Author Archive: delicatemonster

A Numbered Rant

Over the last two weeks, the changes coming out of the Executive Branch have been fast and furious.  In keeping with the pace, APV member Kathy Walker wrote a set of  rapid responses on social media which we have collected below. Please feel free to engage with your own observations in the comments area below.

  1. One good thing comes out of the Devos confirmation: knowledge that we are on our own. If the Republicans won’t stand up to block the nomination of someone so flagrantly unqualified, they damn well aren’t going to impeach Trump. It is going to be a long two years until we can vote one of these bastards out.
  2. I realize that there are all sorts of charlatans around today who spend a lot of time and energy trying to prove that when Jesus said all those things about helping the least of these, he didn’t really mean disadvantaged people, and when he said the thing about the rich having a hard time getting into the kingdom of heaven, what he really meant was you should hoard money like a tick hoards blood.Believe in Jesus if you want, don’t believe if you don’t want to, I don’t really care, but if you’re going to say you believe, don’t twist every last thing your prophet said into the opposite of what it means….
  3. We are about 35 years behind in this fight. It was about that long ago that the religious right started showing up at local and state republican conventions (In VA) and shutting out the more moderate folks who had been doing the work, and pushing the party far to the right. So yeah. Anyone wanting change should start showing up at the local level, and taking over, and pushing things back to the left. The good news is so few people show up that taking over should be feasible, now that everyone has noticed that we are three inches from fascism. The bad news is that local political meetings are deadly dull, not nearly as fun and empowering as all these protests, and they are so annoying, but despite their lack of sex appeal, that’s where the work gets done.
  4. I really wish a million people had shown up when Bush lost the popular vote, and might have lost the Electoral vote too, if the count hadn’t been stopped by the Supreme Court. Where was everybody then? Oh well. Water over the dam.
  5. So, trump rushed into his first military foray, and at least some of it went badly, and we lost an American soldier, and then Trump went to meet the family of the dead Navy seal and milked that for all it was worth. And then online I see a trump supporter actually make the argument that it is really great to have a president who will go to the funeral of a dead soldier, because Obama never, ever, did anything as patriotic as go to the funeral of a dead soldier, so it is a shame the mainstream media wasn’t going to cover Trump’s great patriotism, because the MSM was so biased [note: this while the story was being played on ALL the networks], which is why it was so unfair that when Obama went to those funerals he always got media coverage, and that’s why he was always going to so many funerals of dead soldiers, for the publicity.

It’s almost quantum, the way so many contradictory pasts can exist at once, jumbled up in one mangled argument. Or it could just be contrariness.

  1. I have heard people say they can’t believe someone would give up on friends because of politics. “just politics.”

There is no such thing as “just politics.” There is whether or not Gen X is going to at some point this year again lose most of its home equity and watch its retirement accounts evaporate for the third or fourth time since we started earning money. There is whether or not my international students can visit their grandparents in another country without being detailed or handcuffed when they return. There is whether or not my friends who are LBGT have to worry about their safety and their civil rights. There is the fear of my friends who are raising children who are nt lily white, not heterosexual, not whatever is defined as “mainstream,” that their children will become victims of police brutality or hate crimes or vigilantism. There is the erosion of financial stability from the middle class, which started in the 970’s and the desperation at the bottom, which is always with us. But there is no such thing as Just Politics and yes, I will give up on you if you don’t join us over here on the right side of history pretty darn fast.

