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Friday, November 4, 2016

Shameless

That you accept an entangled career politician who stands for absolutely nothing as the pragmatic choice vs a corrupt psychopath says more about your standards than anything […] And you choosing sides in [the election] should make you ashamed.
Gary Johnson Supporter, via email

MR WRONG YOUR ATTACKS ON JILL STEIN ARE DISGUSTING! YOU SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF YOURSELF. YOU ARE AN ASSHOLE! UNFOLLOW!
Jill Stein Supporter, via Facebook Messenger

It seems I should be ashamed.

Ashamed for choosing a side.

Ashamed for supporting a candidate.

Ashamed for mocking certain third parties.

Ashamed for being part of the problem instead of the magical unicorn solution.

Ashamed for engaging in a political process composed of psychopaths and corruption.

There’s plenty more feedback where those comments came from. They’re all of similar bent. The common theme being I should be ashamed for throwing in with a mainstream candidate from one of the mainstream political parties.

I should be ashamed.

Ashamed.

Right.

As noted in the previous post, I should probably be a lot of things.

I’m a white straight male veteran and if you listen to people who purport to be experts on who I should be, I should be a Republican. I should be a Conservative. I should be a nationalist and a Jingoist and a gun-waving patriot and should probably belong to a militia. I should be a Christian.  I should despise my government. I should hate certain groups of people to be named later. And so long as we’re at it, let me throw in a few shouldas of my own: I should be a more disciplined writer. I should exercise more. I should be more patient. I should be more understanding. I should be better at remembering names. I should drink less expensive whiskey … okay, never mind that last one, I think I’ve made my point here.

I should be a lot of things.

So you might as well go right ahead and add ashamed to that list because I’m not gonna be that either.

I’m not ashamed to be voting for Hillary Clinton.

And why should I be?

Look here, it should have been readily apparent from the previous post that I’m not a Democrat. I’m also not a Republican. Or a member of any political party. I am, in point of fact, a registered Independent. And as I have noted many times, despite appearances I’m not a Liberal.  I’m also not a Conservative.  I suppose you could call me a Progressive, but even that isn’t particularly accurate.

 

What I am is a pragmatist.

 

Yeah, you said that before, Jim.

But what does that mean exactly?

Allow me an illustration: in the novel Starship Troopers, Robert Heinlein postulated a world unified under a single global government. That civilization was born from the wreckage of war, created by veterans who were weary of death and ruin and politicians who started wars for other men to fight. This society enjoyed all of the freedoms we Americans do and many more and those rights were fully equal across the board no matter race, creed, color, sex, origin, or orientation. But there was a catch: the people were divided into two classes, citizens and taxpayers. In this world everybody was born a taxpayer without exception, no matter who their parents were. Taxpayers enjoyed all rights and all protections of citizens with two exceptions, they could not hold office and they could not vote. Only citizens could hold elected office and only citizens could vote. No exceptions. Now, there was no stigma associated with being a taxpayer versus a citizen and many people were just as happy to go about their lives without the franchise content to let others run the world. 

However the pivot the entire story turned on was this: Any taxpayer could at anytime become a citizen.

But again, there was a catch. To become a citizen in this world, you had to be a veteran.

Anybody could serve once they were of legal age no matter their physical condition and no one could stop them. If they wanted to sign up, the military would find them a job no matter what. The example Heinlein used was if you were blind and confined to a wheelchair, the military would find you a job counting the hairs on a caterpillar by touch. The only people who couldn’t serve were those who were mentally incapable of understanding the oath. Two years of service and an honorable discharge and you were a citizen.

Now Starship Troopers and the society it depicts had a huge impact on a lot of people, me included.

Robert Heinlein himself was branded a fascist by those who didn’t read the book carefully (or didn’t bother to read the book at all), because the society he described required military service in exchange for full citizenship and because his protagonist Johnny Rico grew to love the military and made it his life and home. This label of fascism is the height of irony given that Heinlein was a US Navy Officer who spent WWII doing everything he was physically capable of to fight fascism (Heinlein was invalided out of the Navy due to pulmonary tuberculosis on the eve of WWII and served as a reserve officer doing secret research during the war).  Doubly so given that story takes great pains not to glorify military service in any way whatsoever and the authorities in the story do everything in their power to discourage enlistment at every opportunity and offer a variety of honorable alternatives.

I digress.

The point being that for many people since its publication, the emotions stirred by Starship Troopers verge on those we see around us today. Accusations of fascism. Passionate defenses of liberty and freedom and the roles of government. The right to vote. Military service as a duty versus a means to an end – and as a fetish of patriotism.

But what many folks missed – and continue to miss – is the part where Heinlein himself never claimed such a society was desirable or even admirable.

And in point of fact, Heinlein took great pains in the text to do just the opposite.

Major Reid smiled. “Mr. Salomon, I handed you a trick question. The practical reason for continuing our system is the same as the practical reason for continuing anything: It works satisfactorily.

And there it is, pragmatism.

Heinlein spends a lot of the book engaged in a somewhat heavy handed exploration of the philosophy of government and the morality of war – but then he was a military officer writing for 14-year-old boys at the height of the Cold War (i.e. for kids like me)and many readers skimmed past his lectures on History and Moral Philosophy to get to the parts about The Bugs and the Mobile Infantry. 

And they shouldn’t have, because they missed the best part.

If they’d read more closely they would have realized none of the characters (channeling Heinlein himself) ever said their society was better, only that it was the one they had.

It works satisfactorily was the strongest endorsement Heinlein’s characters ever offered. 

And in that, Heinlein was, as he often did, deliberately paraphrasing our own Founding Fathers.

I  trust that I have now made clear to you the tremendous responsibilities. We must do the best we can with what we have.
John Paul Jones, September 14, 1775; Letter to the Continental Congress

Heinlein wasn’t exactly subtle about it. He was an Academy officer himself and intimately familiar with America’s first navy commander and he put that John Paul Jones quote at the start of the appropriate chapter.

And what he was talking about is this: Pragmatism.

This country was founded on it.

We must do the best we can with what we have.

That’s what compromise is, you know, pragmatism.

Getting what you can, while giving the other guy what you can in return. It doesn’t take any great perception to look at the Constitution and see it as a patchwork of compromise, some of which didn’t work out in practicality and had to be pragmatically amended via additional compromise – see the 12th Amendment, or the 13th.

That’s what democracy is, compromise. Ongoing, endless, compromise.

If you get everything you want, every time, then you’re not living in a democracy.

America may be exceptional but it’s rarely perfect. It clunks along pretty well for the majority of its citizens most of the time despite the loud and violent protestations of the angry mob and the radical fringe.

That doesn’t mean it works for everybody all of the time.

Nor does that mean we Americans shouldn’t be working hard towards a more perfect union and making our country work for more of its citizens more of the time.

 

Which takes us at long last to the point of this piece: Our de facto two-party system.

 

We were warned against political parties by the most prominent of our founders:

"[Political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion."
--
President George Washington

No truer words, eh?

Unfortunately, by the time Washington spoke those words during his farewell address at Mount Vernon on September 17, 1796, and went on to say political parties served only to turn brother against brother, it was already too late.  The Federalists (strong central government) and the Democratic-Republican (anti-federalist, weak central government) parties were already fully formed and rising to power in the new nation.

Despite that, was the government and the political system they forged via compromise then (and perhaps still now) better than what came before?

Yes.

Most certainly.

But over time, while the names have changed and ideology has shifted back and forth, the basic division between strong and weak central government remains, cleaving the country into roughly equal halves with a halo of small special-interest third parties orbiting around the edge. And in retrospect, with the hindsight of 240 years of political evolution, could the Founders have left us a better system?

Maybe.

Many such supposedly better systems have been proposed.

And so now, here, today, is this the best system of government?

No.

No. Obviously not for many reasons, chief among them is that in the course of time and things our de facto two party system has grown into a potent engine by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men are able to daily subvert the power of the people and seize for themselves the reins of government and are even now destroying the very engines which lifted them to this unjust dominion.

 

But like it or not, for now, pragmatically, this is the system we have.

 

And to paraphrase John Paul Jones, we have tremendous responsibilities, to our country, to ourselves, to our children, to the present, to the future, to history, and we must do the best we can with what we have at hand now.

“…choosing sides should make you ashamed.”

Nonsense.

We all choose sides.

Failure to choose is still a choice.

Refusal to participate in the process because it’s not perfect isn’t a virtue. It’s at best foolishness and at worse cowardice.

When you stand on the battlefield between two great armies you either pick a side or find yourself trampled under the hooves of the warhorses and the boot heels of the infantry.  Certainly, you may retreat from the field if there’s time, find yourself a place of safety and watch the battle from a distant hill. You can then congratulate yourself for your morality and for standing pat on principle, but in the end you’re going to have to live with whoever wins that battle down below and by refusing to pick a side you’ve chosen just the same.

