Wrong Again. Why am I Not Surprised?

Robert Reich & Facebook

On this day in 2015, Robert Reich started his status about the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) with this gloomy paragraph,

Donald Trump is leading all other Republican candidates — not just in polls but also, according to Google Trends, in Google searches. This could push Trump even higher in Google’s search rankings, and such higher rankings would in turn bring him even more support.

He went on to prophesy that the OHM could well win the presidential race based on Google’s skewing of the preferences of Americans through their use of specific algorithms to produce search results. At the time, I was completely oblivious to the structural problem in the internet’s construction, the bias that serving us more of what we wanted to see lent confirmation to the beliefs that we operate under on a day to day basis. This fact alone probably explains why I thought Hillary would win (she did win, but not where it counted) Google served me results that confirmed my bias, masquing the discontent that was felt by far more people than I ever suspected. Felt most especially in three key states that squeaked out a lead for the OHM in the Electoral College. My response three years ago was,

Donald Trump is and will always be a three time loser. In order to be this at running for President, he will have to run one more time after he loses this bid. I encourage him to stick with it. I would like to be right in a prediction for once. In the meantime Bill and Opus for President 2016.

Berkeley Breathed’s Bloom County

Sadly, Bill and Opus did not win, although the brain that briefly inhabited Bill the Cat’s body did apparently get enough electoral votes to become president. The conspiracy that aliens are controlling the OHM remotely remains a distinct possibility, however, since the brain of Donald Trump has never been found after it left Bill’s head.

Looking back at my utter cluelessness as to just how ready nearly half the US voting population was, willing to watch the entire place burn rather than vote for Hillary Clinton, makes me wonder just how much of that ire is Facebook and Google’s fault? How much of my cluelessness is the fault of their algorithms and how much is my own desire to see the United States continue in some recognizable form?


HIDDEN BRAIN Voting With A Middle Finger: Two Views On The White Working Class October 15, 2018

No matter what the answer is, the America that emerges from under the OHM’s attempted dictatorship will be a different America than went into it. That much is certain. It is certain because America has already changed under the OHM’s naked propagandizing, suppression of the government’s regulatory ability, disregard for disaster relief, etcetera, etcetera, ad nauseum. Whether that change is for the better or the worse will be determined this November. I’ll see you all at the polls.

The Fallout from 2008?

September 19th’s Indicator from Planet Money turned out not to be too surprising to me.


THE INDICATOR The Psychological Effects Of The Financial Crisis, Lingering September 19, 2018

It is not only in the housing market and mortgage market where we observe these effects. Take the stock market. Financial crisis clearly affected returns to your personal portfolio. And our calculations suggest that a person who was about 30 when, say, in 2008 the financial crisis hit will drastically reduce her inclination to be a stock market participant. And it will take about 30 years until this effect is not detectable anymore in the data.

As if 2008 was the only crash Americans who are alive today have been through. I remember black Monday. Even though I remembered that crash, I still stupidly invested in the stock market in the 1990’s. That lead to my being caught up in the .com crash. It infuriates me that they call that crash a bubble, as if it was self-revelatory that the markets would crash that time, when in fact there was no more warning that the whole market would reset that time any more than there is warning any other time the markets crash. There are only warnings if you are paying attention to the details. If you have enough money to pay people to mind the details for you.

BBC Business Daily

There were warning lights all over the boards in 2007 leading into 2008. Ask any of the analysts featured in The Big Short, if any of them will talk to you. The real estate bubble not only didn’t fully deflate after the slaughtering started on September 14th of 2008; not only did it not fully deflate, the same people who cashed in before the last crash are already re-inflating that bubble to make more money off of it. And so it goes, round and round and round. Inflate. Short and deflate. Rinse and repeat. For the the wealthiest 1% it is just a game. They have money to burn and if they lose a few millions here, a billion there, what do they care? It passes the time. So what if a few of the little fish jump out of windows or die in poverty?

