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Sun Mar 15, 2015 at 01:11 PM PDT

The Education of a True Believer

by Treats

Long ago in the grey mists of time, I was a True Believer.  

So let me tell you a story about how I learned the facts of political life.

No names will be named.  But sadly, this is all so very true.

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Wed Mar 04, 2015 at 02:03 PM PST

Get Obama

by Treats

That's all they want to do.  I have connections to some Republicans, some extreme and not so extreme.  I was interested in their reactions to the Bibi speech.

"He really stuck it to Obama!" was the answer.

They just don't care about war and peace, or precedent, or Iran, or foreign policy, or anything except:

"Get Obama!"

After six years of relentless daily demonization from their preferred media outlets, they believe all problems will be magically solved and America saved by nothing more than:

"Get Obama out of the White House!  Worse President EVER!!!11!!!"

Nothing else matters.  Anything that hurts Obama is good for America, and anything -- anything! -- that helps him is bad for America.   How many people are hurt or killed, how much is destroyed - even the economy, or the environment, or virtually anything -- nothing matters except:

"Get Obama!"

The last shreds of reason seem to have departed, replaced by nothing but sheer irrational fear and loathing.

Modern political marketing, brought to you by the marriage of big money and sophisticated propaganda, er, marketing techniques.

Discuss

Wed Feb 18, 2015 at 11:12 AM PST

Why am I not a Conservative?

by Treats

I'm not young any more.  If you subtract a quarter century from the number that's my age, that's about how old I feel.  My health is still quite good.  But when I look in the mirror it's a reminder of how fast time slips by.

Many of the people I grew up with were very anti-conservative in their youth, protesting the war and fighting the Man, experimenting with free love and chemical enhancement.   Some still are.  But a surprising number have gotten married, gotten property, had children, cleaned up, and are heavily invested in the existing system.  I see their pictures on social media:  hair stiff and colored, lawn mowed perfectly, house neat as a pin; and I see their opinions.  The President is destroying America through Socialism.  He might be a secret Muslim who wasn't really born here.  I don't like him.  I hate him.  He's dangerous.  Let's go back to the way things were.

In the 1960s while my peers were protesting for a better world I was a conservative, resisting the threat I thought they posed to my country.  Now everything has turned around.  I see their desperate clinging to the past as a threat to the world I want my grandchildren to be able to live in.  What changed?

This diary isn't about politics so much as it is about change, internal and external, and what effect those changes have on the politics of the people experiencing them.

And how I, and you, can deal with those changes.

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Sun Dec 21, 2014 at 11:12 AM PST

The Long Dark Shadow of Richard I

by Treats

In 1972 when I was newly 18 I had my first vote to cast.  I gave my election virginity to Richard Nixon.  Like too many of us it wasn't as pleasant an experience as I would have hoped.  Part of the reason I made that ugly choice is that in those early years I leaned to the conservative side, for mostly personal reasons best left to another diary, but I did.

It wasn't that I did it enthusiastically.  Even with my moderate-right leaning I neither liked nor trusted the man, and I could have voted for many Democrats against him.   But the choice was George McGovern, and I was convinced by all I'd heard and seen (in the bubble) that while he was a good man personally his administration would destroy the America I knew and loved and give de facto control to the loud obnoxious long-haired radicals that hated everything they saw except sex, drugs, and Communism.

It was all clever lies, exaggerations, and marketing, but so many in the country swallowed it whole that the dark prince Nixon won 49 of 50 states.  We thought we knew what we were voting for and against, but we had not a clue.

As far as I know (and we do know, from the tapes and memoirs that have surfaced since) that the Nixon administration was the first in our nation's history where the Man himself and his closest aides discussed and planned in private not just for the defeat of the opposing party, but its total elimination as a political force for all time.

Nixon was a man full of (and too often driven by) resentments.  It was part of his dark genius that he recognized that not only did he share those emotions with millions of other Americans from the social class he grew up in (middle and lower middle working people) but how to turn that hidden darkness into political gold.

The radicals of the day saw another vision for America, and for the first time ever they truly thought they could see the promised land:  an America freed from corporate domination and loose from the shackles of a conserve religious authoritarianism hiding under a thin fake veneer of democracy for the sole real purpose of protecting the power and privilege of the wealthy WASP elite.

Fools rush in where wise men fear to tread, and the young bright radical liberals of the day rushed in an exuberant herd.  They had the best of intentions and a dream I agree with, but they played into the hands of the Dark Prince so well he could have written the script himself.  And he did his best to do just that, with some success.  While publicly regretting that McGovern was running, Nixon's minions, with his knowledge and encouragement, did everything they could in secret to try and insure the McGovern wing's victory in the primaries and in the Democratic party.

