So the IG report dropped and it said James Comey and company weren't traitors who launched a coup against the sitting president of the United States? So how did Mr. Comey take this?
The report actually appears to be utterly damning, but only in terms of showing the FBI was incompetent and negligent to an extreme. It lists 17 "serious performance failures" which include, for example,
Omitted information the FBI had obtained from another U.S. government agency detailing its prior relationship with Page, including that Page had been approved as an "operational contact" for the other agency from 2008 to 2013, and that Page had provided information to the other agency concerning his prior cont acts with certain Russian intelligence officers, one of which overlapped with facts asserted in the FISA application;
The report can be read here and the list of "performance failures" can be found on pages viii through xii. Robby Soave sums it up quite well,
The FISA warrant, which was reauthorized three times, contained false and misleading information about Page. It omitted that he had previously disclosed his Russian contacts to a government agency; it overstated the government's confidence in the Christopher Steele dossier and ignored Steele's own doubts about one of his sources; it declined to mention that Page had said he and Paul Manafort had 'literally never met'; and in general it ignored information that rendered unlikely the theory that Page was a Russian asset.
In other words, Mr. Comey, F minus.
But at least you're not a traitor.* If you consider that vindication, well congrats!
*Assuming US attorney John Durham doesn't have something of substance up his sleeve, of course.
And so I shall finish republishing this series-of-sorts from my old blog on voting (part 1 and 2, if you can call them that, here and here). This one asks the simple question: What should be up for vote?
In my last entry I discussed the limitations and problems with democracy, at least the unbridled version of it. However, I realized I wasn't very specific on what should be up for vote and what should not be. This is actually a very tricky question, unless of course you're an ideologue, i.e. everything should be up for vote or nothing.
Let's start with the obvious. The politicians that represent us should be elected by popular vote. Having problems with unbridled democracy is by no means supporting dictatorship. Even with a strong constitution and a rigidly defined version of federalism, the likes of Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, Mao Zedong and Benito Mussolini are going to find a way around them unless they are voted out (or preferably not voted in).
So what else? Well if I was an Ayn Rand obsessed objectivist I would say not much. Pure laizze faire capitalism should rule the day. However, while I lean libertarian, I do think there are places the government can intervene to help a little bit with out screwing up the economy or become totalitarian. I don't believe in massive wealth redistribution, a business-government compact, the military industrial complex or an over bloated affirmative action program for every minority there is, but some mild protections and maybe even a little welfare for the truly downtrodden is by no means out of the question.
Here's how I would break it down. The government's primary goal is to protect natural rights or negative liberty. By that I mean it should protect its citizens from threats to their well being either foreign (invasion, terrorism) or domestic (crime, persecution and the government itself). This epitomizes the classical liberal maxim espoused by the likes of John Locke and Adam Smith that your freedom to swing your fist ends where my nose begins. On the other hand, positive liberty, like the right to a home or healthcare, is really a misnomer because you can't give positive liberty to someone with out taking it from someone else.
Therefore, the federal government should deal almost solely with negative liberty. It should be there to provide a national defense and intrastate police force (like the US Marshalls) to chase down criminals that flee from one state to another and probably the major infrastructure such as the freeways. It should also override state decisions, but only in the negative. So for example, the Jim Crow laws should, and eventually were, be overturned by the federal government. I would probably be OK if the feds also overturned Proposition 8, which I discussed in the last entry. However, the federal government should not be handing out welfare to citizens in Alabama or telling how a small business in Deleware should be ran.
I would give the states more leeway though. Here I think citizens should be able to vote for more positive rights. Some welfare here and there, a couple regulations as well as on the tricky issues like abortion, for which it's debatable whether or not another person is involved. I would still leave things like outright socialism, discriminatory laws, denying gay rights and probably even denying the right to ingest whatever drugs you want off the table.
Why more power to the states? For several reasons. First, this creates a separation of powers where the federal government can prevent the states from denying people's rights while not having the power to do so itself. Secondly, the majority is more likely to actually represent people's opinions in a state because of the smaller and more homogenous populations involved. It always amazed how angry liberals got that major policies in California and Massachusetts are decided by people in Texas and Georgia, yet liberals still oppose state rights. Finally, even if a state enacts an atrocious law that the federal government fails to overturn it, it's much easier to move out of a state than out of the country. And if the United States goes wrong, a country founded on the thirst for freedom, where else do we have to go?
