May 13, 2016

Texas GOP voters: You reap what you sow

Texas Supreme Court
Justice Don Willett
For the first time ever, in the two-decade-plus history of multiple school financing lawsuits against the state of Texas, the state won on Friday. The full opinion is here.

And hence, the headline of the post. It's like "What's the Matter with Kansas," only more so.

Yes, the Texas Supreme Court's been all-GOP for some time, but it has shifted steadily further right. And steadily backward.

Sounding like something from the pre-Brown v Board of Education era, straight out of Plessy v Ferguson, Justice Don Willett, who wrote the opinion (there were two concurrences) said that money doesn't equate to educational quality.

Really? Then why do urban parents move to richer suburbs, from either the central city or poorer suburbs? Part of it is racial, but part is financial.

That said, out in small towns and rural areas, there's no rich suburbs where to move. But, people continue to vote against their own self-interest.

I'm in a part of the state where one of the two State Board of Education candidates believes President Obama used to be a gay prostitute, and stuff arguably even weirder. How does electing a candidate like that help rural schools get more money from the state?

It doesn't.

Worse yet, Bruner used to be a kindergarten teacher herself.

And, contra Cherokee County GOP Chairwoman Tammy Blair, Bruner is NOT "a nice older lady." Bigotry normally has hatred behind it. Her comments appear to reflect racism that she's projected back onto Obama (East Texas, especially Deep East Texas, still has plenty of that), gay-bashing, and more. There's nothing nice about that.

And, contra her opponent in the runoff, Keven Ellis, sorry, but for many people, thoughts like hers ARE conservative, and ARE Christian.

That said, there's no guarantee Ellis will be that much more enlightened, should he win the GOP runoff, and presumably, the general election.

And, it's the Texas Lege, not the SBOE, who make the funding decisions. And, so far, my Republican state rep and Republican state senator are both practicing duck and cover politics on this issue. And, that's with my state senator not up for election this cycle and my state rep facing no general election race.

Per the header, I feel sorry for Texas children in central cities, poorer first-ring suburbs, and small towns and the country.

Do I feel sorry for their parents, though?

If they voted Republican, not really.

Their own scriptures tell them that, in the old KJV: "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap," or in modern English: "As a man sows, so shall he reap."

Yes, the state Supremes, as well as the Texas Lege and the statewide executive offices, have been all-GOP for more than a decade. But, their holders, and their party, have drifted barreled hard farther right in the past half-dozen years or so.

I mean, former Texas Supreme Court Chief Justice Wallace Jefferson was a plaintiffs' lawyer! The court rejected a man formerly one of its own, who was part of the 2005 school finance ruling that said, yes, Texas did have a de facto statewide property tax.

UPDATE, May 18: The surest sign yet this ruling was fucked up is that Justice Willett is on Trump's SCOTUS short list.

May 12, 2016

The #neoliberalism decline and fall of the National Park Service is complete

Even as the National Park Service has sold out its centennial observance to a capitalist consortium (after initial budgeting for it was nickled and dimed), and talked about jacking fees (even with my dislike of the old Parks Pass replaced by the "all access" pass to BLM and Forest Service land that shouldn't charge we the nature lovers such fees until they charge more for grazing permits and mineral rights), it's continued to struggle financially — and otherwise.

So, what's Director Jonathan Jarvis' idea? Rather than telling visitors to "write their Congresscritters" over crumbling roads and curtailed hours and staff at facilities due to chronic underfunding, he wants to put the neoliberal sellout on steroids with corporate branding of Park Service facilities.

No, really:
The Park Service still won’t recognize donors with advertising or marketing slogans. But for the first time, their logos will get prominent display. Companies will be able to earmark gifts for recurring park expenses, which was prohibited before. And a company in litigation with the Interior Department, the Park Service’s parent agency, could now donate as long as the dispute does not involve a national park. 
 Bricks or paving stones on the steps to a visitor center, video screens inside, educational, interpretive, research, recreation and youth programs, positions or endowments — these also will get naming rights, according to the proposed policy. There could be walls in visitor centers dedicated to donors, or digital ones, as fundraising is beefed up through crowdsourcing and other online strategies to reach the public. 
 And a donor will now be allowed to design and build a park building and even operate it long term.

Really.


Jarvis and some organizational flunky named Jeff Reinbold, with the title of associate director for partnerships and civic engagement — which says a lot right there — tout it as bypassing allegedly slothful government bureaucracy to “get deals done,” along with putatively attracting Millennials, etc.

First, these aren’t the type of deals I “want done.”

Second, if this “branding” would attract more Millennials, they’re not the type of Millennials, or visitors of any age group, I want in the parks.

