Thursday, July 29, 2021
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Koch Brothers’ Bid for Tribune Newspapers Should Be Blocked

A New York Times headline today reads, "Conservative Koch Brothers Turning Focus to Newspapers."

The Times reports:

Now, Koch Industries, the sprawling private company of which Charles G. Koch serves as chairman and chief executive, is exploring a bid to buy the Tribune Company's eight regional newspapers, including The Los Angeles Times, The Chicago Tribune, The Baltimore Sun, The Orlando Sentinel and The Hartford Courant.
Can America afford to have newspapers like these owned by people like the Koch Brothers?  

These are the men who have worked with governors like Walker in Wisconsin to take power from workers --kicking them when they're already down-- to enrich the rich still further.

These are the men who fund climate-change denial, oil billionaires willing to sacrifice the future of generations to come and the health of our planet to keep the mega-profits coming in from the fossil fuels they sell.

How much damage has been done to America already by Rupert Murdoch and his empire of right-wing propaganda?  Can we afford to have another powerful channel of the same kind of destructive spirit take over still more of the organs of public consciousness?

Can our democracy survive not just streams but vast rivers of lies flowing into the reservoir of American understanding?

President Obama Strikes a Blow in the Wake of the Senate Failure

Immediately after watching the President's forceful remarks after the Senate failed to pass the gun bill, I posted, with some enthusiasm, about his statement:
He spoke about the willful lies from the gun lobby. He spoke about 90% of Republicans voting against something 90% of the American people want. He spoke about the abuse of the filibuster rule.

I'd have had him stress these points more than he did, but he did come out swinging. Which is what we need from him.

Stand and fight.

Then I got to wondering:  maybe Obama should have given some of that speech BEFORE the vote, rather than after. By talking about how the gun lobby was "willfully lying," and how the Republicans were poised to thwart the will of the American people, perhaps he could have changed the field of forces enough to get the bill passed.

Maybe he could have. But then I saw that doing it AFTER, as he did, was what I would have advised.

Why? Because the bill itself was not all that much of an accomplishment. Yes, it would constitute "progress," but very minor progress: how big a deal could it be if Wayne LaPierre was all for it back in 1999?* Besides which, even if it passed in the Senate, how likely was it that it could get past the Republican-dominated House?

So getting the bill passed through the Senate isn't something that should be given overwhelming weight.

On the other hand, USING THIS FAILURE TO STRIKE A BLOW against the destructive force-- that's important.

A Political Strategy for Democrats in Heavily Republican Districts

Last time out, I was the Democratic nominee for Congress in Virginia's 6th District. Though not a politician, I ran because I'd spent the previous six-plus years investigating full time the destructive force that has arisen on the political right, and I saw an opportunity to wage a good battle against that force by running against the 20-year Republican rubber-stamp incumbent, Bob Goodlatte.

I've had plenty of time to think about the question:  how can Democrats, in a District like this, where Republicans greatly outnumber Democrats, best contribute to the political battle against the atrocious thing that the Republican Party has become?

While I am not at this time planning to run again for office, I am continuing to "campaign" for the same purposes that led me to enter that race. I'm here now as part of that "campaign" to confront and defeat that sick and broken spirit that's hijacked the Republican Party.

Here's an intro to my thoughts about political strategy, which I am seeking to present for the consideration of Democrats in my District and other Districts where the Republicans have relatively safe seats.

At one level, Democrats in a District like the 6th --where the Republicans have a roughly 2:1 advantage, and in which Republican politicians like Bob Goodlatte can count on the votes of a whole lot of people whose minds are closed and whose politics are rigid-- have a big problem.

But at an equally important level, this reality represents a great opportunity.

In the next two weeks, I will be coming to two of the major cities in the 6th District to talk about that opportunity.

What's necessary, I will try to explain, is that we think rightly about the larger political battle and our place in it, and that we wage it with a well-chosen strategy.

I will be proposing such a way of thinking, and such a strategy.

President Obama, Please Stop the “Both Sides” Nonsense on Guns

I heard you on TV last week, talking about guns. I'm glad you're pressing the matter, and not just letting it die. But something about the way you talked about the gun issue made me want to scream.

I heard you doing that "both sides do it" nonsense.  Explaining why it's so hard to get reasonable things done, you said both sides take "extreme positions."

But just what is the "extreme position" anybody in Congress is taking on the gun-control side?  Is anyone taking a position more "extreme" than what you have proposed -- universal background checks and a ban on weapons and ammo-clips that enable a shooter to massacre dozens of people within seconds?

Even if there were positions more in the direction of gun-control than yours, would they be "extreme" using the laws of all the other advanced societies in these matters as the standard of what's reasonable and what's extreme. (The citizens of those nations are 20 times less likely than Americans to die from firearms.)

