Swords to Plowshares
Be warned the following is a subjective and political themed essay, yet you will find it is motivated* by positive ideals and to some degree facts. Many scientists are hesitant, rightfully so, to trudge through the quagmire that is American politics. It may be considered a truism that once when enters the swamp, the ability to come out clean is almost impossible.
What intrigues me the most is the great wonders of the cosmos, how the major patterns of life in our Universe play out. In short, the grandeur of Nature. In that context those that vie for power at the expense of the people they govern, seems so utterly brutish and infantile, but as a hot-blooded member of the human species I do care very much about the collective well being of my tribe.
First is a rant on current politics, than more abstract thoughts on moving to the next possible iteration of our society. As this is a blog post, I have not done an extensive literature review. If your here just for the pictures feel free to ignore my thoughts and quirks; I wish I would heed my own advice more often.
PART I: Current US Politics
(Written July 2016)
A fear mongering Fascist, a militaristic Oligarch, and a misplaced but honest New-deal Socialist walk into a bar. Followed by the machiavellian maneuvering courtesans, oh wait I am describing the 2016 primary race.
[Sigh. … long sigh.]
I am lucky enough to have a smattering of friends and acquaintances, who are are intelligent and kind. The mood of my conversations with these folks about the current race, is an odd mixture of humor and despair: “This is happening! … oh wait… this is happening.”
To oversimplify, the fundamental thread unifying sunset beers and bonfire chats, is the concern among my peers, that we must prevent a disastrous regression of our society, very little is spoken or discussed, on how we go about bringing about a more egalitarian and progressive future.
Bile rises to the back of my throat, when I am told which candidate I should vote for in order to beat the monster on the horizon. I would like to vote for a candidate that runs on a specific yet adaptable platform for which I endorse, has the moral and intestinal fortitude not to back down under peer pressure, and will take on the over-powerful corporate lobbyists. We have a representative government that primary represents vested interests and industry over the people. This is a failure. The actual model of representative democracy does work in the Americas, Asia, Africa, Oceania, and Europe in our day and age; exceptions abound but I am being pragmatic.
Our country may have been one of the first of the modern democratic revivalists, but that revolution was over two centuries ago, we are no longer leaders in the democratic arts. The world has changed, while the social contract is paramount to a democracy; our laws are just words on a page, the founding fathers are not demigods. They are gone. To argue in circles over how specific laws, written for that time in that context, were meant to be utilized approximately quarter of a millennia later is a failure. To do so indicates an inability to understand the basic principles of actively maintaining a just and fair society with the rule of law. Scripture interpretation is for religious debate, or if you need that kind of fix, read and discuss Shakespeare with your high school English class.
We are a secular state. Period. Write new laws and throw out old ones, that don’t do any good. That is the job description of the legislature branch. If they can’t do that duty sufficiently they should be fired. This is standard operating procedure when governments shutdown for the majority of current parliamentary democracies. When prominent and powerful members of the legislative branch explicitly make it their duty to impede the normal functioning of the government, as evidenced by their repeated actions and their own writings, that is intentional gross negligence. To be clear I am not referring to the occasional filibuster nor suggesting removing protections for the minority party, but asinine obstructionist political strategies. Most notably embodied by a notorious senator from Kentucky. Ask yourself, if you went into work everyday with the sole goal of prohibiting your company and colleagues from doing their work, how long would you have your job? Your employer would have strong legal precedence for the Axe. The public mandate demands the same kind of accountability. See Aside **
[Harumph… gun laws..]
Putin recently stated the United States was the only remaining superpower (placation or truth?), but if this is true, it is a function of our strength as an empire, not a democracy. The ancient Athenians brewed the first digestible democracy, and then proceed to poison themselves by trying their hand at a militaristic expansionist recipe. Democracy and empires may coexist temporally, but it is unhealthy and in no way are they compatible for the long run. Tell us about it Ike. (Importantly, know what he left out)
In my lifetime these have been the following presidents: Reagan, Bush (influential in Reagan’s administration), Clinton, Bush (the eldest son), Obama.
