Archive for the Politics Category

And I Saw My Reflection In The Snow-Covered Hills….

Posted in Politics on October 8, 2016 by Genius

I’ve been predicting a landslide Hillary victory since it became clear who the nominees were. There were definitely a couple weeks there, especially right before the first debate, where it felt shaky. (Right after the RNC the gap narrowed, but you expect the convention bounce.)

My friends (and many pundits) who were predicting a Trump victory always tossed in the “unless some big scandal breaks” clause.  To which my usual response was “that’s exactly why I think it’ll be a landslide.”

See, when you run for President, everything in your past comes out. It’s the equivalent of a roadside colonoscopy. And Donald Trump’s past is his greatest weakness. He’s spent an entire lifetime being one of the worst humans in the world. He’s the worst version of what happens when you’re born with hundreds of millions of dollars and told you’re going to be the king of the world when you grow up. He’s the high school bully with a trust fund and a get out of jail free card.

The Trump pundits will say we got lucky predicting he’d get routed. But the fact is, if he managed to get through to November without scandal after scandal, or managed to actually win a debate against an opponent who is far harder working, significantly more intelligent, and infinitely more knowledgeable, they’d be the lucky ones.

 

Advertisements

Yes on Issue 2, No on Issue 3.

Posted in Politics on November 2, 2015 by Genius

Anyone who knows me knows that I’m a pretty big advocate of drug legalization. I believe that all available evidence makes prohibition look entirely unreasonable. I believe that if you could walk into CVS and buy anything from marijuana to heroin, fewer people would die of overdoses, more addicts could get help, there’d be far less violent crime, jails would house far fewer criminals, and we’d save a ton of money. There’s really no evidence or even logic to the contrary beyond “drugs are bad… mkay.” The 18th amendment didn’t work and we repealed it a scant 13 years later, then somehow forgot the lessons of history and decided to do it all over again. This time we’ve stuck with it for decades and gotten even more violent crime, poverty, and addiction as a result.

But, I think our nation faces an existential threat. I don’t say that lightly, as people often do. After 9/11 everyone said that Islamic Extremism was a threat to our way of life, but it really wasn’t. Great empires always fall to internal forces.

Depending on your politics, you probably felt that one or both of the last two Presidents presented such a threat. But by many measures we’re better off now than we were 16 years ago, and even the ways in which we are not are due mainly to policies put in place back while W. was still snorting coke and shotgunning beers instead of serving in the National Guard, and Obama was learning to hate America in a madrassa in Kenya.

Our threats are deeper and less obvious than that. It’s not ISIS or Al Queda that will tear our country apart. It isn’t Donald Trump, or whichever Bush or Clinton ends up in the White house. It’s the corrupting power of money on politics.

When our nation was formed, representative democracy and capitalism went hand-in-hand. The great experiment worked. And then something new and virtually unheard of came into existence, the corporation.

Sure a few existed before. And they’d caused some political problems. If you want to spend an afternoon learning about the root of our problem, Google “The Dutch East India Corporation” and prepare to have your mind blown. They literally had a private army, with warships.

But even they had nothing on big oil. Nowadays corporations don’t need to build an army. It’s far cheaper to donate to politicians until they’ll let you write the bills they introduce. Why bother going to war to make sure countries don’t do anything about climate change that might hurt your bottom line when you can just donate to some Republican Senators?

We live in an era in which money is king. Politicians need it to get elected. Corporations have more of it than ever before, by a large margin. Whichever side of the aisle you’re on has been bought and paid for by something.

And that’s the problem. Our representative Democracy is no longer representative, at least not of the populace. It’s representative of the money, which is held in ever increasing percentages by a very small number of people.

Ohio’s Issues 2 and 3 might not seem important. Certainly if 10 guys are granted an oligopoly on farming marijuana, our entire country won’t collapse. The problem, however, is the precedent. For decades, corporations have at least sheepishly tried to hide their purchasing of politicians. What does it now say that they’re just writing their own profit right into the fucking laws?

