Category Archives: Politics

More On Masks

A Public Service Post

Wearing masks as a public health practice has been accompanied by much disapproving hullabaloo and shouting by some private citizens.

Some politicians, seeking to curry favor with voters, have added their voices to this protest.

In an effort to dilute ignorance with a dose of rationality I offer the following re-post: ¹

Concerning The Effectiveness Of Masks

This sign, displayed in a local food store, seems worthy of consideration:

  ” A Food and Drug Administration (FDA) analysis of the flu indicates

that if 50% of the population uses a mask, virus transmission would be cut in half.

If 80% of the population uses a mask, the virus would essentially be eliminated.” ²

¹, 09/02/2020, Ref: Covid19, Flu, and Similar Annoyances

²  (Yang, Jin, et al. Modeling the Effectiveness of Respiratory Protective Devices in Reducing Influenza Outbreak. Wiley Online Library, Risk Analysis, 19 September, 2018. 1111/nsa13181.)

Note the year of publication—2018—two years before the emergence of the covid-19 pandemic.

At that time, no one was interested in bending the public mind in any direction regarding covid-19.

The study deals with flu, caused by a virus.

To state the obvious, covid-19 is also caused by a virus.

To my layman’s mind, if a mask, worn correctly, is effective at blocking transmission of a flu virus, it is effective at blocking transmission of a covid-19 virus.

If, as some claim, masks are useless / dangerous to wear, then why are surgeons, surgical nurses, and anesthesiologists required to wear masks in operating rooms round the world, a present-day practice dating from a point in time far back into the last century?

For a  thorough discussion of masks, with no hype, see the following: -what-makes-some-better-than-others-against-covid-19/5535737002/

Politics (8th)

Concerning Liars

The disinformation promoted by various political, business, and media liars for their own power-  and wealth – seeking motives is an unarguable threat to democratic government, a fact noted numerous times, of late, in various writings, with varying degrees of precision.

Of all of them the quotation below is one of the most concise.

“It is a form of coup, but with a loud nationalist hyperbole disguising the threat to democracy.”

“To hold power, or challenge it, in a democracy, requires continual argument and discussion, the precondition of which is a commitment to truth-telling and a shared acceptance of facts, however differently they may be interpreted.”

“Trash these preconditions and we inevitably slide into a universe of division and distrust, impervious to rational argument.”

“We are all belittled.”

—Will Hutton (an Observer columnist quoted in The Guardian)

During the 2020 campaign, I posted the following, which, now slightly altered, bears re-posting.

Many citizens are distressed by the shabby state of political debate, characterized by lust for political power to be gained by telling unending lies.

The level of pure, unadulterated falsehood is arguably equal to that displayed by any totalitarian state propaganda rag in existence.  

How did such blatant disregard for simple truth become such a popular tool for manipulating voters?

Presently I have no explanation to offer, and it’s true that politicians throughout time have never been noted for squeaky clean conduct—the only known rule of politics being that there are no rules.

That having been said, I find the present level of disregard for simple truth to be as extreme as anything I’ve ever seen in a communist party newspaper.

It’s worth considering that polling consistently indicates we are much more tolerant of lies told by our preferred party than we are of lies told by another party.

Such polling results have led operatives of all parties to the same conclusion:

Whoopee!  We can get away with this!

“We the people” are therefore partly responsible for this situation, which will improve when we care enough to penalize any and all parties for their part in such shameless bastardization of our political process.

Democracy is much like farming—cultivate carefully or shut up about the weeds!

End note—Last week’s post, Is God a Verb? has been extensively reworked.

Weather and Politics (2nd)

 The recent extreme weather event that brought Texas’ electric power grid to within minutes or seconds of collapse, is now, as life crawls back toward normal, predictably attended by efforts to avoid blame.

The head of the state Public Utility Commission (PUC) resigned in disgrace, as powerful state politicians heaped condemnation on her head.  One might suppose that forcing her resignation accomplished something worthwhile.

I think not.

Her salary of $201,000/year is arguably a waste of taxpayers’ money in view of the calamity so recently visited upon them.

But she can’t be held solely responsible.

The politicians who dominate the state government are dead set against government regulation of the claimed-to-be-infallible free market.

