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JHan's Journal
JHan's Journal
December 28, 2016

This: In a nutshell

December 28, 2016

On Trump Supporters and Empathy:

I know a Trump supporter who doesn't fit the stereotype : my cousin.

My cousin supported Trump, because he likes Trump's "machismo". . My cousin doesn't follow politics much, but he likes men like Trump and he is a bit like Trump himself : He loves to "tell it like it is", even when he's wrong. He sees Trump's gaffes as comedy and the times Trump's rhetoric veered dangerously into authoritarianism , he explained it away as Trump getting a raw deal by the press, and that he's "misunderstood". He also doesn't believe Trump will do what he says he will do.

My cousin is probably not the only Trump supporter who connects to Trump in this way. His supporters generally like his brashness, and in times of uncertainty, someone coming along and saying "I will fix it" , whatever that "it" is, has appeal. No further inquiry of what he's going to "fix" is necessary because the resentful , the fearful and the frustrated love Strongmen.
And when he targets "others" unlike themselves, they feel safe.

Trump knows that divisions and scapegoating makes his most ardent supporters cling to him ever more tightly, because it's only ever been about Trump.

This is not just a Trump supporter problem, but a voter problem. Instead of us focusing on effects of systemic and historic failings, we rather devote our energy to either falling in love or hating a personality or candidate- because it's satisfying to either love or lay blame at another group or a specific person.

So I can empathize, I understand the mindset.

But in all these calls for empathy, what of those most affected by Trump's bullying and dog whistling and hate?

And what of ALL OF US and our future if Trump has his way.

It's my empathy that inspires me to not give up on my cousin. We actually agree on many things but I don't have to gloss over inconvenient facts to engage with him. I don't need to compromise the truth by pointing out Trump's lies and deceptive nature, and I don't avoid asking him whether he considered the consequences of his support for a demagogue - the good news is that I think I'm getting through to him.

Trump is my cousin's blind spot but his flaw is a flaw I'm guilty of occasionally: i.e. the blind spot of not being honest about ideas and beliefs, people and institutions in which I place my faith and trust - and pointing out blind spots helps us gain a clear understanding of the world.

The Trump support spectrum ranges from extremists to those who are just plain uninformed and ignorant, yet even for Trump's most mild supporters, Trump's intent couldn't be more clear when he announced his run: he corralled support initially because of his deplorable comments about Mexicans , on top of his birtherism . Obviously this would make him attractive to racists and bigots. And we all know racists and bigots. Some of them are otherwise great fathers, mothers , daughters ,sons ,friends and colleagues. This is not an inconvenient truth to shy away from but an ugly truth to confront.

Confronting it doesn't make me a liberal elitist who is out of touch with the rust belt..

We can discuss strategies and methods of engaging people , but we should never deny , excuse, diminish or sweep under the carpet ugly motivations which inspired people to vote for a narcissistic bigoted egomaniac.

I will not coddle Trump supporters who get high off of the suffering of others, who believe it's their time now, and indulge in sick fantasies of retribution based on some false, misguided sense of persecution.

I will not coddle Trump supporters who disrespect not only me, but people who happen to not be white and christian, and relish the idea of liberals fearful of a Trump presidency .

Because our fear is real. It is a fear that our environment will be totally fucked, that Trump will turn the clock back to 1925, and I'm not here for the narcissism of anyone who thinks their guy winning is more important than the good of the country.

If a Trump supporter behaves like a disgusting human being , don't expect me to respect them.

There are limits to my kindness and empathy, especially if I am not afforded the same courtesy -


December 24, 2016

Life In Obamacare's Deadzone.

Excluded from the Affordable Care Act because of politics, thousands of poor Americans grapple with the toll- physical and psychological - of being uninsured.

&quot Bridget McCandless) told me a story about one of her former patients, a man with a seizure disorder: “He’s well controlled on inexpensive medicine. However, he has to see a doctor to get the prescription. Because he lacks insurance, he inevitably runs out of medication and has a seizure. This means that he can’t drive to work for six months. It’s really hard to work in construction when you have to admit to having a recent seizure — preventable or not. He collects cans on the side of the road to support himself now.”

It was hard to be innovative, in other words, when you didn’t have anything to innovate with.

A program manager named Rebecca Anderson at the Kansas City CARE Clinic, which was once the nation’s largest free clinic and which also receives funding from McCandless’s foundation, put it to me this way: When she first started working for the clinic, she did H.I.V. case management, “which feels really heavy. But there are so many resources available to those patients. Then I transferred over to this area” — she now oversees a team of community health workers assigned to work one on one with uninsured patients — “and this is way harder. These patients really have access to nothing. Absolutely nothing.”

