Shuttersparks

Welcome to my musings on whatever topic catches my eye, plus stories, recipes, handyman tips, welding, photography, and what have you. Oh, and analog/digital hardware design, and software. Please comment on the blog post so everyone who visits can see your comments.

Category: Politics (page 1 of 7)

My Vote Counts More Than Yours

In presidential elections, not all votes are equal. Wait. What? But, this is a democracy — one person, one vote, right? No.

Two hundred years ago, the founders designed a presidential voting system that gave rural farmers and ranchers in states with low population more voting power than people in urban areas. Among other things, the Electoral College was designed to try to avoid a tyranny of densely populated urban areas over other, less populous, areas of the country. It worked okay through the 1800s and most of the 1900s. But, the founders never imagined an organized, scientific effort to take advantage of the voting power imbalance in order to seize power.

So, exactly what are the numbers? The power of a voter in Wyoming is almost four times that of a person living in Texas. Whether this is fair and appropriate is for you to decide. See below for how much your vote counts.

Presidential Voting Power in Each State

 

Monday Holidays are Useless

Monday holidays are worse than useless — for me, anyway. For some reason, Congress has placed every holiday over which they have control on a Monday. My work week runs from Tuesday to Saturday. Sunday and Monday are my normal days off. Monday holidays do nothing for me. I get no extra day off.

And it gets worse. Monday is the weekday I have for taking care of errands and appointments with businesses that are open Monday to Friday or Saturday. When a Monday holiday hits, those businesses and banks, and post office are closed. I don’t get a holiday and I lose the usefulness of my Monday.

A Tuesday to Saturday schedule makes sense in the restaurant business. But as time goes on, I’ve noticed more and more small businesses like clothing stores and hair salons switching to a Tuesday to Saturday schedule, probably to take advantage of those Monday holidays. Why give those extra days off to your employees when you can just shift your schedule and erase them from the calendar?

Someday, I’ll Own This Boot

someday I'll own this boot

I like this meme because it captures something shocking that I learned here in West Virginia years ago. I learned a couple of shocking things, to me, anyway. Please pardon the generalizations I’m making here. Clearly, not every single West Virginian is like this. Note that this was before Trump ran for president.

I learned that in the years before the mortgage crisis / crash of 2008, West Virginians were victimized by unscrupulous lenders who convinced people to refinance, get cash out, and end up with a mortgage they ultimately couldn’t carry. Some of these mortgage salesmen came from out of state, which is illegal, but they did it anyway. I doubt any were ever prosecuted. West Virginians fell for this by the thousands and I wondered why they were such easy marks.

I learned that average West Virginians see anyone wearing a suit and driving a nice car as trustworthy and smart. They also assume that anyone who’s rich must be smart or they wouldn’t be rich. (Research shows that this is false. There’s no correlation between IQ and wealth. It’s random chance.)

So, I made it a point when out on the street, at the library, etc., to strike up conversations with random people and nudge the conversation over to this topic and a discussion of being rich. Naturally, everyone I spoke with wished they were rich. Don’t we all? The shocker to me was then asking why they wanted to be rich. Nice house? Nice car? Nice clothes? No. The answer was usually some form of, “So I can f*ck with people and do what I want.”  Of course, this doesn’t square with rich people being smart and trustworthy, but the cognitive dissonance is okay, I guess.

Now we come to Trump running for president and support for him here in West Virginia was virtually 100 percent, and is still heavily supportive of Trump. It all adds up in a sick kind of way, doesn’t it?

Trump Reaction Meme

Quote from Mueller's report

Quote from Mueller’s report. Click to view larger.

The above is a popular meme today. It’s a quote from Mueller’s report quoting Trump’s reaction to learning he was under investigation.

Loath as I am to defend Trump, I must point out there are two ways to interpret Trump’s comment. One is that he’s guilty of something and fears being found out. The other is an astute reaction to learning he’s under investigation.

In the past, presidents who are under investigation are hobbled and unable to get much done while the investigation is going on. The mere existence of an investigation hamstrings them, regardless of what the findings turn out to be. His reaction would be appropriate for any president, even one who’s completely innocent.

So, his reaction could mean, “Oh, crap, they’re onto me. I’ll get caught,” or it can mean “Crap, they just tied my hands and I can’t carry out my job as president until this is over.”

