McConnell’s Secret Kick in the Diaper

As despicable as steely-eyed, chinless tortoise Mitch McConnell is, there’s a certain sly irony in him protecting the murderous Trumpcare bill from public scrutiny as zealously as the president he hated and vowed to thwart hid legislation he knew was shameful.  If the public knew the details of this “health care bill” giveaway to the richest at the expense of everybody else there would be massive outrage– supporters of the bill would be primaried and run out of office.    So they do it the principled way that unpopular, troubling laws are always done, in secret.

The shameless McConnell and his ilk keep the details of this punitive (except to the richest among us) proposed American Health Care Law secret while trying to ram the exceedingly ugly bill through in the darkness of night for the president to sign.  Not so different than the way  President Transparency proceeded with the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) flimflam, though, since McConnell and Ryan are playing directly with the daily life and death of millions of citizens, the stakes are even higher.  The result is likely to be serious as preexisting cancer.  

Obama knew there were enough corporate giveaways in the TPP to outrage millions, so he made sure there was less than full transparency about the details.  To be a bit more transparent, Obama made sure there was no transparency or public debate whatsoever prior to his fast track up or down vote.  

McConnell is a corrupt, despicable, hypocritical villain with testicles larger than his head, but Obama doesn’t get a pass from me because he was a great comedian who spoke beautifully, and proudly wore a blue hat, but did the same sickeningly anti-democratic thing whenever circumstances “demanded” it.  

I’ll always hold those drones against him, the ones we know about that killed completely innocent people in the name of the War On Terror.   The missile that killed Mamana Bibi the 67 year-old midwife, and the one that killed innocent 16 year-old American citizen Abdulrahim, a kid who liked hiphop and had not even a suggestion of a capital charge against him.  Obliterated, along with countless other innocents, by the complicated, supremely practical Nobel Peace Prize laureate.   One more reason to keep policies like this as secret as possible, a reasonable politician reasons, reasonably.

That said, these guys in there now, determined to strike down every bit of the legacy of the Negro Democrat they were united in hatred of, are probably the worst guys we’ve ever had in charge of everything.

The Free Market

When politicians talk about our Free Market, many of us realize it is a variation on a glittering phrase like “Freedom is On The March”, spoken over the burnt corpses of those we liberated from a modern-day Hitler while making half of the survivors stateless refugees and leaving the rest in a permanent killing zone.   The Free Market sounds like a great place.  In theory, it’s wonderful.   There is free and sportsmanlike competition, on an even playing field, where the best product, sold for the best price, sets the pace for the race to give people the best of everything at the most affordable price.  Like the best health care in the world, available here in America, to those who can afford it.   Like a delicious and filling meal containing several times the daily sodium, sugar and fat recommended for health, for under $5.   That’s the magic of the Free Market.  How can you beat that?

The “Free Market” is very much like the red and blue fucking baseball hats and the loyal, uncritical thinkers who wear them.   There was a critique of Hillary’s campaign– her message didn’t fit on a baseball hat.   Trump had a great, if ambiguous to the point of sinister, motto: Make America Great Again.  Sekhnet snapped a great shot of a smiling older man at an anti-Trump rally wearing a red Make America Hate Again baseball hat.  Closer to the mark than Trumpie’s motto, but still — just a gotcha.  Sticks and stones can break my bones, but political mantras can never hurt me.  Unless, perhaps, I look like a Muslim to a group of angry guys in red hats.

I’m reminded of this “invisible hand of the Free Market” bullshit, demonstrably stinking bullshit at that, by the pills I receive in the mail from an outfit that mails out my prescription drugs.  One pill is to keep my blood pressure under control, a Herculean task these days.  The other is a statin, because my kidney disease has caused my cholesterol to spike.   Here is a photo of the two pills, greatly magnified, to show one of the tiny wonders of the Free Market.

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This is an example of the Free Market being free.  You see, these wonder drugs were originally developed by big pharmaceutical companies at the cost of many millions of dollars.   Then, after a certain term as a patent protected drug, to pay back the cost of development with a handsome profit as a reward, the drug was allowed to be produced as a “generic”.   Same chemical composition, a fraction of the price.  I get the generic Avapro and the generic Lipitor.  My mother always said, of the latter, “I luuuuuuhv Lipitor.”  She did, apparently.

