Saturday, May 7, 2016

What is Wrong with America that Trump Can Clinch the GOP Nomination?

With Ted Cruz dropping out, The Donald has essentially clinched the GOP nomination for the Presidency. Not bad for an on again and off again Republican. But what is wrong in America that some one like Trump can be a threat to taking the Presidency. Last year I wrote a piece that predicted Ted Cruz losing the GOP bid for the Presidency. As a total whack-job, theocrat, I knew Ted didn't stand a chance in a general election, and I sincerely thought he was encouraged to run to make ol' Jeb look more electable. But then the Donald happened. No one could have predicted Donald Trump.

I will not go into Trump's politics, nor his lack of public speaking skills (George Takei already pointed this out in the most perfect way). The reason I will refrain from this is because Trump's politics have nothing to do with his success. Yes. I just wrote that the politics of the GOP Presidential candidate's success is irrelevant. What has America come to? Well, it's a long story, one that began with the spouse of one other potential Presidential Candidate.

The Clinton Presidency was a soap opera. It was as entertaining since the first time Bill played his sax. Yes, there was scandal, but it was of a personal matter. It's not like he was selling illegal arms and getting away with it. However, the Clinton Presidency was the first neo-liberal Presidency whose economic guru was Alan Greenspan, who suckled at the tit of Ayn Rand and was a member of her cult, "the Collective." Thus began the purchase of America by corporate interests.  Furthermore, his policies opened the door for successor to rape the Middle Class in America, leading to the Great Recession.

When li'l Bush stole the Presidency in 2000 he began continuing Reagan-esque trickle down policies. He gave tax breaks for the rich, privatized (AKA segregated) schools along racial and class lines, and lied to the American people to start an illegal war. And that's not to mention the unethical, and un-American detention camp in Guantanamo Bay. The Bush Administration continued the purchase of the American government by the corporate elite as the GOP rose to even greater power. With the marriage of the religious right to the political right now old hat, the Bush presidency led the country into a scientific back-slide. At the national level, climate change was denied, stem cell research suppressed, and creationism, now renamed "intelligent design," was allowed to be taught in schools along side evolution. These things became business as usual. Fortunately, Presidents have term limits, unfortunately, the next one was another neo-lib.

In 2008, Obama upset the DNC by sweeping Hillary Clinton out of the race, thus ending her first bid for the Presidency. He promised hope and change, and while the country hoped, his changes weren't spectacular, when they did occur. His first major change was to implement mandatory health care that was similar to what Hillary Clinton advocated during her husband's Presidency. The ACA, or Obamacare, passed, but not before the insurance and pharmaceutical lobbies gutted the bill to the point that it was a mockery of its former self. In fact, States that did not expand Medicaid like they were supposed to have seen rate hikes and poor coverage for the very people the ACA was designed to protect. Added to this debacle, Obama expanded US military interests in the middle east which further destabilized the region. Also under Obama's watch, a corporation's religious belief trumps family planning, and corporations are now people who are allowed to vote with their wallets. Neo-liberalism looks less like liberalism, and more like old-fashioned conservatism.

The funny (or sad, per your perspective) part, is that the Party of Lincoln was hijacked twice in our little story. The first time was when the Moral Majority took controlling influence back in the 80s. This married Gilded-Age economics with religion. From a political point of view, this is brilliant because socioeconomic status is often an indicator (and much more so in the 80s than today) of a person's education. Poorer people tend to be more religious. Less educated people are less likely to question authorities they respect. Like preachers, church elders, priests, what have you. How else do you get an entire demographic to consistently vote against their own interests?

The second time the GOP was hijacked came not from the 1%, but from the product of their political tampering. A grassroots movement sprang up in Red State areas calling for a return to more Constitutional times. The Tea Party: poor conservatives convinced that it was the liberals that were destroying the country. You remember them, they were the ones chanting "Keep the Government out of my Medicare!" The Tea Party exists not to keep the GOP conservative, but to oppose Obama specifically.  Once the Republicans took control of the House and Senate they have stonewalled any left-leaning legislation introduced. This includes shutting down the Federal Government for not getting the 1% friendly tax breaks into the budget. Their obstructionism is so rampant, that the GOP controlled Senate is refusing to hold hearings on a Supreme Court vacancy.  They want to fill the seat, they just don't want Obama to do it. Before the 2016 election, this had become the state of US politics, the party in the Majority, refusing to work at the job they were hired for out of simple hatred for the other aisle, and the brown man in the White House. The only person Tea Partyers hate more than Obama is Hillary Clinton.

