Soon We Will Find Life On Other Planets. And Then What?

True believers of the major religions of the world may find that difficult to take, if not impossible. Many claim that their holy books were written by God himself, and since God is perfect, the books are complete. Anything else is false.

The hyper-religious have difficulty with scientific progress. They believe it is not possible to gain new knowledge, because everything was known when the holy books were written. That’s why evolution is unacceptable. God created everything as it is, and it is perfect and never changes.

The hyper-religious
have difficulty
with scientific progress.

Now exoplanets—planets around other suns in our own galaxy—are being discovered by the dozens, thanks to increasingly sensitive telescopes. It will be rather difficult for these people to accept that the holy books are incomplete and imperfect when evidence of life on these planets is found, unless one rejects virtually everything else about modern life. Like cellphones.

Most people have no real understanding of how big our own Milky Way galaxy is, let alone the universe, and True Believers are utterly clueless. It would take light 100,000 years to travel from one side of the Milky Way to the other (although they claim the universe is only 4,000 years old). Our Milky Way galaxy is only one medium sized galaxy among about 100 billion in the universe, some of which would take 1,500,000 years for light to travel across. Each galaxy has stars numbering in billions, even trillions, which are so far away that we can’t discern even one of them individually. The number of stars that have planets appears to be very high, because stars form from diffuse matter that accumulates via gravity to a density great enough to cause fission, leaving considerable matter behind to form planets in the same way.

Incidentally, most of what we know about the universe is new information, not even a century old. What we now know as the Milky Way galaxy was assumed to be the entire universe, until bigger telescopes showed us other galaxies.

Exoplanets are being discovered by the dozens.

Except for our sun, the closest star and its planets in our own galaxy are much too far away to ever reach in a single lifetime, even without returning to Earth. We only know these exoplanets exist because they cause dimming of their star when they pass in front of it. But we’re learning more and more about them.

It is estimated that there are 100 billion planets just in our Milky Way, and we know that at least 30 of the 2,000 we have observed so far have conditions that may support life. With growing numbers being discovered, it seems only a matter of time before we find clear evidence of life on other worlds. We won’t find little green men, let alone humanlike beings. What we will find will be evidence of chemicals only found where there is life. The new telescopes and other devices that will make these discoveries are now coming online, or will be completed within the next few decades. It will be an exciting time.

It seems only a matter of time
before we find clear evidence
of life on other worlds.

What will Religion think about life elsewhere? Well, the rational religious, believers who are able to view the more fantastic religious writings as symbolic, will accept these findings as interesting new information that expands our knowledge. The irrational religious will claim it’s another of Obama’s lies, that we are still the center of the universe, ruled over by a guy with a long white beard who lives in the sky.

It is impossible to maintain such a belief and be rational at the same time, but being rational is not often on the minds of fundamentalists. Religious fundamentalism has failed to keep up with the growth of knowledge, largely because true believers think God wrote the book and refused a second edition. Or, since the book is already perfect, a second edition is not necessary. As a result, fundamentalist religion requires belief in things that we learned long ago are simply not possible, as well as all the many imperfect contradictions in all the holy books.

What will Religion think about life elsewhere?

Will people accept that moral behavior is not determined by an ancient book of absurd and cruel laws claimed to be dictated by a deity? Will they finally give up the unsupportable belief that we somehow live on after we die? Will the total absence of evidence for heaven, hell, angels and all that finally be sufficient to bring people to a more rational understanding of the universe and our sacred duty toward our fellow beings and the planet we live on? While we’re alive?

Not at all.

It will divide the world into those who know and those who believe. “True Believers”—the kind who believe evolution was disproven by the Scopes trial—will withdraw from the modern world, and declare all of science to be false, furthering a trend already in ascendance. It will make believers even more steadfast in asserting that Earth is the center of the universe, and all the numerous other religious fables.

One would hope that
the findings of science
would give us humility
and respect for life.

It may usher in a new and dangerous era, in which the people who already believe it is important to stockpile guns and ammo become increasingly intolerant, radical, violent, and prone to belief in conspiracy theories. And more ignorant. (Think Texas, and Jade Helm 15.) Muslim “true believers”, whom Ayaan Hirsi Ali refers to as “Medina Muslims”, and we clump together as radical Muslim terrorists, believe it is their duty to murder any and all non-Muslims. They regularly do just that. They follow the Q’ran to the letter. That is why murderers keep popping up from reasonable populations of Muslims. That is why Saudi Arabia is currently advertising for an executioner to chop people’s heads and hands off.

How this will turn out is not at all certain. One would hope that the findings of science that disprove the possibility of so many simplistic religious assertions—our uniqueness being one—would be enough to enlarge all of humankind’s understanding of life in the amazing universe, and give us proper humility and respect for life and our place in it, but that doesn’t appear to be happening.

Why National Programs Are Essential

We are moving toward a 20-hour work week. It is mostly unintentional, but it is happening nonetheless. This gives us an opportunity to make a 20-hour work week the standard, which potentially would improve the country in numerous ways and put us at the forefront of advanced nations. But it cannot be done without significant changes in how we pay workers and how we fund health care, retirement, and higher education. For these, only national programs can fulfill the need.

