Things I've Tagged ‘Politics’

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It becomes ever harder to disagree with the verdict of foreign-policy sage Robert Kagan, like me an erstwhile Republican, who writes that the GOP in its current form is doomed and that Republicans who cannot stomach Trumpism “should change their registration and start voting for Democratic moderates and centrists, as some Republicans did in Virginia recently, to give them a leg up in their fight against the party’s left wing.” As I’ve explained before, I have my qualms about the Democratic Party, which is lurching to the left, but I am done, done, done with the GOP after more than 30 years as a loyal Republican.

Max Boot, Republicans Have Stockholm Syndrome, and It’s Getting Worse

Michigan Election Results 2016

It’s that time again. This particular post comes with a heavy heart. Not because my candidate lost–I don’t generally vote major party–but because of what this election says about those who have voted this candidate into office. Giving in to xenophobia, racism, fear, and hatred is unconscionable.

Some might say I contributed to this by voting for a party other than one of the major parties, but I don’t see a principled selection that way. We are not limited to only two candidates–that isn’t how our system works, and I’m happy for it.

President (National, 270 needed)(Sigh)

Hillary Clinton (D)
47.6% / 218 Electoral Votes
Donald Trump (R)
47.5% / 289 Electoral Votes

President (Michigan, 16 EV)

Hillary Clinton (D)
47.3% / 2,239,745
Donald Trump (R)
47.6% / 2,255,356 Votes
Gary Johnson (L) 3.6%
Jill Stein (G) 1.1%

House District 6

Paul Clements (D)
Fred Upton (R)
Lorence Wenke (L) 4.9%

79th District State Representative

Marletta Seats (D)
Kim LaSata (R)
Carl G. Oehling (T) 2.8%


PRESIDENTIAL RESULTS Hell! Brimstone! Fire! I’m not certain what stage of grief I’ve reached, but it’s certainly not acceptance. I underestimated how much people despised Hillary Clinton. I underestimated how much people would accept a man that looked and acted nothing like a presidential individual–speaks his mind was the refrain.

I do not understand.

Appealing to voters with divisiveness and bigotry, as well as a dislike of what Clinton represents, is not the same as sending a message of solidarity and revolution–which is the message I am receiving from some supporters. It means that people didn’t want the status quo. They want what they see as their way of life back and they think the establishment won’t provide it. I can appreciate that voters felt marginalized by what they see as a ruling class that doesn’t understand or represent them–that much is obvious–but I would not gloat or be happy about the fact that this particular candidate is the face of that movement. Trump winning truly does empower those who would further marginalize minority groups and exposes a deeper hatred than I ever guessed was possible. Even if as President he is nothing like that, he rode that wave into office. That in itself is deplorable and shameful.

I accept that our political system is broken and produces results that ignore a great portion of the population’s wants and desires, but that group is ignoring the realities of life and how the world operates. I am truly ashamed of this result.

Face palm
Seriously guys!?

LEGISLATIVE BODIES This is where all of the action is. This is where I’m mostly confused. People used Trump as a vehicle for change–a vote to protest the political system–but they largely kept their reps and senators. This was a mistake of the largest order. Most of the work is done in the House and Senate, while the President helps to set an agenda for the next four years. In this case, Trump’s own party disliked him. We are unlikely to see the sort of massive change those hoping for his election sought.

My districts were no different, and have been historically Republican for as long as I can remember. I really have no other reactions here. This is a national shame in a way that I don’t think Trump supporters or protest voters fully understand.

Information gathered from CNN Election Results and 2016 Michigan Election Results, accessed on November 9th, 2016.

The Flint Water Crisis

I’m not going to be an apologist for the governor–or the government of Flint–in this case, but we’ve got to stop demonizing politicians we don’t agree with when things go wrong. It’s very, very easy to blame our political enemies for a crisis when the truth is closer to everyone being at fault. So blame them all accordingly.

I was reading an article today that discussed the situation in flint in a manner that reflects my thinking, in that while “observing the reporting taking place over the Flint Water Crisis…I’ve noticed a lot of things that are reported that are not helpful and in fact can make the situation in Flint worse.”1

I’m just tired of the divide in politics, sports, and life that online communication creates.

