Tuesday, November 25, 2014

WHITE DELUSION

I posted this on facebook just now:

All of you. Another young unarmed black man has been shot dead in the street. As with Trayvon Martin, it was apparently entirely legal.

That so many white people have other things to talk about besides the many legal ways to kill black men in this country is strong testament to the absolute delusion in which most white Americans live. Listen to yourselves. It's almost as though you're happy about it.

I'm sickened and deeply saddened.
I don't have much more than that in me for blogging today.  The sense of white triumph with this has really got me depressed.

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Monday, November 24, 2014

Why Did Cops Shoot 12-Year-Old Black Boy Brandishing Fake Gun?

From AlterNet:

But research proves that police officers or white people in general have a tendency to be more trigger-happy when confronted with a black suspect. A  2002 study revealed how undergraduate students reacted to video simulations in which they were asked to shoot if they thought a black or white person was armed. The white students had higher rates of error when it came to unarmed black suspects.  

For those who say this study doesn't apply because the Cleveland boy had a gun, a 2005 study by Florida State University researchers revealed that white cops were more likely to shoot an unarmed black suspect than a white armed suspect. 

More here.

So, okay, some real and serious research strongly suggests that whites are far more likely to shoot at a black person who is perceived to be armed than at a white person in a similar context.  And that's interesting, to be sure, definitely worth some more reading and consideration.  Of course, a couple of studies don't necessarily establish anything as fact, but they do open up some very real possibilities--lots and lots of studies, of course, still don't establish fact, but each time you get repeated results, you get a lot closer to fact.  So I'm not ready to say that whites are more trigger-happy when it comes to shooting black people, but I'm definitely willing to consider the possibility; I mean, there don't seem to be any studies out there suggesting the opposite or anything.

But here's something REALLY interesting to me: how many people out there just immediately dismiss such studies as being absolutely impossible, that such research results are complete bullshit, just because they "know" these studies have to be wrong?  I'm going to go out on a limb here and suggest that such people might have some racist tendencies within them, emotional stuff that doesn't quite manifest as "I don't like black people," but rather manifests in knee-jerk reactions that don't really make much sense.  No, I'm not calling these people "racists."  After all, who can look into people's souls and measure their worth?  And it's also been brought to my attention lately that calling people racist may very well be counterproductive when it comes to discussing race.


I am saying, however, that studies of this sort are real information.  Skepticism is a good thing, to be sure, but irrational skepticism, the kind that immediately dismisses such real information is NOT good, and may very well indicate what's going on at a subconscious level.

Also, global warming.  Evolution, too.

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Sunday, November 23, 2014

Republicans Finally Admit There Is No Benghazi Scandal

From Mother Jones:

Late on a Friday afternoon, when it would get the least attention, a Republican-led committee finally admitted that every single Benghazi conspiracy theory was false. There are ways that the response to the attacks could have been improved, but that's it. Nobody at the White House interfered. Nobody lied. Nobody prevented the truth from being told.

It was all just manufactured outrage from the beginning. But now the air is gone. There is no scandal, and there never was.


More here.

Okay, finally, the Benghazi "scandal" is over. But just as there are Republicans to this day who believe Nixon was railroaded, so, too, will there be Republicans who, to their dying breaths, will fully believe Benghazi was worth impeaching Obama over. Facts mean nothing to these people. All they have is their venom and bile.

Freaks.

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Saturday, November 22, 2014

FRANK ZAPPA FRIDAY AND 70S POP MONDAY ON SATURDAY

Two of my facebook features exported to Real Art.





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Friday, November 21, 2014

FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING

Sammy and Frankie



Be sure to check out Modulator's Friday Ark for more cat blogging pics!

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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Saskatchewan mom stuck with $1 million hospital bill after she gives birth in Hawaii

From CBC Radio:

Only a week after Huculak-Kimmel checked into the hospital, she learned that Blue Cross was not willing to pay the medical bill. It eventually totalled $950,000.

She says the insurance company denied her coverage because it said she had a pre-existing medical condition. She had had a bladder infection four months into her pregnancy, and long before her trip, that caused bleeding. Blue Cross argued that made her pregnancy high-risk. But, she says, four days before her trip, her specialist gave her an ultrasound and cleared her to fly.

"He saw no reason for me not to go," she says. "He felt that my pregnancy was stable."
 
More here.

