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Monday, June 11, 2018

Conservative Fear

I posted an interesting article to the Facebook page the other day.  Basically it was dealing with how Progressive ideas like "Medicare for all" and a $15 an hour minimum wage were becoming part of the Center Democratic message.

A Conservative friend of mine struck back; correcting my grammar as well.  What surprised me was not that he replied back, but how he did so.  First he attacked a off the cuff comment I made concerning Universal Basic Income.  In a nutshell, it's an idea that you can give the average person anywhere between $1000 to $10000 a year.  What they would do with it would be up to them.

In theory, that could be seed money for a new business.  Used to pay for education, health care, debt...a rising tide lifts all boats.   The argument against it basically states that people would either spend it on negatives (drugs or gambling) or that it takes away the intensive to work.

Personally....I'm on the fence.  I understand the for and against argument's, and agree with both to some extent.   I do feel the idea is worth exploring more because automation is coming for our jobs.  Take trucking for example.  It's been estimated that automated trucks could put 1.7 Million truckers out of work.

The industry is short of drivers now.  It's ripe for change.  By the way, not only would 1.7 Million people lose their jobs, but it would also affect those that work in support roles for truckers.   So yea, we need to talk about UBI.

He also attacked the $15 minimum wage increase idea with the old tired argument of "16 year old burger flippers".    McDonald's own website states that the average age of their employee's is 20.  So we're dealing with kids that have some college education, may be pregnant or already have a kid(s). In fact, the Atlantic reported roughly 25% of fast food workers were raising a child. 

The Dept of Labor also reported that the average age of a fast food worker was 29!

Taken in that context, the "Fight for $15" takes on a different perceptive.

So why the attack?   We've known each other for over 30 years and do have different perceptions.  He was a career officer in the Air Force, he grew up in a conservative household both religiously and politically.  My household was Democratic, Pacifist and Catholic, but a liberal Catholic. 

He has a Master's degree in Political Science and has written several papers.  I've two degrees (Biology and Education) and suck at grammar and spelling.   We've been friends for a long time.  He was my best man at my wedding.

So why this line of debate?  Why this "disconnect"?  Why did he ask me not to cherry pick an argument then snap at me when I pointed out he was doing the same thing? 

I doubt I'll lose a friend over this.  I also doubt he'll ever see or read this.  I don't publicize this blog and do it more for my own peace of mind than any other reason.  It was an off the cuff comment he made however that exposed the root of the problem to me.


 An older article found in Psychology Today pointed out that those with a conservative bent has a enlarged amygdala; it's the part of the brain that helps process emotions.  It's also apparently where our "fear" lives.   Using MRI studies, the researchers found that Conservatives tend to react more strongly to  negative stimuli than Liberals did.  It's actually a amazing read and makes some sense biologically (another blog entry perhaps?).    Frankly the more you read about it, the more it's not a complete answer, and it also says something about the Liberal mind as well.

One thing that I fear about these types of studies that that they reduce everything to basic biology.  If there such a thing as "Free Will" if all our decisions are reduced to complex chemistry and biological function?   But I digress...that's for another day.

Indeed, one study I read actually made Conservatives into Liberals and vice versa for a period of time. 

However, if true, it would explain much about our current state of affairs.  It also would explain a self fulfilling prophecy the many religious conservatives seem to fall into.   For example:  God will punish America for X.  Their have been lots of X's throughout American history.  A perfect modern example is gay marriage.   For a long time being gay was seen as a choice.  Now it's understood to be a biological function.  No punishment from God.  Rarely will you even hear of homosexuality being a choice today.

Gay marriage is an abomination.  Gay marriage is legalized, no punishment from God.  Gay adoption is wrong, they will make that kid gay.   Gay's adopted straight kids and yet, no punishment from God.  The kid turned out straight anyway.

So...a logical conclusion would be either God got more important things to worry about then if Adam is putting his penis into Steve.  Or, worse yet for a religious conservative, God doesn't exist.

As a religious friend of mine once said.  "Conservative Christians only want the black and white and have to choose what to believe since they can't accept that God can't be wrong.   If God can be wrong, then their whole world view crumbles.  That's impossible in their world view."

