Posts Tagged With: current-events

GENETIC PREDISPOSITIONS

I’ve written before about how the FBI estimates, that at any one time, there are about one to two dozen serial killers on the loose hunting for prey. I’ve also written that the FBI has determined that, most often, a serial killer is genetically predisposed to engage in sexual sadism, torture, and eventually murder because of biological malfunctions during the birthing process. It seems for some, that when the fetus is in the womb, too much serotonin is being produced that is constantly bathing the brain. Hence when that baby is born, it is already brain-dead, so to speak, in that it can’t derive pleasure from activities most people consider the norm. That innocent child in the crib will likely grow up to be a psychopath because his brain cannot feel sensations in the same way as the rest of the populace. To derive any type of pleasurable sensation the baby, now an adult, and a psychopath, must resort to the most extreme measures, which usually involves killing innocent and helpless victims. One serial killer that was caught by the FBI put it this way: “When people walk down the street where there are other people walking, they think nothing of it. But when I walk down that street with other people, I have an overwhelming urge to bash in their skulls with a pipe or baseball bat. I can’t imagine not wanting to destroy these other people.”

Which, since this is an election year, brings us to the genetic predispositions behind the voting process. (Serial killing, politics, they’re practically the same thing anyhow.) I believe it can be demonstrated that most people’s political inclinations are genetically derived. Yes, upbringing, especially where parents set out to brainwash their children in political or religious beliefs, can have a major influence. But I think that, at the end of the day, most parents are too worn out from trying to make a living, or fighting rush hour traffic, or just keeping their heads above water, to be so inclined. That’s when genetics take over in determining whether an individual will become a Republican or Democrat, liberal or conservative, or just not give a “fig” (as the British might say.) We should point out that about half the voting age population couldn’t care less who gets elected to any office. Many of them couldn’t name one of the two Senators from their state, their Congressional representative, or their Governor. I mean, isn’t there a rumor that another Kardashian may be headed for divorce. And what about the health issues facing the latest American Idol. And lets not forget the shock waves emanating from the Tom Cruise-Katy Holmes divorce. After-all, it’s essential that we get our priorities straight.

For the other half of the population that does take at least the time and interest to vote, their choices will be predicated on how they view the world, which I maintain, is in turn predicated on the genes they inherited. For example, the differences concerning fiscal issues between the 2 major parties, and between liberals and conservatives, can often be boiled down to one word, redistribution. Liberals and Democrats take the position that the Government has a moral obligation to come to the aid of those that can’t fend for themselves, such as the sick, the elderly, the poor who cannot afford health care, the hungry, and those otherwise disadvantaged. Conservatives and Republicans see it differently, however. They see it as Government handouts of their tax money to those that are too lazy to work, or too stupid to know how to live their lives properly, or both. In the 1980s, when Ronald Reagan was President, women receiving Government assistance were referred to as “welfare queens” which was also a racist code name. After all, weren’t most most welfare recipients black? (As it later turned out, most were white.) That type of mentality exists to this day, and explains why those on the right fight tooth and nail against any possible tax increase on the rich. After all, the thinking goes, any tax increase will just be taking money from the most productive members of society, and redistributing it to people who are nothing but leeches on society. Since voters are often genetically programmed to be greedy and self-centered, the Republican appeal to people’s basest instincts has, and will, translate into a ton of votes and election victories.

Of course, fiscal considerations, although paramount, are not the only issues that motivate people’s voting decisions. There is always the religious focus. Democrats tend to favor a more secular society, with religious issues best left to churches and and temples of what ever religion someone believes in. Republicans, however, have made religious fanaticism a corner stone of their platform. A big chunk of the GOP base is comprised of evangelicals or religious fanatics who DO NOT believe the political arena should be primarily secular. Quite the opposite. Their desire is to establish something akin to a religious theocracy, first by banning all abortion rights, and then banning gay rights. They will often talk about shrinking the size of Government and reducing expenditures, except when it comes to private matters best left to decisions between a women and her doctor, or what consenting adults do in the privacy of their bedrooms. Then, by all means, lets get the Government involved no matter what the cost. And while we’re at it, damn the costs, and put a few thousand more border patrol agents down in Texas and Arizona to make sure none of those illegal Mexicans sneak into the country.

There are of course, a slew of other issues that divide the country, and I could go on and on. But I believe it’s really futile to debate these issues with someone that has strong opposing views, because people’s genetic predisposition toward the positions they hold will outweigh any cogent arguments. It’s been said that the country is more polarized now than at any time since the Civil War. Should this be a close election in November, even those that spend most of their time keeping up with the Kardasians will have to get involved in the chaos and turmoil that will almost certainly ensue.

