Thirteenth, a Netflix Documentary.

“There has never been a period in our history where the law and order branch of the state has not operated against… the black community”

Kevin Gannon, Thirteenth

13TH Trailer (2016) Netflix Documentary – Sep 26, 2016

This was a hard film to watch, especially as a white man living in a Southern state.  A Southern state that will probably go for the self-described law and order candidate. Thirteenth is a documentary that horrifyingly depicts the long-term effects of a single clause in the Thirteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

The hardest thing to accept about this film isn’t the graphic depictions of blacks being killed at the hands of police at the end of the film. It isn’t the detailed narrative that traces the effects of the end of slavery through Jim Crow to the admission of a Nixon official that the drug war was wholly conceived as a method to end the 1960’s era of black rights activity, concluding with the election of Ronald Reagan, George Bush Sr. and Bill Clinton all under the coded language of law & order candidate, all promising and fulfilling that promise, to continue what we now know to be a racially motivated war on crime and drugs.

No, the hardest thing about watching this film was knowing that the group that would profit the most from watching it would never sit down and give it a chance to change their minds.

The people who will go to the polls and vote for the lying real estate developer (but then I repeat myself) who speaks in coded language, language whose code is known by everybody by this time in history, promising to jail people whom we know are innocent, prosecute people who have done no crime, exclude people who are demonstrably dying by the hundreds.  The people who will vote for that guy, the Orange Hate-Monkey, the Birther-in-Chief, the people who don’t understand that #MAGA means Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans, Those people? They’ll never watch this film. They’ll never watch it because they are afraid.  Afraid of being wrong. Afraid of having been wrong for longer than most people have been alive on this planet.

But they, above all other people, need to understand this film.  Because when their candidate loses (and he will) it won’t be because the election was stolen from him.  It won’t be because their voices weren’t heard.  He will lose because the vast majority of Americans are not afraid of the future. We embrace it, as we always have. They need to understand that they are part of history.  They are a part of history that we want to leave behind in history. 


2019. There are a lot more stupid people in the United States than it is healthy for any one region of the planet to have. Those people got their racist president, and now they claim they are not racist while still supporting his racist agenda. They’ll all pretend they were just going along with the crowd when this is over. Lying, hypocritical tw0-faced Republicans.

#MAGA: The Wealthy Stupid or the Stupid Wealthy?

h/t to StonekettleStation for this link. This is the second installment of #MAGA = Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans


I got into an argument just last week with someone who wanted me to read a clickbait article over at Cracked.com; an article that promoted absolute majority rule, direct democracy, as the solution to our problems here in the US. I refused to read the article, which pissed several commenters off.

I refused to read the article because, as the illustration shows, the argument is presented without being required to read anything aside from the click-bait left at the opening to the rabbit hole. As I said on that thread,

Allowing for direct democracy is a can of worms none of us want to open. Just think about it long enough and you’ll understand. Still don’t get it? Think about a country made of a million RAnthony’s and one you. Get the picture now?

What surprised me was the number of people who still refused to accept that argument as proof that direct democracy was a bad, bad idea. There is hope for my political future after all, I guess. I am not nearly as unpopular as I think I am.

Today was much like that day a week ago, except the image was not a self-contained argument that I could rebut simply by sticking to what was in the meme image.

I loathe, loathe! Facebook and meme images. Why? Because it makes it far too easy to communicate falsehoods without them being questioned. Almost on a daily basis I find myself having to push back against some fool or other who thinks their images are the best thing and if I don’t agree 100% with the message in their image then I really am one of the sheeple. And Facebook is loaded with people who are not good enough at memes to be able to make it on icanhas.cheezburger.com where the modern notion of meme image (which keeps Richard Dawkins up at night) was invented.(editor’s note: The Unappreciated Art of the Troll is recommended reading for anyone who thinks their meme images are the best) Specifically it was this image and article that got me started today.

See, rural jobs used to be based around one big local business — a factory, a coal mine, etc. When it dies, the town dies. Where I grew up, it was an oil refinery closing that did us in. I was raised in the hollowed-out shell of what the town had once been. The roof of our high school leaked when it rained. Cities can make up for the loss of manufacturing jobs with service jobs — small towns cannot. That model doesn’t work below a certain population density.

I’m telling you, the hopelessness eats you alive.

And if you dare complain, some liberal elite will pull out their iPad and type up a rant about your racist white privilege. Already, someone has replied to this with a comment saying, “You should try living in a ghetto as a minority!” Exactly. To them, it seems like the plight of poor minorities is only used as a club to bat away white cries for help. Meanwhile, the rate of rural white suicides and overdoses skyrockets. Shit, at least politicians act like they care about the inner cities.

How Half Of America Lost Its F**king Mind

Someone found the meme generator later in the day and produced this image, but the first image was what I woke up to. The article is a good entertaining read but the author left out several key parts of this equation, the illustration that he’s trying to paint with words.

He left out the part where the people who support the Orange Hate-Monkey are once again left where they are, in the dust, because the actual Nazis who will take power with the Birther-in-Chief will no more care for the plight of rural America than any of the insincere candidates that conservatives have elected in the past 40 years have. This is a crucial point.  Ronald Reagan knew that country folk were bumpkins who would buy anything you sold them if you just phrased it the right way. It comes across in every speech he gave, that folksy down-to-earth awe shucks posing that he did so well on the big screen and in office. The Republican party has continued this insincere pandering to rural white America with varying degrees of success.

Has continued pandering right up to today. Right up to this point when the ultimate poser, a demagogue with a fully transparent agenda, arrived on the scene to make the kinds of promises that conservatives before him were too smart, too well versed in the real nature of politics, to actually make.  Let me finish this illustration that the Cracked author failed to put the finishing strokes on.

What will happen if the Real Estate Developer wins will be the terrorizing of cities by lynch mobs looking for those others that they know are there. Because that is what a Trump vote will ultimately be; A vote for fear. A vote for us versus them. A vote for social purity. A vote for continuing the failed economic practices established by Reaganites and maintained to this day.

There is a ton more I can say on this subject, but I’m going to try and crank out a second piece today or tomorrow that covers the amount of bad that a President Trump could inflict.

I want to devote more effort into painting an alternative that I haven’t touched on yet but have thought a lot about, and that the Cracked author never even addressed at all, even tangentially.

A canny politician from the blue areas could easily fix the rural problems around his/her city by simply caring for the areas that feed their cities. A federal government that already prints money could print money in a different way, spread it across the nation and eliminate rural sympathy for conservatives in one fell swoop.

Don’t believe me? Let me illustrate.

Imagine what would happen if the federal government started paying every American $99 a month. All you have to do to get it is open an account and you could qualify for this benefit. Call it an automation offset call it a dublafluwhichy, I don’t actually care what you call it, just follow along. Leave a counter-argument in the comments if you feel the need.

If you don’t have a bank in your rural area, that’s fine.  You can open an account at the Post Office which every incorporated municipality in the US has already. Putting money in your account would be like buying a money order which you already can get there anyway.  Spending the money would be just like using any other credit card in the US.

Any money left in the accounts for longer than a month would be subject to a modest negative interest rate (say 1%) giving any organization that offered the accounts an incentive to offer them. It would also allow the government a way to reclaim excess currency since the accumulation of unspent wealth is a burden on the rest of the system which relies on the free flow of goods and services paid for with currency.

