Archive for November, 2010

Top 5 wishes that won’t make you happy

November 7, 2010

What follows are excerpts from longer pieces on the Cracked,com web site.

5.  FAME.

Studies show nothing is more stressful for a human than when their goals are tied to the approval of others. Particularly when those “others” are an enormous crowd of fickle strangers holding you up to a laughably unrealistic ideal built by publicists, thick makeup and heavily Photoshopped magazine covers.

You could seek comfort from your circle of friends, only now your friends have been replaced Invasion of the Body Snatcher’s-style with hangers-on, vultures, unscrupulous characters and plain dumbasses who only want a piece of the spotlight. . . even if it means selling you out later.

Click on Fame, Wealth and Beauty for more.

4.  WEALTH,

… As social creatures, we compare ourselves to our neighbors. This is why executives can cry about the $500,000 salary cap that comes with taking government bailout money. Their friends are making $3 million a year and live in igloo made out of cocaine. We can laugh at their complaints, but of course then you’re giving the Nigerian permission to laugh at yours. That guy made 100 times more than you, you make 100 times more than the Nigerian.

Once you start hanging around the other high earners, you’ll want all the stuff they have.  No, that’s not right–you’ll want the stuff that’s so much better than their stuff that they’ll vomit with envy. As one magazine for Wall Street bigshots put it, you want the stuff that will be “a huge middle finger to everyone who enters your home.”

Click on Fame, Wealth and Beauty for more.

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Things I wouldn’t try myself

November 6, 2010

Hans Rosling’s reasons to be hopeful

November 5, 2010

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Radical conservatives, conservative liberals

November 4, 2010

I long thought that it is self-contradictory for conservatives to speak of themselves as radicals and revolutionaries, as in “the Reagan revolution.”  How can this be, I wondered, when conservatives supposedly are defenders of the status quo which liberals and progressives want to humanize and radicals to overturn.

But I read an article on-line by Corey Robin, a professor at Brooklyn College, who argued that conservatism as a political movement has been militant and populist from its very beginning, starting with Edmund Burke and his attack on the French Revolution.  He wrote that while radicals seek to create a new social order, and give power to those who never had it, conservatives seek to recreate a social order that existed in the past, and restore power to those who formerly had it.

Click on Conservatism and Counterrevolution to read the article.

You should click on the links to get his full thought, but, in a nutshell, he says self-described conservatives historically defined by the fight against self-described radicals and revolutionaries. Conservatives want to fight the left with the left’s own populist tactics; like radicals, they claim to be  aligned with the common people and accuse their opponents of being intellectuals and elitists.

Thinking of how I fit into Robin’s scheme of things, I see myself as more of a preservationist and restorationist than I am an innovator.  I would like to preserve and restore the social safety net and the firewalls against depression created during the New Deal of the 1930s and the guarantees of equal rights created during the Civil Rights era of the 1960s.  The only new thing I advocate is a universal health care system, and this is not a leap in the dark – merely copying of the best practices of countries with successful systems.

So just as there is such a thing as radical conservatives, there is such a thing as conservative liberals.

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Election results 2010

November 3, 2010

I think that the 2010 election results show displeasure with the Obama administration and the Democratic leadership more than an endorsement of current Republican leadership, just as the 2006 and 2008 election results showed displeasure with the Bush administration and Republican leadership more than endorsement of then-current  Democratic leadership.

I think the pendulum is going to keep going back and forth between the two parties until one of them finds a way to make things better for the majority of the American people.  I think talk of the United States being a “center right” nation is irrelevant to this.  I think what matters to the American people is what is done about nearly 10 percent of the U.S. work force being unemployed and 13 percent of homeowners’ mortgages being delinquent or in foreclosure, not the relative position of politicians and parties on an imaginary spectrum.

If the Republicans show they can do something about this, they will become a true majority party.  If not, the Democrats (or maybe a third party) will get a chance to present themselves once again as an alternative.  Unfortunately, with a divided government, it’s likely that the current bad economic situation will continue and each party will try to blame the other for it.

In a democracy, there is no final election.  The party in power always has to justify itself.  The party out of power always has another chance.

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Improving the electoral process

November 2, 2010

This year New York state did away with its mechanical voting machines.  I will miss them.  Pulling down the levers was a quick and easy process, you couldn’t spoil your vote because the machine wouldn’t let you vote for more than the authorized number of candidates, and I enjoyed the satisfying “ka-ching!” sound when I pulled the lever.

The new system reminds me of the machine-graded multiple-choice examinations I took when I was in college.  You take a paper ballot, ink in circles next to the names of the candidates you favor, put the ballot in a paper sleeve (so nobody else can see it) and feed the ballot into a machine.

Ever since the Florida Presidential election in 2000, I’ve felt uneasy about electronic scanning of votes.  But I guess it is all right.  The original ballots remain to be recounted if there is any question about the result.  And someday, when I’m older and more feeble than I am now,  I may be glad I don’t have to push that heavy lever.

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Slay the gerrymander!

November 2, 2010

I just got back from voting at my neighborhood polling place.

I voted in New York’s 28th congressional district, the so-called “earmuffs” or “headphones” district, which looks like this: –

I voted in New York’s 55th state senate district, which looks like this: –

I voted in New York’s 131st state assembly district, which looks like this: –

And I am sure these far from being the most absurdly and arbitrarily drawn congressional and legislative district.

The only requirements for drawing district boundaries are that (1) the districts be roughly equal in population and (2) the boundaries not be drawn to intentionally reduce representation of minority groups.  Isn’t it time to add (3) the districts be compact in shape, (4) the districts as much as possible, subject to requirements 1-3, respect historic governmental and community boundaries and (5) the district be drawn by a non-partisan commission, subject to an up-or-down vote by the state legislature?  It might even be possible find a computer algorithm for doing this.

I voted for Kenneth Krause, the Republican candidate for Assembly, because he has signed a pledge to support non-partisan redistricting of the Assembly.  Of course the Assembly is gerrymandered to favor Democrats, as the state Senate is gerrymandered to favor Republicans, so he has less to lose than if he were a Republican.

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My dilemma as a voter

November 2, 2010

My dilemma as a voter is that, much as I would like to punish the Democratic leadership for their inadequacy, putting the Republicans into power under their current leadership is too high a price to pay.

Vegetarians running for barbecue chef

November 1, 2010

Tea Party Republicans are unlikely to do a good job running the government, for the same reason a bunch of vegetarians are unlikely to put on a good barbecue, a bunch of teetotalers are unlikely to mix good cocktails, and members of the Socialist Workers Party are unlikely to do a good job of running a Fortune 500 corporation.

If you sincerely believe that “government is the problem” – not just a particular activity or power of government, but government itself – then it is an exercise in futility to try to manage the government efficiently and effectively.  In fact, the closer you come to governing well, the more you undermine your argument, and the more you mess up, the more you prove your original argument was right.