Category Archives: Politics

Say “Thank you, Mr. Reagan.”

Oh no, this is not about any of the current healthcare debates of tax cut proposals. I have a feeling that most of you reading this own a smart phone and that you can take advantage of that device’s GPS for turn-by-turn navigation. This is a feature that has not only enabled a great deal of modern commerce but has saved lives. For this you say ‘Thank you, Mr. Reagan.’

The Global Positioning System, GPS, was developed for the U.S. Military to allow the United States to have pinpoint accuracy on all it’s assets around the world. It is what is referred to in mil-speak as a ‘force multiplier.’ A factor that allows a force to fight as though their number were actually larger than are present. Opening that up to everyone’s use is a major policy and that policy change was ordered by President Reagan after a tragedy.

September 1 1983 KAL flight 007 wandered off course and into the airspace claimed by the USSR. Mistaking the passenger jet for a spy plane the Soviets shot it down killing all 269 aboard. I order to avoid such tragedies in the future the Reagan administration opened the GPS up to world-wide civilian use.

Say ‘Thank you, Mr. Clinton.’

The system opened to civilian use by Reagan was slightly altered to degrade performance. Non-military users could not locate their position with an accuracy greater than a few hundred meters. This prevented navigation errors such as with KAL 005 but preserved a significant degree of superiority for the U.S. Military. In 1996 the Clinton administration, recognizing the huge private sector potential, removed the additional signal that degraded the service for civilians. Now everyone with a GPS receiver could pinpoint there location to within a new meters. You know, that thing your phone does all the time.

What’s the point of all this?

Conservatives and Liberal can both have terrific ideas, either can advance the common good and either can see beyond petty self-interests. Only a partisan fool blithely disregards something solely because it came from across the aisle. Every idea, suggestion, and should be judges on its own merits.

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Some Random Thoughts While Recovering

This week has been a rough week. Every single of the week I have suffered a migraine attack. Individually each one has been a mild to mid-grade headache, not enough to keep me home but severe enough to seriously reduced my productivity and enjoyment. This morning I awoke with another migraine and after yesterdays I decided to take the serious step to break the cluster. That means staying home from the day job and taking two does of my medications about four hours apart. This nearly always stops a cycle but leaves me fog-headed and a little unsteady. Right now, for the first time in a week, I do not feel like a headache is about to explode.

 

The Republicans have released the Senate’s bill for repealing and replacing the ACA with their own version. It is cheaper, skimpier, and will result in lots of people losing their coverage. If they pass it and Trump signs it, not a certainty as the man’s alignment is Chaotic Greedy, I think they this victory will serve them as well as Imperial Japan’s victory at Pearl Harbor. They will have won a battle but plunge into a war that looks far worse for them. This will have taught the Democratic party two very valuable lessons. First that it is futile to consider the conservative position on health care. The attempt at a mixed mode or public and private systems produced no benefits at all. Second that reconciliation is the method to achieve their goals; that there is no penalty paid for shutting out the other party. In addition to those lessons further making the ground worse for the conservatives the conversation on health care has changed in a very basic manner; the population in general believes that more people should have access to health care and that it’s a proper role of the Federal Government to make that happen. One of the few consistencies in the Trump campaign was his promise to make healthcare cheaper and covering more people. Trump is salesman and he was telling people what they wanted to hear. It is what they want and the GOP plan does the opposite of that. They might make that sale with a fast talk roll and a quick vote but once implements there’s no three-card monte way to hid the results. Let me close out the political thoughts with one more observations. Conservative positions are a package deal, they are all sailing on the same ship. If the GOP sinks the ship over healthcare it will take down everything else that conservatives might care for, tax cut, ‘pro-life’ policies, gun rights, all of this I think is imperiled in the long term. Is that a trade you really think is worthy? Is this the hill to kill your movement on?

 

I’ll wrap up with an artistic observation. I am quite happy with the releases of Mad Max: Black & Chrome and Logan Noir. After the advent of cheap and easy color film, remember The Wizard of Oz and The Adventures of Robin Hood were 1939 but common color films didn’t come about until the late 1960s, B&W film were for only art house releases and the odd film released wide in B&W generally did not do well. Seeing the special editions in the theaters give me hope that we are seeing a generation of general theatergoers who are more open and interested in artistic expressions that go beyond just the basic entertainment.

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Words Create Reality

I was going to write a post about the long-term costs to the Republican party if they throw millions of people of their healthcare. (Short answer the cost is high and it endangers everything conservatives want to achieve or protect.) However the shooting in Virginia has prompted today’s thoughts.

 

It may be self-serving for a professed writer to proclaim the power f the word but in my opinion the truth remains no matter the source. Words create our reality. Now clearly I do not mean that in a Newton/Einstein/Bohr sense of reality, but human perceptions of about what the universe is and how is works is vitally important that those perceptions are shaped and created by the words we use to describe our shared understanding.

