Category Archives: Politics

‘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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Can the State Require You to Risk Your Life?

Setting aside the issue of first responders, the military, and even conscription into the military forces, when is it just and moral for the state to require a citizen to take an action that places their very life in jeopardy?

Very simply the state requires you to do action X and that action carries a low probability of, say one in six thousand, of causing you to die. If you do not perform action X the state will imprison you, fine you, and bring the full weight of the criminal justice system down on you.

It would seems to me that this sort of thing should be considered immoral and an action of an out of control government, The right to your own life has to be the basis for all other rights.

I have heard people argue it would not be immoral for the state to do this in order to save another life. That does not persuade me. Let’s consider this is a political context.

Pelosi or Cruz, whichever politician is your personal political devil, is in dire need of a new kidney. Pelosi/Cruz will die without the new kidney and the state has determined that one of yours is the very best match. Under the threat of fines and imprisonment you are orders to under go surgery and surrender a kidney to the desperate Pelosi/Cruz, but it carries that 1-in-6000 when you go under you will never wake back up. Do you have the right to tell the state to stuff it? That it’s too bad about Pelosi/Cruz but this is something you do not want to do. I say yeah, that is your moral right.

This fantastic scenario occurred to me because I have the tendency to place myself in other people’s shoes. I am constantly watching my Facebook feeds and thinking about what if I were in someone else life, what would that be like? It is part of what makes me a writer. A number of my friends are mothers and I considered the courage of pregnancy. In the United States about 1 in 5,500 pregnancies end with the death of the mother. That’s a terrible and frightened statistic, one that makes me doubt, pain of childbirth aside, if I would have the courage to follow one through to term.

And you can see where that thought trail led.

Laws prohibiting abortion force a woman to risk her life. Plain and simple that state is forcing a citizen to engage in an action that can very well kill them.

I am sure I am not the first person to ponder this aspect, but is has strengthened by pro-choice stand.

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7% of the way there

Well we have just passed the 100 day mark for the Trump administration. (Though I hate using the word ‘mark’ as that reminds me of the ultimate designation of the American Public under this President – marks.) Out of the 1461 days for the 4 years expected from a presidential term we have endured seven percent, only 93 more to go.

I have seen people giving the administration its 100 day grade, the most ridiculous being an A+ because Trump is not Hillary Clinton. (Nice to know that Conservative would grade Stalin an A+ because he also was not Hillary Clinton.)

My own take is that the administration is a hot radioactive dumpster fire of incompetence and corruption but there have been and continue to be bright spots.

Our institutions are strong and fulfilling their constitutional duties. Trump has discovered that being a petulant man-baby with delusions of strength carries no weight in a court of law. Repeatedly his most egregious actions have been slapped down by the judiciary.

The Body Politic appears to be awakening from its slumber. More and more people are paying attention to the business of politics and that bodes well for reforms and participation.

The GOP is being forced to confront the contradictions of their heated, angry rhetoric with the reality of governing. The incendiary fire that has boiled the GOP down to a concentrated base of its most reactionary components is utterly incapable of the necessary compromises of governance. The first 100 days of a presidential term is the period when the public still has good feeling towards the newly hatched executive and with a united control of the government, the passing into law of major policy goals should have been a given, but that has proven to be beyond the reach of the GOP. Sure they have managed to undue some of hated Obama’s regulatory actions, but no major legislation has passed and it is not because of the opposition party.

The GOP has majorities in both house, what the GOP does not have is rationality. IN part due to the drumbeat of purity that drove out the ‘RINOs’, in part due to the shrill voices of the GOP news/entertainment arms, and also in part due to ‘safe districts’ the Republicans have engineered a majority that cannot agree with itself.

The ‘Hassert Rule’ means that every sizable faction within the GOP’s elected member has an effective veto over legislation. No faction can be ignore or eliminated and the hard core purists will not compromise while the moderates have no inclination to commit electoral suicide .

