Alternatives to the state

Texas Monthly, a supremely annoying publication, is sad about the "lurch to the right" in this week's Texas primaries. The problem, you see, is that capitalism can't function properly unless counterbalanced by other institutions--especially, in the author's view, the Democratic Party and unions.

This is a distorted shadow of something I've always believed, which is that government can't function properly unless counterbalanced by private institutions, some of the most important being families, churches, private enterprise, and voluntary civic organizations of all stripes. I'll lump unions in there if they're truly voluntary and not just tools to extract dues from unwilling members to be money-laundered for the Democratic Party. As a stretch, I'll include political parties, as long as we're not pretending there's only one.

Whatever one thinks about the voters' recent destruction of Texas RINO careers, it's not about capitalism triumphing over private institutions. Republican primary voters wanted school choice, border security, and an end to the war on Attorney General Ken Paxton, whose initiatives, especially his court-thwarted attempt to investigate election fraud, were quite popular in the Lone Star State. They'd also had it right up to here with current Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan, who tends to appoint Democrats to head House committees and smothers conservative legislation in its crib when he can. Texas Republican primary voters had an immeasurably low interest in ensuring that either the Democratic Party or unions retained any power to hamstring the Texas legislature, but they're pretty open to measures to strengthen the role of families, churches, and private enterprise as a counterweight to government overreach.

Big Bear

Stack Up Or…

FPC has a proposition. 

We usually avoid that sort of language around here, out of courtesy and a desire to accommodate people of gentle temper. Still and all, the demand is hereby rejected. 

Biloxi by Two

Might as well keep on riding if you manage it. 

The Skies Above

This essay begins with an interesting set of questions and observations:
Is a god, or any divine power, only a mirage of the human-made political structures that oppress us? This understanding of religion, popularized by 19th-century thinkers like Karl Marx and Émile Durkheim, has become received wisdom among the anthropologists and sociologists studying the origins and functions of religious life. We sense that we live under forces of authority that constrain us, and yet we cannot precisely locate or understand them. Needing to give some shape or form to this coercion, we project it onto the clouds, fashioning heavenly beings...

Yet the existence of societies without chiefs or kings, or any vertical political organization, challenges this picture. In communities that traditionally recognized no rulers or government, from Tierra del Fuego to the Central Arctic to the Philippines, we still find complex concepts of celestial hierarchies, metahuman authorities, and bureaucracies of deities and spirits with no correspondence to the human social order. Where do these ideas come from, which reflect no living conditions on the ground? 

The stories in the essay are also noteworthy, but the basic question is striking. It seems as if our sense of hierarchy doesn't reflect social or material conditions. It might still be materialist in its origin -- perhaps it represents an inherited sense of reality as played out in the DNA or genes of our evolved bodies. If so, it ought to be a pretty basic sort of inheritance given that it is expressed by all human societies; but if that is the case, why are the expressions also so different and varied? Why do some believe in a heavenly father, but others in mercenary spirits that have to be placated to avoid bad luck? 

In a sense the question is allied to another question, that of whether our attempts to track back the Indo-European language's evolution can similarly let us reconstruct an earlier proto-religion among the peoples who spoke those languages. I think it's well known that Thor looks a lot like pagan deities both Celtic and Slavic, just as one can find common ur-roots for Celtic and Germanic and Slavic words. Our words continue to evolve all the time, so perhaps it is no surprise to find Tacitus saying that he thinks of Woden as being the Germanic sort of Mercury, whereas to another Woden looks more like Bacchus. Just as words slip and change in meaning, perhaps so too the ideas speakers have about the divine. 

Even today, how we talk about these things follows the pattern described here:

If “power descends from heaven to earth,” Sahlins writes, “human political power is necessarily and quintessentially hubris, the appropriation of divinity in one form or another.” The charisma of politicians is always given by the gods, such as the mana handed down to legions of Melanesian chiefs. In his essay, Sahlins touches upon the interesting point that hubris, or overstepping the boundaries between the human and the divine, also underlies structures of class, with elites often seen as possessing or appropriating spirit-power. In turn, any emancipatory movement must mobilize the metahuman as “the necessary precedent of political action.”

Quite so. The Communists, who followed Marx's misunderstanding of all this, nevertheless ended up appointing "scientific materialism" to the role of explaining the necessary, unavoidable workings out of a dialectic embedded in humanity's material evolution -- what our own political left likes to call "the arc of history." Thus History, and Science, become the metahuman powers watching over our destiny and motivating us along towards it. 

If the exercise of political power is always hubris, then the mythic forms says that the exercise of power is always punished. More, that this punishment is a matter of divine justice, a restoration of the proper relationship between the human and the divine. Certainly as a matter of empirical fact all such human political powers collapse and are brought low. Christianity speaks of Christ the King, who will come and exercise such power directly and properly as a divine figure for whom it is not hubris, the only sort of rule that could even be imagined to last forever. 

