Politics. On Democracy, and Centrism. 02.13.2020

The party shifted to the center after the single term of President Jimmy Carter. Carter was held to a single term in large part because he was undermined by the apparatus within Government, specifically within the GOP that wanted a figurehead who would read the lines as written, and not get in the way of the machine.
 
The President they wanted was Ronald Reagan.

George HW Bush wanted too much to lead, and interfere in the desires of those who controlled the party and the party didn’t like that, so he was held to one term.

George W Bush returned the GOP to a Presidency in which he just read the lines and signed the bills, while the apparatus behind the scenes ran the machine, promoted the wars, and subverted the policy to enrich the few.

 
The Democratic Party then decided it needed money to fight this, it needed the resources of Corporate America and to gain those resources, there would be a cost.
 
The Centrist wing of the party coalesced behind that idea, and the policy of Centrist Democracy in large part led by Bill Clinton took hold.
 
Unions were abandoned or pushed back on the priority list.
 
Donations accepted from banks, hospital corporations, pharmaceutical companies, heath insurance companies, real estate developers, and private prison companies, technology companies and the news and entertainment industries and the parties’ platform adjusted to accommodate their new “friends.”
 
Obama was more or less a Centrist as well, and believed that corporations needed to continue to be part of the solution, even as they lobbied behind his back, undermined his plans, took all the aid he had to offer and as quickly as they could, made sure most of it wound up in the hands of the wealthy.
 
Wealthy people tend to stay wealthy because they can’t seem to let go of money once they have hold of it.
 
There are drawbacks to being a Centrist.
 
The center of the political spectrum is not a fixed point, and the GOP discovered it can easily be moved to their benefit by pushing forward a few extremists to scream and yell, and in order to appear moderate, the Centrists adjust their position.
 
Since there was nobody being listened to on the Left as the center chased the money, the party was dragged to the Right, and the Left and eventually the Left-Center voices ignored as the Democratic party became “Republican Light.”
 
The Democratic Party ignored the Unions, went along with “Right to Work” bills, took the caps off interest rates which allowed the lenders with fees and penalties to almost double the profits on credit card debt, made renegotiating or going bankrupt on student loans nearly impossible and started reducing the amounts available on Pell Grants and were OK with the cost of education ever climbing.
 
We voted along with school choice bills which undermined public education funding.
 
We went along with crimes bills and OK’d 3-strikes sentencing guidelines, and harsher sentencing for crack cocaine.
 
Now, as we look back at the effects of going along with the Center of the Party, about half of the country feels abandoned by both parties since they no longer serve the people. They serve their donors and ignore the needs of the people.
 
The Democratic Party needs to return to its platform that serves the people.
 
We need stronger Unions, and it needs to be easier to form Unions.
 
Right to Work laws need to be repealed. It needs to be difficult for an employer to fire someone without just cause, and employees need not be at the mercy of their employers anymore.
 
It needs to be clear that the most valued part of a company is not its shareholders, its board, or its executives.
 
The most valuable part of a company is its labor. You can’t make anything, keep track of the receipts, or serve your customers without it.
 
It also needs to be realized that your employees do not dream of your success. They do not and should not devote their lives to the job and you as a corporate leader cannot expect that from your labor. They are there to do a job. If you have a dream that you need labor to fulfill, you need to be able to pay the people who work for you enough so they can take care of themselves, including having money left over for their dreams to be fulfilled.
 
We need a social safety net in this country.

When our country was at its strongest, these ideals were in place.

 
Technology will displace people and there needs to be care taken of folks who are left behind. We can’t just abandon people, or expect them to incur huge debt retraining for the new economy, because frankly, some folks can’t be expected to be constantly in school. Some folks are not suited for that. There needs to be a safety net to catch people and right now we don’t have one. Not really. Its been cut away and borrowed against by both sides of the political spectrum to the point now that its a very real possibility for those paying Social Security taxes that there will be no payout for them when they come of age to need it.
 
