Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Diagramming the Modern Confederacy

Think of this as a map of the Civil War. Picture America as if that sad conflict never really ended. What you’re looking at is the last die-hard remnant of the old Confederacy.

(From VOX)

For 150 years we’ve continued oppressing Americans of color, compounding 450 years of organized theft.

(Yes Magazine has put all of America's racist injustices into a simple illustrated story.)

An interesting graphing of the Confederacy's… I mean the GOP’s… demographic trend. Whoa! Can that really be happening?

(Graphs courtesy of the Washington Post)

Of course, a lot of Americans are unaware of America’s lack of racial uniformity because they get very blonde news.

(New York Magazine examines FoxNews's complaint that we envy their gorgeous blondness)

The Supreme Court is there to fix problems. Say, for instance, you’re frustrated that it’s getting harder every year to keep darker people from electing non-white and non-conservative people into office. Say you preferred it when America looked like the boxes of whiteness in the opening credits of the Brady Bunch. Realizing America isn’t Wonder Bread would make you very sad and disoriented. The Supreme Court is there to make sure people of different colors don’t upset your narrow racist right wing notion of how America should be…

(SLATE analyzes the judicial gymnastics of the Supreme Court in aid of white folks and rich folks)

Think of the Supreme Court as the Big Way Back machine. The Big Fixeroo. A sanctioned Do-Over for people born with privileges who feel cheated by life. Like in 2000 the way they kept the guy who got the most votes from being president on the grounds that letting the votes be counted would deprive George Bush Jr. of “equal protection.” Letting votes be counted would harm the wealthy heir of a political dynasty that had conspired to overthrow FDR back in the thirties. The Supremes worried all kinds of bad things might happen if Bush were not appointed president.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

The Republican Clown Car

Our news media forces itself to make “all things equal” when reporting on politics and policy.

The frequent stupidities of the pols on the Republican side are downplayed and underreported. If they were all reported it would make the mainstream media appear biased. Can’t have that. And the rare occasion when a Democrat goes slightly left of center calls for a media-wide news alert. Democratic stupidity is as rare as Republican stupidity is commonplace, but it’s the job of the media to balance the two, to make the two parties appear equally intelligent and equally right about everything.

It’s always best to err on the side of judging Democrats more harshly. It’s become a national habit. There’s a mindset that says Republican = Grown Up and Democratic = Radical. That hasn’t been true since we learned how radical and unevolved Nixon was and how consistently Democrats are on the right side of nearly every pressing national issue.

Here are a few bits I saw in the news stream today:

Lindsey Graham’s announced that he would order drone strikes on American citizens in this country if they “even thought about” getting involved with a terrorist group. "I’m not going to call a judge. I’m going to call a drone, and we will kill you.” He did not specify whether he thought the biker gangs who shot up that restaurant in Waco were terrorists. It would be safe to assume he’d restrict his drone kills to Muslims and persons of color. Senator Graham is running for president.

As reported at Slate.

Reported at Talking Points Memo.

David Brooks is the Right Side talking head in just about every two sides panel on radio and television. It’s his job to disagree with any policy proposed by any Democrat and to justify every policy enacted by every Republican. Which is why he’s never stopped loving George W. Bush’s War in Iraq.

David Brooks as Salon tries to make sense of him.

When Jeb Bush tried again to explain whether he’d invade Iraq, knowing what we know now, he said No, but carefully explained that his brother’s White House were unlucky and got bad intelligence about Saddam.

Which isn’t really true. Bad intelligence was all that they would accept. All they wanted was intel that told them to invade immediately and that our troops would be greeted as liberators and that it would be a cakewalk. Candy and flowers. (Candy and flowers are what you give your spouse when you’ve committed an unforgivable sin. I put the Iraq War in that category.)

Jeb Bush's very very bad week explained by Mother Jones.

Of course most “serious” news sources are more focused on whether he was able to dissemble skillfully. A well-told falsehood is more admirable than a sound foreign policy. If one Republican makes a fool of himself it’s always necessary to come up with one who didn’t.

