On Politics and Change

I occasionally post some “keeper” comments on Facebook, where they get swallowed up in the 18-hour Facebook Hole. I’m going to start sharing some of those here. “… some are capable of questioning their values or loyalties and making changes as necessary, and some on doing what they always did – and getting what they always got.” Read the full text in Commentary.

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Robert Reich and The Establishment

The 2016 Presidential campaign has captured public involvement and commentary more so than any previous election year I can remember, possibly excepting the Goldwater vs. Johnson election year of 1964.

Election Fever has spread to Facebook too, of course. A friend “Shared” an editorial essay by UC Berkeley political economist Robert Reich, which I’d say is recommended reading regardless of your preferred political party. I’d go further: our vote is often ignored and in some cases actually goes to the candidate your vote was meant to keep out, and it’s entirely legal. The system is rigged.

Read the full article in Commentary.

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“Khorasan Group” flap-du-jour Explained

Sometimes more is less, and sometimes, less is more, and sometimes it doesn’t make a damn bit of difference. There can be no question that several Al-Qaeda groups operate in the Khorasan area. Administration or media hype, or a politically motivated attempt to discredit the Administration? We take a look at this flap-du-jour in Commentary.

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Volcanic vs. Man-made Climate Change

01-MtStHelens-eruptionThere are two key questions we need to answer before we can judge how man-made CO2 generation compares to well-observed effects of big volcanoes. “The Little Ice Age” was the first well-studied and documented rapid climate change, and it lasted about 300 years. It decimated Europe, and almost became an extinction event for struggling pioneer New England colonists. Feature article in Commentary with sources, references and illustrations.

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The New Economic Colonialism

Urban renewal, or economic imperialism? In Corsica, some residents resorted to dynamiting empty mansions to intimidate the wealthy from taking over their neighborhoods and homes. In San Francisco, we see increasing unrest among the poor and middle classes, for it is no longer a city where the poor and middle classes are permitted to live, let alone welcome… in COMMENTARY.

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Arizona’s New Anti-Gay Bill

My cousin wrote me today expressing shock at the Arizona legislature’s passage of a blatantly rabid anti-gay bill. The bill has not been signed by the Governor, and it is not yet law. The bill would allow business owners asserting their religious beliefs to refuse service to gays and others.

If somehow you missed it, you can read about the legislation any most anywhere. But here is The New York Times link.

I wrote back to my cousin:

Thanks for your support! AZ Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a similar bill a few years back, and I suspect she’ll veto this one. I understand there are already a very few anticipatory signs up in shop windows. There are so many places to eat and shop in big cities like Phoenix that a merchant with such a sign is just advertising, “we aren’t much interested in staying in business” or maybe even “I hate my plate glass window.” In small towns, and AZ has lots of those, there is bigger potential for harm and hurtfulness.

In the Phoenix Metro area (and in Tucson) there are large Democratic and moderate Republican populations and they are pretty good places for everyone to live. As for the bill itself, if actually passed into law, I think it would be struck down in the higher courts. That is not to say it isn’t dangerous, but that mindset belongs to a shrinking and discredited minority.”

And here, from the New York Daily News, is what one Tucson businessman did in response to the bill: “Arizona pizzeria’s amazing response to state’s anti-gay bill.”

 

This post is also published in La Parola, our gay issues department.

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Nelson Mandela and Facebook Blocking

There are many finer tributes to Nelson Mandela than this one. I join so many others in feeling sorrow at the passing of a revered and inspirational world leader, but I never expected to compose this essay at all. Something happened to change my mind. What does the passing of a world leader like Nelson Mandela have to do with guttersnipe comments from an unknown low-life on Facebook? We can possibly make the world safer for freedom and equality, but it seems we can never make it safe from zealots and cultists who refuse to see outside their own bizarre catechisms. Read our full essay in Commentary.

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La mystérieuse affaire de Yasser Arafat

In recent news, the widow of the poor unfortunate old Arafat authorized the exhumation of his remains for further forensic testing. The rumor that he had been poisoned had never gone away. Arafat died in 2004, or was murdered, depending on which rumors you believe. Summitlake.com looks at some apparently huge disconnects in parallel international investigations. Read our analysis in Commentary.

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The OSS and Ho Chi Minh

“Some will be shocked to find out that the United States and Ho Chi Minh, our nemesis for much of the Vietnam War, were once allies. Indeed, during the last year of World War II, American spies in Indochina found themselves working closely with Ho Chi Minh” – excerpt from the article link. See it in COMMENTARY.

