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Divided we fall

As I was letting my mind wander I cam to ponder the current dynamics of the political divide in the US. Many have observed how strong identity politics is in creating the atmosphere of “us vs them”. But I didn’t think that should override the unity of being “Americans” and working together for the betterment of the US. After all, US politics have been a turmoil of different parties since there have been US politics. Then something occurred to me. Conservatives are regularly told by their leaders that they are the “real Americans” or the “true America”, implicating (and sometimes explicating) that their political counterparts aren’t really “American”. The unity of the US as being “Americans” is then undermined. It would be an interesting thesis to research the history and effect of this specific tactic on the dynamics that are currently at play. Knowing how things go, someone probably already has.

Failed Cicumstance.

I have no desire to rehash all that has happened in Ferguson, MO. Nor get into the larger trends of racism, police militarization, authoritarianism, etc that are relevant. By in large it is a sad failure of modern society. But the thing that just puzzles me at the moment is the narrative of the shooting that is apparently being used as Wilson’s version. A struggle for the gun then Michael gets away, turns and starts to charge. At best it paints Wilson as incompetent, worse as callous too. This is someone who was on the police force for 6 years? It doesn’t speak well of the police force there.

Evil seat belts!

Who knew they were so dangerous!



Moving on before having moved on

The CIA is no longer going to use vaccination programs as cover for operations, so they say.  However, the statement from Aziz Memon amused me for the irony of how he describes the situation and made me start thinking about how people (meaning me, but probably other people too) move on with their lives after some outrage but will respond anew when reminded.  Without satisfactory closure what else can one do though?  Obsess.  Some people do that, but I don’t think it is usual.  But why does the reminder derail us if we’ve for all practical purposes moved on?  Psychologically I don’t think it is hard to understand.  Emotions are good at building strong neural connections.  Trigger the memory, trigger the emotion.  This also works for positive memories.  But why?  I can understand why building memories more strongly around emotion could help us with danger avoidance, but what about the other situations?  Or are those other situations just a side effect of the usefulness from danger avoidance?

MERS in the US

According to NPR.  If I heard correctly it is a man that returned from Saudi that is infected.  I bet he’s not liking the attention he’s getting at the moment.

The Optional Death

The death penalty has been running into a lot of trouble in the US. Latest is that Oklahoma tortured a person to death. The history about why states can’t get the traditional drugs to kill people and what they are currently trying is interesting in a dark and twisted sort of way. But why do we need to be killing criminals anyways? Criminal punishment can serve multiple purposes: collective revenge, rehabilitation, restitution and deterrence (both of would-be criminals and for recidivism).
Killing a criminal certainly satisfies revenge and the deterrence of recidivism. Definitely not rehab. or restitution. Whether it effectively deters would-be criminals is up for debate, but there is no reason to think it any more a deterrent than life imprisonment. The death penalty and life imprisonment are also on equal footing for deterring recidivism, at least in theory. Which is better for satisfying revenge is also debatable and I’d guess largely depends on how much you value freedom vs life.
I personally come down against the death penalty, at least as it is generally handled. I can understand the desire for revenge for those that were effected by the criminal, but quite often those people are not the ones advocating for killing. For me, killing as a collective revenge doesn’t make much sense, especially when life imprisonment is the alternative. While prison escapes do happen, and the escapees do sometimes kill before being re-captured or killed themselves, these are not frequent events. Escapes are also a problem that can be fixed independently. Then there is the problem of executing innocent people. Finally, for me, killing someone does not allow for rehabilitation and restitution. So what do I think we should do?
I’m in favor of giving criminals receiving life sentences the option of choosing death. I’d even suggest that they could choose the method of their death within reason. OD on cocain, sure. Flying leap off a cliff into the Grand Canyon, well, probably not not? This would prevent the killing of someone who is innocent (unless they just wanted to be killed). It would be cheaper and more humane. It would allow those who do regret what they’ve done to try to do something to re-pay society and the victims. If this were combined with a reworking of our justice system to actually serve for the rehabilitation of criminals instead of profit for prison companies it would work even better.

Clearing the Air

The US Supreme Court ruled in favor of the EPA on regulating coal pollution.  Somewhat surprising was that it was a 6-2 vote w/ Alito recusing himself.  Unsurprisingly the 2 dissenting were Scalia and Thomas.  Roberts is turning out to be an interesting justice.  Definitely conservative, but not the anti-liberal type Scalia and Thomas are.  Lots of other important cases are going to be coming out.  I hope he continues to be more reasonable than I expect.  Especially since I think Kennedy might be more likely to go that route as well if he has another conservative to follow.

Updated Military

The US’s military budget is large. Very large. In terms of people it is the second largest. So where does the money go? I’m not going to pretend to understand it all. Certainly sending people to distance locations to fight is expensive. Certainly there is waste. I sometimes wonder how much it would cost to do something different. What if the military was not dedicated to fighting, but to public service?
Fighting is important of course. Gotta be able to defend our corporate interests. But the fights today aren’t enough. Stability is what’s needed, not something fighting tends to bring (except for the complete annihilation type, but that’s not looked kindly about these days). So what brings stability? Infrastructure. Services. Supplies. Work. Things much of the US could use a bit more of too. So why not have a military that can bring all those to whatever foreign local we want to control and also to domestic locals?
Yes we already have civic departments that are supposed to help with those things. And the military does help with some civic projects. But why not more? How many private contractors get payed bloated amounts to do things our military does? We have a highly organized and trained established armed force that gets asked to fight and protect people and then when they’re done, they get ignored. How many veterans could be helped by having continued service aiding in bettering the US at home? How much better would many of our troops in training be served if they go to practice some of those nation building skills at home first?  Wouldn’t that be a better investment than fancy toys that are irrelevant to most modern warfare?
I realize this isn’t very specific or necessarily coherent. This just seems like a situation where several problems could solve each other.

Rage and saddness

They say some people want to burn down the world. Right now I can sympathize.


More unsuprising news

The US is an plutocracy with a democratic facade.


Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business
interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens
and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide
substantial support for theories of Economic Elite Domination and for theories of Biased
Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism.

It seems to be an interesting read.  I’ve mostly only skimmed it so far.  The methodology is lacking some precision, but they are at least up front about that.  Some questions that come to my mind are: How do you control for voter turn out when considering Majoritarian Electoral Demorcary and how do we change things?  Given that just over half of the eligible electorate actually participates in elections, there seems to be a possible disconnect between the general public’s interest and the voting public’s interest.  In fact, voter turnout is biased in many ways.  So that leads to the question: do those who actually vote influence policy, even if the general public does not?  If they do, then the answer to my second question is to get more people to vote.  I don’t know how to do this.  I know many people are apathetic, many because they don’t see their vote as influencing policy.  This attitude might be self-fulfilling.  Otherwise, getting money out of politics might help.  I won’t be holding my breath waiting for that.

h/t: Ophelia