Businesses and the wealthy, despite their desire to cling to their wealth need to be encouraged to pay taxes as a part of being good citizens, and to try if possible to keep labor here in the US, and to allow other countries to use their labor to grow their nations, instead of the constant chase to the bottom, to find labor at its cheapest price so that goods can be exported into the US market, and profits off-shored to tax havens to be hoarded. 
 
Where we are now, the wealthy hoard their wealth. The middle classes are squeezed by expenses and have no money to pursue their dreams. The poor are so exhausted from scrambling from job to piece of a job, they are neglecting their health and well being to survive, in the vain hope that if they work harder, someday they won’t have to, and then injury and old age comes along with the reality of that lie.
 
We need to reverse course from where we are now and return to what the Democratic Party used to be if we want this country to survive.

https://www.politico.com/magazine/story/2018/11/04/elections-2018-democrats-history-liberal-progressive-socialist-222187

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Politics. Employment. A Tiny Grain of Sand. 1.19.2020

Sometimes you have to work for people who are less than honorable to keep the lights on.


Sometimes integrity is a luxury that people with resources can afford, and the rest of us wish we could.


But for those of us once stuck in that machine, and those of us now “free,” but much more poor and wounded for the experience, there for me was once a comforting thought I had after it was confirmed I was losing that job.

There was a young man who had been in a similar job within the same company for years. He saw the work I did and occasionally came to me to ask how was I able to design for causes and people I found detestable.
I confessed to him, some things I created made me physically ill. Pounding headaches and nausea and I had to sit in the dark to create them and try not to be eaten up by disgust and self hatred.

But two things allowed me to get through it.

Reserving funds from their work and donating to the opposite cause.

…and being a grain of sand in the machine.

I did my work and provided quality design but often on one of my comps, I designed in the truth they wished to hide, and if you were looking for it, you could see it. In meetings, I would ask the questions that would make the project managers realize the people we were trying to mislead were our family and friends, and the energy in the room would drop, and I’d forward ideas on how we could do that, each with a tiny grain of sand.

A grain of sand is tiny. It really can’t do much but be subtly annoying, but over time, that grain of sand can ruin the smooth working of machines.

I told him, if you find yourself in the same position, keep yourself alive, but find a way to lodge a tiny grain of sand in the machine.

You’ll be surprised at how this can alleviate despair.

So the end came a year ago or so, and I packed my things, and declined to go out for that final drink, because I said my goodbyes to those I liked, and it was a bridge too far to ask me to smile and be kind to those I really detested, so I put my things in my car, and despaired on the drive home since I knew it was going to be harder to keep the lights on.

I was underemployed for almost 7 months, doing everything from delivering booze, to taking small design jobs from friends who probably could have done the thing themselves.

Friends took care of me in big and small ways and to those friends I am grateful and often feel amazed and undeserving of their kindness and care.

More clients came. Not quite the same as before and never as much money as before but the lights stayed on.

…and occasionally I hear from the other designers each inside their own machines in various degrees, occasionally asked to make the thing that kills their souls just a little bit to keep the lights on.

…and I remember the little grains of sand.

So I told him my secret, and he smiled a smile that should never be on a face so young, so I know he understood me.

So, if you are stuck inside a company, and they ask for the thing that is detestable and you do not have the privilege to fight openly or decline, focus your despair, your rage, your disappointment. Distill it down to a tiny point, no bigger than a grain of sand. Do the best you can so you can keep the lights on, but make sure that grain of sand makes it into the machine.

Because a grain of sand is tiny. But too many of them over time degrade and eventually destroy the machine.

…and in doing so, in feeling a little less futile maybe you can save yourself.
Sometimes my rants on here are like little grains of sand…

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The 400 Dollar Apple Juice

Apples-11-19-19
I bought some apples about a week ago from Costco, and wasn’t quite ready to make pies yet, but I had a craving for some apple juice.
 
