Thursday, February 27, 2014

Clueless in Phoenix

Jan Brewer, Governor of Arizona finally vetoed the bill that would have allowed discrimination against Gays and Lesbians for religious beliefs. Did she do this because such a bill was blatantly discriminatory? No. Did she do so because such a bill would pretty obviously Unconstitutional? No. Did she veto it because, as Jon Stewart insisted, it was morally repugnant? No. Did she do it because it was a really stupid idea? No. Perhaps she insightfully realized it was mixing religion with politics? No. Maybe because she realized it was inherently unworkable? I don’t think so. Did she do it because she bowed to pressure from her two State Senators and others? Well, yes and no.

In the best tradition of American capitalism she did it simply because it was bad for business. Business leaders pointed out to her that would stigmatize the State and thus might affect tourism and business in general, might result in people boycotting the state, and, perhaps more important of all, it might make them risk losing the Super Bowl (I think I recall they previously lost a Super Bowl because they opposed a Martin Luther King holiday).

In any case, after milking it for a certain amount of media time, she vetoed it.  I’m not certain that anyone involved in this failed endeavor considered the basic fact that such legislation violates a basic principle of modern, large-scale, industrial, capitalistic, urban life. In small communities of the past, and to a certain extent in remaining rural small communities, social transactions, including business ones, take place on a personal, face-to-face basis. Most everyone knows everyone else, your word is your bond, and any potential personal problems are easily avoided.

In large-scale societies, where most everyone lives these days, personal factors are rarely involved in any business transactions. The overwhelming majority of our transactions are fundamentally based on legal contracts. While you don’t necessarily have to actually sign a contract to purchase something (although often you do), all transactions are basically legal agreements. That is, a merchant agrees to sell you something at a fixed or an ageed-upon price, and you agree to buy it at that price. You are both obligated to that contract. Both the buyer’s and seller’s personal beliefs have nothing whatsoever to do with it (other than their respective beliefs about the quality or usefulness of the object being purchased).

Obviously if personal beliefs, like religious ones, or others such as gun rights, are introduced into such a system, potential chaos would occur. You could never be certain that you could purchase something if the potential seller imposed his or her personal religious or other beliefs onto the transaction. Christians could discriminate against Muslims, or even women wearing headscarves, Muslims could discriminate against Christians, especially if they smoked or drank, and so on.

It is true that you often see signs like “No shoes, no shirt, no service,” or “We reserve the right to refuse service,” but such reservations have mostly to do with cleanliness and health or rowdy behaviors, irrespective of the individual’s religious or other beliefs, and they minimize misunderstandings and potential problems.
In short, our system for the vast majority of our transactions allows no place for personal beliefs, religious or otherwise. Trying to introduce personal beliefs into such a system would be totally unworkable. In this Phoenix case you would often have to guess if individuals were Gay or Lesbian, you would have to be suspicious of any same sex pair, and so on. And, of course, if it became legal to discriminate against Gays and Lesbians, why not Blacks, Hispanics, Asians, Indians, Muslims, Buddhists, Catholics, Jews, atheists, short people, tall people, redheads, midgets, anyone who did not share your own personal beliefs, and how would you ever know. As there are hundreds of different religions, with all kinds of strange and bizarre beliefs, the very idea of discriminating on religious grounds is absurd. I don’t think we need random discrimination to potentially enter our lives because some Christians do not approve of others on the basis of their presumed sex lives. And what’s with this obsession over Gay sex anyway? We don’t ordinarily worry or wonder much about heterosexual sexual behavior, even though it involves in some (unknown and uncounted) cases similar sexual practices, and who knows what kinds of other “kinky” sex. Do most people ask their friends and relatives what kind of sex they engage in? Do most people even care? We should stop wasting time with clueless, harebrained, and ridiculous ideas that will never float and will surely fail.

If you believe in equality, if you believe in standing up for the rights of all, especially for people most affected by bigotry and discrimination, then you have no choice but to be present and accounted for when it comes to standing up for gays and lesbians in our society.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Who are "They?"

