Dan's Soapbox

Dan's views on current events, popular culture, and other topics of interest.

Location: United States

I'm now on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Racnad

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Another Look at Gun Control

Most people don't object to the ownership of guns by responsible people. The problem is that little or no regulation of guns makes it easy for irresponsible people to get guns too. So what do you do about that? The NRA's only answer to the problem of irresponsible people and guns to to make sure ALL the responsible people have guns too. They feel that very few people will shoot or threaten to shoot anyone for fear of being shot themselves, and those who do shoot will get shot quickly before they do too much damage. 
My concerns with this are:  
  1. When people get into heated desputes & misunderstandings with each other as they do from time to time, the thought proceess is going shoot the other person before they get their gun out and shoot you.

  2. This won't deter mass shootings, as the perpatrators are mentally unbalanced and are usually killed by police or their own weapons anyway, and..

  3. There will be more accidental shootings from weapons being stored improperly, or by children getting ahold of them. More guns = more people gettimng shot: simple math.
There is another way though: The Second Amendment states: "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." Note the words are "well-regulated" not "unregulated." What if to own a firearm, a person had to
  1. Have received firearm safety training from the US Military, a state militia, law enforcement agency, or approved NRA-type gun safety curriculum,

  2. Be a member of a military force, law enforcement agency, state/local militia, Military/law enforcement reserves, or carry a valid hunting liscence.

  3. Prove that they own an approved gun safe which would make it impossible for children, burglers and other unauthorized parties from gaining access to their weapons.
This would be similar to the regulation which exists in countries like Switzerland & Israel where gun ownership is high but gun violance seems to be lower. Despite what the gun people argue, such restrictions are within the Second Amendment, and would allow responsible people who wish to own guns to have them while making it more difficult for irresponsible people, children and criminals to obtain them.

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Tuesday, September 04, 2012

2016: Reading Obama's Mind

About two thirds of the way through 2016: Obama’s America, film maker Dinesh D’Souza makes an admission.  I will paraphrase:  “You hear Obama the Muslim, Obama the Socialist.  Those don’t cut it.  I’m laying my card on the table.”   So while other straw man images of Obama suffer from lack of evidence, or in the case of Socialist, redefining Socialist to include most Americans (including his Republican opponent), D’ Souza presents confirmed facts about Obama’s life and adds his own speculation to validate the conservative storyline that Obama is trying to “destroy America.”

D’Souza’s theory is that Obama is implementing an anti-colonialist agenda.  This is subject that few Americans know much or think much about, but being from the former British colony of India, D’Souza is familiar with colonialism & anti-colonialism.  He educates the audience on the resentment some in the third-world feel toward Europe & America due to their histories of exploiting the third world for their natural resources.  This is a radical, anti-capitalist, anti-religious movement he explains.   

What does this have to do with Obama?  Well, his father was indeed from Kenya, another former British colony.  D’Souza interviews a couple of people with anti-colonialist leanings who said they knew Obama Sr.   In a dramatically filmed re-enactment from the book “Dreams from my Father” we see the younger Obama visiting his father’s grave while listening to Obama’s own voice (excepted form the audio version of the book) describing the catharsis he felt.  From this we are supposed to infer that Obama now shares whatever anti-Western views his father might have had, and that in his second term, he intends to end the era of American dominance in the world.  We even get a graphic of a “Muslim Curtain” reminiscent of the old cold-war films illustrating the “domino theory” of Communist infiltration.  What D’Souza does not explain is why Obama’s connection to Kenya and time living in Indonesia would make him an anti-western Marxist while his own childhood in India led him to become a conservative.   

When the Supreme Court decision on the Affordable Healthcare Act came down, some conservative pundits asked “What was Justice Roberts thinking?”  Some even speculated he wanted to show that the Court wasn’t a rubber stamp for Republicans.   But anyone wanting to know what Roberts was thinking could simply download the PDF of the decision and read 200 pages of Robert’s thoughts on the topic.  If you want to know what Obama is really about, read and listen to his words, and look at his actual actions, not what people say about him, or see when they attempt to read his mind.