  1. PBS American Experience is on right now, about Oklahoma City–Waco–Ruby Ridge. Just what I need to sleep well.
  2. Average working class salaries started to drop in the late 70’s. The upper 20% have been taking home an increasingly larger share of income since then. Most families didn’t catch on because that’s also when so many families went from having one working adult to two working adults. We have lost ground for decades, all of us, and as someone who works pretty hard, I am somewhat pissed off about that. We are all in the same boat. It’s not an excuse for the Right’s racism and sexism and authoritarian tendencies.
  3. Lately I have been thinking about the wisdom of pig farmers.
    Don’t put lipstick on a pig.
    Don’t teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig.
    Don’t wrassle with a pig. You’ll both get filthy, but the pig will enjoy it.
  4. The banality of evil. After WWII, so much effort went into understanding how ordinary people could have followed the Nazi’s orders so easily. We are seeing echoes of the great experiments again. As in the Asch study, we have Trump voters looking at pictures of the crowd at the inauguration and agreeing it was the biggest crowd ever. As in the [Stanley ]Milgram experiment, we see people blindly obeying authority. Homeland Security agents handcuffing a five year old who is here legally.
  5. It is freaking me out a bit how everything the right accused the left of doing is actually something that the right is doing. Orlando is a false flag, but Bowling Green Massacre really exists. Private email servers. Goldman Sachs. Hillary sneaking around murdering people vs Putin having people murdered .I am just waiting to see the reveal on whatever inspired the child porn/pizza parlor story.
  6. When people start talking about abortion these days, I want to start talking about my uterus. “So,” I want to say, “let’s chat about my uterus.” or “what do you know about my uterus?” And my guess is, if I ask this to these random people, they will not have much to say, which is funny when you think about it, because when they talk about regulating abortion, they are talking about MY UTERUS.
  7. Marching is great and all but we need to remember a few things about it. It won a few specific battles during the Civil Rights Movement, but …. marches and protests are symbols. You can use symbols to defeat symbols. Making people sit in the back of the bus is symbolic; it is a performance about power. It can be defeated by a protest, which is a performance showing displeasure with the current power structure.
  8. Many of the great battles of the Civil Rights movement were won in the courtroom. We remember the marches, but the strategy focused heavily on strategic lawsuits. Brown v Board of Ed. Loving v Va. Plus the countless suits that struck at segregated streets, housing covenants, job discrimination, etc. In many ways, the judicial system is much more conservative now than it was back then. Not sure the strategy will work this time.
  9. I’m wondering if Dan Clawson http://www.publishersweekly.com/978-0-465-02680-7 has recent numbers on how much $ a Senate candidate has to raise every week to wage a successful campaign. I seem to recall it was $10,000 a Week? or more? Anyone seen recent numbers?
  10. For you, Lynnie. I remember maybe 10-15 years ago now watching the Olympics, and there was a particularly annoying human interest story on between events about the sacrifices one of the athletes had made for her sick child, blah blah motherhood blah blah — motherhood being great and all that but the tendency here to fetishize it instead of subsidizing it like the other post-industrial nations do pisses me off. I digress. So, there’s this long story about this woman and the arduous struggle she went through to get medical help for her child– she was from a nation with a much less developed health care system –and finally she manages to get her child to Germany for life-saving surgery. And I was floored. Because any story on the air on a network during the Olympics is going to be closely following the accepted patriotic script… And I thought, When did our script change? When we were kids, the script would have been that she came to the US to get medical treatment for her child because we have the most rocking science. But instead, it switched to some regressive gender role crap. It really struck me at the time.
  11. Don’t even get me started about how we were supposed to have a super-collider (https://www.scientificamerican.com/…/the-supercollider-tha…/)
  12. The crowd that loves to chant USA, USA somehow has missed the fact that what made us great was two things: we had what Fitzgerald called “a willingness of the heart,” and we had an amazing dedication to science. We made it to the moon!!! And not too much time elapsed between the first flight and making it to the moon.

When a nation dreams of science, it can be a beautiful dream. Science is about hope and exploration and possibility. And now we are falling behind, and for the same few stupid reasons. Lack of funding, really short-sighted. Religious weirdness, corporate strangleholds (internet, energy)

  1. I have been worked up for a long time about how Republicans are so anti science, but now they have leapfrogged past me and started disregarding reality itself. The bar can always sink lower.

    Some fan of the Orange one is on Charlie Rose right, talking about how great this is going to be, now that Orange One/Congress are repealing the limited safeguards put in after the last economic crash. And I saw a Republican Congressperson claim they were repealing regulations that had been a “boot on the throat of the common man.” We have a president who has no concept of what the job is supposed to entail, and half the American public is too benighted to be terrified.

  2. For a measure of how far we have fallen from grace, politically, scientifically, think about how Jonas Salk didn’t patent the polio vaccine. Think about how the government used to put its resources into backing research for public health problems. We saw Lady from Shanghai at the Byrd last week. I was talking with Vance afterwards about the character of Bannister, lurching around on his canes, and how when the movie opened it would have been so taken for granted that he was paralyzed by polio that it is never addressed in the script. I don’t think that younger generations have an understanding of the implications of that, and that means they also aren’t going to see the dangers of having an anti-vaccine Cabinet.
  3. Interesting discussion last night on point 2. India suggests keeping lines of communication open. I could see some wiggle room with people who really just voted for the Thing because they always vote R. That was apparently the best predictor of who was going to vote for him all along. But people really should not be able to plead “didn’t feel like thinking this decade” as an excuse. The evidence has been there all along about who he is.

    Now, the avid supporters, the one who are actively pushing his propaganda in my feed. They are gone. Fuck that. No more Photoshopped pics of Obama as a terrorist, no more Photoshopped pics of the Thing with Santa and Jesus. Because keeping these people as friends and leaving these offensive posts in my feed is a step towards normalizing what is going on, and I will not do that.