Whether you like it or not, whether or not there might be a better system, right now, today, between them the Republican and the Democratic parties represent the vast majority of American citizens. Their respective platforms describe the general divisions of our society.  Their candidates reflect us in majority, for good or for ill – and it’s important to remember both, good and ill, are often subjective. Q.E.D.

Understand something: I am not such a pragmatist that I cannot admire idealism.

And I do admire idealism – up to the point where it become inflexible dogmatism.

I believe Third Parties serve a useful function as reservoirs of idealism and wellsprings of new ideas and often encompass an enthusiasm sorely lacking in the two mainstream parties.

However, while idealism may spawn democracy, it is pragmatism that makes it work in the long run and you have only to compare the Declaration of Independence to the Constitution to see that as fact.

Moreover, idealism when it becomes inflexible and uncompromising can kill democracy just as surely as internal apathy or an assault from the outside – see the Tea Party and resulting congressional gridlock et al.

What both the commenters quoted at the beginning of this article fail to realize is this: Should any Third Party replace and become a mainstream party, it will within short order become indistinguishable from that which has gone before. This is the nature of our society. For Jill Stein or Gary Johnson to become President, the nature of our political system is such that they would have to become Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump in order to get elected.  This is the lesson of Bernie Sanders – or Ralph Nader.  The idealism of any Third Party is so far outside the main camps of Federalism/Anti-Federalism that such candidates simply cannot rally enough votes either popular or electoral to win – the closest any Third Party has ever come was George Wallace in 1968 and he wasn’t even close, which is why he went back to being a Democrat in 1972.

At present, the important function of Third Parties is to spur evolutionary change in the mainstream, not win the election.

Does this mean you shouldn’t throw in with a Third Party?

No. Of course not.

But you shouldn’t be ashamed if you don’t either.

Whether or not our political system is a reflection of us, of our society, of human nature itself, or an unintended side effect of the compromises made by our Founding Fathers, is utterly irrelevant to the task at hand.

It is what it is.

And it’s not going to change between now and next Tuesday.

In the final analysis we must do the best we can with what we have.

And there’s no shame in that at all.

 

They didn’t want it good, they wanted it Wednesday
-- Robert Anson Heinlein

168 comments:

  1. I find it curious that the examples of people berating you for your opinions ATTACK you, as if that will change your mind.

    I read you for the insight that is uniquely yours, whether I agree with you or not; it is part of my daily education on matters that matter to ME. As a technologist, I choose to be reason-based. I do not have a knee-jerk reaction...except to injustice...and I resent the non-thinkers of the world who scream out in agony because someone else actually disagrees with them. They exhibit their primary motive as rooted in the belief that "Well, I believe it, no matter what! And, you should believe what I believe, too!" That is simply juvenile.

    Keep expressing your opinion. I always causes me pause, and I look forward to "Stonekettle Station" in my RSS feed...and am occasionally rewarded with another personal bit of your insight. Sometimes I even agree with you!

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  2. I think there is a typo vice or versus?

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    1. There's one more at "become inflexible dogmatism." If I'm not mistaken.
      Wonderful essay, thank you.

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    2. Well, that use of vice is obscure but correct. It's most commonly used in military communication. However, every time I use it this way, I get grief about it. I'll fixe the second instance here in a minute.

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    3. I saw whate you dide there....
      I had no Idea I was a pragmatist! That matches most closely with how I think most of the time. My favorite quote is similar to the Heinlein one, "We do the best we can with what we know, and when we know better we do better." I worked as a high school counselor for 17 years, and that sort of pragmatic outlook was often very helpful to me and my students.

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    4. It's Latin, the "vice" of "vice versa"; in contrast to "versus" it connotes less opposition than simple differentiation, I think. I'd love to know how many syllables US military members give it and what the vowels sound like.

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    5. "Vice versa" is Latin and means "in reverse order" or "the other way around" -- "Jack loves Jill, and vice versa". "Versus" is Latin and means "against". It's what the "v." or "vs" in the name of a legal case stands for -- "Jones v. Smith" or "The State vs Jones".

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  3. Thank you. Thank you so very much. This sums up /exactly/ why I'm putting up with the system right now... and it sounds, despite our differences in age and circumstance, that there may have been some similar stimuli in our formative years.

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  4. People like your commentators always remind me of the people who would treat vets like Rudyard Kipling's Tommy....

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    1. Yep. Love him when he's fighting a war, insult him during peacetime. (For those who haven't read the poem.)

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  5. "Closest" not "closet", I think. In the George Wallace paragraph.

    Thanks, Jim, I've been trying to explain this to my kids, who are all doing the young and idealistic thing. Which is fine, but they look at me in stunned disbelief when I talk about how I'm voting.

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    1. Also, unless he doesn't count, Teddy Roosevelt did the best of all third party candidates. Actually finishing second. And greatly aiding the Democrat in the race, Woodrow Wilson ...

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    2. "It's fixed" So it has been repaired, Thank the maker!

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  6. "there was no stigma associated with being a taxpayer vice a citizen and many "

    vice -> versus?

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  7. If you weren't already married, Mr. Wright, I'd offer to marry you. Not only are you a great writer, but you're a pragmatist and a Heinlein devotee. Don't know if you're a dog person but if you are, you can move in with me if the missus ever sends you packing.

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    1. Ooh! Not your lucky day is it? Jim's an avowed crazy cat laddie.

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    2. You're forgetting Crooked Dog, Jake. It's just that it happened to be a cat who captured his heart during the time I, at least, have known him.

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  8. Great, now I have to go re-read Starship Troopers! Thanks as always for an insightful post and for firing up my gray matter.

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    1. You could always watch the movie, but it was really bad. ;)

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    2. It was more watchable than the tripe that followed. 😊

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    3. There's a rebooted version coming, but considering the screenwriter and director named for it I'm not holding my breath on the reboot being any better.

      I'm just going to read the book again and hope that the new movie comes closer.

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  9. I read Heinlein, too. He was great.

    I'm a pragmatist, too. Oh, I voted for Bernie. I think it would be better if he'd gotten the nomination. Lots better. But he didn't. I also think viable 3rd parties would be awesome! Today, they're not. They will not win. Hillary is not a great candidate, but she is a candidate, and she's running against someone who scares me a lot. Makes me fear for the life of the republic. Makes me fear for minorities. So, I voted for Hillary, even preferring Bernie, and I'd do it over again. Oh, hell yeah. Because articles like this scare me: http://highline.huffingtonpost.com/articles/en/alt-right/

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    1. I also supported Bernie during the Primary, but I early voted for Hillary. I ordered "Bernie has my heart, Hillary has my vote" bumper stickers for me and my most fervent Bernie supporter friends. Hopefully I won't get shot at or keyed here in TX.

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  10. Excellent, Jim. That's all I can really say.

    I will also add that yes, you are 100% right on STARSHIP TROOPERS. As someone who's read the book, I've always had to deal with those who claim that it was a "fascist tract" and that Joe Haldeman's THE FOREVER WAR was written as a counterpoint to ST. In truth, when questioned those who claim that the book was fascist turn out to have confused the book with Verhoeven's 1997 film or have only read excerpts from the book, while in the case of THE FOREVER WAR, no, it was not written as a counter to ST--and in fact, Heinlein loved the book and told that to Haldeman.

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  11. Replies
    1. That one was all autocorrect. It's fixed.

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  12. Two points, one minor, the other slightly less so:

    (1) Typo: "parties where already fully formed"--the "where" should be "were".

    (2) Quibble: I'm of the faction that reads what RAH wrote as meaning that to earn citizenship you had to volunteer for *Civil Service*. Not necessarily the military--but not necessarily *not* the military, either. You indicated your willingness and they decided where best they could use you, and if it was the military, so be it. IIRC he said that only about 10% of civil service jobs were in the military, but I'd have to wait until I get home to my copy of ST to check.

    --pH

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    1. 1) fixed

      2) For the love little green apples, FOCUS.

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    2. If I recall the term was Federal Service, and Juan and Ho both make it clear that there were jobs lower in prestige (to Juan) than the MI. No further mention is made of them.

      What is mentioned is that those in Service could not hold office and could not vote. I've never understood the fascist claim, as RAH makes it clear that the government is civilian not military, and actually spends little time on it. I was far more bothered by the flogging.

      It did cause this 12 year old to decide I would serve a term in the military. Which I did.

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  13. "...unprincipled men are able to daily subvert the power of the people and seize for themselves the reigns of government and are even now destroying the very engines with lifted them to this unjust dominion."

    Who specifically and how would you say is doing this today? I feel sheepish knowing that this is potentially true, but not being able to recognize it when I see it. Some examples would really help me out in watching for it in the future and doing what I can to speak out against it.

