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politics

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Cagots

My thinking, years ago, went like this: people, groups of people, compete for limited resources. Even if one side is consistently committed to negotiation, to peaceful compromise (even if BOTH are), physical aggression from a few rogues on one side will inevitably cause armed conflict. How could even the most egalitarian, humanistic leader do anything else, upon witnessing killing of their own?

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The Nationalist’s Delusion

Adam Serwer, in a slam-dunk piece in The Atlantic:

Among the most popular explanations for Trump’s victory and the Trump phenomenon writ large is the Calamity Thesis: the belief that Trump’s election was the direct result of some great, unacknowledged social catastrophe—the opioid crisis, free trade, a decline in white Americans’ life expectancy—heretofore ignored by cloistered elites in their coastal bubbles. The irony is that the Calamity Thesis is by far the preferred white-elite explanation for Trumpism, and is frequently invoked in arguments among elites as a way of accusing other elites of being out of touch.

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BernieCare

Why Bernie Sanders’ single-payer push is great policy and even better politics:

The United States, by contrast, is very rich, and already dedicates way more than enough resources to set up the world’s most generous health-care system, and a lot more besides. We spend $3.2 trillion per year — literally twice as much as the OECD average as a share of the economy. We pay enough in health-care taxes alone — that is, the government revenue that goes to Medicare, Medicaid, the VA, and a few other things — to cover a Canada-style Medicare-for-all system for the whole U.S., and then that much again in private money. In other words, if we could simply copy-paste Canada’s universal health-care system into America, taxes would actually go down.

All that means is that America doesn’t have to worry much about costs; it has to worry about allocating existing spending properly. We already have a gigantic pool of resources dedicated to health care — about half private and half public. We just have to adjust that spending so it can support a single-payer system.

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Guns

This tweet replays in my brain regularly. Dan Hodges, on Twitter:

In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.

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DACA Is Japanese Internment 2.0

Reproducing this here in its entirety because when I want to read it ten years hence, twitter will probably be gone… or at least the URL linking to this will be broken. So:

In light of what’s going on with #Dreamers, it’s time to talk about Japanese internment. Because the #DACA showdown is Japanese internment 2.0.

Japanese immigrants in the 19th & early 20th centuries came to the US in large part for manual farm labor in California. Sound familiar?

Japan had much more advanced horticulture than the US at that time, so these immigrants weren’t just bringing brute labor. They were bringing a lot of basic how-to’s of commercial farming that built the foundation for California’s success as an agricultural powerhouse today. Japanese immigrant farm laborers American Dream’d so hard, many families were able to save money to buy their own land and start farming for themselves. “The California Farm Bureau was quoted by The News, saying that Japanese farmers were responsible for 40 percent of all vegetables grown in the state, including nearly 100 percent of all tomatoes, celery, strawberries and peppers.” (San Francisco Museum)

The Central Valley used to be peppered with Japanese family farms. Not anymore. What happened to them?

WW2’s Japanese internment. Japanese internment was a land grab by white farmers. Full stop.

The initial call for Japanese internment came mere hours after the Pearl Harbor bombing, from the Salinas Valley Vegetable Grower-Shipper Association.

AKA, Japanese internment was initiated by the California farm lobby: “The average value/acre of all West Coast farms in 1940 was $37.94, whereas that of Japanese farms was $279.96… 3/4 acres of Japanese farm lands were devoted to actual crop production, whereas only 1/4 acres of all farm land in the areas was planted in crops.”

Check out those numbers. Japan’s farm traditions were based on maximizing use of space, so they made more $ per acre. That tends to drive up land prices. And rising land prices tend to make people whose farming skills can’t keep up feel very nervous. So. Japanese farmers’ success came from having tight management skills, and that threatened their white neighbors.

White farmers had a choice: level up their game, or play dirty.

Let me reiterate: given a choice between being good at their job and lobbying the gov’t to make their problems go away, US farmers chose the second option. This is a classic move that those in the farm industry will still recognize.

“We’re charged with wanting to get rid of the Japs for selfish reasons. We might as well be honest. We do.”
-Austin E. Anson, Salinas Vegetable Grower-Shipper Association

They weren’t even trying to hide it. Japanese internment was about white good ol’ boys being jealous of successful immigrants. There was a downside though. Remember how Japanese American farmers were growing nearly half the country’s produce? And the US war strategy was “an army marches on its stomach, so we need super solid supply chains for food”? It turns out putting most of the country’s skilled farmers in jail … didn’t help with making food. Once internment started, food shortages quickly followed.

How did the US handle that misstep? Victory gardens! “Victory Gardens were the propagandistic answer to the chaos created by FDR’s roundup and imprisonment of 120,000 Japanese-Americans in early 1942. (Cindy McNatt at the Orange County Register)” So yeah, victory gardens were less “plucky nation pitches in with the war effort” and more “oh wow we systematic racism-ed so hard that we punched a hole in the economy. Do we admit we the mistake and fix it? Nahhhh, let’s foist the consequences off on civilians.”

