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Why are your politics important to you? Waving my “personal is political” flag
“Questioning” (“Participating”, “Noodling”) is a regular feature of this website asking a question, inviting people to participate in an experience, positing an idea, or in some other way encouraging people to ...
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crazy people and guns

Gun Wall (Photo credit: Mike Saechang)

Whoa, Nelly.

I’m no foe to moderate, reasonable limits on gun ownership… but I swear if I read one more comment about how if ‘crazy people’ couldn’t get guns, we wouldn’t need any other measures.. I will, uh, write a blog post about how many ways that statement is wrong.

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In my opinion, it’s pretty disgusting that we’re still having to have this conversation about equal pay. It’s a crime and a travesty. Do I have to mention that it bugs the crap out of me that I have six years of college and make less money per year than my husband does with a trade school certification?

Equal Pay

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Deadly Sin Wrath

Aw, hell. I was in the middle of this post about wrath when Sandy Hook Elementary school in Newtown,  Connecticut became the victim of  a mass killing of (among others) kindergarten students. I have completed my original thoughts, but have added, in the context of today’s events, a comment about what happened. It’s at the end of this post.

I started this series with wrath because it is perhaps the most deadly of the deadly sins — and not just because people who live in anger have a greater tendency to commit murders.  Anger creates a condition of continual stress in your body, which, over time, causes heart disease, high blood pressure, and other physical ailments.

Anger vs. Wrath

When people come to a therapist, they usually have one of three emotions that they are trying to ‘get rid of’: anger, fear, or sadness. Leaving aside for a second that “getting rid of”

deadly sin wrath

Pieter Bruegel the Elder: The Seven Deadly Sins or the Seven Vices – Anger (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

an emotion is not the answer, the key here is that anger is one of the top three most miserable emotions to live with… and it’s even more complicated than that.

Anger is almost always tied up very tightly with anxiety. Sometimes the anger attempts to hide the fear, and sometimes the fear is desperately covering up deep rage, but they appear to be paired in many, many people.

On top of its marriage to anxiety, anger also sometimes serves an important function, by giving energy to people who are paralyzed by fear or depression, to function at a more or less ‘normal level’.

Anger is a useful emotion.

That bears repeating: Anger is a useful emotion. Which is why I tell people I will not help them get rid of it, only to use it better.

It can help you identify wrongs in your life. Is someone consistently treating you with disrespect? Anger will let you know, if you let it. Are you being asked to do more than your fair share at home or work? Anger will give you a heads up. Are someone’s lies hurting you? Anger will tell you (if you let it).

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I was exhausted last night and didn’t get my post ready for today. Here is something interesting and useful about the empathic nature of society to tide you over until I get home from work tonight and finish my post on Wrath, the first of the (Christian) Deadly Sins.

I’m interested in your thoughts on his reasoning (RSA Animate has tons of thoughtful videos out there… I invite you to ‘waste’ a day wandering through them.)

Also, this:

Empathy and Civilization

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Combating the Death of American Education

Combating the Death of American Education

I recently read an article (linked below the fold) about the deliberate destruction of the US post secondary education system. I would go farther and say that the same people who are deliberately destroying public post secondary education are deliberately manufacturing the death of American education in general (with the exception of private schools).

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Smart Phones

Smart Phones as Swiss Army Knife

Smart phones are an amazing investment, and even if you’re down and out and broke, if you can find a phone and plan you can afford, buy one.  They are a lifeline, an entertainment center, and a business office in one.

Every now and then someone starts that old rant about the ‘Obamaphones’ again. Part of me wants to ask whether that is kind of like a homophone, except that it sounds like the President. The other part of me wants to start a pedantic rant about how, no, that particular entitlement far predates the 45th President of the United States. But that’s neither here nor there. 

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Living with HIV

Pretty Red Ribbon Gear

My sister is living with HIV.

