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True Blue Door

True Blue Door's Journal
True Blue Door's Journal
September 17, 2015

Just plain weird: Hillary to hold fundraiser at former house of Gambino boss.


The boss whose house it was, Paul Castellano, was considered to have been a relatively greedy and yet feckless mobster who most of his subordinates never quite respected. The job came to him not through significant personal exploits or popularity, but largely through personal connections with his predecessor, the founder Carlo Gambino. His greed, weakness, and disregard for subordinates opened the door to a coup by idiot street thug John Gotti, whose narcissism led more or less to the downfall of the Mafia in America, so indirectly Castellano himself can be credited with setting the stage for his organization's collapse.

The house is now owned by someone with no connection to Castellano or the Mafia, so this isn't a comment on that exactly. But when I hear Hillary Clinton and Paul Castellano's names mentioned in the same sentence, somehow it seems thematically appropriate. Not because it's the mob, but because it's someone who obtained a position of importance in their organization entirely via personal connections rather than merit and then disgraced themselves by being simultaneously selfish and weak.

Fortunately we still have a choice whether to let this particular version of "selfish and weak" hold the fate of everything we care about in her hands, because with Hillary Clinton the question is not whether she will fail, but when and how many people she drags down with her. Right now it's just her campaign. If she is nominated, it will be the entire Party and likely the entire country when (not if) she manages to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in the general election - which she will do sure as the Sun rises, no matter how insane or inept her Republican opponent is.

Character is destiny. Hers is a matter of historical record, and nominating her in the face of that record is the proverbial definition of insanity.
September 6, 2015

Putin's escalating Syria involvement: A weapon pointed at European unity?

Various news sources have been reporting recently that Russia is building up its military involvement in Syria on behalf of the Assad regime. The alliance between the two is nothing new, but in light of recent consequences of the Syrian civil war - namely, the large and rapidly growing waves of refugee emigration to Europe, which are driving internal political divisions in the EU - one has to wonder just how darkly cynical Putin's agenda in Syria may become.

As a regime characterized by "divide and conquer" strategy - employed most conspicuously in the manufacture of a civil war in Ukraine seemingly out of thin air to enable and justify the annexation of major territories - the political strains in Europe caused by the migration crisis cannot have escaped Kremlin attention.

The authoritarian government of Hungarian leader Viktor Orban, who was already a squeaky wheel on European sanctions against Russia, has been the loudest and most vehement critic of permissive Northern European attitudes toward asylum-seekers. Meanwhile the brutality, naked xenophobia, and rampant corruption of the Hungarian response to the crisis has caused Western EU members to reevaluate their view of Hungary given its radical deviations from stated EU values.

Is it beyond the depravity of the Putin regime to deliberately escalate the horrors in Syria in order to unleash greater migrations and further increase political tensions within the EU? Or, even if not, is that actually his intention? We have now seen multiple examples of Putin's strategy of unleashing chaos as a means of proxy war. Is this another example of it?

September 3, 2015

So, looks like (knock on wood) the Iran deal is done. Nobel Peace Prize #2, anyone?

This President...

1. Completely reversed the course of US policy toward Iran that he inherited, which had been marching directly toward war on the same fabricated bases as Iraq.

2. Defied the very powerful AIPAC and the raving blowhard currently in control of the Israeli government.

3. Brought one of the most anti-American governments on Earth to the table in concert with other nations and created a consensus for peace that will protect the region both from nuclear proliferation and Republifascist aggression.

4. (Apparently) created enough Congressional support for the deal to cement it, again knock on wood.

Oh, and let's not forget that other thing...

5. Reestablished relations with Cuba after half a century.

I say it would be an outrage to not give Barack Obama another Nobel Peace Prize. One for Kerry too.

We can't know for certain whether peace will be achieved because of the deal, but that's always been true of all peace deals. Nobody could know if the Camp David Accords would hold. Nobody could know if the United Nations would continue to exist or just dissolve in a few years in chaos like the League of Nations had. But Nobel Peace Prizes are awarded to those who build the roads to peace, whether or not people walk them.

Maybe the Iranian government is the cartoon character of evil they are portrayed as and that their actions often suggest. Maybe the US government is so full of frothing, psychopathic Republican murderers that they will erase the deal and start a war the next time they are in control. Maybe both. Or maybe, just maybe, this is enough to do the next thing, and the next, and the next that heals the wounds of time between two nations.

