The Democratic Party Helped Create Trump

Published at 08:15 on 20 July 2016

Democrats should stop being so smug about the Trump phenomenon being just a GOP problem. Because it’s not. It’s a problem of class society, a society in which both major political parties play a role in maintaining.

The Democrats have been co-participants in that society getting more unequal and hostile to working people. If you go here, you can see how certain key trends such as income inequality and union membership, started getting worse (from a leftist point of view) not under Reagan, but under Carter, and that this worsening trend did not substantially change during the presidencies of either Clinton or Obama.

It’s not for nothing that the right-wing (and they are right-wing, not “libertarian,” they continually cheer on the power of the rich to infringe on the liberties of everyone else) Mises Institute has good things to say about Jimmy Carter’s economic policies.

And it’s not just Carter. Clinton was an aggressive free-trader, helping ram NAFTA through Congress over the objections of many congressmen in his own party. NAFTA turned out pretty much like those of us on the Left said it would: it increased, not decreased, desperation in Mexico, resulting in more, not less, illegal immigration to the US.

Then you have the failure of the Democrats to hold anyone in the Bush Regime responsible for their excesses. Nobody important was prosecuted (or even seriously investigated!) for war crimes like orchestrating a system of systematic torture and abuse of detainees.

Finally, there’s how neither Clinton nor Obama did much to undo the damage of Reagan’s deregulation of broadcast media, a policy that has allowed an increasingly rightward tilt in same. So you end up with overall economic situation in which the working class is both doing significantly worse and is being more heavily propagandized by right-wing voices.

To all this you add how, as I observed a long time ago, there’s a natural tendency of bourgeois states to sometimes turn fascist. And given that all three of the following are or have happened (as we have seen above):

  • A worsening of the economic condition of the working class.
  • An increase in the amount of right-wing propaganda directed at the working class.
  • Real-world evidence the rule of law doesn’t matter and that leaders who ignore it will get away with it.

Is it any surprise that someone like Trump has appeared on the scene and been so successful?

Blaming Growth Management

Published at 08:14 on 19 July 2016

If you go here and scroll down, you’ll get to a picture of Inner Southeast Portland showing some old houses adjacent to a newer factory captioned “Bullseye Glass Company’s proximity to residential properties is born of Portland’s desire to avoid urban sprawl, and has neighbors worried about its effect on their health.”

This is right-wing BS, and it’s sad to see a news outlet like The Guardian (which normally doesn’t fall for such things) fall for it. The factory may be newer, but the houses reveal the age of the neighborhood, which has always, since its founding in the nineteenth century, featured factories close to homes. There’s plenty of old brick factory buildings in that part of town. I should know; I lived there myself.

Oregon’s Growth Management Act dates from 1973. That’s about 100 years after the factories started being built next to homes in inner Portland. Any city that’s been around for over 120 years as a larger city features factories next to homes. Before the widespread use of either automobiles or electric mass transit, homes had to be built next to factories, for the simple reason that there was no means of transport affordable to the typical factory worker other than walking.

Late 20th century planning efforts have very little to do with problems like the one discussed in that Guardian article.

A Turkey of a Coup

Published at 09:03 on 18 July 2016

I’ve been out of town for a few days, and was listening to the news from Turkey on the radio yesterday afternoon as I drove home.

As someone pointed out here, it’s a strange coup. Priority Number One for any military that stages a coup d’etat is to deal with the leadership the coup is unseating. Priority Number Two is to make sure as much of the military as possible is going to support the coup.

The “attempted coup” in Turkey failed miserably at both of these priorities, yet it was staged by a military that has ample experience in staging successful coups d’etat. It was staged against a government with an authoritarian streak, one that has in the past used alleged coup attempts to engage in repressive measures.

It’s enough to really make one go “hmmmmm.”

The Limits of Foreign Aid

Published at 08:22 on 14 July 2016

This is a tragedy, but it is almost certainly not happening simply because the international community is failing in its duty to aid the less fortunate.

Nigeria is actually quite a prosperous nation, or rather, should be. It has a huge amount of oil wealth, wealth that is monopolized by a corrupt, kleptocratic elite instead of being shared in any even remotely egalitarian fashion.

