Sharia Law

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Happy to see that counter protesters outnumbered the bigots in nearly every city yesterday. Thankfully with little violence involved.

What I don’t get about the folks who are fearful of Sharia Law being implemented in the US is how ignorant they are. We have church/state separation. As long as we keep prayer out of schools and the 10 Commandments out of court houses and wacky religious monuments out of parks, then Sharia Law will not be able to gain access either.

It is the same people who attempt to force their Abrahamic religious creed on the rest of us who are fearful of Sharia. Hypocrite much?

With all of the protests taking place yesterday I can only assume that these people will stand strong in keeping the 10 Commandments out of our public spaces.

Where the Twain Shall Meet

I originally posted this late in 2011 in response to Occupy and its backlash. I think it is still very relevant. I am re-posting it now as I am formulating a follow-up which encompasses the fall of Occupy, the insurrection of Sanders, and Trumpism.

Perspectives from Foggytown

Populist movements are a common theme in the American lineage, history books are replete with their rise and fall.  Still it is interesting to see two populist movements arise within a few years of each other.  The Tea Party Movement, often associated with the political right, and the Occupy movement, generally associated with the political left.

Much can, and often is, made of the differences typified by these two movements.  In the simplest of terms, Tea Party can be generalized by the slogan “guns, glory, and god”; meanwhile, Occupy can be generalized by its anti-capitalist beliefs.  Of course this over simplification debases both of these movements.

Let’s begin with Tea Party.  Whether it grew out of Ron Paul’s 2008 campaign for the presidency or if the Koch brothers invented it is immaterial to our present discussion.  We can understand its roots in the causes that it first championed.  The first…

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Coulter’s Speech is Not Being Suppressed 

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Ann Coulter was on all the networks last night complaining that she doesn’t have an outlet to speak freely. I am guessing that she has lived so long in her make believe stipulated reality that she lost the ability to detect irony. 

If all she wanted was the freedom to spew her hate speech she could have done so while the cameras were rolling. Coulter reglarly appears on tv and has published books spewing her thoughts, delusions, and ideas. To claim that she is being denied freedom of speech is laughable. 

It is not freedom of speech that she craves but the freedom to instigate violence and to burnish her image amongst the whacky right. Sorry, Ann, there is no Constitutional right to incite violence. Get over yourself, the rest of us already have. 

The Left Has Only Itself to Blame

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If you’ve read anything by Richard Rorty, then you know that–like many philosphers–his writing is dense and can be a slog to read. Some time back, when I had more self discipline, I read a couple of his books. The one that stands out is Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America (1998). Rorty argues that the “left” can be divided into two components: Critical and Progressive. The Critical Left is exemplified by thinkers such as Foucoult and is good at identifying problems but is short on providing solutions. The Critical Left is predominantly concerned with cultural issues (nearly to the exclusion of political issues). Rorty identifies with the Progressive Left which he refers to as reformist in nature.  He sees the Critical Left as anti-American and Marxist, with the Progressive Left offering pragmatic civil engagement.

Rorty believed that as the Left moved more to the Critical end of the spectrum that our basic institutions would fail even as we made cultural gains. As democratic institutions fail, workers would seek an outlet. He writes:

Many writers on socioeconomic policy have warned that the old industrialized democracies are heading into a Weimar-like period, one in which populist movements are likely to overturn constitutional governments. Edward Luttwak, for example, has suggested that fascism may be the American future. The point of his book The Endangered American Dream is that members of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers—themselves desperately afraid of being downsized—are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.

At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for—someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots. A scenario like that of Sinclair Lewis’ novel It Can’t Happen Here may then be played out. For once a strongman takes office, nobody can predict what will happen. In 1932, most of the predictions made about what would happen if Hindenburg named Hitler chancellor were wildly overoptimistic.

One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past forty years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. The words “nigger” and “kike” will once again be heard in the workplace. All the sadism which the academic Left has tried to make unacceptable to its students will come flooding back. All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.

As I’ve written previously, only the educated elite were surprised by Trump’s rise. Sixty percent of American’s do not have a college degree, these people are under assault both from the Critical Left and the uncertainties of globalization. As pressure increases, an outlet will be found or created to release the pressure, Donald Trump is the current release. To some extent a conservative Supreme Court may also ease the pressure. After that it will be up to the Critical Left.

