Banannery Public

Part of this complete breakfast.

Vote for the candidate you want — October 12, 2016

Vote for the candidate you want

There is a political argument, common to the Left and the Right, that is wrong and lazy, and harmful to democracy in general and the United States of America in particular.

A vote for anyone other than Hillary Clinton is a vote for Donald Trump who is mentally unstable and is not qualified to be President.

The fact of the matter is that either Trump or Clinton will be president. Hillary WILL appoint the most radical leftist Supreme Court judges which will alter the course of the nation for decades to come. Sitting at home on one’s moral high horse will not alter that fact.…Doing nothing is a vote for Hillary.

(Source: Random people on Facebook)

This is an argument from pragmatism. It keeps appearing on social media and in political op/eds. The “lesser of two evils” argument is used by Trump and Clinton supporters to guilt and browbeat their fellow citizens into voting for someone they don’t want in office.

Perhaps you don’t like either candidate, and a friend or relative has targeted you with this argument from pragmatism. Let’s look at the essence of the argument, why it’s wrong and lazy, why it’s harmful, and how you should instead vote for the candidate you want. Then I’ll answer a couple objections that might occur to you.

The essence of the argument from pragmatism

Here are the logical steps that form the argument.

  1. Candidate “Bad” and Candidate “Worse” are the only viable options in a civic election.
  2. The candidate who receives the most votes will win the election.
  3. It is morally unacceptable for Candidate “Worse” to win the election.
  4. A voter who fails to vote for Candidate “Bad” is enabling Candidate “Worse” to win the election.
  5. Therefore, one should vote for Candidate “Bad.”

Can you identify the weak link? Premises 1, 2, and 3 are true. It’s premise 4 that is false. Let me show you why.

Why the argument from pragmatism is wrong and lazy

Here’s a brutal reality that no politician will ever tell you: Your vote has zero practical value.

Let’s suppose you were a US citizen who supported Mitt Romney in 2012. On Election Day, you were walking out to your car to drive to the voting booth, but you slipped on a patch of ice and fell and broke your hip. As a result, you failed to vote for Mitt Romney in the 2012 election.

Did your failure to vote change the outcome? Would Romney have won if only your fragile hip had survived the fall intact? Of course not. Your vote had precisely zero influence on the 2012 presidential election. It had no practical value whatsoever. Only in the smallest civic elections might your vote have even a tiny chance of making a difference.

If you were truly behaving pragmatically in 2012, you would not have voted at all. You would have saved your half-hour at the polls and spent it on a more productive task—shopping for groceries, or vacuuming the house, or researching hip replacement surgery. The only reason that a pragmatist votes is that he or she has not followed this pragmatic line of thinking to its logical conclusion, but has quit thinking halfway to the end. He or she is a lazy thinker, blurting out an argument that is lazy and wrong.

So if your friend or relative is going to urge you to act pragmatically on Election Day, follow their argument to its foolish end. Tell them that the brilliance of their pragmatism has persuaded you. Tell them you have decided not to vote for Clinton and not to vote for Trump. Tell them you have decided not to vote at all, but rather to spend that half-hour on election day with a pragmatism and productivity that will put theirs to shame. For that half-hour, they can find you at home, folding your laundry.

Why the argument from pragmatism is harmful

The argument from pragmatism is harmful for at least three reasons.

First, it encourages people not to vote. Why is voter turnout so low in many democratic elections? It’s because people are acting pragmatically in the months leading up to Election Day and on the day itself. They’re not spending their time learning about the candidates and their platforms and their merits. They’re not spending the time to vote. They’re doing other things that have genuine practical value. They’re not lazy; they’re pragmatic. They are following the argument from pragmatism to its logical conclusion.

Second, it enables bad candidates and corrupt parties. How have the Democratic and Republican parties maintained the two-party system for the last 150 years? They have employed the argument from pragmatism. They have manipulated voters into believing that their vote must be cast for a candidate from one of their parties. It is in the interest of both parties to perpetuate this nonsense. Anyone who repeats this argument is either speaking as a cynical manipulator or working to recruit you as a fellow pawn.

Third, it guts our democratic process of its dignity. It encourages realpolitik, the embrace of amoral pragmatism and Machiavellian politics. It encourages citizens to vote out of fear, hatred, and loathing of the opposition candidate. It ensures that wicked campaigners will gain power, and corrupt elites will remain in power, by infesting voters with their fear, hatred, and loathing of the alternative. If all this sounds like America circa 2016, it’s because we have made our bed, and now we are lying in it.

Vote for the candidate you want

Your vote, and my vote, has no pragmatic value. It will not sway the results of all but the smallest civic election. So why do we vote?

