Michael Battalio


Saturday, December 09, 2017

The Cut Cut Cut Act Letter to congressmen

I write to you about the tax proposals by both the House and particularly the Senate.  I find it astonishing that after eight years of Republicans criticizing the Democratic administration about deficits that the GOP would propose a cut that is not paid for in either reductions in spending or increased revenue elsewhere.  As it usually is in Washington, deficits have become a case of “it’s okay only when we do it.”  As evidenced by the dismal approval rating of both parties and of congress in general, we are tired of it.  If it isn’t okay for the Democrats to run up deficits by increasing spending, then it also isn’t okay for the GOP to do it by cutting taxes.  I realize that some of the GOP’s “math” is based on the trope that tax cuts will stimulate the economy and offset the reduction in revenue.  That’s nonsense, and you know it.  It has never worked.  The annual growth rate to offset the $1.5 T proposed by the Senate’s cuts is unattainable even in the short term – more than double what it is now.  That’s unrealistic.  We are a developed economy.  We cannot expect growth like that of China.

Let me now address where these cuts are going.  Agency after agency has stated that after a few years the middle class will be paying more in taxes.  I’ve heard GOP members explain that’s because a family tax credit must be allowed to expire to let the bill though, but it will be renewed eventually.  I think the last year has proven that only a fool would count on a future congress being more productive than the current one.  

The vast, vast majority of the cuts will go to the wealthy and corporations.  Contrary to the lies peddled by the President, the US does not have the highest tax rate in the world.  Far from it.  Even presently there are companies that pay $0 tax.  They don’t need a cut.  If this cut were accompanied by closing the loopholes that forced all companies to pay reasonable rates, then we could talk about lowering the nominal corporate rate.  That’s not what you’re doing though.  You’re just slashing it for everyone.  That’s irresponsible.  You’re sacrificing long term growth and stability for short term warm feelings (and campaign contributions).  I invite you in the strongest possible terms to revisit your stance on these misguided tax policies.  Instead close loopholes that the ultra-wealthy and Wall Street use to circumvent the spirit of the law in a shared society.  Make them pay what they are supposed to.  They derive an outsized share of the benefits of living in and doing business in America (well-developed infrastructure, a stable government, a safe country backed by a large military, etc.), and they have generated enormous sums of wealth for it; they should pay the majority of the taxes.

Finally, the Estate Tax must not be repealed or reduced.  It was established to prevent the development of a wealthy overclass with unchecked power.  The middle class needs that protection now more than ever.  The three wealthiest individuals in the country have a larger net worth than the bottom 150 million Americans.  You want to cut their tax rate and eliminate the Estate Tax.  I won’t hyperbolically call it un-American, but the stripping of power from poorer voters to the wealthy the way this bill proposes violates the spirit of our democracy.  Their wealth buys them a disproportionate amount of power already.  More wealth gives them more power.  It’s wrong.   (It is also deeply disturbing that the President is advocating for a bill that will apparently generate a giant windfall for his family.)  It is no surprise that the “Cut Cut Cut” Act is so unpopular.  The President is promising some nice platitudes, but you’re delivering the opposite.  If this bill passes, you may get a lot of campaign contributions, but the public will hate you even more.  Decide carefully.  We watch with great interest.

Thank you.