This is one of many reasons why the health insurance companies are EVIL: they take your money, take your money, take your money, and then do EVERYTHING THEY CAN to keep from giving you what you've already paid for. I can hardly tell the difference between what they do and a Mafia protection racket. Indeed, this is my main objection to Obamacare. The ACA works with the insurance companies, and, by and large, allows them to remain in charge. It is a crime against society.

It's a damned shame we aren't civilized like the Canadians with their socialized medicine. Stories like this remind the world of America's inferiority in this respect.

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Wednesday, November 19, 2014

High schooler suspended after preaching claims religious persecution, sues

From the Seattle Post-Intelligencer via the Houston Chronicle:

An Everett high school student who claims he was wrongly suspended for loudly sharing his Christian faith has sued the school district, claiming his Constitutional rights were violated.

Michael Leal proselytized to his classmates at Cascade High School and passed out lengthy, mass-produced religious tracts, to the apparent annoyance of school administrators. Leal was suspended three times after he refused to tone down his freeform sermons and stop handing out Bible verses.

With the help of a national Christian rights organization, Leal filed a federal lawsuit Monday against the Everett School District, his school principal and others. In it, he contends he was subjected to religious discrimination during a months-long fight with school staff over his sermons and pamphleteering.

More here.

You know, the only "disruptive" activity really mentioned in the article is that this kid used what the district describes as an "amplification device," even though it was at a "bonfire and car bash," an already presumably loud and raucous event, not a classroom or school assembly.

This is very disturbing to me for all kinds of reasons. We don't have "freedom from religion" in this country. We have separation of church and state. That is, schools cannot proselytize. But students aren't schools; they're citizens. Protected by multiple clauses in the first amendment, students in public schools definitely CAN proselytize. I mean, okay, there's a potential problem if a kid wants to preach at the same time his algebra teacher is trying to get across FOIL or some such, but this account in the Houston Chronicle makes it sound like it never even came close to that.

From personal experience, as both a teacher and a student, I know that when school officials start talking about "disruption" it can mean literally anything. Your Rolling Stones t-shirt is "disruptive." Your hair color is "disruptive." Your registering discontent with disciplinary policy is "disruptive." In actual practice, being "disruptive" in a public school setting means that you're doing something teachers and administrators don't like.

But whatever. Kids can preach, hand out tracts, save souls, whatever, as long as it's not truly disruptive, meaning making it impossible for teachers to do their jobs. Of course, we don't really know what's going on with this situation. All we have is a lawsuit and some statements issued by the district. But if I were a betting man, I'd put some serious money on this being a district overreaction.

Generally, schools are paranoid about religion, and they're paranoid about anything they don't control, and this kid's personal crusade appears to combine both paranoias. Whatever. He seems to be well within his rights. Schools are also paranoid about involvement in any and all public controversy.

Well, now they've got one. All because they're too afraid to let this play itself out. 


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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

"WE CONSERVATIVES ARE NOT RACIST, AND YOU'RE PISSING ME OFF!!!" II

And it continues from yesterday.  You can probably infer what it is to which I am responding from context.  Well, okay some context.  The whole thing was spawned by my sharing on facebook science fiction writer David Gerrold's status update asserting that the new Republican Congress is definitely going to impeach Obama.  In his comment, he compared House Republicans to monkeys throwing feces.  Anyway, the rest should make sense with that in mind.

Dani, I think threatening to default on the federal debt, and doing so in such a convincing way that the US bond rating was downgraded by at least one ratings agency is tantamount to monkeys throwing feces. It was that absurd, that pedantic, that mean-spirited and meaningless.

I'm not going to be nice about that kind of thing. Civil, sure, but not nice. The Republican Congress played chicken with the financial health of the government and the nation for frivolous reasons. This was beyond a bad call. It was near traitorous.

Also, poverty in this nation is, in fact, caused by the priorities of the super rich. We have the resources and ability to make sure that every individual in this nation has food, clothing, shelter, and health care. But we don't do it. Why? Because public policy clearly reflects the will of the rich, and this has been documented.

A few more notes:

1. How have I personally disrespected you?
2. Many conservatives are, in fact, wrong on the facts, about numerous issues, including but not limited to evolution and global warming.
3. Many conservatives, but certainly not all, are, in fact, racist, in the interpersonal way that I'm sure you abhor yourself. I know this because I've TALKED to such conservatives, and they've been very up front about it.
4. Many conservatives are hateful, too, and angry, but conservatives have no monopoly on this.
5. Lots of fundamentalist Christians among conservatives, most of whom believe that the earth is five thousand years old, that homosexuality is an abomination in the eyes of God, and seemingly have never read the Beatitudes. Does that make them nutty? Having come from a Southern Baptist family, I would say "no," but I can also understand why others might think so.
6. Whether loving guns is foolish or not, it's very difficult to have discussions with people who think dead children are just the price we have to pay in order to be an armed society.
7. I am not a Democrat. I have many, many, many problems with that party, but they're criticisms from the left, so I won't bother you with them.
8. I agree that liberals should listen to conservatives much more often, and do so honestly. But do you really think I don't listen to what you tell me?
'Nuff said.

