A Question of Strategy

So-the Democrats have taken the House. The Senate was always a long shot, but it still could have worked out better. 100 women elected. Several young, dynamic Democrats entered the national stage, and ensured themselves long-term relevance by dramatically exceeding expectations: finally, a Democratic bench is developing. There is good evidence that only gerrymandering kept the Democrats from absolutely swamping the House. And of course, it wouldn’t be an American election if there weren’t a bitterly contested recount underway in FL.

So, it becomes a question of what next: what should be the operational blueprint for the House Democrats? Moving forward, how do we, as Democrats, liberals, and yes, even radicals, best serve the Republic?

Example: The Democrats under Obama tried for years to get a seriously-needed infrastructure bill passed, and were thwarted at every turn: effectively, it must be added. It was part of the baldly-stated platform of Total Resistance the Republicans employed against Obama.

Now, Speaker-in-waiting Pelosi has signaled her willingness to work with Trump on an infrastructure bill. Would it help the country? Yes. Would it strengthen Trump? Also yes.

How serious of a threat is Trump to the health of the Republic?

How is the Republic best served?

Is it best served by cooperating with Trump, even though doing so strengthens him?

Does the magnitude of the threat posed by Trump constitute enough of a threat to justify refusing to cooperate with him, even though it may further delay needed legislation? Is the delay the price that has to be paid to prevent larger Trumpian destruction?

In warfare, if you give your opponent a sanctuary, a safe place wherein he can rest, recuperate, and re-arm, you cannot beat him. Likewise, if your opponent has access to a broad range of weapons, tactics, and strategies that you do not, you are most unlikely to beat him.

Currently, the Republicans have access to an entire range of weapons and tactics the Democrats cannot employ: lies, shamelessness, voter suppression, gerrymandering, massive billionaire support, and other forms of out-and-out cheating (see voting machines in GA), in addition to the Trump cult of personality. This puts the Democrats behind the eight ball before they even declare, as does Trump’s introduction of the permanent campaign, which he has used to amass a pre-election war chest of unprecedented size.

So, how is the Republic best served?

You’re Hired

Although our next election is a year away, candidates are currently doing and saying whatever they believe the American people want to hear. The conservative candidates are so plentiful, one can scarcely keep them all straight. But one of the candidates is not like the others.

 

He is loud. He is obnoxious. He is belligerent. He wears a million dollar kitten on his head.  He is…

trump

 

…The Donald.

A lot can be said about Trump’s candidacy thus far. His disrespectful tone with women, his thoughts on immigration, and his views on political contributions have been ferreted out for our perusal. Well, ferreted is not quite the best word to use, is it? The truth is that The Donald can’t shut up.

While I personally believe that if Trump ever articulated one good political idea, it would die of loneliness…

…He’s hired.

Wait, wait, wait. Don’t curse me like a drunken sailor just yet. I haven’t fallen and bumped my head. I just believe that there are a few things we -conservative, liberal, or other- can learn from this spectacle. Love or hate him. Let’s learn from him.

The Donald is honest. Brutally abrasive, almost cruelly honest. We can debate why he is so blunt, but I don’t believe that matters. What does matter is that Americans are fed up with pandering. A good chunk of America is sick to their back teeth of what they call political correctness.  Although rational people recognize that political correctness is a derogatory term for civility, many loathe it nonetheless. Presently, there is a certain level of admiration for a person willing to tell the unvarnished truth as he or she sees it.  We are seeing this admiration play out in liberal circles as well. A great deal of Bernie Sanders’ appeal is his speaking truth to power approach.

Then, there is the fact that Trump doesn’t need anyone. He is a very profitable business man who has come back from the brink more times than we can count. He is full of the can-do American spirit; He never gives up. As a known contributor to both parties, he has the freedom to entertain all points of view. As a billionaire, he runs a lesser chance of being bought. Americans want someone willing to hear other perceptions and someone comfortable in his/her own decision-making abilities. While very few openly admit to agreeing with most of Trump’s most outrageous statements, they do admire his confidence to stick to his guns. Again, look left…The liberal juggernaut, Sanders, is drawing huge crowds who adore him for sticking to his guns.

