This is What’s Wrong About Us

Let me start by reasserting that there’s a whole lot that’s right about us. The US and its people have done many great things in our short history. But there are also many things wrong with the way some of us behave, and that’s not the only thing wrong about us.

We cripple ourselves with bad attitude. At base it’s an intolerance that has several elements. One is machismo, which is defined as “strong or aggressive masculine pride”. Now, pride is a positive trait, but when it’s combined with arrogance, anger, intolerance, and ignorance, as it often is, it’s nasty. When we toss in a supersize helping of gun worship and false beliefs not much good comes of the mix.

We worship machismo,
violence, and intolerance.

By definition, machismo is a male characteristic. It’s associated with being the manly protector and provider, which are prime characteristics of the Republican mindset that George Lakoff writes about. The husband is it, the central element of the family around which the inferior woman and the children orbit. His word is law, just like God intended it.

Here’s one such, who showed up in his play-soldier suit with multiple weapons (apparently essential fashion accessories in Georgia) either to “protect” Medea Benjamin’s Code Pink women, or provide comic relief for them. Such soldier boys go out to the woods on weekends to pretend war and be macho, something that most of us outgrew by age twelve.

Bozo with guns

There are two terrible things wrong with this idea of the macho family protector and provider. The first is that any threat to the man’s authority and responsibility assumes disproportionate importance. So the market disaster of 2008 devastated men who believed this ethic, because many were suddenly not able to be the sole provider, or even a provider at all. Their authority was lost, and so were they. You can see why men who buy this ethic refuse to help with dinner, housecleaning, or the kids if the woman is the only one working. It’s crushing to their ego to be reduced to a mere woman. Their reactions include alcoholism, depression, domestic violence, divorce, and suicide.

You can also see why such men dislike even the thought of “feminism”. No woman should have expertise or authority, or be smarter, because that’s the man’s role. There is no room for error when your ego depends entirely on filling this role. This, of course, is the other thing wrong: female talents are undervalued and wasted.

Such men cannot tolerate
any threat to their dominance.

Who are our heroes? Well, besides the male-dominated “action” movies and TV shows that consist mostly of fistfights, guns, explosions, car crashes, and other violence, one hint is the annual countdown until football season comes around. Cable TV has found that the demand for the annual spectacle of coliseum battle between teams of armored giants is so great that they will offer coverage nearly 24/7.

From high school on up, football players are not known for their thoughtfulness, tolerance, sensitivity—or brains. There are regular reports of rape, violence, crimes, and shootings involving football players. Violence, after all, is their job.

Violence is the job of the military too, and we worship every instance in which men (mostly) were sent forth to kill other men. Remember when the memorial to the war in Vietnam was built? Veterans groups reacted with rage, because Maya Lin’s proposal did not include rearing horses or macho men in heroic poses. There was no attempt to make the horror of war into something glorious and macho. But many thousands visit it every year to grieve and pay respects, and almost no one visits the rearing horses.

No, machismo is not something we should cultivate. But we do.

Machismo is closely related to intolerance, which manifests itself as racial and cultural intolerance. Racism is bipartisan, but after a period of improvement it was rejuvenated by Ronald Reagan’s dog-whistle racism and fabricated welfare abusers and is now Republican-owned. The election of Obama brought the racists out of the woodwork like crazed roaches in a fire. Many came from places you expect, particularly the Old South and the cowboy West, but it is everywhere in greater or lesser degree.

We hurt ourselves with intolerance.

We make negative assumptions about people who don’t look like us, but almost none of these beliefs hold up under scrutiny. The worst of them, of course, is that black people are responsible for most poverty because they are druggies who have no interest in working and normal family life. This assumption does not weather inspection, and neither do the assumptions—or even the basic facts—about the brown immigrants who have been so important to our country for over 400 of our 238 years. (Yes, that’s correct.)

It’s so obvious that it seems silly to say it, but all of these are just people who want nothing more than to earn a decent living so they can live a pleasant life and provide the best for their children, just like the rest of us. But we don’t think so. If we did, we’d do everything in our power to ensure equality for everyone. Instead, the real welfare of most of us erodes, while the super rich accumulate ever more wealth. Instead, one political party works to increase inequality. Instead, our school systems, on which the future depends, are systematically underfunded in poor neighborhoods, thus ensuring ongoing poverty and all its many sequelae.

Democrats are losing
the intolerance race
by a landslide.

We have also constructed a criminal justice system that allowed the hugely devastating Wall Street criminals to go unpunished (the banks were fined, but no one is serving the long prison sentences they deserve) while millions of minority men are sentenced to decades in for-profit penal institutions for far lesser crimes. Read Alice Goffman’s On the Run to understand how the system works, or more accurately, doesn’t work.

Then there is the political intolerance. Democrats are certainly not immune to this trait, and the anonymous internet sure as hell hasn’t helped, but at the moment Democrats are losing the intolerance race by a landslide. We are daily deluged by the most gross stupidities, hatreds, and falsehoods from Republicans. All gays should be confined inside a fence. All black people should be in jail. Only Christians should be citizens. Science comes from the Devil. All Latinos should be run out of the country…

We will never achieve a perfect world, of course, but it would be rather nice if we could eliminate at least some of the ugliness and injustice at home by improving our personal attitude. This we don’t seem to be doing.

Latin Bank Bustout

A few years ago, virtually all the Latin American leaders decided they’d had quite enough of our neoconservative hogwash. Basically, they tossed us out and took over for themselves.

