Uncommon Sense

November 29, 2021

Note—This was written almost a decade ago but it seems worthwhile to repost it from time to time. SR

Campaign Finance Contributions:
A Form of Political Speech or Influence Peddling?

A White Paper by Steve Ruis
February 2012

Obviously the federal government is bought and paid for and, unfortunately, not by you or me. In the past 40 years the political deck has been stacked in favor of the very rich who have gotten very much richer and against the rest of Americans who have benefitted minimally in comparison. This is undeniable. So, the question of political corruption is a natural one and all such discussions quickly lead to its source: donations of political monies to campaigns. It seems like the wealthiest people and corporations have made greater contributions to our representatives than have we, so those officials are doing what they want rather than what we want. It is a proven fact of psychology that if someone gives you a gift, you will feel grateful and will feel a need to reciprocate. So, such “contributions” automatically generate the need to reciprocate if the system didn’t reinforce that need (which it does).

But when are such gifts “ordinary” a part of the political process and when do they constitute influence peddling, which is illegal? This is the core question.

One solution to the political money conundrum is a simple concept, namely that money for a candidate or an issue may only be raised from people who live in the affected jurisdiction. For mayor’s races, funds may only be raised within the city’s limits. Candidates for U.S. Senator may raise funds from anyone in their state. Presidential candidates my raise funds from anyone in the U.S. House of Representatives candidates may only raise funds in their districts. Water district commissioners may only raise funds from residents of their water district, and so forth. Opponents of a ballot initiative may only raise funds in the district that initiative, should it become law, would have an effect.

In this manner only the people who that candidate will represent or who that law will apply to may fund the political efforts that determine whether that campaign will succeed or fail. This is critical, because people who live in the jurisdiction will be represented by that candidate or affected by that initiative or legislation, and people who live outside that jurisdiction will not. This draws a clean line between ordinary political speech and influence peddling. Outsiders cannot justify political contributions as the person or issue at stake does not affect them directly, consequently all such donations of money, that is from “outsiders” (literally), are de facto attempts to buy influence and should be illegal.

Outsiders will still have their say. They will speak on the airwaves (television, radio, blogs, newspapers, etc.) and their speech is free. They could even rent a hall in the district and deliver speeches. All of this is free speech. But in any circumstances in which that speech isn’t free of cost and where political money comes into play, that must be regulated. There have been myriad efforts to determine the sources of the funding for such political efforts, but the laws, in effect, protect such anonymity. Groups are allowed to form with names like “Americans for Liberty” and “Moms for Apple Pie” and “Citizens United” who then become political actors. All efforts to require disclosure to date have been somewhat easily avoided.

But if we think like voters, the solution is straightforward. As a voter, I want to know whether the person(s) paying for the ad/brochure/event is/are a stakeholder or an outsider. If the ad doesn’t come from a group or individual in the jurisdiction using funds collected in the jurisdiction, it must be clearly labeled “Paid for by Outsiders.” If they want to go on and also state that the ad was paid for by “Americans for Freedom” they may certainly do so, as part of their free speech right, but the “Paid for by Outsiders” must come first and be more prominent than any other such identification. And such efforts may not be coordinated with official “in district” campaigns.

This gives voters the information they need. It also has an amazing array of secondary benefits. For one, the burden of raising funds for any political office, except for President, will be greatly lessened. Official or unofficial campaigns may only raise funds in a candidate’s district. Candidates do not need to be negotiating deals with all kinds of sources of out-of-district funds, as this would be illegal. In order to get constituents to donate, there must be communication explaining why the money is needed and what it is to be used for and what services the candidate is offering voters. This is clean and open politics.

Lobbyists would have much less influence because their speech would be in the form of just words and not money unless the ones hiring them came from a legislator’s district. (One cannot borrow or hire someone else’s primary residence for the purpose of making political donations just as one cannot buy someone else’s vote.)

