The Amazon/Ubik Conundrum

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.

You Are Receiving This Broadcast As A Dream | Prince of Darkness (1987)

Hell hath no fury like a woman scorned

The Mourning Bride, by William Congreve

…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?

#MAGA: Disrespecting the Flag

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.

David Brown’s intro to the Texas Standard, September 29, 2017

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.

For the purposes of historical context, there is a disagreement rampaging between the players of professional football and their right to protest, and the sitting Birther-in-Chief, the Orange Hate-Monkey (OHM) who has decided that the political speech of football professionals is more important than seeing that Puerto Rico gets the hurricane relief it needs. I have determined that this is the real problem being covered up by the OHM because he hasn’t mentioned Puerto Rico once since hurricane Maria hit the island and left it without water or power (editor’s note: this was after Puerto Rico had survived Hurricane Irma a few weeks earlier) The OHM has tweeted about taking a knee in protest during the pre-game tradition of standing for the US national anthem. He’s tweeted about the subject several times. This distraction from his failure to relieve the suffering of Puerto Ricans didn’t help him get Luther Strange elected to the Senate, but you can’t win them all.

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.

Stonekettle Station, Respect: Colin Kaepernick – The Extended Cut

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, Anatomy of an Outrage, September 28, 2017

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.

On The Media, The Star-Spangled Banner: A Radical History, September 28, 2017

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.

On The Media, What’s Going on in Puerto Rico?, September 28, 2017

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.

Matt Orfalea – Why Colin Kaepernick Took a Knee (US Army Veteran, Nate Boyer) – Oct 9, 2017

Here is Orf’s Patreon page, if you feel like supporting his work. There are still people without power in Puerto Rico today, one year after writing this. Ponder that fact, as you sit fuming at the kneeling football players you see on your television set.


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.

Guardian News – ‘I can think of nothing more American’: Beto O’Rourke responds to question on NFL protests – Aug 22, 2018

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.

TEXAS STANDARD, BETO O’ROURKE’S VIRAL VIDEO RENEWS DEBATE OVER NFL PLAYERS TAKING A KNEE IN PROTEST, August 24, 2018

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.

Reuters, Kaepernick ads spark boycott calls

People are supposedly burning their Nike gear in protest as a result of this ad campaign. I’ve never owned Nike gear because I’m poor. I’ve never paid more than $40 for a pair of shoes and I doubt I ever will. If you are dumb enough to spend $200 on a pair of Nike shoes just so you can burn them, Nike will happily sell you a pair. I may not know much, but I’ll stake my reputation on that fact. 

#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. 

Is a Pit Bull a Semi-Automatic?

David Gerrold posted this image to his wall on Facebook. Now, while I am sympathetic to people who love their pets almost more than they love their children, the fact is that Pit Bulls are not a breed. The fact is that Pit Bulls, the square-headed, short-legged, bulky dogs that people think of when they think Pit Bull, were bred to fight other dogs. That is what the name Pit Bull means. Animal fights traditionally occured in a pit, and the square-headed fighting dogs were variants of the full-sized bulldog, a dog that was bred specifically for the sport of Bull-baiting. These dogs were bred to be violent, and the Pit Bull variant was bred specifically to attack other dogs. I have lost a dog to a Pit Bull attack, myself (I go into this in the article Rescues. Editor) so I can speak first-hand about the violence of dogs bred to attack other dogs. These are not the musings of someone who is just afraid of dogs. Some dogs breeds are quite violent, and you should be wary of strange dogs and understand the individual behavior and pack behavior of dogs if you want to avoid becoming a dog-bite statistic. My original comment went something like this,

More pit bulls are involved in human deaths than any other breed. (Along with Rottweilers, they make up 67% of dog bite deaths.) Pits are involved in 92% of the reports of dogs killed by dogs and 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 of owning and controlling a Pit Bull.

Another commenter on that image 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. Stats show Chihuahuas bite the most. They are snappy little things, personal experience confirms this fact, but Terriers bite hard and they bite repeatedly. 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. Retrievers were bred for bringing game back to a hunter while out on a hunt. Rottweilers and Huskies were bred to pull sledges and to act as guard dogs.

Pit Bulls, like full-sized Bulldogs, were bred for animal fighting. I don’t need to go over that again. I could, but I won’t. Each of these breeds requires understanding of the breeds tendencies, the health problems of each specific breed, if you are going to be a responsible pet owner. Pretending that a dog that was bred to bite is more gentle than a dog that was bred to retrieve game without biting it is to deny the baseline nature of each dog breed.

All dogs can be violent.

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 the 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.

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. They want the dog(s) to be dangerous to other dogs and 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 Bulls 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.

This article was inspired by a comment to one of David Gerrold’s Facebook posts. A comment he has since deleted. It’s probably also the reason he unfriended me and why I can no longer comment on his posts. Them’s the breaks sometimes.

