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DT’s Voting Strategy

Background

I won’t forget 2000, 2004, or 2008. Our democracy was tarnished, torn, and battered on those election years. Perhaps we never had the democracy I always thought we had, but I know we don’t have it now. And that cynical, cruel, destructive action from the political machine has nearly destroyed this country.

Of course what made 2008 much worse for us was it was our party. They tore at the very fabric of society and left a large scar we still see today. It wasn’t enough that they cheated in many of the caucuses, hardly democracy anyway. No, they could even stop at that to steal the election. They went the extra mile, rubbing salt in the wounds, by stealing a whole states worth of primary votes, and then when that wasn’t enough for the heartless greedy soulless appetites, they didn’t even have a roll call and count the votes. Clearly for fear that the real winner might somehow still win. On that day we learned they were the same corrupt corporatist machine as the Republicans. No damn difference. They make different noises, and they throw in a few bones, but on the big issues, they’re the same.

Many in the Democratic party where abused, called old, called women (to them an insult by itself), called Republicans anyway, and called racist. They told anyone in the Democratic party, that if they didn’t like what they did at the convention, they could leave. They weren’t wanted, or needed. The New Democratic party had a new coalition now. They were made up of, funny enough, Republicans, mostly moderate, independents, and young people of no particular political persuasion or philosophy because to them it was all about personality and a messiah. They were made up of a solid group of African Americans some of whom were uncomfortable with how things happened, but understandably wanted an African American president more than anything. And on top of this new coalition were the party elites. You know the ones. The ones that never really liked that working class people were in their party. Never were really comfortable with, you know, little people. And funny enough, mostly white upperclass “progressives” that aren’t comfortable with people of color either, but this new choice gave them what they thought was a get out of bigot jail free card. But make no mistake, the party elite don’t particularly like the members of the new coalition any more than they liked the old group.

So from this, we got a New Democratic president and a supermajority in both houses of congress. Almost unprecedented power not seen in quite a while. With that power and by the winning margins, they had a large mandate to be and do anything different that Bush. They could have easily wiped out injustice in our laws towards women and LBGT and minorities. They could have reformed health care, bringing in at a minimum a public option. They could have made great strides economically with FDR style work stimulus programs. They could have performed a miracle not seen since FDR himself. But what did we get? We got none of that. We got the most cynical health care bill that does the opposite of what it should. It forces people to buy private insurance with massive loopholes allowing no caps and still the ability of the insurance company to effectively kick you out of your plan when you get sick. It puts more power and money in the hands of insurance companies. It is in a word, criminal. And we’ve seen us move backwards in women’s rights. And for DADT, we see the courts pushing forward and this very president pushing us backwards. And that’s nothing compared to the continuation of spying on Americans, wars, and now hit lists of American citizens.

Lessons Learned

The bottom line, the last four years of this same group running congress and the last two years of our president, has been as bad as the other party. Make no mistake, it makes me very sad to say that. My former party has unabashedly become puppets to the corporatists, and they don’t even hide it any more. They make it clear with their actions and sadly even often with their words, that they don’t care about Americans or American. Same as the other party. These two parties are both bad for America. And the saddest thing I’ve noticed, I think this new found power of this New Democratic party makes them even more susceptible to doing the bidding of the oligarchy because they so desperately want to hold on to the power normally granted to the other party.

And so, I resigned from my party of more years than I care to remember. That party does not represent me. Sadly for me there isn’t a major party that represents me. So I am independent. I’m proud to be a liberal independent.

Strategy Basics

Now that I’ve set the stage for you, met me say a bit about my voting strategy. Firstly, party affiliation is irrelevant to me. Those are clearly nothing more than tribes or gangs or country clubs. They mean nothing. As we have sadly learned. As far as I can tell, you can’t tell an individuals values from the party or lack of party to which they belong. You can make some guesses that a Democrat might be more to the left on many issues than a Republican. But you could easily be wrong. So I discount that.

So what’s left. Like with picking a presidential candidate during the primaries, you look at their experience, their record, you watch and listen, and you analyze. You look at who their supporters are, who they associate with, and who their backers are. Some of those are hard to find. But you dig anyway. Sometimes you meet them or see them at rallies. You try not to be taken in by celebrity or charisma or outward looks and charm. That’s not what you’re hiring them for. You do your homework. No one is going to be the same as you on all issues. And sadly I think the longer a politician is in office, the less likely they’ll have integrity and any semblance of what’s best for their constituents. It very quickly becomes about holding power and doing what the powerful want. So how long someone has been in office is a major factor, no matter how much you may think you like them.

Candidate Choices

First there are zillions of candidates and other choices on ballots. So there can be a lot of work. I do look at some organizations material showing their choices and why. We’ve all learned to be wary of such organizations because they have their own agendas. They’re not in it for you, they’re in it for themselves. So verify.

If you’re lucky, you have some choices. If there are more than two party candidates, you may even have some very good choices. Green or other liberal parties often have good choices. Sometimes independents are great. And on occasion the New Democratic party candidate might be great. Sestak comes to mind.

And as mentioned above, how long they’ve been in office is a major factor for me. Perhaps there could be a formula for this that takes away points for every year they’re in office. And then maybe points for matching issues, and independence of funding, etc., etc. We’ll leave that for another post.

Alas, what happens when there isn’t a good choice. What do you do? You can either vote for the lesser of two evils, write in Elvis, or something else.

Other Factors – The Protest Vote

Finally, there is indeed another dimension to this. The something else mentioned above. If you don’t have a great candidate, which sadly is often, there is the protest vote. This can be either to punish or mess up the tribe you’re more likely to be aligned with politically, say Democrats, or it can be to just generally fuck with the two main parties and keep them changing and scrambling. That is, throw wrenches in the works to slow them down.

