Archive for the ‘Politics’ Category

iceland bail out the people


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Everyone knows this quote:

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

It’s usually paraphrased as something like this:

“Those who don’t learn from history are bound to repeat it.”

Virtually no one can tell you who said it. It was the Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana.  Billy Joel at least made mention of Santayana at the beginning of “We didn’t start the fire.”  I bet well more than half the people who listen to that song can’t identify the events mentioned it, especially when you ask people who were born after that song came out.

I find that song rather accurate in that is pretty harsh condemnation of the Whig Theory of History as well as the Marxian Theory of History.  Both of these theories posit that history is pointing in a particular direction.

It’s not.

Now, you’d think that history would be pointing in a particular direction. So many things have happened over the course of human existence that you’d think we would have learned from our mistakes by now. We’d actually have a good idea of how to behave so that the greatest amount of good could come from our actions.

And you’d think we would.

But there is another quote that is sort of a corollary of Santayana:

“There’s a good reason why nobody studies history, it just teaches you too much.” — Noam Chomsky in 2003 at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

Chomsky sort of believes in a direction toward history. He once said that anarchism is an historical trend within the story of human existence, but I don’t believe he thinks of it as a trend in the way the Whigs and Marxists do.

But in that quote he shows that Santayana was correct.

We just live in a world full of historically illiterate people.

I am amazed at how many people think that the United States was founded upon Judeo-Christian values, when the truth of the matter is the greatest thing about the United States is that it was actually the first country that was founded upon the intellectual and philosophical postulates that came out of the Enlightenment.

It’s certainly true that various British colonies that eventually became part of the United States were founded as theocracies. Massachusetts, which currently has a larger population of Roman Catholics than protestants, once banned any church that wasn’t Puritan.

There is a famous story that the first English settler of Boston, William Blaxton, had his house burned down when the Puritans thought he was trying to establish the Church of England in the territory. Blaxton was an Anglican, and the Puritans considered it a wicked “Roman” church.

But any objective reading of history shows that the founding of the United States as we know it today came from people who were rejecting that sort of theocracy.

Virtually all the former colonies that became the United States had their own established churches, and when they became part of the US under our current constitution, they had to disestablish them, which caused quite a bit of friction.

But the revolutionaries who created this country were driven by Enlightenment ideals, not the Christianity that gave us the Salem Witch Trials or the Crusades or the Inquisition.

The religious right in this country has waged war against the Enlightenment. That’s their shtick.

And the best way they’ve done it is to deny the Enlightenment values that are at the base our national identity. One of the worst things one can do to one’s country is to deface its national identity, but these guys get away with it because they say Jesus a lot.

It’s so bad that there are large sectors of the US that have no idea what the Enlightenment even was, and they believe whatever their preachers and Fox News say about the founding of the US.

Here’s a very good example of what these people have come to believe. It’s a typical low information voter tirade, but this time it’s in a country song:


Never mind that most of the solutions outlined in this video are crap. Cutting taxes will not lower the deficit.  (The Laffer curve is not an absolute!) But cutting spending and raising taxes will. Drilling for oil here won’t lower the price of gasoline unless we either build a bunch of new refineries here or (heaven forbid) cut back on speculation on crude prices in the commodities market.

But those things are pretty easy to debunk.

It’s that last verse that is quite sickening.

This country was not built upon “faith in God in heaven.”

It was not.

You have to know not a blasted thing about the history of this country or our secular constitution to think that this is true.

It just isn’t. This country does provide for religious freedom, but our guiding principles of our nation come from eighteenth century England, Scotland, and France, not first century Palestine.

The Republican Party as it is now constituted relies upon a large sector of the population not knowing these facts.

It’s a faith-based political party, which has made a bizarre unholy alliance with the Wall Street barons, most of whom believe  in Jesus about as much as they believe in unicorns.

A major political party in this country became a faith-based institution, and this strategy helped it win more than a few elections.

But not the last one. In this last one, all the Jesus talk and all the anti-abortion mongering actually cost the Republican Party dearly.

It got what the Scots call a “good hiding” at the polls.

And for all the people who believed that the Republican Party was destined by God to win that election, it was like the whole world exploded.

All these people now want to secede or secdee or whatever.

If this last election had a subtitle, it would be “The Enlightenment Strikes Back.”

And I’d like to think we’re on the way to returning to these great traditions that really did make this country special.

But that would assume that there is a direction to history and that people would learn from it.

I know fully well that nearly half the country thinks the earth is 6,000 years old.

And yes, this is the same country that put a man on the moon.

But we still have utter imbeciles, like Rep. Paul Broun, on the House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology. He’s apparently a medical doctor, but I wouldn’t let him operate on a cat that I hated. He announced that evolution and the big bang theory were “lies from the pit of Hell.”

