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Proserpina's Journal
Proserpina's Journal
January 28, 2016

Here are six things that Donald Trump is absolutely right about, says Ted Rall


Donald Trump has surged to the top of the Republican heap by saying outrageous things, issuing over-the-top insults and making ridiculous proposals. Some of his utterances, like his sexist remarks about Carly Fiorina’s looks, are offensive. His nativist demagoguery, calling for mass arrests and deportations of Latinos and a visa ban to Muslim visitors, are outright fascist.

Trump also says stuff that other politicians, and the media, are afraid to say and needs to be said. Here is a sample of the top six.

(1) Invading Iraq was stupid. The pundits say San Bernadino changed everything, at least the race for the Republican nomination, replacing pocketbook issues with foreign policy and terrorism as voters’ main concerns. If that’s true, if hawkishness is kind, then why is the GOP frontrunner doing well despite his consistent opposition to invading Iraq — the most significant Republican-led foreign policy initiative of the last 30 years? “Right now we have ISIS, which is worse than Hussein. Hussein did one thing: he killed terrorists,” Trump said in May. “We are in worse shape than we ever were. It’s a mess.” Most American people agree — but even Democrats don’t come down as hard on Bush’s Iraq War as Trump. (Maybe that’s cuz Hillary voted for it and Bernie, supposedly the wild socialist of the campaign, voted to fund it.) Everything else aside, Trump deserves points for hammering away at this.

(2) Interventionism in the Middle East is stupid.
Bernie Sanders criticizes America’s penchant for “regime change,” but Trump uses a sledgehammer where Sanders is content with calm analysis. Trump is also more willing to say that a secular socialist dictator beats the after-me-the-deluge play-it-by-ear approach we’ve seen lately, creating power vacuums filled by radical Islamists. “She is the one that caused all this problem with her stupid policies,” Trump said December 13, referring to Hillary’s tenure as secretary of state. “You look at what she did with Libya , what she did with Syria . Look at Egypt, what happened with Egypt, a total mess. They don’t back — we don’t back any of our allies. You look, she was truly, if not ‘the,’ one of the worst secretary of states in the history of the country. She talks about me being dangerous. She’s killed hundreds of thousands of people with her stupidity.” “What do you mean, hundreds of thousands?” a TV host asked, clearly shocked at his candor. “She was secretary of state. Obama was president, the team,” Trump replied. “Two real geniuses.” Trump has it right — dead right.

(3) Good relations with Russia would be a good thing.
Reading and watching corporate media, you could easily forget that the Berlin Wall ever came down or that the Cold War ever ended. Never mind that post-Soviet Russia has never directly confronted the United States in its sphere of influence. To his credit, Trump sees the wisdom of not picking fights with a nation with the world’s largest stockpile of nuclear weapons, a colossus that spans nine time zones and possesses vast natural resources. “I believe I’ll get along fine with Putin,” Trump reiterated Sunday. “I believe I’ll get along fine with other leaders. Obama doesn’t get along with Putin. Putin can’t stand our president and it’s causing us difficulty. And, frankly, and I said it a long time ago, if Russia wants to bomb the hell out of ISIS and join us in that effort, I am absolutely fine with it. I think that’s an asset, not a liability.”

(4) Electoral politics in America are corrupt. “I will tell you that our system is broken,” Trump said during one of the debates. “I give to many people. I give to everybody, when they call I give, and you know what? When I need something from them, two years, three years later, I call, they are there for me.” No one else, certainly not Hillary or his rival GOP contenders who are on the take, has the credibility of a guy who can personally attest to using his billions to buy congressmen and senators.

(5) We need more legal immigration. As noted above, immigration policy is where Trumpism goes off the rails. Even so, Trump makes one reasonable point: we need less illegal immigration and — this next part gets lost a lot in the furor over his calls for magical walls he’ll somehow get Mexico to pay for — more legal immigration. “Build a wall with a big beautiful door for legal immigration,” Trump said. Granted, he has flip-flopped on the issue. But increasing legal immigration is still a conversation we need to be having — even though a lot of the new arrivals ought to be (sorry, Donald) Muslim refugees from places we screwed up, like Syria.