Why would you consider doing this? After all, the other party is at least 2% more evil. Wouldn’t that help them? Yes, yes it would. And yes, they are a bit more evil. I’m a liberal, and to me, that’s still true despite what we’ve seen happen to the Democratic party. But that’s not the point. Let me put that another way, THAT’S NOT THE POINT! Here’s the point. And we’ve made this point a million times at this blog and still people don’t quite get it. If you will vote for the Democrat over the Republican every time, no matter what, because they are indeed ever so slightly better than the other guy, then why on earth would that party ever, ever, ever listen to you and your wishes and needs? I mean EVER. If they have your vote no matter what, you don’t have any value to them. That’s worth a simpler rephrasing to make sure it sinks in. YOU HAVE NO VALUE IF THEY CAN COUNT ON YOUR VOTE!!!

I think I made that clear. So if you don’t like what your slightly less evil party is doing or your slightly less evil candidate is doing or is about, don’t vote for them. Don’t vote for the lesser evil of the candidates. just don’t vote for them. Don’t do it. Don’t reward that party for putting up crap candidates.

So what choices do you have with your protest. You can actually vote for the other major party. That one is a tough one. Well, not so tough if that candidate is actually relatively moderate. And even on occasion actually more liberal than the one in your party (or closest equivalent). But usually that’s a really tough thing to do. You have to be brave and hold your nose. Now that I think about it, it’s just like how my old party has made me vote for them for years. Come to think of it, they’ve trained me quite well to do that. Not so hard perhaps.

But if that’s too much, another choice is to not vote for either candidate, none of the above if available, or to write in a nonsense candidate. Or, even though mentioned above as a reasonable option, some may consider voting for third party candidates to be in this protest camp. I like that last approach because it’s a twofer. You’re actually voting for someone pretty good, and your protest and and affecting the Democratic party.

My Vote

So what am I going to do. I won’t bore you with all the smaller local candidates like dog catcher or referendums like should we ban coffee houses from using pink whipped cream. OK, I made that one up. But I do have a congressional race to vote for that’s of interest. FYI: Here’s the League of Women Voters sheet on my district ballot (warning, link is to PDF). I get a lovely choice of candidates for congress. (Yes, that’s a snark.) First is the Democrat Tom Perriello who, as you can see from the sheet, is a founder of a number of faith-based organizations. Yes, not just one, but a number. And as you might have guessed, he’s anti-abortion. Worse still, he was an eagle scout. {{Shudder}} So basically a Republican-lite. Then we have Robert Hurt, the real Republican. He really sucks. And third, we have an independent candidate Jeffrey Clark, who is, you guessed it, another Republican. Though at least he was in the Army and did some real work. And I have to admit, I like the part on immigration where he wants to send business men to jail for hiring illegal immigrants. Kind of going against the grain of corporate interests there.

So who am I going to vote for? Well, first the polls seem to be fluctuating between Hurt winning by 5 points to Hurt winning by 10 points. Basically Hurt’s just been running against Obama/Pelosi. And of course as you’d expect from the New Democratic party, Perriello’s been lying about the health care bill (hey, at least he’s trying to defend it I guess), and slinging mud. I can’t vote for Perriello I’ve decided. He’s part of the new coalition that is moving the Democratic party further to the right. But I don’t think I can vote for Hurt. Since it probably doesn’t matter, I’m currently leaning towards Clark just for the protest (of the third party variety). That is, it’s not a good third party candidate where I get a twofer and feel doubly good, but it’s just a protest vote, plan and simple.

November 2nd, The Big Picture

Since others have mentioned their general thoughts on the rest of the elections, I thought I’d do the same. I can’t pretend otherwise, I want this New Democratic party to be dismantled. The new coalition is already falling apart given the poll numbers. The new voters just voting for a personality or messiah are either disillusioned or bored. That’s the thing about new voters, you get what you pay for. And as you’d expect, the Republican’s that joined are back to being Republicans. And it turns out the independents they pulled in are also either disillusioned or bored. None of them seem to be in the coalition any more. And sadly for the Democratic party, they threw out a big part of their base in 2008. So I want them to fall apart. Not because I want Republicans to run the country and destroy it. And sadly that’s possible. But because I don’t want this New Democratic party to destroy the country first. And make no mistake, Obama and Pelosi and Reid will continue down the path of being worse than Bush on a number of fronts and go further by cutting social security and medicare, and education is next after that. I want them out.

So I will not feel bad for them when they lose the House, which I think they will. And I won’t feel bad as they lose some in the senate. I will be very happy to see Reid go. And yes, that means a really scary person would get that seat. I certainly am not for her nor would I vote for her, but I wouldn’t vote for Reid either because he’s only less evil. He has been an utter disaster. He needs to go. And as for Pelosi, what can I say in print after her part in the 2008 primaries. Well, let’s just say I’ll be very happy to see her lose her position and will be happy to see her retire. I’m sure she’ll have fun working for some health insurance lobbyist like may of the other Democrats that leave office.

For predictions, I’m thinking the Republicans will win around 50 seats in the house and about 5 seats in the Senate. Funny enough, that’s been my prediction since the beginning of the mid term season and it hasn’t changed much. We’ll see very soon.

There you have it. My ramblings went a bit long, but that’s my current approach to voting. What’s yours?

Dish: Health Insurance Reform

WHHHOOOOOOOOOO! Health Care Reform for white men has passed! The most historical event evah in the history of historicalness has occurred! A Democratic Congress and a Democratic President has made a Republican Healthcare Bill Law! Insurance companies will be able to not provide helpless children with adequate care at last!

