Please can't we be reasonable?

Funny. We didn't have calls for civility when the guy shot up the pizzeria. No R's called for civility when crowds shouted "lock her up". It was pure civil rights to forcefully take over Malheur. Bundy was a property rights hero. But *now*, we need civility.

How about open hearings for AHCA in the Senate. How about Sessions answers some questions. How about a Democrat in the Cabinet? Trump's thugs have taken over the government completely and revel in doing things, even completely pointless things (lead bullets!) with the intention of offending liberals.

This is to be expected. This will happen more. It is the height of  cynical hypocrisy for R's to be suddenly saying we've gone too far. We haven't. They have. These people are mean-spirited oppressors who have made the government "of the people" only for their supporters. Violence is wrong but it is understandable and will happen again.

Amygdala, Part Oatmeal

Somewhere I wrote about my theory of the 2016 political race and how it was based on some people having fat, juicy, overactive amygdalas.

The guy who draws Oatmeal has some thoughts that are consistent with my views, ie,

Dig it here:

Book ratings: Five stars and then some

I read a lot. I enjoy writing and saying things about books. I use GoodReads, Kindle and I like to rate the books I read. I have always had a fairly rigorous idea of how I use the usual five-star rating but, was trying to decide if four stars was right and realized that it would be helpful if I could consult a standard to decide. Here is mine.

Five stars is reserved for books that are life-changing and superb. Five star books will be amazingly well-written and incredibly interesting. This is rarely given by me but, when I finish a book and truly wish I could stay in it forever or that my perspective on something has been substantially improved, this is where it goes. Five star books are transcendental, wonderful experiences. If you share anything with my views, I believe you will love this book.

Four stars indicates that I really like this book and that I think you should read it. It will be, in my opinion, very well written and interesting. There will be things about it that are unique and present new ideas. Characters, plot, and other mechanics of writing will be very good. These are books that I recommend enthusiastically and that I am sure I will bring up in conversation fairly often. Four star books will leave you feeling satisfied and wishing for the book to never end.

Three stars is for a good book that I think you will enjoy. I am an easy-going person and do not require an author or a book to be perfect. I am happy to overlook flaws in a book if it has some good ideas or is just a pleasant way to while away the hours. I believe that a three star book will please you and that you will feel that the time it took to read was well spent. In my world, Three stars is a positive rating.

Two stars is for decent books that I didn't like very much. My dislike might stem from feeling like the viewpoints are annoying or the mechanics of the book were too evident and distracting. If I'm bored by a book that has an interesting premise that I can imagine others would enjoy, it might get two stars from me. Two star books are ones that someone who shares my views will not be likely to enjoy.

One star is reserved for books that I hate. If I give a book a single star, I probably did not finish it (though I have a 'hundred page rule' so I am never capricious in abandoning a book) because it was so boring or stupid that I felt insulted. In my opinion, a book with one star is  a book that is worth neither the time or money it will consume. When I give a book One star, it's because I am fairly irritated that the author would foist this kind of crap on me.

Google is wrong. The right to be forgotten is a human right and should be universal.

Google has an article complaining that some places are passing laws that require that a citizen who wants to have Google forget his or her past be forgotten universally. They claim a right to free expression and that the originating country's laws should not prevent them from saying what they want. And that the other country's should be able to choose not to grant such a right to their citizens.

Hilarious corporate bullshit to my way of thinking. Their concern about free expression doesn't extend to supporting a claim that some country should be allowed to pass a law invalidating all copyright. In that case, they would support the 'right' of the copyright owner to withhold it's 'content' from said country.

But, if it's a person whose country gives him or her something tantamount to copyright control over their own history and its use in a corporate product (search results are a corporate product that you are buying from Google with your attention), well, not so much. Corps get to control access. People do not.

This isn't the only perversity. Throughout history, humans have been able to go to the other side of the world and start over. Mistakes they made in their youth were invisible as they started their new lives. Crimes committed, controversies engaged, all of the detritus of a life could be escaped. The idea that every single thing that happens is recorded permanently and made easily available to everyone is a completely novel (and bizarre) thing.

