Archive for the ‘Lord of the Flies’ Category

shaft This November the American people will once again select our next leader. It is now apparent that we will be choosing between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. We should choose a candidate that reflects the best qualities in ourselves and our great nation. We should expect that person to not only lead us but to inspire us.

Great leaders, on the other hand, appeal to our better angels, inspiring us to improve — intellectually, spiritually and, in many cases, physically. Great leaders serve as a touchstone for human potential. The really great ones are disciplined, curious, benevolent and merciful. And they motivate us by example to become more disciplined, curious, benevolent and merciful.

Donald Trump is exactly none of these things.

Bob Cesca

I think Hillary will make a fine President but even setting my personal feelings aside, it would seem that the two candidates are nowhere near alike. Any rational person should be able to see that there is a HUGE, or as Trump would say YUGE, difference between the two candidates. Hillary is a policy wonk, a politician and someone with very specific ideas on what she would like to do as President. Trump is nothing but sound and fury tapping into blue-collar working class discontent. He has no workable ideas, no coherency and no maturity. He’s an opportunistic con artist who has been grifting the American people for quite some time as a celebrity.  In the end, you may not like Hillary Clinton but she’s the only grown up in the race. Still I find Trump’s popularity irksome.  Why exactly is Herr Drumpf1, aka Fuck Face Von Clownstick2, aka Il Douche, aka Donald Trump so popular with tens of millions of Americans?

1) Americans equate wealth with moral superiority. It’s a major failing on our part because in reality the majority of wealthy people a) inherited it so they simply won the birth lottery, b) they got lucky to be in the right place at the right time or knew the right people at the right time, or c) they shafted people left and right to make money. None of these types of wealthy people deserve our respect or our vote. The final and smallest group of wealthy people are those who worked their asses off and deserve every hard-earned penny. And that one fact still doesn’t make them a decent person. Trump is NOT in this last, small category and clearly he is not a decent person.

2) We forgive celebrities things we would never tolerate in our own personal lives. Because we secretly want to be as famous and wealthy as those celebrities. We want to be able to tell others exactly what we think of them like Trump does. They support him because they want to be him, with all his property, influence, freedom and string of model spouses who are essentially interchangeable Barbie Dolls.

bully 3) There is always a certain percentage of every group that hangs out around the bully. You know who I’m talking about, the hangers-on who root for the bully, the sycophants who pat the bully on the back and tell him what he wants to hear. Let’s just call them the Bully Entourage. Why would someone want to be in that group? Because they’re hoping they will be protected by his power. That the bullying will be directed outward at the others, people who they don’t like. They want Trump to bully the people they are blaming for all of the country’s problems because they don’t have the balls to stand up and do it themselves. It goes back to that idea that “He speaks for me, says what I want to say.”
And there is strength in numbers–in a mob with a bully to lead them, they feel powerful. And they are. The only problem with this kind of thinking is that the Bully doesn’t always just focus on “the others” — Bullies and mobs can be terribly fickle. Once the Bully has cowed “the Others” they often turn on those who are close to them because a Bully has to continue to bully to feed that deep empty hole in the center of their being. Look at the things that Trump has said about people who were once his friends. Look at the movies.  How well does the Bully treat his supposed friends? He treats them like servants. But let’s deal with reality instead. Let’s look at history. How many people supported Hitler who were then executed? Or Stalin? Or Mao or Pol Pot?  The list goes on and on and on.  They always end up eating their own eventually.

Ultimately I don’t know what created Trump the narcissist. Was it overindulging parents? Who cares. I only care about the fact that this man could potentially end up in the Oval Office and millions of people actually think he is qualified. If Americans truly want a President who thinks and speaks like us, then they must think that any average American can be President (although one could argue that Trump’s behavior indicates he is below the average). Are Americans so arrogant as to think that the average American is qualified to be President?

Every modern President has aged faster and dramatically while in the office before our very eyes, even the ones who took more vacations than any other President before or since3 , and there is a reason for it. It is one of the hardest jobs on the Planet.  In reality, they are NEVER on vacation.  The work hours about 14-16 on a typical, non-crisis filled day.  The stress and the responsibility are harrowing. We don’t need someone with the mindset of the average American in the White House.  The average American is cracking under the burdens of a 40 hour work week and a family. Americans work harder than most other people on the planet. And that still doesn’t compare to how much the President has to work. How the heck could he or she deal with the behemoth that our country has become.  Not only do we not need the average American, we also don’t need a bully.  We wield very big sticks and we need someone who knows when to use it and when not to. We need someone who won’t provoke our unstable enemies, of which there is no shortage. Do you want a hair-trigger man-baby wielding those big sticks and making childish comments about the size of an enemy’s penis?  