I don’t remember when I got the call, perhaps six months or a year after my mother died, so in 2000, maybe even late 1999. I know that all the open wounds from Mom’s death hadn’t healed yet and none of us siblings were very close at that time.

She was crying. Actually, she was totally, utterly freaked out. Or maybe that was a later conversation, after the reality hit. She’d tested positive. There’d been a workplace accident, and she’d gotten blood in an open cut on her hand.  And now she had a deadly disease. And I was stunned, and devastated, and utterly helpless.

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living wageWhen you find me struggling with the obvious on wage and labor issues, remember that I spent nearly a decade as a libertarian before I slowly, painfully reasoned my way back to a supporter of a well regulated economy with capitalism as the engine and liberalism as a steering wheel.

A friend who is deeply involved in the Occupy movement posted the picture to the left on Facebook a couple of days ago, and it let loose a cascade of thoughts that drew a little of that old poison from my wounds.

My old reactionary core rose up in protest. Really? You’re going to go there? And then I paused. It’s a really good question. Its opposite is asked many, many times in libertarian and conservative circles. At what point is taxation theft? And if it is always theft, then why is it not also theft to take the benefits of another person’s labor, and profit from it? 

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Building an Earthship

The Preston’s home on fire

Hunter and Samantha Preston lost their home and a dear friend in a fire at their home in June of 2012, in Fort Myers, Florida. They are newlyweds with a small child and couldn’t afford insurance, so they lost everything. Their goal is to rebuild their home as an ‘Earthship‘, a sustainable home. They formed a campaign on Indigogo, which you can read about here.

Unfortunately, their campaign has stalled out and they are still far from their goal with only a few weeks left. If they succeed, not only will they again have a family home, one that is sustainable and a wonderful model for the rest of us, but they also intend to use it as the headquarters for their non-profit business, SLIE (Sustainable Living and Interconnected Education) which will teach urban dwellers in their area about gaining better control of their food chain.

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Rolling Jubilee

Wipe our Debt (Photo credit: Images_of_Money)

Occupy Wall Street has found a very interesting new cause to pursue, and are rolling it out on November 15th (which happens to be my dad’s 80th birthday. Happy birthday, Daddy!). They are raising money to buy up debt for pennies on the dollar and forgive it. It’s called Rolling Jubilee and there’s a good editorial by Douglas Rushkoff about it on CNN here.

Rushkoff brings up the ‘moral hazard’ issue and deals with it pretty well, simply by equating personal debt forgiveness with the business debt forgiveness that has already been done by government on a massive scale. There’s more to it than that, however.

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Dalek voting

Vote! Keep your priorities straight: Participate and then Exterminate. Or maybe simply participate and realize your entire reason for existing is bogus and decide to go against the crowd and become a proud citizen of the Universe. Maybe that will get that crazy Doctor off your back.

On a more serious note, yes, I know that Daleks would necessarily be aliens and not citizens, and even if they were citizens of an Earth country it would almost certainly be Great Britain and not the United States. Besides, they ain’t never gonna change, so the whole idea of them voting is laughable. So if you see one at your polling place, take cover and call the Doctor.

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SALT LAKE CITY, UT- JUNE 24:  U.S. Republican ...

SALT LAKE CITY, UT- JUNE 24: U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his wife Ann Romney talk to several small business leaders at the Hires Big H hamburger restaurant on June 24, 2011 in Salt Lake City, Utah. Romney made the campaign stop in order to talk to small business owners in the Salt Lake area. (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

SALT LAKE CITY, UT- JUNE 24:  (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)

Of course they do! The ‘controversy’ stems from one woman (Hilary Rosen, who I’d never heard of before this incident) saying that Ann Romney had ‘never worked a day in her life’. It may in fact be true that Ann Romney has never earned a wage in the marketplace in her life. It is even more likely that she has never had to rely on working for a wage to support her or her children.