I hear you saying $99 isn’t enough.  I know that, the number isn’t the important part.  The actual automation offset would be subject to raising or lowering based on how much extra currency was laying around unspent in the average citizen’s account. The important part is to get money in the hands of the average rural citizen without them having to work for it. That is the key.

It makes the notion that you have to work for what you get a lie on it’s face. Everyone will have something they never worked for. Out the window goes most of the forced labor still present in the US, the justification for it’s existence gone with most of the crushing poverty.

How is that you ask? When a child is born the account is funded.  By the time they reach adulthood, if they haven’t tapped into that account there will be a sizeable sum still waiting for them to spend. If they have had to utilize those funds (with parental oversight) then their childhood will have been made that much easier because of the ability to pay for things the family needs.

Let’s go one further and say that the government creates that account at birth and pays interest as well as drop the automation offset into the account until the age of maturity.  Every child would have an education fund ready to be tapped. A medical fund available to pay for health expenses. All without the parents having to do anything aside from have a child.

Like the Cracked author, I grew up in the reddest of red states and now live in one of the bluest of blue cities. Like the Cracked author, I believe that hard work and healthy families make for a better, more fulfilling life. Unlike the Cracked author, I know what a foolish devotion to consistency can do to create the negatives we are all opposed to.

One of those negatives is the need to punish others who seem to get something for nothing in this life. A hatred of the poor for being poor, because all you need to not be poor is to work harder; something that I bought into for decades before learning the hard way that poverty is waiting for all of us no matter how hard you work.

The Myth of Bootstraps has the entire series of these podcasts in it.

In rural America $99 is tidy sum of money, whereas in the cities $99 dollars is a drop in the bucket. That is the real crime present here, that a dollar isn’t the same dollar across the various parts of the US. It is time to equalize the value of the dollar, by putting some of them in the pockets of the average American who has been taken advantage of for the better part of 40 years. 

It just takes knowledge of the real problem that needs to be fixed for a solution to be offered. Here’s hoping someone with the authority to make change happen stumbles across an idea like this in the near future.

What Flavor Politician Are You?

Being Libertarian

I found this image on the Being Libertarian page on Facebook. I have to wonder at naming a page Being Libertarian when it’s been demonstrated that Being Liberal was a thing on Facebook before there was a page called Being Libertarian, but I digress.

The image is attempting to show how silly it is to say that Libertarians are Democrats or Republicans. Stealing votes from Democrats or Republicans. However, there is a problem in their logic, which I will illustrate literally.

Gary Johnson is Crystal Pepsi, not Dr. Pepper. If it means anything, the Orange Hate-Monkey is Pepsi laced with arsenic.

Clinton is not Coke, but then neither is Coke these days. Lacking access to a Coke (to take the metaphor to its proper conclusion) I’ll vote for the thing that says it’s a Coke. At least the can is the right color and the drink will be carbonated and not too sweet.

I don’t like Dr. Pepper anyway.

Just in case that isn’t clear enough, I will elaborate further. Gary Johnson and much of the Libertarian Party (LP) philosophy and platform is Republican. I know they insist they are different, but in reality the GOP morphed into a variation of the LP about the time Reagan was President. They’ve been becoming more and more the LP as the Tea Party took over with each succeeding election since that time.

So there are still only two flavors to choose from. That is by design. The system only works the way we see it working, unless we take the effort and energy to alter it’s framework.

In a system where winners are decided by earning at least 1/N of the vote, there will be N choices.

As I’ve said many times, I’m voting for Clinton. I prefer centrism. I prefer we not wreck the system. I prefer we reduce suffering rather than increase it. So I won’t dilute the vote by shifting my vote to some other candidate which has no chance of beating the two major parties who have hardwired themselves into the system.

Facebook status and consequent comments incorporated and backdated to the blog.

US Politics Fix – Starting the Process

This will probably turn into a page of its own at some point, a book-length outline of the problems and processes that have to be reformed, and the obstacles in the way of average Americans retaking control of their government from the political bosses, corporate sponsors, and wealthy contributors who currently control it.

We have to start somewhere, so let’s start at the beginning.

A bright, fresh-faced teenager sees the problems in the world, the calcified systems in the US that seem incapable of dealing with these problems and asks himself/herself

how do I get involved in this? How do I change this?

The answer to that question is related to current events, and the image at right.

In the midst of a sideshow barker taking over the Republican primary process on the one hand, and a proud Socialist trying to pull the Democratic primary onto liberal ground it hasn’t seen since the 1970’s, I find myself without a group I feel can align with once again.

I left the Libertarian Party due to their inability to separate their ideological dedication to anarchism from the goal of actually winning the democratic election process.

Now I’m wondering just what the rest of the American populace is smoking, not just the libertarians, because it must be some good shit for everyone to be so clueless all of a sudden.

I really can’t make heads or tails of the purpose of all of this noise. I’m once again reminded of the Babylon 5 episode with Drazi killing Drazi over what color sashes they randomly select.  What I can say for certain is that Americans in general are dissatisfied with the political process as we’ve come to know it.  I can say that because the only reason that two outsiders could dominate the early potential candidate fields in polling is because Americans don’t like either of the two parties.

So what about third parties? is the question now being asked.  That would be backtracking for me.  I’m a veteran of the failed political process that is third party attempts at wresting control from the two major factions. For more than a decade I worked in the trenches, canvassing, promoting, representing the Libertarian Party in Texas in the best light that I could generate for it. I was never very important to the party (as I’m sure local activists will be quick to point out) but it was important to me, until it wasn’t anymore.

The Libertarian party wasn’t important to me anymore because several points of reality became clear to me over my time in the party. The points of reality?

  •  The majority of the U.S. population was never going to embrace anarchism and/or smaller government than currently exists in the US right now.

…and 

  • Majority of a population is what determines the leadership in a democratic process.

…Finally 

  • I was no longer personally convinced that the U.S. actually suffers from too much government. What the U.S. suffers from is ineffective and inefficient governance. Looking at the circus acts currently playing, one might well wonder if that wasn’t the purpose from the beginning. Harry Browne said government doesn’t work long before Ronald Reagan said it. Both of them are incorrect. They are incorrect because government works just fine in other nations of the world. It is just that the US government seems doomed to drown in a puddle of its own inefficiencies unless something fundamental to the process is changed.

There have always been third parties. There are several third parties right now (parties 4, 5 & 6?) The system is rigged to only allow two parties to have any real power. Has been rigged since the Republicans rose to national prominence with the dissolution of the Whigs in 1854 over the question of slavery. This is the point that seems to be glossed over. It isn’t that I don’t care about third party politics. The system itself isn’t setup to recognize minority parties in any real way.  It has been codified and calcified over the course of 200 years to the point where, in certain states, it is all but illegal to be a member of any party aside from the Democrats and Republicans.  Third parties, minority parties, minority factions cannot alter the system because it is insulated from their efforts by layers of interference.

And still the question appears “how can anyone vote Democratic or Republican?” The answer is demonstrable; we vote for them because one of the two of them will win. One of the two of them will win because in the vast majority of races throughout history the political system in the US has been controlled by one of two dominant parties in the US.