Of course, the Bible is full of things that we no longer practice.  The message of God is worth studying and understanding.  However it can not be taken literally.  Most religious people understand that. 

Interestingly enough, the Conservative Christian still holds a lot of political power even though their influence and membership (and the membership of all religious groups) has been fading.  The resurgence lately of religious conservatism is about the fear of losing that power.

The fear of Communism/Socialism has been replaced with a sinking fear that Capitalism no longer works.   We saw that with the growth of the Tea Party, which correlates with the economic collapse.  A reaction to "socialism" that Obamacare offered.  After the election of Barack Obama, you can see a direct correlation with the membership increase in hate groups. 

Recent vile attacks by gun right groups have more to do with the fear of losing their guns than any actual fear of crime. 

For my friend...his attack on me was nothing personal.  It's just fear.  Fear that the way he was brought up may not be correct.  Fear that the economic system he grew up with is no longer working for a majority of Americans and that change is not only coming, it's inevitable.  That we need to start discussing ideas that "smack of Socialism" like universal health care and basic income...because the world won't stop. 

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Canary in the coal mine - what ever happened to good science fiction?

“I sometimes wondered what the use of any of the arts was. The best thing I could come up with was what I call the canary in the coal mine theory of the arts. This theory says that artists are useful to society because they are so sensitive. They are super-sensitive. They keel over like canaries in poison coal mines long before more robust types realize that there is any danger whatsoever.”

-Kurt Vonnegut

This past weekend I managed to catch up on a lot of Science Fiction/Speculative fiction TV shows and movies.  I finally saw Black Panther and truly enjoyed it.  Later that evening I plopped down in front of the TV and watched Jurassic World.  A movie that I've been trying to avoid since I absolutely hated Jurassic Park 2 and 3  

As much as I hate to admit it, I found Jurassic World to be just what it was designed to be.  A summer popcorn movie.  Certainly entertaining but quickly forgotten about.  

Speaking of summer movies, while I was a fan of Star Wars, I'm not seeing Solo.  Mostly because of the reviews from the internet and media were mixed.  It is a money grab, but a well done money grab and really doesn't add anything to the mythos.   (warning - video contains spoilers)

While I know a lot of hard core fans dumped on The Last Jedi, I think they missed the point.   The movie was more about what makes a myth and how our society works.  Why we need myth's.  

I've been a science fiction fan forever and a day.  Althouth I could not tell you the first science fiction story I read or why I enjoyed them so...I do remember reading the classics of course, Dune and Tolkien.  I remember reading Bradbury and Vonnegut.  Arthur C Clarke and Issac Asimov.

They lead me down other paths, and so I was diving into other lesser known works.  However I found myself more and more attracted to the "Hard Science Fiction" - based upon known science and not having to rely on "techno-babble".  Although I did appreciate a story that could make fun of itself to some extent..."Reverse the polarity" indeed! 

I started to discover something...and this is really the point of this article.   The best science fiction provides a warning.   It should serve as the "Canary in the coal mine."  There are only two things I can think of currently that are serving as the Canary.  The sublime Black Mirror and a Handmaid's Tale.  

Both of which are produced by online television networks (Netflix and Hulu).   Even Bradbury's classic Fahrenheit 451 is getting reworked by HBO.  Although it has been reworked somewhat to modern times to deal with "truth" vs "fake news".  In an era where more people get their information from websites and 24/7 news cycles that is an important message. 

Sadly what we are getting out of Hollywood is a lot of explosions and not much else.  I understand that rehashing old movies and giving the public something to distract them is not a bad thing.  Spectacle over substance. 

I just think that Hollywood is missing out.  Philosophical movies are not a bad thing.   The original Matrix film had us question what was the nature of reality and the wild effects only added to that debate.  Well the original Blade Runner did not do well at the box office, people still argue about what it means to be human...and it's long awaited sequel added more layers to that debate. 

These movies however are 20 or 30 years old.   I can not think of a more recent philosophical movie, excluding Blade Runner 2049 since it was a sequel. 

