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…

Reckonings…

Have you ever seen the mini-series ‘Band of Brothers?’  If you haven’t, you’ve missed out on an experience.  It’s an amazing story based on actual events.  There’s one segment in which a concentration camp is discovered.  The camp is very near a town, yet the townspeople – who supplied the camp, mind you – all contend they had no idea about the camp or what was happening.  The local Allied commander orders the entire town to fall out and help bury the dead in the camp.  The people are no longer able to ignore or excuse the results of their complicity.  They’re forced to see what their wrongheaded decisions have wrought.

I have high confidence that a wide swath of people in this once-great nation and, indeed, around the world are going to have an opportunity to experience the same feeling in the very near future.

Sad…

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Okay, so I believe I have the winning argument in favor of staying on Standard Time year round: kids.  Yes,  I know.  People want to enjoy the “extra” hour in the evening – but it means kids end up walking to school in the dark in the mornings.  Certainly there will be an increase in accidents in which kids are getting hit because drivers didn’t see them.

Yeah, that’s it…the whole argument – staying on Standard Time is safer for kids.

I know it won’t “win”, though.  Child safety is offset by the Chamber of Commerce and there’s potential profit at stake, here.  We’re a bloodthirsty, greedy country.  When push comes to shove, it doesn’t matter to so-called “Free Market” Capitalism that some kid dies on the side of a too-dark road somewhere – so long as she dies wearing the latest fashion from an area retailer that her mom was able to pick up during the “extra hour” the night before…

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I read a story in which a four year old boy shot his six year old sister to death.  Apparently, the two of them and their mom were in the car and the car wouldn’t start.  Mom got out to try to figure out why not.  The boy took the gun out of the console and accidentally killed his sister with it.  The local Sheriff sees no reason for any charges.  No arrests were made.

Clearly, the Sheriff is a “Second Amendment guy”…

It should not be up to him as to whether the owner of that gun should be arrested and tried.  This is why I tout my ‘Keep Your Gun Act.’  He or she was clearly NOT the responsible owner the NRA likes to pretend.  This is not a gun rights issue.  NOBODY should ever leave a loaded weapon laying around that a child might access.  Can we agree on THAT, at least?

Vulture Crapitalism…

I happened to be in a Lowe’s the other day.  If I can help it, it will be the last time.  I found the experience…frustrating.  I was buying a dryer.  It took over a week.
“What, to have it delivered?”
“No, to buy the fucking thing!”
But I’m not here to tell you about the process.  That’s a different column.  I want to comment on the problem.  I THINK I’ve noticed a trend, probably brought on by the predator class as they dismantle America one business at a time.  The problem?  Under-staffing.

The first time I was in there, I waited…well, a LONG time for someone to help me.  Finally, I decided to leave and literally accidentally came across an employee.  She was very enthusiastic and helpful.  I hadn’t made up my mind yet and told her I was going to look around a bit more and she told me that if I came back I could find her in Appliances…or “over there” (she indicated a different department across the aisle).  “Oh, I also have a department in the back.  Just have them page me.”

One employee.  Three departments.  I wondered how many people walk into – and then out of – one of those departments without service because there was only one employee for three departments.  It’s not an accident.  Some ‘never-worked-a-day-in-his-life’ paper pusher made a staffing decision.  It maximized profit today and all it cost was the life of a going concern…eventually.

Let’s say it takes three people to do a job well.  The bosses put two out there and give them a slogan: ‘Work smarter, not harder!’  (What they mean is “Fuck you.  Work harder.”)  Now, in truth, two people probably could do the job with only a few irritated customers.  So, corporate cuts another position, saving a little money.  ONE annual salary of an underpaid “associate” isn’t going to make or break the company but combine that one position with one from every store and the profits for the year increase nicely.

