Hospice Oversight

I’ve been using Countable for awhile now. Every now and then the notifications and articles go completely wrong on some subliminal level. Like this one, apparently asking me if the Feds found fraud in Hospice care,

Countable

[T]he report shows that sometimes, patient needs have been ignored.

For instance, it found that hospices provide significantly fewer services on the weekends than during the week. Patients’ pain levels don’t diminish over the weekend, raising concerns of inadequate pain management.

This can put patients at serious risk, because when they elect hospice care, they are waiving their right for Medicare payment for curative treatment. In some of the cases the report documents, patients were not even aware that they were being enrolled in hospice. – Countable, Feds Find Fraud and Flaws in Hospice Care

Not providing as much care on the weekends is a red flag for regulators in health industries. This is exactly the kinds of things that regulators (if they existed) would be empowered to investigate. It’s a good thing for these fraudulent operations that Republicans are against hospice existing in the first place. Their religious base doesn’t believe they’ll ever die or that bad things happen to good people. So they won’t be anxious to do anything more than shut all hospice down the way they want to shut Planned Parenthood down. But hospice is as essential as Planned Parenthood is, and we need there to be oversight of these facilities.

We also need people to recognize that end of life does occur, but let’s stick to problems we can solve. Starting with getting oversight in place so that the fraud is stopped. 

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

What NATO Should be Today, But Isn’t

NATO’s mandate should be expanded to counteract the information warfare tactics that it’s historic enemies have now taken up. This should include subverting the populations of enemy countries with access to unfiltered internet information and funding for the poor in those countries.

We are the most successful nation in the history of the world. It’s time we started acting like it.

As an aside, I wasn’t aware that agreeing or disagreeing was possible for established historical facts. I mean, either it was on this date, or it wasn’t. If it wasn’t on this date, then what does that say about the reliability of the news source in question? That they can’t even get established facts correct? (Truman Library Record)

Comment on Countable website. Recycled for the question “Should the US stay in NATO?” At least that one was really a question.

#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. 

Minimal Standards for President?

@treasonstickers

There is an argument to be made that, if the government is corrupt and, if the people think that an outsider is how to fix it, then forcing the candidates to conform to the status quo would be detrimental to getting the corruption righted. I won’t make that argument. I won’t make it because, frankly, I think it’s asinine that we let just anyone run for an office that clearly requires basic contact with reality, and that the current occupant of that high office fails at that basic test, contact with reality.

The Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) should be impeached and removed from office. more to the point, he should never have been allowed to run for that office in the first place. I’ve pointed this fact out since he first threw his hat in the ring, and discounted his chances of winning right up to the time when he co-opted the Republican convention. It was then that I started writing Authoritarianism vs. Humanism -Or- The Orange Hate-Monkey vs. A Village and I remain baffled as to how he got the convention to nominate him, and how he got the Electoral College to back him, except for one lone Texan who committed political suicide in refusing to vote for him.

There should be minimum standards set, and I thought that there was no way that a fakir like the OHM could get elected to the nation’s highest office. Those were my minimum standards, and three million votes should have underscored those standards. Without the complicity of the EC, those standards would have been met. Now that we have the worst possible government we could get, I’m beginning to think that more safeguards are necessary. I’m just not sure what those standards or safeguards should be.

First posted here.

Proud Snowflakes on Facebook

Wolfenstein: The New Order. The Game to Play in the Age of Trump

I’ve been walking in a fog all day (brain fog) The Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) has just returned from committing treason with the leader of Russia by his side today. I am trapped in a dream. I have been trapped in a dream since November the 9th of 2016. It has to be a dream, because even reality can’t be this strange.

I’ve been playing Wolfenstein: The New Order off and on now for about six months. The Wife gifted me with the sequel to that game for Christmas last year, and I refused to play the sequel without playing the first game. [It appears that New Order is the second game. Old Blood looks to be the first game. This explains how the relationship between Fergus and Blaskowitz is assumed in the game. Why Blaskowitz has experiences with Death’s Head behind him. This also confirms my theory on thirds. First third is good. Second third can be better. Last third? Hardly worth the trouble. I’m tracking down Old Blood so I can play it now. I will update this section after testing my knowledge.]

