The Eight Year Filibuster (A little essay for Juneteenth)

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I haven’t posted on this blog for some time now. I have taken a break from the news, politics, etc. Don’t get me wrong I am still listening to NPR and reading the BBC and a few other news sources. But I have had to take time from attempting to analyze what I have read and heard in order to express a cogent and perhaps even useful commentary.

What I realized after mulling this situation over and discussing it with some friends is that what passes for news these days is so cliche-ridden and tabloidesque that I could say little more about it than that. And there is no point in repeating every day that the quality and content of the news has gotten pretty lame.

What’s curious is that I have still been getting viewers on my blog. Not many but a steady stream of folks who seem to think I might have something interesting to say. So out of respect for these blog-scouring readers I decided that I should probably not abandon this blog thdough the thought had occurred to me a few times.

What I have come to realize is that the news is dominated by many of the same mind-numbing stories repeated over and over. Congress is deadlocked, the Republicans blame the Democrats, the Democrats blame the Republicans and so on. But what occurred to me in my little “aha” moment is that, in terms of the dynamics of communication, these news stories have much in common with filibusters. Think about it, a filibuster is just talking to waste time like running out the game clock in a basketball game. The content of a filibuster is never reported because it is never relevant. It is just words to fill time.

So this is what we’ve come to now. News outlets are reporting a lot of time wasting stories, the same ones basically that they reported yesterday and the day after. Even the most learned analyses are repeated over and over. That, I believe, is why my mind has felt so foggy.

I can and have written about other things but until today haven’t felt like I have anything worth blogging in the realm of politics. While I care about the issues of the day I have not found the news media particularly useful to me. And it might be some time before I write another blog post because I don’t want to waste my time or certainly that of those faithful blog trollers who seem to keep finding this blog. (I do appreciate that, by the way)

In effect we have been living in one large filibuster, verbose without relevant content and not much hope of that changing. It is as though the lawmakers are just pouting and not playing nice since the election of 2008. And the news media is reporting on that unchanging and mostly irrelevant dialog. I have to wonder if things will even change noticeably after the 2016 elections.

So what is Juneteenth and what has that got to do with filibusters as a metaphor for this boring news? Juneteenth is a portmanteau of the words “June” and “nineteenth”. On June nineteenth federal troops entered the state of Texas. This slave state had seceded from the union in 1861 and the troops were there to establish federal authority following the Civil War and to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation (signed September 22, 1862 with the effective date of January 1, 1863). Celebrations of “Emancipation Day” or “Freedom Day” are now frequently celebrated on this day and it is recognized as a holiday in 42 states (the eight hold out states are Arizona, Hawaii, Maryland, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Utah).

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Historians looking back at these eight years in history will make note of the fact that we have elected our first black president to two terms in office. Whether their analyses will find that to be a reason for the deadlocked and worthless Congress remains to be seen but I doubt that anyone will be able to dismiss this fact completely. It appears to this writer that the conservative forces in this country, no longer able to be as direct in their racist attitudes, have resorted to the childish and ultimately destructive tactics of basically putting the country on hold until we can get a white guy in there again.

To be fair there is always some game playing and posturing following elections as the fantasies of power and control get exercised and no doubt there will be a strong reaction if and when we elect a female president. But the shameful thing on this Juneteenth is that we have hardly scratched that surface of equality and civil rights even though the Emancipation Proclamation was singed 147 years ago.

So Happy Juneteenth to my progressive friends. We have a long way to go and though the revolution might be televised there is likely no one paying much attention.

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Posted in accountability, Democrats, holidays, media, News Cycle, non-solutions, origins, Politics, racism, Republicans, white people, Women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sequestration of Congressmen?

Surfing the blogosphere I came across an obscure little site which, curiously, goes offline and occasionally disappears from the major search engines. In fact I have not been able to find it for a few weeks now. It goes (went?) under the curious title ‘Management of Political Diseases’.

There were never any photographs and I could never find any way to contact the owner/blogger. I am not sure I would have wanted him/her having my contact information anyway. The agendas presented were consistently radical and far off the grid.

I write about it now because of the recent news item of the three women who had been missing for ten years having been found alive and now are rescued. The idea of removing people from the grid is curious. And the fact that it could be accomplished “under the radar” for ten years is stunning to say the least.

The evanescent site had been proposing pretty much the same thing but with lawmakers and other politicians. It focused on the frustration of the author (or authors) with today’s deadlocked politics and proposed the strategic removal of certain “dissenters” from the grid, the sequestering or quarantining of individuals viewed as “diseased” and contaminants of progress.

