Please, Republicans, Rejoin the Real World

Here are some samples of what the world hears from Republicans.

  • “It’s a tragic day for the #US when a decision by five unelected justices of #SCOTUS blatantly violates the law.”  Rep. Louie Gohmert
  • Justice Scalia apparently is a creationist who believes Earth is only thousands of years old, because in a speech he recently claimed the planet is “at least” 5,000 years old. The planet is about 4.5 billion years old.
  • Despite overwhelming well documented evidence of climate change, congressional Republicans have for decades managed to thwart every single national step toward saving ourselves. This has severely impacted the entire planet, making it far too late to halt change.
  • Every natural disaster—floods, hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquake, etc.—has been blamed on gay marriage by nitwit fundamentalist preachers, all of whom are Republicans claiming to speak for God and the GOP.
  • The proclamations of current presidential hopefuls are staggeringly stupid. Here’s just one. Rick Santorum said of the Supreme Court, “The stakes are too high and the issue too important to simply cede the will of the people to five unaccountable justices.”

Are you happy that these guys are your public face? If not, it is incumbent on you to do something about it. You can be sure Democrats can’t. Call them out. Demand reality.

Republicans are enslaved by their ideology.

Now, why should you want to change the way Republicans do things? Well, first is the plain fact that what Republicans have come to stand for is opposed by at least 80% of the voting public. If you want to be relevant, do something about it. Take the Affordable Care Act. Congressional Republicans still speak of Obamacare as if it were Godzilla, hugely destructive, vastly expensive, and hated by all. These attitudes defy objective reality on all counts. Among other things, the ACA has literally saved the lives of thousands who would have died for want of medical attention. Every life saved benefits the country economically. The only thing better than the ACA would be a national plan like everybody else has.

Republicans have had decades to come up with a plan for health care, and have not. That’s because their ideology says that the national plans that all other advanced countries have cannot work, in spite of the fact that all of them do. Republicans are enslaved by their ideology, and we all suffer for it. How much better it would be to simply support things that work and reject those that don’t.

We cannot run the country with
elected representatives who are
ignorant of basic science
because they don’t “believe” in it.

Take science. Now, fables from the distant past may be valuable in teaching us moral behavior, but they don’t explain objective truth. Only science gives us truths that we can test, and disprove if they don’t hold up. Because of science we know how old the universe is, how modern life evolved from earlier life, the laws of motion, how the elements and natural forces behave, and so on. Every day, every one of us makes use of the findings of science. Yet Republicans try to tell us that fables from ancient books are more accurate in describing how the world works. They are not only inaccurate, what they claim often flies in the face of what science has already proven thousands of times.

No matter what people want to believe, the planet is 4.5 billion years old, Homo sapiens is about 200,000 years old, and every living thing has evolved from earlier forms, including humans. We cannot run the country with elected representatives who are ignorant of basic science because they don’t “believe” in it. Faith is not how the world works. It works the way science has shown.

The path that Republicans are following does not go where they say it goes. For decades, Republicans have claimed that giving the rich a lot of money will bring wealth to everyone. Exactly the opposite has occurred. Inequality, measured by the Gini coefficient, has steadily worsened for a half century because of these policies. Just because Reagan believed it doesn’t mean it’s true. Reagan also used a soothsayer to help determine his policy.

The political debate should not be
between reality and fantasy.

Please understand, Democrats have no complaint that there are rich people. What we dislike is the indisputable fact that Republican policies have hurt everyone who is not rich. The poor in particular have found their fortunes slowly declining because of low pay and lack of opportunity, and everyone who is not rich suffers from stagnant earnings over the past 40 years. This is the legacy of Republicans, who even oppose raising the minimum wage. Do you want to be known as someone who hurt the poor?

Irrational people claim to speak for all Republicans. If you want to reclaim reality for the GOP, it is up to you to shoot these guys down, and demand that they function in the real world. A few Republicans are actually doing that, but not nearly enough.