Michael Battalio

Saturday, December 02, 2017

Thoughts on the BRCA

I am as surprised as anyone that the Senate has a new healthcare bill, but they do. TL;DR: it’s called the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), and it’s just as terrible as the AHCA that I rejected in this post (https://www.facebook.com/battalio/posts/10102924918941056). Not only that, no health care provider, hospital, doctor’s or nurse’s association, or advocacy group affiliated with health care has come out in favor of this bill. This is a bad bill, and it will hurt people.
Instead of point by point saying why it is so bad, which would be redundant given how close it is to the AHCA, let me refute five popular lies that have been promulgated by various politicians and media outlets. 
One: Some Republicans say it will lower premiums. No. As I explained in my post lambasting the AHCA, you don’t get something from nothing. This bill eliminates the individual mandate, so fewer healthy people will get insurance. With fewer healthy people covered, it becomes more expensive for the insurance companies to cover sick people. Insurers aren’t going to just absorb those costs. They will pass them down to the people that keep coverage. The bill even explicitly allows insurers to charge the elderly 5 times as much as younger customers (up from 3 times in ACA). If you are older, this bill will cost you money. Period. (The AARP is against this bill.) This bill dramatically cuts Medicaid (by many hundreds of billions of dollars), which funds half of all births and almost two thirds of all nursing home occupants. If you are poor, this bill will cost you money. Period. The bill also limits those eligible for tax credits from 400% of the poverty line to 350%. Also if you do get sick, the BCRA only requires plans to cover 58% of your medical expenses; the ACA requires 70%. If you are middle class, this bill will cost you money. Period. No matter what your income or age, the BCRA guarantees that you will pay more. 
Relatedly, at first I wrongly thought the BCRA kept preexisting coverage intact. This is actually not true. States are given leeway to decide what costs are covered as essential health benefits. So preexisting coverage is simply gutted in a different form. I.e., an insurer may be required to give you insurance regardless of your preexisting conditions, but nowhere is it mandated that they must actually cover benefits for your condition. So you may have to pay for your condition out-of-pocket until you reach the yearly maximum out-of-pocket every single year. Incidentally, the BCRA also raises the maximum out-of-pocket and reinstates life-time maximum payouts (I.e., once a plan pays out a certain amount, they no longer have to pay for any of your costs, regardless of it you are otherwise still covered.) If preexisting coverage guarantees are eliminated, people will go bankrupt trying to stay healthy. 
Two: The bill cuts money to Planned Parenthood for a year. I know that to a lot of people will think this is a plus, but I don’t know why. It is illegal and has been illegal for years for federal funds to pay for an abortion. The BCRA does not change this. This isn’t a victory for people who view their pro-life stances as their most important political view (not that there is anything wrong with that). The wording in the bill is only there to manipulate you into liking the bill when you otherwise shouldn’t. 
Three: Healthcare is a privilege, not a right. This is one I will never understand. I’ve heard people of all creeds, backgrounds, education and income levels espouse this vile point of view, but the one thing all of them have had in common – every single one – is that they were healthy. *It’s easy to believe something is a privilege when you’re already privileged enough to have it.* I can guarantee you that people who are chronically sick would give their life’s income to have what we privileged healthy have been anointed with. It isn’t about people being greedy or wanting something just given to them. It is about people living. It’s about making the world as fair as we can.
Four: Personal responsibility. I’m as for letting people forgo insurance but then languish in debt if they get sick to teach stupid people a lesson as the next GOP’er, but the consequences of eliminating the individual mandate aren’t just about letting healthy people make stupid choices in the name of liberty. No amount of personal responsibility will protect you from a genetic disease. The small amount of individual liberty provided to people by giving them the option of not having to purchase health insurance is not worth the deprivation of liberty to people who need affordable insurance (through no fault of their own) to not suffer. Forcing people to buy insurance isn’t about protecting people from themselves because the government knows what’s best for them; it’s about the government protecting the public from those who would otherwise unduly stress the healthcare system through their foolish and cavalier attitude.
Finally, the argument (and yes, in so many words I’ve heard this) that because we had one political party lie to us about healthcare (e.g., “You can keep your doctor.”) means we should blindly let the other political party unilaterally alter healthcare is a stupid reason to be in favor of anything. Spite is a moronic way to make policy, but it seems that lately people think that if others they don’t like (or agree with) suffer more than them, then it’s a victory. Victory isn’t relative. You don’t win by making others lose more than you. The health insurance system is no where near bad enough in its current state such that any change is a good change. Fourteen million more people have insurance because of ACA. Millions of people are getting subsidized insurance through ACA. Millions more poor people finally have access to healthcare because of ACA. A lot of people have been helped. The BCRA will help no one who reads this status. It significantly hurts a lot of people you do know to minimally help a very small number of people (the very rich) you don’t know. I can envision no logical argument for any person I am friends with on Facebook being in favor of this bill. If you think you have a reason, I’d love to argue it in the comments before you unfriend me.
I want to take a moment to talk about the process of how this bill was made. It borders on undemocratic. That is not hyperbole. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) appointed 13 senators to negotiate this bill. Except for a few lobbyists and staffers, those were the only people with input and the only people who knew what the bill was until last Thursday. The Majority Leader wants to have a vote on this bill this week. This is far too short a window to have a thorough discussion on the bill. The same senators who wrote this bill lambasted the process seven years ago when the ACA was passed; however, that process was far more transparent and deliberate than this one. ACA had 169 hours of open debate, 110 bipartisan meetings, and 35 weeks of time available for public review. 160 GOP changes to the ACA were accepted. The BCRA will have 20 hours of open debate, 0 bipartisan meetings, and only 1 week of review time. The bill isn’t bipartisan because the GOP doesn’t want it to be. This is the wrong way to pass legislation that changes 1/6 of our country’s economy.
Now the call to action: I don’t care where you live or who your senators are. I don’t care if they are Dems or GOP. I don’t care if they will never listen to you. Call them today, call them tomorrow, and call them every day after that. Tell them you are vehemently against this bill. We need to make every politician concerned about the public outcry against this bill.
Thank you for reading to the end.

