Category Archives: Politics

Email and Crime

No, I don’t follow the OHM.

This little gem showed up as a notification on my phone today, Sessions Speeds Up Clinton Email Case. Just in case anyone is mystified by how this is still a thing we talk about, I will direct you to the Orange Hate-Monkey‘s (OHM) need to beat the dead horse of Hillary Clinton’s political aspirations on a near-daily basis. He rage tweets so often about Hillary Clinton you would have good reason to think that she won the office that he now occupies. And while she did win the office by a landslide in the popular vote (three million more votes than the OHM) we all know that the slavery compromise of the Electoral College has corrupted the intentions of the authors of the Constitution we still live under, requiring us to pay lip service to the OHM as president when he is quite literally the furthest thing from presidential that most of us can imagine. There is no more visible example in the United States today that the system we live under is corrupt and requires maintenance and repair, than the fact that the OHM sits in an office that he has no traceable ability to perform in even a substandard fashion, and that he was given the office by people who could have done otherwise but felt they were powerless to do so.

So the OHM has gained the office of President of the United States. He has personal control over the largest military ever assembled on the face of the Earth, with more destructive capability than is needed to reduce the Earth to an essentially lifeless husk. If you have half the imagination that I do, this prospect gives you nightmares you awaken screaming from several times a week. That kind of power is resting in the hands of our Presidential real estate developer and Russian money launderer.  The fact that he laundered and continues to launder money for the Russian mob will be demonstrable by the time that Robert Mueller finishes his investigation into Trump’s business practices, and anyone who thinks that isn’t grounds for impeachment all on its own doesn’t understand business or politics. Why the OHM continues to pretend that he didn’t coordinate with his buddy Vladimir Putin, even though half his campaign staff has now been brought up on charges relating to the investigation of Russia meddling in the 2016 presidential election, is anyone’s guess. Only his stormtrumpers are dumb enough to believe the theater he creates daily to distract us from the fact that the proverbial Manchurian Candidate sits in the office of the president. Oh, what about Crooked Hillary? What about the other losers that I beat to get here? Why aren’t they under investigation?

Spotted in the wild here

Let’s talk about the OHM’s predecessors, then. Let’s talk about their use of email to avoid embarrassment at having their machinations revealed to the voting public. And since we are talking about crimes that went down in previous administrations, let’s go all the way back. Not just to Hillary and her nearly unprecedented willingness to cooperate with investigators on the subject of her email correspondence, but all the way back to George W. Bush, the infamous W, and his administration’s completely different take on public access to correspondence that they didn’t want us to have,

Like Clinton, the Bush White House used a private email server—its was owned by the Republican National Committee. And the Bush administration failed to store its emails, as required by law, and then refused to comply with a congressional subpoena seeking some of those emails. “It’s about as amazing a double standard as you can get,” says Eric Boehlert, who works with the pro-Clinton group Media Matters. “If you look at the Bush emails, he was a sitting president, and 95 percent of his chief advisers’ emails were on a private email system set up by the RNC. Imagine if for the last year and a half we had been talking about Hillary Clinton’s emails set up on a private DNC server? 

”Eventually, the Bush White House admitted it had lost 22 million emails, not 5 million. Then, in December 2009—well into Barack Obama’s administration—the White House said it found 22 million emails, dated between 2003 and 2005, that it claimed had been mislabeled. That cache was given to the National Archives, and it and other plaintiffs agreed, on December 14, 2009, to settle their lawsuit. But the emails have not yet been made available to the public. – Newsweek, The George W. Bush White House ‘lost’ 22 Million Emails

When the Republicans pictured above are on trial for deleting their records rather than hand them over, I will care about the records that Hillary Clinton turned over. Millions of messages deleted by every significant figure in the W Administration, and no one is investigating these very real crimes. Not one official has been charged with a crime relating to their destroying this information, no one has gone to jail. The selective memory of stormtrumpers and GOPpers is the problem here, not Clinton’s public records.

Spotted in the wild here

For those of you who think this is a smokescreen, that what I am and others are suggesting, is that Hillary Clinton be let off on a technicality, let me set you straight. Hillary Clinton surrendered her emails that weren’t her private correspondence. I know that the idea that politicians don’t have something to hide (especially female politicians. Female politicians who seem overly fond of privacy) just strikes the average cynic as implausible, but there it is. She complied with the request from legitimate authority and has suffered no end of pain over it. People are convinced there is a crime there somewhere. There just has to be, after eight inquests and millions of dollars spent. Surely there is something?

No. No there isn’t. I know this breaks your heart but if you want to satisfy your intense interest in other people’s private correspondence, why don’t you go look through George W. Bush’s email records? Why? Because you can’t. Because they destroyed that information rather than turn it over when it was requested by legitimate authority.

But really, why go back in time at all? There is no need to look any further than to the sitting president, since an example of the kinds of transgressions that drive stormtrumpers and GOPpers alike into frothing fury when it comes to Hillary Clinton can be found sitting at the right hand of the OHM. His son-in-law was recently reported to be using a private email server to conduct official White House business,

As a candidate, Mr. Trump aggressively attacked Hillary Clinton, the Democratic nominee, for her use of private email while she was secretary of state. Some of Mr. Trump’s allies outside the White House are urging him to press for a prosecution of Mrs. Clinton, even though an F.B.I. investigation into her handling of classified information has been closed. At Mr. Trump’s rallies, his supporters still break into cheers of “lock her up!” – New York TimesKushner Used Personal Email Account for Government Business

So we can add this hypocrisy to the list of administration officials past and now present, officials who have also not been indicted for using a private email server to conduct government business. Will the Republicans now be chanting Lock Him Up? Don’t hold your breath.

A version of this was originally posted here, I let the freak flag fly this time out. I don’t think I can get more pissed off that this is still a thing than I am right now. I can give it a shot if you think more visible anger would help. 

Gun Violence in America? Down or Up?

The Advocates on Facebook

Since 1993, the United States has seen a drop in the rate of homicides and other violence involving guns, according to two new studies released Tuesday. Using government data, analysts saw a steep drop for violence in the 1990s, they saw more modest drops in crime rates since 2000. – NPR May 7, 2013 The Two-Way

This 2013 NPR article was part of some sponsored content on Facebook, content from the Advocates, a group I supported once upon a time. I just want to state this up front, so that the following sentiments expressed by me directly to the Advocates can be understood.

Here’s where I would start. We have to create a level playing field. We will have to lift the ban on the CDC studying weapons and their impact on US society. We have to lift the ban on gun manufacturers being sued for the harm that their products do. We will have to make sure that there are no loopholes for background checks. Make sure that any weapon that changes hands without a background check or is an illegal sale, which would be prosecutable. Initiate registration for all gun sales after this point, who bought them, etc. We need to initiate requirements for training as we do for driving a car, before someone can own a firearm.

Having done all that we then wait for the real stats to surface.  Real stats, because, without those changes we don’t know the stats on gun violence and its full effects on society. We can do all that or we could just start treating all semi-automatics like we do full automatic weapons. Reinstate the draft so that every able-bodied person in the US can be assessed for weapons proficiency before we let them loose on society to raise havoc with rapid-fire weaponry available on every street corner.  Pick one of those options, because it has to be one of them if we are to move away from the place we are in now.

Content from a Facebook post, slightly expanded.


I purposefully didn’t include a conclusion to this article because, as this podcast illustrates, we really don’t know the facts around gun violence yet. Yet.