 

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A RATIONAL PLANET

One of the great disappointments I will have endured, is that in my lifetime we will not have made contact with beings from another planet. Space is so vast that the development of technology to enable us to travel to another inhabited planet probably won’t occur for at least a thousand years. But it would have been so cool to be able to examine life on an alien planet and see whether they were able to get it right, or whether they fucked it all up the way we have on planet Earth. Even some basic stuff would be fascinating. Do they have sex with the same organs used to remove bodily waste? What kind of foods do they eat if any? Do they require sleep like we do? But the most fascinating thing of all is whether they were able to develop a civilization that lived in peace and harmony, or did they have a history of constant war, strife and bloodshed as we have had. In other words, did they live lives of rational common sense, or in constant fear, paranoia, and irrationality as we have done.

So it got me thinking that if we ditched our usual fears and the delusional thinking that goes with those fears, how much better life on this planet would become. For example, when Barack Obama was elected in 2008, there was virtually an unprecedented rush to buy guns and ammo that occurred almost over night. Gun stores couldn’t up with the demand, especially for bullets, as the surge to buy weaponry cleaned off their shelves within days after the election. Apparently, a good segment of the population went into a full fledged state of paranoia, believing that the election of a liberal Democrat would result in the Government stripping every citizen of  his or her weapons, and hauling protesters off to concentration camps. This, despite the fact that the subject of gun ownership was rarely, if ever, discussed during the campaign. Today we have millions of citizens armed to the hilt with multiple guns and storage sheds filled with nothing but bullets, still waiting for Government tanks to come rolling down their streets and haul them off.

Anyway here are some of the things we can do to achieve a more rational planet.Lets start with drugs. Every year we spend tens or hundreds of billions of dollars to outlaw marijuana, heroin and cocaine, while allowing drugs that kill far more people like tobacco and alcohol to remain legal. Every year we incarcerate tens of thousands of drug dealers and users at enormous expense, while tens of thousands of  of suppliers in this country and throughout Latin America are murdered, usually by drug cartels that make billions off the illegal drug trade. First of all, is it the government’s role to tell someone they’re prohibited from engaging in self-destructive behavior if such is their desire. If that is the government’s role, then the government should prohibit tobacco which kills about 400,000 Americans a year, alcohol which is highly detrimental to over users, as well as cheeseburgers, fries and pepperoni pizza which do nothing but clog people’s arteries leading to heart disease and other ills. Sound ridiculous? No more so than the so-called war on drugs which has been a monumental and extremely costly failure. Legalizing at least marijuana would reduce prison populations, reduce a major source of revenue from the drug cartels, and lead to an increased flow of government revenues as it could be taxed the way tobacco is.

Another rational move would be for all the world’s governments to eliminate tariffs on imported goods. Tariff is just a $10 word for taxes. When the government puts a “tariff” on say a pair of imported shoes made in China, you, the consumer are paying a higher price than you need to for those shoes. Tariffs are put in place ostensibly to allow domestic producers to compete with countries where it’s cheaper to make similar  products, but all it does is result in consumers having to pay higher prices than they should. Tariffs result in protectionism, which is highly destructive to most economies,and is blamed as one of the main causes of the 1930s Depression. It has been estimated by some of the world’s leading economists that if tariffs were totally eliminated, all world economies would significantly improve almost overnight, especially the economies in the poorest third-word countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Interestingly, both Mitt Romney and Donald Trump before him (they make a good pair) have been bashing China and threatening them with higher tariffs, if China doesn’t raise the prices on the stuff we import from them. I know that will gladden the hearts of all consumers.

Another exercise in sanity would have the government be the employer of last resort for the unemployed. In 1933, when Franklin Roosevelt took office at the height of the Depression, and the unemployment rate was triple what it is today, he quickly established what came to be known as the Civilian Conservation Corps. Hundreds of thousands of unemployed men were hired by the Corps to go into every community in the country and plant trees and shrubs and undertake other environmentally-friendly actions. By 1936 the unemployment rate was cut in half, and Roosevelt swept to a landslide re-election. Today, instead of just shoveling out unemployment checks to those that can’t find work, the government could use that money to also hire hundreds of thousands of people to do a myriad of badly needed infrastructure projects. They could repair our decaying water and sewer pipelines, repave roads and restore crumbling bridges, work on outdated aspects of the nations’s electrical grid, and also perform environmental projects. The unemployment rate would be dramatically lowered and as spending increased the economy as a whole would gather steam.

In any event these are just a few of the steps we could take on the road to rationality. I could go on and list hundreds more but you get the picture. I deliberately left unsaid some of the more contentious political irrationalities that ideologues like to indulge in,  like trying to ban a woman they don’t know from terminating an unwanted pregnancy. Ideologue, by the way, is just another 10 dollar word for fanatic. Will this planet start to come around and begin exhibiting more common sense and rational behavior? I’m not holding my breath. In the meantime I’ll have to console myself with old Star-Trek reruns.

