Monday, December 28, 2015

Consciousness Consolidation


The effects of media consolidation amount to more than immediately comes to mind:




This graphic by frugaldad.com was posted on Daily Kos.  It's not readable here but if you go there it is.



Thursday, December 24, 2015

An Ayn Rand Christmas








Someone with nothing better to do has taken a bunch of Ayn Rand quotes and made them into Christmas cards. In a way they're funny because of the stark contrast between her diabolical social Darwinism and the kind of thoughts we normally associate with Christmas.

Until you remember that many of our politicians, including people like Paul Ryan, the speaker of the house, and people like former Federal Reserve chairman Alan Greenspan, are followers of this woman and spend all their time figuring out how to translate her philosophy into innocuous sound bytes designed to disarm our natural revulsion at the naked lust for money and power so they can implement it as public policy.




Saturday, December 19, 2015

The New USA

Massive internet spying is back; our government once again has the authority it, including President Barak Obama explicitly, wanted to spy on every detail of our lives.

Innocuous sounding media reports about what's in the "cybersecurity" bill that made it into the final version of the massive omnibus spending bill that's been signed by the president reflect the fact that many people, including congress members, don't actually know what's in the bill.

“Most members of Congress still don’t understand what it will actually do, which is to dramatically expand the U.S. government’s unpopular and ineffective surveillance programs and make all of us more vulnerable to cyber attacks by letting corporations off the hook instead of holding them accountable when they fail to protect their customer’s sensitive information,” Evan Greer, campaign director for Fight For the Future, a digital rights group, told The Intercept.

Also in the bill is the repeal of a law requiring country of origin labeling on meat sold in the US. Congress repealed the law because the US recently lost a case under NAFTA, the North American Free Trade Agreement, which allows foreign countries to collect damages from the US government for such laws and would have required the US to pay out billions.

The Trans Pacific Partnership treaty, or TPP, that the president and both parties are trying to get through congress at the moment contains provisions that are worse and much further reaching.

Welcome to the New USA, where corporate interests trump US law, and where the surveillance state is in place and so are the militarily armed police, who already have official sanction to use whatever violence they deem necessary to keep the people in line. In other words, where the mechanisms are in place for it to quickly become a police state. Keep that in mind as the never ending foreign war rages on in the background of a presidential race that, intentionally or not, is conditioning peoples' minds in ways that are preparing them to accept it.

The mechanism and the willingness to submit to it are one thing. The reasons for it -- Capitalism's inability to emerge from its decade long global recession and its inability to provide a decent living standard for an increasing number of people -- are more apparent by the week.







Thursday, December 17, 2015

Internet Surveillance Is Back

Update at 12/19/15 6:03 a.m.: The president yesterday signed an omnibus spending bill with CISA in it. I had earlier posted an update saying CISA had been left out of the bill, based on an email update I received from one of the internet freedom organizations I follow, but that proved to be inaccurate.



This is exactly what I've been warning about. The internet spying bill, CISA, that we fought so hard to defeat last year is back, having been slipped into the omnibus spending bill that the new house speaker Paul Ryan is being lauded for getting past the tea baggers with Democrat's help, and this version is even worse.

This tells about it and has links for protesting to our senators and congresswomen, who have been ranked for us according to their stances on internet freedom.








Sunday, December 13, 2015

Link Me Up






This map, minus the red dots, was made up by the Washington Post for a Dec 2 story about mass shootings in 2015. They actually just updated the map after the "San Bernardino" shootings, and linked it to their original story from July.

Someone added the red dots and put it on Facebook. The graphic attributes the red dots to "data by SoundVision.com." That's a non profit that seeks to improve the image of Islam and Muslims. I don't immediately see the graphic on their web site, but some enterprising Facebook user who knows how to use the internet and computer graphics could have come up with the graphic in a few minutes. Many people post videos to web sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram directly from their cell phones now with just a few "clicks." That's the only reason people have become aware of how violent the police are, and the only reason police violence is an issue. The federal investigation of the Albuquerque Police Department likely woldn't have occurred otherwise.

If you read the Washington Post story, it used data from ShootingTracker.com, as this graphic states. Established news organizations rely heavily on the internet now. You see entire stories sometimes based on "tweets" that go out over Twitter. In many articles, several words in each sentences contain links to the news organization archives or Wikipedia.

Billionaire Jeff Bazos, founder of Amazon, bought the Washington Post a couple years ago and is being credited with vastly improving it. The new investigative news site The Intercept was founded by another internet billionaire, eBay founder Pierre Omidyar.

We can see locally the significance of the decline of traditional media. The Albuquerque Journal's owners make no effort to put out a balanced, fair product; they simply ignore news they don't like and use the paper to propagandize for Republican elected officials and their own Neoliberal views of economics and politics. But there are alternatives struggling to make an impact, and you can see the potential for something else and the importance of keeping the internet a free and open place. That struggle is ongoing. Almost every week lawmakers try to slip into one or another bill something that would privatize the internet. Please pay attention.


 Free Press

 Fight For The Future











 



Wednesday, December 9, 2015

I Had My Hair Done And Then...





Michell Grisham, the first district US Democratic congresswoman from New Mexico, who has been hiding under her desk in her office all through the Paris massacres, the San Bernardino massacres, and the economic devastation her district has been undergoing throughout her term in office, emerged today to boldly announce she has no position on gun control or on anything.

Like all New Mexico Democrats she takes the cynically calculated, cowardly position that it's better to pass on the opportunity she's been handed to mold public opinion and lead her country in a better direction, and instead stand silently with her finger in the air waiting to see which way the wind's blowing, so as not to jeopardize her fancy title, her perks and privileges and fat paycheck, and the opportunity to improve her own bottom line, which, last I checked had doubled in the short time she'd been in office.

Meanwhile, one other New Mexico Democrat has said something about the continual outpouring of racist demagoguery from the Republican presidential candidates that's been ongoing for months now and has the public whipped into a hateful frenzy. After waiting for other Democrats, and the news media and the entire Republican national leadership to denounce Donald Trump's latest vile outburst, and checking his ass one more time to make sure it was fully covered, he quietly said we hadn't ought to say things like that. From Michelle Grisham, nothing yet, but call me and tell me what you think.





