Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Socialism vs. Freedom

8th Grade Civics

In case you've been under a rock for a couple of days, there's been a big brouhaha over Trump digging into his bag of evergreen racist tropes, and telling the 4 young freshmen congresswomen (all women of color) to "Go Back" to the countries they came from.  No matter that 3 of them are native-born citizens, and the other a naturalized citizen since 2000.  If you don't know Trump is a racist by now, go talk to someone else.  I'm not here to break the news on that story.

In one of those tortured explanations for why Trump is not a racist, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, a Republican, told reporters today: "I believe this is about ideology. This is about socialism vs. freedom."  Fortunately, there was someone not asleep at the wheel to call him out on this worse-than-sophomoric statement.  Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) quickly shot back "That's baloney. It has nothing to do with socialism,"

At first, I just thought this was just another case of someone who didn't pay attention during 8th grade civics class.  We're all supposed to know that a term like Socialism belongs in the group of descriptions of economic systems, which are separate from governing systems which is where we talk about "freedom." Most of right-wing logic is usually that flawed and simplistic, but as I thought about it, it seemed like something more.   

In this age of Citizens United, where corporations have the same rights as people,  I think the "freedom" McCarthy may be thinking of is the freedom of capital, the freedom for money (or people with money) to do whatever it damn well pleases.  In that way, the "Socialism vs. Freedom" thing actually makes a certain perverse sense.  Trump and his class see democracy as a problem.  It allows ordinary people to get in the way of capital.  

If I had to bet a dollar, I'd say it's a pretty safe bet that Trump is indeed a racist, for real.  But, you could make a case that he's not, he's just so greedy and selfish, that he doesn't mind appealing to people's fears, and uses racism to achieve his goals.  I'll leave that to others to figure out! 

Oh, and one more thing, I think it's kind of ironic that the one congresswoman (Omar) who wasn't born in the US is from Somalia, often referred to as a "Libertarian Paradise!" 

Thursday, September 27, 2018

Three Points for a No Vote on Kavanaugh

Send Lawyers, Guns, and Money!
There are plenty of sound policy reasons to oppose Brent Kavanaugh's nomination to the Supreme Court.  He could easily end up being the nail in the coffin of Roe v. Wade.  His view of Presidential power also is something to be wary of; he could be the swing vote on allowing a subpoena of Trump in a standoff.  There are tons of ordinary reasons someone on the liberal spectrum like myself would oppose him.  But, as they say, elections have consequences, and starting in 2010, we didn't get out the vote.  So, there's a certain amount of 'we get what we deserve' in this if we can't get off the couch to vote.
But that's not what this song is about.  Think about these points:

Judicial Temperament
Right off the bat, Kavanaugh came out swinging, shouting, and abusing the Senators that dared to impugn his integrity.  Just in a purely emotional sense, his unhinged behavior should disqualify him. 

Most judges have a pretty easily discernible political persuasion.  But there is always at least the idea that a SCOTUS judge will be fair, and above the fray.  Right out of the gate, in his opening statement (where you'd think one would place their most well-crafted ideas) he exposed his politics clearly:
"This whole two-week effort has been a calculated and orchestrated political hit, fueled with apparent pent-up anger about President Trump and the 2016 election, fear that has been unfairly stoked about my judicial record. Revenge on behalf of the Clintons and millions of dollars in money from outside left-wing opposition groups."
So, you'd have to assume a Judge Kavanaugh would be less likely to give a Democratic plaintiff a fair hearing.  Big problem.  And this is, not to mention, what basically sounds like one of those conspiracy theory aficionados!

This is what White Privilege looks like
You and I don't really know what the truth is, but here's what this smells like:  Kavanaugh is from a privileged circle of humanity.  People like that go through life, without having to pay for the consequences of their actions.  After his performance today, it's easy to imagine him being the belligerent drunk that's been widely reported.  There was plenty of room in his calendar to find himself and his cohort in a party house.  He probably knows what he did, but thinks of it in a sort of dream-like way.  It's the kind of thing he can just get away with.  His whole attitude reeked of entitlement.  How dare anyone try and take away the job he felt born into?

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Racist Robots on the Loose!

The Face of the GOP

The GOP is acting quite logically, and is reacting to their fundamental disadvantage in the national electorate.

In order to maximize their chances in future national elections, here are some logical actions they are pursuing.

Voter Suppression
This has been going on for a while now.  Already many states have been making voters jump through hoops to be able to vote.  These regulations have clearly been aimed at the poor, elderly, and people of color.
Now, Trump has created his Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity. Led by the notorious Kris Koback, this is a further push to slash voter rolls, and humor Trump about his fantasy that he would have won the Popular Vote over Hillary Clinton, were it not for all the illegal immigrants who voted for her.  It's worth 8 minutes of your life, if you haven't seen this already, to check out Samantha Bee's take on Kris Koback:

Immigration changes

Trump is pushing the new Raise Act, and Terminator Stephen Miller was sent into the briefing room to push it.  Quite simply, another way to resist the browning of America, is to limit who gets to enter the country. Limit the amount of non-English speaking people immigrating into this country, along with stopping the ability of families to be reunited in the US, and you have another way to forestall the changes in America.

Essentially, all I'm saying is that what we're seeing is logical, but that doesn't make it right.  Cancer is logical too, but needs to be resisted.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Illegal Tweet

Here is what Trump tweeted:
"After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow Transgender individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military," Trump said in a series of tweets. "Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that transgender in the military would entail."
Besides the shock of how cruel Trump is, and is probably just laying out more distractions to keep our attentions away from Russiagate, et. al., it occurrs to me it's also probably just illegal. What if his tweet went something like this:
"After consultation with my Generals and military experts, please be advised that the United States Government will not accept or allow African American individuals to serve in any capacity in the U.S. Military," Trump said in a series of tweets. "Our military must be focused on decisive and overwhelming victory and cannot be burdened with the tremendous medical costs and disruption that African Americans in the military would entail."
It would not be difficult to say that perhaps it costs more to treat sickle cell anemia in the African American population. It has been estimated that the medical costs of transgender are not really that significant. Just because Trump is the Commander in Chief, that doesn't give him the right to break the law. We would not stand for him banning black Americans, why should we help him in throwing our transgender brothers and sisters under the bus?

Monday, July 17, 2017

The Death of Empathy

The End of Reason, and Health Insurance

It's always dangerous to think one has an important idea, since we are all so capable of self-delusion.  But I'm going to try to communicate what should be a simple idea, but seems to have so little oxygen in the post-factual era of Trumpland.

Here's the deal: The very idea of insurance has been corrupted.  We have been played so deeply to buy into this American ideal of self-reliance, that we lose sight of caring about those less fortunate, less healthy, less wealthy than we are.  The whole idea of the 'skinny policies' Ted Cruz wants insurance companies to be able to offer, is crazy.  Even the health insurance companies, no angels, agree it's unworkable.

For all its shortcomings, The Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare) tried to at least define what a real insurance policy is, and tried to get rid of 'junk policies.'  Because of this, right-wingers constantly accuse Obama of lying, for saying "You can keep your doctor."  The implication was simply that "You can keep your doctor, if your health insurance is not a junk policy."  By mandating that all policies have certain minimum standards of coverage, and that all must have insurance, and the rich will help subsidize those that can't afford it,  we have made great strides in lowering the number of uninsured.  But, this is such an evil thing?

So, let me try and finish off my basic point.  We have been fooled into thinking insurance is just healthy people paying too much money for insurance, and those 'other people,' those freeloading sick people, are benefitting from the rest of us.  But insurance is much simpler than that.  We are the sick people, we are the genetically disadvantaged, we are the ones with preexisting conditions. We may be healthy now, but someday we will be those people 'cashing in' on the insurance we paid into earlier when we were healthy.

See? What I've just said is pretty obvious.  So obvious, it shouldn't need to be said.  But, in this 1984 world we've entered, logic is unavailable.

"Empathy is the capacity to understand or feel what another person is experiencing from within the other person's frame of reference, i.e., the capacity to place oneself in another's position."

It shouldn't be so hard to see, but in a logic-free world, we've been bamboozled into not caring about "another person's frame of reference," and have nothing to hold on to, save our own solipsism. We are pawns in a game of divide and conquer. Please wake up. We need each other. We need to help each other.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

The Accidental President

What the hell happened anyway!
A day or two after the election, we were still in shock, driving home on Alemany, near the farmers market.  There was a guy on the median with a cardboard sign asking for money.  Now, I'm one of those people that doesn't give money to panhandlers, I'm not even sure why, and I actually kind of admire people who do, but that's not what we're here to talk about.  We're here to talk about the election.  So, then this guy started yelling at me, telling me I'd give $5 to the panhandler across the street, who was working the traffic in the other direction.  I said no, I wouldn't give him any money either.  He then said yes I would, because the other panhandler was white, and they guy I was talking to was black.  Mind you, this is all happening in just a few seconds, while waiting for the traffic light.  As I started to realize what what going on here, the shock was setting in.  I argued with the guy that it didn't make any difference to me, but he wasn't having any of it.  Now maybe I'm making too much of this; it could just be that this was this guy's shtick to get some more money.  I have no idea.  But what I felt like at that moment was that the horrible election results were tearing us apart.  Here in liberal San Francisco, we were coming apart, not together.

The Blame Game
So it seems like everyone has a theory about what happened.  I think it's way too simplistic.  There's a phrase "The straw that broke the camel's back."  The problem I have with that is it's so unscientific.  When the camel's back breaks, it's from the combined effect of ALL the straws, not any one straw.  In fact, considering the fact that Hillary Clinton won at least 2.9 million more votes than Trump, I'd say the cliché that's most appropriate would be "knocked me over with a feather" instead.  The margin was so thin. It's actually more akin to one of those chaos theory clichés about butterflies and tornadoes.  In short, a strange assortment of factors, and blind luck have put one of the most dangerous candidates into the most powerful office in the world.  Donald Trump, Accidental President!

In no particular order, here are a few of the 'feathers' that knocked us over:

This is more like an undercurrent than an actual event.  Trump gave people the permission to let their Ugly American freak flag fly.  Enough white women stayed in their abusive relationships with the GOP to provide the margin.  But wait, don't stop there.  Muslim-bashing has its benefits too, not to mention the initial scapegoats: Mexicans.  I wrote about The Bradley Effect 8 years ago, and I think the polling was just off enough due to people not admitting they were for Trump.  The polling led to a certain amount of overconfidence.  I mean, there's no way someone as ridiculous as Trump could be elected President, right?

Unbelievable.  Caving in to rogue agents inside the FBI and other GOP agents, FBI Director Comey released a non-statement 11 days before the election, in defiance of long-standing policy, as well as laws that forbid members of the government from messing with elections that close to the date, that maybe, just maybe, there might be some new emails to look at.  Many think this might be the biggest factor, but it's hard to say.

The Media
Yes, we can certainly count #FoxNews as a factor, but that's not news.  They always take the most hair-brained side, if it's against the Dems.  But the other media sites, even including #MSNBC (I watch too much) were suckered into giving Trump billion$ in free press.  Any time he happened to give one of his free-association word salad stump speeches, the networks ate it up, like it was real news.  Trump even started bragging about all the free press he was getting, even while vilifying the media at every rally.  Click on this graph of news coverage (so you can see the detail) , from digby's blog:

The media was mesmerized by the whole reality TV show that was Donald Trump.  Before anyone could spend enough time to really dig into the most recent gaffe/scandal/outrage, Trump would hit us with another gaffe/scandal/outrage.  This had the effect of constantly distracting the media from anything deep, with the latest superficial outrage.  Even now, after the election, Trump misdirects by talking about burning American flags, to keep us from focusing on the cabal at Trump Tower.

The Russians
In the time I have been working on this blog, more and more has come out about the Russians trying to hack the election.   This is potentially the most shocking story, but hard to prove the exact amount of effects.  What seems clear is that Putin wanted to help Trump, and hurt Clinton.  The Intelligence community tried to tell us this earlier.   On Oct. 7, the Department of Homeland Security and Office of the Director of National Intelligence issued a joint statement on behalf of the U.S. Intelligence Community. The USIC is made up of 16 agencies, in addition to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.  But, October 7th was the same date of the release of the infamous Hollywood Access tapes.  What do you think American TV viewers would rather focus on?  Russian cyberhacking, or Trump admitting to sexual assault, in graphic, crude language?   The short attention span wins again.  

Fake News
Something that has increasingly come to light since the election was the effect of fake news.  Most of the fake news stories (and by fake, we mean the entire story is fake!) were aimed at Trump supporters.  This was mainly because they were more gullible, not necessarily that the people creating the fakes cared about Trump.  Many of the videos came from a small town in Macedonia.  Mixed in with this random fakery were fake news stories promulgated by the Russians to sew more discord.

Voter Suppression
This is probably one of the biggest reasons, but is not getting the press most of the other reasons get.   There has been news about the states' efforts to restrict voting rights since the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act a few years ago.  What is less reported is the use of the Interstate Voter Registration Crosscheck Program, where a database of voting names is shared between states.  You say your name is James Brown?  Well, it looks like James Brown already voted in Virginia!  We're going to throw your name out so you can't vote at all.  This system threw massive amounts of minority voters off the rolls, even though that kind of voter fraud has been shown again and again to be almost non-existent.  We're talking large enough numbers to change the outcome of states like Wisconsin, for example.

These are just a few of the reasons, none of which have anything to do with the issues, or what's important to the American middle class.  I'd really like to have your comments on this.  Vote for your most important factor, or mention some obvious ones I missed.  In the meantime, God help us all for the next 4 years!

Saturday, March 19, 2016

To Trump or Not to Trump?

What is Reality?
I can't really figure this one out.  It looks like Trump has stumbled into some kind of fascist wet dream.  He loves playing the Mussolini strong man role, even if he has no idea on how to run the country if it is indeed handed to him.  Many people are taking it quite seriously,  He shows up to 'rallies' where he overbooks the capacity of the venue and gives the illusion of huge demand.  Protesters try and disrupt him, but does it have any effect?

So, what I want to know is:
  1. Does Trump really want the job of President?  Perhaps it's just a big joke, and after he destroys the GOP, he goes back to being Trump.
  2. Are the protesters real?  Sometimes I wonder if they're just role players, pumping up Trump's ego.
  3. Should protestors disrupt Trump events?  Are they playing into Trump's hands?  How does it really help?
  4. Is this truly the American Fascist Apocalypse?  If so, it's hard to fault anyone for trying to disrupt his march to power.  Should the German people have tried harder to stop Hitler in the beginning?
Seriously folks.  What the hell is going on? 

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Grateful Dead 7/5/15

Set 1
China Cat Sunflower>I Know You Rider
Estimated Prophet 
Built to Last 
Samson and Delilah
Mountains of the Moon 
Throwing Stones 

Set 2
Terrapin Station 
>Unbroken Chain 
Days Between 
>Not Fade Away
(everyone but the drummers leave. Crowd chants)
(Crowd continues chant)

Donor Rap
Touch of Grey

Encore 2
Attics of My Life (a capella, except Bob acoustic, some drums, piano, organ)

Saturday, July 04, 2015

Grateful Dead 7/4/15

Set 1 (5:35)
Shakedown Street 
Standing on the Moon
Me and My Uncle 
Tennessee Jed
Cumberland Blues 
Little Red Rooster 
Friend of the Devil 
Set 2 8:00
Bird Song
Golden Road to Unlimited Devotion 
Lost Sailor>Saint of Circumstance
West LA Fadeaway 
Foolish Heart
>Stella Blue
One More Saturday Night 
Donor Rap
U.S. Blues

Friday, July 03, 2015

Grateful Dead 7/3/15

Set 1
Box of Rain
Jack Straw
The Wheel>
Crazy Fingers 
The Music Never Stopped  

Set 2
Mason's Children
Scarlet Begonias 
>Fire on the Mountain
>New Potato Caboose 
Playing in the Band 
>Weather Report Suite Pt 2
>Help on the Way>Slipknot>Franklin's Tower

Donor Rap
Ripple (Bob on acoustic)