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Monday, November 17, 2014

"WE CONSERVATIVES ARE NOT RACIST, AND YOU'RE PISSING ME OFF!!!"

My girlfriend's conservative sister went off on me on facebook for continually calling out conservatives for their racism.  No need to read her side of it, pretty standard stuff, so here's my response:

Dani, it's WAY more complicated than you seem to understand.

I have never said that Republicans or conservatives are hateful people, nor do I say outright that they're racist, either. So please stop characterizing my statements that way. It's just not true.

What I HAVE said, among other things, is that conservatives have a VERY narrow definition of the word "racism," one that is generally limited to how well individuals get along with each other. This, of course, leaves conservatives completely off the hook for any policy or institutional positions that have racist effects.

Probably the best and quickest example I can offer is the widespread conservative notion that the poor lack motivation to rise above their circumstances. When one embraces that position, one necessarily rules out other factors, namely racism or discrimination, causing poverty. Now we KNOW, as a fact, due to numerous studies, actual data, that blacks suffer from poverty at 2.2 times the rate of whites. There appears to be no other compelling explanation for this stark contrast than discrimination--I mean, unless one wants to accuse blacks of being lazy, a notion with which I'm assuming you disagree. So how can blacks in poverty simply "pull themselves up by their own bootstraps" when they face racism and discrimination? Well, they can't, and conservatives generally ignore this, instead pushing their "bad culture" or "culture of poverty" views.

So, I'm sure that all these conservatives are very nice people, and that they're just fine with black people as individuals. But this view about poverty they push NECESSARILY has a racist effect.

So I'm not actually calling ANY conservatives racist in the sense that they don't like black people. What I AM saying is that a lot of conservative philosophy, when made into public policy, results in racism.

And when conservatives refuse to acknowledge this point, that there is a difference between individual white attitudes about interacting with non-white people, and philosophy about human nature and the way the world works manifest as political opinion, hurt feelings result apparently. I'm pretty sure this isn't my fault: the distinction I'm making isn't rocket science; it's pretty darned easy to understand, in fact. So I make no apologies for my assertions.

But that leaves me wondering why so many conservatives misinterpret this stuff. My guess is that this "bootstraps" point of view is so strongly embraced, so much a part of the conservative identity, the conservative psyche, that imagining that it might harbor some racism is just unthinkable. And so they just don't think. They get pissed off.
Also, the Republican Southern Strategy, which actually happened, and still happens, and is a matter of documented fact. But we'll leave that for another discussion. If you haven't already decided that you hate me.
'Nuff said.

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Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Big Problem With Kim Kardashian's Butt Photos Nobody Is Talking About

From Mic:

The infamous reality star "broke the Internet" — or at least, got a lot of people on the Internet talking — this week by flaunting her backside for the cover of Paper magazine and then doubling down hours later with additional full-frontal shots. But the fanatic reaction to her curves reveals a much deeper issue regarding how women's bodies are viewed in public forums, especially given the way female curves have been historically treated in the media and the art world.

The reality star's photos were taken by a white photographer with a history of playing up racial tropes about black women's bodies. Kardashian's willingness to go along with the shoot — and the relative ignorance of the majority who have commented on it — reflect a disturbing lack of awareness when it comes to the exploitation of black bodies, specifically black women.

More here.

EXCELLENT essay.

Of course, my immediate reaction is that such a discourse is one for which the vast majority of Americans, let alone white Americans, are ill equipped to understand. I mean, this isn't rocket science or anything, and we could fairly easily, I think, teach race and media criticism to high school students with great success.

But it seems the entire power establishment in this country is dead set against such a thing. It will never happen in our lifetimes. And, when I dwell on it, that makes me really, really, really sad.

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Saturday, November 15, 2014

FRANK ZAPPA FRIDAY AND 70S POP MONDAY ON SATURDAY

Two of my facebook features exported to Real Art.



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Friday, November 14, 2014

FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING

Stella


Be sure to check out Modulator's Friday Ark for more cat blogging pics!

