A Prediction

 

With this year’s midterm election three weeks away and an enormous amount at stake regarding what sort of country voters want to live in, it’s a safe prediction that turnout will be higher than usual, perhaps at a record level. Midterm elections have historically drawn out only about 40 percent of eligible voters, compared to about 60 percent in presidential election years. There are so many cultural issues at stake in this first national election since 2016 that people are more likely than ever to turn out at the polls despite the relatively good economy, which ordinarily would be a reason for complacency and low turnout.

High voter turnout typically favors Democratic candidates, and that should hold true this year as well, but turnout by Republican voters should be high as well on account of the fires being stoked by their leader in the Oval Office, the Divider-in-Chief. In rally after rally and through draconian policy actions meant to provoke an outraged and, in his view, pearl-clutching response from the opposition, the Republican Party’s national leader inflames his base with culture war issues distorted and amplified through their partisan media outlet, Fox News. Ramming Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh through the relatively wet noodle opposition on the Senate Judiciary Committee served the Divider-in-Chief’s purposes admirably, giving him and his base a win in the culture wars against liberals. Whether Mr. Kavanaugh’s service on the Court will improve the rule of law in this country, or even respect it, is besides the point as far as they are concerned.


Map of US Voter ID Laws by State, Strict vs Non-Strict, Nov 2016
Map of Voter ID laws in the United States, Strict vs Non-Strict (November 2016).

Red ——– Photo ID required (Strict)
Orange —- Photo ID requested (Non-strict)
Dark Blue – Non-photo ID required (Strict)
Light Blue – Non-photo ID requested (Non-strict)
Gray ——- No ID required to vote
This map may not be up to date. Check with your local registrar if you are unsure. Map by Peterljr888.

 

With the Republicans fired up and their unofficial paramilitary offshoots among white supremacist organizations feeling emboldened by Supreme Leader and by the police, it’s also a fair prediction that voter intimidation efforts at the polls by those groups will be higher than ever this year. Supreme Leader has signaled numerous times to the lunatic fringe of the alt-right that he has their backs, and the police have done the same by standing by passively while white supremacist groups have rioted and dealt violence to counter protesters, most prominently in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, and again recently at altercations in Portland, Oregon, and in New York City.

If voters are intimidated at polling places this year by over zealous followers of Supreme Leader, it is perhaps not advisable to rely on reporting the matter to local police employees. It is probably better to follow the guidelines of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and call the Election Protection Hotline at 866-OUR-VOTE, or the Department of Justice Voting Rights Hotline at 800-253-3931. The ACLU also advises contacting an attorney, but as that can add up to a lot of expense, it helps to realize the Election Protection Hotline is run by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law and can help with legal questions pro bono. Now that everyone in the country has had two years to observe where the Divider-in-Chief and his cohort want to take the country, to unsavory places where the rule of law is not respected and where only the rich benefit from the nation’s wealth, it has never been more clear how much voting can make a difference in the sort of country we claim to be than in this year’s midterm election. Vote!
— Ed.

 

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The War on Economic Disadvantage

 

12 Then said he also to him that bade him, When thou makest a dinner or a supper, call not thy friends, nor thy brethren, neither thy kinsmen, nor thy rich neighbours; lest they also bid thee again, and a recompence be made thee.
13 But when thou makest a feast, call the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind:
14 And thou shalt be blessed; for they cannot recompense thee: for thou shalt be recompensed at the resurrection of the just.

— Words of Jesus Christ quoted in Luke 14:12-14, the King James Version of the New Testament.

The current presidential administration has declared an end to the War on Poverty, and a victory for someone or other, certainly not the poor. Perhaps the rich, who can now go on plundering the nation without any nagging concerns for the poor. Not that the poor were ever a great concern for the rich, a disconnect that has been made easier over the past half century with sociological euphemisms like “economically disadvantaged” and “low income”. Sociologists and others with a bureaucratic and academic inclination to their thinking supposedly applied euphemisms for the words “poor” and “poverty” out of consideration for the feelings of people mired in “low resource” neighborhoods, among other things, but really they were doing those folks no favors. Good intentions merely made it easier for everyone in the “upper income brackets” to look the other way.


