An Open Letter to Dr. Jill Stein

Dr. Stein,

The first election I ever voted in was the 2000 election. I must admit that I was somewhat ignorant about the green party outside of the broad strokes, though I was aware of Ralph Nader.

My political worldview really didn’t extend much further than the small suburb of Cleveland where I grew up. I was an activist prior to being old enough to vote, and my big issue in school was LGBTQ equality. I wasn’t gay myself, but I had friends who were and being in high school in the late 90’s wasn’t necessarily the best place to discover your sexuality.

Being that all this was happening in his district, we attracted some attention from the office of Dennis Kuchinch, which made me aware of his particular brand of far left fringe politics.

Yes, he is somewhat wacky, and even promotes some ideas that I cannot support, but throughout his career, he knew how to pick his battles and fight for the greater good.

I like a lot of what the Green Party stands for, and by extension, what you stand for. However, I’ve never been an enthusiastic supporter of yours.

My disillusionment with you definitely started at the debates in 2012, when you got yourself arrested trying to get into the debates. I 100% agree that there should be more third party representation in the debates, but I also think that getting yourself arrested is about the equivalent of throwing a tantrum because you’re not getting your way.

It’s not necessarily the worst thing you could do, but seeing as there was little follow up, no effective path to follow through on to bring about change, and all efforts seemed to end after you were arrested.

More recently I’ve become concerned over your pandering to the anti-science elements of the leftist fringes. Yes, I am speaking of your controversial comments on vaccines. And yes, I’m aware that what you said can’t be taken as proof that you are an anti-vaxxer.

But the problem arrises in that I can’t read your comments and be convinced you’re not anti-vaxx.

Considering you’re a doctor, that’s very troublesome. I get the point you’re trying to make, but I can’t get on board with what you’re saying because you are still pandering to the anti-vaxxers, and for all I know you might be one yourself.

I get that you’re not a politician, but you need to watch out for these kinds of things. Sure, you might win over some of the anti-science crowd with your statements on vaccines and the regulatory capture issues we face.

I get that it’s not my place to dictate to you how to frame your message, but if you want my vote, and to present a case that is more appealing to more people, you need to address the issues at hand (regulatory capture) while also clearly communicating that vaccines are safe (as a doctor, you shouldn’t have trouble there) and that anti-vaxxers rely on pseudo science to make their cases.

As it stands, I see your stated positions as offering them the cover of legitimacy, which is something I do not want any part of.

All in all, I simply want a candidate to stand for the same causes you do, but is also realistic and pragmatic in pursuing them, and also doesn’t pander to the pseudoscience of the fringes for votes.

Bernie Sanders earned my vote precisely because he managed to do all of that. I feel that you have completely misread his campaign and as such I don’t feel comfortable offering any support to your campaign.

Feel free to contact me should you wish to discuss how you might be able to win my vote, and the votes of people like me.

Sincerely,

The Political Hipster

Should we Ban Assault Rifles?

gunsummit_hdPeople who know me know that I’m certainly no fan of guns. I myself have been on the wrong end of them a couple times in my life. As result, I’ve seen that the “right” to have guns for protection isn’t all it’s cracked up to be since in both situations, if I had a gun, things would have probably turned out much worse, and the “right” to bear arms has only made it easier for people like those who have pulled guns on me to obtain their weapons.

As of recently, I’ve come to question whether or not our “right” to bear arms is actually worth it, as I can compile a list of problems with the right, many supported by empirical evidence, and I can find little if any evidence of any benefit that comes from said “right”.

Bottom line is, that if second amendment supporters want me to accept that they have a “right” I’m going to need to hear a compelling argument based on empirical evidence that supports said right.

My stance on gun control notwithstanding, it will probably come as a surprise that I am actually against an assault rifle ban.

First up there is the very obvious problem of definitions. What exactly is an assault weapon? The definition isn’t as cut and dry as many would like to think, with many of the defining features actually being cosmetic.

But the big issue is that assault weapons aren’t really a very big problem.

While mass shootings such as the one in Orlando rightly get a lot of media coverage, the fact is that the people killed by long guns this upcoming year will still probably be under 400 and a large portion of those will be victims of the shooting in Orlando.

Meanwhile, over 6000 people will be murdered via handguns, usually one at a time, or in smaller groups that don’t attract attention form the national media.

