I was aghast to discover that I had missed a Philip K. Dick novel the other day. I had shared an image on Facebook that discussed the dangers of pissing off a redhead (or ginger. This image.) something I do every day with the Wife, especially when I point out that her temper proves she is a ginger. That woman can punch hard when she thinks she’s being insulted. However, I’ve seen the carpet a few times in our thirty years of marriage. She’s a ginger. The sun lightens the hair on her head, as it does for most strawberry blondes. But the long-running argument between Red and I wasn’t the subject I wanted to discuss here. Missing from the image was one of my favorite examples of redheads that you really don’t want to piss off, and that is the potentially causality destroying character from the movie Prince of Darkness.
…and she was pretty pissed at the end of that film. With good reason. So anyway, another friend and fan of the ginger set said that the clip reminded him of the novel Ubik by Philip K. Dick. Having never read the book I felt I had to remedy my lack of knowledge and went directly to Amazon.com to see if the book was available on Audible. Then I could read the book and find out what it was that he thought was similar between the book and the movie.
Ever since I started getting vertigo I’ve had a problem with the repetitive back and forth motion of the eyes while reading making me tired and dizzy and potentially bringing on vertigo, So I get books on audio now. I listen to so many books that it pays off to have an Audible account. Aside from having a regular supply of books to have read to me, if I feel like I want to access the text of the book I can get whispersync from Amazon to synchronize between the audiobook and the Kindle book, and that makes the experience a win-win for me no matter how I want to learn something new.
This was one of those instances where I was tempted to get both the Kindle book and the audiobook, especially since the page on Amazon offered me the Kindle book for $3.62 as shown in the header image for this article. Less than four bucks more and I could have the book to read for myself if I felt like reading it! So I bought the book and downloaded both versions to my phone. Then I noticed something odd. The Kindle book was not in English, it was in Romansh. I don’t even know what region of the world Romansh is spoken in, much less speak it myself.
Well, that’s weird. The Ubik page on Amazon’s website is written in English and it doesn’t say anything about the other versions of the book that are listed as being in other languages. Feel free to click the link under the image and see for yourself. There is no way to find the English Kindle book short of looking specifically for the book as a Kindle book and that book is not $3.62 it’s $9.99 (free with kindleunlimited! Another fucking subscription service. Just what I need.) more than twice the price of the Kindle book I was first offered. I know what this is, even though I’ve not seen it too many times before. This is false advertising, and I’ve been taken in by it.
So I started the refund on the Kindle book in a language I can’t read and opened a chat dialog with someone at Amazon so that I could resolve the problem of being sold something that I didn’t want. What I wanted was the book in English, the language the book was originally written in, and I wanted it at the advertised price on the Ubik page on Amazon. I mean, it takes less work to port over the exact type script of the original work than it does to pay someone to translate the book into another language, edit, copyedit, format, etc. the new manuscript into another language. Why was the Kindle book twice the price?
Well, I know why the Kindle book was twice the price, as does every person who deals with the frustration of getting any book in this day and age. Amazon and Apple and just about every other digital book publisher rigs the prices of books through contractual obligations at artificially high prices where they can get away with them, and then offers bargain prices where they cannot gouge the unsuspecting customer. And after an hour or so of arguing with the representative in the Amazon chat service, they conceded I had a legitimate complaint but that they were not contractually able to offer the digital books at the same prices that they offer them at in other countries and for other languages. However, I could get a credit for the difference in price between the two books, and that was the best that they could do for me. So I took the only route available to me and accepted the credit offer. Not that it really made me happy.
Today on Facebook I was offered a memory I may have missed from June 11th, 2018. Hey, it’s been a year and four days since the Amazon/Ubik conundrum. I’ve listened to/read the book now. More than once. I know why the dream sequence reminded my friend of that book. The one unresolved conundrum here is that the webpage for Ubik on Amazon still takes you to the Romansh Kindle version even when you type “Ubik” in a fresh instance on the Amazon store. Even though I returned that book and bought the English version for a final price of $3.62 when the store credit was applied. Even though I helpfully reiterated the potential legal liability that Amazon was opening itself up to by putting a price and no stated language waiver on the combined Ubik page that you land on when you type in Ubik on their home screen.
One whole year later, still not fixed. I saved the chat session logs. I saved the page images. It’s a simple thing to reassemble the entire conundrum, so I figured I’d do that. I mean, I’ve given them a year to fix their programming and they still haven’t done it. I wonder how many Kindle books there are out there that are offered at a lower price in a language other than English, versions that are offered on landing pages when you go looking for a book by its title? Books that are not the books that the shopper is looking for, even though they are tempted to buy the books for the lower price stated, later to have to go through the exact same process I have had to go through? There’s a class action lawsuit in there somewhere for the savvy lawyer to take advantage of. Just send my children the finders fee twenty years from now when the lawsuit settles, would you?
The charge of high crimes and misdemeanors covers allegations of misconduct by officials, such as perjury of oath, abuse of authority, bribery, intimidation, misuse of assets, failure to supervise, dereliction of duty, unbecoming conduct, refusal to obey a lawful order, chronic intoxication, and tax evasion. Offenses by officials also include ordinary crimes, but perhaps with different standards of proof and punishment than for nonofficials, on the grounds that more is expected of officials by their oaths of office.
The above came up in a Google search as an example of what the phrase High Crimes and Misdemeanors means, and it is a pretty common example of the kind of confusion that I see among the non-legally educated public. I’ve heard this dozens of times from a myriad of places; and the confusion over this phrase, like the confusion over the purpose of the Electoral College, is about to drive me nuts unless I take the time to explain it at least once.
If you were to speak to lawyers about the meanings of these terms, you would get a completely different answer than you would get out of the general public or from the mass media or social media. Specifically, High Crimes and Misdemeanors is a phrase in the U.S. Constitution. It is a term of art, not a type of crime that we must define through some mystic process in order for it to be understood. The definitions already exist.
A misdemeanor is a known quantity defined by law, just like a felony is defined by law.
Felonies and misdemeanors are two classifications of crimes used in most states, with petty offenses (infractions) being the third. Misdemeanors are punishable by substantial fines and sometimes jail time, usually less than one year. Felonies are the most serious type of crime and are often classified by degrees, with a first degree felony being the most serious. They include terrorism, treason, arson, murder, rape, robbery, burglary, and kidnapping, among others.
There are many possible misdemeanors that could be charged against the sitting president, if a president could be indicted in the fashion that a normal citizen could be charged. I would go so far as to argue that this president should be charged as if he was a normal citizen considering that he is well beneath the quality of human being that I would define as normal, but the niceties of tradition and political maneuvering hamstring most of the arguments that would allow for the direct prosecution of a sitting president for provable crimes in your average courtroom in Washington D.C. or elsewhere.
Lacking the ability to bring charges against a sitting president directly, we have, by definition, to be able to remove a president without having to meet the high standards that a criminal prosecution would require; in other words, the bar for impeachment of a official is lower than the bar for convicting an average citizen. This is because the standards of behavior are higher for political officeholders than the standards of behavior for your average fry cook.
That is why the term high crimes, is used in the U.S. Constitution, rather than the legal term felony,
high crime : a crime of infamous nature contrary to public morality but not technically constituting a felony
specifically : an offense that the U.S. Senate deems to constitute an adequate ground for removal of the president, vice president, or any civil officer as a person unfit to hold public office and deserving of impeachment
It is worth noting (h/t to Chris Hayes) that treason and bribery are listed crimes which can be brought against a sitting president for the purposes of impeachment, and that both treason and bribery can be proven from the behavior of Donald Trump without even breaking a sweat trying. This is above and beyond the phrase high crimes and misdemeanors which covers everything a president might do that was beneath treason and bribery but still not things a president should do.
