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The Political Clock’s a-Tickin’

If the Democrats sought to build a national clock, how would the bill develop?

Note that this is satire.

The Democrats in Congress introduced legislation to build a clock. The Republicans immediately proclaimed their opposition to the clock, to clocks in general, and to the lascivious notion that time exists.

The Democrats, while working on their bill, decided the clock should beep loudly every five minutes, all hours of the day. And also at random intervals during the last week of every month. They say this would promote awareness of the fleeting nature of existence. The people didn’t like the idea, but they do want a clock.

The media initially covered how everyone agrees America needs a new clock. The polls showed people would like to know what time it is. The beeping issue didn’t get much coverage, but something else did.

The Republican media and the more extreme Republican House members started a campaign against Roman numerals. “The Pope’s in Rome, but this clock is going to be in America,” they pointed out, seeming proud to know where the Pope was headquartered. “American clocks should have American numbers!” their rallying cry went. The Democrats retreated to regular numbers, but when a caller on C-SPAN mentioned they preferred Arabic numerals anyway, the whole issue blew up again.

The media taught the controversy around the numbers on the clock. Some experts raised the question of whether analog clocks are the best way to tell time. Digital clocks were considered, but abandoned when they realized in case of a power outage or malfunction the clock would be down. “Analog is more classy, anyway, and if something goes wrong, at least it will say a time, if not the time,” the House majority leader said.

The Democrats added to their proposal that only clean energy may be used to wind it, and that the materials used in its construction must be conflict-free. The business lobby and carbon fuel lobby bristled against these new provisions. The business media and US Chamber of Commerce condemned them as a tax. They said that hardworking Americans would be late for work and would miss their daughters’ alphabet-burping recitals if the clock couldn’t be wound using carbon fuel energy. They added that the conflict-free provision would cost too much and that China would use it to corner a large part of the market, making America less competitive.

The Republicans all cheered on these calls for paring back the bill, while progressive activists clamored for stronger labor provisions. A prominent West Virginia Senator weighed in, saying he thought the clock should be wound using coal, but he was in favor of the beeping. “ ‘The people of West Virginia love a good beep. Really tingles in the ear, if you know what I mean,’ the gentleman said Thursday,” a major publication reported.

There was an op-ed by a science think-tank calling for it to be an atomic clock, which caused immediate alarm and confusion online. Half the people seemed to think it was a call for the clock to be powered by nuclear fission, and most of them didn’t like that. The other half argued about whether the clock needs to be that accurate, or whether it could be set using atomic time without being an atomic clock, per se.

A second op-ed, this one by an evangelical-type, revived the hour label issue. “Roman numerals are for Super Bowls only,” she wrote. “America’s clock should feature the English names of the hours, not some fuddy foreign symbols.”

The word-based clock mockups got passed around online, with people commenting how the words were too small or the clock face too big. There were arguments about handling the words at three and nine, lest people have to turn their heads too much to read them. Others suggested the clock itself turn to show the hour, while the minute hand moves independently. But the conservatives said this would entice Americans to idleness, creating a welfare state. “Americans can turn their heads. Look at that Regan MacNeil—turned her head with the real vigor of American exceptionalism. The younger generation is grown soft,” one conservative pundit said.

Mainstream commentators did not know what to make of the fact that Regan MacNeil was the fictitious girl possessed by the enemy in The Exorcist (William Peter Blatty, 1971). But conservatives rally to the idea, posting videos of themselves trying to twist their own heads farther and farther around. Republican media explodes with advertisements for natural extracts to help turn your head like a real American should, including one made from owl feces.

A counter-proposal for the hour labels briefly gained traction, with right-wing radio fawning at the idea that every hour to be named for a president. Noon would be Ronald Reagan, six would be Lincoln, and so on. Once it was pointed out that the clock also represents night hours, the proposal fizzled. “We can’t have Ronnie be associated with midnight—the witching hour!” said one southern Republican senator, nearly fainting and fanning himself with a hankie.

At the eleventh hour, the Democrats added a new rider to the bill, which would empower the president to declare any hour a celebration or memorial of a cause. The Republicans immediately sought to amend to allow sponsorship by corporations and religious groups instead. More, they want a declaration that the clock not be used for menstrual-related math or contraception calculations. When Democrats point out using a clock as a calendar would be stupid, one Republican countered that time is time, and a clock’s just a short-term calendar.

Not satisfied, the Republicans pushed for another change: that the clock not be used to wake people from slumber. “We got this new problem called woke and it’s weakening our nation,” a former sitcom star tweeted. “If people can wake up other than from their butler bringing them breakfast, who knows where that leads.”

The Democrats went on to pass the bill, which included several other provisions:

  • a prescription-drug plan that has the federal government pick up the cost of the bottle labels (paid for by a tax on pool noodles)
  • a copyright provision that extends any outstanding copyright by one year for every dollar paid to a political campaign
  • a requirement that all state official paperwork begin dotting their lowercase Is with hearts or smiley faces, or optionally hearts with smiley faces inside

The clock will be built over the next ten years, assuming funding is added every year until then. Once completed, the clock will initially operate on weekdays between noon and six pm. After the first year, service will expand to weekends and other hours of the day, budget allowing.

