Thursday, September 17, 2009
The one-key rule

Polistra's Law of Political Math: For each important question, only one mathematical operation is permissible.

When I was an electronic tech at Penn State in the '80s, I learned this important bit of wisdom from Prof Davis, a pollution researcher. Davis had developed an effective and inexpensive method to remove airborne sulfur dioxide, which has always been a coal-country problem and thus a PSU specialty. After thorough testing he offered the method to EPA for large-scale use. EPA refused his invention, because the method required spreading (aerosolizing) an absorptive powder. They explained that the public wanted to see only subtraction in a pollution-removal process; EPA knew it couldn't justify adding something to the air even if the air would be perfectly clean after the powder dropped to the ground.

This rule applies in every realm. For education funding, the only key you can hit is the plus key. For taxes, only the minus key. Protection for Chinese industry: Add. Protection for American industry: Subtract. For military weapons, only plus. For personal weapons, only minus. Democracy abroad, only add. Personal freedom here, only subtract.

As with any rule, there are occasional exceptions, and the rarity and salience of the exceptions proves the generality of the rule.

Today a couple of interesting exceptions showed in the news. (1) Obama is reducing our missile-interceptor weapons in Europe, stirring up a predictable firestorm. This is a good move because the original Cold War purpose of the weapons is gone, and the "Persian threat" is imaginary. (2) Amtrak has started to allow personal weapons to be carried on trains. This won't make any real difference because the allowance is only in checked luggage; it won't help to prevent any mass murders. Still, it does run against the one-key rule.

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Update: The Senate has broken another one-key rule. This one says: "Funding for Soviet-front organizations whose sole purpose is to rip America to shreds: Always multiply." Just this minute, by an 85-11 vote, they stopped pushing the Multiply key for ACORN and hit Clear All instead. And the House has done the same.

Think about this. Do elections matter? Yes, but exactly opposite to the way we hear it from the talking point heads. From 2002 through 2006, Republicans had control of all branches of govt. Acorn has been around for 35 years, and its criminal activities have been known for a long time. Acorn is anti-American but ESPECIALLY anti-Republican; Acorn threw many elections to Dem candidates, and was indicted and convicted in some of those cases. So you'd expect the brand-R politicians to dissolve Acorn when they had the chance, wouldn't you? Nope, Bush and the R congress didn't defund anyone. Not ACLU, not Acorn, not the ABA, not any of the Soviet-front organizations. Now that we've elected a complete brand-D government, we finally get Acorn pulled out of its quasi-governmental position.