Trump is a racist. When will people (especially White people) stop making excuses for him?

White people hate to be called racists. Calling a white person racist, or just implying that something they may have said or done which may be seen as racist makes them very nervous and agitated and they immediately go on the defensive as to why they are absolutely not racists and are willing cite reasons as long as their arm. The favorite line of defense is I have a ______ friend, therefore I am not (I, by virtue of logic,) cannot under any circumstance be racist. Even White nationalists subscribe to this logic, because more often then we like, there are just enough self-loathing half-Whites and half-Something else’s who fall for white supremacy playbook hook, line and sinker.

These are some of the comments from my piece published yesterday, Antifragile and White Nationalism, it warrants commenting on the comments because it’s a very realistic and unguarded look and racism and what constitutes as racism in White America:

 

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If I must hear about how White Southerners are lovely friendly people one more time…

And I don’t mean to crap on the White folks, I really don’t. I am white-ish myself, I am half-White and half-Chinese. One half of my family consists of these well meaning, non-racist white people. But I’ve been around enough ‘diversity’ in my life and have developed a finely tuned snout to snuff out overt, covert and coded racism. Most White people today aren’t overt racists anymore, they are too smart for that; because, remember, even amongst white nationalists, to be called a ‘racist’ is an insult to their integrity; they are merely ‘preserving’ white culture from becoming extinct by this huge massive invasion of black, brown and mix raced peoples.

I’d agree that most white people are decent good people, they mean well, they certainly don’t mean to come across as racist. But the person we are talking about here is Donald Trump, not the average White person you meet, Trump is an avowed racist. So comments like the one below not only confounds but baffles me:

While I hardly think he has any nazi empathies himself, he does seem to attract such white supremacist feelings simply because he himself is so way out in left field (or “right” field) in his political approach. I would NEVER attribute Trump to knowingly have understood some pulse of the nation.

A person without Nazi sympathies will not attract white supremacists and other Nazis. Full stop. White supremacists and Nazis have their own antennas and speak in their own ‘codes’ in which they detect each other in public social settings. Except Donald Trump didn’t even use codes, he flat out called Mexicans rapists and murderers. And there are two groups of them, the likes of Trump and his ilk to present a ‘legitimate and presentable’ front to the public, where they put on an expensive suit and use a few big words which will then convince mainstream media that they are legit and then you have the basement Nazis, those who cover their bodies with Swastika and other white nationalist tattoos and greet each other with the Nazi salute. Donald Trump kicked off his campaign calling Mexicans “murderers and rapists”, short of that, they are here to steal American jobs and depress the wages of ‘real working Americans'(read: White Americans). Next he called a total ban on all Muslims, even American citizens (except for those serving in the military), after the tragic shootings in San Bernardino, California and the gay nightclub PULSE in Florida. How is this not categorically racist (and Islamophobic)? And while he was going about the Muslim ban and the two crimes he’s referring to are gun crimes, he failed to address the other violent gun crimes committed in this country by White people and the police. Some of those who voted for Trump voted for his economic and foreign policies and overlooked his racism, those same voters and supporters cannot use that reason to deny that Trump is a racist. And just because millions of people agree with Trump and his views, it doesn’t mean those same views have any validity.

Donald Trump called fat women slobs, and people who have any grievance against him ‘losers’. He’s sexually harassed women, threatened to fire women who didn’t respond to his sexual advances, threatened to fire a pregnant woman because he didn’t like how she looked pregnant. Trump has divided the population into ‘winners’ and ‘losers’. The ‘winners’ are very obviously people who are like him, who resemble him, and the losers are everyone else, which is a big group. Trump clearly understood “some pulse of the nation”. Why does this person feel the need to excuse Donald Trump? Why are White people so afraid of calling Trump what he is without the buts, exceptions and excuses. Trump is a bona fide and unashamed racist (and eugenicist) – he doesn’t even have a problem with being a racist, so why do other white people? It’s not just in 2016 he’s been revealed as a racist and bigot but in the 1980s, he took out a full page ad in the New York Times, calling for the execution of the five black teenagers for the attempted murder and rape of the Central Park jogger, who were later found to be innocent. When pressed on it, he said why where these five teenagers doing in Central Park at that hour? Shouldn’t they be home? So, after hours Central Park is only for White people like himself? Racism is not open to some arbitrary ‘interpretation’. Some may be subtle, some more overt, but we all know it when we hear it. For those who belong to minority groups feel it when they hear it and see it.

People who being their sentence with “People make way too much of the race issue. I speak as a Southerner who believes the whole world is friendly to friendly people. The urban media’s constant stoking of the hatred flames only generates needless paranoia” is an immediate red flag. This person has either never been out of the town in the South they were born or must have a very low threshold on what’s considered racist. I am not talking about ‘micro-aggressions’ here, people who drone on about how they are micro-aggressed daily bore me too and too much focus on the ‘micro’ things deter from the bigger picture. But again, we are talking about Donald Trump, a proven racist; not the nice Southern lady next door who attends church every Sunday and volunteers at the local soup kitchen and accidentally drops a racial slur. This is a man who received the endorsement of the KKK and white nationalist groups, and a whole group of supporters called the “alt-right” are out in support of him and he didn’t denounce them nor reject their support until AFTER he got elected. Most racists today no longer wear hoods and burn crosses at night on the lawn of black homes or black churches, they’ve evolved (the theories of antifragile are at work here too).

Because I am half-White and half-something else but appear more White than the something else, many people have mistakenly aired their racist views towards Asians in my presence and hearing. This has happened even when I was working in corporate America, the place of neoliberal utopia, where everything is supposedly a meritocracy. I’ve heard all the jokes and the mocking and white people just love to mock our parent’s accents. And the jokes are lame as fuck: “where did you go this weekend?”, “Chinatown”, then some lame-ass frat boy man baby breaks out mocking Chinese accent of a waiter trying to get these white frat boys orders right. But the irony is the manager (and she manages over 100 people) of these privileged UCLA frat boys is a tough as nails Vietnamese woman barely standing at 5 feet tall without her heels and they revoltingly kiss her ass and brow nose her in her presence. These will be the same frat boys complaining about reverse discrimination should their daddies not be rich enough to contribute to the alumni endowment and all but guarantee their college entry.

Racism towards Asians is more sneaky, more passive aggressive, more micro-aggressing than maybe some of the racism towards other minorities (for example, it was acceptable for the frat boys I worked with to mock Asians than to be overtly racist against Black people or Latinos). Racism toward Asians is turning our academic achievements into mockeries and jokes (frog eyed, spectacle wearing geeks who can’t toss a football), our appearance (we all look the same, lizard eyed, yellow tone skin), our accents, our faulty English grammar, our parents accents, professions (dry cleaners, liquor store owners, restaurant owners) are mocked. The only thing that shields some Asian children at school from total outright bullying is they have perfected the game white people invented. Getting good grades, perfect SAT scores and getting into top universities and joining the middle and upper middle class within a generation ,or in a word: upward mobility; which from the last statistics is going in the opposite direction for some white communities.

All of the lecturing on “personal responsibility” the conservatives and Clinton neoliberals love to preach to black people, many Asians already do and do it very well, they do “personal responsibility” better than Rand Paul and all of the Republican lawmakers of both the House and Senate combined.

So, White people: do not tell me that Trump isn’t ‘categorically’ a racist, because he hasn’t been caught in a white hood burning crosses. He is. He begun his campaign on a call to deport, ban, harass and detain Mexicans. Or that minorities and people of color are just too sensitive and are imagining things which aren’t there, they are. And believe me, the majority of people of color ignore the micro-aggressions and racist comments and situations hurled at them (except the Hilbots on Twitter). Many people of color (those that have a real life and not live online) do not speak out and complain until it’s overly egregious where ignoring it would be one step short of self-denigration. Most people do not have the time of day (nor energy) to be so sensitive to every slight (perceived or real) and respond to it. Most people of color just get on with their days.

One of my best friends cried when she heard Donald Trump won the election. If I am to be very honest, my first reaction was ‘well, that’s a bit dramatic and overboard’; but then I was never called a “chink” in broad daylight as I am crossing the street. Another friend of mine, who stands at just over five feet two inches, doesn’t look a day over 25, is routinely patronized, talked down to, dismissed or mistaken as the secretary and told to go bring some coffee for everyone while attending her own startup investor’s meeting; she is on her third or fourth startup (I lost count) and she gives seminars and talks on weekends mentoring other people how to do a startup. This could never happen to me because I am just not that awesome or capable.

I don’t care if Donald Trump has Black, Mexican, Chinese, Indian, First American, LGBTQ friends and tomorrow he appoints a transgender person to be his Secretary of State and all the other cabinet members and high level positions represent every minority and marginalized group. I don’t care how many Black people, Latinos, Asians voted for Trump. He is still a filthy racist, sexist and misogynist. His actions have proven that, his words confirms it.

Antifragile and White Nationalism

No sooner has the election results were formally announced on the night of November 8, the normalization of Trump has begun in full force. The days and weeks after the election, true to form, Trump has appointed a motley crew of neo-fascists, neoconservatives, anti-semites, the conventional hawkish military conservatives, with a few token conservative women and minorities thrown in the mix. Almost all of them subscribe to his world view of white superiority and within that, only a certain group of white men of exceptional intelligence are fit to run this country, him being one of them.

But this is not the worst of it. This was to be expected. What did people think when they voted Trump into White House? He’ll suddenly do an about face and appoint a bunch of socialists to occupy cabinet seats? No. The worst is mainstream media giving “alt-right” (which is a grossly misleading name, they should be referred to as what they are, neo-Nazis) Trump supporters a legitimate media platform to air their disgusting and abhorrent views. They include a self-hating “half-Jew” who is angry at his parents for daring to procreate a waste of space like him. A former Z-list reality TV star doing the Nazi salute, and this Z-lister is woman of color. An assortment of other white men and an occasional woman who subscribe to pseudo racial genetic theory who know not the difference between what’s someone of Arab origin or someone who follows the Islamic faith. These people do not need to be speaking to the press and mainstream media providing link backs to their deplorable racially coded blogs. These people should visit a therapist first. This level of self-hating surely cannot be healthy.

Along the theme of ‘fake news’; there has been a lot of ‘reported’ increase in racist abuse and hate crimes since election night. The media wants us to believe that since the night of November 8, the number of racists in this country multiplied many times over. But it doesn’t work like that. No one becomes a racist overnight. Becoming a racist is a conditioning over one’s lifetime. All of these racists and hateful people already existed before Trump was elected, and a non racist person will not suddenly become racist just because Trump got elected, the only difference is with Trump’s white nationalist hateful agenda, these people who expressed their disgusting views in their basements with their friends are out into the open. Trump gave these people a legitimate platform to air these racist views. It gave overt racists permission to perform their heil sieg in public. It gave latent racists cover to air their racists views using legitimate issues such as the economy, jobs and crime. It gave self-hating minorities, who really should be visiting their therapist a legitimate platform to identify with their oppressors or with who they perceive as the superior race or group.

The poison that is Trump is not just the orange ferret himself. It’s that he, using the political process, has fomented a fascist movement. He has found a way using the most base and ugliest factors to unite his political base. He outdid Richard Nixon and his ‘Southern Strategy’ (that was at least dog whistling and somewhat covert) and brought out the ugly to the national platform and every closet racist, white nationalist, white supremacists, KKK, former Klansmen went wild. Donald Trump said in public what they dare not say: Mexicans are criminals, they steal our jobs, they use public assistance, the Chinese manipulate currency and that’s why their factories are closing and going overseas etc. Trump used ‘political correctness’ as his ace card. He knew everyone on every political spectrum was sick of being ‘politically correct’, it’s what spineless liberals do, and so he used that to rail against women, minorities even people with disabilities.

So, what to do about fascists? There are really just two options, you take away their platform or you beat their asses with baseball bats. Fascism is also what Dr. Nassim Taleb calls antifragile:

Some things benefit from shocks; they thrive and grow when exposed to volatility, randomness, disorder, and stressors and love adventure, risk, and uncertainty. Yet, in spite of the ubiquity of the phenomenon, there is no word for the exact opposite of fragile. Let us call it antifragile.

Things which are antifragile thrive on disorder and shock. Every time when fascists rise to power is usually a time of economic distress and social disorder which arises from that. Dr. Taleb also describes terrorism as antifragile, and when negative things are antifragile, there are only 2 things one can do: totally ignore terrorists and soon they realize their terrorizing ways don’t scare people anymore or you obliterate them totally, leave no man standing. Doing anything in between those two extremes will only feed the beast (8 years of President Obama’s ‘surgical drone strikes’ on supposed terrorist cells have not weakened terrorism around the world). The same can be applied to fascism, and as Dr. Taleb pointed out, it’s near impossible to totally ignore fascists or terrorist due to presence of 24 hour news, only the second option is left.

When some neo-Nazi openly muses if Jews are really people or just a bunch soulless golems, instead of shutting down the debate, CNN convenes a panel and ‘debates’ whether if Jews are really people. Liberals, in the name of ‘being liberals’ have allowed any and all debate on national television on grotesque subjects, such as pussy grabbing, the qualifying metrics of anti-semitism, racism, sexism and misogyny. We all know instinctively when speech goes from offensive to hateful, there needs no debate on whether if pussy grabbing is is misogynistic, of if Trump ‘has a point’ in his abhorrent beliefs because he has so many supporters, therefore he must be a little bit right. No. Many will cite freedom of speech rights to allow these white nationalists and neo-Nazis to have a platform on television or print, or that some producer at CNN or MSNBC decided that they need better ratings and so they want to have neo-Nazis come on their show and ‘debate’ their point of view. Freedom of speech also goes the other way, actively removing a platform from people which don’t deserve to have one. National television and print media aside, neo-Nazis and white nationalists have plenty of places to spew their hate. They can get blogs for free, they can self-publish, they are free to hold gatherings in their smelly basements and they are also free to gather at public places per the constitution, but then it’s up to everyone else to make sure they don’t hold hateful public rallies; this is when you beat them back to that shitty basement whence they came. They are antifragile. They thrive on disorder, mayhem and attention; if society at large can’t withhold the attention, then there leaves only one other option; shut them down by all means necessary.

If the students of Rutgers University can protest and force the cancellation of Condoleezza Rice’s speech; then professional adults who are in charge of mainstream media can ban Nazis from coming onto their programs.

10 Cent Bags: Another Gimmick of the Liberal Elite

There was a ballot measure on the California ballot this past election requiring grocery stores to charge 10 cents for every bag a customer uses, every time. Customers may bring their own bags and get a 5 cent credit per bag every time. Many grocery stores anticipating this measure may pass already got reusable grocery bags made and are selling them for 99 cents – $1.50 per bag. The ballot measure passed. Of course it did. Laws like these are the wet dreams of city and suburban dwelling bourgeois liberals, they think they are saving the planet every time they go to Whole Foods Market or Trader Joe’s to buy their organic, gluten free, soy free, non-GMO, fairly traded kefir.

The intention of this law is an attempt to slowly and in every way possible reduce the carbon footprint and reduce global warming in the long run. Reducing global warming while is a collective effort and everyone needs to participate, inconveniencing the poor while they do their grocery shop is again misplacing the burden on to the wrong people. It’s not the poor who is lobbying for fracking rights, who wants to build North Dakota Pipeline or drive big guzzling SUVs. Grocery shopping is something one must do every week, if not every two weeks, the 10 cent bags will add up. Further, anything that is not food related cannot be paid for with SNAP (food stamps) benefits. California currently has 4.2 million people on SNAP benefits. For those that want to purchase reusable bags, the one time cost aside, you’d have to remember to keep a couple of bags in your car or on your person so that if you need to make last minute trips to the grocery store, you have bags to use to carry out your groceries. For those that do not drive and rely on public transport, carrying extra bags for just in case runs to the grocery store is cumbersome. And the negligible cost of 10 cents aside, why would any rational person, rich or poor, pay 10 cents for a bag which may be converted into a trash bag at home and thrown out later. It’s literally throwing money in the garbage.