The Need for Legislative Experimentation

The long-term success of any system is in its ability to adapt through trial and error.

With the Democrats looking at the filibuster, looking at the country’s legislative needs, and looking at the henceforth reluctant Republican side of their chambers, the need for experiment by legislation endures.

The best way to find solutions to our problems involves careful study followed by trial followed by more trial to fix the problems from the previous. We need to begin to establish as a practice, as a tradition, the kind of cyclical experimentation that will drive America into the future: Try Something ↔ Evaluate Result.

That’s a system that’s stalled for too long, on any major issue. It’s a system where the Republican party too often opposes any meaningful effort, and the Democrats have their narrow approach that means if anything happens it can’t go very far.

The Democrats are being bold, and that’s certainly a great change. But sooner or later the Republicans have to get some ideas of their own. Things like college and healthcare and senior care and drugs are too expensive without real changes to regulation and approach. The Democrats want to help people pay for these things, but there’s not enough effort to make them cheaper while doing so. The Republican party doesn’t seem to be interested in making them cheaper, they just want to exclude those who can’t afford them.

This is the kind of issue that a BNP, a brand new party, perhaps a moderate-conservative party, could champion. Make college cheap by finding ways to standardize many courses, letting professors focus more on the edges than the middle. Push for more automation in nursing homes, so that there’s less grunt work and the workers can focus more on elder care than on cleaning. Push for a formula applied to drug prices, so that they can be under patent longer if they’re cheaper and shorter if they’re more expensive.

On healthcare, automation is also key. Subsidization has its place in helping ensure broad coverage, but also in targeting particular equipment and surgical methods, particularly when private insurance lags in covering them, in order to get to scale faster, to move prices down faster. If you have a new surgery that insurance won’t cover for five years, but it has better outcomes and reduces hospitalization, the government stepping in can mean quite a lot of savings.

(Better outcomes includes faster recovery, fewer drugs, more productivity… I think the military types call that a force multiplier.)

Insurers don’t want to adopt techniques and technologies too soon, when they’re still expensive. It’s not cost effective for them to do so. The initial buildout stage is something that government can do, a kind of infrastructure investment that both accelerates medicine and lowers costs.

One of the biggest failures of government is to not plan for the future in the a priori sense. If you do not know what future will come, there is still planning that can prepare you. That’s the planning of learning how to build experimentation and flexibility into the system itself. The founders understood the flexibility part. They had some experience with experiments, but today we are far more versed in the powers of evolution. We just have to build it into our systems.

How American Government Self-Correction Works, in Brief.

Our system of checks and balances and reacting to bad government.

This past week a large body of Republican legislators did a dookie during the counting of the electoral votes. Partly as a result, a large mob of Americans, who have been trained to adore feces by years of shit-filled media, stormed the Capitol to rub their own faces in it. For weeks there was talk about the plan, how stinky their poop was to be, who would join in the squeezing out, while a powerless majority said they should not do a bowel movement in Congress at all. Got me thinking, not about fecal matters, but about writing how our government is built to respond to these partisan poopers and to the likes of Donald John Trump.

There are norms and there are laws. Norms are things like don’t shit where you eat (which, in the case of these Republican shitheads, happens to be exactly where they shat). Laws are things like, if you pressure an election official to falsify election returns, you should be prosecuted and tried for that.

There’s been a lot of folks trying to figure out, over these past four years, if the diaper’s-full crowd does a stinky, what do we do about that shit?!

The basic structure is this:

  1. If a bad actor does bad actions, tell them to cut it out.
  2. If they don’t, impeach and convict them. (For executive officers and judicial officers; legislature can censure and even eject their members if they are bad.)
  3. If the people who should impeach, convict, or otherwise remove fail to do it, it’s up to the voters to also reject their candidacies at the next election.
  4. If the people fail to keep a clean house of government, the state of the nation will worsen until people either do vote responsibly, people revolt, or the government authority completely collapses or becomes authoritarian from how bad it got.

We do have laws and checks and balances, and when they are ignored because some idiot politicians have been ordered by an authoritarian to poop in public, it is on the people to vote those poopy-heads out.

The fact that over 100 Republicans are not properly potty-trained should give everyone who supports that party great pause. The fact that their shit was stinky enough to attract a mob is a whole other problem for our country.

But while Donald John Trump added copious bulk fiber to the weight of the turd that was dropped, it was those Republicans who opened their bowels, who know better, and it was the other Republicans who did not forcefully seek to stop that turd from dropping, who deserve most of the blame. Donald John Trump has been a turdmonger for a long time. Most Republican politicians, while they might indulge in the occasional shart, do not typically cross into the full scatological arts we have seen recently. They must either regain their bowel control or be evacuated from our government.

Joe Biden’s inauguration will occur a week from Wednesday.