Enter the 2016 Presidential Election. When candidates announced their running in 2015, there were two political dynasties in the running. On the right you had Jeb Bush, son of Big Bush, and older brother to li'l Bush. Not even the GOP was having him. A dim-witted theocrat, Ted Cruz polled better than Jebbie. That's saying something. On the Left, you has Hillary Clinton, former First Lady and Secretary of State. Billing herself as the first woman President she stole the hearts of DNC hardliners. Of course, it helped that the DNC chair, Debbie Wasserman Schultz was helping Clinton by making it hard for other candidates to be heard (I'm being nice, she flat out tried to rig the election). Add in that in many of the states Clinton won, there have been severe election issues that smell like purposeful election fraud (funny how it always benefits Hillary). Unfortunately, due to half the states barring independents from voting, hard-line neo-libs in the DNC are giving Clinton a lead over her competition in the polls. But it is her competition, and The Donald, that are defining the Presidential race.

Both Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump are outsiders to the status quo. Clinton has many of the same employers donors as Republican candidates. Just like Bush, Kaish and Cruz, she is a whore to Wall Street too afraid to release her $200K-$400K speeches lest they be used against her during the campaign. The reason why those speeches are so important is because shucking Wall Street is so important. You see, the people are tired of business as usual. We know the game is rigged and we have two candidates that are not beholden to Wall Street. Sanders, like Clinton also works for his employers: the thousands of small donors, formally known as The People, who have financed over 99% of his campaign. Trump, on the other hand, is a Wall Street insider that may belong to the 1%, but he doesn't work for the 1%.  We have Sanders, who is grumpy, and Trump, who is crude. Trump the racist, and Sanders the activist. Two very different candidates, two very different people, two very different visions, but the most important thing is what they both share: Neither are under the thumb of the plutocracy. And THAT is why Trump is able to not only win the GOP nomination, but should Clinton win the DNC, have a good chance of becoming POTUS 45.

Either way, the next President will not be one of the usual crowd. It will be either a Social Democrat from the Bronx, or a sometimes Republican, sometimes Democrat from Queens. But the Witch from Chicago is out. The people are tired of the moneyed ruling elite ruining what was the most prosperous country in the world. The lives of the people are being sold to fatten the fat cats, and we are not going to take it any more.  The election of 2016 is a quiet revolution as The People are trying to use the system to get out Republic back. This is a test to see whether the American Experiment can survive our brush with the nouveau-Aristocracy that has arisen in America today. If not then in a generation or two the revolution may not be so quiet.

I think a little ditty from the 80s can sum up the attitudes of the oft ignored independent voters this election cycle:

Monday, April 25, 2016

Sanders Facebook Support Pages Shut Down on Facebook

It started out good enough. A quiet evening watching the Simpsons and idley swiping through Facebook. Then I noticed that one of the Bernie Sanders supporter pages I was in went from public to private. Later, I see the following post on my time line.  I tried to reply to it, but according to Facebook:

Post Has Been Removed

The post or object that you were commenting has been removed by its owner and can no longer be commented on.
Fortunately, I hadn't closed out the thread so I was able to copy and paste it below.

39 mins
We are connected in spirit and will not be silenced!!! New Bernie groups will form in an instant!
See original post for comments!!!
Please share this to any Bernie groups you're in. The "online activist" group Hillary's super PAC hired (basically paid trolls) are striking tonight. By spamming the "report post to Facebook" feature on posts in Bernie groups, they've successfully shut down 3 of the largest Bernie groups within the past 20 minutes. Bernie Believers, Bernie Activists, and Bernie Sanders is my Hero had over 120,000 group members.
Don't panic! This should only be temporary until Facebook reviews the situation. Forgetting for a moment that this is easily one of the slimiest tactics I've ever seen in politics, you can still go to reddit to keep current on what's going on in the campaign. They hit us the night before tomorrow's primaries for a reason. Stay organized and stay informed.
Bernie Sanders 2016 • /r/SandersForPresident

So far, according to the above thread on Reddit, the following pages have been taken down:
  • Bernie Believers
  • Bernie Sanders is My Hero
  • Bernie Sanders Discussion Group
  • Bernie Sanders Activists
  • Bernie Sanders 2016 - Ideas Welcome
  • Bernie Sanders for President 2016
  • Bernie Sanders or Bust
This is a horrible abuse of power from the Hillary camp. While she herself may not have ordered the attack, as the leader of her campaign she is ultimately responsible for it. I, myself, am conflicted. Part of me, the social studies teacher side, hopes she will call out her minions that would do such a cowardly act and hand them over to the authorities (the legality of this in uncertain) or at least flat out fire them. Another part of me wants to see this added to the growing stockpile of unethical deeds the GOP would use against her in the general election. If she gets the nomination that is. Sadly, she is already behind when it comes to millennials, and it is exactly this crowd that know what this kind of attack is!

I will write more as this unfolds, but as far as unethical campaign practices go, this is a new one.

Update: As of 11:30-ish 4/25/2016 the pages were back up thanks to the staff of Facebook looking into the matter as fast as possible.

