Authoritarianism vs. Humanism

What you’re reading now is a multiple-concept piece amalgamated from several other pieces, reworked and re-edited so many times I’ve lost count. The fact that several of my Facebook friends are now openly endorsing an unapologetic authoritarian, that I have severed my long-time association with the Liberty Dollar over their new commemorative coin, pushes me to complete this piece even though I remain dissatisfied with the way that it firms up.


I am troubled by undercurrents in politics that are presenting themselves these days. I have been troubled since I wrote the article Obama Best President Since Eisenhower and my tepid acceptance of who the next president should be, titled Hillary for President?What troubles me is elusive. It is hard to give it a label. It is even harder to find people discussing the perturbations that aren’t actually trying to cover them up in some way. This tendency to hide true motivations has made the process of expressing my concerns even harder to elucidate, to solidify into words, than they normally are.

I’ve written and rewritten this article more than a few times now with various titles and themes. It started out as Feudalism vs. Socialism, but I couldn’t get a handle on what precisely feudalism was based on the judgement of historians. None of them agree on what it was, when it started and when it ended. The death blow was that The Wife hated the original piece. She essentially forbade me to publish it because it was beneath me. I almost did publish it, but I knew I could do better.

While contemplating what it was I was trying to say with this piece, I ran across the concept of kyriachy; specifically it was this article on DailyKOS The Battle Over the Meaning of America: We Have to Fight It, and We Have to Win that got my attention, made me start reworking the article the first time around.

Colin Woodard’s American Nations

To imagine that our times are defined primarily by the struggle between “liberalism” and “conservatism” or between the Democratic and Republican parties is to be dangerously distracted and misled. There is a struggle that defines our times, all right, but it’s a struggle over what the United States of America is all about—what “America” means. And we have to be aware of this struggle and recognize it for what it is.

Here’s our task: We have to begin framing the debate not as liberal or conservative, Democratic or Republican, but as equality or neo-Confederacy. We have to do this every time we speak, every time we write.

We have to do this because we have to push the Democratic Party to stand for equality, not for equality-except-in-politics-and-economics.

We have to know what a progressive, pro-equality position is and what a neo-Confederate position is on every issue—which position promotes freedom for all, and which promotes only the “liberties” of a lucky, privileged class. We have to present those positions to every Democratic candidate and ask her to choose one, and if she chooses the patrician position, we have to ask her why she’s favoring inequality over equality. We have to make her see equality as sensible and popular and inequality as radical and unthinkable.

Because unless we have a Democratic Party that unequivocally stands for equality and rejects inequality—social, political and economic—we can’t have an America that stands for equality.

The Republicans have gone all in for neo-Confederate authoritarianism. We have to go all in, too, for liberty, equality, justice and dignity for all—or the long arc of the moral universe will bend away from us, away from justice, and back into the darkness of rule by force and fear.

DailyKOS, The Battle Over the Meaning of America

Equality is the founding principle of socialism, of humanism, no matter how poorly attempts to bring the notions of socialism into the world have failed, equality remains its basis. I tossed the idea out to see if it floated at a BBS I’ve been known to frequent with the title Egalitarianism vs. Kyriarchy, and got some interesting (and not so interesting) feedback. I just couldn’t get it to gel the way I wanted, so I disgustedly shelved the piece again.

Continuing my exploration of concepts, I ran across this Vox article The Rise of American Authoritarianism. That was when it hit me, the label for at least one of the forces at play in the world.

The political phenomenon we identify as right-wing populism seems to line up, with almost astonishing precision, with the research on how authoritarianism is both caused and expressed

After an early period of junk science in the mid-20th century, a more serious group of scholars has addressed this question, specifically studying how it plays out in American politics: researchers like Hetherington and Weiler, Stanley Feldman, Karen Stenner, and Elizabeth Suhay, to name just a few.

The field, after a breakthrough in the early 1990s, has come to develop the contours of a grand theory of authoritarianism, culminating quite recently, in 2005, with Stenner’s seminal The Authoritarian Dynamic — just in time for that theory to seemingly come true, more rapidly and in greater force than any of them had imagined, in the personage of one Donald Trump and his norm-shattering rise.

