Give ‘Em Hell, Bernie Sanders

Give ‘Em Hell, Bernie Sanders

The above article about Bernie Sanders is by Matt Taibbi.  I think there are some great questions posed in it about the state of our democracy.  

The Benefit of Not Having Cable News

I have remarked many times that I do not have cable.  Especially with regards to cable news, it is very freeing.  No one needs 24 hours of surface news.  I have noticed that several republican candidates have declared.  I don’t need to watch endless public relations stories about people I don’t intend to vote for, or even people I do.  That doesn’t mean that I am championing staying uneducated about what is going on, nor am I claiming that all politicians are the same.  I think in a democracy that it is every citizens duty to pay attention to what is going on.  But cable news is the kind of thing you turn on for five minutes, hours later you have seen the same five stories a hundred times, and your blood pressure is way higher than when you started.  You can spend way less time reading a couple of in depth articles and you will find yourself way more informed.  You can spend all of that extra time reading books and actually learning about the world.   Or you can do things that you enjoy that actually bring meaning to your life.  At the very least you can space out for a couple hours and be far healthier.  You won’t be any dumber.  So be good to yourself and turn off the TV news.

Who Wants to Talk to a Stranger?

I am not claiming that what I am about to write is scientific in any manner.  It is simply a matter of observation by myself.  In the past year I have canvassed for  several different political causes.  I have walked numerous neighborhoods of all different classes.  I have talked to hundreds if not thousands of people.

What I can’t stop thinking about is how different classes of people, rich, poor, working class, and middle class, react to a stranger at their door.  Although there are all different kinds of people across all classes, it does seem that middle class people seem the most open to strangers.  Working class would come in second.  Meanwhile poor people and rich people are often highly skeptical when someone knocks on their door unannounced.

It may have something to do with myself.  I grew up middle class.  Those are the people that I feel most in common with in my outlook, even if I myself make money that is definitely more working class.  I have also worked plenty of blue collar jobs.  So what I am saying is there is the possibility for unrecognized bias on my part, but I don’t think this is the case.  I am talking more about initial reaction, before we have even really had time to talk.

Another point that I want to make is that I’m not dressed up.  I have to walk miles while I do this stuff, often in Texas it is quite hot.  This winter has been a strange one, with cold and rain that we usually don’t see.  Either way, you want to be dressed to be with comfort in mind when you are out there.  Usually I just have on a t-shirt, and either shorts or jeans.  I imagine I look either working class or middle class, so people may simply be reacting to the way I am presenting myself, before I even open my mouth.  However, I again don’t believe this to be the case, I just don’t want to rule it out.

I am a white male that is 5’10”, 200lbs, and occasionally have a beard.  Although I have become more friendly since I moved to the South, and I always make it a point to say thanks and to smile at people, I know that I am not as outwardly warm as many Southerners, or at least I have been told so.  When I worked for AT&T my bosses would often tell me I needed to be warmer on the phone, though I knew that I was trying really hard!  Since moving to the South I have adopted y’all as I like that it is easiest way to talk to people and sound inclusive.  I also like that it is short and simple.  It is also neither masculine or feminine, so you can include everyone in a group without saying “you guys” or “you girls” or whatever when talking to a group.  I am just trying to lay out what people are getting when I come to the door.

If there was a certain type of person that was intimidated when a large male comes to the door who doesn’t seem like a member of their tribe, I would understand.  But I have plenty of middle class women open doors, who are home alone with their kids, before a lot of people are home on their block.  If people were perceiving myself as a threat, I would assume that a small pregnant woman with a two or three year old would not open their door to me, but this happens time and time again.  Meanwhile people in groups or males larger then myself will view me with a skeptical nature.

Again this seems to happen the most, people looking sideways at me, if the home appears to be really rich or really poor.  No other factor appears apparent.  Yesterday I was walking in a neighborhood that is going through gentrification, in which there were people of all classes.  Sometimes it was block by block, and sometimes it was home by home.  You would see a million dollar home next to a house that looked like it was falling down.  You would also see blocks of safe looking suburban homes and blocks of houses that look like they were boarded up after a hurricane.

Race did not seem to be apparent in peoples reaction to me.  A middle class black person would generally behave more in line with a middle class white person, than with a poor black person.  Again, this does not mean that stereotypes always apply.  There were different experiences with people of all classes and colors.  The only discernible difference was that again poor people and rich people seemed to be less trusting of strangers than middle or working class people.

I also want to add that I was asking people questions about what they wanted to see in their city, and was not pushing a specific political agenda.  I have done that in the past, but this time I was simply collecting data.  One of the questions I asked people was what they wanted to see built in a certain portion of the city.  This was giving all people a chance to have a voice in their city.

