Friday, May 13, 2016

Ralph Nader on Tort Reform

A lot of people get pretty fired up about tort reform.  Our health care premiums and products cost so much more because of "frivolous lawsuits."  You know, people that pick up their lawn mowers to trim their bushes and get injured just run to the nearest ambulance chasing lawyer and get awarded millions of dollars.  This is why everything is so terrible.

We should ask ourselves who might benefit from these arguments by anecdote.  Who do you think wants to prevent an ordinary poorer person from having the tools necessary to push back against a powerful corporation that is guilty of negligence that has caused harm?  Who do you think doesn't like power shifted from the board room to a jury?  Who doesn't want to have to disclose what they knew about the dangers of their products?  Who doesn't want to have to spend a lot of engineering dollars improving products to make them safer?  Who do you think has a vested interest in getting you fired up about the need for tort reform?

Did you know that while insurance companies and their lobbyists claim that things like medical malpractice lawsuits give them no choice but to raise premiums dramatically these same companies refuse to allow the public to know how much they pay out in relation to the premiums they collect?  Did you know that in the cases where they have passed legislation that has limited your ability to sue or limited the amount you can collect in damages there is not a commensurate reduction in premiums or even slow down in the rate of premium increase?

Ralph Nader writes a pretty long but informative article you can read here if you are interested in these matters.

Sunday, January 31, 2016

Sanders vs the White Moderate

You have to respect conservatives.  They want more money in the pockets of the rich, they oppose democracy, they don't care about the environment.  And they are honest about it.  Someone like Sanders wants single payer health care, bold action on climate change, tax increases on the rich.  Sure, they oppose those things and always have.  You recognize them as your opponents, but it's not like they're stabbing you in the back.

But get ready when you start getting close to the point where you could actually implement policies that white moderates have pretended they like all along.  The white moderates flip and join the conservatives, showing that their true allegiance is to the establishment and monied interest all along.  If you were paying attention you already knew that, but if you weren't you might be surprised.

The naive might take Paul Krugman to be the kind of person that would like what Bernie offers.  And he does.  When it has no chance of being implemented.  When you get close he's switching sides.  Here's Glenn Greenwald's take down.  The so called liberal Washington Post editorial board.  Watch Cenk's take down.  Rachel Maddow?  She's covered Bernie positively somewhat, but she won't criticize Hillary in the way she criticizes Republicans when Hillary does what they do.  Watch a commentary here.  Ezra Klein, the NY Times editorial board.  You should see the CNN debate moderators and other debate moderators.  "Bernie, why have you flip flopped on guns?"  Then it's "Hillary admits her Iraq war vote was a mistake, why isn't that good enough?"

Should Bernie win tomorrow you'll see more of this from these white moderates.  They'll really start freaking out.  Don't be surprised, it's been this way forever.  Here's what ML King said in 1963 about these people:
"First, I must confess that over the last few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro's great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizen's Council-er or the Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate who is more devoted to "order" than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says "I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can't agree with your methods of direct action;" who paternalistically feels he can set the timetable for another man's freedom; who lives by the myth of time and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a "more convenient season."
Update:  A couple of more commentaries from Cenk.  This one contrasts the questions asked of Bernie at the town hall with those to Hillary.  This one reviews an interview done by CNN of Bernie supporter Susan Sarandon.  Both really interesting and revealing, especially for those that think there is some sort of liberal media.

Friday, August 21, 2015

Brace for Impact

More and more it's looking like curtains for civilization as we know it.  Some experts on global warming are now saying we are past the tipping point.  Of course we don't know for certain.  It's possible an unforeseen technological advancement could save us.  One difficulty though is we probably need civilization in order to implement a technological advancement that would save us.  But it is our civilization, which is capitalist with ever expanding consumption, that is killing us.  Civilization is both our demise and our possible savior.

I wonder what future generations will think of us.  They might be tempted to view global warming deniers as super nefarious people.  Maybe they'll see them as mass murderers.  But it's not the case.  They're true believers.  It's just incredible what humans are capable of believing.  Evidence is just not as important as other factors.  One factor I believe is just overwhelming.  Preference.