I will never invest in the stock market again. That is what I learned dabbling in the stock market. Investing is for wealthy people and I will never be wealthy. The markets are rigged to favor the wealthy, this is patently obvious. Insider trading gets you a slap on the wrist, and that’s what the wealthy do. They exploit information asymmetry, one of the baseline benefits of wealth, the ability to buy the latest information and the best people to make that information tell you what you need to know. Most Americans, most people, will never be wealthy. It is time Americans learned this lesson and structured their society accordingly.

Most of them, most of us, will die poor. We have the ability to make poverty something other than a slow, miserable death sentence. If we’re smart we’ll set that system up, replacing the one we have now. 

#27 Treason

Twitter

This has been one of the most illuminating podcasts I’ve heard on the subject of the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) and his near-daily flirtations with destroying everything we Americans hold dear. I have taken the time to create a tweet for each episode, putting the wordage on low heat and letting it simmer till it is reduced to its defining 280 characters. I present them here in all their minimalist glory.

I embarked upon this task because I knew I would be posting links to these podcasts, repeatedly. I wanted to be able to explain why the #MAGA, Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans, were wrong about whatever lie their OHM had poured in their ears most recently. Most of these Tweets have come in handy more than once; so I figured, why not share them?

The Day After

The August 8, 2018 episode of On The Media included a little trip down memory lane for me.

On The Media, The Day After, Today, August 24, 2018

In 1983, 100 million Americans watched an ABC made-for-tv movie called The Day After, depicting the immediate fallout from a nuclear exchange between the US and the Soviet Union. Tensions between the two powers were high, with President Ronald Reagan calling the USSR an “evil empire” and building up the country’s nuclear stockpile. Just weeks before The Day After, NATO war exercises were nearly mistaken by Soviets for a real attack.

The movie wasn’t very good, but what it showed was so horrifying that it inspired a national conversation about US policy. Following the broadcast, Ted Koppel hosted a panel debate on deterrence and disarmament with prominent thinkers like Carl Sagan and Robert McNamara. Schools organized discussions for classes, ABC distributed a viewer’s guide, and psychologists warned that children under 12 shouldn’t even watch the movie. Marsha Gordon, professor of film studies at North Carolina State University, wrote about The Day After for the website The Conversation in January. In February, she and Brooke spoke about the public debate sparked by the movie, and what it might mean for a new generation to see a remake.

So who else remembers watching The Day After with the family? I remember watching it quite well, even if I can’t remember much of the film itself. I remember it was depressing. I remember the reassurance from Koppel afterwards that none of this was real. ABC was anxious to not start any panics, so they went to great lengths to make sure everyone knew this was a staged event.

Their care in making sure that audiences knew the show was a fake stands in stark contrast to today’s reality TV programs, where the very same people working in the media today fake everything in front of the camera and then proceed to tell the audience all of what they saw was real. Try explaining the false sense of surety that comes from seeing something happen to your pre-teen children. No, dear. It isn’t real. It’s Youtube. Nothing on Youtube is real. I know this because they still use cameras to focus your attention where they want it. Try explaining to stormtrumpers that the guy on The Apprentice wasn’t really Donald Trump. Let me know how that works out for you.

I also remember discussing The Day After with the Wife a few years later, and her insisting we watch Threads so that she could show me what a nuclear holocaust was really like. After watching Threads I had to admit that they soft-pedaled the effects of nuclear war in The Day After. I don’t blame them for soft-pedaling the harsh reality of nuclear winter. Watching Threads made me want to die.

Later that same year another friend insisted I watch Koyaanisqatsi and later Powaqqatsi in an attempt to show me that nuclear winter was a walk in the park compared to what some humans endure today. After watching those two films, I wondered if nuclear winter might actually be a blessing in disguise. So, you know. It’s all a matter of perspective.

Facebook status and associated comments posted concurrently to the blog.

Separating Families? #ImpeachTrump

Stonekettle Station on Facebook

After the entire country got up in his face, Trump minutes ago signed an Executive Order to end the family separation policy that he created and that he himself spent the last month claiming only CONGRESS could end.

