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I think, therefore I am dangerous. - helen-louise
I think, therefore I am dangerous.
Also, I have 101 tabs open in Opera. Can we just take it for granted that I personally consider Sarah Palin to be the very worst sort of US politician? The sort that makes any left-wing liberal city-dwelling European go "...W. T. F.?". (Actually pronounced like that, sounding out all the letters in disbelief.) She does BAD THINGS to polar bears and wolves. I actually cried about the wolf bounty business. According to Time magazine, which when I've read it has seemed rather conservative and significantly more right-wing than the current UK government, when she was mayor of Wasilla she tried to get the library to ban books. I'm not sure I can think of any situation involving book-banning or burning that doesn't make me grit my teeth and growl for the sheer Wrongness of it. Even crappy books espousing opinions which "any right-thinking person" would find offensive deserve the right to exist.

One of the things about US politics that I really will never understand is how it's so all or nothing. On the one hand, you have anti-gun people arguing along the lines of how guns are evil and no one should be allowed them, and on the other hand you have the National Rifle Association going on about how it's an American's God-given right to bear arms and enshrined in the Constitution. Where are your sensible gun proponents? The ones that say that gun ownership is unnecessary if you live in a city, but useful if you live in the middle of nowhere 3 hours drive from the nearest police station? This is something that many city-dwelling Europeans will never get, because we don't understand the sheer scale of North America. I don't think any parts of Europe are 3 hours drive from the nearest police station. Hell, in most parts of Europe, you drive for 3 hours and you're in a different country!

It's taken me an awful lot of thought to get to a point where I'm even vaguely comfortable with the idea that there are circumstances in which it's sensible for ordinary people to have access to firearms. I'm a pacifist hippy vegan type, y'know? But, through the limited amounts of travel I've done in the US, I've managed to get a highly limited understanding of living in the middle of freaking NOWHERE - though I will never understand why a person would ever want to do so. I still believe that guns are evil - but then I also believe that people should have a chance to avoid having their house destroyed or family killed by a large rampaging wild animal. Though my emphasis is firmly on the gun for defense, rather than offense.

Similarly, the names used for the various sides on abortion. "Pro-life" or "Anti-abortion" versus "Pro-choice". "Anti-abortion" is particularly problematic as is there anybody in the world PRO-abortion? I think we all agree that it's horrible. But, as I've said before, if the choice is between a legal, safe abortion - and an illegal, unsafe abortion, I support the right for legal medical assistance all the way. Why is it that the people who are most against teaching kids about sex, and giving them access to contraception, are also the ones most against abortion? Why are they not fighting abortion by improving knowledge and access to resources so that young people know how to avoid getting into a state where they'd need to have one? It just doesn't make any sense to me.

Why do we not see the politicians who argue a middle ground? "Those of you in cities do not need guns as you have the police to protect you. Those of you in the middle of nowhere need proper training and licensing of guns so you can protect yourselves." / "I am against abortion, so I am going to ensure funding for contraceptives and sex education so that kids are protected when they go through their adolescent experiments?". I suspect I will be continuing to read Mudflats for some time, whilst shuddering in my boots.

It makes me all very sad. So here are some silly (but excellently done!) Obama supporter badges to cheer me up. I'm a little confused as to why classic cars, unicycles or beards should be for Obama as none of these things can vote - but maybe "classic car owners", "unicyclists" and "beard wearers" would take up too much space? Also, a tiny turtle, which is my new panacea. Feeling stressed? Tiny turtle! Internet flame war? Tiny turtle!

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jenett From: jenett Date: 8th September 2008 19:08 (UTC) (Link)
One of the things about US politics that I really will never understand is how it's so all or nothing.

This goes back a *long* way historically, and in my opinion is mostly fuelled by states-rights issues and history. (Which in essence, is "Do the states get to decide what to do for themselves, or is this issue decided federally?") C.f. the Civil War, abortion, gun control issues, Prohibition, and, erm, pretty much every other potentially or fundamentally divisive issue in American politics.

The real issue is - if things are decided more or less federally - is that there's no easy way to say "Guns not in the cities, guns for hunting/protection from wildlife only outside them." because many places will then start arguing about what exactly a city is, and how they aren't one, really.

