unastronaut*

Feet on the ground – head in the clouds.

Posts Tagged ‘america

Radical change we could agree on?

with one comment

Income Tax is the most ridiculously counter-productive tax we could possibly impose in terms of productivity. We want Americans to be productive. We want them to earn, to create things that others may buy, to create jobs. We do not want them to limit productivity in order to maintain a balance. Americans aren’t about wading in the middle, it’s our tax system that creates people like a friend of mine who always worked 36.5 hours, the minimum average to keep his full-time status, but where he figured that the rest of his check would all go to taxes. He was an accounting major, so I’m sure his math wouldn’t have been too far off, and he always seemed to have more take-home pay and get more back on his returns every year.

A consumption tax would serve the public good, be a better model for a more-free market, and most of all put the balance of incentives back in order. We want people to earn, to save and contribute to the circular flow of money within their communities. We don’t want anyone to shy away from work. If I work my ass off and save enough to buy a house with cash, that’s good for a lot of people. Sure, I may cut out some bank middle-mannery but who wants to argue they deserve to finance those who are inherently more responsible than their own management? If I’m keeping all of my money, I can afford to account for the taxes to buy a nice place in America, where many people enjoy resort-style amenities just for existing in a nice community. If I want to buy five platinum-plated Maseratis, I’ll be prepared to take the hit, but don’t punch me for punching in.

NI4D – The National Initiative for Democracy is the hidden-in-plain-view answer to many of our political woes. Last I checked, there are 11 states using some form of public initiative system. How else would things like medical marijuana get on a ballot? Or ever get a vote of any kind? Or gay marriage bans, for that matter? There are many things that make sense to the general public that are simply too dangerous for any politician to approach, let alone a majority of Congress. Throughout my college days I came across a lot of people who didn’t vote, but were somewhat informed and had an opinion. Even those who vote in Presidential elections rarely vote in off-year and local elections. Voter turnout does not really reflect a complete political apathy, more an apathy with the effectiveness of the current voting system.

Enter the national initiative. If the majority of Americans do not want a war, the majority should be heard. If a majority of residents of a state support a doctor’s right to prescribe medical marijuana, a conservative or pandering legislature should not block the will of the people on a state’s rights issue. If a majority of the public believe that a doctor may refuse to perform certain treatments based on their religious beliefs, I don’t believe any law could Constitutionally coerce them otherwise so long as this is made clear to the patient before their life is in the hands of the doctor. The Bill of Rights mentions the rights of the people in the 9th Amendment, and again as a part of state’s rights. This is better served in those 11 states with initiative systems, and referendum and recall can also be a better way to clear the haze of our current political system. All of the nonsense calls for resignation, all of the political posturing on issues the speaker doesn’t even believe will ever come to a vote and the back-and-forth nature of our failing two-party system would at least see some improvement and at most clear the way for real public discourse, real participatory democracy.

Concerning gay marriage: I say again, can the government simply refuse to define a marriage in any way? Let churches or individuals have the right to define their own “marriages”, and simply allow for all couples seeking to join their lives to be unified in the governments eyes. The slippery slope argument doesn’t fly here. The US has a long precedent of defining such unions as a union of only two, consenting adults. We have laws restricting the marriages of children which are legitimately in the public interest. Lately some ultra-conservative Congressmen have been comparing homosexuality to pedophilia. This is ludicrous and gets a gut reaction in many ways, but I’d offer one rational argument without gut involved. By definition, pedophilia violates legitimate laws in public interest. Sure, there could be homosexual predators out there, but as Chris Hansen proves there are predators of all stupid persuasions. But a union of consenting adults should not be the government’s business to deny one group if it is permitted for another.

If marriage is a religious practice, the sanctity of which should be defended, then it should remain out of the government. What the government should do is have a system for defining next of kin in a humane way, with the utmost priority on individual freedom to choose who is considered a spouse by a hospital.

I’m often accused of being an ultra-liberal or whatever you’d call it, but those tags really are just how others see you based on the conversations you’ve had. Sure, if you’re talking to me about health care, I sound a bit more on the liberal side. But if we’re talking about guns, I’m never really accused of being a conservative. That’s odd considering I don’t think any American should need to choose a “favorite Amendment” from the Bill of Rights. There was a specific reason our founders first defended speech, press and religion then our last line of defense second. This is not a “hunter’s” Amendment, although along with defense, we should be allowed to enjoy sport. It is the first line of the Constitution that says… and if you fail to obey the Kings of America as prescribed by the first three words of the Preamble… we’re not, ya know, gonna take it. The contentious issue here for many liberals is hinged on people like Glenn Beck, who think you start talking about getting guns ready. Paul Revere didn’t ride around practicing his speech. He wasn’t the lead character in ‘The Boy Who Cried Wolf’.

