I'm More Punk Rock Than You

Many years of observations and conversations with Anarchists of all stripes has brought to light ideas and actions that are very powerful, and some that are highly detrimental to the movement. Today I'd like to discuss some of the behaviors that I find to be detrimental to Anarchism in general. Not to be catty, but as a constructive critique so that perhaps we can move beyond these barriers.

The hyphenation of Anarchism has, in my opinion, led to the enabling of Anarcho-Elitism which is counter intuitive to Anarchism regardless of hyphen categorization. The syndrome of "I'm more Anarcho than you" increases divides between Anarchists and in fact establishes hierarchies as there are in authoritarian-capitalist cultures, only in the opposite direction. Instead of the status being determined by how much you have or how normal you are it's established by how little you have and how many times you've been arrested.

Now there's something to be said for respecting the people who work hard to practice what they preach and are willing to put their necks on the line to help move things forward. This is true no matter what political or economic system you happen to subscribe to. But there is also a fine line between "keeping it real" and being an obnoxious, preachy, shallow-minded person. You can see people cross that line in every group imaginable. The religious person who winds up annoying people by telling everyone else what they're doing wrong with their lives, the corporate ladder climbing executive who happily throws his coworkers under the bus rather than competing like they're supposed to, the Anarchist who lectures others about having too many material possessions....

It's everywhere - and in a political sphere such as Anarchism it is a huge detriment because it is exactly what we are allegedly opposing.

The question is....how do we put a stop to it? What is it that makes even people who are aware of the problems this behavior causes continue to engage in it? Is it so deeply ingrained in our psyches that we cannot escape it? Is it created by being surrounded by the environment steeped in the act of establishing oneself in any social circle by stepping on others? I don't know.

What I do know is that some things need to be discussed. For example: there is a difference between private property and personal property. The difference between wanting or having some nice things in your personal possession and continually buying things to be socially accepted is like enjoying a beer versus being an alcoholic. There is a time and place for all the types of activism from the most pacifist and gradual to the most extreme and violent.

for example, I'm going to use the more materialistic capitalism/anti-capitalism conundrum that Anarchists seem to face most often. Usually because it's the most readily used insult, the most easily confused topic, and one that seems to be of hot debate in certain circles. To have or not to have? This is one topic that is easily misconstrued by Anarchists and non-Anarchists alike. First there is a general confusion between private property and personal property. This confusion has initiated a backlash movement in Anarchist circles to not only oppose private property in economic terms but also the almost total abandonment of ownership of personal property as well, and, the lack of personal possessions has become a badge of honor among many Anarchists.

While the abandonment of possessions is a very Zen sentiment and one I respect - it is not, in fact, tied to Anarchism through the tenants and general beliefs prescribed by Anarchists. In other words there's nothing wrong with wanting a nice, quality product for your personal use. Of course There's something to be said for contributing as little as possible to capitalism - and obtaining your things through barter or buy making it yourself, however I don't think that straight abstinence otherwise known as "drop-out" culture is the standard to which we should all rise.

Or, more plainly, the desire for something nice be it a need or a want and capitalism are two mutually exclusive things bound only by the fact that we live in a capitalistic economy and simply can't escape it. It's OK to have "trappings" if you are of the homesteader mentality as opposed to the more nomadic mentality many Anarchists have. Both are preferences that should be respected by the Anarchist community - and yet they are not.

We are constantly pitted against each other by virtue of our lifestyles instead of cooperating with each other. There is something to be said for not being a complete hypocrite, and doing the best to live your life according to your values. But it would be prudent for Anarchists to remember that Anarchism is about freedom, respect, and equality even if you disagree with someone.


After My long Winter's Nap...

I finally have not only a new computer, but also my own private little netbook from which I can blog to my tiny heart's content! Hopefully I will be writing more frequently than I have been, and I thank everyone for their patience!

Peace, Love, and Solidarity.

Oh, and I hope everyone had a happy healthy holiday!


Observational Shorts:

These are the types of things that run through my mind on a daily basis. Particularly as reactions to things I see, hear, or read as I go about my day.

Social Observations:
On Feminism:

Telling a woman of sound mind and free will what she can or cannot do with her able body is counter intuitive to the feminist movement, particularly with regards to the sexual liberation aspect of the movement.

Insisting that a woman cover her body out of modesty, and telling her to cover her body so she we won't be "objectified" nets the same result: A bunch of women running around under mounds of clothing so that she becomes ashamed of her body and sexuality because someone, somewhere, said she should.

On Alien Astronauts:
Skeptics who smarmily and smugly dismiss the hypothesis of intelligent life on another planet with the technology to travel in space seem to be forgetting their commonly shared belief that quasi-intelligent life forms with the ability and desire for space travel evolved from the primordial ooze right here, on Earth. Clearly if it can happen here, it can happen somewhere else, too. Also dismissing the notion that they may be smarter than us is equally damning, because really, how hard is it to outsmart most people on the planet? Not very.

On American Carnivores:
If humans were meant to consume as much meat as the average "Red Blooded" American claims, than the carnivorous Neanderthal would have out lived the Omnivorous Cro magnon. And your ass wouldn't take up two whole seats.

On Vegans:
Not contributing to abusive factory farming is a noble cause, however I guarantee you that the moment you feel a hunger pain after being stranded in a fairly desolate area, not only would you consume meat, but your co-survivors might start looking tasty, too.

On Celebutards:
Just a word of advice, be preemptive and go to rehab before you flash the world, puke on the paparazzi, or lose custody of your kids. Prevention is key!

Political Observations:
On Propaganda:
Political, social, religious; there are more than enough reasons to oppose what is happening in the world without having to make up false facts and wild accusations about whatever it is you oppose. So stop it.

On (The New) Republican Party:
They want limited government regarding labor, religion, free speech and guns so long as you don't try to unionize, practice any religion other than Christianity, say something they don't want to hear, all while having legal access to a gun, because then you're an anti-American communist terrorist. And if you're gay, forget it, they want the government to swoop into your bedroom and deport you from their peaceful, gun-toting, gay-bashing, Christian Country.

On Democrats:
Compromise will never get you more than half-way to your intended goal. Particularly when the other team is playing by a different set of rules.

On libertarians:
Libertarianism, otherwise known as what Republicanism used to be.

On Anarchism
It is extremely difficult for a group based on decentralization to get organized enough to initiate the change they want to create.

On Anarcho-Capitalism:
One question, If you have a capitalist economy with no government, laws, economic regulations or central planning, who prints and distributes the currency?

On Independents:
Here's a thought, if you got your apathetic asses off the proverbial fence you could potentially release the two party strangle-hold of incompetence on this country by forming a viable third party.

On "Free Range" Capitalism:
If competition keeps companies operating in a fair, ethical way, then why do the most competitive companies have their products made by foreign children in foreign sweatshops while they build their pseudo-monopolies at home?

If companies always pay fair market wages, why do they complain about a minimum wage standard? It couldn't be because they'd like to pay their employees less than a living wage, could it?

Religious Observations:
On Creationism:
Why does the bible depict Adam and Eve as modern day humans when we know the first humans to walk the Earth were nothing like modern day humans? Were Neanderthals and Cro magnons just a test run?

Why doesn't the bible tell us how, when, and why God created the dinosaurs? Furthermore if the Earth is only 6,000 years old, how on Earth would humans not only survive living simultaneously with dinosaurs, but also survive whatever made them extinct?

Scientific discoveries, laws, and theories are unreliable, untrustworthy, atheism promoting works with a strong anti-God bias, unless said scientific discovery might prove a story, person, timeline or event from the bible to be at least remotely plausible. Then it becomes irrefutable fact that proves creationsim.

On Intelligent Design:
If we were designed by an intelligent creator who gave everything a purpose and thought everything through, how do you explain birds with wings who can't fly? Why do humans have organs for urination, defecation, and procreation all within two inches of each other, thus promoting bacterial infections by the simple and necessary act of trying to propagate the species? That doesn't seem very intelligent to me...

Explain the platypus.

On Christianity:
If more Christians practiced what Jesus preached, the world would be a much nicer place to live in. Converting people would also be easier, too.

On Ultra-Right Leaning Conservative Christians:
Jesus preached that if you surrender your will and self completely to one, ultimate, absolute authority figure who tells you exactly what you can and cannot do at any given time in his kingdom then you will be rewarded with a Utopian Earth, with a complete lack of death, pain, struggle, violence, poverty and you will always get whatever you need just by asking the higher authority you have sworn your allegiance to. You will just have to face the fact that Jesus was a Communist.

