Monday, August 18, 2014

Amnesty International Protects Citizens From Their Own Government -- The USA

It isn't that America is a failed democracy, it is that we are a failing democracy. I believe we will turn things around and return to being a successful democracy, but it will not come soon nor be easily accomplished.

Posted  in response to a news report that Amnesty International has, for the very first time, sent observers to America in order to monitor possible human rights violations. I'll bet you can guess to which city these observers were sent.

Note:  I regard the ongoing failure of democracy in America as a direct result of 30 years of Republican dominance of American politics. Even when a Democratic president was in the White House he was pushed to the right by the growing extremism of the GOP.  The same applies to Congress.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Mexico Or Bust! ...And Bust?

Notes taken from Thom Hartmann's presentation on c-span referring to his book, The Crash of 2016:

In spite of bubbles, busts and booms, one thing was true of our economy for the first 200 years or so of our existence. As productivity increased, wages increased.  Workers were rewarded with higher salaries or shorter hours which is, as a practical matter, the same thing. This changed under the presidency of Ronald Reagan.

The author points out that in the 19th century people worked anywhere from 60 to, in some cases, 80 hour work weeks.  By 1900 the average was 60 hours.  By the 1920s the average was 50 hours. By the 1950s the average was 40 hours, and that was generally a matter of law as well as simple economics.

In the 50s, 60s, and 70s we saw, for the first time in American history, three consecutive decades of GDP growth of over 3.2%. During those decades, America had the richest middle class in history. That middle-class had large amounts of equity in their homes giving them a net value which was the highest in the history of the world for an average population.  During those decades, the average American, while not what we would call wealthy, nevertheless was acquiring more wealth than ever before.  They may not have been rich, but they were definitely worth something more than their fathers or grandfathers or great great great great grandfathers had been.

Even more:  They had leisure time. They had pensions.  They had job security.  They had paid vacations!

Where did they get all of this? They got it from the well regulated, smoothly functioning,  free-market economy created by Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

Before Ronald Reagan, and yes, right up to Ronald Reagan, we were:

The greatest creditor nation in the world. After Ronald Reagan we became the greatest debtor nation in the world.

We were the largest manufacturer and exporter of finished goods. After Reagan we became the largest importer of finished goods.

We were the largest importer of raw materials to make finished goods. We are now the largest exporter of raw materials to make finished goods.

So, in the 30 years since Ronald Reagan we have gone from the leader of the world in wealth to a state which we would have thought back in the 1970s could only happen to a Third World nation.

Now to be clear, remember that productivity has continued to increase, wages have not kept pace.  Average worker income in the 1980s was about $25,000. Average worker income today is about $25,000.Back then, a single worker earned enough money to keep the house, to support a household, and to accumulate wealth (usually in the form of home equity). Today both partners must work to barely keep afloat, and we have a long way to go before we recover from the devastating effects of the housing bubble.

What the hell happened?

Hint: What happened to destroy all of this was not the Democratic Party. Neither was it moderate or liberal Republicans (yes, Virginia, these things used to exist).

Conclusion: Keep voting Republican. They will turn America into a Third World country. We are heading toward Mexico as it was 20 years ago, even as Mexico benefits from a growing middle-class.The Dons and the Patrons will rule America. The rest of us will be peons. By the next century it is possible, if we keep electing Republican administrations and congresses, that Americans will be desperately trying to escape the poverty north of the border by sneaking our way across the Rio Grande to find jobs in Mexico.  That'll teach them a lesson! Let's see how they like it!

“Everyone loves a conspiracy.” ― Dan Brown, The Da Vinci Code

Based on a photograph of  mars showing a trail a boulder has created by rolling down a martian hill. I commented:

I'm surprised I haven't yet seen a post declaring that NASA is once again hiding proof of alien life on Mars.  I expect believers to state that the life form is silicon-based and moves by hopping in a kangaroo like manner.