The Hill does its best to put Jebbie's stumbles in context. (It's always inside baseball stuff in their minds.)

The really scary thing you don’t hear on the nightly news is this: Jeb Bush’s stellar foreign policy brain trust are the same idiot who brought us the Iraq War. They’re also the same guys who traded arms for hostages with Iran and illegally funded right wing death squads in Central America.

The Washington Post has a very useful Venn Diagram to explain why Republicans keep making the same mistakes and loving the same stupid policies.

And they’re also the same idiots who didn’t see 9/11 coming, even though the CIA was ringing the alarm bells for months.

FirstLook puts its finger on the crux of our problem, the biggest idiot of them all, the eminence grise behind the eight year train wreck we call the Bush presidency. (It should really be called the Cheney presidency.

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Monday, May 18, 2015

Republican Rules of the Road

Republican Rule 1: Truth is whatever you like. If you don’t like the truth just ignore it and pretend the truth is whatever you like better.

(NYTimes explains how Texas revises the truth in America's textbooks.)

Republican Rule 1, subsection A: Anyone who refuses to share my intolerance is a bigot.

(Jeb Bush actually said this.)

Republican Rule 2: Money is truth. If you’re rich and scientists find that your company is making steeples fall off churches and groceries fall of shelves you can get the university to fire them.

(Reported in Bloomberg)

Republican Rule 3: The truth about America is always wonderful and happy and perfect and holy. The history that talks about slavery and stealing the continent from the Native Americans is simply false. And, by the way, Wyatt Earp didn’t take the guns away from the patriotic citizens in Tombstone.

(In Salon)

Republican Rule 4: If the state history test is saying bad things about America you can just change the answers. And then you can wish the historians who wrote the test into the cornfield. America is always perfect. See Rule 3, above.

(This happened in New Jersey)

Republican Rule 5: Science is confusing and sometimes figures new stuff out, so it’s obviously not true and you can ignore it. God never changes his mind.

(And if you don't understand the scientific method it does look confusing)

Republican Rule 6: When God (or his representatives on earth) are making you feel confused, seek help from your corporate overlord. He will have the answers. Safest to ignore the parts of the New Testament which say we need to take care of the poor. Better yet, ignore the New Testament because Jesus was obviously a socialist.

(Salon again, how the Pope is making GOP heads explode)

(And from Politico, another take on the Pope and American conservatives.)

Republican Rule 7: The best employees are either slaves or robots.

(From the NYTimes)

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Friday, May 15, 2015

Rich vs. Poor

FoxNews: “If you don’t want to be poor, get a job.” Gosh, it’s actually that simple.

Jon Stewart takes his usual calm reasoned look at the hatred on FoxNews

Where does poverty come from? Did the freed slaves actually sit down and say they’d never work again? NPR tackles the long sad story of what really happened.

Meanwhile, American capitalists have fallen in love with workers they can own and don’t have to pay or provide benefits for. The NYTimes on the creatures who are taking our jobs.

A strong work and employment environment requires that money be put to work too, but put to work for the broader society not just part of it. American Prospect compares the success of Minnesota and the failure of Wisconsin.

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

A Carefully Planned Train Wreck

Why do trains crash here but not in Europe or China or Japan? It's all about the privatizers.

That which the Republicans and their clients want to privatize (so they can jack up prices) they first conspire to break down. First they need to cause its failure. Cheaper to buy up that way. It's an old Mafia trick.

Here's a deep dig into the problems of Amtrak by the National Journal.

Common Dreams reports on the Republican Congress's immediate slashing of Amtrak budgets after the Philly crash.

And the reporting from the New York Times.

Does anyone see a pattern? It’s going on every day, every week, all over. Everything owned by the public and run for the public, anything the public really needs, is seen as an opportunity to privatize, to re-engineer to suit narrower interests. The purpose, as they see it, isn’t to deliver goods and services safely for a reasonable price. They see the purpose as delivering maximum profits with minimal concern for the customer or the employee. Ordinary people are hostages to the necessity of certain services, which makes the venture capitalists’ mouths water. Need is a killer business model, ripe for maximum exploitation.