You can start by reviewing the 

1956 GOP Platform

This is the platform of that radical socialist Dwight D. Eisenhower. Ike clearly wanted every American to enjoy the benefits of democracy. By contrast, today’s Republicans are devoted to beating down the rights and privileges of ordinary Americans, by killing unions, by limiting voting rights, by disparaging teachers, by denying health care, by limiting wages—by doing everything to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. This is not what Republicanism should be.

The political debate should not be between reality and fantasy. The political debate should be about how best to achieve the goals Republicans thought were worthy in 1956.

Please, Mr. and Ms Republican, expose all these Republican stupidities to the ridicule and correction they so richly deserve. Squash each and every reality-defying statement. Hold every Republican candidate responsible for what they say. Tell them publicly when what they say is false. Don’t let them get away with fantasy. Then maybe we can have a debate.

[A must-read from Barbara Ehrenreich: It Is Expensive to be Poor, The Atlantic.]

On Losing Our Souls to the Socialist Nightmare

Capitalist conservatives misunderstand the liberal desire for things like national health care, free public education, and Social Security protections. What liberals want is these things at a reasonable price.

If it could somehow become reasonable for each of these things to be affordable for working people, there would be no reason to want efficient national plans. But it isn’t reasonable, and there are several explanations for why that is so. Primary among these is the plain and simple fact that private purchase of these goods is far more expensive than collective spending for them. Private plans are more expensive than government plans because private companies must earn profit, so their product costs more. And the free market economy means that vendors can charge whatever they can get away with, which is plenty.

The ultimate in economy of scale is obtained with national plans, with the least individual cost. Health care in our for-profit private capitalist system is literally twice as expensive as the national plans that operate in every single advanced nation except ours, and insure every single person, unlike our non-system. Moreover, the national plans are well liked, and health care under national plans is better than American plans, which fail to provide health care for many millions.

The ultimate in economy of scale
is obtained with national plans.

With these goods costing so much, perhaps the answer would be to increase wages enough that such purchases would be practical. Alas, that’s really a rather stupid idea, to pay enough just so the 200% inflated cost is affordable. Why not just deflate the cost to normal? But capitalist conservatives are strongly against paying wages even above poverty level, and don’t want to pay enough for health care. They are perfectly happy with minimum wage as it stands. After all, they aren’t suffering, and don’t see why wages for others should be improved, since the problems of the poor stem entirely from their failure to work hard enough. Unfortunately, many millions can’t afford health care insurance at all, because it costs about half of what they make in a year, working full time.

Another way the poor fail is by not saving. They simply have no desire to set aside money for their own retirement, whereas capitalist conservatives are much wiser. They save plenty of money for retirement, and in addition can pass on an inheritance of millions to their progeny. The poor, of course, waste their entire minimum wage paycheck.

It’s not just the poor who fiddle away their future, but all of us grasshoppers. The wise among us who earn enough do put away money for retirement, but the need catches most of us by surprise in middle age. We are not stupid, but we lose the benefit of decades of compound interest by not paying attention early enough. Lately, the average American of fifty or sixty has almost no savings and is woefully unprepared for looming retirement because of a half century of stagnant income and the current disaster bequeathed us by Wall Street criminals. But how might it be possible for anyone earning minimum wage to save at all, when even rent of a one-bedroom apartment is beyond their reach everywhere in the US?

And by the way, the median age of people earning minimum wage is not 16. It is 35.

Bernie's wasteland

Tom Toro, The New Yorker, June 2015

The biggest mystery is how people on the right can imagine that all those countries that have the great benefit of national plans can be thought of as socialist nightmares. Everything they have is better than what we have. They have good health care and good health; no one ever declares bankruptcy for medical reasons, whereas it’s the most common reason here; their schools are either free or affordable, all the way through graduate school, and many even provide living expenses for college students; all of them provide for a retirement without privation; and all enjoy benefits in their working years like Living Wage, generous mandated paid vacation, free healthcare, paid leave after childbirth, childcare allowances, and numerous other niceties.

