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.

Two Colorado districts recall Democrats who voted for gun control

What these recall elections reveal most of all is that their advocates' logic & facts are neither logical nor factual--but instead reflect a simplistic, emotionally powerful narrative that's pure propaganda--propaganda spoon-fed to them by their worst enemies, who they mistake for their best friends.

Their worst enemies aren't their boogeymen, the dreaded Gun-grabbin' Metrosexual College boy California Libruls all in cahoots with Uppity Drug-Dealin' Blacks. Their worst enemies are actually the hyper-rich corporatists whose insatiable thirst for More has grabbed away the rank-&-file Republicans' economic security...& then told them that owning an AR-15 with an extended magazine will make up for that.

But an extended-magazine AR-15 can't change the fact that the incomes of the richest 1% have soared into the stratosphere over the last four decades, while most everyone else's has stagnated or gone overseas. However, modern economics are incredibly complicated. Guns are simple, concrete, satisfying. President Obama was right--these people are over their heads trying to deal with modern life but are too proud to admit it, so they do indeed cling to their guns & their tribalized version of Christianity.

They think the rich, conservative politicians & pundits who look like them are like them. That's tribal thinking at work, & as every con artist from The Music Man to Wayne LaPierre knows, it works like a charm.

These NRA members have been played.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Arguing about religion

To me the real issue is whether people can construct a way to live ethically sans religion. Absent that, it's easy to see how someone religious would feel like attacks on religion are trying to pull the rug out from under him, leaving him with a meaningless, foundation-less existence if he loses his religion.

This is why an avowed atheist can't get elected President in America, and public opinion polls back this up--atheists are generally despised and distrusted by a big majority of Americans. They see atheism as the negation of all they hold dear.

Of course the very word--"atheist"--conveys negation. All it describes is what one doesn't believe, not what one does believe. So it's easy to see why the average American would think that atheists believe nothing.

Past that it's tough to describe to a religious person how one's life is organized--other than as a sociopath--if one is not religious. Most religious people believe that only religious people have the feelings of care for others, of empathy, of kindness that they and their co-believers claim exclusive possession of.

For me a person's stated beliefs are only meaningful as I see them acted on in our day to day existence. What you do is who you are no matter what you say.

So if someone's a jerk, whether they're a Catholic jerk or a Methodist jerk or a Zoroastrian jerk or an atheistic jerk, what I care about is their being a jerk. Ditto if they're nice guys, if they're interesting to be around, if their word turns out to mean something.

Your beliefs are your business. Your actions are society's business. I will infer your real beliefs from your real actions, and that's what I'll go on.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Bomb Syria.

Today, with the self-righteous blinders on our hindsight, we condemn Neville Chamberlin for his policy of "peace in our time" appeasement of Hitler.

This is unfair to Chamberlain, to a degree--because he was expressing the will of the English people at that time. World War I had exhausted the English and killed a generation of young men in the trenches of Europe. The last thing they wanted was another war. So they demanded peace at any price, at any sacrifice of anyone who wasn't English.

They paid an enormous price for their shortsightedness.

Now Assad isn't Hitler. Syria is a patch on the 3rd Reich powerhouse. The price of our standing aside will be lower than the price England paid, and Assad at his worst will murder far fewer people than Hitler did.

At the same time, however, the price of our involvement would also be a patch on the price England paid when it was eventually forced into WWII, kicking and screaming. At least they didn't roll over like puppy dogs, like the French did.

The real point of the comparison is that the English were dead wrong in 1938 and didn't realize it.

America's doves-on-Syria are equally wrong. Their efforts to minimize what Assad is doing, to claim we can't tell whether the other side didn't really do it, to say it's none of our business, are all--for the most part--efforts to rationalize an unwillingness to expend any of our treasure to save the lives of people-who-are-not-us.

The far Right are at once hawkish and isolationist. This isn't a paradox, because both are consistent with being tribal. And Syrian women and children aren't included in what they see as our tribe. As good tribalists they're unable to empathize with innocent civilians who aren't part of our tribe, and we haven't been attacked, so their hawkishness isn't triggered.

Plus many of them are sufficiently racist that they're inflamed with a permanent, seething rage at that Uppity Negro in the White House. If he's for it they're against it--almost without regard to anything else.

The far Right are pacifistic. It's amazing to see their moralistic posturing against the American government for thinking of attacking one of the worst governments on Earth--while letting that Worst Government off the hook--is truly amazing. These people are not isolationist. In fact they tend to downplay the importance of national sovereignty--they believe we should give Mexican citizens American citizenship practically for the asking, because the Mexicans are poor and suffering.

Well the Syrians are poorer and suffering vastly more. But it will take acts of war to save those suffering Syrians.

Which means that for the Far Left, others' suffering doesn't matter if it would require action by our armed forces to right the wrongs involved.

This is simply cowardice.

The people who oppose hammering the Syrian government say the President hasn't thought through the potential consequences, which are unpredictable. But they aren't fully unpredictable. Russia isn't going to go to war with us over this because they possess a grossly inferior military establishment relative to ours. We would do to them what they did to Georgia. Syria isn't going to declare war on us, any more than they declared war on Israel when Israel took out missle shipments headed for Hezbollah.

We can't predict who will win this three-way civil war in Syria. But we can predict what will happen if we do nothing, given that Syria is being actively supported by Russia and Iran and the rebels don't have what they'd need to shoot down the government's choppers and jets or take out its tanks.

Right now the Russians are running their mouths about America's weakness. That isn't reason enough to start shooting, but it is a factor that will come into play in other situations. The notion that we're a paper tiger tends to make other governments misunderstand what America can do when sufficiently roused. But you have to use your warmaking power least when others are most convinced you will use it where you say it's important to you.

Both action on Syria and inaction over Syria have long-term consequences. The pity is that we're now suffering the long-term consequence of the previous Republican administration's military recklessness and arrogance. That consequence will go on for decades. This is not, however, an excuse for America withdrawing to our borders and telling the world to go hang itself. Which it will without the moral and physical force of the world's most powerful country continuing its thankless but necessary--for US--role of World's Cop.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

As for Syria, America is the world's Shabbas Goy

Around the world, nobody civilized wants Syria's dictator to be allowed to murder over 100,000 innocent civilians--thousands with nerve gas.