Finally, he is making politics interesting again. For many years, Americans have been, well, angry. Ranging from mild irritation to frothing at the mouth, anger and frustration has been an ever-present undercurrent in political discussions. The Donald has energized us all. I appreciate that. He and his kitten make me laugh, but his unique brand of outrageous foolery has people paying attention again. We need people paying attention. I’ve been saying for years that WE were the tyranny, that we have become far too uninvolved. Apathy does no favors for democracies. The Donald and his kitten are just entertaining enough to draw in viewers. Viewers are voters. For that alone, Trump, you’re hired.

 

 

 

We are here.

So Ferguson happened.

The pictures say a lot, don’t they? What they say depends on who’s doing the looking. To me, it says dangerous times are ahead.

If you recall, I wrote about this very thing many months ago. In that piece, the militarization of America’s police departments was discussed. If we are brutally honest with ourselves, we know that Ferguson has been a forward moving train..gathering steam..barrelling toward us at a speed sure to cause massive damage when it finally made impact. Armored vehicles and military grade weapons are not new. SWAT teams are not new. Abuse of authority is not new. So, I won’t go into all that again. This begs the question: Are we truly surprised? Or are we simply expert reactionary Facebook/Twitter/Instagram protesters?

If, indeed, you are truly surprised..or if you really don’t understand why minorities, all across the nation, are angry..or if you find it impossible to fathom the type of desperation, frustration, and hopelessness that causes you to destroy your own communities…

“Hence I have no mercy or compassion in me for a society that will crush people, and then penalize them for not being able to stand up under the weight.”

“I was going through the hardest thing, also the greatest thing, for any human being to do; to accept that which is already within you, and around you.” –Malcolm X

We are here.

Remember when I said it depended on who was doing the looking? Yeah, well, African-Americans have always been here. This type of drama plays out on the stages of our communities Every. Single. Day.

America has done this. America – with her high handedness, her conceit, her total lack of will to right her wrongs – has done this. America is masterful at “breaking” a subset of people, at burdening them until they collapse to their knees, then punishing them for not standing up straight. (Bootstraps, anyone?) Systemic racism is like kudzu in the foundation of this nation. It has sprung up around -and intertwined itself with- every aspect of life. So much so, that far too many can’t recognize what a privilege it is to not be black in America. America wants to keep us in check with The Dream. (That they began waking us up from before we got too deeply involved in it.)

Americans have allowed it. (And by Americans, I mean ALL of us. Hang on, black folk, I’ll get to you in a minute.) There has been silence where there should have been shouting. Heads have been turned when we should have faced issues head on. Apathy has replaced action. The face we show to the world has got to be flawless, but our inner workings are as ugly as homemade sin. That ugliness fuels riots and rebellion. Unfortunately, when a people is left without power, they react in ways those without such experiences can not possibly relate to.

But, here is the thing…you don’t need to relate. You need to acknowledge. So, you’ve heard of Michael Brown. And Trayvon Martin. You posted about how sad it was for their families. You posted about the senseless waste of life. You may have even found a local march in an attempt to show your support. And then, you moved on with your life. Life does go on, right?

Not for Ousmane Zongo, Timothy Russell, Aaron Campbell, Victor Steen, Alonzo Ashley, Wendell Allen, Oscar Grant, Ramarley Graham, Manuel Loggins, Ezell Ford, Kimani Gray, Amadou Diallo, Timothy Stansbury, Jr., Sean Bell, Orlando Barlow, Steven Washington, Ronald Madison, James Brissette, Travares McGill, John Crawford III, or Eric Garner. To name a few.