BUT…people coming into the store quickly realize they can’t get the service they need there and start looking for alternatives.  The under-staffing strategy causes people to stay away.  Revenues start falling.  Staffing gets cut again.  At that point, it’s a slow death spiral.  As I was thinking about all of this, I realized I’ve been, recently, into some of the stores now closing their doors.  Venerable, nation-wide institutions that have existed my entire life (Sears, for example, or J.C. Penny) are disappearing.  I think the under-staffing strategy took hold at each one, as well.  We’re told it’s the internet.  Maybe.  I think it’s vulture Crapitalism.

The people at the top have maximized short term gains but surrendered long-term viability.  A very few people make a lot of money.  A very large number of people lose jobs.  The nation loses institutional memory.

I preferred the well-regulated system that prevented lazy, greedy “money men” from intentionally destroying companies because there was short term profit to be realized…

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Speaking of lazy and greedy, Donny the Drumpf is out howling that the Mueller Report “cleared” him – but every Republican in government is working as hard as they can to suppress the actual report.  I wrote only a couple of weeks ago that there were only two choices: if the report cleared the so-called “President”, it would be released in it’s entirety.  If it did NOT clear him, it would be suppressed to the extent possible.  Either way, conservatives would declare full exoneration.

Once again, actions speak louder than words.  Despite claims, I’d bet the Mueller Report did NOT clear The National Shame.  We’d see it if it did.  We wouldn’t be offered a redacted version and it wouldn’t be promised in a while.  We’d have it now.  But we DON’T have it now and every Republican in government is working as hard as they can to suppress the actual report.

They won’t let anyone see it so I can’t tell you what the report says.  But I CAN tell you what it DOESN’T say.  It does NOT say “complete exoneration” – or anything like it…

Note: every once in a while, I post one of these bits without a title.  This was one of those.  Oops…

It’s An Illness…

The current measles outbreak bothers me for reasons that might not seem obvious.  Well, there are the obvious reasons, too.  When I was a kid, I remember standing in long lines.  I didn’t know what was up but the whole family was there at some local school waiting in line to get into the “multipurpose” room.  It turned out, the “purpose” in this case was to stick us with needles, injecting us with life sustaining vaccines.

The big, bad evil government provided the vaccines.  Science provided the reason.  People stood in line.  I think mine was (or should have been) the last generation in which kids could (and did) meet actual people who had contracted Polio.  In 2000, Measles was declared eliminated in the United States.  Now it’s 2019 and Measles is back with a vengeance.  I wonder how long it will be before hospitals have to start setting up Iron Lung Wards again…

The return of Measles can be laid squarely at the feet of a single guy, Andrew Wakefield, who wanted to sell a product.  He was a doctor, once.  He noted that the symptoms of Autism begin to appear around the age vaccines are administered and pretended one caused the other.  He blamed the stabilizers in vaccines.  He wanted to sell his own.  A few people got scared and stopped getting vaccinations – but it only takes a few.  As it happens, inoculations are “herd protections.”  MOST people have to have them in order to work.  People who COULD get them didn’t.  Measles came back.

Science tried to push back, of course.  OTHER doctors explained Wakefield’s position was false, his “study” dangerously flawed.  The General Medical Council of the UK said Wakefield had acted with “callous disregard for the distress and pain the children might suffer” and revoked the evil doctor’s license.  Too late.  Fear replaced reason, as fear does.  Actors started coming out against vaccines.  Actors are people adept at pretending to be other people.  They are not, by and large, physicians.  But that doesn’t matter.  The damage continues…

Perhaps “anti-vax” celebrities never met anyone who had to rely on crutches because they had contracted Polio.  People forget when they don’t have to actually live the lives of the past.  But I see the return of Measles as a symptom of the worst of so-called “Free Market” Capitalism.  See, people know the Capitalists are allowed to lie in order to sell a product.  More to the point, people know the Capitalists WILL lie – aggressively – in order to sell a product.  We KNOW that Capitalism will kill, for real, in the name of profit – and then blame the VICTIM for being killed.

