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May 14, 2012
Recently President Obama announced that he supports gay marriage. But he also said that if states want to continue discriminating against gays, it's their decision. I assume the President also believes Abe Lincoln should have stayed out of the slavery issue under the theory that the states should decide which rights they grant their minority populations. (Someone clever said that before I did. I forget who.)

Meanwhile, President Obama is using scarce federal funds to shut down marijuana dispensaries in states that have legalized medical marijuana. On this issue, the President is opposed to states' rights.

The interesting thing about the dual issues of gay marriage and medical marijuana is that both have a track record that can be evaluated. Why not use science, or at least economics, to figure out what works?

In places where gay marriage has been legal for some time, what has been the cost to society? Has the social structure crumbled? Did taxes go up? Did any hetero Christians turn gay from peer pressure? Was there an outbreak of bestiality? Did it rain toads?

Medical marijuana has also been practiced long enough in some places to have a track record. Did the states that legalized medical marijuana experience an uptick in traffic deaths? Or did all of the stoners driving home from the dispensaries slow commute traffic and make things safer? Did residents eat too many munchies and become obese? Did cancer patients start robbing convenience stores to pay for their habit?

One could argue that the minimum requirement to be called a leader is that you don't wait for your Vice President to become so embarrassed by your position on a prominent national issue (gay marriage) that he takes control, forcing you to meekly follow. President Obama glibly said that Vice President Biden "got over his skis" when he came out in support of gay marriage. Actually, Biden displayed leadership. I understand why the President didn't recognize it.

On the Republican side, Romney is like a bag that's half snakes and half candy. When you put your hand in, you never know what you're getting. Romney might be awesome. I like the general idea of putting a turnaround expert in the oval office at a time when we need one. But the reality is that we don't know what we're getting with Romney. He is, after all, a robot that professes a deep belief in magic. Good luck predicting how that would shake out.

President Obama is getting a lot of credit for killing Bin Laden. But how much credit should we give to luck? It was lucky timing that our intelligence people located Bin Laden during Obama's term. And if no one knew for sure that Bin Laden was at the compound before the attack was launched, the President was guessing. He guessed right, but guessing isn't a repeatable skill. And realistically, you and I would have made the same decision to launch a strike.

In theory, the United States is protected from revolution because we have the option of voting out the bums we don't like. The reality, which is sinking in, is that our only option is to replace bums with bums. As long as no candidate feels the need to be philosophically consistent, or to base decisions on data, we don't have a functional government.

That's why I favor starting an emergency backup government using social media. I think we need an insurance policy against the total breakdown of civilization. We need a backup government that's ready to go in case our existing form of government loses its last shred of credibility and citizens start ignoring it.

Other countries have an emergency backup government in place. It's called the army. When the civilian government loses credibility with the people, the army can step in and maintain order while a new government is formed. That's roughly the case in Egypt and Pakistan, for example. But that sort of system has a high cost. The citizens of the United States wouldn't want a military government as an emergency backup. I think this country would prefer some sort of government-in-a-box backup solution that is organized over the Internet.

I think the major problem with our current form of government is that although the major parties are competing with each other, the system itself is a monopoly. There's no competition for the federal government as a whole. I think it would be useful to form a shadow government on the Internet, complete with chosen leaders and policies. That would create a sort of competition for the existing government. The media could keep tabs on how many citizens have a preference for the shadow government over the existing one. If the shadow government gets too much support, the existing government is likely to evolve to avoid relegation.

Competition is good. We need some competition for our entire system of government, not just competition within it. We also need an insurance policy in case citizens decide to revolt. Admittedly, that's a small risk, but that's the point of insurance - to protect against small risks with catastrophic potential.

If you think competition is good, insurance is prudent, and fact-based leadership is better than naked politics and superstition, you should be in favor of forming an emergency backup government on the Internet.

 
 
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May 15, 2012
There is a difference between a leader and a politician. A leader will be honest within him self and his constituency, pointing out the illogical mind, so that the under lining problems can be fixed.

A politician will parrot off, any la la land, magic unicorn, feel good bull crap, the constituency wants to hear.

If I want to fix my engine I must be honest as to what needs to be fixed, on the engine. Regardless of the required effort or cost....

If i'm not honest, and only tweek the air screw, when the whole carb needs to be rebuilt. The engine will only continue to deteriorate...
 
 
+11 Rank Up Rank Down
May 15, 2012
I fully agree with you that us humans should base our decision making more on data, unfortunately, religion and politics often oppose rationality and data.

As a citizen from the Netherlands, I can tell you that both medicinal use and leisure usage of marihuana, both legal here, have no destructive effects worth mentioning on our society, and that's based on decades of experience (not personal experience, mind you :). To counter the stereotype that we're all dopeheads here, usage here is lower than in surrounding countries where it is illegal. Any negative effects of marihuana are far surpassed by alcohol abuse, and such negative effects will not dissapear at all when it is illegal.

