Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Heads In the Sand

In the early 20th century, Alfred Wegener posited that the earth's continents are in a constant state of slow motion, and had at one time actually formed a single landmass. He pointed to the obvious similarities in the geological record on different continents, as well as the fossil records, to prove this. 

The move was met with bitter criticism and outright hostility by the scientific community. Leading geologists argued that Wegener's theory was absurd, and that the anomalies he was reporting could be explained by other means. The pervasive theory of the establishment was that a series of "Land Bridges" allowed species to travel to these far-distant shores, where they promptly died and left their bones and fossils behind.

Every time more evidence came to light that challenged this view, the scientists would simply draw another land bridge on the map. It got to the point where there was more land than water! Eventually of course, Wegener was proven right, and the land bridge theory was relegated to scientific history.

Human nature leads us to cling to familiar, comfortable notions, even in the face of overwhelming contradictory evidence. We tend to reject the unfamiliar, uncomfortable, and novel. Like the science community at large, we will stick our heads in the sand when a person like Alfred Wegener comes along to challenge our preconceived notions.

For the past several decades, a similar phenomenon has been festering in the Republican party.

For the GOP, America is a land of WASPs (White Anglo-Saxon Protestants). They watch 50's sitcoms like Leave it to Beaver, and imagine that America is still the perfect suburban nation that it was then (hint: it never was). As America's demographics have changed, and that vision is harder to maintain, Conservatives have faced a choice: alter their perception of the country, or refuse to accept change.

They've chosen the latter.

The evidence of this is rampant. From rejecting the results of an election to lambasting immigrants as murderers and rapists, the modern conservative movement has turned its back on today's America, and has rejected out of hand any suggestion that what they believe is wrong. To them, the white middle-class America is still alive and well, but under threat from "the other." If it doesn't fit the narrative, it must be wrong.

Trump managed to harness this view and turn it into a new political weapon, by presenting himself as a part of that view. He legitimized the opinion that the United States is predominantly White, Christian, and Conservative, despite all evidence to the contrary.

The further the nation gets from this vision, the harder it will be for conservatives to maintain their illusions. Even now, they are advocating for limits on the rights of those who disagree with them, merely so they can continue believing their fantasies. As time goes on and the country continues to grow in diversity, it will become even harder to maintain this fa├žade.

Eventually, there will be a fracture, a break that results in either a major correction, or a complete splintering from reality. Conservatives need to start appealing to the world as it is now. They will not survive if they continue to reject the world that they now live in.

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Absolute Fucking Bullshit

 In the past few weeks, it seems every day has brought a report of another mass shooting, another person who has gone after others with a gun, and another story about people being murdered in public by an individual with a weapon.

Gun rights activists call this the price of freedom. I call this absolute fucking bullshit.

It's absolute fucking bullshit because no one in their right mind believes the the 2nd amendment condones and authorizes the murder of innocent people.

It's absolute fucking bullshit because no one in their right mind believes that a mentally unstable person should be able to legally purchase an assault rifle.

It's absolute fucking bullshit because a person doesn't need a 30-round clip jammed into their AR-15 for "personal protection".

It's absolute fucking bullshit because you can't get hired to work at McDonald's without a background check, but you can buy a gun.

It's absolute fucking bullshit because Planters has to put a warning on the label of their peanuts that the product contains nuts so people don't sue them for failing to warn consumers, but we can't hold gun manufacturers responsible for producing a product that kills as its primary function.

It's absolute fucking bullshit because the vast majority of American's support universal background checks and a ban on assault weapons, but politicians only cater to the crazy bastards on the extremes.

It's absolute fucking bullshit because we have become desensitized to our own violence.

It's absolute fucking bullshit because, if everyone in town knows that Johnny's not right in the head and just bought himself a high-powered rifle, we as a society ought to be able to respond to that red flag.

It's absolute fucking bullshit because schools are supposed to be places to learn and grow, not get shot.

It's absolute fucking bullshit because there is no excuse for violence in a civilized society.

It's absolute fucking bullshit because we can't seem to agree that mental health is a contributing factor in mass shootings.

It's absolute fucking bullshit.

I'm tired of it.

Friday, April 9, 2021

Global Economics

It might feel like the Pandemic's days are numbered, as more vaccines become available and restrictions are eased in some areas. Things are starting to get back to normal.

Or are they?

the impact of a global catastrophe like the pandemic will likely not be fully known for a long time, but there are already signs that we're not out of the woods yet, economically speaking. A prime example of the long-term and unseen effect of COVID can be found in the auto industry.

New vehicle production is down across the board for just about every major manufacturer. While sales have remained steady (or even increased) during the pandemic, resources for producing cars and trucks have been harder to get as factories and companies are forced to reduce output or close up shop altogether.

