If It Walks Like A Duck…

JobLossesPhoto

So…it turns out the infamous Trump tax cuts really were for the wealthy.  I mean, I knew it at the time but a segment of our population genuinely believed they’d help everybody.  All of the corporate supporters promised new jobs and new investment.  So far, very little has been done in that arena.  In fact, jobs are being cut.  As one example, AT&T promised the tax cuts would create 7,000 new jobs!  Awesome, wow!  Instead, AT&T has CUT 23,328 jobs.  NOT so awesome but…wow.  The bosses at the top made plenty of money, though.  The thing is, there’s an entire segment of our population who doesn’t know this.  They just…don’t know.

There’s an old adage that teaches that quality information is the life-blood of democracy.  But if quality information is the life-blood of democracy, what do we say about media outlets that knowingly inject fraudulent information into the discussions?

Think of the guy who never has a nice word to say about his wife.  He speaks of her disparagingly at every opportunity and his comments aren’t just disrespectful.  They are mean.  He says she’s was ugly.  He says she’s stupid.  She doesn’t cook well.  She’s no good in bed.  She’s a terrible mother.  There’s not ONE area of life he has anything nice to say about her.  Yet, if you ask, he says he loves her.  It doesn’t feel like love to anyone listening and if he says he does, it sounds more obligatory than true.  He’s expected to love his wife so he says he does.  But there’s nothing else – nothing anybody can point to – that would cause anybody to think he loves his wife.  It’s lip-service.

That’s how I feel about conservative media.  They tear at and tear down the United States government at every opportunity.  They only speak of the government disparagingly and the comments aren’t just disrespectful.  They’re intended to undermine the respect and authority the government once enjoyed.  (I do NOT hold that the government has been perfect in every measurable way at all times…)

I’ve long said the conservative media never – EVER – tells the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.  I’ve recently learned that it was designed that way from the start.  Some self-serving rich assholes decided they were too good to pay taxes and they should, by rights, be above the law and free from regulation.  Of course, that’s a hard sell to the people who are going to have to drink the polluted water, breath polluted air, live on polluted land, eat polluted food, and do more so they can do less and they knew it.

So they used some of their lucre to create conservative media.  They’ve used every marketing trick in the world to seduce and deceive a large swath of “Joe Six-pack” Americans into taking stands and actions against their own interests and, instead, pampering the already privileged elites.  Then, when life gets harder for the masses, the conservative media creates excuses and blames others.  It always comes back to the same story, though: a handful of rich people want more.

Here’s the thing, though: constantly attacking the American government is – well, not to put too fine a point on it – anti-American.  We expect such drivel from world leaders who don’t like us but it’s harder to declare an anti-American bias against other people claiming to love America.  But I don’t care that some conservative outlet dresses it’s sets in red, white, and blue.  They’re anti-American.  Every effort they make to undermine this once-great nation is anti-American.

So, I’ll tell you this: for me, from this point forward, it’s not just “conservative media.”  It’s the “anti-American conservative media…”

No Downside…

Mostly, I don’t debate climate change with the deniers because I know it’s part of their catechism and I don’t wish to be rude to people about their religions.  When the deniers see something supporting the mainstream science, they pounce, intent on overpowering the message with reams – MOUNTAINS – of industry-produced pseudo-science, all of which ends up being disproved over time (because, of course, it’s pseudo-science).  The thing is, I’ve realized that they can’t use ANY of it – not one word – until they’ve leaped over an obvious and undeniable truth: there is NO downside to switching from dirty, polluting, and finite fossil fuels to clean, non-polluting renewables.  None.  Making the switch as quickly as possible is better in every way, even before the question of climate change enters into it.  The actual only argument against switching?  Money (and who gets it…)

One guy, Corbin “Corby” Robertson Jr., sunk the bulk of his inherited wealth into cornering the market on coal.  According to the book ‘Dark Money’ by Jane Mayer, by 2003, his company, Quintana Resources Capital, owned more coal reserves than any other private company, second only to the United States Government.  That’s some “jenius” right there, cornering the coal market in 2003.  It’s like seeing trucks, trains, and 200 mph Bugatti’s and sinking your entire fortune into Conestoga wagons.  HE probably sees himself as some sort of negotiating heavyweight so he never realized he was being allowed to “win” the discussions by people who were getting out while the getting was good.  Now the entire planet is supposed to suffer because he made a poor investment?  Sorry, pal…

But he’s not alone in trying to stem the tide of history and entrap Americans in caskets of coal.  There’s a very small number of people who rely on their ability to throttle the energy supply in order to acquire “their” beautiful lucre – and THAT’S the true panic behind switching.  See, it’s not ONLY about renewables.  It’s really about the fact that the best distribution of renewable sources is non-centralized.  A non-centralized network means they can’t interfere with power production and squeeze out a little extra profit for…well, you know…the “shareholders.”

