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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Bombers only live to make mothers cry

There is no frontline, no rear.
There is no difference between terrorism and fear.
There are no terrorists only deluded human beings.
We are all warriors in a war against delusion.

What kind of idiocy is this homemade bomb?
Made of nails, and wires and chemicals
something that hurts innocent people while eating meals.
What kind of warrior is sneaky and won't fight?
what kind of warrior slinks around in the night?

Don't tell me this makes me free,
The gates of hell have a sign that says "work makes free"
and is a lie.
I would throw all bombs and bombers in the sea.
They live only to make mothers cry.

Christopher H. Holte

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Death Stalks us all

Death

Death stalks us all,
like a shadow in the sun.
like the rust on a chain link.
Like the corrosion around a sink.

Why did it happen to you before me?
Why did I have to hear and see?
I am diminished without you here.
I am lost without you near.

Death has you,
you dine on pomegranates
while your body sleeps in dust.
your inner fire is ashes,
and your inner steel is rust.

And I have no staff to lean on.
Only a stone to talk to under the sun.
Dreaming of when I'll sleep beside you.
Wondering when the night will take me too.

Christopher H. Holte

Saturday, May 25, 2013

FEMA, FEMA Camps and Volunteerism

I finally saw my Cousin. It had been a long time. All three of us, he his husband and myself, have gone grey. And I apologize to say it was long overdue. I'd tried to visit them with my wife a few times, but she was incredibly allergic to animals so we didn't make it for most of the time she was alive. That was a long time and I'm deeply sorry, because while it only seemed a day once I got there, my aunt was in the hospital with a stroke and is now 80 years old. I remember when she was young. I guess I'm getting old too.

Anyway he works for FEMA. Turns out, he's not full time with them. He's a volunteer. He works when they need him, not when he feels like or 40 hours a week. FEMA has reservists like the National Guard, and he's such a person. He's busy a lot. He does good things. I suspect he's in Oklahoma again right now.

After talking to him I realized that the vicious propaganda against FEMA is meant to divide people. It's like the attacks on everything else that works in the USA, vicious attacks meant to prevent people from appreciating them. In our country we always took off our shirts and helped each other. This was often more valuable than money. We have volunteer Fire Departments, the National Guard, and FEMA, and we should have more of this, not less. So the talk of FEMA building "FEMA Camps" is agitprop meant to undermine and defame the agency and prevent people from connecting with our "militia" and volunteering by defaming one of the primary agencies involved in this.

I have more to say on this topic, but I wanted to get this part off my chest first. Man I love my cousin and my Aunt. And I admire them, and all the people in my family who give so much to this country without expecting (and usually without getting) much in return.

Thessalonians and Congress

The latest game from the con artists who call themselves conservative Republicans is to quote Thessalonians. I normally don't do exegesis on the New Testament but I always follow quotes to see what their context is, and I always find it a hoot when the text almost always refutes the out of context use it is put to. This is no exception. The passage quoted by the regressives is this at the end of Thessalonians II:

"Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us. {3:7} For yourselves know how ye ought to follow us: for we behaved not ourselves disorderly among you; {3:8} Neither did we eat any man’s bread for nought; but wrought with labour and travail night and day, that we might not be chargeable to any of you: {3:9} Not because we have not power, but to make ourselves an ensample unto you to follow us. {3:10} For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. {3:11} For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies. {3:12} Now them that are such we command and exhort by our Lord Jesus Christ, that with quietness they work, and eat their own bread. {3:13} But ye, brethren, be not weary in well doing. {3:14} And if any man obey not our word by this epistle, note that man, and have no company with him, that he may be ashamed. {3:15} Yet count [him] not as an enemy, but admonish [him] as a brother. {3:16} Now the Lord of peace himself give you peace always by all means. The Lord [be] with you all."[From King James Version, italics and bold face added]

Now the gist of this is a long letter, attributed to the apostle Paul, (who was said to be "preaching among the uncircumscribed") talking to the leaders of the church and admonishing them to work for the church and not be "disorderly" or selfish and lazy. As an excuse for cutting welfare benefits this isn't a good one as the admonition was not to ordinary people but to leadership. So this in a more modern context would be more applicable to Congress than persons needing welfare benefits.