Luckily for me, I have a magnifier app on my new brilliant phone.  It allows me, when studying a pile of these pills, to separate the 329s from the 10s.   As I do this I wonder how intolerable to the Free Market the government intrusion would be if they mandated “red for blood pressure drugs, green for statins” to the manufacturers of generic drugs taken by tens of millions of Americans.  I know, I know, it stinks of state-controlled Communism.    Seriously, I don’t fucking get it.   Is America really that fucked up?   Are we really this fucking stupid?

I get that Obama had to please those who put him in office, that he was constrained and coerced left and right.  Mostly right, in fact, but also left.  Money, it is said, has no political allegiance, although recent American history may argue that point.  It’s not like anyone with a brain said money has no political allegiance, money said it.  Yes, money talks.  Of course it does.  It told Obama that his signature health insurance plan could not overturn some very, very lucrative practices fundamental to the American Free Market.  Those hungry foxes?  They are the best and most experienced guardians of the hen house.  

Look how well it worked having Goldman Sachs guys in charge of economic recovery from the massive financial fraud they profited from, an intricate scheme of deliberate deception that would have embarrassed Bernie Madoff, and almost sank the boat in 2008.  These experienced foxes know exactly how many hens they need to eat, let them do what they do best.  Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the continued unnecessary deaths of tens of thousands of Americans a year.   Those dead Americans are patriots, in a way, dying for the Free Market we all love and defend to the death.  Those preventable American deaths are the price the rest of us pay to live in a Free Market, and don’t you ever forget that.

I’m harsh on Obama because I actually believed the poetry he recited while campaigning.    Sad to say, my man was mostly saying whatever he needed to say to get into power, like they all do.  Sad to say, the alternative, both times, was seemingly much worse.  Now we’ve got a wobbly, over-confident scary clown for a commander-in-chief, thanks in part to my man Barack “Raking in Some Serious Tubmans” Obama.  People can only hear so much polished, meaningless bullshit coming from a bullshit artist, even a genius of the art, before they shut down.  

You like the Free Market so much?   Let the private health insurance industry compete with Medicare for all.  Let the best entity win, as it is written by the invisible hand of the Free Market.  “That was never in the cards,” say those in blue hats who still believe Obama had no choice.   Tacitly, they add with a silent sigh “super lucrative business interests and very well-paid, in-the-loop, revolving-door lobbyists are too powerful here in the Free Market to allow that massive incursion into their market share.  No matter how much better virtually everyone agrees a public option would be.”

Amy Goodman:

(After writing that meteorologists need to constantly explain that the latest catastrophic climate event is related to the pattern of increasingly disastrous global climate change)

How else will people understand the connection between disparate weather events, from dust-bowl conditions in the Midwest, to epic wildfires in the Northwest, and record-breaking cold in the Northeast?  Scientists tell us that climate change played a role in at least half the droughts, floods and storms in 2014.  The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), on its global climate change website, states that “multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are very likely due to human activities.  In addition, most of the leading scientific organizations worldwide have issued public statements endorsing this position.” In Europe and other parts of the world there are debates on what to do about climate change.  But in the United States, we have debates on whether it exists at all, or if humans have contributed to it.   It’s as if every time we talked about the earth being round, we interviewed a member of the Flat Earth Society for “balance”.  (Democracy Now! p. 213)

The idiotic American debate on whether climate change even exists has been underwritten, at a cost of billions over several decades, by the industries that profit the most from the ultimate destruction of life on the planet.   Those industries are simply too lucrative, and too powerful, to let themselves wither and die just because the earth is being destroyed by the fossil products they extract and refine. 

The Secretary of State we have now knows this better than anybody, he was until recently the CEO of Exxon.  Exxon’s scientists were among the first to discover, in the 1970s,  the connection between burning fossil fuel, increased CO2 in the atmosphere and rising global temperatures.  The corporation published these findings, then spent the next few decades funding studies that would obfuscate those findings, cast them into doubt, create a debate between Alarmists and Skeptics.  Who are you going to believe, a hysterical Alarmist or a cool, calm skeptic?  Let the debate continue.  Meanwhile, CAH-ching!  Fossil fuel.  Good to the last drop.

What is the lesson of all this brouhaha over global warming for a leading voice of the Flat Earth Society, former loudest, unrepentant “Birther” voice?  Simple. Shut down NASA’s fucking website.  DUH!