In a era of fake news, in a era of where we should be questioning what our society has becoming, in a era when we should be asking questions....our movies should reflect that. 

Sadly I'm not seeing much work by any artist right now that is questioning our society as a whole.  It's a shame really.    We need a challenge sometimes to make us question things. 

Saturday, May 26, 2018

Why I'm no longer a Democrat

I was reading an article in Slate Magazine the other day.  The article argued that their are four things that Democrat's must do to win the November mid term elections, and how in winning those they could lose the future.

It's an interesting piece and got me thinking about the future and our party as a whole.  It also occurred to me that for the most part, I'm no longer a part of the Democrat party.  To a great extent the party in power has to be the opposite of the party not in power.  Take Immigration for example, at this current moment the Democratic party stands in opposition to President Trump and his policies.  However 2.4 million people were deported from the United States under Obama's watch.  That's more than the two administrations before him.

It's a much more subtle and complex story than that number represents, but the truth of the matter is that my party did little to protect the immigrants or talk about it much.  To somehow claim that the Democratic party has always been pro-immigration now is bullshit.

It also occurred to me that my parting of ways with the Democrat's began in 2000.  At that time I was as blue as they came.   However I didn't care for Al Gore.  I'm sure he's a good man, he's whip smart and would have made a fine President.  I just could not get excited about him.   While Ralph Nader was hardly a shining star, I found my personal political views where more in line with his.

I started to think about my views and realized that I've been pretty consistent through the years:

1)  Abortion is something that I may not agree with fully, but I will support a woman's right to choose.  I also believe that adoption and other services should be easier to access.  That sex education belongs in schools and the kids are going to have sex anyway...make condom's and other devices' available to them.  Along those same lines....teach facts in all fields.   Evolution is a fact!  Climate Change is a fact!  

2)  I'm against the Death Penalty.  Although for some crimes I've no issue locking that person away in a small cage with no human contact for the rest of their lives.

3)  I've always believed in Universal Health Care, although I would accept a "Medicare for all system"  (It's a subtle but important difference).

4)  The separation of Church and State is there for a reason.  That line should not be crossed.

5)  Their are differences, but these differences should be celebrated.  

6)  Free speech, free thought and the free exchange of ideas can not be denied.   However you have to be open to all views and opinions.  

I wish I could say the same for my party.

One of the issues that I had with Hillary Clinton was that she seemed to care more about the polls than actually standing for something.   That's one of the things that attracted many people to Bernie Sanders.  You may not agree with the man, but he was consistent throughout his whole political career.

Evolving on a subject happens.  I understand that.  New facts, new ideas are introduced.  Perhaps a tragedy happens that upsets a particular world view; for example I remember reading somewhere that gay marriage was not that big of an issue in the LGBT community until the AIDS crisis.  That's when long time partners found themselves shut out of hospitals and caring for their loved ones.  The community had to evolve, and realized that they were being shut out of basic fundamental rights.

Far to many politicians,"evolved" more for political expediency.  How many came out for Gay Marriage after the majority of Americans supported it?

People have to adapt to changing circumstances.   So do companies and political parties.  However when I see my Democratic party running former Republicans against Republicans.  When I see the party picking a Democrat that may not support "Traditional Democrat values" because they are more interested in winning the seat in the short term than promoting what is a perceived "right."

As I write this it occurs to me that I've moved to the "far left" of the party.  I look around and I see the Democratic Party not addressing the needs of the populace today...nor do I see them thinking about 20 or 30 years from today.   Progressives like Andrew Yang are pushing us to examine Universal Income because technology is replacing all of us.   The fact that many economists, social scientists, some business leaders and forward thinkers are talking about it now means that they understand it's something we may need in the future.  We need to start talking about it...and how to possibly make it work.

I also understand that many in the Party don't wish to give up the power they have, or change how things are.  I also understand that for many, these ideas of Universal Healthcare and Income smack of "Socialism."   Yes, they do.  However "it's a political and economic theory of social organization that advocates that the means of production, distribution, and exchange should be owned or regulated by the community as a whole."  