The article I linked to shows how this goes. A handful of years ago, this guy brazenly got together a group of people to give casinos a monopoly in Ohio. That’s small potatoes compared to weed, which is itself small potatoes compared to whatever comes next. And surely, something will come next. What about when Ford and GM cosponsor the bill that legalizes driverless cars, but only theirs? What happens to Google or Tesla or the next car company that hasn’t been started yet?

I’ll spare you the Econ 101 lesson about what monopolies do and why they’re bad. That isn’t the point here. What they’re not teaching you in college (at least in any class that anyone would take if they wish to be employable after graduation) is the creeping influence of large amounts of money on our political system.

Dan Carlin talks a lot about this in Common Sense and does it better than I could. Go back through his archives and you’ll fall into one of three categories. People who don’t understand it. People who benefit financially from it. And people who will vote yes on 2, no on 3.

I’m Not A Democrat, Republicans Are Just Batshit Crazy

Posted in Politics on August 31, 2015 by Genius

A little over seven years ago, I wrote about how bad I felt the Republican Party had gotten. Shockingly, I now look at the primary field two election cycles later and I can’t help but feel it has somehow gotten worse.

This is important to me because if I’m stuck in a two party system, I’d like to have two parties that are at least not batshit crazy. I think it was George Carlin who said (paraphrasing) that two options for President is only one more than people in a totalitarian regime have. And when one of them is legitimately crazy, where does that leave us?

I’m using the word a lot here, so I should clarify. By crazy here, I don’t mean “I think we should have single payer health care and you don’t agree with me so you’re crazy”. I mean literally crazy. Like hearing voices crazy.

Let’s look at the Republican polls right now. We have Donald Trump at 28% and Ben Carson at 12%. Jeb Bush is in third at 7%.

Trump, I maintain, is a sideshow. There’s a valuable lesson to be learned from his popularity, which is that people are legitimately sick of the status quo. Love him or hate him, Donald Trump is not just another politician. He doesn’t play the game. I could go on and on about how the big problem in democracy right now is campaign finance, and that corporations have essentially bought both parties. But Donald Trump is the first guy who can honestly say they haven’t bought him. If he had a mind to, he could finance his entire campaign out of pocket and he honestly might. He’s one of the buyers.

I like to think Americans still require some level of decorum from politicians, and that they’ll never vote for a guy who tweets daily about what a bimbo a reporter is. But the fact that he’s come as far as he has shows that we really are tired of politics as usual. Probably not enough to do anything about it yet, but closer. Still, he is a homophobic, misogynistic racist, and that ain’t good in a general election. It will be just too easy for the Democrats to nail him to quotes and crush him among the 70% of the country that isn’t a white male. The Republican Party knows this, and they’re already turning on him because of it, like they did to Huckabee 8 years ago.

Number two is Ben Carson, a neurosurgeon who doesn’t believe in evolution. That’s like a computer programmer who doesn’t believe in electrons. It’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard. If someone I loved needed brain surgery, and that guy was in the OR, I’d pay out of pocket to life flight them to another hospital.

I realize there are two sides to a lot of issues. I’m often sympathetic to the opposing side. For instance I’m pro-choice, but I get that the people on the other side think life begins earlier than I do and therefore it’s murder. And even though they all say that if we ban guns criminals will still get them, they think banning abortion will stop them from happening which is, you know, not what happened last time. So I disagree, but I understand.

Evolution is not one of those issues. If a candidate said “I don’t believe in gravity, I just think angels are pushing everyone down all the time. Gravity is just a theory!” you’d think they were crazy and not vote for them. Saying that the earth was created in six days 6,000 years ago is no less ignorant or insane. Even the organization that wrote the Bible, the primary “evidence” (insofar as a 3,000 year-old folk story can be evidence of anything) against evolution agrees. And yet not one major Republican candidate will take a pro-evolution stance.

The Republican stance on global warming is equally crazy. I realize they get a lot of funding from people who make money causing global warming. If one of them got up there and said “Anthropogenic climate change is real, but we should let the market deal with it.” I’d probably piss myself out of happiness. But instead they say “the science isn’t conclusive” even though 97% of scientists, including basically all governmental science institutions, say it’s real and needs to be dealt with.

