#31 Executive Privilege

Twitter

If you think #MAGA means anything other than Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans, you are the person these tweets were written for.

StitcherExecutive Privilege EP. 31 – 04.18.19

Dark Money and the Rise of Conservative Orthodoxy

…or “why the Federalist Society is not your great, great, great, great grandfathers federalist society.”

Facebook took the time to inform me today that the Federalist Society had added an event to their schedule. I was befuddled by this. Why should I care? Why is this in my notifications? Did I mistakenly like this right wing ideological factory? Why would I do that?

Well, the why in all those questions is quite easy to figure out. The Federalist papers and the Federalist party were a group of the founders of the United States who set about to promote the adoption of the constitution, most of whose writings came from Alexander Hamilton. When I ran across the page on Facebook I assumed that the group was organized to promote some form of return to the US’ constitutional roots, or at least to promote a move to update the language in the constitution to reflect the current structures that the government empowers so as to give them constitutional legitimacy (things like Social Security, Medicare, and money not based on a commodity like gold and silver) but what I have discovered since liking the page on Facebook is that the Federalist Society is just another Koch funded venture. Just another attempt to promote their desire to keep their ill-gotten gains cloaked in conservative ideology.

VOX: The incredible influence of the Federalist Society, explained

Within just a few years, the group was embraced and funded by a number of powerful, wealthy conservative organizations, which eventually included foundations associated with John Olin, Lynde and Harry Bradley, Richard Scaife, and the Koch brothers. “The funders all got the idea right away—that you can win elections, you can have mass mobilizations, but unless you can change élites and the institutions that are by and large controlled by the élites, like the courts, there are limits to what you can do,” Amanda Hollis-Brusky, a professor of politics at Pomona College and the author of “Ideas with Consequences,” a study of the Federalist Society, said. “The idea was to train, credential, and socialize a generation of alternative élites.”

The New Yorker

The Federalist Society is one of the more the well-respected public faces of this dark conservative web of money within American society. This mechanism created specifically to throw off the yoke of income tax and to secure the wealth of the wealthy for the wealthy and their children exclusively. When I was a member of the Libertarian Party, no one talked about the Koch brothers influence on the party, on the nature of libertarian thought itself, and yet David Koch was one of the early (vice) presidential candidates and spent large sums of his own money to promote the ticket and the party. They co-created the CATO institute, frequently referenced in the early years of this blog, the leading libertarian think tank in Washington DC. Their views on money and finance permeate all of libertarian thought, which is why American libertarians deny the existence of libertarian socialism.

This desire to codify their wealth as theirs beyond question predates the Koch brothers even though they are the current target of choice for most liberals. Jane Mayer has been doing the generic book tour promoting her book Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind the Rise of the Radical Right. She’s been in high demand since the 2016 election upset that yielded the Orange Hate-Monkey. Here she is talking about what she learned while writing the book on last week’s episode of On the Media,

On the Media – Dark Money and the Rise of Conservative Orthodoxy – May 31, 2019

By about 1971, some of the leaders of the biggest businesses in America became alarmed. They watched the anti-Vietnam War movement taking on the companies that were involved in the defense industry, the consumer movement of Ralph Nader and the environmental movement that was beginning to call for all kinds of regulations on pollution. And you get this kind of call to arms by Lewis Powell, who was then a lawyer from Richmond; he wasn’t yet on the Supreme Court. He wrote a paper for the Chamber of Commerce and he said, ‘big business, if you don’t get organized, we’re going to lose our way of life. The enemy is not the kids who are on the streets protesting, it’s not hippies or yippies. The enemy is elite public opinion. And if we want to fight back, we have to change the way the elite public opinion is formed in this country, all of the instruments that form public opinion, meaning the media, the pulpits, academia, science, the courts and public policy. So the creation of right-wing think tanks, starting in the late 1970s, was an answer to Lewis Powell’s call to arms. The people who set up the Heritage Foundation were literally talking about this Lewis Powell memo and saying, ‘we’ve got to do something, we’ve got to spend money, we’ve got to fight back.’ Joseph Coors, who was heir to a brewing company in Colorado, sent a letter to his senator, Gordon Allott and said, ‘I’ve got money, how do I spend it?’ And an aide who was working for Allott saw this letter, and his name was Paul Weyrich, and he was one of the two founders of the Heritage Foundation and he said, ‘I’ve got an idea. We’re going to set up this think tank.’

