US Politics Explained

In a cogent ten-minute segment of a much longer program, Noam Chomsky offers a clear explanation of the US political situation and the forces driving it. Watch his low-key analysis and you’ll see that some of the happenings that leave us incredulous actually make perfect sense.

Using Chomsky’s frame for recent events, it easy to see why Mitch McConnell and the GOP establishment do what they do. Control of US politics depends on not letting the popular majority rule.

McConnell’s actions to scuttle tamper-proof voting, to stack SCOTUS with like-minded justices, and to lavish economic benefits on large business interests is justified in his mind by the threat to the establishment posed by reform candidates who want America to deal with the pressing issues that will be economic disrupters: climate change, economic justice, etc.

The Dem establishment is also trying to avoid big ideas that would disrupt the status quo and risk losing wealthy backers. It’s the young upstarts who are championing change. Chomsky warns that failure to see what he sees could lead to the GOP winning in 2016.

All of us are being played. The manipulation is happening through the media and most of us are not yet savvy enough to see it, nor are we outraged enough to adjust our personal priorities to do anything about it. Our democracy is being dismantled while we are distracted by the daily political theater.

God save America.

Lest we become inured

John Young is a pro journalist who writes a blog. He does very satisfying rants. Here is his latest…

 It just needs to be said aloud shouted out so that silence doesn’t become complacency and acceptance.

Fire! (not a full pail)

“Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” – William Butler Yeats

Education should have as it’s ultimate goal making a person an autonomous learner – someone who wonders, who has curiosity, and who is equipped to learn.

Being equipped to learn doesn’t just mean the three R’s. I means learning to harness intuition, do research, and come up with new ideas. It means to think critically and question what one assumes to be true.

It doesn’t mean being an isolated scholar. Learning is a social activity that draws on contemporary thought, and the vast body of knowledge amassed by thousands of years of humanity.

Humans dominate the planet because they collaborate and learn from one another.

Will we be smart enough to keep our Earth habitable?

R B Shreve, EARTH DAY 2019

Poverty – The Experience

Courier Times Photo
That’s me (unemployed) in line to get my lights back on. (Courier Times Photo)

I’ve never experienced real poverty. I’ve lived on a restricted budget as a college student and as a young married parent. I’ve never gone hungry, or been at risk of being homeless, or at my wits’ end about where to go or what to do simply survive.

But I got a glimpse of what it feels like by participating in a clever and realistic simulation presented by Bucks County Opportunity Council. The simulation lasted only an hour (four 15 minute weeks) but it drove many of the participants frantic with frustration.

We had to deal with bureaucratic delays and lines, lack of time and resources to do the basic things needed to pay bills, buy food, get to and from work, care for our children. We faced exploitation by payday lenders and banks.  We could easily imagine the plight of those in poverty, as we tried to juggle priorities and prevent eviction, utility shut-offs, missed meals. We experienced frustration, outrage, despair, and seething anger.  Little wonder that marriages fail, children get into trouble, and adults resort to crime. Life with few prospects and little hope can drive a person to desperation.

The take away is profound empathy for people who can’t make it without public assistance. They not only need help to survive, they need emotional support and encouragement in organizing to get on a path to self-sufficiency. Going it alone is a recipe for failure.

The Bucks County Courier Times writer James McGinnis described the experience well:

Poverty CT 181025

Don’t assume that those you love are above this situation.  Wages have not grown with the rest of the economy. In real dollars they have been flat for decades.  In the sixties we though that shelter should cost about 25% of a families income. Now families spend 30 to 50% to keep a roof over their heads. Recent surveys show that a shocking 80% of working families live paycheck to paycheck and have little or no savings. A $1,000 emergency becomes a crisis. Poverty is just one home accident or bit of bad luck away.

Each minimum wage job pays about $15,000 a year before taxes. It takes $60,000 a year for a family of 4 to live independently in Bucks County.

To make ends meet, an unskilled or semi-skilled person and their spouse might need three or four jobs. Minimum wage jobs rarely offer benefits or even stable employment. Nor are they easy or fun.

The MAGA Bomber

Thirteen small but potentially deadly bombs were mailed to left-leaning celebrities critical of President Trump. The reaction of media commentators and social media echo chambers will provide much for social scientists and journalism professors to study and write about in the future. The sequence of events as new facts emerged reveals how irrational people become when confronted by information that is not in harmony with their tribal beliefs.

View from the Left

Most of those not aligned with the right immediately blamed President Trump for publicly encouraging hate and violence and for conspicuously being slow and tepid about condemning it. They also noted that the characterization of leftist demonstrations as “violent mobs” deepens the fear and animosity felt by both sides.

One theme in several articles was “Stochastic Terrorism” – a theory that suggests that there are always a certain number of unstable people among any political group that may be moved to act by hearing rhetoric that suggests hate and violence. Thus, although no specific call to action was made, the law of averages kicks in, and a susceptible person commits an act of terror.

View from the Right

It was clear from the start that there was a partisan motive behind the targeting of the bombs. The right-wing commentators (Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, among others) promptly seized the opportunity to speculate that it was a liberal plot, a “false-flag” ploy, invented on the eve of the midterm elections, to drive voters away from GOP candidates. “Republicans just don’t do these things,” Limbaugh opined.

The Accused’s View

As I write this, I don’t have a quote from the accused bomber himself.  His lawyer says that he saw Donald Trump as a father figure. His van is plastered with partisan pictures that extol GOP leaders and Trump, and show prominent Dems with cross-hairs superimposed. As it turns out, he is something of a celebrity at Trump’s rallies, having been frequently photographed enthusiastically waving placards.

It’s clear the accused is what he appears to be – an over-the-top right-wing zealot whose passions drive him. Fortunately, the bombs didn’t explode, and the bomber left fingerprints and DNA that authorities were able to trace. Although police sought to cover the van’s incriminating artwork, it was so over-the-top that several individuals came forward with photos made long before the bombing.

The Silence

Those who were pushing the idea of a left-wing conspiracy have fallen silent and turned their attention to other matters. The late night comics made jokes about everyone knowing that the Dems are not well enough organized to pull off such a conspiracy. But even the conservative Weekly Standard couldn’t resist calling out the lords of loud on their implausible false-flag spin of the bomb threats.

What’s to be learned?

I offer a video sent to me by a North Carolina GOP partisan. She evidently found it very persuasive and forwarded it to show me how she feels and what she finds credible. This video is viral in her network with over one million (1,000,000) views logged. What about it makes you skeptical?


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