25 May 2022

Yet another horrific mass shooting

There is almost nothing one can say in the wake of a horror like what happened in Texas yesterday that makes any difference. 

But let me say a couple things anyway. 

First, the Columbine spree as a species of terror event named after the school shooting that killed 14 people including the 2 shooters 23 years ago, has morphed. Both the Buffalo and Texas shooters planned their attacks and wore body armor, and so were able to actually penetrate armed resistance to their attacks. This level of pointless violence has become a real crisis, and our political system has been completely unable to do a single damn thing about it. The situation with regard to huge amounts of uncontrolled guns with no regulation of who owns them, whether they are trained or vetted, etc. has only gotten worse and worse. 

It is now the case that many potential travelers to the US from the civilized world (which now, I would argue, lies entirely outside our borders) refuse to come here because it appears to them to be just too damn dangerous. 

This state of affairs is intolerable. We have many, many ills to fix in our country, but without question this is well up on the list. 

24 May 2022

Stop with the defeatism already!

Just gotta say. Again. 

I am tired of hearing about Democrats' "razor thin majorities," a political climate "increasingly favoring Republicans," and how the incumbent party "historically loses in midterms."  Yada f-ing yada. We cannot allow defeatism to overtake us. Sure, of course, it's tough. We are facing what may really be the greatest threat to our Democracy in history. So now is NOT the time to waste a single breath on defeatism. We're gonna have to gear up and fight this fight like hell, to save our country. Please stop repeating this stuff and start projecting the message we need to get to voters to vote for Democrats. Our path to victory, to keeping and expanding our majorities and preparing to win again in 24 lies in successfully conveying what our party has to offer, to ordinary Americans struggling in these uncertain and difficult times. In contrast to the treachery and threat to democracy that the other party has become, right when our country needs unity and strength of purpose. It is clear to us that it's Democrats who can offer that, but we have to make it clear to people who only see high gas prices and a lot of right wing propaganda telling them it's all Biden's fault. 

Thank you. 

Oreg. 5th District: more progressive Democrat beats Blue Dog incumbent, now near certainty

Anyone interested in the Oregon 5th District (my district) race, in which local Democratic organizations defied the DCCC, Biden and Pelosi in endorsing a real Democrat, McLeod-Skinner, against incumbent Bluest Dog Kurt Schrader:

Despite scandalous delays in reporting, Clackamas Co. is now 45% reported out, and Schrader has failed to secure the massive and lopsided victory in the county he would've needed to overcome McLeod-Skinner's 60/40 victory elsewhere in the district. Right now, with almost half of Clackamas reporting, it remains about 59/41 and it is now virtually impossible for Schrader to pull out a win. Even if he were to get 70% of the remaining votes he would lose, and the reported votes in Clackamas are running more like 55/45 in his favor. Not enough, by a comfortable margin. (Schrader lives in Clackamas Co.). Somewhat surprisingly, the new areas of the district, created by reshuffling all the district boundaries to make way for Oregon's new 6th district, are McLeod-Skinner's stronghold. These are in Central Oregon; Deschutes County. This is the one area of Oregon east of the Cascades, centered on the city of Bend, that votes consistently Democratic. The entire eastern 2/3 of the state (geographcially, not population) is solid red Republican otherwise. 

Those of us who prefer to be represented by real Democrats and to not have the national party endorsing candidates who fail to vote with the Democratic majority and say things like it was a mistake to impeach Trump, are, needless to say, happy at these results.

22 May 2022

Irresoluble conflict of interest requires resignation or impeachment

Just gotta say. Does anyone honestly believe that, had it been revealed in 2017 that the spouse of one of the so-called liberal Supreme Court justices had actively lobbied state legislatures to ignore popular vote victories in the 2016 election and send Clinton electors instead of Trump electors, that the Republicans would've just said, "oh well, that's not nice but recusal? resignation? impeachment? Let's don't get hysterical!"

Well shoe on other foot, this is exactly what happened with Ginni Thomas. Not sort of, not analogous. Exactly. 

Where is the outrage? Where are Democrats demanding that Thomas step aside? In my view, recusal from specific cases is not enough; this involves Thomas in conflicts in all matters arising in the court, since the very legitimacy of the US Constitution is at issue. There is no other recourse than that he resign, or failing that, be impeached. He has already cast votes that are clearly in direct conflict of interest. 

