Friday, December 8, 2017

Chamber Secrets

Term limits by sexual harassment... what couldn't be accomplished by Congress limiting themselves is coming about by Congress not limiting itself.  😅     ---Marie Byars

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Onward, Christmas Warrior

Although Christian, I am beyond tired of hearing about the so-called "War on Christmas."  Now, with the Pope in Chief to Evangelicals (TM) all but mandating we say "Merry Christmas", I'm rebelling.  I don't want this seemingly fraudulent Don-Johnny-Come-Lately telling me what I must say over the holidays. So, I will NOT be saying "Merry Christmas."  But (amongst friends... I'm not going to impose my multi-European shtick on the world), I'm not settling for a secular "Happy Holidays."

My seasonal greeting, being German-American is "Fröliche Weihnachten."   (That's roughly pronounced "FRAY-lick-eh VY-nahk-ten."  It literally means "Happy Holy Nights."  If you can get it out well, my respect for you will grow.)  I will also respond to "Feliz Navidad", "Buon Natale" or "Joyeaux Noel." I'm going to add "Nollaig Chridheil"  (Scottish-Gaelic) to my lexicon, in recognition of the great amount of Scottish blood my husband and children carry.

Please do not darken my presence by trying to force a "Merry Christmas" out of me.

Thank you.

For a bit of satire on the matter:

(from the Babylon Bee website)

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Media Blitzkrieg

The Koch Brothers' $$$ is backing the Meredith Corporation takeover of Time, Inc., the company that manages Time and Fortune magazines (as well as Sports Illustrated).   Yeah, that should add to balanced perspectives in reporting.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Friday, October 27, 2017

It's the Power, Stupid

Right now, non-Christians are amping up their criticisms of how Christians are responsible for every hateful, culture-destroying act in the history of humanity.  The "Pope-in-Chief" to White American Evangelical Christians (TM) is triggering an escalation in the criticisms.  The "College of Televangelist Cardinals" (TM) and their followers continue to defend the indefensible, heaping the scorn on higher.

Still, some of the criticisms of Christianity's entire history are ridiculous and patently false. Christianity spread rapidly for several hundred years while a persecuted, illegal religion in Rome.  It has spread rapidly in a similar way in China for decades.

Women who are promoting old "goddess" religions and criticizing Christianity as "andro-centric" are really missing the mark. Those old religions that had goddesses were embedded in cultures that where men dominated even more, for the most part.  And they had gods that dominated mistreated or ignored the potential of goddesses and human women.  (Zeus and his many affairs, anyone?  Hera, his wife, made out to be a jealous shrew bent on revenge?)

The Greeks allowed some freedoms to women philosophers who stayed unmarried and virginal. Some of these, while less famous than Socrates, had roving schools of followers in Athens.  The Romans had Vestal Virgins. The Amazons were largely mythical. What faint traces there were of them in reality were  young warrior Sarmatian women, who didn't live in an exclusively female society. But if women were married off or at all sexual in "underground" ways, they were suddenly lesser.

The pre-civilized Germans showed a little more equality.  Men were to have only one wife, and adultery by either sex was considered a problem. Women often followed their men to battle.  If their husbands fell, the wives would pick up the weapons and continue fighting. The gods & goddesses had some defined gender roles, but the head-god, Woden, wasn't cheating or domineering.  However, the old Germanic religion was dark and depressing, a constant fight against the dark and cold of northern winters.  

Domination is really the problem. Emperor Theodosius made Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire in the 400s AD.  Then people glommed onto the religion for reasons of power and respectability. Christians began persecuting pagans. 

Hindus, supposedly so peaceful, have persecuted Muslims and other minorities in India.  Hitler "used" Catholics, Lutherans and other Protestants to persecute the Jews; evidence shows he would next have turned on Christians who were "too religious" because Hitler really wanted to be the center of all things.  Stalin murdered millions with ideological differences; Stalin was atheist.  Muslims really do persecute others in Muslim-majority countries, and we can't ignore this just to be politically correct. Even the supposedly ultra-peaceful Tibetan Buddhist monks propagated an antiquated feudalistic economic system that held some people down. 

Any religion can be taken up and misused as a power play. Religion is so close to the heart and often speaks to the afterlife, so people get worried about trying to do it just exactly right. This is where predatory, power-hungry leaders can step in.  It's the power, stupid.  If you just bash Christianity, you will overlook the potentials for abuse by other types of believers.

you just bash Christianity as ignorant, you will ignore that Christianity spawned the scientific revolution in the Renaissance.  This is due to Christians believing in an orderly God who had set up predictable rules.  (Your old gods and goddesses of yore were much more fickle.)

