Sunday, October 27, 2019


Dictatorship is not alway a bad thing, y'know. A dictator can strip away the red tape and get things done. If the Metro is too slow, the dictator can order it to run faster. If your cable company is gouging you, he (it is alway a he) can order them to lower prices and give customers free services and extra channels. If your medicine costs too much he can lower the price, just like that. You put a strong authoritarian in charge and he can get a lot of stuff done. Why was health care in Cuba better than ours after decades of Castro's rule? When the beaches of Boracay were too polluted for tourists, Filipino President Duterte sent troops there to shut the whole island down for six months and clean it up. If you put one guy in charge, and he gives orders, where the alternative is to be executed on the spot, guess what -- you can get a lot of stuff done.

Lots of Americans like the idea of dictatorship. There are problems in the country, so why don't we just go ahead and put somebody in charge to fix them? The logic is obvious.

Our system of government is based on the premise that people can govern themselves. We vote on stuff, debate issues in public, elect leaders. If the people are running things they can make choices that are fair to themselves as a whole. So, like, if you are accused of a crime the government doesn't just take you out back and shoot you. A dictator can do that, Duterte himself has gone out and killed "drug dealers" without a trial or any justice process. When the people are in charge they don't like the idea that they might be shot by authorities for attracting suspicion, or that they will be disappeared for holding an opinion that their leader disapproves of. So in the USA we pass laws and set up processes to treat people fairly and allow ordinary people to prosper. We call it "freedom."

That means, generally, that government programs are expensive and take a lot of time. Democracies want to hear from all interested parties, they want to do studies of the possible effects of decisions, they want to debate and discuss all aspects of a change so that policies are good for the people. A government needs a detailed plan and a budget before they start anything. Sometimes it happens that a leader meets with their diplomats and military experts and subject-matter experts and makes a decision that the relatively uninformed general public doesn't very well understand; maybe there is a decision to declare a war, or to decline to respond to some aggression, or maybe the government invests in a sagging industry or lets one fail. If the people really don't like the decisions they can elect a new leader. The public understands that situations are complicated and that leaders have detailed knowledge that the rest of us don't have. It's our job to elect someone we can more-or-less trust.

Trump was elected to be a dictator, and he would be one if he could. He tries to cut the experts out of his decision-making and works "from the gut," under the theory that it is best to do something, even if it is wrong. Unfortunately that means that his decisions are often foolish and unworkable, as he fails to take important factors into account. It also means that his decisions almost always enrich himself and his circle of friends, and oddly his most important decisions tend to benefit Russia more than the US. We don't have any way to know how he comes to any decision, and he does not feel it's any of our business.

Our country's founders recognized these weaknesses in a dictatorial form of government, and they worked long and hard to figure out a plan to avoid it. So far the system is holding. Though Trump and his accomplices in the Republican Party have packed the courts with sympathetic judges, even conservative judges still have to rule in accordance with the Constitution and the laws. The result was that, with Republican majorities in both houses of Congress who would approve anything he wanted, Trump still could not get anything done. And with the House going to the opposition party, he is being held accountable for his crimes and faces impeachment, as provided for by the Constitution.

Everybody understands the frustration of red tape, of having to look at all sides of an issue before you decide what to do, of having to consider things that are not important to yourself personally but might affect others. It might seem needlessly complicated, when you know that a simple decision is all you need. But there are good reasons to do it this way. I hope that enduring a few years of Trump's attempted dictatorship will teach us a lesson that we remember for a generation, at least.

Sunday, October 06, 2019


Afraid to defend the Constitution and American values.

“The Republican party has got to get a grip on itself,” Former Secy. of State Colin Powell on the state of the current GOP. “Republican leaders and members of the Congress… are holding back because they’re terrified of what will happen [to] any one of them if they speak out."

Mike Murphy, a former senior adviser to Sen. Mitt Romney (R-UT) and John McCain:
“One Republican senator told me if it was a secret vote, 30 Republican senators would vote to impeach Trump,” Murphy said.

"I heard someone say if there were a private vote there would be 30 Republican votes. That's not true," [Republican former Senator Jeff] Flake said on Slate's "What Next" podcast. "There would be at least 35."

“Nobody wants to be the zebra that strays from the pack and gets gobbled up by the lion,” a former senior administration official said in assessing the current consensus among Senate Republicans. “They have to hold hands and jump simultaneously … Then Trump is immediately no longer president and the power he can exert over them and the punishment he can inflict is, in the snap of a finger, almost completely erased.”

et cetera