19 May 2022

Oregon 5th District Dem. primary STILL undecided.

I live in Oregon's 5th District, which has the still-undecided race between one of the worst Blue Dogs in the Democratic congressional caucus, Kurt Schrader, vs. a credible progressive democrat, Jamie McLeod-Skinner. Skinner has won decisively in the currently counted votes, but most of the votes of the most populous county (in which I live), Clackamas County, have yet to be counted because there was an error in printing our ballots that makes the bar codes unreadable. So they have to count by hand. We all thought it would be done by now, but apparently it may take into next week. I can't believe what a fiasco the Clackamas County registrar's office is. There are ... just... enough votes in Clackamas to change the result if it goes strongly Schrader. 

Biden and Pelosi both endorsed Schrader, even though all the main Democratic organizations locally endorsed McLeod Skinner. Needless to say, we're very unhappy about the bigfooting of the party establishment to support Schrader, who spoke well of Trump on many occasions and voted with the Republicans on numerous key votes. In particular, he sided with Big Pharma to block the Medicare price negotiability elements of the Biden legislative agenda... which contributed to its failure as a whole, as well as being pure Republican policy thinking. This kind of thing, along with complete failure of messaging, is why Democrats nationally are being blamed for problems that they cannot control, and are failing to get credit for the numerous significant accomplishments they HAVE made. As a party we need to stand for a coherent policy agenda, and when politicians in our party fail to live up to the policy goals of the party, they should EXPECT to be replaced by the voters, and the national leaders of the party, at minimum, should stay out of it. I remain hopeful that Kurt Schrader will lose this race and will have to face the fact that you can't walk, talk and vote like a Republican and still be returned to office by a Democratic constituency. 

13 May 2022

SCOTUS majority as a threat to democracy in America

Anyone who buys the Republican BS that the impending Dobbs v. Jackson Womens' Health is only about abortion is in Lala Land. See this, about Alito's totally inappropriate and prejudicial comments (he should now recuse himself from all decisions in this area). (If the link doesn't work it's talkinpointsmemo.com, I believe their paywall allows you to read several articles free, this is the one about Alito's comments on LGBTQ rights decisions). 

They are coming for gay and gender rights, contraception (starting with Plan B and IUDs, which their lunatic beliefs consider a form of abortion), personal consensual conduct, voting rights, any restrictions on gun ownership, environmental regulation of all stripes, and logically and eventually, interracial marriage and probably all civil rights via judicial interpretation. These horrible, horrible people MUST BE STOPPED. And sorry, but if you don't agree with that I'm not sure I want to be friends with you. Someone I know well mentioned "they're going for full Gilead," referring to the theocratic state in Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Well, I don't want to live in Gilead, and it's time for everyone to choose sides in this. There's no middle ground. 

12 May 2022

My tweet to Twitter CEO

I've canceled my Facebook account, because I believe on balance Facebook does more harm than good. I don't use Twitter much, really hardly at all, but I did take a moment to message its CEO, as follows: Tell Elon Musk that if he lets that traitor, Donald Trump, who tried mightily to overturn democratic governance of MY COUNTRY, back onto Twitter, I will cancel my account and never visit any Twitter site ever again. I am not someone you would normally be concerned about except in one respect. I am a stand in for many, many millions of people who feel just as I do. 

09 May 2022

Mincing no words about the Supreme Court

 I suppose my previous comments on the Supreme Court's impending obliteration of the now generations old right of a woman to terminate a pregnancy have made clear my complete lack of respect for the authoritarian assholes who now form a majority of the Court. Regrettably, this is more or less a return to mean — through most of our history the Supreme Court has been reactionary and an impediment to progress and the will of the majority of the people in our supposed democratic republic. But let me be even more explicit: I detest Samuel Alito and his right wing colleagues, and believe they, and especially he, have done more than anyone in history to erode the legitimacy of the Supreme Court, and to endanger the stability and longevity of our fragile democracy as a whole. And for this, I say, go to hell, Samuel Alito... you are intellectually dishonest, you are no patriot, and you are not worthy to hold the office you hold. 

