy, another plodding phase 4 of Marvel, or more Disney live actions (especially given how mismanaged the next ones up seem to be).
Maybe AT&T’s move, and the money they’re likely going to be raking in from this, will put some more faith in directors and less in the studio system.
Maybe I’m being too hopeful.
But at least this will not kill the director’s power just yet.
(If you want to further help that I would suggest we all go see Nolan’s Tenet in a couple of weeks. Find a time and place where you feel safe and go see it).
3. Playing to the lowest common denominator doesn’t pay off.
Clearly WB executives thought that their fans didn’t want to see non-white actors—seriously any long term reader of this blog will know that I don’t go into an argument about race or gender like a lunatic. And I tend to find arguments that say putting an all-female cast is pushing feminism (from the right), or that not including any actors of color is racist (from the left) equally preposterous if someone tries to make them. Ghostbusters sucked because it was poorly written not because it was an all-female cast, one should never look for a conspiratorial argument. But they cut out Karen Bryson, Kiersy Clemons, Harry Lennix, Orion Lee, playing Cyborg’s Mother, Iris West (Flash’s girlfriend), Secretary Swanwick/Martian Manhunter, and Ryan Choi (Atom), that ranges from major roles to fan service. And while they also cut Defoe, our new Green Lantern, and the gods…the seems to have been a lot of cutting out of non-white actors. So much so I’m not comfortable saying that WB executives didn’t think that, incorrectly, their fans were a bunch of white boys who couldn’t emphasize with anyone who didn’t look like them. Might also suggest why we had to be treated to that idiot Russian family—because WB producers thought we would be able to relate to them. Hint: we didn’t (honestly if the Russians had died and Steppenwolf had lived I would have been happier, they were so hamfistedly forced in I learned to loathe them).
And dare we forget the at best juvenile, and at worst sexist, “thirty” and face planting in Wonder Woman’s cleavage. Whatever the motive was the producers thought this more sophomoric humor would be best, which is probably why they hired Whedon (both the producers and Whedon forgot that Whedon’s quirky humor, which this was hardly the best example of, only works when counterposed with serious stakes like Buffy dying or having to send Angel to hell mere moments after he gets his soul back…without tragedy the humor just comes off as dumb).
Thankfully this has shown that this kind of assumption that your audience is dumb, racist, sexist, and just useless has proven to be a big mistake monetarily and hopefully will be kept at bay for a while longer.
4. Finally, that there is still the power of the consumer to control the market. Various idiots from all sides of the political spectrum like to talk about how capitalism is not responsive to the market anymore, and this strangely usually leads arguments that power should be put in the hand of bureaucrats or executives—weird how few sides want to give economic power to the people. But what does work is a primarily civil but forceful call for what we want.
In the last couple of days there has been this weird call that fans of the Snyder Cut are bullies and racists. I’m sure there are some assholes out there, every movement has them. But the Snyder cut fans were asking for the scenes with Cyborg’s backstory, the return of Flash’s girlfriend Iris, the return of Secretary Swanwick (who is the Martian Manhunter), and the man who would eventually become the superhero Atom. Not one of these people is white. What we wanted to be removed was that dumb Russian family—never do we want to see that bullshit again.
It’s a bizarre argument that I can’t find any basis in fact. At best it bizarrely cherry-picks to find the few scum that every pop culture fandom has. It’s like me saying that the one former friend I found out was hiding from me that he was #MAGA scum for years, at which point I promptly cut off all ties to him, was also a die-hard Marvel fan and extrapolating out that all Marvel fans much be fascist trash—that is obviously not the case.
What the Snydercut fans did was raise money for charity, and make their presence known on social media, and buying a lot of ad space. I don’t recall any serious calls for Joss Whedon to die (at least not tied to this, there was some #MeToo stuff in his life but that’s a whole other bag of cats), no one threatens to burn down Warner, nothing like that. It was social media and boycotts.
But then again we live in a society where a peaceful protest of taking a knee is seen not as something to agree or disagree with the cause of the protester but like it’s an all-out assault to end their way of life.
But knee jerk lunatics aside, this showed that civil but forceful movement can have an effect. Just so long as we all do the right thing and not get HBOmax as we promised and do not at any level support or encourage any kind of pirating or stealing of the material. We argued for this, now we have to put up on our side and pay for what we wanted. Otherwise they’ll just go back to make worthless dreck.