This policy puts a burden on a candidate to build a base in the district in which they intend to run for office. No more, for example, would candidates from out of state be moving in short-term to establish residency and then using out-of-state funds to win a seat in the U.S. Senate, then moving to Washington with no connection whatsoever with the communities they represent. Candidates will probably need to build up a local reputation based on deeds to constituents in order to raise funds with them, all in all a good thing. Otherwise they won’t get elected to higher office in the first place.

The total amount of money involved in campaigns will decrease and so the money actually raised and spent will have to be spent more wisely (one hopes on higher quality communication than “attack ads”).

Sitting representatives will need to tend to constituents more closely as they are the only sources of funds for any re-election campaigns. This is to the good.

And, I am sure, more benefits will come to your mind as you consider this policy further.

The recent Supreme Court decision (“Citizens United”) to allow corporations unfettered political spending is certainly problematic. But if the Court thought it wise to take a business fiction (that a business can become a person) and apply it to politics, we need to carry that to its obvious conclusion. Just as individuals have a “primary address” that determines the districts they vote in and the offices they vote for, this should also be the case for “corporate citizens.” Let us say that the U.S. corporate headquarters shall be the “primary residence” of the corporation and this establishes the districts of residence that determine to whom they can donate political money. Of course, they can still form groups to get their “free speech” rights for topics of concern to them, but they cannot contribute directly to any out of district candidates or issue groups and any “free speech” messages beamed into those other districts must be clearly labeled “Paid for by Outsiders,” because that’s who they would be. Employees of the corporation who live in a particular district could make donations as they wanted but the corporation itself could not, unless that district contains the “primary residence” of the corporation. Nor could the corporations instruct employees to make donations or provide funds for them to do so.

This would apply to labor unions and all benevolent organizations as well.

Now some might claim that this could emasculate political parties as they couldn’t steer events by collecting money from whatever sources and then pouring it into wherever they wanted. Quite the contrary, what would be required of any such body: political party, PAC, Better Business Bureau, etc., is that they become better organized and that they develop local bodies of constituents in districts to collect funds for them and distribute them. Funds earmarked for national offices, like President, could flow through to the national office of the organization but for “in state” offices the funds would have to stay in state, etc. And funds collected for in-state candidates could not be funneled to other states.

Political parties and unions can still support their “people” with web sites, phone calls, advice from experts, etc, as long as everyone pays their own communication bills. If they call a candidate with advice, that is free speech, if they call voters with a message, it must begin with “This Message is Paid for by Outsiders.” Talk and written communication aren’t being regulated, political money is. Experts could give advice but not work for a campaign unless the campaign paid them for their work. (It is a fine line, but something is better than nothing. Advice is speech but having someone come in and organize one’s campaign office, set up their computers or phone bank, etc. is donated labor.)

Organizations who could not get people to work for them could not substitute money for bodies unless that money was local. Rich people and large corporations would still have a great deal of influence in their localities but would they want to pay very large sums of money for smallish elections? Probably not. Currently we have billionaires using large amounts of money to leverage entire national elections. Their influence would be greatly curtailed by this proposal. They could still pay for a great many communication pieces to exercise their free speech rights and as long as they were labeled “Paid for by Outsiders,” they would be within the law.

If one wanted to be really tough, a pre-election audit might be required but the spirit of this proposal is more in the line of post-election audits. If someone was found to have significantly (not trivially) violated this law, their election could be invalidated. This would encourage people to “do it right” from the beginning. (England has just recently invalidated an election to the House of Commons because a candidate lied about his opponent. Taking money from outsiders illegally and then claiming one did not is a very significant lie (and would be illegal) which should be punished.)

This proposal would require legislation to implement and since it affects everyone it can be expected to draw fire. Since it creates a level playing field but one which still greatly favors incumbents (Who else is in a better position to do good work for their constituents?) contrary arguments by sitting politicians would be hard to rationalize. Politicians who vigorously oppose such legislation would clearly be doing so because they are beholden to monied interests as the power of those interests would be greatly curtailed. That is where the major opposition will come from.

