essentialsaltes: (that's not funny!)
"The book is regularly listed as one of the best non-fiction books of the 20th century."

But I gave up. I couldn't take any more. (Speaking of giving up, I'm slowly figuring out what to do and where to go with the journal. I mean, just about everyone's gone already, and the new Russian TOS is not inspiring confidence.)

I really found the writing style(?) uncongenial. I think my main beef is that Arendt is primarily a political theorist and philosopher, and not a historian. So there are airy passages of theses and ideas, but I found it not tied enough to supporting factual detail. Often a reasonable story was being spun, but it all felt like a free-floating structure, moored only by tenuous lines to shore. And worse.

The book is organized in three main sections: Antisemitism, Imperialism, and Totalitarianism.

The most interesting idea I found in Antisemitism was that, in the feudal age, Jews could be categorized and understood as the Other. It was easy. Sure, there's an enclave of Jews in Paris. But we're Franks, and they are Jews. Or we are Teutons, and they are Jews. As the modern nation-state developed, suddenly everyone had to be categorized as citizens of some nation. What? We're all French? But they're Jews, they're not French! (I don't think Arendt mentions it, but it occurs to me that another state-less people that had maybe even more difficulty getting tied down to a world of 'nations' were the Romany.)
Many, many pages are devoted to the Dreyfus Affair, but I found it maddening that it mostly talks around the Dreyfus Affair, and not really about the Dreyfus Affair. I mean, it's a good thing I knew the basic details, because you will learn more about Zola than Dreyfus (the first foreshadowing of what ultimately made me throw the book across the... okay, okay, to snap my iPad shut quite forcefully).

The most interesting idea I found in the first 75% of Imperialism, was that one of the things that led to imperialism was there was excess capital in the major European countries, and there was nothing much to invest in. And there was some excess labor force in these countries with nothing to do. And imperialism is the outlet for this. Betraying some Marxist tendencies, Arendt sees this as an unnatural alliance of capital and mob-labor to go exploit the world.

There's a discussion of imperialism in Africa with a lot of focus on South Africa, but also long quoted passages from Joseph Conrad. As her attention turns to Asia, she delves a bit into The Great Game, and then inevitably to Kipling. And then it really started to bother me -- the discussion is light on facts, but heavy on allusions to works of fiction. However much they may reflect the zeitgeist of imperialism, I can't take this seriously any more.

Now it's time for the home game: what author is about to become inevitable? How long into the passage does it take you to identify him?

The Home Game! )
essentialsaltes: (muslin)
Know Your Values and Frame the Debate

This is an updated (2014) version of the 2004 original by Lakoff, a cognitive scientist at Berkeley.

Basic idea: conservative leaders have been better at framing issues than liberal counterparts.

Frames are embedded deeply enough in people that rational argumentation and facts are useless.

Voters have had these frames imposed upon them so that their kneejerk reactions are predictable.

e.g. describing a bill to lower taxes as 'tax relief' builds up the concept that taxes are (always) a burden. And inherently bad.

If liberals fight against these frames by mentioning them, this only reinforces the frame. Liberals may talk about tax relief for the middle class, but this leans on the idea that taxes are inherently bad.

Liberals need to find their own frames to use. 'Taxes contribute to the many valuable services we all make use of. They are investments in our future happiness and the happiness of our children. They are the 'membership fees' of citizenship.'

And then I start to get an itchy feeling.

"These are accurate views of taxes, but they are not yet enshrined in our brains. They need to be repeated over and over again, and refined until they take their rightful place in our synapses. But that takes time. It does not happen overnight. Start now."

Lakoff would like us to please brainwash ourselves.

This is not an exaggeration of his position. One of the strange things about the book is his frequent discussion that these frames are physical 'structures' in our brains. I mean, I too believe that mental states supervene on physical states in the brain, and there is no soul making 'free' decisions. But, unlike Lakoff, I don't think that makes rational argument useless.

“You might think that the world exists independently of how we understand it. You would be mistaken. Our understanding of the world is part of the world--a physical part of the world. Our conceptual framings exist in physical neural circuitry in our brains, largely below the level of conscious awareness, and they define and limit how we understand the world, and so they affect our actions in the world."

Inasmuch as he promotes frames as a weapon, he literally wants us to circumvent thought and react unconsciously to stimuli. [We will set aside his apparent disregard for the existence of an external world independent of ourselves.]

In discussing climate change, he notes that scientists are terrible at framing:

"The crucial words here are high degree of confidence, anomalies, consequence, likelihood, absence, and exceedingly small. Scientific weasel words! The power of the bald truth, namely causation..."

Those are not weasel words. Those are the correct ways to phrase these scientific results. If some treehugging granola-eater wants to wave a sign saying "Climate change caused Hurricane Sandy," that's fine, but it is not a scientific fact. Nor is it "the bald truth". It is irresponsible to ask scientists to say anything other than something like "it's unlikely for an event like Hurricane Sandy to have occurred without the influence of anthropogenic climate change." I know, it doesn't fit well on a placard. It's complicated. But it's what the science shows.

"The issue of "immigration" is about a new generation of such refugees. President Obama, in a speech ... beautifully states his moral understanding of the issue. His words showed that the current wave of refugees, referred to as 'undocumented immigrants' are in many ways already citizens --they contribute enormously to American society."

This has a couple things I want to mention. First, undocumented immigrants are not (in general) refugees. So Obama was right to so characterize them. Lakoff is indulging in spin, to put it most favorably. Second, Lakoff was hoping that by describing them as refugees, it would arouse feelings of compassion that would make us more likely to help rather than harm these people. Of course, Lakoff wrote his book in 2014. Right now, Americans are probably more afraid of 'refugees' than of 'illegal aliens'. I mean, that is perhaps a demonstration of the whole point of his book -- that there are different ways of framing the issue to cause kneejerk responses. But he has once again caused me some pause, since he starts his own framing exercise by lying, to put it less favorably.

