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Monday, September 26, 2011

Response and agreement with a friend's Facebook post

You're right. Arch-conservatives have long had the goal of privatizing every part of government they could so that they could profit from it. They duped social conservatives like evangelical, fundamentalist, and extremist christians into voting for them with the God-Gays-Guns scheme and it worked. It was a propaganda program that Joseph Goebbels would have been proud of, and it's still working for them today. You have to hand it to them, they did their demographic and psychological research. You can pretty easily divide humanity into 2 groups, when thought about in this way, Thinkers and Believers. Believers are the type who want things rather than do the skeptical work of research, no matter how simple that might be. Thinkers are skeptics, not accepting everything at face value until they've had a chance to research it. So, the arch-conservatives went after the Believers - christians. They made it SEEM like they were pro-god, pro-gun, and anti-gay. In reality, they couldn't have given two shits about god, guns or gays, they just wanted a voting bloc who could elect their proxies to office in order to establish the conservative agenda. Again, you've gotta hand it to them, it worked...beyond their imaginings, at that. Now they can sit back, throw a handful of money at this or that campaign and have their work done for them by people who actually believe that they're better off with a privatized government. But when ALL roads become toll roads, when ALL schools are for-profit, when ALL medicine is pay-upon-receipt-of-services, when credit is denied to everyone (the wealthy don't need credit), and EVERYTHING you do requires payment at the time you need will be too late to do anything about it because the police will be on the side of the wealthy...for that matter, they already are. Just take a look at what's happening with Occupy Wall Street at this very moment. Arch-conservatives want no middle class. They want but 2 classes: Theirs, and the workers who do their bidding.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Why we fail to understand conservatives

I think the reason that so many of us have trouble understanding the actions of Republicans, Tea Partiers, and other sundry conservative politicians is that they treat political office like a business, whereas we see it as a post from which one might contribute to the general weal. They see it as a profit center. We see it as a public service. They see it as a sinecure. We see it as a temporary position.

These are fundamental differences that can't be easily rectified. Republican politicians often come from the private sector with the intent of bending the power of their political office to their own will, and for personal profit. Few of us on the left have been able to sort through the warp and weft of their political fabric to unravel what was really right on the surface all along: The truth that they came to politics because they view government as inefficient and even immoral and then set about operating government as inefficiently and immorally as possible in order to bring those ends about, making them self-fulfilling prophecies.

It seems to me that when people put on blinders which limit their sight lines to only those ideas which they wish to see, it becomes not merely impossible, but sincerely impossible (pardon the WoO pun) to get them to see anything else, regardless how imposing, how credible, or how popular it might be.

I will support the President so long as he follows this simple concept: Do that which you set about to do, that which we elected you to do, not bending to the political will of your opponents, and never, EVER losing sight of the fact that we elected YOU to make CHANGE WE CAN BELIEVE IN.

Military discharge of gays prior to DADT

People forget that prior to DADT, it was simply illegal to be gay or lesbian and serve in the US military. When I served, our battalion commander initiated a witch hunt to eliminate gays, lesbians and atheists (while it isn't/wasn't illegal to be an atheist and serve, he looked for any excuse, discharging one linguist for being 2 pounds over the weight limit). Since I fall into 2 of those 3 categories, I was high on his list to discharge. Luckily, I was at the end of my term of service, so I left voluntarily, although he tried to retain me so that he could have a court martial. That would have resulted in incarceration at the Federal holding barracks in Mannheim, Germany. He made very clear what he wished to do, which worked in my favor. I was able to enlist the aid of the then-Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Sam Nunn, D-GA (who intervened only from a cost standpoint since my term of service was over), in order to get out without being jailed. The commander had gone to great lengths to carry out his witch hunt, using two junior enlisted men to seduce soldiers of rank in order to prosecute and discharge them. The plan was to claim use of force and fraternization although force was never used and the younger soldiers weren't in my, or any of the other affected soldiers' chain-of-command. It was a witch hunt, plain and simple.

Just after I left the unit and the Army, Congress sent a delegation to Augsburg to find out why this battalion had the lowest re-enlistment rate...not just in Europe...not just in the Army...but in the entire US military. Since we were an Intelligence battalion, US taxpayers had spent MILLIONS of dollars training each one of us, sending us to language school for a year or more, lengthy and entailed technical training, not to mention the year-long investigations into the soldiers and their families going back 3 generations for the required security clearances. He lost his command, but in an upside-down turn of events, went on to get his full bird (the rank of colonel). It was at that time (the late 80s, early 90s) that Fundamentalist Christians were infiltrating the military...all order to create what they thought of as God's Army. And that always made me wonder...if their god is so powerful...why does he need an army?