December 24, 2016

Don't fight the wrong battle on Sessions.

In Trump's horror show of nominees/picks, Sessions is the one who frightens me the most.

Democrats need to aggressively block his nomination using the right tactics.

We're already familiar with his racism, and while important, Jennifer Rubin notes:

Confirmation hearings have two audiences — the Senate (which must confirm) and members of the base (who want to see that their team is fighting for core beliefs). Highlighting past statements on race may satisfy the latter, but the vast majority of senators will not hold comments from 30 years ago against Sessions. Given how readily the country discounted Donald Trump’s comments from the campaign, there is reason to believe words have limited effect in the confirmation setting. There are, however, a few issues that Democrats might raise that will not only appeal to their base but also rattle Republicans.

Sessions supports civil asset forfeiture ,"a practice that allows law enforcement officers to take property when there is simply a suspected link to criminal activity" , he also wishes to further criminalize harmless recreational drug use, he will do nothing about police brutality and criminal justice reform, he has demonstrated a disregard for first amendment principles throughout his political career and he is in favor of expanding mass surveillance capabilities - he's also anti-encryption.

This is not a man who can be trusted to protect our civil liberties.

We have to hold him to the fire.

Whether you're in a red state or blue, call Senators and demand they block this nomination.

"Sessions’s current positions and intentions to enact extreme anti-immigrant measures that trample on civil liberties are much better targets for those seeking to defeat him. Moreover, it might be educational for Americans to learn just how extreme the new administration’s positions may be."
December 23, 2016

This is a serious question:

Why is Donald Trump tweeting on serious matters like Nuclear Warfare ?

He has not held a press conference in ages, and twitter isn't the best platform to discuss complex policy.

So why?

We know he's a moron/asshole/douche <insert preferred insult> but aside from that, his team clearly isn't alarmed and haven't stopped him.

So why?

December 22, 2016

Roots of the black/white divide...

I've been taking in some good stuff at redneckrevolt which got me thinking about the conflation of liberal "identity politics" and "divide and rule" - often used interchangeably by those with an anti-liberal agenda.

I think this was a ploy by rightwingers to project their tactics onto liberal efforts to address the particular concerns of groups .

Divide and Rule tactics form the bedrock of the American Story and this is a fascinating example of how Black/white unity has long been suppressed ..

"Up until the 1680’s little distinction was made in the status of Blacks and English and other Europeans held in involuntary servitude. Contrary to common belief, the status of Blacks in the first seventy years of the Virginia colony was not that of racial, lifelong, hereditary slavery, and the majority of the whites who came were not "free”. Black and white servants intermarried, escaped together, and rebelled together.

There were a series of servile rebellions that threatened the plantation system in the period preceding the transition to racially designated chattel slavery and white supremacy. In 1661 Black and Irish servants joined in an insurrectionary plot in Bermuda. In 1663, in Virginia, there was an insurrection for the common freedom of Blacks, whites and Indian servants. In the next 20 years, there were no fewer than ten popular and servile revolts and plots in Virginia. Also many Black and white servants successfully escaped (to Indian territories) and established free societies.

The 20 year period of servile rebellions made the issue of social control urgent for the plantation owners, at the same time as they economically needed to move to a system of perpetual slavery. The purpose of creating a basic White/Black division was in order to have one section of labor police and control the other. As Allen says, “The non-slavery of white labor was the indispensable condition for the slavery of black labor”.

A series of laws were passed and practices imposed that forged a qualitative distinction between white and Black labor. In 1661 a Virginia law imposed twice the penalty time for escaped English bond-servants who ran away in the company of an African life-time bond-servant. Heavy penalties were imposed on white women servants who bore children fathered by Africans. One of the very first white slave privileges was the exemption of white servant women from work in the fields and the requirements through taxes to force Black children to go to work at twelve, while white servant children were excused until they were fourteen. In 1680, Negroes were forbidden to carry arms, defensive or offensive. At the same time, it was made legal to kill a Negro fugitive bond-servant who resisted recapture.

What followed 1680 was a 25 year period of laws that systematically drew the color line as the limit on various economic, social, and political rights. By 1705, “the distinction between white servants and Black slavery were fixed: Black slaves were to be held in life long hereditary slavery and whites for five years, with many rights and protections afforded to them by law.”

We can infer from these series of laws that white laborers were not “innately racist” before the material and social distinctions were drawn. This is evidenced by the rulers’ need to impose very harsh penalties against white servants who escaped with Blacks or who bore them children. As historian Philip Bruce observed of this period, many white servants “...had only recently arrived from England, and were therefore comparatively free from... race prejudice.”