“East is east and West is West…” and whether the “Twain” shall ever meet seems unlikely given the apparent determination of the U.S. and the E. U. to divide the Ukraine from Russia, meddling, as usual, in far-flung places probably not their business.

John McCain, perhaps the most malicious and reliable meddler of all, has recently announced that “They” want to be part of the West. By “they” he obviously has in mind Ukranians in general, rather than merely those Ukrainians living in the western part of the country. This I would think is true because he is obviously opposed to partitioning the country and, in his usual simplistic black and white approach to all political issues, is unable to deal with anything more complex than “shoot first, ask questions later.” If he has in mind only those Ukrainians living in the western part of that nation his claim they want to be part of the West may be true. But if he is really speaking for all Ukrainians it is not at all true. Ukrainians living in the East, who mostly speak Russian, and have long ties to Russia, do not want to be part of the West, preferring to stay more closely tied to Russia. In McCain’s view, or lack of view, these people are simply not important, not part of the problem, not even relevant.  McCain, and others like him, cold war warriors extraordinaire, will do anything to oppose Russia, no matter how unrealistic or irresponsible. There is a long history of Russian/Ukrainian ties, many, perhaps even most Ukrainians speak Russian, Ukraine is clearly within Russia’s sphere of influence, their neighbor, unlike the U.S. thousands of miles away. Of course Putin wants to continue his influence there, and treating him as if he has no business “meddling” there is simply absurd. The U.S. approach to foreign policy, which consists of meddling all over the world, demands that everyone do what it is we want them to do, and if they do not, sanctions, or worse. There is good reason people everywhere believe the U.S. is the greatest danger to peace. How many Russian drones are flying over other countries killing civilians? Other countries are not supposed to have national interests that are not in sync with ours. Susan Rice has also made this simplistic claim, that “They” want to be part of the West.

This use of the generic “They” has become commonplace in American politics. Politicians on both sides of the aisle (a completely artificial arrangement as there are so few differences between them) commonly speak of what it is the “American people” (they) want or believe. Of course there are no generic “American people,” so the American people they are referring to are simply those they think or pretend are those who they fantasize think the same way they do even, though as often than not they probably don’t. The English language as used in politics, is a far cry from the English language we think ordinarily think of, as George Orwell pointed out some time ago in his famous essay, “Politics and the English Language.”
Someone has said that “You campaign in poetry but have to govern in prose.” There is, I think, a grain of truth in that, but nowadays I think it is more true that you campaign in gobblegook and then govern with simplification, obfuscation, fabrication, and falsification. Hey, it’s the American way.
The American approach to the world is simple: we are good, they are bad, except for the Israelis who are, of course, as we are, always good.

 Right and wrong are determined by the people who hold positions of authority, that's the way it has always been so how then can anyone know this truth you speak of? Don't you see that truth long ago became a shadow of itself, it's a mere echo of the past now... The world is one big moral gray area, it just makes you feel safer that it can be categorized into good and bad that's not actually how it works.” 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Common Sense and Decency

What passes for common sense in one era changes in another, and common sense is often not sensible. When I was a teen it apparently was regarded as common sense that a baby’s bottle had to be warmed before feeding him or her. That is no longer the case. Similarly, it was common sense that girls/women could not go swimming when they were menstruating. And some of us even believed it was common sense that eating watermelon seeds would bring on appendicitis. I’m sure we had all kinds of other common sense notions that we no longer hold. It is not difficult to understand why common sense changes over time.

It is not so easy for me to understand why common human decency has also changed over time, or at least so it seems. Perhaps a good first example of this is the recent report that teachers (or someone) took school lunches out of the hands of some children, put them in the garbage, because their parents had not paid some kind of fee on time, or perhaps at all, thus shaming and humiliating the children in front of their peers. I might be wrong about this but I do not believe this would have ever happened to a child when I was in school. No teacher or person I can imagine in our town would have done such a thing to a child, had the same situation prevailed, which happily it did not. I’m pretty certain such a thing would have been unthinkable. There are undoubtedly reasons for this which I will not bother to mention, but the bottom line is that basic human decency would have prevailed. Not so today, apparently.