On Extreme Religions and Cults:
Does it worry anyone else that a person's increased faith in an extreme religion or cult is directly proportionate to the amount of guns they hoard?

On Judaism:
American Jews are rather quiet and reserved, and I have yet to work up the breasticular fortitude to ask them questions like: What do you really think about Christianity? How do you know you're God's chosen people? Why do you wear those curly-q sideburns?

On Paganism and Witchcraft:
Watching "The Craft" and "Charmed" Until your eyes bleed does not make you a Pagan or a Witch. And no, you can't orb.

On Buddhism:
Why are the majority of American Buddhists that I've met either very weird, or very angry?

No, doing yoga and tai-chi does not make you a Buddhist.

I need to add a few.
Parental Observations:

On Your Child's Right To Privacy:
It is much harder to get drunk, high, pregnant, or build a bomb in your basement when your parents are constantly crawling up your ass.

Perhaps if parents invaded their child's privacy more often, fewer kids would shoot their schoolmates during class.


Hard Work VS Delgation of Responsibilities.

After reading an article today over at MSNBC about a 19 year old college student who is seeking to hire his own personal assistant to do his laundry, and drive him to and from classes, I got to thinking. The more I thought about it, the more disgusted I became with the whole idea of it. Now, a lot of the reactions to it echoed a bit of resentment towards a kid who can't be bothered to do everyday tasks in the vein of "wealthy spoiled brat" insults. However I wasn't bothered by it because he could afford to do so, but rather I was more disturbed by the fact that people were praising him for his entrepreneurial skills and a lot of "Good for him!" responses.

And not because I feel that he is being lazy, which I do. And not because I feel he is incapable, unable, or unwilling to learn how to properly budget his own time as an intro into adulthood. Not because I feel that he is going to get a very rude awakening when he gets a real job, where his bosses expect him to multi-task for them for eighty hours a week, and not being able to delegate his work tasks to a hired assistant. And finally not because I feel that this kid gave up at the first sign that he might break a sweat and couldn't handle it, nor has he even earned the right to be respected as a well-adjusted adult. And not because I feel that maturity and responsibility must be earned and not bought.

No, it's because I feel that failing to experience the struggle and the reward of hard work without the help of someone else actually creates a lack of compassion, empathy, and understanding for the millions of people in this world who must do all of their own work and chores, without help because they cannot afford to hire a personal assistant to do it for them.

I was reminded, almost instantly of a constant conversation - or argument rather - between a group of mothers about the struggles of working out of the home, working from home, and staying at home with regards to balancing that life, and motherhood with all of the domestic responsibilities that accompany it. There was one woman who simply could not comprehend why all of the other women were complaining about how tired and stressful it felt to balance motherhood and careers, and why some women actually chose to drop out of the work force because of that stress. She would say things like "I have a career, a family, and I can do it. It's not that hard, What's wrong with you people?" As well as things like "You are all just lazy whiners. Get a job, it's not that hard to balance motherhood and a career."

Of course, she finally blurted out that she had a full-time maid and a live-in nanny. She finally admitted that her responsibilities included going to work, and playing with her kids when she got home. The maid did all of the domestic work, including the laundry and grocery shopping, preparation of meals, etc... and he Nanny took care of all of the children's needs. And she still simply could not relate to the rest of us - not even after being lambasted with comments like "Well sure it's easy when you have a maid and a nanny." And "Yes, it's rather easy to be a career woman and a mother when you don't actually have to do the work yourself."

And that, right there, is the problem. She had been paying other people to do her "mundane" work for so long that she simply couldn't understand what was wrong with the rest of us. She also couldn't understand why we would be proud to be able to accomplish so much on our own, when "so much" included rearing our children, and washing our own clothes. She could understand the pride associated with doing well at work, but not at home, because she did not understand just how hard it really can be.

And so this 19 year old kid is starting his adult life off, never knowing what it feels like to work hard, to struggle, and to be proud that you did something without the help of someone else. He will never be able to understand what his future employees are going through when they ask for some time off to take care of personal matters, children, or loved ones. He will never understand that having to work as much as most of us do, plus having to work as hard as we do at home will exhaust us.

We will have yet another cold-hearted corporate shark out there, completely oblivious to the realities that many of us face every day. He will not know what "hard work" actually is, because he will delegate anything he doesn't want to do to some poor schmuck willing to make a few bucks doing it, because he is struggling to make ends meet, feed his family, work several jobs, all while washing his own clothes. And when his hired schmuck needs a day off, he will look at him and think "What's wrong with you, this isn't so hard to do..." while completely missing the irony of him not being able to simultaneously handle his own job and his private responsibilities.

So the cycle of abuse continues - and people are out there cheering it on. Fan-freaking-tastic.

And by the way, I feel that I should add a casual observation I came to last night after posting this. If this student's time is so precious that it's better used on things not involving mundane personal responsibility, then why is it that he seems to think that other students, with full class loads, homework, part time jobs, friends or family they'd like to see, and their own laundry to wash has more than enough time to take care of him as well as all of their other responsibilities? Wouldn't their time also be better spent studying rather than driving him to and from class? His time is better spent studying, but their time is better spent pampering him?

What does that tell you about how he sees himself and his importance versus how he views other people's time and importance?

Edit - the link at the top is no longer available - here is a link to the cached version of the story: MSNBC


"Give me your son, Ma'am" TSA agents took a woman's son from her.

Over at "Bottle's up" Nic, the author, recounts her horrifying encounter with TSA agents at the airport, where they took her son from her - even if only briefly - over a pacifier clip. Please go read her story, and give her some support.

Both mother and child are safe at home, now.

From the post:

My worst nightmare took place yesterday. Worse than events that have taken place and that I have survived in my short 28 years of living. Worse than my wildest of dreams could conjure.

My son was taken from me.


My son was taken from me by the TSA agents at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson airport yesterday.


What On Earth is Up With Kid's Cartoons?

Now, this is more of a personal rant rather than a political one, but I do think that the observation of the media kid's are being drowned in today says something about society in general. So here goes...

Have you watched the plethora of cartoons being touted as "educational" lately? Now, back in the day cartoons were for fun. No one mistook Tom and Jerry or Wile E Coyote for some sort of life instructional, unless you wanted to be sure to avoid running off the side of a cliff or how to make a body imprint as you ran through a wall. The signs were neat, too. But they were not educational, and they did not run 24 hours a day every day. You got them on Saturday morning, and then you went out to play.

Today we have entire channels devoted only to "children's educational cartoons" and I have to say after watching some of these cartoons, I'm pretty sure my IQ actually dropped a point.

A few cartoons that irk me to no end include:

"Wonder Pets". These little creatures talk "baby talk", which drives me straight up a wall. I mean, what is beneficial about constantly hearing "Ohw No! Dis is sewious!". ARGH! That causes linguistic backsliding, not learning enhancement! It's a butchery of the language! Further more the characters are animals, who can speak, break out of their cages at will, and rescue other animals but fail at figuring out the small problems they face. They can't rescue a baby raccoon from a garbage can, but they can build a working helicopter from recycled paper towel tubes and coat hangers.

Really? What kind of message does that send? How is that educational?

"Special Agent Oso". This one is at the top of my list of annoying cartoons. I have never seen a dumber bear or group of characters in my entire life. Again, with the inability to figure out the simplest of things, and needing step by step hand held instructions on things like...how to put lettuce in a bowl, or how to ride a carousel horse. Kids are much, much smarter than the producers give them credit for, obviously. Talk about dumbed down....

"Wow Wow Wubzy." Do I even have to say it? "Wubzy" there, I said it. (God, really?) With characters who are supposed to be children, who apparently have no parents, living in some digital world and play games like "kickity-kick ball", no problem solving skills of their own, and the uber sugary sweet reward for not actually doing anything.

"Yo Gabba Gabba". What kind of tripped out person created that show? Whatever drugs they're on, they must be good. I see nothing "educational" about that one. Except maybe a lesson in why one shouldn't do drugs.

Did I mention that none of these cartoons deal with anything a kid might actually have to deal with in real life? Such as losing a game, hurting their knee, being naughty, winning a game (while others lose), having to deal with siblings, friends, pressure, day care, parents, the whole nine - these shows exist in some kind of sick parallel universe where kids are dumber than a box of rocks, and no one's feelings ever get hurt.

The next big cartoon will probably having the characters shitting out rainbows and vomiting butterflies.

Calling shows like this "educational" is like adding vitamin C to sugar pops and calling it "healthy".

There a few cartoons I do like, however.

