Sunday, November 27, 2016

Moderation and justice

While sitting in church today, my minister talked about social justice which has been a theme at both UU churches I visit (the one closest to me and the closest one with a functioning young adult group which I need). He talked about calling for justice and moderation (in a nutshell) and how the two are intertwined.

My personal opinion/experience is that these two are irreconcilable. There has never been a social justice movement in history which has been both successful and has not made enemies. Systems of oppression exist because some people benefit in the short run from keeping other people down. This is usually from discrimination and societal illness which poisons the mind of people. This makes them think that helping another group is hurting the dominant group, so-called "reverse racism" which is impossible. Moderation would encompass actions like the three fifths compromise, the Missouri Compromise, and the section of the 13th amendment allowing prison slavery. While in the short run they keep the peace, they merely pass the ball of progress down to future generations who have to deal with the problems of yesterday instead of moving forward.

Science and reason are the only methods I have ever observed which have actually worked to open people's minds in ways which benefit humanity. Calling for moderation and detachment which is popular in many religions I believe leads people to not work on self-improvement, or working on themselves without the tools to use their deeper understanding they get from introspection. When people follow philosophies of self-impoverishment this usually ends up with the king/priest/God Emperor of the country being the only one with any real power. It is a massive conflict of interest when the religious organization which calls for the letting go of physical goods is also the political organization which locks up people who speak out against the state. One must ask questions about why ideologies ask their followers to give up their tools of resistance. Places where these values are followed most frequently end up undergoing massive campaigns of religious persecution against anybody who preaches differently from that of the God Emperor. The list of people victimized by such is almost endless, Jesus, Al Wei Wei, Michael Severtus, the Burning of Books and burying of scholars, among so many other losses for humanity. Wikipedia has many lists of martyrs, EnglishUnitarian, and other groups.

Science and reason do not have moderation under a clear understanding of the word. Seeking common ground from where you start is not the same thing as seeking out reality. Societies based on science and reason are the only ones I have observed which consistently avoid episodes of mass martyrdom when science and reason are dominant. Sometimes a group is simply in the wrong. With a debate between the Nazis and SPD in the 1920s in Germany, the Republic of China and PRC over the last 80 years, and now between Trumpists and the rest of America the differences are so vast and detachment from reality so clear, trying to find middle ground with such ideologies is ultimately destructive. You are led to a situation where you have to choose between defending human rights and trying to negotiate with dictators who do not care about human life. By trying to negotiate with dictators by giving them leeway and try to give ground to people following purely evil ideologies which destroy the lives of millions of people you give them more power and by doing so further damage the lives of the people they oppress. The actions of Neville Chamberlain only deepened the horrors of the Third Reich and made the inevitable World War II longer than necessary. The sending of Jews from New York Harbor back to the meat grinder of the Third Reich was a great loss to the world. The same goes for other dictators in history. I cannot see any middle ground. History is very clear on this topic.

Science and reason demand an introspective life. Constantly questioning our current beliefs and actions. They demand us to not take anything for granted, understand why we have the beliefs we hold, understand their roots and consequences, and change our opinions when we are proven wrong. This is not a moderate viewpoint, this is a quest for understanding the world around us. When people try to hold on to old ideas which have no grounding they are committing an act of self-deception which then eliminates their ability to make the world a better place. If you deny global warming is real (IT IS REAL) then you are not going to be able to tackle the problem. If you do not go study how something works or at least seek out the scientists who have dedicated their lives you will not be able to understand the underlying roots to a problem.

I think of gardening for a day to day experience of this solution. When you pull most plants you can't just break the plant from the ground. You have to take out the roots otherwise the plant will grow back with bigger roots than before. I have yet to find a problem this analogy does not work for. Fighting global warming has to be done by transitioning off of fossil fuels, the root of the problem. Fighting for racial justice to a point where everybody has equality of opportunity demands us to understand 1. What race is from a sociological/political/economic point of view, 2. why some countries have race while others don't, 3. intensely study diverse nations which have different nations living together in peace, and then once you understand those three things 4. how do you move from a society with incredible racial inequality to a place of coexistence. This cannot be done overnight, this takes years of studying and learning to understand, but it does not require a college degree either.