At the start of this primary the political pundits predicted either Bush (the slightly younger), or Clinton (spouse and primary adviser to Clinton the 1st) would be the two main candidates. Hell, the power structure of Westeros is only slightly more incestuous. How would you summarize those in power for my generation; oligarchy, loose rotating monarchy? If you go by Webster’s, than oligarchy fits rather snugly. As of 2015 according to the CIA Factbook we had a population of ~320 million. The possibility of 30+ years of essential two very close groups of people ruling the country makes one wonder why our current reality is so far from our meritocratic ideals.
But wait, Hillary is the first female nominee for president! Nope. Jill Stein is the Green party’s current likely nominee, and she was a presidential nominee in 2012. I would like to see greater prevalence of other parties in politics (the meaningful inclusion of the greens and libertarians would be a good place to start). A multi party system would break partisan gridlock. Transient legislative coalitions are normal in other democratic countries. A three-way governmental split of power, sounds vaguely familiar… To quote a friend of mine, “dumb Democrats and retarded Republicans”. I would add a mainstream media whose active confirmation bias means that many Americans are unaware that The United States’ first female presidential candidate Victoria Claflin Woodhull, was running against a Civil war general in 1892. Among other things she started a newspaper and a wall street brokerage, as well as being a suffragette.
Alas “the first female nominee for President from the limited oligarchical choices in this current election”… doesn’t have the progressive vote winning ring to it.
I must end this rant on US politics with something topical, but it is with the utmost despair. I am internally implored to mention the murder of Mr. Philando Castile, regarding this event, the governor of Castile’s state spoke correctly. ***
Why is there a positive biased correlation between a person’s melanin production and unprovoked gun deaths by law enforcement across this country? The answer is socioeconomic and geographic legacies of unjust segregation and institutional racism.
Step (1) Stop disproportionately shooting Black people. I really don’t comprehend why this is happening in 2016, my W.P. notwithstanding. Although I am not surprised we have this horrible problem. Consider that the assassination of Fred Hampton wasn’t all that long ago in societal time scales. (confirmed as such in a United States court)
Step (2) The FBI/DOJ needs to maintain an actual functioning national database on deaths via guns caused by government employees.
Step (3) Allow The CDC to be funded to study gun deaths in America. The NRA has succeeded in blocking funding for that. Yup they did that, read that sentence again. Then ask yourself why your life, or any other citizen’s, is worth less than the bottom line of gun manufacturers. Please do inform me if you have a good answer.
Step (4) Stop shooting unarmed people (or those with a permit to carry) regardless of race creed etc… I am utterly baffled by the prevalence of this phenomenon. Innocent people of all ethnic backgrounds are dying unjustly at the hands of their fellow citizens. Our society is excessively violent. While globally domestic violence is subsiding (per captia) over time, the United States is far more violent than other 1st world countries (6 times higher than England per capita). If there is one metric to judge the progression of a society, death by violent means is likely a good indicator. If we use that metric, then we are a regressive society in a progressive world.
Step(5) Actually implement gun reform. For some ideas perhaps we should look at other nations, one example of many is Japan.
I grew up in Atlanta in the 90s, my appreciation for the words of Dr. King began at a young age. I turn to his speeches when I learn of another unprovoked African American shooting death. But despite the power of his booming voice and his lyrical oration, I am tired… oh so very tired, of needing to lean on his words of hope. We can make no progress as a society until we stop murdering a subset of our citizens. This failure of our nation is one of the many frustrations which has stoked the flames of despair, is it therefore, any surprise than the dual fires of hate and frustration consume the current election?
Conclusion Part I
My generation is sick of the television politicians, we want more real public servants, in a more diverse political party system. Be they like Governor Dayton, Senator Robert Byrd, or Dr. King, as those persons of quality “Drumpf” the rest.
Those are my thoughts on our country. I must stop here less I digress into the realm of you-tube commentary. I am always happy to discuss, in a civil manner, my thoughts. However don’t bring Ad hominem arguments, I do despise the prevalence of that logical fallacy oh so much.
UPDATE early 2017:
Well, that happened… Much is, and is continuing to be, said about the current administration. I don’t believe I can add anything of substance, besides regurgitating facts which are not alternative. The silver lining might be greater democratic involvement at the local level. The following section is unlikely to be seriously considered anytime soon, but presented nonetheless.