…and that is why I have maintained that Donald Trump was a fool to even try to run for the office of the president for three years running. This is still my opinion, and the evidence for this opinion has only increased over his time in office. Impeachment is a pro forma operation when it comes to Trump, inc. His crimes are known. I, a layman, have detailed his crimes across the hundred-odd posts on this blog that I’ve written about this subject, and there are many more crimes that I’m sure I’ve missed in the last three years of the non-stop Trump media orgy we’ve all lived through. As to the specific criminal charges relating to the 2016 election that could be brought against him, those are icing on the cake. They aren’t needed, although everyone seems to think they are what will determine the future of the Trump presidency.
They won’t, because they aren’t the crimes that can be proven here and now. The Mueller report documents the crimes of obstruction that could be brought against Donald Trump, but he rightly or wrongly refused to bring those charges against him. In any case, the job of accusing and then convicting a sitting president and removing him from office falls to the Senate once articles of impeachment are passed by the House of Representatives. The crimes that can be proven right here and now without a protracted redaction fight in the courts are the financial crimes documented by his corporate accountants, and these crimes are a subpoena away from being proven beyond a shadow of a doubt.
People who expect Trump to last another two years should probably hang onto their seats (yes, I’m looking at you) because it is liable to get really messy over the next 18 months. No one can tell you what will happen, because nothing like this has ever occurred in the history of the United States. We are in the moment of crisis when Rome became an empire and was no longer a Republic. We are in the twilight era when the USSR was ceasing to function, but continued to grind on for a decade and more through sheer inertia.
The impeachments should not be limited to Trump, either. The Attorney General, the Treasury Secretary, even the Vice President are all open targets based solely on their behavior within the Trump administration. The emoluments clause remains the albatross hanging around all of their necks, collectively. They have all conspired to allow Donald Trump to profit from the office of the president, allowed him to steal funds directly from all of us to further his own fortunes. This cannot be tolerated.
The Trump administration will end a longstanding requirement that certain nonprofit organizations disclose the names of large donors to the Internal Revenue Service, a move that will allow some political groups to shield their sources of funding from government scrutiny.
We The People not only expect but demand that we be told who buys whom and at what price, no matter how much power that person or group believes they have. This will be true for as long as as bribery, private financing for campaigns, is allowed. Mnuchin answers directly to Trump. He should be indicted along with Trump and the rest of his administration for high crimes and misdemeanors. This is no longer a request. #ImpeachTrump or join him on the dock to be charged with him. Pick one.
If you are afraid of where the truth might take you, if your loyalty is to a would be king and not the nation, then you are complicit. If you’re outraged at my words instead of at the thought of what that process might find, if you don’t want to know the truth, well, then you’re the problem.
I didn’t watch the witch hunt that was televised today (Thursday September 28th, 2018) although I have seen several stories in the media telling me how everyone else did watch. That would be their time to waste in watching the execution of a good woman’s reputation. I didn’t watch just like I didn’t watch the debates with the Orange Hate-Monkey. Brett Kavanaugh is lying now, just like the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) was lying then. Everyone knows Kavanaugh is lying. They know he is lying because he refused to ask for an FBI investigation when prompted. Repeatedly. So everyone in that Judiciary Committee hearing knew he was lying, but they all have to stick to their scripts.
Do you know how we know that Mueller’s investigation isn’t a witch hunt? There are no women accused. There are no women accused and the Orange Hate-Monkey is still in office two years later. If the OHM had been a woman, if Hillary Clinton had won the election in 2016, there would already be a high rise built on the spot where her body was burnt eighteen months ago. Because witch hunts come to a speedy conclusion and they inevitably convict innocent people.
I started to watch the debates between Beto O’Rourke and Ted Cruz last week. Ted Cruz was lying before he even got out of his opening comments. What’s the point of listening to defacto, demonstrable liars? People who start off lying and never stop lying, playing dirty, blaming others for their behavior? Save yourself some time, spare yourself and the furniture the wear and tear of torment like that. They’re lying, they’re going to keep lying, so let’s get on to the next thing. What is the next thing, you ask? filling the streets of Washington DC with enough people that normal life comes to a standstill until this travesty of a Presidency comes to an end. That has been the next thing that needs doing since January 20, 2017.
You tell me the world has changed much since 1994.
And yet here you are, telling me that we should put that same old mindset, boys will be boys, all boys do it, on the Supreme Court and you know, it’s hard for me to see that much of anything has changed at all.
I want to tell you a story. No. Scratch that, I need to tell you a story, a story that’s needed to be told for quite some time. It’s a true story, so I will take a little literary license with the details to masque the identities of those involved; but the story remains true enough that those involved will know the truth of this story. Both the guilty and the innocent will know the truth of this.
It was 40 years ago. A young woman stumbled into a frat party near a lake. She was naked. Her hair was matted with twigs and dirt. She was half-drowned, very drunk and confused. She said she had escaped from someone trying to kill her. She was raving. She sounded crazy. Someone had snuck up behind her while she was answering the call of nature. A few too many beers, she said. He had raped her, tried to strangle her, and then dumped what he thought was her dead body in the lake. “I’m a good swimmer” she declared, triumphantly.
No one that found her knew who she was. She had been brought to the party by friends from another frat. Just looking at her, you could tell, she had been through some serious trauma. So these benefactors, these people who had no idea who she was, took her to the hospital where it was confirmed that she had been raped by someone. The police were called. Yes, she said. I want to press charges. Yes, she said, I know who it was that raped me and tried to kill me. She gave his name to the police.
…and that was when the trouble started. This young man was well known, a hometown kid. She was a nobody. She had been shipped off to this far-away place because she had gotten pregnant.
Her high school sweetheart had been insisting they should have sex for most of their senior year. They had just graduated. It was time to celebrate, so she finally gave in to his desires and her own. And why not? She wasn’t going to be going to the college she wanted. Her parents refused to send her to Europe, to the conservatory that she had a free ride to attend. To Europe, where her musical talents could be properly honed. They refused to buy her a plane ticket, even though they could pay for it. “You can’t make a living playing music” they told her. So here she was, in the arms of the man she thought she would marry. There was little else to look forward to, from her perspective.
She wasn’t stupid. She knew that she could get pregnant, but she loved him. She thought he loved her, until she found out she was pregnant and told him. Then he disavowed her. He said he’d never had sex with her, so it couldn’t be his child. He was going to the college he wanted, after all. He couldn’t stay there, get married and raise kids. That just wasn’t his plans for his future. Alone and pregnant, she was sent away to live with foster parents. Sent away to a place where none of the friends and family would know of her dirty little secret. The dirty secret that she had been foolish enough to believe a man when he told her he loved her.
She did the right thing. She carried the child to term, because that’s what you are supposed to do. She carried the child to term and gave it up for adoption. That was the christian thing to do. Accept your punishment for having sex, and give birth to children you can’t afford. Children that you give away to strangers who can afford to raise them for you. She went through all of that, because that was what she was supposed to do.
With the embarrassment of nine months of a belly she didn’t want, a child she couldn’t keep, couped up with people she barely knew but strangely adopted as parents anyway; with all of that behind her, she set her sights on doing the best with what she had left of her life plans.
She still had her musical talent, even if she wouldn’t be touring Europe as part of an orchestra, the role she really was suited for. Her college friends envied her her gift, a natural ear for music and the ability to pick up nearly any instrument and play it well enough to shine in state competitions. But teaching music was the best she could hope for now. She didn’t relish the thought of teaching others to play, but if that was the best she could do, that is what she would shoot for.
A few months into her delayed college education, she was invited to that fateful party. Had a little too much to drink. Had the misfortune of needing to relieve herself. Left herself vulnerable to the jealous and the talentless albeit well-liked hometown boy. A hometown boy with a grudge.
Once again, she did the right thing. The thing you are supposed to do. She knew her attacker, even though she was drunk at the time. She knew what he had tried to do to her, had actually thought he had achieved. Thought she was dead when he left her floating in the water. Just another body found washed up on a beach somewhere. A tragic accident. Except it was rape and attempted murder, and you don’t let that go unpunished.