It is so much easier to bitch, complain, and criticize than it is to do anything and that goes even more so for a complex mechanism like government. Except for Guns, Abortion, and Taxes there is precious little that the GOP faction agree with and zealotry has an inverse relationship with competence.

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About That Bomb

Wow.

It’s interesting watching my social media feed explode over an big explosion. I imagine if there had been the some social media during the Clinton administration I would have watched a similar explosion from the other side of the spectrum when he sent cruise missiles into the same region of the world in a failed attempt to kill Osama Bin Laden I do remember conservative friends announcing with absolute certainty that the attacks had been nothing but ‘wag the dog’ distractions from his scandals just as some liberals friends are equally certain that the MOAB was used to distract from which ever Trump scandal holds their attention. (He has so many that it’s really a buffet of concerns.)

However it also not only possible but likely that the use of this particular weapons system has nothing to do with the current president and everything with conditions on the ground and the judgment of local commanders.

First Off, the phrase ‘largest non-nuclear’ is a pretty much useless comparing things of vastly different scales. An atomic bomb like the ones used to end WWII has a yield of about 12-15 kilotons. That is the explosion is equal to 12 to 15 THOUSAND tons of TNT, the MOAB is purely conventional. It has 22,000 lbs of explosives or 11 tons, so while it may be the largest non-nuclear bomb in our inventory it is still less that one thousandth the yield. It’s kind of like comparing a penny to a ten dollar bill. That sensational headline got your attention but it did not inform you.

Second: The president does not need congress’ approval to dispatch military force. He orders the military congress declares war, but there’s this nasty confusing grey area where the military gets used but no war has been declared. After Vietnam there was the War Powers act but it has never been fully vetted by the Supreme Court.

Three: Even if the President needed to have congressional approval you do know he was granted that in 2001 don’t you? That Authorization of Military Force that Bush got after 9/11, it’s still in effect. I hate the very concept of a Trump Presidency but he’s got the authority, though it should have never been given to him, to do exactly this.

Four: This bomb has a very limited utility. It is far too large to be dropped from any bomber. To get the monster to the target they military has to use a cargo plane, and that means you can’t use it in a place where the enemy has the capacity to shoot down your bombers. It doesn’t have great penetration so it’s best used against soft targets, it has a very large area of effect and so you can’t use it where the target are mingled with non-targets.

Now, all that said we should wait for verified reports about the why of the attack. Good judgment follows from facts not fancy.

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A Smart Bomb is no Good to a Dead Man

So the Democrats are launching a filibuster in the Senate to try and derail Trump’s Nominee for SCOTUS. Majority Leader McConnell is threatening to invoke the ‘nuclear option’ and finish the job the Democrats started in killing the filibuster. (Though it should be noted that Threat and the Name for the act started with the Republicans but was not invoked at that time due to the action of The Gang of Eight)

Some have said that the Democrats should hold off, that if they invoke a filibuster all they will achieve is forcing the GOP to change the rules and kill it off, winning nothing. The most cogent argument I have read is that they should hold off until there is a nominee or issue that has more than 50 GOP member willing to vote for it, but not willing to change the rules over it and the nominee.

That’ doesn’t seem wise to me.

The unprecedented obstruction shown by the GOP, refusing even a hearing for the last president’s nominee indicates that there is no deal to be made, no compromise that will stand. The GOP will do whatever it takes, break whatever norm stands in their way to achieve their goals and the Democrats should adapt to the new battlefield.

To those who say invoking it only forces the GOP to kill it I answer, it you can’t use it because you will lose it, then what good is it anyway? If you have a resource you can not utilize then it is no resource.

Failing to take that stand will have consequences. The liberal elements of the political body are energized and they are not in a make nice and let’s all get along mood. Any Democratic Senator who acquiesces to trump’s will without a fight will find that they are in a fight anyway but with their own base.

To me the only logical move is to resist, make your stand clearly with your base, and keep your eyes fixed on tomorrow.

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