We need someone who knows what the hell they are doing because our country and potentially even the entire world will be affected by what the next President does. It is arrogant and dangerous to think that Trump is up to the task.   “Pride goeth before the fall” has never rang so true.

NOTES:

1. Thank you John Oliver
2. Thank you Jon Stewart
3. G.W. Bush actually

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I heard a story on NPR yesterday about a recent Bloomberg poll that asked:

Do you support banning Muslims from the United States for a while?

65% of Republican voters said yes and a surprising 18% of Democratic voters said yes.  They did not interview any Independents so it’s safe to assume that more than 37% of American likely voters support what is essentially an unconstitutional and unethical policy.  If that doesn’t worry you maybe their answer to the follow-up question should.  They asked a second question that states it even more clearly…something like “even if it’s unconstitutional and goes against everything that America stands for and it makes us less safe” do you still support it and they STILL answered yes.

They then talked to a focus group of Trump supporters.  Most of them were college educated (so claiming their ignorant isn’t an answer to this conundrum). When asked why they supported the ban it was VERY clear there were two main reasons:  1) fear and 2) spite. The spite is something many online have speculated about.  Essentially they think Trump challenges the status quo and the “elites”, which they define as the media.  They believe the media elites are looking down on them (and they are and rightly so) calling them bigots.  Well if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck…But instead of shaming them, it only makes them madder and makes them support Trump more.  So that’s why we’re seeing his numbers go higher every time he says something awful–so the online and media speculation was correct.

What it all boils down to is these two important points.  First, they are SO afraid of more terrorist attacks that they will trade long term safety (and scoff at rational policy as presented by Pres. Obama and any Democratic nominee) for short term safety (as offerred by Trump).  I.e., they know it’s wrong they just don’t give a f*ck.  Second, the left and the Media telling them it is wrong, makes them so angry that they are willing to cut their nose off to spite their face.  It’s like telling your 4 year old, ‘if you do that one more time I’m going to spank you’ so, of course, they do the forbidden thing out of defiance.

When you really understand the dynamic here and you look at how many Americans probably feel this way, it is incredibly disturbing.  Maybe we should be concerned about the Democratic Party’s nominees chances in the general election.  Fear is contagious and so is anger.  These two emotions have been the main impetus behind some pretty ugly things in our history like the Internment of the Japanese during WWII.   This could be another one of those defining moments.  Unfortunately this decision will most likely be made by people with the mentality of 4 year olds.

Some quickies for you:

  • Dinesh D’Souza, asshat extraordinaire, is a big whiny child.  Those evil prosecutors are doing their job and trying to put him in prison.  How dare they?!  He’ll get probation and we’ll probably still have to see his idiocy on Bill Maher.
  • Conservatives are freaking out because the President saluted with a coffee cup in his hand.  I would rather have a latte in the middle of my salute than a Scottish Terrier.  And never mind about the real problems this country has because the paranoid, desperate, white, male base eats up this shit up.
  • Can I just say how much I admire Gabby Giffords?  She is absolutely amazing to have come back from that horrible tragedy in Tucson AND launch a PAC to fight against NRA extremism.  What’s even better?  It’s working.
  • If I hear one more liberal complain that the President isn’t liberal enough, is ineffectual and that Congress sucks, I’m going to go nuclear and remind them that it’s probably because they didn’t vote in the f*%!ing 2010 mid-terms.  Here’s just one very good example of how that has hurt and will continue to hurt us for years to come.
  • How effed up is that Emma Watson, of Harry Potter fame, gave a speech to the U.N. on feminism and as a result was threatened with sexual violence and having nude photos of her posted online. This kind of terrorizing online is getting worse, not better.  I don’t know the solution but I really feel for any woman who is harrassed and terrorized because she speaks her mind on the Intertoobs.
  • Love the fact that big tech companies are divesting themselves of ALEC.  If you don’t know who they are, they’re what’s wrong with America.  A group of corporate representatives and conservatives who draft “model” legislation that they then push using vast resources in multiple states.  Their laws which include gems like SB1070, Stand your Ground,  Voter ID, and many more are nightmares and they’re making headway in many state legislatures because people aren’t paying attention to what’s happening on the state level. They’re too busy hating the President (see “Coffeegate” above and Congress (lowest approval ratings ever) on the national level and worrying about things that aren’t immediate threats (Ebola, Isis, etc).
  • And speaking of ISIS, don’t you just love that we’ve gone to war and there was absolutely no debate in Congress?!  They’d rather have yet another vote on appealing Obamacare.  Never mind that the rising cost of healthcare has actually slowed down as a direct result of the law, which was one of the main points of it in the first damn place.  Who needs facts….right?