All this change! All this hope! I can’t take it! I’m going to spontaneously combust!

The world is going insane, and while normally I like insanity, this is not the good kind. Obama has just passed national RomneyObamacare–a Nixon wet dream originating from the Heritage Foundation in the 1990s in opposition to Hillarycare, and yet lunatic “Tea Partiers” are running around vandalizing the houses of Congressidiots who voted for the heaping pile of shit, screaming that they are “socialists?”

Obama signs an executive order restricting women’s access to abortion, and so called “progressives” and “feminists” are having kool aid induced orgasms as they compare the passage of a Health Insurance Reform Bill that would be better served as toilet paper to the Civil Rights Act? What the fuck?

Well, maybe I’m being unfair. The Bill IS Historic. Historically shitty.

I find myself–and we all must admit that I am normally so cheerful and chipper, yes, you know you all love me– I find myself feeling gloomy. I’m walking around campus with my hands shoved in the pockets of my fake leather jacket with a cigarette hanging out of my mouth–and I don’t even smoke! Security officers are mistaking me for troubled youth and are performing random searches on me.

Well, I am troubled. I’m troubled about a lot of things, but in terms of politics and current events, I am troubled about the fact that, as MYIQ said a few weeks ago, there appears to be no end in sight.

But what really has me bummed out right now is the realization that there is no end in sight for the mess this country is in. The single biggest problem facing our nation is the illness in our political system. When I say “illness” I mean the equivalent of an inoperable cancer that has metastasized. If we fixed our political system then we would actually be able to do something about those other problems.

For most of my adult life I believed that the Democrats were the good guys so even when they were getting slapped around by the Republicans I could support them and hope that after the next election they would grow a pair and start standing up for the liberal ideals they campaigned on.

I finally realized that the majority of the Democrats who hold elected office are not only corrupt but they have the same agenda as the Republicans. Oh, the say they’re on our side, and when it’s time for them to represent us they might make some speeches andr play some parliamentary tricks but when the nitty meets the gritty they lose on purpose. Lots of times they don’t even bother to put on a dog and pony show anymore, they just vote to bail out Wall Street or take away our civil rights as if that’s what we wanted them to do.

Now as far back as I can remember the Republicans were corrupt and they tended to be pricks or assholes, and sometimes both, but they weren’t insane. Nowadays there’s a lot of GOPers that are crazy as shithouse rats. That not only includes the elected ones but the voters too. Then you got the tea baggers who don’t think the Republicans are crazy enough.

I can’t believe that I am living in a country–I country I have grown up loving with every fiber of my being despite its flaws–where this is happening. The passage of a bill that bails out the Health Care Industry is historic! And in honor of Women’s History Month we passed it on the backs of women and their reproductive rights! Cats bark! Fish have tails! Catholic Priests are ethical in their treatment of young children!

The whole world is going mad I tell you! MAAAADDDDD!

Of course, intellectually I understand, there is always hope. Democrats are going to lose a lot of seats in November and while the Republicans that come into office will be even worse, the door will open for real liberals, not phony “progressives,” to show Donna Brazile and Howard Dean’s “New Coalition” to be ineffective and thus we will be able to take our party back.

But sometimes, in this Golden Era of Hope and Change, politics just isn’t enough. For once in our lives, we needed policy. Good policy that would actually have given broke-ass students like me real Health Insurance. Just a few weeks ago, before my spring break, I came down with the flu and missed a week of classes I’m still making up. If I had insurance, I might have been able to get antibiotics and missed only one day, maybe two. This bill does nothing to help me. For one thing, I’ll be done with my undergraduates and possibly even my graduates by 2014. At this rate I’m going to have to start stripping for my ‘scrips, just like a number of poor senior citizens who will shortly be facing cuts in medicare due to this lame-assed bill.


Sometimes, I get tired. Sometimes, I don’t want to live life day to day anymore. Sometimes I think things will never get better. Trying to get something to eat, trying to fill up my gas tank–always being hungry, worrying about my mom, worrying about my friends, worrying about all the people around me at my school who are going through the same thing.

Sometimes, honestly, I’m just tired. And today, forgive me, but I have to lament over the fact that politics took precedence over policy. Sorry.

New Movement Survey #1

The time is right for a new movement.  The American middle class is sick and tired of getting trampled by the well connected who have our government by the balls.   But if we are going to get this baby off the ground, we’re going to have to do this right.   Successful movements have certain things in common. Timing is important.  But so is critical mass, messaging, leadership, discipline. To start off our exploration of movements that worked, I want to start with The Protestant Reformation and the American Revolution.  Those of you who haven’t seen HBO’s fantastic series John Adams should rent it ASAP.  The first several episodes are the important ones.  For those of you not familiar with the Reformation, check out this excellent introduction from PBS’ Empires based on the life of Martin Luther: Driven to Defiance and Reluctant Revolutionary.

Now, before we get started, I would like to conduct a survey.  This is not the first time we have tried to get our act together and we are not the only ones trying to do it.  Violet Socks is testing the waters as well.  But we continue to face resistance, from ourselves mainly, to actually doing something.  So, this survey is intended to help us figure out what we are doing wrong.