I will also add, being a Christian, if you bash Christianity because of some of the stupid stuff that gloms onto it, you will miss the grace, love and forgiveness offered by a simple Carpenter of Nazareth, who was the Son of God, who died so that whatever bad things you did no longer offend God, who is perfect.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

The Koch Brothers

[things you might want to hear from a Centrist, not a liberal]

OK, so I'm not a Democrat. But I'm still going to lay it in on the line with the sneaky, snarky Koch Brothers' Take-over of Democracy (TM).  You don't have to be a Democrat, and certainly not a Bernie-phile, to dislike their actions.  I dislike their actions so much that I would like to get personal about them, but that's not really my style. Besides, it makes for weak ad hominem ("personal attack") arguments. Right now our public debate is over-stuffed with weak ad hominem arguments.

There's a reason I'm singling them out over other bazillionaire political donors:  they seem to directly buy off more candidates, they've wrecked more havoc on the world through their businesses than have others, and they've pretty much bought off the Republican Party.  (Neither Soros nor Weinstein got that far with the DNC.)

So, in partial time-line format, here goes:

Mid-1900s:  Old Man Koch (the father of these current old men, that is) dealt with the Soviet Communist leader Stalin, one of the most evil, murderous dictators ever.  He and a partner did this by helping Stalin set up oil refineries.   That's a big part of how the Koch fortune was made.  To his credit, the old man did back down when he saw some of the suffering Stalin perpetrated.  But, still...

1974-- Some of you will remember the infamous gas lines of the 1970s.  Koch was one of four oil companies accused of overcharging customers. They were fined $50,000.  (That was a heftier sum back then.) 

1980-- David Koch was the Libertarian Vice Presidential candidate in 1980.  They thought Reagan was too liberal. 

1980s and beyond.  There are four Koch brothers.  Two of them are less ruthless, and there was a lawsuit between the brothers in the past.  Their father left them the petrochemical business.  The other two brothers felt the infamous David and Charles were spending too much of the family/corporate earnings on their own political aspirations.  The other two felt that David and Charles should have been paying out more to family members in dividends.  The feud finally ended, but the other brothers have not thought of David and Charles as being very fraternal.  Brother William ("Bill", David's twin) has been one of the whistleblowers on the infamous two.

1990s-- The Koch Pine Bend Refinery in Minnesota dumped 600,000 gallons of jet fuel into a river throughout the decade.  The bros were fined $6 million, $2 million of it in remediation for violating the Clean Water Act.  (Any wonder why there's such a call now for "deregulation" and shrinking the EPA?)

1990s-- A Koch refinery vented massive amounts of benzene into Corpus Christi, Texas, five times the legal limit.  They did this knowingly, having taken pollution control devices off their equipment. They would wait until evenings or weekends, when there were fewer regulators on staff to observe them, to dump out fumes.
      The Kochs plead guilty to a single felony to avoid criminal prosecution.  They were to have paid $20 million in fines, but George W. Bush came into office and largely let them off.
     On April 9th, 2001, the US Department of Justice weighed in. There was a five year probationary period.  There was to be strict new environmental compliance program.  You can find record of the DOJ briefing on-line.
    (Benzene, in excessive amounts, causes anemic conditions by damaging bone marrow.)

1994-- The Koch Brothers were accused of covering up issues with a faulty pipeline in south Texas.  (The pipeline had been built in the 1940s.)  90,000 gallons of crude oil leaked into Gum Hollow Creek.  Employees had warned leadership, but they were ignored.

1995-- The EPA & U.S. Coast Guard filed a civil suit against the brothers' companies.  They were accused of unlawfully discharging millions of gallons of oil into the waters of six states.

Mid 1990s-2005. The Koch Bros invested in Bernie Madoff's Ponzi scheme, which ripped off savings of many individuals.  The Kochs pulled out three years before the collapse of the scheme.  The moved the money from the Madoff venture overseas, so it is untouchable for paying back lower level investors who were ripped off. A judge recently ruled that since the money is offshore, it can't be touched for legal remedies to those ripped-off.

1999-- A whistleblower reported that the Kochs had cheated on Indiana oil leases.  They were fined in 2001 and paid $25 million to settle this.  (Bro Bill brought this up in the on-going feud.)

2008--  I guess we should feel sorry for them. At this time, their $19 billion net worth each dropped to $16 billion each.  Now they espouse deregulation, but they more than made their fortunes back during the regulated times of 2008-2016.  They're up to a net worth of $41 billion each.

2008-ish- 2016-sh.  The Koch Brothers railed against "corporate welfare."  (Great way to make themselves look like "great guys", right?)  They criticized the bail-outs after the financial meltdown of 2008.  It's still debatable, but it does seem like this prevented a worse melt-down, which would have affected everyone worse.  (Although the rich got a lot better return on this, while the middle class still struggles to find its footing.)
      While publicly decrying corporate welfare, they were big financial backers of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which was all about supporting the bail-outs and corporate welfare.
       2013-- they took economic development monies the federal government had sent to the states for improvements.

2009--  The Koch Brothers were responsible for a superfund site in Michigan, you know, one of those mega-environmental disasters that cost a super-large amount of funds to clean up?  The DOJ and the EPA brought up issues.  The Koch Brothers got away with paying only $7 million for the clean-up by settling in a "sweetheart deal."  (Interesting, as you'll see below, that they fund something called "The Goldwater Institute."  Yet Senator Barry Goldwater had actually been very concerned about environmental issues.)