Of course, it’s full of weasel words which will allow ICE to continue to separate families. I’d expect nothing less. But, that said, here is yet again another one of his bald-faced lies. He blamed Obama. He blamed Clinton. He blamed Congress. He tried to extort money for his idiotic wall by using children as hostages. He claimed there was nothing he could do. And yet, turns out, he COULD do something after all. He could have done it months ago. And he knew it all along.

No one who’s read this damned and damnable executive order, has read it and isn’t a stormtrumper, seems to think that anything will change tomorrow. Frankly, I don’t see how anything can change tomorrow, which means that the outrage and lawsuits have to continue until we #ImpeachTrump, because the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) doesn’t know what the truth is. If there is one thing we can say for certain about the OHM, it is that he does not have a personalized conception of  the truth beyond whatever the words coming out of his mouth at that very moment are. Some people would call that stupid, some people would call that moronic. I simply refer to it as Real Estate Developer’s syndrome, something that everyone of them I’ve ever met seems to have in common.

For days I’ve been reading and posting news stories about the Trump administration’s policy of family separation. This policy is the most inhumane and unAmerican thing that the OHM has done to date, but I don’t think he’s done with the outrageous behavior on the subject of immigration yet. Not by half, even. He can’t stop. This is exactly what he campaigned on. This is why people voted for him. This is what his base wants him to do, punish immigrants to whatever level it takes in order to make the immigrants leave. To make asylum seekers go elsewhere. This is what his cabinet officers and advisors who have spoken on this subject have been saying for weeks now, that punishment is the goal and self-deportation is the desired outcome.


NPR POLITICS PODCAST, Trump Signs Order To End Family Separations June 20, 2018

So he can’t be done and this practice will continue in some form, possibly in exactly the same way it has been going on for months. Going on in our name. Rachel Maddow broke down on national television Tuesday night just reading about the tender age shelters, the Trump administration’s euphemism for places where they put babies they’ve torn from their parent’s grasp, or tricked them into surrendering voluntarily. So we’ve gotten to a place where talking heads, people trained in the art of maintaining calm in the face of anything the news throws at you, talking heads breaking down in tears at the news that babies have internment camps that they are being sent to. Babies. In internment camps. Let that idea sink in for a few.

The defenders of these policies have a few valid points. The first one is that the parents in question are breaking a law, it is a misdemeanor to cross into the United States except at border crossings. A misdemeanor that would not even get you arrested were it not involving the convoluted subject of immigration in the United States. This law has almost never been subject to prosecution until now, but the OHM is correct that he can have these people prosecuted, and does want these people prosecuted. That is the job of the executive branch of the federal government, 100% his policy in spite of every protestation he has made to the contrary.

The second point is that there are many American children who go to sleep each night in worse conditions than these children in internment camps on the Southern border. This is also demonstrably true. I myself had days when three hots and a cot were more an aspiration than a reality when I was a child. However, the fact that many children face worse treatment and housing conditions in the US is not a justification for treating the children of asylum seekers as badly as we treat our own citizens; rather, it is an observation of just how far the poor in the US need to be elevated in order for them to meet the standards set by governing bodies all around the world for treatment of refugees, let alone what the citizens of the wealthiest nation on the face of this planet should be able to expect from being among the chozen few who get to live here.

There should be a backlash by Americans over the treatment of children who had the misfortune to be born outside the US in a time of global unrest. People who are no different than we would be if we were forced out of our homes and made to seek charity from the tender mercies of the more fortunate. Let us hope that the people we are faced with, should such a misfortune befall any of us, are more forgiving than we have been. We need to send a clear signal to the rest of the world, and we need to do it now. #ImpeachTrump. Do it now. Do it before more horrors are committed in our names.