So, members of the privileged elite like the Koch brothers finance think tanks, professorships, media outlets, “grass roots” movements, and anything – everything – else they can to try to perpetuate their profits.  CATO is part of the so-called “Kochtopus.”  So is the Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, the Federalist Society, the Mercatus Center, and several others.

All of these groups were set up and/or funded by the Kochs with the specific intent to deceive a certain segment of our society into supporting what the Kochs think is good for the Kochs.  (They pretend it’s about “freedom.”)  They’ve enjoyed tremendous success.  Their topics literally define the “conservative agenda.”  Climate change is only one subject.  The Kochs and the other deceivers already know they’ve lost the fight, if for no other reason than, sooner or later, the fossil fuels will run out.  So they crank out all of this bunk, knowing it’s bunk and knowing that sooner or later they’re going to lose the fight but intent on protecting their profits for as long as possible and at any cost.  Well, any cost to you and me, that is…

But I’ll tell you this: I don’t actually hold that interfering with the profits of a few spoiled and failed human beings is a downside and that leads me to the inescapable, essential conclusion: there is NO downside to switching from dirty, polluting, and finite fossil fuels to clean, non-polluting renewables…

 

Running With Angels…

I know a guy who likes to run.  No, that’s not right.  I know a runner.  That’s FAR more accurate.  He started running less than 10 years ago but he’s already run the Boston Marathon three times.  For the uninitiated, that’s no small feat.  He started running “short” 5k’s with his wife.  It got good to him and the races started getting longer and longer.  A marathon is 26.2 miles.  He started doing those and, before too long, they weren’t enough, either.  So, he started looking for ways to increase the challenge.  Speed was one challenge, of course.  Then came longer distances and added challenges during the run.  One day, he told his sister, who gets about using a wheelchair due to Muscular Dystrophy, that he’d like to push her in a race.  She thought that was a great idea.

Now, I’ll tell you the truth.  I thought it was one of those vague-bookings.  (You know, you run in to someone you haven’t seen in awhile and one of you says, “Oh, we should get together” but no solid plans are ever made.)  There were some efforts to find appropriate equipment.  As it happens, though, the chairs are VERY expensive – particularly when one considers they were planning only one race – so…vague-booking, right?  Well, not so fast…

There’s an organization out there called ‘Ainsley’s Angels of America.’  They’re a pretty awesome group.  Their mission statement reads, in part: “In addition to ensuring everyone can experience endurance events, Ainsley’s Angels of America aims to build awareness about America’s special needs community through inclusion in all aspects of life.”  Basically, they facilitate exactly the kind of thing Mark and Rhonda wanted to do.  They make racing chairs available for disabled people to get the experience of being in a race.  And, yes, you have to be disabled.  They won’t just lend you a racing chair on a lark.

When an idea moves from the “wouldn’t that be nice” phase to “hey, we’re doing this” phase, things begin to crystallize.  Details emerge like, “I wonder what it’s like to actually DO this!”  So, a half marathon “trial run” seemed a good “entry level” race for the pair.  I was to be “ground support.”  They signed up for the Armed Forces Half Marathon in Concord, CA and began making arrangements with Ainsley’s Angels.  At one point, the Angels’ “Ambassador”, Russ, asked Mark to estimate his time over the course of the race.  Having never pushed a person in a chair during a race before, Mark estimated roughly two hours.  Russ said he’d try to assign an appropriate co-runner.

Now, in hindsight, it seems like one of us might have realized that “assign a co-runner” suggested some sort of requirement of the organization – but we didn’t.  They said, “assign a co-runner” and we heard “offer a co-runner.”  See the difference?  No, neither did we.  The day of the race, Mark and Rhonda arrived at the Angels’ booth where they were introduced to Chris, their co-runner.  Chris explained to Mark that, normally, the co-runners trade places every mile – detail on how the “offer” works.  Mark acknowledged the information and the three of them lined up for the start.