For you see, Nixon's conscious goal was to split the Democrats into two warring factions permanently.  We know this, it's not really even a matter of debate.  Read the memoirs and listen to the tapes.  Or read Richard Perlstein's excellent Nixonland if you don't have the time (and who does?) to go back to the source materials.

Perlstein's point (and that of this diary) is that Nixon perfected a formula for electoral success in the face of being outnumbered that is still the blueprint for what is happening today, just days away from 2015.

But I make the further point to you that it takes two to dance a tango, and this is true even if one partner is unwilling and unaware.

The radicals of my youth were sincere and full of energy, but they wound up being Nixon's foil in his stirring of middle class and blue collar cultural resentments.

Most of us are aware of that, yet too often we play the same role today.

I know you'd like for me to give you an example.  I choose a positive one.

I look at the "Moral Monday" movement right here in my home state of North Carolina, and I see the prototype of a movement that might have terrified Nixon.  It is inclusive, not dismissive of others.  It seeks to persuade and set an example of quiet but true morality, not to shock the suburbanites into "waking up" as the radicals of the 1960s seem to think could be done.  It does not dismiss or have contempt for religion.  No successful movement at the present state of our culture can hope to do that and have wide appeal, I believe.

But it is not ashamed, it is not shy, it does not back down.

The opponents of constructive change use the very natural fear of that change to marshal popular resistance to it.  Nixon wasn't the first, but he set the standard.  Ronald Reagan, (someone whom Nixon saw as a threat, but who he watched and learned from) was a far more likeable figure than Tricky Dick, and further perfected it.

Let's keep dreaming of ways to actually change things instead of ramming our heads into the brick wall of social reality.  There are positive examples out there.

And then let's finally win and consign the evil legacy of Richard Nixon's political cynicism to the history books where it belongs -- as an example of the misery inflicted on humanity in the name of one man's relentless and unscrupulous ambition to dominate and control.

A long, dark shadow indeed.

Discuss

Thu Dec 18, 2014 at 09:54 AM PST

Choose Wisely

by Treats

When I grew up, it was seemingly in a world of scarcity. The world was full of hungry people and we were lucky to be able to eat. I could see for myself the pitiful shantytowns near the highways leading in and out of town. But we never went there. It was "dangerous".

Not just food or shelter or toys, but love was scarce too. You had to do the right thing by other people or they wouldn't love you. You had to do what you were told or you would be punished. There might be someone out there to love you, somewhere, but you had to be the right kind of person to ever have a hope of finding them, then you had to act just right to keep them.

As I became an adult and put years behind me, I slowly began to realize that this wasn't the inevitable condition of humanity, but the result of choice. When I was first introduced to the idea that the world was full of abundance but that the seeming lack of it was due to human decisions, I didn't believe it. It seemed not to match my experience.

But now I know it's true. There's always been enough food to feed everyone in the world. The problem is poverty. They can't pay for it so they starve. There's an abundance of love in the world, but it's withheld often in a play for personal power. Much like food and shelter.

Almost everything comes down to that struggle for power. It's what ails us. It's what holds us back. It's what makes us miserable - both the havers, the seekers, and the disempowered. All of us.

But the ones fighting for it and hurting everyone else in the process can't see that. They imagine that if they just get enough forced love, enough possessions, they will be happy and safe.

Just thought you might like to know. You don't have to live in a world of scarcity. You can choose your environment. You can choose those you love and who love you. In fact you can't avoid that choice, for no decision is a decision.

Choose wisely. You will die. No amount of money and power will save you. This will all end. The only thing you have is right now.

Discuss

Sun Oct 12, 2014 at 11:03 AM PDT

Stay Safe with Biblically Correct Sex!

by Treats

Here we go again.  It happens at least every week, sometimes every other day.

A social conservative says something that we on the left find obnoxiously bigoted and/or ignorant (usually both) and we stop for a moment like people driving by an overturned clown car, pointing and staring and mocking.

In this particular instance some career-building publicity-seeking actor who has a persona of being a regular-guy redneck gave a videotaped sermon in a church somewhere, and in said sermon he told the audience what they came to hear, to wit:  the Bible is right and that's all that matters.

He said it via the kind of applause line speechwriters are hired to concoct:  "Biblically-correct sex is safe. "

People don't usually applaud in church but you could probably feel the murmur of approval that thrilled the audience when he said that.

