Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Fat Cats First

I see the Trump "budget" documents stamped with a title "America First," but it seems to me it looks more like Fat Cats First.

Articles on Robots

I'm not sure what to think.  I doubt the implicitly cornucopian ideas Economists seem to have, the ones which don't take into account physical limits and claim essentially infinite substitution possibilities.  OTOH, a lot of people don't see that material intensity is not necessarily an essential part of spending, there are endless immaterial possibilities.

In anything like the still essentially consumer economy we have, robots would appear to be a plus.  It's only when we get to deeply unequal falangist societies, even more unequal than today, that robots take the place of, and don't add to the need for, more human labor, and there isn't a support system for the non-rich.

Sadly, we generally seem to be taking the latter route.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Must Reads

Myths about Iran

An Eisenhower Conservative talks about Zionist influence in America and BDS.  This one is peculiarly interesting to me as he discusses his original reaction to Gore Vidal's essay on the Podhoretz's, which I have recently been reading, and his updated thinking on it.

Friday, March 17, 2017

My feelings about gay and lesbian

My frame is the same as Gore Vidal, himself noted for same sex companions, who said there are no homosexuals, only homosexual acts.  In other words, we're all capable of homosexual acts, we're all essentially bisexual, and who does and doesn't is ultimately and should ultimately be something like choice.   As a practicing homosexual, and a radical liberal opposed to all prohibitions (aka victimless crimes), he thought that was fine, there should be his version of liberalism everywhere, especially in the USA where we are supposed to be able to "pursue happiness."  Of course, he personally had the means to escape from places when and where that wasn't true, living much of the time in Italy.

However, this framing hasn't been popular in the great leaps of gay liberation that occurred after the murder of Harvey Milk.  Instead, gays have latched onto the idea that homosexuality is a genetic trait, something which they inheirited.  Since they had no control over it, and it's part of their basic identity, they shouldn't be forced to change it, which has essentially been the nature of the legal arguments banning discrimination against homosexuals.  Not the Vidal approach, which I would have preferred, which would eliminate laws against all victimless crimes as themselves representing an unconstitutional establishment of religion (Vidal believed American prohibitions derived from the ill influences of monotheisms, variously called sky god or abrahamic, or sometimes he'd single out Chrisitianity).

Technically speaking there are no "genetic" traits, all traits are mixtures of heredity and environment.

I continue to have no ill feelings toward homosexuals, especially male homosexuals (good for you, two more women for me) but toward lesbians I may feel resentment if they are committed to lesbianism rather than bisexuality.

I did once meet a heterosexually married former lesbian during my year in San Francisco, and FWIW she felt that exclusive lesbians (as she had been) were not experiencing all of the potential in life, a heterosexual relationship being far more difficult, but in the end, far more rewarding as well.  That has always sounded correct to me, and applicable to male homosexuality as well.  But this is not to say that all are cut out for hetero acts (and relationships) and vice versa.  I feel my own disinclination toward homosexual acts is more like my disinclination toward eating shellfish than an essential part of my being.

I walked into a Lesbian Bar right across from my Hotel when I was staying in Amsterdam for a week in 2004.  I didn't at the time realize it was a lesbian bar, I think somebody had told me beforehand but it went in one ear and out the other.  For 5 minutes, I found myself talking openly to a number of women and liking it very much, not like a regular bar at all.  It was a great feeling, like I had finally found home.  But then the bell went off.  I hadn't found "a friend" in 5 minutes, and since I was male, I was therefore required to leave.  Everyone I thought was my new friend turned their backs on me.

I've never been shut out of a male gay bar, but never had that magic feeling either.

None of this is good reason for "bathroom bills."  I trust what gender people have chosen, that's what counts for society is what people have chosen, and those people who have made the difficult choice to change and all the investment that it has required to make that change and obviously how much they care about it all mean they are the ones least likely to set a bad example for their chosen gender.

The point is, in social affairs choice is not just "a" think, it is "the" think which makes the difference between an oppressive society and one with positive and creative potential.  The notion that prohibitions can make people make the "correct" choices, or even have the moral authority to determine what those are, is wrong, and part of a sky god religious outlook.  With regards to forcing people to make the correct choices, the tendency in adults and relatively independent persons is to dig in, to establish their differentiating identity even more.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Electoral College

I've been reading articles by the late Gore Vidal as published in Nation magazine.  He remarked that Benjamin Franklin's take on the Constitution (when he said, "you have a republic, if you can keep it" his meaning was he wasn't betting it would last long).  Then, he projected Franklin's take on the Electoral College as a system that would nuture the worst sort of corruption.

And so it is today.  I'm among those who recognize that it's somewhat pointless to bemoan the Electoral College because the same anti-majoritarian number work against ammending the constitution.  Combine that with political polarization, and it looks pretty hopeless.