Notes and my humble opinion:

  • Those of you who are hankering for a National Womens Party should give it up.  It’s DOA.  If you go that route, you will end up marginalizing yourselves and leave the rest of us without your critical mass.  Seriously.  I don’t want to be a part of a movement where we are already starting down the path to splitting ourselves up.  You can get everything you want from a new entity without making yourselves irrelevant from inception.  Sorry to be so harsh.  I could be harsher.  I am a feminist interested in equality.  Sentimental feminism bores me to fricking tears.  Don’t test my patience.  Feel free to disagree with me but before you do, first do a thought experiment and carry out your proposal to its logical conclusion.
  • Yes, tea partiers are well intentioned but crazy.  If you are a tea partier, I share your frustration with the way things are.  But the tea party movement was started by Republican operatives and, I’m sorry, but Republicans have lost all semblance of credibility.  They are bent on destruction of our government and have been  successful at destroying it since Ronald Reagan got his mitts on it. Rush Limbaugh is an evil man.  Glenn Beck is both evil and stupid.  If you can’t see what is really going on in the tea party movement, please sit this one out on our threads.
  • Think *VERY* carefully about how you want to construct your message.  I have seen what happens when a bunch of Conflucians or Reclusiveleftists or other left of centerists get together in a blog and decide to brainstorm.  It isn’t pretty.  Here is a taste of what *has* been successful:
  • Think about how to spread the message once we have one.  Blogging isn’t the answer.  Most people don’t read blogs.  Also, the news media isn’t going to cover us until we are too obvious to ignore anymore.  THIS is the place to be creative.

Ok, GO!

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Is it absurd to try to weather the storm?

stormIs it beyond our ken to maintain a noble purpose as we guide our battered ships of state through the dark shadows of this mild squall of an economic crisis? Whom of us will risk life and limb to keep the ships afloat? Who will cast away possessions for the same purpose? Who will act to subvert these sacrifices? How will the storm weather us, as we weather the storm?

I ask these question because these darkling foreshadows are pallid compared to those that will attend the forthcoming Category Six typhoon of environmental collapse. How will that storm weather us, if we weather the storm? Given the tendency of people to adopt default positions in crisis situations, how we perform now, should give us some indication of how we’ll perform in much more dire circumstances.

Curiously, given the introduction, the point of this post is not to delve into the ugliness which portends. The point of this post is to ask the question, “How should we behave when faced with the absurdity that the cultural virtues that we cherish undermine the existential preconditions of our culture?” In other words, what does a wine-inspired poet do, when he finds that greater amounts of drink are fueling his muse, but not curing his cirrhosis and, in fact, killing him?

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It’s Time to Downsize the US

Alexander_cuts_the_Gordian_KnotIn difficult circumstances, such as the current economic crisis, it’s normal to work out how one got there as a means to avoid repeating the process. In the current situation, the discussion seems to range between those who feel that the situation is already working itself out, to those who feel that structural dangers remain and proper regulation is required, to those who feel that the problems were the result of regulation and government programs in the first place.

Count me somewhat on the side of the last group. I say somewhat because I think that the problem has to with the inappropriateness of the regulations that were employed, but unlike them I do not think that the problem is humans using morals and reason to regulate the marketplace. In other, more localized, words, I reject the notion that the Tenth Amendment prohibits spending programs and regulations.

My sense is that the regulations that were deployed to prevent economic disaster were structurally and functionally inadequate because they half-heartedly represented the Great American Project as manifest in the Constitution of the United States. The problem with the regulations wasn’t that they were half-hearted. That half-heartedness is symptom of the larger problem. They were structurally and functionally inadequate because the US can no longer afford to provide its citizens the rights and freedoms guaranteed in its Constitution. The regulations failed because they had a relationship to expectations that are suited to an America that does not exist, in an economic sense. The problems with the public education system, illegal immigration, crime and punishment, and social security, to name a few, are all relatively easy to solve, once the very costly, burdensomeness of the Constitution is overcome. It’s time for America to wake up and downsize its’ dream, the dreams of its citizens, and smell the aroma of the box store, bulk size, generic coffee reality that its best and its brightest have packaged for Uncle Sam’s future.

Downsizing America

Given the economic realities of the new US of A, what aspects of the American vision should no longer be seen as part of the covenant between the citizens and their government? A quick look at some fundamentals of democracy should provide some context about what avenues should be open to being cut. Then the process of contracting out the bureaucratics to the private sector can begin. This said, these are preliminary thoughts, so all that I will provide is a rough and general sketch.

Democracy is expensive and inefficient, even when it’s practised by politicians who are not neo-conservative Republicans. This is unsurprising by design. After all, it’s said that, in an ideal democracy, the populace is educated, they have access to all of the information they need to make a good decision, and they are free to make that decision. How does this ideal fare when it faces the real world?

Immediately, one is struck by the gross redundancy in the ideal system. Providing that much information to so many amounts to an excessive effort for minuscule return. The set of possible decisions for any question is extremely limited, given the options for action, and polling research has already proven that we only need small sample populations to get the gist of what people want. In fact, given the history of their wants, and given the nature of the question, there is probably no need to poll them further because it should be derivable from past decisions. The cost savings to be gained by dismantling the information network should be substantial. Mainstream media can remain as is.

The efficacy of sampling also suggests a direction for schooling provision. Once again, the system is entirely redundant. Imagine, though it’s a laughable thought, that a university degree was all the education one needed to be capable of making good decisions. What do you think it would cost to bring the 71% of Americans who do not have a degree, into the range of democratic competence? How could it possibly be worth the cost? In fact, apart from the decreasing number of specialty jobs that actually require a well-schooled employee, there is no good reason to maintain anything, but a shell of the existing system, apart from creating athletes for the circus part of social diversion. This is because we can use the same polling methodology and randomly choose children from the masses to receive schooling similar to the one that is provided today, and then poll them to find what the rest would have wanted, if they had the schooling.

