Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Did I get my Internet fixed for this?

After a week of peace and internet silence, I went back on line to learn the following:

John Brennen before he became the new CIA director converted to Islam.

Eric Holder is on the side of the Boston bombers.

President Obama is surrounded in his administration by members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

President Obama didn't act to prevent the explosion of the fertilizer plant in West, Texas because it was a Muslim plot to kill former President George W. Bush. 

President Obama is more dangerous than Hamas, Hezbollah and Al Qaeda.

The Obama Administration aims to kill Christians who oppose same sex marriage.

Jason Collins, the center for the Washington Wizards, coming out as gay only shows that being gay is a lifestyle choice.

Although Jason Collins has been an active member of his church, he can not be a Christian.

Hispanic undocumented immigrants have been infiltrated by Hezbollah because they can look like Hispanics.

The Obama Administration is preventing the survivors of the attacks in Benghazi from testifying in Congress.

The Boston bombings were the same as 9-11 and Benghazi.

The Obama Administration is buying up ammunition so American gun-owners will not be armed.

The Obama Administration can not release the prisoners at Gitmo because they haven't been read their Miranda Rights.

The Boston Bombings were a "false flag" operation carried out by the FBI.

The Boston Bombings were actually the handiwork of a Saudi national, who was protected by the Obama Administration. As evidence, President Obama met with the Saudi Foreign Minister on the same day as the Boston Marathon.

The Obama Administration refuses to protect our borders. Illegal immigrants should be put on probation by our courts and deported with the first infraction of the law.

The detainees at Gitmo are better off than if they were sent home. 

The List could go on. Those rumors are not even from the most fringe websites.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Back Up After Internet Loss--Thoughts from Agnes Martin

22 Verizon people and a repairman later, my internet was restored. Too bad Google doesn't have human beings answering their calls because my gmail is still out. Contrary to all the tech support that called the Modem out of date and the lines still in service, the problem turned out to be a corroding phone line across the street. 

Since my last post, the Senate filibustered background checks despite 90% of the public supporting them,we got bombed in Boston by two Chechens, the Senate unveiled an immigration reform bill, which promptly ran into the xenophobia caused by the Boston bombing,the Senate promptly passed a bill to end sequestration on air traffic controllers so they could recess on time.The President showed up on West, Texas to mourn and attended the opening of the W library in Dallas. President Obama hit them out of the part with his jokes at the White House Correspondents Dinner . Kevin Spacey appeared with celebrity walk-ons for a parody and Steven Spielberg unveiled the promo for his new film "Obama". More importantly Mariano Rivera has nine saves for the Yankees and Rafael Soriano has five for the Nationals. Bryce Harper has 9 homers. 

So what did I learn from my internet silence? My wife and I had to listen to the radio narrative of the capture of "the young man in the Boat" on Franklin Street in Watertown, Mass. It was like listening to old radio shows. I also learned that there is a lot of say about being unconnected. I have read less insane comments from Congresscritters and as a result smoke much less. It is true that international events have taken a turn for the worse. But what are you going to do about it. I could compensate somewhat by buying the daily papers.  I was spared the flood of Obama-hating e-mails and the pathetic defense of firearms. Yes, by the end of May, our gun deaths in the United States since Newtown will reach the level of American deaths in the whole Iraq War. And, of course, I read a lot, which I will share in the next day or two. Try it sometime. Turn off your cellphones. Turn off the internet. Don't read e-mails. You will be calmer and more focused.

My mother-in-law ,hearing of my plight, said it would only get worse. We have created elaborate systems that can't be fixed by human beings and we are prisoners of them.

Between the new books, I am re-reading texts about the artist Agnes Martin. Speaking of her art and life project, she wrote in the "Untroubled Mind":

"When I was painting in New York I was not so clear about that
Now I am very clear that the object is freedom
not political freedom,which is the echo
not freedom from social mores
freedom from mastery and slavery
freedom from what's dragging you down
freedom from right and wrong...
When you give up the idea of right and wrong
you don't get anything
What you do is get rid of everything."