The OHM’s administration failed to meet family reunification deadlines set by the courts today. So the torment of children and their parents at the hands of the US government continues. These are our dollars at work here. This is our government. If you voted for Trump, you voted for this to happen. Understand the horror you have created here. Child abduction is not a political issue. Abducting children and imprisoning their parents for crimes they were given no alternative but to commit can’t be a political issue because there’s nobody out there aside from slavers that think that stealing children is a good idea. I will go so far as to say that I don’t even think immigration should be a political issue.

You live here, you work here, you pay taxes here? Welcome, citizen. I don’t know what other requirements for citizenship there should be aside from saying I want to be a citizen and proving your upstanding status (again, live, work, pay taxes) I’m singularly uninterested in there being an underclass that can be subjected to lower wages and fewer rights so that I can get my tomatoes a few dollars cheaper. I’ll pay more for produce. Institute a guest worker program with a path to citizenship, screen everybody and then let them get to work. It certainly isn’t rocket science to make the immigration system function, we just have to admit that we need the workers and that we want to do right by them.

Asylum seekers are being stripped of rights under the current regime. It was bad enough when Obama allowed ICE to house children in detention centers when they were coming over the border unaccompanied (and with parents) back in 2014 seeking asylum. But at least those kids got asylum hearings and were dealt with in a legal fashion. This travesty has to end, and it isn’t just Trump to blame. Every Republican in congress could have stood up and fixed this problem back in 2010 and every year since. They haven’t. They haven’t even tried, aside from Rubio, who backpedaled from his own bill so fast you’d swear someone else had written it. Shame on them, is all I have to say. Shame on them and everyone who voted for them.


Like the article on Puerto Rico, this article and the other open-ended #ImpeachTrump articles will be updated as I run across more substantial stories that alter or strengthen their core arguments. The hashtag that should be trending if you think this is the election issue to motivate voters? How about #TrumpInternment2018? That has a nice double-entendre to it.


Beto O’Rourke Facebook Live video outside ICE processing center in El Paso, July 21, 2018


In testimony given in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee this week, it was revealed that the kinds of trauma we are witnessing in the children seperated and now reunited with their parents, was detailed to the Trump administration officials who wanted to carry out these policies, before they put the policies into force,

“There’s no question that separation of children from parents entails significant potential for traumatic psychological injury to the child.” – Commander Jonathan White, PBS Newshour July 31, 2018

This is 100% on Trump. Nobody else. His administration, his policies, his fault. Not to mention the hundreds of other children not reunited, that the US will now be sued over because of Trump’s ham-handed policies that violated international and US law. Grounds for impeachment, yet again.



LatinoUSA, The Port of Entry, JUL 31, 2018

At the Nogales pedestrian port of entry in Arizona, some families with small children waited for up to two weeks before a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer allowed them to come through and ask for asylum, according to the Kino Border Initiative, a binational organization that gives aid to migrants along the border.

On a recent visit to Nogales, four families were waiting. Two had spent the night on the makeshift camp at the port of entry. All of them waited for at least two days to be seen by a CBP officer. And on that day, agents processed only two families.

This inaction is what is forcing asylum seekers to cross the border illegally.


On The Media, Journalism To The Rescue, August 2, 2018

This summer, in a project designed by ProPublica, 10 news organizations are sharing information to flesh out the hidden details of families separated by the Trump administration’s zero tolerance immigration policy. Bob speaks with Selymar Colón, digital managing editor at Univision News, one of the organizations involved in the collaboration, about how the consortium has investigated and reported on some of the 200 tips it has received —and about the four families that were reunited after their stories were published.

Perhaps this was what the Trump administration was thinking they would rely on when they tried to fob off the chore of reuniting these poor people with their children. As usual, when it comes to the OHM’s lack of thought on a subject, they mistook this effort for the efforts of the ACLU. Perhaps if he read things instead of relying on visualizations, he would look less ignorant to the outside observer.