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Thursday, November 13, 2014

How cold is it going to get tonight?

From the Houston Chronicle's Sci Guy blog:

Short answer: Very, very cold for November.

Longer answer: Read on.

Houston’s record low temperature for Nov. 14 is 28 degrees, and based upon the latest forecast modeling that number is definitely in play.


More here.

Just a bit of a preemptive strike here.

When climatologists talk about global warming, they are referring to the average annual temperature worldwide. This means that it may very well be cold somewhere on the planet at any given moment, even while the overall global average temperature continues to rise. Like right now.

So, no, you can't open up your window, observe that it's cold outside, and then proceed to pronounce global warming dead. Really, if you're so foolish as to do something like that, it means you have no idea what global warming actually is, and therefore have absolutely no business making any comments about it at all.

I mean, sure, like that stops anybody from commenting on anything, but it does put such commentary into the realm of deep and massive bullshit.

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Wednesday, November 12, 2014

15 Charts That Prove We're Far From Post-Racial

From the Huffington Post:

On July 2, 1964, the Civil Rights Act was signed into law, officially banning discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. It also ended racial segregation in schools, at the workplace and in general public facilities.

Fifty years removed from that milestone, it's apparently easy to think that we're over racism.

Here are 15 facts that prove that's not the case.


Click here for the list.

I posted this article on the facebook discussion thread accompanying an essay about white privilege a friend linked on my timeline.  It really pushed one commenter into some spasms of rage: he insisted that there is no white privilege, and that blacks are essentially to blame for their own plight.  A little back and forth between the two of us, and I just gave up on trying to address him point for point.  I mean, when you argue with a crazy person, you automatically lose.  So I adjusted my approach, and just blasted his entire point of view on this.

Here's what I wrote when I posted the above linked article:

All I can do is continue asserting that you have no idea what you're talking about. Well, I can also observe that you just don't seem to care about the facts. Indeed, one cannot assert the trash you're asserting WITHOUT ignoring the facts, which is why you just sidestep most of what I say about this issue.

The bottom line is that racism and discrimination exist, and they exist in a big way. And it cannot be denied.

How can your "culture of poverty," which implicitly suggests that blacks are lazy, and your "culture of aggressive ignorance," which implicitly suggests blacks are stupid, apply to any of these various manifestations of racism linked below? They don't apply. Not at all. And that's why you never talk about them, never address them. You're holding onto these vile and false views for reasons having nothing to do with reality. You need to let it go and join civilization.
'Nuff said.

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Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Texas A&M outshouts Westboro Baptist with Aggie Yell practice

From the Houston Chronicle:

The face-down took place about 8 a.m. Nov. 10 in front of the university's Rudder Theater Complex, 401 Joe Routt Boulevard.

There to meet the Kansas-based group were dozens of students carrying their own placards. Another group of about 100 Aggies gathered nearby at Simpson Drill Field for an impromptu yell practice, according to KBTX-TV. Like it sounds, A&M's  100-year-old tradition of yell practice is loud.

 

More here.

The longer I live, the more respect I have for the Texas Aggies. I mean, sure yeah, as a Texas Longhorn, of course, I condemn the Aggies. But that's just a football thing. Well, okay, I'm an LSU Tiger, too, and I love it when the Aggies beat everybody in the SEC except LSU. But I digress.

Aggies get shit done. You can depend on Aggies. And as long as they aren't hissing and doing upside down hook 'em 'Horns symbols, saying "t.u." instead of UT, all that stupid anti-Longhorn fish camp crap, they're usually good, friendly, intelligent, highly capable, upstanding citizens. As General George S. Patton once said, “Give me an army of West Point graduates and I'll win a battle. Give me a handful of Texas Aggies and I'll win a war.”

Indeed.

You'd have to be a cold-hearted bastard not to appreciate the Aggies using their yell practice skills to face down the Westboro scumbags. I mean, yell practice skills. Who would have ever thought that would be worth a damn anywhere outside Kyle Field? That's what I mean when I say that Aggies get shit done.

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Monday, November 10, 2014

Ted Cruz says net neutrality is "Obamacare for the internet"

From Vox courtesy of facebook:

Today's announcement that the White House now supports reclassification of ISPs has huge implications for net neutrality, but is obviously the beginning rather than the end of an intense political fight. Companies like Verizon, Comcast, and other owners of internet infrastructure really don't want this to happen and they'll have no trouble finding allies.
 

More here.

Here's how far gone the Republican Party has become.