I usually tend to stay away from the store bought kind because its really not a lot of apple and mostly sugar, and the 100% juice kinds are rarely all apple juice. They usually add some other juice in like white grape or something and I when I want apple juice, I want apple juice.

Yeah, I know, but its how I am.

 
I also get a bit of an itch in my throat when I eat apple skin. Its not full on throat closure or a major allergic reaction, but as I get older and allergies pop up at the strangest times, I tend to peel my apples before I juice them. I tend not to drink cider for the same reason. Probably losing a lot of nutritional value taking off the peels. 
 
Didn’t care. Wanted apple juice.
 
I bought a juicer. Used to have one in the attic but that went out in a purge two years ago and a smaller, less painful to take apart one now sits in the kitchen waiting for a craving that I’ve had for about a year and use maybe a couple times a month?
 
So I peeled three of two kinds of apples, honeycrisp and snap dragon, cut and cored them, popped them into the juicer and had a tall, slightly frothy glass of delicious juice sprinkled lightly with nutmeg like fancy people do.
 
I really should have just thrown the peels in the trash.
 
I really should have emptied the compost pail but it was rainy and I was lazy.
 
I really should not have put apple peels down the Insinkerator.
 
…but I did.
 
I tend to cook with fats that go solid under cool temperatures and while most of the fats go into my belly, some residual does occasionally go down the sink, chased by lots of dish soap and hot water, but doing that still coats the insides of your pipes and when it gets colder, those pipes get narrowed with built up grease, usually remedied by hot vinegar or lemon juice sent down the drains, but again, lazy.
 
Then there were the cocktail darts from a few months ago.

They look like fancy blowdarts made of metal, and look really cool garnishing a well-crafted cocktail.

 
One found its way out of the dish rack and into the disposal unit and made really ugly sounds when I flipped the switch.
 
I was able to extricate the dart with pliers and just a little blood sacrificed from scraped knuckles, and the unit still worked, but was a lot more rattle and hum than it used to be and probably didn’t cut the bits of food up as fine.
 
I bought a standby disposal last year and stuck it in the pantry, waiting for the day of the big failure, so I could get under the sink and replace it.

This house is old, and apparently flippers or amateur contractors got in at some point and rather than installing iron pipes with eased curves, they went with PVC, and some pretty impractical pipe joins.

So there have been clogs before and usually I was able to work them free.

But apparently ground up apple peels running down a narrowed pipe during the first good cold snap of the season made for perfect conditions to lock that pipe down.

So I replaced the dispose-all. Works lovely. Nice quiet whirr.

Nope.

Checked the P-trap (curved pipe headed toward the wall).

All clear P trap, but clog is still down there somewhere.

So, I tried hot water.

Nope.

baking soda and vinegar and hot water.

Lots of fizz, but NOPE.

Then the noxious chemicals from the clog aisle came home on 5 separate degrading trips to the local Lowes. The clog aisle with the plumbing supplies is terrifying. There’s lots of chemicals that should never be near each other all on the same shelf, some even in the same bottles wrapped in plastic marked PELIGRO in big warning letters, and lots of bottles of stuff that’s “guaranteed to work or its free” but the process to get your refund will take you more man-hours to do than just eating the cost and moving on.

All of them in various configurations with and without hot water found their way down the pipe along with trick plungers, augurs that don’t work too well on PVC with sharp turns, and lots of bailing out the sink and sequestering my dogs to my office as I carry buckets of smoking evil from the kitchen into the toilet and flush it down.

My eyes ached. My body ached.

Do you know how horrible it is to not have coffee in the morning or at all during the day and have to do stuff like this?

So I went on Next Door, typed “plumber” in the search bar to pull up recommendation threads and picked someone who got good recommendations, was reasonably priced, cared about his work.

I tend to stay away from the big-name folks when it comes to stuff like plumbing in an old house, because they seem to train the new young guns to up-sell everything and find random things that NEED TO BE FIXED RIGHT NOW OR YOU”LL PERISH IN FLAMES, but delivered in a folksy calm voice.