Sunday, December 6, 2015

I Am Not Amused


Albuquerque Journal/Greg Sorber photo


If you have time, read one of the articles warning about the rise of fascism in the country.

"But to even acknowledge our long, stumbling lurch to the right; the building force of corporate power; the relentless need for war; a police whose power of enforcement is divorced from law; a preening nationalism that rewards the full rights of citizenship only to those who fit an ever-narrower mold… You can’t call it fascism. People will only laugh."

And head off to the parade.




 

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Courage

“While we still do not know the shooter’s motive, what is clear is that Planned Parenthood has been the subject of vicious and unsubstantiated statements attacking an organization that provides critical health care for millions of Americans. I strongly support Planned Parenthood and the work it is doing and hope people realize that bitter rhetoric can have unintended consequences.”

That's the statement issued by Vermont's Senator Bernie Sanders about the terrorist attack on a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs yesterday. Say what you will about Sanders, he doesn't cower under his desk when there's a controversy that might cost him a few votes. He does what's best for his country, not what's best for himself.

Below are the statements about the Planned Parenthood killings issued by my congressional delegation to Washington, Michelle Lujan Grisham, Martin Heinrich, Tom Udall, Ben Ray Lujan and Steve Pearce.


















Update

An anonymous comment on my previous post in which I cast shade on New Mexico's criminal justice system directed my attention to a nationwide study released a few days ago by the Center For Public Integrity that gives New Mexico a D minus in state government accountability and transparency, placing it near the bottom of the nation. (Where we do have company. Many states get either a D- or failing F.)

Doland
The section on New Mexico includes an informative article by local investigative journalist Gwyneth Doland that provides some context for our results. Dolan writes that the creation some years back of a Judicial Standards Commission has done much to clean up that branch of government, but a similar lack of oversight for the executive and legislative branches has opened to door to an ongoing history of scandals, such as those involving Governor Susana Martinez' fundraising or her awarding of a casino contract, which are currently being investigated by the FBI, another that led to the recent resignation of Secretary of State Diana Duran, who is supposed to oversee campaign finances but was spending her own donations on a gambling lifestyle, and another that led to the recent resignation of state senator Phil Griego, a real estate agent who got the legislature to buy property from a client in a deal that netted Griego a $50,000 kickback, or, if you will, commission.

The Center for Public Integrity is a Washington DC based NGO funded primarily by the kind of people who fund public broadcasting, like the John D and Catherine T MacArthur Foundation and billionaire George Soros. It includes a staff of former public broadcasting and network TV reporters and has won four Pulitzer Prizes for investigative journalism.






Thursday, November 26, 2015

Crime In New Mexico



Someone tried to steal my 2003 Chevy S-10 pickup truck from the parking lot of the soon to be fashionable Tierre Pointe apartments on Los Volcanes Road. While it was being repaired I rode my bicycle or used a semi tractor.

A couple Fridays ago as I was finding my way to my credit union, which is across the expressway from where I live, I found my way to the biking/pedestrian/jogging overpass on I-40 just east of Coors. As I crossed it and glanced out over the city and the very grand Rio Grande Valley, I realized that while after 15 years I generally still appreciate New Mexico's spectacular scenery, when I cruise around Albuquerque in a motor vehicle, its majestic setting fades into a background filled with aggressive drivers, time constraints, perpetual worries -- my personal reality. So I turned around and went back and snapped a couple pictures with my cell phone camera.



Albuquerque from a mountain bike



Los Volcanes viewed through public art from more inspired times


The would be thieves had pried out the door handle and removed the cowling around the steering column, but apparently had been unable to get the truck to run because of an anti theft device that came with it from the factory.

It had happened October 26, and Allstate had had it towed to Reliable Chevrolet across from the Cottonwood Mall, which has a body shop, and they were almost a month getting it fixed. I finally started calling my agent and Allstate and I got the truck back last Friday, November 20.

When I saw that the final tally was $1,900 and something, almost twice the estimate, I questioned the woman at the desk. She got the adjuster to come out and he explained that the service department had had the pickup most of that time. There was damage to the steering column. A feature that prevents the vehicle from running unless a key is inserted into the lock had had to be replaced.

I bought the truck used so knew not of that feature. The ignition lock was sloppy when I bought it an I'd had to lube it up good with graphite to get it to work right, and the shift lever for the automatic transmission was sloppy, too. Both are tight and like new now. I'm happy about that, but I'm out the $500 deductible, of course, and my insurance rates will probably edge upward. The extended amount of time Reliable had it seems a little more reasonable now.

I'm thinking about getting some kind of anti theft device. The cop watch web sites tell about 360 degree video cameras, and cameras you can monitor on your home computer or even on your cell phone. I assume there are systems that record the video, maybe upload it somewhere, maybe a web site where you must pay a subscription fee.

Carlos, who unloads me in the morning and who grew up here, says I should just get a loud burglar alarm.



If you've ever noticed, when people install barbed wire along the top of a chain link fence (now it's usually the more deadly razor wire) that top segment of barbed or razor wire is usually angled either inward or outward. If it's angled out, it's to keep thieves out. If it's angled in, it's to keep them in. Trapped. They want to know who did this to them and to punish them, rather than prevent the crime in the first place.

Carlos grew up in New Mexico, which I see as more of a barbed wire out kind of place. You protect your own interests and don't worry about your neighbor, to put it broadly. That way of seeing the world is always under challenge and the kind of place New Mexico is is always being contested. It might be changing to a barbed wire in kind of place, but maybe not.

A murder trial took place last week for the kid who murdered the son of the guy who helps me out with my business. The jury let the kid off. Not guilty. Not enough evidence. The prosecutor had warned my friend and his wife about "New Mexico juries" and had gotten their OK to offer a plea deal, but the kid had refused it, and his lawyers had gotten the judge, a New Mexico judge, to rule a lot of the evidence inadmissible, the way it was told it to me.

New Mexico Republicans are making hay over the way defendants are treated in New Mexico, and I see where the Democratic state attorney general is now urging that more money be spent on crime. Meanwhile the Republican governor is trying to boost her career by demagogging peoples' fear of terrorism that takes place on the other side of the world.