This is not a moderate path. This is not a 3/5 compromise. This is not a path of self-sacrifice. This is an intensive, challenging journey of studying the world and building a picture of what is happening which changes with new information and allows you to then manipulate with predictions of what your actions will actually do. It is a path of personal intellectual/spiritual growth which when practiced and channeled properly has the ability to change the world.

This also does not mean that you will get everything you want in one go. That has never happened before in history. You push for the best thing you can do and always do the right thing to the best of your knowledge. You focus your energies into the highest impact activity you can do in order to maximize your impact. This strategy has worked in the past with the Underground Railroad, Suffragist movement, Civil Rights Movement, and I believe it accurately describes the push from Black Lives Matter for police accountability among other demands. The modern push for civil rights by great people in history has a long history stretching back to the resurrection of Western Philosophy by Cosimo de Medici stretching to the present day and I hope it will last for the rest of humanity.

So, push for the best methods you can, use your time and money efficiently. Do not waste and be impactful in the world around you for a better future. If someone says you are wrong, inquire why you are wrong to gain insight they may be able to give you, and change your mind if they give you a more accurate picture of the world with better evidence than you have. When a good plan is on the ballot, if it will create more good than harm, vote for it.

The main goal I believe that we must work on is to work for justice around the world so that people are free. Stand up to dictators and always seek and tell the truth to the best of your ability. Engage in discussion for people to understand what is around the world. Build your complete viewpoint with the pieces to be accurate. A house built of paint would not work, but it is generally all you can see with your eyes. Behind the paint are wires, pipes, trusses, and details which hold the house together, even though all you can really see is the paint on the edge. An architect must start with the structure and understand how it all fits together to be resistant to weather, and general wear and tear, even though almost all the work will be hidden behind the paint. Accurate models of the world are similar in that even if you see the surface level equations there is always a deeper level of understanding to the world and what drives the moving parts which are necessary to fully understand what is happening.

The final question which must be answered is what justice is. Justice has many ways of being defined in history, Hammurabi, John Stuart Mill, Karl Marx, and Adolf Hitler all had very different ideas of what justice is. Everybody in the world has an interpretation of the concept of justice, even if they do not call it justice themselves. I personally believe as a strong liberal that 1. each and every person is important, no exceptions, 2. people have the rights to freedom of thought, speech, and life, 3. Nations and class do not need to divide us and everybody deserves these rights no matter where they live, 4. People have the right to opportunity and respect from others. 5. Building up a system which is sustainble for the future. These are my core values on how we need to treat one another. They are not uniquely Western, there are records of people who believed these ideas around the world for thousands of years. I do not always succeed in these high ideals but I always do my best in the situation to the best of my knowledge and as soon as I realize I failed I try to fix the  given situation. A just system would then maximize human welfare and give everyone the opportunity to be their best and fullest on a material and spiritual level. This goal is probably unreachable in full, but we can and should get as close as we can to making a good world. It is not a quest for moderation but is a quest for universal human dignity.

In current politics these ideals lead me to the following actions: As in my last post, write an accurate obituary of the tyranny Fidel Castro created in Cuba. Oppose Donald Trump's plan for my country to the best of my ability. Fight climate change to the point where I will quit my job if an opportunity arises. Lobby my state legislature for legislation which supports education, builds infrastructure, increases economic opportunity, and fights climate change using the best science we have today. Most importantly, make people think about their current stances to the point where new information can broaden their understanding of the consequences of their actions. Seek out new allies on all of these causes and talk with people on how to achieve our goals in the least amount of time for the smallest amount of money.

This is how I interpret the principles of a free and responsible search for truth and meaning combined with the goal of world community with peace, liberty, and justice for all. To not stand up to oppression and give into the temptation to make everybody equally unhappy is to drop that honorable goal of world community, and to not test your beliefs is to drop the responsible part of the free and responsible search, after which you will be victim to fraud, deceit, and lies. Combining the two principles fully however gives anyone the ability to change the world.