Ballot measures like these assumes that everyone either drives or lives close to grocery stores. There are people in California whose only mode of transportation is our very unreliable buses and rail systems. Unreliable and expensive, especially the trains. The trains in California are reserved for corporate professionals who live too far from their high-rise corporate office and must take a train to Downtown and then catch a taxi or Uber from the station to their office. Daily round trip fare for those trains are between $30-40 and monthly passes are in the hundreds of dollars. Not something a working class Californian can even begin to contemplate, never mind one on public assistance.

These are the kind of laws and ‘values’ that elite liberals love to shove down the throats of the working class that is both inconveniencing and insulting. It’s also the kind of thing that handed Donald Trump and Republicans their wins. This small but seemingly insignificant ballot measure symbolizes the culture policing of liberals. It’s not about the 10 cents, it’s forcing everyone to adapt and adhere to a certain set of values which makes no sense for a large number of Californians.  Saving the planet and protecting the environment is a noble thing and it’s now become an imperative which everyone needs to participate. Everyone knows that, especially the working class and the poor, as they are the ones most affected by pollution caused by global warming and greed. The residents of Flint, Michigan can tell you just how global warming, pollution and greed as a result of capitalism affects their lives. They were deliberately being fed rancid, poisoned water tainted with toxic industrial waste from nearby factories, only to save the state of Michigan a few million dollars a year, which doesn’t even make a dent in the budget deficit and Detroit went bankrupt anyways.

Will charging everyone 10 cents for every grocery bag used make a dent in the larger problem? Even if every California resident switched to reusable grocery bags tomorrow, will it stop the South Dakota Pipeline from being constructed? Or underwater oil drilling, or fracking or drilling in the Arctic seas? Will it stop China and its manic need to consume coal, oil and other natural resources in its tracks? Will it stop people from illegally logging in the Amazon rainforest? Or destruction of the Sumatran forests (and its animals which reside in it) to grow that palm oil to put in our processed foods?  These are actions of global corporations, capitalists, not the world’s working poor. How is charging everyone 10 cents for a grocery bag going to stop any of this from happening? How will making everyone put solar panels on their homes change the larger picture or encouraging people to keep their homes at 75 degrees and above reverse what capitalists are doing all over the world?

See this clip from George Carlin. He can illustrate my larger point about bourgeois environmentalism better than me. It’s not about the earth, the soil, the water, the environment, it’s about them having a ‘clean and safe place to live’. The bourgeois environmentalists are not the Native Americans fighting for their land in obstructing and protesting the North Dakota Pipeline, which for them is a battle of life and death. The bourgeois just want to feel better about themselves by making everyone pay a fine or penalty for doing the most mundane of things, such as grocery shopping.

The Four Most Beautiful Words in the English Language

“I told you so.” – The four most beautiful words in the English language according to Gore Vidal

I feel liberated. After the election of a neo-fascist as the president of the United States I feel liberated. Why? Because I finally have proof of what I always knew to be true: neoliberalism and Liberal Elitism and all the values it espouses are poisonous, soul destroying and tears apart the fabric of society despite its stated aims of doing the opposite.

I was born the year before Ronald Reagan became president. The year is unremarkable, I am unclear if I am a very late Generation X or a very early Millennial, it doesn’t really matter. I was born of a time after Richard Nixon destroyed the radical movements of the 1960s with FBI infiltration, brute force, murder and flooding the urban black neighborhoods with illegal drugs and then commenced the war on drugs, which Ronald Reagan proudly carried on and is ongoing until today. The Baby Boomers by the 1980s had become disillusioned, they left their youthful radical activism behind, put on a suit, cut their hair, shaved their beards and went to work for corporate America, the women got married and became ‘respectable’ wives and working women who formed ‘respectable’ families and joined the Reagan tent of Republicans. Ronald Reagan with his second rate acting skills was able to convince most of America that ‘we are all conservatives now.’ The era of big unions controlling corporations was over, it was time to let the good times roll by spending, spending and more spending. I was informed by many who were of age during this era that the 1980s was the most reactionary as the Establishment set to undo all of the social progress made in the 1960s and 1970s. The Reagan Establishment tried to convince Americans that the radicalism of the 60s and 70s was in the rear view mirror, all of it was a big misunderstanding and everyone is pro-establishment again.

The definition of neoliberalism is:

[A] policy model of social studies and economics that transfers control of economic factors to the private sector from the public sector. It takes from the basic principles of neoclassical economics, suggesting that governments must limit subsidies, make reforms to tax law in order to expand the tax base, reduce deficit spending, limit protectionism, and open markets up to trade. It also seeks to abolish fixed exchange rates, back deregulation, permit private property, and privatize businesses run by the state.

Liberalism, in economics, refers to a freeing of the economy by eliminating regulations and barriers that restrict what actors can do. Neoliberal policies aim for a laissez-faire approach to economic development.

Neoliberalism was the governing creed of Ronald Reagan and his British counterpart Margaret Thatcher. These two political figures almost single handedly destroyed the safety net of two of the most advanced economies in the world. On each side of the Atlantic, they destroyed unions, shut down whole industries, privatized public utility (or as the British called it ‘selling the family silver’), inflated the stock market and then caused arbitrary crashes to create unease and inflict economic anxiety to the working classes. Those who adapted and participated in the exploitation of the vulnerable did exceptionally well. Those whose livelihoods were destroyed begun to join the ranks of the precariat and the unneccesariat.

Those of us forty years old and under, we’ve been sold a pack of lies. We’ve been told that neoliberalism and capitalism is our salvation. Look at Facebook, Netflix, Uber, the iPhone and all the other gadgets, applications and services which we need to get on in our daily lives all owe their existence to capitalism and freedom to innovate. When the government gets out of the way of ordinary people, they flourished. Newsflash: the technology sector employs about 11% of the total workforce in the United States, what about the rest of the 89%? Socialism doesn’t stifle innovation and creativity, economic insecurity does. When you have to worry about your next meal or how to pay the rent, you mind has no room to create or innovate. It’s not a coincidence that many of these ‘innovators’ (Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg et al) came from stable middle class families. They didn’t have to see their parents struggle with joblessness and providing for the family.

My conservative family (a double whammy of conservative politics and conservative social values) rammed into us that in order to succeed in life, one must get good grades, go to college and get a good job. And even in college, we are advised to study subjects which will lead to lucrative jobs. Subjects in liberal arts and humanities are nice, but no one needs history or English majors. I was straightjacketed into this belief. I followed the neoliberal blueprint and it made me and countless others miserable. Then came the financial crash of 2007-2008, neoliberalism should have sounded its death knell right then and there. But then we elected a fake progressive president in the form of Barack Obama who ran on a progressive platform but decided to bail out Wall Street instead of Main Street when he was handed the keys to the White House.

Obama had in spades what Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump don’t have; the ability to repackage neoliberalism (just like how Wall Street bankers repackaged bad loans to sell as grade A loans) and re-sell it to his loyal supporters who voted him into office as a good thing in the end for everyone. He was going to have to bail out Wall Street instead of the average Joe the Plumber because prevailing economic principles (the ruling class, the real people that run the country) dictate that he must; he has no choice. He bailed out the auto industry in Michigan but the autoworkers didn’t feel the impact of that bail out either. They were told that their wages would be cut, pensions and health insurance will be slashed, some up to 60% but don’t worry, this is necessary to ensure the viability of the auto industry. Having a crappy job with scant benefits is better than having no job at all. Wall Street got a get out of jail free card plus golden parachutes and average Americans were left with nothing. Less than nothing, no homes, no jobs, broken families, broken lives – all in the name of neoliberalism, because the basic tenet of neoliberalism is “transfer[ing] control of economic factors to the private sector from the public sector.” When Obama’s sales pitch didn’t work with the former factory workers in the auto industry and Rust Belt and begun to criticize his policies and point out their declining standard of living, instead of admitting his mistakes, he scolded them instead: unions jobs are gone, that you can graduate from high school at 18 barely literate and able to string two sentences together but get a factory job and union card and earn a comfortable living, those days are over. You need to get more education, better training, learn computer skills, get a vocation if you can’t find a job in the factory floor – basically, quit whining. These people revolted. They may have revolted against their own interest after years of being ignored and belittled. But revolt they did.

After years of failed policies and declining wages and standards of living, the American people woke up to the con. Wall Street is booming again. The people that inflicted the horror on the American people got away with it all. In that wake, in a critical election, the Democratic establishment chose Hillary Rodham Clinton as their nominee. A corrupt, warmongering ‘good friend’ of the Saudi and Qatari royal families. The Democratic establishment along with the mainstream media colluded to push Bernie Sanders out of the race. And when push came to shove, the people voted for Donald Trump as our next president. The Liberal Elites, through their own actions (or inaction), realized the result they dreaded the most: that orange troll Donald Trump is our next president. Clinton’s sneering contempt and arrogance towards the working class or anyone who wasn’t ‘with her’ was odious enough to make people change their votes or stay away from the voting booth or write in Harambe for president. Anti-Clintons did anything to not have to cast a ballot for her. The Clinton Machine underestimated the voter’s rage against her and the establishment and ruling class interests she represents. Voters would rather roll the dice with an orange troll who is an admitted misogynist, racist, Islamophobe and homophobe than to have another Clinton as our president. I told you so.

But this is good news for those on the Left. The first best thing is we don’t have to hear or see another Clinton in public life for a long time and if anyone attempts to float Chelsea Clinton’s name out there for public office, the left will put a stop to it. The Clintons are done. Hillary had her chance, not once but twice. It is the perfect time to rebuild a true progressive worker’s party that the Democratic Establishment can’t co-opt to get elected into office and then abandon once they are in. We don’t have to hear the babbling rants of the liberal elites anymore. We don’t have to hear them lecture to us from their ivory towers on how to live our lives and organize our politics. They’ve lost all credibility. Neoliberalism has failed. Capitalism has failed. Socialism is the way forward to combat multinational corporations which collude with corrupt governments. The voters have spoken. Hillary Clinton called Donald Trump supporters “a basket of deplorables”, a serious case of teapot calling the kettle black. We don’t yet know all the motivations for Trump voters. There’s no question that some people voted for Trump because he seeks to restore the power of the straight white male ego and make the lives of minorities and women miserable, to which we can tell them to fuck off and go back to the cave they came from. For the other Trump voters who voted for him hoping that he’d bring back good jobs and rip up the shady trade agreements, they’ll be in for a shock. Trump is a self-described ‘businessman’, and not a very good one at that. Like all fascists, he only cares about himself. He’s already wavering on the ‘big beautiful wall’ on the southern border because he realized that the US economy cannot function without exploiting undocumented immigrants. Trump’s own companies can’t function without the exploitation of undocumented workers.  Trump is a conman who would say and do anything to get into the White House and he’s been successful not because he’s a very good conman, but because his opponent was so weak.

There is no telling if Bernie Sanders could have won the Democratic nomination if the DNC supported him, but Bernie Sanders appealed to the economic interest of the voters (not the lazy racism, xenophobia and sexism), and he didn’t blame black people, undocumented immigrants or women for the demise of their livelihoods, he blamed the unsustainable system of capitalism, free trade agreements which only benefit the corporations and not the workers and inadequate safety net from the government, which he made clear that there was more than enough money to provide free tuition, free health care and subsidize $15 per hour living wage if we can spend trillions on illegal wars overseas. Had Bernie Sanders won the nomination, he will be able to get a significant cut of the working class vote, the bloc of working class voters who aren’t racist or sexist but feel they cannot vote for Clinton and would rather take their chances with Trump. But we never got the chance to find out.

Whatever reasons the Clintonites want to give and whomever they want to blame for her loss in the general election, they cannot get away from the fact that if with all of their  money, corporate support, Military Industrial Complex support, teams of ‘experts’, pollsters, ‘Ada’ the robot software and Clinton still can’t beat Donald Trump, who by comparison is operating on a shoestring budget, then you don’t deserve occupy the West Wing. That. Is. All. On. You. There is no one to blame but the inept, over bloated Clinton campaign machine.

And for a funny take on all of this, enjoy this video:

 

 

The election shitshow is over, now it’s time to unite.

The election is over. Hallelujah. The Hillbots can retreat back to their caves and to the days where no one has to read or hear their ‘analysis’ on their ill-chosen savior. The pro-Trump trolls, white nationalists and other assortment of supporters can rejoice and savor in their victory for a short while, until they realize exactly what they voted for. The Democrats and liberals, with all that time, resources and energy they wasted on writing and speaking on behalf of their chosen messiah has all been for nought. They will spend the next few months spewing even more vitriol at the demise of the Clinton Machine and they will blame it on the men, specifically working class white men (who the liberals consider just a tad more advanced than cavemen), women who didn’t support her, minorities who didn’t support her. In fact, they’ll blame it on everyone and their grandma except to acknowledge the fact that when you choose a shitty candidate, you get shitty results.

This election was a case of two shitty candidates and the electorate gets to choose from the pile they hate less or not choose at all, and from this, we have Donald J. Trump (aka Fuckface Von Clownstick) as our next president. It makes you rethink how America was ever ‘great’.

If there’s one thing I gained from this election is all new words in my lexicon. ‘White privilege’, ‘cishet privilege’, ‘male privilege’, ‘hetero-normative privilege’, ‘psycho-normative privilege’. The word ‘privilege’ has been bandied around and used so many times that it’s lost its real meaning. And then you realize, the word ‘privilege’ is just replacing the word ‘rights’. You can take away people’s privileges but you can’t take away people’s rights. So, if you convert rights into privileges, your rights can be then taken away. Now that the oppression olympics (a phrase I stole from someone else) and privilege scorekeeping is over, we can all get back to the real issues: how to stop the ruling class and their ilk from taking over our economic system and our lives. How can we mount a real worker’s movement where all workers of the world are included. It’s no longer enough to mount workers movements in one geographic location because corporations are multinational now. If they don’t like the rules and workers union of one country, they can up sticks and move to another country (NAFTA made this possible). But if workers of the world is united internationally, corporations have less places to run and hide their ill gotten profits.

The Clinton campaign, instead of addressing the very real issues of workers being scammed out of their labor and wages, they chose to instead to focus on ‘privilege’, with its own cascading scale and scorekeeping. White working class people are not the true victims of globalization and shady trade deals because they are white and with it comes inherent privileges which are not available to people of color. Their grievances are just complaints, they are treated like overgrown man babies who didn’t get what he wanted at the candy store. They are just angry that they have to share the economic pie which used to be exclusively theirs with other people and women. That the Rust Belt of the United States has literally rusted out of existence and with it their livelihood  which is largely in part because of NAFTA is not a valid grievance. They should have ‘gone back to school and retrained in another profession’ is one of the favorite refrains of the liberal elite. The ruling class, which includes the Democratic Establishment, assisted with the ruin of working class America is a fact we are supposed to ignore and not bring into public discourse because it doesn’t coalesce with the message of Hillary Clinton . As a result, the working class has been oppressed, suppressed, bitterly divided and they turned on each other and punched down instead of the ruling elite. There is a competition of a race to the bottom. They are competing to see who is worse off instead of unionizing to make everyone better off as they’ve been told the unionizing days are gone and they believe it. The elites are loving this. They are loving the fact that the working class and downwardly mobile middle class are blaming each other, minorities, women and immigrants for their plight instead of focusing on the real culprit; capitalism and those who rule it are the real cause of all of the suffering of not just Americans but workers all over the world. The ruling class wants us to fight over scraps. Is there really much difference between someone making $12 an hour and $15 an hour if the underlying reasons why they are making a pittance in wages isn’t solved? If all the profits still go to the top and the CEO of a corporation is making twenty-three times what his average employee makes, whatever income that employee makes is inadequate.

Bernie Sanders’s minimum living wage of $15 is a start but it’s by no means a solution to the larger problem. Why are wages so depressed when the corporations are earning millions and billions in profits? Why do those profits only go to the top? Why are people’s labor, which is really their time, blood, sweat and tears, treated like it’s disposable and replaceable. Workers spend over 8 hours a day at their jobs, which amounts to one-quarter of their day, most of their adult life is spent working, why is that not valued? One doesn’t need to be a student of Marxism to know that their life (in the form of labor, time and wages) are being stolen from them.