The proud individualism that has helped defined America is going to have to change.   We need to think about society as a whole,  We need to start thinking of America has a whole.

We need to start talking about these things now.  If my beloved Democratic party can't do that...then what choice do we have?

Monday, May 21, 2018

The Girl Who Doesn't Exist

I don't where the young woman, Alecia Faith Pennington, is today.  Nor do I really need to know.  It's an odd story, an almost unbelievable story and one that I wish I would have been more familiar with.  Long story short, she was raised in a conservative religious family in rural Texas.  She was home schooled.  She was born at home with a mid wife present.  She was the fourth or fifth of nine kids.  So far everything sounds normal

Image result for Alecia Faith Pennington
I was listening to the radio today, and came across this story.  The story gets weird...for you see, she doesn't exist.  At least legally.

You can listen to the original podcast here:

What interested me however was the philosophical part of it.   Can someone truly live outside of society?   What is the role of the individual in society?  

 You see her family had no birth certificate.  They never applied for a social security number for her.  She claimed never to have gone to the doctor or hospital when sick either.   Their is no record of her anywhere.  Without a social security number or birth certificate she has no way to apply for anything.  No drivers license, no bank account, nothing.  She is completely and utterly non-existent in the eyes of the law.

She was gifted, some say, with complete and total freedom from the needs of a society.  Or was she?

The podcast does try to address the parent's viewpoint some.  They also talk a bit about the idea of being "Sovereign Citizen".  I'm not a lawyer so I'm neither qualified or capable of getting into the details of that word and what it means...but I do have access to Google.

Sovereign:  is the full right and power of a governing body over itself, without any interference from outside sources or bodies.

Okay, I get that.  Hell, I even agree with it to a certain extent.  I am in complete control of my own actions!

If you take that to the extreme, then no government or law can really apply to you.   This is where things start to break down.   We live in a society.   A society, for lack of a better term, is an agreement between a group of people to live in a certain way.  To obey mutually agreed on laws; and to share things that are in the general public's best interest.  

If you are truly a "Sovereign Citizen" then to be truly free you have to reject any and all use of the greater society you live in.  You can't do that.  While you can maintain your own land, grow your own crops, still have to interact with the outside world in some way.  Indeed this is one of the issues with the idea of a "Sovereign Citizen."

You make a contract with someone.  Let's say for an honest day's work they will pay you $150.  You put in that $150 dollars, and then the other party does not pay you.  What recourse do you have?  Basically you have to trust the other party to pay you, which is fine.  However you have no legal way to obtain that $150 if they don't.  In fact, to a sovereign citizen, they can pick and choose which laws they wish to obey and which they don't.  If I don't want to obey the contract ("I'll pay you $150 if you do X" ) then they don't have to.

The people that hold these beliefs often start out as tax protesters then fall down a slippery slope which may involve the belief that corporations and foreign investors are using people as collateral therefore making them slaves.   

That seems radical...but when her father says things like "That's how the government gets it's hooks in you."...then you know it's a pretty extreme view.   I'm not a fan of the government in any way, and I do have concerns about privacy...however that is for another discussion.

Complete freedom simply doesn't exist.  How could this girl survive in the wider society? If you think about it, all society is just a bunch of Sovereign Citizens that gave up some of their freedoms to make sure that people agreed to certain things.   That everyone pitched in for certain things for the greater good.   

The problem with being a "Sovereign Citizen" is that you have to interact with the society at large.  That was this girl's problem.   She frankly didn't exist in the eyes of the law and that lead to a long, protracted legal battle...with many finding they simply had their hands tied.   All she wanted to do was become a active, lawful Citizen of society at large.  It was the ultimate Catch - 22.  It was a life written by Kafka in reverse.

As I read about the Sovereign Citizen movement from several sources, the more bizarre it became to me.  Frankly at it's core is a complete and total misunderstand of how societies come to be and operate.   Many in fact, seem to believe that they have a better and more in-depth understand of the law and philosophy than many judges, lawyers or even philosophers.  

However you can't argue that the Constitution is a legal binding document but then argue that a certain section or Amendment of the Constitution does not apply to you.  If their logic seems fuzzy...that's because it is.

