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Category Archives: politics

How did we get here?

Yesterday there was an opinion piece by Jean Pisani-Ferry that asked “why are voters ignoring experts?” in relation to the recent Brexit vote to leave the EU.  This sparked debate online about how dumb voters are and how dangerous democracy has become.

Why are voters uninformed?  Why do they not trust experts?  Why do voters so often vote against their own interests?  How did we get here?

I think it’s actually pretty simple.  It’s because for the last  30 years we have had leaders who have continuously lied to us, eschewed science and are in politics mainly to enrich themselves and wield power over others.  They have supported policies which are absurd.  The war on drugs, for example.  We are at a place, in 2016, where it has been clear for a long time that locking up more and more people is causing great damage to our society.  We have 4.4% of the world’s population but 22% of the world’s prison population.  That is literally insane.  Oh, and who supports the war on drugs? The Police Officer and Prison Guard unions, of course.

We have regular mass shootings, but no action.  Congress has become a non-working venture.  They do nothing other than bloviate nonsense.  Money has taken over politics, which allows rich individuals to title the system greatly in their favor.  While money buy influence has been around for a while, the Supreme Court handed corporations a gift with Citizens United.

And the #1 accomplice in this charade has been the main stream media (MSM).  They have become pure profit driven infotainment that gives a voice to both sides of an issue, for fairness, even when one side of the issue is batshit insane.  In fact, part of the MSM is a source of the insanity.  Rush Limbaugh.  Fox News.  They spread lies which become accepted truths to many.  Fox News and their ilk (some in the US Congress) have been on a 20+ year campaign to brand the Clinton’s as murderers and criminals.  It boggles the mind to try and understand why all this energy is being put into something so banal and useless.  (Useless to us, the citizenry of the US.  Not useless to the conservatives who seek power.)

Donald Trump and Brexit are merely the product of 3 decades of political shenanigans.

The global corporate business climate is no better.  Corporations have lobbied their respective governments to make globalism the default state of all our economies.  At home, the middle class is been shrinking while corporate profits are at an all-time high. The number of people unemployed might be down, but if you count the people not even trying to find a job, it’s much higher. Abroad, while the exploitation of the 3rd world has raised many out of poverty, it is still exploitation.  Don’t think that once a population has been elevated from abject poverty into a relatively better way of life their corporate overlords won’t pick up and move to the next 3rd world country, once wages rise too much.

Global business, led by US corporations, praise profit over everything.  The side effect of their capital engines has killed uncounted humans and has decimated the world’s environment.  Our oceans are being used as a toilet/garbage dump and overfishing is projected to drive many species to extinction in this century.  Corporate use of tax havens to avoid paying taxes is the norm.  We have multi-billion dollar corporations that pay no taxes and get government handouts.  This has led to income inequality of epic proportions.

So given all of this, is there any doubt why populism is growing?  Why the masses are enthralled by Donald Trump?  Why the UK voted to leave the EU?

There is constant hand wringing over terrorism.

If after 9/11/2011 we had sent Seal Team 6 after OBL, and nothing more, Iraq would not have given rise to ISIL.  Afghanistan would be a cesspool, but it wouldn’t be one that we created and whose sole focus is us and our foreign policy.  Iraq would still be governed by the iron fist of Saddam Hussein, and many people would have lost their lives and been tortured by that regime, but additional millions wouldn’t have lost their lives due to the war we started, and ISIL would not exist.

Our support of Saudi Arabia and the extreme form of Islam there, Wahhabism, along with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, have created more terrorists than anything else we have ever done.  Of course, we supported Saudi Arabia because of their oil.  We even had two Presidents with the same last name who personally benefited from this relationship.  That isn’t to say that American didn’t benefit from low oil prices, but it certainly meant that we didn’t look for alternatives.  The response to the crisis of oil depletion was delayed for decades, thus putting us behind where we could be in using alternative energy sources.

Everything above sends one loud and clear signal to the masses in the US and UK: you can’t trust anything we say or do and we clearly don’t give a shit about you; we’re here to get ours, so you better get yours, in any way you can.

