more perfect

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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We. Will. Will we?

Screen-Shot-2014-10-13-at-12.11.02-1014x570We. Will. Will We? We will. Or, we will not. We is choice.

One can’t choose relationship without first choosing fidelity. Fidelity is the choice. Some aspects of fidelity and infidelity are natural. We is (or can be) transcendent of the so-called human condition. If two (or more) will it to be.

Why so-called? Because “human” applied to us is inexact. Humans are not static. Humans are in flux, evolving. Some are here; some there. Do not confuse a signifier for the signified. Language approximates; it is useful, but can mislead.

Am I free? Chosen will is a better term than free will. I can choose something even when I am seemingly forced to choose something else. This suggests possibility of a chosen will. Choice.

Choose.

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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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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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Tolerating the intolerant? No.

extreme-weather-climate-link-6-new-zealandTolerance of intolerance violates the law of noncontradiction.

 

It’s common to hear the intolerant attempt to paint the tolerant as hypocrites for not tolerating their intolerance. This is a cheap rhetorical trick that while it convinces nobody, can often confuse an argument. And there’s a strong logical foundation for intolerance of intolerance, especially for a philosophy of tolerance. It’s called the law of noncontradiction; simply stated, it says that you can’t have both “A” and “Not A” at the same time.

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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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The Chosen Interlocutor

Choose wisely who you debate. Some of their ideas will mingle with your own, and thus change you. Therefore, debate only with those people and those ideas that merit your respect even when you may not agree with them.

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What Is Your Relational Orientation?

Are you Monogamous or Polyamorous?

In addition to sexual orientation, humans can identify a relational orientation.

The mating and social behavior of animals is of particular interest to humans. In our effort to understand the animal kingdom, we classify and document behaviors and traits, labeling a species as either “this” or “that”. Leaving aside a Western or religious understanding of monogamy as lifelong and exclusive pair bonding, there are animals that tend toward monogamy (3-5% of the animal population) and animals that do not.

At best, these classifications give us approximations. Not every species fits nicely into categories, and individual members of a given species may behave differently than the norm. These qualifications aside, we’re comfortable taking a 30,000 foot view of animal behavior and classifying them accordingly.

We tend to wear blinders, however, when looking at ourselves, the human animal. It is, perhaps, simply bias that prevents us from studying ourselves in the same way we do birds and bees.

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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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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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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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David Frum and the Failure of Conservatism

Summary

David Frum reversed his position on gay marriage. Conservatives would have you believe that the case for or against it requires a review of evidence.

In framing his reversal this way, he’s misrepresenting his previous position, and glossing over the deeper question: is conservatism capable of producing coherent policies in a nation whose foundational values include equality, justice, and union?

Conservatism has been wrong on the most fundamental questions of human rights. The questions of slavery, women’s right to vote and interracial marriage were not decided by weighing evidence, and neither is the question of gay marriage.


David Frum, a conservative columnist, recently admitted “I Was Wrong About Same-Sex Marriage.”

In linking to his article on my facebook page, I stated:

“Oops! David Frum tries to backpedal his previous opposition to gay marriage. What he doesn’t understand is that this is an indictment not just of his previous position, but of conservatism generally.”

A friend asked about my strategy of chastising a person who has come to agree with me on one of my core issues. “Why not just pat him on the back and welcome him into the tent?”

David Frum didn’t invent his opposition to gay marriage ex nihilo; his core principle, conservatism, predictably led him to make this fundamental mistake.

In his reversal, Mr. Frum states:

“…the case against same-sex marriage has been tested against reality. The case has not passed its test.”

Frum’s conservatism seems to suggest an evidence-based requirement of change, and yet his position is not now nor ever was informed by evidence.

In his former arguments, Mr. Frum wasn’t asking that gay marriage be tested; quite the opposite. He and most other conservatives have viciously fought any attempt to grant rights to homosexuals.

To claim now that gay marriage has been tested and found innocuous is to subtly, but importantly, misrepresent the prior position. What is more important, it’s an attempt to ignore the core problem, which is the philosophy of conservatism.

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Why I Choose To Be Progressive

Summary

My theory of Progressivism holds that knowledge improves over time, allowing us to better understand ourselves and our environment. Knowledge is advanced by individuals through both free and systemic inquiry. I encourage change through the application of better knowledge, resulting in a more perfect union.

My theory of Conservatism, by contrast, places value on past knowledge, emphasizing culture, history and authority (god, religion) as the source of knowledge. Conservatism suggests the status quo has been earned, and change should be resisted. It seeks to maintain our union as a function of what is or was, rather than what might be.


Human nature is both progressive and conservative. Ours is a story of incredible progress tempered by an appeal to conservation. We hope for that which can be, but hold tight to that which is.

We infrequently seek to understand the philosophical rationale for our actions, most often choosing positions based in a near-term calculus of that which we desire.

This article is meant to represent my current thinking on my own political philosophy. I recognize the choices I make, that my position is not mandated by facts, but rooted in desire.

We hold the power to choose our path, or to have our path chosen for us. I choose to value progress over conservation.
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Foundational Values: A More Perfect Union

Summary

The United States has a single foundation: The Constitution. It outlines our legally shared values:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

Any appeal to principles not contained herein are not shared values. For example, we are not a biblical nation. We are a Constitutional nation. Argumentation of law must only appeal to legally shared values.


During each political season, we are inundated with campaign slogans and rhetoric which appeal to foundational American values. We hear reference to our being a Judeo-Christian nation, appeals to biblical authority, nostalgic recounting of the founding fathers’ personal beliefs, or even the eulogizing of small-town American values. The values of some Americans are identified as real, while others are demonized as un-American.

From this basis of branding values, many attempt to both discredit the ideas of others and to lend authority to their own. Their position is necessary, they’ll argue, given the core values they’ve defined.

The problem? Frequently these defined foundational values are not legitimately shared. Agreeing to a shared set of values is fundamental to any productive argument. Discussion of a topic, absent agreement on the foundational values, is most often pointless.

Imagine a bicycle built for two; if the riders don’t agree on the purpose or direction of travel, their odds of arriving at a mutually acceptable place is unlikely. If one rider attempts to define his own values as universal, in this example by seizing the front seat of the bicycle, they’ll simply be imposing their non-shared value on the other. Their values, then, are no longer shared, they’re authoritarian; one party attempting to force their values on the other.

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Foundational Values: Personal

My Chosen Purpose

  • My primary purpose is joy.
  • My secondary purpose is pursuit of knowledge.

My Chosen Faith

  • I choose faith in free will, in my ability to transcend those forces that limit me.

My Chosen Community

  • I choose faith in humanity.
  • I choose faith in the equality of individuals
  • I choose faith in human rights which exist prior to and apart from communal law.
  • I choose faith in democratic pluralism.

Joy

I choose joy as the primary purpose of my life. I specifically choose the word joy instead of other similar words such as happiness. In my usage of joy, I mean something more enduring than simple pleasure.

My Definition of Joy: An enduring sense of contentment, measured not in each moment, but as a dynamic summation of experience. The constituent parts of joy include instances of happiness, sorrow, pleasure and pain, boredom, excitement, leisure and work. Joy is the result of life well-lived, adjusted by experience to achieve a net-positive sentiment. It is an expression of my desire.

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