In all honesty, your guns will never be taken away. You’ll be able to feel more confident in that fact if we enact a national initiative system, but at the very least liberal politicians are not a monolith against guns. I was listening to J.Douche Hateworth on the radio the other day and he played a little “comedy” piece that described a terrorist with a knife coming at a family, he said if the father is a liberal he’d quake in his boots and think of pacifism. First of all, a terrorist with a knife? Second of all, his scenario says both fathers have a loaded weapon. You think liberals make bad fathers, Hayworth? Why don’t you come at me with a knife and see how liberal I am?

I’m no gun liberal in terms of ever wishing to take away the guns of any law-abiding citizen. I’m not sure that extreme restrictions on gun possession are the way to get the “more dangerous” criminals. If you look at the example of Al Capone, who was finally brought to justice on racketeering charges. The man ordered countless murders, but we get him for tax evasion? Don’t get me wrong, at the time it was a victory and having a definite criminal in prison is never a bad thing. But how many innocent people do go to jail? How many non-violent offenders serve time for marijuana possession? We can get the little fish, right or wrong, but we have trouble with the big fish? That’s essentially the same logic some liberals use that says driving through a school zone with a legally owned and registered weapon is automatically a crime. It’s pathetic when you consider that most legal gun-owners use their weapons for sport or self-defense. Sure, people stretch the definition of self-defense all the time, but that’s going to happen in society. The answer is more education. More organizations like the NRA who promote gun safety and tradition, and they need to be in the mainstream. The NRA shouldn’t automatically be considered one with the Republican party, although it’s most ardent supporters are often conservative. Gun ownership should be promoted among all law-abiding citizens, because at least one flying spaghetti monster knows that criminals will always have weapons.

“When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns.” I can’t find the original source of that quote, although in looking I found a great quote from Charlton Heston speaking on Fox News back in 1997: “There’s no such thing as a good gun. There’s no such thing as a bad gun. A gun in the hands of a bad man is a very dangerous thing. A gun in the hands of a good person is no danger to anyone except the bad guys.” What we should do to curb gun violence is create more good guys, through lifelong education and a societal emphasis on family of some kind. I know adopted kids who are great successes and legacies who have fizzled out, and it all came down to involvement. If people are involved in the lives of children they will learn to act as responsible people do, if children are raised with every amenity money can buy with no relationship with parents or some caregiver they will look for a role model somewhere. Think of the ratio of crap-to-awesome at any given mall. I’d argue that you’re taking the same gamble by allowing your child to pick any role model from their lives in your absence. Sure, they could end up with an amazing role model somewhere but it’s a gamble parents don’t have to take. Well, they shouldn’t have to take.

This is where I can get more liberal on people, but I simply can’t believe you can support both family and bite-sized government. Health care is a part of this. Healthy parents can work without getting sick as often, imposing less of a burden on the family’s budget and productivity. Children’s health care helps give all Americans a chance to grow up and contribute to society rather than being punished by the circumstances of their birth. I do not advocate wreckless takeover of health care by the government, but a quick read of the Preamble would establish that the federal government has some responsibility to our health at least in terms of keeping us productive and safe from potential pandemic. The more free we are to be productive and contribute to society, the more we all benefit. We will all have different ideas about how to get us there, but I think we’d all agree on the benefits of a healthy society.

These are just some ramblings. I just wonder if we all agreed on the results we wanted, the discourse on the methods might be more civil.

The trouble with relying on statistics…

with 5 comments

Statistics can lie. In fact, all statistics are generated by studies funded by someone interested in finding something. Different research groups get together with an aim and, especially in the social sciences, they either publish all of their successes or abort the project. A bright line can be drawn between social scientists (including myself) and natural scientists. That particular science community is self-checking and one of the most reliable bodies of highly trained problem solvers on this planet. In the “debate” about global warming, how often are you presented with real studies of the issue, done by true scientists? I’ve heard some 3rd-degree evidence, such as the fact that Pluto is warming (and climate changes are being recorded on nearly every other planet in our solar system) and therefore our planet’s warming is not the result of human activity. This seems very convincing until you try to find actual studies, and the methodologies and findings from the study.

