Saturday, August 17, 2013

Government that enables

One of those puzzles of society which I think should be clear, is the role of government, so I went ahead and defined it as part of my platform for a new political party I call the Core Middle Party.

What I came up with for the role of government is:

The role of government is to protect and enable its citizens.

And I think that the idea that government should enable its citizens is the concept that is often missing, and can it really all be that simple?

How can such a powerful concept as governance be encapsulated in such a simple, single sentence?

Well I think government enables people in strong countries to focus on their personal lives and their families without worrying too much about constantly marching off to war.

I believe a good government should enable you to have electricity, and clean water.

Can you imagine working hard to get clean water? Plenty of people around the world DO have to work hard to get clean water, but many people in my country the United States get to take it for granted because government regulations, and institutions around water enable us to have clean water. (Though we shouldn't take it for granted, and need to keep careful watch so that we really do.)

Consider a counterpoint when government disables: the US Postal service is going through hard times and some politicians have talked about ending Saturday delivery of mail.

That is removing a service. Here government would NOT enable Americans to receive mail on Saturday, and in fact since we do so now, the change would DISABLE Americans from receiving Saturday deliver instead!

Now then, sound like a bad idea? Yup.

Why would you want your government to disable you?

Isn't that easy?


So much from a simple sentence! We just set some US policy for the US Postal service!!!

That's politics that works, and works for you. (And yes, we're doing politics here if you hadn't noticed.)

If you just think government protects or should protect, you lose the ability to evaluate whether or not we should have Saturday delivery by the postal service based on whether or not it enables or disables its citizens.

Do you want your government disabling you?

Unfortunately, some people do.

For instance, some hate entitlements, thinking that Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid are enabling people in a bad way, so they wish to disable those programs.

Notice "enable" is not really a loaded word one way or another.

To some it is a bad word! To them enabling citizens to not worry about food with Food Stamps is a horrible thing! And they will tell you it is, and try to explain why they wish to disable these people and send them scurrying about looking for food, when their government has enabled them to consider other things, like educating their children.

See how powerful a concept it is to be enabled by your government?

I want your government to enable you to do many things, and to enable you to worry about fewer things.

That position is a political position and defines me and people like me.

We're called Progressives.

And I decided at some point I needed a definition for that word too, and here's what I decided worked best.

Progressive (noun):  a person with a political position valuing intelligent governance with the belief that in an intelligently governed world people's lives tend to get better, not worse.

(Yes, I made that up. It's NOT an official definition from a dictionary. Maybe someday it will be?)

Notice it also makes it easy to define those politically who wish to take things away from you.

Take away people can with pessimism distort the discussion, as for instance, why assume we have to cut Social Security? What if instead we could expand it?

I think your government should enable you to have health insurance regardless of your ability to pay.

Some people are so furious at that idea that they are willing to try and destabilize the entire United States of America to keep it from happening.

Now then, consider how much you can do with a concept. Can you look in your life now to see where your government enables you? Where it disables you?

Does that help you figure out where you stand on political issues?

If so, good! We have a lot of work ahead of us in the United States of America.

And the better informed you are, the better you can make choices that make a difference.

And the more you can enable a brighter future for a nation that has to keep working to be great, as otherwise, are we really Americans?

Our nation was built by work. It will stand by working harder.

James Harris

Monday, March 18, 2013

Technology of modern unemployment

We live in a world of relentless fictions. Technological innovation at one time drove employment higher as new things gave new opportunities but the reality that isn't being properly discussed is that has not happened with the modern Web Revolution.

The modern web is a wonder, but massive numbers of American are unemployed or underemployed.

And the US Government has shrugged.

When Henry Ford helped usher in the modern age by pushing the assembly line and his vision that cars should actually be affordable for the middle-class, he had an understanding and a vision that helped with technology to better the lives of millions of workers.

Remarkably he felt that workers should get a fair wage and cars should be priced so that the middle class could afford them, which helped sparked a modern revolution.

Today's tech executives cannot say the same.

It's not clear what exactly is necessary.

What is clear is that it's not being done. Where is our Henry Ford?

And it irritates me when tech people push for more high skilled immigrants to this country who might better help themselves and their native countries by using those skills there, knowing full well there are lots of high skilled workers already here.

So why do they like high skilled immigrants so much?

My guess is that Nikola Tesla one of the greatest inventors of all time gives a sad clue.

More than anyone else he ushered in the Age of Electricity in heated battles with Thomas Edison, who was born here, who is also given that credit, over AC versus DC current. Coming to this country from what is now Croatia (gotta love the Wikipedia for quick research) he worked for Edison until a bitter dispute over $50000 US, where one may wonder if, um, he was simply exploited.

Rather than work for someone whom he thought cheated him, he left Edison. And eventually was digging ditches for a living.

He managed to rise above it all and return to technology. But I fear few immigrants in such situations do.

Tesla was a remarkable person--one of the greatest in human history yet he was nearly crushed regardless.

A lesser person may have simply been crushed, or even more simply: kept working for Edison no matter how he felt cheated.

I grew up in the United States. I am aware we project a wonderful story about life here and once a foreign born immigrant gets here they may find that our movie and television stories are what we say they are: fictions.