The words we use to describe ourselves and perhaps more importantly those with whom we disagree contain a terrible power. We can all too easily de-humanize those who are not of our in-group. Once people are de-humanized and no longer seen as ‘really people’ then the processed proceeds easily to assault and murder. This is true in war where propaganda creates the illusion that the enemy solider is a monster and not a person. This is true and vile depravity of racism where entire swaths of humanity are expelled from our family. And it is true in politics when we refuse to accept that those who disagree with us can hold a legitimate point of view. This has been on display far too often lately.

Of course there was the attack this week by a lone gunman who attempted to murder Republican politicians as they played a game. That action is the wholly unsurprising resulted of labeling your opponents Nazis. After all Nazis are the unquestioned evil of our modern age. Pundits on the left and on the right argues endlessly that the Nazi actually belong to the other side’s camp because turning your opponents into Nazis is the ultimate de-legitimization of their position and causes.

Recently we’ve had a spate of people urging that it is always right to assault a Nazi, and lucky for them they get to decide who is and who is not a Nazi. This week was not unexpected; it was the next logical step.

The process plays out exactly the same when you decry they your opponents have a culture of death, that they do not value human life, that their system of belief is wholly evil and violent. When you beat that drum you cannot then be shocked that houses of worship are burned, people are assaulted and people are murdered. If civilization itself is at stake, the reality too often painted with words from that side of things, then how can we exert anything less that total commitment including violence?

I recall sitting on a panel at a science-fiction convention and a fellow panelist called for greater civility in our political discourse while using pejoratives to describe his political opponents and that is the heart of the problem. Those on the right can easily see how the inflamed rhetoric from the left caused this week’s shooting, and those on the left can clearly understand how the right’s rhetoric caused the recent murder on public transit and yet from your own side the perpetrators are always unbalanced people never actually representative.

Yes, these people are imbalanced but it is the inflammatory words that helped prompt them into think that there actions are not only acceptable but praiseworthy.

Choose your words carefully.

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Trust Once Broken is Nearly Impossible to Re-forge

Life is not like the Lord of The Rings and trust once it is shattered is not easily reformed into a new shiny compact like the recreated blade Narsil transformed from its shard into Anduril.

Ask any couple where one has betrayed the other with an affair. Ask anyone who has placed their trust in another person who let them down and then asked to be trusted again. When someone’s given word is broken it is very difficult and usually a lengthy process to regain a measure of trust so it is with nations.

Trump’s lasting impact on the United States is probably going to be in the area of how our allies treat us and our commitments. From his refusal to recommit to Article 5 of the NATO treaty. which is the very heart of the treaty, to the sudden withdrawal from the Paris Accords, our allies are going to understand that America’s word is much less dependable and our actions much more volatile then they have assumed.

Roman maintained Pax Romana through it’s military dominance of the4 ancient world with Rome’s mighty Legions. England maintained Pax Britiana with her Navy and economic colonialism, but Pax American has been something different.

For the most part, and imperfectly, we have maintained a world peace and flowering economic growth around the globe through our leadership and our diplomacy. As I have mentioned in other posts the United States spends far more than other nations on its military because we are the one assuring the world’s peace. We are also the linchpin of the world’s economy, with out dollars acting as the planet’s reserve currency. That power and that responsibility comes entirely from the world’s trust, trust in American agreements and treaties.

While amongst ourselves the right and the left have bitter differences, over seas we have historically presented one face and fully backed our agreements, something the world counted upon. Trump has shattered that. Our allies now publicly state that they can no longer fully count on America, that they must be ready to go it alone. This does not make us stronger it weakens us. This does not secure our economy it imperils it. Other nations are watching us and want our position. There is no love for a fallen empire and no loyalty to an ally to shatters trust.

We are in terrible danger.

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‘Come see the Violence Inherent in the System!’

This week on the eve of a special election the electorate was treated with the spectacle of a congressional candidate, Gianforte, assaulting a person, a reporter, for their presumed liberal politics. Repeatedly punching the man while shouting that he was ‘… sick and tired of your guys!’ Sadly the candidate still won his election but let’s look at this again.

There were unqualified condemnations of the assault from people presumably on the left side of the political spectrum. This sort of violence is utterly unacceptable and there needs to be serious consequences for the criminality. From the right I heard qualified condemnation and regret. Yes, this is bad and it shouldn’t have happened, but liberal have long poised the discourse and this is the result of that. (I’m going to set aside any validity to that position, that’s not the point today.)

I have unqualified condemnation for all political violence. Violence should be held in reserve until it is required to defend life and safety. You bring the very concept that violence is acceptable, in any form, to political discourse and you have taken the steps to a terrible future.

We have another incident 4 months ago.

