F@$% Fairness

How come rich Republicans are all about people pulling themselves up by their own bootstraps unless it is their own kids?  I was thinking more about the estate or “death” tax today after watching the John Oliver piece that I posted earlier.  If they think that people should be largely responsible for their own lot in life wouldn’t it make sense that their kids should start out at ground zero as well to see what they are made out of?

They seem to think that it is ok for a poor person to succeed or fail based on their work ethic, but that their kids should be able to start out on third base.  That is an inconsistency in reasoning.  If we are going to talk about fairness then we should say that everyone starts out with nothing and has to work their way up, or everyone should start out with something.  The whole pull yourself up by the bootstraps only seems logical to me if it is consistent across the board, and even then personally, I find it extremely absurd, because people are born under different circumstances regardless.

It would seem much better to me that everybody start out with a little something to give them the best chance of having a life worth living.  By a little something I just mean a roof over their head, food, and a good education.  See conservatives will twist and turn talking about how unfair wealth redistribution is, but isn’t it unfair that some kid starts with nothing while another one starts with everything?

Lets use sporting analogy.  The way conservatives would have it some kids would start on third base  while some would start out batting at home plate with a broken bat.  All we liberals really want is that the kids who aren’t on third base at least be given a t-ball tee so that they have a good chance of getting on base.  If the rich kid has to start on second bases a result, then so be it, they still have a much better chance of scoring than most.

But the thing is, rich Republicans don’t want to even out the odds even a little bit.  They want the game stacked in their favor as much as possible, indefinitely, with a blind ref.  When they tell a poor person to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, while their trust fund kid goes to an ivy league school as a legacy, they are basically saying, “fuck fairness.”

Goodbye is Too Good a Word: Eric Cantor Loses

http://dish.andrewsullivan.com/2014/06/11/the-cantor-shocker-blog-reax/

The above link is to Andrew Sullivan’s blog The Dish.  It is in itself a summary of different reactions by bloggers to Eric Cantor’s loss in the republican primary and what this may mean for our political future.  He lost to Tea Party candidate Dave Brat.  Eric Cantor was a total douche bag, but the fact that he was beat by even someone more insanely right wing is disconcerting, especially because Cantor already was already a puppet for far right interests.   However, that is something we can worry about in the future.  For now it is time to laugh at his fall.  Goodbye to the nothing man.  The following link is to an article at Vice that gives reasons why we should all be glad that Eric Cantor lost:

http://www.vice.com/read/heres-why-you-should-be-glad-eric-cantor-lost-his-primary

As the article begins:

For those of you who don’t know, Representative Eric Cantor, majority leader and second-most powerful Republican in the House, has just fucked off into that good night at the behest of Virginia voters. If you feel like you hardly got a chance to know Cantor in the first place, that’s because there’s really nothing to know about him as a person. He’s a politician who “reportedly has no hobbies, but enjoys James Bond movies.” 

Bergdahl: The End

This is my last post about the Bergdahl scandal, unless something crazy comes out, because I believe that this scandal is merely a ridiculous distraction.  In reading some internet comments, good lord I am stupid for doing so, I read somebody say that if President Bush did this we on the left would have wanted him impeached.  That is completely idiotic.  Why am I taking the time to respond to one random idiotic internet comment?  It’s because I believe that is what some of the hoopleheads on the right actually believe in theory.  That we simply hated Bush, and everything he did, because he was President Bush. 

When Bush came to power I was hoping for the best.  I remember thinking he had a reputation as a moderate.  It wasn’t until he sent thousands unnecessarily to their deaths in Iraq that I hated him.  He took a country that had the entire world’s sympathy after 911 and threw that all away.  I traveled a great deal during his presidency and even in allied countries like Britain they were appalled by U.S. actions.  Then came even further deregulations which eventually led up to our financial crisis.  (And yes I am well aware that President Clinton played a large part in setting the stage for them as well.)  Then there was his disgraceful handling of Hurricane Katrina.  And all of these things went down while there was sort of a shallow patriotism being thrown around where the only thing you had to do to be a patriot was to keep shopping.  Those were just some of the many things that Bush did that I didn’t like.  But that is my point; that Bush did actual things that I didn’t like and that I didn’t just dislike him because he had an R in front of his name. 

But when Bush did something good, and honestly I can’t remember much that he did that was good other than giving aid to Africa, I was honest enough with myself to admit that it was good.  It’s kind of like the pope.  I am not a religious person and most of my life I felt The Pope to have been a hindrance to progress around the world.  Pope Ratzinger was never well liked in these parts.  However, and I admit to not knowing enough to make a final decision, Pope Francis has said a lot of things that I believe might lead the world to possibly being a better more progressive place.  I understand the traditionally conservative nature of his position and that he can’t do everything at once, and that he may even be more conservative than I realize.  However, I don’t like or dislike a pope because they are the pope, but because of what they do.  I don’t like or dislike someone because they are a Republican politician, but because of what they are actually doing or not doing. 