In the choice between Leave and Remain, many (most?) Leave voters were not actually voting on the Leave/Remain issue, they were sending a signal to the ruling elite: we don’t trust you, we’re sick of this shit, and fuck you.

In November in the US, it could go the same way with Donald Trump.  People are looking at Clinton as the same old shit they’ve been eating for decades.  They literally do not care that Trump is a terrible businessman who cannot tell the truth about anything, they only know that voting for Clinton is more of the same.   They wanted Bernie, but they’ll settle for Trump.

If any of this is confusing or new to you, you have not been paying attention.  And that’s just want they want you to do. Watch your reality TV shows and go to your superhero movies, but don’t pay attention to the man behind the curtain.

 

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Racism in America

Since 2008, when Obama became the President of the United States of America, I’ve heard it often cited (TV, online, in person) that “racism is over.”  While some portions of white America wants racism to be over, it’s just not.  Things like affirmative action, they say, should be abolished, because there’s no longer a need.

So, I decided to catalog how racism is not over.  This page will be updated from time to time.

If you have examples for me to add to this list, please make a comment and I’ll consider adding it.

Why I will never, ever again vote for Sen. Dianne Feinstein

The Burr-Feinstein anti-encryption bill is a horrible piece of proposed legislation. This is a bill that will likely criminalize all forms of strong encryption. What the actual fuck?! Either Sen. Feinstein is an idiot or just plain evil. Either way, she’s not fit to draft legislation if this is what happens when she tries.

There are lots of other reasons to really, really dislike her, though:

She behaves more like a conservative than a liberal. She needs to leave the Senate and I will never vote for her again. I’ll vote for anyone else if she runs again.

We need to stop the war on drugs

Listen to Judge Jim Gray, a conservative, tell you why: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6t1EM4Onao.

The highlights:

The six groups who benefit from drug prohibition:

  1. Drug dealers.
  2. Juvenile gangs.  Illegal drugs are their primary source of funding.
  3. Law enforcement.
  4. Politicians.  It allows them to talk tough about crime and get elected.
  5. Private sector: construction and staffing of prisons.
  6. Terrorists.  The primary source of funding is illegal drug sales.  Repealing drug prohibition would hurt terrorist organizations more than anything else we could do to them.

Who loses?  Everyone else.

What will happen if we stop the war on drugs?

  1. We would save $1B on the war on drugs.
  2. We would tax it and generate revenue.
  3. We would make marijuana less available to children.
  4. The hemp industry would be revitalized.  We currently import hemp from other countries.
  5. The issue of medical marijuana would disappear.
  6. Usage by adults might go down, as it did in Holland and Portugal.

 

 

 

 

Stop pretending the Civil War wasn’t about slavery.

Seems like every February (Black History month!) there’s someone somewhere saying the Civil War wasn’t about slavery.  This time, the people in charge of selecting school books for children in Texas are trying to pretend actual facts are actually lies and myths.

The articles of secession state it pretty clearly:

Georgia:

The people of Georgia having dissolved their political connection with the Government of the United States of America, present to their confederates and the world the causes which have led to the separation. For the last ten years we have had numerous and serious causes of complaint against our non-slave-holding confederate States with reference to the subject of African slavery

Mississippi:

In the momentous step which our State has taken of dissolving its connection with the government of which we so long formed a part, it is but just that we should declare the prominent reasons which have induced our course.

Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery– the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.

South Carolina:

The people of the State of South Carolina, in Convention assembled, on the 26th day of April, A.D., 1852, declared that the frequent violations of the Constitution of the United States, by the Federal Government, and its encroachments upon the reserved rights of the States, fully justified this State in then withdrawing from the Federal Union; but in deference to the opinions and wishes of the other slaveholding States, she forbore at that time to exercise this right. Since that time, these encroachments have continued to increase, and further forbearance ceases to be a virtue.