Where is the line, ultimately? What line does he have to cross before you can no longer maintain a relationship with people who support him? You don’t have to draw your line where I am drawing mine, but my advice is to decide right now where that line is, because he is going to cross it, sooner or later.

~By Kathy Walker

 

 

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In Defense of Christmas!

Alliance for a Progressive Virginia

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The recurring theme of a “War on Christmas” is now a tradition. Annually, stalwart intellectuals like Sarah Palin, Bill O’Reilly, Michelle Bachman et. al. will take to the air waves and will announce that our Christmas spirit is somehow less than Christian because we say ‘Holiday’ rather than ‘Christmas.’ The only thing more vitiated of actual intellectual content is the peals of outrage over Duck Dynasty’s Phil Robertson’s suspension because he managed, in a single interview, to shred whatever veil of civility his on air persona once presented. There are millions of writers, thinkers, speakers of all political and cultural persuasions who will never garner the kind of audience Phil has, precisely because speech, of the variety that Phil has the privilege to practice, is NOT free. It is very expensive. Considering the banality of Phil’s assertions, it should cost him more than his pathetic job is worth.

But the ‘War on Christmas’…

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I Was an Eighth Grade Communist (and Other Reasons to Vote for Bernie Sanders)

bernie

This really happened. In the eighth grade, prodded by Ms. Spiver, an enthusiastic teacher with an enlightened vision for an open classroom, I had the opportunity to research different governing systems.  I chose communism because the name sounded cool and appeared to frighten everyone. I read about Marx and Lenin and the proletariat of the state and the main idea which I glommed  was to ensure everyone’s basic needs were met. This seemed grand, generous and even beautiful. I quoted the Encyclopedia Britannica at length, and with a flourish, scribbled out three pages in long hand, ending the paper with a makeshift version of the iconic hammer and sickle.

I thought Ms. Spiver would be proud.

The next day I was called into a parent/teachers conference.  This was in Raleigh, North Carolina circa 1976 when the rabid anti-communist Senator Jesse Helms graced the Channel six news editorial spot which my father listened to every. single. night.

Ms. Spiver was all ‘tender mercies!’ and ‘Lord child!’ and ‘where did you get such ideas?’ and I wasn’t sure if she was as concerned about my paper and my education as the possibility that Mr. Creigh, who  substituted as an insurance agent on days when he wasn’t playing the principal, might take serious offense. But I explained, and even defended as best I could the idea of equality, and everyone getting what they needed, these all seemed like fine goals. What was the problem?  Ms. Spiver, to her credit, did not try to correct my initial interpretation, but merely advised that my opinion on the matter was somewhat out of step with the adult population of Raleigh, North Carolina circa 1976. Mom and dad ushered me home, silent in their Buick. Dad finally parked the car in the lot and turned and proceeded to give me the low down. “Communists are bad because they represent a totalitarian system. They don’t allow freedom.  You understand?”

I nodded my head.

“Okay?”

“Okay.”  That sounded like something to avoid. And the tone in my father’s voice was enough for me to forget my flirtation with alternate political systems until high school when we began looking at the social democratic governments, and I found myself once again intrigued by the idea that a government would be based on people getting what they absolutely needed; regardless of their jobs, social stations or life situations.

Denmark, Finland, Sweden, England, to a lesser extent, Germany and Spain. If all these countries pursued such programs, why didn’t we?

My father, with the patience of Job, once again explained what he thought should have been obvious.

“What if I just gave you a dollar every week instead of letting you earn a dollar by mowing the lawn? Hmmmm?”

“I’d have a dollar but I wouldn’t have to mow the lawn.”

Yes, he conceded, okay, but that’s not the point. The point is if you give people something for nothing they’ll take advantage of it. Like all those welfare queens.

By this time, Ronald Reagan was running for high office and was denouncing shady welfare queens that rode around in Cadillacs and bought caviar with tax payer’s money. This activity rankled the hell out of Jesse Helms who never missed an opportunity to denounce the welfare moochers.

Do you want to be a welfare queen?

I decidedly did not want to be a welfare queen. I gathered from my father’s tone that I was not supposed to like the idea of riding around in a Cadillac, eating caviar at the tax payers’ expense, no matter how much fun it might appear.

By the time I entered college, Reagan was in his second term. Taxes had been slashed and the poorer residents of mental homes were dumped onto the city streets.  Despite the loss of tax revenue, billions were being funneled into such patently absurd pursuits as an armed space shield; a so called ‘star wars’  shield that would provide cover for the Western Hemisphere by shooting down missiles aimed to blow up our cities. Since there were none and since billions were being funneled into a useless and unworkable program while the homeless and mentally handicapped were left to fend for themselves, (many times I stood in line with them at the local 7-Eleven), I wrote a few college paper editorials suggesting this kind of activity was ill-advised. I proudly signed my name.