PrivatizationWatch tracks the march of privatization all across the public sector.

Privatization is a shrewd and deeply heartless process and it’s been going on since Reagan took the public interest out of the equation. Look at what Mitt Romney got rich doing and see if you can do the same thing to the systems we all rely on every day. The transportation grid, the energy grid, the food and water supply. Maximum profit, minimum upkeep, short term wins and a guaranteed public need, a guaranteed demand to be squeezed and milked.

How is it done?

First they target something they’d like to hand over to their venture capitalist friends. (The way the entire public sector in the former Soviet Union was handed over to the Russian mafia, only here there needs to be a rationale.)

Find the target.

Make it fail. (There’s your rationale. Failure implies the public sector is inept, which it isn’t.)

Defund it. Break it down. Throw sand in the works. (Republicans have been doing this sand-in-the-machinery routine with Congress, with our democratic system, for the entire Obama presidency.)

Load the public sector system up with pointless burdens. See how the Republicans loaded the Postal Service up with 100 years of pension obligations to be fully funded in a couple of years? That sort of cynical trick will bust the budget and force unworkable cuts in service.

Take the system you want to take over for scrap, and get it to stop working smoothly. Destroy morale. Cut the workforce so the customers start complaining. Make everybody hate the system that used to work well for everybody and served everyone. Blame the people who are trying their best to make the system function. Foist dysfunction on them. Shoot them in the leg and laugh at them for limping.

Then BOOM. Shut ‘er down. Sell ‘er off, cheap, to their private enterprise pals.

This is what the flag-wearing anthem-singing hands-on-hearts Republicans have been planning for the Postal Service, a well-run public institution–– founded by Benjamin Franklin forgodssakes.

John Nichols at The Nation has been writing about the efforts to shut down the Post Office and privatize its parts for several years.

Want to know how privatization works out for the average American? Ask your UPS or FedEx guy how much they’ll charge to send a birthday card to your nephew in Nebraska. Will they say “48¢? No. I’m guessing they’ll say around $23.

And this, folks, is what they’re planning to do with Amtrak. Amtrak, as defunded as it is, still is the preferred transportation method for 80% of the people traveling in the northeast corridor, the busiest travel corridor in the Western Hemisphere. It could be busier if Republicans weren’t working so hard to make it not work.

Besides the passenger rail failures in the news there are almost weekly news stories about another high plains town evacuation because of a derailed oil train.

Salon has been reporting on the reason for the oil train crashes while the networks have just been broadcasting the explosions.

The private rail business isn’t interested in making their rail lines safe. They’re happy to handle a weekly train explosion. Better than fixing their rail lines. They’re misers on the classic Scrooge model: starve the system, impoverish the employees, and pay every saved dollar to the executive suite and to the handful of wealthy shareholders, who (coincidence!) don’t live along or anywhere near a rail line much less work on one.

Here's Paul Ryan's interview about the Amtrak safety fixes that have been delayed by Congressional budget cutting. Even FoxNews can't save him.

Europe’s trains run well and on time. Asia’s trains are a marvel. But we’re a dying empire. Why? Because we’re owned by a 1% crowd who don’t care if the system falls apart. They’ve already moved all the cash out of the country, the way mobsters used to loot legitimate businesses. Who needs mobsters anymore when you have a 1% who steal much bigger and much more efficiently?

The privatizers and their determined effort to break down public systems and institutions also resemble the barbarian hordes who broke down the Roman Empire. One of those tribes gave a name to what they did. They were the Vandals.

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Kiss Up. Kick Down. The Series Continues.

The richest man in Congress explains that poor Americans are the envy of the world. (From CNN Money)

Being Rich is a Game. (From Gawker) (Several years ago I considered turning The Rule of Accumulated Advantage into a board game. I realized only rich attractive people whose parents have powerful connections would want to play it, and decided to price it at $5 million dollars per game.)

