Donald Trump Will Turn Your Mind Into Rat Soup

I have been trying to avoid the early election shenanigans.  The mutant right is constantly making headlines with total insanity.  I don’t mean to infer that to condemn anyone that is a Republican.  I am simply referring to the freak pack that seems in control of the national party at this point.  (Scott Walker being one of the many in this realm.)  I am someone that believes in voting.  I don’t think voting is enough if you really care about what is going on.  However, I don’t think disengaging from the political realm due to dissatisfaction is an option.  I am not a big fan of the Clintons and would rather see someone like Bernie Sanders capture the nomination.  Bill, in his term, was actually a rather right leaning corporatist Democrat that did many things that I believe harmed this country.  (NAFTA, Telecommunications Act of 1996, and so on.)  However, if you can’t see that there is a difference between Hillary Clinton and Ted Cruz, or Hillary Clinton and Scott Walker, than I don’t know what to tell you.  (Those that believe that all politicians are the same only need to look at recent headlines having to do with Iran and then imagine what those headlines would look like if “Bomb,bomb,bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” John McCain had won in 2008.)  But what I think is important is that it is okay to disengage until it matters.  I don’t need to be paying attention to the right wing horse race, as I will certainly not be voting for anyone that wins that.  I can’t help, in trying to keep up with the news, catching a headline or two.   I mean I try to pay attention enough that if I am having a conversation with someone, I can refute whatever insane argument someone might be making on whatever policy issue, but having a deep emotional investment in who is ahead is only going to destroy my health, make me angry, and burn me out on this whole circus before there is really anything I can do about it.  The news is really good at destroying one’s soul, only to have you speaking gibberish by the time it comes down to canvas for an issue or candidate you believe in.  Also, please keep in mind that I am talking about ignoring the election and not what is going on in general.  It is important, extremely important, that a citizen of a democracy stays informed.  But at this point in the election cycle it is much more important to pay attention to what is going on, rather than who is saying what, if you get my drift. So try to keep abreast of current issues, but whenever a circus animal like Donald Trump gets paraded out on TV, instead of turning your mind into rat soup, exercise one of the very few freedoms you have and turn the damned thing off.

My Voting System

There is a meme going around on Facebook right now where Texas Governor Greg Abbot is quoted:

“Marriage is defined by God, no man can redefine it.”

Then it shows the three women Supreme Court Judges and below their picture it says: I Am No Man.

I loved it.  I wrote below it on my Facebook page:

I couldn’t help post this. It made me laugh thinking how certain heads would explode. As a straight white male maybe you think I shouldn’t be laughing. But after centuries of war, environmental destruction, and economic injustice (just for starters!), I figure it’s time to let some other people drive. We have three women on the Supreme Court and a black president and we got affordable healthcare and tolerance that just a few years ago seemed a dream.

I don’t usually like to post those memes on Facebook, but sometimes you have to break your own rules.  But anyway, it made me think of my voting system that I use if I am not sure of who to vote for.  Let’s just be honest, sometimes you go to the polls in those off years and you just don’t know all the races.  So you have to have a system.  So here is mine (I will explain after):

1.  If there are different parties I select the most liberal party.

2.  If there are not different parties I will vote for a woman over a man.

3.  If the candidates are all one sex, then I try to see if one of the candidates has a name that looks like a minority name.  If so I vote for the minority.

4.  If the only name present is a white Republican male, then I write in a candidate.

5.  If there is no one that I can think of that is breathing to hold an office other than a white Republican male, I then write in a fictional character.

Basically, in my opinion, George W. Bush doomed white Republican males until the end of time.  The Republican party, which was the party of my grandfather, and used to feature sensible moderates at times, spent the years between Reagan and W. driving all moderates out of positions of power in the party.  (I know many of you are still out there in the wilderness.  Stay strong!)  Somehow this thinning of the moderate heard reached light speed under George W.  Now that party’s leadership seems to be left without any candidates that aren’t anti-science, religious freak, free market fundamentalists.

It’s not that I think that all liberals, women, and minorities are great.  Not by a long shot.  It’s only that I am willing to bet they will be better than the WRM alternative.

