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Decisions, decisions

Posted by kc on April 14, 2016 in Current Events, My life and times |

I really can’t take much more of the ignorance and arrogance around the 2016 election. But before I completely lose my mind, let me tell you why I support Bernie Sanders. And Hillary Clinton.

In short, it’s because both of them on a bad day are far more human than anyone on the Republican side, and that’s what I look for first and foremost in a candidate. Humanity.

The long version starts there, makes note of the reality of the political system we use in this country (two parties, electoral college, primary delegates, caucuses, money), and sorts through a bunch of issues before coming to a conclusion.

Our political system worked fairly well in the 18th Century. There were parties, but nothing like what we have now. Sure, voting was limited to land-owning white men, but at least the president was generally someone who could be counted on to think. Up maybe until Andrew Jackson, that son of a bitch, but that’s another story. And I’m not really interested right now in what it was like in the 18th and 19th Centuries.

The 20th Century is another story and, by extension, the 21st. The reality of what we’re left with now isn’t pretty, and it isn’t good. Thanks to Citizens United, it’s even worse than it was before. Bernie Sanders has practically based his entire campaign for president on the money aspect of our system, which is a really big deal, because our entire economic system is tied to how money works in politics, to that entire money=power thing.

Bernie’s position on this is a BIG plus. He’s ahead of Hillary on that regard, but Hillary is not back on the Republican end. Yes, she’s given speeches to banks. Yes, she raises a lot of money from rich people. So? That is how our political system works, unfortunately, and I’m not gonna fault her for that. She opposes Citizens United, and she called for reform of the banking system while she was a senator and BEFORE the recession got really bad.

You can call Hillary a corporate schill, or, as a Bernie surrogate did just today, a corporate whore, but you’d be wrong. Still, she is not as good as Bernie here.

Score: Bernie 10, Hillary 5, any Republican 0

And, prior to his presidential campaign, Bernie did the same thing. He attended big fundraisers, he courted big donors, and he gave speeches. That’s what politicians do, and despite what some of you think, Bernie Sanders is a politician. Interestingly, Bernie Sanders might not even be in Congress if it weren’t for the Democratic Party, which doesn’t back candidates against him in Vermont, by design. Minus one point for both candidates, just for being politicians.

Score Bernie 9, Hillary 4, any Republican 0

On gay rights, Bernie and Hillary are pretty even. I know a lot of you like to say that Hillary only recently came on board, but that’s not true. It is true that she more recently backed same-sex marriage, which is also true of Bernie – he backed civil unions and said that the matter should be left up to the states. Both of them have backed non-discrimination for a looooong time. Ten points for both.

Score: Bernie 19, Hillary 14, any Republican 0

I am utterly opposed to war. Utterly. I cannot think of a good reason to kill anyone. I’m not saying there isn’t one, but I can’t think of it. Maybe self-defense, although there are ways around that too. But war, that’s what we’re on about here. Bernie voted against the Iraq war. Plus 10. Hillary voted for it. Minus 10. Bernie voted for funding the war every single time it came up. Minus 10 (and please don’t start with the “he was voting to support the troops thing. He voted to fund killing people. If he’s so principled he can’t vote for the auto industry bailout that saved thousands of American jobs, he shouldn’t vote to fund war. Dennis Kucinich didn’t). Hillary admitted her vote for the war was a mistake and apologized. Plus 10. Hillary and Libya, Minus 5. Bernie and Saudi Arabia, minus 5. Syria: Minus 5 for both. Veterans issues: Plus 5 for Bernie, plus 3 for Hillary, and the Republicans get 3.

Score: Bernie 14, Hillary 7, any Republican 3

Women’s issues: Hillary has been on this for a very long time. She gets a plus 10. Bernie has been good on these issues, but they’ve never been a priority. Plus 9. Any Republican gets minus 10.

Score: Bernie 23, Hillary 17, any Republican 0

Civil Rights: Bernie got arrested. Plus 5. Hillary’s been working more quietly in civil rights for decades. Plus 5. Bernie spoke against Bill’s crime bill, but voted for it. 0 points. He campaigned on it until the mid-2000s. Minus 5. Hillary spoke out in favor of it. Minus 5. She admitted it was a bad bill. Plus 5. Neither candidate are good enough demilitarizing our police, although Bernie slightly better. Minus 3 Hillary, minus 1 Bernie.

Bernie 17, Hillary 19, any Republican 0

Guns: Ten points each for supporting sane gun laws, minus 3 for Bernie for supporting the lawsuit exemption.

Bernie 24, Hillary 29, any Republican 0

Workers: Plus 10 for Bernie. He is an old school socialist. Plus 5 for Hillary for being mostly good but sometimes a corporate schill.

Bernie 34, Hillary 34, any Republican 0

Healthcare: Plus 10 for Bernie for pushing for single payer. Plus 5 for Hillary.

Bernie 44, Hillary 39, any Republican 0

Education: I like the tuition free thing a lot but Hillary’s proposals are good too. Hard choice here. Plus 10 for Bernie, plus 7 for Hillary.

