Category Archives: Immigration

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.

StonekettleStation on Facebook

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. 

The Psychology of Hate?

I had a few objections to this episode of Inquiring Minds. I think all of this ties back to the episode that aired right before the election last November, the episode where the hosts and journalists being interviewed just assume that Hillary Clinton would win the election, that Trump voters were some crazy fringe of American society that just wanted to be heard? Yeah, that one. In this one they just assume that the internet trolls that pushed the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) onto the GOP stage and then laughed themselves all the way to the foreign-intervention inquest hearing, had a larger point they wanted to make other than to prove that Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans (#MAGA) would believe anything they read on the internet. I’m sure those same trolls are still laughing after this episode,

OK. Here’s the problem with your guests take on polarization in the form of the sitting president. Setting aside the ingroup/outgroup bias that I have towards conservatives whom I consider barely capable of thought on a pretty regular basis considering who they allow to lead their party; I would say “since Reagan” but it’s actually been since Nixon, Republicans and conservatives are in love with money politics. It’s bad on the Democratic left as well, because that is the name of the game in this day and age, and that name is corruption. But their leaders don’t even pretend to disguise that they are doing the bidding of their funders. Trickle-down is a completely bankrupt theory of economics, but they still propose giving tax cuts to the wealthy because the wealthy don’t want to pay taxes. It certainly isn’t for the reasons that they pretend because it’s been demonstrated that money just pools in the wealthy people’s hands when you let wealthy people keep more money.

But I’m getting sidetracked into the bankrupt ideas. The problem with their leaders is that they get more and more corrupt. Nixon authorized a little B&E but that’s child’s play next to Reagan who bribed the Iranians or Bush the first who ran the CIA or the second that lied us into war in Iraq. And all of them ALL OF THEM pale beside the criminal, the huckster, the complete fraud that is Donald J. Trump. His connections to the Russian mafia go so deep you will need a rectal exam to figure out where they end. The election tampering was nothing compared to his dirty money ties to them that are just now coming to light and this is the guy they chose as their leader?

I mean, I sit down and break bread with conservatives everyday. I live in Texas after all, it is unavoidable. But Trump? Even David Frum can’t put enough distance between himself and Trump. The problem isn’t that the left has gone too far left or that there even is such a thing as “too liberal” (which is probably a point worth arguing) but if there is a thing called too liberal it’s going to be found somewhere residing in the heads of people who are willing to give a criminal like Trump a chance. He started his campaign with racism and I”m not waiting for his followers to start filling up concentration camps (currently referred to as immigration detention, just FYI) with their undesirables before I decide to do something.

There really is such a thing as a stupid idea, and giving a demonstrable criminal, a fraudulent deal-maker who has been sued nearly 6,000 times, a chance to run the country is the dumbest idea I’ve heard yet. But I’m sure I’ll hear something dumber from the Republicans pretty shortly, unless your guest beats them to it. 

The First White President?

“By his sixth month in office, embroiled in scandal after scandal, a Pew Research Center poll found Trump’s approval rating underwater with every single demographic group. Every demographic group, that is, except one: people who identified as white.”

From The First White President by Ta-Nehisi Coates

An essay from his collection of essays due out shortly We Were Eight Years in Power: An American Tragedy I wish I could disagree with the content of the article more than I do. But I can’t. He’s voiced a lot of what I think privately in this article. It’s just too painful to read it and agree with it. The naked truth out in public like that. Shocking.

He was recently on All In with Chris Hayes, one of the few shows I find myself missing since I cut the cable. The first segment is titled You might be a white supremacist. The second one titled In 100 years, people will say we lost our minds carries his assessment of what history will think of the Trump presidency. In my opinion, history will only remember us as crazy if we are lucky enough to survive this flirtation with authoritarianism and white nationalism. Here he is being interviewed on WAMU’s The 1A.


Is Ta-Nehisi Coates being too harsh on White People? I sure wish I believed he was. But I suspect that from the eyes of a black man, he still hasn’t said enough. That, in itself, is a frightening thought to contemplate. To some extent the author is being over-broad in his condemnation of white action as racism. The broader social policy, the wrong-headed economic notion of the zero-sum game, is to blame for the belief that there must be social winners and losers, people who give and people who take. The economic structure crafted to make the zero-sum game a part of human life is where racism manifests; but in the end it is racism that is the cause for blacks and the brown-skinned to be seen as lessor, the natural losers in a zero-sum game.

This is so wrong-headed as to baffle the senses, adhering to the zero-sum game in modern society. When a farmer produces food for the marketplace and sells it, is he the winner or the loser? Are the people who buy the food winners because they get to eat, or losers because they paid for the food? Is he the winner because he keeps his farm and gets to keep working by accepting a money transaction, or is he the loser because he didn’t keep the food for himself? Life is not a zero-sum game beyond the observation that it starts with nothing and ends with nothing, but all that bit in the middle, the part where life is? That is the only part that matters from a personal perspective.

Does a black man care that he is poor because his ancestry led him to this place and time, through mechanisms that he doesn’t approve of and cannot control? No more than a poor white man does, I’m sure. Which is actually the heart of the problem of dealing with structural racism resultant from belief in the zero-sum game. White Nationalism masquerading as the alt-right will attempt to keep blacks in their place for fear of losing what is theirs, and in equal proportion poor blacks will push to escape the place forced on them by institutions that should never have been created in the first place.

I wrote the historical entries on poverty for this blog specifically to bring to the forefront the very issue in contention here. Systemic acceptance of grinding poverty as a necessary evil, a side-effect of the free market. Not just white poverty or black poverty, but poverty of and for itself. Poverty doesn’t have to exist anywhere on this planet. We humans are wealthy enough and understand enough now to be able to make every person on the planet capable of meeting their own needs. All we lack is the will to see this change take place.