"Calliou". It's actually a pretty good cartoon, although a little sugary, it deals with a kid, who speaks like a 4 year old actually speaks (NO baby talk!) who has to deal with actual life issues. Things like daycare and preschool, working parents, a little sister, a pet and it's responsibilities, friends, and winning and losing games gracefully. The characters have tantrums, experience the full array of emotions, and actually do real problem solving on the level of a preschooler. Some say it's boring, but for a toddler and preschooler, it's like watching something they can actually relate to.

"Arthur". It's a great cartoon for older kids. Again, it deals with kids experiencing things real kids experience. They have fun, they get into trouble, the parents are ever present as they are in real life, homework, school yard bullies, etc and so forth.

But I simply cannot stand all of these terrible, horrible, babyish, dumbed down, huggy bear, kissy face, tip-toe-through-the-tulips crap cartoons!

And I do think it speaks to the mindset of society at the moment. We wonder why our kids are doing poorly in school, have the parents stopped to see what their kids are watching, and have been watching constantly? And who thought these things up? The producers no doubt claim to be "educational specialists" who can design programs to enhance children's learning.

If they're planning the school curriculum too, we are in deep shit.

And...that's my rant for today....


And so they left.

What frustrates me about protests is that when the public is challenged, unlawfully and unconstitutionally challenged, they always back down. The police know that, the city knows that. That's how they get away with denying permits, and that's why protests have been otherwise kept in "freespeech cages" or otherwise left impotent in too many cases.

Watch the video, it's frightening. But they should have stayed.

Deny, Dismiss, Ignore.

After watching the G-20 protests and all that encompasses them unfold I am forced to ask the question..."Why?". Why do towns, cities and police departments create the escalation of tension and violence at protests when these things could be avoided, to the best of everyone's ability?

Case in point: Pittsburgh went on lock down for the G-20. Before the event was to take place, they set up perimeters, deputized additional police from other towns and states, had their riot gear ready to go, warned locals, and a myriad of other G-20 preparations. And rightfully so, as historically speaking there is a very large turnout for the Summit.

However, reports from many a source are now indicating that protest permits were summarily denied, dismissed or ignored with no grounds, and no logical explanation as to why. They were prepared for large crowds, and knew that people would turn out regardless of permits. Why not simply approve the permits so that people could demonstrate and protest and march to their hearts content, and the police could focus on people who were actually breaking an actual law?

Of course it also begs the question, why do we need permits to protest, anyway? Certainly I do see some instances where coordination via the use of permits is a valuable tool, but in a case such as this, really why bother? They clearly prepped themselves for large crowds and days of protests, riots even, even though they only approved one or two permits. This happens to be one of those instances where the city should have just said, OK - let's prepare for a mass turnout, don't worry about permits, just keep things orderly.

I'm reminded of a time when I lived elsewhere. Every year there was a big, ginormous bike run that ended in our little city. 50,000 bikers easy would stream in, and partake of the festivities that the city and locals prepared for them. One year, the city decided they were not going to approve the permit. They wanted to shut the event down. They went to the guy that ran the event, a local business man and fellow biker, and told him under no circumstances was the run going to happen this year.

He said "Well OK, I won't organize it or run it, but the bikers are going to show up, permits, bike run, or not. And if they find out it's canceled this year, and there is no one to coordinate the event, they're going to be mad and all Hell will break loose."

The city rethought their position, and allowed an organized event to take place. Smart move on their part.

Pittsburgh should have done the same. If they had, the protesters would have marched, the events would have gone off pretty smoothly. I'm sure someone, somewhere would have smashed something, and been quickly arrested - but I doubt any escalation would have occurred beyond that. This would be a media non-event, and everyone would feel somewhat satisfied. Instead, they created a monster that only emboldened those who already oppose authority, oppose the G-20 and all it stands for, and oppose capitalism.

They see it - and the conspiracy theorist in me does as well - as an intentional move so as to arrest as many people who oppose the powers that be and the WTO as possible by forcing them into a spot between free speech and arrest. Then putting a lock down on a city that already has natural barricades so that the people will not be heard. In other words, they forced the situation. And of course, many media outlets are already placing the blame on the protesters. Sure, they marched without a permit...see my above comments on that idea....

The marches were otherwise peaceful until the police decided that they were there illegally. Really? I was unaware that the First Amendment required permits before use. Of course you also have the police who attacked University students on their own campus, and in their own dorms and campus buildings. Smooth move, Pittsburgh. You can't require residents who aren't protesting to "go home" when they are already "home" and then punish them for not going to some other place of residence.

No wonder the Uni students got violent. I would too under those circumstances.

And just a note about said First Amendment right. It's not just free speech, but also the right to assemble. The "they got what they deserved" and "They have the right to speak freely, not to march without permits" crowd seems to be missing that part. We have the inalienable right to assemble, and to speak our peace.

Cities and areas that readily deny, dismiss or ignore the permits filed by people trying to do things in an orderly, lawful fashion have only themselves to blame for what ensues.

More videos:

Riot police VS University students and the Student Union.
Footage of the PEACEFUL assembly, and the not-so peaceful response
Alex Jones Video of the peaceful protest, the police response, includes links to other unprovoked attacks against protesters.


Footage from the G-20 in Pittsburgh

This video is one of many videos coming out about the G-20 protests in Pittsburgh currently underway. It is, by far one of the more powerful clips of footage I have seen as of yet. You should watch the entirety of it, but if you skip ahead to the time stamp 3:33 what you will see are protesters marching down the street, peacefully, and the police reaction to it. It is chilling in all respects. It is yet another example of how the police, protecting capitalist interests and the status quo escalate the situation into one where violence occurs, and inevitably the unarmed protesters are blamed in the eyes of the media, and society.

If you are wondering where you've heard that song before, it's from a movie, The Last of The Mohicans. I don't know if the movie maker knows the significance of the song, and how it relates to the clips being shown here. I can only imagine he or she does, otherwise it would not have been used. It is the pivotal moment where after one Native American tribe sold their souls and turned on there fellow Native Americans for money and power - the Mohicans decide to stand, fight, or die instead of caving into the greed and fear of their own demise.

They chose death over oppression.

While this certainly is not as dramatic as the cinematic event, it is no less potent in it's ideas. There is a reason that when the "Left" marches they are met with hostility, criminal punishment, and "less lethal" weapons. (Yes, that is what the police in the video call them, and it is accurate as the weapons are not non-lethal).

It is not because they fear violence from the left, although there are some factions that are into destruction of property. It is because they fear our lack of fear. We march, regardless of our circumstances to stand up and fight for what we truly believe in. We do so without arming ourselves with AR-15s and assorted assault weapons. We do so without riot gear and protections. We do so knowing we can be hurt, detained, or killed should the situation escalate.

Our seeming inability to cave into the pressures of society that dictates we hand over our minds and souls for the sake of a greasy buck and marginal protections terrifies those who already have. We do not fear what life would be like without capitalism, we do not fear what our lives would be like without the daily constraints of modern soci-economic policies. We do not fear real work, that is to say collaborative work that requires skilled labor, time, and sweat equity.

There are too many who do fear life like that. They have become complacent, soft, and fearful of having to actually work, contribute, and participate in their own lives and the lives of others. They fear having to make decisions for themselves. They fear, in a word, actual....freedom and all of the responsibilities that comes with it.

And so we are a threat. Far more threatening than the right wing wind bags with their gun toting rallies and cries of revolution. Because they know that when we have the chance, we will follow through, and not be placated by the promise of creature comforts.

And that, my fellow readers is truly a threat to the powers that be.


If We Forget About Faeries, Humanity Will Be Lost

Yes, I said faeries, and no I don't mean Tinkerbell. Although if I had a faerie saint, Tinkerbell would be it. What with her particular brand of fire and stubbornness I think we can all learn from the most beloved faerie of all time. But no, I do not intend to create a belief in the tiny winged creatures from our childhood dreams.

Faeries are the bits of magic and whimsy present in our lives every, single, day. They are the weavers of daydreams, the muse of our inspiration, they are the carriers of hope and creators of glee. They are the sunset when the sky is ablaze with color, the moment of awe that stops you dead in your tracks. They embody the sense of true pride - not the false ego based pride we are told we are entitled to - but real pride. That moment of self realization when you feel you will burst at the seams if you don't whoop or leap to release the abundance of energy permeating every fiber of your being.

They are the gentle breeze sent down to calm your anxieties, a ray of light gleaming through the clouds to illuminate your soul. They are the flash of a smile from a dear friend, the glimmer in the eye of a newborn child.

