Sunday, August 31, 2014

Consistency in Presidential Elections

This survey stops with the Presidential election of 2008.  Too lazy to update it.

Four states – Kansas, Nebraska, South Dakota and North Dakota – have voted Republican in every Presidential election since 1940 (FDR’s third term), except for 1964 (Johnson vs. Goldwater).

Four more states – Oklahoma, Utah, Wyoming and Idaho – have voted Republican in every Presidential election since 1952 (Eisenhower’s first term), except for 1964.  

Arizona has voted Republican since 1952, except for 1996 (Clinton’s second term).  

Alaska has voted Republican since 1960 (JFK), except for 1964.  

Minnesota has voted Democratic since 1960, except for 1972 (Nixon vs. McGovern).  

Indiana has voted Republican since 1940, except for 1964 and 2008 (Obama).  

Virginia and Montana have voted Republican since 1952, except for 1964 and 1992 (Montana, Clinton’s first term) or 2008 (Virginia).  

Hawaii has voted Democratic since 1960, except for 1972 and 1984 (Reagan’s second term).  

Finally, Alabama and Mississippi have voted Republican since 1964, except for 1968 (Nixon vs. Humphrey) and 1976 (Ford vs. Carter).  

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Fifteen states have voted Republican and two states Democratic nearly monolithically, since at least 1964.  The other thirty-three states have voted less predictably over the same time period.

It can be said that these states know their own mind.  It can be said with equal justice that they don’t pay much attention to Presidential campaigns, that their radios and TV’s are used for different purposes than politics.  You decide.

And it is interesting that such a huge disproportion, 15 out of 17 states, voted Republican.  Yet Democrats won the Presidency as many times as Republicans.  What this means is anybody’s guess.

I have no idea why this essay is in this book.  It was interesting to research, so I included it.

Accidents

It affronts our sense of fair play when we consider someone having an accident having to pay for the accident and its consequences and repair.   But it attacks our notion of fair play and common sense when we consider the victim of the accident paying for the accident, its consequences and its repair.  In other words, we don’t think BP should have to pay for its “accident” and the consequences of the accident on the Gulf Coast until we consider the residents of the area having to pay for it.  At which time it becomes 100% obvious that the perpetrator of the accident, not its victims, must pay for their “accident.”

What then should be the difference between an accident and a non-accident where there is damage to someone or some things?  Simple.  If there was intent, there ought not to be merely civil damages; there ought also to be criminal charges and criminal penalties.   And if you cannot charge a corporation with criminal intent, you surely can charge its leadership with criminal intent.

Why, you may say, this an attack on the corporate privilege of limited liability.  Yes it sure is.  “Limited liability” is an important capitalist privilege that allows a man who would commit a crime to incorporate and then not have to suffer the penalty for committing the crime.   Limited liability is an attack on justice.  We as a society really should revisit the institution of limited liability when it protects guilty men from their guilt.

BP and its own insurers must pay for the clean-up and the damage done to people’s livelihoods and the environmental damage.  With no “cap”, no limit on what it must pay.  And, should a proper investigation reveal that actions were taken that may have contributed to the “accident” happening, then criminal charges against BP management must be made.  When the sacred privilege of limited liability defies justice and common sense, limited liability be damned.

The Contraceptives Controversy

Reader: if you are a practicing Catholic who believes the Pope has a right to define women’s sexual behavior, please do not read this essay; it will only piss you off.

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Have you caught the spat about contraceptives between the Obama administration and the Catholic Church?  Church doctrine forbids contraception and the Church objects to the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) providing information about and access to and coverage for contraceptives to its faithful.  Newt Gingrich – a third wife convert to Catholicism – called it the biggest assault on freedom of religion since … well I am not sure, maybe since Martin Luther hammered his 95 Theses to the door of his church.  Rick Santorum, a one wife Catholic, has said equally nasty things about it too.  The Obama administration, as its first response, offered to allow the church, as an employer providing health insurance to its employees, not to have to pay for that part of the insurance package; but the insurance company would still have to provide contraceptive services to the church’s employees and insurance policy holders.  I suspect that will not satisfy everyone as the church may want to deny its members information and access to contraceptives (despite the fact that many of them already use contraceptives, doctrine be damned).  So, for Gingrich, Santorum and others, freedom of religion in the USA seems to mean the right of the Catholic Church (the employer) to deny freedom of choice to individuals who work for them (employees).  Ironic.

Guns

Here’s a rule.  If there is a politician or a TV or radio political commentator – or worse yet more than one – with whom you are in agreement 100% of the time, what that proves is you are not an independent thinker.

Obvious, right?  Good.  Because I am sure that the following will rub many Americans the wrong way, Americans I most want to reach.  

But just because we may disagree on one issue does not make everything I have to say unworthy of your time and consideration, right?

OK.