The white bond-servants now could achieve freedom after 5 years service: the white women and children, at least, were freed from the most arduous labor. The white bond servant, once freed, had the prospect of the right to vote and to own land (at the Indians’ expense).

These privileges did not come from the kindness of the planters’ hearts nor from some form of racial solidarity. (Scottish coal miners were held in slavery in the same period of time.) Quite simply, the poor whites were needed and used as a force to suppress the main labor force: the African chattel slaves. The poor white men constituted the rank and file of the militias and later (beginning in 1727) the slave patrols. They were given added benefits, such as tax exemptions to do so. By 1705, after Blacks had been stripped of the legal right to self-defense, the white bond servant was given a musket upon completion of servitude. There was such a clear and conscious strategy that by 1698 there were even “deficiency laws” that required the plantation owners to maintain a certain ratio of white to African servants. The English Parliament, in 1717, passed a law making transportation to bond-servitude in the plantation colonies a legal punishment for crime. Another example of this conscious design is revealed in the Council of Trade and Plantation report to the King in 1721 saying that in South Carolina “Black slaves have lately attempted and were very nearly succeeding in a new revolution – and therefore, it may be necessary to propose some new law for encouraging the entertainment of more white servants in the future".


Sounds depressingly familiar- echoes of it in Jim Crow etc etc..

And Trump tapped into that by shamelessly using "Whiteness" to spread regressive rhetoric...

And what really is at the heart of whiteness? We hear often "Slavery happened so long ago get over it" , yet slavery birthed almost every oppressive institutional instrument used to disenfranchise and oppress. And the Transatlantic Slave Trade was especially heinous - not even slavery in Antiquity demarcated a slave because of his or her color.

It was Transatlantic Slavery that birthed "Whiteness" which became a moral good for no other reason than the "virtue" of its existence. That "Whiteness" established itself in the age of Enlightenment and Reason isn't surprising.And it was helped by Philosophers like Kant who were ready to rationalize the enslavement of non-whites - after all, one can't be "enlightened" and support slaving others thus the need to conjure up reasons to justify the oppression of human beings unlike oneself.

"Whiteness" morphed into perverse inspiration for non-whites who desperately wanted acceptance, and who were willing to embrace concepts of "whiteness" by perpetuating its forms of oppression. And so too , white grievance is elevated above all others.

Trump's Team perfectly represents all the tools of "whiteness" described - from Giuliani's shameless defense of oppressive racist policing policies in New York , to Sheriff Clarke's Race Loathing to Bannon's Vision of American Nationalism and Conway's Complicity- ( and yea, figuratively, they're all tools as well)

"Whiteness" will blind us to those struggling like us, even desperate immigrants, because the particular concerns of groups should bother us all. When Black Lives Matter, a group Trumpians call terrorists, demand an end to over-criminalization and police brutality, poor white men and women who live in States which profit off mass incarceration should join their efforts- yet "whiteness" prevents any kind of solidarity based on common struggles.

Time for us all to wise up.

Allegiances, traditionally, are made among people who have common interests. Throughout American history, white working people have generally believed that our interests are based on looking out for each other, and we've seen our community as folks who have the same skin color as us. We've felt it was important to work for the betterment of other white folks, for our culture, for our shared identity. The truth, however, could never be further away. Whose interests have our actions really served? White workers? In the short term, the answer may be "yes". Working for the advancement of the white race at the cost of other folks does buy us relative privileges, occasional access to better jobs and neighborhoods, and even some luxuries. In the end, however, we're still poor, we're still breaking our backs to make other people money... and those people aren't working folks of color.

The true, long-term interests of white workers lie with the fate of all other workers, no matter what their race. All workers, of all races, are exploited. We are exploited because we put in the lion's share of the work, skill, and experience, and we bear the scars and lifelong pain from working class life, but we never actually get ahead enough to breathe free. We work multiple jobs to barely meet our needs, while bosses and the people in charge profit from that labor. We are born where we're at, and we die where we're at while rich politicians and white collar business owners live in the lap of luxury. Who are these rich people? Who are these politicians? The truth is that 95% of them are white. They are also mostly male. Almost all of them are English speaking. They are also mostly Christian (or at least pretend to be so). And yet, in spite of having so many superficial things in common with one another, our lives are completely separate. When we stay up late at the kitchen table with a stack of bills, trying to figure out how the budge is going to work, they're eating at restaurants where they'll never even look at the amount on their bill. Tonight, when we finally go to bed in our noisy apartments, our modest houses, or our crowded trailers, they will go to bed in luxury and comfort, with no worries at all. Tomorrow morning, they'll wake up hours after we do, and they won't have to rush through getting their kids to school, or pray that their car starts so that they won't be late for work again. They might look like us, but they don't actually know us at all