In particular, they disapprove federal regulation, and have taken steps to insulate Texas’ power grid therefrom.

It’s worth noting the power industry in Texas has contributed generously to the governor’s campaign war chest, so generously, in fact, that it’s reported he has received more money than any governor in the the history of the country.  (This information, being much in the news of late, is easy to find.)

Spending money to winterize the power grid results in less profit for the power industry. 

Naturally, if they can lawfully avoid spending money to winterize, they’ll happily do it—remember the profit motive.

 The state government, being opposed to regulation as above noted, and wanting to keep major financial backers happy as possible, didn’t mandate, but only recommended winterization of the power grid.

Power companies can lawfully disregard mere recommendations.

Thus did politicians play a part in setting the stage for the recent calamity which visited  acute suffering on millions and caused at least twenty deaths.

In a effort to sweep their role under the carpet, (there isn’t a carpet big enough!), it seems politicians have decided to blame the state PUC commissioner, as though she alone was the author of this calamity.

Well, the only rule in politics is that there are no rules.  Stay in power any way you can.

Politicians know they won’t fool everyone.

I believe their goal, as usual, is to fool enough people well enough and long enough to win another election.

What are we going to do about it?

Weather and Politics (1st)

On this blog posts normally go live at the moment Tuesday miraculously becomes Wednesday, a.k.a. midnight.

The recent weather crisis mandated other activity, such as exerting oneself mightily to avoid being transformed into a human Popsicle—hence no post last week.

Being once more in grateful possession of electricity, warmth, and potable water, I find my thoughts turning to consideration of just how this crisis unfolded.

Similar considerations are no doubt running riot through the minds of other citizens, particularly relatives of anyone who froze to death.

Before we go into that, respectful acknowledgement is due to linemen who worked sixteen-hour shifts, day after day, in brutally punishing cold.

That job is so everlastingly dangerous that one can never get comfortable with it.

One absent-minded false move and someone, maybe several someones, are literally fried.

No matter how tired and cold linemen may be, they must be fully aware of what is to be done, and how safely to do it, step by careful step.

If that’s not enough of a burden, linemen must deal tactfully with public reaction.

It’s not all bad.

Some folks politely offer them cookies and hot coffee.

Some offer beer.  <−−− ???  Of all things not to offer a lineman… 

Some cheer them on yelling “Thank you!”

Others abuse them.  “What the hell took you so long to get here, you m*therf*ckers!?”

Linemen are good guys in this crisis.

Who might be the bad guys?

Maybe nobody.  There’s a difference between being truly malicious and being dangerously naive.

More later.

Conspiracy theories

A Public Service Post

Conspiracy theorists among our co-workers or family members can be challenging to deal with.

We gain nothing by direct attacks on their beliefs.

On the contrary, in defense of their beliefs they become ever more deeply entrenched  therein.

What good does that do?

Click on the link below for access to a thorough discussion of polite ways and means of dealing with conspiracy theories and theorists:

Politics (6th)

Voting Information – A Public Service Post

NBC has provided complete state-by-state voting information which you can access by clicking on the link below:

If you intend to vote by mail:

Give yourself plenty of time to complete every step.

Be careful to follow all instructions precisely.

Remember, most ballots are invalidated because of voter error.

Also, please bear in mind that in the last twenty years, more than a dozen elections have been decided by a single vote or else ended in a tie.



Politics (5th)

As the 2020 campaign evolves, many citizens are distressed by the shabby state of political debate, characterized by lust for political power to be gained by telling unending lies.

The level of pure, unadulterated falsehood is arguably equal to that displayed by any communist party propaganda rag in existence.  

How did such an extreme, blatant disregard for simple truth become such a popular tool with which to manipulate voters?

While presently I have no explanation to offer, and it’s true that politicians throughout time have never been noted for squeaky clean conduct—the only known rule of politics being that there are no rules—nevertheless I find the present level of disregard for simple truth to be more extreme than anything I’ve ever known this side of a communist party newspaper.

That having been said, it’s worth considering that polling consistently indicates we are much more tolerant of lies told by our preferred party than we are of lies told by another party.

Such polling results have led operatives of both parties to the same conclusion:

Whoopee!  We can get away with this!