All I that I would not want to be in her shoes.

Wednesday, April 25, 2018

7 Books in 7 days

This was on the Facebook page the other day:   For 7 days I will post a book I love, no review or explanation. Each day I nominate a new friend for the challenge. 

Which did bring up a good question for me.   What seven books do I love?  Are these books that we keep returning to, rereading them year after year?  Or books that influenced us at a time in our lives when we needed them?

I choose the second option.

I'm sort of violating the spirit of the challenge here. I can't explain to you why I love these books, I can't explain to you what I was feeling at the time (or even how I reached the conclusions I did - see the "Unbearable Lightness of Being" for further explanation).

  As I thought about this it occurred to me that I could name 5 off the top of my head.   Sadly these books are probably not familiar to most people, they are "serious literature" and that is frankly what most people don't read.

The first book I used was Jean Genet's The Thieves Journal.  It's not an easy book to read dealing with homosexuality, extreme poverty and theft.  It's a book where the religious is made obscene, the obscene religious.  Where small acts of evil are celebrated.  Where your dealing with outcasts and ugliness...and moments of clear beauty in a shit hole of a world.

I was told before reading that book that it would "fuck with your world view" and it did.  While I don't consider myself either a nihilist or an existentialist, it was truly my first foray into that branch of philosophy.  If life has no meaning, if their is no God...why not use it to justify anything?  Genet does not go that far, but he does make us question some of our basic foundations.  It's not an easy read like I said.

Anyone that knows me will not be surprised by the next two books, they are actually from my favorite author.  The first is The Dharma Bums and the second is the quintessential On the Road.  Both written by Jack Kerouac.

I was introduced to Jack sometime during my early college years.  I read On the Road first.  I remember thinking that I was really not impressed by it, although it did leave an impression.  I felt sorry him.  However I fell in love with that off the cuff stream of conscious writing that he would become famous for.

Honestly On the Road doesn't really have much of a plot, Kerouac doesn't learn much.  He did inspire me to write on a regular basis and I started and stopped a dozen novels, 1001 short stories and countless journal pages trying to capture that magic.   To a certain extent I'm doing that now, just trying to put my thoughts down about him and the books he wrote.

It's in the slim novel The Dharma Bums where Kerouac the man came alive for me.  I still have the dog eared copy I picked years ago...and when I thought I lost my copy in a move somewhere along the line, I picked up another copy to replace that original copy.  Here was a young Jack dealing with his future, his religious beliefs, nature and sex.  Here was the energy of a good jazz band finding a groove and taking it where it may.  Here was a night of drinks and dance and pretty girls...ah the girls.

Ah Kerouac!

I was betrayed by a young girl I was dating, we were causal for the most part.  She betrayed me with a man that I still consider a good friend.  It was sometime in the late 80's/early 1990's.   The Unbearable Lightness of Being" by Milan Kundera found it's way into my world.

Little did I know that I was reading the novel that helped change my view on some things.

At the time I could identify with the character of Tomas, I was a bit of a womanizer in my youth.  At the time I was friends with artists, intellectuals and was seriously considering grad school.  In a lot of ways the novel gave me hope in the power of love, the power of sex (there is a scene where Tomas is making like and noting everything about the woman...the way she moved, sounded and tasted.  While his partner also noticed the thunderstorm going on around them, it was a scene I deeply identified with and understood.

Love, in this novel, was fleeting.  Love is haphazard, crazy and possibly based on a endless string of is worth pursuing.

I called my buddy and forgave him after reading that novel.  I forgave everybody.  I pursued love and sex with renewed vigor too!

Which sort of brings me to the fourth book.   Now I have to be honest, I didn't know what to call what I was feeling.  I am, and to the best of my knowledge, always been an hedonist.  I'm interested in the experience, the pleasure that I can obtain from that experience.  I'm also interested in what pleasures I can give my partners.

It was around 12 years ago when I was introduced to the term Polyamory.  It's a mix of Greek and Latin terms but means "many loves."  Basically its about having multiple ethical relationships, and I'm not talking about in the business world.  Dossie Easton and Catherine Liszt wrote The Ethical Slut to talk about those relationships.