Yes, Ann Romney works. She raised five children and she is a political wife, which is a career in and of itself. However, the choice she made, to stay at home and devote her life to her children and her husband’s career is one that is difficult or impossible for many women.

Please note. Staying at home with your family is not a bad choice. It’s a pretty incredible choice, actually, for those who have the personality and resources to do so.  That is why feminists and liberals so often work to make that choice available for more women.

  • Liberals and feminists support paid sick leave and paid maternity and paternity leaves for parents who must work to make it easier to balance parenting and working.
  • Liberals and feminists support programs that allow impoverished women to stay home with their children and raise them with dignity and safety, through enforcement of child support laws, food stamp programs, parenting programs, housing programs, and cash benefits that support the ability of women to take care of their children when left without a parenting partner.
  • Liberals and feminists support modernizing Social Security to honor the unpaid labor of stay at home moms so that their retirements are equivalent to those of people who work in the marketplace.

The Republican cries of horror at what’s-her-name’s criticism of Ann Romney are disingenuous at best. Republicans do not support providing institutional supports to make parenting easier. They do not support honoring the unpaid work of women as equivalent to the paid work of those in the marketplace.  What they do support is restricting the choices of women even more than currently, including restricting choices in health care procedures and providers.

There are legitimate criticisms to make about Ann Romney.  She has not demonstrated that she supports the sort of policies that would make her choice more available to women not born with silver spoons. She has not demonstrated that she supports health care policies that would enable more women to survive the serious medical conditions her economic privilege has allowed her to survive.

But there is no bandwagon to jump on to criticize Ann Romney for staying home with her children, try as Republicans might to find one. It’s a good choice, an important choice, that many women make with their lives. And liberals and feminists want to make that choice more available to more parents.

If you want more women (or men) to have the choice to stay home with their children, the way to achieve that goal is to vote Democratic, not Republican, this fall. That’s the choice at the root of the choice.

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A poppy or twoImage by Steve-h via Flickr

Remember Obama’s campaign slogan in 2008? Hope and Change? The GOP seems to have embraced change – calling for apocalypse – but hope? Unless you’re one of the elect 144,000 who God will come home, you’re out of luck.

Shakesville has this quote:

“We just passed a bill—$1.2 trillion in cuts. If it were about reducing the deficit, the statement has been made about seriousness to do that. This isn’t about that. This isn’t about reducing the deficit; it’s about destroying the public space. It’s about destroying federal involvement in education, clean air, clean water, food safety, public safety. You name it, they’re there to diminish it, destroy it.”—House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, on the goal of her Republican colleagues in Congress. (Melissa links to a petition to demand revenue increases and jobs creation be ‘on the table’ at the supercommittee.

It’s intentional. It’s GOP policy to destroy hope. Why? When the people lose hope, the party that is ‘out of power’ wins elections. But the GOP has forgotten one small detail. The US people don’t really see them as ‘out of power’. We see them as controlling both houses of Congress, for all intents and purposes (thanks to the filibuster, the Senate is crippled) and the Supreme Court. Only the President is a Democrat, and his fetish for ‘compromise’ clearly cripples him in this environment.

The voters in the US aren’t always astute enough to pick up on intentional sabotage, though. Clearly, the economic policies of the last thirty years have been supported on the backs of economic illiteracy and disinformation (that means lies, for those who don’t like big words) from the ‘free market’ gurus.

Something’s happening now, though. People who have voted Republican their whole lives, who pride themselves on their ‘fiscal conservatism’, are seeing the practical effects of GOP policies and realizing that the real fiscal conservatives in Congress are the Democrats, and are crossing the aisle.

And the social conservatives? Those who ‘cling to their Gods and guns’? They’re beginning to realize that Obama isn’t after their (our) guns, and are beginning to understand that the core Christian values of compassion and love for one another are better embodied by the Democratic party, and they’re crossing the line too. Their fellow evangelicals who have always seen the ‘sugar coated satan sandwich’ of GOP policies are welcoming them with open arms (thank you again, Congressman Cleaver, for that gem).

