Work: Serious and Absurd

**Below is the first in a two part series of essays about work and life. The second installment, much less serious and NSFW (not safe for work),  is also available on this site.

Such is the screwed up nature of our society that most of us spend more time with people we work with than then we do with our loved ones and friends. Sadly the nature of modern employment is that much of what we do, be it at the office, the store, or on the road is largely pointless.

As the anthropologist David Graeber correctly points out, most of us are employed in “bullshit jobs.” There are many reasons for this, but the two principle causes are technological determinism and the moral and political failure of governments and societies to sensibly integrate and offset gains and losses caused by technological advances for the well-being of society.

Japan is one of the few countries to have attempted a balanced approach to technological changes. Prior to their amalgamation in 2001 into the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, state agencies such as the Industrial Science and Technology Policy and Environment Bureau were influential in seeking sensible solutions to problems caused by technology. The ISTP worked in concert with many private and public agencies to identify prevailing economic trends and developments in manufacturing and science. With this knowledge the Japanese gradually wound down industries that were becoming obsolete and provided retraining to displaced workers in order that they could find jobs in new areas of employment.

Consequently, many socioeconomic problems caused by technology were mitigated against or ameliorated. Combined with extensive funding for research and development, Japan’s cohesive approach to science enabled the Japanese to overtake most world powers in the economic sphere during the post-World War II period.

Critics will argue that Japanese socioeconomic policies aren’t without their faults and in many cases they are correct. However, it can also be pointed out to those same critics that most western societies in the same period endured considerably more social unrest, higher unemployment and slower economic growth. This occurred because western societies allowed technological advances to be implemented without consideration for wider consequences.

Worse, these sweeping technological changes have been brutally aggravated by political attitudes. A historic case in point is the Thatcher government’s treatment of coal workers during the 1980’s. In fact since the 1970’s concerning technology and economic changes, most western governments have out of lazy ideological convictions outsourced these problems to the marketplace with disastrous consequences. The free-market reforms implemented by the IMF and World Bank in the former Soviet Eastern Bloc resulted in enormous hardship to those populations.

Richard Nixon’s destruction of the Bretton Woods Agreement contributed to massive world-wide inflation. The collapse of the US/Canada Auto Pact – the bedrock of Canada’s postwar industrial growth – and its replacement by NAFTA has led to high unemployment, inferior and costly telecommunications, reduced public transport and an increase in illegal drug imports across North America. Many Mexican farmers, forced to compete with subsidized US counterparts have turned from corn production to the cultivation of cash crops like marijuana, heroin and cocaine.

Protest groups such as Occupy Wall Street and far right populist movements are as much a response to political problems as to socioeconomic changes caused by technology. Writing in 1995, the philosopher Jeremy Rifkin accurately predicted the rise of such protest movements in his book The End of Work.

There isn’t a blanket solution to these problems but sensible points made by Rifkin and John Maynard Keynes are worth discussing. To start Keynes predicted that technology would reduce the work-week to fifteen hours by the beginning of the 21st century and as David Graeber correctly notes Keynes was right.

Rifkin suggests that a twenty hour work week where employees are paid for forty hours would sensibly reduce unemployment, stimulate demand for consumer goods, increase workplace productivity, reduce poverty and unburden overstretched health care systems. The result would be a happier, more socially engaged citizenry and a wealthier society.

Something

Save Us This Day, From Edumacators

I could not resist purchasing this (rewritten Third Edition addressing the dramatic changes in education since 1950) in no small part because I was laughing so hard at UAA Instructors advising students not to use Wikipedia in composing answers to short answer/identification questions on take home finals (as if they were going to find usable answers in the horrendous texts employed, or the equally useless lecture notes afforded to the students ). The book was waiting for me on the UAA Consortium Library cast-offs cart for the stated price of $.25 and, as I said, I could not (would not) resist.

From quoting Commager, “No other people ever demanded so much of education as have the American. None other was ever served so well by its schools and educators” (93), the book moves to more realistic appraisals of the issues education in the U.S. face.

No agency but the school can provide the systemic, disciplined intellectual training required. This is, and always has been, the primary, indispensable funtion of the school. The nation is betrayed if the school shirks this responsbility or subordinates it to any other aim, however worthy in itself. The school exists to provide intellectual training, in every field of activity where systematic thinking is an important component of success * * * [but]  [a]n increasing number of public schools administrators and educational theorists today refuse to define the purposes of the school in terms of intellectual training or of recognized disciplines of science and scholarship (103, misciting Bestor, the cite for which can be found below ).

And Bestor’s take?  Well….

An inkling of what the educators mean ·when they propose to bring the great issues of public life down tb the level of what they call the “real-life problems of youth” is afforded by an elaborate report on The SchoolJ and National Security, which the Illinois Curriculum Program has recently published. The first task of the social studies, according to the d1apter devoted to them, is to “reduce the tensions and meet the needs of children and youth.” There are some starry-eyed promises about developing “a constructively critical attitude toward foreign policy” among pupils who, of. course, are not to be burdened with any useless knowledge of history or geography or foreign languages. And when the report gets down to specific classroom work, it solemnly sug­gests that the schools can serve the nation in its present, hour of peril by asking its students to “make studies of how the last war affected the dating pattern in our culture.”