INQUIRING MINDS, March 20, 2018, 214 John Donohue – What We Really Know About Gun Violence

If the changes I outlined above are made, we might be able to get a handle on the real facts about the nature of gun violence in this country. 

Nullification, Secession and More Guns

There is no nullification. There is no secession. Federal law is the law of the land. – A.G. Jeff Sessions

Let that sentence sink in a bit. Just let it simmer there for awhile. Federal law is the law of the land. Local jurisdictions cannot make their own way according to the new masters we have elected to rule over us. Local politics is an impediment to federal will. What is amusing to me in this particular instance is that the confederates are currently in the White House. They don’t wear Klan hoods, but I know their stench.


On The Media Mar 07, 2018 Everything You Love Will Burn

Attorney General Sessions thinks he’s being clever, citing nullification and secession with a wink at his white nationalist brethren as they embark on the racist pursuit of the illegal alien in our midst. They know well the fruits of nullification and how badly attempts at secession have historically fared. After all, they are the benefactors of past nullification tactics by the newly re-acquired Southern confederate states after their secession bid failed. States that didn’t want to let the majority of citizens of their now black-majority states dictate state policy. So these very same white nationalists, with Andrew Johnson supporting them from the White House, nullified federal law that dictated voting rights for all and equal citizenship for all. They established the Jim Crow South and set us on a path for the showdown that occurred in the 1960’s over voting rights.

Nullification works, even if succession does not. Even if the reasons for nullification are unjust. Nullification can’t be countered by the federal government short of declaring martial law. This is the problem that A.G. Sessions and his boss the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) currently face. A population that refuses to be governed from afar can’t be subjected to laws which they refuse to abide by without putting boots on the ground in the areas that refuse to be governed by those laws.

As one very pertinent example, we’ve seen how well the drug war works. The drug war that A.G. Sessions wants to re-invigorate against the will of several state populations (and with the full support of the OHM) Fully half of the US population admits to indulging in taking illegal drugs, especially Marijuana, and the trillions of dollars we’ve spent as a society and a world organization has done nothing at all to impede the taking of drugs by people who want to take them. These programs have so utterly failed that several states have now legalized Marijuana consumption for recreational purposes, a direct violation of federal law. Laws that state that Marijuana is a schedule 1 Controlled Substance. The U.S. government doesn’t want to get into a shooting war with the various states on this issue, so they have looked the other way for more than a decade now while the states have steered their own course away from federal law. Law that A.G. Sessions claims cannot be ignored, is being ignored.

Alcohol prohibition, the gateway drug to regulation of substances in the U.S., was a complete failure long before the current drug war started. Worse than a failure, it lead directly to the rise of well-funded criminal organizations whose sole purpose was to get alcohol to the people who wanted it. Those same organizations exist today, supplying black-market demands for goods which governments everywhere have foolishly thought they could ban. So even with narcotics agents in every city and every town, corrupting every police force, they still can’t make a dent in drug usage anywhere or at any time. That is how well force works in changing the behaviors of people who don’t see the need to change.


MSNBC, All-In with Chris Hayes, Mar 07, 2018; Trump’s DOJ is suing California over “sanctuary” laws

A.G. Sessions is speaking, this time, to his lawsuit against California cities, and their refusal to play ball with the fascists who have taken over our federal government. Fascists who want to round up citizens of a region and remove them to some other place, presumably the place that they come from. They have their excuses for their behavior, just as the targeted citizenry have their reasons for being where they are.

Hold on though. We’re just getting started. Sessions wants to force the states to follow federal law, all the while that second amendment purists (armaphiles) think that their guns are the reason they have freedom. Here is another pertinent example to confound the already murky waters. The OHM is threatening to take guns away from gun owners, and then let due process run its course after he’s taken them. The literal nightmare scenario that neither Bill Clinton nor Barack Obama ever embarked on, even though they were accused of it thousands of times, is just casually tossed out as a viable alternative by the Caudillo that the GOP let manhandle his way into the White House. The armaphiles freaking out about calls to limit access to military grade hardware and they keep poking liberals who really can’t stand the OHM asking us hey, do you really want this guy taking your guns?

Google+ Being Liberal Community

The image at right asks the important question in black and white. Do the people who are convinced guns are the only answer want the liberals to be in armed insurrection? Or do they have a different point to make? Should Californians arm themselves to defend the state from the federales when they show up? What the fuck is the point here?

Conservatives in general are caught in some pretty serious cognitive dissonance right now. They pretend they want smaller government, but they also want police on every corner rounding up people they think shouldn’t be here, want police making sure people aren’t doing drugs they don’t want them doing, want police in every bedroom in ever home in every city and town making sure that sex happens the way they want it to happen and that any female who happens to get pregnant having sex either dies or bears children from that sex. They know the only answer to their problems is possessing superior arms and the force of law, and yet the only solution that they leave their opponents is holding and using firearms against them.

Conservatives are in that epic catch-22 that Governor Reagan found himself in when confronted with armed black panthers patrolling the streets of Sacramento in 1967. Men who simply were tired of being targeted by the man and wanted to prove that they could take care of their own. He chose to take guns away from everyone while at the same time winking at white people to let them know they wouldn’t be targeted.


On The Media, Feb 21, 2018, Rinse and Repeat

The real solution, that guns don’t solve problems any longer, if they ever did, and we need to keep guns away from people who really shouldn’t have them, never occurs to them. They are now caught in the loop demonstrated in the image. Guns solve the problem but they’ll use guns against us, but guns solve the problem…

We can only hope they suffer mental breakdowns and are left as useless drooling hulks on the floors of their survivalist hideaways until  we show up to take their guns away. Because from what I can tell, most of them really shouldn’t have access to firearms. They’re all pretty much nuts. And as for what to do in the face of A.G. Sessions naked willingness to force the issue of deporting brownskinned people he doesn’t want to live in California, I suggest we wait and see what the ballot box says on that subject. Until then, nullification wins. Nullification wins even if we fail at the ballot box. Are they going to raise taxes to hire more ICE agents so they can round up eleven million people? No, I don’t think they will either.

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Whoever knowingly or willfully advocates, abets, advises, or teaches the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States or the government of any State, Territory, District or Possession thereof, or the government of any political subdivision therein, by force or violence, or by the assassination of any officer of any such government; or

Whoever, with intent to cause the overthrow or destruction of any such government, prints, publishes, edits, issues, circulates, sells, distributes, or publicly displays any written or printed matter advocating, advising, or teaching the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying any government in the United States by force or violence, or attempts to do so; or

Whoever organizes or helps or attempts to organize any society, group, or assembly of persons who teach, advocate, or encourage the overthrow or destruction of any such government by force or violence; or becomes or is a member of, or affiliates with, any such society, group, or assembly of persons, knowing the purposes thereof—

Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following his conviction. – 18 U.S. Code § 2385 (Advocating overthrow of Government)

Self-Fulfilling Prophecies

It is the easiest thing in the world to belittle the weak, and the Texas Democratic party has been almost catatonic since J.J. Jake Pickle and Lyndon Baines Johnson’s Democratic force fell by the wayside. Texas Democrats had a brief resurgence in the 80’s and 90’s with Ann Richards as governor and with the Clinton’s in the White House; but truthfully, the Texas Democratic party of old died with Jake Pickle at about the turn of the century.

Which is probably a good thing, because the way the Democrats used to do business is mirrored in the way that the Texas Republicans currently do business. Gerrymandering. Stuffing ballot boxes. The outright purchase of votes and candidates by the wealthy class.