The analogy is a curious one. And analogies are practically the life blood of rhetoric. Successful use of analogies have served many successful political efforts from Roman civilizations to the Nazi party to Republicans and Democrats. And it doesn’t matter if the analogies are accurate or appropriate, just that they resonate with a given constituency.

Think about it. Are there just a few “infected” people encumbering the workings of government? And can their temporary removal rehabilitate the process? I don’t know. But I am not surprised to have seen such radical suggestions in light of the political gridlock of the past few years.

It appears to me that this blog has again disappeared, perhaps because of the appearance of similar ideas in the public media. And I don’t know if any such plans are being made or attempted but I do know that I would not want to be a public figure these days.

Posted in accountability, crime, cults, Democrats, esoterica, media, News Cycle, Politics, Republicans, solutions | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

How Many Does It Take?

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How many people would it take to shut down a major American city for a day or two? Well, apparently two.

The Boston Marathon bombing and subsequent manhunt has bathed us all in a media-fueled thrall for some four days now and shut down the greater Boston area for two days. And it was accomplished by two naturalized American citizens acting pretty much alone apparently.

This raises an obvious question: Can this happen again? Of course it can. By posturing properly and pushing the right buttons and adding a little stealth it is very likely that this could easily happen again.

Why someone would want this to happen does not matter. Rationality does not help here. For that matter neither does personal right to own a gun. The second amendment in all its glory does nothing to help. Homeland security is also of questionable value. The Boston bombers were American citizens and were captured largely due to cooperation between ordinary citizens and local police. Granted the photos distributed by the media were crucial but the confusion injected by the ratings hungry misreporting and/or sensationalizing of the situation clouded the issue and created unnecessary anxiety.

If you think about it this was a sort of ‘Our Town’-ish grassroots type success. There was not much time for or focus on politics. Even the high profile officials handling this gave practically no nod to their political affiliations. Even the White House played a largely supportive role. Of course gun control efforts were shut down during the fracas by our dysfunctional legislators but that is no surprise.

I hope that this sort of thing does not happen again but I would love to see such successful attention-grabbing put to the service of progressive social agendas. About that I could write a nice little blog commentary.

Posted in accountability, Boston Marathon bombings, crime, cults, Gun regulation, Guns, management, mass murder, media, News Cycle, Newtown, NRA, Politics, solutions | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

All Flags Should Be Permanently at Half Mast

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Yet another public act of violence and the best response that can possibly be made is for flags to fly at half mast.  A more appropriate response might be the passing of those gun laws but that is not going to happen.

So I propose that all U.S. flags be mandated to remain at half mast until we manage to go one day without someone being killed.  Sounds outrageously left-wing and ridiculously optimistic even to me.  But the fact is that we have run out of ways to respond in a meaningful way to violence in this country.  I’m not sure that any other country could be said to be in a better position for that matter.  The world is in a state of seemingly permanent and escalating violence.

English: Protester demonstrating against polic...

English: Protester demonstrating against police misuse of the Terrorism Act 2000 in Trafalgar Square, London, on 23 January 2010. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another similarly theatrical response is the decision to treat this attack as an act of terrorism.  What is the thinking that goes into that?  Isn’t a street gang murder an act of terrorism of one faction on another?  Are those not public enough to merit classification as terrorism?  How about economic terrorism?  Digital terrorism?  I also propose that every crime be labeled a terrorist act until we can go at least one day without a crime.  To approach this reasonably we must recognize that terrorism is not, by definition, necessarily from another country.  We have plenty of our own.

English: Number of terrorist incidents for 200...

English: Number of terrorist incidents for 2009 (January – June). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Maybe there is a way to make a reality show about acts of terrorism.   Could make some money maybe.  It would help distract from any real reality issues such as our boringly deadlocked legislators.

There is little in the news about substantively optimistic events.  Sports victories, science discoveries and the non-bleeding news stories fail to impress me.  I want to hear that the economy is fixed and that I can sell my house and at least break even.  I want to hear that payroll taxes have been rolled back again so I can live less closely to my own personal financial cliff.  Haven’t heard anything remotely like that in years now.