Free Market, baby.  Like Justice, you get all the Freedom you can afford to pay for.  If you are poor, you know, you can’t afford much of either.  Probably best to shut the fuck up and keep your head down while the best and the brightest Make America Great Again.  Freedom, as always, is on the march, taking flight in the skies over your hovel.   Ask any ten year-old in Mosul, Waziristan or Raqqa. 

The Campaign for Critical Thinking

This campaign, which I am officially launching, though nonchalantly, will likely meet with the same fate as my undeniably innovative and, I’m sure, verifiably effective, program for team problem-solving, the student-run animation workshop.   A good idea, no matter how good, is not enough, of course.  If the idea is not self-monetizing and irresistible to angel investors, one needs funding, or, at minimum, a large network of enthusiasts.   In our culture, money speaks, and spreads the word, and makes or breaks.  One billionaire backer makes all the difference.

Even in the case of genius, great skill, luck and complementary genius is often necessary before an idea can get huge, become a force in society.  The Beatles would quite possibly never have become the worldwide phenomenon they became without the public relations genius of Brian Epstein.   The president we have now would not be the president without the genius of those who helped promote him, target his message, data-mine voting patterns to pinpoint the exact number of districts he needed to win the Electoral College, an anti-democratic mechanism created by the framers of the Constitution that can only be understood in connection to protecting the rights of slaveholders, who were a tiny minority of the population.  In some cases these poor slaveholders lived in states where they were also part of the racial minority!  Can you imagine the pressures on them?!

The certainty of failure must not deter the pursuit of a needed idea.   I heard Chris Hedges couch this in terms of his Christian belief– the duty to intervene on the side of righteousness does not depend on your chances of success.  In fact, you could argue that the duty becomes greater as the abuse escalates and the odds of failure increase. 

A simple idea then.  Reserve opinion, and advocacy, until you have as many facts as you can get.   Facts, you will say, are slippery.  There are now also “alternative facts” and facts invented for profit.   Many of the unverifiable facts that influenced the outcome of our recent election were dreamed up by industrious young capitalists, creating a market-driven product for which there was a huge demand.  

Millions hated Hillary, it was simply shrewd business to create another incendiary reason to hate her.   Make it wild enough you could get millions of monetized clicks.  How about a factual account of a child-sex ring she was involved with, located in the basement of a pizza place that has no basement?  They got millions of hits on that one, each one sounding a distinct “cah-ching!”. The story was repeated over and over among those who hated Hillary, each time it was liked, more profit for the “content creators”.  A guy with a gun finally went to investigate, to free the child sex slaves that Hillary and her people had locked up in that basement.   Hard to blame the guy, in a way.  

The same cynical genius, or a similar nonpartisan businessman, also came up with the Trump and Sheldon Adelson gang-raping the under-aged girl story.  CAH-ching!  Much of this fake news was created by highly successful content creators who wrote the fake news of the right and of the left.   They had no dog in the fight, did not even like dog fights, maybe, but there sure is money in the right dog fight.

Critical thinking is harder than reflexive thinking, for sure.  It is harder than many things.   The confirmation bias is one factor, we tend to believe new things that conform to what we already believe.   This has been greatly exacerbated by that tsunami of capitalist genius, Facebook.   Most people get their news from their friends on there, and algorithms track the news and send them more like-minded well-liked stories (and related ads).  Everybody wins.  Except for critical thinking. 

There has been a deliberate campaign against critical thinking in the United States, accelerated since the days of Reagan when political debate began to be reduced to “I Know You Are, but What am I?”  That anti-intellectual ideology is now personified in a party “intellectual” like Paul Ryan whose political credo was forged while reading a really long novel by a supremely opinionated Russian anti-communist named Ayn Rand.  Paul Ryan considers this poet, a rationalist, a self-proclaimed Objectivist, who believed that the “Invisible Hand” of the “Free Market” would free mankind from the tyranny of altruism, a profound political philosopher.

In Ayn Rand’s gigantic allegories about the evils of Communism she makes her case that the remarkable man will always be considered an enemy of the State, hated by the herd.  The titanic struggle of the remarkable visionary protagonist of her books inspires readers to admire persecuted individual genius and to value it far above the craven needs of the masses, who are lazy, corrupt and indifferent to evil.   Her novels also hammer home the message that it is no virtue to want to help others.  

