Observations Along the Road

Theatre Writeups, Musings on the News, Rants and Roadkill Along the Information Superhighway

Category Archive: 'rant'

A Problem of Definitions

Written By: cahwyguy - Thu May 04, 2017 @ 1:06 pm PDT

userpic=trumpYou may have noticed I’m doing fewer political posts. A lot of it is because I get far too disgusted when I read the political news these day. I realized yesterday that the root of our problem comes from our failure to establish good definitions.

If you ever work with government rules and regulations, you know that a key part is getting the terms defined correctly and precisely. One wrong definition, one wrong comma, and you don’t get what you want. Millions of people voted for Donald Trump, and his stated goal of “Make America Great Again.” There’s only one problem. They failed to precisely define “Great”.

I know, for me, what a “great” America is. It is one that ensures that its citizens are treated right. It is one that make sure there is no discrimination on race, sex, orientation, gender, size. It is one that protects those that needs protection, and one that uses laws to restrain the evil inclinations inherent in our kind. It is one that ensures there is affordable housing, healthcare, and safe living conditions. It is one where jobs and job training is available. It is one where any person can succeed if they wish, but where success does not come with class warfare or class exploitation. It is a Nation where people can feel safe in their beds and on the streets, no matter their color or class. It is one that provides the necessary infrastructure to support fair commerce. It is one where people want to pay to provide those services, because they believe that benefits come with responsibilities — where those who have feel the obligation to help those who have not.

But I recognize that my definition of “great” is not universally shared. It certainly isn’t shared by our current leadership.

I recognize that those who voted for Trump have a different definition of “Great”. They see “Great” as something we once were, back in the days of the Greatest Generation. The days when the Government didn’t do so much, didn’t involve itself in so many lives. The days when the middle class — and it was mostly a white middle class back then — could be assured of well-paying jobs. They were looking for the “Leave It To Beaver” world, a “Father Knows Best” world, where protest didn’t happen, when America’s might was unquestioned, when those pesky people that looked different or talked different were invisible (unless you were a Cuban band leader). That was the “Great” they expected Trump to bring back.

Was that Donald Trump’s definition of “Great”? I think not.

Donald Trump is a simple man, and his definition of “Great” is simple: America is great when Donald Trump is winning.

Donald Trump wins when taxes on the wealthy go down (which repealing the ACA does). Donald Trump wins when environmental regulations and bureaucratic red tape is cut. Donald Trump wins when petty dictatorships talk to him and permit him to market and build in their countries. Donald Trump wins when his financial dealings aren’t disclosed.

A man like Donald Trump would fit right in with the Robber Barons of the late 1800s, when there were no anti-trust concerns, political power was absolute with the right bribes and connections, when being white was right, without question. A time when the poor were working in horrid conditions, with no government protections. A time when America was isolationist, not spending funds on foreign activities.

Donald Trump would love those time to come back. They would make him Great again, and if he is Great, America is Great.

Damn that pesky definition.

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The Complacency of White Liberal Theatre

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Apr 15, 2017 @ 7:55 am PDT

Sometimes, you read an article someone posts, and you just want to write something up. A friend of mine, who is very active in the social justice arena, with a particular sensitivity to marginalized voices and communities, and commitment to ensuring those voices are heard, posted a link to a very interesting article titled: “Les Miserables, Black Lives Matter, and the Complacency of White Liberal Theatre Communities“.

The article related the story of an actor in tech for Les Miserables in Baltimore at the time of the Baltimore riots. The story pointed out the complacency of the typical white liberal theatre audience, as the author noted:

It suddenly occurred to me that I was in a musical about a group of young students who – after years of enduring inequality, poverty, and police brutality – resort to violence. The heroes of this story stage a revolution, aiming their guns and animosity towards abusive police officers.

And this musical is revered by white people.

The article noted this was acceptable revolution: Poor whites rising up against rich whites. But if they were people of color? A different story. As the author wrote:

You watch Javert mistreat and brutalize innocent French citizens, and you despise him. You watch Jean Valjean – a criminal swept up in the effects of mass incarceration and an unjust prison system – amend his ways, and you forgive him. You watch the people of Paris struggling to survive, bearing the burden of uneven distribution of wealth, and you empathize with them. You watch students rise up – violently – against these forces of oppression, and you cheer them on. When they are killed by militarized police forces, you mourn for them. Not once do you utter, “Well, they should have formed a peaceful demonstration if they didn’t want to be killed,” or “Javert was just trying to do his job,” or, “These young men were dangerous criminals,” or even, “You can’t fight hate with hate!”