The triumph of Trump’s campaign of bigotry presented the problematic spectacle of an American president succeeding at best in spite of his racism and possibly because of it. Trump moved racism from the euphemistic and plausibly deniable to the overt and freely claimed. This presented the country’s thinking class with a dilemma. Hillary Clinton simply could not be correct when she asserted that a large group of Americans was endorsing a candidate because of bigotry. The implications—that systemic bigotry is still central to our politics; that the country is susceptible to such bigotry; that the salt-of-the-earth Americans whom we lionize in our culture and politics are not so different from those same Americans who grin back at us in lynching photos; that Calhoun’s aim of a pan-Caucasian embrace between workers and capitalists still endures—were just too dark. Leftists would have to cope with the failure, yet again, of class unity in the face of racism. Incorporating all of this into an analysis of America and the path forward proved too much to ask. Instead, the response has largely been an argument aimed at emotion—the summoning of the white working class, emblem of America’s hardscrabble roots, inheritor of its pioneer spirit, as a shield against the horrific and empirical evidence of trenchant bigotry. 

Packer dismisses the Democratic Party as a coalition of “rising professionals and diversity.” The dismissal is derived from, of all people, Lawrence Summers, the former Harvard president and White House economist, who last year labeled the Democratic Party “a coalition of the cosmopolitan élite and diversity.” The inference is that the party has forgotten how to speak on hard economic issues and prefers discussing presumably softer cultural issues such as “diversity.” It’s worth unpacking what, precisely, falls under this rubric of “diversity”—resistance to the monstrous incarceration of legions of black men, resistance to the destruction of health providers for poor women, resistance to the effort to deport parents, resistance to a policing whose sole legitimacy is rooted in brute force, resistance to a theory of education that preaches “no excuses” to black and brown children, even as excuses are proffered for mendacious corporate executives “too big to jail.” That this suite of concerns, taken together, can be dismissed by both an elite economist like Summers and a brilliant journalist like Packer as “diversity” simply reveals the safe space they enjoy. Because of their identity. 

From The First White President by Ta-Nehisi Coates

The basket of deplorables that voted for Trump, friends and family among them, should take a long, hard look in the mirror and recognize the face of modern American racism. I rejected Trump from the beginning. I recognized his race-baiting tactics immediately. He never tried to hide what he was doing, and I remain mystified why anyone, ANYONE voted for him. Why anyone didn’t know what they were voting for, a white nationalist, a racist, someone who started his campaign by calling Mexicans rapists. He couldn’t have made it more obvious if he stitched it onto bright red caps that he and everyone around him wore.

Oh, wait, he did stitch it onto hats! Make America Great Again by definition means a return to an America that was more racist than it was in the Obama years. It means more racism because America has never been less racist than it was during the last eight years, and it is only going to get worse as Trump’s administration continues to ramp up the racist rhetoric,. This is something he did just last week by announcing the repeal of DACA. The entirety of the history of Hispanics in this country has been a thinly veiled tale of racial exploitation. This really shouldn’t be news to anybody, but even I didn’t understand the full history of the expletive wetback until listening to a segment on the Texas Standard last week.

I’ve said this many times on this blog and elsewhere. When you are working in construction or out on the farm, anywhere there is labor that needs doing, you see brown faces out in the sun. The white faces are almost always hidden inside. They’re leading construction from the comfort of an air conditioned trailer, sitting in comfort inside of an idling truck. There are exceptions to this rule, but the presence of those few white faces simply amplifies the disparity.

My father did me a great service when I was a teenager, but I never understood it then. He sent me out in the fields to work one summer, so that I could get a taste of what working for a living without an education felt like. I was given over to a friend or perhaps a relative of one of his employees. A one-armed ancient hispanic man who made me look like a slacker, or the complete novice that I was, by doing more and better work with one arm than I could with two. He could and did do it day-in and day-out for months and years spanning into decades. He probably died out there in one of those fields. I don’t know because it wasn’t important to me. The lesson was learned, never to be forgotten. I wanted to work indoors, out of the sun. I wanted to turn knowledge into profit. I wanted to work smart instead of hard.

The ability to do what I’ve done? The ability to assert one’s knowledge without credentials or any evidence of talent or knack for the process? That comes from being who I was, where I was. If I had been born brown or black, African, Asian or Latino in this part of the world? That sort of assertiveness would have been ground out of me before I was even an adult, back in the time I was born into. That is what white privilege means. Ask Philando Castile if he can carry a weapon like a white man does, if you doubt this is true. Ask Ahmed Mohamed if he’s even allowed to be unusually bright and curious in this day and age. I could probably trot out a million examples of why my experiences warrant the label white privilege, but I would not convince a single Trump voter that what I said was the truth. That is the shame we are living through today.

And so the most powerful country in the world has handed over all its affairs—the prosperity of its entire economy; the security of its 300 million citizens; the purity of its water, the viability of its air, the safety of its food; the future of its vast system of education; the soundness of its national highways, airways, and railways; the apocalyptic potential of its nuclear arsenal—to a carnival barker who introduced the phrase grab ’em by the pussy into the national lexicon. – Ta-Nehisi Coates


In 2015, the political scientists Marisa Abrajano and Zoltan L. Hajnal published White Backlash, a study of political trends, and found that “whites who hold more negative views of immigrants have a greater tendency to support Republican candidates at the presidential, congressional, and gubernatorial levels, even after controlling for party identification and other major factors purported to drive the vote.”

While that finding may seem obvious, it isn’t simply a description of existing Republicans, but of the trends driving some white Democrats into the Republican Party. Using data from the American National Election Survey, Abrajano and Hajnal conclude that “changes in individual attitudes toward immigrants precede shifts in partisanship,” and that “immigration really is driving individual defections from the Democratic to Republican Party.” – The Atlantic, The Nationalist’s Delusion

Offered simply to put paid to the lie that Republicans aren’t the racists in America. By and large, that is what they have become, and the OHM is an outgrowth of that increased racism in the party. He embodies and embraces it in ways that a less cynical man would be ashamed of. But the OHM knows that the average American is a clueless rube just waiting to be fleeced of the few coins in his purse. Just so long as you say the right things, stand the right way when you say it. I personally prefer our leaders to have more going for them than just the color of their skin, the type of sex organs hidden under their clothing. Apparently that is asking too much in this day and age.  

