On the first Democratic primary debate (Vlog #46)

THE CANDIDATES WHO MOST CONCERNED ME
THE CANDIDATES WHO MOST IMPRESSED ME

*THE NOTES:

*A brief digression: It’s so wonderful to be clean shaven– the symbolism of it!– reminds me of when I first started shaving after a seven year phase of always growing a beard

*New subject: the first 2020 Democratic Presidential Primary Debate– the first group, from the perspective of the informed voter

*My political activism/commentary/analysis mission statement:

My goal as a political activist is to discuss matters pertaining to informed voting, keeping elected and appointed officials accountable, and visualizing a logical and fact based policy agenda that promotes and advances justice for all.

*My broader political perspective/philosophy: the ethics of compassion & the political philosophy of social democracy; (in the two videos below, should you seek more context & details regarding the I evolution of my political philosophy, it is explained there)

*CANDIDATES WHO CONCERNED ME

-Washington Governor Jay Inslee:

he wants to do away with the filibuster which I think is dangerous as it stifles debate and lowers the Democrats to Senator Mitch McConnell’s & the GOP’s level of abusing power to constrain the minority party

-Hawaii Representative Tulsi Gabbard:

she seemed robotic to me most of the time/ to lack passion. She started an argument with Ohio Representative Tim Ryan over Afghanistan policy, pushing for extremely swift withdrawal– does she not see the disaster of withdrawing from Iraq as ISIS took over?!?

[SEE MY VLOG ON THE WAR IN AFGHANISTAN ]

*Julian Castro:

(btw, ever get paranoid that you got one of your facts wrong?)….

…despite his federal executive branch experience as HUD Secretary he seemed excessively cantankerous (though I do appreciate his passion for “Section 1325″(( see Slate’s explanation for more on this))– he also seemed to pander to LGBTQ & LatinX as opposed to appreciating plights of ALL minorities, like the disturbingly underrepresented Native Americans , Muslims & Arabs, Jews, Blacks, Senior citizens, Asian Americans, et cetera… [sorry if I forgot a group I should have mentioned…please leave a comment!]

-NYC Mayor Bill di Blasio: though I liked his policy assertiveness, his proposal to tax the richest 1 percent up to 70 percent seems to me an excessive and rather irrational, overly emotional and un-thought out scapegoating of the rich, and unethical

(I say this as someone who’s had money and had none)

I had money, and I had none

I had money, and I had none

Jim Morrison; The Changeling
LISTEN TO THE DOORS SONG I QUOTED

…I don’t think we should ever tax someone most of or even half of their income…so maybe not more than 44%

*THE CANDIDATES WHO MOST IMPRESSED ME

*MASS Senator Elizabeth Warren (She did seem, unfortunately, and unfairly so, though to no fault of her own, to receive the most questions/attention and I don’t like how the media treated her like the favorite…even if she is and should be…)– I do think she is a genius communicator

“By the time I graduated from high school, my family didn’t have the money for a college application, much less a chance for me to go to college. But I got my chance. It was a $50-a-semester commuter college. That was a little slice of government that created some opportunity for a girl. And it opened my life.

Elizabeth Warren; June 26th 2019 Democratic Primary debate

[!!!!…that said, do note the observation made by the Washington Post about the dishonesty of her story:

Warren actually went to a private college, George Washington University, on a debate scholarship. She attended GW, which cost much more than $50 a semester and is definitely not a commuter college, until her high school sweetheart proposed to her. She accepted, got married, dropped out of GW and followed him to Houston, where he worked for IBM. That was when she enrolled in her $50-a-semester commuter college, the University of Houston.

Henry Olsen; Washington Post

-MINN Senator Amy Klobuchar:

She came across to me as calm, poised & rational. For example, consider her emphasis on establishing a public option for healthcare as opposed to rushing into complete abolition of private healthcare. Another example is her view on the border as she expressed the importance of both being humane in our treatment of those who cross our borders but also being mindful of security and the fact that we should defend ourselves against & prosecute violent criminals & sex traffickers.

-Ohio Rep. Tim Ryan:

(btw, shout out to philosopher & writer Matthew Snope for bringing Ryan to my attention)

-Rep. Ryan is my top choice for VP thus far . He is extremely passionate (perhaps a touch angry though?) and rich in policy proposals which are mindful of cultural complexities. For example, he wants more emotional support for our youth in schools, and he is inclusive/universal as opposed to pandering to one group or another. Finally, he’s right on and realistic about Afghanistan in contrast to Rep. Gabbard who I believe started an irrational argument with him on the topic.