No, what's extreme is the position taken by the NRA, and by all those who either agree with the NRA or allow themselves to be intimidated by the NRA.  What's extreme is taking the right to bear arms as an absolute, so that even weapons that have no legitimate civilian use -- self-protection or hunting -- must be allowed in a 21st century civilized society.

So why give voice to this "both sides" nonsense?  It's contrary to the truth, and it's counter-productive.  It gets in the way of achieving your purposes.

Agenda 21 and Republican Candidate for Lt. Governor Corey Stewart

So far as I can tell, and I've checked into it some and am pretty well satisfied I know, Agenda 21 is a crazy conspiracy idea that's been making the rounds on the right among the Tea Partiers and others on what used to be a fringe but is now main stream in the Republican Party.

This Agenda 21 conspiracy theory shows big delusions, it seems to me, about the nature of the threats in the world that should and shouldn't concern us. Americans losing their property rights to the United Nations is NOT a problem worth a nano-second's concern. Private Property rights of Americans are if anything treated as so inviolable that we have a hard time coming to any reasonable balance between those rights and the need for society to protect itself against some of the profitable but destructive things people can do with their property.

If anything, we're having trouble making the necessary adjustments in an ideology --the market ideology, put forward by Adam Smith in 1776-- articulated when the magnitude of the impact of human economic activity on the planet was but a fraction of what it is now.

But a lot of people on the right have gotten themselves whipped up over an absurd belief that the threat to property rights is clear and present.  They're worried about a threat to property being hatched by communists and U.N. world order people-- a threat that's just a figment of their paranoid-style imagination. A delusion that just happens to fortify the interests of predatory capitalism that's out for everything and has no conscience or sense of social responsibility.

This Agenda 21 conspiracy movement is the kind of thing that was considered beyond the pale for conservatism when the John Birch Society was kept out of the conservative movement by William F. Buckley. Conservatism had some genuine standards in those days, that made someone like Buckley want to keep "crazy" out of the conservative movement.  

(More than 45 years ago, I did a study as an undergraduate at Harvard on the kinds of radical right craziness that regarded rock and roll, for example, as part of a communist conspiracy.  Billy Ray Hargis as a radical right preacher, way off on the fringe.)

Fringe no longer.  Here's a major Republican candidate for lieutenant governor, Corey Stewart, talking (in a campaign email - see above for a screen shot) about Agenda 21 in ways that will feed the crazy, the deluded, the manipulable. Don't know whether he believes this stuff or not. Either way, it's scary.

If These Are the Early Stages of Climate Change…

"If these are the early stages, I shudder to think what's on the path ahead."

Two things brought that thought to mind.

One is my own aging. Aches and pains, stiffer muscles, presbyopia, diminished energy. As I approach my 67th birthday, I can imagine the kind of hard experience that led Bette Davis to say that old age isn't for sissies.  It's no small challenge to come to terms with the ancient truth that the uphill part of life's cycle is followed by the downhill.

As a way of coming to terms with personal deterioration, we can always take the larger view in which we see ourselves as part of the circle of life. We have children; we have grandchildren; life renews itself. Although as individuals we may come and go, we are part of something bigger than ourselves that carries forward the stream of life.

But now that larger view of life has also become disturbing. That same alarming thought --If these are the early stages, what the heck is on the path ahead? - has come to mind in relation to another reality: the early stages of climate change.

Like what happened last June, when an unpredicted enormous wind swept across the Midwest and the Mid-Atlantic, knocking down trees for hundreds of miles, including some right around our house in the Shenandoah Valley. Just a few months later, Hurricane Sandy -- whose eye never approached within hundreds of miles of us -- attacked our area with 24 hours of hard-driving rain that found its way onto our wood floors and into the homes of our neighbors. Sandy's winds took down still more trees.

Extreme weather has become far more frequent, just as scientists predicted.

Another weather development scared me even more.

Is It Fair to Say that Harry Reid Outright Caved on Filibuster Reform?

I'm hatching a political plan that's based on that supposition, i.e. that Harry Reid had an opportunity to wage a meaningful fight on filibuster reform but caved instead?  

Before I go forward, I would like to make sure my understanding of what happened is correct. Was Reid in a position to make a bold move against the Republicans for their trampling on American tradition with its abuse of the filibuster --requiring 60 votes, not as an emergency measure in special situations, but on ALL things, replacing the principle of majority rule with one of rule by its minority-- but instead he shrank from the battle?

So I would appreciate the help of the people here to tell me Whether that characterization of what happened in January is accurate and fair.