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”

If It Bleeds, It Leads. Same as It Ever Was

For the last year and a half the media have fawned all over His Electoral Highness Donald J. Trump. They can’t stop talking about him. They can’t be kept from giving him airtime to talk about himself. Aside from Trump himself, his biggest fans are the media who think that what this lame duck of a leader says means anything at all. Because of the media’s fawning, I have been forced to spend the last two years ignoring everything Donald Trump says with their generous gift of free airtime. I ignore everything he says because listening to him is what he wants us to do. I ignore him because attempting to make sense of what he says makes me feel ill. I ignore him because listening to him demonstrably makes you dumber; the media being a prime example of people made stupid by the sound of Donald Trump’s voice.

The media’s free gift of airtime helped give him the momentum to take the electoral college if not the popular vote; and now they ask, why is America so divided? If anyone should know the answer to this question it should be the media, but I wouldn’t look to them to give you a truthful answer. Division is what they want. It sells. Conflict and violence always lead the news. The division they are trying to illustrate here is largely a matter of perception. The division is almost entirely of the media’s making, their policy of going with taglines that hype the separation, the division, the conflict,

There’s nothing new about simmering hostility between a President and the press. As Richard Nixon once stated, “The President should treat the press just as fairly as the press treats him.” 

In March of 1974, the Nixon presidency was lurching toward destruction by Watergate, and there was an ongoing tension between the President and the CBS White House correspondent:

President Nixon: “Are you running for something?”Dan Rather: “No, sir, Mr. President, are you?”

Norm Ornstein, a resident scholar at the American Enterprise Institute, was then, and remains now, a student of our political system and our media:

“We would watch network news shows and we would sit there and we would have basically a common set of facts that would emerge from them,” he said. “As we’ve moved to the new media world, the more you’ve got this cacophony of voices, the more you cut through it by, basically, shock value. And that’s why people now are driven not by their own attachment to their own parties; they’re driven by a hatred for those on the other side.” 

CBS News, The great divide: Politics in the Age of Trump

Much like Nixon ushered in the end of the Republican party that elected him, Trump signals the ultimate end of Reaganism and Reaganomics. There will be no possibility of doubt remaining as to the bankruptcy of Reagan’s policies by the time Trump is drummed out of office; policies which have held sway since Reagan was president. The question the media should be asking is, will the Democrats find themselves and their new direction, or will they waste their resurgence as they did with the Carter years? Let me unpack these observations for you.

The eight years of Clinton were not liberal years. The most damning thing to be said about Clinton is that he was and is Republican lite, conservative-ish. He ended welfare in the US because the conservatives demanded that he do it. Because it was something that Reagan promised and compromising with Reagan Democrats was how Bill Clinton got into office. Over and over again he proved that he wasn’t liberal in any real sense of the word. He was a conservative from the old Southern wing of Democratic conservatives who just happened to have married well. Without Hillary’s influence I am convinced he would have been even harder on the poor, even more militaristic than he was. Weirdly, I doubt that would have kept Republicans from manufacturing a scandal in their attempts to remove him.

Barack Obama was pretty close to liberal but still enacted conservative policies because conservative policies were the only ones that the conservatives in the congress he was saddled with would vaguely go for. Obamacare was and is Romneycare. That is why Romney had such a hard time dissing the ACA, because it was his idea offered by a Democratic president and he knew it. Obama was the deporter-in-Chief because, again, that is what conservatives wanted him to do. He was tough on immigration because he hoped it would win points with the other side of the aisle. Only in his last two years did he realize that Republicans would never work with him and so he spent those years ruling by executive order. The Republicans didn’t refuse to work for him because he was black if we are to take them at their word. they didn’t refuse because he was liberal because his policies prove otherwise. They refused to work with him because he was a Democrat.

The sin that Bill Clinton, Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are all guilty of is the sin of being members of the Democratic party. If they had been Republicans they would have been deemed typical centrists willing to make deals in order to get the government’s work done. It is deal making that the new conservatives hate. They are convinced that there is a true conservative ideology and all they have to do is adhere to it. Never mind that no two conservatives can agree on what conservatism is aside from prosperity gospel Jesus, a completely different kind of Jesus than that socialist hippy Jesus of the seventies. That is religion masquerading as ideology which is all conservatism has left to appeal to, the shadow of religion that Reagan rode to power on.

None of this has anything to do with real ideology beyond the ghost of Reagan that even Reaganite priests can’t quote because Reagan was more liberal than the country is now. The ghost of Reagan and his trickle-down Reaganomics is why the tax rates on the wealthiest people in the US remain low. Anyone making more than a million dollars a year should be taxed at the confiscatory rate of 99% just as the progressive tax rates did during the post-war era. During the times when the middle class grew and the poor were not quite so desperate. Back when Jesus was a socialist hippy. They should be taxed at this extreme rate because they don’t spend more when they have more, so it benefits society not one bit to allow them to keep their incredible wealth.

The subject of monetary policy is too lengthy to get into here, but in the end upper income tax rates were lowered because the increased wealth was supposed to generate more benefits for the rest of us, and the reality we live in has demonstrably proven that the opposite is true. Ergo, some form of income cap has to be reinstituted. Either a scale requiring all boats be raised when the wealthy get paid more, or confiscatory taxes on pay greater than the scale would dictate.

So here we are at the tail-end of the Reagan era, just waiting for the Reagan Democrats to bleep their last heartbeat on the heart monitor they are strapped to before we can get on with progress. It has to be those people because they are the only ones left watching TV, getting their news from TV and from radio. Those are the people who went out and voted for Trump. Those are the people who in their political ignorance voted Republican not realizing that Republicans and conservatives ran everything in the country aside from the presidency already. Politically ignorant people who don’t understand that the president’s job isn’t to fix the country, that is the job of the congress. A job the congress is supposed to achieve through legislation and funding and programs to keep the myriad systems this country depends on running.