Income parity and class war

Patriot Day 2011 - I've been sitting here this morning watching the coverage of the sad reminder of the first attack by an alien force on the sovereign territory of the United States since Pearl Harbor. I spent 13 years in the military, in service to my homeland. I had an odd journey through the military, beginning as an enlisted infantryman in my state's National Guard, going on to Officer Candidate School (OCS) and a commission in the Infantry. After 5 years, I had the opportunity to move to the Army Reserve in a teaching position, then after my full 6 years were up, into the Individual Ready Reserve (IRR). But I wasn't done, I wanted a tour in the Regular Army, so I again enlisted rather than seeking to have my commission reinstated because I wanted to choose where I went and what I did. Young officers usually have no choice in the matter, but because of enlistment guarantees, and a generous bonus, I was allowed to choose my first duty station as an enlistee. Throughout my career, I raised my right hand and swore to protect the United States from all enemies, foreign and domestic, a total of 5 times, and I still hold myself to that sacred oath. 

And that's what I was thinking about this morning as I watched the sun rise over Manhattan. We're faced with threats from without and threats from within. At least the external threats are known: Al Qaeda, the Taliban, others who wish harm on our citizens. The internal threats are far harder to sound because they come from us, from the body America. 

But we can, if we remove the blinders from our eyes which prevent us from seeing the immediate and familiar, suss out the cancer which gnaws us root and bone. It can be a challenge, an agony, because the enemy, we're told, should be our paradigm. Our internal national enemy is the disparity between the super rich and the rest of us. 

Greed in any form is bad. Amazingly though, we've been told that it's good to be greedy. It's a noble purpose to seek wealth. Increasingly we're told that charity is bad. During the GOP Presidential debate, last week, several candidates came right out and said that we need to cut off assistance to those who need it, that charity causes poverty. Jesus said that, right? One would imagine that he did, or at least these characters think so, since each and every one claims to be a staunch Christian, to follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, and to accept him as their personal savior. Or were they lying for the sake of political expediency? 

I was reared as a Jehovah's Witness. Trust me, it's a cult, regardless that they protest to the contrary. But one thing that you can't take away from them - they study the bible. Evangelicals and other Christian Fundamentalists claim that Witnesses don't use the right bible, but the fact is that the Jehovah's Witness' 'New World Translation of the Holy Scriptures', the bible that they had translated using the newly-found Rosetta Stone as a translation guide, something that all other bible translators are now doing, is a much more accurate translation than the problematic King James Version. 

Growing up in that religion, I read the bible. Actually read it twice from cover to cover, and probably a third and fourth time by chapter and verse. Jehovah's Witnesses read their bible regularly, they read it to understand it and not just be able to quote by rote. They have certainly misinterpreted it, but it is a modern translation in modern English and any reader should be able to understand it clearly, unlike the poorly translated KJV. 

Having read it and studied it, even though today I am an atheist, I have a pretty good grasp of what it was that Jesus was trying to teach his disciples. Recurring themes were love, forgiveness, and charity. Nowhere I read of his teachings did it mention greed, wealth, or revenge, but you wouldn't know it from his modern followers. In fact, greed, wealth, and revenge seem to be their bywords, their mantra, their New Ideal.  I can't purport to know why his followers have missed the message, but I have some ideas. 

First and foremost is ignorance. Agreed, I'm rusty on the bible's specifics today, even though I still get the general gist. But so many who claim Jesus as their savior haven't really bothered to read his teachings. Instead, they keep a bible by their bed and they read a few passages late at night after they're already drowsy, they take them out of context because they don't bother to read entire stories or chapters and they soon forget the morals of the stories if indeed they even understood them anyway. It's alarming how many think that popular sayings like 'A penny saved is a penny earned' come from the bible rather than from popular folklore. So I suppose it should be no surprise that these people sit in a building at least once a week and listen to their religious leaders tell them what to think. It's the very definition of propaganda. Tell a story (or lie), keep telling it, keep swearing to its truth, and if anyone should question you about it, scream it...because SCREAMING ALWAYS PROVES YOUR VERACITY...RIGHT?

