Wednesday, November 16, 2016

How Much Did Each Vote Cost?

Without a doubt, 2016 will go down as one of the most unique and surprising elections in American history. With the votes now counted, we can start to ask the question, how much did each candidate pay for your vote?

(NOTE: the final financial reports won't be available until Jan. 31, 2017. As such, the figures for the 2016 election only represent what is known at this time, and the final amounts raised by each campaign will end up being higher. However, I don't foresee the proportion of cost-per-vote between candidates to vary much beyond what it already is.)

The billionaire won the election against a well entrenched establishment candidate, and both of them struggled to gain a few percentages over one another in scattered states while two lesser known candidates vied for the nation's top job as well. But before we look at the results of 2016, let's review the previous two election cycles.

In 2008, you had veteran politician (and military veteran) Republican Sen. John McCain go up against a relative new comer, Sen. Barack Obama. For the entire 2008 cycle, $1,681,000,000 was raised. The Democratic Party raised a little over $1 billion of that, while the Republican raised $606 million. In terms of the two nominees, Obama out-raised McCain, $748 million to $351 million.

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This means that Obama spent $10.76 per vote and McCain spent $5.85 per vote. Overall, 32.5% of all funds came from donations of $200 or less. The top bracket of donations made up 22.2%.

The 2012 election was less expensive, with $1,325,000,000 raised. Once again, the Republican Party nominee was out-raised, $772 million to Romney's $450 million. The Libertarian and Green parties also raised millions. The Libertarian Party's candidate, Gary Johnson, raised $2.8 million and Jill Stein of the Green Party raised $1.2 million. Overall, 46.8% of all funds came from donations of $200 or less. The top bracket of donations made up 26%.

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In terms of $ per vote: Obama spent $11.71/vote, Romney spent $7.38/vote, Johnson spent $2.19/vote, and Stein spent $2.55/vote.

This brings us to 2016.

2016 was the year of money, with both main candidates having a net worth of over $200 million for the first time in American history. This year's election was supposed to be the most expensive ever, with over $2 billion raised through direct campaign and party channels. The reality was a bit different. While there were countless millions (some say billions) worth of "free media" spent on Hillary and Trump (in terms of covering their full speeches, campaign stops etc.), the real figure will likely never be known. What is known is what the law requires. According to the FEC, $1.3 billion was raised by all candidates by the end of the October reporting quarter. (Remember, the total amounts won't be released until 2017)

Hillary Clinton raised $498 million, while billionaire Donald Trump raised $248 million (of that, $56 million came from Trump himself). Gary Johnson raised $11.2 million (the most for a 3rd party candidate since Ross Perot in 1992) and Jill Stein raised $3.5 million. Overall, 55.4% of all funds came from donations of $200 or less. The top bracket of donations made up 23%.

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The cost-per-votes are: $7.97 for Clinton, $4.04 for Trump, $2.61 for Johnson, and $2.67 for Stein. 

I also want to look at the primaries. Clinton raised $328.6 million by the end of July while Bernie Sanders raised $236.5 million. Clinton received 16.9 million primary votes, Sanders 13.2 million. This equals $19.44/vote for Hillary and $17.91/vote for Sanders.

On the Republican side, Trump's main rival was Sen. Ted Cruz. By the end of July, Trump had raised $128 million and Cruz raised $92.8 million. Trump won slightly over 14 million votes for a cost-per-vote of $9.14, and Cruz had a cost of $11.98/vote with 7.8 million votes.

This election had a turnout rate of 53.6% which was the lowest voter turnout since the 2000 Bush/Gore election (which also resulted in the winner losing the popular vote). In terms of overall vote count, it's similar to the 2004 election of Bush/Kerry.

What does all of this mean? Simply spending huge sums of money is no guarantee of winning an election. I think it definitely goes a long way towards dispelling the notion that you can "buy" a place in the Oval Office.

--Jacob Bogle, Nov. 16, 2016

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Are You Broken, Am I?

Having dealt with depression and dark periods off and on for many years, I have a special place in my heart for those who feel broken inside. People often ask, especially when dealing with younger people, “how can one so young be so broken?” It’s easy to write off moodiness or depression in teens as just a “phase” or simply being immature and seeking attention. Even I have off-handedly discounted the feelings of others. This was and is wrong.

The truth is, we are not born whole people. We’re born as basically blank slates. Sure, genetics will form a scaffolding, but it’s our environment and our internal search for identity and meaning that will ultimately form what we consider “whole” human beings. The reality is, when someone’s young and having strong emotional issues, it isn’t necessarily that they’re “broken,” they were never whole to begin with. And unless addressed, unless their lives and their reality are respected, that partially formed psyche will turn into an adult with a malformed sense of self; they will likely carry those scars and develop deeper problems.

The search for who we are can be relatively quick and easy or it might never form into a coherent and satisfying identity. Of course we never stop growing and changing, but those original seeds – the scaffolding and early development in childhood and adolescence – lingers on, coloring every aspect of ourselves until addressed and redressed. Whether the eventual outcome is positive or disastrous, we have to remember that the bulk of our self-identity, the source fount of confidence and strength, all have their roots in our youth. Both biologically and environmentally, whether we consciously recognize it or not, that period is what enables us to become healthy and whole adults, or stunts us long into old age. 

