True Blue DoorTrue Blue Door's Journal
The little-seen Far Side of the Moon is visible.
The image on the site can be expanded to see details.
Chang'e 5 is an unmanned vehicle on a circumlunar flight to demonstrate technologies for an eventual lunar sample return mission.
"Billionaire Steve Ballmer bought the Los Angeles Clippers in August for $2 billion, but he could write off as much as half of that amount in taxes by 2030, according to an analysis by the Financial Times.
A tax break for owners of sports franchises would let the ex-Microsoft CEO claim about $1 billion of the team's purchase price from the taxable income he makes over the next 15 years, said the report, published Sunday in the London newspaper (paywall, registration required)."
This may happen, mind you - Ballmer has not yet actually availed himself of the option, so this story is about the Satanic injustice in the tax code, not a slam at Ballmer. Yet.
Nonetheless, it does give one visions of guillotines and red-starred berets when you realize that such "incentives" exist against a backdrop of Republicans insisting the government doesn't have the money to provide food stamps, put books in schools, or keep bridges from falling down.
I would urge Steve Ballmer not to avail himself of this tax option. The man is already a billionaire and has nothing to gain but ego points from making another billion dollars, and it would be frankly outrageous to put his sports business on the American taxpayer dole to a ten-figure tune. Hopefully this is something that can be fixed in the tax code as well. The option simply should not exist.
Whenever I ask this question, there are always a torrent of responses that attribute the American left's relative weakness to external causes: Mainly the wealth, power, and ruthlessness of the (pseudo-)American right. But such explanations only illustrate the real answer - the left in the US has an almost entirely negative self-definition, as a political space where the destructive ideologies of the right are rejected without necessarily having any unified vision of what to do with that space.
This is why the multi-generational failure of the American left to establish lasting foundations of governance in this country is almost universally excused as a product of Enemy Action: "They won't let us do the things we should do!" And for some reason it's usually just left at that, with no further examination. The laziness and childishness of this attitude should be immediately obvious, as well as the fact that it's an excuse for failure rather than a productive thought process toward achieving better results.
It also can't escape notice that it's essentially false: Contrary to myth accepted by both the left and the right, principled left-wing politicians are not rare in America. What's rare are principled left-wing legislative accomplishments, because the American left doesn't reward leaders who do things - it punishes them, because action intensifies attention, which (under the previously mentioned negative self-definition) causes unreasoning and unprioritized obsession on flaws.
A left-wing legislator who just sits quietly between symbolic speeches, but never once passes or in any way tangibly affects a bill that actually does anything, will not be punished by the left for their laziness. But a legislator who fights actual battles, and causes legislation to be passed that moves the country in some tangibly leftward direction, will not be rewarded for it - they will be tarred with the difference between that legislation and a perfectly ideal conception of what it should be, as if that ideal were a real thing and the bill they passed were a movement to the right for not living up to it.
This is an illustration of the quixotic, monkish, fantasy-based solipsism in American left-wing politics. It's a mentality that is self-satisfied with inaction - because inaction doesn't disturb the tranquil contemplation of ideal absolutes - while the rigors of actual governance are resigned to right-wing politicians and moderates. Think about this scenario:
Let's say that only 40% of the people have healthcare. The left says 100% of the people should have healthcare. Every once in a while, left-wing politicians introduce legislation (that never leaves committee) providing healthcare to 100% of the people. The fact that these bills never pass does not register with them or their base - the mere symbolic act of advocating them is considered an achievement in itself, sufficient and perfect, because the reality that no one is actually getting healthcare because of them is considered immaterial. None of these politicians are penalized by their base for doing nothing to actually create healthcare for real people - in fact, they're rewarded for "standing firm" in the face of reality.
Now suppose a pragmatic liberal politician gets a bill passed that increases the percentage of people with healthcare from 50% to 80%, and this is the first time in, say, thirty years that anyone has significantly increased the proportion of people with healthcare. Any remotely sane progressive would be over the Moon at this accomplishment, doubling the provision of healthcare to the American people, right? But in the negative psychology of the American left, that's not what just happened: That bill did not just double healthcare, it cut it from 100% down to 80%. And thus the liberal politician who just saved millions of lives is not a liberal at all, but some kind of Republican Lite or corrupt Betrayer who "sold out" the remaining 20% in some kind of smoke-filled backroom deal with cigar-smoking Mayflower descendents.