(6) Common Core sucks. Like many of Trump’s stances, he’s on the right side of Common Core for the wrong reasons — he doesn’t like federal control of education. (Frankly, all the countries the U.S. is falling behind have centralized educational curricula.) But the Common Core standards enacted by the Obama Administration really have been a “disaster,” as Trump says. “I believe Common Core is a very bad thing,” he says. Last year, most students failed the way-too-difficult test in 49 states, destroying confidence and self-esteem among millions of American children. Meanwhile, teachers — who can be fired if their kids don’t do well — are spending scores of hours teaching to this stupid test as opposed to, you know, teaching actual knowledge. You won’t get this straight talk on Common Core from Hillary Clinton, or even Bernie Sanders.
January 28, 2016

Governor Snyder: You Were Not Hired to Be Jerry Lewis


On Tuesday, self-described wonk Rick Snyder used much of his State of the State speech to take responsibility for poisoning Flint’s children. Though by the end of the week, Snyder was limiting the extent of his responsibility because the “experts” didn’t exercise “common sense.” (See video here.)

“The department people, the heads, were not being given the right information by the quote-unquote experts, and I use that word with great trial and tribulation because they were considered experts in terms of their background, these are career civil servants that had strong science, medical backgrounds in terms of their research,” Snyder said. “But as a practical matter, when you look at it today and you look at their conclusions, I wouldn’t call them experts anymore.”

This is something that we don’t consider just what one person did, let’s look at the entire cultural background of how people have been operating,” Snyder said. “Let’s get in there and rebuild the culture that understands common sense has to be part of it, taking care of our citizens has to be part of it.”
The Republican governor added: “What’s so frustrating and makes you so angry about this situation is you have a handful of quote-unquote experts who were career service people that made terrible decisions in my view and we have to live with the consequences with that. They work for me, so I accept that responsibility.”

It’s a very curious argument for a guy who — still! — gets treated as someone who puts policy over ideology, in spite of the years of serving as Dick DeVos’ puppet approving of bad policy over and over. (In the same appearance, Snyder took credit for things President Obama’s Administration has given to Flint, including Medicaid expansion under ObamaCare, but that’s a long-standing schtick of this governor.) Effectively, a guy whose entire political gimmick is that he relies on experts is now saying those damned experts didn’t exercise enough common sense.

Yes, Governor. The experts did not exercise enough common sense.

But something else Snyder did this week drives me even crazier than his equivocation over wonkdom, just as it became clear his particular approach to policy — especially his insistence that emergency managers can fix the pervasive problems of Michigan’s cities — had poisoned Flint’s children.

Rick Snyder channeled Jerry Lewis, the telethon guy.

In the middle of his speech — and in his website dedicated to this issue — Snyder solicited donations.

If you’d also like to aid Flint, please go to HelpForFlint.com to volunteer or donate. If you are a Flint resident who needs help getting the water you need, go to HelpForFlint.com.

Hell, Snyder’s not even as competent as Jerry Lewis! Because while two of the links Snyder includes on his site go to sites dedicated to helping the people of Flint deal with this crisis — one to Greater Flint’s Community Foundation and the other to a United Way fund specifically set up to benefit Flint — Snyder’s third donate link goes to the Red Cross’ general SE MI site, such that any funds donated might go to other entirely worthy causes but not Flint.

Anyway, here’s why this has been bothering me all week.

First of all, Rick Snyder is worth something like $200 million, and while he returns his gubernatorial salary, he brings in around $1.9 million a year. So this is a guy making making $36,500 a week asking people who (using the Michigan average household, not individual, income) $48,500 a year to donate to help Flint. Your average Michigan household is doing almost twice as well as your average Flint household (average $25,000 a year) — so it is certainly within their charitable ability to help their fellow Michigander. But clearly the kinds of donations that Rick Snyder could afford would go much further to helping Flint than the kind of donations most Michiganders could afford.

But here’s the more galling thing....

January 28, 2016

Why understanding gut reactions is key to building powerful movements

when you are living with IBS, this headline is a "groaner" of innuendo!


Many protesters are driven by their emotions, including anger at injustice and sympathy for victims of oppression. Acts of resistance, such as by Rosa Parks in Montgomery, Alabama in December 1955, can trigger an outpouring of support. Yet, at other times, people are acquiescent to injustice. What happened to their emotional responses?

Insight into the role of emotions in nonviolent action can be obtained from studies by psychologist Jonathan Haidt and colleagues into “moral foundations.” These are six basic factors that shape human judgments about good and bad: care, fairness, liberty, loyalty, authority and sanctity. These have great relevance to activists.

Here I will first describe Haidt’s perspective on the operation of the human mind. Then I will examine each of the six moral foundations for relevance to nonviolent action.