Jane Mayor interviewed by Bob Garfield

The Heritage Society and the Federalist Society are no different from each other once you scratch the surface. Denying science when it suits their purposes, catering to the wealthy with their laughable ideas about supply side or trickle-down economics, undermining the ideals of civic duty and public good with their willingness to take large amounts of cash directly from the wealthy. They are worse than the John Birch society was. At least the Birchers believed the bullshit they peddled. These guys peddle whatever the wealthy pay them to say. They no more believe what they say than the Orange Hate Monkey might believe what he said yesterday or even an hour ago. They’ll believe it so long as they are being paid to believe it. They are preaching conservative ideology every bit as reprehensible as anything the John Birchers ever stood for, and they do it openly as just another thing they want to do to America now that they have control of it since that is what their funders want of them.

CBC News: The NationalThe Koch Brothers’ “Dark Money” | Jane Mayer – Feb 26, 2016

One hundred and fifty-six members of the current congress signed a pledge that was created by one of the Koch’s groups saying they will do absolutely nothing about global warming that costs a single cent.

Every time a conservative/libertarian calls calls you a collectivist, they are merely repeating a talking point of David Koch. They are all David Koch clones that are incapable of independent thought. If they could have independent thoughts they might actually question what is so bad about doing things as a group, since nothing much gets done these days without working as a team. They certainly aren’t opposed to owing fealty to a king or dictator, what they really mean by saying “collectivist”. If they were opposed to the centralization and assertion of power they wouldn’t be Stormtrumpers now, would they?

So the long and the short of this is that I unliked the Federalist Society page on Facebook. I really don’t have room in my headspace to sort out all of the various sources of bullshit I’m exposed to these days, especially with the conservative/libertarian love child currently sitting in the White House. The pruning of my libertarian delusions continues at its same, slow pace.

Look Ma, I Can Write Again!

…at least briefly. I’m starting a entry on what happened and why after I finish typing this up, but I can finally use the right hand without pain again. Two weeks of forced TV viewing has finally come to an end. I thought I was going to lose my mind. At least I still had my podcasts to keep the mind busy in between binge watching all of Better Call Saul, Altered Carbon, Man in the High Castle and finally finishing the HBO series The Pacific. I’ll probably have time to at least start Electric Dreams before I’m fully recovered.

Two of the greatest scientific achievements of my lifetime made the news during the weeks I was recuperating.

Reality provides us with facts so romantic that imagination itself could add nothing to them.

Jules Verne, the SGU quote of the week.

I think that is appropriate given this episode. I mean we have a picture of a black hole, what’s more awesome than that?

…Except maybe fossils from the day the dinosaurs died.

Steven Novella

So I’m pretty happy to still be here to ponder which of those two achievements is the more important one.

Misogyny by Any Other Name

Let’s imagine if 80,000 votes in the Rust Belt had gone the other way in 2016 and Hillary Clinton were president. Let’s also imagine there were controversial circumstances surrounding her victory – a foreign adversary attacked our political system in the hopes of putting her in power – and reasons to believe the Democratic campaign may have cooperated in some way with the attackers.

…Would there be widespread hand-wringing about those who dared to question Clinton’s earlier denials of wrongdoing? Would congressional Democrats call for Republicans’ resignations and demand new investigations into federal law enforcement?