Improper Takings

One of the segments on the Texas Standard today caught my ear,

TEXAS STANDARD – FORT BEND COUNTY SUES US ARMY CORPS OF ENGINEERS OVER HARVEY-RELATED FLOODING

[Fort Bend County Judge Robert Hebert] says the reservoir was built in such a way that overspill and flooding of private property was inevitable. “It should be quite obvious when the federal property ends at an elevation of 95 feet and the emergency spillway for the reservoir is at 107 feet, something’s wrong.”

Texas Standard

I’m not sure how the host of the show was confused by the math in that statement, but doing the math you come to the answer of twelve feet of water being stored on private property when the reservoir is at 100% capacity. This fact should have been evident in the original designs of the reservoir, as I’m sure the County Judge knows. The original construction documents would have these measurements on them.

Anyone buying property behind the dam would have been advised that their property was located in a flood plain, could be subject to flooding if the reservoir was filled to capacity. There are many homes located in floodplains like this everywhere across Texas at least. Probably across the US if not the entire world. If this fact wasn’t disclosed to prospective buyers before they signed contracts, then there is quite a bit of liability there to go around. Not just the corps of engineers, but the county, the developers, the mortgage lenders, the realtors who sold the property, etc. I suspect that there are going to be a lot of lawsuits filed over this in the coming months. At least 3100 of them, possibly a multiple of that number depending on how wealthy the landowners are, and how many governmental bodies had jurisdiction over the property being sold.

I think the county is trying to avoid being sued themselves, that’s how I read this. It’s hard to get a lawsuit to stick against a county when that county is already engaged in a lawsuit against the governmental body, the Army Corps of Engineers, that is responsible for constructing a reservoir that was designed to store twelve feet of water on private land in the first place. Proving the county knew this fact beforehand should be a simple matter of discovery. So I’m not sure how well this defensive action will work, but I wish the county luck.

This entire mess is proof positive that you should take the time to read your contracts before signing them. Have an attorney read them over for you, at the very least. It blows my mind the number of people who just sign contracts without understanding the liability they are assuming in putting their signature on a document that they haven’t read. 

Beef’s Beef With Beef

The U.S. Cattlemen’s Association (USCA) filed a 15-page petition with the USDA to prevent products from being labeled as “meat” or “beef” unless they’re made from a slaughtered animal.

Countable.us

So what is it if it’s genetically bovine muscle tissue if not beef? I want someone to explain to me how beef isn’t beef if it tests out as beef? This is the most transparent attempt to manipulate markets that I’ve seen since the tobacco industry stood up and said their products were not dangerous or addictive. That was a lie, and pretending beef is not beef is also a lie.

I have been and remain anxious to be in the front line of consumers for this product. It’s a product that is good for the environment. It’s a product that removes the suffering of animals raised for food completely from the equation. Because it is only muscle cells, there is no chance of gut bacteria getting mixed in with the meat causing costly recalls and deadly food poisoning outbreaks.

#WeThePeople LIVE EP 113. ARTIFICIAL MEAT

Editor’s Note: I hate that show title. It ain’t artificial, it’s just meat. Also Josh Zepps has apparently abandoned his We The People Live podcast (WeThePeople LIVE on Twitter) Give me a heads up if you run across where he’s hosting the show on the web these days.

And if the whole truth were told on this subject, we have no choice. The increase in protein demand from a more affluent world population will require us to produce meat in this fashion if we can ever hope to feed everyone while not destroying the environment. Do not fall for the natural fallacy and believe cows are natural and lab meat is artificial. Cows were modified by man to be what they are today. Lab meat is simply the next step in that process.

What we need to be thinking about is not what we call meat that is grown from animals we recognize in the field, but rather what names we will apply to the kinds of cultured meat that will appear after this technology is accepted. If you blend genomes to heighten taste and (for example) remove allergens like alpha gal from the product, it won’t be beef or pork any longer. It will still be muscle tissue (meat) but what kind of meat that would be part of what kind of animal that has never been seen in the wild or on the farm? That is the real quandary.

In any case, the meat producers must not be allowed to try to alienate the consumer from this new food supply, altering the playing field to suit themselves and not the entirety of humanity on the planet as the oil companies and tobacco companies and the sugar industry has done in the past. This needs to be put to rest now so that consumers can be assured that they are getting what they pay for and that no business can blow smoke up consumers butt with fake claims of natural and organic. As if  food you can digest isn’t organic. As if feedlots and slaughterhouses are natural. Do not fall for that kind of bull because you will get the bullshit along with it, and what is in bullshit can kill you.

Texas Standard, WHAT SHOULD WE CALL LAB-GROWN MEAT? By Michael Marks, July 23, 2018 12:45 pm

The Key to Ending Mass Shootings?

How will you shoot dozens of people if your gun doesn’t reload itself?

The Washington Post

If you want law enforcement to predict the future without violating your rights, without taking away all the guns, without turning America into an science fiction dystopian nightmare, you HAVE to give them the tools to do the job.