All of the ‘privilege’ mocking aside, I am fully aware the misogyny and sexism that women in power or women who seek power face. I don’t deny that Hillary Clinton has suffered misogynistic attacks and sexism, all of which I abhor and really distracts from the real issues. I know that racism, latent or overt is alive and well and they need to be part of public discourse and addressed (not just in relation to police shootings but in all areas). But when the whole discourse becomes about privilege checking in relation to sexism, racism and all the other -isms, we lose sight of the bigger picture, which is to fight for equality for all people. Real equality. Not the means tested neoliberal bullshit the Democrats love to shove down our throats and then tell us that it’s as good as it’s ever going to get. Free college tuition – yes, for those whose combined earnings are under x dollars, so it’s not really everyone. Universal health coverage – yes, but you can’t make more than 150% than federal poverty guidelines (which are ridiculously low to begin with), so again, you will have people who fall through the cracks. You need housing assistance, of course it’s available, the waiting list is 10 years long and due to the long wait, they aren’t taking any more names but there are thousands of vacant homes, buildings and apartments that Wall Street wants to sell and rent at market premium rather than subsidize the rent to ‘those people’. Those who are poor enough to qualify for government assistance are shamed and humiliated the whole way and are reminded at every turn that it’s the ‘taxpayer’s money’ and they better not waste it. People wax lyrical about just what kind of food should food stamp recipients purchase and eat, while the Republicans openly vilify purchases they don’t approve of (as in the grocery checkout line) and create outright lies of people on food stamps buying steaks and lobsters, liberals are more subtle with their insults, turning the topic to ‘healthy food choices’ (which is combination of poor shaming and fat shaming at the same time). And note to upper middle class clueless liberals – it is very expensive to eat ‘healthy’, i.e. the FDA recommended of  5 portions of fruit and vegetables per day and cut out processed foods and carbonated drinks. Processed food loaded with unhealthy chemicals and ‘non-foods’ is much cheaper to buy than fresh fruits and vegetables. Questions like should a mother on food stamps be buying a cake from the grocery store to celebrate her child’s birthday or reward her child with cupcakes? And if you can use your supposedly paltry food stamp allotment on sweets, then how hungry are you really? Are all subtle ways the liberals shame and keep food stamp recipients in their place.

Lastly, when you hear anyone tell you that ‘we can’t afford it’ on whatever social programs the people need and demand; don’t believe them, they are lying. If the US can spend trillions destroying the Middle East, Afghanistan and Libya, arming ‘moderate rebels’ in Syria and elsewhere, indiscriminately violate the sovereignty of other nations and drone their civilians, they can damn well make sure that every American has plenty to eat, a roof over their heads, access to good health care and good education. The latter costs a fraction of what these overseas illegal wars cost.

The US is the richest nation in the world, supposedly the most innovative, it’s the proof of the triumph of capitalism. But homelessness has skyrocketed, good jobs are scarce, worker’s wages are depressed, families are going hungry, many see no way out. Neoliberalism is done. Capitalism is a failure. But it took an election of choosing between two shitty candidates for us to realize that. But there is a silver lining; with the bloviating liberals in retreat and temporarily out of the way (it’s like playing whack-a-mole with these liberals), the Left has a real chance at organizing and putting a stop to Trump just like the Republicans obstructed Obama at every turn for eight years.

November 8, 2016: The Elites Rue the Day

The results are in, Donald J. Trump, a racist, sexist, misogynist, someone who has assaulted women, fat shamed women, called for a ban on all Muslims, promised to build a wall on the southern border and deport all Mexicans, will be our next president of the United States.

The question which will be discussed ad nauseum for the next four years (please don’t let it be eight) is ‘how did this happen?’ How did a charlatan who talks about grabbing a woman’s nether regions con his way into the presidency of the United States?

I will tell you how.

When his opponent is an arrogant, elitist, corporate bought and paid for politician insisting on ramming her brand of politics down people’s throats. Those who reject her brand of politics are branded as racist and sexist.

When the Democratic Party chooses a corrupt, criminal, warmongering, murdering, wealthy elite with ties to Wall Street, big Pharma, oil and gas companies to represent the working people of America during one of the most economically uncertain times the world has ever seen and the alternative is Donald Trump; Donald Trump and his ilk will win. An angry electorate can overlook a lot, but they will not tolerate an elite ruling class thumbing their noses down at them and blaming them for their own misfortunes or minimizing their misfortunes and calling it ‘privilege’.

Elections are about common denominators. A candidate chooses an issue or issues which many people can identify with, which then would hopefully propel them into elected office. Donald Trump chose racism, bigotry and sexism and united the disgruntled white base (even some white women jumped on his sexism and misogyny train). Bernie Sanders tried to cut into that base by trying to unite everyone’s economic interests against the ruling elite as he correctly figured out, a large part of people’s anger is mainly due to the economic situation and not illegal immigrants. Had he garnered Democratic Establishment’s support, no doubt he’d successful. Hillary Clinton’s uniting base is her group of ‘diversified elites’, Ivy League graduates of every stripe and persuasion, she was hoping to use those people to bring along all the other Ivy League aspirants, not realizing that it’s the Ivy League do-gooders that the average American hates right now.

The Democratic Establishment took its base and support not only for granted, but stepped on and crapped all over it when the people dare challenge the establishment. They decided that the white working class male is an obsolete category and all of their grievances and concerns are condensed into racism, bitterness at the gradual betterment of women and minorities and most importantly, up until now, they’ve skated by on ‘white privilege’ and that privilege needs to be taken away so they know how it feels to have none. I defy anyone to tell an unemployed coal miner living in a rundown shack with his wife and children in West Virginia that he has white privilege and that his failures are his fault, he will probably risk going to jail and punch you in the face.

The Democratic Establishment lied to us over and over again about how Hillary Clinton is the only choice to save this country. She is most qualified, she has the most experience and more importantly, it’s her turn and America is due for a female president. She is it. The DNC, mainstream media all threw in their lot with Hillary Clinton. Their job is to make sure she becomes the party’s nominee and the ultimate victor in the General Election.

Except Hillary Clinton wasn’t the only qualified candidate to run for president in the Democratic Party. There was Bernie Sanders who started a grassroots campaign on the ground, bypassing the DNC machine. He addressed the immediate economic concerns of everyone, growing income inequality, inadequate access to quality and affordable healthcare, student loan debt and a basic restructure of the government to serve the people not the ruling class. The fact that Bernie Sanders even dared to challenge Clinton for the nomination was seen as an abomination of the first order by Clinton and her supporters. He was stealing her thunder, ruining her moment, making her look bad because she can’t get that same kind of response from her most desirable voting demographic: young people and women. No amount celebrity endorsement can change that. Bernie Sanders was seen as deliberately antagonizing Hillary Clinton and he was using his white male cishet privilege to do it. Bernie Sanders didn’t get the memo that he was supposed to stay clear out of the way for the queen so she can ascend her throne.

For over twenty years the Democratic base have believed the lies of the Clintons. They’ve cheered the Clintons on regardless of their lies, deceptions, corruption and scandals (some are frivolous some are legitimate). The Clintons, bolstered by their diverse group of elites which support them, and that support is handsomely rewarded with money and access to their foundation, they were able to keep the charade going. Their biggest mistake in this election cycle is the divide and conquer of the working class and marginalized people. They took their support base for fools. All of her operatives and supporters with fancy degrees from Ivy League schools took it upon themselves to school their less fortunate brethren. The country saw through the lies of the Democratic establishment and went elsewhere with their votes (or not bothered to vote at all).

The election of 2016 is a choice of between two rotten candidates with no room for a third alternative. Just because Clinton is rotten it doesn’t mean Donald Trump is the answer. He may be an alternative, but alternatives aren’t always better. While the Clintons are corrupt, Trump is an outright fraud. There’s no need to list all the misdeeds and lies of Donald Trump, they are well documented. But in spite of all that, he was elected as this nation’s president. While people are angry and have every right to be angry, those same angry people often vote against their own interests. There is lots wrong with this country but it is not the fault of immigrants, black people, women or minorities. Jobs are going overseas but it’s not the people overseas who are ‘stealing’ them. Most overseas factory workers work in appalling conditions. The Mexicans didn’t undercut the wages of Americans, it’s the whole rotten capitalist system along with neoliberalism that has caused the state we are in today. It’s what caused the Great Recession and financial crash of 2007-2008, but Trump is telling us it’s the fault of the illegal immigrants and his way to solve it is to build a wall between US and Mexico and have the Mexican government pay for it with the trade deficit.

As many already noted, if a Trump win over Clinton means we don’t have to see another Clinton in elected public office ever again, he has accomplished at least one good thing. As for all of the other bad things that come with a Trump presidency, it is now the perfect opportunity for the Left to rise up and demand a real socialist government. Once Trump’s voters get a taste of what Trump’s really intending for this country, which is to make it a neo-fascist haven for white nationalists and not better jobs with good wages; those that voted for him hoping for better jobs will hopefully see the con of Donald Trump.

If the ‘Clinton machine’ with all of its experts and data analysts, all that money from super pacs and major corporate donations can’t come up with a strategy to defeat Donald Trump, can’t even eke out a 51% win; which by comparison, Trump is operating on a shoestring budget; then Clinton doesn’t deserve to win. This is her second go at this, that she lost to Obama who was an exceptional candidate and campaigner is one thing, but to lose to Donald Trump, a guy who speaks on auto loop, maybe she isn’t as qualified as she thinks she is.

The Trump presidency probably won’t affect my life in any significant way. It doesn’t matter to me who wins this election. I don’t belong to a marginalized group but millions of Americans do. And for those Americans we can’t look the other way. For those individuals, those of us who are in a position to fight back, not only should, but must.

 

 

Voting is a Right, not a Privilege.

Hillary Clinton supporters have taken a rather long leave of their senses. They’ve brooked no criticism against their candidate. They’ve rejected and dismissed all of the criticisms against their candidate as either sexism, misogyny or ‘privilege’ – as someone having such a privileged life to be able to choose a Third Party candidate and not suffer the consequences of such a choice. They’ve been intransigent to the point of hilarity and as Wikileaks and other sources revealed more and more unsavory details about the Democratic Party’s chosen messiah, her supporters have constructed more and more preposterous responses to each of the allegations.

And as if it were written in the stars, the FBI while investing Anthony Weiner to see if he tweeted his dick to an underage girl, they found over 650 thousand of Hillary Clinton’s emails backed up on the Abedin-Weiner hard drives. This is problematic because Huma Abedin swore under oath that she didn’t have backup copies of her boss’s emails anywhere. It is further complicated by the fact that the Weiners are about to divorce. Anthony Weiner probably feels no compunction about protecting his soon to be ex-wife and the Clintons. One of the world’s most powerful woman may be brought down by Anthony Weiner’s … well, weiner. A Hollywood writer couldn’t write this script, no one would believe it to be remotely possible.

The Democratic primary was not meant to be a contest at all. It was to serve as a coronation for the ascension of Hillary Rodham Clinton to the  highest office of the land: the presidency of the United States of America. Anyone standing in her way is considered a hateful sexist who is denying the most qualified woman her rightful place in history. She’s earned it by being First Lady to one of the sleaziest men to occupy the West Wing, she paid her dues by knowing her place as a junior senator from New York, then she served as Secretary of State under president Obama. Now it’s her Turn at the top job. No one will stand in her way.

There comes Bernie Sanders from left field, who connected with Millennials and young people in a way Hillary Clinton can only dream of (including younger women). He directly addressed the fears and anxieties of America’s middle and working classes and he offered what appeared to be direct and simple solutions. Institute a living wage of $15 an hour, re-examine all trade agreements to make sure it benefits all workers, free college for all public institutions, expand Medicare to cover everyone, not just those over 65 years old. His foreign policy is far less hawkish, though still very problematic, especially when he praised Saudi Arabia as being a good friend to the U.S., it’s far more palatable to the 40 and under crowd. When it looked like Bernie Sanders was about to surpass Hillary Clinton in popularity, Sanders supporters were immediately categorized as ‘privileged’, sexist and racist because many of them are white and male. From the imaginary ‘Berniebros’ (a privileged white male who doesn’t want to see a woman in the White House) to young people who’ve never had a real job and live in their parent’s basements, to grown adults but are far too idealistic to know how the real world works. Bernie Sanders didn’t have the support of Southern Democrats, he was never going to win the nomination, but he didn’t lose it “fair and square” as Sen. Harry Reid lamented. Sanders biggest mistake was not willing to get down and dirty and expose the corruption of the Clintons.

Fast forward to today, the eve before the election. Hillary Clinton’s Republican opponent is none other than the neo-fascist Donald Trump. The ferret haired, orange faced buffoon, who has proclaimed himself as one of the smartest men in the world, who will ‘Make America Great Again’; and they are neck and neck in the polls. The supposed most qualified person (man or woman) to run for the president of the United States is neck and neck with a charlatan. She is furiously getting the vote out. Her supporters are on social media scaring the anti-Clintons and the undecideds into voting for Hillary Clinton, because if we don’t, America will meet its apocalypse with Donald Trump as president; not realizing that we are already there. We’ve been there, since her husband Bill Clinton turned the Democratic Party right in the 1990s to save his own behind because he can’t keep his pants zipped up and so he caved to Newt Gingrich and his demands. Bill Clinton introduced all kinds of coded racist vocabulary that have been in popular circulation ever since. Words like ‘personal responsibility’, making good life choices, having ‘consequences’ for bad personal behavior (incarceration); all pointing to the supposed poor choices of black people and welfare claimants.

Hillary Clinton has come to accept the fact that she’s not popular and not well liked by younger people and especially younger women, so she’s marketing herself as the ‘lesser evil’. The poll numbers suggest that those who will be voting for Clinton will be with great reluctance. There will be no expectations of her and her presidency except to not fuck it up too much, to maintain the status quo of the Obama presidency.

The Clinton liberals have turned ‘rights’ into ‘privilege’. Voting is a privilege. No it’s not, it’s a right, which by definition, can’t be taken away or criticized for not voting a certain way. Voting is one the most private decisions anyone can make, cameras are not allowed in voting booths, no one is supposed to know who you vote for, yet there are millions of Hillary Clinton supporters on social media, scolding, insulting, admonishing those who won’t vote for her. When did an election turn a candidate’s supporters into such busy bodies?

If Hillary Clinton loses the the election tomorrow, there will be a whole new school of punditry as to why and who to blame. A new ‘Ralph Nader’ will be chosen and forever scapegoated for denying a woman the presidency of the United States. Clinton supporters and surrogates will blame everyone and everything except the candidate herself, who is one of the most unpopular and unsuitable to the mood of the times and voters. The mood of country is changing from neoliberal to more socialist – gross income inequality is no longer tolerated, from hawk to dove, from interventionism to non-interventionism, but Hillary Clinton embodies all of the former and none of the latter. She may become the first woman to be elected to the presidency of the United States, but it is not a step forward for progressivism or even feminism. She’s just another wealthy, corrupt, well-connected elite elected to the country’s highest office.

Meditations on Moving House and Consumerism

“We buy shit we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like.” — George Carlin

I’ve spent the last two excruciating weeks moving. I spent hours upon hours going through the detritus of the last eight years of my life. I consider myself rather frugal, though like most people, there are times I splurge on things I’ve no business buying. I don’t compulsively shop at sales just because an item that I may need in the future is on sale so I buy bulk quantities of it. I am not a hoarder and I generally don’t like to ‘collect’ things. I don’t have expensive habits such as horseback riding or motorcycling and I even got over the handbag and shoe craze of my youth.  Yet, I still have tons and tons of shit I don’t know what to do with and worse, I don’t even know how I got possession of them in the first place.

The dilemma of going through my belongings is not deciding whether I should keep something or donate it to charity or haul it to the dumpster. I already know what I’d rather do: donate the usable items and take the rest to the nearest dumpster. The dilemma is what if I need this item again in the near future but I already gave it away or threw it away. Going through your belongings has economic ramifications. Giving away perfectly good and usable items because you can’t be bothered to pack it and unpack it but then having to come up with the money to replace it down the line when you need it may cause economic hardship is a headache. The more time I spent deciding what to do with  my things, the more I realized how poisonous the consumerism culture is.

