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

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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.

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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.

OPEN THREAD

[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.

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