Connect with us

Everything

Federalism: Let’s build something together

Published

on

As a political writer and opinion columnist, I swim in an ocean of criticism.

The outrage culture we’ve built over the last 20 years — for which Sean Hannity and Trevor Noah bear equal blame — has degenerated healthy debate into insults, shouts, jeers, slurs, and just so, so much anger.

It’s not that we argue too much — I actually wish Americans argued more—and better — but we do sometimes fall into a rut of criticism that we’re unwilling to climb out of.

See, argument is a structured discussion used to discern the truth of a proposition, and if we had more arguments we would have less outrage, shouting, and street fights. The lack of actual argument has left us unable to discern and defend truth, which is why we spend so much time screaming our baseless opinions at others, and getting offended when others scream theirs at us.

It’s an untenable situation, and one that will likely resolve itself as soon as people start caring more about what’s true than what’s polite.

Like argument, there’s an appropriate place for criticism and even condemnation. Law enforcement officers who abuse their power should be criticized. Alt-right “race realists” intent on rekindling 1930s ethnofascism should be condemned, along with their violent, pro-censorship Antifa counterparts on the Left.

Criticism is meant to pressure, to challenge, to motivate toward something higher. Condemnation is meant to isolate something harmful, letting others know to stay away for their own good and the good of society.

But the problem we face is that both of these important tools are habitually abused.

Criticism isn’t meted out reasonably in hopes of modifying behavior, it is piled on everyone as a way to elevate the one offering the critique. Condemnation isn’t reserved for the truly heinous among us, it is slopped on indiscriminately like mayo on a McChicken.

Convinced of the impossibility of maintaining standards, we hitch our wagons to the slogan “nobody’s perfect” and seek equality around the lowest common denominator, by hanging every mistake around the neck of those who aspire to something higher.

And so doing, our entire generation is missing the opportunities laid right in front of us:

Build something. Create something. Improve something.

Innovate.

Engage.

Learn.

Grow.

Unite.

Before I get too close to sounding like an inspirational poster, I need to narrow the scope of what I’m talking about. Let’s strip away the layers of presuppositions that have built up over the years, and address the things we all care about — most of which have nothing to do with the issues that fill the headlines any given day.

One of the more insidious side-effects of the two-party system is that it has turned everything in the world into zeroes and ones. We know how we’re supposed to think about different things, based on who we identify with.

Republicans in New Hampshire are supposed to obsess over illegal immigration — even though they’re 2000 miles from the southern border — because, well, they’re Republicans.

California Democrats feel compelled to take a position against North Carolina’s bathroom segregation, despite the fact that it has no impact whatsoever on their state.

We square off against each other on social media, fishing for clues to confirm what column the other person belongs in, rather than judging whether their arguments are valid.

Less than halfway through this column, odds are you’ve already scoped out my profile, followed a couple links, and browsed the comments or my prior articles to decide whether you should share this or mock it.

We all do. It’s the norm now. And it’s cynical and destructive.

Partisanship and identity politics are tearing the nation apart, and the only people who benefit from it are those who receive the blind loyalty it creates.

But many articles have been written on the problem — it’s time to address solutions — and that’s where things get sticky.

On one hand there’s no silver bullet solution to “making America great again”, and anybody pitching one is usually out to make a buck. Red and blue America learned to resent each other decades ago; it’s not going to be undone overnight.

On the other hand, it’s lazy and intellectually irresponsible to suggest that we continue doing what we’re doing, and just accept the fact that left and right will always hate each other, battle in the street, and post gory imagesof severed heads in place of civil dialogue.

Given current trends, we can’t continue, even if we wanted to. Normal, reasonable Americans are abandoning both major parties at either an alarming or encouraging rate, depending on your perspective. “Independent” continues to rule the national party affiliation race by a wide margin, and third party presidential voting rose 300% from 2008 to 2012, and 800% from 2008 to 2016, despite some of the worst third party candidates in recent memory.

So the question we face isn’t whether the political landscape in the US will change, but rather what it will change to: a perpetual battlefield between increasingly partisan extremes, or an open marketplace of political ideals offered representation within competing jurisdictions — an appified version of government that fits with where culture and technology have already been for years.

