What Is A Sheepdog?

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What is a sheepdog? Many of you have probably heard this term being thrown around in the past, and likely will again in the future, but what is it? What does it mean in the context of politics, especially the two party system in the US? It’s typically used as a pejorative, an insult, often levied against candidates who appear to challenge the orthodoxy of a party, but who ultimately ask their supporters to vote for the status quo candidate the party endorses. It is the job of the sheepdog to herd the sheep, as it were. The sheep, of course, being the voters who have wandered away from the party and into disarray.

Why do voters stray from the party line and why do they need to be herded? Well, let’s be honest, neither the Republicans nor the Democrats appeal to the majority of Americans.

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The biggest voting bloc in the country, according to Gallup, is now independents. These folks make up 43% of all registered voters. The Democrats take 29% and the Republicans take 26%. In order to win a general election, each party tries to scoop up as many voters as possible from the opposing party, but they need independents even more. Independents often have become disillusioned with the continuous failures of both the Democrats and Republicans, and their inability to keep any of the positive promises that they campaign on. These independents need to be convinced to vote blue or red against their better judgment, which is where the sheepdog comes into play.

The role of this type of candidate is to gather up as many independents as possible by telling them just enough of the truth and offering them just enough actual policy solutions to problems that they become convinced there is a chance of actually accomplishing something truly groundbreaking. The sheepdog’s second job is to lose to the candidate pre-selected by the party as the intended winner. The sheepdog’s third job is to use their newfound political capital to try and convince their supporters to fall in line behind the intended candidate, whoever that may be. This is why people like Bernie Sanders are accused of being a sheepdog on a regular basis, while candidates like Ralph Nader, who took his supporters into the Green party instead of falling in line behind Al Gore and the Democrats, are accused of being a spoiler and splitting the vote. The irony of more registered Democrats voting for George Bush than for the Green Party conflicts with that narrative and is almost never discussed. I’ll do another piece about spoilers and vote splitting, what it all means, and how it can change the outcome of an election.

The idea of a sheepdog ignores the ability of voters to think for themselves, as it suggests that people will do whatever their chosen candidate instructs them to do, but it can be an effective strategy against those who don’t have a strong grasp of cyclical political strategizing and who don’t pay close attention to the issues. The Democrats employ the strategy more than the Republicans, but it has been used to great effect by both parties. Ultimately, the sheep who have been successfully herded back into the Democratic fold, with promises of influence and reasonable policy, are ignored once the election is won.

Another feature of the sheepdog is to divert the energy and enthusiasm of activists a year, a year and a half out from a November election away from building an alternative to the Democratic party, and instead into a doomed effort. When the sheepdog inevitably folds up their campaign in the spring or summer before a November election, there’s no time remaining to win ballot access for alternative parties or candidates, no time to raise money or organize any effective challenge to the two corporatist parties. When the sheepdog closes up shop, the alternatives have been nipped in the bud, and the party pivots to the familiar “lesser of two evils” narrative. Same old game, every time.

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Chris Christie played a similar role for Donald Trump in the 2016 Republican primaries, but his duties extended to being an attack dog as well. He not only herded voters into Trump’s camp, but also spent his political capital ripping Trump’s opponents to shreds. This is a variation on the strategy to keep watch for in the future.

Why is this all important? Well, if we are ever to truly change the political dynamic in our country away from the two-headed coin that is the Republicans and Democrats…we have to understand how the parties, and their friends in the media, maneuver voters around like puppets on strings. We need to learn their strategies, recognize when they’re being used against us, and respond in a sophisticated and coordinated manner. We need to be able to beat them at their own game.

In the immortal words of Denzel Washington in Training Day, “This shit’s chess, it ain’t checkers.”

– SoO

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A Race to the Bottom

Huffington Post – Why FCC Chairman Ajit Pai is CLBR’s Zero of the Year

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Ars Technica – FCC faces backlash for saying Americans might not need fast home Internet

Singled Out

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This will not be a critique of the current FCC attempts to repeal net neutrality regulations. That is another kettle of fish and I will write about it separately. The issue I want to address here is the rollback of broadband internet standards, which should by no means be lowered. When students fall behind at school, do we lower standards and allow them to pass without the skills and knowledge they were supposed to acquire? That’s a recipe for failure on a broad systemic level. Advertised speeds of 25Mbps downstream and 3Mbps upstream, which often practically measure far slower than claimed, are often not rapid enough for modern necessities. Lowering it beyond that signifies the FCC’s complete and total disconnect with the needs of Americans.