Take semiconductors. They are an essential part of most advanced technology, from phones and computers to smart keys. A recent fire at a semiconductor plant in Japan has caused the massive shortage of these parts to become even worse. Factories that employ thousands of people domestically are cutting back on their productions because they can't get the parts.

This type of scarcity will likely result in a major economic crunch that is still months away. There's enough supply on the ground to hold us over for a while, but eventually that will dry up and there will be trouble finding certain items.

So go out and buy that new phone or car now, because there's a good chance you won't be able to find one at a decent price in the near future.

Monday, April 5, 2021

Voting for Change

 The recent passage of a bill that restricts voter access in Georgia has been met with a broad range of responses. For people who listen to FOX News and Donald Trump, this is a major win in securing future elections against fraud, and those companies that have decided to take a stand against it are being manipulated by the Left and should be boycotted.

For the reality-based segment of the population, it's obvious that this law does little except make it harder for specific populations to cast a ballot, populations that coincidentally tend to vote Democrat. I know that Georgia lawmakers have already said they are going to make changes to some of the more outrageous parts of the bill, but the fact remains that this law will disenfranchise more people, the exact opposite of what its supporters claim is the ultimate objective.

The interesting thing to me is that this law is likely to have a galvanizing effect in Georgia, spurring on more registrations, more demonstrations, and a more highly publicized movement to let minority voices be heard. I hope that Georgia will walk back or water down parts of this bill (some, admittedly, may be helpful), and make it easier for people to vote. After all, a free and fair election is the most important ingredient for a healthy Democracy.

The overarching issue with this bill is, if any party can survive without the support of the majority, then it is not beholden to anyone. If an elected official was confident that their position was secure no matter what, then what is the incentive to act in the interest of their constituents? There is none. A political party that is no longer reliant on voters to win elections is not beholden to the voters. And we no longer have a Democracy.

I hope that the Georgia bill and others like it highlight how fragile our system of governance really is, and brings more people into the voting pool as a way of countering these new restrictions on the freedom of American citizens.

Thursday, April 1, 2021

Building Up

 To build any kind of structure, you need a solid foundation. Something that can withstand weather, erosion, and most importantly, time. You need something that can be relied on to hold its form and continue to support everything built on top of it for long years to come. 

Our "National Foundation" is our infrastructure: the roads, bridges, railways, runways, and highways that connect our country. It's the power, communication, and information technology that keeps us humming like a well-oiled economic machine. And like any other machine, our infrastructure needs regular tune-ups to keep it humming along at peak efficiency.

It's been a while since our last maintenance appointment, so there are a few things that have started to go wrong. Bridges are crumbling, highways are wearing out, and whole regions don't have access to high-speed internet and 21st century communications.

Enter Biden's Plan.

The recent announcement of Biden's American Jobs Plan has me pretty excited for the future of our country, a feeling I've not had in a few years now. If this passes, it would be a massive boon to our economy, putting us on an equal technological footing with China, and provide a huge jobs boost.

I've always felt that investment in infrastructure was the best use of federal funds as a means of boosting the economy. By targeting high-unemployment areas with large projects, the federal government can spur on job growth, improve the local roads and telecommunications, and boost the economy. Those federal dollars go to private contractors who can hire locals, do the work, and improve the quality of life for their communities.

The best thing about infrastructure investment is that it transcends politics, at least for the most part. Having a nationwide program to improve things and creates jobs means every member of congress has a project they can bring home to create jobs and improve their district. 

Hopefully, partisan politics can be countered by the benefits of this bill, and members of Congress can decide that a win for the country can count as a win for everyone.

Friday, December 20, 2019

So it Begins...

With the Impeachment of Donald Trump, a whole new era has dawned in Washington...

Or not...

With Republicans in the Senate vowing to do all in their power to exonerate the President and keep him in office, there seems to be little chance of anything changing on Capitol Hill, other than renewed animosity between the Left and the Right.

My worry, as it has been since the beginning of Trump's presidency, is that if we allow his behavior to be normalized and don't reign in his worst impulses, then it leaves doors open for future President's and Congresses to follow his example. His actions, whether or not their rise to the level of impeachable, cheapen the office of the Presidency, weaken the constitution, and place our country in significant danger.

This is my opinion, and of course there plenty of people out there who disagree. They point to a growing economy, increases in jobs and wages, more trade deals, etc. They point to all of these "dollars and cents" issues, while ignoring the massive problems of our standing in and relationship with the rest of the world. We don't exist in a vacuum. By allowing ourselves to be replaced by other political powers on the global stage, Trump has weakened our nation for a generation.

In addition, the President's abominable behavior towards anyone who looks at him the wrong way is distressing. It is this kind of behavior, this disregard for decorum and decency and fair play, that led to the Impeachment proceedings in the first place. If Trump had understood and cared about what is and is not permissible and ethical, he would not have encouraged a foreign country to investigate a political rival.

