Sunday, October 15, 2017

Václav Havel's Speech to U.S. Congress

Jeff Flake mentions this speech in his new book, Conscience of a Conservative: A Rejection of Destructive Politics and a Return to Principle.  I think it warrants being re-printed and read.
Dear Mr. President, dear senators and members of the House, ladies and gentlemen:
My advisers advised me to speak on this important occasion in Czech. I don't know why. Perhaps they wanted you to enjoy the sweet sounds of my mother tongue.

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

White Collar Crime

Think Equifax and Wells Fargo.

Millions of American people were compromised, tens or hundreds of thousands were inconvenienced, and thousands were damaged beyond repair.

When a poor man steals an apple from a grocery stand, he earns himself a month in prison.  When an addict gets caught with the goods (cocaine, marijuana), in some states he is locked up and they throw away the key.  When a corporate big shot gets caught in a national scandal affecting millions of people, he may resign, but he still receives his golden parachute and he doesn’t forfeit any of his ill-gotten wealth.  And he never goes to prison (two Enron officials excepted).

Monday, October 2, 2017

Las Vegas Shooting

I’ll be brief.

One more massacre on American soil, committed by a crazy man with an automatic weapon.  But he may not have been crazy until he went crazy (we don’t know his story yet).

The Second Amendment reads: A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Many Constitutional “experts” like to disregard the first thirteen words, a dependent clause.  I am NOT arguing that the people should NOT have the right of armed self-defense (against a neighbor, not a foreign military power), but I am

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Repeal and Replace

Repeal and Replace (especially replace) has proved so damn difficult, nay impossible, for a really simple reason.   Because, if ever Republicans had wanted to provide “health care for all,” they would have designed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, aka the ACA, aka Obamacare.  And I say this not merely because Obama liked to say that it was a copy of Massachusetts’ Romney Care, but because Obamacare is really Republican thinking.

Does any real Democrat like Obamacare?  No, only elected Democrats in Washington, DC and they have their reasons.  REAL Democrats all prefer Single-Payer Medicare-for-All.  The government is the insurer, not private industry.  And everyone is covered and paid for by the taxes we pay.  Simple.  But not Republican thinking.  No, Obamacare’s true beneficiaries are private health insurance companies and Big Pharma; what a Republican Congress and White House would have designed.

It is the nature of politics that if the Democrats in power legislate Republican thinking, that particular Republican thinking changes its label to Democratic thinking.  Real students of politics, like yours truly, have always to keep on our toes for how one policy and another switches labels for no damn good reason other than … well … politics!

Good Luck to the Republicans, figuring how to replace what they would have designed themselves, with something even more … Republican.  The best they can do is to accept some Democratic thinking, call it their own – and re-label it Republican!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

On Capital Punishment

As a truly independent thinker, I tend to come down on the side of liberalism more often than on the side of conservatism because the conservative side often seems rigid and uncompromising whereas the liberal side seems more flexible and tolerant.  For example, abortion: conservatives say no abortion from the moment of conception, not three months into a pregnancy, not a week, not a day, not ten minutes, but the exact moment of conception.  I recognize that if a soul is born in that instant then it must be protected from that instant.  Nevertheless, …   Another example, capital punishment.  Conservatives approve it while liberals do not (for the most part).  There is something pretty absolute and final about a death sentence.  I recognize that they believe in an-eye-for-an-eye justice but once again, it is pretty intolerant.

Saturday, August 26, 2017

Tax Reform

As I am not running for office, I can tell the truth: we need to collect more tax revenue.  Why?  So that our National Debt doesn’t reach Mars before we do.  No politician ever won an election saying that he wants to raise your taxes, even though it is what we must do (and in your mind, if not your heart, you know I speak the truth).  But I am not running for office.  So, here goes nothing.

It is the case that in the last 15 years, the federal government has run deficits, not surpluses, in every year.  It is the case that in the last 47 years, the federal government has run deficits in all but 4 years (so, 91% of the time).  It is the case that since 1952, in the last 64 years, the federal government has run deficits in all but 7 of those years (so, 89% of the time).  We are addicted to deficits because we don’t want to pay for what we want to have, but we never elect anyone who wants to raise our taxes so that we could pay for what we want.

Thursday, August 24, 2017

Planet of the Apes

I love the Planet of the Apes movies, especially the recent ones with Andy Serkis playing Caesar, the first of the “smart” (or chemically modified) apes.