In a FAQ at the end, he tries to distinguish between frames and euphemisms, spin, or propaganda. I wasn't really satisfied by his answer. Frames are not very different from euphemism, spin, or propaganda. These certainly have their place in politics.

His vision seems to be of two large masses of primates mindlessly shouting slogans at a small band of undecided primates in the middle, each hoping to inculcate the middle group with its slogan. While this is not an unfair description of American elections, I think we can do better. The way to fight propaganda is not (only) with propaganda of our own, but by exposing propaganda for what it is.

But possibly I'm wrong and brainwashing ourselves and others is the only route forward to victory.

Fortunately, it appears I'm not alone in being leery of Lakoff. I found a great point/counterpoint between Stephen Pinker and Lakoff. Skip to Pinker's Salvo to see his review of Lakoff's ideas from a different (but similar) book and a really good yo mama joke. This is apparently an outburst in a decades long intellectual war between the two, and I'm not qualified to judge the more technical aspects of their discussion of linguistics and cognitive science, but when it gets down to the political applications, I think Pinker is in the right:

But Lakoff’s advice doesn’t pass the giggle test. One can just imagine the howls of ridicule if a politician took Lakoff’s Orwellian advice tried to rebrand “taxes” as “membership fees.” Surely no one has to hear the metaphor tax relief to think of taxes as an affliction; that sentiment has been around for as long as taxes have been around. ... And even if taxes were like membership fees, aren’t lower membership fees better than higher ones, all else being equal? ... In defending his voters-are-idiots theory, Lakoff has written that people don’t realize that they are really better off with higher taxes, because any savings from a federal tax cut would be offset by increases in local taxes and private services. But if that is a fact, it would have to be demonstrated to a bureaucracy-jaded populace the old-fashioned way, as an argument backed with numbers–-the kind of wonkish analysis that Lakoff dismisses.
...
The problem with this burlesque is not that its targets don’t deserve criticism. It’s that it will backfire with all of its potential audiences. Any of Lakoff’s allies on the left who think that their opponents are such imbeciles will have their clocks cleaned in their first debate with a Young Republican. The book will be red meat for his foes on the right, who can hold up his distortions as proof of liberals’ insularity and incomprehension.


Overall:

B+ for showing how conservatives have used framing successfully.
F for suggesting that the liberal's only hope is to fight fire with fire, brainwash ourselves, and lay off the facts and rational thought.
F for not really exploring the liberal frames that already exist. The shortcuts to careful reasoning. Diagnosing police brutality, racism, sexism, without the full facts. Nazipunching. Reading the book, you get the impression that only wicked conservatives have frames to manipulate people, while the benevolent, wise, but prone-to-losing liberals are stuck with only useless tools like facts and rationality.
essentialsaltes: (facegouge)
My rhetorical question appears to have been answered.

If one cannot bring oneself to punch a lady Nazi in the face, you should pepperspray her in the face.

Now, it's almost too good to be true that she had just finished saying "I'm looking to make a statement by just being here and I think the protesters are doing the same. Props to the ones who are doing it non-violently, but I think that's a very rare thing indeed."

So, if you're of a conspiratorial bent, this is a false flag operation or something. But I think it's fair to say that there were plenty of anonymous violent troublemakers there. The police are of the opinion that they were 'outside agitators' (a phrase I knew we would see more and more of) and not Berkeley students. Which is probably the case, since I'm now hearing all about these experienced antifa activists. Who are these experts all of a sudden and where did they get their expertise? There hasn't been a fascist state to fight in some time, and never in the US, so I find myself suspecting that these are just people who like to have fistfights with skinheads. Whoever they are and whatever their movement is about, they know squat about working against the excesses of a Trump Administration.

Instead, of course, they are falling into the trap.

Now some have correctly pointed out that neo-Nazis can be experts at using 'the System' to quash opposition. "Oh, we're the victims, save us, save us, Law & Order!"

So then I ask: Why the fuck would you fall into their trap by punching people on the street? Are you stupid?


Berkeley was literally the origin of the Free Speech Movement and Sproul Plaza is Free Speech Central.



The university did the right thing in not preventing the speech, and they (or the UCPD who made the call) did the right thing in shutting it down for safety reasons.

Of course the Donald had to weigh in on Twitter:

"If U.C. Berkeley does not allow free speech and practices violence on innocent people with a different point of view - NO FEDERAL FUNDS?"

This is literally one of the stupidest things I've ever read. Even among Trump tweets, this is a doozy.

But remember my warning "Fortunately, we on the left are waaaaay too smart to be manipulated by Russian propaganda. Right? Right? No one would be suckered in by the idea that democracy or free speech are inherently flawed concepts"

Don't be down on Free Speech, just because Trump says he likes it. This is exactly the kind of emotional response thing that Trump apparently uses to perfection. Of course, it only works on stupid people. So don't be a stupid person.



Anyway, I'm reiterating my distaste for Nazipunch and the flawed philosophy behind it.

And again I'm warning against falling into the trap.

Because if not, something terrible is going to happen, and years from now, some kid will be walking with his grandfather on the campus, and grandpa will point to the pocks of bullets in a wall and say something like, 'And over there in that field is where it happened. It was a terrible thing those kids died. But these outside agitators (communists or anarchists or some such) came in and caused a lot of trouble, and stirred things up. Setting fires and so forth. Had to restore Law & Order.'

Because no shit that's exactly what my grandpa told me 40 years ago as we visited Kent State.
essentialsaltes: (that's not funny!)
Many people have recently opined about the justifiability of punching a Nazi(*) in the face. A surprising (to me) number of people are for it.

(*)To clarify, unless we're talking about these six Nazis, at best there are 'neo-Nazis' these days, or 'jerks with hateful ideas who are dangerously close to the levers of power'.

