Category Archives: On The Media

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)

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. 

Bullshit is Bullshit.

Since January 20th I’ve been keeping a passing eye and ear on the news. Not really paying attention, just waiting for the talking heads and pundits to start clueing in on the new reality. Waiting for the former gatekeepers and news creators to understand the landscape in front of them. I’m beginning to think I am wasting my time. Every newscast, every podcast, every article I run across with few exceptions falls for the tasty bullshit offered rather than dig into the fabrication that they are being asked to consume and regurgitate for the public’s consumption.

The Muslim ban was one of the first things out of the gate 6 months ago, and it’s still being discussed. Removed, reissued, struck down again, and now the Supreme Court will be asked to weigh in on this xenophobic floating turd in the public drinking water. They’ll couch the destruction of Trump’s attempt to institute an unconstitutional ban on a specific religion in flowery rhetoric, or they’ll debase themselves before the power of the mob that His Electoral Highness is assembling to inflict his will on the unsuspecting public, but in the end the Muslim ban is bullshit just like everything that has been said about it is bullshit. Six months of bullshit about a policy that never had a chance of being real American law. It is a religious test. A muslim ban imposed by christians and their anti-christ Trump, just more of the christian persecution complex that has been on display since Reagan invited them into politics in 1980.

This is how demagogues rule. This is how democracies and republics dissolve. Listening to His Electoral Highness’ bullshit and reporting on it as fact is facilitating the dissolution of the country we have known and, from the perspective of the doddering old fool of the religious right agenda we should know so well by now, ushering in the theocratic government they are convinced will secure god’s blessing for America. But that is just one facet on the polished turd of Trump’s bullshit.

The border wall he announced after descending the flowing golden escalator to proclaim his candidacy, the border wall that will keep out the brown-skinned menace to the South of the US? That bullshit still isn’t a thing, either. It isn’t a thing because it can’t be done and the people along the border don’t even want it done. The Republicans in Texas, ever anxious to keep Tejanos subjected and divided, have embraced the xenophobic fear of the brown-skinned other that Trump embraced as a candidate, only to be stabbed in the back by the rogue force they got elected to the presidency. Texas cities aren’t even sanctuaries according to the Trump justice department. So the sanctuary cities fearmongering that the governor and the legislature spent months on and will spend millions defending amounts to exactly bullshit. Meaningless bullshit clogging up the airwaves, obscuring the real news.

For six years, six years, the Republicans have campaigned on repealing Obamacare, the moniker they hung on the ACA that Obama in one of his moments of wisdom embraced. Trump said they’d fix that day one. It didn’t happen day one, hasn’t happened yet six months later. The Republicans can’t agree on just how to hang themselves with their own rhetoric, so they fidget and hesitate and refuse to do much of anything of measureable impact. They passed a bill through the House that they know won’t pass the Senate, and the Bullshitter-in-Chief threw them a party on the White House lawn to celebrate their victory in doing absolutely nothing at all. Just the kind of thing a lover of bullshit like Trump would celebrate, of course. It doesn’t even matter that the non-plan doesn’t do any of the things he’s forgotten he promised on the campaign trail. It’s the celebration that counts.

Trump promised jobs? How is that lying, cheating scumbag going to create jobs? The only people who stay with him and make money are family and household staff. The only business partners that make money are the criminals who give him money to launder; and they only make money because he knows they’ll kill him if they don’t. Every single word I’ve heard him utter since he declared his intention to build casinos in Atlantic City and then shafted every single person who dared believe anything he said about the project has been bullshit. Look at them, the scattered carcases in his wake. The thousands of people he trickled down on as he was being golden showered himself. The people who are afraid to admit they fell for his bullshit all these years. The people who thought they’d get rich as part of the scheme only to be left holding the bag, paying the bill, after all the important people have checked out. Look at them, the wannabes still following him even now just hoping for a droplet of his time so that they too might be as lucky as he is, to be apparently worth billions all while truthfully being in hock to the eyeballs, afraid of his own shadow and spied on by his Russian bride. Risking everything on this one big final scam, running for president, hoping against hope that it just might turn out alright.

