Thursday, January 23, 2014

Abortion--a two-edged political sword

Whether you're for or against it, you need to realize what abortion means as an issue.

First, it has little or nothing to do with saving lives, however you define "life." Advances in medicine mean that abortion is now safe and easy--at least as easy as the average trip to the dentist. Which means that even if if were banned, most people--apart from the poorest and most ignorant--would still be able to get safe abortions (often chemically).

That is, it's like alcohol consumption and Prohibition. Unless America became a true Police State--beyond even what Iran is today--banning abortion 

Second, the importance of the abortion issue to the Republican Party's biggest donors also has little or nothing to do with saving lives, however you define "life." For them the importance is that it's a highly charged issue that can help elect people who will then help them get more money, while abortion-hampering legislation is "profit-neutral."

That's a two-edged sword, though, as the GOP's paymasters discovered when it cost them control of the Senate in the last election, through anti-abortion fanatics winning primaries who could not win a statewide election.

More strategically, anti-abortion fanaticism is part and parcel of a range of the GOP losing its more educated members even as it cements its bond with its base (thanks to Nixon's Southern Strategy) of undereducated rural Southern white men and their wives. Former moderate Republicans are now indepenedents, whose vote is far from guaranteed.

Now the GOP's paymasters have gotten alarmed. They set a fire and are now having trouble controlling it. Especially since many who voted in Republican legislators in 2010 in hopes of getting more jobs and less taxes wound up getting mostly anti-abortion legislation.

And even many who would like to see fewer abortions happening are also alarmed by the extreme language of the Christian Taliban that you can see in abundance in newspaper comment threads about abortion.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Is there actually only one party in Washington--the Party of Money?

Recently on a comment thread to a political discussion on KQED Forum, a commentor said this:

Some have said that the outer appearance of acrimony and conflict between the two major parties is just a show, similar to what you see in WWE wrestling, and that behind the scenes the Republicans and Democrats are good buddies serving the same corporate master. What better embodiment could there be of the sham of this Good Cop Bad Cop political farce, than this couple? [James Carville and Mary Matalin] They surely will insist that they disagree on many issues, but on any topic that really concerns the criminal banking elite or the cartel of corporations that run this country, I am sure they are very much in alignment.

My response:

There's a lot of truth in this but I think the assessment goes too far. Democrats at least try to whittle around the edges of America's corporatist oligarchy, while Republicans embrace worship of the wealthy wholeheartedly.

The notion that there's no difference at all between the parties is Republican propaganda designed to depress liberals so much that we don't bother to vote. It doesn't go the other way because Republicans are Republicans tribally more than politically.

In practical terms, if Al Gore had been president instead of Bush II we would not have gone to war with the wrong country, with a three trillion dollar price tag. We would not have seen the federal government's regulatory infrastructure systematically dismantled. And we would not have been saddled with a far right corporatist Supreme Court majority for the next several decades.

We also would not have seen the corporatist oligarchy dealt with as it should be, but that truth would not have been a good reason to sit out the election. And in that election, as with most presidential elections, the popular vote was divided by only a few percentage points.

So never forget the fact that the corporate oligarchy WANTS liberals to think that both parties are the same and there's no reason to vote.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Astroturfing--how a handful of paid operatives create false impressions of public opinion

On January 9, Washington Post columnist Harold Myerson posted a column titled "Despite what the critics are saying, Obamacare is working."

I just scored all 604 comments for this column, now that the commenting is pretty much wrapped up, and the results are telling:

Against the article & against the Affordable Care Act (ACA): 55%
For the article & for the ACA: 41%
Ambiguous: 4%

Of the anti-ACA comments, a majority were vitriolic rants laced with words like "socialist"
"Obummercare" and the like, accounting for a full third of all the comments.

Of the pro-ACA comments, a small minority were anti-right wing vitriolic rants--mostly in response to the hundreds of red-faced denunciations of all things Liberal/Democratic/Obama--accounting for 11% of all the comments.,

A very large percentage of the anti-ACA comments included expressions of contempt for the Washington Post.

It seems unlikely that this distribution of comments mirrors the demographics of the Washington Post's readership--especially since so many of the comments opposing Meyerson's column included statements that the Washington Post wasn't worth reading.

So--what accounts for this disparity? Where did all the antis come from, if they aren't WaPo readers? And what about the WaPo's paywall that limits nonsubscribers to commenting on only 10 articles a month?