Richard Spencer, arguably America’s leading Fascist, the man who led a room of people in the NAZI salute while shouting ‘Hail Trump!’ was assaulted on camera while being interviewed.

I heard many voices from the left offering with outright praise for this violence to very qualified condemnation, while voice on the right proclaimed the utterly unacceptability of violence based on the target’s political views.

I posted at the time that while Spencer is utterly reprehensible this violence was in no manner justified. I feel the exact same way about Gianforte’s assault on a reporter. My position is perfectly aligned with my principles in both cases.

Be wary of being so wedded to your team, of being so poised by your animosity, that you surrender your values. Without solid values there is nothing but naked raw ambition and power.

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Unimportant Political Posting

For Saturday here is an utterly unimportant political post about something that ticks me off.

Both Kerry and Obama were mocked by conservative media for ‘elite’ food tastes, Kerry while campaigning for asking about different cheeses on a philly cheese/steak and Obama for asking about deli/spicy mustard for a sandwich. (Not to mention the arugula comment.) these choices were presented as evidence that the respective pols were out of the mainstream culture and elitists.

Recently I have seen liberal media mocking Trump for his food selections, that he loves fast food such as McDonald’s, like catsup on his steaks, insulting him for having ‘common’ tastes.

Fuck off to all of you.

Trump is a terrible terrible president and may well be an inflection point indicating the beginning of the end for American dominance of the globe, but that’s not the point here. The point is that people are allowed to like what they like. They are allowed to take pleasures in the little things in life that help make life bearable.

I will not take part in elitist snobbery from the left or from the right. (And yes, mocking people for not following your tastes is elitist ) frankly food snobs in general piss me off. I see the memes passing around about how you should cook this or how you should consume that and the people who don’t should be asked to leave.

Yeah it’s joking but the heart of the joke is that others are expected to live their lives to an standard that is not their own.

You don’t like the way I order my steaks? You don’t like my choice of sauces.

Screw you. Your opinion on such things does not matter.

The same goes for music, television, books, films, and the like.

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Even Literal Jokes are Illuminating

The news cycle these days is more like a news cyclone. It moves fast, it’s unpredictable, and we are all concerned with swaths of destruction. It also means that an idea to explore or discuss is often simply the last hour’s events and out of date by supper. No matter, there a couple of events that raise some points I’d like the dive into and I don’t care that they are older news stories.

Last week we learned that House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy during a private discussion with fellow House Republicans said:

There’s two people I think Putin pays, Rohrabacher and Trump.”

The quote was denied until it was revealed that an audio recording of it existed and then the statement was described as a joke. A lot of people do not think it was a joke, but I disagree with them. I actually doubt that the House Majority Leader was stating as a fact that with Representative Rohrabacher or Trump were on Putin payroll. I accept that it was a joke, a jest, a jibe, but that doesn’t meaning the statement is meaningless. Jokes exist in a context or they are not funny.

Two of the contexts that you can find joke is exaggeration and incongruity. A joke that relies on exaggeration takes a context everyone knows to be true and plays it to hyperbole for humorous effect. Stating that the giraffes at zoo were hitting on the school’s basketball player is not meant to literally imply either that the player is 12 feet tall but rather exaggerates his height for the punch-line. In that context it is clear that while McCarthy’s comment can be viewed as a joke the underlying premise is unsettling. The joke is only funny if there is a baseline to exaggerate, if there is a closer than comfortable relationship between Putin and the two men, a relationship so well accepted and know that it can be the basis for a joke. That should give everyone pause.

The other context I’m looking at is incongruity. That’s where a joke plays against an expectation. This is the sort of joke where someone might say to a person over-reacting that William Shatner called and wants his sense of subtly back. It plays on the well know, though not always fair, ding for Shatner’s expansive acting method.

During the confirmation hearing for A.G. Jeff Sessions a statement of his came back to haunt him. referring to the violent, racist group the KKK Sessions is quoted as saying that the KKK was ‘OK until I found out that they smoked pot.’

Again this was explained as a joke, and let’s go ahead and examine it as a joke. Now the KKK is not known for pot use so this doesn’t look like a joke of exaggeration but rather one of incongruity. The idea that the serious, and bigots are always overly serious in their hatred, Christian warriors are pot heads is at odds with their image, but that does not remove the nasty factor in this joke. There are really only two ways of looking at this statement.

1) That smoking pot is more serious and morally wrong than being a group of violent racist bigots.

or

2) That being a group of violent racist bigots is not as morally wrong as smoking pot.

I know that those two statement seems the same but they really are not, though neither is an admirable worldview. In the first the idea that the racism and bigotry is bad, perhaps even extreme, but it is exceeded by pot smoking. With the second view pot smoking is so reprehensible that even being a violent racist bigot is not as bad.