And around the world, nobody civilized wants their government to go to war with Syria to stop the dictator and his allies.

And around the world, nobody civilized wants to ask America to stop this mass murder of civilians.

They want America to stop the mass murder without the world's permission.

It's a win-win. You get to demonstrate against the hated Big Bully of the World while America does the unpleasant, deadly work without which Syria's dictator will never stop--not as long as anyone is left alive in Syria who opposes him.

Meaning that America is the world's Shabbas Goy.

In strict Orthodox Judaism, from sunset Friday to sunset Saturday, you aren't allowed to do secular things like turning on the AC or the radio or getting takeout from the Chinese-To-Go place on the corner. But you can let a Goy (non-Jew) do it for you. But only if you don't ask him. He has to guess what you want, because asking him would break the rule.

That's us. War is so horrible. And Europeans know this from millennia of wars fought on every square foot of European soil, over and over and over. The last war fought on American soil (apart from Oahu and the Aleutians) was 150 years ago, and it's still being refought on the downlow by the revanchist Southerners who are now the hard core of the Tea Party and hence of the GOP--in part because it was on their soil that the war was fought. No real wars have ever been fought in the state I live in, not since the dawn of history. So for me the Civil War is a history book thing--especially since I don't see blacks as The Other.

Imagine what it's like for the Euros. Practically every sizeable plot of arable land could have a plaque commemorating some battle or other--maybe a bunch.

And of course Syria is a very tricky situation with more than two sides. You've got the Sunni majority pitted against everyone else (mostly Shiites and related sects). You've got the educated and the middle class and probably a solid majority of Syrians who want a secular democracy--at least as secular as Turkey's. You've also got Islamist militants who want a theocracy couple with exterminating Christianity and the Shiite branch of Islam in Syria. You've got the Christian minority who are terrified of a post-dictator Syria treating them like post-Saddan Iraq has.

You've also got the bad reputation the Republicans gave America with their trillion dollar (over time) invasion and occupation of the country that hadn't attacked us, based on trumped-up charges and an activist but incurious President telling the world "Trust us." In addition you've got the same administration's incompetent, attention-deficit mishandling of Afghanistan. All within the last decade or so.

And the world has mass murder and mayhem going on elsewhere as well--the Eastern Congo, Sudan, China's stealthy ethnicide of the nation of Tibet. Though weapons of mass destruction aren't being used anywhere else to my knowledge.

At any rate anyone around the world who opposes American intervention in Syria can give a lot of reasons for waving placards and denouncing those Warmonger Americans.

I'm sure Dr. Assad the Ophthalmologist is touched by all the support he's getting. If you look at the demonstrations around the world you'd think it was the Americans who were dropping nerve gas on thousands of noncombatants including small children. This is eased by the fact that the murdered civilians aren't Europeans, aren't Anglo Whites. They're Muslim, so they're part of the vast Other whose lives and deaths appear not to be very meaningful to most Rich World inhabitants.

But in the last analysis I think a majority of the rich world's populations want us to stop Assad from using WMDs and then blame us for whatever we do to accomplish that--even if killing a hundred civilians saved 10,000 lives that would otherwise have been lost.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Best quote from the Sunday talk shows today

About the Republicans clamoring for President Obama to go to Congress about whether we should strike Syria over its use of WMDs:

"The dog has caught the car."
        --David Axelrod

However, that said, I worry that President Obama may not be familiar with the principles of war as laid out by Von Clausewitz, the 19th century Prussian officer who's still the most-quoted military scientist in the war colleges.

And I think Von Clausewitz would say that "proportionate" strikes are useless. What's useful is DISproportionate strikes. If our strike hammered every major fixed installation Syria's government has got--took out its air defense system, cratered every one of its airfields, took out every chopper and airplane they've got that's findable, and much more. The nice thing about attacking a country instead of a nongovernment operator like Al Qaeda is that every national government has lots of fixed assets that are much easier to target.

That said, politically speaking, however the Republicans construe President Obama going to Congress as him blinking, him being weak yada yada--if they don't OK this strike they're going to be the ones who are American fries-eating surrender monkeys--contrary to the Republican Party's self image as the swaggering, macho tough guys.

And if they do OK this strike they can't blame him for the results afterwards, because they'll share in those results for better or for worse. Not to mention the fact the Republicans used WMDs as the pretext for invading another country and socking America with the trillion-dollar tab--and that little boo-boo is doubtless why the Brits refused to side with us this time around. A Republican administration made a mockery of America's credibility with the world, and we'll be playing the diplomatic price for that for decades.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Science cannot figure out if God exists or not--true, but does it matter?

"Science cannot figure out if God exists or not."

This is literally true but misses how the progression of our understanding of the natural world has gradually occupied space once occupied by supernatural explanations.

What's left is ethics. Religious people dislike atheists so much in part due to the fear that without a deity's carrot (heaven) and stick (hell), humans wouldn't behave, and chaos would ensue.

Or that, at best, we'd wind up with the tribal morality summarized by the Arab saying "Me against my brother. Me and my brother against my neighbor. Me, and my neighbor against the stranger."

This arena--the biology of good and evil--has been my particular interest for many decades. There's actually a fascinating book about it that I hope Jackie reads someday: The Moral Animal: Why We Are, the Way We Are: The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology.

Sociobiologists aren't saying they've found the Ten Commandments coded in our DNA. Just that we're designed to care for others--at least others who are related to us, others in our gene pool (perceived as our tribe). The great contribution of Christianity was in expanding the notion of "our tribe" to all peoples everywhere.

To put it another way, morality has an amoral basis--the gene pool's need to grow and prosper--with moral results: marriage, good citizenship, the Golden Rule, rule of laws, not men--and the willingness to defend all that, even with deadly force (if all peaceful alternatives have failed).

Religion articulates, shapes, and reifies natural impulses. Science can tell you where those impulses come from. It can't deal with the "supernatural" but it can tell you where the notion that there is a "supernatural" came from.

I have no desire to replace religion with nothing. I want humanity to live by moral codes. But across the rich world in particular, the moral codes of religions are gradually being supplanted by secular moral codes. This has already happened in much of Western Europe, and is expanding in America, though still by a small minority.