Media pundits know who holds the power now. It’s evident in every broadcast you listen to, every telecast you watch or any article you read. Oh, sure, they pay lip service to the notion that the Democrats are due for a comeback; but the corporate media, the corporation, that most feudal of all still existing human social structures, they make their money ass-kissing the powerful, just as their forebears did to kings and sultans, czars and sheiks. They ass-kiss the Republican party because the Republican party has shown their willingness to engage in a bit of the ol’ ultraviolence by letting a known money launderer and populist dictator wannabe take the reigns of power in the US.

As an example, here is the darling of the liberal press, NPR’s weekly politics podcast, talking about the first in the country primaries in Texas this Tuesday,


MARCH 7, 2018 Takeaways From Texas, As Midterms Kick Off

Even a casual listener of that podcast and the one that follows it can’t help but notice that the only voices heard aside from the hosts are conservative leaders. They even play the entire Ted Cruz ad, as if I haven’t heard it several times already on other liberal news organizations, as well as an interview with Ted Cruz! Free advertising and free airtime for the sitting Senator from Canada, er, Texas. Do we hear anything from his opponent in this race, Beto O’Rourke, aside from their making fun of his showing and his name, yucking it up right along with that son of a dominionist Cruz?

No, of course not. He’s never going to have any power, in their eyes. He’s just not pulling the interest of the news consumers, that skewed demographic that sits at home watching FOX news as if this was still the 1990’s or something. One might think the media would have learned a thing or two from the mess they made of the 2016 races, following the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) around like little puppies afraid they’ll miss the next tidbit of tasty gossip. All the while certain that their free advertising for this dangerously jingoist, nationalist, uninformed conspiracy fantasist wouldn’t help earn him the White House all on its own. Never consciously realizing that their dismissal of the favorite, a savvy, political insider who had been hounded by the press for nearly 40 years would end up creating a vacuum that something had to fill.

No, they just go on blithely doing the mindless reporting that they always do, looking to see what will get them the most viewer or listener numbers. Never really asking if these were the stories they should have spent their precious time talking and writing about. And so the numbers stack up in the conservative column, and the people follow the media who follow the assumed power, none of them ever asking if that leadership is a judas goat or not.

Let me break this down for you, the layman who doesn’t live and breath politics like I do. Republican primary turnout in Texas is high because in Texas you can only vote in one primary for one party. So if you are interested in selecting the leadership of your county or state (cities are generally non-partisan races by design)  you will go and vote in the primary of the party you think will carry statewide offices. And that party in Texas has been the Republican party. Democrats last won statewide office in 1994, the longest dry spell in recent US history. Only a fool votes in a primary for a party that will not control the state after the next election, or so the average voter thinks.

Ted Cruz was essentially unchallenged in his primary race, so Ted Cruz got every vote of every Texan who voted in the Republican primary unless they took the time to not vote for him. And since most Texans voted Republican he got more votes than the Democratic candidates did. Does this mean anything in the grand scheme of things? Only that most people want to be on the winning side in an election and will change their stances on subjects after the fact just to prove how right they always were.

If Texas had jungle primaries like California does, you would see something you’ve never seen in Texas before, cross-party voting on the primary ballot. You would see a lot less racism and persecution of the transgendered and homosexuals, because there would no target demographic that would vote on issues that arcane without partisan primary grandstanding. If Texas had districts that weren’t gerrymandered to a fraction of a percentage point on average party turn-out (like Pennsylvania) but were instead drawn by a non-partisan commission, you might see people voting for the other party just to get a change of government in their district. But we don’t have those things, and so the self-fulfilling prophecy of Republican victory is underscored by pundits who aren’t interested in how the opposition is hobbled in Texas, they just want to congratulate the victors no matter how rigged the races are at the outset.

Back in LBJ’s day, the Democrats did all this stuff too. It’s hard for them to criticize the Republicans for doing things that they did, that they will do again if we let them. The trick is to inform your leadership that you want a level playing field before you send them to office. That you want maximal voter turnout, sensible districting, wide-open primaries and real discussion of issues. Good luck on getting the media to stop following the easy story, the quick click reward. In the meantime you could just stop believing that pundits know what the future holds anymore than you do yourself right now. Then you might at least stop fulfilling the prophecies that they keep making.

Ballotpedia.org

The Blue Wave was real, and then it wasn’t, in the course of about a week. Stranger still, the made-up national story arc seemed to influence in-state coverage as well. Even though Democratic turnout was better than in any midterm primary since 2002, and more than than double 2014, commentators have consistently described the night as at least a mild disappointment, where the Democrats “fell short” of a goal that had been imagined for them.

Texas Observer


The thing is, the way the state goes on the electoral college map doesn’t mean very much at all for the way Texas is governed. And while it’s possible that the party jumps back to life with the shock of winning one or two statewide elections — that there will be a proof of concept, and then everyone suddenly gets serious — it’s more likely that things change slowly, over an extended period of time, and that small gains and positive signs feed bigger gambits. What’s most important in the long run is the overall composition and strength of the Texas Democratic Party at the local and state level.

In that light, the fact that Democratic turnout doubled in urban counties while Republican turnout stayed essentially flat is significant. There are quite a few winnable legislative districts around those cities. The whole ballgame for the party is getting people to vote and to make a habit of voting. Trump is helping them do that — the trick now is to get it to stick, which it most certainly did not after the elections of 2006 and 2008. – Christopher Hooks for the Texas Observer, The All-or-Nothing ‘Turning Texas Blue’ Narrative Needs to Be Retired

The interview with Christopher Hooks on the Texas Standard today spells out exactly what I’m talking about. The media, focused on national races and their outcomes, never even considers the fact that the truism all politics is local holds sway even in places as large as Texas,


Texas Standard, Is It Time To Stop Talking About ‘Turning Texas Blue’?

Progressives are making inroads in Texas, and there isn’t a damn thing that Republicans and conservatives can do about it. For Democrats to win they have to offer real improvement on what the Republicans are doing now. Funding schools. Improving safety. Protecting the environment and moving Texas into the the next century. Listening to the OHM and his canuck croney Cruz talk, you would think that there aren’t fields of windmills in West Texas providing essential electricity to the grid. That solar wasn’t the future and that the emergence of electric cars in the cities isn’t a thing that is happening. You would think that Texas lives and dies by coal, which was never true, and that we’re still in the wildcat days of the oil boom in Texas, which we aren’t.

It’s time to put the conservatives where they belong, in the past with their fear of the transgendered and the homosexual. Their need for their religion to be front and center in everything they do. We cannot afford to be side-tracked into meaningless crusades against the different and the strange. There is real work being left undone because of their fear-mongering and immigrant hating. Time to roll up the sleeves and get back to work. 

Beef’s Beef With Beef

Countable.us

The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) filed a 15-page petition with the USDA to prevent products from being labeled as “meat” or “beef” unless they’re made from a slaughtered animal. 

So what is it if it’s genetically bovine muscle tissue if not beef? I want someone to explain to me how beef isn’t beef if it tests out as beef? This is the most transparent attempt to manipulate markets that I’ve seen since the tobacco industry stood up and said their products were not dangerous or addictive. That was a lie, and pretending beef is not beef is also a lie.

I have been and remain anxious to be in the front line of consumers for this product. It’s a product that is good for the environment. It’s a product that removes the suffering of animals raised for food completely from the equation. Because it is only muscle cells, there is no chance of gut bacteria getting mixed in with the meat causing costly recalls and deadly food poisoning outbreaks.


 #WeThePeople LIVE EP 113. ARTIFICIAL MEAT 
(I hate that show title, just FYI. It ain’t artificial. It is meat.)