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Friday, August 31, 2012

Lies, Damned Lies and Gas Prices

Republicans (including Mitt Romney during his acceptance speech) are fond of pointing out that gas prices "have nearly doubled" since Obama took office. While literally true, this is very misleading. After reaching more than $4.30 a gallon in the summer of 2008 due to a bubble in the petroleum markets, oil & gas prices crashed, dropping below $2 a gallon in January '09. (BTW, they never mention that the stock market is UP more then 60 percent since Obama took office).

I can offer a reality check on this. I have been keeping a spreadsheet for more than 10 years tracking my gas purchases & mileage. This is real data of what my wife & I have paid for gas at the pump over all this time in Washington & other states on or near the West Coast.

Let's start with this. Over August 2012 I've paid $3.57-$4.05 at the pump. In August 2008 that range was $3.81-$4.02. So when someone says gas has doubled since "four years ago" they are literally mistaken. Gas prices for August 2008 were in the same ballpark.

Another comparison would be the average of the inauguration month through the August prior to the election. Here's what I have:

Average price of gas for Bush's 2nd term through August 2008: $2.91
Average price of gas for Obama's term through August 2012: $3.33

So while gas prices have indeed increased under Obama, anyone describing a 15% increase as "nearly doubled" needs some remedial math.

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Sunday, July 24, 2011

What I Learned Watching Fox News

I've been watching Fox News a bit more lately.  Here's some of what I've learned:

Job Creators

Wealthy people are actually job creators.   They are just itching to create jobs, but they haven't been lately because they're afraid that some of their tax deductions might go away.  While Job Creators love creating jobs, if they have to pay more taxes, they'll just say "forget it" and not create more jobs.

I used to think that jobs were created when lots of regular people wanted buy more stuff than businesses were able to produce, so to gear up production they hired more people, but now I know that all you have to do to create more jobs is to have Jobs Creators pay less tax.  And the less tax they pay, the more jobs they'll create.  Giving more money to people who don't already have enough to be job creators is useless, because they'll just spend it on products and services.  That doesn't create jobs - Job Creators create jobs when they pay less tax.

Redistribution of Wealth

This is about how Barack Obama wants to take all the money away from job creators who earned it and give it away to people who did not earn it.   This is Socialism, which is bad.   While I never heard Obama say he wanted to do this, many Tea Partiers, Republicans and people on Fox News say he does so it must be true.

At first I thought redistribution of wealth was what the economy was all about.  People spend money on products and services.  Companies that produce these products and services pay their employees, suppliers and stockholders, redistributing the wealth to all sorts of places.  But know I know redistribution of wealth is a socialist evil.  People are only entitled to money they already have, whether they earned it though hard work, their parents' hard work, their employee's hard work, by laying off hard workers, or by selling collateralized debt obligation securities composed of mortgages made to people who won't be able to pay them back.  You should never ask your boss for a raise because that is attempting to redistribute wealth from job creators to job takers.

Obama's Re-Election

According to Senator Mitch McConnell, his top priority is to ensure Barack Obama is a one-term President.  Therefore, anything that makes Obama look good is to be avoided. Since a well functioning government and recovered economy would make Obama's re-election more likely, it is a priority for McConnell and his allies to ensure that the the economy remains stagnant and Congress accomplishes as little as possible.  If the debt ceiling talks fail, the economy tanks, unemployment soars and middle class retirement savings evaporate, that can be good news if enough people blame it on Obama.

Other Things I Learned on Fox News.
  • I learned from Rep Allen West that if someone points out that the policy you advocate would be bad for your constituents, the best response is to call that person names.
  • When Congressman John Boehner says "moved the goal posts,"  that means "held the goal posts while I tried to move them."
  • I learned from Republican presidential candidate Herb Cain that First Amendment Freedom of Religion does not apply to Muslims. 
  • The people on FOX News also say that Obama wants to make America more like Canada or France.  I'm not sure what's wrong with that, because Canada seems like a nice place when I visit and France looks great on the Tour de France coverage.  Maybe they don't want more people here to speak French. 
  • In addition to the War on Terror and the War on Drugs, there is also a War on Christmas.
  • If same sex couples are allowed to get married, heterosexual people will divorce in huge numbers, unmarried couples will no longer want get married, and the institution of marriage will then be destroyed.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Socialism No, Racial Dishonesty Yes.