Imagine if the Mueller report scrutinized Clinton instead of Trump

Hillary Clinton has been the prime target of hatred for women for most of my life. If you had a problem with women in general it was Hillary Clinton that was cited as evidence of this problem. From the moment she stepped upon the national stage and presented herself and her husband as two sides of the same coin, she has been the target of ire for females by both males and females alike. I should have remembered this fact before thinking that she could ever be president, but my desire to not see the United States descend into the hellhole it is now on the path to becoming blinded me to that painful truth. The painful truth that is still reiterated in every chant of #lockherup, in the constant conservative and #MAGA refrain of What about Hillary? in the face of any criticism of the Orange Hate Monkey.

I have a pretty clear memory of the first time she strutted onto my radar, back in the early days of Bill Clinton’s first term in office. It was during the rollout of what conservatives derogatively called Hillarycare. I bought the lie back then, not understanding just how skewed the information that I was consuming was. How conservative everywhere in Texas is, even in the bluest of blue parts of Texas. Women had a place and Hillary Clinton wasn’t conforming to what was expected of women, behaviorally, back in the eighties.

I don’t want to put her on a pedestal. There are things she did that were objectively wrong. That isn’t the point of this article. The point is that if you pretend that everything she did was done by a man, you wouldn’t even have batted an eye at her behavior. This is probably the most telling argument against her as a leader, that she was and is absolutely ordinary from a human perspective. She compromised her values to protect her husband, just like anyone else would do. She waited to discover what the polls would tell her before taking a stand on a subject, just like every other career politician does. There is not one thing that she is castigated for that men have not done and been forgiven for. It is because she is a woman that people hate her.

That is what misogyny means.

Bad news for the haters: History is decidedly unafraid of “the woman card.” It doesn’t care how many people will stand on tables today and swear they’d feel the same if she were a man. It will see us for what we are—a sick society, driven by misogyny and pathetically struggling to come to terms with the fact that women do not exist solely to nurture.

Huffingtonpost – Larry Womack – Stop Pretending

Hillary Clinton was nowhere near as unpopular as her haters think, as pundits are now saying retroactively.  Rather, what was underestimated was the misogynistic influence. What do I mean by that? I mean the people who blamed her for her husband’s presidency, or credited her with the same. She isn’t Bill Clinton and all the baggage that name and presidency entails.
Whether she had covered for him or castigated him would have made no difference, and the failure to separate her from her husband’s behavior is the clearest form of misogyny that I can point to. But it’s hardly the only example.

Hidden Brain – Too Sweet, Or Too Shrill? The Double Bind For Women – October 18, 2016

“When the person was presented as a high powered person, who was very ambitious, we found that the person was seen as much more unlikable when it was a woman than when it was a man,”

Madeline Heilman
Ashley Judd – TEDWomen 2016 – How online abuse of women has spiraled out of control

But let’s forget about the hatred leveled at powerful women. Women of status in the US today. Let’s go to the other end of the social spectrum. From the wealthy and powerful and the unjustified treatment they suffer, to the women with nothing. Let’s look at what happens to the victims of war. American women who were radicalized and joined the Islamic State in Syria.

American-Born ISIS Bride – MSNBC – Feb 22, 2019

Read through the comments under that video. The calls to refuse these women re-entry to the United States, even though they have no other nationality to claim. We cannot make them stateless by revoking their citizenship, and we cannot keep them from returning if they are citizens. If we violate international law in this case, we will have no grounds to hold other countries to international law later. To keep these people from being radicalized again, we HAVE TO make sure they are fully engaged in society for the foreseeable future.

I don’t know the particulars of each case. It’s entirely possible that they deserve prison time for their actions in Syria. That isn’t the question here. The particular woman who was interviewed for the television segment expects to get a prison sentence. However, The Orange Hate-Monkey has revoked her passport. He has rendered her stateless. He has violated international law, at the same time as he is harassing other countries to abide by international law.