Like Japanese families in the early 20th century, a lot of US immigrant population today is families that came to work on farms. And they’ve been here just long enough to actually get established and really start building a life. The US was kind of ok with immigration as long as it was get in, work for really cheap, get out. But we’re at a demographic turning point where a critical mass of farm immigrant families have reached some upward mobility and established themselves en masse.

And here’s the part that most people don’t know, unless they work in some really specific parts of the farm economy: Most of the US thinks of “immigrant farm workers” as grunt labor. And yes, most of the brute force work on farms is done by Latinx immigrants. But 1st and 2nd generation Latinx immigrants are also the knowledge base in modern US agriculture.

I’m gonna tell you guys a secret. A lot US farmers don’t actually know that much about farming. They know a lot about writing checks to Latinx contractors, who know how to farm.

The US farm industry isn’t just dependent on Latinx immigrants for labor. They’re dependent on Latinx immigrants for knowing HOW to farm. How to manage a harvest, how to run a packinghouse, how to keep a fleet of farm vehicles running. And I bet you money that scares the hell out of a lot of white people. Not the farmers, funnily enough. The actual farmers tend to be a lot more at peace with it than the rest of the rural/suburban white population. (Don’t get me wrong, they still mostly voted for Trump. Even though they knew his immigration policies are deadly for farms. They vote for conservatives and just expect things to magically turn out immigration-friendly anyway.)

The thing is, farmers aren’t the influential voting bloc they used to be. The new wrinkle entering the immigration debate right now, IMO, is private prisons. Prison labor’s been used in the US for manufacturing for quite some time. But it’s making significant new inroads into farm labor. Especially now that it’s becoming harder for immigrants to work in the US, farms are turning to inmate contracts. Prisoners working on a farm is a little different from manufacturing. In manufacturing, folks are locked down in a building. It’s pretty easy to control your workers. But farming is outdoors and, nowadays, super mechanized. That means to get anything done, you have to be able to give someone tools or a tractor and have a reasonable expectation that they’ll use them for work. Instead of, say, murdering the foreman and running off. You also need people with farm work experience. Farm work is an art. You just don’t get productive labor out of stoners. I say this as someone who’s personally supervised convict farm crews made of people in for minor drug charges. It’s… just a mess all around.

So say you’re a private prisoner contractor who’s looking at farm labor deals. To keep those clients happy, you need a steady stream of nonviolent criminals who are also have farm work experience. Talkin out the side of my mouth here, but if I were them, I’d see crackdowns on migrant laborers as a fantastic business move. I might even press my congressmen to write & sponsor bills like this one. Immigrants don’t even have to commit crimes to become part of my workforce, I mean go to jail. Just be poor. Or not have their green card in their pocket during a traffic stop.

Anyway, that’s my best guess as to why the GOP can’t get itself together to support a bill that most Americans want. There are a lot of primary voters, and a lot of donors, who have a vested interest in criminalizing immigrants.

To connect this back to Japanese internment. Internment was pushed through by a small farm lobby that wanted the land under Japanese American family farms, sure. But they couldn’t have pulled it off w/o the rest of the country’s xenophobia. Today we have private prisons whose business models look like they just kinda might depend on everyone being ok with jailing immigrants for being immigrants.
And there’s enough butthurt white people with “economic anxiety” to make that happen. Maybe. It’s really encouraging how many people support #DACA. We still have the same ugly dynamics that brought Japanese internment to life. But we also have a lot of people today who know better.

Keep those calls to your reps coming, folks.

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Freedom

The year is 1943. The Supreme Court upholds the right to not say the pledge of allegiance in a classroom:

The case is made difficult not because the principles of its decision are obscure but because the flag involved is our own. Nevertheless, we apply the limitations of the Constitution with no fear that freedom to be intellectually and spiritually diverse or even contrary will disintegrate the social organization. To believe that patriotism will not flourish if patriotic ceremonies are voluntary and spontaneous instead of a compulsory routine is to make an unflattering estimate of the appeal of our institutions to free minds. We can have intellectual individualism and the rich cultural diversities that we owe to exceptional minds only at the price of occasional eccentricity and abnormal attitudes. When they are so harmless to others or to the State as those we deal with here, the price is not too great. But freedom to differ is not limited to things that do not matter much. That would be a mere shadow of freedom. The test of its substance is the right to differ as to things that touch the heart of the existing order.

If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein. If there are any circumstances which permit an exception, they do not now occur to us.

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Zoning

I’ve been reading a bit about zoning lately, this article is a neat summation of one of my concerns about suburbs in the United States: stupid zoning laws. Author “simval84” writes a blog called “Urban kchoze”, here’s a post about Japanese zoning:

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SOPA

In a discussion about today’s SOPA hearing was a quote from Darrell Issa:

I object to this bill in its current form because I believe it fails to use existing tools and does a worse job than those existing tools at solving this problem.

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An Experiment

This is an experiment. I will now post the following to my Facebook account:

The only thing I want more than a really good Democratic presidential candidate is a Republican one.

Likely response: apathy. Time will tell, though.

