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Member since: 2001
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America: If you love it, stay and help it grow wiser, more compassionate...

...stronger, smarter, more inclusive, more sustainable.

That's true patriotism.

That is all.


Dear Brits: So sorry about BoJo. Really. We'll try to help, though!

Y'all have been there for us as we've struggled with having President Windrip forced on us by Russia and the Electoral College- you have come up with some of the best laugh lines, you pioneered the giant manbaby balloon, you pushed the "Show your Rump to [Redacted]" campaign, you've done all you could to lift our spirits and remind us that we're not alone in these dark times.

Well, we're here for you, too. As BoJo enters No. 10, we get it.

The horrified disbelief.

The sense of a centuries-built reputation (in your case, for all that Uber-U Stiffupperlipitude and Ultra-dignity flavored with a dash of BBC self-deprecating humor) sliding away down a greased sewer pipe.

The don't-want-to-look sensation when the morning paper arrives.

All of it. We have it too.

And we'll do our best to make BoJo as big an ass on this side of the pond as he is on yours.

Scout's honor.

Chin up and all that.

Keep calm and above all, CARRY ON!! (In the American sense this time.)

Link yer elbows, step in time... we're all on this rooftop together.


The GOP, Pedophilia, and Child Abuse

Why Are Right-Wing Conspiracies so Obsessed With Pedophilia? (Mother Jones)

Conspiracies centering on the vulnerability of children are neither new nor distinctly American. Wild claims of Jews killing Christian children and using their blood in rituals—the “blood libel”—date back to at least the 12th century and have popped up every so often since then, and long before that Christians were suspected of performing similar rites. “Hurting children is one of the worst things you can say someone is doing. It’s an easy way to demonize your enemy,” says Kathryn Olmsted, a professor of history at the University of California-Davis, who has studied conspiracy theories.

Why do child-abuse conspiracies explode into public consciousness at certain moments? Explanations offered for the peculiar resonance of Pizzagate and QAnon tend to focus on pathologies in the media ecosystem—epistemic bubbles, polarization, the unruly growth of social media. But years before the fracturing of mass culture and the dawn of Reddit and 4chan, the McMartin accusations fed a national spectacle during which scores of people were wrongly accused of sex crimes against children.

The continuities between the McMartin case and Pizzagate suggest a broader explanation for pedophile conspiracies: They aren’t the residue of malfunctions in our media culture. They’re an outgrowth of the normal workings of reactionary politics.


With Pizzagate and QAnon, the molesters have changed from day-care workers to the liberal elite, and the politics behind the theories now are more explicitly spelled out. But the general context is more or less the same: conservative retrenchment after a period of progressive social gains. If women’s entry into the workplace in the latter half of the 20th century triggered deep anxieties about the decay of traditional gender roles and the family unit, in the 21st century it was same-sex marriage, growing acceptance of transgender rights, and the seeming cultural hegemony of a social justice agenda. “Q found that fear,” says Travis View, a conspiracy theory researcher and a host of the QAnon Anonymous podcast.

One thing this article, excellent as it is, does not touch. But I'd like to bring it up:

If harming children is one of the worst things to accuse an enemy of to demonize them, and 'defending children' is the absolute moral high ground... why are GOP activists not lining up outside the concentration camps to demand those childrens' freedom and restoration to their families? Why are they not carrying torches and pitchforks and nooses to the lawns of Alexander Acosta, Jeffrey Epstein, and, yes, Donald Trump?

These are not shadowy conspiracy speculations. These are right-in-your-face torture and sexual assault on children, with plenty of clear, incontrovertable evidence including the perpetrators' own slimy, smarmy admissions and innuendos and lascivious 'jokes'.

Why, then, are the GOPpies who are so deeply horrified and outraged about shadowy and ultimately nonexistent conspiracies in the equally nonexistent basement of a pizza parlor not turning that righteous rage on the perpetrators of the demonstrably horrific child abuse going on right under all our noses?