John Maynard Keynes suggested back in the 1930s that this would happen. Given advances in technology, as well as other improvements in efficiency, it is now possible to have the work week he foresaw. But getting from here to there is a big and politically difficult undertaking.

We are moving toward a 20-hour work week.

Capitalism is at once the cause of a shorter week and the thing that prevents its achievement. This is because workers cannot control their own working hours, have no stake in technology, and are usually underpaid. It is capitalists who own the machines of modernization, and Republicans who want to pay as little as possible, and for heaven’s sake, no “socialism” of national things like Medicare and Social Security.

Low-wage employers have for decades limited employee hours in order to stay under the benefits threshold. This is the McDonald’s/Walmart strategy. It has been disastrous for the poor who work these jobs, and the practice drains from government welfare programs that are forced to make up the difference between inadequate wages and crucial life needs. In practice it’s yet another transfer of wealth to the wealthy.

The McDonald’s/Walmart strategy
has been disastrous for the poor.

The economic inequality we have now came about because of the increasing misuse of wealth, and conservative insistence that minimum government and overpriced “free market” are the way to go. The many millions who are forced to survive on minimum wage are punished with poverty by this concept. Either we have to pay enough for workers to buy private health care et cetera for themselves, or we have to establish efficient government programs.

Capitalists and Republicans want it neither way. They would prefer that workers provide overpriced private services for themselves, but they have no interest in paying enough to make it possible. National programs are inherently more economical, and offer our only chance for good benefits at reasonable cost. That’s why they are found in every other advanced nation but ours.

Capitalists and Republicans
want workers to pay for private services,
but won’t pay enough to make it possible.

There is no rational objection to be made to such changes. There is only ideological political opposition, which centers around the false idea that less government and the “free market” are always better, and anything national is like Soviet communism. But those beliefs result in ever widening inequality, decline of security for wage workers, ever eroding democracy, and loss of corporate competitiveness.

Forty-hour jobs with good benefits are increasingly rare, and a big factor is that the cost of “free market” health care is literally double what it costs with superior national plans. Having to pay for private health care reduces international competitiveness for US corporations, who compete with workers covered by less expensive national care.

The three most obvious worker needs are health care, retirement funding, and higher educational financing, all of which are more efficient and far less costly under national programs.

National health care is the primary candidate, because a national plan would cut health care costs literally in half. This is the most important of the changes that would make the 20-hour week possible, and it’s hard to overestimate the value national health care would have for the country. It would greatly improve the health of the working population, which by itself would bring significant financial benefit to the nation, since every adverse health condition among the work force creates cascading public costs and loss of efficiency.

National health care
is the most important of the changes
that would make the 20-hour week possible.

Minimum wage needs to become Living Wage, and significant improvements need to be made to Social Security. SS is by default the entire retirement income of people who work low wage jobs, and would not be adequate under 20-hour Living Wage without improvements.

Education is the third underfunded major cost of life in the US. The number of advanced nations that provide free higher education is growing rapidly, and the US could easily to do the same thing. Many universities could do it immediately with no other changes. There are many benefits of high levels of education in the workforce, for workers and owners alike. 

An unrecognized consequence of good national programs is that take-home pay could be far lower, yet still adequate. Workers would pay significant sums for national programs, but in the end the cost would be lower because they would not have to pay for expensive private plans. Personal security would therefore be greatly improved.

Greater changes have been made in the past. The 72-hour work week with absolutely no benefits of any kind went the way of farming with horses and hand tools. The radical 40-hour work week that replaced it has outlived its usefulness. Improvements in technology have made a much shorter work week possible, and we should seize the earliest opportunity.

Why Do Red State Republicans Want to Prevent Voting?

Red state Republicans have devoted a great deal of fabrication and deceit to preventing the vote. They don’t fool anyone. The entire purpose is not, as they claim, to prevent voter fraud—we have practically zero voting fraud—but to prevent potential Democrats from voting.

How? Let’s count the ways. Let’s begin with good old gerrymandering, the construction of an unnatural voting district to concentrate Republican voters while thinning the ranks of Democrats in other districts. Follow that by a slew of laws making it more difficult to register, much akin to the infamous Poll Tax of bygone days in the racist South.

Republican voting deceit
doesn’t fool anyone.
It is to prevent
Democrats from voting.

In general, the idea is to require increased travel, preferably at some expense, to register during restricted hours in some poorly marked office. Continue with odious requirements like a new photo ID, which takes some doing to get, and transportation costs to get there, during restricted hours, so that some people who had to take the day off from work will find the office closed. Restrict hours for voting, with fewer polling places in Democratic districts. Shorten the period for registration.

Compound that with picky rules about the voting place, so that someone who places the ballot in the wrong pile is disenfranchised. Make up odd rules for voters so they do not appear on the polling list where they have voted before. Make the provisional ballot they will be forced to fill out more likely to be disqualified. Remove many of the voting machines in Democratic districts to encourage long lines, and close some of the polls early. Arrange for some places to run out of ballots.

