Wednesday, June 28, 2017

WTF Paul Ryan?: Healthcare, George Bailey and American Greatness

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America. – Preamble to the United States Constitution

It is our patriotic duty to strive perennially toward this ideal of a more perfect Union.

Paul Ryan and other Republicans have touted the possible repeal of the ACA as a liberating event, freeing individuals from the burden of “having” to have insurance. That it is “merciful” to eliminate the ACA.

WTF?

I would argue with their definition of liberty – of freedom.

It seems to me much more liberating to be free from the fear that a health event, even somewhat minor, could disrupt the balance of the paycheck-to-paycheck existence of most Americans.

My Secret Shame - The Atlantic

Because we love anecdotal “evidence” – let me put this in personal terms – I was diagnosed with cancer in 1996. It is an ongoing condition for me. My loved ones, my family: my mother – my father – my sister – have had catastrophic illnesses - cancer. Do you know how much it costs to have cancer? Even if you have insurance. Do you know what it feels like to be perpetually terrified that you won’t be able to work or that your job will go away and you could lose your health insurance? A friend of mine recently died of Leukemia. Throughout his illness he worried that he wouldn’t be able to work. In the early 2000s I knew a man who brought his IV tree to work with him as he was being treated for a very rare form of cancer. I remember Clare who didn’t get follow up radiation for breast cancer because her insurance didn’t cover it and she couldn’t afford it, Clare died. – How to pay for staying alive should not even be a thing in the wealthiest country on the planet.

Who, with any good conscience, could argue that this kind of fear is freedom?

No one should ever have to delay treatment because they lack funds.
No one should ever be financially wiped out because they became sick.
No one should ever have to worry about how to pay for treatment as they’re fighting to stay alive.

All of those “go fund me” campaigns for families suffering through illness – WTF? How is this how we go about things?

Yes – we as a nation will have to pay for these things. No it should not be paid for on the backs of the working class, the middle class, the working poor, the elderly, the impoverished – the 80+%.


Wealth Gap - Pew Research


“Just remember this, Mr. Potter, that this rabble you're talking about, they do most of the working and paying and living and dying in this community.” – George Bailey, It’s a Wonderful Life

Our national fortune, our greatness, our standing in the world is only as strong as this 80+%. It is this majority that created the wealth that the 20% now benefit from. It is this 80+% that fight the wars, work in the factories, own the small businesses, work in the fields, wash the dishes, serve your dinner, raise the children – and buy all the things you want them to buy – and pay the majority of taxes. They are the source of your – all our - wealth and it’s not unreasonable to expect that a nation to which they have given so much should insure their health.

“Why -- here, you're all businessmen here. Don't it make them better citizens? Doesn't it make them better customers? – George Bailey, It’s a Wonderful Life

It is not too much ask that those who have benefited the most from these labors should give back proportionally …

We need an end to political posturing. We need bipartisan leadership that puts the welfare of the people before the profits of corporations. We need to fix Healthcare not eliminate it. Populism, in its truest form, is concern for the common people. Let us be Populists then as demonstrated through action rather than rhetoric.

The Senate Health care bill isn't Populism - Washington Post

PS – money should not equal speech, it will forever shout down “we the people,” and will most often speak in the interests of itself.

George Bailey's speech to the board, It's a Wonderful Life You should read this - really.

Joe Kennedy v Paul Ryan - sorry I couldn't find a better clip of this

Thursday, June 22, 2017

An unfiltered Letter to the Democratic Leadership ...

Dear Democratic Party Leadership –

Here’s some critique and some advice from a white female educated southerner who now lives in Ohio but goes home regularly. For the record I’m middle-class and, so far, a yellow-dog Democrat.

1. You need to get your sh*t together.

2. Develop real economic, educational, international and social agendas with real policies and how-tos – Invite in all the smart people to work on this. It’s not a party platform to say we’re not Trump. Trump is lifestyles of the rich and famous. People are not going to turn away from that if you don’t offer something real. Also you have to address this line of “personal responsibility” that folks like Ryan spout. There’s a fantasy that there are scores of people not taking responsibility and the rest of us are suffering for it – there are, but they’re not who they’re saying it is.

3. Develop bipartisan strategies. Identify people across the aisle you can work with. Help the Republicans moderate. Make this part of what sets you apart – educate the public on what is good government and best governing practices. (Look into this so you know what you’re talking about.) Don’t attack someone just because they’re a Republican – make it worth their while to work with you. Become the grown ups we so desperately need. A functioning government requires dialogue, compromise and coalitions. We need to move away from all or nothing.