Paul Ryan is considered a Republican intellectual because his political epiphany came while reading a really, really long book.  Take a quick, mocking look at the philosophy of Ayn Rand.   Here is the visionary herself, explaining to Phil Donahue why wanting to do good in the world is not a virtue.   If you have the stamina, toward the end of her presentation, you can hear Ayn Rand’s attack on public education, which she says creates a class of brainwashed slaves to government tyranny.  She also states that she would never vote for a woman for U.S. president.  A female commander-in-chief of the Army, she said, is “unspeakable”.

I am not using this despicable example simply to bash Republicans and Libertarians.   Democrats may be arguably likelier to critically debate policy positions, at least during the primaries, but they are hardly great advocates of critical thinking.  They defend their own indefensible inconsistencies as doggedly as their colleagues across the aisle.  

Any time you have only two positions to choose from, you are probably leaving important considerations and options off the table, not thinking very critically.   And critical thinking is now more critical than ever, as vast areas of the inhabited earth will soon be uninhabitable, as we pass a climactic tipping point while false arguments are forcefully presented, at great expense, by those who profit handsomely by the destruction of the planet. 

Critical thinking.  The Campaign for Critical Thinking.  Hastag don’t be a fucking asshole.

Institutional Personality

This is not the time to write this, but I want to jot it down right quick before I forget.  Institutions actually have personalities.   It is related to the legal fiction that a corporation is a person under American law, but much more tangible.   To be direct: a corporation is a “person” with only one consideration– maximizing profit to itself and its shareholders.  The corporation, as a person, is essentially a very powerful psychopath, a constantly advancing predator incapable of anything but feeding.   Institutions, in contrast to the stark personality type that is the modern corporate “person”, actually have distinct personalities.  These institutional personalities are expressed in how they treat the people they deal with.

I give one example, then I’m out of here.  Two hospitals, both with fine doctors (and asshole doctors) both with considerate support staff (and inconsiderate support staff).   This is about their institutional personalities.

Columbia has a hospital, it’s corporate identity has changed a few times in recent years, it was called Columbia Presbyterian for many years, it’s now New York-Presbyterian, apparently.  The hospital has no Patient Advocate or ombudsperson.  Its billing is done by a third party.  The bills they send are non-negotiable.  Sometimes the bills turn out to have been sent in error, but in all cases they are the responsibility of the patient to pay or make excuses to the third party billing service until they can be straightened out with the insurance company. There is no discount offered, the fee is the fee and it is not negotiable.  If you are indigent, and can prove it at an off-site office, charity may pay your outstanding bill.  Otherwise, have a nice day, you will get collection letters from our attorneys if you do not remit.  

From time to time the Columbia hospital non-profit corporation sends, amid collection letters from their lawyers, solicitation letters touting their generous service to the community and seeking your tax deductible donation.  This institutional personality is what’s known as an asshole.  The personality likely reflects that of the wealthy, supremely talented twat who accepts his multi-million dollar salary to captain the charitable ship of the hospital he’s so rightfully proud of.

NYU hospital, next door to Bellevue, is another large, non-profit operation.  I had a problem recently getting medical records.  One call to a very nice woman at the Patient Advocate’s office quickly resolved the problem.   I’d been informed two weeks earlier, that I owed $2,100 out of pocket, an advance payment, before they’d perform the renal biopsy the following day.   When I expressed dismay and asked about financial assistance, I was given the number of an office that quickly relieved me of the $2,100 copay, based on my income and the large payment my insurance was making on my behalf.   I had a letter confirming the waiver two days later.  When I got NYU’s solicitation letter the other day, I did not feel bitter at all.  

It would not surprise me at all if the board members and executives of Columbia and NYU eat dinner together every week at the same exclusive club, frequent the same high class house of prostitution, support draconian economic policies that only benefit them and indulge in every other refined behavior that goes with being in the 1%.  I only know what I have experienced of the personality of the two institutions.  I prefer the one that is not the asshole.

Why Can’t I Concentrate?