Dan replied:

 Wait a minute!  That looks like the boulder trail in Death Valley!  The whole thing's a fake, just like the '69 moon landing (which was filmed pretty much in the same place)!!!!

I replied:

 As all intelligent, non gullible people know, when the Soviets first managed to crash a spaceship onto the moon, (Luna 2 on September 13, 1959) the moon popped. It was, after all, nothing but a giant balloon. Therefore, they had no choice but to fake the moon landings.  Ever since '59, he moon has been an elaborate optical illusion created by Stephen Spielberg and Industrial Light and Magic.  Super moon? Super fraud!

Remember, the truth shall make ye fret!

Free Market Drug Deals

Recent reports indicate that states which decriminalize marijuana have reduced crime rates and increased revenue by considerable amounts. Conclusion: we must continue to keep marijuana illegal for two reasons.

Reason number one: we must starve government by preventing it from increasing revenues.This will keep it small and ineffective.

Reason number two: we must continue to maintain strong drug laws so that we can continue to send vast numbers of young minority men to prison. This will allow private industry become very wealthy by running private prisons.

Strong anti-drug laws, a real win-win! 

Note: I have not even mentioned the incredible sums collected by drug lords thanks to our laws since SOME people ( you know who you are) are against free markets.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

You Say Democracy And I Say Kleptocracy… Let's Call The Whole Thing Off!

In response to a friend's post about the situation in Ferguson, Missouri, I posted the following:

This is why I refer to governments as a necessary evil. Tom Paine was the first to express this truism that I know of, though I expect that the concept stretches back to classical antiquity.  Clearly, governments cannot be avoided. In the absence of an organized system, some thug will simply say, "Okay, I'm the boss now," and government is reborn.

This makes governments necessary.

The difficulty is that once a government exists it cannot seem to control itself. Unless it's populace is alert and vigilant, the government will turn from a necessary protector into a cancer which eats away at the very values which it was created to protect.  SWAT teams were originally created for quite reasonable purposes. Thanks to our bizarre drug laws, another example of government gone insane, the opponents of good government in the form of organized criminals became quite wealthy. They could afford to possess extensive and highly advanced weapons systems.

The problem is that once a SWAT team was created in an environment where it was necessary, let us say New York City; everyone, everywhere wanted to have a SWAT team.  It was a matter of prestige. The city that did not have a SWAT team, even if it was quite a small city, felt that it was not on the cutting edge of new policing methodology.  Not to mention, SWAT teams are cool and sexy. What mayor or governor wouldn't want to be cool and sexy?

And now we had the structure of a growing problem. Huge amounts of money were expended to create SWAT teams that were totally unnecessary. That didn't sit well with voters. So SWAT teams began to be assigned to perform tasks that did not require anything but a uniformed officer or two.

Some unknown person phoned in an anonymous tip that a residence was being used for manufacturing drugs? Instead of sending over an officer to investigate, let's send the SWAT team, smash the door down, terrorize the residents, and then later apologize because they were totally innocent.

I'm not opposed to the existence or use of SWAT teams. I'm not opposed to them under very limited and specific circumstances. I am opposed to their indiscriminate creation and their unnecessary application.

The LAPD has as its motto, to serve and protect. That is the appropriate application of the police power of the state. No policeman, no police department, no chief of police, should ever forget this.

Turning policeman into soldiers and then trying to use those soldiers to deal with civil problems is insanity.  It makes citizens into enemy combatants. It not merely justifies, but practically requires, the use of deadly force.  

Of course, I regard America as a kleptocracy. Just like other governments that once were democracies but now have fallen apart and degenerated into something never intended by its founders and certainly not supported by its citizens, the United States has turned into a criminal organization a very basic level.

Whoever is in power, and I primarily refer to congressmen, although administration officials are not exempt, are quickly bought off by what would once been called bribes but which now have become legal campaign contributions. What was once a felonious example of usury now becomes normal business practice. And instead of using thugs to threaten to break your legs with a baseball bat, the courts force you to pay your "legitimate" debts.