The Daily – The American Women Who Joined ISIS – Feb. 22, 2019


Hold on, I hear you saying. We can’t just let these people come back here. That’s the catch. We already have. American men who have surrendered under similar circumstances have been repatriated. The women, though? We don’t want those women back. That’ll teach the rest of the women to stay in line. Never mind that we cannot legally denaturalize a citizen. Only the court can do that, and we have to bring them back here to put them on trial. It’s a catch-22. We can’t keep her out, and we can’t say she doesn’t belong here without first bringing her home. All of them have to come home, but the women most of all. Most of all, because singling them out for different treatment is a hallmark of misogyny.

Reshma Saujani – TED2016 – Teach girls bravery, not perfection

I want to live in a world where women are encouraged to fight back. In that world men will treat women better. But instead of teaching them to fight back we train girls to be passive. To smile meaninglessly. To never let a moment of anger show. Passivity gets you beaten to death while you sit and take it, and the women who do fight back are punished, punished more harshly than we punish men.



The Ezra Klien Show – This Conversation Will Change How You Understand MisogynyKate Manne


Think of the strongest, surest woman you know, and then think about what is said about her. Now think about that person as a man. See the problem now? I’m familiar with the argument. I’ve been around the park a few times now. A life without conflict is not really living, is expecting too much from others.  Standing on “no conflict” as an achievable goal ignores the natural world around us where conflict is everywhere.

Caroline Paul – TEDWomen 2016 – To raise brave girls, encourage adventure

The misunderstanding originated with the separation of physical violence from verbal violence. Passivity starts with being afraid to speak your mind, not with the refusal to come to blows. Passivity is present in hiding in the “safe room” rather than fleeing from the aggressor or fighting back if necessary. Of being prepared to gut that bastard the next time he comes near, rather than forgive him. You can forgive his corpse, sweetheart. Forgive it all you like. Make sure it is a corpse first.

What? Too harsh? You’ve never seen your mother beaten. Never been beaten yourself. You’ve never discovered that rage within yourself and wondered where it came from. Walk a mile in my shoes. In a partner I wanted someone that would have my back because she wanted to protect me as much as I wanted to protect her. I taught my daughter to defend herself, that it was okay to defend herself. If women are our equals, they don’t need our permission to be in our faces all the time. They simply will be, and we (the men) will just have to take it. Hopefully we’ll manage as well as the women have.

Sarah Kay – TED2011 – If I should have a daughter

I’ve been sitting on this one awhile. What we did to Hillary Clinton was misogyny. she’s not the only victim. Apologize to your daughters and your wives. Thank them for not gutting your heartless ass.

#30 The 25th Amendment

Twitter

If you think #MAGA means anything other than Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans, you are the person these tweets were written for.

StitcherThe 25th Amendment EP. 30 – 12.31.18

#29 Birthright Citizenship

If you think #MAGA means anything other than Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans, you are the person these tweets were written for.

StitcherBirthright Citizenship and the 14th Amendment EP. 29 – 12.04.18

…and he’ll pry my birthright from my cold dead hands, but not one moment before that.

#28 Dereliction of Duty

Twitter

If you think #MAGA means anything other than Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans, you are the person these tweets were written for.

StitcherKavanaugh Special Episode EP. 28 – 10.04.18

I retitled this one, and put my own opinion into the Tweet for this episode because I have some very pointed perspectives on mean drunks, rapists and misogynists. My three labels for Brett Kavanaugh.

Solidly Secular

I found a new podcast today (h/t to Stay Tuned) Everyone seems to be getting into podcasting these days. Podcasting, perhaps the one good thing on the internet that Steve Jobs inspired. In any case, the Pew Charitable Trust has a new podcast where they discuss the wonky nature of their polling and statistics called After the Fact.

There doesn’t appear to be a way to embed the podcast in a blog post, so I’ll have to settle for a link to the episode that I chose to listen to first, What Religious Type Are You? (I’ll check around more thoroughly later for an embeddable link) Of course it’s about religion. I’m going to go straight for what I might disagree with most and see what that gets me. That’s just the kind of guy I am. There is also a quiz attached to the data set so you can test to see where you fall on the spectrum of belief-nonbelief.