We have lost sight of what we need versus what we want. Many of the things we supposedly ‘need’ are just stuff we want but are told we need them to function. The late comedian George Carlin’s famous quip “We buy shit we don’t need, with money we don’t have, to impress people we don’t like” resonates with all of us because we think we all know someone like that. Someone who relentlessly keeps up with the Joneses not realizing the Joneses don’t exist or if they do, they don’t give a fuck. Our things become a literal burden on our backs. It’s our emotional burdens and hangups manifested into all of the shit we buy because we are convinced that we need them to function.

I had to hire two sets of movers and both of my movers expressed the same sentiment: they don’t have personal belongings which doesn’t all neatly fit into one of their trucks. My first mover, an older Chinese man from Taiwan said he’s been in the United States for thirty-eight years. During these thirty-eight years he’s only moved once, and after that experience he never wanted to move ever again. He bought a modest home and has lived there ever since. He’s perfectly happy in his small starter home. He’s got no desire to upgrade to a new home though he has the means and the longer he operates his moving business, the more he’s convinced that his decision of living a life of simple contentment is the right one.

This is not the first time I’ve ever moved in my life. But as the years wore on, every move became more burdensome. My first apartment out of college, I was able to hire one small truck and I unpacked all of my things in one day. It was minimal disruption to my life. When I bought my first home I had to fill a 1500 square foot home with furniture. Up until then, my furniture consisted of a bed, my desk, a bookshelf and a small second hand sofa set. A two car garage was my downfall, I was able to fill it with all sorts stuff without realizing I was stockpiling a bunch of things I don’t need and eight years later, I am paying for it. We decided to downsize and so we had to make decisions on what to keep and what to give away. Putting excess crap in storage is just throwing away good money after bad, I was adamantly against it. A decision will be made now on what to do with our stuff: donate, keep or the trash bin. A fourth option would be to sell some items but I was too lazy to organize a moving sale where I’d be getting pennies on the dollar for my belongings. I’d rather donate them to charities.

This move has led me to reevaluate myself. I think of myself as a sensible person who isn’t prone to compulsive buying or overspending. Most of the purchases I’ve made in the last few years were more for my children than for  myself and even then, I only purchase what then need. I don’t have rows and rows of dresses for my daughter and I don’t purchase one toy after another for them. But if that’s the case, how did I end up with a garage full of shit I don’t know what to do with? Did I really need a 5 set chafing dish, which I only used twice a year if that? I had three different sets of flatware and three different sets of wine glasses so that I have a variety of options to choose from when I am hosting a party. When we finally moved into a home our own, I fancied myself an amateur Martha Stewart where I’d throw impromptu get togethers a la shabby chic style, not realizing that I am not into nor am I am very good at throwing parties (I like attending them). I attempted a few; it was tedious and tiring and everyone seemed to have fun except me. I was too highly strung to be a casual and fun hostess and I work myself into such an anxiety making sure all my guests had fun and was well looked after that I forgot to make sure I had fun. And of course don’t get me started on the clean up after everyone leaves.

As Americans and as people who live under capitalism, our status is defined by money and by extension the things we can buy with that money. Where we live, what car we drive, where we go for entertainment and dining and how we entertain all give clues to our social status and how much money we have (or don’t have). Even for those who aren’t keeping up with the Joneses, there is a pressure to maintain a certain lifestyle (or at least a facade of a lifestyle) so that one feels like respectable member of society. If you throw all of your disposable income into paying your mortgage and maintaining your home, one surely can’t accept having unfurnished rooms or a messy lawn.

We are sold the idea that part of achieving the American Dream is achieving home ownership. Owning a home and having in your possession a piece of paper which says you own a piece of real property is worth its weight in gold. Even the financial crash of 2008 can’t deter Americans from the myth of homeownership. Any self-respecting aspiring middle class person in America dreams of homeownership, if you achieve everything else but owing your own home, the dream is incomplete. Prior to 2008, owning your home besides having a sense of security and establishing wealth, is also a source of pride and in some cases vanity. Post financial crash of 2008, owning a home became an urgent imperative to hedge against rising rents, being priced out of affordable neighborhoods because companies like Berkshire Hathaway are buying up vacant homes at rock bottom prices, refurbishing them to either resell at higher price or leasing them out at premium rents.

When I was a homeowner, there was a sense of satisfaction and security that I own my home and I can do with it what I please. And when you walk through the front door you can say ‘it’s mine’. But the burdens were also immense. Property taxes and its financial obligations aside, the maintenance of one’s home is like having another full time job. The decision of whether to fix the faucet or pay the electric bill first can take the fun and enjoyment out of owning a home. Anticipating the next thing to break or needing an upgrade can cause a lot of stress and anxiety. A simple thing such as owning a home or housing security, again, in this fractured and highly unequal society, has become out of reach for a large number of people.

Reblogged: Marxism 101: Andrzej Wajda Explains Surplus Value

Renowned Polish director Andrzej Wajda explains surplus value in the most simple way possible. You can teach it to a second grader and they’ll understand.

This, my dear readers, is the source of all conflict, of all economic inequality, is responsible for all of the poverty in the world. This is human exploitation explained with math.

 

A Generation was Andrzej Wajda’s first major film, made in 1954 when he was 28-years-old, the year after Stalin’s death. Since the Polish government in 1954, still headed by the Stalini…

Source: Andrzej Wajda Explains Surplus Value

Got Milk?

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The ‘got milk?’ advertisements were ubiquitous in my childhood. They were everywhere. Park benches, side of buses, billboards, in magazines and even television with celebrity endorsements. We were all told that milk is a good source of calcium (a claim that’s since been disputed) and to encourage our kids to drink milk. Schools give it out with their lunches and breakfasts and poor kids get it for free. What we are never told is excessive consumption of milk can lead to severe anemia, because milk itself is iron bare and over consumption of milk can even block iron absorption from other foods. A fact that is not widely known.

Almost all children, and specifically toddlers all go through a fussy eating phase. Arguably one of the most frustrating phases for parents. This is where the bargaining and negotiating begins at the dinner table. The fussy eating vary in severity, some children just refuse to eat certain foods but will eat most other foods and you have some toddlers who refuse eat most foods except for the few that passes through their very selective palate. Most parents wait out this ‘phase’ as it is really just a phase, and before you know it they will wake up one day and eat everything in sight. This is the approach I took with my son. He is an exceptionally fussy eater. I’ve had a few rays of hope where he ate what I presented in front of him, but they were fleeting. Within a couple of days, he resorted back to his fussy ways. The good thing is, the few things he did eat were obscure but healthy like brown rice, quinoa, occasional broccoli and carrots, some white fish and LOTS OF MILK. He refused to eat any red meat, poultry or beans. I would try ‘trick’ him into eating some of those but it rarely worked.

My boy loves milk. His nickname (one of many) is Milk Monster. I was not concerned because I loved milk too and I drank an obscene amount of milk as a child and I never went anywhere near a hospital never mind an ICU for drinking too much milk. So, I let my boy have as much milk as he liked, continued to introduce different foods to him, prepared the staples that he would eat and left the rest to the toddler-gods. This was a recipe for disaster. All that milk he drank blocked any of the receptors in small intestines from absorbing iron, and over the course of a few months, he became anemic and a routine wellness check up landed him in the ICU. It is still a shock I am yet to process. I can see a headline, ‘Toddler In ICU Because of Milk’.

Over the recent years, with the popularity of healthy eating and veganism; the supposed good qualities of milk have been disputed and the current nutritionist recommendation today for toddlers over the age of 2 is no more than two 8 ounce glasses per day. Children are encouraged to get the rest of their nutrition elsewhere, preferably from fresh fruits and vegetables and whole unprocessed foods.

As I poured out my whole week’s menu and meal planning and my frustrations to the nutritionist who was assigned to me by the hospital, lamenting the fussy ways of my boy; she calmly said, ‘if you take away his milk, he’ll be hungry and he will eat the other foods you prepare, he’s currently getting all of his calories from milk.’ And just like that a lightbulb went off in my head and I thought ‘stupid me, why didn’t I think of that?’ I was so programmed into thinking that children must have milk that removing it from their diet never even crossed my mind. The team of hematologists (yes, the team came to see my son everyday because it’s a research and teaching hospital, when they get a ‘special case’, they get very interested) which consisted of two doctors from India, flat out told me to not give my children any more milk, they don’t need it. Then it dawned on me that a whole subcontinent of over one billion people rarely drink cow’s milk as their diet and they are just fine. Since my son’s major diagnosis was severe iron deficiency due to severe anemia, the hematology department has been assigned as his follow up treatment and care. And the lead attending physician, who is from India, an older motherly figure, said unequivocally ‘no more milk’. So, since his admission into hospital, my son has not had a drop of milk.

Since he’s been force weaned off milk, his appetite just exploded. He’s eaten almost everything in sight. He still won’t eat red meat, it must be the taste or texture, but he’s been eating chicken, spinach, broccoli, carrots, yams, spinach pasta and brown rice. His favorite snacks now are cashews. He chose cashews over potato chips, his usual snack of choice. I am beyond relieved but also quietly reflective at how things got to this point. I take pride in the fact that I feed my family home cooked meals. In fact, I put time and effort into planning my menu and preparing the meals. I spend far too much time in the kitchen for a mom in the year 2016. I avoid processed foods, we have almost no junk food. My children do not eat candy, my daughter still doesn’t know what to do with a lollipop, she threw out the last one she ate because it was so sweet and it tasted like nothing I’ve ever given her. Someone once gave her a Jolly Rancher candy and spat it out, I was never so proud. I am one of those insufferable mothers who monitor what her children eat so they don’t develop a palate for sweets and processed foods. They can eat anything they like, no matter how calorie laden as long as it’s freshly cooked and not processed (carbonara pasta is a good example). Yet somehow, my son ended up needing a blood transfusion.

His pediatrician said it was a perfect storm of events. His milk heavy diet notwithstanding, he also just got over a cold which he caught from my daughter, one of the germs she brought home from school. While she got over it with the sniffles and a few sneezes, my son got a fever and later a cough before it fully went away. The pediatrician said if he was already anemic to begin with (which he was), any virus he gets can put his hemoglobin levels below safe levels. She suspects this is what happened here, as there is no way to confirm this because his levels weren’t checked prior to his cold.

With some new blood (very grateful for blood donors) and a new diet, he’s resuming the healthy bouncing boy in the throes of his Terrible Twos (almost Three) again. There is a new spring in his step, he’s playing tug of war with his sister again; it’s as if none of this even happened whilst I am still ruminating the events of the last week.

Reblogged Content: My Mom Does Not Give AF. (Shades of my own mother and grandmother)

This is an excellent depiction of a first generation Chinese immigrant family, written by a second generation, American born child of immigrants.

My grandmother and mother are Chinese, and like the mother of this writer, they didn’t give AF. To be more clear they didn’t give a AF about American, American culture, Americanism or what this author calls American “hegemony”. To them, America is a new country, too callow, uncouth and far too arrogant to know what’s good for them. China on the other hand is an ancient civilization millennia old (with its own set of intractable, entrenched problems), the 250 years of American existence barely covers the arse end of the corrupt and mismanaged Qing Dynasty. If China doesn’t go around the world telling people what to do, what to believe, how to behave and how to construct a political system, what right does the United States of America have? Even if we take the argument and say America really comes from Europe which has a history longer than 250 years, its history is still far shorter of recorded Chinese history, which is bloodsoaked, genocidal and homicidal even on its best days (very much like Chinese history – minus the genocidal and conquering tendencies). My grandmother always thought Americans were like overgrown children, well meaning but at times too rambunctious and arrogant for their own good. My mother has a more nuanced view, but she didn’t find Americans and their ways better than the rest of the world (as is the common view then), they just happen to be the victors of World War II and built its economy from it. Mom’s view has always been you learn from the best and leave out the worst from every culture and everything. Practical, unsentimental, useful.

What I learned slowly over the years is the very taboo subject of abortion. Subversive Mommy said her mother had several abortions and one miscarriage. She took the decision on her own, didn’t consult with her husband or conscience or religion or God. My grandmother had several abortions throughout her life, she didn’t give me the details but I was pretty sure my grandfather wasn’t consulted before the fact and was casually informed after the fact if he even knew she was expecting to begin with. I don’t know what his feelings are. They don’t talk about those. I don’t know ‘how’ she got those abortions with what method and they were most definitely illegal, but it must have been safe enough because she still bore five healthy children and lived to her late seventies. Women of who came of age during the brutal years of the Japanese Invasion and subsequent World War II, Civil War and then the Cultural Revolution had no such luxuries of ruminations of ‘only what if’. It was all about survival and preserving the family you have and not ruminating about the ones that could have been. Ruminating and overthinking about the ‘choices’ in your life is a distinctly Western luxury that many other women around the world can ill afford. My grandmother, a huge fan of Western cinema, always found Woody Allen irritating (where I was a huge fan), I asked her why, she said he thinks and talks too much. In my grandmother’s middle years, before her grandchildren came along, I was told she suffered from crippling menopause related health issues, where for long periods of time she couldn’t get out of bed. I later learned it was debilitating depression and sadness, but again, it wasn’t discussed. She just got on with it the best she can. She got out of it slowly and life resumed its natural pace.

Being brought up in two cultures, two distinct cultures with very polarizing views on the important matters of life, I’ve come to appreciate the practicality of the Chinese culture specifically, Chinese women as it’s depicted here:

She would always tell me and still does that the only thing you really need to raise a family is rice. As long as you have rice the kids will never go hungry. [So True]

She was right. She is right. I’ve never gone hungry. I’ve been a spoiled ungrateful brat, but I’ve never been hungry.

Perhaps the biggest gift my mom has given me is the luxury of giving a fuck. I have all this damn time to read and to ruminate AND all the while trying to raise my kids.  For that I must thank her and more importantly, pay my penance eternally.

My mother has had very few luxuries in her life. She has no time for my shame. She’ll tell me to get over it. Talking to me about my regrets as a young foolish daughter is the last thing she would want to do with her afternoon. Her luxuries today are things like catching the bus at just the right time or slaying at a sale on evaporated milk. She wants her afternoon nap.

A luxury in her past was having the access and the choice to terminate her pregnancy–not what her husband preferred.

And she still doesn’t give AF what she puts on the table when I visit her now with my two sons in tow these days. There can be two stalks of celery and an a half eaten hard boiled egg on the table BUT there is always rice.

This also speaks to the hegemony of feminism, what it means to be a feminist and how feminism looks very different in different countries under very different circumstances. Growing up as an ungrateful bratty granddaughter, I would have never classified my grandmother as a feminist, in my mind she was the opposite of what a feminist was, she spent far too much time in the kitchen to be one (the irony of this). She deferred to my grandfather in most important matters, I thought of my grandfather as more a feminist because he always considered the situation and feelings of his wife over his own and what’s best for his children. My grandmother though was probably better educated than her peers because she came from a wealthy landed family, when she married, she took on the traditional role of a wife and mother, without having the luxury to decide if that’s what she wanted or if she aspired to more. There were interims where she worked out of the home as an accountant but she never had a career of her own. Tellingly, she never wanted the same life for her daughters and granddaughter. She spent her days in the kitchen but rarely told us to do so, or even bothered to teach us to cook – my mother and my aunt are pretty atrocious in the kitchen as a result. She wanted us to pursue higher education and get out there and make our marks in the world in ways she couldn’t. She even told us to forego the idea of marriage and children though her marriage by all accounts (even her own) was quite happy and fulfilled. But when it came to the most important decision of her life, whether to bear a child or not, and whose consent she sought for that very personal and important decision, she only consulted herself and no one else. For that, she’s a feminist.

The full link on the bottom. It’s worth a read.

Abortion was controversial. Abortion was murder. Abortion was a choice. It was clear to me what side of the debate I had to be on. My mom made her own choice. She kept me.

Source: My Mom Does Not Give AF.

About resentment.

Resentment is often characterized as one drinking poison but hoping the other person dies. It’s most foolish and an exercise in futility where the most harm is inflicted on the person holding the resentment. Any logical person will tell you to just say it out loud to the person you are resentful about and try to resolve it and if it can’t be resolved, then just move on.

But what if the resentment is legitimate? Or worse, what if the resentment is the kind you can’t say out loud, because if you do, it will upset the natural order of things.

