Friday, September 10, 2021

Remembering 9/11

20 years ago tomorrow, a terrorist attack in the United States country was the worst single crime against humanity of the new century.

Up until that point.

For a brief moment, Americans were one people, in shock, in grief, but together. The cruel attacks united us in a way that hasn't been seen since.

This hasn't been seen since because of what happened next.

The unity was cynically exploited by politicians and their sponsors to engage in an avalanche of inhumanity.

Two destructive wars that cost billions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives, both American and foreign. 

State-sponsored kidnapping. 

State-sponsored torture. 

Inciting bigotry against honest, hard-working Americans. 

So much pain inflicted.

In our name.

And worse still, encouraging "allies" to join in.

We are not safer because of this avalanche of inhumanity. 

And we are certainly not more united because of this avalanche of inhumanity.

The internal unraveling of America succeeded more spectacularly than the 9/11 terrorists could possibly have imagined. The mass murder was done by foreigners but the subsequent disintegration was entirely self-inflicted.

Bigotry always does as much damage those holding such views as it does to the objects of the hatred. This is true of individuals. And as the last two decades have shown, it is also true of societies.

Fires are only extinguished when they are deprived of the oxygen they need to survive. The fire of  division is nourished by the oxygen of bigotry. It's long past time to starve that fire.



You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.
You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.
You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught!
-From South Pacific, Rodgers & Hammerstein

Tuesday, August 17, 2021

Worker shortage or rational labor choices

Last night, I was in an obviously short-staffed chain restaurant and overheard another customer bitching about it and the "lazy people who won't work" because [horror] he had to wait a few extra minutes for his check. 
 
We're living in the middle of a (again worsening) deadly pandemic where people act like wearing a mask for a few minutes is worse than Nazi tyranny. Or "child abuse." 
 
Restaurant worker is a job many of whom are directly facing these jerk customers (restaurant diners always seem to find ANY reason to be obnoxious). It is a job for which the "sub-minimum wage" was invented. And it is a job that almost never offers health insurance.

In the middle of a deadly, worsening pandemic, choosing not to accept such working conditions strikes me not as lazy but as entirely rational.

This situation also reminds us how much the service economy is based on paying people crap wages with no benefits and them taking it precisely because they don't have a choice.

Monday, August 16, 2021

Afghanistan: another failure of "nation building"

The US spent 20 years, around $1 trillion (closer to $2 trillion if you count long-term costs like treatment for soldiers), over 2300 American soldier lives - to say nothing of time, money and lives spent by European and other countries - trying to build Afghanistan into a viable state. 

 By many accounts, the Afghan army was staffed by decent men who were not given the tools to succeed by their corrupt political non-leaders. 

All that money, time and lives and the country is heading back to square one with the barbarians back in control. It's a tragic day for the people of Afghanistan, who’ve seen many tragic decades. 

No one seriously believes another few months or years would've made much of a difference in that regard.
 

Can we Americans please finally admit that imperialism and nation-building is something that can no longer work in the modern world (ignoring whether it was ever morally justified)? Let's stop starting wars that we are incapable - that no one is capable - of finishing. In the end, the only people who will have benefited from the last 20 years is "defense" contractor stockholders.

Wednesday, July 07, 2021

Why critical race theory is necessary

In case you're wondering why there's a push for critical race theory (which critics tend to know almost nothing about), take a look at this piece about a Fox "News" pundit equating the genocide of Native Americans and the forcible seizure of their lands with responding to the attack on Pearl Harbor.

Since this land was "settled" (conquered) by Europeans, white supremacy is the dominant mindset. As we can see above, this fact is present, not just past.

It's worth noting that conservatives' rejection of the legitimacy of our elections began when a black president was a elected, pause when a white supremacist president was elected and resumed when a vice-president of color was elected.

White supremacy requires insisting that America is perfect... other than perhaps the fact that it allows liberals.

The Founding Fathers of this nation knew very well this was not so. The Constitution they wrote tried to form not a perfect union but a "more perfect" one. That's why they provided for an amendment process.

Serious adults know that you cannot improve unless you recognize your flaws. It's time many Americans became less like insecure little children and more like serious adults. It's the only one to move this country forward. It's always the only way to move forward.
 
 
Update: I was not surprised to learn that the hysteria over Critical Race Theory was carefully manufactured and well-funded by elites seeking to divide us. 

Wednesday, June 23, 2021

The fetishization of globalization and its consequences

I heard a show on the radio yesterday talking about the anxiety young people are facing. It discussed the disconnect in this regard between young people and older folks, because the former have a better grasp of the precarity of our national and global situations. And they are going to live longer with its consequences.

The speaker cited the toilet paper panic of last year and postulated about what might happen if the next panic is directed not a hygienic product but food.

The COVID-19 pandemic, as well as the increasing effects of the climate crisis, is showing the importance of growing and making more things locally and the risks of not doing so.

There's long been a fantasy that specialization combined with a robust global supply chain would solve all the world's problems. This fantasy is dependent on a global harmony that is very atypical from a historical perspective.

To be clear, this is not an anti-globalization post. Globalization is essential to many of the positive aspects of how we live today. Fewer barriers to trade are generally - not always, anti-competitive practices undermine its benefits - better than more.

But there has to be a better balance between the local and the macro, to hedge against risks in both.

Being entirely dependent on the rest of the world is a major risk when that connection is severed, such as during a global pandemic. We've seen the effects of this already.

Only 12% of world's computer chips are manufactured in the US, compared to 37% three decades ago. And that's caused major production problems for US-based auto and electronics companies.

Canada, which has no domestic COVID-vaccine manufacturers, has fully innoculated only 19% of its citizens, compared to 45% in the US.