“We the people” are therefore responsible for this situation, which will improve when we care enough to penalize both parties for their part in such shameless bastardization of our political process.

Democracy is much like farming—cultivate carefully or shut up about the weeds!


The Press…

Snark-free remarks about print journalism…

“Hard news” refers to strictly factual news coverage, giving the reader the who, what, when, where, why, and how of a story—nothing else.

The facts of the story are reported to the limit of the reporters’ ability to discover and confirm them by deadline.  In journalism, the filing deadline is like an 11th commandment.

“Thou shalt file thy story by deadline!”

Frequently we read that the subject of a story, or some spokesperson was asked for their comment on the content of the story.

12th commandment—”Thou shalt report both sides of a story!”

If people won’t comment, or don’t reply to emails or phone calls requesting comment, at least the reporter(s) gave them a chance to tell their side.  Reporters won’t wait forever for a reply to requests for comment. (Remember the 11th commandment.)

In no case will a reputable publication make up something out of whole cloth, so-called “fake news.”

After all, its reputation ranks as one of its key financial assets.

Consider—should readers come to regard it as no more reliable than one of those publications displayed at supermarket checkout stands, the sort that prints utterly incredible stories with astounding headlines like “How I Got Raped By An Elephant and Found God,” then that publication is doomed to go belly up.

Concerning bias—

It’s imperfectly understood by the body public.

Stories selected for publication, whether favoring left, right, or in some proportion, also possible use of emotional trigger words and/or subtle appeals to negative stereotypes can amount to bias within otherwise strictly factual hard news stories.

This is easy for alert readers to spot, so, overall, hard news is trustworthy content.

On the other hand, editorials, aka “op eds” or “think pieces”, are basically someone’s opinion.

Rules for editorials are looser than for hard news.

In editorial pages, entertaining but otherwise useless sarcasm, plays on words, and slick propagandizing can sometimes be found masquerading as rational discussion.  So it behooves us not merely to read, but to peruse in an aggressively skeptical frame of mind.

More on bias—

Just six corporations own 90% of all media outlets in the United States.  What does that suggest to you about real diversity of viewpoint?

In cases of conflict between corporate interests and those of the people, ownership of these six gigantic media corporations will side with…?

This aspect of media bias will be a new consideration to hordes of readers.  But it’s a fact of American life.

While we’re at it, let’s talk about fact checks.

No news outlet is staffed by archangels, so the occurrence of a factual error, (a wrong date, a name misspelled or, in competitive hot pursuit of a scoop, something more significant), should not surprise us.

Reputable publications routinely publish correction of errors.

Failure or refusal to print correction / retraction is a red flag.

Reading such a publication can still provide useful information, but we should cross check anything smelling even mildly fishy.

Our duty as citizens is to be knowledgeable about public affairs—being deceived is no excuse for failure.

“There is no more important struggle for American democracy than insuring a diverse, independent and free media.”

—Bill Moyers

“The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.”

—Various sources, among them Andrew Jackson

Throwing out the baby with the bathwater…

…aka “defunding the police”

Let’s talk turkey about eliminating professional police and replacing them with citizen safety committees.

Let’s imagine these amateurs dealing effectively with the mafias of Italy, Sicily, Russia, and Vietnam, also international terrorists, drug cartels…

and a constantly varying mixture and frequency of burglary, arson, rape, murder, kidnapping, counterfeiting, robbery, prostitution, missing persons, bar fights, drunken driving, vandalism, disorderly conduct, malicious mischief, cruelty to animals, identity theft, traffic jams, hate crimes, rowdy demonstrations, maybe a riot… any or all of this,

plus directing traffic, escorting funeral processions, dealing with trespass complaints, investigating collisions, shooing away loiterers…

all the while enforcing weapons laws, and maybe serving a search or arrest warrant on the sort of psychopathic felon who’d rather kill a cop than get laid.

Can you imagine untrained, uncoordinated, inexperienced amateurs dealing effectively with any part of such a mixture?

I can’t.

When I assign that task to my imagination, it just laughs.


Let’s eliminate police misconduct, not the police.

Politics (4th)

Vote Suppression—A Tactic Throughout History,

In ancient Rome the patricians, (aka rich political class), wanted their own way and, among other tactics, sought to get it by ensuring that voting occurred in summer months when many lower class people were out of town, (thus away from polling places), earning money as seasonal agricultural labor.

