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    • Pain
      When I was a young man I spent a lot of time really sick, and in a pile of pain.  It’s not an exaggeration to say I’ve spent days screaming.  It’s one of the reasons I have so little tolerance for anyone who excuses torture, or for anyone who stands in the way of effective […]
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Bernie Sanders’ Good Points

Here’s an interview from Greg Sargent at WaPo’s Plum Line with Bernie. He makes some good points. Noted are his comments about Hillary’s ties to Wall Street firms. Very true. But if her ties were that strong and she was so willing to do what they wanted, why did they put their money behind Obama in 2008? He couldn’t have gotten the nomination without their help. So, if Hillary was so pliable and beholden to them, why didn’t they back her to the hilt instead of trying so hard to defeat her in the primaries? I’ve asked this question repeatedly since 2008 and the left has not given me a satisfactory answer. It’s like they’ve got their hands over their ears singling “La-la-la! I can’t HEAR you!”

(It’s called denial)

But point taken, Bernie. I would just ask everyone to read his answers very, very carefully because he’s not ruling out taking money from Wall Street either. He’s very good at avoiding the question but realistically, he can’t completely rule Wall Street money out. One of those firms might just wake up in time to see it’s in its best interests to, you know, not be so insanely, obscenely greedy because it’s a short term strategy that can’t last.

It could happen.

That being said, there’s a lot of good stuff in this interview that I like. Take this exchange:

PLUM LINE: Should the Democratic nominee offer a platform that goes considerably farther than what the president has done?


PLUM LINE: What would that look like?

SANDERS: It would look like a tax on carbon; a massive investment in solar, wind, geothermal; it would be making sure that every home and building in this country is properly winterized; it would be putting substantial money into rail, both passenger and cargo, so we can move towards breaking our dependency on automobiles. And it would be leading other countries around the world.

PLUM LINE: You think the Democratic nominee should campaign on a platform like that?


I couldn’t agree more. I would love to see more mass transit and broadband. I would include nuclear as well because I’m realistic. So, let’s hear a lot more about that from all the candidates.

Ok, I’m going out to cut the grass.

Later, taters.

State of The Confluence and Request for Input

At first I was like…

Yesterday, I locked myself out of my house. Yup, just pure stupidity. I picked up the wrong set of keys as I was leaving and checked them just as the door went *click!* behind me. Getting back in was painful, as in, painful to the money supply. I’m still in job search mode. I HAVE a job, but it is a bad one. That is to say, the money is seriously low, the hours ridiculous and the benefits close to non-existent.

Fortunately, I have some professionals helping me find a new job. Unfortunately, it is taking a lot, LOT longer than I had anticipated, even with my “worst case scenario” pre-planning. I mean, this is so long, drawn out and fruitless that I am beginning to think that I will be trapped in this hellish job forever. My career counselors assure me that this is not the case and I must persevere but even they must be getting worn out.

and then…

Fortunately, I own my own home! Yup, free and clear. All mine, mine, mine! It’s nice and comfy and I had the money when I bought it to make some major repairs. (It was foreclosed for about a year) Unfortunately, I have property taxes, and while they are less than half of what I paid in NJ, they’re still significant and at this moment, I will have to dip into some previously off limit funds to pay for them.

So, locking myself out of the house yesterday was not on my “things to do with my money this month” list. What I had actually planned was replacing my upstairs toilet before the crack in the tank that is being held together with epoxy finally gives on me. Ahhh, the joys of home ownership. Why didn’t I buy a new toilet when I moved in???

Anyway, this is a long winded way of saying that I am contemplating a fundraiser, like just about every other blog in the world. If you have been a long time reader of this blog, chime in and tell me whether you think this would go over like a lead balloon or not. I don’t usually ask for money except for special events, like when I asked for train fare to cover the Occupy Wall Street protests. Also, Katiebird has been nagging me to rewrite the website for the upcoming presidential campaign. I think this would be a good idea and I have some things I would like to add to this here place. A fundraiser would allow me to pay my property taxes as well as invest in some server time, Dreamweaver licenses and other training materials. If you have an opinion on what you would like to see at a new Confluence, put it in the comments below.