We, on the other hand, simply assume Phil Robertson and all the people in that church who loved that line simply have an IQ lower than wood, laugh, and move on.

That's what this dairy is about.

Read on with me, if you dare to understand what's really happening here.

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Sat Oct 11, 2014 at 09:30 AM PDT

Let Freedom Ring

by Treats

So, at long last, the inexorable wave of marriage equality has washed up in my native state of North Carolina.  I live in Asheville, and the unexpected news last night electrified my friends and the community.  Just like in every state before (and in many to follow) there were scenes of jubilation on social media and downtown at the Registrar of Deeds which stayed open late to accommodate the sudden crush.   The opposition was taken by surprise, stunned, and temporarily silent.

It's been too long coming.  The religious diehards and the politicians that feed on them for votes have been quite deft and very sneaky about this.  They put the horrible Amendment One on the ballot in an election that was fueled partly by tea party types voting against the socialist Muslim wrong-color usurper in the White House, and partly by churches voting against Sin (including the very large and devout black church population) as instructed by their Pastors. It won by 60 percent, the total number of which only amounted to 21 percent of the registered voters in the state.

But the tide can't be stopped by sand castles no matter how strong they seemed at the time.  Monday when state offices open they'll be crowded.

But this Sunday the fundamentalists will have a chance to catch a breath, regroup a little, and thunder, froth, and fulminate from their pulpits.  They will exhort their loyal legions to strike a blow for Virtue and the Rule of Law based on God's Will by voting Republican in the upcoming election.

Will this have an effect?  I doubt it, but I could be wrong.  These people wouldn't vote for anyone but a Republican anyway.  But some may be motivated by anger and fear to go to the polls.  Others may be discouraged, but never count out the power of the die-hard vote.  They are stubborn and will never, ever give up until they are dead.

But this election in this state is very different from 2012.  There's widespread disgust with the radical conservative agenda that's been foisted on us -- and I say this not just from talking within my bubble of leftist friends, but to many more moderates and middle-class people.  For every fed-up Fundie and his loyal subservient wife there may well be at least 2.1 fed-up moderates.  We'll see soon, won't we?

But regardless of the outcome of this next election, the social climate of the United States is changing dramatically.

Where will the Fundamentalists go, oh, where will they go and what will they do?

The Republican Party faces a huge dilemma.  Move away from them and lose the present; or stick with them, hang on now, but lose the future.

We live in interesting and somewhat hopeful times.

Discuss

Fri Mar 07, 2014 at 05:01 PM PST

No Obamacare for me? -- Updated

by Treats

With the March 31st deadline looming and friends urging me to sign up, tonight I took a look at my healthcare options on the exchange.

Nothing is, alas, remotely affordable for me.

With an annual income of $15,000 in a good year, at age 60 and living in North Carolina, I qualify for a $595/mo "tax credit".  The cheapest plan available to me is $524/mo and the cheapest decent one is at about $600/mo.  Technically, that's $5 a month, hell of deal deal it would appear.

Maybe I'm wrong, but a tax credit is something that you can deduct from your federal income tax bill at the end of the year, right? So I could take $7,140 off the $7,200 I paid during the year for health insurance?

Except I won't owe anywhere near $7,140 in federal income taxes, and there's no way on this green earth I can afford to pay $7,200 out of an income of $15,000 (if I'm lucky, it could be lower) during the year and still eat and have a roof over my head even if I could get it all back in tax savings.

So, I guess I have to hope my health holds out until 65; or, maybe the NC legislature will change hands sometime soon (I doubt this) and we'll opt for the federal medicare expansion here.

Thanks, Republicans.  You just might kill me after all.

* Updated *

thanks to the generous and knowledgeable Kossacks who've commented below, the situation is considerably more hopeful that I originally thought.  Thanks, all! :)

Discuss

Thu Mar 06, 2014 at 11:18 AM PST

Hearing Ms. Bachmann

by Treats

Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann recently had a friendly discussion with Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council on his radio show in which the topic of the Administration's policy towards Israel came up.  Ms. Bachmann's attention was directed to how those polices were helping to bring on the End Times.  Among the more delicious quotes:

“That’s in the natural, I just believe that as believers in Jesus Christ who see the authority of scripture, I believe that the Lord and his strong right arm will have Israel’s back and will be her protector. The question is, will we as the United States cooperate in standing with Israel and blessing Israel, or will we join those nations that come against her? We are definitely on the wrong side. It is jaw dropping, it is stunning, it’s breathtaking.”
What Kossacks hear when we read this:

Mock-able word salad, Manichean logic, nonsense, the usual crazy from one of the most reliable sources, how could anyone vote for or support this loon?  More proof the wingnut base are truly nuts.  They're just crazy.