*The two candidates I was unsure of are former TX Rep. Beto O’Rourke and my own NJ Senator Cory Booker. I thought O’Rourke was right on about a public option as opposed to abolishing private insurance from the getco, but I also thought he was a bit of a grand-stander for speaking in Spanish first thing, and pandering. Also, he didn’t always answer the questions he was asked. Neither did Senator Booker. Booker seemed, at times, overly emotional to me, but I do like his position on guns, that they should be treated like cars, and require similar licensing protocols.

The Era of Revolutionary Debate

There are few eras as exceptional and consequential as this one we’re currently living in.

There’s the advents of fire and language, money and democratic government, Aristotle’s laws of identity and non-contradiction, the printing press, the industrial revolution’s sort of destruction of feudalism (though these days the richest 1 percent seem to me like new age lords and nobles, and the niches of the working people– though lacking in their rights to strengthen as official unions– seem like contemporary guilds, and bursting through the caste system of sorts, despite proof of so many so- called “American Dreams” fulfilled can feel impossible when you haven’t done it and the way through seems unwritten)…

…and I wonder, really, since the Civil War, at least from an American perspective, when have we seen a time as radical and revolutionary as this?

When, since the tumult related to World War II have we seen so much global radicalism and revolution?    

Nationalism continues to spread like a global fever (so much so that the March/April 2019 Edition of Foreign Affairs titled the issue “The New Nationalism” and the publication’s editor says Nationalism “has come back with a vengeance” ).

Indeed, it has, from Brexit to the fighting between Israel and Palestine, from Russia’s lust for Crimea and more to “the ascent of strongmen in states such as China, the Philippines and Turkey,” as Jack Snyder puts it in one of those Foreign Affairs articles”

The Global Nationalism trend though is just one piece of a fascinating strand of the intensity throughout the world lately.

Vox reported this weekend that New Zealand “released the first-ever ‘well-being budget’ on May 30.” Happiness is starting to matter more.

The Economist reports that “According to India’s telecoms regulator, subscriptions for mobile-broadband services more than doubled between the end of 2016 and the end of 2018, from 218m to 500m.”

People in severe poverty which once kept them from accessing the internet increasingly are gaining access, especially to make and watch videos.

As of 2017, according to an article by The Verge, “the aggregate time people spend watching videos on YouTube’s home page has grown 20 times larger than what it was three years ago.”

Some people, like Caleb Cain, according to a New York Times feature on the YouTube vlogger,  “f[a]ll asleep to YouTube videos at night.“

The New York Times adds:

With two billion monthly active users uploading more than 500 hours of video every minute, YouTube’s traffic is estimated to be the second highest of any website, behind only Google.com. According to the Pew Research Center, 94 percent of Americans ages 18 to 24 use YouTube, a higher percentage than for any other online service.

With YouTube in the midst of a dramatic rise, forget how this might impact network television. How will  Netflix, Amazon and Hulu compete for viewers in the 18-24 demographic?

Will some of the biggest vlogs become Netflix vlogs? What is this mean for the Maddow-Hannity style political commentary we got used to?

Meanwhile: “Public support for left-wing policymaking has reached a 60-year high,” Vox Reports.

So just like there was a consciousness revolution in the 1960’s from the politics of that decade to the increased depth of Bob Dylan & The Beatles style music, something distinct yet comparable is going on now.

Donald Trump, a former reality TV Star, is president of the United States. He’s the first president without any meaningful experience and he’s on the verge of becoming only the third president in U.S. history to be impeached.

To be sure, his attempts to obstruct investigations into his suspicious ties to Russian interference with our elections (mixed with a plethora of other disconcerting , abusive, and criminal acts, including violation of the constitution’s Emoluments clause) make him far  more impeachable and criminal than Clinton’s lie about oral sex. And the law on which President Andrew Johnson’s impeachment was based was ultimately deemed unconstitutional.   

The political response is likewise, historical: as Bloomberg reports: “There are more current and former governors and members of Congress running this year than there were total candidates in any party primary in the last several decades.”

Politico’s David Siders writes in his headline and subtitle:

Trump backlash sparks avalanche of 2020 policy proposals–The sheer multitude of policy proposals is staggering.

He calls it “an unlikely renaissance of ideas” and says “For brooding Democrats, the primary field’s position papers are an emotional refuge — this summer’s dreamy must-reads.”