Today I am solidly secular. I had my doubts where I would land, but solidly secular works for me. It works for me today. If I am accosted by Bible thumpers tomorrow, I’m likely to test out as a religious resistor. Proof that proselytizing damages religion in public perception.

I’m going to skip over the part where I point out that Atheism is not a religion. I’ve beat that dead horse enough already.

Nuzzel/Facebook comment expanded for the blog.

Struggling = Poverty

This was the headline that the Texas Standard chose to run for this story. It’s soft-pedaling hogwash, that’s what that headline is. Forty-two Percent of Texans Are Poor is how that headline should read. That is what the coded word ‘struggle’ represents. Poverty.

Texas Standard –Despite A Booming Economy, 42 Percent Of Texans Struggle

Though the state’s economy is experiencing relatively healthy growth overall, a new report by the United Ways of Texas shines a light on the surprising number of Texans who are struggling financially. The new report, “ALICE, A Study of Hardship in Texas,” says 42 percent of all households in Texas cannot afford basic needs such as housing, food, transportation and health care.

Texas Standard, January 30, 2019

Don’t believe me? Here’s the definition of ALICE from the secondary link,

ALICE, an acronym which stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, represents the growing number of individuals and families who are working, but are unable to afford the basic necessities of housing, food, child care, health care, and transportation.

United Ways of Texas, ALICE

Asset Limited. Poor. Poverty. Now, the federal government and most especially the state of Texas will tut-tut that and say that those people are well above the poverty line established by government. Again I say, hogwash. Federal guidelines and especially guidelines from the state of Texas will not be truthful, if by truthful you mean accurate. This goes for anything that touches on the sacred beliefs of the average American, most especially the delusion that poor Americans aren’t poor. They just aren’t wealthy yet, and they never will be wealthy. But don’t tell them that.

This is well trodden ground for me these days because I’ve spent the better part of two months arguing with an in-law about this very subject recently.

I don’t think you know what poverty is. I was born in it and raised in it. The only thing that got me out of it was hard work. I had no intention of raising my children the way I was raised, therefore they had better than I had. And I do pretty well now only because I work hard to better myself. President Trump is making it so people can work and better themselves and get off the coattails of the government. I do not understand how anybody could think putting people back to work is a bad thing. Obama on the other hand closed down factories and put millions of people out of work and on food stamps.

Facebook comment

I had to block that poor fool because he kept calling me stupid. This exercise would be me once again wasting my time, convinced I can somehow reason with someone who refuses to think. The uninformed political opinions he’s throwing around I will dig into somewhere else, have already dug into somewhere else before (Obama, Caveat Emptor) But the poverty stuff? I don’t talk about that very often (Greece, Bootstraps) However, I’m pretty sure I have a general understanding of what poverty is and what it can do to people. I’m positive I understand it better than that in-law, because poverty has been my constant companion throughout my adult life.

That in-law is better off than me, but he’s still right on the margins of poverty. He’s middle class but not comfortably so, and not likely to stay part of the middle class unless he can keep working for another twenty years. The proof is in the statistics cited above, 42% of Texans are poor. That is just under half of all Texans being poor. Half. No one who isn’t independently wealthy will stay middle class without working, and independent wealth is built up through generations of hard work. Something I know neither he nor I come from.

There was a brief period of about two years in my adult life where I wasn’t poor. And when I wasn’t poor I never struggled for anything other than struggling to keep my job so I could keep paying for things. People of means do not struggle. They see a shrink and work it out, because they can afford to pay to have someone listen to them and help them work out their problems. Having a job that generates enough money to live on is not struggling in the way that the research demonstrates. The struggling that the United Ways is highlighting comes from having too much work and not enough money. A uniquely post modern development. Gainfully employed and still starving.