Thomas Benjamin Kennington - Orphans
Orphans, an 1885 painting by Thomas Benjamin Kennington (1856-1916).

The War on Poverty is over then, and up is down and wrong is right. Two plus two equals five. “Just remember, what you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening,” saith Supreme Leader. None of that rhetorical nonsense fills the bellies of the poor with nutritious food. It’s all sophistry. Anyone with eyes that see and who acknowledges the world as it is can attest there are poor people everywhere in need. Those poor people are more than “food insecure”, they are hungry, even starving. Academics, bureaucrats, politicians, and the wealthy can argue forever about how best to deal with the problem of the “economically disadvantaged” or “underprivileged”, and in the end they will only increase their own advantage and scrupulously preserve their own privilege. Stop the jibber jabber and get down to a soup kitchen and start dishing.
— Ed.


George Carlin talks about how euphemisms erode meaning in his 1990 concert Doin’ It Again. Warning: foul language.

 

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Gimme What He’s Got

 

Much printer’s ink and digital pixels have been expended the past few years by writers and mental health professionals attempting to analyze the current president’s psyche, which admittedly appears to be a mess. Amid all the speculation, two things appear to be certain about Supreme Leader’s mentality, and those are his overarching narcissism and his unhealthy obsession with Barack Obama, specifically with outdoing Mr. Obama if not in deed, at least in Supreme Leader’s own mind and in the minds of his followers. To that end, Supreme Leader is most likely obsessed by the possibility of coming away with a Nobel Peace Prize as a result of his recent talks with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un.

President Barack Obama with the Nobel Prize medal and diploma
President Barack Obama with the Nobel Prize medal and diploma in Oslo, Norway, in December 2009. Photo by Pete Souza.

Nothing of substance was settled between the United States and North Korea during the June 12 talks, but that apparently hardly matters anymore to the Nobel committee after they cheapened the prize in 2009 by awarding it to the new American president, Barack Obama, for no evident reason other than he was NotBush. Some thought the committee awarded Mr. Obama the prize as an incentive to engage the United States in more peaceful behavior in the future. If that was the case, the committee members must have been chagrined at the very least over the next seven years as Mr. Obama expanded George W. Bush’s drone assassination program, and otherwise did little to validate their faith in his peaceful intentions. Mr. Obama was a tool of the American power elite, charming as his personal nature may have been, and if he hadn’t been the elite would not have allowed him to get anywhere near the seat of power.

No doubt the current president cares little about whether the Nobel committee was misguided in awarding the Peace Prize to Mr. Obama in 2009. All he cares about is that Obama got one, and now he wants one. His childish neediness requires it, and he may possibly be fueled by a need for revenge against his predecessor. None of that really matters to everyone else in the world except in the sense of how they are affected by the whims and personality foibles of a person at the head of the most powerful government and military machine on Earth.

An excerpt from the White House Correspondents’ Dinner in April 2011.

Some of the Roman emperors in the first few centuries of the Christian era were also mentally unstable individuals who led capriciously and selfishly. None of them had the powerful weaponry at their disposal such as that available to the current leader of the United States, and on the other hand they did not have the constraints on their exercise of power equivalent to those put in place by the founders of the American republic over two centuries ago, eroded as those constraints have become. The peasants of the empire still need to go about their business every day, and can do so today just as peasants did thousands of years ago largely unaware or unheeding of what was happening at the central seat of power, with the difference being that now far more more than then a disastrous decision by a mentally unbalanced person at the helm has the capacity to upend their lives. The deluded Roman emperors also sponsored games and awarded themselves prizes, but there is no evidence the lives of the peasants under their dominion were any better for it.
— Ed.

 

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Heckuva Job, Trumpie!