If this deal holds and yet does not result in Nobel Peace Prizes, it will clearly be a politically-motivated oversight by people who do not hold the values they claim.

August 21, 2015

Just created this graph from the past two years of Politifact ratings. It's most enlightening.


Notice how Democrats peak at "Mostly True" and then decline as falsehood increases, while Republicans continuously increase toward falsehood and peak at "False"? They also start with fewer "True" ratings and end with much more "Pants on Fire" ones. At least according to Politifact, Republicans have a serious lying problem compared to Democrats.

August 20, 2015

General thoughts on the Sanders' campaign.

1. I agree with almost everything he has said so far, and think it has played a major role in his meteoric rise.

2. However, like many on the left, he has an instinct to multiply issues beyond the core message. This may or may not be advantageous for the primary, but will definitely not be advantageous in a general election. I hope that message discipline is a part of the long-term campaign (knock on wood).

3. A Sanders/Trump main event would be a fascinating one, exposing the fundamental nature of the distinction between the people and the powerful, the problem-sovlers and problem-causers in this country. However, it would not be a slam-dunk, as cartoonish as Donald Trump is: He is a bully, and believe it or not bullies tend to do well in politics. However, I am still of the opinion that the establishment GOP is using him as a distraction to take heat away from Jeb Bush, whose machine will ramp up at a predesignated point and simply annihilate Trump's primary viability.

4. A Sanders/Bush matchup would present different challenges, since Sanders would have the entire media going after him with a vengeance rather than dividing its mockery between two candidates who lack insider support. But since Bush would look like what he is, it's not clear whether that's an advantage or a disadvantage.

5. Whether we like it or not, American presidential elections are just personal popularity contests. Americans elected Ronald Reagan because he was a charming actor with a stage presence who projected a role, not because people wanted to see the government gutted and corporations elevated to the status of gods. Americans elected Bill Clinton because he was also an extremely charming version of an actor, not because people were in the mood for muddled half-measures and constant Stockholm Syndrome to the frothing-at-the-mouth conservative degenerates who hated him. And while there was every rational reason to elect Barack Obama, the reason we elected him personally is that he's a cool guy while his opponent was an angry old man.

Sanders can play the FDR/Truman card, but we just don't know how potent that is among the apolitical masses who know jack shit about history and vote based on what the inner trilobite at the base of their spine says watching debates and ads. Half these morons watched George W. Bush (a dead-eyed serial killer psychopath) and saw a fun, down-home bro based on nothing but the inflection of his accent and some cheap image management, so we just don't know.

August 11, 2015

The Bernie Interrupters: Anatomy of Hatemongering Fauxgressives.

There's a skit in Monty Python's Life of Brian where a group of revolutionaries descends into such comically petty bickering that they factionalize over trivia despite having an urgent common agenda. One wishes to be called the "Judaean People's Front" and the other "The People's Front of Judaea." It's a cliche of left-wing politics for a reason: Because for some intolerable fact of psychological nature, the left cannot handle sticking together. Every minor question of symbolism or priority turns into a Byzantine Empire religious convtroversy at some point.

And it really shows which people are in politics because they enjoy the process of controversy (the intellectual equivalents of short guys who wander into bars hoping to start fights) vs. which people are in it because they actually want to accomplish something for society and humankind. Bernie Sanders is clearly someone who wants to do right by his country and the American people, and has demonstrated that so completely that attacks on him from the left are precisely the kind of insanity that has undermined the left for generations. Even when the left was politically ascendent in the 20th century, that kind of belligerent chaos often made apolitical people view the left as batshit crazy, and drove them into the hands of namby-pamby centrists.

I wish I could say with certainty that the alleged BLM protesters who disrupted Sanders' event were actually right-wing plants, but here's the unfortunate fact: Even if they were, and even if not a single one of them seriously considers themselves left-wing, the only reason there's any doubt is that people like that really exist. We run into them often enough in any liberal progressive discussion forum: People who are just seething with inchoate hatred, have nothing but contempt for other progressives because we don't meet fantasy standards no human being ever has (especially themselves), and are seemingly on a quest for self-destruction that they insist everyone else go down before them.