What most of the public is focused on–in terms of laying blame for what happened–is looking for that single individual that is responsible, rather than seeing multiple failure points and people as the cause. So, while public outcry is healthy, focusing public time and attention on trying to single out any one person as more culpable than others is energy poorly spent. What people seem to do more often than not is look for a villain to blame in situations like this. There is likely a name for this kind of psychological response to issues that are more complex and awful than we can properly process.

Now to Governor Snyder. It goes without saying that his legacy will forever be tarnished by what happened in Flint. And I will agree that he moved [too] slowly to deal with this crisis. But when people want to take a break from calling for Snyder to resign, they might want to look at what Snyder is doing now-which seems to be a lot.

Now you can probably sit back and say this is a politician trying to cover his own ass after the fact–and perhaps that is true–but again, he’s not the only one at fault, and his party wasn’t alone in creating the situation that got us here.

So, what?

I’ll say this, people need a reason that can be neatly wrapped and understood when situations like this arise rather than acknowledging that these things happen for complex reasons that are not alway attributable to nefarious machinations. More likely than not it’s systemic incompetence. That’s not one single person, that’s a gaggle of incompetent folk at fault. How do we fix that? Not by trying to find a villain to blame. Expend the effort in rooting out the problem, not pinning it on one person–particularly when the problem runs much deeper than that.

This article isn’t giving sole credit to the governor for local successes, merely pointing out that he has taken on a lot of responsibility for what happened and at least appears to be doing something–after the fact. It’s giving another perspective on the situation that points out how complex the causes were.

The reason I even post something like this is because I see a lot of tirades in association with the governor on this issue without even registering that it’s not the type of problem that occurs during one or two terms in office–it’s one that’s run its course and come to this conclusion over the course of many decades.

This was expanded from multiple discussions I’ve had on social media over the past day.

  1. Flint Water Crisis Update. Dennis Sanders. Accessed 1/27/2016.

Thoughts on

I’m not going to take this on as a design or front-end-development critique, because it will add nothing to the conversation. Plus, politics are my style man.

I’m dead serious. The site itself has a nice look to it, but the back end man…yikes.

What I know from the web development community is that there are scaling issues when it comes to front-end performance, but nothing that cannot be corrected fairly easily. And I for one found it promising that the site was built using responsive design, though I’m not so certain I’d enjoy signing up for healthcare through a mobile phone.

The back end, on the other hand, has been a bit of a disaster for a plethora of reasons, but primarily because the entire system is reliant upon the robustness of antiquated systems; from the descriptions of the issues it appears the entire structure was not adequately tested for the projected user load, but the fact that it failed under strain is not surprising. But I’m done rehashing these points.

“If you like your plan, you can keep it…”

What makes the entire affair an unmitigated disaster is what it ultimately means for consumers and citizens–it means increased costs. This was not an unexpected consequence of the rules that were implemented.

What some were not expecting to see was their existing insurance plans being phased out in an effort to offer plans that meet the requirements of the PPACA. The law required existing plans to essentially remain unchanged in order to maintain a grandfathered status; because this rule included maintaing the cost structure from year to year, this became impossible in practice. The result is a doubling of cost to the consumer as unnecessary coverages are tacked on. You in fact, do not get to keep your plan no matter how much you love it.

If you’re one of the unlucky few to lose your current coverage, and are pushed into the exchange system, you’ll be confronted by much higher coverage costs than you’re used to.

Couple these two points with the exchange system failures and you have the potential for major disruptions in coverage for many consumers. Will that lead to decreases in coverage in complete opposition to the reason the law was touted to begin with? I expect it in the short run.

We should be decreasing costs

If we want health inflation to stay low and health care costs to be less of an anchor on advancement, we should want more Americans making $50,000 or $60,000 or $70,000 to spend less upfront on health insurance, rather than using regulatory pressure to induce them to spend more. And seen in that light, the potential problem with Obamacare’s regulation-driven “rate shock” isn’t that it doesn’t let everyone keep their pre-existing plans. It’s that it cancels plans, and raises rates, for people who were doing their part to keep all of our costs low.

