Denver: Yesterday We Marched. November We Vote.

Yesterday was a perfect day for a march. It was an amazing event. Friday night, at least two local news stations reported that there would be a march, and they estimated that there would be around 2000-5000 participants. As it turned out, there were between 150,000 and 200,000. They underestimated us, underestimated the resistance, underestimated the strong feelings we in Denver have against the current administration.

My husband and I arrived about 2 hours before the march was to begin. We did this to ensure that we could find parking at the light rail stop. As it turns out, this was a really good idea, because when we got back from the march, the parking lot was full, even on the unpaved part, unusual for a Saturday. Another reason we there early was so we could walk through the crowds, taking pictures of signs we found interesting. There is no way we could take pictures of all the unique and expressive signs, and there were many we did not photograph, as they were not totally family friendly. Below are a few of our favorites (I should note that we asked all people in the photos for permission both to take their pictures and to publish them on line and all agreed).

When we first got to the civic center, it wasn’t very crowded, and we were afraid the newscasts were correct. I was worried, because that would mean that the energy of the resistance had waned considerably, and that we were beginning to accept the outrage that is happening to our country. But as the first hour passed, more and more people started coming in. At one point, my husband got to a high point to try to take a photo, and he saw waves of people coming from all directions. We both laughed out loud in joy. They were coming in, all around. It reminded me of the Ents on the way to Isengard. Too bad our Saruman was hiding away in his castle in DC. It would have been so satisfying to see him peering out the window cowering in fear.

My dog is smarter than this President

There were signs for almost every issue you can imagine, from environment to DACA to war. There were lots and lots of signs demanding equal rights for women, for immigrants, for minorities, for the disabled. There were signs about outrage. Participants ranged in age from infants to elderly, of all ethnic backgrounds, men and women. (It was surprising how few, however, we saw from the Generation X age group, especially men.)

There were pink hats everywhere, some knitted, some crocheted, some fleece, some regular hats died pink. There were also rainbow hats. There were vendors who had pink hats of all varieties who were doing brisk business. And it wasn’t all signs. There were opinions expressed on people’s clothing as well.

The march began with a Navaho blessing, and Navaho drums led the procession. It seems only fitting to me that a march against this administration should be led by those who were here first, whose land we confiscated and whose lifestyle we destroyed. I can only hope that the message got through.

Now for some pictures of people with signs:

Some signs were just funny:

Snowflakes Become An Avalanche

I have seen better, brighter cabinets at IKEA

The 99% are PISSED

Some were about our children:

I march so my 2 boys learn that Girls aren’t toys

We Are the Granddaughters of the Witches they Couldn’t Bur

Don’t send me to WAR because of a TWEET

Many were about issues:

Women’s Rights are Human Rights

Her Body Her Choice                                   .        Stay Angry and Flip Congress

Love is Love

 

Many were about voting:

Elect Democrats to End America’s Catastrophe!

We took this anyone can be President thing WAY TOO FAR

Repeal and Replace Trump

 

Some were about our situation:

I will NOT go back QUIETLY to the 50’s

My Outrage Won’t Fit On This Sign

 

Many were about our “President

Impeach That Shithole

Sorry other countries, our President is a Shithole

We have No President

It was a wonderful, exciting, uplifting day. We spoke to many people even from our very red district where I am running. It almost gives me hope that a miracle can happen. If you would like to help my campaign, please go to my act blue account or see my website at https://juliaforcostatesenate30.com

I Feel Like Don Quixote

So I’ve gone and done it. I have filed to run for office. Specifically, I am running for Colorado State Senate in District 30. District 30 includes Highlands Ranch, Parker and Roxborough. While it may not be the reddest district in the country, or perhaps even in the state, it is really red. This district hasn’t been represented by a Democrat in the 29 years I have lived here, and I seem to remember it always being Republican all the years I was growing up.

The Koch Brothers started exerting their influence in this area in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. I was a Republican then (old style, a la Rockefeller, pro choice et al.). I remember hearing them spoken of in awe by the party honchos back then. And I watched the Koch minions select, interview, train and fund those who would adopt the Koch agenda fully. I watched them push aside anybody who disagreed with any of the Koch talking points. Soon it became clear that anybody with a moral compass was not welcome. I was told more than once that I probably should change parties, and eventually I did. Once I did, and opened myself up to what the Democrats were talking about, I discovered that I had probably always been a Democrat.

The person I am running against is a Koch favorite, and I have heard that he is being groomed for higher office, like governor or US Congress. He has $20K left over from his last campaign. He won in 2014 by nearly a 2-1 margin. I am starting from $0, and I don’t have a lot of name recognition. I feel like Don Quixote tilting at Koch machines. But there was nobody else who stepped up, and I refuse to give the Koch brothers a free seat. And I have other reasons to fight this battle.

The first reason I am ready is because of issues. I have issues with the Koch agenda. For example:

  • I am a firm believer in public education, and I believe tax dollars should not go to religious entities. I not only believe in public education, but I believe in the teacher’s union. There is also something insidious about the voucher-to-private-or-religious-school thing that bothers me. Back when I was young, people were proud of neighborhood schools. Yes, people sent their kids to parochial school, but they had no problem with the idea of paying for it. You never heard anybody disparaging our public schools and asking for vouchers until Brown vs Board of Education. I recall that schools like the one that was being set up in the 60s by Jerry Falwell stated in their charters that they were for white students only. I honestly believe the voucher movement gained traction because there were a lot of parents who didn’t want their lily white darlings to have to sit next to brown and black students. I think that is shameful.
  • I am a firm believer in science, and thus, in climate change. Our family has done all we can to minimize our carbon footprint. We have excellent insulation, high efficiency appliances, top of the line windows and solar. Our experience with solar has made me an advocate. The Koch brothers and others are fighting renewable energy. They have a reason to do that, because when the country turns to renewable energy, the Koch fortune is threatened. They have pushed through laws in several states, and have tried to do so in Colorado, that curtail renewables or make the cost prohibitive. I want to stop them from passing those laws here. I also support the EPA and public transportation.
  • I support DACA. I do not understand why that is not universal. Republicans keep saying they want to deport lawbreakers, but most dreamers have not broken any laws. There is NO LAW against children staying with their parents. Dreamers were not of age when their parents came over. They do not know any other home. They have to be allowed to stay. Same for TPS and refugees. They need our support.
  • I support gun safety. I see no use for any person to own a bump stock. If they like the feeling of shooting a whole lot of bullets at a range, they can rent a bump stock from the range. There is no use for large magazines, automatic or semiautomatic rifles or bump stocks outside of a range except for killing people. It is time for the killing to stop.
  • I support health care for all. I don’t are if we get there through ACA or medicare expansion to all citizens. I have a future daughter in law who is a type 1 brittle diabetic. I worry about what the Republican agenda will do to her ability to live and to thrive. I worry about what happens to the disabled, the millions with preexisting conditions, the poor or even middle class who face bankruptcy if they get ill or get in an accident.
  • I support legalized marijuana. There is evidence that marijuana is a safer substance than alcohol. The marijuana laws are not evenly enforced, but are used to oppress minorities.
  • I oppose the death penalty. To me it is nothing but government sponsored murder. It is another law that is unevenly applied.

There is another big reason I am running. The odds against me winning are huge. But every voter I get to the polls will be a vote for a democrat for governor, for treasurer, for attorney general and for secretary of state. While we have a Democratic governor now, he is term limited. We have republicans in the other seats. This is a bad time for especially the attorney general and secretary of state to be republicans. In addition, District 30 is divided between US Congressional districts 6 and 4. That is Mike Coffman and Ken Buck. A big Democratic turnout in State Senate District 30 could go a long way toward dumping those two. They would be good guys to dump.

I do understand the odds. I hope you will support me in this crazy venture. If you are interested, you can go to my candidate web site, and if you are so inclined, donate. I would be so appreciative. And I could use any words of encouragement between now and November. Thank you.

What is The Republican Party? Part 1: The Kochs

Fred Koch was born in 1900 in Quanah Texas. His parents were Dutch immigrants. After attending Rice University and MIT and graduating with a degree in Chemical Engineering Practice, he started working for Texas Company, and then became chief engineer with Medway Oil and Storage in Kent, England. He moved to Wichita, Kansas, where he joined an engineering firm, later becoming a principle.

He developed a new method for turning crude oil into gasoline. After a series of lawsuits (which he won), he was broke. Thus he went to work in the Soviet Union setting up oil refineries. He also built refineries in Europe. Notably, he built the third largest refinery for the Third Reich,  project personally approved by Adolf Hitler.

After the war, Fred returned to Wichita and created Koch industries, which he turned over to Charles Koch in 1966.

In 1958, Fred became a founding member of the John Birch Society, and also worked to make Kansas a Right to Work state. These two items are important to recognize in the thought processes of the to favorite sons, Charles and David.

One of the tenets of the John Birch Society is that “Their (liberal conspirators against the United States) tactics include bribing the people with their own money, employing the use of force, deception and fear, and using every other trick they can think of to acquire total government power over the lives and well-being of the American people….Totalitarian government was to be established in this nation, claimed Robert Welch, not as a result of lightning quick leaps, but through a campaign of patient gradualism designed to persuade a once-free people to vote themselves into tyranny and their nation into an all-powerful world government. The goal of the conspirators has always called for the eventual merger of all peoples and all nations into a diabolically conceived “new world order.”   source: own Birch Blue Book This group opposed such things as membership in the United Nations. Sound familiar?

It is important to note that this was their basis for opposing any transfer payments to the poor, through anti-poverty programs, social security, medicare/medicaid, etc. Some was a reaction to the New Deal put forward by FDR. It was all based on a conspiracy theory that there were “insiders” in the seats of power. These programs were, they claimed, instituted to obtain control over all the people, strip them of their freedom by making them dependent on the government, and result in a totalitarian world order.

By the 60’s, the John Birch Society had between 60,000-100,000 members and had been condemned by both William F. Buckley Jr, and Barry Goldwater as a fringe group “removed from common sense.” However, their tenets remained with David and Charles Koch. The John Birch Society was a co-sponsor of the Conservative Political Action Conference.

David and Charles Koch remained active in politics. In 1980, he ran as the Vice Presidential candidate for the Libertarian party, thinking that their party could be molded into his views. When that ticket failed to catch on, the brothers began working with the power structure in the Republican party. They provided significant funding to a number of right wing think tanks, such as the Heritage Foundation. They sponsored political donor meetings at high end resorts, such as the Freedom Partners seminars. They provided much of the funding for PACs, like American Crossroads. In addition, they recruited other business moguls to join their efforts. They also supported a number of political candidates, from the school board races in Douglas County, Colorado, a suburb of Denver, to commissioners, to state legislatures, to national offices. Among their favored political figures are Scott Walker, Mike Pence, Sam Brownbeck, Snyder, Rauner, and at one time, Kasich. Newt Gingrich was one of their golden boys until his resignation. More interesting is that they also blocked or blackballed potential candidates who would not support their agenda. They also invested in Chris Jankowski’s REDMAP, to take over state legislators in time for the post 2010 redistricting. They also developed a significant voter database that they would share with their selected candidates that could target communities and even individuals with pleas that appealed to specific voters. The information in that database is coincidentally similar to information known to be in the Cambridge Analytica database that was used by the Trump campaign after Trump won the primaries.

When the Soviet Union fell in 1991 after Desert Storm and Boris Yeltsin replaced Mikhail Gorbachev as President, the Kochs decided that with that event the Soviet Union was no longer Communist and they could do business with the new administration. In 1996, Yeltsin was reelected democratically as the head of what was now Russia, and commenced on democratic reforms. His administration was a disaster. Under his watch, many former KGB agents looted the Russian economy and cornered the assets. By 1999, Yeltsin was extremely unpopular and unwell. He resigned and personally appointed Vladimir Putin as his successor. Putin, over a short time, took control of all of the Russian assets, or gave them to his oligarch friends. One of those assets was the fossil fuel industry. Both Exxon and the Kochs began discussions of worldwide control of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels became their shared interest.

The Koch brothers, through the think tanks they support and through donations,  have continued to work on down ticket issues and races. We have seen legislation in many states that restricts or makes more expensive any investment by the state or individuals in fossil fuels. We have seen the whole Koch agenda enacted in Kansas and significant parts of it in Michigan and Wisconsin, and select issues in Colorado, Arizona, Florida, and Illinois. At all levels of government from county commissioner and school board up to US Congress, candidates are beholden to Koch donations and support. The Republican Party is, to a large extent, a reflection of the Koch Brothers. However, not entirely, as I investigate in my next article, The Evangelicals.

 

 

 

 

 

 

If This Be Civil Disobedience … Make The Most Of It.

The concern that Robert Mueller will be fired is growing, and with that is a commitment by thousands to hit the streets. (If you agree with the protest and want to join in, be sure to check out  this link ). Even if he doesn’t get fired, we might want to protest the passing of the fraud they are calling a tax bill. That got me to thinking – we must be thoughtful about how we conduct our protests. These protests have to count. They have to be worth the time and energy we put into them.

I read an article some time ago, in which someone had researched protests. The findings were fascinating. The research showed that a government can’t withstand the sustained protest of 3.5% of a nation’s population. By my calculations, that is roughly 14 million Americans. But the key word is sustained. If we are going to have a successful protest, we have to stay in the streets until the menace is gone. It is also imperative that our protest be peaceful. Many municipalities will call on police to disrupt the protests. It is not inconceivable that some will call out the National Guard. We must not react with violence. We can be loud, but we cannot be violent. Sit down, stand up, walk, whatever, but do not react with violence. (I plan to take my rosary, and say the rosary if the police get rough.) If they set up lines and try to move us away, we must go around behind them and continue the protest. If they use tear gas, we must put on masks and stay. We must show that we are more determined in our cause than they are in theirs.

Police have been taking protesters in to the station even when protesting peacefully. If they do that, be sure to have evidence that you were being peaceful, that the police were violating your right to assembly. Especially if you get arrested. Once you are arrested, they may try to get you to plead guilty to a lesser charge so you can be let go. DO NOT ACCEPT LESSER CHARGES! This is important for three reasons. First, it becomes an acknowledgment that what you were doing is unlawful. What you are doing is not unlawful. It is lawful and right and proper. It is what citizens are called upon to do when the government is acting badly. Second, it allows them to avoid accounting for their violation of your right to protest. Force them to make their case in court (and make sure it gets wide news coverage). Make them hear your case. Third, when you plead guilty to a lesser charge, many jurisdictions will use that guilty plea to make you ineligible to vote. This plays into their hands. Don’t give away your right to vote for convenience.

Several years ago,  I got to thinking about Civil Disobedience more deeply, and I realized I needed to establish for myself and my family a set of rules to govern the right to disapprove of what our government was doing loudly, in a way the government could not ignore. This is what I came up with. If you have thoughts about these rules, please comment.

Rule 1:  To perform effective Civil Disobedience, you have to live an otherwise normal life.  You must be a reasonably productive, law-abiding and basically good citizen.  You cannot let the authorities dilute your protest by calling you a rabble rouser, a vagrant, a miscreant or anything of that nature.  Your disobedience must be a clear break from your normal behavior.  You also cannot be a person who, when you bring forth a moral cause, has tables turned on you because of your own questionable character. However, in this case, I think this requirement can be waived. In the current situation, citizens of all stripes can contribute to the protest. All citizens are affected by what is going on, all need to cry out now.

Rule 2:  You must pick your battles wisely.  You must be sure that the object of your disobedience is contrary to the very fiber of your moral being.  You cannot engage in honorable Civil Disobedience against, for example, a traffic ticket, a silly homeowner’s association rule, or a loaf of moldy bread.  You must feel so strongly about your issue that you are prepared to accept any consequences of your action to make a major statement about it.  This is part of not becoming known as a trouble maker.  It is not effective when your arrest is simply another eye roll to wit, “there he goes again.” I think these issues are wise selections of battles.

Rule 3:  You must be prepared to take full consequence for your behavior (see above).  You must not allow it to be plea-bargained down, trivialized, or watered down. You must make it glaringly clear that what you are protesting is meaningful to you to the point that you are prepared to sacrifice to get it changed.

Rule 4:  You must be very clear about what it is you are protesting, what you want changed and how you want it to wind up.  During the Viet Nam war, the most effective conscientious objectors actually did time in jail rather than fight in an immoral war.  They did not allow their legal representatives to water down the charges.  They stood firm in what they did, repeated what they did in strong voices and faced the full extent of the law about it. The same with the Civil Rights marches. They took blows to their bodies, were locked up, and some died. But they were committed.

Rule 5:  You must ensure that word of your actions gets to the world at large.  You must be sure your voice, your own voice, is heard by a wide audience.  You must be very clear, when you are heard, of what you believe and why you believe obeying whatever law you are protesting is immoral and you cannot support it.

Rule 6:  You must have a dog in the fight.  You cannot let the courts find your objections moot because you are not affected by whatever it is you are protesting.  When we had a draft, women could not be considered conscientious objectors because they could not be drafted.  However, they could be objectors when it was a family member who was being sent to war.  (To be sure, women could and did protest, but the official recognition of conscientious objector status was not conferred on women. I know. I tried.)  You must decide how it is that you have a dog in the fight and that that dog is precious to you.  When it comes to war, I think it is enough to say that your government is fighting in your name and you condemn the reason for it.  But you must feel it is immoral enough to sacrifice for.

When we feel strongly enough to engage in Civil Disobedience, it is not just a right, but it is an obligation.  We, as Americans, are the foundation of our government.  It is up to us to make our government behave morally and democratically.  Our government is us. What it does is done in our names. All of us. We cannot turn away.

Back in the 60s Civil Disobedience took the form of sit-ins and marches.  While that did cause the establishment to look at the protestors as trouble makers, eventually the protesters won.  Same with Ghandi.  And Martin Luther King and John Lewis.  Effective Civil Disobedience. We must win too. We must stay out there and protest until things are made right. Our lives, our futures, the futures of our children depend on it.

 

The Law of Diminishing Returns – or Why Tax Cuts for Wealthy Corporations Won’t Create Jobs

It seems to me that even the economists, who should have been all over this, have missed the boat about tax cuts for the wealthy and for wealthy corporations will not create more jobs.  They have also missed why tax increases on the wealthy will not cost jobs.  It is the Law of Diminishing Returns.

 

While normally applied to factors of production, the law of diminishing returns extends to any goods or services, or anything one has acquired in life.  Its definition is:

A classic economic concept that states that as more investment in an area is made, overall return on that investment increases at a declining rate, assuming that all variables remain fixed. To continue to make an investment after a certain point (which varies from context to context) is to receive a decreasing return on that input.

What does that have to do with taxes on corporations an the wealthy and its relationship to jobs?  Here are a few illustrations.Illustration 1:  When somebody is really hungry and has no food in the house, if he gets $10.00, he will go out and spend it all on food.  After he has eaten, if he gets another $10.00, he is not as hungry, so he may only spend half of it on food.  After that, getting another 10 spot may only cause him to spend $2.00 on food, and once he is full, he won’t spend any more of it on food.   This is the law of diminishing returns.  The first meal is a necessity, the second is a luxury, soon you need no more and trying to eat more stops being a good, it becomes a bad.  You may get so stuffed that the sight of food is unappealing.  Or think of zucchini.  If your plant yields two zucchini, you may eat them.  If it gives you 10, you may eat 8 and give two away.  After 25, you may pay people to take them.

Illustration 2:  Think of employees.  If you have work for twice as many people as you have and can sell as much product as twice as many employees can produce, if you get some increased income or decreased expenditure, you will hire more employees.  You will do so as long as the next person hired produces more than he costs.  However, as soon as you have enough employees to meet demand, you stop hiring.  In fact, if you hire more, they will get in each other’s way and will not benefit the company.

The wealthy and the corporations currently have their needs met, and most of their wants.  They really don’t have anything compelling to spend money on.  You could decrease their taxes to zero (and have in many cases), and they won’t buy more nor will they hire more.  The money will sit around, lacking anything to spend it on.  This is especially true for corporations in today’s economy.  With people too strapped for cash to be spending freely, demand is suppressed.  Making more product will not produce a return because nobody will buy it.  It stops being a good and starts being a bad because you have spend money to store the excess.  No well run corporation will do that.

However, if you were to tax the wealthy and the corporations, you could use that money on projects the country needs (think bridges, airports, schools).  That would create jobs.  At first, the new jobholders would spend on clearing debt and the necessities they have been without.  That is a good thing, it gets money circulating again.  Then they can start buying other things.  That would stimulate demand.  More demand would mean more products would be sold.  More sold products means more profits for the corporations, but this time there would be a need for more employees.  Who would allow the corporations to make more profits.

It is amazing that the corporations would fight the idea of ensuring people were employed so they could buy their goods.  It is what the Marshall plan after WWII was all about – ensuring Europeans had income so they could buy American goods and services.  It was what the labor movement has always been about – ensuring healthy laborers had income and time to enjoy it so the economy could thrive. (This also benefits employers because healthy, fed and happy employees are more productive.)

When the Republicans talk about how tax cuts for the rich creates jobs, we need to remind them of the most basic of Economic tautologies, the Law of Diminishing Returns.

The Negative Multiplier Effect and the New Tax Bill: Tanking the Economy

I have read a lot of articles about how the new tax bill will impact people in this country and our economy.  But I have read none that include the multiplier effect.  That is probably the scariest aspect of the new tax bill and we had better understand it. I ran the model of the multiplier effect on this tax bill, but I only had old data, when our income inequality was not nearly as great as it is today.  Even those old data indicated that the tax bill will constrict our economy by at least 15%, but with today’s income inequality numbers, the model probably understates the constriction. It won’t be just bad, it will tank our economy.

In order to understand the multiplier effect, you first need to understand the marginal propensity to consume vs. the marginal propensity to save, which I explained in a diary some time ago, here. The multiplier is the increase of money that arises from any injection into the economy.

Many models use a single marginal propensity to consume (hereafter MPC) for the aggregate economy. However, that is not accurate. The MPC is different at different levels of income. It is easy to understand why.  People who are at the bottom of the economy are deciding among necessities. When they receive extra funds, they have necessities that they have had to do without, and they spend the entire amount of extra funds they get. People at higher income levels have been doing without niceties but not without necessities might save a little and spend the rest. People at the top income levels are already buying everything they want to buy, and will probably not buy more just because they get more. So while the MPC of the person at the bottom (and probably lower middle) will have an MPC of 1, people at the top will have an MPC of 0, and those in the upper middle somewhere in between. The multiplier will be around 5 when the MPC is 1, and around 0 when the MPC is 0.

So how does the multiplier work?  Let’s say Ben (not his real name) is in the lower bracket. He has been putting off buying clothes and shoes for his kids and repairing the car in order to pay the rent. He gets $1000. As soon as he gets it, he goes and repairs the car for $800, and gets his kids the shoes and clothes they need, costing him $200. The repair shop has also been in tight financial circumstances, so they spend $500 on equipment maintenance and $300 on paint. The shoes and clothing store hires another person. The equipment maintenance company spends some on tools, etc. etc. etc. By the time the $1000 is circulated, it has generated $5000 worth of goods and services. As you can calculate, this is 5 times the initial cash infusion, thus the multiplier of 5.

Tom is in the next bracket. He has his basic bills paid, but has been wanting a new coat. He gets $1000, saves $200, and buys his coat for $800. The coat dealer saves a bit and spends a bit. It circulates to generate $4000 in goods and services for the $1000 injected into the economy, thus multiplier of 4.

Pete is in the top bracket. He has been buying all he wants, and has a lot stashed away. He simply adds that $1000 to what he already has. The injection of $1000 into the economy yields nothing in goods or services, thus a multiplier of 0.

This tax bill proposes to TAKE money from the bottom most extensively, and give it to the top. As a result, we will run into the negative multiplier.  How does this work?

If we take $1000 from Ben, he will have to make even harder choices and do without more things. This will mean he has to somehow figure out how to not spend $1000 that he would have been spending. When he doesn’t spend, the places where he would have spent receive less income. They have to cut costs. They can either cut their purchases or their staffs.  The reduced purchases and staff lead to other companies having to cut back. In the mean time, Pete is receiving more money, but he is not spending it. So no other companies have a reason to hire or buy more, Pete is doing nothing to increase demand. The economy constricts. The irony is, the large corporations and wealthy who are getting the most benefit from this income redistribution will also suffer. When people can’t buy goods and services, the wealthy have no place to generate income.

Using really old numbers, I calculated a multiplier of -15. It could be worse, depending on when and if the downward spiral is stopped.  Unfortunately, there does not seem to be an equilibrium where it will stabilize. We did not see an equilibrium in the Great Depression, because of the New Deal efforts by FDR, and the world war. Had those not happened, who knows how far it would have gone?

I invite any economists who may read this to do their own calculations, hopefully on newer data. Do you find the same result? I don’t know how anyone could support this farce.

Start Believing the Truth About Hillary Clinton, Not the GOP’s Lies

Editor’s note: This post was written the week of the 2016 Democratic National Convention but was never published.

The 2016 election cycle has been one of the most vicious and frightening in my lifetime. We’re on the precipice of the possibility of real change in this country, and we have a choice whether that change will be positive or disastrous. The GOP has put forth a platform and a candidate that threatens our democratic republic to a greater degree than ever before, presenting the very real danger of moving beyond conservatism into fascism. (Read the stifling GOP platform and contrast that with progressive Democratic platform.) With the Democratic convention upon us, we have the opportunity to support a candidate to strike at the very heart of discrimination and make a real positive change.

I support Hillary Clinton. I am impressed by her perseverance in the face of the basest form of discrimination in our society today. She’s relentlessly attacked in the media for the simple fact that she’s a very strong, capable, intelligent, accomplished, and exceedingly well-qualified woman. The memes born of those attacks have no factual basis and have been debunked by numerous sources including several excellent Daily Kos articles, but the memes continue nonetheless.

PolitiFact has shown graphically that of all the major candidates on both sides, Clinton is most truthful in the “true” and “mostly true” categories combined. When the “half true” category is added, only President Obama scores higher for the sum of all three, as shown in this chart by Robert Mann (see the original graphic here). Going the other way, Donald Trump is the clear winner for the three negative/liar categories combined, followed closely by Bachmann and Cruz.

Why then is Clinton so unfairly distrusted by so many? Many articles have been written dissecting the “Hating Hillary” phenomenon dating back to early in her public life, but the phenomenon isn’t unique to her. It’s far more insidious and dangerous than that. Rob Taber addresses that question nicely in his article – Lying Liars Who Lie: 2016 Edition. In his article, Mr. Taber captures the essence of the problem in a single sentence.

To put it simply: in America we teach our children that women are liars.

In the next paragraph, he says:

The argument is laid out well in this essay, which I very much recommend. The essay includes frank conversations about our tendency to disbelieve rape victims, the way our inability to trust women affects public policies regarding choice and contraception. But also think about how it plays out in everyday life. When we hear two sides of a couple’s dispute, how quick are we to say “well, he’s a good guy” or “she’s crazy” or “she needs to give him another chance”? We’re quick to think that women are dominating a discussion if women are speaking for 30% of the time (and men for 70%). Within the LDS community, there are struggles regarding how much women’s voices are heard at the ward, stake, and Church levels, though there’s been recent movement to include more women in the highest councils.

As Taber points out, the Soraya Chemaly essay, How We Teach Our Kids That Women Are Liars, is a very informative discussion of how this myth originated and continues to be propagated throughout our society. His sentiments are all the more powerful and self-effacing in the context of his MormonPress article given LDS’ historical attitudes towards women and their place in society. They amplify what Chemaly writes about how “long dead theologians and philosophers” inspire these thoughts, and she goes further. As she points out:

…These thoughts are alive and well and have a super long tail outside of religion—think: domestic work, pay discrimination, and sex segregation in the workplace. Every time a young girl can’t serve at an altar, or play in a game, or dress as she pleases; every time she’s assaulted and told to prove it, it’s because she cannot, in the end, be trusted. Controlling her—her clothes, her will, her physical freedom, her reputation—is a perk.

Conventional Abrahamic religious thought cannot escape the idea that we have to pay, as women, with lifelong suffering and labor and be subject to the authority of men lest our irrationality and desires result in more evil and suffering. Until religious hierarchies renounce beliefs and practices based on these theologies, these long-dead men, creatures of their time, might as well be the ones repeatedly showing up in Congress to give their massively ill-informed opinions on women’s health and lives.

By any standards, Hillary Clinton’s qualifications, experience, and accomplishments are laudable. If that same biography were attributed to a male counterpart, such a candidate would be supported without question. As a nation, we must get past these pointless stereotypes that plague all women who challenge the status quo and support Hillary Clinton this November. Our country needs her.

There Was Only One David

This is my next installation in my economic series about the coming Corporate Feudalism and how we avoid it.