Vox, The Rise of American Authoritarianism

Authoritarianism is old, as old as humanity. Everyone in some corner of their mind can find some kinship with the notions of the great man, someone we can turn to in order to fix the problems that trouble us. If we can hand it all to him, he will make it alright. That is authoritarianism, in a nutshell. It manifests in the current election in the two counter-culture Presidential candidates Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, but the dream of the great man predates all of us.

What is the other force though? The other codifying idea that people coalesce around. It really isn’t socialism per se. Those with authority want you to believe that capitalism vs. socialism is the fight that continues. The holders of old money, the inheritors of new money, the powerful who want to retain power. They raise the specter of socialism like a bogeyman to scare those of us who remember when socialism was the masque worn by dictators across Europe and Asia.

The mind reels at trying to communicate the fear that the word socialism engenders in the minds of people who remember the Berlin wall as a real barrier people were shot crossing. How to communicate the history? Twenty-eight years before 2001, the events that today’s generations remember as 9/11. Back in the time when 2001 was a symbol of a bright future in a film yet to be made, I was born. Born the same year Camelot came to an end. JFK was shot three months after mom gave birth. My mother escaped from Europe on the heels of what she figured was the beginning of WWIII, the general suspicion being that the USSR had a hand in the death of our president.

The end of an age, the beginning of another one.

What were those years like, what was the feeling during that time? It’s hard even for me to say. From 1963 to 1969 there was assassination after assassination in the political sphere. JFK. MLK. RFK. The riots. The marches. Vietnam. Then the 70’s. Nixon and Watergate. The fall of Saigon.

Carter and the oil embargo. The Iran hostage crisis. The return of Ronald Reagan.

When and where I graduated high school in flyover country, Red Dawn was seen as prophetic when it premiered in 1984. I mean really prophetic, not some kind of hokey, campy the Russkies are coming to get us kind of joke you hear so often these days. We knew the commies were coming to get us, it was just a matter of time, and the feds in DC were the real joke, because they had no idea what was going on in the world.

Saying it that way it seems like a substantial conflict, cognitive dissonance on steroids. How could there be a bright future in 2001, while Red Dawn was a real prophecy of the failure of capitalism, both at the same time? That was/is the kind of discord present in every mind that thinks there is a grand conspiracy out there somewhere running things. There is the world that is, and the world as it really is, and you have to decode the one to find the secret other world.

Besides, 2001 was nearly 20 years away. Who can see 20 years into the future?

It was all a lie. All of it. There were no (still are no) grand conspiracies and the USSR which had survived on graft for generations finally collapsed under its own weight. Not long after that I got a job and started working for a living and they redrew all the maps I memorized in school, and life went on as if we hadn’t spent the last 40 years afraid of our own shadows.

The war machine though, it went on without stopping. With no enemies to fight, the machine still wanted us to act like we were at war. Reagan was AWOL in his own head virtually from the day he took office. His VP barely squeaked out a win on Reagan’s coattails and had to raise taxes to pay for the killing machines conservatives wanted him to build. Bush I lost to Bill Clinton because of the fiscal reality of who pays for the war machines, the wars, but Slick Willy still had to appease the conservatives who held power and the majority, scared in their own beds at night of the commies waiting to get them. Bill fought every battle he found an excuse for just to keep them quiet and still couldn’t justify the military budget, which he had to cut.

Then came the surprise that created the world we know now; created it out of silicon and electricity. PC’s became widely available. Suddenly everyone had the ability to wax verbose across the entire US. Not too long after the US was wired, the whole world was wired. We went from having to do research that took months and years to complete in dusty libraries across differing regions, to being able to access virtually all of human knowledge with the click of a mouse.

Not all of the knowledge is real, though. Very little of it actually is.

It became possible to find news on your own, invent news on your own. No longer force-fed nightly at 6 and 10, you could binge on news 24/7. News that you wanted to read/watch/listen to, not the things that the media determined were things an educated public should know. The doors started to come off the media machine, the carefully crafted machine that fed the US and the world the news it wanted us to hear. Out of that chaos was born the conservative echochamber as we know it today.

The conservative echochamber elected Bush II. Conservatives fed off other conservatives, on channels they created to coordinate what it was they wanted done, how they wanted their arguments to proceed. What they wanted the grass roots to believe. Small government. Low taxes on the wealthy so they would spend more. Low taxes on everybody so that they had more to spend. A war machine to rival all others. Jobs for everybody. All of it born out of the half-baked plans that came to power with Reagan, that influenced Reagan. Neoconservatism. Libertarian economics. A perversion of Goldwater conservatism that even Barry Goldwater would be hard pressed to back.