And, I’m not alone:
But the new brand of philanthropy is drawing fierce criticism from watchdogs and park advocates who accuse Jarvis of embracing a creeping commercialization they say has no place in the park system. “You could use Old Faithful to pitch Viagra,” said Jeff Ruch, executive director of Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, a watchdog group that’s trying to rally the park community to fight the plan. “Or the Lincoln Memorial to plug hemorrhoid cream. Or Victoria’s Secret to plug the Statue of Liberty.” “Every developed area in a park could become a venue for product placement,” Ruch said. Or, he added, access: “A telecom company could say, ‘Nice mountain. We’ll make a generous donations for the right of way.’ ”
Don’t think that would or could happen? I’ve got some right of way to sell you across the Funeral Mountains.

Speaking of PEER, it pulls no punches on its own website, with a news release entitled "Panhandling and Pandering in our National Parks."

It's got a link to comment on the idea, which you can do by the end of day Sunday, May 16.

This is all nothing new.

Jarvis, from early on in his status as NPS director, over the oyster farms in Point Reyes and other things, has proved himself to be semi-incompetent, and given some previous heads of the Park Service, that's pretty big.

And, it shows.

Just in the past year or two, it got sued by the former concessionaire at Yosemite (and eventually utterly caved in);

Before him, Kenny Boy Salazar as Dear Leader's first Interior secretary was a neolib sellout, too friendly to oil and gas. His successor, Sally Jewell, coming from NPS corporatized centennial partner REI, may be even worse.

May 11, 2016

David Brock doubles down on hypocrisy

Subtitled "Once a lying sack o shite, always a lying sack o shite."

The former hitman against the Clintons, now the hitman for them, has the hypocrisy to lecture the media, via Media Matters for America, on honesty in political coverage.

As the Daily Beast — NOT a conservative outlet by any means — notes here (and others have made similar observations), he and his various shell organizations have lied repeatedly about Bernie Sanders in this election cycle. If not outright lies, MMFA, Correct the Record, et al, have engaged in heavy "spinning" of the type Brock claims to worry about.

This is just the latest iteration of Brock working the refs. Any true liberal, let alone people like me who reject "liberal" or "progressive" for labels like "left-liberal," as both of the above have become more and more vacuous, should see this for the latest sack o shite that it is.

And, as Drumpf pulls ever closer to Brock's problem child, expect yet more bullshit like this.

You know the answer: Vote Green.

Green Party presidential trio debates


Green Party presidential candidates Dr. Jill Stein, Sedinam Moyowasifza Curry and Kent Mesplay debated on RT America on Monday night. If you don’t have time for the entire debate, a 30-minute highlights clip is below. Selected quotes and comments, with smaller clips, are here.



A few quick takeaways.

First, Stein, benefited in part by being a past presidential candidate, seemed to have the most coherent talking points. She's right about "the politics of fear," but, fear is a powerful psychological drug — that's simply realism about human nature. We can move beyond the "lesser evil," but it's neither natural nor easy. Preznit Kumbaya of the Democratic Party showed its limitations.

And, while all three noted that our current bipartisan foreign policy establishment had poked the Russian bear unduly, she seemed a bit more trusting of Russia's Vladimir Putin, and the Chinese collective leadership, of the other too — perhaps a bit too trusting.

(Sidebar — once again, Russia-based RT America [RT being "Russia Today"] likes poking back the American Eagle, while never noting that such a debate, in all likelihood, won't even happen in the next election there.)

Second, Mesplay, of the three, most got lost in the weeds — sometimes of over-detailed comments, sometimes of plain wandering, like talking about how the Directorate of National Intelligence has superseded the CIA, which showed both. His close seemed the weakest of the three. He also seemed a bit too gun-friendly for my tastes. And, having already named a Veep, and going beyond Ted Cruz and making it Roseanne Barr, is off-putting to me. And, yes, I know it's more than a vanity pick, that Barr previously ran for the Green presidential nomination herself. I still find her off-putting.

Third, Curry, while right that the Constitution's "three-fifths compromise," when combined with an electoral college, boosted slaveholding interests, was wrong to say the two were explicitly connected, at least by design. The Founding Fathers had always planned, in Philadelphia, some sort of indirect presidential election, especially after they settled on a single executive. That said, an electoral college, with the three-fifths compromise, did boost the power of slave states.

I do agree with her in part about issues of people of color, but not totally. Call me a white male, fine, but, while "privilege" is good to note as a generalization, it can be pushed too far. And, "privilege" also includes dominant religions, money/poverty and more. At the same time, she's right that the "green" movement, not just the party, but in general, is pretty white.