You know what gives you away, GOP? It’s the glee. The twirling mustaches, the hands rubbing together, the cackling laughter. The classic villain mistake in all the B flicks. You have the hero tied up, the train is coming, all is lost, but you just can’t help yourself, you have to talk about what you’ve done, brag to your victim of his coming doom.

But you’re not paying attention behind you. That guy who was walking down the road, minding his own business, on the way to his job or his home? He overhears you talking, and maybe he doesnt’ understand everything you’re saying, but he understands that his cousin who is a quadralegic can no longer have home health visit him and now must live in a nursing home and give up his part time job.

He understands that his sister’s unemployment benefits were just cut off, and he’s fielded dozens or hundreds of calls from her about her frantic job search, so he knows she’s not ‘lazy and unmotivated’ like you say.

His daughter wants to go to college, but financial aid has been cut, and he’s terrified of letting her go into the military because he does contract work at the local VA and he sees what a catastrophe the wars and the VA budget cuts have left behind.

He sees people whizzing by in Mercedes and BMWs, and he sees that high end stores are doing a booming business, so when you keep talking about ‘shared sacrifice’ he’s beginning to wonder if he’s the sacrifice and the ‘shared’ part is the forks and the barbeque sauce the rich are passing around.

He has long been skeptical of ‘socialized medicine’, but its been in the news so much he’s read up on it, and he’s really not seeing the downside anymore, after doing the research.

So there you are, with our hero Hope tied to the train tracks, the train bearing down, and this guy, this ‘average Joe’ who couldn’t give two shits about politics hears you bragging about how you’re taking him down, ‘reducing government to the size of a bathtub and drowning it’, and suddenly you’re on the ground, Hope has been pulled off the train tracks and released from his bonds, and the train passes by harmlessly, the engineer waving out the window.

With Hope released, Joe continues down the road to his home or his work, and leaves you to your mustache twirling and hand rubbing. Hope gives you the side eye and dares you to try again. Your hands move nervously to your sides and your mustache droops as you realize that Hope is not going to go anywhere, is not going to die, is, in fact, in such contempt of you that he leaves you there without retaliating and hitches a ride into the future as you stare aimlessly into the future with your pain and rage and fear burning a hole in your guts and killing you from the inside out.

You see the future, and with Hope in it, there is no room for you. You can either change, and give up your rage and fear, embracing Hope, or you can sit by the side of the traintracks and pray for God to choose you as one of the select few who will be called to his side. It’s your choice. What do you do?

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It’s easy to find ‘rape art’ in the rape culture

(trigger warning for rape and sexual assault discussion)

Rapists are not faceless strangers.

You almost certainly have at least one person in your personal circle who fits the definition of ‘rapist’. If you are a young man, that likelihood goes up close enough to certainty that I’m not sure you could slide a hair through the difference. In fact, you almost certainly know several people who have committed rape in your larger circle of acquaintances, regardless of who you are.

Here is a little fable that illustrates how many rapists are in the world – how normal, and every day, and every where they are. It is based on the common idea that women are responsible for preventing rape and punishing their rapists, and commits a reducio ad absurdium to underscore the point of exactly who is responsible for stopping them.

When someone tells me that rape would ‘go away’ if women would just arm themselves and shoot their rapists, I ‘entertain’ myself with imagining the world, national and local news reports on the day when suddenly every woman in the world obtains a weapon and succeeds in killing every person who ever sexually assaulted her. For the sake of this fantasy, lets imagine perfect justice – no one is killed that doesn’t deserve it, and no one escapes justice. If a rapist’s victim is already dead, your deity of choice steps in and finishes the job instead.