The reason teens, in particular, seem to be never endingly sullen while also having periods of wildly positive energy (often followed by a desire to crawl under rocks and disappear), is due to the fact that their mental ability to properly categorize feelings, assess correct responses, react to stimulus, etc., is still being developed. There’s an almost Autistic quality to life during this period, where you feel everything but don’t always know how to deal with it, and so you either overreact or you shut down. And this period of life, where one’s mind and emotions are caught up in some vortex with occasional times of being becalmed, is the time in which our lasting selves are forged. 

You are being formed but you are not yet fully formed. Within those cracks lie the seeds of depression that can sprout at any time. Absent trauma, the person isn’t broken, they’re struggling to become whole. But, without proper respect and assistance, those pieces may not find each other and can go on to be the roots of any number of problems. 

--Jacob Bogle, 7/3/2016

Sunday, June 26, 2016

Movie Review - Independence Day Resurgence


After 20 years, the long awaited sequel to Independence Day has arrived! Unfortunately, 20 years is also more than enough time to come up with tons of new ideas and then have to squeeze them into a single film.

There are a lot of different story lines and the audience doesn't get enough time with each one to actually become attached to the new characters nor to get swept up in the subplots. I feel it would have been better if Independence Day Resurgence had been a two-part film, giving us all the insights and action needed to understand the horrors and victories of the preceding twenty years, and making the set up for the alien's return much more easily understood - and its full implications more frightening. Additionally, the film tries too hard to be funny. It shouldn't be funny. We're all about to die! Some of the jokes are funny, and even the original had its share of comic relief, but Resurgence could have done with fewer.

Sadly, many of the cast members from the original film that appear in Resurgence only get brief on-screen time, making their scenes pointless to the film. Even more pointless was Judd Hirsch's ("Julius Levinson" - the father of Jeff Goldblum's character) role in the movie. While he added to the original film, his role in Resurgence is meaningless and does nothing to move the plot along (same goes for the rag-tag band of kids), although, perhaps the nice old Jewish guy Mr. Levinson does bring with him some pleasant nostalgia. 

The good news? The CGI is wonderful and the alien queen does bring to mind the original creepy feeling we all got the first time we laid eyes on her species. I'm always pleased whenever a sci-fi or fantasy film allows us to see the wider universe in which the story is being told, and we definitely get to see more of the alien's world and learn that there's a much wider tale behind the scenes. I was also glad that we got to see more of our own planet than just Washigton DC and Area 51. Oh, and considering the recent Brexit vote, I think more than a few Europeans will get a kick out of seeing the Burj Khalifa harpooning London.

Emmerich left the door wide-open for a further movie or two. Hopefully, we won't have to wait another 20 years and that 20th Century Fox learns from their mistakes. In the end, Independence Day Resurgence is a lot like Star Wars: The Force Awakens, it is both a sequel and a remake trying to introduce a new generation to a wider universe while praying to god that the original fans latch on and help carry the franchise forward. And as one of those original fans who saw Independence Day on the big screen back in 1997 (well, what parts my mother wasn't desperately trying to cover my eyes for), I do think Resurgence is a fun excursion, both back into memory and perhaps forward to a renewed franchise.

The Science Behind the Events - WARNING SPOILERS AHEAD

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First, yes, I know this is a science fiction movie. I know they all play fast and lose with physics, but it's still fun to think about, especially in this case. In the case of this movie, reality would be far, far worse than what the filmmakers had in store.

I'm one of those annoying people who, when I see something off, think (or say aloud), "it wouldn't happen like that!" So what really would happen if an alien harvester ship, 3,000 miles in diameter, came and landed on Earth?

In the movie, the aliens return with vengeance. They send one of their "harvester ships" to finally destroy life on the planet and suck out Earth's core. These vessels are massive. And in the movie, as the ship plows through the atmosphere and collides with mountains you do get to see a lot of really cool, er... terrible destruction, as well as some likely real-world consequences. A ship that size (wider than the Moon!) really would have its own gravitational pull and once it got close enough, the oceans would rise to meet it, ships and cars would fly through the air, and you would have a really bad day.

Side note. While I really did like seeing the Burj Khalifa smack into downtown London, there's zero way it would have survived the 3,400 mile journey - but I'm just nitpicking.

However. While it may be wider than the Moon, the ship isn't a 3,000 mile diameter sphere. It's a disk, maybe 50-60 miles high. Its gravity would be less than that of the Moon's, which as we recall from seeing the fake moon landings, is pretty easy to overcome. During the ship's intro to our world, we find Jeff Goldblum and Liam Hemsworth flying a "space-tug," trying to retrieve an object from a spacecraft we blew up from a totally different alien species. The giant harvester is bearing down, skidding across the Moon's surface and the little-tug-that-could finds itself unable to escape the craft's gravity. Wrong. 

We see these tugs flying back and forth from Moon to Earth, and Earth is definitely bigger than the harvester. If the tugs can escape Earth's gravity, they can certainly escape the alien ubercraft.