I could go on for quite some time, but I think I have made the point. By the way, I am not referring to America as kleptocracy as a sarcastic or satirical comment. I mean that I literally believe that America has become a form of kleptocracy. The Republican Party, seeking to create a one party state, has so rigged the election system that while the number of votes cast for Republicans and Democrats are virtually equal in the last house election, the House is totally dominated by Republicans. It should be 50-50.

One man, one vote? Not in America.

Friday, August 8, 2014

Of Pseudoscience and Paradoxes and Cabbages and Kings

On paradoxes:

I'm on record as having stated that paradoxes are always either a misuse of language or a misunderstanding of a logical presentation.  I will add that they can also simply be a lie.

For example: which came first, the chicken or the egg? This was never a paradox under any terms.  If you accept the scientific explanation of evolution, the the egg came many millions of years before the first chicken. In fact, before the first bird. On the other hand, if you accept some variation of special creation, then the chicken came first. God, or the gods, created chickens. Later these chickens laid eggs.

Either way no paradox.

Addendum: I just watched the video that was attached to the original post. In it, the posters take a very long, and I admit amusing, time to make a point which declares the egg, in fact, came first in a rather different way than the simplified manner I stated above.  They ignore the fact that there is not even a paradox for creationists.

My point being that this, like all paradoxes, was always a misuse of language or of logic.  In other, words,  the logical eqivalent of a visual trick, a trompe l'oeil.

On pseudoscience in "science class" in religious schools:

Why don't the ultra religious have the honesty to admit that their beliefs are religious not scientific? If they are correct, why lie about it?  If they are wrong, why persist?  Why appeal to a warped falsification of science if science is so wrong?

Why can't they be honest about their most cherished beliefs?  The only credible answer, I think, is that they themselves doubt their beliefs.  If their faith was strong, they would let it stand on it's own.  They shore this faith up with pseudoscience because they have doubts and need to convince themselves that science is on their side.

That is sad for many reasons.  I make no scientific claims regarding my mystical experiences. They are internal, subjective and not amenable to scientific verification. Since I have confidence in their reality, I see no need to seek outside confirmation.  (Or conformation, as spell check had it!)

I start from the foundation that reality is real and facts are real.  We know this to be true because when we base our actions on   fact, things work as predicted. You can test a fact.  You can perform an experiment to see if something is real. 

That means that evolution is as real and factual as science can make it.  Look  around you and see how accurate science is.  Our world has been built by science.

But I could just us honestly say I start from my knowledge that God is real and present. This is not an objective, testable belief. Unlike science, this is something one knows inside oneself. It's not testable because God is, by definition, beyond the ability of science to test. This is because God is supernatural, in the old sense of that word. Super meaning above or beyond natural. Science can only test that which is natural.

In short: I have no doubt that God is there and loves us and cares about us. I also have no doubt that evolution is as science has described it to be. And I don't see any contradiction in those two beliefs.  This world operates on a scientific basis, and God is present throughout this world trying to guide us to make appropriate decisions within the framework of the scientific reality we inhabit.

A Comment To A Family Member Worried About Her Spelling

There is a man in history whose signature has only been found written out in six places.  It did not seem to bother him that he never managed to spell his own last name the same way. Today we spell it William Shakespeare.

Spelling isn't everything.

-- There are six surviving signatures written by Shakespeare himself. These are all attached to legal documents. The six signatures appear on four documents:

a deposition in the Bellott v. Mountjoy case, dated May 11, 1612
the purchase of a house in Blackfriars, London, dated March 10, 1613
the mortgage of the same house, dated March 11, 1613
his Last Will & Testament, which contains three signatures, one on each page, dated March 25, 1616
The signatures appear as follows:

Willm Shakp
William Shaksper
Wm Shakspe
William Shakspere
Willm Shakspere
By me William Shakspeare. --

Excerpt from Wikipedia.