As for gay marriage, something common here for a long time, you don't even need data to prove it does nothing damaging to a society. It takes only two brain cells to realize that what somebody does in their own bed room has nothing to do with anyone else.

To end with a 3rd progressive topic: Euthanasia. Possible for a long time here, heavily regulated and proven to facilitate one's ultimate freedom: to decide upon your own life. Only used in extreme cases to HELP somebody.

All of these "progressive" topics are not progressive at all, they are common sense. I doubt one can have rational arguments against them, only religious or political ones.
 
 
+15 Rank Up Rank Down
May 15, 2012
"realistically, you and I would have made the same decision to launch a strike."

Ho ho, that's easy to say now! President Obama took a risk and showed boldness. He had advisers reminding him that if anything went wrong, he would be like President Carter after ordering the failed hostage rescue attempt. And lots could go wrong -- helicopter crash, screwups even after a safe landing, bad intelligence, etc. And while luck was involved, the President also made Osama a priority, while the previous administration went after Iraq instead. So let's give Obama credit where credit is due.

 
 
May 15, 2012
I'm a big fan of ranked voting (aka alternative vote, instant runoff voting). The principle is thus: You have many candidates and vote for each candidates with a number indicating your preference. All #1 votes are tallied, and the candidate with the fewest is removed. Then we repeat the tally and anyone whose #1 vote was for a dropped candidate gets their second vote added to the mix instead. Drop the candidate with the fewest votes and repeat until you have a majority vote holder.

The problem with our current voting mechanism is that we as Americans primarily vote AGAINST the party we don't like. To a large extent, we don't really like the candidate we're voting for, but we are ideologically opposed to the other team. This sucks. And we can't vote for a third party, because... you really have to vote for the strongest candidate that opposes the party you are voting against. Ross Perot taught our nation one important thing: a third party candidate that is ideologically similar to a major political party screws over everyone but the opposing party.

Wouldn't it be cool if you were actually free to vote FOR a candidate you liked? With your secondary votes guaranteeing that your interests are not screwed if your candidate can't win?
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
May 15, 2012
there would be so many research projects using different metrics to justify the answer each group wanted that it would get us nowhere (which is where we are now) so lets just save money & flip a coin
 
 
May 15, 2012
Scott: "In places where gay marriage has been legal for some time, what has been the cost to society?"

Increased burden on the courts for all the gay divorce? IIRC, the primary lesbian couple who pushed for gay marriage in one of those new england states is already divorced. Same thing happened in calafornia.

Honestly there are three costs to society. The first is the cost to the gays themselves. In order for them to act however they want to, they're becoming dependant on the government, in particular one party. What? Gays can't just live together? We must become slaves of the goverment for a little piece of paper that is becoming increasingly meaningless. We can't let the other guys get elected because we'll lose a worthless piece of paper! OH NOES! DEMOCRATS WHO WANT THE USA TO BE RUN LIKE GREECE SAVE US!!!

I was being absurd for a reason in those last few sentances. I think there's a danger involved in feel like you need Uncle Sam to validate and approve of every little thing you do. A libertarian would argue that the government shouldn't be involved in marriage at all and that marriage is between two people, no government needed there.

The second cost is if there are children: while they are equal there are real differences between the genders. Having gay marriage denies the kids a primary influence of the opposite sex to show how that gender acts and how to properly treat that gender. Yes there are reports of kids of gays being better behaved, but that's no fun for the kids.

The third cost is in all honesty, gay marriage is blatently sexist. I don't care if it's genetic or whatever, sexism is sexism. Don't believe me?

If a woman was denied a job by a man who said that women aren't fit to do it, that's a sexual discrimination lawsuit that she'd win in a heartbeat. Which is the correct thing in our system. You can't not hire a person of the opposite sex on the grounds that person is of the opposite sex (save for a few unusual exceptions).

One could make an argument that gay marriage is just a bunch of masogynists and misandrists celebrating their beliefs that the opposite sex isn't good enough to be their equals. It is just a bunch of guys discriminating against women in a way that is politically correct for them to do so, the only difference is one word is replaced with another.

That sounds pretty sexist if you ask me.



"Has the social structure crumbled?"

A traditionalist would argue that gay marriage is the result of a crumbled social structure, not the cause.