But perhaps I should reaffirm that the case should always be made.  What's wrong with one person one vote across the entire country?  Is that really the most representative of The People's choice for the President?  Isn't that what a democratic republic should be like?  Why must we stick with a system whose origin was strongly anti-democratic: the preservation of slavery and the preservation of elite rule?

At some point, if and when the cross-state political polarization has declined somewhat, now possibly if Trump brings the country back to some sort of common ground, for starters what a horrible President Trump was.  When we get to that point, if we get to that point, and suppose the GOP is way flushed out of congress and the excutive, then perhaps we might be able to positive ammend the constitution on this point.

A few more thoughts on the Electoral College.  Beyond the wierdness of the weighting of the importance of votes being heavily skewed toward smallest states, and of the importance of small margins of vote percentages in large states, and more, the Electoral College also negates the effect of statewide turnout.  Having everyone turnout in a particular state essentially makes no difference, the state gets the same number of Electoral College votes either way.

The effect of this is to give a license for statewide voter suppression of minorities.  If you can ensure only that only particular elites are able to vote, you get the elite vote.  In this case, the political elite who mostly controls state governments, the GOP.

How long it will take for all this to crumble and fade, with the collapse and abandonment of the GOP, is uncertain.  And by that, I mean human society might collapse first from the effects of global heating or nuclear war before that.  The GOP has their hands on the machinery of power, with at least one widespread and well organized group--evangelical christians--on their side.  And sufficient control of the machinery of opinion--Fox News and the Wall Street Journal, to keep it running on fumes for quite awhile.  Here's hope that people in the future remember that when I was first trying to get a job, in 1979, it was surprisingly easy to start on a wonderful career which has been good to me ever since.  That was what it was like before the Reagan Revolution.  My mother born in 1915 made major moves from city to city just on whim every 14 years, never worried about finding a new job in a new city.  That's what it should be like.

Caitlin Johnstone on the Russia Conspiracy Theories

Who is Caitlin Johnstone and why does she think exactly like me about the reasons why hysteria over Russia is unwarranted, as she spells out in great detail here.

And she reprises what we know about Seth Rich here, I think it's pretty plausible Seth Rich was the actual leaker (not hacker, since he worked there and had access to them) of the DNC documents, and that his death was somehow related to that.  Officialdom has decided that no conspiracy was behind this, move along, but following the details Cailtin shows it seems unlikely this was actually a "robbery" as officially claimed.  The fact that Julian Assange has offered a reward for information about Rich's killer also suggests that he suspects Rich was involved, and Assange knows more about it than most of us do (though some have interpreted this as Assange merely trying to point away from the Russians...who Assange has specifically denied being involved).

Why would Seth be murdered?  I don't know, but just to show there are many very different kinds of possibilities:

1) Someone wanted to set an example for other leakers, don't leak or this will happen to you.
2) Someone who accepted the documents didn't want their identity to be known.
3) Some other person involved, perhaps in setting up the meeting, or having heard about it, didn't want their identity to be known.
4) The documents had been promised to "A" but were delivered to "W."  "A" was very upset AND possibly compromised or scooped.
5) The payment received from the leak was insufficient to pay someone else who had given an ultimatum for payment.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Candidates and Ambassadors

A former US ambassador to Russia (under George H.W. Bush) says that Presidential candidates and their advisors should talk with foreign ambassadors.  He felt it was his job to cultivate friendly relations with both Gorbachev, whom the US supported  and Yelsin, the opposition candidate.*  And that is especially important wrt the US and Russia because we must do everything possible to prevent nuclear war.

I completely agree with Ambassador Matlock on this.

(*I've always believed GHWB secretly supported Yelsin as part of the plan to collapse the Soviet Union.  So then it was especially important for the Ambassador to cultivate relationships with both candidates, for the appearance of fairness if nothing else.)

Investigative Reporter Robert Parry compares the current "madness" in Washington (now with Trump making unfounded accusations of his own in response) with previous episodes of documented wrongdoing, such as when Kissinger foiled the end of the Vietnam War under Johnson, and when Reagan aides foiled an early settlement of the Iranian Hostage Crisis.  In these and similar instances, substantive evidence of actual wrongdoing (and not merely conversations) was found and reported before official inquiries were demanded.  He says that unless some evidence is presented, people are calling for a politically motivated witch hunt or fishing expedition.  Parry also defends the known actions of both Flynn and Sessions.  I agree Flynn did nothing improper and simply failed to remember all the details of an earlier conversation, whereas Sessions denied even having conversations he had actually had, which does not look good for the chief US law enforcer, though it is not grounds for an investigation as such, because there is no other evidence he did something improper.

Parry also quotes from an interview with James Clapper, the US intelligence director under Obama, that there is no evidence of collusion between the Russians and Trump to win the election.