When I speak of necessities, I don’t mean applications like Netflix. I am sure that I am not the only one who enjoys having heaps of movies and original TV series to binge on, but I consider that to be a luxury. However, Netflix and similar services will suffer greatly from the rollback of broadband standards.

Necessities are, in my opinion, things that allow, or are required for, interaction with government, employers, educational institutions, family, etc. For example, I used to connect remotely to my office’s VPN at my old job and my wife does so at her current job. This is a very common practice these days and enables businesses and employees to be more flexible and productive, even when halfway across the world. With the new standards Ajit Pai’s FCC wants to establish, the latency would render it very difficult to effectively complete tasks remotely. This high demand is very similar to the manners in which students now interact with their places of education. Many Americans living in rural areas cannot physically attend college or university, but are enrolled in very innovative distance education programs. These programs often utilize streaming video, video conferencing, and large data uploads/downloads, which are exceptionally useful tools to engage students, but are very demanding in terms of bandwidth. Without an appropriate level of internet access across the country, we are choosing as a society to deprive certain people of opportunities that exist and could transform their lives. These are just two small examples out of thousands of practical bottlenecks that will occur if we lower standards as a kickback to bloated telecommunications monopolies, which are dragging their feet in order to delay infrastructure build-out and to milk old infrastructure for as many pennies as they can. Monopolies are the polar opposite of competition in the marketplace and the result of their amalgamation of capital and power is stagnation in the market.

We need to stop worrying about profit margins and value for shareholders. The true concern is whether or not we are falling behind the rest of the world in terms of both technology and investment in the future. We also need to be concerned with the capability, or lack thereof, of our internet infrastructure to support increasing subscribership as well as increasing demand for high bandwidth and low latency. DSL and 3G are not reasonable broadband options for folks living in rural America. Broadband internet has become indispensible in the modern world. It is difficult to interface with various levels of government and private industry without high speed internet. A business without an internet presence and sweeping online access is more likely to fail than a competitor that has these services. Setting the standard at “10/3” is like setting the standard for drinkable water as “lead adds flavor,” and the standard for breathable air as “smog is underrated.”

I have written to the FCC at every step of their review process. It’s easy and I think it’s the least I can do. If I could distill my commentary down to one demand for Ajit Pai, it would be: please stop catering to business interests and do your actual job, which is to advocate zealously on behalf of all American citizens. A rising tide lifts all boats.

– SoO

Dictators or Kings?

Reuters – North Korea Revealed: The thinking behind Kim Jong Un’s “madness”

Reuters Investigates NK

PERSPECTIVE OF POWER: The administrative and military elites, pictured here at a Pyongyang parade, vie for influence. Kim Jong Il intensified the rivalry between them to protect his son. REUTERS/Damir Sagoljaption

I figured the best way to start off a controversial journey was with a controversial topic! What better than North Korea, as Kim Jong Un tees up yet another MRBM/IRBM?

We, in the west, righteously label people like the Kims dictators. I believe there is a more fitting title: Kings. Machiavelli called them new Princes and old Princes; he delved deeply into the unique challenges posed to each as they came to power. Today, our day-to-day discourse fails to make these connections. Yet, Kings they are and, invasions notwithstanding, Kings they will remain.

Looking crazy is a carefully calculated strategy for someone in KJU’s position. There was no ongoing transition of power from his Kim Jong Il to Kim Jong Un, as there had been from Kim Il Sung to Kim Jong Il (a 10 year transition, in fact). Educated secretly in Switzerland, KJU returned home to a heaping pile of responsibility and danger. His dad died quickly, his people did not know him, and his cabinet and family were all greedily eyeing his position. Had he been a gentle ruler, he’d already be dead and one of his relatives, generals, or an western imperial puppet would be in charge. I am in no way excusing what he’s done to his people. I am simply saying that his actions make perfect sense every step of the way. He was a weak ruler attempting to consolidate power among a den of snakes. To accomplish this, he acted strong. He brutally and publicly killed those who conspired against him. He won the favor of his people through propaganda and by show of strength.

Much like the old adage about new inmates in prison attempting to make themselves safe by picking a fight with the biggest, toughest, meanest guy in the yard, Kim has endlessly rattled his saber at the American empire. The show is just as much for his own people as it is for us.

He appears rabid and senseless to us because we are using the wrong metrics to evaluate his actions. He is intelligent and ruthless, he covets his birthright, and he fears death. All of this is clear. The future between our two nations rests on our ability to see him for what he is rather than what we have been told he is.

– SoO