OK, granted, the odds of remission of my idiopathic membranous nephropathy, after months of the proposed immunosuppressive treatment, a cocktail of steroids and chemotherapy-type drugs, my nephrologist admitted the other day, are about 50%.  Versus the odds of spontaneous remission, which has not been widely studied, but which seems to be in the 30% range, according to this footnote from a recent hospital study of the disease in Spain. [1]

There is also my root canal, which began more than two months ago.  Under the temporary crown there is more discomfort than I had when I initially went to the dentist. The dentist suspects the wisdom tooth adjacent to the root canal may be the culprit, suggests it might be best if the oral surgeon pulls it before a permanent crown is fitted.

The cat, who has one kidney, had very bad lab results the other day and was retested today.  Although he’s consistently hostile to me, he’s a good cat and I’m very fond of him.  Sekhnet adores him, and he adores her.  So that’s a worry.  

A bot from the fucking New York State of Health Marketplace, where unemployed people like me are obliged to buy their mandated health insurance under Obama’s admittedly imperfect Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, denied me the subsidy the law entitles me to, in January.  Donna Frescatore, the director of NYSOH, has a strict policy that nobody there may disclose her name. They also have no procedure for correcting their many errors, outside of a snail-paced appeals process.  I have so far overpaid, by over $1,000, the insurance premium the law says I should pay, with no end in sight, as I wait for a person with a below average IQ to call and conduct my impartial “telephone appeal” of their clear clerical error.

I have no idea why I’m so distracted lately, but I have unpaid work to get to today, so let me not dilly-dally any longer.

We went to see Amy Goodman, creator of Democracy Now!, speak at a nearby college on Friday night.   I love Amy for her integrity, courage, honest reporting and a strong facial resemblance to my beloved grandmother Yetta.  Amy spoke at The New School, one of these $50,000 a year museum-looking places for the children of a select economic class.  It was an inspiring talk.  Afterwards Sekhnet bought books for Amy to sign and when it was our turn I said “Amy, you’re an American hero,” which Amy accepted with a bland semi-smile.

We are 5% of the world’s population and have 25% of the world’s prison inmates, Amy reminded us.  I did the math in my head.  If we were an average country, we’d have about 5% of the world’s prison population.   At 25%, we have five times that, or 500% more in prison than the average country.   God bless these exceptional United States, our strictness with poor people’s morality and our innovative, corporately-operated, run-for-profit private prison system.

During the March for Science a few weeks ago, which Democracy Now! covered, Amy described a rainy, raw day.  The assembled masses shivered at the rally.   A week later, at the March for Climate Change Awareness (or whatever it was called) it was sweltering, the hottest day in DC on that date.   Amy suggested anyone calling themself a meteorologist should, any time extreme weather is encountered, mention that this is another sign of climate disruption.

They don’t harp on climate disruption in the mass media, she pointed out, because some sponsors would object.  She mentioned the rash, in recent years, of earthquakes in Oklahoma, a region that never had any.  This increased seismic instability is the direct result of hydro-fracking, a controversial and toxic method of extracting natural gas from deep in the earth.   Same deal with the “debate” over fracking, corporate sponsors are not going to stand by while somebody badmouths their lucrative product, which may, arguably, cause an earthquake here and there, in some armpit in Oklahoma where people with land are getting paid a lot of money for fracking rights.

I sat there rhetorically wondering why there is any “debate” about any of this.  Fucking pieces of shit in some board room are making a killing — only reason there’s any “controversy”.  This controversy/confusion is crafted by well-paid public relations geniuses who come up with a counter-factual narrative that is more satisfying to certain salt of the earth people who, not unreasonably, suspect that elites are fucking them.   These well-crafted stories, usually based on freedom and a sinister conspiracy by those who hate our freedom, are more satisfying to low-information types than cold scientific data and the academic and media elitists who spout it.

Inspired as I was listening to Amy speak, and reading her book afterwards, I still feel like hollering.  I lift my head and scream into the silence of cyberspace and wonder what the fucking use is of preaching to a half dozen people who wonder by this site and occasionally hit “like” or “follow” to encourage me to do the same for their silent screams.

Then I hear a sound bite from our diminutive racist Attorney General, wants to return America to the good old days when you could mass incarcerate nig… eh, bad hombres, for smoking weed.  “Good people don’t use marijuana,” said the smug little twerp a while ago, announcing his intention to return to the heyday of Nixon’s racist war on what the former president fondly referred to as “niggers”, “spics”, “kykes” and other enemy freaks who smoke pot and take other dangerous, morally degenerate drugs. 