Given the earlier recommendation of using past polling to extrapolate their wants, this process is admittedly redundant, but it does double duty in terms of providing training for the small percentage of jobs that actually require advanced schooling. Then again, perhaps it is wasteful to randomly select children, as this disregards the advantages of choosing children who are more likely to do well at university, based on their family background. Given past polling, it’s probably best to err on the side of efficiency. The point to take here is that there is no value in giving people more schooling than they need to do the small range of relatively unskilled jobs that await them. Furthermore, think of the dissatisfaction that is avoided when people don’t have enough education to be hired below their level of training.

If the vast majority of people are no longer making decisions, then there’s no reason to prop up the facade that they actually are involved in decision-making. If voter turnout is any indication, many will appreciate avoiding the exercise. To be fair, eternal vigilance is an unwieldy burden to bear, if the only benefits people accrue is to not have decisions made for them by their betters.

In fact, if they are not needed for decision-making, their representatives are redundant for the same structural reasons. The cash to be gained, by trading in the clunker of a public decision-making structure, should be sigificant.

All of these actions would save the economy trillions and once again put America front and center as an economic powerhouse, through the tax dollars it would free up and save. At the same time, it would give Americans a leg up on the rest of the developed/undeveloping world, by readying its citizens for a life of diminished possibilities long before the others face the challenge, should they.

The Constitution is in the way of progress in the US, to the extent it promotes the values of the ideal democracy. Perhaps it was prescient to send home Churchhill’s bust because his notion that “Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.”, seems to have gone bust for America.

chrwsbwp

This is “a frayed thread” in honor of GW’s administration crying wolf at election time.

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Immigration Reform: An Environmental Perspective

Glbal Biosphere on June 6 2009Immigration, as a policy issue, is politically explosive. It is politically explosive because it necessarily involves making choices between bad options, each of which has supporters and detractors with political power.

In advocating for their option, it is not uncommon for some supporters to engage in inaccurate and unjust accusations against their opponents, such as claiming the other is guilty of racism or traitorhood. The situation is further complicated by the small numbers of supporters on either side who are racist or traitorous.

It is unsurprising that the engagements between opponents are volatile. How could decisions about who belongs, and who does not, be otherwise? What is the best way to disentangle a complex web of family relations, personal convictions, and obligations that must be shared between citizens if they are to be a nation, all in the context of the question of how the franchise is to be extended to non-citizens, if at all? It is no wonder that the issue is avoided like the plague.

Plague-avoidance strategies that do not address the causes of the plague, or bolster the immune system against its effects, are doomed to failure, however, and the cost of failure in avoiding the plague is serious illness and death. In this sense, the lack of a workable resolution of the immigration issue endangers the health of the body politic.

At present, the lack of meaningful policy action is, in effect, backdoor advocacy for the situation as it currently stands, in the “don’t ask, don’t tell” sense. This abrogation of responsibility is dangerous beyond its obvious bad effects. It cultivates a sense of powerlessness among the citizenry, who perceive their elected governments as incapable of effecting meaningful change. History has enough examples of what happens when democratic and republican assemblies appear incapable of providing effective leadership in difficult times. This underscores why difficult challenges must be addressed to maintain the health of the body politic. If our leaders will not lead for us, they must be lead by us, if we are to avoid being lead by powered interests. This short, oversimplified post is intended to be a step in the direction of citizen leadership.

The framework that follows views immigration from an environmental perspective that takes into account citizenship within a nationalist framework. I think it practical because we are citizens in nationalist frameworks and because immigration is a normal environmental phenomenon. My intent is to propose a framework for immigration based upon the environmental concept of sustainability, which is also practical, because it is social suicide to adopt models that are not sustainable.

In this post, I shall not address anti-nationalist perspectives, despite their value, because the scope of the issues is already too daunting for a short post. Furthermore, I shall not address economic or ethical perspectives that disregard the Second Law of Thermodynamics. I consider it to be inarguable that the Earth has a more or less finite amount of non-renewable and renewable resources, in human terms, and that their availability is governed by the Law of Diminishing Returns and the Principle of Net Yield. For example, the only reason immigration is an issue is because there is competition for scarce resources. If there were plenty of everything that everyone needed and wanted, then there would be no grounds for disputes and no reason to have systems of justice, except to deal with the actions of the pathological.

The ideas that follow are predicated on the notion that there are limits to growth. The only dispute is about the extent of these limits. Living beyond these limits is not sustainable.

Continue reading

Afrocity Says…Lets Hang up the Chick Habit and Riot Grrls!!!!

black-feminist1

I try not to show it much but being recognized as a PUMA is very important to me.

I imagine myself standing in a room filled with PUMA women of all ages, colors and backgrounds. We are a circle of sisters who will not be treated like shit. A moral and intellectual force and we have all just been through hell.

I step forward and say.

My name is Afrocity and I am a Republican (there I said it) and I want to be a PUMA.

It is March 2009 and I was thinking this scene out for sometime as I awaited surgery at a local women’s hospital. I had uterine polyps. I was bleeding and in pain.  Nevertheless, I felt special because it was a women’s specialty hospital- only us girls and everything was trimmed in breast cancer awareness -pink.  I saw an older woman being wheeled into the OR, her daughter behind her with an OBAMA tote bag. Hmmm I did not vote for the man but matter what, we are still women. No one can change that. She pees sitting down and so do I.

I put my Ipod on. I have a PUMA playlist you know. It is all Riot Grrl music. The third wave feminist girl bands. Bratmobile, April March, Jack Off Jill… The drugs they gave to me were kicking in. The nurse looked at me and smiled. I wondered if she would still smile at me if she knew I was conservative. The last song I remembered before they wheeled me into surgery was April March’s “Chick Habit”.

hang up the chick habit
hang it up, daddy,
a girl’s not a tonic or a pill
hang up the chick habit
hang it up, daddy,
you’re just jonesing for a spill

oh, how your bubble’s gonna burst
when you meet another nurse
she’ll be driving in a hearse

you’re gonna see the reason why
when they’re spitting in your eye
they’ll be spitting in your eye

I thought yes we need to hang up the chick habits, all get along and PUMA will be spitting your eye.