But perhaps the best way to approach the book is its review in Educational Leadership via Lewis Carroll.

One who seeks definitive answers to educational problems may he disap­pointed in this book. One who seeks an organized departure point for thinking through many of the issues of secondary education will find this source very help­ful. Unlike the discussion of curriculum in Alice in Wonderland, this text deals with Modern Secondary Education in a realistic, straightforward, practical man­ner. And, as the Gryphon said in a very decided tone to Alice, “That’s enough about lessons.”

Maybe we have something to learn from Alexander and Saylor?


Alexander, William M., and J. Galen Saylor. Modern Secondary Education: Basic Principles and Practices. New York: Rinehart, 1959.
Bestor Jr., Arthur E. “Anti-Intellectualism in the Schools.” New Republic 128, no. 3 (January 19, 1953): 11. http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=pwh&AN=14557231&site=pov-live.
Bishop, Leslee. “Significant Books: Modern Secondary Education.” Educational Leadership 17, no. 4 (January 1960): 257–258. Accessed May 2, 2017. http://www.ascd.org/publications/educational-leadership/jan60/vol17/num04/toc.aspx.

A Less Modest Proposal

Recently some folk have gotten their shorts in a twist because someone has the temerity to suggest that killing a 200 year old whale is not necessarily a good idea. Efforts to address those upset have been very unsuccessful because any word to suggest that Native harvest of whales should be challenged is labeled racism (which it, by definition, is not).

There is way too much emotive baggage, way too little reflection on issues underlying our cultural prejudices. Tribalism is inherent in Homo sapiens… we are virtually hard wired to be tribal as that provided some selective benefit as we evolved from under the shadows of the thunder lizards , but now it will kill us all. The harvest of marine mammals is still (and will likely become more of) a widely debated ethical decision (much as has happened with respect to pigs) as no human will die of lack of whale meat. The question is one of cultural relativism. If I eat children should I be allowed to continue eating children? Really. Why shouldn’t I eat your child? Or just mash it up as a blood sacrifice to my gods (which, after all, is not atypical for Homo sapiens)? While Dean Swift was being ironic when he penned “A Modest Proposal”, the point he makes is still very poignant, and the taking of marine mammals is as close to the dominionism now infecting our political culture.

If Critter A is hungry and he wants to eat another critter, he will run into some issues eventually, and he develops a credo that allows him to eat some (but not all) other critters. That credo, based largely on belief, is a matter of faith. You eat pig because you believe the pig is dumb, or you have some divine authority, or other excuse that applies to pig, but not dog, horse, or people. Many Neolithic and tribal cultures invent a mythology that results in their belief that their prey gives themselves freely to predator. This is, as suggested above, no far reach from dominionism.

Arguing that a specific cultural approach to life is inappropriate is not necessarily racist (and I think is rarely so, though humans are particularly inventive when it comes to being stupid). I think Female Genital Mutilation is horrific, yet I have no real qualms about Male Genital Mutilation… imagine that! Such cultural prejudices are endemic to Homo sapiens. At core it is now essentially a matter of faith. With the clash of cultures, questions will be asked, and I think that is appropriate – that is what Montesquieu was talking about when he discussed commerce, and the claims of “historical accident”, “cultural artifact”, or “religious tenet” can, and eventually will,  wear thin.


Swift, Jonathan. A Modest Proposal. 1729. https://andromeda.rutgers.edu/~jlynch/Texts/modest.html

Reflections On War And Reality

Carl von Clausewitz, the author of On War witnessed the brutality of modern warfare. He was present at some of the most critical battles of the Napoleonic Wars and saw first-hand the carnage large groups of armed men and artillery can inflict on one another.

He fought on the side of the Russians at Borodino (1812) where approximately 80,000 men on both sides were killed, wounded or taken prisoner. Clausewitz saw the horrific slaughter of French Infantry at the Raevsky Redoubt – a series of earthworks from which a rain of cannon and musket fire scythed down the advancing French troops in grim a precursor to the trench warfare later played out at disparate locations such as Sebastopol (1854-55),Cold Harbour (1864) and the Marne (1914). Later he fought at the lesser known but equally significant battle of Wavre where the Prussian Army blocked French reinforcements from joining Napoleon at Waterloo (1815).

On War, which was published after his death in 1832 is both a theoretical treatise on warfare and rational summary of Clausewitz’s experience of combat. Typically, as in the case of all great thinkers, later academics both military and non-military have misinterpreted or misunderstood Clausewitz in order to justify their various ideological agendas. His most famous aphorism that “war is a continuation of politics through other means” has been removed from its context and used to justify massive public spending on armaments.

Yet one of the most significant and relevant passages from On War is probably the least famous [italics are mine].

Wars must vary with the nature of their motives and of the situation which gives rise to them. The first, the supreme, the most far reaching act of judgement that the statesman and the commander have to make is to establish by that test the kind of war on which they are embarking; neither mistaking it for, nor trying to turn it into, something alien to its nature. This is the first of all strategic questions and the most comprehensive.

Here Clausewitz is talking about the reality of motivation for war rather than the ideological convictions behind those motivations and how that reality should shape the tactics for the successful completion of a war. A further extrapolation being that the resolution of any conflict is dependent on what is real not what its actors desire it to be.