And then there is this last weird thing in all of this. Several major news sources are saying that WB putting this out through is caving into “toxic fandoms” and how this sets a dangerous precedent. First off this is hardly the first time that fans have demanded that artists meet what they wanted…the first time I can recall is when the public forced Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to bring Sherlock back from the dead, and then there was that time fans brought Star Trek back, and in further irony of Joss Whedon’s life I could have sworn it fans clamoring that got him Serenity to follow Firefly after it was cancelled (so when fans are for Whedon that’s good before his wife outed him as hating women, when they’re against after we know the truth about him, that’s toxic. Makes not a damn bit of sense to me but Hollywood’s always been crazy). Demands of fans have been pushing pop culture for as long as pop culture. Also weird is that none of the articles I can find show evidence of the toxic nature. The Vanity Fair article on this is a good example, they list the harassment on twitter (because just putting #ReleasetheSnyderCut on everything apparently is so mean), they also list that the writer for the new Suicide Squad, James Gunn (a man I would like you to remember was rightfully persona non grata just a few years ago because he was making pedophila jokes) was getting death threats…but as far as I can tell those threats are coming in from Marvel fans. Look I’m sure there are complete assholes who are harassing people in the Snyder fandom, because there are those jackasses in every one of the fandoms. And other than the fact that Fascist Pravda (otherwise known as Russia Times) is publishing pro-SnyderCut articles (it’s weird as the anti-tyranny and pro-immigration themes of Snyder’s work doesn’t fit with RT’s usual line…but the world is going crazy so it’s just the latest thing that makes no sense to anyone) I can’t think of any real source of toxicity coming from a movement that funded itself by splitting its proceeds with charities. But apparently not liking Whedon’s misogynistic “thirsty” jokes is now toxic. Who knew. “Haters gonna hate hate hate hate hate “is apparently the only way to understand the opposition to this great moment.
*Pretty Woman, and I’m can’t find out if the “director’s cut” was actually Marshall’s doing or if the studio just wanted people to buy the movie and put in all the scenes the director cut and called it a “director’s cut.”
**The only one that comes to mind is Lucky Number Slevin where the original was significantly darker and offer no redemption for the main character making the entire film devoid of meaning, and this single example I know of where the studio choice was the right one. I’m sure there is more, but in the aggregate I’m sure the studio is usually wrong.
***I’m not sure how Wonder Woman escaped the studio interference. Either there was interference I am not aware of or Patty Jenkins repeatedly beat the studio execs with her awards and nominations for her previous work…either way Wonder Woman came off, to my knowledge, away with little interference.
****The saddest irony here is that Whedon should have known better. His original script for Buffy the Vampire Slayer was taken by inept producers and turned into a hollow, meaningless version of itself. And so Whedon did the same thing that was done to him. Nietzsche isn’t always correct, but his warning “When fighting monsters be careful not to become a monster yourself” seems relevant here.
We were told four years ago that 17 million people went to bed hungry each night. Well that was probably true. They were all on a diet. But now we’re told that 9.3 million families in this country are poverty-stricken on the basis of earning less than 3,000 dollars a year. Welfare spending [is] 10 times greater than in the dark depths of the Depression. We’re spending 45 billion dollars on welfare. Now do a little arithmetic, and you’ll find that if we divided the 45 billion dollars up equally among those 9 million poor families, we’d be able to give each family 4,600 dollars a year. And this added to their present income should eliminate poverty. Direct aid to the poor, however, is only running only about 600 dollars per family. It would seem that someplace there must be some overhead.–Ronald Reagan, A Time For Choosing
In the midst of $1,200 checks and huge unemployment and the utter pointlessness of these attempts at saving an economy that–let’s be honest–was already being destroyed and rotted away by a policy of isolationism, bigotry, and hatred of the free market.
But on the plus side, this might be a way to bring back an intelligent discussion of the Universal Basic Income.
Obviously if we instituted it now it would help spare of the worst of the problems caused by COVID-19. That’s a no-brainer. But this gives us a chance to look at why it could be a long term solution.
Whenever these two agreed you should probably listen.
In the works of Milton Friedman, F.A. Hayek, and Ronald Reagan you will find an idea called a negative income tax. The negative income tax says that the easiest way to solve the problem of poverty is not to give people housing, and food stamps, and SNAP, and Medicaid…no the easiest way to solve the problem of people not having money is to give them money. It’s so simple only a government could be too stupid to not get it. At the time the negative income tax was the idea they pushed…but I believe if they had considered it, they would have approved of the UBI.