I keep linking this video in the vain hope that people who think that a dollar has work value attached to it would watch and learn a few things. It’s not like it’s a long video. It’s not a huge investment in time to watch.

Politizane – Wealth Inequality in America – Nov 20, 2012

I’m sure it’s quite painful to watch if you are a conservative. Conservatives and conservative economics have created this problem. Have created it more than once. Thinking you have to work to survive, to deserve to survive, is outmoded thinking and has caused the kind of crisis we are living through today. Has caused it repeatedly down through time. Today’s system throws off enough wealth all on it’s own to eliminate poverty completely if we simply set ourselves to the task of eliminating it. And even if we do eliminate poverty we’ll still have people wanting to work, and even more people capable of doing that work, because poverty is a man-made ill. Poverty is something we created to justify ourselves and our assumed status in life.

“Cultivation is at least one of the greatest natural improvements ever made by human invention. It has given to created earth a tenfold value. But the landed monopoly that began with it has produced the greatest evil. It has dispossessed more than half the inhabitants of every nation of their natural inheritance, without providing for them, as ought to have been done, an indemnification for that loss and has thereby created a species of poverty and wretchedness that did not exist before.”

Thomas Paine Agrarian Justice The Writings of Thomas Paine pg 331

Poverty is looked down upon as being caused by the behavior of the poor themselves. This is patently not the case, as the OTM series Busted: America’s Poverty Myths (Bootstraps, again) goes to great lengths to spell out. But that doesn’t change the beliefs of most Americans. Poor people are more hated now than they have been in generations, and this is a worldwide phenomenon, not just in America.

If you think of yourself as white and you are poor in modern America, the fact that you are poor grates on you so much that you go looking for people who suffer more than you. Having a paler skin color is seen as a sign of status, has been seen as a sign of status down through the ages. Being pale means that you don’t have to work out in the sun. You have leisure time. you can throw this assumed status around, use it to your advantage in social interactions.

Unless you are poor. If you are poor, there is no question that your paler skin doesn’t convey advantage any longer, because there are demonstrably people darker skinned than you that have more status than you. They have more status because they have the conveyor of modern status, money. This is a corruption of the natural order in the mind’s eye of a racist. And we can’t just allow the natural order to be corrupted now, can we?

This is how we get to the point where the party of Lincoln, the party of the man who lead the Union through the Civil War and destroyed the slavery based economy of the Southern Confederacy; this is how the Republican party has become the party of people who wave the stars and bars of the confederacy and demand that they be given privilege over the brown-skinned. Republicans see everyone who is darker than they are as other, outsider, illegal. They couch their arguments in law and order, just like Nixon coded it in the seventies. But Nixon was a racist, too. They don’t even know that what they are promoting is racism. The Orange Hate-Monkey’s naked attempt to create a white American royalty.

Why Is This Happening? Organizing in Trump country with George Goehl

How can Democrats win in deep red America? During the midterms, momentum behind progressive candidates in red states garnered national attention — Beto O’Rourke in Texas, Andrew Gillum in Florida and Stacey Abrams in Georgia. These were no overnight successes. They were the culmination of, among many things, including the tireless efforts of grassroots organizers.

We are going to have to go out and prosthelytize to the poor, rural, white voter. We are going to have to go out and explain to them the harsh nature of the reality we are faced with. Because we cannot go where they want to go. We have to explain to them that we are losing access to good drinking water. That even the air we breath is under constant threat. Will lax regulation on businesses turn every Texas town into another West, Texas? Or will we go the way of Oklahoma and let  hydraulic fracking activate long dormant tectonic faults, triggering earthquakes?

But it is even more basic than that. Will our children and their children go hungry? Will they have access to shelter from the cold or the heat, especially given the unpredictable nature of the climate change we are creating? Will there be schools to teach the children that all of us will rely on in the future to provide every single thing we need? Things we will need paid for with money we didn’t work for that day? We didn’t have to work for, because the system itself provides a mechanism (money) that allows us to not have to work every single day in order to survive? These are real, hard questions that have to be answered today, so that we can have access to those things tomorrow. All of us, not just the 1% that currently receive all the benefits of modern society.