Election Followup

So the activists swept the contests; apparently those big money donations really help you in getting your name out. For the example I gave yesterday, the activist won by almost 70/30.

This means that the state government is condemned to remain in chaos unless there's a wave election in November that allows one side's activists to dominate the whole government, which will merely push the chaos off until the counter-wave election to follow. 

Michigan made news when, on its election day, "Uncommitted" got 100,000 votes, 13% of the total. This was supposed to be because of Muslims in Dearborn voting in protest of the war against Hamas. However, North Carolina put up 88,000 "No Preference" votes -- 12.68% of the total -- in spite of having a statewide Muslim population of only about one percent. In my county, "No Preference" was 19.43% of the Democratic vote with a zero-percent Muslim population and no evidence of other Hamas-supporting communities in the area. 

I infer, then, that there's a much bigger issue -- looking across the several states that voted yesterday, I see that Biden got into the 90+% range in only a few of them. Even in states like ours, which refused to allow any of the other candidates running for the Democratic nomination onto the ballot, he's not breaking 90% while running unopposed in his own party's primary.

The school board races were lost by conservative candidates across the board, but the schools here are so bad that there's no saving them anyway. Besides, the chief problem they face is not ideology but immigration: they have now to deal with an exploded and unplanned-for population that brings no extra tax base with it to accommodate further school development. 

That's a problem with no solutions. Every other area of governance also faces increased costs associated with the migration, without an increase in the tax base that would allow them to offset those costs and in a terrible economy in which inflation has eaten up any ability of the existing base to sustain more taxes. At some point we'll have to start doing triage on what the government can actually do, in the context of a government led by warring activists who are opposed to compromise. 

Wednesday Motivation

 A metal version of Anvil Of Crom to get you over the midweek point.

Nasty Dan

There’s a chance you might not know this one either. 

The Chicken in Black

 I never knew this existed until this evening.

An Injustice

A paramedic is being sent down for five years for miscalculating a dose during an emergency. 
Peter Cichuniec on Friday was sentenced to five years in prison. But Cichuniec was not the officer who first physically accosted McClain within 10 seconds of exiting a patrol car, despite that no crime had been reported and that McClain had no weapon.... Nor was Cichuniec one of the two officers who joined Woodyard shortly thereafter, helping him forcibly subdue and arrest McClain, notwithstanding the fact that they had not met the constitutionally required standard to do so....

Cichuniec, who didn't arrive until about 11 minutes later, was the lead paramedic, ultimately administering too large a dose of a sedative after miscalculating McClain's size and hearing from police that McClain was allegedly experiencing "excited delirium".... while it remains unclear what exactly caused McClain to go into cardiac arrest, an amended autopsy attributes McClain's death to "complications of ketamine administration following forcible restraint."

So, we can't say for sure that his action caused the death; the action was at most an error; the error was brought on by poor information given him by responding officers; and those officers had also assaulted the victim. 

I realize that being able to administer drugs is a significant responsibility, but this seems to me like an extraordinary injustice. Paramedics work extremely hard to receive a credential that merely allows them to work harder than nurses in worse conditions for less money. They are a crucial link the chain of emergency medicine, the difference between basic and advanced life support while you are being transported to a hospital. 

We should not be sending them to prison for mistakes, which is not to say that there shouldn't be accountability for mistakes. Accountability need not entail sending a paramedic to prison for having screwed up a dosage because he was given bad information at a chaotic scene. 

The Reason article notes that the police received far less accountability for their actions, which has been a hot button for some years now. I'll leave the police issue to the side. This isn't how a decent society should treat a paramedic even if he made a deadly error.

Super Tuesday

I can't recall ever being less excited to vote in an election. My normal heuristic for primaries -- vote against every incumbent, according to the apocryphal Mark Twain quote that 'politicians like diapers should be changed frequently, and for the same reason' -- has been disabled by a lack of competition in seats with incumbents. Instead, the only competitive races in this year's Democratic Primary in North Carolina are to fill seats that will be empty.

Thus, a new heuristic for this primary election: always vote against the activist. For example
On Tuesday, voters will also choose between two Democrats seeking their party’s nomination for a seat on the state Supreme Court. Currently that seat is occupied by Justice Allison Riggs, a voting rights attorney who was appointed to fill a vacancy on the court by Gov. Roy Cooper in 2023. Riggs has said she is not just running her race, but campaigning to build a pipeline so Democrats can win back control of the high court in 2028. Riggs’ campaign received more than $80,000 in individual donations in the first quarter of 2024. She ended that reporting cycle with more than $178,000 in the bank.