The constitution was meaningless for these young men and thousands of others like them. But, guess what? That means that the constitution is meaningless for you, too. Today, your kids are pretty safe from lying in a pool of their own blood for hours in the middle of the street. What of tomorrow? Don’t think for a moment it can’t happen. It has already happened. For years, disgruntled blacks complaining of police brutality, harassment, and use of excessive force were ignored. Remember? We had it coming. We deserved it. We were whiners. While you were giving the “birds and bees” talk to your kids, we were giving the “statistics show that you will probably have an encounter with police, so this is how to avoid being shot” speech. Then one day, a funny thing happened. Your neighborhood cops became overzealous. They demanded respect without being bothered to return it. They began bursting into your homes, with or without warrants. Just like that, our problem became your problem. Welcome. You are here. What are you going to do about it? Point guns at officers of the law? You just might get away with it, but black people….

“America’s greatest crime against the black man was not slavery or lynching, but that he was taught to wear a mask of self-hate and self-doubt.”
“So early in my life, I had learned that if you want something, you had better make some noise.”
― Malcolm X

….know they would be shot down. Immediately. So what do we do? March and sing? Riot and loot?

No.  Plan our lives!  We must give up on the notion that America cares. Still waiting for forty acres and a mule? Ha! Hell, we can’t even eat skittles or jaywalk! The first step is to know your worth. Self hatred, doubt, and lack of pride are the greatest enemies we face. Stop allowing this country to dictate your value. We must be present. Present in our homes and in the lives of our children. Present in our communities and programs that lift one another up. Present in our classrooms where we learn how to play the game.  Present in our children’s classrooms to ensure they are well prepared to face the world. And, like my Grandma always said, “America ain’t giving away nothing. Money talks, bullshit walks.”  Therefore, we must purchase our equality with the only currency power accepts – ballots and dollar bills. These are our weapons; we must wield them well. The logo on your foot, the name on your rear, nor the initials on your purse are more important than the number on your bank balance. Finally, speaking of walking, high step it to the voting booth. You can’t expect to be heard when you don’t speak!

“We cannot think of being acceptable to others until we have first proven acceptable to ourselves.” —
Malcolm X

So, yes, we are here. But we don’t have to remain here. Stand for something.

 

Further Reading

http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2014/08/police-shootings-michael-brown-ferguson-black-men

http://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2011/07/26/wealth-gaps-rise-to-record-highs-between-whites-blacks-hispanics/

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/08/14/police-killings-data/14060357/

http://www.csmonitor.com/The-Culture/Family/Modern-Parenthood/2014/0815/If-They-Gunned-Me-Down-on-Tumblr-Pressing-parents-to-take-a-second-look

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/michael-brown-shooting-us-cannot-lecture-others-on-human-rights-amnesty-says-9677800.html

 

A Most Dysfunctional House

So we are experiencing a government shut down.

The last time we had one, I was an adolescent and news via internet, blogs, and the like weren’t popular. (Cue the sound of your modem . . . )

I actually had health insurance 17 years ago, and I was (unfortunately) using it.  (I say “unfortunately” because being sick and in the hospital = not fun).  So yes–I spent one shut-down (1995) in the hospital. I would ask my parents and nurses about the effects, but I gathered from my sources it wasn’t really hurting anyone too much. I still really don’t know, but I gather I was being spoon-fed some information so I could focus on recovering—?

Now, I’m not yet insured (not my choice). I have two children.

And I know what it’s like to be poor.

The shutdown hurts the poor.
It hurts children.
It hurts the barely-existing middle-class.

. . . and more . . .

My friend and fellow blogger found this gem:

“We’re not going to be disrespected, We have to get something out of this. And I don’t know what that even is.”

— Rep. Marlin Stutzman (R-IN)

I know. Sigh. Deep breaths.

WTF!?!?!

Let’s review:

  1. The Executive Branch approves the ACA/Obamacare, which was drafted by the Heritage Foundation.
  2. The Judicial Branch of the government, the Supreme Court, has ruled that the ACA/Obamacare is Constitutional.
  3. HALF of the Legislative Branch has approved the ACA/Obamacare. Sure, some of the members of the Senate may not like it, but they realize that it is, in fact, law.

Could this be the most dysfunctional House in a century? It certainly seems to be in my three decade lifespan.