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Addictions of Race, Privilege and Cultural Denial

White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack
By Peggy McIntosh

Author McIntosh’s candor and clarity of thought caught me somewhat by surprise. I have never read a fraction of the vast resource of literature and scholarly works on the subject of race, but I have read enough to know that many Americans, including many white Americans like myself, are not only able to say with certainty racism is still with us, but exactly why, and how destructive it is for all of us in this great democracy of ours. My personal experience is largely anecdotal, but I have lots of it.

If you are or have ever been curious how crudely medieval views on race and culture have survived to the twenty-first century, a deadly virus in a modern world of both miracle antibiotics and people who choose not to take them, I think you will find Mcintosh’s full article a refreshingly clear read.

The link to Peggy McIntosh’s excellent article, and my own short comments that I posted to her article there, are all in Commentary.

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Jimmy Wales and His Wikipedia Revolution

Jimmy Wales to Slashdot: “The real question is: can open systems adapt and respond in mostly effective ways to deal with the worst of it? And the answer to that is clearly YES.”

What started out as my planned five-minute improvement to Jimmy Wales ended up being a feature article. “With the aid of many hands, perhaps thousands over time, the Wikipedia topic quickly becomes a polished authoritative reference, and a superior one, for it is never frozen in a stasis of printed paper. It can always evolve and adapt to new information and discovery.” Read our feature article in COMMENTARY.

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Restore The Fourth Amendment

Finding Paul RevereGive us back our Constitution. The time has come and gone when parents can honestly tell their children, “This is the United States of America. They wouldn’t do that here.” Once you read the “Finding Paul Revere” link to see how powerful meta-data actually is, you will never, ever forget it. The KGB would have killed for this technology, if you’ll pardon the expression. Read our full post in Commentary.

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nature.com: Conservatives Into Liberals?

In “Magic trick transforms conservatives into liberals,” Brian Owens in Nature magazine reviews a diabolical Swedish study that suggests many of us aren’t as politically hidebound as our friends in the opposite political party are so apt to charge. The study showed survey respondents could be tricked into changing conservative positions into liberal ones, and vice-versa.

On the other hand, what I also get out of this is, if we can be that manipulable,  many of us might not always have the foggiest why we hold the political beliefs we do, despite what we may think.

 

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Readers Push Back on Ads and Blocking

This week, I’ve followed a couple of threads on ubiquitous internet advertising and why we block ads. Some of us find all ads inherently intrusive, but most of us just reserve the right to decide when ads become obnoxious or outright offensive.
The dilemma is that our free content providers depend on this ad revenue to pay their writers and their bills. “Not our problem,” some say. I disagree; I think it’s a problem that belongs to all of us, and I think we CAN do something constructive about it. From my posted comment to “Destructoid,” a gamer site with an interesting editorial:

I got here via a Slashdot link. Don’t use game sites but I wish you the best solving this dilemma. If a user posts abusive and offensive comments in this window, you’d be entirely justified in editing or deleting it. In fact, you might have an obligation to do so to protect the editorial integrity of your site.

So why do we have a different standard for offensive web ads? It’s time for content providers to push back against advertisers and exercise some plain old content control. You don’t see dating services, nose pickers and and “pictures of horny men” in the National Geo. Does anyone else remember when advertising was actually informative and – gasp – interesting?

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Occupy Wall Street: Gone Rogue?

A surprising spectrum of American opinion expressed cautious optimism at the early “Occupy Wall Street” movement. Getting Congress to move is even harder than changing the banking system. The turn-off is this strong OWS directional shift to violence. Read our editorial in Commentary.

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Anonymous Paid Political Advertising

Bill Moyers did a wonderful job of illuminating “Who Pays for Political Ads?” Following this conversation on Huffington Post, I found that I had some observations of my own.

I saw reader comments that we have NO right to know who sponsors anonymous paid political advertising — the PINK SLIME of the advertising industry. The laws of slander still apply to us, but they don’t apply to the anonymous wealthy who corrupt the electoral process.

So it is argued that we who don’t like anonymous paid political ads are free to ignore them, and people who DO like them are free to waive their right to due diligence on the source and veracity of the content. It’s argued there certainly is a protected “right” to anonymously buy the spread of smear and slander. Who can spell PROPAGANDA?

When we think about it, propaganda can be used to manipulate opinion by either side of an issue, but a civilian population has at least a theoretical means of independently verifying or debunking it. It’s quite rational and legitimate to consider the credibility of the source in evaluating things we are told. Anonymous paid political ads take this off the table, because we no longer have a way to determine the source of the information, let alone the methods used to gather or manufacture it.

Anonymity may be vital to the success of a totalitarian state, for both perpetrators and victims, but anonymous and unverifiable political defamation is subversive of a democracy. Stand up to the perpetrators!

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