Republican Unreality Pt 2: Jobs

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Jobs.  Listen to the Republican debates you’d think the economy was in the free fall.  That we’re headed for a new dark age.  I’m happy to discuss what policies the government could utilize to boost our economy.  I hear Republicans talking about how they are going to bring millions of jobs to this country.  They’ll repeal the biggest job killer in our history –Obamacare.  They’ll reduce job killing taxes.  As a slogan they’re great.  I want to pay less in taxes.  I want more jobs.  Again, I’m happy to discuss various policy proposals but they have to based in some kind of reality.

Let’s talk about Obamacare.  We can discuss healthcare reform another time.  Every analysis not part of a Republican debate has called Obamacare’s effect on the national job market minimal at best.  It hasn’t killed any jobs.  It hasn’t caused jobs to revert to part time.  There’s no reality in which Obamacare has anything to do with jobs.

As for jobs we have one of the longest expansion of job growth in modern history.  Jobs are being created at a rate of 200,000 jobs a month and have been for years.  Our unemployment rate has fallen to below 5%.  Does this mean our economic picture is perfect? of course it isn’t.  Our labor force participation is low.  Much of that is due to demographic and social changes, (think students staying in school longer than immediately going into workforce or seniors retiring), but some is economic.  While there are certainly issues worthy of discussion, a sky rocketing unemployment rate isn’t one of them.

While we’re talking jobs, let’s talk about the poor.  The moocher class as Republicans like to think of them.  Most of the people who are poor and getting some form of government assistance are working at least one job.

Discussing how to create jobs from a conservative perspective is a valuable exercise.  For example, the Constitution explicitly mentions infrastructure as a key priority for government.  Job bills in the government have been stalled.  Programs that would provide for investment in infrastructure have been attacked.  Mechanisms that fund programs haven’t been adjusted for inflation, funding for science, technology, and infrastructure  have fallen.

We can and must do better.  We can’t start with Republican unreality.  Let’s start with making realistic priorities and then decide how to fund them.


Republican Unreality: Pt 1

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Election season is well and truly underway. I want to apologize for being so partisan.  I’m not usually. That’s one of the reasons why my wife lovingly calls me a neocon. However, reality doesn’t support each side equally… so… partisanship.  But the season has been disappointing to say the least.  Normally at this point in the election cycle we can start talking about the pros and cons of various policy proposals.  That won’t happen.  It won’t ever happen.  The reason is that republicans aren’t even lying about what they can do and what they will do.  Lying means that you’ve accepted some part of reality and have decided to intentionally mislead someone about that reality.  Republicans are stuck in an unreality.  Every truth they tell is contingent on a deliberate or inadvertent inability to be part of our reality.  The reality of the real world.  Let’s consider part of that reality.  Hillary Clinton.  There is no one Republicans hate more than Obama it’s Clinton.  For what they see as the mishandling of three basic events.

The first is Russia.  This was an early “victory” for Clinton that soured on us pretty quick.  There was a new Russian President, and a new American president.  The old cold war had been over for 20 years and there are a host of outstanding trade deals, diplomatic issues, and security concerns that could benefit from Russo-American cooperation.  Aside from a spelling mistake on a symbolic button it was the beginning of a new era of cooperation.  Sadly, it was not to last.  Medvedev was never more than a puppet for Putin and Putin was reelected like he was always going to.  When Eastern Europe started turning away from Putin’s kleptocracy, Putin helped start the Ukrainian Civil War.  And this is where Republicans first enter their world of unreality.  In their mind the Obama administration should have prevented Russian entanglement on the country that shares their border with a huge ethnically russian population and have been a historically connected for as long as there’ve been humans in the region.  Reagan would have stood up in a public square and demanded that Russians cut it out.  Because you know, that’s what Reagan did.  Reagan weaponized the dissidents in Soviet controlled Europe, completely cut off all trade with and within the Soviet Union.  Russians were so terrified of Reagan they immediately capitulated just like the Iranians… only that’s an absurd reading of history.  The Russians finally lost control over a nonviolent populist uprising and it was Carter that negotiated for the return of the hostages with the Algiers Accord.  Of which something Republicans seem completely unaware.  A “fact” they repeat on every debate.