Indeed the passage "For we hear that there are some which walk among you disorderly, working not at all, but are busybodies" seems to be speaking directly to congress, isn't it now? On the contrary, the Republicans, if they really were Christians wouldn't hunt for out of context quotes but listen to the story of the Rich Man and Jesus:

[After listing the ordinary acts of virtue in the 10 commandments] "The young man saith unto him, All these things have I kept from my youth up: what lack I yet? {19:21} Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go [and] sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come [and] follow me. {19:22} But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions."[Matthew Page 570]

Sounds like the Modern Republican Party. So once again the argumentation basis for cutting welfare citing Thessalonians is an abusive lie coming from a party which increasingly sounds like the people who Paul warned his disciples to be on guard against.

Victory

The brave boys and quarrelsome men promised victory in the end.
There would be great peace, and rows and rows of men,
marching home again.

But what I see are rows and rows of graves,
mouldering in the rain.
Victory or defeat, means tragedy, for their children and their moms.

It all sounds so pretty, the language so romantic.
When the leaders get on the Screen.
But when the children die and the war-profiteers lie,
the warmongers send their children to school in Switzerland.

Dreaming

Lately I wake up still dreaming.
The purely nonsensical turns to rational fear and screaming.
In my dream I'm comfortably wandering
and all the nonsense makes sense,
but when I wake up I'm scheming.

Oh why did I dream someone talking to me that way?
And why are my dreams so dark?
I kick against the dark, not the light.
I don't kick against the dream
I fear a sleep too deep for dreams.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Doing the Right Thing and Making a lot of money

In game theory and real life, one is presented with moral choices that initially seem amoral. One can pursue games that are "win win", "win lose" or one can be forced to chose between various kinds of "lose lose" games. Few people choose lose lose games, but we are often stuck with them against our will. All games involve a set of resources (or the loss of resources for loss/loss) and choices about how to distribute those resources.

When economists talk about such principles as "comparative advantage" -- they are positing a win/win game -- in which all the stakeholders gain value. Some more than others, but all win. In this case, people in Bolivia part with refined chemicals from a plant that isn't much use elsewise, and gain currency to buy food and clothing. And the people buying those chemicals get a drug that helps them endure pain and get dental work done; Win/Win. When the games are win win, no one is intruding on other's property or using power to oppress others. The lines are clear and the exchanges are voluntary and transparent.

In a win/lose game the loser gains no resources and often loses existing resources. Gambling is such a game. The "stake" can and will be lost and those who win do so at the expense of the many who lose. When we talk about banks gambling with our money it's because they've turned the financial markets into a casino. Only it's a rigged casino where 99% of us lose; and even when they roll the dice and lose, they manage to make us pay.

Games are setup by governors. There is no free market without government. When the cons try to sell you that the "Free Market should decide" they are simply baiting you with a ridiculous argument and then switching to the reality; "We should set the rules to guarantee you will lose in the market we set up and run." Even Ancient markets had government. When the Bible, Koran or other ancient documents talks about some person being so valued by a town that they had him "sit in the gate" it meant that he was put there to judge disputes in the market and enforce fair market rules. A free market with no rules can't exist. The rules are usually either created by insiders, or by governments that acknowledge other stakeholders. Without a just government markets are ruled by extrajudicial judges and insider organizations. If those organizations are outlawed, they will be created secretly. Adam Smith alluded to this when he said that "there is no gathering of merchants that doesn't involve some effort to" fix markets. Free Markets are only possible on conditions of individual freedom, commonwealth government, and justice. In a rigged market the game is win/lose, never win/win.

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Unfortunately the reality of monopoly and Mafioso Capitalism is win/lose. And it is a rigged win lose. Workers are prevented, prohibited, and inhibited from representation, while our business hierarchies form hierarchies and conglomerates. 150 years of institutional memory is burned or locked away while we hear propaganda that somehow if we give all our power to these hierarchies and con artists we'll all be better off. Of course it is a con. Of course it is a lie. Our Grandparents and great-grandparents went through these lies before and many of them lost their shirts, their houses, their families and their lives thanks to rigged capitalism, frauds and swindles in the past. Many of our ancestors came here seeking economic opportunity and fleeing for their lives from economic dispossession by aristocrats who'd converted their private rule to an excuse to dispossess our peasant ancestors. And because of the instability and anger caused by the injustices of the aristocrats, some of them followed their victims overseas to escape the wrath of the French and other Revolutions that followed. And of course, before there were revolutions, was often displaced into anger at Jews, religious dissenters and other minorities instead. Our ancestors mostly fled economic injustice. Some of our relatives fought that injustice with more or less success in Scandinavia, but less elsewhere.

