August 30, 2019

Historically Low Unemployment?

I keep hearing that the homeless issue is purely a drug problem.

There's not a single easy answer. But what we all need to keep in our minds is that homelessness, yes and drugs, are symptoms. We have a far larger set of problems that are the cause.

Our government boasts about historically low unemployment , but at the same time homeless camps and people reduced to sleeping on the streets or in their cars. That just doesn't jibe with low unemployment. There are many things that could end with a person, or family finding themselves without a home.

When people feel like they've played by the rules, but due to health issues, or rising housing costs, or job loss, or just stagnant wages, they lose their place to live. When one is forced to live like this, and see no way back, they lose hope. When people have no hope, they turn to drugs or alcohol to get them through their miserable days. If I had to sleep on the street, I believe I'd try to medicate myself into painless stupor as well!

Far from trying to deal with the real issues, it seems to be easier to just lock them away. But that can't work as our jails are full to bursting already. If the cops issue a ticket for vagrancy or whatever the offense will be called, the offender will not be able to pay whatever fines, so warrants are issued. But that brings us back to the part where there's no place to warehouse them.

Without addressing the problems at the top, there will be more on the way.

Outsourcing & automation, not illegals, are taking people's jobs. As time goes on, more and more jobs will go this route. Even jobs that once seemed secure are no longer immune. Watched a presentation not long ago where a combination of robotry & 5G data would allow a surgeon to operate on a patient on the other side of the world.

Autonomous vehicles will put truckers & other drivers out of work soon. Toss the mentally ill into the mix and explode the nightmare! Since Saint Ronnie shut down care for mental patients in the 80s we've decided that the police are the way to handle them. Back we go to the overcrowded jails.

So-called 'Conservatives' say we need to do something about mental illness rather than do anything about guns. They don't see the need for the infrastructure to care for other illnesses, but we're going to take care of people with a mental illness somehow. Like that isn't going to create a host of other issues, not least of which the inevitable legal challenges when someone feels they have been declared incompetent or the nightmare when someone is declared 'sane' and shoots up a kindergarten with his legal firearm!

Okay, rant over. Mine's the nice white jacket with the sleeves that buckle in the back. If you'll hand it to me, I'll just leave the soapbox over here in case someone else needs to use it.

August 27, 2019

Now About that Second Amendment

Not many but the most fringe elements want to outlaw all guns. Most however, think we need some kind of common sense regulation of the acquisition and ownership of firearms.

When the 2nd Amendment was written, the latest technology in firearms was rifling the barrels! Modern, high-velocity ammo, high-capacity magazines, and auto-loading were not even a fantasy! Guns were for the most part single shot flintlock muzzle loaders. High tech might be a rifled barrel!

Let's break down the Second Amendment: 

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

The first part of the Amendment only makes sense in the context of the time it was written as well. The founders wrote that the nation neither needed nor could afford a standing army. Therefore a militia was required if a threat to the nation was to be dealt with. Like in Switzerland to this day, after an initial service, everybody is required to be ready to be called up in a moments notice if there is a threat. We no longer require this. We now have a standing military, and the state and national guards. The largest by far in the world today. Yes, I am aware that the Supreme Court somehow found in Heller that the Second Amendment protects an individual's Right to keep and bear arms, unconnected with service in a militia. I can't for the life of me understand how those supposedly brilliant writers of this Amendment could have intentionally penned something so ambiguous! Actually, I contend that they did no such thing. I believe they wrote precisely what they meant. They knew that linking gun ownership and militias was critical.
As Alexander Hamilton opined in his Concerning the Militia essay published in 1788: "... it will be possible to have an excellent body of well-trained militia, ready to take the field whenever the defense of the State shall require it. This will not only lessen the call for military establishments, but if circumstances should at any time oblige the Government to form an army of any magnitude, that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the People, while there is a large body of citizens, little, if at all, inferior to them in discipline and the use of arms, who stand ready to defend their own rights, and those of their fellow-citizens. This appears to me the only substitute that can be devised for a standing army, and the best possible security against it, if it should exist."
18th century laws governing a 21st century nation. It makes no sense! Our constitution was written to govern a nation of mostly farmers, miners & loggers, not forgetting slaves and Native Americans, with a population under four million. It was so inadequate that it needed to be amended twenty-seven times, most recently on May 5, 1992! We now expect this document to guide the governance of over three hundred million individuals, mostly urban dwellers, in an age where near-instant global communication is the norm and tensions are exacerbated by weapons capable of destroying the world if the contamination caused by overpopulation and exploitation of resources don't destroy it first.