So there you have it. Under these guidelines the federal government could probably be funded by a small non-protective tariff and perhaps some corporate taxes. I'd probably let the state's citizen’s vote on how each state government should be funded even though this opens the possibility for those high taxes I dislike so much. I can always move to New Hampshire right? Anyways, I know it probably needs to be more refined, but it's a good start.
Following up the last post from my old blog on winning my vote, I'll republish this one on Prop 8 (which legalized gay marriage in California). I wrote a similar post for SwiftEconomics as well. Basically, liberalism has a weird contradiction where it's biggest victories (gay marriage, abortion, etc.) have been won antidemocratically. Whether these things are good or not, it kind of makes one wonder about both democracy and liberals' dedication to it.
I should note, I had a bit of an anti-religious sentiment back then that I don't now. But I'll republish it as it was written nonetheless (minus the last part which just quoted another article).
In the euphoria liberals having been feeling over the past week after Obama won the election and Democrats picked up several more seats in the House and Senate, there has been one sour note for them. That is the passing of proposition 8 in California. Prop 8 basically bans same-sex marriage and it does so in the biggest and one of the most liberal states in the union.
Now I don't live in California and I am neither gay nor have any interest in getting married anytime soon. I do however agree with my liberal friends that Prop 8 is a ridiculous and unfair law. Of equal importance though, I feel I should weigh in on this issue because it elucidates a paradox within the standard liberal orthodoxy: namely that democracy is an infallible good.
Democracy is good you say, well I agree, but only to a limited extent. There are certain rights we shouldn't be able to vote away from each other. We should remember that Hitler came to power in a democracy (Weimar Republic), the Jim Crow laws were kept in place for 100 years with out being overturned by vote, George Bush was reelected in 2004 and Saddam Hussein got 100% of the popular vote (OK that one's not really fair). Detractors we'll surely say that democracy isn't perfect but it is still good, as Winston Churchill said "democracy is the absolute worst type of government, aside by every other one."
So I guess we just have to live with democracy's imperfections, right? Well not really, because the United States is not a democracy! Yes you read that right and I am not inferring it's a fascist dictatorship (my apologies to any Noam Chomsky fans out there). The United States is a Constitutional Republic. The Constitutional part obviously implies the Constitution, or namely a strict set of rules our government must be held to. Separation of powers is explicit in that to prevent a consolidation of the monopoly (government), which interprets said document. The Republic part insinuates federalism, or state rights. Now obviously this isn't perfect either as Jim Crow was justified with state rights. But we need not go to any extreme; the federal government can (under the 14th Ammendment) and should prevent the states from blatantly taking people's rights away.
So we need all four (democracy, federalism, a constitution and separation of powers) to have a just government. Unbridled democracy alone is simply mob rule, the power of the 51% to take away the rights of the 49%. It’s what Thomas Jefferson referred to as "two wolves and a lamb voting on what's for dinner" while liberty was "a well armed lamb protesting the vote." James Madison was more explicit:
"The prescriptions in favor of liberty, ought to be levelled against that quarter where the greatest danger lies, namely, that which possesses the highest prerogative of power: But this [is] not found in either the executive or legislative departments of government, but in the body of the people, operating by the majority against the minority."
Neo-socialists like Howard Zinn claim Madison was trying to make sure the rich minority could exploit the poor masses, but that had nothing to do with it. Although slavery was allowed (against the wishes of most founding fathers), the idea was that no party, political orthodoxy, religion or anything else could come to dominate the country and that people who held opposing views would be free from the tyranny of the majority. This is why our 1st amendment isn't up for vote. We can't vote away free speech (although politicians through out our history have tried to do it in an underhanded way).
So in essence what Prop 8 did was allowed the majority of Californians to vote away the rights of the minority. This is what the Federal Constitution and every State Constitution is meant to prevent. What angers me here is not so much that Prop 8 passed, but that we would even be allowed to vote on such a thing. Hell, marriage wasn't even a state regulated institution until about 100 years ago when the government got into it (and makes us pay them to get married).