You and I vote not because it’s practical, but because it’s our duty and our dignity. We vote for ideological reasons. We are citizens of a state that, for all its faults and corruption, protects us from harm, enforces justice, and promotes what is good. It is my responsibility to the state to vote in a civic election, because my vote is my voice. I use it to communicate what kind of person I believe should be in office, and what kind of platform they should run on. I want my community, my state or province, and my country to be led by someone who is virtuous and just and wise, and who makes decisions with virtue, justice, and wisdom.

There is only reason to vote for a candidate for public office: you vote for the candidate because you want him or her to hold that office. It is a violation of your civic duty, a betrayal of your citizenship, to vote for someone you don’t want.

If you’re an American citizen, here’s how you should vote in the 2016 presidential election:

  1. If you want Donald Trump to be President, then vote for Donald Trump.
  2. If you want Hillary Clinton to be President, then vote for Hillary Clinton.
  3. If you don’t want either one to be President, then research your third party alternatives, find a candidate that you do want to be President, and vote for that candidate.
  4. If you can’t find a third-party candidate that you want to be President, then write in the name of a person you would like to be President, if your state permits it.
  5. If your state does not permit a write-in vote, or restricts it to names you don’t find acceptable, then do not cast a vote for President. (Do, however, cast a vote for other elected offices on the ballot.)

Remember: Your vote has no practical value. It will make no difference. And so you are free to vote for the candidate you want.

Objections answered

If everyone thought this way, then Candidate “Worse” might be elected!

Don’t forget that if everyone were thinking this way, then the supporters of Candidate “Worse” would also be thinking this way. Many of them would vote for someone else. Remember, they are voting for this candidate only because in their opinion, it is Candidate “Bad” who is the worst! Given an alternative, many would choose someone better. So in the end, this objection only leads to speculation and worry, both of which are hardly pragmatic.

Al Gore lost Florida to George W. Bush by 537 votes. If the 97,488 Floridians who voted for Ralph Nader had instead voted for Al Gore, then Gore would have won Florida—and the election. So didn’t this ideological voting for Nader cost Gore the 2000 presidential election?

Once again, it’s speculation to assume that Ralph Nader’s supporters would have voted at all if Nader weren’t an option. And if we’re going to speculate, why not speculate about the party nominations in that election? Would Al Gore and George W. Bush have even been nominated as candidates if party members had voted ideologically rather than pragmatically? And would prior presidential elections have been reshaped by ideological voting, fundamentally altering the political landscape for the 2000 election? We don’t know.

The point is this: It’s not your civic responsibility, or mine, to speculate about the results of your voting. It’s your civic responsibility to vote for the candidate you want.

Furthermore, you are not responsible for other people’s votes, but only your own. And if you had been one of those Nader supporters, changing your vote to Al Gore would not have won him the election. With your help, he still would have lost—by 536 votes.

The Best of All Worlds #1: Earth — December 14, 2014

The Best of All Worlds #1: Earth

The Best of All Worlds

We’re #1!

OK, so maybe I’m a little biased and just a touch geocentric. I’m old-fashioned that way. But I think I’m being fair when I say that Earth is the best planet in the Solar System, and it’s not even a close call.

The most famous photograph in the world: "The Blue Marble" taken on the Apollo 17 lunar mission in 1972.
The most famous photograph in the world: “The Blue Marble” taken on the Apollo 17 lunar mission in 1972.

Blue waters, swirling white clouds, rainy temperate zones, harsh deserts, snow-capped mountain peaks, deep ocean trenches. Every nook and cranny of Earth is bursting with life, from desert ecosystems to subterranean Antarctic lakes to undersea reefs to tropical rainforests. The plants and animals and single-celled organisms of our planet stabilize its temperature and its atmosphere, preventing it from turning into the ice planet Hoth and replenishing it with life-giving oxygen that is all but absent on any other planet we know.

Circling our planet is a massive Moon that generates ocean tides and stabilizes Earth’s tilt, ensuring regular seasonal cycles and ocean currents that circulate nutrients throughout the planet’s ecosystems.

We as humans have thrived on this planet, multiplying across it and finding ways to survive in just about every niche and ecosystem above sea level. Some of us have accessed a planetary information network called the Internet and voted on this very blog that Earth is the worst planet in the Solar System. This is because we are sometimes ungrateful and dumb. Every day we see and hear beauty all around us, and we take for granted the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat, neither of which we can find on any other planet in the Solar System.

Earthrise as viewed from Apollo 8 as it orbited the Moon in 1968.
Earthrise as viewed from Apollo 8 as it orbited the Moon in 1968.

In a thousand years, we could not exhaust the richness of Earth. Our planet is not merely the crown jewel of the Solar System; it is the greatest wonder of the universe.

