A Nation of North Koreas

It must be isolating to be a state- or national-level politician these days. The whole system seems very friendless and lonely. It’s hard enough for me to do “the right thing” with my oh-so-minor professional and personal decisions — even when I have a generous support network of friends, family, and allies. So it hurts to imagine a life where I’m virtually alone and my decisions directly affect millions.

Hence calling this rant “A Nation of North Koreas” — because all these politicians are lonely, isolated, insecure, and could potentially destroy the lives of everyone around them.

It seems strange to say that politicians are “isolated” when the country is so obsessed with smartphones and social media that our Commander in Chief speaks to the nation with the same Twitter platform (and grammar?) as a teenager.

According to the articles: politicians don’t talk to their colleagues across the aisle (http://www.cnn.com/2013/08/01/politics/congress-work-time/), they don’t talk to their families and spouses (http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/first_mates/2008/10/_or_for_worse.html) (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=127352919), they can’t talk to their own party (https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2016/07/how-american-politics-went-insane/485570/), and they don’t even talk to their constituents (http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2017/02/17/staffers-from-congressmans-office-play-hide-and-seek-with-constituents.html) (https://trofire.com/2017/03/25/sir-shut-texas-rep-demonstrates-exactly-dont-talk-constituents-majority-report/).

Sometimes it seems like the only folks politicians can talk to are people who give them money (https://www.termlimits.com/congress-fundraising-priority).

That can’t be healthy. But I can’t write that off as an insidious oligarchic takeover of the government or all politicians being corrupt.

What do ya’ll think? Maybe we need households to “adopt a politician”?

A Problem with the Women’s March…

Went to the Women’s March on Austin last Saturday. Energetic turnout and sunny skies but something really bothered me, and it involves the sign this kid is holding: “Want Small Government and Low Taxes? Move to Somalia.”

“Because…” the Sign says with a wink, “You know how Somalia is a terrible place where no one would want to live. The thought of going there should scare people.”

Why do people still think that the “Move to Somalia” sign is ok at an event that is supposed to be *against* harmful stereotypes and *for our mutual rights* to life, liberty, and happiness? Would the sign holder feel as justified if his sign said, “If you want low rent and cheap drugs, move to the Ghetto”?

Kid, are you really protesting against President Trump’s stereotyping of women, Muslims, Hispanics, Latinos, etc. with a cliched joke about how miserable Africa is? (By the way, check sites like Everyday Africa to see the kid’s dreaded Somalia)


This ties into the In Group (rather than Out Group) controlling the narrative of Opposition and Dissent, i.e. who determines the language and terms of “who deserves what rights in what form”. It is part of the North Dakota Pipeline Protest phenomenon too — where are the thousands of Standing Rock “allies” on the subject of Native American land rights in general, that convoluted system that denies people any form of real property ownership because of a decades-old belief that they were not “competent” enough to handle their own affairs?

It is a part of the Protest culture that I am uncomfortable with. It is the same discomfort I have with the “safety pin” movement following Nov. 8th and the tense relationship between movements like Black Lives Matter and “allies”.

Is it significant that the most popular Austin political gathering since Nov. 8 was formulated as a “Women’s March” rather than a “Human Rights March” or a “Black Lives Matter March”? Is it significant that while there were around 50k people at the Women’s March, there was far less of a turnout at the Nov. 19, 2016 unveiling of the Texas African American History Monument?

50 thousand people showed up at the Texas capitol this past Saturday. I was there. It was a popular event — but so was the Hillary Clinton campaign. The “Women’s Marches” across the country may even have had mostly the same demographics and participants as the Hillary Campaign.

Does this “Women’s March” movement have the same weaknesses and handicaps? Is it going to achieve the same outcome?

As was the question with Hillary Clinton, whose interests do movements like the Women’s March represent? What kind of change do they really want, relative to their own position (what would they have to give up or spend, to benefit someone vulnerable and in need)?