It's unfortunate that it has come to this, but these men (and one woman) are liars, disreputable hypocrites, and fanatics whose ideological and religious beliefs completely outweigh any commitment to democratic principles. Of which, from what I can see, they have none at all. (Just possibly not including Roberts; but it appears he may not be part of the majority here anyway). If our republic, as I fear, fails to survive this century, they will be to blame to a significant degree. 

The 9th amendment and un-enumerated rights

Apparently this crap draft opinion by Alito just plain blasts the decision in Roe v. Wade mostly on the basis that "the right to abortion," along with such things as fundamental privacy rights, the right to travel, the right to private sexual conduct between consenting adults, the right to marry whom you wish, etc., are not explicitly mentioned in the Constitution. I note that one thing that is mentioned in the Constitution is the 9th Amendment, which completely obliterates this asinine argument: "The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people."

I have seen it argued many times by conservatives that there are no fundamental rights, that the state may compel or prohibit anything ab initio, and only those specific privileges (because if they aren't inherent that's all they are) which are explicitly carved out can be said to exist. Because this point of view is so inherently authoritarian and unattractive, they usually couch it in various euphemisms, but the brutality of it remains. But this argument is a nonstarter: the 9th amendment, by any reasonable reading, explicitly denies this legal view's legitimacy. The drafters of the first ten amendments had certain concerns and explicitly laid out certain limitations on the right of government to infringe on citizens' rights. But they also had the wisdom to say, in the language of the time: Just because a right isn't explicitly set forth in the Constitution doesn't mean it isn't a right. And no amount of bullshit from the likes of Alito can change that. 

Alternate Mothers' Day Musing

Farflung correspondents, 

Having read Heather Cox Richardson's little essay on the real history of Mothers' (not Mother's) Day, I am inclined to a somewhat politically incorrect musing. (If you don't know HCR, go here: H )

It has become a grief to me in my old age to realize that our species probably really is so deeply flawed that our once imagined bright future is but a pipe dream and the Great Death and Long Dark Night are much more probably what lies in our future. Maybe if we'd turned it all over to women, as Stowe believed we should in the aftermath of the bloody and pointless Franco Prussian War, things would've turned out better. The 20th century, especially the first half of it, pretty much confirmed her worst nightmares. And the 21st seems to have reverted to mean in this regard. Stereotypes and generalizations about whole categories of people beget all kinds of evil, but there really are certain prevalent differences between the two principal versions of our species. Whatever positive qualities of the masculine paradigm women may, as a rule, lack, there does seem to be a tendency to have a healthy aversion to totally insane and unnecessary mass death, an aversion too often lacking in men, no doubt for some biological reason emerging from our evolutionary history. Sometimes aversion, rathter than desire, even if it may appear to be a negative quality in the sense of being a behavioral tendency to avoid behavior that would lead to bad outcomes rather than a tendency to do something, is actually the key to survival. I think this has been true throughout the history of life, and is not in any way unique to human beings. I fear, in any case, that for this strain of the multiverse at least, it's too late to rethink that choice. I don't know it as a certainty, but is sure seems that the course of history has committed to a very dark cycle of delusion and heedless conflict just at the critical moment when collective wisdom, unity and cooperation on a world scale were our only feasible hope.  

I would like to be proven wrong, of course, so if anyone cares to, please convince me I am. 

07 May 2022

Postwar ?

Is it too soon to begin thinking about a postwar Marshall Plan for Ukraine, and, depending on the outcome, extending an offer to a post Putin regime to fast track the refolding of Russia back into the Community of Advanced Nations?  

We need to think positively, or negative outcomes are almost certain.

06 May 2022

A dark time

I admit I have not actually read the draft Dobbs v. Jackson Womens' Health opinion. But from what I have read about it, it seems that it is an insane and inane screed whose reasoning would fail to recognize even the "silent" rights of travel, private consensual sexual conduct, contraception, even interracial marriage, as none of these are "deeply rooted" in our written Constitution. The intellectual vacuity of that as a standard for what is and is not a right is simply stunning to me. It's been noted that he even cites with approval a 17th century jurist for the notion that abortion has always been seen as a crime, when the same could be said of blasphemy and witchcraft, for which that same jurist gladly endorsed the death penalty. (Perhaps Trump should be executed for claiming to have "done more for Christianity" than anyone ever... presumably including the founder of the religion himself?)