 

Favorite Music of the Year, 2016 Edition

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As December rolls in, bringing Winter chills, it is time for this blog’s 8th annual favorite albums of the year list.

In perusing my music collection, I’ve collected 31 albums this year spanning 15 genres. My musical tastes run in the Southern Rock to Alternative Country styles, so if this is not to your tastes, you may want to check out some other lists available elsewhere. Of these, 8 stand out as my favorites. Before getting into that list, I want to touch briefly on 3 runners up.

Honorary Mentions:
Drive-By Truckers, American Band; Waco Brothers, Going Down in History; and Steve Earle/Shawn Colvin, Earle and Colvin. These are great albums and in a normal year would have made the final list, but this year had many great albums, read on for my favorites.

8) Hackensaw Boys, Charismo. I classify these guys as roots country but you probably know them as string band music. Long before Mumford and Sons were watering down this style for mass consumption this band from Virginia has been stompin’ and rollickin’. If you like music without frills, the Hackensaw Boys are worth checking out.

7) Whiskey Myers, Mud. The 4th album from this Texas band continues their unique blending of Southern Rock and Red Dirt Country. Like many genre bending bands, Whiskey Myers does not get the acclaim that they deserve.

6) Devil Makes Three, Redemption & Ruin. Eight albums in 14 years and this roots country band is just now getting the attention that they deserve. American Songwriter has a good review of this album.

5) Robbie Fulks, Upland Stories. Robbie Fulks is America’s troubadour, largely unrecognized, but still capturing the ideas of the nation. Rooted firlmly in American folk, it is only the vagaries of the pop country industry that Fulks is not played on every country station from coast to coast.

4) Cody Jinks, I’m Not the Devil. Despite his background in the thrash metal scene, it is Johnny Cash that Jinks channels in his newest release (the third for those counting at home).

3) Blackberry Smoke, Like An Arrow. Blackberry Smoke was on this list last year for a live album, this year they are back with a new release of original music. The voice of Southern Rock with a healthy dose of Americana. How this hard working touring band found the time to record and produce this album is beyond me, but the quality of the music speaks to the work ethic of these guys from Georgia. If you get the chance to see them live, take it, you will  not be disappointed.

2) Billy Bragg/Joe Henry, Shine Light. These two folkies compliment each other to a tee. Singing classic tales of railroads and those who rode them. An instant classic.

  1. Sturgill Simpson, A Sailor’s Guide to Earth. Simpson has been hailed as the saviour of country music. Surely that task is too much for one man, but Simpson has done more than anyone else in a long time. This album was written and recorded for his son who he missed while on tour. See NPR’s review.

If you liked this post, check out my past yearly lists:  2009, 2010, 2011, 20122013, 2014, and 2015.

The Imperial Presidency (or how Obama f%$#ed us)

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TL/DR: Obama, through cult of personality, has amassed unprecedented executive power, and now cedes that power to Trump

Bush the Lesser led the most imperial presidency since Nixon, at least up until his time. With no patience for due process, Bush set about changing the law through executive action. Bush showed very little knowledge of either law or political history, he may have been acting out of ignorance or bad advice.

In 2008 candidate Obama (rightfully) decried this as an unconstitutional power grab.

Evidently, sometime during the Obama regime the Constitution was changed, because it did not take long to change his tune. Obama is well aware that he is acting extra-Constitutionally, he is smart and he has studied the document.

The Constitution has not changed, still Obama has expanded executive overreach far beyond anything in history outside times of major war; certainly far beyond anything that Nixon could dream of.

Now Trump, the most unprepared person in modern history–whose behavior and character can best be described as erratic–is assuming presidential power.

I would love to see someone like candidate Obama become president some day.

Random Thoughts on Election 2016

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Forty eight hours after Trump swept to victory, I feel that I may be at the point where I can offer up some preliminary thoughts on the election.

To start I voted for neither Clinton or Trump.  I had a slight preference for Clinton over Trump, but Clinton did nothing to inspire me during the election. Being a great admirer of Tolstoy’s thought, I recognise that choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil. With that thought in mind, I left the top of the ballot empty. I also must admit that I was momentarily shocked by Trump’s win, although I now realize that I should not have been.

Alright, in no particular order, here are my thoughts post election 2016.

Random thought 1: To some degree this election was about race and gender. Eight years ago I recall folks saying that they did not agree with most of Obama’s platform, but they would vote for him to usher in the first black president. Likewise this year, many folks chose Clinton because she is a woman. This is called identity politics, voting based on what a candidate is rather than their competence and policy positions. Now we are supposed to act surprised when white males play the same game?