Whoever the Libertarians nominate (or the Greens nominate) will lose again as they have in every previous election. They will lose because they aren’t Republicans or Democrats; which the rules at the national level and at the state level virtually guarantee will win all electoral races especially the president.

Running for President as a third party is a waste of time, worse it is a waste of resources which could be used to fund campaigns to change rules so that candidates who aren’t part of a party structure can compete. What we get from that investment of time and money is the exact same argument over and over again. Why are you voting for Democrats and Republicans?

First admit that there is a problem and that problem is the electoral rules themselves. Then fix that problem before doing anything else.

Go read Ballot Access News, edited by the magnificent Richard Winger. Top of the page today is a notification that a majority of seats in a particular state are unopposed. Tomorrow it will be a different state. Unopposed means the incumbent will be re-elected. It means no change. It means that the system will remain unaltered.  Why are the seats being handed to the incumbent?  Because ballot access is gated by a huge hurdle in nearly every state.  If the hurdle (be it signatures or party requirements) is topped, the next legislature will simply raise the bar for the next election.

The never asked question is why do Americans insist that voting by itself constitutes meaningful involvement in government? Voting is actually the very least we should be doing if we hope to ever live up to the promise of self-government. Why is the least we can possibly do that constitutes doing something considered active involvement in the political system?

If you concede that voting is not enough, and you should, then the question becomes how to make effective change in our government without reinventing it? The answer to that question is to co-opt an existing party and make it do what we want it to do.

This really isn’t news.  The religious right took over the Libertarian Party with Ron Paul as their nominee in 1980, and then shifted their support to Reagan and their membership to the Republican Party when Reagan invited them to move in and take over the GOP.  The religious right have been the motivating force behind party politics ever since, and were effective at getting their way politically until the election of Barak Obama in 2008.

Even President Obama has been forced to cater to the whims of the religious right, the whims of the minority party, modifying many of his programs specifically to accommodate demands made by them.

This lays bare the how of how to change politics for all to see.  Simply have enough agreement among the population who vote to effect change at the city, state, and national level.  But that agreement is the hard part, the part that requires attention long before you go into booth and cast your ballot.

Political veterans will tell you, it takes work. Years of work.  Which is how we got where we are today, people who went into politics with a clear vision of what they wanted to achieve have been co-opted and subverted by the process of hammering out agreement after agreement in decades of struggle with people who think differently.

Eventually you end up voting for a candidate that you really don’t agree with on any specific issue, but remains the best choice given the compromises required, hopefully not loosing sight of your overall goal in the process.  Not being able to see the forest because of all the trees.

Hillary Clinton is probably going to be that candidate for me. If you read back over this blog you’ll discover that I first abandoned the Libertarian Party to support Barak Obama so that he would be President instead of Hillary.  In 2016 I would vote for Hillary Clinton with almost no reservations.

I will be voting for whoever the Democratic party nominates in this election. I will be voting for the Democrat, because the Republican party has apparently gone over to the magical thinkers, and I don’t believe in magic.  The entirety of the Republican Party has been dispatched on a fool’s errand by the Tea Party’s co-option. Until they can figure out who they are and what they stand for, I don’t have the time of day for the party as a whole.  If they were to nominate someone like Governor Kasich I might have to revise my opinion of them, but I don’t see much chance of that, of Republicans being willing to compromise enough to embrace a man who supports the ACA.

I vote down ballot based on candidate qualities alone, discarding anyone who pretends at being the better conservative. These candidates generally win in Texas (because conservative=correct in the mind of the average Texas voter) outside of Austin, but you can’t fix any stupid aside from your own. In Austin the down ballot offices (state senate and legislature) are held by Democratic incumbents, usually running opposed only by independent candidates. The independents almost always get my vote, because I want to see change and you won’t get change from an incumbent.

But I’m still talking about voting, the last thing on the list.

The only way to change the system is to infiltrate the two parties and alter them from the inside, thereby altering the system they control. It has to start with ending gerrymandering and real campaign finance reform.  Opening up ballot access and ending party control of the ballots in every state in the nation. Not doing this will simply kick the can forward again. That is the forest that we must keep in sight, the big picture. Gerrymandering must be ended across the entire nation. Districts must be drawn blindly with no consideration of the political, racial or social strata that the people in the districts represent. Campaign finance must be addressed, or the corruption of our electoral process by the wealthy will continue in spite of any other change we might put in place.

Changing any of these fundamental corruptions of the system will take a long, hard effort. It will require canvassing of your local precincts to get a feel for who supports or doesn’t support these changes. It will take joining the local precinct and becoming involved, and bringing enough people along with you to alter the votes at the precinct level. It will take making sure that county gatherings and state conventions also support these measures.

Faction is why these rules, this corruption, has taken hold.  Madison was correct when he cited faction as one of the biggest threats to the Republic.  The Democrats are a faction. The Republicans are a faction. Third parties are all factions.  Faction leads generally sane people to do insane things like drawing districts to favor your party (gerrymandering. The solution? Redistricting commission) allowing contributions that favor your party over your opponent (campaign finance. The solution? Public funds) never taking into account that the practices you use to force the system to cater to your faction can be used to exclude your faction when power is finally wrested from you.

…and it will be wrested from you, eventually.

Wildly expanded Facebook comment and status post. It hopefully will expand even further.


Another complaint voiced during the 2016 primary season.

Allowing independents to vote in Democratic primaries would be like allowing non-union members to vote on union contracts. They want the benefits without having to bear the cost of joining.

Facebook

I agree in principle. The Democrats and the Republicans (as well as the Greens and Libertarians) should be able to say who is or is not a member of their group, who can most effectively carry their ideas forward.

The problem that independents have, and it is a valid concern, is that good candidates can emerge on the political landscape that don’t toe the line of any particular party. Those candidates should be able to appear on primary ballots in spite of not having a political affiliation. Not just for president and not just for independants. There needs to be an overhaul of the entire election process.

Until such time that the ballot is opened up to multiple views (jungle primaries, where ranked voting becomes a solution to a real problem) the voting public will have to be contented with exerting pressure on the parties to conform to popular views; and the only way that pressure can be applied effectively is from within the party.

Facebook comment and status backdated to the blog.

A political party — like it or not — is a continuing institution, an evolving body that reflects the convictions of its various members, and the organizers who keep the party functioning. For someone who is not a member of the party to demand changes … well, remember the story of the little red hen? “Who will help me plant my corn? Who will help me harvest my corn? Who will help me eat my corn?” If you’re not going to do the work, you don’t get a seat at the table.

David Gerrold

Challenger 30 Years Later

“Everyone knows how they died, we want people to remember how they lived.” – June Scobee-Rodgers, widow of Challenger commander Dick Scobee

(author unknown)

At 10:40 am on January 28th 1986 the space shuttle Challenger was issued the command “go for throttle up” and the subsequent explosion ended space’s age of innocence. I remember where I was that day. Like most of our memories of those kinds of events, it is probably full of holes and exaggerations.  But I do remember it.  I also remember honoring the Challenger crew’s sacrifice with the crew of the (can you remember the name before you read it?) Columbia.  For quite some time my personal page at ranthonysteele.com had a memorial page for the Columbia and Challenger as a tribute to the sacrifice of both crews.