The advantage of moral codes based on nature is that nature is the firmest foundation. The disadvantage is that it's harder to explain to the average person. I can say that, living in a very secular neck of the woods--Silicon Valley--I don't see the nonreligious people I know stealing from orphans and cheating on their mates any more than do the religious people I know (and I know many of these as well, via my spouse).

The nonreligious people I know don't picket churches with placards saying "Don't Believe!" They just go about their business, never thinking about religion one way or another. It's simply irrelevant to them.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Looks both the Republicans and Democrats are ignoring Von Clausewitz when they talk about Syria

GOP leaders are faulting the President for not being bold and decisive about Syria. I guess their model is Bush with Irag. Some model. Meanwhile the President is talking about a "measured response" to the Syrian dictatorship's ethnicidal efforts using war gases.

Republicans should remember that Von Clausewitz said never go to war until you get the people behind you. And the American people don't want us to get involved in Syria. I'm not saying they're right or wrong--just that if you do want to go to war, first you have to make sure of popular support. You don't have to make the argument after a Pearl Harbor or 9/11. You do when we haven't been attacked.

Democrats should remember that Von Clausewitz said if you do go to war, your first blow should be hard enough to flatten the enemy. War isn't a slap fight. That's why Bush's effort in Afghanistan was such a failure--he went in light, failed to get Bin Ladin, and while he decapitated the enemy regime in the capital, it had plenty of fight left, as the ensuing decade has shown.

I'm not saying a blow hard enough to impress Von Clausewitz would require a full invasion of Syria. But it would have to create "shock and awe" in the enemy.

Oh, and never make public threats you aren't willing to follow up on. Don't say something is unacceptable unless you mean it and act on that. Otherwise say something else.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

What's wrong with income redistribution?

The Republican Party and its talking heads on TV and radio denounce the Democrats daily for advocating "redistribution of wealth." Democrats want to steal money from the makers and hand it over to the takers (psst: especially Black and Brown "takers").

Next time you hear a friend or relative soapboxing about this, ask them a simple question:

How do they account for the fact that since 1979, the inflation-adjusted income of the richest 1% has soared at 26 times the rate of folks in the middle class?

Sure looks like wealth redistribution to me--only not by Democrats.

But Republicans tend to flatly deny statistics like the one I cited here, gotten from financial journalist Ali Velshi on his new AlJazeera news program. And if you say you got it from AlJazeera, well, that's like saying you got it from Sadam Hussein.

But how about the Congressional Budget Office (CBO)? The right wing quotes the CBO part of the time and then denies its validity the other part (when they don't like the figures).

But for what it's worth, check out the CBO's report "Trends in the Distribution of Household Income Between 1979 and 2007."

For example:

Shares of Income After Transfers and Federal Taxes, 1979 and 2007
The share of income going to higher-income households rose, while the share going to lower-income households fell.

"The rich get rich and the poor get poorer..."

See what sorts of mental gymnastics your right wing friends and acquaintances and relatives go through as they try to fit the facts into their anti-Democratic Party narrative.

Despite the simple fact that there is a class war going on all right, and you can see the results in that chart. It's the 1% against the 99%, and they've won and we've lost.

So far.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

The hidden contradiction in the GOP's denunciation of President Obama's response to the Egyptian coup

It's easy to say that the President is weak and waffling about the situation in Egypt. Just as it's easy to say that the Arab Spring has failed, and that its failure is somehow President Obama's fault.

The hidden contradiction stems from the fact that the people saying that are generally the people who want our foreign policy to be dictated by Israel's current right wing government headed by Benyamin Netanyahu.

And Israel's current government wants us to be doing exactly what President Obama is doing--not fully supporting anyone, not fully withdrawing from our current commitments to Egypt.

As for the Arab Spring failing--that's just shortsightedness. How long did our Colonial Spring take to succeed? From the first protests to becoming fully independent, it took us at least 35 years (to the end of the War of 1812). Giving the Arab Spring a couple of years to succeed makes no sense at all. And it should be obvious that things will never return to the old status quo there.

Interestingly, left wing ideologues are also very unhappy with President Obama's cautious approach. Ideologues Left and Right love the simple, bold approach based on principle, without taking consequences into account.

But the Leftists don't hate President Obama because he's black, while a majority of the Rightists do. And this provides a perfect example. Given their slavish devotion to Israel's Netanyahu government, they should be praising President Obama for--in this case--doing exactly what Netanyahu wants him to do.

Yet they just can't help themselves--they're compelled to denounce the President for whatever he does, even when he's carrying out conservative plans, such as the Affordable Care Act.

Another argument for supporting the Egyptian military's brutal crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood is the fact that in the last few days Brotherhood supporters responded to the Army crackdown, in part, by attacking a dozen Christian churches around Egypt. Right wingers talk about Muslim persecution of Christians, and they're factually correct. So shouldn't they support President Obama supporting the force in Egypt that's protecting Egyptian Christians from Muslim extremists?

Why is it called "ObamaCare" ?

When you're engineering propaganda campaigns in a democracy with laws you pretty much have to obey such laws as exist (political statements can be more slanderous and just plain false than slander of private citizens, businesses and institutions).

But for most statements you need plausible deniability while you're communicating with people in dogwhistle language.

"ObamaCare" is a perfect example. Who could complain? It is, after all, the signature legislation of the President's presidency.

But that's the thing about dogwhistles. You don't hear what the dogs hear.

"ObamaCare" serves several masters. Personalizing the huge omnibus bill that represents the first reform in America's healthcare system in over a century lets the Republicans avoid the issues involved. Making it about hating the person sidesteps all the benefits for ordinary Americans in the ACA and focuses voters' minds on just hating the person of the President.

Enormously wealthy special interests and demagogues have spend hundreds of millions of dollars since 2007 stoking personal hatred for the President--to a degree that's striking even in America's highly adversarial political system.

So calling the Affordable Care Act "ObamaCare" piggybacks on all the propaganda of aggrievance and scapegoating put out by the special interests that have profited so enormously from the old healthcare system.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Al Quedatalk--a perfect example of Republican lying about what the President is saying

The Republican leadership desperately needs President Obama to be weak and feckless when it comes to Al Qaeda.