How can people on the right imagine
that all those countries that have national plans
be thought of as socialist nightmares?
Everything they have is better.

Ah, but taxes. Taxes! Their taxes are awful, far more than we pay. Isn’t that true?

Not really. Remember that we have millions without health care, millions who can’t afford college or who end up in debt for tens of thousands of dollars, and millions who must depend entirely on inadequate Social Security for retirement when they are no longer able to work. The plain and simple fact is that even the highest tax level in the Socialist Nightmare countries, that of Belgium, is far less than we would pay for the same services if we bought them ourselves. But we can’t afford the same services. Not even close. We don’t even earn enough to get these basic services through inexpensive national plans, let alone individually via our for-profit private enterprise.

Our pay and work laws are mostly determined by capitalist conservatives, who haven’t the slightest need for more money. They are already at the tippy point of the pyramid, up above the all-seeing Masonic eye, and have neither understanding of nor interest in the economics of the rest of us.

After all, anyone who isn’t rich simply isn’t working hard enough. Isn’t that so?

On the Racism That Defines Us

In the early-fifties, when I was in high school, one of my buddies had a close friend who was black. I was astonished when the neighbors demanded that this friend not ever show his face in the neighborhood. In 1961 I was finishing up my tour with the Navy in Charleston, SC. I got off the plane and saw drinking fountains labeled “whites only”, and signs on restaurants for colored to go to the back door, and I was astonished. I had thought race relations were improving. Years later, when I was apartment hunting in San Francisco, two elderly Jewish ladies huffed that they would never rent to “one of that type”, a sweet and lovely young African-American woman who had just left, shortly before I walked out.

Then Barack Obama ran for the presidency and won, and the racists came flying out of the woodwork like roaches in a house on fire. There was, and is, a run on gun buying, as various conspiracy theorists began talking about the coming military takeover. The internet was alive with violent racism, and still is. How naive was I in imagining that the race situation was improving. Paul Krugman’s opinion notwithstanding, it’s not, not at all. If anything, it’s worse than it has been in a century and a half, punctuated by endless murders of black men and women by violent racist police. But why? Shouldn’t we be improving?

This post by Paul Krugman lays clear the background of the racism that defines our xenophobia, and prevents us from joining the civilized nations. Those states that reject Obamacare today were all slaveholding states in 1860, with few exceptions. Although we find racism everywhere, these are states where racism and xenophobia are still rampant, a century and a half after the war.

Medicade states

Slave & free states

I don’t mean to imply that all southerners are racist, only that the number of violent and unrepentant white supremacists seems unchanged, and they are most prevalent in the slave states. We are all racist to some extent because it’s a very ancient defense mechanism, and we have to be careful it doesn’t become overt racism. But they don’t even try. They nurse their hatred.

Racial hatred of that rabid few is so great in those states that they will shoot themselves in the foot rather than enact reasonable and beneficial social programs such as the ACA, afraid that if they help the poor, someone black might be getting something they don’t deserve.

This is something I have mentioned a number of times in semi-jest, but these maps are so clear, and so compelling, that I am forced to conclude that it’s not a joke. Racism is our most serious domestic issue today, and whites from the former slave states, even 150 years after Emancipation, are still the worst offenders.

Worse, the right continues to spout coded words that everyone knows are thinly disguised ways to say that African-Americans are lazy and inferior. Too often, the message isn’t even disguised. We can dismiss such nonsense coming from the KKK, but this is not where it is coming from. It’s coming from the Republican party in the Congress and the state houses, and it’s ugly because it purposefully plays to white racism that has festered for 150 years.

Racists are afraid that
if they do anything to help the poor,
someone black might be getting something
they don’t deserve.

Once I realized that this racist disease is virtually unchanged over all that time, it came clear where the next battlefield for civilization must be.