It would be easy moral high ground to claim. They have the power, they have the influence. One deep, serious rumble that All Is Not Well with the GOPpie base's perception of their political priesthood, and the housecleaning would begin in good earnest.

But it doesn't happen.


Easy answer: They're hypocritical opportunists whose concern for the well-being and purity of (white) childhood only applies in the context of accusing opponents of heinous crimes for political purposes.

That may be the most likely and is possibly the most widely applicable explanation.

But I think there is another, darker explanation as well:

Psychological Projection

Psychological projection is a defence mechanism in which the human ego defends itself against unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others.[1] For example, a person who is habitually rude may constantly accuse other people of being rude. It incorporates blame shifting.

Not all GOPpies are sleazy pedophiles and sadistic child abusers, of course.

But I suspect a good few of the sick bastards who've been nurtured through forty years of the Masters of the Universe culture to believe they're above the common herd and entitled to any transgressive gratification their whim dictates have settled on this ultimate transgression as a validation of their Ubermensch status. Enough of them to form their own creepy web of enablement and projection as a defense mechanism.

And now they're backed into a corner.

What does a rabid rodent do when backed into a corner?

Why, exactly what we're seeing now. All we need is some latter-day Riefenstahl to document "The Triumph of the Whim".


Why "Student Loan" is a dirty phrase to me.

Student loans were part of the aid package that helped me through college in the 1970s. But let me unpack some differences between then and now:

Annual tuition at the major state University I attended back then was about $1800 (we were on the "trimester" system, so figure $600 a trimester) and room and board (at that time required for Freshmen and Sophomores- live on campus) was another $1500 or thereabouts, IIRC. Call it $3300 for the year.

About $17,000 in 2019 dollars.

Since the residency requirement was only two years, the rock-bottom total of "checks to the University" for a 4-year undergraduate degree back then approximated $10,000 or perhaps $52K in today's money.

I had "survivors benefits" from my deceased father's military service saved up, and my family qualified for Pell Grants, which at the time were called "BEOG" (Basic Education Opportunity Grant?). I also qualified for the University's Work-Study program. After the first two years I moved off campus and worked actual jobs, which ended up stretching my undergraduate time, as I had to go part-time for most trimesters in order to work and attend classes.

Between all of that, I ended up accessing Federally guaranteed "National Direct Student Loans" for approximately $6800 over the 6 years it took me to complete an undergraduate degree. About $21K in today's money.

Most of those loans were accorded the Federally-subsidized interest rates and came in at between 2% - 3% interest. One, IIRC, was unsubsidized, at a higher rate, 5%.

My subsidized loans were all from the same bank, which bundled them together and sent me payment coupon books for monthly payments of (again, IIRC) $68 or so. The unsubsidized one was separate, and my stepfather paid it off as a graduation present.

Sixty-eight dollars a month doesn't sound like a lot now. Call it $210 a month in today's dollars. But it was enough to keep me economically precarious for years, and more than once I considered chucking the whole "be responsible" thing and disappearing into the shadows, especially since an undergraduate Liberal Arts degree back then qualified me for exciting career opportunities like managing a tee-shirt shop, serving cocktails, and selling clothes in retail stores.

Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose...

And I was one of the "lucky ones". I had the savings of those survivor's benefits. I took full advantage of FAR more generous Federal grants and subsidies than today's students are eligible for. I qualified for that work-study program. My stepfather made me that generous graduation gift. Being white, I could get shitty jobs with relative ease.

I cannot imagine what it must be like for today's students, especially those starting out with much less than I did, trying to access the shamefully mingy remaining Federal education assistance, looking at an economy so infinitely worse than the one I graduated into... AND...

...falling into the hands of the most vicious collection of grasping, predatory grifting sharks to wear the label of "educational aid" imaginable. Correction, UNimaginable. I could never in my wildest nightmares have come up with today's sleazy, greedy, bloated parasites masquerading as "lenders".