Mostly because the UBI has an advantage over the negative income tax in that it requires a far smaller and less intrusive bureaucracy.
The basic concept of the UBI is that instead of the welfare/entitlement state (food stamps, public housing, Medicaid and Medicare, Social Security, the whole swath of all entitlements) being replaced with a $10,000-15,000 payment to every citizen in the US over the age of 21. At least the intelligent version is that–people like Andrew Yang want to put the UBI on top of all the existing programs and that’s just stupid–misses the whole point of the UBI. Properly done, it reduces huge amounts overhead, it actually removes many of the current system’s disincentives to work or get married. It would actually be cheaper and since we believe in the power of the market we have to believe that in most cases individuals will be much better at spending their money than the government telling them how to spend their money. This idea has merit, I deeply respect many of the people who are advocating this, especially Charles Murray of the American Enterprise Institute (also here, here,here, and here) but also respect some of those who are against it (here and here though I feel these arguments are a bit knee jerk and don’t look at the bigger picture). And it works even better if you match with a completely flat tax.
If coupled with a $3,500 voucher for private health insurance (and a law requiring all private insurers to have a $3,500 plan that covers all emergency and genetic conditions) you pretty much catch all of people’s financial needs to survive…not thrive, but survive. Which should be the goal. We want people to know that there is always a safety net to keep them on a footing that they can once again pull themselves up the economic ladder. The UBI would guarantee that they have all the basic needs–food, shelter, emergency medical care–but not go beyond that. It costs less than all of the current dole programs and helps more people with a smaller government. But some just aren’t convinced.
The most prominent argument against them the UBI boils down to: “if you give everyone a minimum income they won’t because they’ll have all their basic needs covered.” This is a really stupid argument for two reasons. The first being that most people through the myriad of welfare systems out there can earn $25,000-$50,000 a year if you know how to bilk all the systems for assistance out there. Removing all those programs and offering everyone only $12,000 a year is hardly offering people more of an incentive to be lazy, quite the opposite in fact. It’s providing them the bare minimum needed to survive and giving them the agency to spend it in the way they see best rather than the way a government bureaucracy sees best. Further, getting those full benefits takes time, so we’ve now freed up people’s time to search for a job, and removed all the disincentives to work that current welfare programs have. So while everyone will have a basic income guaranteed to make sure they can meet the bare-bones necessities of life, they’re not going to be provided with any comfort. In fact, this will likely, just in the replacement of Medicaid, Medicare, Welfare, Unemployment Insurance, SNAP, TANF, and Social Security save $600,000,000 to 1 Trillion dollars off the federal budget right off the top.
But there are other advantages to the UBI that many people haven’t considered.
So no one is in poverty, we’re spending a trillion less a year, and a good chunk of our debt is gone.
Oh, and our interest payments on debt have also been cut. If we were really smart we would use those savings in interest payments to buy back even more debt and further dig our way out of this hole but, we can only hope for so much.
Oh but there’s more. As everyone is now guaranteed a basic level of income, do you know what you don’t need? You don’t need a minimum wage. Minimum wage laws started as a racist way to keep minorities from competing for a job and continuing because of the dumb comment about needing to provide a living wage certainly doesn’t hold water anymore. Now while not every state will get rid of their minimum wage laws, a good many will. That means that employment will go up in those areas and more people will be willing to take lower wages because, hey, they’re starting off with $1,000 a month. That means people will get experience faster as more people will be employed, which has from there a compounding nature to economic growth from increased employment will be astounding.
And, since farmers are now also getting the rewards of basic income, they will no longer need subsidy programs (they don’t need them now, but this will undercut their last excuse). Not only will this mean we can get rid of one of the most useless expenditures of the federal budget, but it also means we don’t need to subsidize corn anymore, which also means we can end the nightmare that is ethanol. This, in turn, will actually drop food prices the world over, and thus that $1,000 a month will actually go even further than you initially thought. And we get to just end the Department of Agriculture and the Farm Credit Administration.
And now that everyone has income coming in that means job security means a lot less. They can leave a job and still be moderately secure at least for a while even if their income was well above the UBI level. Do you know what this means? It means that while employers can pay less because there is less of a risk of employing someone, it also means employees have greater freedom to leave at any time. That means employers will have to work harder to keep employees they want to keep. That means one of the primary goals of most unions, protecting employees from abuse, is no longer needed. Yes, unions will still need to be legal, but as they will no longer be a core part of employment in America you certainly won’t need idiotic things like the Department of Labor and the Federal Labor Relations Authority. Plus all those rules from idiots like OSHA can go out the window as employers will be too concerned with keeping employees. Granted there will be some need for the state versions of these institutions, but as the need for them will be so few and far between the federal government need will no longer be there.