Of course not. But it's a tool they use. And that's part of my second point - propaganda. Adolf Hitler and his henchman Joseph Goebbels, his Reich Minister of Propaganda, were masters of the Big Lie. They believed that for a lie to be believable, it needs to be a big lie, it needs to be repeated, and it needs to grossly distort the truth. 

Reply to comment on ApplePaul's FB page about government being "in charge of stuff"

Both government and business are subject to the laws of human nature. Government can run efficiently, but it takes oversight to keep people focused on their jobs, just like in business. Business needs oversight to prevent issues like the debacle with sub-prime lending, using toxic chemicals in our children's toys, and keeping their effluent out of our waterways. The right course is somewhere in the middle, not on one of the extremes in either direction; in other words, right where most things work best. Government, when run by concerned individuals, not like the current Nay Sayers we have in Congress, has given us a national system of freeways, free education, airports that all can access, and a host of other things that every successful person in this country has taken advantage of on the way to success. It's folly to think that government, properly run, isn't a boon to individual prosperity. The Works Progress Administration, the Civilian Conservation Corps, the Rural Electrification Administration and other projects of the New Deal program helped the United States pull itself out of the morass of the Great Depression...which was caused by the crash of the Stock Market, a PRIVATE endeavor. In our grandparents' or great grandparents' lifetimes, government was trusted to ensure the common weal, because it was the lifeline which saved the nation from economic apocalypse. It seems very short-memoried to claim that government shouldn't be "in charge of so much stuff...", making me wonder, what is it that people are doing that they don't want government to know about?

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Reply to a comment on Rachel Maddow's blog

You're right. I've been watching fairly closely and I think this is how the process goes: First, somewhere in a room filled with the Faithful (faithfully defending their stacks of money, that is), talking points are created. Then, they're handed off to Fox News for initiation in the early day's news cycle. Next, other Fox talking heads cite the FIRST Fox report using the same talking points, and that continues and escalates throughout the day. Simultaneously, emails convey those talking points to GOP members who are likely to have media exposure during that news cycle, reinforcing their fictions. And so it goes. A new day brings a new talking point, and the GOP cycle-of-life continues because the Believers don't do their own research. Only Thinkers do that.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Jim's GOP debate summary

Rick Perry and Mitt Romney, AKA Tweedledum and Tweedledumber - I know you are, but what am I?; Michelle Bachman - Look, Mama, I eated all my Obamacare!; Herman Cain - The tax is TOO DAMNED HIGH!; Ron Paul - It'ssss the MANDATESSSS, My Preciousssss!; John Huntsman - 請問這條領帶讓我看中國人?; Newt the Gingrich - Thou shalt not...JESUS CHRIST, look at the T*TS on that chick!; Rick Santorum - *insert Standard Protest #51 and prayer*

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

The coming, and necessary, Class War

Here in America, we tend to view things in an 'Us' versus 'Them' scenario, but the time has come for us to take a step back and realize that the lessons learned from people other than Americans needn't be reinvented by us. We can look to see what they've learned, what they've done right, what they've done wrong, and try to avoid the pitfalls that befell them.

In the Spring of 2011, the simmering pot which has been the Arab world boiled over. The "Arab Spring", as it's been dubbed, saw the overthrow of dictator after despot, continuing right on through the late summer. While it's still too early to tell what outcome this will have on the citizenry of each newly-freed country, the mandate of the people in revolt was heard 'round the world...and it was even heard here, in America. Here, in the Bible Belt. Here, in Georgia. And it's Georgia, specifically, that I want to concentrate on. 

My family moved from Florida in 1972 and resettled in Coffee County in central southeast Georgia. Coffee County is primarily an agricultural area with a focus on poultry production, soybeans, tobacco, and cotton. It's located in what I refer to as the Interstate Quadrangle, a chunk of remoteness bordered by I-16 to the north, I-95 to the east, I-10 to the south, and I-75 to the west. The Interstate Quadrangle includes a slice of far north Florida from Jacksonville in the southeast corner to about Lake City in the southwest. It's northern corners are Macon in the northwest, and Savannah in the northeast. Within the boundaries of the Interstate Quadrangle lie some of the most remote areas in the Atlantic coastal states. It's also one of the least densely populated areas in those same states. There are no large cities, nor even large towns beyond those on the corners. In short, it's an area that has had little direct outside influence, and that lack shows every day in how those of means think about those without. You would be hard pressed to find an upper-middle income or upper income person in that area, and that majorly means white, who doesn't daily use the N-word, or who doesn't look down on those of us educated in public schools as "public school trash" as one business owner in that area puts it. Of course, she has had the benefit of a religious private school education as have her children. Or the business owner whose business is predicated primarily upon serving Medicare recipients with home health products who tries to ram  products he can profit from most down the throats of those least capable of protesting rather than working to ensure proper fit and match of products to the clients. He tried to do that to my mother. It didn't work, and he's angry, threatening to charge her for something she can't use. He'll be answering to Medicare for that gaffe. 