I test the Nazi punch hypothesis out in my own mind, and I just find it hard to accept. I mean, what if it was a lady Nazi? In Romeo Must Die, Aaliyah wisely observes that "in America, if a girl is kicking your ass, you do not have to be a gentleman." Honestly, I'm egalitarian enough that if a boy or girl is kicking your ass, you do not have to be a gentleperson.

And yes, if a boy or girl is kicking that helpless person over there's ass, this probably requires some intervention.

But these rules are not just about kicks and asses. They should be good for punches and faces. "Hey you! Anonymous coward punching an unsuspecting guy in the face! What's wrong with you?"

Anyway, some dudes may have some archaic patriarchal misgivings about punching a lady Nazi. Perhaps they could do something else generally considered illegal or antisocial? Maybe they could throw rocks at them or grab their pussies? This new moral hypothesis opens up so many interesting questions!

But it's fraught with so many logistical difficulties. I mean, not every neo-Nazi will go to the trouble of tattooing 88 on his forehead. They might look like anybody! If only we could form an organization that could identify them based on objective criteria and make them wear distinctive clothing or something, so we'd know who to punch.

But there seem to be deeper flaws that worry me. A lot.

If we decide that, for a certain class of people, we no longer have to treat them with the usual rules of civility and humanity, it would seem (to avoid being hypocrites) that other people could use this same hypothesis to justify treating other classes of people as sub-human.

Wait a moment! Have I fallen into Bizarro world? Nazis treating certain classes of people as sub-human is one of the justifications for treating them as subhuman. I have it all backward! It's not that we would be hypocrites to NOT allow other people to think this way in the future. It's that other people thinking that way in the past made US start to think like them.

You can't fight an ideology by implicitly accepting its tenets. You are strengthening it by making it the only way of looking at the world.


Now some have correctly pointed out that neo-Nazis can be experts at using 'the System' to quash opposition. "Oh, we're the victims, save us, save us, Law & Order!"

So then I ask: Why the fuck would you fall into their trap by punching people on the street? Are you stupid?

The good guys also have some experts at using 'the System', from politicians to judges to civil rights lawyers. I'm neither, but I expect they would advise you to refrain from punching people in the face.

Because it does play into their trap. Punch a few Nazis, set fire to a building, and the system might restrict the rights to "habeas corpus, freedom of expression, freedom of the press, the right of free association and public assembly, the secrecy of the post and telephone". In the name of security. To protect the crybabies.

And what is the goal of Nazipunch? What positive result is achieved?



When Obama was elected, the racists were gnashing their teeth, and afraid, and the left held out its hand and said:



And the dummies on the right were afraid Obama was going to grab their guns and put them in FEMA camps.

And so they hid in their bunkers, clutching their guns and bibles, despising the left, falling into their own groupthink, biding their time until... well, until their savior appeared. And they voted for him, to the astonishment of all those who thought they were safely and silently encapsulated in gun-lined bunkers where their unchallenged ideologies couldn't possibly hurt anybody.

And you know what? As dumb as they are, they played by the rules. In the state houses, the governor's mansions, the House and Senate, and now the White House. It's true that "democracy is the worst form of Government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time".

Now the shoe is on the other foot.



And the other side is afraid Trump is going to grab their pussies and put them in death camps.

It's all very familiar. Not all that different.

Now this is not to say that everything is fine. Trump's actions have real effects on pussies and Syrians and so on. But do you know how many pussies get contraception coverage on their insurance when you punch a Nazi?

Zero.

If anything, it plays into the hands of crybaby Nazis.


If you are conspiracy minded, well... probably you have already written me off as a closet Nazi, but consider this.

We know the Russians want to create chaos in our country.

We know the Russians have worked hard to get the dumb-dumb right to distrust the government, distrust the mainstream media, and listen only to RT.com and Breitbart.

Fortunately, we on the left are waaaaay too smart to be manipulated by Russian propaganda. Right? Right? No one would be suckered in by the idea that democracy or free speech are inherently flawed concepts, and are better replaced by punches in the face. Angry moron Trump voters wanted to blow up the system. Only idiots would want to blow it up bigger.
essentialsaltes: (diversity)
A well-known Greenwich Republican called a town worker "nothing but a bloodsucking lazy union employee" and later reached in from behind to place his hand between her legs and pinch her in the groin area, according to the police arrest warrant.

He allegedly replied: "I love this new world, I no longer have to be politically correct," according to the warrant.
essentialsaltes: (beokay)
Why Violence Has Declined takes a long, long, too-long look at rates of violence over the past umpty-thousand years from our hunter-gatherer forebears to today. Pinker has marshalled a shitload of facts and statistics, and though there may be some niggling details here and there, on the whole, he's pretty convincing that rates of murder, war, and violence have declined per capita. This does require an explanation, and I think Pinker certainly outlines many ideas that contribute, but he doesn't seem to present a very strong thesis for an explanation. Rather he takes us on a plodding journey through the museum of ideas that every political philosopher has considered. The book plods so much that I found much of it a chore to get through. Reading through the outline in Wikipedia is good enough -- just feel certain that each point is held up by a few hundred footnotes each.

One of the ideas that did stick with me was that many violent acts are considered acts of justice by their perpetrators. They are not doing wrong, they are taking justice into their own hands. That bitch stole my man -- smack. That driver cut me off -- blam. Obviously, these solutions are not terribly rational, and generally frowned upon by Leviathan. I think it could extend to larger actions -- riots in Watts and LA. It doesn't make any fucking sense, but there was some ache for a justice that was not going to come from traditional channels.