I was raised in a Christian family, more specifically, a Methodist family.  (I’m Catholic now, but was Methodist then.)  In our church, while the adults attended services, the children attended Sunday school.  In Sunday school, we would be told the stories in the Bible and talk about how those stories applied to our lives today.  One of those stories was of David and Goliath.

I’m sure most of you are familiar with that story.  Back in the days when Saul was king of the Israelites, a great Philistine army came to their borders.  The Philistine general sent word to Saul that instead of the two armies fighting each other, each side could send out a champion to do battle, and if the Philistine champion won, the Philistine army would take over the land of the Israelites, and the Israelites would become their slaves.  If the Philistine lost, the Philistine army would become the Israeli subjects.  Then they brought forth Goliath.  He was a huge man, and he had been supplied by the Philistines with the best weapons and armor that could be forged at that time.  He struck fear into the hearts of those in the Israelite army.  For 40 days, Goliath came out in the morning and at night shouting this challenge.  For 40 days and nights, the Israelite army quivered in their tents and did not send anybody out to meet the challenge.  Finally, one day, David (who wasn’t in the army, he stayed home tending sheep) was visiting his brothers in the army and taking them food.  Goliath came out and bellowed his challenge.  When nobody stepped forth, David said, “I can take him,” and volunteered.  He picked up five smooth stones from a nearby stream and used his sling to hurl a stone at Goliath.  The stone hit Goliath in the head, and Goliath died.  David won, and the rest is history.  Or a morality tale.  I have no interest in arguing which.

So then the Sunday school teacher began to talk about how this story was applicable in our lives.  She said, “You see? David was just a boy, not very big, not trained to be a soldier.  But he was able to kill Goliath.  If you have faith, and if God is with you, even you can beat the big bullies you come up against.  You can beat the bad guys.” And so it seems, that whenever anybody goes up against a big corporation and wins, or goes up against a big anything and wins, we recall the story of David and Goliath.

I got to thinking about that story a while back (I don’t know why, I just do things like that sometimes).  Today, there is a Philistine army looking to enslave us.  It is corporate America.  They have an army of Goliaths, in the form of managers.  The armor they have given their Goliaths is the power of the corporation.  The weapons include, “company policy,” and “it’s the going pay scale,” and “nobody else expects …,” and “if you don’t like it, we can always find somebody else,” and “team player.” Those words have as much bite to them as the sharpest Philistine sword, and they beat employees into submission even more quickly.  You have to be quite a David to stand up to that.

And here’s where something about that story began to bother me.  Suddenly it dawned on me.  The passage in the Bible doesn’t say how big the army was, but in context you can gather that the army was tens of thousands.  On top of that army, there were the non-soldiers of Israel, who, like David, were doing normal things.  David was tending sheep.  Others were also tending flocks, or raising crops, or building houses or whatever people did.  So in all of Israel were more than tens of thousands of people.  Yet, in all of those tens of thousands, there was only one David. Only one.  The odds of that one in tens of thousands being any particular person were really small.  Sunday school teachers were talking to the children as if each of them could be that one in tens of thousands.  But in reality, there was a higher probability of any one of them becoming a professional NFL player than being that one David. Applying that to today, the chances of any employee being able to stand up to the Goliaths sent out by the Corporate Philistines is really, really tiny.  The Corporations set forth their terms, and the employees surrender.  Another thing.  Saul had chartered David to represent the Israelites.  Whatever David gained was gained for and on behalf of all the kingdom.  If a single employee does somehow manage to be a David, he is not chartered to represent anybody but himself.  Anything he is able to wrest from the local Goliath is only for himself.

Something else occurred to me.  There was only one David, but behind him was an Israelite army of tens of thousands.  That is a part I have never heard anybody talk about.  Recall that every day, for 40 days, Goliath came forth in the morning and at night to bellow his challenge.  40 days.  The Philistine Army sat idle for 40 stupid days.  Armies aren’t meant to sit in a camp waiting to attack for 40 days.  Why didn’t they just attack?  Because in front of them was an army of tens of thousands.  While the Israelite army was not full of Davids, it was made up of tens of thousands of trained, competent soldiers.  Those tens of thousands were standing in solidarity, defending their freedom, defending their families, their land, their homes, their futures.  They did not have to be Davids to be good soldiers.  They were prepared to put up a good fight.  Even if the Philistines were able to defeat that army of tens of thousands, many would die, and many more would be badly injured.  And they could lose.  For some reason, this feared army that had rolled over other kingdoms en route to Israel did not really want to fight this battle.  So they sent their Goliath out in the belief that their Goliath could defeat anybody the Israelites could bring forward.  If there had been no Israelite army, there would have been no David.  Rather, without that army, the Philistines would have simply run over the kingdom killing anybody who got in their way.  That would have included David. Standing alone, the people were helpless.

It is no different when the employee faces the corporate Goliath.  If he stands alone, he has no chance.  The corporation has all the advantages.  It is only when employees band together into an army and stand in solidarity that the power is leveled.  Because the union army will be standing in solidarity, defending their freedom, their families, their homes, their futures. When they form a union, join the union, and stand with the union, they are on a common footing with the corporations.  It is then that the union can find and charter a David to go to battle on behalf of all the members.  And what happened when David killed Goliath?  “When the Philistines saw that their hero was dead, they turned and ran.  Then the men of Israel and Judah surged forward with a shout and pursued the Philistines to the entrance of Gath and to the gates of Ekron. Their dead were strewn along the Shaaraim road to Gath and Ekron.” While we don’t expect the union army to kill all the corporatists, we can expect the corporations to back off.  Back in the day, before Ronnie the Destroyer broke the air traffic control union and his party began to dissemble unions, unions had won for their members (and for many who weren’t in the unions) pensions, paid vacation, health care coverage, competitive salaries and safer work environments.  As unions have been dismantled, all those benefits have either been eliminated or cut back drastically.  We need unions to help get them back.  Because we can’t do it individually.  There was only one David.  And even he didn’t stand alone. The Israelite army made David possible.

My next piece will be about how we help our unions regain influence and what unions need to do.

 

 

 

 

Mr. Kasich, THIS is What the Dems Stand For

John Kasich was on Meet the Press on August 27 when he said, “The problem with the Democrats––I can’t figure out what they’re for. I mean, they have a golden opportunity, right, to be able to come in and win elections, but they can’t figure out anything other than the fact that they don’t like Donald Trump. I mean, they better figure out what they are. What’s happened to the Democratic party? It’s almost lost its soul and it better get its act together if they want to compete.”

The Democrats have been pretty clear what they stand for for the past 60 years or more. John, the only way you don’t know what they stand for is if you aren’t listening. But if you will listen, I will try to one more time try to make it clear for you. We Democrats may seek to reach these goals via different paths, but we share a final destination. (I will also acknowledge that I am but one Democrat, and others have their own ideas. Please feel free to present your own.)

First and foremost, Democrats believe that all people are created equal. It is surprising that Republicans don’t believe that too, but based on their policies, they don’t. We believe that all men and women are created equal and as such are part of the rich tapestry of this nation. This equality is conferred regardless of gender, sexual orientation or gender identity. This equality is conferred regardless of religion or belief system, whether or not they believe in any God. This equality is conferred regardless of ethnic origin or race. This equality is conferred regardless of economic status. It is these differences that make our country vibrant, and keep us moving forward. As such, all men and women have the right to live their lives free from challenge, obstruction, harassment or attack, whether by federal or local government, law enforcement or regular citizens. We believe that it is the obligation of all persons to do whatever they are able to ensure this equality, to extend respect to all persons and to encourage others to do the same. (On the other hand, we do not believe that corporations are people.)

We believe that every citizen should have the right to easy access to the ballot box. Any laws making this access easier should be enacted, and any laws making this access more difficult should be immediately repealed. We believe there should be an artifact of each ballot that can be audited should there be doubt about the outcome or legitimacy of the final count. We believe that the concept of democracy means of the people, by the people and for the people, and that the people means all the people.

To ensure that every citizen is equally represented by the people they elect, we believe that it should not be possible for large corporations and the wealthy to buy those representatives. To that end, we believe in the need for campaign reform. While PACs serve a valuable purpose in being a clearing house for fundraising and distribution of donations, we believe that the size of individual donations should be limited. Since we don’t accept that corporations are people, we believe that corporations should not be allowed to donate. We believe that dark money should be brought into the light. (Such regulations would also make it more difficult to use PACs for money laundering, which appears to have been happening.) The word “politics” is derived from the Greek “polis,” which means community. It is doing the work of running the community, whether a school district or the nation. It is not doing the work of the highest donors.

We believe that all persons have the right to determine their own destinies. They have the right to control their own bodies. They have the right to make their own reproductive choices. We believe that health care is a right regardless of social status, age or preexisting conditions, and that access to affordable care is an obligation of society to its members. We believe that health conditions should not bankrupt a person or a family, and that no person should be denied a full life due to a condition that can be cured or treated.

We believe that the surest road to a fair and open society is education. Basic education must be provided to all persons free of charge, and advanced education must be accessible and affordable. This education must not be biased toward any class or group of people. It is in the national interest to have a well educated public. Taxpayer funds should not be used for private or religious educational institutions, thereby diluting the educational opportunities for those who neither can afford the private institutions nor belong to the favored religious organizations.

We believe that immigrants make this nation richer and more vibrant. Foreigners on our soil should be treated with dignity and respect. Citizenship for those who wish to participate in our great experiment should be facilitated. Children who have known no other home should be welcome here as full citizens. We do not understand how a child brought to this country by his parents could be accused of committing a crime. Since when is it a crime to go where your parents go? We also support acceptance of refugees as a sign of our moral compass and a benefit to our country.

We believe in our future. To that end, we must be protectors of our environment. We believe that all people have a right to clean water and air. We accept the word of 97% of the world’s scientists that climate change is real, that it is being accelerated due to human behavior, and that we are nearing a time when we can’t avoid the consequences of neglecting our environment. Therefore, we should be moving from fossil fuel to renewable energy sources. As we do so, we need to focus on retraining those who rely on jobs in fossil fuel to enable employment in renewables. There will be plenty of jobs to go around.

We believe that public investments that have or will be made with public funds in infrastructure should not be turned over to private entities for their profit, whether those investments were in schools, utilities or roads. Turning those public investments over to private entities constitutes a taking from the public at large who paid for them in their taxes. Our infrastructure assets are a source of national security. These assets should be kept in public domain, invested in, and maintained. By happy coincidence, because they require workers to be local, jobs resulting from this investment cannot be offshored.

We believe that throughout their careers, workers have paid in to social security and medicare with the promise that that money would be available to them when they could no longer work. These are earned benefits, and are not negotiable. We oppose converting the funds they contributed to a scheme to balance the national budget while giving tax breaks to the wealthiest. We also believe it benefits all of us when we enable those who are disabled to contribute all they can to our society. We believe that it is the obligation of the government to stand up for the rights of the disenfranchised, the less privileged, the elderly and the disabled.

We believe in the right of workers to band together in unions to create an equal playing field with their employers. We recognize the lack of power of a single person when going up against a large corporation, and the only remedy is the power of numbers. We believe that no person who works full time should live in poverty, and that any job worth doing deserves a living wage.

We believe that, while gun ownership is a right, that right does not preclude sensible monitoring. This monitoring can and should include, as with automobiles, registration and the assurance that these firearms are not modified, or are modified in a legal way, and that they are in the proper hands. Gun owners, as with automobiles, should obtain licenses to ensure they are appropriate owners and that they know safe operation and storage procedures. Those owners become responsible for incidents involving their guns, whether accidental or intentional.

We believe that we live in a complicated world and there is always something to be fighting over. However, we believe that diplomacy should be employed as our first choice, and hostilities should be a last resort. We believe our military might should be used as sparingly as possible. When diplomatic options run out and hostility cannot be avoided, we believe we should provide our military with all necessary resources while on the battlefield, and services for those who serve should be freely provided for once they return.  The notion of a homeless veteran is an embarrassment. The idea of soldiers coming home broken and their injuries, both physical and mental, being ignored is beyond immoral. Turning such services over to corporations to profit from these injuries is beyond corrupt. Moreover, it is an abomination when our national leaders appear to have a higher regard for our adversaries than our men and women in uniform.

Finally, we believe that the wealthier a person is, the more that person has benefited from the opportunities offered by this great land. We recognize that no person becomes wealthy without the benefits provided by the society at large, whether it be education, the infrastructure that makes enterprise viable, or the police and fire protection that make the enterprise safe, no person can become wealthy without such investments by the society at large. We therefore believe that such persons should happily pay a higher share of income to maintain the viability of those benefits. Thus, we believe in a graduated income tax. From those who have received more, more is expected – it is the license for prosperity.

Governor Kasich, is this a clear statement?  In this, do you find a soul?  Can’t you see a vision here? Compare this declaration to the behaviors and policies you have seen in your own party. Which more closely resembles your definition of morality?

Duty to Die. What the Republicans are Pushing in AHCA

The Republicans are racing to enact AHCA under cloud of secrecy and distraction provided by the Russia investigation.  They are intent on their mission and won’t be denied.  But why the hurry, why the secrecy, why the subterfuge and why the cruelty?

The AHCA and other upcoming bills tell us the agenda of the Republican party.  If we analyze what they are doing, we can connect the dots as to why, and where they want to take our country.  I can’t comment on the Senate version of AHCA because nobody has seen it.  But I can comment on the House version.  We can be confident that, while the Senate version may have some differences, the effect will be similar.  The House and Senate are both controlled by Republicans, and those in charge share an agenda.  Thus, while there may be differences around the edges, the substance will be intact.

We can derive from the CBO score that the House AHCA benefits those of privilege and the healthy young, while gravely harming the aged, the disabled, and the poor.  The question we ask is why?  Why are they protecting those in least need of protection and savaging those in greatest need of protection?  What is the end game?

As I wrote in a post earlier (read it here), we are racing toward corporate feudalism. Based on their priorities and allegiances, it is obvious that this is the goal of the Republican establishment.  They have a protected class, and the purpose of the rest of society is to serve, pamper and enrich the protected ones.  The protected class consists of corporations and the wealthy.  To complete corporate feudalism, they must have control of all factors of production, that is, the means of creating wealth.  A read of the House version of AHCA and the CBO scoring of it shows that they are doing all they can to accomplish that.  It also reveals a sinister undercurrent in the Republican Establishment thinking:  Those who are not able to serve, pamper and enrich the pampered ones have a duty to die.  I will say it again, those who do not fit the purpose of the elite have a duty to die.  But, as I will explain later, they must die in the most horrible ways, and only after any wealth they may have been able to generate is returned to the corporations.

Let’s take a look at who is primarily targeted by the House AHCA.  It is the elderly, the disabled, those with preexisting conditions, the poor and the sick.  Why are they the targets?  These are the people who contribute nothing or little to the corporate bottom line.  These are the people Republicans have been calling the “takers.”  Not the corporations making billions in profits while collecting millions in tax dollars.  The “takers” are the people who continue to live while not enriching the protected.  Based on the content of bills being pushed by the Republicans, it is clear Republicans believe these “takers” have a duty to die and stop using resources.

Those who are not targeted, the young and healthy at their peak of production, are covered by AHCA  as long as they stay healthy.  They bring in far more profit than they cost to cover.  The protected class needs them to do the work.  The young and healthy are the most valuable factors of production, and they are worth the investment to maintain.  But the bill has some huge gotchas in it for them.  If they have preexisting conditions, that will be out of pocket, and at a higher rate than the actual cost to treat those conditions.  (For example, there is no way it costs $2000 a month to make and distribute insulin to a diabetic.  But that is what they are going charge the diabetic. Same with a number of other drugs.  The pharmaceuticals are having a heyday with life saving drugs.) The portion of the bill that allows lifetime caps on coverage for the employed is a way to exact maximum profit from workers and discard them when they are no longer profitable.  It also discourages workers from accessing their coverage in order to have it available in time of great need.

Women and children are targeted in this bill.  We should note that with this bill plus their other policies and practices, women are to be nothing beyond toys and incubators.  There is to be no sex education (hence Betsy), no birth control (hence targeting planned parenthood and other Republican sponsored bills both in congress and in the states), no prenatal coverage (now, isn’t that crazy if you want a healthy baby?), no maternity coverage, no neonatal protection, and once the child is born, no public assistance (they are working on dumping WIC and severely restrict even food stamps), no assistance with child care.  But if you don’t manage to raise the child the way they think the child should be raised, you can be fined, charged, arrested and even imprisoned.  This only makes sense in a corporate feudal framework where women and children are little more than livestock.  We should notice from their behavior that in their minds, the place of women in their society is the serving, pampering and enriching via sex.  Going beyond reproduction, Republicans are pushing policies that would have children not from the protected class educated in institutions that push a religion that supports their caste system and restricts knowledge to those things that will make those children grow up to be little more than capital (financial assets, like machinery).  Once their value is fully depreciated, they revert to being “takers.”

The “takers” have a duty to die.  But if you look at the rest of the administration, you find that it is more than a duty to die.  AG Sessions has spoken out against both medical marijuana and death with dignity laws. Why would he oppose those?  The reason is evil in the rawest sense.  Marijuana has been shown to relieve pain and other symptoms of disease and is relatively inexpensive.  It has been shown to offer comfort for cancer patients, especially in their final stages.  It has been shown to offer some help for dementia patients.  Why not encourage its use?  And why, when a person has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, not allow them to pass on peacefully and painlessly at a time of their choosing?  I can only come up with one rationale for these things.  People using medical marijuana are not using expensive pharmaceuticals.  People who choose to die peacefully and at the time of their choosing wind up not using the pain killers or living in nursing homes.  In other words, Republicans want to ensure that as you are suffering and dying, you will first cough up any assets you have managed to acquire in your life to corporate interests before you go.  You have a duty to die, and to die broke and in agony.  To serve the protected class.

I am not sure what can be done about our trajectory.  Now that the GOP is in control of two branches of government and is about to cement their control in the judiciary (not only in the Supreme Court, but in all the Federal courts as well), a course correction may not be possible.  As of this summer, we may be officially a corporate feudal state.

 

 

 

Country Before Party Makes No Sense

I have seen so many pundits on both the right and the left calling on the Republican congresspersons to put country before party.  In fact, there is a fine article about it here.  I can understand those on the left saying that.  But those on the right should know, the phrase country before party makes no sense to Republicans.  To them, country and party are one.  What is good for the country is good for the party, and what is good for the party is good for the country.

We talk about the Republicans who put country ahead of party during the Watergate hearings.  But that was a different generation.  After World War II, regardless of the friction between Republicans and Democrats, we were fairly well united as a country.  During the war, Republicans and Democrats fought side by side, and the German bullets and Japanese kamikaze pilots did not ask for party affiliation before killing or maiming.  The person who saved your butt didn’t either.  Many of those congresspersons had served in some capacity in WWII.

There are no more WWII veterans in Congress.  There is little understanding of what it means to fight for the survival of your country.  And much has changed.  I don’t think it began with Ronald Reagan.  I am not sure it began with Richard Nixon.  It might have begun with Barry Goldwater.  (Certainly the purging of the moderates began then, as Prescott Bush pushed out Nelson Rockefeller in favor of Goldwater using the Rockefeller divorce as an excuse.)  But I know as I was becoming an activist in the Republican Party during and after college, I was hearing an odd refrain.  It was odd to me, because my parents, Republican activists, would have never have said it or even thought it.  But here it was, “The Republican Party represents the true America.”  They were in the business of delegitimizing any ideas but those offered by the party.

I have told before of a conversation I had with the county chairwoman in the 90s.  She said, “You always vote for the person with an R beside his name.  Always.”  I said to her, “but what if that person is a Hitler type person?”  Not that I thought that could happen in America, but it would, in my mind, justify voting other than R.  She said, “The party knows what it is doing.  They would weed out any Hitler.  You have to trust the wisdom of the party.”  (I should state, this conversation occurred shortly after I expressed concern that we were more concerned with fundraising from corporate donors than ordinary people, but I digress.)

After that conversation, I began noticing things in campaign speeches and ordinary conversation.  Things that marginalized non-republican ideas.  Things like, “They don’t really belong here.”  Or, “They just don’t understand these things.” (Implying an intellectual or a moral superiority.)  I started hearing about “The Real America,” which we heard ad infinitum a decade later from the beloved half term governor from Alaska.  The Real America.  Rural America, Southern States America, Factory America, Gun slinging America.  And, interesting enough, Corporate America, who are as removed from the other Real Americas as I can imagine being.  Real America was not the city people, even though they now outnumbered the Real America.  Nor our vibrant minority communities who were rapidly becoming the economic engines.

I also found it jarring that the policies put forth for Real America didn’t benefit Rural America, Southern States America, or Factory America.  Their policies were real hard on them.  Sure, they had farm bills, but those only seemed to benefit corporate farms, not the hard working family farmer.  And how could gutting the unions benefit Factory America?  It couldn’t.  It was merely a lip service, a ploy, an appeal to the emotions without passing through the brain.  We all know what they were offering Southern States America.  The only Real America that their policies helped were Corporate America.

But here it was.  The Republican Party was equated to The Real America.  It was the country.  Everybody else is either an interloper or an agitator or not very bright.  Party and country were one.  You can’t ask people to put party before country if, in their minds, they are the same thing.  The Republican Congresspersons will think they are putting country first, because to them, the party is the country.  We are so screwed!

Citizens United and its Impact on Constituency

When I was growing up, My father was active in politics.  You would never see him on the stump, and he never ran for office.  He was a critical member of various politicians’ teams, mostly republican.  One thing he was particularly good at was fundraising.  I remember him telling me, “The small donation from a family is important.  If the person who handles the family money will give you $5.00, you have to understand what that means.  $5.00 is a roast and all the fixings (this was the 60’s, after all).  That is at least one family meal.  They have given you a meal off of their table.  If they will give you that, they will give you their vote.  These donations are a sign that they are with you.”

Was the small donation also a way to gain influence over the candidate?  Probably, but it didn’t matter.  The donation was small, and their were a lot of them in relation to the district.  Lots of donations of similar amounts meant that the influence was dispersed across a whole lot of families.  The politicians had to listen to a lot of people with a lot of different ideas if they wanted to fund their campaigns and win their elections.  While they hated having to beg for donations, the process led to democratic (small d) representation.  Those families, and their neighbors, were the constituency, and the politicians never forgot it.

When I returned to Colorado in 1989, I joined up with the Douglas County Republicans, because I lived in Douglas County.  We were immediately involved in the local elections and midterms.  I was looking forward to putting into practice the things I had learned from my father.  However, something had happened to Colorado politics while I was away.  I was told, “We don’t do fundraising that way any more.  It is too hard, too time consuming, and undignified.  We have big dollar sponsors now.  All we have to do is select candidates that our sponsors can support.”  And so it was.  At the time, the big donors were people like Marvin Davis and Philip Anschutz and  corporations like major banks and large developers.  It soon included the Koch brothers and other donors at the national level.  While the smaller donations were never turned down, they were no longer the focus of fundraising.  With the change in fundraising came a change in the constituency.  The politicians no longer had to accommodate the families who made up the small donor class.  They had to accommodate the big donors.  And the influence was no longer dispersed, it was concentrated.  The constituency was now the wealthy individuals and corporations, who seemed to have the same policy focuses.

Then came the The Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act of 2002, also known as McCain Feingold Campaign Finance Act.  But first, a bit of history on campaign financing.

The first federal laws concerning campaign finance were passed in 1867 to prohibit Navy yard workers from being solicited for campaign funds.  I don’t know why this law was passed.  Over the years, other laws were passed to regulate campaign financing.  Essentially, these laws were meant to limit contributions to ensure that wealthy individuals and special interest groups did not have a disproportionate influence on Federal elections, prohibit certain sources of funds for Federal campaign purposes (i.e., the Tillman Act prohibited corporations and national banks from contributing money to national campaigns), control campaign spending (laws passed in 1910 covering U.S. House of Representative races, and 1911 to add the Senate, both laws limited the amounts that could be spent on a candidate’s election), and require public disclosure of campaign finances to deter abuse and to educate the electorate (essentially the Federal Corrupt Practices Act of 1925).  The public disclosure was an important element of the regulations passed.

However, these laws were approved without including a way to enforce them.  Thus, the campaign finance provisions of all of these laws were pretty much ignored. In 1971, Congress passed a more rigorous set of disclosure provisions under the 1971 Federal Election Campaign Act as the primary law regulating political campaign spending and fundraising. It focused on increased disclosure of contributions for federal campaigns.  

After Watergate, Congress passed the Federal Election Campaign Act Amendments of 1974, which put new limits on contributions to campaigns.  Unfortunately, within four years, the FEC had decided that donors could donate unlimited money to political parties, but not the candidates themselves, as long as the party used that money for “party building activities” such as voter registration drives, but not to directly support candidates.  Political parties still used this money to support their candidates.  This money donated to parties became known as soft money.  In 1992, President George HW Bush vetoed a bill restricting use of soft money.

Because of a series of scandals (including Enron) brought the issue of campaign finance to the fore of public consciousness in 2001, and the McCain-Feingold bill was passed.  The important provisions of this act included a prohibition of national political party committees from raising or spending any funds not subject to the federal limits previously set, and limited the use of issue advocacy adds.  It also prohibited any issue advocacy ad from being paid for by a corporation, including non-profit issue organizations, or union general treasury funds.  It also included a ban on foreign corporations or foreign nationals being involved in decisions regarding political spending.  Mitch McConnell was a major opponent of this act.

To comply with McCain-Feingold, many “527s” have been registered.  527s get their name from section 527 of the IRS code. 527s are mostly funded by wealthy individuals, labor unions, and businesses.  While 527s existed before McCain-Feingold, they became more popular after it was passed.

McCain-Feingold had in it a section known as the “millionaire’s amendment,” which tried to equalize campaigns by increasing the legal limit on contributions to candidate when his opponent used personal wealth to overwhelm the spending of the candidate.  As McCain said, “Money does buy access in Washington, and access increases influence that often results in benefiting the few at the expense of the many.”  In other words, the millionaire amendment was specifically designed to offset the ability of the very wealthy to buy elections.  This is the provision that the Supreme Court ruled as unconstitutional in the case known as Citizens United in 2009.  Specifically, Citizens United struck down campaign financing laws related to corporations and unions.  The minority argued that the court erred in allowing unlimited corporate spending, arguing that corporate spending posed a particular threat to democratic self-government. However, it did also make it easier to hide the source of funds.  According to President Barack Obama, “With all due deference to separation of powers, last week the Supreme Court reversed a century of law that I believe will open the floodgates for special interests—including foreign corporations—to spend without limit in our elections. I don’t think American elections should be bankrolled by America’s most powerful interests, or worse, by foreign entities. They should be decided by the American people. And I’d urge Democrats and Republicans to pass a bill that helps to correct some of these problems.” He also said the decision was, “a major victory for big oil, Wall Street banks, health insurance companies and the other powerful interests that marshal their power every day in Washington to drown out the voices of everyday Americans.”

In fact, the Supreme Court decision in 2009 did make it easier to hide where soft money was coming from.  The elections of 2012 and 2016 are evidence of this fact.  Now our elections are largely financed by the 1%.  We know that Robert Mercer was a major contributor to the Trump campaign.  We know that Sheldon Adelson largely funded the failed Newt Gingrich campaign and was sought by all the Republican candidates in 2016.  We also know that the Koch brothers have invested heavily in elections throughout the country from school boards to state assemblies and legislatures to U.S. Congress and President.  So financing campaigns has been moved from the family donations to the company donations to corporate and special interest donations to the 1%.  So the influence, and thus, the constituency, has shifted accordingly.

However, these are the things we know about soft money.  The difficulty in finding out the sources of funds in the soft money world opens up a whole new problem.  Because of the lack of transparency, there is every possibility that a significant portion of that soft money is in fact laundered money from foreign sources.  We do know that there are questions about several individuals involved in the Trump campaign as to whether they have been laundering money.  There are transactions, for example, that Manafort has been involved in that have all the earmarks of money laundering.  It is not a far stretch to ask whether the Trump campaign was an experiment in a new way to launder money.  If the Trump campaign was benefiting from laundered money, was he the only one?  If politicians were accepting money from foreign sources, then who do they represent?  Does the influence belong now to foreign entities?  Are these foreign entities now the true constituency of our politicians?  This is a really scary thought.  Imagine if the real constituent to whom our congress and President are responsible to is Vladimer Putin.   Perhaps the time has come to ask our congresspersons, who are your real constituents?

 

 

A Letter From My Husband to Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman

This is a letter My husband wrote to Cory Gardner and Mike Coffman.  I think it is worthy of reading.

I trust you will read this letter in its entirety, rather than picking and choosing issues to respond to as has been the case in the past.

I am a retiree and depend on my earned benefits (Medicare, Social Security and a small pension).

I am a Viet Nam era veteran from the early 1970s where I was a part of the IC community. During that period, I developed a deep dislike for Russia and its corrupt behavior.