I’ve come to realize that on the evolution issue, some Republicans actually believe in it but they can’t say that because too much of their primary chances are dependent on the nutjob wing of the religious right. So their code is “I think it should be up to local school districts to decide what they teach.” For some reason the religious right loves states’ rights, so it works. Or they simply dodge the question, which also is good enough. I think John McCain sold his soul in his run for President by picking Palin and not disagreeing with Bush on torture, but at least he had the balls to raise his hand and state he believed in evolution. When you find yourself wishing the new crop of candidates had the political courage of the guy who picked Sarah Palin as his running mate you’re in bad shape.

Jeb Bush falls into that camp on both evolution and global warming. He’s obviously smart enough to know the truth, but his party is crazy enough that he can’t say it. And that’ why he’s the obvious candidate for the 2016 nod. He’s smart enough not to fall into the traps. And also smart enough to understand science as well as your average twelve year old.

Why can’t I get just one candidate who believes in getting our government out of debt but also isn’t anti-intellectual and anti-science, and is willing to admit it? Is just one rational conservative too much to ask? Does America have to choose between a Democrat and a crazy person, or someone who at least caters to crazy people, every election cycle? Because I don’t like either of those options.

People think I’m a Democrat, but I really am not. I just can’t pull a lever for someone who is anti-science, anti-intellectual, has less than a sixth-grader’s comprehension of science and wants to base public policy on 3,000 year old folk stories. I can’t do it. Whatever disagreements I may have with the other side, they at least have a rational decision-making process. And I’ll take a reasonably intelligent guy I disagree with over a nutjob, no matter what his politics, every time.

Brief Update on Speeding Ticket

Posted in Politics with tags , on March 17, 2015 by Genius

My first step in fighting the speed trap I mentioned last time was the arraignment. The ticket was in the Village of Oakwood, which has a mayor’s court. For those of you who live in states where mayor’s courts don’t exist, which is most states because they’re ridiculous, they are basically kangaroo courts in which a magistrate appointed by the mayor finds people guilty of speeding violations and misdemeanors to raise revenue for their towns. Ohio has been slowly eradicating them, as they’re a flagrant conflict of interest. If you ever find yourself in a mayor’s court for any reason, and it doesn’t matter at all what it is, plead not guilty at your arraignment and ask for a change to a court of record.

Of course on my way to the courthouse I was blasting Rage Against the Machine, because what else would you listen to when fighting the man? I was singing along, getting hyped up for my encounter with the justice system. Right when I got to the end of Killing in the Name and was screaming “Fuck you I won’t do what you tell me!” a cop pulled alongside me at a red light. Thankfully it wasn’t yet windows-down weather in Ohio or I probably would be fighting two charges instead of one.

I got to my arraignment early, and was surprised at what I saw. Now, I’m not going to say the justice system is racist. But there were five white people on my side of the room. Other than myself, there were two lawyers (representing black clients) and two white fellow freedom fighters. This is in a room of probably a hundred people. The two white defendants were wearing sweatpants and t-shirts. There were exactly four people wearing a tie in the whole place, the two lawyers, me, and the magistrate, who looked like Doc Brown from Back to the Future. I was waiting for men with machine guns to raid the courtroom but thankfully there hasn’t been a Libyan terrorist in about thirty years.

I sat there for about a half hour listening to the other defendants before I got called. These were the sort of crimes for which people should have an attorney. DUIs. Driving under suspension. Lots of driving under suspension. Minor drug possession charges. People who missed their last x court dates. The magistrate told one girl “I’m going to pretend you aren’t here, because if you were I’d have to take you into custody. Go get a lawyer and send him.”

When I finally got called Magistrate Doc Brown said “A speeding ticket? Haven’t seen one of those in awhile.” I pleaded not guilty and he looked surprised. He warned me that I wasn’t going to win just because there was a typo on the docket. I told him I didn’t know about the typo until he pointed it out. He looked at my quizzically. I asked about getting the venue changed to a court of record. He said “Ok, we’ll get you an arraignment in Bedford.” And that was it.