4. Pick your candidates and establish strategies now for 2018 and 2020 – manage expectations. You screwed the pooch on this in Georgia. Georgia was actually a win because it was a fight and it got a message out but you lost this gain when you failed to manage expectations.

5. Stop eating your young. This Bernie vs. Hillary thing is absolute bullshit. Identify talent – cultivate it – push it. You're distracting from your "young" talent by all of 2016 rehash. Do understand what you did right, and what you did wrong, but not everyone needs to be at the autopsy.

6. Develop strategies and best practices for being heard on social media. Educate your field troops in how to go about it. You suck at this. You try to play Trump, et.al.’s game and it stinks. It stinks when they do it and it stinks worse when you do it. Stop the hyperbole. Stop the name-calling. Go troll hunting but don’t be a troll. Let the professionals - the Baldwins, Larry Wilmore, Robin Thede, Samantha Bee, Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert, etc. - handle that – they’re very good at it and its funny. Everyone else - at every turn speak truth to power but do it without Bullshit. Call out racism, sexism, classism, homophobia – at every turn – but do it without bullshit.

7. Inform and persuade. Take the time to inform people as to what Populism should be, the differences between private and public and what it means to provide for the common defense – the limits of libertarianism – how bias works and how f**ked up our legal system is, etc.

8. The accusation that you’re elitists is mostly true. Those not like you, who don’t agree with you, you hold in contempt and you heap ridicule upon them. The Right and alt-right does this too and to a greater degree, that doesn’t make it good, right, or fair. Our culture is drowning in contempt. Yes – there are people with some mind-blowing views but you have to do the hard work of winning hearts and minds. Some of those ideas are soul-cringingly repugnant (white nationalism for example), but if we don’t take it on at its core, we will never “win” – (stop a moment and think about what “winning” should mean). Check your prejudices at the door – (as a white southerner with a certain accent I’ve run into this) - all of them. Figure out why folks on the other side think the things they do and speak to it. Build a coalition with the religious left. Don’t shy away from religious issues. Have a real economic strategy for areas that struggle economically. Education is part of this and not just jobs training, but the kind of education that can lead to careers. Identify the drivers of homegrown economies that can lead to economic stability in areas like the South, the Rustbelt, the Midwest, those Urban centers that are struggling – what is your plan to build the middleclass? How do you cultivate entrepreneurship and small businesses? Stop writing off “Red” states – go there – talk to people about what matters to them – F**king persuade them. Be in this for the long haul – have principles and risk losing for them – know what you’ll die on your sword for – make sure people know what these are. We are in a fight for the soul of this nation - f**king act like it.

9. Give people room to change – when a public figure yields ground let them – praise them – give them credit – when they uncynically apologize or “flop” on an important issue – support that – keep watching - but give them room to come around.

10. Manage expectations – yours and others.

11. Have a f**king vision.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

For Liberals and Conservatives - a note on feeling(s)

Feelings are not truth – Feelings are not truth – Feelings are not truth – Feelings are not truth -

Acting on your feelings doesn’t make you authentic, but it can make you reckless and ill considered.

Serial killers act on their feelings, rapists, abusers, racists – all are feeling driven.

Feelings are the source of racism, misogyny, prejudice, sexism, and bias of all sorts.

Less antisocial but equally valid as an example – people with bipolar disorder must regularly sort through what is a “true” feeling and what is a product of brain chemistry –

Children, before they’ve learned self-discipline, are examples of an unexamined emotional life capable of equal parts joyful and uninhibited; and cruel and unrestrained.

Narcissists believe in the truth of their feelings.

Feelings are sometimes just intrusive thoughts that need to be ignored. YOU may not be the author of them. They may be a product of conditioning through life experience – or chemical shifts beyond your control. In the medieval period, intrusive feelings were sometimes thought to be the product of Satan or a demon.

Everyday minor biases play out so that we privilege those we FEEL comfortable with over those we FEEL less comfortable with. The system is an accumulation of these choices. It’s not always or even often a conspiracy, but most often a byproduct of people with power helping those they feel comfortable with – generally with no ill (but ill considered) intent -

Feelings are how the system gets rigged.

When you meet someone and you instantly dislike them; when you automatically choose to hire the friend as opposed to the possibly more qualified stranger; when you assume the guilt of someone without evidence but based on what you imagine about them - (how you imagine someone’s motives or intentions absent evidence) … these are feelings at work and they lead to an out of kilter system.

Good news – you don’t have to feel guilty for your feelings, … just for not examining them.

I think it’s important that we consciously decide what principles we are committed to and then as objectively as we can apply ourselves to these. It’s important to build systems that remove the potential for bias as much as possible. We must test what we do against the logic of what we say we believe.