This is a dark time. Minoritarian government and the inherent strains of its illegitimacy are tearing our country apart. I can't find any basis for optimism at the moment... we have to just struggle and hope the climate can change enough at some point in the future that a gradual rebuilding and reform may be possible. But in the meantime, we could lose our liberal republic entirely, and history isn't particularly encouraging on the prospects of recreating it once lost. 

The state of journalism

It's a strange world in which there are really only three or four newspapers... The NYT, the LAT, the Washington Post, and the Guardian, say, and maybe a dozen worthwhile news and affairs sites that are more or less objective and another dozen or so with frank Progressive house viewpoints that are worth reading (to me). Another dozen generalist magazines, such as the Atlantic and the New Yorker. That's about is. Local papers just report on sports teams and local politics, and even that is frequently just not even there (Portland actually has two). Much of the rest of the "information" sources online are totally biased to the point of having no reliable factual foundation. Sometimes the bias is clear, but other times, it's pretty smoothly woven into the fabric of what pretends to be objective news and analysis. Even the more mainstream channels of video media are extremely selective in what they report, and we get a highly filtered narrative. Perhaps that was always the case, but it seems that it has gotten worse.

So journalism has become a global effete group of influencers who rely on what amounts to charity. The Guardian comes right out and asks for contributions, since they've resisted the comprehensive paywalls the other "papers" have put in place. 

I don't know how common this is. I subscribe to several outlets. But I know quite a few younger people who manage to stay pretty well informed who don't pay a cent for journalism online or anywhere. Which means in the future "journalism" will be entirely beholden to special interest money. Hard to escape this conclusion. 

Just musing here. I offer no solutions. 

05 May 2022

Cranky rant on Pharma and presbyopia eye drops

I took an interest in pilocarpine (Vuity TM) eyedrops because, like, well, everyone my age, I have a bit of presbyopia (age related failure to focus on near detail). But the hell with it. They got a patent on a formulation and use of a drug that's been around since the 19th century and thanks to our excessive patent laws can prevent anyone else from selling this drug for this purpose. So they have a license to charge $80 to $100 for a tiny quantity that I'd be willing to bet costs significantly less than $5, including packaging and distribution, to produce. And since it's not considered "medically necessary," (it's only seeing after all, not really essential to survival), it's not covered by most insurance in this country. 

And people wonder why Pharma is one of the most resented, even hated, commercial sectors of the economy. "Systemic gouging" like this is the reason. 

I've already decided to do without. My $10 reading glasses work just fine. 

04 May 2022

Cri de Couer

Farflung correspondents, 

I have up to now been as guilty as anyone of... not apathy but laziness, when it comes to working (and giving) to try to ensure the Right Wing doesn't sweep these upcoming elections. But the now certain overruling of Roe v. Wade, the first time in history the Supreme Court has directly and unambiguously voted to simply take away a Constitutional right that the people of this country have enjoyed for decades, has energized me. We simply must resist this. Of course many of us have this and that issue with this and that Democrat. I just voted against my Congressman in the primary in favor of a much better, smarter and as it happens female opponent, Jamie McLeod Skinner. But we have no better prospects of reversing the rightward, corrupt, and authoritarian trends in our country than to tip the scales in enough races to reelect and add to Democratic majorities. We have been hamstrung by just two uncooperative Democrats in the Senate. But for them, we could pass a statute that encodes the right that Roe v. Wade defined, and which the unprincipled rightists on the court would legislate from the bench away (ironically, as this is their fraudulent rallying cry against past actions of the court recognizing the evolution of constitutional rights!). And with a few more Senate seats and retention of the House, now very tall orders indeed, we still could, along with passing much of the Democratic progressive agenda that has languished forlorn in this political landscape. 

Please join me. Participate. Vote Save America. Act Blue. Indivisible. Swing Left. And contribute what you can, preferably by targeting Democrats who will vote a progressive agenda and who are in tight races. I thank you, and if we succeed, future generations will thank us. Onward, and let us never give up! 

minor errors corrected