Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Time to vote...

So Deb and I voted today via mail. I’m not going to say anything about how we voted, though those who know me can probably guess. I like voting by mail, it allows time to research each person and each item on the ballot as I go down the ballot. Something nearly impossible to do at an actual voting place.

It was possible to look up the resume and political history of each candidate even, (in some cases) to follow the electronic footprints of their social media contributions. It seems the most prudent thing to do is try to find words written by the candidates themselves, though a small dose of skepticism is warranted. What their opponents might say about them also has some merit, but must be taken with a huge helping of skepticism. Often what they say about their opponent says quite a bit about the kind of person they are themselves, and what kind of representative they might be.

In the case of voting to leave judges and justices in office, it helps to see on which side of an argument they often fall. Just who appointed them to the bench in the first place is also a pretty good indication of where their allegiances lie. Finding some of that information takes a bit of digging.

The real benefit of voting by mail comes when considering the list of state constitutional amendments. Those often seem to be deliberately written so as to be as confusing as possible. It is a puzzle why that would be. People voting by “giving it their best guess” would be as likely to get it wrong (according to the authors of the amendment) as to get it right. Wading through the verbiage to get to the real intent of the amendment can be a daunting task.

An additional problem is that many of the amendments bundled several, completely unrelated issues, into one vote. Voting for an issue for which one approves often means also voting for a different issue on which one is vehemently opposed. Balancing the “what I would like to see” from the “what I really don’t want to see” against each other can often lead to a near draw. In at least one case on this last ballot I voted against an amendment just because it was a near draw. First, do no harm. (Or, as in the case of a lot of voting these days, do no MORE harm.)

Of course anyone can do the same amount of research before going to a polling place, and all of us should. But the daily rush of normal living sometimes makes it hard to set aside the time to do so. It helps me to have ballot, black (or blue) pen in hand, access to information, and all the time I need to poke around as much as I want on each issue or candidate. I suspect that is about the only way democracy has much of a chance.

So our votes are cast and I can go back to not paying a lot of attention to the daily shenanigans of those in power. On the one hand I consider voting to be a near moral imperative. It is about the only way we have to voice an opinion that matters. On the other hand I’m not convinced it actually makes any difference, particularly on the national level. There is nothing about the electoral college, the design of the Senate, or the gerrymandering of the Congress, that is the least bit democratic. The majority opinion as regards those institutions is proving to be utterly inconsequential.  So, though I think we should all vote, and approach the privilege with near reverence, I also ponder the accuracy of the words once shared by the late comedian George Carlin.

“Everybody complains about politicians...”

But where do people think these politicians come from? They don’t fall out of the sky. They don’t pass through a membrane from another reality.

No, they come from American homes, American families, American schools, American churches, American businesses, and they’re elected by American voters. This is the best we can do, folks. It’s what our system produces...

So I vote, but with huge helping of skepticism thrown in. My deepest suspicion is that riding along on an empire in decline might be a bumpy passage, and there seems little chance that we can change the course of that history at this late date. But a minute chance of changing course is still better than no chance at all. Voting by mail makes it possible to do so as carefully and responsibly as I can.


Tod Germanica said...

Not just the sliding down end of an empire but probably also of an industrial system and a mild interglacial period as well due to carbon excess.
The USA, tainted by the need to placate slave owners, was always Democracy Lite, and now it's biting us on the ass. I vote as you do with little expectation of positive change. But you put far more effort into it than I ever will. Kudos.
Your life afloat was chosen by you but might be forced on many as sea levels rise. Let's not even think too much about arctic methane and flaming lakes; or of colorful anoxic tides on coastlines.
Thanks for the thoughtful post, as always. Here's hoping you don't have to run to high ground again this season.

Robert Sapp said...

I'm old enough to remember In Search Of The Coming Ice Age, the Late Great Planet Earth and worldwide mass starvation, the Population Bomb, Nuclear Winter, the Deadly Ozone Hole, Peak Oil, the End of History, etc etc etc and so on and so forth. The one thing they all had in common was manufactured hysteria. You can firmly place massive sea level rise and flaming methane lakes (is that even a thing?) in the same category. Somehow, despite all the pending disasters that are Just Around The Corner!!!! (we've had only ten years to fix the climate OR ELSE!!! for over 30 years now). And yet life just keeps getting better and better for human kind. For the first time in history, over half the planet is living a middle-class existence, a trend that will only continue as long as we maintain respect for private property and the rule of law and avoid falling into the social and economic dead-end of socialism, Marxism, communism and manufactured hysteria, all of whose true purpose is to curtail your freedoms and pick your pocket. Since the fall of the Soviet Union and the rollback of European socialism, there has never been a better time to be alive.