Our national race problem cannot be overcome by improvements in welfare. Poor and bitter whites who are looking for someone to blame, along with a lot of capitalist Republicans who play on their fears, believe that black Americans have only one goal, to live their lives on welfare, paid for by Republican voters. Their hatred is so bitter, they will resist any improvement in their own lives if they think it just might help someone black. No, fixing welfare ain’t where it’s at.

The way out is Living Wage.

The single most important domestic need in the US today is Living Wage, yet almost no one understands its importance, and we waste time talking about minimum wage. We will never have justice until everyone who works can live off what she earns. Living Wage would dissolve the resentment that so many racists feel, because their own work would be recognized for the value it brings to society. Hatred is dissolved by justice, and Living Wage foments justice and contentment. Racism might even gradually become unimportant.

Living Wage would sharply diminish poverty at a stroke, and the need for welfare at the same time. It would have a multiplier effect, because poor people who get better pay will spend much of it, thus creating greater demand for goods and more employment. It might diminish overt racism, because being poor and being black would no longer be automatically connected. It would even diminish crime, as people whose only choice has been minimum wage or crime find a more benevolent option. But it won’t come easy. Republican capitalist conservatives focus their efforts on ever increasing wealth for themselves, and don’t care about the poor, and the Republican party’s slave state racists are locked into hatred that goes on generation after generation.

Everyone who lives in a country where Living Wage is the law, countries like Australia and a fair number of European and Asian countries, live lives of civilized comfort, minus the desperate scramble that characterizes Americans, black or white, at the bottom of the pay scale.

Only Living Wage will bring the US
into the realm of the civilized.
This is the battle we should join.

Living Wage will bring the US into the realm of the civilized. Every worker must be able to live decently on her earnings, regardless of the kind of work she does, and that cannot happen until we have national laws that compel employers to pay every kind of work a wage that will support a life, a Living Wage. It simply is not possible to build a decent life with wages so stingy they don’t even provide the basics, let alone the security and dignity that every person deserves. Stingy wages and the devaluing of work also perpetuate racial hatreds. This is the battle we should join.

When everyone earns a Living Wage, those who were formerly restricted by a life of quiet desperation will be able to breathe, and feel some security, and perhaps those who could only hate will also find their lives eased, and eventually come to realize that all humans have the same needs.

This is What Capitalist Conservatism Really Means

Most of the current day conservative effort has been devoted to preserving and widening the divide between rich and poor. Edmund Burke, the 18th century Irish-English statesman, passionately defended the gradual approach to change, and spoke to preserve old institutions we have “sentimental attachments” to, such as the system of inherited titles and privilege. Burke was, in my opinion, a Sophist, dedicated to fine words that didn’t mean what he claimed they did. He was deaf to the plight of most of the English. Why wouldn’t the landed gentry be “fond” of the way things were? Every advantage accrued to them. The poor had no “sentimental attachment” to the worst inequality in English history, nor do our poor have”sentimental attachment” to minimum wage.

This hardly differs from the capitalist conservative position in the 21st century. While the fortunes of the very richest have multiplied over the past half century, the wealth of everyone else has not changed, or has worsened. It’s the Gilded Age again. While rich Americans defend (are “fond of”) the status quo because it makes them more and more rich, citizens at the other end of the economic scale have fought a losing battle for half a century. As in Burke’s time, the conservative rich literally own the legal apparatus of the country, which they manipulate to create an inequality they can be “sentimentally attached” to.

The poor have fought a losing battle for half a century.

Capitalist Republicans are as tone deaf as 18th century English lords. “He who never was hungered may argue finely on the subjection of his appetite; and he who never was distressed may harangue as beautifully on the power of principle. But poverty, like grief, has an incurable deafness, which never hears; the oration loses all its edge, and ‘to be or not to be’ becomes the only question.” These thundering words are those of Thomas Paine, arguing for a living wage for tax collectors in England, shortly before he moved to America to inspire the American Revolution.