It’s from an imagined sense of weakness that the Republicans believe that Obama allowed the Russians to intervene in Ukraine.  Compounded by this Republicans believe that this emboldened the Russians to intervene in Syria.  Which brings us to Syria.

Syria.  The world’s greatest clusterfuck.  Also Clinton/Obama’s fault according to Republicans.  This is their explanation.  Obama pulled our troops out of Iraq early.  This allowed terrorists in Syria to take over large portions of the country and then invade Iraq.  This opened up a window for the Russians to get involved.  This is equally ridiculous as thinking that Reagan could have stopped the Ukrainian Civil War with a firm tone.  First off Obama didn’t pull out our troops on a cowardly whim.  He was abiding by a status of forces agreement that Bush signed.  And it was a good decision.  If we’d stayed we would have been the kind of stabilizing force where we unite the region by making everyone hate us.  This blog is too short to talk about how the events in Syria got started.  But if your explanation doesn’t include a thousand years of history, you’re quite simply and phenomenally stupid.

Then there’s Libya.  Benghazi.  It’s not worth even mentioning because at the moment it’s a rallying cry more than a coherent argument.  After multiple investigations, trolling through the emails, and a witch hunt the likes we never seen before, Clinton has been completely exonerated in any wrongdoing.  It was a complicated tragedy. But sure go around saying “Benghazi!” like it means a damn.

We can argue about an interventionist vs a non interventionist foreign policy, but this notion where Obama’s personal weakness or, by extension,  America’s is nothing short of Republican unreality.

The hidden racism of a real estate app

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Boston, where I live, has some of the highest housing prices in the country.  It’s usually ranked #3 behind New York and San Francisco. The average home price in the United States is just over 200,000 dollars. In Brookline, a high priced suburb of Boston, it’s 1.6 million dollars.  The average home in Boston is about half that. As a result the public school system in brookline is… shall we say, not impoverished. It’s a bit different than the Boston Public School system.

Earlier today I saw a commercial for real estate app that let’s you search real estate by school district. I’m convinced that there’s a virtuous cycle between an exceptional public school system, real estate prices, and an excellent public school system. It won’t surprise anyone that the demographics in brookline are 75% white 15% asian and a tiny handful of other minorities. Without meaning (or maybe intentionally) to the wealthy have completely segregated their community. It starves poor communities in Boston resources for law enforcement, education, and more. We talk about wealth inequality, it’s a sin to have public schools funded at the local level. I believe that if you were to fund things at the state level not only would there be more money for underprivileged communities, but it would even out development.

Here’s why this is great for rich people.  The concentration of wealth in select neighborhoods deprive other neighborhoods of development.  Take Boston for example, it’s too expensive to live and thereby suffers a tremendous brain drain.  The resources that would normally go into developing small businesses, development, infrastructure, are gone.  Naturally we’re assuming that the good rich people aren’t intentionally walling themselves off from undesirable elements *caugh* blacks *caugh*.  This also complicates employment since the poor and working class have to travel lengthy distances.  The only downside is having to rub shoulders with your lessors.  *cough* Latinos *cough*.  Sorry I seem to be developing a cold.

Instead of tremendous amount of resources devoted to development wealthy districts and gentrification. It pushes housing prices up everywhere, because poor neighborhoods lack development while facing population growth. Rich neighborhoods get luxury development which doesn’t reduce the price of housing! Which also contributes to a virtuous cycle.  While the price per house in Brookline is double, it’s a little less dense than Boston.  Obviously, development in Brookline is doing nothing to address the severe housing crises.  Why should it? there’s more profit in low density luxury homes than the expense, risk, and bureaucratic hassle of high density low and middle class housing, less taxing of the local infrastructure, you name it.  IT’s a lot easier to cater to a few wealthy people, but that short cut creates a lot of long term problem that primarily affects the poor and people of color.  What’s worse is when you have gentrification which actually targets a low income/high minority community in such a way that intentionally or unintentionally excludes low income populations, which then subsequently burdens even lower income/higher minority communities.  (you read that correctly.  Those involved in gentrification are rather particular in the neighborhoods they gentrify.  It’s not random.)