Ross Douthat

Precisely right. Aside from the mandate, the fact that every regulation in the new law screamed increased costs for consumers was a giant red flag that proponents of the legislation either ignored completely or denied were even issues.

In spite of the fact that we want as many people as possible to be covered, this was never a good solution. The website is another example of how much of a shit-show the entire thing was.

… Do these people really believe, I ask myself — and now I ask them — that a gigantic and incredible and unprecedented conspiracy has occurred in America in which the President and his Cabinet, 99 percent of the Congress, 99 percent of the Nation’s journalists, and even the U.S. Army have all taken part to sell out our country? … If they do, the only reasonable reply I can give to them which they will understand is the honorable, 100 percent red, white and blue expression: ‘Nuts.’

Sen. Thomas Kuchel, 1960s via Fred Clark

Even though these thoughts are 50 years old, I would say this sums up very well why the Tea Party and the Republican party do not appeal to me. Another choice quote: “It is the danger of hate and venom, of slander and abuse, generated by fear and heaped indiscriminately upon many great Americans by another relative handful of zealots, in the ranks or clutches of self-styled “I am a better American than you are” organizations.”

It would be a dangerous delusion were a confidence in [politicians] to silence our fears for the safety of our rights: that confidence is everywhere the parent of despotism — free government is founded in jealousy, and not in confidence; it is jealousy and not confidence which prescribes limited constitutions, to bind down those whom we are obliged to trust with power.

Thomas Jefferson, Kentucky Resolutions

The question for me is, why are we so apt to trust policy makers? Its as if people have been taught this attitude of complete compliance to the will of the administrators of government, even while professing a disdain for them. Utterly mind boggling.Via Sheldon Richman writing at Reason.

The Secessionist Petitions Are a Terrible Reaction

While I have my own opinions on the legality of the secession of states from the union–and I happen to agree with Mr. Jefferson on this subject–I have to question the usefulness of the exercise; unless these folks are merely releasing the frustrations of the political loss and the vexing nature of their political opposition, this particular bid has very little merit in my eyes…so far.

What I suspect is that they see a government of limitless power in one that is run by Democrats; they see their rights reduced by onerous regulation; they see a government that gains additional power under a tenuous connection to taxation; and they see a future that does not include their point of view. I could not agree more with a number of these suppositions, but do I see a need for secession? If they think the political and economic situation is bad now, then they will recoil in disgust at the results of their attempted revolt.

No, I say we live together and we die together as a union of sovereign states. Not merely bound by documents, but by more important connections: community and family. We cannot base rash decisions on political connections that are easily severed. Political movements and philosophies are cyclical, but one thing is true that we cannot ignore: society is always marching forward, and to suggest otherwise is to disregard history.

Whether that forward movement is ultimately beneficial, however, is another matter.

Update 11/15/2012 Just a few things to note here on the legality of something like secession. Eugene Volokh addresses this whole concept quite nicely in a post at The Volokh Conspiracy, but this point in particular touches on what my thinking on secession was:

3. Is It Legally Possible for States to Secede? Of course, if the rest of the nation sufficiently agrees to this. It’s possible, given the originalist argument in Texas v. White, that Congress and the President can’t accomplish this through the normal federal lawmaking process (plus the consent of the seceding state), though I suspect that ultimately the constitutional question will be seen as a political decision for Congress and the President to make. But even if the Constitution is against this, it can be amended. If 2/3 of Congress, 3/4 of the states, and the seceding state agree to secession, secession will happen, and American legal institutions would view it as entirely legal (and, in my view, correctly so).

Seems right to me, but I’m no economist.

Straw Men Arguments Know No Bounds

We’re all guilty of it at some point in our lives: we get into a debate with a friend or foe and instead of discussing the merits of each others positions, we go on attacking arguments that were never made and are likely ridiculous on their face.

Thus, in a terribly illustrated way, the straw man is born. It is, in the immortal words of Wikipedia, one’s ability “to create the illusion of having refuted a proposition by replacing it with a superficially similar yet unequivalent proposition (the “straw man”), and to refute it, without ever having actually refuted the original position.”1 Zing, you lose.