Politically I was active within the GOP from the 1970s to 2005. In the late 1990s the GOP left me and became a party I did not recognize. The party also left the American people. It no longer cared for the citizens and did everything to abandon the nation’s infrastructure and the health and welfare of people that matured under the Eisenhower administration. Yes, the Democrats were the opposition, but there was usually an attempt to find solutions. Today Democratic values are more closely aligned to the values of the GOP in the 50s and 60s and for that matter the 70s and 80s. Voter opinion was valued by the party. Huge donors didn’t rule the roost. There were no Koch brothers or DeVos family influences. People mattered back then. Today, who in the GOP cares about the people?

The issues I have outlined below are important to me because I still believe American citizens matter. Everyone who lives in this country matters (other than those who choose to destroy our Democracy). I hope you consider each, realizing this nation must be one of compassion and that today’s GOP cannot continue to shove their beliefs down everyone’s throats.

Health Care

The Trump/Ryan Care legislation was unacceptable. It was cruel to those who need it most, many who have no choice. For example, my daughter-in-law has type 1 diabetes. Her employer does not provide insurance to ‘part time’ employees. By the way, she is not part time by choice, but rather because her employer (major American corporation), like so many, is avoiding the cost of benefits. Prescriptions alone could cost her $2,000 per month without insurance. A high-risk pool such as proposed by the GOP would mean no health insurance coverage and eventual death. Is what we really want? For the rich, I am sure that is the case.

The menu of EHCB under ACA has been a godsend. Yes, premiums and deductibles are high, but much better than the days before ACA. Why do I like the ACA? The answer is simple, ‘affordable health insurance for a person over 50 years old’. I was in the Defense industry for almost 40 years. My benefits were great, however with budget cuts, highly compensated employees like me and my wife were forced into early retirement. Retirement medical benefits were more costly than what I could find on the commercial market and the ACA. I was headed toward bankruptcy. Both Trump/Ryan didn’t give a damn about the over 50 population and even with increased tax credits the deal was rotten. How dare they use the legislation to reduce the taxes of the wealthy on the backs of people like us? This should be legislation for comprehensive health care for all at an affordable price no matter the individual’s age. Medicaid is an essential element of health care although it does not affect us. The GOP does not seem to care for the working people living in this country.

Earned Benefits

I am a firm believer in protecting the benefits we paid for, specifically, Medicare and Social Security. These are earned benefits. Now that I collect these benefits, I understand more than ever their importance and the need to protect them for all who have made contributions. It is important to keep these programs viable, but GOP plans are not well thought out. Why is the Social Security Cap not adjusted like it used to be? It seems like increasing a contribution to retirement a little each year is not a sin other than some Think Tank giving a Congressman a lower score. Congressmen work for us, not a Think Tank. Medicare must be kept intact and prescription prices kept affordable. Rather than adjusting retirement age (not a reality) why not consider an increase in taxes in line with inflation? Privatizing is not an option either. The Government is the best manager of my money. I’ve had so many investment firms rip me off over the years that I no longer trust them. That is the private sector.

Immigration/Refugees

The fabric of this nation is our immigrants, no matter how they arrived. It is special to see friends, co-workers, worshipers, store clerks, airport workers, public servants, etc. from so many different countries. Many came to this great country to flee oppression or poverty. Why on earth would we change something so special? Today’s travel bans and deportations are just two things that shock me. Why do we oppress people in or attempting to enter our country? I love Colorado because of its diversity. In a normal day I interact with people from at least a dozen countries. They are not here to destroy us. Why are DREAMers not citizens? What law did they break? They had no say in how they arrived and yet they are friends and peers. What about those escaping war-torn countries and areas of famine? For those of us of Christian faith, God would expect us to care for those in need. I cannot understand why Congress and the Administration are filled with such hate.

Religious Freedom

I am a firm believer in the separation of church and state. This line is being blurred by this administration and is being manifested by expressions of hatred towards believers of other faiths. I am stunned that Congress is seemingly silent on acts of violence and vandalism. Congress is guilty of not condemning this administration of promoting expressions of hate.

The Wall

This is the biggest waste of taxpayer dollars. No one knows the exact price and Congress is making no attempts to find out the true cost. Congressmen will be held accountable for this failure. This wall reminds me of the Berlin wall. Is Mexico our enemy? No. They are our friends and trading partners. Is this wall going to hinder migration of wildlife? I am sure it will. The hatred of this administration seems to trump all considerations of the impact of the wall. Bottom line this Congress is lazy. It does not want to do the hard work required to find solutions.

 Travel Ban

This is another area where Congress is not pushing back. The travel ban is a Muslim ban. More importantly it has no impacts on the investments of the president because it excludes nations where he has properties. It harms our businesses and tourism. People will not feel welcome to visit our nation and other nations will likely not welcome us. It is making this a more dangerous world. The Colorado GOP delegation seems to embrace this expression of hatred. As written, this ban has nothing to do with the safety of this country.

 Environment/Climate Change

Where do I begin? I have yet to meet anyone in Colorado that does not support green energy, does not want clean air and water, and that denies climate change. The actions of many in Congress and the current administration are advocating the destruction of all the progress we have made over the last several decades. Cost of regulations is not an acceptable excuse. The benefits have far outweighed the ‘costs’. People are healthier now. The world is better off.

Education

This administration is failing the country in a major way. Ms. DeVos should never have been confirmed. First, this was a case for pay to play. Too many Congressmen accepted donations from a Michigan resident who in turn felt obligated to support her nomination. Quite frankly, I believe this was a criminal act. Second, she advocates on the part of religious education. This dilutes the effect of our public education system. Our tax dollars must not go to religious education under any circumstance. My tax dollars must not go to supporting a school whose beliefs I do not support or agree with. Religion must be kept out of our public schools (and I am a Christian).

Voting Rights

Voting rights are being attacked in so many ways. Voter ID laws are making it impossible for the infirmed, minorities and seniors to cast their votes. A solution must be found so that all citizens can easily vote. Voting obstruction must end. Colorado may not be perfect, but does get higher grades than many states and should be held up as a good example for voting in national elections. I resent the criticism coming from the current administration on Colorado voting laws and I encourage our delegation in Washington to demand that it stop.

Infrastructure

This is an area where the GOP has dropped the ball. Where are the investments in the power grid, highways, water lines, gas lines, rail, mass transit, internet access, etc.? Congress is zeroing these investments out and refusing to increase gas taxes. Bridges are falling apart. Pot holes are everywhere. Tolls are being charged for highways that were constructed using our tax dollars. Are we giving infrastructure public assets to the well connected to profit from our contributions? This is corruption. It is a failure on the part of Congress. This took hold in the 1980s and now we as a country are facing a case of deferred maintenance which will cost ten times more to fix. Will it take a major disaster to wake Congress?

Supreme Court

This is a losing argument with you. Suffice it to say, voters will remember the Garland nomination. Why you were a part of this obstruction is beyond me. Neil Gorsuch, in my opinion, puts more value in businesses than the people of this country. There was no indication in the hearing that he would protect the lives of people in this country. Protecting big donors and big businesses seemed far more important. Is Congress throwing the poor and middle class under the bus? It appears that is the case.

Behavior of Current Administration

Our president has been in office roughly 75 days as I write this. It has seemed like 10 years of hell. Congress could become heroes if they were willing to put a stop to the chaos. Most of the EOs are not well thought out. Congress could correct the EOs, replace them, or pass legislation overriding them. We clearly have a president that has no clue on governing.

 Trump/Russia Investigations

As a veteran, I am very sensitive to anyone’s relationship to Russia. I don’t trust them and I believe they are out to destroy our great country. The Senate seems to be doing the right thing, albeit a little slow for my taste. Whatever the case may be, Congress must get to the bottom of this mess and hold people accountable, even at the highest levels of government. Tampering with our elections and any subsequent cover-up is wrong. Personally, I could probably name at least a dozen who I believe are guilty of something. It could mean a new President and it might be down the line of succession. I know I am not only person that is worried. Senate leadership is going to be very important.

Congressmen Work for Constituents

This can be the toughest thing for a Congressman, but it is the most important. Colorado elected you, not donors, not Think Tanks. You must listen to your constituents. I will hazard a guess, as much as you may not like it, most of us in Colorado embrace the ACA. Your donors may not like that, but in 2020 the voters will provide you with an assessment on how well you listened to them. In person town halls are important. Voters need to release their emotions in person and you must listen. This is especially true today, when we have an Administration that is determined to tick everyone off. Unfortunately, you will receive most of the voters’ wrath even if you were not a part of the president’s actions. I don’t believe for a minute that the Colorado protesters are outsiders. They are my friends and neighbors from here in Colorado. We want our Congressmen to hear us. I believe you can. Do you have the will?

Sincerely

If You Remain a Republican, You Own It

Continuing my hiatus on writing about corporate feudalism (research is hard), I write this to prepare you for what the Republican Party will do when the members are returning from their break.  Those congresspersons who received heavy pushback from their constituents will be given permission to decry what is happening in the Trump administration, and to vote against bills when their votes aren’t needed to pass the Republican agenda.  We must not allow them to get away with this.  Trump is now the Republican standard bearer.  If these congresspersons truly disapprove of the Republican agenda, they must repudiate being a republican.  Otherwise, they own it.

As I have said before, I used to be an active Republican.  I came by it honestly.  My parents were active Republicans.  I was in the mold of the Rockefeller Republicans.  We were pro choice, pro women rights, pro civil rights, but we were Republicans. I served as treasurer of Republican Women in three states and worked on numerous campaigns.  As the party became more anti choice, I was looked at funny, but they claimed they were a big tent, so I stayed.  As the party became more anti women, it got more uncomfortable, but I hoped to move the party more to center, so I stayed.  As the party got more evangelical christian, I was uneasy on behalf of my Jewish friends, but I stayed.

These views I held were not looked on kindly, however, and I found myself being edged out.  We had arguments and long discussions.  My own experiences were beginning to create conflicts with my party affiliation as well.  I became a speaker for Planned Parenthood, and found myself talking with battered women.  I volunteered for a program that helped K-6 homeless children.  I learned about domestic violence, and I learned about what it was to be poor.  I learned how people wound up homeless.  I learned what the lives of homeless children were like.  I found this knew knowledge contrasted with the slogans I had heard from the party.  I tried to speak to my state legislators about the issue, and found no compassion or interest in helping.

At the time, I considered myself a strong Christian.  But the more I read my Bible, the less I could reconcile the positions of the party with what I was reading.  I read that taking care of the homeless was our responsibility.  I read that feeding the hungry was our responsibility.  I read that our job was to heal the sick.  Since I had no talent in healing, it was my job to make sure the sick could access those with that talent.  I pointed out these things to my Republican associates, but they always had an “answer.”  It was interesting, the answer always began with “Yeah, but ….”  I found that to be a Republican was to live by the Yeahbut.

Then Tancredo and Musgrave started saying horrible things about gays, and wanting to essentially persecute them.  I had good friends who were gay.  I knew these things were false.  These things were horrid lies.  There was no yeahbut that would work.  I spoke up against these lies and implored my fellow Republicans to stop.  One of my associates said to me, “I know you have been a Republican all your life.  But if you are going to be a Republican now, this is our platform and you have to endorse it. Our standard bearers endorse it and you have to support them.”  She was right.  If I retained the title Republican, that meant I endorsed what they stand for, and I had to own it.  It defined me.  I could not endorse it.  I refused to own it.  It would not define me.  I changed parties.

It was amazing how much easier it became once I left that party.  I no longer had to twist myself into an intellectual pretzel.  I no longer had to live on a diet of yeahbuts.  I could look myself in the mirror.

Today, the party stands for a number of things I could never endorse.  Their standard bearer is Donald Trump, and the rest of the establishment support him.  If one is to be a Republican today, one is endorsing and supporting Trump and all he and the party stand for.  Not just in the platform, but in their words and deeds since January 20.  They endorse it.  They own it.  Because it reflects their value system, it defines them.

So what is it that they endorse?  What do they own?  What defines them?

  1. The Republicans call themselves the party of patriotism.   Yet there is the distinct smell of Russian interference in our elections, where our President might be compromised, and our nation is at risk of becoming a Russian puppet government.  The Republican congress killed a letter of inquiry into that connection.  As a Republican, you don’t want to ensure that our election was fair, honest and open as long as your party wound up with maximum power. Foreign interference, from an adversary no less, is acceptable.  Now Trump  accuses, with no attribution, the former President of the U.S. of spying on him during the election.   Trump is the Republican standard bearer.  This is the Republican position.  If you remain a Republican, you endorse it.  You own it.  It defines you.
  2. Republicans call themselves a Christian party.  Jesus said to heal the sick.  Republicans claim to support access to health care for all, but oppose coverage.  Access means it is there, but not necessarily affordable.  In many cases, a person has to choose between life saving medications (i.e. insulin) and eating.  They may be allowed to get the medications, but they can’t afford them.  In other words, choose the way you will die, just get on with it.  This is not affordable health care, and it will kick some 30 million people off of any coverage.  It will also make health care incredibly hard to afford for many millions more.  Seniors will be especially hard hit.  People will get sick, and people will die.  However, it will mean inflated profits for health insurance companies, allowing them some of the highest profit margins on the planet.    The new Republican health care plan not only kicks 20 million people off insurance roles currently covered by ACA, it also allows companies to stop providing health care to their employees.  This amounts to around 30 million FAMILIES losing their health care.  At an average of 2 children per family, this means 120 million more without health care.  This is the Republican position.  If you remain a Republican, you endorse it.  You own it.  It defines you.
  3. The Republicans call themselves to be the party of open doors.  Donald Trump wants to ban Muslims from our country.  He wants to deport millions of undocumented people, many of whom came here as children.  He is deporting an Afghanistan veteran who served two tours of duty.  Imagine a U.S. military trained soldier in another country and mad at the U.S.  He says this is a Christian nation.  He isn’t particularly happy with the words of Jesus, “For I was hungry, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in … Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.”   He is prepared to rip families apart, remove people from their jobs, destroy communities to fulfill his wish.  His travel ban had people stuck in airports for days with no direct access to their families or legal help.  He is willing to leave refugees suffering as they flee oppression.  He is willing to remove people who grew up in this country to places they have never seen (it is also likely they are actually deporting U.S. citizens under the pretense that they look undocumented).  The only crime committed by Dreamers is that they stayed with their parents who were seeking a better life for their children.  He has enabled the harassment of Muslims and the vandalism of mosques.  He has enabled the vandalism of Jewish cemeteries and terrorizing of Jewish centers.  He has enabled the bullying of Latino U.S. citizens.    This is now the Republican position.  If you remain a Republican, you endorse it.  You own it.  It defines you.
  4. Republicans call themselves the family values party.  This is the party that wants to obliterate Planned Parenthood and all the health care services it offers to low income men and women (no, not just women).  It is the party that wants an employer to have a say in whether a woman takes birth control.  It is the party that demands that every egg be fertilized, but would deny pre natal coverage, coverage for a hospital birth, post natal coverage, assistance in paying for feeding or caring for the child, and should the mother not live up to their standards of raising the child, would jail the mother.  This is the party trying to redefine rape to its narrowest possible definition, letting rapists off the hook so as not to “ruin the lives of fine young men.”  This is the party whose standard bearer boasts about groping women, walking into dressing rooms of naked adolescent women, insulting women’s appearance, has been accused of physical abuse, and has walked through 3 marriages, two ending because of his infidelity.  Rape, groping, domestic violence, insults and demeaning of women is not only ok, it is encouraged.  This is now the Republican position.  If you remain a Republican, you endorse it.  You own it.  It defines you.
  5. There are many other contradictions between how the Republican Party labels itself and the policies they support.  But there are also many other positions they take that are harmful to Americans.  Betsy DeVos’s education office is mandating that states accept vouchers and relax accountability in the quality of the education provided.  While this would divert funds from public schools to private, it will not make them more accessible to the people.  Rather, it will raise the rates charged by private providers (demand/supply) while not ensuring that the students are receiving the education they are paying for.  At the same time, it will divert funds away from public schools, eroding the quality of education they are able to provide.  Special needs students will be especially hard hit, as the private institutions will not be required to accommodate them, but the public schools will not be able to afford quality services.  On a different subject, both members of Congress and the president have voiced support to violating or ignoring provisions of our treaties.  There are too many treaties to name here (you can find lists of those treaties here and here.)  These include both international treaties and treaties within our borders with Native American ties.  The international treaties at risk include trade agreements, agreements for mutual support, treaties protecting the environment, and (can you believe it?) the Geneva convention.  The number of treaties threatened with Native American tribes is in the hundreds,  and all are RIGHT NOW being violated by U.S. corporations and the U.S. government.  In addition, members of congress and the President have indicated a predilection to defaulting on U.S. debt.  A default on this debt not only affects foreign investors, but every person who holds a U. S. savings bond.  The violation of treaties and default on U.S. debt reduces the word and honor of the United States to zero.  The Republican members of Congress and their standard bearer support these actions.   This is now the Republican position.  If you remain a Republican, you endorse it.  You own it.  It defines you.

All this and more is what it now means to be a Republican.  You cannot bring the party back.  You cannot urge its members away from it.  It is the substance of who they are and what they believe.  This is now the Republican position.  If you remain a Republican, you endorse it.  You own it.  It defines you.  And when the next elections come up, we will remind the voters of that.

 

 

Why Trump Keeps Going on Vacation: White House Ghosts!

Taking a small vacation from my series on corporate feudalism, I decided to report on an interesting rumor I have heard lately. For background, I used to be a very active Republican, as I have documented before. I did see the light (long story), and have repudiated that association. When I changed parties, I lost contact with those I knew who were Republican activists. But the other day, I ran in to one at the store, and she had something interesting to tell me. First, she told me how appalled she is at the Trump administration and the horrible things he is doing to our country. That wasn’t all that interesting. But then, she said, “and you won’t believe why he is spending so much taxpayer money on all these vacations.” “Oh?” I said. “Really,” she continued, “You won’t believe it. He is afraid of the White House Ghosts.”

“Afraid of the White House Ghosts?” “Yes! Apparently he thinks they visited him in his first night there, and now he hates to even walk into the place. At night, he is so terrified, he wanders around in his pajamas because he is afraid to go to sleep.”

I remember talk of the White House Ghosts. When I was working on campaigns, I heard whispering that the reason they let the story of Nancy Reagan’s astrologer get out to cover up for a more embarrassing tidbit. Nancy was claiming to talk to ghosts in the White House, that they were giving her advice, and that she was passing that advice on to her husband. I never heard whether Ronnie knew that the advice he was getting was coming from ghosts, or whether he ever acted on it. But the party was terrified that the public would find out about Nancy’s conversations and would go bonkers. The last thing they needed in the era of Iran Contra was the possibility that ghosts were advising the President using his wife as a medium. I also remember rumors that, especially toward the end, Richard Nixon was meandering through the White House conferring with the resident ghosts. (There is also a story circulating about other members of the Reagan family seeing ghosts, which is recounted here.)

There have been a number of articles about the White House ghosts, one example can be found here. Many claim to have seen them, and more claim to have heard them. It is not unusual that a building as iconic as the White House would be rumored to have ghosts roaming around. Moreover, in a structure as old as the White House, with all the electronic signals flying around, the weather around D.C., and other factors, it would be unusual if strange sounds weren’t reported. I don’t necessarily believe or disbelieve in ghosts.

So many people have asked who all died in the White House who could be haunting it today. My question is, why would the person have to have died there to haunt there? Isn’t it as likely that a spirit would return to the place that represented the most significant events of his life? The scene, as it were, of his greatest triumphs or most difficult situations? Or, where he felt he had left unfinished business? I guess if there are ghosts, any former president or any number of his advisors or associates might choose to haunt there. Maybe Lyndon Johnson? (Please, please, please)

I can’t say that I have ever seen a ghost myself, at least not that I was aware of, and until I do, I will remain a skeptic. However, I do live in a time where quantum remote displacement is a thing, where we discuss resting mass vs. unstable mass, and where Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle is accepted. These things already stretch my brain. Ghosts in the White House are less of a stretch than these things are. Besides, I do get tickled at the idea of perhaps a spectral Lyndon Baines Johnson visiting Trump in the middle of the night and yelling at him as only President Johnson could do.

The Antidote to Corporate Feudalism

In my last posting, I discussed the similarities between medieval feudalism in Europe and corporate feudalism that we are entering today.  I also promised to identify what finally brought an end to medieval feudalism, and thus, the antidote to corporate feudalism today.  I am not a historian, and I will not be going into a lot of historical analysis, dates or specifics.  Instead, I am going to approach this topic through the eyes of an economist.  I welcome real historians to contribute as they deem appropriate.

There is debate about the correct date of the end of the Roman Empire and start of the middle ages, however, most historians consider it to be either the sack of Rome on June 2, 455 CE, or September 4, 476 CE, on which date Odoacer deposed the last  Roman Emperor Romulus Augustulus. However, Rome was also sacked on August 24, 410 CE, which was an important factor in the decline of the Roman empire.  With the fall of the empire, much of the cosmopolitan element of the society disappeared.  There was much less travel among communities, fewer people moved from one state to another, and society fell into isolated fiefdoms, with only the church as a somewhat uniting factor.  From that time until the crusades, feudalism, as described in the previous post, prevailed.

In 1095, Pope Urban issued the Crusades, whose purpose was to recapture Jerusalem from the Muslims. According to Lisa Blades and Christopher Paik in their paper, “The Impact of Holy Land Crusades on State Formation:  War Mobilization, Trade Integration and Political Development in Medieval Europe,” there were “four causal channels by which crusader mobilization strengthened nascent states. First, the departure of relatively large numbers of European elites for the Holy Land reduced the absolute number of elites who might serve as challengers to the king, increasing the stability of ruling monarchies. Second, crusade tithes were also among the first “per-head” taxes to be levied on European populations, creating precedent for later forms of centralized taxation and encouraging the development of representative institutions. Third, the large-scale sale of land by rural elites seeking to finance crusade expeditions undermined existing feudal institutional forms. Finally, the Crusades were a catalyst for the reintegration of Western Europe into global trade networks with implications for the rise of towns and urban governance structures. Using an original dataset of the geographic origins of elite crusaders, we find that areas with large numbers of Holy Land crusaders saw increased political stability, a higher probability of establishing parliamentary institutions, higher downstream levels of tax revenue and greater urbanization, even after controlling for a number of possible confounders.”  Others have pointed out that large numbers of lords and nobles left for the Holy Land, many died while they were there, others were bankrupted.  Their lands were escheated to the monarchs, thus increasing the power of the monarchy.  Still others had their properties seized while they were away.

While the first three channels are interesting, they don’t seem to me to be the biggest influence on the changes that occurred.  It is the last channel that I believe had the greatest impact.  Let me explain.

I first revisit the factors of production:

Land (including all natural resources),
Labor (including all human resources),
Capital (including all man-made resources), and
Enterprise (which brings all the previous resources together for production).

While the result of the first and third channels did cause ownership of the land, the first factor of production, it did not really change that ownership in a way that was felt by the peasants working the land.  It made no difference to that peasant whether the land was owned by a lord or a monarch, it was still not owned by him.  The second factor could not really be felt by a peasant either, taxes were what they were, regardless of who they went to.  Capital may have moved from lord to king, but the general population didn’t experience benefit or otherwise.  However, the reintegration of Western Europe into the global trade networks was significant.

When most people think of the Crusades, they think of phalanx of knights riding off on steeds with grim faces.  This picture is misleading.  Those phalanx of knights had to be fed, clothed, and otherwise provisioned.  It was an enormous mobilization of various trades required to keep the lords and their knights battle ready.  Peasants were not often part of this mobilization, but the craftsmen were.  There needed to be blacksmiths to tend to the horses, the swords, and so on.  There had to be people to work on the wagons, to mend the harnesses, to make or mend clothing, and even to build structures to house the armies.  There were vast amounts of food that had to be transported, and cooks to prepare that food.

Most of the craftsmen who traveled with the knights had never left their villages before.  On the journey, they met and worked with people from other villages, from other countries, who spoke other languages.  They were exposed to different ways to apply their crafts.   The new people they encountered were not only fellow Europeans, they also associated with locals in the different places they went.  This included Muslims.  They developed friendships. Most important, as I see it, they encountered the Muslim Guilds.  Originally begun in the 9th century as a way to control the quality and value of documents, the Muslim guilds had developed to control the quality and value of many other crafts. These guilds took various measures to protect their customers, and restrict access to techniques, materials, and markets.  Through these guilds, the craftsmen were able to command a reasonable, preset price for their services and know they would not be undercut by a competitor.  In other words, the guilds removed the control of the labor factor of production from the user (the lords, etc) to the provider (guild member).

The guilds did not return from the crusades fully developed.  Being introduced (or, more truthfully, reintroduced, since they had been in existence during the Roman Empire) to a society that did not have them, they had to mature, through starts and stops.  However, eventually, the mature guilds had some common characteristics in their charters: protection for the workers and protection for the consumers.  The following is taken from the Medieval Guilds page of Medieval Life and Times:

Guilds in the Medieval times – Protection of Workers / Guild Members
The Guilds in Medieval times protected the workers, or the guild members as follows:

  • Members of Medieval Guilds received protection from excessive taxes imposed by the lords and land owners
  • Competition between members was regulated by fixed pricing policies – advertising and price cutting was banned
  • Illicit trading by non Merchant Guild members was banned
  • All members of guilds were obligated to retain all trade secrets
  • The number of Guild masters and members of guilds were restricted to ensure there was sufficient business for each of the guilds
  • Sickness Protection
  • Protection for their members, goods and horses when traveling
  • Help with funeral expenses. Orphans of members of guilds were also cared for
  • Guilds funded the first non-religious schools of the Middle Ages
  • Working conditions and hours of work were regulated

Guilds in the Medieval times – Protection for Consumers
The Guilds of the Medieval times in Medieval Times also protected the consumers. The spin-offs from the regulations of the guilds led to:

  • Fair pricing policies – all prices were regulated by the guilds
  • Quality of goods or workmanship. Goods and services were inspected and members of guilds were expected to undertake long apprenticeships.

A review of the mature guild charters reveals a strong similarity to today’s Labor Unions, in fact, they are the same thing by a different name.  The first recorded registry of guilds is in 1170.  Note that guilds funded the first non religious schools of the Middle Ages.  This is important.  The guilds felt it was their responsibility to ensure the education of their members and their children (ok, boys back then, for the most part).  By establishing non religious schools, the guilds could teach students information that was outside that allowed by or pushed by the church.

Another factor of production was recovered for the guild members by the guilds.  That is the factor called Enterprise.  The guilds could, as a group, put together resources in a way that an individual could not.  They could also provide a forum for sharing ideas that could lead to innovation.  Innovation is a part of the factor called Enterprise.  The sharing of ideas stimulated the minds of the guild members, and offered an incentive to innovate.  We notice that the first castles built in the middle ages were essentially earth works, large earthen mounds.  We begin to see stone castles emerging in the Norman castles in the 12th century, coincident with the emergence of guilds.

The playing field was greatly leveled with two of the four factors of production in the hands of the laborers.

Now I turn to discuss corporate feudalism.  I begin by pointing out that the guilds, which broke medieval feudalism, were to all intents and purposes labor unions.  The only difference is in the name, and many of our labor unions today call themselves guilds (i.e. screen actor’s guild).  Labor unions are our antidote to corporate feudalism.  We can trace the strengthening of workers rights with the rise of the Labor Unions.  Unions got us child labor laws, paid vacation, company provided health care, the 40 hour work week, pensions, workplace safety and myriad other benefits.

We can also trace the weakening of workers rights over the past 35 years to the weakening of the labor unions.  The pensions that our unions had won for us at great cost, have been largely lost since then.  Health care and workplace safety are now at risk.  Corporations are pushing to regain the labor factor of production by controlling the availability of jobs and removing the ability of individuals to defend themselves.  Corporations are also pushing to regain the land factor.  Notice their buying up of farmland and creating corporate farms.  Notice their use of eminent domain to lay pipelines or create shopping centers and the like.  They are using the financial system to make home ownership more difficult.

It is important for us to stand together with unions to restore their place in our financial system.  An individual cannot stand up to the corporations alone.  It is only through unity that we can reestablish the rights of the workers.  In my next installment, I discuss the union movement in the U.S.

 

Where We Are Headed: Corporate Feudalism

In my last posting, I wrote about the indefensible theory of supply side economics.  Today I posit where this theory is heading.  Whether or not it is the goal of supply side proponents, the result will be corporate feudalism.  Let me explain.

Feudalism is defined as “the dominant social system in medieval Europe, in which the nobility held lands from the Crown in exchange for military service, and vassals were in turn tenants of the nobles, while the peasants  were obliged to live on their lord’s land and give him homage, labor, and a share of the produce, notionally in exchange for military protection.”  From a historical perspective, I’m sure this definition is as accurate as one can get while being brief.  I am not a historian (I welcome relevant input from those who are).  I will be looking at feudalism from the viewpoint of an economist, and my focus is on the factors of production.