I don’t know the answers to those questions. But I think there is still a disconnect between the IN Group and OUT Group, and that affects the crucial transition from Protest to Movement to Action.

Privilege of Pain v.s. Privilege of Power

An Idea that keeps bouncing around my head these days: there is a collision between the Privilege of Power (the “Haves”) and the Privilege of Pain (the “Have Nots”). Different ways of protesting, speaking, behaving, etc.

Both sides use their privilege to gain advantage, protect their interests, the right the wrongs carried out against them, and maybe even to get revenge. Both sides have “justification” for their privilege — it is something they inherited, something they won, something they earned. Both privileges dictate their own language and story. And I put “justification” in quotes because these privileges seem to follow a law that goes beyond an official legal code, something closer to the Code of Hammurabi (eye for an eye) or the Code of Victor Hugo (ok to steal bread when you’re poor).

Borrowed from https://www.pinterest.com/pin/213639576047782692/

It’s one thing when these Privileges stay in their box, when they have their own jurisdictions that don’t overlap, or when they overlap but they compromise. Isn’t that the “contract” between government and the governed? Isn’t that the bargain we strike with the Leviathan? Isn’t that what Law and Order is about?


The boxes rarely stay closed these days and the balance is more uneasy. Asymmetric warfare, civil movements, the rainbow revolutions (Green, Orange, etc.).

Maybe there is an awareness that these privileges have more cost than benefit, awareness that too much power or pain can take us over. I would like to think we are learning.


I think the immediate future of North America and Europe hinges on migration and energy.

I think the immediate future of North America and Europe hinges on migration and energy.

The political Left and Right need to get their sh*t together on these issues. Economics punishes you harshly for excluding people from the marketplace and misusing your energy resources.


Going for a Big Picture approach, I think a “healthy” society learns, adapts and advances…sometimes without its constituents realizing what they’re doing. Who can really say they predicted the internet or the American Civil Rights movement or the United Nations?

Establishing global mutual interests and structures of collaboration is key, just like the ones we’ve seen grow over the past 200 years.

I hope it’s true that we collectively advance more than we realize. I hope that the positive and constructive things we do collectively outweigh the negative and destructive.

As we evolve, it seems that our capacity to act also grows. For good or for evil: if we wanted to, we now have the technology to set the sky on fire and poison the ocean and destroy the earth beneath our feet.

But maybe to truly advance from local tribe to national society to global civilization means being more conscious and intentional with that power: how you source and apply it.

Maybe what moves us forward is learning to use these new resources and abilities for others, rather than just for ourselves. Pushing outward instead of inward, bringing people in instead of keeping them out.

Think of that in terms of migration and energy policies.

Focused inward, why not keep people out…or only bring them in on terms most favorable to us and worst for them (slaves, vulnerable undocumented laborers). Focused inward, why not burn up everyone else’s resources for the sake of our own comfort?

Focus inward as a community, a society, nation…and that’s where you grow. Inward. Imploding. Into nothing.

You cannot stay the same. You cannot un-change the changes that are happening. You cannot remove yourself from the universe by isolating yourself from it, by pretending it doesn’t exist. Unless your goal is to stop existing.

I Support Dollary Clump

Ok, I’ve read the commentaries on both sides (even diving into the Pro-Trump and Pro-Clinton Reddit threads), read the transcript, and lastly watched the actual debate. Gotta say that debate does not look like a clear win for either candidate.

From outside the USA, I’d be looking at either option as a bad deal. You’re getting Crazy Weird or Crazy Evil. Friend and foe alike must be wary. But then again, these days it is Crazy’s world. Walmart is the world’s wealthiest company and the terrorist equivalent of GI Joe’s Cobra is actually toppling governments.

It’s been interesting rewatching different segments of the debate immediately after reading different commentaries and how this affects perception — how one interprets certain words, pauses, glances and phrases, for example.