Now, I have plodded so slowly through the book that that idea lodged some time ago. And then as I mulled it over in my mind, I considered the Trump voters in the lead-up to the election. Can a vote be an act of violence? A stupid plea for justice when you're aching for a justice that was not going to come from traditional channels? Mmmmm... no, I can't quite bring myself to consider a vote for Trump to be an act of violence. And then the vote actually happened, and Trump won. I still can't quite elevate it to an act of violence. But I think a lot of my friends may consider it to have been an act of violence. And certainly we have seen (even given some level of pernicious fakes) that some Trump supporters have been emboldened to enact actual violence. And we've also seen protests of Trump that have also risen to the level of violence.

Now I have to tread carefully here, because I think there are significant differences between the two sides. It is not just that I am trapped in my bubble and not their bubble (and I'll get to the bubble later, especially since almost everyone who will read this is in my liberal bubble). At the same time, the people (considered as people) in the two camps. Are not all that different.

Now apparently the worst thing I could possibly do is to suggest that we should reach out and hug the other side and unite. Which is fine, because I'm not suggesting that. When Trump has rotten plans, they should be fought. And many of his plans are rotten.

But possibly I'm saying something even worse. That people are people. And people on both sides are not all that different. And to realize that, it definitely helps to spend time outside your bubble.

Many of you know of the long years I've spent in the mission fields of Christian websites, spreading the good news of rationality and fact-based argument. It is not easy work, because they are beset by demons that deceive them. And again, it's not about compromise -- I think the earth is 4.5 billion years old, and they think it's 6,000 years old. I'm not looking to compromise at 2,250,003,000 years old. Wait, I'm rambling a little too much, but maybe we'll come back to this.

Another bit of bubble escape was listening to the infuriating drive-time talk show on a Christian radio station, though I haven't in many years. Until election night. As I drove home, feeling pretty confident that it was going to be close (my prediction: Hillary 278 EV) but would go blue, I turned that station on hoping for election news and... delicious Christian tears. Because that's a thing now. Enjoying people's tears. And because I'm a bad person.



And I got those tears. But I did not find them enjoyable. pout

A young Latina called in to the show. Her voice shook with raw emotion, clearly crying. Hillary was going to win, and as everyone in the conservative Christian bubble knew (as did I since I'd been visiting), Hillary believed that "deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs have to be changed". And as it was being spun in the bubble, this young woman knew that President Hillary was going to forcibly change religious beliefs in America. She was genuinely, fearfully afraid that hers was the last generation that was going to hear the saving gospel of Jesus Christ.

All bullshit, of course. But the tears and pain in that bubble were real. Just like they were real when Obama was elected in 2008 and was going to take everyone's guns.

Anyway, fast-forward a few hours, and suddenly the tears were on the other foot. (Shut up.) There were organized cry-ins. And, and... the other side mocked it. They were enjoying those tears! How could they be so cruel?



Not all that different.

But they're all racists!

Yes, half of Trump voters hold implicit bias against POC. And only a third of Hillary voters do.

Not all that different.

But Trump's spouting ugly racism!

Well, yeah. Again, I don't want to rest on any false equivalencies. But if you want to characterize the GOP as full of racists, then you should step inside the other bubble and look at yourself.

You support murdering babies. You literally want doctors to crush the skulls of infants with forceps.
You want perverts to molest our delicate American girlhood in the bathroom at Target.
You want religious expression to be locked inside the walls of churches.
You let the biased(*) lame-stream media do your thinking for you.

[* I'm too tired, but to its credit, the media finally decided that he said/she said journalistic equivalency was no longer valid. Trump was lying. They called him on it. They endorsed Hillary. But... it does feed the narrative that the media is biased against Trump.]

You want them to stop being racist and join the correct party? Well, maybe you should stop killing babies, and join the correct party.

You scoff when people say they aren't racist, but voted for Trump? Well, what do you think of Tim Kaine, who personally opposes abortion, but stood for VP of the Democrat Party? And he's by no means alone. There are Democrats who think abortion is murder. If you can be against baby-murdering, and vote for a baby-murdering candidate, then surely you can be a non-racist and vote for a racist candidate. Sure, it must be a terrible internal conflict. Sucks to be them. But they got their racism/baby-killing just like the people-of-yesteryear got Skinemax with the package.

Not all that different.

But they are so very fact-challenged!

Well yes. That's what I combat the most. You give them a snopes link, and they don't believe snopes. You provide the links on the snopes page to the NYT, and they don't believe the NYT. There are some people there whose solitary (it appears) information source is infowars(*). They were primed and ready to believe crap like a Kenyan born Obama, or a Jade Helm takeover of Texas. Because it fits their narrative.

(* I'm too tired, but if you're getting info from occupydemocrats or Huffpo... Not all that different.)

In our bubble, the narrative is that Trump is a sexual predator. And I'm morally certain that Trump has grabbed more unwilling pussies than trans people have assaulted anybody in a bathroom. So the woman who accused Trump of raping her when she was a teenager fits the narrative. But when the press conference was announced, my baloney detector started beeping. Because (for better or worse) before I am a Democrat or a liberal, I am a skeptic. A court of law is where these things are decided, not at press conferences or FBI memos. And when the press conference was cancelled due to 'threats', my suspicion grew. It was not impossible that threats had deterred some poor woman, but I was not buying it at this point. But a lot of other people were. They railed against the Trumpeters who had cowed this woman. Maybe Trump had bought her off. How many millions did it take him? And then two days later, she dropped the suit. No cause given. Bought off? Full of shit? We may never know. But a retracted anonymous accusation is not much to hang something on, unless the narrative is more important than evidence.

And if you point to snopes articles showing that some cases of 'postelection Trump supporter racism' are imaginary... some people don't want to hear that shit. It doesn't fit the narrative.

I've showed dozens of snopes articles to conservatives, and know what it feels like to be ignored. So when it comes from the other side, it just shows that...

Not all that different.