And so it is because of our historical ignorance that we slouch back towards those early colonial theocracies.

If the Republican Party as it’s currently constituted were ever to hold political power again in the same way it did in the first decade of this century, it would be a dangerous organization.

I voted Democrat almost entirely upon that understanding.

I don’t want to think what these loons (a name that is something of an insult to the birds the British call the divers) would have done if they had taken the Senate and had a right-wing, Cleon Skousen-following Mormon bishop for president.

This is not to say that the Democrats don’t have their own anti-rationalist and anti-skeptical inquiry constituents.

But they haven’t embraced in the same way. If Obama had being running as the Jesus candidate in the Democratic primaries in 2008, Hillary would have eaten him alive.

It wouldn’t have even been close.

But you better be anti-science if you’re going to run for president in the Republican Party these days.

“To be clear. I believe in evolution and trust scientists on global warming. Call me crazy.”

This was a Tweet by a Republican running for president.

Guess how well he did?

Not well.

He probably would have now been President-Elect Jon Huntsman had he been able to make it through the Republican primaries.

But publicly accepting science was the kiss of death.

Things are so bad in the Republican Party that even Pat Robertson wants them to cool it:

He’s just one step away from endorsing “evilution,” but I bet if that happens, Part Robertson will lose all his clout because he’s now a “liberal who doesn’t believe in the bible.”

We’re seeing the bitter fruit of historical illiteracy all around us.

History helps us put the events of the day in a proper context, but if you don’t understand it very well, you will fall for whatever cocked analogy some demagogue can throw at you.

It is this part of historical ignorance that leads to us constantly repeating error.

And no one wants to know the real history.

It’s actually often discouraged in schools, which is something that rather shocked me with graduate school.  I was shocked that people with doctoral degrees in political science had never heard of the various interventions that the US had engaged in in Latin America.

It was like those things never happened.

But they most obviously did.

If you don’t understand history, you can never really discern the present.

And the powerful rely upon historical ignorance for that very reason.

Don’t read history. Don’t be objective.

Just do as you’re told.

I think that’s one reason why so many of us who study history are so depressive.

All we read is a catalog of horrors– and so many of these horrors are repeat performances.

We wonder when people will try to learn from the mistakes of the past, but all we see is error compounding upon error.

In the US, we have a chance now to correct errors.

Maybe we will.

I can only hope so.

Obama ran on hope.

And honestly, that’s all he’s ever been able to deliver.


If hope’s all we can have, it’s certainly better than despair at another Dark Ages looming.

But it would be nice if some hope would be realized.

The thing is Obama can’t give it to us.

No politician can.

We have to demand it.

We have to fight for the Enlightenment.

We have to fight for decency.

We have to fight against barbarism.

It is the human struggle for these things that has made life bearable for the vast majority of the population.

It is the struggle that never will be finished.

It is a struggle where there will always be setbacks and defeats.

But it’s one in which we only totally lose if we give up entirely.

And I don’t know how we can live with ourselves if we do.

The odds are against us, and they always were.

But it’s one thing to stand for decency against the barbarians and know you’re going to lose and just let them win.

We can still do amazing things.

But it’s not going to be easy.

The fires will continue to burn so long as human ignorance exists on the planet.

The true progressive battle must be the fight for rationalism.

It is the real culture war right now. Without rationalism we cannot solve problems or even recognize what the problems are.

It’s only been in the past few years that progressives have recognized this reality.

But that’s the real struggle right now. The decent societies we might create need to go on the back burner for now.

We have to fight for the Enlightenment, for without the Enlightenment, there can be no progressivism.

Our entire political movement is based upon people recognizing reality and coming up with realistic solutions to solve problems.

Ours is not based upon religious texts, though one can find progressivism in the bible, if you dig around very carefully.

But I don’t think we serve ourselves very well if we try to use the bible for that purpose. If we selectively quote the bible to support our politics, we aren’t doing anything different from what the fundies do. It is the same logical process that validates and legitimizes those parts of the bible over others that empowers the fundamentalist that also empowers the Christian liberal.

I don’t think we can win an argument on religion texts.

But we can win an argument based upon reason and objective facts.

That’s why the struggle is not just against those who choose not to learn history.

Our struggle is against those who reject rationalism altogether.

That’s where we must start.

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What would General Lee do?

That’s just what he woulda done!

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And he puts it on his Facebook status. His followers are not amused:

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Go right ahead!

I hope this is Photoshopped! Please tell me it’s Photoshopped!

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The betrayal

Where I grew up, everyone read the “big city paper,”  The Parkersburg News. It’s a Republican rag from one of the more Republican cities in West Virginia.