Next, we see the ship mowing down mountains and catching the atmosphere on fire. As we all know, when NASA's puny spacecraft re-enter the atmosphere, they glow and leave a trail of flame and smoke. The heat upon re-entry is enormous. So that's all correct. My problem is that as it manages to land, taking ever so much care not to crush our new White House, the fiery winds just seem to go away. Wrong.

We just had a small moon smack into the planet and turn Asia into a skid mark in a matter of moments. Our atmosphere is usually stacked up in nice layers: troposphere, stratosphere, that pesky ozone. The harvester has turned all of that into goop. Not only that, but it was plunging down on us at really high speeds. In reality, a massive pressure wave with insanely violent and tortured winds would have enveloped the planet. The ozone layer would have been dispersed, leaving us vulnerable to deadly radiation, and our otherwise breathable air would be turned into a toxic cloud of debris. The aliens wouldn't even have needed to fight us. Just land. We're all dead.

Additionally, the spaceship would need to be curved so that it could actually sit on the round surface of our dying world. This means that as it landed, the center of the ship that sat over the Atlantic with it's giant plasma drill, would have pushed all the air out from beneath it (along with a lot of water too from the air pressure) - so there wouldn't be any drunken treasure seekers left alive to help report on the alien's progress.

Side note. The equipment used on treasure hunting ships aren't exactly sensitive enough to be able to follow the progress of the "plasma drill" as it bore through tens of miles of crust.

Finally, I'm going back to gravity and weight. While it may not have the gravitational pull of the Moon, the ship does have some. It's also really fat. Once it landed it would have set off pretty much every fault line and volcano the world has to offer. The weight pushing down on its giant landing feet might likewise crack the crust beneath them. 

You may have heard that large earthquakes can alter the rotation of the Earth? Smacking that much weight onto the globe would also destabilize Earth's rotation. Not only would it slow us down, but it would knock us off balance. Given enough time, it would drag the Earth upside down. It would also screw with the Earth-Moon system causing all kinds of madness down the road.

Finally P.S. - even though we win in the end (at least 3 billion are dead so "win" is a relative term here), the harvester wouldn't have just slunk off back into space as it did in the movie. If it came roaring down, it would go roaring back up, causing another set of those winds from hell. 

This was one flick where physics makes for a much more horrifying end than the sci-fi writers. 

--Jacob Bogle, 6/26/2016

Monday, April 4, 2016

Trump, NATO, and Nuclear Proliferation

Let Them Have Nukes!

Once again Donald Trump has sparked debate and controversy over his policy ideas. A few days ago Trump suggested that NATO was obsolete in its current form and needed to be reorganized in a way that better suited the threats of today. And that other countries need to take care of their own defense without America paying for it, and besides Europe, he mentioned Japan, South Korea, and Saudi Arabia.

And while there is some truth to his assertions, as usual, he went a bit too far and ignored some key facts. He continued by suggesting that Japan, South Korea, and anyone else should be allowed to develop their own nuclear weapons. What makes this kind of talk even more worrisome is the fact that Trump wasn’t aware of what our own nuclear triad even was (our ability to project our nuclear forces via land, air, and sea).

First, I’d like to take on the subject of joint security treaties and funding.

NATO, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization, was founded in 1949 on the heels of World War II and in the face of a growingly aggressive Soviet Union. Today it has 28 member states between North America and in Europe. NATO was founded to ensure peace in the North Atlantic region and is a joint-security organization. The main stipulation of the NATO agreement is Article 5 which states that, if any one NATO member is attacked by a non-NATO country, all of the other NATO countries will come to the defense of the other.

Trump has said that NATO is out of date, particularly when it comes to dealing with international terrorism, and he’s practically blamed them for not stopping the attack in Brussels. His criticism continues, saying that the United States is basically subsidizing the defense of the other NATO countries, which hurts our economy.

For the record, NATO is not some internal police force. It doesn’t have the authority to search homes, bust up gangs, and arrest people – that’s what law enforcement does. NATO, like every other military organization in the world, was founded to defend against invasions by another state. Of course, like any other military force, it also needs to adapt to become useful against terrorism. But it must do so within an existing foundation. NATO came about after two shattering world wars, and the lessons of a militarized “police” force and even letting the regular army engage in domestic matters, those lessons that we learned after the terror of fascism need to be remembered.

NATO has been involved in the fight against terror since 9/11. NATO even led the 42-nation coalition in the War in Afghanistan. At its height, NATO commanded 130,000 soldiers in that theater. It’s true that NATO needs to be modernized and intelligence sharing definitely needs to be increased, but ever since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (which is not a NATO member), the organization has been doing these things.

The only thought about NATO that Trump had that might have some validity was on funding.

The US contributes around 22% of NATO’s operational budget. Combined, the UK, Germany, and France contribute another 39%. And while these figures may sound like America is paying too much, when you look at our economy and the amount of money we spend each year on our own military, we far exceed the capabilities of the other countries. When you take all NATO members combined, America accounts for 35% of the total population, 48% of total GPD, and over 65% of military spending.