What is more American, more constitutional, more revolutionary than re-establishing the sanctity of “one man, one vote” and free speech? At the time of the creation of the Constitution, a secret ballot was considered highly objectionable. The people needed to know who voted for whom and for what. (This ideal still holds in our Congress where votes are all public.) Secret ballots only came in much later in our history, which makes our support for “anonymous” political money all the more puzzling. Anonymous political speech was practiced by almost every one of the “founding fathers” (by writing under nom de plumes, for example) but if someone were to have paid them for their “free speech,” they would have been strung up from the nearest tree.

It is time to control political speech/money as we control regular speech. It is considered illegal to shout “Fire!” in a crowded theater with no fire involved. Such speech is not protected by the First Amendment. So, let’s clean up politics and simply by erecting a firewall between political outsiders who are not directly represented in an election and the candidates and constituents who are.

November 25, 2021

Conservative Business People, Listen Up

Filed under: Business,History,Politics — Steve Ruis @ 11:21 am
Tags: , , ,

You’all have been claiming that the U.S. government, aka guvmint, should be run like a business and I have a case study for you in which I agree.

What would you think about one of the divisions of your corporation which has not met a goal in twenty years, run up huge overruns on their budget, and recently failed an external audit because they couldn’t even perform an internal audit. They could not account for billions of company dollars that they spent, they think.

It is time for that underperforming sinkhole of profits to go, no?

I am talking about the Pentagon here, which needs a name change to Penta-gone.

We have been fighting a so-called “War on Terror” for easily twenty years and, well, help me count the victories: #1 We assassinated Osama Bin Laden, uh #2 . . . uh, #2 . . . well, there aren’t any other victories major or minor.

Okay, this nonperformance resulted in budget cuts, right? Let’s see, the Pentagon’s budget for the year 2000 was 378 billion U.S. dollars, about 3.5% of our GDP. In 2020, the Pentagon’s budget was 738 billion U.S. dollars. What? All of that abject failure to meet any military goals and the Pentagon’s budget doubled? Doubled!

What business principle is it that a woefully performing governmental division gets its budget doubled and nobody loses their job?

Are these the business practices you are recommending? Yes or no—don’t wait for the translation—yes or no?

November 24, 2021

Driving the GOP into an Early Grave

The navigator-in-chief of the Republican Party sure seems to be Donald J. Trump. Let’s see how he has prompted the growth of the GOP since his elevation into that position.

  • The GOP has gotten tied ever more closely to Evangelical Christianity.
    • The GOP has become more anti-science based.
    • The GOP has become tied to alternative facts that they just make up
    • The GOP has become tied to news media that are estranged from decent journalism
    • The GOP has sought out voter suppression instead of expanding their base
    • etc.

There are some consequences to this. Here are just a few:
• Since 2006, white evangelical Protestants have experienced the most precipitous drop in affiliation, shrinking from 23% of Americans in 2006 to 14% in 2020. That proportion has generally held steady since 2017 (15% in 2017, 2018, and 2019). There are some that argue that the politicization of churches has accelerated this drop in evangelicalism.
• But supporting anti-vaccination and anti-mask fringe groups, the GOP has put more of its members at risk, especially since currently the GOP constituency is quite old. These policies are disproportionally resulting in Republicans getting sick and/or dying. The GOP is killing off its own members.
• By refusing to expand their bases and focusing on voter suppression more, the GOP is undermining their future. As their membership gets older, whiter, and less connected with reality, joining the GOP seems more and more like joining a cult, so they are losing traction with young people.
• By undermining trust in societies institutions, the GOP is undermining their own ideology. And is members are trusting their doctors, teachers, local officials, etc. less and less, creating more and more disharmony.

As I watched this unfold, I thought Mr. Trump was driving the GOP into a ditch. Now it looks as if, by doubling down, he is driving the GOP into an early grave,

R.I.P. GOP.

November 5, 2021

Capitalism Fails Again

Filed under: Economics,Politics,Reason — Steve Ruis @ 8:02 am
Tags: , , ,

This is a fascinating post on Medium.com about the shipping issues we currently face: I’m A Twenty Year Truck Driver, I Will Tell You Why America’s “Shipping Crisis” Will Not End.

This is another example of capitalism failing badly. When you read this article note that none of the involved players has an incentive to solve their part of the problem and that they are sitting back waiting for “government” to step in and pay for the needed changes.