But if their bodies were black, if they were wearing hoodies, if the setting were not 19th century France, but rather 21st century America…you would find ways to justify Javert’s actions. You would call these young men thugs. You would start quoting Martin Luther King jr. in a vacuum, to invalidate their struggle. Or you’d refrain from saying anything at all.

This made me wonder — as a theatregoer — how the audience would react to a reinterpretation of Les Miserables — preserving the music, but translating the story to any urban inner city, and the revolutionaries, criminals, and prostitutes as people of color. We do these translations all the time to Shakespeare. What would the audience reaction be? Would a director have the temerity to try it?

Theatre is supposed to be one of the true venues that speaks to power. But the majority of live musicals fail to do so. This is often due to safety and cost: the people that are supposed to be able to hear can’t shell out the funds. Even when you have a musical that speaks the vernacular — a Hamilton — the audience that needs to see it can’t afford it. I’ve long bemoaned the fact that the only time I see people of color in an audience is when the corresponding color is one stage — and when the color is on the stage, the white folks in the audience often disappear. Don’t believe me? Attend a performance of The Color Purple. I saw this regularly at the Pasadena Playhouse when they put on African-American themed shows.

And actors of color? The lack of diversity in the audience is often a mirror of the lack of diversity on stage. Only recently have musicals about Asians cast Asians in the roles. This is largely due to efforts of folks like David Henry Hwang, and the recent casting of things like Flower Drum Song, The King and I, and Allegiance.  But jobs for actors of color are much harder these days.

There are places where these voices are heard and cast: in the small intimate theatre scene. I see and hear about innovative and questioning theatre all the time from the 99 seat community here in Los Angeles. But as you move up to the larger theatres, that largely disappears. Venues such as the Pasadena Playhouse have made attempts to broaden the audience, but it is unclear if they have been successful in the long term.

What are your thoughts? What should the theatre community due to ensure that the concerns of the marginalized are heard? That the stories tell what is happening? That there is diversity on stage and in the audience?

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A Deeper Message in a Corporate Screwup

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Apr 11, 2017 @ 5:29 am PDT

Yesterday, over on Facebook, I posted a link to a friend’s post on the United Passenger Ejection Kerfuffle™, noting that it was “a good examination of the recent United kerfuffle — demonstrating yet again why what you read on a social media snippet-of-outrage(tm) is often not the full story in context.” There were loads of responses, and the debate devolved into everyone pointing out how United had screwed up, how the cops had screwed up, how the airline industry had screwed up, and how it was all Trump’s fault. Well, I made that last bit up, but wouldn’t you :-).

Seriously, however, everyone missed what — to me — was the most important point: A cell phone video is not news. The outrage here — much justified — was mostly generated without knowledge of the full context. That’s not journalism. Journalism investigates the story, attempts to get all sides. Journalism isn’t outrage shared on social media, which often gets facts wrong and rapidly descends into hype and hyperbole.

Contrast the social media outrage with the LA Times Business article on the subject. The Times (or more properly, its corporate sibling the Chicago Tribune) investigates the story. It looks into the full background of what created the situation: an overbooked plane, the need to move airline personnel, the way the contract of carriage works. It looks at how the airline responded. It shows the video wasn’t the whole story, and there was plenty of blame to go around. United (more properly, the less experienced United Express operator), feeling intense time pressure to get its plane and crew in the air,  screwed up the procedure to entice volunteers, randomly select passengers, and to do this all before anyone boarded the aircraft. United (the corporate side) completely bungled the PR response. The Chicago PD, demonstrating the tact they learned at the 1968 Democratic Convention, bungled how they requested the passenger leave the aircraft and the subsequent removal. The passengers bungled their response: everyone put themselves first and no one volunteered, and then they fought back against the removal — yet another demonstration of a “me first” attitude that has infected society. And everyone bungled things by not taking the time to think: it is a flipping five hour drive — the airline could have rented a car and driver, and gotten either its employees or passengers to their destination by the morning when they were needed, likely even before the plane touched down with the delays this created.

This incident demonstrates the worse of what our society has become: a society that doesn’t think, a society that feeds on outrage instead of journalism, a society that uses arcane rules instead of common sense, a mob response against “the man” (corporate leaders and law enforcement) before common sense.