PART II: Future Directions
We spend a significant portion of our tax revenue on the military. Much higher than is needed for effective defense. What if we reduced that amount over time, cut taxes in general and reinvested the savings into internal needs (education, highways etc.), and the remainder into a space colonization initiative. This would be focused on the human colonization of space, extraterrestrial and eventually extrasolar.
Room to grow. Resources which don’t require conquering of other people, nor destruction of the biosphere, to obtain. This would require investment in high-tech manufacturing and R&D, thereby growing this nation’s economy. Imagine if you will a Space Corps, some combination of NASA astronauts and the Coast Guard. With the same professionalism and dedication to public service as embraced by the armed forces, without the need for arms.
Cut military spending by 50%, accompanied by a 5% across the board reduction in income taxes. That would leave 50 billion for the new space initiative and increase the budget of all nonmilitary discretionary services by ~ 43 %. Those services in the graph below:
The idea outlined above is presented more for discussion of budgetary feasibility, than an exact numerical platform. Numbers are based on 2015 data. Explore that link as it has tools to come up with one’s own particular accounting plan.
The celebration of Veteran’s Day, or Memorial Day, is about honoring the sacrifices those soldiers made for a better future. We must do our best to make that future a reality. Unless we take action to limit the infrastructure of empire, and continual war, we actively dishonor those soldiers and only add to the list of those who sacrifice. Support the troops but cutting their overseas deployments and increasing their benefits.
The need for imperial machinations and violent colonization mechanisms is simply old hat. It’s time to move beyond this species’s, rather boring adolescent period of tribal conflict and cycles of violence. It is time to become the voyagers and navigators of our galaxy.
My great-grandfather Genco whom worked as a machinist in an arms factory, and prohibited his children from owning guns on moral grounds.
Rosario Genco, I came upon his grave in National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific. I know nothing about this young man except what was written on his grave. My surname is uncommon enough that there aren’t all that many of us on this planet. At the age of 20, he died only months before the end of a war, which took the lives of ~ 50 – 80 million people.
-Brandon M Genco 2017-02-22
* See Edward Abbey’s essay “A Writers Credo” In his book “One Life at a Time, Please”. Being that currently I am not employed by any powerful institution, I believe his call for independent thinkers to exercise their duty of dissidence, applies to me.
** I lived in Ecuador (2006-2007) during a major overhaul of the governmental structure enforced by the newly elected President Correa. Ecuador has a history of electing than rejecting presidents at a rate higher than any other Latin American democracy. Initially, there was some hope for the possibility of Correa to make real strides in Ecuador. Dame! Correa read campaign T-shirts, given out for free to the people from trucks. (dame being Spanish for give me). Now in a record third term, his actions against media critics suggests dam Correa!, would be a more appropriate slogan.
Back to early 2007: The legislative branch strongly opposed the popular supported Correa’s strong handed, and constitutionally questionable reform, causing the government to shut down. In response, some good’ld fashioned Latin American street protests. Red shirted communists en masse, and a stray Molotov cocktail here and there (hurled at property, not people of course.) Hot dam, they knew how to exercise their civil right to freedom of assembly.
I remember vividly watching the television news, one senator left the legislative building, a sweet old lady scurried up to him and began actively beating him with her handbag, within arm’s length was a federal policeman, he looked on acutely aware, yet did not intervene. It was clear, the politician had failed in his public mandate, as such it was this women’s right to assault him for his failures. All three parties acted in accordance to this mutual understanding.
*** While editing this first section, The shooting of police officers in Dallas at a gun violence protest occurred. National publicized gun deaths are so common, that one cannot not finish digesting the primary news reports on one event, before another one occurs. If that’s not indicative of a problem, I don’t know what is.
Further spin off topics…. will be hyperlinked when/if completed
-Nukes (why do we still spend money to keep these things around?)
-Possibility of life in our solar system and beyond
-The resources of the asteroid belt
-AUMF… Know about this US Law
-Explain why US military need not be so big, and external threats are overblown.