With Jesus and the prosperity gospel, they brought their selected candidate to office.

I never did credit W with a wealth of brains. Familiarity breeds contempt, and as a Texan I knew what kind of lackluster thinker the Junior Bush was. He did know at least one thing, because it wasn’t that hard to figure out. Any human group works better together with an enemy to fight, and he started off his term in office with every intention of dealing with Iraq and Saddam Hussein, even before that fateful day in September of 2001.

A relative of his Saudi business partners, Osama Bin Laden, had similar if opposing goals. Having been betrayed by the US at the end of the Cold War when we abandoned the Mujahideen in Afghanistan, outraged by the stationing of infidel troops in the holy land, OBL hatched a plan to start a war with the US by destroying the icons of US capitalism and dominance in the world, the trade center in NYC.

The towers fell and the wars started, and the jobs never came and the debts mounted.

That is what it has been like, from then to now. Conservatives afraid of commies, of socialism, suspicious of even their countrymen, especially their liberal countrymen who didn’t see the threat, backing whatever horse showed up, because they prayed to their god to send them a saviour. Faith in the supernatural, reliance on the unknowable, fear and betrayal and more betrayal. That is why the conservative base is backing a demagogue in the current election. They are tired of being betrayed by complex people with complex arguments, and they want a war to destroy their enemy (whoever that is) before they are themselves destroyed.

Dissolved into history.

Returning to the narrative, that is why socialism is a non-starter in fly-over country, the vast angry red areas of the United States. They still think socialism is a thing to be afraid of. They have no idea that socialism is their insurance coverage. Their police force. Their fire fighters. Their hospitals. Any effort that benefits us all and doesn’t have a clear profit motivation to push it forward, that is socialism at work.

Socialism means no more and no less than control of social systems being held by the many rather than the few. That costs to maintain and run the system are spread across the social groups the system serves rather than paid directly by the person who receives the benefit.

When you get a check from your insurance company, you have benefited from a socializing system. The cost to reimburse you for your loss is borne by the group who pays premiums to that insurance company. When you are injured and rushed to a hospital, the existence of those systems being there to keep you from dying is due to socialism’s influence. When you log on to your computer to check Facebook or whatever social site is popular right now, the existence of that system is due to the socializing influence of government investment in technology.

The internet was not conceived of by a single corporation, was not the brainchild of a single mind. It was conceived of by many people working separately with funds infused by government for the purpose of stimulating research. It was the product of many people working towards the goal of making knowledge available to a larger and larger group of people, for the betterment of humanity as a whole. The internet is the most social of social structures ever invented by man. More social than the grandest ideals of socialism, more liberating than millions of dollars handed to each and every poor person.

The opposing force for Authoritarianism is deeper than socialism, which is why acceptance of socialism as the good is irrelevant in the long run. Authoritarianism is the godhead. The worship of absolute authority over all things living. What opposes it is just as strong, but largely unvoiced. It is an expression of the value of each human life. It is at its core humanism, the valuing of the human over the spiritual or supernatural. The movement that was spawned with the enlightenment and has been forgotten by most people today.

Those of us who do remember 30 years ago remember Hillary Clinton’s first entrance on the world stage as First Lady to William Jefferson Clinton’s Presidency. Sadly it is against the backdrop of his presidency that her suitability for office is judged, rightly or wrongly. Her first book It Takes a Village was routinely derided by conservatives who knew the harsh cruel world for what it was, never actually asking if that was the world they wanted to live in or not. Whether it might be in our power to change the nature of the world, at least among us humans.

But the humanist notions of It Takes a Village have proven to be true over time. We do need to create a better world for our children and grandchildren and generally the word to describe what we have experienced from the 60’s through the present day in 2016 is progress. Perhaps social progress without economic progress, but progress all the same. A leveling out of society at a lower economic status than Americans have had to make do with since before our grandparents were born. Well, your grandparents anyway. Economics and capitalism is where the American population needs progress now, and capitalism is the subject that authoritarians want us to talk about the least.