The whole concept of net neutrality has absolutely nothing to do with being for or against business--well, actually net neutrality is totally pro-business, but that's another story. Instead, the net neutrality fight is about big business versus everybody else, ginormous telecom media giants who have been coddled by the federal government for decades trying to tell all other companies how they're going to do business on the internet.

That's what net neutrality is about. It is not in any way about the government impeding business; far from it, it is ENTIRELY about the government preventing monopolies from extorting billions of dollars from ALL OTHER BUSINESSES. So it's just fucking crazy to oppose it, whether you're on the left or the right.

Of course, Ted Cruz and his ilk are all fucking crazy, so this is no surprise. This is also as clear a signal as ever that the GOP is no longer concerned with promoting American business. Now they just serve the highest bidder, which, at the moment, happens to be the ginormous media telecom giants.

We live in sick and disgusting times.

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Sunday, November 09, 2014

CONSERVATIVE ECONOMICS ARE A LIE

From a recent New York Times editorial:

Job Growth, but No Raises

The employment report for October, released on Friday, reflects a steady-as-she-goes economy. And that is a problem, because for most Americans, more of the same is not good enough. Since the recovery began in mid-2009, inflation-adjusted figures show that the economy has grown by 12 percent; corporate profits, by 46 percent; and the broad stock market, by 92 percent. Median household income has contracted by 3 percent.

Against that backdrop, the economic challenge is to reshape the economy in ways that allow a fair share of economic growth to flow into worker pay. The October report offers scant evidence that this challenge is being met. Worse, the legislative agenda of the new Republican congressional majority, including corporate tax cuts and more deficit reduction, would reinforce rather than reverse the lopsided status quo.


More here.

What can we conclude when the economy grows but wages shrink?  That's pretty easy if you've been paying attention for the last thirty years: conservative economics is a LIE.  Just a straight-up lie, no need to mince words about it.  Throwing money at the rich, deregulating industry, union-busting, tax cuts, tax cuts, tax cuts, which are what we've been doing in a bipartisan way since the Reagan era, all this shit, and it IS shit, does NOT create prosperity for Americans.

Well, okay it clearly creates prosperity for SOME Americans, but only a VERY few, you know, for the so-called one percent.  But does it "trickle down" the way it's supposed to do?  Hell no!  And it never has.  A rising tide does NOT lift all the boats.  The rich get richer and F everybody else.  This is the horrific debacle of a legacy decades of conservative rule hath wrought.

And I'm not even really commenting on the recent GOP takeover of the Senate.  I mean, that will definitely make things much worse, but the Democrats have been in on this crazy evil shit since at least the Clinton era, and probably earlier.  You wonder why Obama's got such low ratings?  It's because he's got no balls, because he continues this bipartisan commitment to pleasuring the rich in return for fame and power.

I mean, the Republicans SUCK, of course.  But the Democrats suck a thousand times worse.  At least the GOP is on the up and up regarding what they are, the party of the rich.  But the Democrats are the sleaziest of them all, pretending to be liberal, coasting on a reputation they haven't done a damned thing to earn for decades.

They've sold us all out.

In brief, here's how you fix this:

1. Raise the minimum wage to fifteen or twenty dollars per hour.

2. Jack up corporate tax rates so high they'll hear the plutocrats squealing as far away as Venus.

3. Guarantee collective bargaining rights and let the unions do their thing.

But like any of that's going to happen.  We've got career politicians, all of them extraordinarily well paid by their wealthy masters, who are dead set against doing anything that would help Americans.  There's a special place in Hell for them all.

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Saturday, November 08, 2014

FRANK ZAPPA FRIDAY AND 70S POP MONDAY ON SATURDAY

Two of my facebook features exported to Real Art.


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Friday, November 07, 2014

FRIDAY CAT BLOGGING

Sammy and Winkie


Be sure to check out Modulator's Friday Ark for more cat blogging pics!

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Thursday, November 06, 2014

It is all still about race

From Salon:

But 40 years of data from the General Social Survey — the gold standard of American public opinion research — say otherwise.  They tell us that Southern whites overwhelmingly blame blacks for their lower economic status, ignoring or denying the role played by discrimination, past and present, in all its various forms, and that the balance of Southern white attitudes has barely changed at all in 40 years. At the same time, attitudes outside the white South have shifted somewhat — but still tend to blame blacks more than white society, steadfastly ignoring mountains of evidence to the contrary — such as 60 years of unemployment data, over which time “the unemployment rate for blacks has averaged about 2.2 times that for whites,” as noted by Pew Research. It is only Democrats outside the white South who have dramatically shifted away from blaming blacks over this period of time, and the tension this has created within the Democratic Party goes to the very heart of the political challenge both Obama and Landrieu face — a challenge that is not going to simply go away any time soon.