The greatest likelihood is that they are the same kinds of operatives who the tobacco industry hired decades ago to pretend to be constitutents of Congressmen, inundating them with calls and letters and telegrams opposing tobacco regulation.

That is, paid Astroturfers.

Anyone can validate my numbers by devoting a few hours to totting up the comments on this thread. And anyone can see what the current state of the art is in right wing Astroturfing with a little research. It includes "persona management" software that can give one operative up to 100 different online identities, each with a unique IP address.

So much for the WaPo paywall, as this one comment thread proves. I hope the WaPo comes up with a way to control these trolls-for-hire. They're making reasoned discourse hard to do there. And on any other major newspaper's comment threads on issues where wealthy special forces want to game the system.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

"Corporations are people, my friend"

The the Supreme Court's Republican majority means by this is reminiscent of how the original Constitution counted slaves.

That is, a corporation is actually one person--the CEO, who gets to speak for all of his employees when it comes to campaign donations--and he gets to speak for them without revealing the fact that he's doing so.

In the original Constitution each slave had no vote but counted as 3/5 of a person when it came to determining congressional districts. So the Southern states got more representation, even though those used to get that extra representation had no say in what representatives in Congress did.

Likewise the economic power of a corporation, created by all its employees to varying degrees, may give it a huge voice in elections via campaign contributions; however, all but one individual among those providing that economic power have no say-so in how that power is wielded--and don't even have the right to know what's being done with the profits they helped produce.

In both cases--slaves and corporate employees--have no political rights. Employees can vote as private citizens, of course, but in sense of the Supreme Court's locution "corporations are people" they are people no more and no less than 3/5-person slaves were.

This fits the underlying monarchism of the Republican Party, and its members' complacency with the 1% having incomes over 200 times that of the average American. GOPers really do believe that one of those CEOs or hedge fund managers etc. contribute 200 times as much to a corporation's well-being as its average employee.

Exactly as with slaves, employees are considered to contribute nothing to a corporation's achievements--they are simply interchangeable work units. So why should they have any say in what a corporation-person does in the political sphere? They're nothing more than ants.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Children brought here illegally are already citizens

In the comment thread to a talk show on children brought here illegally, one commentor said:

"An adult should not be punished for a crime his parents committed while he was a minor. We need amnesty and a path to citizenship for people who were brought into this country illegally as children and raised as Americans."

 My response:

How is returning someone to the nation they're a citizen of "punishment" ? It seems remarkably jingoistic to assume that living in any nation on Earth other than America is an awful fate.

And while a child is not responsible for crimes his parents committed, neither is a nation of which the child is not a citizen. If a child is, say, a citizen of Jamaica, then Jamaica is responsible for that child--just as Jamaica is not responsible for you and me.

There is much injustice in this world. The plight of illegal aliens brought here as children is one of them, but it's minor compared to the injustices inflicted on a billion humans every day by their own nations.

Today there are many thousands of children and teens being held as slaves in America, right under our middle class noses. Juveniles being trafficked sexually, who can't even go to the police, who generally arrest them instead of their captors.

That's the kind of injustice we should be focusing on. Citizens of other countries brought here illegally as children can do very well in the tourist trade of their home country, since they speak English idiomatically and understand our culture.

I've seen this personally in many 3rd world nations I've traveled in, from Indonesia to Mexico. Repatriating such people is not throwing them under the bus--and like the other 6.8 billion people on Earth who are also not American citizens, they are not our direct responsibility, though we should of course hope for the best for them.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Yes, there's an NSA spying scandal--it's just not the one everyone's talking about

The far Left and the far Right are full of paranoid antigovernment zealots who think Snowden is a hero for revealing the gummint's evil plot to spy on us all. But it wasn't and isn't, as a less paranoid court recently adjudicated (on this case's way to the Supreme Court).

The real scandal is how the National Security Agency let someone--not even an employee, but an outside contractor--steal a boatload of Top Secrets. That reveals a kind of incompetence that's truly scary. Heads should roll when we find out how this happened.

Of course the Republicans don't care whether our security apparatus works well or not--only whether they can lay their hands on a lever that can get them back into the White House.

As for Snowden--he isn't a whistleblower. A whistleblower is a member of an institution who comes to believe that the institution he belongs to does bad things in the dark that conflict with the things it says in public.

Snowden has stated that he sought the position he held in order to steal secrets from the NSA and reveal them. That makes him a spy in doing so--and remember, someone can be a spy for money or for ideology. They're a spy either way.