This pundit at Jacobin Magazine seems to be looking at the inequality problem with his head turned sideways. Interesting though.)

The Republican Congress wants to tell poor people what they can and cannot eat. (from Wonkette)

Billionaires are advising poor working people to learn to live like the poor people they are. (BlueNationReview) (The rich are so tactful.)

Does this surprise anyone? (CommonDreams reports how the rich don't care about jobs.)

At a certain point, the rules that favor the rich enable them to levitate, tax-free, obligation-free, no strings attached. (from FirstLook)

The rich meanwhile get us to pay their costs of doing business. (From The Guardian)

Really bad ideas that favor a small fraction of Americans (if any) can gain traction if there is a lot of money behind them.

For Profit Prisons are a huge growth sector. (from Alternet)

The rich don't experience failure like the rest of us. (The New Republic) Again, they're immune.

Is it all of our own making? (Robert Reich thinks maybe it is.)

One thing that makes the rich eligible for all the breaks and the perks is this Republican mythology that tells us they're simply better at everything, more competent, more hardworking, more careful, wiser, more honest. And when their party rules the economy it does better. Well, it ain't true. (from Salon)

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Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Serious Threat of Government Takeover in Texas (and related stories)

From NPR we have this report In Texas this week, Republican Governor Greg Abbott ordered a mobilization of the National Guard to defend his state against a takeover by the federal government. Texans have become very alarmed recently about the joint U.S. special forces and military exercises scheduled to begin in Texas and adjacent states. Concerned Texans have been emailing back and forth about imminent roundups of conservatives who will be sent to FEMA camps for indoctrination. These rumors contain a lot of vague information about secret underground tunnels at Walmart stores where this mass arrest will supposedly take place.

There’s more:

This public access program features a wonderful example of pure-hearted level-headed and completely sincere American womanhood who honestly believes the first black president is the leader of an alien invasion bent on destroying America, perhaps by sapping our precious bodily fluids. It is impossible not to believe every word she says. She has documents.

Watch and Learn.

It is in this alien conspiracy theory video that we learn, for the first time, key details of the use of tunnels underneath Walmart stores for the enslavement of patriotic Americans. Watch and inform yourself before you go out and buy large weaponry and canned goods. (But not at Walmart.)

The swift action by Texas Governor Greg Abbott precipitated some letter writing between a few apparently sane and deeply embarrassed Texas Republicans and their governor. (We may assume the letter writer is one of the Texans who has already been kidnapped by the aliens and indoctrinated in the tunnels under one of those Walmarts in Texas. They’re also warning us about Lowes stores.)

Two top talk radio hosts believe Obama is arming black urban gangs to take over the government in a coming race war. Right Wing Watch reports. It’s the typical nonsense. What’s scary is how closely this resembles the official Republican line.

Meanwhile, Back East, VOX is reporting that Senator Lindsey Graham (another patriotic Republican) has identified the greatest existential threat to Americans and our way of life. That threat, says Senator Graham (R, SC), is comprised of ANYTHING originating in the Middle East that starts with the word “Al”.

Al Qaeda begins with “Al”, which is why this makes so much sense.

Al is the Arabic word for “The.”

Again. Firearms. Canned goods. Not from Walmart.

And, for God’s sake, not from the Middle East where these items will come with the word “AL” somewhere on the label.

The tragic thing is while we’ve been worrying about the mass imprisonment and police shootings of African Americans in this country, the actual kidnapping and enslavement of real Americans in tunnels underneath Walmart stores has been planned and possibly has already begun and nobody seems to be paying any attention to the imminent danger except Governor Abbott, Senator Graham and this woman on YouTube.


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Tuesday, May 05, 2015

The Rule of Accumulated Disadvantage

The rule of accumulated disadvantage causes one disadvantage to kick other disadvantages into play, compounding them and leveraging them against you.