War and injustice are either zero sum or negative games, but they are win/lose games. Two entire countries may be destroyed by war, but the aristocrats (or even worse wannabe aristocrats) involved, who win the war, will get promoted. War is also a way to deflect anger from financial swindles and oppression. Folks don't feel so oppressed when they can be instigated to hate blacks or jews, Arabs or hispanics -- so the swindlers call themselves "conservatives" rather than admit to their cons and enlist their victims anger to their cause. It's no accident that the most victimized parts of the USA are dominated by the swindlers in this country. The con involves convincing people that "Their" aristocrats are really beneficient and that the win/lose games are really win/win in the long run -- which is a lie.

I guess it was the ability to stay out of the instigated wars in Europe that enabled the Scandinavians to identify and deal with their real enemies -- their own wealthy friends and relatives. They instituted work place democracy, forced people to have a say in the markets and workplaces, and had the sense not to buy the self serving propaganda of wannabe and real aristocrats -- and created "social democracy" that is also robust in the realm of markets and capitalism. We can do it too.

The one thing that the Ayn Rand/Austrian, Fascist and Bolshevic wannabe aristocrats agreed on was a disdain for the real proletariat and the common people. If we want to create a stable society then we need a justice of opportunity and an equality in access to markets and their products that is "middle class" by design. There will always be aristocrats, but aristocrats have to operate under win/win rules or they are oppressors and tyrants. Making a lot of money is good, but doing the right thing means that everyone wins. For 30+ year we've all been innovating and increasing our productivity -- but the benefits have gone to cons and scam artists who call themselves conservatives but are really radical redistributionists and regressives playing "win lose" games or even "lose/lose" games where they manage to win anyway. It's called "casino capitalism" because it is rigged worse than a casino. And it's got to stop and our democratic features be restored to our Democratic Republic.

Friday, May 10, 2013

The de-evolution of the Heritage Foundation

I used to love reading the heritage foundation's website. I knew they were spinning, but their spin was associated with facts. But now they are almost unrecognizable in their romantisation of the Gilded Age, and their misrepresentation (rewrite) of historical narrative. For example their page: notes on it's "Basics:" http://www.heritage.org/initiatives/first-principles/basics#progressivism-and-liberalism page:

The Progressives were reformers in the late 19th and early 20th century who believed that in order to address modern problems, America needed to abandon the old ideas of the Founding in favor of a new expansive conception of the role of government. Progressives paved the way for modern liberalism and politics, and their core ideas are still the mainstay of today’s liberalism.

Actually the progressives were building a new more expansive FEDERAL government to oppose the corruption and power of PRIVATE governments run by monopolies and corrupt city and State governments dominated by wealth and private interest. It was said in the 1800's that the Penn Railroad ran Pennsylvania and Vanderbilt controlled New York State. So this framing is designed to sell a product not tell the truth. It is basically an effort of the rich and powerful to rewrite the historical narrative.

They then go on to list all the heroes of the period;

Some Progressives were prominent journalists such as Herbert Croly (co-founder of The New Republic), some were distinguished professors such as John Dewey and Woodrow Wilson (president of Princeton before he was President of the U.S.), and many were political leaders such as Theodore Roosevelt and Robert La Follette. Progressives could be found in both political parties: Wilson was a Democrat, Roosevelt was a Republican.

And they both try to hook people with misrepresentations of what the progressives were about, and at the same time manage to defame all the heroes of the progressive era (including people they otherwise claim to admire) with a broad brush:

The Progressives were united in their contempt for what they called the “individualism” of the Founding. Instead of a government that protects natural rights through limited, decentralized powers, they envisioned an expansive government, a “living” and evolving Constitution, and the rule of “experts” in nationally centralized administrative agencies.

