Wednesday, October 9, 2013

You can't fix stupid.

We've elected a government that thinks government is a bad idea - anybody see a problem with that? -  and who are apparently too stupid to grasp global economics. We've elected people who compare the solvency of treasury notes internationally to a household and credit cards. It is not a useful analogy. Households, first of all, aren't allowed to mint their own currency. Second, they don't hold the trust and investment of the rest of the planet in peril if they don't pay their credit card. This is nothing like a household maintaining a budget, and I used to think these wackjobs were dumbing it down to push their agenda past voters who are none too bright. Now I think they actually are really, really dim witted themselves. I don't know what to do about that.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Kerfuffle is my new fave word

There was a recent extended family kerfuffle involving a new driver who in fact does not text and drive but was threatened with dismemberment and a home lobotomy if she considered doing so. You know how families get. Now, I think that texting while driving is a form of insanity. You also should not read a magazine, play a video game or perform surgery. This is just obvious stuff, right?

Here's where I get confused. There's also a public, legal push to make all cell use while driving prohibited, even fully hands off, because it's too "distracting". Really? Because then, right off the bat, the display panel in my Prius should be arrested immediately. But beyond that, shouldn't we have only single passenger vehicles? And CD players and radios should be removed straight away. If you have children in your car, they should be padlocked into car seats in the back with a soundproof privacy window between their compartment and yours. You know, like in those cars in spy thrillers. Anyone in the passenger seat should be required to wear a ball gag - wiffle balls make the best homemade, cheap ones, as the person can still breathe even if their nose gets stuffed up from the crying. Store them in your glove compartment - come on, you know you don't have that thing filled
with gloves. Also, humming or whistling should get you a moving violation.

Isn't it possible that we could all agree that driving big dangerous missiles at high speeds requires attention, and at the same time not become complete psychos? Of  course no one should text while driving. But you can't talk to someone on a voice activated hands free device? If that's too distracting, stay out of your car. Please.

And I think you should also be required to wear a helmet. A soundproofed one. And possibly bubble wrap, which can really work with the whole ball gag look. Please send me the photos. But don't take them on your phone while in the car. Possibly if you untie your passenger they could take the photo for you. Then wrap them right back up and be on your way.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

This time it's personal

I have a sort of objection to the "born this way" perspective on equal rights. I think everyone should have equal rights to choices between consenting adults legally. Churches can sanction what they wish. But people should all equally have the right to choose their legal family. As a matter of fact, I think the number should not be limited to just two, and it shouldn't matter what the combination of genders are.  That should only be the concern of the people involved. The justification shouldn't be that you have no other option. It shouldn't need to be.

Here's my personal, very personal, perspective:  I have a same sex partner whom I adore. I have had opposite sex partners as well. I've had a lot of interesting experiences. I'm not with the person I'm with because I was choosing from a pool of 50% of the population, but out of everyone. So the idea that we should have gay rights only because there are people on that end of the scale who genuinely are only attracted to one gender and THAT'S why same sex partnerships should be acknowledged,  because they can't help it, like it's some kind of disability, pisses me off. It pisses me off because it leaves me out, it pisses me off because it leaves free choice out, it pisses me off because it assumes that the genitals I interact with are anyone else's business.  Having legal family status matters - maybe in ways that it shouldn't. Maybe we should just legally be individuals, and we'll pretend families don't exist. 

There are ways to get around most of it, but it's cost prohibitive if you aren't dealing drugs to a lawyer. And some stuff you still can't get past, and I really, really wish we can just get over it. I don't understand why my choice of family concerns anyone outside of my family.

There, thanks. It isn't like I have the fantasy that saying these things changes anything, but it's still lovely to put it out there.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

CDC hires Captain Obvious. Then clones him.

The CDC published a report yesterday with the astonishingly obvious news that antibiotic resistance is a big problem, and that we've overused and misused antibiotics to the point where we've created a plethora of resistant organisms. Nowhere in this report is any mention of what creates natural resistance. There is, however, a suggestion that we should all get more vaccinations (which the CDC insists on inaccurately calling "immunizations"), in spite of the fact thst all effective vaccinations address viral threats, not bacterial ones, which is the target market for our over prescribed antibiotics. At the end of the report we are informed that there is no declared financial conflict of interest. Because it's not like the CDC and big pharma have a revolving door policy or anything. Oh, wait. Right. There isn't any payoff in suggesting that people eat real food, in reasonable amounts, replenish their gut flora with fermented foods, get their hands dirty now and then, use their bodies. There isn't any money in that. As bad as polio was, the majority of people who contracted the virus only thought they had the flu or didn't even know they'd contracted it at all. As bad as the Black Plague was, and as disastrous as public hygiene was, most people did NOT contract it. Now, most people who manifest the polio virus have post vaccination polio. Most people who develop pertussis have been fully vaccinated. Maybe we could start looking for some reasons that don't necessarily pad the bank accounts of pharmaceutical companies. Hmm, but there's no one to fund those studies. And after all, we have an excessive number of serfs to get rid of. Now make sure you get your flu vaccine. Here's the link to this incredibly boring report with some awesome photos:

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

The real problem with Carlos Danger

I do not care at all what consensual behaviors people choose or how they manage their relationships. I don't care if Carlos Danger likes to sext his junk. Loads of people do, and plenty of them are smart enough to get the app that makes the picture disappear after a few seconds. As long as the person on the receiving end agreed to it, it's none of my business. But this is a two part problem in this situation.

Here's the first part of the problem: we all know that plenty of politicians are corrupt and downright despicable. But we expect them to at least present a facade of being a class act. If you can't pull that off, you're disqualified. For example, if you name yourself and your photogenic junk "Carlos Danger". Automatic disqualification. If you're going to play in the public eye of politics, you have to either be much more discreet or subject yourself to a different standard, or you're displaying an inability to play the game. Epic fail, Carlos.

The second part of this problem isn't really his, but it's part of the same principle. In everyday life, I could not care less how people organize their personal relationships, what boundaries they draw, what they put up with or maybe even enjoy. But if Huma Abedin wants to stay in political life, she has to walk away from this whole situation. It's her choice, but she won't be able to have both. And while Carlos never really accomplished much politically, Huma is poised to sacrifice an awful lot for this. Step away from the political chainsaw that is Carlos, Huma. If he actually was a class act, he'd tell you to do just that. But he isn't.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Pick up the rocks

I want to tell you why I care passionately about politics, and why we're being lulled into thinking politics is just some corrupt, boring mess that we'd rather not think about. I want to tell you why I think the distinction between oligarchy and plutocracy is meaningless and that we're stuck in the middle of both - because if you control with either one, money or power, why wouldn't you grab the other up as well? But I think I'm going to bore you to death before you finish reading these words.

This is one terrific explanation of what we're all experiencing.

But here is the thing:  there are more of us feudal serfs than there are of the feudal lords, and they are terrified that we'll figure that out and realize that politics is anything but boring and way more than corrupt and that we outnumber them and we still ostensibly have the right to vote, and just as important, the right to speak out.

There has never been as much transparency as there is now - it's very hard for anyone to hide anything, and not because of Edward Snowden or even the NSA. We now have the capacity to know pretty exactly what our elected officials represent. With a little digging, we can know who they took money from, who they worked for and with, how well they play with others. This situation has never happened before in all of history.

So I'm begging you, anyone who reads a word I write for whatever your reasons are, please pay attention, speak out, vote, do anything you can to counteract voter suppression (I live in the currently worst state, NC), and start with your state and local government and the off year elections. Pay attention. It really matters. We could throw rocks and win, we just have to pick up the rocks.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Warning: skittles may be hazardous to your health

I'm decompressing from the Zimmerman verdict, even though I wasn't really shocked by it.
I know that the whole "stand your ground" bullshit wasn't invoked, but it still influences Florida cases of self defense and how we view self defense in courts, in Florida and in other states with similar laws. What I want to know is, why does it matter who was the voice that was screaming for help? Why didn't Trayvon Martin, being stalked in the dark by a guy in a car armed with a gun, have the right to defend himself? The juror who has been so chatty about the decision has stated that one of the reasons for the verdict was the conviction that that voice was Zimmerman's.  Disregarding how she could be so certain of that, why does it make a difference? If some guy is stalking me down a dark street and I break his nose, is that punishable by death? Why didn't Trayvon have the right to self defense? We all know the answer. I hope the DOJ does its job.

Friday, July 12, 2013

We need some "extraneous" voters around here

I just want everyone to understand completely what the Republican Party in the US has become. You know, just in case they let you vote.

On Wednesday night at 8pm, they rolled out the farm bill to be voted on on Thursday. It's a 600 page document. In spite of this, enough people actually got it read for every democrat and even 12 republicans to vote against it. That wasn't enough. It passed by 8 votes.
Here is what they did: the farm bill has always been tied to supplemental nutrition programs. That kind of makes sense, right? We help out farmers, we feed the hungry. Sounds fair. Nope, not anymore. There is no supplemental nutrition included in the bill. Not only that, the insurance level for big ag goes up to 90%, meaning essentially that if you are a large scale commodity farmer, you cannot fail. It's now a risk free line of work. And not only that, a provision was snuck in to make this effective not until 2018 when it was supposed to sunset, but in perpetuity.

