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

TWH 3/9/16: Not Benghazi

Benghazi was, apparently, not the real scandal regarding the U.S. military intervention in Libya.

Prior to reading the above-linked article I thought Libya was the right way to intervene for ‘regime change’: a civil war breaks out, a faction calls for outside help and recognition, the US helps that faction with air power, limiting the exposure for Americans to lose their lives in the conflict. This was done earlier in Bosnia, where US assisted NATO airstrikes helped put an end to a Christian genocide of Muslims.

What I did not know was that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton actively pushed for war and undermined diplomatic resolutions. That’s the true scandal. But it’s not the one Republicans talk about. Why? Because Republicans by far and large support war. It’s their only jobs program.

Bush broke Afghanistan and Iraq, and, as a byproduct, Syria. Obama broke Libya. I doubt we here in the US can even come close to understanding the unfathomable human suffering going on in those countries on a daily basis.

Drone strikes aren’t the answer. You don’t bomb a populace into submission. If all you’re going to do is bomb them, you have to bomb them into extinction.

Diplomacy is the only path to peace. And by diplomacy I mean reaching out in friendship to rebuild a broken society and bombed infrastructure. It won’t be easy. We’ve given ‘terrorists’ and would-be ‘terrorists’ millions of reasons to hate us, to mistrust us. But if past performances is a predictor of future performance, the prospects for diplomacy under another President Clinton appear dim.

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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.

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

 

 

 

The Watering Hole, 1/6/16

According to his ad, a President Trump will openly discriminate against a group of people solely based on their religion; will force an ally to build a wall, and pay for it, to keep Mexicans from crossing the border for economic gain, regardless of its affect on American Agribusiness; and will invade any sovereign country where ISIS is and plunder the natural resources (oil) of that country.

These acts will “make America great again” according to Trump.

If by “great” he means our government will officially discriminate against a class of people based on their religion, he is correct. In this case, our greatness will rely on abandoning that portion of the First Amendment that states “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”. Yet millions of Christians support this notion of greatness that discriminates against Muslims.

People seem to be inherently inclined to discriminate against people below them on the socio-economic ladder. Keeping migrant farmworkers from crossing the U.S.-Mexican border is another message of “greatness” that resonates with Trump’s supporters.

However, those States that enacted laws designed to crack down on Mexicans saw their crops rot in the fields. So, if Trump builds a wall, the Mexican government ought to think seriously about tripling its land under cultivation. Their farmworkers will have work, and Mexico’s agribusiness can make a killing selling produce to America because America won’t have enough farmworkers anymore.

Trump’s commercial, however, depicts dozens of people running towards a wall – in Morocco. So apparently Trump wants to build a wall between the U.S. and Morocco and have Mexico pay for it. Or maybe he wants to build a wall between Mexico and the U.S. and have Morocco pay for it. Who knows? And who, among his supporters, cares?

And the third prong to “greatness” – take out ISIS and take their oil. We tried that with Iraq, not that Trump supporters remember anymore. We took out that evil leader, Saddam Hussein. We were supposed to take Iraq’s oil, too. The war was going to pay for itself. Only it didn’t. Now the working class owes the ruling class over $1 trillion and counting.

Trump’s idea of “greatness” is rooted in religious and racial intolerance, and war.

But there is a polar opposite to Trump. He’s running for president, too. But he doesn’t get nearly the same media play. Yet his message, too, is resonating with Evangelical ChristiansYet his message, too, is resonating with Evangelical Christians:

When I was watching Bernie Sanders talk at Liberty University, I was just really shocked, and something kind of magical happened for me, because as I watched that guy stand up on that stage, here’s what I saw. I saw a wild-haired Jew crying out in a hoarse voice, in a very forceful and forth-speaking way, he was convicting the Christian leaders and religious leaders in that University and calling us out for being complicit in the abandonment of those who suffer: “The least of these.” And siding with the powerful and the rich and the masters of this world. And he was convicting us, and calling us out. And we scorned him, and we stared him down, and with sour faces we thought, “Who is this whacko? And why do all these people seem to follow him, seem to like him? This wild-haired Jew, crying out from the wilderness of the political Left, in his hoarse voice?”