When I got my Federally-guaranteed student loans, I got them from an actual bank. A locally-owned, small-town bank that embraced the student loan business for local customers not as a way to fatten their bottom line, but as a way to demonstrate they were "investing in the community" while doing all the usual folksy-cobra profiteering banks did back then. Which looks positively quaint and benign compared to what banks get away with nowadays, but I digress...

A couple of years after I graduated, those loans were sold to a student loan processing company, but back then, the regulations for federally-guaranteed loans required such companies to retain the terms of the original loan agreement, so all that changed was the typeface on the payment coupons and the address I sent them in to.

And that meant that when I went back to school, enrolled in another certified higher education program at another University, the loans went into NO-INTEREST SUSPENSION for as long as I was enrolled full-time.

And that also meant that when I got very ill a few years after I completed my second degree, I was able to move those loan payments into "hardship suspension" for more than six months, which accrued additional interest at the original rate but no additional penalty or fees.

I didn't have to argue or plead or fill out masses of paperwork or get major documentation for any of this. I sent the proof of enrollment for the no-interest suspension. I sent a form letter from my doctor in to the loan processing company and received the notice of hardship suspension a couple of weeks later, in time to save me from having to scrape the next payment out of the couch cushions.

And, had I needed to, I had the option of renegotiating my payment amount down to a smaller amount for a longer repayment time horizon- again, with additional interest accruing at the original rate, and a small fee for the transaction, but no penalty or bump in the interest. There were a couple of times I seriously considered that, especially when my partner wanted to go back to school and we took on joint payments for her tuition.

I toughed it out on the original terms, but I had the option of doing it, and (and this is critical) I knew I wasn't going to get screwed over to the nth degree if I missed a payment, which I did a few times. In fact, I had two "skip payment" coupons in each 36-month coupon book, that entitled me to a no-penalty one-month extension at the original interest rate. The ONE time I needed more than those two coupons, I was hit with a $50 penalty, which seemed steep, but they also offered me the option to just add it onto my loan amount.

Would any of today's vampire student lenders do any of that? Is it even possible to get a 2% student loan anymore?

If we could re-institute the loan programs as I experienced them, I would still not be thrilled about it as an option. With all that generosity, those loan payments made my life hell for nearly two decades, and seriously limited my choices and options, and damn' near turned me into a criminal once or twice.

I don't want today's students to go through what *I* went through (and again, I was one of the lucky ones!) much less what faces them now.

So... no... I think investing in the future of our students is more important than any kind of tit-for-tat value-for-value monetary calculation. The value of education is beyond dollars.


Why I DO want "medicare for all" and DON'T want "Medicare for all"

"WTF, Bright, you gone schizo all of a sudden?" Bet that popped into the head of many DU peeps who clicked on this post.

But a subset of DUers already suspect (accurately) that capitalizing "Medicare" in the second citation means I'm differentiating between "medicare for all" as a shorthand for "publicly funded and administered primary health insurance" and "Medicare for all" as the precise term for the current Medicare program.

And it matters.

And not making it clear *exactly* what we mean when we're talking about "M/medicare for all" produces a lot of heat and not much light.

The easy one: I do NOT want "Medicare for all" because, frankly, as wonderful as the Medicare program is, and as grateful as I am for it, it would simply not meet the needs of most Americans. It's designed very specifically for elderly Americans. Coverage for pediatric medicine, obstetrics, and other services used by non-elderly people might be quite problematic.

In addition to that, while over the past few years the darling esposo and myself have learned, with professional help, to navigate the various plan offerings at annual renewal, it DID take professional help to sort out which of many options is best for us.

A system that requires professional help to navigate the choices is more in the "part of the problem" territory than in the "solutions" box.

So, grateful as I am for "Medicare", I don't believe "Medicare for all" is a viable solution to America's health care crisis.

On the other hand, I am absolutely gung-ho about "medicare for all"!