Saturday, November 26, 2016

Fidel Castro

With the passage of yet another undemocratic communist dictator, do not make him out to be better than he was. Castro was a monster who restricted freedom of the press and religion in his totalitarian state which until 2013 was the only country in the Americas which limited the ability of its citizens to leave. He also persecuted gays and admitted it willingly. When it comes to his policies, he was far more like Kim Jong Un than Willi Brandt which a lot of right wingers are going to make him out to be today (if they only knew who Willi was). Merely having public health care does not make a country free. Praising Castro is pissing on the people of Cuba. I hope the monster had a painful death for his crimes against humanity. 

Burn in hell you monster.

If you consider yourself left-wing than you have to consider yourself a liberal (communist thought and practice has not respect for human rights, and the largest body count of any ideology in history), then remember him for who he was and his multiple atrocities against the people of Cuba. Cuba has the worst Freedom of the Press in the Americas, bans gay marriage, their government regularly tortures prisoners, and has no freedom of assembly. Granted, the United States is not perfect either, and also has large problems with prisons and the current attacks on Standing Rock are a massive violation of the rights of the Sioux, both under treaty and the Bill of Rights. This is why we, like every other country in the world, do not have a perfect score on any broad freedom metric. But when political scientists analyze both Cuba and the United States there is no doubt that Cuba is far less democratic and free than the United States. This is a system which Fidel Castro built, and it is a monstrosity against the people.

If you want a hero to idolize, than there are good people who are worth remembering and living up to. German Chancellors Konrad Adenauer, Helmut Schmidt, and Willi Brandt built the system of Germany based on liberal thought and Germany is now beats the United States on every freedom metric except gay rights where the USA beats Germany. Willi dissented from the Nazis during the Third Reich at great personal risk before being our greatest Chancellor. Pierre Trudeau built Canada's respect for Quebecois culture and Medicare and was a great man. Clement Attlee built the British Welfare State and was the greatest Prime Minister they ever had, reversing Labour's indefensible policy of appeasement and led decolonization. Lyndon Baines Johnson signed most of our civil rights laws and worked hard to try to get us out of Vietnam while leading a booming economy. Bob Hawke led Australia's economy through the turbulent 80s with skill which no other leader in the world had at the time, introduced medicare, and made their social policy more liberal. Nelson Mandela led South Africa to freedom.

There are great people in history who stood against dictatorship and built freedom and prosperity. Remember them for who they are and remember that Fidel Castro was a man who all of them actively opposed for that reason.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Open letter to President Obama about Standing Rock

The current attacks on Standing Rock Protests are being shot at by the Army Corps of Engineers right now. This is a violation of the rights of the Standing Rock Sioux and allies. The construction of the pipeline across native land which was illegally stolen from the Standing Rock is a violation of their treaty rights and our constitution. Treaties signed under the United States are laws under our constitution Article 1, and the Army Corps of Engineers is being improper in their current action. Our constitution and the courts exist for a reason, to prevent massacres which are happening right now. Please use your action to block the Dakota Access pipeline to the best of your ability right now and save the lands of these people. I know that you were raised UU like me and I frequently see you refer to the values your mother raised you with. What would she and your grandmother say today if they saw you stand idle as the rights of Native People are being infringed by the Army Corps of Engineers. I know that our church has come out in opposition to the current actions against Standing Rock protesters and that you know better. You have the power to stop them. Do it.

Friday, November 11, 2016

2016 Recap and 2020 cycle

That was a terrible election. This is the second time in my life where the electoral college has not selected the winner of the popular vote, and this time the consequences could be dire. I have already talked about the Orange Bag and how he is a despicable human being, and I fear for my country's future. His economic policies are going to ruin us if they are implemented and his social policies will destroy our soul.

Locally, Washington State was a mixed bag. Washington wasn't very good defeating the carbon tax (which I poured my heart, mind, and soul into) and the state finance initiative, but we did get paid sick leave, and most importantly the Governorship and both houses of the Legislature will be held by Democrats. Kim Wyman won reelection after rigging the election against the carbon tax however, she has disgraced the office of the Secretary of State with the inaccurate information she has published in the voter's pamphlet. The rest of State executive positions (except treasurer which had a massive spoiler effect in the primary) have gone to the Democrats. We hopefully will be able to keep many of the protections the Orange Bag is about to eliminate here in Washington, but there are some things, like marijuana, which are going to become illegal again very soon.

