Monday, November 26, 2018

Hillary Clinton passes the buck

"When I give food to the poor, I'm called a saint. When I ask why they are poor, I'm called a communist." -Archbishop Dom Helder Camara.

In an interview with the UK Guardian, Hillary Clinton claims that immigration "lit the flame" of right wing extremism in Europe.

Fascism always rises when the ruling elite is revealed as corrupt and dangerously out of touch.

Yes, sometimes the arrival of immigrants who are fleeing violence or seeking a better life for their families serves as the perfect scapegoat to "light the flame". The Other is always the most popular villain. But it only works if there is kindling to light.

Western Europe is governed mostly by centrists, like Mrs. Clinton herself. Many large countries are run by grand coalitions that cannot or will not make tough decisions for fear of the government falling.

Europe could've found a way to accommodate the migrants in a way that respected international law without undermining national societies. But this coordination required the leadership that Europe's centrist coalitions were lacking.

It's no surprise that as Europe's non-leaders dithered, the far right seized power in places like Poland and Hungary and is rapidly expanding in places like Sweden and Germany. Politics abhors a vacuum.

And that's how the far right seized power in the US. The ruling elite was revealed as corrupt and out of touch and a charismatic demagogue filled the void. Who was the standard bearer of the ruling class when this happened? Centrist Hillary Clinton.

Much of what African migrants are fleeing to Europe about are economic morasses and wars created or exacerbated in large part by European neo-colonialism. Just like much of what migrants are fleeing from in Mexico and Central America are similar collapses caused by American neo-colonialism... including those helped by Barack Obama's first secretary of state.

Hillary Clinton giving a nod to xenophobia is really just her making excuses for her own role in the rise of the US far right. The fascists needed a shady, out of touch ruling class member to vilify and the DNC obliged them. Hillary Clinton was hardly unique in that but just happened to be in that role at the wrong time. But it does make her supremely unqualified to lecture others about how to combat right wing extremism.

Thursday, August 02, 2018

We don't forget the lessons of history. We ignore them.

I've come to believe that societies don't degenerate because humans "forget" the lessons of history.

Societies degenerate because people tell themselves the lessons of history do not apply to their situation.

People think that their situation is different - which it always is, usually in some trivial way - and therefore use this insignificant difference as a pretext to waive away said lessons.

For example: Nazis referred to Jews as vermin. Hutus referred to Tutsis as cockroaches. Trump referred to immigrants as an infestation. Not exactly identical so therefore lessons of history don't apply. Or so goes the self-delusion.

Except history never repeats itself exactly. The lessons of history are intended to be broad, not narrow. They are meant to be a deterrent, not to describe an exact replication.

This is related to exceptionalism. Humans tend to view themselves as exceptionally altruistic. This permits them to dismiss any negative warnings.

I think part of it also has to do with how history is taught. We learn quite a bit about the bad things in history. We're taught quite a bit about the Holocaust and the rise of the Nazis. We learn about the failures and actions that led to the rise of totalitarian regimes.

But how much do we learn about historical examples in which movements with totalitarian and/or racial/nationalistic bents, etc. were thwarted by actions of civil society?

We're often presented with negative blueprints but rarely affirmative ones that can be acted upon.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

Not implementing Medicare for All is absurd

"When I give food to the poor, I'm called a saint. When I ask why they are poor, I'm called a communist." -Archbishop Dom Helder Camara.   

Recently, Senator Bernie Sanders proposed implementing a single-payer style Medicare for All system to replace our completely dysfunctional sick care system. This was denounced by Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan as "absurd."

In 2018, all health care spending is expected to total $3.5 trillion.

By 2026, such spending is expected to skyrocket to $5.7 trillion.

Sanders' plan is projected to cost $32.6 trillion over 10 years, or an average of $3.26 trillion a year.

So Medicare for All would insure far more people than the current system (everyone) for far less money. To not implement such a program is what would be absurd.

Unless you own stock in the private health insurance industry.

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

#HimToo ?

Today, New York attorney general Eric Schneiderman resigned, hours after The New Yorker revealed serious allegations against him of violence toward women. Many called for him to step down immediately.

On one hand, it's good that, at least in some quarters, public revelations of violent misogyny cause the accuser to be shunned into slinking out of public life, not excused or, worse, actively embraced.
And it is fitting that Schneiderman - a vocal backer of the #MeToo - may be punished under laws that he helped pass as a state senator.
On the other hand, some of his accusers claim that they told others of his actions a long time ago and they were not acted upon.
Clearly many men in positions of power - Republicans and Democrats alike - think they are above the law - to say nothing of basic human decency - in how they treat (usually) women. Far too often, they are right.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Let's get rid of E Pluribus Unum as our national motto

I read this story in The Guardian about how Parkland massacre survivors have been attacked with hoaxes and smears.

To me, this is not really about the smearing of those kids (although I personally feel sorry for them that they have to endure this garbage after what else they've had to endure).
I am more broadly disturbed by the extent to which toxic hate propaganda - often outright lies but always malicious - has taken over our public discourse.
To use this example, criticize what these kids are saying and proposing. Sure, that's fair game. No one is exempt from that.
But to circulate malicious lies like how one of them allegedly tore up a copy of the Constitution - she did not - is downright evil. It's evil because it's sole purpose is to sow hatred and division.
People who support any form of gun control are not Nazis. People who own guns are not murderers. Neither group is homogeneous enough for such labels. And it's hardly just this one issue where such poison is flooding society. It's all of them.
I've read somewhat extensively about the Holocaust, Rwanda and other 20th century genocides and they all - WITHOUT EXCEPTION - started not with physical violence but with a rigorous and systematic hate campaign designed to demonize whichever group was being targeted. Once these groups were dehumanized with words, it became much easier to commit atrocities against them with actions.
The level of toxicity is becoming poisonous. You can be passionate and provocative without being hateful. It is truly threatening our country. We have always been a violent society, even in the best of times. There is no reason to think that, if left unchecked, this will end well.
If we consider ourselves a civilized nation, let's act like it. If we consider ourselves a Christian nation, let's act like it.