As for me, I think I'll go with what Carlos says and hope for the best.









Saturday, November 21, 2015

Leadership - NM Democrats Take Note






This, New Mexico Democrats, is how you counter xenophobia. This is how you keep your country, that you take money from, that you pretend to serve, from going from bad to worse. You set an example. You define the boundaries of acceptable behavior. You take a chance. You show courage. You show moral leadership.

Say what you will about Sanders' economic policies, or his support for US imperialism and Zionism. Any politician could do what he did here. Anyone can show backbone, and compassion.

Representatives Michelle Lujan Grisham and Ben Ray Lujan, Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, where is your leadership? You cower and remain mute while the vitriol and ignorance reign unchallenged. Where is your moral courage?



For more on this please see the post below.




Where Are Heinrich, Udall, Grisham and Lujan In The "Syrian Refugee" Debate?

Liberal social media has been sizzling with the outlandish and vile statements coming from Republican presidential candidates, Republican politicians and conservative media figures regarding the issue of Muslim refugees coming into the US, and Muslims in general, which seem to escalate in vitriol and ignorance by the day.

New Mexico's Democrats, as far as I can see, remain mute on the subject, adhering to their standard practice of ducking controversial issues. I've looked at their government and social media web sites and searched the media, and there's nothing, save for a statement by Ben Lujan on his official web site condemning the so-called Syrian Refugee bill rushed through the House by Republicans this week. There have been no press conferences, no op-ed pieces, or any of the myriad ways they have a t their disposal, hecause of the positions they hold, to enter into the public debate and influence public opinion.

It's not just New Mexico's Democrats. Many Democrats around the country are trying to not get involved, and when they do they couch whatever defense they have of Muslims by first stressing the need to be vigilant and put the national security first. But I live here and these New Mexico Democrats are my representatives.

The effect of their cowardice can be debated. Are they in effect agreeing with the bigots?  Are they putting their personal interests ahead of their country's? As former Labor Secretary and economics professor Robert Reich pointed out yesterday in urging Democrats to rebuke one of the more egregious things to emanate during this mess, "Every hour it stands without rebuke is more poison leeching into the bedrock of America."

That's the issue. Are New Mexico's Democrats going to stand around and let more poison to leech into the bedrock of America? While you're at it think about the many ways conservatives and the tactics they use to maintain power are habitually left unanswered by Democrats, and how Democrats' inaction affects working peoples' lives in many ways.

New Mexico Democrats Michelle Grisham and Ben Lujan at least voted against the idiotic Republican anti refugee bill, and Lujan, to his credit, posted a statement on his congressional web site condemning the bill. Giving him the benefit of the doubt, his statement can even be taken to condemn the ongoing orgy of racism that has gripped the nation. In it he says:

"It does not make our nation safer, nor does it live up to our values as the greatest and freest country in history."

Unfortunately he lessens the impact of his high ideals by cloaking them in nationalism. The United States isn't the "greatest and freest country in history." That's a ridiculous, easily disprovable lie. In fairness to Lujan, we always give each other a pass when it comes to expressing our chauvinistic nationalism in this way, but it wasn't necessary to make his point. It's just him trying to cover his ass.

Rather than being the great country we like to think of ourselves as being, the United States is a warmongering bully that fails miserably to uphold standards of decency we apply to everyone else. It contains a large percentage of racist ignoramuses, and another large percentage who are too afraid to call them out. And the bulk of us, and this includes the first two groups and practically everyone else, either aren't very concerned about or haven't been educated about the more systemic and subtle forms of racism that permeate our society and who only complain, when we do, about the most glaringly obvious forms of racism.

It's the responsibility of Martin Heinrich, Tom Udall, Michelle Grisham, Ben Lujan and other prominent people who are making their living pretending to be "public servants" to not only counter vile and harmful rhetoric that's "leeching into the bedrock of America" but to help educate and inform the public about the more subtle ways this poison permeates the country. Their oath of office demands it of them.

They need to not only to call out racism when they see it, but to be good examples of how public people should conduct themselves. That goes beyond simply not saying racist things, and goes way beyond just keeping your mouth shut. It requires them to be courageous and demonstrate moral leadership, not to hide under their desks until the latest controversy fades from the headlines.

They're not doing any of these things, nor have they ever. They'll come out against NSA spying and against paying women less than men, because there's no cost to them in opposing nameless formless non entities. But when it comes to countering the inextricably intertwined forces of racism, nationalism and militarism that run through our national psyche, they won't do it.

You can argue that they're being realistic, that the current political climate dictates that they be measured, so that they can hold onto their office and live to fight another day. The problem with that logic is that they allowed the "current political climate" to emerge because they've kept their mouths shut, and the longer they keep them shut the worse things will get, and the more poisoned the bedrock of America will become.







Thursday, November 19, 2015

Courage And Moral Leadership


Regarding the issue of Syrian refugees is forthcoming from New Mexico's Democrats any minute now.







Wednesday, November 18, 2015

I've Got Mine, To Hell With You

Says Susana Martinez, New Mexico's Republican governor, born of undocumented immigrants, to people fleeing her nation's warmongering.



New Mexico's Democrats, meanwhile, who like all of us in this country with the possible exception of American Indians are immigrants, are hiding under their desks until the whole "Syrian refugee" issue blows over.





Monday, November 16, 2015

Why Do They Want To Kill Us? (It ain't religion)

Lydia Wilson interviewed some ISIS fighters for The Nation.

One young Iraqi told her, 

“The Americans came. They took away Saddam, but they also took away our security. I didn’t like Saddam, we were starving then, but at least we didn’t have war. When you came here, the civil war started.”

Most of the mostly young ISIS fighters aren't even that religious, and ISIS doesn't really care.

The article isn't over long. I wished it had been longer. It focuses on one man and summarizes what the rest told her. Wilson somehow got access to ISIS fighters who were in Iraqi government custody and were awaiting trial.





Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Strike

Some Missouri college football players this week showed us the tremendous power of Labor. By merely threatening to withhold theirs, and thereby holding out the threat of costing the power structure they labor under significant money, they got in a matter of hours exactly what they wanted, the head of the power structure's top man.