Also The President, any President, makes decisions that can affect millions of lives.  No one in that position can do a perfect job.  This decision is not one of the bigger ones he has made.  If you want to get angry with Obama, as I said last night, get angry at him for our drone policy or the fact that his Justice Department has not done a good job of policing our markets.  But in this case one human is alive that may not have been if he hadn’t made the decision that he did, and that is a good thing, no matter who that human is. 

The Mutant Koch Brothers

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/17/koch-brothers-book_n_5342694.html?utm_hp_ref=politics&utm_hp_ref=politics

The above link is to a Huffpo article about an upcoming book about the Koch brothers.  It is by Daniel Schulman and it is called Sons of Wichita: How the Koch Brothers Became America’s Most Powerful and Private Dynasty.  Apparently the Koch brothers, who are doing their best to ruin American democracy, are also complete emotional mutants as well.  No surprise there.  Why do we let such animals have so much power?  Here is an excerpt where their dad has them fight each other growing up:

In private, Fred Koch “ruled the house with an iron fist” and faith in social Darwinism. Schulman recounts how the former boxer encouraged his sons to fight each other, sometimes with horrifying results. “During one bout, Bill bashed his twin over the head with a polo mallet,” Schulman writes. And “David still bears a scar from the time Bill pierced him in the back with a ceremonial sword.” Those early lessons left a deep imprint on the brothers.

They also like to blackmail each other:

Schulman describes how Charles, unable to convince brother Frederick to sell his stake in Koch Industries, allegedly resorted to “a homosexual blackmail attempt to force Frederick to sell his shares.” And when the youngest twin, Bill, launched a bid to wrest control of Koch Industries from his older brothers, Charles’ legal team responded by releasing a dossier of opposition research on Bill, filled with sordid details of his personal life.

Who needs the fantasy of the Walking Dead when you have these freaks running amuck through our land.  Anyone that blackmails their brother or pierces someone with a ceremonial sword should be locked up.  Instead, they are running our country!

P.S.  If poor people acted like that they would crucify them!

 

Mark Rubio Dooms His Own State

The lead article over at Huffpo right now is that Mark Rubio has decided to take a strong climate change denial stance.  You can read the article here:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/05/11/rubio-climate-change_n_5305082.html

But the article that you really should be reading is the Rolling Stone piece from awhile back about how Miami is going to end up under water if we do nothing about climate change:

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/why-the-city-of-miami-is-doomed-to-drown-20130620

Rubio is either a cynical political operative trying to stir up the base or a complete idiot.  Neither option bodes well for Floridians.  We might never find Atlantis, but we can sure create one!  We as Americans can do anything if we put our minds to it.  USA, USA!!!

 

The Long Hard Climb to Change

I just read a troubling article that puts the chances of Republicans winning the Senate at 60%.  The Democrats, for whatever problems you might have with them, are still a party interested in actually governing.  The current GOP is not your grandfather’s Republican party, or even your father’s.  They are a bunch of extremists whose only principle seems to be use the US government as a trough for corporations.  Anything that doesn’t benefit corporations such environmental regulations, higher wages for workers, a safety net for the unfortunate, and on and on, is to be dismantled.  It is an unholy alliance of big money and the fundamentalist right.  Even those Republicans that dare compromise are often challenged and disavowed by a large amount of their own party. 

You’ve probably heard this rant a million times by now, but that makes it no less true.  I’ve talked about this before, but those of you that are conservative from a religious standpoint should watch the movie There Will Be Blood.  In the movie the main character, played by Daniel Day Lewis, who represents big business, makes an uncomfortable alliance with a preacher.  However, once he has everything he needs he beats the preacher to death with a bowling pin.  Once big business has everything it needs, once it has used up all of our resources, has people working for as little as possible, and no longer needs religion as a Trojan horse for its agenda, it will beat it to death and be done with it too. 

The Supreme Court just decided that there should be no limits on campaign contributions.  That to do so would be to limit free speech.  If you think you dislike politicians now, wait till you see what might be coming down the road!  The era of the middle manager is upon us.  We will be overwhelmed with dull minds that don’t question things as long as the money keeps rolling in. 

If you care at all about this country and where we are headed, then contribute in some way.  You should give money, even if it is a little, volunteer, talk to your friends, write or create something that points to what is going on, etc. 

