Polycentric Wanderings

Keith's random and sundry thoughts on the challenges of working together.

Ideological Impairment: Misinterpreting the Hobby Lobby Backlash

“Reason” Magazine recently posted this question to their blog

Why is the Left Not Cheering For a Mom’s Right to Keep Her Meager Subsidies?

I’ve been amazed at how blind the libertarian right is to the inherent sexism in the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling. Yes, there is a partial element of general society (not just the left… I know, I know, hard to grasp for these types) that wants this provided in their health care. But the big backlash is the gendered element, in which the Supreme Court and the family values-types seem to primarily go after programs which benefit women while turning a blind eye toward those programs which benefit men. 

In light of this, it’s laughable how the libertarian right and the right generally have a hard time understanding why they can’t attract women, en masse. Ideology truly does impair the capabilities for self reflection.


Google’s Larry Pages says government spying is a threat to American democracy.

Google’s Larry Pages says government spying is a threat to American democracy.

Ok, I certainly nod my head with ’em.  But what about Google?  Note that Page goes on to say:

It is sad that Google is in the position of protecting you and our users from the government doing secret things nobody knows about. It doesn’t make any sense.

Google is your protector from all things covert, by the government?  Not so fast.

Google is one of the world’s wealthiest, largest, and most influential corporations (market cap? $400 billion).  Googles takes on about 67% of global online search traffic, and is constantly integrating its services to links users to their data.  Further, Google has an aggressive acquisitions strategy which promises to reduce the field of competitors and -what’s worse- encourage startups to develop new products and services for the purposes of being bought out for big bucks.

Couple this with Google’s documented coordination with the NSA (it’s not as if Google has been kicking and screaming against the NSA; Google -to my mind- has remained complicit to aspects of the US’s spying program).  You have a major corporate that is centralizing products and services, stymieing entrepreneurship, and granting access to what may be an oppressive spy regime.  

Can we honestly say that government is the only threat to democracy?  Corporate power seems pretty alarming, too.

Fox is outraged about the debt!

Fox is outraged about the debt!

…so cut foodstamps.  

FoxNews desperately wants to avoid being seen as attacking the poor.  Yet where is the discussion of big, more bloated government programs?  Foreign policy (State and Defense Departments)?  Bailing out the banks (trillions)?  Or if you believe in civil liberties, why not gut the security/spy state?

Foodstamps.  Priority one.  Everything else that takes a serious bite out of the budget is off the table.  

This demonstrates the it isn’t about the debt.  It’s ideology.  

Missed Opportunities

Recent news reports have Democrats giving up on retaking the House, while trying to maintain the Senate in an effort to keep Obama’s Presidency from being a complete failure.

Remember the polling during the government shutdown?  The Democrats were positioned to retake the House and Senate.  Too bad for the Democrats they lobbed a fat softball at the Republicans: the HealthCare.gov debacle, which effectively erased all gains from the shutdown.  

It has to be really depressing to be a rabid partisan these days.  

The problem of “politicial intel”

Thank God this isn’t a post about political intelligence, but intel.

It turns out that the game of micro-targeting voters has become quite a lucrative business.  And it makes sense for political candidates seeking to maximize their time and voter turnout.

The problem is that market and bureaucratic logic penetrate the game (the game being elections).  This  ends up in a game of lazy democracy wherein citizens are reduced to quantifiable units (voters) mobilized to vote every other November, with no real engagement of the public will.

Personally, I would love to see the system reformed in some manner that limits the amount of micro-targeting allowed by political candidates.  I think it would push candidates to reach out to a broader swath of the citizenry.

The reality is that electoral reform is nice in theory, but when we count on those subject to the rules (candidates) to make the rules (also lawmakers), we shouldn’t be surprised that electoral reform has by and large been a miserable failure.

Why aren’t we talking about expanding democracy?

Recently, Colorado passed a bill allowing for vote-by-mail.  As one could predict, the state GOP is apoplectic over voter fraud.  A number of studies have rejected the concern of voter fraud, yet the narrative persists.

I think this is a great step forward for democracy, but it ain’t much.  As best as possible, we need to move beyond mere voting, and into public participation for the provision of public goods.  But the discourse needs to radically shift.  In order to maintain and advance our democracy, we need a public dialogue on the subject.

It is not something I expect to see for quite a while.  Or at the very least stemming from government politicians.

Automatic Voter Registration Only A Recent Idea…

Oregon’s Secretary of State is pushing hard to make Oregon the first state in the nation with “automatic” voter registration (I use quotation marks because the system automates when you get your drivers license). 

The United States has a proud history of being a democratic republic.  This is an idea whose time is looooooong overdue, if we are to truly keep advancing the meaning of democracy.

When Gun Rights Become Farce

The NRA line since the 2008 Presidential campaign has been “the government is going to take your guns!”  Reasonable assessment of all of the policy proposals up until this point shows this not to be the case, at all.  But the heightened rhetoric has pushed some gun (“rights”) advocates over the edge. 

Take for example this small Georgia town.  Barring the numerous legal exemptions, the city council has mandated that every one of the 1500 citizens must own a gun and ammunition. 

I have a question.  If one has a “right,” must they use it?  Do we not limit freedom when that “freedom” is forced upon people?  Is there not a place for rights to go unused if one chooses? 

Me thinks this city council hasn’t given that much thought.

Greek Neo-Nazi Group Going Global

Greek Neo-Nazi Group Going Global

I am not one to take the desires of supremacist groups lightly.  People should be concerned, and they should mobilize to tamp this down in their backyard.  More importantly, we need to be working outside of our communities to help whenever such violence-prone groups infiltrate another community.

We will see more of these groups.  Public policy centralized in the hands of failing governments means popular discontent.  If one part of civil society does not rise up in this vacuum to create something better (co-operatives, I say), then another darker part of civil society will rise up and attempt to gain control over centralized power. 

We all bear a burden in this era.  No way around it. 


Love this. I went to a Starbucks. Two major marketing pushes on their “green” products. Yet look at their trash bins. No recycle bins either. Staff told me they dump AT LEAST 12 trash bags a day, most of it recyclable. Good reason why people continue to be cynical of the motives of big business.