What the fuck?  Are we really going to live through a remake of this hideous chapter from the toxic waste bin of history?  

“‘Make America Great Again,’ says right there on the hat, asshole.”

Got a lot of haters here in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave who think that’s just fucking ducky, sure, fuck the n-words and their unAmerican friends — and keep your damned hands off our meth and prescription opioids.  Only job in town is over at the damned privatized prison—- “lock ’em up!  lock ’em up!”

Meanwhile, people like Amy Goodman are out there being true American heroes, fighting idealistically for what we should all be fighting for– a society that values human lives more than corporate profits, no matter how “free” we can make “free trade” sound.  Of course, there’s no real money in that, is there?  Heh, Catch-22.

 

[1]   Spontaneous remission is a well known characteristic of idiopathic membranous nephropathy, but contemporary studies describing predictors of remission and long-term outcomes are lacking. We conducted a retrospective, multicenter cohort study of 328 patients with nephrotic syndrome resulting from idiopathic membranous nephropathy that initially received conservative therapy. Spontaneous remission occurred in 104 (32%) patients: proteinuria progressively declined after diagnosis until remission of disease at 14.7 +/- 11.4 months. Although spontaneous remission was more frequent with lower levels of baseline proteinuria, it also frequently occurred in patients with massive proteinuria: 26% among those with baseline proteinuria 8 to 12 g/24 h and 22% among those with proteinuria>12 g/24 h. Baseline serum creatinine and proteinuria, treatment with angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors or angiotensin receptor antagonists, and a>50% decline of proteinuria from baseline during the first year of follow-up were significant independent predictors for spontaneous remission. Only six patients (5.7%) experienced a relapse of nephrotic syndrome. The incidence of death and ESRD were significantly lower among patients with spontaneous remission. In conclusion, spontaneous remission is common among patients with nephrotic syndrome resulting from membranous nephropathy and carries a favorable long-term outcome with a low incidence of relapse. A decrease in proteinuria>50% from baseline during the first year predicts spontaneous remission.

Hospital 12 de Octubre, Madrid, Spain.   source

Why Racism?

The Civil War was fought because the wealthy in the southern part of the United States wanted the right to have their African slaves working anywhere they damned well wanted them to.  There was a raging debate, as native Americans were slaughtered, or otherwise removed from lands that were to be settled by “white” Americans, about the expansion of slavery into these new territories.   America by then had a strictly race-based slavery, the only slaves working were from Africa.  

Americans who hated slavery, as most of us today do, were determined to stop its expansion.   Americans who profited handsomely from slave labor stood on their Constitutional right to own and sell as many damned slaves as they could afford to and do pretty much anything they damned well pleased with them.  The Bible was called into play by supporters of slavery to justify God’s supposed approval of this arrangement.   Abolitionists also cited the Bible as condemning the Peculiar Institution, which just goes to show you.

So why did hundreds of thousands of brave, warlike working class Rebels, men who could not afford to own slaves, charge into Union fire defending an institution that did not benefit them in any way?   How is it that the Civil War itself has come to stand for “states’ rights”, Americans’ right to disagree and the overreach of vindictive northerners (the damned meddlesome federal government) in punishing the south after its surrender?   Why is there any debate over the flag of the former Confederacy, the states who took up arms against the country they seceded from , flying over southern government buildings?   (Shoot, it’s not like the stars and bars is a damned swastika, just the colors of an army that rose up to defend a damned way of life, a genteel and good one too…) 

We have to recognize that a lot of this, like racism itself, defies strict rational analysis.   These are emotional issues that do not call the higher functions of the analytical mind into play.   Why did millions of angry, hurting Americans recently vote for a callous billionaire who spoke as though he was their friend and champion, as if his only interests were not more money and more power?  Same deal.  Our question today is not why people vote and act against their own best interests, it’s why racism?

Howard Zinn, in his groundbreaking A People’s History of the United States, described the situation in early colonial America.  Many poor people arrived as indentured servants.   In return for their passage, poor “whites” contracted to work as unpaid servants for a certain number of years, after which indenture they would be freed.   They worked side by side with African slaves and sometimes enslaved Native Americans.   But there was a problem.  