High Flight
(the pilot’s creed)

Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth 
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings; 
Sunward I’ve climbed and joined the tumbling mirth of sun-split clouds,
–and done a hundred things 
You have not dreamed of wheeled and soared and swung 
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there, 
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung 
My eager craft through footless falls of air… 
Up, up the long, delirious, burning blue 
I’ve topped the wind-swept heights with easy grace 
Where never lark, nor eer eagle flew– 
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod 
The high, untrespassed sanctity of space, 
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.

John Gillespie Magee

The above was found in a particularly moving article by Nigel Rees (on another now dead website) describing how the poem came to prominence and caught the attention of Ronald Reagan (or one of his speechwriters) who later remembered it and uttered it in memoriam for the Challenger crew. It was the words of Columbia commander Rick Husband that caused me to go looking for the poem back in 2003, when he unknowingly forshadowed his impending death by observing;

It is today that we remember and honor the crews of Apollo 1 and Challenger. They made the ultimate sacrifice, giving their lives and service to their country and for all mankind 

Four days later, his shuttle burned up on re-entry.  I was awakened from an uneasy sleep that Saturday morning, by the ringing of the phone.  One of our fellow space enthusiast friends calling to tell us to turn on the news.  Columbia had been destroyed.

Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia, whose crews were all killed within the space of a week on the calendar, if over 36 years in elapsed time. That is the way it has been for ten years and more for me.  I’ve kept notations on my calendar since the Columbia disaster, so that I could remember these crews and their sacrifices on the anniversaries of their deaths.

Space.com

The space program means a lot to the Wife and I.  She’s become so heartbroken that we still don’t have a permanent lunar base for her to immigrate to that she refuses to discuss the subject of space in any other form than as a betrayal by the US government of the people of the nation, especially people like she and I who dreamed of going to space someday.  My balance issues convinced me long before I became disabled that I would never have made it to space anyway, so I don’t take the betrayal personally.  But it is hard to argue that we weren’t lied to when the ISS is a shadow of its promised size and scope, and that moon vacations still aren’t a thing we can experience.  Not to mention the complete abdication of NASA’s involvement in space as it pertains to getting supplies to and from the ISS, the reliance on Russia to transfer astronauts to and from the station via 1960’s Soyuz technology.  These are dark days for space enthusiasts when it comes to manned space missions.

So I was a little surprised that I hadn’t noted that today was Challenger day until listening to the BBC World News podcast. As I frequently do, I paused the program and went over to the browser on my phone and inquired about current articles on the Challenger disaster that might be worth sharing.

Top of the list was this piece over at Gawker. It is probably worth mentioning that I have a love/hate relationship with Gawker, the name of the website itself recalls miles of freeway made impassable by hundreds if not thousands of people who just have to look at automobile accidents. Maybe I’m weird, but I can still summon up images from my high school drivers education classes, so I don’t need a refresher on just how we lemmings die encased in steel on US freeways.

The subject of the article was even more enraging than a freeway pile-up that keeps you from getting where you need to be until several hours late, though;

…after the disaster, over time, a different and more horrible story took shape: The Challenger made it through the spectacular eruption of its external fuel tank with its cabin more or less intact. Rather than being carried to Heaven in an instant, the crippled vessel kept sailing upward for another three miles before its momentum gave out, then plunged 12 miles to the ocean. The crew was, in all likelihood, conscious for the full two and a half minutes until it hit the water.

This particular bit of conspiratorial fantasy really isn’t news.  The briefest perusal of the wiki entry on the subject of the Challenger disaster will reveal that it has been premised that the astronauts survived the initial breakup. It isn’t even controversial anymore. There is little evidence either way on the subject, and knowing they survived (or that the crew of the just as tragic Columbia disaster survived) the initial breakup only to be killed later really doesn’t prove anything, or provide any great insight into either tragedy.

I remember picking up at least one supermarket tabloid in the months after Challenger went down that purported to have written transcripts of the last moments of the crew as preserved on the flight recorder.  That concoction was a total fantasy, beneath even the satirical minds of the writers of the Onion today; and the grisly nature of interest in the last moments of the life of a person about to die tragically is something that I’ve never had the stomach for.  That there would have been panic from trained military flyers even in the face of certain doom is very doubtful. As more than one pilot has mentioned to me over the years, the most common last words on flight recorders is oh, shit.  That is because trained pilots are too busy working the problem to realize that ultimate failure is about to kill them until the last moment. When it is too late to panic and have that panic recorded for posterity.

NASA image STS 107 launch
Some of the experiments survived

The pilots of Challenger and Columbia were both powerless to save themselves and their crews. That is the true nature of these tragedies.  The decisions that cost their lives were made by people above them in authority, people who were willing to risk the lives of others even when the engineers who designed those systems stood solidly against launching under the weather conditions present at the time.

Failure of the O-rings caused the Challenger disaster. It is doubtful that a parachute system or some other secondary contingency could have worked in the specific scenario the evolved in that launch. There was a way to decouple the shuttle from the tank and glide home, but that contingency failed with the explosion of the central fuel tank.

Ice and foam chunks damaged the leading edge of the wing of Columbia during its last launch.  There was no way to rescue the crew once they were in space without risking another crew flying under similar conditions, if the next shuttle could have even been made ready in time. Thinking back to the steely-eyed missile men who brought Apollo 13 back home, one wonders what they might have done if they had still been in charge when Columbia was in space.  Would they have risked an EVA to check the wing? Probably. Would they have found a way to get a rescue mission up to Columbia in time to get the crew off?  Maybe. Was there some way to seal the wing in space so it could survive re-entry? People familiar with the mission said no, still say no.

Hindsight is always 20/20. There would have been no need for a parachute contingency (and the added weight/cost) had NASA listened to its own engineers in 1986, because they recommended a scrub and were over-ruled on the subject.  A similar discussion occurred just prior to the launch of Columbia as well.

I have recommended this book several times on the blog, Deadly Decisions: How False Knowledge Sank the Titanic, Blew Up the Shuttle, and Led America into War.  If you really want to understand just how stupidly large human systems fail, read that book.  You will come away with a completely different view on history and on current events.  The failures of the shuttle missions in particular remain haunting to the American psyche in ways that so many of our other failures do not. Perhaps this is because they touch on the hopes and dreams of so many. Perhaps because they remain the most visible black marks on the aspirations of this country.

New York Daily News

Personally they represent the end of manned space exploration missions in my lifetime. That is what I think of most bitterly when I recall the aftermath of the Challenger disaster. I remember the teacher Christa McAuliffe and her brave, hopeful words.  Her energetic wave as she boarded the transport heading for the shuttle.  I remember thinking upon hearing of the shuttle’s destruction there goes my chance to get into space.  Because that is what it meant, what the tragedy still means to me to this day. The end of hope for a brighter future.  With that knowledge comes acceptance of our limitations as human animals and a greater understanding of just how fragile we creatures are. How fragile our home is.

We may be stuck on this rock for awhile yet, so we probably should figure out how to keep it safe for the time being. Try to avoid that next big thing heading our way.  What is it? Only the future knows.

Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity.
– Hanlon’s Razor

Knowledge vs. Belief

I started to write this post after Jim posted Unknown unknowns over at Stonekettle Station, which was a post in response to the tempest in a teapot that represented the 24 hour news cycle reporting on the clinic standoff and shooting incident in Colorado Springs. I shelved it for various reasons at first, none of them really earth-shattering. Of course, a week later and we have the inexplicable mass shooting in San Bernardino, which instantly eclipsed the previous story.

I could easily spin this into an screed against the gun lobby and their paid cronies in Washington DC who won’t let the CDC even study gun violence in an effort to figure out how to address it, considering that we have had more than one mass shooting every day of this year (2015) which has to be some kind of record that no society on the face of this earth is really interested in breaking…

…but that isn’t the article I want to write. This isn’t going to be the article I started out writing, either. The issue is much bigger than the specific subject of what we know or don’t know about a specific person set on doing wrong, or having been caught doing wrong. It is even bigger than the problem that Jim was trying to address, the 24 hour news cycle, which I agree probably represents the greatest threat to human civilization in the modern age. The need to fill time, to produce facts and counterfactuals when no hard facts are known about the specifics of the incident in question, can lead to greater and greater flights of fancy.

I turn the TV off when that feeding frenzy starts. It is hard enough to separate the wheat from the chaff on good days.  On bad days like the two events above bring, listening to the news just feeds confirmation bias until you end up looking and sounding like an idiot.

I will include the specific arguments for the Colorado Springs incident in this post, but the point that I’m seeing come into focus now that the shooter has appeared in court and indicted himself is the argument about what we know vs. what we believe. How we can know what we think we know, and how is that different than belief?

That is the reason why the 24 hour news cycle is such a threat. Being not much more than the talking heads that sold soap in the early days of television, the current crop of news faces appear to have even less familiarity with what facts are and why fact-checking is important. They are, after all, just selling soap.  Keeping the most number of eyes on the screen is how they sell soap and so the factual content of what they say isn’t the important part of the equation.  That they tell you things that reinforce your beliefs on a subject so that you will keep watching, is.

Most of the white-looking people in the US trust the police intrinsically, for example.  Most of us older types were raised on police dramas portraying the cops as the good guys who enforce the laws and keep the peace.  It is very uncomfortable for most of us to be confronted with stories if entire police departments covering up the details of killings done at their hands. And yet, time after time over the last few years, we have been shown just how human police departments are everywhere in the US.  Be it Chicago, Baltimore or Saint Louis, just about anywhere USA, there are examples of police who brazenly violate laws and procedures who are then protected by their brothers in uniform.

This really isn’t news.  If you’ve been paying attention you would have run across stories by people like Radley Balko who have been documenting police excess for several decades now.  The police are humans, they make mistakes just like the rest of us.  If you were in their place you would act no differently than they would, because that is what humans do.  But that doesn’t excuse the excess, it is a point of data that needs to be accounted for when deciding what you know or don’t know about any given subject.

For the black or brown people who are almost always the bad guys in police dramas, the revelation that cops are only human really isn’t news either. They’ve lived with the reality of constant police scrutiny for generations. So much so that stories abound of fathers and mothers cautioning their children not to become police statistics.  So it is no wonder that the chant black lives matter resounds with them. The counter offered by clueless whites that all lives matter is heard by these same people as just another call for them to sit down and be quiet. How is this possible?  How can realities and beliefs about these realities be so widely separated?

When it comes right down to it, what you know with certainty is a very small number of things. Whether it is night or day. Whether it is cold or hot. You know these things because you can test them directly with your senses. Solipsists will argue that you can’t even know those things because we are all just brains in jars at best, but I’d like us all to pretend that the shadows on the cave walls actually represent something real, and try to make sense of that.  If that much can’t be granted, then there is little point in continuing to read this.  Even less in my continuing to write.

Beyond what you can test yourself (fire burns) there are grades of factual knowledge which you can probably safely rely on.  At each point where the facts exchange hands, the ownership of that data has to be documented to be trusted. This is why, when doing research, it is important to seek out source material and not just rely on wikipedia.  The more obscure the subject matter the less reliable secondary sources are.

When watching the news on television or reading news stories on any other site than AP, Reuters or UPI you are already dealing with information that has been through at least three hands if not dozens. When you’ve gone beyond the point where the witness is being interviewed in person, you are dealing with evidence that wouldn’t be accepted in court. That doesn’t mean it is without value, it just means the news you are being offered could be just this side of fantasy.

It might even be pure fantasy. Case in point, the FOX/conservative/anti-abortion counter-narrative about the Colorado Springs shooter.  When I logged on Blogger that night, the first thing I saw wasn’t the Stonekettle Station article. The first article that caught my eye was a piece over at Friendly Atheist in which Ted Cruz voices the notion that the shooter was some kind of leftist.  No, I could not make something that stupid up myself.

Cruz is basing that characterization on a supposed voter registration form in which Dear was listed as a woman. Whether it’s a mistake, or Dear was just messing around, or simply not the right form, we don’t know, but no other evidence indicates that he was transgender.

There’s even less evidence that he was a “leftist.”

The problem that I had with Jim’s Unknown unknowns piece now surfaces. Jim mentions this story in opposition to the reports (which he attributes to Planned Parenthood) that the shooter was heard to say “no more baby parts” as he was being arrested.  But the contrast between the veracity of these two stories is as marked as they are in opposition to each other.

The statement no more baby parts was repeated by an officer to a reporter directly on the scene, a reporter who dutifully passed the comment on to their viewing audience. While that is hearsay and not evidence admissible in court; the officer, if he were to appear in court, could repeat the statement and it would be admissible.  It would also be accepted by an overwhelming number of juries who trust police officers to be truthful (see above) even in the face of so much evidence that police will lie to protect their own.

Since this case isn’t about one of their own, and since the police showed remarkable restraint in bringing a cop killer in alive, I was inclined to believe the statement of the arresting officer.  That the shooter (not alleged, he plead guilty) repeated a version of the same statement at his hearing just confirms the motivation that lead him to commit the crimes he is guilty of.

On the other hand, the preferred story of conservatives/anti-abortionists is based on what? Essentially no evidence whatsoever, more wishful thinking than anything else.  And yet it is repeated by a Republican Presidential candidate as if it was the unquestionable truth.

That is the nature of belief. It doesn’t require facts.  Facts are counterproductive because they can be questioned. If facts are presented that counter a belief, it only takes the briefest scrutiny to discover or manufacture an anomaly which the believer will use to discard the entirety of the factual information presented. Ted Cruz wants to believe that the shooter couldn’t be one of his fellow anti-abortionists. Ted Cruz believes that leftists are dangerous people, and that LGBT people are a threat to his way of life.  The story he repeats is ready-made to fit into his preconceived view of the world, and it matters not one bit that the story makes no sense on its face.  That the average liberal and LGBT person would be in support of Planned Parenthood and consequently wouldn’t see a need to attack one of their clinics never enters into the mind of a conservative repeating this laughable story.

Given the history of attacks on Planned Parenthood, and the current cloud of controversy artificially created by anti-abortion activists faking videos that purport to show Planned Parenthood selling body parts, the story of a shooter in a clinic almost serves itself up ready-made as a vehicle to attack the religious right and conservatives in general. Of course they would want to craft a counter-narrative (however flimsy) to give themselves an out, a way to disavow accountability for their actions over the last twenty years and more.