As the runners took off, I snapped this photo:

Reduced with circles

The guy circled in blue is Mark.  He doesn’t much like the photo because I caught him in mid-gasp as he took in air.  To me, though, it just says “power.”  In Mark’s mind, he’s in a race and he races to win.  He explained to me later that his goal was just to get the chair moving as fast as possible as quickly as possible and then let momentum do much of the work.

The guy circled in Ainsley’s Angels pink is Chris, Mark’s “co-runner.”  You can see the rest of the ‘Wheels’ division behind them.  To me, Chris’s face very clearly indicates surprise.  I’m pretty sure he didn’t expect Mark to make such a strong start.  See, Chris is a regular co-runner.  He knows the rules.  He knows that the co-runner wasn’t an “offer” so much as a “requirement.”  HE knows the runners are expected to stay together…

They didn’t…

Mark and Rhonda ended up with a first place finish in their division.  Well, Rhonda did.  Somehow, Mark ended up in a different division so, confusing though it may be, Mark ended up 92nd overall out of a field of 695 – but he was pushing a wheelchair with a grown woman in it so…that’s not bad.  His finish time was 1:51:42.  Her finish time was 1:52:38 (compensation for a “soft start”).  After the start of the race, we never saw Chris again.  The Ainsley’s Angels team were very gracious when they explained to Mark that he wasn’t supposed to leave his co-runner.  Mark and Rhonda expect to run one more race in concert with Ainsley’s Angels: a full marathon, of course.

I’ll tell you this: Ainsley’s Angels of America is an incredible group that depends upon charitable contributions to keep the racers racing.  So here’s a link to their donations page should you feel so inclined…

Crapitalism – Profitability edition…

So…they blew up a segment of San Bruno.  They didn’t HAVE to, of course.  They CHOSE to.  They had received a rate increase to fix the problem pipeline but used the money from said increase to run a political campaign in an attempt to create a permanent monopoly for themselves.  San Bruno blows up, people die.  PG&E gets “punished” via fines – AND they get another rate increase.  The fine will come and go.  The rate increase is forever.

Flash forward.  PG&E burns Paradise to the ground.  Sure, they’ll get “punished.”  They’ll have to pay a fine.  The fine will be a big-sounding number, something that will impress the great unwashed who are just trying to get by week to week.  But it will only be a pittance to PG&E.  Oh, and to make sure investors don’t suffer too mightily from PG&E’s negligence, they asked for – and received – yet another rate increase.  The fine will come and go.  The rate increase is forever.

So, corporations being what they are, do you think PG&E is learning not to blow things up and burn things down…or do you think they’ve discovered a new revenue stream?  As long as “regulators” make it profitable for PG&E to destroy California, no one here is safe…

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Speaking of profitability, these new laws against abortion in the various states can only be fought one way: money.  I don’t mean lots of money for lawyers and lawsuits.  I mean the states involved have to suffer financially.  There are NO other solutions.  Unchecked greed is the order of the day in this once-great nation.

The whole abortion question is a tough one.  I know people are passionate about it on both sides.  I think there’s merit in arguments that come from both sides.  Not ALL of the arguments, of course.  People tend to carry arguments to their illogical extremes and warn of apocalyptic outcomes.  I’m solidly on the “safe, legal, and rare” train.  The ONLY solution is readily available contraceptives and teaching comprehensive sex education to children BEFORE they need the information – which, with perverts sneaking into the bedrooms of eight-year-old girls, is YOUNG…

The thing is, Alabama seems to like it’s poverty-stricken status.  Alabamans will fight for their right to stay desperate.  (They think it’s “freedom.”)  Sure, Lynard Skynard wrote a catchy and proud anthem in response but Neil Young was right…

The result is that nobody goes to Alabama intentionally.  There’s no reason.  But THAT means, there’s nothing to cancel in protest.  Nobody there makes almost anything worth having so there’s very little to boycott.  Okay, so apparently, they make a LOT of chemicals there.  It’s a proudly red state, implying the “deregulation” model.

Unregulated chemical manufacturing?  Maybe that explains some things…

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I’ve been pleased more than once in my lifetime that I haven’t yet been suckered into the conservative way of “thinking.”  Right now those guys are arguing that paying a little more in taxes and saving a HUGE amount in personal expense is unacceptable while simultaneously insisting that Trump’s consumer tax increase, or tariff, is awesome because they think it hurts the Chinese.