Rape of the negro girl, Christian van Couwenbe...Image via Wikipedia
More ‘rape art’ showing how acceptable it is

Sixteen percent of men will admit to committing acts that are legally rape if the word ‘rape’ is not used. Roughly one in three or four women (and one in ten men) are raped in their lifetimes. So the actual percent of male rapists in the world is somewhere between 16% and 33% of men depending on how many are repeat offenders and which rape victimization rate is more accurate (this numbers are notoriously difficult to pin down).

Let’s split the difference and say a quarter of all men are rapists, and include the much more rare female rapist in this statistic. (This is, of course, an arbitrary number, for illustration purposes only, and because it’s a nice ‘normal’ fraction). This means that approximately 1/8 of the world population dies on this day, mostly men, but enough women to be easily noticed.

Men (and women) from all walks of life. Politicians. Soldiers. Students. Police officers. Construction Workers. Salespersons. Business managers. Clerks. Religious leaders. Homeless people. Drug dealers. Doctors. Nurses. Fathers. Sons. Brothers. Mothers. Daughters. Sisters. Not a profession in the world is not impacted. Not a single community. Very few families.

Big holes in lives. Roughly one of four of the men you know, and some women too, suddenly gone. Is this an unqualified good, that the rapists of gone, regardless of whether or not it’s just? What do you do with all the people who shot them? Children, teens, adults, seniors. For some of them, the rape is years or decades in the past. For others, it happened as or a minute before the shooting.

Firenze enlevement des sabinesImage via Wikipedia
Rape is so acceptable we decorate our buildings with it.

They live under hundreds of different local law systems. Most of them will be arrested for pre-meditated murder. In some parts of the world, they will be subject to more immediate ‘justice’. So there are more deaths. Nearly a third of the women in the world are suddenly flooding jails.

I wonder how many children now have no adult to look after them? Someone needs to, but even after calling in the ‘relative brigade’, social services throughout the world will be stretched to the limit to provide emergency care.

Between the rapists who have been killed and the survivors who are now facing (at the least) an inquiry and (quite possibly) immediate lethal consquences or long prison sentences, a large percentage of the productive adults in the world are now out of commission. How do you think that would affect businesses?

So that’s the Rambo fantasy, pulled apart for the immediate consequences, and condensed down to a one day, all at a time event. Effective? No. Just? No. Does it improve the lives of those who have been raped? No.

It suffers from the idea that prevention begins at the act of rape, not in the culture, not in the raising of boys to be men or girls to be women, but at the point where a sexual predator identifies you as prey. It assumes that predators simply exist and cannot be controlled or contained, and that you, as a potential prey, are responsible to prevent your own victimization.

Wouldn’t it be just a wee bit better if, instead of holding women (and children, and men) who are being raped responsible for fighting off their attackers, we as a society hold rapists responsible for not raping? That we build a culture where rape is truly unacceptable, under all circumstances?

Don’t rape a woman who you have married, or who said no to your proposal.

Don’t rape a woman who has had too much to drink or to drug.

Don’t rape a child or elder or disabled person in your care.

Don’t rape a woman because her skirt is too short (or too long).

Don’t rape a woman because she is too meek (or too bold).

Don’t rape a man because he is too feminine (or too macho).

Don’t rape a woman because she danced with you.

Don’t rape a woman because she refused to dance with you.

If you see a friend, or a brother, or a parent, or a sister or a co-worker working to isolate someone, or get them drunk, or push their boundaries, stop them. Stop them and tell them in no uncertain terms that what they are doing is wrong, and if they follow through, it is rape. Tell them that if they won’t control their behavior, you will call the police.

If you are the victim of sexual assault, do what you have to do to survive, whether that is to surrender or to fight back, and seek help as soon as it is safe to do so – and do not blame yourself, or second guess yourself, or listen to those who will tell you it is your fault. It is not your fault. The only thing certain in a rape situation is that a rapist is involved. And no matter what, that is not your fault.

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Barack Obama signing the Patient Protection an...