Or would you rather that your children starve for want of food when fortunes turn on them as it does on everyone? Sleep out in the cold because they can’t afford shelter? Rather that they die of preventable diseases because there was no profit in researching cures or vaccines? All of these things require public investment, something that you won’t learn from the worship of robber barons that pervades what passes for conservative ideology these days.

“The liberals will always do what they can to hold you back”

Conservatism is about adhering to the past, not looking beyond what our ancestors did, the rights they claimed for themselves. That is the sum total of conservatism.

Liberalism is about experimentation. Liberalism is a friend to entrepreneurs, scientists, etc. Liberalism promotes new ways of thinking and new ways of dealing with the world. That is the definition of liberalism. Look it up anywhere aside from conservapedia, and you will find that I am right on this subject.

Liberals accept that society and its inventions, things that we all inherited, belong to all of us. Because none of the living invented any of the technologies that provide the food for our tables today. We stood on the shoulders of giants and thought ourselves tall. Liberals understand that the only way to do justice to those who came before us is to see that those that come after us have what they need to thrive, just as we had what we needed to thrive.

Our rights include things like clean air and clean water. Health care is a basic human right since it takes the wealth of the entire nation to maintain the system, it has to be available to everyone, not just those who can pay.

If you want questions answered, you have to ask questions. Ask questions which are answerable. Declaring that everything you don’t understand is a plot to take the little you have to your name now is nothing more than a paranoid delusion. You can’t lose something you don’t own, and most of what we deal with today are things that don’t belong to us alone. The internet is useless without other people to talk to. You can’t tend to your own physical injuries if those injuries require expertise to remedy. If you have that expertise and try to doctor yourself, then you have a fool for a patient. It takes others to do anything meaningful in life. Spitting on the state, on government, and turning your back on progress in the name of preserving what you have now is to settle for less than you could have had, if you only have the sense to look around you with eyes that aren’t clouded by fear.

Modern farming would be impossible without federal research grants, federal subsidies, federal mandates. The ability to get a mortgage and own your own home was a federal mandate. Every single scientific endeavor survives on federal seed money. There would be no internet without it. There would be no handheld computer to read this message on without NASA. There would be no vaccination program without federal mandates. No science-based medicine without government oversight and consequently no way to know what medicines work without government involvement.

So yes, I will rely on government. So will you, even if you don’t think that’s what you are doing. Government touches everything. And in the United States, we are the government. We can pay ourselves enough that none of us need starve, and still leave room for entrepreneurs to profit off of their ideas, giving them motivation to create, to work. Contemplate that for as long as it takes to sink in.


The problem is nation-wide.

About 39 percent of Americans ages 18 to 65 experienced at least one type of material hardship last year, statistically unchanged from the 39.3 percent who suffered hardship in 2017, the nonpartisan think tank found. The study spans the first two years of the Trump administration, as well as the first year of the tax overhaul. Yet there was little progress easing the financial challenges experienced by U.S. adults last year, the Urban Institute said.

40% of U.S. families still struggling

Raw Milk is Woo. Goat’s Milk is Not. And Yes, Plastic is Bad

This week on the SGU Cara decides to trash all things Hippy and all things Austin with the following line,

These are the places where they sell, like, raw goat milk because apparently cow milk is unhealthy. And they have only organic free-range bleah.

Cara Santa-Maria SGU #705

Cara deciding to trash all things Hippy isn’t surprising. There is little at the typical health food store that warrants a special trip there. Little, unless you happen to have special dietary needs. If you have food allergies. If you are lactose intolerant. If any number of food-related issues bother you, the health food store used to be the only place you could go to find relief. Considering that skeptics would claim you couldn’t be allergic to foods, until those allergies could be demonstrated, and still flame-on when anyone mentions the word gluten, panning all things health food related is completely understandable.