 

The title of this post is of course a riff on the infamous remark made by President George W. Bush in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 when he praised his appointed leader of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the inept Michael Brown. After Hurricane Maria devastated Puerto Rico last September, the current president latched onto the unusually low death toll number of 16 as evidence the destruction was not all that bad and didn’t require the full measure of emergency response from the federal government. This week, a new study published in The New England Journal of Medicine puts the death toll at a much higher number, possibly near 5,000, making Hurricane Maria the second deadliest hurricane to strike the United States or its territories after the Galveston, Texas, hurricane of 1900 killed over 6,000.

The Ladies' home journal (1948) (14582101867)
A 1948 advertisement for paper towels in The Ladies’ Home Journal.

How did the number of fatalities related to Hurricane Maria climb from 16 to 5,000? A good part of those who died were victims of the dysfunctional infrastructure on the island after the storm, and they succumbed over weeks and months due to lack of power for medical equipment, poor emergency response due to destroyed roads, overstretched hospital facilities, and lack of wholesome food and clean water. Many of the dead were not accounted for in the first days after the disaster, and government officials were either negligent or overly optimistic in placing their faith in the early number of a mere 16 dead after such a major disaster. Some in government, like Supreme Leader no doubt, used the low number to justify their lackadaisical and incompetent response to the crisis.


Americans have short memories, and government leaders count on that trait in the near term after any crisis in which they might be held accountable. Put a rosy spin on things, no matter how unrealistic, and more often than not after some argument from the press the commotion will die down and eventually be almost entirely forgotten by the public. That’s how the Big Lie works. In the current American political climate, one third of the people will believe whatever lie Supreme Liar pops off, like paper towel rolls he tosses to his adoring fans, no matter how ugly and detached from reality those lies are, because they reinforce their own self-serving beliefs; another third of the people don’t care much one way or the other as long as it’s not their power that’s shut off; and the last third of the public sputters and fumes about the situation, but finds it can be an uphill struggle on a slippery slope to keep the lies in front of anyone who will listen, be outraged, and help refute them. The lies from this presidential administration keep piling up, a malodorous mountain of them, swarming with flies. It will take more than some paper towels to clean it up.
— Ed.

 

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Like Sheep to the Slaughter

 

Harmlessly passing your time in the grassland away,
Only dimly aware of a certain unease in the air.
You better watch out!
There may be dogs about!
I’ve looked over Jordan and I have seen;
Things are not what they seem.

What do you get for pretending the danger’s not real?
Meek and obedient you follow the leader
Down well trodden corridors into the valley of steel.
What a surprise!
A look of terminal shock in your eyes!
Now things are really what they seem;
No, this is no bad dream.

— The first two stanzas of the song “Sheep”, by Pink Floyd, from their 1977 album Animals.

 

The first slave auction at new amsterdam in 1655
The First Slave Auction in New Amsterdam [New York City] in 1655, an illustration by Howard Pyle (1853-1911), published in 1917 after his death. Slave or master, master or slave, it has been ever thus.

Why listen to or read reports from corporate media outlets about what the comedian Michelle Wolf said at the White House Correspondents Dinner on Saturday, April 28, when C-SPAN has the entire video of her speech available so that you can make up your own mind about it?


Warning: foul language; also, self-congratulatory shills.

There has never been an age when information was as freely available in relatively open societies such as ours, and yet people out of laziness, habit, or ideology continue to rely on corporate media to relay news to them. Corporate media has a bias, though, and ultimately that bias has less to do with left or right than it does with green, as in the color of American currency. The part of Ms. Wolf’s remarks that the corporate media objects to most has nothing to do with what she says in the first sixteen minutes, largely about Supreme Leader, his incompetent administration, and the morally or legally corrupt officials in it, including press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, but about her criticisms of their ethically bankrupt empowering of this administration for the sake of lining their own pockets. There are reaction shots of stuffed shirt audience members either stony faced or sour pussed in disapproval throughout Ms. Wolf’s remarks, but in the last three minutes, and especially the last minute, when she takes it up a notch, the reaction shots show media and administration types alike shooting daggers at her from their eyes. You know then she was speaking the truth, and that they weren’t going to report that part of her speech if they could avoid it.