Well, there's the legal, constitutional argument, how about the moral argument. Well first off, it shouldn't matter. Why does someone else getting married, probably a stranger, matter to you at all? Is it to maintain the institutions traditions? Well, just 40 years ago interracial marriage was illegal in 16 states, so that can't be it. OK, so the Bible says "13If a man also lie with man, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination." Well be careful, the Bible also says "18-21 If a man have a stubborn and rebellious son, which will not obey the voice of his father... all the men of his city shall stone him with stones, that he die." Are you really going to feel good about enforcing that one? All Christians need to either accept that the Old Testament is a bit anachronistic and there's a lot of allegory in there or you are not even close to living a Christian life and should certainly not be casting the first stone!
As we approach the December 12th election in Britain, I thought it would make sense to repost a few old posts on voting and election from my old blog. (Yeah, I'm in the United States, but it's a good enough excuse.) I'll start with this one on my dilemma for voting back in 2008 when I had two candidates (McCain and Obama) I wasn't particularly fond, of to say the least. (By the way, I was definitely right about Obama's faux antiwar beliefs.)
Who to vote for, who to vote for? That was my dilemma last weekend as I went through and filled out my mail-in ballot. It was probably the most mind-numbingly boring experience of my entire life... so I'd like to share it with you. Don't worry, I'll skip the boring ballot measures and annexation requests and State Treasurer runoff and jump right to the real meat of the matter: Who should I vote for President.
I'll start with the Republicans. Wow, have they proven they don't deserve my vote over the past eight years. I'll say that no matter what happens, this election can't be all bad given that George Bush will be out of office in two months. And while I like John McCain as a person and definitely respect him for what he had to go through in Vietnam, I simply can't vote for him. I won't even consider it. The reason being is his steadfast support for the war in Iraq and his almost romantic disposition toward US militarism. Every prediction made by the war's supporters - that it would be a cake walk, that there wouldn't be an insurgency, that the insurgency was in its last throes, that oil would pay for the war, that there wouldn't be any sectarian violence - has been proven wrong. The surge seems to have helped stabilize the situation, but I think it has more to do with the Iraqi people segregating themselves along sectarian lines. Basically McCain was wrong about Iraq in the beginning and he is still unwilling to budge. To me, this is unacceptable.
Unfortunately it's not just Iraq with him. McCain is a super hawk, through and through. He even said in one of the Republican debates that "we lost in Vietnam because we didn't have the will to finish the job." Really John, really? Were 13 years not enough (1960-1973)? Were 55,000 dead Americans not enough? I'm just afraid that he is such a hawk that not only will we stay in Iraq for a 100 years but that Iran may be next. To fill out his resume he has admitted he's doesn't know much about the economy and Sarah Palin is inexperienced and looks kind of lost on the campaign trail. At least she's helped Saturday Night Live produce a much needed revival.
So let's turn to the Democrats, Barack Obama is tempting. All that talk of change, well it makes me think of this. He did oppose the Iraq War and comes of as uniting figure. However, if you read his anti-war speech closely, it's really not very anti-war, it's just anti-this-war. While obviously very few people would oppose all wars regardless of circumstance, Obama felt it necessary to reiterate that four times in a 921 word speech. And since when does one short speech make you passionately anti-war prior to the conflict. So Barack may just bring us back to the ineffective, scattered, naive interventions a la Bill Clinton. Oh and he hasn't pushed any legislation to end the war of even voted against funding it. Some change there buddy.
What worries me more about Obama is his economic ideas. As I mentioned in the previous post, the government is the root of our financial crisis, but the junior senator from Illinois simply blames Wall Street and only Wall Street. Overall he wants to raise taxes during a recession. Come on Barack, economics 101! Sometimes his economic policies are just plain ridiculous, such as when he was asked why he wants to raise the capital gains tax even though the last two times that was done it brought in less revenue. His answer: it's more fair. Really Barack, really? He also wants to increase spending, which will mean more borrowing, even with the tax increases he has proposed. Thereby increasing our ever growing and unsustainable national debt, which I will have to write a blog about sometime later.
So I'm saying no to the two major candidates. Aren't I throwing my vote away then? Well, I live in Oregon, which is easily in Obama's camp. So no matter who I vote for I'm throwing my vote away. I'm not against democracy by any means (although it needs to be restrained by a strong constitution, separation of powers and federalism). And I do know that if many people vote for a third party candidate en masse it could swing the election, such as with Ralph Nader in Florida in 2000. However I also know that it is simply a fact that no election has ever been decided by one vote and Oregon will go blue no matter how I fill out my ballot. So screw the major parties and call it a protest vote if you want, but I'm voting for who I want regardless of their odds.