A few weeks later, I got a letter in the mail about my arraignment in Bedford, of course 5 days before it was scheduled, and of course when I was out of town on business.  I motioned for a continuance, which got denied because I hadn’t waived my right to a speedy trial and we were already 40 days from the date of the ticket. I resubmitted with a waiver, which required some expert Photoshopping from me since I was in Chicago and didn’t feel like going to Kinko’s to print, sign, and scan some forms, and it was granted.

So now I have an arraignment in a few weeks in Bedford. Wish me luck.

Why I’m Fighting My Speeding Ticket, & Think You Should Too

Posted in Politics with tags , , , on February 13, 2015 by Genius

TLDR: Speeding tickets are an unsafe, uneconomical, and unethical way of raising revenues without taxes and by fighting them you prevent that from happening.

A few weeks ago I got pulled over in what could only be described as a routine speed trap. I was on my way to dinner with a friend in a little town called Solon. I got off the expressway, and was on a state route that started off at 35 mph. I didn’t realize it dropped to 25 in a little town called The Village of Oakwood, and of course there was a cop right there waiting to snag me.

This has happened to me (and everyone else) a dozen times, and every time I just called the phone number and paid the ticket. That’s easily the most economical use of my time. A ticket is something like $150, plus probably a couple hundred more when you count in the raised car insurance rate that will result. So let’s say the total cost is $350. It wouldn’t need to consume much of my time to make it not worth fighting, monetarily, even if I knew I would somehow win. And you never know you’ll win. In fact you know you probably won’t.

But I am nothing if not a man of principle, and speeding tickets of this kind are, in principle, abominable. See what happens is little podunk townships like The Village of Oakwood want to have a nice town. They want to have nice schools, and nice parks. They want the garbage collection and snow plows to run on time. But of course the residents don’t want to pay for it, because having a nice town is expensive.

So they erect a speed trap. They drop a speed limit by 10 mph and then essentially tax passing motorists. This works especially well if they’re located between two spots people actually want to be, because then the speeding tickets won’t be issued to locals. They’re almost always on a highway or a state route as a result.

Speed traps are problematic for citizens for a few reasons, the largest of which is that they are a safety issue. It sounds counter-intuitive, but lowering speed limits can make roads unsafe. What causes accidents isn’t necessarily high speed, but high speed differentials. Research conducted by the Florida Department of Transportation showed that the percentage of accidents actually caused by speeding is very low, 2.2 percent. An expressway on which everyone is traveling 65 mph is fairly safe. A road on which half the people are traveling 25 mph and half the people are traveling 40 mph is dangerous.

People tend to drive at a safe speed regardless of speed limit. Studies show that raising the speed limit of a highway, for instance, barely alters the speed at which people drive. Traffic engineers know that know matter what speed is posted, about 85% of people will travel at or below safe speed.

In Ohio (and many other states) speed limits are proscribed by state law. Localities can deviate from them, but to lower them they are supposed to have a traffic engineering study showing that the legally proscribed speed limit is unsafe. This is quite simple, engineers just measure the speeds of passing motorists and set the new speed limit such that 85% of people are at or below it. You’ve probably seen engineers do this on the side of the road with a device mounted on a tripod and didn’t know what it was.

Speed traps cause accidents. Accidents cause injury, and death. Seriously. By setting speeds artificially low to collect revenue, townships are literally maiming and killing people. Let that sink in. They’re funding their schools by physically harming passing motorists. I’m not being hyperbolic.

Then there’s the economic damage. Slowing traffic wastes time, and time is money. The speeding tickets add points to licenses, which is great for car insurance companies, but bad for those of us buying the insurance. Car repair bills from the non-fatal accidents, hospital bills from when people get injured. The economic impact is a multiple of the tax revenue generated. Instead of taxing the citizens for a buck, they’re doing $5 worth of economic damage and getting $1 of it. Why? Because nobody has to vote to approve it, whereas a tax hike is hard to get passed on a ballot.

On top of that, revenue-based speed enforcement fosters a hatred of the police. For most Americans, traffic tickets are pretty much the only interaction they have with cops. There’s a reason even middle-class white people who’ve never had even a misdemeanor say “fuck the police” when I tell them what’s happening. I have a couple cop friends, and they tell me they hate writing speeding tickets for that reason, but their job security depends on it. Most people become officers to protect and serve. Nobody gets into policing because they want to issue tickets and harass passing motorists. But it fattens the town budget, and therefore their police department’s budget and their salary.