And those old tried and true conventional ideas such as “electability” which Trump destroyed in the 2016 election (read Bob Woodward’s book Fear for example after example of Republican operatives dismissing Trump, after each of his missteps, as “unelectable” and Stephen Bannon’s consistent rebuttals to them) are undergoing further demolishment as mainstream media darling, the former Vice-President Joe Biden seems to flaunt his aura of unbreakable “electability”  with the utmost cockiness in a way that is shattering support that he might not have lost eight years ago.

Consider the following quotes Politico documented this weekend:

“It’s not just a flip-flop. It’s like a double axel flip-flop, and he’s not even nailing the   landing,” said Democracy for America Chairman Charles Chamberlain, whose group has supported Warren and Sanders in the past.

“Look. He’s running for president,” Marianne Williamson, the self-help author running in the Democratic primary, said of Biden’s changing position on the Hyde Amendment on CNN on Friday. “People came up to him and said you’re really behind the times on this, Joe. You’ve already got a problem with women, all of that, and so he changed his mind.”

And Politico published another article poking more holes in the “electability” concept and demonstrating why we can really now call it– and please excuse my profanity on this one occassion, this would be one of the very few instances in my blogging life where it seems like the appropriate word– bullshit!

[Read the Politco article here: “Why You’re Wrong About the Democratic Primary– the Wild History of Presidential Campaigns Has a Lesson:  Nobody Knows Anything”]

The 1973 Supreme Court Case on Abortion rights, Roe v Wade this year is being systematically and methodically challenged by a number of state legislatures. ABC News says their

News Supreme Court Contributor Kate Shaw, a law professor who regularly writes about reproductive rights, explained the new spate of abortion restrictions, acknowledging that they present an unprecedented attack on one of the country’s most controversial laws.

“Since Roe v. Wade was decided in 1973, these are absolutely the most extreme laws that have been passed,” Shaw said.

Over 40 prosecutors, including state attorney generals, signed a statement pledging not to prosecute these laws. In other words, we’re in the midst of a major legal faceoff.

What does it mean to live through such an age?

I think it means there’s a special chapter, or maybe even a series of special chapters reserved in the history textbooks of the future which will be taught to posterity. I believe that furthermore this means what how we act in these very particular times will be extremely consequential.

While those of us who are deeply embedded in social media communications and politics are more energized than we’ve been in nearly half a century, and while access to the internet is growing exponentially, especially on already massive sites like YouTube, that doesn’t mean those who live outside our niche, our clique, our Twitterverse if you will, necessarily care.

To illustrate, as someone said to me recently, while the crowds on social media for are calling for Trump’s impeachment, (myself included), that does not necessarily represent the majority or a plurality.

Not that I suggest this is an argument against impeachment and why it’s a losing political move. Rather, I’m thinking of Massachusetts Senator and Democratic Presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren and what she said at the recent MSNBC Town Hall event:

See 10:15-10:54

If most of America isn’t with ya, then you talk about it. You make the arguments and then you listen…you start with what you believe is right then you go out there and fight for it.

My bottom line then is this: however revolutionary the times may be, however liberal the plurality of Americans may be, even if internet access is opening up for the severely poor, Nationalism is on the rise, and there are traps like the U.S. Electoral College, gerrymandering, and a Supreme Court which is a product of those– I mean that the revolutionary fervor is alive and well on both the left and the right from different angles and if we want posterity to look back and say this age- not just of revolution, but of revolutionary debate- was won by those who care about things like…abortion rights, not just internet access as a means to distract the poor from their miseries but to help them grow intellectually and economically, and happiness for as many as possible, those kinds of things…we need to make the most of it.

This is not a time like the mid to late 1990s when things seemed so well and yawning in apathy and lethargy didn’t seem to come at such a cost. Like the democracy of Ancient Greece and Rome, like Aristotle’s discovery of logic there’s a lot we can either embrace or lose for who knows how long under the sand inside some time capsule.

Speaker of the House & Senate Majority Leader Have Too Much Power

Observing a Democratic House of Representatives spar with the Republican Senate reveals how the leaderships within both parties– I’m talking about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi here– possess far too much power, stifling the democratic elements that are supposed to propel our legislative processes.  

Thus, our congress now operates in a fashion that seems entirely out of touch with a much wider, international populist revolution of sorts extending far beyond politics, challenging the mainstream media, academia, traditional 20th century corporate models– including even the way companies market with the goal of establishing genuine connection with those they serve– and even cultural ethical assumptions, in the wake, for example, of the #MeToo movement.

