13 May 2017

Regulations are the workingman's friend.

Regulations are not your enemy.  I know; that runs counter to everything you were ever taught about how the world works, but it's true. In fact, most regulations are job creators rather than job killers.

I saw a news item the other day about regulations being overturned ending over four million hours of paperwork, and saving -presumably for the owners of whatever enterprises were being deregulated- almost as many millions of dollars each year.

That sounds to me like the sound of many people losing their jobs at once, as if a million voices cried out, "Oh shit, we're fucked!"

Deregulation, like automation, and nearly every other efficiency improvement in business or industry, is the enemy of the working person, no matter the skill set or level of education. under a capitalist system.  It is simply the nature of the beast.

Automation, miniaturization, mechanization; all of these and many other evolutions of human industry ought to benefit all mankind, but under capitalism the opposite occurs.

Efficiency leads to a reduction in the number of human workers needed to perform any given task. Those workers lose their jobs, only today, unlike in decades past, there are no new jobs waiting for those workers. They're simply obsolete. Redundant. The jobs are gone, and they won't be coming back.

Efficiency and technology today primarily benefit a tiny class of wealthy investors.  They reap immense wealth while thousands of workers are reduced to poverty. Many eventually find themselves among the legions of underemployed workers at the bottom of the world's largest pyramid scheme.

Until we find a way to motivate enough working people to turn against the capitalist system of exploitation, this is what we're stuck with.

24 April 2017

My father's hands

Sometimes I look down at my hands
and see my father's hands instead,
almost as big, a little bit darker, 
from my mother's side, 
his just the same.

He's been gone, two years now, later
this week. I can't say it's gotten any
easier, but at least now the open
sores and blisters have grown 

into scars and callouses.

My hands will never be that big,
nor able to hold so much.

North Carolina's state constitution is broken.

North Carolina's state constitution is broken.  I think it may even have been broken on purpose, but I cannot say by whom or why. Well, that's not entirely true. I think I know why.
Article II
Sec. 3.  Senate districts; apportionment of Senators.

The Senators shall be elected from districts.  The General Assembly, at the first regular session convening after the return of every decennial census of population taken by order of Congress, shall revise the senate districts and the apportionment of Senators among those districts, subject to the following requirements:

(1)        Each Senator shall represent, as nearly as may be, an equal number of inhabitants, the number of inhabitants that each Senator represents being determined for this purpose by dividing the population of the district that he represents by the number of Senators apportioned to that district;

(2)        Each senate district shall at all times consist of contiguous territory;

(3)        No county shall be divided in the formation of a senate district;

       (4)        When established, the senate districts and the apportionment of Senators shall remain unaltered until the return of another decennial census of population taken by order of Congress.

See the error?  Here it is:
"Each Senator shall represent, as nearly as may be, an equal number of inhabitants, the number of inhabitants that each Senator represents being determined for this purpose by dividing the population of the district that he represents by the number of Senators apportioned to that district"
See it now?

As with our federal government, North Carolina's House of Representatives is the people's house, with districts apportioned based on population so that each representative serves an approximately equal number of constituents.

The United States Senate was designed by our founders to be a counterbalance to the popularly elected House. Each state receives equal representation in the US Senate, regardless of it's population.  Originally, federal senators were elected by state legislatures as yet another counterweight against the popular will of the people's House.  That changed about a century ago and today United States senators are elected by popular vote in statewide elections.  It's very difficult to gerrymander a district that encompasses an entire state.

The current constitution of the state of North Carolina (we've had three) was ratified in 1971.

According to Wikipedia:
The draft that later became the Constitution of 1971 began with a study into needed changes by the North Carolina State Bar in 1967. The study outlined a vastly improved and easily ratifiable document. The draft constitution logically organized topics and omitted obviously unconstitutional sections. The language and syntax was also updated and standardized. The study separated from the main document several amendments that it felt were necessary, but were potentially controversial. The main document passed the General Assembly in 1969 with only one negative vote in seven roll-call votes. On November 3, 1970, the proposed Constitution of 1971 was approved by a vote of 393,759 to 251,132.
I believe that in the process of 'updating and standardizing language and syntax', the language of Article II, Section 3 was overlooked and left identical to that of Section 5, which details the method of apportioning representatives to the House of Representatives.  The wording is identical except for the words senator and representative.

This was a mistake, though I suspect quite intentional.  Districts and representative apportionment tied to population make any given district far easier to gerrymander for a specific outcome.  Just look at our current state house districts, or our US House districts to see the lengths that partisans on either side have been willing to go to give themselves a competitive advantage. Our districts are so bad that federal judges have repeatedly ruled them unconstitutional.  We haven't had a legitimate election in this state since before 2010, probably a lot longer.

If a senator is supposed to represent a geographic area, not a specified number of people, then we've obviously been doing it wrong for a long time, but there is a simple and obvious remedy to the problem: strike the wording from Article II Section 3 that ties our state senate districts to population.

Without that stipulation, drawing district lines becomes a much easier task because in North Carolina we have 100 counties and 50 state senators.  Easy peezy! One senator to every two counties, and since "no county shall be divided in the formation of a senate district," this eliminates gerrymandering almost entirely from the North Carolina Senate.

Obviously, this change would give whatever party finds itself in the minority at any given time a viable shot at maintaining control of at least one house of our legislature. Doing so would force ideological thugs like the ones currently running amok in Raleigh to act like statesmen and negotiate in good faith for the people of North Carolina.

I said the fix was simple, and it is, but I didn't say it would be easy.

While our state constitution is fairly easy to modify, all amendments must come from the legislature. In North Carolina we do not have the right of referendum like our fellow Americans in other, younger states, so we can't just go get a bunch of signatures on a petition and put it to a vote, but this is a change that needs to be made for the good of our state and the future generations who will inherit the mess we've made of the world.