Want more? OK. Hack some of the voting machines so votes for a Democrat turn into votes for a Republican. Build an apparatus that calls into question the voting eligibility of anyone with the same first and last names as someone in another state—even if they have different Social Security numbers and a different middle name, even if they have lived and voted where they currently live for decades. Assign a top manipulator as election boss, who, although he has no such authority, will send all other voting officials home on election night, while he alone is left with the uncounted ballots.

Sounds like fiction, eh?, or some president-for-life African dictatorship. Unfortunately, it’s not.

Hillary Clinton’s top campaign lawyer has sued Ohio, which enacted several such laws designed to make voting difficult for probable Democrats. There were a number of mysterious happenings on election night when W. was re-elected that gave him the state. Ohio is only one such state.

But why do Republicans feel they need to pull all these dirty tricks? Surely, they must have something to offer the country, some plan that deserves choosing on its own merits. Give voters more money, more leisure, or something like enhanced health care benefits.

Why do Republicans
feel they need
to pull all these
dirty tricks?

But they don’t. The inevitable result of Republican control is more inequality and concentration of wealth, ill-advised wars that cost trillions, the loss of budget surpluses, increased government spending, greater national debt… After six years of the Obama presidency, the only health care proposal they have to oppose the ACA is a guaranteed disaster that would increase costs sharply.

It begins to appear that Republicans believe that the only way they can win and keep power is to cheat. Given the many transparently obvious attempts to steal the vote by preventing Democrats from voting, any other conclusion is difficult indeed.

Observing this obvious anti-democratic and anti-Democratic campaign over so many years, it is interesting to speculate what might happen if truly democratic laws were instead enacted. If, for example, every citizen were automatically registered to vote on her 18th birthday, and every newly naturalized citizen were automatically registered. If voting districts could not be designed by partisan politicians. If there were national norms for voter registration and voting day.

It begins to appear that
Republicans believe
the only way
they can win
and keep power
is to cheat.

Here’s my speculation: The numbers of Democratic voters would swamp the number of Republicans, because in fact, Republicans have very little to offer to anyone but the rich, who already buy all the elected officials and laws that they want. Democrats would soon control the entire Congress, and probably the presidency as well. In very short order, all the benefits of democratic life that Republicans have prevented over the years would come about.

I’m not convinced that this outcome would be an entirely good thing, particularly if it were to create a long-term party dynasty. The danger of corruption is too great.

But wouldn’t it be nice if Republicans would concentrate their energies on ways to improve the republic, rather than sleazy ways to circumvent democracy?

Our Low Taxes Are Too Expensive

We have low taxes because we don’t pay enough to have good services. (And we do have low taxes.) We have weak services because Republican lawmakers, who have great private services for themselves, subsidized by the rest of us, promote the idea that government services are inherently bad.

Republicans seem incapable of understanding that there are actually some things at which government is decidedly better and cheaper than so-called free market capitalism. “Best government is least government” is catchy, but false. Call it capital blindness.

The national government has a proven track record of competent, efficient management in a number of fields. It is also true that there are things that private enterprise is better at, but these don’t include provision for old age, public education, and especially health care.

We have low taxes because
we have lousy services.

It’s very easy to understand why these three are so expensive if the “free market” runs them: Anything that relies on capitalism must generate profit for the owners, as well as endless growth. Any enterprise in which a large chunk of the money generated must be skimmed off the top and given to rich owners cannot be as economical as a similar enterprise that does not have that expense.

In addition to profit, our health care system also must pay for a highly complex system of bookkeeping that too often is devoted not to providing health care, but to preventing it. These two things are why healthcare costs every American citizen upward of $8,000 per year, while Europeans and others pay half that for superior service covering everyone.

It’s important to realize too that when someone is ill under national healthcare, nobody tries to prevent this person from getting treatment. Treatment denial is one of the tragic consequences of private healthcare in the US. It costs countless lives and generates untold misery.

Under national healthcare,
nobody tries to prevent treatment.

Consider two people who fall prey to the same serious medical condition. The insured European learns of his ailment early, following a regular checkup. The system swings into action, with tests and imaging, and consultations with specialists. A surgery is soon performed, and after a recovery period the patient returns to work.

The uninsured American has not seen a doctor in years. His job pays about $30,000, and family health insurance would cost half of that. He feels increasingly ill, but no one will see him because he’s not insured. Eventually he is brought in to ER in great pain. It’s too late, but he does get emergency surgery. He receives a regular disability check from the government and spends his last weeks in a wheelchair.

Cases like these are probably common, with comparable contrasts in outcomes. Obviously, lack of healthcare insurance has public costs well beyond what the insurance premium itself would cost.

The saddest thing is that many Americans don’t want a national health care plan that covers everyone because they believe the uninsured don’t deserve health care. They should suffer and die, because they are lazy and irresponsible. They say this about people working full time for minimum wage. Could cruelty be more stark?

Our marginal tax rate is 27%,
one of the lowest in the developed world.