After talking to some coaches and administrators about what took place in Missouri, Miami Herald sports columnist Sam Mellinger writes that the power dynamics of college sports are changed forever.

The Missouri players' $4 million a year foreman -- Coach Pinkel -- had no choice but to side with his players. He, and the now former college president Tim Wolfe, have come to realize that they, like the so called titans of industry, and all the rest of the bosses, are extraneous, that without football players there is no football. Just as without workers, there's no business. No producing, no customers. Nothing.

Like it says in the classic Labor song Solidarity Forever:
They have taken untold millions that they never toiled to earn,
But without our brain and muscle not a single wheel can turn

And:
In our hands is placed a power greater than their hoarded gold,
Greater than the might of armies, multiplied a thousand-fold


American workers, Americans, behold.




The solidarity photo Missouri football players posted with their strike threat





Monday, November 9, 2015

Meet Me Down At The Union Hall

 (I received the following, refreshing group email today from the New Mexico Democratic Party about a presidential debte "watch party" it's hosting at the American Federation of State and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) union hall this weekend. I've often criticized NM's elected Democrats for cynically concealing their ties to unions and standing mute while unions are under constant attack nationwide and continue to decline, dragging down the standard of living of US workers overall with them. I still have never heard any of our federal delegation utter the word "union" in public. Instead of talking about things like the Employee Free Choice Act which would remove some of the legal barriers to union organizing but which languishes  and gathers dust they are more interested in not offending the business community and potential donors. I wonder if I'll see any of them at the watch party. I don't see the AFSCME union hall address listed. If they're interested, it's 1202 Pennsylvania NE.)


Dear Democrats,
This past weekend marked one year until Election Day 2016. There’s so much at stake and we have a lot of work to do. We must retake the State House, hold the State Senate, elect a Secretary of State and do our part to send a Democrat to the White House!
It’s time to get fired up and organized. That’s why we’re teaming up with Rep. Ben Ray Lujan’s campaign and county parties across the state to hold watch parties for the second Democratic presidential debate this Saturday, November 14. Can you join us? 
Here in Albuquerque, the State Party will be sponsoring a watch party at the AFSCME Union hall at 1202 Pennsylvania St NE. Please mark your calendars!
There will also be watch parties at locations in Curry, Lea, Lincoln, Los Alamos, Mora, Taos, Rio Arriba, Roosevelt, San Juan, San Miguel, Santa Fe, and Valencia Counties. If you'd like to attend one of these gatherings, reply to this email and we'll get you the details. If you don’t see your community listed and want to host a gathering, respond to this email and let us know. We’d love to have your help!
 
We’ll see you on Saturday as we cheer on our great Democratic candidates!
 
 
Debra Haaland
Chairwoman





Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Back By Popular Demand

A few Leftists are taking advantage of the space opened up in the national dialogue by the Bernie Sanders campaign to remind people of America's Socialist history and try to open the space wider, as Lawrence Wittner does in an article in Common Dreams.

Others are critical of Sanders' ties to the Democratic Party and worry that the way democratic socialism is being portrayed down peddles and dilutes what socialism means, and accuse Sanders of "sheepdogging," i.e., of fulfilling the function, intentionally or not, of simply bringing the Left back into the fold of the Democratic Party. Jesse Jackson and Dennis Kucinich were accused of that, too.

There's something to both points of view, but both are lacking, too. I've on many occasions written about the Socialist history of the US, with similar ends in mind. But Socialism isn't something that can be grown or killed. It's arises out of human nature. The societal shifts in the past century that led to the mass movements that brought it into American politics and into the leadership of European governments may have been planned for and eagerly awaited by Socialists, but they occurred as natural reactions to peoples' discomfort and pain and abhorrence to Capitalism and/or feudalism as the case may be. The cooperative economy of Socialism is second nature to humans. Every member of the species would come up with the same idea. It's who we are. It's genetic.

But we're also inherently, genetically, what leads to Capitalism; and to its current excesses and the apocalyptic dead-end into which it may be headed, as frighteningly described by Henry Giroux in Truthout magazine.

Stay tuned.









Sunday, November 1, 2015

State Coercion

New York City just made another payout to settle a lawsuit for an illegal arrest of Occupy protesters by the New York City police. I've lost track of the lawsuits that city has settled for police overreach during Occupy. It's in the millions. It's a small fraction, though, of the amount the city pays out for illegal things their cops do, overall. False arrests, unjustified killings, illegal surveillance, profiling, and on and on.

We know something about that in Albuquerque. In July the local business journal reported that the $248 million Albuquerque paid out last year on acount of its police department makes it the highest in the nation in payouts per officer, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis.

The state -- that amorphous entity that includes the governing body of a nation and all its arms and its associated ruling elites and has a logic independent of its individual actors -- pays out fines like this one  after another and never blinks and never slows down its illegal oppressive activity. It's well documented that President Obama's drone strikes kill far more civilians than combatants but they continue unabated and the federal state keeps making payments and issuing apologies and keeps bombing civilians.

Fines and lawsuit payouts don't phase the state one bit, and until people begin to see the police and military and prison systems and judicial systems as coercive arms of the state, it's not going to change. It will just get worse.







Saturday, October 31, 2015

Attention Police

And those who blindly support them. US cops would have simply executed this man within seconds. It doesn't have to be that way.






The 1:37 video is a condensed and cleaned up version of a longer cell phone video that lasts 5:43. That one is more jerky and includes the people in an apartment across the street talking in the background as the situation unfolds, but it shows the police patiently keeping the man contained in one area until the officers with the shields arrive.

The shorter version was posted by Filming Cops, a well known copwatch group in Florida, and reposted by my Facebook friend Joe Conway, a retired psychologist and former director of a mental health center in Reading, PA, who wrote:

Important to note; that in saving his life in a humane way; they also saved the community from the trauma of his killing and the expense of the investigation that would have followed, and the denigration of the relationship between the cops and community. It would have made the next killing easier, and would be a door opener for the next after that. 




Friday, October 30, 2015

The South Side

I don't like it that police, and a growing number of other people, can put one of those "boots" on your car wheel to immobilize you until they get some money out of you or otherwise make you submit to something. It's like letting them judge and convict you without benefit of a trial. It's almost like an arrest. Here at my apartment complex they'll boot your car if you park in a handicap space and you have to pay $75 to get a private company to come out here and take it off.