This ability to start over is, I argue, a natural human right. It is a cruelty of the first rank to insist that every person be judged at any age by every single thing they have ever done. It makes youthful experimentation dangerous. It makes personal reform worthless. "I was a criminal. No matter what, outside my country, I will always be considered a criminal. Why bother to change?"

This is real. I have thought it myself because my life infractions are too light to be worth the hassle of trying to get Google to forget me. But, I have thought it. I have thought that I would prefer that some things that I have written online were not discoverable.

Note that no one is saying that the person or institution who had a beef with another person has to censor itself just that Google would not be allowed to sell the service of making a person's sensational past available to all comers.

Google's position has the, no doubt intentional, effect of making it so that the right to be forgotten is completely non-existent. On my computer at this exact moment, I can access Google in just about any country in the world (vpn, baby!). If I really care, I can turn myself into a local citizen Singapore and Google every, single person they 'forgot' in Germany.

I can hear the conservatives whine, "How will we know if a person has committed crimes or said mean things about us before we hire them?" Hard to imagine how civilization worked for the 3000 years before Google but, somehow, people did business, made new friends, and made progress when people had to be judged by who they were as they stood in front of you.

Google is an enemy of human freedom. It's bad enough that they favor corporations over people in their intellectual property policies. It's awful that they only respect the right to be forgotten in country's that pass a law. Now they want to make it so that you can only really be forgotten if we get every country I the world to pass that law.

As a consequence, every person's ability to move on with their life after something happens that would interfere with that is impaired because they want you to remain accessible as raw material for their products.

read more: Reflecting on the Right to be Forgotten

Sat Dec 10 2016 11:31:18 GMT-0600 (CST)

Double Standard

Bill Clinton cheats on his wife, impeach him. Trump proudly brags about sexual assault and cheating on his wife, elect him.

Hillary oversaw the Department of State while four people died, put her in jail. Republicans oversee the deaths of 200, no problem.

Immigrants don't pay taxes, round them up and kick them out. Trump doesn't pay taxes, he's a business genius.

Hillary's foundation spends 'only' 87% of donations helping people, she's a crook. Trumps foundation pays his debts, buy art of his image and donated to bribe officials, he savvy.

Trump made turned his gifted millions into four billion dollars when the market says it should have been twelve, he's a business whiz. Hillary took a tax loss of $700k, she's a tax cheat.

Trump leaves a trail of bankruptcies, thousands of lawsuits and unpaid vendors, he's a smart business strategist. Hillary spends her life in public service, she's part of the problem.

Trump does an attach apology for saying he touched women, all is good. Hillary apologizes for using an email server, lock her up.

The double standard is shocking but not as disturbing as the false equivalence that allows Trump supporters to pretend that these two people are comparable in any way. Trump is a venial power monger who built his business on pure egotism. Hillary has spent her life making a practical difference in the lives of the people of America and the world.

Only one of them is worthy of your consideration. Vote for Hillary Clinton for the President of the United States.

If you’re not helping her, you’re helping him. DONATE. VOLUNTEER. VOTE.

Hillary for President - The Affirmative Case

HIllary is a person who has been working for good causes since she was a very young woman. When she was twenty, she went undercover for a college project to uncover racial discrimination in education in the south. During her career as a lawyer in Arkansas, she was tremendously well respected. She took clients of all sorts but was especially involved in children and family issues.

Though the right-wing defeated her, she organized a huge effort involving experts and stake holders from every aspect of the health care world. It was a huge task that she undertook for no compensation because she felt that it was important to get better health care for millions of people.

That is, for no personal benefit, she undertook an effort for which a consulting company would charge millions and faced tremendous and unfair opprobrium from the right-wing and health care industry.

Her response? She dusted herself off and rammed through the States Children Health Insurance Program. It provides access to health care for many millions of children to this day. Faced with brutal opposition and painful defeat, she kept at it until she found a way to a good result.

As a Senator, she was praised universally for being collegial and imaginative in finding ways to work with people with whom she disagrees. As with her time in Arkansas and as a First Lady, she was praised for being incredibly hard-working, selfless and well-prepared.

