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What is Our Government?

On the gap between the plan of America and its reality.

It’s a hard question, because history requires a lot of context and it often contradicts itself because mankind has been long confused and remains so. And I don’t write very long pieces on here.

Suffice it to say our government, under any president, any congress, and any judiciary, is imperfect. At times it has been less imperfect, and others, more. It has been a government ignorant of many problems, working according to a set of mostly amoral principles in opposition to the rhetoric and design of its founding. And when a problem came to light, it was promised it would be solved, with mixed results and a pattern of amnesia. In other words, a nation of humans behaving as humans.

The American government was founded on two basic ideas:

  1. Inalienable rights to enshrine individual (and therefore collective) liberty.
  2. Government designed with an immune system to defend itself against the corrupting spirits of power. (Commonly called separation of powers.)

But per expectations, the corrupting spirits ever since have tried to undermine good governance, and often they have succeeded. But they have never succeeded in demolishing that foundational belief that such corruptions should be beat back, wherever they arise. And so, despite evil’s triumphs, it remains an endangered species in the halls of true democracy.

Which brings us to now, with something larger-than-reasonable portion of the country inviting evil to nest in Liberty’s bosom, for various reasons. The reasons are varied. Some are outright corrupt, but many are merely misled, putting some pet issue ahead of their common sense.

And the rest is most of us, determined that liberty shall give no quarter to corruption. But this majority of us, we know that the wicked do lurk in lobbying lunches, in contract bids, in packed courts. We know that the tarnish on the foundation is hard to scrub, that anti-labor actors and anti-suffrage politicians ever do try to build that nest.

So America is both things at once. There is America, the plan. The plan to build a nation inhospitable to the corrupt. A plan that flexible government responsive to the people would make good choices and learn from its mistakes. And there is America, the reality. The reality that corruption has festered, allowing all of us to be inundated with robo-calls from scammers, with bum deals where taxes aren’t balanced, all these petty problems that trip us up. And those small problems bring bigger ones, like our inability to deal with people being abused and even killed by the justice system, or our failures to act swiftly to stop climate change.

And every election, we must vote against reality. We must vote for the plan. To make America an eyesore to the corrupt. To make the enemies of liberty, those who feed off of neglect and indifference, feel unwelcome and foreign in our lands. Those who would apply pricing formulae to suck as much money out of diabetic persons, or who would take for a ride the family of the incarcerated, who just want to say “Merry Christmas” pay through the nose for that luxury.

All around these forces work against us. In many cases, we ourselves are enlisted by them in one industry as we curse them in every other. But it’s no way to live. The plan rejects it. The plan says to hell with it and fuck that noise. There’s a better way. To elect those who will regulate, who will watch and act to stop pollution, to educate children, to mend those who commit crimes so they will make our nation stronger. People who will help us all extinguish our prejudices and bad ideas, while raising up our moments of humanity and our smart thoughts.

We have the plan, we just have to keep rehearsing, working out the kinks, and be mindful of the gap between the plan and the reality, and make sure we remember which is which. We have to remember the one we want to see happen.

Realignment of Police Responsibilities

On the benefits of shifting what police do for communities.

What passes for defund is really a mixture of policies around policing and other responsibilities. If the police have to be ready for a dozen different calls, they can’t be very prepared for any one of them. They have to be versatile, and that means giving up on specialization.

If you don’t know if the weather tomorrow will be rainy, snowy, or hot and sunny, when you go out you’ll need three different hats. Knowing the weather and dressing for it is a luxury that the police currently do not have, due to overloading them with too many different tasks.

Instead, realigning policing means:

  1. Police aren’t the first responder for as many situations.
  2. Police will often take on a supporting role, rather than lead.
  3. The police can specialize more as other organizations take over some of their current responsibilities. This should make the job of police safer and steadier.

The recent Black Lives Matter protests give a good working example for how policing should be reworked. Instead of having the police be the front-line response to protesting, communities could have folks employed specifically to coordinate and work with protests. The new function would be able to observe and listen to protesters without being the face of violence or force, and so that already would reduce tension.