A better definition of feudalism from an economic standpoint is a system of government based on the tenure of land, or the system of land tenure and of government in which the landholders are the governors.  These governors were the nobility, and were part of a structure that will be described later.  The term tenure means the right to hold property, however it does not mean the right to own that property.  The person is allowed to live on the land in exchange for his services.  If a lord was displeased with a tenant, he was allowed to remove that tenant from the land and give the right to live there to someone else.  No compensation was involved.

The feudal hierarchy was like a pyramid.  At the very top was the pope, and initially, the emperor.   Technically, the king was at the top, but he could be unseated by the pope if the pope became displeased.  Below the king were nobles – lords and ladies, sometimes counts and countesses, etc., who were granted land (hence the term counties) in exchange for an oath of fealty, or loyalty.  The nobles were expected to support the king in both offensive and defensive wars.  In turn, the nobles granted land to knights in exchange for their services.  According to one source, knights were expected to provide two months per year of service in peace times, and whatever time was necessary during war.  Below these were tradesmen, who did not have land per se, but did have housing in exchange for their trade. At the bottom were peasants, who were allowed to stay on the land in exchange for farming and herding.  Ownership of the crops and herds appears to have varied from place to place. In some locations, the land was mined for various ores, and those who worked the mines were granted housing near those mines.  Many of the forests were retained by the king, and in England, hunting in the King’s forests was subject to execution.

In economic terms, the pope and the kings controlled all the factors of production.  Factors of production are defined as follows:

Resources required for generation of goods or services, generally classified into four major groups:

Land (including all natural resources),
Labor (including all human resources),
Capital (including all man-made resources), and
Enterprise (which brings all the previous resources together for production).

These factors are classified also as management, machines, materials, and money (this, the 4 Ms), or other such nomenclature. More recently, knowledge has come to be recognized as distinct from labor, and as a factor of production in its own right.

Source: http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/factors-of-production.html

The nobility controlled all the land, the capital and determined the enterprise.  They controlled trade routes crossing their land or ports. The only thing technically not controlled by the nobility was labor.  However, in a practical sense, the nobility also controlled the labor, because an individual peasant could not provide for his own livelihood without land or work.  Since the peasant could easily be replaced, he was in a position of having to work for the lords, or leave.

Today, the factors of production are the same, but they have a different flavor.  In place of kings, we have large corporations.  In place of the nobles and knights, we have the companies that are part of the large corporations supply chain.  In place of the peasants, we have the workers.  And, in the place of the pope, we now have a president who appears to be prepared to bestow rights and assets to corporations or withhold them at his whim.

Corporations largely control the factors of production today.  They own the rights to much of the land (i.e. corporate farms, mining, drilling, etc.)  They are pressuring congress to give them the rights to critical infrastructure that the taxpayers have built and the people own.  They have convinced the Supreme Court to grant them rights of persons when it is to their advantage, but not the obligations of persons.  They are rapidly rounding up the resources and means of distribution.  They do not yet control labor, but they are reaching a point where their control of jobs means that labor must submit to their rule.

One element of feudalism that allowed it to continue was the control of education.  Knowledge was controlled by the church.  We all know the price Copernicus and Galileo paid for presenting science that was not approved by the church.  We do not know how many other scientists were silenced.  For the most part, only male nobility could learn to read and write or do basic arithmetic, and while there are instances of women and lower class persons doing so, they are the exception. Books were primarily in monasteries and lords’ castles.  Lords would hire a monk or priest to educate their sons. The education provided to the peasants was of a religious nature, and a fearful type to keep them in line.

As with feudal times, those currently in power are trying to disrupt public education.  They would put in its place private and religious schools.  Already we see many recommending watering down education to those things a person needs to ply his or her trade.

The similarity between the feudal system in what we call the Dark Ages and the direction we are heading with the corporate world is startling.  The speed with which we are moving in that direction is breathtaking.  If we continue on our current trajectory, we will be soon entering a corporate Dark Ages.

Eventually feudalism was pretty much broken.  I will discuss the key to breaking corporate feudalism in my next installment, The Antidote to Corporate Feudalism.

The Lie of Supply Side

I graduated from the University of Missouri with a bachelor with honors in Economics in 1975, the year before Tim Kaine enrolled.  I majored in Economics for the same reason Tim Kaine did – Professor John Kuhlman.  Tim sent a letter to Professor Kuhlman that cited why he changed majors.  “You told our small honors section that you took attendance and that you expected us all to be in class every day, absent emergencies,” Kaine wrote. “Your reason for the expectation was unique and memorable: ‘UMC is a state school. Part of the cost of you being here is paid by the taxes from people all around the state, many of whom will never go to college and might not be able to send their kids to college. You owe it to them to be serious about your studies.’ That statement, and the moral sense that it conveyed, made a significant impact on me, as did your later interest in my progress at UMC.”  The moral imperatives taught in Dr. Kuhlman’s class also stuck with me.

One of those imperatives was that we had to watch our leaders.  Their decisions could have a dramatic impact on the success or failure of our nation.  They could make decisions that would have a beneficial on the overall good of the nation, or they could make decisions that would benefit a few for the short haul but cause sharp decline for the entire nation over time.

Dr. Kuhlman’s specialty was antitrust, and he gave me a passion for it as well. His rationale was simple.  Individuals simply cannot stand up to the power of a large corporation.  Neither can small companies.  When any corporation in any industry gets too big, nobody can compete with it, and there is no competition possible in the supply line.  They will simply suck the consumer dry with their pricing, suck the supplier dry with their ability to dictate prices, and prevent any potential competitors from entering the marketplace.  Worse, they are able to prevent innovation that could move us beyond their products.  We see this now, with the Koch brothers.

Among the things I learned while getting my degree were the demand and supply curve and the multiplier effect.  The multiplier effect refers to the increase in final income arising from any new injection of spending. The size of the multiplier depends upon household’s marginal decisions to spend, called the marginal propensity to consume (mpc), or to save, called the marginal propensity to save (mps).  The mpc plus the mps equals one, or the whole after tax income of the consumer.  The multiplier is then calculated using the formula 1/1-mpc. If consumers spend 0.8 and save 0.2 of every dollar of income, the multiplier will be 5.  This means that the money will circulate through the economy enough to generate 5 times as much value as its original. A common example is that when $100,000 is spent on a new road in a community and the wages go to working people with a 0.8 mpc, it generates $500,000 in economic activity in that community.  This is an important concept.  Because, the mps will vary across different segments of society.  Poor people are unable to save 0.2 of every dollar of income, really rich people are unable to spend 0.8 of every dollar.  In a society with a reasonable distribution curve, it would wash out.  But when income is heavily weighted to the top, the result is a restriction of the economy.

It is this principle that makes trickle down economics a sham.  The notion that if the guys at the top get more money, they will spend more and it will work its way down to the little guy flies against all data as well as being contradicted by the math.  There is nothing anywhere in any reality based world that suggests the possibility of trickle down economics working.

Another nonsensical notion is supply side economics.  Supply-side economics is the theory that says the supply of money, labor, and goods or services, creates demand.  In particular, supply-side economics focuses primarily on lowering marginal tax rates to the after-tax rate of return from work and investment, which results in increases in supply. Supply side economics contradicts any models that have ever worked.  There is not a credible business plan out there that suggests that a company would base new hiring on getting a tax cut.  It just doesn’t happen.

Companies base hiring on the idea that the cost of adding one more person to their employ will be less than the added revenue that employee produces.  That added revenue is generated by consumers buying the goods or services offered by the company.  That added revenue is not generated by tax cuts.  It is generated by demand.  Demand is generated by people having money to spend.

So let’s look at what is about to happen.  We already saw, courtesy of the Bush administration, that tax cuts to the wealthy do not generate jobs.  A major reason they do not generate jobs is because they don’t put money in the pockets of those with the highest mpc.  They put money in the pockets of those with the lowest mpc.  In fact, the Bush tax cuts put money in the pockets of financial hoarders.  Now the Trump administration is preparing to take money out of the pockets of people with the highest mpc, the poor and disadvantaged.  These are the people whose mpc approaches 1.  The only economic thing that could result from this action is a tightening of the economy.  As more and more Americans fall into the poverty bracket, there will be less and less ability to buy goods and services.  Elective purchases will be the first to go, and there will be job losses in those sectors, further increasing the numbers in the poverty bracket.  Those currently receiving the most income, more than they can spend, will not increase their numbers.  Meanwhile, even the large corporations, receiving the juiciest tax cuts, will not have people to sell their products to.  They will reduce employment, and the cycle will be complete.  At this point, the large corporations and the wealthy will no longer be able to sell their goods and services, the money that they gained in tax cuts will be more than offset by their losses in sales.

The wealthy and the corporations will still have a stranglehold on the factors of production, thus leading to Corporate Feudalism, which will be the topic of my next rant.

One Reason Why Equality Matters to Me

I would love to share with you what link Jackie Robinson, Satchel Paige, John McLendon, Marlin Driscoll, and my dad share.  It is a fun story that I think you,  would love and I have not been able to share with anybody.

John McLendon John McLendon

My Dad was born in a very small hut in a very small town in Adamsville, Tennessee.  The hut where he was born was located at what is now home plate in their baseball field. His mother died in childbirth, unattended.  Not only did he never have a birth certificate, noone, including himself, ever really knew what year he was born.  We guessed.  (Coming up may be some words that I know are offensive.  I hope you will forgive that, as it was part of the era – he was born in either 1917, 1918 or 1919 so the world saw things differently.)  Since his father was the town drunk who never quite forgave my dad for “killing his mother,” he was shuffled from aunt to aunt.  He worked in the fields with the black kids, hoeing cotton and tobacco.  When the hoeing was done, they would together go slip under the fence to watch the Negro leagues baseball games.  He fell in love with baseball.  He also fell in love with basketball and would practice shooting and dribbling until the sun went down.

When he graduated from high school – he was young to graduate even with the uncertainty of his birth – he tried to get a baseball scholarship.  Eventually he got one at Milligin College in Tennessee.  He had athletic scholarships, an orphan’s scholarship and cleaned the gym to pay for his education.  He played on the varsity tennis team, baseball team and basketball team.  He graduated with a degree in English.

Here is where it gets murky for me – Dad didn’t talk about his past much.  At one time, the St. Louis Cardinals drafted him.  He played second base in their farm team in Johnson City in Tennessee.  Somehow he wound up in Raleigh-Durham playing baseball and basketball and coaching women’s basketball (yes, they had that in the south then).  Recall, John McLendon was coaching in Durham at that time.  Hold that thought.  (It was also in this time that Sam Snead taught him to play golf.)

When the war came, since he had a college degree, when he enlisted in the Navy, he was made an officer.  Eventually he wound up a captain in the Navy, but I am not sure what he went in as.  They made him morale officer at Pearl Harbor.  His ship just missed being there when Pearl Harbor was bombed – Dad said Sam Snead was late for the ship.  Not sure if that was true or tongue in cheek.  His job was to recruit entertainment for sailors coming to Pearl to heal.  It included sports teams, entertainers, etc.  At various times, his baseball teams had names like Stan Musial (who he had met in the St. Louis system), Pee Wee Reese, Johnny Majors, Bob Lemmon (who dad converted from shortstop to pitcher because Bob couldn’t throw straight), Dom and Vince DiMaggio (Joe went with Army), Phil Rizzuto, Leo Durocher, Bob Feller, and many more.

This next part I am not sure of.  I sat one day as a kid with Satchell Paige.  Satchell had come to Denver (during the minor league days) to do some sort of pregame demonstration and since Dad was doing color in the announcer’s booth, Dad left me with Satch.  (A lot of the grown ups sitting around us did NOT approve.)  As anybody knows, Satchell could spin a yarn, but I don’t know how he could invent this out of thin air …

At some point while at Pearl Harbor, according to Satchell, Dad decided he wanted to recruit some of the players he had watched from the Negro leagues.  Dad (this I know is true) had always believed the black players were at least as good as the white players.  So anyway, Satchell and Dad agreed that Dad would start getting his players mentally ready to accept playing with “coloreds” while Dad tried to get the ok from his superiors.  Finally, Dad’s superiors threatened his commission and he dropped it.  But a thought had been planted …

Several years later, Jackie Robinson was selected to break the color barrier.  Branch Rickey was the President and GM who hired Robinson.  But on the team were Johnny Majors (I think he was General Manager), Pee Wee Reese (Team Captain) and Leo Durocher (I think he was coach?).  Satchell wondered if maybe Dad’s preaching in Pearl had something to do with getting Jackie accepted by the team.  We will never know.

The rest of this is not from Satchell.

After the war, Dad moved to Denver.  He got a masters in business at Colorado College and became an English professor, baseball and basketball coach at Regis Jesuit College (even though he was a Methodist).  He became a celebrity in Denver because his basketball teams were very successful.  They used a totally different style of play – and if you studied it you would see shades of John McLendon.  Over time, he became active in bringing sports to Denver.

First, there were the Denver Broncos.  Dad secured the financing so the team could be brought to Denver (Dad was a banker with Central Bank).  He led the drive to build Mile High Stadium that would keep the Broncos in Denver.  And he pushed Denver to bring in Marlin Briscoe as quarterback.  Marlin Briscoe was the first black quarterback in professional football.

Then there were the Denver Rockets (now the Denver Nuggets).  Dad was part of the original ownership group. While he was still an owner, he convinced them to hire John McLendon as their coach.  John was the first black coach in professional basketball.  However, he lost almost all of his investment when the partnership sold.

Many years later, he co-chaired the Colorado Baseball commission.  He started working on getting baseball to Denver in the early 70s, and I can remember him talking about some choice meetings he had with Peter Ueberroth as they argued over whether Colorado could support a professional baseball team.  Anyway, they finally got baseball in 1993.  And, of course, the first home run hit at home for the National Baseball League team was hit by Eric Young, again, a black man. So, Denver had our first black quarterback, our first black professional basketball coach and nominated our first black president.  That just tickled the heck out of me and I really wanted to tell KO that.  (When my dad died three years ago, only the family was at the funeral.  The rest of Denver had forgotten him.)

I don’t know how to verify parts of this story, but I do know the rest. This battle for equality has not been waged by black people alone, but by people who knew that skin color has no more relevance to a person’s character, capability or intelligence than hair color.

Words

For words to do what they do best
They cannot state the unexpressed
If language gives the deepest thought
Its greatest part remains untaught
If dreams are spoken, not implied
You can be sure the speaker lied
Or he has been some gift denied
For every human heart is wrought
Through finding what no other sought

© Julia Varnell-Sarjeant 2011

I heard the Robins Wake the Dawn – The Villanelle

As day was coming, dousing dark with grays
And sun rose, nagging night to move along
I heard the robins wake the dawn with praise

The new beginning swept the yesterdays
Into the black abyss where nights belong
As day was coming, dousing dark with grays

The falcons wove in intricate ballets
Beating time to mourning doves’ new song
I heard the robins wake the dawn with praise

The minstrel paused, musing on his lays
Taking pleasure in the growing dawn
As day was coming, dousing dark with grays

High in the weeping birch the homestead sways
As beak to beak the mothers feed their young
I heard the robins wake the day with praise

And thus the mornings pass into the days
Extinguishing the night lights one by one
As day was coming, dousing dark with grays
I heard the robins wake the dawn with praise.

The Lady Dances To the Violin

 

“O wad some powr the giftie gie us” … Robert Burns

The lady dances to the violin
She strives to win her gallant paramour
While lightly, lightly bobs her double chin.

Her slippers tripping, marking each refrain
Gently placed, in order, on the floor:
The lady dances to the violin.

She smiles, she laughs, she then pouts on a whim
Her pink chiffon hints of a coups d’amour
While lightly, lightly bobs her double chin.

She swears that they must try that pas again
The dandy hurries to the players, for
His lady dances to the violin.

The hours pass, her corsets start to strain,
She smiles, denying that her feet are sore
While lightly, lightly bobs her double chin.

At last, the other dancers form a train
To exit, yet she looks not to the door.
The lady dances to the violin
While lightly, lightly bobs her double chin

© Julia F. Varnell-Sarjeant 2011

I Heard the Robins Wake the Dawn – The Sonnet

I heard the robins wake the dawn with praise
As beak to beak the mothers feed their young
In joy they sing to greet the rising sun
Erasing memories of cold yesterdays
Bright colors paint the shadows and the grays
A warm response to the joyous song
Taking pleasure in the growing dawn
And thus the mornings pass into the days
Such gratitude is something I must learn
For gifts I’m given but have never earned
To care for others whose lives are more stern
For easing of their burdens I must strive
All children, like the robins, need to thrive
They, too, must feel good to be alive.

Not about the babies

It’s not about the babies
Although they are compelling
With their tiny fingers
And curling toes
And soft cooing voices

If it was about the babies
They would care what happened
Once they took that first breath
Or at least past
The doctor’s slap and that first cry

If it was about the babies
It would also be about the children
Hungry or homeless or cold or beaten
Until they couldn’t sit
Because their parents were annoyed

If it was about the babies
It would be about the mothers
Carrying those precious souls,
About keeping mothers well
And safe and fed

If it was about the babies
Someone would ask the unaskable question
Is it really less kind to terminate life in the womb
Than to make a child grow up
Unwanted?

© Julia Varnell-Sarjeant 2011

 

Our House

They tore down our yellow frame house today
The bulldozers and wreckers came
And ground their tires where we wanted lilacs.
We never lived there.
As we sat, side by side,
We watched the walls shatter and reveal
The anatomy of the shelter
We had planned to share
The bedroom – we placed it right
But it was blue, not green.
A steel bared the kitchen
Just as we had imagined.  Another blow
And that dream crumpled.
Finally the living room
Just as the we of us went:
The house collapsed.
We gazed at the heap
And watched the old foundation falter, sigh, then fold.
We parted.
They put asphalt where the house had been.
In place of love we put a cool hello
If we spoke at all.

© Julia F. Varnell-Sarjeant 2011

Mother Earth

Ah, mother Earth I see you in your youth so like me
Passion burning, hot, now spewing as ash
Spraying skyward, landing randomly,
Now slowly flowing as lava burning forests
Baking rock, shaking and trembling, now quaking
Creating, forming, thrusting, squeezing
The ranges, the valleys, formed in untouched desire

Now as mid-age mothers
Dependable, strong, quiet snow-capped peaks
Chortling brooks, waves kissing the beach as children
Wise whispering breezes over gentle prairie
Serene to all who look and I wonder
Whether you, like me, in your core
Still seethe?

© Julia Varnell-Sarjeant 2011

I’m Writing Again Farewell

I’m writing again farewell.
I’ve written it before, each word
Burning like your cigarette in the tray
The hours we sat; the syllables tinkle
As ice in a glass as it melts
And is swallowed
Into dark nights leaning on the rail,
Staring at the water slipping under the bridge.
The commas breathe, as our gasping for air
When the musicians paused and we twirled
To a stop, a goodnight kiss, a wave, and a
Closed door.

© Julia Varnell-Sarjeant 2011

Poems From the Left – How Writers Change

I used to write a lot of poetry.  In my senior year of college, I wrote a poem every night.  At one time, I had over a thousand poems.  Most have found their way into a landfill through various episodes of spring cleaning.  It was my dream to become a poet.  But the year I graduated, my number one audience, my grandmother, died.  With no audience, there was no reason to write.  Life intervened, stuff happened and the poetry went by the wayside.  I did a few poems over the years, but you could count them on one hand.  People say you should not write for an audience but for yourself, but that is not how it works for me.  Poetry is meant to communicate, and when no  one is listening, it is hard for me to write.  When I saw the poetry here on Kos, I decided to pick up writing again.  Then ulookarmless and Asterkitty said they wanted to start a poetry community.  You have no idea how excited I was.  They are both inspiring, and the idea got my creative juices started.

The poems below are a progression of my poetry, as well as a bit of insight on how I come up with the poems.   The first poem was written about thirty seven years ago, the second was about ten years ago.  The third was originally written about thirty seven years ago but I refactored it last November.  Finally, the last one was written about two weeks ago.  You can see how I have changed or not changed over the years.

I begin with a poem I wrote once about words.

Words
For words to do what they do best
They cannot state the unexpressed
If language gives the deepest thought
Its greatest part remains untaught
If dreams are spoken, not implied
You can be sure the speaker lied
Or he has been some gift denied
For every human heart is wrought
Through finding what no other sought

© Julia Varnell-Sarjeant 2011

Because of the aforesaid difficulty in conveying whole concepts in words, I often look for something everybody can relate to and compare with that.  Below is a simile (uses like or as) that compares me to the earth as it was forming:

Mother Earth
Ah, mother Earth I see you in your youth so like me
Passion burning, hot, now spewing as ash
Spraying skyward, landing randomly,
Now slowly flowing as lava burning forests
Baking rock, shaking and trembling, now quaking
Creating, forming, thrusting, squeezing
The ranges, the valleys, formed in untouched desire

Now as mid-age mothers
Dependable, strong, quiet snow-capped peaks
Chortling brooks, waves kissing the beach as children
Wise whispering breezes over gentle prairie
Serene to all who look and I wonder
Whether you, like me, in your core
Still seethe?

© Julia Varnell-Sarjeant 2011

Sometimes I use what everybody can relate to and try to blend the two so you can’t tell where one stops and the other begins.  I don’t use a comparison but personify the relationship, as in a metaphor.  Below is a poem I have previously diaried about battered women as merged with a violent storm:

I saw the sun come up this morning
I saw the sun come up this morning
And found myself wishing
That things were simple and easy so
Like they used to be
I watched the early light tint the clouds
As litter scattered across the skies
Leaves wrenched from branches thrown randomly on the lawn
Papers, a broken glass hurled around my room
I still felt the storm of last night
The house shaking in the wind’s fury
And in the rage in your voice
The slapping of rain on the window
And your hand against my face
The branch from the spruce beat the roof
While your fists beat my shoulders and arms
And an unknown object hit the outside wall
As I hit the dresser and fell
The thunder did not quite drown out
The slamming of your car door or the tires raking the gravel
As you drove away
I watched the fire-orange-that –hurt-my-eyes slip the skyline
Illuminating the red blotches on my face as reminders of your anger
And Jesus knew I ached and throbbed with all your hurts and empty cups, and missed (oh, god) I missed what used to be
And then the all over blue washed the sky
Saying, hoity-toity like, it always goes this way and drops of water
Don’t care if it’s streets or cheeks they spatter

© Julia Varnell-Sarjeant 2010

Sometimes I take a vision or dream and try to describe it.  I did that in the poem I wrote to the blessed mother.  It is too long to include this week, so this poem will be presented another week.

Sometimes, I just rant, as here:

Not about the babies
It’s not about the babies
Although they are compelling
With their tiny fingers
And curling toes
And soft cooing voices

If it was about the babies
They would care what happened
Once they took that first breath
Or at least past
The doctor’s slap and that first cry

If it was about the babies
It would also be about the children
Hungry or homeless or cold or beaten
Until they couldn’t sit
Because their parents were annoyed

If it was about the babies
It would be about the mothers
Carrying those precious souls,
About keeping mothers well
And safe and fed

If it was about the babies
Someone would ask the unaskable question
Is it really less kind to terminate life in the womb
Than to make a child grow up
Unwanted?

© Julia Varnell-Sarjeant 2011

Whatever vehicle you use to write your poem, what is important is to make what you are seeing or feeling available to the reader.  Rather than telling the reader how to feel, you tell him/her what is, and let him/her (I hate this correctness stuff) decide how to feel.  In other posts, I discuss use of form to help tell the story, the advantages of form and the disadvantages, and various forms.

Writing Poetry: The Epigram

How many of you have written an epigram?  Probably most of you.  Maybe you didn’t realize that is what you were writing.

Many years ago, when I was in college (just after the stone age and well into the stoned age), I took a course in poetry.  My excellent professor, Dr. Drummond,  informed us that there were two ways to teach poetry:  first, to start students out with just writing so they would get comfortable with the doing of poetry and work to define their voices from that, and second, to start students out with the discipline of form and gradually loosen as their voices became better defined.  He preferred the latter approach.  He believed in discipline as a foundation for good art.

Our first assignment was the shortest form of poetry (perhaps next to the Haiku, which has already been covered), the epigram.  There are several definitions of the epigram out there, from any witty, ingenious, or pointed saying tersely expressed to a short, often satirical poem dealing concisely with a single subject and usually ending with a witty or ingenious turn of thought definitions here.  Some define it as “A statement, or any brief saying in prose or poetry, in which there is an apparent contradiction. A very short, satirical and witty poem usually written as a brief couplet or quatrain.” link.  I use the first definition, a short poem with punch or irony to it.  To me, an epigram is like a leather glove to the face.  Some examples of epigrams include (from here):

Discontent is the first necessity of progress.—Thomas Alva Edison

Men seldom make passes
At girls who wear glasses.
—Dorothy Parker

If you can’t be a good example,
then you’ll just have to be a horrible warning.—Catherine the Great

There is no glory in outstripping donkeys.—Marcus Valerius Martial

As blushing may make a whore seem virtuous,
so modesty may make a fool seem sensible.—Jonathan Swift

Questions are never indiscreet, answers sometimes are. —Oscar Wilde

Epigrams are not always harsh, they can be tender:

The births of all things are weak and tender,
therefore we should have our eyes intent on beginnings.
—Michel de Montaigne

Or wise

The births of all things are weak and tender,
therefore we should have our eyes intent on beginnings.
—Michel de Montaigne

Some are puns.  Some take known phrases and twist them.

Epigrams today can be found on bumper stickers, advertisements and grave stones.  Whatever they are, they look easy but require much discipline.  This is how you write an epigram:

1)  Put the idea down on paper (or on CRT)
2)  Apply a tourniquet

So how do you apply a tourniquet?  (I do this with all my writing.  Perhaps it is because my professor started with the epigram, but it seems to work.)
1)  Find and replace all the weak words.   Weak words are auxilliary words, passive voice (unless the point of the poem is to be passive), adjectives, adverbs, etc.  Never use a noun and an adjective when a more colorful noun can work alone.  Same with verb and adverb.  I try to eschew both adverbs and adjectives unless forced to use them.  To me they are second class words.  I also write in present active voice whenever possible.
2)  Find and replace unnecessarily complicated words.  My pet peeve is “utilize.”  I find that in almost any situation where utilize shows up, use would have worked just as well, without the pomp.  Another word I hate is “provide,”  unless I am talking about food on the table or clothes on the back.  It is a word that has been so overused it no longer has a firm meaning.  There is almost always a more concise word.  See what words you can replace with simple, precise words.
3)  Remove any word or even syllable that is not absolutely required.  In multisyllabic words, see if there is a word that serves with fewer syllables.
4)  Listen to the mood your words create.  If a word does not create the mood by its very sound, replace it with one that does.  Sibilants suggest wind, snakes, whispering.  Short a’s suggest flatness.  P’s and t’s pop, k’s smack. Long e’s make you smile or grimace.  And so on.  The sound of the words goes a long way to create the picture.
5.  Listen to the rhythm.  Rearrange the words or lines to evoke the cadence you seek.
6.  Put it away and return a few days later.  Something will stand out to you when you are not in the throes of writing.

Here are a few of my own epigrams:

Dilemma
I do not tell you our love is gone
Not because I’m afraid it will hurt you
But because I’m afraid it will not.

© Julia Varnell-Sarjeant 2011

Invocation
To my kinsman the mallard
Because it is our lot to choose
Between being the game and the prey

© Julia Varnell-Sarjeant 2011

New Beatitude
Blessed are the rebellious spirits
For they shall be agents of change

© Julia Varnell-Sarjeant 2011


It’s a Lie That Unions Cost us Jobs

Today the feather I pull out of the featherbed is the meme that unions are the reason for our deficits and loss of jobs.

The conservatives claim that costs resulting from unions and their activities is the reason our country is in such an economic mess and the only way out is to break the unions.  So, I pull this feather out of the featherbed of lies.

The governor of Wisconsin has issued an ultimatum:  Break the unions or lose 6000 jobs.  He claims that the deficit is so bad because of unions, and that unless the unions cave, public jobs will be on the chopping block.  The claim is that if we no longer have to give in to union demands, all will be well with the world and the jobs will come back.  He says their budget woes are the fault of unions.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  As was diaried earlier, the reason for the deficit was tax cuts for the rich and for large corporations. Now they want to make those gifts they gave to the well heeled and well connected be paid for by the hard working public service employees.  “It is the unions’ fault that we are in financial trouble.”  Let us examine this.

First – if corporations and wealthy persons paid the same share of their profits that the public sector and middle class pays, there would be a surplus.  Without the recently passed tax cuts there would be a surplus.  The argument made by Governor Walker is the same as an argument made by a person who gives a lovely present to a wealthy associate to impress the associate, then tells his children they have to go hungry because there is no money.  Would the spouse put up with that?  Of course not!  So why should public service employees accept that?  Why should the citizens?  The fact is, their government was well funded before the corporate christmas present.  It is a remarkable piece of chutzpah that they would give away the surplus and then accuse the unions for causing their problems.