But the current lack of common decency goes much further than this one simple example. Throughout most of my life there has always been respect for the Office of the President, if not necessarily for the individual occupying it. Of course there were occasional times when someone might have disrespected the President and perhaps violated the proper respect for the office, but such occasions were rare. This seems to be no longer the case, especially since President Obama has held the Office . You might well say that indecency towards Obama and the Presidency has virtually reached fever proportions at the moment what with the vitriol and unconcealed hatred directed at him on a now daily basis, primarily by Republicans. When someone like Ted Nugent calls Obama a “subhuman mongrel” and still has influence with major Republican politicians that even ask him to campaign with them, you realize just how far indecency has crept into our lives. Similarly, when a woman during a Republican meeting says Obama should be hanged and no one objects there is no longer even a pretense of decency. There are many more instances of this kind so there is no doubt indecency is now common in our politics. In the particular case of Obama there is obviously a racial bias at play, a bias that was at first covered up initially at least with code words, but more recently it is not even hidden any longer.

I do not believe this trend towards indecency began with Obama. I think it began at first with President Clinton. When Republicans could not defeat him with ballots, under the tutelage of Rove and others, what was once a legitimate political party began to morph into little more than a criminal enterprise, willing to use anything and everything to bring him down. Outright lying became commonplace (did Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and others ever tell the truth about anything), the technique of “roviation” was created, human decency disappeared, and what I termed the “Brafia” was born.

At this moment human decency has disappeared from Republican ranks almost entirely. This can be seen clearly in their attitude towards their fellow citizens. They are entirely unmoved by the plight of the poor and the unemployed. They are opposed to unemployment insurance, minimum wages, Medicare, Medicaid, universal health care, unions, legal abortions, fair pay for all, taxes on the obscenely wealthy, public education, infrastructure improvements, and apparently anything that might make life better for ordinary citizens. Find, if you will, or can, any shred of human decency here, any empathy, any understanding, any desire to help others, even any interest in so-called “Christian charity.” What was once a legitimate political party has now become a hateful, racist, indecent, uncooperative, semi-criminal organization, primarily devoted to the destruction of the Obama Presidency and taking from the poor to give to the rich. Having alienated women, Blacks, Hispanics, Gays and Lesbians, Muslims, and other minorities, virtually everyone except White Trash like Ted Nugent, they think they may have a chance to take over control of the Senate. They might. Welcome to the reality of a culture without either common sense or common decency.

Monday, February 17, 2014


One reason I find it so difficult to blog anymore is that many things that seem to me to be complete “no-brainers” are apparently accepted by the MSM and others as perfectly respectable subjects for discussion. I applaud John Kerry’s recent statement that climate change is no longer a subject for debate. Of course this won’t matter to those who know nothing but continue to debate it anyway. As far as I am concerned those who deny climate change and its implications are basically trying to kill us all. Climate change denial is a true no-brainer.

Stand-your-ground laws are another perfect example of a no-brainer. If young black males are commonly regarded as intrinsically “threatening,” and if your perceived fear of that threat is all you need to “stand-your-ground” and shoot them, why should we not just shoot them on sight? Oh, I guess that is pretty much what is happening. When four black teen-agers, sitting in their car listening to loud music, can be shot, one to death, and the others shot at, apparently to try to kill them also, it  seems to me the laws have become themselves no-brainers. In this recent case it appears that murdering someone is irrelevant, whereas failing to kill the others is being punished. To me this case is a true no-brainer. I guess I need to change my attitude about loud music, get a gun, keep it loaded in my glove compartment, so that when I next hear loud country/western music, which I absolutely detest, I can shoot at will, claiming that I was being threatened by a bunch of cowboys (but only if they were Black cowboys). Stand your ground laws are absurd. People have always had the right to defend themselves. The stand your ground laws as they currently exist are little more than a license to kill young Black males on sight.