In life the driving forces should be love, tolerance, and peace.  I don’t mean that in the kind of utopian sense than many on the right would call, “hippie bullshit.”  I just mean that we should strive to be tolerant of those individuals who are born differently from us and that as a society we should only use violence as a last resort.  As much as I would like to believe otherwise, if you put Hitler at one end of the human spectrum and Martin Luther King Jr. at the other, I would probably be somewhere in the middle.  But I’m trying.  It’s striving to be loving, tolerant, and peaceful that is important.  Many of us will trip along the way, but we must get up and try harder.

I feel like more often than not, those that have struggled have more empathy for other people that are struggling.  Unfortunately, right now, in our society, on average, women and minorities have more roadblocks in their path than white men do, despite whatever bullshit Fox News tries to sell you.  (You will see all kinds of “traditional values under attack” over at Fox News after the gay marriage vote.  Fox News viewers will be made to feel like victims, again.  Please, gay people are just being allowed to marry someone they love, not being given free mansions.)  There is no promise that any kind of person is going to be loving, tolerant, or kind, but again, I’m playing the odds at the voting booth on occasion.  If you’ve been shit on by the system, the odds are you are going to extend a hand to others that have faced similar problems.  And that’s what this whole life thing is about, making sure that as many of our brothers and sisters get a fair shake as possible.

Now granted, occasionally my system could vote in Clarence Thomas in a whig, but whoever said life was without its risks?

Thoughts On Clinton

I can’t say that I am either surprised or euphoric at the fact Hillary Clinton has declared to run for President.   We have all known that this was coming for some time.  Hillary is competent, far more so than the goons running for the Republicans. But as long as she has been in the public eye, I have no true sense of what she believes.  If you know American history, one will see that Bill was too often willing to sell out the working and middle class.  Like Reagan and Bush before him, and like W. after him, he took steps that helped lead to the financial meltdown of 2008. In many ways he was a conservative democrat.  Hillary, if entrusted with power, may be different, but there is no way to know that until she is entrusted with that power.  I am still hoping that Elizabeth Warren runs, though I am willing to listen to what Hillary has to say.  But anyway, any misgivings I may have about her are nullified by the complete insanity of the modern day GOP.  If it is between her and any of these flat earthers the Republicans are putting up, I will not only vote for Hillary, but canvass for her. 

How to Badger Your Congressional Representative

Find Your Representative

Find Your Zip Code + 4

The above link is a way to find your U.S. Representative.  Some of you that have multiple representatives in an areas will have to find your zip code + 4 number, which can be found using the second link.  I’ve read in different places that those in politics feel the most pressure from letters in the mail, but I think writing your representative is good in any form.  Voting is not enough.

A great thing to kill some time at work with!!! 

Addition:  The first link above is correct now.  However, when I first posted it I unwittingly posted a connection to Texas, as that is where I live.  

Hey Don’t the Wars Come Easy, Hey Don’t the Peace Come Hard

Love junkies wanna change the world:
It quickly stays the same
Money junkies hire all the smart ones
Power junkies run the game

One step at a time
Polarity Hill
If the bad guys don’t get you, baby
Then the good guys will
With angels on the take
And the gangsters in the yard
Hey don’t the wars come easy
Hey don’t the peace come hard

– Excerpt from the song The Big Ones Get Away by Buffy Sainte-Marie.

Ever since the election I’ve wanted to bite someone’s throat out like a werewolf.  That is, until tonight.  I was listening to the great Buffy Sainte-Marie and those last two lines struck me.  Buffy Sainte-Marie is a singer who politically is also the real deal.  She was blacklisted personally by President Johnson.  She was an activist that put herself on the line numerous times.  When she sings the lines, “Hey don’t the wars come easy, hey don’t the peace come hard”, she knows what she is talking about.

I played a festival in Canada this year where I got to see Buffy Sainte-Marie perform.  She talked about how not enough people were saying how we treat each other is what’s important, and not the almighty dollar.  Such a simple message, but something we can’t seem to learn in America.