I took the right approach on insisting I play New Order before playing New Colossus, because I probably would never have given this series of games a chance if I had played Wolfenstein: The New Colossus first. I couldn’t finish that game when I finally got to it. Hell, I barely made it out of the submarine, I was laughing so hard. Laughing at the unreality of maneuvering a wheelchair through bulkheads with openings that could not possibly be rolled through in a wheelchair, while firing a automatic weapon two-handed and not being propelled backwards down the companionway from the recoil. They program in sight drift when firing a weapon, but they don’t do the half-dozen other things that are even more essential for believability.

Games are not reality, after all. Reality is so unreal that many of the things we experience would never work in a fictional universe. No one would believe that what was happening could happen. I mean, the party that could not accept a President getting a blowjob in the Oval Office willingly puts a lying, cheating scumbag into the office of the President? That could never happen. So the simple fact that a thirty-six inch wide object cannot fit through a thirty-two inch wide door is clearly not going to be believed. However, we are talking first person shooters (FPS) here. A first-person shooter from the originators of the FPS, id. Except that id didn’t allow its name to be placed on the sequel to Wolfenstein: The New Order, a smart move on their part.

In the age of Trump, it is easy to believe that the Nazis won the Second World War. In the age of Trump, it is easy to believe that a secret Jewish organization called Da’at Yichud created all the weapons that the Nazis stole. Stolen technology that allowed them to win the war by developing an atomic bomb first. Not hard to believe, at all.


Wolfenstein®: The New Order Teaser R.A. Steele Published on Jul 17, 2018

No, the hard part to believe about this game is how this one man could possibly make a difference in this obscene world that he finds himself in. This cold, hard fact is why Wolfenstein: The New Order is the game to be playing in the age of Trump. Because he does triumph, in the end, and his is not the only triumphal moment.


Wolfenstein®: Caroline Becker R.A. Steele Published on Jul 17, 2018

This game is a tour-de-force for id. It reminds me of all the hours I spent playing Doom all those years ago, when the internet was the future and the future was full of hope. They released an updated version of Doom last year. I’ll probably have to play that game next.


Wolfenstein®: Bombate R.A. Steele Published on Jul 17, 2018

I’ve been walking around in a fog all day, as I said at the beginning. Walking in a fog with the oft-scribbled statement of those unfortunates who have had their long-term memory sealed off from their short term memory looping through my mind. I’ve just woken up for the first time! Caught in a bootloop, like a bad operating system install. The cutscene in the Kreisau hideout has been haunting me.

Not just any time you sleep in the hideout. You have to be playing the Fergus timeline. In the Fergus timeline one of the changes is the character of Tekla. A mathematician, she is obsessed with calculating the probabilities of success in the Kreisau’s fight against the Nazis. One of the instances when you tell Blaskovitz to go to sleep to get his health upgraded (Fergus’ perk) has an additional cutscene. Blasko goes to sleep, only to be startled abruptly awake to find Tekla sipping coffee beside his bed, watching as he and Anya sleep. The dialog for this scene keeps drifting through my mind, following I’ve just woken up for the first time! hard on it’s heels. I tried to find the scene in the game for hours today. I knew it was there, but I just could not find it. I played through all the chapters in the Kreisau hideout looking for it. Luckily someone else spliced all the Tekla scenes together,


Wolfenstein: The New Order – All Tekla Scenes Compilation (Fergis Timeline)【XCV//】Published on May 20, 2014

Where do you go when you lose consciousness?

You have a brain, a brain is a biological computational device running on electrochemical process. Your consciousness is an emergent property of said process. In other words: you are an electrochemical process. Fundamentally you have experience of continuous existence. You are you, at this point in time. You have sensation of riding along this continuum of being you, into the future. On occasion brain can be subjected to trauma, temporarily discontinuing electrochemical process. Such as a boxer being knocked out. As this occurs the brain is no longer running. It’s electrochemical generating process. Hence consciousness is lost. You lose consciousness. At this point in time, your consciousness, all that is you… your continuum of being you has caused to exist in the physical world, Now, moments later, the electrochemical process may start up again… allowing consciousness to emerge out of the information stored in the brain.

But I wonder. Where are you in the meantime?