We all laughed (I did, I'm a bad person) at that stupid bint who cut a backwards B on her face.



But we were also mad. She perpetrated a pernicious lie to denigrate a particular political candidate.

We were furious. She lied to say a black man did this. I hate her.

And now Trump supporters tore the hijab off a woman. Stole her wallet. That feeds the narrative.
But it's bullshit. All a lie.

C'mon now, everyone. Let's laugh at her. And hate her. C'mon. She made a pernicious lie to denigrate a particular political candidate. She lied to say white men did this to her. I hate her. I really do. But more importantly...

Not all that different.

As promised, this book review has devolved. Let me pull it back, at least briefly.

"According to Hofstede's data, countries differ along six dimensions. One of them is Long-Term versus Short-Term Orientation: 'Long-term oriented societies foster pragmatic virtues oriented towards future rewards, in particular saving, persistence, and adapting to changing circumstances. Short-term oriented societies foster virtues related to the past and present such as national pride, respect for tradition, preservation of 'face' and fulfilling social obligations.'"

Those are not bad descriptors of the two societies living in their bubbles that exist within America. The liberal and the conservative.

One of my regrets about the election is that so much was about the personalities and less about the issues. I have read that the Clinton campaign gamely released insightful policy statements to the media, but they never reached me. Since the Donald sucked all the oxygen in the primary fight, one would have thought that the Clinton team would strive harder in the general to make sure its message got out, but it didn't. Honestly, perhaps I'm giving them credit for having a message, because from my standpoint, most of what I heard from the Hillary campaign was...

It's her fucking turn. She cashed in her chips to keep the competition away. Only that asshole Sanders and McWhatever didn't get the memo. "Trump is awful. I'm not Trump."

Though true, this is not compelling. She could've done better with "I will be the third Obama term."

Anyway, one of the few policy things that did come out (because I watch closely) is for the coal miners of America.

HuffPo:

"Hillary Clinton has a $30 billion, 4,300-word plan to retrain coal workers that covers everything from education and infrastructure to tax credits and school funding.

Donald Trump’s coal plan is a duckface thumbs-up in a miner’s hard hat and a rant about hair spray, President Barack Obama and China."

Retrain coal workers? That's "adapting to changing circumstances". That's a Long-Term society strategy. And it's right.

A duckface thumbs-up? Well, if you can see through the HuffPo bias, that's a strategy oriented on today. Short-term. For the white working class families that are struggling.

And now, for you in my liberal well-informed bubble. Surely you are cognizant of the current spot price for coal.

No? Well, there are lots of reasons for it, but coal prices have tripled recently. And although US miners have not (yet) seen much of a boon, due to the horrible EPA, and Obama rules about coal-fueled power plants, a Trump presidency is clearly going to change that. Yes, there are certainly problems with burning coal like there is no tomorrow, but... if you are a part of an unemployed coal-mining family in Pennsylvania or Ohio focused on today... then you are part of the Short-Term Society, and I can see reasons other than racism to vote for Trump. And they did. And they are legitimately mad when we say their votes were racist.

In conclusion:

WE'RE ALL A BUNCH OF APES WHO ONLY RELATIVELY RECENTLY LEARNED TO WEAR CLOTHES AND NOT KILL EACH OTHER SO MUCH.
essentialsaltes: (poo-bush)
While I don't want to minimize how awful this is, it reminds me a lot of 2000 when we also elected an incompetent moron. All that cost us was our budget surplus, one or two hundred thousand dead brown civilians, and a few thousand dead American soldiers. We got through that, right? Right?

essentialsaltes: (poo-bush)
I assume this was in the plan, but there was some perfect needling by Clinton that hit Trump at just the wrong time (from my perspective -- hopefully, from everyone's). Basically, encouraging Trump to boast.

Trump says it was good business to buy cheap property after the financial crisis.
5 million people lost their homes.

Trump (reportedly) owes $650 million. "That's not a lot of money."

In some years (where he had to report his taxes) Trump paid zero federal taxes.
"It was smart."

-----

After Trump gibbered and attacked Lester Holt about whether he did or didn't support the invasion of Iraq, for him to move immediately to "I have a better temperament" was the height of absurdity.

-----

Trump's answer on the race issue was completely tone-deaf. 80% law & order, stop & frisk. 20% black and brown people have it bad. (No shit.)

-----

If I had been Clinton, one wonky thing I would have hit him with is that Japan cannot have an army, per se, because of the outfall of WWII and the treaty with the US. They have a self defense force. And we are, by treaty, obligated to handle external threats to Japan.

-----

Trump (re)declaring war on Rosie O'Donnell added a nice touch.
essentialsaltes: (poo-bush)
Assuming you remember what phonebooks are, my fellow Californicators will be getting one for the ballot initiatives soon. Here's my regular dose of opinions to help influence the votes of people who don't want to do the research, thus magnifying my democratic power. Remarkably, I'm split exactly 50/50 on Yes/No, with one strong Maybe.

51 - SCHOOL BONDS. FUNDING FOR K–12 SCHOOL AND COMMUNITY COLLEGE FACILITIES. INITIATIVE STATUTE.

$9 billion in bonds for schools. Bonds are not a great way to fund anything. This plan does not seem to be very focused. There's no doubt there's a need, but I don't like this solution. Neither does Governor Moonbeam. Nope.

52 - MEDI‐CAL HOSPITAL FEE PROGRAM. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT AND STATUTE.

Seems like a messy shell game to get hospitals to pay fees to the state that are given back to the hospitals with matching federal funds. But it seems to work, and the NO argument (that this money is going straight to the fatcat CEOs) is just baloney. So if ain't broke, fix it in place permanently. Yes.

53 - REVENUE BONDS. STATEWIDE VOTER APPROVAL. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT.