Let us look at what unions do for us.  Does anybody get paid vacation?  That was the result of unions bargaining on behalf of their workers, then those benefits extending to non-union members.  Health care?  Same thing.  Pensions?  Ditto.    What about a safe workplace?  Unions.  Workman’s comp?  Result of union work.  Reasonable hours?  Same.  NONE of those things would be on the American plate without the benefit of unionization and the protection of those unions on behalf of everyday workers.  Are we prepared to give these things up in order to give goodies to corporations?  I hope not!

Did exorbitant union contracts cause the financial mess?  I am not convinced.  I do know that even with these contracts, nobody lost jobs until Congress started giving tax incentives to corporations to hire overseas workers.  It was a misguided attempt to give third world nations a seat at the table at the expense of the American worker.  It was also a money grab by multinational corporations who paid for our congresspersons’ expensive election cycles.  Did these union contracts include the derivatives and other silly financial instruments that collapsed under our past president?  Not at all.  That last was the major culprit in our financial mess, not the unions.

So the accusation is that unions protect the lazy and at high expense.  Of course, anybody who lost a promotion because of seniority or experience will blame the union.  It is normal human nature for everybody to believe he or she is performing better than the next person.  But in fact, my experience observing a union shop indicates otherwise.  Further, many of the union rules people chafe about were imposed by management during the bargaining process, and the unions accepted them in order to promote the good things we all look for and have come to expect.

Are most union members lazy?  Not in my experience.  And I have seen unions choose not to support a member who did not perform.  Face it – workers, who are union members, do not relish picking up for lazy coworkers.  If called in for a review, these coworkers will speak out about the person in question when the person deserves to be chastized.  Unions keep their workers in line better than management does.  Is there sometimes favoritism?  Sure, unions are made up of people.  But there is, in my observation, more favoritism when there is no union to watch out for it.

Do unions keep wages and benefits artificially high?  It depends on what you mean by artificially high.  Sure, they keep them higher than management would like.  But management would like them artificially low.  Unions make management justify cuts.  When the corporation is raking in huge profits, it is only fair that those profits be shared with the workers.  When profits drop, unions tend to understand market conditions and negotiate accordingly.

Here’s the deal:  an individual cannot stand up against a corporation or large company alone.  It is one person against a huge and impersonal thing.  For all the Supreme Court’s declarations, corporations are not people.  They don’t know the people who they employ.  It isn’t Joe negotiating with Bob, his boss.  The corporation doesn’t see Joe as a person.  It sees Joe as a piece of machinery.  As Seth Godin says in Linchpin,

You weren’t born to be a cog in the giant industrial machine.  You were trained to become a cog…What factory workers want is compliant, low-paid, replaceable cogs to run their efficient machines.

That is the problem.  The corporation sees people as replaceable cogs.  Unions at least give a voice to these “cogs” by telling management that these are people who are not to be used up blindly and thrown away.  Left to themselves, management uses the cheapest people possible in the cheapest environment possible and wants no responsibility for them on or off the job.  If they are sick, management wants to ignore their sickness and if they can’t come to the job they don’t get paid.  If the equipment is not safe, management wants them to go home and not get paid if they get hurt.  When someone is all used up and ready to retire, management wants them to go away and figure out how to live the rest of their days.  Management does not want to have to pay to let them get a breather, either for ten minutes on a shift (which they would rather was more than eight hours), or for two weeks in a year.  Unions are the only way a person can get the human needs met.  Left to themselves, management cares more about the good working order of their machinery than of the good working order of their workers.  It is only because of unions that humans get “maintained.”

So would the work force be better off without unions?  Certainly not.  Would the nation be financially better off if they did not have to concede to unions?  Perhaps, in the very short run (and I don’t even believe the perhaps).  But in the long run, not only would quality of life decline for the workers, but for everybody.  Quality of our goods and services would be trashed because of an overworked, undercompensated and demoralized work force.  It is already happening as unions are weakened.

What is happening in Wisconsin is vital.  What will be happening in Ohio will be vital.  In 20 years, all the gains for the everyday American way of life – antitrust laws, employment laws, tax equity – have been eaten up by the ugly Reaganomics.  If we allow the final dismantling of unions, the lifestyle of the average worker will return to the way it was pre-1900.

Unions don’t cost jobs.  Tax incentives to send jobs where there are no worker protections cost jobs.  Encouraging corporations to move the work costs jobs.  The only reason the other countries have such cheap labor is because the people there have no other choices.  They have no laws to ensure their children are not tied to benches making tiny stitches all day without even bathroom privileges or water nearby.  They have no laws that the wages paid are enough to buy the food they need while on the job.  They have no laws to ensure workers do not risk their health or lives on the job.  Is our ability to buy cheap goods worth the ruin of people’s health and safety?

Unions are our last bastion against a corporatocracy where the only rights are held by meganationals and the only wealth is held by a few.  Those who today are railing against unions are, in their ignorance, ensuring that the benefits they now take for granted become history.  They sleep comfortably now thinking that taking those benefits from unionized workers will not be taken from them.  However, they will be taken.  They are already being taken.  They will find themselves in a nightmare as this featherbed becomes lumpy.

Bad Circumstance, Bad Choices, Bad People

Today the feather I pull out of the featherbed is the meme that people who are suffering suffer as the result of bad decisions, and that bad decisions are the result of being bad people. The conservatives claim that people who live in difficult circumstances made bad choices. They insist that bad choices should have consequence, because people who make bad choices are bad people.  Here I pull this feather out of the featherbed of lies.
So what about that conservatives’ claim that people who are in bad circumstances have made bad choices, for which they are experiencing consequence? This claim is made by self improvement experts in almost every self help seminar they conduct. If you are living in bad circumstances it is the result of making bad choices. As the conversation continues, it is claimed that bad choices are made by bad people and to improve your lot you have to become a good person. You can’t take control until you admit you are at fault. While I do agree that if you are always blaming external forces you can never be in control of your life, I do not agree that all bad events are your own fault. I would like to investigate these self-help claims and see if they are justifiable or if they are simply excuses used to let people ignore those in need and still sleep well at night.

First I look at children. I consider homeless children, abused children, children in poverty and children of the incarcerated. Conservatives use the words in Deuteronomy to justify the suffering of these children as God’s wrath on their parents:

Deuteronomy 5:9-10 (King James Version)
9Thou shalt not bow down thyself unto them, nor serve them: for I the LORD thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me,
10And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me and keep my commandments.

In fact, this was contradicted in several other passages, to wit,
Deuteronomy 24:16 (New International Version)
Fathers shall not be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their fathers; each is to die for his own sin.
Ezekiel 18:20 (New International Version)
The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.

Ezekiel 18:4 (New International Version)
For every living soul belongs to me, the father as well as the son-both alike belong to me. The soul who sins is the one who will die.

John 9:1-3 (New International Version)
As he went along, he saw a man blind from birth. His disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?”
“Neither this man nor his parents sinned,” said Jesus, “but this happened so that the work of God might be displayed in his life.

In fact, in the last one, the idea that the bad circumstances were the result of bad acting, the New Testament says it is not the fault of any. Jesus himself says, “The rain falls on the just and unjust alike.”  There is no basis for insinuating that people who are suffering are being punished for wrongdoing. Ignoring the suffering is not excused the passage in Deuteronomy. It is simply a way conservatives justify turning their heads against those in need.
But is it true that bad circumstances for adults are always the result of bad choices? This is something I had to come to grips with. I used to be a strong conservative, largely because I believed in personal responsibility. But does it actually follow that suffering is actually the result of bad choices? According to Conservatives, those who endure bankruptcy because of illness made the bad choice of not getting insured, or not living clean. Victims of Katrina should not have been living in a sin-locked city (they got what they got just as the inhabitants of Sodom and Gomorrah got what they deserved for living there and tolerating the sin. We all know how they blame rape victims to the extent of making those victims live with whatever the consequences of the rape. Beyond that, what about migrant workers who live in poverty moving from field to field? What bad choices did they make? What about the poor in Appalachia? What about the projects in New York? What did they do to be so poor? Was it just a bad choice in parents they were born to? What about those born disabled, or who became disabled over the years? I had to ask myself what bad choices they made. I had no answers.

Of course, much suffering is the result of bad choices. Surely, many people who got foreclosed on made a bad choice in the home they purchased, or even purchasing a home at all. Does this make those people bad people? What about the people they trusted for advice about their ability to buy those homes? Why aren’t they bad people? Most of those trusted advisors – the realtor, the mortgage broker, the lender – did not suffer any consequence and in fact made a nice profit, therefore they must be good people (remember, bad people suffer consequences). Conservatives will argue that regardless of bad advice from those entrusted to know the territory, the borrower should have known better. I don’t know why.

You could also argue that the people who go bankrupt because of health issues should have had insurance. But what about the people who couldn’t afford it? What about the people who were denied coverage? What about the ones who had insurance but the insurance wouldn’t pay up? What were their options? What are they being punished for – not enriching the insurance companies enough?

I agree that many people made bad choices about the use of credit, and I agree that they need to bite the bullet and pay it off. But I wonder why there is no shame heaped on those who encouraged reckless spending. I wonder why there is no shame for the reckless issuers of credit. They say they were just doing their jobs. In the Nuremberg trials the people being prosecuted claimed they were just doing their jobs too. Why is that a not defense in war crimes but it is in credit?

In all these circumstances, there is consequence. I am a firm believer in consequence. I believe the expectation of consequence is a deterrent to intentional stupidity. However, I do believe that the consequence should match the bad behavior. Many of my conservative friends were raised with spankings bordering on beatings. They believe in harsh punishment as consequence. But my experience, and the experts I have read, suggest that when the consequence is not in kind and proportion to the crime, it is not a deterrent. Children who are beaten do not learn good behavior as much as they learn that if you want someone to behave the way you want them to you beat them into submission. Isn’t that what our conservative associates are doing now? Physically, emotionally and financially beating us into submission?

The question is not only the level of consequence but the duration. People who go bankrupt today will be asked for the rest of their lives on credit applications if they have ever filed for bankruptcy. For the rest of their lives they will be denied credit because of things that have gone wrong today. In many cases, their crime was getting sick, losing a job (not for malfeasance, mind you), getting bad advice or taking a risk (for example, people who started their own businesses and did not make it). They will be punished for the rest of their lives for these “sins.” People who get foreclosed on will be asked for the rest of their lives if they have been foreclosed on ever.

It is worse for people found guilty of a crime. While our penal code may have a limitation for how long these people pay through incarceration, our society has no limitation. Job applications will ask them, for the rest of their lives, if they have ever been convicted of a crime. If you answer yes, you cannot get a job. The punishment lasts the rest of your life. (Lucky those who avoid being caught until the statute of limitations passes – they have no consequence, whereas the ones caught have eternal consequence).

The worst is the people who do not commit a crime, but who make choices that later come back with unfortunate circumstances. Those who believe divorce is a sin would claim that if you are in a miserable marriage, you either made a bad choice in your spouse or you made bad choices through the marriage (and are continuing to do so) especially if you are a woman. The consequence of these bad choices is to spend the rest of your life in a miserable marriage. Or at least the rest of the life of the spouse, whichever comes first. You have committed no crime, but you are a bad person for being in a bad situation. You must pay the consequence.

These same people would make women pay forever for having sex (in marriage or outside it) and wind up with an unplanned pregnancy. Or are raped. For the crime of having a uterus, the consequence is having to give birth to the child and raising it. Those who would force you to give birth feel no responsibility for this child they are forcing into the world. It is the bad choice of the woman to have sex (or have it forced on her), and not wanting to give birth makes her a bad person. There must be consequence.

With so much suffering in this world their God made, the conservatives have to have a way to justify doing nothing about it and still be able to sleep well at night. If all the sufferers in this world are suffering because of their own bad actions and are bad people, it is easy to turn a blind eye and let them deal with their maker. As long as they are helping God dish out consequence, they can sleep well at night.

So I pull out the feather from the featherbed that claims that those who suffer are paying a just price for their bad behavior. That is a lie. Suffering falls to the guilty and innocent alike. The next horrible incident or situation could hit any one of them. If we accept that sufferers deserve to suffer, who will be there to help?

I’m Grabbing a Mop

 I have come to the conclusion that sitting around blogging is not being the change we need to be.  I have seen the pie fights, the trolls, the proliferation of meta diaries.  I have seen those who support the President called “Obamabots,” as if agreeing with this President is proof that we have no brains of our own.  I have watched the spectators throw tomatoes from the grandstand while the team is out trying to move the ball.  I saw the result of all this nonsense in the 2010 elections and now we are suffering the consequences.  Elections have consequences.  2012 is coming and I am grabbing a mop.

Our President has been faced with the worst succession of disasters, turmoil and nastiness that I have seen in my half century here or read about in my history books.  Only Abraham Lincoln has seen more division in the country, only John Adams and Thomas Jefferson have seen such chaos.  The response from American citizens has been to either attack the President or attack each other.  I don’t have time for this.  Our President asked us to grab a mop.  I am grabbing.

I am grabbing a mop because I can’t afford not to.  I am grabbing a mop because my own, my husband’s and my sons’ futures all depend on the success of this President and the failure of the new GOP agenda.  I am grabbing a mop because my younger son will continue to need my company’s health care for a few more years.  My husband and I are nearing retirement age, we will need social security and medicare.  My mother needs both.

I am grabbing a mop because my parents did without niceties and our family growing up did without vacations so my parents could put money away for their old age.  My husband and I did the same.  If this GOP is allowed to hold our country hostage on the debt ceiling, demanding the entire middle class surrender for the debt ceiling to be raised, all that we have put away for a stable future turns to dust.  Everybody’s savings, everybody’s investments will be rendered worthless.  All of our old people who wisely put away for a rainy day will be standing in the rain in soup kitchen lines.  I am grabbing a mop because I think that is a travesty.

I am grabbing a mop because instead of pushing social equality forward by legalizing rights for our LGBT community, this current crop of GOPers is trying to turn back the clock on women.  They are also trying to turn back the clock on workers.  They are trying to make our society into a nonagrarian feudalism, with major corporations as the holders of all the wealth.  I am grabbing a mop because a society is made up of people and people should be valued more highly than companies.  And they should be valued equally.

The mop I grab may not be the mop you may grab.  You may not like how I wield the mop, and you may not agree that the place I choose to clean up is the best place to start.  That is fine.  Grab your own mop.  Grab the mop of your choice and clean up the corner you prefer.  But as the President said, “Don’t go criticizing how I am holding the mop.”  At least I am mopping something somewhere.

Since I will be in the mopping business, I may not have time to show up and chat.  I may wander into WYFP or Brothers and Sisters now and again, but I will have to use most of my time scrubbing those ugly corners where the GOP is trying to leave their smelly little droppings.  Maybe after the 2012 elections I will have more time.  Meanwhile, I am grabbing a mop.

I leave you with these lovely words from Scott McKenzie:

Hey, what’s the difference if we don’t come back?
Who’s gonna miss us in a year or so?
Nobody knows us or the things we’ve been thinking
So what’s the difference if we go?

Meanwhile, I hope my mop can make a difference.

Writing Poetry: The Sonnet


I find sonnets particularly difficult.  Their strict form is quite different from the way I talk.  I usually think in tetrameter, so I have to force myself to do pentameter.  This means I have to add syllables to make it work.  The rhyme scheme is also a challenge.  I found a definition on line, which I paraphrased:

A sonnet is a construct which allows the poet to examine the nature and ramifications of two usually contrasting ideas, emotions, states of mind, beliefs, actions, events, images, etc., by juxtaposing the two against each other, and  resolving or revealing tensions created and operative between them.

Sonnets are usually in iambic pentameter, although there have been a few tetrameter and even hexameter sonnets, as well.  They are often divided into two sections by two different groups of rhyming sounds. The first 8 lines, the octave, rhymes a b b a a b b a or a b a b a b a b.

The remaining 6 lines, the sestet, can have either two or three rhyming sounds, arranged in a variety of ways, most likely c c c d d d or c d c d c d or whatever you choose in ordering the c and d.

The exact pattern of sestet rhymes (unlike the octave pattern) is flexible. The point is that the poem is divided into two sections by the two differing rhyme groups. A change from one rhyme group to another signifies a change in subject matter. This change occurs at the beginning of L9 and is called the volta, or “turn”; the turn is an essential element of the sonnet form, perhaps the essential element.

Below are two sonnets, one is my favorite Shakespeare sonnet, the other is one I found on the internet that I found delightful:

SONNET 94
They that have power to hurt and will do none,
That do not do the thing they most do show,
Who, moving others, are themselves as stone,
Unmoved, cold, and to temptation slow,
They rightly do inherit heaven’s graces
And husband nature’s riches from expense;
They are the lords and owners of their faces,
Others but stewards of their excellence.
The summer’s flower is to the summer sweet,
Though to itself it only live and die,
But if that flower with base infection meet,
The basest weed outbraves his dignity:
For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;
Lilies that fester smell far worse than weeds.
Wm. Shakespeare

Dear Mother, Please Don’t Take Away My Baby

Dear Mother, please don’t take away my baby.
I’m young, alone, my husband is in jail.
But there’s a wonder in what fortune may be
Given us, though time its wisdom veil.
Please help me be a mother much as you are
By being but a mother once removed,
As I become the daughter that I thus far
Have never been, by love and labor proved.
And let me love as you did my own child,
Making the best of what I wrought in pain;
For once fate leaves, one ought to think it smiled,
Rejoicing in what one would rue in vain.
I would not give my child to another;
I need you now, but only as my mother.
Nicholas Gordon http://www.poemsforfree.com/dearmo.html

Below is one I wrote.  The point is that we made the bullets under the rationale that we had to be well armed to protect our freedom.  However, we sold those bullets and now they are being used on people who are seeking the freedoms we were trying to protect:

Bullets made to keep our children free

Bullets made to keep our children free
Now fired randomly into a crowd
Of those who dare to voice their dreams aloud
By gathering and marching peacefully
Daring to oppose the tyranny
Not groveling, finally walking proud
Demanding to do what was not allowed:
Claiming what’s theirs for the world to see
And in the quiet whispers of the night
The gathered dead had not wanted to fight
But needed to claim that which was their right
They died while showing us a peaceful way
That will give all people an equal say
And dawn a new, dictator-free day.

Finally, I originally wrote this poem as a villanelle, but I have reworked it to a sonnet.  I offer it here in both forms as a sort of example that the same thoughts can be conveyed in different forms with very different results.  Here the villanelle:

I heard the Robins Wake the Dawn – The Villanelle

As day was coming, dousing dark with grays
And sun rose, nagging night to move along
I heard the robins wake the dawn with praise

The new beginning swept the yesterdays
Into the black abyss where nights belong
As day was coming, dousing dark with grays

The falcons wove in intricate ballets
Beating time to mourning doves’ new song
I heard the robins wake the dawn with praise

The minstrel paused, musing on his lays
Taking pleasure in the growing dawn
As day was coming, dousing dark with grays

High in the weeping birch the homestead sways
As beak to beak the mothers feed their young
I heard the robins wake the day with praise

And thus the mornings pass into the days
Extinguishing the night lights one by one
As day was coming, dousing dark with grays
I heard the robins wake the dawn with praise.

And now, reworked:

I Heard the Robins Wake the Dawn – The Sonnet

I heard the robins wake the dawn with praise
As beak to beak the mothers feed their young
In joy they sing to greet the rising sun
Erasing memories of cold yesterdays
Bright colors paint the shadows and the grays
A warm response to the joyous song
Taking pleasure in the growing dawn
And thus the mornings pass into the days
Such gratitude is something I must learn
For gifts I’m given but have never earned
To care for others whose lives are more stern
For easing of their burdens I must strive
All children, like the robins, need to thrive
They, too, must feel good to be alive.

The Lives of Homeless Children

I saw a news program (sorry, I can’t remember which one and can’t find the link) that suggested homelessness is up by 60%.  They also indicated that the face of homelessness has changed as well.  Many of the newly homeless are intact families who had been working at jobs that paid the bills.  The homeless population is not comprised of the old male drunks we see in the Salvation Army ads.   The number of homeless children is growing and they need help.  The problem is not going away.  Over the summer, they have nowhere to go.

The following may help understand of the life of a homeless child.

Many years ago, I was working with a program that helped homeless children in grades k-5.  It was a tutoring program.  The school buses would bring the children after school to a designated school where we gave them snacks, provided activities and helped with homework or problems they had in school.  Circumstances changed for me and I wasn’t able to continue, but the circumstances for homeless children have not improved for them.  They have gotten worse.
We had about 100 children in the program.  We could have easily had 500, there were that many eligible for the program.  But the woman who ran the program would not take more than her volunteers could handle.  Further, and she refused public money for this reason, there were a number of children in the age group who were already dangerous to other students and the volunteers, and she could not include them.  It broke her heart but she could not allow her students and volunteers to be put at risk.
As I worked with the students, I got to talk to them.  I also learned a great deal from the woman who ran the program.  It was a major eye-opener for this formerly insulated woman.  I learned:

  • That the shelters close for the day at 7:00 am and do not reopen until 6:00 pm.  That meant that without the program, the children would be on the street from the time school let out (2:30 to 3:00) until the shelter reopened.  Even in extreme rain, snow and heat.  Surrounded by pedaphiles, gangs, criminals, prostitutes and drunks.   They had nothing to do but hang out.  No wonder so many joined gangs and/or became mules for drug dealers.  In the shelter, they didn’t even have a pillow that was their own.
  • That many of the children had to get their mothers (rarely fathers) up, dressed, fed and out the door almost every morning because their mothers were hung over or in a drug stupor or just plain exhausted.  Imagine, kindergartners having to feed and dress their mothers (and younger siblings if they were the oldest).
  • That many of the mothers had had many partners because they would find a man to protect her and her children from the rest of the community.  And when these men found someone else, the woman had to as well.  That these men often beat the mother, but she stayed wso the children would not be raped or attacked.  That is one reason why so many had half siblings from multiple fathers.  When I hear GOPers affirm that women have lots of children so they can collect welfare it makes me want to beat them.  Note also that many of these shelters are run by religious organizations who will not offer access to family planning counseling or contraceptics.
  • That almost all of the children I worked with had been raped, molested and attacked so often they thought it was just part of life.  A good day was a day without a beating.  They were numb to it.
  • That a mother (and her children) could stay 30 days in a shelter and then she had to find somewhere else.  Between shelters, they lived on the street.  Then the mother would find a shelter.  Her 30 day clock started ticking.  It took a couple days to register for the local school.  The child would start classes.  In 28 days, it was time to leave.  The children had learned not to bond with classmates or teachers because they knew they would not be able to stay.  There was no continuity to their education.  Most not only did not speak English fluently, they did not speak their native language fluently because they weren’t around people who did.  So they sat in class, but learning was nearly impossible.  Today I hear an even worse story – when they try to enroll in classes and the testing mandated by No Child Left Behind is happening, principals are in a dilemma – do they allow these children in and their test scores to ruin the school average and risk their school and staff being put on a watch list or worse?  Or do they deny a child a chance to be in school (which at least, even if they are not learning, is a safer place than the street)?

There is no way these children can get an education this way.  I talked to my state senator about it, but he said we can’t help everybody.  He also claimed that homeless children were children of illegals, of drug addicts and drunks.  Many were, but that was not the issue.  These were children.  What he left unsaid was that many are racial minorities – African American, Latino, Indian, Vietnamese, etc.  He was, of course, a Republican who wanted these mothers to snap out of it and be good mothers. (This is part of what made me stop being Republican.)

Since this experience, I have become, according to some, a bleeding heart liberal.  But there are also practical reasons for my concern.  Some of these parents were indeed bad parents – drugs, drinking, treating themselves and their children badly.  Some did not know much better, others had given up.  Today, with the unemployment rate skyrocketing and the high foreclosure rate, the many are families that have fallen through the cracks.  How do you find work and get back on your feet if you have to worry constantly about the safety of your children?  Our Republican corporate servants blame the parents for bad decisions or bad behavior (as if losing a job that causes one to lose a home is either a bad decision or bad behavior on the part of the one losing them).  But regardless of the parents’ problems, it wasn’t the children’s fault.  These children are truly being left behind by an indifferent society.

“Romance” Novels

Today I will risk the daggers and arrows as I pluck out the feather from the featherbed of lies by looking at how this country demeans women in the way they look at romance.

Several years ago, my family faced serious economic problems.  I thought that I could make some reasonable money writing romance novels and get the family through.  Come with me over the fold as I tell you about my excursion into romance novel writing.

 

So I decided to research the writing of romance novels.  I mean, really, how hard could it be to write one?  They all seemed to be from a formula, and once I had that formula down, I should be able to crank them out with sufficient regularity to pay the bills.  So I went out and bought a few random Romance Novels from the local grocery store.  I was right – they are written to a formula that one could easily master and crank them out.  But there was something else about them that prevented me from ever writing one.

Romance writing is good money.  55% of all books sold in 2004 were Romance Novels, and there are 2000 new titles published every year.  It is a half a billion a year industry.  As I read the books, I found that I could almost make a database of names, places, events etc. and have the database write the novel by randomly selecting names from the name category, places from the places category and tailoring events from the event category.  Easy money, right?  Well, except one thing.  I had a serious problem with what passed as romantic events.

At the time, I was volunteering with homeless children and with a battered women’s shelter.  To work at the shelter, we had training about what constituted an abuser.  I noticed that the grand climax of every one of these novels was a situation that would have been prosecuted as domestic violence.  In other words, the most “romantic” part of the novel was abuse.  In one case, he slapped her, she slapped him back, he grabbed her arm and had his way with her.  For some reason halfway through she quit struggling and they had a fantastic night of sex.  Excuse me?  In another, it was alcohol.  The one that bugged me most was one where a woman was being nanny to a widower’s daughter in the outback.  Nobody around for miles.  When she finally got too frustrated for words, she tried to leave on foot.  He somehow found her and LASSOED her!  Then his horse kept her on the ground while he ran over to her and … well, you know the rest.  Whenever she would try to get up and get the rope off and run the horse would jerk her down.  This is not romantic.  This is violence.

Then as I read more, I realized that before these romantic climaxes, the relationships were toxic all around.  He (the main character was always a woman) would flirt with an ex to make her jealous.  She would say ugly things to hurt his feelings.  He would say ugly things to hurt his feelings.  She would be sensitive.  He would be insulting.  She would be vengeful … and on and on.  This is how they discovered their deep love for each other?

Finally, I saw how women were portrayed.  While it seemed that she was strong, she was really weak and helpless.  Needy.  Dependent.  Unworthy of respect.  He was strong.  He seemed cold on the outside but it hid a wall of passion.  Stereotypes from the 50s, and never really true stereotypes at that.

Then I would visit my women at the shelter.  One told me that her husband beat her up for talking with an old schooldays friend who happened to be male.  “He just couldn’t help himself, he gets so jealous,” she said.  Where did I see those words?  In the denouement of almost all of these romance novels.  He would explain his behavior by “I couldn’t help myself.  I love you so much and I got jealous.”  Love?  Love does not wish to harm.  Love does not take advantage of the incapacitated.  Love does not tie someone up and take advantage.  Love trusts the person loved.  Where there is no trust there is no love.

Another woman told me, “I thought if I loved him enough he would change.”  Like they do in romance novels.  But not in real life.  You don’t change other people.  Either they change themselves or they remain the same.

So 55% of all books bought in this country are this genre?  Half a billion dollars worth?  Enough to support 2000 titles a year?  Tell me that our 12 year old girls aren’t reading these and thinking this is what love and romance are all about.  Tell me some don’t fall into the hands of boys wondering what girls are looking for.  Tell me that the HUGE numbers of mothers reading them aren’t at least unconsciously passing these notions on to their children.

Remember what that senator said about rape victims?  That when it is inevitable, she should lie back and enjoy it?  The women in these books not only do that, they participate.  That is the message.  The other message is that it is not rape if it is an acquaintance.  Rape only happens when the man is a stranger and ugly.  Even when a stranger, if he isn’t ugly, she secretly wanted it.  Ken Buck, who ran in Colorado for Senate this year declined to prosecute a case a few years ago.  A young woman had attended a party for football recruits.  She was raped.  The players admitted she had said no.  But Ken insisted it was a case of “buyer’s remorse.”  Not rape.

What bothers me most is that these are novels by women for women.  The biggest readers of these novels are women who are alone and lonely and vulnerable.  Women are pushing these dangerous notions to other women.  They are depicting toxic and dangerous relationships as romantic.  The women who read them are then out looking for this as indicators of love.  By the time they realize that love should not hurt so much, it is too late.  They are in one of those relationships that is hard to get out of alive.