And if you’re an Evangelical listening to me today, you already know where I’m going with this. When I heard Bernie speaking in that way, when I saw that guy on stage at Liberty University, I saw John the Baptist. I saw the wild-haired, roughly-clothed John the Baptist, eating honey and wearing camel’s hair, and crying out to the religious leaders, the Pharisees of his day, calling them corrupt and complicit with those who have all the power and all the money and all the wealth, and for abandoning the people that God loves, that God cares about.

So, if the battle for President comes down to a choice between Sanders or Trump, it will be between a wild-haired Jew who espouses the teachings of Christ and a comb-over Christian who espouses religious and racial intolerance and war.

Current polls show that in such a match-up, the wild-haired Jew wins, hands down.

OPEN THREAD

The Watering Hole; Friday February 6 2015; Seventy Years and Counting

I ran across some links the other day that I found to be curiously defining of this day’s American dilemma. First there’s this, a detailed list of everything today’s far right GOP Fascist party HATES and is dead set against, mainly because each and all are designed to serve the common man, the middle class, the poor, those “huddled masses yearning to breathe free” rather than the already rich and powerful, the huge multi-national corporations, and/or the giant banks and financial institutions. So here they are: the (probably familiar) major points of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s proposed ‘Second Bill of Rights’:

The right to a useful and remunerative job in the industries or shops or farms or mines of the Nation;

The right to earn enough to provide adequate food and clothing and recreation;

The right of every farmer to raise and sell his products at a return which will give him and his family a decent living;

The right of every businessman, large and small, to trade in an atmosphere of freedom from unfair competition and domination by monopolies at home or abroad;

The right of every family to a decent home;

The right to adequate medical care and the opportunity to achieve and enjoy good health;

The right to adequate protection from the economic fears of old age, sickness, accident, and unemployment;

The right to a good education.

As is plainly obvious to even the casual reader, everything on that list is absolute and total anathema to every last one of America’s Wingnuts, both elected and otherwise. To them, there’s nothing anywhere that’s more valuable than the profits attainable via unfettered (and unregulated) Capitalism. Capitalism: the be-all and end-all of everything that has usefulness — except, of course, for the low-paid people who make it work, many of whom are of the wrong race or ethnicity and are therefore definably lazy and expendable.

Next came this, the voice of an American “revolutionary” some fifty-plus years ago, one who not only understood the Capitalist mentality but predicted its inevitable demise:

“It is impossible for capitalism to survive, primarily because the system of capitalism needs some blood to suck. Capitalism used to be like an eagle, but now it’s more like a vulture. It used to be strong enough to go and suck anybody’s blood whether they were strong or not. But now it has become more cowardly, like the vulture, and it can only suck the blood of the helpless. As the nations of the world free themselves, then capitalism has less victims, less to suck, and it becomes weaker and weaker. It’s only a matter of time in my opinion before it will collapse completely.”

“Sometimes, I have dared to dream … that one day, history may even say that my voice—which disturbed [their] smugness, . . . arrogance, and . . . complacency—that my voice helped to save America from a grave, possibly even fatal catastrophe.”

“We’re anti-evil, anti-oppression, anti-lynching. You can’t be anti- those things unless you’re also anti- the oppressor and the lyncher. You can’t be anti-slavery and pro-slavemaster; you can’t be anti-crime and pro-criminal. In fact, Mr. Muhammad teaches that if the present generation of whites would study their own race in the light of true history, they would be anti-white themselves.”

And finally there’s this, a brief synopsis of Obama’s most recently submitted budget, the budget that the Republican Congressional majority is guaranteed to mock and then completely dismiss:

. . . Obama, unleashed from elections, entering the final two years of his presidency and wrestling with a legacy that includes a struggling middle class, is using his proposed budget for 2016 as a political manifesto. It’s one he hopes will turn the country’s course back toward the embrace of government that ruled from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal in the 1930s through Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society of the 1960s.

The budget [Obama] proposed . . . suggests a crusade for a strong central government as a provider for the disadvantaged and bulwark against corporate excess, financed by new taxes on the wealthy.

Forget any big emphasis on debt reduction or fresh thoughts on finding common ground with the new Republican-led Congress.