Capitalism is nothing more or less than an outgrowth of the creation of money for trading goods and services. An outgrowth of the common notion that one should profit from transactions with others. Capitalism and money are themselves tools, part of the bigger picture of human interactions. Money cannot exist without others who accept that currency represents a fair trade for value, making capitalism/socialism a false dichotomy easily destroyed by authoritarians bent on altering the system to suit their goals.

Historical feudalism was an expression of authoritarianism, and facets of feudalism persist into the modern age long past the time when historians have credited it as dead. The notion that one can be granted title to people as well as property by a King or other warlord who controls a region seems outmoded or medieval; however the actual governing of areas, the ownership of lands and systems in the modern age seems hardly different in practice. Holding title to lands was first introduced as a feudal practice. Inheriting that title and associated wealth was also introduced then.

Obviously a family will and should be allowed to continue to use what was held by the head of the household before death. That seems like common sense. But the idea that it belonged to his/her heirs, the notion of heirs, that is feudalism. Is it justice for inheritors to possess gains which were ill-gotten? Gains handed to the original owner on the basis of skin color or where they called home previously? Where is the justice in that, where is the room to be merely human in a world of rigid structure like that?

One can argue that people are no longer property, held with the lands. That is probably the one big difference between the modern world and the ancient world. People are no longer legally property in most places around the world. But if you are poor and cannot afford to leave the lands you were born into (Greece in perspective) the functional difference between the two states blurs. The poor and unfortunate are the pawns of today’s systems just as they were in feudal systems; entirely at the mercy of those who control them. For the poor, there is little improvement through the ages aside from modern plumbing.

Capitalism is not a social structure. It is an economic philosophy of a value for value trade, a good solid basis for dealing fairly with those around you. A basis for labor having a value of its own which can be traded for goods and other labor at a later time. Capitalism has nothing at all to say about the content of society, what the minimum standards of living should be, what humane treatment of the sick and injured should be, how the elderly are cared for; in fact, it has little of merit to say about most things human.

During the course of the First World War the old establishments of feudalism/authoritarianism started to give way to the new ideas of democracy and self-rule. If you aren’t a student of history, you might not know that WWI saw the end of one of the longest running governments in human history, the Ottoman Empire. It was itself the inheritor of much of the wealth and knowledge of the Byzantine Empire which marked time all the way back through the Roman Empire almost to the beginning of recorded history. So the belief that feudalism was a practice limited to the middle ages is not much more than a quaint notion for scholars to debate. The practices of feudalism were encoded into law, and some of them continue to this day.

The United States, an early precursor of the modern age of democracy, one man one vote, wisely adopted many of the mechanisms established by the successful feudal societies that founded the colonies it sprang from. Things like corporations to shield business owners from direct personal liability for business losses. Things like a sound money system which established a commodity as the base measure of value. But the US has always been a mixed economy; mixed as in respecting the feudal/capitalist nature of the systems that were inherited from the English and the Dutch.

Corporations are feudal creations, originally charters granted by emperors and kings, and their structures are feudal in execution. Yes, a group requires a leader, that is a given of all human systems. But the value of that leadership in today’s world is highly over-rated. The pay for corporate executives far out-weighs the contributions they make to the process of creating the goods and services a corporation produces (Saving Capitalism) the average person on the street cannot name the current head of a single corporation. Some of the more savvy could probably name Bill Gates and Steve Jobs, but neither head corporations any longer. Political junkies could point to Carly Fiorina or Donald Trump.

This is the intersection which we are currently attempting to navigate. Donald Trump represents exactly what economic conservatives have wanted for a generation; a businessman willing to take on the job of running the country; running the country like a business. Unfortunately for them he exhibits even less control than the previous businessmen conservatives have flirted with nominating. He launched his candidacy by laying this turd in full view of the watching world;

When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.

Donald Trump

Donald Trump. Or as I like to refer to him, the Orange Hate-Monkey. Fake tanned, he has embraced the conservative tropes of yesteryear, flinging the hatred of other like a monkey flings shit at gawkers at the zoo. His supporters hear only that they will be saved, if they follow him. That is all they want to hear.

I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?

Donald Trump

Donald Trump is the poster boy for feudal privilege. Far from being a hero of the common man, an example of bootstrapping, Trump inherited his wealth and businesses from his father. He has bankrupted those businesses not once, but four times. His claim to authority is based entirely on his birth to a position of wealth and influence, the modern equivalent to nobility. The Dukes & Earls of previous societies are now referred to as CEO or CFO. Positions on the boards of large corporations mark your power within modern feudal society. Governments bow to your whims, write laws to benefit your finances, cater to your desires to the detriment of the poor forced to work for a living within the societies you rule.