In her "What is Real?", she writes:
"Now we must consider the idea of Power because without freedom we can not make our full response. With the idea of power in our minds we are subject to that power. If you believe in it, then it exists for you and you are naturally subject to it. But in reality there is no power anywhere."

"The most troublesome anti-freedom concept is our belief in a transcendent supreme authority. It is a recognition of our state of obedience that makes us postulate this authority. But when we see that all authority there is, is within ourselves as a result of our obedience then we are free. It is the only road to freedom."

Agnes Martin can sometimes read like a Zen koan. Take for instance the following:

"As it was in the beginning,there was no division
and no separation
Don't look at the stars
Then your Mind goes freely--way,way beyond
Look between the rain
the drops are insular."

In "What We Don Not See if We Do Not See", she writes:
In nature there is no sameness anywhere. There are no two rocks alike, no days alike, no moments alike even forever.
And no two people alike or any moment of their lives.

Reading these it is no wonder I was driven to The Gary Snyder Reader.  Off line,off politics. It has been therapeutic.

Friday, April 12, 2013

KISS--Keep It Simple, Stupid

++President Obama's proposals on Social Security and Medicare are stupid both politically and policy-wise. As anyone who has read this blog over the last few years knows,I maintain Social Security has absolutely nothing to do with deficits or debt. Untouched it would pay out 100% of benefits until 2036 to 8, and then without change pay out less but a considerable percentage for the future. The Chained CPI gratuitously penalizes Americans who depend on social security for the bulk of their retirement. The fantasy that 501-K accounts or the vanishing pensions will supplement Social Security is largely a myth now after the Great Collapse of 2008. 

++President Obama's mistake was he presumed he could get the House Republicans to deal responsively and that his wonky solution was comprehensible to the average American.

++How long do you want a Social Security fix to last at this stage? Americans overwhelmingly support lifting the FICA cap. You could lift the FICA cap for all income levels and cut the tax rate, thereby giving the average American a tax break. This option would probably generate too much income into Social Security but it would secure it for at least another generation or more. It also is readily understandable.

++The result of President Obama's gambit is to give the Republicans--who have never liked Social Security--a campaign edge for 2014 and depress the turnout of the Democratic base, which always is lower in a mid-term election. I have read columns by pundits saying that President Obama has boxed the GOP in and that since the CPI is dead on arrival,it will bargain a better budget deal. I don't believe it. Besides the sequester, which is Boehner's, is now the property of President Obama as the hurt starts being felt. John Boehner's memo to the Republican House about keeping the sequester to punish Obama is still operative.

++President Obama's innate moderation produces wonky solutions such as Obamacare, which the Administration has failed to explain adequately about its implementation. My family has benefited immensely from it but few realize its benefits unless they are confronted with a crisis. Obamacare will again be an election issue in 2014.

++The fight over Social Security obscures other elements in the Obama budget which would have the indirect effect of paving the way toward a new economy. Buried in it are the fragments of the past Jobs Act, which never got passed, and investment in future technologies, which trickled through the original stimulus package. The Obama administration is still pushing for significant infrastructure investment, coupled with matching investments from the private sector. 

++A personal favorite of mine is the allocation of funds for a final vote on the status of Puerto Rico,an issue that has lingered without resolution for decades,much like the Indian Trust Case from the first term.

++The punditocracy opines that President Obama has already made himself a lame duck. It is interesting that these columns come out at the same time that polls have been released that show the American public are now ready for comprehensive immigration reform and that only 12% of Americans believe that undocumented should never have a path to citizenship. At last notice, Senator Rubio has gotten over his temper tantrum and is now on board the draft bill that will be presented in the Senate. This would hardly be an insignificant achievement for President Obama.

