Pea Soup and Politics: Political News Chum over Lunch

userpic=political-buttonsAs I sit eating my lunch, I’m looking at my collected links to see if there are any themes calling out to me. One that is saying “pick me” has to do with politics, so let’s run with it:

  • Guns and Extremism. CNN is reporting that the number of American “patriot” extremist groups has reached a record level, according to a new study, and experts are warning of a wave of anti-government violence. We saw this somewhat when the tea party started, and the trend has been growing (especially as seen by the attitudes of the trolls commenting on news articles). The report, which was from the Southern Poverty Law Center, counted 1,360 “patriot” extremist groups in 2012 — up by 7% from 2011. The study defines patriot groups as anti-government militias driven by their fear that authorities will strip them of their guns and liberties. Now, combine this with another story: gun ownership has declined in a number of groups — less people are hunting, less Democrats own guns, less Latinos own guns, less young people own guns. So who is buying all the guns? Put 2 and 2 together. I’d ask who you fear more: the government or extremist groups, but that would be fodder for a comment war. I could raise hackles by asking if the Illuminati was behind the rise in fnord the extremist groups, but that would never happen. Just remember them, the mgt. does not want you to spit on the floor.
  • A Budget Plan. Of course, when we talk of extremist groups, our thoughts naturally turn to (insert your favorite here). Now, if we were talking budget extremists, I’m sure we’d all have the same answer: Paul Ryan. He’s proposed a new budget in the house, which is probably a non-starter. This budget would, among other things, turn Medicare into a voucher system for those born after 1959, eliminate the Alternative Minimum Tax (initially created to ensure the wealthy would pay at least some share of taxes), and repeal all of the Affordable Care Act, except for its changes to Medicare. It would reduce the tax brackets to two: 10% and 25%. It would increase defense spending. The Democrats in the Senate are developing their own proposal. Why are they doing this? Well, if they pass something in a house by April 15, they get their paychecks. My thoughts: both are posturing budgets intended to state their positions and please the party faithful. If they were truly interested in getting this country back on the right track, they would develop a position that they knew would pass and represented a compromise between the party positions. But that’s not what either side wants: they want to please their faithful so they get re-elected, and please their donors to they successfully fund-raise.
  • Zero Tolerance Rules. Last week there was a discussion on Facebook about a student who had a roll, and pretended it was a gun… and got expelled. The poster blamed Democrats and other Socialists for this, when the real flaw was the zero-tolerance rules in the schools. In response to this, in Maryland, a law has been proposed that will relax the zero-tolerance stance to something more sensical. The preamble notes that the law is “for the purpose of prohibiting a principal from suspending or expelling a student who brings to school or possesses on school property a picture of a gun, a computer image of a gun, a facsimile of a gun, or any other object that resembles a gun but serves another purpose; prohibiting a principal from suspending or expelling a student who makes a hand shape or gesture resembling a gun…”. You get the idea. I’ve always thought zero-tolerance laws were poor substitutes for judgement, be they for guns or drugs (where students have gotten into trouble for Tylenol or allergy meds).
  • Facing the Threat. In our last political article, a recent report to Congress notes that Cybercrime is our greatest intelligence threat. This comes as no surprise to me, although it might to you. I mention it here because of the earlier mention of the Ryan budget proposal increasing defense spending. Before we increase defense spending (which is usually done just to fund unnecessary port), perhaps we should re-prioritize defense spending to spend the money where it can best counter the threat. The traditional ways of countering threats — grunts on the ground, large navy flotillas, aircraft designed for air-to-air combat — are probably inappropriate for today’s threat. Spending funds instead to increase cyber-defense and cyber-capabilities (including efforts to get students into those fields in school), as well as better and smarter use of technology with redundant heterogeneous pathways, is probably a better expenditure given what was described in the LA Times article.

P.S.: So the Vatican has locked all of the Cardinals (except those from St. Louis) being closed doors. Wouldn’t it be nice if they could just leave them locked in there? 🙂

Music: Gateway Singers … at the Hungry i (Gateway Singers): “Three Israeli Folk Songs”


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