Sunday, February 26, 2017

Failure of Imagination

In 1967, Astronaut Frank Borman blamed the Apollo 1 fire that killed three of his fellow astronauts on “failure of imagination” ... the inability of the engineers on the project to anticipate the conditions that led to that fire, and to take steps to prevent it.

After the terror attacks of 9/11/2001, The National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States concluded our biggest vulnerability was failure of imagination. We simply couldn’t conceive of anything as far from normal behavior as the plan to hijack planes and fly them into buildings, so there were no defenses.

This is the same weakness that stymies us now in the face of the Trump regime. Although safeguards such as the electoral college and, much later, the 25th Amendment were intended to protect against a complete lunatic occupying the White House, these were only theoretical measures. No one imagined anyone as off-the-rails as Trump and his appointees, so these measures have never been tested and re-enforced. In fact, it would take acts of enormous political will for enough electors to defy their states elections to block an obvious demagogue like Trump, and it would take even more brazenness to trigger the 25th Amendment’s removal from office mechanism. 

According to Wikipedia, failure of imagination has also been cited in such disasters as the Titanic’s sinking and the bombing of Pearl Harbor. 

Clearly, in complex and risky situations, imagination is a far more valuable asset than is usually assumed.

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Monday, February 20, 2017

Let Them Have It

Sometimes I think Trump opponents should drop the resistance. Just stop. Let them have it. Let Trump and the GOP have it. They already own the entire government and, by extension, the country.

When 2018 and 2020 come around, they’ll have no one but themselves to blame. They won’t be able to point the finger at protesters, or obstructionist legislators, or even the media.

If we let them have it, they’ll surely tank themselves.

But then I think … when the GOP sells off mineral and land rights to government land, we’ll never get that back.

When we build pipelines through precious land, we’ll never get that back.

When mining companies dump waste into rivers and streams, we’re not getting those back.

When we lose out on hopeful immigrants who look to the U.S. as a haven of liberty, we’ll never get them back.

When we unleash bigotry and hatred, thus losing our decency as a people, we’ll never get that back.

When we antagonize some of our most trusted allies, we’re never … well, we might get them back, but we’ll have to grovel.

And when the U.S. becomes a laughing stock around the world, completely losing its leadership position and its role as the foremost example of democracy at work … that’s never coming back.

But most of all, while social safety net programs might be reinstated in saner times, the people who, through no fault of their own, depend on these for healthcare and sustenance, may be lost forever.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Taking Back Democracy

Regardless of party allegiance, most people agree that politicians, frankly, suck. They spend most of their time worrying about getting elected and re-elected, and most of the rest worrying about their political parties. They spend more time fund-raising than anything else, and, once elected, they immediately set to work trying to secure their power through gerrymandering, voter disenfranchisement and other means. As Shakespeare’s Macbeth famously said on attaining the crown, “To be thus is nothing. But to be safely thus,” his rationale for the series of murders and misdeeds that follows.

The Constitution is very clear about the roles of the Senate and the House of Representatives, the President and the Supreme Court. But there’s not a word, not a whisper, about political parties. Yet a glance at the news anytime in the last century or more suggests that it’s all about parties … that the job of the parties is to beat the opposition, and try to reshape the laws to ensure their continued dominance. This is also true at the state level.

So how to we make government serve the people instead of themselves?


Most policy decisions should be made by direct voting, instead of leaving it up to elected representatives. Because as democratic as our elections are (not very!), there’s a huge disconnect between what politicians want and what voters actually want.

Politicians are like cable TV packages. You can’t pick and choose which policies, or which channels, you get. If you love to watch HBO, you’re going to have to get thirty or forty sports channel with it. If you want the smaller government candidate, you’re going to have to take abortion bans, unrestricted gun sales and a decimated environment with it.

Also, because politicians are so concerned about just getting and keeping control, they flip flop on issues as easily as the wind changes direction. It’s well known that political strategists like Karl Rove seize on wedge issues to incite voters who might not otherwise case about an election, just to help bolster one party.

Now a lot of people are going to object that having a referendum for every issue is too inefficient. How can we handle that many elections?

Of course, that’s based on the two century old model in our Constitution. In the 21st century, there’s really no reason elections can’t be done efficiently on massive scale. In fact, that should be the first order of business. We need to ensure that people who are entitled to vote can vote, and that people who aren’t can’t.

And because a referendum is about one issue, the campaigns will be trying to inform/pursuade voters about that issue. No distractions. No debates about the size of each candidate’s hands or other body parts. No bluster. (There will still be plenty of bullshit, but at least it will be focussed bullshit.)

Politicians should be like engineers … they figure out how to implement the specifications, but the specifications come from the customer … you!

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Thursday, February 2, 2017