Unfortunately for the rest of us, conservatives have swallowed the anarchist notion that government doesn’t work. Republicans have echoed this falsehood because their base believes it, never questioning why they want to elect people to do jobs that they believe don’t need to be done. So it falls to the Democrats to make proposals for government that will work. It falls to them to prove that the poor can get a fair shake in this new America, that the wealthy don’t always get their way. Falls to the Democrats to propose the kinds of changes that populists on both sides of the aisle wanted and would get behind, because the Republicans and conservatives are too scared of socialism to even go someplace where government just might work. If the Democrats can do this, it will be the end of the Republicans for at least a generation.

What I don’t understand is how the media can’t see this happening? Why do they see fractiousness and faction rather than seeing what is really going on? The politically informed vs. the politically ignorant that gave us the current administration? Why can’t they see that they are Donald Trump’s biggest fans? Perhaps they can’t see it because they too are caught in a previous age. The age of the gate keeper and the top-down adminstrator. The feudal society of corporate America, what is fast becoming a corporate globalism. The history of dictators and their five year plans that never worked out. They are soon to be as irrelevant as the Reagan Democrats who will be cashing their last Social Security checks soon. Checking out as movers and shakers and left behind as the world starts dancing to a different beat.

The media and Reagan Democrats will be as baffled by the next election as they were by the last one, because they think the narrative is one they set, and not one that we the people decide.

The GOP Cuddles Up To the NSDAP

I’ve arrived at that certain point in time; November 8th, 2016. I’ve been stalling the inevitable. I have now listened to all the podcasts that were queued up from prior to that date. I even went back through the archives of Hidden Brain in hopes of delaying this confrontation with reality, and I say even because I’ve heard most of them as part of the science queue from the NPR feeds. I listened to them again even though I really didn’t need to.

Call it denial, call it whatever you like, I haven’t been able to listen to a newscast for the last two weeks. I still can’t listen, watch or read while pundits attempt to normalize what has just happened. Every podcast for the last year and an half that has included any attempt to break down the Orange Hate-Monkey‘s (OHM) flung shit, the sounds that normal people consider words with meanings, have been and will continue to be culled from my news stream. I have no time to waste on attempts to rationalize what is 80% bullshit, scientifically determined.

Now that the OHM looks to be destined for the White House, these sickeningly obsequious pundits are still trying to make sense of the patterns that emerge from words that he has said, blithely ignoring the adage that covers this particular waste of time.

That adage would be GIGO or Garbage In, Garbage Out.

The electoral college still hasn’t spoken, won’t speak until after December 19th. If they elect him he then becomes President-Elect. He won’t be President until January 20th of 2017. Until then everything that a pundit might think about what will happen is just another attempt at creating a fantasy narrative, much like your average fantasy football player talking about their team as if it existed anywhere outside of their own heads.

Life must go on, but the way forward may not include much in the way of news content for me. I will not be wasting my time normalizing the behaviors of proto-fascists. Any article which includes phrases like Trump says will be beneath notice from the perspective of actual value for time spent, simply adding to the amount of garbage in that has to be sorted for relevant life-sustaining facts coming out. Arguments to the contrary directed at me will simply be met with OHM quotations which might or might not be relevant to the argument presented.

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”Donald Trump 

“I could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and I wouldn’t lose any voters, OK?” – Donald Trump

“they’re allowed to cut off heads and they’re allowed to chop off heads, and we can’t waterboard.” – Donald Trump  

Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what the hell is going on”

“I love the poorly educated” – Donald Trump 

Who knows if they will be relevant? I certainly don’t; and no one can know, not even the OHM himself. He lost sight of what the truth was long, long ago, back in the days before his dad gave him the stake to start his business with.

Groopspeak on Facebook

The old anonymous quote (which I’ve used more than once recently) on the current problems with our country goes like this; “American fascism will arrive carrying a cross and wrapped in a flag” and it has. They aren’t fascists yet. Not yet. Speech is free, after all. You can say the things fascists say and still not be one. Talk is cheap. If they follow through on the OHM’s promises; when they seat their dictator with the express purpose of allowing him to do what he promised, they will no longer be proto-fascists but fascists in fact.

The one thing that can be said about the structure of a Trump administration is that we have a good idea of who the people that will ultimately be named as co-defendants at the war crimes trials will be. These are still the same paltry few facts that we knew two weeks ago when I wrote this piece.

The OHM announced this week that he has selected Betsy DeVos for Secretary of Education, which means that gutting public schools nationally to line corporate schooling pockets will also occur along with misbegotten attempts to stimulate 18th century power production in the form of coal, denial of climate change and its effects, etc. It is worth noting that Devos’ husband Dick DeVos is the son of the Amway founder; consequently she and he are well versed in the nature of what has come to be known as the prosperity gospel, favored among pyramid scheme operators, conmen and hucksters across America. Favored by them because it clothes them in the robes of religiosity every time they cheat someone else out of a buck. God willed it to be that way.

There has been almost nothing that qualifies as news on the subject of the outcome of the election that is worth reporting beyond those few facts and the fact that Hillary Clinton has now racked up a whopping 2 million vote lead in the election held on November 8th (Electoral College Explained. Again.) Every other word out of the news organizations mouths on this subject for the last two weeks has been nothing but meaningless hot air.

The Republican Party itself though has come closer and closer to embracing its historical predecessor the NSDAP. Even long-time holdout Mitt Romney has decided he likes the idea of representing the United States under a President Trump. Never Trump? Apparently Mitt Romney misspoke as well. Another example of just how much corrupting influence there is in governmental authority. As if we needed a refresher on that truism.

These politicians aligning themselves with Trump, expressing willingness to work with Trump cannot understand some very basic facts relating to the OHM’s bid for the presidency, and those facts will come back to bite them in the end.

The beast that Trump has shackled himself to requires human sacrifice to be satiated. There are no two ways about this.