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    1. I know this question was meant for Jim, but just had to say the first names that came to mind. The Koch brothers have very publicly declared, both with words and money, that they have their own agenda to push. Beyond that, think of various Wall Street bankers and large corporate CEOs. All have the backing of Citizen's United to use their money as free speech, whether in an election or lobbying congress. Sorry, I don't have those specific names.

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    2. Those are great examples. I wonder if those kinds of people/groups need the political parties to do what they do. Can anyone think of any that specifically use the parties in this way?

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    3. The Koch brothers have tried hard and expended a great fortune to make the Republican Party over in their image. Those efforts got derailed by Trump to be sure!

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    4. The Koch Brothers are not giving money to Trump

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    5. I found this Princeton study most depressing.
      www.bbc.com/news/blogs-echochambers-27074746

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  14. As always Jim, both lyrical and steely. Its fair to say I'm radically pragmatic, so this smooths my pre-vote hackles rather nicely, thanks.

    "After all, what's a life, anyway? We're born, we live a little while, we die."
    E.B. White, Charlotte's Web

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  15. Start with the correction; get it over. He was invalided out, not invalidated. There, now I feel better.

    Shame is a bloody waste of time. Shame is when you care more about what other people want you to do or think than you do to your needs and desires. I'm glad you are shameless.

    P.S. Those cheese sandwiches better be toasted, and they are yummy when accompanied by tomato soup.

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    1. My editor would NOT allow me to type invalided. It keep changing it to invalidated. And in fact invalided wasn't even in its dictionary. I finally managed to override it, but now there's a green grammar line under the work which is the cybernetic version of sulking I think.

      It's fixed.

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    2. Sulking... yep.
      You add a word it doesn't know to its dictionary, and the green 'grammar error' line, as opposed to the red 'spelling error' line, is its way of saying "Well, that word might exist BUT YOU'RE USING IT WRONG!"
      (You can usually make the green go away by right clicking it and selecting ignore. The 'ignore' technique also works for human sulking.)

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    3. I only did a smiley because this part of the comnentary just tickled me in particular. Thanks.

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    4. I only did a smiley because this part of the commentary just tickled me in particular. Thanks.

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  16. This is fantastic. Huge fan. Thank you for what you do.

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  17. "Refusal to participate in the process because it’s not perfect isn’t a virtue. It’s at best foolishness and at worse cowardice."

    Never was a truer word spoken. In UK we are in the aftermath of the vote to leave the EU. The fact that some 17 million people voted to leave is taken by the Remain camp as not a representative majority of the voting public (despite it being the biggest voter turn out and, hence, mandate in living memory).

    My response is: "Suck it up buttercup. If you couldn't be bothered to get off your arse and vote you have absolutely NO say in how that vote turned out."

    While I am in no way, shape, or form a fan of Mrs Clinton, Mr Trump terrifies me. The idea that he could have access to the Nuclear Deterent...

    Indeed I have been watching the developing car crash that is the US Presidential race with a sort of horrified fascination.

    I'm hoping the USA wakes up soon but I'm not going to hold my breath.

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  18. “Too much of anything is bad, but too much good whiskey is barely enough.”
    ― Mark Twain

    A commenter on one of your FB threads threw a little love your way the other day and to paraphrase said. "I love you but I bet you hear that all the time." You replied, "not often enough." I don't know where this is going, except that because of you, my life has depth and friendships that would never have come about without our attraction to Stonekettle Station, Jim Wright Nation. One of our fellow Stonekettle minions died yesterday of a lingering illness and I'm sitting here listening to my selection of bon voyage music for her. She would approve. She will be missed. Thank you for the connections. Thank you for thought.

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    1. Aw, Marti. Now I'm crying again.

      Jim Wright's Facebook, Twitter and blog posts are sometimes the only way in which I see so many of my own thoughts and feelings expressed and expressed eloquently. Even the NSFW language is eloquent. Thank you, Jim.

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  19. Thank you for this! It's seems hard for folks to understand that compromise doesn't necessarily mean that you get everything you want, especially when it comes to government. *sigh*

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  20. Excellent read Jim. I shall share this and then defend myself from the ire of my friends that are hell-bent on beating the system.

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  21. A good essay. Thanks. Heinlein was one of my favorites as a teen. Here's a recent, well written article w/ similar notions - the 1st four paragraphs should be required reading for Americans. http://www.nytimes.com/2016/02/26/opinion/the-governing-cancer-of-our-time.html

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    1. Excellent! If only it were possible (sigh) I fear it will take a major cataclysm in our country for people to wake up and realize that their rabid ideology has left our great democracy in a state of peril.

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    2. Thanks for the link. Excellent article. I've been watching West Wing again and couldn't help but think of a speech that President Bartlett made during a debate about bipartisanship and how he believed that the founders had this exact process in mind to let everyone have their say. Unfortunately, his opponent, like a lot of our citizens, think it's a thing to be avoided. Gotta love The West Wing!

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  22. outstanding as usual mr. wright !! from a proofwriting point of view, this sentence: Now, there was no stigma associated with being a taxpayer vice a citizen and many people were just as happy to go about their lives without the franchise content to let others run the world. the word vice seems out of place? thanks again jim.

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  23. George Carlin was a funny comedian and a lousy political commentator.

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    1. OOH, can I play?

      They love you when you're funny.

      But not when you're trenchant.

      Personally? I'll take "bullshit everywhere", "euphemisms", or the first 60 seconds of "what we have in common" over "seven dirty words" and "hippy dippy weather man" on their best days.

      Ya gotta admit - TRUTH is often "lousy".

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  24. I see that others caught "closet".

    But apart from that, a very interesting piece. I remember back in the febrile days of student politics in the 1970s that"pragmatist" was one of the worst insults that could be thrown at a body. It seemed stupid to me then and it still does now.

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  25. Dammit, Jim... I find your articles so deeply inspiring, but I'm intimidated by how articulate most of your admirers are and someone always says what I'm thinking way better than I can. So I just sent you a bunch of money. Keep it coming.

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    1. I know how that works, and they are so much FASTER than I am. So, I just do the subscription thing.

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  26. I have a hard time understanding those who vote against their best interests or refuse to even remotely consider that what they were taught and believe is only true based on their particular point of view. I grew up in the same time you did, in the plains states and was in the Navy as well. I used to be a democrat, then a republican and now and independent. Pragmatism is something I would equate to what used to be called common sense. It can't really be called that anymore because well, let's face it, it's not very common these days. Moderate. There's a word you rarely hear these days because about 8 years ago conservatives took words like compromise and moderate and attached bullshit sentiments to them so that the general populace would automatically think "SOCIALISM!" when either word would come up in conversation. The result is what we have today, people being told they should be ashamed of using their goddamn brains. Seriously....W.T.F?!?!?!?!?
    I for thank you sir. Your essay's, almost without exception feel like you're taking exactly what I'm thinking and putting in print...only you do it so much better. Keep it up buddy, we need more people like you :)

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    1. Aw common sense! I agree. Totally a lost art.

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    2. I like the phrase that common sense has been reclassified as a superpower.
      I don't like the reality but do like the phrase.
      And it's one of those powers where you are now annoyed by those without it.

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  27. Best explanation of Starship Troopers I have seen yet. I've read it twice, once when I was a preteen and loved the powersuits with tactical nukes and hated the classroom stuff and again as an adult. I've just now realized I need to read it again, especially since i frequently suggest it as an interesting read.

    Thank you so much for many of the things you write, there is a precision to your thoughts and the way you explain them that frequently is eye opening and worth sharing with others.

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  28. Pragmatism, or as i like to call it, reality. Now I have to check out Robert Heinlein, and his book "Starship Troopers." Thanks again Jim for another well written essay on poking our heads up to see the big picture.

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    1. You've never read Heinlein! You poor soul! Your life will be forever enriched by the reading of one of the true SF masters.

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  29. You've EARNED that top-shelf whiskey! Bottoms up. :)

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  30. Dear Jim,

    I have been reading your work both here and on Facebook for several months and wanted to introduce myself. I enjoy your concise, articulate, and honest writing. It has induced a hearty laugh on several occasions and I admire that.
    I am a registered member of the Green Rainbow Party of MA and I agree with you that most folks who subscribe to the GRP are idealist. Sometimes I feel that the Greens recruit from the island of damaged and lost toys. I could not bring myself to vote for Dr. Stein, beyond the Primary, because I believe that the GRP should focus on building the Party through electing members to State and local government first before attempting to wear big boy pants in the Presidential elections. I too am a pragmatist, which is why I voted early for HRC.
    Well enough about me, I just wanted to say hello and let you know how much I enjoy your work. Just Keep Writing!
    be well
    Dennis G Caristi

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    1. I register as Green in my state, too. I think the ecological stuff is wildly important *cough*(climate change)*cough! And they need the numbers to be "legal" and keep what little voice they have. Yet, I rarely vote that way. Unfortunately, usually, there's someone like Trump that I feel obliged to vote against.

