Recession and Recovery

I am so sick of conservatives lying to my face and trying to gaslight me about some of the most difficult years of my life. They act like they can declare something to be true, when all the evidence says they are completely wrong, and then call me closed-minded for not believing their lies about things I’ve observed myself.

I was shaped and scarred by the recession; I know why it happened and what has happened since. When I turned 18 in 2009 there were no jobs for me. I applied for hundreds, and I never got an interview. I didn’t get a full time job until the economy picked up in 2011 thanks to the actions of the Obama administration.

Having worked at the same small-ish manufacturing company since then, I’ve watched the economy recover and business grow. We’ve added tens of thousands of square feet, including a new 20,000 square foot building in our main location. In my home state of Washington, with the highest minimum wage in the nation and other progressive policies, job growth for small businesses has, in some recent years, been better than in any other state. Wages have been growing here as well in the past year or two.

Still, as I predicted would happen, many conservatives insist that everything is awful and Obama made it worse, which is as wrong as wrong can possibly be. Crime is down. Unemployment is down. Poverty is down. Liberal states are feeding the nation with their economic success. Almost everything has improved, aside from wealth inequality and the abusive attitudes of these extremists for whom truth is whatever they feel like believing at the moment. If they want us to stop ridiculing them, they should stop being ridiculous.

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Lord Dampnut vs The Free West

california-outline-and-flag-solidTrump thinks he can bully states into submission by threatening to take away their federal support. One problem: the states most likely to cross him are ones that receive less federal support than they pay in taxes. Cutting off California would be biting the hand that feeds his voting base in poor red states across the midwest and south. If the federal government stops sending money to California, then California may stop sending money to the federal government, and would suddenly have enough to replace all of that federal money and eliminate their debt in a year or two (ignoring other factors). Trump must be clueless about where his “federal money” comes from, or he simply doesn’t care about the people who voted for him.

This is why “alternative facts” are so dangerous. Trump’s loyal supporters are repeating his false claims that California sucks resources from the rest of the country in the form of welfare. This isn’t just false, it’s the complete opposite of reality. And since California intends to stand up to Trump’s bullying, he’s just perpetuating a social division that, taken to an extreme, could result in the west coast breaking off from the rest of the country. This stupidity and belligerence of Trump and his clueless supporters is the sort of thing that can fuel major geopolitical changes, and I don’t think they would like the outcome of this one. Chances are good that nobody would.

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The Escalation from Polarization to War

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War is not the macho fantasy of insecure conservative men. It is the reality of children being burned alive.

Reasonable people have long lamented the increasing polarization of politics, an escalation from disagreement to outright division largely fueled by a few extremists who refuse to accept diversity, and the masses of gullible idiots who buy into the latest outrage on their “side”. It can be seen in the botched reconstruction after the Civil War, the mass exodus of racist white southerners from the Democratic party during the civil rights movement, the “pro-life” movement which was manufactured for political gain and has done more to harm and kill than to protect life, and so on.

Our current problems have their roots in an ancient and ongoing struggle with our own animal natures. But this phenomenon of bitter polarization, with different “facts” on both sides and no room for compromise, is far more extreme and dangerous in the modern world of social media and nuclear bombs.

Today I read one of the most disturbing things I’ve seen all year, even counting Trump’s offer to destroy the career of a Democratic politician for opposing the practice of “civil asset forfeiture” (police stealing private property from citizens who haven’t been convicted of a crime). The article is so disturbing that I will not link to it, because I don’t want to have any part in spreading it further. Instead, I’ll address a few quotes and talk about the overall issues with it.

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The Rise of American Fascism

“I hear Donald Trump really hates this photo. So make sure not to retweet it. Ever.” –Charles Johnson

I will always call Trump and his new Republican party what they really are: the American version of fascism. I wrote a while ago about the common features of fascist regimes and how Trump ticks every box, and since then this lawless party of political thugs and con men has only increased in its depravity. They’re not even trying to hide it anymore.