The Community of Latin American and Caribbean States is a regional bloc that was created on December 3, 2011, in Caracas, Venezuela. The organization consists of 33 sovereign countries in the Americas representing roughly 600 million people. Absent from the bloc are Canada and the United States, as well as the territories of France, the Netherlands, Denmark and the United Kingdom in the region. The bloc decided the neoconservatives had done enough damage.

Latin American leaders had enough
neoconservative hogwash.
They tossed us out.

Then the BRICS came to a similar conclusion.

The BRICS countries are Brazil, Russia, China, India, and South Africa. They had been under similar pressures, so they decided to form the Contingent Reserve Arrangement (CRA) and the New Development Bank (NDB). These new organizations are designed to bolster the economies of the BRICS countries. They are also designed to get away from the traps of the First World banks.

Now, why did they do these things, when they already have the all-benevolent International Monetary Fund, World Bank, and World Trade Organization to help them with all their economic needs?

Easy, really. They did it because this Unholy Trinity are organizations that function for the benefit of First World banks, corporations, and the governments of the US and Europe, and no one else.

The Unholy Trinity
are their enemies.

The standard neoconservative advice for a poor country with economic problems is to accept multi-billion-dollar loans, which are awarded on condition of restructuring the economy and banking systems. Restructuring always means that everyone but the rich will suffer and become poorer for decades. Naturally, the loaners benefit greatly. The recipient country is saddled with huge loan payments over many years that become increasingly hard to meet.

Since the work force and tax revenue are reduced by the banks’ austerity recommendations, recipient countries quickly become trapped in a declining spiral from which the only escape is to default unless the loans are forgiven. So some did the only reasonable thing. They defaulted, and immediately after their fortunes began to slowly improve.

They escaped by forming
their own institutions,
free from the clutches
of neoconservatives.

But the big banks are not the only culprits. The news recently showed Argentina trying to escape the clutches of the “vulture funds”, namely a group of New York hedge funds whose purpose is to extract as much unearned wealth from the Argentine economy as possible to make their rich investors richer, which of course would have a dreadful effect on the Argentine poor. Argentina defaulted for the second time, which will be difficult in banker’s terms, but will save the people a lot of grief.

That’s why Latin America dumped the IMF and World Bank and formed their own. The IMF and World Bank are their enemies, along with every hedge fund that bets on a government failure, and all the blustering of IMF and World Bank executives with their self-serving advice no longer impresses them.

Wingnuts, Freedom, and Democracy

Wingnuts understand neither freedom nor democracy.

Picture some guy carrying a deadly assault rifle, a machine gun capable of killing fifty people at any moment. He thinks it is his natural “freedom” to bring this very dangerous weapon, fully loaded, into a crowded public place. He hasn’t a clue that the hundreds of people around him might just want to be free of his very real threat of death, that he himself violates one of the most important human rights, to be free of the threat of violence.

They are haters and blamers. On Stormfront, the neo-Nazi hate site, the favorite group to hate is Jews, but all the usual suspects follow: blacks, gays, etc. They love Adolph Hitler because they think he had the right answer—kill all the Jews—after which everything would be just fine. It never occurs to any of them to question whether Jews are actually responsible for the ills of society, and of course that is exactly what Hitler counted on.

Weapons rights wingnuts
violate the fundamental right
to be free from the threat of violence.

Such people, virtually all of them believers in the importance of owning and carrying weapons capable of killing many others quickly, have a lot to say about their own “rights”, their own “freedom”, but have no clue that others who value freedom could see that much-ballyhooed “freedom” as a threat on their lives. Wingnut “freedom” is a freedom to do as they please regardless of how that affects others. How much distance is there between their “freedom” to carry machine guns and their “freedom” to open fire on a person, or a crowd, they imagine threatens them? Not much, if recent “stand your ground” murders of unarmed people are any indication.

“Democracy” is the other big thing they are clueless about, probably because “democracy” is irrelevant as long as they are perfectly free to do whatever they fancy at the moment. They feel no responsibility toward any person who does not share their hatreds. Likewise, they see laws as nothing more than illegally taking away their supposed freedom. The concept of protecting others’ freedom is foreign to them.

How much distance is there
between their “freedom”
to carry machine guns
and their “freedom” to open fire?

If they are clueless as to why they are less than wonderful persons, I am clueless to explain where their specific hatreds come from. I suppose it would be natural to dislike a people who had actually hurt you in some way—say, brutal slave owners if you were newly emancipated, or the bankers who cheated you out of your home more recently. But we should all be smart enough to understand that only the guilty are guilty, not their descendants or colleagues, and carrying weapons has no relationship to perceived wrong. And hating some group does not compensate for personal weakness.

There is, in fact, an explanation for the distrust sometimes found in a whole people. It comes from their own deep trust of their own, and distrust of people outside their own, and it has a long history. Insular African tribes, who placed great trust in their own, but in no one else, were more than willing to sell their neighbors from other tribes into slavery. They trusted each other without reserve, but no one else. They used their closed society to exclude and betray those not in their tribe, bringing relative wealth and freedom to themselves, and the reverse for others. Today, centuries after slave trading faded away, these same tribes are poor because of their narrow-minded attitude and lack of individualized freedom, and more open-minded tribes are more economically successful. The same is true for closed societies all over the world. They trust no one outside their circle, but within their circle nobody is really free. The society is authoritarian, and does not value individuals. Their exclusionary focus eventually makes everyone poor. North Korea is a prime example.