Brit Floyd, a Pink Floyd tribute band, in an excellent performance of “Sheep” from 2015 in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

But allowing lazy, dishonest media to get away with reporting like that are lazy, dishonest citizens who don’t care about the truth. And it doesn’t have to be that way. Criticizing the media is easy really, like shooting fish in a barrel. Who swallows the bait when they boost the weapons of mass destruction myth as reason for invading Iraq? Who goes along meekly when the corporate media repeats the lie from the powers that be that the banks and other financial institutions who nearly destroyed the economy in 2008, and did destroy the livelihood of millions of citizens, are too big to fail and require a bailout from the same people they screwed? Who listened and watched enraptured as the corporate media gave more coverage to a reality TV star presidential candidate in 2016 than any other candidate, regardless of substantive discussion of real issues? Who?

— Ed.

Who was born in a house full of pain?
Who was trained not to spit in the fan?
Who was told what to do by the man?
Who was broken by trained personnel?
Who was fitted with collar and chain?
Who was given a pat on the back?
Who was breaking away from the pack?
Who was only a stranger at home?
Who was ground down in the end?
Who was found dead on the phone?
Who was dragged down by the stone?

— The last stanza of the song “Dogs”, by Pink Floyd, from their 1977 album Animals.

 

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H-A-double N-I-T-Y spells Hannity

 

“And only one for birthday presents, you know. There’s glory for you!”

“I don’t know what you mean by ‘glory’,” Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. “Of course you don’t — till I tell you. I meant ‘there’s a nice knock-down argument for you!'”

“But ‘glory’ doesn’t mean ‘a nice knock-down argument’,” Alice objected.

“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that’s all.”

— from Chapter 6 of Through the Looking Glass, by Lewis Carroll (1832-1898).

 

Recently Michael Cohen, lawyer and fixer for Supreme Leader, revealed in court that one of his other clients was Fox News commentator Sean Hannity. It’s difficult to classify Mr. Hannity professionally, though “journalist” he certainly is not. Commentator will have to do, since “blowhard”, while more accurate, descends to the same kind of ad hominem mudslinging Mr. Hannity himself indulges in, and you can’t beat someone like that at his own game. Is Sean Hannity really Michael Cohen’s client? Mr. Hannity doesn’t think so, and the $10 he paid Mr. Cohen for his services was merely hush money in the form of attorney/client privilege.

Alice Humpty Dumpty
Illustration by John Tenniel (1820-1914) of Alice greeting Humpty Dumpty.

Michael Cohen certainly works by an unusual business model, taking merely ten bucks from Sean Hannity in return for supposedly giving only real estate advice, and supposedly out of his own pocket forking over $130,000 in hush money to Stormy Daniels. What a great guy! Maybe he’s independently wealthy. He didn’t want to trouble the Horndog-in-Chief (at the time of the payoff still only Candidate Horndog) with the piddling matter of $130,000, and so he coughed it up himself.

Yankee Doodle Dandy, directed by Michael Curtiz, is a 1942 musical biography of songwriter and showman George M. Cohan, and in this scene Joan Leslie and James Cagney sing a shortened version of Cohan’s song “Harrigan”.

 

For such an unusual attorney, to whom money means apparently nothing, there’s no telling what that sawbuck from Sean Hannity bought, if anything other than a little advice and some privilege to cover it. Speculation is a fun game, and in this case it might involve the guess that the $10 was for guidance in hiring a plastic surgeon to wipe that smirk off Mr. Hannity’s face. That can’t be right, though, since Mr. Hannity’s smirk is his signature look. He can’t do without that any more than Moe Howard of The Three Stooges could have done without his bowl haircut. Maybe the money was part of Mr. Hannity’s philanthropic effort to invest in neighborhoods with high foreclosure rates. Attorney/client privilege in that case would have been in the interest of true giving, where the right hand knoweth not what the left hand doeth, whether that’s slapping an eviction notice on an old lady’s front door or smacking down a librul (metaphorically, of course).

