Friday, February 08, 2013

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"There is nothing like a dream to create the future.  Utopia today, flesh and blood tomorrow."

Victor Hugo

Thursday, February 07, 2013

It's Not All Bad

Republicans may want to fight a new Civil War in America, but right now they're fighting a Civil War with themselves.

Fox News ratings are falling.  The most trusted name in news is PBS. 

Democrats--including President Obama--are sounding optimistic about midterm elections, especially because women who don't normally vote in midterms are set to vote on the gun issue.

About the midterms I'd be happier hearing that the Rabid Right is going to be turned out of state houses and state legislatures, in PA, Michigan, Virginia, Florida, Wisconsin, Ohio, etc. etc. That's where the real damage is being done.  But what President Obama is suggesting-- that both houses of Congress could again be Dem for his last two years--might mean some small chance for climate crisis legislation, and energy infrastructure.  Right now the "experts" don't think Dems will win enough seats to take the House.  But the experts also pooh-poohed Obama's suggestion in the fall that the political landscape would change after his reelection.      

Today in Fascism

Our freedom-loving, government intrusion-hating Rabid Right keeps on showing its true colors.  For instances:

BOISE – Coeur d’Alene Sen. John Goedde, chairman of the Idaho Senate’s Education Committee, introduced legislation Tuesday to require every Idaho high school student to read Ayn Rand’s “Atlas Shrugged” and pass a test on it to graduate from high school.

When Sen. Bob Nonini, R-Coeur d’Alene, asked Goedde why he chose that particular book, Goedde said to laughter, “That book made my son a Republican.”

The Spokesman-Review story goes on to suggest it wasn't a serious proposal--he was ticked off about other  actions by the State Board of Education.

The same can't be said about the Iowa state legislator who proposed a law that would declare abortion by any means to be criminal murder:

Those charged with murder, under the bill, would include a mother who takes abortion-inducing drugs or a doctor who performs an abortion. It also grants no exceptions for rape, incest or to protect the life of the mother.

Though he doesn't expect the bill to pass, he's entirely serious in proposing it.

Tuesday, February 05, 2013

Gun Nuts

So the Arkansas legislature passed a bill to permit guns in churches.  Of course!  Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition!  States are seemingly falling over each other to permit guns to be carried and concealed in every conceivable place: college campuses, bars, at sports events (soccer moms with guns!), government public hearings, K-12 schools, maybe pre-schools next, etc.   Even the Obama administration got in the act by allowing guns into national parks.

Why is this insane?  Let me splain it to you.  If I know that the family in the next tent, or the guy sitting on the next stool at the bar, or the folks next to me in the pew, or folks at a heated public meeting, might be packing firearms, I've got new choices to make.

I may choose to stay home a lot more.  I may choose to be very careful about what I say, in public, and especially to strangers but also anything that might anger anybody.  Like a joke that might be taken the wrong way.  In other words, to be fearful and unnatural, like in a totalitarian society where I have to be afraid of every word or the interpretation of every act.

Or another choice is, that if people around me in church are going to be armed, I'd better take a gun to services as well.  If there's going to be a shootout between the fans wearing red and the fans wearing blue at the Little League field, I better be able to "defend myself."

Of course, some of them might be packing a more powerful gun, with greater firepower.  So I'd better carry an even better gun--a nice lightweight assault-type weapon, semi-automatic, with lots of bullets in the mag.  And I better be ready for trouble.  Can't let anybody get the drop on me.

We learned all this from watching westerns, and the logic of it is unassailable.  It's why getting guns out of ordinary situations was essential to civilized life.

Right now the NRA is fighting like hell to prevent any restrictions on guns, including universal criminal background checks, which they used to favor--way back in 1999.  People wonder why but time to grow up.   The NRA knows that almost everybody is in favor of these checks and a law will get passed, but they want everybody to be arguing about it so nothing else gets passed, like bans on high capacity ammo and assault weapons, which are expensive products with nice profit margins for their funders.  As well as being the fetishistic comfort food of survivalists, the equivalent of pacifiers. Everybody on TV and in the movies has them--why can't I?

Here's the essential point nobody is talking about.  It's anger.  There are lots of angry people out there, and this society breeds anger, justifiable and insane.  For a person with a gun, the damage that results from  blinding anger--momentary or motivating, paranoid or righteous-- depends on how many bullets you can fire, and how fast and how easily you can fire them.  Simple as that.

I'm hearing that gun control experts say that the background checks will actually do more to reduce gun violence than anything else.  But it wouldn't have helped those children and heroic adults in New Town.  At the very least, we must ban high capacity ammunition.  If we don't also ban semi-automatic assault weapons,  and until we ban firearms from public places--I question whether we can ever think of this as a civilized society.        

Monday, February 04, 2013

Now a former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton no longer must represent the U.S. on important missions like this nicely color coordinated one.
Now the Secretary of State is John Kerry, seen here practicing his mean sneer in his 2012 role as Mitt Romney for President Obama's debate prep.

Evidence Based

Challenges to evidence-based public policy dialogue come from many sources.  The easiest to finger are the demagogues, the crazies whose outrageous utterances are quickly refuted, though not always with the style and thoroughness of Dan Amira's entertaining takedown of a rant by Arkansas State Senator Jason Rapert that surfaced last week.  It's titled very simply Bigot is Also Liar and it's profusely illustrated with the relevant photos.

But there are other assertions that are not evidence-based that nevertheless become part of the conventional wisdom through 1)politically motivated repetition  2) inadequate refutation by the target's allies 3) mindless repetition by the media.  Because everyone assumes they are true, they influence public policy debate even though the evidence is otherwise.

One big example of that is President Obama as a big spender who is inflating the deficit and national debt, thus enslaving future generations.  That in itself is not true--federal spending during Obama's first term grew at a slower rate than any administration since Eisenhower.

But it's corollary is perhaps the most harmful--an expanding government is sapping the economy.  As Paul Krugman pointed out in this exchange, not only is government spending not expanding, public sector jobs are   declining month after month, and that's the biggest drag on the economy.  Up until now it's been felt at the state and local level, where school teachers and firefighters, etc. are losing their jobs.  Public needs are not being met and those lost incomes aren't buying stuff.  But in the fourth quarter of 2012, the economy contracted slightly (by early figures) entirely because of a large drop in federal spending.

If we accepted this evidence, we would be increasing government spending, on essential services and infrastructure at the local level, and on strengthening public health, emergency services, etc. as well as investing in the future of education and energy technology.