LatinoUSA, Torn Apart 1: Sign Here, AUG 14, 2018

After U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Trump administration’s new “zero-tolerance” policy in April, the U.S. government faced a national outcry. This new policy meant all adults crossing the border illegally would be criminally prosecuted. A consequence of that shift has meant that thousands of immigrant children have been torn apart from their parents.

Since then, and under a judge’s mandate, the federal government has been scrambling to reunify families. In part one of a two-part episode, Latino USA breaks down the aftermath of the family separation crisis and explores what happens to the hundreds of kids who still aren’t reunited with their families because their parents have been deported.


LatinoUSA, Torn Apart 2: The Moral Dilemma of Juan Sanchez, AUG 17, 2018

Juan Sanchez first gained national notoriety back in June of 2018 when Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley flew to Texas to try and tour a shelter that he believed was housing children who had been separated from their parents under the Trump administration’s new “zero-tolerance” policy. Senator Merkley was denied access to the shelter and was even questioned by police who were called by the shelter’s staffers.

There seem to be two opposing narratives when it comes to Juan Sanchez. So host Maria Hinojosa and producer Antonia Cereijido travel to Austin, Texas, to see which one was the correct one.


Twitter

Some five hundred and sixty children are still separated from their parents, including twenty-four who are five years old or younger, and the parents of more than three hundred and sixty of them have already been deported. Between seven hundred and eight hundred other children were reunited with their parents in detention, where their situation is especially confounding. About half of the reunited parents have final orders of deportation—in many instances, because they’d been pressured to sign papers waiving their rights to pursue their immigration cases. As a result, families face a choice: either a parent and child can agree to be deported together, or the child can stay in this country alone while her own case is decided. Last Thursday night, Sabraw issued an order temporarily blocking the deportation of reunited parents so that they could have more time to weigh their legal options with immigration lawyers. As Dara Lind wrote, at Vox, “The question right now is when they will actually be deported, not whether they will be.” – The New Yorker, Will Anyone in the Trump Administration Ever Be Held Accountable for the Zero-Tolerance Policy? By Jonathan Blitzer, August 22, 2018

To date (as the article details) no one in the administration has been held to account for their administration’s policy of kidnapping the children of asylum seekers with the intent to profit off of keeping these children in the US illegally. Someone must answer for the Trump administrations crimes, and we know where the buck stops in this country. #ImpeachTrump

#26 Overturning Roe

Twitter

This has been one of the most illuminating podcasts I’ve heard on the subject of the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) and his near-daily flirtations with destroying everything we Americans hold dear. I have taken the time to create a tweet for each episode, putting the wordage on low heat and letting it simmer till it is reduced to its defining 280 characters. I present them here in all their minimalist glory.

I embarked upon this task because I knew I would be posting links to these podcasts, repeatedly. I wanted to be able to explain why the #MAGA, Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans, were wrong about whatever lie their OHM had poured in their ears most recently. Most of these Tweets have come in handy more than once; so I figured, why not share them?

Roundup is Not the Problem

Countable

A recently published study found that glyphosate “may serve as one of the drivers for antibiotic resistance,” and that it may contribute to “the proliferation of plant and animal pathogens.”

Many in the scientific community say that we don’t know enough about the ecological and health effects of glyphosate, and that more research is necessary.

What do you think?

Should the U.S. ban glyphosate? Increase funding to scientific research into its impacts? Why or why not?

Roundup is not the problem. Being afraid of things we don’t understand is the problem. Roundup is one of the safest herbicides we have, but the word safe applied to things that are designed to kill something, even plants, is deceiving. Compared to other treatments, glyphosate (Roundup) requires fewer, lighter treatments, completely the opposite of what most people think. I wrote a length about Monsanto and Roundup in this post a few years back. Monsanto isn’t evil and neither is Roundup. What is evil is the targeting that environmentalists do in association with their delusions about clean food.