Too often these misrepresentations of legitimate views get turned into the official narrative of these views, and the result is a misinformed, often angry, group of people. In that vein, there are several Republican ‘positions’ that are dredged up in this fashion in order to frame their opposition as a morally and intellectually superior group.

Attack of the straw man! What in the hell is he carrying? That’s right, a position that no one holds!

Republicans hate helping poor people! I can’t tell you how often I hear this particular trope brought forth, mostly along the lines of, “why don’t they want to help people? If they’re all Christians, don’t they realize that Jesus was a socialist?” No, no they don’t realize that particular position. But let’s break this down a bit.

The false position that is being attacked is that Republicans hate socialism and government so much that they must hate helping people in general–which is at odds with the teachings of Jesus. So what if Jesus was particularly interested in helping people? Jesus wasn’t particularly interested in helping through government programs. Similarly, Republicans are opposed to the government’s involvement, as a coercive institution, in charitable works. That’s the position.

You can certainly take issue with that, because from the perspective of larger society the argument can be made whether or not government is the most efficient way to distribute help. Not a position I hold, but there it is.

Republicans hate women! According to some folks, the religious right’s preoccupation with their own moral standard implies that their goal is to eliminate the rights of women. This is of course, not quite right. The position itself is one that is nuanced, but is mostly that they do not want women to have the right to an abortion, and some factions want to reduce access to birth control. That’s not really an all out assault on women’s rights, but it is a naive position.

Republicans only want to give tax handouts to the super rich! There are two things at work here that are particularly troubling compared to the previous two positions. The first is the notion that a tax cut, or tax break, is some kind of handout. I discussed this topic a couple of days ago, but the bottom line is that notion is flawed. The second misconception is that the rich are the only targets of these cuts, when in fact the idea is that when capital is freed up it can be spent on investment instead of tax bills. Investment often means new employees or cheaper products.

My list is not exhaustive, even if it felt like it was, but elections often hinge on those positions. But you know what the real kicker is? I’m probably guilty of the thing I’m discussing. Zing! You got trolled!

  1. Straw Man. Wikipedia. Accessed 11/9/2012. <>.

Michigan Election Results 2012

Something I used to do every year on a former project site of mine was to rehash the results of recent elections in the state of Michigan that were at least tangentially related to me. It doesn’t extend to the national level, except for the Presidential race, because this is simply about results in Michigan. This always allowed me to reflect on what took place, what the numbers were like, what parties gained and lost, and what regions mattered most. I’m not going to opine much in this post, because that is counter to what this is meant to accomplish. On with the numbers.

President (National, 270 needed)

Barack Obama (D)
50% / 303 Electoral Votes
Mitt Romney (R)
48% / 206 Electoral Votes

President (16 electoral votes from Michigan)

Barack Obama (D)
Mitt Romney (R)


Debbie Stabenow (D)
Pete Hoekstra (R)
Scotty Boman (L)
Harley Mikkelson (G)
Richard Matkin (UST)

House District 6

Mike O’Brien (D)
Fred Upton (R)

Proposal 1 – Uphold Emergency Manager Law


Proposal 2 – Collective Bargaining Rights


Proposal 3 – 25 by 25 Renewable Energy Proposal


Proposal 4 – Home Health Care Worker Changes


Proposal 5 – Limits on Tax Increases


Proposal 6 – Voter Approval for International Bridges



The above numbers reflect ~90% of the total votes counted in the state and are subject to adjustments–I just might not make them. At first glance, the results of the Presidential election in Michigan aren’t particularly surprising to me. This is a state that often votes for Democrats on the national stage, but in local races votes Republican. This has a lot more to do with population distribution than anything else, as Democrats are concentrated in major metropolitan areas, and those areas happen to contain most of the population.

The first thing that shocked me were the results of the proposals. I thought that proposal 1 was going to pass last night, but that number crept into no territory later on in the evening. The fact that they were all pretty soundly rejected is promising, particularly because these were all constitutional amendments. Perhaps people don’t take that as lightly as I thought they would.

The second thing that shocked me was how close the race was between Upton and O’Brien. I fully expected Upton to run away with that one.

Numbers, maps, et cetera taken from CNN 2012 Election Center.