"Under the California Constitution, state general obligation bonds need voter approval before the state can use them to pay for a project. State revenue bonds do not need voter approval under existing state law." This prop would change the latter so that revenue bonds (over $2 billion) would need voter approval. While I'm tempted to have another way to partially veto the Monorail high speed rail, I don't see this additional oversight being helpful. Nope.

54 - LEGISLATURE. LEGISLATION AND PROCEEDINGS. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT AND STATUTE.

Aren't there enough roadblocks to getting things done? Adding a 'waiting period' for legislation seems unnecessary. I mean, best case scenario, evil law is proposed, and in 72 hours, someone's change.org petition gets a bajillion signatures, convincing the legislature to not pass it. Anything that wicked will get erased off the books under the present system. Worst case scenario, legislators (and their shadowy funders) will add amendment after amendment to bills, each one taking an additional 72 hours of waiting before a vote ever takes place. Nope.

55 - TAX EXTENSION TO FUND EDUCATION AND HEALTHCARE. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT.

Extends 'temporary' extra income tax on $250K+ taxpayers (Prop 30 in 2012) for another 12 years. Ooh, I'm really torn. If we could extend it maybe 6 years, I'd feel better. We could use some extra juice for the rainy day fund, and to really make use of the budget surplus to eliminate debt. I favored the more balanced prop 38 that would have raised everyone's taxes temporarily. Ummm. Eat the rich! Strong Maybe!

56 - CIGARETTE TAX TO FUND HEALTHCARE, TOBACCO USE PREVENTION, RESEARCH, AND LAW ENFORCEMENT. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT AND STATUTE.

Triples the state tobacco tax (and adds equivalent tax to e-cigs). Most of the funding goes to healthcare or the existing programs funded by cigarette taxes. My favorite negative effect of the prop: "state and local governments would experience future health care and social services costs that otherwise would not have occurred as a result of individuals who avoid tobacco‐related diseases living longer." A pretty punitive tax, but I really hate that cluster of millennials smoking on the sidewalk when I walk by at lunch time. Yes.

57 - CRIMINAL SENTENCES. PAROLE. JUVENILE CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS AND SENTENCING. INITIATIVE CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENT AND STATUTE.

Allows parole hearings a bit sooner for certain 'non violent' felons than is currently the case. Despite the doom and gloom of the NO argument, all of these people will get parole hearings, and the parole board will decide whether it's safe to let them out, and when. I don't see any legitimate drawbacks here. Yes.

58 - ENGLISH PROFICIENCY. MULTILINGUAL EDUCATION. INITIATIVE STATUTE.

Provides schools with more flexibility in establishing bilingual education programs, erasing some of prop 227. The goal is still to get students proficient in English. Schools should have more flexibility in order to find out what works. Yes.

59 - CORPORATIONS. POLITICAL SPENDING. FEDERAL CONSTITUTIONAL PROTECTIONS. LEGISLATIVE ADVISORY QUESTION.

A grandstanding advisory vote calling on California officials to work to undo Citizens United through Constitutional Amendment. Entirely futile, but yes.

60 - ADULT FILMS. CONDOMS. HEALTH REQUIREMENTS. INITIATIVE STATUTE.

"Cal/OSHA Already Requires Adult Film Condom Use" (Not that compliance is 100%)
"Allows Individuals to Bring Lawsuits on Regulatory Violations."
I'll join Dan Savage in voting no.

61 - STATE PRESCRIPTION DRUG PURCHASES. PRICING STANDARDS. INITIATIVE STATUTE.

"would require all prescription drugs purchased by the State of California to be priced at or below the price paid for the same drug by the U.S. Dept. of Veterans Affairs, which pays by far the lowest price of any federal agency. "

This is why you see tearful veterans on the commercials urging a no vote, followed by the tenth of second summary of major contributors like Pfizer and Merck.

On the other hand, the drug companies don't have to sell us discount drugs. And yes, they could decide to raise prices on vets. Because of all the moving parts, and inevitable squabbling and lawsuits, I'm leaning towards No. I don't think this is the solution to the prescription drug price problem.

62 - DEATH PENALTY. INITIATIVE STATUTE.

Eliminates the death penalty (and resentences current death row inmates to life without possibility of parole). "These reduced costs would likely be around $150 million annually within a few years." Yes.

63 - FIREARMS. AMMUNITION SALES. INITIATIVE STATUTE.

"Requires individuals to obtain a four-year permit from DOJ to buy ammunition ... Allows DOJ to charge each person applying for a four-year permit a fee of up to $50"

Really? I'm sure the laudable intent is to stop bad guys with stolen guns from getting ammunition, but as much as I'd like better gun laws, I don't think I can go this far. The legislature acted in July: "Specifically, under the legislation: (1) ammunition dealers would be required to check with DOJ that individuals seeking to buy ammunition are not prohibited persons at the time of purchase and (2) DOJ could generally charge such individuals up to $1 per transaction." That seems far more reasonable than what the proposition is calling for; and it is already law. No.

64 - MARIJUANA LEGALIZATION. INITIATIVE STATUTE.

I don't like smoking (see 56), but it's definitely time to end our reefer madness. The bigger tax base and the effect on 'crime' are icing on the cake.

65 - CARRYOUT BAGS. CHARGES. INITIATIVE STATUTE.

Directs 'fees' for paper bags at grocery stores to state environmental purposes. Currently these fees are just kept by the stores. Now, the bags cost the store something, so it's hardly fair to take all the money away from them. But then again, why do they benefit from our green awareness? If this is really a necessary source of revenue for retailers... they'll just raise prices on other things. And then this proposition is just a tax to support the environment. Which I guess is okay. Hmm. I really don't care all that much. I'm gonna just go with No, and whenever people point to California as being unfriendly to business, I'll point to how they get to freeload off our bag fees. See also 67.

66 - DEATH PENALTY. PROCEDURES. INITIATIVE STATUTE.