The word for them is fauxgressive, and it's been around for a while because the phenomenon has been around even longer. These people want no change, because they enjoy the anger of society's problems too much. They want no one working toward, let alone succeeding at achieving change, because that's a threat to their melodramatic fantasies of perpetual rebellion. In their own minds, they are Neo and everyone else on the fucking planet is Agent Smith. And there is just nothing you can do with people like that: They are less than useless. All you can do is recognize them, like a Narc at a party, and say "Whatever, faux."

The people who interrupted Bernie Sanders have nothing to do with Black Lives Matter. Nothing. And nothing to do with progressive politics. They are just trolls with signs. And the first rule of dealing with trolls is don't feed them. Now if only the rest of the media weren't full of trolls...

August 5, 2015

America without Landlords: A more in-depth discussion.

In an earlier post, I raised the general theoretical question of what would happen if owners of real estate could only buy or sell (or use it themselves) rather than renting out and being landlords. The fact of how horrifyingly one-sided, exploitive, and artificially price-inflated tenant/landlord business relationships tend to be is painfully obvious, and the massive power imbalance between tenants and landlords (even in areas with relatively strong tenant activism) is something our society has yet to address on a fundamental level.

So I would like to summarize the main objections that have been raised to banning landlordism in the very large number of comments the original post received. Although I answered a number of them, they were repeated so often that it became a chore to answer the same objections over and over, so here is a summary that everyone can consult and comment further on:

1. Big Gubmint!

Don't give a shit. I'm a liberal progressive, and I believe the government's job is to manage the economy for the benefit of society as a whole - which is what it either has been doing or supposed to have been doing since 1933.

If you are against the basic concept of the government regulating business, your opinions are beyond the scope of the topic, and completely outside my interest. If you're against the objective of the idea (greater wealth equality through government policy), then your opinion of whether the idea achieves that objective obviously involves a conflict of interest.

2. Would harm renters.

As explained in the original post, if the only two ways for profit-driven owners to make a profit are using the locations themselves or selling, most would find it more convenient to sell. This would reduce the market price of the real estate considerably, stabilizing only after the property has distributed widely enough that it's primarily being used by the owners (whether for habitation or business) rather than by very wealthy individuals or corporations whose sole function is to passively own and extort rent from users. With a drastically reduced price, far more people who were once forced to rent could afford to buy.

For the rest, we can very easily imagine any number of arrangements whereby groups pool resources, or else laws are changed to allow smaller increments of purchase. But these are details that should be left to specific legislation, and are not realistic objections to the fundamental concept of eliminating rental arrangements. The fact is that you can nitpick and use "Yeah, well, what about such-and-such a special case?!" arguments against laws that already exist and already work just fine.

But here's the most crucial fact: The status quo grievously harms renters. The very existence of the renter/landlord business arrangement - which is typically not voluntary on the part of the renter, but extorted by their circumstances and the market control exerted by current owners - harms renters. The status quo hurts renters, and is bleeding them dry. Bleeding the entire American middle class dry. The problem is vast and drastic, and here is one possible element of a solution to it.

You can throw in just about any mitigation to specific legislation to deal with timing, gradualism, increments, and other fine policy details, but fundamentally you cannot show why such a system - once fully implemented, with rational mechanisms put in place to address obvious concerns - is a bad idea. Objections become circular, saying that we cannot change because everything is already built around the current system, forgetting that the current system wasn't always the current system either. We have choices to make, and a fact to confront that the status quo is deeply harming us.

3. Would harm current homeowners.

There are a vast panoply of methods we can envision in legislation to deal with that - grandfather clauses, tax credit mitigations of losses, etc. This is, again, a question for specific legislation and not the fundamental idea. Because once the system is in place, and all the costs of transition are dealt with one way or another, there would be far more homeowners (although some would merely own apartments or even single rooms), keeping far more of their income because it's not being extorted by landlords. That is a good end in itself to seek, so the question is merely can legislation be designed that transitions to that without wreaking havoc?

The answer is obviously yes, if you believe in FDR-style liberal progressive democracy. The changes his administration wrought were far more drastic than this one, since this only concerns one element of one industry, and the parasitic speculative financial organizations that use it to engage in stock market fraud. So, if we are not so brainwashed by decades of conservative dogma into thinking a government can't handle something like this, what's the problem other than fear of change?