All of this could have been avoided — at much less cost in terms of dollars and PR — if someone had said, “Hey, you know we could get our employees — or the bumped passengers — to their destination for perhaps $300 by renting a Lincoln Towncar and driver, with only a 3 hour delay.” Instead, they spent how much on the volunteer incentives, how much on dealing with negative publicity, and how much on the eventual legal proceedings.

Think first, people.

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Losing the Battle

Written By: cahwyguy - Wed Mar 29, 2017 @ 7:14 pm PDT

Well, I like to think I fought the good fight. I mean, I’m an old fart. Old habits die hard, and for the longest time I just kept using the term I was used to, even though it was politically incorrect. After all, I held on to other ideas that I believed were morally superior, only to watch them get discredited by the new-think, by people that didn’t know what was right was right, and what was wrong was wrong.

Eventually, though, I caved. I started using the updated politically correct term. People no longer looked at me funny, they no longer made fun of the way that I talk. As for my discredited ideas, well, I kept them to myself, lest I be made fun of. After all, in today’s world, you have to use the right terms and speak the right way and think the right things.

Right?

But then, of course, a new term came in for what I previously knew. I resisted, because resistance is good. After all, the new term was, to put it bluntly, stupid. It was idiotic. It didn’t refer to what they said it referred. But I forgot my Star Trek. Resistance is futile.

OK, “cyber“. You win. I mean, HelpNet even says as much.

I grew up in an era when it was “Computer Security” and COMPUSEC, when we believed we could write multi-level secure systems that provided high assurance. What did we get for our efforts? perl, and a High Assurance Brake Job.

Then it became “Information Assurance” and “Information Security“. A1 systems? Sorry, but A1 was reserved for steak.  Multi-level systems? They were for special uses; no one would write a general purpose MLS operating system. Formal Methods? Never in your wildest dreams — that’s Gypsy talk. Ina know about you, but I need some Jo.

But now? We have Cybersecurity and Cyber and Trustworthiness. We’ve lost the war. Here’s what HelpNet has to say:

We have lost the cyber war. No, not that cyber war. Maybe war of words is a better way to put it. Whether we like it or not, cyber has become the default way for everyone else to talk about what we do.

[…]

It’s tempting to take the moral high ground and refuse to engage with cyber. Instead, we could choose to refer only to information security because we believe it accurately reflects both physical documents as well as digital assets, while giving importance to each one.

It’s fair to say that some of the industry’s suspicion about cyber comes from the fact that it’s broad enough to cover the charlatans in the industry who think there’s a buck to be made by scaring people into stocking up on silver bullets instead of informing them in a responsible way about how security can help them to do business better.

[…]

But if you open a dictionary, you’ll find cybersecurity is the only term of its kind. One survey ranked information security as the least popular term among the general public, even lower than e-security.

e-Security? Well, at least I can be thankful that term didn’t win.

e-Security? Sheeesh.

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Be Careful What You Wish For

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Mar 14, 2017 @ 11:14 am PDT

userpic=trumpFor years, Republicans and Libertarians have campaigned on the platform of smaller government. Government is too big! It spends too much! It has too many needless regulations that hamper the freedom of business to innovate (and make profits, never forget the profits). This was a stated goal of the Tea Party: Reduce government. This has been the goal of the Norquist pledge: Reduce taxes, reduce government. But, of course, they all knew it would never happen so it made a safe campaign promise that suckered drew in the voters. Because, heaven forfend, if it ever happened the people would realize all the benefits that these hated government services provide. Further, they would come to realize that the states cannot afford to provide them through internal budgets alone; remember, the poorer (often “red” states) depend on funds from the richer (often “blue” states) to provide these services through the balance the Federal level provides.

Then along came Donald Trump. A wealthy businessman (successful is up for debate) invested heavily in real estate. A businessman trained to get what he wants, run businesses into the ground, and complain about federal regulations that impact his ability to do business and make money (never, ever, forget the make money part). A businessman who believes that he would be more successful if he didn’t have to ensure safe workplaces, provide medical care, ensure that his construction preserved the environment. A businessman with wealthy partners, often heavily invested in energy industry that depend on the raping of the environment to make money (never, ever, ever, forget the make money part). Further, a businessman with charisma and TV smarts, a businessman who knows how to make an audience believe he is talking to them, and looking out for their interests.

Donald Trump and the Republicans/Libertarians. A match made in heaven. I know. Jesus told me about it when I called his 1-900 number the other day. It’s just like a fairy tale.