Random thought 2: This election was not wholly or even mostly about race. Trump took nearly a third of the Latino vote. Trump did better than Romney amongst both Latinos and Blacks. I am fearful that this election will be chalked up to racism with every other explanation ignored.

Random thought 3: We were given an impossible choice. Clinton’s negatives have been above 50 percent since forever. Trump’s negatives hovered around 60 percent. The majority of the nation wanted neither of these two as president, yet we were presented with a binary choice. Among voters who had a negative view of both candidates, they broke two to one for Trump. For many, a very sizable minority, they were given a choice that was similar to being asked to choose between having a stroke or a heart attack.

Random thought 3: I hope the Democratic Party does some deep soul searching. This was the year of the outsider but they nominated the ultimate insider and then acted surprised when she lost. Let’s be clear, these were both terrible candidates, neither of them should be allowed within miles of the White House. However, which Party is more culpable? Trump won with populism, and was nominated despite opposition from his party. Clinton won through backroom mechanizations and was nominated because of her party. With this in mind the Democratic Party is responsible for the election of Trump.

Random thought 4: The educated are elites, and like elites the world over, they are out of touch. Sixty percent of America does not have a college degree, and those are the folks who sent Trump to the White House. While we certainly must do everything in our power to make our nation tolerant of and accessible to minorities, we ignore the majority at our own peril. The problem with being educated is that you start to think that you are smarter than everyone else. The college educated in the United States view the world through a liberal paradigm. With the decline of the liberal arts, many college educated don’t even realize that they view the world through a specific philosophical lens. They are long on facts and figures and woefully lacking in knowledge. Very little of the differences between the educated and the non-educated have to do with facts but instead are rooted in norms and values.

Random thought 5: The media does not elect the president. If they did, this post would be about president elect Clinton. The media were in the bag for Clinton the entire campaign. Clinton got the endorsement of 57 of the nation’s 100 largest newspapers, Trump received 2. This didn’t matter to the voters as the media are made up of educated elites, see above.

Random thought 6: People did not vote against their interests. Clinton prevailed with large margins amongst those earning less than $50ooo/year. Conversely, Trump won among those earning more.

Random thought 7: Clinton failed to inspire. Turnout was low amongst those needed to carry her to victory. Trump only did about as well as Romney did, Clinton under-performed.

Random thought 8: Polls are just statistics, and statistics can say whatever their manipulator wants them to say.

 

Not so random thought: Trump is our president elect. We should give him a clean slate and judge him by what he does from this point forward. We should wish him well and hope mightily that he succeeds.

Too Wounded to Govern

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Rather it is Tweedle Dee or Tweedle Dum that wins the election, the question becomes rather s/he can effectively govern. Trump has been proven a misogynistic racist while Clinton seems incapable of telling the truth even when the truth is innocuous.

With nearly a month left before the election, it is only going to get worse.

So how does either one gain the respect to effectively work with congress, the bureaucracy, or world leaders to move any agenda forward? Do either of these candidates have the moral authority to use the bully pulpit to sway public opinion?

Trump is a charlatan, he does what charlatans have aways done. His lone goal appears to be self-aggrandizement. He does not appear to have much love for country, community, or even family; like Narcissus, he loves only himself. While his stated motto is “Make America Great Again”, his behaviour indicates that “Damn the torpedoes, full speed ahead” would be more fitting.

Clinton is a classic Machiavellian, she changes her position to get ahead of the prevailing (political) winds. She can’t be pinned down on her positions or beliefs because they are constantly in flux as she judges the political tides and calculates which stipulated reality will increase her power.

On January 21, 2017, one of these psychically misshapen golems will wake up in the White House only to find that, despite years of public and private mechanizations, despite selling their very soul to the highest bidder, s/he does not possess the moral authority to lead.

For the sins of the few, we all will suffer.

Presidential Election 2016

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Last time I voted for president was 1992, Bill Clinton’s first term. If you recall that election, he was the man from Hope who was going to build a bridge to the 21st century. I had spent the previous few years protesting Bush the Elder’s war on Iraq. That war lasted about 3 months and was followed by an extended bombing campaign masquerading as a no-fly zone. I protested Bush and Quail’s local campaign stops and went and listened to Clinton’s hope filled message.  I voted for Bill Clinton without reservation.