++Contrary to enthusiasts for gun control, the victory the other day was simply winning a cloture vote in the Senate. There will be another one. Despite the background checks gaining bipartisan support, the NRA is gearing up to defeat it in the House. The NRA is already salting the legislation with loopholes that they will come back on and declare that the legislation doesn't work. Any type of gun control will be a major victory since it has been 20 years since any such regulation passed.

++Yesterday was an astonishing vote in the House. Every single Republican voted against pay equality. That is stunning. 100% of American women earn less than their male counterpart. For a party that claimed the need for outreach, this was a strange move.

++Virginia's the Cooch just passed today more regulations to thwart abortion providers in the state. The war against women's reproductive rights continues unabated. Arkansas outlawed sex ed in high school--a great move--and defunded Planned Parenthood, another great move. Already states have introduced over 600 bills to limit reproductive rights.

++The Religious Right is blackmailing the RNC meeting in Hollywood, California. Insisting they would not support Republicans if they moderated their stances on abortion,same-sex marriage, gay rights, they were assured by Rinse Penis that the party platform would remain the same. However,the Family Policy Research Council, just to make sure, has requested its members not to donate to the party but only to candidates who hold their views.

++The social conservatives will get funkier this year and the next as it becomes obvious that they are so far out of line from where the American public is. For the first time, a solid majority of Americans support the legalization of abortion and 70% want Roe v. Wade to remain law. While a solid majority--58%--favor same sex marriage--with much larger majorities among the young--over two-thirds of Republicans are against it. 

++Remember we have the decisions on same sex marriage to look forward to--maybe as early as June--and the probability that the Supreme Court will over- rule the Voting Rights Act and affirmative action.

++Expect Delaware to be the next state to pass same sex marriage. 

++Finally, congratulations to my son for raising his production fees on Kickstarter.com and recording his first CD during Spring break on Sly Stone's soundboard. 

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Knock,Knock,Knockin' on the Dragon's Door*

*The lyrics as sung by Bob Dylan, Neil Young and the Band at Kezar's stadium in 1975.

For the death of Margaret Thatcher, I've been listening to Sinead O'Connor's "Black Boys on Mopeds".

More important deaths occurred in the past week--Virgil Trucks,who had two no-hitters and was the most traded baseball card I ever had, Bob Turley, Yankees' Cy Young Award winner, and Annette Funicello, the original member of the Mickey Mouse Fan Club.

Kobe Bryant passed Wilt Chamberlain on the all-time NBA scorer's list. 

The Washington Post proclaimed that the problem with the 5 and 2 Nationals was that they were hitting too many home-runs. Their real problem is that they lack a left-handed reliever and Soriano is giving too many runs in relief.

The New York Times sportswriters were competing with the Post this past week by inserting an AP story of Andy Pettite's win over the Boston Red Sox which neglected to mention that Mariano Rivero picked up his first save since his injury last year.

As of this time yesterday, guns deaths in the United States since the Sandy Hill killings were 3,335. At this rate the number of deaths should surpass the casualties in Iraq by June. The deaths in Iraq took ten years to reach.

This morning Senators Manchin and Toomey reached an agreement on background checks and the Republicans backed away from their threat to filibuster gun violence legislation. None of the 14 Republican Senators who vowed to filibuster would appear on national television to be interviewed. 

Restrictions on magazine sizes and assault weapons do not appear likely in the near or distant future. 

The Gang of 8 appear to have developed legislation for Comprehensive Immigration Reform. Conservative think tanks have now done a 180 and claim that the immigrations are a net economic plus for the economy, reversing nearly ten years of saying the opposite. Think tanks and corporate grass-roots groups have taken to criticizing the Heritage Foundation, who released a new report that says the opposite.

Over half the U.S. Senate now supports same sex marriage. Only two Republican Senators do--Rob Portman and Mark Kirk. 