We root for the apes against the humans, don’t we, not because they are different, or inferior, or stupider.  We root for them because the humans treat them unfairly, for whatever reason (“they are only apes”).  I think this is true for every movie where the “star” is non-human (Bambi, Flipper, King Kong, ET); and humans always treat them as expendable, worthless.  But we in the audience relate to them as though they are human, as though they are victims, and as though they are heroic and worthy of our respect, and our love.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017

At a Loss

I just bought a box of 100 “caplets” of OTC drug xxx (none of your business!) from Target, their generic store brand Up&Up, for $5.99.  Right next to it was the same exact drug, same store brand, in “softgel” form, with a count of 24, for $7.39!  The shelf labels accurately displayed the “unit cost” (per 100), $5.99 for caplets and $30.76 for softgels!  Softgels were more than five times more expensive than caplets, the same damn thing, 5x as expensive.  The cost for a year: $21.86 for caplets and $112.27 for softgels.  $90 / year difference, for an inconsequential item!

Thursday, August 17, 2017

The Alt-Left

There was no Alt-Left until Trump invented it.  Actually, all our wordsmith president said was “There is blame on both sides” and some journalist made up “Alt-Left” as a counter to Alt-Right (an umbrella label for right-wing extremist groups).

So, who makes up the Alt-Left?  As the Alt-Right actually exists, it’s easier to define its membership.  So, the Alt-Right consists of the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, White Nationalists, white supremacists, some extreme NRA members, Hell’s Angels, Vigilante groups, Survivalist groups.  More than anyone else, they tend to be white and Christian and male and straight, even if most white Christian straight males are not Alt-Right themselves.  They believe that they alone are true Americans.  They are not just conservative, they are fringe conservative.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Stupid Libertarians

I entitled this essay “Stupid Libertarians” to get your attention, or maybe the attention of self-identifying Libertarians.

Some of the smartest friends I have ever had were Libertarians.  I never understood why they were Libertarians, and I think that we argued at cross-purposes, each of us not really understanding the other.

And I know that there are different flavors of Libertarianism.  But they have a common core.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Repeal and Replace

Republicans are in trouble.  Repeal and Replace is a great campaign slogan but it is fraught with land mines that are armed and dangerous.

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Intro to Ben's Care

If you are young, reasonably healthy, have a decent job with employer-paid health insurance, you may well wonder: why is health care such an important political issue in the United States?  But you may know the answer anyway: 1) too many Americans have no access to health care because of poverty or bad health, and 2) over-all, health care costs our economy way too much (17.8% of the GDP on its way to 20% by 2024).

But before I begin my pitch, may I ask you about your last doctor visit.  Do you know how much your doctor billed your insurance?  Do you care how much he or she billed your insurance?  How much would you care if you had to pay for the visit yourself?  And knowing how much he or she charged, would you have made the appointment in the first place?  No, really, answer these questions honestly before reading on.


Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Plan B: Mars

The Space Between Us is a 2017 movie that I do NOT recommend as it is heartbreakingly depressing.

It’s the story of a boy who is born and raised on Mars whose heart (larger) and muscles (weaker) are adjusted to life on Mars but not on Earth.  He takes a trip to Earth to find his father and the girl he has fallen in love with via cyber chat.  But he can’t survive for long on the Earth, and in the end, he has to return to Mars.   “Home Sweet Home” say the boy and his father overlooking the barren red Martian landscape at movie’s end.  The sentiment is fake and it is obvious.

But the premise of the movie is stupid.  “If we had to, mankind could make a fresh start {on Mars}.  We’re in trouble and it’s our fault.  … Mars is a planet ripe and ready for life.”  We have made such a mess here on Earth that we need a backup plan, a Plan B, and Mars is it.  So, they begin to colonize Mars, 6-8 Earthlings at a time.

Monday, May 1, 2017

The Death Tax

There is no such thing as a “death tax” in the USA.  The Death Tax is what Republicans label the Estate Tax as a way to manipulate folks who are not affected by it to condemn it, for the political benefit of their wealthy friends.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Ah, Grover Norquist

Svengali comes to mind.  Svengali was a very famous (and fictional) opportunist who seduced and dominated a young girl named Trilby.  But she was his only victim.  So, Svengali doesn’t make the cut.