With that in mind, I don’t know how much this debate sways “on the fence” folks at this point. I think your starting point before the debate affected where you came out at the end.

If you’re pro-Trump, you saw an outsider fighting a crooked system (e.g. the political Left colluding with special interest groups, a Left-leaning media bias, etc.) You saw a moderator who attacked your candidate and let the other candidate slide. You saw your candidate score tremendous hits on Hillary for her emails, the Left’s terrible handling of the economy and international security, and all that. You saw a candidate who was making reasonable points.

If you’re pro-Hillary, you saw Hillary demonstrate her intelligence and masterfully leverage her image as the Strong and Smart Woman. You saw a candidate who is in sync with Progress for the non-rich, the non-male and the non-white…or if not “in sync” than at least not in opposition. You saw a Hillary who acts polite but isn’t afraid to throw a punch…especially in self-defense. You saw a Hillary with a track record of hard-won victories in situations where the choices are Bad Option A, Bad Option B and Worse Option C.

Now, we all know damn well that both Trump and Hillary have devils on their shoulders. We should worry about what will happen when Reality crashes its car through the Oval Office window. Hillary’s track record is *not* one without outbreaks of bloodshed, destructively distorted trades, economic/political exclusion, etc. And who knows what would remain intact after Trump gets over the learning curve and realizes just how much larger and more dangerous the world is than his microscopic-by-comparison business deals.

From my perspective, I think the debate showed that Hillary can lead in the current System (she grew up in it and she’s part of the Clan that runs the current System)…but the debate also showed that the current System could be more appearance than reality, that it really is failing/under attack and that Trump is perhaps more in sync with that spirit of disruption.

I think your choice of Trump or Hillary depends on how you feel about the System, where you think its going and how you think its going to treat you you (plus your friends and family). If you think it’s going to elevate you or at least not strongly threaten your desired status quo.

It’s where you see yourself in the System.

That’s what it all boils down to. Everything else — immigrants, health care, jobs, what are the right laws, trade deals, taxes, energy policies, who gets hit with what kind of military action, blah blah principles blah blah doing the math blah blah justice — is noise.

Viking We All Just Get Along?

Started watching The Last Kingdom. Ah peaceful Denmark: lowest Gini (income inequality), highest level of happiness, and home of the raping, murdering Vikings. Their violent pursuit of trade and farmland conquered the British isles until the 11th century.

It’s a history worth considering in this era of collision. Brussels and Donald Trump, Syria and Ukraine. Migration as seeking a place to live as well as a place to take over — to make one’s own. Violent invaders whose legacy 1,000 years later is a television drama, costumes and the names of days.

We want to pretend that we can stop the clock — the borders are drawn and the land is settled! No more migrations and conquests! We can work everything out with politics and trade! Hey, what are you doing, why are all these masses coming over the border, why are some of them attacking us?

It doesn’t work that way. The humans who left Africa found an environment conducive to faster growth and technological development, and they exploited that advantage Viking-style to take huge amounts of land and resources elsewhere.

Such forces created modern China, Europe and America. So much land. So much natural defensive capacity. This gave space for more development, more art, more science, etc. — those created benefits for everyone they reach…albeit unequally.

But that was a bubble. We cannot recreate the conditions of the past. We cannot undo the worldwide distribution of populations, of of technology, of knowledge. Nor can we undo our awareness of how lifestyles affect each other across tens of thousands of miles.

If you can’t talk about what made “greatness” possible, you can’t talk about America’s responsibilities or the future of the USA. I don’t care how much money you imagine you can carve out of the country’s budget with taxes and magic decimal points.

Truth is: we didn’t use the last window as well as we could have. We made improvements, but did harm as well. Now we take the impacts. Tech-enabled terrorism. Deadly bacteria and viruses. Food scarcity. Climate change. Small wars becoming large ones.