"In addition, the measure changes how attorneys are appointed for direct appeals under certain circumstances. Currently, the California Supreme Court appoints attorneys from a list of qualified attorneys it maintains. Under the measure, certain attorneys could also be appointed from the lists of attorneys maintained by the Courts of Appeal for non-death penalty cases. Specifically, those attorneys who (1) are qualified for appointment to the most serious non-death penalty appeals and (2) meet the qualifications adopted by the Judicial Council for appointment to death penalty cases would be required to accept appointment to direct appeals if they want to remain on the Courts of Appeal’s appointment lists."

Death penalty cases are not like other cases. This prop is trying to grease the wheels by appointing unqualified lawyers to 'defend' poor inmates (and they can't refuse). Just no.

67 - BAN ON SINGLE–USE PLASTIC BAGS. REFERENDUM.

Enacts a statewide ban on plastic bags (similar to that which already exists where I live). I think it's been a good thing on the whole. Make it so, statewide. Yes.
essentialsaltes: (diversity)
Some of the same researchers involved in the 2003 American Mosaic Survey have released results of the 2014 study.

There a really glaring result relating to when people were asked to agree/disagree with the following statement across a variety of demographics:

This group does not at all agree with my vision of American society

Atheists 39.6% 41.9%
Muslims 26.3% 45.5%
Homosexuals 22.6% 29.4%
Conservative Christians 13.5% 26.6%
Recent immigrants 12.5% 25.6%
Hispanics 7.6% 17.1%
Jews 7.4% 17.6%
Asian Americans 7.0% 16.4%
African Americans 4.6% 16.9%
Spiritual, but not religious — 12.0%
Whites 2.2% 10.2%


First number is from 2003.

All of the numbers have increased. Some by quite a lot. Even white people, who are totally awesome and chill, went from 2.2% to 10.2%. Disagreement with conservative Christians nearly doubled to 26.6%. The previous study was not long after 9/11, but disagreement with Muslims jumped from 26.3% to 45.5%. Immigrants doubled. Hispanics, Jews, Asians, African Americans... all jump from single digits to double digits.

This is what polarization and demonization look like.
essentialsaltes: (poo-bush)
About a hundred years ago (and long afterwards) this was a stock phrase used to teach typing. We're now seeing how well Republicans adhere to it. It certainly still has some power.

We have Rick Perry endorsing 'a cancer'.

And Rand Paul endorsing “A Delusional Narcissist And An Orange-Faced Windbag



*This was written before women could vote, so I guess they could, I dunno, bake cookies or something.

Prop 50

Apr. 26th, 2016 10:51 am
essentialsaltes: (poo-bush)
Only one prop on the CA ballot.

Seems like a good idea, but maybe isn't.

Currently, CA legislators can be suspended (with pay, it turns out, after this happened for the first time ever) by their fellows with a majority vote.

Or they can be expelled with a 2/3 vote.

Prop 50 would change suspension to be without pay, but now requires a 2/3 vote.

Lawmakers could have very easily closed the loophole, by just changing the way pay is handled. But instead it also sets the bar for suspension as high as it is for expulsion. Rather than making this a harsher suspension, it may have the effect of becoming a lighter expulsion. Or making legislators safer in general from censure in general. Fortunately, both suspension and expulsion are so rare that it probably won't make much difference no matter what happens.

It'll probably pass, because people will angrily shake their fists with their non-voting hand as they think of their anger at those criminal lawmakers keeping their pay. But I say NO.
essentialsaltes: (dead)
Bicycle safety - "The cyclists who ignore the advice end in a pool of blood, crushed by a truck and, in one case, apparently dead."

Don't date foreigners - "The scholar, named Dawei or David, showers her with compliments, red roses, fancy dinners and romantic walks in the park, and convinces the girl to provide him with internal documents from her government propaganda workplace."
essentialsaltes: (secular)
I got an auction catalog of autographs, and was struck by the content of this letter from Jefferson Davis.

Unlike the US Constitution, the Confederate constitution mentions "Almighty God" in the preamble. Otherwise, it hews close to the US constitution in many places, including the 'no religious test' clause and essentially the First Amendment.

Anyway, to provide the rest of the background, some were giving Davis some grief for not referring specifically to Jesus in certain proclamations. And there was some widespread sentiment that this was because Confederate Secretary of State Judah Benjamin was a Jew. Two of these angry letters are also part of the lot: "Alas! that Jefferson Davis should fear a Jew more than he honors Jesus! . . . Sir you are . . . doing a gross wrong to a Christian people: above all insulting God by the Judaising [sic] of your very proclamation . . . to please a Godless & prayerless Sect'y of State!"

Anyway, Jeff's response:

"Many well-disposed persons do not understand the constitutional restriction upon my conduct... It might have been well that our Constitution should not only have recognized a God, as it does, but the Saviour of mankind also; that it should have had not merely a religious but a Christian basis. But such is not its character, and my oath binds me to observe the Constitution as it is, not as I would have it, if in any respect I should wish it changed."

A weak leader and rebel scum, but clear on constitutional principles.
essentialsaltes: (diversity)
Step 1: Get Supreme Court to invalidate part of the Voting Rights Act.

Step 2: Implement Voter ID law.

Step 3: Increase Driver's License fees by 54%.

Step 4: Close all satellite DMV locations in the state.

"“Every single county in which blacks make up more than 75 percent of registered voters will see their driver license office closed. Every one,” Archibald explained."
essentialsaltes: (atheist teacher)
A History of American Secularism

A fascinating look at the idea of secular government from the Founders to the present, and how the idea has shifted from Enlightenment ideals to the Golden Age of Freethought in the 19th century, when the Great Agnostic Ingersoll could give the nominating speech for a Republican candidate for president (even in the good old days, when Republicans were the party of abolition). To the emergence of fundamentalism in the early 20th and its later common cause partnership with conservative Catholicism, and the response with the freethinker's coalition with liberal Protestantism and (secular) Judaism.