Even now, after the highly successful establishment of the Affordable Care Act, which added millions to the insured population, there are still some 35,000,000 people who get no healthcare at all. This is equal to the entire population of Canada. If the entire population of Canada had no healthcare insurance, it would be a catastrophe of national importance. Is there some reason that an equal number of uninsured in the US is not a catastrophe? There is not. It’s as if California, the most populous state in the union, had no healthcare.

Americans in general, especially Republicans, are fond of complaining about high taxes. But taxes in the US are actually quite low. Our marginal income tax rate is 27%. That’s the rate paid on taxable income in the highest bracket. The highest rate in Europe is Belgium, at 54%, and a number of other countries are within 10% of that. At 27%, we are one of the very lowest of the developed would. How could that be?

Our taxes are low
because we fail to provide
efficient national healthcare.

It is because we fail to provide all of our citizens with efficient national services for health care. Nor is provision for old age adequate, and public education funding is also unsatisfactory. But health care is the worst.

The fact is, not only do we fail to provide health care insurance to a number of citizens equal to the entire population of Canada, but we spend literally double for health care what the more advanced nations pay, because the necessity for profit plus insurance bookkeeping makes private healthcare insurance inherently expensive.

The number of uninsured
is equal to
the entire population of Canada.

The losses from this failure are huge. Every uninsured family is one step away from the disaster of medical bankruptcy (the most common cause of bankruptcy) that will destroy family finances for at least two generations. When a serious medical condition strikes an uninsured person—which can happen to literally anyone—not only are family finances destroyed, but there are major losses for the public at large. National productivity drops when anyone is lost to disease, or can no longer work. Tax rolls are reduced. Public assistance costs are increased. Now, this is not so expensive for just one person, but remember, we have uninsured equalling Canada’s entire population.

We know exactly who is responsible for perpetuating this overpriced boondoggle: the political party in the service of very rich capitalists.

What Inequality Means

Because of our terrible history of slavery, we cannot separate inequality from race. Slavery seems like a long time ago, but evidence shows that all kinds of repression are very slow to heal all over the world. That said, when we talk about inequality, we also speak of class, which affects all races.

Inequality begins with a child born to poor parents, which means in a bad city neighborhood or rural area. Poverty is everywhere. Homes are rundown and unsafe. Crime is common. Jobs are scarce. Schools are underfunded. The police are abusive. It’s not his fault. He just got here.

Each of these factors works its unhappy effects on him in turn. The child may be born underweight. He may be malnourished as an infant. These are classic signs of poverty that can affect him his entire life. If his mother failed to learn the dangers of alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs to her unborn infant, he may even be brain damaged. If there is lead in his environment he probably will be brain damaged. None of these things are his fault.

Inequality begins with a child
born to poor parents.

Even if his brain is normal, school may be chaos because of those who were brain damaged, or whose home life is chaotic and abusive. The school is probably underfunded, because we fund rich districts highest, from property tax on the propertied. If there is never enough food at home, learning will be difficult. There may be dangers out of school because of local crime. As he passes into later grades, he may be bullied or threatened.

This is what inequality means. It means that no matter what a kid is like, no matter how bright or talented, getting a good education begins with difficulty and gets worse. Everything conspires against him. Even when he does everything right, he might still be robbed, beat up, shot, or assaulted by police.

Inequality is a policy choice.

But suppose he does manage to survive all these dangers, and graduates from high school with good grades. He is a kid who should go on to college, but this may or may not be possible, depending on his family situation. The new graduate may have no choice but to go to work.

But there are often few jobs in such places, and those that do exist are often low wage and part time. There is no future in such jobs, and they cannot lift you from poverty.

That’s what inequality means.

Inequality is a policy choice. We can either try to arrange our society to encourage equality, or we can do what we’ve been doing for the last few generations: give all the money to people who have absolutely no need of it. Giving it to the rich dooms millions to remain poor all their lives.

Equality cannot be earned by the poor.
Hard work has nothing to do with it.

Equality cannot be earned by the poor, particularly at minimum wage. Hard work has nothing to do with it. Equality has to come about as the result of deliberate governmental policies encouraging equality. Further, given the gross inequality that characterizes life in the US today, equality cannot be achieved in reasonable time by anything less than policy designed to overcompensate for inequality, because inequality has grown steadily worse over the past four decades as a result of deliberate policy choices.

A report in the NYT offers hope that a policy of moving the poor to better locations can help them rise from poverty, especially in the next generation. This is new and encouraging information. The trouble is, we don’t know exactly what a better location consists of. The policy doesn’t work very well in some cities and neighborhoods, and we don’t know why.

Inequality has nothing to do
with welfare benefits.

Life is a daily struggle for the poor. Their lives may be completely upended by any of a number of events over which they have no control. Billionaire Wall Street criminals brought many families down in 2009. Someone in the family may have a cancer that, without national health care, drains away every dollar, and postpones educational plans for at least a generation. They may be killed by crossfire, or simply unable to find work after many months of searching.

Republican presidential hopefuls think the poor have no incentive to find work because welfare benefits are so generous. They believe all these millions of people who can’t find a decent job have to do is buckle down and quit being lazy. Their belief is simply not true. You can’t work your way out of poverty with a part-time, low-wage job even if you find one, and welfare benefits are bare-bones and temporary.