How very similar was the haughty attitude of the upper class English statesmen to present day super-rich Americans, neither of whom ever faced the slightest deprivation. But in our case, they are not only indifferent to poverty, but belittle those whose lives they harrangue, besieged by costs they can’t pay for with wages purposely kept inadequate, with critical services like medical care, education, and a reasonable retirement always slightly out of reach.

Rich capitalist conservatives
are not only indifferent to poverty,
but belittle the poor.

Their claim that the poor are the cause of their own poverty is ludicrous, pure racism. By The Poor, they mean African-Americans, just as they have meant every day since Emancipation 150 years ago. Republican capitalist racism has become increasingly ill-disguised of late, with public figures proclaiming that various peoples with darker skin are inferior to European immigrants of the past, meaning the pale English. Ironically, the same kinds of words were used to describe those earlier waves of European immigrants, from Ireland, Italy, and elsewhere: dark, swarthy, stupid, lazy, dishonest.

As Paul Krugman has said on numerous occasions, the claim of rich capitalists that their own great wealth brings prosperity to all has never once borne fruit. One has only to look at the financial messes wrought by Governors Brownback in Kansas or Walker in Wisconsin to see the results of tax cuts for the rich and loss of services for everyone else. Their claim that tax cuts for the rich will create prosperity is, as Paul Rosenberg said in a Salon article, “at war with basic math”.

The claim of rich capitalists
that their own great wealth
brings prosperity to all
has never once borne fruit.

But no matter how many times it fails to deliver, they continue to espouse this discredited ideology, then have the audacity to claim that the poor have no one to blame for their worsening poverty but themselves. They oppose improvements in minimum wage, worth half because of inflation, oppose national health care, and support every step that enriches those who have no need for more money.

If you cannot afford private capitalist health insurance—which costs half the pay of many full time workers—a single serious injury or illness can easily bankrupt your entire family, cause you to lose everything you own, and kill the educational future of your children. Yet capitalist Republicans have steadfastly opposed the national insurance that protects every citizen in every advanced nation except ours at half our cost, and is supported by more than 80% of Americans. The stopgap Affordable Care Act has been a godsend, providing health care insurance to some 15 million who never before had it, yet repeal has been a central goal of Republicans ever since it was enacted. The House has voted to repeal the ACA 56 times, every time falsely claiming it to be a financial disaster. A recent GAO report shows that the deficit would increase if it were repealed.

If you cannot afford
private capitalist health insurance
a single serious illness can easily
bankrupt your entire family.

Minimum wage is the pay of millions of people (median age 35) working for amorally stingy corporations, which also prevent their employees from working full time so they don’t have to provide benefits. Yet even full time minimum wage will not pay the rent on a one-bedroom apartment anywhere in the country. This condemns millions of families to the necessity for at least two jobs in the family.

The libertarian ideology says that government must eliminate every expense except “defense” (i.e., war-mongering for oil and other natural resources to rob) to avoid waste and save money, including Social Security and Medicare and anything else that helps real people. And we spend more on the military than the next ten nations combined. Meanwhile, every part of our national infrastructure is near collapse. Remember the bridge in Minneapolis that simply fell down during rush hour? There are lots of similar accidents waiting to happen, including on long outdated railroads, and some that have already happened.

Infrastructure is not an optional expense
that can simply be eliminated.

Infrastructure is not an optional expense that can simply be eliminated to honor belief in minimal government. Highways and bridges, railways and airports, communications and control operations, river channels and dams, crucially important places numbering in tens of thousands are in decrepit condition. The longer this continues, the more commerce will be negatively affected, and the more businesses will collapse. It has become a national security issue. We face the clear threat of economic losses that will affect rich and poor alike, and will last decades past the date we finally decide to do something about it.

All this is what capitalist conservatism really means.

How The Police Must Change

We live in a new kind of police state, one in which no person can be sure he will survive when the police show up. 