They made common cause with their fellow slaves, resisted brutal treatment together, ran off together, married.   Those who benefitted from slave labor were in genuine danger from this united front.  There could have been no United States of America as we know it if these unpaid laborers were not divided and set against each other.  It was not profitable for the wealthy to have to pay workers for labor-intensive monoculture cultivation.   The solidarity of the enslaved presented a real dilemma for the new barons of the vast, fertile American wilderness.

The colony of Virginia, very early, in the 1680s, I believe, addressed this vexing problem for the wealthy.  A law was written guaranteeing certain rights to White Indentured Servants.   They could not be stripped naked for whipping, for example, though black slaves certainly could.  The white slaves were given certain other rights including the right to receive way more than the mythical 40 acres and a mule when they were liberated from their indenture.  In addition to land (100 acres, I think) and animals, they got a good supply of food, some money and a gun with plenty of powder and bullets.   Thus, by this ingenious device, Virginia made white slaves far superior to Negroes who were most often destined to remain slaves from birth to death.

This is one calculated, cultivated reason for American racism. It is based on the tribal human need to feel superior to the “other”, a phenomenon seen throughout history in most places.   It is often exploited by the privileged few who control populations by keeping those with common interests as divided as possible.  This need to feel superior becomes an unbearable ache during times of crisis, famine, fear, uncertainty and is often expressed violently.  It can be stoked pretty easily.

After the Civil War there was almost a century of terrorist lynching, tolerated by the states, while Southern legislators blocked federal laws to stop it.  The Turks massacred more than a million Armenians, when the supposed circumstances arose, around the time of World War One.  The Japanese tortured, raped and beheaded “racially inferior” Chinese during their infamous Rape of Nanking in the years prior to full-blown World War Two.   The Germans systematically murdered millions of “others” including several million Jews.  

In each case these genocides were fueled by racist beliefs. The people being killed were not fellow human beings, they were inferior races that needed to be destroyed, usually because of the grave danger they supposedly represented.

In order to commit unspeakable acts against other humans, it is generally necessary to hate those humans. How do good, decent, law-abiding, God-fearing Americans torture people?  By believing they are torturing inhuman terrorists who will stop at nothing to inflict unthinkable atrocities on innocent Americans.  That an individual recipient of torture may turn out to be an innocent, sixty year-old pediatrician does not mean the rest of them aren’t the worst of the worst.

You can flip through pages of recent propaganda posters to get a nice glimpse of racism made graphic.  Ever see the American depictions of “Japs” during World War Two?   Vicious, squinting, buck-toothed rats.   Look at Nazi cartoons of Jews, same kind of deal.   Cartoons of American Blacks, similarly vicious.   It is necessary to ridicule and hate before you can commit atrocities against a group of people.  

Not everyone is cut out to massacre with machetes, as one African tribal group, the Hutus, did to 800,000 Tutsis in a frenzy of killing in Rwanda in 1994.   The Nazis had a challenge figuring out how to kill so many Jews.  The men in the killing squads, the Einsatzgruppen, who shot Jews into mass graves, became drunks, went mad.  A few idealistic sadists excelled, but the sheer number of Jews to be killed was overwhelming.  Eventually a program was developed that mechanized the killing process, lessening the toll on those tasked with the mass murder of the villainized, subhuman groups.

If those who exploit others for their own profit do not divide their potential opposition and make them hate each other, their lucrative enterprise is often in danger.   Martin Luther King, Jr. was a greatly admired Man of the Year, and won the Nobel Peace Prize, when he was peacefully fighting to integrate lunch counters, buses, urging his followers to endure great hardship and exert moral force to end segregation.   Once he began speaking of the infamous triad of racism, militarism and poverty, and uniting the poor of all races, he became an enemy of America who had to be killed.  Listen to his “Why I Am Opposed to the War in Vietnam” speech, delivered at Riverside Church in New York, a year to the day before his murder:

The time has come for America to hear the truth about this tragic war. In international conflicts, the truth is hard to come by because most nations are deceived about themselves. Rationalizations and the incessant search for scapegoats are the psychological cataracts that blind us to our sins. But the day has passed for superficial patriotism. He who lives with untruth lives in spiritual slavery. Freedom is still the bonus we receive for knowing the truth. “Ye shall know the truth,” says Jesus, “and the truth shall set you free.” Now, I’ve chosen to preach about the war in Vietnam because I agree with Dante, that the hottest places in hell are reserved for those who in a period of moral crisis maintain their neutrality. There comes a time when silence becomes betrayal…