Texas:

Texas abandoned her separate national existence and consented to become one of the Confederated Union to promote her welfare, insure domestic tranquility and secure more substantially the blessings of peace and liberty to her people. She was received into the confederacy with her own constitution, under the guarantee of the federal constitution and the compact of annexation, that she should enjoy these blessings. She was received as a commonwealth holding, maintaining and protecting the institution known as negro slavery— the servitude of the African to the white race within her limits– a relation that had existed from the first settlement of her wilderness by the white race, and which her people intended should exist in all future time. Her institutions and geographical position established the strongest ties between her and other slave-holding States of the confederacy. Those ties have been strengthened by association. But what has been the course of the government of the United States, and of the people and authorities of the non-slave-holding States, since our connection with them?”

So, can we please stop this idiocy?  The Civil War was about slavery.  You are delusional, in denial or just plain evil if you say otherwise.

Iran deal: “Abject Surrender” or not?

The Weekly Standard is a horrible, hack organization, that has no journalistic integrity at all.  They are partisan to the end, and will never give Obama credit for anything.  Their current headline is Abject Surrender by the United States written by a waste of water named John R. Bolton, also a partisan hack that wouldn’t know fair and balanced if it punched him in the stomach.

So, is the deal the Obama administration made as bad as the right wingers are saying?  The conservative business website Business Insider has this to say about it:

In sum, this first step achieves a great deal in its own right.  Without this phased agreement, Iran could start spinning thousands of additional centrifuges.  It could install and spin next-generation centrifuges that will reduce its breakout times.  It could fuel and commission the Arak heavy water reactor.  It could grow its stockpile of 20% enriched uranium to beyond the threshold for a bomb’s worth of uranium. Iran can do none of these things under the conditions of the first step understanding.

Furthermore, without this phased approach, the international sanctions coalition would begin to fray because Iran would make the case to the world that it was serious about a diplomatic solution and we were not.  We would be unable to bring partners along to do the crucial work of enforcing our sanctions.  With this first step, we stop and begin to roll back Iran’s program and give Iran a sharp choice:  fulfill its commitments and negotiate in good faith to a final deal, or the entire international community will respond with even more isolation and pressure.

The American people prefer a peaceful and enduring resolution that prevents Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon and strengthens the global non-proliferation regime.  This solution has the potential to achieve that.  Through strong and principled diplomacy, the United States of America will do its part for greater peace, security, and cooperation among nations.

This is just the conclusion.  There are lots of other details in the piece.

The Weekly Standard is a disgusting publication and deserves to die.

Criminal justice in America

The Economist has a three-part series on criminal justice in America.  All US citizens would do well to read this, especially those with previous brushes with the law.  Part 1, part 2 and part 3.

One only has to look at the incarceration rates per 100,000 population to see that we lead the world, by a large margin, in locking our own citizens up.  Our rate is 716 per 100,000.  That means, for every 100,000 people in the US there are 716 people in prison.  Let’s look at Spain, a country in severe economic straights and one of the largest in Europe.  Their rate is 149 people per 100,000.  We incarcerate 4.8 times as many people as Spain.  I tried to pick a “fair” comparison.  I could have chosen Iceland with a rate of 47.  That makes our rate 15.2 times higher.

No one knows how many non-violent criminals are serving life without parole in America, but there are at least 3,278 people who will spend the rest of their life in prison for something non-violent.  The drug crimes that trigger life without parole can be as trivial as owning a crack pipe or a bottle cap with a trace of heroin on it.  The non-drug crimes can be just as ludicrous: trying to cash a stolen check; siphoning gas from a truck; threatening a cop while handcuffed.

And then, there’s this:

Clarence Aaron had no rap sheet: he is among the one-fifth of non-violent life-without-parolers in the federal system serving time for a first offence. While a student at Southern University in Louisiana, he acted as a middleman in a drug deal. He neither bought nor sold the drugs in question, but when arrested he refused to testify against his co-conspirators. They did not return the favour. Consequently, all but one of them have been released from prison (the last is due out next year), while he is almost 20 years into a life sentence.

Like most prisoners serving life for non-violent crimes, Mr Aaron is black. Racial disparities among non-violent “whole-lifers” exceed even those of the prison system itself. Among federal prisoners, blacks are 20 times more likely to receive such sentences: they are 65% of the national total, compared with 18% for whites and 16% for Latinos. In some states the numbers are yet more skewed: blacks are 91% of non-violent life-without-parole prisoners in Louisiana, 79% in Mississippi and 68% in South Carolina.

