Political Science

The Progressive Coalition: An Invitation

coalitionDear Berniecrats, Green Partiers, Socialist Alternatives, and other Progressives…

I extend to you an invitation to build a Progressive Coalition.

I get it. Your views create separation from the Democratic party. Your views are not fully captured by Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Platform. You long for a more representative movement. It is not my intent here to argue with your views, to change your views, or to beg you to join the Democratic party.

I, too, am a Progressive. Sure, I am a Democratic-flavored progressive, but a progressive nonetheless. Like you, I am passionate about my politics. I am mindful of the ethics of my positions, and dedicated to Social Justice and the Environment, and many other issue on which we likely agree.

Politics always requires coalitions to build majority movements. Even in Countries where there are multiple viable parties, majorities are built from coalitions of smaller movements. This is true in our two-party system as well, just to a less-defined degree.

For all our differences, we still have many shared values. And I firmly believe that we are all stronger when we have a member of the Progressive Coalition in the Whitehouse.

Hear me out; I’m going to talk about Ralph Nader. I’m not going to blame him for being the spoiler in 2000. But I am going to question whether his approach to that election helped or hurt the progressive movement as embodied in the Green Party? In my review of the history, the election of George Bush did not build a groundswell of resources to further build progressive movements. Rather, that energy was simply exhausted in opposing the Bush presidency; efforts that in my estimation would have largely been freed under a Gore presidency.

In other words, had Ralph Nader both committed to building the Green Party, AND committed to working to elect Al Gore, who was the most likely candidate to win the White House for the progressive movement, I contend that more energy could have been devoted to building strong Progressive movements of different varieties. The effort would have been a net gain, not only for the Democratic Party, but for the Green Party as well. Further, much of the Obama presidency has been spent simply making up for lost ground under the Bush presidency.

Without resorting to the fear-based ask surrounding Trump, the same scenario exists today. We can build a Progressive Coalition to elect a member of our Progressive movement. By doing so, we will gain several important benefits that accrue to all Progressives.

Joining such a coalition does not require you to abandon your beliefs or principles. The opposite is true. The degree to which the President of the United States shares even some of your values frees you to not have to fight an opponent of those values. That energy can then be used to focus on building your movement and expanding your base.

Coalitions don’t require us to agree on everything. They simply ask us to build on those values that we already share.

Will you join me? Can we build a Progressive Coalition?

That is my sincere hope.

 Timothy Killian
A Fellow Progressive

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The Kshama Sawant Problem…

Sawant-at-Hillary-rally-icoIs it time to remove Democratic support for Socialist Sawant?

In 2013, I supported Kshama Sawant in her race for Seattle City Council. I’m not a socialist, but I was convinced that she represented enough of our shared values that among the mix of nine city council members, she’d help create space for a more progressive agenda. And, I was largely pleased with how that worked out.

It’s obvious that Kshama won and retained her seat in large part due to support from many Democrats, like me, who are also not socialists. We created a joint coalition, relying on shared values.

Kshama Sawant was afforded a platform for her views on the backs of Democrats. We helped elevate her voice. And, I think many have been thankful for the efforts she’s made.

But perhaps it’s time to cut ties with our friend?

Now she’s using that platform to malign and misrepresent the Democratic Party and our Nominee for President. Rather than acknowledging that we have shared values, that we can work together, she’s become a leftist demagogue, using hyperbole and ad hominem attacks to further her own agenda.

If Kshama Sawant cannot recognize that we have more to gain by working together to defeat Donald Trump and to move our shared values forward, then it is time for Democrats to work to remove the platform that we helped build for her. If she can’t acknowledge the coalition that has helped her in her cause, if she can’t return the favor, then it’s time to end the coalition.

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Voting as Lesser of Evils…

“Voting the Lesser of Two Evils…”

This meme is fundamentally dishonest in the context of Democracy. To use it says you simply don’t understand what a Democracy is; don’t understand what it means to be in community with “We The People.”

If you choose to see voting as a choice between evils, then you are calling Democracy evil; because democracy will ALWAYS require your view to be compromised. Always.

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On Bernie, Hillary, Purity and being in Community with We The People…

Ihand-god-worship-sun grew up with an ideologically pure belief system. For years, good/evil were pure concepts for me. Defined by this belief system, I could categorize anyone very quickly, and place them on a neatly defined spectrum.