She pressed charges against the hometown boy. Faced him in court. Accused him of the crimes that there was far more than sufficient evidence for. He was found not guilty. Why? Because she had done the right thing, over and over. She had yielded to the man she wanted to marry. She had carried the resultant child to birth and given it away. She had shrugged it all off and made the best of what she had left. She had the temerity to stand tall and not be embarrassed by the things society told her were embarrassing. Why should it be embarrassing? Doing the right thing should be praiseworthy. Shouldn’t it? Shouldn’t it!
“But,” they said, “she was a loose woman.” This was evident because she had given birth recently. Given birth instead of having an abortion and hiding the evidence of her improprieties, her loose ways. Loose women just want to have sex, and clearly she wanted to have sex with this hometown boy. When he rejected her, she staged the entire scene. Choked herself, tried to drown herself, rolled around in the dirt, naked, and threw herself on unsuspecting strangers in order to malign the hometown boy. Who was the court to believe? This loose woman, spirited away from her family and friends in order to save their reputations? Or should the court believe this fine, upstanding hometown boy who, while musically talentless, was still a handsome young man with a promising future? Who indeed?
Who indeed? Not guilty. Case dismissed. Free as a bird, he flew. Still flies. As I said, a true story. True enough, anyway.
So when I read stories about why didn’t they come forward? In the news these days, news about high profile judges and corporate leaders and politicians galore, men of high stature accused of the wrongs that they’ve hidden in plain sight until finally some woman has had enough that she just won’t take it anymore and risks everything to shine the light of justice on these loathsome individuals, I don’t even have to ask
Why don’t they come forward?
I know why.
They didn’t come forward before, and most of them will not come forward now because they won’t be believed. As the latest accusations about Brett Kavanaugh circulate, while the Pussy Grabber-in-Chief defends him, and the same old song and dance plays out. Just like it always has. These women are not believed by far, far too many people. It’s too convenient not to believe if believing means you have to change who and what you think is right in the world. You wouldn’t come forward if you were them, and you are deluded if you think otherwise.
I was trying to think about the last time American history seemed to matter as much as it seems to right now. We’re minding our past in debates over monuments and standing or kneeling during our national anthem, aren’t we essentially asking ourselves over and over what it means to be an American? We’re testing our arguments, our old ones and new ones, we’re staking claims for ourselves and our families and whatever comes of this place we call home. Yeah, we can think of this as a fight I guess, or we can think of this as part of our natural destiny. We claim to be founded on ideas, well maybe this is how an enlightenment nation grows. How we settle the great divide will be the stuff our grandchildren will be reading about. And I suppose we do have this much in common; surely we want to make them proud.
I have no use for football. I realize that I’m committing a cardinal Texas sin by saying that, but it is the truth. I don’t play it, I don’t watch it, I don’t care about it at all. I don’t know who won the Superbowl last year. I have no idea who is doing well or poorly or has done well or poorly since I moved out of my dad’s house as a teenager and stopped having to endure football viewing in order to watch anything on TV with him. However, I do know a thing or two about football because of those years of enforced viewing with my father. I also know a thing or two about how to properly treat a flag because of him and his desire that I spend time in the Boy Scouts as child.
The attending audiences in these giant government-funded sports arenas are shocked. Shocked! I say. How dare these players protest the treatment of black people by racially biased police departments? How dare they protest in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick who was excluded from playing in the 2017 season after he started staging political protests during the national anthem in the 2016 season? These players are disrespecting the flag! They can’t be allowed to protest like this! the outraged fans insist. Except it isn’t about flags or soldiers or any of the other things the fans, lead by the OHM, object to.
In the week since I wrote the original post about Colin Kaepernick on Facebook I’ve received literally tens of thousands of responses. The overwhelming majority are positive, notes of encouragement and understanding, enthusiastic and even reluctant agreement. It makes me proud to note many of those responses came from veterans, from cops, and from Americans who put their asses on line for their fellows every day without expectation of reward or thanks. They may not agree with Kaepernick, but they stand with him nonetheless as true Americans do. A number came from non-Americans, those on foreign shores who look to America with equal parts fear and fascination and wonder at that shining city on the hill and it makes me proud that they can still admire this nation for what it is supposed to represent.
But in that same week I’ve daily posted a roster of those who don’t get it. Those who wrote me, many who claim to be veterans, who called me traitor and called Kaepernick nigger and who have daily sent me death threats and seething hate simply because I spoke of honor and duty and respect. It is these people, these haters, these dimwitted goons, who prove with their own words the validity and necessity of Kaepernick’s protest and why I stand with him.
These protesters, these professional football players, aren’t disrespecting the flag. They are disrespecting the outrage of the fans who demand that their sport be free of politics. Free of politics that the votes of the fans have brought directly into conflict with the players on the field. The people who are booing? They are fans of the OHM as well as football; and I say this because only people dumb enough to believe that a billionaire wouldn’t line his own pockets at their expense would believe that you can isolate a sport and keep it from reflecting the world around it.
So let’s talk about respecting the flag and the nation, since I don’t care about football and really wouldn’t be writing this post if it was really all about football or the fans of football. Here is an example image of the kinds of daily disrespect an American flag is subjected to in this day and age. Study the image carefully. You see the flag, right? The flag bunched up around the ring of the field in the foreground, an American flag laying right on the dirt of the field. Do you see it now?
The US flag is not to touch the ground. US flags should not be bunched up or crumpled. How do I know this? It’s right there in the flag code. I hear the MAGA stupidly asking there’s a flag code? while scratching their collective asses. Yes. Yes there is a flag code, as the most rudimentary search of the internet should reveal. Here is a link to the text on wikipedia. This should be common knowledge for anyone interested in seeing the flag of your nation treated with respect. Follow the code and you are respecting the flag; don’t follow the code and you run the risk of making a mockery of the flag.
Most national flags and battle flags are not to be allowed to lay on the ground. It is one of the highest forms of disrespect to treat a flag the way this flag is being treated, whether this is common practice or not at your average sports event. I don’t think this fact, spelled out in the flag code, can be said loudly enough to not be ignored by the politically blind in today’s United States. They know what they want to believe, emotionally. Your words will not carry meaning for them unless those words agree with the things they already believe. But the president of the United States is lying to the people who are booing from the stands at these sports events, and he’s doing it because it makes him look better agreeing with their outrage at being disrespected.
How many people know that the US flag was never worn as clothing until the 60’s? When Abbie Hoffman wore it in protest and was arrested and tried for doing so? Not many MAGA. The way we treat the flag these days in almost all venues is disrespectful. It should not be allowed to fly in the rain. It should not be left hanging on the flagpole after dark unless spotlit. It should not be allowed to touch the ground, with various theories as to what you should do with the flag after it has been allowed to touch the ground (the wiki article addresses this urban legend) the answer being, get it off the ground when you see it touching the ground. That flag on the ground is being disrespected by every fan in the stadium because they do not rush out onto the field and see that it is lifted from the ground immediately.
So those guys taking a knee in protest? That is the least of the flag code offenses currently occurring in football stadiums, and their failure to assume the accepted position of obeisance before the attending audience should be understood as a protest against those self-same people. Maybe these audiences should worry about some of the other violations of the flag code first. The violations of law and common decency running rampant amongst the #MAGA, the Misguided Appallingly Gullible Americans who are the ones destroying the fabric of American society. Destroying it by calling for an end to political speech by professional football players. It might fix the players need to protest in the process.
A few days after I had written this, On The Media riffed on the same subject. This is the benefit of just sitting down and banging out some text when you have something to say. When I hit publish, the work is done. A podcast has to write and edit, then interview, then re-edit and narrate connective segments, then do a final review and edit before publishing. Once a week for a podcast is an almost breakneck pace, when you understand how much work goes into one.
On The Media understands that the outrage is not really about flags or football either. It’s really about controlling speech, limiting the speech of unpopular speakers. They also have more resources so they can dig deep on subjects that deserve to be revealed to the light of day.
That’s right. The Star-Spangled Banner was based on earlier works. It was part of a valued tradition of protest and counter-protests set to song. On The Media also touches on the important story that isn’t being discussed while the OHM rants on about football players and tearing up the first amendment.