Is the real estate app that lets you search by schools racist?  Absolutely.  It’s the intentional, egotistical, pursuit of seclusion away from those people.   God forbid that our children should hobnob with those kids.  We know full well that the school district you attend has little to do with your kids ultimate college admissions and career pathway. It’s little more than a status symbol.  If we’re really serious about urban development, than it’s time to build and fund cities in radically different ways.

Perfect Love Casts Out Fear

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Many, I would hope, recognize the title of the blog as a bible verse from the New Testament.  If you go back and read the entire chapter 4 in 1st John you’ll find the author expounding upon the duties of the Christian which is to love each other.  It’s a great touchy feely passage that Christians, particularly the liberal strain, really likes.  After you’ve had your fill of blood and death, and genocide and stoning and smiting that fills the pages of the Bible, you come to near the end (before the truly crazy part) and you have a lovely little sermon on love.

As a former Christian I gave a tremendous amount of lip service to loving neighbors and enemies, and turning cheeks, and giving tunics, as did most of my friends, parents, pastors, and other members of the congregation.  I was certainly sincere in my lipservice and I believe that today  most Christians are sincere in their lip service.  If you were to interview the Westboro Baptist church, as has been done, you’ll find that they are a church of love.  They believe their message of hate and condemnation is an act of love.  It’s a warning of the hell that awaits the LGBT community should they persist in “rebelling” against god.  What could be more loving than that? Same as the Ku Klux Klan.  They’re all about bringing the love to people and I believe they are sincere.  Totally confused, but sincere.

What I think Christians do not understand and can not understand is the necessity of ending tribalism.  It’s certainly something that the Disciples couldn’t understand, and the early church began dividing up people into groups in a hurry.  As soon as Christians achieved a smidgen of real power, they began using tribalism to massacre other groups.  — oh, you thought the pagan religion disappeared because of the strength of Christian evangelical and missionary efforts? oh I’m laughing so hard it hurts.  Even today with the denominational structure Christianity is obsessed with US and THEM.  At best the “they” can be converted into an “us”, at worst they’re demonic and need to be exterminated.  It’s probably most obvious in America’s geopolitical enemies, but only because it’s easier to see our own faults in others.

Liberals can be plenty racist.  Intellectually ideologically liberal individuals know this, but they’re usually a little confused as to how.  The how begins with the division between “us” and “them”.  I’m not suggesting a cultureless melting pot.  Being unable to appreciate the unique attributes of the people we come across is incredibly racist.  If you can’t “See color” I suggest you learn.  The difference is the separation.  When you use social and economic factors for your own benefit it ends up excluding others and tribalism is born.  Think “I’m moving to a neighborhood with better schools, lower crime, fancier restaurants….”.  This is explicitly moving away from people of color and into your own little tribe.

It was only when I left Christianity did I realized how locked into my own tribe I really was.  I went to Africa to turn more of “them” into “us”.  Quite successfully I might add. I was warned about the people “out there” meaning in the secular world in secular universities.  Not a day goes by conservative christians say something incredibly offensive toward the LGBT community.  Not that you care if you offend one of “them”.

No longer can I separate myself from humanity.  Not the gays, not the blacks, not the muslims.  Not ISIS, Iran, Iraq, Somalia and all the other groups that hate us.  I understand them, in part.  Enough to know that I can not hate them back.  I feel no need to convert others to  my beliefs, and alternatively, feel no need to those who refuse to condemn them to an eternity of hell.  There are Christians who believe this, or at least say they do.  But in my experience it’s rare.  There are certainly immoral and hateful atheists.  The world has seen more than it’s fair share of evil being generated by that ideology.  But if you go back to the Bible, to perfect love casting out fear, then you must intrinsically acknowledge how much fear there is in the human heart.  Hate is bred from such things.  Tribalism is bred from this.  When you finally have perfect love… when you have no fear, you find yourself in love with the human race.  I’m not perfect.  I may be an arrogant sumbitch, but I’m not so egotistical I’m unaware of my own failings, fears, and frustrations.  However, I see the death of Christianity in the birth of love.  True love that is.  It’s a thing to be wished for.  It’s a slowly realizing hope that we can end the separation and tribalism of the world.  The question that comes to me is which comes first, the death of Christianity, or the birth of love.  Either way I’m convinced the two are mutually exclusive.