Yet since the end of World War II both the public and western militaries have dwelt in a bubble of non-reality. Since the conclusion of World War II one thousand soldiers and five thousand civilians have been killed per day in regional wars across the world. This is approximately the same number of deaths per diem as during World War II.

There is a public disconnection between the perception of this ongoing death and destruction and the reality of why it is occurring. Part of the blame for this lies with the unofficial covert status of modern warfare as practiced by Western powers. At the time of writing, French troops are embroiled in Mali while American military advisers in Kenya are assisting Kenyan troops in an ongoing fight with Al-Shabbab in Somaliland.

At the same time, troops from Niger, Chad, Cameroon and Nigeria with the backing of the American CIA and Britain are pursuing a war with Boko Haram in Nigeria and surrounding states.

In the Middle East, both Saudi Arabia and the United States are locked in a dirty war in Yemen while to the north, Palestinian opposition to US-supported Israeli occupation continues its violent cycle, a conflict that has since 1948 spilled over into Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt and Syria.

The Syrian Civil War that erupted in 2011 has drawn outside forces into that conflict. There are parallels with the Syrian Civil War and the Spanish Civil War of 1936-1939 in that outside powers are working to influence the outcome of that conflict. In Syria, Russian, American and Turkish forces and their proxies are vying for control of an area crucial to oil exports and regional trade.

In each of these cases, the root causes of each conflict are environmental and nationalist. Each of the countries listed has suffered from climate change, most notably Syria where a series of failed harvests and the failure of the Assad regime to address food shortages ignited the popular revolt that triggered the recent Civil War.

The nationalist aspects of each conflict are visible in the manifestos of the groups involved. The organisations have different names – ISIS, Boko Haram, Al-Quaeda, Al-Shabbab- and while their Islamist principles have been made evident through their many pronouncements on social issues, these groups are at the core, nationalist movements. Just as communism served as a legitimising ideology for nationalist movements in China and Vietnam, and Korea in post-World War II era, Islamism is being used by nationalist groups in Africa and the Middle East to create a sense of philosophical legitimacy.

None of this is to condone the methods employed by ISIS and other groups. It is merely an effort to provide an accurate portrait of these groups that is untainted by the jingoistic descriptions emanating from the Western powers.

Moreover, when the situation is looked at without an ideological lens, what is apparent is that all of the above conflicts are connected. In each case, Western powers and their proxies are fighting to maintain control over regions containing strategic resources.

Leaving aside the dubious ethical reason for the fighting, the ideological convictions at play on all sides are rooted in fantasy. The United States claims to be fighting a war against “terrorism” and against Islamist forces that want to control the world. The reality is that the groups they are fighting are local nationalist movements with an Islamist philosophy. The reality of geopolitics is that even if a group like Al-Shabbab came to power in its locale, it would be limited by both physical geography and ethnic geography. The latter is of crucial importance.

Consider Afghanistan and Vietnam. Even at the height of its power, the Afghan Taliban only controlled eighty percent of the Afghan landmass. They were limited by topography and the ethnic divisions that coalesced around the Northern Alliance, including the Tajiks and the Pamiris.

Similarly, the Domino Theory behind French and US intervention in Vietnam did not stand up to reality when in 1979 the Vietnamese defeated the invading Chinese forces during the Third Indochina War. American assumptions that China would absorb Vietnam ignored the centuries of ethnic rivalries between the two powers that predated Western colonialism.

Regardless of the reader’s stance on the so-call War on Terror, any sensible resolution to the above conflicts can only occur when reality is acknowledged and accepted over ideological agendas. To do otherwise is to deny Clausewitz’s correct assertion that statesmen and commanders neither mistake this war for, nor try to turn it into, something alien to its nature.

Failure to acknowledge that reality will result in the geopolitical, military, economic and political defeat of the West.

There are many reasons why militaries (and the societies that produce them) fail to come to terms with reality and all of these are rooted in ideology. In the case of the United States there exists at a tactical level, an obsession with military technology and equipment. Yet as defeat in Vietnam attested, technology alone does not ensure victory.

Second, there exists a moral dimension to America’s failure to grasp military realities; that being the contradiction of spreading democracy and free markets by armed force. Like the Athenians of the Classical Era, there is a dishonesty at the core of American foreign policy that denies the brutality and larceny that occurs when its military is unleashed against a foreign population.

Third and of primary importance is a religious ideology at entirely at odds with reality. US support for Israel, while ostensibly serving as a pillar of regional control is rooted in a fundamentalist Christian belief that the Final Conflict between the Messiah and the Anti-Christ will occur in Israel. That this belief (best described by the term dispensationalism) is not derived from the Gospel but from the Book of Revelations, – which in itself is derived from the pre-Christian Book of Daniel – and has no basis in physical reality is beside the point. The fact is believers in such abstract nonsense have influenced Western policy towards the Middle East for the last two hundred years. Most notably in the twentieth century was Prime Minister Lloyd George and his colleague Lord Balfour from whose foreign policy helped create the modern state of Israel. Former Prime Minister Tony Blair subscribed to dispensationalism and those beliefs influenced his determination to draw Britain into Gulf War II.

In the United States, dispensationalists have included former Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W Bush. Donald Trump’s current energy secretary, former Texas Governor Rick Perry is a member of the Dominionist Church, a militant Christian grouping that seeks to set-up a Christian nation governed by biblical law. A planned consequence of this would be the criminalization of homosexuality, adultery and public blasphemy to name but a few “biblical crimes”, all of which would carry a death sentence.