I’d better stop while I’m ahead.  Methinks I’m getting my mojo for political blogging back and it’s about damn time!

UPDATE:  The shooting range involved is now closed indefinitely.  I’m seeing various reports saying it is closed pending an OSHA investigation and other’s showing that it was simply closed at the owner’s discretion.

Oh, the stoopid it hurts.  Sometimes though it kills.  A 9 year old girl accidentally shot and killed a shooting instructor at an outdoor range in northern Arizona.  Her family was on vacation and decided they’d stop and let her their little darling shoot an Uzi.  From the picture she looks like she weighs 90 lbs at most so handling the recoil of a weapon like that is NOT going to happen.  Her parents are the biggest idiots on the planet except for perhaps the firearms instructor who took one to the head.   What they did was equivalent to allowing a child to ride a motorcycle before they’ve even learned to ride a bicycle.

Now the instructor’s family is missing a father/brother/uncle/cousin etc, the range has lost a friend and employee, and the little girl will be traumatized for the rest of her life.  This is what comes from the American obsession with guns and the push by the NRA to remove any and all common sense rules and regulations about their possession and use.  According to them guns don’t kill, people do.  Except guns are specifically made to kill things.   Would you give Anthrax to a child of 9?  How about a grenade?  An RPG?  A tank?  A nuclear weapon?  No?  I didn’t think so.  So why would you give a gun, particularly one you KNOW that many adults can’t even handle?

But ya know, Liberty!  It’s the answer to everything apparently.    Don’t want to live with the nasty stain of the social contract any more?  Is it getting in the way of your freedom?  Just add a touch of NRA Liberty and it will wash it all away!

ht to John Cole over at Balloon Juice for writing about the modern practice of punishing people for crimes they haven’t yet committed

From the source article they cite at the NY Times:

“…risk scores are not based on the defendant’s crime. They are primarily or wholly based on prior characteristics: criminal history (a legitimate criterion), but also factors unrelated to conduct. Specifics vary across states, but common factors include unemployment, marital status, age, education, finances, neighborhood, and family background, including family members’ criminal history.”

In a way we’ve been doing this kind of things for decades but now they’re calling it “evidenced based sentencing”.  I’m gonna call BS on this and here’s why.

20+ years ago when I was a probation officer for the state of FL, I did both pre and post conviction sentencing reports–basically risk assessments. Back then the two biggest factors in recidivism for those on community supervision were known to be employment and positive family support. The inclusion of these things was actually a reform, meant to help offenders by putting them in the situation that would most likely lead to more positive results. Unfortunately, the “why” of it got lost in the implementation. It became a factor in how they were punished instead of how they were helped. And this came about during the Reagan and Clinton years with the resurgence of conservative politics and the “get tough on crime” wave of nonsense that swept the nation.

So judges would often sentence someone with a job and/or a stable home to live in to serve their sentence under community supervision and of course that meant that the poor would be more likely to go to jail. And the ability of a person who has been incarcerated to recover their lives was and still is infinitely more difficult than that of a person who was lucky enough to serve their sentence in the community. Basically it was always unfair.

It did get better over time in some jurisdictions but this was due only to 1) the progressive nature and quality of the judges 2) the quality and quantity of community resources (e.g., semi-independent living for the mentally ill, advocacy organizations that helped people coming out of the system to find jobs and homes, drug treatment programs with living spaces, etc) and 3) the progressive nature and quality of the officers doing the risk assessment. An officer could shade and characterize things to suit their own bias against the offender or they could choose to help.

