The Watering Hole, 1/18/2017

As soon as Hillary Clinton cinched the Democratic Party’s nomination her supporters began deriding Sander’s supporters in earnest, in an effort to shame or fear-monger them into voting for The Chosen One. As a Sanders supporter, their efforts further turned this author off from Hillary Clinton and the Democratic Party.

In two days, Donald Trump will become the President of the United States. Ever since the election, those on the left have called Trump voters all kinds of names, all of which were anything but kind. This divisive name-calling is counterproductive. It only serves to drive Trump supporters further away, as the natural tendency when one is attacked is to become defensive.

To change the course of this Nation, it will be necessary for the common man on the left and on the right to work together, to join forces against the ruling oligarchy. Up until now, the oligarchy has been content to control our government from behind the scenes. But with Trump, and his likely choices to fill his Cabinet, they are up front, running the show from the highest seat of power.

So, how do we, the people, bridge the divisive gap between the left and the right? It must start with overtures from the left. It must start with recognizing that not everyone who voted for Trump is racist. Not everyone who voted for Trump hates women. Like Sanders supporters, many, many Trump supporters voted for change. Trump was going to drain the swamp, and drain the swamp he will. He’s going to Make America Great Again by putting the interests of the 1% above all else. The common man and woman who voted for Trump will soon be left out in the cold.

As they see their health insurance disappear, or skyrocket out of reach, as States budgets buckle under the crushing weight of an unfunded mandate to provide health care for those who no longer have coverage while the taxes on the 1% are cut and cut again; as they realize that Right to Work laws mean the end of unions, union wages and benefits; and when it dawns on them that Trump is not bringing their factory jobs back, many, many Trump supporters will feel they’ve been conned. The last thing they’ll want to hear is an “I told you so” from the left.

Trump supporters will need to hear facts, objectively stated. They’ll need to hear solutions, short of taking up arms. They’ll need to know that those on the left will have their back and will stand with them, side by side, through the long, arduous task of wresting control of our government from the moneyed elite sitting on both sides of the aisle.

Trump supporters have been conditioned to see liberals as the enemy. Liberals have been trained to see conservatives as the enemy. Both views have been fostered by the ruling class so that liberals and conservatives alike do not see them as the enemy.

We need to mend fences where we can. The first side to stop using hate speech will ultimately control the dialogue.

OPEN THREAD – OPEN THE DIALOGUE

The Watering Hole, Wednesday, January 4, 2017. The United States of America is a Christian Nation.

The United States of America is a Christian Nation.

But how did we get this way, and what does it mean to be Christian anyway?

The following is this author’s impressions of the evolution of Christianity, based on an admittedly unscholarly understanding of the history of the religion.

Christ wasn’t very popular when he died. Sure, of the prophets of his time, he’d been gaining in popularity, culminating in his arrival at the seat of his religion, Jerusalem. But within a week he’d upset the status quo, turning over the tables of the profit-center of the priesthood. The reaction from the authorities was swift and the son of a carpenter was executed.

But there was something about what he said, or what others said he said, that would not die. He said love one another, even love your enemies. Give away your possessions so that you are not controlled by them. Care for the poor, the sick, the imprisoned, the foreigner.

This message grew as little communes formed across the Roman Empire. And it challenged the power of the State. Governments, by far and large, stay in power by controlling the governed. And one of the best ways of controlling the governed is to keep them divided amongst themselves. Sew distrust, hate, fear and scapegoating and you keep the populace’s attention focused on each other, while those at the top of the economic structure continue to hoard more and more of the country’s resources.

But a religion that espouses loving and accepting is antithetical to a government that rules through divisiveness. A religion that teaches its followers to share all they have with each other (the essence of communism) threatens a hierarchy dependent on concentrating wealth into the hands of the few.

But contemporary Christianity, at least that espoused by a vocal and politically powerful ‘evangelical’ sect, now teaches division amongst the masses and not only condones, but praises the concentration of wealth into the hands of the few. How did that happen?

Well, several hundred years ago, the Roman Empire made Christianity the State Religion. Perhaps it was a matter of ‘if you can’t beat them, join them’. But it became ‘us against them’. Christians versus Muslims. Christians versus Jews. If you were Christian, you belonged to a group that was saved by God. If you weren’t a Christian, you were influenced by Satan. Christians versus non-Christians.

And Satan, being the devil, was to be hated, as were his followers, i.e. all non-Christians. Thus the religion of love became one of hate. Evangelical Christianity has little to do with the teachings of the son of a carpenter. It has everything to do with forgiving their own while condemning all others. And, in this sense, the United States of America is a Christian Nation. We have elected a President who calls everyone that does not support him his enemies and brands them as losers. He is embraced by Evangelical Christians who forgive him his sins and cheer his calls for violence against those who do not support him.