The notion that eleven million people can be deported from the United States, as the Orange Hate-Monkey stated when he launched his campaign, is pure delusion. No matter how many racists and sociopaths work the numbers in pretense that this is an exercise divorced of prejudice or bias, the fact is that Hitler wanted to deport the Jews prior to having to institute the final solution, and he only had to get rid of six million people. All the hand-waving in the world will not change what it is they want to do when they actually embark on the road to doing it. He and they are the American fascists we have been warned about, and that isn’t even touching on the promise to exclude Muslims from the country.  The corollary with the holocaust is even firmer there, and so is pointless to belabor.

If his supporters intend to force the OHM to comply with the sales pitch he made to gain office, to rid the US of the immigrant menace, the Muslim menace, then there will be concentration camps full of brown people all across the US. That is how you isolate and dispose of 11 million people. It is a herculean task and requires harsh measures and steadfast resolve to carry out. What is never mentioned in any of these discussions is what the rest of the world will do while we publicly dispose of 11 million people. War with the rest of the world? It is what we deserve for allowing the OHM to take office. He is quite literally an American Hitler.

You don’t see it? Let me spell it out.

The NSDAP embraced the grassroots distrust of the other in their German midst as the way to victory. It was/is common for Jews to be viewed as other in Germany and across Europe and into parts of the US. This same language, this same course, is being used by the OHM, his appointees, his supporters, etc.  They don’t even pretend that Jews aren’t on the hit list with the Hispanics and Muslims. Fear of the other in our midst is what drives most of the OHM’s supporters, and they aren’t going to be satisfied with half-measures. There will be round-ups. There will be mass incarceration. There will be blood.  If the OHM allows any of these things to occur, he will be remembered as the president that brought fascism to America.

In other words, Trump and Putin are two of a kind: xenophobic, bigoted demagogues with dual histories of corruption, aggression, and celebration of white supremacy repackaged as patriotic nationalism. Their radical American and Russian followers, now linked by the internet, share similar goals and are part of a larger revival of white-supremacist movements happening across the West.

Quartz; Donald Trump’s bromance with Vladimir Putin

More troublingly, he has harnessed the power of the evangelical christian right.  DeVos was just his latest pick to illustrate this.  Before that it was Governor Pence, one of the most militant enforcers of christian dogma to come along in quite some time. This was also the way to power for the NSDAP and their leader. Famously, the belt buckles of German soldiers bore the slogan Gott Mit Uns (God With Us) just one of the more outward signs of the use that religion was put to in support of Nazi designs on power. Also like Hitler, the OHM has little use for religion himself. It is a means to an end and nothing more.

There are some serious shadings of The Handmaid’s Tale in the OHM’s rhetoric, but that really isn’t anything new in conservative circles. If misogynists and their ilk, the dedicated anti-abortion lobby, were vulnerable to comparisons to Nazism they would have modified their talking points ages ago. Fascists and authoritarians throughout history have taken an unhealthy interest in securing increased reproduction for the right kind of people. This is hardly a feature of Nazism alone, but it is worth mentioning that banning abortion was just another thing that the GOP and the NSDAP have in common.

These are just the most visible parts of the equation. 

Looking more deeply into the plans of the OHM, I would have you note that he refused to divulge his taxes or any of his financials. He refuses to divest himself of his businesses. We have no way of knowing who and what he owes to whom, or where his personal interests lie. What will make him a buck.  What will keep him in the good graces of the criminals who counted on him to launder money for them (the real purpose of most real estate development) he has steadfastly refused to budge on this issue even though it will put him in violation of the constitution,

During a discussion on CNN this morning, former White House lawyer Richard Painter made the case that if it appears that Trump will be in violation of the emolument clause of the Constitution, then the Electoral College must decide to not vote for him next month.

After he and fellow guest Jan Baran agreed that there isn’t an actual law that prevents Trump from being involved in his businesses while in the White House but that it does present numerous ethical issues, Painter said that he informed Trump campaign manager Kellyanne Conway of concerns around the emolument clause.

This is most likely what Trump had in mind if he were so unlikely as to be successful in his bid for the White House. A real estate developer is only interested in how much money he can make in a particular deal, and let’s be clear about this point. Him making money has absolutely nothing to do with protecting America, or making it great again. His personal aggrandizement has netted him a lot of gold-plated furnishings in his long business life; but it has served to destroy many other businesses and many other people along the way. His standard of practice is theft of service. He doesn’t know how to pay for any of the things he takes. There is where the problem lies.

He will lie, cheat and steal from the American people on a level that we haven’t seen since the days of Boss Tweed. This is the kind of business he has always conducted and I have seen no inclination on his part (much less ability) to change his patterns. He will break the tie between Warren G. Harding and George W. Bush for worst president in the history of the US, easily being the most hated President in the history of the US even before taking office. In my estimation he stands an equal chance of also being the last president of the United States, if we allow him to take office.

“The President of the United States has the power to affect how our tax dollars are spent, who the federal government does business with, and the integrity of America’s standing in a global economy,” said Clark. “Every recent president in modern history has taken steps to ensure his financial interests do not conflict with the needs of the American people. The American people need to be able to trust that the President’s decisions are based on the best interests of families at home, and not the President’s financial interests.”

Previous American presidents including Lyndon Johnson, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama have all used some form of blind trust or placed their assets in an investment vehicle over which they had no control. 

Press Release for H.R. 6340

I have faint hope, still, that the Electoral College will refuse to elect Donald J. Trump to the Presidency.  That they will refuse to endorse the OHM and at least kick the can to the House of Representatives, make them embrace their own destruction directly.

conservativelogic101

If the Republicans had any credibility left last summer they would have refused to nominate Trump. They didn’t, they embraced him. They claimed he did not represent the party, then embraced him anyway. They had their lackey in the FBI interfere in the election by submitting a false letter to congress less than a week before the election, which the OHM then paraded about with pretending that the GOP was finally going to get the butcher of #Benghazi. Lock her up! his mindless supporters chanted. Too late we learned that it was just another fake story, one among hundreds that the Republicans and their nominee’s Russian friends had flooded the internet with.