2009 & beyond--  The Kochs financially assisted big banks in their lobbying blitz against Wall Street reform.

2012-- The Koch Brothers spend ~$400 million on Republican candidates.

~2012-Present--  The Kochs were among other supply side & Libertarian-type advisors encouraging the State of Kansas to keep lowering their taxes.  (The Kochs are more-or-less headquartered in Wichita.)  Governor Brownback went along with this, despite seeing how similar policies had ruined Louisiana under Governor Jindal.  Kansas has faced bankruptcy.  Several schools couldn't finish their 2016-17 school year. And the promised growth in business and income never came.

2017--  The Kochs have told Fox News that they're spending $400 million for the 2018 mid-term elections.

On-going--  The Kochs truly believe that their should be -0- taxes. Can you imagine trying to run a modern nation like that?

On-going-- The Koch Bros. believe there should be NO minimum wage.

On-going-- They give money to the National Right to Life organization, even though they're pro-choice. They know this is one of the surest ways to buy off a segment of conservative voters.  (David Koch is actually pro-choice and pro-LGBT.  But they pay to put socially conservative candidates in office to get the benefits of lowered taxes, less regulation.)

On-going-- the bros call Social Security a threat to the future stability of society.  They have said it's a worse threat than nuclear war. (Great. Add to the inflammatory rhetoric, though usually decrying it.)  Think about that when you have to pay all of Grandma's bills.  Or when a North Korean nuke is flying over your head. Yeah.  Real sensible.

On-going--  While I applaud Senator Jeff Flake for speaking up courageously on the Senate floor regarding current bad behavior in politics, I cannot agree with his close cooperation with the Koch Brothers.  He's taken money from them, and gone to many of their seminars.  Another prominent Arizonan doing likewise?  Governor Doug Ducey.  (And the poor education and infrastructure spending in AZ reflect this.)

On-going-- The Kochs fund the Goldwater Institute in Arizona. One of the recent things the institute did was agree to provide a lawyer to FIGHT the wishes of the electorate of Arizona!  Arizonans did not want the school voucher program expanded, but the Koch-controlled legislature and Koch-controlled governor did it anyway.  A legitimate petition was signed by enough voters to get it on the ballot to override elected lawmakers, a right enshrined in the AZ constitution.  (One which the Legislature has attempted to curtail by reducing the ways in which signatures can be gathered.)  Interestingly, the institute and state leadership backed down on this one.

On-going--  Charles Koch is the Director of the Mercatus Center.  Congress increasingly draws their information and findings for reports and bills from Mercatus.

On-going--  The Kochs have managed to plant "schools" within public universities and have managed to get state legislatures to fund most of the costs. These "schools" are indoctrination programs for Koch thinking. Arizona leaders claim we never have enough for K-12 nor higher education, but they set aside $5 million for ASU and U of A Koch-backed foundations.  To recap:  The state is paying the vast majority of Koch-implemented university programs, not the Kochs.  (Arizona is not the only state to do so, but probably the most egregious example.)

On-going-- Koch College at the College of Charleston obtained personal information about students.

On-going-- They say they believe in prison reform. But they're perfectly willing to shell out big bucks to (White) Republican candidates who use Black inmate imagery as scare tactics to get elected.  (One commentator wryly asked whether the Koch Brothers interest in prison reform and willingness to hire inmates has to do with the 2001 legal finding against them regarding benzene, noted above.)

On-going--  The Kochs want all schools privatized. They're big movers behind the charter school movement.  Problem is, it's inappropriate to always put charters on a pedestal. Charters don't have use licensed teachers.  (This is what the Kochs like, though; no pensions for retired teachers. Why should they have to pay for someone put out to pasture?)  There has been fraud among many charter schools. And, if it's really about better choices for disadvantaged students, there would be a free & safe transportation component.

On-going-- They're Trump "frenemies."  They refused to give Trump money, and he refused to come begging.  They don't like his independence. (All the other GOP primary candidates went groveling.)  They part ways on free-trade  immigration.  But they're lock-step in making sure corporations* & rich people have lower taxes and that we deregulate things---the consequences be d****d!!! 
    (*see other posts with tag "economy"; I'm not totally opposed to restructuring corporate taxes, if it's done right; there is also some room for loosening regulations on loans to homebuyers) 

On-going-- Vice President Pence is in the act.  He's been bought-off for a while. Take a look at the VP's recent activity:
                 Pence Meets with Koch Brother in Colorado

This is from The Hill, a centrist to slightly right-of-center news agency.

If the Kochs would just be responsible citizens and pay their taxes, it might cost them less in legal fees & settlements and election buy-offs.  And leave them a better legacy. I mean, these dudes are getting old. One of them is pushing 80.  It's not like they can take it with them!!!