Olympic National Park, May 2005. (Photo by me)

The National Parks are gated shut. You can look at the nice photograph, but don’t expect to be able to see anything like it in person right now.

Headstart funding is killed.  Meals-on-Wheels and WIC are slaughtered.  Crucial scientific research on all sorts of things–including pediatric cancer–has ceased because the NIH is gone.

And there’s more we’re not investing in because Rep. Stutzman, Rep. Yoho and others have a point to prove.

I’m sure they’ll figure out what their point in a few weeks.  I’m also sure people directly impacted by this tantrum-led shutdown won’t care, won’t get their medication, their food, their education, etc. These aren’t things you just “make up for” with more later.

So while we wait for the House majority to figure out what the hell their point is, we’re hurting our most vulnerable citizens first.

Investing in the future of this country is clearly not a priority.

Be sure to thank your Representative if they did their best to prevent this.

If you’re in a situation like me, then make your voice heard and call/email your Representative of this sad, dysfunctional House.

I posted the what follows earlier this week. Sadly, it bears re-posting:

(transcript below video):


[clip begins partway through former Vice-President Al Gore’s speech at the Brookings Institution this morning] …I will have more to say about this [climate change report] on many other occasions, but, because this report was released just hours before we gathered here, I would not have felt right about not addressing it.

Now, I’m gonna talk about the potential for a shutdown in just a moment, but, uh, I think the only phrase that describes it is political terrorism. “Nice global economy you got there. Be a shame if we had to destroy it. We have a list of demands. If you don’t meet ’em all by our deadline, we’ll blow up the global economy.”

[pause] Really? Um. Where are the American people in this? Why does partisanship have anything to do with such a despicable and dishonorable threat to the integrity of the United States of America?

Political Terrorism

The House of Representatives isn’t terribly fond of the ACA/Obamacare.  They have voted 42 times to repeal it. Many of the most outspoken members of the House regarding the health care law happily identify as Tea Party members/supporters, even when Tea Party support is at an all-time low.

Now, some members of the House are actively committing what Al Gore labeled best: political terrorism.  (More on this below.)

I live in an incredibly liberal college-town. The county I call home is always a blue dot in the red seas when looking at electoral maps. Over the past years, gerrymandering and dividing the blue to ensure far more red has created, shall we say—interesting–districts for House, on a State and Federal level.

Consequently, someone who proudly identifies with the Tea Party is my representative.

Surely you’ve heard of him. His name is Ted Yoho. Prior to this, he was a veterinarian and I have heard wonderful things about his veterinarian skills.

Sadly, those skills haven’t carried over to governing.  Representative Yoho believes, among other things, that the ACA’s implementation of a tax on tanning at a tanning salon is racist against white people.

This is my Representative.

It seems Rep. Yoho, with his fatuous remarks on tanning, was just warming up. It was all foreshadowing to what’s happening now in Washington DC.

Let me just pause here and note that I have never been a fan of the ACA, which is a modified draft of a conservative solution to the fact Americans really do pay too much for their a la carte medical care. (Single-payer would be best but that’s a different blog post to come.)

The Senate has provided the funds to get the ACA going. The Supreme Court upheld (most) of the ACA as Constitutional. The President is pushing for it.

The judicial branch supports it. The executive branch supports it. Half the legislative branch supports it, but the other half–?

C’mon, this is America, we’ll risk our credit rating among other things to prove a point, dammit!

“So what if others suffer? I got mine.”

Yesterday, I visited Rep. Yoho’s facebook page. He has made some rather bold claims on the page, including:

Capture
Too bad the job claim is patently false in his district, as numerous people in the thread have noted. It also seems fiscally irresponsible and IS unconstitutional (14th Amendment) to not raise the debt ceiling to pay for debts already incurred.

I’m a citizen and I know this.

Yoho is my district’s representative and either:
1. Knows this (it’s fiscally irresponsible/violates the Constitution)  and doesn’t care
2. Doesn’t know it, and that’s terrifying too.

Later yesterday, *my* representative in the House of Representatives proudly boasted about a solution while strategizing to keep the blame off of himself and his fellow House members for a possible impending government shutdown:

Look, it's not *my* fault . . .