The son of a carpenter would tell us to repay hate with love, to love Trump and his supporters, to love the enemy, no matter what. But, then again, sometimes it is necessary to overturn the tables of the money changers and drive them out with a whip.

OPEN THREAD

The Watering Hole; Thursday September 22 2016; “The Answer, My Friend, is Blowin’ In The Wind”

A few weeks short of twelve years ago and in the aftermath of the 2004 re-election of George W. Bush, I was a participant in an online chat group, one that was mostly anti-Bush, anti-conservative, and anti-Neocon. The handwriting on the wall back then might as well have been written in day-glow paint, describing the national traumas which we all knew were on their way and in search of a place to roost. In any case, one of the members of the group suggested that it could be an interesting exercise to see what ‘Liberals’ see in terms of lifestyle, of likes, dislikes, etc., and why, and how close to 180 degrees from Conservative any or all of them might fall.

I accepted the challenge, and posted the following essay.

******

November 22, 2004
Self Description:

Progressive moderate leftist independent with certain anti-capitalist leanings (some might call them ‘socialist’ but that wouldn’t necessarily be correct), spiritual AND a-religious, generally harmless, totally heterosexual but sympathetic to good and decent folks no matter their orientation — also no matter skin color, status, net worth, national origin, creed, gender, IQ, et al. etc., but with STRONG dislike/distaste for shallowness, no matter the wrapping.

What I love: my children, my beautiful lady, the memory of my parents, the Earth on which I live. Continue reading

TWH:06/15/16: The American Dream

Once upon a time, a man could be self-sufficient and raise a family with a 40 acre farm and a mule.

Once upon a time,  the North American continent seemingly had unlimited land for farming, raising families, and freedom from oppression by Lords, Kings, and Government-imposed Religions.

And a new nation was born, crafted and created by a select few white men, who desired to create a Utopia – – a country where the populace controlled the government, instead of the other way around. To be certain, they crafted certain provisions to protect the interests of the wealthy  against a populist uprising – the electoral college and setting it up so that States Legislatures elected Senators.

There has always been a tension between those with money and those who would regulate commerce. Unregulated capitalism led to cyclical booms and busts, culminating in the Great Depression. This, in turn, led to regulating capitalism, which led to sustained growth and the emergence of a middle class.

By the 1950s a man could earn enough to support a family, buy a house and a car and enjoy a reasonably comfortable standard of living working a reasonable secure job. The American Dream was finally realized. For some. For the American Dream was not for people of color and women were lower class citizens, in the workforce especially, as they were expected to stay home and have babies.

Then came the 60s, and someone of color dared to  have a dream – – to dream that a person of color could share in the American Dream. There were assassinations and civil unrest. A social safety net was created and the Welfare State was born. Although born of good intentions, it had its flaws. Chief among which was the fact that, once on Welfare, accepting an entry level job meant a decrease in income. As a result, families became stuck on Welfare for multiple generations.

Along comes resentment, as people on Welfare were painted as lazy – leeches living off the labors of the working class. Welfare families were depicted as families of color, and racial prejudices were once again exploited.

And somewhere along the way, the American Dream became the American Nightmare. We voted for Presidents, Senators and Republicans who would lower our taxes, eliminate the social safety net and force people to go to work. But these elected representatives also began chipping away at the foundations of the economic policies that led to the rise of the middle class.

Those foundations are largely gone now. Free trade agreements put a quick end to American manufacturing. The corporations are still in business, but the manufacturing jobs have been relocated to countries with lower wages, fewer regulations. Government controls on the financial sector have been removed, leading to the Great Recession of 2008. The disparity of wealth between the haves and have-nots is approaching levels not seen since the Middle Ages. The haves have rigged the system and control the message, thereby controlling the group-think of the populace.

George Orwell’s 1984 has become a blueprint instead of a warning.

The American Dream is gone. The standard of living for all except the top 10% is in decline. It now takes 2 wage earners to support a middle-class lifestyle, a lifestyle that comes to a quick end should one of the two develop a serious illness or injury.

This current election cycle paints the reality of where we are in stark contrast. A populist candidate on the Right, campaigning on racial intolerance, violence and hatred is the presumptive Republican nominee. A populist candidate on the Left, campaigning on social justice and democratic socialism has been stymied at every turn by the mainstream media and the political machinations of the hierarchy of the Democratic Party.

Is this where we’re heading?