All such people would do better
to look within and discover
what tolerance is.

As for the wingnuts who feel they must be prepared to defend themselves against the rest of us with military weaponry, they are incapable of understanding that those outside their “tribe” are also humans, with all the characteristics of people everywhere, no matter what they look like. Consider the “patriots” who have taken to defending our southern border from brown low-wage workers, or brown children running from murder. They are also fooling themselves when they imagine they are prepared to defend the nation against its own government. A single tank or missile could kill them all, no matter how many assault weapons they haul around.

Nor is it enough for someone to be a fellow wingnut. The “patriots” who showed up at Clive Bundy’s ranch to defend his right to defraud the US government nearly came to gunfire among themselves. These people are immature fools, angry boys with loaded weapons. They would be better off to discover what tolerance means, and to cultivate their own talents.

Water We Gun Do Bowdit?

A quick glance at the areas of drought in late July 2014 from the NYT map below tells more than we want to hear about. See that dark red patch on the west coast? That’s California from San Francisco southward. The other red area takes in the entire Southwest up into Washington. We are in the midst of a severe water emergency. This has come about because the past three winters have not brought the deep snows we expected in the Sierras, the snows that provide almost all of the water for the entire state. The reservoirs are very low, and boat docks have long been sitting on dry land. Farmers have been drilling to record depths for irrigation water, and the land has sunk a yard because of it. We don’t know when ground water will be gone, but we do know it won’t be coming back.

Drought 2014-07-24

But that’s not the scary part. The scary part is the distinct possibility that the two-century wet period we got used to is an anomaly, and may well be over. It looks increasingly probable that we are reverting to the arid climate of the millennia before. Those who don’t believe it should take a look at The West Without Water, by Ingram and Malamud-Roam. They show us what science says, and what it says is what I just repeated.

OMG! We could be in deep doo-doo. There are many millions more people now, both here and in the whole US. The entire nation relies on the produce grown in California’s Central Valley, which is ground zero for drought. We are in deep doo-doo, and aren’t doing any more about it than we are doing about climate change. Both are things that are not merely possibilities for some distant future. Both are happening now, and are very dangerous.

We are reverting to an arid climate.

We can hardly claim that it’s “fortunate” that we in California have a better shot at fixing the water crisis than the climate crisis, but at least our state problem is on a somewhat smaller scale. And there are things we can do. Lots of them. Unfortunately, almost all are things that will help cities and people, but not the great food-growing enterprise.

But some people apparently think they are still back east. They simply don’t get it: We live in a desert, not a rainforest. Kentucky blue grass is an invasive weed. At the very least, every single person in the arid Southwest must understand that wasting water is a serious failure that will soon be treated as a punishable crime.

Kentucky blue grass is an invasive weed.

What to do about agricultural water, which is most of it, is a difficult problem with few good suggestions. But improving city use has several ready solutions. Below is one of the quickest to implement, and involves the bulk of city water use.

But first, a quick review of how water is purified.

All water must be purified before it is safe and pleasant to drink, even our beloved Hetch Hetchey water. Most water from lakes and rivers comes with stuff like wood, fish and fish crap, and plants in it, as well as various bacteria and other contaminants. So first it is filtered to take out the “big chunks”. Next it is is mixed with alum and chlorine and settled. The sticky alum blobs attract bacteria and other stuff which sink to the bottom and are removed. After that the water is filtered through several feet of gravel and sand, then disinfected with chlorine and other chemicals. Some chlorine is left in the water to prevent buildup of bacteria before household use. If the water is good to begin with, only the latter steps are needed.

All water must be purified
before it is safe and pleasant to drink.

When the water is used it becomes contaminated by all sorts of waste matter and chemicals, and is returned to a waste water treatment plant. There it is treated much the same way “new” water is treated. It is not purified as thoroughly as fresh water is, but unless the treatment plant is an antique, the water is treated enough that it can be safely discharged into the ocean or river without undue risk of disease-causing contamination.

But here’s the thing: This relatively safe discharge water needs only to be treated much as “new” water is treated to become perfectly safe and pleasant for drinking and other household uses again. If it is, the need for “new” water is sharply reduced, thus saving us from the all but certain dangerous shortages that we will soon experience.

At least one large commercial building
recycles and purifies all of its water
right in the lobby of the building.

Although pure water is pure water, and safe and pleasant to drink, many people can’t quite believe that water once befouled with fecal matter and chemicals could be completely recovered. But it’s quite true. Remember, reservoir water comes complete with fish, bird, and animal poop and worse. At least one large commercial building purifies and recycles all of its water right in the lobby of the building. It works.

Even so, it makes no sense to purify every drop of water at great expense when only the water for drinking and cooking needs to be that pure. Nor should it be necessary to use drinking water—which is only available in bottles in many parts of the world—to flush away waste. But that requires a radical reworking of infrastructure and major basic changes. Look here for one approach.

There are many things that could and should be done to address the water disaster now breathing down our necks. The trouble is, we think we can get by with small gestures until it’s all better again, and that ain’t gonna happen. As with climate change, we have used up all our procrastination time. If we don’t start paying some serious attention we will soon wish we had.

The Scourge of “Development” in the Third World

“Development” in almost any setting means that wealth decides what is to be developed and where, and imposes that plan on the people involved. This happens even where I live, in San Francisco.

But the greatest development evils happen in poor countries with authoritarian leaders, where large numbers of people are displaced, all control over their own lives is ended, and commonly some of them die in the process.