The feather I am pulling out here is the one that says that these novels are light-hearted, romantic fun.  They are not.  They are pushing a dangerous notion of love and romance into our society.  These attitudes have been there for generations, but these novels make it harder to counter, to get the neanderthal ideas about women removed from our society.  The writers of these novels are making a lot of money telling girls that love hurts.  They undermine respect for women.  This is another lump for our featherbed of lies.

Where Is the Gold of Toulouse

In this episode, the feather I am removing from the featherbed of lies deals with the tax cuts for the rich.  Or, rather, how the rich seem to have this notion that the more they amass at the expense of their fellow citizens the more comfortable they will be and that their wealth will prevent their children from ever lacking for anything.  It makes them warm and comfortable to see their vast fortune in comparison to the rest of society.  They see themselves passing down this wealth to their children for generation upon generation.  History shows that this does not happen.  So I ask you … where is the Gold of Toulouse?

 

First, I give you a bit of history.  In Colleen McCollough’s book The First Man in Rome, the story of the Gold of Toulouse is laid out.  From other writers I have read, her book is well-researched, although I do not know all of her sources.  One source may have been this.  At one time, there was a massive storage of gold in the bottom of a lake in Toulouse.  Some say it came from raiding Delphi during the Greek empire, others say it simply came from a very wealthy part of Europe.  But the amount was great.  Rome conquered the area and was bringing the gold home to the Mother state.  En route, Caepio, knowing what the legions were transporting, sent his own troops, who ambushed the legion and made off with the gold.  This gold would have made him incredibly wealthy and his heirs wealthy for all time.  Except that a few generations later, there is no sign of that wealth.  After the fall of Rome, there is no sign of his family remaining and living in great luxury.  Nobody knows what happened to the gold of Toulouse.

This is not the only story of vast fortunes being dissipated in a relatively short time.  Where are the wealthy feudal lords?  Why are the castles of Europe in ruins?  We know what happened to the wealthy nobles in 18th century France.  Why are there no wealthy warlords in China?  What has happened to these vast sums that families had at one time?

About five years ago, I sat next to a Mexican businessman on an airplane trip.  He was telling me how in Mexico (a land where the income gap is extreme), he had to keep his children inside a compound and was constantly worried about them being kidnapped for ransom.  He was afraid that even his own security guards would be cajoled into assisting in such an event.  He was hoping that his company would send him and his family to China for him to work, where his family would be safe.  So … his children could not go to the local school and could not leave the compound without security staff?  This is the joy of being wealthy?  And this was before the news reports we now hear every day about the violence in Mexico.  This is a society that saw a huge income gap and people turned to drug sales and other criminal activities to alleviate their poverty.

I present here my theory.  It is nothing but a theory, and I am no historian.  My theory is this:  the only way you can hang on to wealth is for your society to be stable.  When the gap between the haves and the have nots becomes too great, and when the lower class becomes too badly used, the society gets unstable and the economic security vanishes.  It gets carted off in revolution or the economy fails.  Without a stable economy, the wealth disappears.  Instead of having vast wealth for generations, the wealth is either squandered or carried off.

As a side note, it is interesting to me that those individuals (think Warren Buffet and Bill Gates) who have come about their wealth in an open and honest fashion have been responsible in their acquisition and use of their wealth.  They have not tried to amass more by clandestine means, nor have they oppressed their fellow citizens in its accumulation.  On the contrary, they give it away to worthy causes which they research, and encourage others in their situation to do likewise.  It is the ones who hide behind a corporate veil, themselves not well known to the public, who seem to me to commit the fraud and scurrilous tactics.  It also appears that the ill-gotten gains are the ones that turn out to be most precarious.

So my message to those in the wealthy class who are pushing for these ridiculous tax cuts for the rich – you are placing your own wealth in jeopardy.  By feathering your own nests at the expense of your fellow citizens who are suffering, you risk destabilizing the country that gave you the opportunity to become wealthy.  And for what?  Once you have enough wealth to buy everything you need and put some away, what good does it do you?

Economists are familiar with the law of diminishing returns.  Once you have a certain amount of something, the next unit of that something is of less value to you.  We just had Thanksgiving.  After you finished that big meal, how valuable to you was another piece of pie?  When you walked in to the dinner hungry, that pie was worth a lot to you.  But after the big meal?  It may have actually held negative value to you.  You can only wear one pair of shoes at a time.  When you already have a different pair of shoes for every day of the month, how valuable to you is the next pair?  But if you are barefoot, that first pair of shoes means a great deal.  So to whom is the tax cut more valuable?  To the wealthy person who already has what he needs?  Or to the person who is struggling to feed her children or repair the car he needs to get to work?  Economists have a term for this – Welfare Economics.  It is not the economics of welfare.  It is the economics of the welfare of the country – how do you get the greatest value for every unit of resources. In terms of the welfare of the country, the extra $40 to the middle class family yields a higher return than an extra $4000 to the wealthy.  It makes a greater difference in the life of the person who receives it.  In terms of Welfare Economics, the tax cuts for the middle class have a great return.  The tax cuts for the wealthy have virtually no return.

As the gap between the haves and the have nots in this country grows, so does the discontent.  We see the anger already out there in the streets (although the tea baggers have not yet figured out who the villains are).  It is already beginning to destabilize our economy and our nation.  When a nation is destabilized, it isn’t a question of whether it will fall, it is a question of how.  Will it be by forces from within or forces from without?

When you look at the accumulation and retention of wealth, the rich have a greater stake in ensuring that the tax cuts for the middle class pass and the tax cuts for the rich are defeated.  This is why people like Warren Buffet and the group of millionaires who are calling on our government to tax them more are doing so.  They understand that their own wealth depends on having a country with a healthy and satisfied middle class.

So the feather I am pulling out of the featherbed of lies is that there is something to be gained by the wealthy person who extracts greater wealth at the expense of his fellow citizens.  That is a lie.  In fact, he puts his own wealth in jeopardy.

Who Pays the Freight?

The argument was made to me the other day, on the way in to work, that we need to cut taxes on the rich because the rich pay most of the taxes.  She argued that the rich are paying the freight for all of us.  Now, without going in to the fact that this was stated with no attribution other than our favorite Beck, without crunching the numbers, I hope to dismember her argument here.  To me, her statement is just another piece of fallout from the goose in her featherbed of lies.

 

Even if the rich DO pay more (after their tax loopholes, and I don’t have the number), I doubt they pay more in terms of value received.  Let me use roads as an example.  If you don’t have a car, or use it rarely, your cost per use is either infinite (anything divided by zero is undefined) or it is astronomically high.  People who use the roads a lot are the people who have places to go (not just the fact that they tend to drive further to work, but they take more vacations and have more discretionary driving to their leisure activities.  I submit that the wealthy use the roads more.  After work, they may go out to dinner, to a play, etc.  Weekends they drive to the golf course, the ski slopes, to a weekend getaway.  On a per use basis, they are paying far less for the roads our taxes maintain than those who go to and from work and stay home otherwise.  Of course, those taking public transportation are pay a high price for non use.

Airports are supported by tax dollars.  Need I say more?

Look at law enforcement.  I don’t know the statistics for crimes committed against the wealthy vs crimes committed against the poor.  But when the poor get robbed, the amount of goods taken is by definition low.  You have to have something to steal in order to have something stolen (no kidding).  When a rich person gets robbed, what is taken is bound to have higher value because they have things of higher value.  So the police assistance has greater value.  (to say nothing about the higher level of police patrol in higher rent neighborhoods, etc)  On a per dollar value, the rich get a far better value from the police assistance than the poor even if they pay more for it.  Same with fire.  If a rich person’s home is saved from burning down, a lot more money was saved than a poor person.  The rich person comes out ahead doubly because his insurance will pay more to repair, even after adjusting for difference in premiums.  The same with a car.  The poor person is unlikely to have his car stolen because nobody would want it, and if it was stolen it is not likely to be worth what the rich person’s car is worth.

I would even stretch to say there is a difference in the value of protecting our country.  We are protecting a subpar standard of living for the poor.  If somehow this nation were overrun by bad guys, the jobs the poor do would still be there and they would still do them.  The rich are having their homes protected, their investments protected, their livelihoods protected, their companies protected (and their access to fossil fuels protected).  Those who would suffer most from a bad end to conflict are the wealthy.  Nonetheless, the burden of protecting our country falls on all of us economically and disproportionately in terms of people serving and giving their lives.  On a dollar for dollar value basis, the poor pay much more for their protection than the rich.

Not only are the wealthy not paying their fair share, the burden on them is far lower.  While many will whine about the dollar amount they have to pay, they can never equate their pain with the things the poor have to sacrifice to pay their taxes.  I can recall having to decide whether to feed my children or catch up on taxes.  How many of the wealthy have to make that choice?

For almost every service provided by our tax dollars, the rich pay a disproportionately low amount based on the value they receive.  This is why a regressive tax makes sense – the rich get more bang for their buck.  The argument of unfair taxes against the rich is just another lump in the featherbed of lies.

Exposing Boehner

Remember Major League?  Remember the scene where the woman who bought the team came in and told the team that they had been chosen because they were all losers?  Remember how the coach then made a poster of the owner, where she was dressed all in black and had a dialog balloon that said, “You guys suck?”  Remember how the coach had calculated how many wins it would take to win the pennant (amazing how he was 100% correct) and how after each win a piece of her suit would come off until she was standing there in her altogether?  I decided it was time to expose John Boehner in a similar way, but instead of wins, we remove a part of his attire based on the groups he hates.  Follow me after the fold to expose Boehner.  Warning:  If you are under 18 you need parents permission to continue, and if you are squeamish you have been apprised.

 

I don’t have the graphics skills to actually do the exposure here, and I am not sure I could stand to actually see it.  Therefore you will have to use your imagination.

Behold John Boehner.  His orangeness stands before you (fresh off a visit to the spray tan store) in a navy blue pin striped suit with his hand raised in Heil position. A dialogue bubble above his head says, “Not only NO but HELL NO!”

John Boehner hates the Gays.  We start by removing his left pant leg, revealing that he is afraid that if the gay couple up the street who have been living together for 17 years suddenly got a license, his marriage would collapse, his wife would leave him and his children would be sucked back up through the womb into the great ethers beyond.  They would be able to share the insurance one partner’s workplace offers to families of the employees and there would be none left for John.  They might actually be able to make life and death related decisions should one partner become unable to do that for him or her self.  They might be able to inherit the house they have both been paying on.  Worst, John is afraid he would be forced to marry a man – and it would probably wind up being Mitch McConnell.  What a scary thought!  So, John, off with the left pant leg.  OMG!  That looks peculiarly like Big Bird’s leg!  No wonder you keep your pants on!

John Boehner hates Messicans.  Never mind that many have roots in this country that date back further than Johns.  They don’t look like you or me and they speak with an accent (not Mitch’s accent, theirs is from further south).  They keep having Democrat babies.  This has to stop.  Before you know it, they will demand equal representation and give our country back to Messico.  They must be stopped.  It is not enough to seal the border, they have to be exported en masse.  Except for the one who mows his lawn, the one who watches his children and those who repair his roof.  They have to go home.  Before you know it, they will have more Democrats than his white kids have Republicans and he will lose power.  So John, off with the right pant leg.  Just as I was afraid – it IS big bird’s legs.  Orange and all.  Guess you will have to make adjustments to that spray tan machine.

John Boehner hates Moslems.  He will vehemently deny that Moslems came up with scientific method as well as their contributions to geometry and astronomy.  He will deny that the numbers we use are arabic numerals.  He probably doesn’t know that without Moslems we would not have algebra, or perhaps he hates them because of algebra.  He knows only that most of them live far away and they all are out to get him.  They call their god by a different name.  That should not be allowed.  They need to be arrested and deported.  They cannot build a community center, because community centers always result in votes for Democrats and he will lose power.  For the Moslems, we remove his shoes, remembering what being hit with shoes means to Moslems.

John Boehner hates black people.  He always has.  Doesn’t know why, but he does.  He has “heard things” about black people and they make him squeamish.  They are all on welfare except the rich ones who aren’t.  Actually he would like the rich ones except they don’t give him money.  So they all have to go.  So, John, off with your right sleeve, the one uplifted in your grand NO gesture.  Oh, my!  That arm looks strangely like it came from Grover and was painted orange.  John, you look strangely like an orange Statue of Liberty.

John Boehner hates children.  Some people think we should take perfectly good money away from bankers and financiers and use it to pay for frivolous things like SCHIP and teachers.  Children don’t vote, why should we give them money?  Besides, if we give them money they will all learn to be lazy.  Let them pull themselves up by their bootstraps, and if they have no boots let them find some.  So we remove the left sleeve.  No comment merited.

John Boehner hates veterans.  He sends them to war, and when they come home broken he thinks they should fend for themselves.  He especially hates homeless veterans.  They should have stayed at war and died like heros.  How dare them come home and sleep in streets us taxpayers pay (too little) for!  Money to upgrade VA facilities?  Waste, waste, waste.  That money could be used to balance the Bush-inflated budget.  Never mind that his friend Bush sent them out to war in the first place.  When they come home they should get rich and give him money.  He even hates them in spite of the fact that many vote republican and keep him in power!  They embarrass him, so he hates them.  In honor of veterans we remove his tie.  Oh, my, what a neck there!  John, John, John, where did you find an orange turkey to take that off of?

John Boehner hates the poor.  They also drain our coffers.  He especially hates the new poor because they lost their jobs and expect Congress to do something about it.  Why should he do something about it?  He didn’t lose his job.  As long as his job is secure, he can’t be bothered worrying about people who are losing their cars and their homes because they lost their jobs.  Besides … another job will come along soon enough … maybe.  When in doubt, flip burgers.  But don’t expect money from our treasury.  That is reserved for bankers, financiers and insurance executives.  They give him money.  Lots of money.  The poor don’t give him money.  They just vote.  If you don’t have money you shouldn’t be allowed to vote.  Too many don’t vote for him and he will lose power.  So we remove the right side of his suitcoat.  This is getting ugly folks.

John Boehner hates women.  They should keep in their place.  They should get pregnant and stay pregnant and if they get pregnant and don’t want to be pregnant they should stay pregnant anyway.  That is what god made them for – to be pregnant.  And to cook his dinner.  Equality for women?  Never!  Not on his watch!  Except the ones in the tea party who make him feel manly.  Soccer moms should vote like their husbands tell them to.  Except when their husbands are Democrats.  Too many of these darned women don’t vote for him and he will lose power.  So there goes the left side of his suitcoat!  Geez, John!  With all that tanning you do at least you could have a six pack.  That looks more like a keg.  That belly button looks oddly like a bung.  No wonder you get so upset when you see a picture of a shirtless Barack.

Well that about covers everybody John hates and uncovers almost all of John.  What is left is akin to a loin cloth.  Luckily he still loves the teabaggers, so we can leave him with that loincloth.  I am thankful … I don’t think I could even stand the mental visual if the loincloth had to go.  It looks strangely like an oversized teabag, covering a small and barely effective Boehner.

There you have it, my friends.  John Boehner exposed.

What’s the Difference

I was looking through YouTube when I found this song by Scott McKenzie.  I had not remembered hearing it before, it appears to have been lost in time.  However, all of a sudden, I understood some people I get so frustrated with.

I get frustrated with those on Wall Street who are oblivious to the hurt out in the streets, people losing their homes, the increased use of food banks and how the food banks barely have enough to get by.  I get frustrated with people who place blame on those who have been hurt worst by this recession.  I get frustrated when people with plenty claim they are “self made.”  I get frustrated when people have benefits that go with marriage for themselves and tolerate its absence for others.  I get frustrated with religious and ethnic intolerance, and with that intolerance being okay.

Here is the song:

What’s the Difference – Scott Mackenzie

Hey friend, wake up, can’t you see you are sleeping
How far can you go with unopened eyes
Treating your mind like it was something to play with
You’re sleeping on a featherbed of lies

So what’s the difference if you don’t wake up
You won’t know yourself when you finally do
You’ll look onto some mirror and won’t know what you’re looking at
So what’s the difference if you do

I have shared your journey from the beauty of childhood
To uniforms of flowers that you wear like some disguise
Until you can hear them when soft words are sung to you
You’re sleeping on a featherbed of lies

So what’s the difference if you don’t wake up
You won’t know yourself when you finally do
You’ll look onto some mirror and won’t know what you’re looking at
So what’s the difference if you do

They are sleeping on featherbeds of lies.  They are comfortable and warm and have been lulled to sleep.  They listen to the siren song that they are safe and comfortable.  It is easy to not see pain in this world if you are sleeping.  At some point, some will wake up (I did).  At some point, they may realize that there is suffering and anger out there, and that their world can’t be safe when so many are without.  I am not sure whether it will be in time, or whether it will be the result of the anger boiling over.  As long as they can walk down the street in relative comfort, what will wake them?  And if they do wake up … what’s the difference?  What will they do?

Some will not wake up.  Some will go through life asleep.  The featherbed of lies is soft.  But it is still lies.  Why should they wake up?  They are clean, they are fed, they are housed and they have money in the bank.  And if they do wake up, what can they do?  What’s the difference?

I remember the 60s, when our hopes and ideals were high, and we thought we were going to change the world.  I have seen my peers sell out to the big corporations and the comforts the sellout brought.  After marching to end a war, marching for civil rights, marching for gender equality, we have watched the Reagan administration and both Bush administrations slowly whittle away all we gained.  But we voted for them, we elected them, we supported them (I know the people here may not have, but so many of that generation did).  So in the end, what difference did we make?

After our lovely thanksgiving, where I saw my family warm and healthy and together and housed, I knew there had to be a difference.  I knew I had to make a difference.  We need to go back, to regain the rights we have so readily handed away, to get back the momentum for changes we know we need.  I guess that once again it is time to wake up.  Otherwise, that short span of idealism will have been wasted and the American Dream becomes nothing but a featherbed of lies.

The Rules of Civil Disobedience

Several years ago, I was having a conversation with my son.  Somehow, it got into the subject of Civil Disobedience.  After the conversation was over, I got to thinking about Civil Disobedience more deeply, and I realized I needed to establish for myself and my family a set of rules to govern the right to disapprove of what our government was doing loudly, in a way the government could not ignore.

Rule 1:  To perform effective Civil Disobedience, you have to live an otherwise excellent life.  You must be productive, law-abiding and a basically good citizen.  You cannot let the authorities call you a rabble rouser, a vagrant, a miscreant or anything of that nature.  Your disobedience must be a clear break from your normal behavior.  You also cannot be a person who, when you bring forth a moral cause, has tables turned on you because of your own questionable character.

Rule 2:  You must pick your battles wisely.  You must be sure that the object of your disobedience is contrary to the very fiber of your moral being.  You cannot engage in honorable Civil Disobedience against, for example, a traffic ticket, a silly homeowner’s association rule, or a loaf of moldy bread.  You must feel so strongly about your issue that you are prepared to accept any consequences of your action to make a major statement about it.  This is part of not becoming known as a trouble maker.  It is not effective when your arrest is simply another eye roll to wit, “there he goes again.”

Rule 3:  You must be prepared to take full consequence for your behavior (see rule 2).  You must not allow it to be plea-bargained down, trivialized, or watered down.

Rule 4:  You must be very clear about what it is you are protesting, what you want changed and how you want it to wind up.  During the Viet Nam war, the most effective conscientious objectors actually did time in jail rather than fight in an immoral war.  They did not allow their legal representatives to water down the charges.  They stood firm in what they did, repeated what they did in strong voices and faced the full extent of the law about it.

Rule 5:  You must ensure that word of your actions gets to the world at large.  You must be sure your voice, your own voice, is heard by a wide audience.  You must be very clear, when you are heard, of what you believe and why you believe obeying whatever law you are protesting is immoral and you cannot support it.

Rule 6:  You must have a dog in the fight.  You cannot let the courts find your objections moot because you are not affected by whatever it is you are protesting.  When we had a draft, women could not be considered conscientious objectors because they could not be drafted.  However, they could be objectors when it was a family member who was being sent to war.  (To be sure, women could and did protest, but the official recognition of conscientious objector status was not conferred on women.)  You must decide how it is that you have a dog in the fight and that that dog is precious to you.  When it comes to war, I think it is enough to say that your government is fighting in your name and you condemn the reason for it.  But you must feel it is immoral enough to protest.

After we went over the rules, I told my son that if he ever felt strongly enough to engage in Civil Disobedience, it was not necessarily a right, but it was an obligation.  We, as Americans, are the foundation of our government.  It is up to us to make our government behave morally.  We have been falling down in this.

Now I come to a question that has bothered me all day.  How do we use these rules to engage in Civil Disobedience today?  How do we let our government know that we insist that we only go to war when the cause is acceptable?  That this war is not acceptable?  How do we let our government know that we must have a public option?  That ruining families because they have no access to health care is immoral?  How do we let our government know that considering corporations “individuals” is not moral?

The tea partiers are engaging in their form of Civil Disobedience but it is not having the impact that encourages thoughtful discourse.  I think they are not being effective.  Back in the 60s Civil Disobedience took the form of sit-ins and marches.  While that did cause the establishment to look at the protestors as trouble makers, eventually they won.  Same with Ghandi.  And Martin Luther King.  Effective Civil Disobedience.

I am beginning to wonder if it is time to start thinking about organized civil disobedience … and if so, what form it should take.

I saw the sun come up this morning

Note:  This has not been my experience.  It is the result of conversations I have had with battered women.

I saw the sun come up this morning
And found myself wishing
That things were simple and easy so
Like they used to be

I watched the early light tint the clouds
As litter scattered across the skies
Leaves wrenched from branches thrown randomly on the lawn
Papers, a broken glass hurled around my room

I still felt the storm of last night
The house shaking in the wind’s fury
And in the rage in your voice
The slapping of rain on the window
And your hand against my face
The branch from the spruce beat the roof
While your fists beat my shoulders and arms
And an unknown object hit the outside wall
As I hit the dresser and fell
The thunder did not quite drown out
The slamming of your car door or the tires raking the gravel
As you drove away

I watched the fire-orange-that –hurt-my-eyes slip the skyline
Illuminating the red blotches on my face as reminders of your anger
And Jesus knew I ached and throbbed with all your hurts and empty cups, and missed (oh, god) I missed what used to be

And then the all over blue washed the sky
Saying, hoity-toity like, it always goes this way and drops of water
Don’t care if it’s streets or cheeks they spatter

© Julia F. Varnell-Sarjeant 6/13/2010

We’re too good to live in a pig sty

When I was growing up, my parents were determined to keep a clean home and yard.  I can remember countless times when my parents would come in to the room where we were watching Bonanza or Batman and tell us to go clean up the family room/living room/back yard/front yard.  If somebody had dumped trash on our curb or we were getting fallout from a neighbor’s teepeeing, we had to go clean it up immediately.  We learned early not to say, “I didn’t leave that there” or “I didn’t make that mess.”  When the locust trees began losing their pods, my brothers gave up on the argument that there would just be more of the mess tomorrow.  We knew what our parents would say.  “We are too good to live in a pig sty.”  If there was a mess in property we controlled, we cleaned it up.  I can’t tell you how many times I had to pick up the newspapers or snack leavings from my brothers just because it was there and I was there.

So now we have a planet that is becoming a pig sty.  And all of us are too good to live in a pig sty.  Instead of arguing about who left it there, we are arguing over scientific nuances of global warming and climate change.  There are the arguments over fault.

There is no question that global warming and climate change are a reality.  None in my mind at all.  However, those who can’t accept the science of evolution can’t be expected to believe in the science of climate change.  It is a bridge too far.  We need to change our argument.  We need to make the case that we are too good to live in a world with unbreathable air and undrinkable water.

Moreover, some are so invested in the argument that global warming is not real, we need to give them an out.  I remember when I was a kid, how when my brothers were losing an argument they would begin calling names.  At that point, no solution was possible.  My dad would tell me to give my brother an out so he could save face and still cooperate.  We need to do this now.  Their out is that regardless of what you believe about climate change, the planet is becoming a pig sty.  We need to ask if what is washing up on the beaches in the Gulf is the type of oil you want smeared all over your body for tanning (I guess it would make you darker).  We need to put the need in terms they understand, “God gave us a beautiful planet and look at what is happening to his gift.”

We saw some religious groups begin to speak on the need for conservation and a clean planet a couple years ago.  We need to assist their efforts.  We need to talk about how God dislikes waste.  We need to talk about how wrong it is to destroy that which is beautiful.  If we can’t get science into the thick heads of those who oppose it, we need to use their own belief system to help us.  And I guarantee you, every one of them would agree: we’re too good to live in a pig sty.

On meditation – Passive vs Active

Before I begin, I must stress in the strongest possible terms that I am no more an accomplished meditator than I am a doctor.  If I could do as well as I can talk, I could do much more with my life than I am doing.  I am not a “human complete,” rather, I am a “human becoming.”

I began my study of meditation decades ago when I read Dion Fortune’s book Training and Work of an Initiate.  In that book she explains that there are two types of meditation, which she ascribes as the difference between Eastern and Western cultures.  She says that Eastern cultures try to reach the soul up to the heavens, whereas Western cultures try to bring the heavens to Earth.  As I look at the behaviors of these cultures (in a less blended form than perhaps we have now), I see her point.  Anyway, to accomplish the cultural goals, which are expressed person by person, the Eastern approach is passive, uniting ones self with the “oversoul,” the Western approach is active, pulling the beauty of the ‘oversoul” to enrich the individual.  Subtle difference, but it manifests strongly in the meditative approach.  You can see the stark differences when you look at the Deepak Chopra approach (Eastern) vs Franz Bardon’s approach as discussed in Initiation into Hermetics.

Today I discuss the passive approach, as I find it is easier to get started in that one.  Over time, migrating to the active approach may be useful, especially to activists who want to see change on Earth.

There are several books out about Eastern meditation practices, and although I tend to lean toward Chopra’s books (and his methods are discussed in several of his publications, so I don’t call one out here) because he communicates his information in words and phrases that the Western mind grasps easily.  I summarize his words here with my own thoughts intermingled.

All meditation literature I have found talks about how our minds have a chatterbox constantly yammering in our heads.  The first goal of meditation is to not necessarily silence that chatterbox, but to make it shut up unless it has something worthwhile to say.  Once the chatterbox is controlled, it can be used for great effect in your life.

Find a quiet place where you can be alone.  While the literature suggests that you can do this sitting or lying down, most suggest sitting if only to avoid falling asleep.  I also find that sitting gives a better circuit for the energies to pass through.  I find that this is best done in the morning, with a different exercise (to be discussed later) as I go to sleep.  Wear comfortable clothing, loose fitting, that will not be a distraction or an irritant.  I recommend a notebook where you will write your impressions and observations when your session ends – it is a great learning tool and way to monitor your progress.

To begin, set a timer for 5 minutes.  It is not reasonable to expect your mind to start training at 30 minutes just as it is not reasonable to expect your body to begin workouts by running a marathon.  Sit quietly and watch your thoughts go by.  Do not engage them, just release them like bubbles in a lake.  To aid your mind, you can keep it busy with a meaningless phrase, such as “so-hum,” with so on the intake and hum on the outtake.  You can also watch your breath.

Your chatterbox will start telling you all these things you have to do, all the offenses you experienced the day before, how your mother is coming for Christmas and doggone it the cat is in your potted plants again.  Don’t engage these thoughts, just let them float away.  Over time, you will notice these thoughts coming slower and slower.  Then you find a way to keep yourself in what Chopra calls “the gap.”  This is the space between thoughts.  This is where you have what he calls “pure potentiality,” that is nothing is already created there so it is open to creation.  The goal is to eventually go the entire session in “the gap,” that is, no thoughts bubbling up for the entire session.

Increase the time as you are successful, until you can do 30 minutes.  Once you are able to do that, you can take a specific goal or thought into your session and it will begin to penetrate who you are.  Some use a mantra, such as “Be still and know that I am god,” or “Peace and calm.”  You pick the mantra based on your goals, beliefs and personality.

At night, your thoughts as you drift into sleep are giving instructions to your subconscious.  Therefore you must be careful what those thoughts are.  Your subconscious does not differentiate between what you want and like and what you don’t want and like.  So if you are going to sleep worrying about debt, your subconscious takes that as instruction to increase debt.  If you go to sleep worrying about how you are going to get everything done that you need to do, your subconscious will make your schedule more harried and you less efficient to meet that instruction.  If you go to sleep thinking about how blessed you are, your subconscious will go out and find more ways to add to your blessings (and you will begin to be able to recognize more of the blessings you have – a good practice for peace of mind.)  If you have a goal, visualize that you have attained that goal.  Do not tell your subconscious how to get there, just where you want to be.  Visualize it until it becomes plastic.  Be advised, that as you get more accomplished in this, things begin to change in your life.  I am always amazed at how fast those changes occur, and more than once it was almost too fast for me to grasp.

There is much, much more to passive meditation that meditators more experienced than I am can share.  But this is a good starting point, and just following these steps should result in more peace and control.