I worked hard to try to get Prop 1 passed here in Austin.  Prop 1 was a bill that was going to put in the first stage of urban rail in Austin and it also included road projects.  When I was canvassing I mostly talked to Democrats.  When I went into the more middle class and working class neighborhoods people seemed to get that this would help make the city a better, more livable place.  The richer the neighborhoods, the more people seemed to claim that we couldn’t afford it.  This was going to raise taxes a total of about $20 a month, and this was not even going to take full effect until 2020.  The price of four beers a month turned people off to doing something that was not only going to make the city better, but was also good for the environment.  And it seemed to be those that could most afford it that were the most against it.

The state of Texas elected Dan Patrick, a former conservative radio host, who makes Sean Hannity look like a Rhodes Scholar, as our new Lieutenant Governor.  That position actually holds power in the state of Texas.

The country as a whole seemed to vote for the most insane politicians possible, at a time when, especially environmentally, we can least afford it.  The oil and the gas industries won big, when we need to be electing people that will help us end our dangerous addiction to fossil fuels.  Women and gays are under attack through proposed policies.  Minorities and poor people are under attack at the polling stations.  I had to show an ID to vote in Texas, a move that some estimate might have disenfranchised 600,000 Texans.

The old, the white, and the scared showed up in large numbers, while the young, who have the most to lose, stayed home.  It’s discouraging that people that should know better allowed themselves to be duped, while those that need to know better were so apathetic.  All around no one comes out of this clean, for different reasons.

However, the one of my pet peeves is those that say there is no difference in politicians.  There is an ancient ocean of difference between Sarah Palin and Elizabeth Warren, for one example.  Those that have become so cynical that they are blind to that, I will never understand.

The thing is, even those that voted the opposite of what I believe they should have, are people that I think should be included in the dream.  I don’t want anyone to go without healthcare.  I don’t want anyone to go to a war that is senseless.  I don’t want anyone thrown in jail that doesn’t deserve it.  I wish these people could see that the things that we liberals want don’t just benefit us.

Meanwhile there seems to be nonstop attacks on those most vulnerable.  Why is there so much hatred for immigrants or homosexuals?  The lizard brain is running wild right now.  But at the center of all this are people that value money over other human beings.  And they know how to get those lizard brains in motion.

This week was a huge setback for this country, and because of our power, for the world.  But as Buffy sings:

Hey don’t the wars come easy
Hey don’t the peace come hard

 We on the left must dust ourselves off and get motivated.  There is a dark train coming down the tracks.  I don’t blame anyone for being depressed or discouraged.  Christ, I am.  But to do nothing is to give in to despair and desolation.  There is only two years until the next election.  Not that much time, but enough to get reorganized and hungry again.

Last time our people showed up to vote it led to 10,000,000 people getting healthcare that didn’t have it, to gays being allowed to serve openly in the military, and to the first Latino on the Supreme Court.  That is real and meaningful change.  I benefited from the healthcare law, but I’m a white male that likes girls.  I was happy to see people that were different than me realize their dreams.  in this interconnected world it has to be about more than your own tribe.  We sink or swim together.  There is water in the boat, but we haven’t drowned yet…

First We Take Manhattan

In case you didn’t know there is an election going on this week.  Time to stand up and be counted.  I’m not naive enough to think that voting alone can change the system.  However, I think that it is an important part of living in a democracy.  The options in front of us at times might not be great, but if you can’t see the difference between certain candidates, than you are blind.  Voting is only one step to making the world better, but it is a step that needs to be taken.  Don’t let the cynics keep you from voting this week.  First we take Manhattan and then we take Berlin!

Prop 1 In Austin and Public Transportation

I apologize in advance for those of you outside of Austin, although I do think what I’m about to write pertains to people outside of Austin.  In Austin we are debating public transportation right now.  There is a proposition on the ballot that will fund 9.5 miles of rail and improvements to our roads.  It is called Prop 1 on the ballot.  If you want to support it, vote yes on Prop 1.  Even at a conservative estimate the rail is supposed to take 10,000 cars a day off of the roads.  Why is this a conservative estimate?  Because they want to pass more rail in the future.  In order to do this the first one has to work as promised.  They would prefer it to work better than they said, and not worse, so they are estimating that it will take 10,000 cars off the road each weekday, but in reality the numbers will actually probably be higher.