Because speeding tickets are entirely about revenue, they rely solely on your compliance. Unless you’re going highly in excess of safe speeds, a ticket doesn’t cost very much. In Ohio they max out at $150 (I think) which has to cover the time the officer spent writing the ticket, the time the prosecutor spends on your case, the time the judge and all of the other courtroom personnel spend, etc. Pretty much by challenging a ticket at all you’ve turned it into an unprofitable venture for the city. If you just plead no contest and pay your ticket, the city makes $150 for very little. (Basically ten minutes of an officer’s time.) If you fight it, they lose money. But you do too, and they know that. They are relying on you to be selfish.

To put that another way, if everyone started challenging their tickets, the whole system would crumble. Hell, if probably ten percent of people challenged the ticket, the system would shut down. Insurance rates will drop. Commute times will be shortened. Accidents will be prevented. Lives would literally be saved. Think about that. If we all challenged unreasonable speeding tickets actual lives would be saved.

So while I realize I’m not exactly Dr. Martin Luther King for fighting this one, I consider it my civic duty. Some day I hope to be in a position to end speed traps and revenue-based traffic enforcement altogether. But for now all I can do is fight this ticket. I’ll keep updating here as I do so about how it went.

Elections

Posted in Politics with tags , , , on November 7, 2012 by Genius

So the election is today and unlike 2008’s, I haven’t said much about it. This is primarily for two reasons. First, there was no Sarah Palin. I’m not a big fan of Romney, and like Ryan even less, but their existence in national-level politics isn’t offensive. Neither of them are stupid, lazy, or mean-spirited. I disagree with them on more topics than not, and even though many members of their party often make me feel embarrassed to be an American, they don’t.

The second is there’s just nothing left to say. As I’ve gotten older I’ve blogged less, probably, more than for any other reason, because I’ve grown less conceited. It isn’t that I can’t say something insightful, or well-written. It’s just because you’ve already read the same thing ten times, probably by people who are at least as insightful and better at writing. Ten years ago that was probably equally true, but I just didn’t know it yet, and sometimes I wish I still didn’t because I’d probably write more.

I’m also just not so sure the election matters anymore. To be totally honest, the Republican Party scares me a bit. The rest of the world is horrified at the thought of a Republican winning the Presidency, and it shocks me that half of America isn’t. This is a party whose policies have seemingly no relation to reality. Their answer to every problem is tax cuts for the rich, despite 30 years of that failing in America, and thousands of years of that failing around the globe. They attempt to stay in power not by doing what would best serve the middle class, but rather by disenfranchisement and convincing poor middle-Americans that whether or not gay people can marry is not only up for them to decide, but is also more important than their own economic welfare.

On the other hand, the Democratic Party is no prize. They’re the sort of party that would win elections in Europe, and I don’t think that’s a compliment. They’re willing to accept scientific facts like global warming, and they remember history and read papers written by economists enough to know what happens when you let the income gap get too wide. But on the really big picture items, like global warming, financial industry regulation, or the deficit, they either don’t have a clear solution, or if they do are unable to explain it to the country well enough to get it done.

The Republicans have chosen staying in power at all costs over sound decision making, and the Democrats have chosen statistics over leadership. We need a party with policies both firmly rooted in reality and practical enough to become law, and that party needs majorities in the House and Senate as well as the Presidency to get anything done. And if there’s one thing we can be sure of it’s that nothing that happens at the ballot box today is going to make that a reality.

Take, for instance, our financial sector. Republicans are, on the whole, opposed to bailouts of any sort. (Never mind that Bush started the financial bailouts and signed TARP into law.) They’re opposed to government regulation of any sort to. (Never mind that the Hank Paulson, former CEO of Goldman Sachs, and who probably was not a fan of government bailing out and nationalizing banks before the shit hit the fan on his watch was Treasury Secretary when the meltdown came and led the bailouts). Their policies, when you add them together, seem endorse letting banks grow too big to fail, then not bailing them out when they do fail, which is a surefire way to bring about a depression.