When we look at the Rust Belt however, we see a fascinating trend in the exit polls. Comparing the results in 2016 and 2012 in Michigan we see a 6% boost for the Orange Bag from white men, and interestingly a 4% boost for the Orange Bag among black men. This boost was enough to give him the Presidency, and the only theory I have on how the Orange Bag had been able to get more votes from African American men than Mitt Romney did in 2012 is through deliberate voter discrimination. Providing more places to vote per capita in white conservative areas as opposed to minority liberal areas is vote rigging. There is no other word for it. Among white voters, their voting for third parties was enough to tip Michigan over the edge. The majority of white voters (regardless of gender, as always) voted for the Republican both times.

In Pennsylvania we see a decreases in the diversity of voters this year. White voters jumped 3%, which was enough to swing the election. We also saw the same number of Orange Bag voters but a reduction of 2% of white voters due to third parties. People with only a high school education switched from 60% in favor to Obama to only 43% in favor of Clinton. Whites with no degree were the only demographic the Orange Bag won when you consider both education and race together. This election was swung a great deal due to a decrease in diversity of voters.

In Wisconsin the number of white vs. non-white voters stayed the same as it was in 2012 with 86% of the electorate being white. White support for the Orange Bag was 2% higher than it was for Mitt Romney and Clinton was 6% lower than Obama (4% increase for third parties) which is way more than enough to swing the election. Minorities voted about the same as they did in 2012. We see the swing in support from education where people with only high school degrees shifted their support from Obama (with 55% of the demographic) to Orange Bag who won 54% of the demographic.

If just half of Jill Stein voters had voted for Hillary Clinton in swing states Tuesday would have been a very different day. Their ideological purity has hurt our country far more than a vote for Clinton. This is the the simplest way to explain the gap between the number of votes Clinton won as opposed to Obama. The reach by third parties also significantly hurt Clinton this year, while the Orange Bag is winning about the same number of voters Romney won in 2012, but Clinton saw a significant decrease. The latest count on Google with 99% of precincts reporting is that 126,061,003 people voted in this Presidential election versus 129,085,410 people voting in 2012. this predicts about a 2% decrease in the number of people of voting, way more than the margin between the two candidates. A 6 million person decrease in the vote for Clinton vs. Obama, in a country which has grown by 4 million people is a gigantic amount in such a close election. Also, Michigan and Pennsylvania haven't voted Republican since 1988, and Wisconsin has been a reliable Democratic state since 1984. With such a record it can be understood why Clinton did not spend so much time there, preferring Ohio and Florida to these other states. This demonstrates that every vote counts. Other states which have voted for the Democrat since 1988 and voted for Bush in that year include Vermont, New Jersey, Maine, Maryland, Illinois, Connecticut, Delaware, and even California. The only states which could have been considered safer than Wisconsin are DC (which has always voted Democrat) and Minnesota (which is extremely similar to Wisconsin in demographics). These were about as safe states as you can get! The Orange Bag campaigned heavily in these states which was extremely intelligent of him and by doing so won the Electoral College. These three states also had enough third party votes to spoil the election for Clinton which is a two pronged attack on Hillary Clinton which has doomed us.

Another way the election could have been different was for Democrats to reach out to White people with less than a college degree who overwhelmingly supported the Orange Bag this year. That is where this election swung. In 2018 and 2020 we are going to have to see Democrats supporting policies which maintains their hold on highly educated individuals (like myself) and also appeal to people without a lot of education. Hard decisions are going to have to be made. Another path to victory which will be more difficult is to have more access to voting which would  boost turnout of minorities, who are only going to grow in importance over the next few years. If Democrats have policies which appeal to Hispanics more than the lead can grow from 66% to 70% which is enough to win nationwide in these key states. The appeal to younger voters is going to help Democrats naturally over the next few years as our demographic ages. The key is for people in their 20s to not despair given how hard the next 4 years are going to be and vote in 2018 and 2020 so that we can rebuild what is about to be destroyed once we regain the Presidency in 2021.