And...this is not an exaggeration of how left-wing politics in America thinks. It's the exact picture. I'm not saying that everyone on the left is guilty of this, or guilty to an equal extent, but it is the general environment. The American left operates like a set of monastic orders, not a political movement. It retreats from the world and from messy reality, content in impotence, seeing it as preferable to guard ideas from the dangers of practical trials than to participate in a "profane" and "corrupt" system that can't possibly do them justice. Needless to say, this is a perfect recipe for self-inflicted under-representation and irrelevance - more perfect than anything the other side could possibly design.
It is, in essence, a Loser Factory: A set of attitudes and cultural prejudices that turn humanistic ideals against themselves, and make people who could do the most end up doing the least. It takes away vital public support from politicians who try to achieve things, making them instead targets of the very people they try to serve, and make useless rhetoric machines incapable of political accomplishment into heroes. There seems to be no analytical ability to distinguish between real liberal achievers and people who legitimately deserve the title of "sellout," and the result is that the latter are empowered because insultingly pitiful fig leaf accomplishments still feed more people than Noam Chomsky monographs recited to empty committee rooms.
While the left is characteristically fractious everywhere, in Europe it actually has an interest in governing. Relative to our version, it definitely rewards its leaders for winning elections and passing legislation, instead of treating these accomplishments as grounds for suspicion. There are all the same ideals and kaleidoscopic interest groups, but except for the most impotently and irrelevantly radical of them, they don't jealously withhold their ideals from practical politics like some kind of sacred idol - they try to demonstrate their ideals in practice so that other people can see the benefits, and build networks of political support to continue and grow their programs.
When a left-wing leader is elected in Europe, their first order of business is coalition-building to navigate their agenda into effect. They find out who's who and what's what, and figure out how to make something happen. In the United States, it's more like "Well, I'm going to be a tireless advocate for thus-and-such, and if they won't listen, that's their problem." There's no recognition that being a politician (they despise the very word, let alone the concept) is their job, not being a motionless totem pole to symbolically represent their agenda. If you added 20 exact copies of Dennis Kucinich to the House of Representatives, they still wouldn't do anything, because zero times twenty is still zero.
That's why in America the issues we support, that have the backing of huge majorities of the people, are treated in politics like a radical agenda: Because our left doesn't merely disbelieve in the union of ideals and practical achievement, it won't allow it. Achievement, for all intents and purposes, is the enemy. Achievement is a distraction from basking in moral perfection. So leaders who want to achieve cannot count on support from the left. It can be had briefly, but it cannot form a stable base. There is nothing to gain over the long-term by trying to form a solid political alliance with the left in America - it doesn't reward those who serve it, and does reward those who sabotage it. Like a battered wife, it only feels at home in utter powerlessness, and resents anyone who challenges its comfortable resignation.
The worst part isn't that the American left likes to elect weaklings - it's that they turn against leaders who prove to be strong, almost like clockwork. If you go to any of the more stridently ideological discussion forums and tell the people there that President Barack Obama is a liberal progressive, they're absolutely scandalized by this statement. In their world, opening up healthcare to tens of millions of more Americans, opening the military to gays, preventing war with Iran, using Executive Orders to advance all sorts of labor and environmental objectives, etc. etc. - these things are not liberal achievements because (as with the 100% vs. 80% example above) there is some divergence with a perfect, ideal system that never existed.
Obama halted the march to war with Iran in its tracks and opened up diplomacy, but because the US still wages war somewhere, on some level, he's Dick Cheney. We have Obamacare, but because it involves mandates and private health insurers rather than a purely public system, it's the same as doing nothing and letting millions die from lack of healthcare. Then there's the ever-present "What has he done for us lately?" which never seems to acknowledge the existence of the other two branches of government, like if Obama were a true liberal President, he would magically overcome a bottomlessly corrupt GOP Congress by the sheer force of his progressive piety.
The attention paid by the American left to a subject tends to be inversely proportional to its own influence over it, so Congress - which we can affect much more quickly and effectively than any other aspect of the federal government - gets short shrift in these conversations. When it decides (usually erroneously) that the White House is failing to meet its obligations, does the American left then say "Hey, there's a midterm election coming up, let's take over Congress and force the Executive branch to the left from another branch"? Of course not. Because achievement is the enemy.