Must we not assume that at the point when consciousness is lost, the person dies? If a new consciousness appears or not in the same brain is entirely inconsequential to the dead consciousness. The new consciousness is simply a new person. Because it emerges from the same brain it has access to all the memories and cognitive structures… as the dead consciousness, so it thinks it is the same person But in actuality it is just an impostor. Inheriting the body and brain from the previous, now dead, inhabitant.Tekla, Wolfenstein : The New Order

Pretty deep stuff for an FPS video game, isn’t it? But that is the quality of the production all through Wolfenstein: The New Order. It feels like reality, the camera bobbing ever so slightly as you watch the cutscenes, as if you are an observer over the shoulder of someone else, breathing carefully so as not to attract attention to yourself. Hoping against hope that these impossible people will achieve an impossible thing and destroy the Nazi machine even in its hour of triumph.

But I could not find the scene in the game again. I could not find it, like a memory that fades into the mist when you look for it. Did I wake up today a different person? Will I wake up tomorrow a different person? Who is asking this question? Play Wolfenstein: The New Order. Kill all the Nazis. Win the war. Or maybe we should believe we can win the battle against the fakir who currently inhabits the office of the President? If you think we can’t win, play this game. Maybe it will change your mind. 

Is a Pit Bull a Semi-Automatic?

The Truth About Pitbulls on Facebook

Myths and Facts: More pit bulls are involved in human deaths than any other breed. (Along with Rottweilers, they make up 67% of dog bite deaths.) Pits also=92% of dogs killed by dogs & 96% of cats killed by dogs. More pit bulls end up in shelters than any other breed. I’ve known many happy pit owners but owning a pit requires responsibility and intelligence, as would owning a car or gun. Statistically, many owners just aren’t up to the task. – Rebuttal to the Image on Facebook [link to corroborating evidence added]

Another commenter then responded with a dog is a dog, what part of this don’t you understand here? This misunderstanding allows me to draw some allusions to the gun argument, and perhaps shed some light on both subjects. This is another one of those instances of miscategorization that seem to automatically get me started. I’m off and running before I’m even sure what I’m talking about.

A dog is not a dog in the same way that all guns are not semi-automatics. To say it another way, a Pit Bull is not a Shepherd is not a Terrier in exactly the same way that a repeater is not a revolver and is not a semi-automatic weapon. Let me draw a third comparison so I know this illustration will be crystal clear. A hammer is not a claw hammer at the same time as all claw hammers are hammers. Groups and subgroups. Dogs are tools created for purposes in the same way that guns are tools created for their purposes. Owning a tool that you don’t understand how to use and don’t know the use it was created for leaves you open to errors that stem from the purpose of the tool’s creation.

Breeds of dogs were created for specific purposes. Terriers were created to hunt down rodents hiding in stonework. Terriers bite more frequently than any other breed of dog. Ask anyone who has groomed dogs. [Although stats show Chihuahuas bite the most. They are snappy little things, personal experience confirms this fact.] Shepherds were bred to herd sheep and other farm animals. They have specific natural tendencies and require different kinds of care than Terriers and other small dogs do. Pit Bulls (and other bulldogs) were bred for a specific purpose, they (like Rottweilers. Rottweilers are also drover dogs, like Huskies) were bred as dogs to fight other dogs and to take down prey larger than themselves.

Dogs are descended from wolves, and there are common traits that all dogs share with wolves. As pack hunters they defend their pack from other packs, exhibiting very strong ingroup/outgroup discrimination; in other words, if you never let your pet out to play with other dogs and meet other people, your pet will respond aggressively to others until it learns what order the new group structure represents. The ingroup is to be cared for even to the destruction of the individual itself, making them doting with children and fierce when threatened by strangers. These ingroup tendencies endear dogs to their owners, which is probably why dogs are the favored pet in most households.

But the general tendencies of the species can masque other traits that the specific breeds were bred for in the past, that might come to the surface in any descendant individual animal. So Pit Bulls that were bred exclusively for fighting can be more dangerous than other dog breeds whose jobs were less focused on the need to guard or attack and more on herding/caring.

A complex biological tool can be like that. Traits that had been designed in can disappear and then resurface later. A purpose-built simple tool, like a firearm, can’t do this. Single-shot pistols and muskets gave way to cartridge-loads fed by mechanical action and springs (repeaters) or mechanical action alone (revolvers) which gave way to the gas-powered semi-automatic and fully automatic weapons of today. A musket is not a semi-automatic weapon. Aside from the basic design, killing with a chemically propelled metallic slug directed through a hardened steel barrel, the tools have virtually nothing else in common.