When I was 16 years old and on summer vacation, I saw a documentary on PBS called ‘The Farmer’s Wife’ by acclaimed documentary filmmaker David Sutherland. I don’t know how at 16 I was able to sit through 6 hours of a documentary film about a rural Nebraskan couple who was trying to save their farm and their marriage. But I was gripped by that documentary, an unflinching look at a couple under financial strain, familial strain and choices made which cannot be unmade. To this day, twenty years after I first viewed it, I still recall the scenes, the conversations, spoken and unspoken and the body language of a young couple in distress. What David Sutherland was able to capture on film, no actor or actress  can replicate. Perhaps the reason why this long, drawn out documentary about a very average farmer’s wife and her family appealed to me at 16 is because I saw shades of my future self in her.

Juanita Buschkoetter was an unintentional farmer’s wife. By that I mean had she followed the blueprint her family laid out for her, she wouldn’t have gotten married at 18 (right out of high school) to a 24 year old farmer Darrel Buschkoetter. She came from a well-to-do family in the city, her brother went to Harvard University and her sister attended Wellesley. She went off and got married to a farmer at age 18, of her own volition, she wasn’t knocked up or anything like that. She met Darrel and fell in love and she loved farm life. It was tough, it’s an endless cycle of debt, planting, harvest, but it was exciting. Needless to say, this was not a marriage that had the blessings of their families. Even Darrel’s father (also a farmer) felt that Juanita would not be a good farmer’s wife because she was a ‘city girl’. She didn’t have the graft and ingenuity necessary to hack it as a farmer’s wife (he had never been more wrong). Juanita turned out to be an excellent farmer’s wife, even at the young age of 18. She didn’t mind hard work, she had a good attitude, she had a great sense of humor when things didn’t go quite right and she loved her man, she worshipped him. In time they had three daughters and she enjoyed being a mother to those three girls as well.

But in the early 1990s disaster struck. Early frost wiped out one-third of their crops and they weren’t able to pay their creditors (FHA and a series of other government loans), the government was on the verge of liquidating their farm and they stood to lose everything. To supplement their income Darrel had to take a job at a nearby steel factory for $7 an hour and farm at night using floodlights and at times he had to go work for another farmer to make ends meet. Juanita had to go clean rich people’s homes in the city (similar to the home she grew up in and the irony wasn’t lost on her either) to pay for their basic necessities. At one time she had to apply for food stamps to feed her family. She talked about budgeting just $20 a month for food and there were months where they consumed no meat because they couldn’t afford it. Darrel didn’t have the finesse or people skills to negotiate with their creditors to give them an extension on their debt. He was often angry, ill tempered and impatient when dealing with his creditors. So Juanita took over and quite literally, one letter at time, one phone call at a time, she renegotiated all of their loans and kept the creditors at bay. A year later, they had a bumper crop which enabled them to pay off most of their debt. The couple should be relieved and celebrating but they weren’t. Small cracks in their marriage became huge rifts.

At their most troubled time, Darrel began to notice a rising confidence in his wife. He was acutely aware (as was his father though no one gave her enough credit for it) it was Juanita who saved their farm. And he didn’t like it one bit because it wasn’t he who came to the rescue, yet there’s nothing he can do about it. He always felt (and knew her family felt the same) that she was too good for him and that she could have gone to college and done better for herself, but he took comfort in the knowledge that his wife adored him and his daughters depended on him and he was still the ‘man of the house’. Most importantly, he was still able to provide for them. But as the crisis on their farm progressed and as Darrel’s jealousy and insecurity increased (he didn’t want her to go to a friend’s baby shower because he was afraid she might not want to come back) combined with their strained finances, Juanita woke up to the fact that as much as she would love to, she cannot solely depend on her husband to keep a roof over their heads and food on the table. Those days are gone. So she went back to school and got an associate’s degree studying crop insurance and was able to get a good job in town. In effect, she’s no longer the traditional farmer’s wife. In fact, she sort of went back to the role that she was brought up to be, a middle-class professional woman and she slipped into that role very easily too, after a decade of being a farmer’s wife. She also casually remarked that she was no longer the child without a college degree in her family, so subconsciously, what her family thought of her still mattered.

When the financial crisis hit them, they dynamics of their marriage changed. Juanita rolled up her sleeves and figured out a way forward but she begrudgingly acknowledged:

“I know I deny it a lot of times, but the only thing I can think of is that I must, deep down, be holding it against Darrel, you know, the situation we’re in right now. And I know most of it’s not his fault, but I don’t know how to get over that,”

And Darrel says:

“I think, (that) with the financial problems we have, she blames me for a lot of them. She won’t say she does, but I think she does. And I don’t like that part about her, because I feel like a bomb’s gonna go off if something don’t get said.”

It’s interesting that they do not say this to each other, they each said this on separate occasions to the person behind the camera. In fact, not at any point in the documentary does Juanita unleash her anger and resentment about the dismal state of their finances at him because she already knows he feels “so low” about himself. Even in this difficult time, she’s desperately trying to not upset the flow of their  household, which is Darrel is the man of the house (even if he can’t bring home all of the bacon anymore) and she’s the traditional wife. It was a dynamic that’s worked for them for over 10 years and should she disrupt it, she doesn’t know what the fallout and emotional repercussions will be.

This film was released in 1995, the documentary had no ‘agenda’ it was trying to spin, it wasn’t pro or against traditional family or feminism, it was literal documentation of a farmer’s wife and her family. The cameras rolled in good times and in bad, happy times and sad times. The final penny dropped when after Juanita saved their farm along with their bumper crop the following year, Darrel blew up at rather minor debt of $100. Instead of being happy and grateful that they are out of the woods, he’s losing his shit over $100. Juanita had enough of his bad temper and packed up the girls and drove to her parents house for a week to reevaluate. Perhaps at sixteen I realized I was watching how my life could turn out should I take the path of marriage and starting a family. Though I won’t become a farmer’s wife, how do you deal with resentment and shifting dynamics in a marriage where no direct blame can be placed?

Many women willingly let their man take the lead in the marriage because it was the most logical choice at the time, or that it’s just easier, or the woman hasn’t developed her career or path in life yet. Especially when a woman takes time out of her career to start a family, she’s left with no choice but to let the man take the lead in finances and major decisions about the family. Sometimes that pays off but more often than not it doesn’t and when things go spectacularly wrong and you are faced with homelessness or a significant reduction in circumstances, what do you do with all the anger and resentment? Especially when there is nothing but events out of one’s control to blame? Especially if a woman gave up her career to be the family caregiver, where does she put her frustrations and resentments for lost opportunities? As women and especially as mothers, we are not supposed feel resentful for looking after our families and sacrificing our own dreams and goals, this is still a taboo, to think that your children got in your way (but the fact is they do). Is there a box where we can put all of our unrealized dreams and goals and hope it doesn’t unleash its fury at the wrong time?

When you break it down, the faultline reveals itself very clearly. Once a family has chosen to go down the traditional path (across all social classes), male breadwinner, female caretaker, it’s very hard to reverse that dynamic. The roles can artificially change with the female becoming breadwinner or co-breadwinner, but the emotional blueprint of the family is already set. The former breadwinner will feel emasculated, incompetent and helpless. The new breadwinner will feel a sense of independence, confidence and new self-worth that wasn’t there before, but the downside of that is you may be celebrating on your own, especially if you were a woman who took on the traditional role of the family. The initial relief of a crisis solved will soon give way to feelings of insecurity, jealousy and further resentment (proof that you really don’t need your man or anyone else as much as you thought you did).

After a big crisis and as a woman gains some hard earned self-confidence, what does she then do with it? Go back to being a ‘traditional wife’? Even if she did, the elephant in the room has already revealed itself, a woman doesn’t need a man to solve a crisis. Though we know anyone born after the 1960s are brought up to believe we don’t need a man, until you experience it for yourself, when you pull your family or yourself out of a crisis without the major participation of a man (or any person) you cannot appreciate how empowering it feels.

Of all the ills that can affect the dynamics of a marriage, I’d argue feelings of misplaced resentment, unmet or mismatched expectations and the inability to express those disappointments in a conducive manner can be poisonous for a marriage. Whether we admit it or not, we all have certain expectations (or some people call them ‘standards’) of our spouse; we dare not say it out loud because it can come across as unkind or paternalistic, but it’s there. To deny it would be foolish just as Juanita Buschkoetter realized for herself.

The goal of this rambling essay is for me to figure out a way to resolve my own feelings of resentment and unmet expectations by the ones I love. I don’t think I’ve been successful but one can’t wish it away. The most obvious way, which was told to me over and over again is to lower my expectations. But I feel my expectations are already very low, if I lowered them anymore, there would none left.

There was a lesser evil: His name is Bernie Sanders

I happened to watch MSNBC this past week. It was airing a live Trump rally somewhere in the Midwest where he reiterated his commitment that he’ll build a wall and make Mexico pay for it, but he toned down the “rapists and murderers” narrative and reframed it as ‘preserving the quality of life and national security for Americans’ for the audience of mostly white people. After about ten minutes of his non sequitur ramblings, it cut to a commercial break. The commercial that aired was a video compilation of all of the prominent Republicans voicing their disapproval for Donald Trump (Lindsey Graham, Susan Collins, John McCain etc) and it ended with Hillary Clinton’s voice over ‘this message is approved by Hillary Clinton’. It wasn’t an ad about her achievements, which according to her and her supporters are vast and varied, spanning across thirty years of public service. It wasn’t an ad about her record and achievement as a senator and later as Secretary of State; it was literally just campaign ad with assorted Republican lawmakers stating why Donald Trump is unfit for the presidency of the United States and she approves of that message. As if their criticisms of Trump is a ringing endorsement of her.

Since Donald Trump became the official candidate for the Republican party and Hillary Clinton officially became the candidate for the Democratic Party and Bernie Sanders faded into the background, the general election officially became about choosing ‘the lesser evil’. And the lesser evil in this sorry contest for the presidency is clearly Hillary Clinton according to most pundits and talking heads even if you hate her. Even mainstream Republicans who loathe the Clintons with every bone in their body reluctantly conceded that Hillary Clinton is the only way to go. They’ll ‘support’ her now and deal with her four years later during the reelection. The few snippets of MSM news I’ve followed about the election have all been about how Hillary Clinton is the lesser evil. No matter what you think about her positions and record, compared to Trump, she is the far superior candidate, at the very least, she’s less of a national embarrassment than Trump. Occasionally it will be about some policy about equal pay for women, free college tuition for qualified families but mostly it’s just ‘I am not Trump so I am the only choice in this race.’ Hillary Clinton herself has lowered her standards and bought into the lesser evil narrative as well. If nothing else, what a demoralizing and degrading turn for the potential first woman president of the United States. Instead of campaigning on her achievements and how she shattered the glass ceiling, she’s campaigning on how at the very least, she’s far better than her orange faced, mop wigged opponent.

Everyone is talking about the lesser evil and how in the interest of preserving this nation, we must choose Hillary Clinton. It’s the only choice; it’s the responsible choice and anyone voting third party is helping Trump win a larger share of the vote. Many blame Millennials especially for not jumping on the Clinton wagon despite her overtures and pleas on social media late night television (Note to Clinton campaign: Lena Dunham isn’t a good spokesperson for the Clinton cause, Lena Dunham isn’t well liked amongst her peers either). Clara Jeffery, editor-in-chief of Mother Jones in a since deleted tweet said “i never hated millennials more” accompanying a retweet of a New York Times article where polls show Millennials still refuse to jump onboard the Clinton campaign. As an almost Millennial, I can safely say the feeling is mutual; we hate you too, there’s no love lost, now let’s move on.

The problem with the lesser evil argument is we already had one but he was roundly rejected, sabotaged and undercut by the Democratic establishment. His name is Bernie Sanders. Sanders has been branded by the Democratic establishment as this radical socialist who will never win over middle America but he isn’t. He’s not a socialist but a democratic socialist nor is he very radical. He’s just radical when compared to the neoliberal Clintons. It was Bill Clinton who betrayed the party base when he took the Democratic Party right to make himself electable after the George McGovern slump by incorporating neoliberal policies into his agenda. He cut welfare by telling people to take ‘personal responsibility’ in their lives. He signed into law criminal justice reform bill which saw the rise in mass incarcerations for Black and Latinos. By locking up large swathes of people of color, making them unemployable since employers are not required to hire anyone with a criminal background and people with criminal backgrounds are not eligible to public assistance as well; with a few strokes of the pen, he eliminated millions of people from welfare rolls and payrolls, which then allowed him to claim credit for the strong employment figures during his presidency and reducing welfare rolls at the same time.

Bernie Sanders is only seeking to redress some of that injustice by ending mass incarceration, free college tuition for state institutions, single payer health care and living wage with a minimum wage of $15 per hour so that all wage workers get a raise and alleviate some of the pressure of living in poverty, paycheck to paycheck. None of these ideas are particularly radical. They are practical and necessary in an era where jobs are only getting fewer due to globalization, capitalism and neoliberal policies, and in absence well paying jobs, the government has to step in and provide more basic services for people. Some countries in Europe are already contemplating a universal income legislation, which means the state guarantees a minimum income for each person. So that the repercussions of unemployment and poverty doesn’t disrupt civil society. Bernie Sanders did not call for the destruction of capitalism. He isn’t promoting an end to America’s militarism and imperialism overseas, he’s called for a drawdown of US military presence around the world and let NATO step into a larger role, but NATO is just the US military in another manifestation. NATO doesn’t make a move without the approval of the United States. On paper he still supports the apartheid state of Israel, though the support isn’t unconditional and he’s shown more support to the Palestinians than any major presidential candidate before him. He’s given Israel a serious dressing down on the blockade in Gaza, the theft of water resources and tax revenues in the West Bank but he’s not called for dismantlement of the Israeli apartheid police state nor has he promoted withholding of US monetary or diplomatic support of Israel. The Jewish State stands.

Bernie Sanders was the lesser evil, but he was rejected. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are both evil, but evil in different ways. The voters are not choosing a lesser evil, they are choosing a different shade of evil. Do you want a racist and misogynist buffoon with ties to the KKK for president or do you want a faux-inclusive, warmongering, neoliberal, corporate feminist with ties to the Saudi regime (one of the most abusive towards women in the world) for president? All of this speculation about the actual state of Hillary Clinton’s health is not only overtly sexist (John McCain was not in perfect health when he ran for president but that was just a blip on the screen) but it obscures the real problem. The problem is not whether she had pneumonia and lied about the underlying causes of it (one doesn’t usually just get pneumonia out of the blue, there’s usually a preceding illness), or how she misused private email servers during her tenure at the State Department or that she knew what and when before, during and after the bombing at the US embassy in Benghazi. The problems with Clinton are the contents of her emails, her involvement in dismantling the Libyan state and shipping Libya’s weapons cache to Syria, her dealings with the corrupt Saudi regime and other questionable people through the Clinton Foundation. Clinton has been accused of lying, but even that’s a generic accusation, it’s the repercussion of the lies, half-truths and behind the scenes manipulations which have worldwide consequences.

Feminism without policies written to the specific needs of women only leads to despair.

One of the biggest demographic suffering from endemic poverty is women and they are at risk of passing on that poverty to the next generation. Single women with children are at greatest risk of living in poverty. Women still earn less than men for doing the same job. Women without college degrees often work at low wage, low skilled and menial shift work. The hours are often unstable and it’s usually a job without any benefits. Often times these women who do low wage work have children they need to support. The economy since 2008 has been brutal for the American working class. All of the gains of the ‘recovery’ have gone to the top 1%; none of the gains have trickled down never mind to the working class, not even the middle class. The combination of low and stagnant wages, unstable employment, drastic cuts in social services, cuts in mental health services, the failure of Obamacare to bring quality care to everyone – has wrought havoc in the lives of women, some of this havoc has been deadly.