I love the poorly educated

Donald Trump

Many, many people look at Hillary Clinton, look at her with the backdrop of 40 years of increasingly more conservative dominated politics, as well as the Presidency of her husband, and can’t see how she is an improvement on the President we currently have. There are independents who look at the two major party candidates and inexplicably cannot see a difference between the two of them, because they can’t separate the woman from the men she has been required to serve with, the real estate developer who has lied to himself for so long he doesn’t even know what the truth is anymore.

Maybe I’m just weird.

I’m struck today with the same sense of surrealism that I’ve had since the day I first heard the term Birther, long before there was such a thing as Birther-in-Chief, another apt Trump label. When I heard the accusation that Barack Obama wasn’t an American, I recognized it immediately as racism and dismissed it. When the conspiracy fantasy wouldn’t go away, when the Birther-in-Chief picked up this obvious dog whistle and wouldn’t stop blowing it, I realized that the conservative echochamber was a thing, not just a possibility.

These people don’t know reality from fantasy. Their fantasies about what goes on in the world mean more to them than the facts that govern it. They dismiss those facts when convenient, when the facts get in the way of their fantasies. And since the echochamber reflects back to them what they want to hear, they never get the corrective feedback that reality attempts to deliver.

In much the same way, it is painfully clear to me that misogyny governs most of the reporting that goes on in relation to Hillary Clinton. The media desperately attempt to echo the narrative that the long-dominant political forces in the US seem to want to hear. But there are voices out there sending the feedback that we need to be listening for, if only we are paying attention.

However, even if the worst of the worst of the beliefs about Hillary Clinton are true (and they aren’t) There is no way, NO WAY POSSIBLE that she could be as bad, much less worse than Trump. The beast that he has shackled himself to requires human sacrifice to be satiated. That is what happens when you found your campaign on creating an enemy in our midst. When your every other pronouncement decries the barbarian at the door.

Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on

“American fascism will arrive carrying a cross and wrapped in a flag” and it has. However, there is no one person to fear that enters dragging fascism in their wake. The threat is not the figurehead, the Trump or the Hitler. The people to fear are those willing to vote for wrong, to back wrong with force, in the mistaken belief they are right. And that is scarier than the mere presence of Donald Trump on the political scene.

These people desire the destruction of the system itself, in their mad desire to be free of their fears, to the potential destruction of us all.

How is that, you ask?

The delivery of modern technology and modern medicine are such complex ventures that their continuation virtually requires the existence of government, government which is now threatened by corporate greed and corporate malfeasance. It is corporations who benefit from the loss of governmental power, not the individual. Corporations who stand ready to reap larger and larger profits at the cost of the lives of the poor and the sacrifice of the rest of the middle class in the US and across the face of the world. Corporations which must be brought to heel by government if we are ever to see the dawn of a new age. The age of the individual as expressed through humanism, the leveling of the playing field with the more equal distribution of information through technology.

Corporate Personhood: How Did We Get Here?Move to Amend

Humanism is the vehicle which will bring the corporations to heel. Its time has finally arrived, let us not waste this opportunity to grasp the future for ourselves, our children and our children’s children. Trust in our ability to make the systems work to our benefit, using modern technology as our tool. It matters little what Hillary Clinton wants to do, so long as she keeps the systems running long enough for us to realize the potential present in the technology we now have at our disposal. Let us not fear the future, but embrace it.


Liberté, égalité, fraternité

#MAGA: The Wealthy Stupid or the Stupid Wealthy?

h/t to StonekettleStation for this link. This is the second installment of #MAGA = Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans


I got into an argument just last week with someone who wanted me to read a clickbait article over at Cracked.com; an article that promoted absolute majority rule, direct democracy, as the solution to our problems here in the US. I refused to read the article, which pissed several commenters off.

I refused to read the article because, as the illustration shows, the argument is presented without being required to read anything aside from the click-bait left at the opening to the rabbit hole. As I said on that thread,

Allowing for direct democracy is a can of worms none of us want to open. Just think about it long enough and you’ll understand. Still don’t get it? Think about a country made of a million RAnthony’s and one you. Get the picture now?