December 22, 2016

"Support the Syrian people not the USA or Russia"

Insightful interview with Leila al-Shami:

"Much of the left internationally has given open or covert support to the Assad regime in Syria. The Morning Star in Britain went so far as to call the defeat of Aleppo a “liberation”. Why do left-wingers support a murderous regime instead of people fighting for their freedom? What is the role of Islamist forces in the conflict? Leila al-Shami, co-author of the book “Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War”, gives an interview which provides some answers to these questions. She was interviewed by Max van Lingen, editor of the Dutch newspaper “The Socialist”. The interview was translated into German by Frank Simon, and then into English by Colin Wilson.

Excerpt of Interview:

"What was the main reason you wrote the book [Burning Country: Syrians in Revolution and War]?

Robin Yassin-Kassab and I felt that reporting about Syria was poor. It wasn’t that there were too few reports, but that they rarely represented Syrian concerns. The media reports mainly about the humanitarian crisis or the rise of Islamic groups and extremism. Syrians are seen either as victims or as terrorists.

We wanted to challenge this point of view by letting people speak for themselves. We wanted to offer a platform for activists who were involved in the revolution and were affected by the war. A left-wing analysis should be based on what the people are doing – not just on what is happening in terms of high politics between states or what the international repercussions of the crisis are.

How did you choose the people you spoke to?

We were connected with the revolution in Syria from the beginning. We already knew a lot of people. When we spoke to these activists, they brought us into contact with other people. So we gained a variety of insights into life in Syria from people from both rural and urban areas, both women and men. We interviewed people in Syria from all religious communities and nationalities: Muslims, Christians, Ismailis and Alawites as well as Kurds and Arabs.

Syria and the Arab Spring

Why do you think a large part of the international left was either very guarded as regards the revolution or even openly hostile towards it?

Many leftists look at Syria within a framework of existing ideas. Before the Arab Spring, their experiences of the Middle East were limited to the Israeli occupation of Palestine and the US war and subsequent occupation of Iraq. When the Arab Spring began and the revolution in Syria grew, the left looked at Syria in the context of US imperialism.

What is wrong with this approach?

The situation had changed dramatically in 2011. Suddenly there was an international revolutionary wave in the region, which caused a huge change in people’s thinking. People said they no longer wanted to live under these regimes, which had suppressed them for so long. Most of the left, however, did not respond to the fact that there existed a mass movement from below. They saw the Assad regime as a secular socialist regime that was at war with the US and Israel. But that’s not true.

Can you explain that in more detail?

To start with, it is not a secular regime. In the course of the revolution, we have seen how the regime made use of the various religious communities to carry out a policy of divide and rule. Secondly, it is not a socialist regime. The implementation of neoliberal policies had already begun under Hafez al-Assad, and this increased under Bashar al-Assad.

Bashar al-Assad aimed to integrate Syria more closely into the world economy, for example through an economic “Association Agreement” with the EU. The neoliberal policies he pursued led to a concentration of wealth in the hands of his relatives and the people associated with the regime, while large sections of the population lived in poverty. As a result, one of the main demands of the revolution was social and economic justice.

"Syria, the USA and the “regime change

Some left-wingers reduce the Syrian revolution to a US attempt at “regime change” by supplying arms deliveries to Syrian groups. What do you think of that view?

It is not true that the US has delivered large amounts of weapons to Syria. The US delivered some supplies, but for a long time only light weapons, night vision equipment and ready-to-eat meals. Subsequently, they provided some anti-tank weapons so as to maintain a stalemate. The US did not provide the heavy weapons that Syrian rebels would need to defend themselves against the regime’s air attacks, such as air defence missiles.

What is the specific US military strategy?

The US is looking for proxies to carry out the “war on terror” on its behalf. The Southern Front – an alliance of democratic and nationalist groups which refused to work with Islamists – was forced by the US and Jordan to stop fighting the Assad regime. This allowed the regime to concentrate on other areas, including Daraya, which has fallen to the regime after a long siege and systematic starvation of its people. The US has also provided weapons and air support for the Syrian Democratic Forces, which are dominated by the Kurdish YPG, because they fight only against Daesh.

The “Islamisation” of the revolution has without doubt reduced its international appeal. How significant do you think this development has been?