And if the whole truth were told on this subject, we have no choice. The increase in protein demand from a more affluent world population will require us to produce meat in this fashion if we can ever hope to feed everyone while not destroying the environment. Do not fall for the natural fallacy and believe cows are natural and lab meat is artificial. Cows were modified by man to be what they are today. Lab meat is simply the next step in that process.

What we need to be thinking about is not what we call meat that is grown from animals we recognize in the field, but rather what names we will apply to the kinds of cultured meat that will appear after this technology is accepted. If you blend genomes to heighten taste and (for example) remove allergens like alpha gal from the product, it won’t be beef or pork any longer. It will still be muscle tissue (meat) but what kind of meat that would be part of what kind of animal that has never been seen in the wild or on the farm? That is the real quandary.

In any case, the meat producers must not be allowed to try to alienate the consumer from this new food supply, altering the playing field to suit themselves and not the entirety of humanity on the planet as the oil companies and tobacco companies and the sugar industry has done in the past. This needs to be put to rest now so that consumers can be assured that they are getting what they pay for and that no business can blow smoke up consumers butt with fake claims of natural and organic. As if  food you can digest isn’t organic. As if feed lots and slaughter houses are natural. Do not fall for that kind of bull because you will get the bullshit along with it, and what is in bullshit can kill you.

Caveat Emptor, Again

I’d accuse Jim of stealing my title, but I stole it from someone else.

Stonekettle Station on Facebook

You must hold this administration, every administration, accountable. Every Congressman. Every Senator. Every general. Every CEO who takes taxpayer money. Every political party. Every media outlet. Every journalist. Ask the questions and demand the answers. Never stop. Show up for every election, no matter how minor. Educate yourself on the candidates and the issues before the election. – StonekettleStation, Caveat Emptor

Jim Wright at Stonekettle Station was referencing the subject of the Orange Hate-Monkey‘s (OHM) military plans when he titled his piece Caveat Emptor. The OHM is selling us a military vision in his usual huckster fashion. The most glorious military you’ve ever seen. Anyone who believes this to be true is as dumb as the people wiring their account info to 419 scammers thinking they’re going to win big. Pretty much just as Jim tells the story.

When I used the title Caveat EmptorI was speaking to the selling of the OHM’s alter ego, Trump the businessman, Trump the deal-maker and fixer. Caveat Emptor, buyer beware. You are being sold a bill of goods. You are being taken. Guard your wallet. The OHM is none of those things. The OHM is a money launderer, serial philanderer, and a thief, not necessarily in that order.


When I get a quotable snippet from one of Jim’s articles, I tend to post it all over the place so as to do him a favor and drive traffic to his website. Since I can’t afford to pay him for what he writes, the least I can do is promote him where he isn’t already being promoted. I posted the above quote to Google’s idea of a social platform, Google+ as well as a few other places, but I only got replies on G+, and what I got in response came out of the anarchist/voluntaryist wings of the political spectrum, a commandment to vote harder.

I recognized the flavor of this attack almost immediately. Voting is useless. Voting doesn’t fix anything. Ah, we’re dealing with a libertarian here. I have little to no patience with libertarians, having quit that cult not so long ago. I don’t participate in government (as the snippet demands) to achieve anything specific for me personally. My personal goals are not what voting achieves. This is a core problem with libertarianism specifically and individualism generally. Voting isn’t about me and it isn’t about you or anyone else specifically. This is true of most life experience, but try explaining this fact to a libertarian or anarchist. It’ll go right over their heads.

But that isn’t to say that voting and government as a structure haven’t achieved measurable good. General goods have been achieved and the list is nearly endless. Longer even than the evils that government has created through it’s existence. It is always that way with the tools we create. The evil comes with the good.

The elderly no longer have to die penniless and alone. The sick now have places to go to be cared for. The poor have the beginnings of structure that could end their poverty if used properly. Libertarians will say these goods were achieved by use of force because they don’t understand the nature of money, the meaning of money, etc.but they insist on force being applied to them before yielding so that they can say told you so. I know because I’ve seen this done many times over the years. That is the definition of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

You libertarians and anarchists, you crazy right-wing ammosexuals, you are not any deader when the cops shoot you for armed resistance than the dead black guy who just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. What you are buying with your money is death, exactly like funding a military is buying death. The trick, just in case you are wondering, is to outlive the other guy, which means you are failing to understand what you are buying if you end up dead in the process. Caveat Emptor. There’s some good advice offered gratis. Don’t say I never gave you anything.

TL;DR? Maybe You Should Have Read It

StonekettleStation on Facebook

That is the most common response I get from people who think they disagree with me. “No links. Write your argument for me specifically. I don’t have time to read your articles.” I love the way they expect me to spend time they don’t have, as if I have their time and I’m hoarding it.

Many of the people that say this appear to have crafted this counter over years of dealing with disagreement. Having been confronted with a fact-based argument they couldn’t refute in the past, they simply insist on the facts being presented to them concurrently, probably knowing that most arguments are far too complex to be communicated succinctly in a comment thread. When their opponent becomes angry and ignores them, they feel vindicated. They never realize that their inability to accept facts in evidence is the real problem, not their opponent’s argument. That their opponent will not spend the time to hold their hand and lead them down the path to revelation somehow proves to them that they are right.

I have tried copying and pasting entire articles to comment threads in the past, and the resultant wall of text is then dismissed as Too Long; Didn’t Read (TL;DR) I dismiss long, rambling walls of text (like this one) as TL;DR myself, so I get it. But that doesn’t make them (or me) right. It means the reader isn’t interested in the subject or  interested in (even afraid of) changing their mind about whatever it is. I think this is the most common answer. They are bored. They really aren’t interested in the subject being discussed.

Now, imagine what the response would be if the bored person typing TL;DR really needed something, let’s say their air was poisoned and they didn’t believe it. They’d be dead before they figured it out. Or the other way ’round. What if they needed someone else to do a completely routine thing (like click a link and read a counter-argument) and the responsible person just couldn’t be bothered. “Why yes, I can see that you are bleeding out, and you need me to apply pressure to that wound. But I don’t want my hands to get all icky with your blood.”

If you are wasting time on the internet, reading a well-crafted counter-argument is probably the best use of your time. You learn what your opponent thinks. You learn what your arguments weaknesses are. The most frustrating thing is knowing you have the facts on your side, and the emotional believer of the contrary won’t even look at the facts for fear they might have to change their mind about something. It’s those kinds of people that make me despair for the future.

Politics and religion. A majority of people will not think critically about either one. Now that the Republican party has merged the two into one, becoming the party of Christianism, wanting to establish a christian nation, they think they’ve combined their strengths when they’ve actually multiplied their weaknesses. Like the person breathing poisoned air and doesn’t believe it, Republicans are blind to the threats they refuse to see. Here’s hoping they don’t take the rest of us down with them. 

Evidence of Society

When was the last time you stalked prey, ran it down and then ate it? That’s not a realistic question, is it? I mean silly, right? I’ll skip over asking if you’ve crafted your own weapons with which to hunt game, I know most people have not and the creation of the most basic tools an individual can make is a skill that vanishingly few people can exhibit. When was the last time you planted seeds, watched them grow, and then harvested the crop? Well, all of us have probably tended a garden in our lifetimes. Agriculture is in just about everybody in some way. There is something real about digging in the dirt and watching plants grow. Something very zen and rewarding about the entire process. However, gardening is definitely not the same as growing everything you need to survive all by yourself year in and year out.