The GOP brand has depended for many decades on the narrative "Conservatives strong, Liberals weak." In addition, the Party's deeply racist Southern core has depended for 250 years on imagining that all Negroes--in particular Negro men--are incompetent in positions of responsibility.

Problem is, President Obama nailed Osama bin Ladin and has been pursuing Al Qaeda diligently around the world.

But the GOP leadership realizes that for many if not most people, an emotionally compelling narrative trumps mere facts.

And so we have the spectacle of the Republican leadership consistently misrepresenting what President Obama has said and done regarding Al Qaeda.

The President says we've busted up Al Qaeda HQ, greatly hampering their ability to mount the kind of spectacular attack on us that 9/11 exemplified. He also says that their ideology has metastasized, such that there are many regional Al Qaedas now in existence--in part courtesy of the last Republican President attacking the wrong country and thus validating Al Qaeda's own narrative to Muslims that America is at war with Islam, and also courtesy of the incendiary things so many Republican leaders have said about that religion in toto, to be quoted endlessly by Islamists.

The Republicans say the President said Al Qaeda is finished and there's nothing to worry about now. He never said that, he never implied that, and his actions belie that. But this baldfaced lie is consistent with both the emotional anti-Liberal narrative and the White Southern anti-Negro narrative, and so it's believed by the GOP's more thoughtless voters.

Monday, August 5, 2013

What makes journalism balanced?

The Republican Party's nominal leader--Reince Priebus--has declared that the Republicans should boycott any future presidential debates that occur on CNN or MSNBC, if both do their planned documentaries on Secretary of State Clinton. Because they're so biased against all things Republican.

For proof there's the Pew survey of the three news networks' coverage on the eve of the last election:

>>Numbers on the eve of the 2012 election from the Pew Research Center showed CNN and NBC’s cable network, MSNBC, spent more time on stories that painted GOP nominee Mitt Romney in a negative light than any other network.

While 36 percent of CNN’s stories about Romney were negative, by Pew’s count, just 11 percent were positive.

And while 71 percent of MSNBC’s coverage of Romney was negative, just 3 percent was positive.

Pew shows CNN was much more evenly split when it came to President Obama, while MSNBC’s coverage of Obama tilted very favorably in the president’s direction.

(On the flip side, Fox’s coverage tilted heavily in Romney’s favor and was very critical of Obama.)<<

But there's a logical fallacy here. Why should coverage be 50-50? Or positive? Or negative? Doesn't the truth count?

For example, after Timothy McVeigh was convicted of the Oklahoma bombing, MSNBC's coverage of him was all negative. But nobody accused MSNBC of bias because of that. The current mayor of San Diego--a Democrat--has gotten 99% negative coverage on MSNBC recently, because he's a sexual harasser of epic scope. By the RNC's logic they should ding MSNBC on not giving that mayor 50-50 coverage. Note, by the way, that MSNBC comes down hard on Democratic politicians who prove to have feet of clay, while FOX is far gentler on wayward pols if they're Republican.

How about the idea that politicians don't deserve positive--or negative--coverage just because they're elected officials or wannabes? They have to earn our respect with good political words and actions.

So maybe the less-positive coverage of Romney and more-positive coverage of Obama on MSNBC was because Obama was a better candidate.

You don't have to agree with that. I'm not proving it here. Just that the implicit 50-50 rule for coverage of politicians is complete hogwash--worse, I'd propose that it's mostly invoked by and for the inferior candidate--at least as far as the mainstream press is concerned.

I expect MSNBC and FOX News to have an editorial slant, even though FOX News constantly claims it's "fair and balanced" which is laughable--as it would be if MSNBC made a similar claim (only it doesn't). But I expect the major broadcast networks and CNN to be actually fair and balanced.

Which they aren't if they prop up the inferior candidate with equal and equally positive coverage.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Most Republicans insist that their judgments are color blind. True?

A recent AP poll found that 79% of registered Republicans expressed overtly racist beliefs. Of course if you believe that blacks actually are inferior, you won't believe you're PRE-judiced. You'll believe you're POST-judiced.

That is, if blacks really are inferior, a person who believes blacks are inferior isn't racist, and those who claim he is are just prejudiced against whites and/or "playing the race card."

I bring this up because I was just reading down the comment thread on the U.S News website about the 2nd Zimmerman juror who said he "Got away with murder."

If you skim down it a ways you'll see a lot more than the fact that nearly all who see themselves as conservative believe that George Zimmerman was totally justified in every single thing he did the night he shot Trayvon Martin dead. You'll see innumerable expressions of racist beliefs so hate-filled that I'd have thought I was on a Ku Klux Klan website.

These expressions were not needed to argue the facts of the case or how Florida's Stand Your Ground law exonerated Zimmerman. Or even simple self defense, though it should be obvious from the judge's instructions and the jurors' interviews that Stand Your Ground was integral to the case despite the defense team not citing it (because they knew the state of Florida would do it for them).

So these expressions were gratuitous expressions of hatred and contempt for blacks, not much different from what Southerners have been saying for hundreds of years in order to justify what they did to blacks.

Of course nobody said "I think blacks are inferior to whites." But..I don't even want to repeat what they said here. Just skim down the thread.

And after skimming down the thread, you should also understand why 95% of blacks vote Democrat.

Along with the vast majority of Americans who object to racism.

And you should also see why today's Republican Party is seen as primarily a regional party representing the Southern states along with their rural Midwestern and Southwestern satellites.

I was just reading a comment on another article--one in the NY Times--by a professional woman who with her husband moved to the Raleigh-Durham Research Triangle in North Carolina. Both had gotten great, well-paid jobs. They settled in and planned to make their careers there. But within a year or so the lady reported that they pulled up stakes and left the South despite the great jobs they had there, because both we so disgusted at the pervasive racism and misogyny.

Many Northerners just don't realize just how bad it is down there.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The GOP has won and will continue to win if you look at it this way.

Apart from the Presidency, the Republican Party is sitting pretty in the 22 or so states they dominate. They've gerrymandered those states ruthlessly & passed laws designed to suppress Democratic voting blocs--especially blacks.

So they're created a kind of New Confederacy among those 22 states, able to resist Washington's efforts to civilize them because they can rely on their representatives in Washington to block nearly anything a Democratic President and Senate majority tries to do to them. They can't lead the nation through the Presidency & a Senate majority, but they've ensured that the nation can't lead them either.