You may have noticed that I have been absent from The Confluence.

After a long and stressful election year I needed some time to myself.

I was tired of the Rasmussen polls and Obamabots. I felt overloaded by the imagery of sexism, race baiting and misogyny. I lost my race, my color, my gender. The thread I hung by was PUMA and that thread was breaking I felt, because I was a conservative.

During the election I really had no where to turn. I frequented Jake Tapper’s Political Punch Blog at ABCNEWS.com. There I experience a daily forced fed diet of Kool Aid and Hillary Hate Bars, full of energy with hope and change, packed with the extra fiber of racial pandering and humiliation. Hillary lost the primary. I felt personally defeated.

What was I going to do? Vote for McCain? It was almost impossible to comprehend. I had been a Democrat my entire life. I was an African American woman- it was craziness. I wanted to vote for John McCain. I had always admired his service to his country, his time as a POW, his maverick stance. It did not help that the left had fallen from grace in my eyes. For some time they had metamorphosed from dutiful donkeys to hypocritical assholes. “Hmmm which voting block will we pimp this time?” I’d had enough. Hillary was my last hope in the DNC and now she was gone. I wanted to go Republican but all the force of my racial sensibility told me not to. The only thing liberal about me was my pro-choice position. How could I? I would sit out the election.

One day, I went to the blog to pass the time away. Expecting the same ol’ Obamabutt garbage. Quick! Here come the sheeple. Get the Kool Aid! Fetch and Carry.

Today I was wrong.

Someone posted.

JUST SAY NO DEAL!!!! PUMA. NOBAMA,

Catchy phrase I thought. Just like the Howie Mandel game show. A week went by and I saw it again and again.

One lone poster: PUMA PUMA PUMA PUMA

I Googled it and saw sneakers…athletic gear…then a gem…It was Riverdaughter. THE CONFLUENCE.

At first I lurked and laughed. It was the epitome of estrogen and political snark.

Dare I post? I put a toe into the pool, then a leg, a body.

Afrocity was in, AngieNC grabbed my hand SOD was there, Madamab. Hi there Mr. Clown and Fuzzy, Simonfish. The water was refreshing and clear of Kool Aid.

Through PUMA, I gained unlikely acquaintances. Women I would never meet in real life. Along the way the wounds were terrible. Gotcha interviews, pigs with lipstick, Sarah Palin open debate threads, our PUMA eyes wide and keyboards tapping to her defense. We were like dolls in a museum, stripping off our gingham and corsets. We would no longer allow ourselves to be political ornamentation.

We were honing a message. Whispers from “Camp Chosen One” turned into threats and slurs. We were demonized as Menopausal Mollies who hated Obama. We were called the “R word”. Yes even me… We marched together on Election Day and cast our ballots. Many votes were in protest, others in earnest, a few mentally at home. The un-vote. Still, no matter how we voted, no matter how difficult it was that the vote was not for SHE, there was an undeniable bond of unity and we all found ourselves NOT VOTING FOR OBAMA.

I am a Republican but to me and the many other conservative and independent voting women that I know- we admire the PUMA cause as we lurk here. We watch with much interest as the PUMA question is answered. What is your mission. Will it include us?

Women of all political parties need to look for ways to simultaneously embrace women’s rights. Defiant political posture is a means to an end in the face of rising discrimination on the basis of our sex.

What happened during the election happened to both Hillary Clinton and Sarah Palin.

We should come together and avail ourselves of liberal and conservative tools- every divisive tool of patriarchic propaganda. Let’s widen our base and broaden our message.

Ceilings must shatter at the White House. As women, we should challenge the concept of the executive branch as ONLY masculine and the congressional branch as tolerably feminine.

We need collaboration to overcome the current divide. This past election told us much as ourselves not only as conservatives or democrats, blacks, whites, gays or straight but as women. Together we can advance in parallel directions. We can combat the horizontal fraternization between the patriarchy and the media. We can unburden ourselves of critical surveillance and revisionist History i.e. SHE IS STUPID, ONLY A ROOM WHERE HE COMES OUT, SHE IS PERIODICALLY DOWN.

Otherwise our work is in vain. Hidden in plain sight and the gendered assaults will continue.

Please lets hang up the chick habits. Let’s RIOT GRRLS

Then my operation is over and I have opened my eyes.

Autographed Letter Signed,

AFROCITY

http://afrocityblog.wordpress.com/


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Musings on American Culture, and How to Change it for the Better

Women Are Still Wearing These

Women Are Still Wearing These

This week, I have been thinking about American culture, and shaking my head in disgust. For example, I noticed that Oscar-winning actress Renee Zellweger is starring in a new movie. When I saw the publicity shots for the film, my jaw dropped, as it was obvious Ms. Zellweger, at the ripe old age of 39, has had a great deal of cosmetic surgery done on her face. As a result, she now bears a startling resemblance to Nicole Kidman and has all the expressiveness of a Madame Tussaud’s mannequin. But darn it, she doesn’t have wrinkles anymore, so I suppose it’s all for the best! And then there’s another Oscar-winning actress, Gabrielle Anwar, who currently stars in USA’s hit television show, “Burn Notice.” She used to look like this, but now looks like this. Ms. Anwar is certainly anorexic, yet is portrayed as a sexy, irresistible bombshell on the show. No normal woman could ever achieve a look like hers without literally starving herself to death.