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Thoughts on AHCA

Since I’m on a friend-losing tear lately, I’ll go one last time to try my best to logically convince people of my position on healthcare. Because health insurance/care matters to me more than funding for science (i.e., funding for myself), education, energy, climate change, income inequality, or money in politics, I am willing to take a strong public stand (and lose friendships) on this issue. At least read to the end, and if I haven’t convinced you here, I never will; then you can unfriend/unfollow me if you wish. This will be the last time I address healthcare until the Senate does something (so that may be a year from now [or never]). Please leave questions, it will help me refine my position and yours too, hopefully.
As long as lots of sick people around you are neither dying nor going bankrupt, healthy people are subsidizing their healthcare in some way. Capitalistic insurance companies would never willingly lose money insuring sick people. The way insurance companies make money insuring sick people is to make the healthy people pay, which is definitionally how all insurance works. You buy it just in case. (E.g., you buy homeowner’s insurance in case your house catches on fire. You probably won’t need it, but if you do, the people who could have risked not having it because their houses are fine are the ones providing the money to reimburse you. Health insurance works exactly the same; except, unlike car/house insurance, you know with certainty that you will need health insurance eventually.) Participating in this system is beneficial not only to the sick but the healthy too, because the healthy never know when they will become unhealthy.
Under the personal mandate via the ACA (Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act [Obamacare]), the health insurance that healthy people buy allows insurance companies to remain profitable even if they lose money on sick people. They have to insure the sick at the same rates as the healthy, so they adjust rates for everyone so they remain profitable. The reason the AHCA (American Health Care Act, which was approved by the House 217-213 last Thursday) is awful is because companies are no longer required to insure sick people (definition of sick people: one with any sort of pre-existing condition that could affect future health) at the healthy person rate. A lot of advocates of the AHCA will try to catch to catch you in a technicality here; don’t let them. They might say that as long as you don’t lapse in coverage, pre-existing conditions don’t matter. Here’s the catch though: in the AHCA, there are waivers for states to allow them to ignore this mandate and change what must be covered in all plans. House Republicans suggest that this will prevent pre-existing conditions from mattering, but they actually have no idea what states will do because they aren’t the governors running the states. They are trying to sell you their ignorance in place of their honesty. Additionally, what if you have insurance but find that you have some new condition and your current insurance is insufficient to cover it? Well, you would need new insurance, but you don’t get additional subsidies from the government to cover that increased coverage. The insidiousness of the AHCA compared to the ACA is that regardless of whether you are sick or healthy, you get a certain amount of subsidy for your insurance based on only age if you make less than $75,000. If you have a chronic, debilitating disease, you get as much to pay for insurance as a perfectly healthy person at your same age. There is no slow, controlled increase in cost as your coverage increases as in the ACA. Under the AHCA, you get a lump sum, no more no less. *So while you may have access to insurance, you may not have the ability to pay for it.*
If insurance companies don’t have to insure a money-losing patient on the open market, they won’t, because they have a fiduciary responsibility to their shareholders to make as much money as they can (yay, capitalism). Under the AHCA, the sickest are pooled together on a state-by-state basis, and the government–minimally–subsidizes their insurance. In these high-risk pools, the government has to provide enough money to convince insurers that providing coverage is worth it. (You may ask, that sounds a lot like the insurance payments that the president was holding hostage in the budget debate last week. What a coincidence. They are essentially the same. The only difference is Republicans are willing to put up a lot [a whole lot] less money.) In the AHCA, there is only a set amount of money available for this high-risk pool, so logically, only a set number can be provided coverage. The people who don’t get into the pool are out of luck because a company isn’t going to insure someone if they aren’t paid. They have to buy insurance on the paltry subsidy described above. Even if you do get in the pool, states will have the option of setting a cap that limits the costs the pool can pay out for one person. Example, the high-risk pool that was set up in Wisconsin before the ACA ended the practice had a lifetime payout cap of $2 million. That seems like a lot, but if you have a chronic illness, you can blow through that in a decade or less. If the government doesn’t provide enough money, the sick won’t get healthcare because, again, a company isn’t going to lose money when they don’t have to. Advocates of the AHCA maintain that access to coverage will not be threatened. This is not technically a lie but only because of word play. Note that advocates only say access will not be curtailed but never say anything of the ability of people to purchase that access. I have the access to buy a 40’ yacht whenever I want to, but I do not have the ability. Similarly, everyone may technically have access to health insurance, but if you are a chronically ill person, you may only have the ability to pay for healthcare under the AHCA if you are wealthy. This disgusting conflation of access and ability provides the AHCA a deceptive rhetorical cover and nothing else.