Part of the rationale behind looking at handgun regulations instead of banning assault rifles is that while both will likely lead to a reduction in gun deaths, the reduction will probably be a similar percentage no matter whether we focus on hand guns or assault weapons.

With the political climate in America surrounding gun control in the US being what it is, I would much rather focus on the regulations that will have the most impact overall

Rise Above

gay-pride-1009-1280x960Once again, we’ve woken up to a great tragedy that has unfolded. This time, a man walked into a gay nightclub in Orlando and killed or injured over 100 people. Reports have come out that have linked the shooter to Islamic extremism, particularly Daesh (somewhat better known as ISIS) via a 911 call he placed prior to the attack pledging allegiance to the group.

It is also Pride month, and as such, celebrations are happening across the country, including a large one in LA where police have announced they’ve arrested a heavily armed man who looks as though he was planning an attack as well.

I fear that this may only be the beginning of more of these stories, and without a doubt the prospect of that is a frightening one.

However, we all must rise above the fear, and stand tall and defiant in the face of hatred. We must avoid cancelling celebrations, which would only further the goals of these attacks.

To be sure, there are a lot of issues at play here, from gun control, to our own nations homophobia, to the words and actions of some that may serve to embolden those who would cary out such attacks.

We will see these issues addressed and debated, however, first and foremost today we need to stand tall and proud as one. Whether you’re gay straight or whatever, stand up, and support one another. Do not use these attacks as an excuse to attack others or show hatred towards other groups.

First and foremost we must all stand together, be there for those in mourning, and see that our better nature wins out over the kind of hatred that gives rise to such atrocities. Don’t give into the hate, which will only continue the cycle. Rise above it all and work to make the world a better place.

Movie Review: Zootopia

Originally published at Reviews from Hell  Czech_Zootopia_Poster

A good kids movie is a delicate balancing act between plain, old fashioned fun and laughs
and some kind of moralistic message about the important things in life. Zootopia not only pulls of that essential balance, layers on social commentary and even takes on more timely topical issues.
The world of Zootopia is one in which anthropomorphic mammals of all shapes and sizes live together. Nowhere is this more apparent than in Zootopia, a city with different zones that are arctic tundra or tropical rainforest.

We meet our protagonist, Judy Hopps, the daughter of carrot farmers, as she puts on a play that very succinctly explains how all the animals came together, with predators and prey deciding to live in harmony, further expounding that because of the new order of things, animals can be whatever they want to be.

Judy just happens to want to be a cop. Nevermind that there has never once been a bunny on the Zootopia police force, Judy is determined to be a trailblazer. Of course, pursuing her dream would also involve moving to Zootopia, which fills her parents with dread.

We’re also introduced to Foxes, who are somewhat antagonistic to the other animals, and helps set up some of the more subversive elements of the movie.

Not only is this a movie where kids are taught that they can do anything if they work hard enough, but it is also a movie about racism.

Prey animals (like the rabbits) are fearful of predators (especially those sly foxes) for plenty of reasons, like the fact that they’re literally the prey for the predators. But the animals of Zootopia have moved beyond that. Yes, among different animals, there are differences in cultures, or even different needs – as hilariously illustrated by a chase scene through the small rodent part of town – but at the end of the day, we’re all just animals trying to make it in this bold new world.

Judy’s adventures continue in the big bad city, where upon showing up for her first day of work, she’s disappointed to be assigned to duty as a meter maid. However, ever vigilant, looking to defy expectations and armed with a distrust of all things foxy, she pursues Nick Wild, a charmingly sly fox to an ice cream parlor where Nick is having trouble getting a jumbo sized elephant popsicle for his son. Judy, realizing that in Zootopia, everyone is free to break out of their natural roles, steps in and helps Nick.

However, Judy later sees Nick again, and follows him through the city and discovers that she’s been scammed by another Sly Fox. But hot on another case, Judy blackmails Nick into helping her and they set off on an investigation that takes them to all corners of Zootopia and has twists and surprises that any spy movie or political thriller would be proud to share.

Their adventures prove funny enough to keep your kids entertained, and the underlying themes are sophisticated enough to give parents something to consider while being simple enough that kids can understand them.

It’s been quite a while since I’ve seen a movie as simultaneously delightful and thought-provoking as Zootopia.