I also find myself repeating this more and more often these days. One study does not a science make. One study is possibly a anomaly. Two studies begins to look like real data. Three studies and you might be onto something. Get back to me when there is as much evidence that Roundup causes cancer as there is evidence (or a lack of evidence) that it is cancer causing. The entire paragraph that the sentence is in on the Countable.com site is fallacious; as in begging the question, the real begging the question not the popular refrain begging the question, which is the opposite of fallacious. But confusing fallacy names aside, there can’t be any of the scary things mentioned associated with the herbicide, because there is no data linking it to the scary things other than popular belief trying to find causes for things that may not even be happening.

Learn and understand, not fear and react. That should be a modern mantra.

Countable.com comment expanded.


Inquiring Minds Up To Date | Monsanto Cancer Case and Kids Believe Lying Robots

Gross Domestic Product is Over 4%? Should I Care?

Today’s indicator was the GDP. Perhaps the most overused and overhyped indicator aside from the Dow Jones Industrial average, which is essentially meaningless no matter how you look at it.


THE INDICATOR GDP, OMG! July 27, 2018

The gross domestic product is a measure of all the goods and services an economy produces. For the second quarter of this year, the U.S. economy grew at a stellar rate of 4.1%. Today on the show, we take a deep dive into everybody’s favorite economic indicator: How is it measured? Why is it so high? Will it continue?

For what it was worth, it serves as a decent primer on the GDP. However, the hosts of the show left out the problems of too much growth, which is what the fed was responding too when they raised interest rates recently. Here’s hoping that the Fed acted severly and quickly enough to stop that scenario.

As several people pointed out on Facebook, the growth rate was over 4% several times during the Obama administration. So, not unheard of and not nearly as impressive as the OHM was making it out to be. Additionally, the cautions that were mentioned at the end of the show are well founded. I certainly wouldn’t be counting on this growth rate continuing. Too many indicators pointing in other directions.


THE INDICATOR Three Indicators To Keep A (Side)eye On July 19, 2018

#MAGA: The Myth of Bootstraps

The Orange Hate-Monkey‘s (OHM) administration has decided that the war against poverty is over. They’ve decided the war against poverty is over because we’ve won the war! That’s right. No more poverty in America now. Isn’t that great?

Except, poverty is worse now than it was at the beginning of the war against poverty. In fact, the war against poverty has had virtually no effect on poverty. Like every other thing that the OHM has said over the last two years, this is just another lie that he’s trying to sell.

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,

Is the American Dream Really Dead? Freakonomics Radio

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.

Is the American Dream Really Dead? Freakonomics Radio

The above hits the high points of that Freakonomics episode, without getting into the meat of it, 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,

Radiolab Presents: On the Media: Busted, America’s Poverty Myths

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.

Busted, America’s Poverty Myths

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.

On The Media #1: The Poverty Tour September 28, 2016

“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.

Brooke Gladstone Takes “The Poverty Tour”

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.

On The Media #2: Who Deserves To Be Poor? October 6, 2016

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.”

#2: Who Deserves To Be Poor?

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

On The Media #3: Rags to Riches October 13, 2016

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.

#3: Rags to Riches

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.

On The Media #4: When the Safety Net Doesn’t Catch You October 20, 2016

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.

#4: When the Safety Net Doesn’t Catch You

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.

On The Media #5: Breaking News Consumer’s Handbook: Poverty in America Edition October 27, 2016

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.

#5: Breaking News Consumer’s Handbook: Poverty in America Edition

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.

Casey Gerald, TED2016, The Gospel of Doubt

“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. 

#25 Justice Kennedy

Twitter

This has been one of the most illuminating podcasts I’ve heard on the subject of the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) and his near-daily flirtations with destroying everything we Americans hold dear. I have taken the time to create a tweet for each episode, putting the wordage on low heat and letting it simmer till it is reduced to its defining 280 characters. I present them here in all their minimalist glory.

I embarked upon this task because I knew I would be posting links to these podcasts, repeatedly. I wanted to be able to explain why the #MAGA, Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans, were wrong about whatever lie their OHM had poured in their ears most recently. Most of these Tweets have come in handy more than once; so I figured, why not share them?