Having the money to pay my taxes and train myself to develop a high end web site would give me a great deal of peace of mind as well as some potentially marketable skills. I’ve been using WordPress and can install and maintain CMS’s but I feel the need to work on design skills and coding. Katiebird has been very encouraging in this respect and she says i can do it so I believe her.

What I should have done, or “in emergency, break glass”

Anyway, thanks to all of you for your support over the last seven years. We have had over 12 million comments. Can you believe it? I never thought anything I wrote would get that much attention. And really, attention was not what I was looking for. The purpose of this blog was to be a refuge from the consensus reality that was being manipulated during the 2008 presidential primary and general campaign. I’d like to keep that focus for the upcoming presidential campaign. That is, I’d like to cover topics in a way that is true to the liberal spirit of this blog but remains free of the dogma that plagues so much of the left.

I’ve been considering starting a regular podcast featuring guest interviews. Some topics I would like to cover are the problems of the pharmaceutical industry, employment and labor issues, infrastructure (net neutrality, mass transit), the impact of religion on our current culture, GLBT and feminism issues, and, of course, a discussion of the candidates and their policies. If this sounds interesting to you, or something you could support, let me know in the comments below.

Finally, there is a “Tip Jar” in the upper left hand corner of this blog. It goes to the PayPal account for this blog. I don’t check it very often because we don’t do fund raisers very often. But if you feel so inclined, or just want to help defray the costs of a locksmith, just hit that link. Today’s date is 2/22/15. May I suggest a contribution in the form of a multiple of $2.22.


My Voting Strategy: Rocky Anderson for President

Why do we need a voting strategy?  What does it mean to have a voting strategy?  Doesn’t a voting strategy imply that we are trying to protect ourselves against something?  Is that the right attitude that a citizen should have towards her elected officials?  I’ll get back to this question in a minute.

The other day, Governor Christie announced mandatory gas rationing.  Brooke asked me what did that mean and how did it work as we were driving to Philadelphia.  I explained how the license plate scheme worked and told her about the time in the early 70’s when I was younger than she is now when we did gas rationing on a national basis.  I couldn’t remember why we had to do it.  Was it a Saudi oil embargo?  That was the year Detroit invented locking gas caps to prevent your neighbor from siphoning gas from your tank in the middle of the night.  It was the year that we had extended daylight savings time well into the winter and we trudged to school in the dark and watched the sun come up during second period.

Back then, the so-called experts and scientists told us that there would only be enough oil to maintain our modern lifestyle for another 50 years or so.  We had about 200 years of coal in the ground but it was dirty fuel.  There was a real sense of urgency for a few years to make cars smaller, and resentment from the driving public about having to give up the big American highway boats for tiny Japanese death traps.

Then Ronald Reagan chased the malaise away and suddenly there was an oil glut in the 80s and people forgot.  And the CAFE standards got stuck and the cars got big again until the 2000’s when you could write your Hummer off your taxes as a business expense and fuel efficiency was measured in gallons per mile.

But some things make an impression on young minds and gas rationing made an impression on mine, as did Watergate and the end of the Vietnam War.  I never trusted Ronald Reagan or George Bush Sr.  How could a country forget so quickly?  Or maybe it was just one party.

But 2007-2008 dispelled the notion that the forgetfulness was confined to just one party.  By that time, I had taken my passion for politics to the next level, writing for DailyKos about various and sundry things, including the differences between American and European infrastructure.  I was making trips to Europe on a more frequent basis and noticing how much easier it was to get around without a car.  The trains were fast and plentiful, the urban transit systems state of the art, especially in France.  And even though I resolved to take public transit in any American city I visited, I found it hard.  Americans do not know how hard we have made our own lives.

In Chicago 2007, I got to ask Hillary Clinton a question at her break out session at YearlyKos and my number one question was about public transit and infrastructure.  And she had an answer with multiple paragraphs and sub-headings and funding mechanisms.  And her emphasis was going to be on better broadband.  Last week, I tried to imagine what life would have been like post Sandy if we had had better broadband and how we tend to see our internet connection as a commodity instead of a public utility and a part of our infrastructure.