Middle class and working class families are hit the hardest. The incomes of the middle class is shrinking or stagnate. Working class women are struggling to support their families on shrinking wages and rising costs of living. People in general are working longer hours for less money and their jobs are more and more precarious. More and more people are falling into the ‘precariat‘ and ‘unnecessariat‘ categories, where they’ve become the excess people of society the ruling class wants to go away or wish didn’t exist. The people in this last group is getting larger. The study by Angus Deaton and Anne Case: Rising morbidity and mortality in midlife among white non-Hispanic Americans in the 21st century, which was published in August of 2015 is still reverberating in the chattering classes. White people are the most privileged group on almost every criteria in America, how did one of the most healthiest (physically and economically) demographic in America began to decline so precipitously since the 1990s. The most alarming thing is working class women or women without a college degree are dying by huge numbers due to alcohol addiction, opioid addiction and suicide or what Case and Deaton call “death by despair”. Following this study, The Washington Post did a series of in depth reporting of death and addiction in white America called: Unnatural Causes: Sick and Dying in Small Town America, where addiction has decimated communities, ruined countless lives, and alarmingly, it’s the women who are succumbing to lives of misery, lost hope, missed opportunities and finally despair in huge numbers. People are committing slow suicide either by taking dangerous cocktails of drugs and combining them with alcohol and some have taken their own lives outright while under the influence of drugs and alcohol. 

The subject of women and addiction is not normally discussed. When we talk about drugging and boozing, we think of hardened middle aged men who let their boyhood habits get out of hand. Addiction, specifically alcohol and opioid addiction when relating to women is still a bit of a taboo subject. Respectable women, especially women who are wives and mothers should not drink to excess where it becomes a ‘problem’ requiring treatment. It is seen as a personal weakness and a moral failure. The shame that is attached to every addict is magnified tenfold when it involves a woman. But as the Washington Post reporting shows, as the reporting went from town to town, trying to discover why so many people (especially white women) are choosing this dangerous path to an early but still a slow and painful death, many of the same themes keep reappearing. For opioid addicts, it almost always starts with an injury or chronic pain (migraines) where the doctor prescribes heavy opioids for an injury that may or may not require such, the patient gets addicted and tries to feed her addiction any way they can. When prescription opioids gets too expensive or the prescription refill limits have run out, they turn to heroin. Long term heroin use also has its own side effects, anxiety, depression and other health issues, which more pills are prescribed to treat those symptoms, many on prescription medication which suppresses the central nervous system are advised to not mix alcohol with their medications, but patients rarely listen or care about what can happen to them. The Washington Post also reported that white people are  more likely to be prescribed heavy opioids than their Black and Latino counterparts, which is why opioid addiction is featured so strongly in the white community.

There is also the urban and rural divide. In rural middle America, where factory jobs were once plentiful, many have become industrial wastelands. More than half of the town emptied, people who were able to leave did, those that stayed are unable to leave and are left behind by the political establishment. There are no focus groups or lobbyists hired to peer into the minds of the America’s precariat and unnecessariat. The jobs have left town and so has everything interesting with it. One of the towns featured in the reporting is Bakersfield, in Kern County California, only two hours north of Los Angeles, Samantha Burton says “[it] can be a very stifling place. It’s culturally barren,” she said of Bakersfield. “There is no place where children can go and see what it’s like to be somewhere else, to be someone else. At first, the drugs are an escape from your problems, from this place, and then you’re trapped.” The only jobs available in these type of towns are fast food jobs, service jobs earning just above the minimum wage. Unlike previous generations, people who grew up in small town America who wish to escape it can do so by attending college in another town or by getting job in a bigger town, there wasn’t this feeling of being perpetually trapped in a small town with no hope of ever escaping.

In many cases, some women just give up. After enduring so many hardships, marriages, breakups, job losses, deaths of children or spouses, physical injuries, mental health crises, addiction, all of which receive little government or community support, it becomes too  much to overcome:

When a woman dies in Kern County, it falls to Coroner Manager Dawn Ratliff to determine what happened. Her investigators explore medicine cabinets, flip through journals, scrutinize text messages and interview friends. Repeatedly, a pattern emerges, Ratliff said: A personal crisis leads to prescriptions to soothe the pain. And then they lose control.

“They are worn down. And they can’t rise above it,” said Ratliff, who puts the blame in part on the rise of social media, which can create unrealistic expectations about how life should go.

Another is an expectation for women to ‘be strong’, to take all the shit that life has thrown at her and somehow turn adversity into triumph and come out the other end ‘Lean In’ style: “Women have had to be strong for so long. Opioids are a good way out. Benzos are a good way out.”

Joan Knowlden, a psychologist who practices in Kern County California also observed “a sharp rise in middle-aged female patients in the early 2000s. Many had turned to alcohol, anti-anxiety drugs and painkillers to “mellow them out.”

Many had delayed childbearing, Knowlden said, and were trying to raise children just as they reached their peak professionally. Many were also entering menopause, which typically causes a drop in serotonin, a chemical that naturally soothes the brain. “With perimenopause and menopause, you already have anxiety, sleep loss, loss of bladder control and loss of sex drive,” Knowlden said. “It can just become too much.”

Middle age is assumed to be a time where people get their act together, to have finally figured out their lives and put the mistakes of their youth behind them. But it can also be a time where everything implodes all at once, where one more setback is more than they can handle. Job loss, injury, marital breakup and its fallouts (often poverty and living in reduced circumstances) can easily lead to depression and anxiety which a combination of medications are be prescribed to treat those symptoms. And in a society where women are not at all supported in any meaningful way when they encountered crises in their lives, it can make for deadly result. In the developed world, the United States is the only country which doesn’t require paid maternity leave or paid family leave when a family member falls ill, affordable subsidized child care is nonexistent, affordable housing waiting lists are so long that some counties have stopped taking names for the waiting list and now governors in many states are cutting the budget to life saving mental health and addiction treatments. All of these punitive draconian cuts harms working class women the most. Especially single mothers who are trying to support their children on single income, without help from anyone, any kind of health crisis or injury can put them under.

But what of the feminism and the empowerment of women since the 1960s people ask? Feminism means nothing if public policy doesn’t change to support the specific needs of women. All the feminism and college degrees in the world isn’t going to help women if ultimately, her two choices in life are having a family or choosing her career and if she chooses to have a family in the middle of the rise of her career, her career will most likely be stalled and forfeited all together some time down the road. If getting divorced and taking on the full responsibility of her children for a woman is almost always a road to poverty and ruin because social policies are not adequate enough to support single women with children, then no amount of feminism or self-empowerment will help her. If the government doesn’t enact state mandated subsidized child care for all women (rich and poor), poor women will never get ahead and women with advanced degrees will get stalled in her career should she choose to have children one day.

The Welfare Reform of the 1990s have also set women back, it decimated the support network created to assist working class women. The slow and systematic health care cuts, specifically targeting women’s health and mental health services have been detrimental to working class women, especially when they are in crisis. And when they suffer a breakdown as a result of economics induced anxiety, stress or addiction, the ruling class blames the victims of savage social services cuts for their own plight. They start using words like “personal responsibility”, “self respect” to people who are suffering from addiction and mental illness when in fact people living in derelict and neglected towns have been deliberately left behind to rot.

The ideals of feminism are totally pointless if no laws or policies are enacted to promote those ideals. While we cannot legislate our way into changing the mentalities of people (such as women are natural caretakers and men are natural breadwinners); what legislation can do is give women an equal footing in the workplace or at least not suffer gender based discrimination. Mandating federal paid maternity leave would go a long way to easing the anxieties of women (and by extension her family if they depend on her income) when they are about to have a baby. They won’t worry how they will manage the bills and rush back to work before she’s ready to because she needs to earn the family income. Federally mandated paid family leave will also go a lot towards easing the economic anxieties of families should a family member or child fall ill and a parent needs to step away from work and attend to that emergency.

The current system is not set up to benefit working families, it’s set up to punish them, where families are one disaster away from financial ruin. Any mistake, illness or injury which results in job loss can make a family homeless or live on the breadline. After twenty years of neoliberalism, we have been programmed to believe that our poverty is our own fault. That it’s the cumulative result of our mistakes (as if the rich never make any mistakes with regards to their finances) or short of that some people are just plain unlucky and they must grin and bear it. In fact, the reason why so many people have fallen into poverty or be forced to live in reduced circumstances is by design of the ruling class to keep a permanent and exploited underclass available for them to abuse, shame and blame for their own excesses. When President Obama was trying to sell the bailout to his voters who just enthusiastically elected him as the first Black president of the United States, anyone who opposed or raised concerns about the bank bailouts were dismissed as being childish and immature. But he went about it in a very clever way, ‘I understand your anger and rage, but this is how it’s got to be. Your day will come’. Of course it never did for America’s working poor.

Brooklyn (2015) – A Story about Immigration

The film Brooklyn was one of the films nominated for multiple Academy Awards in 2016 including Best Picture and Best Actress for the Irish actress Saoirse Ronan. The film was mediocre at best. The writing, directing, musical score, photography was mediocre. Part of them film depicts Ireland, which has some of the most beautiful scenery in the world, yet the film failed to capture that. Granted, it was meant to portray the grim economic reality of 1950s Ireland, under the government of Eamon de Valera, but even on Ireland’s most gray rain soaked day, the Irish always took pride in their beautiful homeland.

The acting of Saoirse Ronan was nuanced and skillful. She’s able to convey emotion with just the expression on her face, it was a perfect vehicle for transition from child actress to adult actress. America was first introduced to Saoirse Ronan in the film Atonement, when she was just twelve years old, she played Briony Tallis, an upper class English girl who irrevocably changes the life of her older sister’s working class boyfriend by telling a lie to authorities, saying that he raped her older sister when it wasn’t true – she walked in on them being intimate. She was the perfect bratty upper-class girl who at a young age knew she was privileged and knew how to abuse her position in society. She was touted as an actress to watch in the coming years, nine years has passed since Atonement, Ronan is now a twenty-one year old young lady and it’s obvious in the intervening years, she has work to improve her craft.

The Academy Award controversy of 2016 was #OscarSoWhite, all of the nominations in the major acting categories went to white people and Saoirse Ronan was one of the nominees for best actress and besides being very very pale herself due to her Irish heritage; the film Brooklyn is about immigration, specifically immigration of white Europeans. Immigrants who are welcomed through the front door with a sponsor, a job waiting for them and housing accommodation all arranged as opposed to being smuggled across borders risking life and limb to get to America. This small unremarkable film which caught the attention of critics and audiences in the year 2015, where debate about migration, refugee crisis and immigration in the Western world reached boiling point, is not a coincidence. Brooklyn harkens back to a time where things were done properly. Where potential immigrants wrote to established immigrants in America requesting for sponsorship, where that sponsor finds the immigrant a job, a place to live and establish a small fund so that their immediate expenses are taken care of. There’s none of this ad hoc, disruptive, putting all of your belongings in a sack and risk life and limb in a rickety boat or crossing the vast desert hoping that there are prospects at the other side of the sea or border.

Eilis Lacey (pronounced Ali-sh) is a young girl from Enniscorthy, County Wexford, Ireland. She’s unable to find full time employment save for a part time job at a bakery on Sundays. She lives with her mother and older sister Rose, her father has passed away when she was a child. Because of her sister Rose’s stable employment as a bookkeeper for the local factory, she is able to give her mother and younger sister if a small but comfortable existence. Widows with children on their own in 1950s Ireland usually faced a life of economic uncertainty and hardship and the Laceys were able to avoid that fate. While Rose is quite established in her community, the same cannot be said for Eilis. Enniscorthy is totally uninspiring to Eilis. Since she can’t find stable employment, and her potential is wasting away in front of her, her next option is to find a nice man to marry, and none of the men in her hometown is to her liking. Rose, sensing Eilis’s unhappiness, writes Father Flood in New York to see about sponsoring Eilis in America. Father Flood was able find Eilis employment at a sales girl at a high end department store where she “can’t afford any of the things” and a boarding house in Brooklyn where she will live with other single girls. And just like that Rose booked a ticket for Eilis on the next steamer to America. She arrives at Ellis Island with all of her paperwork, and is waved through by an immigration official with a stern “welcome to America”.

The one part the movie did well was to depict the loneliness and homesickness of immigrants, regardless of where they are from. ‘Home’ may hold no prospects for them but it’s still home and home is always where a piece of your heart lies. No amount of Manhattan bright lights and skyscrapers can remove the longing of home. Eilis tries to be brave and go about her job everyday, but being a sales girl she lacks the personality for it, which is to plaster on a smile for every customer that walks in and sell whatever it is you are told to flog that day. Her manager Miss Fortini, a no-nonsense worldly woman gives Eilis tips on being a better saleswoman but when that fails, she calls Father Flood to the rescue. Father Flood enrolls in bookkeeping classes at night so she can work in an office one day and asks her to volunteer at the soup kitchen at the church to keep her more occupied. At the church soup kitchen she sees a different side of America, America’s discarded people. They are old, frail or disabled workers who built skyscrapers, bridges and roads but have been tossed out by capitalism (produce or die) and are now depending on soup kitchens to feed them. This was a shock to her system, that the men who built the glorious city skyline and the roads, bridges and tunnels in front of her are now barely eking out a living. She realizes what can happen to her too when she is old and feeble one day, and she’s just a woman whose worth is determined by who she marries.

It’s around the same time she meets a nice Italian boy Tony Fiorello at an Irish dance hall. Tony openly admits that he likes Irish girls and hangs around Irish dance halls hoping to meet a nice Irish girl. Tony takes a liking to Eilis right away and they begin to go out. Eilis’s feelings towards Tony is more complicated; while he’s sweet, kind and funny with “nice eyes”, and far better than any potential male suitors in Ireland, she’s hardly madly in love with him. To her, he’s simply good husband material. He comes from a nice family, he’s a plumber – he has upwardly mobile aspirations of owning a general contracting company with his brothers to build houses and he’s slightly less sexist than the average Irish boy at the time. She can see herself entering the middle class through Tony. She goes over to the Fiorello’s house for dinner, she is charmed by his family, especially his rascal younger brother, and the pasta cooked by Mama Fiorello is not bad either, her mind is semi-made up about marrying him if he should ever ask. As she is hitting her stride in America, she receives devastating news that her older sister Rose has died from an unspecified illness and her mother is not coping well on her own in Ireland. She decides to go back to Ireland for a visit with the intention of returning to Brooklyn and to Tony. But Tony isn’t satisfied and wants an ‘insurance policy’ and suggests that they get married in civil court but not tell their families yet. Tony suggesting marriage is his way of saying he wants to sleep with her and put his ‘stamp’ on her before she leaves for Ireland, so that if not out of love, but at least out of propriety and obligation, she’d return to him. She reluctantly agrees to the civil wedding and their marriage is consummated the night before she leaves for Ireland.

The Ireland she left behind wasn’t the same one when she returned to. She’s no longer just Rose’s younger sister. She’s Eilis, a ‘American’ independent woman, earning her own money and she also graduated from her bookkeeping class and is now certified to work as a bookkeeper. She even ‘rescues’ the factory her sister worked at by creating a payroll system where all the workers get paid on time with their overtime wages. She visits all of her old haunts, attends her best friend Nancy’s wedding, attends mass with her mother like a good Irish girl, even goes on dates with a local gentleman from a well off family and it just so happens that the gentleman’s parents are retiring to the countryside and is leaving their big house with staff to their son. Suddenly Eilis’s world in Ireland opened up to her. She even flirts with the idea of dumping Tony and staying in Ireland, after all, this was what she wanted for herself just over a year ago. Throughout this whole time she tells no one that she’s married to Tony Fiorello, including her mother, she leads on everyone that she’s still single. The only person she didn’t care to visit is Miss Kelly, her former employer at the bakery and being the gossipy and spiteful wench that she is, she finds out through the grapevine that Eilis is married to “an Italian” in New York and threatens to out her impropriety to everyone, especially now that it appears that he also has a boyfriend in Ireland. It is at this very moment Eilis realized why she got on a ship to go to America to begin with. She didn’t want to become a caricature of a spiteful, lonely small town gossip, who has nothing better to do but to monitor the morality of others. Even if she married the richest boy in town, she wouldn’t be able to escape this tedious fact of small town Irish life. She proudly announces to Miss Kelly that her name is now Eilis Fiorello and that she’s going back to her husband immediately. She also informs her own mother that night that she’s married, her mother was sad that her only child left was leaving her but was in a way happy for her. Mrs. Lacey said “if you married him” he must be a nice boy. She wrote a parting letter to the boy she went on dates with and took the next steamer back to New York and reunited with Tony.