The OHM eventually deigned to go to Puerto Rico. I guess they finally had an air conditioned room they could put him up in for his required stay there. This allowed him to be seen being presidential at the site of the hurricane’s destruction. I’m betting the people of Puerto Rico would have preferred he stayed in Washington D.C. and actually got to work doing the job he was elected to do. Instead he did his usual insane media op, in this case tossing rolls of paper towels into the crowd that showed up waiting to hear what their president was planning on doing for them. Tossing towels into the crowd as if the people there were at a sports event and were there by choice; not because they were homeless, hungry, thirsty and desperate. They went away without reassurances. So much for being presidential.
There are three other segments in the episode of On The Media (Insult to Injury) in addition to the three that I embedded directly in this post. On The Media is one of the few podcasts that I am sure to listen to when it shows up in my podcast queue. It is one of the few that I take extra time to listen to closely. Brooke’s editing is a masterwork. She wastes no time on filler. Facts and more facts are ladled on in rapid succession. Pay attention because there will be a test later.
In the For What It’s Worth department I have the evidence that the idea to take a knee came from a US veteran who saw Colin Kaepernick sitting during his first protest. The video below is an excellent little montage that explains the reason why taking a knee is not disrespecting the flag as much as calling for an end to protests is.
With this addendum I moved the post up to August 26, 2018. This is something I don’t feel the need to do very often, but then these aren’t normal times. Who would have thought that we’d still be arguing about this bullshit three football seasons later? We are though, and that means it’s still news. What makes it news is that the fans still can’t get it through their heads that they cannot command respect from the players no matter how many times they scream about it. No matter how many times they grill candidates for public office about curtailing the rights of people to protest at public events.
If the players cannot protest, even when those players are protesting respectfully and peacefully, then none of us are allowed to air our grievances in public. Like Beto O’Rourke I can think of few other things less American than telling people to stop protesting and to fall in line. The few times this attitude has been taken and enforced historically (and it has happened) the results were not what the authorities of that time expected or wanted. Those decisions have also been overturned in court. The people screaming about this behavior are also the people screaming about asylum seekers and funds spent on hurricane recovery. If we are too broke as a country to pay for caring for the harborless and homeless, we are certainly too broke to be imprisoning football players for unwanted speech and then having to defend those actions in court.
This Texan really hopes that the video goes viral. Beto O’Rourke is a shining example of intelligence in Texas. I’m hoping there are enough intelligent people in Texas to fix the problems Texas faces rather than continuing to allow the stupid to make more problems for Texas to deal with. I’ll see you all at the polls November 6th.
Nike’s latest ad campaign, Sept. 5, 2018, features Colin Kaepernick as a spokesman. In the distance you could hear the sound of a million conservative heads exploding in outrage.
In the immediate backlash against the campaign, announced on Monday, Nike shares fell nearly 4 percent at one point on Tuesday and closed down 3.2 percent.
Calls for a boycott fed social media buzz about the campaign. There were 2.7 million mentions of Nike over the previous 24 hours, the social media analysis firm Talkwalker said at midday, an increase of 135 percent over the previous week.
The catastrophe that was hurricane Irma [and hurricane Maria]’s impact on Puerto Rico has now been exacerbated by the catastrophe of American disdain for the brown-skinned, this disdain having taken the form of the sitting President of the United States. Readers of the blog will know my preferred tagline for him, but it bears repeating that he is the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) which is my shorthand for the accumulated ire of white America that he embodies, and an accurate descriptor of how he is seen by outside observers.
Threatening to nationalize the NFL (socialized football) over a completely made up issue, players taking a knee in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick; who was excluded from playing football this year in retaliation for exercising his first amendment speech rights during the games last year, a subject I talked at length about in Disrespecting the Flag.
He’s also gone into a full-court press promoting his latest version of Reaganomics, another piece I’ve been writing on but isn’t finished yet. At the same time as drumming up hatred for the press, for football players who have political opinions, and promoting giving himself a tax cut while claiming he isn’t doing that, the OHM is also stripping the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) of every dollar he can take away from it administratively, since the House of Representatives and the Senate will not cut their own throats at his insistence and pass legislation ending the ACA, more commonly known as Obamacare. They’ve gotten the feedback from their constituents. People are scared of losing their medical coverage, and with good reason. A reason that the OHM will make perfectly clear over the next few months, which is yet another article that I’m working on at the moment now that the other shoe on the subject of health care appears to have dropped. Too much bullshit in the air, not enough time to write the words to describe it before it lands on all our heads.
All of this is going on while people are dying in Puerto Rico for lack of supplies that the OHM and his Republicans allies in congress could fix if only they cared about the welfare of the citizens of the United States,
Puerto Rico is not a state, true, but Puerto Ricans are American citizens all the same. I know that the average white guy can’t tell the difference between Mexicans and Indians (natives of India, not the Americas. Stay with me here) even when they speak, but it is a demonstrable fact that Puerto Ricans are exactly the same kind of Americans as any redneck you could pull out of his truck in any Southern state. My apologies for lowering the social status of assorted brown-skinned people with that off-hand comparison.
Their status as American citizens is easily demonstrable because the law that made them citizens carries the same name, Jones Act, as the law that is being used to kill them with thirst, heat and hunger now, Jones Act. The first Jones Act, more properly known as the Jones–Shafroth Act (so much more illuminating with that name) set up the governmental authority that runs Puerto Rico to the current day. We made them citizens, we gave them government like ours, and we have controlled that island nation ever since.
We control it because of the second Jones Act, the Merchant Marine Act of 1920, which forbids ships that are not American ships crewed with American crews from moving freight between two American ports, functionally making it impossible to get supplies from the mainland US to Puerto Rico now without breaking the law.
If you want to send a bunch of oranges by truck from Florida to Baltimore, no one cares who made the truck. Or if you want to fly computer chips across the country, it’s fine if the plane is made in France. But if you want send cargo by ship, there’s a law that the ship has to be American made.
The OHM did waive the Jones act requirements for ten days, but those ten days have come and gone. It takes a lot longer to purchase the goods, fill the ship and move it to Puerto Rico than a ten day waiver will allow for. It was a meaningless face-saving gesture that allows the OHM to point to something and pretend that he cares. He doesn’t care and neither does his supporters who have attacked me more than once for defending Puerto Rico on different social platforms. I can’t repeat the things that they’ve said about Puerto Rico and Puerto Ricans largely because I delete their offensive comments when I can and block the speaker when I can’t.
The US and the world have forgotten about Puerto Rico, ravaged by two successive hurricanes and a month later still largely without power and running water. They have forgotten but the fact that this suffering goes on largely unreported says more about Americans and their leader than any of us are comfortable admitting. We are happy to profit off the sick, the suffering of other people. Puerto Rico’s largest problem is the fact that the government there was lead down the same golden path as Greece was, with one major difference. Greece was allowed to re-negotiate their debts and will probably be given another chance to do it again. Puerto Rico is being held to account for every dollar they borrowed by greedy Wall Street bankers, and the OHM is more than happy to side with Wall Street when there is money to be directly stolen from poor, suffering brown-skinned people.
Pundits asked each other for eight years is this Obama’s Katrina? And each time it was shown that they were wrong. They were wrong because, as many flaws as there were in the Bush II (W) administration, W was capable of learning where he messed up, and Obama continued the progress that W had started with FEMA and the federal government writ large. Disaster after disaster, Obama and the federal government got better at coping with the problems, which is the way it should be.
After an earthquake shattered Haiti’s capital on Jan. 12, 2010, the U.S. military mobilized as if it were going to war.
Before dawn the next morning, an Army unit was airborne, on its way to seize control of the main airport in Port-au-Prince. Within two days, the Pentagon had 8,000 American troops en route. Within two weeks, 33 U.S. military ships and 22,000 troops had arrived. More than 300 military helicopters buzzed overhead, delivering millions of pounds of food and water.
No two disasters are alike. Each delivers customized violence that cannot be fully anticipated. But as criticism of the federal government’s initial response to the crisis in Puerto Rico continued to mount Thursday, the mission to Haiti — an island nation several hundred miles from the U.S. mainland — stands as an example of how quickly relief efforts can be mobilized.