Now, this might cause some of you to think (if your heart is made of stone), well at least sick people won’t be sucking up my hard-earned tax payments to the government. Not so fast. The approximately $1 Trillion (yes, trillion) being taken away from healthcare isn’t going back to you, regular citizen. It is being given to the rich as an enormous tax cut. So, not only in this plan are you stoically taking away money from sick people, you aren’t even getting any of it. The rich are. Logically, there is no way any of you–my friends/followers–are going to significantly benefit from this bill because I don’t know anyone who is making a few million a year (Also, statistically, none of you are ever going to be rich enough at some future point to enjoy these lower taxes.). (Admittedly, if you are in the bottom quintile, you’ll be netting about $100/year, but the top 1% will be netting about $40,000/year. The top 0.1% get >$200,000/year.) Make no mistake; the AHCA is not a healthcare bill. It is a tax bill. This is why it can go through the Senate on reconciliation only. (Interestingly, the repeal of the House provision exempting lawmakers from the AHCA must pass via 60 votes because it is not budgetary – just feckless. So, the Democrats have to save the Republicans from their own political stupidity.) 
If you are healthy, you don’t have to purchase insurance under the new bill, so that could save you money. However, that would mean we, the insured, are paying for you. Let me explain. If you forgo personal insurance, you are betting that you won't have an accident or get sick. You do so because you know that hospitals can't deny you service without insurance, so you take the gamble. Here's the thing; if you do have an accident, the hospitals must treat you, so they charge the rest of us who can pay (i.e. the insured) more. Waiting until you get sick to get insurance is screwing over the rest of us. Now you may argue that if you’ve never been to receive care, you aren’t guilty of this. However, whether you have been to the hospital or gotten care is irrelevant for whether others have paid for your insurance. Others may not have paid for your healthcare, but technically, neither have you then. This is conflating health insurance with healthcare. (That's understandable since most of our bloviating politicians do as well.) You are forgoing a formal health insurance policy by betting that you won't need care, but if you do get sick, you will still get care. *This by any definition is insurance.* You are indemnified against injury by an outside party (the hospital in this hypothetical case). You are guaranteed to get care regardless of your ability to personally pay. The hospital may try to make you pay, but as a private citizen you may never be able to afford it, so you will either be delinquent or go bankrupt. Either way, the hospital is still going to get that money from somewhere. It comes from the bills of the insured. The fact that someone hasn’t used that safety net and may never use it doesn't matter because that safety net is always implicitly there. They are covered in case something terrible happens, even if they don't have a personal health insurance plan. Everyone else is paying for the uninsured’s health indemnity whether or not they go to the hospital to ever actually receive health/care/. If a healthy person who can afford it does not get insurance, they are a leech on society and no better than those who perpetrate welfare fraud. This dichotomy of Republicans hating welfare but being okay with people not getting health insurance is incomprehensible to me.
Finally, Obamacare is not perfect. Premiums have risen for some. The lie that anyone could keep their doctor is why so many people hated the ACA for so long (that and some people hated anything with Obama’s name in it) (It does now have a positive approval rating among the public.). However, the AHCA does not move healthcare forward, it takes us back before Obamacare was enacted. We should not be asking for that. Before the ACA, the number of personal bankruptcies due to medical costs per year was over 1.5 million. It’s half that now. The way to make this go away altogether is single-payer (Medicare for all) insurance. It will reduce expenses because it cuts out an expensive middleman (health insurers). This system works everywhere else in the developed world. The care of these systems is superior to that of ours, and it also costs less. It costing less is easy to look up (I invite you do to so; you’ll be shocked at how much cheaper it is.). Some will try to argue via misplaced patriotism that because we are America our healthcare must be better even if it does cost more. This is also false. America is lagging in life expectancy over the last couple decades. Some of this is cultural, but much of it is due to our complicated, expensive, bureaucratic health system that has prioritized treatment over prevention. Infant mortality and death in childbirth are also up compared to the rest of the developed world. And on and on. Obamacare isn’t even enough (though it was better than before), and the roll-back under the AHCA will make the health care situation worse. That’s why I vehemently oppose the AHCA and the efforts of Republicans to move us backward. I have written and called my representative repeatedly (and will be calling my Senators), and I encourage everyone else to as well. Your representative will never directly respond to you, and you will just be a tally mark on some staffer’s notepad. However, they will at least know people care enough about the issue to act. That is very important. I hope this has persuaded you to do so.
Thanks for reading to the end.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Letter to Representative on AHCA