To me much of everything we do seems to be a no-brainer. Our seemingly endless, obviously failing “War on Drugs,” is most certainly a no-brainer. Our approach to Iran is a complete no-brainer, our uncritical support of Israeli war crimes is a no-brainer, our meddling in the Ukraine is a no-brainer, ditto Syria, and the many other countries we somehow think we should be able to control. Our attacks on Iraq and Afghanistan were no-brainers to being with, and trying to maintain the American “Empire” will be an ultimate no-brainer, just as Osama bin Laden planned.

Of course domestically we see the no-brainership approach to our lives and culture in a truly  pure form. Our children, whom we will depend on for our future, are being saddled with debts they cannot pay, and jobs they cannot find, so they are being economically (and probably psychologically) crippled for life. Where we should be happy to educate them for free, the banks and others have turned them into cash cows. This development is probably the most egregious no-brainer of all. Our infrastructure is obsolete, trillions of dollars behind in maintenance, and virtually antique compared to Asian and European developments, at least with respect to transportation, our schools are crumbling, our Health Care is a disgrace even with Obamacare, when compared to other advanced nations.

When it comes to politics we have completely failed what our Founding Fathers envisioned, indeed what any sentient being might envision. Our acclaimed two party system has degenerated into basically a one party system, and even that is dysfunctional as half of the one party system refuses to participate in governing, preferring instead to simply oppose whatever the other half proposes. With no plans of their own they simply refuse to cooperate thus making it virtually impossible to deal with the real problems that confront us. As long as the rich get richer, and the poor get poorer, the status quo continues. But wait! We may be about to raise the starvation minimum wage to the almost starvation level, perhaps even a “bipartisan” effort that will do virtually nothing to change the obscene inequalities that currently exist. But let’s not think about that, thinking in our culture has apparently become itself a no-brainer.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Me and Kati (13)

Kati, you are the only one I can talk with. I am concerned that I am completely losing interest in most everything. I don’t know if this is simply a result of age or if it has something to do with what is actually happening (or not happening, as the case may be). When you live in a small town there are no psychiatrists, at best maybe a social worker or two, but in any case you know them personally and anonymity is not guaranteed. Similarly, when you live in a small town in which 90% or more are essentially right-wing zealots you really can’t discuss politics, unless, of course, you begin with the assumption that President Obama is a foreigner who does not belong in office, is a socialist, communist, homosexual, fascist, dictator, liar, anti-Christ, and all-around terrible guy who is having an affair with Beyonce.

Not only that, you are virtually at the mercy of the Main Stream Media, a conglomeration dedicated to making sure you will never, ever, get any real news other than what happens to be their most recent obsession. In this case it happens to be Governor Chris Christy of New Jersey. I confess I really don’t want to hear any more about the problems of New Jersey Fats, at least until he goes on trial, goes to jail, or in the most unlikely outcome happens to be exonerated. Personally, I have no doubt that whether he is linked to the bridge closure or not he has almost certainly used state and federal funds inappropriately, probably illegally, is a first-class bully, and represents the worst example of a state Governor. But I do not want a daily account of how many subpoenas have been served, what they are looking for, what their names are, and what this may or not mean for the ongoing investigation. Just let me know when and if this giant bag of protoplasm is found either non-guilty or guilty. While I admire and respect Rachel Maddow I think she has gone totally overboard on this particular subject. I refuse to believe there are not other news stories, both domestically and foreign that are not more important than the details of the fat man’s scandal. Don’t be surprised, however, if he ends up being the Republican candidate for President as the other possibilities are so appallingly awful there may be no other choice. You can’t set the bar much lower than George W. Bush, the worst President ever except, perhaps, for Saint Ronnie the Moron.

I guess if it weren’t for the problems of New Jersey Fats we might have to actually hear about the predictably failing Israel/Palestinian talks, maybe our meddling in the Ukraine (none of our business), meddling in Syria (none of our business), meddling in Afghanistan (none of our business) meddling in Iran (none of our business), meddling with China (none of our business), meddling in fact all over the world (none of our business). But such are the problems of empire (whether you can afford them or not).