And then he revealed things about American spying activities that damaged our national interests. Since Snowden is an American citizen, that makes him a traitor. And now he's promising to reveal further secrets about America in exchange for residency and protection in another country.

It is true that whistleblowers are frequently punished severely for their actions. That's unjust and corrupt, but it isn't germane to Snowden.

The question for those inclined to treat Snowden as a hero is whether they're taking into account the damage he did the nation in the course of making his revelations.

Sunday, December 29, 2013

What Republicans hear when you say "Obamacare"

The Republican Party didn't rename the ACA "Obamacare" for nothing. The change sounds harmless enough to liberals and moderates--and even moderate, unbiased urban conservatives--because they have no idea how the change plays to the GOP's undereducated, aging, white, male-dominated, fundamentally Southern base.

What they hear when you say "Obamacare" is "Negrocare:"  a law enabling the Negro president of the Negro-loving government to steal money from whites and give it to Negroes by the same federal government that once started the "war of Northern aggression" against the Confederacy.

And yes, many older white Southerners still refer to the Civil War as the "War of Northern aggression." As the patriarch of America's most popular reality show articulated when he said blacks were perfectly happy under Southern white rule.

America's urbanites cannot grasp how much rural older white Americans hate Obama for being black, and hate him even more for being educated and, as presidents go, rather aloof. That makes him an Uppity Negro in their eyes, and that grinds their grits.

Also, "Obamacare" personalizes it. It lets such people reject the ACA because they reject the man, instead of forcing them to confront what they could possibly object to in provisions like not letting insurance companies dump you on any flimsy pretext if you get really sick and thus start to cut into their profits.

Or the fact that any kind of insurance only works if the pool is big enough. That's why every driver is required to have liability insurance. The mandatory requirement is, in fact, a Republican idea formulated by the conservative Heritage Foundation and embodied in "Romneycare."

Republicans only because opposed to this way of preventing freeloaders on the healthcare system when the Democrats agreed with them that it was the right thing to do.

Bottom line: don't call it "Obamacare" even if all the mainstream media does and even the left-leaning media does. They're being played by the GOP's Ministry of Propaganda when they do--and so are you.

The Whopper of the Year wasn't the President's lie about ACA coverage--it's the Republicans lie that their alternative is better

Every hour of every day, across the airwaves and the blogosphere, Republican partisans blast “Obamacare” with the usual heavy-handed sarcasm that passes for humor in conservative circles.
    Oddly, though, no Republican has even one word to say about Republicare–their alternative to the Affordable Care Act.
    Republicare is what we’ll get if the Republicans succeed in destroying the Affordable Care Act, through a combination of winning the Presidency and their lavishly funded national campaign of sabotaging the ACA. Then we’ll revert to the American healthcare system as of 2008, with no changes whatsoever. The proof of this is simple: the Republican-dominated House has passed 46 healthcare bills since 2010. And every one of them did nothing but repeal the ACA. Period. Individual Republican lawmakers suggest this or that reform, but the GOP's "Repeal and Replace" campaign, so far, is all repeal, no replace.
    So the real whopper of the year is the claim that the American healthcare system as of 2008, with no changes at all, beats the ACA, warts and all.
    The Republicans know better than to say this out loud. They’re just hoping Americans won’t realize it’s what they’re actually saying. They’re hoping we won’t remember what it was like to have insurance company clerks making life and death decisions about you–decisions that were nearly impossible to appeal; to have your insurance dropped as soon as you got really sick; to have insurance refused if you had a “pre-existing condition;” to get sold junk insurance policies in which “the large print giveth–the small print taketh away” (apologies to Tom Waits); a healthcare system that was the most expensive on earth per capita, with the worst results among rich countries.
    There are Americans who will spend more for healthcare under the ACA than before. However, what most of this small minority don't realize is that the healthcare insurance they'd had before was, for most, junk policies that would have done nothing for them if something bad actually happened to them. Investigative journalists have researched the angry "ACA losers" featured on FOX News daily and found that most of the cases were bogus--people who hadn't bothered to find out what their alternatives were under the ACA, or who didn't realize that their old policies were so bad they were really uninsured.
    For at least 90% of all Americans, they're better off with the ACA.
    Want proof? Look at what the Republicans say. They refuse to talk about what they have to offer in lieu of "Obamacare." What's the use of criticizing anything if you don't talk about the alternative?