I've tried to not be political recently, but I can't remain silent on this. I've emailed and called my representative, and I suggest you do the same. Regardless of where you live or your political affiliation, the American Health Care Act will hurt a lot of people around you. It is cowardly and egregiously hypocritical that the House Republicans are pushing this without a CBO scoring. 
Mr. Flores,
I am writing to protest in the strongest possible terms the American HealthCare Act of 2017. The American Medical Association and the AARP are both against it, and as a young person who lives, works, and votes in your district, I add my voice. My wife has a pre-existing genetic condition that requires expensive medication. My family is not bankrupt because of the Affordable Healthcare Act. The AHCA as it stands (according of the trickle of information that has been released) will gut pre-existing conditions. A measly $138 B from the Upton amendment is not enough to cover the high-risk pools that will be created instead. Furthermore, the number of recent amendments and other modifications make understanding all the ramifications of the bill impossible. Even the President's press secretary cannot defend that (as was evidenced yesterday). I understand that sometimes backroom dealings must occur to pass legislation, but a reasonable amount of time must be given once a bill is finalized to allow interest groups, the Congressional Budget Office, and especially the public to judge the merits of the bill. The speed with which the AHCA is being pushed does not allow that. Asking us to trust you is an untenable request. These actions do not dignify a deliberative legislative body, so instead of simply trying to pass something to satisfy your base supporters (who will never be satisfied regardless of what you do) I strongly implore you to vote "No" on the AHCA. Thank you.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

The 2016 Election

In "celebration" of the anniversary of the election of DT, here is a short post I wrote on Facebook immediately after.  