It must be emotionally exhausting to be a leftist. So much anxiety about the crisis-de-jeur that will never happen and which you have absolutely no control over anyway even if it did.

Most Americans alive today were so poorly served by our educational system that they fail to realize that we are not and have never been a democracy but a republic. The founders feared the passions of the mob, and put the tools in place to make sure that the rights and freedoms of ALL Americans would be protected, and not just those who could shout the loudest. The biggest mistake we've made was the 17th amendment, which turned the states from independent political entities as intended into vassal states of the Federal Government. Something I do wish we could fix. Who knows, maybe in President Trump's second term?

TJ said...

Robert, I love you my friend, so feel free to cling to the illusion that virtually all of the climate scientists on the planet are involved in some giant left wing conspiracy theory just to deprive the oil industry from making profits that will somehow devolve into robbing the world from making all the progress consumer capitalism driven by blind greed can bring us; particularly if we allow them free access to dump as many and as much toxins into the environment as they can, so long as it adds another penny to their stock price.

I am old enough to remember when rivers caught fire and the street lights stayed on in the middle of the day because the air was so badly polluted. And I remember that got much better with the creation of the EPA and when laws were passed that reduced that level of pollution. Laws now being reversed for the sole reason that the polluters want to increase their profits. I remember when public education was actually pretty good, right up until funding for education was cut by politicians who are best served by having an easily swayed and uneducated population that can't tell the difference between a scientific theory and lunatic propaganda.

I remember when the US was proud of its progress in civil rights, women's rights, and protecting people from the worst prejudices driven by religious fantasies. I remember when Nazis and White Supremacists didn't have access to Republican Presidents, and when the Senate wouldn't dream of sitting on a SC nomination for a year simply because the POTUS wasn't of their party. And I remember that every time "State's Rights" is the battle cry, it's because those states want to trample on someone's rights as determined by the constitution and the Federal courts.

Oh, and I'm glad that last hurricane, the most powerful ever to hit the Gold Coast and one of the most powerful ever to strike the US, one of the rash of such storms in the last couple of years, missed you by a whisker and left you unscathed.

TJ said...

Todd, for some reason my reply to you didn't show before I got to playing tag with my friend Robert again. We have known each other for a while now and, sometimes, we get lucky enough to cross paths with when out cruising. Robert and I are walking, talking evidence that two people who have world views that are about as opposite as possible don't have to hate each other, or consider the other one an enemy.

Anyway, I suspect that some remnant of an industrialized society will survive, for a while at least. No one knows if there is a Mars-like future for the Earth, but I suspect human kind will be long gone before such a thing happens, if it ever does. Any particular species has a limited run. When the environment changes in a way that threatens its survival, it either evolves into something new or just disappears. Human kind may be the first species on this planet whose environmental impacts end up threatening its own survival. If one tries to adopt some "view of the cosmos" it will be an interesting evolutionary experiment. Will our species evolve (or find) the kind of wisdom it will take to make the kinds of decisions that lead to a long future? Is a self-induced environmental disaster, (slow to unfold as it might be) perhaps the way a truly intelligent species evolves out of the ashes of a semi-intelligent species of great apes that never learned the value of wisdom? The one thing we have learned for an absolute certainty is that evolution doesn't stop. Whatever we are as "human kind" will not be around in a million years, perhaps not even in 100,000.

I suspect a pretty good sci-fi story lies in the idea that the cosmos is full of intelligent species; each of which evolved when their semi-intelligent predecessors' store of wisdom proved no match for their tool building expertise coupled with a pure greed for power and wealth. Maybe a story where something like that has to happen over and over during the course of a few million years, each event leading to a slightly more intelligent / wise species growing out of the old until, eventually, a truly evolved consciousness arises in the cosmos.

Many the pantheists are half right. The universe will be god, just not yet. There are a few billion years of evolution to go before it gets there. (I like to run off into la-la land once in a while, just to exercise the imagination. Its okay so long as one one takes me more seriously than I am taking myself. Given that I am pretty sure we humans are not really as intelligent as we claim, that isn't very seriously at all.)