Voting is one advantage all Americans are supposed to be born with. They get the vote at adulthood and surrender it at death. All equal. But as Orwell’s pig observed, all may be equal but some are more equal than others. It’s the mission of one of our political parties to suppress the vote, because a full electorate would not vote for them. Imprisoning the poor is one method. Discouraging the poor is another. Misleading them, threatening them, miscounting them, gerrymandering them. Lots of ways of cutting the poor voter out of things. Killing them is seldom spoken about, but deliberate policies can ensure that the poor will die young.

This recent study shows how earlier deaths among black voters decreased black turnout by a million in 2004. A million more living voters of color would have changed the outcome in several recent elections. In a good way. And poverty doesn't kill without careful instructions in terms of public policy. Industrial poisons seldom rain on Bel Air or Boca Raton. The Republican Party is damn sure the medical profession will never look at gun deaths as a public health problem. All these poisonous policies flow from the election of politicians who don’t care about the poor because they are employed by the rich.

There are maps of life expectancy in Chicago and Los Angeles and elsewhere that have a strong race and poverty correlation. Experts are not ignorant about this but the public is.

Republicans, of course, prefer to look on the bright side: if poor people die earlier they cost less. In their philosophy if you ignore a problem it doesn’t cost any money. And if it doesn’t cost any money it doesn’t exist.

Race does put you in a safe box or an unsafe one. Race can mark you as less equal than others. Even if you are a law enforcement professional, if you are black you are the enemy, you are the suspect.

Meanwhile, Republicans, acting on the beliefs of their billionaire clients, do whatever they can to limit government spending, especially that spending not directed toward large corporate contractors but directed at alleviating poverty and its associated ills. Fixable problems like poisonous environment, poor health, poor education, poor food, prejudiced policing and justice. Republicans would like “Charity” to handle all that “stuff.” They love charity, but hate government spending, which requires taxes.

Speaking of taxes and charity.

Billionaires get enormous tax deductions for “giving to charity.” What exactly is a charity? It’s whatever the billionaire wants to give to. Like an exclusive club for their Princetonian children to eat and entertain in.

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Monday, May 04, 2015

Kiss Up. Kick Down.

The massive shift of wealth upward is being engineered as if it’s a war on debt. Make the working class feel pinched, get them in debt, and use that fear of debt as a rationale for paying them less and less, and cutting public efforts to ease the unfairness and relieve distress.

Paul Krugman wrote an excellent piece about The Austerity Delusion for the Guardian.

Another Nobel economist, Joseph Stiglitz, has been warning about the same things. But concentrated wealth can create its own reality.

The class who own for a living use large amounts of cash (they have trillions) to create ads warning about the debt being placed on the children of the people who work for a living.

But this is a bogus warning. They are placing the debt on working people by shifting their tax burden onto working people.

They say public debt will burden our children, but they only want to stop the spending that helps working people.

They are gung-ho about corporate military contractor spending and private prison spending. They oppose education funding and infrastructure funding, calling it wasteful. They oppose fairer taxation that would place the tax burden where it was when we actually had a prosperous working class and functioning infrastructure.

They oppose public spending, calling it a burden on our children. This is as insane as saying we should starve our children to protect their inheritance. It carries enormous social costs. This kind of narrow, self-serving greed is what erodes civilizations. It ultimately leads to collapse. Of course, the wealthy will have offloaded their wealth to remote islands by then.

Even in Kansas, working people are talking back. One waitress has caused quite a stir.

Would you like to see a picture of vast wealth on parade? They always gather to watch two persons of color beat each other up. Now they come in luxury jets instead of limousines. Who paid for that airport? The working taxpayer.

The Republican solution is to give the small class of people who own for a living (whose irresponsible behavior caused the Great Recession) a big fat bonus. A bonus that will perpetuate their wealth and eliminate their obligations to the society that made them rich.

Their hubris is breathtaking. Perhaps because their billions will buy ads to persuade the public to do what they want the public to do. They have only contempt for those who dislike concentrated wealth. People like Pope Francis. In this political climate Jesus wouldn’t have been let near a microphone.

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