There are many conclusions that I could draw from this.  However, I would rather not do that at this time, because I don’t believe I could accurately draw any conclusions.  However, I want to know why this is so.  There are so many questions.  Has America treated poor people so badly that they are no longer trusting of people?  Do poor people feel so disenfranchised that even when they are given a voice, they don’t feel that it is worth it to participate?  On the other hand, why are rich people in this country, who seemingly have everything, also not willing to trust people?  Why are they not willing to participate, to voice their thoughts and concerns about their city in this fashion?  I am not assuming that all of the people I talked to don’t participate in our democracy.  They may participate in other ways that don’t involve a stranger asking them questions.  They may have ways that are particular to their neighborhood, their upbringing, etc.  But all of this is very interesting to me, and also troubling.  Why are the people that have the most to lose and the most to gain in this country, the people that are the hardest to communicate with when canvassing?

Koch Brothers Destroy Healthcare

Kochs Kill Medicaid Expansion

The above article is from Salon and it is about how the Koch Brothers helped to kill Medicaid expansion in Tennessee and other states, essentially denying healthcare to many.  If you look at the numbers in Utah between what passing the Medicare extension would have done, vs. what was done, it is mind boggling.  Medicare expansion would have insured 146,000 people at the cost of $236 million dollars.  The plan the Republicans are backing costs $203 million dollars and only covers 16,000 people!  Something isn’t adding up?  Read the article to see the conclusion.

However, it is clear that the Koch Brothers are enemies of our democracy.  From healthcare to the environment to education, the Koch Brothers ideology is destroying real lives.  In turn I can’t help but see what they do as real crimes that deserve real punishment.

The Problem With Experts

My friend Trey recently gave me a book to read in the back of the van.  The following passage seemed correct to me in its diagnosis of a modern problem:

There is in orthodox thinking a great dependence on experts.  Because modern technological society has produced a breed of experts who understand technical matters that bewilder the rest of us, we think that in matters of social conflict, which require moral judgments, we must also turn to experts.  

There are two false assumptions about experts.  One is that they see more clearly and think more intelligently than ordinary citizens.  Sometimes they do, sometimes not.  The other assumption is that these experts have the same interests as ordinary citizens, want the same things, hold the same values, and, therefore, can be trusted to make decisions for all of us.  

To depend on great thinkers, authorities, and experts is, it seems to me, a violation of the spirit of democracy.  Democracy rests on the idea that, except for technical details for which experts may be useful, the important decisions of society are within the capability of ordinary citizens.  Not only can ordinary people make decisions about these issues, but they ought to, because citizens understand their own interests more clearly than experts.  

Now the only thing I want to add to this is that for democracy to function properly, it also depends on citizens being well informed.  Citizens are capable of educating themselves, but they must want to.  It is important that a certain percentage of citizens read, pay attention to national and world events, and I also think, in such an interconnected world, travel if not in other countries, than at least in their own.  It should be important in a society that citizens understand that they have an important role in events and take that burden seriously.  One of the problems in the U.S. is that there are not enough people that understand that a democracy, for it to work properly, needs people to be involved at more than just a superficial level.

The writer of the above passage is Howard Zinn.  It is from his book Passionate Declarations.  While I usually would not wait to the end of a blog to name a source, I know that there are many that view Zinn as an unreasonable lefty, and I wanted the idea to live on its own terms for a moment.  (I personally think Zinn has a lot to offer people of all political stripes.  Because he is someone that speaks truth to power, there are those that want to label and discredit him.)

I have posted this video and song before, but I think that the Laurie Anderson song Only an Expert deals brilliantly with this same topic.

P.S.  I apologize to those of you that subscribe to this blog for sending an incomplete version of this post to your emails.  It simply was the cause of human error on my part.  I fucked up!  

Anti-Science Know Nothing America Helping Doom World


Senators Don’t Believe Human Caused Climate Change

Fourteen of the fifteen hottest years on record have occurred since the year 2000, yet we now have a Senate in which 49 of its members are unwilling to tie climate change to human behavior, despite overwhelming scientific evidence to the contrary.  If this were a movie no one would believe it, unless it was a comedy.  We are a laughing stock to most of the intelligent world, yet so many of our citizens bury their heads in the sand.  (This bunch was just elected and reelected.)  Anyone that has young children or is thinking of having them should be weeping openly in public. If we don’t act soon, we are willingly bequeathing future generations a world that will resemble a flaming ball of shit.  If I sound angry, I am.  This idiocracy is the result of greed and laziness and people that can’t be bothered with anything that isn’t in their narrow little field of view.  We let the 1% buy so many of our elections.  We sit idly by as the rich destroy education and turn our people into a nation of retarded couch potatoes.  These powerful few are making monkeys out of us and no one cares.  If no one was going to procreate again, I could say we had it coming.  However, people that are babies now, or those that have not been born, are innocent of these ridiculous crimes.  And yes, what we are doing is a crime.  We are harming other people and future generations just so we can drive big cars around town while fueling destruction and our own egos.  In a democracy the many have power over the few, but in order for that to be so the many need to pay attention and actually try to figure out what is really going on.  If they don’t soon it is game over…