Yes, there is the legacy of colonialism to contend with. However, Nigeria achieved full independence in 1963 when it repudiated the last vestiges of its ties to the British empire and declared itself a republic. That is over 50 years ago, yet the improvement in the quality of life of the average Nigerian since then has been frankly pathetic.

Contrast that to the amount of improvement in the life of the average South Korean or Singaporean. Korea suffered particularly egregiously from imperialism (the Japanese were truly brutal there), and Singapore had no great gift of oil wealth to fall back upon (or most other natural resources, they even have to import a big chunk of their drinking water). Both have gone from the Third World to the First.

Even India, which remains a poor nation after nearly 70 years of independence, has managed to at least arrange its economy so that all-out famine has been a thing of the past there for many decades. There still is poverty, malnutrition, and hunger there, but there hasn’t been mass starvation anywhere for decades.

More dramatically, we have Kerala, one of India’s poorest states, which due to class conscious politics forcing government to act in the interests of the many, has life expectancy and literacy rates approaching that of developed Western nations despite a per capita income of under $1000 per year.

No, it’s not fair to expect Nigeria to instantly become as wealthy as, say, Switzerland. But it’s completely fair to hold the Nigerian ruling class responsible for the famine there. There is simply no valid excuse for such a thing. None.

How to correct that? Ultimately, the pressure must come from within Nigeria itself. The alternative — change in response to pressure or intervention from abroad — has a word for it: imperialism. And we all know how that one inevitably plays out.

So yes, be compassionate and provide aid to defuse the immediate crisis if at all possible. But don’t harbor any delusions about that being any real solution, and be very careful lest the aid just end up prolonging the reign of a kleptocracy by artificially defusing sort of domestic outrage which might offer the best hope for addressing the problem at its roots, by provoking change within Nigeria itself.

In fact, might that not be a covert aim of the aid? It’s well known that Western imperialists don’t like revolutions in what amount to their resource colonies. Witness what happened to Iran when Mossadegh became Prime Minister. Something to ponder.

Why Recruiters Are Useless

Published at 07:59 on 13 July 2016

Those who most need help finding employment are those new in the market for a particular line of work, either as a result of recently graduating from school or a mid-life career change. But recruiters are hired at the behest of* the employer, and candidates with no experience are common as dirt, meaning employers need no special help in finding same. The candidates employers need help finding are those with specific, specialized experience.

But recruiters lack that experience, too, which seriously limits their ability to judge and match candidates with positions. Moreover, the positions being recruited for tend to pay better than the job of recruiting for them, so this state of affairs is inevitable. Thus if you’re an experienced candidate, recruiters are still of little or no help; they’ll just pester you with false lead after false lead.

I speak from experience here, having at one time been a freshly-minted CS graduate and now being a senior-level programmer. It went from recruiters being uninterested in me to me being uninterested in the (inevitably mismatched) opportuinities recruiters pestered me about.

Given that, is it any surprise that the low road dominates in the recruiting industry? Why seek people with any knowledge at all to recruit in a field? Just hire the cheapest workers in India you can find, even if they can barely speak coherent English.† They’re fated to do a bad job anyhow, so why even try? After all, doing a good job isn’t the point. Your business model is based on both candidate and employer making an unwise decision (i.e. to use you), not on providing value to either.

This leaves out the recruiters hired by busy employers whose staffing departments are themselves understaffed, of course. But when sleaze dominates an industry, the odds aren’t good. So if I see a recruiting agency’s name on a job listing, I pass. And when one cold calls me and leaves a voice mail, I just delete the message.

* Note I did not write “paid by”. That is because they are not. To claim otherwise is to state what I call the Recruiter Lie. Does anyone think employers have an unlimited orchard of money trees to harvest for paying wages and salaries? Of course not! They budget those costs, and the cost for paying recruiters ultimately comes out of the same pot for paying wages and salaries. One will come at the expense of the other.

† Which, given they are the cheapest, will be the case; competent English speakers will seek more honorable and better-paying work.