About gun rights

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One of the most treasured rights listed in the Bill of Rights is the right to bear arms.  It’s a right.  You do not need a reason or an excuse to exercise this right.  If you believe that a gun makes you safer, it doesn’t even matter if it’s true or false, you have the right to purchase a gun.  You have that right if you want to hunt, or to target practice, or just to hang it up on your wall.  For any reason or none your rights are nearly unlimited.  The same is true for your right to free speech, assembly, or religion.  So long as your actions do not harm others and you are willing to take responsibility for them, your rights should and are unencumbered.  You may carry your weapons nearly anywhere, concealed or not. (Obviously be careful to follow local laws).

However, there are some Americans whose rights are consistently infringed, especially when it comes to the second amendment right to bear arms.  Some people have suggested that Black people would be victimized less if they were more armed.  This is extraordinary absurdity of blind blatant white privlidge.  We’ve seen black men gunned downed for doing nothing more than holding a toy guy in a store. A black teen was followed, harassed, assaulted, and then killed for defending himself by a self-appointed neighborhood watch vigilante.  Recently, cops were summoned to a pool because the neighborhood black kids had the audacity to show up there. Then, one of the cops drew a weapon and badly escalated the situation. Fortunately, this time no one was killed. However, there’s no a doubt in anyone’s mind that if a black person had been lawfully carrying a weapon during the incident, he would surely have been killed. There are countless stories of people of color provoking an immediate fear based response for the most banal of activities. White people will call the police on their black neighbors because the black children are playing in the street, just like every other kid on the block. No, black people do not have the same second amendment rights as white people, further, if white communities were targeted for violence and other forms of oppression the way black communities are and have been. Guns wouldn’t be seen as the safety blanket they currently are.

Guns do one thing especially well. They make white people feel safe. With a gun, you can kill having no special strength or skill. You can kill a group of unarmed people on your own.  With a gun, you are an unstoppable god of death. It’s the ultimate equalizer.

An armed mob descended upon a Muslim prayer service recently. If the reverse had been true, had an armed band of Muslims descended in a Christian meeting they would have been instantly branded as terrorists and shot on site. Of this I have no doubt.

This atmosphere of plentiful unregulated powerful sophisticated weapons flooding our streets is only possible in light of the privlidge white people have in society and in law-enforcement. White people can walk down the street armed to the teeth, hold rallies, and even if that makes people uncomfortable they can do so without getting killed. A white kid can kill 9 precious people in a church and in conservative white America be considered “troubled” while anyone else would be considered a terrorist. It’s the white privlidge that brings to the fore America’s dysfunctional relationship with guns.

Guns are the tools for the privileged strong.  They perpetuate that air of safety that is denied to others.  No outrage, no fear, no respect for others is ever taken into account by the pro-gun advocacy groups.  Any criticism is met by loud and hysterical counter-claims of oppression and paranoia.  The strong have no need to listen to fears, desires, or vulnerability of minority populations.  The weak can be killed for any reason or none.  Even if white people are not marching on black neighborhoods or black institutions, which also happens, the deafness which white people have is every bit a part of racism as flying a Confederate flag or a noose hanging from a tree.  Let me be clear, violence, or the threat of violence is not something victims will ever be able to wield against their oppressors.

The collateral damage of the pro-life movement

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When I talk politics I try to limit what I consider recent events to be a national level incident that has the potential to really happen or really impact peoples lives.  For example, I don’t like to write long blogs about some local official somewhere thinking his use of the n-word doesn’t make him a racist.  However, sometimes you find something so quintessential of long term challenges that I want to talk about it.