Humpty Dumpty
John Tenniel’s illustration of Humpty Dumpty shouting in the ear of the messenger in the poem he recites for Alice.

The truth is there’s just no telling what went on between Michael Cohen, selfless lawyer, and Sean Hannity, do gooder. The truth may ooze out when big, bad Robert Mueller, independent counsel, puts the squeeze on Mr. Cohen. Sean Hannity, Fox News commentator, will of course commentate – or bloviate, depending on your point of view – upon the proceedings in his usual fair and balanced manner. Then he will go hang out with his buddies at Mar-a-Lago, where no one dares to pee in his Post Toasties.
— Ed.

A full version of “Harrigan” from a 2008 recording by The Paragon Ragtime Orchestra; Rick Benjamin, Director; with singer Colin Pritchard. New World Records produces recordings using the instrumentation and style of a musical piece’s original performance, in this case American musical theater of the early 20th century.

 

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Not Buying It

 

The departure of advertisers from Laura Ingraham’s show on Fox News after a boycott of their products and services was proposed by David Hogg, the Parkland, Florida, shooting survivor Ms. Ingraham gratuitously mocked on Twitter, is not censorship, as Fox News executives claim, but the simple economic result of a self-inflicted wound. No one disputes Ms. Ingraham’s First Amendment right to make hateful, idiotic remarks. Furthermore, no one claims that Ms. Ingraham cannot disagree with Mr. Hogg on gun control. As a public figure, however, with a forum that allows her to generate revenue through television viewership ratings that are often as not in her case driven by the outlandishness of her hateful, idiotic remarks, and ad hominem attacks on those she disagrees with, she cannot expect there will be no repercussions. Boycotting her advertisers is simply hitting her where she and Fox News are most vulnerable.

 

Rosaparks
Rosa Parks in 1955, with Martin Luther King Jr. in the background. Ms. Parks was instrumental in starting the Montgomery, Alabama, bus boycott when she refused to give up her seat to a white passenger. Photo by the United States Information Agency (USIA).

There’s a world of difference between the costs paid by Ms. Ingraham for her free speech and that paid by someone such as Juli Briskman, the woman who lost her job after flipping off Supreme Leader’s motorcade last October. Ms. Briskman was not a public figure at the time, and she undertook her action on her own account, with no connection made by her between that action and her employer. Still, her employer, a federal contractor, fired her after it became widely known she worked for them. Ms. Briskman had no thought of ginning up popularity and revenue for her or her employer, far from it. People like Laura Ingraham are well aware their speech will generate controversy, because controversy translates into money. Ms. Ingraham and other public figures like her are the television wrestlers of punditry, throwing metal chairs and bellowing insults while they stomp around the arena doing their best to incite the crowd.

The boycott is a time honored method for expressing disapproval and trying to effect change in public policy or the behavior of public figures. People on both sides of the political spectrum engage in boycotts, as the Reverend Franklin Graham demonstrated recently when he called for a boycott of Target department stores on account of what he sees as their overly liberal transgender restroom policy. Everyone votes with their dollars, for the simple reason that in our capitalist society it is the easiest and most effective way of getting the attention of the powerful. Whether a boycott is undertaken for frivolous or nasty reasons is in the eye of the beholder, but it has to be respected because it too is a form of free speech. The object of a boycott may weather it with enough counter support from people who perceive the boycott as unfair. At any rate, the economic effect is often secondary to the real aim of the boycotters, which is to bring a matter to widespread public attention, causing the boycotted company or public figure to explain or justify their actions, policies, or remarks.

Mahatma Gandhi coined the term “satyagraha” to explain his view on the right way to conduct non-violent efforts for change. Satyagraha means truth (satya), and grasp or hold onto (graha), or holding onto the truth. When people hold what they believe to be the truth, they actively try to get someone or some group who is obstructing their aims to see that truth as well, so that in the end they will step out of the way without the threat of violence. Of course, we all believe we hold the truth, with the possible exception of media pundits who cynically exploit political arguments for personal gain, in which case it’s hard to say whether they believe their own nonsense or not. It doesn’t really matter.