What surprised me was the number of people who still refused to accept that argument as proof that direct democracy was a bad, bad idea. There is hope for my political future after all, I guess. I am not nearly as unpopular as I think I am.

Today was much like that day a week ago, except the image was not a self-contained argument that I could rebut simply by sticking to what was in the meme image.

I loathe, loathe! Facebook and meme images. Why? Because it makes it far too easy to communicate falsehoods without them being questioned. Almost on a daily basis I find myself having to push back against some fool or other who thinks their images are the best thing and if I don’t agree 100% with the message in their image then I really am one of the sheeple. And Facebook is loaded with people who are not good enough at memes to be able to make it on icanhas.cheezburger.com where the modern notion of meme image (which keeps Richard Dawkins up at night) was invented.(editor’s note: The Unappreciated Art of the Troll is recommended reading for anyone who thinks their meme images are the best) Specifically it was this image and article that got me started today.

See, rural jobs used to be based around one big local business — a factory, a coal mine, etc. When it dies, the town dies. Where I grew up, it was an oil refinery closing that did us in. I was raised in the hollowed-out shell of what the town had once been. The roof of our high school leaked when it rained. Cities can make up for the loss of manufacturing jobs with service jobs — small towns cannot. That model doesn’t work below a certain population density.

I’m telling you, the hopelessness eats you alive.

And if you dare complain, some liberal elite will pull out their iPad and type up a rant about your racist white privilege. Already, someone has replied to this with a comment saying, “You should try living in a ghetto as a minority!” Exactly. To them, it seems like the plight of poor minorities is only used as a club to bat away white cries for help. Meanwhile, the rate of rural white suicides and overdoses skyrockets. Shit, at least politicians act like they care about the inner cities.

How Half Of America Lost Its F**king Mind

Someone found the meme generator later in the day and produced this image, but the first image was what I woke up to. The article is a good entertaining read but the author left out several key parts of this equation, the illustration that he’s trying to paint with words.

He left out the part where the people who support the Orange Hate-Monkey are once again left where they are, in the dust, because the actual Nazis who will take power with the Birther-in-Chief will no more care for the plight of rural America than any of the insincere candidates that conservatives have elected in the past 40 years have. This is a crucial point.  Ronald Reagan knew that country folk were bumpkins who would buy anything you sold them if you just phrased it the right way. It comes across in every speech he gave, that folksy down-to-earth awe shucks posing that he did so well on the big screen and in office. The Republican party has continued this insincere pandering to rural white America with varying degrees of success.

Has continued pandering right up to today. Right up to this point when the ultimate poser, a demagogue with a fully transparent agenda, arrived on the scene to make the kinds of promises that conservatives before him were too smart, too well versed in the real nature of politics, to actually make.  Let me finish this illustration that the Cracked author failed to put the finishing strokes on.

What will happen if the Real Estate Developer wins will be the terrorizing of cities by lynch mobs looking for those others that they know are there. Because that is what a Trump vote will ultimately be; A vote for fear. A vote for us versus them. A vote for social purity. A vote for continuing the failed economic practices established by Reaganites and maintained to this day.

There is a ton more I can say on this subject, but I’m going to try and crank out a second piece today or tomorrow that covers the amount of bad that a President Trump could inflict.

I want to devote more effort into painting an alternative that I haven’t touched on yet but have thought a lot about, and that the Cracked author never even addressed at all, even tangentially.

A canny politician from the blue areas could easily fix the rural problems around his/her city by simply caring for the areas that feed their cities. A federal government that already prints money could print money in a different way, spread it across the nation and eliminate rural sympathy for conservatives in one fell swoop.

Don’t believe me? Let me illustrate.

Imagine what would happen if the federal government started paying every American $99 a month. All you have to do to get it is open an account and you could qualify for this benefit. Call it an automation offset call it a dublafluwhichy, I don’t actually care what you call it, just follow along. Leave a counter-argument in the comments if you feel the need.

If you don’t have a bank in your rural area, that’s fine.  You can open an account at the Post Office which every incorporated municipality in the US has already. Putting money in your account would be like buying a money order which you already can get there anyway.  Spending the money would be just like using any other credit card in the US.

Any money left in the accounts for longer than a month would be subject to a modest negative interest rate (say 1%) giving any organization that offered the accounts an incentive to offer them. It would also allow the government a way to reclaim excess currency since the accumulation of unspent wealth is a burden on the rest of the system which relies on the free flow of goods and services paid for with currency.