That all came crashing down, as do many notions of purity, once the reality of the world beats us up a bit.

“Democracy” gets thrown about by all sides in American politics. But for all the accolades we heap upon it, there’s one thing we rarely talk about: Democracy is NOT pure. Pledging to be in community with We The People means pledging to be in community with people you not only dislike, but people you loathe. It means working with those same people in a system of give and take. It means a life-long commitment to compromise and persuasion.

Hillary Clinton is a politician. Of course she has an ideology. But she’s chosen to sacrifice a bit of her purity in order to work in this system. So, when she gets asked about things like gay marriage or even war, she analyzes her answer in terms of what is politically possible. It doesn’t mean she doesn’t have an opinion about what is “right” or “wrong”, but she recognizes that few swords are worth falling on in such a system.

This, to me, is strength of its own kind. This is sacrifice of a particular nature.

You may hate this “system” of governance. But the irony is, absent electing a dictator, absent supporting an authoritarian model of government, there’s no substantive alternative to it.

I don’t “hold my nose” to vote for Hillary, even though my personal political opinions are well to the left of hers; I admire her for the hard work of placing herself in a viable position to help move this Country ever so slightly to the left. Because 3 degrees in the Left direction for the next 8 years is extremely valuable.

Meanwhile…I support Pramila Jayapal for Congress in the 7th. The real work of Revolution is built from the ground up; not the top down.

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We The People: Persuasion, Not Revolution

crookedThe Tea Party on the Right and the Bernie Supporters on the Left frame the dysfunction of government this way:

“The Establishment is ignoring us!”

This is a fundamental misunderstanding of the way Democracy works. Democracy is, by definition, an averaging of political will. Push. Pull. You hope for two steps forward for every one step backward.

When enterprising politicians promise each side a utopian vision they simply can’t deliver (because math!), the very dysfunction that is decried is increased. The cure becomes the illness.

This is the nature of We The People. Persuasion. Not revolution.

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FDR Wasn’t a Socialist

Bernie Sanders and his campaign are fond of comparing themselves to FDR. They use FDR’s New Deal policies as examples of the socialism they’d hope to implement. But FDR himself denied that he was implementing socialism.

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An Obstacle to Progress

I know that most men [people], including those at ease with problems of the greatest complexity, can seldom accept even the simplest and most obvious truth if it be such as would oblige them to admit the falsity of conclusions which they have delighted in explaining to colleagues, which they have proudly taught to others, and which they have woven, thread by thread, into the fabric of their lives.” — Tolstoy

 

 

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Finding The I in We

The wisdom of age, acquired through experience, is not sufficient to match the wisdom of modernity, acquired through data.

This is the fundamental failure of conservatism. The only way out of this myopic view of the importance of one’s own experience is to love & respect others, recognizing that our experiences are limited to our circumstances.

If you rely primarily upon your own experiences to determine a course of action, you not only limit the freedom of others, you limit your own as well. You are an “n” of 1; much better to find knowledge synthesized from the many than from the one.

This is democracy; not the maintenance of self, but the finding of self through the love & respect of others. “We” the people is our core value.

Through a recognition of the value of we, you more fully realize the value of I.

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Alan Turing, Transforming the System of Government

24turing1-popupAlan Turing was perhaps one of the greatest minds the human race has ever known. He transformed the way we think of systems, and is often referred to as the father of computer science. But even now, in death, he is helping us to analyze a different kind of system, the system of human governance.

Alan Turing was convicted of the crime of being a homosexual. The punishment for that crime led to his taking his own life. Many now understand how egregious such conviction was, and have worked hard to change the laws around homosexuality. We are witness to one of the great advances in human rights as the system of democratic pluralism is leading the way in recognizing the fundamental right to the free expression of sexual orientation.

Human institutions make mistakes. Recently, the Queen of England granted Turing a Royal Pardon. I’m glad to see this action taken. There are many acts that our Government has taken, much more horrific even than this, for which we have yet to make amends.

Most important is to learn the core lessons of such mistakes, and to implement changes to the system of government to avoid similar mistakes going forward. Alan Turing is a hero; we honor his sacrifice by learning and applying the lessons.