Many people who have initiated programs to help such people have found their charges frustrated and discouraged when, day after day, week after week, they are unable to find any work at all, with no evidence they might eventually succeed. Almost all of us would lose heart under the circumstances. Millions of people are trapped in low wage jobs that mean they will always be poor, no matter how hard they work.

Our policy is to pretend that poverty
is the fault of those trapped in it from birth.

Inequality is a deliberate policy choice, one that has put the richest country the world has ever seen on an ever-worsening downward path, while the rich accumulate ever more money that is absolutely useless to them, and the party of the rich does everything it can to make it worse.

The Insanity of Long Prison Sentences

Aaron Hernandez, 25, the former New England Patriots star, was recently sentenced to life in prison without parole in the killing of Odin Lloyd, who was dating the sister of his fiancée. That means we will be responsible for room and board for him for the next sixty years or so. The total cost will run to at least $3,000,000, probably a whole lot more because he will eventually become aged and infirm, and we will still be paying. While his crime deserves a severe punishment, such draconian sentences don’t actually accomplish anything.

The entire stupidity of endless prison sentences came about so politicians can pretend to be “tough on crime”. They think this beefs up their testosterone cred.

Being “tough on crime” is supposed to lead to less crime. But it does not. We know this because crime fell equally over the past few decades in states that were “tough on crime” and states that were not. Obviously, then, being “tough on crime” just leads to re-election of people who perhaps should not be, and burdens the budget with costs greater than what we spend on education.

Being “tough on crime”
does not lead to less crime.

Why doesn’t it help? Well, for one thing, criminal activity is a young man’s sport. Part of the reason for that is that brain development of young men lags behind the brain development of young women by five years, or even as much as a decade. Most young men, probably as strong and fast as they will ever be, have the social skills, emotional maturity, and judgement of a ten-to-fifteen-year-old girl. Basically, without substantial parental guidance, they can do incredibly stupid things, and may well earn themselves a prison sentence in the process.

“Tough on crime” sentencing
doesn’t reduce crime,
does nothing to help the prisoner,
and fails to treat the mentally ill.

The male’s brain matures in his mid-twenties about the time his body begins to slow down. Tennis pros are pretty much done by age thirty, for example. By the time a guy is forty, not only is his brain as socially mature as it will ever be, but he no longer has the strength and stamina for the quaint deeds that earned him state room and board. In most cases it is pointless to keep such a man in prison, because he’s not so frisky anymore, and has lost interest in his juvenile activities. We are forced to pay for his long forced inactivity and he is forced to make no contribution to society.

Another thing that politicians simply don’t get is that one year behind bars is a hell of a long time. We get a small dose of what it is like when we are sick and confined to bed for a week or two. By the time we recover we have cabin fever, so named by frontier families who could not go outside for weeks or months at a time because of heavy snow. We are very impatient with our confinement, but in prison it is state disapproval that prevents us leaving, not the weather.

What we should be doing
is addressing inequality.

Yet we put millions of people, particularly black men, behind bars for decades for relatively un-serious crimes, and practically every week we learn of yet another who was falsely imprisoned for decades.

It’s also noteworthy that one out of four prisoners suffers from mental illness, which often goes untreated, thus turning him into a frequent resident at the state facilities. Obviously, the way to keep these guys out of prison is to treat them and supervise their lives.

“Tough on crime” sentencing is pointless. The way we treat lawbreakers doesn’t reduce crime, it does nothing to help the prisoner learn to obey the law, and fails to provide the treatment the mentally ill require.

An equal shot at a good job
and fair pay will reduce crime.

However, what we should be doing is addressing the core reasons for crime in the first place. It’s not an original thought that most crime is the result of inequality and social dystopia, both of which are increasing. ML King said it, as did many others. When there are no opportunities for the young, especially the young poor, to live a decent life and earn a decent living, they turn to the only thing that is left. An equal shot at a good job and fair pay will reduce crime.

Education is of primary importance. Some percentage of the poor and black simply don’t get that, and by keeping themselves purposely ignorant they virtually guarantee they will cycle through the criminal justice system repeatedly, and never live a normal life. By the time they have had one or two cycles of the county jail many are open to more sensible options.

“Tough on crime”? It’s a policy that has nothing to do with reducing crime, and results in draconian sentencing that saddles us with huge costs and makes us the world leader in imprisonment of our own citizens, even worse than the Soviet Union and Apartheid South Africa.

The West Has Excused Violent Islam Long Enough

All the theocratic religions were defined in a time of gross barbarism, Islam included. They all accept a supernatural creator of everything, for which there is not the first shred of objective evidence, and use that belief as an excuse for murder. They all say that dozens of normal things must result in gruesome punishments. A starving kid who steals a piece of bread must have his hand chopped off. A young girl whose eye happens to fall on some random boy must be killed by the males in her family. Gays must be murdered. These monstrous prescriptions go on and on.

We Westerners have given
violent Medina Muslims every chance
to behave in a civilized manner.