"One could argue that the minimum requirement to be called a leader is that you don't wait for your Vice President to become so embarrassed by your position on a prominent national issue (gay marriage) that he takes control, forcing you to meekly follow. "

Rush Limbaugh and other conservatives argue that Obama hangs to the rear of just about everything, except for national health care. Even then he let the legislature take the lead. One arguement is that he was nomiated for his spot becuase he was the best emtpy suit who fits the desired role and most able to spout the party line (the democract GW Bush). Another argument is he came out largely because a black president wouldn't lose a chunk of the black vote for coming out, this is important in elections; the black vote is more anti-gay marriage in general than most democrats and I think they were key to passing Prop 8, however the theory is they won't not get out and vote for Obama because he means so much despite a flaw or two. Biden had a gaffee, planned or not, Obama followed up, and now it can be the official party platfrom from now on.

So you could argue that Obama doesn't lead intentionally at times, he picks his moments for his desired goals with the goals being more important than his public perception.


"President Obama is getting a lot of credit for killing Bin Laden. But how much credit should we give to luck? It was lucky timing that our intelligence people located Bin Laden during Obama's term. "

We were only able to find him in part because Bush ordered KSM waterboarded. There's irony for you.



"I think the major problem with our current form of government is that although the major parties are competing with each other, the system itself is a monopoly. There's no competition for the federal government as a whole. I think it would be useful to form a shadow government on the Internet, complete with chosen leaders and policies. That would create a sort of competition for the existing government. The media could keep tabs on how many citizens have a preference for the shadow government over the existing one. If the shadow government gets too much support, the existing government is likely to evolve to avoid relegation.

Competition is good. We need some competition for our entire system of government, not just competition within it. We also need an insurance policy in case citizens decide to revolt. Admittedly, that's a small risk, but that's the point of insurance - to protect against small risks with catastrophic potential.

If you think competition is good, insurance is prudent, and fact-based leadership is better than naked politics and superstition, you should be in favor of forming an emergency backup government on the Internet."

Well, why not let the US get a divorce. Red states in one government, blue states in another, purples can pick either or be independant. That'd be more competition.
 
 
+7 Rank Up Rank Down
May 15, 2012
At work, I use Excel to make spreadshi*s. We manage through spreadshi*s so it's proxy leadershi*. I guess that makes me a leader. I wonder if Obama feels as fullfilled as me?
 
 
May 15, 2012
Funnily enough, the internet government experiment that Scott envisages is presently taking form in my country Italy (not the most tech-savy of places): a grassroot movement which chooses alternative, younger leaders to carry on a program broadly agreed upon through social media. They are incorruptible and enthusiastic. They won a lot at the local level.
Problem is: their policies suck. They are a hotchpotch of conflicting measures with no long term vision, and a collection of platitudes ("reducing public debt by cutting waste of resources...").
Sadly, they are no match for an efficient, unelected government of older technocrats that know what they are doing, and do it mercilessly, without asking people's opinion. Suspended democracy works, apparently.
 
 
+8 Rank Up Rank Down
May 15, 2012
Phantom II: "Marriage is what it is. The union of one man and one woman."
No, it's not. One man, many women, one woman, many men and no marriage altogether (the latter one being a bit unusual and involving hats and nails) are working ways to shape relationships in communities throughout the world.

The only reason man/man is new is because until lately the whole marriage business was monopolized by the religions, that is, private clubs with more or less arbitrary rules (like no man/man marriage) that nevertheless try to impose those rules on the rest of society, regardless of their club membership.

So, one man, one woman ist just the custom in your region and time. But I see no particular reason why that custom has to stay that way.

There are rules about how to change this, like voting for people to change a particular law, or pushing a candidate for popeship and I think it's everyones right to shape the society he lives in by following those rules.
 
 
+2 Rank Up Rank Down
May 15, 2012
Great post!

However, I don't think I understand what an "insurance policy in case citizens decide to revolt" is supposed to be. In east germany, where I grew up, the russians provided that insurance.

How do you imagine an anti-revolt-insurance in the US?
 
 
May 15, 2012
Scott,
Great title. Very apt for most politicians.
 
 
+10 Rank Up Rank Down
May 15, 2012
Phantom II,
This is not a bad-word filter - its a bad word-filter :-)
 
 
May 15, 2012
Incredible post Scott. The less you sound like a politician the more I want to vote for you.

This is serious stuff - I wish more people would recognize that simple fact as opposed to towing one of the two giant lines they are offered...
 
 
May 15, 2012
This bad-word filter is amazing. Not only does it block the name of Scott's wife, it just blocked the word "e n t i t i e s" in my post below. Unbelievable. My apologies for using that horrible, obscene word.
 
 
May 15, 2012
To quote the late President Reagan, "There you go again." Once again, you are using post-hoc reasoning to draw parallels. Usually, it's just mind game versus mind game, but this time, you jumped off the metaphorical cliff.