Apparently, one can sell conservatives ANYTHING, so long as it’s packaged as harming someone…

 

How Dull…

I saw a guy running for President on Real Time with Bill Maher.  His name was Tim Ryan, I think.  I hope he’s not representative of the kind of candidate the Democrats are going to foist on the populace this year.  I hope he’s not delivering the official message.  He was dull.  I know, it should “be about the issues” but he only gave the standard non-answer answers with no “issue information” to discuss.  Sure, it was the safe bet but I was off the guy before his short segment ended.  If he won’t answer questions on Bill Maher’s show – that is, in front of a friendly audience – I’m guessing he doesn’t really have anything to say…

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I once worked for an accounting firm that focused on medical practices.  At the time, because of the tax laws, it was common to advise the clients to take a bonus at the year end – a bonus large enough to cause the business to show a loss.  So, year after year, the business would avoid taxes and the doctor or dentist in question would pay taxes on personal income, instead.  The rate was lower.  When Donnie Dumbass says it was all part of the game, he’s right.  So I don’t care HOW breathless they get over at CNN or MSNBC or the ‘Old Gray Whore’ about a printout of “Trumps taxes”, at this point.  We, the American people, STILL don’t have enough information to come to any solid conclusions.

It’s easy to get confused.  There’s not a single person in this country who wouldn’t – who SHOULDN’T – take advantage of every tax rule that works in their favor.  The thing is, we need to take issue with the crappy tax laws that so greatly comfort the comfortable while afflicting the afflicted, not people who utilize said laws.

Hey, my Progressive and Democratic brethren: you know how you’re able to recognize that the conservative media has tossed a so-called “red meat” issue into the conservative bubble by the subsequent frenzy?  Well, you’d better take a step back and consider your own position because the corporate-owned, don’t-give-a-crap-WHICH-side-you’re-on media machine is doing the exact same thing to you…

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I STILL say actions speak louder than words.  By now, everyone outside of the conservative bubble knows Trump obstructed justice and is FAR too cozy with Russian agents.  (INSIDE the conservative bubble, they don’t…well, they don’t care, really…)  For MY part, I’ve come to the conclusion that Trump did NOT, in fact, knowingly collude with the Russians.  Truthfully, I think the Russians identified a useful idiot and said idiot became an “asset.”  But not “knowingly.”  Trump’s not the kind of guy any intelligent person would trust as a spy.  But just because you don’t KNOW you’re being manipulated by Vladimir Putin doesn’t mean you’re not being manipulated by Vladimir Putin.

Still, the Mueller Report has laid out enough damning information that the Democrats in Congress should do…something.  Sitting around issuing contempt citations isn’t doing anything.  NOT doing anything qualifies as an “action”, too.

I’ll tell you this: at this point, I don’t really care, anymore, about what the Democrats say.  I care about what they DO

 

If Not ‘Stupid’ Then…What?

Sherlock

“Once you eliminate the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth.” – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

I get into conversations with my conservative brethren from time to time.  It can be…challenging.  They often have “information” no one else in the world knows.  They’ve been convinced by Conservative Catechism that this means they’re special.  “Special” in a good way…

But because they’re the only people with said “information”, it often causes non-conservatives to think of conservatives as “stupid”.  I confess, I’m guilty of it, myself.  It’s hard not to when they spout silliness and expect the rest of the world to just accept it as easily as they did – despite the obvious flaws in the logic, methodology, or reality.  The thing is, I know many intelligent people who identify as conservative.  So if my personal experience is that conservatives are reasonably intelligent, it’s not honest to dismiss them as stupid, right?

Somewhere along the way, I realized the problem is faith.  Conservatism, today, is a faith-based proposition.  Faith has no use for facts.  Still, I don’t think of faith-based people as ‘stupid’.  Gullible?  Possibly.  Deceived?  Sure.  But not stupid…

Ever since Bernie Sanders ran in 2016, the term ‘Democratic Socialism’ has become part of the day-to-day lexicon.  If you don’t know, Democratic Socialism is a poorly named economic system of regulated Capitalism.  The tenets of Democratic Socialism are VERY popular among the vast majority of Americans.  But if you say ‘Democratic Socialism’ to a conservative, they respond with “Communism.”  Sometimes it’s “Venezuela”, occasionally, references to Marx, Engels, or Lenin – the “fathers” of Communism.