I’m tired and haven’t been caffeinated for 3 days, the headaches from withdrawal are bringing out the stabby side of my personality, so a nice dude who has his own gear, is a master plumber, and is open to side jobs after his main job is done sounded like the ticket.

A dude showed up on my doorstep on time, looking authentically grimy, driving a grimy truck, came in, introduced himself, we chatted, I went back into my office, heard him dragging in tarps and heavy sounding things that grated and whirred.

15 minutes later, the glorious sound of free moving water going down the drain was coming from my kitchen.

I have a big bowl of full sized candy, less than a few weeks old left over from Halloween. I’ve seen kids go by, but they never come ring the bell. Not sure why, but there’s always leftover full size bars.

I’ve never seen a grown man so happy. He said, “I don’t want to be greedy…” but you knew he wanted to be greedy.

I said, “go on. It will go to waste. You have people at home who will enjoy some candy bars so take as much as you like.”

I don’t think the guy gets a lot of side jobs. Probably doesn’t advertise? Not sure. But he did a great job, seemed really happy with the check I wrote him, cleared up after himself and left happy as a clam with a lunch-bag full of candy.

I did a thorough cleaning on all surfaces of the kitchen, replaced my gel mats (they don’t do well with caustic chemistry), and then I tallied up the cost of that apple juice, between augurs, plungers, nitrile gloves, two big jugs of vinegar, like 9 bottles of drain cleaners and the plumber who took all of 15 minutes to clear the problem up.

I spent $400 on a fucking glass of apple juice.

…sigh.

I guess some of it was required, but I think next time a clog happens, I’m calling the plumber.

You know what I want right now?

Another glass of apple juice.

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Sex. Art. 10.6.19. Model: Peter and some collage figures from previous sessions

It’s been a while since I’ve drawn – largely because the time I used to have to draw and blog and focus on creation has been redirected into nurturing.

I was in line at the local supermarket, being nosy as a woman was having an animated conversation about her friend Tony, and an informal network of folks who find homes for unwanted dogs. Our county’s shelter may be a kill-shelter vs. a rescue shelter, so pet lovers are forming their own informal networks.

I adopted a pair of small dogs, to be informed on the day I was to pick them up that the female of the pair is likely pregnant and asked if I still wanted them.

Of course I did.

Two months later, Kora, ready to pop, did so while I was out to breakfast, and I came home to find her in labor and a tiny hamster sized dog mewling and trying to crawl behind my home office trash can.

That was 5 weeks ago.

He of the pair has been neutered.

The puppies are now teething, in the process of being weaned, and leaving me with just enough energy to draw.

…so, here are some drawings.

…and some puppies.

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Politics. Guns. Another weekend, and two more mass shootings in the US, and counting. 08-04-19.

Do you know who can stop mass shootings?
 
Gun manufacturers and the GOP, but they won’t.
 
Stopping production won’t get the existing guns off the streets.
 
Sure, its legal to make them.
 
Lots of things are legal that never should have been.
 
Slavery was legal in this country.
Gun manufacturers make deadly weapons, and advocate that anyone can have them if they have the money, and that people have the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
 
The gun manufacturers know what their product does and what it was created for, and still they make it, and they give money to an organization whose job it is to scare Congresspeople and Senators into continuing to allow them to sell a deadly product without being bothered to check these people.
 
Some gun-owners clearly aren’t responsible enough to handle owning a weapon.
 
Then, of course, there’s the side business of acting as a pass-thru for Russian oligarchs to fund campaigns.
 
if anyone bothered to run background checks on people who desire to buy a weapon, decline weapons for people who have beaten their spouses, have a history of violent and unstable behavior, and those showing up on messaging boards stating that they’d like to kill a lot of people and maybe we’d see a lot less mass shootings?
 
Right now, we have a few mass shootings each weekend, specifically done by the people the gun manufacturers have marketed these weapons to; specifically White young men who want to be seen as tough and dangerous.
 