They are the spark of invention, of strength, of will.

When we ignore faerie magic, when we suppress it's existence, when we forget how to believe we open ourselves up to hopelessness and despair. We become vessels for resentment, hatred, and anger. We deny compassion, wisdom, and empathy. We lose our will to create, and to build. We know only then, how to destroy. When the last faerie is forgotten, humanity will be lost. Our souls no more than empty shells.

It is unfortunate that so many today have forgotten about faeries.

But we are the instruments of faerie magic! So buck up you believers of faeries, there's work to be done!


How Many Jobs Equal a Living Wage?

In recent surveys the number of Americans living paycheck to paycheck has increased to 61% from 43% just last year. Of course, seeing as this is an economic recession small depression that comes as no surprise to many. However, it wasn't the numbers that shocked me. It was some of the more callous and otherwise ill informed opinions on one website that caught my attention, and is worthy of my ire tonight.

According to some popular and over simplified opinions as of late, if you can't make ends meet you are either living above your means, or simply not working enough jobs.

How many jobs are enough to make ends meet?

Now, don't misunderstand me, there are people who live above their means. Many American families do. In fact there are two types of people who live above their means. Those who do so buy making wildly expensive purchases and pursue non functional items on credit just so they can have them, and those whose "means" can barely afford basic living expenses such as housing, food, clothing, and medical care.

In a former post I quoted that 91.5 million Americans are living at, below or just above the national poverty threshold. That would be approximately 1/3 of our population, or just over 30%. So of that 61% nearly half of the people are "living above their means" because their "means" do not comprise of living wages.

The other half were living within their means, but have suffered job loses or pay-cuts, meaning that they are no longer living within their means. Of course of that 61% I'm sure that some have hit hard times for other reasons such as identity theft and medical catastrophes.

But first, let's talk about employment. Underemployment, over employment, or no employment. The idea that if one who cannot afford to live should just "pick up another job" sounds logical, but generally isn't. Particularly not for those who are already employed full time. Let's look at some hard numbers:

There are 168 hours in the week. Of that, one needs 56 hours per week to sleep (8 hours a day, 7 days a week). A "full time" job is usually between 40-60 hours per week. Typically 40 for hourly wage workers unless they are allowed overtime, and 60 for salaried workers. Let's look at the average salaried worker - 60 hours per week (or 8.5 hours per day 7 days per week), plus 56 hours a week to sleep is 116 hours of 168 already consumed. That leaves 7.5 hours in a day to do something other than work or sleep.

Now, if you figure 2 hours in the AM to groom yourself, eat breakfast and wake up for work, and an hour at night to eat dinner you have 4.5 hours left in the day to work your second job. Any job, part time or otherwise has an average shift of 4 hours minimum. So if you work a part time second job at 4 hours per day (28 hours per week 7 days a week) you have exactly one half hour to commute each day from your home, to you first job, from your first job to your second job, and then home again at night. If you only work 50 hours per week you would have a commute time of 1.8 hours, and at only 40 hours per week, you'd get about 3 hours of commute time.

Let's recap: for the average American working 60 hours per week you would have to wake up at 6AM, work and commute until 9PM, then have dinner, and pass out at 10PM in order to work 1 full time job, and one part time job.

And those numbers are spread out over a full 7 days.

Assuming that anyone thinks that's reasonable, you have to ask, is it even possible? If you are childless, and happen to live within minutes of both of your employers, and never have a need to go grocery shopping, to the bank or do your laundry, sure.

Then again, many people do work 2 jobs. How do they do it? Well, those who do are usually hourly wage employees who are not allowed overtime pay (more than 40 hours per week) and often work one or two part time jobs that are less than 20 hours per week in order to make up the difference. For all of their work, however, they are often paid very little and wind up working an 80 hour work week and still can't make ends meet.

Which brings up another point about "just get another job". Not only are humans not machines with finite amounts of energy and time - jobs are also finite, as are the funds paying for said jobs. There aren't enough jobs for everyone to have one job, how does anyone expect people to have more than one and not cause a shortage elsewhere?

Something, at some point, will have to be cut. Be it jobs or salaries - if everyone tries to work multiple jobs we will perpetuate the already defunct employment system even further. For example:

If a company has $100 per hour allotted for employee pay it can hire two people at $50 per hour, four people at $25 per hour, eight people at $12.50 per hour, 16 people at $6.25 per hour, 32 people at $3.12 per hour, and now we're into serious poverty wages. So let's say there are two companies with 10 job openings each, (20 jobs) and 25 people who need employment. Based on the $100 per hour allotment, the company's initial offer is $10 per hour.

Already we see five people who will be unemployed, unless they up their job openings by five. By doing so, they will have to cut salaries accordingly, to $8 per hour. Now five people state that they can't live on $8 per hour, and ask for additional employment from the other company. In order to accommodate the additional five jobs, the company has had to cut everyone's salary to $6.67 per hour. Which means that more employees will have to get more jobs, at even lesser payrates. You see what I mean? It's a self perpetuating cycle.

Of course the alternative is to keep the wages at $10 per hour, and simply give the jobs to those who qualify regardless if they already hold one or more jobs. By doing that you've upped the unemployment rate substantially.

In other words, for every second and third job a person takes, someone, somewhere loses the opportunity to work or gets a pay cut.

And furthermore, who thinks working 16 hour days just to make ends meet is even reasonable, anyway?

How about this: How about we re-engineer the system so that one job pays each employee enough to live reasonably, all while cutting the average cost of living instead of treating hard working individuals like wage-slaves with boundless energy and unlimited time to do a company's bidding for pitiful pay?

How can we do this? Well for one, we need to stop being greedy. Companies do not need to make or retain a profit. A company is not a person. It is an inanimate object, an idea, a building. Any profit above and beyond the cost of operation (including a specific amount of "cushion" money) should go directly back to the people who actually make a company a company - the employees. That also means that the big boys at the top will have to take a pay cut. While they make their $40 mill a year, their employees are living hand to mouth, working just as many hours if not more, and are working harder for less. Not to mention that a company can run perfectly fine without an overpaid CEO. It cannot function without all of the "underlings" that actually do the work.

And I challenge any CEO, and their cronies to fire all of their employees on a Friday and still have a company on the following Monday.

Not gonna happen.

But back to my original point - which is the ideology that if you can't live comfortably on the paycheck from one job, you should just get another one and keep working until all you do is work is unreasonable, unrealistic, and illogical.

Furthermore, yes we can cut back. We can all cut back. But you can only cut back so much before you start cutting necessities, and start negatively affecting the economy as a whole.

Now I'm stating this as an Anarchist looking at people who wish to live in a capitalist economy. But if everyone simply stopped buying all of the "extras", then millions more people would lose their jobs, because those "extras" create funds that create jobs that people need to buy food, shelter, and clothing.

So while I would love to see the demise of many a corporation due to the outright boycott of their products and services, I dread to see the actual financial repercussions of such an act. Regardless of how I personally feel about our economic system it is the reality I live in. And it relies, entirely, on the purchasing of all of those little unnecessary items that everyone proposes we cut out to better "live within our means".

For example, cable TV was brought up. It's not necessary, that's true. It's a frivolous cost that millions of Americans pay every month. If the 61% of the citizens living paycheck to paycheck suddenly canceled their cable, that would mean that the cable companies would lose 183 million customers, all at once. They would then go out of business. If the cable companies go out of business, who will TV stars work for? Actresses, actors, producers, writers? The millions of people who work as crew members for each TV show and commercial? They will be out of work, entirely.

And that's just one industry. Imagine if it were cable companies, gyms, cell phone providers, dealerships, gas stations, toy stores, clothing stores, malls!

It's an unfeasible idea bantered by unrealistic capitalists who have been spoon fed the ideology that humans are bred to work for companies, and should do nothing else but work. And anyone who doesn't subscribe to that, or anyone who can't do that are somehow "less than" those who enjoy being wage slaves.

I see it the other way around. I see that people who feel that their only worth is wrapped entirely around their work or bank accounts actually have very little to offer besides their bodies for the purpose of rendering a service for a fee.

Otherwise known as prostitutes.

And how pimps corporations love a brothel full of low wage prostitutes at their disposal.


My Experience at a Town Hall Meeting...