They attempted to eliminate independent oversight of Congress by putting the Office of Congressional Ethics under their control. In North Carolina they tried to reorganize the very structure of government to strip the powers they enjoyed from the incoming Democratic governor, including reversing some changes that they originally made for their own benefit. Reports of harassment and crime against people of color and LGBT people spiked after election day, both nationally and among my personal friends, and violence against Muslims in particular has sharply increased in recent years. White supremacists and Christian extremists have been emboldened by the vulgarity and immorality of their orange führer, and his cruel, theocratic vice president. Trump eagerly attacks good people who fight for civil rights while playing dumb about his support from white supremacists, preferring to halfheartedly disavow and then ignore the discrimination and hatred done in his name, and instead continue to heap his condemnation on the people who fight those things.

There’s simply too much to list. Seems like every day Trump and his minions spew more falsehoods, advocate for more oppression, or otherwise continue acting like the slimy predators they are. And their loyal voters, either still misled by the propaganda or being authoritarian bullies themselves, continue to spread their hatred throughout society.

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The Value of Human Labor

workerDonald Trump has said that his net worth fluctuates based on several factors, including how he feels. He seems to assign an arbitrarily large value to his name as a brand, which is like if I claimed my net worth is $250 million and some change, because my blog has 250 followers at the moment and each one makes me feel like a million bucks. That’s not the way it works in the real world, of course. However, there’s a tiny smudge of truth behind Trump’s ridiculous claims. I doubt he’s aware of it, since Trump and the truth don’t seem to have any sort of relationship, but it’s there.

The truth is that value is an inherently subjective thing, much like morality and for the same reasons. If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you may remember an article I wrote back in 2014 in which I said “beauty is a relationship between the observer and the observed”. My basic premise is that the whole concept of value exists only in the minds of sentient observers, and it forms the foundation of beauty, morality, and other concepts that rely on making a judgment about the desirability of things.

So it’s true that feelings can affect value, since the value of an object is the amount of stuff someone is willing to give up for it. But you couldn’t feel that gold is worth $2 million an ounce and then expect to sell it for that price. Nobody would pay it because they know they can get it cheaper elsewhere. Which means that even though value is subjective, it’s not subject to the whims of a single person.

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What is Common Sense Gun Control?

img_0447I recently stumbled across this video in which some guys talk to people on the street who don’t own guns to illustrate how little they know about guns. The video was subsequently used to push the old “liberals are idiots” trope. While they make some valid points, the problem I have with the video is that it presents a caricature of “common sense gun control” and completely eliminates gun owners from the conversation by targeting people most likely to be fooled by the charade.

In one of my closets there is a .357 magnum revolver, and I’ve owned several other pistols, rifles, and shotguns in recent years. I know that “assault rifles” are weapons with a fully automatic mode, which are illegal to own unless they were made before 1986, and even then there are some very expensive hoops to jump through in order to legally own one. I support both responsible gun ownership and common sense gun control. But what do those things mean?

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Life > Profit

capitalism-religionI have formerly framed the left vs right spectrum of politics as socialism vs capitalism, or collectivism vs individualism. But as I was pondering the fundamental differences between the far left and the far right, I thought of a different pair of words that might be more accurate: inclusive vs exclusive.

I don’t mean that people on the left never have problems with tribalism; I’m not talking about the people at all. What I’m talking about is the philosophies that form the basis of these different models of government. If we go back to the origins of socialism, we find that it was conceived as a social movement in which the tension between the elite ruling class and the workers reaches a breaking point, where the much more numerous working class overthrows the elite and implements a classless economic system characterized by social ownership and democratic control of the means of production.

Let’s examine that definition a bit. Social ownership is not the same as state ownership–in fact, the two are almost opposites. Since socialism was meant to involve the destruction of a state ruled by the elite, the citizens would be the ones owning things. Instead of having a privately-owned company that earns profits for rich shareholders, you’d have a publicly owned company that earns profits for the local citizens. The people are the shareholders of a socialist economy. The “democratic control” part is equally important, because entrusting management of a socially owned economy to a handful of elites would recreate the problem of capitalism. Socialism calls for decisions and management to be handled by the people themselves, and no state involvement is necessary, which is why socialist anarchists exist.

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