Of course, those who have seen Into the Woods knows that fairy tales aren’t pretty. Often what you wish for has unforseen consequences.

The Republicans (at least the voters) wished for Donald Trump. They got him. Their wish came true. And along with Trump came his minions and advisors, publicly dedicated to the task of “deconstructing the administrative state”. Of course, that’s a “con” job, and when you remove the con, what do you get? Destruction of the administrative state.

This becomes clear when one sees the outlines of Trump’s proposed budget. CNN describes it thusly:

His first budget — expected to be unveiled later this week — will mark Trump’s most significant attempt yet to remold national life and the relationship between federal and state power.

It would codify an assault on regulatory regimes over the environment, business and education bequeathed by former President Barack Obama, and attempt to halt decades of steadily growing government reach.

[…]

Trump will highlight his priorities by upping military spending by $54 billion, and is also expected to boost funding for homeland security — money that may be used to toughen immigration enforcement and to build his wall on the southern border.

The President will cement his “America First” policy by slashing State Department funding, foreign aid spending and grants to the United Nations, officials have already made clear. And nowhere is his assault on government expected to be as dramatic as at the Environmental Protection Agency — which is bracing for a massive reduction of its budget.

[…]

Another key Trump campaign promise was his vow to his voters, especially those in blue collar Midwestern swing states that he would not touch entitlements like Social Security or Medicare — vast repositories of taxpayer dollars that with along with interests on the national debt make up two-thirds of the federal budget.

That means that discretionary spending is vulnerable, especially to an administration that wants to make a political point.

[…]

Such warnings are why agencies like the EPA and the Education Department that have long been in conservative crosshairs are particularly vulnerable in the Trump era. Federal funding for other Republican targets — like National Public Radio, the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities may also be under threat — even though they account for a comparatively small area of overall spending.

Americans want clean water and clean air. They want all those cute cuddly animals they see in nature documentaries. They want to be able to go out to National Parks and see the beauty of nature. But the environmental regulations that give them all that? Those are what Trump is cutting.

Americans want their children to be educated, and to get a quality education so they can get good jobs. The desire for the best education possible is true whether they send their kids to public, private, parochial, or home school. I guess there is nary a parent that says, “I want my kid to grow up stupid, like me.” When they live in poor areas with substandard education — either public or private — they want money redistributed by the Federal government from richer areas to pay for it. Gutting the Education department and ceding this to the state? That cuts those funds.

Americans want peace. They don’t want to send their sons and daughters to fight (and die, never forget die) in foreign lands. War is averted through diplomacy, not military might. Cutting the State Department and Foreign Aid cuts diplomacy. It makes the world less safe.

But what about jobs. President Trump campaigned on the promise that he would create so many jobs. Job creation would be yuge. So yuge you wouldn’t believe it. So what is he doing? According to the Washington Post:

President Trump’s budget proposal this week would shake the federal government to its core if enacted, culling back numerous programs and expediting a historic contraction of the federal workforce.

This would be the first time the government has executed cuts of this magnitude — and all at once — since the drawdown following World War II, economists and budget analysts said.

[…]

The cuts Trump plans to propose this week are also expected to lead to layoffs among federal workers, changes that would be felt sharply in the Washington area. According to an economic analysis by Mark Zandi, chief economist for Moody’s Analytics, the reductions outlined so far by Trump’s advisers would reduce employment in the region by 1.8 percent and personal income by 3.5 percent, and lower home prices by 1.9 percent.

Among Trump’s expected proposals are an increase in military spending of $54 billion, more money to start building a wall along the border between the United States and Mexico, and the creation of new initiatives that expand access to charter schools and other educational programs.

To offset that new money, Trump will propose steep cuts across numerous other agencies. Although final numbers remain in flux, his advisers have considered cutting the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s budget by $6 billion, or 14 percent, according to a preliminary budget document obtained by The Washington Post. That is a change that Trulia chief economist Ralph McLaughlin said could “put nearly 8 million Americans in both inner-city and suburban communities at risk of losing their public housing and nearly 4 million at risk of losing their rental subsidy.”

Preliminary budget documents have also shown that Trump advisers have also looked at cutting the Environmental Protection Agency’s staff by about 20 percent and tightening the Commerce Department’s budget by about 18 percent, which would impact climate change research and weather satellite programs, among other things.

Trump and his advisers have said that they believe the federal workforce is too big, and that the federal government spends — and wastes — too much money. They have said that Washington — the federal workers and contractors, among others — has benefited from government largesse while many other Americans have suffered. Federal spending, they have argued, crowds the private sector and piles regulations and bureaucracy onto companies.