But there is only one religion where these barbarisms are not only followed today, but are routine occurrences. The weekly post-sabbath entertainment for Saudi males, for example, consists of watching people get their heads chopped off, or their hands, or their gruesome death by stoning for ridiculous reasons. The world cannot excuse these things. These barbarisms violate every sense of decency and civilization we have developed over thousands of years. Further, followers of this insanity routinely kill the very people who have been most kind to them.

What good can be claimed for a religious fanaticism that brutalizes kindness?

If you haven’t read Ayaan Hirsi Ali, you must, particularly her latest, Heretic. In it she divides the teachings of Islam into the earlier ones from Muhammed’s time in Mecca, and the later ones from his time in Medina. It was in Medina that Muhammed went on the offensive, and was inspired by God to pronounce a death sentence on the rest of the world. It is Medina Muslims—IS, Boko Haram, and the numerous inspired murderers who have taken Islamic law into their own hands—who have made Islam into the monster it is today. Even moderate Muslims fear to speak out, because to do so would mark them for murder. The Q’ran is perfect, and any suggestion otherwise is blasphemy punishable by death.

Hirsi Ali spells out in great detail why the Medina Muslims must be opposed in every case. Not only are murders of “infidels” acceptable for this violent bunch, they are required. Every Medina Muslim is required to murder every infidel he can. The Boston Marathon murders, the Charlie Hebdo murders, the hundreds of murders by IS and Boko Haram, the random murders on the streets of London, Paris, New York, and Montreal—these are all good things that fulfill the godly duties of the Medina Muslims. They will all be rewarded by God.

What good can be claimed
for a religion that brutalizes kindness?

The strutting Islamic State guys in their black masks, the murderous Boko Haram militants, all of them seek to kill someone, anyone, who is not a Medina Muslim. And if they should die in the effort, so much the better, because they will instantly ascend to the right hand of God, where they will be rewarded with a bunch of virgins for their endless enjoyment. (It’s 72 virgins, to be exact. The rest of us wonder what is so valuable about a virgin, let alone 72 of them. We also wonder where the supply of virgins comes from, and how a female murderer is to be rewarded.)

We Westerners have given these violent Medina Muslims every chance to behave in an enlightened manner. We have spoken against “Islamophobia” at the highest levels, and warned not to overreact to their ongoing insults against civilization. The result of our tolerance is an endless stream of murders, bombings, and atrocities dating back decades that will not stop until we stop them, because it is not Muslims, but “true believer” Medina Muslims who are the barbarians. The kindest, most forgiving, accepting person, even a Muslim, who cannot accept even one of their harsh and unrealistic rules, is fair game for killing. The offense consists of simply living a normal life. And they are killed. Old women, young girls, men—anyone, especially Westerners of any nationality.

The plain fact is that these Medina Muslims are barbarians who believe that the goal of Islam is to kill everyone in the world who is not a Medina Muslim, and return the entire planet to the ideal society, that of the caliphate of the eighth century.

The rest of the world has every right
to live free of the threat of random murder.

I’ve got a great plan for how to bring about the caliphate. Set aside land near Medina. Any Muslim man may apply to join the caliphate (since women are meaningless). At the induction center he surrenders every artifact later than those of the 8th century, since it is the goal is to replicate the eighth century caliphate exactly. Nothing that came later is allowed, since any learning that does not consist entirely of memorizing the perfect Q’ran is pointless. No vehicles, no guns, no computers, no schools, no medicine, no electricity, no printing…

The non-Islamic world has given these Medina Muslims every opportunity to join the community of civilized peoples, and their response has been to redouble their efforts to force the entire population of the world to adopt their barbaric beliefs or to die at their hand.

This is simply not acceptable in the slightest. Not only is the project of murdering some five or six billion people a bit impractical, but the rest of the world has every right to live free of the threat of random murder by mad zealots. The rest of the Muslim world and everyone else rejects the monstrous beliefs of these Medina Muslims. Their claim that we must all therefore be murdered is a ridiculous and gruesome fantasy.

What Is It With Cops?

I keep thinking there will be some letup, some awakening among cops, and this ongoing murder and violence against black men will taper off. And two days later there is yet another inexcusable atrocity. It’s hard to have faith it will ever end. But why doesn’t it?

Is it because these murderous cops are just violent bastards? Is it because they are racists let out from the Army with PTSD? Is it because they are stressed out, frustrated, and abused? What is it?

Are they bad apples? I don’t think so. It looks to me like there is a racist culture among white cops everywhere. Not all of them, of course, but too many to be one bad apple in the barrel.

I keep thinking there will be some letup.

Nobody should be harboring ugly attitudes toward a whole class of people, but this is especially unforgivable in someone charged with protecting us—all of us.

If these guys (almost always white guys) are violent sociopaths they should never have been allowed to become cops. Is it that police recruits are not vetted? Surely they are, because at the least the public must be reassured they are not unstable or have a violent criminal record. If they have become violent sociopaths they should be reassigned, retired, or fired.

The same applies if they are racists. Although I have come around to thinking we are all racist to some extent, no matter what race we are, it is quite another thing to cultivate an uncontrollable rage toward someone solely because of skin color, and to act violently on it. It’s unacceptable for anyone, but is especially egregious in a public servant.