A different tactic was espoused by Joseph Stalin.  He didn’t care who voted or how they voted, so long as he controlled the count.

A lesson of history is that politics of any kind are subject to ceaseless efforts at vote suppression/neutralization for the advantage of this or that group.

Recurrences are so numerous, so persistent, as to be almost boring.

Once again, in our time, people turn to a favorite page in a time-honored playbook of political skullduggery, once again running a belovéd play in happy anticipation of political advantages to be enjoyed by their group.

Be not upset at this.  These people may, for a time, seem to be very powerful and difficult to stop.

Over time, (sometimes a lot of time), their misconduct always generates their defeat.


Because “reciprocity” is the universal moral law.

It can be expressed another way:  “Put out what you want to take back.”  Another way  of saying the same thing:  “It is impossible to serve someone something without serving oneself the exact same thing.”  And the best known way, in our society:  “Whatsoever you sow, that surely will you reap.”

It is commonly believed that this law operates as a final judgement in the next world.

Whether or not that’s true, it operates in the here and now.

The consequence is inherent in the deed.

Ultimately, regardless of caste or class, nobody gets away with anything.  As stated in street language—”There’s no free lunch.”

So if your cause aligns harmoniously with the inflexible moral law of reciprocity, be in no doubt: there is no defeat so long as there is sustained moral effort.

Obviously, then, it’s better to lose a few rounds in a political contest that will inevitably be won, than to win a few rounds in a political contest that will inevitably be lost.

So let’s calmly, determinedly, shift into low gear, and recommit ourselves to the unending labor and vigilance that alone guarantee that “government of, by, and for (all) the people shall not perish from the earth.”


Land Of The Free—Home of the Brainwashed?

While researching a post I chanced upon comment posted by a reader responding to an editorial published in a British newspaper.

Despite its sarcastic conclusion, this comment is, in my view, worthy of sober consideration:

The average American is subject to endless brainwashing from many self-serving and contradictory sources, through their local newspapers, local TV and radio.

Their use of social media simply confirms their beliefs and prejudices.

They hear endless extreme religious propaganda from profit driven “churches”, advertising from companies desperate to make them addicted to fast food and the latest pointless products, political propaganda that’s way more extreme then anything experienced in the UK. This unregulated onslaught leaves them divorced from reality.

If  the “American way of life” were a coin, this comment might well describe the tail.

Wall Street = Main Street ?

“The Economy”  =  “We, The People ?”

Before the Covid-19 pandemic,  Treasury secretary Steven Mnuchin said the economy was doing very well.

At that same time, the following was true of the people:

  • yearly, almost half a million were going bankrupt, caused, in part, by medical bills
  • 20% of grade school students were living below the poverty line
  • 2.9 million grade school students were living in households where they are unsure when they might get their next meal
  • 25% of workers got no paid sick leave
  • almost 60% of Americans had total savings of $1000 or less
  • 48% of Americans had nothing saved for retirement in a 401(k) or similar instrument
  • no more than 35% of student loan debt holders were making regular repayment, and 25% had defaulted
  •  I could continue…

No doubt the economy, (aka profitability of corporations), was doing very well.

But what did that have to do with the people?

Were they being ignored?

If so, was it regrettable oversight or deliberate policy?

To be clear, I do not advocate doing away with “free-market” capitalism.

I do advocate carefully considered changes to eliminate its more glaring flaws.

“The benefits of economic freedom are secured only within the context of a framework of rules designed to link the pursuit of private profit to the *public interest.”

*public interest = stabilizing or improving the quality of life for all citizens”—From writings of Niskanen Center (a center-right think tank)


Recycling (1st)

is what I intended to discuss, but somehow it became a written exercise in free association, chasing various rabbits round the meadow.

Why do we wait for information to be spoon-fed to us by “experts”?

Experts screw up.  They’re human—they’re no better than all us non-experts.

A case in point: IBM was once convinced that random access memory, (RAM), would always be “scarce and expensive”—limited to 64 kilobytes.  Talk about getting it wrong…

Another grim example:  The Challenger disaster.