The answer was baked into the country by the radical progressives (of their day) who founded it — Federalism.

Federalism has a way of relieving all kinds of tension and returning relationships to normal by developing and maintaining separate spheres of influence. This works with government just as it does for business or even family — who doesn’t have a better relationship with their parents after moving out?

Obviously there are a few things that the whole country needs to agree on in order to maintain a united identity and share the same space, but we shouldn’t have to agree on everything. For a culture that emphasizes diversity, we seem incredibly hostile to the idea that people in different regions should be allowed to have different lifestyles and priorities.

The trend in American politics over the last few decades has been to nationalize every single dispute, either through Congress, executive order, or — most often — the Supreme Court. Every special interest group seeks to wield the Federal government like a cudgel against their political opposition, and so doing, establishes the precedent for the other side to beat them with it given the first electoral opportunity.

Aside from being incredibly uncharitable and narrow-minded, this form of governance is backward, inefficient, and, well, stupid.

It creates redundancies at every level of government, as federal departments conflict with state departments, which in turn conflict with city and county policies established in the interests of folks in those locales. It fails to balance the different views of people in different places with different jobs, lifestyles, and priorities.

Many have written on what I believe to be the most important divide in America today — the rural/urban divide — but few have put forward any ideas to deal with the divergent subcultures.

It’s a real problem, and one extremely evident in my home state of Iowa. Our century-old farm culture is often at odds with the growing segment of the population living in the cities and taking service jobs. The Republican-controlled state legislature has declared war on blue-leaning city governments around the state, using preemption laws to block those cities from instituting policies that conflict with their own.

Over the last eight years, red America encountered a similar problem, and states fought tooth and nail to nullify President Obama’s far-reaching executive initiatives on immigration, health care, housing, climate change, and more.

This “standardize everything” mentality causes gears to grind between each level of the government machine, and ultimately you end up with multi-tiered bureaucracy that is bulky, unresponsive, and useless to most people who are more interested in building a new deck and taking a second job as an Uber driver than arguing the merits of traditional marriage or the war on terror.

What’s really interesting about this stubborn trend in American government is that it stands in stark opposition to pretty much every other cultural trend. Millennials have embraced small businesses over global corporations, customization over comprehensiveness, and individuality over uniformity.

We reshape the world with technology, defying convention and challenging time-honored societal institutions with innovative new concepts. We seek the compartmental, the object-oriented, the personalized, the individual, in everything we do.

Except government.

When it comes to the political system, most Americans — millennials included — are still content to let partisanship guide the system, and pretend to enjoy the biannual knock-down-drag-out that leaves the same two groups of people in charge of our everyday lives.

We have a million different options on our cell phones covering everything from food and fitness to business and entertainment, but when it comes to government, we have only two options — and pretty much every data set you’ll find suggests that few people are excited about either of them.

What if we applied the lessons we’ve learned in every other area of society to government for a change?

What if we increased choice by allowing more parties to develop and challenge the big two?

What if we modernized our electoral system to eliminate gerrymandering, and increase access and transparency for average people looking to make an impact on their government without having to take up activism as a full-time job?

What if you could invest in what you care about through an app in your pocket, rather than by standing in the freezing cold collecting petition signatures?

What if we created an object-oriented system of government that allowed your city or state to reflect the things that are important to you, without asking permission from Washington first?

What if the appetite for Federalism both on the Left and the Right brought us back to a place where we could agree to disagree again?

What if we actually believed in ourselves, and in our ability to break out of the two party shell and build something together?

Continue Reading
Advertisement
2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Doug Olson

    August 8, 2017 at 1:14 pm

    Excellent article

  2. Eric Dixon

    August 8, 2017 at 8:52 pm

    I was wondering just how bad those third party candidates were, and why I didn’t remember any of them. Then I clicked on the link.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

News

Argentina: Submarine missing a year found deep in Atlantic

Published

on

Argentina Submarine missing a year found deep in Atlantic

BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) — Argentina’s navy announced early Saturday that searchers found the missing submarine ARA San Juan deep in the Atlantic a year after it disappeared with 44 crewmen aboard.

The vessel was detected 800 meters (2,625 feet) deep in waters off the Valdes Peninsula in Argentine Patagonia, the statement said.