Oh, and eliminating corporate personhood? That means corporations can't be sued; individual board members or executives can't be tried as corporate representatives, only individuals; and more. Corporate personhood has its down side, as Citizens United indicated, but it also has its upside. Her answer was simplistic.

Overall, though, she was better than Mesplay, who might be somewhere between Green and anarcho-libertarian.

That said, in the bigger overall, I saw nothing to sway me away from seeing Stein as the best candidate of the three.

If you want to see the whole debate, here you go. Click this link if the embed doesn't work.



Fourth, on to some issues in general.

Number One, unlike any of the three, and pretty much the Green platform, I'm not anti-GMO. I am concerned about some of the capitalist issues associated with particular Big Ag companies, but I most definitely do not believe that GMOs are "frankenfoods." That's ... bullshit.

Related, I am worried about sustainability in agriculture. But, improper farming practices, whether or not specifically pushed by Big Ag, are still separate from GMO foods.

To the degree that GMOs have the potential to take the Green Revolution of the 1960s and 1970s into a second phase, and especially the degree they can do that while we learn from mistakes of the original Green Revolution and address the issues I just mentioned, I'm pro-GMO.

I'm also pro-science, and not just selectively pro-science. I've said this as a critique of the Greens in the past. Fortunately, the highlights, at least, didn't get into alt-med, I mean pseudomedicine, or I'd really go off there.

Number Two? I'm not anti-nuclear. I'm not pro-nuclear, either. I recognize building concrete containment domes have a large greenhouse gas cost. I of course know about the waste issue.

However, the containment domes may get better. And the waste can be at least partially addressed with a combination of breeder-type reactors and onsite burial.

If natural gas is to be abandoned as a bridge fuel because of wellhead leaks, pipeline leaks and the problems with fracking, we need something else. Climate change, plus base life expectancy, says that a lot of hydroelectric power in the American West, and elsewhere, is running out. And, yes, Germany has shown that going renewable only for short bursts can be done, albeit on a somewhat different playing board. However, electric cars aren't yet a big thing either here or there, and the playing board, in terms of temperature extremes and more, is a lot different here.

This all said, the Green Party is also concerned with economic issues, with all candidates being at least at Bernie Sanders' starting point on many of these issues. (I'm more of a socialist than Bernie, but disagree with a national $15/hour minimum wage unless, like Oregon, there's an allowance for lesser pay tiers for suburban and for rural areas. I also want more to be said about guaranteed annual income, paid time off, longer and guaranteed annual vacation time, and more.)

So, the Green Party is not perfect, but it's better than the "lesser evil" or "lesser of two evils" of the Democrats.

May 10, 2016

Obama to visit Hiroshima — and?

Yes, it's historic that President Barack Obama will be the first U.S. President to visit Hiroshima, which he will do on a visit to Japan later this month.

That said, there's lots of unpacking to do.

He will NOT apologize for Aug. 6, 1945. Nor should he.

The Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombs saved more U.S., Allied — AND Japanese — lives than would have been lost either to an extended blockade (which would have taken months to "bite" and could have killed 1 million or more Japanese due to starvation) or a land invasion.

Besides, the "bomb" killed fewer people than our firebombing of Tokyo. And, Hirohito (remember his name) cited it, NOT the Soviet entry into the war, as the reason to call for peace. (Only a couple of months before, Hirohito himself still hoped to at least keep all of "Greater Japan" conquered up to 1905, if not the Pacific islands taken from Germany during World War I.)

So, revisionist historians like Gar Alperowitz, sit down. This is another area in which, and another reason why, I call myself a skeptical left-liberal.

Second, nuclear proliferation today is a big deal, and one that Obama's not done a lot to help, outside the Iran accord. A purely symbolic visit to Hiroshima will, like many of Obama's purely symbolic actions, be exactly that — purely symbolic. (Obamacare itself is starting to feel more that way.)

Back to the story, starting with this:
After U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry visited Hiroshima last month, survivors of the bombing and other residents said that if Obama visits, they hope for progress in ridding the world of nuclear weapons, rather than an apology. 
Kerry toured the Hiroshima Peace Memorial and Museum, calling the museum's haunting displays "gut-wrenching." The displays include photographs of badly burned victims, the tattered and stained clothes they wore and statues depicting them with flesh melting from their limbs.

Yes, gut-wrenching.

You know what else is gut-wrenching?

Unit 731. Japanese sex slaves. Japan's laundry list of war crimes, many of which Hirohito knew about at the time, and Doug MacArthur let him whitewash because — cuz, fear of Japanese Commies.

(Examples? Hirohito signed off on a 1937 directive that removed most protections from Chinese POWs. He knew at least the basics of the Rape of Nanking when it happened. He knew at least bits about Unit 731, having established the unit himself. He sanctioned the "Kill All, Burn All, Loot All" policy in China. And Mac's coordinated whitewashing of the crimes of Hirohito and other royals arguably helped skew ongoing lack of Japanese honesty, including refusal to admit that it violated international law, even though it used gas attacks against China and more.)