My guess is they are afraid of the world, and afraid of losing their place in dominating it, which would be why White Supremacy also seems to hit as a data point pretty frequently with these shooters.
 
So, in essence, the gun manufacturers are arming unstable cowards.
 
I guess that doesn’t matter as the money still spends so they will keep on doing it, and one day, someone they love will be killed by a product they made.
 
The GOP could stop this, but they are so afraid of their base and the monster they have created, they seem to have no choice but to double-down, offer thoughts and prayers and do nothing while kids buy bullet proof backpacks in preparation for the new school year, suffer from PTSD and nightmares from Shooter Readiness Training,
 
…and people look at whether its a good idea to go to big public events anymore.
 
…since it would seem there is always some angry young White man with a gun who wants to take the day and make it all about him, his unmet needs and his fears by posting some bullshit manifesto and then going out and bringing shame on his family name.
 
Yeah.
 
What must it be like for the parents of these dumb-assess to have to go grocery shopping, or back to work, while their neighbors and friends have to try to figure out how or if they can be around these people anymore after they’ve produced these monsters and released them on the world?
 
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Politics. The Unsurprising Racism of Reagan. 08.03.19

“Go Set A Watchman” was a better book in my opinion than “To Kill A Mockingbird”

“Go Set A Watchman” was the un-cropped picture, with all the flaws, with racism intact.

 
“To Kill A Mockingbird” was the cropped version of the same story, told from the viewpoint of a young tom-boy and brave adventurer, who idolized her father. It was the image Hollywood felt America was ready for at the time – the father as White Savior who tried to save the Black man but ultimately did not succeed, but still is honored in some way by the Black community.
 
“Go Set A Watchman” is the story told by an adult, the soft filter and rose coloring lifted from her eyes – the story, complicated by another woman’s sexual desires, her father’s duty to defend in spite of his own racism, and her racist tendencies as well.
 
This is what Reagan’s daughter is seeing now.
 
Her father was not the leader that much of America romanticized him to be. There were parts of him that were admirable – he had integrity and once set to a course of action, he followed it through and was there to accept the consequences if his course of action failed.
 
On the other side of the scales, he ignored AIDS, and privately mocked it and laughed at it as a disease of low-people, “Africans,” drug-users, Gays, and the promiscuous, in large part influenced by the advice of Roy Cohn, one of the most opportunist and morally flawed human beings ever to cross through American History.
 
It was not until he found out that young White people were infected by receiving blood transfusions from a tainted blood supply, and that Roy Cohn was himself dying from it, did he even mention the disease, and mobilize the US Health and Science systems to do anything about it.
 
…and privately, as with lots of people of his generation, he didn’t consider it to be racist if you were racist in private – if you told nigger jokes when no visible Black people were present.
 
He could not see, as many Americans cannot see, that willingness to wink and smile at racism while nobody is looking carries forward.
 
It carries into unconscious bias in hiring decisions.
 
It carries into higher levels of scrutiny of your Black and Brown employees, and a willingness to make excuses for and accept behavior from White people that you look to punish in people of color: lateness, poor grammar, policing of language and of emotions (angry black woman, angry black man, “YOU HAVE AN ATTITUDE PROBLEM”), when EVERYONE is late, and EVERYONE occasionally gets angry, and sometimes uses profane language.
 
Its shocking to begin to understand that your parents are racist.
 
…and the rest of us wonder when you will realize that YOU, TOO are RACIST.
 
…and when we say that, it does not mean you are guilty of any moral failings or that we think of you as a bad person.
 
It means, at a minimum, sometimes when you say or do things, we have to pause, and decide if we want to confront you in the moment and lose a friendship, or if we have to just bite our tongues, smile and laugh along with the jokes, while on the inside, we sadly have to move you into a box that contains all of the other people we cannot rely upon, since we know, when the shit hits the fan, there’s a chance you won’t have our backs, and you’ll take the word of the White person over ours, every. single. time.
 