That such beliefs are predicated on abstract nonsense does not diminish the fact that these beliefs have profoundly influenced American foreign and domestic policy since the end of World War II. In turn, these beliefs have hindered effective foreign and domestic policy during the same time period. The hardline Anti-Soviet stance adopted by the Christian Right helped precipitate the Cold War.

The dispensationalist support for “regime change” in the Middle East has cost the lives of millions of people and bankrupted the US treasury. These beliefs have had a deleterious effect on the effectiveness of the US military in foreign operations. The US military operates under the illusion that it is a crusading force for good, rather than an occupying army. The inability of US forces to handle the occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan was evident in its conduct towards civilians, its many war-crimes (Abu Ghraib being the most notorious) and the contrasting success of British forces operating in Basra.

Before these issues can be addressed, there first needs to be a widespread acknowledgement of reality among the citizenry. A capable president with the backing of popular support could do much to deal with these problems. Doing so would not be easy and it would require a great deal of personal courage. However, these issues are not insurmountable. Precedent can be found with former Soviet President Mikhail Gorbachev. Faced with opposition to the policy of Glasnost and Détente with the US in the 1980’s Gorbachev was able to outmaneuver his critics and his own generals. After Mathias Rust flew his plane over Red Square, Gorbachev used the incident to marginalise the army generals who opposed his reform policies. The result for the world was the aversion of nuclear conflict with the US and the end of the Cold War.

War is as Plato noted, a reality “that exists as if by nature between every city-state.” However a constant state of war as exists in the Western World today undermines the foundations of civilisation. Wars, then while an occasional and unpleasant necessity should therefore be ended as quickly as possible. Instead, the dominant ideologies behind modern Western militarism persist in perpetuating unlimited, endless warfare. These forces must be stopped and controlled through democratic means otherwise they will continue to undermine the moral and economic well-being of society.

Carl von Clausewitz

Doing so will not be easy. The journalist Chris Hedges compared war to an addictive drug and like addicts western militarists are unable to perceive the damage they are doing to society. There is no easy solution to that addiction but the first step is the acceptance of reality. That requires an informed citizenry rejecting the nonsensical views of ideologues like Karl Rove who once said of the Republican Party “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality.”

Regardless of the cognitive dissonance of Rove and others, the most important lesson of war was best stated by Sun-Tzu: There is no instance of a nation benefiting from prolonged warfare.

The Real Death Panels and Their Toll

Recently, Robert Reich noted, “the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office concludes that Republican plans to partially repeal the Affordable Care Act will immediately cause 18 million Americans to lose their health insurance. A decade from now, 32 million fewer Americans will be insured.“ Reich went on to say that the report does not provide any specific numbers on the actual death toll created by that loss of coverage.But, there has been research over the past few decades on just that. Wilper et al. revisited research from 1993 and found that

Among all participants, 3.1% (95% confidence interval [CI]=2.5%, 3.7%) died. The hazard ratio for mortality among the uninsured compared with the insured, with adjustment for age and gender only, was 1.80 (95% CI=1.44, 2.26). After additional adjustment for race/ethnicity, income, education, self- and physician-rated health status, body mass index, leisure exercise, smoking, and regular alcohol use, the uninsured were more likely to die (hazard ratio=1.40; 95% CI=1.06, 1.84) than those with insurance.

That means that between the CBO conclusions and research conducted on the impact of being uninsured on mortality (which indicates that 1.4 times more people will die than the typical 3% in a population controlled for other matters), killing the Affordable Care Act is also going to kill at least 300,000 people, and that toll will likely rise to 600,000.

Where are those deaths going to fall? I am guessing they will fall most heavily on the poor, uneducated, and ill-prepared supporters of the GOP and Trump.

Want to talk about death panels? It is now very clear that the only death panels we have in the United States is the GOP majority in the US House of Representatives and US Senate. Fasten your seat belts; we are in for a very bumpy ride…


Notes

United States Congressional Budget Office. “How Repealing Portions of the Affordable Care Act Would Affect Health Insurance Coverage and Premiums.” Congressional Budget Office. Last modified January 17, 2017. Accessed January 19, 2017. https://www.cbo.gov/publication/52371.

Wilper, Andrew P., Steffie Woolhandler, Karen E. Lasser, Danny McCormick, David H. Bor, and David U. Himmelstein. “Health Insurance and Mortality in US Adults.” American Journal of Public Health 99, no. 12 (December 2009): 2289–2295. Accessed January 18, 2017. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2775760/.

Altai High

Recently, having had my full of the chest beating about “Native Americans” I let fly:

Some Europeans arrived before some “Native Americans” both as a matter of migration and simple birth, while the concept that a group of murdering primitives migrating over a period of 20000 years as “original inhabitants” is less useful than noting that most Native Americans are more closely related to Altaisians than to each other.

This resulted in some minor outrage and some bright person shot back, “For me, [the] statement makes no difference because all migration started from Africa. [There] would be no Europeans without that migration.” And that was, in fact, largely my point.