The Republicans appear to think “any way to power is acceptable” making them well and truly the inheritors of the NSDAP. They will most likely be remembered that way, if there is anyone left to remember after the dust settles.



October 26, 2017 addendum. Obviously Trump holds the office of president. Wishful thinking about alternatives has long gone out the window. Today I got a few notifications in the inbox that brought this article back to mind. One of them was this article headline Who Knew Trump Would Be a Weak President? from an article over at the New Republic. While I didn’t know he’d be weak, the moment he didn’t orchestrate the creation of Mexican concentration camps for the disposal of his purported eleven million illegal people, I was happy to discover he was a weak president. Being deemed and proven weak beats that alternative by several miles.

The OHM wants so badly for us to let him be Hitler. He begs for that kind of power constantly. Daily if not hourly. He derides the free press, excoriates people who protest against him, etcetera, as I’ve mentioned in more recent articles. But this article isn’t about the OHM. This is about the enabler in this codependency tragedy. This article was and is about the party of Lincoln, the party of Eisenhower, and now the party of Trump. The Republican party.

Today I also get a notification that Steve Bannon is hell-bent to turn the GOP, the Republican party, into the de facto party of Trump, an organ that will rubberstamp anything that the OHM whimsically decides to do next. Javier Zarracina over at VOX penned an article titled The Republican purge has only just begun. Robert Reich poses his usual question at the end of the status he linked the article to. For those who haven’t been paying attention, Steve Bannon is the leader of the White Nationalist movement that backed Trump, and was recently ejected from the White House by more sensible members of the Trump administration for his openly racist and xenophobic proposals. That guy, the guy who was too crazy to be kept near the easily confused President Trump, now wants to turn the GOP into the German NSDAP in principle if not in fact.

…conversations with conservative activists, GOP operatives, and people close to Bannon and the White House suggest that the Breitbart executive chair is engaged in a bold, ambitious project that has a relatively clear vision. He doesn’t just want to destroy the old Republican establishment — he wants to build a new one.

To do that, he hopes to unite many factions of the right who have gripes against GOP leadership into a broad coalition. That would include immigration hardliners who fear “amnesty” deals. But it would also include social conservatives and anti-spending activists who feel their priorities are too often ignored or compromised away.

Overall, he wants Republican senators to care far less about what the Chamber of Commerce thinks, and far more about what Breitbart readers think.

There are a lot of people who read Breitbart. A lot. A scary amount of Americans believe the bullshit shoveled there and at FOX news without question. But is that a group large enough to win general elections? That really is the question here, not whether I like what Steve Bannon does to a party that I’ve never had any use for in the first place.

I think that if he wants to turn the GOP into an even less likeable version of the Libertarian inspired Tea Party (Now with More White Nationalism!™) so that the GOP loses seats in districts they gerrymandered to be unwinnable by any other group aside from mainstream GOP representatives, I’m cool with that. He can have the soiled corpse of the GOP to enact whatever disgusting acts he wants on it. Let the fate of the GOP be a lesson to any other group that thinks that power for its own sake is something you can pursue without risking your very soul. From Lincoln to the OHM in 150 years. That’s how fast a party founded on ending an injustice can turn into a party that promotes injustice. A cautionary tale for anyone who cares to tell it or read it.

It now falls to the Democrats to craft a message that will win hearts and minds and deliver the United States from the evil that would be American Fascism under a Trump government designed from the beginning to destroy everything that has been constructed in this country over the last two hundred years. Yes, the future really is that grim. 

Ted Cruz: Only Syrian Christian Refugees Are Allowed

Sam Harris’ latest Waking Up podcast,

Five minutes into this, and I’m already pissed off. Ted Cruz is right to call for only christian refugees to be let in? Only to the extent that an observation that only atheists be let in by an atheist is correct.

“President Obama and Hillary Clinton’s idea that we should bring tens of thousands of Syrian Muslim refugees to America—it is nothing less than lunacy,” Ted Cruz said on Fox News, the day after the attacks on Paris. If there are Syrian Muslims who are really being persecuted, he said, they should be sent to “majority-Muslim countries.” Then he reset his eyebrows, which had been angled in a peak of concern, as if he had something pious to say. And he did: “On the other hand,” he added, “Christians who are being targeted for genocide, for persecution, Christians who are being beheaded or crucified, we should be providing safe haven to them. But President Obama refuses to do that.”

Atheists should be more welcome than christians, especially Christianists like Ted Cruz. Atheists are under more threat, and they have no religious test to inflict on our secular government if brought here. Cruz’s test would exclude these people as well as Muslims, which is why no test should be allowed beyond ascertaining no inclination to violence and links to terrorist organizations. We will have to trust, as we do with all citizens, that the refugees will attempt to conform to norms (normative behavior patterns) Whatever those are.

Getting Disability; a Record of the Process.

I’ve been meaning to write this post for years.  When I started the process in 2005, I never dreamed that it would take me several years and multiple advocates just to secure the disability income that I had paid for through my taxes for my entire life. But it did, and when it was finally finished my then attorney said “you should write this all down so that other people can find out how this is done.  I’ll even refer my clients to it” (going to hold her to that one) but months turned into years, memory fades, depression is an evil beast, and procrastination is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

A few days ago a Facebook friend of mine posted a link to an article about Alecia Pennington. Now, I don’t know how much of her story is true, but her tale of being denied basic services due to lack of documentation reminded me of the troubles I went through getting my disability approved.

…and it all started with the lack of a US birth certificate.  Well, actually it started with a friend of a friend who said he could act as my advocate for my Social Security claim, but several years later it ended with my getting my own passport.

I gave up working very grudgingly. I had been out of work for months before my last job, I worked some contracts but mostly just looked for work and wished I could get hired on somewhere. This went on for at least a year, and then I was offered two jobs simultaneously. One in Las Vegas that would have required me to move the whole family (I’m actually glad I didn’t take that one now) and one here in Austin working for an architect who was adamant he needed me.  Knew what I was good at, was aware of what my health was like, needed me to save his business (this was how he phrased it to me) So I agreed to go work for him and turned down more money from the Las Vegas job.