Why am I asking these questions? Because that is what it means to be truly self-sufficient. To be able to produce the food you require independently. To be able to create all of the tools and clothing you require to survive in any climate in any region of the world. If I were to ask you about building your own shelter, even fewer people would understand just how difficult that process and others are. They would be clueless as to just how many people are required to create the many things we take for granted. Take for granted (i.e. an entitlement) especially in the US and other developed countries.

TED, Thomas Thwaites, How I Built a Toaster from Scratch

I have heard the challenge, repeated many times over my years in libertarian circles, to prove the existence of society. It is almost a mantra to some individualists, and I know there are survivalists out there who are convinced they could live on their own indefinitely. Some of them even can do it, I’m sure, but the number of people who could do it are a vanishingly small fraction of a percentage point of the entire human population currently living on Earth.

Coming from the other direction, the number of people the Earth could support if everyone had to live a hunter-gatherer life is probably less than one billion people. I haven’t seen anyone do a back of the envelope calculation on that in several years, so my number is off I’m sure. The point is that the number of people the world can support in a primitive lifestyle is smaller than the number of people our established technology can support. The systems built and maintained over centuries by people who just want to see their children have it easier than they did, to be able to survive without having to claw their way through every day wondering if they’d make it through the next day.

The nine-to-fiver who complains about the cost of his latte has no clue, none at all, just how many people who had to labor just to get him his coffee with milk in a container that he could just throw away when he’s had enough caffeine to keep him alert. And he gets that tasty beverage in exchange for a promissory note, a debt instrument, money, that the retailer then passes back down the chain eventually to the field workers in a far away country that actually touch the soil and grow the coffee that he thinks he paid too much for.

All of this, the high numbers of people, the ease of access to goods and services, the ability to do some task divorced from producing sustenance for yourself directly and still be fed, clothed, sheltered? All of it is evidence of society. Money is evidence of society, all by itself. Money is a socialist system, a system that exists because there are others to trade with in the first place. Without the group’s agreement, you’d still be running down prey like your ancient ancestors did, and hoping that the animal didn’t injure you before you killed it.

Watching the seventh season of The Walking Dead, I was struck by the notion that the entire group still wears clothing that doesn’t visibly disintegrate when they move. Seven years on, they still aren’t spinning and weaving thread and cloth. Patching shirts and jackets. For that matter the vehicles still run after being essentially without maintenance on the side of the road for years. Gasoline still burns even though (as anyone who has experience with small engines can attest) you’re lucky if you can get a lawn mower engine to start after it’s been sitting idle through one winter. Lucky to get it started because the fuel itself is unstable and will degrade over time. Rick and Carl and the rest of the crew? They’d be walking or riding horses everywhere by now because the fuel to run modern vehicles can’t be easily created without a vast infrastructure of technology that very few people understand.

That’s television, you say? Of course it is. It’s fantasy. And so is the notion that any of us are truly self-sufficient. None of us can replicate even the most simple of machines that we rely on daily, and yet we delude ourselves into thinking that we are capable and independent. Rational actors on a vast, mathematically predictable stage. That ability to delude oneself in that fashion? That too is evidence of society. Flat Earthers are a modern invention, and absolute proof of society’s existence. You don’t question that the Earth is round when you watch the people who will bring back your dinner tonight sail over the horizon to catch fish. The curvature of the Earth is as evident as the gnawing hunger in your belly.


I first thought about writing a post like this one after listening to this episode of Freakonomics,

I was inspired by the complexity of the process of creating one of the oldest tools modern man utilizes, the simple wooden pencil. As the episode goes into, the pencil is hardly simple at all. It took generations of tinkering and tweaking to create the object that you and I think of as a pencil when we say the word “pencil”. This TED talk portrays the complexity of the subject more quickly,


TED Ed: Small Thing Big Ideas, Why the Pencil is Perfect

Unfortunately the video is hosted on Facebook only. I apologize for the cludgy video interface design that comes along with that; the parts that aren’t directly copied from YouTube, I mean. Modern technology is so much not like the pencil. Facebook’s baldly abrasive and ham-handed attempts to acquire all internet traffic for itself are a hallmark of poor design, but that is a different subject for some other day. The subject for today is how the simplest of objects that we take for granted, a toaster, a pencil, are beyond the ability of any one person to put together and have work properly. So much for the dreams of rugged individualism and self-reliance. Would you mind passing me that cup of tea, please?

The Myth of Bootstraps

There have been several podcasts in my feed over the last year dissecting and observing the subject of poverty. This is probably because of the over-hyped evidence that the majority of Trump (OHM) supporters were poor, rural whites. The podcasters in their turn feel they need to address the issues raised by these people. The issues that made these poor, rural whites feel so desperate that they would hazard the welfare of us all on a known liar and con artist.

I say over-hyped with no intention of belittling the plight of the poor, or the fact that poverty runs rampant in the modern United States. Poverty is more widespread and more painfully felt now than it has been at any point since the end of World War Two. The disparity between rich and poor today is comparative to 1929, in the time leading up to the crash and the Great Depression. People are poorer now and paid worse than at any point in modern American history.

But it isn’t trade deals that are causing this problem. It isn’t illegal aliens in the US taking our jobs. It isn’t any of the things the OHM says is causing poverty; and his solutions to fix poverty are solutions that not only have been tried before but failed to work previously. So why do them again?

No, I say over-hyped because the rural poor more than likely voted for Trump because the rural poor have been the largest viewing block for reality TV. The rural poor have little other entertainment they can access aside from television. The Apprentice was popular with the same people who voted for Trump. Why is it so hard to admit that these people thought that the character on that show was the guy they voted for in the election? That the lack of broadband access in the rural areas of the US have lead to an information gap that resulted in the election of a con artist to the presidency? That poverty is merely a factor in the larger problem of inequality in America?

All of these podcasts have struck a chord with me. I have blogged both directly and tangentially about this subject in the past. It is not a subject I like writing about. The nerves are raw and the wounds are kept fresh in my current situation of disability and poverty. The series from On the Media, Busted: America’s Poverty Myths brought me to tears. I recognized so many tropes from my own childhood. Things family members and friends both have uttered in my hearing. Things that I have been guilty of believing in the past. In this article I will take a more purposeful walk down that  memory lane, painful as it is. I want to do this in the light of these discussions by scholars, writers and journalists.

…and I will start this journey of introspection with the writer/journalist Stephen Dubner and his podcast Freakonomics,

James Truslow Adams, born in 1878 to a wealthy New York family, became a financier and, later, an author. He won a Pulitzer Prize for a history of New England; and later he wrote a book called The Epic of America. Even though it was written during the Great Depression, Adams took a fundamentally bullish view of the United States. 

His book was hugely popular, and as best as we can tell, it introduced the phrase “The American Dream.” Adams defined this as “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.”  The phrase caught on, and not just a little bit. Especially among our presidents…

…The Stanford economist Raj Chetty has been working with large data sets to try to understand why so many Americans are no longer living the American Dream. When it comes to economic opportunity, Chetty and his colleagues found huge regional and even local differences throughout the U.S.

As he told us, kids growing up in San Francisco have about twice the chance of living the American Dream as kids from just across the bridge, in Oakland. Why? One easy explanation would be that the people in those different areas are just different – they have different abilities, different cultures, different job opportunities. And that certainly has some explanatory power. But Chetty and his colleagues found the story isn’t that simple… 

…This is hardly a new idea – that growing up in a poor neighborhood isn’t the best launching ground for economic success. This idea, in fact, led the Clinton Administration to experiment in the mid-1990s with a program called Moving to Opportunity. 