A Seattle police officer is currently making waves with comments on Socialism and racial policy is the Seattle Police Department.

This is another example of how when it comes to racial issues in our society, there exists certain non-politically correct taboos that hamper honest discussion.

There exists an assumption that all ethnic groups tend to behave in the same manner.  therefore outcomes of positive or negative behavior, i.e. success or incarceration, should occur at the same rates among the ethnic group.

But when it comes to African Americans, we see many disparities.  African Americans kids receive discipline in schools and adults are incarcerated at higher rates than other groups.  There are two possibilities to explain this: 1) There is something in African American culture that condones or encourages anti-social behavior, or 2) Schools and courts are racist.

But it is taboo to suggest the former, so we can only talk about fixing the later.   The problem is, examples of racism are relatively rare, especially in a city like Seattle.  So the concept of "institutional racism" was invented.  This says that although racism is hard to see, we see the results of it, therefore it must be there in forms so subtle we can't put our finger on it.  If you dispute this, you risk being labeled a racist. Look what happened to Judge Sanders in the last election, who was branded a racism for suggesting that social-economic factors might cause African Americans to commit more crimes than other groups.

So in order to correct the outcomes, teachers and criminal justice system are given a wink and a nod to apply a looser standard when it comes to African Americans.

Of course, this has nothing to do with Socialism, but Officer Pomper does have a point.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Civility For It's Own Sake

Following the Columbine High School shooting 10 years ago, the pointing fingers flew free.  Blame it on bullying, video games, or Marilyn Manson.   This week following the tragic shootings in Arizona, again the media looks for a blame.  This time the popular target is incivility in political discourse in general, and Sarah Palin's infamous "bullseye" graphic in particular.

The truth is, normal people are not moved to commit mass murder by bullying, heavy metal music, violent video games or TV shows, or even political discussion that contains symbols related to shooting.   On the other hand, when mentally unbalanced people act out violently, it usually is not triggered by any influence which makes sense to balanced people.

Still, civility in public discussion is sorely needed to solve the issues that face us.   Let's not attack political opponents using violent metaphors.  Let's not attack them at all.  Criticize ideas, not people.   This should include discussion of why Jared Loughner did what he did.


Friday, December 31, 2010

When Politcs Became Football

I'm not sure when it happened.  It's been a process that took several years, but in 2010 it became obvious - politics has become much less about how to run our government for the benefit of society than it is a football style game.The problem is that in national politics, there is much more at stake that the egos of the players and the feelings of the fans.

What do I mean?  In football, the offense does everything it can to advance toward it's goal, while the defense does everything it can get away with to obstruct the offense from what it wants to do.   Both parties do it, but the Republicans have excelled in making it more about the game than about the interests of the country.  A football team "playing dirty" will use head butts, face mask grabbing and other illegal moves when they think the refs won't see it to stop.  The Republicans will use distortions and outright lies (remember "Death Panels") to discredit Barak Obama.

Senator Mitch McConnell is pretty transparent about this, admitting that his primary goal is to make Obama a one-term president.

It is conventional political wisdom that strong economies are good for incumbent presidents seeking re-elections, and that weak economies favor the challenger.  Indeed, sitting presidents tend to be blamed in many voters' minds for anything bad happening where they caused it or not, just as they tend to be credited for anything good that is happening.  

For McConnell, a continued weak economy would serve his goal of blocking a second Obama term, while a strong economic recovery would undermine his objective.   That is why Republicans don't want health care reform and don't want economic stimulus packages, and will oppose anything that will make Obama look good if it passes.   They don't even really care about the deficit and the recent income-tax cut extension deal (which both cuts revenues and increases spending) proves.   If fact, they're all for increasing the deficit, just so they can blame it on Obama!