The bulk of this article first published as Health Care Reform: The Sky is Not Falling on Technorati. New content added to end of article.
A new statistic has hit the media cycle designed to send all of our hind brains into panic and pressure the Democratic party into backing off of the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The statistic is this: 30% of employers intend to stop offering employer based health insurance when the ACA comes to pass fully in 2014.

Enough to make you shake in your boots, right? How will all those people get insurance? They’re going to be abandoned! Things are going to be worse than ever!
Really. Just relax. The sky is not falling, Chicken Little.
The reality is – that’s what the ACA was (in part) designed to do. The United States is one of very few countries in the world that tie health care to job status, and there’s a reason for it not being a common model – it’s unattractive for both the employer and employee.
From an employer’s perspective, not having to cover health insurance makes small business startup a lot less expensive and a lot less risky. A small business which suddenly discovers that one of its key employees has an expensive health condition currently often has to make a heartbreaking decision about whether to continue to offer health care, as the small employee group can rapidly price premiums out of the business’s reach. Paying a penalty for not covering health insurance is a very risk-averse way to deal with the issue, but a valid one for many businesses.
The health care pools built into the ACA spread the risk much further, plus add in the young and healthy to the insurance pool (that is the justification for the provision allowing young adults to stay on their parents’ plans and for the health insurance mandate). This will bring the cost down for individuals significantly – and for low and some middle income families, the subsidy provided by the federal government will replace the current employer subsidy.
As we settle into the new law and unintended consequences become apparent, they will be dealt with as were similar issues with Social Security and Medicare – new amendments to the law will rectify the problem.
The ACA is not a perfect law. It has a lot of flaws and was far more complicated than it needed to be (a single payer ‘Medicare for all‘ would have both eliminated the current two-tiered system and been lower cost all the way around). However, on this issue, the fear is largely unfounded.
The transition is not going to be perfect. Some people are going to struggle with change and figuring out what to do. Gaps in service will exist and will need to be addressed. But the world will settle into a new normal that means that artists and writers and self-employed people and people who are employed by small businesses are just as likely to have affordable health insurance as those employed by large companies.
By the time 2020 rolls around, Americans will have gotten used to the new law, made some changes to improve it here and there, and be unable to imagine life without it. And the fiscal effects on the family and on the economy will begin to show, and the cost of health care for government, individuals, and businesses will begin to stabilize and eventually drop.
And that’s not a bad thing.
Here at my own blog I want to expand a bit on this very important topic to distinguish between what the Affordable Care Act actually does compared to what its demonizers accuse it of doing. I’m going to focus here on the individual mandate, the requirement that everyone buy insurance.
First of all, no one is going to jail for not having insurance. You might pay a fine, but you won’t go to jail. While there has been a lot of focus on the negative aspects of the individual mandate (the requirement that everyone has health insurance), there has been little focus on the positive aspects. Partially because of bias, I’m sure, but also because it’s somewhat harder to explain, so I’m going to try telling you a story.
In Job: A Comedy of Justice (one of my favorite books of all time), Robert Heinlein had his poor persecuted main character jumping from universe to universe, each a recognizable variation of our own, some clearly dystopian, others more utopian. In many of these universes, the character took a job as a dishwasher, a job that is easier for someone without papers or proveable history to obtain, that often pays daily or sometimes weekly, and isn’t a critical function that the next universe hop will disrupt.