The historical detail is quite excellent, but as the time grows nearer the present, a hint of polemicism arises. I don't disagree with her, but the shift in tone is noticeable in the last chapter or so.

And yes, the blockquotes )
✓one-word title
essentialsaltes: (cognitive Hazard)
Slate tipped me off to South Carolina's amicus brief to the Supremes.

"Furthermore, the traditional family, with the husband as unquestioned head, was the foundation of the Fourteenth Amendment framers’ world. The framers deeply believed the family was the “primary unit of social and political action at the time. . . .” Farnsworth, Women Under Reconstruction: The Congressional Understanding, 94 Nw. U. L. Rev. 1229, 1236 (2000). One senator feared giving women the vote would disturb “‘. . . the family circle, which is even of higher obligation than the obligation of Government.’” Id., (quoting Cong. Globe, 42nd Cong., 2d Sess. 845 (1872)). Thus, Section Two of the Amendment eliminated women from the franchise.
Having this mindset, the Amendment’s framers certainly did not intend to dismantle, but fought to preserve, state marriage laws. Indeed, skeptical congressmen insisted that these remain unaffected by the Amendment. Many feared that state disabilities placed upon married women, such as property ownership, would be undermined by an earlier Amendment draft. However, such concerns were al- layed in the Amendment’s final wording."

I guess this is what happens when you double-down on the definition of traditional marriage -- you know, the kind where wives have no separate legal existence and cannot own property in their own name.

On the lighter side, there's the brief from the gay men married to women, who argue that they would be harmed by legal same-sex marriage: "A constitutional mandate requiring same-sex marriage sends a harmful message that it is impossible, unnatural, and dangerous for the same-sex attracted to marry members of the opposite sex."

Lotsa people want to kibbitz on this one.
essentialsaltes: (narrow)
Likely 2016 voters prefer gay people over evangelicals.

"In it, 53 percent of respondents held a favorable view of gay people, while 42 percent held a favorable view of evangelical Christians. Meanwhile, 18 percent of the likely voters surveyed held an unfavorable view of gay people, while 28 percent held a negative view of evangelical Christians.
...
When evangelicals, for instance, were asked if they favored or opposed gay marriage, only 19 percent of those older than 50 favored same-sex unions, but 45 percent of the 18- to 29-year-old set did."

It will be interesting to see the Republicans slowly change their tune on this. They want to keep their hoodwinked conservative evangelical base, but these are the new realities. And we'll probably get to see it played out in the polling and primaries and presidential candidates. I know the social conservatives hope to do well in Iowa, but if gay marriage is their only message, they may be disappointed when they find that 36% of Iowans are pretty 'meh' about the whole thing.

I think we're already starting to see the shift. The gay marriage thing is getting close to 'stick a fork in it', but we may hear more and more about 'religious liberty' and its 'restoration'. But even that hasn't been going so well recently. When used as a codeword for discrimination, its popularity sinks like a rock and backpedalling ensues, leaving it as an empty nod to religious liberties that already exist. Much like all the other largely empty nods to religion that the Republicans have made to keep their base hoodwinked.

Of course, we're also hearing the new message about the poor minority of citizens who just have different beliefs about gay people, and how they're now being discriminated against, and you shouldn't treat people badly just because of their different beliefs. When they were the 'moral majority' they were deaf to the entreaties of the minorities, so they deserve to be ignored. But I will listen to them:

#1, to make sure no real discrimination is happening
#2, because their tears are delicious
essentialsaltes: (islam)
So a Vegas wedding chapel where you get married by an Elvis impersonator refuses to perform same sex marriages.

Less sensationally, a couple of ministers in Idaho who run a wedding chapel have filed a lawsuit calling for a temporary restraining order. For some reason, many religious media have incorrectly characterized the situation as the city suing the couple.

Anyway, the point really comes down to the fact that a wedding chapel is not a church. It is a for-profit business.

“The difference between a church and a place of worship and a wedding chapel, is that a wedding chapel is a business so that is covered under the Public Accommodations Law of Nevada,” said Tod Story of the ACLU.


Obviously, it's complicated by the fact that the employees of this business are ministers, but I can't help the fact that they decided not to carry out their religious activities in their church, but rather have prostituted them by opening a storefront where they do their mumbo jumbo (possibly Elvis-clad) for strangers who walk in off the street and give them money.

An analogy occurred to me, strengthened by a coincidental rhyme.

A few years back, there was a flap when Muslim cabbies in Minnesota were refusing to take fares if the people had alcohol with them. They lost their legal fight.

And in both cases, it seems like they are the victims of their own choice of employment.

If these people didn't want to carry people who had alcohol, they shouldn't have gotten into the business of carrying people.
If those people didn't want to marry people of the same sex, they shouldn't have gotten into the business of marrying people.
essentialsaltes: (Agent)
Looking at the choices for the sexy Water Replenishment District of Southern California, I note that the incumbent is 83 years old, had a face-off with the state attorney general for conflict of interest, and was apparently free with the expense account.

So what are the alternatives?
Johnnie Roberts, Public Affairs Consultant. Not too inspiring: "He has done some Research on Water Issues, & arrived at some solutions to improve the way Southern California receives it's Water."

James T. Law, minister/disability activist. No info I can find. Except that in 2011 he was bumped from the city council election "(James T. Law was the last candidate to be checked — his petitions had an insufficient number of valid signatures, bumping him from the competition.)"

Daniela Calderon, mother and restaurant manager. No info I can find, although she may be a manager at the Hollywood Café 50s, which I guess is a point in her favor.

Mervin Evans, author/consultant. Ok, Mervin, you're my last hope. sigh.

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