This photo is apparently going around on Facebook. It was reposted by my conservative Republican brother, who lives in the small rural town in Michigan on the far fringes of the Chicago area where we grew up. The post's original description got reposted with it:


G.m only in the chi on the south side lol


"The chi" is Chicago, and everyone in that area knows that when you say "the south side" you mean where the Black people live. I at first thought there were some racial undertones in my brother's posting, but then I followed the link back to where it was originally posted. It was posted by a Black guy who also posts a lot of Liberal things.

My perception went through several phases. Through all of it, though, I found the picture funny. But why? How does humor work? How do we use cultural markers in humor?

Here are two other pictures, one posted by the conservative Republican brother and one by the Liberal Democratic brother.


.


.


.











Monday, October 26, 2015

Higher Than Education

What's college all about, anyway? Is it job training for high paying jobs? Or a place where you learn how the world works, which is something we need to know if we live in a democracy? What about a place where learning about the arts can help you understand and appreciate the world in ways the first two can't?

We can have discussions about things like this because, in relative historical terms, we're a highly educated society. But we could be gong backward. Discussions like this might not take place in the future.

The ongoing entrenchment of Neoliberal, i.e. Reaganomics, economic policies, with lower taxes on the rich and corporations, is putting college further out of reach for more working class students. But it's also changing the very nature of how we think about things, like college, as outlined in a rather long and dense (87 footnotes) article by Nancy Welch in the International Socialist Review. Current realities, our ways of thinking about things, are being replaced by new ones. Some things are just not part of the discussion any more. Some things will never come up because we won't even be imagining the same things we did before.



The article addresses something pointed to by many critics of the direction we're heading, which is that most college faculty is now non tenure and part time. Tenure -- which is job protection similar to what unions afford -- is meant to give scholars academic freedom, to look into whatever they want to. When faculty is on contingent, semester to semester contract, as more and more are now, they aren't as likely to rock the boat. In the early 70s there was a 75-25 balance (75 percent tenured, 25 percent non tenure and part time). It's now 25-75, and as the article lays out, many college teachers don't even make a living wage.

But money still flows to college administrations, and not just to the highly paid college president. Administrators now outnumber teachers, according to the ISR article.

I looked up the University of New Mexico budget and found this on page 29. It lumps student employment in with administrative employment into a category called "staff/student/other salaries, so it doesn't let you compare apples to apples, but I'd add that if by student employment it means the kind of "work study" jobs I had in college, that was part time at minimum wage.

But at UNM, the staff/student/other" category is more than double the "faculty salaries" category.  Look under the heading 'Expenses." (These figures are in thousands of dollars. 204,357 means $204,357,000.)



The ISR article also points out that colleges are sitting on big piles of cash reserves. The UNM budget is very complex and things are broken up into different campuses and departments. I coul'd find a budget item for cash reserves in the time I have today, but note that in this snippet from the UNM budget there's a 53.6 million surplus in this area for 2016.









Tuesday, October 20, 2015

It's The Stupid, Stupid

It's the economy, stupid
(Often quoted sign posted in the office of Bill Clinton's presidential campaign manager, James Carville)


When the roof starts leaking you don't blame a Muslim, or a homophobic talk show host. You just curse and call a roofer.

With the way our political system is set up, and the way the media portrays the world, there aren't enough avenues to express what it is that bothers us, to express what really needs expressing. That's the lesson, I think, of an article by Rick Perlstein that's being posted around the internet that talks about how democratic socialist/populist Bernie Sanders is getting some respect from some working class conservatives who've heard what's he's saying.

When people get anxious there are fundamental causes: economic insecurity and threats to our sense of who we are are the most fundamental. Our "sense of who we are" is what we usually think of as our "identity" and when our identity is under attack we feel threatened. But those kinds of things aren't talked about, at least not directly, by politicians and the media, and identity politics doesn't identify them. Politicians and journalists have insecurities of their own and don't want to reveal that, because we as a society are that way, too. We're guarded about such things. We don't want to give other people any ammunition to use against us, and our sense of self requires that we project an image as someone who has our act together. We are left with inadequate ways of expressing our discontent that aren't up to the task, and lead us off into solutions that don't address the problems.

My older brother, a true blue liberal Democrat, has a small army of Facebook friends who post things about the outrageous things conservatives say. Whenever an article appears that uses data from studies conducted by sociologists to suggest that working class Republicans are uninformed and even unintelligent they post it and leave self congratulatory "I told you so" comments. My younger brother, a true dittohead conservative tea bagger Republican, posts racist and Islamophobic things on his Facebook page, and the two brothers don't interact at all on Facebook.

I've suggested to the liberal Democratic faction that posting such things is counterproductive but I have a hard time explaining why. I really don't have the language myself to explain why. You can make the case that economic issues are what unite us all -- all of us who work for paychecks and aren't the inherently rich, which is how I define the working class -- but not the case for why everyone doesn't realize that, or why it's such fun to feel superior to other people, to look down on them, which bolsters our sense of who we are, i.e., someone who is more tolerant, or simply, someone who is not them.

Working class conservatives, and people in general, express their anxieties in the only ways they know how. Often that's by blaming immigrants and other kinds of people, or liberals or conservatives or socialists or people who vote for people we don't like because they don't know what we know. But if we can find ways to identify what's causing our anxieties instead of focusing on how we express them, we'll end up a lot better off.






Monday, October 19, 2015

The Hillary Train

On my Google news page there's a Rush Limbaugh transcript from today where he's preparing his audience for nothing to come of Hillary's testimony before the Benghazi committee. The headlines about Clinton's emails have stopped, thanks in large part to Bernie Sanders, and Hillary's nationwide polling lead is intact. Republicans have failed to derail the Hillary train. Biden might yet stumble into its path but that won't slow it down.