We need to rewrite the Constitution of the United States just as a start. It does not reflect the realities of the twenty first century.

As the right loves to point out for some reason, America was founded as a Republic, not a pure democracy, like Athens was. It's claimed that pure democracies tend to devolve to mob rule, and are easily manipulated by demagogues so they tend to devolve into dictatorships. Okay fine. 

But a nation where everyone owns guns is effectively a mob. By decoupling the militia from legitimate authority, the NRA and GOP have been either accidentally or deliberately setting the stage for a dictatorship for decades.

Which brings us to the other thing about the second Amendment. I keep hearing, usually from woefully uninformed Second Amendment supporters, that Hitler was able to take power by banning guns. The exact opposite is true! Hitler deregulated guns for 99% of the German population. He reduced the age at which it was legal to purchase a gun from 20 to 18, he removed all restrictions on purchasing rifles, and he expanded the number of classes that didn't have to get a license to purchase a handgun. German militias (known as freikorps, literally "free corps") put Hitler in power. 

Which gets us back to the first part of the Second Amendment again: "well regulated militia". That doesn't seem to mean a bunch of Wolverine wannabes camping out and playing soldier in the woods somewhere. Again, the writers wrote precisely what they meant. Well regulated meant by the government. As Hamilton explained further in Federalist #29 quoted above: "This desirable uniformity can only be accomplished by confiding the regulation of the militia to the direction of the national authority."

Pretty unambiguous if you ask me. 

June 23, 2019

How badly we are misled!

Recently found this chart which shows how badly we are focused on certain things to the detriment of things we really should be concerned about. The effect is significantly worse if one only follows one news source.

June 15, 2019

Life at Conception

If life begins at conception, are doctors creating a human soul when they perform in vitro fertilization? If so, then are fertilized eggs that are discarded human beings? If not, are embryos that get implanted and brought to term soulless after being born?

If the embryo is alive, yet it's not human, how could it's death by whatever means be considered a sin?

If a woman miscarries, should she be investigated for any possible complicity in the death? Perhaps by consuming alcohol or participating in strenuous exercise?

The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists estimates that over 80 percent of miscarriages occur in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy, although they also say the numbers are likely considerably higher as many happen so early in the term that the woman was unaware that she was pregnant in the first place. So could a woman be held liable for the death of an embryo she was unaware that she was carrying?

Also,even though the nervous system is one of the first things to begin to form in an embryo, and at least in the case of the brain, continues well after birth, an embryo less than six weeks old has not yet begun to develop a brain, and by extension thoughts or feelings, how will it know if it goes to heaven or not? How can it even care? Even later, as the embryo at 13 weeks is less than the size of a pea pod, the brain would be about the size of a pea in that pod. What could it possibly be conscious of? It may show some reaction to stimuli, but then so will an earthworm. Does this indicate conscious life? Or the existence of a soul?

Whoever is promulgating this lunacy really appears to have not thought it through. But then, this whole discussion is meant to sway emotion, and not rational thought.

As a favorite YouTuber, Alan Melikdjanian AKA Captain Disillusion says: "Love with your heart, for everything else use your brain!"

May 28, 2019

Reversing Progress

Beginning in the early Twentieth Century and continuing until recently, the community of nations has slowly awakened to the fact that we are all citizens of the planet Earth. Small fiefdoms under local monarchs began to coalesce into nations. The short-lived League of Nations made an attempt to bring peace to the world after the First World War. Then the world exploded into the Second World War, which established the need for a more effective body; the United Nations.

Governments and people came to the realization that some things just weren't possible to accomplish on their own. In order for the defense of Europe against the then Soviet Union, it was necessary for NATO to be formed. Later, seeing how intertwined Europeans were with trade, banking, jobs, and more, it was decided that it made much more sense to unify rather than stay divided and the European Union was born.

Cross the Atlantic, and in the eighteenth century a group of colonies figured out that in order to toss off British rule, it would be necessary to join together. It worked so well that the original thirteen colonies formed the United States of America.

All through human history as populations increased and trade became more desirable, the tendency has been to abandon tribalism in favor of more diverse and inclusive populations and governments. From family clans, to city-states, to kingdoms and ever onward, as civilization has progressed, so has the size and diversity of human settlement.