So, Sanders Endorsed Clinton

Published at 17:54 on 12 July 2016

In related news, the ocean is salty and it was another dry day in the Sahara.

Really, this is about zero surprise. Sanders isn’t dumb; he knew where he stood. He just wanted to maximize his influence in the process, and the point of no return had been passed: the good he did by pulling Hillary to the left was being cancelled by how his non-endorsement of Hillary was sowing division and thereby helping Trump’s chances.

And as distasteful as Hillary is (and her role in destroying democracy in Honduras is reason enough to dislike her), she still has one huge thing going for her: she’s not Donald Trump.

Red Huckleberry Jam

Published at 08:07 on 12 July 2016

I had planned on picking dewberries and blackcaps on the Toandos Peninsula last weekend. I know of a good spot for both there.

But fate intervened and ruled that option out, so I went to a revegetating clear cut where I have noticed a lot of berry plants before in the Green Mountain State Forest instead. That resulted in a different harvest, as most of the berries I found there were red huckleberries instead.

They’re a new one for me. Oh, I’ve snacked on them many times, but never set out to harvest them and bring a quantity home with me. The jam turned out great: I followed the “low sugar” recipe, using a tad more than the recommended amount of sugar because the berries are naturally tart. For the same reason, I opted not to add any lemon juice to the recipe, figuring there was plenty of natural acidity to set the pectin.

The result was tangy and flavorful, just like the berries it was made from.

Race Relations Have Gotten Worse under Obama?

Published at 08:16 on 11 July 2016

The claim that they have is in fact predicated upon some very racist hidden assumptions, as I shall now explain.

Police have been shooting unarmed Black men for decades and getting away with it. Until the era of social media and smartphones, such killings were inadequately documented and typically didn’t receive coverage outside of the local media.

Now that technological progress has changed both of those facts, the killings are getting nationwide attention and sparking well-deserved outrage. And it is those reactions that inspire the claim that race relations have gotten worse under the Obama presidency.

Race relations, in other words, are being judged to be more acceptable when suspicious killings result in passivity and widespread social acceptance than when they provoke outrage. Society is judged to be running off the rails not because racially-correlated killings are happening (again, they are nothing new), but because those being killed are no longer passively accepting this, as is apparently their duty.

In turn what does this imply? Obviously that Black people must be inferior. Such a belief only makes logical sense if Black lives aren’t as worthy of news coverage or outrage, much like the lost life of a young raccoon or opossum who dies as a result of a car running over it doesn’t warrant the news coverage that a human child suffering the same fate should.

And if it’s not racism to assert that it is the duty of some races to realize they are inferior and to passively acquiesce in this inferiority, then I don’t know what is.

Right-Wing Hypocrisy on Display

Published at 08:57 on 10 July 2016

After exhibiting curious silence about a police shooting of a Black gun owner who was dutifly complying with police orders while legally carrying a concealed weapon, the NRA rushes to vociferously condemn the murder of the police officers in Dallas.

Link here.

Because, of course, the Right is (contrary to its professed aims) neither pro-individual-liberty nor anti-big-government. They have no problems with big government when big government is doing things they personally like, and are frightened of individual liberty when it applies to people doing things they personally dislike.

Can Honey Cure Canker Sores?

Published at 16:23 on 9 July 2016

Recently, it happened yet again. One of my old banes, canker sores, materialized.

Those who don’t suffer them don’t understand how bad they can be. The weeks of lost sleep due to the pain is probably the worst of it. Over the years, I’ve discovered various ways of both minimizing the chances of their happening* and the pain once they do.

But that’s not a complete solution. Recently I heard about honey showing promise as a treatment, so I decided to give that a try. I was a bit skeptical: wipe the sore clean and dry, then briefly apply honey after each meal, that’s it? The exposure to honey for a under a minute several times a day can do that much?

But darned if it didn’t seem to actually work. Of course, it’s only one trial, so it could all be nothing but coincidence. Time will tell, but as of this stage it seems promising enough to be worth reporting about.

* Which means finding out which sorts of foods cause allergies to trigger the sores, then avoiding them. Plus, avoiding toothpaste that contains sodium laurel suplhate has helped.