Did Harry Reid have a stronger hand to play?  Was he in a position to fight a fight that needed to be fought, and did he instead essentially forfeit instead of fight?

Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District.  He is the author of various books including The Parable of the Tribes:  The Problem of Power in Social Evolution.  

That “Sick and Broken Spirit”: Excerpts from My Interview with Rob Kall


The following are a few excerpts from the second half of the interview I did with Rob Kall, the head of opednews, on his radio show.

The whole transcript can be found in these two places.  2nd half here. 1st half here.

Here are those excerpts:


Schmookler: 'The greedy person is a person for [whom] there's no such thing as enough, because they are not feeding the real need.  Alan Watts once said, "You can't get enough of what you don't really need."'


Rob Kall:   [Regarding "defeating" this force:] Is there a different way to frame it than defeat, or does defeat use the same language and way of thinking?

Andrew Schmookler:   I'm all for battling.  There are times when you do have to fight. I'm a fan of Winston Churchill.  We do have to defeat this thing, and we defeat it, I say, by spreading the truth.  We don't have to become like them.  We have to become as bold as they, as determined to prevail as they, but we have to be Churchill to their Hitlers, and to speak the truth and to stand up for the things that we know are valuable to civilization, like truth, and justice, and the ideals that our country is about.


Rob Kall: I would put to you that what you're characterizing is a demonic archetype.

Andrew Schmookler:   The archetype could be used as one way of envisioning it.  When you see cruelty in action for example... And here's another one.  I posted something called The Sick and Broken Spirit.  I think I posted it on your site, and I posted it on a few others, and I used an image of Death.  I used the image of a skeleton wielding a scythe.  Then I connected it with something that wee see in a force of this destructive sort.  At the beginning of an Erich Fromm book about destructiveness, I believe, he tells about the Fascists --in Spain, I believe-- who had a toast, "Vive la muerte"; "Long live death."  There is something in Fascism that turns to death, that serves death, that creates death.  And so the archetypal image can help to convey, in a sense, the spirit of the thing.  

Even though I don't think there is a being, such an image is a way of visualizing; whether it's torture, or the willingness to sacrifice the planet or vulnerable people in order to get more power, we can see that spirit, and it has an ugly face.  The dungeons in the Middle Ages and the waterboarding in an American Rendition Center have something in common, and when we see that, we could see a demonic image that gives expression to how it acts in the world.


Rob Kall:  I've written about how I believe that we're transitioning from an information era to a connection era, and I guess the ultimate connection is wholeness.

Andrew Schmookler:   Well it depends on the nature of the connection.  The hierarchical society we were discussing earlier also is full of connection.  They rally as a tribe.  They are connected with one another before they go off into battle.  The salute the same banner.  They wear the same uniform.  So, it all depends on the nature of the connection, and how far it goes, and what the connection experience is about.  Is it beating the enemy?  That's the war version of connection.


Schmookler: 'There is a line from Yeats, a famous poem:  "The best lack all conviction, and the worst are filled with a passionate intensity."  In America today, the worst have that intensity because they're coming from such a wounded place.  We need to have that intensity because we're coming from such a spiritually alive place.'

The Republicans as a Hierarchical Society: I’m Interviewed by the Head of Opednews

In February, I published a  piece to explain why the Republicans set out to demonize President Obama. At the center of my explanation was that the Republican Party constitutes a hierarchical society, and
In a hierarchical society, people are trained in the ethic that those lower in the hierarchy should obey those above, not question or challenge them.

That fact combines with the Republicans' particular political strategy in these times.  Because today's Republicans have "no interest in cooperation or compromise, but only in fighting for power," that Party feels the need "for its supporters to give President Obama zero standing and credibility." And so, "the Republicans went to work immediately not just to discredit President Obama, but to demonize and delegitimate him" by selling a picture of him "as a dangerous "other" who could not be one's legitimate superior in the hierarchy."

That piece prompted the man behind, Rob Kall, to interview me for his radio show, which was broadcast live in the Philadelphia metropolitan area in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

The discussion started with the issue of the Republican Party as a hierarchical culture, but soon went into the larger picture of that "sick and broken spirit" that's driving this unprecedentedly destructive and dishonest force that today's Republican Party has become.

The transcript of the first half of that interview has now been posted by Mr. Kall here.

Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District.  He is the author of various books including Out of Weakness: Healing the Wounds that Drive Us to War.

Swinging for the Fences: How the Market Economy Shapes Our Destiny- Skewed Menu, Suboptimal...



In the previous piece here on "How the Market Economy Shapes Our Destiny," I spoke about the problem of externalities. (See below for a full compendium of the installments of the "Swinging for the Fences" series already presented here on Blue Virginia.)