A conservative could easily counter all of the above (most probably will) with the adult equivalent of I know you are but what am I?  Since about the time that Reagan was elected, conservatives started to complain about the liberal media. Even I, for a time, fell for this notion that the media was somehow biased in general against conservatives. As the years have progressed, and conservatives have created their own outlets like FOX news, conservapedia, and uncounted news sites including the whacko fringe like prisonplanet and infowars, it has become clear that conservatives aren’t satisfied with simply presenting news from their point of view.  No, what they want is their own set of facts which are unassailable.  Unassailable because they aren’t based on anything real.

Another example is the softer, nicer language of pro-life and pro-choice adopted by the two sides of the endless argument over abortion. Having softened the language, pollsters can get majorities of citizens in the US to say they are pro-life. Who would be against life?  I’m pro-life, I’m also pro-choice; militantly pro-choice.  The fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans still believe that abortion should be legal gets lost in the conservative rush to declare the opposite, that the majority of Americans oppose abortion. This conservative view on the matter simply isn’t true as polling shows.

What has occurred since the creation of FOX news is the division of the US into two camps; one of those camps thinks they are right, and the rest of us are liberal.  In their attempt to prove that the rest of the media is based on a liberal conspiracy, conservatives have consciously created a conspiracy of their own. A conspiracy where they tell lies which they know are lies, because the ends justify the means.

When you evade the truth, when you spin tales to hide your true goals, what you get are people who believe your lies so firmly that they will act on them as if they were truths.  You get what transpired in Colorado Springs yesterday, to the embarrassment of every single person who identifies as pro-life. Remember that the next time you hear the phrase liberal media.

Hillary for President?

I tuned in (very briefly) to watch Hillary Clinton testify before the latest of 8 separate investigations into #Benghazi, the most investigated event in US history and one of the most notable wastes of taxpayer dollars since whatever military weapons system was last funded by Republicans.

h/t to DailyKos

I say briefly because I had no stomach for listening to the latest Republican pretender attempt to justify yet another investigation into these events; as if the investigations weren’t patently politically motivated the last 6 times (at least) that they were embarked upon. So the minute that the look-alike for the scarecrow from the Wizard of Oz started speaking, I tuned out and went on to some other news item.

The Republicans are running around in terror at the prospect of a President Hillary Clinton.  They’ll do anything, say anything to avoid the future where they have to acknowledge her (or any woman) as the leader of the United States. I myself have a pretty demonstrable hatred for Hillary Clinton, as a walk down the memory lane of this blog will easily demonstrate.

It bears mentioning that I voted for Barack Obama in 2008 in the Democratic primary specifically to lend weight to the candidate most likely to be President that year.  2008 was the last year I pulled the lever for the Libertarian Party in the general election.  In 2012 I voted Democratic, only shifting my votes down ballot in an attempt to unseat local Democrats that I really don’t care for and have held offices for longer than I think is healthy. I voted Democratic because in 2012 it was an undeniable fact that Republicans were opposed to anything Obama did just because it was Obama who was doing it. It made me question how many other things Republicans are opposed to just because Democrats are in favor of them.

I changed my opinions in 2012; I confess, I’m a flip-flopper.  It’s the kind of thing that happens when you aren’t an ideologue, aren’t married to concepts that could prove to be unworkable in the real world.  Having seen that Obama was doing a pretty good job at being President, better than I myself had expected prior to the election, I had to revise my opinion of Democrats in general, and of Obama and his cabinet selections in particular.

That wasn’t the only thing that changed.  As the blog entry A Big Bowl of Crow goes into, I finally had to come to grips with some of the cognitive dissonance that I’ve been struggling with since I filed for and got disability.  The government has saved my family from ruin (albeit that it was dragged kicking and screaming into the effort) Accepting that fact meant that a number of other dominoes had to fall in sequence afterwards. Namely; that socialism is not a dirty word, that socialism is not opposed to capitalism but is actually opposed to feudalism (strange as that may sound) and  has never actually been credited for the benefits to the poor it has inspired since being introduced a few hundred years ago.

Part of this change has required me to revisit my beliefs about healthcare and other complex systems which rely on funding from government in order to do the necessary and valuable jobs that modern life demands.  Understanding that Hillarycare probably was a better plan than Obamacare has turned out to be. Grudging acceptance that Hillary Clinton was a damned good Secretary of State, largely because of the way she dealt with Republican criticism, rather than in spite of it.

So it is with some trepidation that I face 2016 and acknowledge that I really don’t have a problem with a President Hillary Clinton. No one is more horrified by this than the tiny voice in the back of my head.  It’s hard to argue against the logic of this. Let me spell it out for you.

When it comes to Presidents, for the foreseeable future, I will be voting for whoever the Democratic party nominates. I will be voting for the Democrat, because the Republican party has apparently gone over to the magical thinkers, and I don’t believe in magic.  The entirety of the Republican Party has been dispatched on a fool’s errand by the Tea Party’s co-option. Until they can figure out who they are and what they stand for, I don’t have the time of day for the party as a whole.  If they were to nominate someone who accepted science, wasn’t knee-jerk opposed to immigration, accepted that women have a right to medical care including abortion services, if they nominated someone who didn’t espouse belief in Reaganomics, I might have to revise my opinion of them.  I don’t see much chance of that since none of the more than 10 potentials vying for the nomination meet this criteria.

Third parties are a joke, in case you are wondering what about the LP & Greens? I’ve wasted far too long working on third party issues (again, look at the history of this blog if you doubt it) The experience was invaluable, but having the power to effect change means actually winning elections, something that third parties in the US have failed at doing in every election since the beginning of the country, with the notable exception of the one where Republicans became the alternative to Democrats.  From that time forward it has been D’s or R’s and it will remain that way until the next big shakeup on the level of ending slavery occurs.  I don’t see anything remotely on that scale occurring this year. Could be wrong, but I doubt it. I’ll be writing more on this subject in the future, if I ever manage to get my notes in order.

I’m not opposed to Bernie Sanders, given my revised opinion on socialism.  I don’t think the rest of the US is as willing to think outside the box as I am in large enough numbers to make a difference, so I don’t think his prospects are good outside of the primary process. What the Democrats have to avoid doing is giving away the election to the Republicans as they have historically done many times in the past. While a goodly portion of the young people on the street really do seem to feel the Berne, will they show up on election day in enough numbers to secure victory for the Democrats for the next four years? That really is the only question.

Hillary Clinton is the overwhelming favorite to win the election among the betting public, in those areas of the globe that allow betting on Presidential races.  One of the mantras that I still hold to is follow the money, and the money says Clinton will win.  Of course, we still are a year out from election day, and a lot of things can happen in a year’s time. Barring the appearance of a really centrist Republican nominee (one that isn’t named Bush) or a bad fumble on the part of Hillary, we’re likely to see her taking the oath of office in the early days of 2017.

I’m sanguine with that fact.


I have said on several occasions on various social sites “no one can compete with Hillary in full campaign mode”. Many people may not remember the campaign that was run for Bill before his time in the sun.  These guys were fast on their feet.  The best that money could buy and they earned every penny.  Front and center in all of that was Hillary Clinton, and now she is the candidate herself.