And since the UBI comes with a voucher for health insurance (which is the reason why we won’t need Medicaid or Medicare), it also means you won’t need the Department of Health and Human Services…and if you just want to double the voucher for veterans you won’t need the Department of Veterans Affairs either. The fact that there won’t be massive fraud in Medicaid, Medicare, and the VA, not to mention the lack of government pricing, the price of all medical care will drop while quality will go up.
And as you’re giving money people for housing you don’t need to government to run housing, which means you can either sell all that public housing or give it all to the states…it also means you don’t need rent control laws. This, in turn, will actually drop the price of housing for everyone. And the Department of Housing and Urban Development can go to. So your bills just went down and that $1,000 goes even further.
So, let’s be clear here, we save on yearly costs of entitlement programs, employment goes up, regulation on business goes down, the debt is cut in half and we get rid of the Departments of HUD, HSS, Agriculture, VA, and Labor (plus a lot of other smaller offices)…and all the opposition has is that people will be lazy if you pay them money (even though they can get more right now under the current system it just comes with incentives to not work that the UBI will not have).
Again, some states will not have the brains to implement the needed free-market reforms that the UBI allows them to do. But the thing is that now people aren’t tied to a particular state’s welfare checks and can use their newfound monthly check to move to a state that is booming because of the free market expansion. Yes I know that under the current system of welfare it is possible to move to a different state, but it’s not easy to do….under the UBI it’s very easy, which means people will go where the jobs are and thus bringing more economic growth in the long run.
Granted, there are millions of ways the UBI could be screwed up as the devil is always in the details. This is a system that can only be set up by amending the Constitution, and while most have not gotten as far as those details here are some things it will need to include: the federal government will not be allowed to give any form of entitlement other than the UBI, the UBI should only be adjusted for inflation every 15-20 years, any increase in the base amount needs to be accompanied by a tax increase (which is why this works best with a universal flat tax so people can see the immediate effects of a 1% increase in the UBI resulting in a 1% decrease in their take-home from their job thus ensuring that few will ever want to use the UBI to enrich themselves beyond the basics).
*I realize that when eliminating these departments there is always one or two offices that will need to remain. Like getting rid of HHS won’t get rid of the CDC because that is still a fairly important thing, but it can be an executive office as so many things are. When I say get rid of the department in reality that will only translate to getting rid of 80%-90% of each department (except Agriculture, you can fire all of those useless idiots without negative effects).
So I found this image the other day. I shared it. A lot of people liked and shared it, but I have come to realize that very few actually believe it.
The problem seems to be that as with most things people have divided into three camps.
Most, but not all, liberals are worried only about the number of deaths from COVID 19
Most, but not all, conservatives are only worried about the economy.
And libertarians are at least consistent in only being worried about everything is going lead to a government takeover of everything.
Granted these terms are always hard to define, especially as conservative nowadays doesn’t remotely mean most of us thought it meant 20 years ago.
Now the COVID death group has, for the most part, never cared about expanding government power (which has always been a problem), but a lot, but again not all, of the remaining NeverTrumpers are falling into this group, and while vocalizing some concern over Trump’s expanding power the=yore not make it a driving force. Further, this group seems to be absolutely idiotic in not realizing that a good economy keeps people alive. Neoliberal economists (and I mean that covering everyone from Friedman and Hayek to the modern Neoliberals which seems to the be the new term for the New Left from the early 1990’s and early 2000’s*) care so much GDP is because there is a beyond heavy correlation between GDP and longer lives, better medical care, higher quality of life, more innovation, more choice, more happiness. It’s not a perfect indicator, but no one has come up with a better one. Economists don’t care about money because they’re Scrooge, they care about it because it buys better lives. And if the economy tanks PEOPLE WILL DIE. More stress causing heart attacks and strokes, more malnutrition, more suicide, more accidents at home, more domestic abuse, more alcoholism, and drug abuse. The longer this goes on the more people will start dying from other things that are not this virus. And to act as if the virus is the only thing to worry about if just preposterous.
But you know what the care only about the economy crowd is equally dumb. Be it the buffoons who are trying to make this out to be nothing—-this is a big thing.