Politically speaking though, the most revealing aspect of this global populist revolution is not Trump winning the 2016 Presidential election, and is not the worldwide nationalism and protectionism, at least as I contemplate it. Rather, what strikes me most is how many Democrats are running in the 2020 Primary elections.

The plethora of candidates indicates to me an uptick in passion and earnestness to cast aside assumptions of electability, and “Establishment” choices of who the next president should be.

Put another way, “the people” are hammering a stake into the dying heart of conventional concentrations of power.

Not in congress however.

(And even less so with respect to the presidency. Read this excellent article by Foreign Affairs for more on that specifically)

Unfortunately, the extreme concentrations of power held by Pelosi and McConnell are stalling and weakening our country from any kind of truly political productivity.

Tell me (really, please do!): what is the last major congressional achievement you can think of (if you don’t count when the unanimously passed a resolution “to reject [Russian President Vladimir] Putin’s proposal to interrogate US officials.”). Maybe repealing “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” nearly a decade ago?  

To be clear, this is a problem which is exacerbated by both parties!

Consider just how it seems, at times, like Speaker Pelosi gets treated as if she were Queen of the Democrats.

The growing call among her fellow House Democrats for President Trump’s impeachment serves as an illustrative example.

As Politico reports,

[Rep.] Nadler [of NY} pressed Pelosi to allow his committee to launch an impeachment inquiry against Trump — the second such request he’s made in recent weeks only to be rebuffed by the California Democrat and other senior leaders

Why should any lawmaker– or any person for that matter!– enjoy the pedestal of such a high status that she or he gets to deny or “allow” significant legislative  “requests”–?

Please don’t get me wrong here. I get that leadership and management are paramount to making things happen and, theoretically, with efficiency, but “leadership” in a democracy should not be confused with exceptional powers such as has been granted to Nancy Pelosi.   

Maybe it doesn’t seem so awful to some of you when the one granted with so much power and status is part of your own political party, or your faction of your political party, but, if you’re a Democrat these days, how exactly do you feel about Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s power to prevent the House’s legislative progress from moving any further?

How do you feel about the way he prevented a vote from taking place on the confirmation of Judge Merrick Garland, former President Barack Obama’s pick for the Supreme Court?

Would you rather “bite the bullet” as they say, and chalk it up to a consequence of American politics when things of this sort occur, or are you inclined to think it would be better if McConnell never had that kind of power and that future Senate Majority leaders never do either?

As Salon’s Daley Gruen writes:

How is it possible that one man, for whom odds are neither you nor I voted, has absolute control over the ignition switch to our country, as well as the brakes, the gas, the wheels, the seats and the windows? After a bloody revolution to escape monarchical rule, our Congress was designed to be a conference of extraordinary citizens representing a polity of constituencies as equals, pushing and pulling our country towards the truest manifestation of the popular will. It’s why we call it the People’s House. But instead, “Mitch and Nancy” and their predecessors have enjoyed unchecked rule.

In a democracy, what comes to a vote should be determined by a process, a system, a democratic mechanism – not the whims of one person. If a bill fulfills some reasonable procedural trigger point, it should automatically go up for a vote by the entire body.

Gruen informs us further in the Salon piece that although it seems mostly like lip service, at least since the Democrats took back the House

any legislation that achieves 290 co-sponsors will automatically get a floor vote in the House. That threshold, however, is exceedingly high and not so different than the almost never used “Discharge Petition,” which already allows the House to force a vote if an absolute majority of 218 members sign a petition for it. [But] A democratic process should be regular order – not an act of defiance.

Indeed!

That’s why I believe Democratic Presidential primary candidates like Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren and former Texas Representative Beto O’Rourke (O’Rourke has been calling for impeachment just shy of a year now), along with other clear-headed legislators like Representative Al Green of Texas, and my own Representative Bonnie Watson Coleman (though not for much longer as my wife and I are moving out of this congressional district) who don’t let Pelosi dictate their apparent convictions, are exceptional and worth our appreciation.

We should support more politicians like them.

Also, as suggested by Gruen, congress as a whole should vote on which bills go the floor for consideration. Why not a simple plurality?

The concentrations of power held by Pelosi and McConnell are unfair, undemocratic, and out of fashion. Giving the rest of Congress more say in things like its own legislative agenda would be a step in the right direction.

[Click here for an interesting read on the history of power growth within the position of the Speaker the Sen. Majority Leader]

Reasons to Vote for Gillibrand or Warren & Not for Biden

I can appreciate that former Vice-President Joe Biden is willing, so it appears in some respects, to speak his conscience and advocate for unpopular policy positions.