I hear you saying $99 isn’t enough.  I know that, the number isn’t the important part.  The actual automation offset would be subject to raising or lowering based on how much extra currency was laying around unspent in the average citizen’s account. The important part is to get money in the hands of the average rural citizen without them having to work for it. That is the key.

It makes the notion that you have to work for what you get a lie on it’s face. Everyone will have something they never worked for. Out the window goes most of the forced labor still present in the US, the justification for it’s existence gone with most of the crushing poverty.

How is that you ask? When a child is born the account is funded.  By the time they reach adulthood, if they haven’t tapped into that account there will be a sizeable sum still waiting for them to spend. If they have had to utilize those funds (with parental oversight) then their childhood will have been made that much easier because of the ability to pay for things the family needs.

Let’s go one further and say that the government creates that account at birth and pays interest as well as drop the automation offset into the account until the age of maturity.  Every child would have an education fund ready to be tapped. A medical fund available to pay for health expenses. All without the parents having to do anything aside from have a child.

Like the Cracked author, I grew up in the reddest of red states and now live in one of the bluest of blue cities. Like the Cracked author, I believe that hard work and healthy families make for a better, more fulfilling life. Unlike the Cracked author, I know what a foolish devotion to consistency can do to create the negatives we are all opposed to.

One of those negatives is the need to punish others who seem to get something for nothing in this life. A hatred of the poor for being poor, because all you need to not be poor is to work harder; something that I bought into for decades before learning the hard way that poverty is waiting for all of us no matter how hard you work.

The Myth of Bootstraps has the entire series of these podcasts in it.

In rural America $99 is tidy sum of money, whereas in the cities $99 dollars is a drop in the bucket. That is the real crime present here, that a dollar isn’t the same dollar across the various parts of the US. It is time to equalize the value of the dollar, by putting some of them in the pockets of the average American who has been taken advantage of for the better part of 40 years. 

It just takes knowledge of the real problem that needs to be fixed for a solution to be offered. Here’s hoping someone with the authority to make change happen stumbles across an idea like this in the near future.

#MAGA = Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans

False

I was doing my dead-level best to be non-confrontational when I replied to the poster of this image earlier today on Facebook. I was attempting to not be the freethinker that I am, but instead be an unbiased observer answering the question presented.

You can see it, right? The problem in the sign? In the question? You can’t? Please allow me to spell it out for you then.

Let’s assume that there is nothing wrong with putting god first. It’s a big assumption, but play along with me for a few minutes. Whose god shall we put first?  There are thousands of gods created by man down through history. Thor? Isis? Jupiter? Allah?

I know, I’m just teasing you.  Obviously it is the christian god that the sign wants us to put first. This is America, home of the Bible thumpers. Obviously the meme creator means the christian god. But there still is a question that needs answering, even then. Are we talking about the magic underpants Mormon god, or perhaps the Calvinist predestination god? Are we talking about the Catholic god or the Protestant god? Which one of the thousands of flavors of christian god gets to be the God that goes first before all things?

The problem is that Americans, specifically European Americas, largely immigrated to the Americas to escape religious persecution (this is the comment that got me blocked by the family member who posted the image) I could produce any number of references backing up this historical truth.  The one I picked today was this one.

The religious persecution that drove settlers from Europe to the British North American colonies sprang from the conviction, held by Protestants and Catholics alike, that uniformity of religion must exist in any given society. This conviction rested on the belief that there was one true religion and that it was the duty of the civil authorities to impose it, forcibly if necessary, in the interest of saving the souls of all citizens. Nonconformists could expect no mercy and might be executed as heretics. The dominance of the concept, denounced by Roger Williams as “inforced uniformity of religion,” meant majority religious groups who controlled political power punished dissenters in their midst. In some areas Catholics persecuted Protestants, in others Protestants persecuted Catholics, and in still others Catholics and Protestants persecuted wayward coreligionists. Although England renounced religious persecution in 1689, it persisted on the European continent. Religious persecution, as observers in every century have commented, is often bloody and implacable and is remembered and resented for generations.

The Library of Congress

 It was this experience that lead the framers of the constitution to explicitly leave all references to religion out of the founding documents for the United States of America. It is why the first amendment to the constitution, the first right in the bill of rights, is freedom of religion. The freedom to have any religion or no religion at all. That is what freedom of conscience means; the right to choose your own path based on your own private council.