The joke only really works by way of context with the first interpretation. That being a violent racist bigot is wrong but it is not as bad as being a pot smoker, this both exaggerates the pot smoking and downplays the bigotry. The joke only works if your consider pot smoking in the same realm as violent bigotry and no matter how you cut it that is a serious disturbed viewpoint that either considers the KKK not so bad or harmless pot smoking the same as murderous violence.

So jokes can be jokes, but they still illuminate the interior workings of the minds that find them funny.

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Health Care is going to be Expensive

There is no nation among the rich prosperous ones where health care is cheap. There are places where citizen pay less from their own packets and there are ones where they pay more but when all factors and subsidies are considered the inescapable fact is that modern effective healthcare is expensive. Outside of science-fiction it is going to remain that way. After all productivity in healthcare is not measured in patients/hour but in survival rates and more that measure takes herculean effort.

There are only two broad paths forward on paying for this expensive healthcare; the costs are socialized, born by all or people are left to fend for themselves against the wolves of disease, accident, and misfortune. As a society and as a political entity this is the choice before us.

Now, it doesn’t matter how you dress it up in ‘freedom’ and ‘choice’ and whatever other inspiring words you want to use, moving away from socializing the costs is moving towards throwing people to the wolves. It is the end result of such policies, to say otherwise is either foolish or deceptive. If you want that course, owe up to the cost and understand that people are going to suffer and people are going to die for that choice.

I also think that the ‘throw them to the wolves’ option is not sustainable. As the costs rise and more people are wrecked on the shoals of medical misfortune there will be outcry and there will be outrage. Eventually that system will collapse under the human misery and in their desperation who knows what the political body will turn to for relief?

On the socializing costs path there are a great number of people who seem to think that the only choice on that road is ‘single payer’ but that too is folly. If you take the time to study system around the globe you will find that there are numerous solutions to the question of how do you socialize the costs.

This problem is not going to go away and it is not something you can dash off and forget about after passing your big tax cut or it will bite you and everyone else on the ass.

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No Fifth Avenue Murder — Yet

Well, the reports now coming out of our nation’s capitol about the Comey memos, and where there is one I am certain there will be many others, is earth shaking.

According to multiple new agencies, quoting unnamed sources, FBI Director Comey wrote up detailed accounts in memo form of his conversations with President Trump where the president apparently attempt to kill an investigation. Apparently these memos were composed directly after the conversations and as I understand it such accounts of conversations like this have been accepted by our court as direct evidence. (I’ll leave it to my lawyers friends to correct if I am wrong about that.)

Now I can hear the cry of ‘anonymous sources means these are all lies’ already welling up from conservative denial land, These are several independent news agencies all verifying the same account. Of course you could write that all off as a ‘vast left-wing conspiracy,’ but the simpler and more direct explanation is that Trump asked Comey concern investigations into General Flynn’s Russian entanglement to ‘Let it Go,’ and I do not think that Trump is a huge Frozen fan.

During the campaign Trump boasted that he could shoot someone on Fifth avenue and not lose any supporters. While it is possible that he may have gotten someone killed over his loose lipped bragging about intel from inside ISIS, he has yet to actually shoot anyone. Yet, still he looks to have done some pretty bad things. I understand how conservative can feel a great deal of antipathy towards Democrats and liberals. I know at least one person who has lost their livelihood because of it. However sticking by Trump because he is not Clinton is disastrous. Is this truly the captain you want to go under for?

I believe that between the obsession to deliver the largest tax cut possible, while stripping 20 million people of their insurance, strapping the GOP to this egotistical, idiotic, corrupt conman can only ruin the modern Republican Party.

Is that your goal? Is that what you want? Because that’s is where you are headed.

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There are Two Possibilities

Either the Trump campaign coordinated with a foreign power to effect the outcome of our presidential election or the interference came uncoordinated from Russia.

No matter which option I think the wisest and most rational course for the GOP would be an independent prosecutor.

If there is no collusion getting the investigation done and the GOP cleared as quickly as possible is the best route to retuning the focus to the things that the GOP wants to achieve.

If the there was collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia then it’s best to cut out the tumor fast, before is damages the entirety of the party.

My guess from watching the spineless Republicans during the primary is that they are not going to do this but that they are going to stall and hedge and duck hoping that the problem will simply go away. This is not going to work.

The blood is already in the waters and the sharks have begun arriving. There is more than enough smoke to lead lots of people to think that there is a fire and the only question in their mind is ‘how big?’ Firing the director of the FBI is the sort of thing only someone with little knowledge of how Washington works would do. If Trump though he was fighting the ‘deep state’ before wait until he has the FBI at war with him.

I have no sympathy for the GOP. They had their chance to avoid this during the primaries. They stoked the irrational and lie fueled campaign of the last eight years the logical result of that is the election of a irrational and lied filled President. The bill always comes due and no amount of hiding from the collectors will save them.

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