I’ve tried to reason my way through my voting strategy in the past couple of days and I think I am just burned out from playing this game of strategy.  The last week has shown me how badly this country has suffered under the people who we trust with our safety, infrastructure and future.  While Europe and other developed countries like South Korea learned from the oil embargo of the 70s to reconfigure the way they lived in such a way as to be less dependent on foreign oil, we ignored all that and trapped ourselves in a mid 20th century infrastructure.  It’s no longer modern.  It’s decaying- rapidly.  We may still see the USA in our Chevrolet but the landscape is starting to look like the rural south in 1965 with broken powerlines, poor telecommunication, bad roads and a clear separation between the rich and the poor.  And there doesn’t seem to be a reasonable strategy behind our public utilities investments of the past several years.  In 2009, PSEG spent millions and millions of dollars affixing solar panels to the overhead power line poles.  How much chaos and disruption last week might have been avoided if the power companies had used that money to bury the power lines and concentrate the solar panels on unused public land, like the acres of unused property in my own township that used to be an old Army depot?  Where was the thought and strategy behind the design?

In the last couple of days, I have read the consternation of the left as they see the evangelicals and other right wing followers get behind their Mormon.  It’s as if the left has forgotten all of the studies by Bob Altemeyer and lessons learned from John Dean about the nature of the authoritarian follower.  But it’s even weirder than that because although the right has made it a badge of honor to decouple cause from effect, ignore evidence and discourage reasoned thinking in its followers so that the world looks to them like a violent, chaotic place, I never thought I would see the same sort of behavior rising in the left.  The left indulges in its own form of wishful thinking.  It started five years ago.  It suspended its disbelief and trusted its most dearly held beliefs to the candidate who stubbornly refused to materialize for it until after the election.  They refused to understand his nature even as he ignored them.  They don’t seem to get that he is the agent of the people they blame for the destruction of the past four years.  They have decoupled evidence from reality.  Somehow, it’s all going to work out even when all of the signs say that it will not.  They ignore the pleadings from their natural allies to wake up and fight back.  How are they different from the people in Kansas they are always holding up as examples of voting against their own best interests?

There’s a peculiar strand of selfishness embedded in American culture.  It’s not enough to succeed.  The success must come at the expense of other people.  We love the rascals who exploit us.  And religion is of a harsh Calvinist variety. The work ethic is praised above all else to the point where we don’t feel worthy of decent wages and dignity even if we work until we drop or snap.

The other day, JerseyJeffersonian said something that caught my attention in the comment section of my rant on the gouging of the telecomms in the Sandy impacted area.  I had called ourselves consumers and said how unfair it was that consumers were always being exploited, as if we were crops whose disposable income must be harvested instead of human beings.  (S)He said:

Ah, you said the magic word…”consumer”. I, for one, knew that the Republic was in dire straits when Our Exalted Leaders found the term, “consumer”, to be an adequate substitute for “citizen”. This was a tell, as they say at the poker table. When in the past you were referred to as a “citizen”, you were somebody who had reason to expect that your interests might be respected and addressed by THEM in their capacity as our representatives. But when they began preferentially to denominate us as “consumers”? Well, we had been identified as mere clients of their true masters.

In its own right, this should be seen as indicative that Our Exalted Leaders have decided that civil society is a archaism – “quaint” They might call it – and that servicing the needs of the Free Market is now the imperative for them. In that light, our appeals to our representatives for help and redress have become the moral equivalent of praying to a saint for intercession with the Almighty. Hmm.

This Weltanschauung is quite appropriate in a world where government, far from answering to the “citizenry”, is there to deliver us all up to the tender mercies of the Corporatocracy through the craven assistance of a captured government. Elected officials, legislative or executive, financed in their electoral campaigns by the rich and powerful; civil servants in regulatory agencies cowed or corrupted through the power of the so-called regulated to call the shots with the active connivance of their agencies’ politically-appointed leaders; judges selected by legislators and executives who are made men of the Corporatocracy, and therefore pre-disposed to pick Federalist Society hacks for positions on the bench to avoid the inconvenience of having their cabal brought up short by people who take their oath to defend the Constitution seriously.