Wealth decides
what is to be developed and where,
and imposes that plan on the people.

Uganda, 2010: government soldiers forced a whole village of farmers off their fields at gunpoint, fields their families had farmed for centuries, and burned all their homes order to grow trees for lumber. Lumber!, on the advice of development “experts”. Two years later an almost identical scheme drove 1.5-million farmers of their land in Ethiopia. In India, the developers forced hundreds of thousands off their land to build a dam. They were promised new homes and great benefit from the new electricity generated. None of that happened. In Nigeria Big Oil moved in, stole the natural resources by paying off the corrupt government, poisoned the land, and people had to move away from their ancient homeland into the world’s worst slums.

These occurrences are endless, and it is always those without power and money who lose out—including their homes, their livelihood, their very lives. It is always the giant corporations, the corrupt autocrats, and the rich countries that benefit, never the people.

You can almost guarantee a bad outcome with the combination of autocracy and development experts. The money is always stolen one way or another, the development project is either never started or never finished, and the intended recipients never get an ounce of benefit.

Development experts always think in terms of grandiose projects for the entire country and believe only “experts” can decide what is best. Always the people who should have the most to say, and who are usually hurt by the projects, are never asked, and never asked to contribute their talents. The country never benefits as promised.

The wellbeing of the people

It is surprising how little importance wealth has. What poor people everywhere need and want sounds pretty much like what is prescribed by the UN list of basic rights: freedom from violence, adequate food, and so on. Basically, people don’t give a damn about “development” if they aren’t free, because giving money to an autocrat makes them neither free nor developed, and usually makes things worse.

Unless the freedom and wellbeing of the individual is an actuality on the ground, which is rare, the country will be run for the benefit of the rich and powerful, who gain their wealth by extracting it from the poor. They also are enriched by diverting the charitable assistance of rich nations, and by outright theft of the country’s resources. In every case, the rest of the nation is poor, and is virtually never helped by the government.

Giving what is not needed

The bigger the development agency, the less able it is to provide the people with what they actually need. Most such agencies are essentially authoritarian, and so are their client states. “Experts in development”, either within the agency, within the government, or within academe—but never within the recipient citizens themselves—determine what should be done to foster economic growth, when often “growth” or “development” is not what is needed.

The greatest needs in many places are clean water, sanitary waste disposal, adequate food, and protection from various diseases. But big agencies are simply unable to deal with anything that costs less than tens of millions of dollars. So they provide, say, a big dam, or transmitting towers. The real needs remain unmet, and no work or money reaches those who need it. Little agencies build, say, an orphanage—where no one asked for or needs an orphanage. Or a windmill that wasn’t asked for. Then they leave and do not return. Within a few years, absent maintenance and parts, each project collapses.

Most development agencies
are authoritarian.

A major effort is launched to provide families with mosquito netting to battle malaria, and the agency orders thousands of nets from big European manufacturers and gives them away free. The local factory that makes nets is never asked to make netting for the effort, and none of their products are purchased. Instead of enlarging their output they are forced to shutter their factory, and the country becomes poorer for it. Grain dumped by heavily subsidized American corporate farmers is imported by the ton to battle a famine, while regional farmers go broke because they no longer have a market for their grain, can’t beat subsidized prices, and are forced to move to dismal city slums. The country becomes poorer.

Things like this happen all the time, and the primary reason is that the people most affected are never consulted, and most often have no real democracy. What is available locally is ignored because millions of dollars can be used to buy goods, services, and products from First World corporations.

The non-development movement

When the colonial era got underway, Europe saw most of the world as empty territory, a blank slate, there for the taking. The people who lived there were seen as nothing more than impediments to “progress”, and non-whites everywhere were universally assumed to be incapable of competence.

As the colonial era ground to a halt, the native people in nearly every colonial territory had suffered under several centuries of despotic rule followed by home-grown kleptocracy, and thus were reduced to deep poverty, their cultural strengths ignored or destroyed.

Somewhere between one and three trillion dollars have been spent over the past fifty years, and only a small part of it has made any difference at all. One of the few successful ventures has been in reducing infant and childhood deaths, which is a broad based effort. Only a few years ago they stood at some 18,000 daily, and now are half of that, so preventable deaths of the young stand at a mere three million a year now.

Except that we don’t know if that’s really true. Health statistics are notoriously inaccurate in the Third World, yet determining the degree of success depends entirely on having accurate data, from a lot of people, over a long period. We have little data, from not enough people, over too short a time. Whether child mortality has actually been halved is highly questionable.

One to three trillion dollars
have been spent,
and only a small part
has made any difference.

Unfortunately, nearly everything else has come to naught, and some are calling for a halt to it all. Among them is the Zambian economist Dambisa Moyo (Dead Aid), who thinks all aid should simply stop. The Americans David Glenwinkel (The Insanity of Africa) and William Easterly (The Tyranny of Experts) call for a radical rethinking of how we go about it. All three point out that our plans virtually never work as advertised, mostly because the people aren’t free and we haven’t consulted them. If the money isn’t siphoned off somewhere along the line, it often has unwanted results.

Personally, I think cessation of all charity and foreign aid would be a mistake, though. After all, even slightly improving the horrendous toll of childhood deaths is a worthwhile accomplishment, one that could not have occurred without extensive outside help. Organizations like Jimmy Carter’s Carter Center, working with other groups, have virtually wiped out several tropical diseases that had caused widespread suffering and incapacitation.