 

 

Left Libertarianism

I’ve said in the past that I’m not particularly fond of libertarianism. However, upon recent consideration, I’ve come to realize that it’s more the flavor of libertarianism that is advocated for by the Libertarian party that I have distaste for.

In the US, libertarianism seems to be infused with concerns over property; which, in consideration of how materialistic our society is, shouldn’t be very surprising. I can’t help but feel that self-described libertarians are missing the bigger point.

From where I’m sitting, libertarianism means freedom and liberty. To me, freedom and liberty are primarily issues of one’s ability to function freely.

Many libertarians tend to conflate people and their possessions. While being secure in your possessions is in many ways a great aid to liberty, one’s possessions should rarely impede the freedoms of others.

In many ways, the overemphasis on property in American style libertarianism ultimately leads to a state where those who have some ownership of the means of production inevitably seek to deny others of their possessions, and criticize limitations placed on them that disallow them denying others possessions.
For example, there is the much talked about gay wedding cake issues, where by the right of a business owner should include the right to refuse service to certain customers.
The question at play is whether or not the rights of a business owner to refuse service is greater than the rights of a person to engage in business with the business owner. Being that the business owner is providing a service to the public, and that the cake in question was presumably a standard cake, the owner has in essence forfeited their right to deny the service they offer to everyone else to a person because of their sexuality.

It may seem a trivial matter, but if you take the right of a business to deny service to someone because they object to an aspect of their being, where exactly does it stop? What happens when the pharmacist decides to withhold lifesaving medicine from a divorce? What happens when all the grocers decide to stop selling food to black people?

Yes, that may be a slippery slope argument exaggerated for effect, but the question becomes where one draws the line.

Ultimately, this leads to a point where all government action is viewed as a sort of aggression where the government is dictating how one can do business, or even requiring people to make gay wedding cakes. That isn’t really the case, as nobody forced the bakery owners to open a bakery, rather, society has decided that if one choses to open a bakery to the public, they must serve the public.

The problem with libertarianism is often a failure to see the big picture. They focus far too much on the freedom of an individual, and virtually ignore whether or not limitations on the freedoms of some individuals might make everyone more free than they would be otherwise.

To me, this is where left libertarian thought comes into play. Not all rights and freedoms are equal, and a right or freedom that can limit the rights and freedoms of others makes everyone less free. Thus, libertarianism should be focused on how we maximize our real freedom.

Blue Lives Matter

Recently, there’s been an unusually high number of police officers shot and killed in the line of duty.

Of course immediately following the news was a the right wing media machine firing up the outrage over how somehow this is the fault of Black Lives Matter protestors, or even the president himself.

That simply isn’t the case.

Lets take a look at the recent cases one by one:

In Maryland, two Deputies were killed when a suspect they were investigating opened fire on them.

In Fargo, an officer was shot during a standoff.

In Colorado, an officer was shot and killed while arresting a suspect.

And in Georgia, another officer was killed serving a warrant.

If you look, all of these officers died in the line of duty, performing some of the more dangerous tasks police are routinely tasked with performing.

Without a doubt, each of these deaths are indeed a tragedy, however, they differ from many of the deaths that are protested by BLM or that Obama speaks on in that they all happened in situations where we’d generally expect them to happen.

Although statistically, Policing isn’t near one of the most dangerous jobs in America, there still are many dangers out there for police officers, and yes, sometimes those dangers prove lethal.

These officers knew, and accepted these dangers when they took their job, and their deaths are something that unfortunately happens sometimes. They are tasked with dealing with criminals and keeping people safe.

Their deaths weren’t the result of race politics. Their deaths are not an indication of an anti-police mentality. Their deaths were not some kind of revenge for the unarmed people gunned down by police over the past couple of years.

Politicizing these officers deaths is not the way to honor them, and in fact does a disservice to the officers who’s lives were lost, as well as the officers who are still out there putting their lives on the line.

Bottom line: it isn’t “open season” on cops, they simply do a dangerous job that sometimes ends up with them loosing their lives.

Our Robotic Future

Since mankind’s beginnings, we’ve used technology to improve our lives, but recently, we may have reached a point where the improvements to our lives don’t comport with societies standards.

Read any argument in favor of raising the minimum wage, and you’ll see arguments that wages haven’t kept up with increases in productivity, which effectively means that workers produce more, while their wages have been stagnant.