I think George W Bush genuinely believed Saddam had WMD's.  It was a convenient conclusion because it justified an invasion that had long been desired.  I think Cheney and Wolfowitz really did think Laurie Mylroie was on to something when she claimed Saddam was really the center of global Islamic terror.

I saw an interesting movie recently called Witch Hunt.  You can watch it here.  It's about how an aggressive prosecutor wrongly convicted dozens of people on charges of child molestation/abuse/rape.  It was very interesting and I recommend it.  You watch it and you'll be ticked about the prosecutor and the police interrogators who lead the children to make the incriminating claims.

But one policemen is somewhat unapologetic.  He points out that there was no conspiracy to screw people over.  You're dealing with charges involving kids, so you do what you have to do.  There's not a lot of remorse.

Kind of infuriating but it reinforces what I'm saying about preference.  When you have an incentive to reach a certain conclusion you just do.  For them there was a culture coming from the top down that tough on crime was going to lead to professional success.  People didn't have to be told to bend the rules.  They internalized it.  They believed it.  And they probably go home and sleep like babies.

For profit media of course has owners and advertisers that have preferences.  Billionaire donors to politicians have preferences.  Indulging those preferences is what's going to lead you to more professional success if you are a media personality or a politician.  These people believe what they are saying.  Global warming isn't happening, or if it is it isn't caused by man, or if it is we shouldn't do anything about it.  Yeah, they believe it, despite overwhelming evidence.

The result is we're screwed.  Something like 250 species go extinct per day.  The polar cap will be ice free in a few years, something that has not been true in human history.  At that point the warming is going to accelerate.  Will the deniers admit it at that point?  Probably not.  It's not their preference.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Bush, Gog, and Magog

In the video below a NY Times columnist reports on a conversation between Bush and French President Jacques Chirac.  In his efforts to persuade him to bring the French in to support the war effort apparently Bush appealed to these biblical apocalyptic concepts of Gog and Magog.  Humorous for me because this terminology is very natural for me.  It's what I grew up with.  But I can imagine that someone not steeped in it would have been pretty weirded out.  Chirac conluded that Bush was a madman.

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Ahead Of Their Time

I recently watched an old movie from the 50's that at the time had been denounced by the US House of Representatives as sympathetic to communists.  During production anti-communist vigilantes fired rifle shots at the set.  After being edited in secret only 12 theaters would dare to screen it.  Many of the participants would be blacklisted in Hollywood.  The lead actress would be deported.

The film is called Salt of the Earth and you can watch it here.  Why such an extreme response?  It portrays a strike from a position sympathetic to the union.  It advances a view that men and women should be treated as equals.  It talks openly about the injustice of racism against Mexicans.

It struck me as way ahead of it's time.  These are not the kind of opinions I'm accustomed to seeing in a movie from that era.  But it occurs to me that this may be a bit of a pattern.  We're used to seeing the perspectives of rich people.  In the US that means capitalists.  They own the media, control the politics, and run the movie studios.  When we think back to that era we think of the perspective they preferred because they dominated the communication of the time and controlled the way history was being written.  Racist, sexist, hostile to working people.  I find as I look back and search for the opinions of others, maybe common men and women, the marginalized like the kind of people that would make a movie like this, it's not as much like that.

Take a look at some of the better known socialists and anarchists from times past and just note their positions.  Someone like Eugene Debs maybe.  Here's something of his from 1903 decrying the treatment of the negro and women.  Look into people like Mark Twain, Hellen Keller, Albert Einstein, George Orwell, ML King Jr, and others.  From what I know of them they seem very unlike the dominant men of their era.

And of course you can look a lot closer to our current era.  Bernie Sanders was against the Defense of Marriage Act when it was very popular in the US and Hillary was advocating it.  He was against the war in Iraq, the Patriot Act, NAFTA, and all the other ridiculous policies that were a lot more popular at the time.  It seems to me that looking back it's the socialists that have been repeatedly right and the right wing wrong.