The US spends around $700 million on NATO, that equals 0.003% of our GDP, or 0.11% of our national defense budget. If you were to insist that each of the 28 member states paid an equal share, for a country like Albania, that would consume 1.6% of their GDP or a whopping 200% of their defense budget – JUST for NATO! And if you wanted to make things truly proportional, America would have to double or triple the amount we send to NATO.

Look, it’s certain that some countries can and should pay more, but NATO helps America too. The US received $3.2 billion in NATO funded projects during the course of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. NATO has also funded hundreds of millions in military base expansions and improvements throughout Europe; bases the United States use.

Organizations like NATO are incredibly important. These types of cost-sharing and security guaranteeing organizations help to maintain over-all peace. Believe it or not, the world is far more peaceful today than it was in the past. NATO helped save West Germany from Soviet occupation, allowed the former European states of the Soviet Union to keep their independence, and, despite what Trump says, has played a role in defeating terrorism.

So while the US may pay more, we also spend more on our own military than any other country, we make more money than any other country, and we get stuff in return. The European Union accounts for $700 billion in annual trade for America, keeping Europe stable IS a great deal.

Next, I want to look at security arrangements with Japan and South Korea.

Trump makes it sound like all America does is give those countries money, men, and machines, while we get nothing in return.

The origins of all of this goes back to World War II and the Korean War. During WWII we had to occupy Japan and had a moral obligation to keep the civilians safe until a new, stable government could be formed. And since we occupied southern Korea after WWII, we needed to help keep them safe too, particularly since the Soviet Union was keen on taking all of Korea.

Then a little thing called the Korean War happened which resulted in the deaths of over 2 million civilians, and 128,000 American casualties. The southern half of the Korean Peninsula, the Republic of Korea, was our ally in that war and was nearly destroyed by the Soviet and Chinese backed Democratic Republic of Korea – otherwise known as North Korea.
Today, South Korea has a numerically smaller army than North Korea, and North Korea tests nuclear weapons every few years. North Korea has also violated the terms of the 1953 Armistice hundreds of times over years, including two separate attempts to assassinate presidents of South Korea.

Japan is also a mortal enemy of North Korea. And while Japan was definitely the aggressor during the early 20th Century, Japan lost the war and has tried to make many reparations to both North & South Korea. Japan also has territorial disputes with Russia and China. And in accordance with their surrender after World War II, Japan doesn’t have a normal military capability, only a small self-defense force. So, the US helps to provide some additional backbone for these two countries.

We maintain 50,000 soldiers in Japan and 28,000 in South Korea. It’s important to remember, just like with Europe, that American trade with Japan and South Korea equals nearly $310 billion annually.

North Korea’s primary reason, they claim, for developing nuclear weapons is because South Korea is under America’s “nuclear umbrella”. However, North Korea’s nuclear program dates back to the founding of the country and has become an integral part of the country’s identity.

Trump seems to think that America is just handing over everything to South Korea. That’s simply wrong. In 2014 South Korea agreed to pay us $866 million to help maintain our presence. That was 5.8% more than 2013 and it’s on track to grow by 4% each year. This doesn’t pay the full bill, but it’s definitely more than “practically nothing” as Trump claims. Additionally, the size of America’s military presence in South Korea has remained quite stable since 2006 and the number of soldiers stationed there is at its lowest level since the Korean War – 63 years ago.

As I stated earlier, North Korea has attacked the South many times and regularly threatens to destroy their capital, Seoul, which has a population of 10 million. In fact, North Korea has thousands of artillery pieces aimed at South Korea and has hundreds of thousands of soldiers deployed along the border. North Korea has even dug three massive tunnels into the South to enable a rapid invasion if war broke out. There is no doubt that having a defense treaty with South Korea has saved many lives and help to avert war.

I want to tie this in with Japan, which has territory within 350 miles of North Korea. North Korea regularly fires short and medium range rockets into the sea, and this activity has been increasing under Kim Jong Un. Many of these launches are aimed in the direction of Japan. North Korea has 3 types of missile that could reach Japan if launched from the Korean Peninsula. North Korea also has a submarine fleet that could help extend the range of other rockets and missiles. Regarding cost, just like every other country, Japan pays America – for the last 5 years Japan agreed to pay us $2 billion annually.

Besides North Korea, which remains the most pressing threat to the two countries, there are also continuing concerns when you look at China and Russia. It’s definitely in America’s interest to maintain our alliances and trade status. Both Russia and China have sought to extend their influence around the world and neither country is afraid to simply take territory. But having a strong and stable American presence acts as a very real deterrent and buffer.

The specific figures of how much we get paid is always up for renegotiation, but Trump continues to say that we need to be ready to “walk away” from anyone if they don’t do what we want. If Trump is such a business and economic expert, he should understand very well that even sending signals – regardless of how real they are – can send the markets crashing. Likewise, with foreign policy, when we tell our closest allies that we’d be willing to leave, even if we really aren’t going to, but by putting that out there we risk severely damaging our alliances.

Let’s not forget that both South Korea and Japan are not only our trading partners and allies against North Korea, but they’re also our allies when it comes to dealing with Russia and China. Telling them it’s possible we’d break our relationship with them, only serves to get them to reconsider their relations with other countries, like China, and drive them closer to our enemies.