(If anything, though, I’m glad that when the meltdown did happen the people in charge chose what was best for the country over party ideology, and when you know your name is going down in the history books you’ll make that call every time.)

Democrats are in favor of regulation. And they’re smart enough to realize that a $700 billion bailout, while odious, has to be compared to the alternative, which could have been trillions of dollars worth of losses to the economy. What they’re not smart enough to do is explain to the American populace why the economy melted down (most people still don’t know) and as a result we’re still in danger of losing the Volcker Rule the minute a Republican sets foot in the Oval Office.

I’ll be the first to admit that I find nothing more trite and annoying than the fifty people you’ve already seen say “All politicians suck” in your Facebook feed over the last month. That’s armchair quarterbacking at its worst. And it’s a flat out denial of reality which is that politicians, just like the people who tanked our financial industry, are merely responding to their incentives.

We ask them to provide more services and tax us less, so they do, then we’re hit with a deficit (which is the only possible result) and we complain. Our country’s financial behavior is pretty much identical to that of the families that vote those politicians into office. Coincidence?

We ask them to make everything we don’t like illegal, then complain when they trample on someone’s civil liberties. We ask them to stop “redistributing wealth” then complain anytime someone threatens to cut Social Security. We allow corporations to spend money lobbying and buying political ads, then are shocked when they get away with whatever form of malfeasance.

And so in the end our politicians do what exactly we elected them to do and we say “these guys are all douche bags.” But in reality we have met the douche bags, and they are us.

In my opinion there are exactly two things our country needs to do, and neither of them are on the ballot. Neither politician from either party will enact them because both have a vested personal interest in the opposite.

#1. Campaign finance reform. This is the root of all American political evils. The funny part is most research seems to show that campaign spending has a negligible result on the outcome of an election. But politicians think it matters, and as a result we get Republicans who deny the existence of global warming and Democrats who are too afraid to hold teachers to any sort of measurable standard.

Laws like SOPA would never even be dreamed of by a politician who wasn’t getting campaign contributions.

Interestingly we have a bit of a Mexican standoff going on between our parties about this. Neither party wants to give up hundreds of millions of dollars. Piss off corporations and unions too much and fail to enact sweeping change and you might be handing the other party a huge campaign spending advantage. And Citizens United made it clear that we need nothing short of a constitutional amendment to enact real change.

And both parties take donations from major beneficiaries of current campaign spending. Regardless of who wins the popular vote, the real winner in an election year is whoever owns a television station in Ohio.

#2. Giving Americans a good fiscal education. It’s shocking how little the average American understand about economics, despite it being the driving force in the voting booth. Why do high schools not require 4 years of economics classes?

Again, neither party has a real interest in fixing this because neither advocates a sensible fiscal policy. Our deficit is so large that the only way out is clearly a cut in spending and in increase in taxes, and both parties hold one of those sacred and refuse to do the other regardless.

If I ever find myself an idle billionaire, these two, in order, will be the first things I turn my attention toward fixing. I believe that campaign finance reform alone is enough to get our country on the right track.

So that’s why I’m no longer even optimistic enough to feel like it matters anymore. Either way I think we’re looking at a rough twenty years. And don’t even get me started on the shift to post-scarcity economics. I’ll save that for my next long-winded, unedited rant.

Gay Marriage

Posted in Politics on October 6, 2008 by Genius

I was thinking about gay marriage a bit today. It seems to be the hot button issue of the last 4 years or so. When the Republicans needed to get George W. Bush reelected despite a low approval rating, their most powerful tactic (and the one that may ultimately have worked) was putting anti-gay marriage amendments on the ballot to drive the religious right to the polls.

Gay marriage is clearly the new abortion, the topic separating the red half of the nation from the blue. It seems that the social conservatives are more or less admitting defeat on abortion, at least as far as ballots are concerned, and moving on. They know they can’t do much about it other than to hope they can keep electing Presidents until they’ve stacked the Supreme Court in their favor, but that’s too long-term a plan to make much difference at the polls. So they had to go digging for another hobgoblin, and lo and behold, Massachusetts and then California dropped it into their lap.