More here.

How many "isolated incidents" do we have to endure before people are willing to admit that there is a problem, that there CONTINUES to be a problem?  How many shootings?  How many bizarre racist outbursts?  But really, all these "isolated incidents" aren't anything but the tip of the iceberg protruding from the racist American ocean of culture.  Racism is DEFINITELY alive and well in this country, all over the place really, but making its home of homes in the Republican Party.

Yes, yes, I know that outrages conservatives.  I know that many, if not most, of them firmly believe they're absolutely positively NOT RACIST.  That's because conservatives have done a remarkable job over the years of confusing and distorting the issue of race in this country such that it's now pretty difficult for white people even to understand what racism actually is.  I mean, for conservatives, it's the handshake test, or the have-a-beer-with test, or the I-don't-care-if-you're-green-or-orange test, and so on.  For conservatives, you're a racist if and only if you wear a pointy white hood.


So let me simplify things for everybody.  Here's a REAL test: do you think most blacks are in poverty because they lack the motivation to rise above it?  If your answer is "yes," then you're a racist.  There's no point in even arguing about this.  As the Salon essay observes, it has been overwhelmingly documented, with real data, real evidence, again and again, that African-Americans suffer a chronically high poverty rate because of historic and current discrimination.  That is, discrimination is a FACT, not to be argued.

If you think it's because blacks are too lazy, then you're a racist.  Period.  But Republicans should relax a bit: the Salon essay also cites data showing that a large number of white Southern Democrats possess the same view.  Of course, white Democrats outside the South tend to counterbalance this racism to some extent with more progressive views.  Not really so with non-Southern Republicans.  So don't relax too much, conservatives.  We've ALL got a problem here, but it's far, far, far worse with the GOP.

I mean, the majority of conservative philosophy is about lazy poor people mooching from the rich.  You guys are philosophically LOCKED INTO a view that necessarily makes you racist.  I have no idea how you're going to remove this evil lodged in your brains like a failed assassin's bullet, but you must.  Until y'all get this figured out, your party is the party of racism in this country.  Whether you want to admit it or not.


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Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Texas governor-elect Abbott begins transition

From the AP via the Austin American-Statesman:

Republican governor-elect Greg Abbott says he is starting his transition into office by discussing Ebola with state health officials.

Abbott said Wednesday he has also begun meeting with top lawmakers a day after his landslide victory over Democrat Wendy Davis. His 20-point victory was the biggest in a Texas governor's race since George W. Bush coasted to re-election in 1998.

More here.

Ugh.  And, yeah, the US Senate went Republican, too.  I mean, they don't have a veto proof majority or anything along those lines, but still, it's depressing.  But really, not THAT depressing.  Republicans have power, once again, but that is in no way the last word on what this country is about.

I left this as a comment on a friend's discussion thread on facebook just now:

The truth is that most people don't even vote. I mean, some four million votes were cast for governor here in Texas, only a fraction of the adult population in the state, and Republicans got sixty percent of that. NONE of these elections, not the one that got Obama into the White House, not the one that got Abbott into the Governor's Mansion in Austin, none of them truly reflect the will of "the people," whatever that is. Instead, they reflect the will of the people who are concerned enough about the affairs of the nation to show up and vote.

And clearly, this time around, more Republicans care than Democrats. So congrats to the GOP for that. Of course, what I'd like to see is EVERYONE who is eligible voting. I'd like to see the "democratic" part of "democratic republic" have some meaning. But it doesn't really, not for a very long time. And that's sad.
This isn't the end of all things or anything even close to that.  And, for that matter, the Democrats suck, too, just not as bad as the Republicans.  The point is that there continues to be a great deal of potential for social change in this nation.  We just need to figure out how to unlock it and send it in the right direction.  Entirely doable.  The big question to me is why the Democrats don't seem to be terribly concerned with doing that--I'm starting to think that party bigwigs are pretty much okay with the way things are.

Prove me wrong, Democrats.


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Tuesday, November 04, 2014

ECON 101

Yet another facebook meme I shared:


And here's what I wrote to accompany the share:
At this point in my life, I feel pretty safe saying that what most people think they know about economics is just plain wrong. I mean, even a lot of economists are just plain wrong, preaching platitudes out of Econ 101 textbooks which have no real world corollary. As usual, I shudder to think that I, a lowly restaurant server, understand this stuff better than the people who run the country, the people who pontificate for a living.