“Nearly 60 years after his death, Alan Turing, the British mathematician regarded as one of the central figures in the development of the computer, received a formal pardon from Queen Elizabeth II on Monday for his conviction in 1952 on charges of homosexuality, at the time a criminal offense in Britain.” New York Times

New York Times: Alan Turing, Enigma Code-Breaker and Computer Pioneer, Wins Royal Pardon

 

 

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The Opportunity & Danger of New Faith

Key & keyhole with lightOne identifying mark of young faith is the idea that those who possess it have found universal truth; that their ideas are equally applicable to and required of all.

This is as predictable in the newly blessed as it is dangerous to them.

The faith of such individuals can cause them to cling so tightly to their knowledge they fail to recognize it as a key. This key, depending on which side of the door they choose to use it in, can seal them into a small box, or open them to an ever expanding world of wonder.

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Human Dignity Requires Equality of Economic Opportunity

Are you a supporter of basic Human Rights? Do you bristle at racial or sexual inequality? Do you believe in the basic principles of human dignity? If so, great! But, do you also realize that human dignity and basic rights include equality of economic opportunity? Economic Equality is as fundamental to human dignity as is racial or sexual equality. Are you fully onboard to fight for this basic human right?

Read more about this here: Makers, Takers, and the Future of American Economics

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Destroying Plato’s Theory of Forms

This short video succeeds in destroying Plato’s Theory of Forms, Christianity’s idea of the perfect man, and Mormonism’s Proclamation On The Family. All in under 5 minutes.

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Dan Savage in Conversation with Andrew Sullivan

This is an amazing conversation; perhaps the pinnacle of modern sexual morality presented by seasoned voices of reason.

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The Costly Effects of Economic Inequality

Makers, Takers, and the Future of American Economics

President Obama signs G.I. Bill Protection Order

We The People of the United States have come together with a defined set of six shared values: a more perfect union, justice, domestic tranquility, defense, welfare and liberty. (See Foundational Values: A More Perfect Union).

Our chosen economic system, Capitalism, must serve those values. Does it? Currently, no.

A common understanding of capitalism is that it will do exactly that if the “invisible hand” of the market is operating effectively. Given the assumption that people are created equal, in an effective market-based system, we should expect a natural distribution of wealth. Such as this:

 

How Are We doing?

Compare that ideal to reality. Here’s our current distribution of wealth:

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The Death Penalty and Human Error

“The death penalty is a human system created by human beings, run by human beings. That means there is human error built into it. A human system is not capable of perfection. Government does nothing flawlessly. Government cannot flawlessly kill people. If you give government the power to kill people, you are giving government the power to make mistakes killing people, and government will make those mistakes. You couldn’t stop Troy Davis’ execution by just protesting Troy Davis’ execution. The only way to stop Troy Davis’ execution is to stop all executions.” – Lawrence O’Donnell

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How To Interview Mitt Romney About Sexism

Ask: Could a woman ever be appointed to lead your religion? Should they?

Mitt Romney is sexist. He adheres to a philosophy, Mormonism, which denies women equal rights. Mormon women are not allowed to hold leadership positions within the church and forbidden ordination into the priesthood.

Similarly, before 1978, the Mormon church did not allow black men to hold the priesthood. Had they not changed that position, Mitt Romney would have no chance to run for President; he’d rightly be branded as racist; that he’s not being asked to reconcile his sexism in a similar fashion reveals a troubling double standard.

Sexism isn’t sexy, it appears. Racism? That’s hot. Homophobia? Get a room. However, when it comes to the most dominant form of inequality, many seem complacent.

The foundational Mormon treatise “The Family, A Proclamation To The World” holds:

By divine design, fathers are to preside over their families in love and righteousness and are responsible to provide the necessities of life and protection for their families. Mothers are primarily responsible for the nurture of their children.

Mitt Romney’s vision of a healthy society puts men in the boardroom and women in the bedroom

Here’s how the Mormon Church practices this: Women are not allowed to hold the priesthood. Women are not allowed to hold any position of leadership over men. Even within the Mormon organization for women, they are not allowed to set their own budgets or to structure their own teaching materials. Women are not allowed to bless their babies, or even to hold their babies while they are being blessed.