Last night I had the opportunity to go to one of the infamous town hall meetings that have been happening all over the country. Unfortunately I did not get a chance to speak or ask any questions, as the room was packed and my raised hand was overlooked the entire night. So my apologies to Antics, Agit, Liberty, and Missy for not being able to ask your awesome questions. I did however submit them in writing directly to my Congressional Representative. We'll see if I get a response. I also taped most of the meeting, but my battery ran out and I was unable to tape the best part of the night - the last half hour. As soon as I can figure out how to get the video from my camera to the computer, I will post it up.

Now, on to the meeting. Suffice it to say that I had a raging migraine by the end of the night. When all was said and done, I wanted a stiff drink, what a lousy time to quit drinking! I'd first like to address the level of intelligence in the room. And I am not exaggerating when I relay what I witnessed, not even an iota....

First and foremost - upon being allowed entrance into the auditorium, everyone was asked to put their signs away. Either outside or in their car, the volunteers didn't care, so long as no signs were brought in. Fair enough, right? Well, the entire row of people behind me in the auditorium spent probably a good 15 minutes struggling to understand why they were not allowed to bring their signs in, when all these people had "signs on their shirts". Meaning...stickers. I had finally had enough, and didn't mean to be rude or to interrupt them, but I finally turned around to explain to them the difference between a sign and a sticker, and further explained why signs were not allowed in the auditorium.

I actually had to explain, to a row of full grown adults, that stickers are not signs, and all the signs in the room would obstruct people's ability to see, while stickers on a shirt did not. And they still struggled with the concept.....

Oh Boy.

Throughout the meeting there were people who could not understand the concept of a time limit. Now I don't mean that they were speaking, and ran over - I mean that when we started one of the organizers announced that the meeting could run no longer than 8PM, per school requirements that all people be out of the school building at that time. The boos and outrage and questions of WHY?!?!?! WHY??!?!?!?! cost us about 20 minutes of meeting time. Is the concept that difficult? Really? We also had the "Get your hands off my medicare!" crowd, the "Get out of the country!" in response to immigrants comparing the US health care to their health care crowd, and my favorite of the night....

The "I can't read the bill because it's too long and complicated why can't you just make it simple for us?" crowd.

Really? It's about the length of a Harry Potter book. And yes, the bill uses some big words, and of course legislation isn't exactly geared towards the "See spot run" reading level, but do we honestly need to dumb down bills and legislation because some moron can't be bothered to read it?

I felt like I was in the movie "Idiocracy".

And the later it got, the worse the crowd became. I don't know why most of the people even bothered to go save to make noise and yell obscenities. Every time a question was answered they all yelled "LIAR!!! WE DON'T BELIEVE YOU!!!!"

Well, we already figured that, didn't we. Why bother asking questions if you already know you won't believe the answer?

Of course we had the "We didn't read the bill but we know that's in it because Fox News said so!" crowd. And our Representative, who is usually quite relaxed and laid back was even getting frustrated. He had to keep saying "But that's not in the bill. It's just not there - it doesn't exist. Honestly, read the bill for yourself!" To which replies were screamed "It's too long to read! We can't read it! It's too haaaaarrrrrddddddd."

Oh Christ.

Our Representative did actually answer the questions asked, to the best of his ability. He had to explain how it would be funded at least three times, and people still didn't get it. "I know you explained it already, but I don't understand how we're going to pay for this...". When he tried to answer questions that required complex answers, because they're complex issues he was accused of dodging. One lady nearly assaulted one of the organizers because she felt that he hadn't answered her question. He did answer her question, she just didn't understand the words coming out of his mouth.

He might as well have been speaking Greek.

Some people had really good questions, others simply made statements, while the majority repeated Fox news rhetoric about death panels and the like.

And by the way, my interpretation of the bill regarding end of life counseling was 100% correct. All it means is that counseling, along with mental health care and addiction rehabilitation are now legitimately covered under health care. Of course the crowd booed, and accused him of trying to kill them off in their old age.


I did however catch a great deal of shit from the row behind me because I refused to stand and pledge allegiance to the flag. First, we only had to do it, because some flag pin obsessed person whined that we didn't say it at the beginning of the meeting - second, I don't pledge my allegiance to inanimate objects. Now if we were talking about pledging allegiance to the people of the country - I'd have something to stand for. Alas, I was told I didn't deserve to be here, was an asshole, and "Look there's the future of our country" snide remarks.

Then again, consider the source. They couldn't even figure out the difference between a sign and a sticker, nor why they wouldn't be allowed into the meeting - and complained constantly that the bill was just too hard for them to read...but were 100% certain that everything Fox news said about it was the truth, facts be damned! (And yes, they constantly yelled out 'Fox news said it! Watch Fox News!!").

Upon reaching my car afterward, I found a pamphlet about how Obama was a Socialist dictator. I rolled a cigarette, sucked it down like a whore on a $1,000 cock, and drove home to my blissfully quiet, logical, educated husband.


Credit Clarity, the Newest Misunderstood Legislation

Having been MIA from most online access lately, I was unaware that a new bill is set to pass swiftly into law. The bill regulating the credit industry. In fact, I only just found out today, and had to actually boot up, log in, and google it. Of course, from my conservative informant, what I heard was that new laws were put into place to protect poor people with bad credit, while allowing credit card companies to unfairly take money from the wealthy good credit customers to pay for the poor people's irresponsible incompetence. And it's all the government's fault.

And that would be unfair, if it were true.

The truth of the matter is that the bill forbids credit card companies from arbitrarily changing the terms and conditions of your agreement. That means that they cannot raise your interest rates, lower your credit limits, or otherwise change anything without written warnings, and due cause. The legislation doesn't say it can't raise rates or change terms, only that they can't do it without a good reason (being 2 months delinquent, for example), and they can't spring it on you last minute.

The bill also requires credit card companies to mail out your bill 21 days before the due date, and they can't charge you a late fee if the bill was sent on time, processed late. Anyone who has done business with a predatory credit agency knows that the trick du jour is to mail out the bill late enough to make the borrower late on their payment, because it is impossible to make the mail move faster than is physically possible. The other trick is to hold the payments, and process them after the due date or grace period, and then whacking the borrow not only with late fees, but also a rate hike to match. That's called predatory business practices, and should be illegal. Do not punish consumers because the company can't get it's bills out on time, or process the payment in a timely manner. Their incompetence is not our problem.

And yet, we hear howls and screams about how we are protecting the poor, and how the government is costing the rich hard earned money by excessive regulations.

Let's get one thing straight.

The legislation protects everyone who has a line of credit, not just the poor. The legislation does not require the credit card companies to gouge anyone. The government is not putting forth any restrictions that would undermine the success of any viable company. So who then, is raising the rates or otherwise "punishing" the wealthy? The credit card companies. Not the government.

Listen, if a company cannot make a profit legitimately, they have no business being a company. If they cannot survive without using predatory tactics, they are not a successful business. They are hack-jobs. They are failures.

This is White Collar Criminal behavior. If the same people complaining about regulations against predatory business practices saw a working class person selling pot, they'd be the first ones to toss a rock at them, and lecture them about how they need to work harder, about how wrong it is to break the law to make ends meet, about how they are criminals who can't get by and be successful like everyone else. And yet, when the criminal behavior is done by a large corporation, it's not that they aren't a viable business, it's not that they need to work harder, make a better product, or change their tactics...the problem is 'unfair legislation".

At one time in our history the thought of abolishing slave labor, child labor, and indentured servitude was also thought of as an "unfair regulation". The implementation of a minimum wage or wage standard to prevent companies from working people to death for pennies a day was an "unfair regulation".

At what point will people realize that if a company can't successfully operate ethically, and be on the up-and-up then they are nothing more than thugs in suits? When will people realize that the company's number one priority is the profit margin, and if they can legally kill people to make it happen, they will?

Wake up, people. Corporations are not your friends. They do not like you, nor do they care about you. If they can screw you, they will.

And for God's sake, stop blaming poor people for everything. This system is designed in a manner that perpetuates poverty. They can't operate without poor people remaining poor. Think about that.


Letters of Conservative Sour Grapes

I get a lot of forwarded e mails from Conservative groups, websites, media sources, and individuals, but some of these things really take the cake. I'll share one I received today with you, with my rebuttal, of course.

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Mr. Obama:

I have had it with you and your administration, sir.

Really? You've tolerated incompetence for eight years straight, but are "fed up" with the new president after three months? Wow, patience abounds!

Your conduct on your recent trip overseas has convinced me that you are not an adequate representative of the United States of America collectively or of me personally.

What happened to "support your democratically elected leader" and "love it or leave it"? So, respectful conduct doesn't represent this country or you personally? Remind me not to mingle with you, because I for one prefer good manners over arrogant self righteousness and violent behaviors.