 

OPEN THREAD

 

 

TWH, 5/18/16: The Argument for Revolution

A revolution in the United States is inevitable. Why? Because we make our own reality, and our reality is controlled by those who indoctrinate us to believe whatever the ruling class wants us to believe. Science? Facts? We distort both to conform to our indoctrinated reality. And, perhaps more crucially, the more educated we are, the more we distort reality to conform to our beliefs!
First, these studies:

Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government
Abstract:
Why does public conflict over societal risks persist in the face of compelling and widely accessible scientific evidence? We conducted an experiment to probe two alternative answers: the “Science Comprehension Thesis” (SCT), which identifies defects in the public’s knowledge and reasoning capacities as the source of such controversies; and the “Identity-protective Cognition Thesis” (ICT), which treats cultural conflict as disabling the faculties that members of the public use to make sense of decision relevant science. In our experiment, we presented subjects with a difficult problem that turned on their ability to draw valid causal inferences from empirical data. As expected, subjects highest in Numeracy—a measure of the ability and disposition to make use of quantitative information—did substantially better than less numerate ones when the data were presented as results from a study of a new skin-rash treatment. Also as expected, subjects’ responses became politically polarized—and even less accurate—when the same data were presented as results from the study of a gun-control ban. But contrary to the prediction of SCT, such polarization did not abate among subjects highest in Numeracy; instead, it increased. This outcome supported ICT, which predicted that more Numerate subjects would use their quantitative reasoning capacity selectively to conform their interpretation of the data to the result most consistent with their political outlooks. We discuss the theoretical and practical significance of these findings.

Kahan, Dan M. and Peters, Ellen and Dawson, Erica Cantrell and Slovic, Paul, Motivated Numeracy and Enlightened Self-Government (September 3, 2013). Yale Law School, Public Law Working Paper No. 307. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=2319992 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2319992

Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens
[T]he preferences of economic elites (as measured by our proxy, the preferences of “affluent” citizens) have far more independent impact upon policy change than the preferences of average citizens do. To be sure, this does not mean that ordinary citizens always lose out; they fairly often get the policies they favor, but only because those policies happen also to be preferred by the economically-elite citizens who wield the actual influence.
(Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page; American Political Science Association 2014.)

So, we live in an oligarchy. The oligarchy influences public opinion so that we favor what they want.
We are given choices in elections – choices between social ‘liberals’ and social ‘conservatives’. But never a choice for someone who would challenge the Oligarchy.
As this article is being written, Trump is the presumptive Republican nominee. Hillary is the presumptive nominee. Sanders has not given up, and may yet garner more pledged delegates than Hillary, but even if he does, it appears that superdelegates will hand the nomination to Hillary – already she has appointed about 70 of the 75 committee members and chairs for the upcoming Democratic National Committee.
Both Trump and Hillary will advance the fortunes of the Oligarchy. Sanders will not. We will likely be faced with the choice between a Fascist and an Oligarchist. Sanders’ supporters will be left out in the cold.

But how did we get here? Indoctrination.
Decades of “christian” private schools and homeschooling have indoctrinated a substantial portion of the populace to believe the very messages Trump espouses. Textbooks published by the Bob Jones University Press puts the imprimatur of God giving His Blessings on social and economic policies that benefit the very rich. Thus indoctrinated, these students become incapable of recognizing facts, of recognizing any reality, that conflicts with their indoctrination. Trump has tapped into these voters. They will not be dissuaded by any argument, any fact, any reasoning. And they are ready to take up arms if they do not get their way.
But what about the majority of us that were educated in public schools? You mean, public schools, that for decades have had their textbooks vetted by the Texas Board of Education? We’ve been indoctrinated too. Indoctrinated into a white-washed version of history.
Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.

Both private school and public school students don’t know history. But there is one major difference. Public schools teach history – names, dates, places. But they don’t teach the lessons of history. They don’t teach the ‘why did this happen’ and they don’t teach the moral lessons that we can draw from history. Private schools do, but their ‘moral’ lessons all point towards acquiescence to the policies that favor the ruling class.
The nation is primed for a charismatic leader, be it a Hitler or a Ghandi. Trump, by all measures, is another Hitler. Sanders is the closest thing to another Ghandi. Hillary is, neither. She is the face of the Oligarchy – the face of Big Brother. The Oligarchy won’t let Sanders have a chance – they are content with either Trump or Hillary.
But given a choice between Trump and Hillary, the inevitable outcome is revolution.

OPEN THREAD

THE WATERING HOLE

The judicial power of the United States, shall be vested in one Supreme Court, and in such inferior courts as the Congress may from time to time ordain and establish. The judges, both of the supreme and inferior courts, shall hold their offices during good behaviour, and shall, at stated times, receive for their services, a compensation, which shall not be diminished during their continuance in office. (United States Constitution (1787) Article 3, Section 1.)