My wife and I had been dating for a while.  We already had a Open Relationship since we were both interested in things the other wasn't.  The Slut helped us both deal with somethings that we thought we were going through alone.  How to handle jealousy, how to take joy in our partners, how to talk about what we had without sounding, sluts.

I eventually "grew out" the polyamory life style.  Although that's probably not the best term for it either.  If you ask me to put a date or a reason on it, I'm afraid I can't.  I guess it was somewhere in the last 3 years or so that I stopped having those poly feelings.   

My long time partner Sue has gone through a lot in her life, and at the end of the day...I decided to be with her, to stay with her.   She, honestly and truly, completes me and makes me better.  We still disagree, we still have our own interests (What I wouldn't do to talk to a lovely woman about Dr Who in depth!) but I don't feel the need to pursue those interests outside the home much any more.

So that's 5 out of 7.  I'm still not sure what the last two will be.  Maybe the Tao Te Ching?  Maybe Fever Pitch by Nick Hornby?  Maybe He by Robert Johnson.  

Friday, April 13, 2018

Rats fleeing a sinking ship or Paul Ryan and the Republican Failure

I'm not a Republican.  I'm a tried and true Democratic with progressive tendencies.  However I am taking no joy in watching the Republican party fall apart.

Well....maybe a little joy.

What I'm seeing right now is a lot of cowardice.   I'm seeing a lot of smart political moves.  I'm seeing "moderates" for lack of a better term realize that they fucked themselves and their party for political expediency and now they are paying a price.

I see cold calculation in getting out now because the economy will fail, and they are setting up the Democrats to take that blame.

Paul Ryan, speaker of the House, is the latest to announce his retirement.  The timing is suspect here.  Well speakers of the House have retired, resigned or been forced out in the past...they generally don't do it seven (7) months before mid-term elections.  Particularly when  they (the party that controls the House, Senate, and the President's office) are trying to maintain control.

In fact, we have to ask what exactly is going on.  The Republicans will lose seats, that was never in doubt, but thanks to gerrymandering and very conservative "flyover" states it seemed unlikely that the Democrats could win control of both the Senate and House.

So what I think is happening is very simple.  The Republicans have a Civil War going on behind closed doors that is much bloodier and nastier than we political wonks thought.   It all dates back to February 19, 2009 when a conservative TV commenter Rick Santelli referenced the Boston Tea Party in regards to then President Obama's mortgage relief plan.  Shortly after that the movement was born.  

Republicans embraced the devil.  After all in 2008 they were roundly defeated on all fronts.  President Bush had been given a strong economy only to watch it crumble before him.  People were angry and looking for change.  Capitalism, the basis of the American dream, seemed to have failed.  The Tea Party movement seemed to be a way to re-energize the party.

The problem was that it didn't have a coherent economic strategy.  It's racism, and their was always a current of racism to the Republican party, became more open as a small but vocal group known as "birthers" questioned the legitimacy of President Obama and anti-immigration voices rose up.   Well generally seen to be a dis-proven theory, current President Donald Trump was a very vocal advocate of the "birther" movement...and his concerns about immigration are well documented.

Okay, I'll say it.  The man is a racist.

Moving on.  By 2010 it became evident that the Republican establishment started to lose control of the movement they tried to embrace.  The movement didn't have any central core leader but rather a few central tenets.  "Capitalism needs to be unfettered, Obamacare bad, Immigration bad."  The individual candidate seemed to matter more and calls of "R(h)ino" or "Republican in Name Only" dogged many career politicians.

The Republicans however tried to embrace the movement as they won back control of the House and Senate.  The problem was that the ideas were not working.

Kansas elected a Tea Party Governor in 2010 by the name of Sam Brownback who slashed and hacked the budget and cut taxes drastically.  According to the theory proposed by Tea Partier's the economy should have taken off.   Instead the state nearly went bankrupt and it had to slash much needed services like public schools and hospitals.  In many ways it became a laughing stock, and Brownback and the Tea Party were handed their worst defeat a few years later when Democrats and a minority of moderate traditional Republicans took over the state...and raised taxes.