So then who? Well I liked Ron Paul a lot during the primaries, so maybe I could write him in. He's not on the ballot, but did gain quite a following during the primaries. Paul's libertarian conservatism may be a bit simplistic, but he's one of the few politicians that Washington hasn't corrupted. I supported him until those ugly, racist newsletters saw the light of day. Paul says he didn't write them and I believe him, but it's hard to believe he had no idea what was going on. I mean the newsletter was called the Ron Paul Newsletter for crying out loud. So I guess I still respect him (and by the way his book, The Revolution: a Manifesto, is quite good), but I'm not going to write him in.
So, given my moderate libertarian beliefs I guess I'll just go with Bob Barr and the libertarian ticket. I have some beefs with the former congressman too - such as his support of the Defense of Marriage Act, a very unlibertarian piece of legislation if there ever was one - but overall he's a more restrained version of Ron Paul with out the racist charade circling him. Hey, he's as good as anyone to throw my vote away on.
And here's another post from my first blog, one of early 20's philosophizing, although most of it I still agree with and think is helpful to ponder on.
At the end of every year I go through my stuff and my computer in a vain attempt to organize and clean it all up. This last year was no exception. While doing said tedious work I came across an interesting thing I wrote a couple years ago. I don't remember writing it or why I even wrote it but I liked it. While it had no title, it might as well have been titled "Happiness and Success." So here it is in its unadulterated form, a bit cheesy, yes, but also kind of deep. Well at least I think so.
The activities that will lead to success in the long term must be identified, accepted and executed in the short term for long term success to be possible.
Thus the short term activities that will lead to success in the long term are a means to an end (success/happiness).
However, if short term activities are only to gain long term ends (success/happiness), it could be implied that the short term (present) is devoid of those desired ends (success/happiness).
If the present is devoid of both happiness and success, then the next question is when do you reach the long term? When do you feel the fruits of success or happiness or both?
In addition, should success and happiness even be put together? They are not innately linked. Does success bring happiness, or does happiness bring success?
Regardless of which brings which, happiness is the greater achievement. Because your success is a purely personal representation of achievement (not social) it matters little to you if it isn't accompanied by happiness.
So happiness must be applied to the short term activities that will lead to success in the long term if achievement is even still desired.
If achievement is desired it is no longer and ends (happiness is) so is it a means?
Achievement at its highest level is an actualizing of personal ability. Happiness should (but not necessarily) make one want to achieve their best. Thus achievement is a means to no end.
The short term activities to bring long term success should be the short term activities that bring true happiness.
The short term activities that bring true happiness are the ends.
Happiness is an end in itself.
On this episode of The Good Stewards, we discuss the rather boring, but extremely important topic of putting together a scope of work (which I wrote about here as well). Two quick tips, 1) do a line item scope of work and 2) put it together yourself and don't rely on someone else to put it together for you (like a contractor for example).
So just over eleven years ago, I wrote a post on my old blog about the "super bad, grotesquely ugly, dark side of technology," and it seems to have been at least somewhat prescient. Indeed, I myself have become especially critical of big tech (particularly regarding censorship), but social media also seems to have generally negative effect on people.
OK, this article is mostly about how reliant we are on it and how annoying that can be, but that's just another problem with technology we don't have very good answers for right now.
What is it about technology that can cause such love/hate relationships? It helps with so many things, but when it goes wrong, it goes oh so wrong. Technology is like having an extremely hot girlfriend. They're great and all, especially for some things you just can't do nearly as well yourself, but unfortunately such women tend to be extremely needy and unbearably high maintenance.
OK, so poorly made, moderately disgusting, overtly chauvinistic analogies aside, technology is probably so important to daily life that we would all die off rather quickly if it was all just to go away one day. Yet many people, and myself in particular, often treat technology like a spoiled, ungrateful child treats his parents. We are like, to get all Biblical on you, Bill Gates' prodigal son. We rarely tout it's many benefits (like keeping us alive) and always rant at it's rare hiccups. It's quite irrational really.