With the movement toward same sex marriage has come the inevitable backlash. Dr. Ben Carson, a new conservative favorite, likened same sex marriage to the Man-Boy Love Association and bestiality. A former chaplain for the Naval Academy said it was the equivalent of sex with a horse. Louie Gohlmert melded gun control with same sex marriage saying that limiting the size of gun magazines is like same sex marriage because there are no real limits and you can have sex with a horse. Virginia's Cooch, who is running for Governor, went beyond his vaginal probe idea to asking a Federal Court to restore Virginia's laws against oral and anal sex. The Federal Court unanimously turned him down.

North Carolina stepped away from declaring a state religion. 34% of Americans want Christianity to be the national state religion. 42% did not know this was unconstitutional and 40% wanted more mixing of politics and religion.

In that vein  ole Frothy Mix Santorum said he was interested in running for President in 2016. Rick Perry also didn't rule it out.

While gay rights are making a surge right now,the patriarchy has to strike back. The Obama Administration has gone to court to stop the Archdiocese of New York from getting internal memos from the executive branch about its policies in Obamacare to cover contraceptives.

North Dakota passed the most restrictive legislation on reproductive rights, then Arkansas wouldn't be outdone, and then Kansas ruled that conception began with fertilization. None of them accepted the McColm doctrine that conception began with ejaculation. 

If the women must be hammered, why not African-Americans. Voter ID laws have been passed in the last month in North Carolina, Georgia,Pennsylvania,Wisconsin. By the time we hit 2014 expect a whole to more.

The President released his budget today. For progressives it is a bitter disappointment because he linked Social Security to the CPI, not the regular Cola and proposed cutting back Medicare. He did increase taxation on the healthy and limited 501-Ks with millions in them. The whole idea was to show he could compromise but the GOP has been unwilling to deal.

Which brings me to the actual legacy of President Obama. It is likely he will see comprehensive immigration reform of some sort pass. That's all I expect from Congress this whole term. Hopefully, some gun control. But don't expect that President Obama by the time he leaves office will have completely erased the damage down by the Second Great Depression. It will take at least five more years.
Instead, he is presiding over the cultural transformation of the United States. While he can't get out in front of it, he has nudged the progress along. For all those Americans, mainly Baby Boomers caught up in the 1980s, you will see those years in the rearview mirror. The paradigm has changed. Whatever the Supreme Court rules, same sex marriage is here to stay and will expand into other states. The legalization of marijuana, which the Administration has fought, will continue and grow. The expansion of ethnic minorities in politics will grow and despite voter suppression efforts by the GOP is unstoppable. 

Whether the United States can ever deal with the issue of poverty remains to be seen. 97% of all corporations remain in the hands of white males. Even with demographic changes, the Southern states will just double down on the most regressive forms of  politics and these practices will make their way into Midwestern states as we have seen in Ohio,Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. The next two elections are the last gasp of the white male hegemony. 

President Obama is the personification of the cultural change and sometimes the unwitting accomplice of it. His failure will be seen as not unravelling the national security state which created a stranglehold on our national government. The hunger strikes at Gitmo only show that this facility should have been closed years ago. We have not come to grips with the policy of drone attacks around the world and our civil liberties are still restricted because of the "war on terror". The Fourth Amendment still doesn't exist because of bipartisan actions. 

For his faults, the comparison with the Republicans is awesome. The Republicans are now down to the deficit and being on the side of those who kill pre-school kids at Sandy Hill. They can not come to any budget agreement with the President because their whole raison d'ĂȘtre would disappear. Their goal is nothing short of ending the social welfare net for Americans. To no other end, then some ideology, which no longer promises prosperity or economic growth. We haven't had a political party run on nihilism for a long time. 

Our short-term future is a hybrid political system where the Republicans will control the House until 2020 and make slight inroads into the Senate, which they control anyway through filibuster. The states will move in totally opposite directions--accelerating progressive changes before the nation does and instituting reactionary positions to thwart change.

Hopefully, there will be enough of the country left after the looting ends.