     I dare any Republican to actually compare “Obamacare” to Republicare.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Republicans and Democrats both fail to grasp who is an American

Democrats have the nerve to claim that anyone who lives in America deserves citizenship--even if they got here illegally. I'd say it just means Democrats don't value national sovereignty very much, but those who go ballistic over drone attacks in other sovereign countries seem to value the sovereignty of other nations highly--just not ours.

Republicans have the gall to treat anyone who isn't not just Republican but "Conservative" as well as if they aren't American citizens.This seems to be how they justify their extreme gerrymandering, their laws designed to disenfranchis blacks, students, and other Democratic-leaning groups, the extreme differential in penalties for drugs they use (alcohol, cigarettes) and those "others" use--most notably marijuana, and their constant efforts to criminalize abortion. It also explains their campaign to deny that the first black American president isn't an American citizen.

So from a rational perspective the Left thinks some people who aren't Americans are, and the Right thinks about half of Americans aren't.

That means the Left wants to hand out citizenship to around 11 million Mexican citizens mostly, while the Right wants to deny citizenship to around 150 million American citizens.

Of course the Right doesn't want to actually take away Democrats' citizenship papers--it just wants to prevent a Democratic majority from being a majority in political institutions from the city to the national level, and to impose Christian Shariah law on Democrats. That is, to make them second-class citizens without voting rights.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

The Lie of the Year isn't President Obama's whopper about the Affordable Care Act has "awarded" its Lie of the Year dubious honor to President Obama for saying you keep your healthcare if you like it.

The Right Wing Media has picked this up and made a whole lotta hay with it.

But this time they're wrong.

The President's lie was a lie, all right, and even though it only directly affects a very small percentage of Americans it also affects his credibility with everyone else.

However, the Lie of the Year is vastly more pernicious, even though no one ever says it explicity.

It's the Republicans' lie that Republicare is better than Obamacare for any but 1% of Americans.

Republicare is what we get if the Republicans repeal Obamacare. Forty-six times in that last several years the Republicans have voted to repeal Obamacare in its entirety (in the House of Representatives), and 46 times the Republcans' health bill contained exactly nothing to replace Obamacare with if it succeeded.

So Republicare is simply America's high profitable healthcare system as it was before the Affordable Care Act became law.

And Republicare was a disaster that killed many people and drove many others into bankruptcy. The Affordable Care Act, warts and all, is infinitely better than a Republicare, in which you might pay into your healthcare insurance provider for 40 years only to get dumped as soon as you get really sick and start reducing that insurer's profits.

Republicare is the most billionaire-friendly healthcare system on Earth. But for us non-billionaires, the idea that it's preferable to the ACA would only make sense to someone completely blinded by right wing ideology.

And that's why Republicans NEVER talk about what we'll get if they get what they want. They want us to look at the ACA without regard to the only alternative they've given us: nothing.

And Nothing is what Republicare is.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

A new precedent was not established in the U.S.Senate today

Today the U.S. Senate majority changed the Senate rules to ban filibusters for presidential appointments (apart from Supreme Court nominations).

Sounds radical, and the Democrats who support this had mostly spoken out in defense of the filibuster eight years ago.

Also, the Senate has never changed its rules mid-session.

But it's the Republicans who actually changed the rules at the start of President Obama's presidency. Not the way the rules are written. Instead they changed the traditional way the filibuster has been used--that is, to block the appointment of a presidential appointee you believe isn't qualified for the post.

Instead the Republican leadership decided to use the mechanism of the filibuster to try to nullify the results of the presidential election. The Senate's rules protect the rights of the minority party. They were not intended to permit the minority party to rule the country as if it had won the election.

The Constitution obviously intends for presidential appointments to be confirmed or denied by 51% or more of the Senate. Not 60%. The Republicans' abuse of the rules--unlike how either Democrats or Republicans had applied them before President Clinton was elected, and in spades since President Obama was elected--that abuse gave a minority of less than 50% of the Senate a veto not only over presidential appointments but over letting agencies function whose leadership appointments are being blocked.

And now they're also using the filibuster to block nominations over unrelated issues, just because their veto power gives them a lever.

This amounts to trying to run America as if they'd won the last two presidential elections.

Which is not just intolerable--it's also the unprecedented change made in the how the Senate works by the Republicans five years ago, which the Democratic leadership has now finally recognized...and dealt with.