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Religion and Politics

People avoid discussing religion or politics in polite company because those discussions cut through all the layers of pretense in which we shroud ourselves. These two topics, one focused on the divine and the other on the human, throw open the windows and shutters of a person’s mental house, allowing all the neighbors to scrutinize another’s deepest secrets, thoughts and prejudices. So, religion and politics are a wonderful way to quickly understand a person’s true character. My understanding is that this is not the purpose of polite conversation.

Stocks In Decline

The Atlantic has a nice article titled The Great Stock Myth, which explains the consequences of the (likely) crappy stock market returns over the next 10 years. When the effects of these poor returns are compounded, the demands put on people to save money for retirement increase dramatically. Incidentally, there’s a nice fact about the Bush administration in here:

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The Facts of Democracy

How facts backfire - The Boston Globe, by Joe Keohane:

Studies by other researchers have observed similar phenomena when addressing education, health care reform, immigration, affirmative action, gun control, and other issues that tend to attract strong partisan opinion. Kuklinski calls this sort of response the “I know I’m right” syndrome, and considers it a “potentially formidable problem” in a democratic system. “It implies not only that most people will resist correcting their factual beliefs,” he wrote, “but also that the very people who most need to correct them will be least likely to do so.”

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Irony of Satire

The Irony of Satire: Political Ideology and the Motivation to See What You Want to See in The Colbert Report

… there was no significant difference between the groups in thinking Colbert was funny, but conservatives were more likely to report that Colbert only pretends to be joking and genuinely meant what he said while liberals were more likely to report that Colbert used satire and was not serious when offering political statements.

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Bumper stickers

Bumper stickers: I might agree with you, but you’re still annoying.

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Insurance

How did we manage this one? “The United States is alone among developed nations with the absence of a universal health care system.”

Insurance HELP

Paul Krugman is right about health care. Please allow me the liberty of bolding portions of his piece, HELP Is on the Way, with which I strongly agree:

Now, about those specifics: The HELP plan achieves near-universal coverage through a combination of regulation and subsidies. Insurance companies would be required to offer the same coverage to everyone, regardless of medical history; on the other side, everyone except the poor and near-poor would be obliged to buy insurance, with the aid of subsidies that would limit premiums as a share of income.

Employers would also have to chip in, with all firms employing more than 25 people required to offer their workers insurance or pay a penalty. By the way, the absence of such an “employer mandate” was the big problem with the earlier, incomplete version of the plan.

And those who prefer not to buy insurance from the private sector would be able to choose a public plan instead. This would, among other things, bring some real competition to the health insurance market, which is currently a collection of local monopolies and cartels.

The budget office says that all this would cost $597 billion over the next decade. But that doesn’t include the cost of insuring the poor and near-poor, whom HELP suggests covering via an expansion of Medicaid (which is outside the committee’s jurisdiction). Add in the cost of this expansion, and we’re probably looking at between $1 trillion and $1.3 trillion.

There are a number of ways to look at this number, but maybe the best is to point out that it’s less than 4 percent of the $33 trillion the U.S. government predicts we’ll spend on health care over the next decade. And that in turn means that much of the expense can be offset with straightforward cost-saving measures, like ending Medicare overpayments to private health insurers and reining in spending on medical procedures with no demonstrated health benefits.

So fundamental health reform — reform that would eliminate the insecurity about health coverage that looms so large for many Americans — is now within reach. The “centrist” senators, most of them Democrats, who have been holding up reform can no longer claim either that universal coverage is unaffordable or that it won’t work.

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Al Franken and the Odd Politics of Minnesota

I love my wife Mykala because she points out wonderful articles in the NYTimes for me. Independence Days - Al Franken and the Odd Politics of Minnesota:

“Minnesota Nice” is real. It’s why you see seed art at the Minnesota State Fair, a popular local art form, expressing all kinds of political and cultural thinking. It’s hard to think of another state in the union where you’d see gay-themed art made out of mix of flax and corn seed.

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Conservative for Obama

Wick Allison is the former publisher of The National Review, which describes itself as “America’s most widely read and influential magazine and web site for Republican/conservative news, commentary, and opinion.” So, you may be interested in Mr. Allison’s recent article, A Conservative for Obama:

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Long Week + Elections

This has been the longest shortest week I can remember — that is to say, the days have been very long, to the point that I can scarcely differentiate Monday from Tuesday from Wednesday and so on. The days just blur from one to the next… I can feel my mind, like a muscle in training, becoming better and better at learning (which is helpful) but I feel my body become more and more tired. And so… I’m off to the library in a minute to see how long I can study there.

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Wall-E for President

I submit this to you: the movie Wall•E is an instant classic. Instant. New York Times columnist Frank Rich, in “Wall-E for President”:

Indeed, sitting among rapt children mostly under 12, I felt as if I’d stepped through a looking glass. This movie seemed more realistically in touch with what troubles America this year than either the substance or the players of the political food fight beyond the multiplex’s walls.

While the real-life grown-ups on TV were again rebooting Vietnam, the kids at “Wall-E” were in deep contemplation of a world in peril — and of the future that is theirs to make what they will of it. Compare any 10 minutes of the movie with 10 minutes of any cable-news channel, and you’ll soon be asking: Exactly who are the adults in our country and who are the cartoon characters?

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