This is another example of capitalism failing badly.

This is not the first occasion of this happening. Take our electrical grid, for example. Analyses going back decades state that it is a shambles compared to what we need and that it constitutes a strategic weakness, that is a political bad actor, expending little in the way of resources, could bring the grid down for days or weeks, crippling our economy. None of the component parts of the system, however want to pay for upgrading their segment as it will be expensive, so they are sitting back, waiting for federal funding for the needed upgrades.

And, I suppose you haven’t notice the state mobilizing to repair the bridges, roads, and whatnot under their oversight. No? Neither have I.

Investing large amounts of funds in infrastructure is not something any corporation is interested in now, because there are no incentives for doing so.

So, the next time you hear someone extolling the magical benefits of capitalism, you might want to ask them about a few of these “issues” for which capitalism’s only response is to pretend it is socialism.

October 27, 2021

New Name for Facebook? Suggestions Anyone?

Filed under: Business — Steve Ruis @ 11:38 am
Tags: , , , ,

How about:
Fuckface
Face the Music
AboutFace
AssholesAnonymous
Neverland
FuckZuck
Faceplant
Facepalm
WeAreSellingYou!
GWOT (for Giant Waste of Time)

And you?

October 21, 2021

Why It Is Better to Be Pissed Off than Pissed On

We possess emotions that were designed to have short-term effects. Stretching them out over long periods of time can have very detrimental effects. This is why I think “happiness” is a bad goal. Happiness is a transitory emotion, not meant to be long-term.

Another emotion designed for the short-term is fear. When we are fearful, we get what is called the “fight or flight” response. We gear up to fight or to run away. But that was never meant to be a long-term effect. A lesson in this comes from human pre-history. When you compare human beings to other predators we come up short, way short. We do not possess speed, like cheetahs, or power like lions and wolves, or the vision and razor sharp talons of an eagle, etc. But we have a super power and that is stamina. We often hunted using this evolutionary advantage. We would, in a small group of hunters, spook our prey, which would run away, but just a short distance. Then we would follow that animal, spooking it again and again, until finally, the poor animal is nervously and physically exhausted from being in this fight or flight situation too long. Occasionally a hunter could walk up to the quivering animal and slit its throat or spears or arrows could easily bring the animal down.

Fear is a powerful emotion and so is anger, again one not intended for long-term use. Both of these emotions are “in the news” because they are playing a role in our politics. The elites running this country for their own personal gain are ruining any chance of us forming a more perfect union. They are very wealthy and have a great deal of power because of that wealth. They are few and we are many which makes them far easier to organize than us, so our power of numbers is muted.

To overcome this handicap, we need righteous anger . . . “I am mad as Hell and I won’t take it anymore!” . . . to get us off of our couches and into the streets. But the elites are prepared for this. They promote fear and anger as if they were daily specials at the supermarket. Fear of Critical Race Theory indoctrinating our students; anger over the stolen election; fear of Muslims, fear of immigrants (legal and otherwise); anger over losing job securities, heck losing jobs.

The result of all of these fears and angers is that we all are experiencing the fatigue of prolonged emotions along these lines. Because of that fatigue we can’t get it, righteous anger, up or if we can, it doesn’t last. And those damned wealthy elites are in the process of politically cutting our throats.

We must stop being riled at the latest “outrage,” (Outrage over Mr. Potato Head for Pete’s sake!) and stick to the agenda. The oligarchs running this country are trying to control you and our governmental process. Whether you are a liberal or conservative is irrelevant. Whether you dwell in the country or a city is irrelevant. Whether you are for or against gun control, abortion, or whatever, is irrelevant. You must learn to discern those fronting for the wealthy elites and oppose them and not be distracted by side issues. If we do not, well the next time we meet will be on the dinner table of the fucking elites.

October 18, 2021

Fixing Our Broken Society

The Great Experiment in Democracy that this country represents was focused upon its citizens living as citizens and not subjects. Unbeknownst to most of us, we have failed in that experiment. Currently the vast majority of us could be classified as subjects, subjects of corporations.