(Guns are a slightly more complicated issue, because general rights are federal, but individual states/cities/areas can set some other limits in various ways, which then sometimes get challenged in federal courts, which is messy and lengthy and ultimately confusing.)
anansi133 From: anansi133 Date: 8th September 2008 19:25 (UTC) (Link)
There's a story from pig farming that seems to wrap this up nicely for me:

You've got an enormous pig, and you need to get him in the back of that truck over there. But pigs are stubborn, and it's time consuming and expensive to physically overpower the poor thing. (The truck is going to the slaughterhouse, of course...)

So the thing to do is put a bushel over the pig's head, and keep pushing it down. The pig will push back in the opposite direction.

Now, by pushing harder on one side or the other, you can get the pig to push back where you want, and trick the pig into backing you in exactly the direction you want him to go.

To my mind, this explains everything important about USian politics. In order to goad the voters in the direction we're supposed to go, the media has got to break everything down into binary terms. Republican must become the opposite of Democrat, you're either in a blue state or a red state, and any other political party that tries to be heard, must be drowned out or ignored or both.

People under this system are rewarded for surrounding themselves with others who agree with them. It becomes inconceivable to converse rationally with those who hold a different view from oneself. And even though the red position isn't really that far from the blue position, anyone who holds neither of those two ideas is made to look like a lunatic.

This kind of thing can only happen when very few people control a very large media apparatus. While the blogosphere can't easily be owned in this way, you can still exert an enormous effect by getting bloggers to respond to what's in the media, instead of talking about the things that bloggers see with their own eyes.

Politicians who try to bridge the gap, are drowned out and ignored, in favor of others who'll play the game. Any grass roots effort to overcome this, must grow completely parallel to the existing structure, without feeding from it. This is how the war on drugs became the war on terror: It's about identifying and challenging *anything* that could replace the existing system, legal or not.

I find it helpful to remember that the TV has no interest in showing me the world as it is, and anyone I see on TV is going to be stupider than the people I know in real life. It's all about making us think that we're too smart to waste our time talking to each other and acting collectively, because other people would really only muck it up.

By unplugging the TV and making bloggers be my first exposure to any breaking news story, I cut out maybe 80% of this noise. Your Milage may Vary.
quiet000001 From: quiet000001 Date: 8th September 2008 19:39 (UTC) (Link)
Erm. How many places in the US, even in the boonies, are there large wild animals to rampage? (And how many of those animals are actually legal to shoot, and not endangered or otherwise protected?)

I mean, I get being out in the middle of nowhere is creepy, and I also know of several legitimate uses for a firearm outside of city life, but if someone tried to justify gun ownership because they were afraid of being trampled, I'd really have to wonder. (I mean, there's a small handful of creatures I can think of where you'd need to protect yourself with a gun, and most of them a gun is probably not the best way to go anyway- a small gauge weapon probably won't do much of anything to a moose.)

(The most reasonable use I am aware of is in a farm environment, where the vet is not easily accessible. I would far rather someone skilled pull out a gun and shoot a poor creature who is severely injured than the thing have to suffer in pain until a vet can drive out to give it a lethal injection.)

But anyway. Yes. Now I am wondering if we have more maurading herds of moose in the country than I am aware of. :)
jenett From: jenett Date: 8th September 2008 22:09 (UTC) (Link)
Not moose, but out here (Minnesota) we have an ever increasing black bear population, and the occasional mountain lion/cougar .

(Chances are that most of the latter were pets who were set free - but they're still large predators who are potentially dangerous: there was one caught down here in the Twin Cities a year or two ago, and by the time he was caught, he was starving, and had attacked at least two pets. Small children are the same size range, and people were quite reasonably cautious for a few days.)

Not such a big deal in the cities - but I've heard enough bear stories from up north that I could see wanting to have something on hand, even if the chances you'd need it were pretty unlikely.
From: skibbley Date: 9th September 2008 08:46 (UTC) (Link)
I have tiny turtle as my desktop background at work. Tiny turtle!
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