The navy said a “positive identification” had been made by a remote-operated submersible from the American ship Ocean Infinity, which was hired for the latest search for the missing vessel.

The discovery was announced just two days after families of the missing sailors held a commemoration one year after the sub disappeared on Nov. 15, 2017.

On Thursday, on the anniversary of the disappearance, President Mauricio Macri said the families of the submariners should not feel alone and delivered an “absolute and non-negotiable commitment” to find “the truth.”

Macri promised a full investigation after the submarine was lost. Federal police raided naval bases and other buildings last January as part of the probe, soon after the government dismissed the head of the navy.

The San Juan was returning to its base in the coastal city of Mar del Plata when contact was lost.

Argentina gave up hope of finding survivors after an intense search aided by 18 countries, but the navy has continued searching for the vessel.

The German-built diesel-electric TR-1700 class submarine was commissioned in the mid-1980s and was most recently refitted between 2008 and 2014. During the $12 million retrofitting, the vessel was cut in half and had its engines and batteries replaced. Experts said refits can be difficult because they involve integrating systems produced by different manufacturers, and even the tiniest mistake during the cutting phase can put the safety of the ship and crew at risk.

The navy said previously the captain reported on Nov. 15 that water entered the snorkel and caused one of the sub’s batteries to short-circuit. The captain later communicated that it had been contained.

Some hours later, an explosion was detected near the time and place where the San Juan was last heard from. The navy said the blast could have been caused by a “concentration of hydrogen” triggered by the battery problem reported by the captain.

Continue Reading

News

Fire deaths rise to 71 ahead of Trump’s California visit

Published

on

Fire deaths rise to 71 ahead of Trumps California visit

CHICO, Calif. (AP) — With the confirmed death toll at 71 and the list of unaccounted for people more than 1,000, authorities in Northern California on Friday searched for those who perished and those who survived the fiercest of wildfires ahead of a planned visit by President Donald Trump.

The president on Saturday is expected to get a look at the grief and damage caused by the deadliest U.S. wildfire in a century, and he could face resentment from locals for blaming the inferno on poor forest management in California.

In an interview taped Friday and scheduled for broadcast on “Fox News Sunday,” Trump said he was surprised to see images of firefighters removing dried brush near a fire, adding, “This should have been all raked out.”

Deputies found eight more bodies Friday, bringing the death toll to 71.

The number of people unaccounted for grew from 631 on Thursday night to more than 1,000 on Friday, but Sheriff Kory Honea said the list was dynamic and could easily contain duplicate names and unreliable spellings of names.

He said the roster probably includes some who fled the blaze and do not realize they’ve been reported missing.

“We are still receiving calls, we’re still reviewing emails,” Honea said Friday.

Some on the list have been confirmed as dead by family and friends on social media. Others have been located and are safe, but authorities haven’t gotten around to marking them as found.

Tamara Conry said she should never have been on the list.

“My husband and I are not missing and never were!” Conry wrote Thursday night on Facebook. “We have no family looking for us. … I called and left a message to take our names off.”

Authorities compiled the list by going back to listen to all the dispatch calls they received since the fire started, to make sure they didn’t miss anyone.

In last year’s catastrophic wildfires in California wine country, Sonoma County authorities at one point listed more than 2,000 people as missing. But they slowly whittled down the number. In the end, 44 people died in several counties.

The wildfire this time all but razed the town of Paradise, population 27,000, and heavily damaged the outlying communities of Magalia and Concow on Nov. 8, destroying 9,700 houses and 144 apartment buildings, authorities said.

Firefighters were gaining ground against the blaze, which blackened 222 square miles (575 square kilometers). It was 45 percent contained and posed no immediate threat to populated areas. Crews managed to stop it from spreading toward Oroville, population 19,000.

A search and rescue dog searches for human remains at the Camp Fire, Friday, Nov. 16, 2018, in Paradise, Calif. (AP Photo/John Locher)

This patch of California, a former Gold Rush region in the Sierra Nevada foothills, is to some extent Trump country, with Trump beating Hillary Clinton in Butte County by 4 percentage points in 2016.

But some survivors resent that Trump took to Twitter two days after the disaster to blame the wildfires on poor forest mismanagement. He threatened to withhold federal payments from California.