We seem to be infected with some romantic notion of “First Peoples”. The fact is that Homo sapiens is a murderous little beastie who regularly acts out behavior his cousins (thre Great Apes) manage to suppress, probably because his innerchimp is at war with a yet to mature forebrain. As a result, the denizens of the Altai migrated, killing everything in their path, East and then South, eventually rising to the notion of empire (as Homo sapiens has a penchant to do) where he ritually murdered innocents by ripping their hearts out – charming folk – while on the vast expanses of other portions of the Americas he engaged in tribal atrocities with predatory bands wiping out agrarian settlements, much as he does everywhere.

The fact is that trying to argue an artifact (a “people”) from 20,000 years of migration East from the foothills of the Altai makes as little sense as suggesting that the “Palestinians” are a “people” (oooooo – did I hit another liberal reflex – see, Doumani, Beshara B. “Rediscovering Ottoman Palestine: Writing Palestinians into History.” Journal of Palestine Studies 21, no. 2 (January 1, 1992): 5–28. Accessed March 15, 2015. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2537216.)

To go a step further, my children, by way of example, must use a small “n” because they do evidence the Altaissian DNA, while others, some who have never set foot in Alaska, are Cap N Natives because they do have that DNA.  This reminds me of the confusion suffered by “white people from Africa on naturalization in the US, having to be told that they can no longer be Afro-Americans….  In sum, while we scream to the heavens that we detest racism, we continue to invest in racist devices.  Initially I thought that prescriptions such as those of Cornell West could be solutions, but whether for lack of trying, cultural hunger, or other reason, we are stuck, and I for one do not see things getting better.

Yes, my family left Belarus because of ethnic cleansing, and the half of the family that did not leave was wiped out 4 decades later because of their genes. While I don’t make anything of that, some muckraker might try to argue I have a chip on my shoulder; argue away.  In part, the neoliberalism of the left was founded on the notion that, heartstrings aside, change would have to be based on hard economic changes.  Unfortunately, the neolibs went in the wrong direction, simply asking different magnates to play nicer than the industrialists of the past. You know how that played out. But the impetus for that response is still there, and we continue to address it (at least some of us) through inane prestidigitation intended apparently more to make us feel good about ourselves, than resolve the underlying problems.

In a recent staff wide meeting for ASD teacher, teachers were advised that they need to be more Native in approaching Native students, one example being the use of shaming as a disciplinary tool…  Yes, you heard me correctly.  While the biggest problem facing Native Alaskans in education is a non-verbal culture in which critical language development is all but absent, teachers are being asked to shame students who don’t perform, because this is how elders do it in the village. Enough!

If you read this as a racist rant, that is your prerogative, but you have missed the point entirely. The message here, as Mr. Brown so elegantly puts it, is to get up offa that thing, but for those of you who can’t manage that…. cleveland_indians_logo-svg

Election Reflection

The pain is not so much from the horrible mess that Trump could produce, but the recognition that so much of this country is so fearful, greedy, and hateful… But some observations and some reflection on the terrors that await are in order, so here are my thoughts, disordered by events as they may be.

You can blame the DNC all you want, but the fact is that even without the superdelegates, Bernie did not win the primary, and in states where they voted (as opposed to caucused) he rarely polled as well, so while we may have some problems with “elites”, we have bigger problems with couch potatoes.

While the number of votes cast for GOP Presidential candidates has remained relatively stable over the last 3 cycles, the number of people casting ballots for Dem candidates has plummeted. This suggests that Trump was not elected by the people voting for him so much as he was elected by the people who refused to vote.

HRC’s electoral “failure” was razor slim and she won the popular vote. This suggests that it is the “hopeandchangey” crowd whose nonfeasance resulted in a Trump election, and we have to ask, “What did this crowd actually want?” Would Bernie magic have brought those voters to the polls, and if so, why didn’t it bring them to the polls during the primaries.

While, as Frank argues, more could have been done by the Obama Administration, we have to face the fact that people do not come out and vote for redistribution… We are in the grip of a virulent strain of possessive narcissism where everyone seems to think they simply don’t have enough. Scaif and Kochs have been buying up our academic and political institutions for half a century now, and it shows.

While I can’t disagree that the DNC was Democrats’ worst enemy, with respect to Dem voters I think you need to recognize that Dem success has often been based on smoke and mirrors. There is no way Obama could have possibly done what the surge of hopeandchangey voters expected of him, and the rancor, fed by 8 years of Rovian vitriol, was a player in this election that no one wants to acknowledge. Frankly, I am tired to death of hearing people making $150,000 whining about how they are suffering, so my question remains the same…. What specific policies could a Democrat in good conscience represent were achievable such that s/he would garner 70,000,000 votes?

As much as I pushed for Bernie, his campaign did not garner the majority of Dems. I think this is in no small part because the Dems who do vote are largely DLC neo-libs, whether they want to admit it or not. Even if Obama had tried harder, the incremental policy results would not have satisfied the hopeandchange crowd. Obama had a 58% turnout in 2008. He garnered almost 70,000,000 votes and won by a 7% margin! Turnout dropped 3.5% in 2012 as did the margin. And this election I believe turnout dropped another 3.5% and that same bit of Dem margin slipped away. While the RSLC has been successful in gerrymandering most of the country (which is in itself evidence of Democrats asleep at the wheel)  just look at the Congress! For crying out loud, look at Alaska’s federal Senators and Representative! Can you spell “obstruction?”