There were 2.8 million deaths in the US in 2019. We will have more. A lot more this year. Now, I’ll grant that we were always going to have more because it was projected that the Baby Boomers and Gen X were going to be dying in such large numbers that the number of deaths per year wasn’t expected to ever stop increasing until the mid-2050s—but this is going to push those number up more. But right now you have people arguing that the death rate isn’t that much higher right now…yeah because COVID is mainly confined to New York. It won’t be forever. Flattening the curve may slow the spread of disease but it is unlikely to halt it. NYC deaths are over double what they usually are for this time of year. When it hits all those communities where we’ve heard about for the last 10 years that are suffering from high opioid use, high unemployment, high-diabetes and in general shitty life…well, let’s just say that if the South had to choose, they would likely be better off picking a second Sherman’s March to the Sea than what is coming for them. Very ignorant people are thinking that because it hasn’t hit their hospital or their community that this is just not going to ever come to them. History tells me that communities during every plague and pandemic throughout history from the plague that caused Athens to the lose the Peloponnesian War, to the Black Death, to the Spanish Flu have had communities that thought they wouldn’t be affect…and then those communities were all but destroyed. Let me make this very clear: UNTIL THERE IS A VACCINE THERE IS NO WAY OF STOPPING THE PROGRESS OF THIS THING. And at best that probably 12 months away. Yeah, sure, maybe if the whole world wanted to shut down for three weeks and we all sheltered in place and had an obscenely limited list of essential employees we could stop the spread of this thing…but only a damn fool could think we could get that done. A lot of people are going to die, and more importantly, a lot of people are going to get sick and that will also have influence on the economy. Further, just putting this out there, worst case is that like HIV we may not develop a vaccine…or just short of that keep in mind we didn’t have a chickenpox vaccine until the late 80s.
And then, of course, there is the consistency of the libertarians in hating government expansions of power and loving the fact that there are many regulations being rolled back to expedite care for people. All well and good. And I don’t mean to let them off easy, I know there are quarters of the libertarians sphere out there that are as always calling for full-on anarchy at this point and ignoring that public health has at least since the Roman Empire been a power of government…but as it’s hard enough to find libertarian voices out there I don’t think many of us are running into that insanity so insulting it wouldn’t do much good. But I will say that fringe does once again miss one of the points of government that some of the other two groups are ignoring: the government is there to help keep people calm and ensure stability in society. Yeah socialism might work on an Israeli Kibbutz, and the world Trumpkins works well in the backwoods of Pennsylvania were those vile inventions of the modern civilization are not embraced, and absolute libertarianism works in an Ayn Rand novel…but the thing is these extreme only work when you have a small group that all agrees to abide by the same rules—here in society you have people too stupid for any extreme, or frankly any sense of moderation. They panic a lot. And idiots cause problems. And you need to keep them in line so they don’t ruin it for the rest of who do have some purpose in life, true on in every nation, on every continent, in every period of time. People are stupid. They ran for toilet paper as if they thought they were going to die on the Oregon Trail. But, at the moment, Trump is making the best case against the expansion of government power that one could ever possibly hope for, so only the most hopelessly mentally damaged (i.e. his supporters…and Bernie’s) are unaware of how terrible government is right now.
Now if you want to talk about what should we be doing that we’re not, that would be great. Because personally, I think we should be plotting for that scenario where vaccines are far off. How? How about starting with the military and medical forces that are not in areas being hit hard right now we start putting people in their 20s into quarantine and then infecting them. Like a good old fashioned chickenpox party that anyone older than a Millenial who got a chick pox vaccine remembers. Give the people the least likely to be harmed the virus, give them immunity to it, hell try some of the safer drugs on them in scientific trials. A very few will die. But what this will do is ensure that these people are now no longer vectors for the disease. Then go through people in their 30s and 40s who have no other conditions that might make them vulnerable. Then move through the ranks of the rest of the government, and maybe then start finding a way for companies that can pay their people to be out for three weeks to do so they aren’t a problem any longer (I’m not a fan of tax breaks in most cases but this could be one of those exceptions). That’s what would protect the elderly and those who have conditions that make them vulnerable—herd immunity. The fast we establish herd immunity the better. Because that is what is going to cut the problems of death and economic at the same time.
Of course, someone might have a better plan, but I haven’t heard of one yet.
Death, the economy, and government overreach are problems. But just yelling that your concern is the big one is not helping anyone.