But you know what, I don't care. Fuck computers and fuck technology! They can go away and never come back for all I care! Yeah I know I couldn't be writing this if it weren't for technology, so? You think I don't have anything better I could be doing than being lured to this damn machine to write a blog no one will read, or read spam mail sent to me by some douche bag in Nigeria who wants me to invest $10,000 in his brothers Swiss Bank account, or find out how many viruses, trogans and malware I can download in one sitting from some pimplely faced, teenage hacker eating cheese puffs in his mothers basement? No, there is an entire assortment of better things I could be doing right now.
OK, so a quick explanation is in order. About four months ago my computer crashes and my hard drive explodes. I of course lose everything. I then proceed to spend a bunch of money getting a new hard drive and promptly my screen starts screwing up. No big deal right? So I go to Best Buy and the guy tells me it's the mother board and I should call Dell to get it fixed. So I do, and some girl in Bangladesh trying to fake an American accent tells me that actually it's the hard drive that's cashed! Then she tells me to call the out of warranty people the next day (because the out of warranty repair people were obviously out of the office that day for no reason whatsoever). So the next day I call them, and they tell me I need to call the home computer department, but they inexplicably close at 2:00 so I'd have to call them the next day. I patiently explained that we were talking about the warranty now and not the computer itself, which was apparently a cue for him to start speaking his native tongue because I did not understand a single word after that. The situation is currently unresolved as I have stooped to using my brother's computer to write a blog that again, no one will probably read.
And yeah, I know last time I defended free trade, but I might have to make an exception for tech support. I got nothing against people from other countries, but with tech support, I mean, you're resolving problems with God Forsaken, Devil Incarnate technology! Clear communication can very well be the only thing maintaining the victim's sanity.
Regardless, I'm left with my second fried hard drive in 4 months and my hatred for technology has spilled over. Unfortunately, technology is quite inanimate, which makes it difficult to inflict pain upon any of its many forms. And regrettably, any good revenge requires at least some pain. Oh well, I guess I'll just have to settle for breaking something.
If you're a landlord, property manager or tenant in Kansas City who wants your property manager to screen for evictions and felonies when deciding who rents the unit next to you, please remember to attend tonight's rescheduled hearing on the KC Tenant Bill of Rights. While the bill doesn't outright ban tenant screening, it appears to severely restrict it. It's also extremely vague and appears to even violate Fair Housing. Here's the executive summary and my critique of it.
The hearing will be held at the Robert J Mohart Building at 3200 Wayne Ave, Kansas City, MO 64109 and begin at 5:00 PM. Try to be there early if you would like to speak. Here is the Landlord Inc. event page.
And it's not to late to email the committee members, who's email addresses can be found here.
So aside by the Russiahoax nonsense about Trump colluding with muh Putin so that muh Russia could take over America and bring back the Soviet Union except this time over the entire planet and also this time it would be a Nazi Soviet Union or something, there was also the scourge of muh Russian trolls.
And guess what! As anyone who could rub two brain cells together could tell, muh Russian trolls were also irrelevant to the 2016 election,
A recent study from Duke University appears to support former Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein's February 2018 announcement that Russian internet trolls did not affect the outcome of the 2016 US election - a campaign which the New York Times described as "the Pearl Harbor of the social media age."
Who would have thought that the $100,000 worth of Facebook ads for Black Lives Matter and other random political causes that Russia paid for wouldn't have a noticeable effect in an election that cost well over $1 billion.
And now this!
Reality is coming unglued now that blatantly obvious facts are being validated by academic studies. Whatever will we do???
Well it turns out that aside by being a catastrophe in terms of lives lost, these neocon-driven wars of choice in the Middle East have been a financial catastrophe as well. From CNBC,
American taxpayers have spent $6.4 trillion on post-9/11 wars and military action in the Middle East and Asia, according to a new study.
Oh yeah, and that human cost,
The report, from the Watson Institute of International and Public Affairs at Brown University, also finds that more than 801,000 people have died as a direct result of fighting. Of those, more than 335,000 have been civilians. Another 21 million people have been displaced due to violence.
So much so, in fact, that I'm not even sure whether my previous sentence was disgust or sarcasm. Can we get some fiscal conservatives other than Ron and Rand Paul to oppose this by chance?
"Every day is a new life to the wise man."
The Righteous Mind
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