We attempt to parse this with our heads using logic and the rules of the English language, and it doesn't compute.  We marvel, laugh, and move on.

What the Christian Conservative Base hears when they read this:

Believers in Jesus Christ.  Authority of Scripture.  Lord and his strong right arm blessing Israel like in the Bible.  But we are on the wrong side [because of the Muslim Usurper.]  The End Times are really coming just like the Pastor says, prepare, so donate more in the collection plate.  Stand behind Michelle -- she tells the Truth From God, driving the satanic liberals crazy in the process (ha, ha, ha!)

I submit for your consideration:  That Ms. Bachmann may be wildly wrong and quite fanatical, but she is crazy like a fox.  She is calculating and knows how to speak to her national constituency.  We don't see this because we just don't hear her speech patterns with the same ears as those that see her and her fellow fanatics as Apostles of Truth.  They are more dangerous than we give them credit for.

Discuss

Thu Feb 27, 2014 at 10:57 AM PST

Him who is without sin

by Treats

A very wise man once said: "Let him who is without sin cast the first stone."

As Lauren A has learned (to the surprise of few) there are way too many of his professed followers who just can't seem to understand the wisdom of that quote. No surprise there. There's fear in the air, lots of it.

This controversy splits us into two camps: those who see the expression of sexuality as a basic human right and so long as everyone is a consenting adult no harm done; and the traditional view that human sexuality must be repressed and channeled in order to preserve social order and discipline.

Lauren is firmly and bravely holding up the flag of free sexual expression. Her opponents are mostly resorting to the ancient weapons of shame and guilt to punish her. Throwing the symbolic rocks named "slut" and "whore" to defend traditional culture. The vehemence of the reaction higlights how much fear lies behind it.

Some men fear and resent the loss of privilege that comes with the loss of the power of patriarchy. Many others of both genders just fear social change and want to roll the clock back to a time when they imagine people felt safer because their society was more orderly.

To those latter ones, I'd like to reassure them that the ancient rules were made in an era when neither democracy nor reliable contraceptives existed. There was no concept of individual rights when the Old Testament was written.

We have entered a new world, and it's scary. I understand that. But there is no going back, short of abolishing democracy in place of theocracy. Take a deep breath, and try and get over it. People are going to be doing things that you don't personally approve of. And maybe posting videos of it. I understand this is offensive to you, because it scares you, but the best advice I can give is to be careful where you go on the Internet and learn tolerance.

To the mourners of the crumbing patriarchy: it's a new world. Get over it.  I know you might be afraid that if women are empowered you'll lose your job and maybe never get laid again.  I can't help with the job except to advise you to be competent at what you do; but I can guarantee you'll probably get more, and certainly get much better sex if you learn to treat women as fellow human beings instead of objects to be used.

Discuss

A friend of mine made an eloquent post on the dominant social media site this Valentine's day about how love isn't just a Hallmark card to your romantic interest or significant other; but something we, as creatures sharing a small blue planet in a vast sea of emptiness, can and should share alike with one another, and with our true mother, the earth.

The responses were mostly positive, but I was dismayed at the number of people who thought it appropriate, or funny, to dump cynicism all over the idea that we could actually love one another.  The most frequently seen pejorative in the thread:  "Hippie!"

Why does the world turn its back on love so easily?

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There's a particularly interesting and revealing species of bat flitting around the shadowy corners of the Internet right now, but I fear it's very ephemeral and will be gone before you know it.    Let's snag a specimen and see what we might could learn from it, shall we?

Suddenly, oddly, out of seeming nowhere in the last days of January 2014, fourteen years after the turn of the 21st century, we have some Youtube videos popping up "investigating" the recent heavy snowfall in the South (in areas that rarely get snow) and "revealing" that the "snow" doesn't seem to melt like you would expect it to when you apply heat.

Like a hoard of starving ticks grabbing onto a passing dog, the chemtrails conspiracy people and various assortments of other tinfoil types immediately had the explanation: massive government conspiracy!  Proof that Chemtrails are real!  And that September 11 was a government plot! Alien technology was recovered from the Roswell crash!  And so on.

Of course the videos were simply and easily debunked by obvious science.  But did that slow down the hue and cry?  Of course not...

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