I concluded by saying that in a market system whose blind spots are not corrected by collective/governmental decisions, "those values that get attended to in transactions between buyers and sellers get magnified in importance, and those values that fall outside the concerns of the immediate parties to the transaction will be neglected."  And that "This leads to a society whose mix of wealth and poverty is warped and unbalanced, and suboptimal for human fulfillment."

Here I'll expand on that idea.

One might imagine that since we benefit from market blind spots of this sort when we are buyers and sellers, and then are injured by these blind spots when we are by-standers, perhaps the benefits and costs for each of us will cancel out. We get an extra dollar when we're transactors, and then we lose ten cents each on the transactions in which our ten neighbors are involved.

"Unfortunately," I write in The Illusion of Choice,

"it isn't like that. The benefits we get from the market's blindness do not cancel out the costs we pay. The reason is: the costs and the benefits are different in nature....

"The market system creates prices that are consistently skewed in a particular direction. It favors those values that concern us as separate actors, and it hampers us in fulfilling those needs we have as an interconnected community of people. We make dozens of decisions daily that are warped by this effective market subsidization of our social atomism: should I drive or walk to the drug store a mile away? (Don't worry about the pollution, the market says, or our contribution to traffic congestion.) Should I use washable dishes in my fast-food restaurant or disposable paper and styrofoam. (Don't worry about the solid waste problem or the disappearing ozone layer over the earth.)

"As social atoms, we can open the Yellow Pages and within minutes find beads from India, light fixtures of hand made stained glass, truffles from France, llama rugs from Peru. But community? [Where do we go to find that?]

"What is on the menu determines how we order our lives. The system tilts the social landscape, putting the private realm on the downhill side, while our public/community goods are uphill. One side is easy to get to-just let go. The
other side takes hard work. Over time, it is not surprising to find our choices steadily accumulating on the downhill side. Thus we find that combination, often noted in discussion: about America, of private wealth and public poverty. The market creates a society rich in its fragmented parts but poor in its organic wholeness."

So what we gain is of one kind, and what we lose is of another-not because we choose for that tradeoff, but because the system's inherent dynamic chooses it for us.

And there's good reason to believe that the mix is suboptimal because getting more and more of one kind of "good" does not make up for getting less and less of another kind of "good."

"The market does indeed help us to get rich in income... But there is another economic concept that should enter into our calculus: that of "diminishing marginal returns." From abject poverty to reasonable comfort is an important step. But when a dollar increment of the same size takes us from real wealth, by any historical standard, to still more wealth, is the benefit so significant?

"Meanwhile, the same system that is giving us more and more of the same benefits is also imposing more and more of the same costs. And since these costs are in a different realm of our values than the benefits, but not necessarily any less important, their progressive depletion in our lives will result in the opposite of diminishing marginal returns. The more depleted is that realm, the more vital is each additional loss. For Midas, the marginal utility of gold decreased quickly while, with every hour, his inability to eat or drink, since the food and beverage turned to gold in his mouth, became increasingly important."

The systematic bias in the system leads to a world that does not match well the full spectrum of human needs.



The Series Is Introduced with These Entries:

Swinging for the Fences: Please Join Me in this Bold New Effort  

Swinging for the Fences: The Fable of the Magnet

The Spirit Behind "Swinging for the Fences" is the Same Spirit that's Expressed in My Campaign Speech that Went Viral Through this Video

The First Round on the "Magnets Consisted of These:

An Unwelcome Driver of Social Evolution: The Parable of the Tribes  

Swinging for the Fences: How the Market Economy Shapes Our Destiny  

Swinging for the Fences: Polarization as a Form of Cultural Breakdown  

Swinging for the Fences: The Transmission of Culture Through Time

Then There Were a Few Improvizational Offerings;

A Sick and Broken Spirit

Swinging for the Fences: Hunting for Very Big Game

Problems in the Religion Are Symptoms of Something Deeper

Second Round on the Four "Magnets":

Swinging for the Fences: The Parable of the Tribes--Step One A Breakthrough Unprecedented in the History of Life

Swinging for the Fences: The Parable of the Tribes-- Step Two: The Circumstances from the Human Breakthrough Make the Struggle for Power Inevitable

Swinging for the Fences: The Parable of the Tribes--Step Three: Selection for the Ways of Power

Swinging for the Fences: How the Market Economy Shapes Our Destiny-- Social Atoms vs. Interconnected Society


Andy Schmookler, an award-winning author, political commentator, radio talk-show host, and teacher, was the Democratic nominee for Congress from Virginia's 6th District.  He is the author of various books including The Parable of the Tribes:  The Problem of Power in Social Evolution.  

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