I have to argue that this election has shown we have issues with delayed gratification more than the narrative of Trumpers that the media has been blaring. In a polarized country nothing is going to happen overnight, and I see the rather inane behavior of Dem Berniecrats over Stock as symptomatic of the problems endemic to our political system… change requires political work, and I think it is difficult to get consensus about a progressive agenda, and difficult to keep people committed to working towards such an agenda. I am not trying to mimimize the horror that 60,000,000 proud morons presents – I am just trying to note that it is within the power of the electorate to put those people back in their box, and we apparently want them running amok for a bit.

I don’t follow the narrative being peddled about the Dems not connecting with the country. The rank and file are delusional. They have been fed a hateful gruel for almost a decade in preparation for this moment, and have been roused by someone I can only call Il Gialo, ilducea jaundiced ape of Mussolini. This election was NOT about more Republicans coming out to vote for Il Gialo; it was about millions of Democrats who felt they would not be bothered to vote. This is not about Trumpers, it’s about shallow, useless, patina ‘liberals’ whose commitment to the republic is epidermal. It was about people who wanted to be molly-coddled and promised, and snuggled. And now they are going to howl for years because the big bad hairy Cheetoh got elected by the moronic brutes… It was the Dems who did not vote that elected Trump (Dems had half the showing they had 8 years ago) and while I am deeply offended by the crass ignorance and cruelty of the Trumpers, the narrative has been that Derms “know better”, and we expect those that know better to do better, it is “liberal” mantra, and Dems took a pass and the maroons screamed, “OLE!”

I think one of then points Frank makes is that while the sector driving politics may have changed, the fact that industry is driving politics has not changed in almost 100 years. What I think Kochs found most troubling about Trump is the caprice and the willingness to use the Administration to punish “enemies”.  Our legal system has opposed the arbitrary and capricious as a central tenet, but now we have the legally unwashed, the folk who would as soon as follow the Dick the Butcher’s suggestion and hang all the lawyers, putting Il Gialo in charge. Caprice will reign, and all those chanting “federal over reach” will be sobbing in their nasty corporate ersatz beer.

And I don’t mean this as a part of some blame game, but as a tool for looking at candidates for 2020. The point is that a vibrant candidate who moves the left will win, despite all the nasty trash that the right can muster. I had hoped for a seasoned executive, such as Jerry Brown, but we have to look at a Senate leader like Elizabeth Warren, who has the chops, the gumption, and the cred. But,  the double entendre of our times is still, to my mind, “What is left?” Sorry, but I don’t see progressivism as part and parcel of neonicotinoid hysteria, GMO mania, or circuses on the Cannonball…  Bernie tried to define left, and there are many who will continue to argue that the wave of optimism he generated in so doing was (or would have been) the equivalent of the hopeandchange army.  We will never know because the neolibs (no, I am not talking about DWS, but about the millions, so comfortable in their homes, that allowed the DLC to become the DNC) took the wind out of his sails. What we do know, is faced with horrific prospects, almost 8% of our registered voters decided it was better that they stay home then vote against Trump.

Yes, I suppose the shambles that are left may well produce another surge against the right in 2020. But such a surge will require both ideals AND discipline, and I honestly think we are hopelessly short there, though I will continue to paddle upstream…


Wikipedia has some nicely done data on voting:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Democratic_Party_presidential_primaries,_2016

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_United_States_presidential_elections_by_popular_vote_margin

Paul Jenkins and the Brave New World

Paul Jenkins has now come forth and apparently unfurled the fact that he suffers from BobLynnefaction, an edema of the forebrain that inhibits rational thought. In his most recent malefactory diatribe he argues against Ballot Measure 1 (though he is apparently so ill he could not manage to offer a name or a pointer to the text of the proposition ).

Horrors of horrors, he argues, voter registration is a ploy of the Godless Left to undermine the Republic! For shame, he cries, that Alaskans won;t get off their lazy asses and register themselves!

Of course, Jenkins, despite his illness (this brings to mind the millions of monkeys typing out Shakespeare eventually) is correct (at least in part, and frankly we can’t expect much more than that from poor Paul, I mean look who he is named after…. the nuttiest fruitcake in the last two millennia). No, not that Alaska should seek to intentionally disenfranchise ANY voter, but that Alaska voters SHOULD BE expected to rise to their civic obligations.

Jenkins demurs on the ideal of civic obligation, arguing, like all well-behaved anti-statists (whatever those are) against their beloved Saint Locke (only second to Saint Reagan) that no one should be obliged to perform any civic duty. In doing so he essentially eviscerates the entire classical liberal scheme underlying his pseudo-philosophy, but that is a painful topic for another day. What is pertinent today is that as Locke suggests, one’s decision to become a member of a polity must trigger a set of reciprocal obligations among those so electing. In other words, under classical liberalism, if you chose to me a member of the polity, who are expected to pull your weight as far as civil obligations, including military service, providing subsistence for the poor, etc.

