The coming Muslim-Christian coalition in the US?

Posted on December 28th, 2011 in Commentary,Engineerboy,Politics by EngineerBoy

Can't we all just get along? Probably not any time soon...

Disclaimer: the article below represents the noodlings of a dumbass who is talking about things way over his head, but which he nonetheless found interesting as a mental exercise.

James Buchanan was the first bachelor US President.  JFK was the first Roman Catholic President.  Richard Nixon was the first to resign from office.  Barack Obama was the first African American President.  That leaves some interesting milestones still ahead of us, such as first female, first (openly) gay, and first (openly) atheist/agnostic.

I think there’s a good chance that we’ll hit all of those milestones, at some point, and that it’s just a matter of ‘when’.  I also think we’ll hit them in that order (female, gay, secular).  And I also think that as we hit each milestone, it will create a greatly increasing disturbance among conservative US voters.

The first milestone, female, will not have any overtly negative reaction at home or abroad.  There have been plenty of female heads of state, and anybody who publicly takes issue with that will be nearly universally condemned as a backwards nincompoop.

However, the next one (first gay) would set up the beginnings of a political holy war, as the groups who are anti-gay are really committed to being anti-gay.  These are people who put the behavior of same-sex consenting adults in the same category as child molestation or bestiality.  They will see a gay US President as the beginning of the end of the world, and will fight against it appropriately.

But the last one (first secular) would potentially set up an actual Holy War (notice the caps).  There was a recent survey that showed that people of faith trust atheists to the same level that they trust rapists.  Yes, really.  And a group with that outlook is going to work diligently (to say the least) to prevent it from happening.

Just as an exercise (not a prediction), I could see the future of Presidential politics progressing thusly (major party candidates, unless otherwise specified):

2012 – Obama re-elected, possible female VP (Clinton)
2016 – female President
2020 – gay VP nominee
2024 – gay Presidential nominee
2028 – secular serious 3rd party Presidential candidate
2032 – gay President, secular VP nominee
2036 – secular President

Yes, that goes 24 years into the future, and that seems like forever.  But consider if we were to look backwards, 24 years ago was the election of George H.W. Bush.  Not that long ago, for some of us.  Again, that is not a prediction as much as one possible future outcome, the likelihood of which is open to debate.

However, regardless of the actual dates and progression, I think we’ll eventually see female, gay, and secular presidents in the US, and that that progression of events will stir ever increasing ire among conservative Christian US voters.

Interestingly enough, there is another group whose reactions would, in my estimation, parallel those of conservative Christian US

America’s Economic Bipolarity

Posted on December 23rd, 2011 in Commentary,Engineerboy by EngineerBoy

Income Equality (lower is more equal)

I’m a data person, and any time I have conceptions, preconceptions, prejudices, opinions, or assumptions, and there are relevant data available, I like to challenge my own opinions with facts.  One opinion I hold is that the United States is losing ground on being the ‘Land of Opportunity’ from an economic perspective.

I’ll stop here to state that I understand I’m talking about ‘first world problems’, and that the average American has it pretty good compared to the average world citizen.  Also, I’m not an economist, sociologist, futurist, or any other kind of credentialed -ist (other than ‘technologist’), so these are just the noodlings of an interested observer.

That being said, the people that put together the CIA World Fact Book seem to know a lot of things about a lot of things, and they share a portion of what they know via their public site.  The charts you see on this page are direct translations of their data into graphical form, and all credit/blame for that data goes to them.

One of the things they gather and post information about is relative income equality for countries around the world.  They share that information on this page:

The chart on the top right shows the Income Equality of the largest 100 countries (by population) from the CIA table, where a larger number is less income equality, and a lower number is more income equality (I know that’s counter-intuitive, but I didn’t develop the GINI scale).  So, the countries to the left-hand side of the chart are the most unequal from an income distribution perspective, and those on the right are the most equal.  The thumbnail view of the chart is pretty small (click chart for larger view), but the red line is the United States, and the green lines are the rest of the G8 countries.  You can see that the US is the left-most G8 member, meaning the one with the least equitable income distribution.

That sucks.  What it means is that the gap between rich and poor is pretty wide.  I think we can all look back over the last few years or decades and see that this has been happening, so although our place in the bottom third of countries isn’t a complete surprise, being the worst of the G8 nations is a bit disheartening.

Income Equality Trending (higher means increasing inequality)

I think that an impartial observer would agree that things are not good from an economic perspective in America today.  However, we have a legacy of bouncing back from adversity and overcoming obstacles.  Are we doing that here?

As you can see in the chart to the right (click chart for larger view), we are not only not improving, but are continuing to get worse.  In fact, only two G8 nations