An achievement-oriented, left-dominated Congress would be extremely effectual - far more so even than having a liberal President - and yet that goal makes a vanishingly small element of political activism and conversation on the left. It would be so effectual that the other two branches, even if in the hands of the radical right, would be constantly on the defensive: A right-wing Republican (but I repeat myself) in the White House would have to practically automate the process of vetoes, and would frequently be overridden; and the Lawless Five on the Supreme Court would have to be in session 24/7 to strike down all the progressive legislation, probably resulting in some Constitutional amendments passing to override them or at least check their radical judicial abuses of power.
So, in summary, this is why the American left is far less effective than the European left:
1. Self-absorbed and insular, waiting for the country to come to it rather than acting as bold missionaries for its values.
2. Flighty and abstract, obsessing on symbols and feelings while treating objective judgment and logic as profane.
3. A negative self-definition that unjustly concedes the moral substance of American culture to false right-wing definitions.
4. Rewards dereliction by political leaders who fill the void of accomplishment with ineffectual symbolic advocacy.
5. Punishes leaders who produce tangible achievements by obsessing on flaws as measured against nonexistent fantasy programs rather than against the preceding state of affairs.
6. Virtually ignores Congress - the most effectual branch of government to control - in favor of obsessing on the Executive Branch.
7. Instinctively prefers the personal freedom of being inconsequential over the moral dangers of governing effectively.
If you see any of this in yourself, address it and you will - by however small a measure - make the country a better place, make better decisions as a citizen, and probably be more effective as an activist.
"At the Geneva summit, President Romney called for the world community to lower import tariffs on yachts and luxury jewelry, noting that it might very well lead to someone somewhere having a job who might otherwise not have one. However, the President appeared flustered when a reporter for the Washington Post asked about the recent outbreak of ebola in a Texas hospital - the first ever ebola infections on US soil. "Umm, well, look - we have plenty of nurses in this country.," said President Romney. "I doubt losing a few would have any major impact on the stock market. So let's not go overboard and disrupt the great economy they've got down there in Texas with any kind of federal interference."
"With the announcement yesterday of additional confirmed cases of ebola in Texas, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Florida, concern is rising among Americans of a possible epidemic. Speaking from his recently-constructed solid gold 200-story palace constructed on the demolished remains of a children's hospital, President Romney tried to reassure the nation:
'Look, folks, people die every day. Ebola, e-coli, whatever other e words you want to use, it's not a big deal. But I recognize that this might turn into a problem, so I've ordered the immediate signing of a $50 billion no-bid contract with a firm that I own (so I can keep an eye on it and make sure it does the job right) to supply the CDC with everything it needs. Now my administration is committed to fiscal conservatism, so that money will be made up for by closing a number of schools and hospitals in poor neighborhoods, since let's face it - poor people would only be made unhappy by education and physical health.'"
"Despite the signing of a $50 billion contract with the CDC, whistleblowers within the federal government - most of whom have since mysteriously disappeared - say that the CDC has not received a single shipment from the contractor other than boxes of broken, outdated equipment stamped with North Korean flags, in quantities far below those stipulated in the orders. Asked to comment, the Romney appointee in charge of the President's ebola initiative referred reporters to a taped recording of a voice actor reciting an Ayn Rand lecture. As thousands of new cases are announced daily, pressure is mounting on the White House to take additional action, but the President continues to insist that the stock market could not bear any overzealous action."
"Speaking from his epidemic emergency headquarters on the International Space Station, President Romney - with his Emergency Commitee (the US Chamber of Commerce, the board of directors of ALEC, and his select concubines) floating beside him - vowed to expand the program of nuclear sterilization that had already wiped Michigan and Minnesota off the map, but cautioned that 'important' states like those that had voted for him in the last election six years ago (the one scheduled for two years ago had to be postponed indefinitely) remain vital to American prosperity."
The Republican Party is against democracy. Against it totally, on every level, and wants it to end. They no longer believe that the American people have a right to say "No" to them, and have over the past several years orchestrated a number of utterly lawless Supreme Court decisions toward removing that right. The reintroduction of Jim Crow via state restrictions on voting is just the latest and most egregious example on a path that must ultimately end in purely oligarchic or despotic government.