Our two minds

Most people think they have a single mind, the one we recognize every day when we think. However, Haidt, like other psychologists, subscribes to the view that humans have two minds. One, the intuitive mind, usually operates without conscious awareness, and is automatic and high-capacity. For example, if you notice a dark moving spot in your visual field, you don’t have time to consciously calculate its speed and direction; instead, you instinctively duck to avoid the rock. The second, higher-order human mind, the rational mind, is slow, careful and requires more effort.

In practice, people often make a decision about right and wrong based on their gut reactions, using the intuitive mind, and then use their rational mind to produce a rationalization for the decision. Haidt developed some ingenious scenarios that would cause perplexity, because people had an intuitive response but no rational justification for it.

January 28, 2016

The EPA’s Silent, Guilty Role in the Flint Water Crisis


Michigan Governor Rick Snyder in recent weeks has come under intense pressure over the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, which was precipitated two years ago when his administration, in an effort to cut costs, changed the city’s water supply from Lake Huron to the Flint River. The move led to a dangerous increase in lead in the water supply; just 5 parts per billion is cause for concern, especially for children, but Flint’s tap water has had five times that amount. And yet, officials insisted until late last fall that the water was safe for its 100,000 residents to drink.

In response to a public outcry, Snyder has released nearly 300 pages of emails that reveal how poorly state agencies responded to the slow-moving crisis. But while Snyder, a Republican, and his appointees have borne the brunt of the outrage, it turns out the Environmental Protection Agency fell down on the job, too. Donald Trump, who’s promised a “tremendous cutting” of EPA funds if elected president, said this week the agency is “really guilty of” the Flint “horror show.” For once, Trump is not entirely wrong. On Thursday, EPA Region 5 Administrator Susan Hedman announced she will resign from her post. But the EPA, while contrite, hasn’t admitted wrongdoing. Like every other agency facing criticism for the water crisis, it has shifted the blame elsewhere—to Michigan’s state officials.

“Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the state of Michigan was responsible for implementing the regulations to protect their residents’ drinking water,” an EPA spokesperson said this week. “EPA’s ability to oversee management of that situation was impacted by failures and resistance at the state and local levels to work with us in a forthright, transparent, and proactive manner consistent with the seriousness of the risks to public health.”

“It is important to understand the clear roles here,” Hedman told The Detroit News. “Communication about lead in drinking water and the health impacts associated with that, that’s the role of [the Department of Health and Human Services], the county health department and the drinking water utility.”

It was only once Flint became a national story, and Snyder and President Barack Obama declared a state of emergency, that the EPA admitted its initial response was too slow. Residents and the American Civil LIberties Union were still petitioning the EPA to act in October, long after the agency first became aware of potential problems...
January 27, 2016

Is the Revolution too big to sabotage yet?

We the People been at these turning points before, and something always happens...

An assassination, a big bombing, an economic collapse...and the effort is short-circuited. Sometimes, it's a strategic capitulation by TPTB, giving a little here so they can tighten the screws so much more elsewhere.

I guess we will know in 6 weeks. But living with your heart in your mouth is very uncomfortable.

Let us pledge to each other to continue, regardless of whatever curve balls God, Nature or the Masters of the Universe decide to pitch our way. Real change doesn't happen overnight...it's the product of relentless effort and continual pressure and personal application to the cause.

Our cause is just! So long as we have each other, we have a way forward. It's much more than an election at risk, here; it's greening, it's peace, it's equality for all, it's a better world.

January 27, 2016

Who is investigating Flint's poisoned water?


Numerous government agencies and the Michigan Civil Rights Commission are conducting independent investigations into whether laws were broken regarding lead-tainted water in Flint, Michigan.

Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette announced Monday the appointment of a special counsel to aid his office's investigation into whether laws were broken regarding Flint's lead-tainted water. It is unclear at this point if the probe could result in criminal or civil charges. Flint's public works director, Michigan's top environmental regulator, a state spokesman and a high-ranking federal regulator have resigned in connection with the crisis. Two other state environmental officials have been suspended pending an investigation.

A look at various investigations taking place:

Michigan Attorney General

Schuette announced the inquiry Jan. 15 — more than four months after a Virginia Tech researcher said the Flint River was leaching lead from pipes into people's homes because the water was not treated for corrosion — after declining to investigate earlier. He said new information that came to light around New Year's prompted him to open a probe.