By contrast, eight days after Hurricane Maria ripped across neighboring Puerto Rico, just 4,400 service members were participating in federal operations to assist the devastated island, an Army general told reporters Thursday. In addition, about 1,000 Coast Guard members were aiding the efforts. About 40 U.S. military helicopters were helping to deliver food and water to the 3.4 million residents of the U.S. territory, along with 10 Coast Guard helicopters.
Leaders of the humanitarian mission in Haiti said in interviews that they were dismayed by the relative lack of urgency and military muscle in the initial federal response to Puerto Rico’s catastrophe.
When the OHM took office, all the progress enacted by Bush II and then Obama on disaster relief through FEMA and other agencies stopped. The progress stopped cold and then went into reverse. With his gutting of the executive offices under his control, and his unwillingness to take the job of president seriously outside of his weekend golf game where all the deals happen, there is no one left to take the helm. At least Bush II didn’t brag about how good he did post-Katrina. Didn’t chastise the poor and destitute of New Orleans for asking for relief. The OHM dares to insult and scorn anybody and anything, and Republican boot-lickers in the House and Senate are all too eager to let him do whatever he wants.
If you vote for a Republican in the next election you will be supporting this hateful process and this lack of progress, too. Food for thought.
Since I wrote this article there have been several podcasts that I’ve listened to that deal with the continuing issues in Puerto Rico. I’m going to append them here, as well as any informative news articles I run across dealing with the subject. I’m also going to move the article up in the timeline so that it will be at the top of the blog when new information comes in.
One hundred days later, More Puerto Ricans have done without power, subsequent to hurricane Maria, for longer than any other storm in US history since the introduction of electricity into the US.
The outages have proved deadly, with people unable to use lifesaving medical equipment like dialysis machines, and they’ve contributed to Puerto Rico’s official death toll of 64.
As we’ve reported here at Vox, the actual number of fatalities is likely much higher, a development that has prompted lawmakers to ask for an audit. BuzzFeed also reported that there have been more than 900 cremations across the island since the hurricane without medical examination.
And electricity may not be restored fully in Puerto Rico and the USVI until May, since emergency managers are still reeling from the devastation across the United States in 2017, spreading thin reconstruction supplies like utility poles and power lines across all disaster areas spanning from California to Florida.
In the podcast The1A, Months After Maria, it was reported the official death toll from the hurricane remains at 64; however, statistical analysis reveals that about a thousand additional deaths occurred due to the continuing power outages on the island since the hurricane struck. This was also reported in depth on LatinoUSA,
In a sign that FEMA believes the immediate humanitarian emergency has subsided, on Jan. 31 it will, in its own words, “officially shut off” the mission it says has provided more than 30 million gallons of potable water and nearly 60 million meals across the island in the four months since the hurricane. The agency will turn its remaining food and water supplies over to the Puerto Rican government to finish distributing.
Some on the island believe it’s too soon to end these deliveries given that a third of residents still lack electricity and, in some places, running water, but FEMA says its internal analytics suggest only about 1 percent of islanders still need emergency food and water. The agency believes that is a small enough number for the Puerto Rican government and nonprofit groups to handle.
The governor of Puerto Rico finally caved under pressure and asked George Washington University to do an independent study of the death toll resulting from hurricane Maria. The resulting figures were accepted as the actual death toll due to the storm’s impact.
2975 deaths is getting into 9/11 territory. It is worth noting that this is just the Maria death toll. This doesn’t include the deaths from the hurricane that swept across the island just before Maria. The Orange Hate-Monkey has not apologized for his lies relating to the human cost of Maria on the island, nor has his administration relaxed regulations to allow Puerto Rico to fully recover from the storm that struck Puerto Rico almost a year ago now.
Pandemonium. The capital of Hell in Milton’s Paradise Lost. Pandemonium. Every damned day. Every single goddamned day. It’s a fire in a munitions factory. It’s a train wreck. The Joker has taken over Arkham Asylum. The Titanic has plowed into an iceberg at flank speed and the band is madly belting out “It’s a Small World After All” as the ship goes down. It’s a fucking circus of flying monkeys and murder clowns and burning tents full of screaming people trying to find the exit being trampled by trumpeting elephants with projectile diarrhea.
Apparently today was the day for the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) to vent his rage at Peter Strzok. It’s not that I would notice this, I don’t follow the OHM on Twitter. I see no need to follow him since the entire rest of the Twitterverse follows him and if he says anything of merit, I’m sure I’ll see it eventually.
Sadly, almost nothing he says on Twitter bears reading much less commenting on, but I’m still exposed to it repeatedly by outraged people all over the Twitterverse and beyond. Exposed to his tweets by people who want to open the eyes of the average American to the depths of depravity represented by the early-morning emissions of the OHM.
I’m pretty sure Average Americans have either gotten it by this point or they never will get it. However, when Trump picks on Peter Strzok for the umpteenth time over the course of months, only days after he’s been unjustly fired, I think it bears pointing out a few facts on the subject of this previously invisible man.
Peter Strzok is a counter-intelligence hero. I know that most people older than 30 think that the phrase counter-intelligence hero is an oxymoron, but he legitimately is a counter-intelligence hero. I really only need one salient fact to prove this point; and that fact is, he knows what a scumbag money-laundering businessman the OHM was and wasn’t afraid to voice this even before he was running for president.
Oh, you think I need more than that? Luckily I have more than that.
The above is a twenty-minute segment in which Rachel Maddow details exactly what Peter Strzok did on the job. His work was instrumental in exposing the real-life spies that the show The Americanswas based on. The FBI code named this the Illegals Program, and investigating it resulted in the exposing and indictment of ten different spies who had taken up residence in the US using false identification.
He was chief of the FBI’s Counterespionage Section and number two in the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division. He led the team of investigators in the Clinton classified email probe and led the FBI investigation into alleged Russian interference in the election. He was involved in the controversial anti-Trump “Steele dossier” used, in part, to obtain multiple secret wiretaps. He was the one who interviewed Trump adviser Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who pled guilty to lying to the FBI only to later learn that agents reportedly didn’t think he’d lied. And Strzok was the “top” FBI agent appointed to work on the team of special counsel Robert Mueller to investigate alleged Trump-Russia collusion.
His position, his history in successfully exposing Russian interference previously while working in the FBI lead naturally to his being appointed to lead the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election, investigations that have resulted in thirty-five successful indictments and guilty pleas at this point in the investigation. Who wants to bet that Paul Manafort won’t be the thirty-sixth? He did his goddamn job and he did his goddamn job to the best of his ability. He knew that the OHM was dirty because he recognized behavior patterns he had seen in others that he had investigated previously, and he had faith that the American people would never advance such a shallow, deceitful, conman to the office of the president.
Clearly his faith was misplaced. But that is a different story, one that I tell other places on this blog in gory fucking detail. So I don’t need to tell that story here. This article is about Peter Strzok, that flawed human being who had the misfortune to be assigned to the job of investigating the very same conman who would be given power over him. That invisible man, that hero of counter-intelligence, was fired a few days ago because the OHM wanted him fired. Because of the things that he said about the OHM and because of his position within the FBI that would have allowed him to continue investigating the OHM’s russian financial backers.
“I understand we are living in a political era in which insults and insinuation often drown out honesty and integrity,” Mr. Strzok said, continuing: “I have the utmost respect for Congress’s oversight role, but I truly believe that today’s hearing is just another victory notch in Putin’s belt and another milestone in our enemies’ campaign to tear America apart.” He concluded: “As someone who loves this country and cherishes its ideals, it is profoundly painful to watch and even worse to play a part in.”
If “money is speech” then requiring that there be no political contributions on the part of anybody is revoking their first amendment rights. Unconstitutional, just on the face of the proposal. But the problem really is that money may be speech, but political contributions are bribes, and the contributors know this just as well as the politicians do. Political operations should be funded by the government, directly. As a function of ensuring the best government we can get. Financial contributions accepted by a candidate or representative should be seen as the corruption that it is.