I said this four years ago, but I will say it again. People said that Bush would ruin the country; he didn't. People said that Obama would ruin the country; he didn't. Same with Reagan. Same with Carter. The country will make it though four years of Trump. Because of political leanings, I think it will suck, but we will make it.
Here's what I'm actually afraid for: the next generation. Let me explain before you just unfriend me. If your child picked some specific parts of Trump's words and quoted the President-elect at school, they could and should be suspended. For political expediency, almost 60 million people just told our youngest citizens that you can talk about sexually harassing women (and probably actually sexually harass women), and it's okay. Calling an entire race of people rapists is okay. Not knowing what the nuclear triad is when you're running for president of the country with the most powerful and diverse arsenal, capable of single-handedly destroying the planet we live on (i.e. being totally ignorant about your potential job) is okay.
I get some Republican policies. We need enormous tax cuts (particularly for the wealthy, even though Reaganomics demonstrably doesn't work) because government is too big. Meddlesome bureaucracy is holding our economy back. We need to renegotiate our trade deals. For whatever reason, this country isn't great, and it desperately needs change. I don't agree with any of those ideas, but I understand them. The economic recovery has not helped everyone. However, for expediency for those policies, we have implicitly given permission to our children for public racism, misogyny, and ignorance. The older generations often critique us Millennials as narcissistic, but this is the guy we chose for president. You think we are vulgar and narcissistic? If President Trump spends the next four years acting like Candidate Trump, just wait for our children.
We have had really sucky presidents, and we've had privately vulgar presidents. And we’ve made it through. We've never had a publicly vulgar president, but that is what we are about to get. It may not seem like it, but I’m rooting for Trump. I want nothing else but for him to succeed in a way that does not play to our baser instincts, but I fear that is not what is going to happen. It could not make me happier if in two years someone replies on this status mocking me about being wrong, but I don’t think anyone is going to be able to.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

15th Annual Christmas Mass Email

Greetings and Salutations, 
Welcome to the Fifteenth Annual Christmas Mass Email.  I hope this finds each and every one of you well.

I have been okay this year, but our current year seems to have been a struggle in some way for just about everyone else I know.  Whether your job stinks, you’ve lost someone close to you, or if the daily grind just seems to be more abrasive lately, this year has been long.  Perhaps your personal setbacks this year have been mild, or perhaps 2016 was unbelievably positive for you.  That is genuinely terrific, but I think a lot of us can sympathize with the observation that this has been a tough year for many people.  I am unsure how much longer our collective malaise will last, but here is what I do know:  each of us will continue to have good years and bad years, each with their own ups and downs.  The important part is to persevere through the bad and appreciate the good.

Despite sounding a bit sour, I am confident that each of us will come out of this downturn better for it.  The reason I have this confidence is that there is one positive that emerges out of struggle, and that is the impetus for introspection.  This is what I invite each of us to do at the close of this year regardless of whether this year has been difficult or fantastically wonderful for you.  Release yourself from the obvious platitudes, and instead really pause and consider what about this year could be improved.  Then respond to what you can change.  Do not accept that next year will be just as hard, or if this year was good, do not accept that next year cannot be better.  The usual cliché is that struggle is character building.  That’s certainly true to a point, but there is a tenuous line between the construction of character and pointless hardship.  I cannot speak to each of you individually in one letter, but what I do offer is a modicum of advice for everyone.  For those of you that had a difficult year, the pain and worry and fight will not last forever.  We will get through this, but do not let this confluence of misfortune slip by without learning from it.  Experience is how we cope with difficult years and how we appreciate the positive years.  For everyone else, I simply say look out for the people around you that are having a tougher time in life than you.  You’ll probably need to lean on them someday in return.

Finally, I want to reiterate something I said a few years ago.  Lately, our society has accentuated discord to an unsettling degree.  Antagonism seems to be the first response to any sort of disagreement instead of conversation.  I am of the opinion that people (in general) are not malicious.  Some may manifest evil traits, but no one is intrinsically malicious.  However, the prevailing assumption seems to be that because someone doesn’t agree with us, they must not only be wrong but also morally repugnant.  This does not mean I believe there is no objective truth.  I assuredly do, but we will never develop consensus on anything if we attack one another instead of trying to understand opposing viewpoints and logically and calmly arguing our own cherished attitudes.  Foremost, I am advocating tolerance and reflection as we are all more alike than we are different.  We are all a part of humanity – ideology, creed, and tribe cannot divide us unless we allow it.  Let’s just listen to one another.  I know we are all capable of patience and understanding, and those should be the highest goals we seek.