What else is gut-wrenching? Obama will go to Hiroshima with Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who has prayed at the Yasukuni Shrine, which commemorates Japanese war criminals, in part.

Gut-wrenching is the fact that the Japanese political class, in general, still refuses to face the country's World War II history as honestly as German political elites have there.

But Obama will mention none of this.

Nor will he ask Abe why Japan has, in essence, deliberately run out the clock on compensation to victims of war crimes.



May 09, 2016

TX Progressives talk Trump, Clinton, more

The Texas Progressive Alliance salutes those who run in municipal elections while looking at a roundup of this week's blogging best.

Off the Kuff ponders career options for Ted Cruz.

SocraticGadfly takes a snarky look at possible Hillary Clinton Cabinet nominees.

Libby Shaw contributing to Daily Kos  learned that Rick Perry is looking for a job.  She thinks Ted Cruz should be looking too. In another line of work. A Tale of Two Texas Republican Losers.

CouldBeTrue of South Texas Chisme is shocked to hear that a Texas cemetery refuses to serve Hispanics. Surely, they are happy Trump is the nominee of their party.

It was a disgraceful Cinco de Mayo for Drumpf, as he made a fool of himself with a taco bowl and a Hispander.  PDiddie at Brains and Eggs hoped he used the coupon for free breakfast tacos on the 6th, because he certainly seemed drunk on the 5th.

As the Sanders campaign moves towards the Democratic convention in July, Neil at All People Have Value found a freedom loving Texan supporting Bernie. APHV is part of NeilAquino.com.

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And here are some posts of interest from other Texas blogs.

The Great God Pan Is Dead tells a NSFW story about art, obscenity, and the jailing of Rokudenashiko for making a kayak in the shape of a vagina.

Houston Tomorrow is looking for its next Executive Director.

John Royal calls out Baylor for its out of control sexual assault problems with its football team.

Make West Texas Great Again documents (and complains about) the rise of the "suburbatarians" in rural parts of the state.

Andrea Grimes invites out-of-staters who cheer the idea of Texas seceding to come here and help us do the work needed to turn our state around.

Progress Texas rounds up the best "Ted Cruz drops out" reactions from Twitter. (WARNING: You will never be able to un-see the image at the top of this post. Click over at your own peril.)

Raise Your Hand Texas hopes you thanked a teacher last week.

#Privilege and the #SJW world vs. population sociology

SJWs, for those not knowing, is "social justice warriors," about whom I've blogged repeatedly.

Privilege, for those not knowing, is a claim by SJWs that certain classes of people, just by virtue of being in that class, have "leverage" in the world over people in other classes.

Population sociology, for nonscientist types who didn't guess, is a sociological riff on population statistics, population genetics, etc.

For the wise, you may see where I might be headed, especially if you're a regular reader here.

I agree that, as a generalization of population sociology, it is likely that members of the population classes called "African-American," "Hispanic," "women," "gay and lesbian," "transgender," etc. are on average likely indeed to have privilege over "white" "male" "straight" "cisgender" folks.

Folks who have seen a photo of me, or met me in person, or whatever, know I'm white and can probably assume I'm male. Whether I'm gay or straight, or cis or trans, is none of your damn business. But, for the sake of argument, I'll assume that I'm straight and cis, and also show I'm cognizant enough to note this, whether any courtesy is extended back to me or not.

But, do I as white have more privilege than every African-American or Hispanic? Do I as male have more privilege than every woman? As putatively straight, more than every gay? As putatively cis, more than every trans?

Hell, no.

And, refusal to admit this — refusal to admit that population sociology doesn't translate to the level of individual people — is why SJWs are infuriating. And, as reverse racism is racism, reverse sexism is sexism, etc., they're all of that.

Take, say, Michael Jordan. He probably wasn't born with more privilege than me, but by the time he got a full ride to North Carolina, he was passing me. Far ahead now.  Or ... OJ. Had I done what he was sued over doing, though not convicted over doing, I'd have gotten life in the slammer.

Some African-Americans may even have been born with more privilege than me. Michelle Obama arguably is there. Sasha and Malia most certainly are.

Or take Hillary Clinton, since we're now in the territory of women, to focus on women of the same ethnos.*

She was probably born with more privilege than me. She certainly has more now.

Straight vs. gay? Don't know about at birth, but Elton John's got a lot more privilege than I do now.

Cis vs. trans? Caitlin Jenner.

So, SJWs, if you want a revolution, start by treating individuals as individuals more.