But wait, it gets even better. Donna Edwards (D, Maryland) asked the republicans who directly benefit from big ag investments to recuse themselves from voting on a bill that directly put money into their own pockets while taking food out of the mouths of the poorest of the poor. I think you can guess that they didn't go along with her request.

I'm asking everyone out there, everyone who can do this, to get together in your community with organizations that serve the poorest and most disenfranchised communities and make sure that the people in those communities get to vote, starting with the 2014 elections, and including local elections. Set up a shuttle to pick people up, take them to their polling place, take people back home and pick up the next load. Take them water while they stand in line for hours. Help them get the IDs that are now being required.  Take back our right to vote.

One other thing: the majority of people who receive supplemental nutrition are the working poor. The same people who don't want minimum wage to be raised to a living wage want to take supplemental nutrition away from these people. They also want to take food out of the mouths of children in schools, the elderly, the disabled. The word that was used to describe these people was "extraneous". (If you're on twitter, Donna Edwards started a hashtag for that - #extraneous.)

If anybody didn't already think this is the feudal lords trying to get rid of their excess of serfs, please think again. And please vote. If they still let you.

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Does anyone know where the rule book went? It isn't in the box with the game.

Okay, so seriously. What if president Obama was treated in the same way the president of Bolivia just got treated? Have France, Italy and Portugal (along with the US of course), just decided that amnesty for political dissidents is no longer an option on this planet? Because regardless of what your opinion of Edward Snowden and his actions, there is nothing that should prevent him from seeking asylum. The United States has given asylum to plenty of people where their native countries want them back, who have been charged with crimes in those countries, who sought asylum exactly for those reasons.

Do we not play by the rules at all, in anything anymore? I live in one of those states that jumped on the Supreme Court ruling and immediately started moving to kill voter's rights systematically. I live in one of the states that is trying to sneak in taking away women's reproductive rights, voting the day before Independence Day - do you get the irony? Somehow I don't think our republican legislature does. Maybe your sense of humor fades when you're that old and grey? Or maybe it's only if you're old, grey, male and white. Who knows? We don't really have a control group to observe here in our state government.

I think I would like to go back to some rules. You know, basic playground rules. Where it has to be fair for everyone to play, to have a voice, and we don't change the rules in the middle of the game just to fuck with someone we don't like. I'm sorry if the parties involved in current politics had freakier childhoods than mine and didn't learn these basic things, but I would be happy to explain the principles.

 Also just to remind the feudal lords that us serfs outnumber them.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Just one quick question

If the roles had been reversed, if Trayvon Martin, a young black guy, had deliberately pursued George Zimmerman while carrying a concealed weapon and shot to kill, would the trial even be getting this coverage and would there be any question of the outcome? Okay, maybe two questions:  how is it okay with us as a culture that we perpetuate these biases on such a deep, unspoken level?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

A thank you note to Michael Hastings

Disclaimer: I'm not, in general, a conspiracy theory kind of person. I'm also not stupid.

The world no longer has Michael Hastings in it, and that's an enormous loss. He was unflinchingly honest, brave, articulate and passionate. 

We know that the FBI was investigating him. We know that he brought down gen. Stanley McChrystal and facilitated the wind down of the war in Afghanistan. We know that he was working on a piece about the NSA. We know that he contacted wikileaks about an hour before he died. We know that he was in a single vehicle accident, that his car exploded and that he hit a tree in Hollywood. We will never ever know the order in which those last two events occurred. 

My hope is that every single investigative journalist and balls-out political analyst channels Michael Hastings and pushes every edge of every envelope. Sorry to put you guys on the spot, but there are only so many cars that can go up in flames before it starts to look kinda odd. Meanwhile, take taxis, folks. And/or check under your cars. And thanks, all of you who put your asses on the line so the rest of us can know stuff. Thank you.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Villains and heroes

Edward Snowden gave up everything - a high paid position, a home in Hawaii, and any kind of real freedom, even if he gets to a safe haven country, his relationships, everything - because he knew the US government has been unconstitutionally drag netting all information across internet and phone records and calls, theoretically under the patriot act and specifically section 215 which is supposed to apply to business. Without probable cause, anyone who works for these agencies can monitor your emails, your calls, your internet activity, the prescription your doctor gave you. Anyone. Anyone who works for one of these contracted agencies who is pissed off at an ex, anyone who wants to take a big lump of cash from another government, or from someone who wants to frame someone else for their actions and can afford to pay for it, anyone. These are regular people with regular lives and all the kinds of personal issues any of our coworkers have ever had. For disclosing that this is going on, he's being called a traitor. I think he's an incredible hero.