The other big issues is Millenials didn't turn out to vote. I am ashamed of my generation and our apathy has hurt us more than any other generation. We need to start investing over the next 4 years and if our economy does as well as is likely to do under the Orange Bag as with other Republicans over the last 50 years then we just royally screwed ourselves and will suffer the effects for the rest of our lives. Clinton had all the policies that we wanted, maybe not exactly as Bernie Sanders proposed, but the same outcomes as his policies would do. People in my generation not voting was immature, stupid, mean, and shameful. We will need to turnout in the midterms up and down the ballot and in 2020 to kick out this racist shit bag.

So, the plan for the next four years is to run candidates in every congressional and legislative district in 2018 to try to take back as many legislatures and seats in the House as we can. If the Orange Bag does what he says he is going to do and our economy tanks as a result it will be easier to do so despite the gerrymandering. Democrats need to do some soul searching and admit that moving to the center has not worked as they planned. By becoming more solidly socially liberal and expanding the coalition to include as many Hispanic voters as possible the party will be unstoppable. The issue that will work best is having a strong education plan, working to expand access to jobs, and access to health care will help Hispanic voters significantly and attract them to the party. These are the issues they care about. It will also make Millenial voters even more solidly Democratic. Working to expand access to retirement options and cracking down on abuse as opposed to making it hard for people to enter to the financial advising industry will help attract working class people. The current approach to punishing newcomers to finance has not worked well and people still are locked into plans which give terrible returns. These can be stopped by making it illegal to be locked into a retirement plan and giving people the option to switch plans when their portfolio is not working for them. This type of a platform with these four major planks will attract people back to the Democratic Party. We will need a candidate who has a record of fighting for these issues.

Bernie Sanders is currently the most popular politician in America and he would be an excellent choice for getting the Presidency back. He has already promised to not sacrifice American values to the Orange Bag which will be extremely popular with a majority of Americans and get people out to vote. Elizabeth Warren is another candidate who I have written about for years who would be a fantastic president. Electing a moderate did not work, though electing a progressive in 2008 did. It is clear to me the Democratic Party needs to move to the left in order to embolden my generation and have a future. These are the candidates currently with the most potential and national stage presence. Jay Inslee of my home state (Washington) is currently the most liberal governor in the country, is strong on race relations, education, and women's rights, and would make a fine President. Governor Kate Brown of Oregon is another fantastic choice for President.

Over the next 4 years more governors will appear, and hopefully a gubernatorial landslide in 2018 (when most governors will elected) will give us a large batch of excellent candidates to choose from. If the Orange Bag does particularly badly this will be easy to do. Recruiting local leaders to run for public office at the city, county, and state level needs to be the top priority of the Democratic Party and it needs to embrace its progressive wing as soon as it can in order to survive.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016


The Economist wrote another excellent article this week about how water is used across the world. It makes the case very clear that water management is a vital issue which is not getting nearly enough attention, and water reclamation strategies and other methods to maintain our global water supply are needed.

There are numerous ways we can fight water waste. The first thing I think we can do right now is price water appropriately. There are the concerns of spiking water bills which could hurt poor people (if we do it wrong), and there is merit to such concerns. I personally see this as like other important environmental issues, like how to manage global warming, and figuring out how to manage our resources best. When water is too cheap people have fewer incentives to save water, which means we deplete our aquifers faster than we should. People are less likely to fix breaks in their line when it is less expensive, and will take longer to fix the problem. People are also less likely to purchase low-water use toilets. Not having these policies in place creates waste and depletes our aquifers. The EPA has excellent information on water conservation and how to save money at home. The increase in price can easily be offset and more through a universal basic income to raise people out of poverty and the combination of these policies will make it so people can make better decisions about how we consume resources.

The second way we can reduce waste stems from the increased price of my first point. Having water be more expensive will force heavy water users, in the agriculture and electric power industries, to implement methods to reduce their consumption. Catching runoff from farms is an efficient method to preserve our water supply. This will help our aquifers last in the long run.