Every single media personality who reports on Trump secretly wants to be Trump. That is the thing they only admit to themselves when they are alone with their thoughts at three am wondering what they did wrong in their lives to end up where they are. They want to be famous like Trump. Charismatic like Trump. Able to pull crap out of their asses like Trump and have total strangers eat it up like cake. The lure of fame so commonly mistaken for infamy, especially in the world of reality television. It is a mark of pride for me, never having seen a single episode of the Apprentice. Never listening to Howard Stern or any of his thousands of imitators and so never consequently being trapped listening to Trump talk about himself. Never being a fan of David Letterman and so also missing him there. It was a blessing, when I could tune out the bullshit so easily.


Inequality Media, Know Your Trump Syndrome

So it goes, round and round and round with no end in sight. This is the goal of the bullshitter. They want to keep people distracted, try to wear out their attention so that when they finally look away in exhaustion the real goals can be pursued. Those goals vary from one bullshitter to the next. Most of them are selling something, and His Electoral Highness was one of those when he was a real estate developer. His bullshit serves a different purpose these days, but bullshit remains bullshit, and anything coming out of that mouth is bullshit, has always been bullshit. The mistake is in listening to what he says in the first place. Listening beyond the necessity to realize he needs to be removed from office and gathering the evidence to achieve that goal. All the reporting and amusement and outrage and even the disaffection and denial all serve the greater purpose that the bullshitter wants achieved so long as the media and his future prosecutors do not realize that ending his bullshit career is the only goal of merit. As long as he remains in play, in office and free to manipulate and profit, his bullshit serves the purpose he creates it for.

Stonekettle Station

Yesterday Robert Reich posted yet another in a series of posts detailing how the president is clearly unhinged and needs to be removed. Today Jim Wright over at Stonekettle Station brilliantly detailed how Trump’s Twitter bullshit remains without substance. I understand that it’s important to convince the people who support him to stop, but I really don’t think that his supporters are vulnerable to reasoned arguments from any quarter. It is far, far too late for that to be effective. We have white power being motivated to violence in the streets across the country, and no one is prosecuting them as we did the Black Panthers and Malcolm X in the 60’s . White supremacists are more powerful and more visible than they’ve ever been in my lifetime and I’ve been paying attention to politics from the inside and the outside since the mid-seventies. We are in a crisis point and I doubt there are very many people reading this that don’t already know this.

When His Electoral Highness intoned “The Media is the Enemy of the People” anyone with an understanding of history and the manipulation of society should have perked up and taken notice. This is a well-known tactic of demagogues and dictators. Discredit the press, make people uncertain of the truthfulness of what they read and hear,

“Part of his purpose there (attacking the press) is to make sure the news source they (his base) accept about Trump is Trump. If the press can’t find a way into that circle, then it really doesn’t matter what a ball they are having as they report on this playground of a White House.” – Jay Rosen, On The Media, Shiny Objects, May 11, 2017  (press think blog)

He is still speaking directly to his supporters, what the media calls his base and what I would refer to as preaching to the choir. He doesn’t care what anyone else thinks as long as his alt-right people stay loyal to him, his brownshirts in waiting. The equivalent to the Reichstag fire hasn’t occurred yet, but His Electoral Highness, the demagogue who serves as a stand-in for Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Mussolini, etc, etc, etc, ad nauseum has been inducted into a leadership position he isn’t capable of executing in a legal fashion. His troops are marshalling now and it only remains for the catalyst to be introduced for the violence in his name and defense to start.

None of this comes as a surprise to me. I recognized the patterns if not the person quite some time ago. Wanting to avoid a Trump presidency is why I voted for Hillary Clinton, not that it did much good since everyone else appears to have stayed home.  Avoiding a Trump presidency is also why I warned everyone who read my blog at the end of last October about Trump and his backer’s true threat level. Apparently I wasn’t clear enough about the kind of violent, uninformed malcontents backing the con artist that was running against Hillary and the system itself, so I explained it more succinctly in a post and with a moniker I gave to Trump when he didn’t burn out as I (and he also) expected to – The Orange Hate-Monkey. Following that I explained the job of the electoral college, to the electoral college and then compared the GOP to their historical predecessors and then, when all else had failed, I explained why we as the owners of this entire mess should act to clean it up as quickly as possible, summed up in the archaic phrase Caveat Emptor. Caveat Emptor, a phrase everyone should be required to understand in this day and age.

I haven’t written much since then because, frankly, I’m waiting for everyone else to catch up. I’m beginning to get tired of waiting. The media still report on every bit of bullshit that passes his lips. They follow his Twitter feed slavishly. Parse his every utterance as if they contain pearls of wisdom. Why do they report these things as news? Surely after years of having to correct what he says, then he says differently, and then changes again, a journalist trained to verify facts would realize that the source is not reliable and find another source. But they don’t. They can’t stop themselves.