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  31. The one place on the internet where reading the comments doesn't make you feel the need to wash out your eyeballs. Thank you, and thanks for the Heinlein flashbacks.

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    1. I could name another one or two, but your statement is statistically correct. Alas. And very well worded. And very sad. Thank you I think.

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    2. I could name another one or two but you are statistically correct. Alas.
      And you worded that very well. Thank you, I think.

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  32. May your cupboard always be filled with Jamison (and not the cheap stuff either).

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    1. Why not Bushmills? - Aw hell, why not both Bushmills & Jameson's? But you will need to keep them separated. Protestants & Catholics shouldn't be mixed or you wind up with the likes of me!

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    2. Bushmills.

      Especiallt the Single Malts.

      Sláinte mhaith!

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  33. A few years ago, I stumbled across "Equality" by Edward Bellamy, it was one of the public domain free books on Kindle. I actually loved it and I liked the society sort of, it might be nice for a while but I suspect it would get boring. However given human nature, I couldn't see it holding together very long. And even I as socialist leaning as I am could poke too many holes in the premise. But the thing is, the time that the protagonist came from, mirrors a lot of what we are going through today. However to get to the point pragmatism is essential to keep things working. Even in Eqality's utopia, pragmatism played a part in keeping the system working. There were "leaders" who oversaw that the utopia continued. We need leaders who will keep our "utopia" going. Sometimes that requires compromise on our part. Give me this messy "democracy" any day over a perfect or chaotic world. At least we have the option of working within the system to encourage ideas that make things better for all of us rather than just a few.

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  34. Starship Troopers reference! I was just thinking about that the other day, and then I messaged you about it...

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  35. Let's be real here, if you can contort enough to justify your third-party waste of your vote, you can manage to justify voting for Clinton to save this nation from the right-wing idiocracy. The only shame to be had is in aiding Trump and that is a damned shame.

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  36. I discovered your blog about a month ago and am thrilled that I did. I have enjoyed reading just about everything you've posted and now follow you on facebook. We are much alike, as white straight veterans of about the same age and similar background. Of course, we are also very different, so here's one thing I will promise you (and anyone else in my acquaintance, be it near or far), I will never attempt to shame you if you have a different viewpoint than I do. I will say, living in the ultra red state that I do, I did cast my vote for Jill Stein yesterday and I am not ashamed for doing so. We (as a collective) in this country attribute far more power to the office of the President than what really exists, so I spent my time researching the down ballot candidates where an actual choice existed and voted accordingly. Keep up the good work.

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    1. Ah, so nice to see another member of the Jim Wright collective. Welcome!

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  37. Far too many folks knowledge of Starship Troopers is filtered through that wretched movie. But, yes, pragmatism and compromise are what make the system work. Unfortunately the extreme left of the Democrats (Bernie or Bust!) and the extreme right of the Republicans (Vote NO on everything! Jail her!) are not inclined towards either pragmatism or compromise. Third parties can sometimes do good by making suggestions that neither main party could possibly get away with. Look back at Norman Thomas and his wild eyed Socialist Party and see how many of their radical notions are government policy today. I fear greatly that whoever wins the White House this time we are in for four years of complete stalemate and nothing will be accomplished. Perhaps the best thing is that the electorate gets *so* fed up that we throw out all the rascals and start over again in 2020.

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    1. Wasn't so much a wretched movie as a wretched Starship Troopers.

      I rather liked the tv series, though, what I remember of it.

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  38. I read Starship Troopers several times in my misspent youth, and you are quite correct, it does depict a fascist state. However,if it is a choice between Locke and Heinlein, I choose Locke.

    That's just me, however--and the men who threw together the Constitution. :)

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  39. Thank you from another fan of RAH and Starship Troopers. I keep thinking of another story from Heinlein in this election. "If this goes on..." If Mr Cruz had been the nominee, the future of Nehimiah Scudder might have been staring us in the face.

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  40. now destroying the very engines WHICH not with

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  41. Gosh, Jim, you continue to be relentlessly logical, principled, and articulate -- no wonder you provoke such bile!

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  42. another incredible essay that I found myself agreeing with and nodding again and again. As so many other people have said, you say what I am thinking, and you say it so much better than I am able. Thanks for being who you are. Next time you make a trip to the north, stop by, I have a bottle of Elijah Craig bourbon I'd gladly share with you. :)

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  43. Never fails to amaze and amuse me how little anyone actually reads these days or understands what they read.

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  44. You just put into words what has been rattling around inside my head, but more eloquently than I could, and with historical references to boot. Thank you!

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  45. Damn , I suppose I should have read the book . I didn't care much for the movie

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    1. The movie IS NOT the book -- Hollywood fails spectacularly to capture the thought behind most SF stories, and does not do Heinlein justice.

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  46. "The example Heinlein used was if you were blind and confined to a wheelchair, the military would find you a job counting the hairs on a caterpillar by touch."

    That always made me go 'huh?'
    As a Navy officer, surely he was aware of the increasing importance of sonar. If there's any way a blind wheelchair bound person could be used, it would be things like sonar operator. Now in space that's less of an issue, but radio telescopy was around, and would have similar aims. There's a bunch of radio astronomers who still fall back on 'listening' as well as computerised systems. Even stockade security staff would be helpful (running a control desk), or being a communications operator/radio dispatcher.
    Counting caterpillar hairs sounds like a singular waste and always seemed like both a lack of imagination, and a contemptuous attitude towards those less-able (and so given useless make-work instead of exploring their talents)

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    1. Well, entomologists might disagree there and insects can have pretty significant health and economic impacts - caterpillar larvae may or may not have their species determined and harmful (crop-damaging) vs useful (silk &?) varieties sorted by their number of hairs .. But yeah mostly so.

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  47. Always good to read your stuff, Jim.

    "It was because we failed to do the thing we really have a genius for, which is compromise. Americans like to think of themselves as uncompromising. Our true genius is for compromise. Our whole government's founded on it. And, it failed." - Shelby Foote, Ken Burn's Civil War, 1990

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  48. Great writing as usual and so nice to see someone who shares my feelings about Starship Troopers. I was starting to think maybe I'd seen something others didn't after those horrible movie adaptations.

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  49. Really enjoy your writing and mostly agree with your viewpoint.
    Shouldn't "with" be "which". "the very engines which lifted them to this unjust dominion."

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  50. As always Jim, I stand in awe. I have occasional flashes of good writing, but mostly I clunk along. YOurs, however never fails to amuse, educate, and inspire (me) This post will join the others on my timeline on FB. I used to be a teacher (among other things) so I can't help but want to educate others, and your work is an education in and of itself. Kudos once again. And thank you.

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  51. I am so happy that I found your essays! You say everything that I wish I could articulate, and in a way that makes for really good reading, as well. Many times when reading other essayists, I am thinking, "Get to the effing POINT, already." I have never said that when reading yours. Oh, and I totally empathize with your struggle with your editor constantly changing your perfectly good words. Happens to me all the time, and with a last name like mine, it's especially annoying. Keep up the great work, and I wish I could buy you a good bottle of whiskey...or a cat.

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  52. Thank you...wisdom is hard to come by these days.

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  53. Today's essay is worth tipping a glass of "Writers Tears" Definitely top shelf.

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  54. Excellent essay Jim, so few people really get Heinlein's point in Starship Troopers (and it's one of the reasons I hate the Verhoven movie, he gets it so utterly wrong; plus no powered armor, but I digress). I too am a pragmatist. My natural inclination is to in general be fiscally conservative and socially liberal. I hate that centrist is a dirty word nowadays. Like you, I also have a visceral dislike of Hillary Clinton, but you can bet your ass I am voting for her on Tuesday. Thank you for shining a light of reason and sanity. I share your posts quite a lot in hopes that it will make a difference.

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  55. I really like that you used 'Starship Troopers' to make your point; I do think it's misunderstood--though in fact, per Asimov (who served with him in the Navy), Heinlein was a "flaming liberal" during the war, but became a "rock-ribbed far right conservative" immediately afterward. Given the time period in which he wrote 'Troopers' and his personal history, I think interpreting it as descriptive rather than subversive is a fair choice. None of which, of course, detracts from your point. (I also think Verhoeven's movie was a vicious, deliberate parody of a fascist military state, which almost nobody got because it was marketed as a blockbuster.)

    I like the way you contrast the idealism of the Declaration with the pragmatism and compromise of the Constitution. The Constitution's genius lies in its flexibility (Con Law geek here), and that flexibility is a result of years of quarrelling, haggling, and compromise by idealistic men.