Throughout the opioid crisis, police have had to administer anti-narcotic-shock drugs to revive people (though, many other community servants have also been put in that position). There needs to be a dedicated civic health response, which is something that requires healthcare reforms. Involving the police complicates the health response, because they have a duty to enforce the broken drug laws, and the drug users have good reasons to seek to avoid interacting with police.

The reimagining of policing is often about shifting the social landscape around policing so that the community is safer—and the police are part of the community that is made safer through changes.

These changes will go hand-in-hand with reducing criminalization, which will lead to lower institutionalized populations. Overpopulation of prisons and jails makes the job of guards harder, as density, per se, endangers the orderly operation of those facilities.


A longstanding hope of mine has been for self-driving cars to become a reality, so that police wouldn’t have to write traffic tickets. Black folks wouldn’t be pulled over as much, and policing would shift as a result. With self-driving cars, there will still be stops, but they will be nonpretextual. They will be situations where authorities get a call that something wrong happened. If the problem fits in the narrowed police jurisdiction, they would still respond. If it fits in to a different jurisdiction, then the other authority would respond. It’s among many reasons that government should be investing more heavily in accelerating self-driving.

That’s the kind of innovation that we need. The average duty of police is very much a rollercoaster of adrenaline and downtime. It’s not a healthy way to live—jumping from all-out to tumbleweeds and back. One of my hopes is that as policing is realigned, part of that shift will involve the police workers themselves gaining new light-duty roles for half of their work hours. Giving them more opportunities to experience the community in an engaged, non-aggressive task would do a lot to help heal their own traumas and smooth out that rollercoaster.


The election is in 20 weeks. Please do enroll to vote if you haven’t yet.

Not a War–a Fire.

A fire is a better metaphor for pandemics than a war.

Lots of metaphors around these days. Fire is one of the better ones. Fire spreads; disease spreads. Fire is dangerous; disease is dangerous.

War doesn’t spread the same way, though its devastation does. It’s more targeted. It is man-made.

Nobody says, “Let’s let the fire burn, we can’t shut the economy down because of a little fire.” Good people don’t offer up grandparents in immolation.


The administration’s response to the fire, to the disease, has not been good. It has gotten marginally better, but threatens to get worse again. The response, and the disease. Which is the big problem with letting a big-time loser direct the fire department. Not good.

Places that do not heed the basic rule of fire safety—deprive it of fuel—will be scorched worse than those places that do. For a disease, human contact is spreading the embers to new fuel.

With developed diseases, like influenza, we have vaccines. That’s a controlled burn or a fire break. Sets some distance. People still get flu, but we try to make it harder for that particular fire to spread. With this new fire, it will take time to develop a vaccine. So we have to spread the fuel apart—social distancing.


As with fire, this disease will spread to any fuel it can reach. Different houses will burn differently. Some will be spared, others will collapse. These are human lives we’re talking about.

You don’t reopen until the fire has abated, until it’s under control. You don’t mess around with fire. Places that do will, with high probability, get burned. Already, due to Donald John Trump’s errors of judgment, more are sick than should be. And some probably getting sick because of his unfounded optimism. All these Republicans who have downplayed the threat, and their counter-culture media drones, they’re fanning the fucking flames. Morons.


Anyway, stay safe out there. Be thankful for the mail carriers, the doctors, the grocery workers, and, yes, the firefighters. Right now they’re all firefighters.

Donald John Trump is a firebug. Don’t listen to his lies. His job is to make sure all those firefighters are equipped, and that we’re doing all we can to stop the spread, but he’s not. That’s a failure.


As a side note, the term shelter-in-place refers to an immediate stoppage of nonessential movement during an acute emergency. Basically, during a shelter-in-place situation, unless the danger to you is greater where you are than the risk of moving, you shouldn’t. It applies to wherever you happen to be at the time of the order.

The orders being issued aren’t correctly described as shelter-in-place. They are stay-at-home. Nobody expects someone to start living out of their local gas station if that’s where they are right now. During a real shelter-in-place, one would be expected to stay at the gas station until the immediate danger had abated and the order lifted.