The Logic of Words

For a long time, I have wanted to have logic taught as a year-long eighth grade class, in which four quarters would cover the logic of Philosophy, the logic of Mathematics, the logic of Language and critical thinking, but our school superintendent said teachers couldn’t teach that.  I believe that if we ran political speeches through the known fallacies there would be nothing left of the speeches except “Hello, I am XXX and I am running for YYY.”

 

There are three major areas of logic, that is philosophy (where logic originated), mathematics and language.  Since mathematics is a language, I consider it a subset of the logic of language.  Computer logic is a subset of mathematics.  I discuss here several logical fallacies,  in a discussion of the logic of Language.  If, as a society, we used these logical failings as a filter on political speeches and ads (is there much difference?)  we could clear out much chaff from real debate. We can discuss real issues.

Back in the day of our founding fathers, Logic was considered a necessary part of education.  During debates, they did not even address the truth of premises until they had addressed the language of the argument.  If the argument failed, the truth or otherwise of the premises was moot.  I am convinced that our education needs to relook at logic as a foundation of the educated person.

I make one clarifying statement here: Just because a statement is derived from faulty logic does not mean it is untrue.  It means it was not proven by the logic used.

  1. Argumentun ad antiquitatem: Argument to antiquity or tradition.  “We’ve always done it this way” is the one I hear most often at work.  Another example is “If it was good enough for my father and good enough for his father it is good enough for me.”  “My dad never got past eighth grade, his father never got past third grade, I don’t need a high school diploma.”  “This nation was founded on Christian principles” (not true to start with and logical fallacy to boot).
  1.  Argumentum ad hominem: Argument against the man.  When the argument is directed to or at the person, attacking the character or motives of a person who has stated and idea rather than the idea itself. It can also be an attack on the source of information.  Name calling is included in this.  “Justice Sotomayor is a racist.”  This also includes innuendo.  “Barack Obama wants to provide the public option in health care.  He is a socialist!”   It also includes put-downs.  “You turned out pretty well given how much your father used to drink.”
  1.  Argumentum ad ignorantiam:  Argument to ignorance.  Arguing that because something has not been proven true means it is false.  “It has not been proven that this drug hurts people, therefore it does not hurt people.”  “It has not been proven that there is a god therefore there is no god.”  (Can cut both ways, eh?)
  1.  Argument ad logicam: Argument to logic. Claiming that an argument is false because the logic in the proof offered is flawed.  Just because the argument that the fact that we are seeing more hurricanes (which could be because we have satellites that can see hurricanes we couldn’t see before) does not prove global warming does not mean there is no global warning.  (On the other hand, please stop saying that because we see more hurricanes means there is global warming?  It just gives the other side distracting ammunition.)
  1.  Argumentum ad misericordian:  Argument to pity.  Claiming sympathy is a good reason to accept the argument.  How many of us were told to eat everything on our plates because of all the starving children in India?
  1.  Argumentum ad nauseam:  Argument to the point of nausea.  Saying the same thing over and over makes it true.  Saying Barack Obama is not a citizen over and over does not make him stop being a citizen.  Get over it!
  1.  Argumentum ad numerum:  Appeal to numbers.  Four out of five doctors recommend our product over every other similar product.  Just because they recommend it doesn’t mean it is better.
  1.  Argumentum ad populum:  Appeal to popularity.  Similar to ad numerum, the bandwagon argument. It involves the claim that everybody thinks it, everybody does it.  Eighty per cent of the population believes in Angels, therefore there are angels (or whatever per cent it is – I didn’t look it up.)  That doesn’t prove there are angels.
  1.  Argumentum ad verecundiam:  Appeal to authority.  Barbra Streisand or Chuck Norris commenting on foreign policy.  Being a popular actor does not make one an authority on foreign policy.  Or reverse mortgages.  If there is no reason to believe that the person has expertise in an area, it is a fallacy to quote them on the subject.  In our society we often associate lab coats with doctors or scientists.  TV ads often feature people in lab coats to give gravitas to what the actor was saying, implying that that person is a doctor. My grandmother was a doctor.  When I was little I used to wear her lab coat.  Did that make me a doctor?
  1.  Circulus in demonstrando:  Circular reasoning.  The Bible is the word of God because the Bible says so.  See the circle?  It says xyz in the Bible.  So how do you know the Bible is correct?  The Bible says so.  Interestingly, every web site I looked at used this example.  Go figure.
  1.  Complex Question:  Implicit assumtion that somethingis true by the construction of the statement.  Also known as loaded question.  This is the traditional “Have you quit beating your wife?” argument.  “Have you paid up those back taxes?”  assumes there were back taxes to be paid up.
  1.  Post hoc ergo propter hoc:  After which therefore because of which.  I got pregnant after moving to my new house.  All our neighbors got pregnant shortly after they moved in (true story).  It must be the water here that made us pregnant.  This fallacy is the foundation for many superstitions.
  1.  Cum hoc ergo propter hoc:  With this therefore because of this.  “We haven’t been attacked on our soil since we started enhanced interrogations, therefore we are keeping you safe.”  Assumes that because of the enhanced interrogations we have not been attacked.  We might not have been attacked for a lot of reasons.
  1.  Dicto simpliciter: Sweeping generalization.  Expanding limited observations to make very general conclusions.  Often leads to stereotyping.  “I got mugged by a preacher’s kid, therefore all preachers’ kids are muggers.”  “My mother had PMS, therefore all women go crazy once a month.”  “It was Muslims who attacked us on 9/11.  Therefore all Muslims are evil.”
  1.  Appeal to nature:  Just because it is natural means it is good and true.  “Carbon Dioxide is found in nature, therefore it can’t be bad for you.”  We all know where this came from.
  1.  Naturalistic Fallacy:  Assuming ethical correctness based on facts alone.  “The world population is growing.  Therefore it is ethical to have more children.”  “Minorities make up the bulk of the prison population.  Therefore we should jail more minorities.”
  1.  Non Sequitur:  Does not follow.  Stating a conclusion that does not necessarily follow from the argument.  “We do not have public option health care, therefore I need more shoes.”  Well, maybe that does follow.
  1.  Petitio Principii:  Begging the question.  Also known as tautology.  Assuming the premise – including what you are trying to prove in the argument as if it is already proven.  “We must have deregulation to improve productivity”  assumes deregulation improves productivity.  As we have seen, it may not improve real productivity.  Using a definition of an event to describe the cause of an event.  “The drop in GNP is the result of the country being less productive.”
  1.  Red herring:  Introduction of irrelevant facts, misdirection, false emphasis.    “We can’t be letting in all these immigrants to the United States.  Think of all the fighting going on in Congo.”
  1.  Slippery slope:  If we go here, we will eventually wind up there.  “If we let in all these Mexicans, pretty soon we will all be speaking Spanish.”  “If we let gays marry, pretty soon we will have men marrying sheep.”  Not to say what women will marry!
  1.  Straw man:  Creating a caricature and arguing against it.  “All these women go out and be promiscuous, then they get pregnant and want a last minute abortion.  We must do what is necessary to make women be chaste.”  “These people have lots of babies to collect a lot of welfare money.  We should not encourage that.”  “These people swindled the finance companies, took on more debt than they could handle and now expect us to bail them out.”  “These people come in to our country illegally to collect our welfare and let us support them.”  I find that an argument that begins with “these people” or some derivative thereof are usually suspect.
  1.  Tu quoque:  You too!  Two wrongs make a right.  “They attacked our trade center, therefore torture is justified.”  “Nancy Pelosi knew we were torturing and she didn’t say anything.”  Enough said?
  1.  Equivocation:  Different uses of the same word.  Some dogs have long ears.  My dog has long ears.  Therefore my dog is some dog.  I love grass.  My joints hurt me.  I should stay out of those joints.
  1. Intentionally misinterpreting sentence construction.  All that glitters is not gold.  Gold glitters.  Therefore gold is not gold.  Have we ever seen politicians intentionally misconstrue what someone says based on sentence construction?
  1.  Affirming the Consequent.  If P then Q.  P therefore Q is correct.  Not Q therefore not P is correct.  Not P therefore not Q is incorrect.  P could be a subset of Q, which would mean that an element could be a member of Q but not of P.  This one is insidious and shows up in political discourse all the time.
  1.  False Dilemma:  Claiming only a black or white selection exists when there are many areas of grey.  “Either you are for us or against us.”
  1.  Suppressed Evidence:  Presenting only the information that supports the argument.  Taking quotations in part or out of context is an example.  The arguments against Justice Sotomayor fit into this one.

These are some logical fallacies.  http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/…
and http://ocw.usu.edu/…give many more.

So imagine, next election cycle, if the pundits went through the fallacies before discussing the speeches?  Or making their own claims?  Would we have a much more substantive discussion?

Those People

Today I pull another feather out of the featherbed as I look at what it means when Conservatives talk about “Those People.”  Whenever I get into a conversation with Conservatives about programs that help the indigent, I get responses that begin with the phrase “Those People.”  Whatever the situation, they seem to have some idea of what “those people” are and are adept at reducing anyone in need to this straw man.  Who are “those people?”  What does it mean to be one of “those people?”

 

I start with the homeless “those people.”  To a conservative, a homeless person is a man over 30 who is a drunk derelict drug addict who would prefer to be homeless.  When you give aid to “those people,” they simply go spend whatever they get on drugs or alcohol.  They prefer to live on the streets.  They are too lazy to hold down a job.  We simply encourage their nasty habits when we give them assistance.  We encourage others to become like them (say what?).  Taxpayers work hard for their money and it shouldn’t go to people who are too lazy to contribute.  It doesn’t help that the Salvation Army ad in the paper asking for help for the homeless over the holidays shows a picture of a derelict old man with no teeth.  That is the face of the homeless to many of our fellow citizens.  When you talk to them about homeless children, there are harsh words for their parents, but no concern for the children.  When you talk about mothers who have lost their homes, there are harsh words about the mothers.  “Those people” are living the lives they deserve.  This is a lie.  There are millions of people who have been hard working producers and taxpayers their whole lives who are one bad break away from joining the ranks of the homeless.  And to me, it is never a child’s fault that he is homeless.  There are the homeless veterans, their spirits broken because they served their country.  There are the mentally ill homeless, forced into the streets because we have chosen to drastically cut services to help them.  The ranks of potential homeless include you and me and our parents and our children and our brothers and our sisters.

The next set of “those people” are those who are still in their homes but unemployed.  This set of “those people” are too lazy to go out and find a job.  They are getting rich panhandling and living off the taxpayer dole.  Conservatives seem to have this set of faceless examples of cases they heard about who simply prefer to panhandle and take entitlements to the discipline of working every day.  They tell me about somebody who knew somebody who had a cousin who met somebody who was living in posh conditions off the money they get from us and panhandling.  I ask them how somebody is getting rich off of what we provide in transfer payments.  I am told that these people work the system and are able to live high on the hog.  (Of course, there is a category of people I call the Professional Poor who do work the system, and know how to work others to get by without working, a loophole we should close.)  I ask them if they know how much a person or family can get in assistance and if they have tried to live on that amount.  Of course, they say no, but they know it happens.  In fact, I have tried living on the amount people get in food stamps (an experiment because I wanted to know for sure), and it is no easy road.  Even when you add up food stamps, unemployment and all other assistance it is really hard.  When I point out that when a mother gets a job she loses much of the help and has to pay for child care, they are unconcerned.  She should be working and she shouldn’t have those children.  Conservatives tell me that “those women” just have lots of babies so they can get more welfare money.  They would rather lie around all day having sex than work.  Note that these are the same people who would deny a woman an abortion because she can’t afford another baby.  “Those people” should get a job and if they can’t find one they should create one.  Again, the ranks of the potential unemployed include you and me and our parents and our brothers and sisters and children.

An offshoot of “those people” is the elderly in poverty.  “Those people” enjoyed the high life all their working days and are now indigent because they failed to plan.  They suck up our social security and medicare money and are living off of us who are now working because they were so set on meeting immediate wants that they failed to save for their retirement.  Never mind that the crash of 2008 wiped out a lot of people’s savings.  Never mind that many companies have reneged on their pensions.  Never mind that many never made enough to live on, send their children to college and still put away for today.  Never mind that some never qualified for social security.  Never mind that the cost of living skyrocketed faster than they could save.  It is their fault and “those people” are living as they deserve.  The ranks of potential poverty-stricken elderly could include almost anybody’s parents, and they are often one corporate decision to default on pension checks from being totally wiped out.

“Those people” include illegal immigrants who worked hard for many years and never had a safety net.  “Those people” never bothered to get an education.  “Those people” this and “Those people” that.  The words “those people” separate the human faces of misery from the person doing the talking.  But it has been my experience in working with “those people” that they are you and me with one extra piece of bad timing or bad luck happening to them.  (When conservatives fall into the ranks of “those people,” somehow they are different and “those people” are taking money away from helping them.)

So the feather I am pulling out of the featherbed of lies is that there is a group of “those people” who live high off of the hard work of taxpayers.  Conservatives sleep well denying them assistance because “those people” are not you and me.  They are a different people, almost a foreign people, perhaps even less than human. That is a lie.  In fact, “those people” are you and me in very hard circumstances.  If you would wish for help yourself or would wish for it for your children, you should be happy to provide it to “those people.”  After all, one of these days that “those people” label could refer to you or your children.

Go into their Wheelhouse – Scripture Tossing

The Tea Party followers and many other Conservatives insist that this is a country founded on Christianity.  While many of us realize how revisionist that claim is, it does not serve us to argue with them.  Unfortunately, the founders of this country are not here to defend themselves when they are misquoted and misinterpreted.  Even the sainted Ronald Reagan would be appalled at how his words and actions are twisted and/or ignored to define modern day conservatism.  So let’s not argue with them about whether this is meant to be a Christian nation.  Let’s have the discussion about whether their ideas on being a Christian conform to what that religion actually says.  Let’s play a game with them.  I call it Scripture Tossing.

I have always believed that it is a good idea to know what other people are talking about so my own opinions could be at least well informed.  I find you don’t have to agree with a book to read it and know about it.  This got me into trouble when I was in Junior High, because I read Karl Marx.  When my teacher started ragging on what Karl Marx had to say, I said to her, “But he doesn’t say that.”  She said “Yes, he does.”  I said, “Have you read it?”  She hadn’t.  I, being the know it all that I am, said, “How can you talk about what he says if you haven’t even read it?”  Which entitled me to a trip to the Principal’s office.  My point here is, you don’t have to agree with Christians to read their book.  In fact, if you do, you are better armed to discuss what they claim to believe as opposed to the venom they spew.  So here is some material from their textbook in case you get a chance to have an intelligent discussion.  They will, of course, try to come back at you with verses of their own, so it would help to know the whole thing.  This is just for starters, what I consider to be tokenss in a game called “Scripture Tossing.”

So, Mr. Conservative, while I don’t agree with you about this being founded as to be Christian, for argument’s sake, let’s accept that premise and talk about what it means to be a Christian nation.

First and foremost, you would have to agree that, as God, Jesus had to be an integrated personality, right?

Right.

And as such, his actions and words would match his beliefs and concerns.  Right?

Right. (If they don’t say “right” here, you are arguing with an idjut and the conversation should end.)

So do you see the Bible as a book to be taken literally or figuratively?  (They will almost always say literally, this establishes ground rules in case they start “interpreting” the words for their cause.)

So in NO PLACE in the Gospels does he mention abortion or homosexuality.

Those are both sins.  God says so.

Show me one place where Jesus addresses them.  (They can’t.  He didn’t.  They will bring up Leviticus.)

Oh, yeah, the same place where there is a ban on Christmas Ham and crab dip.  Or Easter ham if you do turkey for Christmas.  Am I right?  (Leviticus 11 7-8)

Yeah, but that was made OK by Peter’s vision.

Did it say exactly what parts of Leviticus were still in affect or merely say specifically it was ok to eat anything you want? (Specifically, Acts 10:15 says, “The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”” NIV.  This could include anything including believing homosexuals.  The exact word is “anything,” not “ham.”)  Reading the entire section, you see that associating with gentiles was now made ok.  So it wasn’t just food being addressed here.  Take out the old testament and the letters of Paul (clearly he had a hard time of letting go of many of his prejudices) and there is NOTHING that makes homosexuality a sin.

Anyway, if Jesus was so hard over on homosexuality, wouldn’t he have said so?  I mean, he sure spoke out on things he cared about.  Here is what he DID care about.  The poor (one verse won’t suffice here, it is all over the Gospels.  Start with the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31)).  The sick (ditto – 28 such stories).  Children (Matthew 19:14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.””) NIV.  Caring for strangers even of different ethnic background (The story of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37).

But homosexuality was not known at that time. (Hey, I don’t even have to tell you that it existed in Greece, the predominant culture among the elite at that time.)

I do know that Jesus said the number one command was to love one another (John 15:17, Matt22:37-40).  He also said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.  For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye”. (Matthew 7:1-5 KJV)

The last paragraph is the reason we cannot be a Christian nation and still have DOMA or DADT, deny rights to immigrants, legal or otherwise, or claim that poor people deserve to be poor or any of that other hogwash.  It is the reason we can’t justify withholding assistance because people are different from us.

Finally, for those who know for a certainty they are speaking God’s words and following God’s will comes this message: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,  I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’  “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’” (Matthew 25:31-45 NIV)

Surely, those who have denied extensions of unemployment benefits or voted against SCHIP or not moved to help people stay in their homes are not acting by the above.  The idea of homeless children is unspeakable if you believe what Jesus taught.  The Arizona Papers laws go against Christian principles, as do any laws to deny employment or citizenship for those born here.  Bigotry is not acceptable.  If this is a Christian nation, homelessness and hunger cannot be tolerated.  Neither can corporate greed.  Universal health insurance is a must. Wars to benefit corporations?  Not a chance!  If, in fact, the literal Bible is the textbook, their entire movement is out of alignment.

While I do not call myself a Christian, per se (long story mostly because the word Christian has been so badly polluted and my cosmology is not acceptable to them), I do believe these teachings are wise and moral.  I also find almost everything Jesus said to align with the Progressive agenda.  I do not know how you can be a real Christian and not be a progressive.

Poem To the Blessed Mother

Poem to the Blessed Mother

The Blessed Mother walks the streets of the inner city
Spirit now, her body lacks substance
She moves invisibly, soundlessly
Unlike the caterwauling of the drunks leaving the bar
Shouting; screeching of tires
And the occasional siren

The Blessed Mother sees a barred doorway of a shop closed for the evening
In this doorway is a mother lying in front of her children
Hiding her young ones from the ravenous predators
Who would do them harm
The mother’s eyes are watchful and fearful
The Blessed Mother longs to gather these in her arms
As a hen gathers her chicks under her wings
But as Spirit She has no arms to gather them
Blessed Mother, make me your arms

The Blessed Mother hears a young girl
Sobbing into her pillow in the dark
The cuts and bruises on her face will heal
The hurt in her heart may not
The Blessed Mother longs to sit down and talk to the girl
To let her pour a torrent of aching words
To let her know her pain matters
And that someone loves her.
But the Blessed Mother has no way to show she is listening
Blessed Mother, make me your ears

The Blessed Mother hears from many houses
The grumbling of empty stomachs
She hears the tears of those meals were small
Or nonexistent.  She longs
To carry meals to them, to feed them with her own hands
But as Spirit she has no hands
And cannot carry food
Blessed mother, make me your hands

The Blessed Mother hears the cries of the veteran
Reliving battles, with all the fear and death and stink
Reliving the tension of being on alert
Reliving every buddy lost
Filled with guilt of coming home alive
Envying those who did not
Angry that, having served long and well
His country, having used him up, has thrown the veteran
Aside as last week’s trash
Pretending those who came home broken do not exist
The Blessed Mother would like to cry out to an ungrateful nation
To shame them for demanding that soldiers give their all
And giving nothing in return
But as Spirit, she has no voice
To cry out for those who sacrificed
At the behest of the wealthy leaders for whom war is a game
Blessed Mother, make me your voice

The Blessed Mother sees the pain
Of those who were created different
Their orientation, their color, their person, their gender
Suffering because God’s plan for their lives
Did not match the plan of the few who call themselves chosen
The ones who claim to follow her son
But ignore every word he says
Or twist it to the kind of hate
Her son did not know
The Blessed Mother would like to give them love
But has no way to show it
To care for those society distains
Blessed Mother, make me your heart

The Blessed Mother longs to work in this world
To bring love, peace and justice where it is not
Blessed Mother, live through me

“But he loves me so much he can’t help it”

Today the feather I pull out of the featherbed as I look at abusers and their many faces.  This diary is not about lies conservatives tell, although I must admit that in my personal experience abusers are more apt to spew conservative talking points than not.  This is a universal problem that knows no particular demographic, not in terms of income, ethnic background, education, religion, or sexual orientation.  All demographics have this challenge.  One, in particular, financial abuse, is rarely discussed.

One thing we do not do enough, and we need to do routinely, is discuss the warning signs of an abuser.

When I was a speaker for Planned Parenthood, I spoke at battered women’s shelters.  This also meant I listened.  Before I could speak there, I underwent training from Planned Parenthood.  Their training was excellent, and I have been very aware of the warning signs since, I needed a refresher to do this diary.  I will be sharing from sites I found last night throughout this diary.

There is no big A on the forehead, no telltale ugliness in the eyes or countenance.  As stated in Hidden Hurt:Domestic Abuse Information, from which I have pulled much of today’s information (although there are many sites, some of which I list later)

In actual fact one of the main problems encountered by victims, friends, family and various agencies dealing with the consequences of an abusive relationship, is how ‘normal’ the abuser seemed, how unlike the image so frequently portrayed by the media. We may expect an abuser to be male, big, working-class, prone to being drunk, un-shaven, heterosexual, … (fill in the blanks!). However, an abuser is just as likely to be gay, a white-collar worker, a religious leader or clean-shaven. Sometimes the abuser is also a woman.

In other words, he OR she could be the nice neighbor next door who shovels your walk or brings you homemade cookies, your coworker, or your cousin.  The same could be said about the abused.  When you meet someone new, it is hard to recognize this person could be one who would wind up trying to abuse you.  Here, from the same website along with commentary from my own observations and other resources,  is what to look for:

Jealousy This manifests in the abuser getting abnormally angry or annoyed when the victim speaks to anybody of the opposite sex (or same sex in the case of gay abusers, that will be understood through the rest of this diary), or even looks at them.  The abuser also gets upset when the victim is noticed by somebody of the opposite sex either by speaking or just looking (often the abuser will say someone is looking when they actually may not be).  The abuser will check cell phone messages, car mileage, look at the clothes in the closet to ensure the victim is not dressing outside of the abuser’s boundaries when the abuser is not there.  The abuser will try to control what the victim wears to discourage any interest.  He/she makes accusations based on the flimsiest of evidence, such as a casual remark or a glance from a stranger.  The abuser justifies this behavior by saying, “I just can’t help it, I love you so much that the thought of you with anybody else makes me crazy.”  The abuser can become jealous of friends and family, trying to limit interactions with them.  This ties in with the Isolation behavior.

Controlling Behavior  This manifests with the abuser telling the victim what to do, when to do it, how to do it.  As mentioned before, it includes control over what the victim wears, eats, drinks, where they go to dine, where and when to shop (even for groceries).  While most of the abuse situations I have seen involve an abusive man with a woman victim, this is an area that goes both ways.  The abuser creates a set of rules for the victim to follow, but does not have to follow him/her self.  He/she also sets up  a set of definitions and expects the victim to adhere to them.  For example, in last night’s diary, the abuser defined “respect” in a very restrictive way and then complained about the lack of respect.  Nobody could enforce this definition of respect on a stranger, but the victim is expected to enforce it anyway.

Controlling behavior can extend to the financial area, where the victim is supposed to turn over the paycheck to the abuser and then seek permission to buy anything, even though the victim is contributing to the total household income.  Often the abuser will not allow the victim to see bills, but the victim is on all the credit lines and shares equal responsibility.  It can even extend to tax returns.  The result is  the victim is left in financial ruin when the relationship ends.

Quick Involvement  When the abuser finds his victim, he/she wants to get into the relationship right away.  He/she does not want the victim to have time to think about what is happening.  This is a reliance on the early “love rush,” trying to circumvent the rational questions that come when a relationship is given time to mature.  The abuser uses the feelings of romantic involvement against the victim.

Unrealistic Expectations  In this behavior, the abuser wants the perfect romantic partner, with perfect sex, perfect home cleanliness, perfectly timed emotional support.  In one case I heard about, the man beat the wife because she burned his toast one morning.  In spite of having two children to watch as she cooked, she was supposed to watch the toaster and pull it out at the exact right time.  Other times she was beat because the eggs were too dry, the dinner was not on the table when he got home, the newspapers had not been put out, or the children were crying.

Isolation  Here the abuser does not want the partner to see anybody but him or her self.  Family visits are either restricted or eliminated, calls to family are on a timer.  The victim cannot visit friends, go for “girl’s night out” or “boy’s night out,” or sometimes even take the children on a play date.  Interestingly, the abuser gets to do all these things.  The abuser uses the phrase, “I am all you need, you shouldn’t need anybody else if you really love me.”

Blame-Shifting For ProblemsThe abuser says, “It is your fault I got laid off.  If I hadn’t had to come home to dinner, they would have kept me.”  “It is your fault I hit you.  Paying for your upkeep has me under too much stress.”  Whatever goes wrong in the abuser’s life is the fault of the partner or some outside entity.  The government is to blame, the boss is to blame, the neighbor is to blame, and on and on.  If the children misbehave, it isn’t that they are children, the victim (or the school, or the caregiver) is too strict, too lenient, too lazy, etc.

Blame-Shifting For Feelings  Here is where the words, “You made me so mad I couldn’t help myself” come in.  “I have told you many times that I want … and you didn’t do it!”  “You just want to annoy me and I will teach you not to.”  The victim becomes responsible for the very emotional state and feelings of the abuser.

Hypersensitivity  The abuser is able to take a simple, meaningless statement and read into it something that he/she feels is an affront.  This not only happens in marriage or partnerships but also between children and parents.  “You gave me that look” may be legitimate, but it may also be an example of hypersensitivity.  (I have had people ask me about a look I gave them when I was trying, through my nearsightedness, to see their faces.  These were not abusers, but if they were, they would have reacted more.)

Cruelty To AnimalsThis speaks for itself.  Someone willing to harm a helpless animal will probably not stop there.  Research is still ongoing about this relationship, but there appears to be a correlation.

Cruelty To ChildrenAn abuser often has expectations of behavior in children that don’t make sense.  They will expect a three year old to act like a perfect lady or gentleman.  They are prepared to take out their frustration on the children because the children are weaker and helpless against the abuser.

‘Playful’ Use Of Force In Sex Abusers often have fantasies in which they have absolute control. In many cases, they feel that they have no control outside the home so they try to enforce control in the bedroom.  The opposite has also been known to be true, in which someone who is always in control in the office (an upper level manager, for example) feels a need to be in control when he/she comes home.  This type of abuse can be manifested in painful “rough” sex, or in demeaning sex.  There is a need to be careful here, because not all who engage in rough sex are abusers, but if the other person is reluctant and needs convincing or coercion, there is apt to be a problem.  Forced sex is always a sign of an abuser (in addition to being rape).

Rigid Gender Roles This is an almost universal trait.  Men will expect to be in total control of the household with the woman serving him hand and foot.  She may be “allowed” to work outside the home, but he controls the right to work and the job she can have, as well as the hours.  Whether she works or not, she is to maintain an immaculate house, have dinner ready when he wants it, have it hot and perfect.  She is in total charge of raising the children, including bathing, dressing, feeding.  Often she will have to serve them separately from him.  In the case of women, she will expect him to provide for her every material need, calling him “not a real man” and a wimp if he cannot earn enough to satisfy her wants.  In addition, she may make him keep house or hire a housekeeper and deal with the children while she does whatever she does.

Verbal Abuse  Again a nearly universal abuser trait, the abuser will begin to eat away at the victim’s self esteem with hateful words.  This is often a form of grooming for more violent abuse.  Things like ugly, fat, lazy and stupid are aimed at the victim.  Pretty soon the abuser will tell the victim that nobody else would put up with the victim and the victim believes it.  I have seen women in the shelters absolutely broken just because of the things they have been told so often they come to believe it.

Dr. Jeckyll And Mr. Hyde  The abuser will have an episode of violence followed by being a very contrite, sweet and charming person.  They will change, they will never let it happen again.  The abuser will bring flowers and candy, take the victim to a nice dinner or prepare a special dinner at home, cry, compliment.  The words “but I just can’t live without you.  If you leave me, I will kill myself” may be used.

Drink Or Substance Abuse  We all have heard about the violent drunk.  We have also heard stories of some things people do when on a drug binge.

History Of Battering Or Sexual Violence  If you hear that the person you are seeing has been arrested for a violent sexual offense or if someone who knows that person tells you of similar events, run.  Enough said.