For example – if you believe that it is an ethical imperative that we love one another – then what you say or do should follow the logic of this. Just as some feelings are a negative product of conditioning, some positive feelings must be cultivated, and we must condition ourselves to them.

If we long for a system that is fair, a world where everyone begins on equal footing, then, we really do have to examine our feelings and cultivate those that make us who we hope to be, as individuals and as a nation.

Saturday, May 06, 2017

My Fellow Americans ...

Citizens -

Look at history.

Once we pledged our troth to lords, kings, emperors –

then we decided we would pledge instead ourselves to one another, that your cause would be my cause and that we would die no more for the glory of others but for those things that really matter –life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness – the benefits of freedom for all –

From many, One –

We need to remember this – to follow the logic of it – through our voices demand compromise and reason – let us see things for what they are – let us then renew our commitment to our common cause and turn away from those who play the games of division.

Let us demand reason and common purpose of our leaders – Let us protect and defend the most vulnerable. Let us answer to our better angels – let us demand the best of ourselves and hold those who are first among us to our highest ideals. Let us make war on cynicism - because it is only in the fitness of our ideals that we can achieve anything of merit.

Saturday, March 25, 2017

On The Whitney Biennial Controversy

Many in the “art world” are thinking a lot about the controversy at the Whitney Biennial surrounding Dana Schutz’s painting Open Casket. Bear with me while I take my turn at it. (See below for links to other readings).

Does she have the right to make that painting and to show it? Yes. If we ever seriously start saying who does and does not own certain subjects we will be sliding down a step slope.

Should it be taken down? I don’t think so. Should it have been included to begin with? I don’t know –
I feel conflicted.
I feel my whiteness in this and I don’t want to lie to myself about what this is or how it works …

I am tempted to be silent rather than prove myself naïve or ignorant … but that seems contrary to my deepest ideals. I don’t want to be a coward.

For me, in strange ways, the controversy reinforces the mechanisms of privilege and power. The attention to Open Casket drowns out and distracts from the work of lesser-known artists who are also in the Biennial. Their biennial moment is being occluded, washed away. It grabs the media – the public eye – and moves it away from what else might be thoughtful, meaningful, or potent in the show …

It is an unfortunate side effect of people caring about things that matter.

But maybe this moment could be used as a magnifying glass to turn attention to the full roster of the show’s artists? Maybe it could be used as a megaphone so that conversations that don’t usually happen – happen? –
How do we talk about things that really matter?

Whitney Biennial 2017

This is an art show – an art show – an art show – it mediates and objectifies. Sometimes this gives us the distance or the emotional armor to approach real things – and sometimes it numbs and aestheticizes –

The original photograph gives us neither armor nor beauty.

Emmett Till’s murder is an example of the horror that grows from one person’s ability to dehumanize another person. It was a murder committed from an assumption that one human, because of the circumstances into which they are born, inherently deserves hate, violence and contempt. It is a piercing example of a kind of depravity that is unable to consider the value of human life that is somehow other than its own.

It is a symptom of a kind of social psychopathy that is still with us.

His mother’s grief and rage held up a mirror to those who would dismiss and diminish his suffering and her gapping loss.

However this moment came again to our attention, it is a reminder of something that is radically prescient. We can pray that we steel ourselves against those thoughts and feelings that tempt us away from a commitment to shared humanity but any ideology that reduces human beings to something “other” only propagates a living nightmare. Such ideologies assure future horrors.

I think a lot about the “they” some speak of – the confidence that those speaking have that “they” are evil. This capacity to believe that there is a “they” is terrifying.

It’s important to know where our empathy goes first.
Maybe the painting does us a favor of reminding us of its source – maybe.
And maybe Till’s murder still has some power to awaken in our social consciousness an understanding that more recent events have somehow failed to do - maybe. We can use all the help we can get.


Other Readings on this subject:

"On Dana Schutz's Open Casket: A Masterful Yet Imperfect Painting" by Paddy Johnson, Artfcity

"The Violence of the 2017 Whitney Biennial" by Hrag Vartanian, Hyperallergic

"Black Artists Are Calling For An Emmett Till Painting To Be Destroyed" by Jordan Danville, Fader

"Dana Schutz’s Painting of Emmett Till at Whitney Biennial Sparks Protest" by Lorena Muñoz-Alonso, Artnet

Added on March 29, 2017

"Censorship, not the Painting, Must Go" by Coco Fusco, Hyperallergic

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Manufacturing Jobs (it's the economy stupid)


Image source Library of Congress - 11 year old Nannie Coleson


When pundits and politicians talk about the economy they talk about growth. “Is the economy growing?”