The Constitution does not state the number of Justices on the Supreme Court. If Congress wanted to, it could let Scalia’s seat remain vacant indefinitely.

We have entered an era of brazen partisanship on the part of the extreme right-wing, funded and fueled by an oligarchy who have openly declared class warfare on everyone else. The oligarchy controls so much wealth they write the laws that in turn increase their holdings.

Favorable rulings by the Supreme Court allowed them to further tighten their grasp of our government. And, over the years, Republicans have slowly but steadily moved the federal court system to the right, to supporting corporations over people, the rich and powerful over everyone else. Case in point: class action lawsuits are becoming a thing of the past. Odds are, if you have any credit card or cell phone, you have a contract waiving your right to class action lawsuits, and waiving your right to go to court.

That’s right. In far too many instances, you cannot go to court to take on a multinational corporation. Your legal rights have been privatized – you must go to arbitration, an alternative system of justice where the arbitrator’s power may be virtually unlimited – the power to ignore the law, and to ignore the facts. And it’s damn-near impossible to get a court to overturn an arbitrator’s decision. Oh, and you have to pay for the arbitrator. The privatizing of justice, in the civil arena.

In the criminal arena, we already know that we have privatized prisons. The only legal form of slavery in the world.

Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction. (United States Constitution, XIII Amendment, Section 1.)

Private, for profit prisons, where someone could be locked up for life under a “three-strikes” law.

Justice Scalia is dead, but his legacy in the form of decisions he authored, majorities he joined, lives on.

Republicans, within hours of his passing announced that they will not ratify anyone President Obama nominates. That is their right under the Constitution.

The only non-violent recourse We, the People have is to vote Republicans out of power, at every level of government. If we’re to lazy to mobilize and do just that, we get the government we deserve.

OPEN THREAD

[the opinions stated are those of the author and not necessarily that of The Zoo)

 

 

 

The Watering Hole, Wednesday, September 30, 2015: We Hold These Truths to be Self Evident

Rights. What rights do we, as citizens of the United States have? Not a whole lot.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”–(Declaration of Independence)

The Constitution itself does not confer any rights. Any Constitutional rights are implied. They don’t get spelled out until you get to the amendments:

Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

Ok. So there’s the right to peaceably to assemble. That’s why we have “free Speech Zones” far away from anywhere the President may actually be appearing.

Amendment II
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

And the right to bear arms. But not military grade hardware. So if you’re actually going to fight it out with the United States Military forces in a firefight…good luck. One drone and you’re toast.

Amendment IV
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures…

Can you say “Homeland Security”?

Amendment VI
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed,…and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Unless, of course, you are accused of being a terrorist.

Amendment VII
In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved…

Do you even know the difference between a suit at common law and a suit in equity? Bottom line, in the former, you can have a jury, in the latter, a judge decides your fate.

Amendment XV
Section 1.
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.

Finally, the Constitution mentions the right to vote. Up to now, it’s been an implied right. And, to the extent it is a right, this amendment allows men to vote, even if they were once slaves. The right to vote still doesn’t extend to women, however.

Amendment XIX
The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.

Four amendments later and the implied right to vote finally extends to women.

Amendment XXVI
The right of citizens of the United States, who are 18 years of age or older, to vote, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state on account of age.

In reaction to the Vietnam war, where we were drafting 18 year-olds to die ‘for their country’ the inherent unfairness of sending young men (women weren’t drafted into military service) to fight and die, without their having a voice in politics gave rise to the 26th amendment.

What’s missing here?
The right to drinkable water.
The right to breathable air.
The right to food.
The right to an education.
The right to health.

In short, a whole lot of rights guaranteed (or at least promised) to people living on other industrialized nations are not guaranteed rights in the United States of America.

Here in the U.S. of A. we have the right to life – and some people would take this to mean the right to life of a fertilized egg as being more important than that of a living, breathing human being (the impregnated female).

We have the right to liberty – if your rich. The poor can get incarcerated for petty, non-violent crimes. The rich can rob and kill without fear of incarceration.

And we have the right to the pursuit of happiness. As long as your happiness doesn’t challenge the status quo.

Water rights, on the other hand, are bought and sold. And food? Ask Monsanto.

There’s no right to clothing, but you will get arrested if you do without.

And there’s no right to shelter. And, again, you can get arrested for being homeless.

We hold these truths to be self-evident: that Nature’s God abhors imbalance; and that chief among the imbalances in Nature is the disparity in wealth between the haves and the have-nots.

Balance will be restored. The only questions are how, and at what cost.

OPEN THREAD.