I remember 1992 when Bill Clinton and Al Gore got the upper hand on George HW Bush, who had angered his base by breaking his no new taxes pledge and being wishy washy on abortion. Clinton and Gore started pummeling him and went on to an electoral vote landslide. It is said that that election was transformative in that it reversed a trend of three straight Republican presidential election landslides, and cemented the Republican Party as the party of the South, as Clinton brought states in the Midwest and Northeast that had been swing states, and California, into the Democratic party column. Democrats Clinton and his successor Obama, however, turned their backs on their base and governed as moderate Republicans.

There's disarray in the Republican base now. Because of Bernie Sanders, who has tapped into the same vein of resistance to Neoliberal Capitalism that Occupy Wall Street did, Hillary Clinton has been taking a more populist and Leftist tone, in her rhetoric at least. Women, who are in reality the Democratic Party's base now, could turn out for her in overwhelming numbers and swing some Southern states, and even affect the balance in the congress, if Clinton continues to run as a Liberal Democrat and convinces people she'd govern that way. This could be a transformative election. I'm not holding by breath, but it's possible.









Note: Eric Draitsert uses this song as the introduction to the Counterpunch podcast. Counterpunch is a newsletter begun by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St Clair that's influential on the Left.






Sunday, October 18, 2015

Hillaryism



Hillary Clinton during this week's Democratic presidential debate demonstrated how easy it is for a popular uprising to change the terms of the debate when she volunteered her own version of what needs to be done to Capitalism. At 2:50 into this clip she talks about the "excesses" of Capitalism and the need to periodically "save Capitalism from itself."

These phrases are tropes of the Americans Left. I used one of them in the post below.

The standard line of the Left is that when he came into office Franklin Roosevelt implemented the American version of democratic socialsism via the New Deal to "save Capitalism from itself." Roosevelt was aware that the "excesses of Capitalism" had resulted in the rise of the American Labor Movement," and that it had a strong socialist vein.

He knew socialism was making headway in Europe and elsewhere. European countries all had viable socialist and social democratic parties if not Communist parties, and a few years earlier socialists had taken over in Russia and were on the verge of taking over in China. In the US, socialists were being elected to city councils here and there, sometimes winning majorities, and being elected as mayors and even to state legislatures.

Frank Zeidler, Milwaukee's Socialist mayor 1948-1960
With the New Deal, Roosevelt successfully co-opted that trend and brought most of it into the Democratic Party. Other Democrats were doing the same thing at the local level. In Minnesota, for example, then Minneapolis mayor Hubert H Humphrey brought socialists into the Democratic Party by forming a new combined party, the Democratic-Farm Labor Party, or DFL. Minnesota Democrats still run under the DFL ballot line today, not as Democrats. The Farm Labor Party had been one of several populist state parties that grew up in the early 20th century especially in the Midwest and brought together different elements of the working class, and were heavily represented by recent immigrants -- Scandanavians, Jews, Italians, etc. -- who had brought socialist ideas from Europe.

The Democratic Party, in a process that accelerated under Bill Clinton, gradually shed its socialist leanings and marginalized its left wing. Bernie Sanders represents that wing and has been partly successful in mobilizing it. Hillary Clinton can see that happening and as a result has moved to the Left during the campaign -- coming out against the TPP trade treaty and the Keystone XL pipeline project, for example. By using the language she used the other night, she showed that she knows her history and the latent potency of socialist ideas.


Irony Note: The clip here is from Melissa Perry's program on MSNBC that focuses on African American issues. Perry came up through somewhat radical African American and feminist channels in academia but gained the fame and success she enjoys now by tying herself to the mainstream establishment and the Democratic Party, although she still has a lot of credibility among young Black people and the Black Lives Matter movement, which she has covered on her program and in articles. Young Black people in general and the Black Lives Matter Movement in particular are almost entirely lacking the kind of economic critique Perry demonstrates here. Older Black Left/socialist radicals have varying takes on the young peoples' seeming disdain for class based economic analysis. Cornel West, for example, advises patience, but people like Glen Ford have harshly critiqued them for their lack of knowledge about economics and the radical history of Black struggle movements, and for their culture of opportunism in seeking to advance themselves financially as people like Perry have.


Trivia Note: The DFL party in Minnesota harkens back to a farmer radicalism and populism that was somewhat apparent in my family growing up. On my mother's side there were and are farmers who belong to grain co-ops, by which farmers band together to sell their grains and buy their supplies. As you drive through the country and see those big grains silos, many of them are owned by farmer co-ops.

One uncle was pouring the daily outpouring of milk from his dairy herd onto the ground morning and evening during a fight between his association and the dairies. One of the family reunions on my Dad's side was held in a Grange Hall in a small Ohio town, a remnant of the farmer based Granger movement that brought regulation to the railroads and grain warehouses and, among other things, got free the rural mail delivery that we still have today instituted.



Saturday, October 17, 2015

The Strange Rehabilitation of Socialism

Fully 27 percent of conservatives have a favorable view of socialism. That was the surprising tidbit in one of the many articles flowing out and studies being linked to that talk about Americans' evolving takes on socialism in the wake of the first Democratic presidential primary debate in which Bernie Sanders was asked about the term democratic socialism.

Credit: Reuters/Lucy Nicholson/Wikimedia/Salon
For several years polling has been picking up the trend of younger Americans having a more favorable a view of socialism, as favorable as Capitalism in some polls, and I've noted that here.

Although the media casts the finding that 27 percent of conservatives overall approve of socialism as proof they don't like it, as compared to liberals, of whom more than half overall approve of it, I see it as somewhat amazing that so many conservatives have a favorable view of socialism. During the height of the Cold War Reagan revolution, when even the term "liberal" was demonized, it was hard to find anyone who'd admit they approved of socialism.

But Reagan is dead, most of the Cold War propagandists are gone and Americans aren't growing up under the anti communist hysteria that once gripped the country. Furthermore, the conservative political establishment continues to dismantle the New Deal socialism that ameliorated some of the more severe effects of Capitalism, and younger Americans see this happening before their eyes. They're looking forward to less rosy futures than their parents did at their ages and can directly attribute it to Capitalism. As they struggle through a Capitalist present of mushrooming wealth and income inequality, staggering student loan debt and inflation-adjusted wages that remain at early 1980s levels, they are seeing what they learn about socialism with different, clearer eyes.