    I'm not sure I agree about the ultimate unviability of a third party in the US; I actually think the Republicans might be headed for one, because white-nationalist populism and center-right movement-conservative intellectualism have always been uneasy bedfellows, and until now the former seemed to have subjugated the latter entirely. I'm not sure if they'll stay subjugated after Trump; he seems to have been a bridge too far for the 'National Review' crowd.

    I also want to note that personal idealism and the ability to pragmatically govern can exist side-by-side, but it's difficult for the idealism not to be corrupted over time--compromises *hurt* when you truly, deeply believe in something. Over time it becomes easier to let deeper belief slide as a self-protective means of continuing to function pragmatically. (This isn't just theory; it's my own experience. Human psyches are infinitely mutable, of course, but most have machinery in common.)

    Thank you for your essay. Very enjoyable, as always.

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  56. Well said Sir, and thank you.

    Mike Sanderson

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  57. I'm going to have to read that book now, I've only ever seen the movie.... And you SHOULD always be drinking the best whiskey you can afford.....

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  58. I've always enjoyed Heinlein, but taken his theories with a grain of salt since he never raised kids nor held elective office.
    In a letter Heinlein says he wrote Starship Troopers to explore the theme why do men kill.
    The pragmatist in me is glad you write essays like this.
    A while back one of your detractors mentioned your restaurant. It finally dawned on me they dropped an I when reading your former duties and made you a Master Chef!

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  59. Verhoven, in his movie, Nazis Versus Spiders, has a planet in another solar system, with no vegetation, with a society of giant insects who have no technology, launching rocks into space so accurately that, after traveling a narrow band of space that connects their system with ours, they hit exactly on our major cities, and are somehow not deflectable. Therefore, we must send poorly equipped ground troops to fight against their huge, fast, specialized-for-killing forms. Fortunately, they do not use totally obvious adaptations of their biological systems to wipe us out even more efficiently. Also fortunate that they never heard of germ warfare. Movie has other problems, but these kind of stand out.

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  60. I have been following you on Facebook. This is just so good I had to share it.

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  61. Another wonderful essay; extremely well written and thoughtful. The comments thus far have taken the conversation even higher. I fear your mailbox may produce different results, more along the lines of the opening quotes. I've forwarded to some family who are making "protest votes" and hope it will spark meaningful conversation such as the postings here. Thank you sir, Bravo!

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  62. You can choose a ready guide
    In some celestial voice
    If you choose not to decide
    You still have made a choice

    You can choose from phantom fears
    And kindness that can kill
    I will choose a path that's clear
    I will choose free will
    —Rush, "Free Will"

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    1. I'm SHOCKED that it took this long for that RUSH reference to pop up. The song was running through my head for the entire read.

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  63. As always,thank you Jim. This election cycle has me feeling so uneasy about the future. I have already voted for Hillary and strongly agree with you. But I am dismayed more everyday by the vitriol and hate and threats from Trump's supporters. Where will all of that go on Wednesday?

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  64. Great Essay Jim!.. Never knew you had so many bloody editors...

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    1. I guess your new here? Fairly sure Jim Wright has previously noted that he asks for and welcomes constructive feedback on spelling, grammar etc ... which then then often fixes to make his posts even better.

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  65. Hi Jim :)
    Ive been reading you for awhile now, and I want to say thank you.
    I find myself experiencing anger more and more lately, at those who are ok with racism, misogyny, pedophilia, rape culture, bullying, etc. as well as wealthy corporate fascist polluters and poisoners and the politicians they purchased who allow them to do these things free of regulation or even a slap on the wrist. So thank you, for your reason and calmness, they help more than you know.

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  66. I've made quite a few of these arguments over the past six months or so, as recently as this morning.

    It's interesting... As I read your writing, I find myself occasionally wishing that I disagreed with you a little more often. I'm not a fan of "echo chambers", and worry that I might be at least on the edges of one. I think one of the reasons I stay is the WIDE variety of sources you draw upon, and the reasoned manner in which you combine them.

    I've had a couple of people look at me like I was crazy, when I say I'm sad to see the potential of one party imploding. I've expressed the need for at least discussion, lest the government swing too far one way or the other.

    I guess what I'm saying is, at some point, I actually kinda hope that I will disagree with you on some topic. I don't hold an illusion that I'll be "right", whatever the hell that means, but hopefully it will invite some discussion, and perhaps some character development on my part.

    I don't think you need any more character development, though. God knows, it seems you've got that aplenty.

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    1. I'm not happy with the prospect of a one-party system. Oddly, that's why I'm hoping for the Republican Party to implode. I can't call it a two-party system when I see one of the parties behaving like they want to earn the name Screaming Loony Party.

      I want political parties to take positions that make going to the polls an intellectual challenge. I've never had that experience, but I'm told it was rather nice, both for the people and the country.

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  67. I have no shame that I voted for Hillary even though I don't find her progressive enough for me or even a little bit progressive .. I'm a progressive .. but the reality of my choices forces me to be pragmatic in my choice ..

    I don't quite understand your Sanders comparison to Nader .. or your labeling of Sanders as a third party idealistic candidate .. he primaries Democrat and pushed Clinton pretty damn hard and even pushed her platform left of her centrist (or even right of center) positions ..

    I think the Sanders movement was valided by his popularity and will continue to gain strength and political power even without him .. he offers the people (in my opinion) the greatest opportunity for a non violent revolution to positive change .. I think you minimized his effect on the Democratic party and the disenfranchised .. my hope is that the Democratic party is forced to the progressive left as a result of the movements popularity .. if not .. I think Clinton will struggle to reach a second term .. two reasons .. anybody the Republicans throw at us after Trump will appear normal (as crazy as the Republican platform is) and the Democrats base is closer to Sanders than the pragmatic offering of Clinton ..

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  68. I have no shame that I voted for Hillary even though I don't find her progressive enough for me or even a little bit progressive .. I'm a progressive .. but the reality of my choices forces me to be pragmatic in my choice ..

    I don't quite understand your Sanders comparison to Nader .. or your labeling of Sanders as a third party idealistic candidate .. he primaries Democrat and pushed Clinton pretty damn hard and even pushed her platform left of her centrist (or even right of center) positions ..

    I think the Sanders movement was valided by his popularity and will continue to gain strength and political power even without him .. he offers the people (in my opinion) the greatest opportunity for a non violent revolution to positive change .. I think you minimized his effect on the Democratic party and the disenfranchised .. my hope is that the Democratic party is forced to the progressive left as a result of the movements popularity .. if not .. I think Clinton will struggle to reach a second term .. two reasons .. anybody the Republicans throw at us after Trump will appear normal (as crazy as the Republican platform is) and the Democrats base is closer to Sanders than the pragmatic offering of Clinton ..

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  69. Would you say, by admitting you'll vote for Clinton, you intend to go in harm's way?

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  70. Hi Jim,
    I always appreciate your work and am hoping that at some point you could address my personal pet peeve: "the government" vs "our government". It always seems to me that it is a cowardly way of avoiding responsibility in a Democracy and is a use of language designed to foment separation from 'we the people" and our governance.
    Thank you and hope you are adapting to Florida. The state where 'winter is coming' is greeted with relief.

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  71. I read a lot of Heinlein 50 years ago and don't remember much except this one pissed me off. I so very much wanted to explore the ideas without the military backdrop. There were just too many family members dead and damaged in/from Viet Nam at the time I read it for me to deal with it well.
    That being said, I very much appreciate what you did here with explaining what you mean by pragmatism: "We must do the best we can with what we have. "
    And this system is what we have and it Does work okay most of the time. Sometimes drags itself in with a hangover or pouts alongside the road for a bit but gets there in decent shape pretty much.
    Though I fall deep into the far left bargain basement of the Political Compass (well below and left of Dr Stein)as regards ideals it has always been obvious I live in a world where most folks don't see things the way I do. A long time ago I accepted the idea of doing the best I can with what I have and long ago expanded that to my political actions and views.
    It works out okay most of the time- even for this member of the "radical fringe" , truth be known.
    While over time I have come to appreciate what I now think a necessary tension between the Federalist and populist POVs,
    the current political climate sucks.
    I will be voting for Ms Clinton because that is the best we can do with what we have now
    And that is a statement of hope, not of defeat.

    Thank you Mr Wright.

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  72. "Many forms of government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government, except for all the others that have been tried from time to time." - Winston Churchill, 1947

    I've been meditating on that quote for most of this election. Listening to my LP friends bellyache about not getting a fair shot. Listening to political newbs complain about having to settle for Hillary. Several of them have mentioned how we are robbed of our democracy by the current system. Try as I might, I can't get them to understand that you have to actually participate in the system to have any impact in the system. They remain steadfastly opposed to actually doing anything that might compromise their ideological virtue.

    I wanted to actually get shit done, not piss on those in power because they were compromisers, so I went where the people were trying to get things done. I'll change parties and allegiances again if I think I can get more done somewhere else. In the end it is about pushing this thing we inherited however far we can get it into the future. Burning it to the ground a la Trump isn't even an option.