Passport Propaganda

Last night I forgot one of my books and was stuck in a situation where I had nothing to read.  I started reading the quotes in my passport and realized that almost everyone was propaganda and most were easily disproved.  They are all part of, as George Carlin would say, “the national bullshit story.”  I thought I would post the quotes and then follow up with why a response to each one:

The principle of free government adheres to the American soil.  It is bedded in it, immovable as the mountains. – Daniel Webster

Ok, total bullshit.  First of all soil cannot be bedded with principles of anything.  Our soil, aside from possibly the particular chemical makeup of it, is no different than any soil.  Also, democracy and free governments are never immovable.  They are things which need vigilant citizens to maintain.  Just look at the history of our voting rights.  Look at the current NSA scandal or things Hoover’s FBI did or any of number of things to learn how free government and democracy are easily eroded. 

We have a great dream.  It started way back in 1776 and God grant that America will be true to her dream.  – Martin Luther King

I am nitpicking with this one.  Martin Luther King was obviously a great man.  The quote itself is fine in a kind of whitwashed way.  However in 1776 they did let slavery remain legal.  Also, whether or not there is a God, it is again going to take actual people to make us stay true to the founder’s more noble ideas. 

Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe, in order to assure the survival and success of liberty.  – John F. Kennedy

Again, I like John Kennedy fine, but this is simply untrue.  If we look at the history of Guatemala or the Congo or many other examples, there are plenty of times that we let liberty be snuffed out. 

This is a new nation, based on a continent, of boundless possibilities. – Theodore Roosevelt

This might have seemed more true in Roosevelt’s time.  However, with our modern environmental problems we are seeing that even our vast continent is not boundless in its possibilities.   Nothing physical is boundless. 

Whatever America hopes to bring to pass in the world must first come from the heart of America. – Dwight D. Eisenhower

This is a very vague statement.  What exactly is the heart of America?  Is it the people?  If so there have been many times when presidents passed things by executive order without the outright consent of a large amount of people.  Is it Washington?  If that place always has a heart I’ll shit myself.  Besides, the decisions they make there, look at Iraq, don’t always pass in the world as planned.  Again a vague statement that is a bunch of meaningless feel good nonsense. 

For this is what America is all about.  It is the uncrowded desert and the unclaimed ridge.  It is the star that is not reached and the harvest sleeping in the unplowed ground.  Is our world gone? We say “Farewell.”  Is a new world coming? We welcome it – and we will bend it to the hopes of man. – Lyndon B. Johnson

Again vague feel good nonsense, this time rooted in American exceptionalism.   Johnson himself found the limits to our power in Vietnam.  Case closed. 

May God continue the unity of our country as the railroad unites the two great oceans of the world. – inscribed on the Golden Spike, Promontory Point, 1869

This refers to the transcontinental railroad.   It should be noted that much of the work was done by Chinese laborers.  Although it is disputed how many, varying wildly, many of these workers died. 

We send thanks to all the Animal life in the world.  They have many things to teach us as people.  We are glad they are always here and hope it will always be so. – Excerpt from the Thanksgiving Address, Mohawk version

There is nothing wrong in and of the quote itself.  However when you use it as a selling point for our country it helps to remember how we treated the Indians and how we have exploited animals.  The Mohawks also fought against us in the Revolutionary War and The War of 1812.  We also took their land.  Also, look how we treated the buffalo, which we almost wiped out of existence during the western Indian wars.  Look now at how we treat animals in factory farming.  Again the statement is fine, but when you examine it closely as a selling point for America, it kind of makes you wonder. 

The cause of freedom is not the cause of a race or sect, a party or a class – it is the cause of human kind, the very birthright of humanity – Anna Julia Cooper

This statement is another one that is fine in and of itself as an idea.  However, it is false when used as a selling point for America.  Also, first of all, you are not born with the right to anything.  Rights have to be fought for and maintained by vigilant citizens.  If we were born with rights we wouldn’t have needed the Civil War or the women’s suffrage movement.  Also if one looks at gerrymandering today, you can still see that our freedoms, in terms of the right to truly govern ourselves as a true democracy, are still being eroded.  We are also not free in a lot of ways.  If I get caught with weed in Texas, a victimless crime that hurts no one, what freedom I do have will dissappear.  

My point is not to be a killjoy or to say we should stamp out attempts at using language to aspire to greater things.  It is just that we need to, as individuals,  to think.  Democracy and freedom are not birthrights, are not unique to America, and do not come from God.  Only by being vigilant citizens, paying attention to what is going on, and by standing up for those that are oppressed,  can we truly have a democracy that represents all.  Also, total freedom is an illusion.  To be free in a way in which we can all persue our own version of happiness, as long as we don’t hurt others, is still along ways off. There is much work to be done.