But, you say, you don’t work for a corporation, so how could that be. It be because of the corporations making all of the rules by which you exist in society. It is clear that the rich have captured our legislatures, our courts, the guts of our political structures. Nothing the rich do not like happens, period. Now, when you think of the rich, you make think of what is called “old money,” money handed down generation to generation. The Koch brothers, Donald Trump, the Kennedys, the Rockefellers, etc. While these people do exist, the vast majority of the rich now are corporation executives. By pooling their money, they have bought off politicians in sufficient numbers to control the actions of our federal government and state houses. Corporations control our news media, our social media, our commerce (Amazon delivers in Hell, don’t you know).

Want our government to make voting easier? Not going to happen. Want our government to enforce the gun laws on the books? Ain’t gonna happen. Want fewer wars? Ain’t gonna happen. (The Afghan War lasted twenty years with no discernable objective, either met or progress made toward. The objective was billions and billions of dollars of defense contracts.)

So, what is wrong?

Well, it would be nice if representatives of citizens were back in the driver’s seat, rather than corporatist representatives. And there are some things we can do to make that so. Right now the middle class is being ground under the heel of the corporatists, who like high unemployment as it keeps wages down and these same people have been transferring the tx burden of government off of their corporations and onto the general population. (The poor pay few taxes, and the rich are avoiding taxes, so guess who pays the bulk of the taxes?) It seems everyone is okay with the pay-as-you-go culture we have created, but collectively there are really only two ways you can fairly support such a system. Either every citizen is given minimally adequate shelter, food, utilities, healthcare, etc. as a right of citizenship (and then anything else needs to be worked for) or every job has to pay what is called a living wage, enough to pay for those things mentioned previously. If the minimum wage of the 1960’s had be adjusted for worker productivity since then it would be near $22-24 per hour which is near a living wage (what constitutes a living wage depends on local conditions, urban New York City and rural Oklahoma have different costs of living, for example).

Both of these structures address the current failure of our systems, the loss of anyone, anyone at all, representing the common good. Everyone now represents the interests of some group, but no one represents the interests of us all, usually referred to as the “common good.”

The idea of the common good, like the ideas of unearned income and many more terms, have been driven our of our discourse by the corporatists who are just looking to advantage themselves above everyone else. As a military example, think of a battlefield general who doesn’t make sure that his troops are well-fed, well-rested, and well-motivated. If all that general is interested in is promotions, those may happen by sucking up to those higher up the ladder, but if you want to win battles, troops need to be fed, trained, supplied with weapons and ammunition, etc. For the common good of that general’s army, the people “at the bottom of the influence range” must be taken care of by those at the top,

Currently the corporatists at the top do not give a rats ass about those at the bottom. These are seen as the great unwashed. Their pet economists see worker education and support as a cost undermining profits, rather than an investment in future capacity. Workers are things to be sold off, turned into robots, gotten rid off as soon as possible. Corporations do not see themselves as a functioning segment of society, providing good jobs and benefits to citizens in exchange for their productivity which allows the corporation to prosper. And by providing those jobs, they are doing what they should. Instead the corporations have been turned over to management types who have been sold the bogus idea that the corp’s only obligation is to the shareholders, not to their community, or society at large, nope, nada, zip, zilch.

This did not happen by accident. Corporations used to have goals of being a contributing member of their communities and society as a whole, recognized workers as stakeholders in the corporation, etc. A few corporations still do, but for each of those, there are dozens that only do such “do-gooder” things as PR ploys to maintain a good image.

And, not being able to get the last word in my own post . . .

From nakedcapitalism.com (10-15-21)

“ . . . Taken together with mass resignations, such worker strikes reveal a deep dissatisfaction with the nature of American work that has been decades in the making. Corporate America has enjoyed a stranglehold over policy, spending its profits on lobbying the government to ensure even greater profits at the expense of workers’ rights. At the same time, the power of unions has fallen—a trend directly linked to increased economic inequality.

But now, as workers are flexing their power, corporate America is worried.