I have two major concerns. One, that Trump's actions will go unpunished and we will see similar abuses from future administrations, who can use the present situation as political cover. And, just as an aside, this cuts both ways. If a Democrat were to engage in this type of behavior and the Republicans called them out on it, they would now have a precedent to fight against, not just a President.

Second, and slightly more paranoid, is my worry that Trump will do something to secure his position as President for longer than is customary. Now, I don't know exactly what that might be. I also realize that many Right-Wingers believed the same thing of Obama, and I scoffed at them. The difference here, in my opinion, is that Trump has no regard whatsoever for the rule of law and legal precedent. After all, he claimed that the Emoluments clause was fabricated, and that his clearly unconstitutional phone call was "perfect". If Trump wants to stay in office, I fear he will try to find a way to do that. Whether its declaring a national emergency to suspend elections, pushing for a Constitutional Amendment, or some other approach, Trump will not willingly leave the office. If he's voted out, he will do all in his power to stay.

When Democrats get through the Primaries, and their single candidate is facing off with Trump, I have no doubt that Trump will attempt to use the DOJ and other government agencies to discredit, smear, and attack his rival. He will wield the power of the federal government against the DNC and their candidate. And because of how things are playing out now, it appears he may have the political and legal coverage to do it. After all, if the actions he has taken so far are not enough to remove him from office, what is?

What is an impeachable offense, if not the abuse of one's office for personal gain?

Monday, December 16, 2019

199 Lines

Chris Cillizza of CNN just compiled his list of top 199 crazy statements uttered by our President this past year. While some are profound (#14, #29, #98), most are either incomprehensible or just plain nuts. Go read them. It's definitely worth it.

I was thinking the other day about what it will be like when Trump is no longer President. Whether or not he wins in 2020, at some point he will leave the Oval Office to be replaced with someone who is, hopefully, more rational and coherent. Even if that person is a Republican, there is no way they could be as muddled and fanciful as Trump.

It will be extremely refreshing to have someone in the White House with whom you can have a rational debate. You may even be able to have a discussion with the person that does not involve name-calling or diversions into pseudo-reality. Think of it! Civility, at long last!

The War on Journalism

For anyone who has been paying attention, there has been a significant uptick in the attacks on media by certain government officials, driven by Trump.

It's been going on for years now, so naturally people have become accustomed to the attacks on newspapers, websites, journalists, bloggers, magazines, reporters, news anchors, news shows, news stations, and anyone else who has a space in the mediasphere. Interestingly, rebukes of media outlets seem to be entirely based on how said media outlets report on the day's news. The more pro-Trump, the better in his mind.

Evidence of this mercurial interest in various news sources can be found in how our dear President treats FOX News. While normally doting, Trump has recently begun criticizing his favorite network for being bi-partisan...I mean, not catering to his every whim at all times.

For someone as insecure as Trump, the fact that he must live in a country where people can say or believe anything must be galling. Perhaps that's why he spends so much time and energy railing against his "enemies" and trying to get other people to hate the media, too. He spins conspiracies, claims that journalists are little better than "subversives," and generally stokes the anger of his devoted base.

The problem with this, naturally, is that a free press is essential to the stability and health of our great Democracy. It's worth noting that the Founders, so beloved by the extreme Right, saw fit to enshrine the freedoms of Speech and Press before the freedom to bear arms. Why? Because words are the greatest weapons, the greatest tools, that have ever been forged. Words have great power, and with that power comes the ability to change the view of the world in a particular way.

Trump understands the power of the media, and is frightened by it. He knows that a concentrated effort in the news can turn public opinion against him in an instant. That's why he keeps the pressure on his own base with a near-constant stream of consciousness. This is why he loves Twitter: it puts him in the driver's seat, allowing him to control and spin the facts to his liking in real-time. Ironically, Trump's use of media is anathema to its original purpose of maintaining

This continuous slue of misinformation and white noise means that there's more cover for others to operate under the radar. The more airspace the President takes up, the larger the blind spot in the media for less sensational but far more significant stories.

For example, there's the district in Wisconsin that attempted to force local media to publish a press release in its entirety by threatening the editors with prosecution if they fail to comply.

It also means that people already predisposed to mistrusting media sources feel legitimized, and can act in ways that are entirely inappropriate. Or would, in any other circumstance.

And that's really what the war on Journalism comes down to: distorting reality to such a degree that truth, facts, decency, and freedom are unrecognizable. There is a severe disconnect from reality here that is extremely alarming, mostly because it is being exhibited nationwide by a large segment of the population, and being promulgated by the President of the United States. A President who bullies his detractors with vile nicknames while the First Lady attempts to lead a campaign against cyber-bullying. A President who consistently smears and insults his opponents, then calls them out for being uncivil. In the world of Trump's America, the only reason a person has for not loving the President is because they hate America.

Now, that is chilling.