Also, we all know the Titanic was built by expert nautical engineers in a crack shipyard, while Noah’s ark was built in the middle of nowhere by nomads who had never built so much as a rickety raft in their entire lives.

Regarding experts telling us about recycling, (recycling….finally);  What’s stopping Joe (or Josephine) average citizen from snooping in the Yellow Pages for recycling info?

Things they might want to know:  Is there a local recycling center? Is it a drop-off  site or do they collect?  If the latter, what do they collect and when?

No local site?  They could call 1-800-CALL-EDF.  Ask the Environmental Defense Fund for help finding a nearby site.

And now, returning to the rabbit chase…

Calling city hall to ask about recycling, pointedly but politely asking “why not?” in case they’ve done nothing to promote recycling can serve notice that recycling is a matter of increasing concern to local voters.

Politicians set the political agenda only in the absence of our input.

The ultimate reason government gets away with ignoring voters except at election time is because we’ve let ourselves be reduced bit by bit to apathy and conformity.

We’ve come to wait for experts to decide something, and then to tell us what is to be done, assigning us our role(s).  We’re not being compelled.  We let this happen.

Politicians use these “experts” to lend credibility to their agendas, which may not square at all with our best interests.

This is not real democracy.

We should be setting the agenda(s).

By “We” I mean real people, born of a biological process, with souls, not legally constructed “pseudo-people”, whose “birth certificates” are really corporate charters.

A related post : Politics (3rd)

Politics (3rd)

“One of the best arguments against a democratic form of government is a five-minute conversation with the average voter.” —Sir Winston Churchill 

Talk relieves our tension. We feel so much better. We’re even self-deluded into believing we’ve achieved something.

From the viewpoint of self-serving politicians, that’s just fine because we’ve done nothing to disturb their daily activities.

Have you ever heard the proverb:  “Talk is cheap.  Deeds are dear?”  Or the ancient warning of metaphysicians, to the effect that unless we put wheels under our beliefs they profit us nothing?  More recently, Thomas Carlyle said, “Conviction is worthless unless it is converted into conduct.”

Blah, blah, blah. We rant, rave, scream, and decry.

After which, what changes?


With some exceptions, we are detached from a practice of “civic virtue.”

Simply defined, civic virtue = taking a gentlemanly / gentlewomanly interest in the conduct of government officers, making sure we’re knowledgeable about their conduct, public utterances, voting history, and the like, and making sure, politely, that they know we’re knowledgeable.

Here’s a pop quiz on civic virtue:  How many of us know, (without first being pointed toward a preferred target of lobbyists, or of TV talking heads), the names of our state representatives, state senators, anything whatsoever of their voting histories, the addresses of their hometown offices, their yearly salaries, email addresses / telephone numbers of their hometown or state government offices?

More on our general competence as citizens / voters: How many voters can name six of the ten amendments composing the Bill of Rights?  While we’re at it, how many of us have read the complete text of The United States Constitution even once in our entire lives?

Is it fair to say,  (once again with some exceptions),  that we are mentally lazy couch potatoes who prefer to “veg out” before a TV or telephone screen allowing talking heads or internet scribes to stuff our minds with their preferred propaganda, in preference to doing our own homework to learn what’s really happening?

Regarding the latter, how many of us believe doing our own homework is even possible?

How many of us prefer our favorite TV programs, favorite video games, or even favorite drugs to a minimal practice of civic virtue?

Democracy won’t give us what we confidently expect to receive as sons/daughters of  “The Almighty”,  (however we understand that latter phrase).

Democracy is like farming.  Cultivate carefully or shut up about the weeds.

Said more crudely, we receive from democracy only that for which we get off our dead lead butts and work—(in the process of  which, let us remember this tidbit of wisdom from the pen of St. Thomas Aquinas:  “We must love them both, those whose opinions we share and those whose opinions we reject, for both have labored in the search for truth, and both have helped us in finding it.”

“The price of liberty is eternal vigilance.”

               —Various sources, among them Andrew Jackson

“The issue today is the same as it has been throughout all history, whether man shall be allowed to govern himself or be ruled by an elite.”

               —Thomas Jefferson

“The penalty good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”


“Power corrupts. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

               —Lord Acton

“The only limit to the oppression of government is the power with which people show themselves capable of opposing it.”

               —Enrico Malatesta

“Only power can check power.”