In the meantime, we need to start dealing with this in a clear risk versus reward way of thinking. Are homemade masks going to stop the spread? Nope. Will they only have be 5% effective? Probably. And 5% is not nothing. And what’s the cost for that 5%, fairly low. If you’ve ever bought a lottery ticket you’ve said you believe in long shots far worse than that 5%. Further, again to the libertarians, we’re trying to prevent panic.
Meanwhile, the panic you could cause by proposing a particular medicine as a cure, which will probably prove to be nothing but a statistical blip could be devastating. Why? Because drugs seldom work on viruses beyond slowing their progress. It’s why we have vaccines because anti-viral drugs are little more than Hail-Mary passes. And really disturbing, we can’t always find a vaccine for viruses…if it were easy then we wouldn’t have been dealing with 40 years of AIDS.
*Side rant here. I know that political terminology is always a shifting set of meanings throughout history, but does it seem that everything has been thrown out and nobody has any consistent set of words we can use that can give us any damn sense of whom we’re talking about. I believe in absolute free markets, personal choice in social concerns, and a strong interventionist foreign policy…Reagan and I would have agreed on 70%+ of things, but I hardly meet any criteria for “conservative” in 2020…WTF?
“The past can teach us, through experience, how to accomplish things in the future, comfort us with cherished memories, and provide the foundation of what has already been accomplished. But only the future holds life. To live in the past is to embrace what is dead. To live life to its fullest, each day must be created anew. As rational, thinking beings, we must use our intellect, not a blind devotion to what has come before, to make rational choices.”—Wizard’s Seventh Rule, The Pillars of Creation, Terry Goodkind
So, in a bizarre way to treat optimism let’s first look at how bad this is going to get. That may seem very counterintuitive but go with me on this for a minute. “Of all mindfulness meditation, that on death is supreme,” says the Buddha as he calls for an awareness of death (maranasati)…and some research shows that there are emotional and intellectual benefits to contemplating our death. When you have faced the worst end, analyzed it, accept it, and moved on, you are no longer bounded by the fears of the the worst-case scenario.
The same is true of any terrible situation.
So, let’s deal with the worst that this could possibly be. COVID 19 at worst has a fatality rate of 4%, and we will probably have a second round of it next cold and flu season. That is upwards of 8% dead. In the US that is 26.4 million people. Worldwide that is 624 million people.
That is beyond tragic. That is over four times more than communism killed in its entire existence. That is somewhere between 56-100 times the deaths of the Holocaust. It is nearly everyone you know over 65, parents, friends, certainly grandparents, and depending on who is reading this, possibly you. A new word might need to be invented to deal with death at these levels.
I want everyone reading this to take a few minutes, maybe even days to consider this, and let it sink in. It will be horrible.
It’s okay, it’s worth crying over, worth being horrified by, and worth being revolted that more could not be done.
Let it sink in.
Okay? If not, maybe this is a time to stop reading and think about why you’re still not okay with this. Do you need to make amends with people who might be gone or who might lose you? Then why are you still reading and not doing that? Didn’t accomplish all you wanted in life? Again, if that’s what is really bothering you, you might want to deal with that while you have time. Didn’t’ go on that trip or buy that car or retire to that beach…you know these are the kind of moments that are supposed to make it clear that life isn’t things, and you may need to think about what is bothering you.
Okay, have we come to terms with this worst-case scenario?
Now let’s move on.
This is unspeakably terrible, but there is one thing it is not. It is not the end of the world.
The Black Death killed 50 million people in Europe. That sounds like a lot less but it was closer to 35-65% of the population of Europe. (Data on what it did in Asia is a little harder to get, but over the course of centuries it probably did a bang-up job there too). And you know what happened? Europe survived. Possibly two-thirds of the population gone. Two out of every three people dead. And Europe survived. This is a disease that strikes hardest at the elderly, which was a disease that was indiscriminate to age. And they survived. We will survive 8% of the population dying.
Now, I’m not saying that we shouldn’t’t care about the people who die, not do every reasonable and even a few unreasonable efforts to save them. But understand this will be tragic deaths of people we love—it will not be the end of the world. If a bunch of illiterate peasants who are civilized only by the barest of definitions can survive two-thirds of their civilization, we will survive. *
This is not the end of the world.
Let that sink in.
Really, let that sink in because to get to the optimism for the future this might come off as a little callous if you haven’t accepted the previous points.