That said, his stance on abortion– upholding the Hyde Amendment (which prohibits use of federal funds for abortions with the exception of rape, incest, and the life of the mother) more specifically– troubles me.

Also, Biden recently “elicited confusion” — as The Daily Beast’s  Emily Shugerman puts it— because, before changing his official stance today, he had voiced his support for abolishing the Hyde Amendment.   

CNN’s Rebecca Buck reported by tweet today

The Biden campaign says he misheard this woman on the ropeline and thought she was referring to the Mexico City rule

(The so called “Mexico City rule,” as Planned Parenthood website explains, “prevents foreign organizations receiving U.S. global health assistance from providing information, referrals, or services for legal abortion or advocating for access to abortion services in their country — even with their own money.”)

I cannot help but wonder, is this really what Biden thought?

While I don’t mean to doubt his honesty or his sharpness of thought, I ask because I’m not sure why he thought she was referring to the “Mexico City rule.”

The ACLU activist, who goes by Nina according to the ACLU tweet sharing the video– did ask Mr. Biden rather directly, “Will you commit to abolishing the Hyde Amendment which hurts poor women and women of color?” and he really had absolutely nothing to say about this policy other than to immediately emphasize how he’s “got a near perfect voting record my entire career” and to add “Right now it can’t be, it can’t stay. Thank you,” and then he walked away.

How aware was Mr. Biden of this specific interaction, and how genuine? To me, it comes across as (though I cannot prove it is) insincere, as if he was sort of mindlessly going through the rhythms of shaking hands, saying hello, and quickly acting on hasty guesses as to what he thinks the people want to hear.

Not that this is a unique problem among politicians and not that Biden should be singled out as the only one guilty of this. Still, between the dynamics of Trump’s electoral success in 2016 for appearing “different,” and Hillary Clinton’s failure in part for seeming like more of the status-quo, one would hope Democrats and sympathetic #NeverTrumpers have learned that politics in the last few years has been changing drastically. Likewise, the kind of politicians we are in need of has been changing.

More disconcerting though than Biden’s inability to appear especially genuine and cognizant of what he’s saying and who he’s saying it to is that his belief in upholding the Hyde Amendment disadvantages women who don’t earn much income.

As the Planned Parenthood website says, “When policymakers deny a woman insurance coverage for abortion, she is either forced to carry the pregnancy to term or pay for care out of her own pocket.”

Biden’s position is thus an affront to efforts made both by women’s advancement in society and efforts to promote the well-being of the economically insecure. Moreover, along with the basic unfairness of the policy, it contradicts conventional Democratic values.

Kirsten Gillibrand and Elizabeth Warren are quite savvy and pro-active on this point.  Of the 20 plus candidates running in the Democratic Presidential primary, along with the 89 year old former Senator from Alaska– Mike Gravel (who is not making a substantial splash in the polls)– these two are the boldest when it comes to their protectiveness of abortion rights, making it clear that they believe it ought to be a matter of law that women be permitted to have abortions should they so choose.

In the process of evaluating Democratic candidates in the midst of this primary, Gillibrand and Warren put their exceptionalism thus far on full display. In contrast, Biden, the mainstream media sweetheart, seems to be either somewhat confused, trying too hard to play politics, or simply fails to demonstrate his awareness of the consequences of his continued support of the Hyde Amendment.

House Democrats Should Begin Impeachment Proceedings Now or They’ll be Hypocrites Pandering to Re-Election Obsession Just Like Republicans

Just shy of a year ago,  President Trump confused many of us with what seemed like dogmatic deference to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who was, Trump said, “extremely strong and powerful in his denial” of interference in the American 2016 elections.

Trump said in addition that he didn’t  “see any reason why it would be” Putin or the Russian state in particular that was involved.

At that point Mueller was still investigating. Not that it mattered to me. By then I was amping my calls for President Donald Trump’s impeachment. A common response I received and heard was to wait for the Mueller investigation to conclude.

Now it has.  

And now there is indeed more talk of impeachment, across the aisle (even if Representative Justin Amash is the lone Republican in the bipartisan mix among members of congress currently in office).

And if the House of Representatives did manage to pass articles of impeachment against the president– which Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi is doing her best to prevent–  “it would be disposed of very quickly,” Senator Lyndsey Graham told The Hill.  

I cannot help but consider what Washington Post Columnist George Will recently pointed out: as of now, it does seem, that if Trump were impeached it “will not result in Trump’s removal.” He adds, “Today’s congressional Republicans…  would make a Senate impeachment trial a partisan debacle ending in acquittal.”