They did this by using the rigidity & extremism that moderate conservatives and some political observers--such as the NY Times' Charles Blow--say is a problem for them. But it's only a problem if they still believe they can dominate America. If they're content with dominating the New Confederacy and hamstringing Washington from affecting their domain, it's a winning strategy for them, just as it is.

And since their voter base is undereducated, aging white men and their wimmenfolk, mostly imbued with a brand of political Christianity harsh enough to justify calling them the Republican Brotherhood, it's easy to get their base to believe anything that fits their fears and prejudices.

"For the great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie--deliberate, contrived, & dishonest--but the myth--persistent, persuasive, & unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.
-John F. Kennedy

How to discuss ObamaCare with your Tea Party friends & relatives

My fellow Democrats--here's how to talk about ObamaCare with your Tea Party relatives, workmates, and acquaintances:

Don't. Make them talk about RepubliCare. That's the Republican Party's alternative to ObamaCare.
I realize it's a challenge, since they never, ever talk about it, and have never offered a single piece of legislation that would implement it.

But just as you can make a drawing from "negative space"--shading in everything but your subject--you can describe RepubliCare and its consequences precisely:

It's what we'd have if ObamaCare were repealed and nothing introduced to replace it.

It would be the status quo for American healthcare, the most expensive on the planet on a per capita basis, with some of the poorest health outcomes (if you aren't a millionaire) of any advanced nation. It's the system every sane economist says is completely unsustainable. And of course RepubliCare strips you of any protection from your health insurers, letting them cancel your insurance the moment you really need it--as has been SOP for decades.

Force your Republican friends & family to tell you first, exactly what RepubliCare is, and second, exactly how its provisions compare with those of ObamaCare.

Don't let them bring up any other theoretical health plan. The GOP has offered NOTHING but repealing ObamaCare, so nothing but the old status quo is exactly what they must defend.
They keep trying to get us on our back foot to defend our law. Don't fall for it. Make them defend theirs.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

It seems more like Trayvon Martin was convicted of attempter murder, doesn't it?

Trayvon Martin’s posthumous conviction for assault with intent to kill, along with the letters here justifying that conviction, show the longevity of the South’s Myth of the Black Brute. Southern slaveholders created this myth to justify their abuse of blacks. After the Civil War they continued it to justify their virtual re-enslavement of blacks.

In the 1970s the GOP inherited it as part of Nixon’s Southern Strategy–only now it’s hidden in terms like "Urban Drug Gang" and "Chicago." Meanwhile America’s criminal "justice" system prosecutes and sentences blacks vastly out of proportion to whites arrested for similar crimes.

This becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, with the huge number of jailed black men used to justify imprisoning even more black men (and then disenfranchising them).

In reality, poor uneducated blacks are about as likely to commit violent crimes as poor uneducated whites; ditto black doctors vs. white doctors. What drives violent crime is poverty, undereducation, police misbehavior, easy access to firearms...and being Southern. The South’s cult of violent "honor" stems from the brutal exigencies of slavery, living on in these Stand Your Ground laws.

"For the great enemy of the truth is very often not the lie--deliberate, contrived, and dishonest--but the myth--persistent, persuasive, and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought."

--John F. Kennedy

Zimmerman was not found "innocent."

This is a point the right wing Constitution-thumpers don't seem to get: the American criminal justice system, taking into account human fallibility and evidentiary problems, is designed to let many guilty people go free in order to ensure that no innocent people are proven guilty.

This is what "innocent until proven guilty" means.

So the jury may well have felt that Zimmerman was guilty--just not past "a reasonable doubt."
That's a heckuva long way from thinking he was innocent.

And there's the added problem of the "stand your ground" law, written up by the NRA and obediently put into the books in states controlled by the NRA's political arm, AKA the Republican Party. The "stand your ground" law makes it so difficult to convict anyone of murder that police departments hate it while criminal gangs love it.

So the jury may have obeyed Florida's "stand your ground" law's dictates while feeling that this law is bad law. In states that rule out citing "self defense" if you initiated the altercation, Zimmerman would have been found guilty of manslaughter. That's what juror B29 was trying to say, I believe.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

ObamaCare vs. RepublicCare

Given how America's political system works, the only alternative to ObamaCare is RepubliCare.

But while the GOP and its friends have spent over $400 million telling you how awful ObamaCare is, they haven't spent a cent telling you what their alternative is.

I can tell you what it is, though:

1. Repeal ObamaCare in toto.
2. There is no "2."

So RepubliCare is for-profit medicine by the medical-industrial complex, for the medical-industrial complex, by the medical-industrial complex.

RepubliCare is overcrowded emergency care facilities being used by the poor as their primary care. RepubliCare is your health insurance that you paid into for forty years getting canceled as soon as you really need it.
RepubliCare is private health insurance for those whose employers don't provide health insurance plus freelancers plus retirees, which provides excellent care for millionaires, while the rest find it's either too expensive to buy or whose deductibles are so high it's useless.
RepubliCare is the most expensive per-capital healthcare system on Earth, with the worst outcomes for most people compared to those of other developed nations--the healthcare system growing in costs so rapidly that it's consuming the American economy--the healthcare system every responsible economist said is unsustainable and running us over a cliff in short order.

ObamaCare has plenty of shortcomings--mostly due to compromises made at the behest of those who are now trying to kill it. But it's a dream compared to the nightmare of RepubliCare.

So--the next time your Republican friends, family and acquaintances want to talk to you about how awful ObamaCare is, make them do so not against some imaginary ideal but against the reality of RepubliCare.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Here's an easy way to distinguish the civilized world from the rest.

I'm in the process of buying something on eBay from a professional eBay seller. Reading the fine print, I came across this notice:

"Due to custom issues and heavy lost packages, we DO NOT ship to the following countries/regions: 
1. Africa, 
2. South America, Central America, Mexico, 
3. Russia, Lithuania, Ukraine, Latvia, Romania, Bulgaria, Albania, Bosnia, Croatia, Estonia, Georgia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Israel, Italy, and 
4. Asia (except Singapore and Japan)."

The civilized world, then, would be:

1. All the English-speaking countries outside of Africa--that is, the U.S. Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and the U.K.