That is, a system that provides universal access to a fairly comprehensive array of commonly-needed and cost-effective health, dental, etc., services for Americans of all ages, funded through taxes and administered by a central agency with the multi-faceted mandate of:

a) assuring everyone is signed up and understands how to use the program and get good health care;

b) assuring covered services are accessible to everyone;

c) monitoring the quality of services and ensuring they are safe and effective;

d) identifying and addressing 'high cost' areas (such as emergency-room use, over-testing, price gouging by drug and device makers, etc., etc.,) devising and implementing cost control strategies that don't shut people out of needed care; and

e) working constructively with private insurers and health care professionals who provide supplementary insurance and additional private-pay care (just, for example, as Medicare now works with private-insurer providers of Part C coverage).

I suspect, given their existing experience with case management and administration, such an agency would end up being a combination of the existing Medicare administration and the existing Medicaid administration, with the Feds taking on certain parts of the mandate and State-based branches doing the actual customer service.

And since back in 1986 the Community Action Agency I worked for was part of an administrative cost analysis survey that found private insurance costs between 13 and 28 cents of every health care dollar to administer, 'HMO' type insurers cost between 15 and 21 cents, Medicare (at the time) costed about 6 cents per dollar, and Medicaid costed THREE OR FOUR CENTS of every dollar to administer, we would see pretty substantial savings just from that. I'd bet that even if those numbers have changed in the last forty-some years, the proportions remain similar.

Yes, it's complicated. Yes, I'm oversimplifying a bit.

But not all THAT much. This is not make-a-successful-moonshot-with-1960s-tech or devise-a-superweapon-with-1940s-tech complicated. We have all the elements we need to make such a system work, and work well.

What's lacking is political will.

And we won't overcome the problem of too many elected officials being in the pockets of profit-greedy health care ghouls until we have some consensus about what we want and how to express it in simple terms.

If that's "medicare for all" then fine. If not, someone come up with a better, clearer, more pithy and descriptive term. I'm happy to accommodate.


My profound gratitude to America's military leadership.

I cannot describe how heartsick I was at the initial claims that America's long Independence Day tradition of community-based celebration was going to be desecrated by a bombastic show of military hardware, apparently only to bolster the Commander-in-Chief's microscopic and delicate ego.

The Constitution you and all those who serve gave oath to defend is a document of law and equity, a blueprint for building opportunity and promoting a more perfect Union of the diverse people who believe in our promises. Yes, our military is the world's most impressive armed force.

The awesome power invested in our military has its own gravitational pull and its own corrupting temptations, and our history is not without sorrowful evidence of leaders who have succumbed. But it is also bright with evidence of the highest ideals and standards upheld against those pressures.

As you have provided us this Independence Day.

It cannot have been either easy or simple to determine exactly how to uphold the traditions of discipline and the inherent respect required for a Commander-in-Chief, even one as manifestly unfit as the current holder of that rank, while maintaining fidelity to your service oath and Constitution of our civil state. I can't imagine all the possible avenues of negative consequence and possible backlash you face in walking that delicate line. Careers, ethics, the duties owed to advance the well-being of your troops, the eyes of the world, diplomatic and military operations and objectives at stake, intraservice pressures, and (I'm sure) dozens more a civilian can't even imagine.

So now we're down to a couple of Abrams tanks sitting on flatbeds.

There they are. Military might.

Sitting on flatbeds, dusty and worn. A symbol of what we can and have deployed in the service of the Constitution and the advancement of freedom and democracy, safely at rest on their transports. Not rolling threateningly down civilian streets, just quietly sidelined, as military force always should be in times of peace and celebration.

Present, per orders.

But present as a veteran who wears a uniform to a parade and stands on the sidelines, enjoying the day with their fellow-citizens, proud of their role in maintaining or restoring the peace that allows the celebration.

Bless you.

I hadn't realized how deep my trust in our military as an institution went, until I felt the jolt of horror at the thought it would be betrayed.

And you have not betrayed it.

Thank you.

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