Rep. Matt Schaefer (R-Texas) has launched a proposal that forbids the termination of any pregnancy post 20 weeks which is a full 4 weeks prior to the deadline set by the Supreme Court.  Proposals like this are a dime a dozen these days and have already decimated reproductive health care in many areas.  What makes this one slightly different is this allows for zero exceptions even if the fetus is nonviable.  It would even contravene the wishes of doctors.  To forbid abortions even in the case of nonviable fetuses represent an extreme threat to the health of the woman.  Such a thing would be very dangerous.  Either Matt Schaefer is unaware in which case he has no business crafting such legislation, or he is aware and does not consider the life of the mother worth protecting.  I doubt that something like this would pass, and even if it did, I doubt it would survive a constitutional legal challenge.  But less extreme regulatory attempts to shut down abortion providers and facilities are successful.  So successful there are states, like Texas have almost completely run abortion providers out of the state.  The result for this abundance of life? In the past few years infant and maternal mortality has skyrocketed.

For the record, it’s stunts like this and the never ending war on abortion that has left the United States with the greatest mother and infant mortality rate the highest in the developed world and, it’s rising. At some point, the conservatives have got to get it through their skulls that the war on women has actual real life casualties to the tune of hundreds and thousands of women and children every year without doing a thing to save the lives of fetuses. You want to know the real pro-life position? It’s everything liberals are talking about: easy access to contraception, easy access to reproductive health (all options), a comprehensive sex education in school (none of this abstinence only nonsense). I can appreciate the good intentions of conservative positions, but the health of women, particularly women of color, women of limited resources, women in rural areas, and women vulnerable because of domestic and other kinds of violence is now threatened. So much so that it appears that conservatives simply don’t care, but the stats don’t lie.

Conservatives want to protect life, this is a laudable goal, but their actions are proving counter productive to this objective.  Women are literally dying in the collateral damage that conservatives are creating.  If you’re not looking after the health of women, you can not possibly consider yourself “pro-life”.  You are not serving humanity by attacking the lives and health of women.  I’ll also let you in on another fact, abortions have been steadily falling since Roe v Wade and not because of the legislative assault on abortion, but because of better access to contraception and education.  Every child needs to be intentional, but only half of pregnancies are planned.  If you want to protect the life, healthy, and financial well being, then you have to give women the freedom to explore their constitutionally mandated freedoms.


Right Wing Hate Speech

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“Let’s talk about poverty, for instance. The single best indicator of whether or not a child is going to be in poverty or not is whether or not they were raised by a two-parent household or a single parent household, so the breakdown of the family has contributed to poverty. Look at what is going on in Baltimore today, you see the issues that are raised there. Healthy marriages are the ones between a man and a woman because they can have a healthy family and they can raise children in a way that’s best for their future, not only socially but psychologically, economically, from a health perspective. There is nothing like traditional marriage that does that for a child. Each of us have a mother and a father and there is no way to get around that.” — GOP Rep Bill Flores

So I’m going to go ahead and call this out as right wing Republican hate speech and racism. I define hate speech is anything that removes the dignity and humanity of a class or group of individuals. First this ignores intense systemic long-standing problems imposed on minority groups. Secondly, this perpetuates a stereotype that poor and/or black family units are single parent units, which is blatantly untrue. three. It also perpetuates the myth that children need male/female pair bonds in their parents. They need love, attention and resources but the sex of their parents doesn’t matter at all. So not only is he factually incorrect, he’s is painting at least two entire group of people as immoral and unhealthy “socially psychologically, economically, and from from a health perspective”.  The idea that gay marriage is responsible for widespread racial unrest is so incredibly absurd, that he should be removed from his post on the basis of malicious malpractice and incompetence.  Unfortunately, that’s a matter for Texas voters, and they’ve indeed spoken.

If social media and typical media is any judge, the black protesters in Baltimore are “Thugs”, “Animals”, “Criminals,” so criminally deluded that they are burning down their own neighborhood.  That black people are so irrational that they would willingly seek to bring down a perfectly fair and legitimate functional system.  What is insane, is saying that people can not be part of our society simply because they’re black.  If you think that America has welcomed these people, you still aren’t listening.