An Open China

The long-awaited move has come. Chinese President Xi Jinping has asked the nation’s top political body to amend the “Basic Law” or constitution to allow him to stay for a third five-year term.

The wave of protests in response was anticipated, but still extraordinary. It is China, after all, and the authoritarian government does not allow protests – except when it does. Xi’s action has setup a showdown of sorts in a nation which has experienced more cultural turmoil than perhaps any other and still retained a Confucian sense of order.

But can that last, or is this the start of something different?

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Hero Worship

The days are shorter and the wind bites cold. This is the time of year for transition, from outward to inward, at least among boreal people in the middle of a vast continent. The endless possibilities of summer have closed down and the time comes for reflection.

That’s what the holidays, starting with Thanksgiving, are really all about. America always has a lot to be thankful for but at the same time much to consider on a day apart. One of these is our public discourse and values, soon to be practiced around a large table for many people. Why do we place so much value on a hero who will save us? Why do we place so little faith in our own ability to make things better?

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Casualties of War

“The first casualty when war comes is the truth.”
– Sen Hiram Johnson (R-CA) (1917)

As Barataria has noted before, the United States appears to be at war. This war, primarily with Putin’s Russia, is a new kind of war with weaponized disinformation and division.

It is important to note, however, that the US is far from the only target, nor is it entirely innocent. More critically there are actors within the US who are exploiting the war for their own benefit – a new kind of war profiteering for a new kind of war. It is easy to compare this to McCarthyism, but the implications are potentially more vast.

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Banks Amok? Perhaps Not

The Greek Crisis has everyone nervous, and for good reasons. If this is what happens when a nation hits a financial crisis people around the world have to reasonably ask, “Are we next?” Every nation on this planet is deep into debt, although few are as bad off as Greece.

A lot of national debt is a threat to the world we live in for two related but distinct reasons. The first is that a nation loses the ability to make its own decisions and operate as a legitimate sovereign nation – which, in the case of democracies, means a de facto taking of power by creditors at the expense of the people. The second is that a large debt load has to be serviced by the government somehow which ultimately is a drain on the economy, reducing the standard of living and generally hurting personal opportunities.

With all this debt floating around causing so much pain it’s best to look at who holds it and how the world can get a handle on it.

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Scalia Scowls – Take Notice

The Supreme Court has released a number of opinions, and it’s been a tough week for conservatives. Most of the focus has been on the big political fights – federal subsidy for state “Obamacare” exchanges was upheld and marriage equity is the law of the land in all fifty states. It was the latter that gave us the most blistering dissent from Justice Scalia:

“A system of government that makes the people subordinate to a committee of nine unelected lawyers does not deserve to be called a democracy,” he wrote in one of the more coherent statements in his dissent.

But another ruling, striking down part of the Federal “Three Strikes” law, illustrates judicial activism even more clearly. All of this begs the question as to where Scalia’s logic was in the “Citizens United” ruling in 2012 that declared corporations to be people, too. There is judicial activism, yes, but it’s more about filling in the gaps left by years of a completely dysfunctional Congress. Someone has to be the adults – even one branch of government has to endure Scalia’s sometimes childish ranting.

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A New Generation’s Time

“A person who is not a liberal in their youth has no heart, but a person who is not a conservative by middle age has no brain.”
Attributions and variations attributed to many people, including Disraeli, Churchill, and Burke

Sen Bernie Sanders (I-VT) isn’t given much of a chance to become president by anyone, including his supporters. He isn’t photogenic and he isn’t a charismatic orator. But he has an appeal among many voters, particularly those with less than a third his 73 years of life. How did this come about, and why are so many people dissatisfied with the nominee apparent, Sec. Clinton?

The answer appears to come in the definition of what we call “generations” – a concept that actually has more to do with the economic and social climate someone is born into and nothing to do with their parents. This may tell us something about the rate of social change we can expect in the next few years, too, as this depression finally ends and opportunities open up for young people.

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Cabinet Government

There are basically two types of Democratic-Republics in the world – Parliamentary, or a Prime Minister led government, and a strong President based system.  Hybrids of various kinds involving monarchs and other systems with varying degrees of power abound, but every democratically elected government in the world falls into one of these categories.  The person who shows up at the international conferences has one of these titles.

But is that the only way to go?  The situation in Egypt, among other places, has led me to wonder if there is some way a nation with a history and tradition of strong leadership might do better under a system of more than one nationally elected leader with defined roles and a real balance of power between them.  I call it an “Elected Cabinet”, and the inspiration comes from the laboratories of democracy, the US States.

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