Sunday, June 23, 2013

Candidates from Beyond the Absurd

Version 0.2

Candidates from Beyond the Absurd

The American political system is so broken these years that it has become impossible even to guess where to begin an attempt to fix it. There are just TOO many problems and flaws. Some of the systematic problems afflict both sides, and those are going to be especially hard to cure, because both sides are in effect equally committed to NOT curing them, which means it doesn't even matter how elections turn out since the so-called winners will have won because of taking advantage of the problems. Campaign finance and gerrymandering, I'm talking to you. However, some of the problems are sort of within the scope of influence of the voters. Kind of laughable to imagine putting anything within the actual control of the actual voters, eh? Perhaps that is the real sickness of the American political system?

The so-called democratic or even republican thesis so far is that it makes sense to begin with the problems that can be influenced by the results of the actual elections. Maybe we can get some reform by a focus on the places where there are clear differences between the political parties? In those places, the voters may actually have some influence, at least in theory. I've written elsewhere (though I can't find the comments so as to include a link or two) why the American political system is a winner-take-all system that essentially reduces to two parties, so I'm just going to take that as a given and focus on one of the key differences between the two main parties: Today's so-called Republican Party nominates nuts.

There are two proximate data sources that motivate me to address the topic now. One provocation was a recent final new rule from Bill Maher on the disastrous legacy of Ronald Reagan. [That's a transcript link on the HBO website, but I don't currently know of a video link that looks reliable, though he delivered it quite well.] The second provocation was reading Tina Fey's fairly recent book Bossypants, which included quite a bit about her comic impersonations of Sarah Palin during the 2008 presidential campaign. These are just examples of the general thesis that the neo-GOP can and does nominate incredibly unqualified candidates, even for national offices. Two other examples are Dubya Bush and Dan Quayle.

There have been some competent Republican candidates, too--but as far as the neo-GOP partisans are concerned, those competent candidates are regarded as failures or losers or both, and therefore the obvious prediction is that the quality of so-called Republican nominees is going to continue to decline--if that's possible. In other words, the lesson the neo-GOP has learned from candidates like Romney, McCain, Bob Dole, and even Poppy Bush is that they were too competent and not sufficiently extremist. Many of them believe it was precisely because of his hand-on competence that Nixon himself was hounded out of office.

It might be nice if the self-immolation of the neo-GOP was going to help the nation, but there is little evidence of that. Instead, we are likely to have a collapse into permanent control of the White House by the Democratic Party, with Congress going the same way once the mathematical limits of gerrymandering are passed. Hopefully I'm wrong, but I think one-party rule is going to be disastrous, even if that party starts with the best of intentions... At least that's what the historical record indicates.

There's a need to clarify the use of "so-called" and "neo-GOP". That's because the modern neo-GOP is just borrowing the brand name, but there is no real connection the the progressive Republican Party of Abraham Lincoln or the rationally balanced conservative GOP of Teddy Roosevelt and his ilk.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Lock and Load your Will for Gun Safety

Version 0.3

Lock and Load your Will for Gun Safety

Not sure where to begin, but let me list a few obvious points:
  1. Lots of Americans die by getting shot, at least 30,000 per year.
  2. America's professional politicians are incapable of addressing the problem in any meaningful way.
  3. Gun safety is not an unsolvable problem. I think every metric shows the United States has the worst record for gun safety--but you can't even find out how bad the problem is because the statistics are actively suppressed.
Actually that leads me to start with point #3. I already knew that the US government is basically forbidden to collect various kinds of statistics about gun deaths and gun safety. So I started my research by searching the Internet for gun deaths and quickly found an apparently useful lead on Wikipedia for firearm-related deaths organized by country. The United States was not included.

Wait a minute. Tens of thousands of Americans are shot to death every year, but it isn't worth mention?

I don't think the lives of Americans are worth so little. Do you?

It's obvious the data is being censored, even on Wikipedia. Censorship is NOT a neutral point of view. Sorry Wikipedia. It's a big FAIL, at least as of the date of this writing (23 April 2013).

So I've expanded a bit on points #3 and #1, so let's hit on #2. Why are politicians unable and unwilling to do anything about gun safety? Of course I'm mostly concretely talking about the recent use of the filibuster to prevent a very slight improvement in background checks, but in general terms we have an almost total political paralysis in Washington, DC.

"It's the MONEY, Lebowski!"

In this case, the particular is mostly the money of the gun manufacturers invested with the NRA and some rightwing media. Easy to understand why. Gun manufacturers make money when everyone buys more guns.

To paraphrase the NRA itself, "The only thing that stops a bad politician with bad money is a good politician with good money."

Here is my suggestion for a source for good money: Lock and load your will. Not sure how this should be written, but I suggest that lots of people should add a paragraph to their boots-on will. If you die because of a gun, then 10% of your estate will be donated against some incumbent politician who has a favorable rating from the NRA. If you are shot by a gun that might not have been there if Congress had passed some gun safety regulation, then it should go to 20%. Probably too long for most people to write, but your will could even specify the kind of gun safety legislation that would cancel the paragraph.

Remember we're talking about 30,000 deaths per year. Those are pretty much unplanned deaths, but if some of those deaths start producing political funding for gun safety, maybe enough of the politicians will become as afraid of opposing gun safety as Americans should be afraid of the guns.


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As a blogger from before there were blogs, I've concluded what I write is of little interest to the reading public. My current approach is to treat these blogs as notes, with the maturity indicated by the version number. If reader comments show interest, I will probably add some flesh to the skeletons...