Finally, I want to address the nuclear question. Trump’s suggestion that nuclear weapons should be spread to even more countries really blows my mind.

One of the problems with igniting an arms race is that neither country involved ends up better off – both countries have increased their military ability and have spent huge sums of money, so neither has gained a tangible advantage over the other. The goal is to come to a mutual agreement that leaves both countries in a better position and stops the weapons buildup. And promoting nuclear proliferation would create an arms race far more dangerous than the one between the US and the Soviet Union.

For many years the key tenant of global nuclear policy has been and is disarmament. From a high of 68,000 nuclear warheads in 1985, there has been an 83% decrease in the number of weapons today. The only people who want more weapons, or who think it might be a good idea, are those who have never seen their devastation. Even nuclear testing causes harm to people, never mind dropping a bomb on a city and killing a million lives.

America just finished a contentious agreement with Iran to prevent them from developing atomic bombs and we have been struggling to slow down North Korea’s weapons program for decades. Every few years, tensions rise between India and Pakistan, both of whom have nuclear weapons but aren’t members of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Why would anyone suggest other countries should get their own bomb?

Donald Trump likes to give ideas. He likes to use all of those great words he knows, but he rarely seems to think about their impact or the broader implications of such policies. So, allow me to elucidate what the likely outcome of his idea would be.

If South Korea developed their own bomb, North Korea would be compelled to put every last resource they had into expanding their own program. They would also improve their delivery systems and finally produce a miniaturized warhead that could not only hit South Korea, but the United States mainland. ‘The Donald’ seems to have forgotten that South Korea is Kim Jong Un’s arch enemy and it would verify every bit of Communist propaganda that they have been force feeding their population for half a century. This would lead to an arms race very similar to the one between America and the Soviets. But unlike having a Kennedy or even a Khrushchev in power, we have Kim Jong Un. Is Trump really willing to bet the lives of millions that this trajectory would not lead to an actual war?

The ability to restrain oneself, even in the face of possible annihilation, is paramount when it comes to being a good leader, as is the ability to say “no” to advisers who urge you to push the big red button. The Soviets considered using nukes to kick us out of Germany during the Cold War. And even some American generals during the Korean War debated using nuclear bombs to create a radioactive wasteland along the Chinese-Korean border to knock China out of the war. I praise God cooler heads prevailed.

The point of that history lesson is that even after being responsible for and witnessing the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, even some American generals decided to go full crazy and propose using them again. Therefore, can we be certain that others who have no direct knowledge of the destruction these weapons can cause, and who talk about genocide as a matter of national priority, can we really be certain that these rogue regimes wouldn’t use this incredibly powerful weapon to accomplish whatever twisted goals they might have?

A South Korea with a bomb would also make Japan less than comfortable. And if both Japan and South Korea had them, China would feel it absolutely necessary to further expand their nuclear arsenal. Once China did that, India would feel compelled to do the same because India and China have territorial disputes and they have had three major military conflicts since India’s independence. 
You also have to consider that India is wary of China’s relations with Pakistan, and that Pakistan, another nuclear armed country, has had very strained ties with India since the creation of the modern Pakistani state.

Obviously, with India growing their own nuclear abilities, Pakistan would do the same. By the way, India and Pakistan have also fought 3 wars since independence. And unlike the US, Russia, or even China, both India and Pakistan have had widespread troubles with home-grown terrorism. Hell, Pakistan has even admitted to helping the Taliban! (Check out this interesting article about India & Pakistan.)

So now we would have North Korea, South Korea, Japan, China, India, and Pakistan in an ever spreading arms race. The nuclear genie would never be able to be contained. Russia would be forced to adjust its military strategy to prepare for possible conflicts with Japan, China, South Korea, and India. Iran could then demand nuclear weapons for legitimate national security reasons. That in turn would mean Saudi Arabia would have to get the bomb. Israel might very well attack Iran in that case, leading to the largest conflagration since World War II.

And it’s not just these major countries either. Burma, also known as Myanmar, has been suspected of wanting nuclear weapons for many years. Burma has had nuclear conversations with Russia and has helped North Korea avoid sanctions as well as assisted them with arms and drug trading. Then there’s also groups like ISIS and Al Qaeda who have made their intentions clear. Trump even said in the same debate in which he made it clear he didn’t know what the nuclear triad was that, “The biggest problem this world has today…is nuclear – nuclear proliferation and having some maniac, having some madman go out and get a nuclear weapon. That's in my opinion, that is the single biggest problem that our country faces right now.”

You see, this is one area where controlling proliferation would become all but impossible. The more countries that have atomic weapons and the more places involved in manufacturing, transporting, and storing nuclear materials means that you have that many more potential places for security failure. It becomes far easier for a terrorist group to steal or buy needed materials, or for some disgruntled scientist to walk away with technology and products and have it windup in the marketplace.

Donald Trump’s suggestions do not make America secure, they make us far less safe – they make the planet less safe.