Bob Lynn the unethical legislative ideologue who has repeatedly sponsored Alaska Voter ID bills (HB 57 being the most recent version), and after whom Jenkins’ malady is named, was so badly taken with the condition that he suffered some blindness and paralysis.  Your charming correspondent pointed out to Rep. Lynn that he has a really really good idea that should in fact be taken up by the federal government (more on that below), because, after all, we don;t want any second class citizens in Alaska and we DO want all Alaskans to be able to easily obtain a picture ID. The onty thing missing in Bob’s plan was the establishment in every village in Alaska a full time DMV office fully capable of issuing picture IDs.  This was important because the likes of Rep. Lynn, in their wisdom, had to date made it lawful to drive without a license in rural Alaska because they were too cheap to provide access to essential State services.

Aha!  But no more.  Now, with one brilliant stroke Alaska could not only make sure there was a continuing dearth of Alaska voter fraud (yes, of course Jenkins supports Alaska VoterID proposals though there is no evidence of voter fraud in Alaska) but screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-10-47-44-amcould do away with the second class citizen status to which those in the bush have been relegated. And we could actually get a handle of how many people we had in the state. WOW!  Of course Lynn, asked if he had just overlooked this, did not respond. After a number of attempts to elicit a reply he was asked if he had intentionally meant to deny rural people access to essential State services, and at that point he “unfriended” me.  Imagine that, to get unfriended on FACEBOOK by a legislator because you are trying to clearly understand just what the fellow is trying to accomplish with his proposed legislation?!

Of course, there is more to this conversation, such as the fact that Lynn et al ganged up to pass a legislative prohibition on the State of Alaska spending any money whatsoever on ensuring that a new Alaska ID would comply with the Federal REAL ID standards (which would allow Alaskans to use their State ID to get on military bases (a significant activity in Anchorage for example, as JBER – Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson – covers much of what is Anchorage) and get into airline terminals! Governor Walker (the Unity Governor) seeks to resolve this impasse by passing a bill that allows the State to issue TWO different photo IDs, which would in fact cost more than just doing RealID compliance, but here is the kicker: the AKGOP argues that RealID compliance would infringe on the individuals right not to be identified because the RealID Act requires that the ID data be built such as it could be accessed to enable law enforcement usage. Yes folk, the law and order, anti-terrorist, PictureID crowd wants to ensure that we have people in this State who are unidentified.  Makes me feel all warm and fuzzy, eh?

What ties this all up for me is that ancillary observation that all these VoterID supporters also tend to be persons who want to be able to read  and interpret the U. S. Constitution as a seven year old. Well, OK!

Representatives and direct taxes shall be apportioned among the several states which may be included within this union, according to their respective numbers, which shall be determined by adding to the whole number of free persons, including those bound to service for a term of years, and excluding Indians not taxed, three fifths of all other Persons. The actual Enumeration shall be made within three years after the first meeting of the Congress of the United States, and within every subsequent term of ten years, in such manner as they shall by law direct. The number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty thousand, but each state shall have at least one Representative; and until such enumeration shall be made, the state of New Hampshire shall be entitled to chuse three, Massachusetts eight, Rhode Island and Providence Plantations one, Connecticut five, New York six, New Jersey four, Pennsylvania eight, Delaware one, Maryland six, Virginia ten, North Carolina five, South Carolina five, and Georgia three. Article I, Section 2, U.S. Constitution.

We can, therefore, resolve ALL our census issues by enabling a State by State program that requires all individuals in that State to be counted by way of identification. screen-shot-2016-10-16-at-11-15-49-amState ID cum VoterID cum federal entrance document cum key to social security number look-up, etc. etc. It would be like being able to get a driver’s endorsement on a passport that would be more convenient to carry, while ensuring that the census was accurate, that we knew where all aliens were living, and our gerrymandering at least accurate.  Let’s all say it together, boys and girls, “LIONS, AND TIGERS, AND BEEAAARRRRRSSSSS!!!!”

DAPLgangers

No, I am not going to talk about the brutish BigOil oligarchs today. Today I want to talk about the other bullies, the protesters.  Now, don’t get me wrong; I would rather not have streets covered in Petrochemical detritus, a State beholden to BigOil, or pipelines threatening the health and safety of one and all. But I don’t rule the world.  Neither does my pet delusion, The Flying Spaghetti Monster, nor his prophet, The Great Noodle (pbuh), make or enforce the rules in the United States. That means, believe it or not, that based on our demographic, we are ruled by the stupid. Huzzah!

Of course, there all types and varieties of stupid.  You have your garden variety ignorant, and then you have your rampant dumb and proud, and all manner of clueless, right and left, betwixt and between. A regular megaplex of morons. But that is, as it were, the nature of the beast, and surely Hobbes saw as clearly as anyone what Homo sapiens’ natural state portends. On occasion the Historian observes that the stupid rise, bellow like unmilked cows, and then usually return to shitting on each other. My argument today, is that the Great Chest Beating of 2016 is one such event, as I shall try to demonstrate below.

What we saw is that a company interested in moving sweet crude across country (you know, the stuff you have to have in order to drive that Dodge Tough Truck around the block)  spent millions of dollars (almost $4B to build it) on a permitting process that involved each State that the proposed pipeline was to pass through, and several agencies of the federal government. In North Dakota, the permit process was completed almost nine months ago, and the Army Corps of Engineers agreed to issue permits for the pipeline to pass underneath the Missouri River near Cannonball North Dakota in August 2016, over a month ago.