In the wake of these strikes and resignations, lawmakers are actively trying to strengthen existing federal labor laws. Business groups are lobbying Democrats to weaken pro-labor measures included in the Build Back Better Act that is being debated in Congress.

Currently, corporate employers can violate labor laws with little consequence as the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) lacks the authority to fine offenders. But Democrats want to give the NLRB the authority to impose fines of $50,000 to $100,000 against companies who violate federal labor laws. Also included in the Build Back Better Act is an increase in fines against employers that violate Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards.

October 2, 2021

Business is In It For Itself

According to Diane Ravitch’s blog:

“Conservative groups are funding protests against ‘critical race theory.’ Now we learn, thanks to investigative reporting by the Washington Post that the rightwing libertarian Koch network is funding parent protests against mask mandates. Billionaire Charles Koch has blood on his hands by supporting and encouraging parent opposition to mask mandates in schools.”

If you are at all confused as to why the Koch Billionaire Network would do such a thing, consider that our corporatist citizens have conducted a class war over the past 50 years and have captured the reins of government. They did this because they have eliminated all other opposition to their actions (labor unions, church movements, youth crusades, etc.) and the only entity with enough power to stand in their way to do anything they damn well please is governments, so they had to be brought to heel, too, and they were.

The mechanism of bringing government to heel has been bribery and bullshit, to put it simply. Any issue that divides us and makes us less likely to engage in collective action, is a plus as far as the anti-government billionaire boys are concerned. True or bullshit doesn’t really matter, as long as it is divisive. Then they bribe our public officials to vote the way they wish. In our current politics, you will see a few congress people blocking the whole megillah. If you look at who is bribing them, er, making campaign donations to them, you will see why they are voting that way. The billionaires do not have to bribe all of them, just a few weak, immoral ones is all it takes. Keep us divided and then bribe the voting gap. It has worked like a charm.

Until we see the real game being played, we will continue to lose. As they say, if you have been sitting at the poker table for fifteen minutes and you haven’t identified the fish . . . it is you.

September 16, 2021

Fact or Fiction: The United States Are Controlled by Satan-Worshiping Pedophiles Who Run a Global Child Sex-Trafficking Operation?

This sounds like a SNL skit or an article for The Onion, but according to a newly released survey, 15 percent of Americans agree with the false premise central to the QAnon movement that government, media, and financial worlds in the United States are controlled by Satan-worshiping pedophiles who run a global child sex-trafficking operation.

The finding is contained in a Public Religion Research Institute study released last Thursday based on interviews of more than 5,000 U.S. adults in March.

Polling that relies on agree/disagree questions can overstate the extent to which respondents actually hold such beliefs, but the survey nevertheless underscores that the allegations of the QAnon movement have been embraced by a significant number of Americans.

In the survey, 23 percent of Republicans agreed with the statement. By contrast, 8 percent of Democrats and 14 percent of independents agreed with the statement.

Well, those data would be concerning if you assumed that the respondents are serious. Currently I do not.

Americans currently contain a large component which wishes to throw a monkey wrench into “the system” as it currently is, and that system includes the all too haughty polls conduced by “pollsters.”

For example, I feel that political polls turn our elections into contests, the most used term is “into horse races.” Consequently when I receive a phone call or an email message asking for me to share my opinions, I decline. “Thanks, I don’t do polls.”

A less passive response would be to answer their questions and give the most effed-up responses one could dream up and this is what I think is going on.

This is, I suspect, in response to the government using lies and propaganda to “control the population” to the point that it has little to no credibility left.

Take the UFO issue as an example. We now know that the government/military set up programs to obfuscate, lie, and mislead the public over and over and over. When this was finally admitted, was anyone really surprised? Were you surprised?

The lying has become so brazen that politicians will say one thing yesterday and the opposite today and when this is pointed out to them, they shrug “Fake news!” We’ve been getting gaslighted by our own government for so long it no longer causes outrage or even draws comment.

The Apostle Paul vehemently said, in his own writings (we think), that “I am not a liar!” Apparently back then, being a liar had consequences. Now it seems to be only a qualification for becoming a politician.