———————

And there you go.  I putter along — only a few months of graduate school left.  Congratulations to those who have really done something amazing this year, whether it’s finishing a degree, getting married, starting a family, finding a new passion in life, or any other accomplishment.  But never be satisfied; always strive for more.  Always question, learn, grow; otherwise, what’s the point?
Enjoy the season, and give yourself some credit for making it as far as you have.  Reply to let me know how you’re doing and what you’ve accomplished.  Wanting to hear from each of you is half the reason I send this every year.

———————

The requisite joke:

A high school senior was taking his girlfriend to prom.  In preparation, he first went to rent a tuxedo.  Upon arriving at the shop, there was an enormously long line.  However, after a multi-hour wait, he did manage to get a beautifully tailored tuxedo.
Afterwards, he traveled to a nearby florist to pick up a corsage.  Once again, there was a line, but after a long wait, he was successful in selecting a magnificent cattleya orchid.
For his last task, he proceeded to rent a limousine, as this was his senior prom, and his date was a very special girl.  Though as his luck would have it, there was another extended line again, but his patience paid off, and he procured a luxurious car.
Several hours later, he and his date arrived to the prom hand-in-hand in style.  They talked and danced for a little bit, and then his girlfriend asked for some punch.  He went to get it, but there was no punch line.

———————

Best wishes and happy holidays,
Battalio


Sunday, July 10, 2016

My politics (part 9): guns – part 2

This series deals with some of my stances on political affairs and topics of the day.  I am quite liberal on some issues, but more conservative with others.  I self identify as an independent, but I definitely lean left.  I hesitate to do this, but I need to write a few posts about gun control.  I continue by addressing the common argument of many in the gun lobby.

Another trope used by the gun lobby is that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun (The NRA even sells a t-shirt [in black and navy] with those words.).

Ignoring the obvious reasons (that you need to have some training to not freeze up and be accurate)  Here are two reasons that argument is a fallacy.

1.)  It isn’t always clear who the bad guy is.
2.)  you have to be lucky or as well armed as the bad guy.

Even the police sometimes have a difficult time defining who the bad guy is (see e.g. Tamir Rice).  I do not trust a random civilian to make the determination in an active shooting situation that I’m an innocent and the guy next to me is bad (or not).  Humans are twitchy and have unreliable senses and interpretation.  This is especially true under duress.

For the sake of argument, let us now say the good guy has beyond a doubt selected the bad guy.  With adrenaline pumping through his veins, how well or quickly will he hit the selected bad guy?  The article I linked to in guns part 1 about the “need” for AR 15’s submits that the way to hit someone is to shoot as many projectiles as possible in the direction of the shooter.  For that to happen with a chance of the bad guy getting hit before the good guy, the good guy either needs a lot of luck or a weapon of a similar or higher bullet spraying ability as the bad guy.  If concealed handguns become ubiquitous (as many in the gun lobby want), then shooters wanting to maximize their impact will move to semi-automatic or automatic weapons (recent events would suggest that trend has already started).  Then, the good guy will need to increase his arsenal to compensate.  This creates an arms race between the bad guys and the “good” guys who want to be able to protect themselves if a situation ever arises where a gun might be useful.  (Anecdotally, here’s a devastated father who now wants to carry a gun because he’s afraid of others who do.)


Let me be clear, I am not an advocate of a ban on handguns or rifles.  I want to ban the escalation of weaponry that is becoming ever more efficient at killing people.  There are instances where people protected themselves by having a gun on their person (again anecdotally, I have a close family member that did so.).  But, the continued escalation of violence will only be curtailed if we draw the line somewhere.  We can discuss where that line is, but there needs to be a line where some guns are legal and some are not.
 
2003-2016 Michael Battalio (michael[at]battalio.com)