I’ve never liked the term corporatacracy because I think it ignores the proper role of the corporation and how it can benefit stakeholders as well as shareholders but otherwise, JerseyJeffersonian’s point is very good.  Americans have been “delivered up” to the forces who exploit.  Those forces do it without any strategy of their own and without much thought to the industries or segments of society that they are destroying. They do it because they can. Inevitably, they are sowing the seeds of their own destruction because amassing great fortunes does not equal innovation or creativity.  It merely impoverishes the very people who need to buy their stuff and makes it harder for people with life saving technology and good ideas to be funded and their work respected.

But it’s worse than that.  I missed the visual impact of the news last week, mostly because I was living part of it, but what I heard on the radio disturbed me greatly.  I heard Mike Bloomberg give a couple of “everything is under control” press conferences and then leave the people of Lower Manhattan to their own devices as he planned a marathon and fretted over how to get the bankers back to Wall Street.  There was something of a Scrooge-esque “they had better die and decrease the surplus population” attitude about his ability to tolerate so much misery in much of his city.  If Jonathan Swift were alive today, he’d feel right at home.

Wasn’t it Mike Bloomberg who sicced the police on Occupy Wall Street?  Wasn’t it Bloomberg who rolled his eyes at those protestors and tolerated them as if they were minor irritants?  And didn’t he and Barack Obama brutally suppress them?

Is the whole of Manhattan one big private space now?  And if that’s true, doesn’t that reduce the “citizen” to a “vassal” who has no rights on private property?  Who owns the city now?  Does ownership give the wealthy and well connected the right to do what they like to suit themselves and the privilege to ignore the plight of other people?

Anyway, I’m rambling.  At the present time, the “very serious people” seem to be bogarting the microphone about denying us the benefits we pre-paid.  There may be a crisis on the horizon regarding Medicare but it’s solvable, just like other countries have solved their health care problems.  The answer is to force cost cutting measures on the providers.  But the providers belong to the class who believe there are no limits to what they should be able to harvest from their consumers and government has abandoned any efforts to see that citizens are protected from injustice and exploitation.

But the government is not some abstract entity.  It’s not the faceless bureaucratic borg that tells us “resistance is useless”.  The government is *us*, or it should be.  It’s trite to go on about the founders and the constitution and all that patriotic crap and I’m not going to indulge in it now.  But at the core of that exercise in self-government is the idea of self-government.  If you’re going to do it, you have to put away the notions of strategy and protecting yourself from your elected officials’ bad ideas and kowtowing to the rich and well connected.

If you want to govern yourself, you need to stop accepting bad government.  It really is that simple.  You need to say, “enough”.  Enough of the excuses and the pandering and the enormous amounts of money wasted in elections.  You need to say, “I believe in certain unalienable rights” and that those rights belong to all citizens.  You need to say that it doesn’t benefit any of us for one group of people to be above the law and unaccountable to the rest of us.  You need to say that it is unjust to throw people into prison without trial indefinitely and to use that threat to suppress political speech.  You need to say that you are not afraid to defy the party structures.  You need to be able to take their power away when they refuse to work for you and the common good.  You need to say that the abandonment of any citizen to their fate after a catastrophic natural disaster is unacceptable.  You need to say that an injustice anywhere is an injustice everywhere.  We can not permit unaccountability.

Well, at least I can’t.

I don’t have a strategy this year.  All I have is a vote.  And I refuse to give my vote to either party candidate, especially the one that masqueraded as a Democrat four years but who now has been unmasqued as the hand of the 1%.  I am not afraid of what will happen if he loses.  Indeed, we have more to fear for what might happen if he wins.  But I have to put fear aside and vote for my values, not strategy.  So, this year, I am voting for Rocky Anderson.  In less than a year, the Justice party has formed out of the void.  I want justice for all citizens and that is what I am going to work for from now on.  I’ll vote for the people who I think can advance that goal. This year, that means down ticket Democrats. But as new emergent parties start fielding downticket candidates in the future, the Democrats won’t be able to count on my vote.