Contempt for individualism

Actually their contempt was for the abusiveness of the "Horatio Alger" narrative of the lucky few pulling themselves up by non-existent bootstraps; when the reality is that most people simply wanted to make a living, improve the lives of their children and leave the world a better place for their grandchildren. The Horatio Alger myth creates a world of a one percent of "winners" and brands the other 99% as losers. And since the "economic royalists" [FDR's term] of the previous century were utterly corrupt, willing to recklessly go to war with one another [When Rockefeller laid his pipeline network he brought down the entire economy and many of the weaker railroads just to undermine his erstwhile allies in the rail industry], and owning the Senate and Courts, theirs wasn't a struggle against "individualism" but against corporate Kinglets.

Natural Rights

And DeMint turns the "natural rights" narrative on it's head too. The progressives were not against natural rights, on the contrary they sought to use the Federal Government to make sure that individuals could retain their natural rights in the face of corporate kleptocracy, rent seeking, legal theft of mineral rights and land, and monopoly. To do this they had to use "Hamiltonian methods" to advance "Jeffersonian Goals." TR would first use the power of anti-trust, and when that wasn't sufficient he came up with the idea of organizing corporations so that they could be better governed. TR's ideas never really were fully realized, and Reagan corruptly ended efforts at Anti-Trust, so the issue now remains the same for modern day Progressives. The Empire Struck back, through it's armies of attorneys. And by creating the Heritage Foundation and then corrupting it into a propaganda rag. They've not only created an astroturfed ideology, but an alternative reality. A kind of corporate version of "Game of Thrones" only with lawyers instead of armed warriors.

Living Constitution

Most of the right would also have you believe that all their precepts are based on the founding fathers, who somehow in their narrative were all rugged individualists who interpreted the constitution exactly the same and collectively wanted it frozen in ice (except where most conservatives want to chip away at it). They claim to want a literal and strict reading of the constitution, but since they ignore (conveniently) words they don't like they ignore the "militia" clause of the second amendment and ignore the 18th century meaning of "secure in one's person" since the word "privacy" in those days referred to Privy's (urinals) not privacy as we understand it now and "secure in one's person" referred to privacy. Since they are only literal or "strict" where it suits their convenience what they really want is an authoritarian or even tyrannical reading of the constitution that affirms their private separate advantage to make judgments and rule people locally with impunity. This puts the lie to their argument that it was "progressives" who wanted an expansive government. The conservatives just want that government either bought and paid for by themselves, or delegated to corporate and landlord rule. In short the argument isn't between a living constitution (since the advocates also interpret it) or a strictly interpreted one, but between a living constitution and the dead hand of local and distributed tyranny.

Experts

The one accusation that I'll grant the DeMint has a point on. And that Progressives made, was that they settled on administrative (bureaucratic) efforts to rule American Business. They started with experts, but nowadays they are likely to be well connected lawyers and the experts are either marginalized or get fired if they open their mouths. Still I'd rather have a genuinely neutral expert playing judge and having to justify his decisions than pretend creationists who are really Social Darwinists... The progressives did have faults. Just not the ones outlined by DeMint's heritage foundation.

And unfortunately regulation has become so complicated and such a round robin "captured" endeavor, that the government lawyers writing the rules are often working almost directly for the regulated, and they use their expertise to make money for the corporations once they leave government. Conservatives only pretend to complain about rent seeking, since that is the real object of de-regulation. If the Government doesn't regulate business, they locate businesses where they can kill the most [poor] people when something goes wrong -- like West Texas and then want the taxpayer to pick up the Tab, and "Gubbornment" to take the blame -- as if they weren't in fact doing much of the governing.

This adamantine romanticization of the 19th century (apparently including Antebellum Southern Slavery) is the real problem with the right in general and the Heritage Foundation and it's other organs. Folks like Jason Richwine, can't help themselves in exposing their racism, as he did in his College Thesis, because their sense of entitlement is on their sleeves and they regularly isolate themselves from reality. Prejudice is judging things before one actually studies all the angles, and that is what these articles represent. When one believes something "in advance" of evidence, one hunts for any argument to advance one's "truth".

I don't know what kind of heritage that is.

Further reading:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/05/08/jason-richwine-dissertation_n_3240168.html
http://www.heritage.org/initiatives/first-principles/basics#progressivism-and-liberalism