Special counsel Todd Flood, appointed Monday, mostly declined to detail which criminal or civil laws could be reviewed for potential violations, though he did cite prohibitions against misconduct by public officials. The city of Flint was under emergency state financial management when it switched its water source from the Detroit system.

Governor's Task Force

An independent panel appointed by Gov. Rick Snyder determined that the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality was primarily responsible for the water contamination because it failed to requireFlint to treat its water for corrosion after switching from Detroit's system to the Flint River. A final report is expected early this year. The task force last week recommended that the state ask the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to help assess an outbreak of Legionnaires' disease in Genesee County that some experts suspect is linked to the water. At least 87 cases, including nine deaths, were confirmed during a 17-month period.

Michigan Auditor General

The auditor said in a preliminary report that the DEQ should have required Flint to treat its water to keep lead from leaching from service lines into people's homes but did not purposely mislead federal officials about the lack of corrosion control. State officials interpreted federal rules to mean Flint could make the transition and then test the new water for lead over two six-month intervals to determine potential corrosion treatment. In February, a DEQ water supervisor told the EPA that Flint had a corrosion control program in place. But in April, an EPA official confirmed through another DEQ official that the city was not practicing corrosion treatment, according to emails. The EPA apparently interpreted the word "program" to mean treatment, while the DEQ meant it as testing to determine if corrosion controls would be needed in the future, according to the auditor.

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

The EPA announced in November an audit of how Michigan enforces drinking water rules, and plans to identify ways to possibly strengthen state oversight. The Justice Department this month confirmed it is helping the EPA, where one high-ranking official has resigned. It is unclear if the U.S. attorney's involvement is limited to the audit or is broader. A state Democratic lawmaker on Monday asked U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch to launch a probe, saying Schuette waited too long and questioning whether the Republican's investigation will be impartial.

EPA Office of Inspector General

The EPA's internal watchdog announced plans last week to examine the circumstances of, and the agency's response to, the water contamination. The office plans to visit Michigan and the EPA's regional headquarters in Chicago.

Michigan Civil Rights Commission

The commission said Monday it would hold hearings to explore whether the civil rights of Flint residents were violated during the switch to the Flint River and subsequent contamination. A majority of Flintresidents are black. The first hearing could be held within 30 days.
January 27, 2016

Oh-Oh! Obama to have private chat with Bernie Sanders on Wednesday


No formal agenda for meeting, no endorsement expected

President Barack Obama plans to hold a private meeting at the White House on Wednesday with Sen. Bernie Sanders, who is surging in the early state polls in the Democratic president contest. Sanders and the president will have a private Oval Office meeting, according to White House press secretary Josh Earnest.

“The President and Sen. Sanders first discussed this meeting last December when Sen. Sanders attended the Congressional Holiday Ball. The two will meet privately in the Oval Office and there will be no formal agenda,” Earnest said.

The meeting comes after Obama heaped praise on Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and dismissed comparisons between Sanders’ rise in the early state polls and Obama’s groundbreaking 2008 campaign against Clinton.

“She can govern and she can start here, day one, more experienced than any non-vice-president has ever been who aspires to this office,” he said about Clinton in an interview with Politico released Monday.

“I think Bernie came in with the luxury of being a complete longshot and just letting loose,” said Obama. “I think Hillary came in with the both privilege and burden of being perceived as the front-runner. And, as a consequence, you know, where they stood at the beginning probably helps to explain why the language sometimes is different.”


just don't drink the polonium-laced tea, Bernie!
January 26, 2016

Some people are just unclear about the meaning of "revolution"

"Revolution", like "revolve" implies that the first shall be last, the last shall be first, the top shall sink to the bottom and the oppressed get their time in the sun. It is permanent change...not an odd day's out. A reordering of the world and its resources.

But there are those who think that calling for a Revolution is just a cute advertising gimmick...that Bernie doesn't really mean it, and neither do his blindly loyal supporters. That the American people wouldn't stand for it, and neither would the American government. That enough money will change hands to pacify the noisiest, hire the cops to beat down the rest, and life will continue in its current endless circles. That the current Masters of the Universe will remain the Masters.

And they are willing to bet a lot of money on that. But are they willing to bet a lot of time?

Bernie's got the people who are willing to put their time, toil, and any cash they can scrape up into his revolution, which is truly OUR revolution. And don't let any cynical, paid-off lackey of the 1% tell you otherwise!

And if it comes to a question of whether peaceful revolution will "be allowed" to occur, well:

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