Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Aud For President!

From: anonymous

Is the new novel part of the series where Aud Torvingen is the main character?

Yes. Always, the third Aud novel, is just out in paperback (today, April 1st). In honour of the auspicious date, she has decided to run for President.

Aud wasn't born in the US, she's a citizen because her father was a citizen, but she was born in the UK to a Norwegian mother. So, first of all, Aud would have to figure out a way to get a constitutional amendment passed in nine months. Actually, she'd need two, because not only was she not born here, she's not yet thirty-five. If she could get that done, she would certainly deserve to rule, er, govern.

Next up, being an immigrant, she'd tackle immigration issues. She would set about turning the millions of illegal immigrants who keep the US economy ticking over into documented tax-payers with access to education and health care and legal protections. Then she would quadruple the numbers of visas available to qualified non-citizens of other countries.

Naturally, in order to liberalise immigration, she'd have to create and push through some kind of civil partnership legislation: it's not fair if the wives of straight male citizens can come live here, but the partners of lesbians can't.

Civil partnership, of course, will never go through until lgbtqi (quiltbag) folk are allowed to serve openly in the military. So Don't Ask, Don't Tell would be history about forty seconds after Aud took the oath.

In order to take the oath, Aud would have to decide whether or not to reveal her middle name.

Aud lives in the US, was raised in the UK, and is culturally Norwegian. She doesn't believe Americans are better than anyone else. She doesn't believe in protectionism or isolationism. She believes in free movement of people, money, idea, and goods. She's a total freebooter, er, free-trader. Allied to that, though, she's a strong believer in social justice. She'd rope in her mum--who by now will be Prime Minister of Norway--to persuade the United Nations to really, really pay attention to international labour law. She'd fight for better working conditions for workers everywhere (without offering false and unsustainable protections).

Under Aud's watch, the most important ambassadorial post would not be Paris or Beijing or London or Moscow, but the UN. She would choose a smart, tough, able-to-play-nicely representative. In order to play nicely, of course, the US would have to start actually making its promised annual contributions to the organisation. And if the US were doing it, you can bet we'd find a way to make the other countries pay, too.

And if the UN were fully funded and politically supported, oh, the changes we'd see. Money tends to put everyone would be in a better mood; they'd been less prickly and competetive. Change might even reach the Security Council. A handful of Permanent Members might no longer constantly screw things up for everyone else.

All women would be required to take self-defense classes at school. Title IX would be enforced to the max. Any man using the word 'cunt' in public more than once a year (even as the 'amusing' title of a 527 organisation, the legality of which Aud would consider abolishing) would have his legs broken and, no, the government would not pay for his medical care.

Aud would find a way to make universal healthcare workable. (It works in Norway. It mostly works in the UK. It's not rocket science, people.) A lot of that would involve reining in the drug companies. All the rules around who pays for the research and how that research is reported would change. The results of all drug trials, funded publicly or privately, successful or not, would be available on PubMed. Sales representatives of Big Pharma would not be allowed to donate any material, even inexpensive tchotkes like magnets and note pads, to doctors' offices.

Doctors' offices would be required to have decent heating and ventilation, magazines less than four months old, and cellphone jamming equipment.

Cellphone jamming equipment would be installed in all public places, especially buses, trains, movie theatres and restaurants. If you can't smoke there, you can't yammer, either. No cellphone use, period, in a moving vehicle. Or Aud will make you eat it (the phone, then the vehicle).

No one injured in a traffic accident because they weren't wearing their seatbelt or were talking on the phone, anyone with self-inflicted disease--cirrhosis due to alcohol consumption, lung cancer because of smoking, brain damage because of illegal drug use--should get any kind of government assistance for the treatment of same. That should, over time, increase the population's IQ, which would make all Aud's educational reforms (more charter schools, accountability of principal teachers, voucher system, the removal of stupid testing systems) even more successful.

All sin taxes--on alcohol, tobacco etc.--and luxury taxes (boats, jewellery, cars etc over, say, $150,000) would triple. Tax on gasoline would quadruple.

The resulting federal tax windfall would go immediately towards state funding for mass transit infrastructure, alternative energy sources (not, oh not not not corn ethanol, which is the biggest environmental boondoggle of the last five years), and energy consumption reduction measures. Automobile congestion taxes for all big cities would be encouraged. Recycling in any community over 5,000 would be mandatory, with all fines being paid in community service, such as cleaning up garbage from streams and planting trees. Oh, and taxes on pesticides would quintuple their price. Littering would be punishable by haemarroids.

Aud believes in the power of money. One of the first things she'd do is institute a cap-and-trade carbon emissions system: you pay for the amount of carbon you release into the wild. It would probably be better to pay for the carbon you pull from the ground and/or import, i.e. a carbon tax. But I don't think the mechanisms are all in place yet. Anyway, in the UK, paying for water (it was free until the early 1980s) prompted massive reduction in water usage; capitalism has its uses. And Aud's father was an enormously successful businessman.

Aud's mother is a diplomat. Aud believes in diplomacy before all else. She believes in planning, in having the necessary funds to hand for any action (military or otherwise) and would no more have started a war in Iraq than fly to the moon. (Actually, she thinks NASA has done a terrible job the last 20 years, and would find other ways to galvanise the exploration of space--which she thinks is very cool and, more to the point, necessary.) She thinks that if the US could design the Marshall Plan for post WWII Europe, there's no reason Iraq couldn't be helped to prosper pdq (pretty damn quick) with the cooperation--the real cooperation, even eagerness--of the UN. (Japan is brilliant at infrastructure projects; Norway is fabulous at human capital--why not rope them in?)

Aud would cancel the war on drugs (which she believes makes about as much sense as a war on frowning or birdsong) and carefully and systematically decriminalise controlled substances. And she would tax the hell out of them. Some things she would provide free of charge: condoms, needles, sanitary protection, laundromats, and bicycles at transit hubs.

Next, Aud would look at some sacred cows, such as minimum wage, farm subsidies, and social security. Aud is a superwoman, but she's not god. I think even she might quail at tackling social security in her first term. So she wouldn't touch that third rail, at least for a while. She'd probably keep minimum wage, she'd completely rejigger farm subsidies, gradually shifting aid to organic farming and inner-city vegetable production. She thinks chicken should not be raised inside city limits, though--nasty, dirty little vectors of disease. (Oh, okay, she thinks two pullets per household--but no more--might work.)

Speaking of small animals, only people with very, very big yards would be encouraged to keep big dogs. The de-clawing of cats and other pets would be a criminal offense. Aud doesn't like cats much but she thinks cutting part of their digits off for owners' convenience is disgusting and cruel. Ditto the death penalty. (She's killed a few people in her time, but always for a good reason, e.g. her own survival. Judicial murder is pointless; it doesn't act as a deterrent; it doesn't save the state money.)

Aud would accept Secret Service protection only from those who are as good as she is at spotting danger and handling it, and, oh, who wear clothes as good as hers. Voters everywhere would faint when Aud and her protective detail strode into a building; those who didn't pass out would hum 'The Stride of the Valkyries' under their breath and spend the rest of their lives boring people with the story of being almost blinded by beauty. They would never really recover.

Would the country (the world?) ever really recover? I haven't a clue, but it would be seriously cool to find out, seriously fab to have in charge someone who emphasises that there are no magic bullets, no funny handshakes, no secret decoder rings, just smarts, planning, good intentions and hard work. Aud for President!

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