NATO is the linchpin of our strategy in Europe and it’s a cornerstone that enables trade, security, and stability on the continent. It has served as a bulwark against Russian aggression toward Finland and in the Baltic. Our treaties with Japan and South Korea have kept North Korea contained and has kept the seas open across the Asian-Pacific region. It has also served to stand against Chinese, as well as Russian, incursions, and has been key toward sustaining our relationships with other partners like the Philippines and Taiwan. We need a Commander-in-Chief who understands this. 

--Jacob Bogle, 4/4/2016

Saturday, April 2, 2016

When is Democracy Not Democracy?

The ongoing battle within the Republican Party for the 2016 presidential nomination is the most recent exemplifier of this question, but I have been thinking about it since President Obama’s 2012 victory. The question itself has been around for ages. 

--At what point is an election’s outcome a legitimate expression of the people’s will? In other words, can a winner who has received less than 50% of the vote, but still more than the other candidates, really be considered the valid winner?--

The United States is a republic which basically means we have a constitution (rule of law) that protects the rights of all, even the rights of a single individual, from the whims of the majority. It helps to keep our nation stable and largely defends us from mob rule. But when it comes to electing the president, the people have no real legal guarantee to vote. All the Constitution says is that the president is the person who gains the majority of electoral college votes and that each state appoints electors to serve that function; it doesn’t say how a candidate might receive said votes.

Logically the best method would be to apportion the Electoral College in a certain way that is then tied to the direct voting of the people. In my state of Tennessee there are 11 Electoral College votes, so if the majority of voters pick candidate A, he/she would get those 11 votes. 

From 1828 onward, the average voter turnout in the US stayed in the 70-80% range until the 1896 election, from there it plummeted to a mere 48.9% in 1924. After that, things went back up to the 60 percentage range, and have now fallen – but stabilized – to the 50s ever since 1972 (with one exception, 49% in 1996).

In the US, there have been four elections, 1824, 1920, 1924, and 1996, where the turnout was under 50%. And while having a low turnout is never good, winning with a minority of votes is even worse. There have been 18 elections where the “winner” received less than 50% of the popular vote. John Q. Adams got the lowest amount, 30.92%, and Lincoln the second lowest at 39.65%. The most recent example was G. W. Bush in 2000 and he joined three other presidents to not only win with less than 50%, but to actually win by coming in 2nd in terms of the popular vote.

So far I have focused on voter turnout and votes cast. But what about looking at things in terms of how many adult citizens voted? In 2012, voter turnout was 54.9%, and Obama won 51.1% of the vote, but that also means that only about 30% of eligible voters voted for the winner. Thirty percent got to decide what the other 70% had to live with.

Certainly the obvious solution is to increase voter turnout, but it also raises other questions. Before I get to those, I quickly want to look at local elections.

Local elections tend to have an even smaller turnout despite the fact that what goes on at the local level has a greater impact on the lives of citizens than just about anything that could occur at the national level. 

Using my state of Tennessee again, our most recent gubernatorial election had a turnout of approx. 25% - meaning Gov. Bill Haslam won with only the support of 17.5% of the adult population. Even worse, in my city of Murfreesboro, only 11.32% of registered voters actually voted. That means the mayor won 7.7% of registered voters, or roughly 5% of the adult population. FIVE PERCENT.

Some countries have an election threshold. So long as the “winner” (either a party or individual candidate) hits that threshold, then the election is valid and they actually win. In some multi-candidate contests, if a candidate fails to reach 50% (for example), then the top two candidates will go to a “run-off” election. But the rules vary widely across the world and even in the US. And within America there is no uniformity, with many states and municipalities lacking any kind of real threshold. 

Taking part in the election process is everyone’s right and that includes the right to not exercise one’s ability to vote. But when someone can win while being rejected by a large majority (such as the case of Trump), or when you win simply because most people didn’t show up to vote (like Tennessee’s governor), it really calls into question the legitimacy of the whole system.

President Obama had no election mandate just because he “won” a second time – he only won 30% of eligible voters. I fully recognize that in a multi-party system it would be extremely difficult for anyone to win a true majority of all eligible voters (turnout will never equal 100%), but the idea that the winner wins with fewer than 30% of the vote, or just 5%, appalls me – and it opens wide the door to corruption and everything bad in politics. 

Low turnout favors the “good ole boy” system, it favors big money, the politically well connected, and it can effectively cut entire communities out of the process – thus deepening whatever divides (racial or otherwise) that may already exist. And then there’s the extreme cases where little known nut jobs win 40% of the popular vote and go on to invade Poland. Or you have a staunch anti-gay candidate win the Democratic nomination, as happened in Tennessee’s 2012 senatorial race, by getting 30%.

Making voting compulsory doesn’t necessarily solve the problem and it opens up a whole other debate about the meaning of freedom (including the freedom to not do something). There are several additional complex and equally important debates within the concept of compulsory voting too. In the end people have the right to not participate, but I don’t think anyone would agree that allowing 10% of the population to determine who will lead everyone is a good thing either.

Given the importance of having a representative government and the potentially grave repercussions of allowing a minority to decide for the majority (even if that choice is based on silent acquiescence), I feel it’s very important to bring up this topic as our own election process is heating up and to have this conversation.