The path of the pipeline on its approach to the Missouri “crossing” was on private land through licensing by the private land owners in question.  This land had never been owned by any local tribe. The land had never been the subject in fact of any inquiry by any tribe, nor the subject of any filings before the  ND Public Service Commission by any tribe.

The surface water in and around the Missouri is unfit for consumption because of its coliform load. All other water in the region is subject to appropriation (i. e. is “property” in a sense) as is the case on the local Reservation (which has never had its water regulations approved, but they have been recognized as being in effect in no small part because they are consistent with water regulation and control throughout the Southwest).

In late August, members of the Standing Rock Reservation began trespassing on private property for the purpose of (illegally) obstructing the construction of the pipeline. This eventually became a media circus with hundreds of screaming individuals crossing fences and interfering with heavy machinery. The pipeline company’s security personnel became embroiled in altercations with the protesters, of course, and a lawsuit was filed seeking injunctive relief.

In the aftermath of this media drama, there has been a great deal of chest beating about how the Indian Nation stood up to protect Earth and their sacred sites. Unfortunately the facts, as is so often the case, tell a bit of a different story.

The records of James MacKay indicate that in the late 1700s the land in question was still occupied by Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara. The Dakota were woodland people of the Great Lakes who left the Great Lakes because of pressure from the Ojibwa and Cree, who had been armed by the French.  So, the Dakota arrived along the Missouri in what is now North Dakota after the white devil was already there, and went about “displacing” the existing Native occupants (as in, killing them off). This was hurried along by the 1837 Small Pox epidemic. The US tried to promote inter-tribal peace in the region through the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851 , but the process was problematic and the results spotty and unsuccessful (the Lakota, for instance, were reported to have violated the treaty no sooner had it been agreed upon).

The Native Interlopers, as it were, the Lakota, eventually also entered in to a treaty, the 1868 Fort Laramie Treaty.  This treaty did not cover any lands in North Dakota.  In fact, the portion of the Standing Rock Reservation in North Dakota (across which the pipeline does not run) was added by executive order in 1875 after the treaty in order to further protect the residents of the reservation by making the agency more functional (there was a deep water landing at the mouth of the Cannonball).

There have been numerous surveys of the area, and in a 58 page decision (link below) the US District Court made it clear that the Army Corps had done everything it was required to do.  The federal Administration, however, while deferring to the Court’s opinion, decided to temporarily hold off on the permits issued pending further study. screen-shot-2016-09-14-at-12-56-16-pm

The result is that people with no property interest in the subject land, who don’t consume surface water, who had never, during the State pipeline process, ever filed any documents evidencing any concern until after the final permit was issued, who were afforded every legal protection during the Corps permitting process,who arguably were themselves murdering interlopers who first appeared in the area of Cannonball circa 1875 and whose presence outside the reservation at the time would have been “problematic”, suddenly see the area North of the reservation as sacred though no evidence of use has been found by anyone but the tribal archeologist in the last couple of weeks, and then trespass en masse in order to secure the “purity” of water too foul to drink and the sanctity of sites that arguably don’t exist. Yup, I want to jump on that bandwagon right now! The fact that these people have decided to heat their homes by burning wood, instead of using propane,  well that’s just icing on the cake.

Yes, that was all a bit harsh.  But I wanted to demonstrate how darkly this could be seen, and that an accurate appreciation for what is going on is likely somewhere short of the rhetoric issued by the Council’s counsel.


Order denying Standing Rock Council the relief requested

Joint Statement from the Department of Justice, the Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior Regarding Standing Rock Sioux Tribe v. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

Fort Laramie Treaty of 1851

Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868

Almost Blind Justice

One of the interesting divides across the Canadian-US border is the concept prevalent south of the border that laws making certain behavior criminal a) are only for criminals, and since the putative offender is certainly NOT a criminal, the law could not possibly apply, and b) are in any event merely advisory.blind-justice-peeking
 
So, in the US we have people bringing their infants along to break the law, and then getting all teary eyed because the crime scene doesn’t have daycare. After all, there is no crime if I am righteous, is there, and I am the ultimate arbiter of whether I am being righteous! Huzzah!
 
Usually we have cause to evoke the image of blind justice because it reminds us that justice should be equal, but in this case we are specifically seeking “unequal” justice”. We still want the person who is trespassing on our property to be prosecuted, but we don;t want to be prosecuted if we are trespassing on someone else’s property because we feel that our neighbor is doing something that is legal, but, well, unpalatable to us.
And yes, this issue with our vision seems to effect us no matter our political persuasions. I think it even more infuriating when seen on the left; don’t we assume that those on the left are more intelligent and self-aware? Of course, some argue that this is only a matter of the increase in self-involvement in that we are so consumed with looking for ourselves, we fail to see almost anything clearly.  Is it Narcissus who holds up the scales now instead of Themis?
The popular media of late seems consumed with stories of swollen (or shrunken) body parts, but I don’t see that as being in the least helpful.  We seemed to have celebrated the death of the great chest beater, the gorilla (who was not doing any chest beating and presented no real threat), while we look the other way when we are confronted with the banal braggadocio of our own species. And while we may all equate that last bit with Trumpism, is that really so far a throw from invading someone else’s land to unlawfully block their legal behavior and then congratulating ourselves on our coup?
We talk a good deal about walking in another’s shoes, but do not seem to have the same appreciation for seeing with another’s eyes.  Must be a foot fetish….