Elector of None

[Note: Someone please(!) shout at me if I sound too “White Male Privilege” — sometimes my head slips into the inter-buttocks zone]

Elections like any time of political change are an exciting time, in a chemical sense. Exogenous and endogenous heat, movement, and substances changing shape and willing themselves to break out of their containers. In other words an incredibly dangerous experiment. And we do it both as often as possible and as little as possible in a democracy.

Case in point: here we are in the USA imagining ourselves a choice between Capitalism, Socialism, Militarism, Pacifism, Statism and maybe a cleverly disguised ounce or two of Anarchism in the mix.

Poppycock. Our candidates get to be our candidates only *after* a process of severe inter/intra-group selection (i.e. within their own parties, funding networks etc.).

So what we’re really doing is choosing a face for a leader who’s actions are already mostly scripted by nature, a train conductor who can adjust our speed and the occasional choice of Left Fork/Right Fork but who has no control over where the tracks are laid.

After all, does anyone think that we’ll still have this same national configuration and this same form of representative democracy some 100 years from now? The USA will devolve along the lines of the EU at the same time it evolves into a continental body: a greater North American Affiliation.

So what are we looking at here in 2016? Just a small slice of the “now”. Even when we look at long term problems (climate change, nuclear catastrophe) we are forever in the short term (one reason why our efforts always come up short). Yet we know ourselves to also exist in a context. We know we exist in a greater place, a greater time than our maps and clocks and calendars show us. We look for leaders that can guide us from the “now” to the “future”.

Chasing the long term wearing short term pants, we take so much for granted in our faiths and our -isms that we lose sight of what we are aiming for: truth. A true knowledge not just of our drives and impulses but also our intents. A true knowledge of purpose. A true knowledge of when we must help and when we must harm.

Truth, in other words, that is still missing.

We have found no answers. We build on trial and error, conjuring a rope upwards into the sky as if up from the bottom of a bottomless well, with those buried in the past shouting their memories to those climbing up into the future: memories heard distantly and selectively. Did that patch of ground just say something? Did that spot of earth just move?

We fire round after round at the truth: words and ideas aimed at the truth like Zeno’s arrow seeking its target. Our bodies are some configuration of electricity and chemistry, our world is some troupe of imperceptible monads dancing unintelligible patterns.

Feel the Bern, stand with Hillary, make American great again with Trump, trust Ted Cruz or just stay home to polish your guns and wait for the Revolution. No matter what, this is all just another step towards something else.

Remember the words of Bob Dylan: “Nothing is better, nothing is best/Take care of your health and get plenty of rest.”
(i.e. take care of yourself and your friends and your family, so you can make it to the next level)

T-Rump Rex

I will not be surprised if Trump wins the Republican candidacy. And yes, I’m willing to put money on this.

In the GOP leadership struggle occasioned by the the 2016 campaign, Trump’s rump is already on the GOP throne. This is thanks to his charisma and power (money, influence), along with an understanding of both the U.S. news media and the American “mob mind”.

Much like a would-be tyrant he is trying to take over a weak institution — the GOP has been seriously enervated by (a) the battle with the Tea Party and (b) the demands of moneyed interest groups (e.g. Koch Brothers — and presenting himself as the unconventional outsider who can fix problems and deliver results.

Who can seriously challenge him? His rivals in the GOP have three main disadvantages.

– First, the GOP “hive brain” would love to see a Republican take the presidency, and is clearly succumbing to the Alpha Dog scent pumped out by Trump’s “organs of state”. That means that GOP loyalists will be hesitant to do anything to weaken their prospective candidate.

– Second, most of the establishment GOP has overplayed an oversimplified populist message of (a) White nationalism and (b) God and business = good, government = bad”. Those are emotional stories without a human face — Trump gives it a face and in doing so, becomes the beneficiary of all that raw emotion.

– Third, Trump has a clean slate as far as a policy record. He never cast a controversial Congressional vote. He never sent U.S. soldiers to die overseas.

So brace yourself, folks. Game of Trumps is coming.