--Jacob Bogle, 4/2/2016 

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Donald Trump's Policy on Terrorism (video)

I've made my first YouTube video and used it to examine Donald Trump's plan to combat terrorism, "whatever we need to do, even if we need to expand the laws". I discuss what that really means and the inevitable long-term implications. The video is 13:55 minutes long. Below, you'll find the main transcript.

Trump’s Foreign Policy

Today there was another horrible terrorist attack, this time in Brussels, Belgium. And as happens whenever such events occur, people start asking questions about security, how we can stay safe and prevent future attacks etc. And since Donald Trump is currently the top Republican candidate, he has been asked his views.

And so, I’d like to talk about the “Trump foreign policy”. Whenever I hear him talk about the need to reassess our foreign interventions, how going into Libya was a bad idea, and how bombing civilians tends to create more enemies – you know, that whole blowback concept – I get really excited.

I like it. It makes sense. There’s a lot of evidence to support those views. It’s a lot more of a Constitutional policy, more of a libertarian philosophy, and definitely more of a human-rights based philosophy.

But then, you have terrorist attacks. You have San Bernardino, you have the attacks in Paris and today in Brussels. And, of course, you ask “well, what do we do?” And Trump’s answer to that isn’t really libertarian. It isn’t really based on the idea of liberty or about protecting rights.

He talks about the need to be hard and be strong, and of course we do need to address these problems. But he goes on saying that he supports waterboarding, and that if we need to make the laws or expand them to do “whatever we need to do” in his words – that that’s fine.

It’s fine because the terrorists don’t use laws. ISIS doesn’t have laws, and we do, and we want to follow the law. So, we need to pass laws that gives us the authority to do things like waterboarding and capturing the families of terrorists, and all of this other stuff. Again, it’s whatever we need to do to be safe and win.

And of course the initial knee-jerk reaction is “Yes, yes! We need to do this!” We have been attack and we need to go and destroy our enemy.
But it’s also important to step back for a moment and think about what that actually means. We need to think about the consequences and the path that it leads us down.

Now nobody wants to be the first to break Godwin’s Law, but I’m about to – and I ask that you please stay with me here. You know, a prime, somewhat recent example of all of this is Nazi Germany.

The idea here was that Germany was under threat, they were under siege. Now, in their minds it was this “Great Jewish Conspiracy”, but it was also anarchists, Communism – and of course we in the West also opposed the Soviet Union – and so they were under threat by that. Eventually they had conflicts with France and the UK once Germany went into Poland.
So how do you deal with all of that? How do you deal with threats both external and domestically?

While there were some existing legal frameworks under which they could operate, but to make all of their actions and the ultimate goals of the Nazi regime palatable with the German people – who are now at war – they had to come up with other legal means and frameworks.

The problem was that they ended up being so broad in scope and in meaning, that ultimately it all turned into simply the words of Hitler were law. The words of Goering and Himmler were law. And of course all of this was done in the name of preserving the German Reich and protecting the people, and accomplishing the goals of the nation.

But what did that do? What did it lead to? 

You ended up with the Gestapo, you ended up with the T-4 euthanasia programs killing the disabled, going in and ransacking people’s homes, and searching for “terrorists” aka Jews, and homosexuals, and intellectuals, and Communists, and even people who were proud German patriots who simply disagreed with the Nazi Government.

And when you start talking about “doing everything we can”, when you talk about creating backdoors into encryption and allow the government to search anywhere and everywhere all in the name of safety. We have to remember, government is run by human beings, and human beings are corruptible, and we make mistakes; we fall victim to the prejudices we hold and the appeals of power and authority.

So unless you have openness and transparent checks and balances, and unless the people know what the government is doing had has the power to stop the government; if you don’t have those things government runs amok. And we’ve already seen this kind of secrecy and non-accountability with FISA Courts and literally thousands of abuses by the NSA.

Without such protections and an innate respect for liberty, you have what could have been legitimate revolutions in places like Cuba and elsewhere, all turn into nightmares for millions of people.

The Batista regime, even though they were backed by America, they weren’t pillars of democracy. It was corrupt and cruel and mean. Many people were arrested and tortured by this American-backed government in Cuba. So then you have Castro with his rag-tag team of, you know, 'Liberation Fighters', and things could have ended well.

But what happened?

They won. And now they have power. They were the oppressed, and unfortunately what happens many times is when the oppressed becomes the ones in power, the oppress the oppressors.

And they create new enemies and you have class struggle, and everything. And the revolution never dies! The revolution technically is still going on all of these decades later. Same thing in North Korea, the revolution continues! You had decades in China of these massive purges and rounding up people, and the Three Revolutions, and all of this terribleness and tens of millions of people thrown in jail and denied their rights – all because the government was trying to get at the actual enemy.

But then the enemies turned into not just the people who really were their enemies, but to the friends and families of the enemies. And then to the generations later on. “Well, your grandfather used to be a capitalist and so now we have to throw you in jail and destroy your family.” – And that is what happens.

And of course, that creates more discontent and more enemies.
And so it really bothers me to hear this type of rhetoric in American politics, in Western politics.