We are forced into the disgraceful position of, every single election season, not choosing between two or more political parties with different ideas about how to guarantee American freedom and prosperity, but rather choosing whether America is permitted to exist as a republic at all. Every time the GOP comes to power, they chip further away at what remains of our laws and civilization; every government they rule looks more and more like some petty Middle Eastern monarchy.
So, going into this upcoming election, Democrats who are monitoring the GOP's attempts to enforce these decisions need to have one particular statement in mind: Vote suppression is treason. That statement needs to be on bumper stickers, on t-shirts, and spoken by voters who encounter Republican attempts to stop them from voting. It may not change what the other side does, but it can inform how we respond.
There is no real difference between a rigged election and a military invasion - they are both acts of force that put power in the hands of the illegitimate and ruthless. And when conducted by people with nominal US citizenship, both are acts of treason. Once again, vote suppression is treason. I think we've mostly treated it like a prank.
"A four-image NAVCAM montage comprises images taken on 18 October from a distance of 9.8 km from the centre of comet 67P/C-G - about 7.8 km from the surface.
At a distance of 7.8 km from the surface, the image scale is about 66.5 cm/pixel, so each 1024 x 1024 pixel frame is about 680 m across (although if we assume the furthest point away is an additional ~1 km further from the centre, the image scale is about 92 cm/pixel)."
[url=https://flic.kr/p/pzEw71][img][/img][/url][url=https://flic.kr/p/pzEw71]P1013323[/url] by [url=https://www.flickr.com/people/78819544@N07/]Brian Altmeyer[/url], on Flickr
[url=https://flic.kr/p/pBqZvv][img][/img][/url][url=https://flic.kr/p/pBqZvv]P1013325[/url] by [url=https://www.flickr.com/people/78819544@N07/]Brian Altmeyer[/url], on Flickr
[url=https://flic.kr/p/pzEw2b][img][/img][/url][url=https://flic.kr/p/pzEw2b]P1013326[/url] by [url=https://www.flickr.com/people/78819544@N07/]Brian Altmeyer[/url], on Flickr
[url=https://flic.kr/p/pBqZse][img][/img][/url][url=https://flic.kr/p/pBqZse]P1013328[/url] by [url=https://www.flickr.com/people/78819544@N07/]Brian Altmeyer[/url], on Flickr
[url=https://flic.kr/p/pBH9D2][img][/img][/url][url=https://flic.kr/p/pBH9D2]P1013349[/url] by [url=https://www.flickr.com/people/78819544@N07/]Brian Altmeyer[/url], on Flickr
[url=https://flic.kr/p/pzEuWA][img][/img][/url][url=https://flic.kr/p/pzEuWA]P1013350[/url] by [url=https://www.flickr.com/people/78819544@N07/]Brian Altmeyer[/url], on Flickr
[url=https://flic.kr/p/pkdt57][img][/img][/url][url=https://flic.kr/p/pkdt57]P1013354[/url] by [url=https://www.flickr.com/people/78819544@N07/]Brian Altmeyer[/url], on Flickr
[url=https://flic.kr/p/pkca6z][img][/img][/url][url=https://flic.kr/p/pkca6z]P1013355[/url] by [url=https://www.flickr.com/people/78819544@N07/]Brian Altmeyer[/url], on Flickr
[url=https://flic.kr/p/pkdNBc][img][/img][/url][url=https://flic.kr/p/pkdNBc]P1013357[/url] by [url=https://www.flickr.com/people/78819544@N07/]Brian Altmeyer[/url], on Flickr
[url=https://flic.kr/p/pkdQan][img][/img][/url][url=https://flic.kr/p/pkdQan]P1013374[/url] by [url=https://www.flickr.com/people/78819544@N07/]Brian Altmeyer[/url], on Flickr
[url=https://flic.kr/p/pkdQ3Z][img][/img][/url][url=https://flic.kr/p/pkdQ3Z]P1013378[/url] by [url=https://www.flickr.com/people/78819544@N07/]Brian Altmeyer[/url], on Flickr
[url=https://flic.kr/p/pzEtsJ][img][/img][/url][url=https://flic.kr/p/pzEtsJ]P1013379[/url] by [url=https://www.flickr.com/people/78819544@N07/]Brian Altmeyer[/url], on Flickr
[url=https://flic.kr/p/pkd5PY][img][/img][/url][url=https://flic.kr/p/pkd5PY]P1013380[/url] by [url=https://www.flickr.com/people/78819544@N07/]Brian Altmeyer[/url], on Flickr
[url=https://flic.kr/p/pkc7iv][img][/img][/url][url=https://flic.kr/p/pkc7iv]P1013389[/url] by [url=https://www.flickr.com/people/78819544@N07/]Brian Altmeyer[/url], on Flickr
[url=https://flic.kr/p/pkc8pP][img][/img][/url][url=https://flic.kr/p/pkc8pP]P1013390[/url] by [url=https://www.flickr.com/people/78819544@N07/]Brian Altmeyer[/url], on Flickr
Include the following in your description:
1. Basic economic structure
2. Specific economic policies not covered by the structure (optional)
3. Rundown of public sector priorities, with relative weight
4. Rights and responsibilities
5. Methods of accountability
6. Security and foreign policy
7. Checks and balances
8. Flexibility to allow for future change and unforeseen contingencies.
9. Some vague idea of how to get from here to there. No military solutions, no deus ex machinas, and no inexplicable shifts in human behavior should be required.
Describe how each system you prescribe enhances liberty, equality, and opportunity, the three most basic dimensions of liberal values.
I'll go first:
1. Economic concept: Leverage-neutral capitalism. Business negotiations must be undertaken with counterparts of equal leverage, because leverage operates as coercion and belies the "free" market. Create a system of free-flowing associations in order that arbitrarily-sized groups of businesses or employees or consumers can form to do business on equal footing. This way no one can dictate economic terms to anyone else through market leverage - no more having prices forced on consumers, and wages forced on workers who have no viable alternative but to accept. It's a complicated idea, I know, but I'm just putting out the basic concept. The wealth of ordinary people would skyrocket under such a system without compromising the overall profitability of business. Mandate "leverage parity" in the Constitution if possible.
2. (a)National, state-level, and local dividends to all the people for the profits from national resources. (b)Universal $10,000 trust funds for all American children, to be opened at age 21. (c)100% estate tax on each dollar over $1 million, close all loopholes around it. (d)Civil and criminal fines indexed to income in order to be effective and fair across economic classes - thus, a billionaire who gets a traffic ticket may face a $50,000 fine while someone making median income would pay $50. Should be in the Constitution that penalties for the same offense must be as equal as practically possible relative to their effects on individual human beings.
3. Priorities from highest to lowest, though not comprehensive: Coequal (1): Water, power, transportation, and all related infrastructure. (2)Healthcare. (3)Education. (4)Science and technology. (5)Policing and courts. (6)Military and intelligence.
Points worth mentioning: Water should be desalinated ocean water with the plants powered renewably, and the water piped inland - at large economies of scale, the result would be cheaper potable water at far larger volumes than currently exist, the supply would be far more reliable, and deserts could be cultivated into vast agricultural regions (except for those we choose to maintain as desert preserves for ecological reasons). Power would be 100% renewable with whatever storage media are needed to deal with intermittency. All vehicles would be fully electric-powered - ground vehicles, aircraft, boats, and also other systems that use engines (lawn mowers, chain saws, etc.). The US Science and technology budget should be $100 billion to $500 billion per year, which would yield triple- or quadruple-digit return percentages, as has been noted historically. Policing, courts, the military, and intelligence need to be radically restructured for efficiency and fairness, some of which might require Constitutional amendments.
4. Rights and responsibilities: Aside from existing Constitutional rights, we can positively affirm the right to equal healthcare and education, and to equal justice, leading to the various structural changes I vaguely mention. You have the right to leverage parity, the right to a personal share of the profits from gains made through use of public resources, and the right to use public services (including transportation) free of charge. Your right to vote is inalienable and without qualification. In fact, probably lower the voting age to 12, since plenty of kids that age are smart enough to vote intelligently, and the immature ones are no more so than immature adults who vote stupidly.