Footnote on Irony It is now recognized that fear is the strongest lever in the propagandist’s toolbox. So, why was the lame excuse used in all of those UFO sightings, that the public wasn’t ready for the truth. I can’t think of any better lever for the ruling class to use than the fear of aliens. Turning human politicians into “Satan-worshiping pedophiles who run a global child sex-trafficking operation” seems peanuts compared to what one could claim to be the “alien threat.” Imagine the fears: They eat human babies! (They must be atheists.) They claim to have proof that their gods exist! They want to move here! They are fleeing a way more powerful alien species! Their penises are enormous and their sexual appetite for human girls is unbounded! . . . and on and on.

Controlling that narrative would be easy. The “authorities” could spend money up the yin-yang to deal with the alien threat. Military contractors would be sending their neighbor’s kids to prestigious colleges, they would be so “rolling in it.”

Funny they didn’t think of that then, but maybe their new “transparency” on the issue is just the first salvo in such a campaign, finding that the old levers aren’t as effective as they once were.

September 2, 2021

GOP Crocodile Tears Over Taliban Haul of US-Built Military Equipment

There hasn’t been this much hand wringing and pearl clutching in the GOP since the Mr. Potato Head controversy! The Taliban collected a massive haul of U.S.-built military equipment, owned by the Afghanistan government, by the way, not us, and the Republicans are losing their minds. We have just equipped our enemy with the latest and greatest war-making equipment! Argh!

Calm down, idiots. I know it is a struggle, but do try to put your thinking caps on first. (You have to take the dunce caps off first, otherwise the thinking caps won’t fit.)

Now, we were quite unsuccessful in training the Afghans in their army (ex-army?) on how to use this “modern” equipment. What makes you think the Taliban are going to master the intricacies of that equipment being trained by the people who didn’t learn about it in the first place?

But, okay, let’s say the Taliban found instruction manuals on the Internet, had them translated into Pashto, Dari, Uzbek, Turkmen, Balochi, Pashayi, Hazaragi, and Nuristani and have taught themselves how to use that equipment. The other thing to consider is these things were made by Americans for our own American military, consequently they were built around the primary American construction principle of planned obsolescence. They are going to need repair technicians, spare parts, and a lot of ingenuity to keep that stuff running, even in the short term. I assume you noticed the Taliban are using AK-47s as their basic field rifle. The reason for this is that they still work, even though that rifle was designed in 1947. So many were sold and are still available, along with spare parts, that they can be depended upon for many more years. Think Taliban-owned Abrams tanks will still be working in two years? in one year? I don’t think so. How about fighter jets? (Right. . . . )

Basically, Afghanistan is not a threat to the U.S. or our allies and would not be a threat if we flat out ignored it. What . . . but, but, but won’t they train terrorists? Maybe, but they don’t exactly have the best terrorist training facilities. Theirs are certainly not anywhere near as good as Pakistan’s or Saudi Arabia’s. The 9/11 group apparently did most of their planning and training in Germany.

Terrorists don’t need Afghanistan as a training site and Afghanistan has real problems it needs to address. Outside of opium traffic, Afghanistan doesn’t have an economy. The best it can do is to allow its citizens to create subsistence livings and even that is going to be difficult. As the U.S. was pumping billions of dollars into their economy over the past twenty years, the population exploded. I doubt whether subsistence farming or herding can support a population that large, which means there is trouble ahead for any Afghan government. There is no tourism, native industries, native crops (other than opium poppies), mining opportunities that translate into population-wide prosperity. Every country that has tried to extract minerals or other natural resources from Afghanistan has found out the reality. There is no government per se. You “negotiate” with local “officials” (aka warlords) and strike a deal for which there are no courts to enforce it nor any police to protect it and your assets. You are at the mercy of the demands of the locals and if you complain too much, they will just take your operation over. So, how many resource extraction companies are lined up to get them some of that, do you think?

I think the Afghanis have earned to right to be left alone and I think we need to carry that to an extreme. Leave . . . them . . . alone . . . and allow them to create whatever society they wish without foreign help or interference. There is no danger, other than that we create by meddling.

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