Here’s something people don’t often think about: government employment is white-collar welfare, a gigantic jobs program. Cutting the Federal workforce sounds good, but at its heart it is a massive layoff by the world’s largest employer, causing people to lose their incomes, health benefits, and much more. When you are a dad or mom and your employer cuts your job, it doesn’t make a difference whether you are at GM or the EPA. It is a job — it is what pays your bills. So Trump, who promised to create American jobs, is destroying them.

But that’s not all he is destroying. To fund an ineffective wall, he is taking people’s homes. He is decimating the funding for public housing, and threatening the subsidies that enable people to have roofs over their heads. He will not only create more jobless, but more homeless people.

He is also making people less safe. Cutting climate and weather research cuts the very satellites that tell people when major weather events are happening, that tell farmers when to plant, that ensure our safety from natural disasters. All to build a wall.

And then there is healthcare. Trump promised a program that was better than Obamacare. He promised more would be covered for less cost. But what is he actually proposing? According to the CBO, via the Washington Post:

Twenty-four million fewer people would have coverage a decade from now than if the Affordable Care Act remains intact, nearly doubling the share of Americans who are uninsured. The number of uninsured people would jump 14 million after the first year.

The Republican legislation would lower the deficit by $337 billion during that time, primarily by decreasing Medicaid spending and government aid for people purchasing health plans on their own.

Premiums would be 15 to 20 percent higher in the first year compared with current Obamacare premiums, but 10 percent lower after 2026.

Older Americans would pay “substantially” more, and younger Americans less.

The plan to strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding would leave many women without services to help them prevent pregnancy, resulting in “thousands” of additional births, which would in turn jack up Medicaid costs. Sandhya Somashekhar reports: “The analysts estimated that excluding the women’s health organization from the Medicaid program for one year, as congressional Republicans have proposed, would particularly affect low-income areas and communities without many health care options, leaving 15 percent of those people ‘without services that help women avert pregnancy.’ The reduction in services would reduce federal spending on Medicaid, the state-federal program for the poor, by $178 million during 2017, the analysts estimate. But they believe the savings would be partially offset by the fact that there would be ‘several thousand’ more births paid for under Medicaid, which already picks up the costs of about 45 percent of all U.S. births; many of those new babies likely would qualify for the Medicaid program.”

The mechanism for persuading healthy Americans to stay insured would be largely ineffective, and it would ultimately lead to about 2 million fewer Americans buying insurance each year. Juliet Eilperin explains: “GOP lawmakers are determined to repeal the individual mandate.… But by jettisoning what has grown over time to a hefty penalty, several experts said, lawmakers have crafted a financial incentive that many consumers are unlikely to find compelling. Under the House GOP proposal, any consumer who opts out of getting insurance would have to pay a 30 percent surcharge on one year’s premium upon re-enrolling.

The deficit would be cut, but at what price? Despite the promise, less people would be covered, more people would be uninsured, and often, the coverage would be worse. This would hurt the American people.

As I said at the beginning: Be careful what you wish for. The wish for a smaller government, lower taxes, and less regulation will make our nation worse off. People will lose jobs, homes, and lives. The quality of life, for the most vulnerable segments of our population, will be significantly worse. The rich, and possibly the upper middle class. They’ll make out great (unless they have government jobs). We’ll go back to the days of dirty air, polluted water, expensive medical bills, poor schools, and lack of enforcement of constitutional protections regarding the government supporting particular religions and preventing discrimination. Not a better world at all.

But government will be smaller and cheaper. Right. Perhaps this is: “better, faster, cheaper” — pick any two. Better is likely not true. So what about faster? Nope — all we get is cheaper. One way Trump is working to reduce government is by not filling lower tier positions. This is creating significant problems and slowing processes down.

As the New York Times chronicles at length in a new report, the Trump administration is having the slowest transition in decades, far behind where his predecessors usually were seven weeks into the job. Trump has filled most of his Cabinet, but he has not nominated anyone for more than 500 other vital posts.

That means that in department after department, countless operations are on standby or moving at a glacial pace because the president has failed to appoint the senior personnel required to keep the train rolling.

Further, the federal hiring freeze he instituted means that as people retire or leave for other positions, they aren’t replaced. What will that mean for getting your passport processed by when you need it? That farm report? That federal rebate?