What I want to know is, when we're closing down public schools because we can't afford them, denying food assistance to children, cutting necessary government services (and those are the kinds of services government is there for in the first place, to build roads, to maintain infrastructures, to maintain the underpinnings of a society), we have money to pay people to read my email and listen to my phone calls? You know, just in case.

In Philadelphia, almost 4000 people will be laid off in order to close down enough schools to save $300 million on the budget - the same budget that is funding a $400 million dollar correctional facility. And oh, guess what? The schools closing have an 81% black population and 91% low income. Anyone want to guess what the proportion of the prison population is by those two categories? You already know the answer. We can't afford education, but we can afford to contract companies to see if I might just by chance be doing something unnecessarily interesting, or maybe just for the fuck of it.

Yeah, I can really see how the true problem here is Edward Snowden.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Spend more, buy less

I want you to imagine having those cute Gap jeans in a bag in your hand, or that incredibly affordable adorable thing from Target, or whatever cheap thing you found at Walmart, and right in front of you the horrible sweatshop these lovely cheap things came from collapses and 1100 people die. In front of you. You can hear the building crashing down, you can hear the screams, and then you can hear the absence of screams. If this didn't happen on the other side of the world, if you had to acknowledge what you are supporting, would you go home and put on your new stuff?

There is the most basic of safety agreements which has been endorsed by the EU and some US retailers. I have to give credit to Abercrombie, and Calvin Klein, whether I shop there or not. But Target, Walmart and Gap are refusing. I also want to point out that this is only dealing with the most basic of safety measures - emergency exits, fire prevention and sprinklers, buildings that are structurally sound. Not the horrible sweatshop conditions, the poor compensation, nothing but just working in a space which won't directly kill you. Gap at this point has said they will sign if it isn't legally binding, which is of course meaningless. Walmart wants to do "self-inspections". The facility in Bangladesh did self-inspections. The most recent was the day before the building collapsed and 1100 human beings died. So that obviously works well.

So I'm asking you, whether you shop at these stores or not, to email them by going to their sites, clicking on "contact us", selecting the corporate hq option and explaining that you won't shop at a store that isn't willing to commit to the most basic of safety conditions for the human beings who produce their goods. And then, if you do shop in any of these places, stop.

Beyond that, just consider how impossible it is to live on minimum wage here, and how unpleasant the working conditions are. Now multiply that by about a thousand, with no overtime pay, no limit to the number of hours you can be forced to work, and no way to live on the amount of money you're being paid. No, not even in a poor economy. Consider whether you really need all that wonderfully inexpensive, cool stuff. Imagine looking into the eyes of person after person who is providing this trendy junk for you under horrible conditions and consider shopping less, buying local, dropping the concept of being "fashionable" in favor of functional things you'll keep forever and knowing how your products are produced. Consider joining one of the micro bank organizations that fund entrepreneurs internationally and create fair trade businesses (I like kiva, but there are others).  Shop at stores that support fair trade. Spend more, buy less. But more than anything, keep the human cost in your mind.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Let's abolish driver's licenses

Okay. There was a time when we used horses, carriages, bicycles, and because those things moved relatively slowly we could work out pretty equitable ways to share the road. We came up with cars, and after a while it became apparent that people needed to be trained and regulated
in piloting missiles weighing quite a lot at high speeds, aimed at one another. No one in their right mind would suggest that licensing drivers is an infringement of anyone's personal freedom, because we realize we're all in it together and your right to drive willy nilly might infringe on my right to continue living and we want it to work out for all of us.

Weaponry is only going to become more sophisticated. The idea of regulating it has to be embraced. Yes, our constitution protects the right to arm yourself. If you want as many muskets as you can find, have at it. If you want military assault weapons, I want to know, first of all, why you feel you need those, and at the very least want it to be known that you have them. And I think you ought to have to pass some pretty rigorous tests. Because you are automatically a little sketchy.

There is this weird argument that, well, the weapons already exist, so there's nothing we can do. As if making it conspicuously inappropriate to own an assault weapon would have no effect. As if people can't be expected to qualify to drive a car.

I don't care if people have handguns and hunting rifles. And muskets. But as technology changes weaponry, we  have to take some responsibility as a society just in favor of making a few rules. Because it's not okay with me if you live next door and have assault weapons, or a targeted missile or your own strike drone. Can we at least agree that it's a good idea to have some rules? Sheesh.