You are so obsessed with appeasing the Europeans and the Muslim world that you have abdicated the responsibilities of the President of the United States of America. You are responsible to the citizens of the United States. You are not responsible to the peoples of any other country on earth.

Oh, diplomacy, the horror of it!!! Because minding one's manners when in a foreign country, and acting respectful to other world leaders is a heinous thing that takes away rights and lifestyles from Americans!!! Erm...

I personally resent that you go around the world apologizing for the United States telling Europeans that we are arrogant and do not care about their status in the world.

It's OK to admit we were wrong, honestly. It's OK to apologize for acting like the global playground bully. In fact, it's in our best interest to do so, if we wish to keep allies.

Sir, what do you think the First World War and the Second World War were all about if not the consideration of the peoples of Europe? Are you brain dead? What do you think the Marshall Plan was all about? Do you not understand or know the history of the 20th century?

Someone needs a history lesson! The US does not do things altruistically. We did not enter either war for glory or noble attempts to save the oppressed. We entered into those wars when, and only when, the wars affected us and our economy personally, and not a moment before then. When the city around St Peters was burning to the ground, we sent Churchill our "regards and condolences" not our troops and support.

Get a history book, man. We are not God's gift to the world.

Where do you get off telling a Muslim country that the United States does not consider itself a Christian country? Have you not read the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution of the United States? This country was founded on Judeo-Christian ethics and the principles governing this country, at least until you came along, come directly from this heritage. Do you not understand this?

Just FYI - we're not a Christian country. No where in the constitution, Declaration of Independence, or other government documents did the forefathers of this country declare that this is a Christian nation. The founding fathers were deists, mostly - not Christians, and they certainly didn't push their beliefs on anyone else.

Or did you forget that we came here to get away from theocracies and religious persecution, so that we could freely practice whatever religion we wanted to practice?

Your bowing to the king of Saudi Arabia is an affront to all Americans.

Really? Customary diplomatic behaviors of respect to another ruler is an affront to us? No one was complaining when our government and presidents were in bed with these leaders, but showing a little courtesy...that's an affront?

Where are your priorities?

Our President does not bow down to anyone, let alone the king of Saudi Arabia. You don't show Great Britain, our best and one of our oldest allies, the respect they deserve yet you bow down to the king of Saudi Arabia. How dare you, sir! How dare you!

Uhm...Obama has shown the other leaders great respect. you're just mad because it was a "mooslum". How xenophobic.

You can't find the time to visit the graves of our greatest generation because you don't want to offend the Germans but make time to visit a mosque in Turkey. You offended our dead and every veteran when you give the Germans more respect than the people who saved the German people from themselves. What's the matter with you?

So uh, we're still supposed to hate the Germans, is that what you're saying? Are you aware that WWII ended, and that Germans are not, in fact NAZIs?

I am convinced that you and the members of your administration have the historical and intellectual depth of a mud puddle and should be ashamed of yourselves, all of you.

No, I think the confused and mud puddled historian would be you, sir.

You are so self-righteously offended by the big bankers and the American automobile manufacturers yet do nothing about the real thieves in this situation, Mr. Dodd, Mr. Frank, Franklin Raines, Jamie Gorelic, the Fannie Mae bonuses, and the Freddie Mac bonuses. What do you intend to do about them? Anything? I seriously doubt it.

I see that you are not outraged at the Auto industries and insurance industries and the bank industries who have crippled this nation. Or did you forget to get mad at them? I also notice that you are not complaining about still having a job. You can thank the bailouts for that.

What about the U.S. House members passing out $9.1 million in bonuses to their staff members - on top of the $2.5 million in automatic pay raises that lawmakers gave themselves?
I understand the average House aide got a 17% bonus. I took a 5% cut in my pay to save jobs with my employer. You haven't said anything about that. Who authorized that? I surely didn't!

Pssst Feingold - a Democrat - is already all over that, like, last month. See? On Ending Automatic Taxpayer-Funded Bonuses Wednesday, March 18, 2009 As Prepared for Delivery
"Mr. President, I come to the floor today to discuss taxpayer-funded bonuses. These bonuses are paid every year, often without any public discussion or a recorded vote by those with the authority to approve or stop them. The people giving themselves these bonuses have made sure that they get them regardless of their performance.

"Mr. President, I am referring to the annual bonuses given to Members of Congress.

"There is some good news to report on this issue today. Thanks to the leadership of Majority Leader Harry Reid, we took an important step yesterday. Senator Reid moved legislation through the Senate that will end those annual stealth bonuses. I have introduced legislation similar to Senator Reid's for the past six Congresses, and am delighted that, because of Senator Reid's leadership, this proposal has finally passed the Senate.

It helps when you know what you're talking about.

Executives at Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac will be receiving $210 million in bonuses over an eighteen-month period, that's $45 million more than the AIG bonuses. In fact, Fannie and Freddie executives have already been awarded $51 million - not a bad take. Who authorized that and why haven't you expressed your outrage at this group who are largely responsible for the economic mess we have right now.

And again...I see no outrage about AIG and other Corporate bonuses to CEO's and employees of "Too big to fail" companies, only Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Who, by the way, were privatized and made into share holder owned companies in 1968.

Oh, and, yes, there was outrage and action taken to prevent those bonuses as well. See:
On Tuesday, two key senators announced a plan to impose a hefty tax on retention bonuses paid to executives of companies that received federal bailout money or in which the United States has at least a 50 percent equity interest -- including Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac and AIG.

"Millions of Americans are losing their jobs. Millions. And to some degree they're losing their jobs because of actions taken by some of these firms," said Sen. Max Baucus, a Montana Democrat and Senate Finance Committee chairman.

The House of Representatives passed one version of a bonus-tax bill Thursday, while the Senate will take up another version next week. Both versions name Fannie Mae and the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corp. -- Freddie Mac (NYSE:FRE) -- directly, the Post reported.

Financial Time.com
President Barack Obama on Thursday offered broad support for legislative efforts to claw back bonuses at bailed out financial institutions after the House of Representatives voted to impose a punitive tax on such payments.

In a statement, the White House said Mr Obama looked forward to receiving final legislation that would “serve as a strong signal to the executives who run these firms that such compensation will not be tolerated”.

What morons like this guy doesn't understand is that, just like the AIG retention bonuses, there are legalities to be dealt with. These are private companies who allocated this money last year, there are contracts to be upheld or battled in court. Not only that, but I love the flaming hypocrisy of the conservatives who are screaming that the government is interfering with free market businesses, but when a company does something they don't like, the government can't interfere enough.

Honestly, you can't have it both ways. You either want a free market economy (where these companies will dole out bonuses deserved or otherwise) or you want government regulation. What's it gonna be?

Oh, and about that $210 million:
In addition, the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission have been investigating accounting, disclosure and corporate governance issues at Freddie since late last year. The SEC issued subpoenas for certain Freddie Mac documents in January and February, the company said in recent securities filings.

Freddie's top leadership has changed repeatedly since fall. The government ousted Freddie Mac CEO Richard Syron in September and his replacement, David Moffett, resigned last month. John Koskinen, a board member, was named interim CEO.

New York Times
Last month, Representative Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts and chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, demanded that the companies rescind $4.4 million in retention bonuses paid to Fannie’s four top executives last year. Such bonuses are often offered to keep executives from leaving a company.

“I’m skeptical that these people have job offers to go elsewhere,” Mr. Frank said in an interview. “And in this economy, I don’t think it would be hard to find talented replacements for anyone who leaves.”

I resent that you take me and my fellow citizens as brain-dead and not caring about what you idiots do. We are watching what you are doing and we are getting increasingly fed up with all of you.

You are brain-dead. You don't know history, understand economics, and believe all the propaganda Fox news and Hannity throw your way. The rest of the country, however, seems to be perfectly pleased with the way Obama is handling most things.

I also want you to know that I personally find just about everything you do and say to be offensive to every one of my sensibilities.

Respectful behavior, peaceful resolutions, returning rights to states, upholding equality under the law, and trying to fix the mess that Bush left us offends your sensibilities?


What kind of sensibilities do you have?

I promise you that I will work tirelessly to see that you do not get a chance to spend two terms destroying my beautiful country.

I'm sorry, why weren't you working tirelessly to stop Bush from spending two terms destroying this country? Oh, right, because you liked him, but not this "Mooslum Christian, Socialist, peaceful, respectful black guy" Nope, he's offensive.


Every real American

God I am so very glad that only 20% of the country identifies with this mindset.