Economist: “Beyond that, it’s OK if the tax plan increases the deficit?”
Trump: “It is OK, because it won’t increase it for long. You may have two years where you’ll . . . you understand the expression ‘‘prime the pump”?”
Economist: “Yes.”
Trump: “We have to prime the pump.”
Economist: “It’s very Keynesian.”
Trump: “Have you heard that expression before, for this type of an event?”
Economist: “Priming the pump?”
Trump: “Yeah, have you heard it?”
Economist: “Yes.”
Trump: “Have you heard that expression used before? Because I haven’t heard it. I mean, I just . . . I came up with it a couple of days ago and I thought it was good. It’s what you have to do.”
Earth to Trump: The expression “priming the pump” has been used to refer to government spending that stimulates the economy since at least 1933. If you never heard it before your grasp of economics is below that of most Americans. If you think you made it up, your narcissism is fabulous. “Fabulous” is a word that has been used since 1658. You didn’t make that up, either.

Robert Reich, Facebook, May 12 at 3:41am

Stonekettle Station

He knows these things didn’t come from him. If he doesn’t then he really is as unhinged as most people think these days. It is bullshit; and all of the reporting on what he says simply promotes it. Dr. Reich is flabbergasted that Trump would admit he fired FBI Director Comey because he refused to end the Russia probes. Of course he fired Comey because of Russia. I didn’t believe he’d admit it himself initially, but why shouldn’t he? His base doesn’t believe the Russian conspiracy is real (and it may not be) but why should he care what he admits or what anyone reports? He knows he isn’t going to be hindered by what the media says or doesn’t say. He rules with the support of the mob at his back. The ever more violent white supremacists and malcontents, what we would call terrorists if we were being honest with ourselves. They put him in office and they intend to keep him there.


Waking Up With Sam Harris #79 -The Road to Tyranny
With Timothy Snyder and his book On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

Life is political, not because the world cares about how you feel, but because the world reacts to what you do” 

This is why the media needs to go cold turkey on their Trump addiction. This binge they’ve been on since almost two years ago now. They need to report facts instead of the touchy-feely bullshit that Trump spews every morning. Facts like his demonstrable theft of service business practices, just waiting to be revealed to the researcher willing to dig deep enough. Where are his tax returns? Now he’s going to release them after he leaves office? Who believes this bullshit? Show of hands? Nobody. He’s never going to release them, they will incriminate him and he knows this. Someone please produce them, so we can get on with the prosecution.

Facts like his complete allegiance to Putin and Russia. He dropped missiles on a Syrian airbase? Where is the outrage? Where are the official state protests? Where is Russia and Syria holding us to account for his act of war? What you hear instead is the sound of crickets chirping. Has the media grown so fatigued they don’t even notice the echoing chasm of a lack of quid pro quo, tit for tat, the kind of behavior that has historically always followed a strike like that? You won’t see it, because it was bullshit executed by the military at Trump’s request. No real effect, planes took off the next day from that base to strike the same targets they’d been striking the day before. In the end, the missile strike simply proved that even the things he does are bullshit, which is quite a feat in and of itself. To be ineffectual even when blowing things up and killing people. You have to be a world-class bullshitter to be able to pull off that level of bullshit.

On June twentieth we’ll have officially hit the six month mark in the Trump presidency. He has already gone on more vacations in 6 months than Obama did in 6 years. He’s produced less work than any other president at this point in his presidency, and his only successful acts have been to undo most of the progress made by President Obama in his last 6 months in office. His congress is on the path to produce less legislation than the last congress, which was the least productive congress in the history of the nation. This is what a constant stream of bullshit earns you. Lots of effort simply to lose ground. He’s made a lot of money over this past six months, though. That I can guarantee you without having to look at his ledger sheets, all of it at the expense of US citizenry and US international standing. Forfeiture of the American hegemony, the end of US international leadership.

I’m going back to Netflix now. I have House of Cards to catch up on. Yes, it’s tame by comparison to His Electoral Highness’ court intrigues, possibly even more believable, but I prefer distraction to watching the slow torture of the American spirit into something that I’d rather not be associated with. Someone wake me when the impeachment hearings start.

“Not even being president could give you any class.” – Spoken by the character Elizabeth Hale in House of Cards Season 4 Ep. “Chapter 40”