Bernie 54, Hillary 46, any Republican 0

Working on the downticket: Bernie, Bernie, Bernie. Bad, dude. Minus 5. Hillary plus ten. Bernie gets a point back for supporting three candidates for the House. But only 3, and because they support him.

Bernie 50, Hillary 56, any Republican 0

National Security: Bernie a big no on the Patriot Act and all its ridiculousness, Hillary votes for, a few times, but is concerned about the NSA. Bernie plus 10, Hillary plus 2.

Bernie 60, Hillary 58, any Republican 0

Bernie loses two more points for too much “us v them” in his stump speeches, as if the world were just black and white, and his myopic focus on economic issues. They’re important, but so are a lot of other things.

Bernie 58, Hillary 58, any Republican 0

And a late breaking one, Honduras: Clinton minus 5.

Bernie 58, Hillary 53, any Republican 0

So there it is. Final score, Bernie 58, Hillary 53, any of the Republican candidates, off the chart.
There are tons of other positions, with very little difference on any of them and none that would really affect the final scoring. They’re pretty close, as you can see, over all. You may believe there’s a huge difference, and you have a right to believe what you want. You may give weight to some positions more than others. I do too, but not so much that any one of these positions would trump any other one. The only one that might do that is one not listed here, and that’s the Supreme Court. Obviously, Hillary and Bernie come out equal on that. If I allowed scores to go below zero, Republicans would probably get minus 1,000,000 on that one. But the real bottom line is that if a Republican gets in the White House this year, the Supreme Court will remain conservative for the foreseeable future, and decisions like Citizens United will not only remain in place, they’ll be bolstered by more foolishness. You may think that would engender a revolution, but it won’t. We don’t live in the 18th Century. We live in the 21st.

I’ve left out all the trust bullshit. It’s ridiculous, on both sides, and in the case against Clinton, largely Republican talking points updated from the mid-1990s, when, incidentally, Elizabeth Warren was an actual Republican. Email, not a scandal. Benghazi, not a scandal. Whitewater, not a scandal. Etc.

What this all boils down to is that, while I believe idealism is a great thing for keeping in mind what’s possible, it has little place in the realities of an election, so giving Bernie extra points for promising unicorn ponies would be silly. I’m not gonna take away from him for that either, though, nor am I giving points or taking away points for Hillary’s pragmatism.

I’m also not fond of hyperbole, for example, those who think this is our “last chance” to something something something. It’s not. We’ll have another one in two years, or less if you live somewhere that votes on odd years. It’s critical, yes, but we’re not going to implode if Bernie Sanders loses in November. Here’s what’s not hyperbole: If a Republican wins, it will take at least a generation to regain the ground we lose, and in that time, we move closer to an implosion. If a Democrat wins – any Democrat – we survive to fight another day.

My primary is over. I voted for Bernie. Hillary won, handily. I encourage everyone who hasn’t voted yet to vote for Bernie. I also encourage everyone to get over your self-righteousness and make sure we don’t get a Trump, Cruz, Kasich, Ryan or whoever the Republicans put up – because there are no moderates in that party anymore – in the White House come next January. If you think letting the Republicans have the White House is “what America deserves,” then get out. Go somewhere more to your liking, because the America I live in doesn’t deserve that. An apocalypse is an apocalypse. It’s not good for anybody, and nobody deserves it.

So start working at your local, state and congressional level to reform the electoral process, because it needs it badly, from the primaries to the general election. Work to make sure no one can gerrymander Congressional districts. Don’t wait until the next presidential election. 2014 was a bad, bad year, because a lot of you didn’t vote. Now you’re voting. Good. Don’t stop. Learn how the process works and what we need to do to change it.

Never stop dreaming, but temper those dreams with reality, and never, ever lose sight of the humanity of all of us.

That means listen. Talk with instead of to. Never assume you understand anything more than what’s right in front of you, and question that.

Stand firm, but not rigid. You could be wrong, and those who disagree with you aren’t deluded, evil, stupid, or corporate whores. Avoid extremes. It’s too easy to slip into either/or from there, and very little can be safely classified like that. Look for allies instead of enemies. You may be surprised where they are. Look to the big picture first, then the bigger picture, then come back to the path to get there.

We can do this, and we don’t have to do it with vitriol. We can do it with our humanity.

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In defense of mockery

Posted by kc on January 12, 2016 in Current Events |

I’m sure you’ve seen an article recently reminding us all that “the other side isn’t dumb” and scolding us for mockery. While there’s some validity there, to be sure, following this to the letter leaves us exactly where we are: with preposterous ideas masquerading as legitimate in an increasingly loud theatre of the absurd.

There’s one thing I wholly agree with in this article though. The other side isn’t dumb, but not because “the other side” just has different views. The other side isn’t dumb because there is not an “other side.” There are many, many “other sides,” if we must label views different from our own somehow, but I’d rather not get all caught up in that. Really. If we take it to the extreme it’s going in, all we get is not even “us” vs “them.” We end up either with “me” vs “everybody else” or some bizarre form of hypocrisy, and frankly that just seems too tiresome for me.