Hillary’s South Carolina ad came out last week.  When I said “no one can compete” this is what I meant.

All The Good – 2016 Hillary Clinton Advertisement

Hillary Clinton is still the overwhelming favorite to win amongst the betting public.  Bernie Sanders’ support is still high, but it isn’t as high as Barack Obama’s was when he won against Hillary, when she surrendered to public pressure and yielded the floor to the Democratic favorite.  That is one of the differences this time, her opponent is not a Democrat.  While I agree with much of Sanders’ goals, I don’t agree that he is deserving of the party’s endorsement just because he gets a majority of the popular vote.  The process is what it is, and if Hillary gets the nomination by working the process, that makes her the better candidate.  Perhaps Bernie should have joined the Democrats years ago and then he too could be a Democrat rather than just seeking the bona fides of the Democratic party.

Robert Reich’s Big Picture for Fixing the Economy

The series of  linked videos below highlight ideas to fix the economy, the top 11 12 points on Robert Reich‘s mind when it comes to our current economic problems.  These aren’t rocket science or socialism, just some pretty hard-nosed factual recommendations; and we’d do well to follow them.  They run contrary to the long debunked refrain of Reaganomics or trickle-down economics that has held sway in the US since Ronaldus Maximus was President, long before most of the people currently breathing on this planet were born.

They also run counter to most current libertarian economic theory. It is painful to say this, but most libertarian thought on the subject of economics is so woefully uneducated that I almost balk at calling them out. Doing so is not likely to be profitable based on the standard of keeping old friends. As I was crafting this article a post from a good friend on Facebook showed up, trumpeting the flat tax proposals of Libertarian darling Rand Paul.

A flat tax will do nothing to recapture the ill-gotten gains of the wealthiest Americans, the people who profited from the latest boom and bust, as well as the previous boom and bust cycles. Cycles that have grown shorter and shorter since deregulation went into effect under…  Ronald Reagan, who was also influenced by libertarian ideas of his time.

Recapturing this cash and redistributing it to the vast majority of Americans through increased pay and investment in infrastructure is essential if we are going to build a functioning economy and not fuel the next cycle of boom and bust.  It is the outrageous amounts of cash that allow the 1% to engage in risky stock market betting like we’ve seen since the 1980’s.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

A word about the composition of this post. Linking videos that are native on Facebook is a stupidly fiddly process, and Facebook is where I found these videos first. Consequently the text intro for each is a Facebook link, while the videos are from Youtube, giving me the ability to watch and comment on each video while it is running.

#1 is raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour.

There are several common misconceptions about the minimum wage. He hits most of those points in the video. The free market types who object to minimum wage laws on the basis that it interferes with employer/employee contracts, or that it could cause inflation, only see part of the bigger picture which Reich addresses in the video.  Commerce relies on the majority of the population being able to afford the goods generally available to that population.  That means paying the working class enough for them to live on.

#2 is to make work family friendly.

I quit my regular job to raise our second child. We could not afford to put our child into expensive daycare; and really, I wanted to spend time at home with what I knew would be our last baby, having missed seeing much of our firstborn’s early years due to the demands of an architectural career in the job climate prevalent in the US.  Had it been possible for me to take on outsource work at home, work from home, etc. the impact on our families’ finances would have been less drastic. Had it been possible for the Wife to spend meaningful time with the baby while still working in her tech career, I might not have had to give up architecture for a few years longer, might have enjoyed my final years in my chosen profession before being sidelined with a disability.

#3 is to expand Social Security.

As a current Social Security beneficiary, I should probably recuse myself from commenting on this video. Still, it bears mentioning that the the cap that he focuses on is far too low (because of past inflation) and that rather than set a dollar figure cap, if a higher cap is the compromise solution, there should be a median income calculation involved in determining what the cap should be.  Inflation will continue. Wages will continue to rise. Upper range incomes will continue to get higher unless we re-institute confiscatory income tax (90% as it was when introduced) for high wage earners. Might as well write laws that take it into account.

#4 is to bust up Wall Street.

How I wish this one stood a chance of happening.  I only do business with a bank when I’m required to; unfortunately that happens more today than it did in decades past. The reason for this is the lax rules on banks that should never have been relaxed in the first place.

Most of what is happening today is reminiscent of what occurred at the turn of the last century.  One of the books I’m currently reading is The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism much of the battle the occurred then is re-occurring now.  Nearly daily I get a sense of deja vu reading the news.  I recognize this struggle.  It is a shame that more people do not learn from history.

#5 is how to reinvent education.

This one carried no real news for me. Having gotten one child through college and working on getting the second one through high school, and being an involved parent, has left me with few delusions about the state of US schools.  They are pathetic.  So pathetic, in fact, that I paid for private school for my children (Montessori) until their needs weren’t met by the school. Then I took the time to make sure they went to good charter schools, magnet schools, etc.  Anything except the standard schools offered to average Texans.

The objection often raised to charter schools is that they are religious in nature.  While it is true that some alternative schools are religious, the schools I selected for my children have actually had less religious content (generally) than the public schools in Texas promote.  Sometimes people seek alternatives for very good reasons.

#6 is to end corporate welfare.

This is an old favorite of mine.  If corporations get handouts then everyone should get handouts; because the corporations demonstrably don’t need anything to continue existing.  They have no physicality to maintain, being figments of law in the first place.  We would be much better off handing money to every citizen rather than handing it out to corporations.

#7 is to strengthen labor unions.

I’ve never been a fan of unions; still, it is hard to argue against the positive effects that collective bargaining can bring to the employment side of the equation.  Collective bargaining levels the playing field when negotiating with large employers.  Unionization lead to days off, 8 hour work days, breaks for meals, extra pay for overtime, etc, etc, etc.

When capitalists spit at socialism in my presence these days, I point out the benefits that have come to the working masses due to the influence of socializing forces like unionization.  If you don’t want to go back to working nude in the same place you sleep, with your children huddled around you at night for warmth because your employer is too cheap to heat the workplace (read The Bully Pulpit as mentioned previously) unions are a good thing to have.

#8 is to raise the estate tax on the very wealthy.

Everyone who can work, should work.  The existence of a wealthy class who feel entitled to live off of the earnings of their parents and grandparents is contrary to the ideals that the US was founded on. Contrary to the Midwestern work ethic most of us grew up with. It is hard enough for me as a disabled person who is lucky to get from the bed to the chair some days to justify not working.  I can’t even fathom the thought processes of the 1% who wouldn’t dream of working for a living.

Or to quote Chris Rock ‘If poor people knew how rich the rich are, there would be riots’.

This isn’t one of the series I’m commenting on here, but it bears reposting;

It and the other videos in the playlist talk about this same subject, how wealth inequality is worse than it has been in almost a century, and the last time it was like this, the economy didn’t improve until after we fought the second world war.  That should not be a direction we should head in this time around.

Also in that playlist is a trailer for Robert Reich‘s excellent film Inequality for All.  I have viewed the film several times on Netflix and recommend it to anyone who wants to get a feel for the problems America currently faces.  This as opposed to repeating trickle-down mantras in the hopes that they will self-correct and prove themselves true in the long run.