Likewise, when looking at many of the arguments against raising minimum wage, you’ll run across the concept that increasing the minimum wage will speed the transition to automation.

What is often lost in these arguments however is the inevitability of technology doing away with menial work, which all in all is a good thing as it frees us to do things that are of greater value to society.

However, it comes at a cost, as menial jobs employ a huge number of people despite the fact that most people really don’t want to do them. Loosing those jobs means that we’re looking at a world where high unemployment is the norm. We need to figure out how our society can adjust to that new reality, which will require shifts in thinking that are revolutionary.

Have you ever wondered how many great works of art or groundbreaking inventions we’ve missed out on because the people who would have created them are too busy working for a living?

I’m lucky in that I have a job, that I not only like, but also allows me the time to pursue writing. I make enough working my one job, and have a stable enough schedule that I can find time to pursue my passions. Others lack that, and need to juggle multiple low paying jobs to simply make ends meet.

In fact, raising the minimum wage may very well serve as a way to stretch the supply of jobs; if people make enough working one menial job full time, they won’t have to take another job to make ends meet. As these workers won’t need extra work to make ends meet, and will presumably, opt to only work one job, we’ll be able to employ more people without creating any new jobs.

True, there may be small, short-term disadvantages. Maybe a few people loosing jobs, and a few businesses closing, but ultimately, higher wages would actually serve as a way to stretch the job supply.

Stretching the job supply is going to become increasingly necessary due to the fact that mechanization is going to happen. Critics will complain that raising the minimum wage will speed up automation, as it will become cheaper to buy a robot to perform a task than it is to hire a person.

This makes a little bit of sense if one works under the assumption that business owners are economically rational, and operating only out of concern for their bottom line. Even operating under those assumptions, the real appeal of robots is that they can perform tasks quickly, and without error, over and over, 24 hours a day.

Eventually, there comes a point where even paying workers pennies for their work simply isn’t worth it since a robot can perform the same task better. ATM’s are a great example of an early success in automation, and they provide tons of advantages for consumers. It’s come to the point where visiting a bank teller is seen as a hassle.

While automation is going to end up playing a bigger part in our lives and our economy, there are some jobs that simply won’t be automated.

For example, bartending: Theoretically, bartending is a perfect place to replace workers with robots, and in some bar settings they probably will eventually do so. But could you imagine walking into your local bar to find your friendly bartender who doubles as your therapist replaced by a robot?

There are also times when the businesses rush too quickly to automation, such as self-checkout at various stores, which some chains are doing away with.

For much of human history, we’ve been kept extraordinarily busy simply surviving. Just feeding ourselves used to take a massive amount of time, and required the majority of populations to live on farms where they could produce food for themselves, and cities.

Advances in the past 100 years or so have greatly reduced the time we spend working for our survival. The Green Revolution had a huge impact on world hunger, and we’ve dedicated more time to lofty endeavors like science and medicine, which in turn have mad our lives even easier and better.

We’ve also come to unknown territory, as we approach a new horizon in the human experience.

People often speak of buggy whip makers becoming obsolete with the advent of the automobile and imply there’s an analogy to our current technological innovations. However, those who made buggy whips were able to easily adapt and start making parts for automobiles.

Today’s innovations are immensely different.

For example, when the order taker at McDonalds gets replaced with a touch screen, what options do they have to adapt? Installing and servicing the machines is a completely different skill set, and also doesn’t require nearly as many people as were required to take fast food orders.

We’re innovating to the point where our own work is becoming obsolete. Within today’s society, that is a terrifying concept as we associate our worthiness with work.

So we need to come up with societal innovations to help us adapt to a world where it’s no longer possible for everyone to “work “for a living. A world where societies riches can be shared, and people can live a dignified life without being required to work.

Of course, should someone aspire to something greater, there will always be some work to be done, and I believe people to have a natural proclivity towards working towards great societal advances. Removing the necessity of work for the majority of people won’t change that.

What it will do is free up people to pursue their aspirations, and to better themselves and society, we’ve already seen this play out in the past hundred years, when we’ve advanced to the point where we have been able to leave earth, walk on the moon, and unlock the power of the atom.

On a smaller, more relatable scale, technological innovation has made it possible for people like me to ponder the future, write down my thoughts and share them with you. As a society, we benefit when more people have that kind of luxury.