It wouldn’t hurt to simply quit giving money to tyrants.

BREAKING: White People Are a Small Minority

WHITE POPULATION IN THE WORLD IS ONLY 16%!!!!

Catastrophe! All Heaven forfend! We are surely doomed. DOOMED, I tell you! How did this calamity come about?

Well, it didn’t “come about”. White people have always been a small minority. After many centuries in which Europe was the civilized world’s swampy and uncivilized backwater, power and wealth arose with the European Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution, and white people took their turn conquering the world, as other populations had done before them without benefit of the modern age.

With the invasion and conquering of foreign lands which lacked modern weapons and technology, combined with the brutality born of infinite greed, whites came to think of themselves as superior to all. Spanish slaughters of aboriginal Americans ensued. British mistreatment of South Asians. Colonization and exploitation in Africa by the Dutch and practically every other European power, every bit of it driven by the quest for unearned wealth, to be stolen from “inferiors”.

White people have always been a small minority.

In the (eventual) US, the more wealthy whites, specifically white anglo-saxon Protestants, assumed the role of masters of the North, as did slave-owning whites in the South. Whites came to assume that they were naturally superior to all. African slaves were animals, obviously, and therefore whites were given permission by the Bible to rule over them in any way they wanted to. Then of course there was the genocide of aborigines by various means. And each and every wave of immigrants was assumed to be barbaric and not suited for civilization. There were actual serious debates about whether the Irish and Italians, in their turn, could be educated at all. For such purposes, they were considered “black”.

And so we arrive at the present day, in which the most astonishingly ignorant white people, encouraged in their ignorance by political propagandists, are certain that they are the natural superiors of virtually everyone. Among them, rampant intolerance rides high, and skin color is the determining factor. Some are all but illiterate.

are country

OMG

Many of the politicians they elect relentlessly repeat this fable of superiority, playing to less educated intolerant white people who want to hear once more about their own superiority and victimhood: I am naturally superior, and would be better off if it weren’t for all those brown minorities who are freeloading on my tax dollars.

Ignorant white people are certain that they are the natural superiors of virtually everyone.

These people are utterly ignorant of the facts, that the ripoff artists are not the “minorities”, who are not minorities anyway, and who mostly work at minimum wage—and pay taxes. They sense that they are worse off, and want someone to blame. Politicians work hard to tell them who that should be.

Such people have been told so long about inferior minorities that they can’t help but buy the tale. If you told them they themselves were a minority, and that they are being suckered, they simply wouldn’t believe it. Like every other kind of faith, this does not yield to mere facts.

Maybe that’s not such a mystery, because the rich themselves appear to embrace economic beliefs that have repeatedly been proven false, but stagger on, zombielike. No, tax breaks for the rich never trickle down. Any fool can see this from any of the many charts demonstrating the widening gap between the rich and everyone else, starting with Ronald Reagan’s embrace of supply-side economics, which has been discredited a hundred ways.

Screen Shot 2011-10-26 at 7.04.09 PM

White Americans, especially lower income folk, must somehow learn: it is they, not the brown-skinned people from south of the border, who are the minority. They are not at all superior because of the paleness of their skin. They are being suckered by those who bombard them with the fairy tale of their victimhood at the hands of those who look superficially different from themselves. They are being victimized by the very people who tell them it’s all the Mexicans’ fault.

Getting these people to understand how things really are is all but impossible because of the fairy tales they have been told all their lives. But we have no choice but to try.

Published in: on 2014/07/24 at 5:11 pm  Leave a Comment  

BREAKING: White People are a Small Minority

WHITE POPULATION IN THE WORLD IS ONLY 16%!!!!

Catastrophe! All Heaven forfend! We are surely doomed. DOOMED, I tell you! How did this calamity come about?

Well, it didn’t “come about”. White people have always been a small minority. After many centuries in which Europe was the civilized world’s swampy and uncivilized backwater, power and wealth arose with the European Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution, and white people took their turn conquering the world, as other populations had done before them without benefit of the modern age.

With the invasion and conquering of foreign lands which lacked modern weapons and technology, combined with the brutality born of infinite greed, whites came to think of themselves as superior to all. Spanish slaughters of aboriginal Americans ensued. British mistreatment of South Asians. Colonization and exploitation in Africa by the Dutch and practically every other European power, every bit of it driven by the quest for unearned wealth, to be stolen from “inferiors”.

White people have always been a small minority.

In the (eventual) US, the more wealthy whites, specifically white anglo-saxon Protestants, assumed the role of masters of the North, as did slave-owning whites in the South. Whites came to assume that they were naturally superior to all. African slaves were animals, obviously, and therefore whites were given permission by the Bible to rule over them in any way they wanted to. Then of course there was the genocide of aborigines by various means. And each and every wave of immigrants was assumed to be barbaric and not suited for civilization. There were actual serious debates about whether the Irish and Italians, in their turn, could be educated at all. For such purposes, they were considered “black”.

And so we arrive at the present day, in which the most astonishingly ignorant white people, encouraged in their ignorance by political propagandists, are certain that they are the natural superiors of virtually everyone. Among them, rampant intolerance rides high, and skin color is the determining factor. Some are all but illiterate.

are country

OMG

Many of the politicians they elect relentlessly repeat this fable of superiority, playing to less educated intolerant white people who want to hear once more about their own superiority and victimhood: I am naturally superior, and would be better off if it weren’t for all those brown minorities who are freeloading on my tax dollars.

Ignorant white people are certain that they are the natural superiors of virtually everyone.