Washington Post columnist Max Boot puts it another way: while “there is no doubt that [impeachment] is justified legally and morally” there are concerns among many as to whether or not it  “makes sense politically.”   

Ross Garber, a lawyer, professor and legal analyst, in an article for CNN explains why it may be unreasonable or hasty to suppose it won’t ultimately “make sense politically.” He writes:

the speaker [Rep. Nancy Pelosi} has set a novel and unrealistically high burden for simply initiating an  impeachment process. It would also be unfair and improper to begin an impeachment process only if conviction has been conclusively predetermined.The whole point of an impeachment process is to conduct a fair evaluation of the facts and constitutional standard.

Initiating an impeachment process also provides a forum for the public to learn about the relevant facts and the constitutional burdens. Impeachment hearings might also develop new evidence. The speaker’s notion of requiring certainty of conviction before even considering charges is wrongheaded and improper.

Moreover, if we consider Max Boot’s point that impeachment is “justified legally and morally” just how willing are Democrats (and Republicans for that matter) willing to sacrifice what really should be done with re-election concerns?

At what point does one say it is more important to do what is ethical, legal, and just, than what is politically likely to succeed? In other words, what is the proper  principle for defining when it is better to stand for the right thing at the cost of possibly losing than casting the right thing aside in the interest of “winning?”

No doubt, the former Prussian Prime Minister spoke with wisdom and understanding when he said that “politics is the art of the possible” and yet I cannot help but find myself in agreement with Democratic 2020 hopeful Elizabeth Warren who said:

There is no political inconvenience exception to the United States Constitution, If any other human being in this country had done what’s documented in the Mueller report, they’d be arrested and put in jail.

We took an oath not to try and protect Donald Trump, we took an oath to protect and serve the Constitution of the United States of America, and the way we do that is we begin impeachment proceedings now against this president.

Afterall, is it not the outrage of so many Democrats and independents that the Republicans defer to winning strategy over the right thing to do? Is that not why we arein the current political mess we are in? Do the Democrats not realize the political vulnerability they will find themselves mired in when their opponents and critics accuse them of hypocrisy?

On Ayn Rand, Senator Kamala Harris, etc… (Sean O’Connor’s Public Comment Video Diary Vlog– Episode #25)

I am utterly in love with the experience of thought. It’s like one can grasp any aspect of the universe one wants to touch and make sense of it, or integrate it with some other aspect….thus…keeping records of thoughts for me helps me pay homage to my love for them. But also, I believe that keeping records of thoughts is akin to tracing pieces of a soul…akin to aiding in the effort of expanding awareness of one another beyond the conventional depths.

TRANSCRIPT:

For the first time in… I actually don’t know how many years—maybe as many as half a decade (?)– I’m taking a look at Ayn Rand’s diaries.

Why?

Since my artistic interest here developed into keeping a video diary, and since I appreciate Ayn Rand’s epistemological clarifications of Aristotle’s laws of identity and non-contradiction, and her talks on objectivity and “Objectivism,” I thought I could at least find some insight or common ground with her, even-though ethics and politics…there Ayn Rand I essentially go our separate ways…Ayn Rand’s being an egoist, and myself…believing in what I call an ethical principle of compassion, which, requires caring about both one’s self, and others– not as an act of self-sacrificial or altruism;(ironically I think it is in one’s self interest to care about helping others, lest the society one lives in should crumble into a rather miserable ethos).

One thing I like about what Ayn Rand writes in the December of 1935 (when she’s only roughly 31….just two years younger than I am now) she is identifying her purposes for what would become The Fountainhead.

This leads me to wonder if I’m doing a good enough job defining my own purposes.

To review and perhaps clarify (?) first and foremost: I am utterly in love with the experience of thought. It’s like one can grasp any aspect of the universe one wants to touch and make sense of it, or integrate it with some other aspect….thus…keeping records of thoughts for me helps me pay homage to my love for them. But also, I believe that keeping records of thoughts is akin to tracing pieces of a soul…akin to aiding in the effort of expanding awareness of one another beyond the conventional depths.

(One reason I love YouTube so much more than Twitter is that someone can post a vlog that is really as long as they feel like, you can gaze into his or her eyes and see the expressions on his or her face as he or she bears his or her soul to you… very little is more precious to me than this.)

There is also my love for preserving time…and essentially traveling time in a way… one reason why I am willing to share with you old videos of myself…despite feeling actually depressed by re-watching them; they bring up awful memories and a lot of shame and humiliation. It is… nonetheless, life preserved…kept…tangible…time travel of sorts again as I was saying.