The tax code should be more progressive. Government regulations must protect ordinary people against corporate excesses. Health care is a right, not a privilege. Educational opportunities are crucial.

“What I offer in this budget is a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class and build new ladders of opportunity into the middle class,” the president said . . . 

Those three excerpted ‘voices’ were each heard within the course of exactly seventy years. The first was the major premise expressed in FDR’s 1945 inaugural address; the second included comments by Malcolm X from the early 1960’s (he was assassinated fifty years ago in February 1965), quoted in a recent article by Chris Hedges in which Hedges notes that Malcolm X . . .

“. . . understood the inner workings of empire. He had no hope that those who managed empire would ever get in touch with their better selves to build a country free of exploitation and injustice. He argued that from the arrival of the first slave ship to the appearance of our vast archipelago of prisons and our squalid, urban internal colonies where the poor are trapped and abused, the American empire was unrelentingly hostile to those Frantz Fanon called “the wretched of the earth.” This, Malcolm knew, would not change until the empire was destroyed.”

The third segment — Obama’s 2016 budget proposal — is not yet a month old.

So. FDR’s Second Bill of Rights has not yet come to pass. In its place there is evermore of the “oppression” and of Capitalism’s improved methodology in sucking “the blood of the helpless,” along with political disdain for everything other than further enrichment of the already rich and further empowerment of the already powerful. Makes one wonder: more than fifty years ago, did Malcolm X genuinely predict Capitalism’s ultimate decline and fall when he noted that “It’s only a matter of time . . . before it will collapse completely”??

Enter Barack Obama and his proposed program and budget for the 2016 fiscal year. It’s almost Rooseveltian in nature in that it proposes “a strong central government as a provider for the disadvantaged” along with “a set of concrete, practical proposals to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class and build new ladders of opportunity . . .” Sadly, each and every proviso designated therein to help those who need help and to pay for it all by taxing those of great wealth who do NOT need help is virtually guaranteed to be mocked and dismissed by the Republican majority in Congress, the majority which much prefers to “suck the blood of the helpless.”

Here’s the thing: I was three months past my second birthday in January 1945 when President Franklin Roosevelt proposed his “Second Bill of Rights.” And I was three months past my seventy-second birthday when President Barack Obama proposed a budget that would at last — FINALLY — implement at least a reasonable portion of FDR’s Second Bill of Rights. And in all likelihood I’ll not yet be seventy-three by the time the current GOP (aka the AFP — the American Fascist Party) completely dismisses each and all of President Barack Obama’s proposals (along with all surviving remnants of FDR’s New Deal accomplishments).

All of which makes me wonder: how old will I be when, as Malcolm X suggested,  “a grave, possibly even fatal catastrophe” comes to define the final fate of the country in which we currently reside, aka America? Such things are near impossible to accurately predict, but I have to think that If the electorate happens to choose, in 2016, any one of the current AFP potential candidates to be the next POTUS, the time preceding American capitalism’s self-induced “fatal catastrophe”  will be substantially reduced.

Well, we shall see, but near as I can determine, Malcolm X was very likely spot-on with his thesis that America “would not change until the empire was destroyed,” a prospect which, this day, appears more imminent with each passing hour.

As always, time will tell.

OPEN THREAD

 

 

The Watering Hole; Friday May 16 2014; “What Are You FOR?”

“I know what you are against, but what are you FOR?”
–Emile de Becque (Rosanno Brazzi) in the movie South Pacific (1958)

I dropped that line into a post I put up here last month, mainly because it’s a line that has popped into my head regularly in many of the 55 years that have passed since the winter of 1959 when I first saw South Pacific on the silver screen. These days, it pops up especially when I find myself immersed in our current (nonsensical) political world, aka that linguistic cauldron of non-speak that’s become evermore defined by one word: Wordsmithing. Now, true enough, a “Wordsmith” has long been defined as “a person skilled in using words.” Today, however, a ‘wordsmith’ — at least in the political world — has become “a person skilled in using words” that spread false impressions of reality, in order to coax the uninformed to support the ridiculous. In the world of Herr Dr. Joseph Goebbels — 1930’s Germany — the quintessential ‘wordsmith’ was, in reality, nothing more than a propagandist. A liar, in a word. Today the trend persists here. In “The land of the free, the home of the brave.” “USA!! USA!! USA!! . . . ” We live in a world where statements of what politicians are FOR are, typically, wordsmithed to make it sound as though they are FOR “democracy! The Constitution! Prosperity! Jobs for all! Equality of voice! Etc. The reality is, of course, the precise opposite; that which they are FOR is, in fact, that which the rest of us really ought to be against. So they lie, ever cognizant of the fact that if they were actually FOR such equanimous nonsense, said position just might reduce the money they like to get from those who are FOR only two things: Wealth, and Power.