Now, this was specifically offered as a solution to yet another of the Orange Hate-Monkey’s rage-tweets about the witch hunt that was out to get him being biased against him. About investigators working for the justice department being free to voice their opinions through donations to political campaigns. In that light, this is just more smoke. it doesn’t help the problem in question and only obscures it more. I expect better service than this, Countable.
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 Mythsbrought me to tears. I recognized so many tropes from my own childhood. Things family members and friends both have uttered in my hearing. Things that I have been guilty of believing in the past. In this article I will take a more purposeful walk down that memory lane, painful as it is. I want to do this in the light of these discussions by scholars, writers and journalists.
…and I will start this journey of introspection with the writer/journalist Stephen Dubner and his podcast Freakonomics,
James Truslow Adams, born in 1878 to a wealthy New York family, became a financier and, later, an author. He won a Pulitzer Prize for a history of New England; and later he wrote a book called The Epic of America. Even though it was written during the Great Depression, Adams took a fundamentally bullish view of the United States.
His book was hugely popular, and as best as we can tell, it introduced the phrase “The American Dream.” Adams defined this as “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” The phrase caught on, and not just a little bit. Especially among our presidents…
…The Stanford economist Raj Chetty has been working with large data sets to try to understand why so many Americans are no longer living the American Dream. When it comes to economic opportunity, Chetty and his colleagues found huge regional and even local differences throughout the U.S.
As he told us, kids growing up in San Francisco have about twice the chance of living the American Dream as kids from just across the bridge, in Oakland. Why? One easy explanation would be that the people in those different areas are just different – they have different abilities, different cultures, different job opportunities. And that certainly has some explanatory power. But Chetty and his colleagues found the story isn’t that simple…
…This is hardly a new idea – that growing up in a poor neighborhood isn’t the best launching ground for economic success. This idea, in fact, led the Clinton Administration to experiment in the mid-1990s with a program called Moving to Opportunity.
Okay, so young kids who move out of a high-poverty neighborhood do much better later on. What, exactly, does this signify? What’s going on in the poor neighborhoods to depress income mobility and what’s going on in the better neighborhoods to increase it? Answering those questions has become a big part of Raj Chetty’s work.
The above hits the high points 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,
In a 5-part series called “Busted: America’s Poverty Myths,” On the Media picked apart numerous oft-repeated narratives about what it’s like to be poor in America. From Ben Franklin to a brutal eviction, Brooke gives us just a little taste of what she learned and shares a couple stories of the struggle to get ahead, or even just get by.
This episode features an excellent overview of the 5-part series; enough for the casually interested, but not enough for someone who remembers the shock of sudden poverty as a child. A now old man who lives in poverty due to illness, disability, a truly lackluster US economy, sexism/ageism in the workplace directed at the Wife, etc. But I don’t want to get ahead of the narrative, and discussing the particulars of my experience in poverty even in the general sense gets ahead of the introduction provided in the full five part series from On the Media.
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.”
The possession of land leads to wealth, if one is lucky enough to own the right piece of land at the right time. The Steele family in Wichita county, Kansas were those people. The fact of their ownership of land made them powerful within the township. The location near a then-growing town gave them a chance to sell off some of their property for cash, something that there is never enough of in any small town. People have to eat, after all. They have to have somewhere safe to sleep. All of this costs money in the modern economy, and the only way to get money is to work or be born into it. So I wasn’t born into poverty, at least.
I was born overseas to a father who was stationed there in the military, a mother who enjoyed being overseas for the first time but really didn’t enjoy the constraints of a military wife in the 60’s. She returned to the states not too long after my birth, and my father left the military as soon as his mandatory term of service was up. They returned to my father’s home on the high plains of Kansas as I mentioned. My father grew up in a little town named Leoti that would be so small you would miss it if you blinked, if only the main roads went anywhere near the place. My father’s family had settled there a few decades previously and Grampa had several thriving businesses in the town. One of those businesses was sold/given to my father when he left the military, and he settled down with my mother for the happily ever after that all young people believe in.
Did I say “happily ever after?” Yeah, that never showed up. Dad took to drinking a fifth of bourbon every single day as he struggled to deal with bringing in enough cash to support his growing family. Mother was unhappy because the family kept growing and her husband didn’t seem to be around much to help. The fighting got worse until it damaged the furnishings and frightened the children, and the divorce wasn’t long after that. Coming out of the 40’s and 50’s and the attitudes about women and families, the ridiculous notions of money and politics, wealth and poverty and the meaning of all these things all wrapped up together, the surprising part of this story is that some women put up with the way life was for them. They put up with it instead of leaving. Maybe they had better husbands?
The story of my pre-teen life was pretty common for the time. By the mid-70’s when the divorce happened fully half of all marriages went that way. Prior to World War Two women were expected to stay home, raise children and provide for the running of the household which encompassed pretty much everything you can imagine. Everything you can imagine, if you imagined a self-sufficient household operation that was a day’s horseback ride from the next nearest town, a train ride away from the nearest city with running retail businesses in it. A household without running water or electricity. That is what frontier life was like just two generations into the past for me, four generations now. My grandparents remembered towns without electricity, the introduction of indoor plumbing and the automobile.
Automobiles made the difference. This fact is spelled out in the heaps of rusted metal you can find dotting most older farmsteads. When the old car dies you leave it where it sits and buy another one, just as you did the tractor and the harvester. On the Wife’s family farm you can still see her dad’s first tractor, parked on the edge of the field where it died, rusting into nothing as the decades fly by. It still sits there even though the farm itself has changed hands twice since her mom sold it. Sold it because there just wasn’t any reason to keep it any longer.
We weren’t farmers. We were never going to sign up for that life. The automobile made city life bearable because you could live in the outskirts of the city and commute downtown for work. In the city you don’t need to make your own clothes, you can go to the store and buy them. You can go to the store and buy them, that is, if you have the money. Money has been the limiting factor imposed on the poor for longer than any of the now living can remember. Longer than those who came before us can remember. Further back than even our great-grandparents and their parents time.
Brooke meets Carla Scott, a young woman in Cleveland forced to sell her plasma for bus fare after a series of events derailed her life, as well as Carla’s nonagenarian grandmother, Grace, a hard-line believer in “personal responsibility.”
Personal responsibility or paying for every mistake you’ve made for your entire life. That would be costly, and hasn’t been my experience. This is the privilege of white skin in the United States. It certainly hasn’t been luck that has seen me through to now. I’ve told myself all my life I make my own luck. I make my own luck because 50/50 chances almost never fall my way. Even so, there are many behaviors that I have engaged in that would have resulted in imprisonment and probably death, had I been caught doing them while black.
While I was near homeless for a few years living in friend’s spare rooms and sleeping on enclosed porches, I never had to sell plasma. I didn’t have children of my own to tend to before I was ready largely because I knew what a pain children could be. That was one of the many lessons I learned being raised by a single mom.
The benefit of city living masques the machinery of poverty creation. Having everything you want or need available at a store for purchase makes the delusion of self-sufficiency seem quite real. Self sufficient, if you have the money to buy these things. Self sufficient, if you have work that pays money. I have always had work because I would do just about any job offered to me. White, young, male, with no tattoos and no piercings. This was important above all things; maintain the illusion of a fine, upstanding middle class status. That illusion kept me working.
Poverty waits for those who fail to maintain the illusion. Jobs that go to others. Careless sex that leads to children. Drug addiction. Tattoos and piercings that announce your rejection of white bread America. That inner-city poverty of slums and ghettos? The tattooed and the peirced? The drug addicted and the ne’er-do-well? That poverty that has moved out into the country from the cities. The rebellion that motivated the election of the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) was generated in rural America, in the persons of the last victims of a grinding poverty that has plagued the poorer neighborhoods of cities since their creation. I noted the rural American bellyaching rang hollow to me in the essay I named after him,
Listening to the people who attempt to defend their affinity for the Orange Hate-Monkey in the podcast isn’t helping. Oh poor, misunderstood me whining by rural whites strikes me as just this side of pathetic. As if urban blacks don’t have problems, haven’t had worse problems for the better part of two hundred years. The fact that the researchers on this podcast are so divorced from the truth of the matter, that the reality-disconnected people they have been interviewing actually turned out to be the ones who had the last laugh, that they got their American Psycho candidate on a collision course with the White House, in the face of the researcher’s own blithe belief that Hillary Clinton was a shoe-in for the presidency, isn’t helping with the surreality of this moment in time.