Anyway, I don’t want to get too caught up with my refrain of purpose though in the context of pointing out what I read from Ayn Rand it seemed appropriate to me.

Whenever I think of Ayn Rand I think also of my Grandfather. When I was…roughly 13 and told him I was an atheist he encouraged me to read The Fountainhead and talked about how Ayn Rand was an interesting atheistic philosopher. He said sometimes that she was his favorite philosopher.

I’ve been waiting for the right time to begin talking to you about Ayn Rand more…a woman who changed my world so fundamentally and so powerfully that I suspect the impact will last most of my life.

To be sure….I can’t tell you everything in a single entry because it’s a complex and extraordinarily long-winded topic…and I think Ayn Rand is complex to discuss because her epistemological ideas are so different than her political ones.

Its like she’s two different people. Objective and then idealistic.

I barely recall the first time I read Ayn Rand…The Fountainhead… I was 23 and a half. Living in Chesterfield, NJ. All I took from the novel… initially was the value–which I already possessed, I thought– of not shying away from one’s individuality, not being afraid to be “different” and challenge [like the novel’s protagonist Howard Roark] the conventions of the masses [Toohey, et al]. That was nothing new to me though… so on a first reading it was essentially Ayn Rand preaching to the choir.

[see 17:41- 20:34 in the video here to get a sense of what I was like at 23 years old in Chesterfield.]

The seocnd reading a year later was quite different. I had just recently turned 25 (or was just about to. I don’t have my dates exact here) and had just thrown out my second novel and quit my brief ustream.tv/YouTube vlogging phase, and was reading Ulysses by James Joyce, which was just too hard at the time for me to read or appreciate.

The problem I had with Joyce was that I would spend hours just looking up words because he went out of his way at times to use words that were obscure and archaic. I can in hindsight appreciate the artistry of that effort. Maybe I’d enjoy his writing more today. But at the time it was not resonating with me. I don’t know what it was I felt I needed to read or expose myself to intellectually then that Joyce just wasn’t offering but I felt myself in a tremendous rut.

I don’t know how many of you know the story but I confided in my wife about the rut and…noting (because she always knows me so well) that I value individualism, she suggested I re-read The Fountainhead and that maybe I’d find some inspiration from it. It felt like I was reading it for the first time. I saw “individualism” in a new light…not as an obvious self-esteem thing but rather…as a philosophical idea deeply in contrast to what she called “collectivism.”

I mean, I hadn’t thought of the philosophical debate before…I hadn’t thought of individualism as a theme to delve into because prior to this…again…the value of individualism… to me… was just a given.

Why did I need to therefore plunge into something which seemed so obvious?

It was also the case, as I recall it now, that, having failed to sell my self-published book, and noting that Ayn Rand managed to write best sellers, perhaps I could learn something from her. How had she managed to be a philosopher who could also make a lot of money?

That was when I decided I needed to delve into her and see if I could figure out her secret.

In exploring the writings about her and things she wrote herself, I was exposed to the notion of money as private property…something you work for that… when taxed… is taken from you… despite your right to that money.

I lacked a nuanced way to contemplate the concept of taxation then but I was thinking for the first time about rights and function of government on the one hand, and delving also into Ayn Rand’s more “esoteric” writings on knowledge, logic, conceptualization and such. I was, for the first time, gaining an understanding of knowledge… as possible! (My prior subjectivst epistemology is a loaded discussion. Let us just say for now I refused to accept any absolute, unchanging sense of “reality.”)

So key aspects of fundamental philosophical consciousness were developing within me directly as a result of exploring and contemplating Ayn Rand. That summer especially, I spent every second I could, when not working at the grocery store, studying my Ayn Rand books. I borrowed someone’s copy of Atlas Shrugged and took that novel on, taking notes and writing responses to ideas and such. I want to cite just a few lines from this novel that remain today central to my thinking :

She writes the axiom:

existence exists….something exists which one perceives and that one exists possessing consciousness, consciousness being the faculty of percieving that which exists.

A is A. A thing is itself… the law of identity….a leaf cannoty be a stone at the same time…”

And she defines reason as

the faculty that percieves, idenifies, and integrates the material provided by [one’s] senses

the art of non-contradictory identification [adding that] A contradiction cannot exist

(see pp 929-930)

Say what one will about where Ayn Rand unfortunately deviates from there but… the importance of embracing these fundamental metaphysical and epistemological principles, in my view seems like something that one just can’t overstate. It is the basis of science, journalism and truth…of constructive thought.