So here’s our final ranking of all the planets in our Solar System, from worst to first:

8. Venus
7. Mercury
6. Uranus
5. Neptune
4. Mars
3. Saturn
2. Jupiter
1. Earth

Thanks for reading! Next week I will return to blogging on whatever I feel like. I’m committing to increasing my blogging rate from once a year to once a week, which is a big step up. While you wait for that, go ahead and cast your vote for the best and worst planets in the Solar System.

The Best of All Worlds #2: Jupiter — December 7, 2014

The Best of All Worlds #2: Jupiter

The Best of All Worlds

Now we come to the king of the planets, the undisputed heavyweight champion of our Solar System.

21 Jumpiter Street.
21 Jumpiter Street.


I mean Jupiter.

(I kept typing Jumpiter at first, so I thought I’d leave it there.)

Jupiter is a straight up amazing planet. First of all, as we’ve already mentioned, it’s the heaviest planet. In fact, it’s twice as massive as the other seven planets combined. It’s so massive that it alters the center of mass of our Solar System—the Solar System (including the Sun) revolves around a point just beyond of the surface of the Sun. It’s so massive that, if you were to throw more matter into it, it wouldn’t even get any bigger than it is because the sheer gravitational pull would cause the planet to contract in on itself.

Yes, Jupter is a big boy.

(I mean Jupiter. Sheesh.)

Jupiter is also super energetic. It emits more radiation than it receives from the sin. Once Venus disappears behind the horizon, Jupiter is the brightest “star” in the night sky—bright enough to cast shadows on Earth. You can’t hide from Jupiet.

(Jupiter Jupiter Jupiter. Why can’t I spell it right)

You'll need more than Neutrogena to make this case of acne go away.
You’ll need more than Neutrogena to make this case of acne go away.

Jupiter has the most dramatic surface features outside of Earth. It’s got colourful bands of clouds in its atmosphere, and outrageous ovals of red and white sprinkled across its surface. These ovals are storm systems, some as large as Earth itself. The famous Great Red Spot, in fact is larger than two Earths and has spun around Jupiter for hundreds of years.

Jupiter has a super powerful magnetic field that sweeps out as far as the orbit of Saturn. If you were to travel through Jupiter’s magnetic field, you’d be cooked by all the energetic particles trapped along the field lines. So don’t do that.

Finally, Jupiter has dozens of little moons like any respectable gas giant would have. But four of them are amazing—some the best moons in the Solar System:

  • Ganymede, the most massive moon in the Solar System
  • Europa, the most icy moon in the Solar System
  • Io, the most volcano-y moon in the Solar System
  • Callisto, the most ordinary moon in the Solar System

Seriously, Callisto might be the forgotten middle child of these four “Galilean moons.” I mean…it’s a good moon, better than the moons of nearly every other planet…but in the Jupiter family, it struggles to stand out. Such is life.

Callisto, why can't you be more like your brothers and sisters?
Callisto, why can’t you be more like your brothers and sisters?

So even though Jupiter isn’t really a great place to visit unless you’re a specially designed robotic probe, it’s still the second-best planet in the Solar System. And that’s no small feat, because the best planet is freakin’ unbelievable. Bet you can’t guess which one it is.

Our rankings so far:

8. Venus
7. Mercury
6. Uranus
5. Neptune
4. Mars
3. Saturn
2. Jupiter
1. ???

If you were a Galilean moon, which one of the four would you be? Let us all know in the comments below, and then vote for the BEST planet and the WORST planet in our Solar System!

The Best of All Worlds #3: Saturn — January 1, 2014

The Best of All Worlds #3: Saturn

The Best of All Worlds

The Miss Universe competition has been a sham for decades now thanks to its Earthling bias. Everyone knows that the real Miss Universe is found elsewhere in our Solar System. God liked it, so he put a ring on it.

Behold: the planet Saturn.

Saturn features the largest and priciest hula hoop in the Solar System.
Saturn features the largest and priciest hula hoop in the Solar System.

As we move on from the gaggle of lousy and mediocre planets littering our Solar System, we arrive at one that I seriously considered for the #2 spot in my ranking of the eight planets.

Saturn is beautiful. Just look at her!

Indeed, the most beautiful of all billiard balls.
Indeed, the most beautiful of all billiard balls.

Now, we could drool all day over photos from the Voyager probes and the Cassini-Huygens mission. But for most of human history, no one had any idea that Saturn was so lovely. It was just another bright wandering speck in the sky that came to be known as a planet. Then finally, Galileo peered through his rudimentary telescope and discovered that this particular planet had a couple of lumps sticking out of the side. Christiaan Huygens had a better telescope and determined that these lumps were—improbably enough—rings! How bizarre an experience that must have been!