Politics (2nd)

” Why, of course, the people don’t want war…That is understood.  But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship or a parliament or a communist dictatorship.  Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders.  That is easy.  All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.  It works the same way in any country. ”

Herman Goering

“Allow the president to invade a neighboring nation whenever he shall deem it necessary to repel an invasion, and you allow him to do so whenever he may choose to say he deems it necessary for such purposes…and you allow him to make war at pleasure.”

“I am a firm believer in the people.  If given the truth they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis.  The great thing is to bring them the real facts.”

“We, the people, are the rightful masters of both congress and the courts, not to overthrow The Constitution, but to overthrow (those) who pervert The Constitution.”

—Abraham Lincoln

Technology (2nd)

Have you ever been told that technology per se is politically neutral?

Lets think about that.

If a huge commercial solar power generation plant burned up completely, the total damage to the environment, and to public health and safety would relate to the damage done by a meltdown at a nuclear reactor as a loud lit fart relates to a volcanic eruption.

The difference between solar power generation and nuclear power generation is more than the danger to public safety in the event of malfunction.

Solar power plants, being far less dangerous to operate than nuclear power plants, make possible smaller government presence in the economy.  Nuclear power plants mandate larger government presence. (More bureaucracy and regulation.)

The former is consistent with the “small state” position of some present day politicians. The latter with the “big state” position favored by others.

But “small state” politicians seem beholden to the coal and oil industries and so won’t advocate for solar power.  “Big state” politicians won’t advocate for anything so “un-green” as nuclear power plants.

Technology is politically neutral?

Permit me to be skeptical.

Capitalism (2nd)

Federal law requires that corporation officers function in the financial interests of the owners, (shareholders).

A prominent economist, (Milton Friedman, I believe), once declared that the whole “social duty” of a corporation is to make as much money as possible for the owners.

It would seem that this combination of law and “social duty” has produced a pattern of conduct, a portion of which may be described thus:

•  The corporation will pollute the environment whenever doing so is deemed to be cheaper than installing and maintaining pollution controls.  Is there ever a time when dumping pollutants into the environment is more expensive than installing and maintaining pollution controls?  Perhaps—if the offending corporation is caught at it and is penalized by the government or loses in a court of law.

•  Weak or nonexistent labor unions enable corporations to offer fewer benefits and to pay lower wages.  Therefore “union busting” is to be accomplished by any means possible.

•  Government regulation inconsistent with maximizing a corporation’s profits is to be defeated by lobbying, also by contributions to reelection campaigns, in exchange for favorable legislation.  The same benefit may also be obtained by means of carefully concealed bribery.

•  Human beings are to be replaced by machinery whenever possible, because machinery will do a job much more cheaply than a human being, (no pay, no benefits, no paid breaks.)

•  Conclusions of scientific research militating against a corporation doing anything at all to maximize profits are to be discredited by means of covert, well-funded disinformation campaigns, also by reminding purchased politicians who paid the bills for their last reelection campaigns—continue to vote the “right” way and $$$ will continue to flow into your next reelection campaign treasure chest.

•  In relentless pursuit of maximum profits, corporations have all too often abandoned any shred of loyalty to the government / society that gave them birth, (gave them their charters), outsourcing jobs to any country providing cheaper labor, even including the “parent” nation’s most implacable political enemy.

This has the treble effect of strengthening the enemy’s economy, while depriving the “parent” nation of a certain amount of tax revenue, as well as depriving its citizens of jobs.

“Profit motive”, touted as justification (!) for all such conduct,  does not justify literally anything.

To be clear, I don’t advocate abandoning “free market” capitalism.

I do advocate carefully considered changes to eliminate its more glaring flaws.

Taxes (1st)

Property taxes pay for public school systems.

Nobody argues that.

However, a coworker observed that “by enacting property taxes, the government essentially eliminated private property, because one never comes to the point of full ownership of ones property.

There’s always another payment due.

One basically ‘rents’ from the government.  Failure to pay results in eviction. 

Property taxation thus enabled the government to ‘land-grab’ the whole country.”

This argument holds water logically.  And we all know politicians can be pretty tricky.

But I’m wary of jumping to conclusions.

Your comments in support or rebuttal, are welcome.