I’ve often wondered how something can infinitely grow.

And with a consumer-based economy, how can we infinitely consume? Isn’t there a point where I have most of what I need? Even if we go with the model of continually replacing everything we have due to changes in fashion or “upgrading,” won’t this plateau? As an economic model/goal, how is this even practical? The only way it makes sense for the economy to continually grow is for the population to continually grow. Logically there has to be a limit to this.

Jobs. Manufacturing jobs.

I shop at Target. On very rare occasions I shop at Walmart. I buy a lot of cardigans and tees. I always check prices. If something is $24 or higher, I hesitate. Sometimes I wait for it to go on sale. The things I buy are made in places like China. Things that are made in the United States I largely can’t afford. Most Americans are in a similar or worse economic state. We spend a lot of time working on the appearance of how we are doing and struggling behind the scenes. The sweaters I buy at Target are thin and cheap and only have the appearance of their more expensive cousins.

We talk about bringing manufacturing jobs back to the U.S. Somehow we’re going to out compete places like China. China is attractive to manufacturers because wages are low and the environmental regulations are less stringent. The conditions of workers in Apple’s Chinese manufacturing sites have been widely discussed. Similarly there has been media attention given to garment workers in countries like Bangladesh and India. Beijing struggles with air pollution.

China Air Pollution Woes

I own an Iphone and I buy the clothes.

Can we manufacture goods in the U.S. at costs that will make them competitive? Will we, SHOULD WE, produce the conditions that would make this possible? If we impose tariffs, will American workers be able to afford the goods they produce?

As automation becomes more prevalent, and it is inevitable that technology will continue to replace human workers, what then?

We the “99%”* are addicted to the cheap goods produced by suppressed and often slave wages. Corporations are addicted to the profits that this system feeds them.

Corporate executives make millions for the profits they are able to provide to their investors. Workers struggle. Their low wages are a very real part of this system. I’m not the first to say it, but for manufacturing to be viable in the U.S., we need to turn to the manufacture of high-end commodities with a consumer price point that can sustain a living wage. This however will require an educated and trained workforce and consequently an investment in this education. Yet education and training is increasingly out of reach.

At every level there is a call for “fiscal responsibility” as more and more of various cost burdens are shifted onto the “99%”. At every turn the profit gatherers seek to extract an extra dollar or dime.

We have seen what deregulation looks like. Study the history of the 19th and 20th centuries: child labor, pollution, killer smogs, the shirtwaist fire, Black Tuesday, etc.

I think we need paradigms, new indicators of economic health and public wellbeing.

We need, I think, to stop listening to what sounds good (and easy) and actually deal with the quality of the lives we are producing. Life is too short. We should not live only to work and struggle.


*I’m not fond of the term “99%” but I use it here to stand in for all working classes: middle, low and poverty.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

Why I Oppose Donald Trump

My parents taught me to stand by my principles.

They taught me not to be ugly to people, not to call people names, to hold my temper and let reason win, to be kind.

Why I cannot support Donald Trump:

• Birther claims
• Steve Bannon/Alt. Right
- These first two I think are symptoms of the same motivation on Trump’s part.

• Trump University
• Twitter Rants
• Name calling

• Apologies are rare and thin

I find him reprehensible and an embarrassment to the nation. I think surely if there is a cause you would rally to you could find a better leader than this.

He was elected but sometimes, history has shown, the public is swayed away from its best interests.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

#endgerrymandering

Too many of our citizens are shut out of our election process. It is dominated by money and gerrymandering. Too many are disenfranchised and too few of us are outraged by it.

If you’re a liberal in a “red” state or a conservative in a “blue” state – your vote doesn’t count. Often you don’t even bother voting. Only the “swing” states matter.

Frankly any “popular” vote is grossly skewed because of this.

The Electors in our Electoral College system don’t debate or confer.

We watch the Republican and Democratic conventions and we already know the outcome. It’s a coronation not a process.

We have undermined our processes for building consensus. We don’t believe in consensus – only winning.

We have become so very very cynical. – Our elections are like sporting events. On the spectator side it’s more about personality and the team you want to align yourself with. There seems to be a real desire to punish the other side. On the political side, it’s a craven approach to the game – saying what has to be said to line up support. The public understands that there’s a disconnect between what a politician says and what they really believe. We play the outrage game when it suits us.

I know I am naïve to imagine that the principles we espouse should actually mean something.

I think a lot about Venn Diagrams and how we find those points of overlap.

We need to end gerrymandering. Surely we can find a less political system for establishing our voting districts, one that protects the voices of all our citizens. We simply require the will to do it.