I spent eight months working for him.  Eight months of learning another CAD system (I think that’s 5 different CAD platforms) documenting the tools for other users in the firm, automating the process of modeling and document production as much as possible, and producing finish-out drawings for an office space in less than a day to demonstrate how the process could be completed quickly. That work, the kind of managerial design work I loved getting into, coupled with spending an excessive amount of time on paper getting to that point, through weekly active vertigo and the accompanying brain fog that slows mental processes most of the time. I spent months finishing the modeling and documentation on the building that was my primary responsibility, when it probably should have been finished in weeks. That fumble that I couldn’t explain outside of sickness ultimately left me jobless again with a family to feed and even fewer possibilities than I had a year previously.

I was able to get commended for producing an entire project’s documents in a single day, and get fired for being sick too much, all within the same 8 month period. 

I was literally hopeless at that point.  I didn’t know what else I could do, and the bills kept coming in, with my health care incurring mounting costs of its own. I was spending a lot of time helping a wheelchair bound family friend then, and she suggested I contact a friend of hers to see if disability was a possibility.  Given that the only remaining choice that appeared to me was life insurance coupled with a fatal accident, I figured I’d give the government a chance to own up to the promise that I could rely on it to be there when I was in need. So I called her friend, and we started the process.

First off, you have to have doctors on your side.  You have to have a medical finding, in writing, that you have an illness which is covered as a disability.  Luckily for me Meniere’s is one of those illnesses, and I had an ENT who was happy to back up my disability claim. We filled out and filed the documents and waited.

You do a lot of waiting when dealing with the government. Every time I mention filing or documents, you should understand that at least a month goes by before there is a response.  That is if you are lucky.  If you aren’t lucky they lose your paperwork and you have to refile and wait another month.  It’s also worth noting that every single application for disability will be denied the first time. So if you don’t intend to appeal, don’t even start.

So we appealed and went to the scheduled meeting. The appeal was denied. This was the point when I realized that what I needed wasn’t just an advocate for my Social Security disability claim.  I needed an attorney, because the advocate I had just shrugged and told me he tried.

After finding a reputable disability attorney (if you are thinking of pursuing disability, start by getting an attorney on your side and save yourself some time) we started another application through the process.  This one had secondary documentation and signed affidavits from witnesses. This one was also denied the first time through. It was appealed. It was denied.  It was appealed again. Ultimately my attorney called me one day and told me “the Meniere’s isn’t enough”.  She paused for a bit.  “Do you think you are depressed?”

Am I depressed? Well, I couldn’t very well admit that suicide was my only other alternative to government assistance (not without ruining the viability of that option) if I wanted to see my family fed, so I had to admit that I was struggling with just a little bit of depression. The entire tone of the conversation changed at that point.  She said something like that will make it much easier for me and got back to work on my case.

I had almost given up the faint hope that disability would offer, when the approval for my claim finally came through.  After two years of applications, denials and appeals, I was approved for disability payments.  Just in time, because we had scraped out the last of our savings and were in the process of hocking valuable items in order to get the bills paid that month.

Just one problem.  One tiny little hitch.  Hardly worth the bother, really.  See here, Ray Anthony Steele, you aren’t really a U.S. citizen.

Excuse me

I’ve paid taxes my entire working life, starting at age sixteen. I’ve never failed to file, I’ve never failed to pay. I even paid twice some years. Every time that the IRS audited me I wrote them another check, and they audited me every year that I was a card-carrying member of the Libertarian Party.  I’ve paid my dues for 30 years, I think I’m a member of this club, and I would be except for one tiny little problem.

When getting a Social Security card, make sure that you bring with you all the documentation required to prove US citizenship; do not, under any circumstances, allow the person handling your application to harbor any illusions that you are not 100% a US citizen or allow them to submit the application without insuring that the box “US citizen” is checked.  This is of paramount importance.

I was born overseas to parents who were in the military, stationed overseas. The hospital on the base where my parents were stationed didn’t have the ability to handle a premature birth, and I was early according to the doctor’s charts. So my mom went to where the premature birth care was, a hospital off-base that wasn’t considered part of US territory. All US military bases are considered part of the US, just as all embassies are considered part of the country they represent. I wasn’t born on the base, I was born in England, at the hospital my mom had been sent to by the military doctors. As a consequence of this, I have dual citizenship.  I’m a limey (it explains my love of a cuppa) as well as a US citizen. I have one of those birth certificates that makes conservatives sleep poorly at night knowing I live next to them.

When I got my Social Security card back in the dark ages before computers, we went in with my British birth certificate.  They told us no problem and marked me down as not a US citizen. Forty years later, it really is a problem after all.  It’s a problem because that little notation on my Social Security record means I can’t claim benefits from the US government. So long, don’t let the door hit you on the ass on the way out.  It matters not at all that taxes are deducted from our paychecks every time we earn a wage.  It doesn’t matter that both our parents are American citizens. What matters is the checkbox next to US citizen on the Social Security form. Believe it or not it is true. Foreigners can not qualify for benefits.

According to the computers at the Social Security Administration, I wasn’t a citizen. We had stumbled across this fact earlier in the process and when it was noticed by the Social Security representative who filed my paperwork I was assured that if the claim was validated, the citizenship problem wouldn’t be an issue. I believe the phrase not a problem was repeated then, too. Except it was.  Because my birth certificate is British.  Very clearly British and not American.  What was needed to clear this up was a record from the embassy in London stating that I was an American citizen born to US parents. This was a piece of paper I didn’t’ have.

The document I wished I had at that point.

At this point I started talking to immigration attorneys. Immigration law is a tangled jungle of lies and deception; and nobody, not even non-immigration attorneys have a clue how immigration decisions are rendered. I’m not even sure immigration attorneys know.  I did find out that the specific document I needed was called a council record.  If I could find that document it would prove that I was an American citizen born abroad, and I would qualify for disability.