For instance when we did a psi report one of the things we had to do was investigate the home address they proposed to live in.  We also had to interview family members.  If they didn’t have a home to live in or if the one they listed fell through, the officer was not required to but could contact family members–often people who cared about the offender but were not informed as to what was going on in their case would want to help. I don’t know how many times I was able to find a family member who was willing to take an offender into their homes but it was only because I put forth extra effort. Or if they were mentally ill and their family wouldn’t or couldn’t take them, I’d try to find a bed in a group home for them somewhere*. 99% of officers just left it at “they’ve got no place” so they aren’t suitable for community supervision.

That bias is now being given steroids by adding in things that the offender has no control over whatsoever. If their parents or siblings are assholes, how is that their fault? If you were born and raised in the ghetto and that’s where your family lives, how the hell are you supposed to be able to control that?  You’re in jail awaiting sentencing and you’re supposed to just pull a nice apartment in SoHo out of your ass?

As I mentioned earlier, the problem is that these things should never have been a part of the sentencing equation in the first place. The ONLY thing they should have EVER been considered for was in how to treat and help offenders. Unfortunately this country is so wed to being “tough on crime” that they’ve lost sight of the ultimate goal which is not only equality before the law but also reducing recidivism not just for society’s sake but for the individual’s sake as well.

Add on to this trend of incarcerating the poor and disadvantaged for simply being so, the use of blatantly biased drug laws, three strikes laws and the push to incarcerate non-violent offenders and voila you have the clusterfuck that is the American Correctional System.  We incarcerate more people than China, which has a population four times larger than ours.  Next time you hear a stupid bumper sticker talking point from a politician about being tough on crime.  Tell him to STFU because you’re not buying it any more.  Tell them you want to hear a detailed plan for reducing prison overcrowding, increasing the fairness in our justice system AND reducing recidivism.  I’ve said it before and I’ll keep on saying it–You can’t reduce recidivism without treating the underlying causes and treating the underlying causes does not mean throwing everyone in prison.

___________

 

* Thanks again Ronnie Reagan for destroying the nation’s mental health institutions….you screwed the mentally ill for many generations……

The following news stories actually make me not only wonder if our species will survive for much longer but also if we deserve to survive our own stupidity and neglect.

  • The City of Detroit found 11,000 rape kits that were abandoned and never tested.  After testing less than 7% of them they identified 100 serial rapists and 10 convicted rapists.  So if that pattern holds and they test the rest of them, they can expect to discover several hundred more of these scumbag.  ht mistermix at Balloon Juice
  • The AZ legislature is pushing a bill that would allow people to carry guns into building even if it’s forbidden (if they don’t have lockers available you can ignore the ban).  They’ve also advanced the idea that some gun owners can carry even if there are lockers and ban.  And to make it truly impossible for local governments to forbid guns in their government buildings, they’ve approved and forwarded a bill that says any local government who enforces local ordinance over state law can be fined.  This is like the trifecta of stupid.  They’re begging for someone to go into government buildings and commit mass murder.  I certainly will be avoiding those buildings like the plague if this crap passes.  ht JM Ashby at Bob Cesca
  • New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, back when he was a prosecutor, let a child slaver off easy so that he could take down a political rival.
  • Pat Robertson, TV Evangelist, told a woman that having cancer was her own fault for not forgiving her abusive father.  Okaaaaaaaaaaayyyyyyy
  • A new law went into effect in Michigan that says businesses and individuals who purchase private insurance must take out a separate rider to cover abortion care.  Essentially, if a woman needs an abortion for ANY reason and if she doesn’t have  a separate rider for it, she will have to pay out of pocket for the cost of that care.  So if I lived there, had a miscarriage and needed a D&C to shorten the process  and suffering so I could get back on my feet sooner, I would have to pay completely out of pocket for it.  Likewise for women who have become pregnant as a result of incest and rape.  That’s insane.  The real kicker is that there is not a single private insurance provider in the marketplace that provides this insurance.  This could not only bankrupt women and their families, it in effect nullifies Roe v. Wade, and will force women to seek out cheaper and more dangerous care for such things.  I hope the women in Michigan enjoy being second class citizens because it looks like the state is on target to vote the same politicians who’ve created these laws back into office.
  • Billionaires in the 1% are getting their panties in a twist and crying lots of salty tears because the rest of us are tired of having the economy manipulated while they gamble with our money and take what little wealth Americans have managed to accumulate over the last few decades.  The 99% have had the temerity to exercise their Freedom of Speech and the Right to Vote in more progressive candidates.  However, so far as I know there have been no lynch mobs or guillotine lines nor any proposed by anyone of significance in any “likely to happen” fashion.  The 99% are simply using the peaceful system of governance and the wonderful mechanisms given to us by the Founding Fathers.  However, reading some of the recent comments by the 1% (here’s a few examples here and here) might make one think that we are in the midst of a communist peasant uprising (or fascist style takeover depending on which historical example they erroneously choose).  Truth is, if we were in such a state, their heads would already be on pikes.  In reality nothing is happening to them and that’s the stupid thing.  We should be curtailing their almost godlike power over our economy and our elected officials. Their message gets broadcast loud and clear.  We hear about their perspective 24/7 on Fox News, read their whining on major websites and news sources (in addition to reading about their phenomenally ignorant take on history), and suffer under the vagaries of the worldwide economy which they essentially control.  As Jon Stewart said the other day, they make money regardless of how the economy fares.  So why should they give a crap about us? They don’t and the majority of Americans haven’t yet grasped this fact and what it will mean for this country, and indeed the world, in the long run.  Until Americans decide to stand up and pull up our pants, they’ll be back there having their way with us and complaining that its hard, nay dangerous, to be a billionaire.

