Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Representative Government?


The sock puppet you see here is Lee Zeldin, a Republican from New York's 1st Congressional District, the east end of Long Island.  I live there.

Zeldin was elected in our Tr*mp-leaning district by a collection of xenophobes afraid of our Latino immigrants, religious bigots afraid of our homosexuals, and rich people who just don't want any of their money spent on anybody who isn't them.  Based on his voting record in the House, he needn't worry about being "primaried" from the right. 

One might say Zeldin's supporters got what they wanted, but they're about to get something they won't like at all.  Long Islanders pay seriously high state and local taxes, and Zeldin soon will vote to make those taxes non-deductible.  Why?  Because Zeldin's party loyalty is absolute.  The people he "represents" don't matter.

Ours is a swing district, so if Democrats mount a competent campaign,  Zeldin's vote on taxes ought to cost him his seat in 2018.  Most congressional districts, though, are not swing districts: they are heavily gerrymandered "safe" districts whose "representatives" can safely ignore the needs of their voters.  Only the deep-pocketed donors who dictate party policy positions must be satisfied.

Voters in very different districts have very different needs.  If legislators were truly representative of those who send them to Washington, far more legislation would be the product of bargains, trade-offs, and compromise.  Today's extreme partisanship is a clear indicator that our democracy is broken.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Leaving his mark


Do you remember this guy?

He's Stephen Paddock — and in case you've forgotten, Stephen Paddock was the guy who brought an arsenal to his Las Vegas hotel room and shot all those people at the country music concert.  He would have been quite upset had he anticipated you would forget his name so quickly, consigning him to a broad category of "mass shooters."

I think I understand his supposedly mysterious motive: Paddock was 64, rapidly approaching that magical age of 65 when many men believe their lives are effectively over.  It's a time when we older gentlemen are likely to observe that our greatest accomplishments are behind us — and not especially memorable.  Most of us greet that observation with a shrug and a sigh.

Stephen Paddock's accomplishments at 64 actually were admirable.  Starting as a low-level postal clerk, he rose to become a comfortably wealthy landlord and investor who was enough of a high-roller to earn comps at various Nevada casinos.  He should have been satisfied with the arc of his life, but he was one of those poor suckers who found his late-life existential crisis especially irksome.

If you want to leave a mark on history, it's a lot easier to do it as a monster than as a hero or a saint.  All it takes is one especially heinous act (preferably record setting) to "win" your place in the books.

I can think of another old man with an unhealthy desire to leave his mark on the world.  He has no great regard for how he does so as long as he's the "winner" — and he's a man who controls a much larger arsenal than Stephen Paddock did.  Let's hope somebody can stop him from making his existential crisis into ours.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

Guns again


It's no surprise that the NRA endorsed "regulating" the bump stock when you remember that the NRA doesn't lobby for "gun lovers" — it lobbies for gun manufacturers.  The bump stock isn't marketed by gun companies — it's an aftermarket add-on that provides no profits at all to the major players.

Don't feel sad for Slide Fire® or the other small businesses that produce these items, though.  Bump stocks were slow sellers until Stephen Paddock made them a must-have item for all the paranoids and toy soldiers who previously hadn't realized just how much they needed them.  Now they've sold out, and the aftermarket sellers have plenty of capital to invest in technology that legally can convert a shotgun into a bazooka.