So is Trump’s election a fairy tale? Will we live happily ever after having gotten the wish for a smaller, deconstructed government? Some will of course. The wealthy always find a way to win. But those of us who aren’t the top 1%? Will we live happily ever after?

Sure. Trump has promised it. We all know how well his promises work out.

P.S.: Your toaster oven is watching you.

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Lies vs. Falsehoods

Written By: cahwyguy - Sat Mar 11, 2017 @ 11:03 am PDT

The words we use are vitally important; I often say that 90% of everything is how we say things, not what we actually mean. I remember learning this ages ago when looking at the papers with respect to Israel and Vietnam: different impressions come from the use of “freedom-fighter” vs. “insurgent” vs. “guerilla”.

A recent article related to President Trump brought this back to mind. In a musing yesterday, Mark Evanier wrote:

I think though we sometimes devalue the word “lie” by applying it to anything your opponent says that you can possibly spin as untrue. Years ago, a gent who worked for the National Weather Service told me, “We’ll predict a 60% chance of rain for Los Angeles…and then even if it rains in the valley but not in the basin, we hear from people in the basin who accuse us of lying. Not even of being wrong, which we weren’t. They say we lied.”

As a staunch believer in the maxim, “Never attribute to deviousness, that which can be explained by incompetence,” I often think the “L” word is inapplicable. People — even people I don’t like — do make mistakes. They misspeak. Or they make logical assumptions which turn out to be wrong. A lot of people have jumped on Trump for spelling the word “tap” with two P’s in a recent, infamous tweet. These are apparently people who never made a typo themselves.

I, too, believe in the maxim (which I call an adage) of never ascribing to malice what one can ascribe to stupidity. There are kerfuffles I see every day that people jump on as malace — Spicer’s flag pin being upside down, Kellyanne Conway sitting on a sofa in the Oval Office informally. Folks — that stuff doesn’t manner. They are errors of stupidity, not intentional malice, signals, or disrespect.  They aren’t worth the time to discuss.

Mark’s article was triggered by an opinion piece in the Jewish Journal wondering whether Trump was worse than a liar. Here’s a quote from that article:

Midway through the annual Daniel Pearl Memorial Lecture at UCLA last week on “Maintaining Intellectual Integrity in the Age of Trump,” Wall Street Journal foreign affairs columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner Bret Stephens tried to summarize his in-depth analysis of President Trump’s dicey relationship with the truth.

“If I had to sum it up in a single sentence,” he said, “this would be it: Truth is what you can get away with.”

When I heard that, a light bulb went off. I thought of a book I read years ago, “On Bullshit,” by former Princeton professor and moral philosopher Harry Frankfurt.

One of the key insights in the book is that bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are. “It is impossible for someone to lie unless he thinks he knows the truth,” Frankfurt writes. “Producing bullshit requires no such conviction.”

When we use the word “lie”, there is an implicit assumption of intent: the speaker knows the truth, and is intentionally telling you something other than the truth. But if one is truly incompetent, truly stupid, truly ignorant, truly lazy enough not to know, then is that false statement a lie or just evidence of stupidity. Do we believe that Trump knows the truth? Or is he just making it up as he goes, bullshitting us because that works in business, and most people are too stupid to do the research to find him wrong. In business, you pull values for things out of thin air, and if your buyer believes you, you win.

Believing the lie and getting wrapped around the wheel of bullshit brings me to my other point: When have we (and by “we”, I mean us liberals) fallen into the same tropes that other side used against Obama? I look at my news feed on Facebook, and I see people believing all sort of bullshit about Trump, and getting all worried about truly minor things. I see folks being Chicken Little running around. I’m not saying it may not be justified. However, to an observer, it looks like the same scare tactics that the Conservatives used against Obama. Calling him names. Thinking everything is a sign of dictatorship on the way (the latest is worrying about the administration firing 45 US attorneys at DOJ, when this happens with every change of adminsitration and party).

There are plenty of things this administration is doing that are highly problematic. Gutting science. Gutting health care. Gutting programs designed to protect the American people from all forms of fraud and abuse. Gutting social programs. Dr. Martin Luthur King Jr. once said, “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual doom.”. Have we forgotten that?  But worrying about a flag pin? Feet on a sofa? The first lady’s tits? C’mon.

The change we need isn’t found in the sofa cushions. The change we need is found in fighting for the things that really matter.

