Archive for December, 2016

It’s About The Choices We Make

December 29, 2016

Got into a very minor talk around the dinner table with the in-laws and, for me anyway, it came down to the choices we decide to make. It mainly concerned what we choose to want our government to spend our tax money on. We (I’m referring to the US, being an American myself) choose to spend on some things and not others, and I think it reflects what we prioritize. I’m going to use this article from 2015, that talks about military budgets in 2014, largely because it was the easiest to grab off of Google, and I don’t think anything has drastically changed – the US hasn’t drastically slashed spending on its military, in other words.

And this isn’t to only single out the military, it’s really just the easiest thing to pull out of our budget and say,hey, we spend a LOT of money on this. In pure dollars, we spent more than anyone else in the world by a pretty godly sum in 2014 ($571 billion vs #2 China’s $129 billion). While we didn’t have the highest percentage of spending to GDP, we were still fourth blowing 3.5% on our military budget. And I’m not sure this includes things like the NSA and whatever things are kept off the publicly available books for security reasons. In short, it’s a ton of money.

So, I look at this and say, well, why can’t we knock that down to around 2% and re-invest that money into our social safety nets. Into our infrastructure. Into job creation programs (however you want to define it). How many business startups could be funded with some very low interest government loans with that extra cash?

My only real takeaway is that we must not care. Or if we do care, we don’t care enough to push something like this forward. Do we really need to blow that much more money on our military (which, in itself, is also a job creator, to be fair)(do we support our military to such a degree at least in part to boost the economy?)(maybe) or would that money do more our country if it was spent more at home than on military contractors and blowing up chunks of other countries?

I know a lot of this delves into the feeling of security and safety. The world is shown as some big,scary place full of people who want to hurt us. This fear doesn’t just show up in military spending but in what we are unwilling to do. Syria has been an unmitigated hell hole for a long time. Refugees have been wallowing in camps, scraping by, trying to just have an opportunity at a new life. Where were we? It’s not like the US is overcrowded.

But we refused to step up in any seriously meaningful way. There were excuses such as being unable to afford it. We could, especially since if we looked past our noses to the long term we would see that bringing in a bunch of young people would drastically strengthen to tax base for decades to come. The first five years would be tough, as we foot the bill to get them on their feet and moving, but the majority of them would do what we all do. Work hard, pay bills, and try to lead a better life. Or excuses that terrorists are hiding in these camps, waiting to be unleashed in some unexpecting country that takes them in.

Except why aren’t they terrorizing the countries they are currently interred at? Are they really that patient? Or do they just not exist?

In the end, we make our choices. We are choosing to live guided by fears, ignorance, and hate to varying degrees. It makes us less of a people, less of a nation. We can be better. If we choose to.

Maybe the price is too high

December 8, 2016

This is going to be far shorter and less researched than it needs to be but I have real life intervening today and I want to get this out there. The rise of fake news and the sheer ugliness of digital interactions has made me think that maybe we need less privacy on the internet. We already know that companies track everything we do, that we are targeted, marketed to in a way wholly impossible to folks nearing their golden years. We also know that our government has an unprecedented ability to surveil us, especially when telecom giants so easily comply with their wishes to dip into our online activity.

While that certainly takes away our anonymity to people with a lot of money/influence/power, it really does nothing to expose us to each other. While google might be able to track down who you are, what you do, and where you live, I don’t think I could with any assurance. And that might be the problem.

The condition of anonymity on the web today needs to be flipped on its head. We should have greater privacy in our viewing habits, companies and the government shouldn’t be able to dip into our digital lives at will. They can’t set cameras up inside our house to keep tabs on us, they shouldn’t be able to do the equivalent with our web browsers.

However, we need less anonymity when we choose to interact with people. Instead of some stupid handle and hip avatar when we comment on a news article, we should probably have an actual picture and our name. And if/when people cross the line there should be repercussions, including the involvement of law enforcement if the case warrants it. It seems the anonymity of the internet has become too intoxicating for people to engage in the uglier side of our natures, whether out of honest convictions or just the desire to stir the pot and be a bit of a horse’s rear. And when someone is unwilling to put their name and face to something, maybe that should tell us something, too.

How would a system that required/enforced this be put into place? I’m not sure, and frankly it’s not something that’s in my ballpark to tease out. But maybe it’s time we give up on this notion of anonymity that doesn’t really exist anyway, and embrace a digital world where we are forced to look at and acknowledge each other as people rather than an avatar.

We should work together now that I need you to

December 6, 2016

…And then there was this quote:

For six years we’ve been sort of fighting like the Hatfields and the McCoys. It’s been very partisan and we see what happens, we don’t have a success,” he said. “So I think in the end we ought to do our best to build a consensus so that we can have a lasting solution.

That’s from Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee via an article at TPM. Instead of trying to find ways of being constructive governing bodies we’ve had six years of obstruction and jerkishness from the GOP. They haven’t even attempted to pass any law of note beyond homeruns of repealing Obamacare and trying to get their various gas/oil pipelines built and now, despite still having majority in the senate AND the house AND the presidency…the GOP wants Democrats to provide political cover to pass legislation to undo and obliterate the crowning achievements of the Obama administration.

For God’s sake, I hope the Democrats are smarter than this. It is clear from the past two Democratic presidencies that the GOP simply has no desire to work with a president from the other party and it’s time Democrats learn that hard lessor and serve it back. They gain nothing from working with the GOP other than making them look vaguely competent. If they want to pass these laws, make them do it alone. Make them own the work in a way they have refused to own the responsibility for their decisions for the past six years.

It’s an outright lie by people like Alexander to allege the partisanship the past six years has been a two way street. Make them eat this and own it.