Riggs’ opponent in the primary is Lora Cubbage, a former prosecutor who also worked in the Attorney General’s Office handling workers’ compensation claims before becoming a Superior Court judge. Cubbage received about $50,000 in individual donations. Among them: a $250 donation from Brent Barringer, husband of state Supreme Court Associate Justice Tamara Barringer, a Republican. She also received $250 from Robert Broadie, a Superior Court judge in Davidson and Davie counties. Cubbage had about $90,000 left in the bank as of mid-February.
The activists come in two varieties, both of them bad. The first variety is a party loyalist who is lying about having activist principles -- Republican voters will be very familiar with this type -- but merely wants to court large campaign donations from organizations outside the state. These people, in other words, are corrupt. America has a surplus of corrupt politicians already; no more are wanted.

The second variety is a true believer in the activism that has washed over the Democratic Party. These people are not corrupt, and indeed are well-meaning according to their lights. The problem is that the activist ideas are often barking mad; even when they are not, they are destructive to the foundations of our society. 

Too, North Carolina is politically quite divided. No activist politics is going to lead to sustainable progress on any issue. Even now the governor vetoes almost every bill the legislature passes, while the state Supreme Court reverses its predecessor and finds 'unconstitutional' things constitutional, while rethinking their predecessors' decisions on the constitutional to find those things unconstitutional. It is chaos and madness. The only effective politics the Democratic Party could engage in here is one focused on non-activist, traditional Democratic ideas about improving life for workers and supporting labor. What they want to do is chase Google Gemini's vision -- because, it should be said, Google and similar tech firms are now major donors to the Democratic Party.

Indeed the two parties support the same basic interest, which is the megacorporation(s?*) that own(s?*) everything. The Republican Party supports the Chamber of Commerce interest in lowering American wages and increasing competition by increasing immigration, which by coincidence also creates a labor base that has no legal status -- and thus no legal recourse when abused. The Democratic Party supports, well, the same thing. They used to be on the side of labor, which would hotly oppose being driven out of work and having their wages effectively lowered by being put into competition with illegal aliens; now they promise welfare leading to a 'universal basic income' for former workers, who will be replaced by the class of people lacking legal standing to seek redress for their grievances.

I don't know how much good can still be accomplished with elections. However, I shall do my duty as a citizen, and vote strategically as best as I can.

UPDATE: I voted "No Preference" for President, which is not strictly speaking true but was the only option given.

* The question intended by the "(s?)" has to do with whether or not there is an important separation between the megacorporations given that their stock is chiefly owned by each other. As a result they all share the same basic interests politically, and thus rather than being in competition often end up looking like the different branches of a monopoly. Legally they are different "persons," but actually they look a lot like a monolith. Can't vote your way out of that one, either.

"We Must Dissolve [The Supreme Court]"

So says Keith Olbermann, on the X platform, following a unanimous ruling from all wings of a divided Court on a contentious topic.

I have long argued that Twitter (as it was formerly known) was the worst thing to happen to American self-governance. It offers just enough room for snarky, disrespectful, or explosive comments, and not nearly enough room to engage seriously with problems. As a result, it transformed the national discourse into a series of insults and contemptuous speech, and gave the elites a platform to air their disdain for each other and everything else. 

Maybe I should rethink my position. Getting all this contempt and disdain out in the open is probably the worst thing for keeping the country together; but it might be healthy, insofar as it destroys the very institutions that the elite were using to control us all. Keith Olbermann used to be considered a serious man, an heir to Walter Crokite and the other powerful-and-serious news anchors of the previous century. Now everyone can see him and his business for the jokes that they are.

The Supreme Court, like it or hate it, is the last branch of the Federal government that is unambiguously legitimate. Only the one justice appointed by Biden, whose election was illegal and therefore unconstitutional, is tainted by the recent tomfoolery with elections. The other eight were appointed and confirmed by governments whose legitimacy to do so was not in question. The whole Federal bureaucracy derives its power by delegation from the President, sometimes supported by Congressional legislation that supports its creation and existence. The "fortification" of our elections thus calls the legitimacy of the whole into question, except for the Supreme Court. If you could dissolve the last branch with clear authority, what would be left to convince anyone to obey the dictates of the state? 

Force, obviously: naked force. Olbermann nevertheless believes that it is his opponents who are "fascists." 

Nice try

As Ed Morrisey says, "the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments exist to limit states' powers, not to add to them." The Supreme Court unanimously rejected Colorado's attempt to use the 14th Amendment to remove Trump from the state's presidential ballot.
This case raises the question whether the States, in addition to Congress, may also enforce Section 3. We conclude that States may disqualify persons holding or attempting to hold state office. But States have no power under the Constitution to enforce Section 3 with respect to federal offices, especially the Presidency.