It's ironic, of course, that the conservative dream of forever stamping out socialism didn't come true, but instead, someone labeled a socialist is a serious presidential candidate. It's just unfortunate that we're finding out the benefits of socialism the hard way.





Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Debate Analytics

An article in an online magazine Vocativ contains some interesting analysis of last night's debate and the presidential campaign so far, for instance that the two front runners were asked the most questions by far, and blocked their opponents from being asked questions by not mentioning their names. Apparently if a candidate mentioned another candidate's name they had to be given time to respond.

The article has some analysis of what happened on Twitter last night. Many people don't pay much attention to Twitter but I have been lately because a certain segment of the population uses Twitter heavily, and people like politicians, certain power brokers, entertainers and so forth know this and are getting their messages out to that segment via Twitter. The "segment" is basically what sometimes is called the millennials but I think more accurately is the 18-34 demographic, that advertisers love and that is the future.

Bernie Sanders gained many more followers last night than any other candidate (46,000 more versus Hillary's 10,000 more) but fewer than Donald Trump (+70,000) whose running Twitter commentary on current events is widely reported in the media.





Sunday, October 11, 2015

Certified Organic



On my Google News page I spotted an article by Modern Farmer (whatver that is) headlined The Bad News About the Organic Industry. The article is a pretty exhaustive look at some of the problems in the organic food industry, mainly having to do with the standards for what's considered organic but also with the costs a farmer incurs by "going organic."

During the Clinton Administration the USDA started an organic foods certification program. That's the green and white "USDA Organic" label you see on most organic foods (that many non organic foods mimic with a similar colored and shaped label they stick on in the same place to get you to pick up their products.)

I recall when the USDA organic certification battle was being waged. Big agribusiness tried to dilute the initial standards, then having for the most part failed, they were able to re-open the issue a year later and tried to dilute them again. Both attempts were beaten back, but the standards never were ideal in the first place because, in the opinion of me and other semi neurotic people, they allowed small amounts of non organic and synthetic ingredients.

Those problems, the ongoing problems with the food industry not wanting to label foods that contain things people don't want to eat, and the problems listed in the Modern Farmer article could be rectified with another concerted effort by the people. After the USDA certified organic battles many of them, I think, went their merry ways and there will have to be another round of activism to perfect the standards and to once and for all give us control over what we eat. But I think it will happen. There are just too many people now who are concerned about what they eat for big agribusiness, and the politicians who love their campaign money, to overcome.


Note: The Modern Farmer article cites as one of the problems the fact that foods grown in other countries can get the USDA Organic label. I myself don't see that as a problem. Mexican and Canadian trucking companies came come into the US now, and if I want to do what they did and figure out how to operate in their countries I'm free to do it.




Saturday, October 10, 2015

Slanted News

Just for the record, while internet and weekend TV news is being dominated by the turmoil surrounding the speaker position in the Republican controlled US House of Representatives, my local newspaper, the Albuquerque Journal, which is owned by true believer Republicans, at this moment has not one thing about it. Here are screen shots of the web pages for Columns, Editorials and News:












You can look around the paper even more by clicking on links but I find nothing. I looked on the eJournal, too, which shows the pages of the daily print paper but see nothing there, either.

I can understand the embarrassment the editors at the Journal must be feeling over the problems in their party - this is what happens when you identify too closely with a political party. The national media also seems embarrassed and I've noticed many articles promoting Wisconsin Republican Paul Ryan as a savior from their discomfort, and portraying him as some kind of statesman. If you're under that illusion just do a Google search for "Ryan budget." This guy sees Ayn Rand as his mentor.








TPP and Hillary

Wikileaks has released the final draft of the "Intellectual Property" section of the TPP, the Trans Pacific Partnetship Treaty. Open Media reports that it confirms what's been feared about the draconian TPP ttreaty's assault on internet freedom and about various other issues.

Now Hillary Clinton, who has repeatedly praised the TPP and under whose supervision as secretary of state negotiations were conducted for years, has come out against the treaty, one of several bold gestures to her party's natural liberal base she's made in an attempt to halt the erosion of her support to Bernie Sanders and Joe Biden and interrupt the relentless flow of negative news headlines stemming from her use of a private email account as secretary of state. Clinton has also been hinting that she'll drop her opposition to big bank regulation, wants to end private prisons, etc. George Zornich writing in The Nation explains how Clinton's reversal on the TPP makes it much harder to pass the treaty, as it now becomes a problem for Democrats running for federal and state offices and ammunition for their prospective primary opponents.

The TPP was negotiated in secret between 605 corporate lobbyists and 12 Pacific rim countries (U.S., Japan, Australia, Peru, Malaysia, Vietnam, New Zealand, Chile, Singapore, Canada, Mexico, and Brunei). As part of a strategy to prevent opposition to the treaty from coalescing, all details of what's in it have been kept secret from the public and from congress and the Obama Administration has constantly repeated a focus group tested storyline that the treaty will  boost the economy and create jobs.

The treaty has two primary functions. First is to expand Neoliberal Reaganomics Capitalism in the Pacific rim. Related is to further the aims of the US ruling elite's geopolitical "pivot to asia" strategy by which the US has been moving to stem the rise of China by encircling it militarily.

All the TPP signatory countries now do large amounts of trade with China, but with the TPP the US ruling elite hopes to isolate China economically by tying the signatories economies more closely to the US economy. Many inducements have been put forth to that end, such as allowing signatories to maintain tariffs that restrict US products, but the biggest is that the TPP furthers the Neoliberal "national competitiveness" doctrine which means lowering the wages and living standards of workers in advanced industrial nations and transferring industrial jobs to poorer countries.

One often hears talk about "national competitiveness" and "competitiveness" -- when the intent is to refer to the lowering of wages -- couched as talk of "productivity" growth. Many people confuse economic growth and productivity growth. Productivity simply means how much profit you're making on your investment, and that can be increased in several ways -- new technology, automation, or paying lower wages. Reaganomics, or Neoliberalism, which Democrats and Republicans have both adopted, is about lowering wages.

Note how this representative of the World Economic Forum talks to a clueless CNBC reporter who keeps using "growth" and "productivity growth" interchangeably.