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Post-Atheist: Moving Beyond Belief

Moses was asking the wrong questions

Summary

Asking whether one believes in God is a nonsensical, and ultimately, meaningless question. One would not ask “Do you believe in King?” God, like King, is a title, a political office. What matters is not belief in the existence of a being who claims the title, but rather, agreement with the political philosophy of any being who would assert power over us.

What is Post-Atheism?

I’ve coined the term Post-Atheist to convey moving beyond our current understanding of the title of god and our relationship to it. The common questions about god are nonsensical (do you believe) and impossible for finite beings to rationally consider (e.g. debating the attributes of god). Further, belief in a being is a simplistic calculation; more important is agreement with that being on fundamental governing principles.

Would the existence of an all-powerful creator automatically bestow a right to authoritarian rule? Of course not, just as my power to create a child does not bestow upon me a moral right to authoritarian rule.

Rather than our being defined by a best-guess at the existence of a powerful being (atheist, agnostic, believer), it is more important to define what is and is not acceptable behavior from any being who would seek our participation in their community.

Do you believe in God?

This question is nonsensical.

“God” is a title. Titles are descriptive appellations which convey rank, office, or status. For example, “king” is the title of a person holding a political office. A king may also have a personal name; e.g, King George.

Like king, god is a title. Defined generally as “the one supreme being, the creator and ruler of the universe,”1 the title of god conveys rank, office and status.

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The Violence of Lines

“When people began living in settled agricultural communities, social reality shifted deeply and irrevocably. Suddenly it became crucially important to know where your field ended and your neighbor’s began. — Christopher Ryan, Ph.D. and Cacilda Jethá, M.D. in Sex At Dawn

Whosoever Looketh On A Woman

As we closed our eyes for the congregational prayer, I could feel the closeness of her skin, electricity arcing as from one lead to another. Right hand folded tightly under left arm, index finger extended slightly. A hoped for inadvertent touch.

That act, however innocent it may seem, had the potential to cost me everything.

Three weeks previous, my mission companion and I were shopping at Sears in Mayaguez, Puerto Rico. I needed another white short-sleeved shirt, having lost one to bicycle grease.

As I turned to the counter, a moment cliches are made of: Eyes locked, time slowed. She smiled, I blushed.

It was easy to imagine that I had never seen a more beautiful woman.

In the history of pick up lines, this had to be among the worst: “Have you ever heard of the Book of Mormon?” I haltingly stammered, words fighting others I’d have preferred.

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Sam Harris And Science As Human Right

Summary

To match the ideals outlined in the U.S. Constitution, we must define and measure our values.

We have already defined our values. We do not yet measure outcomes.

Science is the only tool capable of abstracting human experience over populations, allowing us to know whether we are achieving our goals.

By choosing not to measure, we violate basic human rights and empower the strong over the weak, the majority over the minority. This threatens to make meaningless our chosen values.

Therefore, Science should be a human right.


Sam Harris’ Missing Chapter: Government and The Moral Landscape

Sam Harris recently published a controversial book titled The Moral Landscape, wherein he argues that science can answer moral questions:

Questions about value—about meaning, morality, and life’s larger purpose—are really questions about the well-being of conscious creatures. Values, therefore, translate into facts that can be scientifically understood.

Stephen Gould provides a common dissent:

Morality is a subject for philosophers, theologians, students of the humanities, indeed for all thinking people…The factual state of the world does not teach us how we, with our powers for good and evil, should alter or preserve it in the most ethical manner.

I side with Harris.

Most criticism of his position rests in a critique of Utilitarianism; an ethical position that holds the right course of action is the one that creates “the greatest good for the greatest number.”

Harris, by presenting his theory abstractly (“some science somewhere could do this”) and by responding to the abstract criticisms of his opponents, actually misses the strength of his argument when applied to practical use.

What else are we doing than safeguarding the well being of individuals when we form governments?

Harris’ theory can be grounded in Governance. U.S. Democracy, for example, is functionally utilitarian.

What else are we doing than safeguarding the well being of individuals when we form governments? In this light, arguments about whether we can define and measure moral positions are nonsense; we’ve been attempting to do so since the beginning of recorded history. We’ve just been doing it poorly.

If, as Harris’ opponents argue, this endeavor is impossible, then we should immediately dispense attempts to define communal values and form governments.

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