Okay, so young kids who move out of a high-poverty neighborhood do much better later on. What, exactly, does this signify? What’s going on in the poor neighborhoods to depress income mobility and what’s going on in the better neighborhoods to increase it? Answering those questions has become a big part of Raj Chetty’s work. 

The above hits the high points without getting into the meat of the episode, which is excellent. The scholar Raj Chetty‘s five factors address my personal experiences of poverty directly. It was because of this episode that I felt the need to write more on this subject, but the title of the post comes from a segment of another podcast, which was introduced to me through this episode of Radiolab,

In a 5-part series called “Busted: America’s Poverty Myths,” On the Media picked apart numerous oft-repeated narratives about what it’s like to be poor in America. From Ben Franklin to a brutal eviction, Brooke gives us just a little taste of what she learned and shares a couple stories of the struggle to get ahead, or even just get by.

This episode features an excellent overview of the 5-part series; enough for the casually interested, but not enough for someone who remembers the shock of sudden poverty as a child. A now old man who lives in poverty due to illness, disability, a truly lackluster US economy, sexism/ageism in the workplace directed at the Wife, etc. But I don’t want to get ahead of the narrative, and discussing the particulars of my experience in poverty even in the general sense gets ahead of the introduction provided in the full five part series from On the Media.

“You had a population that wanted to cling to those things because it justified them not sharing.” – Jack Frech Athens County welfare director

As the Freakonomics episode mentioned, It is actually twice as easy to move up the income ladder in Canada as it is in the US. This is a travesty, an ongoing insult to America, this delusion we live under. What delusion is that? The delusion that the US is the best country in the world to live in, that we provide more access to social mobility than anyplace else in the world. It simply isn’t true. Hasn’t been true for a good, long time.

The first episode of the On the Media series is an introduction to the reality of poverty in America. It is the boxing glove on the fist of the next three episodes that drive home the fact that we Americans really don’t have a clue what it is to be desperately poor in the US. Even I only vaguely recognize the lives that the truly poverty stricken must live. The reason for this is; I profited from the status of my parents. My parents, in their turn, benefited from the status of their parents; white, working class, upwardly mobile christians with land. My paternal grandparents had enough property that they farmed at first, and then sold land to the city and to new families moving into the bustling township that Leoti, Kansas was after the dust bowl. They sold and profited as the town grew around them, just like the dreams of all Americans play out.

“Cultivation is at least one of the greatest natural improvements ever made by human invention. It has given to created earth a tenfold value. But the landed monopoly that began with it has produced the greatest evil. It has dispossessed more than half the inhabitants of every nation of their natural inheritance, without providing for them, as ought to have been done, an indemnification for that loss and has thereby created a species of poverty and wretchedness that did not exist before.” – Thomas Paine Agrarian Justice The Writings of Thomas Paine pg 331

The possession of land leads to wealth, if one is lucky enough to own the right piece of land at the right time. The Steele family in Wichita county, Kansas were those people. The fact of their ownership of land made them powerful within the township. The location near a then-growing town gave them a chance to sell off some of their property for cash, something that there is never enough of in any small town. People have to eat, after all. They have to have somewhere safe to sleep. All of this costs money in the modern economy, and the only way to get money is to work or be born into it. So I wasn’t born into poverty, at least.

I was born overseas to a father who was stationed there in the military, a mother who enjoyed being overseas for the first time but really didn’t enjoy the constraints of a military wife in the 60’s. She returned to the states not too long after my birth, and my father left the military as soon as his mandatory term of service was up. They returned to my father’s home on the high plains of Kansas as I mentioned. My father grew up in a little town named Leoti that would be so small you would miss it if you blinked, if only the main roads went anywhere near the place. My father’s family had settled there a few decades previously and Grampa had several thriving businesses in the town. One of those businesses was sold/given to my father when he left the military, and he settled down with my mother for the happily ever after that all young people believe in.

Did I say “happily ever after?” Yeah, that never showed up. Dad took to drinking a fifth of bourbon every single day as he struggled to deal with bringing in enough cash to support his growing family. Mother was unhappy because the family kept growing and her husband didn’t seem to be around much to help. The fighting got worse until it damaged the furnishings and frightened the children, and the divorce wasn’t long after that. Coming out of the 40’s and 50’s and the attitudes about women and families, the ridiculous notions of money and politics, wealth and poverty and the meaning of all these things all wrapped up together, the surprising part of this story is that some women put up with the way life was for them. They put up with it instead of leaving. Maybe they had better husbands?

The story of my pre-teen life was pretty common for the time. By the mid-70’s when the divorce happened fully half of all marriages went that way. Prior to World War Two women were expected to stay home, raise children and provide for the running of the household which encompassed pretty much everything you can imagine. Everything you can imagine, if you imagined a self-sufficient household operation that was a day’s horseback ride from the next nearest town, a train ride away from the nearest city with running retail businesses in it. A household without running water or electricity. That is what frontier life was like just two generations into the past for me, four generations now. My grandparents remembered towns without electricity, the introduction of indoor plumbing and the automobile.

Automobiles made the difference. This fact is spelled out in the heaps of rusted metal you can find dotting most older farmsteads. When the old car dies you leave it where it sits and buy another one, just as you did the tractor and the harvester. On the Wife’s family farm you can still see her dad’s first tractor, parked on the edge of the field where it died, rusting into nothing as the decades fly by. It still sits there even though the farm itself has changed hands twice since her mom sold it. Sold it because there just wasn’t any reason to keep it any longer.

We weren’t farmers. We were never going to sign up for that life. The automobile made city life bearable because you could live in the outskirts of the city and commute downtown for work. In the city you don’t need to make your own clothes, you can go to the store and buy them. You can go to the store and buy them, that is, if you have the money. Money has been the limiting factor imposed on the poor for longer than any of  the now living can remember. Longer than those who came before us can remember. Further back than even our great-grandparents and their parents time.

Brooke meets Carla Scott, a young woman in Cleveland forced to sell her plasma for bus fare after a series of events derailed her life, as well as Carla’s nonagenarian grandmother, Grace, a hard-line believer in “personal responsibility.” 

Personal responsibility or paying for every mistake you’ve made for your entire life. That would be costly, and hasn’t been my experience. This is the privilege of white skin in the United States. It certainly hasn’t been luck that has seen me through to now. I’ve told myself all my life I make my own luck. I make my own luck because 50/50 chances almost never fall my way.  Even so, there are many behaviors that I have engaged in that would have resulted in imprisonment and probably death, had I been caught doing them while black.

While I was near homeless for a few years living in friend’s spare rooms and sleeping on enclosed porches, I never had to sell plasma. I didn’t have children of my own to tend to before I was ready largely because I knew what a pain children could be. That was one of the many lessons I learned being raised by a single mom.

The benefit of city living masques the machinery of poverty creation. Having everything you want or need available at a store for purchase makes the delusion of self-sufficiency seem quite real. Self sufficient, if you have the money to buy these things. Self sufficient, if you have work that pays money. I have always had work because I would do just about any job offered to me. White, young, male, with no tattoos and no piercings. This was important above all things; maintain the illusion of a fine, upstanding middle class status. That illusion kept me working.