I’m through with chiding the people who got us into this mess of 8 years of bad government on top of the 8 preceding years.  I’m not really interested in hearing their condescending lectures on climate change in the wake of Sandy even if I agree with them.  It’s a bit like blaming the victims and not terribly helpful when their houses are a wreck and it’s freezing outside. And based on my limited term in public politics I am less likely to pay attention to people who sermonize than those who recognize the problem and have a list of practical, visionary and possible solutions.  Besides, it sounds like Democratic operatives are trying to tap into the zeitgeist of a younger generation who is keenly aware of climate change, using the misery of Hurricane Sandy to nudge them to the polls to vote for Obama.  It’s political opportunism by exploiting the devastating visual imagery and it’s sick.  They offer us no solutions. We knew 40 years ago that this day would come and we failed to prepare.  The time for playing Stratego is over.

One more thing: The Democratic party loyalists who are getting on Matt Stoller’s case because he refuses to compromise his values for the party that betrayed him should be ashamed of themselves.  They’re sacrificing their principles to a party that can’t or won’t deliver and they’re cowards.  There are many areas where Matt and I disagree but I’m glad that we’re finally working for the same goals.  I don’t know what the heck the rest of you are working for.

Confidence Men: chapter 2- it gets worse

In this chapter, Suskind takes us back to 2007 as seen through the eyes of Alan Krueger, some Princeton economics dude, who was shopping his skills around to different campaigns even though he was technically an advisor to Hillary. You know, networking.

Anyway, he relates a meeting he witnessed with Obama and his economics team about why jobs suck these days, don’t pay well and are not secure. They went over what could be done about it and noted that the health care industry was booming. But that was only producing jobs like medical technicians, nurses and home healthcare aids. You know, “women’s work”. Obama said that men don’t want to do women’s work. They want to feel like men. Krueger was astonished at first because he’d never use such a term. Then he attributes Obama’s use of the term to his “writer’s sensibility”. {{cough! Bullshit. Cough!}}

Krueger comes up with the bright idea that the campaign should propose infrastructure jobs, like that’s so damn novel. *I* could have come up with that. Oh, wait, that was exactly what I asked Hillary Clinton about at YearlyKos2 in Chicago in august 2007. So, you don’t have to be an Econ genius to think through the problem. But in Hillary’s case, she already had plans to upgrade the broadband across the country and enter into public-private partnerships to expand the rail system in addition to fixing our roads and bridges.

But Obama wanted to concentrate on infrastructure jobs primarily because it would make the mens folk feel better about themselves if they didn’t have to do wimmins work.

I didn’t think I could like him less but I have surprised myself.

But here’s the problem with this approach:

1.) Even women don’t like womens’ work. I mean, really, Can you imagine an 8 year old girl answering the question of what she wants to be when she grows up with, “I want a low paying job doing work most men wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole!”. We grow up thinking we can be anything. The sky is the limit. I know *my* limits. I would suck as a daycare worker or a home health aid. I’m not saying that there is no one who doesn’t like doing this work or there isn’t dignity but most of us take those jobs out of necessity, not out of desire. And Barack Obama just reinforces how undesirable and undignified that kind of work is- for a man. Thank you, Barry. By the way, has anyone caught the latest episode of America’s Handyman on HGTV? One of the leaders is a woman. I’ll betcha no one was going to talk her into women’s work. It’s too bad more women don’t learn these skills.

2.) Obama and his advisors are already behind the curve. When so many PhDs in chemistry, engineering and astrophysics are out of work, it is the highly skilled that need help as well. This country can’t thrive without a vibrant technology sector and right now, a lot of high skilled jobs are being lost. It’s like a hemorrhage. What’s left is contract work. It’s low pay, unstable and doesn’t come with benefits. If we concentrate only on infrastructure projects for the He-Men, we leave out hundreds of thousands of potentially much better paying jobs in the technological industries where both men and women can find jobs they that give them a sense of identity and purpose.

I’ve already suggested how the government can buy up some empty lab space and put to work thousands of scientists to work on central nervous system and antiinfective drugs, two areas that the big pharmas have abandoned. We could sell the patents back to the government in exchange for decent salaries. That way, you would preserve the scientific infrastructure and put money back into the economy. So, where are the plans for that, Barry? You should have been Much more forceful in appointing Elizabeth Warren if you wanted to help the struggling middle class.

I’ll betcha Hillary would never have made these mistakes.


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