And what’s with our badmouthing the Sochi Olympics? It’s as if we really want them to fail. “Sochi was a terrible choice,” “there won’t be any snow,” there are bound to be terrorist attacks, Gays will be discriminated against, the hotel rooms are terrible, you can’t drink the water, the games were far too expensive, and so on. While I cannot claim to “be in the know,” it seems to me the games are going fine. I suppose there are problems but athletes are still competing, winning medals, engaging in precisely the competitions they are supposed to be competing in, and the show goes on. Of course we can’t resist making fun of President Putin, bare-chested and all, spending foolishly on the Olympics, applauding the winners, Russian or not, and in general apparently making a success of the games. Why should we not appreciate the success of the games rather than wishing for their failure? Because, I guess, we are Americans, exceptional, and the Russians are Russians. Kati, does any of this make any sense to you? It doesn’t to me. Communism failed some time ago, Capitalism is failing now, it’s only a matter of time. Maybe we should try harder to get along?

 “He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad.”

Rafael Sabatini


Friday, February 07, 2014

Where ARE the jobs, Boehner?

John Boehner is so well known for closing his remarks with “Where are the jobs?” I’m beginning to think that might actually be his middle name. It is an interesting gambit because it reveals a genuine con man engaged in one of the biggest cons ever. Boehner is not stupid, at least I don’t think he is. He must know that the question “where are the jobs” should be directed at him rather than at President Obama. This would seem to be a classic case of the Rovian strategy of accusing someone of doing precisely what it is you yourself are doing. Boehner has to know, of course, that under his leadership the House has produced no legislation whatsoever that would have led to the creation of jobs. And he also has to know that he and his cronies in the House have deliberately refused to cooperate with any attempt President Obama and the Democrats have proposed to create jobs. If Republicans get away with blaming Obama for the failure to create jobs they will have pulled off probably the greatest con job of all time. This is not to say Obama is completely without fault, he could have pressed much harder than he has. But to blame him for the failure of job creation is the height of Republican hypocrisy.

As Republicans have apparently surrendered to the Tea Party wing it is becoming increasingly impossible to take them seriously. I mean, really, they expect us to assassinate, hang, impeach, or deport President Obama, and no one in their party stands up to tell them they are completely and totally batshit crazy?  (I have no idea where this strange phrase originated but it seems to carry meaning of some kind). It is understandable that some may not agree with what Obama has done, or wishes to do, but he has done nothing that would lead anyone to believe he should be impeached (assassinated or hung). It has become quite clear, at least to me, that the Obama haters are motivated by almost exclusively by racism. There is no other explanation for the venom and hatred directed at him. I would even venture to say that those who hate him the most are those who know the least about what it is they are talking about.

Obamacare is a good case in point. This is so far from socialized medicine it is simply absurd to claim otherwise. In fact, Obamacare would be much better characterized as "Insurancecare" as it basically gives the insurance industry some potentially 30 or 40 million more customers and does very little to control the outrageous costs they claim for doing actually nothing for health care except shuffle a lot of papers around and collect a percentage. There is no logical reason for insurance companies to have anything whatsoever to do with health care.

I receive now, every day in my email, requests for money, donations to the campaigns of many different so-and-sos, the Democratic Party itself, and so on. These are now usually couched in terms that imply that if I do not donate to them the Koch brothers and their billionaire friends will win. This seems to imply that whoever spends the most money will win, and perhaps that is true, although I do not like to think so. In any case, it seems to me a more or less lost cause to try to outspend them. I doubt small donations will accomplish that. The only way to defeat them will be at the ballot box, not competing monetarily. They are literally attempting to buy the Senate and House with their obscene wealth, and they might succeed if voters do not go to the polls and defeat them. Money is an issue, of course, but cannot be the most important issue in spite of the corrupt Supreme Court’s attempt to make it so.