When she ran for President, she added a new skill to her portfolio. She organized a national campaign that just about kicked Barack Obama's ass. She did it with such competence that Obama asked her to be Secretary of State. This ability to compete intensely while keeping doors open and relationships alive is a rare skill.

While she had many important accomplishments as Secretary of State the part that we learn that's new is that she is a tremendously kind and engaged boss. While carrying an insane workload (she traveled more than any previous Secretary of State), she also did things like bring the cake when a co-worker had a birthday. She took time to talk to even low level employees. She knew their kids and the issues in their lives.

We also are reminded of something that was said about her as a Senator, that she is unbelievably knowledgable and well-prepared. She was famous in the State Department for knowing more about specifics that the subject team leaders who briefed her. It turns out that she reads and reads and studies more than anyone. When everyone else is being an executive who delegates the details, Hillary takes the time to actually know what she is talking about. 

But, there are the right-wing claims about her. She's been under investigation forever. She wrecked out national security. She is a liar and a cheat. She must be hiding something. She helped Iran get nuclear bombs.

And it's all crap. She has been under investigation forever because, first, her husband's and, now, her Republican enemies want her destroyed. Starting with the completely disproved accusations over Whitewater and the Rose Law firm, and continuing to this day, every single investigation was initiated by people who hate her and her husband.

In the nineties, a right-wing creep named Richard Mellon Scaife was pissed because the Democrats took Congress after Newt Gingrich shut down the government over a dispute with Bill Clinton. Scaife started a company named Judicial Watch. 

Judicial Watch devised the strategy of suing the government over Freedom of Information requests with a specific goal of ruining the Clintons. It was them suing for ever more details about the Whitewater investigation that found the Lewinski problem and one statement over the course of a zillion interrogations that they used as an excuse for his impeachment. 

While the insane harassment over Benghazi (do you know that under her tenure as Secretary there were fewer people killed in embassies than under George Bush) was started by the Republicans, it was was Judicial Watch, still attacking her fifteen years later, that dragged out the email server issue.

The email server is the most insanely false issue of them all. Trump and the rest pretend it is a huge deal but it's not. Hillary used an email server. It was done because government technology was cumbersome. She made a point of not sending classified information though, apparently, a tiny bit leaked through. More importantly, nothing bad happened as a consequence. No secrets got out. National security was not, in fact, compromised.

Donald Trump, because he is a deeply dishonest person (projection being the main characteristics of his kind) calls her a liar. He insists that she was playing fast and loose with national security. He calls her dishonest and a criminal. But, she's not.

That's why the FBI exonerated her. Remember, Comey, who despises her, said the decision "wasn't even close". She did not commit any crimes. She spent eleven hours testifying in Congress. Her enemies screamed and yelled that she must be lying, demanded the FBI compare her testimony to everything she said to them. But here's the real truth: They could not point to one single thing that she lied about. They were left hoping that something she said in a deposition that they had not seen would reveal a mistake.

And that's what she's faced her whole career. Republicans trying to destroy her.

Hillary keeps her head down and keeps working. The people who know her love her. She's funny, smart and kind. The people she's worked with admire her. She has experience with the law. She has experience with failure and success. She's run a huge, international governmental organization (the State Department) very successfully. And, she won the nomination by appealing to fifteen million people with a message of hope and excellent policy substance.

I know, the Democratic National Committee preferred her. But why? The reason is that, while Bernie was doing his own, self-involved thing, she was out making friends. She helped people out. She was supportive and engaged. She built a huge, nationwide team of supporters. She worked to build organizations in every state. 

Remember how Bernie complained that he was stymied by state committees all over the country? He was right. While he was relying on his own vision of an abstract process, Hillary had been recruiting people to her cause for years. She built state organizations and developed friendships and loyalty. When the time came, people wanted to help her.

That's the main reason I want her for President. Though I absolutely believe that the things above add up to her being the best qualified, most highly prepared person who has ever run for the office, to me, her ability to work with people is what I want the most.