Hello Kitty Weaponry

Today we own dogs as pets, and we choose those pets based on their appeal to us, visually and behaviorally. The purposes that the various breeds were created for are not what we own dogs as pets for now. There are some people who want a stocky, threatening dog because they want to train it to be dangerous. Dangerous to other dogs, dangerous to other people. There are people who cherish the soft-side of their visually threatening dog and they train their dogs to be things other than what they visually appear. This is also true of weaponry. We generally buy a weapon for how it looks, and how it looks can determine how it is treated by law.

Both the laws against Pit Bulls and the laws against assault weapons are misguided, and for the same reason. They are misguided because the characteristics of their design, the nature of what they individually were made for, are not accurately reflected in the way they look. A Pit Bull is no more dangerous than the training that the dog owner has given it, no matter what it looks like. The wooden stock and grips on a semi-automatic weapon do not alter the underlying technology that allows it to throw large amounts of lead downrange in a very short order. Ask any expert on weaponry, and they will confirm this fact for you. A semi-automatic weapon is a semi-automatic weapon, no matter what it looks like.

But a Pit Bull is not always a dangerous weapon, ask any Pit Bull owner. It, like almost any other full-sized breed, can be trained to be dangerous by the people who own it. The problem with that breed and other dangerous looking breeds arises when the owners want a dangerous looking dog because they want a dangerous dog, and then make the dog dangerous with training. This is where a simple weapon, like a firearm, is not like a biological weapon, a trained attack dog. Guns don’t think, at least not yet, but dogs do think and they can do things their owners don’t expect no matter how well the owner thinks they’ve trained their dog. The key here is not to make a living weapon out of your dog. I would not let my child play around a dog I had trained to kill. That is simply irresponsible parenting.

So you can have a Pit Bull that isn’t a killer, but your semi-automatic weapon is always going to be a killing machine. Pit Bull’s are not semi-automatics, anymore than other wolf-descended canines can be deceptively harmless around pack-mates. However, your Hello Kitty assault rifle will always be a killing machine. Like the hammer, a firearm is a purpose-built tool. A hammer drives in nails. A claw hammer drives them in and then can pull them back out again. If only we could recall the bullets from all the semi-automatic weapons fire we’ve seen over the past few years.

Census Citizenship Question

Countable

“Article 1, Section 2 of the United States Constitution mandates that the U.S. House of Representatives be reapportioned every ten years after conducting a national census of all residents. In addition to the reapportionment of the U.S. Congress, Census data are used to draw legislative district boundaries. Census data also are used to determine funding allocations for the distribution of an estimated $675 billion of federal funds each year.”

The key phrase here is “national census of all residents”. All RESIDENTS not citizens. If you wanted to quibble about the difference I would stand on the reality of the fact that residents of an area are the citizens of that area. There is no other way to define citizenship and have it be meaningful. Pretending that there are those among us who are not full members of society is the first step towards creating an underclass which can be used in the same fashion that slaves were used. This move towards solidifying an underclass, forcing people to either declare citizenship during the census or go into hiding, is nothing less than an attempt to create a modern slavery system. This move must be stopped.

There should be no question about citizenship because residency presumes citizenship.

Comment on the Federal Register, Proposed Information Collection; Comment Request; 2020 Census

Freeriders in NATO?

Countable

President Trump arrives today at the annual NATO summit in Brussels fixated on the fact that most members are falling short of defense spending targets, going so far as to declare that the current state of affairs “just doesn’t work” for the U.S. – Countable, By the Numbers: NATO Defense Spending

I don’t support anything the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) does, even when what he does happens to coincide with the things I think should be done. They should be done, just by someone else.

Someone else.

NATO? I was never a fan of NATO until Vladimir Putin and his OHM puppet decided they wanted to destroy it. Now, I’m thinking I love it. I think NATO should go cyber and cripple the online infrastructure of Russia until they get rid of Putin and hand back Crimea. I think we can do that much more cheaply than building tanks and planes and training soldiers, the things that NATO currently does.

Which is why Putin has adopted this information warfare strategy himself. Because it does less damage to the customers he hopes to milk after he destroys the US alliance against Russia. So we Americans and our allies conduct information warfare on him instead of letting ourselves be trolled like the OHM is doing now. This strategy worked for the Moon race, why wouldn’t it work now?

Countable comment backdated to the blog.

#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?