While this attack may seem minor, it only is so because of the fast acting staff of Facebook, and the thousands of FB users that counter-reported the pages being shut down. This could have been far more serious because the attack happened on the eve of the Pennsylvania primary. This was a coordinated attack by people in the Hillary camp. Redditor, jdkon, was able to procure proof:

On the left you have a $hillbot saying to keep ip the good work shutting down the pages, and on the right are the masses of $hillbots patting themselves on the back.  The attacks were successful thanks to FB's algorithms which look at the frequency of reports an a page or a post. If a mass of people report a page in quick succession, the algorithms give FB's automated systems the go ahead to shut the page down. Better safe than sorry. And that's OK. But the Hillary camp exploited this safety feature to silence a political opponent.

This behavior is exactly why a political revolution is necessary right now. We have lost what it means to be a democracy. In a democracy that values free speech, you NEVER silence your opponent. You engage them, you debate them, you out politic them, but you never silence them. If your positions are genuinely superior to your opponent's positions then the voters will silence them at the ballot box. Anyone who tries to silence political discourse is a failure as a citizen.  This includes anyone in the Bernie camp that is thinking about retaliation. 

Sanders does not have to resort to dirty tricks to beat Clinton. Bernie is the leader of our little revolution, but only because he was in the right place at the right time. It just as easily could have been Elizabeth Warren. Sanders is doing so well because he is there for us, not the other way around. That is something Clinton and many of her supporters are blind to, because Clinton is only there for her. Her supporters that launched these attacks are only in for Clinton as well. Clinton is a demagogue who's only objective is to obtain the power of the Presidency. That power is an ends for people like her. For Sanders, it is only a means to implement policy that makes our democracy fair at the polls and fair at the work place.

Friday, April 1, 2016

Why there is no Faith in Science

Is it just me or has anyone else noticed that misunderstood concepts are expressed quite a lot in social media. The other day I saw a post of a witty cartoon showing how philosophy is still relevant to science. The cartoon, shown here, can be found at Completely serious Comics.

One commentator said the following, "We ALL do. It's just that those who hide behind science think they don't- i.e. that they are all reason, no faith. It reminds me of the know-it-all kid in class who says "well, Teacher agrees with ME!" lol"
Another commentator replied, and I'll paraphrase, that faith is unnecessary in science. In fact, faith is the opposite of science. To which, of course, the first commentator replied the following:
"You do have a faith, you just pretend to be above it all and made of pure reason. Put away your childishness and perhaps we could have a conversation on such an important topic. But I don't joust with snobs..."

Naturally, I had to chime in. My reply is below.

Philosophy =/= faith. the philosophical ground work of science relies in observation and logic grounded in some assumptions.
The assumptions are that there IS a physical universe, that we can learn things about the universe and finally, that explanations that predicts future observations are superior to explanations that do not.

Now, saying all of that, science is a method of decreasing uncertainty, not a method for "absolute" truth. After all, "absolute" truth is still an unanswered philosophical question. The great thing about science is that it is not a belief system. It is a way to explain the physical universe. that distinction is important because explanations can be abandoned if needed for better ones (see last assumption above).

A case in point is gravity. Various cultures had various myths as to why things fell to Earth. Sometimes fairies were involved, at other times it was a deity of some sort. Along comes Sir Isaac Newton. He develops a theory that gravity is a force of attraction between two objects. His theory predicted that a body moving at a certain velocity can balance with the force of gravity creating an orbit. However, his equations showed that the orbits would be unstable and thus it must be the hand of God that corrected the minor discrepancies.

A few decades later, a French mathematician named Pierre Laplace refined the equations and showed how the Solar system is stable all by itself. When asked by Napoleon as to why there is no mention of a creator in his model, Laplace answered, "I had no need of that hypothesis." In other words, deities and fairies were not necessary, the natural forces did it all by themselves.

And here's the kicker: They were BOTH wrong. Gravity is not a force (at least not in the conventional sense), it is a curve in the space-time continuum. Imagine a bowling ball on a foam mattress. That is a good visualization of gravity. This theory of gravity is Einsteins. Why is it better? First let me back up just a little. Einstein's theory of gravity is incredibly complex from a mathematical point of view. In fact, if his theory were developed first, the work of Newton and Laplace would probably be replicated as just a short cut because their equations are much simpler for everyday mathematics! So why are they still "wrong"? Einstein's theory predicts more phenomena. One such phenomenon is that gravity will bend light. This has been observed during solar eclipses. But perhaps some day Einstein's theory will lose out to an even more precise and predictive model. or maybe not. But how exciting will it be if it is so!

As you can see, faith isn't necessary. Now, no one pointed this out, but one could counter that holding the assumptions are done in faith. No. They are assumptions, not beliefs. The assumptions I pointed out are made for the sole purpose of just getting on with it. If better assumptions come along that improve the scientific process, then the old ones will be thrown out and the new ones accepted. We make those assumptions because they are useful, and keep them only as long as they are useful. A faith-based belief is something often adhered to in spite of contrary evidence. Often the belief is handed down by authorities that cannot be questioned, not experts who gained that title through being rigorously questioned.