Rasputin comes to mind.  Grigori Rasputin was a very famous peasant of late Tsarist Russia who had enormous influence over the Court in pre-revolutionary Russia.  But his power was short-lived.  So, no, Rasputin doesn’t make the cut.

The great Mesmer comes to mind.  Franz Mesmer was a German physician who is credited with inventing (or discovering) hypnotism.  So feared was he in his day that the word Mesmerism pre-dated the first use of the word hypnosis by nearly 100 years.  I don’t know, is Mesmer the real deal?

But surely Grover Norquist is the real deal.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Call it Ben’s Care

Please read the Intro to Ben's Care first.

What is Ben’s Care?  Ben’s Care is a new paradigm for health care in the United States.  The primary objective of Ben’s Care is to provide the best possible health care to every American at the least possible cost to the entire economy.  While those whose health care is now partially or fully paid by an employer or subsidized by the government may feel that Ben’s Care will cost them more, as a matter of fact everyone will experience lower real health care costs than ever before.  Ben’s Care has no monthly insurance costs and it is not paid for by a special tax withheld from you at every pay check.  Ben’s Care will connect you directly to your health care providers as never before.

Sunday, February 5, 2017

An Open Letter to American Creationists

Scopes Trial -- atheist Clarence Darrow & Christian William Jennings Bryan
To my Creationist friends – Young Earth Creationists (who believe that the Earth and the universe are only thousands of years old, not because the Bible told them so but because James Ussher, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland declared in 1654 that creation took place at nightfall on 22 October 4004BC, some 6021 years ago), “plain old” Creationists (who believe that the physical universe must have been the creation of a supernatural deity) and Intelligent Designers (plain old Creationists who understand that they have to strip religion and God out of the equation in order to pass Constitutional muster).

How long have you wanted to have YOUR story respected?  Surely since only a few years after Charles Darwin published his On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1859) and The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871).  Surely since the awful Scopes Trial (1927), where the Christian prosecution prevailed, but not really.  We have been fighting Culture Wars (between fundamentalist Christians and seculars) for as long as we can remember.  And only one of the issues is the teaching of Darwinian Evolution in our public schools.  And wanting to challenge it on its own turf with the Biblical Creation story.  And being most recently slapped down by conservative Judge John E. Jones III, a George W Bush appointee, in Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District (2005).

Monday, January 9, 2017

Getting Real about Global Warming

Before we begin, I need you to perform an experiment.  First, write down your estimate of the temperature of the water that you wash dishes (manually) with.  Next, write down your estimate of the temperature of the water that you bathe in (shower or bath).  In both cases, the hottest that you can tolerate without burning yourself.  After you write these numbers down, I want you to find your kitchen thermometer and measure how hot the water really was under both conditions.  When you have these four numbers, click below where it says “Read more »” and continue reading.

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

The Cosmos

These are all Galaxies in a piece of sky smaller than the Moon
This essay was written by a friend; I like it so much that I am posting it on my blog.  It’s not about politics or governance but it IS about perspective and we both agree on the importance of perspective, in politics and everywhere else.

* * * * * * * * * * * * *

The Cosmos

Cosmos is Greek for the world of the Heavens, the starry world.  That is: everything out there.  Everything that we can see or grasp or imagine.  All the big things (that, ironically, appear to us so infinitely tiny).
Most humans don't think cosmically.  Most humans' view of “the world” is their local "world," frequently not more than a 20-mile radius world.  Many affluent First-World citizens have a different perspective of "everything," perhaps the world itself, the planet Earth, or at least vacation spots in far-away places.  But for the most part, most First-Worlders do not ever think about the Earth proper; it is too vast to imagine except in very limited discussions.  For the most part, our “world” is our neighborhood, and we rarely think outside THAT box.

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Echo Chamber

Living in an Echo Chamber is living among folks who have the same thoughts, opinions and beliefs as you do.  Neighborhoods tend to homogenize over time; most neighborhoods become of one mind over important things as most neighborhoods belong to a single demographic, be it economic class, social class, religion, ethnicity, education, etc.  Similarly, most neighborhoods tend to become overwhelmingly Democratic or Republican, overwhelmingly conservative or liberal.  So, with regard to where we live, most of us live in an Echo Chamber.  Naturally so, but without malicious intent!  For much the same reasons, it is often true of where we work that we live in an Echo Chamber.