A large part of the military struggle is led by Islamists of different kinds, ranging from moderate Islamist groups operating within a democratic framework to Salafist hardliners. International jihadist groups such as Daesh, on the other hand, are counter-revolutionary, they represent a third force. Syrians have fought against Daesh, as they have also fought against the Assad regime. The Free Syrian Army still exists, and has widespread support, but it is no longer the only actor.

The Islamisation of the Revolution

What were the reasons for the “Islamisation” of the revolution?

After the poison gas attack on Ghouta in 2013 at the latest, the Syrian people knew that they were not going to get any help from the West. So they turned to the Gulf States. The result was a more pronounced Islamic vocabulary. Many fighters switched to Islamist groups because these were able to provide weapons and funds. These groups were able to provide pay, which was decisive in the face of economic collapse and hunger.

Although the military struggle is the biggest part of the picture, a strong civil society also exists, which still plays a very important role in the Syrian revolution. In Maarrat al-Nu’man there were more than 200 days of continuous protests against Assad and against Jabhat Fatah al-Sham (the Front for the Conquest of the Levant, the new name of the al-Nusra Front). [The Al-Nusra Front are jihadists, with links to Al-Qaeda until July 2016 – ed.] The people of Maarrat al-Numan clearly rejected Fatah al-Sham, but the situation in Aleppo is quite different. There, Fatah al-Sham played a major role in breaking through of the siege of East Aleppo, in which 300,000 people were liberated. While the international community abandoned the people of Aleppo, Fatah al-Sham came to their aid. It is absurd to think that people in this situation will reject them."


December 22, 2016

Finland: Basic Income experiment authorized by Parliament starting Jan 9th

Well done Finns

"Finland’s Ministry of Social Affairs and Health drafted the legislative proposal for the experiment in August, and submitted the proposal to Parliament after hearing public opinions on the draft proposal. The proposal elicited some controversy, in part due to the relatively small size of the basic income (560 EUR) as well as the choice of sample population, which will consist only of recipients of the country’s unemployment benefits. However, the basic design of the experiment remains unchanged: a random sample of 2,000 individuals, drawn from current working-age beneficiaries of unemployment benefits, will receive an unconditional basic income of 560 EUR per month for a two-year period. (Brief responses to the objections are included in the most recent version of Kela’s report on the experiment.)

The primary objective of the experiment is to assess whether an unconditional basic income promotes employment. Experimenters will compare the employment rate among basic income recipients to that within a control group of individuals who continue to receive traditional unemployment benefits. As Kela’s website states, the Finnish government is interested in basic income due to its potential to “reduce the amount of work involved in seeking financial assistance” and “free up time and resources for other activities such as working or seeking employment”. The experiment will also provide data used to estimate the cost of implementing a nationwide basic income."

December 21, 2016

He was just kidding!

Gingrich Says Trump's No Longer Interested In 'Drain The Swamp'

Newt Gingrich said Wednesday that Donald Trump’s “drain the swamp” catch phrase was “cute” but that the President-elect now disclaims it.

During an interview with NPR’s “Morning Edition” Wednesday, host Rachel Martin asked if the former House speaker had been “working in the swamp, to use Donald Trump’s language.”

“I’m told he now just disclaims that. He now says it was cute, but he doesn't want to use it anymore,” Gingrich said, referring to the phrase. “I'd written what I thought was a very cute tweet about ‘the alligators are complaining,’ and somebody wrote back and said they were tired of hearing this stuff.”

Later, Gingrich added: “I personally, as a sense of humor, like the alligator and swamp language, and I think it vividly illustrates the problem, because all the people in this city who are the alligators are going to hate the swamp being drained. And there's going to be constant fighting over it. But, you know, he is my leader and if he decides to drop the swamp and the alligator I will drop the swamp and the alligator.”

On Monday, Gingrich drew scrutiny for asserting during an interview on “The Diane Rehm Show” that Trump would be able to simply pardon members of his family who broke anti-nepotism laws by working in his administration. Richard Painter, who was President George W. Bush’s chief White House ethics lawyer from 2005 to 2007, responded that “If the pardon power allows that, the pardon power allows the president to become a dictator.”

Martin asked Gingrich about the presidential pardon on Wednesday. Gingrich defended his comment by arguing that the Constitution “gives the president of the United States an extraordinarily wide grant of authority to use the power of the pardon. I'm not saying he should. I'm not saying he will.


We're being primed to accept his outrageous BS as normal, so that when he does what he really intends, it'll be dismissed as "normal"

December 21, 2016

The Rules for Rulers

CGP Grey's vids are always interesting ( the channel is worth following too)

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About JHan

Be true, be brave, stand. All the rest is darkness.
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