In the 26 August 2011 New York Times, Georgia Congressman John Lewis (D), has an article entitled 'A Poll Tax By Another Name', in which he discusses, from his deeply experienced point of view, how even today conservatives scheme to prevent African-American and Latino voters from voting, disenfranchising anyone that they feel might be a threat to their stranglehold on power. John Lewis was a leader of the civil rights movement in America, and one of the few dedicated people left in Congress who truly represents the will of the people, especially those who lack the voice to speak for themselves. John Lewis is a living American hero.

While Congressman Lewis' article focused on the Civil Rights Act as well as other playing field-leveling legislation and the impact these have had on the lives of African-Americans, it also warns us that those who hold power over the lives and livelihoods of others will go to any extreme to hold onto that power. This prejudice affects anyone who hasn't the financial wherewithal to fight back, to stand toe-to-toe with those who seek to oppress rather than liberate. This affects almost half of all Americans. As late as April of 2011, less than 46% of Americans had jobs, and that number is likely to have decreased, not increased. 

In early-Twenty-first-century America, money is power. True, that's always been the case, but with so many wealthy Americans now, the disenfranchisement of the poor and the dichotomy of wealth disparity puts them at a disadvantage when it comes to finding a meaningful, living-wage job. Nepotism and cronyism are the new rules-of-the-day. Those who consider themselves to be of a certain social stratum look down at the poor and loathe them, often publicly. Case in point, Fox News' recent campaign targeting the poor and unemployed. Fox commentator, Neil Cavuto, cited a figure which showed that 99.6% of the "poor" (Fox's quotation marks, not mine) have refrigerators, and the list went on showing that certain members of the "poor" have a few modern conveniences or even small luxuries. Bill O'Reilly and Lou Dobbs, both notoriously snobbish towards the poor and bottom-tier-working-class people, went on to hash out how they really didn't look down on the poor but they clearly didn't grasp how a poor person might own a refrigerator or cell phone, and even compared them to the poor in Europe. Which made me laugh because I've lived in Europe and never did I see the squalor that can be found here in America.  

And here's the Big Picture: It's still 'Us' versus 'Them', except now the two sides are Wealthy versus Poor. How do those who have not compete with those who have? It's hard to do...unless we look at recent examples abroad. Maybe they have it right, those who stood up for their rights in the Arab Spring. While the riots in Britain turned violent and vandals took the reins, it began as a protest for economic rights. A protest for rights for those who have been disenfranchised. The street hoodlums in Britain had it all wrong, vandalism is never an acceptable answer.  

Whatever non-destructive form that answer has to take, it's time has come. One would hope that parties representing both sides could sit down diplomatically and discuss the problems, work out a solution, and everything would move apace towards equality. But our own politicians can't do that amongst themselves, so what hope do the rest of us have for that? Right now, there is a political party that has a wing bent on enriching the already enriched while the rest go without. And don't think that they feel remorse for the plight of the needy, because if they did, they would've already done something. 

Ask yourself this, though; if these people are truly the patriots they claim to be, why do we have so many homeless veterans, and why are the same "patriots" calling for cutting veterans' benefits? In fact, why is it that so few of THEM are veterans? The nation already puts many of the 1% of those who serve into the poverty category WHILE they're serving, but now the ones who have most profited from staying behind while true patriots served their nation are the staunchest supporters of cutting veterans' already-meager benefits. Used and thrown away. It's shameful. But they have no shame. None. They'll simply pray the shame away and after that 2-second prayer, they'll go right back to the same behavior as before it.


Freedom isn't free; it's paid for in blood. Everyone is faced with life and death decisions, but some employ others to make those decisions for them. The time has come for those who have been disenfranchised, those who have served, those who are made to feel like second-class citizens in their own country, those whose skin color or religion is deemed deficient by the monied...the time has come for them to stand up and say no to that behavior. 

I find it no surprise that John Lewis is a Georgian. He's a fighter, and he's a winner. I aim to be like him.