4. Would harm local tax revenues based on property value.

People buy property based on their ability to buy it, and that doesn't change just because prices fall. Usually they will buy exactly what they can afford, and if prices fall, they can afford a bigger house. But the total value of the house that person or family buys is the same because their resources to buy it are the same, so they pay the same in property taxes that they did before.

It's fair to say that the money would move around geographically, but that already happens: Some neighborhoods go down, some rise up. Some are blighted, some are gentrified, some cruise along just fine. All economic change does that. And if the argument against a positive change - an increase in general prosperity - is that it disrupts some local economies, that's a completely moot objection. Disruption caused by increasing prosperity is a good problem to have, and one that solves itself by people's ability to contribute to their communities and attract or start businesses increasing.

There is also the fact that people typically take better care of property when it's their own, and communities in general when they feel invested rather than feeling like a second-class citizen because they're not a land-owner.

This country started out being only of, by, and for white land-owning males. We've made a lot of progress on the white and male parts of that exclusionary legacy, but people who don't own real estate are still treated like peasants, extorted, and ignored by politicians. It's time to change that.

August 4, 2015

Why not outlaw landlordism?

Consider for a moment: What would happen if real estate could not be rented, leased, or borrowed against, but only either bought, sold, or used by the owner?

An obvious initial objection would be "But most people can't afford to buy real estate!" Then a beautiful thought occurs: Because they can't afford it, and the owners can no longer rent it out, lease it out, or borrow against it, owners have only two ways to make money from it - either sell it or use it as productive capital that creates jobs.

Since the vast majority of people - including (in fact, especially) real estate speculators - have no interest in or capacity to run a productive enterprise, the only practical avenue of profit for most real estate owners would be to sell the property. If they have no personal or professional use for it, they're only in it for the money, and they can't make money on it except by selling it, then that is what they will do.

So what happens when people with property want to sell it, but consumers can't afford to buy it? The price goes down. And without the hugely inflationary forces of bubble-speculation and landlordism, it would go down massively. It would go down as far as necessary for people to afford it, resulting in a huge redistribution of wealth back to the average person.

Sure, some holders of surplus real estate would try to hold on to their property and wait for a more favorable market, but unless owners acted as a single giant monopoly, enough would sell that the price would just keep going lower, causing still more to sell to avoid future losses. The price would then stabilize far below what it is in a market supported by renting, leasing, and borrowing.

Also, since you can't borrow against it, homeowners would be less tempted to use their property as a cash machine, meaning they would be more likely to hold on to it in the long-term.

Pass the law such that it unfolds gradually, so that present renters are not thrown out on the street, and I don't see a downside.


(Edit: Wow, I didn't realize I was thinking so far outside the box here. It just seems like common sense that the tenant-landlord relationship is a fundamentally Bad Thing for society and democracy, given that it reduces a "free" market into a medieval Manorial estate. This should not be a radical idea on a liberal discussion forum. Be less conservative and more thoughtful about how things can be better, folks.)

July 31, 2015

A thought: Pro-active Pro-Choice.

It occurs to me that abortion rights lose ground in America in part because the pro-choice community adopts a defensive posture.

Where do abortion protests, both for and against, take place with the greatest frequency? In front of abortion clinics.

This happens because Forced Birthers want to intimidate patients going into them, and the response of the pro-choice community is largely reactive - show up at the clinic to defend the patients, right?

Well, in addition to that, why not be more proactive: Since anti-abortion protesters overwhelmingly come from religious organizations, why not protest their churches?

Not all of them come from churches that specifically organize clinic intimidation, but a lot of them do - a lot of them go to the same set of churches, hear the same demented sermons, and seem to feel there are no consequences to their actions. Their lives are undisturbed while they seek to make life difficult for abortion providers and patients.

So, why not protest their churches instead of always letting them decide the ground of dispute? And not just hand out pro-choice literature, but specifically criticize the violence and hypocrisy of their movement. Go to them and make it about them, so that they are on the defensive.

July 31, 2015

Koch brand thermometer.


Profile Information

Name: Brian
Gender: Male
Hometown: Southern California
Member since: Mon Oct 28, 2013, 05:48 PM
Number of posts: 2,969

About True Blue Door

Primary issue interests: Science, technology, history, infrastructure, restoring the public sector, and promoting a fair, honorable, optimistic, and inquisitive society. Personal interests: Science fiction (mainly literature, but also films and TV), pop culture, and humor.
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