Third, reducing our use of coal powered plants and other dirty fuels will help reduce water consumption. 41.5% of American water consumption is currently for such uses. There is literally no reason to keep using coal plants in the United States. They are destroying our air quality, heating our planet, and squandering our water supplies. We can fight both global warming and preserve waterat the same time by shutting these plants down. We need to switch to a fully renewable economy as soon as possible.

Fourth, we currently waste a gigantic amount of water by letting our sewage run off into the ocean. Sewage can be recycled to the point where it is safe to drink by people again. The water after being sanitized is as safe as coming from an aquifer and creates a more closed loop to reduce water consumption. New York alone dumps 1.3 billion gallons of treated wastewater into the ocean per day. (Finding a total amount for the entire US or even the world is challenging.) This should be reused to maintain our aquifers.

Fifth, catching rainwater in cities (I live in Seattle, so this is a huge amount for us) and recycling it into our pipes is an efficient way to gather water which does not deplete our aquifer. Houses can do this as well, using the water from the rain to fill their hot water tanks, further reducing demand on aquifers. For people who live in the country where water is from private wells this is a significant amount.

The last big way I can think of reducing water consumption is at home. Homes use 8.5% of water taken from aquifers, the third largest source after agriculture and fossil fuel power plants. First of all, heating homes can be done more efficiently through heated floors which are more comfortable and keep houses at a constant temperature throughout the day. Heated Floors which are heated from wastewater from sinks and tubs. It will be a closed system which keeps using the same water until some is used for toilets. Toilet water will be from the water which is used from the heated floors. Water would leave the system at the toilet. Such a system would drastically reduce water consumption.

The United States has made an incredible amount of progress over the last 50 years with treating sewage before dumping it into the ocean, and this must be recognized. There is however still a lot of work to do in order to protect our environment. Fighting the consumption of fossil fuels is of course a top priority, but reducing consumption of water is also extremely important. With good policy and public pressure on our governments from the city to federal level, and across the world, we can preserve our water use for future generations and keep our planet habitable.

Monday, November 7, 2016

2016 watchlist

Election day is tomorrow, and in preparation here is a shortcut for the most interesting, important, potentially important, and unique races in the country. This is important because there are over 100 ballot initiatives in the country right now, and many of them are on the same topics. They also are continuing a trend which have already been passed in other states. They are still important, but they will not be earth shattering and be continuing established political trends in the United States. These initiatives are about marijuana, minimum wage, gun control, and certain types of tax legislation. These can be important, but there are a few races right now that will get less attention but could quickly become trend setters. There are also a number of important races which could be more earth shattering than others. Albeit, every election is important and voters should read their local alternative newspaper to understand the issues. From a national standpoint, here are the ones which I am most interested in:

Presidential election. Established former senator vs. a fascist misogynistic pig. Go Clinton!

Senate elections: Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Pennsylvania, and New Hampshire are potential Democratic pick ups for control of the Senate.

Several gubernatorial elections, probably no switching party this year. Nothing earth shattering.

State legislatures: Colorado, Iowa, Kentucky, Maine, Minnesota, New Mexico, New York, and Washington are all split. Possible pickups in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Nevada, and Wisconsin.

Ballot initiatives: Focusing on the ones which are not part of continuing trends.

  • Washington: Initiative 732 to replace part of the state tax code with a Carbon Tax is the first of its type in America, modeled after a successful policy in British Columbia, I am working on the campaign and am obsessed with it. It must pass.
  • Maine: Ranked Choice Voting Initiative, Question 5, the first of its type in the United States. I am obsessed with IRV and hopefully once Maine implements this reform it will move around the country.
  • Death Penalty repeal in Nebraska and California, Oklahoma to set it in the constitution. Literally a life and death issue.
  • Maine: makes their tax code more progressive in order to fund education, Question 2
  • Colorado: Prohibit slavery in prisons.
  • California Prop 58: Non-English in Schools

This is where we stand today. There are also thousands of local elections for local government, cities and counties (and equivalents) across the country. These are currently dominated by Republicans and we will see how many Democrats vote down the ballot this year.