When you really think about it, you realize that something like 95% of the population doesn’t have a vested interest in the outcome, so it’s clear that it isn’t the issue itself that’s bringing people to the voting booths. At least with abortion, there was a clear rationale for wanting it to be illegal. Many of us disagree with the premise (that life begins at some definable point, such as conception) and prefer to err on the side of civil liberties, but at least we can sort of understand where the opposing side is coming from. They believe, for whatever reason, that a fetus is still a human, and therefore abortion is murder, and that our government has a responsibility to protect unborn babies from murder just as they do born ones. Again, many of us may disagree, but we get the argument.

Not so with gay marriage really. The actual issue is a little esoteric, because it’s always being danced around. Separation of church and state forces those in favor of such amendments to come up with some justification beyond “The Bible says so” for outlawing it, but the ones they come up with are flimsy and weak, obviously a ruse to hide some deeper motivations.

The first of the big two justifications is that “marriage is between a man and a woman”, which is really nothing more than semantics. A lot of people say they’re ok with gay people having “civil unions”, which are just marriages but called something different, which essentially means they want the government to take over Merriam Webster’s job of defining words.

The second is that we need to “protect the institution of marriage.” That’s such bullshit that even most of the social conservatives I’ve talked to laugh at it. We have a 50% failure rate for first marriages, which climbs to 67% and 74% for the second and third, respectively. Any “institution” that fails more often than not doesn’t need protection, it needs life support. And nobody but Pat Buchanan could possibly blame gay people for the current state of affairs there.

So what it really comes down to, what really drives people to the polls to vote one way or the other, is epistemology. What we’re voting on isn’t whether or not gay people should be able to file a joint tax return. It’s whether we’re going to make our decisions based on science and reason or religion and fear of what we don’t understand.

As Bill Maher said in the first video from my recent post:

“It is two Americas. There’s like a progressive European nation that a lot of us live in, or would like to live in, and it’s being strangled by the Sarah Palins of the world. It can’t quite be born because this other stupid redneck nation won’t allow it.”

It’s pretty clear which nation I’d like to live in, of course. My heart lies with science. And scientists say that homosexuality isn’t a choice but rather a genetic disposition. And therefore, it cannot be wrong, any more than being tall or having brown hair can. (Science also says that there isn’t a black and white distinction between homo and heterosexuality as we tend to view it, but rather it’s a continuum and we’re all some shade of grey, but that’s beside the point I suppose.)

So that’s why I could never pull the lever for a candidate who was opposed to gay marriage. It isn’t because I care one way or the other about the outcome. It doesn’t really affect me either way. I only know a few gay people, and they don’t really seem to care. What does affect me is having leaders who base their decisions on 2,000 year old mistranslated folk stories, and irrational fears that if we let gay people be openly so, our moral fabric will somehow be ripped to shreds.

It’s a bad epistemology, and it’s one that’s threatening the very future of our country. It’s what’s allowing the redneck half to hold the progressive half back. And it’s why I find myself so often voting for a party that I consider the lesser, by far, of two evils, and lamenting that there hasn’t been a truly conservative candidate on the ballot since 1964. And don’t say Reagan or I’ll punch you in the teeth.

So the question is, where do we go from here? I really don’t know. I don’t see much of a way out of our current predicament beyond education, and that’s nearly non-existent in the red half of the nation. The differences in average wealth and education between the red and blue states are astounding, and it’s not a coincidence. It all goes back to the epistemology.

But the very policies of those kept in power by the religious right keep their base poor and uneducated. Our nation is already a statistical outlier in terms of religion, but it’s also very young, and it can’t stay that way forever. Nothing ever does. In the end, science and reason always have their way. It’s just a matter of time.

Perhaps if the progressive half of our nation wants the redneck half to allow it to be born, it should focus on educating them. Fear and religion are both predicated on ignorance. Maybe we should be donating to their schools and scholarship funds. Surely there are loads of intelligent people even in those states, give them the tools they need to stamp out fear and ignorance through education. It sounds a little counterintuitive to give money to the very people who are preventing you from fixing our nation, but it might build a progressive dynasty.

Or maybe not.