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The Religious Line

Written By: cahwyguy - Fri Mar 10, 2017 @ 12:01 pm PDT

While eating lunch today, I was reading my RSS feeds when I saw a very interesting post come across titled, “Why can’t we accommodate florists denying services to gay couples?” This was on my religious feeds, so I thought it might be interesting, so I gave it a read. Here are two paragraphs that stuck out at me, and actually prompted this post:

If you think small business owners should be allowed to discriminate against any customer on the basis of any sincerely held religious belief, then fine. Be it same-sex marriage or interracial marriage or interfaith marriage or whatever marriage, the objecting service provider gets to have her way.

But if you want to forbid florists from refusing service to mixed-race couples but allow Baronelle Stutzman et al. to refuse service to a same-sex couples, you have to come up with some persuasive secular reason for considering discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation less deserving of legal protection than discrimination on the basis of race.

Basically, the courts CAN NOT decide if a particular religious belief is valid or represents a religion, only that it is sincerely held. You can state that your religion is that it is right to kill and eat people, and to have sex with rabid monkeys, and all the court cares about is that it is sincerely held. That’s all.

So why don’t we then have rampant murder and cannibalism? Simple. Because some laws override religious beliefs — often laws that impact someone else other than the person holding the belief. We don’t allow murder because it is someone else getting killed (the whole abortion debate is about when a foetus becomes “someone else”, because you are allowed to do whatever you want with your body). Similarly, in the case above, the question is what takes precedence over what: are laws about discrimination more important than laws about religious practice. In general, we have said yes: sincerely held religious beliefs must give way if they are discriminatory. TL;DR: You can’t discriminate based on race and use religion to make your case.

So, following on to this, we as a society have decided that one cannot discriminate based on sexual orientation. That impacts someone else. Thus, given that discrimination takes precedence over religion, that means even if you believe that gays cannot marry, you still need to make them a cake. The quality of the cake — which is what ensures repeat business, is a separate issue.

This, by the way, is where the whole transgender bathroom issue is going (which, you know, is really not about bathrooms). As a society, we are moving in the direction of not discriminating based on gender choice (or whatever the term is — I’m not sure). That means that bathrooms must be open to all, as discrimination takes precedence over religion. So how would that be fought? By finding something that takes precedence over discrimination — safety. We can discriminate against sexual predators because of the safety to children. So the same argument is used against trans. Never mind that it is a false argument. The hysteria permits the discrimination. [Which, by the way, is why we must fight it: false facts are false facts.]

P.S.: Speaking of false facts, did you know that chemtrails can protect against vaccine injuries?

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Compassion and Leadership

Written By: cahwyguy - Tue Mar 07, 2017 @ 11:39 am PDT

I’ve been increasingly dismayed by the hatred I’m seeing in political arenas these days, especially from those who profess to be Christians. Now, admittedly I’m Jewish and not an expert on Christianity, but my understanding is that Christ preached love, understanding, and compassion for people, and rallied against the moneychangers and those who accumulated wealth for wealth’s sake.

What brought this to the fore of late was reading the proposed GOP replacement for the Affordable Care Act. The proposal, according to the LA Times summary, would ensure that no federal funding can be made, either directly or indirectly, by Medicaid to a healthcare organization that “provides for abortions,” other than those done in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother. That not only defunds Planned Parenthood, but any hospital that performs abortion. Further, According to a House Ways and Means Committee digest, the measure forbids spending federal tax subsidies on health plans that include coverage of abortion, even if the customer doesn’t get an abortion. This denies women the right to a safe abortion guaranteed under Roe v. Wade, under those timelines — and that in many cases has the government interfering with the practice of the mother’s religion (which might permit abortion). Further, you would think that a group so concerned with the life of a child would ensure it is born healthy, if they are going to prevent abortion. But no. According to the summary, as of Dec. 31, 2019, ACA rules that required qualified health plans to provide hospitalization, maternity care, mental health services and other benefits would be sunsetted at the federal level. So not only is abortion prohibited, but there would be no requirement to provide maternity care. This isn’t compassion, this is hatred towards women.

Further, studies are showing that the new proposal will cost 6 to 10 million people their health insurance. It will raise premiums on older people. It will cost Obamacare enrollees about $1500 more each year. It slashes funding for vaccines and public health. The plan will be really bad for the sickest Americans due to the continuous coverage requirement. Oh, and it encourages health insurers to pay their top executives more.