Poverty waits for those who fail to maintain the illusion. Jobs that go to others. Careless sex that leads to children. Drug addiction. Tattoos and piercings that announce your rejection of white bread America. That inner-city poverty of slums and ghettos? The tattooed and the peirced? The drug addicted and the ne’er-do-well? That poverty that has moved out into the country from the cities. The rebellion that motivated the election of the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) was generated in rural America, in the persons of the last victims of a grinding poverty that has plagued the poorer neighborhoods of cities since their creation. I noted the rural American bellyaching rang hollow to me in the essay I named after him,

Listening to the people who attempt to defend their affinity for the Orange Hate-Monkey in the podcast isn’t helping. Oh poor, misunderstood me whining by rural whites strikes me as just this side of pathetic. As if urban blacks don’t have problems, haven’t had worse problems for the better part of two hundred years. The fact that the researchers on this podcast are so divorced from the truth of the matter, that the reality-disconnected people they have been interviewing actually turned out to be the ones who had the last laugh, that they got their American Psycho candidate on a collision course with the White House, in the face of the researcher’s own blithe belief that Hillary Clinton was a shoe-in for the presidency, isn’t helping with the surreality of this moment in time.

I know what grinding poverty looks like even though my experience with it was mercifully brief. That time was right after my parent’s divorce. For a time my mom made the best of life in rural Kansas. We got to keep the house. Dad moved into a trailer parked behind his service station. He managed to wrangle down his child support to $300 which wasn’t enough to cover the cost of keeping a roof over our heads, even though that roof had been home for as long as we could remember. Mom took her first job outside the house since going to college, a job teaching Head Start to Leoti preschoolers, a job that was taken from her because she didn’t have a teaching certificate. She left college to get married and had no saleable skills aside from homemaking, a job she couldn’t do anymore without a husband.

So mom remarried. He was a nice enough guy when we met in Leoti. As soon as we left Kansas and moved to Texas, the trouble started. The poverty got worse. Dad stopped paying the child support and only restarted it after mom sued him to get it. The stepdad started drinking heavily, and he was a mean drunk. There were a number of times where my mouth got me in trouble and I ended up on the floor. The last time I saw him was the day he brought another woman to the house. After watching him abuse my mother wordlessly for months, after being the victim of his abuse during that time, having him show up and flaunt his girlfriend in my mother’s face was too much. When mom sent us into the house and told us to hide, I waited behind a door I knew he would come through if he did come in for his stuff. I waited with a high vantage point and a heavy blunt object. I wanted to make sure that if the opportunity presented itself, there would be a near guarantee of killing him. I hated him that much.

Luckily for both of us, the opportunity never occurred. He left without his stuff. I was on a plane to stay with my father in Kansas within the week. Psychotherapy was part of that process. I was the lucky one. The luckiest of the four children who endured the stepfather. I had a room of my own in my father’s house. I had running hot water at the tap. I had a mother and father who were concerned for me. I never appreciated this fact, this blessing, until visiting my mother in Texas and seeing what hitching her cart to the stepfather’s wagon had wrought in the end.

The unlucky ones? They had one bed for the four of them to share. Mom went through another divorce, which means those three siblings went through it with her. The garage apartment they found in the tiny town they had ended up in didn’t have a reliable roof or much in the way of indoor plumbing. They had to heat water on the stove to fill the bathtub so that they all could bath each night. My mother had taken the next of dozens of jobs she would eventually hold, working the night shift running that blight of the American landscape, a convenience store. Virtually the only profitable business in yet another small town whose only claim to fame was being on the road to somewhere else.

When I saw how bad their living conditions were, I cried. We siblings then made the first of several pacts that followed over the years. After a few weeks of mutual badgering, our parents in their separate hostile camps were convinced to let the rest of the kids move back up with dad and his new wife. I didn’t appreciate having to share a bed with my brother again, but at least they had hot water to shower with. Television to watch. Decent schools to attend, back in the good old days, when Kansas still believed in investing in young people.

For the first time in my mother’s short life, she was free. No children to supervise. No husband to cook for or tend to. Free to try and advance her skills by returning to school. So she did that. She moved to a larger town in the area, a town called Sweetwater. It was a town with a school, a town big enough for a trade school, but not so big that it became expensive to live in. She took business classes and worked odd jobs. She was probably about as happy as she had ever been.

This happiness was short-lived. This is a section of the story that I wrote about at length here,

Dad had remarried, but found the chore of raising 5 unruly children too much to deal with so he sent us back to our mother in Texas to live. The 5 of us crammed ourselves into whatever housing she could afford on the wages for whatever jobs she could get.

…She just went back to working at fast food joints, bars and restaurants, the odd convenience store job as the demands for housing, clothes and food for her growing children required.

It was a point of pride to my mom that she never took food stamps. That she never had to go on welfare. Her memory is a bit more selective than mine. We may never have needed food stamps, but we certainly ate a lot of government bread and cheese. Drank a lot of government milk. I got a job as soon as I could after moving back in with mom. I knew even before she explained it to me, there was no way we’d survive if I wasn’t working. So I started sacking groceries and cleaning up at night at one of the two grocery stores in that mid-sized Texas town. I took a lot of food that the store was going to throw away home with me instead, one of the benefits of being the flunky who throws out the trash. We never went hungry, but that is just barely the truth.

I spent my senior year in high school as a stranger in a school I didn’t really want to attend. I preferred the Kansas schools of the time. Kansas’ investment in higher education (now abandoned) Kansas’ belief in better times ahead (ditto) Texas was meaner. Texas was harsher both in climate and attitude. That mythical Southern hospitality is the velvet glove over the iron fist of crony capitalism and repressive social structures designed to keep the poor in their place.

I attended the same trade school my mom had moved to Sweetwater to attend and I made the best of the illusions I had been fed as a child. That I could be whatever I wanted to be. That I had no limitations. That all I had to do was work hard and I would make the grade. That I could live happily ever after, too.

It’s not about IQ… it’s the context you inhabit

In the third installment of our series, “Busted: America’s Poverty Myths,” we take on one of our country’s most fundamental notions: that America is a land of equal opportunity and upward mobility for all. And we ask why, in spite of a wealth of evidence to the contrary, does this idea persist?

With the help of historian Jill Lepore, Brooke traces the history of the “rags to riches” narrative, beginning with Benjamin Franklin, whose 18th century paper manufacturing business literally turned rags into riches. We hear from Natasha Boyer, a young Ohio woman who was saved from eviction by a generous surprise from strangers… only for the miracle to prove fleeting. And we consider the efficacy of “random acts of kindness” and the fateful role of luck — where you’re born, and to whom — in determining success.

Much like Benjamin Franklin in reality, as detailed in this segment of the story, I moved away from the family that was a drag on my ability to succeed on my own. Their poverty making my poverty that much harder to ignore, that much harder to escape. After a brief, heartbreaking few months trying to establish myself in Kansas back living with my father, trying to make good on promises made to a girlfriend I had left in Kansas and failing at that rather spectacularly, I returned to Texas and moved up the road from Sweetwater to Abilene for a brief time, living on my own. Like everyone who transitions to life on their own, that was quite a shock. I think it was the month driving on a leaky tire because I couldn’t afford a new one that brought home just how hard it was going to be to make the grade. Just how remote the possibility that happily ever after might ever occur.

“It’s alright to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.” Martin Luther King Jr.

It was while living in Abilene that I noticed that I effectively had no boots and thusly no bootstraps to draw myself up by. I had limited education, most of which I provided for myself through voracious reading. I clearly had a problem producing work in my chosen profession, a barrier that I had never realized was mine alone until that time. There was no one with money in my immediate family. I knew no one in Abilene aside from co-workers at jobs I no longer had, and I wore out their welcomes in pretty short order. I even had to borrow mom’s pride and joy, the first new car she had ever bought for herself, just to get myself out of the rut I’d made in Abilene and move myself to a new, hopefully more promising locale, San Angelo.