It is easy to find analysis and coverage (especially on talk radio) of these studies, but much more difficult to find and examine as a researcher. I am not claiming there aren’t a few scientific studies disproving global warming, but the media blitz set to dumb down and polarize the debate have done an incredible job. You could be led to believe that the debate is raging within the science community, and it’s really not. To what extent humans do negatively and can positively affect our planet is a debate, but the fact that humans have contributed to rapid degradation of some of our vital resources isn’t a question. Some environmentalist causes are complete nonsense, and so are some free market entrepreneurs’ money-making schemes. The point is to have the issues we do agree on sorted out and tackled first, let researchers argue over details and not put every cause and issue under the same umbrella.

A few points of the hype to avoid getting caught up in:

  • Al Gore’s theory of global warming – This is not one man’s theory, this is one man’s philanthropic goal and a majority of scientist’s viewpoint on climate change and the effects humans can have on the planet. If you’re attaching Al Gore’s name to everything Green, you’ve been swindled by someone. He’s involved, but he doesn’t get a cut of your tax credit for making your home more energy efficient.
  • Not every environmental issue is global warming – They shouldn’t even be billed as such, the umbrella of Green has put the stamp of sloganized consumerism all over anything remotely friendly for the environment. For example: if you think we can breathe for long on this planet after we’ve clear-cut every forest, you’re wrong. If you think we’ll cure many more diseases when the rain forest frog population has gone extinct. That isn’t to say we chain ourselves to trees, but stop the PR campaigns and admit what the agreed problems are, there are many.
  • Gas prices are about economics, not the environment – If you had 100 diamonds and only 3 people wanted to buy them, how would you go about maximizing your profit? If you now still have only 100 diamonds and thousands of people want them, would you leave prices the same? This is much the same as the gas price debacle. It has nothing to do with profiteering oil companies. If anything they take more risks being where they are in the Middle East and being liable for employees who need serious protection. This doesn’t make it right, but they aren’t gouging us during a war time. Something different is happening: India and China are developing. In the same way our population and way-of-ease exploded in the twentieth century, so are those of India and China as we speak. That means the teenagers of wealthy parents might be driving a car to school. That means more two-car homes. That means two countries with populations over a billion apiece have more drivers on the road. Demand goes up, prices go up. We need to eliminate our dependence on foreign oil and all fossil fuels if we are to stay ahead in this world. It’s the American thing to do.
  • This was all sparked by a blog by Charles Wheelan, an economist and columnist for Yahoo! discussing the problem with job conversion to overcome skill jobs lost overseas and due to a slumping economy, and his link to how a lack of education is part of the issue. I would say to Dr. Wheelan he’s accepted an incomplete idea when he looks at statistics like unemployment rate by education to justify his hypothesis, that we cannot use empty buildings and available labor workers to train and build a new green energy infrastructure.

    Although I generally agree with Dr. Wheelan, this just isn’t a very solid argument. His thought experiment can be considered another way: how many screw-ups do you know who still never lost their shot at a good job because of their situation at birth? How many hard-working people (or people at all) do you know in the poorest neighborhoods and rural areas in our country? Education is another indicator, a symptom maybe, but not the direct cause of anything. This argument falls flat at the point you realize pursuing an education (for some even beyond 8th grade) is not an equal opportunity. You can easily make it look like a race argument, but it’s truly just another sad testament to the shrinking middle-class. Here are my skillful questions:

  • Are standardized tests in wealthy, well-served schools the same as those in schools in the Phoenix area which do not have any maps in their history classrooms (except for the few instances where the teachers were able to provide one?
  • Are the common jobs people do around those same schools similar in any way? Is the school surrounded by Doctor’s and Dentist’s offices tested using the same material as those who walk by a Church’s chicken and a row of unused (except for the loitering junkies) office spaces?
  • Soon to come: my laundry list for improving our education system.

    My 3am ad: Americans to Washington

    leave a comment »

    This was my response to the dueling 3 A.M. ads I’ve seen everywhere, who seem to forget about popular sovereignty and that it’s ‘We the People’ getting screwed every time they get in bed with a lobbyist.

    Written by unastronaut

    April 4, 2008 at 6:30 pm