Still…oh the irony of how Ayn Rand made this tremendous contribution philosophy yet…alas…beyond that, fails to apply her own ideas of non-contradiction.

As opposed to being an Objectivist I think she is more like an idealist…I think she sees ideologies in there pure forms, and sees them only in their pure forms, and I believe Ayn Rand has this view of humans as sort of naturally prone to extreme rationality and thus…in the case of say…a  libertarian political system, where people are given immense freedom…they abuse it…slavery, exploitation, et cetera.

I’ll have more to say about Ayn Rand in the future but I will stick to bringing her up only as is appropriate to where my thoughts are in a given point in time, as opposed to writing some massive thing about her.

***

Two Friends of mine and I yesterday debated some of the candidates in the Democratic Presidential primary election. We spoke specifically about Kamala Harris and Elizabeth Warren. My friend criticized Kamala Harris for changing her views on prostitution.

At one point, he says, she apparently supported legalization and then flaked out. A New York Times article published…conveniently…just today….reports Sen. Harris as on the record in support of decriminalizing prostitution, citing an undated Facebook interview from The Root.

She did also say at a CNN Town Hall event on April 23, that she is in favor of decriminalizing prostitution. Strangely, Reason magazine characterizes what she says as not decriminalization.

Literally putting words in her mouth and misrepresenting her, Elizabeth Nolan Brown writes:

Harris still thinks paying for sex should be a crime, she just wants to classify all female sex workers as victims so as to avoid arresting them.

Disturbingly…in my opinion…. Brown completely ignores Sen. Harris’s point that pimps trafficking minors should be prosecuted. Sen. Harris did not say “paying for sex should be a crime.” I’m not sure why Brown says this. Harris says

we should not be criminalizing women who are engaged in consensual opportunities for employment

My other friend made a comment saying that Kamala Harris flip-flopped on healthcare. I am not sure where he got this information from but it is inaccurate.

Conservative and Libertarian sites widely reported that Kamla Harris said she wanted to eliminate private health insurance plans and then changed her mind. That’s not what she said though. She listed complaints about how private plans tend to harm people and said “let’s eliminate all that” but she never said “let’s eliminate private health insurance.”

It is really haunting how people put words in one another’s mouths. One more reason why I feel so passionate about keeping this video diary…it seems as if many in the media get away with not really listening and that people seem to believe it regardless of what the record actually is.

The first friend I was telling you about….this fellow also criticized Elizabeth Warren for being so adamant about the need to impeach president Trump. This friend emphasized that a year ago when the two of us were passionately pro impeaching president Trump, Senator Warren was not. He thinks she is merely an opportunist who, now running for president thinking she can score political points, says she wants to see the president impeached.

My friend contrasted her to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, saying Pelosi is is more measured. But I disagree. I think Pelosi may be trying to appear measured but comes across as tepid and a slave to re election anxiety.

(By the way…news just recently broke around 10 am this morning…from The Hill and The New York Times:  that Sen. Warren is calling for making it clear that a president can be indicted. This by the way, makes sense, and I am impressed by Sen. Warren saying what absolutely must be said with respect to where policy must go!)

But back to impeachment…my friend views Pelosi’s cautiousness as politically smart…that by leaving the option open but not committing to it quite, she is rallying support so to speak without alienating independents and moderate or uncertain Democrats who will be turned off by rushed impeachment. But Sen. Warren says over and over again that… essentially… some things matter more than “politics” and I agree!

What my friend fears is that if rushed impeachment hurts Democrats that could lead to the GOP’s taking back power and abolishing Obamacare and other healthcare protections. I do understand feeling protective of healthcare policy but I think if every policy position is excessively based on gauges of public support or constituents giving up their support then what conscience does one have? How safe would our healthcare be in such a world then?

My name is Sean O’Connor and I thank you for checking out my video diary vlog. I call it “Public Comment” to underscore the value of commenting on one’s most valued thoughts publicly, of soul-sharing. Though I like to think wide and deep in our increasingly specialization -and -niche oriented international society the three most basic subjects my diary tends to focus on focus on include politics, culture and self. Though my approach is philosophical, political and intellectual, I’m also emotional and artistic. I’m a registered Democrat and thus lean liberal but I don’t bind myself to any political party. I’m 33, live in New Jersey with my wife, recently graduated William Paterson University with a BA in Liberal Studies, and currently work as a writing tutor for Mercer County Community College. Please enjoy my videos, subscribe if you want to follow along, and join the conversation in the comments sections.

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