You can go after your enemy and defeat them without turning into your enemy.
When you do the things that terrorists do to fight terrorism, you become the terrorist!

You cannot defend the Constitution by tearing it up!

You cannot defend American freedoms by crushing them!

We fought the Nazis, and we won the war. And we put Nazi war criminals on trial. We fought the Japanese, and we won the war. And we put the criminals on trial. We’ve put domestic terrorists, like Timothy McVeigh on trial. It can be done.

If you follow the law, you follow the Constitution, you can still win.

Terrorism is frightening because it can pop up anywhere. But, I would argue, that’s what is more frightening in many ways is having Imperial Japan across one coast, and Nazi Germany overrunning all of Europe across the other coast.

Tens of millions of men under arms, guns pointed toward you. U-boats running the seas. I mean we had Nazi submarines right off of New York Harbor and in the Gulf. They even landed operatives on American shores with the purpose of blowing up dams and factories.

We had the Japanese sending explosive balloons over to set fire to the vast forests along the Pacific coast. And Japan was experimenting with chemical and biological weapons too. They could have easily set balloons over and taken out Seattle or Los Angeles.

These enemies were organized, had huge sums of money and infrastructure, and controlled millions of square miles of territory – and all of that was arrayed against us.

You know, at the very brink all you really had was the United States along with the UK which had barely managed to survive, and the Soviet Union which was being chopped into little bits and about to collapse. Not exactly a recipe for successes. And of course we weren’t exactly friends with Soviets. But we fought and persevered, basically, against half the planet when you look at terms of military strength and resources – and we won.

We won, largely, without turning our backs on our principles. And the time we did turn our backs – when we sent Japanese Americans to concentration camps, that effort damaged our national soul and didn’t do a damned thing to win the war.

Of course within that, what do we have today? We have a small group of people who have been incensed by decades of meddling and intervention by the West. Granted, today the motivation isn’t necessarily what we did in the past. The Genie is out, and its now largely terrorism for the sake of terror. But we still have to recognize when our actions contribute to radical motivation and think about long-term consequences.

The point is, there’s nothing wrong with following our Constitution and following the same principles that we had going into World War II.

No one thinks we were honestly friends with the Soviet Union. We were spying and them and they were spying on us. Heck, they knew about the Atomic Bomb before President Truman told them. And today, are we “besties” with Russia? No. But Russia has shown that they are willing to put skin in the game, to fight ISIS. So why are we talking about no-fly-zones and shooting down Russian planes?

You join with people who are willing to fight the same fight you are. That’s how you win. And then once you’ve defeated the immediate threat, you can deal with the other things.

But this insanity that we hear from pretty much everybody running for President, but especially Trump and even Ted Cruz – who has gone off the deep end with supporting military interventions around the world and promoting domestic spying programs – there is simply no reason why we can’t stick to our principles and still get the job done like have done time and time again.

And the last thing we need is someone in office who does not understand this.
The last thing we need is some basically guy pumped up on steroids going around half-cocked and yelling “we need to be strong, and I know people and I’m great at this, and we will be so strong, and we just have to do whatever we need to do because…yadda yadda yadda”.

That’s not what we need. Number one that isn’t a policy, and even if you could somehow craft it into a coherent policy and then take it to its logical conclusion – then we end up being an actual police state.

I know that phrase is used a lot, but we are nowhere near being the kind of ‘Big Brother, Mass Surveillance, If You Have Nothing to Hide Let Me In’ type of society we would become under the vision of people like Trump.
And it is time that libertarians, and actual lovers of Liberty – I don’t care if you’re a Democrat, or Republican, or even a freakin’ Socialist – it’s time that we ALL stand up against this madness.

If our leaders and those who are seeking to lead, if they won’t be the adult in the room the it’s up to us, we the people, to stand up and be the adult and take control of the situation. Because I, for one, am not willing to be led by the nose or otherwise forced into some kind of monstrous situation all in the name of security or patriotism.

Waving a flag, chanting “USA, USA”, and towing the line with your head down is NOT patriotism!
Patriotism is standing up for what is right. Not just because it’s legal; making torture legal doesn’t make it right. Not just because the polls show most people support X, Y, and Z. But to stand up for what is right and to defend the founding principles of our country.

Because when we turn our backs on that, we are no longer Americans. There’s no more line that separates us from the barbarians at the gate. And I am going to everything I can to make sure that that line, stays. That there is a clear difference between us, and that this country, as a free republic, remains a free republic.

For this and many other reasons are why those of us in the Liberty Movement need to stand strong against this level of inhuman and unconstitutional policies. Simply being an “outsider” and “speaking your mind”, or damaging the establishment is not reason enough to hand over the keys to this country to a man – or any candidate for that matter – who so clearly does not understand what the Rule of Law and Liberty for All means.

The destruction of some group of Neo-Cons does not take precedence over my life and your life, nor the lives of innocent people everywhere.
So I ask you to please join with me and stand strong for Liberty.

If you’d like to know more about me and what I do, please check out my website at or connect with me on Facebook and Twitter @JacobBogle

---Jacob Bogle, 3/22/16