2. Western Europe except for Italy, but including Poland, Belarus, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro, and Macedonia.

3. Singapore and Japan

4. All the Pacific and Indian Ocean island nations (unless they're too small to get listed on the shipper's do-not-ship-to list, which is conceivable).

I wasn't surprised at Italy showing up on the prohibited list; I was surprised by Israel, because I like it, and Belarus, because it's an authoritarian dictatorship. Maybe Israel is not so much crooked as highly customs-restrictive. I don't know.

But in general I think this eBay shipper's list tells us a lot about the current world, and gives a handy way to divide all the nations into two buckets. 

Most Republicans sincerely believe they aren't racists--and that if they are it's an irrelevant smigen.

Black pundits keep saying they want a national dialog on racism.

Whites greet this with the enthusiasm that the average guy shows when his girlfriend says she wants to talk about their relationship.

But beyond the universal human reluctance to discuss the defects someone else thinks we have, the Republican Ministry of Propaganda has done a bang-up job of enabling whites to sincerely believe that America doesn't have a Race Problem.

1. Black hustlers. From local community activists angling to get taxpayer-funded grants for bogus projects to black congressmen enjoying long-term sinecures due to Republican gerrymandering (packing and cracking that assembles all the black voters in a region into one super-safe district in order to make the surrounding districts equally safe for Republican pols), there surely are blacks who exploit white guilt for personal gain.

Of course this doesn't mean that there's no real racism, but it gives an excuse for whites looking for that excuse.

2. No laws discriminate by race. The old Jim Crow laws are all gone, though as recently as the 1960s some lingered on, as with the laws against interracial marriage.

Of course laws do now discriminate by race. They just do it once removed. Thus the mandatory sentencing laws about crack cocaine are wildly disproportionate to those about cocaine, even though the two drugs differ about as much as regular salt differs from "sea salt." Or take the laws make running a state's elections a partisan office. Nothing racist about that, right?

Only those laws result in blacks having to wait up to 8 hours to vote in black-majority precincts, while whites wait...well, how long have you (if you're white) ever waited to vote?

Or take the laws making it possible to charge teens as adults. Tot up the stats and you'll find that this is done to black teens way more than white teens.

Or take the laws disenfranchising felons for life. This happens to white felons just like it happens to black felons. Only blacks are charged as felons for crimes that when whites do it, they often get to plea bargain the charge for the same crime down to a misdemeanor. 

And the public defender system is a sick joke. Indigent defendants get a few seconds of a harried public defender's time--just enough to recommend a plea bargain that has most black defendants pleading guilty to a felony (and that lifetime disenfranchisement) in exchange for doing five years instead of ten for a crime he may or may not have actually committed--but the conviction makes the DA look good for when he runs for Governor.

Thus if you look at the stats, it shows the "crime playing field" massively tilted in favor of giving white lawbreakers a break and black lawbreakers (or just lower-class blacks who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time) the exact opposite.

Blacks know this. They know how often they've been stopped for "driving while black" or even just "walking while black." Or being followed by store security when they're shopping--as the President of the United States said yesterday had happened to him repeatedly up until he became a state Senator.

Whites don't know this, because it hasn't happened to them, and they're disinclined to believe blacks who talk about this. The statistics prove that the game is rigged against blacks, but most people--whites and blacks included--are too innumerate to understand statistics, and instead go by personal experience. They know people can lie with statistics, so they use that as an excuse to dismiss all statistics (at least the ones they don't like), instead of educating themselves about statistics.

3. Blacks look scary. It doesn't help that it's so fashionable for black teens to adopt a gangsta "look." Or that rap songs and videos glorifying thug behavior and appearance are so popular. The days of Harry Belafonte or Nat King Cole being the face of male black entertainment are long gone. There are still lots of "nice looking" black male entertainers, like John Legend and Bruno Mars, but the thug-looking kind predominate.

Of course this doesn't mean a black teen who looks like a thug is a thug, and black teens dressed like choirboys still get profiled and pulled over, but it doesn't help. Blacks have a right to dress however they please, just as women do, and I support their rights as American citizens to do so without harassment. But thug-looking black style does contribute to whites feeling that the Zimmermans of the world following and confronting the Martins of the world is justified.

4. Race discrimination now goes on without words. If someone who sounds black / has a black-looking name applies for an apartment rental around the country, in a remarkable number of instances he finds that the apartment was just rented. But then when a white-sounding/named person with exactly the same credit score, quality of references etc. applies for that "just rented" apartment, magically it's now available.

Scenarios like this play out in innumerable ways on a daily basis. But because the "for rent" signs no longer say "Negroes need not apply," whites who want to fantasize that society is now color-blind get to do so.

4. Many whites act as if racial discrimination abruptly winked out of existence around 1970. The white Southern establishment used race as its foundation for keeping poor whites quiescent for a century and a half, figuring that if they feared blacks enough they'd ignore the fact that both poor whites and poor blacks were getting screwed over by the same people in the same way. They were right.

Well, the need for the Southern white establishment to keep poor whites voting for rich whites in order to keep the boot heel on black necks didn't vanish in 1970. Anyone who thinks it did is either a racist or someone who lacks critical thinking ability.

In 1950 a white Southern pol would say "Vote for me and I'll keep them cullud fellas in their place." In 1970 a white Southern pol would say "Y'all know what ah stand for." And so they did.

And of course this extends outside the South to most of the parts of the country dominated by uneducated whites--rural white America--all those Red-colored congressional districts.


When the laws and the enforcement of the laws of cities, counties, states, and the nation are carefully rigged to work against people who don't look like you, only without every saying in so many words that's what's happening, it's easy for shallow people to delude themselves into thinking that our society is color blind.

Hah. I experienced the way things work back in the hippie era when I had long hair and a Fu Manchu moustache and drove a funky car. I got profiled and stopped too, then. Only my problems went away as soon as the cop and I talked, due to my polite middle-class speech/actions inside the hippie garb (plus the fact that I wasn't stoned). But I saw how things worked when you aren't "correct" looking.

With the Zimmerman case, just ask yourself these questions about what the Sanford, Florida police department would have done if:

1. Martin was a year older, carrying a gun as well, beat Zimmerman to the draw and claimed self-defense because Zimmerman scared him, under Florida's Stand Your Ground law (which both the judge and jurors in the Zimmerman case used in the particulars of the judge's instructions and the reasoning the female white jurors brought to bear on whether or not to convict "George" as they thought of him, vs. "that black punk").

2. Martin was white and Zimmerman was black, with cops arriving to find the black man holding a smoking pistol standing over the body of a white man (and yes Zimmerman was and is a white man by normal standards).

3. Martin and Zimmerman were both white.

4. Martin was a young, attractive, female white corpse at the feet of Zimmerman.

Theoretically the outcome should have been identical in each of these scenarios. Do you think it would have been?

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Responding to the GOP's condemnation of Lberals/Democrats

The Liberal Democrats seek political power by the creation of strife.
They attempt to turn black against white.
They attempt to turn man against woman.
They attempt to turn rich against poor.
They attempt to turn labor against small business owners.
They attempt to turn debtor against creditor.

Here's my response:

Yes, despotic movements always claim that all discontent is due to "outside agitators." Morsi in Egypt. The Mullahs in Iran, Southern whites back in the '60s, who were sure that "their" cullud folk were perfectly content until them Jewish college boys from the North came down to rile them up
Meanwhile the Republican Ministry of Propaganda seeks to distract us from:

1. Their war on blacks, spearheaded by their 22-state coordinated program to suppress the black vote, along with a 40 year campaign to "get tough on crime" that puts blacks in jail more often and for far longer than whites apprehended for comparable crimes, then disenfranchises all those black men for life

No wonder they've given up on the black vote.

2. Their war on women who are young &/or single &/or educated &/or not white Anglo &/or not fervent fundamentalist Protestant/Catholic &/or urban, via a national campaign to keep women ignorant about reproduction and fertility control options, keep them from getting HPV vaccinations in time for them to help, keep them from getting abortions even if they've been raped regardless of their age, keep them from getting birth control if they're underage.
No wonder a majority of women consider the GOP the party of old paternalistic white men--white men who adore "their" wimmen, just like they once adored "their" cullud folk.

3. The war on the poor and the middle class, seeing the former's real wages drop and the latter's stagnate for 30 years while the income of the .1% skyrockets in the same timeframe while corporate "welfare" also skyrockets while education and assistance for the neediest is continually cut back to the point where medical care for the poor approaches that of a third world country.

4. The war on small business by the GOP and it big business patrons. Walmart enters a town and dozens of small businesses die, with no net increase in employees there. Farm subsidies that favor a short list of huge agribusinesses hugely while doing nothing for other farmers. Helping big corporations outsource their pollution to all the small businesses and individuals around them. The special breaks and loopholes for big business written into so many bills in the dead of night. The GOP talks "small business" but it's smoke and mirrors.

5. The war on debtors. The GOP's machinations have turned the average college grad into a debtor who may not be able to repay his college loans until he’s middle aged, creating a generation of anxious, compliant workers–workers who can’t escape the burden even if they go bankrupt. Predatory home loan operations where buyers are lied to about the loans by the lenders, and then hundreds of thousands are foreclosed on illegally–going on to this day–while the loans are sold to pension funds and other investors as safe according to bought-and-paid-for ratings agencies, combining to implode the American economy in 2008–and not reformed to this day due to GOP rules manipulation in the Senate.

But Goebbel’s Rules of Propaganda state that you should always accuse the opposition of doing what you yourself are doing so they’ll be distracted into defending themselves instead of going after you. As the entry I'm replying to demonstrates.

The Democrats are no angels, as consulting and will tell you. But those same sources will show that they’re pikers next to the GOP.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

The Republican Party is not like the Taliban!
The Republican Party has not become like the Taliban. But it has become like the Muslim Brotherhood.

Both are paternalistic, theocratic, ideologically rigid, and reject the fundamental concepts of democracy. Both just use the mechanisms of democracy--whether they're in the minority, a small majority, or a large majority--to impose their different versions of Shariah Law on the rest of the population, secure in their certainty that God is on their side--and forgetting Lincoln's fervent wish that he could be on God's side instead.

The Republican Brotherhood gets itself elected through appeals to independents' fiscal conservatism, along with leveraging the corporatists' propaganda and patronage war on government regulation, piggybacking on aging White Southerners' continued hatred of the federal government for taking away their slaves over a century ago.

They get elected on fiscal/small government conservatism, but then when they gain power they immediately squander any spending gains with huge giveaways to their corporate patrons and ignore their "small government" mantra by imposing theocratic regulations of people's private lives, particularly where abortion is concerned.

They betray their authoritarian bent with things like laws and regulations requiring medically unnecessary vaginal probes--digital rape, in other words--and forbidding doctors from even mentioning the possibility of abortion.

And of course the Republican Brotherhood betrays its theocratic bent by trying to criminalize abortion every way they can.

But also, like the Muslim Brotherhood, they're crafty. They continually howl about abortion being murder--but then they let the "murderers" off the hook. That's the women and girls getting the abortions. If the Republican Brotherhood was true to its own beliefs they'd be trying to get getting an abortion declared premeditated murder, subjecting women getting abortions to the death penalty in death penalty states.

And they'd be doing the same to couples getting in vitro fertilization, since that entails discarding many embryos.

But the know America's women would promptly toss them out of office, so they reserve their wrath for the abortion providers--which also betrays their paternalism. Them wimmen just don't know what's right, doncha know? So we'll go after them men doctors who are leading them astray...
A majority of Americans have had it with the Republican Brotherhood, but the Brotherhood has now gerrymandered the states it controls so that even though they'd have lost their House majority in the last election if all congressional districts were apportioned on a nonpartisan basis, they retained control. Now they're exercising minority rule--the antithesis of democracy.

Likewise the minority of Republicans in the Senate are using every trick in the book to control legislation and appointments, and to cripple the Obama Presidency in every way they can, regardless of the effect on America.

The Republican Brotherhood functions as a primitive tribe, one whose beliefs are not to be questioned, with anyone who disagrees considered a traitor or an enemy.

Hence their rage at so-called Rinos--that is, people who would have been in the Republican mainstream before the party got commandeered by the aging, undereducated Southern whites who are now its backbone.

Within a few decades it will become a regional party unable to elect a President.
Meanwhile we have to contend with their persist efforts at voter suppression and gerrymandering and promiscuous filibustering.

And their efforts to regain their paternal control over women's lives and insert themselves between women and their physicians, effectively seating themselves in the doctors' offices.

Monday, July 15, 2013

There's one thing we can be certain of about George Zimmerman

He's not a Neighborhood Watch volunteer.

Whether you think he's a hero or a zero, this is not a matter of opinion. It's plain fact.

Neighborhood Watch rules nationwide include:

1. You are never armed.

2. You only go out in teams of at least two volunteers.

3. You never engage with people you think are suspicious.

4. You call the cops, then back off.

No Neighborhood Watch operation would tolerate someone like George Zimmerman in their organization.

Yet all the media--liberal, conservative, in-between--persist in calling him a "Neighborhood Watch volunteer."

He is no such thing.

Yes he's being allowed to singlehandedly change the definition of Neighborhood Watch organizations as something very close to vigilante operations. That's just one adverse consequence of his actions.

Republicans lack the courage of their convictions about abortion

Republicans (up to and including the official Republican Party Platform) treat abortion as murder.

Yet they only talk about abortion providers as the murderers. Yet if abortion is murder, then a woman--or girl--who decides to get an abortion is guilty of premeditated murder and should be subject to the death penalty in death penalty states.  

Yet they only go after the abortion provider. If someone hires an assassin to kill someone, the person doing the hiring is exactly as guilty in the eyes of the law.

And of course the same goes for low-fertility parents desperate to have children who get in vitro fertilization--which involves discarding many fertilized embryos.

So unless the Republican Party is going to start passing laws going after women who get abortions and in vitro fertilization, and start convicting and executing them (along with their boyfriends and husbands where they're complicit)(challenging the Supreme Court to stop them)---all their talk about "infanticide" and "baby murder" is a baldfaced lie. They don't mean it. That, or they don't understand the consequences of what they're saying.

We need to start challenging Republicans to have the courage of their convictions, because doing so about abortion will set a majority of American women against them (along with most educated people). Tell them to put up or shut up. Otherwise they're all hat and no cattle.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

The GOP should now be called the Republican Brotherhood

Has anyone noticed how the Republican Party--in Texas & elsewhere--has come to resemble the Muslim Brotherhood more & more?

Of course neither a Muslim Brother nor a Republican Brother would recognize this. But what the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt did the moment it gained power & what the GOP is doing in Texas & other states it controls are similar on the process level: that is, gain power by demagoguery & promises of moral & economic reform; then, when in power, ignore economic reform while focusing on (1) rigging the game to consolidate their power & (2) enacting the rigid rules of Shariah Law, one by one.

The Christianist version of Shariah Law starts with abortion, which Christianists regard as murder--even when the mother's life is at stake, even in cases of rape, even in cases of incest when the mother is, say, a 12 year old girl.

Of course if abortion is murder, then any woman who gets an abortion is guilty of capital murder--a death penalty offense in Texas. Along with any woman who gets in vitro fertilization in a desperate effort to have a child, since it always involves discarding many fertilized embryos.

So every time a Christianist talks about abortion as murder, ask them what they're doing about making it capital murder to have an abortion? After all, if it's murder the doctor performing the abortion is just the hired gun. The murderer is the pregnant woman...or girl.

The only justification a Christianist Republican could have for not making it a death penalty offense to get an abortion is if they regard wimmen as incapable of informed consent--like the Muslim Brotherhood does.

Democrats need to flush the Republican Brotherhood out in the open. Make them campaign to make getting an abortion a capital offense--which it most certainly is IF it's "murder." Or to admit that they're lying demagogues when they use that kind of language--unless they believe women should be equated with children in the eyes of the law...

Monday, July 1, 2013

The GOP's "Hastert Rule" tells you everything you need to know about today's GOP

For years now the Republican Party leadership in the House has worked under a simple rule: if the House is majority Republican, no bill will be allowed to come to a vote unless the Speaker of the House is sure that a majority of Republican Congressmen will vote for it.

Speaker Boehner just reaffirmed this (there have been exceptions in the past), as a no-exceptions principle.

This matters. It means that what a majority of American voters want doesn't matter. And that what a majority of House Representatives want, working as representatives of their districts, doesn't matter either. All that matters is whether the bill being considered is considered good for the Republican Party.

This is baldly and unapologetically putting Party before Country. I'm sure that both parties want to help their parties. But usually, when there may be a conflict between Party and Country, at least the Democrats try to rationalize it. The GOP doesn't even bother. The Hastert Rule (named after the GOP Speaker of the House who formulated the rule) means the GOP's Prime Directive with ALL legislations is "What helps the GOP?" Period.

Fitting for the party whose rank and file members mostly believe that "compromise" is a dirty word.

Friday, June 21, 2013

The rich really do believe that "nice guys finish last."

Today's PBS News Hour had a segment on research published last year about the Greed Is Good crowd:

"The rich really are different from the rest of us, scientists have found — they are more apt to commit unethical acts because they are more motivated by greed.

"People driving expensive cars were more likely than other motorists to cut off drivers and pedestrians at a four-way-stop intersection in the San Francisco Bay Area, UC Berkeley researchers observed. Those findings led to a series of experiments that revealed that people of higher socioeconomic status were also more likely to cheat to win a prize, take candy from children and say they would pocket extra change handed to them in error rather than give it back.

"Because rich people have more financial resources, they're less dependent on social bonds for survival, the Berkeley researchers reported Monday in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. As a result, their self-interest reigns and they have fewer qualms about breaking the rules.

"'If you occupy a more insular world, you're less likely to be sensitive to the needs of others,' said study lead author Paul Piff, who is studying for a doctorate in psychology."

The researchers found in experiments that people who are led to feel richer start acting this way, as do winners of lotteries. So it's not entirely innate.

But this does mean that the Republicans' worship of the rich is misplaced; Republicans who are not themselves wealthy tend to be very nice people. I know a lot of such folk, and my experience of them confirms this. But they fail to understand that the affluent captains of industry and politics may talk like them but they don't think like them.

Conversely, poorer people--often disdained by Republicans--tend to have each others' backs (unless they win the lottery...).