An assembly of moments from the 1982 Richard Attenborough film Gandhi, with Ben Kingsley, showing some of the Mahatma’s methods and philosophy.

For everyone else, with their own truths (not their own facts), it is important to treat those who disagree by the light of their own truths with respect and consideration during the contest for change. The boycott throughout history has been an instrument of change used by the weak against the strong, and today is no different. It’s unseemly then for the strong to veil themselves in the First Amendment in a cynical attempt to elevate the debate into the same arena where Gandhi, Martin Luther King Jr., Rosa Parks, and Cesar Chavez fought for their rights, when they brought this public criticism upon themselves as a consequence of abusing their public forum in the interest of spewing vitriol in pursuit of dollars.
— Vita

 

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Talking Trash

 

“If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”
— President Lyndon Johnson to staff member Bill Moyers, on observing racial epithets on signs during a visit to Tennessee.

The terms “white trash” and “rednecks” are probably the only remaining instances where derogatory epithets are more or less acceptable in general society. Privately, of course, people of all stripes can and do use epithets of all kinds to describe others they don’t like, and it often matters little how different are the beliefs they express in public. The reason the labels “white trash” and “rednecks” may still be acceptable has to do with how, now more than ever before, they designate a voluntary lifestyle choice rather than an inborn condition. 100 years ago there was speculation among scientists and others that the condition had a genetic dimension, but since then the argument has been discredited along with the practical applications of eugenics, such as forced sterilization.


The white working class has attracted renewed scrutiny from politicians, the media, and academics after the perception of the 2016 election results as a resounding announcement from those ignored voters that they wanted their concerns addressed. By no means are white trash or rednecks any more than a minority of the white working class, and their votes comprise an even smaller percentage than that, since most of them do not habitually vote, or even register to vote. It is also untrue that white working class voters were the primary constituency of the Republican candidate elected to the presidency. There were not enough of them to install the Republican in office, any more than ethnic and racial minority voters alone made up enough of Barack Obama’s constituency to install him in office in 2008 and 2012. Nonetheless, politicians, the media, and academics unhappy with the 2016 election results have seen fit to blame the white working class, and by extension white trash and rednecks, for inflicting the current presidential administration of Supreme Leader on the country.

Toward Los Angeles, CA 8b31801u edit
A 1937 photo by Dorothea Lange of two men walking toward Los Angeles, California. Ms. Lange took many photographs in her work for the Farm Security Administration (FSA), a New Deal agency.

There is no backlash to denigrating white working class people. Across the culture at the moment, it is a safe bet for people like academics who must otherwise be extremely careful in navigating the identity politics cultural minefield, lest they destroy the career in the bureaucracy. Certainly there are some people who deserve criticism, and perhaps as suggested earlier that would include people who have made a lifestyle choice to be vulgar and offensive. Making such a lifestyle choice now, when people have greater access to information than ever before, can be considered more than ever a conscious decision rather than a cultural or genetic backwater that a person cannot escape. But the information they seem to prefer is fake news over real news, and bolsters their apparent preference for ignorance over knowledge, bigotry over acceptance, and reality television over reality.

Near the end of A Face in the Crowd, a 1957 film directed by Elia Kazan, and starring Andy Griffith and Patricia Neal, the public gets a peek behind the mask of the demagogue, “Lonesome” Rhodes. There are many similarities between this film and today’s political and cultural environment, but there is one major difference in the ability of the public to register shock and disapproval for abysmal character flaws in its leaders. Some of the baser elements in today’s society would not only not be shocked by Rhodes’s revealing of his true character, but would approve of his remarks as a middle finger thrust upward on their behalf in defiance of elites.