That Eilis is a white Irish girl who seems to have more opportunities and her road to the middle class is more smooth than most brown or black immigrants in America is not lost on the audience. In today’s world, the ‘legal’ immigrants, those that come to America with work visas are reserved for the English speaking, well educated with advanced degrees who usually work in STEM fields, and that is a very small sliver of the immigrant population in the world. The majority of the world’s migrants or immigrants are indigent, poorly educated, fleeing desperate poverty or political oppression who can only work as unskilled laborers, it would be up to the host nations to educate and train them for skilled work. One of the complaints by employers in Germany was that the over one million refugees they accepted, language barrier aside, most do not have the skills to do the most basic jobs requiring rudimentary computer skills. In America today, no one is complaining that the likes of Eilis are ‘stealing’ American jobs. In some people’s fantasyland, the picture of the ideal immigrants are people like Eilis – the right combination of class, race and ‘hardworking’. The kind of immigrant that won’t ‘take advantage’ of the welfare state, the kind of immigrant who will ‘integrate’ well, the kind of immigrant that has a well established immigrant community to help other immigrants establish themselves. To some, the idea of immigration reform is not to enfranchise the 12 million undocumented persons in America but to filter through the 12 million people and cherry pick the youngest, brightest, English speaking with college degrees and no criminal histories for eligibility for citizenship. As for the rest, they would either be deported or live in the shadows the rest of their lives.

Many have praised the Australian and Canadian method of immigration, which is they accept any immigrant from any part of the world as long as they possess the skills they are are looking for – the cherry picking method again. They range from hairdressers, to accountants, to highly skilled STEM workers, and as long as you are qualified in any of the professions they list on their immigration forms you can immigrate to Australia or Canada. This way the only ‘discrimination’ is based on profession and skills, which is considered a fair discrimination. This is also a way to make the whole immigration process clean, technical and unsentimental. But the world’s migrants don’t fit in neat little boxes. Most of the world is desperately poor and conflict ridden where obtaining any consistent schooling or trade or skill is all but impossible. Judging from the treatment of the Australian authorities of their migrants on the pacific island nation of Nauru goes to show the inherent racism and discrimination of a skills and profession driven type of immigration policy. Those that do not possess the skills they are looking for, are therefore, treated like they are less than human.

We have a new pediatrician

I have a new pediatrician for my children. She is an excellent doctor who loves her job and has a lot of experience. She is thorough, meticulous and not ‘on a clock’ to see as many patients possible in one day to maximize her income. My new pediatrician doesn’t accept insurance policies purchased on the Exchange (Obamacare) nor does she accept Medi-Cal.  She has created an affordable cash patient scheme for parents who do not have health insurance, have inadequate health insurance or on Medi-Cal. She charges only the ‘cost’ for vaccinations, meaning the cost for her to purchase and her examination fees are only $35 (as opposed to the average of $75-100 for cash patients). Her practice is in a very well off part of town and she comes highly recommended. She is open and upfront about the insurance policies she accepts and her cash patient fees and she even gave me a list of free health clinics that give free vaccines to children who do not have health insurance and recommends that we go there for vaccines if that’s all we needed to see her for and save the vaccine cost and examination fee. And we got to discussing the bureaucratic mess that is Obamacare, why the cost of health care and services are so high despite the reforms and the special interests that are driving them. I talk a lot about health insurance and health care on my blog. It’s something that matters a lot to me, because like millions of families, we do not have endless budget to devote to health insurance and health care costs and it’s my job to find the best policy for the budget we have.

I’ve never discussed at length with a doctor, especially a pediatrician or family practitioner about the ramifications of Obamacare and today I got the opportunity to. The reason why this doctor chose to opt out of the Obamacare exchanges and Medi-Cal is because it’s unsustainable and it doesn’t serve the best interests of her patients. With Medi-Cal she is very restricted on what she can do to treat her patients and the same goes for the Exchanges. Another requirement of Obamacare is the ‘transparency’ part on the part of doctors. Doctors are required to fill out pages and pages of cumbersome forms in the name of transparency under the new Obamacare law and if they don’t have the time to do it, they have to hire more staff to do it but at the same time her claims compensation are capped by the same law. But to her the most egregious is, a law, written by Harvard graduates, who live in an “ivory tower”, most of whom aren’t Medical Doctors, but are dictating public health policy from a business model (i.e. profit and loss) standpoint.

My pediatrician attends a lot of public health policy conferences and she sees these “ivory tower” folks often, and when she brings up the glaring fact that they are not in the trenches practicing medicine with one hand tied behind their back; they get offended and taken aback – typical neoliberal response. When I bring up the common trope that it’s the doctors and practitioners who are driving up the price of health care by practicing defensive medicine to avoid malpractice claims and demanding higher salaries – which is addressed with higher claim amounts, she says that the insurance company only pays her $60 for every trip to the hospital to exam a newborn and this can be any time day or night, any day of the week (depending on when the baby is born). And depending on where the hospital is, that $60 may not even cover the gas to travel to and from the hospital. But she must take this potential ‘loss’ and go because every newborn and their potential siblings are her potential new patients.

We spoke at length at the monstrosity that is Obamacare, she said the law did away catastrophic insurance, which is high deductible and covers only catastrophic events such as car accident, cancer, heart disease; and this insurance is usually favored by those who are young, healthy and are self-employed. These plans keeps monthly premiums low and this is done by design as it’s meeting a demand by users. Right now these plans have been outlawed, every single plan now must be a normal insurance plan which covers for all events, but the premiums are still high and deductible is still high and essentially “all plans now are catastrophic plans”. As a medical professional, she enlightened me to the fact that the reason health services are so high, and why it costs over $10,000 for a 2 day hospital stay to have a healthy, uncomplicated childbirth and why an MRI costs $3000 is because the huge bureaucracies involved in these companies and how everyone needs a piece of the pie and they are also charging for  people who can’t pay for them by inflating the cost for every person counting on the insurance company to pay 50-80% of it. My pediatrician keeps her costs by sourcing private labs and CT and MRI scanning places who are out of the networks of insurance providers, who work on a cash basis only; they do not bill the insurance and through those facilities the true cost of services are revealed to be reasonable. You can get an MRI for $300, a CT scan for $150 or $200 and blood tests can be processed without going through a huge, messy and expensive bureaucracy. She also chose to opt out of the Exchange because she believes, due to the unsustainability of Obamacare, it will come to a natural end, without needing the Republicans to repeal it.

We discussed the single-payer system, and she said that’s not the panacea either, it can help in some situations, but for those with complicated medical histories or unusual diseases, single-payer system can be terribly restrictive. Single-payer only works if government doesn’t dictate what kind of care for what kind of diseases in order to control costs; basically a free for all. Every patient is unique and as a result the services they need for diagnoses and treatment are unique; and it’s this simple concept that those in “ivory towers” can’t understand. Single-payer system works best in routine illnesses which protocols and treatments have already been established. Those with illnesses which require more creative methods or experimental methods of treatment, the single-payer system doesn’t address that concern very well, you spend half of your time trying to get approval for treatment versus getting the treatment. In the end, we ran out of time discussing this subject but she did say, with all of our resources and innovations, we should be able to work something out where a viable, affordable, good health care system can benefit most people. There is no perfect system where every single person can be taken care of, but we should aim for getting the majority of the people covered without creating so much anxiety for average families.

The doctor spent nearly 2 hours on my daughter, she was due for her annual wellness check and new patient assessment. She also got a vaccine shot, and my total cost for her services rendered was $275 (I didn’t have her in-network insurance and I chose to forgo the agony of arguing with my current insurance and paid the cash). She had a lovely and kind nurse work with my daughter for her assessments, not once did we feel hurried or rushed. It was the first time a doctor spent so much time with any of my children and in the end, it was $275 well spent. I came away with all of my questions answered and feeling confident that my daughter’s clean bill of health was the result of thorough examination.

What is the big deal about first day of school?

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First day of school drawing.
Today is my daughter’s first day of school. My friends who have had children before me always treat this day with reverence and nostalgia at your baby becoming a school age child. First day of school photos in their cleanest, unstained school clothes are obligatory, and usually a few tears at shed at the classroom door as your child is entering their classroom.

Me? I was happy. I shed no tears of sadness or nostalgia. I couldn’t wait for this day to come. It will be the first time in over four years where I have somewhere to send my child for three hours a day, two days a week (and if it all goes well, I may upgrade her to three days a week). I did take lots of photos, I met my daughter’s teachers, two lovely and experienced early education teachers who enjoy their job with every fiber of their being. It will be three hours ram packed with learning, playing, experiencing and socializing – with a small snack break in the middle. It will be everything I can’t offer her at home nor do I really want to. That’s why there’s a thing call pre-school, with professional and expert early education teachers to teach my child.

My daughter is exceptionally outgoing and gregarious, her little brother is more shy and retiring and doesn’t like to engage in the full body play that she enjoys. At the age of four, I often find her restless and bored at home even with all of the ‘educational toys’ we have for her (the only kind allowed around here). Her gregariousness has even chased away our cat who was her usual outdoor companion. So, at the ripe old age of four and a half, she’s ready for school. And me? I will get three hours a day where I just have one child to look after instead of two. I can’t wait for the other one to go to school.

We live in an area which is predominately upper middle class and white. And it’s not the laid back white middle class (if there is even such a thing), it’s the upwardly mobile, pushy, so scared that that any unforeseen economic event will shove them down the class ladder – therefore they are always on edge types of white people. To mask that insecurity, a sheen of false superiority and snobbery takes its place. A classic example of that is some parents talking amongst each other (and making sure everyone else can hear) where they went for summer vacation and even more importantly, where they are going skiing and snowboarding for winter vacation (yawn, eyeroll). These are not parents enjoying the first day of school activities with their children, these parents are there to see how their child compares with another and to throw away more money in after school ‘enrichment courses’ which is basically an accelerated class in writing, reading, science and math. It’s the parents of the few non-white children in my daughter’s class who are really present in mind, body and soul enjoying the first hour with their child’s first day of school. I thoroughly enjoyed the ‘scavenger hunt’ with my daughter in the classroom to show the kids where everything is in their classroom; the bathroom, washing up sinks, where certain toys are, where the art supplies are and where you hang your coat and put your backpack.

It was also nice to observe my daughter in an unfamiliar environment. I get to see how my ‘parenting’ panned out – no embarrassing meltdowns luckily but I was glad to see she was comfortable in unfamiliar places. She walks up to people and introduces herself, she says ‘please’ and ‘thank you’, she responds when spoken to, I breathed a sigh of relief. She loves to draw, sing and dance. She expresses herself artistically and when I saw my girl make a beeline for the easel and drew a picture of her backyard of her cat (the same one that runs away from her) and flowers and grass; I knew she will be fine. When it was my time to leave the classroom, she nearly pushed me out of the classroom and said “I want to play with my new friends”. Her only upset was that she didn’t get any playground time today – it was a short day today to get the children acclimated to the new year and new school.

I did forget to teach her one thing – how to use a pair of scissors. It was an instrument, due to it being possibly dangerous for her and her little brother or worse she might cut his hair off if she gets mad at him, I neglected to show her how to use a pair of scissors, but I am sure the school can sort that out.

Where are the feminist and pro-life activists’ outrage at the rise of maternal deaths in the US?

A new study has just been released by the American College of Gynecologists and Obstetricians which says, except for the state of California, maternal death has been on the rise in America from the years 2000 to 2014. And specifically in Texas, the rise of maternal deaths from 2010 to 2014 has doubled in just four years. Furthermore, in the advanced and developed world, the US has the unique distinction of having the highest maternal mortality rate when compared to our European and Canadian counterparts.

A maternal death is defined as a woman who dies as a result of complications with her pregnancy or shortly after childbirth. The Texas Department of Health is going to create a task force to investigate why the Lone Star state in all of its glorious grandeur can’t seem to care enough about pregnant women to prevent their deaths. Here are some specific statistics about the state of Texas:

[B]etween 2000 and 2010, Texas saw only a “modest increase” in maternal mortality, from 17.7 to 18.6 deaths per 100,000 live births.

The next year, Texas’ rate spiked, to 33 deaths per 100,000 live births, reaching “levels not seen in other U.S. states,”

During the worst years of the recession, a factor which would impact maternal mortality, the maternal mortality rates were stable and nearly unchanged. However, Obamacare was passed in 2010 and some of its provisions immediately became the law. Many states, especially Red states in the south chose to not expand the Medicaid and some states like Texas chose to cut funding for medical services as well, and some of the greatest cuts went to women’s healthcare services. Governor Rick Perry passed a series of draconian laws cracking down on women’s access to safe and legal abortions and contraceptives. Any facility that performs abortions must pass a strict guideline of having a hospital grade operating room in its facility, which most women’s health clinics don’t have, so they faced closure.

In 2011, just as the spike began, the Texas state legislature cut $73.6m from the state’s family planning budget of $111.5m. The two-thirds cut forced more than 80 family planning clinics to shut down across the state. The remaining clinics managed to provide services – such as low-cost or free birth control, cancer screenings and well-woman exams – to only half as many women as before.

And also:

But about half the state lacks ready access to OB-GYN care, making it difficult for women to obtain contraception or for pregnant women to confirm the health of their babies. Just this month, Texas’s health department drew fire for allocating $1.6m of the $18m the state budgets for low-income women’s family planning to an anti-abortion group that does not provide basic health services.

So, the state of Texas, allocated parts of their paltry budget to right-wing Christian groups to print pro-life flyers to hand out rather than provide health services to women. In a state as big as, and as spread out as Texas, this would force women who live in rural areas to drive for hours to the cities to get basic routine prenatal examinations. On top of closing women’s health clinics, Texas has some of the lowest income thresholds to apply for state Medicaid for pregnant women, and this is something they are quite proud of. While other states allow women who earn 198% above the federal poverty limit to qualify for aid, the state of Texas (and Alabama) only allows up to 18% above the federal poverty limit – and they are proud of this, it’s written all over the websites where you apply for aid in Texas.

Now that the forensics and statistics are out of the way, the bigger question is: where is the outrage at these unnecessary, preventable maternal deaths? This is, categorically, a pro-life issue. This is a pro-women, pro-mother and pro-family issue; where are all the pro-life rallies and Christian outrage for women who die of maternal deaths? Why aren’t the pastors of these huge megachurches (many of whom are based in Texas) who get their sermons broadcasted every Sunday up in arms about this? They devote a lot of airtime to homophobic rants and tirades against women who get abortions telling anyone who will listen that it’s the gay people and abortionists who will cause the downfall of this country. Don’t these people have mothers, grandmothers, daughters and sisters? Where is the Catholic Church on this? They hire lobbyists in Washington to pass anti-abortion legislation and ban coverage of contraceptives on their health insurance plans to women who work for them, where is the outrage at mothers dying as a result of complications in pregnancy and childbirth? If they care so much about the life and rights of an unborn child and are willing to go to bat for them at every legislative juncture, what about the people that give birth to them? Their mothers – do their lives not matter?

And where are the feminists on this? Where does Hillary Clinton’s campaign stand on this issue? She’s a mother, a grandmother, she says she cares about women, all women, what does she have to say about this? More importantly, what will she do to make sure maternal deaths (along with infant mortality) goes down to zero in this country?

That the spike in maternal deaths all around the country occurred after Obamacare was passed and implemented is telling too. Obamacare, with the goal of controlling healthcare costs and providing quality healthcare to all people, has clearly failed in the most fundamental indicator of the health of a nation and that is maternal mortality (and infant mortality). This is another failure of Obamacare. Because he allowed states to choose whether they wanted to join the public exchanges or not (instead of mandating it), the states that opt out such as Texas, healthcare access to the poorest residents of those states will suffer.

This study didn’t go into the demographics of the women who died from maternal deaths and the college will commission further studies on the specific demographics of the women, but it’s not a stretch to think that it’s the most vulnerable women who are dying needlessly during pregnancy and after childbirth. These are probably poor rural women, undocumented women who won’t go to doctors for fear of being deported and their local health clinic has been forced to close and women who neither have the funds to purchase health insurance and make too much money to qualify for state medicaid.