These people are utterly ignorant of the facts, that the ripoff artists are not the “minorities”, who are not minorities anyway, and who mostly work at minimum wage—and pay taxes. They sense that they are worse off, and want someone to blame. Politicians work hard to tell them who that should be.

Such people have been told so long about inferior minorities that they can’t help but buy the tale. If you told them they themselves were a minority, and that they are being suckered, they simply wouldn’t believe it. Like every other kind of faith, this does not yield to mere facts.

Maybe that’s not such a mystery, because the rich themselves appear to embrace economic beliefs that have repeatedly been proven false, but stagger on, zombielike. No, tax breaks for the rich never trickle down. Any fool can see this from any of the many charts demonstrating the widening gap between the rich and everyone else, starting with Ronald Reagan’s embrace of supply-side economics, which has been discredited a hundred ways.

Screen Shot 2011-10-26 at 7.04.09 PM

White Americans, especially lower income folk, must somehow learn: it is they, not the brown-skinned people from south of the border, who are the minority. They are not at all superior because of the paleness of their skin. They are being suckered by those who bombard them with the fairy tale of their victimhood at the hands of those who look superficially different from themselves. They are being victimized by the very people who tell them it’s all the Mexicans’ fault.

Getting these people to understand how things really are is all but impossible because of the fairy tales they have been told all their lives. But we have no choice but to try.

The All-America Refugee Crisis

They flee from rough slums across parched wild deserts, thugs with guns threatening them everywhere they go. Aged five to twenty, they have seen friends and relatives killed, and know the gangs will get them one way or another unless they leave. Finally, unless they are captured by criminals along the way, or are cut in half when they fall off the train, they cross the border and ask the first person they see to save them.

Syrians, fleeing al-Assad’s murderous brutality? Nigerians who live in fear of Boko Haram’s heinous raids? No, these are children from Central America who know they are in the cross-hairs of drug criminals. Children. They know if they don’t flee they may die very young. Some of their friends did.

Children from Central America know
they are in the cross-hairs
of drug criminals.

And they are greeted by the Border Patrol, and intolerant fools who view them not as refugees fleeing murder, or at least as the desperate poor, but as criminal invaders who will somehow take money from them and vote for Democrats.

The perennially disastrous situation in the Middle East has created millions of refugees, and countries bordering war zones, all of which are considerably poorer than the US, have stepped up to take in these hordes of displaced people who have nowhere else to go. In some of them, neat looking tent cities of several hundred thousand people have suddenly appeared in the desert, complete with clean water and sanitary facilities. This places great strain on their involuntary hosts simply because of the massive numbers of refugees—in the millions.

Then there’s the US.

We consider ourselves flooded by dangerous criminals when fifty thousand children show up over a period of six months, alone, and afraid for their lives. We are doing our best to send them back. Some of them will no doubt be murdered, but we’ll never get a body count.

We consider ourselves
flooded by dangerous criminals
when fifty thousand children show up.

Never mind that their numbers are insignificant compared to those fleeing from war elsewhere. The “huge numbers” we are having difficulty dealing with comes to 5% of what smaller countries in the Middle East take in.

Hatred of immigrants by Norteño whites bespeaks intolerant small minds, who consider anyone with darker skin to be automatically criminal, a threat to themselves, no matter who they are, or what age. Such people somehow fail to register the fact that we are all immigrants. Never mind that children who brave very dangerous weeks and months traveling by foot and freight train are children, running from criminals who have killed others, and would kill them.

As usual, most of our current refugee problem is self-created. As usual, we fail to understand that much of the reason they become refugees, either because of violence or poverty, is our own politico-corporate policies. These policies are designed only for the benefit of corporate executives, and bring desperate poverty and vanished hope to millions. Is there any wonder that they want to live where they wouldn’t have to worry every day about murder, on top of hunger? They would all prefer to live at home, but we have helped to make that impossible.

Most of our current refugee problem is self-created.

We, along with the many Latin American tyrants we have supported, have created the problems that now contribute to the desperation of immigrant-refugees. We have failed to check our own drug addiction, instead spending billions in a fruitless attempt to stop the flow of them into the US. Our policies enrich our corporations and the prison industry, and at the same time destroy the livelihoods of millions of workers to our south.

We fail to acknowledge that every group of immigrants we’ve had has been an economic blessing for the country. Instead, even governmental agencies see it as their primary duty to intercept children who cross our borders in desperation and send them back to the place they are fleeing from where they may well be murdered if they refuse to become gang members themselves.

Misplaced priorities, anyone?

The Mandatory Republican Makeover

There are deep differences between Republicans and Democrats, but that’s not the debate that’s happening today. Today, Republicans have succumbed to the irrationality, magical beliefs, and outright falsehoods of ignorant and intolerant far right crazies, who demand honoring the illogical and impossible. The most distressing part of this is that otherwise intelligent people subscribe to these impossibilities.

The current effort among the furthest right Republicans is “reform”, by which is meant “finding ways to cut funding for crucial expenses and lower taxes for the very rich”. The real Republican vision is nowhere to be seen.

It will not be easy to move Republicans away from the insanity that has come to define them, because their political lives are literally controlled by billionaires and badly educated ignoramuses whose grasp of reality puts them on a par with the Taliban.

Republicans have succumbed
to the irrationality and magical beliefs
of far right crazies.

Looking at just one conservative belief, Repubs should ask themselves how sacred their Immaculate Free Market should be. No one but a devout communist would argue for omnipresent government control, but to argue that government should have no part in it at all, as many do, is insanity.