Within 3 hours of Clinton’s inauguration, US war planes were dropping bombs on Iraq; a message to the world that while the US regime had changed, its foreign policy had not.

I have not voted for president since. On that day I realized that choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil.

Since then I have heard many argue that if you don’t vote then you don’t have any right to complain. However, I think that argument has it backwards. If you vote and your candidate wins, you can’t complain as you are getting exactly what you asked for; and if you vote and your candidate loses, well you knew the rules of the game and you should not be a sore loser by complaining about it.

I almost voted for Obama his first term, that whole hope and change thing had me a little giddy, but I resisted, and I am thankful that I did. Obama turned out to be as evil as any other president in my adult life. Habeas corpus has not been restored, our foreign empire has grown and not shrunk, black prison sites still operate, indiscriminate bombings continued and even increased, etc ad nauseum. Obama’s first term might as well have been Bush the Lesser’s third term. Needless to say, I did not consider voting for Obama his second term and am happy that I sat out his first election.

This brings us to 2016–Clinton v Trump. Of course I would not consider voting for Trump, a billionaire “populist” running on racism and tax cuts for the one percent. And I find the thought of a Clinton presidency of little more consolation. Hillary is gaining the support of the neo-cons who led Bush to war and she sits well to the right of Obama on foreign policy. She has not brought up the idea of restoring habeas corpus and has not mentioned wanting to bring any troops home, she has even touted Kissinger (a noted war criminal) as someone to look up to.

Of course the Green Party’s Jill Stein and the Libertarian Gary Johnson will be on most ballots. Sure those are real choices, the first an anti-vaxxer with no political experience while the latter states that the solution to climate change is to colonize other planets; uh huh, real choices.

So after more than a year of hoopla, with election day just more than a month away, our choices are going to be a war monger, a space cadet, and a couple of wackadoos; I’ll leave it to the reader to determine which is which.

Form Over Function, Poor Curation of the Local Library

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Today I visited our local public library, an imposing and vast edifice, a marvel of modern architecture. Since architecture is not my forte, here is a description of the building from Missouri Life:

Built in 2002, the Columbia Public Library is a noteworthy design by Hardy Holzman Pfeiffer Associates. The 102,000-square-foot library is housed within a dynamic, dramatic cylindrical form. The design is a prime example of the architecture firm’s approach: collages of styles, colliding forms, and superimposing one plan idea onto another to yield geometric and dramatic interior spaces. Large skylights are “carved” from the curved, masonry cylinder to introduce abundant natural light. Shifted grids, diagonals, and a range of materials, colors, and textures result in a more informal and humanistic architecture. The corner site at Broadway and Garth Avenue is also arranged in a highly geometric plan, with the building’s crescent shaped plan and half-circle parking lot forming a complete circle. Paving patterns emanate outward from the building and its entry.

The building is as imposing and wonderful as the description makes it sound. There are computers, a massive video collection, a vast selection of music…I guess that with all of this pomp and excess that there just wasn’t any money left over for books.

This library has such a shoddy collection of books that it should be ashamed to even call itself a library. I did a keyword search for “epicureanism” it had not a single book available to checkout and take home. There were audio books and ebooks and just a couple of dead tree books that I could have gotten on a waiting list to check out. Surely this could not be. So I tried “Epicurean” to see if they just had a weak key word system, same result. Perhaps the curators are biased against Epicureans, I tried “Stoicism”, same result. “Stoic”, same result. WTF? Let’s broaden our terms, “Hellenistic Philosophy”, same result. OK, ancient philosophy is not this library’s strong suit, lets change subjects. “Kropotkin”, same result. “Emma Goldman”, same result. Really?

It is nice that the library system (Daniel Boone Regional Library) subscribes to a fairly large collection of digital books. Some of the ebooks are created from Project Gutenberg books which are public domain and created by volunteers. There are multiple problems with the way that these books are implemented for lending. First, why make one sign in to download a book that is in the public domain? Secondly, why check them out for a limited time, why not just let the user download a drm free ebook that they can keep? Thirdly, and most egregious, the library violates the Project Gutenberg license in multiple ways. In direct violation of the license the ebooks are stripped of the license, the library also utilizes Project Gutenberg’s trademarks without license compliance.

All in all the Columbia Public Library is a perfect example of putting form above function. Truly sad to have such a grand building and to have inept curators and administration.