…and you should know that when you hear us pause before we laugh along with you, that was the sound of you being moved into that box.

This brief essay is in response to an article in Time magazine, regarding the release of the Nixon tapes in which President Ronald Reagan is heard making racist statements, unaware that he was being taped at the time.

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Politics. Our Injustice System in the US. 08.01.19

There is an organization called The Innocence Project in the US which works to get DNA tests, compile evidence and assist in bringing cases to justice in which people were incarcerated with tainted evidence, inadequate legal resources, or sent to jail as part of batch-plea agreements in which the justice department is so overwhelmed with the volume of cases it must process, rather than review each case and bring it to trial, some prosecutors and public defendants are compelled to group a bunch of unrelated cases together, offer a cursory review, and then go back to each client with a plea deal, regardless of guilt or innocence, and attempt to coerce the defendants into accepting the deal, mainly to reduce case burden.

There have been a few White men and women falsely convicted and exonerated by The Innocence Project, but most of their success have been with exonerating Black men.
It would seem that once resources are properly applied, and cases properly investigated and adjudicated, there are quite a few people behind bars claiming innocence that are innocent.

It is assumed that once a person is in jail, if they are still proclaiming their innocence, they are lying, and that’s what cons do.

Proper resources will never be brought to bear to prove this out for a few reasons:

We’ve incentivized both corporations and our justice system in the US to put people in jail – corporations via the private prison system, but also via the cheap manual labor that companies like McDonalds, ProFish, USFoodService, and yes, even Costco utilize cheap prison labor to prepare their goods and provide services.

Here’s a handy list of companies that use prison labor.

Many customer service call centers that have been brought back into the US. Once it became cost prohibitive and people complained of bad customer service – too often because the racist American Ear cannot stand to hear the music of the various Indian, Pakistani and other call center accents and request to speak to the supervisor entirely too often when they reach an Indian, or Filipino, or Bangladeshi call center.

The Justice system has been incentivized since the Federal Government has shifted entirely too much revenue into the Military Industrial complex – specifically in paying private contractors for work that used to be done in-house by the military, local and Federal justice departments now obtain a substantial amount of their funding via fees, fines and court costs. Police departments are incentivized to arrest people for the same reasons, fees and fines in poor areas pay for police salaries and pensions.

They are not as incentivized to do so in the suburbs and affluent areas, since the tax structure and property values tend to be ample to support the justice system and the police in these areas. Since property values are artificially held low in inner cities until enough property can be consolidated and “redeveloped,” the tax revenue is never enough to support the police, justice system, infrastructure, education and all the other systems – and because we sequester revenues to the districts in which they are collected, vs. pooling resources to make sure everyone has equal access to police protection, fire services, education, etc, we wind up with, and continue to sustain inequalities.

It may sound like conspiracy theory, but its a sad reality for large portions of the prison population.

So, due to concentrations of poverty due to policies of redlining that are still in place with lenders, based on a credit scoring system that has now proven itself to be piss-poor at protecting our data, people of color are markedly more likely to wind up stuck in the gears of a justice system that has really not been “just” since the creation of this country, particularly not to people of color.

Its not a conspiracy, per se, but it is the structure of the current system in place.

You likely know all of this, but sometimes it needs to be restated for the folks who seem to have a belief that people of color are prone to be criminals, and can’t seem to wrap their heads around the idea that EVERYONE breaks the law.

If the police are always in your neighborhood waiting to catch you, or worse, if the police are incentivized to fill a certain number of arrests to make sure their department stays fully funded, new cars bought, equipment bought, and more “situational awareness” training, sponsored by our government, vs. de-escalation training which is effective, but does not have backing from the Department of Defense like Situational Awareness training does – then the police will always be present in neighborhoods where the police department’s funding relies on having people in its system to fine. and revenues provided by the State to house and feed the prisoners.

This unfortunately is the reality of our justice system in the US today.

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