And to all of you that think all politicians are the same:  You are fucking crazy!  Elizabeth Warren and Ted Cruz are light years apart.  Sure the system can at times occasionally grind even the best politicians down to mere shadows of themselves, but there is a difference.  If you don’t vote you are just accepting defeat. This is no time for apathy.  I am no fan of Obama’s drone policy, but if McCain had won we would probably be knee deep in at least a couple of other wars by now! 

There is still reason to hope though.  Look at the advances that have been made in the last few years with how we treat gay people.  Although the battle is not over many people have woken up to the fact that they are people too and deserve to be treated with dignity.  Bringing about positive change can be a long hard climb, but once you reach the summit it is amazing how quickly the whole world can look different. 

Democracy for Sale

Last night was spent revising a paper that will appear as a chapter in an environmental book.  I wrote the paper with my girlfriend Abby, who is an Environmental Science and Policy graduate.  I have also been taking classes at St. Edward’s University in Environmental Science and Policy, though I have taken this semester off as my gig schedule has gotten too hectic.  The paper and the chapter are called Oceans for Sale.  It is about the ties between ocean acidification and the group the American Legislative Exchange Council, which is also known as ALEC.  The paper was based on a speech that Abby and I gave at an environmental conference in Costa Rica last summer.  She handled the complex scientific issues and I handled the politics. 

I want to lay down a little about ALEC, although I don’t want to give too much of the paper away as other people have invested a lot of time making this book happen.  ALEC is a group that tries to influence politicians, mostly at the state level, with a corporatist right wing agenda.  They are not a lobbyist group.  We will see why they are able to do away with the traditional notion of lobbyists in a moment.  They claim that they are into education and therefore are tax exempt. 

ALEC creates model legislation that legislators at the state level can use to base real legislation on once they go back to their respective statehouses.  ALEC holds conferences and flies legislators out to these conferences, which are often at nice hotels in nice places.  ALEC even goes as far as flying the legislators’ family out and provides them with daycare so a couple can have fun while they are visiting one of these conferences.  At these conferences they write this model legislation where the heads of corporations and the politicians have the same level of influence into what goes into them.  When the legislators go back to their respective statehouses the legislation they introduce often includes verbatim language from this model legislation.  Again this model legislation is written in part by corporations.  These corporations want bills that favor their economic interests. 

The reason why ALEC is not a lobbyist group is simple.  They don’t need lobbyists in the traditional sense.  The legislators become the lobbyists when they go back to their statehouses.  They are called Super Lobbyists.  These are people that are part of our government carrying out the work of corporations. 

The paper I wrote focuses on ALEC’s dubious environmental legislation.  Often when there is legislation favoring the fossil fuel industry and legislation that tries to stifle renewable energy, ALEC has a hand in it.  The fossil fuel industry is a big supporter of ALEC.  However, energy policy isn’t the only thing that ALEC has its hands in.  It helps past legislation on a whole host of issues that pertain to a corporate right wing agenda.  The Stand Your Ground law in Florida, made famous in the Trayvon Martin case, was based on ALEC model legislation.  Yep, the gun industry is also a big supporter of ALEC.  Anti-union and education legislation has also been influenced by ALEC.  I could go on and on. 

What this represents is the selling of our democracy.  Even if you are a Republican, you should be able to see how these practices are unethical, if not illegal.  They subvert the will of the people and give power to those who have the most money.  Whether you are a Republican or Democrat I would hope that you would want people in government that are passing legislation that is in the best interest of their constituents and not the corporations. 

Corporations at their worst will pillage the land and destroy the rights of workers.  They will align themselves with religion so long as religion suits their end goals.  However, as soon as they have everything that they want, when there is no more resources to mine, no more markets to exploit, when they can find cheaper labor elsewhere, they will move on.  We need legislators which, while not stifling the creativity of the market, protect us from its greatest excesses.  

Criticize Those You Support

Was reading an article on Huffpo today about how the White House is mulling over using another drone strike against an American citizen.  This citizen is working with terrorist groups in a foreign country.  Because I have a strange masochistic streak I decided to read the comments.  These comments quickly devolved into tired old right and left arguments.  The right claimed that liberals who were up in arms over Bush would not criticize their President.  The left claimed that the right were attacking Obama for things they praised Bush for doing only because they didn’t like Obama.  As usual any sense of grey was lost and things were only viewed in black and white for the most part.