Why are actresses refusing to age, and to eat, in order to keep their jobs?

A more pointed question is this: In a world where the feminine principle dominates, do we really think that these women would torture themselves in order to morph into some bizarre, impossible ideal of feminine beauty?

The New Agenda editor Dr. Violet Socks has defined the patriarchy as a vast ocean in which we are all fish, and states that every feminist learns to taste the water at a different time in his or her life. I would like to tweak this metaphor a little, and argue that if we are all fish, we rot from the head first.

In other words, the culture that defines women by their perceived sexuality, youth and fertility is an outgrowth of government. If we change the government, we will change the culture. Continue reading

By request: Unemployment Chronicles

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(Photo source, Darth Dragon on Flickr)

When I wrote that I was laid off for the second time in 3 months here, Laurie recommended the following:

Laurie, on January 24th, 2009 at 4:30 am Said:

SM plz keep us posted. If you can, do an unemployed diary. You know, where you have to go, what forms you have to fill in, how long you have to wait to get food stamps. What food stamps look like, what kind of food you get for them-can you get organic? How long the line is etc etc

I can’t tell you how hard it is for me to write about this.  Being unemployed and having to ask for help to feed your family because you can’t find a job is demoralizing and embarrassing.  I’ve worked my ass off all my life, from working as a cafeteria clerk serving food at a hospital, cleaning offices, to paying my dues in the marketing advertising world, then becoming the first female and Latina COO of a small marketing firm, to then quitting because I was overworked (12-14 hour days, 6, sometimes 7 days a week) and not get overtime (and figured I could make the same amount of money and try to at least participate more in my daughter’s life) to then enjoying the luxury of freelancing – and then as of two years ago… SPLAT…  living off the nest egg, working whatever project came ever other month, to then working minimum wage PT jobs while the next big project comes, to being laid off completely with no new project in sight.  And no nest egg.  It royally sucks.

I know I could’ve done it better.  I coulda would shoulda… but I believed in that American dream of entrepenurialship and ultimately got f__cked while getting there.  I’m not a homeowner.  I’m a single mom and  I don’t live excessively out of my means.  I learned to live modestly according to my income to cover the bills & make sure no matter what the fridge has food, rent was paid on time, utilities were paid for the month.  All I wanted was a chance to spend more time with PUMA cub while working – and found that opportunity by freelancing.  I did it successfully for almost 6 yrs.

The only reason why I’m doing it is because this experience is now a nationwide crisis.

Some Conflucians are going through the same thing I am.  Others are lucky enough to miss a layoff wave at their jobs- at least this week.  Some are lucky enough to have that nest egg still there.  What we can’t ignore is that we are living in very precarious times – and I can bet that employer abuse will continue and will rise.  This is why I wasn’t celebrating the Ledbetter Act, because without the PayCheck Fairness Act, women are still vulnerable.

But I digress…as usual.  Let’s get to topic.

To answer Laurie’s first query, the state of Florida cut funding for the Dept of Children and Families (which is where Floridians apply for Medicaid, Food Stamps, Cash assistance for Rent & expenses, etc.)  Everything is done online here.  If you go to an office to apply, what you’ll find are computers and phones where you can call someone on the other side of a wall.  You do not speak to anyone face to face.  Only in rare cases, such as child and elderly abuse investigations, you’ll see a social worker’s face.

If you are a person with zero computer skills, you’re SOL.   They have to find someone to help them fill out the application online.  There is a phone number that you call, but this is the ONLY phone number that is available for the entire state of Florida which is the 4th most populous state in the nation.  It’s a 1-866 number, and it’s always busy.

If you get through the application, you’ll either get a phone call or a notification in the mail requesting proof of loss of income, any financial help you may have received from friends, proof of child support payments, etc.  Sometimes they won’t ask for anything at all, it just depends on what category the computer classifies you as.  Yes, a computer determines whether you are eligible or not.

I just got my letter today asking me to provide loss of income and proof of child support to receive Medicaid.  The income limit in Florida to receive assistance is roughly $1,500 per month.  I laughed when I read this, because this past year, I’ve made much less than $1,500 per month & didn’t think I would be able to qualify.   So far in Florida, you may qualify for MedicAid and Food Stamps even if you have up to $5000 in the bank, own your own home and own your own car.   Your actual present income is the determining factor, then minus your living expenses.  I think this all changed because of the foreclosure crisis and out of control inflation costs, rising cost of oil & bubbled property values.  Before, it wasn’t like that.  The income index levels for qualification were much lower than this.  So some of you out there reading this, you may qualify right now in your state and not even know it.

Food stamps aren’t actually “stamps.”  They are now in Debit Card form which every month, your approved amount is electronically transferred.  You can only use this for “food”, and thanks to supermarket UPC scanning, you can’t sneak a pack of cigarettes, wine or Bounty paper towel roll and charge it against your Food Stamp EBT card.  And you can’t exchange it for cash either.   Back when I was in college in the late 80s-early 90s (aka Bush 1.0 years), I used to PT as a clerk at my cousin’s bodega.  Food Stamps were actually coupons you tore off of a book.  The policy was to accept them for any item that was the equal value – no exception.  So the EBT card does work to prevent misuse of Food Stamp Funds, which is great.

I don’t qualify for unemployment insurance because I filled out W-9 forms – which means that taxes are the employee’s responsibility.  When I was making bucks, I had to submit my earnings every quarter to the IRS, pay my taxes -and then wait to get all my 1099s for the year to file for the year.  This year, I made enough money to exempt me from filing taxes.  Can you believe that shit?  For the first time in my adult life – I am actually exempt because I was under the tax index level.  I know owe the IRS about $1800 from 2 years ago and I haven’t been able to pay that (hello, survival mode here!) and they told me, just pay 25 dollars a month if you can.  So I have.  But the IRS knows what I’m making (or not making).  They know I can’t afford to pay them now – so they leave me alone until I can.