It was in San Angelo that I met the Wife, working at one of the many odd jobs that came my way. It was there that I dragged the rest of my Texas family, after I finally found a job that paid money and had rented a house that would fit all of them. It was there that all of them eventually went to college. It was a long, hard struggle even getting to that level, the level where I felt I could attempt to repay a debt to my mother that I knew I still owed. But I was still poor, just not as poor as I had been. In order to not be poor I knew I was going to have to find a bigger city. Bigger cities require more architecture, more planning, more design, and I knew that was a demand that I could help satisfy if I could just get there.

In the fourth installment of our series “Busted: America’s Poverty Myths,” we examine the strengths and shortcomings of our nation’s safety net. Government assistance does help lift millions out of poverty each year — indeed, without it, poverty would be twice as high — but those in the most dire circumstances often slip through the cracks.

With the help of Linda Tirado, author of Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America, and Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, we consider how anti-poverty programs can actually keep people poor and offer little hope for a way out.

Also, Brooke meets Margaret Smith, a Columbus woman made homeless after a violent crime derailed the life she’d carefully built with her six children. And we visit an Athens County food pantry that provides not just meals to the community, but also school supplies, clothing, furniture, job training, home repairs, disaster relief…even burial plots.

In the city there is no illusion about the temporariness of prosperity, of hearth and home. If there is any real difference between city life and country life, it is the illusion of permanence that country life affords. In the city you pay by the month for everything including hearth and home. You never stop paying for anything, ever. New cars, bigger houses, longer commutes, more roads, taller buildings, denser usage. The city is a meatgrinder, and the meat it grinds is human. Best not to watch it happen if you have a weak stomach.

It’s true, there are more opportunities in the city if you can afford to go there and look for them. I took that leap almost thirty years ago now. Left what I see now as a quiet little town of a hundred thousand people; ten times the size, and more, of my hometown of Leoti at its peak. Austin boasts more than a million citizens now. if you incorporate its far-flung suburbs, there is something closer to two million people who work and live here because of Austin being here and pretty much for no other reason. It certainly isn’t for the weather, which is Texas hot nine months out of the year.

There is a little joke in Austin that if you move here and don’t have allergies, wait five years. You’ll have them, just wait. I had allergies before moving here and I never intended to stay here. Fate has kept me here, year after year in spite of my intentions to leave as soon as I was assured of an ability to provide for my family. I was ill before I got to Austin, and my illness has gotten worse every year I’ve been here. The symptoms which had no name eventually got so bad that I found a name for them, Meniere’s. Finding that my symptoms had a name is the only reason I’m alive to write this uplifting little post today. Having a name for what keeps me from working is what gets me disability payments that kept my now-grown children fed while they were still growing. The disability made me worth more alive than dead; so I’ve kept living, to the consternation of many.

Disability isn’t a carefree life of freedom and bliss. Ill health is generally hard to endure even without the grinding poverty that accompanies it in most cases. The poverty is inflicted on those of ill-health by the system itself, not as a function of their relative worth. The cost of treating illness is itself a function of building the wealth of countless millions of healthcare professionals, people who would be as poor as I am without people like me coming to them for treatment. Without Social Security and Medicare paying my bills, I’d have taken my own life years ago. All those thousands spent to educate my children, house, clothe and feed them, would never have existed. Their promising careers, the careers of my Texas family who went to college because I brought them somewhere that had a college, all of the people who benefitted in some way from the work that I’ve done if not by the simple existence of my health issues, none of them would be where they are now had I simply not existed. Had I been cast aside like the poster-waving homeless visible on every city street corner in the US.

Nothing hits so hard for me as being in my car pulling up to an intersection, and having someone come to me with their hand out. I can’t look because I know that if I give in to my desire to help everyone around me, I will soon be the one standing on the street corner holding a sign. See to your own needs first, as any properly trained triage attendant knows. You can’t help others if you end up needing help yourself. I have clung to the top edge of a vertical drop into non-existence for more than a decade now. Every single cent of every dollar spent in the last ten years having to be justified in some way. Kicking myself for ever frivolously spending anything in the years that I had money, not realizing that those years would be the briefest of all.

When reporting on poverty, the media fall into familiar traps and pundits make prescriptions that disregard the facts. So, in the fifth and final installment of our series, “Busted: America’s Poverty Myths,” we present a Breaking News Consumer’s Handbook: Poverty in America Edition. It’ll equip you with the tools to spot shoddy reporting and the knowledge to identify coverage with insight.

With help from Jack Frech, former Athens County welfare director; Kathryn Edin, co-author of $2.00 A Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America; Greg Kaufmann, editor of TalkPoverty.org; Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City; and Linda Tirado, author of Hand To Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America.

This brings me full circle. From bootstraps to bootstraps. How can you lift yourself with your own bootstraps when you have no boots? Casey Gerald asks that very question in a TED talk that I favorited over a year ago. I love this talk. It makes me cry and laugh and cry.

“The gospel of doubt does not ask that you stop believing, it asks that you believe a new thing: that it is possible not to believe.”Casey Gerald

Like him I really don’t have any answers aside from the plain observation that what we have attempted so far in the realm of aid to the poor has failed, utterly.  We must begin again if we ever hope to improve the human condition. The only sane way is to approach the problem with the knowledge that we don’t know what will work before we try it. So it will profit all of us to make sure that what we are attempting can be tested for effectiveness before we embrace it as true and real. 

Economic OHM Bullshit

Yesterday on Stonekettle Station

Trump’s pet spokes bull, Kellyanne Conway says, “Record stock market highs AGAIN. The new normal under @POTUS and @GOP Congress.”

This comment is one of the most disingenuous in an administration literally based on disingenuity.

The stock market history trends upward ALWAYS — with certain notable momentary dips, which we’ll come back to in a moment. Trump’s supposed “record high” is just the normal far side of the graph.

For example, during Bill Clinton’s 8 year term, the market rose 229% with annual average gain of 14.9%. Every high during Clinton’s term was a record high.

On yesterday’s episode of the BBC World News Service’s Business Daily (Warning Signs for the Global Economy?) the first interview featured an economist (Pippa Malmgrem) who points out that quantitative easing put eighteen trillion more dollars into the world markets, and most of that increased supply of money went into the pockets of the wealthy class, who then proceed to play the stock market with it. Or as she put it, that eighteen trillion dollars will show up somewhere. This increase in the stock market has nothing to do with the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) anymore than Bill Clinton enabled the creation of the PC and it’s resultant boom. This is all beside the point that Stonekettle Station makes quite well, that the markets always trend upward; if not for inflationary reasons, then for real reasons of increased value. I find it amusing that eighteen trillion additional dollars doesn’t equate to inflating the money supply in the minds of most economists.

However, I would point out that the OHM’s stock market increases are not based on anything real but are instead based on the increased amount of money available to the markets, held by people who already have too much money. This allows them to bid up the market because millions of dollars mean nothing to these people. If the markets crash they’ll still have billions to rely upon. This is in direct contrast to the increases under Bill Clinton which were based on the creation and expansion of real markets and equated to more goods, more jobs, and more progress for the world and specifically for the American people. Progress that was lost under W’s watch and only regained slightly under Barack Obama. The OHM is presiding over the dismantling of America’s Long Peace. This will be disastrous to the US economy both short-term and long-term. I can’t imagine how we will survive this destruction even though I know some of us will.