We have seen: cops painfully twisting the arm of a small unarmed and unthreatening man in his seventies; kicking the face of a man on the ground in restraints; shooting an unarmed elderly man after being asked to check up on him; death by fusillade of numerous unarmed black men and women; beating of children and women; pepper spray of handcuffed people; suffocation death of arrested men; numerous deaths of men at police headquarters or in a vehicle; death when a man who was supposed to be taken to hospital was taken to police headquarters and beaten; death because medicine was denied; death because medical care was denied; beatings of mentally ill people; beatings of blind people; a woman in handcuffs and leg restraints kicked to death…

Lest we think these things apply only to blacks, there are more white people than black people killed by the police. Nobody gets a pass.

We live in a new kind of police state.
No person can be sure he will survive
when the police show up.

The standard police protocol is to kill, which police spokespersons say is a reasonable response. I do not agree at all. The record in the US is radically worse than other advanced countries. Deaths at the hands of US cops number in the hundreds, while deaths in other countries are zero or single digits over the same period. The fact is, US police react with fatal gunfire under all kinds of circumstances that would not draw the same reaction in other countries. This policy must change.

We have witnessed several more enlightened responses from the police of other nations. In one, a German man who was waving a knife around and threatening people was shot in the thigh at close range, and taken into custody by a single officer without further difficulty. Numerous identical situations in the US have resulted in shooting death as the first response.

I do not agree
with the standard police response
to kill.

Off-duty unarmed police visiting from overseas responded to a call on a subway. They subdued a man and put him on the floor. Rather than putting their full body pressure on his back, they asked him if he could breathe OK. He said yes. An arrest was made when local police arrived. Several similar cases resulting in suffocation death from US cops have become infamous.

My belief is that both training and police protocol in the US are badly out of step with the requirements of a just democracy. We all agree, the cops gotta change. Here’s some ideas how.

Police must be able to maintain control over their emotions under all circumstances. An officer must never react with anger, even under extreme provocation, even if injured by a suspect. Professionalism is bringing a subject under control without reacting emotionally. To do so is to take on that person’s problems as your own, and easily leads to abuse. Extreme physicality may at times be called for, with any of various techniques for subduing a person, but anger never improves such techniques, any more than it would when lifting a barbell. When physicality is necessary, an officer should be cool and calculating about how best to deal with a suspect. Simply lashing out and injuring or killing is a clear sign of insufficient training and control.

My belief is that both training and protocol
are badly out of step with the
requirements of a just democracy.

If several police officers address a criminal suspect who is not showing a weapon, only one person should have a weapon aimed at the suspect. That weapon should be an automatic rifle whenever possible, which is much more accurate than a pistol, both for a single shot and multiple shots. That officer should not be within reaching distance of the suspect, but should maintain a clear line of sight. All officers should have weapons ready to be drawn, but holstered. The first sign of danger should draw rapid fire from this single officer, preferably to the thigh. If there is not an immediate halt to the suspect’s threat, or if he shows a gun, multiple shots with intent to kill should be used.

All officers should be well trained in martial arts techniques, with frequent practice, re-training, and review. Officers should be in peak physical condition, even older officers.

Police must be able to maintain control
over their emotions under all circumstances.
Shouting is frequently counterproductive.
Deadly force is rarely necessary.

Cursing or inflammatory language must never be used, particularly racist language. The officer must always understand that he is dealing with people who are under stress, and not behaving as they might normally. Reacting with swearing or racist language will always make it worse, whereas normal speaking may defuse the situation and calm the people involved.

Loud shouting at a suspect is usually a bad idea because it is quite often difficult or impossible to understand, especially when repeated rapidly. Shouting at a suspect, particularly by a number of officers, may simply confuse him. For example, a man with a knife who seems distracted will be more likely to put the knife down and surrender if he is talked to calmly by one person, whereas several people shouting at him will seem like nothing but noise. Shooting to kill after several shouted warnings is a policy guaranteed to result in death.

The crux of the matter is this: our police are out of control. Training in control of emotions and revision of faulty policies that cause unnecessary pain and deaths are essential, immediately. There are doubtless many more possible ways that police training and policy can be fixed than the ones I mention here.

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