Abortion

Before Roe v. Wade, American women had abortions.  Some were self-administered and very dangerous, even fatal; some were black-market, expensive and very dangerous, even fatal; and some were safe, expensive and out of the country, where the law couldn’t do anything to you, even when you returned.  And for many of those who went to term, there were abandonments (dropping newborn babies in dumpsters or leaving them on door-steps in strange neighborhoods) and there were orphans, millions of orphans.  But for those who seriously considered abortion, what there was very few of was a happy couple welcoming a newborn into a loving family life.

Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision that is so “controversial,” the decision that forbids a state to outlaw abortion for the first trimester, was not a close 5-4 decision pitting conservative justices against liberal justices.  The decision was 7-2.  The makeup of the Court was 6 justices installed by Republican presidents and 3 justices installed by Democratic presidents.  Five of the six Republican justices voted with the majority and two of the three Democratic justices voted with the majority.  Bet you didn’t know that.  It was not a close decision, nor was it a party-line decision.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Social Darwinism

“So, Social Darwinism, whazzat?”

If “Darwinism” can be thought of as “survival of the fittest” (not Darwin’s idea at all; he preferred survival of the best adapted or the most adaptable), or prominence of the strongest, the most competitive, the wealthiest or the best connected, and then you apply it to humans, rather than the “inferior animal species,” that would be Social Darwinism.  The Law of the Jungle, applied to humans.  A corollary to survival of the strongest or fittest is the non-survival of the weakest or least fit.  Only the “best” would survive and reproduce, and this would naturally result in a superior human species, superior to what it would be without this kind of a Natural Selection.  Social Darwinism has no need for any “social safety net” to rescue the least fit, as it does not approve of allowing the least fit to survive.  Social Darwinism is cruel but efficient; think the ancient Spartans and the not so ancient Nazis.  A good case could be made that a more compassionate society would be a stronger, more fit society in many ways, but I am not approving or condemning Social Darwinism, just defining it.

A Social Darwinist society would be a cruel society, even if some might call it a just society (with little room for mercy).  An irony is that Darwin himself would not have been an advocate of Social Darwinism.  He saw Evolution’s Natural Selection as a description of how Nature works, not as the way humans should act.

Some Anarchists, some Libertarians, and even some Republicans admit to being Social Darwinists.  But it is politically difficult to argue as it does tend to resurrect images of Nazi Germany’s Aryan master race.  Putting all that aside, it is worth considering, just as much as a cradle to grave welfare state where the strong are compelled by the majority class of weaklings to keep the weak alive.

Just as a full-blown welfare state is less than 100% desirable or even sustainable, so too a Social Darwinist state.  Why do so many Americans seem to embrace one or the other extreme idea (the simple answer is: it is simpler), whereas the best is probably a random selection from both camps to keep things interesting.  Which is what we have now – isn’t it? – with Democrats forever battling Republicans, and each side capturing some but not all the hills.

But, no, that is NOT what we have; we have a society ruled by those who can best pay off the strongest to come work for them and do their bidding, while they get away with ripping off the wealth of the world from the rest of us.  They are neither the strongest nor the most fit; what they are is the most determined to grab more than their share of the toys.  Most of them would not last a week in the wilderness.  That is the prime defect of Social Darwinism: those who survived would not be the best.

No, the prime defect of a Social Darwinist state is that the "best" would be those best able to accumulate monetary wealth: the hedge fund managers, CEO's of multi-national firms best able to avoid paying American taxes, top Hollywood stars and the most gifted professional athletes.  Is that your idea of the "best" that we have?  It is surely not my idea of the "best."

Non-Violence

Many of my liberal friends – and I have more liberal friends than conservative ones (because of where I live!) – seem to believe that non-violence is the right approach to any issue that has the potential for violence, the ONLY right approach to any such issue: violence is never justified.  No doubt Martin Luther King, Jr’s non-violent approach to African-American Civil Rights worked wonders in the sixties, but I am not convinced that the perceived threat of mayhem posed by the Black Panthers didn’t help the cause some, maybe a lot.  Indeed, I am not so sure that the back-sliding of black power since the sixties cannot be traced at least partially to two generations of near total black non-violence.

But putting the Civil Rights struggle aside, my personal answer to the Left’s near-absolute allegiance to non-violence can be found in a simple movie of long ago: High Noon.  Those who know the movie know what I mean, and I would bet that all of them agree with me that non-violence has its place, as does violence.  For those who have not watched High Noon (or listened to its Oscar-winning song), I recommend it highly.  You might come away from it not so sure that non-violence is always the right answer to every question.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Freedom of Speech, Revisited

“Well, I don’t think that you have made the case against money as protected speech.  For example, Meg Whitman (former CEO of eBay) and Carly Fiorina (former CEO of Hewlett-Packard), not only spent gobs and gobs of money running for governor and senator, respectively, of the great state of California, but they lost, and they lost embarrassingly, Whitman to a Democratic fossil who had been governor when T. Rex's ruled California.  Money did not corrupt the electoral process there, did it?”