Urgent issues face the world today.  Issues related to the environment, war, race, economics.  You can align yourselves with the powerful.  But if you do that you may be seen as somewhat backwards in the future.  You may appear to be paranoid in your defense of status quo, as the House Un-American Activities people look today.  Today the FBI has more environmentalists on their list of suspected terrorists than any other group.  The powerful see environmental activism as the threat, just as they saw people advocating for racial and sexual equality as the threat of the past.  You can be on their side.  Or you can be on the side of people that have a tradition of being right and of doing the most to make the world better.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Very Glad Bernie is Running for President

What's tough listening to right wing radio is when they get upset about Hillary's supposed progressive positions.  Hillary wants to raise the minimum wage to $15.  Hillary is a pacifist, she'll gut the defense budget.  She'll regulate Wall St.  When both sides of the debate agree on something it's tough to break through and get people to recognize that no, that's not who she is.  She has a long track record of support for and from Wall St.  Support for war, hostility to unions.  Yet she's trying to pass herself off as a person that actually subscribes to progressive opinions.  In fact she's owned by various corporate boards just as Republicans are controlled by corporate boards (though in a lot of cases it's different corporate boards).

With Bernie you do get a guy that genuinely does care about people first, not the Chamber of Commerce and Wall St.  Even Ann Coulter understands that.  Take a look at where the monetary support for Bernie comes from as contrasted with Hillary.

Can he win?  I don't know.  Can the devastating effects of global warming be stopped?  I don't know.  But what else can you do but push forward based on the assumption that good things can happen?  If you sit back and assume you can't overcome these challenges that you definitely won't.

Here's a really good interview with Bernie that covers a lot of ground.  Maybe prior to 2008 you would expect more people to call his opinions crazy, but it's more getting to the point where you have to call it common sense.  Corruption is legal in the US, and the result is that the US is not a democracy but an oligarchy.  So though even the IMF, despite it's long history of imposing trickle down economics throughout the world, is now admitting that trickle down economics doesn't work, our politicians continue to act on the assumption that it does work.  The US system of for profit health care sucks.  Global warming is real, is caused by man, and needs to be mitigated if we're going to avoid devastating consequences.

Bernie isn't perfect, but he admits these obvious things and really does want to address them.  Hillary will admit them but probably has no intention of dealing with them.  She's Obama 2.0.  Even that is better than the Republicans, who are off the reservation chasing Koch money rather than facing reality.  So I'll prefer a Hillary victory to a Republican one.  But it would be so nice to have an honest progressive rather than a fake one.

Sunday, June 7, 2015

The Degree of US Responsibility for Islamic Extremism

When the socialist government in Afghanistan asked the Soviet Union to intervene to help repel the Islamic extremists, we all know the response from the US.  Military support for the Islamists.

The elected government in Iran in 1953 was secular.  The CIA overthrew that government for profit.  The current theocracy there is a direct reaction to that.

It's pretty well understood among the most respected sources that ISIS was created by the US.  Not that it was created intentionally, but it was a direct consequence of the US invasion of Iraq and the way the occupation was managed.  ISIS was also provided with military armaments from the US.  The theological roots of ISIS stem from elements in Saudi Arabia, which exist thanks to critical US military support of that regime, which enforces the ultra conservative Wahhabi form of Islam.

Hamas was funded by Israel.  The PLO was regarded as too powerful, so Israel helped nurture the Islamic extremist elements in the Palestinian territories as a divide and conquer strategy.  Hezbollah likewise is a result of Israeli action.  It was formed by Muslim clerics in response to the invasion and occupation of Lebanon in an effort to repel them.

This is what is frustrating to me about complaints from conservatives about radical Islam.  Every major radical Islamist presence has it's roots in policies supported by the very conservatives that decry radical Islam.  If we really have a problem with Islamic extremism we should ask ourselves why we allow our government to foster, nurture, and support it.