And every Sunday, it publishes letters to the editor. Generally, more conservative readers feel more comfortable submitting letters, and some of these letters have some of the most exotic information in them. I make it habit to read them on Sunday. It’s usually good for a laugh.

However, every once in a while someone submits a letter that really strikes out at all that bullshit, and yesterday, there was this little gem:

Although I now live in Ohio, I am a native of the Mountain State [West Virginia]. One of my ancestors was Indian fighter Samuel Ferguson, who fought at King’s Mountain and was one of the first settlers in what is now Cabell/Wayne County, W.Va. Therefore, it both saddens and puzzles me that many present-day West Virginians are inclined to oppose their own best interests.

For 150 years, outside interests have controlled the destiny of this region. They have provided jobs, but they have also trashed the landscape and, in many instances, have treated West Virginia workers as “disposable resources.” Early UMW organizers realized this when they stood against corrupt and greedy mine-owners at Blair Mountain in the 1920s.

Today, there are other problems. Unlike Ohio, West Virginia is not a “swing-state.” This is because of the area’s declining population. Many West Virginians have been forced to leave the area because jobs have been eliminated or shipped overseas by greedy corporations whose only concern is the almighty bottom-line.

In the recent campaign, these same vested interests put forth numerous lies about a mythical “Obama war on coal,” but neglected to tell West Virginians that the decline of the coal-industry is not the “fault” of the recently re-elected Obama administration nor EPA regulations, but because of a drastic drop in the price of natural-gas, (engineered by opportunistic Wall Street commodities traders) that makes it cheaper to use gas instead of coal in electricity-generating plants. Despite this fact, many Mountaineers were conned into endorsing a candidate who epitomized the “vulture-capitalist” ideology that has decimated West Virginia’s economy for the past five decades.

Some say that West Virginians cling too closely to “God and guns.” I disagree. The good people of this region have been betrayed by two other “g”s – “greed” and their own “gullibility.”

Fred O’Neill

Marietta [Ohio]

That’s pretty much it.

This was the first election in which I saw no campaign signs along the highway for the Democratic nominee for president.

Senator Manchin and Governor Tomblin were both up for election this time. They both distanced themselves from the president, claiming that they would not endorse either Obama or Romney.

They won handily.

One state political figure who would not distance himself from the president was the attorney general, Darrell McGraw. He was always a champion of organized labor and consumer protection, and he made more than a few enemies with powerful interests.

He might have won had he done what Manchin and Tomblin did.  But he never denounced the president. I remember him campaigning for Obama when I went to see Joe Biden at an event in Charleston. I pretty much knew that when the election cycle began, that he would be the one politician who would not turn his back on the president for political expediency.

And it cost him the election.

Some will say that the war on coal meme made the whole state shake its Democratic roots, which were once so strong that it once voted for Dukakis in that wave election in which George Bush the smarter won a healthy landslide.


But I think it’s something else.

I think we’ve seen a systematic attempt to keep West Virginia colonial in its mentality.

There has been a war against good quality public education in the state. Most school systems don’t have the tax base to hire good quality teachers, and those good quality teachers who start in the state wind up going somewhere else.

When people aren’t taught critical thinking skills, they believe whatever bullcrap comes filtering down to them. Fox News is popular around here. And a high school dropout “evangelist” is somehow more qualified to explain the nuances of foreign policy than “them smart people on the teevee.”

But I don’t blame all of this on the failing public school system.

I blame almost all of it on the fundamentalist churches, which engage in a very strong and systematic war against critical thinking. Here’s a very good example of what they do:


When people are taught that creationism is a valid scientific fact and that evolution is an evil force that is being shoved onto them by “experts,” then the qualified expert becomes someone to be distrusted.

It  becomes acceptable to deny what the qualified expert tells you about the history of your state and of your nation.

If your preacher says that this has always been a Christian nation and then denounces the qualified historians who say otherwise, then you’re going to trust your preacher.

And he’s gonna tell you who to vote for.

He may not endorse, but he’ll definitely tell you that the only moral issues on the ballot are abortion and gay marriage.

And that’s as far as people take it.

It’s really quite sad.

The whole place is being turned into Ragged-Trousered Philanthropists.

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Too bad she didn’t do her homework:

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Get the dog anyway

Yesterday Mitt Romney said he was going to get a new dog if he won.

My advice now that he’s lost:

Get the dog anyway.

Now that he won’t be leading the free world, he’ll have plenty of time to run with a Weimaraner. Maybe he can the dog varmint hunting.

Just keep it off the roof of the car!



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But here’s a suggestion:


Make sure you vote today, if you haven’t already!

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