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that the deep south, where racism is more alive and well than anywhere else in the US, is disproportionately using life without parole against blacks.

Incarcerating people is expensive, but the human cost is much higher.  Locking someone up for the rest of their life for a non-violent crime is inhumane.  It destroys lives, and not just those of the incarcerated, but their families.  We need to take a long, hard look at ourselves and decide if we want to continue on this path.  If we do, I don’t think history will judge us kindly.

UPDATE: yet another example of extreme sentencing.

You want fiscal responsibility? Start here.

“Because of its persistent inability to tally its accounts, the Pentagon is the only federal agency that has not complied with a law that requires annual audits of all government departments. That means that the $8.5 trillion in taxpayer money doled out by Congress to the Pentagon since 1996, the first year it was supposed to be audited, has never been accounted for. That sum exceeds the value of China’s economic output last year. — Reuters journalist Scot J. Paltrow investigates how the US military’s bad accounting not only wastes taxpayers money, but helps ruin the life of ordinary soldiers and veterans.”  [Via MeFi]

To all your supposed fiscally responsible people out there: if you want the government to spend less, then start here and not by attacking money that is directed to poor people.

On the Sabotage of Democracy

This Bill Moyers video is worth watching.  It’s a good summary of where we are and how we got here.

Remember, the ACA, or “Obamacare” it has been labeled, is very similar to what Republicans in the 1990’s proposed as an alternative to the single-payer system that Hillary Clinton was pushing.  It’s not a liberal dream of what health care should be.  It’s an insurance industry dream.  Let’s not forget that Mitt Romney enacted something very similar in Massachusetts, before Obama ran for President.  So, what conclusion can we draw from all this?  Republican hatred for Obama has driven them to turn their backs on respectful, descent and truthful behavior and to embrace lies.  Remember Joe the plumber, the every man that reacted strongly against Obama because he was going to raise taxes on businessmen like himself?  Joe’s new blog it titled “America Needs a White Republican President,” where he says (in case he decides to change the text, I’ve pasted it here):

Admit it. You want a white Republican president again. Now before you start feeling like you’re a racist, understand you are not.  Wanting a white Republican president doesn’t make you racist, it just makes you American.

He goes on to justify this on the basis that you can’t criticize anyone but a white President, otherwise you are labeled a racist.  This is the logic of the new Right.

Look at the fact that 26 states have opted out of the Medicaid expansion that would allow millions of Americans to purchase coverage under the ACA.  Every single one of the governors of these 26 states are Republicans.  Race is a huge part of what is going on right now.

So, let’s make no mistake: the current battle in the House is not about “de-funding Obamacare,” as we are being told over and over again.  It’s a war against the poor and middle class of this country a massive reduction in the size of the federal government.  The dream scenario of the GOP would destroy our economy and completely change the face of America. This dream scenario would also given corporation and certain parts of the government (the enforcement parts, like the police, military and intelligence) more money and power.  The same money and power taken from the poor and middle class, they will give to the rich and already powerful.

Why are they fighting so hard against the ACA?  Because they know there are tens of millions of people that want it and need it.  And once these people have a taste of what they want and need, it will be impossible to take it away.

Make no mistake, there is a difference in the 2014 election cycle between voting for Republicans and Democrats.  Voting for Republicans will insure this madness continues.

Are we ready to decriminalize or legalize pot?

Because I don’t think society is better off when we sentence a 27-year-old man to 20 years because for possession of a 1/2-oz of marijuana.  Not only does this destroy a life, it has ripples for society.  It’s expensive.  When he gets  out of prison he’ll likely be dependent on social services for low-level sustenance (it’s near impossible to get a job with a record).

Portugal decriminalize all drugs 12 years ago and it’s working very well for them.  Fear keeps us from doing the same thing.  And, there are a lot of positive effects of the new policy.

The people we elected to Congress should do something about this, rather than spending time on a 21-hour rant about non-sense.