Category Archives: politics

Whither American Democracy: FDR-style reform, revolution or slide into populist dictatorship?

Three people, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Warren Buffet, together own $248.5 billion which is as much wealth as 56% of Americans. This level of inequality is unsustainable and I often wonder when the American political system will implode. In other countries, other political parties would have arisen long ago to replace the Republicans and Democrats, but the rules of the US political system make it virtually impossible for an effective third party to come to the fore.

At this point, it is increasingly pointless to call the Republican Party a political party in the traditional sense. A party is supposed to represent the interests of a significant block of voters, but the Republican Party increasingly only represents a tiny percentage of Americans when it comes to economic issues. The new tax bill is a shameless give-away to rich donors, while raising taxes on households making under $75,000 or less over the next decade, raising the national deficit by $1.45 trillion, and taking away the health care of 13 million Americans. Basically it raises taxes by $4.5 trillion over the next decade on the lower and middle classes, in order to give $6 trillion in tax cuts to the wealthy, of which 62% of those tax cuts go to the top 1%. One analysis found that 71.6% of Americans would be worse off, while 5% would benefit from the bill. This is basically a tax bill which says let’s rob from society in general to give to those who already have too much.
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Can the US become a democracy that governs in the public interest?

At some point there is no longer any point in pretending that the US is a democracy. Yes, it has elections and institutions which take democratic forms, but for all practical purposes, the state no longer functions as a democracy, in the sense that elected officials and bureaucrats no longer create public policy which corresponds to the public interest.

Only 6% of Americans supported a bill passed by the US congress that allows internet service providers to sell people’s internet usage information to third parties without their consent. Basically, the US government ignored public opinion entirely when giving away the people’s right to internet privacy. Michael O’Rielly, Brendan Carr and Ajit Pai on the FCC just took away net neutrality, despite polls finding that 83% of Americans want to keep net neutrality. The FCC received 22 million comments from the public which were overwhelmingly against repealing net neutrality and the FCC commissioners decided to basically ignore the comments. A tax bill is currently being passed that raises taxes on households making less than $75,000 in order to give a $4.5 trillion tax cut to the wealthy and increase the national deficit by $1.4 trillion over the next 10 years. 62% of the proposed tax cuts will go to the top 1%.
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Being willing to evaluate information which contradicts our world view

Every couple weeks I stumble across an article about climate change, and I look in the comments and see that the climate change deniers are out in full force. A rational person would not waste her time, but it annoys me that nobody contests them when they spread misinformation on the internet.

Here is how it typically goes:

Denier: The 97% climate-change consensus is a myth. Emily here is incredibly poorly informed for a TED presenter. Thought this talk was on “I don’t do math” but it’s just another “climate deniers are morons” indoctrination.

Me: No, you are the one that is poorly informed. Read Cook et al. (2013):
http://iopscience.iop.org/article/10.1088/1748-9326/…/024024
If you still insist that those 2.9% of peer reviewed articles are correct and the 97.1% are incorrect, then read Benestad et al. (2016):
https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s00704-015-1597-5
If you are going to keep insisting that the 97% climate-change consensus is a myth, then you are a scientific illiterate, who has no idea how to evaluate scientific evidence.

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Obama’s mediocre record on the environment

Obama was both good and bad on the environment, and we should be honest about his record, rather than mindlessly praising him, since he appears so much better than the Republican administration that followed him.

On the one hand, Obama did some good things:

  1. Got additional funding for renewables and clean tech in the 2009 stimulus bill,
  2. Talked a lot about a Green Jobs program at beginning of his term, but only got it partially funded by the stimulus, because Republicans blocked it afterwards, so he gave up on it after 2 years.
  3. Worked hard to extend the incentives for renewables and had to negotiate with intransigent Republicans to do it,
  4. Dramatically increased the fleet fuel efficiency standards,
  5. Drafted the Clean Power Plan and tried to get it implemented despite Republican obstructionism,
  6. Implemented a hiatus on leasing coal on federal lands,
  7. Drafted new rules to prevent contamination of streams by coal mining,
  8. Negotiated bilateral deals with China and Canada/Mexico to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  9. Signed the Paris Agreement and did not work behind the scenes to block it.
  10. Appointed smart Secretaries of Energy and other administrators, who helped promote alternative energy, clean transport and clean tech and approve the infrastructure for clean tech.
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My struggle for an adequate ideology

I often struggle to name a political or economic philosophy which defines my beliefs. In Bolivia, where I reside, I don’t like to call myself a “socialist,” because that would align me with the Movimiento al Socialismo (MAS) party and I strongly disagree with a number of their policies. I agree in some concepts of anarchism on a local level, especially the anarcho-syndicalism of Latin America a century ago, but I see anarchism as a hopeless ideology for governing. Anarchists essentially assume that humans are good by nature and will do the right thing if freed from the coercive power of the state. I don’t see this as a viable philosophy for confronting the concentration of wealth and power that governs today’s society. Noam Chomsky, who is probably the world’s most renowned anarchist, observes that dismantling the state in the face of concentrated corporate power is suicide and we currently need an organization like the state to protect against organized corporate interests.
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How the cut in YouTube ad revenue is effecting online news channels

In recent weeks, Google has cut the ads for many news sites on YouTube because a few of its ads happened to be shown on channels for racist and hate groups and advocates for terrorism. The Wall Street Journal has run a series of sensational articles about how advertising on YouTube was helping to fund hate and terrorism, which has caused a number of high profile advertisers to pull their funding from YouTube in recent days such as Walmart, Pepsi, Starbucks, MacDonalds, Disney, AT&T and Verizon. Analysts estimate that YouTube may loose $750 million in revenues due to the controversy, out of a total of $10.2 billion in expected annual revenue. Some of these companies may be pulling their ads from YouTube in an effort to secure better advertising deals on more favorable terms, but they also may be spooked by the potential public relations scandal of advertising on offensive YouTube videos. The mainstream media also may be hyping the controversy partly because it helps redirect advertising funds toward the traditional media, rather than the new online formats like Google and Facebook.
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Questioning the evidence that Russia meddled in the US presidential election

I finished reading the 25 page unclassified report entitled “Assessing Russian Activities and Intentions in Recent US elections,” which was released by US intelligence agencies to prove that Russia meddled in the US presidential election of 2016.

Frankly, most of the report is just assertions without proof, and the proof that is provided is mostly circumstantial and probably a misreading of the evidence. I wanted to see the proof that Russia gave the DNC emails to Wikileaks, but this report presents no additional proof aside from assertions by the US intelligence agencies. Furthermore there is no proof in the report that Guccifer 2.0 was a Russian agent and that Russia leaked material to DCLeaks.

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