In modern times humanity is facing existential challenges from environmental degradation and over population to an ever increasing gap between great wealth and grinding poverty. If ever there were a time for people and nations to come even closer together to deal with these seemingly hopeless issues, this would seem to be it!

But yet what are we seeing? All across the world the opposite is rushing in with a vengeance. Citizens, seeing their lives degrading due to reduced income and under pressure from failing crops and increasingly repressive governments, are rejecting so-called "Globalism" and devolving into "Nationalism".

Even within the groups advocating for Nationalism, we are further splintering into closed Tribes. Whether based on religion, perceived social class or politics, people are banding together with others who share their views and are drawing lines to separate themselves from "Others" who are the enemy. Unfortunately, in doing so they render any possibility of making situations better unlikely, if not impossible.

I recently viewed a discussion on Fox News wherein three individuals were declaiming with great passion on the current sorry state of affairs in San Francisco. The striking thing to me was that we really didn't disagree on many points they made or even the reasons for them. But what left me trembling was the stridency with which they accused the "Left" of being solely to blame. They correctly identified the bloodsuckers of the plutocracy as being to puppeteers causing the grief. They even got it correct that politicians were the willing puppets. What they got incredibly wrong was the it was just the left and the Democrats who were to blame. That the Left was somehow involved in a treasonous assault on the United States. They had built a fort around their clan stronghold and anyone outside the walls were The Enemy. If you've the slightest doubt, just read some of the comments below the video. There's no room for discussion anywhere.

At this time of existential threat, this time when what was once the motto of the United States of America: "E Pluribus Unum", "From Many, One" should be bringing us together as never before, we instead have defaulted to the motto of the T.V. program Survivor: "Outwit, Outplay, Outlast" and to hell with everyone else.

Either we join together to cure the Earth, or we fade into extinction, one by one.

April 30, 2019

More Convoluted Reasoning from the Right

An amusing development has arisen lately from the right wingers.

For a while now, since the rising popularity of programs like Medicare for all, free public college education and the like, the reaction from regressive¹ punditry has been to point a trembling finger and shriek "Socialist!" at whomever had the temerity to broach the subject. As if the mere mention of the name should bring back terrors of the Cold War and the fear of Soviet agents scouting targets for nuclear missiles from the USSR.

When this fails to elicit the same reaction that it got in the 1970s, they are quick to point out that Socialism results in "Venezuela" or the like. We won't devolve into a discussion of whether the failure is a result of having social welfare programs, or having leaders who failed to recognize that the United States embargoes and meddling with oil prices would crash their economy. That's a subject deserving its own post.

No, generally a reference to Venezuela to back up claims that Socialism has never worked, blah, blah, will cause anyone with a functioning brain to point out that countries like Norway, Finland, the rest of Scandanavia, in fact most Nordic countries not only embrace socialist policies, but are economic successes as well.

On would have thought that should put the discussion to rest, but a new and mind contorting argument is now making the rounds among the right wing's echo chambers. Ready for it? Do you have immediate access to copious amounts of your bevvie-of-choice? Here goes: "Scandinavian countries are not Socialist!"²

The discerning reader may have noticed that when I refer to the term, I have used the small "s" socialist to refer to their national policies.

The difficulty comes from the historical use of the term "Socialist" as a pejorative in the U.S. and it also being used as a synonym for "Communist" without ever understanding the meaning of either term. In reality, it is true that none of the countries named previously are truly Socialist. No more so than the People's Democratic Republic of Korea, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, or for that matter the United States of America are Democracies. A country with any form of Totalitarian government or Dictatorship can never be truly Socialist, no matter what it calls itself. Full on Socialism³ requires, depending on which definition one subscribes to; full ownership of all means of production by the state, or no private property at all. One notices that no mention of a single person or entity is either exempted or in total control of everything.

So of course none of the Scandinavian countries are big "S" Socialist! No more so than passing laws requiring a Medicare For All or Single-Payer or whatever we end up deciding to call it that won't send regressives rushing for their comfy blankies will render the United States of America a "Socialist" hell on earth. It simply will mean that we have decided to enact social programs that will actually benefit the citizenry of this country. Programs like the Justice system. Like our Interstate Highways. Or the Federal Aviation Authority. Like Public Schools. Like National Defense.

¹ In case you haven't already figured it out, the opposite of "Progressive" is not "Conservative", it is "Regressive".