Which one is correct is an exercise for the reader. My guess is that it’s the former, for two reasons. 1.) Trump has a long history of shady / criminal behavior. 2.) He’s likely ignorant of the history of presidents who were under investigation.

Time may tell which is correct.

Some Realities About Laws and Contraband

This could also be titled “Human Nature Strikes Again”.

Every time a physical thing is outlawed, two things happen.

The first thing that happens is a new class of criminals is created, many of whom were not criminals before. Those who were not criminals before will lose respect for government.

The second thing that happens is that government inadvertently creates a business opportunity for entrepreneurs to supply the thing that was outlawed. Often, the outlawed thing becomes more popular than before it was outlawed. The result is that criminals end up making a lot of money.

If people want something, they will find a way to get it. If people want something, someone will jump in and provide it.

This reality drove the Soviets nuts — especially those who truly believed in communism. On the streets of Moscow, you could buy all the stuff that was outlawed — rock and roll music albums, genuine Levi blue jeans, makeup from Europe, western books and magazines, you name it. How was this possible in the most tightly controlled police state in the world? And remember that Moscow is in the middle of a large country, not a seaport or border city where smuggling is easy. Yet, there it was on the streets of Moscow.

Some of these things are hard concepts for many United Statesians to accept. Most believe in the idea of “the rule of law” and that people behave because of the threat of legal consequences. Most Americans believe, and I used to believe, that if laws and police disappeared overnight, there would be total chaos and mayhem. That’s not true. I’ve witnessed this exact thing happen in a much “rougher” country than the USA: Guatemala. The entire national police force was disbanded and for several months there were no police at all. We’re all gonna die, right? Well, exactly nothing happened. In fact, the crime rate dropped slightly.

How is this possible? The reason is that people obey laws because they want to, not because of the threat of punishment. People do what they want, regardless of laws. The majority of people in a society are nice people, who want to peacefully get on with their lives. Civil order continues with or without police. Leading a society to believe the myth that their safety, from moment to moment, depends on police is advantageous to government and the police. But, it’s a myth.

Conversely, if people don’t want to obey a law, they won’t. This means that government should not make poorly designed laws or too many laws. The Chinese wrote about this a thousand years ago. Governments should not create laws that people will not obey. If you do, it gradually weakens the force of all laws, including good ones. Each time a person disobeys or circumvents a law, their overall respect for government and all law diminishes.

If government wishes to retain the support of the people, it must also adapt to changing behaviors. One example of this is marijuana laws. For the past 40 years, just about everyone I know smokes pot. (Unfortunately, I’m strongly allergic to it.) This means that every one of those people knows they’re breaking the law constantly. They’re constantly aware that the government makes stupid laws that nobody obeys. They’re constantly aware that, under the law, they’re criminals — unprosecuted felons, and the government would love to throw them in prison. This has strong negative effects. It has the subconscious effect of weakening respect for all laws and government in general. It also turns police into adversaries.

Advice from the ancient Chinese to all governments:

1. Don’t make stupid laws.
2. Don’t make lots of laws or complicated laws so that people are confused.
3. If times change or you discover a stupid law, fix it immediately, lest you lose the respect of the people.

Robocall Observation

My mobile number has been on the National Don’t Call Registry since forever. When I first registered my number, spam calls stopped completely for years. It was great. I recommended it to others and it worked well.

Around the middle of 2018, I started getting spam calls again, despite the registry. Most of the calls were from my own area code. It got worse and worse until I decided to install a whitelist/blacklist call blocker. This is completely effective. I put my contacts in the whitelist, my own number on the blacklist, and no more unwanted calls.

The call blocker maintains a log file. It was interesting and satisfying to see the calls that were blocked. Some spam callers would hit my phone six times in 30 seconds trying to get through. I wanted the blocker to play the sound of raucous laughter each time it blocked a call, but, alas, it doesn’t have that capability.

The weird thing is that the spam calls continued for about two weeks and then abruptly stopped. I haven’t logged a spam call now in two months. What’s going on here? It makes me wonder if these robocall operations are a lot more organized than I thought. Maybe they share information — share lists of numbers to avoid because it wastes their time. If that’s true, there might be a larger organization that could more easily be prosecuted for conspiracy than lots of small operators. I dunno.

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