There is no way to equate the civil rights movement with the gay marriage movement. There is a world of difference between the struggle of blacks for equality and the desire for certain people to be granted the right to change the thousands-of-year-old definition of marriage just because that's how they want it to be. Discriminating against someone's sexual orientation is not the same thing as discriminating against someone on the basis of race. If you think otherwise, go discuss the issue with some African-Americans, as I have. You'll soon be set straight, no pun intended.

Marriage is what it is. The union of one man and one woman. There is no such thing as gay marriage, nor is there any discrimination involved, as there was with anti-misogyny laws. Any man, regardless of his sexual preferences, can marry any woman, regardless of her sexual preferences, as long as they're not first-generation blood relatives. All men can't marry other men, nor can all women. . . but you get the point. Civil unions: great. Gay marriage: no such thing. A man can't marry two women, nor can two women marry one man. A man can't marry a horse, no matter how much he loves it, or it him, the horse's gender notwithstanding. That isn't marriage.

What you usually hear from the other side when anyone states their opposition to gay marriage is that those who are against it are homophobic and hate gays. That's an ad hominem attack, which is the last refuge of those who are unable to debate an issue with reason and fact. One would hope this audience would not descend to that level of non-discourse, but we shall see.

The reason you have all this angst about government's power run amok is because the federal government has ceased to abide by the Constitution. Gay marriage is a state issue, not a federal one; in this, President Obama was correct. Of the 32 states who have voted on gay marriage, 32 have defeated it - including California, arguably the most liberal state outside of New York. The only states in which gay marriage is legal are states where either the legislatures have passed a law allowing it, or judges have forced it on the people.

However, there are federal laws against drug use, as well as state laws. For those of you unfamiliar with the concept of federalism (Scott may be one of those), we are citizens of two !$%*!$%*! the state in which we live, and the United States. The federal government is given certain specific powers, enumerated in the Constitution. All the rest is reserved to the states, and to the people.

If more of our citizens understood this, and demanded our federal leaders restrict their legislation to those things specifically allowed under the Constitution, and slowly returned the rest to the states, a lot of the problems which prompted Scott's post would go away. Think that will ever happen? Not as long as Obama is president and the Democrats control the Senate. And maybe the same can be said for establishment Republicans - they sure did a horrible job when Republicans last controlled both houses of Congress. I'm not letting them off the hook, either.

Did you know, as an aside, that it has been 1,111 days since the Senate has followed its constitutional mandate and established a budget? Anyone concerned about that?

Anyone out there noticed the $4/gallon gas, or the unemployment rate? Or how our economy and housing market are in the tank? Or our staggering national debt?

So what does our leader, President Obama do? He says he supports gay marriage. Boy, that'll sure help those gays. I guess gays having to pay $4 a gallon is no problem. Gay unemployment? No big problem. Gays' portion of the national debt? Nothing to worry about there. Equity lost in gay homes? Move on, folks, nothing to see here.

But Gay marriage??? Ta-da, ta-da, ta dump da dump tee da, here comes Knight-on-a-charger Barach Obama, saying he supports it, but not doing one thing about it. As Scott again correctly points out, that seems to be the only thing he thinks should be left to the states. If that isn't the definition of a leader, what is?

Wake up, people. This is nothing more than a distraction. Concentrate on the real issues. Think about your future and the future of your children and grandchildren. Gay marriage is nothing compared to the real problems our nation is facing. Don't be distracted - focus on what's really important. There isn't much time left to keep us from going the way of Greece, Spain, and the European Union. That's where you should be focusing your thoughts and energy.


 
 
May 15, 2012
The US already has a backup government, it's called FEMA.
 
 
May 14, 2012
You still seem to be labouring under the misapprehension that politics is a method for coming to rational decisions about how to maximise utility, rather than a mechanism for distributing power and status.
 
 
May 14, 2012
The first two paragraphs are excellent examples of what is wrong with Obama's policies. Of course, if Romney wins this year, then we'll wish we could return to Obama's policies, as they will seem less insane.
 
 
+4 Rank Up Rank Down
May 14, 2012
Have you dropped out of the presidential race? This post would've been the perfect time to espouse the virtues of a candidate using logic/free enterprise to run the country.
 
 
+13 Rank Up Rank Down
May 14, 2012
The nature of how Obama accomplishes things does not lend itself to a strong public message or give him the credit he deserves.

For instance to repeal don't ask don't tell, he could have just signed an executive order after taking office. That could easily have been undone by the next administration and it would get key people in the military upset when he needed them to be fighting two wars. Instead he made a deal with the pentagon to give them time to study it first, lined up votes in the house and senate and then finally made it happen. In the news cycle looks like he didn't do anything for a long time because he was moving the pieces into place.

Maybe he doesn't want to push gay marriage now because there's nothing he can legislatively do about it. Or maybe he's working on something lining up key votes and doesn't want to put more pressure on that process. I would rather he focus on things he can do than a culture war slugfest.
 
 
 
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