On one such jump, the character (and his beloved companion) land in a country that has a social safety net paid for by taxes, much like ours. He is outraged to find that his old age (social security) tax is automatically debited from his check each week whether he wants the service or not, and insists that it’s a really nice service, but he can’t afford it.
Robert Heinlein was missing the point. While we can argue all day about how much poor ‘Job’ should have to pay for his retirement, and whether that cost could be borne better by those making significantly more than the average dishwasher, what isn’t really up for argument is that the consequences to not only the individual, but his family and community and society, for failure to plan for his future are too costly to be ignored.
Moreover, (and this is key), because the cost of the individual’s failure to prepare is borne in part by family, community, and society, society has a stake in ensuring that plans for his retirement are sufficient. That is both the legal and moral basis for taxation for contingencies such as retirement and other safety net issues.
Further, because these are unpredictable costs, but almost never negligible, and because they vary, and because there is a strong chance of discrepancy between an individual’s need for help with retirement funding and his ability to fulfill that, a system such as taxation is both practical and just.
So, even though Heinlein’s fictional hero suffered from the payroll tax taken from his income, the long odds were, had the character stayed in that universe (as most of us do) that not only would he have received the full benefit of that initial sacrifice, but that supplement from more highly compensated workers (rich people) would help ease his old age.
And how does that benefit rich people? In a lot of ways, actually. To start with, people whose basic needs are provided for have more money to spend, so if the rich person is selling a product or service, he now has a consumer instead of someone in crisis who is costing public systems money without contributing. A person who is living contentedly and well on an income that meets his or her needs is also less likely to foment rebellion and demand a greater share of the fruits of productivity.
This translates pretty well to health care insurance. The costs of the uninsured are shifted, and not in efficient or effective ways, to those of us who carry health insurance. When everyone pays for health insurance however, especially if, as in the ACA, there are supplements for those for whom health insurance would otherwise be priced out of practicality, all of us benefit in several ways.
  • The cost per individual for health insurance comes down.
  • The general health of the population, including communicable and chronic diseases that are expensive and/or deadly on a societal level, improves.
  • The effects of the two-tiered (wealthy vs. poor) health care system begin to be equalized (though it is important to note here that wealthy folks can buy better care in any country in the world, the care of the poorest goes up, not down, wherever Universal health care is implemented)
  • Artists and entrepreneurs and others who don’t generally work for a salary have far more access to health insurance, allowing for more innovation at the creative and small business level.
  • By moving health insurance (partly) from a business expense to a government expense, a significant burden is lifted from small business, again improving job creation.
  • People whose primary reason for being unable to work, or work to their greatest potential, due to the cost of insuring and/or treating a chronic condition, can improve both productivity and quality of life.
 Again, I’m not going deep into the specifics of the bill. The bill has issues, and some of those issues will have to be fixed. But the idea of the individual mandate, though it will probably need some tweaking to determine the optimal level of supplement for the ‘sliding scale’ feature, is not one that is going to lead to social or business disruption or ‘curtail individual freedom’ in any meaningful sense.
In fact, the ability of some people to obtain insurance affordably will lead to freedoms some of them have been craving for years. There is a reason that the people of western Europe are not rising up against their ‘health care overlords’ and demanding an ‘American-style’ system. It’s because universal health care is a vastly superior health care system to ours for nearly everyone in the country on virtually every measure at far lower cost. And that’s just a fact.
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These Corporate States