The inherent mistake in the image is the shallow belief that your god must be affirmed in order for America to return to greatness, when in actuality no one follows your god except you. This understanding is built right into most flavors of the protestant christian religion. It was necessary for the protestants to be able to talk to god directly and not have to go through the intercessor of the Pope and his priests. To not have to ask any authority except your own conscience for forgiveness. To do away with the bureaucracy of religious authority and rely on the individual’s personal relationship with their own god to show the right and wrong of their own behavior.

Catholics risk going to hell for transgressing the Pope’s edicts. They alone of all christians have an authority that talks to god for them and lets them know whether their behavior is good or bad. The 90% of Catholic women who use contraception are breaking the rules of their church as defined by the Pope, but you don’t see too many of them worried about this sin that they engage in on a daily basis. Why? Probably because they don’t put god first. Who can blame them when the cost of raising a child tops a million dollars these days? If men could give birth, contraception would be a mandate funded by the federal government.

However, the Catholic god is the only christian god that can be mandated and have a code of ethics attached to it by right of the Pope’s edicts. All the other christian gods are held within the individual consciences of each person who calls themselves a christian, and mandating those gods be put first is simply a affirmation of one person one vote as the basis for the organization of government. Liberal democracy is the basis for empowering all protestant religions large or small.

American greatness, liberal democracy in general, resides in the right of the people to follow their own individual paths to greatness. The individual freedom to keep your own council, to act according to one’s own conscience, makes America as a whole greater than the sum of its separate parts. We forget this fact at our peril.

What has to come first, before god, before religion, is something that was created with the United States itself; the notion of the supremacy of secular civil society. While individually our consciences must be acknowledged as our guides, what must guide our government is consensus, not any one person’s god or conception of god.

America is already great, and the saddest fact of all is that a wide swath of Americans don’t know this. They have fallen victim to a charlatan’s flim-flam act. A snake-oil salesman who hopes to cash-in on the lies told to the people of the United States for decades now.  He claims he can Make America Great Again, as if American greatness is something that can be given to us by an authority figure.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

American greatness is found when Americans realize we don’t need authority figures to tell us what to do. American greatness is based in all of us acting on the council of our own consciences. Providing food and shelter to the homeless. Comfort for the bereft. A ear for those who just want to be listened to. The answer is not to ask a leader “what should I do?” but to ask yourself that question in the light of your most fervently held beliefs, and then act on that advice in the best, most humane way possible. In the end, we will come to a better answer than any authority with a lifetime of knowledge can get to on his own. This is known as The Wisdom of the Crowd, and it is true whether you believe it or not.

Steven Pinker‘s book The Better Angels of Our Nature puts the lie to the notion that we are in a moral decline without god, and there are countless other resources which document through scientific inquiry the improving quality of life in the modern age. If you want to know why you are dissatisfied with your lot in life, you need look no farther than the contents of your own mind. Be the change you want to see in the world, and the world will look better to you because of it.  Not because of god, or of any other authority you might appeal to.

Or as I would say to the person who posted the image if I was still speaking to her, don’t ask questions you don’t want to hear answers to. It will save all of us a lot of time. 

MAGA: The Fallacy of “Free Stuff”

Everything that gets done by humans as a group requires humans as a group to do it. There will always be free-ridership and people who get more out than they put in. Should we then say “fuck it” and climb back up in the trees? Go back to the caves because the trees were a bad idea? Where does this regression end?

Surveys and studies have been conducted that show that investment in education yields benefits far beyond the dollars invested. Studies have also shown that barrier-free healthcare yields better outcomes for the vast majority of people living in a system. That these benefits translate to better productivity for more years for more people.

Only stupid people argue against investments that profit everyone including themselves. Even those people who object to lazy people getting free stuff.

Facebook.

Stormtrumper

A name coined for Donald Trump fans by Berkeley Breathed in these two cartoons.


Instagram tribute.

Editor’s note. This was added as a definitive source when I started using stormtrumper as a noun on the blog. It was backdated to when the comics first appeared on Facebook. BB occasionally pulls down the comics he posts to Facebook. Also, non-Facebook users do not have access to those posts. I have two birds …er problems, that I solved with this one post. Simple solution.