The plagues that struck Athens which led to their conquest by the Spartans led to Socrates, Plato, and Aristotle. The Black Death was followed by the Renaissance. The Napoleonic Wars led to the Industrial Revolution on the European Continent, and the Civil War was followed by the Industrial Revolution in America. WWI and the Spanish Flu were followed by the Roaring ’20s. And the post-WWII economics was nothing short of miraculous. The universe has a way of balancing great tragedy with a spectacular moment of growth economically, intellectually, and spiritually. I’m not saying that everything about these periods was great, but the good certainly outweighed the bad. And granted, not every great tragedy is followed by prosperity. But assuming we get better at what we’re doing (either by toughing it out until January, or maybe blessedly COVID will walk down Pennsylvania Avenue) and learn that the free market with light direction is often a better innovator to our problems, and then hopefully set the groundwork for prosperity when this passes—and this too shall—then we will rise from this better than before.
That might not seem logical, but consider that we’re already coping remarkably well. Restaurants are still serving people via delivery and so while they won’t be in a great situation come to the end of this, they will still be there and ready to grow again. Companies will find that most people can be more effective from home, and will probably find out that 30 hours from home (so long as they have support from the corporate office) will be more effective than 40 in the office for a lot of jobs, which will not only help bring about a new jump in productivity but hopefully give vast new hours for people to spend on pet projects, artistic endeavors, and side business possibilities. This is giving us the opportunity to put in a lot of automated systems that unions and regulation had previously stood in the way of, which will raise the quality of life for numerous people and drop the costs of products worldwide. I’m sure we will see a massive increase in the money for self-driving cars and drone delivery to help reduce human to human transmission of the COVID, which will have an unspeakably massive drop in transaction costs of almost every economic transaction. We have been on the verge of a change as great as the change from an agrarian culture to an industrial one—and it promises to be a world where there is far less poverty and institutional injustice, and it’s sad this is the price we may have to pay for that change, but it is a better world on the other side of this.
And if you’re still not convinced, let me be exceptionally coldly rational here. The average person over the age of 65 in the US has an average net value of over a million dollars. In the worst-case situation, you’re looking at 20 million senior citizens dead. I hate to be callous but, that’s $20 Trillion being pumped into the economy. Granted a good deal of that is in housing, which that kind of glut on the market will radically drop housing prices (but that is affordable housing that isn’t bad) …but that’s still about $10 Trillion being pumped into the economy in the next year and a half. This is terrible, but it relieves a huge strain on our safety nets which can give us the opportunity to fix them properly without having to cut the benefits of those who depend on them while we fix them to be sustainable.
If we think long term here and amidst trying to save as many as possible, but we also need to work to set the groundwork for the world that comes after. And that world is better with less government (which I think we can easily see how stupid and short-sighted government is), with more guardrails in government to prevent the idiotic and unethical from achieving power over anyone, with more efforts put into the technologies and innovations that can make our lives better, and by using the time to reflect on how much we do need human connection in our lives and how we need to re-establish a greater sense of community with others in our lives after this.
What I am not saying is that we should help those who are vulnerable to this disease, who are suffering from it, or who are afraid. We most certainly should be there for them in any way that we find we are able to without going further than we feel comfortable doing.
That we need to understand that it was globalization that gave us exposure to so many diseases before this that we had better immunities and that this will only be, at worst, 8% and not 20% or 70%.
We should take time to ask if this is the best plan to save the most people unlike right now which only cares about deaths from COVID ignoring that the economic harm we’re causing will also cause death from more suicide, accident, stress, domestic violence…and the fact is that I can’t find anyone seriously asking which will have more death, it would likely be COVID is the greater danger, I would just love to know somebody looked toward the long term…you know in a way the government never does.
That science and free markets are working hard to find solutions while governments dither and sputter in incompetence.
And that life is a mixture of good and bad, and we shouldn’t give up on the good just because of terrible, but undeniably momentary, bad.
The world on the other side of this is easily a better one than behind us. Take comfort in that.
*A caveat. I know there are some older parents out there who are worried that they might not be there for their children. I wish I could transfer my faith that the universe is an ordered place, and that they will not be challenged with anything more than they can take, and any loss they endure will be a loss they knew about coming into this life and that it will give them the opportunity for growth. But I can’t transfer that faith. I can only advise that you seek some reconciliation with your own beliefs. But I understand that logically there is probably nothing I can do to ally your fears.