I’m a proud lefty and I find the President’s drone policy to be immoral and wrong.  I will gladly tell anyone that I can that I think Obama has a terrible record when it comes to drone strikes.   My band No Show Ponies has a drone on the front cover of our new album because I wanted to find some kind of iconic image that represented in part what was wrong with our country at this moment.  The title of the album is A Manual for Defeat and the drone is a diagram.  We wanted the album to have a political component to it, but we also wanted for the image and title to play off each other in such a way that it was slightly interpretive.  I’ve written before about my distaste for our drone policy here in the past.  I have no problem criticizing the President and US policy on this issue.

However, I think it is possible to have different ideas at the same time.  I completely dislike Obama’s drone policy, but I support him on other issues.  Overall I like him about a million times better than his current Republican opponents in the House and Senate.  I think overall, especially since Kerry came into the fold, that the Obama administration is inching us towards a saner foreign policy.  We are not there yet, but the talks with Iran and Obama’s comment during the State of the Union that we need to get out of being on constant war footing are just two recent positive things that break with the past.

When looking at politics I believe you must be a dreamer and a realist at the same time. You must hope and strive for the ideal, but you must also realize when gains have been made in an imperfect world.  Is our drone policy which has killed over 2,000 people, many of them noncombatants, immoral and wrong?  The answer is yes, completely.  Is it an improvement over our last President who started a war which was not in self defense and now looks to have been for geopolitical and economic reasons and that lead to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of innocent people?  The answer is also yes, completely.

I don’t imagine that McCain, who is losing his shit over the Iran talks, or Mitt Romney the great panderer, would have stood up to the military industrial complex any more than Obama has done.  In fact, especially with McCain, it’s not hard to imagine that our foreign policy might have been much more imperialistic and violent.  Of course, since neither of them got elected this is all theoretical.

I think as citizens we should always criticize politicians that do wrong in our name, whether we agree with their policies at large or not.  There are too many of us that I think often fear that if we criticize a politician that we by and large support, that the other side will use these critiques to score points against them and weaken other parts of their agenda that we support.  We must try to get out of this way of thinking.  It is possible to criticize someone and support them at the same time.  It is only through this dual way of thinking that we can move closer from reality to the realization of our dreams.

Dealing With the Dark

I am in love with the world, yet I often hate what we have done with it.  Film, paintings, music, literature, poetry, architecture, and the best art of all, nature; leaves me filling out the hours of my days until they go by like mere blips.  But why do we often seem so hell bent on destruction and stupidity?  There are so many things to fall in love with and get excited about.  I don’t care if one is interested in sports or reading, how can one be bored?

Yet there are greedy people out there that would be happy to see us all wallow in the mud.  We would be nothing but indentured servants if the politics and markets of the corporations would be allowed to be followed out to their furthest conclusion.

This is not to say that markets are not important.  My brain freezes when things are reduced to simple Fox News propositions like the left is anti-market.  Sure there are those on the left that are.  But most people, left and right, are more complicated.  The TV news is no place for complexities and shades of grey.  We need a combination of markets and safety nets for those markets.  Most of my republican friends are reasonable if only talked to.  Most of us on the left are as well.

I watched Colbert and Stewart last night and was dumbfounded at some of the clips that they pulled up.  I only need to think of the recent past and of things like Freedom Fries to remember how ignorance can take over.  Remember after 911 when any kind of antiwar sentiment was seen as aiding and abetting the enemy?

It helps to remember the beauty of the world, because then you know what you are fighting for.  Don’t ever get completely lost down the rabbit hole of cynicism.  One can love and hate without contradicting oneself.  On the very same day that I hear a melody that fills my soul with wonder, I can also hope to see Ted Cruz go down in a flurry of shame and disgrace.  Don’t forget about the light when dealing with the dark.

Suppressing Voting Rights in Texas

I woke up at dawn on Monday, my Saturday, to a Huffington Post headline about how former U.S. House Speaker Jim Wright could not vote in Texas because he didn’t possess the proper identification.  He is a 90 year old man and only has an expired driver’s license and a Texas Christian University faculty card.   I guess being Speaker of the House doesn’t mean much anymore.  Now that we have the orange crying clown it means nothing.

What has become of a country when the only way in which a party feels that they can cling to power is to gerrymander the districts and suppress votes?  What is next, an obstacle course outside the voter booth?

This is not the first time this kind of thing has been tried before.  Remember the good old days of Reconstruction?  The old south, and actually the Democrats back then, which were the Republicans of their day, used such things as literacy tests and poll taxes to keep blacks from voting.  Sometimes they even wheeled out the Ku Klux Klan.

Maybe the Republicans should just unleash the Ku Klux Klan or Tea Party paramilitary groups at the polls to intimidate voters.  At least then we could respect them for being honest about what they were trying to achieve.  Their methods may differ, but their aims are the same.