 

Just about everyone seems to look down on someone else, to the point that it can be considered a universal human need. Elites are certainly not free from the need to look down on some other group, but in practice they have learned it is in their own interest to be circumspect about expressing their disdain, at least in public. Sneering at the white working class generally without first splitting off the subset of white trash and rednecks is a bad idea that serves to highlight the disconnected and arrogant nature of elites, and it is behavior that will serve to push white working class voters, once the foundation of the Democratic Party along with black working class voters, farther away from Democrats and more securely into the arms of Republicans, where they are given rhetoric they want to hear, but nothing of substance. Listening to people is the first step toward working with them, while loudly condemning them all as racist, misogynist white trash might demonstrate to everyone your purity for the satisfaction of your own smug self-righteousness, but it is hardly the way to win friends and influence people, a vocation otherwise known as politics.
— Vita

 

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Stupid Is as Stupid Does

 

Supporters of the current president gathered outside the State Capitol building in Phoenix, Arizona, on January 25, to protest immigration reform measures being debated by state legislators. They undercut any interest in their arguments by badgering and hectoring brown skinned legislators, state office workers, and even schoolchildren on a field trip as they walked in the vicinity of the Capitol, presumptively proclaiming them illegal aliens, while giving white skinned folks a pass. They reached the epitome of their belligerent ignorance when one of them challenged the citizenship status of State Representative Eric Descheenie, a Native American of Navajo descent.

 

Besides the ignorance of challenging such a person on his right to be here, there is the sheer gall of doing so. The ignorance has always been there with some people, but the gall has risen to the surface lately on account of how emboldened they feel by the angry rhetoric of their Supreme Leader in the White House. Many of these particular protesters in Phoenix were armed, as well, and their allies in the police stood idly by while they harassed the targets of their hatred.

Mexican Cession
1848 Mexican Cession of territory after the Mexican-American War. 2008 map by Kballen.

Viceroyalty of the New Spain 1819 (without Philippines)
The Viceroyalty of New Spain in 1819. 2013 map by Giggette.

The police were supposedly studiously allowing the protesters room to express themselves freely, as guaranteed by the First Amendment to the Constitution. Strange how the ideology of protesters seems to affect how the police enforce First Amendment rights, though of course nothing can be proven. A similarly scrupulous desire for allowance of free expression strangely affected law enforcement at the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last August, and that after an incident in July in Charlottesville when the cops tear gassed for no very good reason counter protesters at a KKK gathering.

Since self-reflection and a balanced view of history are traits that are probably either non-existent or very low on the list for some of the denser supporters of the Ignoramus-in-Chief, any appeal here will fall only on their deaf ears, if at all, and the words will serve merely as preaching to the choir. Nevertheless, on the principle that a trickle of water may eventually lead to a baptism, it is worth a try. Has the schizophrenic nature of Republican anti-immigrant rhetoric never struck a discordant chord with any of these Know Nothings? The fact that their economic betters in the Republican establishment, the ones who back their Supreme Leader behind the scenes solely on account of his capacity to put yet more money in their pockets, have no desire to change current immigration policy because it suits their business interests to have cheap, exploitable labor. It has always been so.

From the 1994 Robert Zemeckis film Forrest Gump, Tom Hanks as the title character repeats a bit of received wisdom, “Stupid is as stupid does”.
Economically and politically the beliefs of the protesters at the Arizona Capitol will never get anywhere because they fly in the face of the moneyed interests who pull all the strings. So what is it all for, then? Blowing off steam from the angry white European descent base of the new hard right Republicans. The rich ones aren’t angry; they have no reason to be, since they are getting everything they want. It’s the people stuck in the economic levels below that who are angry. Why don’t they get angry with the people above them who are ripping them off? Good question, but one for a different day. They are angry with the people they see supplanting them as the most important demographic in this country, fragmenting solid white bread into hundreds of permutations of bagels and tortillas and pita pockets, many of them gluten-free.