Stonekettle Station
Continue reading “The Key to Ending Mass Shootings?”

An Increasingly Isolated Orange Hate-Monkey

New York Times

Today’s Sunday talk shows reveal Republicans are distancing themselves from Trump:

Sen. Marco Rubio: “If any president tries to impede an investigation — any president, no matter who it is — by interfering with the F.B.I., yes, that would be problematic. It would be not just problematic. It would be, obviously, a potential obstruction of justice that people have to make a decision on.”

Rep. Jason Chaffetz: “You would like, I would think, the president to kind of beat him [Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov] over the head with the fact that, if they actually did interfere in any way, shape or form, how wrong that is and how outraged America is on both sides of the aisle.”

Sen. John McCain: “I don’t know how to read [Trump’s remarks about shutting down the investigation], except that I’m almost speechless because I don’t know why someone would say something like that.” And Lavrov “had no business in the Oval Office.”

As Trump’s polls slide, keep particular watch on Republicans from states Hillary Clinton won in 2016 or Obama won in 2012. They’ll join in opposition to Trump.

What do you think? – Robert Reich on Facebook

They are rats leaving a sinking ship. It’s just too bad that the GOP put him in power in the first place. I don’t think their tactical retreat will do them much good; or rather, I hope they don’t profit from it. They don’t deserve it, they backed him solidly right up to this point and now, Now, NOW that he’s admitted impeding an investigation into his and his campaign’s actions, NOW they think this presidency is questionable.

So the targeting of hispanics and muslims wasn’t bad enough? The scapegoating of the poor wasn’t disqualifying enough? The bragging that he could kill people in the street and he would still win wasn’t troubling enough? The evidence that he is a sexual predator wasn’t damning enough?

Now he fires Comey and brags that he told him to lay off the investigation, the investigation that he insisted was fake news since day one, so this isn’t surprising behavior, and NOW they have a problem.

Well, welcome to the club, dumbasses. Wipe the drool off your collective chins and try to pay attention. Caveat Emptor.

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The Fourth Estate

Trump, Clinton Voters Divided in Their Main Source for Election News

According to a new study by the Pew Research Center, 40 percent of Trump voters got their news about the election from Fox News (in distant second place was CNN at 8 percent, and the rest mainly from social media).

Clinton voters got 18 percent of their political news from CNN, 9 percent from MSNBC, 5 percent from the New York Times, and only 3 percent from Fox (the rest from an assortment of networks, local news, radio, and social media).

Fox News – especially Trump surrogate Sean Hannity – delivered a steady stream of pro-Trump infomercials. If America still has the “fairness rule” that used to require media to be truly fair and balanced, Fox would be out of business.

What do you think?

Robert Reich, January 19, 2017

I think we need to destroy political machines wherever they are, whatever they are. Political machines are a barrier to democracy because they supplant the will of the people for their agendas, which the leadership of the machine thinks is important.

News reporting should simply be held to a truthful/useful standard (which FOX would also fail) because any other standard introduces a bias that is unnecessary. There are not just two sides to political arguments and this is true across the board.  It is long past time we started dismantling the machines that have grown up around the framework that was established with the constitution; machines that no longer serve the purpose they were established for.  Machines like party primaries. Party-favoriting rules in legislatures. Party-backed campaigns.

There are new ways and new machines that we need to build so that we can introduce the vast majority of the US population to actual governmental involvement. The old machines are only going to get in the way.

Journalism needs to be governed by a professional organization empowered to police their ranks in much the same way that the AMA licenses Doctors, the AIA governs the practice of Architecture. State bars govern the practice of law. This has been my opinion for a very, very long time. There is no organization which can establish truth standards in reporting that organizations can be held to if they want to qualify as legitimate news outlets, and there really needs to be.  This has never been clearer in history than it is right now.

How journalists go about governing themselves is a question I’d like to see journalists discuss. What will work? What won’t work? What kind of standards would they be able to establish and enforce? Should be an interesting discussion.

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Monsanto Defrauded Investors, Court Rewards Executive?

Reuters

The Securities and Exchange Commission has fined Monsanto $80 million for defrauding investors by misstating its earnings and awarded more than $22 million to the former Monsanto executive who blew the whistle and tipped off the SEC.

Sounds fair until you realize the $80 million penalty mainly hurt Monsanto shareholders, some of whom were defrauded by Monsanto’s earnings misstatement. And the $22 million award goes to an executive whose own pay was likely pumped up by the fraud.

Unless and until the government begins to hold executives personally liable for corporate misdeeds, those misdeeds will continue.

What do you think? – Robert Reich on Facebook

This is a drop in the bucket compared to the big problem businesses, like the banks. I don’t see boards being held accountable anytime soon. More likely would be the revising of corporate law to constrain corporate practices in particular ways; say limiting maximum compensation to some multiple of the lowest paid worker, or requiring the corporation to spend x% of gross revenues on charitable works.

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