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  73. I'm with you here, Mr W. We have two options in front of us and we must choose despite how abhorrent they are. Heck, Pat Paulsen dead would be better than what we've been presented by all the parties. We have to look at who is the more practical for our nation in the long run and who has the best chance.

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  74. Sometimes a clear eye reveals the very essence of intention and purpose, the context for same, and at least a hint of what's to come. That distillation, that cocktail, is what I applaud and appreciate, and here, you have served it well, again.

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  75. Much as I loved the excellent analysis of the wildly misinterpreted "Starship Troopers", Heinlein actually has a much more succinct line that makes your point on pragmatism much more directly. From "Time Enough for Love"... “If you are part of a society that votes, then do so. There may be no candidates and no measures you want to vote for ... but there are certain to be ones you want to vote against. In case of doubt, vote against. By this rule you will rarely go wrong.”

    --Xan Avalon

    Keep on keepin' on with the good, nay great, writings dear sir. Once I get the finances of my recent move and house purchase and such straightened out I shall look into what I can provide in the way of a well deserved subsidy in your direction.

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  76. As an example of how the fringe becomes mainstream look at the evolution of the green party in Germany . They started off as weird longhaired treehuggers - but ever since it became apparent that looking into environmental issue could get you those extra 5 % all parties have a stance on environment including the big traditional ones. And since parties need to cooperate at least a little bit to form a majority they all had to learn how to cooperate with the "enemy". ( and nobody will try to abolish cars in Detroit or Wolfsburg or )

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  77. Like it or not, the question we are all being asked on Tuesday is entirely binary. Him or her. A vote for a 3rd party candidate, unless you would otherwise vote for him, is a vote for him. Much as you don't want it to be. You vote for anyone but Clinton, and Trump wins, you own him.

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  78. Thank you again Mr Wright. I've been having this discussion with my son, who hates Trump (thankfully) but believes too much of the crap spread around about Hillary to vote for her either. He is researching his write-in options. I do take some pride in the fact that he is voting at all. Perhaps it takes a certain amount of being "beaten up" by the world before the idealism of youth is tempered with pragmatism.

    One flaw I think too many Americans share is the mistaken notion that if one's opinion/position on one single subject is rejected that it is the same as rejecting that person entirely. Bullshit. No two people ever agree on everything and it would be a damned boring world if we did. This whole idea of "you're either with us or against us" (and single issue voters) is doing great harm to both our democracy and the civility of our society in general. In the end, we're all in this together (nationally and globally) and nobody gets out alive. It's a tired cliché that Hillary has co-opted for her campaign but one that even some animals understand- we are stronger together. It's why we rule this planet instead of the lions, bears, or those scary alligator/dinosaur things down there in Florida that eat little boys at Disneyworld. We'll all live a bit longer and a bit better if we remember that.
    Roberta Fewell

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  79. As a horrified onlooker from Australia who will be one of the ma.. ..*everybody* globally affected by this US election, I think the USA really needs some major political reforms including preferential voting*. (Or maybe run-off voting or suchlike? Also Congress "blocking supply" and shutting the govt down really needs to be looked at and stopped in my view.)

    I hope after this election y'all work to get that in and then you can vote candidates in, say, order of ideal but unelectable* (1) to less ideal but actually electable and tolerable (2) to fuck no (3) to your hearts content without messing the world up for everyone else. Then third (& fourth & fifth) parties can be voted for without leading to disastrous outcomes that will affect everyone for half-decades and more into the future.

    But it won't apply this time round.

    This time round is NOT the time for third party voting. To use an analogy, it's like you're at the only restaurant in town with no other ones open for hundreds of miles feeling absolutely starving with hunger so you have to eat - but where your choices are something you don't really fancy yet is edible and will get you through the night okay vs something outright toxic. Maybe you saw the meat was crawling with maggots, maybe its something you're allergic to, whatever, something that you know will make you really sick perhaps for days or weeks or ever. No, the edible dish may not be your favourite meal ever - but its the only thing on the menu worth having.

    In the absolute best case scenario in the present US system applying for this year’s election voting Third Party is just completely wasting your time and equivalent to not voting at all. In the horrific worst case scenario your Third Party vote gets Trump elected instead.

    As for the mistaken idea that it somehow "sends a message" I remember what happened in the 2000 election with Bush vs Gore Vs Nader. If you don't remember how that worked out, well, it didn't. Not for Nader voters, not for Gore and definitely not for the rest of the world which is still suffering the negative consequences now. It didn't send any message that helped progressives either. If you want to send a message to a political party then write to them - yes seriously.It may not do a lot but it will do more than just casting a third party vote that has no effect and that that party you want to send a message to won't know what or why you did. Again, what message did voting for Nader or Perot in respective elections send?

    The thought of Trump becoming POTUS, the fact that he's even so close already, truly scares me and I'm an ocean away. Please USA, please let sanity & Hillary Clinton prevail.

    * Clearly presently we have a situation where for many of us 1) = Stein / Johnson 2) = Hillary & 3) = Trump. You have to vote (2) because (1) just isn't realistic and (3) is a nightmare scenario. In a preferential system, it doesn't matter if you vote (1) and still get (2) because you do still get (2) NOT (3) as the non-preferential system could well deliver you. In Australia which is one of many nations with third party voting (others have things like run-off elections) this system works pretty well and, in fact, I almost always do vote for the Greens and not one of our two major political parties - something if I was an American I couldn't do now.

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    1. Oops correction sorry - meant to read :

      "In Australia which is one of many nations with preferential voting (other lands have things like run-off elections) this system works pretty well .. "

      Probly clear from context but just to be crystal clear.

      Also Jim Wright you are an absolute legend in the colloquial Aussie sense of the word. Champion too. Spot on, seconded & shared.

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  80. as I FINALLY read 'Starship Troopers' several weeks ago, this essay is well-timed for me. I much preferred the moral and philosophical analyses in the novel to the veneer of futurism applied which qualifies it as a work of 'science fiction'.

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  81. I love your description of third parties. It is a perfect example of their place in our political system. I plan on using that with my seniors in government class. Keep spreading the truth my friend.

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  82. Hi Jim,
    You don't know me, but my wife was the one who directed me to your Facebook, and of course I followed the hole down and here I am.
    And of course I'm one of those who said, "yeah, yeah, yeah Citizen vs non-citizen, lets get to the MI and the bugs!"
    Now I have to reread Starship Troopers all over again.
    Thanks for pointing that out...I'll give ST a much closer examination rather than viewing/treating it like pulp Science fiction as I once did.

    sheerahkahn

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  83. Good followup to the last piece.
    I've attempted to obtain permission to include a link (twice) - - figure it's ok.

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    1. Permission from who? Me?

      Permission to include a link from what? This piece? Where?

      How have you attempted to obtain permission?

      Could you maybe be a bit more specific?

      Delete
    2. Sure : via e-mail (from link on site)
      for: http://www.stonekettle.com/2016/10/pragmatism.html
      to post on idlehandsdept.blogspot.com

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    3. When you stand on the battlefield between two great armies you either pick a side or find yourself trampled under the hooves of the warhorses and the boot heels of the infantry. Certainly, you may retreat from the field if there’s time, find yourself a place of safety and watch the battle from a distant hill. You can then congratulate yourself for your morality and for standing pat on principle, but in the end you’re going to have to live with whoever wins that battle down below and by refusing to pick a side you’ve chosen just the same.

      And this is why I love reading your blog. Keep up the wonderful work.

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    4. Bearsense, Dude, you are killing me here. Could you be any more cryptic?

      You sent me email, from "link on site" what? I don't know what that means. I don't see an email from Bearsense. Sorry.

      And you're asking to repost my pragmatism essay on somebody else's blog?

      If that's correct, then the answer is no. You may NOT repost my material on another blog.

      You may post a link to any of my material, but that doesn't require my permission.

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  84. I respectfully disagree.
    The line of thinking that one MUST choose one of two unacceptable options is flawed on many levels. It also confuses the practical with the moral exigency.
    Both Democrat and Republican partisans are pushing this view on those of us who have strayed from the "team" and refuse to fall in line.
    I also think it is premised on hyperbolic thinking fed by the propaganda that is being pushed out by the professional class of message makers who are utilizing some alarming tools (Google "neuro-marketing").
    The fact is that the country will survive either choice over the long term. Anyone who thinks the end times have come to the country needs to study the Civil War.
    I found the emphasis on "pragmatism" particularly disturbing in the piece.
    History is filled with examples of individuals who refused to do what was "pragmatic" in the face of injustice and/or moral wrongs.
    Some of these people gave their lives in these efforts. I would say that one could argue that doing so was not very "pragmatic."
    But, in the light of history, these people are often upheld as role-models for doing what is right regardless of whether it immediately serves one's short term interest.
    My refusal to join the teachers' union is clearly not very "pragmatic"and has caused me problems. The "pragmatic" thing to do would be to join. However, I have a few very specific and clear moral objections and I stand by them.
    The author of the piece is a Hillary supporter, but I have read the same argument coming from Trump supporters as well.
    I find it disheartening that we are allowing propagandists to push out the idea that standing on principle is "cowardice."