My college Spanish teacher, a middle aged Cuban exile, caught up with me one day.

“I have read what you have written,” she whispered, “You are part of this nuclear freeze movement, too, no?”

“Yes.” I said. Sure I was. Who wouldn’t  be opposed to nuclear weapons lying around waiting to obliterate the world 200 times over?

“Are you a communista?”

Of course I wasn’t a communista! What had that to do with the nuclear freeze movement? But, for her, the nuclear freeze movement was loaded with fellow travelers and communist sympathizers and what not. I tried to ease her mind by telling her I wasn’t a communist, closer to a  democratic socialist, really. This did not appear to help matters.

“You know I come from Cuba. There, when Castro came to power, he forced my family into exile. We had a mansion and servants in Cuba, but when I came to this land, I had to cut my hair and sell it, just to survive. Can you imagine?”

I really couldn’t. “So you were very rich,” I said, “That must have been nice.”

“They stole everything!”

“Right. But now Cuba has much better infant mortality and death rates. It has one of the best medical systems even by Western standards. Cuban doctors help poor people all over the world.”

“So you are a communista!”

“No, I’m not. If I’m anything, I’m a social democrat, like in Finland.”

“It’s the same.”

“No, they’re really different.”

And so I went on to explain to her that one could be a social democrat without falling in lockstep with state run economies like in Cuba or the Soviet Union.  In fact, one of the best examples of social democracy operates as the capitalist heart of Europe: Germany. “They have what they like to refer to as a social market economy. They try to combine the virtues of a market system with the virtues of a social welfare system. You can get a free education, even free higher education, free healthcare and free retirement. Some of your basic essentials are guaranteed by the government, but other stuff, like where you work or what you make is dictated by a private sector economy. Of course, you pay taxes for these things, but the government operates to redistribute the money so it benefits everyone. That is social democracy in a nutshell.”

“It will never work,” she advised me, predicting Germany’s downfall by the end of the decade.

That was 1987. Germany’s still around. It’s 2015. Germany still provides free healthcare, free retirement and free higher education and it is still one of the strongest economies in Europe.  Our economy, conversely, is dogged by huge gaps of inequality, a dysfunctional healthcare system moderately improved by the ACA, insanely expensive higher education costs, and a retirement system whose paltry offerings are even now threatened by reactionary politicians. Our incarceration rate is the highest in the world. Our homicide rate is one of the highest. Our infant mortality rate is higher than Cuba’s and is comparable to Serbia. You read that right, Serbia. None of these things are natural or necessary. They are by design because we refuse to grow up like the rest of the civilized Western world and insist on the fairy tale version of capitalism that doesn’t require any funding for public infrastructure or social services beyond the absolute bare essentials. The only thing we want to pour money into is our vastly over sized military which has caused many more problems in the last few decades than it has solved.

The  majority of the Western industrialized world embraces some form of socialized democracy. In our own country the most successful government programs are inherently socialized: Medicare, Social Security. And, of course, our own Defense Department is an almost entirely socialized bureaucracy.  We have patches of socialism all over the place, but the rightwing has done an excellent job demonizing the term. In fact, the last time someone claiming to be a socialist ran for President was nearly a 100 years ago.   His name was Eugene V. Debs. He famously said when he was convicted of violating the Sedition Act in 1918, that “while there is a lower class, I am in it; while there is a criminal element, I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” Ringing words that beautifully encapsulate a social democrat’s world view.

It’s become increasingly obvious that a strictly free market agenda is disastrous for a people and an economy. One only need look at Kansas under Brownback’s ideological leadership. The state’s surplus has been turned into a catastrophic black hole of debt through a combination of tax cuts for the wealthiest and slashing of public funds. One could see the same disastrous pile up under George W. Bush’s leadership.

The Spanish teacher who accused me of being a communist told me that I needed to ‘grow up.’ The nice thing about Bernie Sanders candidacy is that it  is already grown up.  It assumes responsibility for everyone in the nation, not just those that manage to make the cover of Forbes.  He has tirelessly advocated for the poor and the underclass and, unlike the vast majority of American politicians, assumes it’s okay to travel coach class.  But don’t take it from me that Sanders knows what he’s talking about or that social democracy is a mature governing principle. Take it from that flagship of capitalism, the Economist. In a 2013 article, that magazine declared the social democratic Scandinavian countries, “probably the best governed in the world.”

So there’s no need to carry on with this charade that the ‘socialist’ option cannot win.  We can. Actually, in many areas, we already have. Si, se puede, baby. The only real question is, how soon before the rest of us grow up?