“If you insult people, then you go visit them, how do you think you’re going to be accepted? You’re not going to have a parade,” Maggie Crowder of Magalia said Thursday outside an informal shelter at a Walmart parking lot in Chico.

But Stacy Lazzarino, who voted for Trump, said it would be good for the president to see the devastation up close: “I think by maybe seeing it he’s going to be like ‘Oh, my goodness,’ and it might start opening people’s eyes.”

In his Fox News interview on the eve of his visit, the president repeated his criticism. Asked if he thought climate change contributed to the fires, he said, “Maybe it contributes a little bit. The big problem we have is management.”

Nick Shawkey, a captain with the state fire agency, said the president’s tweet blaming poor forest management was based on a “misunderstanding.” The federal government manages 46 percent of land in California.

“The thing he’s tweeting about is his property,” Shawkey said.

California’s outgoing and incoming governors said they would join Trump on Saturday.

Democrats Gov. Jerry Brown and governor-elect Gavin Newsom said they welcomed the president’s visit and “now is a time to pull together for the people of California.” Brown and Newsom have been vocal critics of Trump.

There were also worries the presidential visit would be disruptive.

“It’s already a zoo here and I don’t care who the president is. He needs to wait because the traffic’s already horrendous,” said Charlotte Harkness, whose home in Paradise burned down. “He could just tweet something nice — three words: ‘I am sorry,’ and that’s fine.”

More than 450 searchers continued looking for human remains in the ashes.

Around 52,000 people have been driven out and have gone to shelters, motels and the homes of friends and relatives. With winter coming on, many are seeking answers on what assistance will be provided.

At the Chico Mall where the Federal Emergency Management Agency and others set up an assistance center, 68-year-old Richard Wilson sought information about lodging. His wife is nearly bedridden from lupus and fibromyalgia.

“We’re having to stay at a Marriott, which is like $100 a night, and we’re running out of money,” Wilson said as he stood outside in rubber sandals and no socks — the only footwear he had when he fled the flames that destroyed his home.

In Southern California , meanwhile, more residents were being allowed back in their homes near Los Angeles after a blaze torched an area the size of Denver and destroyed more than 600 homes and other structures. The blaze was 69 percent contained, authorities said.

At least three deaths were reported.

Schools across a large swath of the state were closed because of smoke, and San Francisco’s world-famous open-air cable cars were pulled off the streets.

___

Associated Press reporters Janie Har and Olga Rodriguez in San Francisco contributed to this report.

___

This story has been corrected to show that Crowder spoke by Walmart and that Wilson spoke at an assistance center.

Continue Reading

Foreign Affairs

The Saudi predicament requires radical changes in our foreign affairs positions

Published

on

Saudi predicament requires radical changes in our foreign affairs positions

The United States is at a foreign affairs crossroads. One of our most important allies in the most important region in the world is being led by a man that U.S. intelligence (and pretty much everybody else) believes ordered the murder of a journalist living in our nation and writing for one of its biggest news outlets. How can we reconcile between what’s right and what’s smart?

Further evidence was leaked today that Mohammed bin Salman, the Crown Prince and de facto ruler of Saudi Arabia, ordered the murder of Washington Post journalist Jamal Khashoggi in Istanbul last month. The CIA concluded this based on multiple pieces of circumstantial evidence, including phone calls intercepted between Khashoggi and Mohammed’s brother assuring Khashoggi’s safety if he went to the Saudi consulate where was murdered.

CIA concludes Saudi crown prince ordered Jamal Khashoggi’s assassination

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/cia-concludes-saudi-crown-prince-ordered-jamal-khashoggis-assassination/2018/11/16/98c89fe6-e9b2-11e8-a939-9469f1166f9d_story.html?utm_term=.718b2d26599cThe CIA’s conclusion about Mohammed’s role was also based on the agency’s assessment of the prince as the country’s de facto ruler who oversees even minor affairs in the kingdom. “The accepted position is that there is no way this happened without him being aware or involved,” said a U.S. official familiar with the CIA’s conclusions.