Here are some things that a lot of people don’t know:

1.  The federal government is matching the City of Austin dollar for dollar.  So those that are worried about price, which seems to be why most people are worried, should know that if we pass it now, we will only have to pay for half of it.

2.  Taxes will not be increased fully until 2020 and then it will be on average of $20 dollars a month per household.

3.  Many people don’t understand why the city is starting with one line.  This is because the last time the city tried to pass rail, they tried a comprehensive plan and it was voted down by a small margin.  This time they are trying to do it a little bit at a time so it has a better chance of passing.  They are addressing I-35, which is the worst road in Austin.  This 9.5 miles of rail also hits a lot of the main parts of Austin including downtown, UT, ACC campus at the Highland Mall, East Riverside, and the med center.

4.  Some people are concerned that it doesn’t go to the airport.  If it went to the airport they would have to deal with Federal Aviation and the price tag would be even higher.  Again, this plan was put into place because they were trying to get something that would pass, based on the defeat of last time, while still addressing a wide number of concerns in the city.

Now those are just a couple answers to people’s concerns that I have heard.  There are things I didn’t bring up, like it will be more environmentally friendly than having all those people drive, It’s the kind of project that Americans need to be doing to get off of fossil fuels, it will provide convenient and affordable transportation for those that owning a car isn’t a reality, and it will make the city more livable.  If you were to ask most people what the worst thing about Austin is, most people would probably say the traffic.

But this proposition is also the moral thing to do.  This is where those of you that are not from Austin should be interested.  Both because of climate change and because of conflicts that arise over oil, we need to be finding ways to diminish our use of gas.  Getting 10,000 people a day, and hopefully more in the future, won’t change the world in and of itself, but it is the start of a lifestyle change that we need to be making.

Those that only think of their own pocketbook are missing the larger picture.  We spend money on all kinds of wasteful stuff in this country.  I’m sure that anyone that complains about taxes probably has some kind of TV or other thing in their house that they could do without if they really needed to.  No one is even asking you to go without such things.  I’m just trying to make the connection that $20 dollars a month towards something that is a public good, that will benefit people at large that don’t even live in Austin, although the citizens of Austin will see the most benefit, isn’t really that much to ask.  This is your chance to do something to make the world slightly better.

I have been all over Europe and Japan and most Americans have no idea how amazing good public transportation is.  It is so much less stressful than driving in bumper to bumper traffic.  You can actually enjoy yourself by reading a book, playing a game, or taking a nap.  When I used to work a day job I worked 12 miles from my home.  It would take me over an hour to get home some days.  I don’t care how good of a day I had, by the time I got home I wanted to dismember people.  Imagine if you could get on a train and read instead of do that drive.  It would make day to day life so much better.  In Japan and Europe public transportation is clean, efficient, and enjoyable.  Sitting in your car for an hour every afternoon inching your way forward is not efficient or enjoyable.  It is also ridiculously bad for our environment.

I criticize the GOP a lot on here.  I am largely criticizing the modern ultra-conservative GOP.  It is totally a fair argument to have to make sure that taxes are not spent on wasteful projects.  Even though I rarely agreed with the more moderate conservatives, I understood where they were coming from and felt that those arguments served a purpose.  The questions that conservatives and liberals should be asking is not should taxes be higher or lower, but are we getting something that makes our lives better through taxes.  If we are not then it is not worth spending money on.  If we are than it is.

The public good is always something worth spending money on.  Public transportation and parks and things of that nature, that make life more enjoyable, are worth committing resources to.  Spending billions of dollars on foreign wars in countries that are of no threat to our security are not.  Can we not see that we often spend money on all the wrong things?

I love this city and I love this country.  But we must admit that as a people we are often wasteful.  Things like Prop 1 are our chance to not only make our lives better, but to be better citizens in the world.  On one hand Prop 1 is about the kind of city we want to live in here in Austin.  But really, it is about so much more.