Oklahoma was another state that elected a largely Tea Party platform and is now dealing with the consequences of  it.  Unable to attract the migrant workers it needed to tend it fields it's farming economy went into the toilet.  Unwilling to fund public education, they find themselves facing a state wide strike...not over teacher's salaries (although they are the lowest paid in the nation) but over the status of the working conditions in the schools.  Not to mention how gas and oil prices have caused shortfalls in revenues for the state.

Florida elected Rick Scott, who clashed with traditional Republicans his first two to three years in office only to become more of a moderate as he faced problems in his state.  While Florida did well over the last eight (8) years, it's actually below the national average in many categories.  

Supply Side Economics or "Trickle Down" theory has been shown not to work, as wealth inequality in the United States grows.  The idea of "unfettered capitalism" failed.  People were not any better off economy than they were once were.  The much vaulted Tax Reform fizzled out and barely affected the average person. 

Obamacare, that most hated of ideas, actually helped people...and those same Republicans that were calling for it's end now faced angry town hall meetings.  The Tea Party, which for 8 years was the party of "NO!" found themselves in power...with no concept on how to rule.

President Trump was able to cobble the various Tea Party groups, and faced a weak opponent who never connected with her own parties revolutionary tendencies.  In the two years since his election he has little to show for having control of the House and Senate...except corruption.

Moderate Republicans know they made a mistake in embracing the Tea Party.  They know their ideas have failed and are facing defeat in the courts over gerrymandering and abortion.  They understand that the face of America is no longer middle class and white (they are actually running more minority candidates then ever before in the 2018 mid-terms).  They failed to have a coherent message and have shown they can't lead.  Their basic economic tenet of "trickle down" has amounted to little more than a trickle of something that is not water.

Is it any wonder that Ryan decided to retire?  To quote the man “Some of you wonder why I just can’t do the normal politician thing, which is to run and then retire after the election,” Mr. Ryan said. “That is what I’m told is the politically shrewd thing to do. I considered that. But just as my conscience is what got me to take this job in the first place, my conscience could not handle going out that way.”

Or to put it another way.  We fucked up.  We are paying the price and their is a (small) chance that the Democratic party will win the House and Senate.  They will impeach a horrible President.  Their will be backlash from the more conservative wing that got us into this mess to begin with.   I don't want to deal with it because I want to come back to Washington in 4 to 8 years.

We Republicans...who once were against deficit spending....are leaving huge deficits.  In leaving now, my colleagues and I can blame the Democrats when the economy goes sour.  We all know it will go sour.   We're also going to stick them with environmental problems because many Tea Party people think the world is flat and don't understand basic simple science.  

Ryan can also see that the country is starting to tilt to the left.  The younger generation seems to be more accepting of Socialism, and Ryan is an Objectivist.  While the Tea Party movement has some of its roots in this philosophy, it's tendency to "be a little nutty" must certainly be keeping him up at night.

So he's getting out.  A lot of Republicans are going with him, which leaves America in a bind.  The party has some very entrenched Tea Party members still in the House and Senate.  If, and it's a big if, the Democrats do take over the House and Senate again then the Tea Party becomes the party of NO again.  Dooming us to another 2 years of nothing. 

This is not leadership, it's jumping ship.  My only question is, will they end up in a increasingly right Center Right Democratic party, end up splitting from the Republican party entirely?  Will we see the birth of another party?  It's happened before in America.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Why the right will lose the gun control debate Part 3 - Influence

noun: influence; plural noun: influences
  1. 1.
    the capacity to have an effect on the character, development, or behavior of someone or something, or the effect itself.

    "the influence of television violence"

    synonyms:effect, impact; More
    control, sway, hold, power, authority, mastery, domination, supremacy;
    guidance, direction;

    "the influence of parents on their children"
    • the power to shape policy or ensure favorable treatment from someone, especially through status, contacts, or wealth.

      "the institute has considerable influence with teachers"

      synonyms:power, authority, sway, leverage, weight, pull, standing, prestige, stature, rank; More
      informalclout, muscle, teeth

      "political influence"
    • a person or thing with the capacity or power to have an effect on someone or something.