Robert Sapp said...

I'll bet you dollars to doughnuts that if you and I can get together for a beer in 10 years (and I hope we do), the weather and sea levels will be pretty much exactly like what they are today, which is pretty much exactly like what they were 50 years ago. But climate alarmists will still be shrieking that we only have 10 YEARS TO SAVE THE PLANET!!!! like they've been saying for my entire adult lifetime. Because there's no end to the leftist campaign to destroy capitalism and private property and implement their trickle-up-poverty policies.

And I hope we both realize we have too much in common to ever be less than friends.

TJ said...

Robert, in some ways I expect you might be right. Human lives are very, very short as compared to the evolution of a planet and it is all about trends that extend far beyond any individual's horizon. But if, just 10 years ago, the governments of South and North Carolina and Florida had headed warnings about rising sea levels and the potential for more violent storms and addressed building codes accordingly, millions of dollars of less damage would have been done by Florence and Michael, with their record storm surges and rainfalls. Ten years ago glaciers world wide were not in record retreat, someone anyone can see for themselves given the technology of satellite imagery. Then years from now that retreat will result in even more of the sea level rise that is putting Florida communities under water during normal high tides now, and fouling wells with salt water. Then year ago coral reefs were not dying off at the rate they are now, nor were the sea level temperature and acid levels what they are now. These are real phenomena that real scientists measure and track, and the lives of everyday people are being effected as their property values decline and their insurance rates go up. I will never understand why some people want to pretend that it simply isn't happening when the effects are easily measurable and understandable. The fact is the science behind climate change isn't that difficult to follow. Certainly not nearly as complex as Quantum Mechanics or Relativity. Yet even a layman like me can get a grasp of the fundamentals of QM and e=mc2 with a little effort. I haven't found the science behind climate change to be anywhere near as difficult to follow. Indeed its pretty basic, though, on a more fundamental level, the environmental movement is no more complex then the idea that we should clean up after ourselves. What we are doing now is near equivalent to taking a dump in our bed, sleeping in it, then wondering why we are getting sick.

Thinking that the science is make believe, made up by some world wide cabal of leftist to destroy capitalism is just weird. Sorry, I know you buy into it but it makes no sense at all. China, Russia, Cuba...even the "communists" have turned to forms of capitalism. Every oil producing nation on the planet, most of them controlled by tyrants of varying degrees, admit that climate change is a growing challenge. Every one except the USA which, of all the nations in the world, is the one most controlled by capitalism and its lurid worship of profit above all things. As you like to point out we are a republic, not a democracy. And those most represented by our republic, the ones with access to power, are the capitalists. They are opposed to recognizing climate change for one reason only, they know dealing with it will effect their bottom line; and nothing is more sacred to them than their money. You are aligning yourself not with people who care about equality, justice, equal access, human rights, liberty, indeed, with any of the issues that make human beings better human beings. You are aligning yourself with people whose only motivation is greed; something that is condemned by nearly every major religion and philosophical ideology in history, including (odd as it seems in the USA today) Christianity.

Since I think of you as a far better person than that, I'm sure you don't see it that way. But, 10 years from now, there is a good chance you might.

Robert Sapp said...

I’m pretty sure we’ve covered all this before, but once again, here are the reasons I know climate alarmism is a fraud:

The only viable solutions that can scale sufficiently to supply the world’s energy needs while reducing carbon output is nuclear power supplemented by hydroelectric. If it wasn’t all a big con job, there’d be a worldwide push to develop both as rapidly as possible. Instead, nuclear plants are being shuttered (see California or Germany) and dams destroyed. After 50 years, the world’s total wind and solar generation capacity is about 3% of our annual needs, and the world’s need for power increases by 3-5% every year. Without nuclear power and hydroelectric, we will continue to require fossil fueled power to keep the lights on and the factories running.

The climate alarmist’s models have totally failed to predict any actual climate outcomes. Warming, sea level rise, storm intensity, every measure is always grossly overestimated and never actually observed. Go back and re-watch An Inconvenient Truth to remind yourself about how the world was going to become a hellish steaming sauna by 2005 if we didn’t immediately destroy our economy in sacrifice to Gaia. The actual rates of increase are right in line with what you’d expect from a planet slowly warming after an ice age.