In many ways, this country's sick in the head.
Excelsior!

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Monday, November 03, 2014

Business vs. Economics

New Krugman:

Obviously there are business leaders who have gotten the economic analysis right, and plenty of academics who have gotten it wrong. (Don’t get me started.) But success in business does not seem to convey any special insight into economic policy. Why?

The answer, to quote the title of a paper I published many years ago, is that a country is not a company. National economic policy, even in small countries, needs to take into account kinds of feedback that rarely matter in business life. For example, even the biggest corporations sell only a small fraction of what they make to their own workers, whereas even very small countries mostly sell goods and services to themselves.

More here.

This is often a conversation killer when it comes to discussing the economy: "Oh, well, I'm a businessman so I KNOW what I'm talking about."  And, just like that, you have to shut the hell up because Mr. Businessman KNOWS economics.  And you don't.  After all, he's a businessman.  And you're not.

But it's really not like that at all.  Business and economics are PROFOUNDLY different fields, looking at money in PROFOUNDLY different ways.  Business, it goes without saying, is only part of the economy, and, for that matter, businessmen can really only be seen as experts on their own businesses, but not others.

So, okay, they're experts.  On the other hand, do you have a bank account?  Then you're an expert, too.  Do you have a job?  Same thing.  Do you donate to charity?  You're an expert.  Do you spend money?  Uh-huh.  Do you live within an economy?  Yep, same thing.  We're ALL experts, then, which is to say that we're not experts, not economists.  So we need to do away with the weird myth that businessmen are economics experts.

Okay, sure, if you go to business school you take a couple of economics classes, the traditional macro and micro, maybe one or two more as electives, if you want.  Well, so what?  I took macroeconomics, myself, and even an economics of the cable TV industry class, too.  Both were really only marginally more sophisticated than the honors economics class I took in high school.  So, lemme tell ya, this stuff isn't rocket science or anything like that.  With a minimal effort, you can pretty easily get a handle on pretty much everything business students study as far as economics go.  Even then, however, you're still not an expert.  You simply have a bare bones understanding of how the economy functions.

Of course, that's an excellent starting place for a personal life-long informal study of economics, which I HIGHLY recommend: economics is the study of POWER, and if you don't understand power, then not only are you very likely being ripped off, there's also a good chance you're being oppressed.

I suggest you start by reading Paul Krugman's twice weekly column in the New York Times.  He's a Nobel Prize winning professor of economics at Princeton, and his essays are aimed at laymen like you and me.

Seriously, we all need some intellectual protection.

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Sunday, November 02, 2014

THE VOTER ID FRAUD

Here's a picture I shared last week on facebook:


And here's the text I wrote to accompany the post:
Voter fraud, of the impersonation variety, which the people pushing these laws say they're combating, is statistically insignificant. That is, it's so rare that it might as well not exist. It doesn't affect elections. There is no need for such laws. It it ain't broke, don't fix it. No need at all.

What it's really about, of course, is keeping Democrats, who are traditionally supported by the young, the old, the poor, and others who have difficulty obtaining such ID, from voting. Anybody who doesn't think so is either a fool or a liar. These laws are about stealing elections, and are therefore anti-American.
'Nuff said.

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Saturday, November 01, 2014

FRANK ZAPPA FRIDAY AND 70S POP MONDAY ON SATURDAY

Two of my facebook features exported to Real Art.



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Friday, October 31, 2014

HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!!

They showed us this film in elementary school back in the 70s.  It's actually pretty freaking excellent.  Check it out.


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HALLOWEEN CAT BLOGGING

Winkie




















Be sure to check out Modulator's Friday Ark for more cat blogging pics!

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Thursday, October 30, 2014

Houston's Candyman a real-life Halloween nightmare

From the Houston Chronicle:

Forty years ago this Halloween, the Houston area saw perhaps the worst Halloween crime ever to hit the U.S.

Pasadena father-of-two Ronald O'Bryan laced candy with poisonous cyanide and handed it to five children including his own 5-year-old daughter and 8-year-old son.

The optician had taken out a life insurance policy on the children; prosecutors later argued he was trying to kill them simply to claim the $40,000 payout.


More here.

I didn't trick-or-treat in 1975, when I was seven, because of this. And it's not like my parents over reacted or anything like that. Rather, they told me about this case and I just couldn't do it. I was horrified. Actually, I continue to be horrified.