Well, no.  Not yet.  But the Koch brothers, including Charles Koch, are well on their way.  Today the University of Florida at Tampa Bay announced that with a measley 1.5 million dollar grant, a foundation owned by the Koch brothers has bought the right to choose public university faculty for the economics program they are bankrolling.

We all know (wink, wink, nudge, nudge) that the golden rule is really “those who have the gold make the rules), but this is new.  Unprecedented.  The Kochs understand the true value of a public education — and they’re doing everything they can to decimate it.

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Originally published at Am I the Only One Dancing?. Please leave any comments there.

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Grassroots (from

Nearly twenty years ago, I was a waitress at a Chinese restaurant (don’t ask me why, but I worked at Chinese restaurants for almost a decade), and happened to be the banquet server for a group of conservative evangelical activists.

The group was well dressed and groomed, very pleasant, and scared the ever loving piss out of me.  Keep in mind that in those days, I was a libertarian.  In their oh, so nice, oh so middle class way, they were gathered in a Chinese Restaurant in southern New Mexico, plotting to take over the world, one municipal office at a time, in the name of their narrow interpretation of the Bible.

Astroturf: or Tea Party Nation

Their goals are familiar to all of us, twenty years later — if you look at the official platform of the Republican party, that’s pretty much the content of all of the well printed, glossy brochures they handed out at that little gathering.  All the envy, all the hate, all the blaming the poor for their own problems and exalting the rich, all that was there.

In essence, they were successful.  They built up a political machine that over time created the Republican party we see today, including its lunatic Tea-O-P members.

Why bring up this ancient history?  A long acquaintance, and new friend, filkertom at LiveJournal (Tom Smith, an excellent musician who works out of this website, here), posted something I hadn’t seen anywhere else in his LiveJournal

True Grassroots movement in WI.  How do we keep the momentum?

The money quote:

Voters in Madison, Wisconsin on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved, by an 84 percent majority, a city referendum calling for amending the U.S. Constitution to establish that “only human beings, not corporations, are entitled to constitutional rights.” In Dane County, Wisconsin, which includes the city of Madison, 78 percent voted for a similar county referendum, rejecting the rationale underlying the Supreme Court’s 2010 Citizens United decision, which allows unlimited, and secret, corporate campaign spending.

Tom got his information from this article at the Daily Kos, which I hadn’t read. The text of the referendum reads as follows:

RESOLVED, the City of Madison, Wisconsin, calls for reclaiming democracy from the corrupting effects of undue corporate influence by amending the United States Constitution to establish that:
1. Only human beings, not corporations, are entitled to constitutional rights, and
2. Money is not speech, and therefore regulating political contributions and spending is not equivalent to limiting political speech.

Up in Vermont, the land of my birth, a referendum started the process by which the state is now passing (and almost certainly will pass) universal health care for the state.

Those creepy Stepford Christianists at that banquet twenty years ago had one thing absolutely right.  When neither party in Washington is listening to you and meeting your needs, you need to organize locally, win local elections, and move up from there.

What are you doing in addition to protesting?

The problem with us liberal types is that we’re so up front and open about our radical ideas of equality and freedom of religion and speech for all and ensuring that the rights of the most fragile of Americans are protected from the more powerful.  We get up on our soapboxes and yell into the wind, demanding that the world change right now to please us.  Too many liberals organize short term, around specific causes, but then go wander off in between rallies.  Where are the electable liberals running for school boards and city offices?  Where are the clean cut, nice folks who can sell the message and at the same time have integrity and drive.

I know they’re out there.  Claire McCaskill, though not really liberal, is an excellent example of a very personable politician with integrity.  My Representative, Emanual Cleaver II, is another, and so did Alan Grayson (someone get him a new office to run for, please!).  If they’re out there at the national level, I’m sure they’re out there at the local level.

Once upon a time, city machine politics (which I’m not endorsing) provided the funnel that got progressive after progressive elected.  Harry Truman came out of machine politics.  So did the Kennedys.  Some would argue that Barack Obama came out of machine politics.

The attack on the unions from the right tells us that they recognize not only the role of the unions in ensuring that corporations provide protections to employees, but also the role that unions play in organizing Democratic and liberal politicians at the local level.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” (attributed to Margaret Mead)

What local groups are starting this process in your neck of the woods?  How can you contribute to this movement?  What national groups are contributing to this effort?

This is just a “Saturday post” that riffs off what I found in Tom’s journal.  I should have time next week to gather some resources for you all.


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Originally published at Am I the Only One Dancing?. Please leave any comments there.

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Spiral (Photo credit: elycefeliz)

The French have their priorities straight. While we’re getting embroiled in yet another fight over oil, they’re saving the chocolate. Priorities, people. Priorities.*

For reference, in case you didn’t know about the Ivory Coast and chocolate.

*The above is in no way meant to diminish the citizens of either country in question.  Both countries have clear human rights issues.  Whether bombing is the solution or not is open for debate, and whether the US (or France) should be involved or not is open for debate, but whether or not the citizens of these countries are being abused by their leadership is not.

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