Here’s the Unemployment Insurance qualifications depending on the state you live/work from a link at the US Dept of Labor which explains more:

Eligibility

1. You must meet the State requirements for wages earned or time worked during an established period of time referred to as a “base period”. (In most States, this is usually the first four out of the last five completed calendar quarters prior to the time that your claim is filed.)

2. You must be determined to be unemployed through no fault of your own (determined under State law), and meet other eligibility requirements of State law.

I don’t qualify under these perimeters because I am considered a “contract” employee.  But let’s say that I was pre-eligible.  I would have to file an unemployment claim, then based on the reason why I no longer am working, Unemployment will determine whether or not I could receive unemployment benefits.

Here’s more from the US Dept of Labor:

Benefits

  • In general, benefits are based on a percentage of an individual’s earnings over a recent 52-week period – up to a State maximum amount.
  • Benefits can be paid for a maximum of 26 weeks in most States.
  • Additional weeks of benefits may be available during times of high unemployment (see Extended Benefits). Some States provide additional benefits for specific purposes.
  • Benefits are subject to Federal income taxes and must be reported on your Federal income tax return. You may elect to have the tax withheld by the State Unemployment Insurance agency.

With regards to this, some of the work I did part time was helping seniors and disabled people on Medicare – and people on Unemployment Insurance -  apply for Food Stamps and Medicaid.    All the people I helped were mostly working class people who couldn’t afford to pay the 20% that Medicare doesn’t cover, or were people who were referred to the office because they didn’t have computer skills to apply online.

Some of them were earning 800-1000 a month from their Social Security pension and had to pay 200-300 dollars a month for medicines, doctor co-pays, lab exams, etc.

But there were many people that were the in-betweeners, the 45-60 something yr old laid off workers from blue collar jobs.  The only income they had was unemployment insurance.

I remember a Cuban gentleman who was 61, got laid off from his job in a food processing plant and has diabetes.  He spent 300 dollars a month buying insulin and other diabetic supplies, but unemployment only paid him 160 dollars a week.  His wife (57 yrs old) came down with MS shortly after he got laid off.  She stopped working and is in the process of getting disability from Social Security.  They spent all their savings (about 10,000) on medical expenses after COBRA ran out.

When I asked him to show me all his documentation to fill out the application for Medicaid/Food Stamps, he started to cry.  This is a macho Cubano man  crying.  In front of a much younger woman.  This is a sin in my culture.  But he couldn’t take it anymore.  He told me the story of how he immigrated to FL after Fidel took over, he came first, then years later was able to bring his wife & young daughter over to the US.  He lived in Miami, then moved to Tampa after Hurricane Andrew.  He found a job at a food processing plant outside of Tampa and then – the entire company closed down last year.  He said that he never imagined that he had to live this way.  His daughter works at a day care center and moved in with them to help pay bills.  But everyone’s strapped.  His daughter makes 10.00 an hr.  Thank God, he says, his mortgage was paid off 5 yrs. ago, but how can he pay property taxes, house insurance, food & utility expenses, help his wife who was diagnosed with MS with her health needs, plus get his diabetes under control.  He told me he can’t die now, but if he didn’t get help from somewhere, he very well could be.  He sold his car to pay for the bills, so they rely on public transportation (which royally sucks in FL, how about waiting 2 hrs for a bus?)  He put his house on sale with hopes that someone will buy it, but there are no buyers.

About  week before I got laid off, the same man comes back with a box of candies for me.  He and his wife were approved for Medicaid and Food Stamps and he wanted to thank me for helping him (food stamps covers chocolates!)

I think about him & his wife, and the people I can no longer help because I’m laid off.  I think about the people who do not have a friend with a computer that can help them.  I think about the overwhelming and increasing cases of unemployment that have to depend on a now fragile and overextended system.  This is not the 70s-80s.  We have over 300 million people in this country – and shit ain’t getting better.

This is a song for the Cuban gentleman I mentioned and his wife, for all of us trying to survive.  This is the Queen of Salsa, Celia Cruz’ version of Gloria Gaynor’s I will survive.  The melody’s the same, but the translation in Spanish refers to a survival of spirit, of outliving bad times and facing the future with strength.

Para Don Avelino y Doña Carmen, and for everyone:

Winning the Equal Representation Argument

You Are In Good Hands with Women In Charge

You Are In Good Hands with Women In Charge

Be forewarned, ladies. If you dare to think you are entitled to equal representation in government, you are doing something called “femi-whining.”

Don Surber says so, and his post made the “best of the blogs” on RealClearPolitics, so he must have a point. Right?

Surber objects to an article by Anne Kornblut of The Washington Post, in which she mentioned – gasp - numbers! (We all know girls can’t do math, right, Larry Summers?) In any case, Ms. Kornblut uses the fact that only 16 (now 17 again) out of 100 Senators are women. His intelligent and informed response to this?

Boo hoo hoo.

Senators are elected. Before you are elected you have to run. It was pretty hard for Minnesota to elect a woman this year because both major candidates were men. But if Norma Coleman and Alice Franken had run… well, we still would not have a winner but I think my point is made.

Clinton was not elected president because she was not a woman? Well, of the 20 leading contenders last year, 18 men were denied the job as well.

But Kornblut lives in a world where women are entitled to 50 Senate seats without bothering to campaign for them (emphasis added).

Nonsense.

Yes, Don Surber, it IS nonsense. And let me tell you why.

Continue reading

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