Look, it’s not *my* fault . . .

I am a person who can’t obtain affordable health insurance because of pre-existing conditions. The ACA has caused insurance estimates for me to drop from over $600 a month (with riders to not have to cover what care I need most),  to below $200 a month. And the ACA hasn’t even been implemented yet!

I have been forced to feel miserable and suffer because I can’t afford over $500 for one medicine that I would only take for about 2 weeks.  Instead, I’m spacing one medication out (every other day instead of every day because it’s between $200-$300 a month) and hoping that works well enough until the exchange opens and I can sign up.

I’m annoyed, to put it mildly, so I leave you with Mr. Gore’s spot-on words concerning this (transcript below video):


[clip begins partway through former Vice-President Al Gore’s speech at the Brookings Institution this morning] …I will have more to say about this [climate change report] on many other occasions, but, because this report was released just hours before we gathered here, I would not have felt right about not addressing it.

Now, I’m gonna talk about the potential for a shutdown in just a moment, but, uh, I think the only phrase that describes it is political terrorism. “Nice global economy you got there. Be a shame if we had to destroy it. We have a list of demands. If you don’t meet ’em all by our deadline, we’ll blow up the global economy.”

[pause] Really? Um. Where are the American people in this? Why does partisanship have anything to do with such a despicable and dishonorable threat to the integrity of the United States of America?

Preach it, Gore.
Stop the terrorists in the House.

(And please, feel free to let Rep. Yoho know how you feel.)

On Labor Day.

Some of you are working today. Some of you have the day off from work.

It’s time to reflect on what Labor Day was intended to be and what is has become–and where we can take it, what we can make it.

Via:

Through the years the nation gave increasing emphasis to Labor Day. The first governmental recognition came through municipal ordinances passed during 1885 and 1886. From these, a movement developed to secure state legislation. The first state bill was introduced into the New York legislature, but the first to become law was passed by Oregon on February 21, 1887. During the year four more states — Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York — created the Labor Day holiday by legislative enactment. By the end of the decade Connecticut, Nebraska, and Pennsylvania had followed suit. By 1894, 23 other states had adopted the holiday in honor of workers, and on June 28 of that year, Congress passed an act making the first Monday in September of each year a legal holiday in the District of Columbia and the territories.

This movement shortened the hours per day worked (from up to 16!! to 8), mandatory breaks, promoted safety legislation, and–as the bumper sticker brags–gave us the weekend (or days off).

But it seems we’ve lost some steam as a country making our labor better. More work doesn’t equal efficiency. Other countries take better care of their workers and are more effective in production and that fleeting thing known as “quality of life” and “happiness.” The bottom line is once again the most important in many industries, and there are deadly accidents in the workplace. Yes, the bottom line is no doubt important, but it shouldn’t come at a severe human cost, physically and emotionally draining and killing us.

Other Labor Day thoughts:

via

I’ve spent the last few years studying medieval Europe, and in part, reading about feudalism and the class based systems. The serfs, or peasants had almost no hope of rising above their station and were bound to the same land for the majority of their lives. Six days a week, sun up to sun down, no sick days, no weekends. It would take hundreds of years before people would begin to rise up and change the system. Because of these people, the Labour movement, we now have the rights to fair working conditions, days off, benefits, et al. Because handfuls of brave people stood up and fought for these rights which we take for granted. However, our labour system today is far from perfect today. Groups of people are bent on rolling back some of these rights in the name “capitalism” and the “fair market”. I’m far from an expert on economics, but I believe that keeping these rights will not kill our nations economy, as it hasn’t for the last 200 years. As a matter of fact, these rights should be expanded. Why is the US the only developed country without universal healthcare? Or paid maternity leave? These benefits have not killed the economy of Europe and they will not kill ours. So while we’ve come a long way from the days of serfdom, we still have quite a ways to go.

Edit: While the medieval peasant had an extremely hard life, it seems thanks to the mandated church holidays and feast days, they had *more* time off every year than the American worker. Read more here.