But that uncertainty means that the science of “this will protect your baby” can be offset by the question, “Who profits from the vaccine?”  Private industry lied about lead additives in gasoline and it took YEARS for science to get the correct information out and stop – or a least slow – the damage.  Private industry lied about Chlorofluorocarbons and it took YEARS for science to get the correct information out and stop – or a least slow – the damage.  Private industry lied about cigarettes and it took YEARS for science to get the correct information out and slow the damage.  Private industry is currently lying about climate change and it has taken YEARS for science to try to get the correct information out…

The whole “anti-vax” fraud bothers me because it can be so easily traced back to a certain, single source – one that has been thoroughly debunked.  But I understand how people come to be confused.  Capitalism, it seems, thrives on confusion.  I’ll tell you this, though: living through the reintroduction of suffering in the name of Capitalist profit is a bit heart wrenching…

The Insufferables…

This is not scientific.  Hell, it might not even be right.  But while the politicians are engaging in the legal wrangling of the Mueller Report, here’s a quick tip on how YOU, dear reader, can know if the report exonerated Trump or not.  If the report states clearly that no evidence exists of Russian collusion and the Trump campaign, the AG will “decide” to release the report to the public.  Trump will hold it above his head at every Little Nuremberg rally and shout the findings as loudly and far and wide as possible.  His supporters will be insufferable.

If the report does NOT clearly exonerate Trump, the AG will “decide” NOT to release it but at every Little Nuremberg, Trump will claim the report cleared him as loudly and far and wide as possible.  His supporters will be insufferable…

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Well, Robert Kraft – the owner of the cheatingest team in the history of the NFL – has moved from complete denial to issuing an apology.  Next he’ll accept the plea deal he’s been insisting he’ll never accept and the “ordeal” will be over – for him.  If there is anybody who wants to see Kraft brought down a notch or two, it’s me.  But the media, not surprisingly, have focused on the wrong issue in this ‘Soliciting a Prostitute’ charge.  The story is the women who were trafficked and forced to work the “massage parlor.”  The “deep dive” should be about how criminalizing prostitution creates the environment that allows women to be subjected to forced prostitution in the first place and prevents them from seeking help should they get (or create) the opportunity…

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I saw an opinion piece presented by Neal Brennan on ‘The Daily Show’ in which he took the position that the single-most driving factor in the current rise in Socialism is rich people.  He’s right.  Now, Brennan takes the position that it’s because the rich are such assholes with the money but I don’t think that’s exactly right.  It’s just that they can’t stop stealing from the workers.  No matter how much they have, they think they “deserve” more.  Eventually, there isn’t enough to go around and people start suffering as the direct result of predatory avarice.  It becomes clear – even to the dullest minds – that the rich people have corrupted the current system so people start looking for a new, more fair system.

The thing is, this isn’t the first time the country has come to this point.  The LAST time the Predator Class cornered the market on money, people began calling for Socialism in the form of Communism.  Eugene Debs became a household name.  The Communist party enjoyed it’s greatest success in America with higher numbers in membership than ever before or since.  (The actual practice of Communism had not yet flamed out and proven it couldn’t work.)  The calls became so great, FDR took elements of Socialism and gave the American people just enough protections to settle them down while maintaining Capitalism.  He called it ‘The New Deal.’

To my knowledge, it was the first practical application of Democratic Socialism in history.  I believe it added a hundred years to the story of America.  But rich people didn’t like it and immediately started trying to undo everything FDR had done.  As of this writing, it looks as though they’ve succeeded.

History shows where this story line goes.  Eventually, the masses, angry but desperate more than anything, will rise up.  Historically, what follows is…unpleasant.  But Mr. Brennan is correct that the failures of so-called “free market” Capitalism are the root cause of the revolution.  The rise of Socialism is tied directly to the inability of the rich to contain their rapacity.  When the lopping off of heads begins, the rich will continue to try to point the finger at poor immigrants but in truth, the actual blame belongs to themselves.

Greed kills…