You can be sure the Republicans will abuse their majority status if they win control of the Senate again, just as they've been abusing their minority status. They will wield today's rules change ruthlessly. But there's no guarantee they wouldn't do that anyway--especially given their behavior during the past half-decade.

But even more importantly, if the Senate majority hadn't done what they did today they would simply be continuing to cede control-- a systematic, aggressive control--of the United States Senate by the side that lost the last election. They lost the House, except their gerrymandering and voter suppression gave them a House majority. They lost the Senate and the presidential race outright.

And today their determination to practice minority rule was thwarted in one major area.

One trait the Republican leadership has shown consistently is the belief that Democrats are weak, Republicans are strong. So Republicans can push the Democrats around with impunity because they have a monopoly on manly toughness.

The Imperial Japanese high command made the same mistake about their enemy in 1942.

Friday, October 18, 2013

Affordable Care Act enrollment software is a worse mess than the Administration admits; but this has nothing to do with the value of ACA

I voted for the President twice, and support him and the ACA now. Whatever the virtues or defects of the ACA are, the quality of the implementing software is a separate issue--one which the Republicans are now gleefully trying to conflate with the ACA itself.

They're wrong, but it now looks like the Obama administration is doing its best to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory.

Huge software systems--such as the software running the banks' automated tellers--is a challenge to design and implement. There are numerous examples in both the private and public sector of spectacular failures. But I've never had an automated teller make a mistake with my deposits or withdrawals, and probably you haven't either.

Providing such crappy software to implement the ACA is an indictment of the computer savvy of the current administration. I realize that the alternative--the status quo--was the real slow-motion trainwreck. As you watch this administration wrestle with getting their software to implement ACA up and running, remember that.

Meanwhile this will become at least half of what the right wing media harp on for the forseeable future. It will help the GOP's far right try to distract attention from the mess they've made of the GOP.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Nobody wants to admit that the Constitution is broken

The Constitution was designed to prevent majoritarianism--the tyranny of the majority. Perhaps this was a response to the years of arbitrary rule from the other side of the Atlantic, fresh in the memories of all the Founders.

The problem is that the Constitution succeeded so well at this that it left America vulnerable to minoritarianism--the tyranny of the minority.

This is why subsequent democracies adopted a parliamentary system instead of ours. That system isn't perfect--none is or ever will be--but it does enable government to function, while also enabling the majority's decisions to be challenged electorally whenever the tide goes against those in power.

Whereas our system enables a small minority to sabotage government and, in the case of America, even the world economy. No one is ever responsible for anything, because each can always point the finger at the other and say "If not for their interference Paradise would have been ours."

That's one of the worst consequences of our system: the dilution of responsibility for what the government does or doesn't do.

One thing would go a long way to fix this, short of a Constitution Convention leading to the adoption of a parliamentary system (the system that works efficiently for most of our fellow rich nations): a Constitutional amendment mandating nonpartisan redistricting nationwide.

That isn't a cure-all but it would reduce today's invulnerable  incumbency in most Congressional seats--and it would eliminate the ability of Republicans in some states to control the state legislature despite being in the minority in some states they control.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Who's playing with fire?

"Capitalism is like fire: a good servant but a bad master."

"Government is like fire: a good servant but a bad master."

Q. Which of these statements is true?
A. Wrong question–because both of these statements are true--

Something many Republicans and some Democrats don't understand.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Why did the Republicans think President Obama would cave in they precipitated an economic crisis?

Part of being a partisan ideologue--a key part--is gut-level contempt of your opponents. You're strong, they're weak. At best they're crafty. But they lack your own moral fiber, your warrior spirit, your nobility. They're all hat, no cattle.

This constantly leads partisans to underestimate the opposition. It's why the Japanese High Command decided to attack us at Pearl Harbor.

Partisans tend to be heedless of consequence. Their own inner song fires them up. They're driven by belief, not estimation.

And they see pragmatism and a willingness to compromise as lack of principle. They cannot grasp the concept of someone being willing to compromise because of their principles.

So they figure Obama is spineless and will always cave. It never occurred to them that he might compromise for the sake of the nation--and, later, under different circumstances, refuse to compromise--also for the sake of the nation. You've seen how they caricaturize Libruls as unpatriotic, selfish. lazy. Someone like this would indeed knuckle under in the face of Republican masculine aggression.

Especially considering the extraordinary level of harm the Republicans will do to the nation if the President doesn't cave and they carry through on their threat to cause a national credit default.