Negative Attitude Toward Women  Or women.  The abuser is likely to talk about women in derogatory terms, saying they belong pregnant and in the kitchen, should not be taking good work from men, talk about how unstable they are, etc.  I wonder how many congresspersons are closet abusers?

Threatening Violence  In the diary that motivated this one, the person in question showed the diarist that he owned a gun.  He made the showing of it seem quite innocuous, but he did it.  Abusers will let the victim know they have weapons and know what to do with them.  They may couch it in, “I don’t know why I still have this thing but …” but they ensure the victim knows that if she is not compliant, her safety is at risk.

Breaking Or Striking Objects  This is a sign of a temper that is out of control.  However, abusers also use the act of violence against an object to instill fear and obedience.  The message is that the next thing broken could be the victim.

Any Force During An Argument  One thing we always told women at the shelters is that if he hits you once, he will hit you again.  Harder.  Once the abuser gets away with it, he knows he can do it again.  He may even try to see what the limits are.  Even loud shouting and threatening or intimidating behavior is a warning sign.

Types of abuse

Abuse comes in five major categories:

Physical  From the domestic violence websited cited above:

He came upstairs and asked me to get out of bed to help him look for a work shirt. I didn’t get out of bed. I replied that I wanted to go to sleep. He suddenly turned on me. He kicked me out of bed, somehow got me in the position of being flat on my back. He stood on me and spat in my face. (Charlotte’s Story)

I had a client once who was buying a house with her husband.  I got a call one day, he had thrown her across the dresser because the bed wasn’t made properly.  We cancelled the transaction and she got a divorce.

We all know about physical abuse when it results in a hospital visit, but milder forms of violence are also abusive:  kicking, shoving, slapping, spitting, choking, pinching, hair pulling, dragging, burning, use of physical restraints during sex (against the partner’s will), weapon wielding, and even dangerous driving if it is intended to frighten.  It often starts small, almost hard to recognize, and grows.

Verbal  Verbal abuse consists of name calling and degrading statements.  The abuser repeatedly tells the victim that she is unworthy and deserves to be mistreated, that she caused the abuse because of her stupidity, laziness, ugliness, and so on.  The abuser ignores the feelings of the victim.  Many times the verbal attacks occur in front of other people (remember the OJ Simpson trial where Nicole was demeaned at dinner with friends?) in situations where the victim has been taught not to respond.

Emotional Emotional abuse can involve threats about doing harm, calling the police, threats about the children (harming them, running away with them, calling social services and having them removed).  Emotional abusers work to make the victim dependent on them and afraid to leave.  They create in the victim a broken self image and the idea that their survival depends on being compliant to the abuser.  They also create fear that the abuser will harm the victim or the victim’s children.  It may go to the extreme of withholding necessities such as food, locking them up in a closet, not allowing them to leave the house.

Sexual  This was discussed above.

Financial  Again discussed above, this is becoming more and more recognized.  The abuser makes the victim financially dependent (how will you raise these kids when you can’t even earn a nickel and you owe so much money?  Nobody will even give you a credit card without me!).  Abusers often forbid the victim the right to work so they cannot earn their own money, enforcing the dependency.  They often hide the money.  This happens with the abuser keeping bank statements and bills from the victim, moving money into secret accounts, putting the victim on all the credit lines but not letting the victim know what they are, what they are for or how much they are.  Again, instances of financial abuse are finally becoming recognized as actual abuse.

One thing to remember in this discussion:  Victims can also be abusers.  In some cases, there is an abuse/abuse situation going on.  One may abuse in some ways victimizing the other, while in turn the other may abuse in the same or another way.  Victims may also become pass-along abusers.  Not having any power in their relationship with the abusers, they in turn regain that power by abusing others.  It escalates, and it becomes a learned behavior.  Some have been around abuse so long they think it is normal.

The lies I wish to pull out of the featherbed here are three fold. First, abuse only happens in certain demographics, in certain types of families, in certain belief systems, in certain ethnic backgrounds, etc.  It can and does happen in almost every neighborhood or community regardless of demographics.   Second, the idea that the abuser loves the victim so much he can’t help himself.  (Note that if the abuser was so enraged he couldn’t control himself, how does he control his blows so there are no visible bruises?)  Third, that the abuser will change.  I talked to many women at the shelter who thought they could love their abusers enough to change them.  The only change that happened, or will happen, is the abuse gets worse.  Finally, if you are a victim, there is nothing you can do about it.  There is.  First … get with a domestic violence organization and make a plan.  Hide away some money – there is always a way to do it.  Pack a small bag for yourself and one for each child.  Figure out a day when you will get out.  Have someone meet you – you can’t do it alone.  Go somewhere he can’t find you.  Get to a shelter whose location is secret.  The domestic violence organization will help with all this, they have done it before.  Finally, remember, no matter what you have been led to believe, you deserve better.

The links I promised:

Hidden Hurt: Domestic Abuse Information,
Mamashealth
Signs of an Abuser
Helpguide.org

The Rise of the Extreme Right – An Alternative Theory

I was watching another report of the Tea Party rallies and felt a strange sensation of deja vu.  The views being presented, the way they were presented, the way the partiers reacted, the energy expressed were all familiar somehow.  I sent my mind back to find out where this was coming from.  All of a sudden, there it was.  I saw it.  I knew where I had seen all this before.  I was shocked, then I realized I should have known all along. Here is my theory of where this extreme right ideology came from.

I realized that what I was watching was reminiscent of the Amway rallies I used to go to.  It all made sense.  I remembered how they got us involved – promises of wealth and the easy life.  Promises that anybody could do it.  Anger at the establishment and how the establishment had sold us all out.  Religion.  Protect the wealthy because you would soon be one of them and enjoy all the benefits.  Super patriotism.  Did I say Religion?

It was the religious piece that drove us away from Amway.  I didn’t see how false the promises were, I didn’t see the exploitative nature of the company at first.  I saw the extreme religious aspect.  I resented that.  It offended people I was trying to work with.  My cross line was Jewish and they were extremely offended.  I was offended for them.  They were considered second class citizens because they were not of the correct religion.  The rallies they and we paid good money to attend were full of proselytizing.  They actually had calls to become born again at these business functions.  They said ugly things about people who were not the “right” type of Christians.

After we left and were able to look at the business more things became clear.  The products were inferior, but sold at inflated prices.  The uplines would tell you to buy these products at these inflated prices, and as you convinced your own downline to overbuy overpriced products your downline would subsidize your own purchases.  They encouraged us to enlist people who were in dire financial straits, assuring us that this would help them get out of debt.  In other words, they preyed on the desperate.  But the Diamonds and Emeralds did not get wealthy selling chevrolet products at cadillac prices.  They became wealthy selling tapes.  Every week, downline were told to purchase two tapes.  The tapes cost $.50 to make and distribute, but they were sold for $7.50 apiece.  In them, the diamond or emerald selected would tell you to buy more, how to be Christians, that the wealthy deserved the fat of the land and that anybody who was broke deserved to be broke.  The Amway distributors listened to these tapes night and day.  They were paying for their own brainwashing.  That is the most effective way to brainwash somebody.  What was said on the tapes is what I hear the extreme right wingers saying now.

Many of the big-time self help and motivational speakers today got to be household names and millionaires because of Amway sponsorship.  One example that comes to mind is Robert Kiyosaki.  I don’t have a problem with Mr. Kiyosaki, but I know that his books had few sales until Amway pushed his books to the distributors and had him speak at functions.  This is one reason so many motivational speakers tell you that an MLM is a smart way to become wealthy.  In fact, you have about as much chance of becoming wealthy as an Amway distributor as winning the lottery (the odds may be different, but the fact is, becoming wealthy is highly unlikely).

When people left Amway, they rarely blamed the company.  The brainwashing had done its job.  They blamed themselves, they blamed their upline, they blamed their own financial circumstances, but not Amway.  I remember one upline we had went and had a garage sale.  They sold everything they owned including their furniture to finance their business, as their upline advised them to do.  When they left the business two years later, they had two small children,  an empty house and a garage full of outdated product.

Rich DeVos and Jay VanAndel became very wealthy from Amway.  They used this wealth to contribute to Republican candidates who shared their extreme right wing views and to muscle out more moderate candidates.  They put forth a litmus test, both religious and economic.  The candidates accepted this litmus test in exchange for their donations.  Thus the Republican party made a steady swing to the right.

Look at who the extreme right wingers are today.  Look at where Amway was particularly strong and where the tea party is strong today.  Look at the demographics.  Is it just coincidence?  I am beginning to wonder.

Henry vs Fido

Today the feather I pull out of the featherbed is the claim that Americans (US variety) have the best health care in the world.

We have all heard the claim that here in the United States we have the best health care system in the world.  People are lining up to get here for our health care.  Actually, people are dying to get our health care.  Literally.  They are dying waiting to get into the system and get some care.  Below I discuss the health care of two good friends of mine:  Henry (not his real name) and Fido (also not his real name).

I was told this story by Henry’s significant other.  However, from conversations I have had with many people, it is not all that unusual.  See how your own experiences match up.
Henry had a problem in his gut.  It hurt.  He went to his family practitioner.  His practitioner looked him over and decided it was his bladder.  She referred him to a urology specialist, an assembly line sort of doctor who only did bladders.  The specialist botched the first scope, a horribly painful procedure so he performed it again.  Henry went back to his family practitioner and complained about having to undergo two scopes without arriving at a diagnosis.  Ho hum, said his family practitioner, and referred him somewhere else.
So here is the whole story from his significant other:
The procedure done by specialist 1 was a urethral scope.   He had to do it twice on the same day because the first time failed.   Note that every procedure done by all of the docs involves inserting a camera or device for snipping tissue from the bladder through the penis.   Each is painful (obviously) and left Henry with significant discomfort for several days following.
The second doctor was the one who was highly recommended.   He did the scope again, because he couldn’t (wouldn’t?) rely on the one performed by #1.  Following the scope, they knew there was a tumor.  #2 scheduled the procedure to remove and biopsy the tumor which involved the same process for inserting the device.  Henry had his sister come from Ohio to be with him for this.  Meanwhile, the day before the procedure doctor #2 called to tell Henry that he couldn’t do the procedure but another from his clinic could because he was in Oregon and couldn’t get back time.   Then, when Henry had a tantrum, the doctor called back and basically said he had misread his calendar and would be back in time.   Then the morning of the procedure, when Henry was already laying on the gurney without clothes on, doctor #2 and his staff had an argument in the examination room regarding whether the procedure might have to be rescheduled for sometime later because they had overlooked that he is allergic to latex and the staff thought the procedure should now be done at a hospital.   When Henry started to put his clothes on and leave, they decided they would do the procedure.
This is the doctor who called several days later to tell Henry he had cancer and that they wanted to begin BCG therapy in four weeks and offered no support.   They sent him one packet that included information on bladder cancer and BCG therapy, but when he read it, he focused primarily on what he read that was the worst outcomes and the negative side effects.  This is when he really started to lose it and became so angry with dr. #2 that there was a “mutual agreement” that he would go somewhere else.  Note also that the procedure done by doctor #2 seemed to have removed as much of the tumor as possible, but the lab report from the lab he used was contradictory, which made doctor #3 feel that he wanted to do the surgical procedure yet again, which became the 5th time there was a procedure involving inserting something through the penis.   Meanwhile, Henry had gone into a total meltdown because this is where his family practice physician was failing to meet Henry’s expectations for communicating with him.  Note that Henry’s expectations for return calls weren’t realistic in today’s medical environment, but in response to his urgent request to talk with her (I think perhaps on a Thursday), he received a call back from her physician’s assistant the following Monday.   This is when he switched to another doctor.   The new family practice doctor was a wonderful doctor in his day, but is past his prime.   He didn’t even know what the BCG therapy was that Henry was to undergo and is the one who put Henry on an anxiety drug, whose side affects were known.  Those side affects were contraindicated by Henry’s history and symptoms.  All the side affects were realized – the medication resulted in four weeks of paranoia, rage, bladder and bowel problems.   When I called this doctor’s office to let them know what was going on and to try to get help, no one at that clinic ever thought to look at the drug as the cause of the problem.
Anyway, once Henry got to specialist #3, that doctor wanted to do the insertion and biopsy again because he wasn’t satisfied with the results of the lab work from #2.  Once that was over, they began the BCG therapy which involves inserting live tuberculosis bacteria into the bladder (again through the penis).   The regimen involved six treatments of which he has completed four.  These are done by a nurse.   He has not seen doctor #3 since he began the treatments even though he is certain that treatments are inflaming his arthritis.  Also, the treatments are incredibly painful and he has tried to find out from this doctor if he can have some sort of anesthetic.  He finally has an appointment with doctor #3 tomorrow, but only after several ugly phone calls with the doctor’s office.   When he talked to doctor #3 on the phone about the complications with his arthritis, the pain and some of the other symptoms, doctor #3 responded that “none of my other patients have ever reported anything like this”.   The brochure that they gave Henry on the BCG therapy list exactly the same complications as reasons to “contact your physician”!  At least he has an appointment with doctor #3 to determine if he should finish the last two treatments.  However, it is important to note that if Henry would have been able to begin the treatment with doctor #1 back in September, he would be done by now and would be ready for a six month follow up.
I don’t really think his care is that much better now.  He needs to find a good family practice doctor who is willing to help him through all of this.  Specialist #3 is like the first two.   He is focused on the success of the initial procedure to remove the tumor and on the BCG therapy that he has ordered his nurse to do, but his bedside manner is poor.   None of them have understood how difficult this is for Henry and none have offered to help coordinate any sort of support through support groups, psych help, or god forbid simply sitting down and talking with him.
Now we get to Fido.  Fido is diabetic as a result of Cushing’s Disease.  When Fido came in, he was in pain.  Fido’s doctor sat on the floor to examine and diagnose Fido to avoid the discomfort of putting Fido on the examining table.  Fido’s doctor stated options and personally arranged care.  The clinic called Fido’s owner (Henry) daily to advise of progress and discuss treatment.  They performed hourly blood tests.  When Fido came back, they (the clinic and the main care veterinarian) together coordinated ongoing care so the vet would be apprised of existing treatments for her ongoing treatment.  When the dog began to lose eye sight due to the diabetes, the vet recommend one specialist.  When Henry was unhappy with that specialist, the vet was glad to get the feedback and promised to never recommend that person again.  She recommend a second specialist.  This new specialist and the vet spoke daily to each other and to Henry.  The vet watched medications for compatibility and balance.  Calls were returned within 1 day, unlike Henry’s doctors.  Henry was never put on hold when he called, whereas Henry’s doctors often required a 55 minute hold.  Fido is feeling much better now, but his vet still checks in.
The moral of this story is that if you want quality, unified care, call a vet.  Be a dog.
The feather I am pulling from the featherbed today is that American people have the best health care in the world.  In fact, if you are in America, you get better care if you are a dog.

Winkin, Blinkin and Nod

This is from the nursery rhyme Winkin and Blinkin and Nod.  I thought it was an apt description for the potential or real candidates Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman and Mitt Romney, although you could easily replace Romney with Rick Perry.:

Winkin’, Blinkin’, and Nod
Winkin’, Blinkin’, and Nod, one night had a presidential debate;
Sarah, Micky and Mittens they’re called, and they’re filled with political hate.
“Where are you going and what do you wish?” the moderator asked the three.
“We’ve come to vie for the oval office and rule the land of the free.
Sponsors with silver and gold have we,”
said Winkin’, Blinkin’, and Nod.The nation laughed and cringed as they pounded away on the dais with shoe.
And the teabags that cheered them all night long reveled in their vile stew.
Now the middle class are the spearing fish that live in the land of the free;
“Cast out this black president from his perch, of him so afraid are we!”
So cried the teabaggers to the fishermen three –
Winkin’, and Blinkin’, and Nod.

So all night long their barbs they threw to the stars in the media foam.
‘Til down from the skies came the wooden hammer to take the teabagger’s home.
Great promises made of how great it will be if one is elected President
But how will you keep the poor people buying when all their money is spent?
So I shall name you the candidates three –
Winkin’, Blinkin’, and Nod.

Now Winkin’ and Blinkin’ are two little eyes and Nod is a little head.
And the sponsors with gold and silver are corporations with hearts of lead.
So close your eyes while the candidates lie about the wonderful things that could be.
They promise that you shall see beautiful things “if only you vote for me,”
Where the dais rocked from the candidates three –
Winkin’, Blinkin’, and Nod.

© Julia F. Varnell-Sarjeant August 2011

Migrant Children

Many years ago, our family was visiting the missions of California.  We were traveling from Mission San Antonio de Padua (or San Miguel, I forget which) to Mission Nuestra Senora de la Soledad.  Since it was well off the highway we were traveling back roads.  We were driving by huge corporate farms.  As we drove by, we passed many people out picking the crops by hand.  Many of the laborers appeared to be children.  Then we drove past the migrant camp where they stayed.  Not only was the camp almost uninhabitable, there were no adults in sight.  It appeared that small children were watching small children.

When I got back home, I asked our parish priest, who had spent time tending to migrant workers, about what I had seen.  What he told me has haunted me ever since.

I was correct that there were no adults at the camp, if it was a day good for picking.  Even if it had been raining, there would have been only the very old in the camp.  Most of the shelters are portable, like tents and adapted trucks.  And yes, I had seen children in the fields beside their parents.

He said that when children turn seven or eight, they go out to pick.  The babies are left with six and seven year olds in charge.  The babies are tended by their siblings all day.  They learn their language from six and seven year olds who never learned any language properly. (In other words, they don’t speak English well enough to get by and they don’t speak good Spanish either.)  Of course, schooling is nonexistent.  If a toddler gets hurt, it is up to his/her young sibling to figure out what to do, because the parents can’t afford to come in from the fields.  There is not good water in the camp for anybody, and there is almost never enough to eat or wear.

Out in the fields, the water sources are far apart and there are few if any toilet facilities.  The work is backbreaking, and goes on from first light to last light.  The pay, of course, is worse than substandard.

At that time, one of my favorite songs became Woodie Guthrie’s Deportee:

Is this the best way we can grow our big orchards?
Is this the best way we can grow our good fruit?
To fall like dry leaves and to rot on the topsoil
And be called by no name except
Deportees?

Deportee by Woodie Guthrie

Later I moved home to Colorado and worked with homeless children, which I covered in another diary.  In both cases, this nation closed its eyes to vulnerable children in this country.  I don’t particularly care whether it is the fault of the parents, although much of me blames the corporate farms for the migrant worker situation.  I do care that the children did not ask for these circumstances, and the only thing they did to be in this plight was be born into the wrong demographic.

While I agree that there are other urgent and important issues to handle during this administration, is there some way we can find occasion to find a solution to these children?

There are some things that require government help

The chorus is always about having things done in the private sector.  “They are more efficient, they are less expensive, they are more democratic.”  In fact, there are some things that can’t be left to the private sector or they simply won’t get done.  If the Conservatives who treasure the private sector to the point of starving the public sector were to take a serious and reasoned look at their world, they would know the truth to this.

 

For purposes of this diary, I consider programs paid for by the government to be public sector even though the companies that did the work were private (owned by stockholders rather than the state).

I use Rand Paul as a straw man because he volunteered.  Mr. Paul, do you use a cell phone?  It uses GPS technology that was developed in the public sector (military).  GPS is now used to locate cell phones to send the calls, time stamp financial transactions, find fires and lost hikers and any number of commercial things.  However, it took several years and billions of dollars to develop and deploy.  The private sector does not spend billions of dollars and several years for risky technologies.

How about the satellites that transmit your cell phone signals?  While today commercial companies do launch and own satellites, they did not develop the technology.  They did not develop the ability to survive outside the atmosphere, they did not develop the technology to propel the satellites into space, they did not develop the ability to transmit the signals from one satellite to another and eventually ensure it would reach your own particular phone.  This technology was many years in the making, in the government sector.

Mr. Paul, do you travel by air?  Private companies do not build or maintain most international airports.  There would be  a major mess if many private companies owned airports in the same city.  Further, the development and maintenance of an airport is extremely expensive.  How about air traffic control?  Run by private companies?  It boggles the mind how they would keep the aircraft under control with several air traffic control systems competing with each other for business.

Once the signal gets to the ground, how does your phone call travel?  Private telephone lines?  If you are fortunate enough to have fiber optics carrying your signal, that was developed for government programs.

Mr. Paul, you are an eye surgeon.  Do you use the laser in your practice?  Where do you think that technology was developed?  Do you use imaging technology to look at the patient’s eyes?  How about other medical uses?  Sonograms?  MRIs?  Any type of imaging?  Where do you think that original technology came from?

Mr. Paul, do you have your home heated?  Is it by a private company or a public utility?  How about your water?  What about the road that leads to your office – is it owned and maintained by a private company?  What a joy that would be to have private businesses own every road and charge for its use individually.  If you dislike toll booths now, you are just beginning to get the picture.

Has there ever been a break-in on your block?  Who responded, a private security firm?  Who would you turn to if you had a fire in your building?

Sometimes government investment has side benefits.  Have you ever used WD40?  Velcro?  Teflon?  Graphite Epoxy?  Many of the materials we use in building were initially created in government funded programs, some by accident and some quite on purpose.

Mr. Paul (and anybody who thinks like you), every day you violate your own words by turning to the product of public investment.  The full list is too long for this diary.  But I think it is time you take a close look at what you are proposing.  The result of implementing your beliefs would be at best technological stagnation.

Writing Poetry – The Villanelle

A villanelle is a nineteen-line poem with two repeating rhymes and two refrains. It consists of five tercets followed by a quatrain. The first and third lines of the opening tercet are repeated alternately in the last lines of the succeeding stanzas; then in the final stanza, the refrain serves as the poem’s two concluding lines. Using capitals for the refrains and lowercase letters for the rhymes, the form is: A1 b A2 / a b A1 / a b A2 / a b A1 / a b A2 / a b A1 A2.

What I like about villanelles is how versatile they are.  They can serve for almost any occasion.

Villanelles can be fun:

The Lady Dances To the Violin
“O wad some powr the giftie gie us” … Robert Burns

The lady dances to the violin
She strives to win her gallant paramour
While lightly, lightly bobs her double chin.

Her slippers tripping, marking each refrain
Gently placed, in order, on the floor:
The lady dances to the violin.

She smiles, she laughs, she then pouts on a whim
Her pink chiffon hints of a coups d’amour
While lightly, lightly bobs her double chin.

She swears that they must try that pas again
The dandy hurries to the players, for
His lady dances to the violin.

The hours pass, her corsets start to strain,
She smiles, denying that her feet are sore
While lightly, lightly bobs her double chin.

At last, the other dancers form a train
To exit, yet she looks not to the door.
The lady dances to the violin
While lightly, lightly bobs her double chin

© Julia F. Varnell-Sarjeant 2011

Villanelles can express inspiration:

I heard the Robins Wake the Dawn

As day was coming, dousing dark with grays
And sun rose, nagging night to move along
I heard the robins wake the dawn with praise

The new beginning swept the yesterdays
Into the black abyss where nights belong
As day was coming, dousing dark with grays

The falcons wove in intricate ballets
Beating time to mourning doves’ new song
I heard the robins wake the dawn with praise

The minstrel paused, musing on his lays
Taking pleasure in the growing dawn
As day was coming, dousing dark with grays

High in the weeping birch the homestead sways
As beak to beak the mothers feed their young
I heard the robins wake the day with praise

And thus the mornings pass into the days
Extinguishing the night lights one by one
As day was coming, dousing dark with grays
I heard the robins wake the dawn with praise.

© Julia F. Varnell-Sarjeant 2011

Villanelles can express nostalgia or melancholy:

We know so little

We know so little when we’re young, inspired
The words we’d speak but lack the wit to form,
Before the wisdom comes we’re old, grown tired

The energies and dreams ambitions fired
Are trapped by untaught rhetoric, unborn
We know so little when we’re young, inspired

Disillusioned by what we desired,
Eager striving sours to weary scorn.
Before the wisdom comes we’re old, grown tired.

All plans and all intentions, so soon mired
Into a web of ritual aging storm:
“We know so little when we’re young, inspired.”

In time we mock the ideals we once squired
As Don Quixotes chasing fireflies, born
Before the wisdom comes.  We’re old, grown tired.

And as those visions one by one are pyred
The endless lines of stars turned ashes form.
We know so little when we’re young, inspired:
Before the wisdom comes we’re old, grown tired.

© Julia F. Varnell-Sarjeant 2011

Best of all, villanelles can be political.

Ode to Teabaggers

Their faces disfigure, contort with rage
They’re pining for a past that’s never been
They can’t accept the coming modern age

The hater and the screamer is their sage
Outshouting debate, creating a din
Their faces disfigure, contort with rage

The consequences of the war they wage
Not thought of, caring only that they win
They can’t accept the coming modern age

Fighting on as history turns a page
The fury grows as rationale grows thin
Their faces disfigure, contort with rage

In anger, with violence they engage
Insisting different ideas are a sin
They can’t accept the coming modern age

Growling, like lions in a cage
Not wanting a new era to begin
Their faces disfigure, contort with rage
They can’t accept the coming modern age

© Julia F. Varnell-Sarjeant 2011

Fuzzy Jurisdiction

We complain a lot about the outrageous profits health insurance companies are making and their reluctance to pay claims. The companies are indeed making obscene profits and are indeed refusing to pay claims. They do not improve their images any by refusing obvious claims or by denying coverage to people who they ought to be covering. But we need to look at health insurance laws to see how and why this happens. We need to fix the laws in order to fix the system. Then we need to let the insurance companies know we mean business.

It is easy to cover auto and home insurance. These policies are taken out by individuals and the jurisdiction is easily established as the place where the policy holder resides. Homes are especially easy – they can be shown to be in a given location. Health care is different – people move around, and policies are usually taken out by employers or affiliations.

So, here is the list of jurisdictions on different types of coverage and regulation:
CMMS – Medicare, some Medicaid
Department of Labor – Self Insured Plans
States – The rest of Medicaid, Other Health Care Regulations (including 50 different sets of regulation)

In one state, the commissioner regulates only about 30% of health care. The rest is as follows:
Workman’s Compensation – overlapping, competing regulations between the Commissioner and the State Department of Labor
HFPC – Medicaid
Department of Health – Quality of health care but not funding
DORA – Professional Licensing
Health and Insurance Exchanges – new with the Health Care Reform, TBD
VA – Veterans Health Care (VA Hospitals fall under both VA and DoH)
Funding through Liability – Courts

When a case comes to an insurance company, the first thing an adjuster does is determine if there is coverage. Then they determine if there is another entity also responsible or partly responsible for coverage. Of course, in the interest of the company, the first goal is to find someone else to cover. If a case can be made for another party being responsible, that is what the adjuster will go with first. Could this be the responsibility of Workman’s Comp instead of the insurer? Could it be a quality of care issue? Licensing? Medicaid? Is it possible to put the claim in the bucket of someone other than the insurer? They will let the claimant fight it out with the other entity, and then themselves, or both. This is a legal way to avoid paying, or delay it. In most cases, both entities that could have responsibility will fight payment.

There are gaps in insurance coverage that insurance companies know and take advantage of. There are overlaps in coverage, where the insurance companies try to push the liability off on the other entities. I don’t blame the insurance companies, I blame our laws. With the myriad of laws and regulations, it is almost impossible to keep up.

Imagine, if you will (not too far fetched), somebody lives in Pennsylvania. He works in New Jersey. His company is in New York. He gets sick in Delaware. He files his claim in Pennsylvania. His company bought his insurance in California. Which state’s rules apply? The insurer will try to go with the state with the rules most in its favor.

Neither the insurers nor state commissioners want to take these issues to court. Whatever the ruling, it is apt to go against both. If the courts rule that the rules of the state where the insurance was issued are the rules that prevail, insurance companies will rush to issue policies in the state with the least regulation, which will be expensive to the states (discussed below). If the courts rule otherwise, the insurers will have to adjust the cost of insurance to match each state. Claimants who get sick in states where rules are against them may wait to get home to make the claim. Because there are 50 sets of rules (not 50 rules, 50 states of rules) it is very hard to establish consistent policies. Keeping the computers up to date with all these rules and their nuances would be a daunting task if each company had just one computer platform and set of applications (they don’t – with all the mergers, they are a mish mash of old and new applications in different languages with varying quality of documentation on a bunch of different platforms).

John McCain ran on a platform that there should be the ability to buy insurance across state lines. This would be horrible for consumers. Insurance companies would all head for states where regulation is the least and coverage will be almost nonexistent. Don’t worry, though, that will never happen. States get at least 10% of their budgets from taxes paid on each policy sold in their state. If policies are sold across state lines they will lose that revenue.

This is why we need a national health care policy. This is why we need single payer. Once the laws are straightened out, once we have a national policy with one set of laws and regulations, we will be able to clearly see who the bandits are and deal with them.