    “You can resolve to live your life with integrity. Let your credo be this: Let the lie come into the world, let it even triumph. But not through me.” - Alexander Solzhenitsyn

    My respectful dissent.

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    1. You had me at, "it is premised on hyperbolic thinking fed by the propaganda that is being pushed out by the professional class of message makers who are utilizing some alarming tools."

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    2. Yep - not very smooth there. I admit it. I figured that since it was a response to a blog post and not a Phd submission it could slide.
      I'm not very familiar with your blog. Saw your post on a friend's FB feed and figured I'd respond.
      I tried to be evenhanded and respectful.
      It looks like your approach is to mock and nitpick writing flaws. It's your blog, so I get it.
      My mistake in assuming you would take a different approach.

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    3. You're right, it was your mistake.

      See, I might be a damned Yankee, but I live in the South nowadays and I recognize a contemptuous "Bless your heart" when I see one, especially when it kicks off with "propaganda pushed out" by professional message makers and fetches up by calling me a "propagandist."

      You refuse to join the teachers union, and benefit from other's struggle without having to get your hands dirty yourself. How noble. You're the guy I was talking about in the text, the one who watches the battle from the hilltop and congratulates himself on his morality and principle.

      You're no Solzhenitsyn, you're just another hypocrite. Save the long suffering martyr act for somebody who gives a shit.

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    4. Okay then.
      I think you're engaging in some mind-reading here - and failing at it.
      I responded to your post on a friend's FB page and figured I at least owed you the opportunity to respond.
      And so you have.
      I regret posting anonymously, but the ugliness of this campaign has made me very reluctant to enter the fray - and this discussion is a good example of why.
      I am also a Navy vet and have tremendous respect for your service in particular and CWOs in general.
      I used to be VERY political and partisan - but over time realized that each party was just a different slice of bread on the same shit sandwich. The book "This Town" by Mark Leibovich (sp?) was the final straw.
      It wasn't my intent to label you as propagandist, and for that I apologize.
      But I do think that the binary thinking you advocate is being pushed by skilled propagandists.
      I didn't post here intending to pick a fight, but that seems to be part of your persona - the tough "takes no shit" guy. And it looks like it's working out well for you.
      You've taken an approach that doesn't work for me, but I'm sure it makes you feel good.
      Good luck with that.

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    5. It does work very well for me and if you are who you say you are then you shouldn't be at all surprised.

      The mistake you insist on making is this: "...the binary thinking you advocate..."

      I advocate no such thing and never have.

      You have missed the entire point of this essay. If you really are a Navy vet, particularly one with any experience in leadership under combat conditions, then you should know sometimes there are no good choices but you have to choose a course of action anyway. Thus use of the word "pragmatism."

      Try again. Try harder.

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    6. I understand what you are saying, Jim.
      I do have experience leading good men, but I was fortunate to have not done so in combat. I have a friend who lost his life in a firefight, so I appreciate the clarity of the analogy.
      I still believe that you are presenting a false choice with your argument. I don't think we are going to make headway there.
      Again, I apologize if you felt or feel attacked. It was never my intent. But frankly, I feel that your responses were especially personal and intense.
      As you said,I should probably know better. The CWO on my ship was a crusty engineer who said what he thought with no window dressing and the wardroom loved him for it. I'm still in touch with him 20+ years later.
      I don't want to argue etc. and I somehow sense you don't think I'm worth the time anyway. So I'll just leave it here.
      I truly wish you well.

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    7. "The line of thinking that one MUST choose one of two unacceptable options ..."

      And this is where you deviated from the essay. From the very first line (or second if you count the "I respectfully disagree" one) in fact.

      Jim is not saying that you HAVE to choose between one of 2 options. Heck, he mentioned specifically that NOT choosing is itself a choice! What he DID do, throughout his essay, was to state WHAT his choice was, and WHY he made that choice and exactly what the rationalization behind that choice was.

      As for the rationalization itself, yes, it's about pragmatism true. Jim never said that pragmatism is THE choice for all situations and all times like you implied when you said:

      "History is filled with examples of individuals who refused to do what was "pragmatic" in the face of injustice and/or moral wrongs."

      Actually pragmatism isn't even necessarily mutually exclusive or even directly in contradiction to moral choices (and morality is subjective, ISIS after all, feel it is "moral" to throw gays off buildings for a start, so there's that), so that line doesn't even directly oppose pragmatism. What does oppose pragmatism however is dogmatic rigidity, something Jim has mentioned before, either in this essay or another. Rigidity in thinking precludes compromise which is what pragmatism, and in fact, DEMOCRACY is based on.

      Indeed Democracy recognizes this most important aspect of pragmatism by having COMPROMISE as one of its key foundations. It does not assume that everyone under it will get everything they want, but it tries to be able to let as many people be able to get what they want through compromise because when many people from diverse backgrounds come together as is the case in a Democracy generally, compromise is usually the only way that people get to a solution that WORKS, in short the "best case general solution". A rigid ideologue will never do that, but that simply means that, if everyone is like that, there will be NO solution, and in short it will be a "system" that doesn't work.


      That's what pragmatism does for Democracy as stated in the essay. Now it's absolutely fine to stick to your rigid ideals, but, you should not try to explain away your decision by misrepresenting the opposing side like you did here, and also you will need to live with the consequences of your ideologically driven decisions.

      It's what I tell the rigidly ideological former Bernie voters who say they will not vote for Clinton due to reasons of pure ideology.

      I also tell them they aren't really that different from people like ISIS...and watch them try and twist themselves into pretzels explaining otherwise (one of them even tried to say how his choice is different because it's the "right" thing to do whereas ISIS's isn't....as if "right" is predetermined somehow when, as mentioned, it isn't since it's based on morality and morality is subjective, like I mentioned before, ISIS think it is right and moral to throw gays off buildings, does that mean it IS? To everyone? Everywhere?).

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  85. True story here, I was stationed in german in 1985 when the Frankfurt PX was blown up by the Red Army Faction. I was just five minutes walk outside the PX when it exploded. They hit again at the Berlin Discotech later on. That faction of terrorists was Funded by the East Germany KGB, notably Vladamir Putin was one of it's leaders.




    If you Vote for Trump your are voting for someone that admires a person who killed American soldiers during the first cold war.




    And no, I do not 'have' to respect you if you do vote that way. Bastard tried to kill American Soldiers, me included.

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    1. You don't have to respect that person, or his choice, or for that matter, respect that person for making that choice.

      But you have to respect his or her right to choose, because that's the same right you enjoy, and all should be able to enjoy.

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  86. I was looking at your exchange a few posts above and your last words are the key to the whole thing. People have to try harder. Many people hear something that sounds profound but actually has no meaning. I can't tell you how often I hear people say that they refuse to vote for the lesser of two evils, and that in this light Trump and Clinton are the same. I'm not trying to vote for a Pope, I'm trying to vote for somebody who's going to make sure there are grown-us in the White House.

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  87. You and some other commentators touched on the point that citizenship was only conferred after "satisfactory completion of the term of service". Johnny Rico would not be able to vote until he retired. There was another character in the book who wanted to become a politician but failed because he was committed a crime for which he was expelled from the service.

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  88. I voted for Bernie in the primary, and I will vote for Hillary in the general election. If the choice were Trump and a hedgehog, I would vote for the hedgehog.

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  89. Hi Jim,
    Stanley Crouch, who I'm not supposed to like because he's a conservative, once wrote a very nice column about *not* getting your way as a democratic act. He took as his inspiration, a Wynton Marsalis talk in which Mr. Marsalis noted that in a 20 player jam session, none of other 15 trumpet players were listening to whomever was playing, and when the bass player finally got their solo, not even the bass player wanted to hear it. Compromise, and adroit response to reality, signify adult behavior.

    A poet friend of mine put it another way, but also adds to your essay. Jane Goodall describes the male chimpanzees at the Gombe preserve discovering empty fuel cans, of the flimsy and roughly cubic style favored by the Brits. The male chimpanzees were delighted by making noise with them, bashing them against the ground, against trees, running down trails raising the biggest ruckus commensurate with their status in the group. High status males were the loudest. After an afternoon and evening of noisy, sometimes dangerous, chaos, the chimpanzees, and eventually Goodall and associates, settled down for the night.