Are they stressed out, and simply lose it? PTSD? This is a bit more understandable, but not much. There are collections of videos showing cops beating up and abusing people who present no threat to them at all. The unending deaths we are called upon to witness in online and news videos continues to shock, and virtually none of those that I have seen show any danger or stress to the cop at all. Cop car pulls up. Cop gets out. Five seconds later cop shoots and kills a man standing by himself with a knife. A kid is playing with a toy gun by himself at a playground and is killed seconds after a cop car pulls up. A guy is talking on his cell, and is drilled full of holes while carrying a packaged BB-gun to the checkout. Guy is selling cigarettes. Guy is stopped for bad taillight. On and on.

None of the deaths that I have seen
show any danger or stress to the cop at all.

Someone wise said that if you allow yourself to get mad at someone who is mad, your are making his problems your own. This goes double for cops. A real professional would not let himself be drawn into a rash act because he lost his temper, even when dealing with the most violent and nasty characters there are out there—and there are plenty. His very life depends on being cool and rational. In fact, calmly dealing with someone who is out of control is usually more effective than violent force anyway. Deadly force is rarely necessary. Where the US deaths from police shootings number in the thousands, they total single digits in all of Europe.

But there are far too many instances of cops who don’t even try to keep their short fuse unlit. In The Divide, Matt Taibbi tells of a young NYC man smoking in front of his own house when a scruffy plainclothes cop suddenly punched and grabbed him and yelled in his face, “What the fuck are you doing? What the fuck are you doing?” Three of them then beat the guy up and threw him on the sidewalk. As he was on the sidewalk a cop car pulled up, and the young man thought he was rescued, until he realized they were part of the assault. They planted a roach on him and brought him in to the station. Needless to say, he was severely traumatized by the entire episode, which continued for several days with jailing, and resulted in phony charges that were eventually dismissed. This guy was white. He would be dead if he were black. Can there be any even remotely realistic excuse for such police behavior?

These bad cops need to find a new line of work.

Being a city dweller, I’ve seen a few arrests on the streets, and I’ve been proud of the San Francisco cops I’ve seen in action. They behaved professionally, and the situation remained under control and calm. Late at night, when the creeps load up and crawl out from under their slimy rocks, things are not always so easy. But even in tolerant San Francisco there have been instances of overt racism that simply should never happen.

The percentage of these out-of-control violent cops is still low. Even so, we have become a new kind of police state. If we are to remain a democracy there must be changes. These bad cops need to find a new line of work. Out-of-control cops are simply unacceptable, and must be punished.

Immigrants Don’t “Take American Jobs”

A certain subset of Americans believe that immigrants “take American jobs”, which is their excuse for hating immigrants. This is a breathtaking irony in a nation that is 99% immigrant. As a recent NYT article noted, however, such people assume there are a finite number of American jobs, and when someone gets a job, someone else must lose one.

Not so. Immigration expands the economy. Immigrants create more jobs.

Imagine 100,000 new immigrants to the country, each of whom will find work. Each will then earn a paycheck. The paycheck is reduced by the amount the earner pays in taxes, so tax revenues go up from 100,000 new taxpayers, which is good for the rest of us. Then, every worker has to live someplace, usually by renting from an American, has to buy food, clothing, medicine, and so on, just like everyone else. Each of these expenses for 100,000 new people creates new income, or a new job. There is increased demand for workers for all of these things, builders, food workers, retailers, doctors and nurses, etc.

When a large number of new immigrants arrives, which has happened a number of times in US history, the economy expands significantly. There are more people, and they need goods and services. Immigrant jobs increase the number of other jobs in services and goods for the new immigrants. Immigrants do not “take American jobs”; they create new American jobs.

Immigrants do not “take American jobs”;
they create new American jobs.

There is another reason that the meme “taking American jobs” is wrong. Today, people who complain about this are often exercising an ugly prejudice against Spanish-speaking immigrants. Mostly, they mean Mexican field workers, who work some of the nation’s poorest paid and most demanding jobs.

One state on the east coast passed an ugly and hateful law—only one of many—a few years ago based entirely on their belief that farm workers were “taking American jobs”. Faced with this virulent hatred, farm workers and many other Mexican-Americans simply packed up and left the state. That year there was no one to harvest the crops. Farmers advertised these “American” jobs, and a few people showed up, but all of them were gone by noon of the second day, unable to take the physical demands. Their pay for that day and a half was about $72, same as the pay those hated Mexicans who were “stealing American jobs” would earn. The big farmers had to plow their crops under, and lost millions.

People who come north from desperately poor countries send money back to their families. For those of us who earn a reasonably comfortable living, the idea of sending half of our pay to the old country seems like a huge sacrifice, and it is. But imagine doing it on what the typical immigrant field worker earns. While you’re at it, remember that these workers don’t have regular full time jobs. They must move with the harvest and sleep where they can. At best, their annual income is $12,500. At best.