There are plenty of Republicans who aren't partisan ideologues. And there are certainly Democrats who are partisan ideologues. The difference is that the Democratic Party's partisan ideologues aren't in charge of their party. No Drama Obama is as cool under fire as any President we've had. Leftist ideologues think he's a closet Republican in fact--something no right wing ideologue has any idea of, since they get all their information from ideological media.

On the other hand, while the last Republican candidate seemed cool and collected--his ideological character showed in the fact that he was so certain of victory--despite every major poll saying otherwise--on election night he didn't even have a concession speech prepared because he was so certain of victory. That's the blindness of the ideologue.

And who's in charge of the Republican Party now? Seems like Ted Cruz, with John Boehner trying to stay ahead of him and not get Primaried. Boehner is not a radical Republican, but he is deeply committed to keeping his job, so all his ranting and calumnies serve to show how the crazies are running the asylum on the right hand side of the aisle, such that even the non-crazies have to act crazy just to hold onto their gigs.

This is what happens when you only listen to people who already agree with you and then attack someone who appears to have read Lao Tzu....

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

False equivalence--the propagandist's Plan B

If your side is losing an argument--or if it's losing an argument in the eyes of a definable voter bloc--your fallback is to get voters to blame both sides equally rather than your side exclusively.

This line of argument uses the unspoken assumption that it's "fair" to do so--as if a dialog between an extortionist and his intended victim is morally equivalent, and it's incumbent on the intended victim to split the difference with his extortionist, or he's to blame if the deal falls through.

It's part and parcel of seeing politics as sports, where it's about your side winning and the other side losing, not about doing right by the voters.

Your goal as a propagandist is to keep your base fired up and voting in droves while depressing the other side and getting them to not vote at all.

And in between your base and the other side's base is all those people who might vote either way. You want them to vote your way, of course, but if you're losing a big public debate the likelihood of that is debatable--in which case you just want them to not vote.

That's when the "a pox on Washington--on both your houses"  argument gets trotted out. You try to get wafflers whose vote you've lost to wax cynical and just walk away rather than vote against your side.

Propaganda pays off

Talk about getting bang for your buck. Read down the comment threads on articles about the current government shutdown crisis-and you'll see that the massive, multimillion-dollar propaganda campaign carried on year after year at the behest of a few thousand billionaires and multimillionaires...has been amazingly successful.

We know a lot more about the human mind than we did even a few decades ago. And amoral people with a vast sense of entitlement have paid skilled operatives to use that knowledge to get many millions of Americans to believe a long list of "facts" that are not factually true.

However, those lies are woven into a pandering, emotionally self-satisfying narrative that makes more "sense" to the average Republican voter than ambiguous, messy reality does.

Reality doesn't stand a chance.

The result is people like the commentors here who absolutely believe that they know more about the Constitution than the Supreme Court and the constitutional lawyer who's our President, more about civics than civics teachers...these are people who believe the political things they believe with same fervor that the more fervent Fundamentalist Christians or Muslims or Jews or Hindus or Buddhist apply to their religious beliefs.

You will also see that this propaganda campaign has inoculated them against reality--given them bogus counter-arguments but even more important, gotten them to believe that Democrats are the enemies of America, and therefore they need not listen to a single word any Democrat says.
When you talk with them in person you can see their faces close up, at which point nothing you say will be processed in their cerebral cortex--it all gets shunted down to the emotional centers in the middle of the brain.

The irony being that their leaders are their actual enemies--enemies who've convinced their victims that they're their friends, in a massive Stockholm Syndrome.

Thus the .1% have become the most successful parasites in Nature--parasites whose victims eagerly present themselves to them to get sucked dry, and then turn angrily on those who are trying to save them.

Apart from the moral horror, it's quite impressive to watch.

Monday, October 7, 2013

The current impasse isn't a constitution crisis--not in the sense that anyone is acting unconstitutionally at least

In fact no one is acting unConstitutionally. The problem is that the Constitution didn't anticipate the existence of political parties--they didn't exist when it was written--much less one party that's willing to default on a country's debt payments when that country is easily able to make those payments--probably for the first time in the history of the human race.

So a constitutional crisis isn't being precipitated in the normal sense of the phrase. Now the President might precipitate a constitutional crisis if he made the payments despite Congress not authorizing him to do so, but he's stated that he won't do so. It is constitutional for the Republican Party to plunge America--and the world with it--into a colossal fiscal crisis, and it's constitution for the President to stand by as they do.