Even in my local area of upstate New York, many tourist-based businesses have been dependent on summer workers from Eastern Europe, already a risk in a country often run by an immigrant-bashing party. Their absence during the border closure is causing major staffing issues.

Being overly dependent on a global supply chain has led to an astonishing lack of resilience in many sectors of the economy.

One thing individuals can do is to buy as much of their food from local sources as possible. This will help ensure those local producers remain an option when a panic-induced shortage or further global supply chain disruption hits the food sector.

Monday, June 07, 2021

The tyranny of the minority

There's been much talk recently about the fate of the US Senate's filibuster.

The filibuster has been most often used to preserve white supremacy and to obstruct voting rights. And both remain its primary uses today. 

The filibuster should have been abolished a long time ago. There's a reason why no other legislative body in the country has anything like it.

It's also worth remembering that the filibuster is not indicating anywhere in the Constitution. It was also never used during the first 50 years of the Senate's history.

The pretext used to cover up the white supremacy-preserving purpose of the filibuster is gobbledygook about "preserving minority rights." 

In deviously gaslighting fashion, "minority" in this context means white elites.

Our constitutional system was designed to protect the rights of the (white) minority. But 'preserving minority [sic] rights' has been corrupted into something far more sinister: a minority veto.

Our system already has plenty of protections from the so-called tyranny of the majority.

In order for a bill to become law, it needs to...
1) Pass the House 

2) Pass the Senate, whose very structure is already tilted in favor of states where few people choose to live

3) Be signed by the president, who himself is elected as the result of a system already tilted in favor of states where few people choose to live.

4) If vetoed by the president, it requires a 2/3 majority of each house of Congress to become law.

5) We also have a federal Constitution with certain safeguards. Even if a bill passes all those hurdles, those offended by a 'tyrannical' law can appeal to the judiciary to overturn said law on constitutional grounds.

Giving 41 senators outright veto power over all legislation is unjustifiable and further corrodes confidence in our already teetering republican democracy. It would be absurd even if the Senate didn't have a nihilistic minority of members.

People have talked about returning to the old filibuster where you could only block legislation by actually standing on your feet and talking. Or about requiring 41 votes to block rather than 60 to approve. These are but band aids on a gaping flesh wound. They don't address the fundamental injustice of a minority veto.

You could argue that the problem is not the existence of the filibuster but the low character of the current crop of senators. But the filibuster has been used in this fashion for most of our country's history. It's impossible to plausibly argue that the filibuster has done more good than harm.

I admit, the existence of the filibuster isn't as corrosive to public confidence as the suffocating influence of money in politics. But the sclerosis it ensures is one more giant hurdle preventing a truly representative political system from emerging.

The Constitution begins with pious words about 'forming a more perfect union." It's long past time we got back to working on that task.


Friday, June 04, 2021

Helping the less fortunate is the most Christian of values

I read with interest this article on how government checks during the pandemic have helped ease the suffering of many Americans.

I've been working and paying taxes since I was 14 years old.

Other than Pell Grants in college, there is not one time I've taken a dime of money in direct public aid. Not unemployment. Not welfare. Not HEAP. Nothing else. Not once.

Do I resent that I work hard and pay taxes to help out those less fortunate?
NOT ONE DAMN BIT.

Even though a small minority might take advantage of it?

Still NOT ONE DAMN BIT.

No reason to throw the baby out with the bath water.
The reason why is very simple.

I've personally known a lot of people who have been unemployed and were the furthest thing from lazy. I've seen proof of the old saying that you work harder when you're trying to find a job than when you have a job. I've seen the shame and humiliation these good people felt for a situation that, quite often, was no fault of their own. And that's even without privileged jackasses crapping on them.

Do I resent that I was working hard to ease their misfortune?

NOT ONE DAMN BIT.

But the reason is simpler. I was raised in a household with Christian values. I recall the old saying "There but for the grace of God go I."

If I lost my job after working hard for all those years and some schmuck crapped on me for it, I wouldn't be too thrilled.

And if after paying into system for over 30 years, someone called me lazy or a leech because I tried to get a fraction of that back, I might well punch them in the mouth.

I try to have empathy for others - except the cruel - because my luck might run out at some point and I would want others to be decent to me in such a situation. It's the civilized human being thing to do.

There are literally thousands of things I resent my tax dollars going toward. Corporate welfare. Imperialism. Funding foreign armies who commit human rights abuses.

I would much rather my tax dollars go toward easing human suffering than causing it. https://www.bostonglobe.com/2021/06/02/nation/stimulus-checks-substantially-reduced-hardship-study-shows/?p1=BGSearch_Overlay_Results&fbclid=IwAR3LqKe53Yn3z4uHjHzNIdvUuz8H-OD4Gd17QLFtS0uE2ANmwrESgeyfwCI

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Income inequality will cause a revolution or another Trump

"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. 

  

If Jeff Bezos gave every one of Amazon's 876,000 employees worldwide a bonus of $100,000, he would still have a higher net worth than he did less than four months ago.

Although Trumpism was firmly rooted in bigotry, it also tapped into the belief that the economic and political systems of this country are rigged against honest people who work for a living. And while Trump's prescription of bilking the taxpayers for his own personal gain made this worse, the diagnosis was spot on.

Failing to address these systemic issues will no doubt lead to another Trump-like charlatan. Democrats could repeal the massive tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires rammed through by the previous regime but even that negligible change is not on their agenda.

We cannot have a system where the well-being of the hard working many is entirely dependent on the charity whim of a tiny elite. The result will, without doubt, be another demagogue, outright revolution or both.

As Alexander Hamilton wrote, "As riches accumulate in few hands, as luxury prevails in society, the tendency will be to depart from the republican standard. It is what neither the honorable member nor myself can correct. It is a common misfortune, that awaits our state constitution."