Corporate billionaires have little interest in anything but profit. If they did, they would embrace any and all steps that would stop the destruction of the human life support system, well under way, that will soon engulf us in uncontrollable decline and rising seas (not to mention make their profit irrelevant). But they oppose all steps to preserve our life support system. Such captains of industry are no friend of the people or the planet.

The real Republican vision
is nowhere to be seen.

Not that government limits have never been embraced by the bosses. From our first years, all of our new industries had import protections until they were well established. Yet it remains a Republican shibboleth that there must be no such interference in the all-benevolent Free Market. The most dangerous element of this belief in the benign wisdom of the free market is that industry can be trusted to protect the American people.

Sure. These are the people who want to disembowel the Environmental Protection Agency, and imagine that the result would be the saving of vast amounts of wasted tax money. Al contrario, the result would be the rapid decline of air and water quality and other environmental damage, creating disease, death, and decay that would cost thousands of times more than could possibly be saved. The average value to the US found in all independent cost/benefit analyses of the EPA is in the range of a trillion dollars each year.

Tea Party fools have pushed the GOP so far to the right it has become detached from reality, both in the sense of scientific reality and in its belief in blatantly racist falsehoods and religious stupidity. Lawmakers should weigh all the facts before making decisions, but they have purposely made themselves deaf, dumb, and unresponsive to rational thought.

Tea Party fools have purposely
made themselves deaf, dumb, and
unresponsive to rational thought.

Now, a country can be managed using irrational beliefs, beliefs that we have known for centuries are not the way the real world works, such as those derived from religious books that are thousands of years old. In the news today, ill-educated armies of fundamentalist Muslims (the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL)) are seeking to re-establish the golden age of the Caliphate, the ideal world of 1,300 years ago. The Taliban in Afghanistan have a similar goal. Both want to turn their claimed territory, and eventually the whole world, into heaven on Earth. For whom this might be heaven is unclear, because their vision requires that half of humanity remain enslaved and uneducated, and most of the remainder crushed under a primitive barbarism that denies almost everything that makes life worthwhile. But don’t worry. If you don’t agree, they will kill you. The ISIL has murdered hundreds of captive soldiers and civilians in cold blood, and even literally crucified their own soldiers who were judged to be inadequately rabid.

I haven’t heard of a proposal quite so extreme from the GOP, but they do embrace a whole series of repressive ideas that negatively affect women and groups of people they adjudge to be naturally inferior, particularly blacks, gays, and immigrants. So we could, indeed, be a country managed under irrational beliefs.

Most of these beliefs defy science,
reality, and the most basic fundamentals
on which the country was founded.

Most of these beliefs defy science, reality, and the most basic fundamentals on which the country was founded. So we find conservative Republicans who both insist on strict interpretation of our fundamental laws as expressed in the Constitution and Bill of Rights, while at the same time demanding policies that are directly contradictory to them. No better example can be had than their insistence on Constitutional fundamentalism while claiming that the US is a Christian nation, a notion that is specifically contradicted by our most fundamental laws. (Not to mention that at least a fourth of us are not even nominally Christian, and others are non-observant.) Then there’s their insistence on creationism as a scientifically valid theory, and their denial of the facts of global climate change. These ignorant and irrational zealots are hardly different from the Taliban, whose minds are trapped in the seventh century, and whose idea of education consists entirely of memorizing the Koran.

Yes, we could have such a country, where everyone is taught that dinosaurs lived a few thousand years ago, presumably during Egypt’s golden age, although no evidence has ever been found. No country that believes such falsehoods can contribute anything of importance to the modern world. World-class carpets are made by hand in Afghanistan, but no up-to-date technology will come from there any time soon.

There is no part
of this wingnut fable
that is true.

Another part of Republicanism these day is a profound racism that is creating havoc in communities that do not conform to their all-male and lily-white ideal. Thus Mexicans and Mexican-Americans—my nomination for the hardest working people on the planet—and African-Americans, and all immigrants, are judged to be naturally inferior and lazy, so it’s OK to mistreat them any way we can. Women also need to be managed carefully, which the congressional GOP’s old white males are doing their best to bring about (624 bills to regulate women’s bodies in 2013 alone, 0 for men, ever). Red state governments have also been busy, passing dozens of outrageously biased laws and regulations every year, most of which are cruel and unconstitutional.

There is no part of this wingnut fable that is true, which has been proven time and again. Yet every Republican politician in the country endlessly repeats the same fairy tales, reality be damned. The strategy, used extensively by Ronald Reagan, is not unlike Hitler’s: distract the people from their misery by blaming everything on some minority group. Hitler blamed the Jews; Republicans blame gays, blacks, and immigrants. (Only immigrants with darker skin, of course. Their own immigrant relatives don’t count.) Tell this lie often enough, the belief goes, and it will become reality.

This toxic Republicanism
does not represent
what the GOP has been and could be.

The bitter irony of all this toxic Republicanism is that it does not at all represent what the GOP has been and could be. A book published by Arthur Larson in 1956, A Republican Looks at His Party, gives us a well-reasoned study of the party and what it stands for. (I’m grateful to The Pacific Bull Moose for the suggestion.) I do not agree with everything Larson said, but what he says is rational, and not based on the kind of magical thinking and racism embraced by Tea Party nitwits and Republican ignoramuses who hold debate hostage at present.