The World Economic Forum is a huge NGO that facilitates the coordinating of economic policies of governments and corporations. It hold a big annual economic forum in Davos, Switzerland attended by all the heads of state and CEOs, and issues a much-watched annual productivity scorecard that rates nations' business friendliness, which is the subject of this interview.

"Increasing competitiveness is what's going to drive growth growing forward," the WEF rep says. In other words, profits won't come from more production and more sales but by paying workers less.

That's what the TPP is designed to do.



For more on the TPP see my previous post.








Tuesday, October 6, 2015

TPP And The International Working Class

Just about everything the Obama Administration is saying about the Trans Pacific Partnership treaty is disputed by people who know something about it, and now it's coming to light that because it was so desperate to make a deal the administration caved on key issues in the final moments of the negotiations.

One is that foreign automakers who have US plants can import 70 percent of the parts from China. That's huge. I know. I grew up in Michigan, where much of the state economy is, or was, dependent on the manufacture of auto parts. Automakers make the bodies and paint them and usually make the engine blocks, and they assemble the final car, but most of the parts are contracted out. When I was young I worked in a place that made push rods, valves and various fittings. Earlier I'd worked in a place that made some of the plastic parts -- tail light lenses, arm rests, and so forth. Much of my father's works as a truck driver was hauling auto parts. When he had an accident my mother supported us by working at the plastic factory. There was a swath across the southern half of Michigan, between western Michigan where I lived and Detroit on the east side, of towns and cities and counties whose economies were tied to the auto industry.

The Obama Administration says it fixed some things people were complaining about but the TPP still has those tribunals made up of corporate lawyers who, because the TPP is a treaty, can override US law and fine governments in the US for making laws that foreign companies don't like, like environmental laws. There's nothing to prevent currency manipulation. It could affect our internet. It's guaranteed to make some critical medicines more expensive. And on and on and on.

Even the supposed good things you read about the TPP are good only because they'll increase corporate profits at US workers' expense. CBS has an article that says that the US may benefit because the middle classes of countries like Vietnam will expand. You almost want to laugh. The Vietnamese middle class will expand because they'll be making things we used to make.

Think also about how, after NAFTA, the export of jobs affected US worker pay and tax revenues. All a company had to do was threaten to move overseas and unions buckled, and governments fell all over themselves to make their taxes practically disappear.

And yet. Nothing like the TPP would ever happen if the working class was organized internationally. Capitalists couldn't play one set of workers against another. They couldn't find any tax havens. They couldn't keep scurrying around in search of cheaper labor. Politicians couldn't manipulate us by appealing to our nationalistic sentiments because we'd already have dropped them to make common cause with our brothers and sisters in other lands.

If workers from different countries figured out how to cooperate, just a little bit, this world would be a vastly different place.








 



Friday, October 2, 2015

Bernie Sanders and the UAW

UAW workers say "no way" - Alex Smith photo

United Auto Workers members at Chrysler facilities have rejected by 2-1 yet another "give back" contract the union leadership had negotiated on their behalf  -- "the first time that autoworkers have rejected a national contract in 33 years" reports the World Socialist Web Site. The contract, among other things, would have expanded the unpopular "two-tier" wage system, not eliminated it as workers wanted.

This is part of a bigger story. Union leadership is more conservative than union members are and has worked with management to undermine workers. With this vote Chrysler workers are pushing back. 



The bigger story still, of course, is whether the raised consciousness of the Chrysler workers indicates there's a shift underway not only in the Labor Movement but the US population in general. One sees signs of this popping up repeatedly. In the past few years there has been Occupy Wall Street, the Black Lives Matter movement, an the candidacy of Bernie Sanders.

Sanders is tapping into Capitalism's inherent class divides, which under Neoliberalism have become more exxagerated than ever, but there's a danger that his candidacy could contain the natural forces that lead to popular uprisings by redirecting them to the effort to get him elected. If that happened, most people who voted for him would go home after his inauguration and feel pleased with the state of affairs, leaving everything else in place -- a conservative Democrat-Republican-media political establishment, conservative courts, conservative union leadership, and corporate control of most of the important decisions that get made in the country such as the kind of cars we drive, the kind of electricity we generate, the kind of products that get made, the kind of food we eat and most importantly whether the country's wealth and resources are used for the pubic good or private profit.



Bernie talks about a "political revolution" but hasn't said exactly what that means. Does it mean getting him elected? Or does it mean that people gain a sense of their own power and how to use it, for, among other things, getting people like him elected?



The other side of the coin is that the election of a Bernie Sanders would be significant in itself and that the kind of concerns I'm raising will only divide the working class. That his election could facilitate other kinds of change. It might be a boost to consciousness raising and the overall uprising.



These questions should be debated, but I don't see history backing up the latter argument. I'd point to the early 20th century when, riding popular discontent with Capitalism, Socialism and the Labor Movement rose in tandem, and led to, but were co-opted by Franklin Roosevelt with his New Deal transformation of government, and gradually petered out from there leading to current union leadership and the current Democratic Party and its supports for things like NAFTA and TPP and the repeal of Glass Steagall. If you can show me a path from Bernie Sanders to lasting change, however, I'd be glad to hear it.






Saturday, September 26, 2015

A Little Experiment

Lettuce can be problematic to store for more than a few days. You eventually get that slimy mold, and leaf wilt.

I happened to remember that you can clone plants by cutting off a branch and sticking it in some dirt or water. In a week or so roots will begin to grow from the place it's cut off. Until the roots begin to grow and take up water, however, you have to keep the leaves from drying out, either by constantly spraying them, or you can put a plastic bag over the plant. If you do that, you have to cut some slits in the bag so air circulates, otherwise that slimy mold will grow on the leaves.


I tried putting a head of leaf lettuce in some water and putting a bag over it and setting it on the counter. It's hard to see them but I cut slits in the bag here and there.

After a week this is what I have. I haven't had to add water. The lettuce looks good. The leaves are kind of dry to the touch. They almost don't feel dry because they are kind of cool and flexible, like a plant growing in the garden, I guess. There's no slime on them at all.

Sometimes things work out and I'm elated.

I just used an old bag that a loaf of bread came in. I'm too cheap to buy plastic bags when so many things come in plastic bags now and you see so many plastic shopping bags blowing in the wind.