Truth is, we all have different views. Views are just thoughts. Ideas. They’re not “us.” They may change over time, with new information. They may not.

Some of us, though, grip our ideas so tightly that we think they are us. When that happens, the very idea of changing them, let alone actually changing them, is utterly terrifying. It makes us grip them even more tightly, weaving them even more closely with our idea (thought!) of our identity. Pretty clear where that leads.

Those of us who do that, on any level at all, are certainly not “dumb.” Scared, yes. Of course we’re scared. It’s a scary world out here. And wrapping ourselves more tightly than ever because of that will never make us less scared. Quite the opposite.

Here’s the problem. Some of these ideas that we hold onto so fervently are … well, dumb. Once more, we’re not dumb for having them. But the ideas themselves … not smart. Not supported by facts. Supported only by the other thoughts we have roaming around in our minds, all of them feeding on each other.

Patience is a virtue, I’ve heard. I think it’s true, definitely something to cultivate because, frankly, honest-to-goodness powerful and lasting change doesn’t ever, ever, ever happen overnight. It takes time, and time takes patience. We must be willing to talk with one another, listen to one another, and, yes, understand the ideas we’re hanging onto, just like that article suggested.

But.

There’s a limit. You’ve probably heard the word “enabling” used, mostly referring to, perhaps, family members and friends who “enable” their loved ones’ addictive behaviors in one way or another. It’s hard to find the line, but in every case, there is one. There’s a line that must be drawn so that we’re not “enabling” other folks to continue destructive, self or otherwise, behavior.

And so we have it with some of these ideas that we cling to. There comes a time when enough is enough, when it does no one any good – and can actually be damaging – to wait around while bad, harmful ideas continue to fester unchallenged.

In his own 2011 defense of mockery, University of Minnesota-Morris biology professor PZ Myers wrote, “Mock. Point. Laugh. State facts. Satirize. Call a lie, a lie. Mock again. Laugh again. Point to facts again. Repeat. Repeat again.”

And Thomas Jefferson (I think you know who he was) wrote, “Ridicule is the only weapon which can be used against unintelligible propositions.”

Jefferson said that back in 1816. He wrote it in a letter in which he was denouncing the Christian doctrine of the trinity, which he called “the mere Abracadabra of the mountebanks calling themselves the priests of Jesus.”

I have no public opinion on the trinity doctrine, but I think Jefferson’s advice applies to all “unintelligible propositions,” and there are a lot of them. It’s unintelligible, for example, to use religion to deny rights to people that particular religion doesn’t approve of. It’s unintelligible to call for killing people just because you don’t like them. It’s unintelligible to insist that the president of the United States was born outside the country in the face of evidence that proves otherwise. It’s unintelligible to believe the world is 6,000 years old. It’s unintelligible to use assault weapons to take over a federal bird sanctuary and claim to be patriots.

Mock. Point. Laugh. State facts. Satirize. Call a lie, a lie.

More Myers:

“Directly calling out the sheer ignorance and bone-headed stupidity of politicians and pundits is critically necessary to a functioning democracy. But the reason this is so isn’t because ignorant, arrogant boneheads and their followers will suddenly become informed and enlightened, renounce their erroneous and backward views, and sincerely apologize to the American people for all of the pointless suffering they have caused throughout their careers. (As if.) Calling out sheer ignorance and bone-headed stupidity is vitally important so that everyone else knows that there are other people who think these are really stupid and terrible ideas. Because maybe, upon hearing of this, many people might consider the possibility that these are, in fact, really stupid and terrible ideas.”

I realize that some of you may be uncomfortable with such directness, and honestly, that’s just fine. I, for one, won’t think any less of you if you determine that mockery just isn’t you. The willingness to mock, of course, is just another idea, and not something that separates us.

I ask for the same in return. From where I stand, we’ve made great progress in this country of late and can make even greater progress when the last vestiges of harmful ideas are released back into the void from which they came. Then there’ll be other damaging ideas we’ll have to contend with. One of them could even be mockery.

But right now, mockery is a valuable tool, one I’m willing to use to get us over this hump of weak and fearful obstruction. There are many other tools, some of which I’ll also be using. Pick the ones that work best for you, and remember we’re all the same here. The other side isn’t dumb because there is no other side, but there are some pretty dumb ideas that no longer serve any useful purpose and instead are harming other living beings. They need to be eradicated. Not the people who hold them. The ideas. They need to be let go, sent on their way. Otherwise, those “stupid and terrible ideas” will continue doing what they’re doing now: holding us back, keeping people in fear.

Personally, I can’t stand seeing so many fearful people. It hurts my heart. So I’m going to mock, and call a lie, a lie. And it’s ok. No one who feels uncomfortable with that approach should try it. I do, and I’ll deal with the consequences.

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