What's scariest is that in their ruthlessly gerrymandered bunkers--er, districts--these Republican congressmen's voters have been given a very emotionally satisfying, albeit totally false, line of malarkey that blames the President and his party for all this when in fact it's a crisis entirely manufactured by the GOP in an effort to effectively nullify the results of the last national election--which they've already nullified in party by gerrymandering, because if every state had been reapportioned nonpartisanly as California has been, the House would have a Democratic majority today.

Today's GOP is a Frankienstein's Monster created by a small group of very wealthy people bent on letting nothing stand in the way of more profit for them today, regardless of consequence. But now they're created a party that's so anti-government it's threatening the profits of the very people who created them.

Poetic justice. Too bad it'll drag down the rest of us with them.

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Is it the Right vs. the Left--or the Right + the Left vs. the rest of us? At the local level, it's the latter.

If the Left seems to think the corporations can do no right, the Right reciprocates by thinking they can do no wrong. The notion that they've already paid the taxes on the money where it was made is part of this touching faith in corporate saintliness. As I said earlier, I don't think corporations are wicked. Just profit-seeking entities which are, however, distorted by the efforts of many of their executive suites to profit themselves, independent of what's done for the shareholders.

Time after time the executive class has managed to decouple itself from the fortunes of both their corporations and their nations (to the degree that the major corporations have any real ties to any one nation). Thus executive compensation has been shown to have zero degree of correlation with corporate profitability.

Yet this small group of a few thousand people, along with their families and hangers-on, have managed to persuade roughly a third of the nation to virtually worship them. To believe that all good in the land flows from their hands. That without them the nation would wither on the vine. And that the only alternative to their unfettered action is some home-grown version of the Soviet State.

How fitting, then, that the high priestess of this secular religion was a lady who'd seen her parents' property confiscated by the Bolsheviks and concluded that all government is inherently evil.

I've concluded that every locus of power is inherently self-aggrandizing and requires some form of checks and balances--and transparency.

For example, my city's government is controlled by right wing developers and left wing public employee unions and trade unions. Public input is solicited, politely listened to, then completely ignored. The only thing the city council listens to--apart from their patrons--is referendums and elections.

And the constant ranting between right wingers and left wingers is useless at this local level, since at this level--as is true in most cities, I suspect--the issue is an alliance of right wing and left wing special interests against the vast majority of the city's residents.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Do you have a passport?

I've read that more than 3 out of 4 Americans don't have a passport. Not good. America's a big country and one of the most diverse on Earth. We went on a 2,500 mile camping trip around the national parks of the Southwest a few years ago, and it was great. But spending time in other countries provides more than a vacation, more than scenic wonders, more than kicking back at a nice resort. International travel can give you a perspective that's reinforced by physical sensations, personal experience...things you can fall back on later, for a kind of mental nourishment and perspective.

That's even true here in Silicon Valley. My spouse and I have friends from Russia, Ukraine, India, Kyrgyzstan, the Philippines, Indonesia, Japan, Scotland, England, Germany, Brazil, and the South (for me it counts as another country). But that's no substitute for breathing another country's air, having to negotiate currency exchange and all the myriad customs and procedures every country has, but which non-travelers take for granted.

We're going to Indonesia ourselves in a few days for a few weeks, traveling with an Indian, several Russians, and a Ukrainian. So we'll be getting multiple cultural perspectives.

People who discuss domestic American politics with no personal experience of how people and governments operate in other countries are flying half-blind--though they rarely realize it.

Of course a few weeks' vacation somewhere doesn't make you an expert. But if you balance that with reading up on that country, you can get a lot out of even fairly brief experiences. We honeymooned in Japan. Just 10 days there, going from Tokyo to the Japanese Alps to Kyoto and back on the bullet train. But I've seen literally hundreds of Japanese movies and studied the country's history and culture. The trip helped. The movies helped. The reading helped. Now at least when I want to consider the Japanese approach to a political issue I have the needed background to start.

So at least I'm eating my own dogfood.

And if you don't have a passport, get one. International travel doesn't have to be all that difficult. Go to an unfamiliar country for the first time with a group that's been there before. That's what we did with Indonesia. Now we're the ones introducing others to the country/language/culture etc.

Lastly, you'll never truly know what it means to be an American until you've traveled abroad.