I confess I do not understand what is going on. Congress now has a popularity rating somewhere immediately below a snake’s belly or cancer, and for the most part Republicans lead the list of incompetent, dishonest, obstructionistic, do-nothings, but at the same time seem to believe they have a chance to capture the Senate and also keep control of the House. Where does this optimism come from? Having alienated Blacks, Hispanics, other minorities, immigrants, women, Gays and Lesbians, and virtually everyone except relatively uneducated White men, how can they possibly believe they can win anything? But don’t write them off, this is the United States after all, an electorate that obviously has no idea what they are doing or saying. But when your opponent is a Socialist, Communist, Fascist, Foreign born, dictatorial, impeachable, lynchable, anti-Christ from outer space, anything goes. It’s America the Beautiful, but only in English.

    “The governor of Texas, who, when asked if the Bible should also be taught in Spanish, replied that 'if English was good enough for Jesus, then it's good enough for me.” 

Monday, February 03, 2014

In the Dark

I confess I am in the dark about what is going on in the Middle East. Of course you could argue that being a nobody, and living in an area as close to nowhere as possible, and having virtually no news except the no news we get from the Main Media through television and radio. I would inevitably be in the dark about most everything, except, of course, the trials and tribulations of New Jersey Fats.  I have no idea what is going on anywhere else, especially in the Middle East,  so I just guess about it.

I am inclined to believe that John Kerry is perhaps the worst, most inept Secretary of State we have ever had. Apparently the Israelis hate him, as do the Palestinians, and they all seem to agree that his suggestions for an agreement between them are ridiculous, and perhaps they are. Similarly, at the same time he is trying to deal with a solution to the Iranian problem he continues to threaten them with war if they fail to live up to his (our) expectations, not a position that could possibly please them or help. So, on the one hand he seems to want a solution to these rather intractable problems, and on the other he keeps alienating the various players on this complicated chessboard.

But what if, and a big if it is, he is actually not the “bull in the china shop” he appears to be. What if he and President Obama actually have a plan to bring about actual solutions to these long-festering problems? What if they are actually maneuvering to force a solution to these problems? It is pretty obvious that Israel is never going to agree to a Palestinian state unless they are forced to do so. It is equally obvious that Iran is not going to accept a solution imposed by the United States with respect to their behavior, nuclear or otherwise.
How, then, could it be possible to bring about solutions to these problems? On the one hand you must convince Israel that you are not going to risk their security, or their racist plans to claim the West Bank, and on the other hand you must convince them you will not allow Iran to challenge Western hegemony in the Middle East. This is no small task. It requires the most sensitive diplomacy coupled with the threat of absolutely dire consequences should it fail. You must convince Israel that it is in their long term interest to give up their dreams of expansion and genocide (and some captured territory), as well as give in to a viable Palestinian state, and you must also convince the Arabs and Israel that Iran, having made peace with the U.S., will not unilaterally or importantly upset the balance of power in the Middle East.

Could it be this is precisely what Obama and Kerry are trying to diplomatically accomplish, however surreptitiously? It would, of course, dramatically change the situation in the Middle East. American and European hegemony would suffer if not disappear. But as that is happening already, and there is nothing much we can do about it, would it not be better to be a partner in the new Middle East than a has been in the old?

Obviously Obama and Kerry could not admit this was what they are trying to accomplish. The mindless Congressional support for Israeli racism and (war) crimes would never agree to such a solution, and the even more mindless demand for war against Iran by the military/industrial/political complex (there is big money in war) would likewise  violently resist such a sensible solution. I don’t know if this is what Obama and Kerry have in mind. I hope it is. If they could succeed in solving the Israeli/Palestinian problem, along with the Iranian situation, it would be one of the greatest diplomatic triumphs of all time. Are Obama’s and Kerry’s threats of military action against Iran, and threats of boycotts against Israel, just idle threats for show, or for real? I know nothing. I am completely in the dark. I’m pretty confident, however, that ‘Bibi’ Netanyahu and his supporters are liars and warmongers.