Jon Stewart on The Daily Show sometimes gets on my nerves with his “both sides do it” tendencies, but in a recent segment absolutely decimates Eric Bolling and Fox News coverage of food stamp fraud.  Video here:  http://www.hulu.com/watch/608697

For those “over the pond” folks who cannot access the video, here’s a summary.

Jon shows Eric Bolling calling him out.  Tape of Bolling saying he is going to take Jon “to school”.  After making fun of Bolling for this ridiculous call out, Stewart walks through their hypocrisy step by step.  He points out that one hippy (who was used as THE example of food stamp fraud on 6 different Fox shows) does not represent the millions of poor Americans.  But okay, we don’t have to argue that point.  Let’s address how much fraud there actually is.  So he show that food stamp fraud is about $3 billion annually and is not anything to sneeze at.  Jon then compares that to the amount of money not paid by corporations due to loopholes in the U.S. taxes every year, which amounts to about $4 billion a year.  Then he shows a clip of Bolling saying that the money lost due to unpaid corporate taxes of “$4 billion is a pittance, a pittance!” in the larger scheme of things.  So $3 billion lost in our effort to feed poor Americans is too much but losing $4 billion to corporations every year is a pittance.  Hmmmmm……

Stewart then asks why do they, meaning Fox and conservatives, think this?  He shows clips of them talking about corporations being “job creators”.  He then shreds this next point like a master.  JP Morgan was instrumental in causing the recent Great Recession that affected the entire world.  They sold sub-prime mortgages and derivatives as triple A investments and the bottom fell out.  They created a whole lot of poor people. Did you know that JP Morgan Chase also administers the food stamp EBT program for 24 states making hundreds of billions a year on that contract alone?  Did you know they get paid per customer?

Jon then supposes that JP Morgan must put that money back into our economy by creating jobs…that’s what conservatives and Fox News claim.  Turns out that is not the case.   To handle the customer support calls on the food stamps program, JP Morgan hired offshore operators who get paid $3.50 an hour.  That’s right–the job creators are creating jobs alright, just not in the frigging U.S.    So no matter what happens, corporations win if the rest of lose and they always make sure we lose.  After all, it’s in their best interest, which is making a profit.

Stewart sarcastically explains this business model for us:

“But don’t think of it as JP Morgan shorting homeowners.  Think of them as going long on hunger.”

He follows that massive wallop with another as he ends the segment.  He says:

So what I’m getting from Fox is this….Exploiting government largess while reprehensible and morally corrupting for an individual is a-okay for corporations.  

Then there appears a picture behind Stewart of a little girl and carton of milk and he says:

So, maybe this will help.  Don’t think about food stamps and head start and programs like that as feeding and helping a small child.

As the milk carton disappears from the picture, Stewart finishes with:

Think about it as investing in promising start-up with a liquidity problem.  

It was an absolutely brilliant takedown.