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Burger King and McDonald's Pay Fast Food Workers $20 an Hour in Denmark

From AlterNet:

What Danish fast food workers have that their American counterparts do not is a powerful union, and fast food franchise owners who are willing to make a little less of a profit, though they still do make a profit. Denmark is also a much smaller country, with a higher cost of living and a huge social safety net. And yes, a fast food burger is a little more expensive in Denmark than here in America.
More here.

Conservatives are either liars or fools on this topic.  Businesses, especially big corporations, can, in fact, pay a living wage to their hourly employees.  It is impossible not to notice that Denmark's economy has NOT failed, and that Burger King and McDonald's are profitable enterprises there. 

This is, to be sure, about the balance sheet, but not about whether fat-cats will be making money, not about crashing the economy; rather, it's about how much money these fat-cats are going to make.  Here in the US, they've been allowed to make so much money that they've leveraged their ill gotten gains into a rigging of the economic and political systems creating an upward spiral of riches, one that steals wealth created by ordinary workers and deposits it into the wealthy elite's already bulging pockets.

Okay, to backtrack a bit, this actually is about crashing the economy, but not in the way discussed in the public discourse.  When you keep fairly earned wages out of the hands of the people who fairly earned it, just because you're a greedy dick, you depress demand.  And when you depress demand, you depress the entire economy.

That is, demand drives growth.  Paying crap wages destroys economic growth.  And it's all for the sake of the over-the-top selfish narcissism of the people riding at the top of the capitalist class.  It's way beyond time to end this bullshit.

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Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Myth of the Free Press

From TruthDig, a new Chris Hedges essay:

If the CIA was funneling hundreds of millions of dollars in drugs into inner-city neighborhoods to fund an illegal war in Nicaragua, what did that say about the legitimacy of the vast covert organization? What did it tell us about the so-called war on drugs? What did it tell us about the government’s callousness and indifference to the poor, especially poor people of color at the height of the crack epidemic? What did it say about rogue military operations carried out beyond public scrutiny?

These were questions the power elites, and their courtiers in the press, were determined to silence.


More here.

Hey, did you know that the CIA was running TONS of cocaine into the US during the 1980s in order to fuel their clandestine and illegal war against Nicaragua? Yeah, I didn't think so. The story, broken by San Jose Mercury-News investigative journalist Gary Webb, was totally denounced by the big boys, the NY Times, Washington Post, etc., whose reporting on the story was essentially to go ask the CIA if what Webb had written was true--of course, the CIA denied it, which made it "not true."

Webb then lost his career, and, facing foreclosure on his house, committed suicide in the mid 2000s, a total disgrace. Then a Congressional investigation exonerated him and established as fact once and for all that the CIA almost by itself caused the crack epidemic of the 1980s, which devastated ghetto communities from coast to coast, and ramped the "War on Drugs" up to Orwellian levels. Too late for Webb, of course, but nobody in power gives a shit about a reporter who has exposed their lies and complicity. Good riddance. And Webb's exoneration didn't even make the front page.

What does all this mean? Journalist Chris Hedges understands and articulates what's happening in twenty first century America better than anybody else, bar none.

You'd be a fool not to check out what Hedges has to say.

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Plutocrats against Democracy

Last Friday's Krugman:

So Mr. Leung is worried about the 50 percent of Hong Kong’s population that, he believes, would vote for bad policies because they don’t make enough money. This may sound like the 47 percent of Americans who Mitt Romney said would vote against him because they don’t pay income taxes and, therefore, don’t take responsibility for themselves, or the 60 percent that Representative Paul Ryan argued pose a danger because they are “takers,” getting more from the government than they pay in. Indeed, these are all basically the same thing.

For the political right has always been uncomfortable with democracy. No matter how well conservatives do in elections, no matter how thoroughly free-market ideology dominates discourse, there is always an undercurrent of fear that the great unwashed will vote in left-wingers who will tax the rich, hand out largess to the poor, and destroy the economy.

More here.

Krugman often nails it, but sometimes nails it much harder than other times. And today he's totally in the hammer zone: this is the great struggle of our era, the great political problem, the issue deciding whether we continue being a great nation or descend into third world banana republic status. This is what the NOW is about. I already know I'm on the right side of American history with this. Are you on the right side, the American side?

Or are you one of the dupes? One of the millions of suckers and tragic fools willing to sell out his vote and citizenship for a false sense of psychological well-being coming from sucking up to the wealthy and powerful? Better get it together before it's too late. History will cast you as a minor villain. Very minor. And dressed in a clown suit.

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