On that note, read a book or two about the Galveston Hurricane of 1900. I recommend “Issac’s Storm.” Entire cities destroyed and 12,000 people killed. The only reason St Augustine is recognized as the first European settlement in North America rather than my hometown of Pensacola is because the colony here (established 4 years before St Augustine) was wiped out by a massive hurricane. Storms are as they’ve always been.

Robert Sapp said...

The people who are telling us it’s a crisis don’t act like it’s a crisis. They live in enormous homes, fly private jets to remote, exotic locations to attend climate conferences (I believe Facetime would work very well is this case) and vacation on their huge yachts (or houseboat, in Al Gore’s case), all while lecturing us plebes about our carbon footprint.

Along those lines, the only signatory to the Paris Climate Accords that has actually met its obligation to reduce carbon emissions is the United States. And we aren’t even a member anymore. All those other world leaders are just parroting the party line, doing almost nothing to actually meet their obligations. But they’re whining like babies about the US withdrawing, because it was all really about transferring wealth from the US to other countries for climate reparations. We met our emissions reductions goals, which you’d think would be the really important part. They didn’t, and now they’re mad at us because they won’t get to fleece American taxpayers. Boohoo.

There has been a great deal written about how if you want to make a living in climate research (teach or obtain grants), you have to toe the alarmist line. Everyone who disputes the alarmist view has left the field because they can’t get a professorship or obtain grant money. But there is no such thing as “settled science” putting something beyond question. That’s faith, not science. A true scientist will tell you that EVERYTHING is constantly subject to question. People still poke at Einstein’s theories that you mentioned. So the fact that people who won’t accept when scientists say that fracking doesn’t affect groundwater or vaccines don’t cause autism or gender is determined by chromosomes are suddenly all “the science is settled” about climate alarmism is a big red flag for me. I know a scam when I see one.

We can talk about greed another day. The short take is that greed and a will to power are two of the most fundamental characteristics of human nature. You are no more likely to change that than you can stop the sun from shining. Greed is what makes someone get up in the morning and say, “ I want more tomorrow than I have today, so I’m going to go to work.” I have no issue with properly managed greed. Free market capitalism is the best method ever invented for channeling human greed productively. And the US Constitution is mankind’s greatest achievement in controlling the will to power. I’m a big fan of both. And I don't think that makes me a bad person. At least not in the circles I move in. :-)

TJ said...

Robert, the challenges that come with nuclear power are well known. The waste those plants produce is as much an environmental hazard as burning carbon. Fast breeder reactors pared with normal reactors might be an answer. But building the liquid metal cooling loops needed in fast breeder reactors with the necessary safety issues addressed is a huge technical challenge, and may well make the fast breeder even more uneconomical than nuclear power has already proven to be. (My Dad was one of the lead engineers at Westinghouse working on the fast breeder, and the cooling loops were his speciality. Trying to build the newest nuclear reactor drove Westinghouse into bankruptcy.) Even if the technical challenges are overcome, fast breeders create Pu239; the stuff needed for nuclear weapons. Also, reprocessing the Pu239 also creates highly radioactive waste, another environmental challenge. So, the argument that not going full tilt with nuclear power is, somehow, evidence that climate science is a hoax is more than a bit of a stretch.

Greed isn’t a matter of “I want to live better and am willing to work harder for it.” Greed is, “I want what you have, and I’m going to get it any way that I can.” As for human kind’s lust for power, the only way to keep that from destroying us is to spread that power around as much as possible. Bottom up organizations are one way of doing that. The people you are alined with want all of the power for themselves. They are working diligently, and succeeding, at usurping every bit social power into their hands alone. They have no use for democracy, or political efforts to keep them in check, or organized labor, or having to answer for environmental disasters. They want to rule unchallenged so their greed can be given full reign. You are right in that, should they reach that goal of unfettered rule, their greed and lust will, most likely, destroy our civilization. The question is why are you are their side, for they are most certainly not on yours.

Jeffrey Michals-Brown said...

TJ, I, too, have been feeling a bit frustrated by the limitations to voting as our only participation in democracy. For which reason I was pleased when When We All Vote came on the scene. It's a new, non-partisan non-profit organization whose aim is increased voter participation. The main efforts in the run-up to the midterm election has been getting people registered, and--in last week or so--texting potential voters to convince them their vote counts. We can still use a little help, if you have a computer and a bit of time. then click "volunteer." It can be great to be involved in actual democracy-building.