5. Strict codes of uniform conduct must adhere to all public officials from the President of the United States down to the lowest local civil servant. Memorizing this code and passing a test on it must be prerequisite to assuming office. Penalties for violating the code must be far more severe than for average citizens breaking equivalent laws, and must be more severe the higher the office. A police officer convicted of a crime while in uniform must face triple the penalties a civilian would. In administrative proceedings against officials who wield force (which don't have the force of law) and their superiors, the burden of proof is on them to show they did not break the law and should not be fired. All police officers must live in the communities they patrol, and at any time, for any reason, the people of the community can compel their suspension or termination through a local referendum express a vote of no confidence in a specific officer.
Criminal justice must finally officially recognize that punishment is not its purpose: Public protection is. People may only be incarcercated if they have proven they cannot be trusted to respect the rights of others under more lenient penalties. House arrest probation with ankle monitoring must be the default method of incarceration in lieu of evidence of public danger. Actual prisons do not exist to punish criminals, but to house them under controlled circumstances where they will be less dangerous to the public and to each other. They must be constructed and managed with this in mind, and all violence and brutality against prisoners by guards or other prisoners must be thoroughly stopped. No non-violent offender must ever set foot inside a prison. Since the War on Drugs is ended, obviously, and most drugs are either legal or sanely regulated, most prisons would be able to close. The remainder should be strictly monitored by international human rights observers at all times. End the death penalty, because it's evil, immoral, unethical, cruel, arbitrary, racist, counterproductive, and plainly unconstitutional.
The punishment, to the greatest extent possible, must not fit the crime, but rather correct the crime - specifically the crime as it relates to the human victim, not merely to the victim's property. Stealing someone's car has made their lives inconvenient, so now aside from compensating them with money and yourself having to live under controlled circumstances with ankle-monitored probation, you are obliged to make that person's life more convenient in prescribed ways and also help make the community a more convenient place in general. So not just the person you harmed, but the ideal you harmed must be served. Spray paint a swastika on a synagogue, you're going to mop the toilets in the Museum of Tolerance for the next few months.
6. Still need to get rid of nuclear weapons, fast. Even a few hundred left on Earth could send mankind into a Dark Age for fifty years if they were used in war, and there are two thousand. Get rid of them ASAP. Form a new institution beside the UN consisting of all free democracies, and let them all have equal votes in its decisions with rotating executives. Ultimately this body will succeed the UN as its numbers grow, or else be able to exert the influence needed to reform the UN into a more democratic institution. US Intelligence apparatus should be under the supreme command of the State Department, so that the tail isn't wagging the dog. Just a few ideas - I have literally volumes.
7. Use modern communications to radically accelerate the process of checks and balances. Allow Executive policymakers to be in constant contact with courts and legislators to get instant decisions and advice so that some aspects of lawmaking, interpreting, and execution can go from taking several years to perhaps being accomplished in days. Moreover, "fractalize" the process so that each action within the branches carries its own trio of legislative, judicial, and executive representatives prepared to instantly assert branch prerogatives if something appears to be in violation. If a disagreement is intractable, then the matter would be referred to larger bodies in their respective branches for resolution. This would have the benefit of preventing a lot of unconstitutional behavior in the Executive branch from building up over time, and also perhaps deter certain types of shenanigans that occur in Congress and in the courts as well.
8. Institute local, self-governing direct democracy units who can advise more traditional governments, or combine to assert superior prerogatives when a sufficient consensus is reached that a government institution or leader has done something that has to be reversed or is failing to do something urgent. These would "lubricate" the process of democracy considerably, and avoid some of the more dangerous and painful separations between the people and the leaders that lead to cynicism and discontent.
9. I believe in the ground-up approach, since that's historically been how it's usually happened. Try things locally and learn lessons. Then try them in some more local places, utilizing the lessons already learned. Then see how far you can scale it up to counties and states, and then you have a solid foundation for national or even international change.
1. Reform in a democratic system requires the consent of the corrupt.
2. Strong citizens tend to elect weak leaders, who then disappoint. Weak citizens tend to elect strong leaders, who then betray them for greed or power. A strong nation must have strong citizens and strong leaders, at the same time, and on the same side.
Why is education important? Because catastrophes caused by hubris are more entertaining than those caused by ignorance.
A libertarian is a conservative who loves money more than they hate black people.
Say conservatives are wrong, and they'll call you immoral. Prove it, and they'll call you an enemy of God.
Profile InformationName: Brian
Hometown: Southern California
Member since: Mon Oct 28, 2013, 04:48 PM
Number of posts: 2,969