Saturn’s rings are composed of a bazillion little chunks of ice and rock, shepherded by a handful of tiny moons that zip around the gas giant. The rings are beautiful, but unfortunately, Saturn really only has two good moons. The first good moon is Mimas, because it looks like the Death Star. The second good moon is Titan, which contains 90% of the mass in orbit around Saturn (rings and moons included), is larger than the planet Mercury, and is the only moon in the solar system with an atmosphere. Underneath the yellow smog lie several lakes of liquid methane and ethane, off limits to swimmers even during peak season.

As for Saturn itself, once you peel away the rings, you’re left with a planet that is unfortunately rather low in density, bland in appearance, and a little squashed looking. I’m the sort of guy who prefers planets with a lively and vivacious personality, so despite its serene splendour, Saturn only lands at #3 on my list. If you prefer to put Saturn at #2, that’s OK by me; just don’t hand this planet the Miss Congeniality award or anything.

One last look for you Saturn groupies out there!

I hear that angelic haloes are fashionable in Paris these days.
I hear that angelic haloes are fashionable in Paris these days.

Our rankings so far:

8. Venus
7. Mercury
6. Uranus
5. Neptune
4. Mars
3. Saturn
1–2. ???

How much airfare would you pay to go and watch a beauty pageant of all the planets? Let us all know in the comments below, and then vote for the BEST planet and the WORST planet in our Solar System!

The Best of All Worlds #4: Mars — July 14, 2013

The Best of All Worlds #4: Mars

The Best of All Worlds

Mars. The Red Planet. Where men are from.

Mars has long captured the imagination of the human race, much as men have long captured the imagination of human women. Ever since some dude in ancient times noticed a red star wandering aimlessly across the celestial sphere, humanity has wondered: when will Mars get a real job and settle down? The answer is, like, never. Mars is content to putz around with the surveyor robots we keep sending it, and it has no inclination to start its own family of life forms anytime soon.

This is what yogurt looks like if you leave it in the fridge too long.
This is what yogurt looks like if you leave it in the fridge too long.

Oh, sure, we could assign a few astronauts to Mars to whip the planet into shape. In fact, a team of malcontent Earthlings is already assembling a madcap expedition to Mars, a one-way ticket to colonize our next-door neighbour. When they arrive, however, they may find their new home a little less accomodating than they expected.

You see, because NASA is kind enough to share the photos they’re taking with their wacky RC dune buggies, we often assume that Mars is merely a dusty red desert, like a rusty version of Arizona. But when our migrant workers show up on Mars, they’re going to wish for a border patrol to ship them across the Solar System, back to Earth. The God-forsaken plains of Mars make the driest Earth desert seem like the Garden of Eden.

How did Mars turn out so crappy? Well, it hasn’t bothered to generate a magnetic field like its overachieving older sister, Earth. Troops of Martian Boy Scouts will find themselves lost in its howling wastes, their compasses twirling uselessly in their fingers. Also, they will be dead, because without a magnetic field, Mars is unable to retain a thick and rich atmosphere like Earth’s. Like a screaming drill sergeant with a tenuous grasp of oral hygiene, our Sun is continually blasting its planets with charged particles that Earth’s magnetic field successfully deflects. But Mars got lazy, so the solar radiation has stripped away nearly all of its atmosphere and supplied an electrostatic charge to the Martian dust. This means that not only is Mars practically enveloped in vacuum, but its dust sticks to everything. And it’s nasty, corrosive stuff. If you’re the kind of person who hates the feeling of sand in your swimsuit, don’t go to Mars. The Mars dust will slowly eat away your swimsuit until it disintegrates in the most awkward fashion imaginable at the office pool party.

Martian Boy Scouts learn to identify landmarks such as grey pointy rocks and red pointy rocks.
Martian Boy Scouts learn to identify landmarks such as grey pointy rocks and red pointy rocks.

So maybe Mars isn’t such a great place to live. And maybe it’s no wonder that the Martians of H. G. Wells lore were so eager to escape their planet and take over our own. But when you consider some of its delinquent siblings, maybe Mars isn’t all that bad. The Red Planet would be a worse place to live than anywhere on Earth, but at least you could live there someday for a while without melting into a puddle of molten slag. And in the meantime, we can send our little robot toys to our neighbouring world to poke at rocks and look for water and stuff. Mars even got off the couch long enough to score a couple dinky moons for itself. So you know, maybe this layabout planet will amount to something after all.

Our rankings so far:

8. Venus
7. Mercury
6. Uranus
5. Neptune
4. Mars
1–3. ???

What would motivate you to move out of your parents’ basement and travel to Mars? Let us all know in the comments below, then scroll back up and vote for the BEST planet and the WORST planet in our Solar System!

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