But once here, you can still work.

In fact, you have to work. Or you will figure out quickly how bad your life can be here if you do not obey, and do not stick with your employer who got you here.

Foreign workers who do come to the United States need to be prepared then, just in case, with options in case the worst case happens. Don't just follow a dream. Be prepared for a nightmare, just in case.

But I grew up here. I already know that we are surrounded by fictions.

James Harris

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

When security matters

When people decry a lack of leadership in my home country, which is the United States, there is I think too vague an understanding of how that relates to national security. And part of the problem is a failure to grasp the reality of a modern world where territory is no longer a goal.

In the past countries exerted their might with armies, and fought for ever more territory, which is anathema today, which is a good thing! For example at one time Americans believed it was our manifest destiny to control the entire Northern Hemisphere, which meant Canada was eyed as a possible military target someday.

Today, few Americans seriously think there would be any point in conquering Canada.

The world has moved on from territorial battles by the major powers and the big fights are in new domains where it looks like the United States is content to steadily fall behind.

People may notice--but it's hard to tell with the American public--that America no longer has a manned space vehicle of its own, so our astronauts hitch a ride with Russians. And I thank Russia for being such a partner in this regard. Soon China may also be such a partner.

We can't put our people into space on our own. It's just a reality.

We do still have a space program though, of course, so can put up probes, and of course, satellites including military ones, but somehow our political leaders let the ability to put our own astronauts into space, go.

They also don't seem to be working too terribly hard on cyber-security issues, except here and there whining about increasing data that our nation is losing terribly in that domain. That is, we're reportedly increasingly losing data.

So what do our political leaders do about security?

Seems they focus more on the physical military, and on "militants" and vague terrorist threats which while real, are constantly shifting, hard to nail down, and probably in the scope of history, of less importance to overall national security than having a data porous nation.

Nations compete. It's reality. And I find it hard to believe that enemies who can't even muster up enough strength to protect themselves from drones are going to decide the fate of the world.

I sometimes joke that certain other nations have the CIA and NSA as part of their own intelligence infrastructure because I fear our security is THAT BAD, so they can just raid our databases for everything.

Today major nations no longer fight for territory. Canada couldn't even offer itself to the United States to be conquered. But people can be slow to catch up to new realities and the US seems intent on waiting until it has completely lost before it even arrives to try and play the new game.

When security finally matters to Americans, it may only be when the wars of cyberspace have been completely lost, and a defeated nation wonders what might have been.

I don't want that to happen. It's past time for my country to wake up. Yes we must defend ourselves from terrorists, along with ALL our enemies.

Picking and choosing is a way to defeat. Reality doesn't care who you'd like to protect yourself from while you ignore another.

Don't let fakes distract you from your security, or when it's clear it doesn't matter to you, don't be surprised when you discover--you have none.

James Harris

Monday, January 14, 2013

Matters of opinion

Thankfully the latest US election is an increasingly distant memory and I can blabber about things that puzzle me about the United States.

People do realize right that the US federal government bailed out wealthy people who had in some cases been REALLY STUPID and dolled out huge funds in order to save them from their mistakes, right?

And it did so while placidly allowing some middle-class people, who did nothing wrong and just believed in the system, to not only fall through the cracks with lost jobs and homes, but to even be pushed to living in their cars with their children.

So people who had experienced living in nice houses found themselves living in a car with their kids, who to wash up, might have to use some public bathroom?

And the wealthy partied, and in fact, it made headlines for a bit when they partied after the initial bailouts, so they toned it down a bit.

The system has turned upside down.

I liken what the United States did to if an inveterate gambler in Las Vegas, blew a billion at the tables, and before he left a federal guy was waiting for him: Hey, says the federal guy, noticed you blew a lot of money today, and well, we have a check here for a billion because you're too big to fail.

Inveterate gambler says, thanks!

Then he goes back to partying on other people's money. Why not?

And imagine if that was just one guy among thousands that got similar checks, for a total of over a trillion dollars which was just a part of the money.

Outside a middle-class person, wait, someone who was middle-class, drives by with his kids, not going home, as it IS home. They need a place to park, near some public restrooms because you see, the kids need to go to school tomorrow. They have to wash up.

If you are reading this post then you know something already the politicians are trying to absorb--money is no longer the issue. Today you can talk to the world, easily enough.

So, change IS coming. Soon enough, politicians who reward the wealthy for being stupid can simply be run out on a rail versus chuckling about how the real world works, and counting their dollars given to them from the rich for running stupid television ads that just often lie anyway.

Change IS coming to America.

If you read this post, then you have some idea about why.

It wasn't generated by a think-tank. Was not commissioned by a team of writers on a budget of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Did not go through a thorough vetting process by a social media team.

Was not tested on a focus group.

It only cost me time to write and edit. If you're reading it though, consider how you read other political ideas.

Think about how much money they spent.

People don't like stupid. They don't like rewarding stupid rich people, or cheering on politicians who simply lie. They just didn't know enough before as television didn't tell them enough.

But the web will let you know. And let the liars be damned.

James Harris