That’s ‘them’, not me. So. My challenge to alladem political wordsmiths out there: here’s what I am FOR. Have y’all got the intestinal fortitude to tell me what you are FOR? I look forward to hearing from any of y’all, but won’t hold my breath in anticipation.

Meanwhile, ever-forward the plunge: Here’s some of the stuff I am FOR —

— All public education, including kindergarten through college (doctorate included), to be fully paid by society. No more student debt, ever. Vocational education included whenever appropriate. Private education facilities, including all K-12 and all college/post-graduate remain free to charge whatever they want, but with NO PUBLIC ASSISTANCE. Ever.

— Universal single-payer medical (incl. dental and vision) coverage for each and every citizen, no questions asked, no co-pay ever. For non-citizens, universal emergency health care, no charge. And for wealthy snoots everywhere — those who prefer private coverage — are free to purchase same . . . IF they can find a willing private provider.

— Drastic reduction in military budget, including immediate pullout from Afghanistan, plus whatever legislation (Constitutional amendment included if necessary) might be required to forever prevent wars of any kind for the foreseeable future; a rapid decimation (at LEAST) of nuclear armaments and launch vehicles; at least a 50% reduction in the rest of the “defense” budget, appropriately proportioned. Then, NEXT month we go for the throat!

 — For the less fortunate no matter their dilemma, immediate resurrection and imposition of Franklin Roosevelt’s Second Bill of Rights.

— Dramatic modification of tax law such that the mass of citizens up through the middle class pays no more than 5% tax on earnings up to, in today’s dollars, $75000, with graduated rate increases on all earnings up to $1 million, at which point the tax rate on ALL income (every penny, regardless of source) begins at 40% and increases in graduated form to a maximum rate on all incomes in excess of $10 million of no less than 75%. In addition, the corporate tax rate shall be set at 30% of profits, no exceptions. And NO MORE CORPORATE SUBSIDIES!

— All federal political campaigns shall be publicly financed, no exceptions. Money IS NOT SPEECH! — and only an imbecile would ever suggest that it is.

— Total and absolute separation of church and state; no mixture of politics with religion at any level, and if any tax exempt religious body chooses political involvement, they shall be taxed at corporate rates.

— The “well regulated Militia” concept expressed in the second amendment must be properly interpreted and properly enforced to the point where all “arms” are kept under Armory lock and key until needed to protect/ensure “the security of a free State.”

— Or, maybe absolute repeal of the second amendment and confiscation of each and every gun. Yeah, I like that option better. Maybe next year.

—  Abolish the electoral college; Presidents elected by popular vote only.

— One citizen, one vote. Any and all attempts to suppress the vote disallowed if proposed, automatically trashed upon any attempt at imposition.

— Absolute marriage equality for everyone, regardless of anything. In fact, absolute EQUALITY for everyone, regardless of ANYTHING.

— No politicians, no political agenda . . . EVER . . . hanging around in any citizen’s doctor’s office. EVER.

— Wall Street — no more “rights” to screw people beyond those implicit in the average aging Occupy eunuch.

— Congressional pay = minimum wage per hour WORKED! (currently a compensation approaching $7.25 per month).

OK, so that’s a quickie version of what I am FOR. I suppose that the question of what I’m against is fairly clear, standing right over there and illuminated for all to see (that’s because I’m not a politician, not a liar by birth). I’m pretty sure I missed a whole pile of “FOR” stuff, and maybe with luck there will be others here who dare to fill in that which is missing?

Go for it!

OPEN THREAD

Postscript: I feel obligated to add my own Sherman Statement: “If nominated, I will not run; if elected, I will not serve.” Why? I’m too damn old, mainly.