Okay, so anybody can be forgiven for not understanding the details between two very different economic systems – one that works brilliantly and one that doesn’t work at all – the first time they come across the “new” term.  But it’s been YEARS since Bernie started talking about Democratic Socialism and I STILL get the same response from conservatives, “Commie!”

I want to be clear.  I’m quite aware that ‘conservatives’ as a group, are often wrong.  But that’s the group.  A movie came out in 1997 called ‘Men in Black.’  One of the main characters, K, has a quote I like, “A person is smart. People are dumb…”  So, sure…the group might be dumb but I’m never in these conversations with the group.  The exchanges are with individuals so K’s admonition doesn’t apply.

So, applying Sir Doyle’s theory, above, if the conservative position is wrong – and it is – and the person is not stupid, there’s only one possible answer: it’s a kind of surrender.  Clearly, the Conservative Catechism teaches the flock to avoid the subject of Democratic Socialism – deflect, instead, to Communism.  When one considers the “why” of such behavior, there’s only one answer that make any sense: the thought-shapers of conservatism KNOW they have no leg to stand on in an attack on Democratic Socialism, so they attack Communism, instead.

So, what you can KNOW when you hear conservatives faithfully repeating their catechism is that the richest of the rich – the people who own our national media – hate, hate, HATE Democratic Socialism – which should tell you it’s the only proper course…

Friends From Enemies…

At the end of Bush 43’s maladministration, I became concerned that he was going to find some pretext and just…stay in office.  I began voicing that concern to people around me who all told me how wrong I was.  I was very concerned.  As it happens, I was also quite wrong.  He just left…me with egg on my face.

Being my friends, they all just sort of let the thing – be thrown back in my face at every opportunity.  It was one of my worst political calculations.  Hey, things happen.  But it was an eye-opening humiliation.  I don’t LIKE mistakes like that so I reflected.  I realized that I’d allowed myself to become hyper-partisan.  I stepped back from the partisan divide.  I reconsidered information sources.  I redoubled my efforts to make sure information I was accepting was based in reality.  (I keep being teased by my so-called “friends”, though…)

The whole thing really bothered me for awhile but then a curious thing happened.  Nearing the end of Obama’s Presidency, I started hearing grumbles from my conservative brethren that Obama was going to find some pretext and just…stay in office.  “Hey,” I thought to myself, “I know that story!”

Spoiler alert: Obama left, too.

These days, I find myself looking for those kinds of stories.  As it happens, they’re everywhere.  Sometimes, left and right are made to fight over the same story presented with the appropriate slant for whichever group.  Sometimes, the media stumbles over something that REALLY riles up a given base so they adapt it to rile up the other side.  ‘POTUS isn’t going to leave’ is a good example.  These days, I’ve grown suspicious of the Russian collusion story.  It seems to be ‘Hillary’s emails’ for the left.

If you’re outside of the conservative bubble, you know the right is all fired up over the missing emails from Hillary’s servers.  They think she should go to jail – mostly just because.  The emails, after all, are deleted.  They’re gone.  No one can ever know what was in the emails because…um…they’re gone.  Now, it makes sense that she wouldn’t have deleted emails that were innocuous.  The missing emails handed her political opposition such a powerful weapon, deleting them HAD to be seen as “better” than leaving them.  No evidence means “no prosecution”, not “no crime.”

Now we’ve got the Russian collusion.  People are mad at Mueller because he didn’t come out with a body, let alone a smoking gun.  Many on the left are calling for impeachment, anyway, based mostly on what we “know” even if we can’t prove it.  It’s a waste of time.  Let’s let the other twelve investigations play out.  Let’s see what happens there.  But let’s not keep on about the collusion.

This back and forth seems to be fomented by people rich enough to buy up most of the media outlets in America – to the advantage of people rich enough to buy up most of the media outlets in America.  My enemy is NOT people who received different information from their media than I did in mine.  My enemy is the person or group who put different information into the media in the first place: people rich enough to buy up most of the media outlets in America.

How about ‘We the People’ stop being led from one outrage to another and work together against America’s greatest enemy: people rich enough to buy up most of the media outlets in America…