Now imagine sending half of that back home to your family. That means you as a typical field worker will have some $6,000 to pay for all of your needs for the year. But you also know that if you don’t send the other half home, your family will probably not have enough to eat, the children won’t be able to go to school, old clothing will have to last another year, there will be no medicine.

Anyone who knows the facts
of field workers’ lives
and still complains
has a soul devoid of empathy.

As an immigrant field worker, particularly sin papeles, you may spend decades here alone. You can’t make love to your spouse, or be by her side. You don’t get to see your children grow up. You won’t be there when your parents die.

Anyone who knows the facts of these good people’s lives and still complains about immigrants “taking American jobs” has a soul devoid of empathy, let alone the Christian morality they so often crow about, and that’s before we talk about their flawed reasoning.

Even though there is so much of this ugly cruelty about immigrants in our country, particularly among naive conservatives who keep electing plutocrats who rob them, the plight of our grossly underpaid farm workers is pretty much beside the point when “taking American jobs” is the complaint. Not only do immigrants not “take American jobs”, immigration always results in an expanded economy, with a net increase in the number of “American” jobs.

Complainers are not able to understand
because their error is an item of faith.

I suspect that many of the people endlessly complaining about “American” jobs are simply not able to understand the reasons they are wrong, because their error is the result of an irrational belief. It’s an item of faith, like so many other false conservative beliefs, that immigrants “take American jobs”. It must be true because we believe it is. But the truth is that immigrants have always generated a net increase in jobs, including during the times our own ancestors were immigrants.

By the way, maybe you noticed that all of the high school students who were accepted to multiple Ivy League colleges this year are the first-generation children of immigrants.

We should open our borders and welcome a lot more immigrants. It would be good for our souls and even better for the economy.

The “Nanny State” Is a Great Idea

Aside from the phony Republican name, the “nanny state” is a great idea. Republicans invented the term “nanny state” in order to ridicule those weakling foreigners who can’t even stand on their own two feet, and to contrast their failure with our own macho independence.

But those dang foreigners… They pay way less for vastly superior social programs, and we waste a lot of money for inadequate services.

There’s not a thing wrong with the “nanny state” aside from the handle Republicans have hung on it. Life is decidedly better in the “nanny state” because there are many things that the government does better than free (?) market capitalism.

Those dang foreigners pay way less
for vastly superior social programs.

There are three things we must note at this point. First, the much vaunted “personal responsibility” Republicans tout, which is supposed to be a sign of the great strength of the American character, is nothing of the sort. It is just code designed to reassure true believers that Those People are failures because they don’t exercise “personal responsibility”. This is not true. Neither do Those People fail to exercise personal responsibility, nor are they failures. Nor is it true that those supposedly responsible people have no duty to the larger society outside their immediate family, as they seem to think. We are not, and cannot be, independent of the society in which we live. When we fail to fulfill our duty to our society, we weaken it, and our own lives.

The second point is that very, very few people are able to make and execute satisfactory long-term plans for their own security in old age, no matter what their political or other beliefs might be, especially on inadequate wage. We ought to, but we don’t, and it has nothing to do with our political party. When we are twenty or thirty, retirement is a distant irrelevancy, yet that is exactly the time of life that planning and saving is easiest and most effective, thanks to the magic of compounding and the Roth IRA. Even so, it doesn’t seem so easy if our paycheck is just average. Typically, we are jolted awake in our fifties by the realization that retirement ain’t so distant anymore, and we have to sock away big chunks of our pay, thus losing out on decades of compound interest.

Republican “personal responsibility”
is nothing more than code
addressed to true believers.

The third element is recognition that social programs run by the government are inherently superior to private programs managed for profit, no matter what Republicans say. One of the major reasons is simply that capitalism’s costs, including profit, are not part of the picture. Private health care insurance provides no health care at all, but costs boodles because we have to cough up enough extra cash to pay the rich their profit and to fund the expensive private bureaucracy that tries to prevent actual health care. These costs would vaporize with a decent government health care program. In spite of Republican beliefs that government programs are inherently inferior, there are numerous government programs right here at home that have been well and efficiently managed for many decades. Social Security and Medicare are two of them.

We are overcharging ourselves for inferior services.

So we have the followers of one political party thumping their chests about their great macho independence from government, while scoffing at the best social programs in the world, and condemning the American public to costs far above what they should be for this mock independence. This is a tragedy for the US. We are the richest nation in history, and we ought at the very least to have superior health care, education, and retirement. Instead, we are decidedly deficient in all three areas.

Some places are 95% Republican,
in deep poverty and ignorance,
and robbed at every election.

Now, personal independence and responsibility are good things, but that is not what we’re talking about here. Nor are those things guaranteed for Republicans. In fact, you can look at parts of the country where Republicans are 95% of the population, yet it is obvious from the predominant deep poverty and ignorance in those places that their supposedly superior independence and responsibility have failed miserably. Yet time and time again these poor people vote for rich plutocrats who repeatedly bamboozle them into believing they are independent and strong.

They are not inferior because of their supposed independence and personal responsibility, they are inferior because they have voted for people who fail to protect them and provide security. And they don’t even realize they’ve been had. They fail to see the connection between education and a better life. They know almost nothing about the real world.


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