This is just an example. Hatred from the Conservative side is rampant, and has been for many years. I’ve had conservative friends wish all liberals dead. I’ve seen hatred towards immigrant groups. I’ve seen hatred towards the poor. Yet these are from people who profess to be Christian, who profess to want to have Christian values throughout society. They are using Christianity as an excuse for their hatred, and that’s wrong. I know that’s not what Christianity teaches, as I have seen numerous compassionate Christians who are living that compassion every day.

In a VCStar interview with Noel Paul Stookey of Peter, Paul, and Mary, he was asked about his passion and liberalism. I found his response quite interesting:

I also think for the liberal, it’s the willingness to take a chance, to share and to reach out and to find new ways to interact. I think the conservative mold is essentially to protect your resources or to protect what’s yours; and I don’t know if I should say this to a tape recorder because I don’t know when it’s gonna return to bite me in the ass, but I would say organized religion is very much the same way. When Luther nailed that note to the door complaining about the abuses of the church, he was also in a sense talking about the strict format that had to be obeyed, when really, his feeling was — and I think it’s gaining contemporary recognition — that spiritually, matters of the heart, are for us to decide individually, and that’s scary for the church because that means that essentially everyone is an angel. Everyone is essentially creating their own religion, and that’s scary for people who have put their faith in dogma and in routine. That’s not to say that I don’t have routines that I find comforting – and I’m sure that you do too – but when they exclude other people, create difficulties or lack of respect for other people, then I think we need to re-address obeying forms and start obeying the compassion in our hearts.

Compassion in our hearts. Our political system here in America is one that permits many spiritual paths, and explicitly recognizes that one group cannot impose a spiritual path on another. The Supreme Court recognized that when it found a compromise position on abortion: a point before which it was legal, and a point after which it was not. This is a clear middle ground between those who believe life starts at conception (a Christian view) and those who believe it starts when the infant takes its first breath (a Jewish view). Ultimately, however, it is not an outside party’s choice to make: it is the woman’s choice, in consultation with her spiritual advisors.

If our society is going to show compassion, it can’t be Dickensian, putting the poor in workhouses and letting people die if they can’t afford healthcare. That appears to be the goal of the GOP proposal — and this administration as a whole: benefit the wealthy, let those who have the privilege take advantage of everyone and everything that does not. That’s not Compassionate Conservatism — that’s “I’ve got mine, I’ll take yours”.

Some argue that compassion shouldn’t come from the government; it should come from the churches helping the people directly. Obviously, these people are not familiar with the teachings of the RamBam, Moses Maimonides, and his levels of charity:

  1. The greatest level, above which there is no greater, is to support someone by endowing him with a gift or loan, or entering into a partnership with him, or finding employment for him, in order to strengthen his hand until he need no longer be dependent upon others . . .
  2. A lesser level of charity than this is to give to the poor without knowing to whom one gives, and without the recipient knowing from who he received. For this is performing a mitzvah solely for the sake of Heaven. This is like the “anonymous fund” that was in the Holy Temple [in Jerusalem]. There the righteous gave in secret, and the good poor profited in secret. Giving to a charity fund is similar to this mode of charity, though one should not contribute to a charity fund unless one knows that the person appointed over the fund is trustworthy and wise and a proper administrator, like Rabbi Chananyah ben Teradyon.
  3. A lesser level of charity than this is when one knows to whom one gives, but the recipient does not know his benefactor. The greatest sages used to walk about in secret and put coins in the doors of the poor. It is worthy and truly good to do this, if those who are responsible for distributing charity are not trustworthy.
  4. A lesser level of charity than this is when one does not know to whom one gives, but the poor person does know his benefactor. The greatest sages used to tie coins into their robes and throw them behind their backs, and the poor would come up and pick the coins out of their robes, so that they would not be ashamed.
  5. A lesser level than this is when one gives to the poor person directly into his hand, but gives before being asked.
  6. A lesser level than this is when one gives to the poor person after being asked.
  7. A lesser level than this is when one gives inadequately, but gives gladly and with a smile.
  8. A lesser level than this is when one gives unwillingly.

Support from the government is at the first two: we know not to whom we give, and they do not know who gave it. Helping provide medical care and job training is above that — we help find them employment and strengthen their hands. The GOP proposal is at the bottom — inadequate giving and unwilling giving.

Our political leaders have a responsibility not only to represent their major donors — the people with the money. They have the responsibility to represent and protect the people with no voice, the people who don’t have the funds for PACs. When their compassion is only for the wealthy who look like them and who were raised like them, this isn’t a government of the people, by the people, and most importantly, for the people.

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