Among the intelligence assembled by the CIA is an audio recording from a listening device that the Turks placed inside the Saudi consulate, according to the people familiar with the matter. The Turks gave the CIA a copy of that audio, and the agency’s director, Gina Haspel, has listened to it.

This is much more complicated than deciding whether or not to punish Mohammed. The stakes are unfathomably high, including balance of power in the Middle East, a potential oil crisis that could cripple the world economy, and the future of a peace plan between Israel and the Palestinians.

Unfortunately, what’s right and what’s smart are diametrically opposed in this situation.

What’s right?

Every ounce of evidence points to the near-certainty that Mohammed bin Salman ordered the murder of Jamal Khashoggi. He was a permanent residence of the United States who lived in Virginia and worked at the Washington Post. While not a citizen, he lawfully earned the right to fall under our nation’s protections.

The right thing to do is to condemn the Crown Prince, even if that will irreversibly damage our relationship with Saudi Arabia.

What’s smart?

Based on the current geopolitical status quo, Saudi Arabia is our best proxy to keep Iran in check in the Middle East. They are also the reason the dollar is still the world’s reserve currency despite efforts by Russia, China, and other nations to change that. This status allows the dollar to maintain artificial stability. There are many factors in play that could cripple the dollar if Saudi Arabia and OPEC started dealing in other currencies, bur national debt alone would be enough to catastrophically collapse our entire economy if the world had the means to turn its collective back on us.

Saudi Arabia and the so-called “petrodollar” is the force that maintains the illusion of stability.

The arms we sell Saudi Arabia account for a substantial chunk of revenue and jobs in the United States, but more importantly it gives them the technological edge they need over Iran. If the Saudis turn to Russia or China, our influence over the region would diminish greatly.

The smart thing to do is to sweep this under the rug. Throw symbolic punishment at some sacrificial Saudi lambs and move on.

Time for change

There is no way to do what’s right and still do what’s smart, so it would seem the White House has to pick between the two.

Perhaps they don’t. Perhaps there’s a third option.

Even if we do the “right” thing by condemning Saudi Arabia Mohammed, ties will not deteriorate immediately. There will be a wind down during which time the Saudis will be looking for other partners and the Americans will be trying to salvage the relationship.

What if we didn’t? What if we acknowledged for the first time that Saudi Arabia is more than just the country that murdered Khashoggi. Their human rights record is atrocious. They have directly or indirectly harmed the United States for years, including a significant role in terrorist attacks. They spread Wahhabism across the world. If you haven’t heard much about Wahhabism, it’s because the radical Islamic sect that drives the House of Saud is protected from media scrutiny. See Network, which only partially satirizes the influence the Saudis have on U.S. media.

Saudi Arabia is a horrible ally. They’re necessary because we’ve made them necessary, but if we drastically cut budgets and spending, the economic ramifications of a break with them would be mitigated. It’s time to make deals with nations that do not smile at us in public and subvert us in private. Nations that do not like us, including Brazil and Venezuela, could be brought under our wing to replace Saudi Arabia on the oil front. It’s unimaginable now, but we live in fast-moving times.

Also, build the Keystone XL pipeline.

As for stability in the Middle East, it’s time we go all-in with Israel. They are the only true democracy and the one nation in the Middle East we can count on to not stab us in the back. They are capable of being the check against Iran. Abandon all talks of a two-state solution, work with Israel as our primary proxy in the Middle East, and make Saudi Arabia turn to others for support.

All of this sounds dangerous because, well, it is. The dominoes that will fall when we take drastic measures against Saudi Arabia will be painful. But there’s one thing to consider before balking at this. We may be heading in this direction already. The difference is it wouldn’t be us initiating (and therefore prepared for) these changes. Saudi Arabia has been quietly seeking a better deal for decades. They haven’t found it yet, but someday they will. When that happens, they’ll pull the rug out from under us.

We should be the ones pulling the rug. If we’re not, the permanent repercussions will be devastating.

Radical change in our foreign affairs stance is long overdue. Saudi Arabia is the worst kind of ally to rely upon, not just because of Khashoggi but because of everything else they’ve done. None of this seems feasible now, but it may be the only path forward.

Continue Reading
Advertisement
Advertisement Donate to NOQ Report

Facebook

Twitter

Trending

Copyright © 2018 NOQ Report