 

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DEPRESSION AT ITS ROOTS

I thought that, for a change of pace, we would discuss a really fun topic like depression. No not the mental breakdown type, but the fiscal meltdown type instead. Although if you have a financial breakdown, it’s sure to cause a plethora of the mental type, so maybe we’ll wind up talking about both. They say that money can’t buy happiness, but tell that to the homeless guy sleeping in a cardboard box in a back alley or under a bridge somewhere. Or to the recent winners of the mega-millions jackpot as they were popping the champagne corks. It’s hard to imagine any individual or family where money doesn’t play a central role.

Throughout American history there’s been at least a dozen major depressions, or panics as they were sometimes called, starting as early as 1807. There was also a few milder recessions thrown in for good luck. (Ronald Reagan used to say that a recession is when your neighbor loses his job, and a depression is when you are thrown out of work. Not a bad definition.) But the depression I would like to focus on is the one back in the thirties. Not the 1930s, but the 1830s, or 1837 to be exact. It’s hard to believe they could have a depression back then when the entire U.S. population was only about 17 million. But not only did they have a depression, it was just as severe and destructive to people’s lives as the 1930s joyride. Those that are such strong advocates of capitalism somehow never get around to talking about capitalism’s failures, and how numerous they have been.

The U.S. government in 1837 was a modern day tea party’s dream come true in that it hardly did anything and hardly spent any money. It had a small Army and a few ships they called a Navy, a State Department that conducted a limited amount of foreign affairs, a small Attorney General’s office, and perhaps something that looked like an agriculture department to help out farmers. Even then people recognized that food was too important to deny at least some government involvement to help offset  the hardships that droughts or flooding rains may have caused farmers. But outside of these limited functions there was little government activity. Revenues came primarily from tariffs on imported goods, so tax rates on rich or poor was a non-factor.

In November of 1836, the only man in U.S. history to be elected from the House of Representatives directly to the White House, Martin Van Buren, became president in the following year, succeeding the the 8 year presidency of Andrew Jackson. Economic times were good at the start of the Van Buren presidency, as land values started to sky rocket in value because of increasing numbers of people pushing west. One might say there was a growing real-estate bubble, not unlike the one that has led to our current economic down-turn. Banks were eagerly encouraging people to borrow money and invest in real estate to keep land values rising.  Sound familiar? However, with all the cheap money flooding the market, inflation started to soar, and the government, in its infinite wisdom, declared that outstanding debt would have to be repaid in gold or silver, which made all the paper money on the market almost valueless. Instantly, there was widespread panic, as people rushed to their banks to withdraw their life’s savings while they could. Almost overnight, 40% of the banks in the U.S. had to close their shutters, since they were unable to meet their financial obligations. Financial destruction and ruin ensued on a massive scale in most people’s lives, from which  they would never recover.

Since governments in those days didn’t do much of anything outside of defense and foreign affairs, Van Buren was clueless as to what remedial actions the government might take to alleviate the hard financial times. So in the end he did nothing, and the unrelenting depression dragged on for 6  years until finally the economy started to improve in 1843. The depression caused Van Buren to lose his re-election bid in 1840, and he probably went to his grave insisting it was not government’s role to bail out the economy. Sort of like today’s far right, who are still monumentally upset that the current administration bailed out General Motors and Chrysler in their time of need,  instead of letting them go out of business, with a few hundred thousand more jobs going down the drain.

What is the relevance of the 1837 depression to our current world affairs? It’s not that capitalism is bad. Indeed, it’s probably the only real workable economic system at this stage of man’s evolutionary development. Even Communist China recognized that when they went to a market economy. But capitalism does have some deep fault lines that are ripe for exploitation by the unscrupulous. For example, when my wife and I bought our first house, people acquired real estate primarily for living purposes. We were required to put 20% of the purchase as a down payment. But early in the 21st century the fast-buck artists felt there was a quick killing to be made by constantly inflating real-estate values through convincing potential home-buyers to secure mortgages they could ill-afford with virtually no down payment. Real-estate prices could only go up, they told dubious buyers, before the crash came and all the foreclosures with it. And all the people now sitting in their homes with mortgages that are under-water. The 1930s depression was caused by the same-type of fast-buck artists that were exploiting the stock market, causing ever-increasing and unsustainable stock prices until the crash came.

So in the end it doesn’t matter whether it’s capitalism or socialism, or any other ism. What matters is the honesty and integrity of the people participating in what ever system is put in place. What’s important is to have the safeguards necessary to prevent the dishonest, the unscrupulous, and the out-and-out scammers from perverting whatever the chosen system of economics is. One final note. Mitt Romney has secured the GOP nomination, but during the primaries he referred to himself as a “severe conservative.” I wonder if that’s like a severe depression. Maybe it’s just a severe mental breakdown.

 

 

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