And still, neither have decent healthcare.

via:

What is labor? And what is its relationship to capital? I believe President Lincoln spoke for me when he said…

“Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not existed. Labor is superior to capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”

The simple truth is that labor has provided us with all the rights we enjoy today. Children are no longer gainfully employed before hitting puberty. Nor are we working 6 or 7 days a week for pennies. We enjoy a regular work week, holidays, FMLA, a minimum wage.

Now, that is not to say that the war has been won. No, no, no. A minimum wage is not equivalent to a decent minimum wage. College graduates working low wage jobs is not acceptable. Only hiring part-time workers to avoid paying for health insurance is not winning. The way handicapped/mentally ill persons are treated is not winning. Unemployed veterans..also, not a win. Equal pay for equal work is not yet a reality.

I could go on and on. So, the fight must go on. In today’s economy, the fight is more important than ever. Corporate entities seem determined to return us to a feudal society. We need to remain equally determined to stop them.

Why do we need a strong labor movement?

“Capital organizes and therefore labor must organize.” ~Theodore Roosevelt

via:

As I sit here contemplating whether to fire up the grill or just bake some fish, I realize that Labor Day, like almost every other holiday we celebrate, has pretty much lost its meaning. Anymore, it is just an extra day off – hopefully with pay – or if you have to work, a day with extra pay. For most, it’s a good excuse to sleep late, drink a few extra adult beverages, and add to our arterial plaque collection.

But we need to think about what this day means. It is about the people who worked hard, often under dangerous conditions and for obscenely low pay, to build this country we now enjoy. The ones who worked from “can see to can’t” yet never seemed to be able to get ahead.

Too many of us think that was in the “old days” and doesn’t happen anymore. Unfortunately, that’s incorrect. The ranks of the working poor are growing, not shrinking. People who perform functions that continue to be the backbone of this country (surprise! information workers do not form the backbone of this country!!!). Service workers who don’t make minimum wage because their wages are to be off-set by tips…which they sometimes have to share with management. Agricultural workers with unclear immigration status who work and live in deplorable conditions, getting bottom dollar for their labor but paying top dollar for pretty much everything else, especially their substandard housing. Minimum wage workers who struggle to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads as their labor further enriches the super-rich corporate moguls. And even though we don’t like to think about it, all those off-shore workers who have absolutely no protections, but whose labor keeps us looking spiffy and bargain prices.
For many, every day is Labor Day. Hard Labor Day. Maybe we need to change the name to Workers’ Day. Have marches and speeches instead of naps and backyard barbecues. Because we are all brothers and sisters. And when one suffers, we all do, whether we feel it or not.

Student Loans: It Gets Worse

salliemaeFor those of you who “liked” the post: Modern Indentured Servitude: the Student “Loan,” I highly recommend reading Matt Taibbi’s excellent piece in Rolling Stone: Ripping Off Young America: The College-Loan Scandal. 

Flash-forward through a few months of brinkmanship and name-calling, and not only is nobody talking about the IRS anymore, but the Republicans and Democrats are snuggled in bed together on the student-loan thing, having hatched a quick-fix plan on July 31st to peg interest rates to Treasury rates, ensuring the rate for undergrads would only rise to 3.86 percent for the coming year.

Though this was just the thinnest of temporary solutions – Congressional Budget Office projections predicted interest rates on undergraduate loans under the new plan would still rise as high as 7.25 percent within five years, while graduate loans could reach an even more ridiculous 8.8 percent – the jobholders on Capitol Hill couldn’t stop congratulating themselves for their “rare” “feat” of bipartisan cooperation. “This proves Washington can work,” clucked House Republican Luke Messer of Indiana, in a typically autoerotic assessment of the work done by Beltway pols like himself who were now freed up for their August vacations.Bound_300x200

*gulp*

Student loans  remain a barely discussed issue, yet not talking about–and FIXING this–continues indentured servitude, puts our economy at rick. Not only can/will/already ruined many people’s personal finances, but will also deeply hurt the health of a recovering economy if the status quo continues.