      "Frank was a good influence on her"

      synonyms:example to, (role) model for, guide for, inspiration to

      "a bad influence on young girls"
    • Physicsarchaic
      electrical or magnetic induction.
verb: influence; 3rd person present: influences; past tense: influenced; past participle: influenced; gerund or present participle: influencing
have an influence on.

"social forces influencing criminal behavior"

synonyms:affect, have an impact on, impact, determine, guide, control, shape, govern, decide

Town halls for our lives

Various You Tube videos

The March for our Lives.  

Our culture is media driven.  It is on less than a 24/7 news cycle.  Detailed analysis of a a story is a thing of the past.  That's why these kids will win and America will finally get some sort of meaningful gun control.

I'm a man of 50+ years.  I am already largely set in my ways.  I like a few things on Facebook, I watch a few channels on You Tube.  I actually listen to the news stations on the radio.  I don't read the newspaper but I remember getting Time or Newsweek and reading the analysis.

Those days, frankly are gone.   The kids of today, and tomorrow, are largely creating their own content, understanding how things can be faked (and disproved).  They simply will not listen to the radio or read papers, or do any in depth analysis.  

They know how to hit us in the "feels."  They know how to get to us emotionally.  Where as my generation my bemoan what we see as human contact and conversation, they are interconnected in ways that was never imagined fifty years ago.

It's all about influence.  If the Parkland students continue to push for change in gun control laws, they will get it.  Let's use an example from history...Why did the Vietnam War end?   It wasn't due to the Hippies, but they were able to keep the war in the forefront and on the news...when Joe and Joan Q Public started to turn against the war, it ended.  The people lost faith in their elected leaders to continue to fight a war that had cease to make sense.

For the last 18 years we have been fighting a unwinnable war in Afghanistan and Iraq is simply because the war exited the public eye. Unless something major happens, the war has simply been forgotten.  It is no longer worth being reported on.

School shootings are still, thankfully, rare.   Another mass shooting would allow the Parkland students could control the narrative once again, this in turn will make the call for banning semi-automatic weapons that much stronger.   That must be the NRA's and its supporters worst nightmare right now, not being able to control the narrative.  Where as the kids are coming off and polished and well rehearsed, the NRA and it's supporters seem to be crazy like Ted Nugent or worse, unsympathetic corporate puppets. 

Or, to badly misquote Madeleine Albright:  "Today's generation sees problems as immediate, where as our political system is rooted in archaic 18th century procedures.  It's not designed to handle today's complexities."

Or in other words, the kids believe that the adults have failed them.  This is why they are not afraid to call out names.  While students generally don't turn out to vote in great numbers, the fact remains.  If even 1/3 of the newly registered students vote, it will have a huge effect on the election.  If a politician fails to go through with a promise however, these kids will nail him or her to a cross.  That influence is already being seen in both subtle, and not so subtle ways.

These kids are demanding change, and it's in a politicians best interest to listen to the wind.  This is a generation that grew up being recorded, being interconnected.  If the politician fails to be consistent in their words and deeds, these kids will call them on it.  An empty chair representing a politician at a town hall is a powerful image...they don't care about you.

If a Republican fails to attend the town hall and talk about gun control laws he risks a social media shit storm because these kids understand how the new media works.  They will have video's and memes and God knows what else.  If they go then they have to defend an unpopular view.   Anyone remember the town halls on Obamacare?  The kids frankly have them in a no win position, and they know it.

There was a lot of anger over the attempts to dismantle Obamacare and although the Republicans more or less succeeded in its dismantling, they failed to completely dismantle it.  The fall out of that is still ongoing and may effect them in the midterms of 2018 and in 2020.   Do they want to face that again?

The kids learned powerful lessons and frankly are a lot smarter then the average politician today.  Their influence, and the lessons they have learned from You Tube and viral video's is how to get attention and keep it.   They are not done yet, and the influence they have is just now being felt.

And that influence is not a bad thing it makes for a safer world.  I believe it does.