I know what grinding poverty looks like even though my experience with it was mercifully brief. That time was right after my parent’s divorce. For a time my mom made the best of life in rural Kansas. We got to keep the house. Dad moved into a trailer parked behind his service station. He managed to wrangle down his child support to $300 which wasn’t enough to cover the cost of keeping a roof over our heads, even though that roof had been home for as long as we could remember. Mom took her first job outside the house since going to college, a job teaching Head Start to Leoti preschoolers, a job that was taken from her because she didn’t have a teaching certificate. She left college to get married and had no saleable skills aside from homemaking, a job she couldn’t do anymore without a husband.
So mom remarried. He was a nice enough guy when we met in Leoti. As soon as we left Kansas and moved to Texas, the trouble started. The poverty got worse. Dad stopped paying the child support and only restarted it after mom sued him to get it. The stepdad started drinking heavily, and he was a mean drunk. There were a number of times where my mouth got me in trouble and I ended up on the floor. The last time I saw him was the day he brought another woman to the house. After watching him abuse my mother wordlessly for months, after being the victim of his abuse during that time, having him show up and flaunt his girlfriend in my mother’s face was too much. When mom sent us into the house and told us to hide, I waited behind a door I knew he would come through if he did come in for his stuff. I waited with a high vantage point and a heavy blunt object. I wanted to make sure that if the opportunity presented itself, there would be a near guarantee of killing him. I hated him that much.
Luckily for both of us, the opportunity never occurred. He left without his stuff. I was on a plane to stay with my father in Kansas within the week. Psychotherapy was part of that process. I was the lucky one. The luckiest of the four children who endured the stepfather. I had a room of my own in my father’s house. I had running hot water at the tap. I had a mother and father who were concerned for me. I never appreciated this fact, this blessing, until visiting my mother in Texas and seeing what hitching her cart to the stepfather’s wagon had wrought in the end.
The unlucky ones? They had one bed for the four of them to share. Mom went through another divorce, which means those three siblings went through it with her. The garage apartment they found in the tiny town they had ended up in didn’t have a reliable roof or much in the way of indoor plumbing. They had to heat water on the stove to fill the bathtub so that they all could bath each night. My mother had taken the next of dozens of jobs she would eventually hold, working the night shift running that blight of the American landscape, a convenience store. Virtually the only profitable business in yet another small town whose only claim to fame was being on the road to somewhere else.
When I saw how bad their living conditions were, I cried. We siblings then made the first of several pacts that followed over the years. After a few weeks of mutual badgering, our parents in their separate hostile camps were convinced to let the rest of the kids move back up with dad and his new wife. I didn’t appreciate having to share a bed with my brother again, but at least they had hot water to shower with. Television to watch. Decent schools to attend, back in the good old days, when Kansas still believed in investing in young people.
For the first time in my mother’s short life, she was free. No children to supervise. No husband to cook for or tend to. Free to try and advance her skills by returning to school. So she did that. She moved to a larger town in the area, a town called Sweetwater. It was a town with a school, a town big enough for a trade school, but not so big that it became expensive to live in. She took business classes and worked odd jobs. She was probably about as happy as she had ever been.
This happiness was short-lived. This is a section of the story that I wrote about at length here,
Dad had remarried, but found the chore of raising 5 unruly children too much to deal with so he sent us back to our mother in Texas to live. The 5 of us crammed ourselves into whatever housing she could afford on the wages for whatever jobs she could get.
…She just went back to working at fast food joints, bars and restaurants, the odd convenience store job as the demands for housing, clothes and food for her growing children required.
It was a point of pride to my mom that she never took food stamps. That she never had to go on welfare. Her memory is a bit more selective than mine. We may never have needed food stamps, but we certainly ate a lot of government bread and cheese. Drank a lot of government milk. I got a job as soon as I could after moving back in with mom. I knew even before she explained it to me, there was no way we’d survive if I wasn’t working. So I started sacking groceries and cleaning up at night at one of the two grocery stores in that mid-sized Texas town. I took a lot of food that the store was going to throw away home with me instead, one of the benefits of being the flunky who throws out the trash. We never went hungry, but that is just barely the truth.
I spent my senior year in high school as a stranger in a school I didn’t really want to attend. I preferred the Kansas schools of the time. Kansas’ investment in higher education (now abandoned) Kansas’ belief in better times ahead (ditto) Texas was meaner. Texas was harsher both in climate and attitude. That mythical Southern hospitality is the velvet glove over the iron fist of crony capitalism and repressive social structures designed to keep the poor in their place.
I attended the same trade school my mom had moved to Sweetwater to attend and I made the best of the illusions I had been fed as a child. That I could be whatever I wanted to be. That I had no limitations. That all I had to do was work hard and I would make the grade. That I could live happily ever after, too.
In the third installment of our series, “Busted: America’s Poverty Myths,” we take on one of our country’s most fundamental notions: that America is a land of equal opportunity and upward mobility for all. And we ask why, in spite of a wealth of evidence to the contrary, does this idea persist?
With the help of historian Jill Lepore, Brooke traces the history of the “rags to riches” narrative, beginning with Benjamin Franklin, whose 18th century paper manufacturing business literally turned rags into riches. We hear from Natasha Boyer, a young Ohio woman who was saved from eviction by a generous surprise from strangers… only for the miracle to prove fleeting. And we consider the efficacy of “random acts of kindness” and the fateful role of luck — where you’re born, and to whom — in determining success.
Much like Benjamin Franklin in reality, as detailed in this segment of the story, I moved away from the family that was a drag on my ability to succeed on my own. Their poverty making my poverty that much harder to ignore, that much harder to escape. After a brief, heartbreaking few months trying to establish myself in Kansas back living with my father, trying to make good on promises made to a girlfriend I had left in Kansas and failing at that rather spectacularly, I returned to Texas and moved up the road from Sweetwater to Abilene for a brief time, living on my own. Like everyone who transitions to life on their own, that was quite a shock. I think it was the month driving on a leaky tire because I couldn’t afford a new one that brought home just how hard it was going to be to make the grade. Just how remote the possibility that happily ever after might ever occur.
“It’s alright to tell a man to lift himself by his own bootstraps, but it is cruel jest to say to a bootless man that he ought to lift himself by his own bootstraps.”
It was while living in Abilene that I noticed that I effectively had no boots and thusly no bootstraps to draw myself up by. I had limited education, most of which I provided for myself through voracious reading. I clearly had a problem producing work in my chosen profession, a barrier that I had never realized was mine alone until that time. There was no one with money in my immediate family. I knew no one in Abilene aside from co-workers at jobs I no longer had, and I wore out their welcomes in pretty short order. I even had to borrow mom’s pride and joy, the first new car she had ever bought for herself, just to get myself out of the rut I’d made in Abilene and move myself to a new, hopefully more promising locale, San Angelo.
It was in San Angelo that I met the Wife, working at one of the many odd jobs that came my way. It was there that I dragged the rest of my Texas family, after I finally found a job that paid money and had rented a house that would fit all of them. It was there that all of them eventually went to college. It was a long, hard struggle even getting to that level, the level where I felt I could attempt to repay a debt to my mother that I knew I still owed. But I was still poor, just not as poor as I had been. In order to not be poor I knew I was going to have to find a bigger city. Bigger cities require more architecture, more planning, more design, and I knew that was a demand that I could help satisfy if I could just get there.
In the fourth installment of our series “Busted: America’s Poverty Myths,” we examine the strengths and shortcomings of our nation’s safety net. Government assistance does help lift millions out of poverty each year — indeed, without it, poverty would be twice as high — but those in the most dire circumstances often slip through the cracks.