P.S. I rarely ask that emails be 'passed around'.............PLEASE SEND THIS TO YOUR EMAIL LIST.......it's past time for all Americans to wake up!

God Forbid this man gets a second term in office!!!!

God forbid that you should have the right to vote, but the president you hate so much will ensure that you can speak freely, and vote your conscious, anyway.


America, Land of the...Indefinite Prison Sentence...

About this time last year, I wrote a long tirade against the privatization of public services (and many other things) in my post "Pillage Perfect". I went on and on about how the privatization of services such as police forces, lawyers, and court proceedings would render the poor defenseless when accused of crimes or in need of legal representation.

I was right, of course.

It has been brought to my attention that Debtor's Prisons are back in fashion. The states of Michigan, Mississippi, Georgia, and Florida have begun claiming that the imprisonment and forced labor of citizens who cannot or have not met their debt obligations is appropriate to aid their economy, and, what's worse is that they are claiming that they no longer have the funds to detain these newly attained prisoners, and so they must pay for their own room and board as well. Many states have also now privatized the parole services as well, making the paroled citizen pay for their own parole out of pocket.

Now, aside form the absurdity of forcing people to pay for their own imprisonment, let's look at the gross miscarriages of justice that are occurring for the sake of a greasy buck.

On sending the indebted to prison:
From the New York Times:

Edwina Nowlin, a poor Michigan resident, was ordered to reimburse a juvenile detention center $104 a month for holding her 16-year-old son. When she explained to the court that she could not afford to pay, Ms. Nowlin was sent to prison. The American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, which helped get her out last week after she spent 28 days behind bars, says it is seeing more people being sent to jail because they cannot make various court-ordered payments. That is both barbaric and unconstitutional.

From Democracy Now!:
Hospitals hound uninsured patients for bill payments and now rank among America’s most aggressive debt-collectors using one of the harshest and least-known collections tactics of all: seeking the arrest of no-show debtors. We speak with Jim Bean who was jailed in Illinois in part because he failed to pay a hospital bill and we hear from the CFO of the hospital that sought his arrest as well as a member of a grass roots citizen action organization in Illinois. [includes transcript]

From Tampa Bay.com:
In a little-noticed trend blamed on the state's hard economic times, several courts in Florida have resurrected the de facto debtor's prison — having thousands of Floridians jailed for failing to pay assessed court fees and fines. The shortsighted plan threatens to run afoul of the U.S. Constitution. It appears to generate little additional revenue relative to the misery it causes, and it should be stopped.

From Boston.com:
CHILDREN DESERVE fair child support. But I was outraged when I read, in "Amid layoffs, child support pacts fraying," about the man who fell $23,000 behind in what he owed, including fees to his ex-wife's attorney, and was handcuffed and put in jail for 30 days. What kind of unrealistic judge would do this, when this poor father had a modification petition pending? How does jailing a father who tries to play by the rules benefit the children? The judge needs a reality check.

The courts are now sentencing people to jail time because they are too poor to pay their fines or debts. This would be one thing if the courts issued either a finite jail sentence, or issued a definitive payment schedule for the fines, however, that is not the case.

On prisoners paying for their confinement, and indefinite detainment:
From the New York Times:
That has not stopped the practice. In Georgia, poor people who cannot pay off fines — plus a monthly fee to the private company that collects the payments — are often sent to jail for nonpayment, according to Stephen Bright, president of the Southern Center for Human Rights. In 2006, the center sued on behalf of a woman who was locked up in Atlanta for eight months past her original sentence because she could not pay a $705 fine.

From Tampabay.com:
At $53 per day of incarceration, it is an expensive way to try to collect from people who generally are struggling to meet the expenses of daily living. The center calculated that those incarcerated cost the system $62,085 to bring in $80,450 in debts.

From Infowars:
Despite her inability to pay, she was held in contempt of court and ordered to serve a 30-day sentence. On March 6, three days after she was incarcerated, she was released for one day to work. She also picked up her paycheck, in the amount of $178.53. This, she thought, could be used to pay the $104, and she would be released from jail.

But when she got back to the jail, the sheriff told her to sign her check over to the county — to pay $120 for her own room and board, and $22 for a drug test and booking fee. [...] In 2006, the Southern Center for Human Rights (SCHR) filed a suit on behalf of Ora Lee Hurley, who couldn’t get out of prison until she had enough money to pay a $705 fine. But she couldn’t pay the fine because she had to pay the Georgia Department of Corrections $600 a month for room and board, and spend $76 a month on public transportation, laundry and food. She was released five days a week to work at the K&K Soul Food restaurant, where she earned $6.50 an hour, which netted her about $700 a month after taxes. Hurley was trapped in prison for eight months beyond her initial 120-day sentence until the Southern Center intervened. Over the course of her incarceration, she earned about $7,000, but she never had enough at one time to pay off her $705 fine.

From the Southern Center for Human Rights:
This lawsuit was filed in November 2004 on behalf of two former inmates of the Clinch County Jail against Clinch County, Georgia, Sheriff Winston Peterson, and Deputy Sheriff Patricia Suggs. In Georgia, even courts have no authority to impose fees on criminal defendants unless those fees are specifically authorized by statute. There is no Georgia statute authorizing the imposition of per diem fees on pre-trial detainees. Yet, the Sheriff of Clinch County charged all inmates $18 per day, resulting in bills exceeding $3,000 in some cases. Before release, some inmates were required to sign a contract agreeing that they would pay the fee or go back to jail.

I'd like to reiterate that the people involved here are not serving time to reconcile their debts. The courts are not ruling that they can either pay their debts, or spend X amount of days in jail, and then all is settled. They are being put into jail until they can afford to pay their debts, and are not being allowed to accumulate enough money to pay their debts, and so are serving time indefinitely. In the meantime, not only are they amassing profits for the justice system by paying for their mandatory jail time, and drug tests, but as we all know inmates in prisons also work inside the prisons to generate revenue. They have become indentured servants.

Perhaps our current justice system has forgotten that crimes are to be punishable with reasonable sentences. They are not to be indefinite, cruel, or unusual sentences. It also needs mentioning that by holding the debtors in a prison, the court system is preventing them from paying the debt that they were originally jailed for, and thus is preventing companies and courts from collecting the money they claim is the very reason for the debtor's prison. That leads me to two conclusions, either the system is paying the debts to the companies or courts on the side, and continuing to generate revenue illegally, or, this has little to do with forcing debtors to pay their debts, and everything to do with simply punishing them as much as they can. There are no other logical reasons for this system.

Essentially punishing the poor for being poor.

On privatization of the Judicial system:
From the Southern Center for Human Rights:
Approximately 300 people are currently without lawyers to represent them after Mack Crawford, Director of the Georgia Public Defender Standards Council ("GPDSC"), in August of 2008, failed to renew contracts with three lawyers who were providing representation to defendants whose interests conflicted with those of defendants represented by the Northern Judicial Circuit public defender office.

From Infowars:
The task force trolled through predominantly African American neighborhoods, rounding up people who had outstanding court fines. After arresting and jailing them, the City of Gulfport processed these people through a court proceeding at which no defense attorney was present or even offered.

Many people were jailed for months after hearings lasting just seconds. While the city collected money, it also packed the jail with hundreds of people who couldn’t pay, including people who were sick, physically disabled and/or limited by mental disabilities. [...]In courts around Georgia, people who are charged with misdemeanors and cannot pay their fines that day in court are placed on probation under the supervision of private, for-profit companies until they pay off their fines. On probation, they must pay these companies substantial monthly “supervision fees” that may double or triple the amount that a person of means would pay for the same offense.

For example, a person of means may pay $200 for a traffic ticket on the day of court and be done with it, while a person too poor to pay that day is placed on probation and ends up paying $500 or more for the same offense.

To add further insult to injury, of the four states now in the hot seat for resurrecting Debtor's Prisons, three of the states party-over-people partisan politicians have rejected the stimulus money set aside for their states in part or in whole.

Let me restate that...the politicians in Mississippi, Georgia, and Florida (all Republicans) - some of the worst hit states in the US - has rejected stimulus monies allocated for lengthening unemployment benefits, health benefits, job creation, and other assorted revenues that could help keep people in the red, and out of debtor's prisons.

Is there no end to the Bourgeoisie's greed and hatred of the poorest citizens? Whether they were poor to begin with, or lost everything due to a global economic crisis, losing their jobs, their homes, and their belongings all a long the way? Or are the lower Red States really so bitter towards the poor that they welcome a perversion of justice and the jailing of otherwise innocent people simply because they are poor?
Privatization of public services leads to Fascism, plain and simple. It must be stopped.