While the headlines of this report is shocking at first, we shouldn’t be too surprised. After all, the lives and wellbeing of women are not the top priority of anyone. We have Brock Turner, despite being convicted of rape on all charges by a jury, the judge gave him a slap on the wrist – saying the public shaming and humiliation of the trial is punishment enough. Austin Wilkerson of Boulder, Colorado, another convicted rapist, the judge declined to give him a jail sentence and sentenced him to community work and 20 years probation. Another judge took his judicial powers even further and decided to set aside rape charges of David Becker, a Massachusetts high school student so that he can “enjoy” his college experience (and rape more women) and not have to be registered as a sex offender. And then you have pro-life fanatics who will do anything to prohibit, impede and shame women who wish to seek use of contraceptives and safe access to abortions yet the same people see no problem with rapists not going to prison for their crimes.

The findings of this report is sobering but it is more tragic than anything. It’s tragic not just at the loss of life and loss of mothers to their children but that many maternal deaths are wholly preventable if women just had access to health services early in their pregnancies. The reason not all women in this country have access to good prenatal care boils down to politics, religious fanaticism and class war on the poor by refusing to allocate tax dollars for poor women.

 

Resist the Distraction of ‘Sexism’ and ‘Misogyny’ Accusations

The Era of ‘The  Bitch’ is Coming screamed a headline by The Atlantic. The writer Michelle Cottle is warning everyone to be prepared for a fresh wave of “four-to-eight years of the kind of down-and-dirty public misogyny you might expect from a stag party at Roger Ailes’s house.” While open racism isn’t tolerated and often called out, sexism and misogyny, especially if cleverly delivered, is still tolerated, accepted and even considered funny. What’s more, while it’s fair that people on the receiving end of racist abuse make their grievances known and heard, women subjected to sexism and misogyny are expected to keep quiet and laugh it off, especially women in powerful positions. For a woman to call out sexism is seen as whining and complaining and not addressing a legitimate grievance.

Cottle goes on to explain which types of misogyny and sexism Hillary Clinton might encounter in the coming months and years. Inevitably, they relate to her age, her looks, her body, her allegedly ‘bitchy’ demeanor, her coldness and aloofness, the sound of her voice, how she laughs (the cackle), her bitchy-resting face when she’s not smiling and when she does smile the compliments she gets for ‘finally smiling’ as if she’s some miserable cow who refuses to crack a smile.

All of these ‘warnings’ of sexism and misogyny is just a distraction from the real criticisms. It’s using identity politics to distract from the real issues of a Hillary Clinton presidency. It’s a red herring. Sexism and misogyny is wrong. It’s nobody’s business when Hillary Clinton chooses to smile, she’s not a professional cheerleader, she’s not obligated to plaster a smile on her face to make everyone feel more comfortable. By the same token, she’s not required to be nice all the time either. She, like a man, is allowed temper flares, throwing things across the room and pounding the table when things don’t go her way. We don’t call a man derogatory names when he does those things, we say that he’s assertive and sets high standards. Shaming her age (especially when in connection with her appearance) is below the belt and appealing to the lowest common denominator and it really just says you don’t have any legitimate criticisms hence you make fun of her age and appearance. Hillary Clinton has never made herself out to be objectified or admired for her appearance, in fact, she self-deprecates when it comes to the style department (“remember my hairband days?”). She’s no Jackie Kennedy, and since that’s out of the way, let’s move on to the real issues.

Because Hillary Clinton’s opponent is Donald Trump, she’s not required to have a platform besides “I am not Trump”. She’s not required to present sound policies on the economy, preserving and expanding social security, raising the minimum wage, creating real universal healthcare, federally mandated paid parental leave, government subsidized childcare, raising the minimum wage, criminal justice reform, prison reform, drug sentencing reform, real immigration reform and integrating the millions of undocumented immigrants into the political process by allowing an immediate pathway to citizenship for all (not cherry picking the young, educated and English speaking ones), providing free college in all state institutions and reversing the toxic and destructive neoliberal economic policies of her husband and Obama. These are the issues that are important to the voters, especially the Millennial voters that she supposedly cares so much about. But thanks to freakshow that is Donald Trump, she doesn’t have address any of these issues. All she has to do is insist she’s no Trump and Mexicans aren’t rapists and murderers, she won’t build a wall at the Southern border and Muslims aren’t banned in this country.

We already know she’s not Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton, in some respects is far more dangerous than Donald Trump. Donald Trump is a buffoon and a clown, he appeals to the other lowest common denominators of racism, xenophobia, anti-immigration and white nationalism (which also includes misogyny and sexism). Whether he acknowledges it or not, most of his boldest proposals can’t be implemented and are just white nationalist fantasies. For all of Trump’s boasting of his business acumen, his artistry at making business deals where he sends his opponents scurrying to the hills, the reality is far more different. He considers business bankruptcy as a legitimate business strategy (which translates to not paying your suppliers or investors by declaring you are bankrupt) and has filed for business bankruptcy many times. He has no political record to speak of and so he has a political clean slate. He can say whatever he wants to do if he becomes president without having to back it up with previous track records or explaining his political decisions.

Hillary Clinton has no such luxuries, she has a long record of votes and political decisions that she must explain and defend, starting with her days as this country’s First Lady. She supported her husband’s punitive welfare and criminal justice reform, which 20 years later show that the most affected are people of color. One out of every four Black man today can expect to be incarcerated during some time in his life. The welfare reforms gutted the most essential social services to the most vulnerable populations in this country many of them women and children. The Yes vote for the invasion of Iraq, which haunted her during her 2008 bid for the White House, is based on false, made up, concocted intelligence of Iraq having weapons of mass destruction and the Saddam Hussein regime having ties to Al Qaeda. None of which were true. As Secretary of State, she sanctioned the destruction of Libya and the fueled proxy war in Syria. All of this is done in the name of destroying ISIS. ISIS is now the designated boogey man (after the death of Osama bin Laden) in which our national security is threatened so we must be very vigilant and militaristic with our enemies around the world.

Anybody who criticizes her foreign policies, her connections to Wall Street, or calls her a war criminal is disciplined and told that it’s an unfair sexist attack. Or short of that, they are patronized and told they don’t understand how dangerous the world is and how the world works. Her image as feminist who fights for human rights has been shattered. You cannot claim to fight for human rights when you bomb and destroy nations and those that suffer the most from the fallout are women and children. You cannot claim to be a feminist when one quarter of the donations for The Clinton Foundation is from Saudi Arabia, arguably one of the most abusive and repressive regimes against women in the world. You cannot claim to be a feminist or a human rights activist when you allow Saudi Arabia to bomb Yemeni civilians and starve Yemeni children for oil and money. Clinton’s interventions in the internal affairs of Honduras has caused a failed state where right wing military thugs rule the country. The fact that she would consider Henry Kissinger a friend and mentor should raise serious blood soaked red flags.

But right now, we are told by the elites that we must not be childish and hold on to these grudges because we have a more important danger in our midst, in the form of an orange clown with small hands who tends to talk out of his rear end. This is our real enemy right now. This is who we are supposed to be afraid of; not the trigger happy former Secretary of State responsible for destroying at least two sovereign states and destabilized several more. Those Sanders supporters who refuse to fall in line with Hillary Clinton are privileged, spoiled and willfully sabotaging the candidacy of the first woman president.

Electing a woman to the highest office in the land is a milestone, a shattering of a once thick and impenetrable glass ceiling, which given the patriarchal structure of our society, is a monumental effort; but it must not be confused with political revolution. Electing a woman as president of the United States will usher in the progressive change voters want only if the right woman is elected. Just like electing the first Black president Barack Obama didn’t usher in a time of post-racial harmony in America; one can argue the opposite happened.

Many countries have already reached this milestone: Dilma Rousseff of Brazil, Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner of Argentina, Indira Gandhi was the Prime Minister of India, the world’s largest democracy, Pakistan also previously elected woman Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Bangladesh is currently governed by a woman Sheikh Hasina right now, the United Kingdom has produced two female Prime Ministers with Theresa May’s recent ascension to the position after the ousting of David Cameron and the fact that she has no children and how that might affect her style governance was still brought up in the year 2016. In Brazil and Argentina, abortion is still illegal and punishable with jail sentence; women in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh to all intents and purposes are still second class citizens, especially women who reside in Tribal areas ruled by the Taliban. Electing a female head of state didn’t emancipate these women on a large scale. In traditional societies like Pakistan and Bangladesh; their fates are still determined by male members of their family with very little legal protection from the state.

For all of us who feel we have no stake in the discourse or outcome of this ghastly trainwreck of an election, all we have are our pens, our right to critique, debate, argue, to contradict, contrast, to speak out against the mass propaganda that is thrown at us. And on top of that, we have to wade through all the other dreck like The Atlantic article about the supposed flood of sexism and misogyny that’s about to come our way because of the possible elevation of Hillary Clinton as the President of the United States; which is really telling us that we should not criticize Hillary Clinton at all because women who don’t support other women deserve a special place in hell. In that case, I’ll tell Lucifer to save them a spot.

Hannah Arendt and Free Inquiry

Hannah Arendt was a student of free inquiry. Her book Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil was an exercise in free inquiry, much to her own detriment. But it was only to her detriment because the results of her inquiry didn’t conform with the commonly accepted beliefs then (and perhaps now) about the Holocaust and how one views and discusses a Nazi war criminal. There is only pure condemnation of the person who committed these crimes, there is no allowance for attempting to understand the man behind the crimes, the reasons for committing the crimes, or nuances in their reasoning. They were monsters who sought to destroy the Jewish people and other undesirable people as deemed by the Nazis. In the biopic directed Margarethe von Trotta Hannah Arendt, in her final speech to her student she says “trying to understand is not the same as forgiveness”. She considers it her “responsibility to understand” and “reconcile the shocking mediocrity of the man with his staggering deeds.”

Seeking free inquiry and engaging in intellectual debate and trying to see an event in history from a different point of view is not the same as playing the devil’s advocate or in the case of Arendt, attempting to explain away or excuse the evils of the Nazi regime. If we don’t want history to repeat itself again, it’s not enough to pass legislation to ban fascist or neo-Nazi political parties, to ban inflammatory fascist or Nazi language in public, to ban Nazi worshipping; we need to find out how (not just why, we know why) a total moral collapse of a seemingly civil society took place in less than 10 years. Antisemitism isn’t new. Discrimination isn’t new. Racism isn’t new. Oppression of minorities isn’t new. All those things existed for millennia; but how did it go from something that exist as a fact of life to mass murder by the most grotesque of methods.

The knee jerk reaction to any Nazi criminal is that they are evil, they are monsters and no excuses can me made for their behaviors regardless of their personal circumstance; even if they had a gun to their head. Arendt resisted this urge, though a very legitimate urge and she wanted to find out more. Adolf Eichmann was in front of her in a Jerusalem courtroom. This was as close as she’ll ever get to a ‘Nuremberg Trial’ and this was the biggest Nazi criminal on the lam that was caught. It would be a terrible waste to not do an up close psychological autopsy of the person. So she inquired, and she let her free inquiry take her wherever she needed to go. What she found wasn’t spectacular, it was “banal” and that didn’t fit into the existing narrative about Nazi criminals.

The public discourse on the Holocaust is heavily policed, it was policed in the 1960s and it’s policed now. There are one set of accepted facts and discourse that is very black and white, the Nazis exterminated the Jews while the world watched and did nothing. The Nazis are to blame and the world did watch as this unfolded. But nothing in the world is black and white. The Nazis are fully responsible the this heinous crime they committed but they had help along the way. It’s not out of order to say while Nazis are fully responsible, but many people aided and abetted and looked the other way and some of those include Jewish people. The Judenrat may not know at the time that the ultimate demise of their fellow Jews they were deporting. But the existence of the Judenrat is a fact – and as Arendt points out in her Eichmann trial reporting, the Judenrat was not only in Germany, it was in almost every country. This is well documented. Arendt backed up most of her claims with sources from other experts – including the preeminent Holocaust expert Raul Hillberg. Even in the context of not blaming or shaming, merely questioning and analyzing, it’s not comfortable to discuss or even think about but by not thinking and talking about it, we forget the lessons.

Perhaps the most infuriating thing anyone can say when they are on trial for a crime is everything they did was “legal”, or that “I was following the orders of my superiors” (and that superior is almost always already dead). When Arendt talks about the ability to “think”, which is synonymous to claiming your personhood is suspended, great evil can happen. You don’t need to be a monster to commit horrible deeds, a little nobody like Adolf Eichmann – and there were millions of Eichmann’s in the Nazi Party can and will commit evil or allow great evil to happen.

The idea of what is legal vs. what is right is still highly relevant today. The recent spate of police killing unarmed black men were all legal in the eyes of the law. According to the law of the land, they acted in self defense, they did no wrong and they won’t be prosecuted. The worst that will ever happen to them is losing their jobs. But anyone who is thinking with half a brain knows that what they did was wrong, and the police definitely wasn’t “thinking” when they killed unarmed black men who posed no threat to their personal safety except in their prejudiced minds. Edward Snowden and Chelsea Manning did what they believed to be the right thing and are now punished for it, especially Manning. What is right morally and ethically, which is exposing government crimes to its citizens has been deemed illegal, based on some bogus notion of ‘National Security’.

Dissenting opinion is and has always been heavily policed. Especially by those who call themselves Liberals. Another favorite pastime of Liberals is sliding in and out between what’s legal and what’s right. We are stuck at a juncture of what is free speech and how much free speech do we tolerate before it becomes inflammatory and unacceptable. Azealia Banks was banned from Twitter permanently as well as Milo Yiannopoulos, for directing his followers to racially abuse and troll the actress Leslie Jones. These two incongruent Twitter buddies were both banned for using racist, bigoted inflammatory language, but they weren’t banned until the corporate interests of Twitter was harmed. Both of these people have been trolling, racially abusing people for a long time, but they were trolling nobodies so no one cared enough to do much about it even if the abuse Tweets got reported. Banks was warned by Twitter a few times, that didn’t stop her, but when she unleashed her fury at a supposed slight by former One Directioner Zayn Malik and began racially abusing him and insulting his family, she was banned from Twitter. Prior to that she’d been verbally assaulting anyone who dared cross her mentions who she found displeasing in some way.Yiannopoulos gets his kicks out of trolling people, but one day he trolled the wrong target and he was banned from Twitter permanently. No one needs a Yiannopoulos on social media anywhere, he’s social media vermin, but he’s entitled to be one. Even in the interest of free speech, which includes trash speech, Twitter has behaved hypocritically, censoring when they felt the content will harm their bottom line.

The rise of right wing authoritarian governments popping up in places like Poland and Hungary; and their wholesale rejection and demonization of Syrian refugees as all being terrorists and how their religion and ‘way of life’ is incongruent with the ‘civilized’ West; the “banality of evil” is rearing its ugly head again. These governments have won elections, steered their electorate towards their way of thinking and believing, they have galvanized their police to be physically brutal with refugees . With the erecting of barbed wires along the open border Schengen Zone in the EU, it’s conjuring up lots of ugly images of the past.

With the US presidential election based on identity politics on one side and proto-fascism on the other, the policing of dissent is more prevalent than ever. Someone who refuses to vote for Hillary Clinton is tantamount to supporting Trump. Those who do not support Clinton are sexist, racist, anti-feminist and are coasting on their ‘privilege’ (whatever that means – Hillary Clinton is the most privileged woman I know). Those who don’t choose either one of the two awful presidential choices in front of us are betraying our democracy and process and allowing evil (Trump) to take over. Bernie Sanders will forever be blamed for daring to thwart the coronation of Hillary Clinton, he’ll be blamed for drawing supporters away from her, especially the sought after Millennial crowd. Sanders actions have been seen as sexist, therefore all of his supporters must be sexist, or anti-feminist, who would dare to risk losing the election to a fascist clown. All of these ‘critics’ do not see the irony of being undemocratic themselves as they are policing people how to publicly engage in discourse of a supposedly free presidential election. It’s not a wise strategy to shame or scare the voters into voting for you.

Those who engage in free inquiry must do so the ‘right’ way; which makes the ‘free’ part moot. And as soon as anyone steps on toes of another, swift apologies must come or else you would be labeled racist, sexist, anti-feminist, indulging in privilege and a whole bunch of other new lingo and terms I’ve yet to know their meaning. Hannah Arendt was called a self-hating Jew, at least that was a clear and direct “character assassination” to which she can clearly refute. How does one refute the charge that one is ‘coasting on privilege’ by simply supporting one candidate over another?