    The next morning, the high status males were sleeping-in, recovering, but the babies had to be fed, friends had to be groomed, relationships reinforced, the jungle policed up and set right. And the female chimpanzees turned out for a day like any other. After all the screaming and gesturing, gas can bashing, pant-hooting and tearing around on the trails and in the trees, they were all still chimpanzees and had their usual business to attend to. No matter how much the high status males enjoyed the novelty and chaos, it didn't change anything. Babies still needed feeding. Social fabric needed tending. And maintaining male status hierarchy was just a cost of doing business. Not optimal, but survivable.

    Cheers!
    Bill

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    1. I'll put your persecution complex aside for a minute and argue that "conservative" has lost its meaning. Republicans consider themselves conservatives, but if you were to go over issues one by one and compare them against the real meaning of the word conservative, you would find very little correlation. For example, consider the environment. Nothing could be more conservative than making sure that our resources, including clean land are conserved for the future. Republicans are the party of "Drill, baby, drill!" Republicans are the party that wants to dump pollutants like there is no tomorrow for the empthy promise of jobs. Republicans are the ones who wants to dump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere regardless of the effects on their children. Where is the conservatism? Republicans won't compromise on debt reduction, meaning the debt will continue to increase and force our children to pay for it. Conservative? Republicans want to legislate religion and sexuality. How is that conservative? Republicans pretend that they are the party of personal responsibility, yet on every issue they want to make our kids pay the price of our profligacy. How is that conservative?

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  90. Washington may have warned about political parties, but if I read trhe 12th Amendment properly, they were inevitable. And only 2 could survive.

    3rd paragraph: "The person having the greatest Number of votes for President, shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed; and if no person have such majority, then from the persons having the highest numbers not exceeding three on the list of those voted for as President, the House of Representatives shall choose immediately, by ballot, the President. But in choosing the President, the votes shall be taken by states, the representation from each state having one vote ... "

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  91. Incidentally, our voting method is the main reason we have a two-party system, as described by Duverger's Law. The arbitrary rule that we can vote for one and only one candidate per office produces a systemic bias in our electoral mechanics which polarizes mainstream positions into two major camps (due to the center squeeze effect), favors fringe candidates in the major party primaries (due to vote splitting), penalizes minor party candidates in the general, and can result in the least-popular major-party candidate winning the general (both due to the spoiler effect).

    We will not have a more viable multipartisan system -- and the more vigorous political evolution that would come from those "idealism lab" minor parties gaining electoral influence, even if they remain minor -- unless and until we reform our electoral method to replace Plurality Voting with something better. The pragmatic alternative electoral methods are variations of two major types: Score Voting and Ranked Voting, of which Approval Voting (AV) and Instant-Runoff Voting (IRV) respectively are the simplest and post widely discussed variants.

    Approval Voting is the simplest form of Score Voting (aka Range Voting), limiting the score range to a binary yea/nay for each candidate -- i.e., it works just like our current plurality voting system, but eliminates the arbitrary rule that we can only cast a vote for one candidate per office. The candidate with the most votes still wins, and ballots can still be tabulated by hand at the precinct level, if desired. AV eliminates all of the current system's systemic biases and pathologies, and it also offers a fairer reflection of support for both major and minor party candidates alike, because voting would no longer be arbitrarily a zero-sum game. Amazingly, AV can be adopted on a grassroots state-by-state basis without Amending the Constitution, thanks to the Electoral College (of all things) making even Presidential elections fundamentally state-level contests, and because AV results are compatible with the remaining state elections that still use Plurality Voting.

    Ranked/IRV is prone to some really weird, paradoxical results I won't go into here, and tabulating ballots for this method must be done at a centralized location according to complex algorithms, both of which are prone to error and tampering, which in turn makes voters less likely to fully understand and trust this method as a viable alternative for reform. I can recommend Electology (The Center for Election Science site) for more detailed information on this and all of the topics above, geared towards a popular audience.

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  92. Hello, Mr. Wright,

    I began following your writings since my niece shared your insights on Bowe Bergdahl. True patriotism there, sir. This note may not fit here, but I don't know how to comment on you Facebook page, so here goes. Do with this as you see fit.

    Gun

    Here in Reno I was worried about Donald Trump’s safety, worried that someone would shoot him down like a dog. I was worried that he’d bleed out on the gurney, that our most skillful doctors could not pull him through. I was especially worried that The Donald would become more wanted dead than alive, that in grief and rage millions would rush to vote for a “martyr” and that the Republicans would reclaim the White House.

    Hillary would be blamed for it, of course. Many would say she or her agents provided the weapon, maybe it was even the same one she used to murder Vince Foster. And the antipathy toward her, some of it rightly earned, might engender a reflexive wave of sympathy for The Donald, for what now would be seen as his charming eccentricities, his ersatz manliness.

    Here in Nevada, though, we understand that Hillary is fortunate in her opponent. We speculate that behind the scenes her operatives helped give him the nomination. Our retiring senator, Harry Reid, was cunning enough in his last election to maneuver support for a wing-nut challenger he could safely defeat. Would Hillary do that? Of course she would. So I’m sure the Clintonistas were also holding their collective breath and hoping The Donald would survive to carry the banner for the Grand Old Party, at least in its current debased form.

    My father, one of the first of his siblings to be born in this country, was an ardent Republican, if only by default. “When I was coming up,” he once told me, “the Democrats wouldn’t have the French, wanted nothing to do with us.” My wife was raised, as I was, in small-town America, steeped in the culture of personal responsibility, balanced budgets, and self-reliance, and so sometimes I have voted for Republican candidates for offices as high as governor.

    But that was mostly in the old days before the parties switched tracks, when the Dixiecrats fled over civil rights and the Republican party slowly slid away from Lincoln and Rockefeller and toward the ideology of Lincoln Rockwell.

    That was before Reaganomics unleashed the savage forces of unbridled capitalism and the glorification of greed. Of course there was always (and will be) inequality, but the proper role of government is to protect the weak from the powerful, and one of our political parties attempts to do this, perhaps in a limping and halted way, but at least it tries. The other party has surrendered to a Luddite fury over government itself, seeking to dismantle the mechanisms that safeguard us all.

    So, yes, I was worried for The Donald, worried that one of those cherished guns might strike him down before he could be repudiated, worried that the Electoral College would get to choose someone else from a roster of hateful, fear-mongering, semi-fascist bullies. The primary process exposed them as the pathetic scarecrows that they are, and the current darling of the Right, Mike Pence, with his smarmy funeral director’s patter likewise would have been dismissed long ago by that bombastic con man who was on stage last night in our town.

    So I’m glad the nominee left town as physically healthy as might be.

    Let him continue to carry the banner for angry disenfranchised Americans, though he has never done anything to help them and his current rhetoric indicates he has no idea how to do that, even if that were his intent.

    Let him carry the banner for angry Christians, though through word and deed he has demonstrated no understanding of or interest in the essential message of faith, hope, and love.

    Let him carry the banner for the vile thing the Republican party has become, a fetid swamp that suffocates even those like John McCain who once knew better.

    Do not stain our town with his blood or the worse evil which would follow.

    Go away.

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  93. I wish I knew the meaning of voting "squirrel" I checked that box today for the first time. What have I done Jim?

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  94. Jim - Thank you on many levels, but particularly for making exactly the same explanation I have for years regarding Starship Troopers - as a vehicle for both illustrating the value of critical thinking and socio-political commentary.

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  95. Well said CWO.
    I've voted absentee for the third election in a row, as work takes me far from home again. (Starting to think my RWNJ boss is hoping I won't vote. )
    I was a boisterous Bernie supporter, until HRC won the nomination. Then I became a a boisterous Hillary supporter.
    Not because I like her, not because I agree 100%, or even 50% with her, but because she is the most qualified of ANY of the choices on the ballot.
    This election saddens me for so many reasons. It's probably going to destroy the GOP, and with it any chance of a "loyal opposition" for a decade. It's going to embolden the Green, and Libertarian parties in the process.
    The American flavor of Green Party is a generous childs understanding of the world, and the Libertarian Party is a selfish child's.
    Dr. Stien is a doctor who questions vaccines if it's politically convenient, and has no real understanding of how to "work the system".
    Gary Johnson wants us to return to the 1780's and be free to do as we damned well please, without any thought of repercussions.
    Moreover whoever wins will have a disloyal opposition in the houses, or will by the midterms because at the state level we've allowed our districts to be gerrymandered beyond recognition.
    It's a goddamn mess, and we are all collectively to blame.

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  96. Hey Jim, you should try https://blocktogether.org/ for twitter and then share your blocklist. Twitter is a cesspool and will only get worse. You can at least make it easier for some folks.

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  97. Greetings from a fellow Floridian. (Other end of the state). Very fine essay. Sad to think the people who most need to read this wouldn't get far into it, partly due to content, mostly due to atrophied or never-developed reading skills.

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