I wake every day expecting some shooting, disaster, threat, failure, loss of income, increase in bills, lack of any progress from my government.  I have no plans to be a part of any violence and hope that I never will be but I do understand some of the mindset that must underlie those who do participate in such things.

my terrorism suspicion slip

my terrorism suspicion slip (Photo credit: langalex)

“I’d like to kiss you, I’d love you hold you,
I ain’t got no time for that now” – Life During War Time, David Byrne

If we are torn away from our reality shows, our distractions, our routines that help us believe that fiction that things are gonna be OK then we see the world for what it is, hopelessly deranged.  Perhaps the entertainment media should be indicted for their failure to capture enough of an audience to include terrorists who would become pacified too if they basked in the wonders of mass media.  No news, no views, then by definition no opposing views, just hypnotic and soothing drivel, but drivel with the power to engage.

The world actually is a place now where it is not unreasonable to think that the best you may ever be able to achieve is to blow yourself up and be able to believe that it makes you saintly, patriotic or both.  The problem is generational not national.  There are so many places that live is such desperation that we can’t reasonably expect them to be able to transcend such a mindset.  We can’t even reasonably expect that of ourselves or even of our children I suppose.

Watching the latest coverage I am increasingly convinced that this is one of those reality shows except in this one people actually get harmed and die.  They play these things periodically because it shows how well our government and law enforcement can perform.  Before the Boston Marathon show we were treated to the Newtown show and many before that going back to The 9/11 show and more before that.  Because pacified people periodically need something to stimulate them and these shows get very high ratings.

Posted in accountability, apocalypse, Boston Marathon bombings, budget crisis, Gun regulation, mass murder, media, military, News Cycle, Newtown, non-solutions, police, Politics, solutions | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

A Poker Game Where No One Has a Strong Hand, the Naked Congressman (or Congresswoman)

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Question: What looks most like a dog in a hole?

Answer: A dog out of a hole.

Outside of a dog, a book is man’s best friend. Inside of a dog it’s too dark to read.

- Groucho Marx

What relevance does this silliness have to this blog post on politics?  Well, very little actually.  Except that it is as relevant as the text of nearly any given filibuster.

Congressional Filibuster Record by Party 1992 ...

Congressional Filibuster Record by Party 1992 – 2011 (Photo credit: Cory M. Grenier)

What is a filibuster?  It is a time wasting tactic which is allowed by Congressional procedure to basically waste time and prevent action on a given bill which the filibustering party does not want voted upon.  It is the equivalent of pouting in terms of it’s intellectual content.  And I find it embarrassing that it is allowed and that it is being used with increasing frequency in our legislative chambers.

The term “filibuster” derives from the Spanish language word “filibustero”, itself deriving originally from the Dutch language “vrijbuiter” with the meaning of privateer, pirate, robber.  While the practice goes back to ancient Rome the word did not enter the English language until the 1850s.

But I digress from the subject of my title.  I am not and will not filibuster, at least here.

In a poker game the basic idea is to acquire the highest ranked hand either by having been dealt that hand or by being able to exchange cards within the rules of the particular type of poker you are playing to attain the highest ranked hand.  It is basically a random process unless, of course, you cheat.

But the strategy of winning poker relies heavily on the practice of “bluffing”.  Bluffing is a form of deception in which you succeed in implying that you have a better hand than you actually do.  If you succeed then your opponents will likely give up or “throw in their hand” and you can conceivably win even if you have a low ranked hand.

Here is where we come back to politics.   I am suggesting that poker is a fair analogy to the way our legislators have been acting of late.  Each bluffing the other party or faction, is trying to get the others to believe that they hold a strong hand.  Only these days it appears that no one has a strong hand.  Everyone is bluffing.

Like the fairy tale, the emperor has no clothes and it is only the true believers that are willing to say that he or she actually has the “new clothes” and pretend to see them.

So what are you wearing to the chamber today, Congressman? ” Well I have this fine filibuster as you can plainly see and an ace in the hole.  I dare you to challenge me.”

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How to Not Solve Gun Violence

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“Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is argument of tyrants, it is the creed of slaves.”
– William Pitt the Younger, 1783

Let me be clear. I am in favor of sensible gun control, background checks and loophole closures on regulatory laws. But I do not believe that these measures will directly affect gun violence or violence in general. Rather the effect will be indirect and symbolic at best.

I believe that the increase in mass killings, gun violence, violence in general is due to an overall sense of desperation, a sense of “no one has your back”. The safety nets are old and ineffective. The police are more likely to harm you than protect you. You will not be able to afford to retire. Your pension, your social security, your healthcare are no longer certain. Your investments (if you even have them) are being stolen from you. There is disorder and danger everywhere. Nowhere is your safety guaranteed.