Let me be clear, I think that Hillary is a warrior. I think she, better than any of the men who have held the office in my life, knows how to kick ass with cold brutality. But she does it in a context of collaboration, engagement and mutual interests. She does it without keeping score. She works with people instead of trying to dominate them. She recruits people, not controls them. She prefers results to victory. She cares about people.

I won't go into the policy differences between her and Trump. (She has them. His are a joke.) Or his temperament. (The example of thin-skinned Twitter wars stand in for dozens of stories of revenge over small matters.) Or, his business record (bankruptcy after bankruptcy to leave his partners screwed.) Or the conflicts of interest. Or his admiration for dictators.

I note only that, in the testimony of dozens, refuses to pay vendors who can't afford to sue him. Who, in the testimony of dozens, has touched women without their permission. Who spent years dishonestly promoting the obviously false idea that Obama is not an American. Who has publicly ridiculed disabled people, bullied women (not just Miss Universe, for example, but Katy Tur of NBC), disparaged Mexicans and Moslems. 

I repeat these unarguable facts: He bragged about touching women. Dozens complained it was true. He stole from less powerful people because he could. Dozens have come forward with their stories. He was the prime mover of an attempt to discredit the American President while he was in office with a prolonged, false campaign. He has repeated bullied people in public without apology.

Hillary has spent her entire career working to help people. She has sacrificed and endured. She has picked herself up after defeat and helped her victor to achieve good results. She keeps moving and helping.

Hillary is an awesome person. Her policies are uniformly excellent. Her intelligence is superb. Her experience incomparable. She is known to be kind, hard-working, collaborative and honest. She has stood up to intense scrutiny and come up clean. She is immensely accomplished.

There has never been a better candidate for President. I encourage everyone to put aside the foul accusations made by her enemies. To understand that their determination to stop her is the best testimony for her virtue. I encourage everyone to accept the immense gift to our country that Hillary Clinton offers us, her service as President of the United States.

Your Fellow Voters

Most people do not believe that, even when denying climate change or the age of the earth, that they are 'denying facts'. The problem is that they think that the word 'fact' refers to information consistent with their emotional preconceptions instead of consistent with provable reality.

It is also true that there is no source of information that everyone agrees upon. That's because most of the people in this country are emotional lunatics. They are the people taht used to be kept in the social role often referred to as peasants.

The kings and dictators were able to organize resources and enforcement structures to keep those who were trapped by emotion and stupidity productive because they were, mostly, people who understood facts to be consistent with provable reality and had the intellectual wherewithal to act on them.

In the 1400's, human rights started being a thing. In England, that made it so that they could no longer simply execute troublesome peasants. The solution? Ship them to American.

They are your grandparents.

As with any genetic cohort, there are plenty of people who don't breed true and so had children who were not dominated by their emotions. Also, lots of people who were able to use intellect came here to exploit the less rational people.

So, we end up with a country that, if you take both Trump and Bernie supporters together, comprises a 70-30 split of emotion and anger based idiots vs people who intend to think real thoughts based on provable fact.

We are fucked.

Trump v Hillary: Veterans Affairs

Trump (source material HERE)

appoint a good head of veteran affairs

discipline employees who have failed to carry out duties

investigate fraud and wrong-doing

promote honest employees

create a hotline

stop giving bonuses

reform visa system (?)

add mental health professionalsl

allow veterans to use private providers

Hillary (source material HERE)

emphasize service-connected conditions especially prosthetics and brain injury

coordinate VHA care with other programs

encourage use of specialty medical service providers

create VHA oversight board

ask Secretaries of Defense and VA to devise a new system

coordinate Dept of Defense and VA health delivery

joint DoD and VA procurement to reduce costs for veterans

cause the integration of DoD and VA IT systems

upgrade gender specific services

cover all reproductive services needed by female veterans

better childcare for veteran children

increase funding and add programs for mental health care

better pain management treatment to avoid opioid problems

include military sexual trauma as a valid for of PTS

add legal assistance to veterans with other than honorable discharges

maintain presumption of service connection for toxic exposure problems

"expand the current VA burn pit registry" (?)