With the help of Linda Tirado, author of Hand to Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America, and Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City, we consider how anti-poverty programs can actually keep people poor and offer little hope for a way out.
Also, Brooke meets Margaret Smith, a Columbus woman made homeless after a violent crime derailed the life she’d carefully built with her six children. And we visit an Athens County food pantry that provides not just meals to the community, but also school supplies, clothing, furniture, job training, home repairs, disaster relief…even burial plots.
In the city there is no illusion about the temporariness of prosperity, of hearth and home. If there is any real difference between city life and country life, it is the illusion of permanence that country life affords. In the city you pay by the month for everything including hearth and home. You never stop paying for anything, ever. New cars, bigger houses, longer commutes, more roads, taller buildings, denser usage. The city is a meatgrinder, and the meat it grinds is human. Best not to watch it happen if you have a weak stomach.
It’s true, there are more opportunities in the city if you can afford to go there and look for them. I took that leap almost thirty years ago now. Left what I see now as a quiet little town of a hundred thousand people; ten times the size, and more, of my hometown of Leoti at its peak. Austin boasts more than a million citizens now. if you incorporate its far-flung suburbs, there is something closer to two million people who work and live here because of Austin being here and pretty much for no other reason. It certainly isn’t for the weather, which is Texas hot nine months out of the year.
There is a little joke in Austin that if you move here and don’t have allergies, wait five years. You’ll have them, just wait. I had allergies before moving here and I never intended to stay here. Fate has kept me here, year after year in spite of my intentions to leave as soon as I was assured of an ability to provide for my family. I was ill before I got to Austin, and my illness has gotten worse every year I’ve been here. The symptoms which had no name eventually got so bad that I found a name for them, Meniere’s. Finding that my symptoms had a name is the only reason I’m alive to write this uplifting little post today. Having a name for what keeps me from working is what gets me disability payments that kept my now-grown children fed while they were still growing. The disability made me worth more alive than dead; so I’ve kept living, to the consternation of many.
Disability isn’t a carefree life of freedom and bliss. Ill health is generally hard to endure even without the grinding poverty that accompanies it in most cases. The poverty is inflicted on those of ill-health by the system itself, not as a function of their relative worth. The cost of treating illness is itself a function of building the wealth of countless millions of healthcare professionals, people who would be as poor as I am without people like me coming to them for treatment. Without Social Security and Medicare paying my bills, I’d have taken my own life years ago. All those thousands spent to educate my children, house, clothe and feed them, would never have existed. Their promising careers, the careers of my Texas family who went to college because I brought them somewhere that had a college, all of the people who benefitted in some way from the work that I’ve done if not by the simple existence of my health issues, none of them would be where they are now had I simply not existed. Had I been cast aside like the poster-waving homeless visible on every city street corner in the US.
Nothing hits so hard for me as being in my car pulling up to an intersection, and having someone come to me with their hand out. I can’t look because I know that if I give in to my desire to help everyone around me, I will soon be the one standing on the street corner holding a sign. See to your own needs first, as any properly trained triage attendant knows. You can’t help others if you end up needing help yourself. I have clung to the top edge of a vertical drop into non-existence for more than a decade now. Every single cent of every dollar spent in the last ten years having to be justified in some way. Kicking myself for ever frivolously spending anything in the years that I had money, not realizing that those years would be the briefest of all.
When reporting on poverty, the media fall into familiar traps and pundits make prescriptions that disregard the facts. So, in the fifth and final installment of our series, “Busted: America’s Poverty Myths,” we present a Breaking News Consumer’s Handbook: Poverty in America Edition. It’ll equip you with the tools to spot shoddy reporting and the knowledge to identify coverage with insight.
With help from Jack Frech, former Athens County welfare director; Kathryn Edin, co-author of $2.00 A Day: Living on Almost Nothing in America; Greg Kaufmann, editor of TalkPoverty.org; Matthew Desmond, author of Evicted: Poverty and Profit in the American City; and Linda Tirado, author of Hand To Mouth: Living in Bootstrap America.
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.
Tell me: how your life has changed, for better or for worse, since Donald Trump became president. How has Trump’s administration affected you personally as opposed to society in general? Be specific and try to avoid hyperbole.
I’d like to take just a minute to explain how unnecessary this kind of detailing of the impacts of bad leadership truly is before I get into just how my life has changed for the worse since the OHM took office. The president is frequently given both credit and blame for things that are completely divorced from the actions that he takes, and yet the effects of a president’s actions or inaction can be felt by everyone in the world today, not just the residents of the United States of America. But the credit and/or blame as well as the actions have little to do with the outcomes themselves unless the authorizing legislation was crafted by the White House itself, and the President himself has a hand in making sure that the program in question is executed properly.
A case in point is the FEMA debacle of Katrina during the Bush II years, a failure of preparedness that Barack Obama avoided for his entire eight years in office having learned from W’s mistakes. Only to have the OHM return to the bad old days of political appointments to FEMA and the resulting catastrophe in Puerto Rico that continues to the time of this writing. W can be credited for learning from his mistake with hurricane Katrina and New Orleans, with the OHM steadfastly refusing to admit the reality of the massive death toll exacted on Puerto Rico because of his FEMA’s bungling of relief efforts and his general disdain for all brown-skinned people. These are examples of outcomes that can be laid directly at the feet of the occupant of the White House because FEMA management or lack of management is directly linked to White House control.
The OHM is quick to take credit for low unemployment numbers and continued economic growth, while carefully avoiding the subject of his predecessor’s actions and how those actions set up the rosy outcomes that he takes credit for now. Never is the fact that unemployment numbers are completely made up statistics that have almost no bearing on whether or not the average American can find work at any given time discussed. Never is the fact that growth statements are similarly jiggered admitted to, either. And it is the subject of the job numbers that brings me to how the OHM has made my life worse, directly. The Wife can’t find a job in this terrible job climate, and no amount of hype about how good the economy is on Wall Street will change this very simple fact. The Wife can’t maintain her health insurance because the OHM and his supporters in the Justice department and congress have derailed efforts to see universal healthcare coverage extended to all Americans. And without a job she has extremely limited ability to pay for her own healthcare. My wife is no different than millions of other Americans similarly affected by conservative rejection of universal health coverage here in the US. The most vivid display of the error in believing that life is a zero sum game.
His crackdown on migrant workers entering the US has caused shortages in manpower throughout the food production industry, resulting in higher prices and scattered availability for some produce and meats in some areas. I can’t say for sure if the price spikes I’m seeing at the grocery checkout are the direct result of the OHM’s actions on immigration, but I dare anyone to try to explain how hand-picked vegetables can get picked without migrant labor to do the job. Migrant labor that is under the greatest pressure I’ve ever seen applied to the poor people who do the majority of that work.
Similarly, his grifting our trading partners, shaking them down for bribes before allowing them to do business in America, has a broad negative impact not only on the well-being of today’s Americans, but also damages the potentials for the next generation of Americans. How will an isolated America fare in the future? We’d better start trying to figure this out now, because it will take a generation or more to pass before our trading partners will be persuaded that we won’t turn on them again as the OHM has. His tariffs on steel and aluminum will be exacting a price on American pocket books long after we’ve removed the OHM from office.
His pandering to dictators like Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping leave me with little doubt that he will be ass-kissing Kim Jong-un if that meeting ever actually happens. His debasing of America destroys the reputations of all Americans, making us all look like weak-willed individuals unwilling to stand up to international bullies like Putin. Since his family personally profits from these arrangements with dictators, he has no inclination to think of the greater good that might be achieved. If Kim Jong-un agrees to let him build a Trump tower in Pyongyang, I have no doubt that the OHM will find a way to let him keep his nuclear arsenal. He might even give him plans for American weapons in exchange for a sweetheart deal. Who’s to say what level of betrayal is beneath him if there is personal profit involved? I can’t imagine that he would balk at selling Ivanka into sex slavery if there was a buck to be made from it.