#9 is to make polluters pay US.

I can still hear the screaming raised against the carbon tax back when President Obama first took office and suggested some of these very things.  Six plus years later, it is even clearer that the only solution is to do exactly what this video suggests. Make the oil companies and energy companies pay to use carbon producing fuels.  Incentivize the use of green technologies.  CO2 is over 400 now.  We can’t keep adding it to the atmosphere.  We just can’t, if we want our species to continue.

#10 End mass incarceration, now!

This is probably the biggest point of agreement with libertarian/anarchist thinking on the subject of governance and the economy. The kind of thinking I was most frequently exposed to while active in the LP of Texas for about a decade. The business of keeping prisoners has been a target of small government types for years, long before the average American or the re-emerging liberal majority took notice of it. It is a serious embarrassment that the US has 2.5 million members of its population behind bars; more than any other nation on the face of the planet.


Needless to say, as soon as the 10 were out, there was a glaring need for one more item on the list (isn’t that the way it always works?) So here is the latest one;

#11 Medicare for all.

The problem with most free market approaches to healthcare is that modern medicine is too complex. It’s ability to function, to deliver its product (if health is even a product that can be sold) is tightly linked to corporate structures that are themselves an imposition on free markets. Price gouging is a part of the calculation of every new drug introduced to the market, how much can we get away with charging for this drug? And testing and development of these drugs requires large staffs, deep pockets, wide access to the population. The only way to counter the corporate nature of modern medicine is to either subject them to public control directly (which would be socialism with all the baggage that a state-run organization brings to the table. This would stifle innovation) or to leverage the pricing of the drugs and services produced with collective bargaining. It has to be one way or the other. Neither solution is pretty, but the group purchasing option that medicare provides leaves the companies free to do what they do best, produce goods for the general public.


He swears this is the last one.  Makes an even dozen.

#12 Get Money Out of Politics.

I’ve been on this bandwagon for about a year now.  Maybe longer.  I blogged about this subject after reading several scholarly articles on the subject of campaign finance, and reading Lawrence Lessig’s book Republic, Lost: How Money Corrupts Congress–and a Plan to Stop It which is free online now. In my article from last November, following the election, I list the various groups working to get money out of politics.  If you want to get involved in politics, if you want to see any of these many points acted on and made policy, then I suggest you contact one of those groups or get involved in your local precinct for whichever flavor of the two major parties that you prefer (D or R) if you object and say “I want more choices than that” then I need to be frank with you.  Including more choices than those two on ballots requires more work than even the 12 points addressed here would require.  You’re welcome to engage in that struggle if you have the strength for it. Or just go vote when the time comes. If you don’t know where that is, go here.

His book Saving Capitalism should be in bookstores (if you can find one) soon.  You can vote on which one of these 12 ideas will be a new campaign for Moveon to promote here.  Has to be #12 for me.

An Open Letter to the 47 Senators Who Should Have Known Better

I am forwarding this on behalf of a friend of mine, Jim Wright. I agree with his sentiments so solidly that I feel little need to embroider them with thoughts of my own. Please feel free to peruse his article that accompanies the letter, to be found at http://www.stonekettle.com/2015/03/the-second-coming-of-richard-millhouse.html (Please forgive the misspelling. Milhouse has already forgiven him)

To the United States Senate, Attention: Tom Cotton, David Perdue, Joni Ernst, James Inhofe, John Cornyn, Mitch McConnell, Marco Rubio, Roger Wicker, John Hoeven, Richard Shelby, Thom Tillis, Richard Burr, Steve Daines, Jeff Sessions, John Boozman, Cory Gardner, Shelley Moore Capito, Ron Johnson, Mark Kirk, James Lankford, Chuck Grassley, Roy Blunt, John Thune, Mike Enzi, Pat Toomey, Bill Cassidy, John Barrasso, Ted Cruz, Jim Risch, Mike Crapo, Deb Fischer, Ben Sasse, Orrin Hatch, Dean Heller, Pat Roberts, John McCain, Rand Paul, Rob Portman, Lindsey Graham, and Mike Rounds

Senators,
Now might be a good time to rethink the road you’re on.
Your partisan fanaticism and your self-admitted ill-considered actions make the Iranian government seem sane, sympathetic, reasoned and moderate in comparison.
You have measurably damaged the reputation of the United States and risked open war, the lives of millions, and the world economy, solely to further your own selfish goals. You have placed partisanship and loyalty to party above your own country and the lives of your fellows.

At this point, whatever the final outcome of your actions, history will very likely remember you in the same light as your fellow Republican, Richard Nixon – and potentially far worse.
Were I you, I’d give that some very, very serious thought.
Your oath, the oath you swore with your right hand upraised before your God, was to the United States of America.
The Pledge of Allegiance you swear is to the American flag, not the Israeli one.

Your legal, moral, and sacred obligation is to the citizens of the United States of America first, ALL OF THEM NOT JUST THE ONES WHO VOTED FOR YOU, and second to all of our allies and partners – not just Israel. Your duty extends far, far beyond the small and selfish interests of your religion and/or your political party and it is long past time for you to remember that.

I won’t presume to say you should be ashamed of your recent actions, since many of you obviously lack the capacity, but I will say it is NOT necessary to destroy the village in order to save it – and your fellow Senator John McCain should know the moral bankruptcy of that particular strategy better than anyone. What will save our nation and our world, the only thing that will ultimately save civilization itself, is that we work together, all of us – and that’s something else Captain John McCain USN(ret) and the veterans among your number should know as well. Perhaps they could explain it to the rest of you.

Respect is earned, Senators.

For people and likewise for nations, respect is earned – or lost – by every action, by every word.

Now might be a good time to consider yours.

Signed,
James Wright
Chief Warrant Officer, United States Navy (ret)
Citizen of the United States of America

It bears noting that if Ronald Reagan authorized the negotiations with Iranian terrorists holding US hostages in 1980, he was only following in the footsteps of his hero Richard Nixon, as noted in the Stonekettle Station article. I find it hard to believe that his administration only thought of negotiating with the Iranians 4 years later during Iran-Contra and not at the earlier time when it would have meant defeating Carter in the election. It simply doesn’t add up.

A copy of the letter sent to my Texas Senators.

Labor Unions: Disinfectant for Corporate Largesse

Walker is the opposite of his predecessor more than a century ago, “Fighting Bob” La Follette, who as Wisconsin governor from 1900 to 1906 led America’s progressive movement against the growing dominance of big corporations over government. La Follette fought for worker’s compensation, a minimum wage, progressive taxation, women’s suffrage, and more direct democracy – including the right to recall public officials.

Robert Reich on Facebook

The part of free-market capitalism that most capitalists these days don’t understand is that the government largess towards corporations takes the ‘free’ out of it. If the playing field were truly level, the market truly free, there would be no corporations. Individuals would have to own businesses directly with all the liability that entails.

When you suggest this to modern day freemarketeers they either a) screech in horror at being required to be responsible for their businesses actions, or b) don’t understand the amount of liability actually involved in conducting business in today’s world and so think that’s a great idea.

In either case the corporation is here to stay, and so unions should be as well.

Facebook status update backdated to the blog.