I just happen to not react to goat’s milk like I do cow’s milk. So I can drink goat’s milk and suffer little or no ill effects. I still can’t eat pizza, that is too much cheese of any kind, but at least I can put a slice of goat cheese on my hamburger and not have to worry about reacting to the lactose in the cheese. And the best place to get that kind of food is still at a health food store. I buy my oat milk, my Nada Moo, goat cheese and goat milk, and try to restrain myself as I walk past the chocolate and liquorice on the way to the register.

The Wife, who can consume all the cheese she wants because she was descended from Mongols who were raised on yak’s milk, has some very unflattering things to say about us Mediterranean types whose ancestors tended goats and sheep, but I also have some insults I could hurl in return considering she’s pretty much 100% Irish. I won’t utter them because I don’t feel like being beaten up by any Irish who might read this and take offense. I have to be able to sleep sometime. It all comes down to genetics and how your particular gut came to be in the here and now.

Which brings me to the idea of drinking raw milk. If you are drinking raw milk and you don’t milk the cows (or goats. Or sheep) yourself, you are just asking to get sick and possibly be killed by the naturally occuring bacteria found on the udders and in the milk of any animal. And I laugh every time I read the label on cheese and it trumpets made from raw milk. This is just another marketing ploy like organic or natural, since the process of making cheese kills most of the bacteria that lives in the milk. That is why we started making cheese from milk in the first place. If you are still concerned about the possibility of food poisoning, don’t get the cheese made from raw milk. Pasteurization is a good thing. It’s why we have milk on supermarket shelves today.

I mean, we could irradiate the milk and skip the pasteurization flavor change problem, but the fantasists who think that pasteurization is bad also think that irradiation of food is bad. There really is no way to win over everyone. There’s always going to be one or two of them that have to stick their fingers in the electrical outlet before they’ll believe that electric shocks are painful, and there will be at least one guy that swears electrical shocks make him feel better and so recommends you shock yourself two or three times a day.

Steve’s suggestion that bulk foods were useful, while the other offerings at the health food stores were not, is also slightly off-cue. The reason that goods are offered in their own sealed containers should be readily apparent to anyone who gives this much thought. But for those who don’t think a lot, I’ll spell it out. Adulteration or contamination of the product, which was a problem back in the days when everything was offered in bulk quantities. Some nefarious grocers would dilute the products offered and charge the same rate. This is essentially how all vodka is made, but very few people know that their vodka was distilled to 190 proof at the distillery and then cut in half with water at the bottler. There is also the problem of some anonymous others tampering with the bulk products and no one noticing (think Tylenol) as an Austinite, and someone who frequents health food stores for his oat milk and goat’s milk products, I could buy a lot of products in bulk. I just don’t.

Austin is the birthplace of Whole Foods and a few other now-defunct health food chains. I’m an owner at Wheatsville Food Co-op. I could shop in bulk products if I wanted to. I don’t shop in bulk products because I don’t want to have to trust every person who passes by the bulk products bins not to drop their chewing gum in there with my morning steel cut oats. I’ll take the time to recycle the packaging, that is fine by me. I like branded, labeled products in sealed packages. It’s probably the most American thing about me.

I would rather the packaging not be plastic packaging, plastic packaging being the reason that health food stores came up at all in that Skeptic’s Guide episode. I try to avoid plastic packaging when I can, but it is nearly impossible to avoid plastic when it comes to food packaging. You can count me in for testing new packaging that isn’t plastic. Oh, and Jay? You want plastic that breaks down on its own? That also existed once upon a time. They tested plastic bags that degraded in the sun faster when they first rolled out plastic bags, back when everyone was worried about paper demand destroying all the forests. That plastic turned into micro plastics too, just like regular plastic. The only way to avoid this is to create disposable items from something other than plastic. Say, compressed corn starch.