Wiki debtor's prison
ACLU Nowlin press release
Nowlin Motion
Northern Circuit Complaint (Mississippi)
Criminal defense law
Constitution, Miranda warning and rights
Florida rejects stimulus
GOP rejects stimulus money
South Carolina rejects stimulus
Rejecting Stimulus aid may save states
Governors reject stimulus for unemployment
Senators divided over stimulus rejection
Georgia rejects stimulus money
Republicans torn over stimulus funds
All articles linked to in text.


Help Yourself to Some Humble Pie.

The news of the day, and the word on the street lately is the big Tea party brouhaha's that developed and manifested on "tax day" this year. All facts, numbers, bills and legislation aside, I don't care that conservatives are protesting. I protest hings I disagree with, so obviously protesting is not an issue for me. What I care about, and find highly amusing is the flaming hypocrisy of the conservative groups at the moment.

Let me elaborate.

Last year, and indeed for the last 6 years at least, I have consistently heard conservatives tell liberals - or any political leaning that was protesting Bush - to "Love it or leave it". More specifically, I and others have been called every name in the book, from anti-semetic, to unpatriotic, America hating, Terrorist sympathizing conspiracy theorist moonbats who hate America, hate freedom, and should go live in a Communist country. I was told, on more than a few occasions that Americans don't question their democratically elected leaders. They stand by them, win or lose. You don't protest, and if you do you're a stinky, hippie, whiner child who's spoiled and rotten and killing the American Dream.

This is what I've heard...for years.

I've also experienced the government backlash of speaking out, that is to say undergoing surveillance, protest ID'ing, harassment, being labeled as "extremeists" for going to protests etc and so forth. I've been reported to the FBI by conservative groups for simply attending a protest. I've been told by conservative groups that the Patriot Act was to "protect Americans" and "What do you expect when you go to a protest you un-American traitors!" in regards to complaints of being ID'ed and cataloged at protests. We (any left leaning protesters in the last 8 years) have been told that we deserve to be labeled as domestic terrorists, violent radicals, and to be listed on the Department of Homeland Security watch lists.

We deserved it, because we had the audacity to speak out against policies we felt were hurting the country, or the people in it.

Now I want you to pause...for just a second here, close your eyes and imagine all of that hatred spewing forth into the air. Now listen to what conservatives are saying now. Notice anything? Yes, you've got it - that's righteous indignation on their part.

Now...now protesting the government is the American thing to do. Revolution, or mentions of it is American tradition. Comparing the democratically elected leader to Hitler - well that's just dandy! Now it's OK to do that. Before though - oh no! Can't do that - that makes you a pinko commie scumbag! But if it's conservatives doing the name calling, I guess it's OK. If it's conservatives doing the protesting, it must be a good cause. if it's conservatives under the watchful eye of the government at protests and being researched, watched, and categorized as extremists - well that's tyranny! It's oppression! It's...it's...

fair play.

I suppose that conservative groups felt invincible to the invasive and broad language legislation they once supported. I suppose that they never - not once - realized it could be used against them. After all, they're perfect Americans, right? No one on the right has ever engaged in extremist activities. (Timothy McVeigh, Glen Beck and Micheal Savage calling for the deaths of liberals and conservative values gunmen spraying "liberal churches" full of bullets *cough* but their poop doesn't stink *choke*).

How dare the US government turn their surveillance on conservatives just for attending protests!!!

Welcome to the club, kids.

Wipe your feet, pay your dues on time, be sure to attend meetings, and don't get ID'ed. I'm sure your friendly neighborhood Anarchist can help you supply your groups with bandannas, balaclavas, and "How not to get ID'ed by the FBI and DHS" handbooks. They'll help you, I'm sure, for the ultra low, one time price of apologetic groveling.

Oh, and don't forget to get your "I hate America" bumper sticker and "Stinky commie hippie" membership card. If you recruit two members, you can get a free "Domestic terrorist" button to wear at protests. The FBI loves those.

So pardon me if I laugh hysterically while the conservatives have their righteous hissy fits over policies that haven't taken place yet, and cash in their stimulus, tax credit, and stimulus rebate checks that they are protesting, and crying about oppressive surveillance and unfair labeling as "extremists".

Karma's a bitch, with a twisted sense of humor.

Oh, and don't forget to help yourself to a steaming hot slice of humble pie before you leave.


Confusing Tyranny with losing..

Sometimes, just sometimes, Jon Stewart says everything I actually wanted to say. He's really been on a roll lately - just watch:

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Psychological Economics

The topic of bartering has come back up as of late, it would seem that with the economy looming over people's heads the notion of getting what you need or want in alternative ways has become a bit fashionable.

Or has it?

A while ago, I addressed the bartering topic with two posts, Capitalism vs Fair Trade, and it's follow up post, Fair Trade, For Real. At the time, the topic of bartering wasn't the most common topic on people's lips, and the idea received some lukewarm receptions. I would like to take a closer look at what I was proposing then, and what people are proposing now, with a focus on the resistance to bartering as an economic system.

It occurred to me, after having read many threads and discussions about bartering, economics, and money, that people could witness the use of bartering, see how it works, and still reject it. Why? I couldn't figure it out. I read many arguments about economic structures, historical accounts of economics, and currency's ease of use as reasons why bartering was bad, save for a few rare instances. Some of the arguments had some merit, but truth be told I wasn't convinced that the arguments were the actual reason for the rejection - there had to be more to the story.

And then I found it. Aha!

It hit me like a ton of bricks. After reading a very short, concise comment about bartering, I finally realized that people have attached so much importance on the dollar value of goods and services that if you remove it, they are lost. It is something so simple I can't believe I missed it. But they are not just lost, there is a deeper psychology involved with the attachment of money, value, material goods, and self worth at play here. While I have always understood that modern citizens have a particular obsession with the relation of material goods and social standing, I hadn't realized just how pervasive the obsession really is.

Until I saw the explanation laid out so plainly. If we use bartering, then we remove money. If we remove money then there is no dollar amount attached to goods and services, and thus, our goods lose their attached value.

My first reaction was, of course, to argue that things have an intrinsic value - things of import such as water, food, shelter, and protection. That taking away a price tag will not devalue items that are essential to our very survival. I stand by this, however before arguing, I took a moment to understand and evaluate the underlying message. Things of actual import do not help define a person in this modern world. If you remove the financial value of objects from the system, you force people to reprioritize the actual value of objects and, they may look at their inventory and realize that they have nothing of value at all.

That is a difficult realization to come to terms with.

Particularly in a society that measures a person's success by their bank accounts and material possessions. The concept of success being defined by one's salary, financial wealth, and material things is constantly being echoed through the halls of politics as we speak. The murmurings and arguments against taxation policies and salaries is another fine example of how ingrained the psychology is. "If we tax people who make $250k or more, then no one will want to make more money than $249k per year, it will ruin progress and competition! No one will want to be successful!"

Ah, there it is again - success and money. I've asked this many times over, but who says that making only $200k per year isn't successful? Or just a lowly $100k per year? Or no money at all? I've asked why we need to encourage a drive to continuously make more and more money? What is the point of it?

The point, is self worth. The point, is that we have been trained for centuries to worship and covet items which are rare but generally useless. We have been taught to associate our own worth to society by means of hoarding useless material possessions.

When you remove the ability to create an image of importance and value for the individual by removing the value of their "things" you are holding up a stark, cold mirror which reflects the actual accomplishments and success of a person. And no one wants that. After centuries of the wealthy condemning the poor and working class as being a burden to society, and otherwise useless - having the tables turned isn't exactly desirable.

That said, things will still hold a value when you barter. But it will be an intrinsic value, a worth that is closely related to usefulness rather than the arbitrarily ascertained appraisals based on rarity, and perceived value. The value of an object will be weighed and measured not on availability, not on preconceived notions, but on the desire and need of individuals.

It stands to reason that there are a great number of obstacles in the way of changing over completely to a barter economy, namely centuries of social conditioning would have to be undone. Defending a barter economy is not the subject of this post, but rather addressing the psychological barriers and reason for rejection of such an economy, starting with the individual.

We place an a great deal of importance to the things we possess. Be it sentimental attachment, or an overinflated sense of value real or perceived, we consider our things to be very valuable indeed. Removing the financial measure of value threatens our sense of self worth, because if your precious items can't retain their value without an economic system to say it's valuable, then it wasn't valuable to begin with.

And that is a scary idea for anyone who defines their worth to society by means of material possessions.