I didn’t have a council record. I had never seen said document before. I had no idea what it looked like, so I started talking to relatives. I talked to my mom first. She remembered that I came into the country on her passport, that I was listed as a US citizen when I entered the country. Unfortunately she couldn’t find that old passport, it had been lost somewhere in the 20 or so family moves that had occurred since the 1960’s. So I went back to the immigration attorney.

He told me it was possible to request a copy of the passport, if I was listed on the passport. So I found that form, filled it out, got it notarized and sent it in. Then I waited. I waited a long time, longer than any of the other times I waited on a government response. They eventually did find and mail the passport record back to me, and I was able to use that record to apply for my own passport, and that passport made me a citizen.

The government said congratulations citizen.  Here’s your first check. Hang on now. This check is for one month. I’ve been working on this process to complete for nearly 4 years now. Am I not owed disability since the date of my first application? Well, yes that would be true if I had been a citizen when I first applied. But you see this date on your passport, the one saying it was issued last month? That is when you became a citizen. Once again, have a nice day, don’t let the door…   Nothing doing. Four years I’ve been at this. Four fucking years. I’m not stopping till I get my four years of blood back.

At this point I’m trying to exude patience and understanding, just to see if I can get through to the bureaucrat on the other side of the desk.  I have this passport because my mother brought me back to the US on her passport back in the 1960’s.  That passport makes me a citizen. Says so right on this document. Well, that might be true, but that just means your mother was a citizen and she brought you home with her.  Was your father a citizen?

Was my father a citizen? Was my father a citizen? Well, he was in the US military at the time I was conceived, so for all of our sakes I hope he was. I mean, we don’t want any foreigners fighting in our ranks or having sex with our women, that would be unthinkable.

Robert Allen, the reason
I’m stuck with Ray Anthony

I don’t know my biological father. I sent the man an invitation to my high school graduation even though I had never met him in living memory. He never replied, never attempted to get in touch with me. For all I knew he didn’t even care if I was alive or not. I was raised by two different men instead of by my biological father and both of them tried to be dad and failed in various ways. I have never seen a page of correspondence from my biological father anywhere in any record that I kept or my mother kept.  He’s a cipher to me. A complete unknown. I wouldn’t know where to even contact him at this point. I don’t know if he is still alive (not sure if I care either) I’m sure he had a Social Security number, I’m sure he was a citizen. I’m sure he has a military record.  I have no idea how that information is dredged up without contacting his family, which had also been tried previously and ended in failure.

So I asked the Social Security administration if they knew how to find his number, how to track down his military record. I started putting out feelers, once again trying to get that information, looking for his family to contact. At that point I finally had a stroke of luck, the Social Security administration, came up with the information all by themselves, attaching his file to mine and approving the back payments.

There was a year or two of argument about paying my attorney and discovering that they had withheld two attorneys worth of money from my back payments so they should give me money rather than try to take money away from me, but at least I got them to admit that I really was a citizen after all. That (and the money) was satisfaction enough.

Then my dad died.  Not the cipher, the man I never knew. The man who tried hardest to be dad, to care. The man I could rely on even though he wasn’t married to my mom anymore. He died after a decade of battle with cancer. He made up for his earlier failures, and I accepted his apologies and considered him my dad for a good number of years before the end, even though his genes are not mine. I loved him. I loved his family and their history. I was very sad to see him go.

While we were in Colorado preparing for the funeral, going through old records and photos, reminiscing about the past, his last wife (my second mom. I think I have 4 now. Maybe even 5. Well, mom is mom, but then there are other moms. Yes, it’s confusing) she was suddenly struck with a memory. When they were going through the attic at gramma’s house preparing it for sale, they stumbled across a box of stuff that had been shipped back to the US from England when mom moved back to the States with me. There was a document about me in the box, and she didn’t know if it was important but she thought I’d want to keep it. After rummaging around in a drawer for a few minutes, she produced the Council Record that would have saved me years of work had I only known who to talk to about it. I just thanked her and gave her a hug. What else are you going to do, at that point?

That’s it.  That’s my disability story finally written.  I should probably see if I can remember what the appeals courts were called, track down the document numbers for the documents I submitted, just for clarity’s sake.  But right now I just want to step back and admire the fact that I’ve written this damn thing.  It took me long enough. Longer than it took to get my disability approved? Just about.

Let Them In: The Case for Open Borders

I don’t think I could have said it better myself. We are all immigrants here, as I’ve pointed out elsewhere.

The wife and I get into the occasional heated discussion concerning immigration. She rightly points out the depressed nature of commerce in border areas, as well as the impact of an oversupply of labor throughout border regions, like most of South Texas as a problem with immigration. But that doesn’t go far enough. It is an effect of state interference in immigration; it is an effect of illegal immigration, and the restrictions placed on legal immigration; not a problem with immigration itself.

Jason L. Riley defends the rightness of allowing all immigrants who want to come to the US to work, to do just that, in his book Let Them In: The Case for Open Borders and in this CATO event. (right click here and “save as” for the audio) One by one, he takes on and shoots down all the objections that the Dobbites in the US raise when it comes to immigrants and their effects on the US economy. Here’s a shorter video version:

Immigrants are statistically the smallest group when it comes to measuring their presence in welfare roles and prisons. Immigrants have always been treated as pariah’s in the US, and blamed for all manner of social problems. The Irish, the Germans, the Chinese and the Italians were all discriminated against, unnecessarily, when their immigration numbers were the highest (the story of the plight of the Irish escaping the potato famine is quite moving) and they have all gone on to either integrate themselves into the American society, or they returned (like a good portion of the Italians) to their country after they had made their fortunes.

I posted this today because I caught the Dobbs-O-Meter on The Daily Show yesterday.

People should learn to laugh at their irrational fears; or the rest of us will be laughing at you when you display them.


On the other hand, the comments from Michael Barone that follow up Jason Riley’s presentation show the naivete of the average person when it comes to centrally established state controls, and the reasons they pass laws. Whether or not they intended their actions to have the effects they had, the effects are the only way to measure the harm that immigration quotas have caused. Continuing quotas on immigration is nothing more than pointless.