 

Why do they vent their hatred and anger on brown skinned immigrants? Who else is left? The economic and political arguments of the anti-immigrant crowd largely fall apart under scrutiny, at least they do if this country is to continue to operate under the same principles it has going back hundreds of years, when the ancestors of the current anti-immigrants made their way here with little government interference and then, with the active encouragement of the government, violently shouldered aside the indigenous peoples who had been here thousands of years before them. It is a dangerous game that Republican leaders are playing, however, standing aside to let the angry base blow steam so that the moneyed interests can loot the country while everyone is distracted. They are counting on the casualties falling among groups they care nothing about other than their utility to them, such as liberals and immigrants. The people steering the Thief-in-Chief and his hard core minions around like a crazed nozzle spitting vituperation need to understand, though, that high pressure steam has a history of escaping control and blowing up in everyone’s faces.
— Vita

Early indian west
Early Native American tribal territories, superimposed on the present day western United States. 1970 map by the U.S. Department of the Interior, Geological Survey. Where’s Arizona, and where are all the white folks of European descent?

 

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Surprise, Surprise

 

After the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) five member board voted along party lines to roll back Net Neutrality regulations last month, it wasn’t surprising to see some major Internet Service Providers (ISPs) trot out rate increases soon afterward. The new regulatory structure doesn’t take effect until 60 days after it is published in the Federal Register, which may take a few more weeks while the FCC completes final edits to the paperwork, but companies like Comcast just couldn’t wait. Meanwhile, in another predictable outcome of the end of Net Neutrality, over 20 states have started instituting their own rules in an effort to adhere to the old guidelines, while also suing the FCC to prevent it from trying to impose its new rules within each state.

 

This comes down to regulating interstate commerce in the form of communications companies, which is the only reason for federal agencies such as the FCC to exist. It will all have to be sorted out in the courts, and that could take years and many millions of taxpayer dollars, all because FCC Chairman Ajit Pai turned a deaf ear to the majority of Americans while he listened very closely to his corporate masters, such as at Verizon, where he worked as a corporate lawyer before being appointed to the FCC by President Barack Obama, at the behest of Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY).

Reinstate Net Neutrality sign, Women's March, DTLA, Los Angeles, California, USA (39824631401)
“Reinstate Net Neutrality” sign at the January 20, 2018, Women’s March in downtown Los Angeles, California. Photo by Cory Doctorow.

There have been noises from Congress about legislating Net Neutrality, or a semblance of it, once and for all, thereby stripping the FCC of its bouncing ball regulations. Even if one of these measures manages to squeak by with enough votes in Congress, it will then cross the whistle-clean desk of Supreme Leader, who after all is the one who elevated Ajit Pai from FCC board member to chairman, most likely with the express purpose of encouraging him to gut Net Neutrality for the benefit of corporate giants. Supreme Leader will veto any legislation that undercuts his man at the FCC, and there will not be enough votes in Congress to override his veto, since that would require the votes of two thirds of the members.

Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality 04
One of the ironic slogans used by the non-profit organization Fight for the Future to promote the July 12, 2017, Day of Action to Save Net Neutrality.

In that case, it appears everyone will have to get used to paying through the nose for broadband internet service in areas of the country where there are only one or two providers, which is to say most areas. Consumers could pay less in a tiered system for service at the speed of dial-up, which is what the FCC has opened the door to now. Instead of being regulated like utilities, which must provide similar service to all consumers universally, the ISPs will be regulated like cable television companies, a business some of them have also been in for years.


The problem vexing consumers is that they usually have few choices for providers of these services, although they have slightly more choices than they do when it comes to their electric service. Still, in a market with limited competition, the advantage lies entirely with the unregulated company that is unfettered to charge whatever it can squeeze from captive consumers. Take it or leave it.


“Wildflowers”, the title song of Tom Petty’s (1950-2017) solo album from 1994.

The last area where ISP giants are working to complete their cornering of the market is in the contest over municipal broadband services, which are usually public/private partnerships between municipalities and smaller ISPs, where the municipality provides some infrastructure and subsidies, and the private company provides the hardware, operations, and maintenance. Municipal broadband often provides better service and better rates to consumers than they can get from the big companies, and is likely to provide service to poor and rural consumers who otherwise would have no service options. No wonder the big companies are intensively lobbying state and local officials to choke off municipal broadband. It appears their greed compels them to throttle competition and now, at their discretion, some services to their customers.
— Techly

 

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