… It seemed that there was a real promise of hope for the poor, both black and white, through the Poverty Program. There were experiments, hopes, and new beginnings. Then came the build-up in Vietnam. And I watched the program broken as if it was some idle political plaything of a society gone mad on war. And I knew that America would never invest the necessary funds or energies in rehabilitation of its poor so long as adventures like Vietnam continued to draw men and skills and money, like some demonic, destructive suction tube. And you may not know it, my friends, but it is estimated that we spend $500,000 to kill each enemy soldier, while we spend only fifty-three dollars for each person classified as poor, and much of that fifty-three dollars goes for salaries to people that are not poor. So I was increasingly compelled to see the war as an enemy of the poor, and attack it as such.

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Men who speak such truths are often killed– if heeded they could cost those who profit from war billions of dollars.   Murdering such troublemakers has always been  part of the history of guns in America.   Gun violence was always integral to the rule of racists in America. “The Equalizer” was a Colt 45 revolver that made the man holding it the equal, physically, if not morally, of four or five stronger men who did not have guns.  An Equalizer tucked in the belt of a white overseer meant that, no matter how brutal he may have been to the slaves he worked, he was equal to a bunch of the strongest of them who hated him.  Unlike its predecessors, guns that had to be reloaded after one shot, leaving the shooter vulnerable, the Equalizer had a revolving chamber and was able to fire and kill six times.  Suck on that, muscle man.  

Why racism?  It benefits those who, like our current president, stoke it and use it to send messages that divide and conquer.   Mexicans are no more likely to rape than anyone else.  The very idea is ridiculous.  And yet…

We call racism by many names, deny it most of the time. We obscure our infamously racist history here– we  had race-based chattel slavery here for more than two hundred years, annihilated most of the native people who lived on what is now the USA (savages, we remember them as), excluded the Chinese, once they had died building transcontinental railroads, tolerated more than a century of terrorism against former slaves, discriminated against Italians, Irish, Eastern Europeans and other “ethnic” types, and so forth.    

“Race” is largely an arbitrary construct, and a very mutable one.  At one time here in the United States (and still, among some) Italians, Irish and Jews were considered “niggers”.   As a Jewish man, I take my solidarity with my fellow niggers quite seriously, as my father before me did.

In our greatest moments as a nation, these arbitrary differences have been put aside and masses of our people have moved forward together to face some grave challenge or to enjoy the fruits of liberty.  In our worst moments, these cultural differences are exploited by ruthless demagogues, pointing to the evil “other” and inspiring violence as they do their dirty deeds. 

Fuck racism, you know what I’m saying?  But in order to fuck it, you first have to talk about it.

All you really need to know about Jared’s little brother Josh

Thirty-one year-old Josh, among his many business investments, is the founder and chairman of Oscar, a large health insurance company that sells insurance on the Obamacare marketplace.  His older brother Jared, 34, is the president’s de facto prime minister.

The New York Times lays out the pertinent facts.  The family survived the Holocaust, the grandparents came to the U.S. in 1949.   They built apartments in New Jersey, starting a real estate empire that was soon worth a billion dollars.  Jared and Josh’s father, Charles, spent two years in prison after his conviction for (then) illegal campaign donations, witness tampering and tax evasion.   Josh started a non-profit at Harvard to make it easier for Harvard grads to borrow and raise money.    Now I hand it over to the Grey Lady:

By the spring of 2012, Mr. Kushner had scored his first investment hit. He had become friends with a Silicon Valley entrepreneur named Kevin Systrom, who had started Instagram. Mr. Systrom said he had met Mr. Kushner long before he was thinking about raising large sums of money for the app, and the two had stayed in touch.

That year, Mr. Systrom let Mr. Kushner invest in Instagram alongside the prestigious venture capital firms Sequoia Capital and Greylock Partners, illustrating how much personal connections matter. The funding pegged Instagram’s valuation at $500 million. Three days later, Facebook bought Instagram for $1 billion and Mr. Kushner instantly doubled his money.

(emphasis mine, you’ve got to love the Grey Skank!)

 America the beautiful– if you’re born in the right circumstances and have the vision, and genius, to play your cards right.  The Times quotes Josh as saying “being satisfied is not a good thing”.   I like to think the whole family will live perpetually by that self-fulfilling credo.

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