add research funds and other collaboration for mental health and other invisible wounds

streamline and simplify claims process

integrate DoD and VA so DoD can inform VA of future needs

work to entirely revise the claims process to make it more effective

create a standing President's Council on veterans

end to end evaluation of all benefits to find new areas of investment

personally and regularly meet with "Summit of Veterans" to insure that needs are addressed

work with private and philanthropic organizations to add resources to veterans

make the post 9/11 GI bill permanent and expanded

additional tax credits for veterans employment

increase funds available to state and local governments to transfer military credentials to private sector

expand efforts to train, counsel and fund veteran entrepreneurs

work to prevent ripoff of vets by private schools

use federal contracting to punish companies that overcharge, defraud or otherwise ripoff vets

add veteran status to the Fair Housing Act

work to reduce veteran homelessness by supporting community based organizations

expand outreach programs to find and help homeless vets

clarify Fair Housing Act to eliminate gender specific language that harms veterans and families

offer space to communicate legal organizations in VHA clinics to help veterans with minor offenses, mental health and substance abuse issues

retroactively review LGBT veterans discharge status

empower supervisors to discipline underperforming employees

revise employee evaluation process to improve performance culture

increase whistleblower protections

prioritize VA in budgetary processes

clean up problems with veteran burials

What Trump Could Do

Recently I was asked "what harm can Trump really do?"

I think he could start a war. I think he could work with a Republican Congress to revise the tax code so that social services are bankrupt and the ultra wealthy get more. I think he could gut the EPA so it cannot function. Same with OSHA. Same with the Justice Department’s racism functions.

I think he could work to sell more military equipment to local police departments. He could press for more charter and other privatized schools. He could work to expand the ‘religious freedom’ charade to abuse gay people more. He could help criminalize abortion. 

He could increase the abuse of Moslems and thereby increase the likelihood that Moslem citizens become enemies. He could encourage more ‘castle doctrine’ laws and increase availability of guns.

he could implement ideology tests for immigration. He could implement drug testing for welfare people. He could encourage the reinstatement of stop and frisk laws.

He could try to put Hillary in jail. He could use the Justice department to harass and jail ‘enemies’ of all sorts. He could work to allow corporations to discriminate against women because “pregnancy is an inconvenience”.

He could increase Russia’s ability to annex more land adjacent to its borders. He could turn the Middle East into a war of total destruction. He could start a trade war with China. 

He could expand the availability of nuclear weapons around the world. 

He could use our military to express his impetuosity and anger.

President Donald Trump could do a lot.

Hillary's Foreign Policy

I had occasion to read an article in Foreign Policy magazine about Hillary Clinton (HERE). It was no encomium. However, it painted a picture of a smart, reasonable and principled Secretary of State. The article is an education on recent international history but, since the article is long, I offer these few excerpts for your edification.

"'The test of a strategic dialogue,' Burns notes, 'is how it can weather unexpected events.' The fact that the Chinese chose not to blow up the talks was itself a vindication of Clinton's tactics.'


"'Clintonism properly understood, he asserts, is 'nesting a hard-power approach into a broader smart-power strategy — development, diplomacy, public-private partnerships, rule of law.'


"''Dennis Ross observes, 'President Obama's view was that we had to work with our adversaries and seek to change their behavior by looking at their grievances. I think that Hillary looks at adversaries through the lens of how they define their interests. A focus on interests means recognizing the reality of power relationships, and the need to use power in defense of your interests.'


"'[Regarding Libya] Gates, Biden, and others opposed American military involvement, since even a mass killing would not seriously impinge on national interests. Clinton, like Obama himself, was in the middle. She was coming under great pressure from France and Britain, both of which favored an aerial campaign to stop Qaddafi from taking Benghazi. Only when she won agreement from the Arab League to support and engage in such an effort, which would include Arab as well as European fighter planes, did Clinton join the advocates.


"But America is no longer in recovery from George W. Bush, and it is no longer in urgent need of a new face. What it needs is a fresh source of inspiration, a sense that the world matters and that American leadership matters, a recognition that power is not a bad thing so long as it is accompanied by humility and restraint."

Really, though. Read the article. It's very interesting. You can find it HERE.