It wouldn’t be a bad idea to take another look at 1956 to see what a rational Republicanism could look like in the 21st century.

What the Feds Should Do—and Not Do

Republicans and Democrats are in complete agreement that the federal government should do what is necessary—and nothing more.

The question is, what does that mean? What exactly determines which are the things the federal government should do something about, and which should be left to individuals or the states. The best answer is that the federal government should do those things most efficiently done at a national level. This is precisely the Republican position from half a century ago. But not today.

Contrary to current Republican beliefs, there are hundreds of such things, among them building and maintaining the national highway system, managing of all aspects of public broadcasting, control of the aeronautical system, the national electric grid, the military, and so on, all of which were part of the Republican platforms of the 1950s.

The federal government
should do what is necessary
—and nothing more.

But Republicans are saying today that all these things should be done by private enterprise.

Not many things could be more naive and dangerous. You may recall that industrial waste in the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland regularly caught fire in the 1950s. Only after the EPA was formed, and it demanded that the water be cleaned up, did the fires stop and the fish return.

There are those who regularly rail against the EPA, calling their actions an unnecessary and costly intrusion on their private business. I suspect people who believe this have not visited foreign countries where there is little such protection. In China, for instance, virtually everyone’s health is seriously compromised by foul air, and many people die because of that. This is what things can look like in broad daylight with no EPA.

CHINA-ENVIRONMENT-POLLUTION-HEALTH

We should assist the development of new industries. All of our important industries received this protection when they were young. Today is no different. It may be more important, because today commerce is global and rapid, and industries in other large countries are often subsidized by their governments. Alternative energy companies are a good example of industry that can only become more important over time. We must either protect such nascent industries or surrender any hope of competing either at home or on the world market.

But support should end when they become mature and self-sufficient. Often it does not. The prime example is the petroleum industry, which continues collecting billions of federal dollars every year, even though the need for this support ended at least 75 years ago. Another case is agriculture. Billions have gone to enormous agricultural businesses who never had a need for it, while small farmers for whom the support was intended have lost out.

Politicians cannot claim to want less government and at the same time support these outdated massive diversions of our money to industries that don’t need it. Unfortunately, they have hundreds of lobbyists, and contribute heavily toward re-election of their supporters.

Politicians cannot claim
to want less government
while supporting
diversions of our money
to wealthy corporations.

The public education system seems designed to perpetuate inequality because it is (partly) funded by local property taxes. I have come to believe that every public school student nationwide should receive the same funding to overcome this structural inequality, and this could only be accomplished with a national plan. Poor states don’t have enough money to fund schools properly, which is another factor perpetuating unequal opportunity and the intellectual quagmire that is the Old South. It is an important topic for national debate.

At present we are moving in exactly the wrong direction, with constant efforts to do away with our longstanding commitment to universal free, tax funded public education. Charter schools are but one manifestation of this trend, in which a public school is managed by a private corporation. Charters have not been proven superior. Others include the home schooling fad, which may or may not provide a reasonable education, and numerous attempts to make public education into religious instruction. This includes frequent attempts to quash the teaching of objective science in favor of creationism.

Is there any merit to the claim that
private insurance is superior
to a national plan?
Frankly, no.

The hottest topic, of course, is health care. Is there any merit to the conservative belief that private medical care insurance is superior to a national plan? Is there any merit to the idea that national health care would send us rapidly down the chute into socialism?

No, and no. Conservatives have been warning about the slippery slope to socialism since before Lincoln, and there isn’t the slightest hint of socialism over all that time. Their real fear is that the profit margin of private medicine might be trimmed. Under the Affordable Care Act, costs are lower, but the longer term comparison of cost has repeatedly shown our private medical costs to be literally double what other countries pay.

The much-lamented delays in health care appointments that conservatives lately claim for national health care plans either don’t exist or are no worse than under private plans in the US. One can get a quick appointment for profitable procedures such as knee replacement in the US, and wealth somehow opens doors, but other care takes longer than in a number of other countries.

More importantly, the US has worse outcomes than national plans in child mortality, diabetes, heart disease, and lifespan, among others. Year after year, the systems rated the world’s best are national systems, such as those in France and the Scandinavian countries.

Year after year,
the systems rated the best
are national systems.

The most tragic difference, however, is that millions of people in the US have no insurance at all because they can’t afford it. Not having health care insurance costs many lives literally every day because disease conditions go untreated until it’s too late. Medical bankruptcy from lack of insurance, the most common type, can too easily cause the loss of a family’s home and belongings, and cancellation of education plans for the younger generation, as well as an unnecessary death from delayed treatment. These multi-generation family disasters could be prevented entirely with universal insurance.

While health statistics have improved under the ACA, they are unchanged in states where the Republican governor has purposely prevented people from obtaining ACA insurance, thus intentionally—and I believe criminally—causing thousands of deaths. I see no difference between them and sadistic prison wardens who withhold treatment until a prisoner dies.

A system that allows this to happen can in no way be called superior.

Conservative talking points are simply wrong. Yes, if you are among the fortunate who have good insurance, such as the subsidized plans that members of Congress have, your medical care can be excellent. But if you are at the other end of the spectrum, even a common illness can easily bring death and family ruin.

Conservatives tend to believe that the federal government is by nature incapable of doing a good job at virtually anything. Hundreds of efficient and effective programs contradict this belief. Moreover, their belief is contrary to past Republican positions. Health care insurance is an area where they have most completely been proven wrong, yet the evidence has done nothing to alter the current Republican mindset.

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