What reaction can reasonably be expected given these circumstances? Well I think that the analogy of the “foxhole” is most useful here. You are alone, watching your own back, brandishing whatever weapons you have acquired. And you know the cavalry, the rescuers are not coming. They don’t exist. They too are in their foxholes fighting to hold on to what little they have left just like you.

This is not mental illness. This is reality. Psychiatry has drugs available to reduce your anxiety, to help you sleep, to help you stay awake, to attenuate the symptoms of depression. And we are learning that the side effects of these drugs may do as much or more damage as they do good.

So what is the solution you ask? Are you just one of those naysayers with whiny complaints and denigration of others’ efforts with no idea of how to solve these problems? Or are you one of the monolithic self-assured types with a ready simple solution in your pocket?

“When I was younger, so much younger than today,
I never needed anybody’s help in any way.
But now these daya are gone, I’m not so self assured…”
-The Beatles, “Help”

Well I guess I’m closest to the monolithic type here though I am not so self-assured and my solutions while simple in concept are not so simple to implement. I have written elsewhere in this blog (look up the previous posts if you need verification) that I believe the problem to be one of too much pressure on the middle and lower income classes in our society.

As we regulate guns we see increases in police violence, military violence, violence and killings without guns, etc. As one problem is “solved” another rears its ugly head.

While I believe that gun control legislation is a necessary step I also believe that until we solve the huge inequities in our world we will see little substantive reduction in violence in that world. I believe that this problem can only be solved on an international level and not simply by the United States alone.

Until we are able to establish stability in the classes that contain the large numbers of people in the middle and lower income classes we will have to live with violence of all sorts including guns, poisonings, knifings, bludgeonings, thefts, computer hackings, racism, class-ism and countless other types of violence and prejudice. It is anyone’s guess as to who or what group will be targeted next. There will be individuals, corporations, governments, innocent and not-so-innocent groups. No one is immune though some have more protection (not guns but security).

Unfortunately I see little if anything being done about social and economic inequities so I see no end in sight for violence. Perhaps we are going through another “dark age” or the actual “end times” if there is such a thing.

 

Posted in accountability, budget crisis, crime, Democrats, Gun regulation, Guns, healthcare, management, mass murder, mental illness, military, News Cycle, non-solutions, NRA, Occupy Movement, police, Politics, prophecy, racism, Religion, Republicans, second amendment, solutions, the end, white people, Women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Oh, No! Not Another Pope

For the first time in almost 600 years a sitting Pope has resigned. The last was Pope Gregory XII in 1415. And unending speculations and analyses have come forth over that. Some claim he this move weakens the church, some claim it strengthens the church. Only time will tell.

The election of a new pope is always a big deal. It is cloaked in grand ceremony and anticipated with great speculation and heavy news coverage. Every pope is different and some are more progressive than others. Pope John XXIII is the first pope I remember. His papacy ran from 1958 to 1963 and signaled one of the biggest changes in the Catholic Church with Vatican II which he opened in 1962. The fact that he did not live to oversee its conclusion has led to speculation as to how it would have been if he had. Nonetheless he was a highly influential leader and was subsequently declared a saint in 2000.

His successor Pope Paul VI and then the short-lived reign of John Paul I. John Paul II, the first Polish Pope, was the first pope in my memory to have an impact similar to that of John XVIII.

Benedict XVI certainly had his share of controversy, not the least of which is his having been a member of the Nazi Youth. And his rule was marked by the peak of the child sexual abuse cases which continue to plague the church.

I am hardly an expert on papal history and will not attempt to comment on the careers of these men save for a few observations. But I have been witness to the impact of some of these changes in my part of the world and am given to wonder what is in store for the next era.

Certainly there are the hopes that the next pope will liberalize the Catholic Church and take further steps to recognize and respect other religions. On another level there is the possibility being discussed of having the first American pope but that would be more of historical interest I think. It seems to me that the discussions of the papacy are largely centered on traditions and deviations from traditions rather than concerns about global and political impacts.

Regardless of who is elected the tasks at hand are great, at least in terms of the role of the Catholic Church and it’s role in the world. But I have to wonder if these tasks are so difficult because the church itself has lost relevance in the modern world. With its stances on the roles of women in the church, gays in the church and its unforgivable refusal to deal with sex abuse the church has lost its credibility for me.

Having been raised Roman Catholic I tried to see beauty in the church and its teachings. I did see some of that beauty but it has since been eclipsed by the wholly inadequate way in which I have seen the church deal with the modern world. I will look to the papal election with the interest I would the election of an official from a distant town whose impact will likely not touch my life.

Posted in accountability, papacy, Religion, sexual abuse, Women | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment